Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes

This is a great hearty dish that seems like it would be really fattening, but is actually quite healthful. Cut even more fat and calories by using low-fat cheese and not using any butter on the potato. I can't wait for it to cool down so I can stuff a big potato with leftover chili.

2 large baked potatoes
1 chicken breast, about 1/2 a pound, cooked and chopped into small chunks
1 cup broccoli florets in small chunks, blanch in boiling water for no more than 3 minutes
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, grated

Rinse the potatoes well. Using a fork, poke the potato to make various holes in them. Place in the microwave and cook on high for approximately 14 minutes, turning once halfway through. (You could also bake in the oven, but that would take over an hour, and what modern housewife has an hour to kill after work during the week?) Test the doneness by poking with a fork. If it goes in smoothly and the potato is soft, it is done.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in the flour and let cook for a minute or two, until golden brown. (This is called a rue and is used to thicken sauces and gravys.) Then slowly add the milk while whisking. Bring to a bubble, stirring often until thickened. It won't take long, maybe 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the cheddar cheese, stir in the chicken and broccoli.

When the potatoes are done, remove to a plate and slice in half. Mash up the insides of the potatoes a little with a fork. If you'd like, add a little butter. Season with pepper. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and sprinkle with a little grated parmesan cheese.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roasted Garlic

I had to repost this recipe. The first time I posted it was back in February when I made it for Valentine's Day. I made it tonight and served it with pita bread that I warmed in the oven. Just add the pita bread to the oven when the garlic has about 8-10 minutes to go. Cut the pitas into wedges and spread the garlic on them.

Roasted Garlic
1 whole head of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil

Roasting the garlic this way mellows out the flavor and softens it, allowing you to spread it on bread as if it were butter. Delish! I had this years ago at an Italian restaurant, but this was the first time I tried to replicate it.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Using a knife, cut off the top third of the garlic head. Do not peel the garlic. Place it in a small, oven-proof dish, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil; and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes. You should now be able to use a butter knife to scoop out the garlic cloves and spread on bread, or anything else you can think of.

Pesto Risotto with Shrimp

Everyone is probably getting sick of reading about me making pesto all the time, and I know, but I just love it. Here is another great use for it. Make a batch of basic risotto, recipe follows, and then add a few spoonfuls of my basil pesto to the risotto. I also added shrimp to the dish. Just stir the shrimp into the risotto when there is a couple minutes left, maybe when you add your last ladle of broth.

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion or 1/2 a medium one, chopped small
1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc works well, too.)
grated parmesan cheese (a couple of small handfuls)
salt and black pepper to taste

Place the broth in a saucepan over low-medium high heat to warm.

In a deep skillet, melt the butter and oil together over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the rice and saute for a couple more minutes. (This toasts the rice and gives it a light golden color.) Add the wine and let it cook out for 1 minute. Now add a couple of ladles of the broth. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add a couple more ladles of broth. Stir often and continue to add broth as the rice absorbs the liquid. Takes about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. What you'll end up with is a delicious, creamy and cheesey rice dish.

Serves 4. Yummy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mount Diablo Dip and Cuban Sandwiches

This is a great game day spread. This dip is my version of layer dip or taco dip. My family has been making it for years. I'm not sure where it originated from. I think a neighbor used to make it and we loved it so much he shared the recipe. Anyway, this dip makes an appearance at various family gatherings. I also made some Cuban sandwiches.

2-3 avocadoes
juice of 1 lemon
Sprinkle of both onion and garlic powder
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 pint sour cream
1 package of taco seasoning mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small can of sliced black olives
3 green onions, sliced
1 bag of tortilla chips

On the bottom of a pie plate, mash up the avocado with the lemon juice and season with a little of the garlic and onion powder. Spread out on the bottom of the plate.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning until smooth. (There are always a little bit of lumps. I even tried mixing it with my Kitchen Aid and it was still a little lumpy.) Spread the mixture over the avocado.

Next, sprinkle an even layer of the shredded cheese. Top with tomatoes, olives and green onions. Serve with your favorite tortilla.

For the cuban sandwiches, take real Cuban bread and slice in half. Spread mayo on one side and yellow mustard on the other. On the bottom piece of bread, place sliced swiss cheese, then dill sandwich pickles, sliced ham, turkey and pork. Top with the other piece of bread.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blew Through Yet Another Hair Dryer...

...Pun definitely intended. Is it just me or does everyone go through a hair dryer like once a year?

I swear I just bought this hair dryer maybe a year ago and it already broke. Died on me this morning. Luckily I was just about finished and used my flat iron for the final touches. Otherwise I wouldn't have looked very pretty this morning. My hair is getting longer now, so I can't get away with not blowing it dry anymore, otherwise it does this very unattractive wavy thing. I only reserve Sundays for no blow dryer use, because come on, it's the day of rest, right? And then I just throw it up so no one can tell I have this weird wavy thing going on.

Anyway, I am looking for some suggestions on a good hair dryer that will last me longer than a year. Please provide your suggestions in the comment box, preferably an affordable suggestion. Thanks!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Linguine with Clam Sauce

I have made this dish before, but last night was by far the best. I think it is because I let the sauce simmer and reduce while the pasta was cooking. It is also key not to use all of the clam juice, but half and make up the rest with broth. By the way, this meal is very inexpensive because I use canned clams in lieu of fresh clams.

I served it with a caprese salad topped with my homemade basil pesto. Just slice ripe tomato and fresh mozzarella. Season the tomato with salt and pepper, alternate the slices of tomato with mozzarella, drizzle with some of the pesto.

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsps butter, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 (10 ounce) cans whole baby clams
the clam juice from 1 of the cans
10 ounces chicken, seafood or vegetable broth
juice and zest of 1 lemon
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 lb. linguine (I used multigrain)
salt and pepper
fresh grated parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the olive oil into 1 Tbsp of butter. Add the shallot and cook until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute or two. Add the red pepper and clams and sautee for a minute. Add the clam juice and broth; let simmer while the pasta is cooking. Some of the liquid will cook out and that is good. The clams will absorb some of it as well. When the pasta is almost done add the lemon juice and the remaining Tbsp of butter to the sauce.

By this time the water should be boiling, salt liberally, add the linguine. Cook for about 7 minutes, or as the box directs. When the linguine is done, don't drain normally. Use tongs or a pasta spoon and take the pasta out and directly add to the skillet with the clam sauce. Don't worry about draining the pasta really well as you scoop it out, some of the pasta water is good.

Add the lemon zest and parsley, toss the linguine well with the sauce. Add some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste; toss well again. Divide among 4 bowls. Serve with a little extra cheese on top.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Italian Chicken (in the Crock Pot)

My mom, sister and I have frequently been using our Crock Pots lately. The two of them had both told me about this Italian Chicken dish using one of the McCormick slow cooker packets. So, I finally decided to make it. *Note, I found this particular packet at Sweetbay. I was having trouble locating them at Publix.

Ingredients: (This is all on the packet, but I have some cooking modifications to share)
1 McCormick Italian Chicken packet
2.5 lbs chicken (Definitely use skinless, boneless chicken breast. When you use bone-in chicken it all just breaks down and you're left with a bunch of bones hanging out in your sauce.)
1 (12 ounce) package fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 (14 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (one of the very few times you'll actually use a whole can of tomato paste)

Add the chicken to the Crock Pot, then the mushrooms. Mix the seasonings, tomatoes and paste together, pour on top. Cook on low for 6 hours. *Note the package says 8 hours on low, but that is really too long.

Remove the chicken and mushrooms to a platter. Stir the sauce well. You can serve over pasta or creamy polenta as I did.

Creamy Polenta
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

In a saucepan bring the broth and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low while whisking the cornmeal in slowly and continue for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add a drizzle of olive oil and stir in the cheese until melted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September's Book Club Pick

As you all know, I love chick literature, and I am in a book club with other chick-lit enthusiasts. This month's pick is The Next Thing On My List. It's about a woman, June, who is in a car accident where her passenger dies. June finds a list that the passenger, Marissa, had written of "20 things to do before I turn 25." To ease her guilt, June races to finish the list before the deadline, which gives her 6 months to complete tasks like run a marathon, go braless, change someone's life, etc.

Surprisingly, I am not getting into it. I'm about a third of the way through and it just hasn't sucked me in yet, but I'm hoping that will change. I'll keep you all updated. Apparently the book is being turned into a movie, too. Anyway, I just wanted to share with all my other chick-lit fans who are out there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hungarian Goulash

My cousin Sarah in Illinois sent me this recipe. I've made Goulash before, but I usually use stew meat, this recipe uses ground beef. It was really good. A hit with my husband as well. The recipe makes a lot and since there is only the two of us I halfed it. But, if you have children, definitely make all of it. The key to Hungarian food is the paprika. If you can find Hungarian paprika, even better. It has much more flavor. Below is the full recipe. Thanks, Sarah for the great recipe!

1 lb of elbow macaroni
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
a pinch of nutmeg
a healthy sprinkle of marjoram
1 (24 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp of sourcream (optional, but highly recommended)
2 pats of butter or a drizzle of olive oil
handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp of caraway seeds (optional, but suggested to toast the first or ground them up)

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the macaroni. When water boils, add salt and pasta.

Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and brown. Grate an onion into the skillet with a hand grater. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, nutmeg and marjoram. Mix in tomatoes, heat through. Right before serving mix in the sour cream and heat through.

Drain macaroni and toss with butter or olive oil, parsley and caraway seeds. Serve the goulash over the noodles.

Serve with a nice salad. I made a vinaigrette with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp dijon mustard and 1 clove garlic, run through a press. Whisk together, then while whisking stream in a 1/2 cup olive olive oil.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Argentinian Wines

Last week my husband and I attended a wine tasting at our favorite local restaurant, Gino's. The night featured wines from Argentina. We ended up going by their Wine Shoppe and picking up three bottles of wine with two of them being Argentinian reds we tasted that evening. I recommend checking these out. Both are very affordable, under $10.

Condor Peak Merlot - It's from the Mendoza region; light and fruity on the nose; rich, medium body with hints of black cherry and coffee flavors.

tierra adentro - also from the Mendoza region; very nice table red wine; well-balanced; deep fruity flavors; pairs nicely with red meats

Keep in mind I am no wine connoisseur, but I promise both of these are very smooth, enjoyable wines.

White Bean Soup

I have made this soup a few times. It is really good and with the bits of bacon on top it almost resembles and tastes like a baked potato soup.

2 ounces sliced pancetta or bacon cut into small strips
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (also known as white kidney or Great Northern beans)
1 and 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (You could also use dried sage or oregano)
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cups water
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Cook pancetta in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat until most of the fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes; remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Stir onion and garlic into the drippings; cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Add beans and sage; cook 1 minute longer. Add broth and water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Puree with a stick blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor, until smooth. (It took me 3 batches with my food processor. Pour back into the saucepan and reheat over a low flame. Season soup with pepper and salt to taste, and garnish each serving with crisp pancetta bits.

I served the soup with grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches. It was a great dinner on a rainy night.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tomato Paste Tube

So here's a little shopping tip. Have you all discovered the tomato paste that comes in a tube like toothpaste? It's the greatest thing ever. Before you'd have to buy this whole can just for a couple of tablespoons and then the rest would go to waste. Now there are tubes where you can squeeze out a little for what you need now, twist the cap back on and throw it back in the fridge for the next time. I usually find it next to the jars of marinara sauce and pasta versus next to the canned tomatoes.

Sloppy Birds

This is my version of a sloppy joe. I call them sloppy birds because I use ground turkey instead of ground beef. It's a little healthier that way and honestly I can't tell the difference. I'm no mother, but I bet these would be a big hit with the kids. Now, this doesn't use a can of Manwich, but it is almost as easy. It's just dumping in a can of tomato sauce and some other seasonings that you most likely have on hand. Note, this recipe has been altered from a Rachael Ray recipe.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 and 1/4 pounds ground turkey
3 Tbsps brown sugar (adds a little sweetness)
3 tsps steak seasoning, such as McCormick's Montreal Chicken blend
1 small onion, chopped (or half a large onion)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 (15 ounce) can tomatoe sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 yummy bakery rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered
Garnish with sliced tomato, pickles or banana peppers

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and turkey to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula. Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning, then add the mixture to the skillet and combine. When the meat has browned, add the onion and red pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add vinegar, stirring briefly to reduce, then add Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and paste, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook sloppy bird mixture for at least 10 minutes, stirring often. This will allow the mixture to thicken and not be so sloppy.

Spoon mixture onto the buns and top with select garnishes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Blondies

Here is a great dessert recipe for your Labor Day cookouts. This recipe has been altered from a Food Network Kitchens one.

1 and 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 and 1/2 cups of a combination of chocolate and peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.

Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet or in the microwave in a glass measuring cup. Stir the butter into the sugar until smooth, cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth thick batter forms. Fold in the chips.

Spoon the batter to the prepared dish and spread to evenly fill the dish. Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Beer and Cheese Soup

At a recent beer and food pairing dinner we went to, there was one course that featured a beer cheese soup and we loved it. So I went on a mission to find a recipe I could make. I'm not sure where I found this recipe, but I tried it last night and it was delicious.

6 tablespoons butter
1 pound smoked sausage, chopped (Such as Hillshire Farms)
8 large shallots, chopped medium-fine
1/2 cup flour
2 (13 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer (some type of ale works best)
2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 large baking potato or 2 small to medium ones)
2 cups milk
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon hot sauce
freshly ground pepper to taste
sliced green onions for garnish

Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the sausage and sauté 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped shallots and continue to sauté until shallots are translucent. Add the flour and stir to coat. Slowly add the chicken broth and beer, stirring well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture has thickened slightly, add the potatoes and continue to simmer, approximately 12 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Add milk, cheeses, salt, and flavorings. Stir constantly over low heat until cheese is smooth. Top with sliced green onions and serve with toasted crusty bread.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fettuccine with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This recipe is courtesy of Ellie Krieger, a healthy chef and nutritionist from her The Food You Crave cookbook. I added chicken to it to make it a more balanced meal and served it with a salad. The recipe calls for whole-wheat pasta, which I would normally use, but regular Barilla fettuccine was on sale at the store, so that is what I bought. Note: I have altered the cooking instructions just a bit.

2 Tbsps olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 (16-ounce) jar of roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (6 ounces)
1 (16-ounce) box whole-wheat fettuccine
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted red peppers and cook, stirring a few times until heated through. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer the red pepper mixture to a food processor, add the broth and all but 2 tbsps. of the feta. Process until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds. Return the sauce back to the skillet and reheat over low to medium heat.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water (I didn't need it.) Add the pasta to skillet and toss with the sauce. (Here is also where you would add the cooked chicken - cut into bite-sized pieces.) Add the reserved pasta water by the tablespoon if needed. The sauce should cling nicely to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among pasta bowls. Sprinkle with the parsley and reserved feta. Makes 4 entree servings.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jazzed Up Couscous

Couscous is great because it cooks so fast and you can start off with plain couscous and add all kinds of vegetables, herbs and spices to jazz it up.

1 Package of cous cous (I like the Far East brand)
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
artichoke hearts, chopped
kalamata olives, chopped

Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. One caveat, I like to use chicken or veggie broth instead of water to add a little extra flavor. Half way through the couscous cooking process add the additional chopped ingredients. Once fully cooked, fluff the couscous with a fork and incorporate the rest of the ingredients.

Other potential additions: chick peas, green onion, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, saffron, basil, capers, lemon zest, cucumber, etc., etc.

Pork Chops with a Lemon Butter Sauce and Goat Cheese

This dish is a spin on Carrabba's Chicken Bryan, one of my favorite dishes there. Goat cheese is one of my favorite cheeses. It is so freakin' creamy and tangy.

2 pork chops, preferably boneless and not too thick, no thicker than an inch
all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsps butter, separated
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken broth
sundried tomatoes, sliced or chopped (eyeball it or roughly 1/4 cup)
crumbled goat cheese (eyeball it)

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and melt 1 tbsp. of the butter into the olive oil. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. On a plate, add enough flour to coat the chops. Dust off the access and add to the hot skillet. Cook the chops until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate.

To the pan, add the broth, a couple turns worth. Add the lemon juice and let simmer away until it reduces a little. About 5 minutes. Add the remaining tbsp. of butter, allow to melt. Add the sundried tomatoes to the pan, add the pork chops back in to reheat.

Plate the chops and top with equal amounts of the sauce and tomatoes. And finish with a little bit of the glorious crumbled goat cheese on top. I served with my roasted zucchini and cous cous.