Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Quiet Christmas

Christmas this year was simple, just the way I wanted it. I did not travel for the holidays and while part of me was sad that I wasn’t with immediate family members, it was time for me to take a break from holiday travel and enjoy just being in Green Bay.

We kicked off the holiday on Sunday at the Packers vs. Titans football game. My good friends Mary and Brian from Washington, DC were back in Wisconsin to celebrate the holidays with their family. I am so happy that they met Pete, we caught up after several months of not seeing each other, and most importantly, that we celebrated a Packer’s win!

I spent my Christmas holiday with Pete, Sam (four years old) and Maggie (two years old). We celebrated the holiday with Sam and Maggie on Christmas Eve morning since their mom had them on Christmas Day. It was so much fun watching two little girls open gifts, as well as how different their personalities are in a task as simple as opening gifts! Sam was the first one awake and she couldn’t wait for Maggie to get out of bed so that they could start unwrapping gifts. Pete finally realized Sam wouldn’t stop asking to get Maggie out of bed, so they ran upstairs to tell Maggie that Santa left lots of gifts!

Poor little sleepy head. Maggie looked so tired when daddy carried her down the stairs, but when she sat on the couch, her eyes lit up as she saw the five foot brown teddy bear leaning against the television stand. She jumped off the couch and started inspecting all the presents with her sister. Sam couldn’t wait to open her next present while Maggie wanted to open and play with everything she unwrapped right at that moment. The girls were blessed with gifts from Santa and their family members far away. Daddy made a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and turkey bacon before they began all of their other family celebrations. Sam asked when Christmas is coming again…a question that I’m sure will be asked for several years! :)

While eating breakfast the girls surprised me with a beautiful and very colorful cat that they painted at a pottery shop. Kitty now lives on my desk at work.

Pete and I had a wonderful and very quiet Christmas. We enjoyed The Hobbit on Christmas Eve followed by a lasagna dinner and evening of opening gifts at his house. Christmas morning we enjoyed sleeping in, a late breakfast, and we saw the movie This is 40 at the theatre. Since we rarely get time alone together during a weekend or weekday, we decided to take advantage and enjoy a couple of movies at the theatre.

Christmas dinner was my favorite salt, garlic, and rosemary encrusted roast beef with cooked carrots and a spinach and mushroom salad for dinner. It was a great Christmas!

Lindsay’s Crockpot Lasagna
Layer the lasagna in the Crockpot, just as you would a baking dish. It really doesn’t matter what order you layer this lasagna, just make sure the noodles have sauce over the top of them.

Do not cook this for more than five hours as the noodles will become mushy.

- 1 lb. Mild Italian Sausage
- 24 oz jar of Spaghetti Sauce
- 15 oz tub of Ricotta Cheese
- 1.5 cups of Mozzarella Cheese
- 1.5 cups of Parmesan Cheese
- 2 TBS minced garlic
- Uncooked Lasagna Noodles
- Salt, Pepper to taste (be careful on the amount of salt as spaghetti sauce and cheeses can be salty)
- Oregano and Parsley (I use dried, but you could use fresh if you have it)
- ½ cup water

Brown the Mild Italian Sausage in a skillet on the stove top. Meanwhile, mix together all the cheeses and garlic in a bowl.

In the bottom of the Crockpot, mix 1/3 of spaghetti sauce with ½ cup of water. Place uncooked lasagna noodles over the sauce, breaking lasagna noodles as needed to fill in the gaps. Top with half of the Italian Sausage and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle the top of the cheese mixture with salt, pepper, and a little bit of oregano and parsley.

Second layer: Place noodles on top of the cheese mixture, top with 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, the remainder of the meat, 1/3 of the cheese mixture, and sprinkle the top of the cheese mixture with a little bit of oregano and parsley.

Final layer: Place noodles on top of the cheese mixture, top with remaining spaghetti sauce covering all the noodles, the remainder of the cheese mixture, and sprinkle the top of the cheese mixture with a little bit of salt, pepper, oregano and parsley.

Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Do not cook on high and do not cook for more than five hours.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Edamame Feta Dip

Edamame is such a tasty treat! I love to purchase edamame in the shell, sit in front of the television, and pull the beans out of the shell with my teeth. They are good cold or hot, in a salad, or served as a side dish. I recently attended an event with Pete's multisport team and someone made an edamame, feta, and quinoa dip. It was something different, but was healthy and different than a boring crudite or unhealthy cheesy dip.

We were invited to a friend's home for a playdate with the kids and to watch a Packers Game. I decided to recreate something similar. Since edamame is green, it was the perfect appetizer for the Packers; if only the feta cheese was gold!

Edamame Feta Dip
Adapted from Cooking Light Community

- 2 cups frozen shelled edamame (fresh soybeans)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled (not chopped or minced, leave whole)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2.5 TBS fresh lemon juice
- 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add edamame and garlic; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until edamame are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Place the edamame, garlic, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Puree, scraping down the sides as needed, until completely smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with feta cheese.

If you'd prefer, you can blend or process the feta cheese in with the edamame, but I wanted to make sure my dish was green!

Great served with pita or bagel chips or tortilla chips.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Spinich & Cheese Quiche

I am not a huge egg person, but I have fallen in love with quiche. It is a very easy dish. Just purchase a frozen pie crust, throw whatever veggies and meats (cooked) in the shell with cheese and about 4-8 eggs. Bake for an hour. While making a quiche is easy, I always follow recipes because there are so many tasty quiche recipes out there. Following a recipe makes me try certain ingredients in a quiche that I wouldn't always think to cook together.

You can bake this and keep it in the fridge for a few days. I reheat each slice in the microwave, but if you're going to make it ahead, I would reheat the entire quiche in the oven.

Try out this quiche next time you have overnight guests, the morning of a holiday, or as an easy-to-go breakfast when you're on the run.

Spinich and Cheese Quiche
Courtesy My Recipes

- 1 TBS unsalted butter
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère (I just use swiss)
- 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell (can be frozen)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1.5 cups milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Sprinkle onion mixture, spinach and Gruyère over bottom of pie shell. Beat eggs and milk together, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Gently pour into crust.

Bake quiche for 50-60 minutes, until set and nicely browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

NOTE: If the crust starts to brown, , place foil over the top.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

There is nothing better than walking into your home on Thanksgiving and smelling all the delicious goodies baking in the oven. I love the smell of a turkey roasting with all its seasonings, the smell of pumpkin pie and allspice, and simple dishes like mashed potatoes loaded with butter and heavy cream and green beans floating in cream of mushroom soup.

Cooking is one of my few hobbies and I jump at every chance to make a big meal for friends and family. It’s not a chore and when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, that is the time I choose to conquer a difficult recipe. If I conquer a complicated recipe, it helps me conquer the hard times in life. 

I am not a creative or artistic person and cooking is one outlet that I have to be both. I will follow a recipe once or twice, but after that, I let creativity take over.  I prefer to cook and not bake because it’s imperative to follow recipes when baking due to the formula of ingredients. As much as I follow rules in life, I don’t like following them in the kitchen.

For Thanksgiving this year, I entertained Pete, Sam, Maggie, my mom, her husband Joel, and my grandparents. I moved into my new home (my friend Sara’s house) the week before Thanksgiving so that I could host everyone there since she has a nice sized kitchen. It was a busy day, but I just loved cooking dinner for my family.

Below are two new recipes that I made for Thanksgiving, as well as the electric roaster details that I used for the turkey. Everything was wonderful. Besides the recipes below, I also made gravy, a basic bread stuffing, green bean casserole, and my grandparents provided an apple raisin stuffing and pecan pie. When my grandparents showed up with the apple raisin stuffing, my grandfather clearly neglected to realize that more than two people would be eating dinner, so mom added apples, raisins, and half a loaf of bread to ensure there was enough!

For the first time, I cooked the turkey in an electric roaster and it was such a success that I don’t think I’ll ever cook a turkey in an oven again. When I move out of Sara’s house, an electric roaster will be one of my first purchases. The thirteen pound turkey was moist and cooked to perfection in exactly two hours. All I did was stick pats of butter under the skin, I used olive oil all over the skin and sprinkled the outside and cavity of the bird with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. I put about one cup of water in the bottom of the roaster to ensure I would have juices to make gravy. I heated the electric roaster to its highest setting for 15 minutes (450 degrees) and put the bird in for 20 minutes. I then dropped it 325 degrees for the remaining amount of time. The most important thing to note is that you cannot take the lid off the top of the roaster while the bird is cooking. Just trust the process!

Turkey, Crescent Rolls and other Goodies

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Courtesy of Cooking Channel

- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup orange juice (no sugar added or freshly squeezed)
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
- One 12-ounce bag cranberries

Combine the sugar, orange juice, 1/2 cup water, the cinnamon, salt and cranberries in a medium saucepan. Bring up to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. I made this two days before Thanksgiving and it was perfect the day of.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Sweet Potato Casserole
Courtesy of Food Network

I used yams for this recipe because that was what my grocery store had. I don’t eat this dish, but Pete said it was fabulous. He ate all the leftovers, so they must have been good.

- 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 large), scrubbed
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
- 3 TBS unsalted butter, melted plus more for the preparing the pan
- 2 TBS packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and pierce each one 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Scoop the sweet potato out of their skins and into a medium bowl. Discard the skins. Mash the potatoes until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the pecans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a bit puffy. Serve immediately.

Sweet Yam Casserole and Green Bean Casserole