The best thing I make

I was having friends over to my house for the first time. And they are not only foodies, but one is quite picky. This was a spur of the moment decision which left me racking my brain for the tastiest and relatively quick dish that would impress them. I instantly fell back on my hearty staple: Mushroom Chicken Alfredo, also known as the best thing I make.

Alfredo is something that everyone perceives as decadent, and difficult. But from scratch, it is seriously delicious and insanely easy. Never open a jar of pre-made sauce again.

I started by roasting my chicken, sealed in foil in the oven at 400° with a little olive oil, butter, salt and pepper for 1 hour.  While that is going, I cleaned up the house, grated my Parmesan, got out all the ingredients for the rest of my meal.

While the noodles are cooking in the pot I get started on the Mushroom Alfredo sauce. I start with butter and oil in the pan, sauteing the mushrooms until almost done, with salt and pepper. Then I add in some minced garlic and let that get golden as well, before I add flour, and make a rue. After about a minute, when the flour is cooked through, I add in the half and half, stirring quickly to in-cooperate all the chunky flour in to the cream. When the creamy mushroom mixture is bubbling I add in the grated cheese. Again, stirring continuously until it is all melted and mixed in. This is a beautiful velvety sauce that goes well with so many things.

I used angel hair pasta with my dish this night, because my husband loves skinny noodles, and they cook faster. I don’t like to keep my guests waiting! After adding the chicken and the crusty bread with my basil butter topping, we were ready to eat! And they were happy and it was delicious.

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Ingredients for Mushroom Alfredo Sauce:

  • 1½ cups of half&half
  • 4-6 oz of grated Parmesan cheese (half of a wedge of cheese or more)
  • ½ stick salted butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 cup or container of sliced mushrooms

Quick recipe:

  1. Oil and butter in pan, medium heat.
  2. Saute Mushrooms with salt and pepper until tender.
  3. Add garlic, saute 1 minute.
  4. Add flour, stir 1 minute.
  5. Add half&half and stir continuously until bubbling.
  6. Add cheese and stir until sauce is thick.

Add to cooked pasta and chicken or even sausage, and enjoy!

Autumn Pork Roast

I freaking love pork tenderloin. Especially the pre-marinated easy peasy ones. Tonight I tried something different, inspired by what was left in my produce bowl on the counter. One lonely sweet potato and an apple. How poetic that they be joined in holy roastimony. It couldn’t get any simpler. I cored and chopped the apple, peeled and chopped the sweet potato, and placed them around the pork loin in a foil lined pan. I drizzled them with olive oil, salt, pepper and a touch of cinnamon. I covered the whole pan with tight foil, and baked at 400°f for 45 minutes. And voila! A dinner that was complete and cooked itself. Crazy easy and crazy flavorful. Not to mention healthy! Let me know what you think!

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Pupcakes

My 7 year old is an only child, but we frequently joke that she has 2 little brothers- the dogs. She is so attached to these silly mutts that they do everything she does. They have tea parties, dress up at holidays, have stockings and yes have birthdays. Since we have no idea the date either of our adoptees was born, we just celebrate in March.

Our ‘pupcakes’ are a combination of several recipes we’ve made over the years between the dog treat Christmas gifts and other random canine celebrations. I just mixed the ingredients below, bake them, then topped them with peanut butter and a treat. The dogs loved them, they were dense, not crumbly, so they didn’t make a mess all over the floor, which gives them an A+ in my book.

Pupcake Ingredients: Bake at 400°f – 15 minutes

  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ all purpose flour
  • ½ wheat germ
  • 1 banana mashed
  • 4oz container of applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. honey

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Encore Taco Nachos

I’ve said before that we don’t have a lot, so we make the most out of what we have. That means reusing leftovers into what I like to call “Encore”meals. Today we had Nachos made from leftover taco meat, and good salty yellow corn chips from my previous Speedy Salsa Dip post. The key I have found to good nachos is layers. My layers go as follows:

  1. Chips
  2. Meat and Cheese Dip
  3. Chips
  4. Meat and Cheese Dip and Salsa (sparingly, it makes the chips soggy)
  5. Shredded Cheese

I broil this on low, on the lower rack for about 5 minutes (to heat all the above ingredients) and then on the upper rack for 2-3 minutes to get a good bubble and brown on the chips and cheese.

Then I top them with lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, and my favorite: Sour Cream Cilantro Lime Sauce.

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Sour Cream Cilantro Sauce:

  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro

Easy right?!? Its tart, and fresh, and it drizzles much easier than thick sour cream, so its easier to touch all the nachos with just a little bit of tasty goodness. You can add less lime juice if you’re not into the sour bite, I think its delicious.

Whats your favorite nacho topping? I don’t think you can ever try too many nachos!

Butter Pecan Banana Bread

Butter Pecan Banana Bread. Try and say that 5 times fast! I am not a fan of anything banana. I am allergic to the raw ones, and anything banana flavored gives me a bad case of the gags. However, my daughter loves them. But not enough to eat a whole bunch. Even though she promised, that THIS time she would eat them before they went bad. Why not buy just 1 banana you say? Because then I wouldn’t have an excuse to make the one banana thing I do love, Banana Bread.

I usually just make the original, but today I thought “What could I do to make this extra sinful?”. Well my first instinct was add butter. And after a few minutes of rummaging through the cabinets, I found two things that I couldn’t believe I had never paired before: Pecans and Molasses.

pecans logoSimply mix all the original ingredients, add a half cup of pecans, and bake. While that bakes make the topping. I toasted pecans in a skillet, added butter, molasses,  and brown sugar, and a tiny bit of water. I just poured this over the top of the hot loaf when it was finished baking. And good golly miss molly it was good!!!

Topping Ingredients:

  • ½ cup pecans
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ brown sugar

Original Banana Bread Ingredients:(add ½ cup pecans for this Butter Pecan Banana Bread)

  • 3-4 mashed overly ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt

Bake at 350°f for 1 hour, add topping and enjoy!

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Banana Bread. Cake disguised as breakfast. I love it.

 

 

 

 

Biscuits and Gravy

I have yet to meet a person that doesn’t love a good gravy biscuit. I make these at least once a week and for dinner pretty often. Some people are intimidated by gravy. I’ve been watching my mother make it my whole life. This recipe uses a shortcut that I find tastes better than the original way, but the basic technique is still the same.

Start with 1 lb of country mild sausage. I use good ole’ Jimmy Dean. I brown this into very small chunks. Then instead of flour like in the original, I sprinkle the top with a packet of gravy mix. I think it just tastes better than flour, salt and pepper. The package instructions says to mix half with water, and all this other stuff, but I pour the packet right over the top, and stir quickly into the sausage and grease, just like a rue. After I feel the package powder is cooked through, just about a minute , I whisk in almost 2 cups of milk. It will seem really runny for a while, but a few minutes on the heat makes it nice and thick, and delicious! Super easy!

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Add Texas Pete for a subtle kick!

Sausage Gravy Ingredients:

  • 1 lb package Country Mild Sausage
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 package gravy mix (I use Pioneer Brand Country Sausage Flavor Mix)
  • Texas Pete! (optional)

I have yet to perfect homemade biscuits. If anybody out there has a recipe that is fool proof, please share it with me. I am in desperate need of a tutorial!

 

Caprese Crostinis

Hi, my name is Sara and I caprese-holic. I have always been obsessed with anything caprese. The fresh and simple medley brings me such joy. So when I bought that great Modena Balsamic Vinegar a few weekends back, I couldn’t wait to make everything caprese.

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The key to making this a success today was this tiny spoon. Its a ¼ teaspoon. I used it make the fresh mozzarella balls, spoon the oil mix on the sliced bread, and drizzle the balsamic syrup. Such a big day for such a little spoon! 

So here is how to make your own little bites of Italian heaven:

Slice baguette into thin slices. Spoon ¼tsp Basil Oil Mix on to each slice. Broil on low for one minute. Add 1 slice of cherry tomato, 1 ball of cheese, and drizzle with Balsamic Syrup.

Seriously Simple.

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Basil Oil Mix:

Just stir together the following ingredients. So easy, and tasty!

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mince garlic
  • 1 tsp squeeze basil (I freaking love this stuff)
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

Balsamic Syrup:

Simmer a few tablespoons of quality vinegar in a pot at medium heat until it coats the back of a spoon. About 8-10 minutes. The more it cools, the thicker it gets. Mine got so thick it was almost candy hard. I just boiled some water in the pot to clean it easily.

Fresh Mozzarella Balls :

I just spooned out the balls of cheese from a large ball of fresh mozzarella. They sell mozzarella pearls, that would have saved me this step. But the large balls were on Managers Special, and honestly, I liked the texture I got with balling them myself.

All in all this was one of the most delicious things I have ever made!

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Speedy Salsa Dip

This one is an oldie but a goodie. My husband and I have very different spicy-ness thresholds. And I think its pretty silly to buy 2 jars of salsa just because my tongue is a sissy. So this trick helps us share the salsa and doubles as an on the fly party dish!

As a quick party dish, its pretty, and it can be made with all sorts of toppings. I have an Aunt that puts Red Pepper Jelly on top, served with fancy crackers. You can even do green pepper jelly with the red, and slice the cream cheese like a Christmas Tree!

Tonight I did a mango pineapple version with lime juice and salt and pepper served with salty corn tortilla chips. Odd, but delicious!

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Creamy Salsa Goodness

Please send me your quick entertaining tricks for when you’re in a pinch! I’d love to try them!

Smothered Sausage Subs

Today was one of those days where I felt behind all day. I am no stranger to stress eating. I came home hungry for something heavy and satisfying. Sandwiches in general are a comfort food for me, and I love a good baked sub.

I sauteed whole mild Italian sausages until they were really brown on all sides. Then I added a tiny bit of water, covered them and let them steam for a minute or so. I then added olive oil with peppers, onions and mushrooms. I cooked these together, covered on medium heat for about 20 minutes.

While that was cooking, I peeled and chopped the sweet potatoes, and roasted them at 425° in olive oil and salt. Super simple. Super yummy.

And while those were cooking I sliced the rolls, added a couple pads of butter and 2 slices of smoked provolone in each. I toasted the open rolls for about 7 minutes, until crispy on the outside and melty  on the inside.

When everything was ready, I sliced the sausage and spooned the meat and veggies into the soft cheesy pocket. I love recipes that have even timing, and these really hit the spot. The sweet potatoes were al dente, and the subs with gooey cheese, savory sausage, and sweet peppers made a symphony of a sandwich.

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4 inches has never been so satisfying.

Ingredients:

  • Package of 5-6 sausages, I choose mild because my daughter won’t tolerate spicy.
  • 1 green pepper julienned
  • 1 red pepper julienned
  • 1 small onion julienned
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms
  • 3-4 Tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 italian or french sub rolls
  • 8-12 slices of smoked provolone cheese
  • 1/2 stick of butter, thinly sliced into squares

Comment below with your own super sandwiches! I would LOVE to try them!!

 

 

Sales Tag Serendipity

Today was an unusually beautiful day for this time of year. It was 60° and gorgeous, or so I was told. I spent most of the day trapped in my office, buried under a avalanche of paperwork. But when five o’clock finally came, boy did that warm spring breeze feel good. So good, it changed my dinner plans. I wanted something to match the summer mood I was in and I immediately thought burgers. But then decided I shouldn’t completely throw away that half ass work out I did this morning, so I decided on lame-o standard chicken. Until…

I’ve mentioned before I love a good sale. Nothing brings me more joy than feeling like I stuck it to the grocery store man, just a little bit, and came out on top for once. On my way to the lame-o chicken, I started to see yellow tags. My heart racing I shuffled over to the seafood case. Being allergic to shrimp, something that is frequently on sale, I tried to not get my hopes up. But low and behold it was fish. Not frozen, but nicely packaged, name brand, marinated fish! Could this be? Was it a mistake? I decided to load up and argue my way into that price at the register if I had to.

So now that I had the star of my meal, what was going to go with it? I meandered around the store gathering various other items, when I got a wild hair to peruse the fancy cheese. I usually can’t afford anything in this case, but I still like to look. And there too was a rare treasure, a Managers Special tag. I love these, I’ll challenge an expiration date for a couple of dollars off, and this was on one of my favorites, fresh Mozzarella cheese. So now with Salmon and Mozzarella, where in the hell was I going with this? Some discount cherry tomatoes on the vine, and a few items later we arrived at this. And even though I can’t take credit for the Salmon recipe, I can take pride in making my own homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette for the first time, DELICIOUS.

The Balsamic Vinaigrette was so easy. I happened to have bought some good vinegar last weekend on my girls trip, and all I did was:

-Whisk lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoons basil squeeze (fresh basil was not available) into 3 tablespoons of good Balsamic Vinegar, and slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking like a maniac.

I have tried this before with cheaper vinegar and it has not turned out well. This higher quality of vinegar, that was not that expensive at an Oil and Vinegar store really made the difference.

A simple meal inspired by serendipitous weather and pricing. My budget and I couldn’t be happier. Comment below with some of your favorite summer meals or inspiring sales stories! I’d love to hear them!