Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sausage and Lentil Soup

  • Hearty soups are an absolute favorite for me in the wintertime. Throw in some crusty French bread and a warm fireplace to sit near and I am a very happy gal. This robust one-pot dinner packs in lentils, sausage and plenty of vegetables, including mushrooms, spinach, onions and garlic. I love beef broth and red wine in soup; they give the dish an amazing richness that compliments the meat wonderfully and allow the food to be oh-so-comforting. Adapted from a recipe from Whole Foods, this recipe is nutritious, filling, and delicious.  A loaf of crusty bread is the only accompaniment you need for a complete meal.

  • Yield: about 6 servings

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 pound sweet and/or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms (such as white, cremini, shiitake, portobello and oyster), chopped
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) dried French or brown lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 pound baby spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add sausage and cook, breaking into small chunks, until it begins to brown. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Add lentils, beef broth, mushroom or chicken broth, tomatoes and their juice, wine and pepper flakes; cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Add spinach and salt and pepper, stir well and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more; stir in thyme.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and top with Parmesan. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Golden Sweet Potato Brownies

I'm not one to cut the chocolate out of a brownie, but this recipe seriously doesn't need it.  Similar to my Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, this "brownie" is super moist, wonderfully sweet, with just the right amount of spice.  However, this recipe has more of a moist brownie-like texture than my cake recipe, and the cake part - or should I say "brownie" part - is a little sweeter as well.  These are not crumbly like brownies, though...I guess you could say they are stuck in the middle between a brownie and a cake.  The brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter make this recipe super sinfully rich. And the glaze on top is just delicious.  I don't recommend adding a frosting because that would make the dish a little too sweet.  I do, however, recommend adding the golden raisins (regular are fine too, but the golden complements the color better), and they are incredible when soaked in boiling orange juice for an hour. The shredded sweet potato (or yam) that you use melts away into the cake, similar to what a carrot cake would be like. I also love the sunny-orange-golden color this cake makes; it's unlike anything I've ever eaten before.  Do NOT use canned yams for this recipe because I have no idea how that would turn out!  I would think that it would make it too moist/wet.  Use fresh, shredded yams or sweet potatoes for the best results because they will be amazing!

Yield: 1 9x13 inch baking dish (about 20 servings)

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups peeled and finely shredded sweet potato (or yam)
1 cup golden raisins (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in the shredded yam and (optional) raisins. Spread the batter evenly in the greased baking dish.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center, comes out clean. Mix together the confectioners' sugar, butter and milk until smooth. Spread over the brownies while they are still warm. They will absorb some of the glaze. Serve hot or warm.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Salisbury Steak

I always see Salisbury Steak on the menu at the Cheesecake Factory under the "Specials" list, but I never really knew what it was.  Sooo......the other day, after going to the Cheesecake Factory and getting their incredible White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake (so sinful), I decided to look up a Salisbury Steak recipe.  I learned it was basically a very beefy/steaky-flavored hamburger patty with gravy.  Sounds pretty darn good to me!  So I decided to create my own recipe.  The result was filled with delicious mushroom, onion, beefy, yummyness! The hamburger patty itself is super flavorful, and using some of the gravy ingredients - like the soup mixes - in the actual patty ingredients make the patty incredibly tender as well.  This was the  first time I had ever tasted Salisbury Steak, and it's the only recipe I will use because it was so tasty.  I highly recommend serving this over creamy, garlic mashed potatoes, and with a side of peas, and/or corn.  The next time I make it, I'm going to attempt making it into a Shepherd's Pie!  My dad came up with that [surprisingly] great idea.  I also want to make the patties into meatballs and try having it as a pasta, with the gravy as the pasta sauce.  Yum yum yum!  Whatever variations you want to make out of this recipe, I promise it will taste fantabulous.  Don't even bother ordering the Cheesecake Factory one...this one is definitely better. :)

1 10-oz can French Onion Soup
1 10-oz can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 packet Dry Onion Soup
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder


  1. In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup French onion soup, 1/4 cup Cream of Mushroom soup, and a dash of the dry onion soup with ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, and black pepper. Shape into 6 patties.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown both sides of patties (do not cook them completely through in the center.  The insides should not be cooked completely, only the outside). Pour off excess fat.  Gently spread the onions and mushrooms on top of the patties and throughout the skillet.
  3. In a small bowl, blend flour and both remaining soups until smooth. Mix in remaining dry onion soup, ketchup, water, Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. Pour over meat, onions, and mushrooms in the skillet. Cover, and cook for 20 minutes, gently stirring occasionally.  Serve hot.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nutella Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

I could go on all day with these mouth-watering pictures.......
                                            ....but I won't.  Because I know you guys just wanna get to the recipe already.  Let me start off by saying that these are the most magnificent muffins I have ever tasted in my entire life.  (My second favorite is tied with my lemon raspberry muffins and my chocolate chip muffins.) They are like CRACK.  You will be wanting one of these EVERY SINGLE DAY once you bake them.  In fact, my family has already decided to have these for Christmas day breakfast!  Yep yep --- they are that good.

Let me tell you a little bit about them.  The muffin cake itself has the perfect amount of spice; wonderfully cinnamon-y, with just the right amount of nutmeg. It is also super moist and tender, everything you would dream the perfect muffin should be.  You know what a snickerdoodle tastes like right? (I'm working on the perfect snickerdoodle recipe by the way)  Hopefully you do.  Well...these muffins tastes just like snickerdoodles...just in muffin form of course (which makes them way cooler).   Plus they are fluffy.  Which makes them way better than snickerdoodle cookies(:  Anyways, on the outside of these heavenly clouds of pure deliciousness is a decadent cinnamon-sugar-butter topping which causes every single bite to melt in your mouth. may sound like I'm exaggerating but I swear I'm really not.  And I haven't even gotten to the absolute BEST part of these muffins: the NUTELLA center.  Mmmmm...once you take the first bite into these treats, you'll discover a chocolate surprise in the middle, filled with warm, fudgeysinful nutella.  The chocolate in the nutella pairs amazingly with the vanilla-cinnamon-y-buttery muffin.  They make fantastic left overs too, but are best eaten warm from the oven (of course, these only lasted up until the day after I made them, but they were still awesome). 

Ohmygosh just make these muffins.  I promise they will be a new favorite of yours!

Nutella Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins
yield:  8 medium-large muffins
  • 1/3 cup (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 heaping teaspoons Nutella (about 4 tablespoons)
Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4.5 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/4 cup + 1.5 teaspoons)
Preheat oven to 425F.  Spray muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl of an electric or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together on medium speed.  Mix in the egg, vanilla extract, and milk. Gently stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  DO NOT overmix – stir until *just* combined.
Spoon 1 heaping Tablespoon of batter into muffin cavity.  Layer with 1 heaping tsp Nutella in the center and spoon another heaping Tablespoon of batter on top.  If the muffin tins are completely full, that is ok.  They will not overflow.  Repeat layering batter + Nutella into each muffin tin.  I got exactly 8 muffins.
Bake at 425F for 5 minutes.  Reduce oven to 350F and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes until batter is set. Allow muffins to cool for about 5 minutes.
While the muffins are cooling, make the cinnamon-sugar topping.  Melt the butter for about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Stir and stick back in microwave if not fully melted.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.  Dip the top of each muffin generously into the melted butter and dip into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Swirl them around in the cinnamon-sugar a bit to make sure you get a thick coating. Set upright on cooling rack.  Enjoy!

***photo-creds to Sally's Baking Addiction, and this recipe was adapted/altered from her as well.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup

This is the recipe that got my mom into liking chicken sausage.  I had tried it once at Trader Joes and loved it, but my mom said she only like sausage with pork or turkey.  "Chicken is definitely not sausage," she would say.  However, she caved and said yes when I asked if I could make this recipe, and she definitely did not regret it once she tasted this wonderful soup.  It's very hearty, filled with lots of veggies, cheesy tortellini, and flavorful chicken sausage (which is also healthier than pork).  The broth is very flavorful as well, with tomato juice, white wine, and chicken broth.  I recommend (just like any other one of my soup recipes, really) enjoying this soup with some [garlic bread] on the side for dipping. Yum(: If you like spicy things, feel free to add as much red pepper flakes as you want.  This is is such a great recipe for a chilly night, not to mention its easy and economical.

1 8-ounce package sweet Italian chicken sausage links (mine had roasted peppers in them)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced carrots 
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
4 ounces canned, petite diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 14-oz cans low sodium chicken broth
9 ounces refrigerated cheese tortellini (I used half an 18-ounce bag)
3/4 cup fresh, chopped red tomatoes
8 ounces spinach leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
Garnish: Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat Dutch oven with 1/2 tsp of oil to coat and saute chicken sausage until browned and just cooked through. Remove from pan, let cool slightly, slice into small slices (about 1/2 inch thick) and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining oil in pan, add carrots and saute for about 4 minutes.  Add onions and mushrooms, and saute about 8 minutes more, or until the carrots are tender.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, stir in wine, broth, and canned tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add tortellini. Cook for another 5 minutes and then stir in spinach and tomato. Cook until the spinach wilts, 2 minutes.
  3. Return sauteed sausage pieces to the soup, cook for an additional 5 minutes, add the butter, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste and serve when butter is melted. Garnish with Parmesan if desired.