Friday, December 28, 2012

Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings

Happy Holidays!  Today I'm celebrating that we've survived the madness of shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating and the like.  I love this time right before the new year begins.  The house is a wreck and we're making our to-do lists for next year but we get to sleep in, stay in our jammies until noon and generally recoup in front of a cozy fire while watching the snow fall.  And a big bowl of this is also not a bad thing!  Nice riff on the standard chicken and dumplings and with a few basics, we had this ready in no time with minimal effort. 

For chicken:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa verde (2 cups)
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk (or 2/3 cup fat-free half and half)
1 rottiserie chicken cooked & deboned with meat chopped or at least 3-4 cups chicken

For the dumplings
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof skillet. Cast iron is great too!  Whisk in the flour to make a paste. Add broth, salsa verde, and evaporated milk (or half and half) and whisk vigorously until thick and bubbly. Stir in chicken and turn heat to low to keep warm.

Dumplings:  Meanwhile, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until warm but not boiling. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, scallions and cilantro in a separate bowl with a fork. Pour in milk mixture and stir to form a dough. Drop spoonfuls of dough into the skillet with chicken mixture.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until dumplings are cooked through, and the edges are crisp and golden brown.

Note: This meal can be made 2 days ahead up to the point of making the dumplings. Reheat it before topping and baking. If you want to double the recipe, use a large heavy roasting pan set over two burners.

Recipe and pic from Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinners

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mustard Maple Chicken

This chicken has a wide fan base already but I'm posting it because if I ever misplace this recipe, I'd be shunned from the family.  It's that good.  I don't know why.  My daughter debated licking the pan.  On the web you'll find this under "Man-Pleasing Chicken" but who are they kidding?  This is pure people pleasing magically goodness. 

Chicken thighs- 2 packages (about 12 thighs)
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 Tbls. rice wine vinegar
Couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together dijon mustard, maple syrup and rice wine vinegar. Place chicken in a 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the mustard mixture over them, turning the thighs in the mixture so they are fully coated.  Bake for 40 minutes. Halfway through baste the chicken with the sauce.  Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving. Then sprinkle with fresh rosemary.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crockpot Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Our crockpot has been getting a lot of love lately.  Maybe it's the hours at the office, sport practices, Christmas shopping or just plain exhaustion when we get home but in terms of my favorite things - it's a close second to my iPad.  This is a bowl of comfort and was a HUGE hit at our house. 

4 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package of Rice-a-Roni Long Grain & Wild Rice
1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
2 cups half and half  - fat-free works just fine
1 cup grated carrots or pre-shredded from the store

Combine broth, water, carrots, celery, chicken and rice (along with seasoning packet) in a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours. Take out chicken and shred with two forks and then add back into slow cooker. In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, and flour. In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour mixture by tablespoon to form a roux. Whisk in cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Stir cream mixture into slow cooker and then let cook on low for 15 more minutes.

Recipe from 360daysofcrockpot

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Crusty Bread

Apparently, I'm the only one on the planet who didn't know about this bread.   I just hate when I'm in the dark about such great ideas.  This simple no knead bread dough was printed in the New York Times years ago and the originator is Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery.  When telling my mom about this beautiful bread she said she knew all about it.  This bread is highly forgiving so you don't have to stress about the yeast & water temp dilemma which I always mess up.  What exactly is room temp because I seem to kill all yeast??  You don't have to have an enamel covered cast iron pot but I use mine with great results.  You can use anything oven casserole dish with a lid.  When I make this glorious loaf, I feel so very wholesome, fulfilled and centered.  Funny how bread can bread can do that!

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast (I use quick rise yeast so you can cut the rise time in half!)
1 1/2 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. Overnight works great. If using quick rise yeast about 6-8 hours is just fine.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place an empty cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating. Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Be careful to remember pot is hot!  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Homemade Basic Flour Tortillas

Now this is really back to basics, huh?  Just a step above flour and water but I've made these a few times and taco night takes on new meaning when served up on soft & warm fresh tortillas.  This recipe makes 12-16 eight-inch tortillas but I don't get too hung up on making perfectly sized or uniform discs so just have fun and enjoy the pleasure of a homemade simple tortilla.  If things progress I may even get one of those fancy tortilla presses and then I'm in business!

3 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for flouring your work surface)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water

Combine flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and mix lightly. Add the warm water and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a soft dough. Divide into equal pieces of 12-16 or so balls. Brush with a little vegetable oil and cover with a dish towel and let sit for 15 minutes.

Roll out each ball on a floured surface. Again, nothing too perfect but try to achieve a uniform thickness so they cook evenly. Preheat an ungreased griddle or cast iron pan. Add tortilla and cook until it begins to puff with a few browning spots on the bottom. Flip and press down to release the air pockets. Cook for about 1 minute. Remove and keep warm on a platter under foil until ready to fill.  So good that I always eat one.  You know, quality control and all...

Recipe from Dinner a Love Story

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gnocchi all'Amatriciana

It's here!  Fall is finally here and I am one happy camper.  Buh bye oppressive heat, bugs and endless cans of sunscreen scattered about my house.  I'll miss you dear flip flops but hopefully we'll meet again soon.  In the meantime, cooler weather is also the sign that casserole season has begun.  Let the season begin with this simple but flavorful dish that is sure to please.  

4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (such as Cento)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp grated or shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 17½ ounce package potato gnocchi

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook pancetta until crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the pancetta fat. Stir onion into same pan and sauté 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, 2 tbsp of the cheese, the thyme and cooked pancetta. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add gnocchi to lightly salted boiling water. Allow water to return to a boil and cook gnocchi 1 minute. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return gnocchi to pot. Stir in tomato sauce and reserved pasta water. Transfer to a 13 × 9 × 2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbling.

Recipe originally from Family Circle


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baked Brie Bites

I love brie cheese but despise when one big lonely hunk of it is put out at parties and people hack it apart just to avoid the rind or just scoop out the melty center.  I always try to find ways to serve it where you use all of this beautful cheese.  I've often baked it with honey or nuts on top but by cubing it into small individual tarts shells it becomes one perfect bite not to mention a little more elevated for any party.  I made these last weekend for a neighborhood party and they disappeared fast. 

mini phyllo tarts (I bought 3 packages of 12 for a nice sized appetizer tray)

Good quality brie cheese, cubed
brown sugar
chopped pecans or sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350.  Place a small cube of brie in each phyllo tart. Sprinkle each tart with approximately just a touch of brown sugar. Top with approximately 1/2 tsp chopped pecans/almonds.  Very lightly drizzle with honey if you like your brie a little sweeter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until brie is melted.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Try not to eat the whole tray. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Crockpot Italian Sausages & Peppers

School has begun in our household and I'm in denial.  I'm not ready for homework, school paperwork, practices and the like.  I prefer suncreen, fireflies and late nights but fall is approaching so it's time to get organized and back in the saddle.  With that I've pulled out the crockpot so we can eat like civilized people.  I have to admit that I did not have high hopes for this meal.  I had quickly found it online in a desparate attempt to find something new for dinner.  Boy, it was good and I'll be making this again and again. 

2 lbs. sweet or hot Italian sausage
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 oranage bell pepper, cut into 2" pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2" pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 2" pieces
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine or water
1 Tbsp. dried parsley leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Hogie rolls for serving

Cook sausage in heavy skillet over medium heat until browned, turning occasionally. Layer half of the onions on bottom of 3-4 quart crockpot, then add half of the peppers. Add all of the browned sausage, then the rest of the onions and peppers. Add bay leaves and garlic.

Combine diced undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, and red wine in small bowl and mix well to blend. Pour over mixture in crockpot. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.

One hour before mixture is done, mix together parsley, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper. Add to crockpot and stir well. Cover and cook one more hour until sausage is thoroughly cooked.  Serve on crusty rolls or over soft polenta. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Baked Fontina Goodness

Do make this dip but don't be alone with it.  It's so easy that you'll be tempted to make and eat the whole thing yourself before anyone notices you're gone.  You have been warned. 

1 1/2 lbs Italian fontina, rind removed and cubed into 1-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

french bread, crackers, pita chips for serving

Adjust top rack of the oven so that it sits about 5 inches under the broiler unit. Preheat broiler.  Spread cheese out in the bottom of a 12-inch cast iron pan.  Drizzle olive oil over the cheese. Mix together the garlic and herbs in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top of the cheese.  Bake for 6 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and melted through.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and set it on a heatproof surface – the pan will be hot! Resist the urge to linger over the pan and eat the whole thing.  Serve immediately in skillet with bread for dipping.  Can be made in two smaller cast iron pans and broil one at a time for a party.  Delish!

Recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Asian Pork Tenderloin

We live in a world of convenience but it's important to start from the basics every once in awhile.  In a sea of pre-packaged foods, bottled sauces and easy take-out, I fear we can lose track of the homemade aspects of dinner.  Take the simple pork tenderloin.  It's a staple at our house because it's easy, everyone loves it and we can just toss it in some bottled marinade (asian, jerk, BBQ - you name it) and we're good to go.  However, I promise that if you take the extra time and toss this marinade together, you won't be sorry.  I loved the slightly spicy undertone of the sauce and with some rice and quick steamed or stir-fried green beans - you're having a great dinner. 

2-½ pounds Whole Pork Tenderloin
⅓ cups Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
¼ cups Sesame Oil
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Tablespoon Ginger - Fresh grated or 1 Tsp. dried
2 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
½ teaspoons Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Chili Garlic Sauce (go easy if spicy is not your thing)
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 cup Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth, At Room Temperature

Sliced green onions for garnish if desired.

In a gallon baggie, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, brown sugar, onion powder, pepper and chili garlic sauce. Seal, squeeze and shake the baggie to combine the ingredients well. Place pork loin in baggie, squeeze out air, seal baggie and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a 9×11 baking dish with nonstick foil or use regular foil and spray with cooking spray.  Transfer the pork loin to the prepared baking dish. Pour the marinade over the pork loin. Bake for 40 minutes or 145-150ºF. Remove pork to serving plate and let rest for 10 minutes while finishing the sauce. 

Empty the pan drippings into a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Combine the cornstarch with room temperature chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Add the broth to the boiling pan drippings and cook for a minute or two. Remove from heat.

Slice pork loin and place on serving platter. Drizzle sauce over all before serving and place any extra sauce in an extra dish on the side. Garnish with sliced green onions if desired.

Original recipe slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen.  Pic from there too!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lazy Cookie Cake

Have I mentioned how dangerous and additive Pinterest is for me?  It's because of ridiculous recipes like this that I shoud stay away from this site but I'm hopeless.  My kids said this is a better version of my original cake cookies which have saved me many a time when in need of a quick treat for kids, friends, parties, etc.  This is even lazier because you just spread the dough and don't have individual cookies to form and they have chocolate chips. I think you can make these is 22 minutes and they take 20 minutes to bake!

1 box yellow cake mix
2 eggs beaten
5 Tbsp melted butter
2 cup mini chocolate chips.

Mix together, put in a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 20 min!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Strawberry Sangria

Now this is summer in a glass.  I'm typically not a fan of rose' wine but it just works in this and makes for a light and refreshing drink in the heat.  And the bonus about sangria is that you enjoy your cocktail and then have a boozy fruit snack at the end! 

1 1/2 cups sliced frozen peaches (or 2 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced but frozen keeps the drink cold!)
3 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
1 orange, sliced
 1/3 cup sugar
juice of 2 lemons
3/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup vodka 1 bottle dry Rose' wine, chilled
2 cups sparkling water, chilled

In a large pitcher, stir the fruit and sugar until the fruit starts to release it's natural juices.  Mix in the lemon juice, triple sec, and vodka.  Allow to sit (at room temperature) 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. When ready to serve, stir in the Rose' wine and sparkling water.

Recipe adapted from Pink Parsley.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pancetta & Leek Pasta

There is not one thing that I don't love about this recipe and when you find these prediced little packets of heaven, you must make this pasta! 

12 ounces pasta - any shape that you fancy
1/2 cup reserved Pasta Water
3 or 4 ounces, weight Chopped Pancetta
3 whole Leeks, Sliced Thin (Slice length wise to rinse any sand away before slicing)
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/2 cup Dry White Wine or chicken stock
1/2 cup Heavy Cream (or use a touch more if you're feeling indulgent)
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese, Shaved

Cook pasta and set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Saute chopped pancetta until fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Add sliced leeks and cook for 8 minutes. When you add the leeks and once the pancetta is browned, add a pat of butter to help deglaze the pan but be careful not to burn butter in hot pan.  After 8 to 10 minutes, pour in wine or stock, then cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until reduced. Reduce heat to low, then pour in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in Parmesan cheese and toss. You can add a little pasta water to thin as needed. Serve with Parmesan on top. 

Recipe from Pioneer Woman, my idol. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Quinoa Cakes

Next Saturday I leave for a week-long business trip in Germany so this weekend (thus far) has been spent running errands, organizing around the house, laundry, car wash - you know the Saturday drill.  I've also had the urge to cook some healthy home cooked meals since who knows what my crew will eat when I'm away.  This morning we started off with these quinoa cakes with over easy eggs on top.  They came together quickly because I had quinoa left over from last night's dinner.  Certainly the way to go on this dish, especially if you don't want to get up even earlier to prepare breakfast.  My skeptical husband - who really wanted bagels and bacon - approved and happily cleaned his plate!   

2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature ( cooked mine the night before using chicken stock in place of water for more flavor!)
2 large eggs, beaten
½ tsp. coarse salt
1/3 cup minced fresh chives, plus more for garnish
2 large green onions, finely sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup whole grain bread crumbs or panko crumbs, plus more if needed
Olive oil, for frying patties
In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, eggs, salt, chives, green onion and Parmesan. Stir to blend. Mix in the bread crumbs and stir gently until evenly incorporated. Form the mixture into evenly sized patties, about 3-4 inches in diameter. 
Heat 2 glugs (that's a technical term so enough to lightly coat your pan) of olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat and swirl to coat. Add the patties to the pan so that they are not touching. Let cook about 4 minutes or until the first side is lightly browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and let the second side cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes more. The are delicate but if they break they still taste great!  Repeat with the remaining patties, using additional olive oil if needed.

You can serve warm and plain but we topped them with an over easy egg for breakfast and they were fantastic!! 

Recipe slightly adapated from Annies Eats

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Joy the Baker's Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

If you'd like to lose weight this summer don't buy this book.
because then you'll have to make these...

And then you'll have to do this...
But before you do that, be sure to copy the recipe for the divine buttercream frosting.  The Ovaltine is genius because it helps give it a smooth texture and great flavor.  Once we tested this last night, I had to hide it in the vegetable drawer in my fridge for fear my kids would eat it by the spoonful.  Trust me, you may consider eating your cat if it has this on top! 

1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Ovaltine

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. In a 2 cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency. I did not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream so add a little at a time. 

Note: This will cover about 4 dozen cupcakes.  I only made half this recipe which is plenty for an 8-in round layer cake or 2 dozen cupcakes. 

Recipe from Joy the Baker

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sour Cream Rice Bake

This is a simple recipe that I'm almost embarrassed to blog about but my family went absolutely gaga for this easy casserole.  Warning - it's mild so feel free to spice it up with red pepper flakes or add some diced & cooked veggies to give it more heft.  I won't win any cooking awards for this one but on a rainy Monday night when I'm tired and my husband cooks, it's award-winning to me! 

1 pound ground beef
15 ounces canned tomato sauce (For more flavor we used a good quality jarred marinara instead)
1 1/2 cups long grain, white rice
3 cups water (or beef broth)
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste
green onions - optional
Add the rice and water to a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the pan. Cook for 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed. Allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, brown the ground beef in a skillet until cooked through. Remove from the heat, drain the grease, and add the tomato sauce to the pan. Add the rice to a large mixing bowl and dump in the sour cream and cottage cheese. Stir to combine. Add sliced green onions if using.  (I'll do this next time) Add salt and pepper, to taste.  In a 2 quart baking dish place half of the rice on the bottom of the dish. Top with half of the meat and tomato sauce mixture. Sprinkle on half of the cheese. Repeat the layers.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Recipe adapted from Buns in My Oven

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Southwest Chicken Chili Mac

I'm trying to get my kids interested in cooking.  My little loves it but she cannot exactly prepare a meal like this.  She's mastering the basics of toast and stirring but we're getting there.  Now I'm working on my 12-yr. old because I'd love for her to better appreciate the satisfaction of home cooking and understanding how to prepare healthy and delicious recipes.  And I'd love to come home from work to a large skillet of this!  In full disclosure, it's not working and she generally thinks dinner magically appears on the table and elves clean everything up afterwards.  Sigh.  Someday....

8 ounces wagon wheel pasta noodles (or other small fun shape)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red or yellow peppers
2 -3 minced garlic cloves
2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast (I use a rotisserie chicken)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes, mild (or plan diced tomatoes if you want less heat)
1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup corn, fresh, canned or frozen
1/2 cup white beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dry Ranch seasoning from packet
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and run under cool water to stop cooking. Heat oil in 9 inch deep cast iron skillet. Add onions and peppers, cook stirring until softened about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add chicken, tomatoes, broth, corn, beans, 1 cup wagon wheel pasta, chili powder, cumin, Ranch seasoning and cilantro. Stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from Picky Palate

Monday, May 28, 2012

Chimichurri Sauce

I've been MIA from blogging for the past month.  Have I been cooking?  Why yes but as the warmer weather hits, I always find myself busier - house chores, yards chores, end of the school year activities, kid soccer, kid volleyball - the list goes on.  However, dinner doesn't stop for summer unless you consider an ice cream sandwich and a cold beer to be a well-rounded meal.   Once again, the grill will come to the rescue.  One of my favorite grilling dinners is flank steak and chimichurri sauce is once of the easiest (and most flavorful) ways to elevate it.  Chimichurri sauce is an Argentinean sauce or condiment that is popular throughout South America.  As long as you have some herbs, oils, vinegar and a little heat you are good to go.  Essentially you need pantry items and a few items from your garden.  As the holiday weekend kept us busy, this was a perfect way to create a special dinner in no time flat.   

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (you can also just use parsley or cilantro but I like both!)
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can use 2 teaspoons dried if needed)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust according to your heat capacity or use less for kids)

Finely chop the parsley, cilantro, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.  Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.  Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving since the oil will harden. Can be made a day ahead.

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

7up Biscuits

I am secretly a Southern belle tapped in a Yankee working mother body.   These biscuits make me want to toss on an apron, brew some sweet tea and speak with a slow Southern drawl.  I made them at Easter and while we're fans of ham, I secretly think these biscuits stole the show.  These should be a staple at your dinner table - even if you are a Yankee.    

2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7-up soda
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 450.  Cut sour cream into biscuit mix, add 7-Up. Makes a very soft dough.  Sprinkle additional biscuit mix on board or table and pat dough out. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a 9 inch square pan. Place cut biscuits in pan and then flip over so they are covered on both sides with butter.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with butter, fruit preserves or honey and enjoy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

CPK watch out because now I'm armed with homemade pizza dough and I'm dangerous.  This was a perfect alternative to the boring toppings we're all used to and it was a snap to make.  Thai chicken pizza is my next recipe to tackle! 

1 batch of homemade pizza crust (makes two med pizza)
¼ - 1/2 cup Ranch dressing or enough for a thin layer over dough
6 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 grilled chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
(Note to the perpetually rushed like me - I splurged and bought a pre-cooked breast to save time)
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
4 green onions, chopped
1 1/2  cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 500° F. Allow the stone to heat for at least 30 minutes. In the mean time, cut a round of parchment paper the size of your pizza stone. (Alternatively, use a pizza peel.) Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal or semolina flour.

Divide pizza toppings in half and to make each pie.  Here's how!

Gently roll out the pizza dough into a large circle, leaving a thicker ring around the edge for the crust. Spread the Ranch dressing in a thin layer evenly over the unbaked crust. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Top with grilled chicken, tomato and green onions. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar. Once assembled, carefully transfer the parchment round and pizza to the preheated baking stone and return to the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned.  Break open a beer and dig in! 

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

Pizza Dough

For as much as I like to cook, I've discovered that I'm not naturally inclined in the baking department.  I believe there are two cooking tribes - those who creatively like to play it fast and loose with the measurements and change it up each time and the perfectionists who revel in the exact science of weighing, measuring and creating pure magic in the oven.  The later are not my people.  I don't sift things, I don't own a kitchen scale and therefore, I've not been the most successful or ambitious baker known to mankind.  But, I've found success with homemade pizza dough using this fairly simple method.   In fact, I got so excited, I went out and purchased a pizza stone, pizza peel and built an outdoor pizza oven last night.  Just kidding on the last one.  If using traditional toppings then you must make homemade pizza sauce to pay homage to the homemade crust! 

Pizza Dough

½ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1½ tsp. salt
1¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend. Measure the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast-water mixture as well as the olive oil. Mix until a cohesive dough is formed. Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add a bit more flour if dough seems very wet and sticky after mixing for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours in a warm place.

Press down the dough to deflate it. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball. (If freezing the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at this point.) Cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F for at least 30 minutes. Transfer the dough to your shaping surface, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Shape the dough with lightly floured hands. Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil. Get jiggy with whatever toppings float your boat! Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.

Makes 2 medium-sized pizzas or 4 calzones

Recipe from Annies Eats

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats

Umm, I'm sorry but I had to try these.  I thought they were a pretty fun and creative way to add a spin on a classic. 

3 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 oz.) bag of mini-marshmallows
1/3 cup yellow cake mix (the dry cake mix, not prepared into a batter!)
6 cups crispy rice cereal
1 (1.75 oz.) container of sprinkles

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat and add marshmallows. Stir until they begin to melt, adding in (dry) cake mix one spoonful at a time so its combined. Stir in cereal so it is completely coated with marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle in half of the sprinkles and mix. Press into a baking dish (any size will do) with wet hands and top with remaining sprinkles. Let sit for about 30 minutes before cutting.

Another Pinterst find from Gimme Some Oven

Sunday, March 11, 2012

BBQ Meatballs

What have I been thinking not posting this recipe sooner? These are like little balls of heaven and I've made them about three times this winter but debate making them every week.  They are more like tiny meatloaves with a mild savory sauce that a hit with kids and adults alike.  My daughter is saving money for a...wait for iPhone.  Did I mention mine is 3 years old and somewhat temperamental?  Anyway, making dinner one night a week has been on her chore list.  While the browning stage is daunting for my tween cook, I can easily make & brown these ahead and she can mix up sauce and bake the following day while I'm at work.  A win win for us all. 

For Balls of Meat Love:
1-1/2 pound Ground Beef (Will try ground turkey at some point)
3/4 cups Oats
1 cup Milk
3 Tablespoons Very Finely Minced Onion
1-1/2 teaspoon Salt
Plenty Of Ground Black Pepper, to taste

For Sauce:
1 cup Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Tablespoons Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
4 Tablespoons (to 6 Tablespoons) Onion
1 dash Tabasco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all meatball ingredients. Roll into medium-small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in freezer for five minutes.  5 minutes, remove meatballs from freezer and immediately dredge in one cup of unseasoned flour.  Brown meatballs in canola oil until just browned on all sides. Place into a 9x13 glass baking dish.

Combine all sauce ingredients. Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  We serve  with some mashed or baked potatoes and some greens. 

Recipe from Pioneer Woman

Friday, March 2, 2012

Can. Not. Wait.

12 days and counting until this is out!  You are forewarned that I'll be trying lots of Ree's latest creations. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Catalina Queso Egg Casserole

Today is the last day of a quick family trip to Florida.  We do this every year at Presidents Day to take advantage of a few days off from school and break up our dismal Ohio winters with some Florida sunshine.  This year we arrived very late and found ourselves starving once we got to the house.  Rushing, airport food and flying don't always agree with me.  Luckily, we were greeted by a attentive staff who knew just what we needed.  And by staff, I mean my fantastic mother who had beds ready and as well as this wonderful egg dish!  It was a great start to a min-vacation.  We'll miss the sun, surf and family time together but it's back to reality for us tonight.  I'm just thankful I can take this recipe with me! 

1/2 cup butter
1/2 lb. shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese
1 pint cottage cheese
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
1 cup diced ham
2-3 green onions, chopped
Salsa for serving if desired
(Next time I may add some finley shopped red peppers too!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl combine grated cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, milk, flour, chilies, ham and green onions.  In a 9x13 pan, place butter and toss in oven until melted.  Remove and pour half of butter into egg mixture and stir well.  Leave remaining butter in pan.  Pour egg mixture into warm dish and bake for 45 minutes or until golden on top.  Cut and serve with salsa if desired!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

It's been an off week.  You know that kind of week where you're stuck in traffic, looking for lost paperwork, late for meetings, computer bugs and fighting the urge to crawl back under the covers each morning.  This dish was a saving grace.  I actually had everything to make these cuties and the kids loved them so much they took them cold in their lunches the next day.  Finally, something worked out this week! 

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (or combo of dried basil, oregano & parsley)
pinch of salt
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cubed pepperoni (I used Hormel's mini turkey pepperoni and skipped chopping)
1/2 cup store-bought pizza sauce, warmed in microwave or stovetop

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, Italian seasoning, salt and red pepper flakes (if using) ; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni and let stand for a few minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve the puffs with warmed pizza sauce for dipping.

Slightly adapted from Everyday from Rachael Ray

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoning

It's Taco Tuesday for us today and as I started browning our taco meat, I realized I didn't have my trusty store-bought taco seasoning.  I remembered seeing a homemade variety on the Web and boy, was I glad I was forced to make my own because it's so simple and so much better than the salt laden packet variety.  I felt better about Taco Tuesday with homemade seasoning, some black beans added into the meat for extra fiber and an opportunity to sit and laugh with the kids as we all gobbled down tacos.  All hail to family dinners together!

4 tbsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To prepare taco meat, use 2 heaping tablespoons in place of a package of taco seasoning (cook approximately 1 lb. of beef or chicken, add 1 cup of water with the seasoning, and simmer until the liquid is almost completely gone.)

Annie's Eats does it again! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Texas Sheet Cake

I was skeptical.  I adore the original chocolate Texas sheet cake and it's a cinch to make it for big parties.  But sometimes a gal needs a break from chocolate.  I realize I NEVER say this but upon finding this cake on the social media site Pinterest, I was intrigued.  This cake was moist, rich and I will definitely be making this at large gatherings.  In fact, making a chocolate one and this one together would be a fun way to please the masses! 

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter
1 cup water

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cups creamy peanut butter
6 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla
I also topped with a few M&M's for fun!  Mini- chocolate chips would be delish too!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cake: In a bowl combine the sugar and flour. In a separate bowl (I used my mixer bowl) mix eggs, baking soda, and sour cream well. Set aside. In a small saucepan combine peanut butter, butter, and water. Bring to a boil. Stir the boiled peanut butter mixture into the flour mixture, then add to the sour cream mixture. Pour into a 15×10 inch sheet/jellyroll type pan. Bake 20 minutes or until done. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Frosting: Combine the butter, peanut butter, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add the powdered sugar and mix well. let the frosting cool for a few minutes, then add vanilla. The frosting will be thick, mix well. Pour over cake while both are still warm. Let cool, then get some milk ready and enjoy!
I "Pinned" this recipe from Pinterest (my new obsession) but originally from Sprinkled with Flour.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Buffalo-Chicken Mac & Cheese

My car registered 2 degrees the other day.  After a mild winter, my body was not prepared for that kind of bone chilling cold.  I could not find my gloves but I did find this!  I found it (or pinned it) on Pinterest.  Do you know it?  It's like a virtual bulletin board and completely addictive.  Once you start, you're hooked.  Anyway, back to the food.  This is comforting, creamy, a bit spicy and all together tasty.  It's very rich dish so you may want to consider this as a side dish or paired with some healthy greens!

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank's)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups milk (now's not the time for skim so use whole please)
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half, then add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.

Sprinkle blue cheese and parsley over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

From Food Network

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quinoa Fried "Rice"

Sometimes you just come across an idea that seems so logical you cannot help but wonder why you didn't think of it yourself.  This was a "duh" recipe for me.  I've had a lonely box of quinoa in my pantry forever and I finally found a great way to use it.  I just cooked mine in my rice cooker like I would rice.  You can really use whatever favorite fried rice recipe your family prefers.  This is just a variation of what I had handy.  Because quinoa is a natural source of protein, there's really no need to add meat.  A simple vegetarian meal that's familiar and welcomed in our house. 

4 cups cooked quinoa
8 scallions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 red peppers, diced small
1 cup snow peas or green peas
1 can water chestnuts, drained
4 - 6 tsp low sodium soy sauce or to taste
1 tsp. sesame oil or toasted sesame seeds to taste
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 whole egg, scrambled
Can also add: broccoli, baby corn, bamboo shoots, corn, onions, whatever floats your boat.

In a nonstick wok or large frying pan, add 1 tsp. veg. oil and add the eggs and cook a minute or two until done. Set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the scallions, peppers, peas, water chestnuts and garlic. Saute about a minute, and stir in all the quinoa. Add soy sauce and sesame oil and stir to mix all the ingredients. Keep stirring a few minutes, then add cooked scrambled egg. Adjust soy sauce if needed to taste and mix well another 30 seconds.

Recipe (and pic) adapted from Gina's Recipes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Steakhouse Burgers

Oh my.  Oh my.  These were decedent.  We had these New Year's day because the kids were not digging the black eye pea dish I had planned and they declared that anything covered in the yummy looking sauce had to be good.  Those kids of mine were right.  The original recipe called for 8 oz of diced, sauteed mushrooms but since we are not huge mushroom fans I omitted them.  Consider this your favorite winter-time burger!

For burgers:
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground sirloin
1 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 slices buttered Texas Toast
shredded Parmesan

Creamed Spinach Sauce

2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced onion
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus more as needed
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
kosher salt and black pepper
pinch cayenne
pinch nutmeg
4 cups chopped fresh spinach or 2/3 package chopped, frozen spinach - defrosted and wrung dry
1 Tbs grated Parmesan
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Preheat the grill or grill pan to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine the sirloin with 1 tablespoon oil, soy sauce, salt, pepper, mustard and herbs. Gently mix to combine using a fork or your hands. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a patty.

Scrape the grate clean and brush with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Grill the burgers until cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the burgers from the grill and cover to keep warm. Grill the bread 1-2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.
To make the spinach sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Stir the flour into the onions and cook 1 minute.  Whisk in the half-and-half, broth, salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Bring sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, until it begins to thicken.  Add the spinach. Mix in the Parmesan and lemon juice, and add more half-and-half if the sauce has thickened too much. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top each slice of bread with a burger, spinach sauce, and garnish with Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Recipe (and yes, pic) from Pink Parsley