Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Burgers

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday; as long as you avoid the Black Friday madness, it's one of the few holidays that are really centered around family and NOT consumerism. The huge meal full of comfort food doesn't hurt either.

This year, I have much to be thankful for, and I have to add Rachael Ray's Thanksgiving Turkey Meatloaf Burger to that list (and Juliann, from whom I got this recipe!). When it's April and you're craving a Thanksgiving meal but don't want to do the work, this is a pretty great alternative!

This burgers were perhaps the most delicious and flavorful patties I've had in a really long time. I had one leftover, and it was so good that I didn't even eat it on any bread. I just warmed it up and ate it. Heavenly!

I served them with sweet potato fries in an effort to be as Thanksgiving-y as possible.

(I probably should have remembered to take a photo BEFORE putting the top bun on the burger, huh...)


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small mcintosh apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small rib celery, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound ground dark-meat turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (about 2/3 palmful)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
  • Sliced sharp white cheddar, for topping
  • 1/3 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 4 large sandwich-size sourdough English muffins, split and toasted
  • 4 thin slices red onion
  • 4 leaves red-leaf or red romaine lettuce

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter to melt, then add the apple, onion and celery; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs, then transfer to a bowl to cool; reserve the skillet. Mix in the turkey, egg, parsley, mustard and poultry seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Form into four 4-inch patties.

Wipe out the reserved skillet and add a liberal drizzle of EVOO. Warm over medium-high heat, add the patties and cook, turning once, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Top with the cheddar during the last minute.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cranberry sauce, sour cream and chives.

Serve the patties on the English muffins with the onion, lettuce and cranberry-sour cream sauce.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pumpkin Banana Chip Muffins

I love baking muffins, and I couldn't wait to get going on some pumpkin flavors this fall. I have a great recipe courtesy of my friend Brooke, but I was in the mood to try something different. As usual, a trip to my google reader presented me with exactly what I wanted.

These muffins from Cooking and Eating in the Windy City were exactly what I was looking for. I had some bananas that needed to be baked and an eager three-year-old to help me lick the spoon.

The only change I made was, as usual, to add some chocolate chips instead of the topping listed below.

These were gone in NO TIME. Seriously, I don't think they lasted 24 hours in my house. Delicious.

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oats/nuts
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Spoon into greased muffin tin, and top each muffin with 1 Tbsp of topping. Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Layered Fiesta Casserole

I have been receiving complimentary copies of Food and Family from Kraft, as I'm sure many of you do. Even though it's usually one big commercial for their products, I've certainly found my share of yummy things! They recently started charging for this, and as much as I enjoy it, I won't be subscribing.

I found this recipe for a Layered Fiesta Casserole in their last issue and added it to my menu immediately. It absolutely did not disappoint - it was easy and fantastic.


  • 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Thick 'N Chunky Salsa
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen corn, thawed
  • 4-6 corn tortillas (12 inch)
  • 1-1/2 cups KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided

HEAT oven to 375°F.

BROWN meat with peppers in large skillet; drain. Return to skillet. Stir in salsa, tomatoes and corn.

SPREAD 1 cup meat mixture onto bottom of 9x9-inch baking dish; top with 1 tortilla. Cover with layers of the remaining meat mixture and cheese; top with remaining tortillas and meat mixture. Cover with foil.

BAKE 25 to 30 min. or until heated through. Top with remaining cheese; let stand 5 min. or until melted.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Superbowl Snack Throwdown: Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving! While you are digesting your turkey and pie, click here to vote in this week's Throwdown, where the secret ingredient was wine. Scroll down a bit and vote for your favorite on the right.

For many families, Thanksgiving and football really go hand in hand. My family, however, has recently begun taking that relationship to new levels; yesterday, they played in the 2nd Annual Gellar Bowl (yes, we're a little obsessed with Friends here).

Prior to the feast, a bunch of the guys get together for a football game played on an open stretch of grass across the street from my house. Little by little, this game gained a life of its own, including jerseys, playbooks, and a delivery of pylons to my front door.

The Sparkling Wiggles (my brother-in-law, husband, and cousin):

Two-time champions, Semper Fun (my cousin's husband flanked by my two brothers):

After a champagne victory celebration and a few showers, we sat down to our traditional Thanksgiving feast. We've been hosting it at our house since 2003, and enjoy the coming together of both of our families.

While I really look to making things as easy as possible for myself (especially since I have to simultaneously care for my toddler and infant!), I also love to try new things. This year, I decided to ditch the cans of Ocean Spray and try my hand at homemade cranberry sauce.

I perused several recipes online and came up with what you see below. This dish was fabulous and super easy to create. It is elegant enough to grace your Thanksgiving table, but also casual enough for a laid-back football get-together. And as an added bonus, your house will smell fantastic as these are cooking!
  • 1/2 cup white zinfandel wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 12oz fresh cranberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on high for two and a half hours, stirring every half hour or so.
After two and a half hours, mash the cranberries. Continue to cook on high for a half hour, uncovered.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Superbowl Snack Throwdown: Cheeseburger Quesadillas

Please visit HighLowAha and cast your votes for your favorite recipe this week! Look over to the right and scroll down a bit; you have until this Sunday at 9pn EST. Thank you!

When Kate and I were first given the guidelines for this competition, we were informed that we could submit something we've already made/blogged about. I mentally scoffed at the idea; I entered this contest to hone my culinary creativity, not to just repost stuff that's already here.

When tortilla was chosen as this week's ingredient for HighLowAha's Superbowl Snack Throwdown, however, I couldn't get this dish out of my mind. I tried, I really did, to come up with something else, something that would be creative and all that. But I couldn't. I am so infatuated with these that they're all I can think of when I hear tortilla. Or Morningstar. Or taco seasoning. They've taken over my mind.

I wish I could, at the very least, present you with some alternative or adaption, but quite frankly, I haven't deviated from Hungry Girl's original recipe at all. There's no need to. They are delicious, easy, cheap, fast, and healthy - absolutely perfect.

These delicious little quesadillas are sure to be a hit at your next get-together; my husband and I eat them for lunch at least once a week.

Make these now - don't even wait for Sunday's games. You will not be sorry.

4 large low-carb tortillas
1-1/3 cup frozen ground-beef-style soy crumbles (like the ones by Boca and Morningstar Farms)
1 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese
2 wedges, The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tbsp. chopped scallions
1 tsp. dry taco seasoning mix
Optional: additional fat-free sour cream, for dipping

In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine soy crumbles, cheddar cheese, scallions, sour cream, and seasoning mix, stirring thoroughly. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir again, and set aside.

Lay tortillas flat and spread 1/2 cheese wedge evenly over one half of each tortilla. Top the cheesy tortilla half with soy crumble mixture and fold over.

Bring a medium-large pan sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat, and lay quesadilla on it (or more, if they fit). Cook for about 1 minute, until slightly toasted on the bottom.

Flip and continue to cook for about 1 minute, until both sides are toasted. Remove from heat and cut into four triangles. Serve with sour cream or ketchup for dipping, if you like. Enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Superbowl Snack Throwdown: Spicy Harvest Muffins

Happy Friday the 13th! We're back to regular weekend voting, so scurry on over to HighLowAha to cast your vote by 9pm EST on Sunday! (You can also vote for the secret ingredients for the next two weeks.)

First, thank you all a billion times for participating in last week's festivities; I certainly had a blast!

Kate won the Halftime Competition, so in addition to a week's victory, she also was granted the right to select our next ingredient. She did a very good job giving herself the upperhand; she must have known that I am not a cayenne person and that this week would be a challenge! :)

Unfortunately, I must once again present you with a very mediocre photo. I brought my baby, uhh I mean my camera, to be fixed after its little tumble, and it's not yet ready. Bummer, too, because I was really hoping to have it for Ryan's pirate party this weekend. Arrrgh.

Don't let this crappy picture fool you; I LOVE these little muffins! I had no idea what to make with the use of cayenne, so I visited my friend Google; these spicy pumpkin carrot muffins from Fancy Pants Foodie popped up. I really wasn't sure about them at first, but I figured I'd give them a shot, and I am glad I did. The flavor in these guys is just unbelievable. I actually took some liberties with the title because I wanted the name of these muffins to truly harness the fact that they really embody so many fall flavors.

If you are really hesitant about the cayenne, it can easily be omitted. I did leave it off of about half because I was afraid Ryan wouldn't eat them otherwise. Both versions were equally fantastic!

These will go very quickly - not just during your football games, but also during Thanksgiving or any event this autumn.


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter @ room temp
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. molasses, unsulphured
  • 2 eggs, beaten, @ room temp
  • 14 oz. can pumpkin (or equivalent amount cooked, pureed pumpkin)
  • 1-3.5 oz. container carrot baby food (or equivalent amount cooked, pureed carrot)
  • 3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries, raisins or currants
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne powder (smoked if you have it)
  • cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using fresh, cooked pumpkin, strain puree for at least 30 minutes in cheesecloth or a wire sieve.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter at medium-high speed until soft and lightened in color.
Add molasses and 1 1/2 c. of the brown sugar, beating until combined and light in texture.
Add the eggs, pumpkin and carrot, and mix on medium speed until blended.
In a separate bowl or on a flexible cutting board, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into wet ingredients and gently fold together, being careful not to overmix.
Fold in the cranberries, raisins or currants.
Using a spoon or large disher (what I used), fill muffin cups three-quarters full. Sprinkle muffins with cinnamon sugar and with cayenne to taste.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Haltime, Day 5

Good morning!

Today's challenge is, I think, pretty damn fun.

First - while I didn't have the highest number of participants, I do have to thank my friend Dawn for nominating her babysitter; Peggy won! :)

Okay, today.

You have almost the whole weekend for this (ends 5pm CST on Sunday).

Take a picture of yourself and send it to

Easy, right? ;)

Your picture MUST INCLUDE the following:

1. A sign with the team name (Holiday Armadillos)
2. The team color (pink)
3. A kitchen utensil

Again, the team with the most number of participants wins 2 points, and the team with the winning picture (most creative) wins 1 point.

Now, I'm down by 2 points, so I need to win in BOTH categories in order to win this week!!

Grab your cameras and have fun!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Waffles

A few weeks ago, I had a little date with my buddies Ryan and Daniel at IHOP. I ordered some kind of omelet, and it came with three buttermilk pancakes. As I was ordering, however, I noticed a sign for their season pumpkin spice pancakes. For a mere $1.67 more, I quickly requested to swap out the buttermilk for the pumpkin.

They were AWESOME, and as soon as I got home, I searched for my own recipe. I found this one, however, for pumpkin waffles on the Betty Crocker site. I made them the very next day in my awesome circus animal waffle iron that my brother gave me for my birthday.

They were absolutely delicious! The pumpkin flavor was just enough to be noticeable without being too overpowering for my less-than-enthusiastic-about-pumpkin husband. I chose to not make the apple butter, but I'm sure that would have been yummy too!


  • 2 1/3 cups Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Powdered sugar, if desired

Heat waffle iron; grease with cooking spray, vegetable oil or shortening. In large bowl, beat all waffle ingredients except pecans and powdered sugar with wire whisk or hand beater until blended. Pour batter onto center of hot waffle iron. Close lid of waffle iron.

Bake about 5 minutes or until steaming stops and waffle is golden brown. Carefully remove waffle. Sprinkle with pecans and powdered sugar. Serve with syrup.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halftime, Day 3

Good morning!

Yesterday, I did not have the winning # of entries, but I DID have the winning entry selected - thanks to my friend AMANDA for picking the screwdriver! That's what Claudia will have to use for her novel-writing celebration. Should be interesting...! :)

They worded everything better than I could, so I'm just going to copy and paste part of HighLowAha's site for today's instructions - a virtual wave. I'll get 2 points for having the most number of entries (only one per person today) and 1 point if my wave is deemed most creative.

Make sure that, in addition to your single word, you include that you are part of Team Holiday Armadillos!

Once again, THANK YOU!!
Today Team Danko Defenders and Team Holiday Armadillos will create their very own virtual waves. The wave with the greatest number of participants, and therefore lasts the longest, wins 2 points. The wave voted most creative by our panel of judges wins 1 point.
Here's how...
I'll supply the very first word.
Building off of that word, create the most compelling statement for why your captain (Kate or Lauren) reigns supreme. BUT... each team member may only post one word. One word at a time and only one submission per person!
Here's what it might look like if I was fielding a team...
Starting word: The
Person #1: reason
Person #2: Claudia
Person #3: must
Person #4: be
Person #5: crowned
Person #6: winner...
and on and on and on, until 9:00 p.m. CST.
One more time... Create a compelling statement about why your defender should reign supreme. Statements must be written one word at a time. No person may post more than once during the day. In other words... one word per person! Lauren and Kate (or their appointed designee) must place the final punctuation mark on their statement no later than 8:59 p.m. CST.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halftime, Day 2

Good morning!

First, I want to thank you all for helping me get as far as I have in the Superbowl Snack Throwdown. When I first started this, I figured I'd ask you all to vote for me each week and that'd be it. But you guys go way past that - you solicit YOUR friends and family by posting on Facebook, on your message boards, whatever... and there's no way I would have won even a single week if not for that. So THANK YOU!!

The site is doing a "halftime" week this week. There will be no cooking, so there's no voting this weekend. However, all week they will be posting little challenges where my competitor and I can earn points. The person with the most points at the end of the week earns a point in the overall scoreboard, AND can pick next week's ingredient!

Yesterday, I won the quantity part of the contest by ONE. I had ONE more comment than Kate did. WAHOO! Thank you!

Today's challenge is to select a cookie cutter. Go here and select the cookie cutter that you think will be the most difficult to connect to a holiday - it needs to really be a stretch for a baker to figure out how to incorporate it. Then, visit HighLowAha and post your choice in the comment section. Make sure you add that you are commenting on behalf of the Holiday Armadillos!

(A cookie cutter can only be posted once, though, so the earlier you do this, the better.)

Many, many thanks to everyone!!

Crockpot Asian Beef and Noodles

This crockpot meal was another winner from my friend Colleen. There is nothing better than dumping stuff into a crockpot and sitting around a delicious-smelling house while an appliance cooks dinner for you!

I tried to heed her advice about finding a low-sodium stir-fry sauce, but alas, I was also unsuccessful. Later, I googled a recipe for making my own, so I will try one of them next time.

Saltiness aside, this was absolutely delicious, and I'll definitely make it again!

Sidenote: I've never before had Ramen noodles. I've heard people mention how cheap they are and how it's the major food group of college students and starving artists, but I had no idea exactly how cheap they are. Dude, I got a package of 6 for 99 cents! Wowzers!

  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 2 - 2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle stir-fry sauce, any flavor
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles, broken
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped

Coat a 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place frozen vegetables in the bottom and top with stew meat. In a medium bowl, stir together stir-fry sauce, water, and red pepper. Pour over stew meat and vegetables in cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours or on high for 4 1/2-5 hours (I recommend low, it will help to break the meat down more).

At the end of cooking time, discard spice packets from ramen noodles. Stir noodles and green onions into meat mixture. Cover and let stand 10 minutes more. Stir before serving. This can be kept on warm for 1-2 hours.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Spiced Cream Cheese Breakfast Rolls

When I saw these Breakfast Rolls on Picky Palate, I knew that they'd be perfect for Halloween morning.

My trusty sous chef, Ryan, helped me, as usual, which made them even more special. I love cooking and baking with my little guy!

I learned something during this endeavor, however. Usually, when I don't think it matters, I buy store brand stuff. So I bought (or THOUGHT I bought) 2 tubes of Stop and Shop brand crescent rolls. When I went to cook them, however, I realized that I bought one generic and one Pillsbury.

I still didn't think it mattered, even when I noticed that the Pillsbury ones were much easier to work with. They rolled better, pinched better, and sliced better.

But I really learned that in this recipe, you have to go with the real one! Check out these rolls after baking:

Guess which one is generic and which is brand name? :)

When it came down to flavor, however, they both tasted the same - absolutely delicious! They made more than we could eat at once, and didn't reheat super well, so next time I will likely only use one tube - of the Pillsbury ones, of course!

  • 2 packages/cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 4 0z cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 Cup canned pumkin (Libby’s)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unroll crescent rolls to form 4 rectangles placed side by side. Pinch seams together to form one long rectangle. Place cream cheese, brown sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg into a mixer; beat until well combined. Spread mixture over crescents leaving a 1/2 inch border around edges. Starting at long end, roll up then cut into 1 inch pieces. Place around 2 9 inch cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. I left the centers open so the rolls form a circle.

2. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes. Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting recipe below.


  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 Cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon canned pumpkin (Libby’s)

1. Mix all ingredients into a large bowl until smooth. Spread over warm rolls.

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