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Monday, January 31, 2011

Monster Cookies (Adapted from Paula Deen)


Everyone knows Paula Deen is the queen of desserts...and I love this dessert of hers! Monster cookies. I adapted her recipe slightly with more M&M's and chocolate chips, and a chocolate drizzle on top. My Aussie hubby doesn't love peanut butter in desserts like Americans do...but he ate 3 of these in a row, stating, "It must be because they aren't too sweet." I say it's the perfect combo of peanut butter, oats, sugar and chocolate. Doesn't that just sound scrumptious, y'all?!

Monster Cookies (Adapted from Paula Deen) 
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup M&M's
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (for drizzled topping)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the M&M's, chocolate chips, raisins, if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.
4. Drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate.
5. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

Awesome Mushroom Risotto

Risotto. Creamy, rich and a beautiful texture. It is one of my all time favorite dishes to make...and eat. I made my first risotto for friends who had recently had a baby...and looking back, it was pretty dull (though it was good at the time). But a risotto has so much potential! This one is simply divine. Please don't skimp on adding the green onions at the end, they are essential in achieving a well-balanced flavor. (I guess, unless, you REALLY don't like green onions).

Note: I have made this with normal yellow onions and it was still very delicious. So there is definitely room for variations.

Tip: "Cooking wine" should never be replaced for real wine. I learned this the hard way..."cooking wine" has so much salt, it can nearly ruin a meal (and has ruined a meal in my house!)

Awesome Mushroom Risotto
6 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound portobello or white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 shallots, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
sea or kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup - 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots and garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Soup

A spin on an Australian favorite, this is another soup I could eat bowl after bowl. And, it's nice knowing it's so healthy. This is my hubby's favorite, as he would eat pumpkin soup all the time growing up. Serve it with a salad, or just with rolls and butter. Again, with most soups, adding enough salt at the end is key to bringing out all the warmth and beautiful flavors!

One tip: if I buy an extremely large butternut squash, I usually up the other veggies by about half. For instance, I will add in one medium or large onion instead of one small onion.

Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed (Yukon gold)
1 medium butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 (32 fluid ounce) container vegetable or chicken stock (I prefer the Swanson's brand)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

   1. Melt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
   2. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Return to pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Mild Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas




This recipe came about when I saw black beans in my pantry and wanted to try something new. I meshed a few recipes together to use what I had, and after a few tries, this is what is the family pleaser. It is a mild mexican dish, so the next time I make it, I'm going to try adding some heat!

Mild Chicken & Black Bean Enchiladas
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ c. light sour cream
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
garlic powder
onion powder
2-4 chicken breasts (OR 2-3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken)
¾ can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 c. cheddar cheese
whole wheat tortillas
salt & pepper

1. Mix cream of chicken soup and sour cream together in bowl, put aside.
2. In a large nonstick pan, saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 3-5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cut up chicken into 1 inch cubes and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Add chicken to pan and cook on med-high heat, stirring occasionally. When almost done, put cumin and chili powder in, and cook, stirring occasionally.

OR - shred meat from rotisserie chicken, place in pan with onions and garlic, add cumin, chili powder.

3. Add black beans, rice and 3 heaping tablespoons of soup mixture. Stir together. Stir in cilantro and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
4. In 9x13” pan, put a thin layer of soup mix on bottom of pan.
5. Layer the tortilla with cheese, chicken mix, cheese. Wrap up the tortilla and place in pan seam side down. Repeat with each tortilla.
6. Spread a thin layer of soup mix on each enchilada and sprinkle with cheese.
7. Cook in 350 oven, 15 minutes covered, 5-10 minutes uncovered until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Winter Minestrone (Adapted from Giada)

Not too rich, but loaded with healthy ingredients. You know you've got a good soup when you find yourself indulging in multiple bowls. This soup does it for me...I could eat the whole pot by myself! Between the hearty vegetables, fresh rosemary and parmesan rind, this soup is a 10 for me!

I've found when making soups from scratch, salt is KEY. I usually add salt at the end, and you'd be surprised how much you need to add to get it just right...just keep adding some, tasting along the way, until it's perfect. You'll know when it's right, it's like climbing to the top of a mountain and standing on the peak.

Winter Minestrone Soup (Adapted from Food Networks' Giada)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ bag spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 potato, peeled, cubed (I use any potatoes, skin on or off)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 box (32 oz.) low-sodium beef broth
1 piece Parmesan cheese rind
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the spinach leaves and potato; saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture.
4. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
5. Stir in the whole beans and parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig (the leaves will have fallen off of the stem.)

Maureen's Aussie Spaghetti Noodles


An Australian family tradition going back a couple generations, these Spaghetti Noodles are just bursting with chunky tomatoes and fresh herbs. Use medium shell pasta so the made-from-scratch sauce gets into those pasta pockets. This meal feeds a large family, or provides leftovers for a couple days. The sauce can be used in a variety of pasta dishes - manicotti, lasagna, and others.

Thanks to my mother-in-law, Maureen, for this delicious recipe. Hope she doesn't mind I added mushrooms to it!

Maureen's Aussie Spaghetti Noodles
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
1 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves broken into halves
1 teaspoon sugar
6 ounce can (approx) tomato paste
2 cans of diced Italian tomatoes
1 cup stock, approximately
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
1 pound pack pasta shapes (medium shells or spirals)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Using a skillet (that has a lid), heat olive oil then gently sauté chopped onions until they are transparent, and mushrooms until they are slightly soft. Season onion and mushrooms with a dash of salt and pepper.
2. Add garlic then cook together for 1-2 minutes. Pour onion and mushroom mix into bowl.
3. Raise heat, then add ground beef to skillet, using a fork to press and separate it while it is browning. Season beef with a dash of salt, pepper, and a shake of the onion and garlic powder. 
4. Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil, oregano and bay leaves and mix well.
5. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring.
6. Pour in cans of tomatoes, including all the juice, and stir well.
7. Add stock and keep stirring until mixture is simmering.
8. Reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer on stove-top for approx 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When sauce is cooked, remove bay leaves and add finely chopped parsley and stir through mixture. 
9. While sauce is simmering, boil pasta until ‘al dente’.  Drain pasta and return it to the large saucepan.
Combine the pasta and sauce, and add in the grated cheeses, saving about 1 cup for the top.
10. Pour mixture into an ovenproof dish and cover with remaining grated cheeses.
11. Grill under broiler until cheese is slightly browned.

Serve and enjoy!

(If you are short on time, just add the cheese to the pasta and serve...skip the broiler step).

Reason for this Blog

What's the inspiration behind this online cookbook? Well, three things really.

1. My Computer. It is getting old and I'm not sure how much longer it'll last. "But what about all my recipes?!," I thought. Many of my good ones are saved on my computer, and though I've printed them out, I wanted a way to have them in electronic form...hence, the creation of this blog.

2. My Husband. He is from Australia. His homeland is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, so he is used to GOOD FOOD. Like, really good food. Fresh herbs, nice meat, nothing out of a box (most of the time!). I know that one way to his heart is through his tummy...hence, the name of this blog.

3. My Daughters. Recipes on paper can be short-lived in a house with toddlers. I really like the idea of having an online cookbook for them to use when they are older. It'll always be here. No getting torn, eaten, or wet!

These recipes are family traditions. Ones I use all the time, and my family loves. Enjoy!