10.31.2012

Italian Sausage Lasagna Soup

When I was on the phone with my sister last week, she mentioned she was having Lasagna Soup for dinner. She asked me if I had ever tried it before. Are you kiddin' me?! Of course I've had it before, you beast! We've tried it a couple times at our home. The first two rounds, however, didn't really have the look and feel of lasagna as promised by the recipes- just like plain 'ol tomato soup with meat.

This is when I turned to the queen-of-recipes-that-always-taste-good-and-never-fail:

The One and Only,

Paula Deen

Whenever I try one of her recipes, they always turns out really delicious. Yes, I know, they always taste good because they're usually loaded with the so called "bad things to eat." This recipe, however, is loaded with wonderful ingredients, and has absolutely no heavy cream (I highly suspected a hidden glug somewhere in the directions). 

Albeit almost perfect, I made a couple modifications to her recipe. I wanted to use noodles with that signature rippled-lasagna flair, but I didn't want to use the actual chunky lasagna noodles again. Also, using regular small pasta would just make it look like regular tomatoish soup. That's when the beautiful translucent and slightly blinking light at the supermarket shown down directly on my dear friend: Campanelle. It was direct food revelation, I tell you.

Whenever I make lasagna, I use Italian sausage. So instead of following Paula's plan on the meat, I used half ground beef, half Italian sausage. It gave the soup a better zing, added spicy undertones to the decadent broth, without loosing that beefy flavor. 

Oh, and apparently it's Halloween today - so um, go team.

 

Italian Sausage Lasagna Soup

Ingredients:
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1/2 lb ground beef  
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t thyme
1 T firmly packed brown sugar
1 32oz box chicken broth
2 14.5oz cans Italian petite diced tomatoes
1 15oz can tomato sauce
2 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t salt
2 C campanelle noodles
grated Parmesan and Mozzarella for sprinkling

Directions:
1. In a separate large skillet, cook Italian sausage and ground beef until browned. Drain as much as possible (or you'll end up with floating grease in your soup - this is why I always do a separate pan, and drain the heck outta the meat before adding it into the soup pot). Remove from skillet and spoon meat onto plate lined with a paper towel.
2. In a large soup pot, saute onion, green bell pepper, and garlic until onions are translucent. Add in meat. Add thyme, brown sugar, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and salt.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add noodles, and simmer until noodles are cooked through. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Mozzarella. Serve with freshly sliced french bread if desired. 

Recipe adapted from: Paula Deen

10.30.2012

Chicken Avocado Enchiladas

Slowly regaining the ability to walk again - still can't do "down" stairs or slight declines. Ryan seems to be recovering faster, or maybe he's just less of a whiner than I am. 

You see, he paced me for my very first Half Marathon on Saturday. Awesome-husband-of-the-weekend award, eh? It went alright - even though they ended up changing up the course and making us run up the canyon after running down it. It was a beast! But I'm glad we did it. Even if it left us with a bit of a limp for a few days.

With that, I wasn't really in the mood to stand and cook for a long time. Thankfully, this recipe was just what the doctor ordered. You just make the sauce (takes minutes), saute up some peppers and onions, and throw it altogether in some fluffy tortillas. They were filling, but deliciously light. Normally I would go with the more smothered approach (and with red sauce), but these had such a delicate touch - especially with the cream sauce. it will blow your mind.

The sauce was creamy, but not heavy, and if more of my avocados had ripened, I would have added even more of them to it. I used two different kinds of tortillas to accommodate our different preferences: multi grain for me, white flour for Ryan & the Manchild. I used a less-than-large dish - but you can use a 9x13 just as well and stuff the tortillas with less filling. 

I've used poblanos and jalapenos before, but I was a little nervous throwing them full-exposure into these enchiladas. I turned the heat down to one jalapeno and one poblano. They turned out to be pretty mild after their quick saute and long baking time in the oven.

I think next time we'll serve these along side some fluffy mexican rice, and maybe even add some refried beans to the enchiladas. If you have some leftover chicken in the fridge, shred it up and throw them right in these little lovers. You won't regret it. 


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Chicken Avocado Enchiladas

Ingredients:

Enchilada Ingredients:
2 T EVOO
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeds removed, thinly sliced
6-8 tortillas (small) - I used both white flour and multi-grain.
4 C shredded cooked chicken
2-3 C Monterrey Jack cheese
garnish: fresh cilantro, sour cream

Avocado Cream Sauce Ingredients:
2 T butter
2 T flour
2 C chicken broth
3/4 C sour cream
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t pepper
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime

Directions:
To Make Cream Sauce:
1. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk broth into the flour mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
2 Stir in the sour cream, cumin, salt, garlic powder and pepper, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps.
3. Remove from heat, transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Add avocados, cilantro and lime juice, and pulse until smooth and well-blended. Season with additional salt or pepper if needed.

To make enchiladas: 
4. Prepare cream sauce (above). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large baking dish.
5. In a large skillet, heat EVOO over medium-high heat. Add onion, poblano and jalapeno, and saute for 5-6 minutes until the onions are cooked and translucent. Remove from heat.
6. To assemble enchiladas, place a tortilla on a flat surface and spread a tablespoon of the avocado sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Layer on some of the vegetable mixture, shredded chicken and cheese. Carefully roll the tortilla and place it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
7. Drizzle the top with as much avocado cream sauce you want, then cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through and harden/crispify.
8. Remove from the oven. Drizzle sour cream (I used a piping bag and small tip), additional chopped cilantro. Add more sauce if desired.

Recipe Source: Gimme Some Oven

10.29.2012

Wild Rumpus Marshmallow Fondant Cake


So I have this adorable friend, and her little boy is one of the cutest little ones I've ever seen (brightest blue eyes just like his Mom). Well, this little guy turned the big ONE last week, and I was asked to make his birthday cake. 
I was scared to death. I mean, I'll never ever forget how they had a Millennium Falcon shaped (and decorated, perfect replica) cake at their wedding. These guys were used to immaculate cakes, and I had attempted *gulp* 3 fondant cakes in my lifetime. However, I was so excited for this cake, and couldn't wait to get started.
 It's filled with red velvet cake and my almond infused cream cheese frosting. Normally, I would have just gone with the store-bought fondant (even though it tastes nasty, it saves brain cells trying to work with). But this time, homemade marshmallow fondant was in order. I love the taste of that stuff, but it is a beast to work with (it just takes a bit more patience, and I had only tried the recipe once before on my Mom's 50th Birthday cake. Yes, Mom. 50 years young!). It worked alright, and although everything didn't lay perfectly (watching Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes will destroy any perspective you may have on how 'easy' they make it look to prepare and cover a fondant cake), I was still happy with the results. I used a daisy cutter to make the leaves (just cut out the center of the daisy, and used the petals), and eyeballed the trees. Also, I know that the lettering is crooked - but I think it has a fun Where the Wild Things Are charm about it.

It wasn't perfect by any means, but I was satisfied and excited with the results. Then everything went to pot - about an hour before we delivered the cake to the Party location, it started drooping, melting, and tearing. I was devastated, and completely embarrassed. I'm so happy I was able to take these picture to prove that the cake looked somewhat decent at one point! It was a tragedy, and I teared up almost the entire drive to their beautiful (mansion, mind you) home. Here I was delivering a drooping cake - complete walk of shame. There was nothing I could do to save it. 

I still have no idea what happened. I made sure to carefully mind the temperature of the room, keep the cake away from moisture, and not use too much frosting on the crumb coat so the fondant wouldn't be mushy and sticky. Unfortunately, I still have no idea what happened :(. Ryan thinks it might have been the gravity of the trees? Anyway, here's the beast, and what I spent all of Thursday and half of Friday creating. I love the idea of having a Wild Rumpus first birthday party - such a darling concept, and I loved the cake (even if it had so much unplanned drama attached to it).

10.26.2012

Skinny Potato Leek Soup


Our last and final installment of my 3-day potato hoorah has arrived.

And of course, it has to be soup. It's just my style right now. Cold outside = soup inside.

This soup was painfully easy. You start out with a very simple roux, then add in all your ingredients except for the milk. Simmer, then done. You could set this soup to simmer, slick up the kitchen, shamelessly eat some of your son's Halloween candy, and the soup will be finished when you're through.

The flavors are very simple, and without the addition of cream, this recipe leans directly towards the skinny side of life. However, I wanted Ryan to like the soup, so I added cream at the end after blending. You could do this either way. Heck, you could change the chicken stock to veggie and have yourself a little vegetarian goodness if that's the way you swing.

Ever use leeks before? We have had them few times and have loved them even more with each appearance. They taste somewhere between a yellow onion and a green onion (or scallion, if you will), and are delightfully tame. Nonetheless, they provide immense flavor, and are a perfect compliment to the potatoes.

We served this up with some Sweet Potato Biscuits, and loved the leftovers for lunch the next day.

-------

Skinny Potato Leek Soup 

Ingredients:
1 large leek, dark stems removed.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 T flour
1 T butter
4 C fat free chicken, low sodium, chicken stock
1/2 C milk (skim, or whatever you prefer)
salt and pepper
*3/4 C heavy cream (*optional, but essential if you're feeding this to a man.)

Directions:
1. First off, make sure your leeks are thoroughly cleansed. They tend to get dirt in the small crevices. Cut them horizontally and separate the layers to make sure no grit remains. Coarsely chop them after washing.
2. In a medium soup pot, melt butter and add flour on low heat. Using a wooden spoon, mix well, and prevent from burning. If it goes dark brown, you've torched the sucker, and need to start again. You're aiming for golden.
3. Add chicken stock, leeks, onion, potatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the soup until smooth.
4. Add milk and salt & pepper to taste. Stir in cream (optional).

Recipe Adapted from: SkinnyTaste

10.24.2012

Gold & Sweet Potato Medley

Here we are, my friends. Part 2 of my 3-day shout-out to the humble, but lovely, vegetable we know as potato.

I thought these fit nicely as our 2nd installment. There are 2 different kinds of potatoes in this side dish, and I loved it enough to make it 2 times in the past 2 weeks. Too many 2's in the mix. 

My little guy (the Manchild) is allowed cartoons during breakfast. It gives me time to finish up whatever I was blogging about earlier, and allows him to take his sweet time with those Multi-Grain Cheerios and epic whole milk slurping. Sometimes at the end of the 25-minute show, a wee little gem of a segment comes on called Small Potatoes. It's only about 3-5 minutes long, and these adorable little British Potatoes sing lovely little tunes together. The Manchild loves it. He squeals with delight, and recognizes them right away.

As I prepared this homestyle side dish of different potatoes, I couldn't help but hum the oh-so-familiar tune of Small Potatoes. Looking back, it probably seems borderline morbid singing about the dear potatoes, and then dicing up the little lovelies to throw into a pool of boiling death, soon to be followed by a warm oil scorch in a hot pan... so much violence and gore.

But seeing as how the potatoes in the cartoon are alive, and the potatoes I cooked up are in fact not alive, I guess we're ok. I can't wait for when that conversation come up someday with my kid. Hopefully he recognizes on his own that I'm not a ''small potato'' killer.

Ryan has seen the segment a couple times, too, and as much as he might deny it, the future-attorney may have sang the Small Potatoes theme song with me as I typed this blog post.

Adults? What? 

 -------
Gold & Sweet Potato Medley

Ingredients:
2 large Yikon gold potatoes, cubed
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 T vegetable oil
1 t grated ginger
1/2 t grated garlic
1 t curry powder (or cumun, I've tried this recipe with either one, both ways are delicious!)
chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Put potatoes in a pot of cold salted water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
2. Drain and pat dry. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook, turning gently, until slightly browned, about 8 minutes.
3. Stir in ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

recipe adapted from: Food Network Magazine, 2012 September Issue

Sweet Potato Biscuits


So happy to be back in Utah again. This past weekend we drove (yikes. double yikes.) up to the beautiful Washington for a less-than-24-hour visit. For those (I was in the same boat) who have never been there before, it's 100% true what they say:

Washington is breathtaking.

It was a perfect time to visit family, see a few new places, send my suited-up-husband into the city to kick some serious tail, and also to get a much-needed break from blog land.

--

Luckily, I have a few recipes saved away to share this week. And they're all centered around something we have quite the abundance of in our kitchen (especially during the Fall/Winter season) :

Potatoes! 

I know what you're thinking: potatoes are kind of lame.

wrong.

Potatoes are the shizz, are perfectly in season, and you can buy a bag-full for mere pocket change. So this week (well, the three blog days left in it), I'll be sharing a recipe each day starring this completely versatile and inexpensive ingredient.

First on the list: beloved sweet potatoes.

Ryan and I are utterly in love with sweet potatoes. Usually when we fall head-over-heels for something, it's probably loaded with sugar, cream, calories, etc (if you judge us, I will find you). But this time, our sweet obsession is with a delicious vegetable loaded with Vitamin C, B6, Vitamin D, Iron, and Magnesium (to name a few).

With soup season in full-swing around here, these fluffy biscuits dotted with sweet potatoes are a perfect compliment to any and every soup you throw at them. They're thick, but not too dense, and with the little pinch of nutmeg, they have such a comforting flavor. We ended up eating them with a spread of butter with our dinner the next day, as well (makes a ton!)

I left the sweet potatoes chunky in the biscuits, but you can mash them down as fine as you wish to hide them from your little ones. 


Sweet Potato Biscuits 

Ingredients:
1 medium sweet potato
2 C all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t nutmeg
3/4 C milk (the closer to whole milk, the better)
4 oz (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cubed
coarse salt

Directions:
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Peel and cube the sweet potato, then add to the water and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes. (small cubes are best, the cook faster). Drain and mash, from mashed mixture, reserve 1 Cup.  
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and center oven rack in middle. 
3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
4. Using a pastry blender, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces are very small and well incorporated with the flour. 
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes and milk until well combined. 
6. Add the wet mixture into the dry and toss the ingredients together until a wet dough starts to form. 
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and briefly kneed until it has just come together. The dough will not be smooth. Don't over-kneed your biscuits. 
8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 1-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. Re-roll the dough until you have 8 biscuits. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush melted butter on top of each biscuit and sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt. 
9. Bake for 12-15 minutes. 

Recipe Source: Savory Simple. 

10.19.2012

Fresh Living Interview

Had such a blast yesterday on the KUTV 2 Fresh Living show. It was a dream come true, and I couldn't be happier with how rewarding and fun it was to cook on television! Casey was a doll, and I was completely starstruck seeing Ron Bird, Mary Nickles, Casey Scott, and Debbie Worthen in person. Everything went smoothly - but note to self: never attempt to carry a giant cooler, kitchen aid mixer, and 2 bags full of ingredients/utensils without some kind of wagon. My arms kill as I type this.

I loved watching the replay with my husband - he said I was a natural (he has to say that, though, he's married to me... hah).

To tell the truth, though, I can't say that I've never done the whole talk-cook-and-interview-at-the-same-time before...

You see, when the Manchild was a couple months old, we took off to DC for an internship my husband had for the summer. He was gone not only for the usual 8-hour workday, but sometimes up to 12. Most of the days we were on the East coast, I'd just strap the kid into a stroller explore downtown DC like there was no tomorrow. But some days, especially when the temperature jumped up into the 110's (with humidity), I just wanted to bunker down and stay inside.

Even though the beautiful flat screen in the apartment had offensive amounts of movie channels, I got bored really fast. Sometimes my boredom reached into levels of insanity. Especially when dinner time rolled around.

As usual, I set up the Manchild in his bouncer in the kitchen while I prepared dinner. This time, however, I pretended I was hosting a cooking show like Rachael Ray or Anne Burrell. I pre-measured the ingredients into little bowls, made sure to smile at my audience (the furniture, naturally) and my co-chef (the Manchild) while going through the recipe. I told stories about why I was preparing the recipe, and talked about the ingredients as I added each one. I even tasted the final product with a "mmmMMMMmmm", at the end.

I know what you're thinking: blondie is a psycho. 

Heck, I thought the same thing until yesterday. But other than the couple days practicing before the KUTV appearance, when would I have had any ''experience'' in talking while cooking? Okay, maybe watching too many episodes of The Next Food Network Star didn't hurt, either. If anything, my mini-cooking show kitchen moments helped me. I'll take it - psycho tendencies and all.

I was so grateful to share one of my favorite easy Fall recipes on Fresh Living yesterday, and can't wait to be back on the show in a few weeks. Thank you so much to those who have been so supportive and adorable by sharing the video on FB, etc. Love you guys!

If you missed watching it live, here it is online.  

If you're looking for the recipe I prepared, the Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate is right here.

10.16.2012

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

Welcome Fresh Living Viewers!


There are people who live, sleep, and think in dark chocolate. And there are people who... well... need to eat one of these cupcakes and write an apology letter to humanity.

I am the former.

I have loved dark chocolate since I was a wee little girl. Without giving out too much detail, my Dad travels/traveled to faraway places very often. We missed him very much, but we all knew that when he came home, he'd have something special packed away in his briefcase for us little ones. He'd step through the door late evening and some of us would follow him upstairs to my parents bedroom. As he unpacked a few things, he'd hand each of us a large brick of heaven-sent, creamy, decadent, chocolate. We couldn't eat it all at once, or even within the month (except for my brothers, who I'm quite positive downed the sucker in less than 24 hours), so we (the girls) space it out; eating a small square morsel or two every now and then. In my mind (and according to my taste buds), no type, shape, flavor, or form of chocolate has ever, nor ever, will compare to that chocolate. It was ridiculous.

Usually, my Dad brought home milk chocolate, but I'll never forget the time he brought home a couple bricks of dark chocolate. I had never tried it before (to my memory). I instantly fell in love.

Okay, I jest.

At first I thought it was bitter, and weird. But then with a little time, and a wonderful after-taste, I then fell in love with the majesty and wonder of dark chocolate. Yes, majesty and wonder.

When I came across this recipe last week, I knew I needed to push it towards the top of my recipe list, and pronto. Plus, it would be a grand opportunity for me to 1) try mascarpone & 2) use mascarpone. Oh what a blessed ingredient! It's like cream cheese, but with less cheesy zing, and more of a decadent and fluffy texture. Throw mascarpone in a dark chocolate buttercream frosting on top of a devilishly moist dark chocolate cupcake? I don't know why I even attempted to describe these cupcakes...

...the mere taste leaves me speechless.

-------

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

Ingredients:

cupcakes:
2 C sugar
1- 3/4 C flour
3/4 C Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1-1/2 t baking powder
1-1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 C canola oil
2 t vanilla extract
1 C boiling water (or 1 C brewed coffee)

frosting:
4 oz (1/2 of an 8 oz tub) mascarpone cheese
1/2 C butter, softened
1/3 C Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
2 T milk
2 T vanilla
16 oz powdered sugar, sifted

Directions:
1. For the cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. In a large mixer bowl with paddle attachment, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Stir in boiling water (batter will be very thin, don't worry).
4. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter & bake for 22 minutes. Place on wire racks and remove from muffin pan as soon as you can without being burned. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.
5. for the cupcakes:  In a large mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese, butter, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla with an electric stand mixer on medium heat to high speed until creamy.
6. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Beat in enough additional milk (if you feel it's needed) 1 teaspoon at a time to reach consistency needed for your cupcakes.

Makes about 30 cupcakes
Recipe Source: a cup of mascarpone

10.15.2012

Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup

Why yes, another soup recipe.

It's cold outside, remember?

This means I try less of the new 'sweets & treats' recipes, and try more of my saved recipes involving hearty seasonal ingredients and decadent soups. They feed my little family, and keep them full. Simple as that.

It certainly would be glamorous, though, to bake desserts and treats very often. Unfortunately, it's not realistic for us. So when I make our one-dessert-of-the-week (usually on Sunday) we milk the heck out of it; savoring each sugary morsel.

And as much as we sometimes want to, we don't keep the beautiful 'sweets & treats' all to ourselves... I'm pretty sure our neighbors secretly think we're trying to fatten them up for even more soup. To them: I promise we're not cannibals, so eating you will never be on the table.  

This soup was gorgeous. It's loaded will all kinds of beautiful vegetables. The broth itself was soaked with the hearty juices of the roasted tomatoes, but wasn't too heavy. You could easily add in whatever vegetables you've just harvested from your garden, too. I had some leftover baked chicken breast in the fridge, so I just sliced it right up and threw it in. This soup already has wonderful leftovers, but if you wanted it to last even longer, adding more stock and a handful of short pasta would do the trick.

-------

Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:
1 lb vine-on tomatoes, quartered
3 T EVOO
Salt and Pepper
1 lb cooked chicken breast, shredded or sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 yellow-fleshed potatoes, thinly sliced
32 oz/4 C chicken broth
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and halfed
1/3 C chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions:
1.  Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons EVOO on top, season with salt and pepper.
2. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer tomatoes and juices to a bowl to cool.
3. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, season with salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the carrots, potatoes, and chicken broth and bring to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes.
5. Add the green beans and tomatoes (with their tomato juices) to the soup pot. Partially cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in chicken and parsley, season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from: Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, Issue 2009

10.12.2012

Turkey Meatball and Orzo Soup


I think at our house we're all taking turns with the same cold. As soon as we feel like the cold has been banished for good, one of us brings home another beast to share. It's kind of disheartening, especially when I want to go out for my run in the beautiful Fall weather, and my lungs retaliate with a heavy cough. Days of training down the drain.

I thought maybe we were really good at sharing this cold because my house wasn't disinfected enough. *gasp*  I'm actually kind of obsessive about that one. Ever seen Monk? Sometimes it's kind of like that.

Thankfully, a steaming hot bowl of soup warms the soul like nothing else, and forces our colds to hide their fangs for a while. The Manchild has also figured out how to eat orzo without me having to redecorate and re-carpet the dining room. Ryan didn't even notice the meat was ground turkey until he was halfway through his first bowl - (again, if it's not straight up steak or ground beef, it's not 'man food' to him). Nonetheless, he really loved this soup and had a couple helpings.

Making the meatballs was really fun - I've made meatballs several times before. But this time it wasn't your usual roll-the-meat-together-and-turn-'em-around-in-a-pan type of cooking. For this recipe, you prepare your veggies and broth first. Then with the broth comes to a rolling boil, you drop the raw homemade turkey balls right into the steaming liquid heaven! The broth is so hot that the turkey balls drop down pink, and come up brown. I was worried they'd fall apart the second I threw them in the broth, but they held their shape, and soaked in all the beautiful flavors I developed beforehand.

Later, after the meatballs are cooked through, you throw in the orzo. Oh, how I adore orzo! Next time, I'm going to have double this recipe, for sure...

... and find a way to take pictures of meatballs without them looking sketchy.


-------

Turkey Meatball and Orzo Soup

Ingredients:
1 T EVOO
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped 
6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) chicken stock
1/2 lb ground chicken/turkey breast
3 T Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 T Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
1 garlic clove, grated
2 T chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
1/2 C orzo

Directions:
1. Heat the EVOO in a medium pot over medium heat. Saute the onions and carrots for 5 minutes, then adds stock and bring to a boil.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the meat with the cheese, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. If the mixture is too moist, add a few more bread crumbs.
3. When the broth comes to a boil, roll the meat mixture into the 1-inch balls and drop them into the broth. Continue to boil until meat is cooked through (if you're nervous, grab your meat thermometer). Stir in the orzo and cook for 7 minutes, al dente.

Recipe source: Rachael Ray Yum-O; The Family Cookbook

10.11.2012

Interview

picture captured by the beautiful Natalie at Life {Made} Simple
If you're a Facebook fan of Baking with Blondie, or have some connection to me in real life, you may have noticed a bit of delightful ruckus after my interview on KSL TV. Upon returning home from downtown Salt Lake City later that afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised with the after-effect! I had no idea more than maybe a few people would hang around to the end of the 12:00 news hour to check out the interview. I was secretly hoping everyone forgot... that way if I completely botched it, no one would see it happen LIVE (an prayed people wouldn't find the online video afterwards to transform it into those YouTube laughing stocks or Bad Lip Reading sessions). I haven't been that nervous in a very long time, and wasn't anxious to re-watch any huge mistakes.

Let me explain - I graduated from college in Music Performance. As in often being under loads of pressure in front of a lot of people doing something I had prepared/practiced for hours and hours. So when I'm thrown in front of a LIVE camera on TV without a script or any idea as to what the questions will be (other than "we're going to ask you about your blog" - shouldn't be that hard, right?), and no musical instrument to cling to while absolute fright flooded my bloodstream, I was scared to death.

Exited.

Thrilled.

But very scared.

Ryan researched previous KSL Browser 5.0 Blogger of the Week interviews and came up with a list of questions to ask during our mock interviews the night before. He started the sound recorder (I  decided re-watching my gnarly-hair-no-makeup-pj interview on his laptop camera would destroy whatever confidence I thought I had left) on his computer, and asked me question after question about my blog. If I messed up, we started the recording all over again. At the time I thought it was pretty silly, but played along. After listening back to the recordings, I realized how much it was helping me, and agreed to more interview practice. My nervousness grew into anxiousness.

I still had no idea what to wear. 

The morning came, and I dropped off our little guy at my Mom's and Ryan off at his lawyer networking lunch thing downtown. I headed down the street to KSL - sweating buckets the entire time. The building was gorgeous, and the waiting room had a giant flat screen. Every time the door opened to the different newsrooms, my heart jumped. About a minute before my interview, Scott Haws flew through the door and lead me to where we'd have the interview. I was starstruck while passing some familiar news-hour faces and backgrounds I had seen on TV several times before.  I saw Grant walking around in his sneakers (why did I stress so much about what shoes to wear?) It was really awesome to be in such a place, to say the least.

All the sudden, they said we had about 30 seconds. They had me pull the mini mic up my shirt and clip it next to my favorite bubble necklace (a friend pointed out yesterday that the yellow bubble necklace is my Baking with Blondie signature - hadn't pieced that one together, but I like it!). They then had me stand next to Scott in the middle of a room full of computers.  He was trying to make sure he had my last name right while one of the cameramen told the others to 'give me the box'.

Apparently 5 feet 5 1/2 inches isn't tall enough, so they gave me a big box to stand on. I felt mighty tall next to Scott on that box! He made a comment or two before about how I'm going to have to convince my family and friends that he really is much taller than I am. Within a second, the camera's started rolling...

I have no idea how these guys can be so comfortable and piece words together into complete sentences in front of the camera. I do not have any of these skills - I felt my face turning red, and was shaking like a leaf the entire time. I think at one point I realized my hands were flying around like an Italian, so I held them together. I also wasn't allowed to look at the camera, so I felt strange staring at Scott (or in the distance) during the interview. All the sudden, the interview came to an end.

It went by really fast! And although I've gone over the video countless of times analyzing and criticizing my hair/answers/facial expressions... I shyly feel happy with the results.

Big thanks goes out to Tish Rowley for nominating me!  And a huge thanks to KSL TV for all their kindness and willingness to give my blog some serious love on their show yesterday :)

If you haven't been able to catch the video yet, it's online here.

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Now back to the food! New recipes will be up the rest of this week, as usual :)

10.09.2012

Cheesecake-Filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting


The starring flavor of pumpkin has exploded on blog land. I don't think I've gone a single day since the beginning of October without seeing some variation of pumpkin on the blogs I follow.

I don't mind one bit.

My husband on the other hand, is already sick of pumpkin - and we haven't even reached November! Thankfully, I found a recipe where I could sneak pumpkin in a recipe with one of his all-time favorites: Cheesecake. Win win for all, I must say.

I made these little guys last night, and frosted them this morning. The cupcake itself is ridiculous. The pumpkin pie flavors with an extra dose of cheesecake cream? Holy smokes. However, the frosting needed some love. The original frosting recipe called for way too much butter, so I had to make some serious modifications. I know, I know - it's buttercream, but 1.5 cups of butter seemed like overkill.

Other than that, these cupcakes were heaven. Last night was a late night again for Ryan (studying at the law school). I put the Manchild to bed, turned up The Civil Wars, and threw these in the oven. The comforting smell of pumpkin + cheesecake was more than enough to open the flood gates of memory. I can't wait for Fall to progress, and the leaves to cover the ground once again.

Growing up, my dear friend Elaine had giant trees in her backyard. The tree's thick branches were covered with an overwhelming plethora of huge leaves. I'm talkin' face-sized (or perhaps they seemed that way to our little noggins). In our elementary school years in Autumn, those leaves would fall to the ground, covering the backyard. You couldn't see a single patch of grass; creating a wonderland of color. Her Mom (one of the nicest ladies I've ever met) handed us the rakes and sent us into battle. We'd anxiously pile up as many leaves as we could, only to dive-bomb through them moments later.

Press repeat for hours and hours on that one. 

With our front yard trees barely starting to change color with the season, I can't wait to press play again.


Cheesecake-Filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting 

Ingredients:

cupcakes:
8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 C flour
2 t pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C canned pumpkin puree
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C vegetable oil

frosting:
1 C light brown sugar
4 large egg whites
1/4 t salt 
simmering water
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces and chilled
1/2 t vanilla extract 
1/2 t almond extract
2 C powdered sugar
splash of milk (optional)
black crystal sprinkles (optional)

Directions:
1. To make cupcakes: Place rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking liners (I ended up using another 6-cup muffin tin in addition to the 12-cup muffin pan).
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar for 3 minutes. Beat in 2 egg white and 1/2 t vanilla.
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In another bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, 2 eggs, granulated sugar, oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture. 
4. Layer each muffin cup with a little pumpkin batter, then the cream cheese mixture, then more of the batter. Bake until springy to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
5. To make frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar, 4 egg whites, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
6. Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch water. Bring to a boil. Place the mixing bowl on top of hot water. Whisk the mixture until it registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
7. Transfer the bowl back to the mixer, and beat at high speed until fluffy. Lower speed and beat to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat at high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and almond extract. 
8. Slowly add in powdered sugar until you reach a desired consistency. If still too buttery, add more powdered sugar. If it's too thick, add a splash of milk.
9. Pipe frosting with large star tip onto cupcakes. Dump sprinkles into a shallow bowl. Lightly dip cupcakes into sprinkles (careful not to press too hard).
10. Enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from: Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2009 Issue


*Don't forget to tune into KSL 5 TV (Channel 5 in Utah) between 12:40 - 1pm for my interview about Baking with Blondie!*

10.05.2012

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

I know I talk about my Mom too much on here, but she's been such an influence in my life, and my cooking, since I can remember. And this mushroom recipe is all hers.

I've made these lovely mushrooms countless times. They're yet to disappoint, and always have positive reviews (and recipe requests). There's isn't a gathering around the holidays with the Blondie relatives around the table without these beautiful stuffed mushrooms nearby.

To be completely honest, though, I used to loathe mushrooms. Somehow I could always pick out their texture in a dish, and I flat out thought they were alien to the food world. That was my firm belief, until my Mom served these at a family gathering many years ago.

My mind did a complete 180, and I immediately adored mushrooms. Weird, eh? Well, what can you expect when you stuff something with cream cheese and sausage? Ryan, on the other hand, still hates mushrooms - but willingly eats these like candy. The only change I've made to this very same recipe my Mom served is adding about a handful of Parmesan cheese. I think it adds just the right amount of saltiness to the filling.

Why did I make such a special dish mid-week? In my neighborhood, one of my dear friends hosts a potluck lunch every Thursday. It's such a fun time to meet up with good friends, let our little ones spend time together, and a wonderful opportunity to try new foods (and share some of our favorites). I took my Mom's Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms this time, and I'm sure glad I saved some at home for Ryan and I - there was only a couple left in the dish when I left (...which I gladly popped in my mouth during the lovely walk home).

Trying new recipes is always an adventure, but nothing feels better than taking the nostalgic back road through a familiar one. The holidays are upon us! You betcha these will be on our table.

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Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:
1 lb sausage 
8oz package of cream cheese
1 lb fresh white mushrooms, cleaned, stems carefully removed 
1/4 C grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 baking dish with aluminum foil.
2. In a large pan, cook sausage over medium-high heat until heated thoroughly (no pink).
3. Add cream cheese to sausage and turn heat down to medium. Mix cream cheese with sausage until the mixture is uniform throughout. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
4. With a teaspoon, or clean hands, stuff each mushroom (pile it high), and place carefully in prepared baking dish.
5. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe from: My Hilarious Mother, Nicolé :)

10.04.2012

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Buns


So thrilled to announce I'm guest posting over at Through the Eyes of the Mrs today! I'm sharing my Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Buns - we ate these with forks right out of the pan! Check it out here.

Mini Caramel Apple Bites


I will never ever reveal how many of these Ryan and I ate in one day. In one afternoon.

Okay. In one hour.

My Mom's green thumb has spread like wildfire throughout her beautiful backyard. I had my wedding reception back there for crying out loud. It's a peaceful haven, and perfectly serene. Fall is when I believe it's in it's full glory - and in full production (not that it doesn't look gorgeous in the other seasons). She has quite the set of trees lovingly growing on both sides of the backyard: cherry, plum, pear, peach, and most importantly... apple! Last week my Mom sent me home with a sack full of these delightfully green apples from one of the said trees.

To be honest, (and to switch gears a bit) I can't eat green apples plain. I've tried. I gag. It's a tragedy because they taste delicious. Unfortunately, green apples play the devil's tune to my taste buds, and I can't keep them down. Why the heck was I so excited for these green apples, then?

Green apples taste good in things. Simple as that.

They taste wonderful in gooey pies, fluffy warm muffins, with fresh peanut butter, creamy nutella, crispy salads, decadent desserts, oh - and smothered in rich caramel (only to be dunked in any topping you can possibly dream up).

Needless to say, these caramel apples owned us this week.


Mini Caramel Apple Bites 

Ingredients:
Green Apples
Caramels (smashed in small pieces for easier melting)
Toppings (I used roasted peanuts and sprinkles - fyi: colored sprinkles will melt and change colors . Stick with white or thick sprinkles. Personally, we thought the nut-covered green apples were by far the best. Next time we're going to just dunk them various kinds of nuts.)
Melon Baller
Toothpicks
Parchment Paper

Directions
1. Melt your caramel in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Do not let it burn. Turn down heat if necessary.
2. Pour toppings into separate bowls for dipping. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
3. With your melon baller, scoop out little spheres of apple and insert a toothpick into the green part of each apple ball.
4. Dab moisture off apple ball as much as possible - this helps the caramel stick better. The more moisture, the trickier it will be to get the caramel to stick.
5. Dip ball into warm caramel, carefully dabbing off any extra caramel. Immediately dip into toppings and place on parchment paper.
6. When finished dipping, place cookie sheet in fridge or freezer to harden. Devour!

10.03.2012

Avocado Egg Salad Wrap

Holy moly, people. 

I've had this recipe pinned since the Ice Age, and let me tell you right now (as goes the story with most things I've pinned) :  I wish I would have tried this recipe sooner. 

I like to think I've been really good about making the recipes on my Pinterest boards, and in my cookbooks. But I feel like the more recipes I try, the more recipes I add to my list! It's a never ending vicious cycle. Good thing my kitchen life is on publicized on blog land now, right?

This avocado egg salad was dynamite. It has very few ingredients, is surprisingly filling, and has the potential to fit almost any taste palate you could probably think of (unless you hate avocados or eggs... then you're on your own). Just add the seasonings that speak to you, and you'll find yourself loving this wrap from the first bite. 

The original recipe called for curry powder, but I went straight to the cumin. It went perfectly with the avocado! Next time I think I'll even add some cilantro (Ryan probably thinks I could find a way to add cilantro to just about anything). I ate my avocado egg salad in a multi-grain wrap, and Ryan enjoyed his on plain white bread.

I know. It's mid-week and we're already party animals. 

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Avocado Egg Salad Wrap

Ingredients:
3-4 hard boiled eggs 
1 ripe avocado, pit and skin removed
1 T mayo or greek yogurt
1/2 t cumin (add more to taste)
pinch of salt and pepper
2 whole grain/white tortillas

Directions:
1. Remove outer shell from eggs. Add eggs and avocado to a medium bowl. 
2. Mix in mayo, cumin, salt & pepper. 
3. Heat up tortillas in microwave for 15 seconds (makes them easier to bend).
4. Spread avocado-egg mixture in the middle of your tortillas. Fold in edges like a burrito/egg roll. 
5. Cut in half and enjoy! 

adapted from: {never} homemaker

10.02.2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo with Pancetta


Ever have one of those downright crummy days?

Me too...

...but nothing a little pasta can't fix. Especially pasta including one of my new-found loves this year: Pancetta. This wasn't our first rodeo - I've had pancetta with delicious Bucatini All'Amatriciana. It's heavenly. Ever tried it? It's like bacon on crack (with a little extra shake of salt). Good, good stuff.

I also was really excited to give this pasta dish a try when I heard it had an ingredient I hadn't tried yet: Goat Cheese. I remember holding the cheese in one hand and my cell in the other; calling my Mom at the grocery store asking if she'd ever tried the beast and if I was crazy for wanting to. 

Somewhere along the way of getting lost in the cheese section and wrestling with the toddler, I made a grave error. It took enough convincing to put one package of goat cheese in the cart... it wasn't until I was unloading our groceries into the cupboards and fridge at our home when I noticed something:

I guess I really was crazy.

I accidentally put two packages of goat cheese in my cart.

TWO.

That's right. I had just purchased almost $8 worth of cheese. EIGHT DOLLARS.

yikes.

Lucy certainly had some explaining to do when her husband found out.

Thankfully, the goat cheese tasted wonderful. It was like a tangy cream cheese, and melted really well into sauce. Then paired with roasted red pepper, garlic, and Pancetta? Are you kidding me? The double-cheese-foul-up was easily forgiven.

If only I had doubled the Pancetta, too... then I could have whipped up a second batch of heaven-on-a plate.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo with Pancetta

Ingredients:
1/2 lb fettuccine 
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 oz goat cheese
2 roasted red peppers, chopped 
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
1 handful of basil
4 thin slices Pancetta, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Cook the pasta as directed on the package.
2. While pasta is cooking, cook Pancetta in a large pan until crispy. Drain pancetta on paper towel covered plate. Drain pan.
3. In the same pan, melt butter over medium heat and add garlic. Cook about a minute, careful not to burn.
4. Add cream, goat cheese, Parmesan and roasted red peppers and simmer until the cheese has melted.
5. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper. Add basil and puree with a blender or food processor until smoothe.
6. In a large bowl, combine sauce and noodles. Sprinkle with more basil, Parmesan, and Pancetta.

Recipe Source: Closet Cooking 

10.01.2012

Ratatouille Soup

We've all seen the movie. And if you haven't, it will find you.

This soup turned out much better than I thought it would be. I had it planned on our menu because we still had a zucchini lying around. It had the Manchild's distinct teeth marks in it. He must have found it earlier in the week, and I hadn't noticed it until I was cleaning and chopping it up for the soup.

How the heck did he get up there? I keep my fresh veggies in tiered baskets on a counter in our kitchen. He's not allowed in the kitchen (unless strapped into his highchair) anymore, so I'm convinced he grabbed it when he was too close to the veggie baskets... and then someone just put it back with the teeth-marked side hidden. Well played. I had no idea.

I wasn't sure how well-received this soup would be in the Blondie household - as I've said before, Ryan likes the meat, and this soup didn't have any of it (well... besides the chicken stock). However, with the addition of pasta (whole wheat at that), it lasted minutes, and the lack of a meat-dominated soup never came up in conversation. The steaming hot bowl of fresh veggies and pasta warmed our little home on the corner, and paved the way for a beautiful weekend.

As we're harvesting the fresh gifts of the land, this soup would honestly be perfect to sneak a taste of everything in one place.

Ratatouille Soup

Ingredients:
3 T EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini, seeded and diced
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cups chicken stock
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes with their juices
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta shells

a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
a few fresh basil leaves, julienne
parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in deep pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add onions, garlic, bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. (stirring occasionally)
3. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
4. Stir in pasta and cool al dente. Stir in parsley and basil, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Recipe Source: Rachel Ray Yum-O; The Family Cookbook