Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pantry Pasta

Everyone has their own version of this dish. This is mine. It is my favorite go-to meal/snack when my husband is out of town, my kids are in bed and I just want something satisfying to eat while I watch my favorite show. It takes only as long to make this as it does to cook the pasta. You can add just about anything you have on hand to make this dish your own: use any kind of pasta, any veggies, any herbs, add meat or not, etc. It's just about as easy as it gets and you get a nice, refreshing, super flavorful take on pasta without using any of that nasty jarred stuff. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Pantry Pasta

Ingredients

1/4 lb your favorite pasta (I prefer spaghetti or angel hair)
2 Tbs salted butter
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup diced canned tomatoes, drained
parsley or other herbs, to serve

Cook your pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in medium frying pan, and saute garlic for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Then add flour. Whisk together and cook for 2 minutes until flour is cooked and lightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth until well-combined and sauce starts to thicken (you can add more or less chicken broth depending on how thick you prefer your sauce). 

At this point, you can add just about anything you like. I usually add diced canned tomatoes (as many or few as you like--a 1/2 cup usually does it for me), but you could add roasted bell peppers, onions, or any other veggies you like. You can also add sausage or chicken, but I prefer this dish meatless. Cook sauce until pasta is done. Drain pasta and add it straight into the pan, tossing to combine and evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle fresh parsley over the top and Voila, you've got yourself an incredibly flavorful and satisfying pasta dish!



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Homemade Chicken Stock

My husband was out of town last week, so I didn't do a whole lot of cooking. In fact, we basically lived off of a Costco rotisserie chicken all week long. If you're anything like me, you hate to let anything go to waste so I stuck what was leftover of the chicken (bones and all) into a crockpot with some carrots, onions, celery and herbs, covered it with water and a few hours later had four quart mason jars full of beautiful homemade chicken stock. So easy and inexpensive and a lot more flavorful and healthy than the canned stuff!


Homemade Chicken Stock

1 whole rotisserie chicken carcass (whatever you have left over after you're done with it)
2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped in thirds
2 stocks of celery, chopped in thirds
1 large onion, quartered
4 cloves of garlic, cut in half
2 sprigs of parsley
1 sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Add all ingredients to a large crockpot. Add enough water to barely cover the top of the chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Strain the broth over a colander, discarding all the remaining solids. Ladle the stock into mason jars and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, skim the fat off the top of the stock. Use within 3-4 days or freeze the remainder in freezer ziploc bags for up to three months. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Behold the world's most perfect muffin. No, seriously. This is hands down the best muffin I've ever made. Even my husband agreed. He went back for at least three of these perfect gems. The very man who just days earlier claimed that he wasn't a muffin kind of guy.
 
What I love about these raspberry chocolate chunk muffins is not only their divine taste, but also their texture. It's just what a muffin should be--the perfect balance between moist and fluffy and delicate and crumbly. They were also the perfect amount of sweetness--not too much but just enough. These muffins are also pretty versatile when it comes to the fruit and spices you choose to use. We happened to have raspberries but I know strawberries would be delicious here too. The original recipe only called for cinnamon but I added some nutmeg and cloves and I'm glad I did. The result was spectacular.
 
 

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins

(Adapated from Barefoot Contessa)
Makes two dozen standard sized muffins
 
3 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
 
Preheat your oven to 375-degrees. Sift the above ingredients together and make a well in the center.
 
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 sticks butter, melted
 
Mix the above ingredients together and mix well. Add them into the well of the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Lumps will be present and that is just fine.
 
2 cups diced fruit, such as raspberries or strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks or large chips
 
Add the above ingredients to the rest of the batter, stirring gently to combine. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the prepared/lined muffin cups (they should be about 3/4 full). Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached (but not wet/gooey batter).

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Creamy Chicken Soup

A "cool" front hit the South last week. Of course, it wasn't cool weather at all, just absolutely perfect temps for summertime. I use any excuse to whip up a batch of soup. This cool front was a great excuse. This creamy chicken soup was the perfect consistency for a sour dough bread bowl which has always been a favorite of mine. Cool front or not, this soup hits the spot. Tip: if you live near a Panera Bread, you can buy sour dough bread bowls there for only a couple bucks each. 

Creamy Chicken Soup
 
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
4 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
2 cups cream or half and half
2 tsp chicken base granules
2 Tbs parsley
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs basil
1/2 Tbs Tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups cooked, chopped or shredded chicken 
1 cup egg noodles, optional
Salt and pepper to taste 
Roux: 
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs flour

Heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a Dutch oven. Add carrots, celery and onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add white wine and herbs and then cook an additional minute. 

While sautéing veggies, cook roux. Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter then sprinkle flour over and stir until mixture is light brown and bubbly. Set aside. 

Add all other ingredients to soup. Bring to a boil (at this point, if using noodles, add here and cook as directed on package) then slowly whisk in the roux. Boil for 1 minute then simmer 20-30 minutes, until thickened. 

Stir every 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve with crusty bread and grated cheese over the top. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homemade Tortillas

We have been taking one trip after another for nearly a month now and it has been quite some time since I've been "real" grocery shopping. So when I tried throwing dinner together one night with a meal that depended on tortillas, only to discover we had no tortillas, I flipped out only momentarily before realizing I got this. 

Homemade tortillas are a cinch and taste so much better than the store bought ones. The hardest part is rolling them into a shape resembling a circle. So next time you are about to toss out a Mexican dinner idea because you forgot tortillas at the store, remember these babies and give them a try. 


Homemade tortillas

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly add oil and then water, mix for one minute or until well combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Mix an additional minute. 

Flour your hands and divide dough into 16 equal portions. Allow to rest on a cookie sheet covered with a towel for 15 minutes. 

Flour a flat working surface and roll each ball into a 6-7 inch circle. Transfer to a skillet preheated at med-high heat. Cook first side for 45 seconds to a minute or until brown spots have formed. Flip tortilla and cook an additional 20-30 seconds. 

Transfer to a plate and keep covered until ready to serve. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Stuffed Pork Chops

My in-laws are visiting and I wanted to cook them something they'd enjoy but I knew wasn't something they'd cook for themselves. Enter stuffed-pork chops. These 2" thick chops (though I've also used much thinner ones) were stuffed with spinach mixed with sundried tomatoes, herbs, and two kinds of cheeses. To top it off, the most simple, yet incredibly flavorful lemon Dijon sauce is drizzled on top. These babies are divine, super easy, yet definitely memorable. Make them for company, a special family dinner, or just for yourself!
 
 

Spinach Stuffed Pork Chops

(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
 

Ingredients

 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag of frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese (I usually substitute feta)
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 4 (4-ounce) center-cut pork chops
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
                                                                    

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook until combined, about 2 more minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add the goat cheese and the cream cheese. Stir to combine and set aside.
 
Use a sharp knife to cut a pocket into the thickest portion of the pork chop. Stuff each pocket with 1/4 of the spinach and sun-dried tomato mixture and close the pork around the stuffing. Season the outside of the pork with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl combine the chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, and mustard.
Warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add the pork. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes per side (depending on thickness of chops). Transfer the pork to a 325-degree heated oven and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. Add the chicken broth mixture to the skillet over medium-high heat. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan as the chicken broth simmers. Reduce the broth by half to make a light sauce, about 8 minutes.
 
Serve with rice and veggies. Spoon some sauce over the pork and rice just before serving (I also like to spoon some of the sauce over the chops while they cook in the oven, just to ensure they don't get too dry).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

My awesome sister shared this recipe with me and I thought I'd just go ahead and post what she had to say about how amazing these cookies are: "Firstly, I must say, I am not a cookie person. It's cake and pastries for me all the way. And if I ever took a moment to pretend I was a cookie person, I would make applesauce chocolate chip cookies long before I would ever even consider making Snickerdoodles.  But this recipe intrigued me (as does anything with brown butter), so I tried them. And now, embarrassingly, I can't stop eating them. They are amazing. They have a surprisingly gooey, yummy center (if you don't over-bake them), thanks to the browned butter in them. It made about two dozen cookies, and probably would have been a whole lot more, but the dough tasted so incredible that I ate way too much of it. Okay. Enough blabbing. Go make these. Now." 
 
Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Cookies
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
  • For rolling mixture:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Instructions

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

  2. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined.

  3. Chill your dough for 3 hours or as long as possible in the refrigerator (important!), or place in freezer for 30 minutes if you are super eager, although I cannot promise the same results if you do this. Fridge is always best! You want the dough VERY cold. If you desire a 'puffy' cookie, place them in the fridge overnight.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Meanwhile mix 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a bowl. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

  5. Bake the cookies 8-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Bake longer if you like crispier cookies. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pistachio Avocado "Ice Cream"

My little family is semi-obsessed with Costco. Tell me we're not the only ones. Nearly every time we go, there is a man there doing Vitamix demos and he almost always makes this absolutely scrumptious pistachio avocado "ice cream" that my kids are crazy for. I finally got around to finding a recipe for it so that I could make it at home. It's a complete cinch and works even if you don't have a fancy schmancy Vitamix (I've got a Ninja that gets the job done). It's much healthier than real ice cream but definitely curbs my cravings for something sweet.
 
 

Pistachio Avocado Ice Cream

 
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup fat free Vanilla coffee creamer (I used International Delights)
3 cups of ice
 
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth and no ice chunks remain.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dinner Time: Honey Lime Chicken Taquitos.

Hey friends,I just made this recipe last night and you need to make it for dinner immediately. No lie, this recipe was easy and absolutely delicious. Even my son Dylan loved it, and when my ridiculously picky 4 year eats it up, I feel definite feelings of triumph. Like I feel like there should be a balloon drop in my kitchen or something. Just don't make me clean it up, ok?

I found the recipe for Honey Lime Chicken Taquitos  on Six Sister's Stuff, which is a great resource for dinner ideas. 

So take my word for it, this recipe is awesome- cook it, eat it, enjoy it. 



Baked Honey Lime Chicken Taquitos Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time:  
Cook time:  
Total time:  
Serves: 5
 
These Baked Honey Lime Chicken Taquitos are a meal your whole family will love!
Ingredients
  • 6 Tablespoons honey
  • 5 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 12-15 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese
  • 1 cup green enchilada sauce
  • ½ cup sour cream
Instructions
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice, chili powder and garlic powder. Add shredded chicken to the mixing bowl and let it marinate in the fridge for at least a ½ hour, but preferably a half day or so.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread chicken mixture evenly between flour tortillas, top with cheese and roll up tightly, placing seam side down on a baking sheet. Spray the tops of the taquitos with nonstick cooking spray (or brush with a little vegetable oil). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tortillas are golden brown.
  3. Whisk together enchilada sauce and sour cream and serve with taquitos.

The only thing I would add is that if you like things a little more spicy, you might want to substitute a hotter sauce for green enchilada sauce, since it is pretty mild. I prefer things more mild, but my husband suggested a hotter sauce. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Coconut Lime Chicken

I love Thai and Indian food. My husband does not. So when going out to eat, it is never to the aforementioned types of places. Big bummer for me. That's okay though because this recipe, that I came across thanks to Pinterest, is a winner and completely satisfies my craving for Thai food. 

I've tried the recipe several times now and think it tastes better with a wee bit of sugar added to it. If you are anti-sugar, just leave it out and you'll be just fine. I just found there was an extra tartness there that needed balancing with a tad bit of sweetness. Then it was perfect for me.

Coconut Lime Chicken



INGREDIENTS:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp curry powder
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 Tbs sugar, optional
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

DIRECTIONS:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring for 1 minute, until it is fragrant. Add the coconut milk, chiles, sugar, lime juice and zest, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, stir in the green onions and cilantro. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cheesy Buttermilk Herb Bread

I'm totally envious of any mom out there who lives within driving distance of family, can drop their kids off at the grandparents whenever they please, has a place to go for Sunday dinners, can shop or do lunch with a mom or sister on the weekend, etc. That is my dream. It's unlikely to be realized anytime soon (or ever) but a girl can dream. 

Last week, for the first time EVER since being a mom, I got to travel completely alone. It was a breath of fresh air. The most liberating feeling. Flying was actually pleasant. My mind still can't wrap its brain around the awesomeness that occurred. Four days without any kids. I knew they were in good hands with their dad and I didn't stress about them for a second (until we watched the movie Philomena one night and then I wanted to hug and hold them something fierce!). I got to travel around Boston with my sister and sweet little niece and just enjoy myself. I almost can't even express what a joy it was to put the mom part of me on the back burner and just be me again. Wow.

While there, my sister made this awesome cheesy buttermilk herb bread. Something about buttermilk in baked goods just makes everything better. This bread is super easy, a nice change from the normal dinner rolls, and a big hit for any cheese lover. Bonus: there is no yeast in this recipe!  

So go ahead and give it a try for your next Sunday dinner--whether you have family around to enjoy it with you or not.
 

Cheesy Buttermilk Herb Bread



Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan 
1 cup grated cheddar cheese 
8 pieces sundried tomatoes, sliced thinly (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mixture of green onion (or chives) and Italian parsley
2 tsp thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 eggs
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or use 1 1/4 cup less 1 Tbsp fresh milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice. Set aside for 10 minutes before using)
 
Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter a large loaf tin (23 x 13 x 6cm) and either line it with butter parchment paper or dust with flour. Set aside.

2) Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt, pepper and mustard powder into a large bowl. Whisk with a whisk to incorporate the dry ingredients. Add both cheeses, sundried tomatoes, green onion, parsley and thyme and stir them thoroughly together.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the oil and buttermilk until they are well combined.

4) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir together to form a thick, sticky batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly.

5) Brush the top of the batter with the egg wash and then sprinkle some thyme leaves and sea salt onto the loaf, if desired.

6) Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If the top starts to burn, place a piece of foil to cover the top of the loaf and continue baking. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.

7) This loaf is best served on the same day. Wrap left overs tightly and store in fridge.Gently reheat in oven if serving later.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Southwestern Style Breakfast Grilled Cheese

I wish I made myself a breakfast this good every morning. Mmmm. Looks good doesn't it? I bet you want a bite right now.
 
 
I had some leftover sour dough and grilled cheese was calling my name, so I whipped up this little concoction for breakfast. Who says you can't have grilled cheese for breakfast? It was awesome!
 
A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Hashimotos Autoimmune Disease and has been on quite the strict diet ever since. She's inspired me to eat more veggies at every meal--not just dinner. So I added a couple veggies into this one just for her.
 
This breakfast grilled cheese has a Southwest flair: my favorite roasted tomato salsa mixed in with avocado,a slightly scrambled egg, wilted spinach and melted cheese. Breakfast doesn't get any better and the protein and veggie combo will leave you satisfied until lunch.
 
 
 
 

Southwestern Breakfast Grilled Cheese

Serves 2
 
4 slices sour dough
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup baby spinach leaves
2-4 slices mozzarella (or sharp cheddar)
1/2 of an avocado, sliced
1/4 cup of roasted tomato salsa (my favorite is the World Market brand)
 
salt and pepper
 
In a small glass bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Pour into a non-stick skillet and cook over medium-high heat until eggs are set. Remove from skillet and set aside.
 
In the same skillet, heat the olive oil and add the spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook just until wilted (30 seconds or so). Set aside.
 
Butter one side of each slice of bread with 1/2 Tbs butter. Place 2 of the slices of bread butter side down in the skillet. Place 1-2 cheese slices on each slice of the bread. Combine avocado and salsa, divide and place on top of cheese, then add the egg and spinach to each slice. Top with the other halves of buttered bread, flipping the sandwich over once the first side is golden brown. Allow the other side to also cook to a golden brown and the cheese to melt. 
 
Serve immediately.
 
 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Macaroni Salad

Barbeque season is just about here. I can't wait.
 
Except that barbequing at our house will probably be nonexistent for the next year or so.
 
You see, over the long, cold winter a little birdy decided our barbeque would be the perfect place for its nest. Somewhere in this nest building process, the bird going in and out, etc.,our barbeque was basically destroyed.
 
 
Darn bird.
 
Since we're moving next year anyway, we figure it's as good a time as any to downsize our belongings. Who really wants to lug a heavy barbeque across the country?
 
So here's hoping that we get invited to a lot of barbeques this next year. I'll happily bring along some awesome side dishes to share. Like this one. Macaroni Salad is one of my favorite bbq sides. This one, though, isn't your boring old mac salad. This one is amped up a level with barbeque seasonings and yummy smoked turkey sausage. This one will get you invited to more barbeques. :)
 

Barbeque Macaroni Salad

 
(Photo Courtesy of Mel's Kitchen Café)
 

Ingredients

  • 8-12 ounces turkey kielbasa, diced (or smoked turkey sausage)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

Directions

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped turkey kielbasa and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and let it cool slightly before using in the recipe.
  2. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the macaroni and cook until nearly tender, about 6 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool, draining again briefly. Transfer the moist pasta to a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the kielbasa, bell pepper, celery, green onions, vinegar, hot sauce, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Let the pasta sit for about 5 minutes to absorb the flavors. Stir in the mayonnaise and barbecue sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. The salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Check the seasonings before serving and stir in a few tablespoons of warm water before serving, if needed to bring the salad back to it’s creamy texture.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Spinach Chicken Breast

My sisters were lucky enough to be roommates a few years back. I was always kind of jealous of them because, among other things, they got to cook together. Of course, my mega food-family entwined sentimentality is always in high gear and made me really bummed whenever I heard of their culinary adventures together. At any rate, one dinner they frequently made together was the scrumptious looking dish pictured below. Doesn't it look awesome? Well, let me tell you, it tastes as good as it looks.
 
If you're more of a low-fat kinda person, just omit the bacon. One of the great things about this dish is its versatility. You can pretty much add whatever you like and it'll come out just fine. My sisters usually just poured a bag of baby spinach into a baking dish, added chicken on top and would then top it with things like swiss cheese or tomato slices. The spinach wilts and cooks perfectly in the chicken and tomato juices and is divine. Voila. With very little effort you have a completely satisfying one dish wonder.

 

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breast with Spinach

Ingredients
1 (10 ounce) bag of baby spinach leaves 
1/2 cup, or 4 slices, shredded swiss or mozzarella
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
1 pinch ground black pepper
8 slices bacon
 
Directions 
Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
Saute garlic in olive oil over medium high heat 3-4 minutes or until garlic is fragrant.
Dump bag of spinach into bottom of greased 9x13 pan.
Pour garlic mixture over the top of the spinach.
If using bacon, wrap each chicken breast with two slices of bacon. Secure with toothpicks, if necessary.
Arrange chicken breasts oven spinach.
If not using bacon, top chicken with cheese and tomato slices
Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, then increase heat to 500-degrees, or use oven’s broiler, to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes to brown the bacon.
 
 
 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cabbage Apple Slaw

As much as I enjoy cooking/baking, breaks from it are nice, too. I just spent several glorious weeks back in my home state spending precious time with family. While there, I of course pitched in with dinners when necessary, but mostly I relaxed and let my awesome family show off their talents. My mom and sisters all have amazing skills in the kitchen that I totally benefited from over the last few weeks.
 
One night while I was there, my younger sister made this incredibly refreshing slaw. We all enjoyed it so much that we requested it again a few nights later. I've had several versions of cabbage slaws throughout the years (I'm sure you're all familiar with the ramen noodle version), but this one trumps them all. We took the liberty of adding sliced apples to it for extra crunch and for variation of flavor. The sweetness paired nicely with the savory cabbage and toasted almonds. Add shredded chicken and this works as a nice meal on its own.
 
 

Cabbage Apple Slaw

Salad:
1 16 oz bag of shredded cabbage or slaw
3 green onions
1/4 cup sliced and toasted almonds
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 gala apple, diced
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken, optional
 
Dressing:
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (any variety will do)
2 Tbs soy sauce
 
Mix salad ingredients together in a large serving bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients together until well incorporated. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
 
 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Zucchini and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Last month I mentioned I was on a healthy eating kick. I'm not going to lie. It hasn't been easy. That said, I've seen great results already and I'm glad I've stuck with it. Finding great recipes that are low in fat but still flavorful has been the key.
 
Take this recipe, for instance. It's one of my favorites, but I've modified it to take it one step healthier. I've incorporate some of my favorite cheese products that I'm lucky enough to receive from Kerrygold every once in awhile. Their Dubliner cheese is one of my favorites and it adds a scrumptious and delicate twist to this dish. Even better, Kerrygold makes a reduced-fat version of the Dubliner that melts every bit as creamy as the original.
 
 
Combining the olive oil and the butter when sautéing the zucchini and onions creates a great rich flavor without all the fat that butter alone would provide. The lemon juice drenched chicken gives the entire dish a mouth watering freshness. Give it a try and come back and let me know what  you think.
 
 

Zucchini and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Ingredients:
 
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbs Irish butter 
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups (1 medium) zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced 
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 oz shredded reduced-fat Dubliner cheese
salt and pepper to taste
8 thin chicken cutlets
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
juice of one lemon
1 Tbs olive oil
salt and fresh pepper
olive oil cooking spray

Directions:

Wash and dry chicken cutlets, season with salt and pepper.  Preheat oven to 450°. Line a baking dish with foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil butter on medium-high heat. When hot, sauté onions for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Then add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes, or until golden. Add zucchini, salt and pepper and sauté about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. 

Lay chicken cutlets down on a working surface and spread 3 tablespoons of zucchini-onion mixture onto each cutlet. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the zucchini mixture--approximately 1/2 oz per chicken breast, or until the zucchini mixture is covered. Loosely roll each one and turn seam side down. Secure with toothpicks if necessary.

Combine breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese in one bowl; in a second bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper.

Dip chicken in lemon-oil mixture, then in breadcrumbs and place seam side down in the foil-lined baking dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken. When finished, lightly spray the tops of each chicken breast with the olive oil spray.

Bake approximately 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I have a new favorite dessert. And while I know I don't generally share recipes that I don't think are pretty darn tasty, let me just reiterate the fact that this dessert is my new favorite. That's saying a lot. I have high standards for how I'll intake my sugar.
 
If that doesn't convince you to try what I haven't even explained yet, maybe this will. You know Kate Middleton? Aka HRH Duchess of Cambridge? Maybe you're semi-captivated with her like I am (despite trying so hard to just not care!). If so, you may already know that her favorite dessert is the English classic sticky toffee pudding, which really isn't a pudding at all--just a downright awesome, flavorful cake (apparently in England "pudding" is used to describe most desserts). To make an already amazing cake even better, this cake is drizzled with the most perfectly smooth and delightful toffee--or caramel, as we commoners in the states call it--sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I'm telling you, the combination is divine. I'm pretty sure people in heaven must eat this stuff.
 
I'd been eyeing this recipe for at least two years. I knew as soon as I saw the description of it that I would be head over heels for it. The only thing that kept me from discovering its true out of this worldness sooner was that I never could remember to buy the darn dates that it calls for. When I did remember, I couldn't ever find them in the store and take my word for it, most grocery store stock boys will not know where to find them either. Don't make the same mistake I did. Although I had never even tried dates before (they're not bad, I have to say), they can be found in most grocery store produce sections. I got mine at Trader Joe's next to the bagged greens.
 
So without further delay, I present to you my new favorite dessert.
 
 

Sticky Toffee Pudding

 
 

Cake

1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, chopped (about 6 oz)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
 

Toffee Sauce

1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 
 

For Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 °. Butter and flour Bundt pan. Bring dates and 11/4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will become foamy). Set aside and allow to cool.
  • Whisk 11/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat 1/4 cup butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend (mixture will be grainy). Add 1 egg; beat to blend. Add half of flour mixture and half of date mixture; beat to blend. Repeat with remaining 1 egg, flour mixture, and date mixture. Pour batter into pan.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert cake onto rack. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

For Sauce

  • Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in  vanilla. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm gently before using.
  • Cut cake into wedges. Serve with sauce and whipped cream or ice cream.
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

I've had a butternut squash sitting on my counter for about a month now. Good thing squash lasts forever. I've plenty of time to contemplate what to do with it. Honestly, what I really wanted to do with it was make butternut squash risotto, but with my dietary restrictions this month I knew that wasn't a wise option. So, I did a little online searching and stumbled upon this beautiful roasted butternut squash salad with a warm apple cider vinaigrette. It tastes as good as it looks.

The recipe calls for arugula as your greens, but I think any dark green lettuce (or spinach) would work well here.
 
 
 

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries (optional)
  • 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted (optional)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

  •  
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
     
    Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.
     
    While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
    Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

    Friday, January 10, 2014

    Good for You, Too

    I don't do diets. So when I decided to commit myself to a stricter eating regimen for several weeks, I seriously got anxiety just thinking about it.
     
    I like sweets. I like carbs. I love snacking. I do not like being restricted. I do not like being forced to eat something I really don't want to. And I get downright grouchy when I am hungry. But it's January and it's a new year and the only thing I have to lose is some unwanted extra pounds. So on with it. In honor of my newfound nutritional therapy, here are a few of some of my favorite recipes that not only taste awesome but are good for you, too.
     
     
    If all you want is chocolate but you know you can't have a brownie, these no-bake chocolate bars are a good alternative. They are just as fudgy and will satisfy your sweet tooth, but with no added sugar.
     
     
    I know it's called "summer veggie soup" but seriously, you can eat this  veggie soup anytime and it's healthy, delicious and filling.
     
    Summer Vegetable Soup Recipe
     
    This steak and arugula pasta is a favorite of mine these days. In fact, it's what I had for dinner last night and lunch today. A friend found it on a diabetic living website. The balsamic sauce, caramelized onions and arugula pack it full of flavor. Use whole-wheat pasta to make it even better for you.
     
    Super foods usually make me cringe. I associate them with over the top healthy (which I am not) which to me means weird texture and not enough flavor. But kale is another story. I'm not gung-ho enough to throw it in smoothies anymore (I tried it once and it just wasn't for me), but this massaged kale salad totally changed my mind about kale in general. It's amazingly flavorful and massaging the kale first means the texture isn't as weird. :)
    I think a lot of us immediately discount steak as a healthy food. Lean poultry is not the only option if you're trying to eat better. Prepared right, protein-packed steak is great and flavorful. Try this baked steak for dinner and you'll see what I mean.
     

    If you've got any "healthy" recipes that you don't think others would normally think of, please send them my way!

    Here's to healthy, or at least healthier, eating!