Friday, March 29, 2013

March Re-Make Re-Cap

Oh my gosh, I can't believe I haven't posted for a week! This entire month has just gone by in a blur; I'm busy at home, busy at work, and have absolutely  no energy for anything because the winter weather is really starting to take its toll. Thankfully it's finally starting to warm up around here, at least a little bit, and I can already start to feel my attitude and energy levels improving.

Despite not having a lot of energy, I've been making some fantastic dinners lately. Most of them are new, though (and I'll share them in the coming weeks), so the re-make re-cap this month is pretty light.

On the night I made this farfalle with bacon, onions, and gouda, the dinner table was completely silent because we were all so busy stuffing our faces. These ingredients are staples for me (yes, we've reached the point in food blogging where gouda cheese is a staple in my home), so this is a great meal to pull together when I don't have a lot of time or inspiration to cook. It's so, so delicious.

Every year during the week of Dr. Seuss's birthday, the boys' school celebrates by devoting an entire week to Dr. Seuss. Each day has a theme based around one of his books, and I always take green egg candies on Green Eggs and Ham day (which also happens to be pajama day). They're always a huge hit with the kids and, with only two ingredients, they're a cinch to prepare.

This Mexican sour cream rice is one of our favorite side dishes whenever we have Mexican food. While it's probably not very traditional, it is absolutely delicious: creamy, cheesy, and mild enough for the boys to enjoy. I can't wait to share the chicken that I served it with when I made it this month.

We love these shrimp po' boys so much that we could easily eat them once a week. Maybe even twice a week. There's just something about the combination of crunchy and succulent shrimp, crisp lettuce, spicy sauce, and juicy tomato that is so irresistible. This time, instead of soaking the shrimp in regular milk, I used buttermilk that I had left over from another recipe. It made the shrimp taste even better, so I'll continue to do that whenever I make these.

I've been making these Tuscan-style grilled chicken sandwiches for years, and they're still a family favorite. This time, I used chicken left over from another recipe (which I'll share soon, because YUM) and, after layering on the mozzarela and artichokes, I put the sandwiches in a warm oven to melt the cheese. I think I preferred them with the melted cheese, and I don't know why I never thought about doing that before.

This broccoli salad is one of the dishes I'm making for Easter dinner this year, and Joe's family (with whom we're having dinner) is practically forcing me to make it. I make it a lot for get-togethers with his family, and they are all insane about this stuff. I usually double the recipe when I make it for family gatherings, but this time they asked me to quadruple it, because they're always disappointed to not have seconds. If you haven't tried it, you really need to remedy that soon. It's amazing.

I'm also making carrot cake for Easter. Joe's grandma loves it, and I'm always happy when I make something she likes since she's an amazing cook. I love this recipe so much, and I think the best thing about it is how simple it is. There's nothing fancy or complicated about the recipe, but it truly is the best carrot cake I've ever tried.

The boys have been talking about Easter for weeks now, and I can't wait to see their faces on Sunday morning when they see all of the goodies the Easter Bunny brought for them. I'd like to wish all of you a Happy Easter! I promise I'll be better about posting next week. :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Burger and Fries Friday: Bruschetta Burgers

It's spring! Yay! And also: HA. The joke is on us, because it was 19 degrees outside this morning. It was so cold, in fact, that my digital temperature display simple read: ICE. I think it, too, has just given up and decided to go into hibernation until warmer temperatures finally arrive.

It may still feel like winter outside where I live, but the fact is that it is spring, so I'm craving all kinds of spring and summer favorites -- one of which is bruschetta. Man, I love bruschetta. When I saw this idea for a burger, I couldn't believe I'd never thought of it before. Fresh, flavorful bruschetta, piled atop a cheeseburger. Betstill my heart.

I used my friend W's recipe for brushcetta, because her recipe is what I always use. It's just the best. I topped the burgers with provolone cheese, a generous pile of the bruschetta, and a smear of balsamic-infused mayonnaise, and put the whole business on a bun that I broiled like garlic bread. Ohhh yeah. That's really all I can say.

Bruschetta Burgers
inspired by Cookies and Cups

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (more to taste, if desired)

6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup basil, sliced into a chiffonade
1/4 cup finely-shredded asiago cheese
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 garlic clove, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil (I usually use a couple of tablespoons)

4 hamburger burger patties
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices provolone cheese

4 sandwich buns
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Pinch each of salt and pepper

1. Combine the mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl; refrigerate until serving.

2. Combine tomatoes, basil, asiago, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil in another small bowl; cover and refrigerate until serving.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season burger patties with salt and pepper and cook, turning once, until desired doneness. Top each patty with a slice of cheese and remove from heat.

4. Combine butter, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Spread evenly over each bun half and place buttered-side-up on a baking sheet. Broil until browned and fragrant.

5. Serve the hamburgers on the garlic bread buns, topped with a generous pile of bruschetta and a slather of the balsamic mayonnaise.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spicy Chicken Fried Rice with Peanuts

Has it really been a week since I last posted? I didn't intend for it to be quite that long, although I have been up to quite a few things since my last post -- including having my 30th birthday and painting and completely redecorating my kitchen. So I've been busy, but I've been doing some pretty exciting things!

I know I've professed my love for Cooking Light here many, many times, and I'm about to do it again. I recently went on a cookbook-buying spree (like I need anymore cookbooks...) and purchased a few more of Cooking Light's Annual Recipe volumes. I mean, I found three of them used on Amazon for 1 cent a could I pass that up? I'm not made of stone! This chicken fried rice recipe comes from the 2011 edition, and I wasn't surprised when we all loved it. In my experience, Cooking Light's recipes consistently knock it out of the park more than any other cooking magazine.

This stir fry is a little spicy, a little sweet, a little salty, and totally delicious. The additions of peanuts and bean sprouts give it such a nice crunch. You can use water chestnuts instead of the bean sprouts, but I don't typically use them because Joe doesn't like them. The bean sprouts were a delicious substitute. This came together pretty quickly, and we all had seconds. I really can't ask for more out of a meal than that!

Spicy Chicken Fried Rice with Peanuts

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 diced red bell pepper
1 diced yellow bell pepper
1 diced white onion
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, divided
4 cups cooked rice (use leftovers or Minute rice cooked as directed)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup fresh bean sprouts

1. Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk.

2. Heat canola oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Add bell peppers and onions; stir fry 3 minutes or until tender. Add ginger, garlic and 3 tablespoons peanuts; stir fry 1 minute until fragrant.

3. Add rice, peas, and bean sprouts and stir fry until thoroughly heated. Add soy sauce mixture and cook two minutes, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle each serving with remaining peanuts.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pepper and Onion Quesadillas

Quesadillas are always a hit in our house, for a variety of reasons. They're quick and easy, they're a great way to use up leftovers, and they're endlessly adaptable. I make cheese quesadillas often for lunch on the weekends since the boys love them, but every once in a while I get the urge to jazz up my own cheese quesadilla with some more mature flavors that make me feel less like a five-year-old. 

These pepper and onion quesadillas definitely contain more mature flavors, and they're so delicious. The filling is composed of poblanos, jalapenos, red onion and cheese (think fajitas, but without the meat). Talk about jazzing up a plain old cheese quesadilla! These are spicy and flavorful and just perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.

Pepper and Onion Quesadillas

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, cut into thin strips
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 red onion, cut into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, divided
4 flour tortillas
Sour cream for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers, onion, salt, cumin and sugar and saute, stirring frequently, until peppers are just softened and onion is translucent. Add garlic cloves; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese to half of each tortilla. Top the cheese with a quarter of the pepper and onion mixture, then 2 more tablespoons of cheese. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling.

3. Cook quesadillas one or two at a time in the same skillet you used for the peppers, turning once, until tortillas are browned and crispy. Slice into wedges and serve with sour cream.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mediterranean Chicken Skillet

As longtime readers probably know, most of the food I cook tends to be in the "quick and easy weeknight dinner" category, and something is about to happen to ensure that the food I cook stays in that vein. That's right, folks: Next week, I will officially be a soccer mom. My oldest son starts soccer practice next week, and to say that he is excited about it would be a massive understatement. As for me...I just can't believe my baby is old enough to play soccer.

I'll be shuttling him to and from practice a couple of nights a week, and of course he'll have his games on the weekends, so our evenings are about to get crazy crazier. That's one reason why I'll be making this skillet dinner, and other meals like it, so often in the coming months.

Another reason why I'll be making this one over and over again is that it. is. so. very. good. Filled with artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, and olives, and topped with a generous sprinkle of feta cheese, this Mediterranean-style skillet meal is loaded with flavors my whole family loves. I served ours on a bed of pasta, which worked wonderfully, but brown rice, quinoa, or lentils would be healthy alternatives. The night I made this, Joe was on a business phone call upstairs while I was preparing dinner, so I even cooked this while wrangling two small boys with no assistance -- and it was still effortless. That is definitely my kind of meal.

Mediterranean Chicken Skillet
slightly adapted from The Sweets Life

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
4 cloves minced garlic
5 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 14-ounce can of quartered artichoke hearts
1/4 cup sliced green or kalamata olives
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
2 cups baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Cooked pasta or rice for serving, if desired

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until chicken is browned. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

2. Stir in tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, and spices. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

3. Stir in spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. If desired, serve mixture over rice or pasta. Sprinkle with feta before serving.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Biscoff Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are the cookies that made my almost five-year-old tell me in ecstasy, "Mommy, you make the best cookies I have ever, ever eated."

I could probably just end this post there, right? I mean, if a five-year-old with lots of experience eating various types of cookies says these are the best, why even bother looking any further?

I have to agree with Andrew's assessment. These cookies are seriously delicious. They taste a lot like regular chocolate chip cookies, but then you get the spicy hint of the Biscoff spread that takes them from good to fantastic. The spicy-sweet Biscoff works so perfectly with the dark chocolate chips, and the texture of these cookies is just perfect: crisp on the edges and chewy in the center. Basically, they are some of the best cookies you will ever, ever eat.

Biscoff Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
slightly adapted from Life's Ambrosia

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Biscoff spread
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 10-ounce bag dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Beat butter, brown sugar and white sugar together until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg. Beat in vanilla extract and Biscoff spread.

3. In another bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly beat flour mixture into egg mixture. Mix well. Fold in dark chocolate chips.

4. Roll out tablespoonfuls of dough and place them on cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges have started to brown. (Note: When baked for 10 minutes these are chewy cookies. Baked for 12 minutes they're more crispy. I definitely like them chewy, so I took them out after exactly 10 minutes.)

5. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Bundles

I'm so excited about the recipe I'm sharing today, guys. I think you know by now how much I love wrapping stuff in cresecent rolls, and how much I love making chicken parmesan in all kinds of new ways. This recipe combines both of those loves and man, is the result ever delicious.

These do require a little bit of prep ahead of time, since the chicken parmesan nuggets need to be cooked before they're wrapped in their delicious crescent bundles. I find that frying up the nuggets a night or two ahead of time works just fine, so they're easily available when you're ready to begin assembling the bundles. I make eight bundles at a time and freeze half of them for a later meal.

You can easily adapt the filling for these bundles however you like. I keep mine pretty simple, but you could add seasonings. You could even add some sauce to the filling, but I really like having it on the side or spooned on top to keep the filling cheesy, gooey and delicious. I've already made these a few times, and they're such a hit in my house that I know they'll be a staple with my family for years to come.

Chicken Parmesan Bundles

For the chicken:

2 chicken breasts, cut into 24 bite-size pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

For the bundles:

2 packages Pillsbury Crescent Creations dough
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Italian-style or mozzarella cheese
1 stick butter, melted
1 package of croutons, any variety, finely crushed
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
Tomato sauce, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut crescent dough into 8 equal rectangles (4 per sheet).

2. For the chicken, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dip the chicken in the egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat and cook the chicken pieces until browned on all sides. Remove to a paper towel while you prepare the filling.

3. To make the filling, combine softened cream cheese and shredded Italian cheese. Spread evenly over the crescent rectangles. Top each rectangle with three of the chicken nuggets. Wrap bundles tightly, securing all seams.

4. Combine crushed croutons and parmesan cheese in another shallow bowl. Dip each bundle in melted butter, then roll in the crouton mixture until all sides are evenly coated. Place on ungreased baking sheets.

5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until browned. Serve with your favorite warmed tomato sauce on the side or spooned over the top.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pineapple BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Pineapple Coleslaw

It's March!! Yay!! Not only is this my birthday month, but it's also the month when spring officially arrives -- and I couldn't be more excited about that. I'm certainly ready for the warmer weather for many reasons. I'm going to be honest here: one of the main reasons is that I can send my children outside to play when they're driving me nuts. Love them as I do, I think we're all going a little bit stir-crazy after being cooped up together in the house for so long.

One of the other reasons, of course, is food-related. Since I've been longing for warm weather lately, I thought I'd make something that reminds me of warm weather: pulled pork. And since pork goes so well with pineapple, and I always top my pulled pork sandwiches with slaw, I decided to make a pineapple coleslaw to top them off. The result is so delicious, I don't even know where to begin. The pork is sweet and smoky, the slaw is creamy and tangy. Basically, it's Heaven on a bun.

Pineapple BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Pineapple Coleslaw

For the pork:

1 2-3 pound pork roast
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup pineapple juice (use the juice from the can you use for the slaw)
1 bottle BBQ sauce

For the slaw:

4 cups shredded cabbage
1 can pineapple rings, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Sandwich buns, for serving

1. Combine brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub generously over the pork and place in a Crock pot. Pour the pinapple juice over the pork. Cook on low for 8 hours, or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. Shred the meat, add the BBQ sauce, and continue cooking on low for 30 minutes.

2. To prepare the slaw, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl. Add cabbage and pineapple and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Serve the pulled pork on sandwich buns with a generous scoop of the slaw.