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Love me some Slow Cookin’ Potato Leek Soup (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)

Love me some Slow Cookin' Potato Leek Soup

It's not a load of crock! Your slow cooker loves you. And you'll love this soup!

Last night I had to work late and knew this ahead of time so I figured it was a good night to use our slow cooker. I happen to love using our crock pot and it makes me happy to see that so many other people are now loving theirs again by welcoming it back onto their kitchen counters with open arms. But if I need to try and validate to you why I love it so… well, it reads like a cheap romance novel.

Reason for crock pot love number 1: It cooks for me even when I don’t treat it well. When it’s not ever so sweetly being used by me, I am usually shoving it into the dark recesses of my kitchen cupboards.

Reason number 2: It’s a cheap date. I have never given it more than $5-$10 at any one time and it puts out enough for the two of us… for sometimes several days. Tell me who you can take out for that cheap and treat with such disrespect and force to do almost all the work in the relationship and you reap all the benefits? Yeah, my guess it’s the other way around.

I’ll stop now, because there are probably children in the room…

So now onto soup. 🙂

I had a couple of odd veggies still hanging around and some bacon that I was hoping to get used up this week. So with my meat and two veg (sorry, I can’t help myself), me and my crock pot made us some homemade potato leek soup. The soup turned out super (or rather, souper) yummy even though I decided to not add any cream, butter or milk to it. I had it in mind to keep it a little healthier while still being a comforting winter meal, so I made it a broth based soup. Also, did you notice that it is gluten and dairy free? You’re welcome. Just make sure that the broth base you use is such and everything will be okay. You could even make it vegetarian by leaving out the swine and using vegetable broth.

And speaking of broth… Likely if you don’t have any homemade stock lying around, you probably have to go to the cartons or cans, right? Well I have been using this super convenient and very affordable alternative to canned broth called Better than Bouillon. It is organic and free of MSG and according to my research on surefoodsliving.com is gluten free (but not dairy, corn or soy free). A jar costs under $5 and makes up to 38 8-ounce servings with it… that’s roughly 19 cans of broth which at about $1/can can get rather pricey. All you have to do is scoop out a teaspoon and add it to 8 oz. water. Yep, it’s that easy! This is a picture of what the label on the jar looks like so you you can find it for yourself.

Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base

I love using this stuff as an alternative to canned broth when I don't have homemade stock around

Below are the ingredients I prepped and put into the slow cooker and then I did something unimaginable… I plugged it in and turned the notch to ‘low’ and left it to occupy itself for about 7 hours. Yep that was it!

You really don’t need to measure any of this out, just start dumping things in the crock pot. It doesn’t mind… it can take a beating.

Servings: at least 4, but i’ll let you know in a few days when we’re done eating it

Ingredients

6 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
6 strips of bacon, cooked, drained on paper towels and then chopped up
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (the white and a bit of the light green only)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, needles removed from stem and chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken broth) – check for gluten and dairy free on label
2-3 bay leaves
Fresh cracked pepper
Kosher salt

Steps

Prep all ingredients, throw into crockpot, stir. Put lid on. PLUG CROCK POT IN and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours. Enjoy!

Garnish with sliced green onion, fresh cracked pepper and if you’re like me some red chili flakes.

And for all of you bachelors out there, be sure to refrigerate it and or freeze once it’s cooled down. Yeah.. there is a back story there. 😉

I look forward to hearing your comments on how it turned out for you!

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Meatless Mondays! Roasted Vegetable Rice Bowl with Toasted Walnuts, Basil and Blueberry Balsamic Sauce (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)

Roasted Veggie Rice Bowl with Blueberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Roasted veggies and sweet tangy blueberry balsamic sauce with toasted walnuts and chiffonade basil

I’m not sure what it is with me and cooking gluten and/or dairy free lately, because it isn’t something that is compulsory for my health, however, I do feel pretty good when I eat this way. The last couple gluten and/or dairy free recipes that I posted have occurred by chance, and not at all through planning. Last night was one of those nights that I didn’t think I would create anything worth a damn in the kitchen, but I surprised myself. Yet again! We are nearing the end of our rations at this point and really need to get to the grocery store, but I am playing that game of trying to stretch as many meals out of what we have in the fridge. It’s quite a fun game, and something I have become pretty good at I must say. I think living on a budget has made me a better cook; a more resourceful steward, and definitely provided a stage for improvising ingredients when I need to use something up or don’t have something I want to use.

We have lots of half used veggies in our fridge right now (and of course fresh basil) that need to be used up in the next few nights. My hubby and I have been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our repertoire, so last night seemed like a good night to do that especially since it was Monday… ahem… Meatless Monday 😉

As I started cooking last night the only thing I knew was that I needed to use up some broccoli, a quarter head of cauliflower, a handful of some mini bell peppers, as well as some fresh basil. Recently I was informed through my Pinterest (and namely through the blog http://www.amateurgourmet.com on behalf of the Barefoot Contessa‘s book Back to Basics) that I have been cooking broccoli wrong my ENTIRE life! How could I be so ill informed?! I’ve always pretty much just steamed or sauteed broccoli and that was the extent of it… until now. Have you ever roasted your broccoli? Well, I gotta tell you… it is AMAZING! It caramelizes it and gives it a nutty flavor that beats all other water logged broccoli you’ve ever had to date! Armed with my new found broccoli cooking method, I hit the kitchen with my remaining veggies and got to roastin’.

After I started the rice and got the veggies into the oven to roast, I figured I would just pour some balsamic vinegar over the dish and call it good… but then inspiration came over me. (cue angels singing) I recalled that I had about a half cup of blueberries in a bowl in the fridge that I had been telling myself to make a smoothie with since I made pancakes over the weekend. Aha! Blueberry balsamic reduction sauce it is! Balsamic is a great vinegar to use with fruit and it reduces beautifully to create a wonderful fruity, slightly tangy sauce. Sidenote: In addition to using balsamic in this sauce, I often times put a tsp. or so into the fruit mixture when I do fruit crisps and it turns them from great to AWESOME – it’s something in the caramelization of the fruit.

The dish ended up with a lovely mixture of sweet, tangy, nutty, roasted flavors. The sauce along with the toasted walnuts for a nutty crunch and the fresh chiffonade of basil (I love to say that word, chiffonade, but let’s be real here.. it’s just shredded). You will hardly notice that you are missing meat! But… if relinquishing your rights to meat is a big deal for you, then by all means you better cook up some chicken or salmon with this meal…I would hate to see you famish. 🙂

Servings: I made enough for 2 and some leftovers for lunch

This is one of those meals that you can estimate measurements of the veggies.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cup water
pinch kosher salt
Small crown of broccoli, cut into florets and stem pieces
1/4 crown of cauliflower, cut into florets and stem pieces
1/2 bell pepper, cut in strips
3 garlic cloves, smash it open and mince it
small onion, roughly chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling (couple Tbs)
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Garnish
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
basil chiffonade
feta cheese (optional, but not dairy free)

Blueberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. minced onion
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 Tb. honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp. water
pinch of kosher salt

Cooking Steps 

1. Prep all veggies as instructed above. Preheat oven to 425°

2. Put water and rice in pan. Place on stove on High heat. Once water starts boiling, cover and reduce heat to low and cook about 20 minutes or until rice has absorbed all liquid.

3. Place broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, onion, garlic in a foil lined roasting pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in preheated oven and roast for about 20 minutes or until veggies have good roasted color.

4. While veggies and rice are cooking, start the Blueberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce. In a saucepan over medium heat add olive oil. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes until tender. Add blueberries and cook for 2 minutes, until skins are bursting. Add honey and balsamic vinegar and stir. Heat until mixture comes to a boil. In a glass cup, mix the cornstarch with the water and then add this into the pan. Reduce heat and cook uncovered so liquid reduces. Keep this on low while you prepare rest of meal.

5. Heat a pan on medium heat (I find a cast iron pan works well for this). Add roughly chopped walnuts to pan and toss for a few minutes until they are nice and toasted. (Make sure you keep an eye on this pan as they go from barely toasted to blackened in seconds… trust me, I know.) Take toasted nuts out of pan and set aside to cool

6. Chiffonade your basil (check out link for how to chiffonade). Once the veggies and rice are finished cooking plate on a dish and drizzle with the blueberry balsamic sauce. Garnish with chiffonade basil, toasted walnuts and (optional) feta cheese.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think of this dish!

 

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Pineapple Basil Fish Cakes and Avocado Cilantro Lime Slaw (Gluten Free and Dairy Free)

Yummy fish cakes. Cool tangy avocado cilantro lime slaw. Yay, no mayo!

As one who grew up not eating fish very often, I sure love it as an adult. Not only is it yummy and versatile, it also cooks in record speed and is one of the most healthful animal protein sources that I know of. I love playing with sweet fruit flavors in my recipes and complimenting them with fresh herbs and spices. My favorite herb has got to be basil. Lots and lots of fresh FRESH basil. If it isn’t large quantities of garlic and onions, I am probably using fresh basil more than any other ingredient. I just wish I could keep my plant alive so I didn’t have to keep buying it at the store. I know, I know…Woah is me.

Just as I was finishing up my last post (Low Calorie Shrimp Jambalaya with Egg Noodles), I was trying to think of what I wanted to make for dinner next. I was feeling void of inspiration for a short moment. A cloud of anxiousness covered me…. suddenly I feared that my blog would only EVER (E-V-E-R!!!) have four posts (at least it’s more than the first blog I started). Ok, ok I am slightly embellishing the feeling I had. One thing that I love about cooking and food is that I am pretty much ALWAYS thinking about it, so it doesn’t take me long to come up with my next recipe (thus why I keep a notepad on my phone to keep notes of dishes I want to make).  There is actually a running joke in my family that whenever we eat together, I have always said, “You know what we should have had?” It’s not that whatever we are ever eating isn’t worthy of praise and interest at that very moment, I am just always forward thinking and onto the next… meal.

And… back to the topic at hand. Fish.

Fish cakes are easy, yummy and a great way to mix up the normal fillet routine. You can use fresh or previously frozen fish in nearly any variety… salmon, cod, halibut, tilapia and lots more. Plus the ingredients you put into them can be changed up to suit your fancy, but you’ll definitely want to try my recipe to get you on your way to fish cake fanaticism. The slight sweetness of the pineapple coupled with the herby basil notes and then topped with the creamy lime cilantro dressing and crunch from the slaw make for a wonderful taste combination. The slaw also absolutely does not have mayo in it, because like you will soon come to know… I LOATHE MAYONNAISE! I find it vile and so gross, so I find ways around using it, or just don’t use it at all. You’re welcome, the calories weren’t welcome in this recipe anyways.

Oh, and did I mention this recipe is dairy free and gluten free! Yeah, well it is… so also healthier, so eat up!

If you buy fish when it is on sale or in the frozen fillets, you can save big money. We happen to buy almost all of our groceries at Grocery Outlet. Most people are amazed at that, because we certainly don’t survive off Ramen and Hamburger Helper in this house, that is for sure. We definitely are on a budget, and I am able to buy an assortment of fresh and frozen organic produce most of the time as well as wild caught fish for usually about half the price of normal grocery stores. I just love it there, and they have a fairly decent wine selection too.

Tools needed:

Food processor
Zester
Knife
Mandolin Slicer (optional – I don’t have one so I didn’t use it, but if you do it will make your life that much easier to thinly slice the cabbage into airy crisp goodness)

Servings: 4

Pineapple Basil Fish Cake

Ingredients:
8 oz. fresh or canned pineapple, drained as much as possible
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 bell pepper, cut up (any color will do)
FRESH basil – a large handful
pinch of red chili flakes
zest from 1 lime
1 lb. fish thawed, skin removed (salmon, cod, halibut, tilapia… your choice)
1 Tb. vegetable oil (I tried to use EVOO but found that it started smoking when cooking)

Avocado Cilantro Lime Slaw (NO MAYO! YAY!)

Ingredients:

1/4 – 1/2 cabbage, shredded airy thin (mandolin slicer can assist here, but I just used a sharp knife)
1 small ripe avocado
juice from 1 lime
large handful cilantro
1 clove garlic
pinch kosher salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Enough to thin out the dressing mixture

Steps

1. Start assembling the slaw first. Put the shredded cabbage in a medium bowl.

2. Plug in food processor. Scoop flesh of avocado into food processor, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and kosher salt and blend until smooth. Drizzle EVOO into processor until thinned enough that it can be mixed into slaw to dress cabbage. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

3. Scoop dressing out of processor and toss with shredded cabbage until covered. Place into fridge while assembling rest of meal.

4. Rinse out food processor to begin preparing fish cakes.

5. Put pineapple, garlic, kosher salt, bell pepper, basil, chili flake, lime zest in processor and blend until combined and finely pureed. Add fish and again pulse until incorporated with other ingredients.

6. Heat frying pan on medium high heat with 1 Tb. vegetable oil.

7. Scoop out 1/4 cup of fish mixture and place into heated frying pan. Press the fish mixture down to form a patty. Cook about 1 minute each side. Take out and place on a plate with paper towels to soak up excess oil.

8. Plate fish cakes and top with a heavy helping of slaw. Enjoy!

Note: We made mashed potatoes seasoned with my cajun spice mix as the other side for this. These weren’t GF/DF, so I omitted them from the post.

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Low Calorie Shrimp Jambalaya with Egg Noodles

Last night was Mardi Gras and we most definitely had a hankering for some jambalaya (us and well… every other American it seems). I have to say that in the past my experience with jambalaya has mostly consisted of a box mix which is full of lots of preservatives, salt, added calories and usually empty promises. We’ve had quite a bit of rice lately so I thought I would try out my own recipe this time and pour it over a helping of egg noodles as I have a few bags of this stashed around the kitchen and it was begging to be eaten.

This dish actually turned out much better than I anticipated. After I thumbed through my notes of what I used, I also figured it was pretty low calorie. The worst part of this dish is the egg noodles which you can definitely sub for something with less calories or just eat it without any added carbs. A cup of cooked egg noodles is about 220 calories, the jambalaya (shrimp, veggies, sauce) was probably under 100 calories, I figure (with my best google attempt). That means that a pretty large serving is still hovering under 350 calories. Not bad I’d say, not bad. The spice level was a perfectly balanced medium and not too spicy, although you can sure add more spice if you’d like. My hubs shies away from the spicy hot dishes, while I gobble them up, so I usually err on the side of less is more when more people that just myself are eating.

You will notice that I added cauliflower to this recipe. I certainly know that it isn’t an ingredient that usually makes an appearance in this dish, however I had it to use up and took my liberties to do so. This is a great dish to add any other random veggies you have lying around as the cajun spice mix will likely make it taste very good and you won’t notice you are eating veggies (if that is a difficult thing for you).

And on with the recipe! Enjoy!

Servings: 4

Ingredients

12 oz. package of egg noodles
Water
1 lb. wild uncooked Shrimp, de-veined and tails removed (Medium to extra-large in size)
1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 crown cauliflower broken into small florets
1 cup bell peppers sliced (red, yellow, and green)
1/2 large onion chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 small roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup broth (I used chicken broth)
Cajun Spice Mix (See recipe below)

Cajun Spice Mix

1 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt (this is critical, DO NOT whatever you do use table salt or sea salt. Only Kosher or it will turn out too salty)
2 tsp. dried basil
2 Tb. paprika
1 Tb. chili powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground thyme
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (this will result in medium spice, adjust according to preference)
1/4 tsp. cumin

Combine these seasonings in a bowl and mix until combined. This recipe will create more than you will need for the whole recipe, but I suggest putting in an airtight container to use later in other cajun inspired dishes (chicken, fish, shrimp, veggies.. etc.)

Steps for making Jambalaya

1. Make the cajun spice mix according to recipe above. Set aside. Have all other ingredients prepped.

2. Fill a pot with water, sprinkle with kosher salt, and put on the stove on High heat. Bring to a boil. Drop the noodles into the water and set timer (according to package directions).

3. Put shrimp in a bowl and stir in enough cajun spice mix to cover the shrimp. Set aside.

4.  Put a saute pan on the stove, pour in 1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil and heat oil on Medium-High heat.

5. Add chopped garlic, onion, bell peppers and cauliflower to pan and cook for a few minutes until the veggies get nice and seared, leaving then with some brown edges.

6. Sprinkle a bit of the reserved cajun seasoning mix onto the veggies (a couple tsp. is sufficient) and stir to coat.

7. Add the seasoned shrimp to the pan. Cook the mixture until shrimp is half cooked.

8. Add the broth and chopped roma tomatoes to pan. Stir mixture together. Drop the heat down to medium and cook for a few minutes so that some of the liquid reduces.

9. Drain noodles when they are done (according to package directions).

10. Place a scoop of noodles on a plate and cover with jambalaya mixture. Pat yourself on the back, and enjoy!

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Mediterranean Pesto Chicken Sausage and Quinoa (Gluten Free)

I don’t eat exclusively gluten free, but I have dabbled for periods in the past and are often subject to these dishes when dining with family and friends with the sensitivity. Most gluten free recipes are pretty healthful in and of themselves, so I try to incorporate gluten free recipes into my repertoire every now and again. This was a good meal for getting some of my half eaten veggies and canned peppers and olives used up in the fridge, not to mention the half used pesto container from the night before’s homemade pizza (but I really would advocate for making some fresh pesto if you have the ingredients and a few extra minutes, as it’s more flavorful and comes together so quickly in a food processor).

I didn’t intend to make this dish gluten free, but it was a nice little afterthought when I started realizing that all of the foods I was pulling out of the fridge were of the sort. I was actually going to make this dish with noodles or pasta, which would have been delicious too, but I am glad that I chose quinoa as it is so yummy and it’s very healthy for you too, full of protein and fiber. I also love that this dish doesn’t ‘taste’ gluten free, so nothing about it makes you think you are missing out. This meal was delicious so I deemed it blog worthy (as did my husband – although he has to say that, right?). Not only is this yummy it’s also pretty healthy (with a few substitutions that I will note, you can cut more calories if you want), it cooks very quickly and even a novice cook can get this right on the first shot.

This is one of those recipes that you can eye-ball (except for cooking the quinoa) so put away your measuring cups and just start cooking 😉

I made this recipe for 4. There was enough for 2 of us for dinner and then enough for leftovers/lunch the next day.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa (will make about 3 cups cooked quinoa)
1 1/2 cups water or broth
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 Tb. of extra virgin olive oil
1 package of fully cooked chicken sausage in casings, sliced into medallions (I used Al Fresco brand sun dried tomato chicken sausage, which is gluten free and has no nitrates)
handful of canned pepperoncinis, stem and seeds removed and sliced
1/2 cup greek pitted kalamata olives, halved
A few Tbs. of homemade or store bought pesto (I used about 1/3 of a 6 oz package)
crumbled feta cheese, enough for garnishing each dish
zest from one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: dried red chili flakes (I like adding a little spice to my own plate, so I sprinkled a little of this on my own)

Instructions

1. Rinse the quinoa in water and discard rinsing water (A strainer might be helpful here). Add quinoa to saucepan and add in the water or broth. Turn on to high heat. Once it starts boiling put a lid on it and turn it down to a simmer. Keep covered and cook for 15 minutes. Remove quinoa from the heat and allow to sit with the lid on for 5 minutes.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, start preparing the rest of the dish. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan or an enamel coated cast iron pan at medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add onion, garlic, bell pepper and cauliflower. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to get golden colored.

3. You might want to add another Tb. of olive oil if your veggies sucked up all the oil. Add your fully cooked chicken sausage medallions and cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes to give a good sear to the sausage.

4. Turn off heat and stir in the pepperoncinis, kalamata olives and pesto sauce.

5. Open lid of quinoa and fluff with a fork. Dish the quinoa onto plates first, top with the sausage and veggie mixture.

6. Top with a shake of crumbled feta and some fresh lemon zest

Cutting Calories? Consider omitting the pesto sauce and add some fresh chopped basil leaves at the end.

If you are using this recipe and sensitive or allergic to gluten, please verify each individual product label you use for this dish is free of gluten.

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Let me know how you like it 😀

Thai Meatloaf with Peanut Sauce & Crispy Garlic Green Beans

At this point you have read the title of the post and already have an opinion of the entree. Meatloaf. You might even be judging it like it did something to you. You probably grew up with some version of it and it elicits strong memories. You might have an aversion to it, or you might delight in the memories of home cookery. Whatever side of the fence you stand on the idea of meatloaf, I propose that you reconsider your stance this one time. This is no ordinary meatloaf. It’s loaded with wonderful bright thai flavors like garlic, ginger, basil, chili, and lime and it’s iced with not ketchup nor tomato sauce, but sweet chili sauce and served with a dose of homemade peanut sauce. The flavors all blend together beautifully and create a super flavorful dish that your mom’s meatloaf doesn’t even hold a candle to (too much? I’m willing to bet…).

I just created this dish for the first time last night, but really it has been a product of obsession in the back of my mind for at least the last couple months. For some reason I just hadn’t gotten around to making it. Oh… and there was this time period where we were eating mostly vegetarian, so a loaf of meat doesn’t really fit in with that.

I knew that the base should include a mix of meats, as the best meatloaf (and for that matter, meatballs as well) come from adding some ground pork into the mix. I guess I just ruined this post for all my Kosher readers. I do a lot of thai cooking at home… many stir fries, noodle dishes and curries and always have a stockpile of asian cooking supplies in my kitchen. It also happens that we live in Seattle and are fortunate to have an abundance of asian cooking stores nearby that we can purchase the ingredients quite inexpensively. So really I have no excuse to not have cooked this sooner. It turned out even better than I had planned, and even as I am writing this a day later, I am one word closer to drooling all over my keyboard thinking about the leftovers that I GET to eat 😀 .

I really hope you enjoy it too, and if you do try it out, please leave a comment and let me know what you liked, or didn’t or any substitutions you made.

Thai Meatloaf

Servings: 4-6 people

3/4 lb. ground turkey
3/4 lb. ground pork
2 eggs
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (could substitute regular breadcrumbs)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
zest of 1 lime
2 Tb. soy sauce
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil (thai basil is preferred)
1 Tb. grill seasoning (I used a mix that I think was Montreal steak seasoning)
1 tsp. red chili flakes (Medium spiciness, level 3 at a thai restaurant – adjust accordingly)
1 Tb. green curry paste (this is optional, but I had it, so I used it)
Sweet Chili Sauce (I used probably about 1/2 cup, but enough to cover the top of the meatloaf)

Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 375°
  • I placed a foil lined pan below to catch any drippings from the sauce.
  • Combine all ingredients except the sweet chili sauce in a bowl and mash together with your hands until all ingredients have been properly distributed throughout the meat
  • I checked my seasonings at this point by taking a tablespoon of the meat mixture out and cooking in a pan with a little oil. My seasonings were to my liking, but if they aren’t for you, tweak the seasonings above.
  • Put all of meat mixture into an oiled loaf pan. I used sesame oil because I had it, but you can use any type of oil you have. Spread out the meat and press into the pan so that it is even on the top.
  • Pour the sweet chili sauce over the meat so that it covers it
  • Place into oven on the rack above the foil lined pan you placed below. If I had opted for a larger loaf pan, I probably wouldn’t have needed the foil lined pan.
  • Cook meatloaf to an internal temperature of 165°. This took about 1 hour and 15 minutes for ours to cook.
  • Enjoy!

Thai Peanut Sauce

I make my Thai peanut sauce using the ratios below. If you have more than 2-3 people eating, you will want to double or triple the recipe below.

1 rounded Tb. of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, but make to use a natural kind like Adam’s)
1 Tb. soy sauce
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce

Warm up the peanut butter in a bowl in the microwave until it is just softened. Add the soy sauce and sweet chili sauce and mix until combined. Serve with the meatloaf.

Crispy Garlic Green Beans

Ingredients:

Green beans, 1 lb. (I used whole frozen green beans)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced (but really, the more the better)
kosher salt
1 Tb. peanut oil (or another oil with a high smoking point)

Slice up your garlic.
Pour the oil into a pan and heat it on medium-high heat.
Add the garlic into the oil. Saute until they start to turn a little brown.
Add green beans and saute until cooked through. Season with kosher salt to taste.

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Whiskey Caramel Cinnamon Rolls with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky

whiskey. caramel. carbs. What else do you need?

This dessert… or breakfast… or snack (it’s ok, I won’t judge you even if you eat it for dinner) was inspired first by my love for a good bread pudding. I love me some bread pudding with yummy, warm and gooey whiskey carmel sauce. If it’s on the menu at a restaurant I have probably had it. I’d venture to say that there is few things better in this world. A few weeks ago I also had one fierce craving for cinnamon rolls, but I didn’t dare indulge my craving unless I was going to have a decent cinnamon roll at best (I could have fallen hard for even one of those mall cinnamon rolls.. yep you know the one). On a recent trip to the liquor store with my hubby, I got a mini bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. I had never tried it, but after rave reviews from friends and my hubs, I thought I better try it. But did I drink it? No. I made the best cinnamon rolls with it.

I must confess that I am not much of a baker. I tend to steer towards cooking as it inherently more creative and allows for more trial and error than baking does. But I do love a good challenge and up until this post I had never made my own homemade cinnamon rolls. I relied on a heavy dose of Alton Brown for the dough recipe and altered a whiskey caramel sauce recipe with the Fireball Cinnamon Whisky – so I can’t take complete credit for it, however, I have yet to find this recipe anywhere else. I learned a lot about baking for this post and if it wasn’t for a dear friend who held my hand (through the phone) and held back my tears as the dough nearly didn’t rise, this may not have become a success.

I am now hooked on making homemade cinnamon rolls and have a few new ideas up my sleeve for next time. Enjoy!

You can watch the video here to prepare the dough: Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients

Dough (courtesy of Alton Brown from Food Network):

  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
  • 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • 20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Filling:

  • 8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons

Note: I mixed up this recipe by adding a few dashes of vanilla over the sugar mixture and I chose to add chopped walnuts on half of the dough after I rolled it out (to see if we liked it better with or without nuts). Perhaps next time I make this I will experiment with a lil’ orange zest.

Directions

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Caramel Sauce: 

  • 1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
  • 6 Tbsp heavy cream

Combine the first four ingredients in a sauce pan and boil for 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir in the cream.
Drizzle Drench rolls in this delicious sauce and enjoy.

Note: This sauce will make enough for about 6 of the rolls. It is so good you will want to double the sauce recipe above so you have enough for all of the rolls. Since there is just 2 of us in our house and the sauce is made so quickly, I chose to make the sauce two different times (the first night we had it for dessert and the next night we finished them up).

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