Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chicken Osso Buco

One variation of the traditional osso buco is made with veal shanks braised in a light tomato sauce with carrots, celery, and onions (Wikipedia). I don't like to cook with veal all that often (but I do enjoy it once in awhile) so when I saw this recipe for an osso buco made with chicken, I put it in my "to-make" file. And the fact that it calls for the slow cooker is even better - I assembled the ingredients in the morning and by late afternoon we were ready for a comforting and delicious dinner.

The light tomato sauce along with the blend of vegetables and herbs complimented the tender chicken very nicely. The recipe calls for drumsticks, but I used my old favorite, chicken thighs, instead. We barely needed a knife to cut the chicken, it was so tender! I halved the recipe to serve just the two of us and it worked out perfectly.

Ready to be slow cooked!

Chicken Osso Buco
from MSN Lifestyle
Makes 6 servings

12 medium chicken drumsticks (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
3 cups dried penne pasta
snipped fresh parsley (optional)

Remove skin from chicken. Place flour, salt, and pepper in resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, shaking to coat.

In a 10-inch skiller, brown chicken, half at a time, in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until golden, turning once. Set aside.

In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker, combine carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle with tapioca. Place chicken on top of vegetables.

In a medium bowl, stir together tomato sauce, wine, broth, lemon peel, lemon juice, and thyme; pour over chicken in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Prepare penne according to package directions. Drain well. Spoon chicken and sauce over pasta. Garnish with parsley if desired.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Banana Bread

Stop searching right now for your go-to banana bread recipe; because this is it. It's so good even Katie blogged about it and gave it rave reviews! My mom has been making this bread for as long as I can remember and I started making it with her years ago. With three bananas in one loaf and the extra special ingredient of sour cream added in there; this bread is super-moist and extremely delicious.

Make sure you use OVER-ripe bananas. I'm talking like no more yellow skin there, just brown. They will be much easier to mash up and add to the flavor of the bread. (I just slice the bananas into a bowl and mash them with a fork.) I have also made this into three mini-loaves, which bake for about a half an hour. Enjoy!

Banana Bread
from Jo's kitchen
Makes one loaf

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 medium bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the shortening and sugar in a large bowl, either with an electric mixer or using a handheld mixer.

Beat in eggs; then bananas, sour cream, and lemon juice.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add to banana mixture and stir until just incorporated.

Pour into greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Garlic, Cheese, and Sausage Bites

If you have never roasted garlic before, you really need to try it. The rich flavor that results is delicious, and you can eat much more of it! As you can see from my picture below, the head of garlic don't always stay together when you cut the top off; but that doesn't matter because it still works.

I found this recipe last winter and have made it before. It is not one of those "quick and easy" recipes either - you need time to roast the garlic, to cook the sausage, and then stuff all the wonton wrappers. But it is WORTH it - these little bites are true to their name, and whenever I make them they are met with rave reviews.

Wonton wrappers can be found in the produce section, either by the bagged lettuce or by gourmet cheeses; just ask someone if you can't find them. Make sure to keep them covered with a wet paper towel as you are waiting to fill them, otherwise they will dry up and will crack when you try to pinch them together.

Garlic, Cheese, and Sausage Bites
from Our Sweet Life
Makes 24 bites

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 spicy Italian turkey sausage (I use hot Italian sausage)
1 head of garlic + 1 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
garlic powder
garlic salt
black pepper
red chili flakes (or red pepper flakes)
24 won ton wrappers
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the top off the head of garlic and place it on a baking sheet covered with foil and pour olive oil over it. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and cloves are soft & mushy.

Cut the raw sausage open and throw away the sausage casing, brown the sausage in a skillet until completely cooked.

Chop 1-2 cloves raw garlic, about 1 1/2 tsp. In a large bowl combine cooked sausage, cream cheese, roasted garlic, raw garlic a pinch of red chili flakes, and seasoning- I just shook in a bit of the garlic powder, garlic salt, & pepper (probably around 1/4 teaspoons each, maybe a bit more). Mix with a hand held electric mixer until all ingredients are well combined.

Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Add a won-ton wrapper to each cup of the muffin tray and fill with about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the garlic cheese mix. Pinch the won ton wrapper together to seal, then spray with non-stick cooking spray, repeat until the whole tin is full of lil' garlic bites!

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and gorgeous! (This only takes 12 minutes in my oven, make sure you watch them!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Layered Mexican Dip

Everyone has their own version of taco/7-layer/Mexican dip (see, everyone even has different names for it!). I threw this one together today to bring to pizza night with my girlies! The original recipe called for ground beef as well, but that is just too heavy for an appetizer before pizza! So I changed a couple of other things around and came up with this. No baking required either!

Layered Mexican Dip
from Colleen's kitchen
Makes a lot!

16 ounce can refried beans
2 cups sour cream, divided
half medium onion, diced
4 ounce can diced green chilis
4 ounces taco sauce
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
4 plum tomatoes or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Combine refried beans and 1 cup sour cream; spread in the bottom of an 8 x 8 dish.

Combine onion, chilis, and taco sauce; spread over bean mixture.

Spread remaining 1 cup sour cream over onion mixture.

Top with layers of lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve with sturdy tortilla chips and enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese

I feel like I don't really need to explain this to you because the unoriginal name says it all! This was a favorite on the What's Cooking board last year and I have made it several times since. Chuck calls it his "second-favorite baked pasta dish", after Bats and Cobwebs of course!

This recipe is easily halved and leftovers are great as well. Don't be shy with the cheese, if you want to make it cheesier, then go for it! I have also had success assembling this earlier in the day and then popping it in the oven when we are ready to eat!
Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese
Makes 8 servings

1 (1-pound) package uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
1 pound hot turkey Italian sausage links
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Cooking spray
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the pasta, and set aside.

Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage, onion, and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble.
Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine cooked pasta, sausage mixture, and basil. Place half of the pasta mixture in a 4-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Top with half of mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Repeat layers.
Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I am warning you now that this soup is not healthy for you. With the milk, half and half, sour cream, butter, and bacon all going on in here; it's definitely not diet food! But it is quite tasty and is a great soup for a cold night.

When you are bringing the milk and half and half to a boil and then simmering, it may seem like nothing is happening and then all of a sudden it get thick and creamy. The original recipe below calls for cooking the bacon in a skillet but I really think it's easier to bake it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so until crisp. It's much easier and less messy than frying it on the stove.

Serve with some warm bread and a nice green salad!

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
from Culinary Infatuation
Makes 6-8 servings

5 medium yukon gold potatoes
1 stick of unsalted butter (I use 1/2 stick)
1/2 cup flour (use 1/4 cup if you are halving the butter)
1 medium yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves of garlic minced
6 cups 2 % or whole milk
2 cups half and half
3 Tbs. fresh basil chopped (or chives)
1 tsp. fresh nutmeg grated
8 strips bacon chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Wash potatoes and poke holes all over with a fork. Bake potatoes at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until cooked completely through. Let cool.When potatoes are cooled, dice and put to the side(I leave the skin on).

Melt butter in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute longer. Add the flour and whisk until combined and smooth (about a minute).

Pour in milk, 2 cups at a time combining the roux until fully incorporated. Whisk in the half and half and nutmeg. Turn heat up to medium high and bring to a simmer. Let simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While you are bringing the soup up to a simmer add bacon to a medium size skillet and cook until crispy (about 10 minutes).

Remove from heat or turn to low heat and add potatoes and basil. Use a masher and mash potatoes until soup becomes thick. (You can do this before hand in a processor, or mash in a separate bowl.)

When soup is the desired consistency; whisk in sour cream and cheese. Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon and add to soup and serve.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

When I ask Chuck if he has any requests for dinner, he usually just says that I can decide, since he knows I love coming up with menus. So when he told me this week that he would like salmon, I was determined to find something delicious! I decided I wanted to try out a crusted salmon, so I searched around and found this. Wow, it was worth it - this was great!

I halved everything except for the amount of onion since it was just for the two of us. The wine and teryaki marinade reduces down to give the salmon a delicious flavor and caramelizes the onion as well. The crust itself was a little disappointing though - I ended up crusting both sides, and by the time the fish had cooked through, it was not very crisp, nor was it golden brown. I would still recommend that you try it thoough - the parmesan and seasoned bread crumbs can only add to the flavor.
Oh, and make sure you have someone very willing to clean your pan, especially if you are using stainless steel. Just look at how nice and carmamelized the bottom of mine is!

I served this with brown rice and sauteed string beans and shallots.
Parmesan Crusted Salmon
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried tarragon (I omitted)
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup chopped red onion (I suggest using one medium red onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 pounds salmon steaks

In a shallow, medium bowl mix Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoned bread crumbs, tarragon and dill.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, blend white wine, teriyaki sauce, butter, red onion and garlic. Cook and stir until onions are tender.

Press one side of each salmon steak into the Parmesan cheese mixture. (I breaded both sides.) Place steaks crust side up in saucepan with white wine mixture.
Cook over medium high heat until most of the liquid is reduced, 10 to 15 minutes, then flip with a spatula. Continue cooking until crust is golden brown and fish is easily flaked with a fork.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chicken Braised in White Wine

This recipe is one of my tried-and-true favorites. (Well, as tried-and-true as you can get when you have only been really cooking for 2 1/2 years - haha) Plus, the name just makes it sound so fancy, doesn't it? I discovered last year that braising is one of my favorite ways of preparing meat. Braising simply means cooking with "both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavour" (Wikipedia).

I have changed a lot of the amounts in this recipe, in order to make more servings with not as much meat. The key ingredient to this dish is the demi-glace; which is a thick paste made from simmering stock and aromatics for hours and hours, resulting in a highly concentrated flavor. Look here for a better idea of what it is. And before you get excited about the price, you don't need to buy demi-glace to still have a similar flavor in this dish. Go to your local supermarket and pick up some Better Than Bouillon for about $5.99 and you will be all set. You can find it near the soups and soup mixes.

That being said, this dish is excellent. The slow-cooked meat paired with the potatoes, onions, and mushrooms is delicious, especially when highlighted by the white wine and demi-glace flavors. Mmmmm....

Chicken Braised in White Wine
adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Makes 4 servings

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. white button mushrooms, quartered
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon chicken demi-glace
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried parsley, plus more for garnishing
2 fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 to 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat an oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat evenly.

In a deep oven-safe sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add the onion and mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine and demi-glace. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the demi-glace, about 5 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaf, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.

Ready to go into the oven...

And after...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Chuck and I both love buffalo-style chicken, either as wings, or on a pizza, or in a salad; so when I saw this recipe over on Everything Rachael Ray I decided to give it a whirl. Chuck was not crazy about it, but after tasting it, I have already decided on the modifications I will make next time, which are below. I really liked it though, and have it for lunch today!

He said it was not thick enough to be called a "chili" which I think is partially my fault because I forgot the crushed tomatoes. So I had to use diced tomatoes with their juice, so that added more liquid. That and I think there was too much chicken broth. I may actually try this next time in a slow cooker for a few hours so that it really thickens up and absorbs all the flavor. But please, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Oh, and I am a blue cheese freak so in addition to the chips, I also added more crumbles to my bowl! Yum!

Buffalo Chicken Chili
slightly adpated from Rachael Ray
Makes 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds all-white meat ground chicken breast
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
5 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (you can substitute with chipotles or chipotle chili powder)
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1/4 to 1/2 cup hot sauce, depending on how hot you like it
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
several handfuls of tortilla chips
about 1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375°F or broiler to medium.

Place a large pot over medium-high heat, add 1 turn of the pan of EVOO, about 1 tablespoon, and the butter. Once the butter has melted and the pot is hot, add the ground chicken. Brown it, using the back of a wooden spoon to break it up in to small pieces, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3-4 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the hot sauce, tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes, and bring up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes to let the flavors come together.

While the chili is simmering, spread the tortilla chips out on a cookie sheet. Top with the crumbled blue cheese and transfer to the oven to melt the cheese, about 4-5 minutes. If using the broiler, 2-3 minutes should do the trick.

Remove the bay leaf from the chili. Top each serving of buffalo chicken chili with a few blue cheese-topped tortilla chips.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

Oh my. You must make these soon. Very soon. I was a little nervous about how they would turn out - would the gingerbread flavor be too strong? did I overbake them? etc. But they were DELICIOUS and got rave reviews from Michael, Kate, and Chuck so I know they were pretty good!

The original recipe says to bake on a 12x7 rimmed cookie sheet, but there was so much batter and I wasn't wild about baking on flat pan, so I used a 13x9 and it worked out well. This is originally a Martha Stewart recipe, so I was rolling my eyes at the fussy measurements; but in the end it was all worth it. If you even slightly enjoy any of these flavors, you need to try these now!

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies
slightly adapted from Dinner & Dessert
Makes about 24 bars (depending on how you cut them)

2 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 ¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 ¾ cups white chocolate chips
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk together flour, soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and yolk one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla and molasses and mix on medium speed until combined.

Add flour mixture on low speed until combined. Stir in white chocolate.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake until golden on edges and toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan; cut into 24 squares. Blondies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bites

Mini-muffins are so cute. Even the baking pan itself is adorable! I had some leftover pumpkin I wanted to use up so went searching around the internet for a recipe. I significantly adapted the one that I found, because I had some cranberries I wanted to use as well. Then after baking I realized I couldn't really call them "muffins" because they didn't spread as much as I was expecting. Therefore they have been renamed "bites". Just little morsels of fall flavor!

Since the cranberries were an addition, after tasting one I realized I didn't account for the tartness they would add. The muffins weren't as sweet as I would have liked, so next time I make these I will give them a little sprinkle of turbinado, or raw, sugar before popping them in the oven!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bites
adpated from
Makes 24 bites
1 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh cranberries
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray 24 mini-muffin cups with cooking spray.

Bring pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon and cloves to a simmer in a medium saucepan until puree thickens enough to start sticking to pan bottom, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn hot puree into a bowl.
Whisk in brown sugar and oil, then slowly beat in eggs.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk into pumpkin mixture until just combined. Fold in cranberries with wooden spoon.

Divide batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Let stand a few minutes, then transfer mini-muffins to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

Get ready for a delicious, decadant dessert! With three sticks of butter in the cake itself and four tablespoons in the caramel glaze, make sure you savor every bite of this! Needless to say, we really enjoyed this cake. The moist, apple-filled cake topped with the buttery caramel sauce is simply divine.

Make sure when you are chopping the apples that you cut them into tiny bite-sized pieces (splash a little lemon juice on the first few you chop to keep them from browning). Anything larger will weigh the cake down once you cut it. I would suggest serving it slightly warm with a side of french vanilla ice cream like we did - you will love it!

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce
from Real Simple via Good Eats and Sweet Treats
Makes 16 servings

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the dish
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the dish
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans (I omitted these)
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Caramel Glaze, recipe below

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the butter and the granulated and brown sugars until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. The batter should be very thick. Stir in the apples, pecans, and vanilla.

Scrape the batter into baking dish. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes while you make the Caramel Glaze.

With a spatula, loosen the sides of the cake. If you want to remove it from the pan, invert it onto a baking sheet, then invert it again, right-side up, onto a platter. With a toothpick or fork, poke holes all over the surface. Pour on the warm sauce.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream, if desired. Tip: This rich, moist cake travels exceptionally well in its baking pan.

Caramel Glaze

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 cup heavy cream

In a saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the granulated and brown sugars and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Taco Bake

This week has been full of late nights at school and no energy when I got home. So when Lindsay suggested this recipe, I printed it out right away! This dish is pretty much the ultimate in comfort food; so you know that that means...really ugly pictures!

This is definitely going into the recipe file as quick, simple, and delicious. I halved everything and baked it in an 8x8 dish. If you do this, I would recommend going slightly over half the amount of the ingredients, since I didn't think there was as much beef mixture as there would be in the 9x13. Regardless, we loved it, and I will be making it again, whether I am crunched for time or not!

Taco Bake
from Love Deliciousness
Makes 6 large servings

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 packet taco seasoning
15-ounce can tomato sauce
8 ounces medium shell pasta
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef, drain. Add taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

Mix softened cream cheese and sour cream in separate bowl.

Spray bottom of 9x13 pan. Put pasta in bottom of pan.

Spread cream cheese mixture over pasta. Spoon ground meat mixture over this. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Apple-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust

Mmmmm, this pie was so comforting and delicious. I believe I underbaked it slightly because I was worried about the crust burning, so please follow the directions where it says to cover with foil after 30 minutes if that happens to you. That being said, the oatmeal cookie crust was delightful and when mixed with the apples and cranberries was simply wonderful.

Make sure you have some vanilla ice cream on hand to serve with this - especially if you are serving the pie warm (recommended!). I had enough crumbs and filling left over to make four little muffin pies. If you do this, the baking time needs to be significantly reduced, I would suggest checking them after about 20 minutes.


Apple-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust
Makes one pie

3 cups rolled (old fashioned) oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp (rounded measure) salt
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup + 2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted

7 cups peeled, sliced Granny Smith apples
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice (or ground cloves)
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best!)
½ tsp grated lemon rind
3 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar (packed)
½ cup sour cream

Prepare crust: Combine all crust ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and mix well. Press firmly and evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9 or 10-inch pie pan, forming a thick crust. Reserve about a cup of the crust mix for the topping.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place sliced apples and cranberries in a large bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with spices; toss until well coated. Add rind. Sprinkle in flour and mix again. Gradually add brown sugar and sour cream as you mix. Don't worry if the apple slices break a little while being mixed and tossed.

Distribute the filling into the unbaked crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust crumbs over the top and pat neatly into place.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the apples are soft and the crust is nicely browned on the edges. Note: If the top appears to be browning too quickly during baking, cover loosely with foil (check after about 30 minutes).