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Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Chip Reese's Pieces Cookies

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Can you believe that I made these on the first day of February, and here they are showing up on the last day of the month? Yes, I have THAT many recipes to post. Part of it is that I rearrange the order in which I post things, but it's also because I've been busy in the kitchen lately!

I almost feel sorry for waiting so long to post these cookies. I shouldn't have held out on you like this, not for these. These were a hit, a BIG hit. Half the batch was eaten by our community group (you know, because I couldn't share my banana pudding with them...) and when I found myself sticking cookie #7 in my mouth, I knew I had to get the remainder out of my house! Ryan took the rest to work and I gained some serious popularity points with his group that day!

The thing about these is that they have the absolute perfect texture, soft and chew, but still sturdy. They reminded me a lot of the secret ingredient chocolate chip cookies. I loved the Reese's Pieces, peanut butter chip, chocolate chip combination, but this cookie serves as a good base for whatever chips or nuts you want to include.

I got this recipe from the blog Occasional Sugar and she gave very specific instructions on how to make these cookies the best ever. I took her word seriously and I'm convinced these "cookie rules" led to their success, so I suggest doing the following:

1. Do not touch the dough with your hands. At all. Not when mixing the ingredients (use a mixer if you have one, or else work those biceps!) and not when putting the cookies on the cookie sheet. The oil from your hands will cause flat cookies!
2. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper!
3. Use two spoons to drop blobs of dough onto the baking sheets. Again, DON'T touch. Don't roll cookies into a ball or try to shape them with their spoons--messy blobs cook best!

Follow these and I'm quite convinced you'll have perfect little cookies as I did. Try them and report back on how they turned out...I can't wait to hear what else you try putting in them!

Chocolate Chip Reese's Pieces Cookies
adapted from Occasional Sugar

-3 1/2 cups flour
-3/4 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1 cup packed brown sugar
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup butter, room temperatures
-2 large eggs, room temperatures
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
-2 cups mix-ins (I used a combination of Reese's Pieces, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk brown and white sugars to remove lumps. Add butter, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined.
3. Add flour mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition. Stir in 2 cups of mix-ins by hand.
4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by the spoonful on cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are just starting to brown.
5. Allow cookies to cool on sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Split Pea Soup

I can't think of an uglier food to present on this blog. Can you say baby food?! I find that soups in general are difficult to photograph, but I think this one takes the cake! For some reason, I recently had a hankering for some split pea soup. I found this a little odd, seeing how I've only had split pea soup one other time, and that was years ago. When I mentioned this craving to my friend Maggie, she recommended this Food Network recipe that she's made before. Funnily enough, the day before I planned to make this soup, Joanne posted an equally excellent-sounding split pea soup. I went with the Food Network recipe this time, but I'm also anxious to try Joanne's, which features chicken sausage in it. This version was all about the bacon, an ingredient that is quickly growing on me! For a vegetarian meal, you could omit, but I was a big fan of the smoky bacon bits (the real stuff!) I included.

This soup is fast, frugal, and freezes well. How's that for some alliteration?  I ate some of this after making, but froze the rest to pull out on a non-cooking day. If you choose to do this, just allow it to thaw in the refrigerator and reheat before serving. We (hopefully!) only have a few more weeks of "soup season" left, so make this while you can!

One Year Ago: White Chili

Split Pea Soup
adapted from Food Network

-1/2 lb bacon, diced (or real bacon bits)
-1 medium onion, chopped
-4 carrots, chopped
-4 celery stalks, chopped
-salt & freshly ground pepper
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-1 tbsp cumin
-1 lb green split peas, washed
-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1. Saute bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat, until lightly browned (approximately 6-8 minutes). Remove bacon from pot and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Add onion, carrot, and celery to the pot. Add a pinch of salt & pepper; saute until onions are translucent. Stir in garlic and cumin, cooking for 1 minute.
2. Add peas and chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until peas are al dente (approximately 20 minutes). Allow to cool for 5 minutes. 
3. Remove 3 cups of peas and set aside while using an immersion blender to blend the remaining amount. Return 3 cups of peas to the soup. (If you prefer a creamier soup, just blend it all!) Stir in bacon and heat through. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Five Bistro

Because last month's Best of 2011 challenges were conducted in the kitchen (Scotch Oatmeal Soup and Kaleslaw with Red Pepper), a restaurant was in store for February. Ryan and I pored over the Best Restaurants in St. Louis list and had a few options in mind. We soon discovered that many of the restaurants would be nearly impossible to get into the weekend before Valentine's Day, which is how we ended up at Five Bistro.

As it turned out, Five Bistro had just last month received the award for Top Burger in St. Louis, awarded by St. Louis Magazine. Our interest was piqued, but our hopes of trying the famed burger were immediately dashed. Upon arrival, the owners informed us that they had already sold out of their specialty. Being that it was only 1:00 pm, we were a little surprised, but this didn't deter us from staying for the meal; we'd come, after all, because it made the Top Restaurant list, not the Top Burger list.

The restaurant was tucked away on a corner in the Hill neighborhood of St. Louis, unusual being that Five isn't Italian fare like the rest of the neighborhood. Shortly after being seated, we were brought out a taste from the chef--a parsley chicken salad on homemade brioche. I loved the tiny bite offered and likely would have ordered it for my main entrée, had it been an option.

Because 90% of the food at Five is organic and locally sourced from nearby farms, the menu is brief and changes daily, according to what is available. Of the few non-burger options, Ryan and I quickly settled on our meals, Ryan ordering the Quiche (Ozark Forest portobello mushroom, caramelized onion, Beatje Farm goat cheese, and radish sprouts) and the Pizza (white anchovy, caramelized onion, olive oil, italian parsley, Baetje Farm goat cheese, and balsamic reduction) for me.

While our plates arrived, we were a bit surprised by the portion sizes. They were adequate, but not normal by restaurant standards. However, they are clearly focused on quality, not quantity here. Ryan enjoyed his quiche, though it didn't blow him out of the water. At first glance, I was a bit startled by the sight of actual anchovies on my pizza. I think I had immediately seen the words goat cheese in the pizza description and overlooked the whole "white anchovy" thing. This was my first experience with whole anchovies and so although my initial response was to gag, I bravely dug in and found they didn't bother me. They smelled a bit fishy, but the rest of the pizza was so lovely the anchovies were hardly a standout flavor.

The ladies at the table next to us must have ended up with the last three burgers in the place. When their plates were delivered, we couldn't help but sneak a peek. They did indeed look like excellent burgers and we spent the next fifteen minutes listening to our neighbors rave about their meals. It looks like we'll have to return for the burgers! And return we will; the owners and our waiter came over at least 3 separate times to apologize for the lack of burgers. In fact they promised that if we call ahead next time, they will set some aside specially for us. We plan to take them up on their offer soon!

All in all, our first restaurant experience for the Best of 2011 Challenge was a success--doubly so because this was not a place I would have initially picked off the list. Stay tuned...we'll be back in the cookbook next month!

One Year Ago: Schulz's Guacamole Salad

Five on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cranberry, Almond, Orange Biscotti

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Ever since I made the pumpkin biscotti, I've been anxious to try another variety. In fact, I have my eye on some decadent looking s'mores biscotti or double dipped chocolate biscotti recipes that you will certainly find on The Sweets Life one of these days. However, Ryan's been complaining about the amount of dessert in our house lately (never a problem, in my opinion!), so I knew the words double chocolate weren't going to fly.

I chose to make Cranberry, Almond, Orange Biscotti, knowing Ryan would focus on the words cranberry and orange (one of his favorite combinations) and approve of this baking endeavor. (Don't tell Ryan biscotti is just another word for cookie!!) My suspicious were correct, the boy loved these and finished off six in an evening.

These are crunchier than the pumpkin biscotti, but not "break your tooth" crunchy. To soften them up, dip them in your coffee or hot chocolate. I preferred to make a mess of crumbs when I ate them. Ryan's an active member of the Crumb Police, shaking his head at my sometimes messy eating skills. But this time? This time he was so busy eating his own biscotti he didn't even notice! Success!

One Year Ago: Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers

Cranberry, Almond, Orange Biscotti
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup sugar
-4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
-2 large eggs
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp almond extract
-1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
-1/2 cup dried cranberries
-2 tbsp orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy (3-6 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the extracts and beat for 30 seconds.
3. With mixer speed on low, gradually add flour mixture until combined. Mix in almonds, cranberries, and orange zest.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using floured hands, split the dough in half and shape each half into an approximate 2 x 13 inch loaf on the parchment paper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until loaves are golden and just beginning to crack.
5. Remove sheet from oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325F.
6. Transfer the loaves to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each loaf into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the slices on a baking sheet.
7. Bake biscotti slices for 15 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving (approximately 30 minutes).
**Biscotti can be stored in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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What is it about adding sour cream to baked goods that makes them so delectable? Everyone who tried this cake loved it, and I credit the sour cream! I reduced the sugar in the original recipe by half a cup and this was still plenty sweet, in part due to the swirls of blueberry jam throughout. It took every ounce of my willpower not to cut a slice of this fresh from the oven--the smell was overpowering our kitchen! Instead, I let it cool and wrapped it in a couple of layers of plastic wrap where it sat for a day and a half before I served it at a brunch for church. You never would've guessed it was nearly two days old. It was chilled from sitting in my car and I think it was better cold than when I had some at room temperature later in the day. You could top this with a glaze or a sprinkle of powdered sugar but I kept things plain and simple...though the taste was anything but plain and simple! I plan to make this again experimenting with other flavors of jam--I'm thinking raspberry next!
One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
adapted from The Stonewall Kitchen Cookbook
as seen on O Chef

-2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for pan
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 cup granulated sugar
-2 large eggs, at room temperature
-1 cup sour cream
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-3/4 cup blueberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, beat butter with sugar an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined.
3. Remove 1/2 cup of the batter and set aside. Pour the remaining batter into the prepared pan. Using a knife, make an (approximately 1-inch) trough in the center of the batter. Mix blueberry jam with the 1/2 cup of batter set aside. Spoon batter into the trough and use a knife to swirl.
4. Bake cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spicy Vegetable Stew (in the Crockpot)

I had intended to make a kielbasa stew with some spicy chicken sausages I had, but a closer look at the recipe revealed that I was missing a few ingredients. Given that this was on a day when we were stranded in our house thanks to another lovely St. Louis winter storm, heading to the store wasn't an option. Instead, I decided to get creative, and basically emptied my fridge into my crockpot. The result was a spicy soup/stew packed with vegetables. It really didn't need much additional flavoring because the spices from the sausage permeated the entire dish. If you want to use a milder sausage, you may want to add more basil, thyme, or garlic.

Missing a few ingredients? Just use what you have. Add potatoes, stir in spinach at the end, get creative! This is a forgiving dish that will lend itself to whatever you have on hand!

One Year Ago: Homemade Chocolate Pudding

Spicy Vegetable Stew in the Crockpot
*makes approximately 6 servings

-1 package hot chicken sausage (I used Saag's Louisiana Hots), sliced
-6 cups broth (I used a combination of beef and chicken, because that's what I had on hand)
-2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
-3 stalks celery, chopped
-1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces
-1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
-1 large onion, chopped
-pepper, garlic powder, basil, and thyme--to taste

1. Place sliced chicken sausage and chopped vegetables into a crockpot.
2. Pour in broth. Sprinkle pepper and garlic powder over the top, stir to mix. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Before serving, season with dried basil and thyme, if desired.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Southern Banana Pudding

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99% of the time that I'm making a dessert, it's with other people in mind. Sure, I'm always taking my own cravings into consideration, but I still make those desserts with the intention to share with friends, family, or co-workers. The same could be said for this banana pudding. I love banana pudding and it's probably one of my all-time favorite desserts--a bold statement for me to make! Years ago, I made the sweetened condensed milk/cream cheese/instant pudding version for a crowd I was serving at the Ronald McDonald house. Since then, I've enjoyed it over Thanksgiving, where Ryan's aunt always makes sure to include it in the dessert spread (along with these delish cookies!). I've been wanting to try a 'from scratch' version and had a box of vanilla wafers patiently waiting in my cupboard for the perfect occasion.

I finally set out to make the pudding, with the intention of sharing it with our community group when they came over that week. As I stirred the pudding and watched it thicken (lump free!...unlike the last time I tried pudding!), I thought about how excited my friend Mike, another banana pudding lover, would be. Later, as I assembled the pudding in my trifle bowl, I got a little disappointed as I realized there definitely would not be leftovers. Suddenly I pictured myself sitting at community groups, dishing out banana pudding for everyone and getting ready to serve myself a portion...only to be faced with an empty bowl. Panic set in and I started scouring my cupboards, looking for ingredients to make another dessert.

Don't judge. What good is this blog if I can't be honest with you? So I'll tell you...I didn't share the banana pudding. Yes, I sent Mike home with some and Ryan enjoyed some, but other than that this dessert was all mine. Call me a glutton, call me selfish, but I don't regret it one bit! This pudding really is that good and was well worth feeling like a selfish glutton for a few days. I do plan to make it again, because other people deserve to enjoy...I'll probably just make a second batch for me ;)
One Year Ago: Pesto Roasted Vegetables

Southern Banana Pudding
from greens and chocolate

-3 cups milk (2% or higher)
-1 cup sugar
-4 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
-3 tsp pure vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 eggs
-3 tbsp unsalted butter
-2-3 large bananas, thinly sliced
-1 box vanilla wafers
-1 cup heavy cream
-3 tbsp powdered sugar
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, and eggs in a medium saucepan, whisking to remove lumps and combine. Cook over medium heat until mixture is thick and bubbling (approximately 10 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and whisk to beat out any lumps. Whisk in butter, stirring until melted. Pour pudding into a separate bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature (10-20 minutes).
3. In a trifle bowl (or 1 1/2 quart casserole dish), line the bottom with vanilla wafers. Lay banana slices on top of wafers. Top with 1/4 of the pudding. Repeat layers, 3 more times or until pudding is gone. Top the last layer of pudding with wafers. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
4. Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Top banana pudding with whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thai Chicken Peanut Panini

Recently, I stumbled upon an announcement on Bran Appetit and Baking and Boys!, two food blogs I read, which invited bloggers to participate in The Great Peanut Butter Exhibition. Curious, I did a little reading and discovered they were looking for contest entries that 1. Included peanut butter, 2. Included WARM peanut butter, and 3. Was preferably spicy. I love using peanut butter in non-dessert dishes, as you can see in Indonesian Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing. With these two recipes in mind, I set out to make a new dish featuring warm and spicy peanut butter.

While I would be thrilled to win The Great Peanut Butter Exhibition (because who wouldn't want 6 awesome flavors of peanut butter? I have my eye on the dark chocolate one!), Ryan told me I've already won in his eyes. To say the recipe was a success would be an understatement. Before we'd even finished the meal, Ryan was already asking if he could take the leftovers to work the next day. I wasn't about to say no, not with all of his enthusiasm, but I did steal a few extra tastes of the peanut spread before he used it on his sandwich.

This sandwich took pretty basic ingredients and made them into a rather fabulous sandwich in mere minutes. If you don't have a panini press, I think you could also cook your sandwich in a skillet, pressing down on it with a spatula to get the same effect. The sauce and toppings would also taste great on a pizza, and I definitely plan to try that next.

Thank you, Peanut Butter Boy, for hosting such a contest and getting my creative wheels spinning. We've found a new household favorite!

Update: This recipe took THIRD in the contest! Thank you to the judges for selecting my recipe! To see the first and second place winners, as well as all other great peanut butter entries, click here

One Year Ago: Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

Thai Chicken Peanut Panini
*most ingredients listed without quantities, adjust depending on the number of sandwiches making (the peanut spread is enough for 3-4 sandwiches)

for the peanut spread-
-1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
-1 tbsp soy sauce
-1/2 tbsp sesame oil
-1 tbsp Sriracha (thai hot sauce)--add more or less depending on what level of spicy you want!

for the sandwiches-
-bread (we used a whole wheat baguette, sliced)
-sliced red pepper
-shredded carrot
-chopped cilantro
-sliced green onions
-cooked & shredded chicken
-coarsely chopped peanuts

1. To make the peanut spread, heat peanut butter in a microwave safe oven for 20 seconds, until slightly melted. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and Sriracha, mixing until smooth.
2. To assemble the sandwiches, spread peanut sauce on bread and top with chicken, red pepper, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and peanuts. Top with second slice of bread and press in a panini press (or on a hot skillet with a spatula), until sandwich is warmed through (2-3 minutes).
3. Remove sandwich from panini press or skillet and repeat with remaining ingredients until desired number of sandwiches made. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Butternut Squash, Mushroom, and Spinach Crepes with Cheese Sauce

Because I don't have enough on my plate right now, with school and work and church and vacation planning and blogging, to name a few, I've also started doing a little freelance work. Don't get me wrong, I love being busy and I work best when I have a lot on my plate. They didn't vote me "Most Dependable" senior year of high school for nothing! (Yes, while other students were picked Most Athletic or Best Hair, I was Most Dependable. So typical!)

I'm freelancing for the University City Patch, a local online newspaper in my town. It's been fun to do some additional writing and spark some creative thinking, still revolving around my favorite topic: food. One article series that I will be writing for the Patch revolves around our local Farmer's Market. I'll be creating or adapting recipes, primarily using fresh produce that University City residents can pick up at the market. I'm excited to show my neighbors what a great asset we have in our local market!

For my first market post, I decided to try something new and made some vegetable crepes with cheese sauce. Crepes were new to me, at least in my own kitchen, but the results were fantastic! I'm still dreaming about these savory crepes (and the banana, Nutella, whipped cream ones we made with the leftover crepes!). Feel free to switch up the vegetable combination. Next time, I would maybe omit the cheese sauce and instead fill with feta or goat cheese.

What are your favorite crepe fillings, sweet or savory? I plan to make again soon!

One Year Ago: Cranberry Almond Pancakes with Orange Zest

Butternut Squash, Mushroom, and Spinach Crepes with Cheese Sauce

for the filling-
-3-4 cups fresh spinach
-1 small butternut squash, cut in half vertically and seeds scraped out
-1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
-10 button mushrooms, sliced
-1 red onion, sliced

for the cheese sauce-
-salt & pepper, to taste
-1 tbsp butter
-1 tbsp flour
-1 cup skim milk
-1 cup Italian shredded cheese

for the crepes-
-3 eggs
-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or can use 1 cup all-purpose and no whole wheat)
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup skim milk
-2 tbsp butter, melted
-1/2 cup club soda

1. To prepare the crepes: mix whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, eggs, milk and melted butter in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
2. Remove crepe batter from fridge and stir in club soda. Spray a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium. Pour 1/8 cup batter into the skillet, tilting the skillet to spread the batter. Bake for 30-45 seconds, until the underside is lightly browned.
3. Using a spatula, carefully lift up one corner of the crepe. Using your fingers, quickly flip the crepe and allow the second side to cook for 30-45 seconds. Use a spatula to remove the crepe and set aside on a plate. Repeat with remaining batter. set crepes aside until ready to fill. (Note: can be made two days ahead of time and stored covered in the fridge with sheets of wax paper in between).
4. To prepare the vegetables: cut the butternut squash in half vertically and scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Place the squash, cut-side up, in a baking pan with an inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350F for an hour to an hour and a half, until squash is tender. Remove from oven and allow squash to cool slightly. Using a fork, gently scrape squash out from the peel into a bowl. Mash slightly with a fork, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Slice mushrooms and dice onion. in a large greased skillet over medium heat, saute vegetables until tender, 5-10 minutes. In a separate skillet (or the same one, after you remove the other vegetables), wilt 3-4 cups of spinach.
6. To make the cheese sauce: melt 1 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, whisking together well. Slowly add milk, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking continuously. Stir in 1 cup of cheese and continue to stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper.
7. To assemble the crepes, take a single crepe and top with spinach, sauteed vegetables, and mashed squash. Fold up and drizzle with cheese sauce. Serve immediately.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fluffernutter Cookies

What's a girl to do when she needs to make a dessert but is out of flour? Go to the store, right? Well, what if I told you that it's "feels like" 6 degrees outside with winds gusting at 28 miles per hour...does that change things?

It does for me!

I'm known to trudge to the grocery store for one needed item (it's how I ended up with these Snickers Cups...and walked away with more than one item at the store!), but I have my limits, especially when it comes to facing extreme weather conditions!

The lack of flour led me to this recipe for Fluffernutter Cookies, from Picky Palate, because it contained only three ingredients: peanut butter, an egg, and marshmallow fluff. I happened to have all three on hand, so I set about to make these cookies with the smallest ingredient list ever.

I admit, these look a little bit like I dropped them in a snow drift, but anyone brave enough to try the oddly-swirled cookies was not disappointed! How could you be, with such an ingenious combination? Quick, simple, and fun, these cookies are your go-to recipe the next time you're too wimpy to brave the cold to pick up some flour!

One Year Ago: Chipotle Stuffed Chicken

Fluffernutter Cookies
from Picky Palate
*makes approximately 1 1/2 dozen cookies

-1 cup creamy peanut butter
-1 egg
-1 cup marshmallow fluff

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter and egg with a spoon until combined. Add the marshmallow fluff, mixing just until combined (you don't want it fully mixed in so that you can't see it anymore!) and swirled together.
3. On a parchment lined cookie sheet, use a cookie scoop to drop rounds of dough a few inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until baked through (cookies will still be very soft when you remove from the oven!). Allow to cool for 5 minutes before moving cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homemade Samoa Bars

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Am I the only one whose favorite part of Girl Scouts was the cookies? Not necessarily the selling of them, but the time of year when the cookies finally arrived and for weeks on end we got to select a few to pack in our lunch every day. Okay, I also enjoyed the camp out, mostly because it meant eating copious amounts of s'mores and campfire cinnamon twists. Is it a problem that my favorite Girl Scout memories revolve around food?! I suppose that was foreshadowing right then and there...

Thankfully, you don't have to be a Girl Scout to enjoy Girl Scout cookies. The problem is, they're still only available once a year and they don't exactly last for weeks on end in our household. To get my fix, and while I'm anxiously awaiting the boxes I ordered from a co-worker's daughter, I decided to try my hand at Homemade Samoa Bars (aka Caramel Delights!).

After reading through the recipe, I knew these were going to be a little putsy. My prediction came true; these were definitely a little more involved than most bar cookies. I ran into a few problems with them, mainly some of my caramel didn't adhere well to the shortbread on the edges meaning they basically fell apart when I tried to cut them. I attribute this to two things: 1. I didn't have the full 12 oz. of caramels and had to make the recipe with only 8 oz. and 2. I don't think I did a good job of evenly spreading the shortbread. No worries--we just ate the mishaps and pressed on with the middle bars, which fared much better! I think if you  avoid my mistakes, you'll get a full pan of successful Samoa Bars.

These truly did replicate the taste of a Samoa which, in my opinion, made them worth the many steps. Will I still be buying Samoas from the Girl Scouts? Yes, long live Girl Scout cookies! But when I find myself craving a Caramel Delight in the middle of July, you can bet I'll be pulling this recipe out.

What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Any other "mock" Girl Scout cookie recipes I need to try?

One Year Ago: Sugar Cookie Bars

Homemade Samoa Bars
from You're Gonna Bake It After All

for the cookie base-
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
-1 large egg
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp salt

for the topping-
-3 cups shredded coconut, toasted
-12 oz. chewy caramels
-1/4 tsp salt
-3 tbsp milk
-1 bag of chocolate chips (12 oz)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line  a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
2. With mixer on low, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly (dough doesn't need to come together).
3. Pour dough into pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until set and edges are lightly browned. Set on a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Add unwrapped caramel candies with milk and salt in a large microwaveable bowl. Cook on high, 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir occasionally. Once caramel is melted and smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
5. Place dollops of topping on shortbread crust. Spread evenly with a spatula and allow to set until cooled. Once cooled, cut into evenly sized bars.
6. Melt chocolate in a small microwaveable safe bowl, stirring after every 45 seconds to prevent burning. Dip the bottom of each bar in chocolate and place on wax paper.
7. Transfer remaining chocolate (or melt more, if needed) into a piping bag or ziploc with a corner cut off and drizzle bars with chocolate. Let chocolate set before storing in an airtight container.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Chili

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I know, I know, I claimed when I posted the buffalo chicken cheese bites that I'm not much of a buffalo lover and then here I am posting another buffalo chicken recipe! Something about that spicy flavor has me hooked, I guess it's just the buffalo chicken wings that aren't my favorite.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I could smell this when we drove into our garage after work! The smell had me chomping at the bit for dinner, but I switched the crockpot to warm and held off until a normal dinner hour. This chili is bursting with buffalo flavor, thanks to the addition of the hot sauce. I used the lesser amounts of the spices (SUPER spicy measurements also listed below) and still found myself sweating as I slurped from my bowl.

Buffalo chicken lovers, this is your kind of chili! If you're looking for the milder sort, try this turkey chili or white chili.

Buffalo Chicken Chili
from Baked by Rachel

-2 1/2 lbs (or 3 cups) chicken breast cut into 1" chunks
-1 cup chopped onion
-1 cup chopped celery
-1 cup chopped carrots
-4-5 cloves garlic, minced
-2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes, drained
-1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 cup chicken broth
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cayenne (1 tbsp for major spice!)
-1 tsp paprika (1 tbsp for major spice!)
-1/2 tsp cumin (1/2 tbsp for major spice!)
-1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
-blue cheese crumbles, for topping

1. Add chopped veggies and garlic to the crock pot. Pour the two cans of (drained) tomatoes into the crockpot. Add black beans, chicken, broth, and spices.
2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours (may be done sooner than this!). Before serving, stir in hot sauce. Divide among bowls and top with blue cheese.
*keeps for several days, or can be frozen!

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Leek and Mushroom Tart

Paige, Ashley, and I have been getting together on a monthly basis for over a year now. We all look forward to our girl's dinners because they give us the chance to try new recipes, drink wine on a "school night", and catch up on stories that are best told in person rather than work email. Another perk? Making foods our significant others wouldn't like! Both Paige and Ashley have guys who hate mushrooms, so we try to incorporate them into the menu as often as possible.

This leek and mushroom tart that Paige made was a major win for all of us. I liked it so much I insisted on making it a few nights later when our friends Mike and Maggie came for dinner. They, too, loved it and the 4 of us had no problem polishing the whole thing off. Served alongside a salad (spinach, oranges, walnuts, feta, and the dressing from this salad!), it was a lovely Sunday night dinner and one I will definitely be repeating!

Leek and Mushroom Tart
adapted from Sunset, October 2006

for the crust-
-1 cup flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-7 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
-3 tbsp ice water

for the filling-
-3 tbsp butter
-3 leeks, white and very light green parts halved, cleaned, and thinly sliced
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 lb baby bella mushrooms
-2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
-3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
-1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
-1 cup grated gruyere cheese

1. To make the crust, put flour, salt, pepper, and butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a coarse, cornmeal-textured mixture forms. Add 3 tbsp ice cold water and pulse until the dough comes together (you may need to add a little bit more water, but do it sparingly or your dough will become too wet!). **Alternately, you can make this crust by hand by rubbing butter into flour mixture and adding water while stirring with a fork (I haven't tried this method and can't offer any suggestions!)
2. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
3. Preheat oven to 375F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch circle. Place dough in a 9-inch tart pan and trim the edges that are overhanging. Cover dough with foil and weigh down with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. (I skipped the weights and my crust puffed up quite a bit. I was able to push it down when I filled the tart but you not want to follow my lead!)
4. Bake crust for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and bring to room temperature.
5. While crust is baking, melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add leaks and salt, cooking until leeks are soft (3 minutes). Add mushrooms, turning heat to high. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5-10 minutes. Stir in thyme, cream, and pepper. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature.
6. Spread 1/2 cup of grated cheese over the tart crust. Top with the mushroom-leek mixture and sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cashew Butterscotch Blondies

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You can never go wrong with a blondie. I always appreciate a good brownie, but there's something about a thick blondie that can be stuffed with a variety of mix-ins that always satisfies my sweet tooth. A few weeks ago we went to Bailey's Chocolate Bar in St. Louis with some friends and my sister wisely ordered the toasted pecan and white chocolate blondie. The few bites I had were to die for and I spent the next few days dreaming of blondies.

As luck would have it, Julia (not sister Julia, blog Julia ;)) posted a cashew butterscotch blondie recipe and immediately I knew how to get my blondie fix!

These blondies ended up being more cakey than gooey, which is not how I've typically had blondies. However, I still couldn't resist their cake-like texture, studded with sweet butterscotch chips and salty cashews. These smelled absolutely heavenly while baking. Try these, if for no other reason than to fill your kitchen with the blondie fragrance!!

Looking for other blondie recipes? I've tried peanut butter cup, snickerdoodle, and pumpkin!

 One Year Ago: Best Ever Homemade Granola

Cashew Butterscotch Blondies
as seen on Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body

-2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
-3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-2 cups packed light brown sugar
-4 large eggs
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup butterscotch chips
-1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped (I used salted)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy (~3 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined. With mixer speed on low, add flour mixture, mixing until combined. Mix in butterscotch chips and chopped cashews.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan (note: batter is very stiff!) and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 40-4 minutes, until golden and inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs, but not wet. Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing bars from pan and cutting into squares.
**can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 3 days.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Carrot Spice Muffins

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Being that it's Valentines Day and everything, I thought I'd share a little story about Ryan today. A few weeks ago I checked out Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours at the local library. I was practically giddy with excitement as I began to flip through the pages. This book is a baker's bible, if you will. I now understand the hype over Dorie and her cookbooks; nearly every picture had me drooling!

Knowing I'd never be able to decide which recipe to make sure, I asked Ryan to take a look and select a few treats. He took his assignment seriously, grabbing a piece of paper and ripping off little pieces to bookmark the selected pages. When he finished, I excitedly grabbed the book to see what he chose. I couldn't wait to see which fudgy brownies and decadent cakes he too was eager to try!

...I should've known better.

Every recipe he bookmarked, with the exception of ONE, in Dorie's huge book contained either a fruit or a vegetable, sometimes more than one. Granted, they were still primarily desserts and had plenty of sugar and butter to accompany the healthier ingredients. But really, Ryan? In a giant book full of enticing desserts, you aim for the healthiest-sounding ones?!

This little argument carried on for a few days. I mocked him for his choices and he tried to defend himself. (For the record, I'm all for fruits and vegetables in desserts and baked goods...I just couldn't believe he didn't choose ANYTHING that could be considered a more traditional dessert!) Finally, I decided to grant his wish one day and I paged through his selected recipes, ultimately deciding to make the Carrot Spice Muffins.

Why oh why did I fight him on it? These might be the best muffins I have ever made. Everything about them was absolutely perfect. Though I made them primarily for Ryan, I had a hard time staying away. I'm too embarrassed to tell you just how many passed my lips in the first few hours after I made these. The recipe said it yielded 12 regular-sized muffins, but I filled my cups pretty high and ended up getting 12 + 8 mini-muffins. The miniature ones were just as good--fluffy, moist, and with a hint of cinnamon to accompany the carrots, coconut, raisins, and nuts.

You were right, Ryan, you were right. I suppose I'll make you a few other "healthy" treats from Dorie's book... :)

Carrot Spice Muffins
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
-2/3 cup vegetable oil
-2 large eggs
-3/4 cup skim milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup shredded carrots
-1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
-1/3 cup raisins
-1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper muffin cups.
2. In a large bowl whisk together dry ingredients (flours through brown sugar), making sure there are no lumps.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and gently whisk or stir together. Do NOT overmix.
4. Stir in carrots, coconut, raisins, and nuts. Divide the batter evenly among muffin cups.
5. Bake for 20 minutes (for large muffins) or 12-14 minutes (for mini muffins). Allow muffin pan to cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before removing muffins.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Today is my sister Julia's birthday. While I would love nothing more than to wax poetic about my relationship with Julia, that's not really her style (case in point: check out the picture below). So instead of telling her how beautiful and amazing and talented she is, I decided to show her. While I would love to proclaim across the blogosphere that Julia is my best friend and someone who daily challenges and inspires me, she's not one for ooey gooey emotions (again, check out the picture below for proof).

Julia may not like hugs, but she does love peanut butter, especially when it's paired with chocolate. Last year, I made a chocolate peanut butter torte for her birthday and it ended up being an all-around hit. Knowing full well I had set the bar high with that dessert, I went on a search for an equally decadent chocolate peanut butter dessert. I ultimately decided on Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Any recipe with over 700 comments is bound to be good...especially one with chocolate cake and peanut butter cream cheese frosting!

Despite omitting Deb's chocolate peanut butter ganache in favor of Reese's peanut butter cups, this cake was everything I could have hoped for! This was my first attempt at a layer cake and I was a little bit nervous about the assembly of it all. Thanks to the giftcard I received from CSN Stores, I was able to purchase a few tools to make this cake a success. I bought two additional 9-inch cake pans, which brought my collection to three, and make it much easier to bake the layers! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the cake baked in these pans and how easy it was to remove. I also bought an offset spatula which I used to frost the cake and I don't believe I could have iced it as smoothly and cleanly without this tool. I was once again very impressed by the quality of the CSN items, the speed with which they shipped, and how wonderfully they met my needs in the kitchen.

Back to the cake...let it be known, I am not a cake girl. I'll typically choose a lot of desserts before cake. But after tasting this one, I've kind of changed my mind. I just might be a cake girl. Especially if that cake includes peanut butter cream cheese frosting! Happy Happy Birthday my dear Julia! May the rest of your year be as good as this cake was :)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

for the cake-
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 1/2 cups sugar
-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-1 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup sour cream
-1 1/2 cups water
-2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 eggs

for the frosting-
-10 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
-1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
-5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
-2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

for the decoration
-mini Reese's peanut butter cups

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and spray the paper.
2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Whisk in oil and sour cream. Beat in the water, followed by the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs until smooth. Divide batter evenly among the 3 cake pans (I poured all of the batter into a large measuring cup/bowl and determined how much needed to go in each pan but they still turned out slightly uneven so you can just eyeball it if you want!)
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out almost clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto wire racks. Peel off parchment paper and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, wrap each layer individually in plastic wrap and foil before and placing in the freezer.
4. When ready to assemble cake, prepare frosting. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the butter until lightly and fluffy. Add confectioners' sugar one cup at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and beat until blended.
5. To assemble the cake, remove layers from the freezer and unwrap. Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large plate. Spread 2/3 cup of frosting evenly over the top and top with the second layer. Repeat with another 2/3 cup of frosting. Top with final layer and frost the top and sides with remaining frosting.
6. Decorate cake with mini Reese's peanut butter cups and chill until serving.

 This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Quinoa with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms

This dish works as a main course or a side, depending on portion size and preference. With hearty portobello mushrooms and almonds, this will definitely leave you satisfied for dinner. I stumbled across this recipe on the Whole Foods website and my curiosity was sparked by the unique dressing and roasted portobellos. Though portobello mushrooms are no stranger in our kitchen, I don't think I'd ever before roasted them.

The salad came together easily; I was able to tackle a few other tasks in the kitchen while working through the steps to put this together. Ryan and I both enjoyed the finished product. The pear balsamic dressing was full of flavor and you never would've guessed it didn't have a drop of oil in it! The crunch of the almonds was welcomed and I wouldn't recommend omitting. I think a little bit of feta cheese would have been a nice addition to the dish and I'll remember that for next time!

One Year Ago: Twice Baked Butternut Squash

Quinoa with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms
from Whole Foods

-1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
-2 tsp Dijon mustard
-1 small pear, cored and cut into chunks
-1 garlic clove, halved
-2 lbs portobello mushrooms, stemmed with gills scraped out
-1 cup quinoa
-3 cups tightly packed spinach, chopped
-4 green onions, thinly sliced
-1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
-1/8 tsp sea salt
-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 475F. In a blender, combine vinegar, mustard, pear, and garlic with 1/3 cup water. Blend until smooth. Cut portobellos into chunks. Take 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss with mushrooms. Lay mushrooms on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
2. While mushrooms roast, bring 1 3/4 cup water to boil in a medium pot. Add quinoa, cover pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
3. In a large bowl, toss mushrooms, quinoa, spinach, green onions, almonds, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup pear balsamic dressing. Stir to mix completely.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frozen Mocha Marbled Loaf Cake

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I love when people make food requests of me. You see, I want to try just about every recipe I come across which makes it rather difficult for me to choose a dish for a particular occasion. It's much, much easier when someone asks for something specific, or at the very least, gives me some ideas or suggestions. Such was the case with this dessert. Recently, I got together with my friends Paige and Ashley for our monthly girl's dinner. This time, we had an extra special reason to celebrate: both of their birthdays. I asked Paige what she wanted for their birthday dessert and without skipping a beat, she said she wanted something coffee-flavored.


This frozen "cake" has a healthy dose of coffee flavor. Alongside the Oreo crust and creamy white filling, this made for the perfect celebratory dessert. Though it looks, and kind of tastes, like an ice cream cake, the filling is actually made from cream cheese, homemade whipped cream, and sweetened condensed milk. When frozen, they take on an creamy, icy consistency that had us all mmm-ing.

The great thing about this dessert is that it can be made way ahead of time...and whatever isn't eaten can be returned to the freezer. Wrapped well, this will keep for months (though I doubt it'll remain untouched that long!).

One Year Ago: Hot Fudge Cake

Frozen Mocha Marbled Loaf Cake
from allrecipes.com

-2 cups Oreo crumbs
-3 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
-1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
-1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 cups whipped cream, whipped
-2 tbsp instant coffee granules
-1 tbsp hot water
-1/2 cup chocolate syrup

1. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with foil. Combine cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl until moistened. Press firmly into the bottom of the lined loaf pan.
2. Beat cream cheese in a mixing bowl until light and smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk and vanilla, mixing to combine. Fold in whipped cream. Set aside half of this mixture.
3. Dissolve coffee in hot water and fold into one half of the cream cheese mixture. Fold in chocolate syrup.
4. Spoon half of chocolate/coffee mixture over the crust. Top with half of the cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers. Use a knife to swirl layers. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours.
5. To serve, remove from freezer and lift out of pan. Remove foil and cut into slices.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

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I recently stocked up on Barilla Plus pasta and have been looking for new recipes to use up the rotini, penne, and spaghetti taking up space in my cabinet. Since the baked vegetable mac and cheese was a hit, I couldn't resist another baked pasta. Baked pasta dishes are classic. They're easy to prepare, can be made ahead of time, and are generally well-received. The same can be said about this one, a Martha Stewart recipe.

The best thing about this recipe is that it makes a ton! I filled one 9 x 13 pan as well as a 8-inch pan, which I then froze. A few weeks later we pulled it out, baked it up, and it was just as good as the "fresh" version! Depending on the size of your family, you could easily fill a few pans to freeze or give away to someone who needs a home-cooked meal. I promise you no one will turn down this meal!

One Year Ago: Spaghetti Pie

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage
adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 medium red onion, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup vodka
-1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes with juice, lightly crushed with hands
-1/2 tsp dried oregano
-1 lb penne
-1/2 cup heavy cream (I used 1/4 cup heavy cream & 1/4 cup skim milk)
-10 ounces baby spinach
-12 ounces chicken sausage, halved lengthwise & sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used asiago fennel flavored)
-6 ounces shredded Italian cheese
-1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Boil a large pot of salted water. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Add spinach, cooking just until wilted. Drain and return contents to pot.
2. While water is coming to a boil, heat oil is a separate skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion, cooking until translucent (approximately 3 minutes). Stir in garlic. Remove skillet from heat, stir in vodka, and return to heat, cooking until almost evaporated (about 1 minute).
3. Stir in tomatoes and oregano, cooking for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are falling apart. Add cream/milk and cook until warmed through (5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add tomato sauce, sausage, and most of the Italian cheese to the large pot with the pasta. Toss with a large spoon to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Divide into baking dishes (I did one 9 x 13 and one 8-inch square). Top with remaining shredded cheese and parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees until browned and crisp (20-30 minutes).
**To freeze--prepare dish (except the extra cheese at the end) and let it cool. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. To bake, do not thaw. Remove from freezer, take off plastic wrap, cover with foil, and bake at 400F for 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours. Remove foil, top with additional cheese, and bake for 20-30 more minutes.