Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fondue for Two + Weekend Update

Happy Monday friends!  I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend.  Mine was incredibly productive, which I find exhausting, but it also makes me feel accomplished!

The highlight was attending an 80s themed birthday party Saturday night.  Ya'll know I love a good theme.  Mike and I reprised our roles of '86 mixed doubles country club champs, and we really committed.  Fortunately my love of all things Lacoste in high school, accompanied by my inability to get rid of things that were once my favorite thing, paid off (I knew those polos would come in handy one day!).  Mike even broke out his dad's old cell phone - state of the art!

Wilkie got to go to the puppy play time that his obedience school hosts on weekends.  He decided to play it cool and act independent, which I couldn't believe.  At work he'll play with any dog who will have him! 

He was kind of the teachers pet of obedience class last week (proud mom!).  After the first night I'm not really sure this is the class for him - all giant dogs who were just bananas!  But we're going to stick with it.  Hopefully I learn some good training techniques.  And hopefully I can figure out how to keep him out of his new favorite hangout spot, the dryer (the man is forever in search of socks to destroy). 

With unwavering dedication to win over his big brother's heart, Wilkie has finally worn down Roscoe.  Roscoe pretends to resist, but he's really starting to love Wilkie (so I tell myself). 

Friday night we finally broke out the fondue pot we got as a wedding gift.  Why did we wait so long? Fondue is the best! I absolutely love my Cuisinart version - you don't have to worry about a flame, and it heats up perfectly.  Similar to a griddle, there is a dial where you can control the heat and the temperature changes quickly. 

We foolishly decided to make this as an appetizer and also purchased salad and steaks.  Turns out salad and steaks are completely unnecessary when you consume a giant pot of cheese first, but it was totally worth it.  Next time we'll plan to eat this for dinner, or as an appetizer for 4 people. 

Classic Cheese Fondue:
*.5 lb. gruyere cheese, grated
*.5 lb. emmenthal cheese, grated
*1 tbsp. corn starch
*1 tsp. dry mustard
* 1 c. dry white wine
* 1 garlic clove, sliced in half
*1 tbsp. Kirsch, optional (I skipped this, but it is a traditional ingredient. The cheese was still delicious without it!)
*For serving: green apples, tomatoes, broccoli, cubed bread, tortilla chips

Rub the halved garlic clove all around the fondue pot.  In a bowl, mix together the cheeses, corn starch, and dry mustard.  Turn the fondue pot on high and add the wine until it comes to a boil.  While whisking constantly, slowly add the cheese, one handful at a time (the consistency should be totally smooth before you add another handful).  Once all of the cheese is incorporated, reduce the heat to low.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sweet & Spicy Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

I'm forever in search of a really easy crock-pot recipe that doesn't skimp on flavor.  I feel like there are so many recipes that require extensive steps (browning the meat, charring the peppers) before you slow cook the full dish.  While those are usually delicious, sometimes I just want to go with the age-old 'set it and forget it' method.

This spicy orange chicken is one of those recipes.  Literally just toss everything together, and you only need one bowl (I used the same bowl to toss the chicken with the flour, then mixed the sauce in it).  The results are a super orange-y, sweet and savory chicken with a surprising kick.

There's nothing better than coming home to a delicious, fully cooked dinner that has filled your house with a heavenly aroma.  I served mine with some Trader Joe's frozen brown rice (it's all I eat - who has time to make rice these days?), and topped it with a few green onions and sesame seeds, since I had them on hand. 

*6-7 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
*2 naval oranges
*1 tbsp. flour
*2/3 c. sweet chili sauce
* 1 tsp. ginger paste (with the fresh herbs at the store)
* 2 tbsp. soy sauce
*1/2 tsp. garlic powder
*1/2 tsp. onion powder
*green onions, sesames seeds, for garnish
*brown rice, for serving

Zest both of the oranges, then thinly slice them.  Layer half to the sliced oranges in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Toss the chicken with flour and orange zest, then place in the slow cooker.  Stir together chili sauce, ginger paste, soy sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Pour the sauce mixture over the chicken, then top with the rest of the sliced oranges. Cook on low 8 hours, then use a spoon to remove the orange slices and gently break up the chicken.  Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds and serve over rice.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Birthday Recap

Happy Monday friends!  I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend.  I spent the weekend ringing in the big 2-9.  I've been so busy at work lately that I sort of forgot last week that my birthday was coming up!  So unlike me.  I spent the weekend doing exactly what I wanted, which was a whole lot of nothing, with a whole lot of good food mixed in.  I've just been so exhausted lately between work and Wilkie's 5 a.m. wake up calls that a weekend of relaxation was all I could ask for!

I was so desperate to sleep in that I let Wilkie sleep in the bed with me and it was a success! He snoozed until 8:30, and that was everything I could hope for.  I'm sure I'll regret this set back in his crate training but I was desperate. 

The morning started with breakfast in bed, a new Food Network Magazine,  and flowers from Mike.  Locals - have you been to Beach Bagels?  I've never found a bagel in Wilmington that I really loved, until my sister brought me a Beach Bagel when she was in town for a wedding and staying down at Wrightsville.  So soft and delicious!  I love their everything bagels, but for my birthday I went with Chocolate Chip. 

My mom sent me a great cookbook for my birthday as well.  You can't go wrong with French comfort food!

I'm most excited to try this recipe - potatoes baked with cheese, cream, bacon, and caramelized onions? Ok twist my arm..

Of course, I had to treat myself to a little something too.  Locals - go to the Monkee's winter sale!  All fall and winter is 50% off, AND buy one get one free!  I got these Kate Spade bow shoes that I've been eyeing for about 5 years (perfect birthday shoes if I do say so) and a pair of Cole Haahn basic black pumps for my free pair.  Major birthday score!

I also received a pretty epic bouquet of flowers.  

And wore a pretty epic outfit to dinner (bow shoes included)… I knew it was just right when Mike was judging me and laughing at my ridiculous fur collar!  Hey, if you can't rock a purple fur and sparkly shoes on your birthday, when can you?

Mike took me to Ruth's Chris for my favorite thing ever - their giant onion rings! And of course a beautiful filet as well.  Our dinner was so good we already made a reservation for Valentine's Day on the way out the door. 

Cheers to another great year! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pulled Pork Casserole with Cornbread Crust

Given my second casserole post in a row, you can probably conclude that I am not one of the millions of people who took a vow of health in the New Year.  I find that to be exhausting and, really, I don't get that feeling of motivation until about mid-February.  I did, however, make one resolution: a vow to cook my way through my freezer and pantry and make use of the plethora of food I have acquired in recent months.

In the summer time, we're always making pork tenderloin on the grill, and whole pork tenderloins usually go on sale buy one get one free.  Well, the last of my giant pork tenderloins has been occupying a shelf in my freezer for the better part of four months now, so I thought it was high time I made good use of it. 

This pulled pork casserole is a southerner's dream.  Sweet and slightly spicy slow-cooked pulled pork topped with buttery cornbread?  How did I not think of this sooner! 

The mostly-homemade cornbread is made more luxurious with the addition of sour cream and creamed corn, with a hint of cheddar cheese and a mild onion flavor.  The combination makes for the perfect Sunday night dinner and would make a great addition to your Super Bowl menu. 

*2.5 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 3 inch chunks
*1 1/4 c. honey BBQ sauce, divided (plus more for serving)
*1 tbsp. dijon mustard
*1 chipotle pepper, plus 1 tbsp. adobo*
* 1 (14.5 oz.) can chicken stock
*1 onion, choppped

*2 (8.5 oz) boxes cornbread mix
*2/3 c. cream style corn
*4 tbsp. sour cream
*3 green onions, chopped
*1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

In a crockpot, combine 1 c. bbq sauce and the rest of the ingredients for the pork. Cook on low 8 hours, or until the pork is easily shredded with a fork.  Remove the pork and shred it with two forks.  Add it to a bowl and use a slotted spoon to remove most of the onions and add them to the pork, along with 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid from the crockpot, and another 1/4 c. BBQ sauce.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400.  To prepare the cornbread, stir together cream corn, sour cream, green onion, and cheddar cheese.  Gently fold in the cornbread mix and stir until well combined.  Let the cornbread mix rest for 5 minutes. 

Place the pork in a large casserole dish and top with cornbread.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve with more bbq sauce, if desired.  Enjoy! 

*I buy small cans of chipotle peppers in adobo and use them here and there to add a warm heat to dishes.  I usually transfer them to a mason jar and keep them on hand in the fridge. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Pastisio is one of those Greek dishes that has always seemed intimidating to me, but also something I wanted to master.  If you haven't had Pastisio, it's a delicious Greek casserole similar to lasagna. Rather than layers of lasagna noodles and ricotta, it consists of one big layer of pasta with meat sauce, topped with a creamy bechamel sauce.  It's rich, decadent, and comforting.  What more could you want from a hearty casserole?

Also similar to lasagna, this is one of those recipes that everyone has their own version of.  Some recipes call for half ground beef, half ground lamb, others call for a whole tablespoon of cinnamon.  One recipe I saw had no tomato sauce in it, but rather only a small amount of tomato paste.  I love tomato sauce so I added that in and was really happy with the results. 

This recipe makes a big batch (only half is represented in the picture!).  If you're not serving a large crowd, I would still recommend making the full recipe and freezing half.  I assembled two separate casseroles and let one cool completely before popping it in the freezer (I did not bake it prior). 

*1 lb pasta (penne, rigatoni, or macaroni)
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 1/4 c. parmesan cheese

Red Sauce:
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
*1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 lb. ground beef
* 1/2 c. red wine
* 6 oz. tomato paste
* 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
*1/4 tsp. ground oregano
* 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
*salt, pepper

*4 c. whole milk
*1 stick butter
*1/2 c. flour
*1/4 tsp. nutmeg
*4 eggs, beaten
* 1/2 c. parmesan

First, prepare the red sauce.  Heat a large skillet over medium high and add the olive oil.  Add the onion and sauté until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add the beef to the pan, season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and oregano, and use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break it up.  Add the wine, tomato paste, and tomato sauce.  Stir well to combine, reduce heat to low, and let the sauce simmer while you assemble the rest of the casserole. 

Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare the pasta according to package directions, drain, and mix with eggs and parmesan.  Set aside until ready to assemble. 

To prepare the béchamel, heat a pot over medium and add butter.  When the butter is melted, stir in the flour and whisk until the flour is completely incorporated.  Whisk this mixture constantly for 1 minute or so while the flour taste cooks out.  Stir in nutmeg, then gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Continue to boil until the sauce is thickened, set aside. 

Temper* the eggs by adding a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, stirring constantly.  When the eggs are slightly warm, add them to the milk mixture. 

To assemble the casserole, add the pasta to the red sauce.  Stir well to combine and add to a large casserole dish.  Top with béchamel sauce, spreading it evenly over the top.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top and bake until bubbly (35-40 minutes).  Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  Enjoy!

*Tempering is a process of slowly bringing eggs to a higher temperature before adding them to a hot liquid.  By warming the eggs, you avoid scrambling them as soon as they hit the heat.