Sunday, November 25, 2012

Basic Lasagna #HelpingHands #SundaySupper

This week, the #SundaySupper crew is dedicating our recipes for those that suffered through Hurricane Sandy.  Although it's not shown in the news much anymore, there are many folks that are still in need. 

Since I'm in Wisconsin, I'm not able to physically help out, but I'm hoping that some of you will join me in making a small donation to one of the charities that is helping to bring relief to those most affected.  If you're unsure of where to donate, the #SundaySupper crew has links below of some charities that we recommend.

Another thing that we've asked our #SundaySupper readers to do is to think about how they can use food to help others.  Food is such a source of comfort during times of need, or sorrow, or change.  By sharing a meal with a friend or stranger, we can really make a difference.  For times like that, I make my Basic Lasagna recipe.

Although nothing fancy, that's the point with this recipe. This basic lasagna is freezer ready so if a family in need has been brought TONS of food already by neighbors, they just have to pop this meal in the freezer, and thaw it when they're ready. It's hearty. It's family friendly, (what kid doesn't love a basic pasta?) and I can make it vegetarian so that I don't have to worry about special dietary needs. I've even removed the eggs from my cheese mixture in case there are any concerns about egg allergies. I've had lots of families tell me that this was the best meal that they were brought because it was practical- not fancy or impressive. 

I didn't even attempt to take fancy pictures this week since this plate went right into the freezer.  It will sit there for a few months or until I'm notified that a family in my area needs a meal.  I usually keep a couple of these on hand.

The picture isn't fancy, but I think most people would still agree that it looks good enough to cook and eat!

  • 1 large package of lasagna noodles
  • 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 - 26 oz cans or jars of pasta sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked (optional)


Boil the lasagna noodles in salted water until al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.  In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, Parmesan, oil, Italian Seasoning, garlic powder, pepper, and salt.  Using a clean hand, mix until fully combined.  Taste a bit of the cheese mixture and add more of the spices to taste.

In a 9 x 13 inch disposable foil pan, pour a thin layer of the pasta sauce to coat the bottom.  Then, place a layer of noodles over the sauce, slightly overlapping the noodles.  Drop spoonfuls of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles until you've used up half of the cheese.  Carefully spread the cheese to try and cover as much of the noodles as possible.  If using ground beef, sprinkle half of the ground beef on top of the cheese layer.  Then, pour another thin layer of sauce on top of the beef layer.  Repeat the layers of noodles, cheese, beef, and sauce.  Place the final layer of noodles.  On top of the final noodle layer, pour a thicker layer of sauce and then top with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

If freezing, cover with foil and mark with date, ingredients, and directions to cook.  If serving immediately, put in a oven at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.  For the final 10 minutes of cooking time, remove the foil so the cheese can brown.

For other delicious ideas for meals to make and take to help others, check out the fabulous list below:

Breakfast and Brunch:
Comforting Casseroles and Entrées:

Warming Soups and Sides:
Sweet Endings:

If you are interested in making a donation to help the hurricane victims, here are links to the two charitable organizations we recommend:

Please join on us on Twitter for #SundaySupper on November 25, 2012, throughout the day. In the evening, we will meet at 6 PM CST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat.
All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.
We’d also love to feature your recipe ideas for #HelpingHands on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board so we can share them with all of our followers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes

Happy Thanksgiving! 
Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays of the year!  From family, to food, to showing gratitude, to sharing good memories, it really doesn't get much better than this.....
This year, I have something else to be thankful for-- I have all of you!  This journey of starting a food blog has been very challenging.  It's quite a commitment!  It's not as easy as snapping a couple of pictures and typing a few words onto the computer.  It takes a lot of time and energy, and in the end I'm proud of what I've done.  I'm so thankful for every time that someone visits my page!  Thank you for taking the time out of your day to come and visit!  I hope that you stick around as I continue to grow and learn about this art form called "food blogging".
Now- on to the food!  I almost didn't post today, but I decided that it would be appropriate to post the recipe for my mom's Twice Baked Mashed Potatoes.  I'm fairly confident that her mother used to make these... perhaps someone from that side of the family could enlighten me?  Either way, whenever we have a holiday gathering of any type, these beauties are there on the table.  They are great because you can make them the day ahead of time and heat them up before dinner is served.  These really are a "holiday potato" because as you'll see, they are not diet friendly.  Paula Deen would be proud at the amount of butter in these spuds. Just look at that picture--- they're swimming in butter! 
  • 5 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks of butter
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika plus more for garnish
Boil the peeled potatoes in salted water.  When soft, drain water and place the potatoes in an deep, oven safe casserole dish. On top of the potatoes, add 1 stick of butter, the cream cheese, and 1/4 of the half and half.  Using and electric mixer, whip the potatoes until they are smooth or to your desired consistency.  If they are too thick, add more half and half.  (Note: these potatoes should not be "liquidy" but they may be more paste-like due to the cream cheese and butter)  Then, add the salt, pepper, and 1/2 tsp of the paprika.  Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if desired.  Then, smooth the top of the potatoes until they are level.  Take the remaining butter and cut it into thin pats.  Evenly place the pats of butter on the top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle the top with a thin layer of paprika.  Cover. 
If serving soon, place directly into an oven heated to 350 degrees and allow to heat for approximately 30 minutes or until the sides are bubbling.  If you are serving the next day, place the entire casserole dish in the refrigerator.  When ready to re-heat, place the casserole dish in the oven and turn the heat to 350 degrees.  Heat for approximately 60 minutes or until the sides are bubbling and the potatoes are heated through.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Olive Tapenade #SundaySupper

Thanksgiving is only a mere days away, and if you're like me, you're in panic mode!  I just finished up my shopping tonight, so I feel like I'm in a better place for Thanksgiving day itself, but I still haven't figured out what I'm doing for the rest of that weekend.  I'll have house guests, and they have to eat each day--not just on Thanksgiving day.

When I heard about this week's theme, I was so happy!  Today is all about "What to do with Thanksgiving Leftovers".  We aren't just talking turkey sandwich on white bread with some mayo on it.  We're talking some really fine bloggers putting together their best recipes to make this huge meal last for a few more days. 

I thought about what was usually left over at my table.  There is no shortage of my famous twice baked mashed potatoes.  I also make a double batch of green been casserole.  Despite the copious amount of those foods, plus the 23 pound turkey, none of that food will go to waste. None of it.  What we don't eat, I give to my dad.  He's more than happy to take it off our hands.

The food that no one wants to take as a left over are the olives.  Every year, I crack open the obligatory can of black olives and put them on the garnish tray.  Every single holiday I've ever attended has always had the olive tray.  I can't seem to let it go even though its popularity is waning.  So, I decided to make an olive tapenade for the next day.  Then, we can munch on it while we watch football!

You'll notice that it's not the typical "paste" consistency.  Well, dangit, it's *my* tapenade, so I did it like I wanted to do it.  I'm not a huge paste fan, so I made mine more coarse.  If you're a true tapenade aficionado, you'll want to process yours until it's paste-like. 

Additionally, this is what I call the "poor man's tapenade".  I just spent $150.00 on Thanksgiving dinner.  I'm not spending more money to add to my leftovers.  This is about making the most of what I own and using up what I have....this tapenade is bare bones, but it's still delicious!

  • 1 can of pitted black olives, diced by hand (or you can use a food processor to create a paste-like consistency.  See below for food processor directions)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • kosher salt, to taste


In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Serve on crostini.
If using a food processor, put the whole olives, plus the remaining ingredients, directly into the food processor.  Pulse a few times.  Continue to pulse until you reach your desired consistency, using a scrapper to occasionally scrape down the sides.

Now, it's time to figure out what to do with the rest of your leftovers.  Make sure to check out the the links below to get great ideas from the rest of the #SundaySupper contributors.  It's an amazing line up this week!

Breakfast & Brunch


Main Course


Soups, Salads, Sides & Starters


Sweets & Desserts


Wine Pairings for the Recipes Featured

Please join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper on November 18. In the evening we will meet at 6pm CST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat.
All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.
We’d also love to feature your recipe for Thanksgiving Leftovers on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board to share them with all of our followers, too.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chicken Dumpling Soup

What is the perfect food to eat when you're not feeling well?  Chicken soup, of course!  This magic elixir has been prepared by mothers and grandmothers for generations with hopes of curing everything that ails us.

Well, this week, I was suffering from an awful middle ear infection.  Somehow, I managed to go my entire childhood without the horror of ear infections, but as soon as I hit middle age, my body decided that ear infections are fun!  Let me tell you..... if you've never experienced one, consider yourself lucky!  I had balance problems, was constantly sick to my stomach, and I heard a persistent hum in my ears for three days! Torture! 

My family suggested that we have this chicken dumpling soup.  It's easy to make because it's prepared with a store bought bouillon paste.  Also, the dumplings are "out of this world!"  Seriously-- they're the most fluffy, wonderful things that you've ever tasted.  We have strict orders from the kids that whenever we make it, we let them know that dumplings are ready to eat. 

Could this magical chicken dumpling soup help me get better?  Probably not... but at least it took my mind off of the ear ringing and dizziness for a few minutes.  ---and for what it's worth, I'm feeling much better now!  Maybe this chicken dumpling soup can cure all?

As a special treat, you'll notice the pink reflection on the bottom of the bowl.  Yeah...... isn't that special?  I'm not winning any awards for this photo. That lovely pink you're seeing is the reflection of my obnoxious nightgown.  I'm not proud of the photo, but this is the most cozy nightgown that I own.   I wear it when I really want to feel comfortable.  Do I wish it was another color besides ridiculous pink? Yep- but when you're sick you can't be picky. 


For the Soup
  • 3 raw chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 3 to 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 10 to 12 cups chicken *broth (see note below)
  • 2 Tbsp parsley
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • black pepper to taste
For the Dumplings
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs


In a stock pot, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add the chicken breast pieces and heat until fully cooked, stirring frequently.  Be careful that the chicken doesn't overcook and become brown/crispy.  Remove the chicken and place in a small bowl, making sure to leave any juices in the stock pot. Set the chicken aside.

In the same stock pot, add the garlic and heat for 1 minute.  Then, add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot.  Stirring frequently, sweat the vegetables.  Then, return the chicken to the pot, and add the broth, parsley, celery salt and pepper.  Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat to medium low.  Cover and simmer for an additional 30-45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

When the vegetables are tender, prepare the dumplings.  On low heat, bring the butter and milk to a boil in a medium sauce pan, being careful not to scald or boil over the milk. Once the mixture comes to a boil, immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the salt.  Slowly add the flour and stir it into the liquid until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Then, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each egg into the flour mixture until it's fully incorporated.  The dumpling mixture will be extremely sticky!  Then, using a spoon, carefully drop spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into the simmering soup.  The dumplings will be fully cooked in a few minutes, and you'll know they're done because they will float to the top of the soup.  Serve.

*Note on the Broth
Feel free to use whatever type of chicken broth that you'd like.  If you'd like to use a homemade one, that's even better!  When you're sick, this typically isn't practical.  For years now, I refuse to use a normal broth or bullion because of the lack of actual food taste.  Most bouillons are just salt.  It's important that you check the ingredients.  The first ingredient must be whatever "base" it is that you're trying to make.  For instance, with a chicken base, "chicken" should be the first ingredient, right?  You'd be surprised how many granules or cubes have salt as the first one.  My favorite base is a food paste called "Better than Bouillon", and you can locate it at most grocery stores. 


Monday, November 12, 2012

Rustic Chocolate Cake

All the great holiday prices on baking ingredients has inspired me to think outside of the box and try some new things.  Typically, we like our chocolate cakes to be on the super moist side.  This time, I wanted to have a more rustic layer cake with a decadent frosting.  The outcome was perfect!  The cake was dry, but it wasn't overly dry.  The crumbly texture, enhanced by the addition of ground almonds, helped to bring out the sweet chocolate flavor in the creamy ganache-like frosting.  This isn't a child's chocolate cake.  It is for adults or those with a more refined palate.


  • 8 oz semisweet bakers chocolate
  • 1/4 dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 Tbsp evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp light molasses
  • 1/2 ground almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder


Start by making the frosting.  Place all the frosting ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Heat on low, stirring frequently, until all the ingredients are melted.  If necessary, cut the butter into smaller pieces to help with the melting process.  Do not let the mixture burn.  Once fully melted and the mixture appears smooth and glossy, place entire pan in the refrigerator and allow to fully cool.  This process takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While the frosting is cooling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 8 inch round cake pans with Baker's Joy or another similar non-stick bakers spray. (if that spray is unavailable, you can grease the pans with unsalted butter and line them with parchment paper).  In a medium bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar on medium speed about 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined.  On low speed, add the corn syrup, molasses, and almonds.  Mix until combined.

In a small bowl, combined the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.  Sift together or stir lightly until combined.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.  Do not over mix.  Batter will be thick, and you will likely need to add a bit of water (1/4 cup or less) to thin the batter out so that it's spreadable. 

Spoon 1/2 of the batter into each cake pan, and using a spatula, spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  (start checking at about 22 minutes for doneness- do not allow cake to burn)  Cool the cakes for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to finish cooling. 

When the cakes are fully cooled and the frosting has thickened, spread a little less than half of the frosting on top of one of the layers.  (if the frosting is extremely cold, you may need to stir it for a minute to soften)  Place the other layer on top and use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.  Serve.

L: Frosting ingredients melting in the saucepan.  R: Cake batter spread evenly in the prepared cake pans.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Apricot Glazed Cornish Game Hens

A few weeks ago, I realized that that holidays are fast approaching!  I love this time of year because that means I can experiment with different recipes for house guests.  Everyone likes having something different.  Some like spicy, some like basic, others like traditional recipes. 

Cornish hens are great because you can do something different with each of them so that everyone is happy!  The only person I know who doesn't like a Cornish Hen is my dad-- he thinks they're "too much work" and "way too messy".  We won't be serving these when he comes to visit, but otherwise this recipe was a huge hit! 

The meat was so moist and infused with a hint of citrus.  This was due to the "stuffing"-- instead of edible stuffing, I packed the cavity with a 1/4 of a navel orange.  It helped keep everything moist and succulent. We served this dish with my Potato Kugel.  It was the perfect side along with a simple salad.

  • 2 to 4 Cornish Game Hens, defrosted (each hen serves 1 to 2 people)
  • kosher salt
  • 1 large navel orange
For the glaze
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp honey


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare the hens by removing the giblet bag (if included) and rinse the hens with water.  Lightly salt the inside cavity with kosher salt.  Cut the orange in quarters, (do not peel) and insert the entire quarter inside of the cavity where you'd normally place stuffing.  Place the hens, breast side up, in a roasting pan and cover.  Cook for 1 hour.

Right before the 1 hour of roasting is up, combine the apricot preserves, soy sauce, mustard, and honey in a small bowl.  Remove the hens from the oven and uncover.  Generously brush/spoon the glaze over the hens making sure to coat the entire surface.  Place hens back in the oven, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes or until they are fully cooked.  When done, remove from oven and allow them to rest for 5 minutes.  Remove the orange from the cavity and discard.  Serve whole or cut hens in half down the middle.

As you can see, I didn't tie the legs or wings back.  I made this meal for immediate family, so I didn't feel the need to be "fancy" with anything.  In fact, I didn't even think to take pictures until after we started eating.  What's wrong with me, I know!  I'm so happy that I did because I'm excited to share this meal.  My family loved it, and I know yours will, too.  What a simple and impressive meal for the holidays.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bigos (Authentic Polish Hunter's Stew) #SundaySupper

First, I want to apologize for my absence from the world wide web.  It was a crazy two weeks at work, and I kind of wonder how I survived it.  Normally, when I'm stressed I like to cook-- but this time I just needed to curl up, hug my family and/or puppy, and sleep.....   Thankfully, I think I'm getting back to normal which means that I can put my free-time focus back to the kitchen. 

This weekend was the first time in many days that I knew my work phone wasn't going to ring.  To celebrate, I decided to whip up one of my all time favorites!  What made it even better was that it fit in perfectly with the Sunday Supper theme of "Dishes that Keep you Warm".

Bigos, or Hunter's Stew, is a traditional Polish stew made with meat, lots of cabbage, mushrooms, and lots of yummy spices and flavorings.  Between shopping and cooking, it takes a half a day to do it right, but it's totally worth it.  The directions below are for a single batch, but I ALWAYS double it.  It freezes so well, and it's one of those meals that tastes even better the second and third day.  You can't make too much of this stuff.  Just look at how warm and comforting it looks--- don't you want to dive right in to those hearty chunks of tender meat and golden potatoes?

  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1.5 lbs of Polish sausage (smoked kielbasa works great), sliced
  • 1 lb of beet stew meat
  • flour for dredging
  • oil for frying
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (button or a mix of button and portabella)
  • 1 large head of cabbage, shredded
  • 1 pound of sauerkraut, drained, rinsed in water two times, and liquid pressed out
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne
  • dash of Tabasco
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • dash or two of *Maggi (or other Swiss style) seasoning  (*see Note below)
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 5 cups beef broth


In a very large, oven-safe stock pot (or dutch oven), cook the bacon until it turns a light brown.  Do not let it turn crispy.  Remove the bacon and place into a large bowl, leaving the rendered fat in the pot.  When cooled, cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces.

Meanwhile, add the sliced Polish sausage to the stock pot and cook until it turns brown. Remove the sausage and place in the bowl with the cut bacon, also leaving the rendered oil in the pot.

Dredge the beef stew meat in flour and fry in the stock pot for about 5 minutes.  Add vegetable oil, if needed.  Remove the beef and place in bowl with the rest of the meat.  Set aside the bowl of cooked meat.

In the same stock pot, add the garlic, onion, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, and sauerkraut.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and start to release their moisture.  Add the bay leaf, basil, marjoram, paprika and caraway seeds and cook for an additional minute.  Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the meat, and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. 

Add the meat back in to the pot and stir.  Cover tightly and place in an oven on 350 degrees for approximately 3 hours.  Serve over a serving of mashed potatoes. (I like to use a Yukon Gold or another similar golden potato for this dish)

*Note on Maggi-  I've received some questions about Maggi.  This is a seasoning that I'm sure you'll be able to find at your local grocery store, but you may need to look around a bit.  Sometimes it's found near the condiments like liquid smoke.  Other times, it's near the ethnic foods/sauces like soy sauce.  I've even seen it by the gravy and broth.  It may only be a few dashes, but it really makes the taste come together.  Try not to skip it. I'm a huge Maggi fan.

If you like this, you're surely love the rest of what we're featuring this week!  We have over 50 contributors bringing you their best warm you up dishes. We have everything from stews, soups, main entrees and even some hot drinks and desserts.

Just look at the list below that is coming to the #SundaySupper table this week!

Main Entrees:




Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. In the evening we will meet at 6pm Central Time for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat.
All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.
We’d also love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.