Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Creamy Stovetop White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

The creamiest, cheesiest mac and cheese you'll ever taste! This quick and easy stove top version can be ready in 20 minutes and is perfect as either a splurge worthy dinner or tasty side dish!

I have a hard time turning down a good mac and cheese - sometimes I channel my inner 5 year old and order it simply as my meal! While I'm an equal opportunity mac and cheese fan (I'll even eat the - gasp - microwave in a cup kind when a craving hits!), super creamy versions are my favorite.

I've made this recipe several times (including this summer with my children's chef camp - they inhaled it!) and I will warn you that it doesn't reheat well. You really need to serve it almost immediately or it begins to break apart and become gummy and grainy. The upside is that it only takes 20 minutes so you can easily whip it up just a few minutes before dinner is served.

Creamy Stovetop White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
16 oz pasta, any shape (cavatappi is my favorite)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
16 oz sharp white cheddar, shredded (do not use pre-shredded)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Once the butter melts, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. 

Reduce heat to medium and gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream until no lumps remain. Continue cooking, whisking often, until the sauce thickens and bubbles. 

Reduce heat to low and slowly add the cheese, whisking until melted and smooth. Add the salt, mustard, black pepper, and cooked pasta; stir well. Cook another 1-2 minutes or until the pasta is well coated and hot.

Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. 

Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta

Chicken sausage, tomatoes, cream, fresh spinach, basil, and cheese: all the makings of a big bowl of yum. This delicious meal is weeknight friendly and super easy!

Can you believe we are *thisclose* to Christmas? Every year, I decide I'm going to be on the ball: decorate the house, bake for the office, make homemade gifts, ship the presents home in plenty of time, and order cards to send out. And every year, the first Sunday of Advent arrives on the heels of Thanksgiving and I find myself in a race to the finish line. This week and next week, in particular, are crazy busy with work related events to attend and host. And that list above? Not a single thing done!

All that to say - I get it. Pinterest has blown up with adorable baked goods, fancy kids crafts, and professional looking decorations and I'll be lucky to ship my presents out on time!

This pasta is for the rest of us - the people barely holding it together this holiday season. It's so easy you won't find yourself wishing you had just thrown in a frozen pizza when you got home. It's absolutely one of our favorite pasta dishes!

I typically use sundried tomato chicken sausage but you can use any variety you like.

Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta
1 pound pasta (I love spirals!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
1½ cups half and half
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
1 8-ounce bag baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and tomato paste and continue cooking for an additional minute. Add the chicken sausage, using a wooden spoon to break up the pieces. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the sausage is completely cooked through. 

Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the half and half and Parmesan. Simmer lightly, stirring frequently, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. Add the spinach, tomatoes, and basil and stir to combine, using the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. 

Top with extra Parmesan and basil and serve.

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Sausage and Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Sweet acorn squash is packed full of rice, sausage, mushrooms, and herbs. This sweet and savory dish is warm, filling, and perfect for a cold winter day.

I love all squash but think acorn may be my very favorite. I love that you can practically turn it into dessert by loading it up with brown sugar and butter, or stuff it full of rice and sausage and make it an easy dinner! The sausage makes this a simple "all in one" meal for the meat eaters in your life but without the sausage, it'd also make a great side dish (especially at a holiday function).

If you haven't already had your fill of squash, don't miss your chance this year!

Sausage & Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash
3 acorn squash
1 lb mild Italian sausage
8 ounce mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon ground thyme
1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Carefully slice each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves skin side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 50-60 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage until nearly cooked through. In the last couple of minutes of cooking, add the chopped mushrooms and ground thyme. Continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink and the mushrooms are softened. Add the rice, stir well, and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and stir to ensure all rice is submerged. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Once squash is cooked, remove from the oven and reduce heat to 350. Scoop the cooked mixture into each half, filling as much as possible. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve hot.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

An easy 30 minute meal! Sauteed shrimp is tossed with penne pasta, tomatoes, and a creamy herb sauce. Elegant enough for company but quick enough for a weeknight!

Last night we had that conversation that many families probably do, especially after a long workday. Should we just grab something quick? Or cook what we were planning? After weighing the various drive-through options, I realized that I could just cook dinner in about the same amount of time and it'd be 1) cheaper 2) healthier and 3) way tastier. Plus I wouldn't have to put my shoes on :)

This pasta is just like one of the meals I made last night - quick, easy, and delicious.

Creamy Shrimp Pasta
1 lb penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, add the oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp is pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley, and red pepper to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine and simmer another 2 minutes. Add the clam juice and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 7-8 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, the cooked shrimp, the drained pasta, and the remaining basil and parsley. Toss well and season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve.

Source: adapted from Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites by Giada De Laurentiis

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Walt Disney World: A Week's Worth of Food (including Food & Wine Fest 2015)

We recently returned from what has become our annual fall trip to Walt Disney World! The fall typically means lower crowds, temps, and humidity, and it also means Food and Wine Fest!

This year, the whole "lower temps" didn't fly - we experienced record breaking heat all week but we did not face torrential rain or heavy crowds so 2 out of 3 isn't bad!

Our group consisted of my family, including 4 individual family units, and some meals were all together and some were just me and Jason.


Morimoto Asia located at Disney Springs

The restaurant was very full and did not seem to be taking walk-ups that night, though they did have someone outside showing off the menu. We were seated on the 2nd level at a large round table. This was the view from the table:

This restaurant is simply gorgeous. Sleek, modern, and even though we all "cleaned up" for dinner, I felt a bit underdressed! 

Our waiter was AMAZING - the best of the week, really. He was personable, knowledgeable, and very funny. We also noticed lots of suits around, giving instructions to staff and taking care of guests. By far the best service oriented restaurant we dined at all week. I hope they keep it up!

We chose this spot because it was new (I always want to try the newest!) and it was reasonably priced, especially in comparison to other Disney Spring spots. The menu looks delicious, though the sushi offerings were a tad limited and boring. Didn't stop us from trying it!

Shrimp tempura:

Spicy tuna:

It was fresh and tasty, though nothing unique. 

We all ordered different entrees, and I snapped pictures of most but the restaurant was dark and some did not come out post-worthy. 

Duck Ramen (totally wish I had ordered this!):

Thai Basil Fried Rice:

Black Pepper Steak:

Other dishes included Orange Chicken, Dumplings, Miso Soup, and a kid's meal.

Let me talk about this kids meal a bit. First of all, the kids menu is really cool and folds into origami. Also, kids meals come with bubble tea - my niece ordered strawberry flavor. She chose mac and cheese as her meal and it was a generous portion. She finished with about half left and my sister took a bite. Y'all. This mac and cheese is AMAZING. We passed it around the table and fought over who would get to finish it off. This was not the blue box! 

If/when we return, I'll be ordering a side of that mac and cheese to go with my sushi ;)

All in, this was one of the least expensive meals of the week (including counter service!) but the best service, tastiest food, and nicest atmosphere. We are fans of Morimoto Asia! 

Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom

This breakfast was doomed from the beginning, really, but we tried to give it a fair shot. We ordered online the night before which proves to be a huge time saver. Instead of funneling past the ordering kiosks and waiting impatiently behind people who don't know how to work a computer, we just went straight to a cashier to pay. 

The restaurant itself is very large and cavernous inside. I see why some people refer to it as a big cafeteria  - the ballroom certainly feels that way some. Since there were 8 of us, we ended up finding tables in the Rose Gallery, which is obviously the least desirable spot in the restaurant. 

The walls are lined with large oil paintings and the centerpiece is a music box, of sorts.

Drinks are all self serve so you can collect your drinks + silverware while you wait. Drinks include coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, soda, OJ, etc. Our food was out very quickly, thanks to the online order. 

All meals come with a pastry tray to share around the table. It included a variety of items like muffins, croissants, etc. Our tables had no issue polishing them off (we received 2 trays for 8 people).

Kids Meal - Fifi's French Toast:

Obviously a small portion but between that and the pastry tray, it was plenty for me. Admittedly, I'm not a huge breakfast eater.

Eggs Florentine:

They said this was pretty good - the bread was flaky and the portion decent. No one seemed to like roasted tomatoes so those went to waste.

Open Faced Bacon and Egg Sandwich:

This had such potential and yet... crashed and burned. The eggs, which are supposed to be poached, were hard boiled. The bread is a bit hard already so the poached egg is supposed to soften it. That doesn't work when it's 2 hard boiled eggs sitting on some hard bread. He sort of ate it in layers.

The real winner in our group was the Croque Madame, which I did not get a picture of. It was amazing! So good, in fact, that my sister and her family made a reservation for a few days later just to enjoy it again. 

Would we dine there again? Maybe, it we didn't rely on Disney bus transportation and got the relaxed Main St pics on the way and out in time for rope drop. I would not pay the prices for a breakfast after park opening.

Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom

It had been years since I've eaten at the castle! We usually dine at Akershus (Epcot) but the price difference between the two was so small, we had to go with the castle this trip. 

You start by lining up to meet Cinderella. Once your picture is taken, you hang out until your party is called. Then you climb the spiral staircase (or take the elevator) up the dining room. 

The restaurant is quite small inside and tables are pretty snug. It's very pretty inside!

We had great service here, too, which I know is not always the case. Our waitress was friendly, prompt, and very helpful. After bringing us drinks,they brought out a tasting plate to share. 

It had salad, cheese, flatbreads, and hummus. All delicious! 

The menu is a fixed price meal with about 6 entree options and 3 dessert options.

Salmon served over a jalapeno cornbread cake:

Slow Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fingerling Potato Confit, Forest Roasted Mushrooms, Minus 8 Crispy Watercress, and Pork Demi:

Slow-braised Beef Short Rib, Parsnip-mashed Potatoes, and Wilted Spinach:

All the entrees were a hit - I thought the food was fantastic and beautifully presented. Even my niece had difficulty getting up from her meal to greet some of the princesses! This ended up being some of the best food we had all week.

Gus and Jaq's Favorites - White Chocolate-Jasmine Tea Mousse, Lemon and Lime Curd with Honey-Oat Crisp:

Our Signature Dessert - Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramel Hazelnut, Meringue, and Berry Compote:

In addition to Cinderella, we saw Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, and Jasmine while we ate. 

We would definitely dine here again - it was a wonderful experience! 

Flying Fish on Disney's Boardwalk

Flying Fish has been raved about for years by some of my Disney foodie friends so I was so excited to try it! We were seated almost immediately; the decor is whimsical and open, with views of the kitchen. I was also surprised at how small the space really is! They are about to close for a major rehab so it'll be interesting to see what changes. 

The menu is quite limited with an obvious lend to seafood. The menus I found online actually had several dishes that were tempting but the menu we received that night did not look as appealing. Anytime you visit a chef driven restaurant, it's good to know that the menu changes frequently so don't get your heart set on something you see online!

Appetizer: Artisanal Cheese Board - it came with 5 generous samples plus Fig-Almond Torta, Honeycomb, Raisins on the Vine, and a black mission fig, Currant-blasamico, sweet onion Compote Agrodolce. I neglected to steal the accompanying card with the names of the cheeses on it. 

I've never met a cheese I didn't like but the others at the table thought they were all quite strong in flavor, even the mild cheese. In all honesty, I could have eaten this as my meal and been completely content. 

Appetizer: Creamy Crab Bisque 

I did not taste this but the person who ordered it said it was delicious! 

Appetizer: Chef's Special Thunder Appetizer - Heirloom Beets, Fresh Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans, Citrus Supremes, Pecan Vinaigrette 

This salad was gorgeous! Mom ordered it and said that while delicious, the goat cheese was very strong - and she is usually a big fan of goat cheese. Very tangy! They were generous in the amount but it became overpowering. Otherwise, a delicious salad.

Appetizer: Signature Crab Cake

This got high marks as well! Lots of crab, generous size, and very flavorful. Who doesn't love a crab cake?

Entree: Our Chef's Special Thunder from the Sea - Oak-grilled-Citrus-scented Day-boat Swordfish, Warm Salad of Heirloom Beans, Spicy Radish, Snow Peas, Vidalia Onions, Tiny Tomato, Applewood Bacon-Mustard Dill Vinaigrette

Jason ordered this, and enjoyed it, but said it was not his favorite meal of the week. We all had fun trying to figure out what vegetable was what - I've never tasted a cooked radish and it totally threw me off! 

Entree: Grilled Sea Scallops

This was served over a delicious bed of risotto and topped with crispy prosciutto. I was set on ordering their signature dish but immediately was jealous of this one. I adore scallops and it was perfect paired with creamy risotto! 

Entree: Flying Fish Cafe's Idaho Potato-wrapped Snapper - Creamy Leek Fondue, Veal Glace de Viande-Red Wine-Cassis Butter

I'll be honest... I didn't love this. The sauce was delicious, and the leeks were unique and flavorful, but the fish was dry and nearly tasteless. Though I suppose that's why they serve a rich sauce alongside it, I was hoping for some sort of seasonings or salt or anything going on inside the potato coating. I'm glad I tried it, though! 

We were stuffed and did not partake in dessert. All in all, it was a nice meal. The waitress was a bit slow and somewhat cold but efficient enough. The restaurant is lovely inside and you can't beat the Boardwalk location for entertainment after dinner. That said, I won't be racing back and it doesn't really rank among my favorite signature spots at Disney.

Food and Wine Fest 2015: Epcot

I've shared several years worth of pics and reviews of booth offerings for Food and Wine Fest and this year is no different. While the festival has ended for the year, many of the same items return year after year. There are some dishes that I want each and every year and others that we know to skip. I always try to hit some new options!

All items range from $4-$7 each and are tasting portions. 3-4 bites, typically, which doesn't sound like much but you'll be surprised how full you get! You'll also be surprised how broke you'll be... thank goodness for that Magic Band charging - we just pretended it was monopoly money.

New Zealand: Seared venison loin with wild mushroom marsala sauce and kumara dumpling

This was a decent portion for the price and very tasty! 

Mexico: Chilaquiles de pollo: Corn chips layered with seasoned chicken, queso fresco, sour cream and cilantro

I realize that this is similar to dishes I make at home but in my defense, I was starving and just wanted something tasty to eat. It was actually really good and a generous portion.  

Australia: Grilled sweet and spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, peppers, onions, and snap peas

A tad spicy for my mom's taste but very flavorful. It had 3 large shrimp so not a bad deal!

China: Mango Green Tea at Joy of Tea

I know that Joy of Tea is a permanent fixture in the World Showcase but I want to mention that their drinks are SO GOOD and way cheaper than a tasting portion of something at a Food and West Fest booth. I dream about this mango tea... especially on a hot day! A full size drink is around $4. Cheaper than Starbucks!

China: Beijing roasted duck in steamed bun with hoisin sauce

This was SO GOOD. Incredibly flavorful, not fatty, and tender. Between this and our dinner at Morimoto a few days earlier, I've realized we don't eat near enough duck. Several of us grabbed this dish because nobody wanted to share! 

China: Gaoli beef slider 

The sauce on this was very good! Good portion size, too. 

China: Black pepper shrimp with Sichuan noodles

Nothing mind-blowing but tasty!

Africa: Buttered chicken with micro cilantro and naan bread 

I'm fairly obsessed with butter chicken so I had to see how this compared. Must admit, it was good! Quality chicken and a full size piece of naan underneath. I make it at home, so it's obviously not overly unique, but it was a guaranteed hit for me.

Japan: Teriyaki gyoza bun: Steamed bun filled with chicken, vegetables and sweet teriyaki sauce

I did not taste this but my mom said it was a great portion size and very tasty. I'm always fascinated by these steamed buns!

Japan: Miso Udon: steamed shrimp, vegetables, and noodles in a spicy broth

It was way too hot for soup but my mom can't pass up a miso soup! She said it was very good and full of veggies and shrimp.

Brazil: Crispy pork belly with black beans and tomato

The pork belly was well cooked and the black bean puree was very flavorful!

Between the 8 of us, we noshed on a lot more but since you're stopping along the way, standing at different booths, and hovering over trash cans, I wasn't always ready with a camera when others got their dish. 

All in all, it was another great year! We opted to not do any special events this year since we were traveling with others and I really didn't miss them - especially given how pricey they have gotten. 

Capt. Cook's at Polynesian Resort

Following a morning at Magic Kingdom, we stopped into Capt. Cook's for lunch before renting a SeaRaycer. I think Capt. Cooks is one of the best counter service restaurants in all the World!

Their menu is somewhat unique (ie, not just hamburgers and chicken tenders) though their ordering process is quite slow, especially when there is just 1 register. The last time we dined there, they had computer kiosks but those are gone now and you have to wait in line to order behind the people trying to get an in depth explanation on how the refillable mugs work.

You're given a pager and just grab your meal once it's ready. They are very quick!

Pulled Pork Nachos - topped with onions, cheese, spicy mayo, tomatoes and pineapple salsa

This is a huge portion of nachos topped with a generous amount of tender pulled pork. The queso, mayo sauce, and salsa are all delicious, too. The chips are like homemade potato chips, not tortilla chips. And for about $8, it's a good deal!

Big Kahuna Sandwich - turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, Swiss, lettuce, tomato on focaccia with red pepper spread and chips

This is a huge sandwich! Loaded with meat, very flavorful, and a fresh. He was able to swap the chips for fries.

If you're near the Polynesian, you should stop in for a quick bite! you can also get a Dole Whip or Mickey Bar while you're there ;)

'Ohana at Polynesian Resort (dinner)

We came back that night for our last big family meal before everyone headed home. 'Ohana has been a family facoirte over the years and thankfully, we had another great experiecne this year!

We were seated quickly after checking in adn noticed there were lots of empty tables throughout. I had a difficult time finding a reservation so I have to wonder if they've lower seating capacity for some reason. In contrast, Kona was crammed with people!

Our waiter took awhile to get to our table so I was afraid things were going to go down quickly but once he arrived for drink orders, he remained consistent in delivering food and checking in.

'Ohana is a scaled down Brazilian steakhouse.

The host/hostess brings a loaf of pineapple coconut bread to the table when you're seated. We joked that the reason they do this is so during the 10-15 minutes you sit waiting on a waiter to greet you, you fill up on the (cheap) bread and eat less shrimp!

Once the waiter arrives, the food begins to come out. You start with a platter of honey coriander wings & pork fried pot stickers:

These are both very good! Our party quickly finished off the plate and requested more. The pot stickers were my favorite!

Also brought out, mixed green salad and noodles in teriyaki sauce and stir fried veggies:

These are delicious as well! It's hard to not fill up on the noodles - but better stuff is coming!

The waiter then brings around skewers of meat: spicy grilled peel and eat shrimp, sweet and sour chicken, and szechuan sirloin steak. 

I found the chicken quality to be questionable, and really preferred the pork loin they used to have, but that just meant I had more room for shrimp and steak.

Dessert is a sinful bread pudding with banana caramel sauce:

Right before dessert, Wishes went off and we had a clear shot from our table. A lovely way to end a great week! 

There is no secret as to why 'Ohana is a hit - they have entertainment (lady on a ukulele), kids games, view of the fireworks, and all the (delicious) food you can put away. I'm thankful we got a table!

This trip, we also dined at Olivia's (breakfast and lunch), ABC Commissary, Hangar Bar, and Boma (breakfast) so if you have any questions about one of those, feel free to ask! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cajun Tilapia with Praline Sauce over Dirty Rice

A true restaurant quality meal made easily at home in 30 minutes or less! Cajun spiced tilapia is grilled and served over a bed of dirty rice with sausage. To complement the spiciness, you drizzle a sinful pecan bourbon praline sauce over top before serving. You'll be craving this dish all the time!

Hello! I know it's been awhile - we recently returned from another fantastic vacation to Walt Disney World and I've spent the last week trying to write up those memories/pics on our personal blog before I forget them all! Next week, I'll be sharing pics and reviews of all the good eating we did. Y'all know we didn't miss an opportunity to spend the day at the Food and Wine Fest!

We had this meal again not long before we left on vacation and I'm already craving it again! It has truly become one of my favorite meals. It sounds complicated - especially since there are 3 parts - but it all cooks at the same time and is super easy. Honestly; you can whip this up in 30 minutes!

I have always been scared of super spicy meals but the great thing about this dish is that you control the heat. The praline sauce is very sweet so you can ramp up the heat a bit more (and will want to). You choose how much - or how little - seasoning you rub onto the fish.

Feel free to use another type of fish. Any mild white fish will work well - I just find tilapia cheap, easy to find, and versatile. 

Cajun Tilapia with Praline Sauce over Dirty Rice
For the dirty rice:
2 links mild Italian sausage, casing removed 
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup long grain white rice
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

For the praline sauce:
½ cup pecans, either halved or chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of coarse salt
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. bourbon

For the fish:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4-6 tilapia fillets (1-1.5 pounds)

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

To make the dirty rice, crumble the sausage into a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until it starts to brown, around 2-3 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, onion, and garlic and cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Fluff with a fork and keep warm until ready to serve.

While the rice is cooking, make the praline sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the pecans and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Return the pan to medium heat and add the sugar and water. Bring to simmer, lower the heat, and cook until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the toasted pecans and salt and cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and bourbon until smooth. The sauce may thicken upon standing, but can be rewarmed over low heat.

To prepare the fish, combine the oil, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk to blend. Pat the mixture over both sides of the fish.

Oil the grates of the grill. Grill until the fish is cooked through and the fillets release easily, about 3 minutes per side. 

Place a piece of fish over a pile of dirty rice and spoon warm praline sauce over top. 

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shrek Themed Menu + Recipes (Kids Cooking Class)

Have a Shrek fan in your life? They will love this Shrek themed menu! Easy enough for kids to whip up and super fun for a party, movie watching event, kids cooking class, or just a fun family dinner.

Last summer, I posted about a summer cooking camp for kids that I hosted. This year, I took some of my own advice and did 2 weeks - one for younger children and one for older children. Shrek was the second day of camp for the older kids and was one of the grossest of the week! 

This menu was designed for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders but could be adapted to any age. 

Moldly (Spinach & Artichoke) Dip
(Jello) Worms
Fresh (Caramel & Marshmallow) Earwax
Swamp Rat (Chicken) Nuggets & Donkey's Waffles
Swamp Juice
Gingy (Gingerbread Cookies)

I did not get a picture of the moldy dip but will include the recipe because it was delicious! We started the day by making this because it's a crockpot recipe.

Moldy Dip (aka Spinach & Artichoke Dip)
Two 8-oz. package cream cheese, cut into chunks
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Two 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
Two 10-oz. package frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients into a crockpot and cook on Low heat for 2 to 3 hours, or until creamy and hot. 

(Jello) Worms
1 pkg. (6 oz) purple jello
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup whipping cream
green food coloring, as needed
100+ plastic straws with bendable necks

In a medium, heat safe mixing bowl, stir together plain and flavored gelatin powders. Pour the boiling water over the gelatin, stirring until it is fully dissolved. Allow the gelatin to cool for about 15 minutes, until it is slightly warm but not beginning to set. Stir in the whipping cream. Stir in the green food coloring until you get the desired color. 

Place your container of straws in a larger dish to catch any possible spills. With your container of straws prepped, gently pour the jello mixture over the straws. 

Chill the jello straws for at least 8 hours. 

Remove the container from the refrigerator and run the sides under warm water until you can pull the straws and jello blob out of the container. This is the messy part – gently extract each straw from the mess and holding the top of the straw tightly with one thumb and forefinger, use the other thumb and forefinger to tightly apply pressure down the entire length of the straw thereby propelling the jiggly little worm from the straw.

Place the jello worms on a baking tray lined with wax paper or in a chilled bowl.

Fresh Ear Wax (Caramel & Marshmallow)
Caramel sauce
Mini marshmallows

Thread marshmallows on tooth pics – one on each end. Carefully dip just the end into the caramel sauce, set aside on a piece of waxed paper until set.

Swamp Rat (Chicken) Nuggets & Donkey's Waffles
For the nuggets:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
1 Tbsp potato flakes 
1/3 cup cold water
1 tsp garlic salt 
1/8 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup finely crushed corn flakes (from 2 1/2 cups cereal)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

For the waffles:
Homemade Waffle Batter
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tsp vanilla

Maple syrup, for serving

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place corn flakes in ziplock and crush with rolling pin until finely crushed. In a shallow bowl, stir together crumbs and Parmesan.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine chicken pieces, potato flakes, water, garlic salt, and black pepper. Pulse until chicken is finely chopped. 

With wet hands, roll and flatten chicken into small nugget patties, using about 1 Tbsp of the meat mixture for each nugget. Roll the nugget into the bread crumbs, pressing gently for crumbs to adhere. 

Transfer nuggets to lined baking sheet and bake at 375˚F for 15 min on the middle rack or just until cooked through, flipping them over half way through baking. Remove from oven and let nuggets rest a few minutes before serving.

While the nuggets bake, prepare the waffles. 

In a large mixing bowl combine all wet ingredients together. Beat until well blended. In another bowl add all dry ingredients and slowly start to add them to the wet ingredients

Mix all ingredients until everything is wet and well mixed (but don't overmix). Cook in a waffle maker according to makers instructions.

Cut each waffle into small pieces and thread onto skewers with the cooked nuggets. Serve with maple syrup for dipping.

Swamp Juice
Green Hawaiian Punch
Seltzer water
Tapioca pearls, in various colors (cooked ahead of time)
Gummy worms & gummy fish

In a pitcher, thin out green punch with seltzer water and refrigerate. 

In clear glasses, let the kids add their choice of tapioca balls to the bottom along with a couple worms or fish. Set aside. 

When ready to serve, pour green drink into cups and serve.


We also made Gingy - or gingerbread men - and did not get a picture of any of the finished products. This is the recipe we used - it was perfect! 

Gingy (Gingerbread Men)
1 cup butter, softened
1.5 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 tablespoons water
3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg 
1 teaspoon allspice

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, egg and water. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Divide dough in half. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion of dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 4-in. cookie cutter. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Reroll scraps.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

Don't miss the other themed day already posted!

Next up... Willy Wonka! 

See Aimee Cook

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Munchkin Land Designs Elements by Amy Teets
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