Recipe | Holiday Cheese Ball

Is it ever too early to start thinking about holiday menus? I think not! As soon as fall comes around my thoughts immediately turn to Thanksgiving, and this cheese ball is always a hit. I’m not 100% sure of this recipe’s origin, but I’m going to bet it was my aunt’s because I have it down in my recipe book as “Aunt Susan’s Cheese Ball.” The Christmas when I was pregnant with my oldest, even though my mom had a huge spread of delicious Polish food (including kielbasa and pierogis), this was the only thing I could bare to eat.

Granted, if you’re a health nut, you will likely turn up you nose. That’s okay because it means there is just more for the rest of us! I usually make this at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, but it makes a great cheese spread all year long.

Holiday Cheeseball

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. dehydrated onion flakes
  • 12 shakes garlic powder
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1 jar Kraft Roka Blue Cheese
  • 1 jar Kraft Old English Cheese
  • chopped walnuts or fresh herbs

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and let stand overnight in refrigerator.
  • Roll into a ball or log.
  • Cover with chopped walnuts or parsley. Serve with a variety of crackers.

Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

Is it just me, or does Thanksgiving seem exceptionally early this year? No matter, it is happening in a matter of days! I have an extra day to prepare to prepare this week. Laura is home sick from school today, which means – of course – I am home with her instead of at work. I’ve been taking advantage of the time to get a few things done well in advance.

This year for the first time since Drew and I have been together, we will not be with relatives — it will just be the five of us! For many years we either went to my mother-in-law’s house or my parents’ house. Several years ago I took over cooking the meal and everyone usually comes here. But this year, my mother-in-law is spending the week in N. Carolina with Drew’s brother, wife, and her family. My dad had eye surgery today so they are staying put in Massachusetts. Dare I say I am kind of looking forward to a quiet day?

I do love me some Thanksgiving, so of course I will still be preparing a traditional dinner! Here’s what my menu looks like this year: 

Appetizers:
Holiday cheeseball with crackers and salami
Crab rangoon
Sliced tomatoes with basil, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic drizzle
Stuffed mushrooms

Main & Sides:
Roast turkey with pan gravy
Sausage and cranberry stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Asparagus
Green beans, wax bean, and carrot medley
Cranberry sauce
Olive & rosemary bread

Desserts:
Apple pie with crumb topping
Magic pecan pie

This should be more than enough food for us. Unfortunately, the smallest turkey I was able to find at the sale price I wanted, was just under 14-lbs. I usually do a 12-lb turkey for seven of us, but that just means more leftovers! I’m switching up my timeline too. Usually we eat around 1 or so. But this year I think we will eat around 3:30-4:00 so we’re not totally full of appetizers.

I also fully intend to spend the entire day in my pyjamas. 

Today I made the stuffing and the cheeseball. (I’ve been meaning to share the recipe for this cheeseball for years… maybe its time has finally come!) I also cleaned out the fridge and organized it a bit. Tomorrow I will prepare the turkey with the dry brine/dry rub/whatever you choose to call it, and make the pecan pie. I am going to do the mashed potatoes in my Instant Pot (they come out perfect in there) so I may or may not do those early. And the bread I will make in my bread machine on Thanksgiving so it is super fresh and warm!

What’s on your menu this year? I hope you’ll share in the comments — I love reading about everyone’s family traditions!

Hook ‘Em & Cook ‘Em

It’s always fun when your boys come home from a deep sea fishing excursion at 2 in the morning and plop down two enormous bags of their catches on the counter! I kid you not, friends. Monday Jake and Noah went fishing off the coast of Niantic, CT with their Boy Scout troop and, well… I guess it was a good day for fishing!

I had never really heard of Porgy before, but then again I don’t cook a lot of fish at home, so I don’t venture further than cod, salmon, shrimp, and haddock. But, after dividing up 6 dinners’ worth of Porgy (nearly 8 lbs), I expect that I will soon be an expert on its preparation!

Deep sea fishing

Of course we had for dinner last night. It’s not often we have fresh-off-the-boat seafood, so I was curious to try it. First, I looked up the fish and was relieved to learn it’s a mild, delicate fish. Some people compare it to Red Snapper. I’ve never tried that, so I can’t agree or disagree.

The fish do have a LOT of little bones, even though they were filleted at the dock. Luckily they aren’t too hard to pick out and we got most of them.

For my first time preparing Porgies, I decided to go super-simple. I just seasoned with salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash, then coated them with seasoned flour, an egg wash, and crushed corn flakes. Then I baked the filets until they were flaky

Baked Porgie

Baked Porgie

Baked Porgie

I served them with lemon wedges and tarter sauce… nothing fancy!

Baked Porgie
So, the question is… What do Porgies take like? Well, they are pretty mild, but “fishier” than, say, haddock. Personally, they’re not something I’d go out of my way to get but they were better than I expected. Noah loved them, actually.

I think these Porgies would be yummy deep-fried, and maybe I’ll try that at another point this summer. Have you ever had them? What’s your favorite way to cook porgies? I’m all ears!

Quick & Easy Onion Rolls

So much for spring! I’m eager for daffodils and sunshine and a little bit of warmth, but today it is still freezing and were are again expecting a snow storm. It is the perfect day to make a big pot of soup, and today I am sharing with you a recipe that pairs well with a big bowl of yumminess. Check out these Quick & Easy Onion Rolls.

I love the flavor of onion rolls, but sometimes the ones you buy at the store are just too big — they are sandwich-sized. My rolls are made in a muffin tin (yes, really!) and one or two is the perfect serving. Don’t forget to slather on some good butter!

Quick & Easy Onion Rolls

2 1/2 c AP Flour
3 Tbsp. dry onion soup mix
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 c. warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
2Tbsp olive oil
1 egg

In a large mixer bow combine 1 1/2 c flower, onion soup mix, and yeast. In a small mixing bowl combine water, sugar, and oil. Add water mixture to flour mixture; add egg. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 sec. constantly scraping down sides of bowl. Beat on high for 3 minu. Using a spoon, stir in remaining flour. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double (30 min)

Spoon batter into 12 greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until nearly double (25 min). Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-18 min. or until lightly browned. Remove rolls from pan. Cool on wire rack.

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They are also delicious for breakfast with a cup of coffee! I hope you enjoy!

 

Recipe | Best London Broil Marinade

Best London Broil Marinade

It is no secret that I love steak. Like, seriously LOVE steak. Given the choice of anything on the menu at a restaurant, I would probably always go with some cut of beef. But let’s face it — steak isn’t always the cheapest option. I try to pick less expensive cuts when I am shopping for my family and one of my go-tos in London Broil.

Several times over this summer I was able to purchase it very inexpensively with a store coupon, so I stocked up when I could. Now I’ve heard quite a few people say they dislike London Broil because it can be tough. And that’s very true. But if you know a great marinade recipe and you know the right way to cut it, London Broil is one of the best things in the world!

Best London Broil Marinade
Just look at that deliciousness! We have made this London Broil for so many family events (and one Cub Scout BBQ) and it is always met with empty plates and people asking for seconds. It tastes fantastic at room temperature, so I will often grill it early in the day to save time.

Best London Broil Marinade
Today I’m sharing my secret recipe. This recipe originated with my mother-in-law’s friend Connie, and it’s gone through a few slight tweaks as it was passed on to her, and then Drew. (And now most of the time I make it.) It’s so simple, you will wonder how it can possibly be so amazing!

London Broil

Best London Broil Marinade

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. Worstershire sauce
2-3 garlic cloves, diced  or 1-2 Tbsp. minced garlic in oil
Peppercorns

Whisk together brown sugar, olive oil, soy sauce, and Worstershire sauce. Stir in garlic and add peppercorns. Place steak in a large Ziplock bag or container. Pour marinade over steak and let it marinade for at least a day. I’ve let it go two or three days. Grill to your liking (medium-well is my preference). Allow the London Broil to rest for at least 10 minutes before thinly slicing on the bias.

Oh, one more great thing to do with this recipe? Freeze the steak in the marinade. It saves time because as the meat thaws, the marinade flavors it. And let’s face it — we all need that simple meal in our freezer that doesn’t take a lot of effort. Just add baked potatoes and a salad or some microwaved veggies and you are good to go!

Best London Broil Marinade

Recipe | Bow Ties with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

Quite a number of years ago I had a separate recipe blog on my website. I eventually decided to just start posting the recipes here, and took the recipe blog offline. The other day I was going through those recipes I had posted and realized there were so many dishes I haven’t made in a while. This particular recipe had been in regular rotation when I was pregnant with Jacob (that goes to show how long it’s been!).

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli RabeI think it was my mother-in-law who first made this dish, and I got the recipe from her. Italian sausage and broccoli rabe happened to be on sale this week, so it made for a frugal dinner that everyone loved!

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli RabeAs summer starts to wind down into fall, simple, cozy recipes like this one are perfect. Easy enough for a weeknight, but great for entertaining, too. While my family prefers hot Italian sausage, you can certainly use a combination of hot and sweet or mild Italian sausage. 

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

1 lb bow tie pasta
1 (1-lb) bunch broccoli rabe, tough ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. each salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for garnish

In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta according to pkg directions, adding broccoli rabe 3 min. before pasta is finished cooking. When pasta is firm but tender and broccoli rabe is tender, reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot.

While pasta and broccoli rabe are cooking, cook the sausage in large skillet over med-high heat, breaking up clumps with wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; saute for another minute or until fragrant.

Add the sausage, the reserved 1/2 cup cooking water, the olive oil, salt and pepper to pasta-broccoli rabe mixture in pot. Toss to coat pasta evenly. Serve with grated cheese on the side.

Recipe | Speedy Hamburger Buns

Speedy Hamburger Rolls

Hamburgers are a quick, easy dinner. Honestly, they are my default “what’s for dinner” dinner because I always have ground beef or turkey in the freezer. But sometimes I don’t have one crucial element: the roll.

I live 13 minutes from the grocery store. (There is a tiny country store closeby, but it’s crazy expensive and keeps odd hours). When you factor in the time to drive to the store and back, the aggravation of navigating the aisles, the temptation of buying ice cream while you’re there, well… making them yourself isn’t such a bad idea. Especially when these buns take about 45 minutes from start to finish!

You can do this. You can bake bread. And it will be infinitely better than what you would probably throw in your grocery cart. Ready to give it a try? Here’s the recipe:

Speedy Hamburger Rolls
(make them in under an hour!)

Speedy Hamburger Rolls

 Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of quick-rise yeast (approx. 2.5 Tbsp)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature warm water 
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ish cups of  bread flour

Method:

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Do not let it rise.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a ball. Place each roll approx. 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake at 425° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 10-12 rolls

My kids loved these rolls. In fact, they asked me to make them for their sandwiches once school starts up again. Honestly, they are very economical and so simple. How can I possibly say not?

Recipe | Frozen Lemonade Pie

Frozen Lemonade Pie

When the temperatures rise, I do NOT feel like cooking. I want cool and refreshing dishes. I crave sweet-tart combinations. Let me tell you, Lemonade Pie is the perfect dessert for these dog days of summer. It takes just four simple ingredients and your freezer. In no time you’ll be enjoying this cool, creamy treat.  While the lemonade flavor  is my favorite, I’ve substituted  limeade concentrate for the lemonade and it is equally good!

Frozen Lemonade Pie

1 12-oz. container of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 8-oz. tub of whipped topping
1 prepared graham cracker or shortbread pie crust

In a large bowl, mix the lemonade concentrate and condensed milk. Carefully fold in the whipped topping. Pour the filling into the pie crust being careful not to overfill.
Freeze the pie for at least 6 hours before serving.

Updated on 7/20/17

Recipe | Bacon, Spinach, and Caramelized Onion Quiche

Bacon, spinach & caramelized onion quiche

Today I’m sharing with you a prize-winning recipe. I kid you not! This quiche won my son 2nd place for “Best Main Dish or Side” at his middle school’s annual Top Chef Competition! I was probably as excited as he was.

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So… quiche. For many years I found quiche intimidating. I loved eating it, but was nervous about making it. It just seemed like something that had to be complicated to prepare. It even sounds fancy. 

Last summer or fall Drew wanted to use up some random ingredients from the fridge and – BOOM! – our obsession with quiche began. It is actually exceptionally easy to make. So easy, in fact, that yes — an 11-year-old can do it!

I made three for a luncheon at work a while back, and there was not a slice leftover! 

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Bacon, Spinach & Swiss Quiche

Quiche

Ingredients:
9-inch refrigerated pie crust
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream OR half-and-half
4-5 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
3 slices of Swiss cheese
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small onion, thinly sliced
½ Tbsp. butter
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. fresh thyme
1 Roma tomato, sliced

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Fit pie crust into 9-inch pie plate.

2. Heat butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the thyme. Set aside.
3. In medium bowl, mix heavy cream, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper; set aside.

4. Layer swiss cheese slices, crumbled bacon, bacon, onion, and spinach over the pie crust. Pour egg mixture over top. Sprinkle shredded cheddar over the top. Arrange tomato slices over the top.

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for at least 20 min. Cut into wedges.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a side salad.


So this summer when you’re looking for a simple make-ahead dish, or a light supper, give this quiche a try! You will not be disappointed.

Linking up with Diary of a SAHM for Cooking Thursday

Recipe | Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloin

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloin

It’s not easy to make a nice Valentine’s Day dinner mid-week, when there is work, school, and activities. But I was determined to do it yesterday. I’ve been looking through old recipes lately and I knew exactly what I wanted to try: balsamic roast pork tenderloins. This is a recipe I made often when Drew and I were first married. I’m not sure why it’s been so long since I prepared it, but I’m happy to say it will be back in the meal rotation.

The recipe is simple (SO simple), and my kids all loved it, too. Laura especially loved the bits of roasted garlic that flavor the pork.

Balsamic Roast Pork Tenderloins

Balsamic roast pork

2  pounds pork tenderloins (1 package with 2 tenderloins)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, cracked
Kosher salt salt and black pepper
2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Trim silver skin or connective tissue off tenderloins with a very sharp thin knife.

Place tender loins on a nonstick, rimmed cookie sheet. Coat tenderloins in a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, rubbing vinegar into meat. Drizzle tenderloins with extra-virgin olive oil, just enough to coat. Cut small slits into meat and disperse chunks of cracked garlic cloves into meat. Combine salt and pepper with rosemary and thyme and rub meat with blend. Roast in hot oven 20 minutes.

Let meat rest, transfer to a carving board, slice and serve.

I served this with baked sweet potatoes and lemon-Parmesan roasted broccoli. This dish would be great to prepare for company because you get a fantastic result with very little effort! Enjoy!