Newlyweds navigating their way through married life – and the kitchen

Monthly Archives: September 2012

Pumpkin Arancini Balls
You know that saying “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”?  Well, same goes for cooking I think -sometimes really good stuff can come from a recipe that you really didn’t plan.

Last year, I had pumpkin risotto for the first time, and man was it good! Lord Hobo is a bar in Cambridge, MA that you’d probably walk right by and not give a second thought.  But their craft beer selection is beyond amazing, and their dishes are just as unique.

So I decided to make this Pumpkin Risotto, in the spirit of fall.  Risotto takes a bit of time – all the stirring and adding of the chicken stock – it’s a dish that really needs to be baby sat.  So when it’s ready, you can’t WAIT to dig in!  Dave and I paired it with Maple Garlic Marinated Pork Tips, which were out of this world.  But the risotto just didn’t taste quite as good as I remembered.  I strongly believe that thing always taste just a little bit better when you don’t have to make them yourself, but this wasn’t quite the level of delish that I experienced at Lord Hobo.

There was a lot left over, and I toiled back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to photograph and blog about it.  Because I wasn’t fully supportive of it. But I didn’t want to waste it either, because it did take so much effort to make.  Then the invisible lightbulb turned on and shined bright – ARANCINI BALLS!

I think the first Arancini Ball I ever ate was a frozen one from Trader Joe’s – and even that was so tasty that I wondered how I had never known about this genius concoction of cheese and risotto, rolled into a ball, and fried.  I’ve never made them myself, and have heard from others that they’re a lot of work, but the work was well worth it.

Pumpkin Arancini Balls
*Adapted from Epicurious & Food Network

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 16-20 arancini balls

For Pumpkin Risotto

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup Arborio rice

1/3 cup grated parmesean cheese

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For Arancini Balls

1 cup + 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan

2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten

2-3 mozzarella string cheese sticks, cut into 1/2″ pieces

Vegetable oil, for frying

To prepare the risotto:

1) Bring stock and 2 cups water to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep at a bare simmer.

2) Cook onion in oil in a 2- to 2 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.

3) Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Continue simmering, adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)

4) Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin, cheese, and butter, stirring until butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside and be sure to let cool before preparing the arancini balls.

To prepare Arancini Balls:

1) Put 1 cup bread crumbs in a shallow dish and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of pumpkin risotto, bread crumbs, parmesan, and eggs.

3) With damp hands, using about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture, form the mixture into 1 3/4-inch diameter balls.

4) Make a hole in the center of each ball and insert a piece of the mozzarella in the center, covering the hole to enclose the cheese.

5) Roll the balls in the breading to coat.

6) In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/3 of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 350 degrees F. (about 5 minutes).

7) In batches, fry the risotto balls, turning occasionally, until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes.

8) Drain on paper towels and serve.

Pumpkin Arancini Balls

I know you’re thinking ‘WOW – that’s a LOT of steps and a lot of time!’ But I swear, they’re worth every bite, especially served hot, when the cheese is still all gooey and stretchy.  The perfect combination of saltiness and sweetness from the pumpkin.  And you could probably experiment with the cheese as well – I just happened to have mozzarella (I am 30 going on 5 and still LOVE string cheese!) but I bet goat cheese or feta would be equally as good.  And if you didn’t want a big ball of cheese right in the center, you could use a shredded version to make the cheese distribution more uniform throughout.

These would be the perfect appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner or any Fall gathering you’re heading to – and everyone will say “AUGH, these are amazing! It must have taken you hours!” – and you lie and tell them “Nahhh – it was easy” :)


ApplePiePockets

Sorry for the lull in posts – I really don’t have any really good excuses except:

1) The weather this weekend was like out of a story book (I know – I know – it seems like I say that about EVERY weekend! But seriously, the weather this month has been like a dream (minus the fact that it’s now pitch black at 7pm – guess ya can’t have it all, eh?)

2) I was basking in the glory of my first spot on the Daily Food Buzz top 9! It was classic – I was at work – on the phone with a customer – and I got my daily installment in my gmail inbox, which I look forward to every day.  The “Fall Baking Kickoff” – now that’s my kind of top 9! And I read through them all, while on the phone, thinking “oooh – yum – ooooh yum – um – hey wait – Pumpkin Donut Holes? I just made those! Wait, ‘And they cooked happily ever after’ is the name of my blog! eeeeeeeee!!!!!” And as I’m having this inner monolouge/inner spaz attack with myself, I hear “hello? hello? are you there?” – oops.  Guess I need to brush up on my customer service skills.  It was just a really exciting moment :)

Apple Pie Pockets

“I will eat just about anything that’s not nailed to the ground”

Anyhow, in the midst of this fabulous fall weather Dave and I FINALLLY got out to pick some apples! We took Hair-Bear with us – needless to say, he was a natural.  And after eating about 10 apples whilst picking, and then about 4 per day since then, I wanted to put them to work. I’m not really a huge apple pie fan – I really looove the crust on the pie, and I feel like the ratio of apple pie filling to crust is just never balanced.  That and the fact that I feel the crust can get a bit soggy sitting under the heavy weight of all those apples.  So – I did some thinkin’ – and remembered these super cute fall cookie cutters that I bought at the Christmas Tree Shop a couple weeks ago (for those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s basically an upscale ‘junk’ store chain in New England that sells pretty much everything on the face of the planet EXCEPT Christmas Trees)  I thought “How fun to make them into little Apple Pie Pockets in fun shapes that you can eat with your hands!” I wasn’t really sure how they’d come out, but, not to throw rose petals at myself or anything, they came out pretty frickin good :)

Apple Pie Pockets
*The very fancy ‘Back of the Pillsbury Store-Bought Pie Crust Box’ recipe

INGREDIENTS
*yields about a dozen pockets

your favorite medium to large Cookie cutters

2 pillsbury pie crusts

about 4 large apples, peeled and sliced very small
(perhaps even pulsed in the food processor a couple times)

3/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp. all purpose flour

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tbsp. lemon juice
(juice of 1/2 lemon)

1 egg white
(for brushing)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Let pie crusts come to room temperature.  Roll them out on a lightly floured surface and cut your shapes from the rolled out crusts (be sure to make 2 of each shapes).  Set shapes aside.

2) In a large bowl, gently mix all of the filling ingredients together.

3) Take about 1-2 tbsps of the apple mixture and place in the center of one pie crust shape from the pairs you have set aside.  Make sure you leave enough room around the edges to seal the pocket shut – I’d say about 1/8 – 1/4″.  This is why it’s really important to cut the apples really small so you can fit a good portion of them in the pocket and still be able to seal it.

4) Take the matching top for each pie crust shape and place gently on top of each apple covered shape.  Take a fork and seal the ends together.  Once each is sealed, take a knife and make a few slits in each pocket.  Brush the tops of each pocket with egg white.

5) Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until crust turns golden brown.

Apple Pie Pockets

I opened the oven, expecting a messy explosion of apples and burnt crust – but much to my delight, they were perfect! The crust was perfectly golden brown – the apples, a perfect texture of soft, but not too soft – and, my favorite part, the PERFECT ratio of crust to apple-pie filling.  I think that if I had cut the apples even smaller or food processed them a bit, I could have fit even more inside the pocket.  But the best part was that after a few minutes, I could pick it up with my hand and eat it like a sandwich vs. having to cut a messy sliver from a pie.

These are a perfect dessert for adults and kids alike, and a great way to use your ‘Apple Picking’ treasures!


Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

When I started working at my current job 7 years ago, I was a spring chicken at the ripe old age of 23, which back then I thought was ancient. During my interview, I wore my ‘I’ll-only-be-caught-dead-in-this-at-job-interviews’ black business suit, ready to impress.  And while I was pretty sure I had the job in the bag, being that my future ‘boss’ was a family friend, I still wanted to come across as very professional and ‘adult’, even though I was only a year and change out of college, and still considered Thursdays to be the start of the weekend. But all you need to be a professional adult is a business suit and a fancy leather folder for your resumes right? Right!

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

Off the clock, after a few cocktails

I met Suzanne – she was sweet and inviting, putting me at ease – I could tell that she’d much rather chat about what had happened on last night’s episode of the Bachelor than my credentials, which I loved!  Then this other woman charged in the door – wide eyed and guns blazing – and she didn’t even have to utter a word for me to know that she meant business - “Hi , I’m Paula, the Exhibit Sales Manager – you’ll be working with me.”  She asked me everything about myself but my blood type and social security number – and the room started to feel smaller and darker, like I was in the middle of an interrogation vs. a job interview.  I left feeling good, like I nailed it, but at the same time thinking to myself “I’m kind scared to work with that Paula-woman!”.

And now, 7 years later, Paula is someone who has influenced my life in Paula's Crockpot Meatballsmore ways than I could ever describe.  She became a not only a mentor, but a friend, teaching me everything from how to count booths on a floor plan, how to make the best homemade pie crust and how in life, shit happens, and sometimes you just have to ‘let it go’.  The life lessons and stories that she’s passed on and her ‘Paula-isms’ like “He’s as old as Jerusalem” or use of the word “Boink“, which still makes me blush, I now use myself, and stop myself.  And every time one of them slips past my lips, I chuckle about how much she has rubbed off on me.

Today is her last day with the company – she’s pursuing her lifelong love of writing, hoping to inspire people all over the world with the ‘power of the pen’ and inspirational magnets - and if she can do for them 1/2 of what she’s done for me over the years, than the world will be a much better place.

In the midst of wisdom, she’s passed on some damn good recipes.  As a self-proclaimed ‘guinea’, her cooking is beyond incredible – and her recipe for crockpot meatballs is a perfect fall dinner.  Takes a little bit of time, but is well worth the wait if you can be patient – and the smell that will fill your house while they’re cooking is better than any celebrity perfume out there.

Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs
(straight from the horses mouth – or email from 2009)

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE MEATBALLS:

1 lb ground beef 80/20 (more fat makes a softer better tasting meatball)

½ lb ground pork

½ cup Progresso Italian flavored bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan

2 eggs

¼ cup water

2 TBS chopped parsley

1 tsp salt

½- tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder  

1) Mix bread crumbs, egg, water, cheese, parsley and spices together to form a soft paste like consistency.

2) Fold in ground beef and pork, turn to mix paste into meat. Do not over mix you’ll toughen the meat.

3) Shape into meatballs and place on cookie sheet bake at 350 8ish minutes both sides, remove to rack. No need to overcook as they’ll to in the crock pot.

FOR THE CROCK POT SAUCE:

2 large cans of Tomato sauce – whichever brand you prefer

1 large can of crushed tomato – I use a Whole Foods organic Marzano tomatoes 
 
3-4 garlic cloves minced

1 onion cut in quarters

3 TBS butter

5 TBS Olive Oil

½ cup beef broth

1 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp cumin

2 tsp brown sugar – sugar cuts acidity and brings out the fullness of the tomato flavor

fresh basil – I use 3 leafs

1) In sauce pan melt butter and oil on medium heat, add onions and cook til translucent – do not brown.

2) Add garlic and let it flower – do not brown.

3) Add the 3 cans of sauce and all spices except basil, bring to a slow boil.

4) Add a couple spoons of sauce to crock pot bottom. Add meatballs, then more sauce and the rest of the meatballs. Make sure meatballs are covered with remaining sauce.

5) Cook on low for 5 hours. About 1 hour before done add fresh basil.

*NOTES FROM PAULA – that are totally true
PS – better to make the meatballs the night before and refrigerate this prevents them from breaking apart in the sauce.

PS – I also remove a lot of the onions during the cooking process because they have a tendency to make the sauce acidic

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

So thank-you Paula, not only for these fantastic crock pot meatballs that I’ve made 39843958490 times, but for everything you’ve been to me over the last 7-years.  I’m sure that someday, I will be making these for my grandchildren, telling them about my “Good friend Paula who gave me the recipe.”

:)


Pumpkin Donut Holes

What a BANNER WEEKEND it was!

Here’s my weekend cliffs notes:

1) It was the most perfect fall weather, the kind that you dream about in the throws of winter, when it’s dark at 4:30 and the snow starts to pile up outside your window.  Sunny, blue skies, big puffy clouds, and just the right temp to blow the dust off your favorite fleece jacket.

2) An outside beer festival – 3 blocks from our apartment – and a truck with beer taps attached to it.  Nuf said.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

3) An ENGAGEMENT! Now, it should be said that I get excited for random strangers when they get engaged. Being able to relive that feeling of excitement that you only get to experience once in your entire life, why it might be almost MORE exciting than when it happens to you! And it couldn’t be more true than for Dave and I, and two of our bestest friends, Meghan and Adam, who took a weekend off from home renovations and got engaged on Saturday afternoon, under a willow tree in the public gardens after a quick swan boat ride. Move over William Shakespeare.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

4) A brunch with my best friends from High School. We grew up together in a small town, shared the ups and downs of our adolescence together, went off and did our own things through college and post-college, and now, 10+ years later, it’s like picking up where we left off in homeroom.  Only people have babies now.  Minor detail :)

Pumpkin Donut Holes

All week, I thought to myself  “Ooooh so many amazing fall recipes to make for brunch! Which will I choose?”  And after tossing in my sleep trying to nail down the perfect one, I decided on these Pumpkin Donut Holes.  I went out and bought all the stuff.  I couldn’t WAIT to show up on Natalie’s doorstep with them Saturday morning…

But, I showed up with store-bought muffins instead.

You know those weeks where the days just get away from you? Welp – it was one of those – and the store bought muffins were delish – but not as good as these bad boys.  The recipe looked so good that I couldn’t not try them, even if I missed my brunch deadline.

If you don’t have the ingredients for this, run – don’t walk – to get them – because these donut holes are like crack – dipped in butter and coated with cinnamon and sugar.

Pumpkin Donut Holes
From Domestically Speaking

INGREDIENTS

1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 pumpkin puree

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1) Preheat your oven to 350 and spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2) Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl and whisk till combined.

3) In another bowl, mix together the oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix till it’s just combined (you don’t want to over mix).

4) Fill your mini tins with about 1/2 tbsp. of batter.

5) Bake for 10-12 minutes.

6) While they’re baking, melt your butter and in a small bowl combine your sugar and cinnamon.

7) Once the donuts have cooled a bit, dunk them in the butter and then the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  If you want to make them a little less sugary, you can just dip the top in the butter and cinnamon/sugar.

Pumpkin Donut Holes

This recipe AND this weekend – definitely one for the books :)


Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars

Ok – a little pumpkin break.  Time to feature another ‘fall’star – APPLES!

Probably one of my top 3 favorite things about Fall is apple picking.  Walking up and down rows and rows of tree after tree, full of big juicy apples just waiting to be yanked off their branch, tossed into a bag and brought home to your kitchen.  The possibilities are endless: apple crisp, apple pie, caramel apples, apple sauce, apple strudel.  Freshly picked apples are PERFECT for these Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars!

But….I have yet to go apple picking so…

…I used canned apple pie filling :( Betty said it was ok!

These were:

1) Easy to make with minimal steps & ingredients

2) A great base for any cheesecake/streusel dessert – you could probably use just about any fruit with this

3) FREAKING delicious

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars
*From Betty Crocker - love her

INGREDIENTS

1 pouch Betty Crocker oatmeal cookie mix

1/2 cup cold butter or margarine

2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

1 – 21oz can apple pie filling

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1) Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2) Place cookie mix in large bowl. With pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and coarse. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture; press remaining crumbs in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes

3) Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

4) Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over partially baked crust. In medium bowl, mix pie filling and cinnamon. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top.

5) Bake 35 to 40 minutes longer or until light golden brown. Cool about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to chill, about 2 hours. Store covered in refrigerator until ready to cut into bars.

I had 2 last night, and 3 for breakfast, so I can safely say they are a WINNER!

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars


Pumpkin Oreo Truffles

There’s this crazy little truffle movement going on out there – where creative combinations of cookies and cream cheese, food processed together into oblivion, rolled into balls, and covered in chocolate is making dessert the easiest it’s ever been, and the most delicious!

These Pumpkin Truffles are no different.  I’m pretty sure you could blend oreos with dishwashing soap and it would still taste like heaven.  But I thought “hmm, how can I get as much pumpkin into my diet as possible” – and this was the answer :)

Pumpkin Oreo Truffles
*Pumpkin Cream Cheese Recipe taken from Skinnytaste

INGREDIENTS

1 block (8 oz) 1/3 fat cream cheese

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. agave nectar

1 regular sized bag of oreo cookies

8 oz. milk/dark/or white chocolate

1) Combine the first 7 ingredients in a mixing bowl, beating until smooth.

2) Place oreo cookies in a large ziplock bag and crush lightly.  Then place oreos and pumpkin cream cheese in a food processor or standing mixer and combine until a dough-like ball forms.

3) Chill the dough in the fridge for about 1/2 hour, to let it firm up a bit.

4) Roll tbsp. sized balls of the dough and place on wax paper.

5) In a double boiler, melt your chocolate.

6) Once the chocolate is melted, dip each ball of dough into the chocolate until fully covered and place back on the wax paper to dry.  Sprinkle with oreo crumbs if you wish.

The pumpkin flavoring is slight, but you know it’s there.  Of course, if you wanted a more pumpkin’y flavor, you could try using less oreos.  But for me personally, it was a perfect ratio.  And I used white chocolate vs. dark or milk for 2 reasons:

1) I had some in my cabinet

2) I honestly felt that the white chocolate would help the pumpkin flavor to come through vs. the milk or dark which might make them overpoweringly chocolatey (not that I think that’s a bad thing!).

So here’s an easy, poppable dessert for your next fall gathering – and they’re puppy approved :)

Pumpkin Oreo Truffles


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I know everyone’s sad about Summer being over and all but how can you be sad when FALL is the next season on deck? Augh, the leaves! The crisp air! The apples! The pumpkins! The pumpkin beer! I’m getting giddy just thinking about it and all the amazing foodstuffs that come with it!

This recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins is a recipe of my mom’s. I can’t really remember when she started making these, but when she did, they became one of my most favorite fall treats of all time.  I remember she’d send me back to college with them after a weekend home, and after eating about 1/2 dozen myself, I would then contemplate sharing them with others.  And then when I had my own apartment and my own kitchen, I started making them myself.  And now, it’s not really fall in my mind until I’ve made a batch - and that’s exactly what I did this past weekend. After some yucky rain and humidity, Sunday was a gorgeous fall day, blue sky with a little chill in the air – the perfect day for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.  I have no idea of the origin of this recipe, all I know is that it proves that some of the best recipes of all time are scribbled down on a piece of notebook paper.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
*Mom’s Recipe :)

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 2 dozen muffins

2 cups sugar

1.5 cups vegetable oil

4 eggs

3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

3 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. salt

1 – 15oz. can of pumpkin puree

1.5 cups mini chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Cream together sugar, oil and eggs in a standing mixer or electric beaters.

3) In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Slowly add to the sugar/oil/egg mixture until combined.

4) Add the pumpkin puree and mix well.

5) Fold in the mini chips.

6) Scoop 1/4 cup of muffin batter into a greased muffin tin or cupcake papers.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes and let cool.

It’s arguable that this could almost be considered more of a ‘cupcake’ than a ‘muffin’ but really, who cares? They’re the perfect start to a cool fall morning :)

Enjoy and happy fall to all!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins


Buffalo Chicken Dip

What is it about babies and buffalo chicken that go hand in hand?  Probably nothing, but it seems lately that they go together like peas and carrots.

Back in April, it was Becky’s Having a Baby Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls - in an effort to push baby Lane along, I brought these to a pre-baby ladies lunch at Becky’s house, hoping that a little spiciness would have Lane saying “Man it’s hot in here – I gotta get out!” – and while they didn’t send Becky into labor, they were still pretty tasty.

Buffalo Chicken DipAnd yesterday, Buffalo Chicken Dip was a celebratory snack for my other college gal pal Lauren and her husband Steve.  They welcomed their first baby girl, Dylan Olivia, into the world on August 30th.  Lauren was a trooper, practically going through full labor and THEN after all of that, having to get an emergency C-Section – oye.  So I imagined showing up to Lauren and Steve’s front door, and Lauren being sprawled out on the couch, buried under blankets with a cold-compress on her head, looking faint and exhausted.  Silly me – Lauren greeted us at the door, perfectly put together with the most stylish of ‘post-baby’ outfits, with Little Dyllie Doo-Doo in one arm, and the other arm open for a hug. Dylan is the cutest little nugget – and while I was a little disappointed at the super dark hair she was sporting the first few days, in person, the faintest hint of red hair (just like her mom’s)  is starting to show through – so I’m really hoping that next time we see her, she’s a full blown ginger!

Lauren looooves Buffalo Chicken Dip, so while I wasn’t there in the hospital to hold her hand or feed her ice chips, I was there yesterday with a massive bowl of Buffalo Chicken Dip with her name written all over it :)

Dyllie’ Doo-Doo’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

INGREDIENTS

2 – 8oz blocks of cream cheese
(I used 1/3 fat version)

1 – 16 oz. bottle of Ranch dressing
(or you could use Blue Cheese)

2-3 stalks of celery, chopped

5-6 cooked chicken tenders, chopped into small pieces

1 bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce
(you can use more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)

1 – 8oz bag of cheddar cheese

crumbled blue cheese for garnish
(optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In a saucepan, melt cream cheese and ranch dressing together over medium heat until most lumps have disappeared (it’s ok to still have some lumps).

3) Place the chopped celery, chopped chicken and hot sauce in a 9×13″ baking dish and mix together.  Pour the cream cheese and ranch dressing mixture in and mix until combined.

4) Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.

5) After 20 minutes, take the dip out of the oven and add the cheddar cheese.  You can either sprinkle it on the top, or mix it all together (I like to mix it).

6) Bake for another 10 minutes, uncovered, until bubbly on top.  Sprinkle with a little blue cheese and serve hot!

The finished product is can be served with tortilla chips, carrot and celery sticks, or just stick a spoon in there and go to town!  This is one of those dips that once you start, it’s really hard to stop, so brace yourselves.

Congrats to Lauren and Steve and welcome to the world Dylan! Sure hope you like Buffalo Chicken :)

Buffalo Chicken Dip


Black Bean Veggie Soup

Ok, Labor Day has come and gone – September is in full swing – and I know that techincally it’s still summer, but I think it’s safe to start sharing some “fall-ish” recipes.

I’m a brown-bag lunch kind of gal (even though my ‘brown bag’ is actually a plastic grocery bag that hasn’t been used to pick up dog poop).  And after doing the math, I realized that I may actually eat more meals at the office than I do in my own home! Augh – sighhhhh.

It’s real easy to get real bored with lunch from week to week.  There are only so many lunch meats and 100-calorie snack packs to be rotated.  So soup can really put a spring in my lunch step!  And this Black Bean Veggie Soup is a keeper – it get’s an A++++++, because not only is it:

a) pretty

b) easy to make

c) lasts for an entire week’s worth of lunch

It’s healthy, and only 4WW points per serving!

Black Bean & Veggie Soup
*Adapted from Allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
*1 serving = 1.5 cups
yields about 6 servings (9 cups total)

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. Chili powder

1 tbsp. cumin

2 cups chicken stock

2 – 15oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 – 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 – 8.75 oz. can whole kernel corn

salt & pepper to taste

1) In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat; cook onion, carrots and garlic until onion is softened (about 5 minutes).

2) In the meantime, take the crushed tomatoes and 1 can of black beans and puree them together in a food processor.  Set aside.

3) Add chili powder and cumin to onion/carrot/garlic mixture and cook stirring for about a minute.

4) Add the chicken stock, 1 can of black beans and can of kernel corn and bring to a boil.

5) Once the veggies have come to a boil, add the black bean and tomato puree to the pot.  Reduce heat, cover soup, and simmer for about an hour.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

I think the longer you simmer, the better, but I would advise atleast an hour. It really gives all the flavors a chance to really meld together.

This is also a great base for a chilli – I often times will add chicken or lean ground beef to this to make it a more hearty stew vs. soup, but regardless, you’re used plastic grocery bag will be happy :) And so will your belly!



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