Friday, January 30, 2015

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

It's that time of winter where the temperature is dropping, but there aren't any fun holidays to help ease the boredom of being stuck inside.  Christmas and New Years are finished, and coming up is the Superbowl and Valentine's Day.  January however is a month devoid of holidays that revolve around food.  February has fun stuff like Fasnaughts for Fat Tuesday and chocolate goodies for Valentine's Day. So to cope with the cold temperatures, being stuck inside, and the bleakness that is known as winter, I went in search of yummy recipes to make to warm up.
Recently I also celebrated my baby shower with family and friends.  I got the chance to pitch in and help out with the decorations and food, which I love to do.  I'm a huge fan of getting to create little items for people to enjoy and it also gave me the chance to try out this recipe.  Hot Chocolate is a staple for winter, but it can be difficult to create for a crowd, unless you have a slow cooker.  The big slow cooker allows you to fill it up and then everyone can enjoy it. I served it with marshmallows, but you can also add an assortment of peppermints, caramels, and raspberry syrup. Make sure you use a large slow cooker for this.  

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate


12-15 servings
5 minutes to prep
1.5-2 hours on high heat in slow cooker
or 3-4 hours on low heat

·       14 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
·       1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
·       2 Tsp. Vanilla extract
·       1/4 Cup powdered Sugar
·       1/8 Tsp. Salt
·       14 Cups of water
·       Marshmallows to serve afterwards


Set slow cooker to desired temperature (low or high depending on how long you would like it to cook). All ingredients except for water to the slow cooker.


Slowly add water to slow cooker, and stir as you add it.



Cook or 1.5-2 hours on high heat, or 3-4 hours on low heat.


Feel free to add marshmallows to it or any other kind of flavorings.  Some people enjoy peppermints, caramels, or adding raspberry syrup.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Creamy Chicken Tortellini

I'm a huge fan of pasta and when friends of ours came out to Philadelphia from Omaha, I thought I'd indulge in making a big plate of it.  However I'm also on a major mushroom kick lately and wanted to incorporate that as well as a source of protein.  So I came up with a Creamy Chicken Tortellini.  This dish features a homemade cream sauce, mushrooms, and sauteed spinach.  





 Creamy Chicken Tortellini

10 servings
20 minutes to prep
35-40 minutes to cook
·       8-12 cups of frozen or fresh Tortellini
·       6 Cups of Spinach
·       16 oz. Mushrooms
·       4 Tsp. Olive Oil
·       4 Large Chicken Breasts
·       3 tsp. Salt (divided)
·       2 tsp. pepper (divided)
·       3 tsp. Garlic Powder (divided)
·       3 Cups Milk
·       6 Tsp. Parmesan Cheese 
·       1 Cup Light Cream
·       3 tsp. butter
·       3 tsp. flour
·       1 Cup Red Wine


Dice up chicken, sprinkle with 1 tsp. pepper, 2 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp garlic powder.  Then stick in oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.



Boil Water for Tortellini

Chop up mushrooms and spinach. Utilize a saute pan and add 2 Tsp. olive oil.  Divide mushrooms into two groups and saute each group for 5-10 minutes until browned on each side.  By dividing them, you won't crowd the mushrooms and they'll brown easier.



After the mushrooms are finished set them aside and add the remaining spinach sprinkled with garlic powder and saute. Set the spinach aside and melt the butter in the saute pan.  Add flour to make a rue.  Once rue clumps together, add cream and milk and stir until it begins to puff up and thicken. Add red wine and continue to cook. Once it thickens again (about 5 more minutes), add remaining salt and pepper.



Add Tortellini to boiling water and cook for whatever time package dictates.  Typically about 3-4 minutes. Strain when done.

Pull out chicken from oven when finished and separate the pieces with a fork.  Add chicken, spinach, mushrooms, and Parmesan Cheese to pan with sauce and mix together.



Add tortellini to platter and then top with sauce.  Serve

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mushroom Wellington

I love to give dinner parties, but with my schedule I seldom have time to cook for 2-3 hours in the kitchen to prep ahead of time.  It's one of the reasons I love this recipe, it's easy to prep ahead of time and freeze until the day you want to cook it.  This makes a fabulous appetizer or a great vegetarian dinner. We served it as an appetizer on Christmas Day and it was a huge hit.


Mushroom Wellington

8 servings
30-45 minutes to prep

·       16 oz. of Mushrooms
·       1 Large Onion chopped
·       2 tsp. Garlic Powder
·       1 tsp. salt
·       1 tsp. pepper
·       1-2 Cups Swiss Chard
·       3 Tsp. Olive Oil (divided)
·       1 sheet Puff Pastry
·       1 egg beaten
·       Flour for dusting

Prep for this meal but allowing your puff pastry to thaw completely.  I typically leave it out for a couple of hours before I start cooking.



First saute your mushrooms with 1 Tsp. Olive Oil, in the same saute pan.  Take your time with this and make sure to brown them on both sides.  Set them aside and mix with mustard, salt, and pepper.



Begin to caramelize your onions with 1 Tsp. Olive Oil under low heat. This will take a few moments, so you can begin to prep your puff pastry.


Roll out puff pastry with a dusting of flour. Cut sheet in half and then roll out each half so it's about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Dust bottoms with flour.



Your onions should be looking translucent and starting to brown just a bit.  After they look thoroughly caramelized, you can pull them off the stove and set them aside.  Use the final Tsp. of Olive Oil and saute the Swiss Chard until it's just cooked.  This should only take about five minutes tops. Pull off and set aside.

Begin to layer the filling in your pastry. Divide the mushrooms, onions, and Swiss chard in half.  Take one half of the pastry shell and add a layer of mushrooms on the bottom, then a layer of onions, and on top a layer of Swiss Chard.  Very gently fold pastry's top and bring it toward the middle, then do the same with the bottom portion.  After this is completed, pinch the bottoms of both sides to close completely.  Gently flip it so the folded side is on the bottom.

Repeat with second pastry shell. Then cut 3 small slits into the top of each pastry shell.



Take your beaten egg and brush a layer of egg wash onto the top of both pastries.  Then put both pastries on a cookie sheet and freeze for 10-15 minutes.  After time is completely, brush a second layer of egg wash on top.  You can then either bake the Mushroom Wellington or freeze it for a later date.  If you freeze it, make sure it's in an airtight container.

Baking instructions. Preheat oven until 400 degrees.  Bake Wellington for 25-30 minutes until brown on top and bubbling out of the slits on top.




Friday, January 9, 2015

Baked Apple Oatmeal And The New Year

2015 is a new year and with the new year comes resolutions.  Because of my current predicament, aka expecting my first child, I am not doing my usual lets try to drop 15 pounds by swimsuit season.  Instead I set realistic goals for myself to hopefully guild myself toward better habits for the next year.  My first goal is to go the distance of at least 672 miles.  The initial goal was to run this 672 miles.  I don't think it's possible for me to do that, but at the moment I'm run/walking a good amount of mileage per day and I'm satisfied with that. Hopefully I can average 2.2 miles a day, or 13 miles a week over the next year.  So far I'm up to 24.8 miles, which is a good start.
My second goal for the year was to eat healthier.  This doesn't mean eating less, it means making better selections and trying to eat less pre-packaged food. My first achievement with this came in the form of this breakfast recipe.  An easy to make concoction that can be made to eat all week long or as a big breakfast for a large group of people. I did use things such as butter, milk, and sugar, but they can very easily be opted out for different ingredients. Plus it's still less fat and sugar that comes in the pre-packaged or restaurant options.


Baked Apple Oatmeal

6 servings
5-10 minutes to prep
35-40 minutes to cook
·       2 Large Apples, peeled and chopped
·       2 Cups of Oatmeal
·       1/2 tsp. Salt
·       1/2 cup Brown Sugar
·       1/2 cup dried Cranberries
·       1/2 cup Walnuts
·       2 Tsp. Cinnamon
·       4 Cups Milk
·       3 tsp. Butter (melted)
·       Extra Milk or Cream for heating up afterwards


Preheat Oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 pan.






Make sure apples are peeled and chopped.  I chopped mine in large chunks, but you can certainly dice yours.








Mix all ingredients except for the milk into a large bowl until thoroughly combined.



Gradually add 4 cups of milk and stir slowly to combine. 



Pour into the 9x9 container.



Bake for 35-40 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.



Either serve right away or slice into portions and reheat during the week with a splash of milk or cream.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Marsala Beef Stew

Welcome to winter, the nights are longer, colder, but the opportunities for delicious hearty food now beckon.  I love this recipe. It's a twist on a classes beef stew recipe, that utilizes a slow cooker. There are a few extra steps but they make the dish well worth it in the end. It becomes a melt in your mouth savory bite.


 

Marsala Beef Stew

10 servings
30-45 minutes to prep
7.5 hours in slow cooker
·       2-3 lbs. of Stew Meat (chopped into pieces)
·       1 Cup of Carrots (peeled and chopped)
·       16 oz. Mushrooms (chopped)
·       1 Cup of Parsnips (peeled and chopped)
·       1/2 Cup Marsala Wine plus 2 Tbs. (divided)
·       2 tsp. Salt
·       1 tsp. pepper
·       5 cloves of Garlic (minced)
·       2 Cups Beef Stock
·       3 Tsp. Flour
·       1 Tsp. Dried Thyme
·       3 Tsp. Olive Oil (divided)
·       1 Large Onion Chopped
·       2 Tsp. Tomato Paste
·       1 Tsp. Kitchen Bouquet


Set up your slow cooker and set it on low heat. I use a medium sized slow cooker. This may be a bit much if you have a mini slow cooker. If so just cut recipe in half. Heat up a Tsp. of olive oil in a deep saute pan and brown your meat. You may need to do it in batches, take your time and feel free to add more oil. Add browned meat as first layer to slow cooker.



Add another Tsp. of Olive oil and brown mushrooms. Make sure to not crowd the mushrooms in the pan or they won't brown. (Thank you Julia Child for that piece of advice). Feel free to also do these in batches. Add mushrooms as next layer in Slow Cooker. Then caramelize your chopped onions in final Tsp. of Olive Oil.  Add onions to slow cooker. Using the remaining oil in the saute pan, add garlic and saute for 1 minutes. Then add tomato paste and stir until it melts in. You'll know it when you see it.  Add thyme, 1/2 cup of Marsala Wine and Beef Stock. Simmer for 5-6 minutes until it looks like it's coming together.
 


While mixture is simmering, add layers of parsnips and carrots to slow cooker on top of the beef and other veggies. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Then pour the sauce mixture on top.  Cook in slow cooker for 7-8 hours.



After meat is done cooking in slow cooker, turn dial to Warm. Take deep saute pan back out and add a strainer to it. Strain all the broth from the slow cooker into the saute pan. Return everything back to slow cooker and allow to sit on Warm setting.  Heat up broth on stove under medium heat.  Ladle out a cup or so of the broth into a bowl. Add flour, Kitchen Bouquet and 2 Tsp. of Marsala wine to bowl. Beat in until smooth. Add back to simmering broth on stove and stir until it comes together.



Toss back into slow cooker with meat and veggies. I served it with salad and crusty bread.





Friday, December 12, 2014

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Vegetables

The temperature is quickly dropping here in the Greater-Philadelphia Area.  So I'm excited to now share with you some hearty winter dishes that I've lined up.  This is a time consuming dish but relatively easy to make.

 

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Vegetables

4-5 servings
10 minutes to prep
2 hours to cook
·       5 Chicken Thighs
·       2 Tsp. Sugar
·       7 Large Carrots, peeled and chopped
·       7 Large Parsnips, peeled and chopped
·       ½ tsp. Pepper
·       2 tsp. Sea Salt
·       3 Tsp. Olive Oil
·       3 Tsp. Butter 
·       1 Cup Chicken Broth
·       1 Cup Water

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. In a deep baking dish, I used a 9 by 12 inch pan.  Layer the carrots and parsnips on the bottom.  Sprinkle 1 tsp of sea salt and 3 Tsp. of olive oil and toss together. Then add chicken broth, butter, and sugar.  Roast in the oven for 45 minutes.


After 45 minutes, pull out pan and add Chicken thighs.  Sprinkle remaining sea salt and pepper on top of thighs.  Add dish back to oven and cook for 60-75 minutes while occasionally basting the skin on top.  




Chicken will be ready when skin puffs up and looks browned.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash w/Cranberries

 The Holidays are fast approaching, and it's nice to trot out fabulous roasts and hams.  However side dishes can get a bit boring quickly.  Mashed potatoes and green beans are wonderful selections, but not everyone enjoys them so it's nice to have a back up just in case.
This is a simple and easy side that you can roast ahead of time and heat up.  Or it works as a main dish if you have a vegetarian group. Plus this dish is a big hit if you need to bring something to a dinner party.


Roasted Butternut Squash w/Cranberries


8 servings
5 minutes to prep
45-60 minutes to cook
·       5-6 cups of diced Butternut Squash
·       1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
·       1/2 Cup Cranberries
·       1 Tsp. Sea Salt
·       1 tsp. pepper
·       3 Tsp. Olive Oil



Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Peel and dice your butternut squash if not already prepped.


Lay out in pan and sprinkle brown sugar and sea salt across it.  Drizzle olive oil on top and toss to combine.  Then evenly cover top with cranberries.




Roast for 45-60 minutes.  If squash doesn't look like it's cooking evenly, pull out after 30 min and mix up with a spoon to redistribute.




Serve as a side or a main dish.