Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Sticky Peanut Butter and Jelly Wings

Maybe the title of this week's Saturdays with Rachael Ray recipe has you feeling dubious. Maybe you're feeling skeptical about how well the flavors of peanut butter and jelly go with chicken wings. It's understandable. My husband was unsure about these too. But then he tried them, and he couldn't get enough. I mean that literally; we ran out of wings before he was full.

Peanut butter and jelly are no strangers to savory dishes. Peanut butter is often found in Thai-style pasta sauces (and in one of our favorite dishes at the Chinese buffet, peanut butter chicken), and grape jelly is one of stars in those famous three-ingredient cocktail meatballs. And when you combine the two ingredients in a spicy, tangy, sweet-nutty sauce, the results are out of this world. We all really, really loved these.

I used chicken drummettes, and I did have to broil mine for a couple of minutes to get 'em crispy, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. Give these a try! I think you'll really like them.

Sticky Peanut Butter and Jelly Wings
source: slightly adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, February 2009

1 10-ounce jar grape jelly
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
24 chicken drummettes

1. In a bowl, whisk together the jelly, peanut butter, vinegar, hot sauce and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the wings on a greased rack set on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Turn, baste with the pan juices and bake until browned, about 20 minutes more. Broil for a few minutes if needed.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Turkey Pesto Meatballs

I may have mentioned this before, but my son Andrew sometimes has an issue with the texture of certain meats. He's weird about ground meats, especially, so it’s usually difficult to get him to eat things like meat tomato sauce and sloppy joes.

The one way I can get him to get ground meat of any type, however, is to prepare it in meatball form. Like most kids, he loves meatballs. As soon as I saw these pesto turkey meatballs, I knew we would all really like them. We all love pesto, and I loved that these were made with turkey -- a much healthier option than ground beef.

These were a huge hit with all of us, and Andrew ate about six of them all on his own. The pesto gave the meatballs a nice texture and tons of flavor. They were perfect on top of a big pile of spaghetti!

Turkey Pesto Meatballs
source: Weelicious

1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups marinara sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place all the ingredients except marinara sauce in a bowl and using your hands, combine until everything is incorporated.

3. Using about 1 tablespoon of the mixture per meatball, roll into balls and place on a plate.

4. Pour the marinara sauce into a 9 x 9 inch baking pan and top with the meatballs.

5. Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Caramel Brownies

If you were to look at my starred items category in Google Reader, you’d find that I’ve starred more brownie recipes than any other type. But if you look in my blog archives, you’ll see that I really haven’t posted that many different versions of this sweet treat. I have one particular brownie recipe that I consider The Ultimate Brownies, and that’s always my go-to. But then sometimes I see a recipe that I can’t stop thinking about until I make it, and this is one of them. Chocolate and caramel is one of my favorite combinations, and I just knew these brownies were going to be fantastic. And they are.

This recipe uses a boxed cake mix, but the end result really doesn’t taste “boxed” at all. These are gooey, chocolaty, rich, and decadent, and everyone who tried them loved them. I mean, really, how could you not? The hardest part of the recipe was waiting for them to cool before I cut them. Thanks for a great recipe, Natalie!

Caramel Brownies
source: The Sweets Life

1 package German chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 bag individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.

2. Combine cake mix, melted butter, and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Mix well and pour 1/2 the batter into the pan. Bake for 8 minutes and remove from oven.

3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and pour over cake.

4. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the caramel. Top with spoonfuls of remaining batter and carefully spread to cover caramel. Bake for 20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least half an hour before cutting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cream Cheese Enchiladas

Yep. Cream cheese again. This time it’s the star ingredient in these creamy, spicy, flavorful chicken enchiladas that Joe has pronounced his new favorite enchiladas, surpassing his previous two favorites by leaps and bounds. And I have to admit that they just may be my new favorite too. I loved them. I mean, of course I did: They have the words “cream cheese” in the title.

I found this recipe on Marci’s wonderful blog. Judging by her archives, it appears that Marci is the queen of enchiladas, and this is one of her favorites too. And I’m sure she’s not as obsessed with cream cheese as I am, so you can totally take her word for it that these are really good.

I’ll be making these again and again. And then? I’ll make them again. Joe will insist on it.

Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas
source: slightly adapted from On My Menu

5 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups prepared salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded pepper-jack cheese, divided
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
4 scallions, thinly sliced
8 8-inch flour tortillas

1. Preheat oven 325 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl cream together cream cheese and sour cream. Stir in 1/2 cup salsa. Stir in 1/2 cup of each type of cheese.

3. In a second bowl toss together the chicken, corn, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and half of the scallions. Add the chicken mixture to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.

4. Spread about 1/2 cup salsa in the bottom of a baking dish. Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup filling on a tortilla, roll up and put in dish seam side down. Repeat process for remaining tortillas.

5. Pour remaining salsa over enchiladas, spreading to coat all of them. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
6. Transfer to preheated oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve warm.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 7.26.10

This is the last meal plan for the month of July. I know I sound like a broken record, but I really can't believe how quickly this year is going by. Before we know it fall will be here, which is sounding pretty good to me since we have had some of the hottest, most humid, and most uncomfortable summer weather I can remember having for a while. Bring on the cooler temperatures!

Anyway, here's the menu this week. Half of it is made up of some of our favorite meals, and the other half are new dishes I've been dying to try.

: Baked zucchini macaroni and cheese (And yes, I am aware that I’ve put macaroni and cheese on our menu for at least the past three weeks in a row. My son wants to eat it all the time, and instead of resisting his love of mac and cheese, I’m embracing it.) (And plus, Joanne’s recipe looks way too delicious to resist.)

Tuesday: Pork chops with roasted garlic cream sauce, rice pilaf, roasted broccoli

Wednesday: Tuscan-style grilled chicken sandwiches, chips

Thursday: Pineapple and green chile pork tacos

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Chicken tortilla casserole

Sunday: BBQ chicken pasta

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Summer Sweet Corn Fettucine

This week for Taste and Tell's Saturdays with Rachael Ray, I'm sharing a really yummy pasta dish. I saw Rachael make this on a recent episode of 30 Minute Meals, and I knew immediately that I wanted to try it. It looked and sounded incredible, and really intriguing too. Corn is not typically an ingredient you see in that much in pasta dishes, but I was definitely pleasantly surprised. We all loved this!

This has all the flavors of corn chowder, but the ingredients are all mixed up in pasta instead of soup. I got some really sweet corn from the farmer’s market, and I loved how the sweetness of it and the red bell pepper balanced out the salty bacon and cheese. And then, of course, there was the fresh basil:

If that doesn’t scream summer, I don’t know what does.

In summary (or “summery,” ha ha): this was very good, very simple, and will definitely be in the regular rotation at our house.

Summer Sweet Corn Fettucine
source: slightly adapted from Rachael Ray

1 pound fettuccine
6 slices bacon, chopped
6 ears corn on the cob, shucked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
A few dashes of hot sauce
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup sweet basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium heat. Salt the water, add the pasta and cook to al dente.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes until rendered and crisp.

3. Put a small bowl inverted into a large bowl, steady the corn cobs on the smaller bowl and scrape the ears. Add three-quarters of the scraped corn and any corn liquid to the pan with the bacon. Add the onions and red pepper and liberally season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

4. Add the remaining corn and half-and-half to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

5. Pour the stock into the corn and vegetables and simmer over low heat for a minute to reduce. Stir in the thyme and corn-cream mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, to thicken. Add the hot sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Drain the pasta and add it to a large serving bowl. Pour in the sauce, add about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, and toss. Top with basil and pass the remaining cheese at the table.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is one of our new favorite meals. We’ve only had it once, and it’s already sky-rocketed right to the top of the “most-requested” list in our house. You wouldn’t think that something with so few ingredients would be so delicious, but you’d be wrong. The chicken is really moist and the sauce is so incredibly flavorful. Andrew could not get enough of the chicken, which is really saying something since he’s sometimes funny about the texture of certain meats.

In addition to tasting really good, this requires very little hands-on preparation, which is perfect for one of my crazy weeknights. We will definitely be making this over and over again, because it’s delicious, but also because Andrew calls it “see-sa kitchen,” and I want to hear him say that all the time. Thanks for another great recipe, Deborah!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
source: Taste and Tell

4 chicken breast halves

1 cup Catalina salad dressing
1 cup brown sugar
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
Rice, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in a casserole dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine the dressing, brown sugar and onion soup mix. Pour over chicken breasts. Cook in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle.

3. Serve over rice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fruit Smoothies

I’ve made many a fruit smoothie in my day, but they’ve always been a bit of a guessing game for me. I’ll throw in a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and then taste, and adjust as necessary to improve the flavor or texture. The end result was always delicious, but it took a little work to get the quantities right.

Enter this tutorial from Our Best Bites. As soon as I saw it, I couldn’t wait to give it a shot with Andrew’s favorite combination (peaches, blueberries, and, in the summertime, black raspberries). Following this method resulted in a perfect smoothie, the first time, with no adjustments needed. I’ve always used frozen fruit for mine, and I think that’s a great tip: It eliminates the need for ice. Just be sure the fruit is slightly thawed so chunks of it don’t get stuck in your blender blades (don’t ask me how I know this). Another of my favorite things to do is add a handful of baby spinach leaves to the smoothies. You can’t taste it at all, and it’s a great way to get some extra vitamins into your kids.

Today I’m sharing our family’s favorite, but the flavor combinations really are endless. Be sure to check out the Our Best Bites Fruit Smoothie Tutorial for some delicious variations!

Blueberry Peach Fruit Smoothies

1 cup orange peach mango juice
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 1/2 cups frozen peaches, slightly thawed
3/4 cup frozen blueberries, slightly thawed
Handful of baby spinach leaves

Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse to combine to desired consistency.

Andrew obviously loves these...

...and even Will was desperate for a taste.

I had to tell him he wasn’t quite old enough yet, and he wasn’t happy with me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hash Brown Scramble

*Sigh.* I wish I’d gotten a prettier picture of this. But one of the things I’ve discovered in my two-plus years of food blogging is that sometimes, the most unphotogenic dishes are the most delicious. (case in point: this shepherd’s pie and these candy clusters). This is another one of those dishes. It was just impossible for me to get a good picture of this, but I’m sharing it with you anyway because it tastes so yummy. And that’s what really matters, right?

The original recipe calls this a hash brown “omelet,” but the whole omelet thing didn’t work out for me (it’s my fault -- poor pan choice). So I’m calling this a scramble. But whatever you call it, it’s really good. You just can’t go wrong with bacon and eggs and cheesy potatoes all mixed up together. This came together really quickly, too, so it’s a perfect “breakfast for dinner” meal any night of the week. I’ll definitely make it again (and maybe use the right pan and get a better picture of it next time).

Hash Brown Scramble
source: Better Homes and Gardens

4 slices bacon
2 cups refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes (about half of a 20-ounce package)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green sweet pepper
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)

1. In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon; set aside. Combine potatoes, chopped onion, and sweet pepper; pat into the skillet. Cook, uncovered, over low heat about 7 minutes or until crisp and brown, turning once.

2. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl beat together eggs, milk, salt, and black pepper; pour over potato mixture. Top with cheese and bacon. Cover; cook over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until egg mixture is set. Turn out of skillet onto plate. Cut into wedges to serve.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BBQ Chicken Meatballs

Remember how last summer when I was pregnant, all I could do was wax poetic about all things barbecued? And I told you how I was never all that gung-ho about BBQ until I got pregnant? Well, I am no longer pregnant (obviously), but my love for BBQ? It remains. And it is strong and true.

I’ve had these BBQ chicken meatballs on my list of recipes to try since last summer, and I’m so glad I finally got them on the menu, because they’re so good! They have a subtle spice from the chili powder, and a nice sweetness from the applesauce to balance it out. These were a huge hit with the entire family, maybe especially with Andrew, who ate four of them! I served ours with a side of cheesy broccoli and rice and some cheddar biscuits.


BBQ Chicken Meatballs
source: Epicurious

1 pound ground chicken
2/3 cup corn-bread crumbs or bread crumbs
1 egg
1 small onion, grated and drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup barbecue sauce

1. Combine the first 8 ingredients. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls.

2. Place the oil in a wide frying pan. Add the meatballs and brown them on all sides until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the barbecue sauce. Cook until it reduces and sticks to the meatballs, about 1 minute. Serve.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taco Nachos

This recipe is really a combination of two other recipes I saw recently: Carrie’s walking tacos and Laura’s skillet tacos. I took the best parts of both recipes and combined them into what I believe is the best ever alterna-taco. How can you go wrong with flavorful, seasoned meat on top of a big pile of Doritos? Well, you can’t. Obviously these really aren’t all that good for you, but every once in a while they’re a fun and delicious indulgence. I can’t wait to have them again!

Taco Nachos
source: inspired by Real Mom Kitchen and Carrie’s Sweet Life

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can corn, drained
1 4-ounce can green chiles, undrained
1 8-ounce bottle taco sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Shredded lettuce, tomato, or sour cream, if desired

1. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, cook and stir for 30 seconds, then drain meat mixture.

2. Add the corn, green chiles, taco sauce, and 1 cup cheese to meat until well mixed.

3. Spread a layer of Doritos on dinner plates. Top each serving with meat mixture, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with desired toppings.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, week of 7.19.10

Monday: Chile, cheese, and bacon quesadillas, Mexican sour cream rice (carry-over from last week)

Tuesday: Broccoli, salami and mozzarella stromboli (carry-over from last week) (again) (I know.)

Wednesday: Chicken parmesan cakes over spaghetti, salad

Thursday: Macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. The Velveeta version. Sometimes you just crave something from your childhood, you know?

Friday: Leftovers, sandwiches or take-out

Saturday: Creamy burrito casserole

Sunday: Summer vegetable and pesto tart (Wow, I actually got a vegetarian meal on the menu this week! For the first time in I don’t know how long! Go me!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Summer Shrimp Rolls

For the first time, I’m participating in Taste and Tell’s weekly blog feature, Saturdays with Rachael Ray! I’ll probably be doing this for the next couple of Saturdays, because I have some great Rachael recipes to share.

These summer shrimp rolls are absolutely delicious, and true to their name, they are exactly the kind of thing you want to eat during the hot summer months (and boy is it hot; I think we’ve only had a couple of days under 90 degrees during the month of July here in Ohio). There is very little actual cooking required -- mostly it’s just chopping the ingredients and mixing them all together. I loved all of the textures in these rolls: the juicy shrimp, the crunchy bell peppers, the creamy dressing. The sharp bite of the scallions and the tangy flavor of the lemon were a perfect counterbalance to the sweetness of the corn, peppers and shrimp. We loved these, and will definitely be making them again!

Summer Shrimp Rolls

source: Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2009

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pesto
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
4 hot dog buns

1. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the corn and let cool.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, pesto and lemon juice. Add the shrimp-corn mixture, bell pepper and scallions; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in the hot dog buns.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hot Italian Turkey Sandwiches

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good turkey and American cheese sandwich as much as the next girl. But sometimes, it’s nice to fancy up a plain old sandwich for dinner. This recipe does just that. It elevates deli turkey to a truly delicious level with the addition of roasted red peppers, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and a creamy pesto mayonnaise. I made all four sandwiches, had one for myself and gave Joe two, and took the fourth with me to work for lunch the next day (and it reheated really well) -- but let me tell you, I had to fight Joe for that sandwich! He could have eaten a third one with no problem, he loved these so much. We’ll be making these sandwiches a lot. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Deborah!

Hot Italian Turkey Sandwiches
source: adapted from Taste and Tell

1 teaspoon oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced onion

Salt and pepper to taste
4 hoagie rolls, split
8 ounces sliced cooked turkey
1 cups roasted red peppers, patted dry and sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons basil pesto
3/4 cup mayonnaise

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion; saute 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Top half of each roll with turkey and peppers, spoon on onion and mushrooms, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

4. Mix pesto and mayonnaise; spread onto top of each roll.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

I mentioned before that we have an awesome neighbor who keeps us supplied with fresh strawberries throughout the summer months. Last year I used the strawberries for strawberry pretzel squares, and with the first batch he brought us this year I made strawberry cheesecake ice cream. When he brought us another batch a few weeks ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with them: the Pioneer Woman’s strawberry shortcake cake, which I’ve seen popping up on a lot of blogs lately.

You guys, this cake is absolutely amazing. Amazing! I can’t say enough good things about it. Ree has really outdone herself with this recipe. The cake itself is delicious, but the sweet, juicy macerated strawberries and thick, luscious cream cheese icing really take it over the top. I took a few slices over to our neighbor and his family, and when I saw him outside the next day he couldn’t stop raving about how good it was. I told him that as long as he keeps me supplied with strawberries, he’ll get this cake every single year.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake
source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 whole large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the icing:

1/2 pound cream cheese at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pound strawberries

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch.

2. Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.

3. Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Be sure to use a cake pan that’s at least 2 inches deep. Before baking, the batter should not fill the pan more than halfway.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no longer jiggly. Remove cake from pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

5. While cake is baking, hull strawberries and slice them in half from bottom to top. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoon sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

6. To make the icing, combine cream cheese, 2 sticks butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.

7. Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.

8. Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 cup around the sides. Serve slightly cool.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pastry Pockets

You will be surprised to discover that today’s recipe contains cream cheese. I mean, you know how much I hate, loathe and despise cream cheese, right?


Okay, I can’t keep up this ruse. To even lie about not liking cream cheese feels like blasphemy. But at least in this recipe, I’m not using plain cream cheese, and it’s not in a pasta sauce. So that’s sort of different.

Seriously, though, I can’t say enough good things about these pastries. The filling is so creamy and flavorful, and much to my surprise, the leftovers heated up really well for lunch the next day. I made ours larger than the original recipe indicates (I’ve linked to it below) to make a meal out of them, and I omitted the sun-dried tomatoes (I don’t use them enough to justify paying nearly $8.00 for a small jar, thankyouverymuch). I think roasted red pepper would be a delicious addition to these, as would corn. They were just wonderful as-is, though, and so easy to make that I’m pretty sure we’ll be having them for dinner a lot.

(Also, the original recipe gives instructions for freezing these, which I’m definitely going to try. I’d love to have a supply of these on hand to make at all times!)

Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pastry Pockets
source: slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

1 box puff pastry (2 sheets)

1 8-ounce container chive and onion cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast
1/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Warm cream cheese in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to soften. Place in a mixing bowl with mozzarella cheese, chicken, and bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and set aside.

3. Defrost puff pastry sheets according to package directions. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll one sheet at a time into a 12 x 12 inch square. Cut each sheet into four equal squares.

4. Place about 1/8 of cream cheese mixture onto each square. With your finger, brush a dab of water around the edges of each square and fold over diagonally to make a triangle. Press edges together and crimp with a fork to seal.

5. After stuffing and folding each pastry, place on a baking sheet. Whisk egg and water together and brush over the top of each pastry. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Can also be served at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Southwestern Egg Rolls

Sometimes it’s so much fun to eat dinner with your hands. It’s even more fun when what you’re eating is as delicious as these “egg rolls” (which are really just chimichangas, but it’s fun calling them egg rolls) are. No, they’re not the healthiest dinner option, not by a long shot -- but that makes it even more fun to eat like this every once in a while, right?

We all really liked these. They came together really easily, and the filling had a ton of flavor. I made the egg rolls themselves on Saturday morning so they’d have time to freeze, and then dinner Saturday night only took about 10 minutes to prepare. There’s just something I love about biting into a crispy tortilla that’s been filled with cheesy, spicy goodness. Deee-licious.

You should know that the original recipe calls for small amounts of many ingredients -- frozen chopped spinach, red bell pepper, black beans, corn, etc. But you'll see that in my version, I used more chicken, an entire box of frozen chopped spinach, an entire red pepper, and whole cans of black beans and corn, and adjusted the seasonings accordingly. I froze the part of the mixture I didn’t use. I did this so I wouldn’t just have random half-used things in my refrigerator, and also so I’d have the mixture on hand to make these again in the future. And I can't wait to make them again!

Southwestern Eggrolls
source: adapted from Allrecipes

2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 minced green onions, green and white parts included
1 red bell pepper, minced
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons diced jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6-inch flour tortillas

1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in green onion and red pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until tender.

2. Add chicken to the pan and mix in corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Cook and stir 5 minutes, until well blended and tender. Set aside half of the filling to cool and freeze. Remove remaining filling from heat and stir in Monterey Jack cheese so that it melts.

3. Wrap tortillas with a clean, lightly moist cloth. Microwave on high approximately 1 minute, or until hot and pliable.

4. Spoon even amounts of the mixture into each tortilla. Fold ends of tortillas, then roll tightly around mixture. Secure with toothpicks. Arrange in a medium dish, cover with plastic, and place in the freezer. Freeze at least 4 hours.

5. In a large, deep skillet, heat oil for deep frying to 375 degrees. Deep fry frozen, stuffed tortillas 10 minutes each, or until dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Creamy Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta

As I promised yesterday, today I’m sharing the recipe for my new favorite pasta dish. Calling a pasta dish my “favorite” is a really big thing for me, because I love pasta and have probably tried more than a hundred recipes for it since I started cooking. This, though? This pasta is hands down my favorite.

I think its deliciousness really lies in its simplicity. There aren’t a lot of ingredients in this dish, so the flavors of each one really stand out. Maybe I’ve mentioned before how much we love roasted tomatoes in our house, so it probably comes as no surprise that we loved the flavor and texture of them in this creamy sauce. I’m so glad we’re having this for dinner again this week, because my mouth is already watering for it!

*By the way, I'm talking about a new application for celery on my personal blog today. You may want to check it out, especially if you have a teething baby!*

Creamy Roasted Tomato Pesto Pasta
source: adapted from The Hungry Housewife

1 pound rigatoni
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pesto
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring pasta water to boil, salt liberally, and cook pasta according to package directions.

2. In a medium bowl toss the tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with foil and pour the tomatoes onto it. Place in preheated oven and cook for about 10 minutes (You’ll know the tomatoes are ready when they begin to burst. They should be done just as you’re finishing everything else if you time it right.)

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the garlic to the butter and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour pesto into skillet and mix well. Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth. Stir in parmesan cheese and chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat 5 minutes.

4. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and toss with the pasta. Pour into a serving dish.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 7.12.10

Can you believe it's the middle of July already?! This summer is just flying by! The whole year is just flying by, in fact -- my little Will just turned six months old last week. I can't believe it!

Here's the meal plan for this week, complete with a few new dishes and a few of our favorites. But first, here's a photo of my sweet little sous chef:

It's amazing I get anything cooked with his handsome face right there beside me! It's hard not to just pinch his cheeks constantly. :)

: Greek-style chicken skillet with orzo

Tuesday: Creamy roasted tomato pesto pasta. I'll be sharing this recipe tomorrow. It's our new favorite pasta dish.

Wednesday: Chile, cheese, and bacon quesadillas, Mexican sour cream rice

Thursday: Slow cooker pork roast, potatoes, and carrots

Friday: Leftovers, sandwiches, or take-out

Saturday: Smoky macaroni and cheese

Sunday: Broccoli, salami and mozzarella stromboli (carry-over from last week)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chicken in Creamy Carrot Sauce

If you didn’t notice (which you probably did), we eat a lot of chicken in our house. We also eat a lot of dishes with cream cheese in them (I know, shocker!). And I don’t make a secret of my love for bacon, either. So when you add those three elements together, what do you get? My new favorite way to cook chicken ever. Like, EVER ever.

This dish has a really awesome flavor profile: sweet carrots, tangy cream cheese, salty bacon. We all absolutely loved this, and I’ll definitely be making it over and over again. My sauce didn’t get as thick as I would have liked, so I’ve adjusted for that in the recipe below.

I served this over brown rice, but it would be great on top of mashed potatoes too. I really can’t say enough about how good this chicken is. I can’t wait to have this again!

Chicken in Creamy Carrot Sauce
source: adapted from Kraft Foods

6 slices bacon, chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt, black pepper and garlic powder to taste

1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans sliced carrots, drained
1 14.5-ounce can chicken broth, divided
8 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, cubed

1. Cook and stir bacon in large nonstick skillet on medium heat 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet; drain on paper towels. Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add chicken to bacon drippings and cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until browned; cover. Cook 8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken to plate and cover to keep warm.

2. Let butter melt in skillet, then add onions; cook 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in carrots and 3/4 cup broth; cover. Simmer 5 minutes. Set aside 1/2 cup vegetables and allow the liquid to drain from them.

3. Place remaining broth, reserved 1/2 cup vegetables and cream cheese in blender; blend until smooth. Add sauce and chicken to vegetables in skillet; cover. Cook 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon chicken onto serving plate; top with sauce and bacon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Everyone knows that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But when life hands you strawberries -- big, ripe, juicy strawberries straight from your neighbor’s garden -- what do you do with them? Well, you eat a couple handfuls right away until your hands and face are good and stained, and then you use the rest to make ice cream.

This isn’t the strawberry cheesecake ice cream you typically see in the store -- the vanilla ice cream base with chunks of cheesecake and strawberries in it. In this version the strawberries are pureed right in so they lend their sweetness to the entire batch of ice cream. The cream cheese and chunks of graham cracker really do make this taste just like cheesecake, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds the perfect tangy element. Best of all, this ice cream doesn’t have a custard base, so it comes together in no time. Any fresh berries would be delicious using this method -- I’m trying blueberries next!

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
source: adapted from Epicurious

3/4 pound (1 quart) strawberries
8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 roughly chopped graham crackers

To make the ice cream, puree the strawberries with the cream cheese, sugar, milk, lemon juice, and salt. Stir in the heavy cream, chill completely, then freeze in an ice-cream maker. Stir in graham crackers. I served my ice cream in martini glasses rimmed with graham crackers and sugar, which is completely unnecessary but really pretty. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese

Ahhh, spinach and artichokes. It’s one of those classic ingredient combinations that almost everyone seems to love. Spinach and artichokes are delicious in dip, even better in lasagna, but they may never taste better together than they do in this macaroni and cheese.

I can’t say enough good things about this dish. It’s fast, flavorful, budget-friendly and so incredibly delicious. Joe and Andrew both loved it too, and it was a great way to sneak some extra vegetables into my toddler. I’ve found I can hide just about anything in macaroni and cheese and he’ll eat it. Needless to say, this dish will be making many repeat appearances in our house!

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese
source: adapted from Rachael Ray

1 pound short-cut pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 can chopped artichoke hearts in water, drained
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend, plus additional for sprinkling on top
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top

1. Place a large pot of water over high heat to cook the pasta. When the water is boiling, salt it well and drop in the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and reserve.

2. While the pasta is cooking, place a medium pot over medium-low heat with the olive oil and the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook the veggies until very soft, about 10 minutes.

3. Turn the heat up to medium-high and sprinkle the flour into the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, then whisk the chicken stock into the pan, cooking for another minute. Whisk the milk into the pan and bring up to a bubble. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste to the sauce and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cheeses to the sauce and stir until melted.

4. Toss the prepared sauce with the cooked pasta and transfer to a casserole dish. Sprinkle more of the cheeses over the top and broil under low heat until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lemon Tassies

These lemon tassies are by far the most time-consuming cookies I’ve ever made. And to be honest, normally I would have passed this recipe off as too complicated without a second look. But these were Martha Stewart’s Cookie of the Day on an afternoon when I was really craving something lemony, and I was powerless to resist.

I’m so glad I took the time to make these, because they were absolutely delicious. The dough was really easy to work with, the filling was creamy and smooth, and together they had the perfect amount of lemon flavor without being too tart. They lasted for a few days in the refrigerator and I really loved the way they tasted cold. I did decide to forego the candied lemon zest listed in the original recipe, since that seemed like a lot of time to dedicate to a mostly decorative element, but I kept the rest of the recipe the same. (But in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you I added a couple drops of yellow food coloring to the filling just to make them look a bit more...lemony.)

These cookies are so adorable and elegant-looking, but they really aren’t complicated to make at all. In fact, I’ll probably even make these again using orange or lime zest. Yum!

Lemon Tassies
source: adapted from Martha Stewart

For the crusts:

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for pans
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt

For the filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack in upper third. Lightly butter a 24-cup mini-muffin pan; set aside.

2. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour and butter. Pulse until mixture is the consistency of fine crumbs. Add the sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Process until evenly incorporated and smooth; do not overprocess.

3. Divide the dough into quarters. Divide each quarter into 6 pieces. Shape into balls. Place each ball in a muffin cup; press down in the centers so that the dough fits the cups snugly. Set muffin pan on a baking sheet.

4. Bake until lightly browned all over and slightly darker at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer baking sheet with muffin pan to a wire rack to cool.

5. Make the filling: In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until completely smooth.

6. Using a 1/4-ounce ice cream scoop, fill the cooled crusts. Bake until filling is set and just beginning to color at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer muffin pan to a wire rack. Let cool completely before serving.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 7.5.10

Hi guys! I'm posting the menu a day early since tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and we have a busy day planned. And Monday we'll be even busier. I have to say, though, that I'm really looking forward to it all, because the Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I love everything that goes along with it: the parades, the fireworks, the cookouts, the patriotism. Plus, it was on the Fourth of July seven years ago that my now-husband proposed to me. So that's a great memory, needless to say. :)

Anyway, without further ado, here's next week's menu. Have a Happy Fourth, everyone!

: Grilling out for the Fourth of July

Tuesday: Southwestern sausage and egg bake

Wednesday: French onion pork chop skillet, roasted asparagus (carry-over from last week)

Thursday: Chicken salad sandwiches, chips, cucumbers and veggie dip. I just use the store-bought dip because I have a particular brand I'm very loyal to (Marezetti's ranch veggie dip) (and no, no one paid me to say that).

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Broccoli, salami and mozzarella stromboli

Sunday: Chicken bacon ranch pizza

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Empty-the-Pantry Taco Soup

I know, I know, you’re like, “Soup? On the first day of July? [Side note: Can you believe it’s July already?] Is she crazy?”

Well, here’s the thing. Yes, I may be a little crazy, but I love soup year-round. Especially a soup like this that can be thrown together in five minutes and tossed in the Crock pot to cook all day. That means I get to come home to a delicious meal that I didn't have to put any effort into, and also one that doesn’t heat up my kitchen to 100 degrees. And this soup? It tastes like a taco. Seriously, you just can’t go wrong with this combination of ingredients.

This soup is absolutely delicious, and easily customizable to whatever you have on hand. Use creamed corn instead of whole kernel, which would probably give the soup great texture. Use chili-ready tomatoes instead of plain old diced tomatoes to bump up the chili flavor. Use black beans instead of pinto beans (I did). Use any toppings you want. I promise, you really just can’t go wrong with this flavor profile. It’s good in any season!

Empty-the-Pantry Taco Soup
source: adapted from Krista’s Kitchen

1 pound ground sirloin

1 chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 envelope ranch dressing mix
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can Rotel tomatoes, undrained
1 can green chilies, undrained
1 can chili beans, undrained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
4 cups beef broth
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Crushed tortilla chips

1. Cook the ground sirloin and onion in a skillet until beef is browned, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the ranch dressing and taco seasoning packets and cook and stir for another minute.

2. Transfer to slow cooker. Add the diced tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes, green chilies, beef broth, chili beans, black beans, and corn. Cook for 8 hours on Low or 4 hours on High.

3. Top each serving with a sprinkle of cheese, a dollop of sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, and any other taco toppings you like.