Monday, December 29, 2008

Bacon-wrapped Stuffed Pork Chops

Common conversation in our house:

Me: What do you want for dinner babe?

Joe: I dunno, somethin' stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon

Me: Really, stuffed with cheese AND wrapped in bacon?
Sometimes, when I'm feeling nice and not caring about eating healthy (like around the holidays), I actually give in.

This time, he not only wanted something stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, but that something was pork. Hmm...pork wrapped in more pork? Is that really necessary?

But alas, I gave in, and it was actually pretty delicious.


I make this stuffing a lot, great stuffing for chicken and beef as well. Sometimes I'll add pancetta or bacon (assuming its not going to be wrapped in it).

Bread crumbs (about a cup)
1 shallot
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated parmesean
minced Parsley

Mix all that together in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the mixture and mix together.

For the pork chops, make sure you get them cut about an inch thick. I just make slits in them, not all the way through and then stuff them with the mixture.

Then wrap them each in a piece of bacon. I seasoned the chops with salt, pepper and Giada's DeLaurentis' Italian herb seasoning*.

Sear them in a hot pan on both sides (about a minute on each side) and then transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes.

* A note about this seasoning. We registered at Crate and Barrel and I had to give Joe the scanner to keep him interested the whole time. He is obsessed with Giada (of course) since she wears cleavage shirts when she cooks, so just to be obnoxious he registered us for a jar of her herb mix. I didn't think anyone would get it for us, but someone did. I wasn't expecting much because its just Italian seasoning but it is AMAZING. I use it ALL THE TIME.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mushroom-Asparagus Risotto

I make risotto about once a week and just mix in whatever I have on hand. This week I had mushrooms and asparagus!

1 cup arrabrio rice
olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 cup white whine
4 cups beef broth
4 portabella mushroom caps
8 asparagus spears

Sautee the rice with olive oil and garlic cloves until the rice the begins to brown (about 10 minutes).

Add the wine and let simmer until all the liquid is gone.

Then add one cup of the beef broth one cup at a time, cooking until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup (about 30 minutes total).

While the risotto is cooking, cook the asparagus, steaming until tender (about 5 - 7 minutes), then shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the color.

When you're adding the last cup of broth, add the chopped mushrooms. Once the liquid is cooked through, cut the asparagus spears in half and add, just to heat through.

I grated parmesean cheese on top.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

We hosted an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party this year, it was a blast! Sweaters were optional (I opted out, it was not my idea) but accessorizing was a must. So many people pulled out the most ridiculous looking sweaters though.....such a good time.

We put out a big spread of appetizers including, bacon-wrapped scallops on rosemary skewers, crostini, stuffed mushrooms, prosciutto wrapped asparagus, pesto pastry, and peppermintinis.


Makes 1 serving:

1/2 part peppermint schnapps
1/2 part vanilla vodka
1 part milk

Shake in a mixer and pour, garnish with a candy cane.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops on Rosemary Skewers

I got this idea from Joe's cousin Mark, he made them with oysters though. I figured scallops were a safer bet for such a large crowd. I LOVE the idea of using rosemary sprigs as skewers, the flavor is amazing. I'm already brainstorming what to do next with them, water chestnuts, cheese, meatballs......

Rosemary (enough to make about 24 skewers)
2 cloves minced garlic
Scallops (24)
Bacon (depending on the size of the scallops you may be able to cut the bacon strips in half)
1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup olive oil

Take each sprig of rosemary and remove all the leaves except for the tops. Reserve the sprigs to use as skewers.

Chop up some of the rosemary leaves. Mix in with the scallops, wine, pepper and olive oil in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the scallops. Chill the scallops in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Wrap the scallops in the bacon and skewer wtih the rosemary sprigs.

Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Stuffed Mushrooms (Spinach & Crabmeat fillings)

I usually make these with baby portabella caps, but since I was making a lot for the party I used regular button mushrooms instead. I don't think I'd use them again, the baby bellas taste better and easier to work with, these ones kept rolling around because they were so top heavy.

These are another super easy party food though, since you can make the majority of the 2 separate mixtures together, then end up with 2 totally different ones!

I got the crabmeat filling recipe (altered slightly) from a cooking class I took at Viking a few years ago, and figured spinach would work well as a substitute for those who don't like crab.


Both stuffings share some common ingredients so mix these together first:

1 brick cream cheese (softened)
1 cup mayo
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of parmesean cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
2 minced shallots
2 tsps parsley flakes
pinch of salt and pepper

Split the mixture in half.

Crab Stuffing

1 can crabmeat

Add the crabmeat in with half of the above mixture

Spinach Stuffing

1 frozen package spinach

Thaw and drain the spinach and mix in with the other half.


The stuffings should cover about 36 mushrooms. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems.

Spoon in the mixtures to the mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with breadcrumbs and parmesean cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Crostinis - Carmelized Onions with Gorgonzola and Crabmeat

Carmelized Onion & Gorganzola Crostini

2 vidalia onions
Italian seasoning
olive oil
Loaf french bread

Chop the onions in half moon slices. Sautee with olive oil and seasonings, once the onions start to soften keep the heat on medium - low so they carmelize but don't burn.

Once they are carmelized, top crostini slices with the onion mixture and crumble the cheese on top.

Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Crabmeat Crostini

I had leftover crabmeat stuffing from the mushrooms, so just topped the rest of my bread with it and baked with the onion crostinis.

Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus

1/2 pound prosciutto
1 bunch asparagus
olive oil

Super easy, a good one to prep ahead. Just rinse the asparagus spears and snap off the bottoms. Take a long slice of prosciutto and simply roll around the asparagus.

Brush the spears with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Stick them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes to soften the asparagus and crisp up the prosciutto.

Pesto Pastry Roll-ups

This recipe obviously uses Pesto and Puff pasty. You can make make both from scratch or purchase both already made.

I wouldn't even know where to begin making puff pastry so bought mine in the frozen section.

I did make the pesto from scratch though.


2 - 3 cups basil (sometimes I use a mix of parsley and basil)
1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts
1 cup freshly grated parmesean
3 garlic cloves, minced
ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil (not 100% sure how much I use honestly, but you're drizzling it in slowly so just eyeball it till you get it to the right consistency).

This is a pretty basic, traditional pesto recipe. I make it all the time and it is good to make in large batches and freeze some. Because most of the ingredients are not cooked at all, be sure to use fresh, good quality ones, especially the cheese and the olive oil.

Once you have the basil rinsed, cheese shredded, garlic minced and pine nuts toasted, combine everything in a blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper.

If you're using a blender, start it with a little bit of oil. Drizzle in oil slowly as you're blending. The pine nuts should be warm when you put them in and will help break everything down.


So once you have your pesto ready, spread out a thawed puff pastry. Spread an even layer of the pesto on. Roll the pastry lengthwise.

I used the whole box and ended up with 4 rolls. If making ahead of time, this is a good place to stop, just wrap them up and refrigerate.

Once you're ready to bake them, slice the rolls into about 1/2 inch disks and spread them out on a pan.

Finally, brush each piece with egg wash before putting in the oven.

Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Corn Salad

Corn Salad

I make this all the time, especially in the summer. It's a refreshing compliment to all the super starchy foods at Thanksgiving.

This is my mom's recipe : )

1 bag of frozen corn (better with a couple ears of fresh, grilled corn in the summer though)
1 can black beans
1 red bell pepper
1 tomato
4 or 5 scallions
garlic salt
ground black pepper
red wine vinegar
olive oil

Chop the tomato, bell pepper, scallions and cilantro. Mix together in a bowl with the corn and black beans (rinse these first). Mix in a few shakes of the garlic salt and cumin, a pinch or two of black pepper and a few splashes of the vinegar and olive oil.

Cover the bowl and let sit in the fridge for 1 - 4 hours. The longer it sits the better it tastes!

Smoked Ham

Joe really has a thing for ham. I've never heard of anyone having a ham for thanksgiving, but as soon as we decided to host this year, he was adamant about making a ham. Okay........

I like ham but don't love as much as some people do so I mainly stuck with the turkey, it was good though!

Soak the wood chips overnight with apple slices. Stud the ham with cloves.

Set the grill on low and spread the chips around the ham. Keep covered while on the grill, takes about 8 hours.

Pumpkin Trifle

Spiced Pumpkin Trifle

I got this recipe from Everyday with Rachel Ray. I LOVE pumpkin pie but hate to bake and since I was already taking on Thanksgiving dinner, I figured pie crust would put me over the edge.

I did modify the recipe slightly from the magazine, I didn't include marshmallow fluff so I added sugar to the pumpkin mixture to sweeten it.

1 can pumpkin puree
4 cups heavy cream (RR recipe calls for 3 but since I didn't use marshmallow fluff I used extra)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cloves
pinch salt
3 tbl spoons sugar
1 bag gingersnaps (should equal 3 cups when chopped)
3 tbl spoons dark rum

Beat the heavy cream (or just buy Cool Whip instead, I actually did half fresh whipped and half Cool Whip). Set half aside for layering.

Mix the other half with the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, sugar & salt.

I bought the gingersnaps that came in a paper bag and crushed them right in the bag with a meat tenderizer. Put the crushed snaps in a bowl, reserving the really fine crumbs for the top. Pour the dark rum over the snaps.

Now you're ready to start layering - start with 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture, then layer in about half of the cookies, another pumpkin layer, the rest of the cookies, the rest of the pumpkin.

Then top it off with the remaining whipped cream and sprinkle on the reserved crumbs from the ginger snaps.

Thanksgiving Feast

This year for Thanksgiving, my family came up from Cleveland and Joe and I hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner in Chicago. We had a lot of the traditional favorites and a few non-traditional ones like Pumpkin Trifle, Smoked Ham and Corn Salad.