Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Couscous for Youyou

Are sides an afterthought in your house?  Do you plan your menu like I do….chicken on Monday, pork chops on Tuesday, Spaghetti on Wednesday, etc?  Notice what is missing there?  Sides!  I never remember to plan sides….they are totally an afterthought, and usually a pain in the tush.  I’m always waiting for the oven to preheat, or for a pot of water to boil.  Those pork chops are ready…they just don’t have a buddy on the plate;)

Couscous has always been a favorite of mine.  I love how it tastes, but mostly, I love how fast it cooks.  I only have to wait for one cup of liquid to boil, and then five more minutes and I have couscous!  Today I am going to show you a quick and easy recipe for a couscous salad.  It is just as good cold or room temperature as it is cold.  That makes this side a plus in my book.  And if you haven’t read my imaginary book….you totally should.

Quick note:  I loathe quinoa.  I think the devil invented it, along with green peas.  But…..I know that many of you love it, so you should know that you can totally make the following recipe with quinoa.  Good luck.


For this salad, I used couscous, olive oil, chopped walnuts, shallot, apple, parsley, goat cheese, dried cranberries, apple cider vinegar, chicken stock, and Dijon mustard.  Long list, easy recipe.


I started by chopping what needed to be chopped.  I diced my shallot, chopped my walnuts a bit more (they were already “chopped”), minced my parsley and chopped my apple. 

I spritzed a bit of lemon juice on my apple.  That was just for looks.  Nobody likes a discolored apple.

Also, I normally use flat leaf parsley for this recipe, but Chris went to the store for me (again), and brought me home curly parsley.  Turns out I like it better in this recipe.  Maybe Chris has a future in this cookin’ thing.


I threw my chopped walnuts into a dry sauté pan.  Toasting your nuts gives them so much more flavor.  I just tossed them around over medium high heat until I could smell them….about 3 minutes-ish.


In my sauce pan, I softened my shallot in a bit of olive oil.  I also used salt and pepper here.  You know s&p never make the ingredient picture so don’t act surprised to see them.

I cooked the shallots for a few minutes, just until they were starting to turn translucent.


Next, I added in one cup of chicken stick.  Cooking your couscous in chicken stock gives it so much more flavor!  Water will work, but stock is so much better.  If I had vats of stock, I would cook my pasta in stock, but that is just impractical.


Once the stock boiled, I added my couscous and dried cranberries.  I put the lid on, turned off the heat and let it go for five minutes.

FYI-I put the cranberries in now because the heat and moisture will help them plump up.  “Reconstitute” if you like big words.


After five minutes, I poured the couscous into a bowl and fluffed it with a fork.

For the dressing….


What?  Who is that standing next to my bowl?  That is honeybear.  He missed the ingredients shot above, but he is in that little bowl, along with apple cider vinegar, mustard, olive oil and salt and pepper.


I added the apple, parsley, toasted walnuts, goat cheese and dressing to the couscous.


Easy and amazing.  This “side” should be the star of this show.  It has tang from the dressing and cranberries, sweetness from the apple and creaminess from the cheese.  This is the perfect couscous salad.


Chris had the leftovers for lunch the next day and he said it was just as amazing cold.  You must try this.  Even if you try it with quinoa.

Couscous Salad

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, diced

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup couscous

½ cup dried cranberries

½ an apple, chopped

½ cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

¼ cup parsley, minced

3 ounces crumbled goat cheese

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon pepper, divided

In a sauce pan, sauté chopped shallot in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Sauté over medium heat until shallot is translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Once stock is boiling, add couscous and dried cranberries.  Immediately cover and remove from heat. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, remaining olive oil, mustard, honey and remaining salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Once couscous is done cooking, remove lid and fluff with a fork.  Stir in parsley, walnuts, chopped apple, goat cheese and dressing.

Serves 4-6

Friday, September 21, 2012

Caramel Apple Cupcakes!

Hi everyone!  Tomorrow is the first day of fall.  Real fall….not just "Courtney’s declared it’s fall", fall.  Yay!  Chris still won’t let me put out my Halloween decorations (boo), but he has given me the go-ahead to put out my scarecrow and some other fall décor.  What’s funny about that is my scarecrow has been out for a week.  Observant he is not.

To celebrate the season that you all know by now is my favorite, I have made some delicious cupcakes.  Not only do they taste great, they are also just about the cutest things ever.  I call them Caramel Apple Cupcakes…..you will notice they have a stick in them….like a caramel apple.  My cleverness knows no bounds;)  The cupcake is a spiced apple cake, and the frosting is caramel cream cheese.  Are you dying?

Anyhoo, they are super simple to make, as I used a boxed cake mix, and your friends and family will love them.  You could even make them for a bake-sale.  Everyone would thing you are a genius, and I will totally let you claim the idea.  Sell those bad boys for $2!

Here is a sneaky peak….


Do you love them?  I love them so much, I ate nearly all of them.  I love with my stomach, people.


For this recipe, I used a boxed spice cake mix.  I also used eggs and oil, just like the box told me too.  Instead of water, I used a jar of Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple spread and buttermilk.

Do you have to use Gourmet Rooster or can you use any kind of apple butter.  Well, if you want to remain my friend, use Gourmet Rooster.  If you are on the fence about our friendship, go ahead and use whatever you can find;)

And why buttermilk, you ask?  Buttermilk adds a nice tang and makes the cake really rich tasting.  But don’t let the name fool you…..it actually isn’t too high in fat.  So you get the whole richness thing, without the whole million grams of fat thing that whole milk would give you.


In this bowl is the cake mix, oil and eggs.


In the measuring cup is the jar of apple spread and enough buttermilk to hit 1 1/3 cups.


I blended this all together with a hand mixer.

I love spice cake.  Have I ever told you that?  A spice cake usually contains cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, etc.  All of the “Holiday” spices.  Or at least that is what I call them.  I love the taste of these spices and of course, I love the smell.  Spice cake is a great base for apples, pumpkins, pears, etc.  Jazz that puppy up!

Could you make a spice cake from scratch and still use the buttermilk and apple spread?  Of course!  I applaud your Martha Stewart-ness.  And I am jealous of your free time.


I scooped the batter into red cupcake liners.  I am going for the whole “caramel apple” thing, so only red will work.

I baked these according to the box directions.  They cooked for about 20 minutes.  I let the cupcakes fully cool before I frosted them.  Let me show you how I made the frosting.


For this frosting, I used cream cheese, butter, caramel sundae topping and powdered sugar.  I would normally use a brick of cream cheese as opposed to this, but I sent Chris to the store for the cream cheese.  I’m just happy he brought home any kind of cream cheese.  The grocery store is still kind of a foreign country for Chris.


To start the frosting, I blended together the softened butter and softened cream cheese.  I mixed this until it was smooth.


Next, I blended in the caramel.


When that was all mixed in, I slowly blended in the powdered sugar. 

This frosting will be pretty loose because of the liquidy caramel.  It could stand a quick trip into the fridge.  That will stiffen it right up.


I made sure to give each cupcake a ton of frosting.  The frosting is always the best part anyway.


As you can see, I drizzled on even more caramel, and I stuck a popsicle stick in each cupcake.  The sticks are purely decorative.  You can’t eat your cupcake off the stick.


You know when I said the frosting was the best part?.....Like two seconds ago?  The frosting does rock, but the cake is pretty amazing too.  The spice cake works so well with the apple spread.  Not to give away my secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices…..my apple spread is seasoned pretty similarly to the spice cake, so the two are BFF’s.

You have to try this recipe.  If not for yourself, then for the good of mankind.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

1 boxed spice cake mix

3 eggs

½ cup oil

1 jar Gourmet Rooster Whiskey Apple Spread (about 1 cup)

1/3 cup buttermilk


1 stick butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup caramel sundae topping

About 4 cups powdered sugar

Caramel for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place 24 cupcake liners in 2 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, blend together cake mix, oil, eggs, apple spread and buttermilk with a hand mixer.  Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Fill each cupcake liner with batter.  Bake cupcakes for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until done.  Set aside to cool.


In a large bowl, blend together, with a hand mixer, softened cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Slowly blend in caramel.  Finally, slowly blend in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. 

Frost cooled cupcakes.  Drizzle cupcakes with caramel and insert a popsicle stick.

Makes 24

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pumpkin Gnocchi and Sausage Soup with Cornbread

Hi guys!  So sorry about last week.  I got too busy, time got away from me, blah, blah, blah.  Excuses, Excuses, I know…..but I really am sorry about the lack of blogging.  I cooked, I took pictures, I just didn’t get around to posting anything.  But I really do have a good recipe to show you!  Two, in fact.

My first recipe is a really delicious soup.  My second is an amazing cornbread to accompany said soup.  Yes, I realize it is still hell-fire hot in most places.  It will cool off eventually and you will be happy that you have this soup.  This soup is the “bee’s knees” which is a phrase that Paisley’s kindy teacher used.  I’d heard it before but I forgot how much I liked it;)

So, this soup is my Pumpkin Gnocchi and Sausage Soup.  Before you let the pumpkin gnocchi scare you away, don’t worry.  That gnocchi is from a package.  So don’t be scared because you have to make this soup.  It is the perfect fall soup…..and it really isn’t even that bad for you.  Win/win.

Let’s get started.


I realize I made it somewhat hard to see, but the pumpkin gnocchi is from Cost Plus.  They always have it in the fall, and they have it right now.  I promise.  If you don’t have a Cost Plus, or have an aversion painted giraffes, gold bangles and many flavors o’ tea, you can always sub in regular gnocchi that can be found at any store.

I also used smoked sausage, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, chicken broth and sage.  Of course, I used salt and pepper too.


I cut my smoked sausage into half-moons.  I love this stuff, but you could always use chicken sausage, kielbasa, etc.  The combination of a smoky sausage and the creamy pumpkin gnocchi is what makes this soup.


Instead of cooking this sausage in my soup pot, and then taking it out to cook the veggies, I popped the sausage in the oven to cook.  That way, the veggies can get started while the sausage cooks away in the oven.  That is a handy little shortcut if you are cooking this soup on a busy weeknight.

I cooked my sausage for about 15 to 20 minutes on 400.  It will get super brown with a nice crust on the outside.


Meanwhile, I started my onions, garlic, celery and carrots on the stovetop.  I sautéed these in a bit of olive oil just until the veggies were starting to get soft, about 5 minutes.

Oh yeah, I also seasoned with salt and pepper at this point.

I stirred these occasionally, but I didn’t stand at the pot the whole time.  To be honest, I probably was on Facebook or pinning things I will never make on Pinterest.


Once the veggies were soft, I added the cooked sausage, broth and sage.  You will notice that I didn’t even chop the sage.  I threw them in whole.  I will fish them out later.  Probably.

You can also add a bay leaf at this point.  I don’t like bay and sage together, but I’m not the boss of you.  Do whatcha like.

I simmered this soup for about 20 minutes.  I didn’t boil it….I simmered it, which is much more gentle then a boil.  If you boil it, you will lose all of your liquid!


While the soup simmered, I brought a pot of water to a boil.  I cooked my gnocchi in a separate pot of water.  I also don’t add it to the soup pot, ever.  I add the gnocchi to the soup once it has already been poured into bowls to be served.  Weird?  Maybe.  But I think that gnocchi gets soggy and mushy if it is kept in the soup.  Especially if the soup is kept in the fridge for leftovers.

So essentially, I boil it separately, and I keep it in a separate bowl.  You’ll see.


Here is my cooked gnocchi.  I followed the package directions, which is cooking it in boiling water till it floats to the top….about 5 minutes.


Once my soup has simmered and my gnocchi has cooked, I ladle my soup into bowls, and then I add my cooked gnocchi.  Then, I get delicious soup and non-mushy gnocchi.


This soup is so yummy!  It is hot and comforting and flavored with onions, carrots, sausage, etc.  The best part is the pumpkin gnocchi.  The flavors work so well in this soup!  I normally don’t like broth based soups, but this one was pretty rad.

As for the cornbread…..

Cornbread can be a tricky thing.  Sometimes it is too dry and crumbly, and sometimes it is too cakey.  We recently ate at Famous Dave’s which is a BBQ restaurant.  I like to go there to taste test BBQ sauces, but this time I fell in love with their cornbread.  It is the perfect cornbread.  It wasn’t dry, and it wasn’t like a cupcake.

I have seen pins on Pinterest and recipes before that suggest using a yellow cake mix mixed with a cornbread mix to achieve the perfect cornbread.  I always thought this sounded too heavy on the cake mix.  I decided to try it, but I cut the cake mix in half.  I came pretty damn close to Famous Dave.  Let me show you.

I used half of a yellow cake mix, a package of cornbread mix, 2 eggs, oil, water and canned corn.

Don’t worry, I didn’t waste the other half of the cake mix.  I saved the other half.  Someday I will make half a cake;)


In a large bowl, I put in both my dry mixes, 2 eggs, oil and water.  I followed the package directions for both, I just cut the cake mix directions in half.  The cake called for 3 eggs for the whole mix.  I still used 2 instead of trying to figure out how to get half an egg.


I blended this all together with a hand mixer, just like a cake.


Then, I stirred in the corn.


I baked this in a greased 9x13 baking pan.  I baked it as if it was a cake…..meaning I used the cake box to figure out timing.




So I guess all of those pinners were right.  The secret to a great cornbread is yellow cake mix.  This cornbread was moist and not overly cakey.  It was perfect!  And the sweet white corn was the best part of it.  I drizzled honey over mine and then had to lick the plate.  It was that good.

I hope you try both of these recipes.  I don’t mind if you wait till it cools down a little bit.

See you later on this week!

Pumpkin Gnocchi and Sausage Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion (one small onion), diced

¾ cup carrot, diced

¾ cup celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into half moons

4 cups chicken broth

8 leaves sage

1 lb. pumpkin gnocchi, cooked and drained

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place smoked sausage on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until sausage is browned. 

In a large soup pot, sauté onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until veggies are softened. 

Add cooked sausage to soup pot.  Stir in broth and sage.  Simmer for 20 minutes, over low heat.  Pull out sage and discard when soup is done.

Add gnocchi to soup when serving.

Serves 6


Perfect Cornbread

16 ounce package of cornbread mix (Marie Callender’s)

8 ounces yellow cake mix (half of the package)

2 eggs

2 cups water

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

15.25 ounce white corn, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large mixing bowl, blend cake mix, cornbread mix, oil, water and eggs with a hand mixer.  Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Stir in drained corn. 

Pour batter into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Queso Fundido for Football!

Hi guys!  Happy Friday!

Are you all ready for football season?  Chris sure is.  He looks forward to football season the way a kid looks forward to Christmas.  And most years, he is super let down at the end.  But nevertheless…..he gets way too excited every year.  He loves his Forty-niners.  And Wolfpack.  And I try and make him love his Galena Grizzly Renegades because Addy cheers for them.

You know what I love about football?  I bet you can guess this even if you haven’t read my previous blogs about football.  Yep, I love snacks.  I love football food the same way Chris loves football.  Wings, dips, burgers…..I love it all.  Today I am going to show you a dip that I have made many times, for many games. 

I call this dip Queso Fundido.  I call it that because I have had queso dips in restaurants called “Queso Fundido” and I like the name.  I have no idea what “fundido” means.  I googled it and the best I can figure out is it means “molten”.  I could, of course, be totally wrong.

No matter what I call it, it is a hot dip full of creamy cheese, green chilis, corn and chorizo.  It is so crazy good that I don’t even notice that I am being forced to watch football.  We dip chips in it and spread it on tortillas.  It is the best when it is hot, but it ain’t too shabby at room temperature.

Let me show you how I make it.  It is super easy.


Oh, did I mention that this dip is in no way, shape or form good for you?  Just accept that and move on.

I used pork chorizo, Velveeta brand Queso Blanco shredded cheese, cream cheese, mayo, shallot, fire roasted green chilis, green onion, garlic and Chipotle White corn.


I started by chopping my shallots into pretty tiny pieces.  Not quite a mince, but more of a dice.


I threw the shallot into a skillet with my chorizo, and some garlic.  As always, don’t read the package on the chorizo.  You don’t want to know.

And yes, I see what that picture looks like.  Not too flattering for the chorizo.


I browned the chorizo with the shallots for about 8 minutes, or until the chorizo was browned and crumbly.

Chorizo is a Mexican spiced sausage.  It is delicious and just a tad spicy.  You can usually find it with you stores ethnic refrigerated stuff.

Once the chorizo and onion were cooked, I took the pan off the stove to cool.


Meanwhile, I put my cream cheese and mayo in a mixing bowl.  I had let my cream cheese come to room temperature first.


With a hand mixer, I blended the mayo and cream cheese until it was super smooth and creamy.


Then, I stirred in my fire roasted green chilis (drained), green onions and chipotle corn (drained). 


I also stirred in my shredded cheese.


And finally, the chorizo which has cooled a bit.

This is done!  It just needs to be baked now.


I put my queso in an oven proof bowl and baked this at 425 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until it is super brown and bubbly.  It will be “molten”.


See?  Brown and bubbly.  And so good.  I dive in face first, but you might want to wait till this cools off.


This dip is so creamy and cheesy that you will want to eat all of it.  Remember, you have 4 quarters!


This dip actually ends up pretty mild.  You can tell because Addy is eating it, happily.  If you want to spice it up, feel free to add jalapenos or hot sauce!

I hope the ‘Niners have a good year……I don’t want to hear about what they could be doing differently;)


Queso Fundido

5 ounces pork chorizo

2 shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup green onions, diced

7 ounces diced fire roasted green chilis, drained

1 cup chipotle white corn, drained

2 cups Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Sauté chorizo with shallots and garlic, over medium high heat, for about 8 minutes or until chorizo in browned and crumbly.  Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, blend mayo and cream cheese with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Stir in green onions, green chilis and corn.  Stir in cheese and chorizo/shallot mixture. 

Spoon mixture into an oven proof dish.  Bake at 425 for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until top is brown and bubbly.

Serve with tortilla chips and tortillas.