Thursday, December 5, 2013

November Things.

YAY!  It's December!!!!  It's my favorite month of the year, for many's my birthday month, it's (supposed to be) cold outside- seriously what is with the 84 degree temps today?- and it's Christmastime!  Classes are over.  I took my last finals yesterday (aced them!) and now I am super excited about all the free time I have 3 evenings a week.  Plus, my only class is online next semester, so I feel like I'm free until April or May!  What I plan to do with that time:  spend time with my love as well as family and friends, keep up with this blog more (which means baking and cooking more!), read a ton of books from my Goodreads List, start working out again with a trainer at the gym a couple nights a week, paint my nails, take lots of bubble baths with magazines, relax and HAVE FUN!  

So I know it's a few days into December already, but I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of stuff at the end of every month...what I cooked, what I baked, what I did, where I went, what I read...that sort of stuff.  Despite the lack of posts on here, I actually cooked quite a bit this month, especially with Thanksgiving.  I have the recipes waiting to be posted, which will hopefully all be up in the next week or so! And I know it's a little late for the Thanksgiving dishes, but I think they're mostly year-round sorts of things that I made.  Even the pumpkin cake.  I promise.
What I Cooked

Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons.  This was when the weather actually was cold (and by cold, I mean below 70..ughhh), and it was SO tasty and comforting.  

Bobby Deen's Sweet Potato Chicken Mole- I love chicken's a rich and spicy (not hot, just full of spices) sauce with bittersweet chocolate.  One of my favorite Latin dishes.  I made Bobby Deen's healthed-up version and absolutely loved it!  Garrett thought it was a bit rich, but I scarfed it down.  Recipe to come.  

Apple Cinnamon Slow-Cooker Pork Tenderloin- this was a Pinterest find and it was a hit!  It's about 5 ingredients, takes about 5 minutes to throw in the Crockpot and tastes like heaven.  

Tuscan Chicken Shepherd's Pie- Garrett loves Shepherd's pie, and this was a quick and easy new spin on it.  It's actually a bit healthier than traditional Shepherd's pie, but just as tasty.  He loved this one too.  

Frito Chili Pie- I made this to use up the Tupperware container of leftover chili in the freezer.  This is AWESOME and so easy.  

Corn Pudding- I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe on here before.  This recipe is an old family recipe from my Aunt Peggy's BFF Betty's Aunt Katherine (confused yet?) and our family has made this since I can remember.  No holiday is complete without it.  It's everyone's favorite. 
What I Baked

Pumpkin Dream Cake- Oh my gosh, y'all.  I made two of these.  Not just a little dinky sheet cake, either.  I mean two giant 3-layer cakes.  I promise this is the best cake I have ever made in my life.  Ever.  

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie- I made 3 of these for various Thanksgiving celebrations.  I totally thought I invented this 3 years ago and now everyone has a recipe or variation on their blog or Pinterest.  It's like when you wear a really weird outfit and everyone makes fun of you, and then 2 weeks later everyone else is wearing it and taking all the credit and no one even thinks you're cool because you totally rocked it so long ago.  That's how I feel.  Just saying.  Maybe if I eat more pie, I'll feel better.

Pretzel Peanut Butter Bars- Um.  Wow.  This pan didn't even last 24 hours.  I've been a bit obsessed with Trisha Yearwood's show on Food Network lately, and she made these for Kelly Clarkson (eeee!) and I ran the 3 steps to my kitchen and made them ASAP.  Thanks, Miss Trisha.  Best recipe of my life.
What I Did

Couples massages.  This is something Garrett and I try to do every couple of weeks.  It's SO relaxing, therapeutic, and has become a fun tradition for us.  Our massage clinic is about an hour away in adorable Winter Park so we usually get our massages and then have a nice breakfast afterward at Keke's Breakfast Cafe (yum!).  I highly recommend regular massages.  No matter how busy you are, make time.  They're so worth it. 

Visited home for a friend's wedding and got to see some old friends I haven't had time to see in the past couple of years!  

Learned the secret recipe for Bread Rolls from Garrett's sweet mom, Nancy.  One thing that is very near and dear to my heart are family recipes and it's so exciting to start learning recipes from Garrett's family.  Nancy's Bread Rolls are AWESOME and I'm so excited I know how to make them now!  But I can't share the recipe, because it's a secret.  Secret family recipes are the best kind. ;) 

Lots and lots of homework/presentations/paper writing/studying/final exam taking.  One week in my planner looks like a 5 year old scribbled all over it with 3 different colored pens.  Except that was really my to-do list.  

Thanksgiving- I worked.  Yay.  But we did have a pretty nice little Thanksgiving lunch at work.  Everyone brought in a dish and we pigged out.  When I got home from work, Garrett and I joined our sweet neighbors for a late Thanksgiving dinner at their house.  They have really fallen in love with our pup Rocky and they keep him almost every day.  They're two of the most kind-hearted people and we're so blessed to have them as neighbors.  :)  

Black Friday Shopping- I usually get up at 4am and hit the mall (NOT WALMART).  I most definitely did NOT wake up at 4am...but I did get up around 9:30am and hit the mall with Garrett's cousin Haley!  I got a few Christmas presents purchased, got a boat load of stuff from Bath & Body Works, and some Christmas decorations from Target and Michael's.  

Had a lovely shopping date with Garrett's mom, aunt, and cousin at The Barn in Lake Alfred.  There's a huge outdoor section of cute yard and garden stuff, and two HUGE shops inside that have Christmas decorations and fun antiquey home furnishing and decor stuff!  I bought a cute puppy ornament for our tree that looks like Rocky.  We had some lunch at the Lavender & Lace Tea Room afterward.  Such a lovely day!  
What I Read

If it looks like I read quite a bit, it's because I listen to audiobooks in the car.  I have about an hour commute to work each way, so audiobooks keep me entertained and awake!

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Um...I feel sort of bad saying this, but I was pretty underwhelmed with this book.  Maybe I would've liked it better had I read it, instead of listening to it.  But it was just...ehh.  For some reason, books about dying professors, while a sweet idea, just seem sort of preachy to me.  I felt the same way about The Last Lecture when I read it a few years ago.  I don't know.  I really wanted to like this book, and based on reviews I thought it would pull on some heartstrings, but it just didn't.  
Product Details

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
I thought this book was so cute!  And in usual Sophie Kinsella fashion, this book cracked me up.  I'm sure I looked like a mad woman driving down the road cracking up to this...but I can't help but laugh at Sophie's funny British girls who get themselves into the most ridiculous situations.  

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Wow.  These are all audiobooks!  I think I've been reading an actual book for over a month on my Kindle! Whoops!  Well...this book.  I think it's one of those love/hate books.  Half the people I know who have read it love it, and the other half hate it.  Admittedly, the main characters are both sick and twisted freakos.  But I loved it.  I love a book that keeps me in suspense, and this one did just that.  I kept wanting to get in my car and drive somewhere just so I could keep listening.  
Well, that was my November.  Even though classes are over, the rest of December is a whirlwind of family, baking, cooking, and Christmas parties!  I love being busy with fun stuff like that! :)  I promise I'll get some recipes posted ASAP!  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

For as long as I can remember, I've been a self-proclaimed soup hater.  Anytime someone would talk about soup, I'd say, "I hate soup."  I'm not sure why I used such a strong word, because there are very few foods I actually hate.  And if presented with soup, I'd usually eat it.  I think my "hatred" of soup goes back to when I was a kid and had the flu or some stomach bug and being fed chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup and/or beef stew out of a can and then throwing it up shortly after.  Because when someone says "soup," that's precisely what comes to mind.  Immediately.  

I've had so many soups I actually bean soup, any kind of chowder, potato soup (even with my very picky attitude toward potatoes), beer cheese soup, broccoli cheese soup, butternut squash soup.  It goes on and on.  I finally came to realize I love soup, for the most just has to be homemade or from a restaurant.  I can't handle it out of a can.  The one exception is tomato soup.  That's one I can eat out of a can.  Perfect heated up with a grilled cheese or peanut butter toast dipped in.  It's one thing I crave when I'm sick. 

Lately I've ventured into making homemade soups and I found this recipe for Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons when I was browsing through Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook.  Since I love tomato soup from a can, I figured it could only be improved upon if homemade.  And I loved the idea of grilled cheese croutons...make a grilled cheese, let it rest for a few minutes, slice it into cubes and toss it in your bowl of soup.  Genius.  So I made this soup and absolutely loved it.  To me, its flavor is actually a cross between french onion and tomato soup, as it's pretty heavy on the onions (fine with me, since french onion is another soup I do like).  So this soup kinda made me into a soup lover.  

With your grilled cheese, may I suggest using mayo on the outside of the bread instead of butter.  Ina doesn't do this, but I do.  Garrett made me a grilled cheese a couple weeks ago with may on the outside and it was AMAZING.  It just has so much flavor, and the bread gets so brown and crispy.  Perfect for this recipe.  

Also, the recipe calls for San Marzano tomatoes, which I can never find in the store.  I splurged and bought the organic canned crushed tomatoes.  I left out the saffron because it's super expensive, and the soup was perfectly fine without it.

But I still won't eat chicken noodle soup, beef stew, or vegetable soup.  Even homemade.  *cringe*

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

For the soup:
 3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 medium onions)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 Tbsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a pot with water, add 2 tsp salt, and bring to a boil.  Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes.  (It will finish cooking in the soup).  Drain the orzo and add to the soup.  Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons
*A Jill and Garret original recipe*

4 slices fresh white bread (I used Italian from the Publix bakery)
4 Tbsp mayonnaise (or butter)
Shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar, but any strong cheese would be great)

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat.  Spread mayo on one side of each slice of bread.  Fill bread with as much cheese as you like (the more the better!) and place in skillet.  Cook slowly, about 5 minutes on each side, or until the bread is browned and crispy.  Remove sandwiches from the skillet, and let stand about 5 minutes.  Using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut each sandwich into cubes.  Scatter croutons on top of tomato soup.  Yum! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013


In honor of the temperatures hitting the high 50's this morning (it's practically about to snow!), I wanted to share a few pumpkin recipes I've made the past couple of weeks!  The first two are real-life breakfast recipes....Pumpkin Pie Smoothies and Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.  The third, Biscoff Cookie Pumpkin Bread, I like to pretend it's a breakfast food.  Yes, it's basically a loaf-shaped cake with cookies on top.  But it's called "bread," and bread is totally acceptable for breakfast.  
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Holy cow, this is so yummy.  It definitely tastes like a pumpkin milkshake, but it's actually really healthy and filling.  I've seen a lot of different recipes for this floating around Pinterest, so I sort of combined elements of those with what I like in my usual smoothies, and threw together my own recipe.  This would be really good with butterscotch or vanilla pudding mix, too.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
makes 1 large smoothie

1/4 cup canned pumpkin
a hand full of ice cubes 
1/4 cup dry oats
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional- makes it more filling)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 packet Jello Sugar Free White Chocolate Pudding mix
1/4-1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk (to consistency)

Throw all ingredients in blender and blend until it's the consistency you like.  Top with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.  
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal:

This is another recipe I sort of just threw together this morning.  It was so lovely outside, so I decided to grab my (pumpkin spice) coffee and a bowl of pumpkin pie oatmeal and dig through some cookbooks for some nice, warm, comfort foods to cook this week.  (BTW- does anyone else find that they have a TON of cookbooks, but get their recipes mostly from Pinterest?  I had forgotten how much I love just sitting and reading cookbooks!)  This is another really filling breakfast, and perfect for chilly mornings!  I think I'm going to make a big batch to take to work for breakfasts throughout the week.  

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
makes 1 serving

1/2 cup instant dry oats
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp brown sugar
splash of almond milk

1.  Stir together oats and water in a microwaveable bowl.  Microwave for 2 minutes.
2.  Spoon pumpkin and brown sugar on top of oats and cook another 30-45 seconds, until brown sugar starts to melt.
3.  Stir in pumpkin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk.  Enjoy!
Biscoff Cookie Pumpkin Bread

*I totally forgot to take a picture of this.  I found the recipe on another blog, but with copyrights and stuff, I'm not sure if I can use their pictures...not sure how that works.  I don't want to be a copyright infringer, so look here for the original recipe and pictures!  Hers are probably better than mine, anyway!*

We have the sweetest neighbors ever.  You see, Garrett adopted my crazy pup when I moved in.  Rocky is a sweet, adorable, loving dog, but has a bit of separation anxiety, which worsened when we moved here.  Let's just say a couple of windows, a bathroom door, and some fishing poles have been harmed while Garrett and I were out running errands (on more than one occasion).  After a lot of brainstorming (and trial and error), we ended up building Rocky a pretty sweet shaded pen in the backyard (and when I say "pen," I mean bigger than some bedrooms I've had).  Our neighbors moved in shortly after I did, and just happen to LOVE dogs.  They lost 3 doggies in one year to old age, and couldn't bring themselves to go through that pain again so they never got a new dog.  One day, our neighbors talked to Garrett and ASKED if they could watch Rocky sometime.  They watched him for a couple of weekends when we went out of town, and then ASKED if they could come over and get him during the day when we're at work!  Lonely pup in need of ear scratches and belly rubs + super-sweet doggy-loving neighbors who love giving pup attention all day = win-win situation.  Our neighbors always tell us how much they love Rocky, but we are SO grateful to have such loving sweet people to watch him for us when we're gone!  I think it's just as good for Rocky as it is for them!  

Last week I wanted to take them a small thank-you gift.  I decided to bake them something special and had been wanting to try this recipe for awhile (how can you go wrong with Biscoff cookies and pumpkin?!?!).  I doubled the recipe and took a loaf next door, and kept a loaf for us (and by us, I mean me, since I think I ate the whole loaf, minus the one bite I made Garrett try).  If you make any pumpkin bread this fall, make this one.  Holy cow.  So delicious.  

Biscoff Cookie Pumpkin Bread
makes one loaf
recipe courtesy of Will Cook for Smiles

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup Biscoff cookie crumbs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice (I used a heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice instead of the 3 spices)

1/2 cup Biscoff cookie crumbs
1/2 stick butter, cold
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan.  
2.  For cookie crumbs: pulse half a package of Biscoff cookies in food processor until you get fine crumbs.  (Or do what I did and put them in a Ziplock baggie and pound the heck out of them with the can of pumpkin). 
3..  Whisk wet ingredients and brown sugar together in a bowl until smooth.
4.  Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into the wet mixture.  Add cookie crumbs and whisk until incorporated. 
5.  Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly.
6.  For the streusel: pulse cold butter, cookie crumbs and cinnamon in a food processor until crumbly.  (Or do what I did and cut the butter into cubes and cut cookie crumbs and cinnamon in with a pastry cutter/fork).  Sprinkle crumbs evenly over the batter.
7.  Bake 55-60 minutes and cool on wire rack (if you can wait that long).  Remove from pan and eat the whole loaf eat a small slice.  :)

I hope you enjoy these pumpkin recipes as much as I do!  This week since it's getting chilly (for Florida) I'm making a couple of different soups and a pasta dish that will be some nice, yummy comfort food.  I'll share those recipes later this week. :)  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Fall has finally arrived in nasty, humid, muggy Florida.  I'm told it's only for a couple of days, but today the temperatures finally dipped below 80 and it's so lovely to sit on the front porch and write.  I really hope this lasts, because I have a lot of boots, sweaters and scarves in my closet that are very lonely and calling my name.

So since the last recipe I shared was kind of a dud, I thought I'd share a much better one.  I've made this twice in the past 2 weeks.  Last week it was proclaimed Garrett's favorite, when he said "if I got this in a restaurant, I would order another one."  I made it again last night, as it's probably the easiest thing to put together, and he said he could probably eat it every day.  I found the recipe for Crockpot Cheesesteak Pulled Chicken on How Sweet It Is (one of my favorite food blogs!).  I halved the original recipe, because our Crockpot is on the small side, but it was the perfect amount for the two of us, with some leftovers for lunch the next day.  Last week, I sliced some sweet potatoes into fries, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and baked on a cookie sheet at 450 for about 30 minutes.  Last night, we went old school with some tater tots.  This recipe literally takes 5 minutes to throw in the Crockpot and tastes amazing.  Enjoy!
Crockpot Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches
Serves 2 (plus some leftovers)
Adapted from How Sweet It Is

1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large sweet onion, sliced
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
2-3 cloves garlic
4 oz beer (whatever you have in the fridge- I used Amber Bock)
smoked paprika
4-6 oz shredded cheddar cheese (or your favorite type of cheese)
Kaiser sandwich buns (from the grocery store bakery)

1.  Layer sliced green peppers and onions in the bottom of your Crockpot.  Top with garlic.  
2.  Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Place on top of onions and peppers.
3.  Pour beer over chicken, peppers and onions and cook on high for 6 hours.
4.  Around 4 hours, start to shred the chicken with 2 forks and stir into the sauce. 
5.  After 6 hours, use a ladle to drain any excess liquid (I saved mine and froze it for next time!).  Stir in cheese. 
6.  Serve on toasted buns with desired condiments (we love mayo!) and top with extra cheese. 

I promise I'm not a drunk, but I might have finished this beer...before noon.  

It's not photogenic.  But it's tasty.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin Tortellini Alfredo

My apologies for the delay in posting my first pumpkin recipe of the season.  I sort of put it off for two reasons:

1.  It was  It was mediocre and could use some tweaking, and I was debating posting a "just okay" recipe. 

2.  This past week was ridiculously insane and I didn't cook a single thing.  You see, MY BEST FRIEND IN THE ENTIRE WORLD GOT MARRIED this past weekend, and I of course had my maid of honor duties to fulfill.  I have to say, it was truly the best wedding I have ever been to (I overheard quite a few people say the same thing...) and I am so over the moon happy for my bestie.  They head out for their honeymoon this morning, so I can't wait to have an hours-long phone conversation with her when she gets back!! 

So, like I said.  This recipe is okay.  I was expecting so much more and was just a little disappointed in how it turned out.  I followed the recipe exactly, but it was just missing something.  I haven't had a chance to tweak it up (and believe me, I want to play around with this one, because it has so much potential!), but it just needs more pumpkin, flavor, something.  

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't disgusting by any means, and it was a decent quick meal to throw together after work.  I think next time I'll add a bit more pumpkin, more parmesan, maybe some bacon or prosciutto, roasted garlic, and some sage.  But here's the recipe I followed.  I also added the rest of the rotisserie chicken I used from the last recipe...just shredded it up and threw it in the sauce with the pasta.  I steamed up some fresh broccoli and served it on the side as well.

I have to say that Mr. Garrett only had a couple of bites of this.  When I cooked it, he worked super late and wasn't that hungry when he got home.  The weekend sort of got away from us, so I was the one who ate the leftovers for lunch the next couple of work days.  So, sorry I can't give his opinion on it! :(  
My opinion:  I just wanted more pumpkin, and more flavor.  

P.S.   I'm not even sharing the pictures because they looked so....blah.
Pumpkin Tortellini Alfredo
adapted from Handle the Heat
2 9-oz packages cheese tortellini
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 small onion or small shallot, chopped
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (I used fat free half and half)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded (optional)
black pepper to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook according to package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.  Drain pasta.

2.  While pasta is boiling, heat butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until slightly soft, about 2 minutes.  Add pumpkin and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir in cream and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cheese and cook until thick, about 1 minute more.

3.  Add tortellini and chicken to the skillet and stir into the sauce, adding reserved pasta water if necessary.  Serve topped with additional cheese.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I'm Back!

Hi everyone!  I have definitely been MIA for a ridiculous amount of time.  I know, I know.  I guess I can blame that on the fact that I wasn't really cooking or baking enough to blog about, since I was single up until almost 6 months ago.  Combine that singleness with a stupid busy work/school schedule and you get nothing to blog about (food-wise, at least).  But enough excuses, no one cares about all that. 

What matters now is that I'm back.  Baking, cooking and blogging is something I LOVED to do, and I found myself truly missing it.  My life has really changed in the past few months.  I met an absolutely AMAZING guy, Garrett, who treats me like a princess.  I fell in love with said guy, and have since moved in with him.  He loves food just as much as I do (cooking and eating it!) and thankfully he's not a picky eater!  He's an amazing cook and an amazing taste-tester.  It's truly a blast to come home to him everyday.  <3 font="" nbsp="">

Cooking for Garrett is one of my most favorite things to do these days and a few days ago, I found myself making a meal plan for the week.  Yes, a meal plan.  If you're one of those people who wants to barf at the sight of a meal plan on a blog, I feel you.  If you'd have asked me a year ago, I would've been right there barfing with you.  And I'm no Martha Stewart, but even in the past few days, making a meal plan has been such a stress-reliever.  And it's been fun, really!  I love going through the 1600 bunches of recipes I've bookmarked over the past few years and deciding what to eat for the week!  It's actually saved us a lot of time and a lot of money on eating dinner out and buying lunches at work (since we have tons of leftovers).  So I've converted over to the meal-planning camp.  If you hate meal plans, I hope we can still be friends.  Just bear with me, because I'm going to be sharing some amazing recipes.  You don't have to be a meal planner to ogle food.  Am I right?  

So if you're still sticking around, I'm going to share the first amazing recipe I made this week (well, second.  The first was chili, but that involves me opening cans and dumping them in a pot with some ground beef and macaroni and a bunch of spices...maybe I'll share that one later.  Maybe).  

I saw this recipe for Chicken Broccoli Casserole Cobbler on A Cozy Kitchen and it seemed like the perfect comfort food to me.  Yes, it has more than one "cream of" soup in it.  Sorry, not sorry.  I grew up and live in the South.  "Cream of" soups are a staple.  If you don't like them out of a can, you could make your own I suppose, or just skip this recipe.  But you'll be missing out.  Just trust me.  Plus, it's topped with homemade cheddar biscuits, which might just be the best drop biscuits I've ever made.  It's a pretty simple dish to prepare, and it's even better leftover.  I may or may not be eating this out of a Tupperware right now.   Don't read that last sentence.  

Note: I altered a few things, since Garrett is allergic to mushrooms, but you can get the original recipe if you click on the link above.  

P.S.  Would you look at this grated butter?  Ohmahgarsh.

You can't go wrong with chicken, cheese, and broccoli.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole Cobbler
adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
makes 6 servings

1 large can cream of chicken soup (26 oz)
1 small can of cream of broccoli soup
3 Tbsp softened cream cheese
1/2 store-bought rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp black pepper

Cheddar Biscuit Topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk
1 large egg
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cream of chicken and cream of broccoli soups with the softened cream cheese.  Stir in the shredded chicken, broccoli, and cheese until combined.  Pour into a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or large rectangular casserole dish) and set aside.  

3.  To make the biscuits, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Using a cheese grater, grate the stick of butter on top of the dry ingredients.  Place bowl in the freezer for about 5 minutes.  While the butter is chilling, whisk the buttermilk and egg together.  Remove bowl from freezer and gently crumble the butter into the flour with your hands, until you have pieces about the size of small peas.  Then add the 1 cup of cheese and mix until evenly distributed in the flour mixture.  Next, add the buttermilk/egg mixture and knead until the dough comes together.  

4.  Drop mounds of dough around the edge of the chicken and soup mixture, and add cheddar cheese (as much as you want- the more the better!) to the center.  Bake 20-25 minutes until biscuits are light golden brown and cheese is bubbly.  

Enjoy, y'all!  
P.S. Please don't make fun of my food photography skills.  I'm working with the camera on my phone for now.  Maybe someday I'll get a "real" camera.  
P.S.S.  My next recipe will involve pumpkin (are you shocked?).  And it is not a dessert.  I promise I'll hurl pumpkin desserts down your throat soon.  Stay tuned!  :) 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Providence and NYC Trip- Part 2: NYC

Whoops.  Totally forgot to do Part 2 of this post!  Better late than never. 

This was my 2nd time in NYC.  The first trip was my freshman year in college with Gillian (the bride this time around!).  I had just turned 19 and that was my first real adventure/vacation on my own.  I felt so grown-up.  Little did I know how young we still were and how much growing up we still had to do.  I was a star-struck, doe-eyed youngster who still had a smidgen of hope that someday I would  move to New York and become a Broadway star. 

Then reality set in.  I was in like 4 high school plays.  I can totally sing like Carrie Underwood and Christina Aguilera and Miranda Lambert when I'm in my car.  I can't sing to save my life.  And I started ballet about 10 years too late to have any hope of being a dancer.  So, obviously, Broadway went by the wayside. 

Fast forward 8 years.  Gillian and I are returning to the big city to BUY HER WEDDING DRESS!!!   (With her sisters, mom, and maid of honor Natalie).  Now she's the one who has dreams of moving to NYC (which will hopefully come true for her in a couple of months!).  NYC seemed so different to me through a grown-up's eyes.  It's still such an amazing city, so fun to visit.  So many things to do and see (WAY more than we could even try to see in our three days there).  So much FOOD.  Delicious food.  But growing into myself in the past 8 years, I've realized I could never live there.  It's going to be one of those places I love to visit, but will never live.  Unless life throws a crazy curve-ball my never know. 

This trip was a huge 2 1/2 day whirlwind, but so much fun and so exciting! 
We hopped on a bus in Providence at 6:15am Monday morning.  This was no ordinary bus.  Oh, no.  It was a double decker bus with wi-fi!  We got a front-row seat on the top half, so we had a perfect view coming into the city when we arrived around 9:30am. 

The first thing we did was check into our hotel.  We stayed at The Affinia Shelburne, which I was overall pretty pleased with.  They have Philosophy toiletries, which was lovely!  And there was a pillow menu too.   

We had a full day ahead, so we set out to have breakfast at Scotty's Diner which was about a block from our hotel.  Pretty standard diner fare.  I had some over-medium eggs, bacon, and toast.  Boring, I know.  Good fuel for the day though. 

On our way to our first appointments to try on dresses, we stopped by Rockefeller Center. 
And!  And!  I had my first macaron!  I've been DYING to try one after seeing recipes everywhere, and I held out to try one until I went to NYC.  I've been told Laduree is the best.  They're the original French bakery that imported macarons to the US.  But we didn't have time to swing by there, so we stopped into Bouchon Bakery so I could get my macaron.  They had a variety of flavors, but the Nutella one caught my eye, so that's the one I bought.  Gillian bought a homemade Oreo.  We were pretty darn excited about our cookies. first macaron experience?  It was good.  Not awful, not the best thing I've ever eaten.  I think the cookie part was a sweet, light chocolate maracon with a Nutella filling.  Although it just tasted like chocolate to me.  I couldn't really taste the Nutella.  So, yeah, it was good.  I really liked the texture and I will eat anything chocolate, but it was just good.  Not sure how Gillian's Oreo was...we barely had time to eat our sweets!

After that, Gillian had her first dress trying-on appointment, then we had a bridesmaids dress trying-on appointment.  Then we stopped into Dewey's Flatiron for a drink and a snack.  We each ordered a beer (with the exception of Gillian's little sisters) and shared some appetizers.  Mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings, chicken tenders, chicken quesadilla rolls...all pretty standard appetizer fare.  We also shared some sort of flatbread-pizza-like thing with goat cheese on it.  I can't seem to find it on the menu now, but it was tasty and fueled us up for the next dress trying-on appointment and held us over until dinner. 

Little did we know, our next appointment didn't exist.  We got to the place, and they were closed (it was MLK day).  We later figured out that this particular location only carried wedding dresses, not bridesmaid's dresses.  Their bridesmaid's dress location was on Long Island, which is where our appointment REALLY was.  Whoops. 

Monday night, we had dinner at Stanton Social.  Gillian was really excited about having dinner here.  She had been here on a previous trip to NYC and loved it.  They serve comfort-food-inspired tapas.  The food was tasty, but the service sucked.  Our waitress was extremely pushy and kept trying to make us order more food.  Not cool.  The best part about this restaurant, though, was the dessert.  I had a RED VELVET TWINKIE.  Uh, yeah.  Freaking amazing.  We also ordered some big puffy cinnamon-sugar doughnut things to share, and a chocolate tasting plate which consisted of bon bons, spicy chocolate ice cream, a chocolate creme brulee thing, and a bunch of other chocolate stuff.  Awesome.  And then on the way back to our hotel, we saw snow flurries!!!   

Ess-a-Bagel for bagels and coffee to go.  I got an everything bagel with chive cream cheese.  It was still warm from the oven.  And they put a TON of cream cheese on it, which is just how I like my bagel.  As a vessel for cream cheese.  Yes, siree.  In my excitement, I dropped half my bagel on the yucky NYC sidewalk and I was pissed.  But the bagels are so big, I was full from my saved half anyway.  Good thing.

We went to Gillian's dress appointment at Saks, then had to head uptown to J Crew for anther dress appointment for us bridesmaids.  We had some time to kill and stopped at a food cart for a snack.  I had a "meat pie" which seemed pretty much like an empanada to me.  By this time, it had started to rain, and we had to huddle under the awning of a snooty apartment building to eat our snacks.  The door man gave us dirty looks.  The part of NYC I don't like?  People aren't so friendly. 

After J Crew, Gillian had an appointment at Kleinfeld.  Yes, the one on Say Yes to the Dress.  She was so calm and collected, and Natalie and I were jumping up and down in our seats and about to pee our pants.  Gillian's consultant was Keasha (from the show!) and we were seeing all of the consultants from the show in the showroom.  After a very intense battle between two dresses, Gillians said "Yes!" to her dress.  And it's so perfectly her.  And it's top-secret. 

Gillian's mom and little little sister had a flight to catch Tuesday evening, so we escorted them back to the hotel to see them off.  Then we met Gillian's cousins for dinner at Toloache.  They are known for their homemade guacamole, and for good reason.  We tried a sampler of their three guacs:  The Traditional, the Frutas (which had avocado, pomegranate, onion, mango, apple, habanero, and basil), and the Rojo (avocado, onion, tomato, and chipotle).  Wow.  I had died and gone to heaven.  I could've made a meal out of the guacamole alone.  For my entree, I ordered an appetizer-sized order of the Tacos de Pastor (pork, pineapple and salsa) and a side of Avocado Fries.  Natalie had the Carne Asada, which was a piece of meat as big as her plate with amazing mole sauce.  I tried that and it was fabulous as well.  After we ate, the restaurant manager came to our table and said he was buying us each a shot of tequila.  Now, tequila and I don't get along so well, but I held it together.  I do my tequila shots with an orange and sugar.  No salt and lime for me.  Yuck.  We had a great evening hanging out and talking with her cousins, then headed back to our hotel and PASSED OUT.

We really didn't have anything planned for Wednesday.  No appointments, just (half) a free day to kind of do what we wanted.  I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to go to Magnolia Bakery while in NYC and try their Vanilla-Vanilla Cupcakes.  This is my go-to vanilla recipe (the one that I made for Gillian's shower!) and I wanted to see how mine held up to theirs.  We didn't get a chance to go to the original Magnolia, but we did swing by the one in Grand Central Station.  Can you tell how super excited I was?

Woohoo!  I have to say, my homemade Vanilla-Vanillas are pretty dang close to the original.  Theirs were a tad drier than mine, but that could be due to carrying it around NYC all day, then home 1000 miles on an airplane before diving into it.  The flavor is dead-on though.  I also got a red velvet cupcake with french buttercream, which was good, but I've had better.  I prefer cream cheese icing on my red velvet, but their french buttercream was pretty exceptional.  The cake was just okay. 

We wanted to do some shopping (the window variety for me), so we headed down to SoHo.  We had brunch at Bubby's Tribeca.  Bubby's pretty much has southern comfort food.  My kind of place.  I had eggs, sausage, cheese grits (2nd best I've ever had- right after a place in Nashville), and toast.  It was kind of pricey, as most restaurants are in NYC, but the food was very good. 

We did some (window) shopping at Scoop NYC, Bloomingdales, CB2 and Madewell.  Anyone who knows me knows I'm a little obsessed with the Kardashians.  Yes, they're crazy, but I love em.  Sorry.  So my friends were nice enough to allow me the indulgence of going to Dash.  Yay! 

The K's obviously weren't there.  And the stuff was really expensive.  I expected the clothes to be pricey, but their Dash logo t-shirts were $60.  Not cool.  I bought a nail polish as a souvenir.  Probably marked up 300% from what I could get it for here.  Oh well.  I'm glad I got to go!

One last top at Dylan's Candy Bar for some treats to take on the plane.  This is one place that I don't see with grown-up eyes.  Walk into this 3 story candy shop, and you will feel like a 5 year old again. 
And then it was time for a scary, nausea-inducing cab ride to the airport to fly home.  It was a whirlwind trip, and I was exhausted but it was a ton of fun.  Hopefully I'll be able to visit more once Gillian moves there. :) 

Hopefully there's still someone out there reading my ramblings.  I have more recipes to share soon!  I've got one cooking up right now, actually.  Adios!