Sunday, January 29, 2012

Double Cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes

Not for the faint of heart (or fearful of calories!) this cheesy monstrosity is an awesome dish (I think), plus is gluten free! I made it for the staff Christmas party, and there was some issue with trying to get the potatoes done, but the flavor was excellent, and it was pretty good the next day (though a definitely on the greasy side). when the potatoes were cooked.


  • 4 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart baking dish.
  2. Layer potato slices in prepared baking dish. Pour cream over potatoes; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Season potatoes with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake in preheated oven until potatoes are soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven; gently stir potatoes. Sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese; cover and let rest until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

My first big change for this was that I made it in the crockpot, and cooked it on low for several hours. That was a mistake! :p So about 3 hours into the cooking process, with dinner scheduled for 4 hours after that, the potatoes were still hard as a rock. Proceeded to turn it up to high - 5 hours later, the potatoes were MOSTLY done. I like the theory of making it in the crockpot, but I may try to bake it per directions next time and see if that helps, though numerous reviews complained about the cooking time not being long enough.
While I was layering these in the crockpot, I did add some garlic salt and pepper for a bit of an added kick, as well as put cheddar cheese and parmesan in the middle layers. I increased the amount of parmesan cheese, partly because I love cheese, and partly because it was soupy and I hoped the extra cheese would thicken it up. I really liked the flavor of it, but I would definitely make some changes.. Next time, I will  cut down on the heavy cream (perhaps substitute half and half?), and either bake it or crock pot it on high for 5ish hours. Definitely keep the higher amounts of cheese the same - it provided amazing flavor and depth to the dish. All in all, it was very good, and I think next time it could be better.

Today was the perfect day - out to lunch with a close friend, Skype dates with family, kitchen cleaned while listening to Pandora, down time to read and blog, and I still have 5ish hours of my weekend left! :D I'm one of those crazy people that needs a LOT of alone time, but I also need to have time out of the house. I can usually spend a 24ish hour period at home without going anywhere, but towards the end of that time frame, I start getting antsy and grouchy to just get OUT. I got to spend several hours in the sun room today - I just love that room, and it tends to be one I forget about! Sad, isn't it?! It's the perfect reading room, though a little chilly. Perfect to curl up with a fuzzy blanket and hunker down for some intense reading time with the snow billowing in wind-blown clouds around you. Now I think I'm off to see if I can get my scrapbooking corner set up in our room. Mom2 and I went scrapbooking on Friday, so I'm feeling a little bit of those rare creative energies flowing. :P Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak

I just loooooooooooove my crockpot. Though some of these 4-5 hour recipes are a little more challenging during working hours - if I start it before I leave for work, it's done before 3 pm, which is a little early for dinner, if I start it after work, it's done by 8:30 - either way is a little bit off for dinner time! This was a good one, but DEFINITELY use a higher quality, VERY lean hamburger. I was worried it would be a little bland, but it really wasn't.


  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet dry au jus mix
  • 3/4 cup water


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, onion soup mix, bread crumbs, and milk using your hands. Shape into 8 patties.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge the patties in flour just to coat, and quickly brown on both sides in the hot skillet. Place browned patties into the slow cooker stacking alternately like a pyramid. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream of chicken soup, au jus mix, and water. Pour over the meat. Cook on the Low setting for 4 or 5 hours, until ground beef is well done.

I actually made this recipe as directed, with no changes. Ok, wait - there was one change. Dang it, and here I thought I was about to publish this as is! I did substitute the cream of chicken for Cream of Chicken and Mushroom. I like Cream of Mushroom (Brean does not), so I figured this would be a good compromise. There ended up being a large coating of grease on the top, which I was able to skim off (mostly). I believe that it was due to the quality of hamburger I used (I hope!). All in all, it was pretty easy, and while the gravy was not quite as good as the Swedish Meatball recipe, it was more than adequate. Served over mashed potatoes, and it was a dinner well worth the effort!

Today is our monthly Dr. Who night with Brean's family. I think Dr. Who is pretty that I entertain myself with useful things while it plays in the background. This is my once a month time to go through my AllRecipe daily e-mails, play Zuma, catch up on blogging (obviously :p), and do whatever interweb putzing I've been putting off. I love the monthly time that is set aside to spend time with family, and I do have to say, I am starting to watch more Dr. Who as we meander our way through the 1970's.
We started Dr. Who night over 2 years ago! Hard to believe it's been that long! But we came about with this after watching the movie Julie/Julia. What does that have to do with Dr. Who you might ask? Well, Mom2 and I after watching that movie decided that we should get together once a month and try recipes that we had never tried before. After getting some familial input on this idea, it was decided that we should watch something on the days that we did it, and as some of us had never seen Dr. Who, either at all, or all the way through, it was decided. And Dr. Who night was born. We started at the VERY beginning, and have been working our way through all of the different "seasons" that we can, as some of them have been destroyed over the years. I think when we first were figuring out how long it would take us to catch up to the current season, our estimate was 10 years. However, after 2+ years, we are almost half way done (!!!!!), based on the fact that we haven't been able to access large chunks of seasons. We are currently on Tom Baker as the Dr., who happens to be Brean's favorite. I'm starting to enjoy them more as they finally seem to have plots that A) make sense (sort of...) and B) better acting, and C) better special effects. Up until this point, and it still happens sometimes, we view Dr. Who through MST3K glasses, full of commentary and a ton of laughter.
For the most part, we have stuck with our "bring-a-dish-that-has-never-been-tried" rule, with occasional divergence. Sometimes Mom2 and I will text/e-mail the week before and say "ahhh! It's Dr. Who night! I don't feel like does pizza sound?" I think my favorite new dish was one that Josh made called Cucumber Chicken - it sounded weird, but it was amazing! Truthfully, I think it was during this Dr. Who time that my blog idea really got planted. I started trying all kinds of new recipes and needed some way to keep track of it.
And there you have the history of Dr. Who night!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Almost Famous Swedish Meatballs

I got this recipe from my boss, who got it from a food or parents magazine....I think. :p But this really is an amazing Swedish Meatball recipe (based on the one from Ikea I believe) - very rich and creamy without being too heavy, and pretty easy to make! The homemade meatballs are a nice touch, and definitely worth the trouble, but could probably be substituted for store-bought ones if necessary.

Ikea's Swedish Meatballs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 egg white beaten
  1. To make the meatballs: Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the butter in the skillet over medium-heat. Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 tsp salt and ¼ tsp white pepper and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Add milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour the milk mixture over the breadcrumbs and stir to make a thick paste. Add beef, pork, egg, and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined. Roll the meat into 1” balls onto baking sheet. (optional: refrigerate for 1 hour) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

  • 4 Tblspn butter
  • 6 Tblspn all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  1. To make the gravy: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and meatballs. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until gravy thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles.

I pretty make this recipe as written, though as I type this, I realize that I have typed up my already altered recipe. :p  For the gravy, use your judgement when adding the flour - the original recipe calls for equal amounts of butter and flour, but I like thick gravy, so I tend to add more. The original recipe also calls for 1/2 pound of pork, and 3/4 pound of beef. I think those are weird amounts, and after playing with it, we actually liked it better half pork/half beef. You can also substitute the heavy cream for half and half, with very little change to the taste. I have served these over egg noodles, and tonight we tried them over mashed potatoes, and that was equally excellent. I think I'm going to start doubling the meatball portion of the recipe and freezing them after they are cooked. The meatballs are still awesome after being frozen, and then you just have to make the gravy to have a really easy meal.

Gosh darn it, I WANT TO PAINT MY LIVING ROOM! And why don't I, you might ask. Well, currently it is cream. As is the rest of the main living areas of my house. After living in an apartment with strictly white walls for 6 years, I want some COLOR in my life! I have my color theme all decided - olivey green walls (but bright ones, not dark - it's hard to describe, but it will be awesome, trust me!) with dark brown furniture, which is already in place (minus a coffee table). So now my dilemma...the carpet is teal. This is a problem. No matter how I cock my head, or squint, or look at it with sunglasses on, I'm just not seeing how teal and olive green are going to mesh until we can replace the carpet. (and since the carpet is good quality carpet, I don't foresee that happening anytime soon) The current teal/brown/cream theme is working pretty well. But I want more green!!! Sigh....I suppose I will just wait for now. Plus, I think Brean still might be on strike from painting. Not that that is a truly contributing factor.... ;) So now I will go back to listening to Ingrid Michelson and squinting at my walls, wishing them into a green existence...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicken Cesar Salad with Parmesan-Encrusted Pine Nuts

This recipe is a Chaley original! I know, right?! The Melting Pot has these FABULOUS pine nuts that they put on their Cesar salad, so I went looking for the recipe online. Nowhere could I find it! So I decided to make my own. I remembered that they are a little sweet, a little herby, and covered in Parmesan cheese, so they really can be tailored to fit whatever taste you want at the moment. Here is what I used, but feel free to play around with measurements.

Parmesan-Encrusted Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp butter
Small package of pine nuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Oregano to taste
Garlic salt to taste
Garlic and Wine Seasoning to taste (this one is actually from the Melting Pot - it's amazing! I use it in everything!!)
Pepper to taste
1 tbsp white sugar


Heat butter in the microwave until melted in a bowl large enough to hold all of the pine nuts. Mix Parmesan, sugar, and all seasonings in a bowl large enough to toss the pine nuts in (in small quantities).
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Dump the pine nuts into the butter and stir to coat. In small batches, scoop out the pine nuts with a fork, and after letting as much butter drain off as possible, put into the bowl with the cheese and seasonings. Toss until nuts are completely coated, and using a slotted spoon (would recommend not using the same fork as you used to put the nuts IN, the butter tends to make the cheese mixture stick to it and not strain very well). Shake to get the excess cheese mixture off and place nuts on a cookie sheet covered with waxed or parchment paper.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, but keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't burn. Mine took towards the longer end of the time, but I sat there and watched them and kept turning up the time. :P

Alright, so these turned out pretty well,. I think next time I'll add some extra seasonings, maybe some Rosemary and/or Thyme.
So, the rest of the salad. I marinated chicken breasts in Cesar dressing overnight, and put them on the grill. I put these on a bed of Romaine lettuce, with tomatoes, some Parmesan cheese,sprinkled pine nuts and topped with Bolthouse Farms Cesar dressing (one of the best dressings I've found!)
All in all, it was pretty good. Not quite up to par with the Steak salad, but definitely worth making again!

Factoid of the day: I'm reading Water for Elephants right now, and while there is some stuff in there that makes me uncomfortable, I'm enjoying the book as a whole. Next on my reading list is Q&A, which is the book that Slumdog Millionaire is based on. Between my book club and just getting out of my reading box, I'm discovering all kinds of new and fun books. While the above couple are GOOD reads, they definitely hit some challenging subjects (animal abuse, human trafficking, etc). I think at the end of this, I'll be ready for a light and fluffy read! :D Some of my favorite out-of-the-box books from the past year: The Help, Hannah's Dream, The Guinea Pig Diaries, Sing You Home, and The Hunger Games.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beer Bread

You gotta love a bread recipe that has THREE ingredients and NO kneading or rising time! I was on the hunt for a good/easy beer bread recipe, and while this one is good, it's probably not the best beer bread I've ever had, but it certainly is the easiest! And you still get that nice, right-out-of-the-oven bread taste, so it gets a two thumbs up in my book.


  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. Add beer and continue to mix, first using a wooden spoon, then your hands. Batter will be sticky. Pour into a 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pan.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees ) for 50 for 60 minutes. The top will be crunchy, and the insides will be soft. Serve topped with butter or cheese spread.

It's just that easy! I've made it several times, and have played around with increasing the sugar a bit, trying to get a bit of a sweeter bread. I used Budweiser beer, and I'd like to try it with some home brew beers, as well as some dark/sweeter ones and see how that affects the taste. For you non-beer lovers out there, the beer taste itself cooks over during baking (I am a non-beer lover myself, so trust me, if there was a strong beer taste, this girl would have given it a thumbs down! :P). It's a pretty heavy bread, and very crusty on the outside. Very yummy though, especially a slice with butter and a drizzle of honey right out of the oven! 

      Today would have been my Dad's birthday. Every year, this date hits me differently. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes I'm an emotional mess. This is a doing ok year. I've spent a lot of the day reminiscing, but also thinking about how different life would be for our family if he were still around. I was blessed to have the day off, and while I will miss the hours, it's been nice to have some down time just to think. To remember. And to dream. I wish I could say I have tons of in-depth memories of my Dad, but I really don't. We weren't overly close. But I miss him. I wish he were here. I wish that he could walk my sisters down the aisle like he was able to do with me. I wish I could call him, just to say "hi" and "I love you". 
     My favorite thing about my Dad was his simple faith. It wasn't about theological discussions, or reading all the right books. It just was. And he would be the first person to help someone out if they needed it. I want to emulate that. That, I think, is my Dad's legacy. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

I got this recipe card from Olive Garden a couple of years ago, and haven't tried it until now. First of all, the term "risotto" frightened me, plus there is some slightly odd ingredients. But trust me, it's worth the effort!

18 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
8 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 lb fresh asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
2 cups Carnaroli  or Arborio rice
Fresh Parsley, chopped (for garnish)

1) Simmer chicken broth on low heat until needed.

2) Heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes, or until translucent.  Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute, then add white wine.  Add 1/2 cup of broth and stir until completely absorbed. Repeat until 4 cups of broth have been added.  Stir the risotto frequently to prevent sticking. 

3) Add asparagus and shrimp to the remaining broth and cook for 2 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink.  Remove asparagus and shrimp from the broth and add them to the risotto mixture.  Add 1/2 cup of both at a time until desired creaminess is reached.  (There may be broth left over)

4) Once the broth is completely absorbed, add butter, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and parsley. 

    I started out using already cooked shrimp, so all I had to do was thaw and de-tail them. Because of this, I just added them to the risotto at the same time as the asparagus, but didn't boil them. (I did still boil the asparagus). And 18 didn't really look like very much, so I added a pound, which was about 35ish medium sized shrimp. (More shrimp or bacon is ALWAYS the best option. :P)  I didn't have any white white on hand, so I substituted that for 1/2 cup of chicken broth. I kept adding the chicken broth in 1/2 cup increments and used a total of 5.5 cups. I wasn't sure if the risotto was going to be mushy, but it seemed to have stopped taking the liquid as well, so I stopped adding broth at that point. And I should warn you - putting 1/2 cup of butter in at the end looks like a LOT of butter! I almost decreased it, but figured I should follow the recipe to the T the first time, and it actually turned out well. It wasn't greasy, which I was concerned about. Very creamy and yummy! I didn't add tomatoes or the parsley.  I had all my ingredients ready to go, and once I started the actual cooking process, I think it took about 35 minutes. Definitely stir the risotto frequently the whole time it's cooking, and make sure you leave it on medium heat. All in all, definitely a keeper, and less work then I expected!

We served this to some friends of ours who came over for dinner, and it was the best day! I think the art of having people over for dinner is disappearing in our culture, and that saddens me. There is just something about having someone over for dinner, not for any other ulterior motive then to enjoy their company over a meal. I remember growing up, my Mom was ALWAYS having people over for dinner. It didn't seem like a holiday unless there were other people there, and Sundays after church there was usually some stray soul at the table. In a culture where texting and Facebook are means of acceptable communication, I think it's becoming intimidating to have people come over and invade your personal space. Sometimes we get so busy between work and commitments that we forget to let people in, just for the purpose of sharing life together, creating a community. So here is my challenge for you this week - find a way to make someone a part of your life, however that looks for you. It may be a phone call for a catch up chat, or inviting someone for lunch of dinner, or setting up a Skype date. It may just make your day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Corn Dog Muffins

I love corn dogs, but it's hard to find good ones! And the ones that you make at home just aren't the same as getting them from a food cart.  My dad spoiled us growing up, because he made his own hot dogs and they were AMAZING! Store bought just doesn't compare. But then I discovered the Angus hot dogs (and at almost 5 bucks a package, I am definitely living up to my "expensive" description :P) - they are a reasonable substitute I suppose. Found this recipe and tried them out for a dinner a couple of months ago. I've played around with the recipe a bit - more on that in a sec.


  • 2 (8.5 ounce) packages cornbread mix
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 9 hot dogs, cut in half


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease muffin tins.
  2. Stir together the cornbread mix and the brown sugar in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs and milk in a small bowl until smooth. Fold the eggs and cheese into the dry mixture until moistened. Spoon mixture into muffin tins until 2/3 full. Add 1 hot dog half to each muffin.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven 14 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

I've tried this a couple of ways in the past couple of months - both with the hot dogs on top, or mixed in, and with various types of hot dogs. I recommend your favorite type of hot dog, and to put them on top. And really, 9 hot dogs? When they come in packages of 8? I feel a Father of the Bride moment coming on...But for serious, you can just use 8 and it's fine. And Jiffy mix is my preferred method of corn muffin mix. I like that it's already a little bit sweet before the brown sugar. All in all, this is a fun recipe sure to please, whether it's a kids party, or just an easy dinner.

Factoid of the day: Snow makes the world seem so much brighter! I hate the dark gloominess that is Michigan in the winter - it's just gray and brown and seems lifeless. But cover everything with a bit of fluffy white ice crystals, and it's a whole new world. So, while you're driving and cursing the crazy drivers and the icy roads, take a minute and look around (preferably while stopped - that seems like the best option :P), and marvel.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Pinto Bean Bonanza

So I was looking for a recipe that would branch me out of my box. This one turned out pretty good! This was my first pinto bean experience, plus, I just love any recipe that I can use the crockpot for! :D


  • 2 slices bacon
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1/2 pound kielbasa sausage, cut into bite-size pieces (optional)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can ranch-style beans
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dried minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno peppers
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion


  1. Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; crumble bacon when cool.
  2. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan, and stir in pinto beans. Simmer over medium-low heat until the beans soften, about 30 minutes; pour beans and water into a slow cooker. Stir in the bacon and bacon drippings, kielbasa, ranch-style beans, tomato paste, dried onion, apple cider vinegar, pickled jalapeno, sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Set the cooker to Low, and cook until pinto beans are very tender, 9 to 10 hours.
  3. About 5 minutes before serving, stir in chopped green pepper. Serve topped with chopped green onion.

As per usual, no jalapenos or green peppers were harmed in the making of this dish. I ended up adding the full package of Kielbasa (about a pound total), partly because I didn't know what do with the rest, and when I added the half pound, it really didn't look like enough. I followed the directions with the beans, and by 10 hours of crock-potting on low, they were still a bit hard for my taste, so I may increase the pre-crockpot boiling time by 5 minutes or so. And I used one medium white onion instead of the the dried onion. Seemed to work out fine. The whole dish had a really good smoky flavor, and was great served over rice with some cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.

    Brean and I had "the kid talk" today. This topic has come up many times in our almost 7 years of marriage. Everyone and their brother asked about us having kids about year 3 or marriage. That continued for about a year, and after repeated "we are not planning on having kids" it died down. Then everyone started having kids, and I thought to myself "I want a kid!" (I know, you probably didn't know that I had ever crossed the "never wanting kids" line, did ya? :P) So for several months, I was planning on how that would work, and what in our lives would change, and how would daycare work, etc. Then I realized - I still didn't actually WANT kids. I wanted it because everyone else had it and it seemed like the thing to do. We had been married for the "appropriate" amount of time, we had a house - it just seemed like the "right" time. So now I'm back on the "no kids" plan.
    Brean said today "we need to make a firm decision in the next year or so about whether we are going to have kids or not". I kinda freaked out. After much talking, we decided we are still at the decision of no kids for now, with open hands that the decision could change in the future. I'm scared to fully commit to saying 100% that I will not ever have children, because I don't know if I would ever honestly be able to say that. I know that if we don't, I will have "what ifs", and I don't want to live a life followed by regrets. Brean would make a FANTASTIC dad, and I don't know if saying no to kids is fair to him, or to the fabulous grandparents that my in-laws would make.
     I love our life right now. And I love that we were able to talk about our fears and our hopes, and still come together in the end to say that, for now, the plan is not to have kids. But if that plan changes in the future, it will be ok.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steak Salad

    Alright ladies and gentlemen, this is a TO DIE FOR salad. Brean makes fun of me and says that if I make something I really like, we're guaranteed to have it again the next week or so. (I suppose I should preface this and let you know this is only an amazing salad if you like blue cheese. Though Brean doesn't, didn't have any blue cheese, and still thought it was pretty good. I think he's crazy.) So without further ado -


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin steak
  • 8 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 6 roma (plum) tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring


  1. Preheat oven on broiler setting. Broil steaks for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. Allow to cool, then slice into bite-size pieces.
  2. On chilled plates, arrange lettuce, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with blue cheese and walnuts. Top with steak slices.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and smoke flavoring. Drizzle over salad.

      So, changes. Have you ever had the Blue Cheese Pecan Chopped Salad at Outback Steakhouse? They make their salad with these AMAZING cinnamon candied pecans, which is a perfect balance to the blue cheese. So I made it my mission to find something similar to switch out for the walnuts. (Oh, and I didn't add the mushrooms) So here is the recipe that I used for the pecans - kind of a lot of work, but totally work it. They really do make the salad from really good to AMAZZZZING.

Candied cinnamon pecans

  • 1/3 cup pecans sliced-lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Slice each pecan half into at least three lengthwise pieces.
  3. Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar.
  4. Toss the pecans with the melted butter, then with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, making sure to coat them all evenly.
  5. Put the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, until sugar is caramelized.
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and slide the pecans off of the parchment to cool.

     Make sure to keep an eye on the pecans - my second batch that I made were epic burnt piles of goo. I did add chopped green onions to this salad, which I would highly recommend. The measurements are really guesstimates - I would say make it to your personal specifications.
     This was also my first foray into mixing salad dressings! The first time I made this I was REALLY in a blue cheese mood, so I wanted blue cheese dressing. But I also wanted to try the dressing in the recipe. So I mixed them together. It was a fabulous smoky and cheesy mixture, and something I never would have thought of before this time. Cravings really are the beginnings of genius, I swear!

Factoid(s) of the day in no particular order:
1) Attitudes are like germs - whether good or bad, they are going to spread.
2) I love my weekly Glee (or Modern Family) nights. It's so nice to get together regularly with people that I enjoy hanging out with, with whom I can be myself, and who challenge me to think outside of the box on a regular basis.
3) I am going to listen to the Bible on shuffle! One of my resolutions for this year was to read the Bible. As with exercise, I really hate doing the things that are good for me, so I don't! For exercise, my compromise was to get a treadmill so that I could walk while I watch my shows (which I never have a problem making time for :P). So, I got the Bible on cd in order to listen to it on my way too and from work. I've been listening to books on cd on my commute for over a year, and I love the feeling of accomplishment as I check books off my list of to-reads. The reason to listen to it on shuffle is, and I'm sorry for moments of sacrilege, some parts of the Bible I find, well, boring! So, instead of skipping large chunks that I find less than interesting, I'll listen to the boring parts in small parts, mixed with interesting parts. The only problem I am seeing with this is that I will lose the context of the verse/chapter. But I am excited about this, and shall keep you updated if there are any interesting crossovers. Who knows, maybe I will write a book! :D