Archive | December, 2013

Leftover Creamy Ham Pasta

29 Dec

I decided to mix-up what we did with our ham leftovers this Christmas. It’s usually ham sandwiches on the 26th, and on the 27th my Mom makes split pea soup.

I wanted to try something new with all of our leftovers this year. Ever since I made the Acorn Squash Pasta, I have been on a creamy pasta kick. I decided to try it out for a quick dinner this week, and it turned out pretty well!

I needed a quick dinner because I was in the middle of packing – Nick and I are meeting up with friends in Florida for the week (I’m actually writing this from the plane). We’re both very excited, albeit nervous for our livers. The trip is going well so far – as I was packing, I was sure to pack only liquids that were 3 oz or less in my carry-on… I had to take a picture after I made it though security, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this earlier!


Anyway, on with last night’s dinner. I didn’t measure most of it, just used what I had left over.

What I used:
1 box spaghetti
~2 cups ham, diced
~2 cups green beans, cut into 2” pieces (uncooked)
~½ cup broccoli heads (tree tops? I don’t know the formal word)
~½ cup baby carrots, cut into ½” coins
1 cup roasted red pepper, cut to about 2” long strips

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp chopped white onion
2 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
⅓ cup greek yogurt (I used plain Fage I think)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup parmesean cheese
1 tbsp pesto (I just use it because the bottle was almost empty, you can just replace with tbsp basil
pepper, to taste


I was pretty crunched for time so I made this as quickly as I could. I set a big pot of water on high heat for the pasta, and as I waited for that to boil I cut up the ham, beans, pepper, broccoli, carrots into their aforementioned sizes.

When the water started to boil, I threw the pasta in. The cook time for “al dente” was about 9 minutes. When the pasta had about three minutes left, I added the ham/pepper/etc mixture. In the meantime, I made the sauce. Multitasking is absolutely not my strong suit, so I was proud that I could handle it.


I grabbed a small saucepan and put the olive oil on medium high heat. After about a minute I added the garlic and onion. When the onion started to become translucent, I added the flour and mixed in. After about 30 seconds, I started slowly pouring in the chicken broth and stirred to incorporate.

Once it was mixed well, I added the yogurt and milk, stirred, and turned to low heat. After a minute or so I added the parmeasean cheese and pesto (again, just because I had it leftover).


When the pasta mixture was done I drained the water, put it back into the pot, added the sauce and served after it sat for a minute. There was no need for salt as the ham was already pretty salty, but people used black pepper to taste (my mom really doesn’t like it so I try not to cook with it).

While it definitely wasn’t as creamy as the acorn squash, it was pretty delicious and didn’t make me feel gross (which is how I usually feel after most creamy sauces). And, we still have enough ham left over so Mom can make her soup!



My First (Carrot Walnut Pineapple Raisin) Cake

27 Dec

I hope everyone had a great holiday! I know I did… I’m still full from the meals and parties. I’m going on vacation at the end of the week… definitely not ready for a bathing suit!

So on Christmas Eve Eve, I learned that my brother’s girlfriend’s birthday was Christmas Day. Obviously this is the first we (at least I) had heard about this, and we had not planned anything. My parents had settled on making a boxed cake, but I stupidly said “oh no, I can make one from scratch. It’ll be no problem”

My mistake.

So I, on Christmas Eve, set out to make my first ever cake from scratch. I wanted to do something festive that was also somewhat birthday-ish. It only took me about an hour between the planning and preparing, and another hour to cook. AND, I am happy to announce I only had one breakdown during the whole process!

Nick’s Mom got me a Ninja for Christmas. IT IS AWESOME. I wanted to chop carrots to use in this recipe… it was so easy and turned out great. I have a feeling I’ll be using it all the time at home!

19-IMG_0414-001 – how great is that?!


What I Used:
For the Cake:
1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar
⅔ cup veggie oil
⅔ cup applesauce
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups and (a separate tbsp) flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 lb carrots, grated
1 cup chopped pineapple

For the Frosting:
¾ lb low fat cream cheese
½ lb unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups loosely packed confectioner’s sugar
rind from one orange
leftover juice from pineapple
extra pineapple, ~½ cup

How I Did it:
Important planning tips:
1) I made the cake a day before and put it in the fridge. I made the frosting with room temperature ingredients day-of and refrigerated it for about 20 minutes before putting it on the cake
2) I used 9” round cake pans, but 8” ones can be used – it might add a bit of cooking time.

The Cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 with a rack in the middle shelf.

I lined my pans with wax paper. For extra measure I also sprayed with pam – I hate sticky cakes!

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, applesauce, vanilla and eggs together until mixed.


In a medium bowl, I mixed the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. I added those dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the larger bowl.

In the now-empty medium bowl, I mixed the raisins and walnuts with about a tablespoon of flour. I then stirred in the carrots and pineapple until it was evenly mixed.


I added the fruit/veggie mixture in with the rest of the ingredients in the big bowl.

I split the batter between the two pans and baked for about 50 minutes, which was when it passed the toothpick test.


After the cake sat for a few minutes, I let it cool off on a wire rack. I covered them with saran wrap and put them in the fridge overnight.


The Frosting:
I mixed the cream cheese, butter, 1 tbsp of pineapple juice, the rind of one orange, and vanilla with an electric mixer. I slowly added the sugar in an mixed to keep it smooth.

It was pretty thick frosting, but I didn’t want to whip it because I knew I had to layer with it. I put it in the fridge for a bit to chill.

I put one layer flat side up on a plate, and put a layer of frosting on it. I put the second layer on top, flat side down, and frosted the rest of the surfaces. I put the chunks of sliced pineapple on top, along with birthday candles!


Crockpot Sweet and Spicy Chicken

18 Dec

It’s been snowing an awful lot around here lately. What’s better on a snowy day than a crockpot meal? It’s an easy hot meal that you get to smell all day long. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me! This weekend I made sweet and spicy chicken for my parents and myself, and they loved it.


What I Used:
About 2 lbs of chicken breast (it was three big pieces)
½ tsp pepper
½ cup honey
¾ cup chicken broth, split into ¼ and ½ cups
½ cup tomato sauce
1 ½ tsps of sriracha
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp sesame seeds
scallions, chopped

What I Did:
I started by putting the chicken in the crockpot on low and covered with pepper (no salt, there’s plenty in the other ingredients). I mixed the honey, ¼ cup chicken broth, tomato sauce, sriracha, soy sauce, and red wine vinegar together and poured over the chicken.


I let that sit for about three hours before I shredded the chicken. When I went to shred it, it fell apart easily which was a good sign that it was done.

I mixed the cornstarch with the other ½ cup of chicken broth (which had been in the fridge so it was cold). When it was fully blended, I added it into the crockpot, and cooked the mixture on high for about a half hour.

When the time was up, I threw sesame seeds and scallions on top. I served with rice noodles and stir fried veggies.


Honey Mustard Brussel Sprouts

16 Dec

First official post of something I made at home!

I have been on a huge brussel sprout kick for a while now. My parents claimed to not like them, which sounded like a challenge to me. I personally like them roasted with some spices, but I wanted to make something extra delicious to trick them into loving them… and after they ate them, my parents asked me to make them for Christmas dinner!

Sorry about the rough pictures – I only had my cellphone at hand.


What I used
1 bag frozen(!) brussel sprouts, thawed
~⅓ cup honey
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons craisins
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
olive oil
minced garlic
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

I started by cutting the brussel sprouts in half and tossing with a little bit of olive oil. I spread them out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and topped with about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic and a dash of salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. I put these in the oven on broil for about 10 minutes, stirring every once in a while.


When they had just started to brown, I mixed in the almonds and craisins and put it back in the oven for a few minutes, until that side was brown and roasted.


While everything was in the oven, I mixed the honey and mustard together. When I pulled the sprouts out, I put them in a bowl with sauce. I served them hot that night but ate them cold the next morning (don’t judge me).


Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta

12 Dec

Creamy acorn squash pasta was one of the last dinners that I made in Graceland. I’m usually not a big fan of creamy pastas, but with these cold winter nights I had just been craving something heavier.

We had some roasted squash leftover from Thanksgiving, but you could just as easily roast an acorn squash, let it cool, and then blend it. The best part is that it was really shockingly easy to make… it just tends to get the dishes little messy!

We drank it with Black Moon IPA, which is a Rock Art/Hunger Mountain Collaboration. I’m usually not a fan of any dark beer but this one hit the spot.


What I used:
1 lb pasta (I used spirals), any time would work.
~4 cups of blended acorn squash
1 cup low-fat plain greek yogurt
~2 cups of shredded (cooked) turkey
1 cup of sliced roasted red peppers
1 tsp maple syrup
olive oil

I brought a large pot of salted water to boil, and cooked the pasta until it was just al dente (that’s how I like my pasta), and then returned it to the pot with a little bit of olive oil.

In the meantime I blended the acorn squash in the food processor. If you’re having trouble getting it to blend and become smooth, adding a couple tablespoons of the yogurt will help. When that was all set, I mixed the squash in a bowl with the yogurt and the maple syrup (just for a touch of hidden sweetness).


While I was doing that, Nick heated up the turkey in a skillet with the roasted red peppers on medium-high. He drizzled some olive oil on top to help the meat retain some of it’s moisture.

IMG_0219 IMG_0216

Once the pasta was done and back into the pot, we added the sauce, turkey and peppers in and stirred until the sauce stuck to the noodles.

We topped with salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and ate it as soon as it was cool enough.


Butternut Squash Risotto

6 Dec

So I am sad to say but this is my last post from Graceland (for the next little bit, at least). I’m moving to CT for my next affiliation, so until late spring my posts will be coming from the kitchen I grew up in.

While the thought of leaving the boys, the apartment, and the pond are hard, I still haven’t wrapped my head around the fact that I will be moving out of Boston. I have lived here for just over five years and have experienced some wild stuff here. I tried counting the other day, and I think I have lived in five different apartments/dorms with twenty one different roommates. I have forged the weirdest friendships that I know will last until we’re old and in west facing rocking chairs.

Having Thanksgiving here was a nice send-off, though. It was a great chance to have the whole family together, enjoying each other’s company.

Enough with the sappy junk, I’m going to make myself lose it. I made butternut squash risotto for Thanksgiving, here’s the recipe:

3 cups diced/peeled butternut squash (about 1 small one)
1 large onion, diced
1 apple, diced
4 tbsp butter
1 oz goat cheese
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups arborio rice
3 tbsp chives, chopped finely
1 cup dry white wine
parmesan cheese, to taste
salt to taste
Optional: a couple slices of bacon

I started by heating the broth up in a saucepan. I brought it to a boil and then quickly reduced to simmer.


In a big pot (this is where the actual cooking will be happening), I melted the butter over medium heat. I then added the onions, squash, and apple and cooked until the onion became translucent.


I then added the rice into the big pot. After I stirred it, I added the wine. I stirred that until the liquid was absorbed by the rice. After that, I added some broth into the mixture – enough to cover the rice – and cooked until the rice absorbed it. I continued adding the broth bit by bit until it all became absorbed.


I did this until the rice was done cooking. I didn’t end up using all of the broth, but I probably used about 5 ½ cups of it. I then added about ¼ cup parmesan cheese, the goat cheese, chives, and bacon.


I thought the texture was great – it was creamy without being too heavy, and the bacon added an awesome crunch.

Cranberry Sauce

4 Dec

Sorry if some of this doesn’t make sense, I’ve had enough sake/wine to maim a small horse.

I wanted to try to make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year. My rationale was two fold: 1) I have never really liked cranberries, but if I was the one cooking with them I could make them to my liking, and more importantly, 2) I would get to cook with alcohol.

I love amaretto but I don’t really ever have an excuse to buy it, but when Nick’s Aunt moved out of her old house she gifted us (Nick raided) some of her liquor collection. I figured that this would be the perfect excuse to break it out.

I made it a couple days before Thanksgiving. When it was first made it was pretty tart, but it had the opportunity to mellow out before we ate it. We had a lot of people coming over so I made a pretty big batch, but this could easily be cut in half for a smaller yield.

What I used:
2 – 12 oz bags of cranberries
12 oz orange juice
1 ⅓ cup brown sugar
⅔ white sugar (maybe a little more, I probably went up to 1 full cup)
½ cup amaretto


What I did:
I put all of the ingredients into a medium size saucepan, turned it onto medium-high, covered for about 30 minutes, stirring every couple minutes. After everything cooked for a while, I added a couple more teaspoons of sugar because it was still very tart. I think ⅔ would have been enough, but I really don’t like the tartness of cranberries.


I let it cool off and put it in a tupperware. On turkey day, I pulled it out and brought it to room temperature. I grated an orange rind on top to make it look pretty, and it added a great little kick of flavor!