Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Skillet Chicken Parmesan

This recipe was recently posted on Mels Kitchen Cafe (her recipes NEVER disappoint) and looked like a great toned down (aka quick-er) option for Chicken Parmesan. And it was. It's also a great pantry meal, chances are any well-stocked pantry will most likely have all the ingredients on hand. The sauce offers the best of red sauce yumminess. It's a little bit tangy, a little bit sweet, and with only a handful of ingredients doesn't take all day. The chicken is terrific. I love breaded chicken cutlet's but sometimes dislike the extra steps it takes to get them there. So with just a light, quick dredging in flour even I can't complain. Add to it all the fact that the chicken eventually finishes cooking IN the tomato sauce and you have a recipe for success. The flavors all meld together with melted cheesy goodness. It only took me about 30 minutes to make too. This will be a regular with us for sure!

Skillet Chicken Parmesan
{Recipe Source: Mels Kitchen Cafe}

2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise to make 6 thinner cutlets (next time I think I'll be pounding out the chicken then cutting each in half, I wanted more tender chicken and think this would help)
Garlic salt
1/2 cup flour
2 T oil (vegetable, canola or olive)
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (I had leftover fresh mozzarella that I sliced and it was so good!)
3-4 slices provolone, cut in half
Hot spaghetti noodles for serving

In medium bowl, combine garlic, crushed and diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, sugar, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup parmesan. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 T oil until over medium heat until rippling and hot. Thoroughly dry chicken cutlets and season with garlic salt. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge seasoned cutlets, coating both sides. Place 3-4 cutlets in hot pan and let cook only 3 minutes per side until there's a nice golden crust. Remove to plate (they'll finish cooking at a later point). Repeat with remaining cutlets.

Wipe skillet of excess oil and pour pre-mixed sauce contents into the pan, taking care of splatters. Turn heat to medium and gently nestle all 6 browned chicken cutlets into the sauce. The chicken should be mostly covered with sauce. Cover the skillet and simmer on medium low for about 15 minutes.

Uncover and place mozzarella, provolone, and grated parmesan over each chicken piece. Cover and cook 5 minutes more until cheese to melt-y. Serve over hot spaghetti noodles.

Serves 6

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jazzed Up Garlic Artichoke Dip

This dip is such creamy, tangy, garlick-y goodness. Most restaurants these days have some sort of cream cheese based dip on the appetizer menu and I really think this blows them all out of the water! The original recipe comes from Our Best Bites and since I can't leave well-enough alone I added a few extra things and cut down the artichokes to make up for it. I've made this recipe the original way and my way and both are fabulous. (but truth be told I prefer my way!) It simply never disappoints.
Jazzed Up Garlic Artichoke Dip
{Adapted slightly from Our Best Bites}

2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened (1/3 less is perfect)
1 cup mayo (no miracle whip or non-fat)
1 6 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
6 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
2 medium tomatoes chopped (grape is fine, about a cup'll do ya)
Black pepper, a few good cranks
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (grate it fresh, pre-grated doesn't work well here)
1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced for dipping (or tortilla chips or homemade pita-yum!)

Preheat oven to 350. Place softened cream cheese and mayo in mixing bowl and stir to combine. (I use my kitchen-aid) Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Spoon dip into a medium sized baking dish. 9-inch pie plate, 8x8 or 9x9 square pyrex dishes are all good options. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly golden and melted. Serve with thin slices of sourdough bread for dipping.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring Greens with Avocado, Mandarin Oranges, and Candied Almonds {my go-to dinner salad}

So say you're having people over for dinner and you just can't bear the thought of adding a fancy, involved, homemade salad to your to-do list but you still want something beyond the typical pre-mixed salad with ranch...I find myself feeling that way often and when I do this salad is what I throw together. It uses a store-bought dressing but the other ingredients, in particular the candied almonds, give it that little something extra. It's fresh, it's light, and it goes with a whole slew of menus whether it be grilled meat, lighter pasta dishes, or your typical sunday dinner fare.

Spring Greens with Avocado, Mandarin Oranges, and Candied Almonds

1 carton (bag) Mixed Baby Greens
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 good size avocado, chunked
1/2 cup (little bag) sliced or slivered almonds
2 T+ sugar
Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette

For Candied Almonds:
Heat small non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add almonds and sprinkle with 2 T sugar. Periodically stir. When sugar begins to melt, stir continually and be careful not to burn. (I don't recommend leaving this on it's own, as it can go from fine to burnt in the blink of an eye!) Remove coated and browned almonds onto a plate. Spread them out and let them cool. ( feel free to speed this step by putting almonds in the fridge or freezer) Once cooled break any large chunks apart.

For salad:
In large bowl add mixed greens, sliced red onions, drained mandarin oranges, avocado chunks, and cooled candied almonds. Just before serving, drizzle a small amount of dressing over all and toss, taste as you go adding small amounts of dressing if needed. Don't overdress, a little goes a long way. I find I have to restrain myself and stop even when I think it's not enough--chances are it will be perfect. Soggy lettuce is gross! Serve immediately.

Note: Dressed salads don't keep. If you think you may not eat it all and want to save some for later, serve dressing on the side.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fetticine with Chicken, Bacon, and Tomatoes

We are big time pasta eaters in our house. This recipe is a favorite and what's nice about it is that it's a bit "lighter" than your typical pasta dish, since it's cooked with broth rather than a typical red or white sauce. Of course the bacon isn't exactly light, but who cares? It's so good with it! Actually you could easily leave it out or leave the chicken out, maybe add some mushrooms (what a great idea, I'm so using those next time!) and/or onions and use it as a meatless main dish or a nice side dish to something else. The original recipe calls for turkey tenders which would be yummy, but those are not something I regularly have on hand so I opt for chicken. And if prosciutto's your thing, use that instead of bacon. Just thinking about this dish makes my mouth water and wish we had more left-overs. So good!

Fetticine with Chicken, Bacon, and Tomatoes
{Adapted from my friend Carolee}

1 pound fetticine
2 T olive oil
1 1b chicken breast (or turkey) chopped into bite-size pieces
6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 T fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried
3 tomatoes diced, grape is good
1/2 cup give or take fresh parmsan, grated
Garlic powder/salt (or Kosher salt) and black pepper to taste

Get pasta going in a large pot. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet. Add chicken, seasoned however you like (garlic salt is my choice), and cook until browned and cooked through. Add chicken stock, garlic, and basil. Let simmer for a minute. Add cooked and drained noodles, chopped tomatoes, and grated parmesan. Season, taste, adjust as needed. I usually add more basil and parmesan once I've tasted it. Right before serving sprinkle on cooked crumbled bacon. Enjoy!

Easily serves 4 as a main dish.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Uh, yum! This was delightfully delicious. It was my first time trying it and I will definitely be making it again. Shaved asparagus seems a bit trendy at the moment and for good reason. I love asparagus all ways and shaving it just helps to take some of the heft out of it and makes it the perfect light topping for pizza. And never fear all the flavor is still there. I added some fresh garlic, a light spread of butter, some tomatoes, and somehow managed to stop short of adding some sort of meat product (the black forest ham deli meat was in my sights, thin strips of that would be pretty good I think) to the original recipe and thought it was plenty filling. The pizza crust makes sure of that. The garlic herb cheese the original recipe calls for and the squeeze of fresh lemon juice post-bake time I called for were the ultimate finishing touches.
Shaved Asparagus Pizza
{Adapted from Annie's Eats}

Pizza Dough (your own or try this one from Annie's Eats)
Olive oil, for brushing
8 oz. asparagus spears
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
3 oz. spreadable garlic herb cheese, such as Boursin
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (i opted for grape)

2 T butter

1 clove garlic, pressed

Lemon, cut and ready to squeeze over cooked pizza

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone at 450˚ F for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch round. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with olive oil. Spread 2 T butter mixed with 1 clove pressed garlic over that(

I just put mine on a round pizza pan I sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled with corn meal that I didn't even preheat-but perhaps I should have?!)

Cut the tough woody stems off the ends of the asparagus spears. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the spears into ribbons. You likely will not need all of the asparagus, but use more ribbons than you think you need because it will cook down in the oven.

Place the sliced mozzarella over the pizza dough in an even layer. Pile the asparagus shavings and chopped tomatoes over the top of the mozzarella. Dot the surface of the pizza with the garlic herb cheese. Season with a little kosher salt and pepper.

Transfer the pizza to the preheated pizza stone and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, if desired squeeze fresh lemon juice over all. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Orange Peel Chicken

This recipe is righy up my alley. It's saucy, chicken-y, slightly sweet, slightly spicy AND reminiscent of my favorite dish at the wonderous asian bistro restaurant that is PF Chang's. (Sadly, I have to get on an airplane ride if I want to eat there, so this is a good at-home alternative) To top it all off, it's not full of fussy ingredients. I imagine most everyone will have almost every ingredient in their pantry already. The chili garlic sauce is the only out of the ordinary item and it is absolutely necessary. I found mine in the specialty asian section of my grocery store. Now if I could just master dan-dan noodles I'd be a happy gal!

Orange Peel Chicken
{Slightly adapted recipe from my friend Christie. If you like things fairly saucy, I'd 1 1/2 this recipe if not double it}

1 T vegetable oil
2 T minced garlic
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 T chili garlic sauce
1 T soy sauce

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-3 large chicken breasts (I used 2 and wanted there to be a little more sauce)
Garlic salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1+ cup flour
peel from 1/4 navel orange, julienned with all white part removed (into 1/8-inch thick strips)

Prepare sauce by heating 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sliced green onions. Add tomato sauce and chicken broth quickly before the garlic burns. Add sugar, chili garlic sauce and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes or until sauce thickens, then turn off the heat.

Prepare the chicken by heating 1/2 cup oil in a wok over medium heat. Slice chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and sprinkle with garlic salt. Combine beaten egg with milk in a medium bowl. Pour the flour into another medium bowl.

Coat chicken pieces by dropping them into the egg/milk mixture and into the flour mixture. (FYI: I actually coated them in flour first, then egg/milk, then back into flour) Arrange coated chicken on a plate until all chicken is coated.

When oil in the large skillet or wok is hot, add about half of the chicken to the oil and cook for a couple of minutes or until brown on one side, then flip chicken over. When chicken is golden brown, remove the pieces to a rack or paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken. (I put mine in a glass baking dish and into the oven at 400 for few minutes longer just be sure they were done.) When all of the chicken is cooked wipe the remaining oil out of the pan with paper towels and place it back on the stove to heat up again.

When pan is hot again add julienned orange peel and cooked chicken. Heat for 20 to 30 seconds or so. Add sauce to the pan and cook, stirring gently, until the chicken is well coated and sauce is thick. Serve over white or brown rice.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Basic "Actually Cooked" Omelet

I've only recently made omelets a part of my life. Sure I've had them before, but I have a thing with eggs. If there is even the remotest possibility that they might be even slightly undercooked my gag reflex kicks into high gear. I can't eat runny yolk fried eggs (I usually nix the yolk altogether and just fry the whites) and don't even get me started on sunny-side-up- runny-white-part things...so gross! Anyhow back to omelets, since the traditional method involves adding the toppings to a still fairly runny top and then folding it in half and hoping it keeps cooking (ya right) or serving it immediately, there is always (you guessed it) a runny uncooked egg thing going on. But thanks to my husband who was apparently craving an omelet enough to look up how-to video's on youtube, we have found a cooking method that satisfies his craving and squelches my gag reflex. Since this revelation we've had omelets quite regularly and often for dinner. They're a crowd pleaser too. Now go forth and make "actually cooked" omelets, unless you like the runny egg thing ;0)...

The Basic "Actually Cooked" Omelet
{Again as with most of my recipes, there's room to personalize. Whatever veggie, cheese, breakfast meat (or not) combo you want is yours to try. Also this recipe is instruction heavy, but really isn't that involved once you've got the method down. I spend all of about 10 minutes, including prep, making these.}

3 large eggs
2 T milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
Cooking spray or veggie oil
Toppings of choice, we like:
Generous handful of spinach, rough chopped
3-4 slices cooked crumbled bacon (or chopped ham or browned kielbasa)
Generous handful of sliced mushrooms
1/3 onion, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped (or grape tomatoes sliced in half)
Sliced or grated swiss cheese (colby, monterey jack, cheddar, mozzarella are all good options)
Salsa, optional

Turn oven onto high broil. Start by preparing toppings, i.e. cook & crumble bacon, grate cheese and chop other things up-you want all your prep done before the eggs start. In a small non-stick pan over med-high heat, melt 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil. Add onions and mushrooms. Cook till mostly soft. Add spinach and remove from heat. It will wilt on it's own.

On medium-high begin heating a medium size stainless steel or other pan that can go straight from stove to oven. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl crack 3 large eggs, add 2 T milk and a sprinkle of salt and fresh-ground pepper. Mix well with fork. Spray the heating pan with cooking spray or use paper towel to swirl around a little bit of veggie oil. Add 1 T butter. You want to be fairly thorough in your oil/butter application in order to prevent pesky sticking later on. When butter is melted (but before it browns), pour egg mixture into hot pan. This next part is key: with a heat-friendly plastic spatula begin pulling cooking egg mixture from outside of pan towards center allowing still raw egg to run underneath and start cooking. Go all around the pan gently pulling cooking egg towards center and more runny egg to fill it's place. The process looks a little like this:

When there's still some, but not a ton, of the runny egg mixture and you've been around the whole pan at least once it's time to pop it under the broiler. It should be in there for a minute or so. You're just trying to get the top of the omelet mostly set. Remove from broiler and sprinkle on toppings: cooked bacon, mushroom/onion/spinach mixture, chopped tomatoes, and cheese of choice. Put back under broiler for another minute or less, until cheese is melted and any remaining runny egg is fully set. Once done remove from oven and gently use spatula to fold one half of the omelet over on itself. At this point, you can top with extra cheese and broil for just a few seconds more to help it melt. Tip pan a bit and with the help of your trusty spatula again, the omelet should slide right out onto a plate. We like to eat ours with some salsa on top. Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fabulous Rice Pilaf

I like rice. I like flavorful rice. I like full-of-extra-flavorful things rice. This rice is exactly that. It was originally my great cook of a mother, Erin's, recipe but as I've made it I've changed/added just a few extra things that I think make it even better! And you're welcome to do the same. The great thing about it, is that it goes with just about anything i.e grilled chicken or kebabs, Sunday Chicken Bundles, pork roast or chops, etc. Such a versatile side dish that never disappoints.

Fabulous Rice Pilaf
{Original Recipe source: My Mom, Erin}

3 cups chicken broth + 1 cup water
1-2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/4 t garlic powder
2 cups jasmine rice
3 T olive oil
3/4 cup each finely chopped to approx. same size:
Red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup cashew halves/pieces (can be with or without salt, we choose salted)

In large sauce pan on high heat start chicken broth, water, garlic powder, and bouillon boiling. When boiling stir in rice. Place lid on pot and turn heat down to super-low or off completely. Set timer for 20 minutes and DON'T remove lid till timer goes off!

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add garlic, onions, carrots, and celery. Saute for about 7 minutes till mostly soft, but not mushy.

When 20 minutes for rice is up, remove lid and stir. Combine rice and sauteed veggies in a large serving bowl. Mix well. Add chopped tomatoes and cashews, stir just a bit. Serve hot.

With added veggies, etc. makes about 5-6 cups worth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunday Chicken Bundles

I only call these "Sunday" Chicken Bundles because that tends to be the day of the week I make them. They aren't ridiculously time-intensive, but may feel that way for a week-night meal.
Let me just tell you that they are simply delicious. Cream cheese and chicken are apparently meant for each other. While they can stand alone beautifully, the sauce really adds a whole new level of yummy-ness and is a must in my opinion. They are a nice company over dish and make terrific left-overs. I could eat them for days! Put them on your sunday dinner menu this week...

Sunday Chicken Bundles

3 chicken breasts cooked and finely shredded (I do mine in the crock pot with some chicken broth, oven baked and chopped would be fine though)
4-6 T melted butter
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened (we go the 1/3 less fat route AKA neufatel)
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 green onions chopped, both white & green parts
1/2 t+ garlic salt
1/4 t black pepper
24 canned crescent rolls

Mix all ingredients but rolls. Layout each dough triangle and place generous spoonful of chicken mixture on wide end of each roll. Roll up tucking in ends a bit. Allow some chicken to show. Place on silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake @ 375 for 20-25 minutes until golden. Serve with sauce:

1 can cream of chicken
3 T sour cream
1/2 (or more) cup chicken broth
1/2 t dried parsley
1/4 t garlic powder
fresh black pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated cheese, colby jack is good

Heat in small sauce pan, adding more broth as necessary to reach desired consistency. We like ours on the thinner side. Spoon over baked chicken bundles.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Don't let this sub-par picture throw you off, I was so impatient waiting to sink my teeth into this pie that I couldn't try any longer for a better shot! I discovered this recipe not to long ago on Our Best Bites and have made it at least 4 times since. My husband absolutely LOVES chocolate chip cookies. If he could only choose one dessert to eat the rest of his life I guarantee that's what it would be. And yet for some reason I can hardly stand to make them! It's something about the time/batches/painstakingly placing each dough ball on the cookie sheet one at a time. As you can imagine, cookies don't make it into our dessert rotation all that often. Don't get me wrong, I love cookies--just not so much the making of them. In steps this chocolate chip cookie pie and now he's happy with a cookie fix and I'm happy with a quick fix. Please try this STAT! I may just go have some breakfast right now!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
{This is great by itself but AMAZING with vanilla ice cream on top. It's terrific warm or room temp and such a good idea for a take-in, drop-off dessert. Recipe source: Nestle via Our Best Bites}

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust, homemade or store-bought (I go store-bought cause I'm lazy like that)
2 large eggs
1/2 C flour
1/2 C white granulated sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C real butter,
really soft but not melted(1 1/2 sticks)
1 C chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk, we like milk)
1 C chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Vanilla ice cream, or sweetened whipped cream for serving (a must! I prefer ice cream)

optional: chocolate sauce for drizzling

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon and spread into pie shell.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Mine always take a few minutes longer. Cool on wire rack or serve slightly warmed. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sour Cream Waffles with Dutch Honey

I'll be the first to admit that most mornings we're eating cold cereal. It's just far to convenient and the kids can get it all by themselves. But every now and then a hot and yummy breakfast is in order. I'll also be the first to admit that I often times go the Bisquick route for pancakes and waffles, it's what I grew up on and I genuinely like it! However these sour cream waffles take almost the same amount of time to whip up and this time had me wondering why I don't opt for them more frequently. I shall remedy that starting now. They are light and yet filling and are just an all around good basic recipe. If you've yet to try made from scratch waffles, let this be your first recipe and if you're a homemade waffle making pro add this to the repertoire. Either way, you won't be sorry!

As for the "Dutch Honey" portion of this recipe. It's pretty much the yummiest homemade syrup around. Creamy, buttery (with no actual butter) goodness. It's also versatile: use it on top of ice cream, drizzled over pound cake, and of course on any other typical breakfast fare. Or just lick it off the spoon...not that I'd know anything first hand about that.

Sour Cream Waffles

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 stick (8T) butter, melted
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs

Heat waffle iron. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, milk, sour cream, and eggs. Pour into dry ingredients and stir till mostly smooth, don't overmix. Spray hot waffle iron with cooking spray (and I recommend doing this for each waffle), pour in appropriate amount of batter. Cook per manufacturer's directions. Serve hot, slathered with butter and Dutch Honey.

Dutch Honey
{Recipe from my sis-in-law Sam}

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup light karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In small saucepan over med-high heat, place cream, karo syrup, and sugar. Stir to combine. Let come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute and remove from heat. Add 1 t vanilla. Serve warm over waffles or pancakes. Keeps well in fridge, although why wouldn't you just drink it all before that becomes necessary?!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Broiler BLT's

These aren't your everyday BLT's, they're oh so much more. This is another recipe that you can suit to your tastes. We eat them for lunch or dinner and they are hearty and filling, not to mention ready in a flash. Enjoy!

Broiler BLT's
{Do what you'd like with these...follow the recipe to a 'T' or use it as a jumping off point i.e. pesto, ranch, sundried tomato mayo, avocado, provolone, swiss, shredded chicken, the sky's the limit}

To make 4 sandwiches:
4 kaiser or good hard rolls
Miracle Whip or any other condiment you choose
1/2 lb deli ham
1/2 lb deli turkey
6-8 slices bacon, crisp cooked
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced (yellow or vidalia would do fine)
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 t sugar
Fresh ground pepper
Grated colby jack cheese
Green leaf lettuce

Turn broiler on high. Slice rolls in half and place on cookie sheet. Broil, watching carefully, just till lightly brown. Remove from oven and set aside. In small skillet melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced red onion and 1 t sugar. Let cook, stirring occasionally until soft and slightly caramelized. Set aside. On bottom half of each roll spread miracle whip. Layer ham and turkey and then a couple bacon slices on each. Next add tomatoes, cooked red onions, fresh ground pepper and grated cheese. Place just these bottoms back in oven and broil till cheese is sufficiently melted. Remove from oven and layer lettuce and any other veggies you'd like. Spread miracle whip on remaining roll halves, top broiled bottoms, and serve.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Nothing says spring like asparagus and Boy do we love it in our house! Even my 8 and 5 year olds will eat it and I think this method of preparation has a good deal to do with that. It brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and adds a bit of brown (carmelized natural sugars) which equals extra flavor. The great thing about this method is that you can try it on just about any heartier vegetable you can think of and we have: carrots, brussel sprouts, and broccoli just to name a few. Although I have other ways of preparing those vegetables that are a bit more fancy (and I'll share those recipes another time), we've all but given up just plain steaming preferring this route instead. Roast away!

Oven Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Place cookie sheet in oven while it preheats to 425 degrees. Rinse asparagus and then trim ends. I'm lazy and just pick a spot about an inch and a half up and cut the bunch all at once. But if you really want to be thorough about removing the tough part, pick up each stalk, hold either end and gently bend, is should snap apart right around where the tough stem end meets the soft enough to eat stalk. Place in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, enough to coat thoroughly (about 3T?) Use hands to toss around to ensure even coating. Once oven and cookie sheet are piping hot, remove sheet momentarily from oven and quickly spread oil-coated asparagus in an even layer. It should sizzle a bit when it hits the hot sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a few cranks of fresh ground pepper and pop right back in the oven. Roast 8-10 minutes, checking around the 8 minute mark for doneness. Asparagus is done when fork goes in easily but there's a still some firmness. Remove from oven and serve while hot.

Glazed Orange Marmalade Pork Loin Chops

It's been quite awhile since I've made these for dinner and now I'm asking myself "why did I wait so long?"! These pork chops are juicy and flavorful and come together so fast. I think they are perfect for a quick week-night meal or a no-fail-company-over dinner. They come together in about 30 minutes and are virtually impossible to ruin. Fancy and fast? Sounds good to me!

Glazed Orange Marmalade Pork Loin Chops
Note: I think this recipe could easily be adapted to use with chicken if pork's not your thing...or even if it is, try both! I know I will.

4-6 boneless pork loin chops (about 1 inch thick)
Seasoning salt (I used garlic salt) & fresh ground pepper
Olive oil for searing
4 T soy sauce
4 T chicken broth
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced

Preheat oven to 400. Heat oil in large skillet over med-high until shimmering. While oil heats, season one side of chops with seasoning salt and pepper. Place chops in pan and season 2nd side. Don't touch or move for at least 3 minutes. This allows a nice brown crust to form. After about 3-4 minutes turn each chop over and cook the same. Once all chops are browned on both sides, place in baking dish, cover with foil and pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Next prepare glaze:
If there is an overabundance of cooking oil in the saute pan use a paper towel to blot some away. Then saute garlic in pan for about 30 seconds and add soy sauce, chicken broth, and marmalade to pan. Reduce heat to medium/medium-low and let cook stirring to loosen brown bits from bottom of pan. The sauce needs to reduce down a bit to an almost syrup-like consistency, but not too much as it will become over-concentrated and there won't be enough for each pork chop. If it gets too thick just add a bit more chicken broth to loosen it up a bit.

Once chops are cooked through (be careful not to overcook), remove from oven and place on serving platter. Spoon glaze over top and serve.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pineapple Coconut Smoothie

Aren't smoothies the best? They're great for breakfast or anytime of the day AND they even pass for dessert, at least with my family. Plus they're healthy. Who ever heard of a healthy dessert? Score!

This smoothie is reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite drinks: Pina Colada. And with a touch of cream (optional but a must in my opinion) it's border-line decadent. See? Dessert!

Pineapple Coconut Smoothie
Note: This recipe is all about adjusting to taste. Amounts listed are more suggestions than musts.

3/4 to 1 cup vanilla yogurt (Tip: We buy the big 32 oz. containers so there's always some in the fridge for smoothies or snacks)
1 can (8oz.) crushed pineapple with juice
1 can (6oz.) pineapple juice
1 ripe banana
Small handful (approx.. 1/4 cup) coconut
1-2 cups frozen, sliced peaches
Ice cubes
2 T or so whipping cream
Optional toasted coconut and sweetened whipped cream for garnish

In blender place yogurt, crushed pineapple, pineapple juice, banana, and coconut. Blend until smooth. Add frozen peaches, blend till smooth. Check consistency and add ice cubes if desired. Finish off with generous dash of cream, blend again. Taste and add whatever more you'd like. Garnish and serve immediately.

Black Bean & Orange Salad

At first glance this combination of black beans and oranges might seem a little strange. But the taste could not be farther from it! Spoon this onto Rotisserie Chicken Tacos and it's a match made in heaven! And it couldn't be easier to make with only 6 ingredients...

Black Bean Salad
{Recipe adapted from my friend Sharon}

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4-1/3 red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime
1 large orange, segmented and cut into small pieces
2 T olive oil
Chopped cilantro, to taste
Sprinkling of kosher salt

Toss ingredients together. Taste and adjust accordingly. Best to let marinate about an hour before serving. Use on top of Rotisserie Chicken Tacos or any other chicken or pork tacos you love.

And if you've never segmented an orange here are a few photos that show the process, it couldn't be easier:
First cut off both ends...
Then use a knife to carefully cut down the orange, trying only to the remove the pith (bitter white part) and not much fruit.
Keep making your way all around the orange and then clean-up where necessary.
Next, use knife to slice down on the inside of either natural segment divider.
Once cut, each orange segment should just slide right out.
This is also a nice and deceivingly fancy way way to add fresh oranges to fruit salad.

Rotisserie Chicken Tacos

These could also be called Lazy Man Chicken Tacos because using a purchased already cooked rotisserie chicken means you barely have to do anything aside from cutting up a few extra toppings. When I first started making these we ate them on pretty much a weekly basis, they are that quick and delicious! Making this black bean salad and using the uncooked tortillas that you cook yourself for that fresh, homemade flavor really takes them into over-the-top goodness.

Rotisserie Chicken Tacos

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
Ready to cook flour tortillas (usually found in the refrigerated section by fresh salsas and fresh pasta) or warmed pre-cooked flour tortillas
Chopped grape or regular tomatoes
Grated cheese, we like colby-jack
1 avocado, sliced
Sour cream
Extra cilantro, if desired

Shred chicken and, if not already warm, put in a pan with a little chicken broth and a lid to heat through. May add grated cheese to at this point if you like it all melt-y. While chicken is warming, cook tortillas if applicable. When chicken and tortillas are ready, assemble tacos with desired toppings and eat immediately.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cake Waffles {Dessert}

If you need a quick chocolate cake fix and don't want to wait the 40 minutes of bake time this is the dessert for you! My kids loved this fun take on chocolate cake. Sweetened whipped cream, a chocolate drizzle and the ever favorite strawberry slices made it extra special.

The great thing is the options are endless. Any flavor cake mix will do...yellow, lemon, cherry, spice etc. And add-ins could include: toffee chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, chopped nuts, m&m's, coconut and so on. Come to think of it, I'm a little curious how brownie batter would do in the waffle iron? Better get on that pronto! In the meantime here's our version...

Chocolate Chip Cake Waffles

1 chocolate cake mix (I used chocolate fudge. German chocolate or Devil's food would work nicely)
Ingredients called for in cake mix directions
Chocolate chips
Sweetened whipped cream
Chocolate syrup for drizzling (caramel or berry puree would be terrific too)
Strawberries or sliced bananas for garnish
Cooking spray

Begin heating waffle iron. Make cake mix as directed. When waffle iron is hot, spray with cooking spray (do this step each time) and pour in prepared cake batter. Sprinkle with chocolate chips before closing. Cook per manufacturers directions. When done top with whipped cream, strawberry or banana slices, chocolate, caramel, or berry puree drizzle. (or all 3!) Serve immediately. Leftover waffles will keep just like left-over cake or cupcakes would.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Easy Peasy Baked Brown Rice

Talk about a staple of a side-dish! This baked brown rice has become one of my favorite ways, well in all honesty the ONLY way I cook brown rice. I was always irritated that brown rice #1 didn't taste as good as white rice and #2 took sooo much longer to cook. And then I found this recipe and haven't looked back. Although it does take a bit of planning ahead time-wise (not your typical 20 minute rice, more like 1 hr 15 min rice), it's such a no brainer with it's whopping 2 ingredients and slap it in the oven and move on to other things while it cooks away with no additional fuss from you easiness that the additional time is more than worth it. Plus just think of how much more wholesome brown rice is than white! We still eat plenty of both in our house. But I'm glad to have a recipe worth mixing things up a bit in the rice department Give this a try, you'll be glad you did!

Baked Brown Rice
{Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe}

1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 9X9-inch baking pan. (I use a 1 quart baking dish and think a 9X13 would probably work fine too) Place the rice in the prepared pan and pour in the liquid. Stir to equally distribute the rice. Cover tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes before removing the aluminum foil and fluffing with a fork.

Homemade Thai Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

My family and I LOVE thai food, we cannot get enough of the stuff. Even our kids are big fans. As you can imagine this means that when we go out to eat, just about every other time we find ourselves at one of our favorite thai food haunts. One of THE best things is the sweet chili dipping sauce. I pour it on everything!

This recipe was my attempt at a homemade version of the stuff. And while it wasn't as top-notch as our favorite restaurant's sauce, it was a pretty delicious alternative. We used it as the dipping sauce for out Baked Veggie Egg Rolls. I found the recipe on a thai food blog and they suggest using it just like you would any other condiment going so far as to use it on fried or grilled chicken, to doctor up salad dressings, brushing it on corn on the cob, etc. And they say it keeps in the fridge up to a month.

Dip away, I say!

Homemade Thai Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
{Recipe source: She Simmers}

3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 RED jalapeno or Serrano pepper, deseeded or almost deseeded depending on your heat tolerance
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 T salt
1 T cornstarch
2 T water

In blender, puree garlic, peppers, sugar, 3/4 cup water, white vinegar, and salt. Transfer mixture to small saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer until mixture thickens up a teeny bit and the garlic and pepper bits soften, about 3 minutes. Combine cornstarch and 2 T water to make a slurry. Whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce pan and simmer one more minute. Use warm or at room temp for dipping. Store remaining sauce in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Baked Veggie Egg Rolls

My friend Darla sent me this recipe to try and try I did. I liked that it was a meatless meal, heaven knows we eat plenty of meat around here and could use the occasional break. And I was intrigued by the baking versus frying cooking method. I always find restaurant egg rolls that are fried good but greasy. You know the kind of greasy that makes you feel yucky even while you're devouring them. And I'm no health-nut!

Anyhow, my only beef with the final product was the the wrapper's weren't quite what I hoped they'd be taste-wise. I think next time, and there will be a next time cause the filling is delicious, I might try a pot-sticker style route. Frying them in a pan with a little veggie oil to brown at least one side if not more and then adding a touch of water, putting the lid on, and letting them steam to finish.

We ate these with homemade thai sweet chili dipping sauce and baked brown rice. Both recipes forthcoming...

Baked Veggie Egg Rolls
{Adapted from For the Love of Cooking Blog}

  • 1 tsp+ olive oil
  • 2 cups of savoy cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots (I used pre-package broccoli slaw mix instead)
  • 2 cups of bean sprouts (make sure they're fresh)
  • 1 can of water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth + some additional if needed
  • 14 or so egg roll wraps
  • Sweet chili dipping sauce or sweet and sour sauce (for dipping)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot add the cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots or broccoli slaw mix, water chestnuts, grated ginger, and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables just begin to wilt but still remain a little bit crisp. Feel free to douse mixture with a little bit of chicken broth if you find that it's sticking to your pan while cooking. Mix the corn starch with the 1/4 cup chicken broth and mix thoroughly. Add the corn starch mixture and soy sauce to the pan along with the green onions. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let cool a little.

Place two or so tablespoons of the barely warm mixture on the center of the egg roll wrap. Fold the bottom up over the filling. Next, fold the two sides over, making it look like an envelope, then roll it up like a burrito. Try to work quickly as the wrappers dry out pretty fast.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with silpat liner. Place the rolled up egg rolls on a baking sheet, seam side down to start. Once you have rolled them all, spray the top of each egg roll with cooking spray.

Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes then turn them over. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. I found that mine took a bit longer to get brown, more like 8-10 minutes per side. Serve with sweet chili sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or any other favorite asian dipping sauce.