The Stay At Home Chef: October 2013

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Balsamic Roasted Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pasta

I'm really trying to branch out with pumpkin this year. Apparently pumpkin is super good for you. There are countries and cuisines out there that use pumpkin on a regular basis. Most of those people have no idea what jack-o-lanterns are and have never tasted a pumpkin pie. In my experimentation I came up with this gem of a pasta. I made a simple goat cheese sauce to go over the pasta, adding spinach for color and nutrition. It's topped with a balsamic roasted pumpkin. Oh boy, the pumpkin was transformed into something I may have never recognized as pumpkin. Roasting always brings out different flavors in vegetables and the pumpkin was no exception. It was beautifully sweet with a slight tang to it. It went quite well with the goat cheese pasta making it a beautiful, balanced, and somewhat elegant meal. Hello pumpkin, I'm we're getting to be good friends this year!


1 sugar pumpkin (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1/4 tsp salt

1 pound penne pasta
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 cups milk
5 oz plain goat cheese
3 cups spinach leaves


1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 4 sided baking sheet with non stick spray.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Scrape out the seeds and strings using a large metal spoon. Cut off the stem. Peel the outside of the pumpkin, removing all of the outer skin. Lay the pumpkin halves flat side down on a cutting board and cut into 1 inch slices. Cut Those slices into 1 inch cubes. Lay the pumpkin cubes out on a single layer on the baking sheet.

3.  In a small bowl combine the balsamic vinegar, molasses, and salt. Drizzle over the pumpkin cubes. Roast in the 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until tender. 

4. Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta according to package directions.

5. Make the sauce in a large saucepan by melting the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, ground mustard, onion powder, salt, and white pepper. Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often. When the sauce begins to thicken or bubble, remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese until melted.

6. Combine the strained, cooked pasta, spinach leaves, and sauce in a large pot. Stir to combine. Serve the pasta hot topped with the roasted pumpkin. 


Thai Sweet Potato Soup

A friend of mine recently had her first baby. Several friends had grouped together to bring meals to her after she got home from the hospital. She and her husband are vegetarians which can make it intimidating for carnivores to bring in a meal.  Since I tend to eat a lot of vegetarian meals all I had to do was use one of the many I had already planned on my menu. It just so happens that not only did I have several vegetarian options to choose from, I even had a vegan dish on the menu. I knew this soup would hit the spot. It was a crisp fall day and I knew she'd be exhausted having only been home from the hospital for a day. I brought her this flavorful soup with a loaf of homemade artisan bread. Homey, comforting, but still exciting: it's food to warm the soul.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger root, grated
1 tablespoon red curry paste

1 teaspoon sea salt
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 (15 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large lemon, juiced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add in the onion and saute for about 5 minutes. 

2. Add in the ginger, curry paste, and salt and toast for 1 minute.

3. Add in the sweet potatoes, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 

4. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot, or transfer in batches to a food processor or blender and return the pureed soup to the pot.

5. Stir in the lemon juice. 

6. Serve hot topped with freshly chopped cilantro.


Balsamic Glazed Salmon Salad

In the midst of all the heavy cold-weather foods, I sometimes need to take a break and enjoy a nice salad. I was at the grocery store and there was some really beautiful fresh salmon on sale. How could I resist? Sales always seem to scream my name. I wanted to stay completely simple with the recipe so I utilized a homemade balsamic dressing to use in a dual role. It glazes the salmon and provides the dressing for the salad. Score! It's super simple, and more importantly it's super delicious. I love the combo of the hot salmon and the cold salad. It makes for a lovely, lighter meal. 


24 ounces fresh salmon, cut into 6 oz portions
salt and pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 pounds leafy greens (romaine, spinach, red leaf)
1 cucumber, sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced


1. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

2. Season the salmon portions with a little salt and pepper and place in the prepared baking dish.

3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. This mixture will serve as both the seasoning on the salmon and the dressing for the salad. 

4. Drizzle 1/3rd of the dressing onto the salmon and bake for 12-15 minutes until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

5. Meanwhile, toss together the leafy greens, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, and red onion slices. 

6. Serve salad greens topped with a portion of salad and drizzle with more dressing. 


Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs + Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Bonus Monday! I'm giving you two recipes in one. I'm all about the hearty, cold-weather foods right now. It's bringing joy to my soul on those crisp days that I despise. Yes, I'm not afraid to admit that I hate being cold. In college I refused to leave the house while it was snowing. Since I went to college in Utah this was sometimes a problem. I only went if I absolutely had to, like I had a huge test or had to go to work or something that couldn't wait. Otherwise I'd just wait until the snow stopped falling. And then I'd still hate it because it was still cold. When it is cold outside all I want to do is curl up with a blanket and eat hot comfort food. I'm loving this dish because it utilizes the slow cooker and the gnocchi can either be made fresh, or frozen ahead of time. Gnocchi cooks in just a few minutes so you could plausibly run in from the cold and have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes. That's the kind of meal I need when it is cold outside! Grab my snuggie and dig in!

Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs


2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Sear the short ribs on each of the 4 sides for about 60 seconds per side. Remove from skillet and place directly into a slow cooker.

2. Pour the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper into the slow cooker. 

3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

4. Serve hot with the drippings from the slow cooker. 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 tsp salt
pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 cup flour, approximate


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the sweet potato cubes in and boil until soft, about 15 minutes. Strain well.

2. Mash the sweet potatoes well. Using a hand mixer to whip them up can ensure a well mashed potato.

3. Sprinkle the mashed sweet potatoes with the salt, nutmeg and parmesan cheese. Stir.

4. Stir in the egg until everything is well incorporated.

5. Slowly add in the flour to form a very soft dough. Add more flour to the outside of the dough to prevent if from sticking. Divide the dough into 8 portions. 

6. On a floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into a long snake about the thickness of your thumb. Cut into half inch pieces. If you have any problems with sticking, dust with additional flour. 

7. Repeat with each of the 8 portions. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking sheet or cook immediately. If freezing, once the gnocchis are frozen you can remove them from the baking sheet and store them in a ziploc bag. 

8. To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches. The gnocchis are done when they float to the top which should only take a 1-2 minutes (add 2  minutes for frozen gnocchi). 

9. Serve hot. 

**Optionally, you can drizzle a little olive oil or melted butter and top with shredded parmesan cheese. 


Masala-Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It's that time of year where CSA boxes everywhere are laden with butternut squashes. Grocery stores are overstocked with them and sale prices abound. I decided to do my own little twist on butternut squash soup to celebrate harvest time. As I rustled through my spices (dang, I need a massive overhaul on my spice organizing) I came across a jar of garam masala and the inspiration started flowing. The result was a truly flavorful play on butternut squash soup with just a hint of India. Such a flavorful way to enjoy those fall butternuts!


1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 large carrots, diced
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
2 tsp garam masala
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream


1. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Spray a 4 sided baking sheet with nonstick spray

2. Rub down the exposed flesh on the butternut squash halves with butter. 

3. Roast the butternut squash in the oven until soft, about 30 minutes. 

4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

5. Add in the onion, celery, and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes, then add in the apples and saute for 2 more minutes.

6. Add in the garam masala and toast for about 60 seconds.

7. Add in the chicken or vegetable broth and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes.

8. When the butternut squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh using a large spoon and put the cooked flesh directly into the soup pot. 

9. Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches. 

10. Once the soup has been pureed, stir in the heavy cream and serve hot.  


Slow Cooker Texas Chili

It's that time of year where chili cook-offs beg your entry, and the thought of sitting down to enjoy a delicious homemade chili sounds drool-worthy. I love a good Texas chili. No beans. Just beef and the veggies. I love cooking it in a slow cooker so it can stew all day and fill the house with that to-die-for smell. By the time I sit down with the bowl I'm absolutely ravenous. It's so hearty and soul warming for a crisp fall evening. And it's the perfect excuse to eat cornbread which is always going to be amazing. This is my take on Texas Chili and as I'm sitting here eating a bowl of leftovers as I write this, I must say it is pretty dang good.


2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 white onion, small dice
2 red bell peppers, small dice
2 large carrots, small dice
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 cup beef broth
15 oz can diced tomatoes
7 oz can diced green chilis
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 lime, juiced

Toppings (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
chopped cilantro


1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Sear the beef cubes on all 4 sides, about 60 seconds per side. Remove from the pan and place directly in a slow cooker.

2. Place the diced onion, red bell peppers, carrots, worcestershire sauce, beef broth, diced tomatoes, green chilis, tomato paste in the slow cooker. Add in the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt).

3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours.

4. Stir in the lime juice before serving. Serve with toppings if desired. 


Dang Hippie Soup

I've been making this soup for quite a few years now. My brother once referred to it as "dang hippie food" and the name just sort of stuck. No meat, tons of veggies....I guess it kind of is hippie food! We love Dang Hippie Soup in our house. My 5 year old has recently decided that he is a soup lover, however, he was taken aback by this soup with chunks in it. He hesitated, but ultimately gobbled up his bowl saying he didn't know chunks could be so delicious! I've got to stop serving so many pureed soups I suppose! My husband was quite pleased to have this family favorite on the table. It is definitely one of my favorites and always hits the spots on those cold, dreary days of fall and winter.


4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
2 pounds sweet potatos, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp paprika

2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 T soy sauce

1 bay leaf
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes. 

2. Add in the garlic, paprika, ground mustard, basil, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. Toast for 1-2 minutes. 

3. Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth, add in the mustard and soy sauce and stir. Add in the sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the bay leaf. Simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

5. Add in the diced tomato and black beans. Simmer until sweet potatoes are tender (about 5 more minutes).

6. Serve hot. 


The Creamiest Mashed Potatoes

"These mashed potatoes are so creamy!"

If you haven't heard that line before then you need to run out immediately and find yourself a copy of While You Were Sleeping. The line comes from a scene where a large family is sitting around a dinner table at a holiday gathering haven't the most random conversation. We adopted the saying in my family and for years said the line when the conversation got awkward, stale, or far too random. It's always good for a laugh. Creamy mashed potatoes are important to my family I suppose. I find this to be the perfect recipe for absolutely creamy mashed potatoes. On special occasions like Thanksgiving, where calories and fat are plentiful, I like to double the cream cheese and butter for an extra special creamy treat.


6 cups chicken broth
5 pounds russet potatoes, washed and peeled
1/4 cup butter
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp salt


1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large pot over high heat.

2. Meanwhile, cut the peeled potatoes into 1 inch cubes or chunks. Place the potatoes chunks into the boiling chicken broth and boil until tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Strain the potatoes from the broth and put the cooked potatoes into a large mixing bowl.

4. Add in the butter, cream cheese, buttermilk, and salt. Use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes and other ingredients until light, fluffy, and creamy (3-5 minutes).

Chef's Note: After being cooked, these mashed potatoes can be placed in a crockpot on the low or warm setting for up to 4 hours before serving. This comes in quite handy for large and demanding meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas.


Gluten-free Peanut Butter-Nutella Cookies

You'd never know these cookies were gluten-free, let alone made out of beans! I'm serious!

My college-aged sister suspects she might have a gluten intolerance. She is just starting out on a gluten-free venture to see if it helps her out. My taste buds wept for her! How will she ever live without cakes, cookies, and breads? I realize people do it all the time, but I'm generally a skeptic about gluten free recipes. They often use expensive, harder to find ingredients that I never have on hand. Chickpea cookies and brownies are all the rage these days so I decided to give my hand at it to see if I could come up with a gluten free cookie to help my sister out. I mean, the girl is in a rigorous nursing program. How can she ever graduate without midnight cookie binges? She shares my love for all things Nutella so I made a cookie that I knew she would love. The dough tasted great, but I was still skeptical that beans could be turned into a cookie. When those babies came out of the oven I knew all would be well. They are soft, moist, and you would seriously never know these cookies were gluten-free, let alone made out of beans!


30 oz (2 - 15 oz cans) garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups milk chocolate chips


1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie or baking sheet with nonstick spray. Set aside.

2.  Combine the beans, nutella, peanut butter, honey, cocoa powder, vanilla, and baking powder in a food processor. Puree until smooth.

3. Stir in the chocolate chips. 

4. Place heaping spoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes in the 350 degree oven.

5. Remove cookies from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.

Chef's Notes: 

The dough will be very soft and sticky. If you are having trouble working with the dough try chilling it in the fridge or freezer. 

If you want complete control over what goes into your cookie and have it truly be oil-free, try using homemade peanut butter and homemade nutella


5 Secrets To The Perfect Burger

See that picture? The one right above this? That is a real burger. I put it together from raw meat to what you see there in about 15 minutes. I didn't dress it up or do anything to stage it. That was really my lunch. In fact, I made more than one because my family was hungry too. I spent under 5 minutes taking photos of it (including set up) before I sat and devoured it bite by bite. So what is the point in telling you all this? Well, my friends, the perfect burger is easy to make. And it really can be as good as it looks. Here are my 5 secrets to the perfect burger:

1. The most important factor in the perfect burger is the meat. I used USDA Choice, grass fed ground beef (it was only 50 cents more per pound). I use 1/2 pound of meat for each burger. Burgers are all about the meat. Hamburger meat is not the same thing as ground beef. The short explanation is that hamburger can have all sorts of fat added to it, while ground beef is one specific cut of beef ground up. 

2. The fat content matters! I use 15% fat. When it comes to other uses for ground beef I'm generally a lean sirloin girl, but when it comes to a burger, that fat is key in keeping it together and producing a juicy bite. 

3. Grilled burgers taste better than pan fried. If you can, always grill it. Use high heat to sear in the juices, then reduce heat to cook to desired temp. If you use quality beef it can be pink in the middle (medium-rare). 

4. Season your meat, but don't overwork it. If you are already using quality beef there's no reason to add a bunch of stuff to it. Salt and pepper is all you need. Don't overwork it. Form it into a patty with as little "working" as possible. 

5. Toast your buns. This will prevent a soggy mess. when you add your juicy burger and wet toppings like ketchup. I like to brush mine with a little garlic butter before grilling for extra flair. Top it with whatever toppings you like. 

Now go forth and create perfect burgers at home! 


Spicy Carrot Spread

I'm really excited about this recipe. I love finding healthy dips and spreads. This one is great. It is flavorful, has a bit of heat, and is totally healthy. We spread ours on bread and it was really quite good. The next day I used it is a dip for some vegetables. So yummy!


1 1/2 pounds carrots
1 cup water
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger


1. Peel the carrots and cut them into 1/2 inch chunks. 

2. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Put the carrots chunks in, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and let steam for 10-15 minutes until the carrots are soft.

3. Drain the water from the carrots and place them in a food processor or blender. Add in the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, cayenne, and ginger. Puree until smooth.

4. Serve cold as a spread for bread, or a dip. Garnish with chopped cilantro or feta (optional). 


Baked Buffalo Chicken Nuggets

We eat a lot of homemade chicken nuggets in our house. The kids love them. The adults love them. Everyone is happy.  I tend to add in health stuff too like wheat bran and wheat germ in place of bread crumbs. Look at the recipe below. You could use a whole cup of bread crumbs, or you could do half bread crumbs, quarter wheat germ and, quarter flax seed. If you are feeling really healthy, it also works to get rid of the bread crumbs all together and do a third wheat germ, a third wheat bran, and a third flax seed. It's awesome that way. I decided to a fun variation on my standard chicken nugget and do a hot sauce version. We loved it! Seriously, even the kids. I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and even though they both recognized that there was "spicy" in it, they still gobbled their share right up. And the adults were in nugget heaven! These can also be frozen unbaked and popped in the oven on a busy night. Add 5-10 minutes to the baking time. Ditch the drive through and give homemade chicken nuggets a try. You might fall in love.


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup paremsan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons basil
1 tablespoon oregano

1/2 cup Frank's Buffalo Hot Sauce
1/2 cup butter


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Trim chicken breast of any fat. Cut into 1-inch, nugget sized pieces. 

3. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs, wheat germ, flax seed, parmesan, salt, basil and oregano. If you don't want to use wheat germ or flax seed simply replace it with the same amount of bread crumbs. 

4. In another small microwave-safe bowl, pour in the buffalo hot sauce, put the stick of butter in, and melt the stick of butter in the microwave. I tend to do 15 seconds at a time with a little swish and swirl in between so the butter doesn't explode all over the microwave.

5. Dip the chicken pieces into the hot sauce/butter and then roll them around in the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure they are good and coated. 

6. Places the coated chicken nuggets onto a lightly greased baking sheet. 

7. Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until the nuggets are browned and cooked through.


Broccoli Couscous Pilaf with Garlic Butter

I'm always looking for ways to serve broccoli to my family. It is so good for you, but if you don't serve it in a flavorful way you could end up with kids saying how much they hate broccoli. My 5 year old loved this dinner so much he asked to take it in his lunchbox the next day to school. Yes, I sent it, and yes, he ate it. This is a nice, light healthy meal that you could use as either a main dish or a side dish. The roasted broccoli makes all the difference. I love roasting broccoli because it brings out a really beautiful flavor in the florets. 


2 lbs broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups couscous
2 cups boiling chicken stock


1. Spread the broccoli florets on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan or skillet. Add in the crushed garlic and toast for 1 minute over medium-high heat. Add in the couscous and toast the couscous for 2-3 minutes, stirring so that all the couscous can get a chance to toast.

3. Pour in the 2 cups boiling chicken stock (you can just heat it in the microwave). Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. 

4. Add in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, fluff with a fork, and add in half the roasted broccoli. Serve topped with the remaining broccoli. 


Roasted Red Pepper Mac and Cheese

Allow me to wow you with yet another mac and cheese dish that both the kids and adults love AND it sneaks in a veggie. We love red peppers in this house. I eat them year round. I purchase them on sale, roast them, skin them, and keep them in my freezer. I find that I can use roasted peppers in tons of different ways. This mac and cheese is a total hit. It uses my secret ingredient mac and cheese recipe as a base and works in 2 whole red bell peppers. Not bad for sneaking in a veggie. My kids absolutely loved it and didn't even notice it was different. I loved it too. The bell peppers brought in a nice sweetness and the hot sauce gives it that punch. It isn't spicy, it is just a well-rounded flavor. If you want it to be spicy, add in more hot sauce.  


1 box uncooked macaroni (1 lb)
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper (can use black, but it will be visible with black specks)
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
3 1/2 cups milk

2 roasted red bell peppers, seeded, skinned, cored
2 Tablespoons Frank's Hot Sauce
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.

2. Fill a large saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Stir in the macaroni; cook until al dente. Drain well. Pour noodles into prepared 9x13 pan.

3. Meanwhile in another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, mustard powder, and milk; whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes until the sauce is hot and begins to bubble.  Reduce heat to low. Add in the red bell peppers and puree using a hand mixer or transfer to a blender or food processor to puree until smooth. Return to heat and whisk in cheese and hot sauce. Stir until melted.  Pour cheese sauce over noodles in prepared 9x13 pan.

4. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes.


Fennel, Leek, and Potato Soup

Summer has turned into Fall and soup season is upon us. This year is really flying by for me. Granted, the day I'm writing this it is 80 degrees outside, but it must be a fluke because we have had a nip in the air. I'm in San Diego so it never really gets cold, but we still get some cool nights. I'll use anything under 70 degrees as an excuse for soup. My husband was in love with this soup. He has a soft spot for leek and potato. When he lived in the Czech Republic, old ladies always had a pot of soup on the stove and it was often a broth version of leek and potato soup. This time I added fennel in. I'm always sneaking fennel into things because it is just so darn good for you. Wow, the fennel added so much. Now, if you are anything like my sister then you might be scared of the anise flavor of fennel bulbs. Don't fret. This soup doesn't taste like licorice. The fennel combines with the leeks to give this soup a wonderful flavor that is familiar and new all at the same time. It is a comforting bowl of soup, which is exactly what I crave when it is cold (or at least cool) outside.


4 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, halved and sliced
3 large fennel bulbs, roughly chopped
5 red potatoes, cubed into bite-sized pieces
6 cups chicken broth


1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the leek slices and bite-sized fennel pieces into the pot, season with salt, and saute for about 8 minutes.

2. Add in the potatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil for an additional 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Taste and add more salt if needed.


Easy Dijon Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin, when done right, is one of my favorite meats to eat. It is juicy and flavorful, salty and delicious. So what goes wrong? Well, the biggest mistake people make is overcooking it. Pork can be pink in the middle. Did you know that? For decades, pork farmers have been marketing pork as "the other white meat" so much that people have started treating it like chicken. Not so people! Pork was actually a read meat before this marketing ploy and genetic engineering turned it white. Don't freak out if it is pink in the middle. If you are truly worried then use a meat thermometer and test the interior. It should reach 145 degrees. That's it. Chicken is a whole 20 degrees higher at 165. This recipe is super simple and one of my favorite ways to cook tenderloin. It doesn't get any easier and the meat really sings. 


1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb)
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons dijon mustard


1. Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and also a little pepper. Rub the tenderloin down with the dijon mustard. 

2. Heat a grill to high heat. You want it smoking hot to give that pork a nice sear and seal in the juices. Sear each of the sides for about 2 minutes per side (since it is round we'll consider it as having 4 sides). 

3. Close the lid, reduce the heat to medium, and grill for 5 minutes. Turn one last time and cook for an additional 5 minutes (bringing total cooking time up to 18 minutes), or until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. 

5. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing into it. The meat will continue to cook during resting and the temperature will rise to the desired 145 degrees. Slice and serve.


Cheddar Batter Bread

Now that it is cooling off it is time to get back to baking in the kitchen. Hallelujiah! I mean, I totally bake anyway despite the heat, but it is so much better to do it when it is actually cool outside. This Cheddar Batter bread satisfies that fall baking craving. It's cheesey, soft, and delicious warm out of the oven. I spread a little apple butter on it and the combination of cheddar and apple was just so homey and in I was invited to devour the whole loaf.  Since it is a batter bread, the dough is quite wet so don't let that throw you. It's simple to make and really, is there anything better than homemade bread?


4 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water
2 1/2 tsp yeast
3 eggs
2 tsp Frank's hot sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water


1. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add in buttermilk and water and heat until it is just warm to the touch.

2. Transfer the liquids into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the yeast. Whisk in the 3 eggs and hot sauce.

3. Add in the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on a low setting to combine.

4. Add in the 4 cups of flour and knead on a medium setting until well combined.

5. Stir in the paremsan cheese and 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese.

6. Divide the dough in two and place each half into a greased bread pan.

7. Let rise 45 minutes. After the dough rises, whisk together 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Brush over the tops of each loaf.

8. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes.


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