Thursday, January 29, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Dip + Superbowl Ideas

Is everyone ready for SuperBowl Sunday?  Or shall I say "the big game" (why do we have to call it that?)?

I'm ready for a feast of ridiculously unhealthy foods.  I'm finally reaching the point where I'm ready to switch into health mode, so I figured if i'm going to get back on the wagon next week, I may as well go out with a bang on Super Bowl Sunday. 

These Sriracha Lime Chicken Wings have the absolute best flavor. They're oven-baked, so you can eat more than the fried alternatives (at least that's what I tell myself!. 

If you're SuperBowl party will be a little fancier than mine, you can't go wrong with these Goat Cheese Sliders with Blackberry Onion Jam

Of course, everyone loves a fried pickle.  Mix it up with some sweet bread and butters along with the dill chips! 

I'm also a fan of literally anything I can dip a chip in.  This Cheesy Jalapeno Corn Dip is incredibly simple to put together, and can easily be made in advanced. 

If you're grilling, please look no further than my homemade Surfer Dog recipe.  These bad boys were insanely delicious and so easy to make.  

I'm heading to Mike's parents house for the game and I'm going to come armed with this amazing looking Supreme Pizza Dip that I saw online recently.  I'll report back on the results!

For more recipes, check out last year's Game Day Faves post!

Lastly, I wanted to share my favorite Buffalo Chicken Dip recipe, but sadly I have no picture of it. Please forgive me for this, but I absolutely cannot be trusted to make it more than once a year.  I legitimately have zero control around it, and it is beyond addictive. 

Buffalo chicken dip is one of those recipes that everyone has their own version of.  I'm here to tell you my version is the best, so just go with it.  It also could not be easier. Here's how I make it:

* 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
* 2 blocks of cream cheese, cut into cubes*
* 5 oz. Frank's Red Hot Sauce
* 1 c. ranch dressing*
* 1 c. cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.  On the stove top, melt cream cheese over medium heat.  Stir in rotisserie chicken, hot sauce, and ranch dressing.  Continue to stir until everything is well combined.  Place in an oven safe casserole dish, top with cheddar cheese, and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

I would not skimp with fat free cream cheese or ranch dressing with this recipe, but it has worked well with 1/3 fat cream cheese for me.  Alternately, you can also make this in a crock pot on low until everything is evenly melted (it only takes 2-3 hours on low).  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Braised Beef Ragu with Penne

Another day, another crock pot recipe!  Aren't they just the best?  You can't beat coming home on a frigid day to a warm, hearty dish of Braised Beef Ragu.  No really, you can't. 

This recipe turned out so delicious.  Mike likened it to a heartier version of spaghetti, and i'd say that was a spot on description. 

Rather than ground beef, slow cooking a rump roast all day results in tender, savory pulled beef and the  rich tomato sauce is the perfect accompaniment.  Just boil up some pasta, and dinner is served! 

* 1 (2.25-2.5 lb) rump roast
* 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
* 1 (26 oz) package San Marzano Crushed Tomatoes
* 3 tbsp. tomato paste
* 2 tsp. onion powder
* 2 tsp. garlic powder
* 1 tsp. basil flakes
* 1 tsp. ground oregano
* 1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 lb. penne pasta, cooked according to package instructions

In the crock pot, combine all ingredients except beef and penne, and stir well to combine.  Slice the rump roast into 4 equal pieces (just to help it shred easily).  Cook on low for 8 hours, then use a slotted spoon to remove the meat to a cutting board and shred with two forks.  Return the shredded beef to the sauce, then stir in the cooked pasta and serve.  Top with parmesan cheese; enjoy!

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. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thai Peanut Noodles

If you're looking for a hearty, filling vegetarian or Meatless-Monday dish, look no further than these delicious Thai Peanut Noodles.  It's so rare that I have a meal that isn't centered around meat, but it's nice to whip up a vegetarian dinner here and there. 

These noodles so satisfying and full of complex flavors.  I just love the sweet peanut-y goodness combined with soy sauce and Sriracha for a little savoriness and warm heat.  

The cabbage mixture adds a bit of lightness to the dish, but if you want to make it even lighter, add more cabbage, or even replace half the noodles with Zoodles.  For a non-vegetarian option, top with shrimp or chicken.  

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side):
* 8 oz. flat rice noodles
* 2 tbsp. canola oil
* 1/2 bag cole slaw mix (not the type that includes dressing, just the bag of shredded cabbage and carrot mixture)
* 2 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
* 2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed (dark or light)
* 4 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
* 2 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
* 1 tbsp. sriracha
* juice of 1/2 a lime

Prepare the rice noodles according to the package directions (rice noodles are typically soaked in hot water, rather than boiled). 

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce mixture by whisking together rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, and sriracha.  Set aside.

Add oil to a large skillet or wok over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, add cabbage and sauté 3-4 minutes, or until soft.  Add garlic and green onions to the pan and cook until fragrant (30 seconds or so).  Remove vegetables from the pan and set aside.  

Reduce the heat to medium and add the sauce mixture.  Add the rice noodles and stir until the noodles are completely coated.  If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.  Return cabbage mixture to the pan and stir well to combine.  Squeeze lime over the noodles and serve.  Garnish with sriracha, lime wedges, or chopped peanuts, if desired.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year & a Look at Life Lately

Hello and Happy New Year all! I'm exciting to be back on the blog this week.  I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season.  This is the first time i've powered on my computer since Christmas Eve (and that was only to book a return trip to St. John - yay!).  It was so nice to disconnect and recharge for a few weeks.

As usual, I can't believe how quickly the holidays flew by. I stayed in town this year and it was so great to have a full week off and ease back into work during the week of New Years.

Since I spent Christmas with Mike's family this year, my sisters came down to celebrate the weekend prior.  We rocked our matching pajamas all weekend, and of course Wilkie had to get in on the action!

Roscoe represented with his jingle bell collar.  He actually gets really excited when he hears it jingle and rushes up to have you put it on, which is surprising!  I think he likes all of the attention he gets when he jingles. 

Christmas was a big success.  Mike got me these fantastic Williams-Sonoma stacking bowls that i've been eyeing for forever.  I know, it's sort of nerdy, but I love a nice prep bowl! They're very reasonably priced and i've already made good use of most of them. 

He also gave me an apron i've been eyeing, Ina Garten's Make it Ahead (amazing, as expected), and some food magazines in my stocking.  Of course he came through with something pretty too!  I've been  dying for a GiGi New York clutch for so long now.  It's hard to tell in the picture, but the purple color is really fun in person, and I love seeing my new initials!

If you make a purchase from at some point during the year, she will usually send you a gift card for the holidays.  I bit the bullet and used mine to buy these gorgeous glasses from her home collection.  The blue is even more gorgeous in person if you can believe it.  These will be the perfect glasses for spring and summer. 

For once I had a very low-key New Year's eve.  It was so nice!  I usually put so much pressure on one night.  I want glitz, glam, and a sparkly outfit.  The truth is it's always a disappointment, and worse yet, we can NEVER get a ride home.  This year, instead of worrying about it, we had a nice dinner at Boca Bay with the family.  I still got to dress up and, of course, wear a tiny crown. 

After dinner, we came home and sat by the fire pit with two of Mike's brothers and my fabulous sister-in-law.  The perfect NYE!

Cheers to a fabulous 2015 all!  See you Tuesday with a new recipe!