Monday, December 19, 2011

Jalapeno and Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

In my early teen years, my mom co-owned a restaurant called Perroni's. It was an Italian bar & grill type of place that had several appetizers which were irresistible to my 13 year old self. Dishes like garlic cheese bread with marinara on the side for dipping. I used to go into the kitchen and make a batch for myself, watching the cheese melt, bubble and brown as it went down the conveyor belt of the pizza oven. Every time I ate it I would think to myself, “I could live on this for the rest of my life.” I still actually feel that way.
The menu also had a sautéed mushroom appetizer that was pretty darn good. I don’t know exactly how they were prepared, but I do know it involved a lot of garlic and a lot of butter. These stuffed mushrooms taste a lot like those did, but are a bit more complex. Spicy and creamy, salty and crunchy, I feel like they are the sophisticated older brother of the sautéed ones from Perroni’s.

I made these over the weekend where we did my side of the family’s Christmas celebration and they were a hit. My step dad thought they were too spicy, so you can leave out the jalapeno seeds if you are spice sensitive. I  really liked the heat, though.

12 whole mushrooms, Large
¼ cups Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbs butter
3 slices thick cut bacon cut into lardons
1 whole jalapeno, minced
¼ cups diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons fresh ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the melted butter. Toss until evenly coated. Set aside.

Carefully clean and stem the mushrooms. Set the caps on a small baking sheet. Chop the stems and set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the onion and garlic and saute until fragrant. Then add the jalapeno and mushroom stems and cook until softened, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, mix the shredded cheese with the cream cheese until well combined. Add the bacon mixture and mix well.

Spoon the filling into the mushrooms caps and top with the buttered panko mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the topping is golden brown.

**You can prep these ahead of time by stemming the mushrooms and preparing the stuffing mixture. Refrigerating the mushroom caps separate from the mixture until ready to use. Make the bread crumb topping right before assembly.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Crafty Holiday Garland

I am reeeeeeally bad when it comes to Christmas decorations. After college when I lived with my sister, she would always go out and get a Christmas tree and hang all of her ornaments with care. I was just never that into it. It's not that I don't like them... I absolutely love the holiday feel the house takes on immediately upon plugging in the lights on a tree. But after I moved out and into my own place, I never got a tree of my own. I never put out any decorations except a single strand of white lights in my palm tree and a little nativity scene my mom got for me. I just wasn't into it.

But this year will be different.

This year we are going to get a Chritmas Tree. We ordered Stockings from Pottery Barn with our names embroidered on them. I am going to build up my collection of ornaments, tabletop Santa stuff and cinnamon scented pine cones.

Our house will feel like Christmas this year.

The inspiration for this garland came from Pinterest (surprised?) Here is the site where I found the tutorial. She does a really good job of explaining it.
 I got all of the paper in the scrapbooking section at Michael's and used a Fiskars circular punch to get perfectly round discs. You need about 7 circles per piece.

 Fold each circle in half like a taco with the patterned side you want to show on the inside. Start to glue them together, attaching the wrong sides together. I started to use hot glue, but found it to be a little bulky. Keep gluing one half to the next until you have 7 and it looks like a little book. Put a line of glue down the"spine" of your little book and attach it to your twine or ribbon. Glue the last 2 sides together to secure to the twine.

String this baby up wherever you need a little bit of Christmas cheer!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cinnamon Pumpkin Smoothie

It's not often that I get to have in-person conversations with fellow bloggers. I never really get to talk to people about what motivates them to write in such a public way. I know everyone has an "About Me" section, but I think it goes without saying that there is way more to a person than a two line biography. Something that has been on my mind lately is this: when people take breaks from blogging or have gaps of time where they don't post anything... what is the reason? I know life can take over, people go on vacations, have babies, come down with illnesses etc. but I would love to hear if anyone else is like me...  
simply unmotivated at times. 

This morning I woke up to fall leaves everywhere. We had quite the blustery wind storm come through last night. It blew away all of the fog that has been lingering around here lately and left nothing but golden sunshine and... leaves. Everywhere. I snapped this picture walking to my car on the way to work. The leaves where almost completely covering the sidewalk right here. I think I've said it before, but my favorite days are the ones in the fall or winter when the air is crisp and cold and the sun is shining warm on your face. It's such a refreshing and energizing feeling. Inspiring, really.

So what to post about other than the weather? This smoothie. I have made it twice now, yesterday and today. Smoothie's for breakfast are perfect, but not really ideal for winter. But for some reason, probably the spicy pumpkin flavor, this one hits the spot.

I found a recipe via Pinterest and decided to make my own version. I blended up the following:

5-10 ice cubes
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 of a frozen banana (i peel a banana, break it in half and put it in a ziplock in the freezer)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
a squirt of Agave nectar
dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove

Here is the original recipe so you can see what other variations are possible.

I put in in one of those insulated reusable cups that are starting to pop up everywhere and took it as my breakfast on the run. It protects against frozen fingers.

Some healthy nutrition facts about these ingredients:
  • Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, Vitamin A, C, E as well as Zinc. It is also high in carotenoids which assist in staving off the free radicals in the body and help in preventing premature aging, cardiovascular diseases and other infections.
  • Greek yogurt has about 20 grams of protein per cup which help to keep you feeling full longer. It is a great non-meat source of protein.
  • Bananas contain potassium and B6 and are fat free, cholesterol free and sodium-free.
  • Almond Milk had only unsaturated fat which is great for people who need a heart-healthy diet. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids which are known to lower bad cholesterol, improve mood, treat arthritis and enhance memory.
  • Cinnamon is like a wonder spice. Listen to all this: It contains manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which protect against heart disease. Studies have shown it may significantly help people with type 2 diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing blood sugar levels. It also may significantly lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides. The fiber and Calcium it contains have been known to bind to bile and remove it from the body which can prevent damage that certain bile salts can cause to colon cells, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer! Just smelling this wonderful spice can help improve brain function! Amazing, isn't it!?

Speaking of motivation, just doing a little reaearch and discovering all of the amazing things that healthful food choices can do for the body seriously motivates me to make better food choices. I am all for indulging during the holidays, but it also feels really good to nourish my body with food.

I hope everyone else is enjoying the weather and the amazing fruits and veggies that winter has to offer.