Friday, September 30, 2011

Pork Sandwiches with Sour Cream Sauce

I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes I see a recipe and immediately think to myself, “Oh, man, I’ve gotta make that. As soon as I can. I need to make that YESTERDAY.” These sandwiches are a perfect example of a time when that happened. I loved the idea of a pork sandwich, and even more than that, I loved the idea of sour cream sauce. I think it’s pretty apparent by now how much I love sour cream, yes?

Anyway, as soon as Carrie posted these sandwiches, I put them on our menu. I adapted the cooking method pretty significantly since I was making these on a weeknight, and they were perfect. Absolutely perfect. The pork was tender and juicy, and the onions, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese worked together perfectly. And that sauce, my word! It’s so incredibly delicious, and the perfect creamy element for these sandwiches. Add in a crispy hoagie roll, and there’s nothing not to love.

Pork Sandwiches with Sour Cream Sauce
adapted from Carrie's Sweet Life

4 boneless pork chops, at least half an inch thick
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 cup sour cream
Sliced Swiss cheese
Hoagie rolls

1. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a large skillet. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and add to butter. Cook until both sides are browned and crispy. Transfer to a baking dish and finish cooking in a 350-degree oven.

2. To drippings in skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are softened and mushrooms begin to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

3. Remove pork chops from oven. Let the pork chops rest, then thinly slice them and remove them to a foil-covered plate to keep warm.

4. And add juices from the pork's baking dish to drippings in skillet, scraping the drippings off the bottom of the pan with a whisk or wooden spoon. Stir in sour cream. If sauce is too thick, add just enough water to thin it to desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Top each hoagie roll with sliced pork, mushrooms and onions, and two slices of Swiss cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and roll is crispy. Top with sour cream sauce.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bacon Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes

I’m always looking for ways to put a spin on traditional sloppy joes. They’re one of my go-to meals when I want something that’s quick, easy, and sure to please my whole family. I’ve tried lots of variations, but I must say that these bacon cheeseburger sloppy joes are one of my favorite versions to date.

This recipe was inspired by one I saw in one of my (many) Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. That version was basically just ground beef, nacho cheese soup, and ketchup, but I knew I could adapt it into something absolutely delicious. I was successful!

These sloppy joes taste exactly like a bacon cheeseburger, only in loosemeat form. They’re so cheesy and delicious. They were definitely a hit with my family, and I’m sure you’ll love them too!

Bacon Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes
inspired by Better Homes and Gardens Fast Fix Family Food

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 10.75-ounce can nacho cheese soup
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise and pickles for serving
Sandwich buns

1. Add bacon to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until crisp and remove to paper towels to drain. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease from the pan.

2. Add ground beef and onion to reserved bacon grease. When beef is browned and cooked through, stir in garlic. Cook and stir for 30 seconds. Drain off excess grease.

3. Add nacho cheese soup, ketchup, and mustard to meat mixture. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat through. Add reserved bacon. (If the mixture is too thick, you can add more ketchup or even some beef broth to loosen it up.)

4. Serve on sandwich buns spread with mayonnaise. Top with pickles.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Caramel-Filled Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

I don’t know how it is where you live, but around here canned pumpkin takes a really long time to hit the shelves in the fall. Last week was the first time I saw it at the grocery stores – and believe me, I’ve been checking every major supermarket in my area for the past few weeks. I was finally able to snag two large cans of pumpkin puree, and I wasted no time baking with it, since my husband has been just as anxious for pumpkin baked goods as I have been.

I knew I wanted to make some sort of cookie, and I came across a recipe for pumpkin snickerdoodles that sounded perfect. And then I remembered a recipe I’d pinned on Pinterest for caramel-filled snickerdoodles...and it just seemed to make sense to me to combine the two. Pumpkin + caramel + snickerdoodles = YES PLEASE.

These cookies are amazing. They’re nice and soft inside, with that crackly, spicy-sweet coating that snickerdoodles are known for. The gooey caramel center and subtle pumpkin flavor take them over the top to some magical place beyond delicious. I used half a caramel per cookie, but probably could have gotten away with stuffing an entire caramel in there.

If you have kids, this is a great way to involve them in your baking (not that mine ever need any encouragement). My older son was a huge help with these, putting caramels in the indentations that I made in the balls of cookie dough, and then rolling the re-formed balls in the sugar-and-spice mixture. He enjoyed helping me almost as much as he enjoyed eating the end product!

Caramel-Filled Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
adapted from Recipe Girl and The Baker Chick

For the cookies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
18 caramel candies, unwrapped and halved

For the rolling sugar:

1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until fluffy. Add sugar and pumpkin puree and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time just until incorporated.

3. Cover dough with plastic and chill at least an hour, or until dough becomes slightly firm.

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray with non-stick spray). Mix rolling sugar ingredients in a small bowl.

5. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 tablespoons) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Make an indentation in the center of each ball and stuff the caramel inside, then reform the ball around the caramel.

6. Use your hands to roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and make sure they're coated really well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Use a glass with a flat bottom to dip in sugar and slightly flatten the balls.

7. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they are slightly firm to the touch (mine took the full 14). Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes or so, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Dip Pizza

The thing I love most about food blogging is connecting with others through food. Food is such a universal language, and it’s been so much fun for me to share the recipes my family loves with all of you – and to hear about the ones that you love as well. I get lots of e-mails from readers and friends, recommending a certain recipe or dish to me because they thought it sounded like something I would like. I think that’s so cool! And apparently I am very transparent, because whenever this happens (and it happens a lot!), the recipe is almost always something I’ve already had my eye on for quite some time. Either that, or it’s something I can’t believe I hadn’t already thought of myself – like this pizza.

My friend Jessie e-mailed me about this pizza soon after she tried a version of it at a pizza place. She said she couldn’t wait to share it with me, and that she knew it was something I would love. And as soon as she described it in her e-mail, I knew I would without question be trying it. I put it on the menu that very week.

Spinach artichoke dip. On pizza. It’s...I just...I can’t even, you guys. I can’t describe how amazing this pizza tastes. There are just no words. So, okay, it’s far from the healthiest thing to have for dinner...But it’s the perfect meal for a once-in-a-while indulgence. Give it a try, and tell me it’s not the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Pizza
inspired by Jessie

1 pizza crust (store-bought or homemade)
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can artichokes in water, drained and roughly chopped
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 cup sour cream or mayonnaise
A few tablespoons of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Italian-blend cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Pre-bake pizza crust, if necessary, according to the directions on the package or your recipe.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add artichokes and cook for a few minutes.

3. Stir in spinach, cream cheese, sour cream or mayonnaise, milk, salt and pepper, and 1 cup of cheese. Stir until completely blended and smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

4. Spread dip mixture on top of pizza crust, leaving a half-inch border around the edges. Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese, parmesan and halved tomatoes.

5. Bake according to package directions or recipe, until crust is browned and crispy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

BBQ Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Wraps

I generally enjoy cooking dinner for my family during the week, believe it or not, which I’m sure makes me different from lots of working moms. Very rarely do I see cooking as a “hassle.” I don’t mind coming home, getting my sons settled in with coloring books or a cartoon (or an apron, if they feel like helping) and beginning the process of making dinner. I think it helps that I always plan our meals, so I almost never have the sorts of nights when I stand in front of the cupboard and wonder what in the world I’m going to make.

But then sometimes I have a really long day, and nothing goes right from the instant I open my eyes in the morning, and I am counting the seconds until bedtime (the boys’ and mine). And on those days, I’m glad I have recipes like this chicken salad in my cooking arsenal. It comes together really quickly from ingredients I always have on hand, and it’s an absolutely delicious lunch or dinner. You can make it ahead of time or make it the night you serve it, but either way it takes almost no time at all. I think we’ve established by now that the chicken/bacon/ranch combo is one of my favorites, so when you add those things to cheese and BBQ sauce? Well, in my book, you can’t possibly go wrong.

BBQ Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Wraps
adapted from Krista’s Kitchen

2 cups shredded white meat chicken
4 slices bacon, fried until crisp and crumbled
2 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Flour tortillas, warmed

Combine all ingredients except for tortillas. Top each warmed tortilla with some of the chicken mixture. Wrap and serve. (You could also put some baby spinach in the wraps, which I think would be delicious in combination with the other flavors.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.26.11

I’m absolutely in shock that we’re entering the last week of September already. How did that happen? It’s officially fall, my favorite season, and I’d really start to enjoy it more if it would stop raining. I did finally get my hands on some canned pumpkin puree, so I’ve spent the entire weekend filling my house with the delicious spicy smells of baking. And I have couple of great recipes to share with you soon!

In the meantime, here’s the meal plan. Almost all of these recipe are new to me, and almost all of them were found on Pinterest. I may be ever so slightly obsessed.

Monday: Creamy baked spaghetti with French-fried onions

Tuesday: Bacon rosemary chicken with maple-mashed sweet potatoes, green beans

Wednesday: Bruschetta chicken bake

Thursday: South of the border sandwiches and chips

Friday: Slow cooker cheesy chicken and rice

Saturday: Pretzel-crusted chicken tenders with pepper-jack dipping sauce. I made a version of these chicken tenders a couple of weeks ago. I want to tweak the recipe to make it perfect, then I’ll be sharing it post-haste. So, so good!

Sunday: Chicken tetrazzini, steamed broccoli, rolls

Friday, September 23, 2011

Burger and Fries Friday: Chicken Burgers with Rosemary-Garlic Mayonnaise

It’s time for another installment of Burger and Fries Friday! Somehow I let the entire summer pass without sharing a new burger recipe. The horror!

Go ahead and have a laugh at that gigantic chicken burger on that tiny little sandwich bun. This, my friends, is what happens when you assume you have burger buns in the freezer, but it turns out you don’t. So I had to use the smaller buns in a pinch. (Smaller buns, incidentally, are something I wish I had in other aspects of my life. Know what I mean?)

Anyway, the smaller sandwich buns actually worked out perfectly in this instance, because it made it even easier to focus on the incredible flavor of this delicious burger. I knew Sarah of A Taste of Home Cooking wouldn’t steer me wrong (she never has before!) so I knew these were going to be a hit – and they were. I loved that some of the mayonnaise mixture was added directly to the ground chicken itself, giving the meat tons of flavor and a really moist texture. I’d probably scale back the rosemary a bit next time for my own personal tastes, but Joe said he wouldn’t change a thing.

I couldn’t resist topping these with a slice of juicy, fresh tomato and some melted provolone, making an already delicious burger taste even better.

Chicken Burgers with Rosemary-Garlic Mayonnaise
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking

For the mayonnaise:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 clove garlic, grated

For the burgers:

1 pound ground chicken
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 sandwich rolls or burger buns
Sliced provolone cheese
Sliced tomatoes

1. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, garlic, and rosemary; set aside.

2. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill or place a grill pan over medium-high heat. In a large bowl, add the ground chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 of the mayonnaise mixture. Using clean hands, gently combine the ingredients and form the chicken mixture into 4 patties.

3. Place the burgers on the grill and cook for about 7 minutes on each side. Transfer to paper towels and let rest for a few minutes.

4. Brush the cut side of each roll with 1 teaspoon of the mayonnaise mixture. Toast until golden brown.

5. To assemble the burgers, spread a dollop of the remaining mayonnaise mixture on the tops and bottoms of the toasted buns. Place the chicken burgers on the bottom halves of the buns. Top each with a slice of provolone and a slice of tomato and finish with the top half of the bun.

One year ago: Chicken tortilla casserole

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

I’ll be the first to admit that I love me some Velveeta. It’s great in casseroles and dips and, of course, macaroni and cheese. It just has that creamy texture that no other cheese can match…that is, until now. This recipe for macaroni and cheese tastes even better than a version made with Velveeta, and it’s every bit as creamy. When I saw the rave reviews that Jessica gave it, I knew I had to try it. She’s from Ohio; I trust her judgment completely! ;)

I’d honestly never seen a version of mac and cheese made like this before. And I’ve made lots of mac and cheese. It’s made with two eggs (think carbonara, but minus the bacon, although bacon would be delicious in this), which, in combination with evaporated milk, serve to give it that super creamy, luxurious, silky texture. This comes together very quickly, and you won’t believe how delicious it is.

One word of warning: The longer you let this sit, the less creamy it’ll become. So serve it immediately. Once you make it, you’ll want to eat it once a week (or even more often, in my case).

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Sunny Side Up in San Diego

16 ounces cavatappi or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
12-ounce can evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese
Salt to taste

1. Boil pasta 1 to 2 minutes short of the suggested time on the box. In the meantime, combine the evaporated milk, eggs, mustard powder, and pepper in a large measuring cup and whisk together.

2. Drain the pasta in a colander and then return it right back to the hot pan. Reduce heat to low. Add the butter and stir until melted.

3. Carefully add the egg mixture to the pan, stirring constantly to avoid making scrambled eggs. Stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Add the cheese in 4 to 5 increments, making sure that each addition is completely melted before adding the next. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chocolate Peanutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Really, these are chocolate peanut butter Nutella chocolate chip cookies, but I like the sound of “peanutella.” A fun and delicious new word!

And were these cookies ever delicious. I made them on a day when I was craving cookies but had very limited ingredients in the house. Most significantly, I wanted Nutella chocolate chip cookies but I only had one egg, so my usual recipe wouldn’t fly. I quickly found another recipe that called for only one egg, so I was good to go. When I was grabbing the Nutella from the cupboard, I saw the peanut butter, and I thought, Why not?

Nutella and peanut butter were absolutely made for each other, and they work so well together in these cookies. They have a flavor that is out of this world and a perfect texture, too. Joe declared them the best cookies I’d ever made, and they held that title until they were overtaken by the red velvet chocolate chip cookie sandwiches I made recently (recipe coming soon).

These cookies are sinfully delicious and decadent, and you should rush to the kitchen and make them as soon as you can. If your pantry looks anything like mine, you probably already have all of these ingredients on hand. :)

Chocolate Peanutella Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Lovin’ From the Oven

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Nutella
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1. Mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.

2. Cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in Nutella and peanut butter and vanilla extract. Mix in egg.

3. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add chocolate chips.

4. Chill for at least 1 hour.

5. Drop tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes until the edges look set. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove to cooling racks.

One year ago: Classic fried rice

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ranchero Chicken Crostada

There are a couple of alternate titles that would fit this recipe perfectly. One is “Savory Mexican Chicken Taco Pizza Pie.” The other is the one that I prefer, which is “Complete and Total Deliciousness.”

When you start out with a list of ingredients like the ones below, there’s really no way possible that the end result could taste bad. I love the way the ranch seasoning blend works with the Mexican spices and vegetables in this dish. I played around with the filling ingredients a little bit, and I mixed together equal parts ranch dressing and sour cream to dollop on the top. You could even prepare the filling the night before to make this perfect for a weeknight dinner. It doesn’t take very long, it’s a break from the norm, and it’s really, really delicious.

Ranchero Chicken Crostada
adapted from My Recipe Box

1 prepared pie crust, thawed
2 cups shredded chicken
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 to 1 1/2 cups mild salsa
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided
Ranch dressing and sour cream for serving

1. Roll crust onto baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In large mixing bowl, mix chicken, beans, corn, salsa, ranch dressing mix, chili powder, cumin, and 1/2 cup shredded cheese.

3. Spread chicken mixture onto pie dough leaving a 1-2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Fold the border up over chicken to make a deep-dish pizza-like crust, forming pleats every 2 inches or so. Brush olive oil on crust.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then cut into triangular slices. Stir together equal parts ranch dressing and sour cream, and dollop on each serving.

One year ago: Chicken cordon bleu in pastry

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches

I’ve been using my slow cooker more and more lately. I used it a lot this summer, and I think I’m using it this week for four different meals. More than any other method of cooking, slow cooking works perfectly with my lifestyle. Being a full-time working mom of two energetic little boys doesn’t leave a lot of time to get dinner on the table. I love that using my Crock pot allows me to cook things while I’m not even at home, and the results are always so tasty.

A while ago, when I posted this recipe for chipotle beef tacos, I mentioned how my grocery store often has a “buy 1 get 1 free” special on beef roasts. I always stockpile when that happens – it just makes frugal sense. When I saw this recipe, I knew I’d be using one of my hoarded roasts for these sandwiches. Plus – look at the short list of ingredients! Short ingredient lists are a budget cook’s best friend.

These sandwiches are quite delicious, and even the boys liked the flavor of the meat. The leftovers are really versatile, too; I used ours for pot roast hash and eggs, but I could also see the meat being delicious wrapped up in flour tortillas or even cooked into an omelet.

Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches
slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

Salt and pepper to taste (at least 1/2 teaspoon of each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-pound beef roast, trimmed of excess fat
5 cloves minced garlic
1 16-ounce jar sliced pepperoncinis, undrained
Crusty sandwich rolls
Sliced provolone cheese

1. Heat oil in a pot or high-sided skillet over high heat. While the oil is heating, combine the salt and pepper and rub it into the meat. Add more if necessary. When the oil is hot, sear the roast on all sides so the outsides of it is browned and a little crispy.

2. Transfer the roast to a slow cooker and add the minced garlic and the entire jar of pepperoncinis. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until the beef is fork tender.

3. For sandwiches, slice the rolls. Spread them lightly with mayonnaise and then top with the shredded beef. Add a slice of provolone cheese and then place under the broiler for 1 to 3 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.19.11

I had the hardest time coming up with a meal plan this week. First of all, I was incredibly busy at work, and the last thing I felt like doing when I finally had time to relax after the boys were in bed was sit in front of the computer, choosing meals and writing out a grocery list. And secondly, I was just feeling uninspired. You'd think I would be the opposite of that, what with it being fall now and the start of a new "food season," but it is what it is. I even had to ask Joe for help this week, and didn't end up deciding on a plan until Friday night. Now that I have, though, I'm really excited about all of these meals.

Monday: Cream cheese chicken, green beans, rolls. I've seen this dish called "angel chicken," and I've seen it called "Italian chicken," but no words are sweeter to me than "cream cheese," so that's the name I prefer. ;) 

Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread. This meal was selected by Joe. I haven't shared the particular meatball recipe I'm going to use this time yet, but it's Joe's favorite. I make spicy sausage meatballs and pan-fry them, then finish them in sauce. I'll definitely share the recipe this time. 

Wednesday: Sweet pork tacos with cilantro ranch dressing. I found this recipe on Pinterest and was immediately drooling. Pork roast marinated in brown sugar and Coca-Cola, then drizzled with a yummy creamy dressing? Yes please! I think the boys will really love this one too. 

Thursday: “Whatever” night. Joe has a softball game, so it’ll just be the boys and me. In our house, this usually means I eat a couple of eggs and toast, and the boys have peanut butter and honey sandwiches, pretzels, and yogurt. Quick and easy. 

Friday: Hawaiian pulled BBQ chicken sliders, chips. When I told Joe about these sandwiches, he made a face. I'm betting that once he tries them, he'll love them. And even if he doesn't, I know I will! I'm using King's Hawaiian rolls for the sliders. 

Saturday: Baked chicken chimichangas and Mexican sour cream rice. I had these chimis on the meal plan a few weeks ago, but didn't end up making them for whatever reason. They sound incredible, so I'm really excited to try them! I'll make a double batch of the rice, so we have enough for this meal and the next night's. 

Sunday: Taco wonton cups and Mexican sour cream rice. I didn't mean to put so much Mexican food on the menu this week, but once I noticed it I'd already made out my shopping list and I wasn't about to go back and change it all around. Besides, it was a happy accident, because Mexican food is my favorite. This recipe uses cupcake pans and wontons, and I'm sure these will taste just as delicious as they look. So cute, right?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Chicken Bacon Ranch Chili

Ohhh, man, do I have a delicious recipe to share this week.

This chili was inspired by two Rachael Ray recipes -- this one and this one. Rachael shared the turkey version on a recent episode of 30 Minute Meals, and I immediately knew I'd be making it. When I checked her website a few days later, I found the chicken version. And that's when my wheels really started turning.

What goes perfectly with chicken and ranch dressing? That's right. Bacon. It's just one of those magical flavor combinations for me. Mix 'em all up together in a pot of spicy chili, and it's bound to be delicious.

I'm no stranger to putting ranch dressing in chili. Back in the day, when I was a waitress at the Waffle House (Have I ever told you about that experience? Remind me to do that sometime.), I used to put ranch dressing in my chili all the time. Both of Rachael's versions were white(ish) chilis, but I knew I wanted mine to have some tomatoes in it to echo the chili-ranch combo I used to love so much. So I added some. 

Rachael used poblanos, I used jalapenos. Rachael used ground chicken (or turkey), I used chopped chicken breast. Rachael used a combination of herbs and sour cream for her dressing, I used store-bought drizzled over the top (and added a packet of dry ranch, too, to up the flavor). And then, you guys, in what was possibly one of my most brilliant moves of all time, I topped the chili with a pile of tortilla strips that I fried in bacon grease. Have you lost all respect for me? I don't care, it was amazing. The bacon added such a great richness to the chili, which paired perfectly with the spice and the creamy, cool dressing.

Definitely, definitely try this chili. We loved it, and I'll make it again for sure. And be sure to check out Taste and Tell's Saturdays with Rachael Ray!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Chili
heavily adapted from Rachael Ray

1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 can white beans (Great Northern or cannelini), drained and rinsed
Ranch dressing
Shredded cheddar cheese
Flour tortillas

1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon until crispy; set aside on paper towels to drain. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease from the skillet and reserve.

2. To Dutch oven, add chicken and cook over medium-high heat until browned and nearly cooked through. Stir in onion, garlic, and jalapeno; cook until vegetables are slightly softened. Season with chili powder, cumin, ranch dressing mix, and salt and pepper. 

3. Add chicken stock and, with a wooden spoon, release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomatoes, beans and reserved bacon and simmer over medium-low heat until heated through, bubbly, and slightly thickened.

4. While chili is cooking, heat reserved bacon grease in a shallow skillet over moderate heat. Add flour tortillas, one at a time, and cook until browned and crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain. Cut tortillas into strips.

5. To assemble chili, ladle into bowls. Top with a sprinkling of shredded cheese, a pile of tortilla strips, and a generous drizzle of ranch dressing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pizza Chex Mix

This is barely a recipe, really. It is, however, a completely addictive snack, and would be the perfect thing to munch on during a football game this weekend.

I was intrigued when I saw this recipe. Pepperoni and cheese with Chex Mix? Really? How good could that be? The answer is really, really good. It sounds a little strange, but it’s delicious. I would recommend mixing it all together right before you serve it, because otherwise the cheese and pepperoni will make the Chex Mix a little soggy. It won’t ruin your enjoyment of it, though, which I know from firsthand experience.

Pizza Chex Mix
adapted from Betty Crocker

1 8.75-ounce bag traditional Chex Mix
1 cup mini pepperoni
1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately and enjoy.

One year ago: Nutella mousse tartlets

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Autumn Chopped Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Like a lot of people I know, I’m addicted to Pinterest. I enjoy it not just for recipes, but also for crafts and home decoration ideas. But mostly, if I’m being completely honest, for recipes. The recipes I may actually do something with. Finding the time to craft and redecorate is much harder. But finding the time to make this salad was easy!

I absolutely loved all the flavors of this salad. It’s composed of pears, bacon, quick-candied pecans, dried cranberries, and feta cheese, all tossed with crispy romaine and drizzled with maple vinaigrette. The pears and pecans provide sweetness, the bacon and feta give it saltiness, and the cranberries and the vinaigrette provide another level of tangy sweetness. What a delicious ode to the flavors of autumn.

Joe was pleasantly surprised by the salad, too. I don’t think he expected to like it, but he really did – especially the dressing, which I threw together on a whim instead of using the poppy seed dressing and balsamic vinaigrette called for in the original recipe. I thought the maple would work really well with the other flavors, and it did. We both loved this, and we’d planned to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day…but there were none. That’s how good it was!

Autumn Chopped Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
salad adapted from Espresso and Cream; dressing is my recipe

For the salad:

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 medium pear, thinly sliced
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
1 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

For the maple vinaigrette:

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add pecans and cook until lightly toasted and fragrant. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook until slightly caramelized. Remove from heat to cool.

2. In a large bowl or on a serving platter, combine the lettuce, pear, bacon, cranberries and feta cheese. Stir in pecans.

3. To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar and maple syrup. Whisk in olive oil until thoroughly combined. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drizzle dressing over salad.

One year ago: Mint cookies and cream ice cream

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Caribbean Jerk Chicken Tacos

I’m pretty sure that this is one of the only recipes on my blog that I haven’t eaten more than a single bite of. Not because it’s not delicious (which, according to Joe, it absolutely, 100% is), but because I got a migraine the night I made this for dinner which made me sick to my stomach. As a result, this meal (which I’d been looking forward to all week, of course) seemed incredibly unappealing all of a sudden – as did all food. The headache hit me halfway through cooking, and by the time I’d served my family the only thing I had any energy for was curling up on the couch and whimpering.

So, here’s what Joe had to say about these tacos, straight from his mouth to your ears eyes: “At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like them, because I thought the cinnamon taste was weird. But then I had a few bites and they really grew on me. They’re [expletive deleted] delicious. So is the mango salsa.”

Now if that isn’t a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is! Get that man a food blog!

I know this recipe is really long and it looks complicated, but honestly, most of it is just spices. It’s not too difficult at all, especially if you make the salsa ahead of time. The beans and the chicken mixture both come together really quickly.

I do plan to try these tacos again on a night when I'm feeling better. I mean, look how gorgeous they are! How could they not taste good?!

Caribbean Jerk Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa
adapted from Macaroni and Cheesecake

For the chicken:

2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime

For the black beans:

1/4 cup chopped red onion
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 can black beans, slightly drained
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of 1/2 lime

For the mango salsa:

2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Flour tortillas
Sour cream

1. For the chicken: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low. Add chicken and all seasonings. Stir to combine. Add in lime juice, red wine vinegar and 1 to 2 more tablespoons of olive oil (depending on how moist it is). Stir to combine and cook until chicken is heated through. Add more olive oil if chicken needs more moisture.

2. For the black beans: In a medium sized pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Pour in black beans and add in garlic powder and additional olive oil. Stir to combine and allow to cook down until most of the liquid is dissolved. Mash with the back of a spoon. Keep on low heat until ready to use. Right before you use it add a squeeze of lime and stir to combine.

3. For the mango salsa: Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. For assembly: Begin with a flour tortilla, spread a thin layer of the black bean mash across the center of the tortilla. Top with chicken, then sour cream, then mango salsa.

One year ago: Creamy burrito casserole

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cinnamon Buttermilk Pancakes with Peach Butter

Here’s a simple truth about me: You can put the word “butter” in combination with most other foods in the title of a recipe, and I’m going to want it. Honey butter. Basil butter. Butter baked chicken. Cranberry butter. And, in this case, peach butter. PEACH BUTTER. Yes, please!

As soon as I saw this recipe, I was in love with the idea of making a compound butter with peaches for pancakes, but I didn’t feel like making the sweet potato pancakes that Rebecca made. So I made cinnamon buttermilk ones instead. The combination was wonderful, and it was made even better by a generous helping of warm maple syrup. As long as your butter is softened, this meal is ready in no time, and it’s such a delicious breakfast or dinner treat. I used canned peaches because I hadn’t been to the farmers’ market and the peaches at the supermarket weren’t looking so great, and the canned ones worked just fine.

Cinnamon Buttermilk Pancakes with Peach Butter
pancakes adapted from Allrecipes; peach butter adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

For the pancakes:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the peach butter:

1/4 cup canned peaches, diced
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Combine all pancake ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth.

2. Pour batter onto the griddle using a 1/4 measuring cup. Flip pancakes when edges appear to harden. Cook pancakes on other side for same amount of time until golden brown.

3. In a small bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whisk in peaches and serve on top of pancakes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.12.11

Monday: Chicken bacon ranch chili, adapted from this Rachael Ray recipe.

Tuesday: Autumn chopped salad. Just one of the (many) delicious-sounding recipes I’ve found through Pinterest.

Wednesday: Pretzel-crusted chicken with pepper-jack cheese sauce, steamed broccoli, rice pilaf. Chicken with a spicy, cheesy sauce? Yes please!

Thursday: Creamed chicken over biscuits. One of my mama’s specialties, and still one of my favorites. I actually think this recipe deserves a new post with an updated photo.

Friday: Taco rice. A quick, easy, and yummy dinner for a Friday night.

Saturday: Braised beef with potatoes and tomatoes, garlic bread. This is Rachael Ray's Italian grandpa's recipe, so I know it's going to be amazing!

Sunday: Vegetable lasagna, salad. It's finally cool enough for lasagna again! Yay!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Mac and Cheese Suiza

This mac and cheese can really be described in one word: YUM. It. is. delicious. It takes all the flavors of enchiladas suizas and combines them with macaroni and cheese. Rachael Ray really is the master of dishes that combine two well-loved meals into one, but she’s outdone herself this time. This macaroni and cheese skyrocketed right to the top of my favorites list – and you know I’ve tried quite a few versions.

Joe liked this too, although not quite as much as I did. He said it wasn’t “cheesy enough.” This sort of boggled my mind, actually, considering that it contains three cups of cheese. The only thing I can think of is that the Swiss I bought was too mild, and that in combination with the mild Monterey jack didn’t add enough cheesy flavor for him. I thought it was pretty perfect, myself.

I replaced the tomatillos in the original recipe with jarred salsa verde, since tomatillos aren’t readily available in my supermarket. It was a fine substitution, and wasn’t nearly as much work as husking the tomatillos would have been. I’ll absolutely make this again.

Be sure to check out Taste and Tell’s Saturdays with Rachael Ray for more awesome recipes! (This week Deborah made the chicken sandwiches I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. You really must try those!)

Mac and Cheese Suiza
adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray

1 pound short pasta
1 16-ounce jar salsa verde
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup sour cream

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, then return to the pot.

2. While the pasta is working, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the salsa verde, honey and cumin; season with salt. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Swiss and Monterey jack cheeses.

4. Preheat a broiler. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and toss. Spread half of the pasta in a 9- x 13-inch baking dish and top with half of the salsa verde sauce; repeat the layers. Sprinkle the chips and pepper jack cheese on top. Broil until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the sour cream.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Greek Grilled Chicken Orzo Salad

This, right here, is the kind of food I crave. Lots of people crave sweets (and that happens to me occasionally), but I usually crave things that are tangy, sour, and savory. That bowl of food, right there? It’s my idea of perfection.

For weeks, I couldn’t get my mind off of a gigantic Greek salad with all the fixins: cucumber, red onion, feta, a tangy vinaigrette. I finally got around to putting it on our menu, but when I spotted some orzo in the cupboard, I decided to make a pasta salad rather than a traditional lettuce-based one. I basically emptied out the fridge and the pantry with this one, composing the salad with what I had on hand: half a cucumber, a couple of handfuls of feta crumbles, a can of green olives, half a red pepper and half a red onion. I also stirred in some chicken that I marinated and grilled, and topped it all off with a tangy, slightly sweet red wine vinaigrette.

This was so incredibly good, I can’t even begin to explain it. Even the boys ate more than their share. The char on the chicken added such wonderful flavor to the salad. The wonderful thing about orzo is that it plumps up so much when you cook it, so just using a couple of cups yielded enough pasta salad for me to take the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Some baby spinach would be delicious stirred in here too.

Greek Grilled Chicken Orzo Salad

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups orzo
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups pitted green olives, sliced (you could use black or kalamata, but I prefer the flavor and brininess of the green; these are our favorite)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, oregano, and salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to combine. Cover and marinate at least 30 minutes. Grill chicken until cooked through, then dice.

2. Meanwhile, cook orzo according to package directions in boiling salted water; drain in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, the red wine vinegar, the honey, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. To assemble the salad, stir together the orzo, chicken, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, olives and feta. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss to combine. Refrigerate until serving.

One year ago: Broccoli, salami, and mozzarella pizza pockets

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Italian BLTs

I don’t know when or why this idea came to me. I think I was randomly thinking about BLTs one day (I randomly think about food a lot, don’t you? …Oh, just me?), and it just hit me that pesto mayonnaise would be delicious on a BLT (since it’s delicious on so many other things). It wasn’t a far stretch to add mozzarella cheese to the equation, and substitute shredded romaine for the traditional iceberg lettuce. And thus, this delicious Italian-style BLT was born.

I love the flavors and textures of this BLT. The pesto adds another layer of flavor to the mayonnaise, and it works so well with the smoky bacon. The mayonnaise is slightly grainy, the cheese is gooey, the tomatoes are juicy, the bacon is crispy and so is the lettuce. It’s so incredibly tasty.

You can use fresh mozzarella for these if you want. It would melt on the sandwiches nicely. But if you’re a budget shopper like me and the fresh stuff is a little pricey for you, the shredded version is fine. You could also use sliced provolone. I used an entire pound of bacon (about 16 slices), which yielded four slices per sandwich. Well, okay: A couple of the sandwiches may have had only three slices, because I couldn’t resist stealing some for myself. I’m the cook; it’s my right.

I just thought of something: You could also serve this on garlic bread. Oh, man, I’m going to try that. I’ll report back if I haven’t died from deliciousness.

Italian BLTs

1 pound cooked bacon
1 romaine heart, shredded
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
Shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared pesto
8 slices toasted bread

1. Combine mayonnaise and pesto. Spread each slice of bread with pesto mayonnaise.

2. Layer bacon, cheese, tomato, and shredded lettuce on four slices of bread; top with other four slices. Serve immediately.

One year ago: Chicken parmesan cakes