Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vegetable Lasagna

As I’ve mentioned many times, lasagna is my absolute favorite food. All of its cheesy, meaty, tomato-y goodness – mmm! Growing up my standard birthday dinner consisted of my Mama’s homemade lasagna, Caesar salad and cheesecake.

Since I began cooking on my own I’ve never made lasagna the same way more than once. I throw together whatever I have on hand and make it work. Brent had asked for vegetable lasagna last weekend and the very first thing we saw as we entered Central Market was these one-balled squash. I hadn’t seen anything like them before and I was completely giddy to make this lasagna with them. They are 3-4 inches in diameter and look like a small pumpkin. Maybe next time I find them I’ll try squash chips with them.

Like most things I make, this recipe is completely versatile. You could use whatever veggies you had on hand and I think especially eggplant would be great.

Vegetable Lasagna
Yield: 12 servings

1lb whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 one-balled squash (or 4 regular squash)
1 Vidalia onion
10oz baby spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cup tomato sauce (I used leftovers from the meatball recipe)
16oz ricotta cheese
Zest and juice from ½ a lemon
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 cups grated Italian cheese blend
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9”x13” lasagna pan with cooking spray and set to the side.

Using a mandolin slicer with a thin setting, slice your squash (conversely use a knife and slice 1/16thick). Then switch to the ultra thin blade and slice your onion (or, using a knife, slice paper thin).

In a large skillet heated to medium-high heat and drizzled with EVOO, sauté your onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add in your spinach, cover and let steam for 2 minutes. Remove lid, stir, recover and remove from heat. Let sit about 5 minutes or until spinach has wilted.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your ricotta cheese, lemon zest & juice, salt & pepper and Italian seasoning. Stir to incorporate. Add in 2 cups grated Italian cheese blend and stir to combine.

To begin layering your lasagna, ladle ¼ of your tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan, and top with noodles to cover – approximately 3. Drop 1/3 of your ricotta cheese mixture on top of noodles and spread as best you can. Top with 1/3 of your squash slices, and then 1/3 of your spinach and onion mixture. Drizzle another ¼ of your tomato sauce over the spinach and onion. Repeat the layers two more times, ending with tomato sauce. Top with 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese.

Bake in preheated oven on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes, or until lasagna is bubbly and cheeses have browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Remember how I mentioned that I LOVE Italian food? Well, next to lasagna, meatballs are my favorite. You could forgo the pasta as long as you have the meatballs swimming in a perfect red sauce.

Brent has never been a big fan of meatballs but since eating these he has requested them again for next week already, so that’s really saying something. These were born from my watching “Food Feuds” on Food Network and having a massive craving for meatballs while heading to eat sushi. All through dinner I was bouncing ideas off of Brent and writing ingredients in my iPhone. Needless to say we made an early trip to Central Market the next day.

This recipe can be quick, or it can take an entire day, depending on how much time you’re willing to spend. I tasted it both ways – eating as soon as they were finished, and eating them the next day, and we both preferred them on day two as they’d absorbed the flavor of the sauce.

Yield: 15-16 meatballs

1lb ground lamb
1lb ground veal
½ cup fresh seasoned breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
Pinch black pepper
½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Simmering tomato sauce (recipe below)

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and work with your hands until incorporated.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Fry your meatballs on each side just until browned, then transfer to your simmering tomato sauce. Cover, and cook over medium-low heat for one hour.

You may eat the meatballs after they’ve cooked for the hour, however by letting them cool and then refrigerating them overnight they will absorb the flavors of the sauce. Reheat the next day and serve over spaghetti.

Tomato Sauce
1-28oz can pureed crushed tomatoes
1-28oz can tomato sauce
5 small carrots, diced
5 cloves garlic
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauté your carrots and onions in EVOO over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add in your garlic and basil and cook 1 minute. Pour in your tomatoes, salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 1 hour over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and puree, then return to the pan.

Enjoy! KC

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pot Roast

Pot roast falls into the category of “Traditional Sunday Dinners.” At least that was the case before the invention of the Crock Pot. Now you can have a pot roast any day of the week, one that practically cooks itself while you’re away at work (or shopping, depending on the day!)

This recipe lends itself well to variations – you can use beef or pork and any root vegetables you like. We’ve always used the classic potato/carrot/onion combination and go a little heavy on the carrots – that’s my favorite part.

Depending on where you buy groceries, it’s always a good idea to buy a couple roasts when they go on sale during the cool months and keep them frozen. That way, when you get a hankering for a Sunday dinner on Tuesday, it’s only a day away in the Crock Pot.

Pot Roast
Yield: 6 servings

2-3lb boneless roast
½ T. granulated garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 T. Kosher salt
½ T. black pepper
5 large carrots, 1” chop
2 large russet baker potatoes, 1” cube
1 sweet yellow onion, 1” chop
½ cup beef stock
1 bay leaf

Turn your Crock Pot to high heat and put the lid on it to heat while you chop your veggies.

Stir together your dry ingredients in a small bowl and then rub generously over the roast, reserving any unused seasonings. In a skillet over high heat, drizzle a bit of EVOO and sear your pot roast on all sides to seal in the juices. Remove from pan and put immediately into heated Crock Pot. Cover with your chopped veggies, sprinkle leftover seasonings and pour over your beef broth. Top with a bay leaf and cover.

Turn heat to low and cook for 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are tender.

If you like your pot roast to have a gravy, simply remove your veggies and roast from the Crock Pot and stir into the juices 1 T. flour dissolve in 2 T. cold water. Stir until thickened, and pour over the finished dish.

Enjoy! KC

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Over the summer I was out of the office on medical leave for about 13 weeks and I’m pretty sure that I spent most of my days watching cooking shows and gaining 10lbs with each show. I wanted so badly to be able to be on my feet in the kitchen and baking up a million different delicious treats. By the time I went back to work at the end of July I had a dozen or so recipes to try on my coworkers. I’ve spent the last several weeks trying different ones out and I’ve discovered I really love making cupcakes.

Yesterday on Mama’s Kitchen’s Facebook fan page I asked the fans what sort of cupcake they would enjoy. Among the entries, my cousin Rachael requested a strawberry cupcake with a cheesecake filling and I immediately set to work building it out in my head. I’ve seen various concoctions of strawberry with a cream cheese frosting but I wanted to go beyond that.

Inspiration for this recipe came from Annie’s pumpkin cream cheese muffins. I really liked the way she did the cream cheese center, and I was hopeful that this concept could carry over. What I came up with was a strawberry cupcake base, with a cheesecake disc in the center, topped with a strawberry cream cheese frosting. There is just the right balance of sweetness – because there is nothing worse than your teeth aching when you bite into something sweet.

Thanks Rach for the suggestion – I have truly enjoyed creating this one!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Yield: 30 cupcakes

For the Filling:
12oz cream cheese
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup graham cracker crumbs

For the Cake:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup fresh strawberry puree (about 10 strawberries)

For the Frosting:
8oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
5 strawberries, pureed

For the filling, cream everything except the graham cracker crumbs in your stand mixer until smooth, approximately five minutes. Lay a piece of saran about 24” in length wrap long ways on the work surface and spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle you graham cracker crumbs evenly over the saran wrap and drop your cream cheese mixture in the beginning shape of a log over them. Using the saran wrap to help, gently roll your cream cheese mixture into a log about one inch in diameter and about 18” in length. Wrap in foil and freeze until firm, about two hours.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line three cupcake pans with liners and set to the side. (Alternately, if you’re like me and only have two pans, you can bake in two sessions.)

For the cake, cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in your eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one, and then add in your vanilla. Slowly add your dry ingredients, alternating with your wet ingredients and always ending with flour. This will ensure you have a smooth batter. Stir in your strawberry puree.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill your cupcake bays half full. Remove your cheesecake log from the freezer and slice into 30 equal pieces, and place a piece of the cheesecake directly on top of your cupcake batter. Top cheesecake with enough batter to make bays ¾ full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, rotating pans half way through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and cool for five minutes in the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream together your cream cheese and butter until smooth. Stir in your strawberry puree until incorporated. Slowly add in your powdered sugar until combined, and then whip for five minutes until light and fluffy. Frost to your liking, and sprinkle with extra graham cracker crumbs.

Enjoy! KC

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bison Tenderloin Tower

Brent and I rarely have “date nights”. Sure, we go out to eat almost every week but never really a date. Finally this past weekend we decided to do just that and went to have dinner at our favorite little sushi restaurant up the street from our house. One of our favorite rolls there is called the CowTown Roll – waygu beef, spring mix, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and ponzu sauce. As soon as we’d eaten it, I knew I had to try it at home.

My intention was never to make a hand roll. All along I knew I wanted to take a tower approach instead, and I think it turned out quite well. We couldn’t find a good piece of waygu beef we liked at Central Market so we chose to use a bison tenderloin instead – and boy am I glad we did! Rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, mmmmmmmm! Brent actually let me grill this and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Bison Tenderloin Tower
Yield: 2 servings

1lb bison tenderloin
½ cup soy sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
¼ cup minced garlic
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup minced red onion
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Ponzu sauce, for drizzling

In a small bowl, combine your soy sauce, mustard, vinegar and garlic and mix well. Put your tenderloin in a baggie and pour marinade over the top. Seal the air out and let rest in the fridge for one hour, then take out of the fridge and let come to room temperature while you heat up your grill.

Bring your grill to 650°F. Sear your bison tenderloin for two minutes per side, flipping twice, for a total of six minutes. On your last flip, shut your grill down completely and let rest in the hot grill for five minutes, then remove from the heat and let rest for five more minutes. Slice thinly.

To assemble your tower, use any wide cylindrical object – I used an old plastic cup and cut the narrow end off. Place one cup of cooked rice in the bottom of your tower, followed by half of your red onion and half of your jalapeno. Gently remove your shaper and lay half of your grilled bison around the tower. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and drizzle with ponzu.

Enjoy! KC

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smoked Turkey Breast

If you think you can only have turkey at Thanksgiving, you are missing out. (Turkey lunchmeat not included LOL) Seeing as how my husband runs a barbeque store we tend to grill a lot. Thankfully it’s the one place he can cook really well without the possibility of burning down my house.

Brent can make a killer brisket, pulled pork, you name it – and I’m sure all of his recipes will end up here. This is his as well. Very, very simple and oh-so-flavorful. Brining the meat is important as it imparts flavor and juices before the cooking process begins. The rub featured here is from the Big Green Egg cookbook but you can use any rub you please.

Now, I realize there are a million different kinds of smokers. We happen to own a Big Green Egg ourselves so it is slightly different than most – but by far one of the best grills you can buy. Brent suggests tailoring the smoking to what works best for your equipment, and if you don’t know, leave a comment and he’ll be happy to help.

Smoked Turkey Breast

3-4lb bone-in turkey breast
3-4 Hickory wood chunks

For the Rub:
2 T. freshly ground tri-color peppercorns
2 T. sweet paprika
2 T. garlic powder
2 T. onion powder
2 T. Kosher salt
2 T. dried oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 T. celery seed
2 T. light brown sugar

For the Brine:
½ cup Kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
2 quarts water

Mix all of your rub ingredients in a small bowl until combined; set aside.

To brine the turkey breast, stir together your ingredients until salt and sugar are dissolved. Place the turkey breast in a gallon baggie, pour in the brine, seal all of the air pockets out and let rest at room temperature for one hour.

In the meantime, preheat your smoker to 200°F. Once the smoker is to temperature, put your wood chunks directly in the center of your charcoal. Place your seasoned meat in a roasting rack fitted into a drip pan and then into the smoker. Smoke for approximately one hour per pound of meat, until internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Let rest for twenty minutes before slicing.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 21, 2010


There is nothing whatsoever fancy about this meal. As a matter of fact it is not really worth a post, except to show you how I eat when I'm not dreaming up gourmet, calorie-laden foods. Usually I don't get home from the office until around 4:30pm when LB isn't here, and in order to eat by 5:00pm so that I am ready to work out at 7:45pm I have to cook FAST. Quick, simple, protein-packed and D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

This is a perfect example. Eggs, bacon, cottage cheese (and a side of quinoa added later) come together in under five minutes and are really satisfying. I tend to cook my bacon in the microwave when I'm short on time, and in the few minutes that is cooking I can scramble up some eggs. Cottage cheese is a new thing for me and I'm learning to like it in small doses, preferably with salt & pepper. I've seen it served all sorts of ways but simple works best for me.

Another great option is chicken breasts. Place a frozen chicken breast in a saute pan with some Mojave Garlic Pepper, cover and let it steam while you cook up some green veggies (or my favorite spinach and egg combo). Quinoa is always a great addition as it is a perfect protein and a seed as opposed to a grain.

Eating so "lightly" can be difficult. My natural inclination is to spend a couple of hours making dinner and really enjoying it. When LB returns Sunday we'll start back to that, but I'll try to keep all recipes under an hour. :-)

Enjoy! KC

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Simple Scallops

Growing up I was never a fan of seafood, but the older I've gotten the more I've come to like some things. Nights like tonight my husband doesn't get home until 7:30pm and we leave straight for the gym so I like to eat a quick protein-packed dinner before 5pm. This meal is perfect, easy to prepare and just the right amount of flavor.

For this variation I've paired my scallops with a mixture of cooked orzo with spinach and cream. Total time to complete this meal was 15 minutes.

Yield: 2 servings

1lb bay scallops, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup bacon fat
1/4 cup herb butter
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

Melt together your butter and bacon fat in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat. Gently drop in your scallops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to "baste" the fish with the liquid.

After 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let sit for five minutes. Serve immediately.

*For the orzo side, I simply cooked orzo until al dente and added in some fresh spinach during the last 3 minutes of cook time. Strain completely and return to pan. Add in 1/4 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper and stir. Yum!

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Favorite Potato Soup

Whenever I was sick as a kid, my Mama would always fix me homemade potato soup. It seemed like she would slave over the stove forever for that creamy goodness. Turns out it was nothing more than potatoes and milk but it was still one of my favorites.

A few years ago just as Fall was making its appearance I threw together this soup out of basically nothing. It was late, chilly, and I was sick and did NOT feel like going to the store. Using a few staples I had around this soup was born and has quickly become my favorite grown-up potato soup. It's slightly sweet with just a hint of spice - but if you're like me, you'll add a little extra.

Potato Soup
Yield: 6 servings

2 large baker potatoes, peeled and large diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and large diced
1/2 lb. honey or brown sugar ham, diced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt (or Real Salt)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
Generous pinch of ground cinnamon

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat and drizzle well with extra-virgin olive oil. Once hot, toss in your diced onions and ham and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to sweat.

Add in your diced apples, garlic and dry spices and cook for an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in your potatoes, broth and water and stir. (The liquid should be above the potatoes; if not, add just enough extra water or broth to cover.)

Reduce heat to medium and simmer soup for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then use an immersion blender to puree about half of the soup (you can also use a food processor.) Serve with a drizzle of heavy cream.

Enjoy! KC

Pumpkin Sandwich

 Okay, I'll admit: this sandwich alone is not really worth an entire post. However, the bread itself is - and with the addition of a couple of ingredients becomes one of my favorite Fall snacks.

This past weekend I made some homemade pumpkin puree and let me tell you - I will never buy canned again. Most of it was frozen but I had about a cup left over and was really craving some pumpkin bread. Once the bread was baked and cooled, I cut two thin slices and slathered whipped cream cheese on one then topped it with honey roasted turkey. This, my friends, is phenomenal. It's a perfect little bite when you just need something to hold you over for a bit. Sweet, savory and delicious!

Now for the bread, this is my favorite pumpkin bread recipe yet and even my husband loved it. It's very simple to put together and the taste can't be beat. It'll definitely be making appearances at holiday functions this year.

Pumpkin Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. fresh pumpkin puree
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. water

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. Combine your dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your sugar and oil and mix on medium speed until sugar begins to dissolve. Add in your eggs and pumpkin and stir until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Blend in your dry ingredients, alternating with the water, just until moist. Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

Enjoy! KC

*Recipe adapted from The Food Network.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lemon Chicken Primavera

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I LOVE Italian food! Chicken primavera is pretty much a staple of an Italian meal, and I think the lemon just brightens up this dish so much. Of course, I love lemon on just about anything so maybe I’m partial.

This dish is quick to prepare and chock full of veggies. If you don’t have all of the veggies listed, feel free to substitute as needed.

Lemon Chicken Primavera
Yield: 8 servings

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini squash
1 red bell pepper
2 carrots
½ cup green olives, sliced
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint mushrooms, wiped clean
1 head broccoli crowns
1lb whole wheat penne pasta
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Olive oil

Grill or sauté chicken breasts sprinkled with salt and pepper until just cooked through, remove from heat. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing into ¼” strips. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Slice all vegetables (unless otherwise noted) to a ¼” slice. In a large skillet over medium-high heat and generously drizzled with olive oil combine all veggies, sprinkle with salt and pepper and quickly, about 2 minutes. Add in the lemon zest and juice and and chicken, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, veggies and pasta and toss to coat. Serve warm, with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy! KC

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It’s Fall now, right? At least that’s what the dramatically cooler temps outside are telling me! At the first sign of a chill I run to my cold weather recipes and anxiously await all of the evenings I can make soups and stews. My Mama is a chili master in my opinion and I was surprised to realize last night that I’ve never attempted to make it.

Now, my husband is from Kansas City and his “Yankee-ness” has a much different view of what a chili should look and taste like. As for me I’m not just a big fan of chili powder or beans in my chili for that matter – just gimme the meat! But, he made chili several times for me last year and I’ve started to like the addition of beans for texture. Still not a big fan of chili powder but I consent you do need it for flavor.

This recipe is totally winged. I eyeballed all of the seasonings and only knew my meat and veggie amounts because they were packaged. And GASP! I used garlic powder instead of fresh garlic because I was out, but I actually think I liked the taste a smidge better. It is so very versatile that you can change it how you please, but we found this to be spectacular. Even LB, who proclaimed to this bio-mom that he “Loved Chili!!” to which she responded, “But you don’t like it when I make it . . .” so obviously I did something right. ;-)

Yield: 8 servings

2.5lbs ground beef (I used the 80/20 for flavor)
1 large yellow sweet onion, diced
3 cans of beans, drained & rinsed (I used black, pinto and red)
4 cans of fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
2 tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
3 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. chipotle chili powder
Chili powder (I estimate I used 5-6 tbsp. but you can change to your taste)
Handful of salt
Handful of pepper

In a small bowl combine and mix all of your dry ingredients. In a large stock pot over medium high heat, combine your ground beef, diced onion and dry seasonings and cook stirring frequently until meat is well-browned, about 10-15 minutes. The more you brown, the more flavor you incorporate! Cooking the beef with the seasonings really helps them adhere to the meat as opposed to them just floating around the broth.

Once your meat is browned, stir in your tomatoes and beans and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

We serve over Frito’s with shredded cheese on top. Tonight, leftovers are being served over a baked potato.

Enjoy! KC
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