Monday, November 30, 2009

Snickers Pie

Well, I did it. I posted every single day for an entire month, and I'm pretty proud of myself for it. I can't think of a better way to end the month -- or to end dinner every single night of the week -- than with this Snickers pie.

This is one of those recipes that I knew I had to make immediately the moment it popped up in my reader. Let me paint a picture for you: This pie is composed of a cinnamon-spiced peanut crust, a layer of fudge, a layer of chopped Snickers bars, and a layer of sweetened cream cheese -- and then the whole thing is topped with decadent chocolate ganache. What is there not to love?

This pie was every bit as good as I thought it was going to be. Next time I'll be sure to chop the Snickers bars more finely; I sliced them and layered them that way, and they firmed up again when the pie was refrigerated, which made them a little difficult to bite into. This pie is the perfect balance of nutty, rich, creamy and smooth. It was a huge hit with everyone who tried it, and I'll definitely be making it again.

Once again, don't forget about the give-away! The contest ends Wednesday at noon, so be sure to add your comment to that post before then.

Snickers Pie
source: Dinner & Dessert

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups dry-roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pulse peanuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small food processor until it is the texture of coarse sand. Pulse in the melted butter. Press nut mixture evenly in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool while making the filling.

For the filling:

Fudge layer:
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces of Snickers candy bars, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Cream cheese layer:
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Keep the oven temperature at 350 degrees.

1. For the fudge layer, combine butter and semisweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler; set over simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove top insert and cool slightly.

2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside dry ingredients.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat together sugar, egg and egg yolk in a large bowl for 1 minute, until slightly thickened. Add vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture and mix until well blended. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into crust.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist batter still attached.

5. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Evenly arrange chopped Snickers bars over the top.

6. For the cream cheese layer, beat together cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add egg, egg white and vanilla and beat until smooth. Carefully spread mixture over the Snickers bars. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cream cheese is set. Transfer to a rack to cool.

For the chocolate ganache topping:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces, at room temperature

1. Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

2. Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Working with a whisk or rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of the bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles.

3. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motions. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece.

4. Pour ganache over cooled pie and refrigerate until set.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

For the past month and a half I have been very busy in the kitchen, cooking extra most nights and freezing meals for when the little one makes his arrival in a little over a month (!!). I've done an awesome job and have quite a few things frozen, but this week's menu is all about finishing my stockpile. Every meal I'm making this week is being doubled to freeze for later. Although it's been sort of exhausting getting all of this done, I know I'll be glad I did it when I'm adjusting to life with a toddler and a newborn. (I'm already glad I didn't save this task for closer to Christmas. It'll be hectic enough as it is.) As you can see, there is lots of pasta happening this week; it freezes so well it's hard to resist, although it's certainly not going to help me lose the baby weight.

Once again: Don't forget about the give-away!

Monday: Lasagna soup, parmesan knots

Tuesday: Spinach artichoke pasta

Wednesday: Taco bake

Thursday: Shrimp lasagna rolls with creamy marinara, salad

Friday: Mexican chicken stuffed shells

Saturday: We're going to a wedding, so I get the night off.

Sunday: Meatloaf, individual potatoes au gratin, green beans. This meal is on the menu constantly, and yet I never get the chance to make it.

Weekend Breakfast: Eggs-in-a-hole, bacon

Baking: Sticks and stones candy bark, which I discovered by accident and now can't wait to try, and tiramisu cheesecake bars, which I wanted to make last year around this time and never did. I also didn't get to make and freeze the chocolate chip cream cheese muffins I'd planned to bake last weekend, because I got home from the store and realized I was out of vanilla. Figures. I'll probably try to make them, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower

Last night I was on a message board in the online mom's group I'm a member of, and one mother asked how she could sneak vegetables into her picky toddler's dinner. And my friends, this macaroni and cheese is the answer to that question. It's loaded with cauliflower, but the cauliflower totally blends into the pasta and cheese, rendering it invisible to vegetable-haters. Andrew loved this and ate the leftovers for two days. And I felt really good about that, because cauliflower is one vegetable we've had trouble getting him to eat.

Joe and I liked it too. Joe loved the tangy, creamy sauce, and I loved the multigrain breadcrumb topping. Next time I'll definitely add more cheese, because this just wasn't cheesy enough for me. I've reflected that change below. Other than that, though, this was a comforting, quick weeknight dinner, and it temporarily satisfied my near-constant cauliflower craving.

And hey! Don't forget about my give-away! Head on over to that post and leave a comment for a chance to win!

Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower
source: adapted from Real Simple

1 pound elbow macaroni
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped

4 slices multigrain bread, torn

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the cauliflower during the last 3 minutes of cooking time; drain.

2. Meanwhile, pulse the bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Add the parsley, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and pulse to combine; set aside.

3. Return the pasta pot to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the onion, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in the pasta, cauliflower, cheese, sour cream, and milk.

4. Transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish, sprinkle with the bread crumbs, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kicking Off the Christmas Season with a Give-Away!

Good morning everyone! I hope you're having a great day, whether you're out shopping like a crazy person or just relaxing at home. As for me, I'm enjoying the first snowfall of the season. It seems appropriate that the first snowfall would occur today, because for me, the day after Thanksgiving is the official kick-off of the Christmas season. So to kick the season off right, and also to celebrate my 300th post yesterday, I thought it would be fun to host my first ever give-away here at Cassie Craves.

First, a little bit of back story. As you all probably know by now, I'm pretty obsessed with cookbooks. I am also obsessed with Better Homes and Gardens, which is where I find so many recipes that become instant family favorites. A while ago, I signed up for one of their annual recipe cookbooks to be sent to me through the mail, but as I so often do, I neglected to read the fine print -- which also signed me up for automatic shipments of all of their cookbooks. A little while later, I started receiving volumes of their Christmas from the Heart and Christmas Cooking from the Heart series, and somewhere down the line something got screwed up and I received two separate shipments of the same set of cookbooks. Because I am lazy about returning automatic shipments, I put the duplicate volumes aside and promptly forgot about them. Until now.

Just in time for Christmas, here's what I'm offering to one lucky winner today:

Christmas Cooking from the Heart, Volume 6: This cookbook is full of delicious-sounding holiday recipes. You'll find everything from appetizers to main courses to breads to breakfast and brunch, as well as the Christmas cookies Better Homes and Gardens is so well-known for. Among others, you'll get the recipes for pumpkin-pear bisque, gouda and red onion pizza, sweet potato fritatta with cranberry salsa, mocha-hazelnut biscotti, and caramel apple crepes. My mouth is watering already!

Christmas from the Heart, Volume 17: This book contains one of the most awesome and creative holiday craft/homemade gift ideas I've ever seen: using last year's holiday cards to make coasters. I am so doing that next year. It also includes step-by-step instructions for how to make ornaments, creative centerpieces for your holiday table, and beautiful wreaths. It even contains some recipes, like icy cranberry margaritas (yum), white chocolate-apricot mini scones, and chocolate-malted sheet cake.

The books have been sitting in a box in my closet for a while now, and are both like new. So here's all you have to do to win them: Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favorite Christmas cookie is. That's all. The contest begins now and will end Wednesday, December 2, at 12:00 PM Eastern time. Unfortunately, due to shipping costs, I can only open the give-away to residents of the continental United States. The winner will be chosen at random using's number generator.

So let me know what your favorite Christmas cookie is! And if you can, link to it too -- I'm always on the look-out for delicious new cookie recipes

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sweet Potatoes Two Ways: A Thanksgiving Two-For-One!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope all of you had wonderful days with your families and friends. We sure did, but I am absolutely exhausted tonight. It's a good exhausted, though.

I have two delicious sweet potato recipes to share with you today, and while it's obviously too late to include them in your Thanksgiving spreads, they'd both be great for Christmas too. First up is a recipe that's new for me this year: sweet potato pie.

This was my first time making a sweet potato pie, and I was surprised by how much the end result tasted like pumpkin pie. It's spiced the same way and hits the same sweet, earthy notes as pumpkin pie. It was so easy to make because everything gets mixed up in the food processor. Don't skip the streusel, either; it makes this pie really special and extra-delicious. I can't wait to have the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow morning! (Yes. Pie for breakfast. I think the day after Thanksgiving is the only day one can get away with this, so I take full advantage.)

Sweet Potato Pie with Streusel Topping
source: Cooking Club of America

For the pie:
Dough for 1 (9-inch) pie crust
1 17.2-ounce can sweet potatoes

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the streusel:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup chopped pecans

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line 9-inch pie pan with dough; flute edges. Pulse sweet potatoes in food processor or blender until smooth. Add all remaining pie ingredients; process until blended. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar and flour in small bowl. Stir in butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans.

3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees; sprinkle pie with streusel. Cover crust with foil to prevent over-browning. Bake 40 minutes or until puffed and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack. Store in refrigerator.


Next up is a recipe of my mom's that she used to make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas: sweet potato casserole.

Everyone has their own version of this, I think, many of which use marshmallows in the topping. Since I'm not a huge fan of marshmallows, I love my mom's version, which is topped with streusel instead. It's so incredibly good, and whenever I take it to any type of family dinner I never come home with leftovers. This is easily prepared the night before. If you're a sweet potato fan, this casserole is a must-try!

Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cold mashed sweet potatoes, prepared without milk or butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold butter or margarine

1. In a mixing bowl or food processor, beat sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, salt and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, pecans and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over potato mixture.

3. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.


Believe it or not, today's post is my 300th here on this little blog. I hope you've enjoyed reading about the food I've made as much as I've enjoyed preparing it and sharing it with you. To celebrate, I'll be doing my first ever give-away here tomorrow, so be sure to check back. I think it's something most of you will really like -- and it's just in time for Christmas, too!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cranberry Butter

I know that most of you have already completely planned out your Thanksgiving feasts, which is why the recipe I'm sharing today is something really quick and easy that you can whip up to add to your spread in 10 minutes: cranberry butter. With less than 24 hours to go until most of us are eating The Big Meal, it probably doesn't sound like the wisest idea to add yet another item to your list, but trust me: You should definitely make this. It's sweet and tart and so much more interesting than plain old butter on your rolls. Best of all? It's absolutely delicious. I snuck a little bit of the batch I made last night to put on my toast this morning, and it was divine. It's going to taste even better on homemade rolls tomorrow!

Cranberry Butter
source: Fun Foods on a Budget!

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1. In a small mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add cranberries and walnuts; beat 5 minutes longer or until butter turns nice and pink.

2. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap; roll into a log. Refrigerate until chilled, then unwrap and slice to serve.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

Okay, so I lied about sharing a Thanksgiving-related recipe with you today. I was planning to make a sweet little snack for a potluck that my son's daycare is having today, but it turns out that his class isn't even participating, so I decided to skip it this year. But the recipe that I'm sharing today instead could actually be a really great use for your Thanksgiving leftovers (if you replaced the chicken with turkey, that is), so maybe it is sort of appropriate.

I know everyone has an opinion about casseroles. Some people love them, some people hate them, some people turn up their noses at anything containing cream-of-something soup. Me, personally? I love them. To me there's just nothing as comforting as a bunch of ingredients mixed together in a creamy sauce and baked until bubbly. And this chicken cordon bleu bake has rocketed right to the top of our family-favorite casserole recipes.

I adapted the recipe from one I found on Recipezaar, and all three of us absolutely loved it. It's very simple to make, and the end product is incredibly creamy, flavorful, and delicious. It hits all the same notes as traditional chicken cordon bleu, but it's much more convenient for a weeknight dinner. Between the three of us, we ate the whole casserole, and Joe's only suggestion for next time is that I double the recipe so there are plenty of leftovers. This is definitely a recipe I'll be coming back to again and again. Don't let the boring photo deceive you -- it's really wonderful!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake
source: adapted from Recipezaar

2 cups cooked chopped chicken (a rotisserie chicken works great)
1 package small-diced ham
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 box stuffing mix for chicken
Butter and water called for on stuffing box

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook stuffing according to package directions; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, ham, cream of chicken soup, and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Go light on the salt, since the cream of chicken soup and ham are pretty salty on their own.) Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

3. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the chicken mixture. Carefully add stuffing in an even layer on top of the cheese.

4. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Be forewarned: These cookies are incredibly addictive. If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself eating three, four, five of them without even realizing it. Just be sure you have a glass of milk handy, because this is a cooke that's just begging to be dunked.

We really loved these cookies. I usually substitute butter for shortening whenever it's called for in a recipe, but at the suggestion of some of the recipe reviewers I went ahead and used the shortening. And I'm glad I did; it made these cookies delightfully crispy. I also made the cookies a little more special by using Peanut Butter & Co. cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter, which added a lot of wonderful flavor. I definitely recommend trying some type of specialty peanut butter in this recipe. Otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing about these cookies, and I will be making them frequently.

And just a quick content-related note: Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be featuring a couple of Thanksgiving-related recipes, so stay tuned. My 300th post is scheduled to occur on Thanksgiving Day, so in honor of that occasion I'll be hosting my first-ever give-away on Friday. Be sure to check back for that!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies
source: Allrecipes

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter & Co. cinnamon raisin swirl)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the oats until just combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until just light brown. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

Is it seriously Thanksgiving week already? This year has just flown by. The baby will be here in a little over a month -- I can't believe it!

I did a pretty decent job of sticking to my meal plan last week. One night we had sandwiches and one night we had sloppy joes instead of what I'd planned to make, but I'm pretty proud of myself for being eight months pregnant and still making at least some effort to make dinner every night. I'm not doing Thanksgiving dinner, so this week should actually be pretty low-stress for me.

: Pasta with creamy spinach and parmesan cheese. I'm taking advantage of Andrew's current tolerance for spinach and trying to add it to our menu whenever I can. He and I will probably both eat the leftovers for lunch until Thanksgiving. The only change I'll make to the recipe is to use bow ties or penne instead of fettucine, because short-cut pastas are easier for Andrew to spear with a fork.

Tuesday: Crispy chicken wraps, potato chips

Wednesday: Sandwiches, potato chips. I want something quick and easy (and something that creates no leftovers) since I'll be busy making pies for Thanksgiving.

Thursday: It's Thanksgiving, so we'll be eating all day long. My contributions this year (and every year) are sweet potato casserole for Joe's family dinner (you'll get the recipe soon, hopefully before Christmas if I can get around to it), and pies for my family dinner (this year they're getting a sweet potato pie with streusel topping and a coconut chocolate pecan pie). I'm also going to try out this cranberry butter on Joe's family, because it sounds too simple and delicious to resist.

Friday: Leftovers. There will be lots.

Saturday: Vegetable lasagna, salad

Sunday: Cream cheese chicken, salad

Weekend Breakfast: Potato cakes made with leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey, topped with fried eggs. I created this breakfast last year to use up our Thanksgiving leftovers. It's surprisingly delicious, and Joe wanted to make it a yearly tradition, so that's exactly what I'm doing.

Baking: Chocolate chip cream cheese muffins, pumpkin bread, cheesy onion quick bread -- all of which will be frozen for when the baby comes. I'm going to be exhausted and overwhelmed when he arrives, but I am not going to be hungry. (Okay, I'm not going to lie: I can't guarantee that all of the muffins will actually make it to the freezer.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saucy Slow-Cooked Chicken Thighs

I have another great Crock pot recipe for you today. I'm always looking for new and creative chicken recipes to add to my repertoire, and this is definitely a good one. As you know, I've been very into all things BBQ throughout this pregnancy, so I thought this chicken was just wonderful. It has a great balance of sweet and spicy, and we all really loved it. This chicken made for a great comfort-food dinner with green beans and fried potatoes on the side. We had a couple of thighs left over, which I shredded and ate on a sandwich for lunch the next day.

I only recently discovered the hidden grocery store gem that is chicken thighs. Even the boneless ones are really affordable. We all love the flavor of dark meat, so I'm definitely going to be on the look-out for more chicken thigh recipes.

Saucy Slow-Cooked Chicken Thighs
source: slightly adapted from Taste of Home

8 boneless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place on a broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Transfer to a slow cooker.

2. In a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pepper sauce. Pour over chicken; stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or until heated through.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Slow Cooker Sausage Ricotta Meatballs

I was first inspired to make these meatballs a couple of months ago, when Jessie mentioned them in one of her meal planning posts. They sounded absolutely delicious, so I immediately put them on our menu and gave them a shot. They were definitely good, but I wanted to play with the recipe a little bit and come up with something that fit our tastes perfectly. I've learned that I don't like milk-soaked pieces of bread in my meatballs; it makes the meatballs moist, yes, but the texture seems almost slimy to me. And I knew that I had to add garlic and onion -- two of my staple ingredients for meatballs.

So I made them again, modifying the recipe quite extensively, and the end result was heavenly. I have officially found my perfect go-to meatball. And you can adapt them to your tastes just like I adapted them to ours: Cook them in the Crock pot, on the stovetop, or in the oven; serve them over spaghetti, on their own, or topped with provolone or mozzarella cheese on toasted hoagie rolls slathered with garlic butter. This recipe makes a ton, so I froze half for a later meal. You can't beat a two-fer, especially one as delicious as this!

Slow Cooker Sausage Ricotta Meatballs
source: inspired by Simply Recipes

1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 slices white bread, torn into pieces
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 jars tomato basil spaghetti sauce

1. In a medium saucepan, cook pancetta or bacon over medium heat until softened but not quite crispy. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You probably won't need a lot of salt since the pancetta is already so salty.) Remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile, pulse pieces of bread into fine crumbs in a food processor.

3. Combine sausage, parsley, fresh bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add pancetta, onion, and garlic mixture. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, and milk; add to meat mixture.

4. Shape meat into balls. (I made mine about the size of golf balls, maybe a little smaller, and got 34 meatballs out of the mixture.) Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry meatballs in batches until browned but not necessarily cooked through.

5. Place about half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a slow cooker; layer in meatballs and remaining sauce. Cover and cook on low until sauce is bubbly, about 3 hours.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

I'm thinking I need to create a separate recipe category devoted solely to buffalo chicken recipes, because I certainly do make a lot of them. I just can't get enough of those flavors, so I'm always on the look-out for interesting recipes to try. I was so excited to come across this one, because it combines buffalo chicken with something I've been craving hard-core lately: macaroni and cheese. Seriously, how could you possibly go wrong?

This was delicious, plain and simple. It had a nice amount of spice without being too spicy. I chose to leave out the celery called for in the original recipe and didn't miss it at all. This would have been delicious baked in the oven for a few minutes with some crumbled Ritz crackers or french-fried onions on top to mimic the crunchiness of deep-fried wings, so I'm going to try that next time I make this. This is one of my new favorite comfort foods, for sure.

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
source: slightly adapted from Recipezaar

1 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces buffalo wing sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Cook the macaroni in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.

2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the milk and flour together in a bowl, then pour into a saucepan, bringing it to a boil while stirring constantly.

3. Reduce heat to medium and stir in chicken, cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, and buffalo sauce. Cook until the cheese melts.

4. Add pasta and stir to combine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chile, Cheese and Bacon Quesadillas

There is nothing not to love about this recipe. I mean, these are quesadillas with bacon in them. This is pretty much the perfect meal for me, combining my love of Mexican food with my love of all things pork-related (except the swine flu. Don't love that. Hoping that stays FAR AWAY from our house).

Anyway, if you're looking for something different to make on a weeknight but you still want a meal that's quick and easy to prepare, this is the perfect solution. With only four ingredients in my version, these quesadillas took no time at all, and they were unbelievably tasty. The original recipe calls for black olives, which I omitted because Joe doesn't like them and I'm pretty indifferent to them, and I didn't really miss them. You could of course add anything you like to the quesadillas: chopped red onion, avocado, pico de gallo, a little bit of cilantro, etc. I served ours with salsa and sour cream and a side of Mexican sour cream rice, and this was a delicious dinner that we all enjoyed. I'll be making these again, for sure.

Chile, Cheese and Bacon Quesadillas
source: adapted from Betty Crocker

8 slices bacon
6 8-inch flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chiles, undrained

1. Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces. In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy; set aside on a paper towel to drain.

2. Sprinkle 3 tortillas with cheese. Top each with bacon, chiles, more cheese and remaining tortillas; press lightly.

3. Place 1 quesadilla at a time on a closed-contact grill. Close grill. Grill 2 to 4 minutes or until light golden brown and cheese is melted. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coconut Chocolate Pecan Pie

Here's a question, because this is something I honestly just don't understand: How could a person possibly not like coconut? If you're a coconut-hater, please speak up in the comments, because I'm really curious. My husband doesn't like coconut, but he really can't articulate why. He says he just doesn't like it. I say he's insane.

When I came across this recipe for coconut chocolate pecan pie, I threw Joe's coconut-hating out the window and decided to make it as soon as I possibly could. And trust me, you should do the same thing, because this pie is amazing. It's so easy to make, and the end result is decadent and delicious and rich and everything I could ever ask for in a pie. I even made Joe eat a piece without telling him there was coconut in it, but he could spot the coconut a mile away. His verdict was that the pie would have been awesome...without the coconut. I scoffed at him, had two pieces, and took the rest to work, where my co-workers seemed to enjoy it.

So make this pie today, and then make it again for Thanksgiving like I'm going to, because I guarantee your family will love it! (As long as they're not crazy coconut haters.)

Coconut Chocolate Pecan Pie
source: Better Homes and Gardens

Pastry for single-crust pie
3 eggs
1 cup light-colored corn syrup
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup pecan pieces

1. Unroll prepared pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate without stretching. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edge. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt.

3. In pastry shell, layer semisweet chocolate pieces, coconut and pecan pieces. Pour egg mixture over all, spreading evenly. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pastry shell with foil.

4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or till set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and store in refrigerator within 2 hours. If you like, serve with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes

Oh, man, these pancakes were good. Pancakes are one of our favorite things to have for breakfast, and I'm always looking for ways to liven them up -- and this recipe definitely fit the bill. These pancakes are light and fluffy and have wonderful pumpkin flavor. They were delicious drowned in maple syrup, although next time I'm going to make some cinnamon cream syrup and try that on them -- I think that would take these over the top. I may also try adding pecans to the batter.

Okay, now I'm really hungry for these. I will definitely be making them again soon!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes
source: Kaitlin in the Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup canned pumpkin

1. Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly. Add the buttermilk, oil and egg. Whisk all ingredients until thoroughly blended. Add pumpkin; mix well.

2. Heat a griddle or skillet on medium. Very lighty spray or brush with oil. Using a ladle or ice cream scoop, pour a small portion of the pancake batter onto the griddle or skillet to form the pancakes. Once bubbles start forming, gently flip the pancakes. Finish cooking until golden brown on both sides.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

Wow. So I just looked over this week's menu and noticed that we're having chicken five out of seven days this week. Don't be surprised if all future posts are written in clucking. (Bock!)

Also: As of today I've officially made it through half a month of posting every day. I hope you guys are enjoying the recipes; I'm definitely enjoying getting caught up on sharing some of them! My 300th post is coming up during the week of Thanksgiving (which I guess is next week -- whoa), and I think I'm going to do a fun giveaway, so be sure to check back!

Monday: Chicken cordon bleu casserole, salad

Tuesday: Homemade chicken noodle soup, salad

Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese with cauliflower, salad. We've been eating a lot of macaroni and cheese lately, and my obsession with cauliflower continues. Joe has also been on a salad kick lately, as you can probably tell, which I guess is much better for us than my near-constant craving for bacon.

Thursday: Buffalo chicken joes, steak fries

Friday: Cheddar chicken chowder, rolls. (Mmm...more bacon...)

Saturday: Pizza-stuffed peppers, garlic bread. This meal is on the menu for the third time in just about as many weeks. It's been eclipsed by fast food twice, but I'm determined not to let that happen again!

Sunday: Chicken fajita lasagna -- a family favorite recipe that I can't believe I haven't shared yet.

Weekend Breakfast: Mandarin orange breakfast bites. This breakfast is pretty much all for Andrew, who is obsessed with mandarin oranges.

Baking: Snickers pie. I think I'm also going to make a batch of my mom's pear muffins, because I've been craving them like mad lately. Maybe I'll make two batches so I can freeze some for when the baby's born.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Baked Gnocchi with Spinach and Goat Cheese

I've been wanting to make this dish ever since I got Giada's pasta cookbook last winter. I'd planned to wait until the weather got colder to make it, since it seems like the perfect cold weather comfort food, but I just couldn't wait any longer. We're having good luck with Andrew and spinach lately, and I want to take advantage of it while it lasts.

We all really enjoyed this, and I thought it was definitely worth the wait. It's a hearty, filling vegetarian entree with tons of flavor, and it really couldn't be easier to prepare. I can't speak to how it works at leftovers, because there weren't any in our house -- we all had two helpings. Andrew liked the gnocchi so much that I've made it for him twice since -- once with cheese sauce, and once with marinara. I think it may be his new favorite food!

Baked Gnocchi with Spinach and Goat Cheese
source: adapted from Everyday Pasta by Giada de Laurentiis

1 17-ounce package potato gnocchi
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/8 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of nutmeg
6 ounces baby spinach
2 ounces goat cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place gnocchi in a lightly greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together cream, broth, and flour over medium heat. Continue whisking until the sauce is simmering and thickened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Add spinach and toss to coat in the cream. Pour the cream and spinach mixture over the gnocchi evenly, spreading the spinach out to cover all the potato dumplings.

4. Crumble goat cheese over the spinach. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake until the top is golden in places, about 30 minutes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pizza Joes

I love trying new twists on sloppy joes. I mean, the original is pretty unbeatable, but every once and a while it's nice to change it up and do something more creative. When I saw this recipe for pizza joes, I knew I had to give it a shot.

This is a simple, yummy, and family-friendly dinner option. These pizza joes taste like spaghetti and meatballs, except, you know, without the spaghetti and the, um, balls. (Donna, I know you're going to have something to say about that.) I made them a little bit more special by treating the buns as though they were garlic bread, which added a lot of flavor. Even Andrew, who is a vegetarian right now more often than not, ate some of the meat and enjoyed it. I served these pizza joes with store-bought mozzarella sticks for a quick weeknight dinner.

Pizza Joes
source: adapted from Tried and True Cooking with Heidi

1 pound ground beef

Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 14-ounce jar pizza sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chopped pepperoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Hamburger buns, split and toasted (turn 'em into garlic bread using this method)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef until lightly browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until meat is no longer pink and vegetables are softened. Add pizza sauce, spices, and chopped pepperoni. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

2. Cook on medium and heat just until heated through. Pile meat on prepared hamburger buns and top with shredded cheese.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved eating macaroni and cheese with a side of sliced and salted tomatoes. I don't know what it is I enjoy so much about that combination, but it's always appealed to me. So when I saw this recipe for macaroni and cheese stuffed inside tomatoes, I knew it would be right up my alley.

Served with a salad and crusty buttered bread, these tomatoes were a delicious, simple, and quick weeknight dinner. The original recipe suggests using boxed macaroni and cheese, but I elected to make a batch of our favorite mac and cheese to use for the filling so that I could freeze whatever was left for a future meal. You could even leave the bacon out of these to make them a vegetarian entrée (although, honestly: why would anyone ever omit bacon from anything?). The buttery breadcrumbs on top added nice crunch, and the green onions added a crisp, fresh flavor. I loved the velvety texture and taste of the warm tomatoes. I'll definitely make these again!

Macaroni and Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes
source: adapted from

1 package macaroni and cheese, cooked according to package directions (or about 2 cups of cooked homemade mac and cheese)
4 large, fresh tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices bacon, fully cooked, drained and crumbled
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons butter or margarine, melted

1. Hollow out tomatoes, leaving a 1/4-inch wall around sides and bottom. Salt and pepper insides of tomatoes. Place in 9-inch-round cake pan or pie plate to prevent tipping.

2. Combine hot macaroni and cheese, bacon and onion in medium bowl; fill tomatoes with mixture.

3. Combine bread crumbs, cheese and butter in small bowl; sprinkle mixture evenly on top of each tomato.

4. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spinach Artichoke Lasagna

You have to make this lasagna immediately. Like, change your meal plans for tonight and have this instead. On Veteran's Day, I can't think of a better dish to serve the hero in your life than a huge piece of this creamy, cheesy, comforting spinach artichoke lasagna.

You know what this lasagna tastes like? It tastes like spinach artichoke dip. But with lasagna noodles. If that isn't enough of a selling point, well, I don't know what else to say.

This was also my first experience using no-boil lasagna noodles, and I think I'm in love. I realize I'm about two years too late with my infatuation, but seriously: Have you used no-boil noodles? There are no torn noodles or burnt fingers to worry about or anything! My life will never be the same.

This post is sort of all over the place, but the main thing I want to tell you is this: Make this lasagna soon. It's delicious. We all loved it, including Andrew. This was a great way to get some iron-rich spinach into him. It's a new family favorite for sure.

Spinach Artichoke Lasagna
source: inspired by Better Homes and Gardens

9 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 boxes chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 15-ounce carton ricotta cheese
1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

1 egg
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half or light cream

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add artichokes, onion and half of the garlic; season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, the spinach, the egg, and salt and pepper as needed.

2. In a small bowl or glass measure, combine broth and flour. In the large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender but not browned. Stir in flour mixture and half-and-half. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. In a small bowl, combine mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

4. To assemble, spread about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of an ungreased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Layer three of the noodles in the dish. Spread with one-third of the spinach-artichoke mixture and one-third of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella mixture. Repeat layering noodles, spinach-artichoke mixture, sauce, and mozzarella mixture two more times, ending with cheese.

5. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes until edges are bubbly and top is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chocolate Chip Apple Bread

I love quick breads. I really, really love them. However, I always have one problem when I'm making one myself, and this has happened with every single one I've made: They're never done baking in the time the recipe states. Does anyone else have this problem? I always use disposable loaf pans -- could that be the issue? If you have any insight, I'd love to hear it.

Anyway, despite taking quite a bit longer to cook than I thought it would, this chocolate chip apple bread was absolutely delicious -- the perfect fall treat. I loved the combination of chocolate and apples; it's one I don't recall ever trying before, and it was really nice. The flavors all really worked well together, and the sugary topping was a nice touch. The original recipe called for walnuts, which I replaced with pecans because I prefer them -- but really, I think either one would be delicious. I doubled the recipe so I could freeze a loaf, and I'm really looking forward to eating this again (especially since I only got two pieces of the loaf I didn't freeze; Joe ate the rest). I actually think this bread would make a great edible Christmas gift. It's definitely special!

(I just had to include this photo because I thought it was so cute. The place I get the best light in my house during the day is on the floor in front of the dining room window, where it's easy for curious little fingers to touch whatever food I'm trying to photograph.)

Chocolate Chip Apple Bread
source: slightly adapted from Allrecipes

2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. To make the topping, in a small bowl mix the sugar, cinnamon and finely chopped pecans. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate large bowl cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in apples, pecans, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with topping.

4. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes. (Mine took considerably longer -- probably about an hour and a half.) Cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cheesy Salsa Mini Meatloaves

This is one of those dinners that's just yummy. Plain and simple. There's not much more I can say about these delicious mini meatloaves. They were tender and flavorful, they had just the right amout of spice, and they baked up in no time. What's not to love?

This recipe is really more of a method than anything, because once you know how to make these mini meatloaves you can flavor your ground beef with anything you want. This is definitely a quick and easy alternative to a more traditional meat loaf, and this particular version is going in our regular rotation for sure. (P.S. I pimp this Mexican sour cream rice all the time, but it really is the perfect side dish for these.)

Cheesy Salsa Mini Meatloaves
source: Real Mom Kitchen

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg
12 saltine crackers, finely crushed (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese, divided
1 cup medium-heat salsa, divided

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix first 4 ingredients with 1 cup cheese and 1/2 cup salsa.

3. Press evenly into 12 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray. Use back of spoon to make indentation in center of each. Place muffin pan on foil-covered baking sheet.

4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until meatloaves are done (160 degrees). Top with remaining salsa and cheese; bake 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly Meal Planning

Monday: Chicken rigatoni bake. I found this recipe on a box of pasta years ago and I've been making my adapted version of it ever since. It's one of my favorite fall and winter comfort foods -- I can't believe I haven't shared this one yet.

Tuesday: Chile, cheese and bacon quesadillas, Mexican sour cream rice. (Yes, I make this rice a lot; no, I will never get sick of it, not ever.)

Wednesday: Corn and kielbasa chowder, rolls (and I'm probably going to add cheese, too, because if you look over my menu this week you can clearly see I have thrown calorie counting out the proverbial window. Plus, you know, the baby needs calcium.)

Thursday: Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese. Oh, yeah. (See: baby needs calcium. He also apparently needs spicy food.)

Friday: BBQ beef and bacon melts, steak fries. I make these melts just like I do my bacon patty melts, except I omit the special sauce and use shredded BBQ beef instead of a hamburger patty and cheddar and/or Monterey jack cheese instead of American. Delicious, and equally as good using shredded BBQ chicken or pork.

Saturday: Meatball subs (inspired by this recipe). This is the second time I've used this meatball recipe. I didn't post about these last time I made them because I wanted to play with the ingredients and preparation a little bit to make them fit our tastes perfectly. That's what I plan to do this time, so I'll be sure to share what I come up with.

Sunday: Saucy slow-cooked chicken thighs, Joe's potatoes, green beans

Weekend Breakfast: Bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato sandwiches (BELTs), applesauce. The more bacon the better right now -- I can't get enough of the stuff. My poor little baby and his slowly-clogging arteries.

Baking: I recently found Peanut Butter & Co. cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter in my local grocery store, so I will be using my precious find to make these oatmeal peanut butter cookies. And then I will be eating all of the cookies, probably in one sitting.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Frozen Pumpkin Squares

Well, I've officially found a pumpkin dessert that my husband doesn't like. And this is it.

Don't let that deter you from trying these, though; Andrew and I both liked them very much. I think for Joe it was more of a texture issue than a flavor issue, since essentially, the main component of this dessert is frozen pudding. I will admit that the texture of these is rather odd, and next time I make them I may substitute softened vanilla ice cream for the pudding. If I do that, I think I'll have a pretty darn perfect pumpkiny treat on my hands -- one that Joe will definitely enjoy.

Frozen Pumpkin Squares

source: Favorite Brand Name Recipes: Classic Recipe Collection

1 cup fine gingersnap crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/4 cups cold milk
2 packages (4 serving size each) vanilla flavor instant pudding and pie filling
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tub (8 ounces) whipped topping, thawed, divided

1. Mix crumbs, walnuts and butter in a small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish. Press onto bottom of foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Refrigerate.

2. Pour milk into a large bowl. Add pudding mixes, pumpkin and spice. (Next time, I'll use a couple of cups of vanilla ice cream in place of the milk and pudding.) Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Gently stir in 2 1/4 cups of the whipped topping. Spread over crust.

3. Freeze 4 hours or until firm. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes or until dessert can be easily cut. Cut into squares. Garnish with remaining whipped topping and sprinkle with reserved crumbs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chicken Spaghetti

I have another Pioneer Woman recipe to share with you today. And it was delicious, even though my photo of it is terrible. I don't know how to take a pretty picture of something as wonderfully messy as a casserole. So you'll just have to trust me: It tastes a lot better than it looks. (Go look at Ree's pictures. Hers are much better.)

I adjusted the recipe based on our personal tastes, some of the comments on Ree's post, and my time restrictions, and I was really happy with how this turned out. It's nothing special or unique, really: just straight-up delicious home-cooking at its best. I made the full batch and froze half for a later meal, and we still had leftovers -- this makes enough to feed an army! Joe, Andrew and I all really liked this one!

Chicken Spaghetti
source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

1 16-ounce box spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (a store-bought rotisserie chicken works perfectly for this)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 4-ounce can green chilies, drained
1 small onion, finely diced
1 4-ounce can chopped pimientos, drained
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook spaghetti in chicken broth and water until al dente; drain. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients except 1 cup shredded cheddar. Pour into a casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.

2. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cauliflower Soup

I've been very into cauliflower lately. I know, isn't that strange? I mean, I've always liked it, but right now I want to eat it all the time. I've had raw cauliflower with veggie dip for a snack every night this week. I should be craving things like chocolate! and ice cream! and other unhealthy sweet treats! And sometimes I do, but mostly? It seems that all this baby wants is cauliflower. He's no fun.

This did, however, give me the perfect opportunity to make The Pioneer Woman's cauliflower soup last week. And this will come as no shock to those of you who've made one of her recipes before: It. was. delicious. Joe absolutely loved it, and even raved about it to his grandma the next day (who is a very good cook, so it's nice to appear competent in her eyes). I followed Ree's recipe pretty exactly, except I dolloped the sour cream on top of our individual bowls of soup and sprinkled some cheddar cheese on top too. I served the soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for a cozy, delicious fall dinner.

Cauliflower Soup
source: slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

1 stick butter
1 onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 large head cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 32-ounce box of chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons flour
1 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream
Shredded cheese for topping, if desired

1. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook for a few minutes, or until the onion starts to turn brown. Add the carrots and celery and cook an addition couple of minutes. Add cauliflower and parsley and stir to combine. Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes.

2. After 15 minutes, pour in chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Mix the flour with the milk and whisk to combine. Add flour-milk mixture slowly to the butter, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.

4. Add mixture to the simmering soup. Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Discard bay leaves.

5. Ladle soup into bowls and top each serving with sour cream and shredded cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.