Monday, October 31, 2011

Banana Bread

On Saturday, I was planning a nice day at my parents house with lots of recipes to try. No other plans for the day but really making treats and eating them. What I did not plan for was a ton of snow that caused the power to go out. So instead of baking (watching tv, doing laundry, etc.) my mom and I enjoyed cold pizza and candlelight.

But the next morning the power was back and I had some very ripe bananas that needed to be used so I found a recipe for banana bread from Simply Recipes and gave it a try. It was super delicious and moist. I left half for my parents and took the other half home and it really only lasted us a few hours. I will be making more very soon!

I usually prefer nuts in my bread but this version doesn't call for any. And I was ok with that! This makes only one loaf and I like to think that's good so I don't consume too much but then I really miss it when it's gone.

Thanks, Simply Recipes!

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed (I used 4)
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat overn to 350 degrees

In a large mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix butter into the mashed bananas. Then mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

And I made Pumpkin and Ricotta Stuffed Shells!

After a little hesitation from both me and Adam, we actually enjoyed the pumpkin twist on the old classic! The flavor was much more complex than the typical ricotta and mozzarella filling. And when you think pumpkin, don't think sweet. Think dimension and savory. Although I think I would serve it as a side dish with some meat, just for texture.

And if you us low fat ricotta (of course I did not - I used whole milk ricotta. yum!), this dish has less calories (and more flavor!) than the traditional recipe!

My Aunt Donna mailed me this recipe (thank you!!). It's from October 2011 Country Living magazine.

24 jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
22 ounces ricotta (2 1/2 cups)
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
2 1/2 ounces pecorino Romano, grated (3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons)
1 large egg white
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped (I omitted)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 (26 oz.) jar marinara sauce

Cook pasta shells according to package instructions; drain. Transer to a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, 3/4 cup pecorino Romano, and remaining ingredients, except marinara sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread sauce in bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with about 3 tablespoons ricotta-pumpkin mixture and arrange in the pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shells with remaining pecorino, and bake for 15 minutes.

Or you can do what I did and stuff the shells the night before and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container, in between layers of plastic wrap; arrange shells on sauce right before baking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Evening Prep

What happened last night was something rare. I did something that I always want to do, at least a few times a week. I began preparation for dinner the night before. It felt so good! To know that all I have to do when I get home is pop something in the oven and 40 minutes later, it's dinnertime without all the prep and tons of dishes! And what are we having tonight?? You'll just have to wait to see tomorrow! Hint: think a fall twist on stuffed shells.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Happy 21st Birthday today to my sister!

We saw her over the weekend for dinner at the German restaurant on South St. in Phila., Brauhaus Schmitz. She had a delicious Hazelnut cake with a candle :)

Creamy Macaroni with Spicy Sausage

As I previously mentioned, this is the other recipe I have made from my new cookbook, homemade by Clodagh McKenna - Mac and Cheese with Spicy Sausage.

Now the original recipe is called Creamy Macaroni with Smoked Bacon but as I was reading the notes with the recipe, Clodagh suggests using spicy sausage in place of the smoked bacon. So I did because it seemed more heartier than just bacon for a main course dinner. I just used spicy Italian sausage.

Here is the recipe with my moderations:

1 box (15 or 18 oz) macaroni
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced smoked thick-cut bacon OR a pound of spicy sausage cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or you can grate a few pieces of stale white bread)
1/3 stick butter

Cheese sauce:
2/3 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 3/4 cups milk
1 3/4 cups grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes until it resembles a small piece of dough. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring all the time. Stir in the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Season with salt and pepper, add the Dijon mustard, and stir.

Turn down the heat and cook until the sauce starts to thicken (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). The cheese sauce should be creamy in texture; if it becomes too thick, add more milk.

While the cheese sauce is simmering, add the pasta to a large saucepan of salted boiling water and stir for about 30 seconds so the pasta doesn't stick together. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain.

Place another skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook until done.

Pour the pasta into a 10 inch baking dish, followed by the cooked sausage, followed by the cheese sauce, making sure the sausage and the cheese sauce is evenly distributed over the pasta.

Place the sausage skillet back over medium-high heat. Add the butter and once melted, stir in the bread crumbs and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the cheesy macaroni and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the top is golden.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Post - Asian Turkey Meatballs

A few years ago I stumbled across a cooking blog called The Culinary Couple. It is written by a very charming couple living right here in Pennsylvania! Together we have chatted online about local places as well as Germany - they too have a big love of the country and food! I even used posts from their past trip to Munich as inspiration for places to visit on our honeymoon.

The Couple has recently welcomed a son to their family so they reached out to me to do a guest post on their blog. I was, of course, excited to contribute!

Go here to check out my Asian Meatball Recipe on The Culinary Couple.

Thank you to Emily and Nick for this opportunity and I hope you're enjoying time with your new addition!

PS - Can't wait to see pictures of the baby in his tiny Lederhosen!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Last night for dinner I was planning to make plain, ole spaghetti. Nothing special. Then I remembered that I bought a package of bucatini at a DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia (gourmet food shops sprinkled through the city) when we were visiting my sister for the PSU v. Temple game.

I have come across a few bucatini recipes and read about the unique long, hollow noodle. I was very intrigued. But I could not find it in any grocery stores around me (the story of my life). I was so excited when I found it in the amazing DiBruno Bros. store. See, we originally went into the store because my husband told me to get him something while we were shopping and he was at the Phillies game. I knew he was teasing but when we walked by DiBruno, I knew I had to get him what he REALLY wanted.

Not a shirt.

Not undies.

But some meat and cheese!

So my mom, sister and I browsed the delicacies and found him the perfect treat while I got myself some sea salt chocolate and bucatini.

And you know this bucatini is authentically Italian because there were was no English on the packaging. Love that!

Here you can see the pasta before it's cooked:

And here is the bucatini with some delicious Prego Three Cheese and ground beef. Yum! (I forgot to do the fancy Instagram finish on this pic. Darn!):

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wild Mushroom Risotto

For my birthday my mom got me this book, "homemade" by Clodagh McKenna. It's full of great entertaining and decorating ideas as well as recipes. And the photos are so beautiful and inspirational. I highly recommend this book!

So far I have made 2 recipes from it. Today I will talk about one and tomorrow the other.

Yesterday for dinner I tried my hand at mushroom risotto for the very first time! And I think it came out quite well. Adam wasn't fond of the taste - I think it was too starchy for him. But I was proud of it - maybe because of all stirring that goes into making the dish.

Here's the recipe from homemade:

scant 1/2 cup (just over 3/4 stick) butter

1 onion, very finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided

1 1/2 cups aborio rice

1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons dry white wine

4 cups hot vegetable stock (I made mine - recipe to follow)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

9 oz mixed wild mushrooms (I only used a 4 oz mix prepackaged and sliced in produce aisle)

sea salt and pepper

sprig of fresh sage, finely chopped (I omitted)

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt 2/3 stick butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onion and 1 chopped garlic clove, and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until softened.

Add the rice and stir for a minute or so to coat it in the butter. Pour in the white wine and let it bubble for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.

Every couple of minutes, add some stock, stir and allow the rice to absorb the juices. Repeat until all of the stock has been absorbed and stir continuously.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the remainder of the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the wild mushrooms and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

When the rice is tender and all the stock has been absorbed, remove from the heat and let rest for 30 seconds.

Stir in the mushrooms, the remaining butter, the sage and Parmesan cheese.

Season to taste and serve immediately.

Vegetable Stock Recipe (modified from

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion

1 shallot

2 large carrots

2 stalks celery with leafy greens

5 garlic cloves

1 bell pepper

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon salt

2 quarts water

**These are the ingredients I had on hand - you can add so many others: green onions, potato, mushrooms, parsley or other savory herbs, corn cobs, the list goes on. **

Chop scrubbed vegetables into 1-inch chunks. Mince garlic.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add all ingredients except salt and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes stirring frequently.

Add salt and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain. Discard vegetables.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

First of all, look at that picture. Cute, huh? Artistic, even. Well it was taken with my phone by the Instragram app. I think the photos turn out great with this app and I'll be using it quite a bit from here on out. And the best part is that it's easier than using my camera. A lot of times I won't post a recipe just because it's such a pain to find my camera, take the photo in good lighting and in a nice area and then get the photo on my computer. It's much easier using my phone so that's what it'll be for awhile!

On to the chicken stew recipe! This is really a guest post by my mom. She made this for my birthday dinner and it is so delicious! It's Ina Garten's recipe.

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone in skin on

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

5 cups chicken stock

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

2 onions, chopped

3/4 cups flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 carrots, medium-diced, blanched for 2 minutes

1 10-oz package frozen peas

1/2 cups fresh parsley, minced

For the biscuits:

2 cups flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced

3/4 cup half and half

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat overn to 375 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts on a foil-lined, PAM-sprayed sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. You will have 4 to 6 cups of chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the heavy cream. Add the chicken, carrots, peas, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10x13x2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half and half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out 12 circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter.

Remove stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with the egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubly.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Simple Fall Candies

I found this cute idea from this blog.

These are so cute and delicious flavor combos!

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, place desired amount of mini pretzel twists, topped with a Hug.

Put in hot oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press in a candy corn on each hug.

Let cool and place in an air tight container.