Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas Breakfast

While watching 30 Minutes Meals on The Food Network last week, Rachael Ray was making gingerbread waffles...they sounded like they would be amazing. I knew what was coming next....a request from Jamie for me to make them. I informed my very disappointed husband that we didn't own a waffle maker.

So....a few days later, just before Christmas, he presented me with an early present - a waffle maker! So after browsing waffle recipes, and having success with previous breakfast recipes with bananas, Pancakes & French Toast, I decided on these recipes. They were amazing and the perfect Christmas morning breakfast, alongside maple sausages, coffee and mimosas served in our wedding toast flutes.


Waffles
Allrecipes

Prep Time: 5 Minutes Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Ready In: 20 Minutes Yields: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1.Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with hand beater until fluffy. Beat in flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla, just until smooth.

2.Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve hot.

Waffles with Maple-Glazed Bananas
Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:

6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup dark rum (optional) But of course I used it!!!
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
4 bananas, peeled and cut diagonally into slices 1/2 inch thick
4 large waffles
Sweetened whipped cream for serving

Directions:

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the maple syrup. Stir in the cinnamon, rum and vanilla and simmer for 1 minute. Add the bananas to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bananas to a serving plate. Pour the maple syrup mixture into a sauce boat. Serve immediately with waffles and whipped cream.

Serves 4.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Skip That Condensed Tomato Soup

I haven't made tomato soup in a while, with the exception of good ol' Campbell's. However, while watching Everyday Italian on The Food Network, I saw exactly what I was looking for. With the beans, noodles and the extra kick with the spice, it was very hearty, yet still healthy.

The recipe called for San Marzano marinara sauce, but I was unable to find it at my grocery store. So I decided to make my own sauce, and the difference between crushed and whole San Marzano tomatoes was about $4! So I just pulsed whole tomatoes in the food processor a few times, creating crushed tomatoes, but leaving some pieces. I loved the taste of this marinara so much, I will definitely be making it again to serve with pasta, and of course, plenty of Parmesan cheese!


Quick & Spicy Tomato Soup
Food Network/Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 12 min
Level: Easy Serves: 4 to 6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (recommended: San Marzano brand) I made my own, recipe below
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta) I used ditalini
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I added a 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley to the soup in the last 10 minutes of cooking, and extra for garnish

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. (I sauteed them longer till carrots were completely softened) Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.

San Marzano Marinara Sauce

28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 carrot stick, shredded
2 bay leaves
1/4-1/2 tsp each of dried basil & oregano (I would have fresh if I had some on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion, finely diced

Heat extra virgin olive oil on medium heat in a saucepan. Saute onion, celery for 3-4 minutes, and add in garlic and carrot and saute for a few more minutes till everything is softened.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes and remaining ingredients, and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Maybe Blondes Are More Fun...

One of my favorite easy desserts is brownies topped with vanilla ice cream. I had planned on just picking up some pre-made brownies, but while at the store I changed my mind, and decided to make some instead, since I had just had some baking success with the blondies.

However, offhand, I had no clue what type of chocolate to use, so I just started reading the recipes on the back of the products until I finally found a brownie recipe. I had never used Nestle Pre-Melted Choco Bake before....and I don't think I will again. Although the brownies turned out great taste wise, the chocolate was hard to work with. Well, actually it was a real pain in the butt! There was no way the batter would have filled out a 13 x9 pan, so I used a square 8 x 8 pan square baking pan, and baked it a little longer for approximately 25 minutes.


Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
Nestle

Estimated Times:Preparation - 15 min
Cooking - 18 min
Cooling Time - 20 min cooling
Yields - 24 brownies (2 dozen)

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
4 packets (1 oz. each) Nestle Tollhouse Choco Bake Pre-Melted Unsweetened Chocolate Flavor


2 large eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional) I used walnuts

Directions:
PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Stir in sugar, butter, Choco Bake, eggs, water and vanilla extract vigorously in large bowl. Stir in flour mixture . Stir in nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan.

BAKE for 18 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You'll Love These Blondes

I've had this recipe for pumpkin blondies in my Google Reader for almost a month, so I have been excited to try it. Despite some technical difficulties from my mixer (it stopped working just as I started creaming the butter, then magically started working again), I managed to bake it with no further problems. This was a great recipe, I've never used white chocolate chips before, and I think the flavors went amazingly well together. I loved this recipe, it's a keeper.




Pumpkin-White Chocolate Blondies
found on Fresh From Cate's Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 package (12 ounces) white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into squares.

Fake Out Take Out Sweet and Sour Chicken

I love Chinese food, however, I feel less than great after getting takeout, even if I ask for no MSG. So the only chance I have to enjoy comes from my own kitchen. I was searching for a stir fry recipe, but came across this one for Sweet and Sour Chicken. I've made that dish/different recipe several times, but something was always "off" with the sauce, so I decided to give Sweet and Sour Chicken one more chance, if it didn't work out, it's back to using the store bought bottle kind from now on.

Wow - this was great, I've found my favorite Sweet & Sour recipe. Now, granted it's not a "healthy" recipe, but neither is the kind from take out. I paired it with thinly sliced onions, red pepper, carrots and broccoli florets that were stir fried with some soy sauce, sesame oil and minced garlic, all served over rice.


Sweet and Sour Chicken
found on Cooking This and That, from My Kitchen Cafe

Makes 4 servings

Chicken:

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.

Sauce:

¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced - about 6-8 minutes.

* After about 55 minutes, I removed the lid, turned the broiler on, and cooked the chicken for 5 minutes, turning once. The sauce thickened, became a glaze and the chicken got slight crispy. It was perfect, I didn't need to cook any additional sauce.

Sealed With A Kiss

Bolstered by my recent and first-time success at cookie making, I decided to go for it again. I've seen these on a few different blogs for a while, but most recently on another, and they are considered a holiday treat, so I thought they would be perfect - and they were! If you love peanut butter & chocolate, you'll love these. They were pretty simple to make, I wish I had made a double batch...too bad I sent all of them to work with my husband, I only saved two for myself!

Peanut Butter Blossoms
seen on Food alla Puttanesca, from Hershey's Kitchens

Ingredients

48 Hershey's Kisses I used half milk chocolate, half dark chocolate kisses
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
granulated sugar

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Mine needed about 11 minutes

About 4 dozen cookies. I only ended up with about 37-38 cookies

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's Nothing Like Homemade

One of the things you will always find in my freezer is pierogis - they are inexpensive, easy, quick and just plain good. I don't think I have ever had the authentic homemade kind before, and a few weeks ago, I saw an episode of Diners, Drive-In's and Dives on the Food Network which featured homemade pierogis. They looked amazing!

The I remebered I saw a recipe for Homemade Pittsburgh Pierogis on a blog that I love, Brown Eyed Baker. As the name suggests, she's a great baker, so I was a little intimidated by the recipe...plus I'm pretty new to making dough. But I followed the recipe almost exactly (I only made slight changes to the filling), and they were so good. This is definately one of the more time-consuming and advanced things I have made, but so worth it.

I served them alongside grilled turkey Reuben sandwiches, with sauteed onions and sour cream. I froze the remaining pierogi on a baking sheet (to keep from sticking to each other), and stored them in freezer bags. I look forward to making them again and experimenting with different fillings.







Homemade Pittsburgh Pierogies
Brown Eyed Baker, adapted from Columbus Foodie

Yield: About 2 dozen large pierogi

Ingredients:


2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
Butter and onions for sauteing

Ingredients for filling of your choice (Potato & Cheese filling recipe below)

Pierogi Dough

To prepare the pierogi dough, mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Add the ½ cup sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness (about 5-7 minutes).

You can use a food processor with a dough hook for this, but be careful not to overbeat. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or overnight; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Prepare the Pierogies:

Roll the pierogi dough on a floured board or counter top until 1/16″ thick. Cut circles of dough (2″ for small pierogies and 3-3½″ for large pierogies) with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon) on each dough round and fold the dough over, forming a semi-circle. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork.

Boil the pierogies a few at a time in a large pot of water. They are done when they float to the top (about 8-10 minutes). Rinse in cool water and let dry.

Saute sliced onions in butter in a large pan until onions are soft. Then add pierogies and pan fry until lightly crispy.

Potato, Cheese & Onion Filling

1 lb red potatoes I used Russet potatoes
¼ of a large onion, finely chopped
2 oz. cheddar cheese, finely grated I used about 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper
I sauteed 2 cloves minced garlic with the onions and butter
I added 1.5 tsp dried parsley
I added 2 tsp of half & half

Peel and boil potatoes until soft. While the potatoes are boiling, saute onion in butter until soft and translucent. Mash the potatoes with the sauteed onions and grated cheddar cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some fresh parsley, bacon bits, or other enhancements if you desire. Let the potato mixture cool and then form into 1″ balls.

Homemade Pierogi Tips:

If you are having a hard time getting the edges to stick together, you may have too much flour in the dough. Add a little water to help get a good seal.

If you don’t want to cook all of the pierogies right away, you can refrigerate them (uncooked) for several days or freeze them for up to several months.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I've Conquered Cookies!

I haven't been cooking all that long, and I've been baking even less. The other couple of times I have tried to make cookies, they never worked out. In the past year, I have finally managed to make cheesecake, bread & dough and some other goodies; but it was frustrating to be able to make more difficult things, and not the simple ones. I thought I'd give cookie making another shot, after all, tis the season. What's more Christmas-y than gingerbread men?

These cookies were easy to make, although the first batch was a little dark, since I forgot to account that my oven sometimes cooks faster, mine only needed about 10 1/2 minutes to bake. And much to my surprise, they are husband-friendly - Jamie rolled out the dough, made the cutouts, and even helped decorate.




Gingerbread Men
Vintage Victuals

3/4 c butter, softened
3/4 c light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c molasses
3 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp each salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon

Cream together butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and molasses and beat until incorporated. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. With mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients to molasses mixture until dough forms. Shape into 2 thick disks and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on lightly floured board to 1/4" thickness and cut into desired shapes. Decorate with raisins and red hots for buttons, eyes, noses, etc. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks, decorate with icing if desired, and enjoy!

Tips: Don't roll dough less than 1/4" thick; take out of oven just when they begin to brown; decorate when cookies are completely cooled.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Manly, But Pretty Meal

I was looking for something a little different for dinner, I had some peppers to use up, and I've had this starred in my Google Reader for a while now. We loved this dish - it was easy, full of flavor, and tasted great the next day. But anything with mashed potatoes, beer & sausage is good in Jamie's book!

I made a couple of changes, mainly that I added more beer (yeah!!!) to make more sauce...I'll definitely be making this again, I'll probably try substituting with chicken or turkey sausage.



Ale-Braised Sausage and Peppers
Good Things Catered, adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 lb. cooked sausages, such as kielbasa, sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced I used 1-2 yellow & green peppers
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, divided1
1/2 c. ale I used 1 bottle of Budweiser's American Ale
1 1/2 c. low sodium chicken stock
3 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped I used 2-3 tsp of dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped I used 1 tsp of dried parsley which I added when adding the thyme
Mashed potatoes for serving

Directions:

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the sausages and cook, stirring and turning often, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp flour and cook, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the ale until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. Add the thyme and broth, whisking to blend, and bring to a simmer.

Return the sausages to the pot. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the sausage, peppers, and onions and place on a serving platter. With the Dutch oven over medium high heat, whisk in 1 heaping Tbsp of flour, whisking constantly until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.

Pour thickened sauce over sausages and serve immediately with mashed potatoes.

Serves 4 to 6.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Of My Favorite Appetizers - At Home

I couldn't even begin to count how many times I have ordered mozzarella sticks at a restaurant, only recently have I begun to wonder if I could do it at home. Well, the answer is - sort of.

I don't deep fry very often, nor do I have a proper thermometer, so that may have been the cause of some of the problems I experienced with this recipe. A few of my mozzarella sticks either burned/cooked too quickly because the oil was too hot, or cooked too slowly and the cheese melted out because the oil wasn't hot enough. I finally got it right and most of them were delicious, but were a lot of work....maybe I'll just keep ordering them at restaurants ;)



Mozzarella Sticks
Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network

Prep Time: 30 min Inactive Prep Time: 2 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 10 min Level: Intermediate
Serves: 6 to 8 servings (makes about 56 pieces) I cut the recipe in half

1 1/2 cups Italian-style dried breadcrumbs
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
2 (16-ounce) blocks pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups Marinara Sauce, recipe follows You can find this recipe in the link above, I used my own pizza sauce recipe below

Stir the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Dip the cheese in the eggs to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl.

Coat the cheese in the bread crumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Place the cheese sticks on a baking sheet. Repeat dipping the cheese sticks in the egg and bread crumb mixture to coat a second time. Cover and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve with the Marinara Sauce.

Pizza Sauce

8 oz tomato sauce
3 oz tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp oregano
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, and let flavors blend before using. I heated the sauce up right before using.

I Love Ragu (Not From the Jar)

I was on my own for a few days, and found myself with a pasta craving (yeah...again) and some time to devote to the sauce, so I found this recipe for Bolognese on Cooking Light. It was wonderful, the meat takes center stage in this style of pasta, where normally the tomatoes/sauce is more prominent. I loved this sauce, and after eating it for dinner two nights in a row, and lunch one day, I reserved the rest and stored it in the freezer for another day when the pasta cravings return.



Ragu Alla Bolognese with Fettuccine
Cooking Light

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
5 ounces ground veal For the meat, I used 1lb ground turkey, 1/4 lb ground sirloin
5 ounces ground pork
5 ounces ground round
1 cup dry white wine I didn't have any, so I used 1 1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree I used about 20 oz
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley I used 1 tbsp dried parsley and 2 tsp dried basil
2 (9-ounce) packages fresh fettuccine, cooked and drained I used dried linguine
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Parsley sprigs (optional)

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot; cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onion mixture from pan.

Add veal, pork, and beef to pan; cook over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture, broth, and tomato puree; bring to a simmer. Cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Stir in milk and minced parsley; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Add pasta, and toss to coat. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Move Over Breadcrumbs - Bring On the Tortilla Chips

One of Jamie's favorite meals is a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich...but it's not exactly one of my favorites, and I'll usually end up making two different types of sandwiches to satisfy both of us. But when I saw this recipe in my latest issue of Cooking Light magazine, I thought it would be perfect. We both loved it - it had enough flavor and spice from the Frank's sauce, but it wasn't completely covered in a sauce, which I sometimes find overpowering. I loved the texture of the tortilla chip crust, it definately added more crunch and flavor than breadcrumbs. And the cilantro-lime mayo added an extra zing and coolness that you get from blue cheese dressing on traditional Buffalo-style sandwiches. I served this with cumin-lime seasoned baked potato wedges & corn drizzled with lime juice.


Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Cilantro-Lime Mayo
Cooking Light

Yield 4 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich)
Ingredients

Mayo:
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro I used 1/2-1 tbsp dried
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced

Chicken:
1/4 cup egg substitute
3 tablespoons hot sauce (such as Tabasco) I added 4 tbsp of Frank's Red Hot
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 1/2 ounces baked tortilla chips (about 6 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
I added 1/4 tsp each of cayenne and black pepper

Remaining ingredients:
4 (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls, split I just had regular hamburger buns
12 (1/8-inch-thick) red onion slices
4 lettuce leaves

Preparation
1. To prepare mayo, combine the first 4 ingredients.

2. To prepare chicken, combine egg substitute, hot sauce, oregano, and salt in a large zip-top plastic bag. Cut chicken breast halves in half horizontally to form 4 cutlets. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning bag occasionally. I marinated it for 4 hours.

3. Place tortilla chips in a food processor; process 1 minute or until ground. Place ground chips in a shallow dish.

4. Working with one cutlet at a time, remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken completely in chips. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and chips.

5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Spread mayo evenly over cut sides of rolls. Layer bottom half of each roll with 3 onion slices, 1 lettuce leaf, and 1 chicken cutlet; top with top halves of rolls. my chicken was a little thick, so I needed more time to cook through.


Oven Fried Cumin-Lime Potato Wedges

4 large russet potatoes, washed, unpeeled, cut into thick wedges
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp Mexican chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
lime zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all the ingredients except for the lime zest in a large bowl.

Bake wedges on a non-stick baking sheet for 30 minutes, turn wedges, bake for an additional 15 minutes. If they are not crispy enough, turn the heat up higher for a few minutes. Sprinkle with some lime zest as soon as they come out of the oven.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Menu - Week of November 30th

Sunday - Thanksgiving Leftovers - Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Hot Turkey Sandwiches

Monday - Homemade Pepperoni & Onion Pizza & Salad

Tuesday - Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Cilantro Lime Mayo, Oven Fries & Steamed Green Beans with Lime Zest

Wednesday - Homemade Mushroom & Turkey Meatball Sauce with Penne & Salad

Thursday - Turkey Bacon BLT Sandwiches & Tomato Soup

Friday - Chicken Enchiladas

Saturday - Leftovers

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast

I've been bad for slacking on updating my blog lately.....it's been kind of busy, but I have been cooking! So it's fitting that my first entry in a while is our Thanksgiving dinner.

So here's the menu:

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake
Apple -Cider Brined Turkey with Herb Gravy
Whiskey Glazed Carrots
Corn Bread Dressing
Cranberry Sauce with Apple Cider
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I wish I had taken more/better pictures, but after an afternoon of cooking, I was tired and hungry and just wanted to dig into all the food. I chose an apple theme for some of the dishes, and the cider added so much great flavor.

I was supposed to make green beans with caramelized shallots, but I forgot...oh well! Regardless, all of the dishes worked well with one another, and the house smelled delicious!!!



** This is the first cheesecake that I've ever made that turned out perfectly baked, and although I didn't achieve the marbled effect very well, it was wonderful.

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake
Allrecipes

Prep Time: 30 Minutes Cook Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Ready In: 7 Hours 40 Minutes Yields: 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap
cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 (8 ounce) packages cream
cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed gingersnap cookies, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining mixture.

3. Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.

4. Bake 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until filling is set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Allow to cool before removing pan rim. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

**This is the first time I have brined a turkey - and it won't be the last, it made the meat so moist! I roasted the turkey at 500 for 15 minutes, and then reduced the heat, but I should have put a foil tent on the bird or started roasting at a lower temperature from the beginning to prevent from getting too brown too quickly, but the breast meat was cooked perfectly.

Apple-Cider Brined Turkey with Savory Herb Gravy
Cooking Light

Brine:
8 cups apple cider
2/3 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely crushed
8 (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
6 whole cloves I omitted
2 bay leaves
1 (12-pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
2 oranges, quartered
6 cups ice

Remaining ingredients:
4 garlic cloves
4 sage leaves
4 thyme sprigs
4 parsley sprigs
1 onion, quartered
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

Savory Herb Gravy - I did not use the recipe on the site, I strained the pan drippings, added some chicken broth and fresh sprigs of sage, freshly chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp black pepper and brought to a boil. In a bowl, I dissolved some cornstarch in water and whisked into the broth and cooked till thickened. Strain the gravy and remove the sage before serving.

To prepare brine, combine first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for Savory Herb Gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bags with several twist ties. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 500º.

Remove turkey from bags, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, onion, and broth in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place roasting rack in pan. Arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500º for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350º.

Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170º (make sure not to touch bone). (Shield the turkey with foil if it browns too quickly.)

Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes. Reserve pan drippings for Savory Herb Gravy. Discard skin before serving; serve with gravy.


**This is the first holiday dinner in Tennessee, so I thought this dish would be perfect was to add a little local flavor.

Whiskey-Glazed Carrots
The Pioneer Woman

2 - 3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles
1 stick (1/2 cup…1/4 lb) butter
1/2 cup Jack Daniels or other whiskey
3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Melt 1 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60 to 90 seconds each batch. Remove from skillet.

Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining butter. When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Stir together, then add carrots to skillet.

Cover, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes. Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.



Corn Bread Dressing
from a friend

**I cut the recipe in half

6 cups 1-inch cubes white bread, crusts removed (from 1 loaf Italian or country-style bread)
6 cups crumbled day-old corn bread (from 8-inch pan)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, plus additional for garnish
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground mace (optional) I omitted
3 eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 350° F. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes; let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, corn bread, and enough broth (at least 2 cups) to make a fairly mushy mixture. Season with the salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the parsley, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the onion mixture to the bread mixture, along with the apples, nutmeg, and mace (if using); let cool.
Add the eggs and gently combine. Spread the dressing in an unbuttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bake until golden brown and warmed through, about 1 hour. If you want a crispy topping, leave uncovered; otherwise cover with foil halfway through cooking. Sprinkle with additional parsley before serving, if desired.


I forgot to take a picture of the cranberry sauce or mashed potatoes separately, so here they are on the dinner plate.

Cranberry Sauce with Apple Cider
Cooking Light

1 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Chill.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

1 head of garlic
2.5-3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch piece
1/4 freshly chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup half & half
2 tbsp butter

Heat oven to 350, slice the top of the garlic head, drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes. When cooled, squeeze garlic out of the skins and mash with a fork, set aside.

Boil potatoes and cook till tender for about 15 minutes. Drain and add to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat butter and half and half in a small saucepan over low heat, but don't let it boil. Add mixture to potatoes, along with salt, pepper, roasted garlic paste and parsley and beat with a mixer till smooth and creamy.

Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes


**I made the sweet potatoes again to eat with leftovers - the first time for the dinner I baked them at 35 for an hour in the middle rack, resulting in softer potatoes as in the picture in with all the food. The next time I made them, I used the recipe below. Both were wonderful!

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray. Add potatoes.

In a small bowl, mix together garlic powder, thyme, salt and pepper and pour onto potatoes and toss to coat.

Bake on the middle rack for about 50 minutes, carefully turning a couple of times to cook thoroughly.

Remove potatoes from oven, increase heat to 450-500 degrees, put the rack in the top part of the oven and return potatoes to bake for another 5-10 minutes until the crisp.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Craving The Carbs

Some people crave sweets, I crave pizza and pasta. So, I gave into my craving and made a big pot of pasta sauce & meatballs....I could eat this everyday! Top with some grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, all served in a warm bowl. I'm in heaven.



Mushroom Tomato Sauce with Turkey Meatballs

Sauce:
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
28 oz can of whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
28 oz can tomato puree, then fill the can with about 1/2-3/4 full with water, to add to sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup onion, diced
3 tbsp tomato paste, more if necessary to thicken sauce

Heat a large pot with olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and saute for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook until onions are soft.
Add all remaining ingredients. Once bubbling, turn heat to low and simmer for a couple of hours.


Turkey Meatballs:
1 lb 93/7 ground turkey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp (or more if needed ) of bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
extra virgin olive oil for frying

Heat a large skillet with a little extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form equal sized meatballs (I made 20).

Add meatballs to skillet and saute for 10-15 minutes, turning so all sides get browned.

Line a plate with a paper towel, remove meatballs from skillet and place on paper towels and lightly blot.

Add to tomato sauce to fully cook the meatballs, and let simmer on low.

Monday, November 17, 2008

B-Dubs At Home

When you think of Buffalo Wild Wings, you think of chicken wings of course. To save some money, while still enjoying their great sauces, I bought bottles of Mango Habanero and Caribbean Jerk sauce. So this past Saturday, Jamie enjoyed what every man does....sitting in front of the TV, watching football, drinking beer and being served chicken wings...all from the comfort of our own home.

He is so spoiled!! But these flavors are spicy...so if heat is not your thing, try it with Honey BBQ, Sweet or Mild BBQ or Parmeasan Garlic sauces. Plus these are naked - no breading, no frying!



B-Dubs Naked Chicken Wings

2.5 lbs chicken wings, rinsed, dried, separated, and wings discarded
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
3-4 tbsp butter, divided
about 2 tbsp vegetable oil
BBQ sauce - I used BWW's Mango Habanero & Caribbean Jerk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with tin foil and non-stick spray.

Spread out wings on the baking sheet, drizzle a little vegetable oil over them and turn to coat.

Lightly season wings with salt, pepper, garlic powder on both sides. Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, turn over and baking for an additional 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat approximately 1/2 cup sauce and 1.5-2 tbsp butter in saucepan (separate if using different sauces). Heat till simmering and mixture is reduced.

Remove wings from oven. If there is a lot of liquid on the tin foil, drain off, or replace and spray with non-stick spray. Pour sauce on wings and turn to coat. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, sauce will become like a glaze. Enjoy with ranch, bleu cheese & celery sticks.

Fried Pickles?? It's A Southern Thing....

Before moving to Tennessee, I had never heard of fried pickles. The thought of them seemed kind of weird, even scary to me. But I saw a post about them on the WC board and on Courtney's blog so I decided to made them for Jamie....I like a couple of pieces now and them, but Jamie loves them.

FYI, since living here I have learned a couple of things about Southern cuisine:

* Deep fried food is good;

* BBQ is not burgers or pizza, as Wikipedia states: "The term as a noun can refer to foods cooked by this method, to the cooking apparatus itself, or to a party that includes such food. The term is also used as a verb for the act of cooking food in this manner....and initially revolved around cooking pork";

* Beans & Greens are common side dishes;

* Sweet tea is a favorite beverage.

So...back to the fried pickles, I made two batches, since I am not that familiar with frying things. The first batch when using the batter mixture as stated, kind of fell off the pickles. So I added in a little more flour and cornstarch until the batter was thicker. Jamie liked the latter batch better, although I thought the batter was too heavy. Next time, I would find a happy medium between the two. Either way, they were really good!


Fried Pickles
from Cook Like A Champion & Science of Cooking

* I cut the batter ingredients in half, as I was not making that much
* I added some more flour and cornstarch to make the batter thicker

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup ice water
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
4 cups dill pickle slices, drained I used about 10 pickle spears, sliced lengthwise once so they were thinner
vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

-In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center.
-All at once, add the water, egg yolk and pickle juice.-Stir the mixture with a wire whisk to make a smooth batter.
-Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
-In a deep fryer or large saucepan, heat at least two inches of oil to 375°.
-In batches, dip pickle slices into batter, lightly and evenly coating them.
-Without crowding, place coated slices in the hot oil.
-Fry until golden and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.-Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Serve with fat-free ranch dressing....LOL...just kidding, at this point, go for the full fat version!

Loaded Potato Soup - Revisited

I love potato soup, and I found a great recipe that I blogged about in one of my first posts Not So Loaded Baked Potato Soup, Cooking Light - Lighter Loaded Baked Potato Soup. I wanted to make it again, while still avoiding cream, but still make it a little different...in changes from the original, I used turkey bacon in place of regular, added mashed roasted garlic, and fat free sour cream instead of reduced fat. The biggest change was not to mash the potatoes, instead I coarsely chopped them. Although I loved the first time I made it, leaving the potato in chunks added great texture and reduced the graininess that mashed potatoes can have in soup.



Loaded 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
6 cloves of roasted garlic, mashed
1 cup fat-free sour cream
3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
6 turkey bacon slices, crumbled

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

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 and roasted garlic, 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)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Perfect Fall Treat

Pumpkin is one of the quintessential Fall flavors. I recently enjoyed the last of the banana muffins from the freezer...so it was time to restock. It's November, and I haven't really made many things with pumpkin yet, so I found the following recipe for Pumpkin Chip muffins. After reading the ingredient list, I didn't like how much oil and sugar were in it, so I substituted with applesauce, which I have done with banana muffins in the past. They were moist, delicious and full of flavor. Not sure if many of them will make it into the freezer!


Pumpkin Chip Muffins
From Allrecipes

INGREDIENTS:

4 eggs
2 cups white sugar I used 1.5 cups
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil I reduced oil to 1/2 cup, I added 1 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease two 12 cup muffin pans, or line with paper baking cups. I ended up with more batter, and did not have another muffin tin, so I put the remaining batter into a small loaf pan and baked the loaf an additional 10 minutes or so.

2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and mix in the sugar, pumpkin and oil.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Blend into the egg and pumpkin mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Transfer to the muffin pans.

4. Bake in the preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pans, and cool on a wire rack.

Menu - Week of November 9th

Monday - From the freezer.....Chili & Cheesy Beer Bread

Tuesday - Chicken Parmesan Strips over Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Marinara

Wednesday - Sweet Potato Fries, Cilantro Black Bean Burgers & Green Beans

Thursday - Potato Soup & Garden Salad

Friday - Homemade Pizza & Salad

Saturday - Homemade appetizers for dinner.....still not sure what to make yet

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chicken Fajitas in a Salad?

Earlier in the week while grocery shopping, I was excited to see that colored bell peppers were on sale, so I stocked up. I had all the ingredients for fajitas and wanted those flavors....but I wanted something a little different. So my fajita taco bowl salad was born. It was a wonderful change from the usual, especially the creamy, tangy dressing, and you don't have to eat the bowl - making it an even leaner meal.




Chicken Fajita Taco Bowl Salad

1 1/2-2 lbs chicken breast, cut into strips
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced - I used a mixture of red, yellow and green
2 tomatoes, chopped
2-3 limes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning blend
large flour tortillas (if using the bowl, otherwise omit and serve on a bed of lettuce and some broken tortilla chips)
toppings: 2 % shredded Mexican cheese blend, iceberg lettuce & avocado slices

Heat a grill pan, remove chicken from marinade, grill chicken till done, approximately 8 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil, and saute peppers and onions till softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, Southwest seasoning and juice of half a lime. With a couple of minutes left, add the tomatoes.

**If making a tortilla bowl, place tortilla upside down on top of a ramekin, brush a little vegetable oil and bake in a 425 oven for 5-6 minutes.

Add the chicken to the vegetable mixture and combine. Serve the fajita mix in a tortilla bowl or on lettuce. Drizzle with the Cilantro Lime Dressing.

Lime Fajita Marinade

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Corona
juice of 1 lime
zest of half a lime
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp mesquite flavored liquid smoke
salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Put the chicken in a bag or bowl, add marinade and leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Take chicken out of fridge about 10 minutes before using.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

1/2-3/4 cup fat free plain yogurt
salt & pepper to taste
2 tsp limes zest
2-3 tbsp lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Mix above ingredients, cover and chill until ready to use.

A Marvelous Meatless Meal

I don't enjoy a lot of different types of meat, so many of the meals I make include chicken, however once in a while I like to make meatless meals. This pasta dish was made with inexpensive ingredients that I always have on hand, it was quick and easy. The beans make it seem more filling, serve with a salad, and you won't miss the meat.




Tomato Cream Pasta with Spinach & White Beans

1-3 cup onions, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2-3/4 lb rigatoni
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
kosher salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups spinach, rinsed, dried & roughly chopped
1/4-1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
about 3 tbsp of reserved pasta cooking liquid
1/4 cup half and half cream
5 cloves of roasted garlic, mashed
28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley

Cook pasta according to directions, drain, but reserve some cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil and add onion and saute for about 5-6 minutes on medium heat.

Add tomatoes, herbs, beans, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 7-8 more minutes. Add cream and heat through, but do not boil. Stir in cheese, spinach and a a couple of spoonfuls of reserved pasta cooking liquid (or till desired consistency is reached) and heat through. Remove and serve with additional Parmesan if desired.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Want My Mummy!

I've never made specific holidays dishes, so when I saw this very cute & popular recipe for mummy dogs on the WC board, I knew I just had to make them. These would make a great Halloween appetizer for children & parties, they were pretty easy to make, just be sure to leave more room than you think for the face because the dough expands and I didn't have that much room - so my mummy's only had eyes....oooohhhh....extra creepy!

And I picked up this adorable bib at Target for my children ;) It's just a coincidence that the bib's theme fit with this recipe. So here is Thumper looking all cute in his "I Love My Mummy" bib.


What's Halloween without costumes? Here is Socks and his brother being adorable little devils.



Now enough of the cats, onto the dogs......



Crescent Mummy Dogs
from Pillsbury

Ingredients :

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations™ refrigerated flaky dough sheet I used the dough sheet
2 1/2 slices American cheese, quartered (2.5 oz) I used deli-style sliced medium cheddar cheese
10 large hot dogs
Cooking spray
Mustard or ketchup, if desired

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate at perforations, creating 4 rectangles. Press perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles.

3. With knife or kitchen scissors, cut each rectangle lengthwise into 10 pieces, making a total of 40 pieces of dough. Slice cheese slices into quarters (1/2 slice cheese, cut in half).

4. Wrap 4 pieces of dough around each hot dog and 1/4 slice of cheese to look like "bandages," stretching dough slightly to completely cover hot dog. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate "bandages" so hot dog shows through for "face." On ungreased large cookie sheet, place wrapped hot dogs (cheese side down); spray dough lightly with cooking spray.

5. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until dough is light golden brown and hot dogs are hot. With mustard, draw features on "face."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pot Pie - The Ultimate Comfort Food

The weather is finally chilly here and I was craving chicken pot pie for a while now. The only kind there has ever been around my house says Swanson's on the box. I found a recipe that uses puff pastry instead of pastry dough. I was not feeling adventurous enough to attempt dough from scratch, and since I had never worked with puff pastry, I was excited to try it.

The original recipe makes individual sized pot pies, however, I was unable to find my small dishes, so I used one 1 1/2 qt oval casserole dish, which worked just fine by using 1 whole sheet of puff pastry. I maybe have been too liberal with the egg wash, as the top browned a little too much. However, the dish was wonderful - the crust was flaky and tasted amazing dipped into the hearty chicken & veggie filling.



Individual Chicken Pot Pie
adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients:

8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock I used broth
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme I used dried
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped white button mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped red-skinned potatoes I used russet potatoes
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup cooked fresh or frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Four 6-inch squares frozen puff pastry I kept the sheet whole
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400ºF. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture smells fragrant and nutty, 1 to 2 minutes.

Slowly add the stock, whisking until smooth, and bring to a boil. Add the thyme, bay leaf, onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, chicken, peas, salt and pepper and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

Divide the filling among 4 ovenproof bowls and place on a baking sheet. Brush the puff pastry squares with the egg mixture. Brush the rims of the bowls with water.

Place 1 pastry square on top of each bowl, pressing lightly on the edges. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Greek Salad With A Popeye Twist

I mistakenly poached too much chicken for my chicken pot pie, so I had plenty to use up. I was feeling like pasta salad, but also wanted something light & fairly healthy. I love Greek salads and always have all the ingredients on hand, so why not throw in some spinach, use up that chicken..and ta da. It's Greek Orzo, Spinach & Chicken Salad!



Greek Orzo, Spinach & Chicken Salad

1/2 cup orzo
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup tomato, chopped
3 tbsp crumbled feta cheese (more if desired)
1/2 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped or torn
3 tbsp red onion, diced
1/2 cup chicken, cooked & chopped
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (I added after I took the picture)
2 tsp of lemon zest

1. Cook orzo according to directions, drain. Put into a large bowl.

2. Meanwhile, mix all dressing ingredients, cover and chill.

3. In the bowl, add the remaining above ingredients to the orzo. Chill if not serving immediately.

Dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Eggstra-ordinary Sandwich

I've made this many times and never wrote anything down, or thought to blog it...but why not? There was a time when I couldn't cook at all or make the simplest of things, I have actually googled "how to make a hard boiled egg"...don't laugh. So here's my recipe for making a simple egg salad for a sandwich - it's easy, cheap & just plain good.



Easy Egg Salad


5 hard boiled eggs (Place eggs in a pot, add water, cover and bring to a boil. remove from heat, leave covered for 12-15 minutes. Let cool slightly and carefully peel)
1 celery, diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp reduced fat mayo
1 tsp onion flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
Sometimes I add a dash of paprika too

In a large bowl, break the eggs into smaller pieces using a fork. Mix all the above ingredients, cover and chill for at least an hour.

I put the egg salad on whole wheat toast and added some lettuce. The above makes about 4 sandwiches, depending on how much you put on each.

When It's Chilly - Make Some Chili

The Fall weather has arrived, and when I have all afternoon to cook, my obvious choice was to make some chili. I love trying different combinations of spices & ingredients, so here's another new recipe. I usually serve chili with garlic bread, but this time I made a cheesy beer bread to go with it. Great decision - it was a change, the flavors went well, and it was just plain wonderful!



Take Off The Chill Chili


Ingredients:

1.5 lb ground round
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large onion, diced (1/4 of that reserved)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small-med Poblano pepper, diced (they only had mild)
15 oz tomato sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes
14.5 oz diced tomatoes with jalepenos
3-6 oz tomato paste
1 can of spicy chili beans
1 can of dark kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 bottle of beer (I used Michelob Porter, this beer had notes of chocolate & coffee, two ingredients often used as "secret" ingredients in chili)
1.5 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
approximately 1 tsp Kosher salt & 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper (I used a mixture of black, white, red & green peppercorns)

Directions:
Heat a skillet and cook beef until browned. Remove, drain but reserve some of the liquid in pan, and set beef aside.

Over medium heat, saute onions, garlic, Poblano and celery for a few minutes until softened. Add meat back to the skillet and combine the mixture. Add beer to skillet and simmer a couple about 5 minutes till slightly reduced. Add all the seasonings & stir to combine.

Meanwhile on another burner, heat a large pot and add all the tomatoes. Stir in the skillet mixture and bring to a boil. Check seasonings, adjust if necessary and reduce to low, cover and simmer. Put in the beans about 45-60 minutes before the end of cooking. I had the time, so I simmered it for about 3 hours. If needed, add more tomato paste to thicken. Remove bay leaf.

Serve with your favorite toppings - I like to have some of the following:
2 % shredded Mexican cheese
fat free sour cream
diced green & yellow onions
oyster crackers
beer or garlic bread
oyster crackers
Fritos

Beer + Cheese = Delicious!

I normally serve garlic bread with chili....but I wanted to try something different. I saw this recipe for cheesy beer bread, it looked wonderful & would go perfectly with my chili. Even though I stole one of Jamie's Sam Adams Octoberfest beers to make this, he wasn't complaining!

Also, this was my first time making bread that wasn't banana, although I was a little nervous, it turned out perfectly and definitely deserves the "easy" part in it's title.




Easy Cheesy Beer Bread
Good Things Catered

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour I used all white flour, I didn't have whole wheat
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
12 oz. bottle of lager or stout (I used Sam Adams Oktoberfest)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan for baking.

-In large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.

-Whisk to combine well.-Add cheese and whisk to combine.

-Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir lightly until combined.

-Knead dough lightly until it just comes together.

-Place into prepared loaf pan and pour melted butter over top.

-Place in oven to bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wings With Some Zing

Saturdays in the fall mean college football (unfortunately for me). So I can escape by spending time in the kitchen, and Jamie enjoys what comes out of the kitchen. This time it was...big surprise...chicken wings. He requested some type of Asian wings - actually he wanted Asian Zing wings from BWW's, but I found this recipe, which I'm sure is healthier. Jamie gave it two sticky thumbs up.



Teriyaki Chicken Wings

Wings:
2 dozen chicken wings, about 3 1/4 pounds, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned I used already toasted sesame seeds
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped I used 1/2 tbsp dried cilantro

Teriyaki Sauce:
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 fresh, hot red chile, halved I used 2 tsp of crushed red chilies
5 garlic cloves, halved I used three minced garlic cloves
2-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a large knife I used 2 tsp dried ginger

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the chicken wings with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil on them to prevent sticking. Lay the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin gets crispy and the wings are cooked through. I baked them for about 35- 40 minutes, turning halfway through.


Meanwhile, combine the teriyaki sauce ingredients in a large saucepan. Simmer over low heat and reduce until slightly thickened. I added the wings into the sauce and simmered on low for about 10 minutes.

Pour the sauce into a large bowl. Dump the wings into the bowl and toss to coat them with the sauce. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve hot.

One Crust, Three Pizzas

Here's another catch up post - I made this about two weeks ago while watching the Wings raise their latest Stanley Cup banner. They lost to the Leafs, but the Wings were probably just a little tired from celebrating all summer - the Leafs have been on vacation & relaxing since the end of April......sorry Leafs fans, I couldn't help it :)

I love it on pizza, but Jamie doesn't - so I decided to make mini pizzas that have different toppings which we like. It would have been even better with homemade dough, but I just didn't have the time, so I used a pre-made dough. And sorry for the dark pictures, my natural light was long gone - I really need to start cooking earlier.




Pizza Trio

1 roll Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Preheat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with non-stick spray (I like olive oil flavored). Cut dough into three equal portions and spread apart slightly so they don't touch.

Put the crust in the oven for about 5 minutes to pre-bake, this will make the crust a little crispier. Remove and put on the toppings:

Pizza 1:

basil pesto
goat cheese
roma tomato, thinly sliced

Easy Basil Parsley Pesto


1.5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, packed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Combine herbs, pine nuts & garlic in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and continue to blend and slowly add the rest of the oil until mixture is smooth. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread a thin layer of pesto on the dough, add cheese and toppings.

Pizza 2:
shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
shredded aged white cheddar cheese
thinly sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
thinly sliced red onion

Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce over dough, add cheeses, and top with veggies.

Pizza 3:
basil pesto
shredded part skim mozzarella
pepperoni
thinly sliced Baby Bella mushrooms
thinly sliced red onion
pepperoni
pizza sauce I cut my recipe in half and reserved the rest for later use

Garlicky Pizza Sauce

6 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup (or more if required) of water
4 cloves garlic, minced1 tbsp oregano
1.5 tsp dried onion
1.5 tsp dried basil
dash of sugar
kosher salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl & let flavors blend. It makes enough for 2 large pizzas.

Mix together some pesto and pizza sauce, spread a thin layer over dough, then layer mozzarella cheese and toppings.

Return to the oven and bake for approximately 8-10 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese is melted.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chicken Soup For The Sick Cook's Soul

I've been sick all week, and was craving some homemade soup. The weather finally feels like Fall here, and I've wanted to make this ever since seeing this recipe in the latest issue of Cooking Light. We both loved it - even though I usually make chicken soup with homemade stock, this turned out wonderful and had that homemade feel; I think having the fresh herbs in the soup as well as in the dumplings helped.

There were a couple of firsts in this recipe for me - I've never made/had chicken thighs, nor have I made dumplings without Bisquick. I'm definitely a white meat-type person, but the thighs added great flavor, so I'll keep adding them to my soup, and the dumplings were so easy and used only a couple of ingredients that I already had, I don't need to buy Bisquick again.

For some of the broth I used White Wine & Herb chicken broth, and I think it added a lot of great flavor. If you can't find that, I'm sure even adding a little white wine to regular broth would have a similar effect.

And one final piece of advice - make more dumplings than the recipe states - they are wonderful and you'll want to load your bowl up and there won't be any left when you go back for seconds!



Herbed Chicken and Dumplings
from Cooking Light

Yield: 2 servings (serving size: 2 cups) I doubled the following amounts, plus more flour, salt & parsley to make a larger amount of dumplings

Ingredients:

Cooking spray
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces I used 6 chicken thighs and two chicken breasts
3/4 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut celery
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme I used about 1 tsp of thyme
3 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth I used 5 cups of fat-free stock and 1 cup of College Inn White Wine & Herb broth
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk

Preparation:

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add celery and next 5 ingredients (through bay leaf) to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute. Add broth to pan; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, chopped parsley, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring just until moist. Spoon by heaping teaspoonfuls into broth mixture; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until dumplings are done. Discard parsley sprigs and bay leaf. I removed the parsley and chopped it in smaller pieces and put back in the soup.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Easy As Mexican Pie

I was feeling like Mexican, but didn't want plain old tacos. After browsing through some blogs, I found a recipe that sounded great. I had the ingredients on hand, and it meant that my poor, rarely used springform pan would get some action time in the oven. We loved this dinner, layers of tortillas, Mexican seasoned beef, black beans, enchilada sauce...it looks impressive, but it so easy...what's not to love? And the leftovers are just as good. I made some changes to the recipe, the original ones can be seen in the links below.


Before.... and trying to wait patiently for 25 minutes....


After...25 minutes are up, time to dig in!


Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
adapted from Delicious Meliscious & Liz's Cooking Blog

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground beef
1 small jar enchilada sauce
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 large onion, diced
1 can fire roasted diced green chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
2 tsp Mexican chili powder
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
12 ounces Mexican beer
8-10 oz frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 1/2-3 cups shredded Mexican or cheddar cheese
1 tomato, seeded and diced
sour cream and salsa, for serving

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.

Brown ground beef and drain fat.

Add onion, diced chilies, garlic, cumin and chili powders; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn, and remove from heat.

Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the meat & beans, spoon some enchilada sauce over top (maybe 3-4 spoonfuls) and 1/2 cup cheese.

Repeat three times, using 1-1.5 cups of cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; spoon any extra enchilada sauce on top, then sprinkle with scallions & diced tomatoes.

To serve, slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.