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Thursday
Mar062014

Smashed potatoes

I wonder how many Minnesotans were prescribed antidepressants this winter. Not one typically prone to depression, I feel myself sinking into the bowels of seasonal sadness. This winter has been rough! Snow, COLD, grey days, being cooped up indoors, repeat, repeat, repeat. There are, however, good sides to this time of year. I get to spend all kinds of time with my lovies. I get to focus more on my website and other projects. I have ample opportunity to make food, eat and eat some more. And then some more. My thighs are slowly growing, despite my diligence at the gym. Come on, spring! My soul needs some warm weather. So do my thighs. 

We ate these scrumptious little potatoes with the meatloaf I made a few weeks ago. I LOVED THEM. I really really loved them. I can't believe I've lived my life without them thus far. I sneaked in a jalapeño pepper, but feel free to omit that. Enjoy! And if you live somewhere warm, would you please invite me to your house? Please?

 

You'll need to boil 9 baby reds before starting. About 20 minutes will do, or until a fork can be easily inserted into the centers. Place the cute little potatoes on a rimmed parchment-lined, olive oil-drizzled baking sheet.

Using a fork, go ahead and smash those little reds. Be gentle. But be firm. Kind of like the way I have to be with my boys. Gentle but not too gentle. Firm but not too firm.

Combine the following in a medium bowl:

Drizzle some olive oil into the bowl.

It should look something like this after stirring.

Spoon that delicious mixture over the tops of the gently-yet-firmly-smashed potatoes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes!

Serve with meatloaf and a veggie!

Smashed Potatoes

A deliciously different way to prepare potatoes.

Serves: 9

Total time: 50 min

Smashed Potatoes



Ingredients:

  • 9 baby red potatoes
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions:
  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan filled three quarters with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 20 minutes, or until a fork can be easily inserted into the centers.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Remove the potatoes from the pan of water and place on parchment paper. Smash each potato with a fork a couple times.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the parsley, peppers (if using), kosher salt, garlic salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and olive oil. Mix well and spoon over potatoes. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 mintues. Serve warm!

 

 

Wednesday
Feb262014

Minion cupcakes

Minions are taking over my life, people. All my boys do is recite lines and play out scenes from Despicable Me 2. Over and over and over until the sun goes down and they are tucked tightly into their little beds. They basically only speak to one another in minion-talk these days. It's a good thing the movie is so cute and that the minions are so darn lovable! I knew Elijah would be super excited about having a minion-themed birthday party this year. He was thrilled about the minion decor and napkins and party hats. When I told him of my plans to make minion cupcakes he could hardly contain himself. He insisted on sitting with me while I worked so he could make sure I created Dave, Jerry, Stuart, Kevin and Bob to his very detailed specifications. He told me exactly what style of hair and eye(s) each of them had and how tall each was.

These are SUPER easy to make. I thought they would be way more time-consuming than they turned out to be. If you, too, have a minion-lover, give these a try! They were a huge hit at Elijah's birthday party. The adults loved them, too!

Elijah is not home right now to help, but I'm pretty sure this is Jerry and Kevin.

I couldn't fathom making a bunch of minion cupcakes without making at least one crazy purple guy! Instructions on him are condensed and at the very bottom of the post.

Supplies you will need:

A box of cake/cupcake mix of your liking (plus necessary ingredients listed on package)

Container of white frosting

10 Twinkies (or Cloud Cakes)

Blue food coloring (and purple, if you'd like to create a purple guy)

20 cupcake liners

Black tube of decorating gel

Candy eyeballs (I found these very easily at WalMart in the baking/decorating aisle; a good alternate would be Smarties candies with dots drawn on "eyes" with edible black marker)

Prepare 20 cupcakes according to the package instructions.

While they are baking, scoop the frosting into a bowl and add a few drops of blue food coloring. Mix well. Continue adding blue drops until you get a hue that matches those cute little minion overalls.

If you plan to make a purple minion or two, place a few spoonfuls of the frosting into a separate bowl and do the same thing with purple food coloring. I used the purple neon gel coloring and it was a perfect match.

Frost the cupcakes, once they have cooled.

The only complicated part of this process for me was timing. I didn't want to prepare the minion heads too soon in fear of them drying out and being inedible. Now I know that 20 yellow heads can be made in less than an hour (actually more like 40-45 minutes, if you have everything ready to go). Have your house cleaned and your dishes put away so you can spend the final hour before your guests arrive to prepare minion heads!

Cut the Twinkies in half as you go. Elijah instructed me very carefully about how tall each should be, but if you don't have a picky little one standing over your shoulder feel free to cut them right in half with a sharp, clean knife.

Using the black gel, draw a single line around the rounded portion of the minion head about halfway down.

I can't believe how huge my fingers look in these photos. Hand modeling is apparently not my thing. 

Alternate between using one and two candy eyes, unless you want more of one than another. They're all cute. Squirt a little glob of the black gel onto the back side of each eye.

Gently press the eye(s) onto the center of each black stripe. The excess gel will seep out from around the edges a bit and that is good, as it serves as the outer rim of the goggles.

Draw a cute little smile onto the minion. Add some hair. You can choose between the center part, the spiky look or the single curl.

Carefully place the heads onto the tops of the cupcakes, pressing down gently.

For the purple minions, cut a Twinkie at about the 3/4 mark. They should stand a little bit taller than the yellows. Place it on its cut end on a flat work surface. Using a knife, spread the purple frosting around its entire surface, going up and down with the strokes. Place an excess of frosting on the top and swirl it around with the knife, creating the crazy hair.

Repeat the same process from above with the goggles/eyes. Since this one needs to be constructed while being upright, I had to hold the eyes in place for a minute so they didn't slide down.

For the mouth, create a frown with the gel. Using a knife, cut a candy eyeball (or a Smartie) into uneven pieces. Dab one side with gel and push them in gently above the frown to create the crazy teeth.

Insert a toothpick into the top of his head and hold onto it while pushing a spatula underneath the minion. Transfer it to the top of a purple-frosted cupcake and carefully remove the spatula (and then the toothpick). Spread extra purple frosting around the base of the minion and spread carefully with a knife to create a seamless look.

Enjoy! They are so fun and cute, aren't they?!

Minion Cupcakes

Bring those cute, silly little minions from Despicable Me to life!

Serves: 20

Total time: 1 hr, 30 min

Minion Cupcakes



Ingredients:

  • Box of cake/cupcake mix (plus necessary ingredients listen on package)
  • Container of white frosting
  • 10 Twinkies (or Cloud Cakes)
  • Blue food coloring
  • 20 cupcake liners
  • Black tube of decorating gel
  • Candy eyeballs (found at Walmart or Target; alternate: Smarties candies with dots drawn on the “eyes” with edible black marker)
Instructions:
  1. Prepare 20 cupcakes according to package instructions. While they are baking, scoop the frosting into a bowl and add blue food coloring. Mix well and continue adding drops until you reach a medium blue. Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost them.
  2. Approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving these cupcakes, begin the process of making the minion heads. Cut the Twinkies in half as you go. Using the black gel, draw a single line around the rounded portion of the minion head about halfway down. Alternate between using one and two candy eyes. Squirt a glob of the black gel onto the backside of each eye.
  3. Gently press the eye(s) onto the center of each black stripe. Draw a smile onto the minion and add hair (center part, spiky look or single curl). Carefully place the heads onto the tops of the cupcakes, pressing down gently. Serve!

 

 

Saturday
Feb222014

Best ever meatloaf


I'm still in full-blown comfort food mode over here. The pile of snow outside my house continues to grow. I can barely see the road when I look out the window. Spring seems like a million years away. So I continue to find solace in food. Chicken pot pie, breakfast casserole, chili and now delicious meatloaf. The BEST meatloaf! I dug up my mother's handwritten meatloaf recipe from my archives and used it as my guide. She always made the yummiest meatloaf. I don't remember ever eating meatloaf as good as hers. I tweaked her recipe just a teeny bit, added a sauce and just like that the Best Ever Meatloaf was born. If you have qualms about meatloaf at all, the name or the taste, I ask that you set them aside. This recipe will not disappoint!

 

In a large bowl, combine the following:

Mix everything together with your hands until thoroughly combined. You might want to remove your rings first to avoid having beef-filled jewelry.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

This is a very important side note! Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet before putting it into the oven. Meat juices will be bubbling over the edge and I don't want you to burn your house down while making meatloaf.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the following:

Mix well. Spread half of the mixture evenly over the meatloaf halfway through baking.

Reserve the remainder of the sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Let the meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving! Yum!

My only problem now is that I can't decide which comfort food to make next!

Best Ever Meatloaf

This is my Mother's amazing recipe, with a touch of delish sauce!

Serves: 6-8

Total time: 2 hrs

Best Ever Meatloaf



Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 5x9 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, crackers, egg, milk, ½ cup ketchup, onion, salt and pepper. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  2. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 1 ½ hours.
  3. In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup ketchup, brown sugar, apricot preserves and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well. Spread half of the mixture evenly over the meatloaf halfway through baking. Reserve the remainder of the sauce for dipping/topping. Let meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

 

Saturday
Feb152014

the best chili on earth

Somebody told me recently that they had searched for a standard chili recipe on my website and couldn't find one. Whoa...WHAT?! I cannot believe I haven't shared this recipe until now! It's a tragic oversight and I hope you will find it in your chili-loving heart to forgive me. Dan and I have been making this recipe for years and I recently tweaked it, pushing it over the edge into the realm of chili super-greatness. I love this recipe. And guess what? It's another snowy, cold day in which eating a heaping bowl of comfort is just what I need.

Enjoy, friends!

 

In a large skillet, cook 2 pounds of ground beef, turkey or venison over medium-high heat until the meat is no longer pink.

Transfer the meat to a bowl. Drain the excess grease from the skillet, but do not clean it. Leave those tasty meat morsels right where they are so they can mingle with their new veggie friends.

Add 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. 

Add:

1 yellow or white onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (optional, but highly recommended)

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic are fragrant (mmm, don't you love the smell of cooking onions and garlic?!) and the onions and peppers are soft, about 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add:

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Stir it all together and resist the temptation to start eating those delicious, spiced onions and peppers.

There are two ways you can finish up, depending on how much time you have. If you have the time, I recommend using a slow cooker. If you don't have the time, the chili will be just as delicious and you can finish up on the stovetop.

Either throw the entire contents of the skillet into a slow cooker or keep them where they are.

Either way, add:

Cooked ground beef/venison/turkey

46-oz. container tomato juice

28-oz. can diced tomatoes

15-oz. can tomato sauce

16-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

16-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Mix everything together. Yum! Getting hungry yet?

If you are using a slow cooker, cook on Low setting for 7 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally. And test-tasting often, of course.

If you are using the stovetop, bring the chili to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how much time you have. 

Serve warm with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese and a dollup of sour cream.

Oh sweet chili-eating goodness, I'm heading downstairs to make myself a bowl!

The Best Chili on Earth

I'm serious when I say this is the BEST chili. Ever.

Serves: 12

Total time: 8-9 hrs (slow cooker) or 2 1/2 hr (stovetop)

The Best Chili on Earth


Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef, turkey or venison
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 46-oz. can tomato juice
  • 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 16-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • Shredded cheese and sour cream, for topping
Instructions:
  1. In a large skillet, cook ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Transfer the meat to a bowl. Drain excess grease from skillet, but do not clean.
  2. Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, green pepper, garlic, parsley and jalapeño peppers (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir until combined.
  3. If cooking the chili stovetop, add the cooked meat back to the skillet. If you are using a slow cooker, add everything to the slow cooker. Add the tomato juice, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans and pinto beans. On stovetop, bring to a boil, dial back to medium-low and simmer for 2 hours. In slow cooker, cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Serve warm with cheese and sour cream.

 

 

Monday
Feb102014

Build-your-own breakfast casserole

We are in full-blown cooped-up winter mode. I love winter because it means tons of extra family time for us, but I sure wish we could get outside without worrying about our skin blistering and shriveling up. I heard somewhere recently that we are on the verge of breaking a record for most days below zero in a single winter (!!). Even my boys have been occasionally asking me things like, "Mom, why don't we live somewhere warmer?" We press on, as Minnesotans do, and get through the bitterness. The warm spring weather will be sweeter than ever this year.

Maybe you've noticed that I have been creating an unusual number of comfort food recipes in the past few months. If there is one thing I'm good at doing while trying not to go stir crazy in our little home, it is eating comfort food. I put together a versatile breakfast casserole the other day because who doesn't love a good, loaded breakfast casserole with tons of options? Begin with the base ingredients, and go as crazy as you want with meat, veggies, extras and toppings. Have fun! Dan and I made a venison/green onion/green bell pepper/parsley version and even with the lean meat, it was fantastic!

 

10 eggs, beaten

30-oz. bag frozen hash browns, thawed

2 cups milk

2 to 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Ground sausage, beef, turkey or venison (cook in skillet over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink)

Bacon (bake on foil-lined baking sheet at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy - drain and chop)

Diced cooked ham (pre-packaged) or chopped deli ham

Shredded chicken (bake 2 large breasts at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until juices run clear, or shred meat from a cooked Rotisserie chicken)

 

1 white, yellow or red onion, chopped (cook in skillet with oilve oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (cook in skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

1 green or red bell pepper, chopped (cook in skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

8-oz. package mushrooms, chopped (cook in skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

1 medium zucchini, finely chopped (cook in skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

2 cups chopped asparagus or 2 cups finely chopped broccoli (lightly steamed)

8-oz. container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved 

2 cups chopped kale or spinach 

 

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chives or cilantro, finely chopped (cook in skillet with oilve oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

2 cloves garlic, minced (cook in skillet with oilve oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (cook in skillet with oilve oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes)

Salsa

Sour cream

Avocado slices

 

ENJOY!

Printable recipe: Build-your-own breakfast casserole