Friday, November 23, 2012

Cranberry Apple Upside Down Cake

I had pie for breakfast. We played in the rain with our tiny tot. The Hubs and I had boozy coffee this afternoon. We did NOT go to a mall. Though totally soggy outside, it was a great day! Thanksgiving is my all-time fave holiday and luckily my work loves to celebrate! I made this Cranberry Apple Upside Down Cake for our Pre-Thanksgiving Warm Up Potluck. I'd been thinking about making something like this for a while - I adapted this cake recipe and experimented with the rest. It was really tasty and really pretty! Good combo for a potluck!

Cranberry Apple Upside Down Cake
Makes one 9" cake 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Prep a 9 inch cake pan by buttering and flouring bottom and sides. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom, and butter that. 

Toss chopped apples and cranberries with brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside while batter is made.

In a large bowl, cream butter and white sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Alternately mix in sour cream and then dry ingredients into the butter mixture until both are used up and the batter is smooth (it will be thick.)

Pour apples and cranberry mixture over parchment in the bottom of the cake pan. Arrange the fruit so it's evenly distributed.

Pour cake batter over the fruit and smooth out - it's OK if the batter is not totally to the edges and a bit uneven... this will be the bottom of the cake anyway. How nice is that?!

Bake 35-40 minutes and check for doneness with a wooden skewer. The skewer should come out clean, with a few moist crumbs stuck to it. 

Let the cake cool on a wire rack until it's room temp. Invert over a cake stand and peel off the parchment. The fruit will be soft and beautiful! 

I dolloped a bit of whipped cream on top, because that's always a good idea. 

Some things about this recipe...
I've now made this cake twice - we like it that much! The cake is not super sweet, so I will be taking it to the next brunch we are invited to (hey! want this cake? Invite me to a brunch!)
I think this would be great with other kinds of hearty fruits - cherries would be amazing! Plums, apricots, or nectarines sound good too. 
Also, I might add a bit of orange zest to the cake the next time I make this. Just to make things even more special. 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Okay so I don’t know about you guys but I am officially ADDICTED to Pinterest!  I have found so many recipes I want to try and I have to be careful when I visit because it’s easily a 2-3 hour endeavor.  It’s so fun finding cute crafts (especially DIY), great cooking ideas, and even better entertaining possibilities.  One of the recipes I was dying to try was from a blog called Inspired Taste.  It looks like a really cool blog that was started by a couple who is really into cooking and photography.  I’ll have to add that one to the reading list. 

Stuffed shells are very versatile.  You can stuff shells with just about anything.  I have another recipe for shrimp stuffed shells that I’ll have to post at a later date.  I slightly modified the original recipe from Inspired Taste because I prefer to not have pork when there is a near equal substitute.  Sausage is one of those things.  I never buy pork sausage anymore.  There are so many great chicken and turkey sausages out there that are healthier and often times, even taste better.  Other than that, I added a couple of different seasonings and onion, and (voila!) my own version of this great recipe steps on the scene. 

Stuffed Shells with Turkey Sausage and Spinach

20 jumbo pasta shells
1 lb Italian turkey sausage links, casing removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ c chopped onion
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
1c frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ c ricotta cheese
½ c shredded Italian cheese blend
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp crushed red pepper

Prep tip: Place thawed chopped spinach in between a couple layers of paper towels and wring out over the sink to dry.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta shells according to package directions.  Once al dente, place shells in a bowl of very cold water until filling is prepared.

Tip: Soaking the shells in water stops the cooking process and also prevents them from drying out prior to baking.

Brown sausage in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Once sausage is near done, add onion and garlic.  Once all sausage is browned, add tomatoes, spinach, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Stir until well mixed.  Remove from heat and stir in ricotta.

Fill pasta shells with sausage mixture and place in a shallow baking dish.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 mins or until cheese and edges of shells start to brown.

I served these shells with a delicious spinach salad and roasted garlic bread.  When we sat down for dinner, we totally threw out the etiquette and ate these with our fingers.  It worked great!  Also, it gave me a great idea for a new twist on appetizers. 

When you make this recipe, don’t forget to post your pretty pictures on Instagram and use the #nopressurecooker.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Favorite Thanksgiving Stuffing

It's almost here! It's almost here! Thanksgiving is almost here! Thanksgiving is totally my fave holiday! I love everything about it... it's so low key - there are no cards to send. There are no gifts to wrap. The whole thing is about gratitude, being thankful for what you have, friends and family. Throw in some football and THE FOOD and I am in heaven. 

I stuff my turkey with herbs, onions and apples, so I don't know if this is "stuffing" or "dressing" but whatever you want to call it, it's my favorite part. (For the record, mashed potatoes and gravy second, turkey third, sweet potatoes forth, cranberry anything fifth, rolls sixth, and that weird green bean mess last - in case you wanted to know.)

My Favorite Stuffing (Dressing?) - adapted from Sunset Magazine
Makes one LARGE side dish. Serves 8.

Preheat the oven to 350 (if you are making this with a turkey, preheat to turkey temp.)

3/4 loaf of soft French bread
1 1/2 cup milk
1 pound sausage (I used chicken sausage)
1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 garlic clove
1 medium onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 pounds chopped Swiss chard
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage)
Salt and pepper

Cut bread into 1/2 inch slices. Place slices in a large bowl and add milk. Mix gently with a spoon to moisten all slices and set aside while you chop up all the veggies.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Squeeze sausage from casings and cook meat, crumbling as it cooks. Add in mushrooms if using, and the onions, celery, parsley and garlic. Cook until meat is done and onions are beginning to get tender - about 5 minutes. Add chard and 1/2 cup stock and cook until chard is wilted. About 10 minutes. 

As the chard wilts, squeeze bread slices and break into small pieces. Add 1 cup of the Parmesan, chopped sage, salt and pepper. Mix to combine. Fold in meat mixture. Spoon everything into a buttered baking dish and top with the last bit of Parmesan. Bake 30 minutes or until the inside reaches 150 degrees. 

We had this with baked chicken thighs and a spinach salad. It was a great Sunday night dinner - a perfect prep for Thanksgiving!

A few things about this recipe...
The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat - I like to up the veggies and lessen the meat to make for a lighter side. A pound of meat is still a lot of meat. 
I've cooked this with a turkey three times. It's very forgiving and you can adjust your cook time and temperature a lot. 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rosemary Turkey Meatloaf

Ground turkey is something that I always have in stock.  I use it in place of ground beef for almost everything.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve used ground beef in about 3 years!  Turkey is healthier because it has less saturated fat and less fat overall.  The difference is that you have to season it better than you would beef because fat = flavor.  That is also the reason why I never use ground turkey breast.  It is too lean for me and tastes more like cardboard (but that’s just my opinion). 

This rosemary turkey meatloaf is the best I have ever had!  Since I discovered this, it has been my staple and I honestly can’t see myself finding one I like better.  The turkey is complimented by fresh rosemary and balsamic vinegar as the secret ingredient.  I think the balsamic helps the turkey to stay moist.  When you try this meatloaf, you won’t think you’re eating turkey because it is incredibly moist and flavorful.  I’m a ground turkey converter!  If you like beef, BEWARE!

Rosemary Turkey Meatloaf

1 lb ground turkey
1c dry garlic & herb bread crumbs
¼ onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
¼ c milk
¼ c balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 ½ tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
BBQ sauce of your choice

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly spray a 9x5” loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients except BBQ sauce.  Press into prepared pan.  Pour BBQ sauce over top so that meatloaf is just covered.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until temperature reaches 160F.  Let stand for 5-7 minutes before slicing and serving.

Hint: Use a digital meat thermometer!  Works every time!  Also, it’s important with turkey because it dries out quickly.

I served this with rice and sautéed cabbage with onions and sundried tomatoes.  It made for a perfect winter meal that was healthy and delicious.  

Meatloaf is one of the easiest dishes to make.  You throw all of the ingredients in a bowl and then use your hands to mix it all together.  Then, you just throw it in the pan.  It's perfect for a weeknight meal and also great to do with kids because they can help mix the ingredients and get their hands all messy.  They'll love it!  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sausage and Lentil Soup

I pack my lunch everyday. My husband just read that and frantically waved his BS flag. OK. My husband packs my lunch everyday. It's true. He's a saint. On the rare occasions that I eat at work, I'm lucky enough to work at a place with a wonderful cafeteria. I recently had a spicy sausage and lentil soup that I really wanted to recreate. Sometimes, when the stars align and the moon is in the seventh house, I cook ahead on the weekends and make my saint-husband's life a little easier. Last weekend was such a weekend.

Sausage and Lentil Soup
Makes 5 hearty servings

1 cup chopped onion - about 1/2 a large onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
3 cloves minced garlic - about 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes - adjust to your tastes! This was medium heat
1/3 pound sausage - I used mild Italian sausage. Adjust the red pepper flakes if you use spicy sausage.
2 cups lentils
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
32 oz broth + 1 cup - you may want more
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Saute onion, celery and carrots in 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook until vegetables start to get tender - about 5 minutes. Add in sausage and cook until browned all over. Add in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 2 more minutes. Add the bay leaf and cook another 2 minutes.

Add broth, stir to scrape up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in lentils, tomatoes and tomato paste. 

Bring to a soft boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for an hour. Test lentils and veggies. If they are soft enough for your tastes, you're done! If they are still a little firm, add another cup of broth and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Test again.

A few things about this recipe...
This is a really thick soup. If you want it thinner and soupier, just add more broth as you cook the lentils.

I used only a tiny bit of meat - just to add flavor and the occasional bite of meat. 

This reheats really well! It made great lunches for a whole week.


As you may know, this blog is written by two friends - one in Portland, OR and one in NYC. Antoinette and her husband are doing OK in the wake of Sandy and are home safely. We both send our thoughts and prayers out to those affected by the Sandy storm.