Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 12/22 - 12/28

Happy Monday and Christmas week! 

This weekend was crazy busy, but was a ton of fun. On Friday, Ron graduated and we went to the ceremony and out for dinner. Ron has been working so hard and to see this accomplishment was so wonderful for us and our families. 

Aren't they cute!?

On Saturday, my cousins, Ron, Kellen and I went bowling. The kids had a blast and it was so cute to watch them try something new (and run off some energy). Later, my cousin and I cooked for our family Christmas. There are about 25 people and this year we feasted on porketta, lemon thyme roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, cauliflower gratin, homemade green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and rolls.  For dessert we treated ourselves to my uncle's homemade grasshoppers, an assortment of cookies and gingerbread cake. The entire meal was amazing and so was the company. I love getting together with family and now that the children are older it has become even more fun!

On Sunday, my cousins staying in town for the Packer game and we enjoyed take-out pho during the game. Kellen loves pho and wish I had snapped a photo of him tipping his bowl to his mouth to get all the noodles and broth. The Packers were victorious and next week play for the division title against the Lions.  In the evening, we ordered pizza and relaxed with a few t.v. shows before bed. Ron was off the bed early because he stated his new job today and Kellen was off to daycare (or to "play with friends" as he says). 

This week we have Kellen buddy's birthday party tonight and Tuesday I have to shop and wrap a boat load of gifts (hey, at least I got my Christmas cards in the mail!).  On Christmas Eve, I am cooking with my Dad at my parents house and Ron's mom is preparing our Christmas day meal at her house.  I love the holidays and am so excited that Christmas is finally here! 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday: Dinner with our friends
Tuesday: Crockpot Creamy Crockpot Tortellini with Sausage

Wednesday: Ramaker Family Christmas:

Apps- 
Bacon Wrapped Scallops
Wine Steamed Mussels and Chorizo 

Main-
Blue Cheese, Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Tenderloin

Potatoes au Gratin Dauphinois

Asparagus

Dessert- Tart Cherry Pie

Thursday: Lecker Family Christmas

Friday: Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole
Saturday: Out
Sunday: Spicy Beef Chili

Treats: Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cranberry Gingerbread Upsidedown Cake

Time for December's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!


The theme for this month was cranberry and gingerbread. Since I recently posted a gingerbread cake I decided to modify it a bit to create a gingerbread cranberry upside down cake. I love pineapple upside down cake because of the gooey quality of the cake, and knew this would be delicious. The cranberry flavors paired with the gingerbread are fantastic! The cranberries are tart  and are perfect with the rich gingerbread cake. This cake is so festive for this time of year and is a unique dessert to share with family and friends. The only trick to this cake is getting it out of the pan and the solution is a well buttered pan and patience. Do not try to force the cake out. Gently work on it and it will pop out and your will have a lovely and delicious dessert. 

Today, I am headed out to bowl with my family before returning home to cook Christmas dinner with my cousin. I love our family celebration! We cook, eat, drink, play games, exchange gifts and have good conversation- so much fun! It is also my Dad's birthday and that is a perfect reason to celebrate too! 

f you are interested in joining our challenge, stop over to Dawn of Spatulas on Parade to say hello and to get more information.  I am excited to see what next month will bring! 

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted (+ an additional non-melted Tbl to butter the cake pan)
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup cold water
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl ground ginger
2 cups fresh cranberry


Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch spingform cake pan with butter and set aside. A 10-inch will work, but make sure to adjust your cooking time.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine egg, sugars, molasses, butter and water and mix well. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger and salt. Slowing add the four mixture molasses mixture.with mixing on low speed. Evenly spread cranberries in the cake pan. Evenly pour the batter into cake pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick is almost clean when inserted into the middle of the cake (you will have some crumbs, but not raw batter). 

Remove from oven and allow the cake to slightly cool so you can handle the cake pan. Flip upside down and gently remove the springform. If it stick use a knife to gently release the cake. Remove the bottom (covering the cranberries) gently. You may want to use a knife to separately it from the cranberry layer.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gingerbread Cake with Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Welcome to December's What's Baking!


We were challenged gingerbread theme for the month of December, and it is perfect timing for the holidays! I decided to go traditional and bake a gingerbread cake. I looked for an easy recipe and found this gingerbread cake recipe from Taste of Home. It looked delicious and I decided to top it with a bourbon vanilla buttercream frosting. As expect, this cake was super easy to make and tasted delicious! I really like molasses and love the smells coming from my kitchen as the cake was baking.  The other great thing about this recipe is that it makes an 8x8 (9 pieces) cake and, if you are a small family like mine, it is nice to to have tons of leftover cake by using a 9x13 pan. However, if you want a larger cake doubling the recipe for the cake and frosting should do the trick. 

Today I am doing a little shopping for our family Christmas and then heading to Ron's graduation. Ron has worked really hard toward a career change and it finally at the end of the journey. He starts his new job on Monday with a fantastic company. I could not be more thrilled for him (and us) because it has been a long road.  I think the hardest part for Ron is not getting as much time with Kellen as before, but we will adapt and love that we were given this opportunity for our family.  AFter graduation we are heading to Nicky's for dinner with family to celebrate! 

I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with for our challenge! Have a wonderful Friday everyone!  


Ingredients

for cake: 
1 egg, beaten
  1/2 cup sugar
  1/2 cup molasses
  5 Tbl butter, melted
  2/3 cup cold water
  11/2 cups all-purpose flour
  1 tsp baking soda
  1 tsp ground ginger
  1/2 tsp salt

for frosting: 
1 stick  unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbl bourbon 


Ingredients

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 square baking pan and set aside. 

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine egg, sugar, molasses, butter and water and mix well. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, ginger and salt. Slowing add the four mixture molasses mixture.with mixing on low speed. Pour into baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick is clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. 

for frosting:
In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the confectioners' sugar, bourbon and vanilla at medium speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Spread frosting over cooled cake and serve.

Yield: 9 servings.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper and Pesto Risotto

Time for December's Improv Cooking Challenge! 

The theme for this month is Red and Green. It was a very flexible theme and could be anything from food to decoration. I opted to make a dish and made my recipe before I posted for the last Improv Challenge in November!   As you know, I love making different risottos, and I had a bit of pesto I made this summer calling my name. I love roasted red peppers and knew that they would be a perfect addition to my risotto. I opted to split my pesto in this recipe by stirring in half and using the other half as topping. If you like, you can stir in the entire 1/2 cup over using it on top and you will have a wonderful result as well.  Kellen is a major rice lover, and devoured this dish. It is funny because pasta can be hit or miss, but if I serve him risotto (or really any rice type grain like cous cous or quinoa) he gobbles it down in no time flat! 

I love how festive this meal looks and it is a perfect side dish for a holiday get together that will impress your guests. Risotto can be a bit tricky to cook initially, but once you have your method down it is like riding a bike, and no ingredient combo is too difficult. 

Tonight, I am finishing (yay!) our Christmas cards so I can get them in the mail on Friday- cross that off my list! I am also doing a little baking for a few blog challenges. I originally planned to make meatballs tonight, but I think that it might turn into a pizza or sub sandwich night so I can get a few things done around the house! 

If you want to join the fun of the Improv Cooking Challenge visit Lesa of Edesia's Notebook for details! 

Stay tuned for next month's recipe using Pork and Rice!


Ingredients

2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup pesto
2/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers
3 Tbl shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste


Instructions

Place stock in a medium saucepan. Bring  to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low-medium heat.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 1-2 minutes minutes. Stir in rice, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium and add 1/2 cup wine; cook about 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.  Continue by adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next.   Add the roasted red peppers and 1/4 cup pesto to the rice with last portion of stock is added. Stir to break apart the peppers and evenly cook in the risotto.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Drizzles each portion with remaining pesto and serve immediately. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tex Mex Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Today I am bringing you another winner from my slowcooker.  I originally bookmarked these Tex Mex Pulled Pork Sandwiches from So Tasty, So Yummy when she posted them in August, and can't believe that it has taken this long for me to get them on our dinner table!  I loved the combination of juicy flavorful pork, spicy cheese and creamy avocado sounded too good to pass up! 

I made these on a night my friend Emily was coming over to watch Law and Order for us to munch on as we enjoyed our show (I still miss Elliot Stabler!).  I have to say that these sandwiches are nothing short of amazing. The pork is so flavorful and the flavors of the cheese and avocado are work perfectly in the sandwich.  The sandwiches make fantastic leftovers and I looked forward to the leftovers as lunch time rolled around. 

Tonight I have a little candy making and card sending on my agenda. Ron is finishing school this week and has a bit of school work before graduation on Friday. Tonight I also need to get cracking on my portion of the dinner menu for my family Christmas on Saturday. I really can't believe that the holidays are almost here, but love this time of year.  Kellen and I watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time last night.  My kid can be so stinking cute sometimes.... he loved the movie, and yelled "Mr. Grinch!" every time the Grinch came onto the screen.   He is a little young for my all time favorite Christmas/Halloween movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas- next year.  I love Jack Skellington and you may remember Kellen wearing Jack Skellington hat the majority of the the fall before I left it at a restaurant (sob). I also find myself singing "making Christmas, making Christmas!" around our house.  

Maybe I will scrap all my plans and watch that tonight with a glass of wine..... 


Ingredients

for pork:
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp  pepper
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 pork shoulder roast
1/2 cup salsa verde
1 cup of beer

for avocado crema:
2 avocados, diced
3 Tbl  sour cream
juice from one lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp chili powder

8 bolillo rolls (or comparable variety)
Queso (I used spicy jarred variety)


Instructions

In a medium bowl, mix together salsa, beer, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Spray the inside of the crockpot with cooking spray and layer the onions over the bottom. Add pork to the crockpot and pour salsa mixture over the top.  Cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Shred the pork with two forks and return to the crockpot for 30-60 minutes before serving. Using a food processor (you could do this by hand or with a hand mixer as well) process the avocado, sour cream, lime juice, chili powder and salt until smooth. Spread the avocado crema on the bolillo roll, followed by the shredded pork and topped with queso. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan 12/15 - 12/21

Happy Monday!

This weekend went by sooooo fast, and with the holidays in full swing I know that slowing down will not be an option anytime soon.  On Friday, I finished prepping for Kellen's party and grabbed dinner with my dad before coming for to relax with Ron and Kellen. 

Saturday was Kellen's party and since I prepped a lot the night before (and the help of my mom) there was not too much to do.  I decided on a farm theme for Kellen's party, and we had lots of great treats for our guests.  I had a hot dog bar including all the traditional toppings plus some homemade chili. 

Shovels and Forks? 

Watering Hole, Farm Fresh Eggs, Vegetable Garden, Dairy Barn and Hay Flakes!

Tractor Wheels and Cheese, Farm Fresh Peas and Horse Treats!

The whole spread!

My birthday boy is a chocolate fan and celebrated with a chocolate cake (the little smash cake is in the background)!

Happy Birthday Kellen!

Even big boys like little toys!

Saturday night we relaxed with pizza and played with new toys. On Sunday we watched the Packer game (boo hiss) before heading home. I did a little baking and started organizing my gifts to wrap. I also need to get my Christmas cards in the mail this week..... This photo of Kellen pretty much summarizes the end of my weekend....


This week I am finishing wrapping, sending holiday cards, baking and a little last minute shopping.  I also have a cookie exchange with a few girlfriends on Wednesday- I am bringing the Mint Hot Cocoa Cookies I just posted.  This weekend Ron graduates!!!!!!! We are going to the ceremony and then grabbing some dinner afterwards. The following day it is our holiday celebration with my family and I always get excited to see our family and have fun!  We have a busy week ahead of us, but I love this time of year and Kellen makes our holiday so much fun. 

Here is what is on tap: 

Monday:  Creamy Taco Mac and Salad
Tuesday: Crockpot Pork and Olives, Rice and Green Beans
Wednesday: Cookie Swap with my Girlfriends - I am bringing a Pesto Bacon Bread
Thursday: Pizza or Subs
Friday: Out for Ron's Graduation
Saturday: Ramaker Family Christmas
Sunday: Porcupine Meatballs in a Tomato Red Wine Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Peas

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mint Hot Cocoa Cookies

Welcome to the Secret Recipe Club 2014 Cookie Carnival!


Members of the Secret Recipe Club are assigned a blogger each month to make a recipe from their site.  During the holidays, we skip a month of posting and many of us wanted to do something fun and festive! When the idea of a cookie carnival came about I thought it sounded like a blast! I do not have a ton of cookie recipes on my blog, but I thought it would a great opportunity to try something new.  I was assigned the blog PaleYellow. I was very pleased to be able to choose one of her recipes because she is not part of my normal Secret Recipe Club group (we are divided into 4 posting groups), and it was fun to check out all the new recipes. Pale Yellow has a large assortment of beautiful baked goods and it was so hard to pick just one for the carnival!  I finally decided on Mint Hot Cocoa Cookies- perfect for the holidays (however her recipe for Shortbread Dipped in Chocolate and Peanut Butter sound to die for!). 

The cookies were absolutely delicious and as noted by the original post they are not the prettiest cookies, but they sure are delicious! I am doing a cookie exchange with a few girlfriends on Wednesday, and am bringing these babies with me- I know my friends will love them. 

Holiday baking and candy making are one of my favorite things to do this time of year and this was such a fun round-up with fellow bloggers to get into the holiday season. Also, what a more perfect way to get a ton of great recipes all in one place!? 


Ingredients

10 Tbl unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbl cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 
3/4 cup mini dried marshmallows + extra for topping
1 cup peppermint bits (I used the red and white peppermint morsels)


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 and line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, and salt. Set aside. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar.  Next, beat in the vanilla and egg.

 Add flour mixture to the creamed butter on low speed, and mix until just combined.  Beat in the chocolate chips, dried marshmallows, and peppermint bits.

Spoon a 2-tablespoon scoop to portion the dough on to the cookie sheet.  Add dried marshmallows on top.
Bake for 10 minutes until just done.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Yields 30 cookies.