Monday, December 17, 2007

Stew For Two

According to the calendar, it's not quite yet Winter; however we just had a snowstorm yesterday, and I was looking for something comforting, yet healthy. I came across this recipe from Elly Says Opa!, and had most of the ingredients on hand. It's my first time making stew, but it was so easy & really hit the spot on a very cold, almost Winter's night. Be sure to serve with biscuits to get all the sauce!

Chicken Stew
Serves 2

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 pound chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced (I used 2 carrots)
1 celery stalk, sliced (I omitted)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups chicken broth (I used 1 32 oz carton of fat free, low sodium chicken broth)
4 oz. white or cremini mushrooms (I omitted)
1/2 lb. baby redskin potatoes, halved (skin-on) (I used 1/2 lb Idaho potatoes cut in eighths)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (I used 1 tsp)
I added 1 tsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
I added 1/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
corn starch slurry (optional)

In a smallish stockpot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken pieces, just to brown, and then remove them. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the carrots, celery and garlic until the garlic is just fragrant, about a minute.

Pour the wine into the pot to deglaze, being sure to get the browned chicken bits off the bottom of the pot. Reduce the wine slightly over medium high heat.

Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, thyme, potatoes, chicken, mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until potatoes are fork tender and chicken is cooked through. I added the peas and corn while simmering for 10 minutes)

If you want, add a corn starch slurry at this point and boil about a minute uncovered. (I used the cornstarch and boiled for a couple of minutes to thicken)

Friday, December 14, 2007


I love trying new pasta sauces, just by switching up the types of tomatoes, herbs & wine, you can invent a different red pasta sauce every time you cook. I have just discovered fire roasted tomatoes, and LOVE them. They just add another dimension to recipes, I have also used them in chili.

The ingredients for this sauce are accurate, however, the measurements are really close estimates. Sometimes I just get caught up in trying different things, and forget to write the exact numbers down. But have fun and experiment.

Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce with Meatballs Sauce:

1 (28 oz) can Muir Glen Crushed Fire Roasted tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can Muir Glen Whole Fire Roasted tomatoes, crushed into small pieces by hand
8-10 small button mushrooms, sliced
4 oz tomato paste (or more depending on how much liquid/how long the sauce simmers)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup onions
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
handful of freshly chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in pot on medium heat, add onions & mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and 2 oz tomato paste and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except for fresh parsley, including partially cooked meatballs. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook for 3 hours on low-medium. Stir gently (don't break the meatballs, they will be soft!) every half hour, add more tomato paste if necessary to thicken, or simmer uncovered. Add fresh parsley in the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Serve with pasta, Parmesan cheese & some fresh parsley. I love pairing this with a salad & homemade roasted garlic bread.


1 lb lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onions
1/4 cup , plus a tablespoon or more of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 - 2/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup, plus a couple of tablespoons of skim milk
1 egg, beaten
a dash of salt & pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and form meatballs. I like to make them medium size so they do not take as long to cook. Place formed meatballs on a greased/non stick baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes, turning once.

Drain off any excess drippings on a paper towel. Carefully add to the sauce to finish cooking.

Homemade Roasted Garlic Bread

6 clices crusty Italian bread
4 cloves garlic, roasted (put unpeeled cloves of garlic either in tin foil on a baking sheet or in a muffin tin, drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast on 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden)
2-3 tablespoons softened butter
fresh chopped parsley

Sorry no picture. But...allowed the garlic to cool, then squeezed them, and mixed it with the butter & parsley together and spread on bread. I drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Then I put the bread slices on a baking sheet in the oven on 350 for 5-8 minutes. Just watch it - it depends on how toasted you like it. This was sort of an improv kind of garlic bread, so I apologize for not being more specific ;)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You Gotta Try Goat Cheese

If you have not tried goat cheese, I highly suggest it. It's rich, creamy, and is a perfect partner to chicken. This is a easy, healthy and elegant dish, it's one of my favorites so far. The Chicken with Goat Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato recipe, as well as the Creamy Parmesan Orzo recipe is from Cooking Light. I added some steamed broccoli tossed with minced garlic and a teaspoon of olive oil & lemon juice.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese (I used herbed goat cheese)
2 tablespoons fresh basil (I used 2 teaspoons of dried basil)
/4 teaspoon salt, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used scallopine style breasts)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Combine boiling water and tomatoes in a bowl; cover and let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and finely chop.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup shallots, sugar, and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Spoon into a bowl; stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar.

Combine chopped tomatoes, shallot mixture, cheese, basil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well.

Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff about 2 tablespoons cheese mixture into each pocket. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. (used thinly sliced breast so I spooned the mixture, rolled, and secured with toothpicks)

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; cover and keep warm. (I put in baking dish covered with foil on 350 for 15 minutes)

Add broth, remaining shallots, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and thyme; bring to a boil. (I added a tbsp of sundried tomatoes) Combine cornstarch and water, stirring with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until sauce is slightly thick, stirring constantly. Serve sauce over chicken.

Creamy Parmesan Orzo

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I used 1.5 cups broth)
1 1/4 cups water (I used 1 cup water)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I substituted with fresh parsley)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted (omitted)

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes).

Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Comfort = Homemade Chicken Soup

Whether you are sick or it's cold outside, or you just want something yummy & comforting, there is absolutely nothing better than some homemade chicken soup. It takes a little work to make the stock, but it's definately worth it, and you can freeze it for soup, or in ice cube containers to add to recipes.

Homemade Chicken Stock

1 small stewing chicken, cut up
4-5 lbs chicken bones/parts, backs, wings, necks
1 large onion, peel on, quartered
2 parsnips, peel on, cut in half or thirds
2 stalks celery with leaves, cut in half
2 carrots, peel on, halved or thirds
4-5 leek leaves, or the white part sliced in half
water to cover ingredients
10 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 head of garlic halved
1 teaspoon of mixed peppercorns

Put chicken and the remaining ingredients up to the leeks. in a large stockpot. Fill with water till it ingredients are covered by a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil, uncovered.

Once boiling, reduce heat to a medium simmer, and skim the scum from the surface with a small fine strainer till liquid is clear. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer on low for 2.5-3 hours. Check a couple of times to see if additional skimming is needed.

Let soup cool for 10 minutes, then strain with a fine strainer into another stockpot. Discard the solids. Strain again, and put pot in a sink full of cold water till cooled. Put in refridgerator, let sit overnight, and re-skim the surface for fat.

Use stock for soup or freeze for later use.

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup

After making stock, I'll simmer some chicken breasts in store bought broth with 2 cloves of garlic, and in another pot simmer diced carrots, onions, celery, parsnips and parsley. In the last 6-8 minutes of cooking, I add some small soup noodles and cook till al dente.

I drain the chicken, and partially shred, cut in rough pieces, and drain the veggies/noodles. For the soup, simply heat some stock, chicken & veggies, with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.


When thinking of nachos, I think of bar food. But I love to make a large platter for dinner, or sneak one for just myself - once in a while. This may not be a very sophisticated recipe, but it's just my favorite way to make them, and a little bit healthier than at a restaurant. One way is to make your own taco seasoning - if you make chili, you'll likely already have all the ingredients. I use this one from Allrecipes. I double the recipe and store with my other spices, and add use Mexican & chili powder instead of the regular varieties, and add more garlic powder.

Super Duper Dinner Nachos

1/2 bag Tortilla chips, I like to use a mixture of blue & white corn
1 cup 2% Cheddar cheese, shredded, and a teaspoon or so of taco seasoning tossed with cheese
1/2 lb gound lean beef, browned (or turkey)
2 tablespoons, 1-2 teaspoons taco seasoing, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 can fat free refried black or pinto beans with jalepenos, or add some minced ones
fat free sour cream (to taste)
1 diced tomato, 2 green onions, sliced, 1/4 cup yellow onions, diced (or to your liking)

Brown meat with minced garlic, drain. Add 2-3 tbsp taco seasoning, and 2 tbsp of water, more if needed. Simmer on low for 8 minutes.

Heat refried beans in saucepan on low, or microwave.

Spread out nachos, layer a bit of cheese, meat, beans, then the remainder of the cheese. Heat in the microwave or oven till cheese is melted.

Top with tomatoes, onions & sour cream.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Big But Not-Fat Greek Dinner

My favorite ingredients to cook with are: lemon, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. These ingredients are essential to Greek cuisine, thus Greek food is one of my favorites(the other being Italian) I make shish kababs often but never really used a recipe, I sort of threw the above ingredients together. This time, I used recipes from Elly Says Opa I served the kababs with whole wheat Greek pita bread, along with homemade tzatziki sauce (I usually buy it premade). It turned out fantastic, and it was just as good the next day as leftovers. Also, I used some tzatziki as a healthy dip for veggies. Opa!

Shish Kababs

1 lb. lamb or pork tenderloin, cut into chunks peppers, onions, or any other vegetables you would like, cut into chunks (I used tomatoes, green and red peppers & red onion)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, smashed (I used 4 cloves, I looooove garlic)
1 teaspoon oregano (I used a combo of fresh and dried, about 2 tsp altogether)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Mix lemon juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Put meat and vegetables in a large ziplock bag and pour marinade mixture into bag. Seal and shake bag.

Refrigerate for several hours or over night. (I marinated for about 7 hours, the chicken longer than the veggies)

Place meat and veggies on skewers (if you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about half an hour beforehand, so they don't char). Grill!


1 32oz container of plain yogurt (I do not recommend fat free, and a Greek yogurt like Fage will also work great)
1 English cucumber or 2 regular cucumbers, seeded
5 cloves garlic, crushed (I usually crush with the help of a little salt and EVOO
1 tsp white wine vinegar
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth over a bowl (if you don't have that, a strainer lined with a coffee filter will work) for several hours or overnight to get out as much moisture as possible.

Peel and seed the cucumber. Squeeze as much moisture out as possible. Shred/grate/process cucumbers and strain. Pat dry with a cloth or paper towel.

Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, vinegar and lemon juice (if desired). Salt to taste. It's best to refrigerate for 30 minutes or more before serving, so flavors can meld.

Drizzle EVOO over the top.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Peanut Butter - Rediscovered

I love peanut butter, but have only ever had it in desserts or in a traditional PB & J sandwich. I've seen many Thai or Asian recipes in a PB based sauce. I found two recipes - Spicy Soba Noodles w/Chicken in Peanut Sauce and Aromatic Noodles w/Lime Peanut Sauce took elements from both, and added my own. Jamie LOVED it, it's one of his favorite things I've made recently.
PS - It's healthy too!

Chicken & Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce

3/4 lb whole wheat spaghetti
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 lb chicken breast or tenders , cubed
2 cups fat free less sodium chicken broth, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup reduced fat or natural smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup pasta water (or as much as needed)
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tbsp honey
6 tbsp peanuts, chopped
4 tbsp scallions, sliced
salt & pepper to taste

Combine 1/3 cup broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, ginger, salt & pepper, red pepper & garlic; whisk until smooth, set aside.

Place chicken in a large saucepan and bring 1 2/3 cups broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is done. Drain.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, but reserve the pasta water.

While pasta and chicken are cooking, add carrots and broccoli to a skillet(or steam) briefly until almost crisp. Add drained chicken to skillet with vegetables for additional 2 minutes.

Add pasta and sauce to skillet, toss. Add some pasta water to think out sauce, and garnish with peanuts and scallions.

Get Dippin'

Watching sports with family & friends are a regular occurance at our house, so I'm always trying new things to serve. Although my chicken wings are the prefered snack, this quick and easy dip was a hit.
Ole Cheesey Chili Dip

1 cup of chili (I used my recipe in this blog, or use prepared or your own recipe) heated till warm
7-8 oz mexican style Velveeta,cubed
3 oz cream cheese, cubed, more if desired
Tortilla chips (I think the Scoops type works best and it less messy)

I have a Little Dipper Crockpot, so I add the cubed cheese and stir till partially melted, then stir in the chili. My crock cooks fairly quickly, so keep an eye so it doesn't burn.

Serve with tortilla chips...yummy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Turkey Day!!!!

This past Thanksgiving was my third time hosting. I wanted to make as many dishes as possible from scratch - no Stove Top here! It was a lot of work, a bit overwhelming, and created a disaster in the kitchen, but overall it turned out pretty good. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures, after all that work, I was hungry and just wanted to dig in. But I will share my menu and recipes, you'll get some great side dish ideas, and of course Christmas dinner is less than a month away.

Turkey Day Menu

crudite platter
shrimp with cocktail sauce

Turkey with Herbes De Provence (and gravy) - Food Network

Slow Cooker Stuffing - Allrecipes
Just be sure to reduce the chicken broth, you can always add more if too dry

Green Beans with Shallots - Food Network I also added 2 cloves garlic, minced and some lemon zest to compliment the turkey

Baked Sweet Potatoes - Allrecipes I added fresh tyme in the last 20 minutes of cooking

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes - Food Network I added some fresh chopped parsley and omitted the parmesean cheese

Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce - Back of Oceanspray fresh cranberry package or Ocean Spray I reduced water by 1/2 cup and replaced with pulp free orange juice

Store bought dinner rolls and butter

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
- in blog

And don't forget one of the most important things - A lot of white wine ;)

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

I hosted Thanksgiving this year, and I wanted to try a bunch of new dishes. One being my arch nemesis - dessert. I didn't want the regular old pumpkin pie - but since pumpkin is traditional for Thanksgiving, I decided on a pumpkin cheesecake. This is taken from Allrecipes, and to my great surprise, it turned out delicious. You could also add a caramel sauce, however I thought it might be too sweet. And it was even easier, than well... pie!

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients: 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fall + Football = Chili!!!

Whether you are a poor unfortunate soul stuck in a parking lot tailgating braving rain, wind & snow (Sorry football fans, I'm a hockey girl!), or happily relaxing on the couch in front of the tv, when it feels like fall and football - you probably feel like having some chili. Out of anything I have ever cooked, chili has the most variations I have ever seen. Some have odd ingredients such as chocolate and coffee, my ingredients are pretty traditional. I like to vary the recipe slightly, depending on whether it is prepared in the slow cooker or stove, and how much heat you want. Also, I like a lot of tomatoes, omit the crushed and substitute a small can of tomato sauce.

Melissa's Touchdown Chili

1.5 lbs lean ground beef (or a mixture of beef/pork)
1 medium-large onion diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14.5 oz) Mexican- style diced tomatoes, or stewed, coarsely chopped
1 (15 oz) can chili beans, with juice
1-2 (15 oz) can kidney, pinto or black beans, whatever you prefer, rinsed and drained
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 tsp freshly ground pepper
1.2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup Amber or dark Mexican beer, or beef broth
3-6 oz tomato paste, use to thicken as desired

shredded Mexican-style cheese
low fat sour cream
garlic bread
minced onions or scallions

Brown meat in a large skillet till meat starts to brown, add in onions and garlic and cooked till meat is browned and onions soft. Drain.

In either a slow cooker or large pot, add all tomatoes, meat mixture, beer, and seasonings, and stir. Add in 3 oz of tomato paste, more if necessary to thicken.

If using a slow cooker, cook on low for 6-8 hours, adding beans in the last hour. Also, you can use less beer/liquid if slow cooking, or increase tomato paste.

If using stove method, bring to slow boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, adding beans in last hour.

Top with minced onions, shredded cheese, sour cream and garlic bread - enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bella Lasagna

I've made the traditional lasagna many times, and was looking for something a little different. I had just gone shopping, and picked up some Baby Bellas (mini portabello mushrooms). I saw the perfect recipe to use them, Portabello Lasagna Rollups on the Food Network, which are basically mini vegetarian lasagna. It was great, and I didn't feel as guilty as I mornally do after eating lasagna/Italian food!

Portabello Lasagna Rollups
by Ellie Kriger
Difficulty: Medium
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

12 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 3/4 pound)
2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces portabello mushrooms, chopped I used Baby Bellas
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups Easy Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store bought marinara sauce
1 (15-ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 ounces grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 2/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the noodles al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain them well and spread them out onto aluminum foil or waxed paper to prevent them from sticking.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and all the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. In a medium bowl combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, egg, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few turns of pepper, and nutmeg.

Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture onto a lasagna noodle. Top with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture, roll the noodle and place it into the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles. Spread the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sauce over the lasagna rolls. Top with grated cheeses, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.

Easy Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained, tomatoes chopped I used Muir Glen's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Not So Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Eating healthier has been a goal of mine, and I discovered Cooking Light a few months ago. It's a great site, and most of the recipes that I have experimented with don't look or taste "light". I've had a loadec baked potato soup many times at restaurants, but they are by no means light. So, when I came across a recipe on Cooking Light, I just had to try it. It turned out very good. Of course I made some changes, but only to the amounts of ingredients in the recipe to suit my tastes - I added a bit more salt, some garlic powder (I love garlic!!!) and a little more sour cream & cheese. As usual, I served this with a salad - romaine & baby spinach.

Baked Potato Soup

4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces)
6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese ,divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 8 bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon. Garnish with cracked pepper, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups soup, 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon)

One Potato, Two potato...Purple Potato???

As you may have already figured out from the title of my blog & the color of my kitchen, purple is my favorite color. So, when browsing at the store, I was surprised (and excited - lol) to come across purple fingerling potatoes! I'm not sure if they taste different than the white fingerling, but they do look pretty!

I love the flavors of lemon & chicken, so I'm always trying out new ones. I made Classic Lemon Chicken with Sauteed Spinach from The Food Network. I left out the spinach and instead served with veggies I wanted to use up - a side dish of broccoli and added some button mushrooms to the chicken. The chicken (which turned out amazing!) was full of flavor, so I kept the sides simple. I made some changes to the chicken recipe which I indicated in italics.

Classic Lemon Chicken with Sauteed Spinach

2 lemons
4 chicken cutlets, pounded thinly into scallopini
Salt and pepper Flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled
16 caper berries omitted
10 large green olives omitted
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Sauteed Spinach, recipe follows omitted
added 4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced

Squeeze the juice from one and a half lemons and reserve. Cut the remaining half lemon into very thin slices. Remove seeds and set the lemon slices aside.

Season the chicken scallopini with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, coating both sides, and tap the excess flour off. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add as many scallopini into the pan that will fit without touching, and cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Flip and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove scallopini and drain on paper towel.

When done with the scallopini, wipe off the fat from the skillet with paper towels. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, garlic, and lemon juice and slices to the skillet. Cook, scraping the bottom until garlic is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scoop out the lemon slices and set aside. Add the caper berries and olives and cook, stirring gently for about 4 minutes. Pour in wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the chicken stock and boil until slightly syrupy. I added the mushrooms. Then in a separate pan, I blanched the broccoli florets till tender crisp, and added salt, pepper, 1 tsp of olive oil and lemon zest. Return the scallopini to the skillet and coat each piece in the sauce. Add parsley and swirl into sauce.

Divide scallopini onto separate plates. Spoon the sauce over, and add the caper berries and olives around scallopini. Add some of the spinach on the side. Finish by decorating each plate with reserved lemon slices on top of the scallopini.

Sauteed spinach: 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 pounds spinach
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Crush garlic cloves with the side of the knife and add to the oil. Cook until golden brown, approximately 2 minutes. Add the spinach in handfuls, and season lightly with salt and pepper, and cover pan. Cook until spinach releases its liquid. Uncover pan, and cook stirring until spinach is wilted and water has evaporated. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Roasted Purple Fingerling Potatoes

1 lb fingerling potatoes, washed/dried
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 375 -400.

Toss potatoes with above ingredients. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until tender.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

With A Little Help From The Herb Garden

I wanted to make a simple dinner with ingredients that I had on hand -I had a whole chicken, some veggies, lemons and some fresh herbs that needed to be used very soon. So I just threw together some of my favorite ingredients and came up with this wonderful roasted dinner. Enjoy!

Rustic Roasted Chicken

1 4 lb chicken
handful of celery and carrots, cut into large chunks
1.5-2 lbs Idaho or Yukom Gold potatoes, quartered
2 medium onions, quartered
1-2 lemons (desired amount)
1/2 cup olive oil (estimated)
salt and papper to taste
1 head of garlic
sprigs of fresh rosemary, parsley, oregano
1 tsp each of the herbs above, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375.

Rinse chicken, and pat dry. Drizzle a bit of olive oil inside of chicken, and add desired amounts salt and papper, sprigs of herbs, half of a lemon, half head of garlic and half of one unpeeled onion.

Mix the juice of one lemon and olive oil and rub all over outside of chicken & season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix the chopped herbs, 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Spread mixture underneath the skin of the breasts.

Put the chicken breast side up in roasting pan. Toss potatoes with olive oil and lemon juice, salt & pepper and sprinkle around the chicken. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Add celery and carrots, baste chicken with drippings and bake for an additional 30-60 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Should Have Been Born Italian

I love Italian food! My favorite foods are pizza and pasta - so you'll be seeing a lot of that on my blog. I was looking for a new recipe that would make a lot of food for leftovers, while trying something new. After searching many different recipes on various sites baked ziti for I became quite confused - there are many different variations for this dish - some including cottage cheese, sour cream, etc. I'm not a fan of cottage cheese, and sour cream didn't seem all that appetizing.

I came across two recipes from two separate blogs from the the wonderful ladies at the What's Cooking Board and I liked elements of both of them. I took the sauce from Sugar & Spice and some of the ingredients and preparation from Amber's Delectable Delights. It turned out soooo yummy - my hubby and his friend gave it rave reviews and took some for lunch the next day. I will post the ingredients and prep that I used, which I altered slightly, but to see the original ingredients - just click on the previous links. I served this with red & green leaf salad &Italian crusty bread with homemade garlic/herb butter.

Baked Ziti

1 lb ziti pasta
1 lb ground sirloin
salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
12 oz ricotta cheese
4.5 cups spaghetti sauce (recipe below) Recipe will yield more sauce, add more to the dish if desired or reserve for another use
The cheese amounts are estimated - add more/less if desired - you could also include/substitute provolone or Italian shredded cheese blend for the following:
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
3/4 cup grated Romano cheese, divided
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 and grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season water with salt, boil pasta till al dente; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile brown ground beef in skillet and season with desired amounts of salt, black pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes. Drain excess grease away from meats and return back to skillet.

Put a thin layer of sauce on bottom of baking dish to prevent sticking. In a large pot, mix 4 cups of sauce with meat, ricotta cheese and pasta. Pour half of the mixture into the baking dish and top with 1/2 cup Romano, 1/2 cup mozzarella , 1/4 cup Parmesean. Pour remaining noodle mixture and top with 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/4 cup Romano cheese.

Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, then remove foil and broil on low for 5 minutes if you like the cheese a little bit browned. Let set 5 minutes to cool before serving.

Spaghetti Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2.5 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried basil
1.5 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tsp sugar (or more to taste)
2 bay leaves, whole

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is tender.
Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, parsley, basil, water, salt, pepper, sugar and bay leaves.

Stir and bring to a boil. Stir and lower heat to a slow simmer. Cook 3-4 hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.

It's The Great Pumpkin-Cheesecake-Brownie!

As I've mentioned before, I can't bake. Now although I used to say that about cooking, my various attempts at simple things such as chocolate chip cookies (even the Pillsbury prepared dough-in-a-roll!) and boxed cake mixes (don't laugh) have turned out disastrous.

Trying to get into the Fall/Halloween spirit, I decided to make something with pumpkin for the first time. I found this recipe on a fellow Nestie's blog Cara's Cravings - it is a great/unique combination of a brownie and cheesecake, blending the flavors of chocolate and pumpkin. The thought of making one batter from scratch was daunting enough, and this recipe had two! It probably took me three times as long in prep work as supposed to, and I made a huge mess in the kitchen, but it's a miracle - it turned out looking, smelling and tasting absolutely delicious!

Pumpkin-Spice Cheesecake Brownies

Brownie Batter
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground ginger and ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8" square metal baking pan.

Beat together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Combine dry ingredients and then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon. In separate bowl, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients.

Spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into prepared pan, and spoon cheesecake batter over. Dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter. Swirl the batters together by running a butter knife back and forth through the pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wingin' It

Chicken Wiiiings! That's the battle cry heard from my husband and his friends on Saturdays throughout the fall, and during Detroit Red Wings games, so basically year-round. Again, I don't like to eat them myself, so I have no idea how they should taste. But with a deep fryer in the cupboard gathering dust and a few sports-obsessed hungry men who want to watch the game at home rather than at Buffalo Wild Wings, I decided to give it a shot. I've been making these for about a year now, and each time I try something different, and I never seem to measure things exactly. Sooooo, the ingredients are listed as to my best estimate - but since I change things up so much and have always received great results - experiment and just wing it ;)

Sacked Wings

2 lbs chicken wings, wings cut at joint, tips discarded
3/4 cup flour
1.5 tablespoons garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1.5 teaspoons paprika
vegetable oil for deep frying (amount depends on size of deep fryer)
2 tbsp or more of butter or Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
1.5 cups of favorite BBQ or Buffalo sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays')

Combine the spices with flour and lightly toss wings in mixture. Shake off excess and repeat for all the wings, place coated wings on plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for
1/2-1 hour.

Remove from fridge and deep fry wings for 10-13 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter and add sauce. I often divide between two skillets and make half with BBQ and half Buffalo sauce.

Drain wings on paper towels to remove excess oil, and add to the skillet(s) and cover with tin foil. Simmer on medium-low for 8 minutes.

At this point you can eat them right away if you like saucy-style wings, or especially if I am making a large amount that's too much for one batch in the deep fryer, I heat the oven on low, maybe 275, while I am simmering wings in sauce. I spray the tin foil that I used for covering the wings on stove and put the wings wrapped loosely in foil and on a baking sheet for not more than ten minutes. The sauce will now be have a more baked-on texture rather than saucy.

I hardly ever make the wings the exact same way. I experiment with different spices - cayenne, chili powder, onion powder, garlic salt, etc depending on what sauce I am using. So depending on how many wings you are making, or how thin you like the sauce, etc you can easily adjust the amount butter, flour, spices & sauce.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Taste of Hawaii

I am not a fan of seafood, however my husband loves it. On our honeymoon trip to Hawaii, he had some delicious glazed salmon, and requested that I try to replicate it. I did not measure the ingredients exactly, and I only made it for one portion of salmon. I served it with brown rice and steamed vegetables, seasoned with some pineapple juice, minced garlic and soy sauce. Overall, a pretty healthy and fairly quick meal!

Aloha! Glazed Salmon

1 salmon fillet
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
3 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp honey

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsps honey
2 tbsps pineapple juice
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp dried ginger
1 tbsp cornstarch plus 1 tsp water

Combine above ingredients with the exception of cornstarch and water. In another bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients in dish and place salmon fillet skin side up, cover and refrigerate for 25 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 and spray broiler pan with non-stick spray.

Mix glaze ingredients and heat in saucepan on low, stirring often till bubbly. Add cornstarch mixture and stir till thickened, keep on low, it will get really thick.

Remove salmon from fridge, and place on broiler pan skin side down. Bake for 10 minutes. Baste salmon with glaze halfway through baking. After 10 minutes, remove salmon, turn broiler on low, baste again and return to oven. Broil for 6-8 minutes or cook till salmon flakes easily with a fork. Remove and brush with glaze if desired. Serve with rice and vegetables.

Fall Has Arrived

I love French Onion Soup! It's much too heavy for the warmer months, however as soon as it starts getting colder in October, it's the perfect time to bring back French Onion Soup. I've tried several different versions of this soup, and this one is one of the best. It's Tyler Florence's French Onion Soup recipe from The Food Network. I made a few changes in italics. I served this with a Caesar salad.

French Onion Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs (I used 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle (3/4 cup merlot)
3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour (2 tbsp flour)
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound grated Gruyere (1 slice swiss, 1 slice provolone cheese and a sprinkle of parmesan)

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes.

Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir.

Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn't burn, and cook for 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

When you're ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere (or swiss/provolone/parmesan) and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup in bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.
Alternative method: Ladle the soup into bowls, top each with 2 slices of bread and top with cheese. Put the bowls into the oven to toast the bread and melt the cheese.

Soup's On

One of my favorite sites for recipes is Cooking Light Cooking Light. I'm trying to cook healthier, and I love this recipe. I made some changes that I think make it even better, both healthier & tastier, and are indicated in italics. I also served this with a greek salad.

Tomato-and-White Bean Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions (3/4 cup chopped onions)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 (14.5 oz) cans of no-salt added whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsley chopped
2 (16 oz) cannellini beans (1 can of beans)
1 (14.5 oz) can fat-free chicken broth (32 oz ff chicken broth)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3/4 tsp dried oregano (1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano)
1/4 tsp pepper (1/4 tsp salt also)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
I added 1/4 cup ditalini (soup noodles) and 1/2 package of frozen/thawed spinach

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, saute 4 minutes or till tender.

Add tomatoes and next 5 ingredients (tomatoes through pepper) and bring to a boil. Add spinach and noodles, if desired.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Comfort Food

I discovered Garlic Cheddar Chicken from Allrecipes over a year ago. It's one of my favorite ways to make chicken - it's moist, has a great cheese flavor, without being gooey. I paired it with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes (allrecipes) and Oven Roasted Green Beans from The Food Network. Simple, easy, and sooooo yummy! Changes I made are indicated in italics.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

1 medium head garlic 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons butter, softened Reduced to 2 tbsp
1/2 cup milk (I use low fat) salt and pepper to taste
I added 1/4 fat free sour cream, 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Drizzle garlic with olive oil, then wrap in aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and chop. Stir in butter, milk, salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic from the oven, and cut in half. Squeeze the softened cloves into the potatoes.
Blend potatoes with an electric mixer until desired consistency is achieved. Add sour cream and chives.

Oven Roasted Green Beans

1 1/2 pounds green beans 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Trim the ends of the green beans and add to a large bowl.
Toss with the extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out evenly on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Roast, stirring once halfway through, until lightly caramelized and crisp tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

1/2 cup butter 4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded thin
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, and cook the garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.

In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano, pepper, and salt.
Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter to coat, then press into the bread crumb mixture. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Drizzle with any remaining butter and top with any remaining bread crumb mixture.

Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. I added 2 tbsp shredded cheddar with ten minutes left.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Not Your Regular Quesadillas

My husband loves BBQ chicken quesadillas from restaurants so I thought I would try and recreate it at home. I didn't really measure the ingredients and kind of improvised, but here is approximately what I used. This made two quesadillas.

Jamie's Favorite BBQ Chicken Quesadillas
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 1/2 cups mexican style shredded cheese (or 2% milk cheddar) or more if you like it cheesier
3/4 - 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce - I used Sweet Baby Rays Honey BBQ
1/4 cup chopped red onions
oil or non-stick spray
4 (8 or 10-inch tortillas)
1 tbsp of butter, divided
garlic salt & pepper to taste
fat free sour cream

Season chicken with garlic salt and pepper. Grill or brown chicken on medium heat till almost cooked through. Add onions and cook till soft. If grilling onions, keep them in sliced and chop when done.

Add BBQ sauce to chicken and onions and heat through. Remove from stove. Meanwhile heat another skillet and add 1/2 tbsp of butter.

Layer two tortillas with about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of cheese , then chicken mixture, a little more bbq sauce(if desired) then more cheese and a tortilla.

Place in skillet on med-high heat and cook till golden approx. 3-4 minutes, then (carefully!) flip to cook other side.

Cut in quarters and serve with sour cream, salsa and extra bbq sauce.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Chinese takeout - at home!

I love Chinese food, but can't usually eat at restaurants because of the MSG. I've discovered this recipe on the Nest's What's Cooking message board, as well as from Amber's Blog. It always turns out great! I always make a little extra sauce, since that's the way Jamie likes it. I switch up the veggies that I serve with it, broccoli also goes well with this dish. I served it with Organic Brown Rice from Trader Joe's - makes prep time quick & easy. Changes I made are in italics.

Sesame Chicken with Snow Peas, Carrots & Brown Rice

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. toasted sesame seeds, divided
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package chicken breast strips, cut into chunks
8 tbsp. teriyaki sauce
6 tbsp. honey
oil for frying
sliced baby carrots & snow peas

In a large Ziploc bag, combine flour, 1/4 c. sesame seeds, black pepper, red pepper and Chinese spice. Place chicken in bag and shake to coat.

Heat oil in large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Place chicken into skillet and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.
Remove chicken from skillet and empty excess oil from pan. Reduce heat to low and return chicken to skillet.

Mix in teriyaki sauce, honey and 1/4 c. sesame seeds, and stir until sauce thickens. I stir fried snow peas & carrots for 5 minutes and then added to chicken mixture. Serve over brown rice.