Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Biscuits and Gravy

We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! Our holiday was quiet... we enjoyed our traditional Swedish Christmas Eve dinner complete with ham, Swedish meatballs, scalloped potatoes, peas, lingonberry jam, and limpa bread, then spent some time around the fireplace sipping wine and visiting with friends. On Christmas morning we woke up to the delicious and familiar smell of my mom making our family's favorite holiday breakfast... Biscuits and Gravy!


For me, my mom's version of Biscuits and Gravy is amazingly delicious comfort food x 100,000! For some reason her recipe just tastes better than anyone else's (and that is including restaurants!). I have gone years without asking her for the recipe or hoovering over the stove while she makes it... I just simply enjoyed consuming it. Honestly, I think I didn't want to know how high in fat and calories this favorite holiday breakfast indulgence is! Some things are just better left unknown... 


But the truth came out this Christmas, and I was quite surprised to learn that my mom uses fat-free milk and only about a half tablespoon of butter per person for her gravy. She still uses regular pork sausage, but you could easily sub that out for a reduced fat sausage. And to save time this Christmas morning, my mom used Pillsbury Grand! Biscuits... which also come in a reduced fat and wheat version now. Sometimes we will make our biscuits from scratch, but if you're short on time or are looking for a quicker and easier Biscuits and Gravy recipe, using refrigerated biscuits is the perfect way to go!


I finally sat down and watched Mama W. work her biscuits and gravy magic. The gravy itself is not too difficult to make... all you do is pre-cook the sausage, then make a roux (using equal parts butter and flour), then you add milk and some pepper to the roux and 'baby-sit' that gravy until it thickens, upon which time you throw in the cooked sausage! Easy, right?!?!? Well, the outcome is delicious enough that I am now willing to try making this comforting breakfast all by myself at some point.


Using fat-free milk, reduced fat pork sausage (like Jimmy Dean's), and a reduced fat biscuit would make me feel a little better about indulging in a big heaping plate of Biscuits and Gravy. Obviously this isn't the kind of breakfast you'd want to have every morning... but if you are looking for a lighter version of this yummy, hearty breakfast favorite this recipe is easily adaptable to that! And if you don't care about calories, you could just go with full calorie, regular fat on all the ingredients. Either way IT'S SO GOOD...

Biscuits and Gravy
Mama W. original recipe
makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 (12oz.) package pork sausage (reduced fat, for a lighter version)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups fat free milk
pepper, to taste
8-12 biscuits (reduced fat, for a lighter version)

Directions:
Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan.


Stir in the butter until melted. Add flour, and stir until smooth. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until light brown.


Gradually whisk in milk, and cook until thickened.


Season with pepper, and stir in cooked sausage. Reduce heat, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. If gravy becomes too thick, stir in a little more milk.


Serve warm over biscuits. And ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Seriously, it's soooooooooo good... and really quick and easy!


Believe me, you will make everyone's tummy happy with this comforting, hearty breakfast dish! Maybe these Biscuits and Gravy will even become a holiday tradition for your family like it is for our family.

Hope all you enjoyed your holiday season...

Happy New Year and Cheers to a happy and healthy 2015!!!

- Janel


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Easy Italian Wedding Soup

Last weekend Amy and I were discussing our grocery list and meal plans for the week, we like to get our grocery shopping for the entire week done on Sundays. She was all, "I love Italian Wedding Soup... we should make some". I said ok, but I'll admit I was a little worried. It just sounded like a soup that required a lot of prep and cooking time! Well after a really relaxing day of hanging out watching football at a local sports bar, we completely scrapped the grocery shopping idea. After all, it was a short week with Christmas... we had plenty of food in our freezer to get by on! We'd just have to make Italian Wedding Soup some other week.


But as I was opening the bag of frozen meatballs we had in our freezer for a fast, easy dinner that same night, it struck me that I could use the pre-made meatballs for the Italian Wedding Soup that Amy had her heart set on. All the other ingredients in the soup are things that we keep in the pantry and fridge on a regular basis... chicken stock, orzo pasta, spinach, and carrots.


In all it took me about 20 minutes to throw this Italian Wedding Soup together... it's so quick and easy for a weeknight meal. I can see why Amy is such a fan of this kind of soup, it's delicious! I wasn't sure what to expect, but Italian Wedding Soup is actually very light and 'clean' tasting. You can taste all the ingredients individually, there are not any over-powering spices or flavors. It's quite lovely really...

Easy Italian Wedding Soup
based on a recipe from allrecipes.com
makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:
20-25 pre-made meatballs, frozen (the smaller, the better)
5 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 cup carrot, chopped

Directions:
1.   In large saucepan, heat broth to boiling; stir in spinach, orzo pasta, chopped carrot and meatballs.

2.   Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook at slow boil for 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.


Well, that was easy! Very little prep time, only one saucepan needed, and a quick cook time... this is a great soup for those busy weeknights. Pre-made meatballs really cut down on the prep time for this recipe.

And let's not forget how tasty it is too.... 

Amy gave this Italian Wedding Soup recipe her stamp of approval.



Enjoy!

- Janel

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Beef, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

You don't have to spend all day in the kitchen to produce a delicious, crowd-pleasing dinner. I have found some of my quickest and easiest recipes are also the mostly highly enjoyed! I made a pan of these Beef, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas on Sunday...


This one-dish meal only take a few minutes to throw together, and it makes enough food for you to enjoy it all week. I love having leftovers from one-dish meals, it's such an easy dinner for those busy weeknights since all you have to do is heat the food back up. Well, these enchiladas were so delicious they didn't make it past the middle of the week!


Enchiladas are a perfect flavorful, comfort food for these cold winter months. The corn and black beans add a yummy Tex Mex twist to your standard ground beef filling in this easy recipe. And since these enchiladas are made with lean ground beef and reduced fat cheese, you can feel a little less guilty about indulging in a plate full!

Beef, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas
based on a recipe from allrecipes.com
makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 (28 ounce) can enchilada sauce
  • 12-14 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups reduced fat Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • cilantro, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium skillet over medium high heat, cook the ground beef and onion until beef is evenly browned and onion is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer ground beef to a plate topped with a paper towel to drain (optional). Return beef to skillet and mix in black beans and corn.


Pour 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.

On each tortilla, place an equal portion of the ground beef mixture and shredded cheese, reserving at least 1/2 cup of cheese. Then tightly roll the tortillas and place seam side down in the baking dish.

 

Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.


Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is thoroughly melted.


Note - next time I will add 1/4 cup chopped jalapenos to the beef mixture. I think it could use an extra kick of flavor!

YUM!!!!! I really enjoyed these Beef, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas... so simple and easy to make, yet super delicious and satisfying. I will definitely be making them again!


Enjoy.

- Janel

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Santa's Snack Mix

My mom has been in the kitchen baking holiday treats since Thanksgiving! Today I went over to visit and once again, I found her in the kitchen whipping up a delicious treat. She was trying out a new recipe for a "snack mix" so I decided to help out... as official taste tester. Popcorn, Chex cereal, pretzels, peanuts, chocolate, and sprinkles all come together in this delightful, salty and sweet, crunchy, chocolate-y, and a super festive holiday treat.


Santa's Snack Mix is a really easy recipe that's actually pretty fun to make too! This would be a great food project to do with kids during the holidays...


I'm definitely going to wrap up some of this yummy Santa's Snack Mix in cute bags and give it away as gifts to friends and co-workers! It's a great change from the traditional Christmas cookie

Santa's Snack Mix

Ingredients:
8-10 cups popped popcorn
2-3 cups holiday shaped pretzels
2 cups Chex cereal
1 cup red and green holiday sprinkles
2 cup peanuts
3/4 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 package Dove dark chocolate candies
1 package M&M's Holiday Baking Mini's

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.  In a large bowl combine the combine the popcorn, pretzels, cereal, and peanuts. Set aside.

3.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter, vanilla, sugar, and corn syrup over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring constantly.

4.  Pour butter mixture over the ingredients in the bowl. Toss until all covered.

5.  Spread the popcorn mix on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, stir. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the holiday sprinkles.

6.  Place Dove chocolates in a small, microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn mix. Sprinkle with the remaining holiday sprinkles and M&M Baking Mini's.


7.  Let cool approximately 10-20 minutes. Once cooled, break into chunks.

8.  Store in an air-tight container for up to 7 days.


This recipe makes about two baking trays worth of mix! If you don't need that much, just half or quarter the recipe. 

YUM!!! This stuff is addictive... great for the chocolate lover in your life (like me).

Happy Holiday Baking!

- Janel



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gingerbread Cookies

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us! Between the Christmas shopping, holiday parties, seasonal events, and party planning the weeks are just flying by. Have you started your Christmas baking yet? I need to get on it. I just made my first batch of cookies this holiday season... Gingerbread Cookies! I mean, it's just not Christmas without gingerbread.


There are so many recipes for gingerbread cookies out there... and they are all different! Some people like their gingerbread cookies hard, some like them soft; some like the cookies sweet, and some like them spicy (spiced). 


I happen to like my cookies a little soft, a little hard, a little sweet, and a little spicy. So this super easy gingerbread recipe I found on allrecipes.com is PERFECT... it is a great balance of all those textures and flavors! And did I mention the recipe is super easy?!


Not only do these cookies taste delicious, the house has never smelled as good as when these gingerbread cookies were baking! To me, gingerbread cookies smell (and taste) just like the holidays... and they are so fun and festive when you decorate them.

Gingerbread Cookies
recipe from allrecipes.com
makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.


So cute and festive!


Gingerbread Cookies are such a fun (and delicious) Christmas cookie project... decorating them is a great time for all ages! And if you don't want to decorate them, they still taste amazing.

Happy Christmas Cookie Baking!

- Janel

Spicy Vegetable Yakisoba

Earlier this week I posted about our Asian food market adventure and Slow Cooker Pork Ribs recipe. If you missed the blog, here's a short synopsis:

Amy and I had our first-ever Asian food market adventure over the weekend. We browsed through aisles devoted solely to soy sauce and other Asian ingredients, tanks full of live fish, clams and lobster, barrels of fresh vegetables I had never seen or heard of before, and... a whole refrigerator section of noodles!


We had decided on making pork ribs in the slow cooker with some Korean BBQ sauce we picked up, so when we saw the noodles we knew exactly what we were going to make as a side dish... YAKISOBA!


Yakisoba or Japanese fried noodles is a popular dish made by frying ramen-style noodles with bite-sized pieces of pork or chicken, vegetables (usually cabbage, onions or carrots) and flavored with a tangy, flavorful sauce.

Since we were already having meaty pork ribs, we decided on a Spicy Vegetable Yakisoba. Using a yakisoba recipe I found on allrecipes.com, we were able to create a spicy, flavorful, veggie-packed noodle dish. Warning - this dish is SPICY! If you are not a fan of heat, you might want to reduce the amount of chili paste.

Spicy Vegetable Yakisoba
based on a recipe from allrecipes.com
makes about 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chili paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup snap peas
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced (we left this out)
2 cups bean sprouts
1 green onions, chopped
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin or teriyaki sauce
16 oz. yakisoba noodles, cooked

Directions:
In a large skillet combine sesame oil, olive oil and chili paste; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add garlic and stir fry an additional 30 seconds.


Add the mushrooms, snap peas, carrots and cabbage. Stir-fry until brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.


Stir in the bean sprouts and green onion. Add soy sauce, hoisin (or teriyaki) sauce, and cooked noodles to pan and mix to blend. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.


Serve warm and enjoy!


These spicy noodles are great with a cold beer... we paired our meal with a frosty Kirin Light!


We will definitely be making Spicy Vegetable Yakisoba again... so flavorful and comforting. Oh, and it re-heats GREAT!!! Good leftovers...

Enjoy!

- Janel



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Well, I started this blog the weekend after Thanksgiving.... and apparently it's taken me awhile to finish. But better late than never!

 

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! We started the holiday morning out with a 5k 'turkey trot', then enjoyed football, family, friends, and AWESOME FOOD. It was such a great day, I forgot to take pictures and blog the Thanksgiving dishes I had planned on blogging... oh well, there's always next year I guess!

My parents came by on Saturday to help us put up our 9 foot (it's fake, don't judge) Christmas tree and drop off some delicious Thanksgiving leftovers. When I saw the small amount of leftover turkey they gifted us, I panicked! How was I supposed to make turkey sandwiches all week with only a few slices of turkey?! And I NEED my leftover turkey sandwiches... having turkey leftovers is one of the best parts about the Thanksgiving feast!


I decided I would go to the grocery store and pick up my own turkey to cook in the slow cooker. I had no idea if you could even cook a turkey in the slow cooker, but I was going to make it happen. I found a 6 pound turkey breast that looked like it would fit in a slow cooker perfectly... those whole turkeys are just too big! Plus, I didn't need all the dark meat that comes with a whole turkey, I really just wanted some lean white breast meat for sandwiches.

I came home from the store, found a recipe, prepped the bird, threw it in the slow cooker, and went about my errands! No oven, no basting, no need to hang around the kitchen all day. So EASY. I had no idea turkey could be cooked this way... SO EXCITING! Now I can have turkey sandwiches whenever I want!

The turkey turns out flavorful, moist and tender; the meat pulls right off the breast bone. This turkey recipe is great for an easy dinner or to pre-cook for 'leftover turkey' sandwiches!

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
makes about 12 servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 bone-in turkey breast (6 to 7 pounds), skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Directions:
Brush turkey with olive oil. Combine the garlic powder, seasoned salt, paprika, Italian seasoning and pepper; rub over turkey. Transfer to a 6-qt. slow cooker; add stock.


Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until tender.


Needless to say, I have been enjoying my leftovers all week...


My favorite sandwich combination:  Leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, brie, with a little mayo and mixed greens on whole wheat bread. Served warm! OOOOOOH YUM.


Hope you got to enjoy some delicious Thanksgiving leftovers as well! Don't worry... if your turkey craving wasn't satisfied, all you have to do is go grab a turkey breast and throw it in the slow cooker. :)

- Janel