Monday, November 12, 2007

Yo, Chicken...Beer Me!

I have never made a whole chicken before. I have enough trouble with just a simple breast so I was pretty freaking nervous. Plus...yeah, wish someone would have told me that whole chickens came with the neck AND the gibblets still in tact. I felt like the Old Man in A Christmas Story. "It's...smiling at me!" DH had to come and chop off the neck and fish out the ickiness inside for me but what followed was absolutely delicious! I can believe how easily this came together and how juicy and flavorful it was. Best chicken I have ever made...hand's down!

(Recipe Source: Guy Fieri -

  • 1 (2 to 3-pound) whole chicken (Mine was a little bigger, like 3.75 lbs.)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 (12-ounce) can beer (I used Sam Adams Winter Lager -- which actually involved pouring out a skunky old Bud Light, rinisng the can and then pouring the other beer into the can!)
  • 1/2 pound bacon


  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Wash chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Mix dry ingredients in small bowl. Rub 1/2 of the ingredients on inside cavity of chicken. Gently peel skin away from chicken and rub mixture into meat of chicken. Open beer can pour out about 1/2 cup. Drop the garlic cloves into the beer can. Place chicken, open end down, over the beer can to insert the beer into the cavity. Place chicken, standing up, in large saute pan. Place 1/3 of the bacon in the top cavity of the chicken and drape the remaining 2/3 of the bacon down the outside of the chicken. Pierce the bacon to the chicken with toothpicks.
  • Place chicken in the oven for 10 minutes and then lower temperature to 325 degrees F and cook for another 1 hour, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. (Mine was larger, so it took about 100 minutes to finish cooking.)

Eric could not stop raving about this meal. He was literally sucking the meat off the bone! It was sooooo good. I served it with crusty french bread, rice pilaf and ceasar salads. Will for sure be making this again!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Holiday Cookie Memories!

So I was organizing some photos on Friday evening and I came across a recipe from my mom in one of the envelopes. She must have stuck in there when she gave me the photos and I forgot to take it out! It's one of my absolute favorite holiday cookie recipes. Sure, it's a little early for chistmas baking but really, these are great anytime of the year. These have been a family favorite at our house for as long as I can grandma used to make them for my mom when she was small!

When I was a kid, I used to get up in the morning during christmas break and sneak into the dining room (where all the holiday baking bounty was kept in the same colorful tins that are still passed around the family) and grab a couple of these and wolf them down before breakfast. They are so simple, light, buttery and are FANTASTIC with a big glass of ice cold milk!

(Recipe Source: Mom McQ)

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I use Quick Oats)
  • Chocolate sprinkles, for rolling
  • With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla.
  • Stir together flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture. Stir in oatmeal and mix well.
  • Chill dough for at least 30 minutes
  • Shape dough into a log and roll in chocolate sprinkles.
  • Slice cookies and place on an ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes (check after 15)
There's not actually any real chocolate in these, so the name is kind of funny. Looking at the recipe there is no reason why they should be so stinkin' yummy, but what can I say, they are!!!

Monday, November 5, 2007

What to feed a man who hasn't had a real meal in months...

In addition to his very busy work schedule, Eric is in school for an MBA. He is never home. Ever. I haven't cooked a real meal in...a long, long time. He hasn't had a real meal in a long, long time either! I miss being in the kitchen! Eric attacks his two classes with the vigor and enthusiasm of his undergraduate engineering days even though he probably doesn't have to. What a good student!

So we were gone all weekend for a wedding in Austin, TX. We got home about 4:00 Sunday and we were both craving something warm, satisfying and comforting so I broke out one of my old standbys. It's one of my hubby's absolute favorites!

(Recipe courtesy of: ME!)

  • 1/2 box dried mostaccioli pasta (you could use ziti, penne, rigatoni or any chunky pasta)
  • 2 links spicy italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 1/2 tbls of minced garlic (more or less to your taste)
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/4 cup of grated parm cheese
  • 1/4 cup italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 tbls. butter
  • Additional grated parm for serving
  • Cook pasta to desired tenderness, drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook onion and sausage in a skillet until browned. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add tomatos, salt and pepper, italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes, stir, getting all the brown bits up from the bottom. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Grease a small casserole dish, add pasta and sauce, toss to coat.
  • Mix parm cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over the top of pasta. Cut butter into small pieces and place on top.
  • Bake in a 400 degree oven until heated through and top is browned.
  • Serve with additional parm cheese. Enjoy!
Sometimes I skip the breadcrumb toping in favor of cheese but I gotta say I'm a sucker for that crispy crust. I just love it! It tastes like it took a long time to prepare when really its super easy to throw together. I serve it with a ceasar salad and some kind of bread or roll on the side. Perfect for my busy school boy!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I lost my poor meatball...

I was humming "On Top of Spaghetti" the entire time I was making this, even though it had nothing to do wiht spaghetti and meatballs! I'm always on the lookout for "Eric Friendly" recipes. This usually involves the following: beef, minimal veggies, and basic flavoring/seasonings. I found this one the last time I was at my MIL's house flipping through a Family Circle magazine. It was good....not knock-your-socks off or anything but Eric enjoyed it. I think it needs....something. More kick or something. Maybe some red pepper flakes (that's my solution for everything!) But it's certainly a good base recipe. There's a lot of possibilities!

(Recipe Source: Family Circle Magazine)

  • 1-1/4 pound lean ground beef (I used extra lean)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) beef broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Cooked noodles and steamed spinach for serving (I did not include the spinach)


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack on a baking sheet and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, garlic salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Form into 40 meatballs, about 1 level tablespoon each. Place on prepared rack over baking sheet.

3. Bake meatballs at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms and cook 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally or until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour over the mixture, stir and cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in beef broth until the flour is completely incorporated into the liquid. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the nutmeg.

5. Add meatballs to the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with buttered egg noodles and steamed spinach.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I guess I've been tagged

So here are 8 random things about me.

1. I miss everything about where I grew up. Iowa is NOT my home. After 2.5 years I'm still homesick and I'm just counting the days until we move back to Illinois. Hopefully by this time next year. ::Crossing Fingers::

2. We eat out every Friday night. It never fails. I don't think I've cooked on a Friday night in months. I just don't feel like cooking after a long week.

3. I have a very strong aversion to ANYTHING white and creamy. Mayo is the number offender, the thought of being in the same room with it makes me want to gag, but also included are ranch dressing, alfredo sauce, cottage cheese, cream cheese, whipped cream, even soft-serve vanilla ice cream!

4. I drive a 2005 Ford, fast, wildly impractacle...and I love every second of it.

5. If I had my way, I would be able to make a decent living freelancing....seriously, if I could spend a couple hours a week writing a column at Starbucks and the rest shopping like Carrie Bradshaw it would be the ultimate sweet life.

6. I don't floss. I know I should and everyday I tell myself that tomorrow I am going to start but I never do. I get my butt handed to me everytime I go to the dentist. I need to start!!!

7. I've got baby fever. There, I said it. Don't tell Eric, he'll flip! ;)

8. The Food Network is my ultimate weakness. Whatevers on there, I will watch. If I've seen it matter, I'll watch it again. The only shows I purposely turn off: anything with Sandra Lee (I just can't handle her) and Dinner Impossible (which is funny because that's the only show Eric actually likes!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"I was born in a small town...."

Okay, that's a lie...I was born in a real big town. But Eric was born in a small town! So I'm a country gal by association.

Ah, Labor of my favorite times of the year. We always take the long weekend and spend it with Eric's family on their farm. There's a street fest, garage sales, lots of friends and lots of food! It's a great time!

I made the Texas Sheet Cake from Cooking Light to take with us and it was a huge hit! I forgot to take a picture before it was gobbled up!

(Recipe Source: Cooking Light)

  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (TIP: I hate buying an entire quart of buttermilk when I only need a cup or so....look for buttermilk in pints! They were about 35 cents at the grocery store!)
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tbs. butter
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Coat a 13x9 pan with cooking spray, sprinkle with 2 tsps. flour. Set aside.
  • Lightly spoon 2 cups of flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups of flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stir well with a whisk. Combine 3/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of the cocoa in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add to flour mixture. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Add buttermilk, 1 tsp. vanilla and eggs; beat well. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 375 for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on wire rack.
  • Combine 6 tbls. butter, fat free milk and the remaining 1/4 cup of cocoa in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stiring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in powdered sugar and remaing 2 tsps. of vanilla. Spread over hot cake. Sprinkle with pecans. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Every Labor Day weekend on Main Street is a free (but donations welcome!) Chuckwagon Breakfast. It's a tradition...eating greasy sausage standing up. It cannot be missed!

Here I am chowin' down on my pork sausage patty. No knives at the Chuckwagon...forks only!

Mmmmm...Chuckwagon-y Goodness!

Some good friends of ours are getting married in November. This past weekend, the groom's sister hosted a couples shower for them in their parents backyard. What a relaxing way to spend one of the last evenings of the summer! Fried catfish, bbq pulled pork, fresh corn....YUM!

And best of all....THIS CAKE!Eric (the best man) and the groom (the best man in our wedding) work for competing large equipment manufacturing companies. It's a never ending rivarly. These machines are (ahem) the wrong color!! Heeee!!! :)

Well, the weekend went by way to fast and it was back to reality before we knew it. The end of Labor Day weekend always makes me a little sad because it means summer's over. But with fall comes apples...and pumpkins...and chili...and soups...and all sorts of other yummy warm dishes! I'm actually looking forward to it this year!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Finally time to cook!

I've been super busy at work and work related functions/parties the last few weeks so I haven't been in the kitchen much! I had that urge to try something new today so I made dinner AND dessert.

Now, I always get on Eric's case about trying new foods....I'm pretty adventerous and I love to try new things but I have one downfall: White and Creamy. I cannot deal with it. So tonight's dinner was a real stretch for me. I figured if I made it myself and I knew what was in it, it would be less scary. I admit to having a momentary moment of panic when I took this out of the oven in all its white and creamy glory but it was actually very good. And I got my husband to eat something green so that's always a plus. I made some serious modifications to this to suit my tastes, they are in italics.

(Recipe source: Giada -
1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound thick-cut pancetta, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (Deli counters in Iowa do not offer pancetta (imagine that!) so I used prepackaged thinly sliced pancetta and crumbled it into my filling)

2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained (I used two 9 oz. boxes per some suggestions in the reviews, not quite two pounds.)
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta (I used part-skim)
1 cup grated asiago cheese (again, difficulty locating this in my grocery store so I used grated parm instead)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter (I used 2 tbs because I added flour as a thickener)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup cream (I do not cook with heavy cream, it makes my tummy hurt, I used 1 1/4 cup of 2% milk plus 2 tbs. of flour)
2 cups grated asiago cheese, plus 1/4 cup (Since I couldn't find the asiago, I ended up using fontina instead since it would melt nicely and thicken up my sauce. I'd like to try it with the asiago though, if I can find it!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the shells:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Add the spinach, ricotta cheese, asiago cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the spinach mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, buttered baking dish.

For the sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to very low and add the 2 cups asiago cheese, parsley, and pepper. Stir until the cheese is dissolved. Pour the sauce over the shells. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup asiago cheese. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

And now for dessert! I haven't tried this yet...we will be cutting into it in about a half hour but it looks way yummy! My changes are in italics!
(Recipe Source: Cooking Light)

Lightly coat hands with cooking spray to press the slightly sticky crust into the pie plate. The filling may be thin after mixing but will harden in the freezer. (I'm such a cheater and I didn't make the crust...I bought a chocolate graham crust. So I guess I made it less "light" oops! I didn't use the first couple ingredients or do the first step.)


object2=">1 2/3 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about 8 1/2 cookie sheets)
object2=">7 tablespoons sugar, divided
object2=">2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
object2="> Cooking spray
object2=">1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
object2=">2/3 cup reduced-fat crunchy peanut butter (I couldn't find reduced-fat crunchy so I just used regular chunky)
object2=">1/2 teaspoon vanilla
object2=">1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened
object2=">1 (8-ounce) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
object2=">3 tablespoons finely chopped salted, dry-roasted peanuts (I left these off because I forgot to pick some up...I just used extra chocolate instead!)
object2=">1/4 cup shaved milk chocolate (about 1 ounce)


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, and egg whites; toss with a fork until moist. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Prick crust with a fork before baking. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

Combine milk and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly; transfer mixture to a bowl. Add peanut butter and vanilla, stirring with a whisk until combined. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk mixture, beating on low speed until combined. Fold in whipped topping; pour mixture into prepared piecrust. Freeze, uncovered, 8 hours or overnight or until hard. Sprinkle with peanuts and shaved chocolate. Transfer pie to refrigerator 30 minutes before slicing.

(One tip, if you do use a pre-made crust - there is way too much filling for the crust. I made a huge mess when I poured the filling in to quickly and it spilled over! Yikes! It's okay though, still looks yummy!)