Dinners

Recipe—Crock-Pot Italian Pot Roast and Parmesan Risotto

Italian Pot Roast and Parmesan Risotto

The first time I actually made this recipe was Christmas Eve. Some of you might be thinking, who makes a crock-pot meal on Christmas Eve? The answer is, this lady! Why is it that people feel the need to spend half the day in the kitchen and half their paychecks on holiday dinners? You can have an amazing meal with minimal time in the kitchen and by spending less than $25. Thennnnnnn you can use that money you saved on groceries and buy some nice red wine that will compliment this dinner perfectly.

That Christmas Eve I just wanted to be able to fully relax and enjoy the day with my family. I didn’t want to be in the kitchen for most of the day slaving over the oven. And guess what, this dinner was just as good as many of the dinners I spent the entire day making. And best of all, my family loved it!

The meat had so much flavor and was so juicy! The sauce is a very mild tomato-based sauce that goes so fabulously with the parmesan risotto. This is probably in the top 5 recipes I have ever made. It is so filling and hearty. A perfect comfort meal for the cooler weather. I love that this recipe is “fancy” enough for a special occasion or a holiday but is quick and easy enough that you can pull it off on a Thursday night after a long day of work. Literally an all occasion dinner.

POT ROAST INGREDIENTS
3 lb beef chuck roast
1 tbsp dried minced onion
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 (.6 oz) package au jus mix
1 (.7 oz) package dried Italian salad dressing mix
2 tsp black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 c tomato juice (like V8)

RISOTTO INGREDIENTS
3 tsp olive oil
1 lb arborio rice
6 c chicken broth, room temperature
1 c parmesan cheese
1 tsp onion powder
ground pepper

GARNISH INGREDIENTS
1/2 c parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Spray your crock-pot with cooking spray.
  • Place the pot roast in the crock-pot.
  • In a bowl, whisk together all the remaining pot roast ingredients.
  • Pour the tomato mixture over the top of the roast.
  • Cook on low heat for 8–10 hours, or high heat for 5–6 hours.
  • When the roast is done cooking, transfer it to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Using two forks, shred the roast and place back into the crock-pot.
  • Cover the crock-pot and keep on low.
  • While the meat is soaking in all that yummy sauce, begin to prepare the risotto by putting the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
  • Add the rice and stir to evenly coat the rice with the oil.
  • Cook for about 2–3 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of the broth and simmer, stirring constantly, until the broth has completely reduced and the pan is nearly dry, about 3 minutes.
  • Repeat the above step incrementally using 1 cup of broth at a time. The gradual addition of broth is key to getting the rice to develop a nice and creamy sauce.
  • Once all the broth is cooked down, stir in the cheese and onion powder and season with pepper.
  • Scoop a large spoonful of risotto into a serving dish and top with the shredded meat, additional parmesan cheese, and some parsley.

 

Recipe adapted from Plain Chicken.

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Beverages

Recipe—Apple Cider Sangria

Recipe—Apple Cider Sangria

Tis the season for apples and cinnamon! If you are having a hard time transitioning into the fall season and all that goes with it, then make yourself a big batch of this apple cider sangria, get out your pumpkin pie candle, and slip on a cozy flannel.

I made a double batch of this recipe for Thanksgiving last year and it was gone before I knew it. It went down just a little too easy. If you could take all that is fall and contain it in a drink, this would be it. It is literally the perfect drink for all your fall festivities, or even just a lazy fall Sunday.

Note: This recipe is best when made right before serving as the champagne and club soda can lose their fizz and the apples can brown.

INGREDIENTS
750 ml bottle champagne
2 1/2 c apple cider
1 c club soda
1/2 c Disaronno or Frangelico
2 apples, sliced
cinnamon sticks

STEPS

  • In a large pitcher or serving container, combine the champagne, apple cider, club soda, and Disaronno or Frangelico.
  • Add in the apples and cinnamon sticks.
  • Stir and serve over ice.
Kitchen Tips

Fall Produce

It’s the first day of fall and to celebrate I have a very special post, focusing on the seasonal fruits and vegetables throughout the year.

I am a firm believer that you should eat “seasonally,” or include foods in your meals that are grown at the same time of the year you eat them. For example, that means cauliflower in the fall, and corn in the summer. Eating seasonally is important, and carries benefits to your health and your wallet.

At first glance, eating seasonally may seem simple—you eat foods that are in season, or being grown and harvested at the time of the year when you buy them. But there’s more to it than just being a trendy food movement. There are real benefits to eating foods that are available at their peak right now.

Perhaps the biggest tangible benefit of eating seasonally is that you’ll save money at the grocery store and farmer’s markets. When you buy what’s in season, you buy food that’s at the peak of its supply, and costs less to farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to your grocery store. It may seem like common sense, but it’s one of those things many of us ignore when we’re shopping.

However, the best consequence of eating seasonally is that you get the best tasting, healthiest produce available. The same reasons that keep the cost of seasonal food down also drive its quality up: The food is grown closer to you so it doesn’t spoil on its trip, it’s harvested at the peak of its season, and sold during its season, before it spoils. Ideally, this means you’re getting fruits and vegetables that haven’t had time to lose their flavor or their health benefits by sitting in a shipping container for a trip across the ocean.

Please feel free to print this little “cheat sheet” and post in on the fridge as a reminder of what to look for at the grocery store this fall.

Sources: Life Hacker and United States Department of Agriculture

Dinners

Recipe—Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Onion Dijon Sauce

Something about cooler weather makes me crave comfort food. I just love a good hearty meal on a cool night. My chicken breasts with mushroom and onion Dijon sauce is one of those delicious and soul warming meals. This is a sophisticated recipe that is just absolutely wonderful. The sauce is rich and creamy and really allows the flavors of the fresh herbs to come out and complement the zestiness of the mustard. With the holiday season approaching and people getting together this is the perfect dish to prepare for a small group. This recipe comes together relatively easy and you are sure to impress your guests with your culinary abilities.

Note: If you are feeding more than four people consider butterflying the breasts or even getting thin breast cutlets at the store. If you use a thinner breast you will need to adjust the cooking times for the chicken slightly to avoid overcooking. 

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 c white mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c white wine
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c chicken broth
1/4 c heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

 

STEPS

  • In a large Ziploc bag mix together the flour, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the chicken to the bag and toss to coat.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Remove the chicken from the bag and shake off excess flour before placing in the pan.
  • Cook the chicken for 4–6 minutes per side and transfer to a platter.
  • Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes making sure to stir a few times.
  • Add the sliced red onions and rosemary to the pan and continue to cook for 3–4 minutes.
  • Mix in the mustards and wine and gently scrape the bottom of the pan making sure to get everything well incorporated.
  • Add in the parsley, broth, cream, and butter and mix to combine.
    Place the chicken back into the pan and spoon the sauce over the top.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Transfer the chicken breast to a plate and spoon sauce over the top.
  • Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley garnish for some added color.

 

Recipe adapted from A Family Feast.

Dinners

Recipe—The Perfect Turkey

To brine or not to brine? That is the ongoing question I have people ask me about cooking a turkey. Well here is your answer, I am a briner. I have prepared turkeys both brined and not. While I am no professional chef I would consider my self very versed in eating. I personally think brined turkeys come out with more flavor and are more moist than that of a turkey that is not brined. Some of you may be asking, “what the heck is brining?”

Brining is the process of soaking your turkey in a salt (and sometimes herb) infused bath for several hours prior to cooking. I find that your bird will be more evenly flavored and it will also be the moistest bird you ever have.

I make an awesome citrus herb rub (see recipe below) for my turkey. It is flavor packed and will make all your dinner guests ohhhh and ahhhh. The orange zest is not overpowering at all. It actually is a really nice complement to all the other flavors of a thanksgiving dinner. Trust me. I know how to make a delicious turkey.

Notes: Do not brine your turkey if it is self basting, pre seasoned, or kosher. If you do not have a pan that is large enough you may use an oversized bowl, ice chest, or even a baking bag tied off. The key is that the bird is completely submerged.

BRINING INGREDIENTS
1 c kosher salt
2 c sugar
1 c apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sage
2 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp pepper
thawed turkey

STEPS FOR BRINING

  • Find a large pot that will hold your turkey making sure you have at least an inch or two of room at the top.
  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in your pot.
  • Add the salt and sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
  • Remove the pan from heat and add in 8 cups of cold water, apple cider vinegar, sage, thyme, rosemary, and pepper.
  • Place the pot in your sink (this will help in case any liquid overflows).
  • Remove all of the giblets and neck from your turkey and gently lower it into the pot.
  • Cover the pot with a lid or saran wrap.
  • Place the pot in the fridge and marinade for 12–16 hours.
  • Rinse the turkey and pat dry.

TURKEY INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 c Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp chili powder
2 oranges, zested and quartered
1 c butter, softened
1 brined turkey

STEPS FOR TURKEY

  • Preheat oven to 325º.
  • In a small bowl combine the garlic, parsley, kosher salt, pepper, chili powder, orange zest, and butter and mix until well combined.
  • Starting from the neck of the turkey, carefully separate the skin from the breast meat with your fingers.
  • Push about half of the herbed butter mixture under the skin and spread it out evenly. (Don’t be afraid really get it all over in there! The butter will melt and all those yummy flavors will just seep into the meat.)
  • Use the other half of the mixture to evenly cover the top and sides of the turkey.
  • Place the orange quarters inside the turkey’s cavity.
  • Place the seasoned turkey in a roasting pan and loosely cover with foil.
  • Roast the turkey for 20–23 minutes per pound and baste every 45 minutes. (Note: If you are running out of juices in the pan just add some chicken broth or cubes of butter.)
  • Remove the foil for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
  • When the temperature in the meatiest part of the turkey reaches 165º remove it from oven and allow it to rest for 25–30 minutes.
  • Carve and gobble up.

 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

Salads

Recipe—Dad’s Beet, Carrot, and Feta Salad

My dad has always been an incredible cook. He manages to take the most simple ingredients and turns them into something wonderful! This is a salad that he first made for me last year and it is now one of my favorites. It took him a few minutes to throw it together and yet it turned out to be delicious and it had a gourmet quality to it. The carrots and raw beets are just slightly sweet, perfectly crunchy, and the feta adds a wonderful salty, tangy, creamy quality. Yum! This is the perfect salad going into spring. Since all of the vegetables are raw it will hold up and remain crunchy for several days when stored in the fridge allowing you to enjoy it more than once, that is, if you even have leftovers. Enjoy!

Note: My beets appear pink in the photo because I used chioggia beets which vary in color from the more common red beets. You can use any kind of beet you can get your hands on for this recipe. However, I do think red beets give you the most beautiful color.

INGREDIENTS
3 fresh beets, washed, peeled, and shredded
4 large carrots, shredded
1/2 c Italian dressing
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Combine the shredded beets and shredded carrots in a large bowl.
  • Pour the Italian dressing over the veggies and toss to combine.
  • Top with feta cheese and fresh parsley.
  • Chill until ready to serve.
Sweet Treats

Recipes—Craisin White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

The first time I made these cookies was actually around the holidays. They turned out delicious! So good that I even included them in my annual holiday goodie boxes. While cranberries and white chocolate are perfect for the holiday season, I think they are equally perfect for any time of year. Cranberry and white chocolate is such an awesome flavor combo, why only enjoy during the winter months? Pudding cookies are great because they turn out super moist and are some of the softest cookies you will ever have! The pudding really helps to hold them all together so you end up with perfect little mounds of deliciousness!

INGREDIENTS
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
3.4 oz vanilla instant pudding mix (dry, do not prepare)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c craisins
3/4 c white chocolate chips

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the butter and sugars.
  • Add in dry pudding mix and beat until well blended.
  • Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  • Slowly incorporate flour mixture until well combined.
  • Mix in craisins and white chocolate chips.
  • Roll the cookie dough into 1² balls and place on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake cookies for 8­12 minutes or until just turning golden on the edges.

Recipe adapted from Chef in Training.