Thursday, January 29, 2009

Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

Hmmm, I realized after taking these pictures that I could have added some garnish or something to make it look a little more appetizing. Now you will just have to trust me that it's really good! And meatless! I normally try to incorporate meat into every meal, but really, you don't even miss it here.

I changed some ingredient amounts from the original recipe, simply to adjust it to our tastes and what I had left in the refrigerator! This is a great weeknight meal complete with two types of cheese, beans, tortillas, and salsa! I made the mistake of buying HOT picante sauce so even Chuck, who does not like sour cream, was piling it on. Still delicious though and great for leftovers!

Black Bean Tortilla Casserole
from Reading, 'Riting, and Recipes (amounts adapted)
Makes 4 servings

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes
1 cup picante sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ounces cream cheese
5 corn tortillas (7-inch), cut in half
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey, Pepper Jack, etc.)

In large skillet sauté onion until soft. Add tomatoes, picante sauce and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in beans and heat through. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

Spray bottom of a 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 of bean mixture on bottom of pan, topping with a layer of tortillas (five tortilla halves) and half of cheese. Then another layer of bean mixture, tortillas and bean mixture. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream, lettuce and guacamole as desired.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal Bars

I was looking for an easy bar that included some healthy oatmeal (like how I did that? healthy oatmeal counteracts butter, didn't you know?) and found this in what seems to be my cookbook of the week, Better Homes and Gardens.

You end up with a nice, chunky bar with a buttery crust and a fruity filling. These are great for dessert, but also a nice sweet treat for breakfast!

Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal Bars
from Better Homes and Gardens
Makes 24 bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking or old fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 cup (chunky or smooth) applesauce
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Cut in butter using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture.

Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 11 x 7 baking dish. Make sure you press firmly into the pan - you are making a crust.

Combine all filling ingredients in small bowl. Spread over crumb mixture in baking dish. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup crumb mixture.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until top is golden and filling is set. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lemonade Award

I was surprised and honored to be given the Lemonade Award by Kristen of Le Petit Pierogi. It is meant to be awarded to a "refreshing" blog. If I could, I would give this award back to Kristen because I love all of her fresh and delicious recipes that she posts on her blog. Thank you again, Kristen!

I have bestowed many awards in the past and I really do love all the blogs I read. Most of them are food blogs, and every so often even I get tired of reading about recipes. So that is why I am giving this award to my lovely goddaughter's blog, Carlyn Rose. She just turned one a few weeks ago and her mom, my cousin Katie, started it to share pictures and news of the little cutie. I always go over there when I need to see some pictures of Carlyn (although of course she is the wallpaper for all of my computers) and learn about how her day was!

So go check it out if you need something adorable to start your day with - the most recent post is how much Carlyn loves to watch the Pennsylvania Lottery and Jeopardy!

Meatball and Vegetable Stew

I saw this recipe while flipping through my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and was astounded at how little prep time it entails. True, it's not a "made-from-scratch" stew, but it looked good enough for me to take for my lunches this week to work.

After reading the fat content on the original recipe I decided to look for turkey meatballs instead. I found them in the meat aisle, not the frozen food section - look for Shady Brook already-cooked turkey meatballs if you want to make this lighter as well (and cut them in half, as they are rather large). Also, the picture on the website is much more appetizing than mine; but what can you expect, it's comfort food!

Meatball and Vegetable Stew
Makes 4 servings

1 16- to 18-ounce package frozen cooked meatballs
1/2 of a 16-ounce package (about 2 cups) loose-pack frozen broccoli, corn, and red sweet peppers, or other mixed vegetables
1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with onion and garlic, or stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 12-ounce jar mushroom gravy
1/3 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed

Place meatballs and frozen vegetables in a 4 quart slow cooker.

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, gravy, water, and basil; pour over meatballs and vegetables.

Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives

I think it's pretty much safe to say that when you serve a dish at a dinner party and it's all your guests talk about for the rest of the night, on the ride home, and AGAIN the next morning; then you can consider that a huge success!

And I must admit that I am now converted - I will never again, for any recipe that calls for a whole chicken cut-up, wimp out and buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts from the store. I knew that the chicken would be tastier with the bone-in and the skin-on so I finally called our local butcher and ordered two little guys cut up into 10 pieces each. And WOW did it make a difference!

This was one of the juiciest, most delicious chicken dinners I have ever eaten, and to quote one of the guests, "I would order this at a restaurant". I really don't think it was my cooking skills either - you pretty much spread the chicken out on a baking sheet and let the oven do the work!

Use the pancetta and olives even if you don't like them - just cooking them with the chicken will add another flavor profile that you shouldn't pass up. Seriously, make this for your next party - it will be a winner! And special props to Katie for pointing me in the direction of this recipe!

Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives
Makes 8 servings

2 chickens (about 3 1/2 pounds each), cut into 10 or 12 pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
24 oil-cured black olives

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with a rack in the middle of the oven.

Arrange chicken, skin side-up on a large, rimmed baking sheet (cover sheet with foil for easier clean-up). Combine olive oil, thyme, rosemary, salt, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon pepper; rub onto top of chicken pieces.

Scatter garlic and pancetta on top of chicken and roast until chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Drizzle wine over chicken and roast another 8 minutes. Scatter olives over chicken and roast until skin is golden brown and chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes more.

Let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to serving plate and top with remaining juices.

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes

Roasted potatoes are a great side dish because you can change the herbs and spices depending on what you are serving them with; and they are easy to prepare. Usually I just toss them with some rosemary and thyme, but when I saw this recipe I knew I wanted to try it.

It really pays to invest in some nice coarse-ground mustard for this. I used Grey Poupon's new Harvest Coarse Ground Mustard, and you can see the mustard seeds on the finished product:

I only used one onion since I thought 2 onions in comparison to the amount of potatoes would lead to the title of "mustard-roasted potatoes and onions" and that wasn't really what I was going for. Make these soon - they are delicious!

Mustard Roasted Potatoes
Makes 6 servings

2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes (I used regular size and cut them smaller)
2 yellow onions (I used one)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the potatoes into one-inch cubes (halves or quarters for the small potatoes, several more cuts for the larger ones). Place potatoes into a large plastic bag with a zipper seal. Peel onion and cut in half. Slice crosswise to about 1/4 inch thickness to make half rounds and add to bag.

Add the olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to bag; seal, and toss together.

Line a sheet pan with foil and spread potatoes and onions onto pan. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour; until potatoes are lightly browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss the potatoes occassionally to prevent sticking and for even browning.

Garnish with chopped parsley and more salt if needed and serve immediately.

Note: These can be prepped a few hours in advance and left in the plastic bag until ready to roast.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Herb Focaccia

I have long had a fear of making yeast breads - something about making sure the water is the right temperature combined with letting the dough rise just freaks me out - it's too exact. But I can say with certainty that this bread helped me to get over that fear. It is the perfect "introduction to yeast"; with an end result of a delicious, herb-topped bread.

The original recipe says to divide into 6 equal portions, but since I needed 8, it was really no problem to just make the individual loaves a little smaller. Just make sure that if you divide this into smaller portions, that you start off with a shorter baking time. I always leave out the olives since Chuck doesn't like them; but I could imagine that they would add a nice, salty flavor to the already delicious bread.

Herb Focaccia
from The Sisters' Cafe
Makes 6 individual loaves

2 packages active dry yeast (or 2 Tb)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
3 cups flour
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped olives
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon salt

Herb Glaze
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix yeast, sugar and water in small bowl; let stand for 5 minutes.

Blend remaining ingredients except herb glaze in large bowl of electric mixer; stir in yeast mixture to form a soft dough. Knead for 5 minutes (this is easiest with the Kitchen Aid with dough hook but you can also knead by hand) until smooth and elastic.

Place dough in greased bowl; cover and let rise in warm place 1 hour. Grease baking sheet.

Punch dough down and divide evenly into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into 5-inch circle; place on baking sheet. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush tops of each bread with herb glaze and sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt. Bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

Sauteed Green Beans with Diced Tomatoes

Before I start these next few posts I have to give a big "Thank You" to my friend Courtney for taking these pictures. Between getting dinner on the table for the eight of us at our party and my camera taking less-than-desirable photos, Courtney was there to save the day with her nice, new camera. Then she had to deal with me stalking her for a week to get the photos from her - so thanks, Court!

These beans are one of my favorite side dishes to serve for company, because they are very tasty but don't take a lot of prep (other than trimming the beans, which you would do beforehand) OR the use of the oven, which is always nice when you are cooking a big dinner. Adjust the garlic and seasonings to your own taste - you can't go wrong!

Sauteed Green Beans with Diced Tomatoes
from Colleen's Kitchen
Makes about 8 servings

2 pounds (more or less) green beans, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
kosher salt and coarse ground pepper, to taste

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, fill bottom with water until just covering the bottom of the basket. Place washed green beans into saucepan and cover. Bring to a boil, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until beans are a vibrant green.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add steamed green beans directly to saute pan; add drained tomatoes. Cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cheesy Bacon Artichoke Party Dip

Ok, so I have no pictures of this and made it quite awhile ago but it was really too good not to share. This was made right at the beginning of the downfall of my camera so the actual pictures made it look like just a big bowl of orange-tinted dip.

Wait, scratch that. That description is NOT going to make you want to eat this. If you want to see pics of the real thing head over to Our Sweet Life, where this is originally from. This dip was REALLY good and fairly easy to prepare. It has the creaminess of the cheeses, the saltiness of the bacon, and the extra added flavor of the artichokes.

I did not top my dip with the Ritz crackers as directed below; and instead served them alongside. There was so much going on with the dip already that I felt it didn't need the crushed crackers on top. Make this for your Super Bowl party!

Cheesy Bacon Artichoke Party Dip
from Our Sweet Life
Makes a 1 1/2 quart dish

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayo
1 1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese or Monterey Jack
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4-5 finely chopped green onions
10 pieces of bacon
1 6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped, dried with paper towels
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
a pinch of cayenne pepper
Ritz Crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread a piece of foil over a cookie sheet, place the bacon on the cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp but not burnt. Remove cooked bacon to a plate covered in paper towel and cover with more paper towel to remove as much grease as possible. Let cool then crumble/ chop into bits for use in the dip.

Using a hand mixer blend the cream cheese and mayo until smooth. Add the shredded cheeses, onions, bacon, artichoke, garlic, cayenne and pepper. Stir all with a spatula or the hand mixer until well combined.

Spread in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and top generously with crushed Ritz crackers, if using.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or bread.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chocolatey Raspberry Crumb Bars

These bars always get a fantastic review when I make them - and they are incredibly easy. There aren't even any eggs in here because you just make the crumb layer, then top with the chocolate, raspberry jam, and chips! It really couldn't be easier and you get a delicious result.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I love white chocolate, so I always sub in 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips in the topping to mix it up a little. And get ready for a buttery, chocolately, fruity bar that will knock your socks off!

Chocolatey Raspberry Crumb Bars
Makes 36 bars

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (I sub in 1/2 cup white chocolate chips)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish (cooking spray or butter).

Beat butter in large mixing bowl with electric mixer until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, salt, and sugar and mix until crumbly. Press 1 3/4 cups of the mixture into the bottom of prepared baking dish, reserving remaining mixture.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are just turning golden brown.

Mix sweetened condensed milk and one cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute, uncovered. Stir until completely blended. If necessary, microwave at 15-second increments until combined.Spread over hot crust.

Stir nuts (if using) unto reserved crumb mixture; sprinkle over chocolate layer. Drop the jam by the teaspoonful over the crumb mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup white chocolate chips.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. (Be careful with the white chocolate chips, as they will start to brown.) Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Oh Giada, how I love thee. The flavor combinations that she comes up with are always a bit surprising but (almost) always outstanding. I don't have a lot of stuffed shells recipes in my repertoire, so when I saw this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it.

Giada writes how she originally came up with this recipe when she had a lot of dark meat left over from a roast turkey, and she shredded it and came up with this concoction. The recipe calls for ground turkey, but next time I may actually try chicken thighs or dark turkey meat because I can see where it could use a smidge extra flavor. I didn't have time to make the Arrabbiata Sauce at the end of the recipe but I really do want to try it. I used regular jarred marinara - just make sure to liberally season both the filling and the sauce and you will be all set!

I ended up with WAY more than 24 shells, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to freeze half a portion. It originally called for a 13 x 9 pan so I took two 8 x 8's and lined one with foil (the one going into the freezer). Make sure to spray both the baking dish AND the foil with cooking spray so that it doesn't stick when you defrost it. Cover the baking dish when you are done assembling the shells and stick in the freezer to leave overnight. Then, the next day, the whole frozen portion should slide right out of the dish. Cover it again with foil, stick in a freezer bag, and voila! you have a whole other meal waiting for you! Oh, and make sure that you stick the frozen shells back INTO the baking dish as soon as you take it out of the freezer!

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce
from Giada De Laurentiis
Makes 6-8 servings

1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey (I used 1.25 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped (I used a 14-ounce can)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta chese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows (or 2 26-ounce jars of marinara)
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. Follow freezing directions here.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

Arrabbiata Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sweet and Sour Pork

On Sunday nights I am usually too tired from all the weekend festivities to make a huge meal. So that's where the slow cooker comes in. This recipe was so simple, and I am really excited to try it again because I am going to switch up the sauce and also some of the add-ins. I'm thinking maybe Teryaki with some carrots and pea shoots.

I used pork tenderloin (as usual), and the pork came out tender and falling apart on the fork. If you have 10 minutes to prep this, I recommend making it soon!

Sweet and Sour Pork
Makes 6 servings

1-1/2 lb. pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth
1 bottle (10-12 oz.) sweet and sour Sauce
1 can (8 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained (I used water chestnuts)
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 cups instant white rice, uncooked

Spray 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place pork in slow cooker and top with onion. Pour broth and sweet and sour sauce over pork and onions. Set cooker to low and cook for 6-7 hours.

Add pineapple and green pepper and white rice to mixture, mix thoroughly. Cook on low for 20 minutes more or until rice is tender.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Enchilada Casserole

Well this is certainly one mother of a casserole, or actually a lasagna if you think about all the layers. As I was loading all of the layers into the baking dish I thought to myself, this is a TON of food. But, like any good lasagna, it was a filling, comforting dish AND complete with Mexican flavors that Chuck and I both love!

I am normally not a fan of corn tortillas (I find them to be a little dry) so next time I may try this with flour tortillas instead. Other modifications I may try next time are to add a can of corn and/or some diced green chiles to the turkey and refried bean mixture. Now, I know some of you out there cannot stand refried beans, but you really can't taste them mixed in with the turkey and the sauce. They just add some bulk (and protein!) to the dish.

*Blog Note* Again, I apologize for the quality of the pictures. Between redoing both upstairs bathrooms, painting a few rooms, and replacing some windows; my new camera is taking a backseat in terms of funding. Hopefully soon though...maybe...Valentine's Day?!

I mean, really, how can I work under these conditions?!

Enchilada Casserole
from Culinary Infatuation via Lauren's Kitchen
Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (the standard 1.25-1.33 lb. package works fine)
1 can refried beans
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 26-ounce jar tomato sauce (I used Prego Traditional)
2 tablespoons chili powder divided
2 tablespoons cumin Divided (I used 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika divided (regular paprika is fine)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch of sugar
a few shakes of cayenne powder
salt and pepper to taste
18 corn tortillas
2 1/2 cups shredded cheese
salsa and sour cream, optional for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat and add ground turkey. Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon oregano and salt and pepper. Cook until evenly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon into medium mixing bowl.

Wipe out skillet with paper towels and add canola oil. Keep skillet over medium heat and saute onions. When onion becomes translucent add garlic and parsley. Cook another minute. Add tomato sauce and the rest of the spices and sugar. Let simmer about 5 minutes.

Add refried beans to the bowl containing the turkey and about 1/4-1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce. Mix well.

Layer 6 tortillas on the bottom of prepared baking dish, cover with 1/3 of the sauce, then 1/3 of the meat-bean mixture, then 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the process two more times, ending with tortillas, sauce and more cheese.

Cover with foil and cook for 25 minutes, uncovering the last 10 minutes. Serve with salsa and/or sour cream, if desired.

First layer of tortillas, covered by the sauce...

Complete first layer of tortillas, sauce, meat-bean mixture, and cheese. Ready for two more layers!

Mmmm, sloppy, sloppy comfort food.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rigatoni with Salmon, Broccoli, and Sundried Tomatoes

Ok, so this is not the most concise name of a recipe - but it certainly lets you know what to expect! We have been trying to eat a little healthier (during the week at least!) around the house lately, so when Chuck requested fish and/or pasta for dinner, I went scouring my recipe files for something that included both.

I couldn't find anything that really stood out to me that didn't involve a heavy, creamy sauce; so I just decided to combine some of our favorite ingredients with an easy white wine sauce. We were pretty happy with the results - although I do recommend adding all of my "optional" garnishes because they really do add more flavor. If you don't like broccoli, you could easily swap it out for another green veggie like asparagus!

Rigatoni with Salmon, Broccoli, and Sundried Tomatoes
from Colleen's Kitchen
Makes 3-4 servings

3/4 pound salmon filet
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
kosher salt and coarse ground pepper
1/2 pound rigatoni
3 cups broccoli heads, chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 2 broccoli crowns)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
Parmesan cheese to garnish
red pepper flakes, optional

Heat oven to broil, adjust oven rack to about 6 inches from flame. Place a wire baking rack on a baking sheet covered in foil. Spray rack with cooking spray and place salmon filet on rack. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over filet, rub into fish.

Broil until fish flakes easily with a fork and is cooked through. (Allow for 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness. My filet was about 2 inches thick and it took about 16 minutes.) Remove from oven and chop into bite-sized pieces once it's cool enough to handle. Set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Cook rigatoni to al dente, about 9 minutes, remove from saucepan with slotted spoon, reserving water. Set pasta aside.

Bring water back to a boil and add broccoli, cooking until bright green, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice water.

Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sundried tomatoes, cook 1 minute more.

Add wine to saute pan, cook until almost absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by almost half, about 5 minutes.

Add broccoli and salmon to saute pan, then add reserved pasta. Toss mixture together until everything is coated and heat through.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dinner, Drinks, and Games with Good Friends

Isn't it nice to invite a group of friends over that you know, without a doubt, you will have a night full of laughs and fun times? Well, this weekend we will have a group of eight, including us, to play all sorts of games and just hang out. This will take place in our basement, or as Chuck likes to call it, the "man cave". It is quite fun, and has basically anything you could want for a good party - a stocked bar, a kegerator, wine fridge, Rock Band, darts, and other assorted games.

Each of my guests is also bringing an appetizer, which is why my app department on this menu is a little sparse. As always, check back for recipes and the rest of the menu!

Dinner, Drinks, and Games with Good Friends

  • Artisan cheese plate with marinated olives and assorted crackers.
  • Mini-crab cakes with remoulade sauce
  • Blue-cheese stuffed mushrooms



Friday, January 9, 2009

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

I just can't seem to get it together since the flurry of cooking and baking over the holidays. We have been so busy (with lots of fun stuff!) that when I have a free night, I use my time to get to the gym and go food shopping. Not to mention we are getting our bathroom redone so I couldn't keep my house clean right now even if I tried.

So when I was looking for something to make this week, this dish came to mind. I have made it several times before, but we have never eaten it! I always make it to bring to friends who have just had babies, since it is so easy to put together, travels well, and reheats well.

In order to make this for just Chuck and myself, I adjusted almost all of the original ingredients so that we didn't have tons of leftovers. My version can serve four if you have tiny eaters, but if you have 4 adults eating, I would make a little more just to be safe! It is a simple dish with simple ingredients - Chuck and I really enjoyed it!
*Note* When I make this to bring to someone else, I like to cook the chicken first. Something weirds me out about handing someone a casserole dish with raw chicken. That way you don't have to bake it at all before you give it to them - make sure to give them the baking instructions though!

Bruschetta Chicken Bake
adapted from
Makes 3-4 servings
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves.
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
chicken broth, as needed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 11 x 7 baking dish with cooking spray.
Empty tomatoes into medium bowl. Add stuffing mix and garlic; stir until just moistened.
Place chicken into prepared baking dish. Cover with basil and cheese. Top with stuffing mixture.
Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Check after about 20 minutes and if it's getting too dry, pour a few spoonfuls of chicken broth over it.
Sad, sad camera pics :(

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce

I have to admit that I actually really like the frozen fish sticks that you buy in the frozen section. Yes, yes, I KNOW they are bad for you but, like boxed macaroni and cheese (which, incidentally is the best side dish for them) sometimes you just gotta have 'em. But, regardless of if you like them or not, these little fish sticks are way more sophisticated. They are made with tilapia and crusted with panko and Old Bay, and have a much fresher, healthier taste to them.

The herb dipping sauce it optional - last night I had some cocktail sauce in my fridge, so I just mixed that with a little mayo and we were set. I do enjoy the mayo-Dijon mustard combination, so give it a try if you have all the ingredients. I served this with rosemary and thyme roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus.

*Blog Note* As you can see, my camera is in it's dying days. I am hoping it holds on until we can acquire another one so cross your fingers and I apologize for the less-than-stellar pics!

Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce
from Everyday Food
Makes about 3 servings

1 large egg
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups panko
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound tilapia fillets

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F, with racks in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil.

Cut tilapia filets in half lengthwise, and then again the other direction. You now have 4 sticks per filet.

Crack egg into shallow bowl, lightly beat with fork. Season with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, combine panko, Old Bay, and olive oil.

Dip each tilapia stick into egg, shaking off the excess; then into panko mixture, pressing mixture so that it sticks.

Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes, until panko is lightly browned and fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside fish sticks.

Corn Muffins

I am always searching for a good, simple corn muffin recipe, so I decided to give this one a try from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I changed out the milk for some buttermilk since, as always, I had some leftover in my freezer (seriously, when are they going to start selling that stuff in smaller quanities?).

These muffins were good for the purpose I intended: to serve with chili; but I don't think they were moist enough to eat on their own. I would have preferred a little bit looser crumb. Still, they are easy enough to make, and the original recipe gives several variations so go check it out!

I made just six muffins for us, so all the ingredients are easily halved. Just remember though, if you are baking them in a 12-cup muffin tin, to add a little bit of water to the empty tins before baking!

Corn Muffins
from Better Homes and Gardens
Makes 12 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (or buttermilk)
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine eggs, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.

Spoon the batter into 12 greased 2-1/2-inch muffin cups, filling cups two-thirds full. Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until light brown and a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cupcake Pops

Aaaaand we're back! I feel like I have been away for so long! With all the cooking I did BEFORE Christmas, I certainly haven't done much since! Chuck and I figured out last night that we haven't eaten dinner at home since December 23rd!

So that's why I am back not with something for dinner, but with a dessert! And a very cute one, as a matter of fact. But just a warning now, these are not quite so quick and easy as so many other things I post. But I digress...

My goddaughter's first birthday party is this weekend and when I found out from her mom (my cousin, Katie) that the theme was cupcakes, I immediately thought of these! They have been around the food blogging world for awhile, even making it onto the Martha Stewart show, and I thought they would be perfect to give out as favors.

My sister, Meg, is way more experienced in all things candy melts and fancy things like that than I am (not to mention having a LOT more patience) so I asked her to help me with these. We spent most of the afternoon on Sunday scratching our heads and wondering how we were going to make these look good, but in the end I think we did a pretty good job!

One that helped us immensely comes from Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats, where Jaime suggests skewering the little guys before the first dip in chocolate. Just make sure to give yourself a lot of time and room for error with these and you will be pleased with the results! I suggest heading over to Bakerella's blog for more step-by-step pics and tips.

Cupcake Pops
from Bakerella
Makes about 50 pops

1 13X9 baked cake (from a box cake mix or from scratch … any flavor)
1 can cream cheese frosting (or about 2 cups equivalent from scratch)
1 flower shaped cookie cutter (1.25" wide X .75" tall)
1 package chocolate bark (I used dark cocoa candy melts)
1 package pink candy melts or white chocolate bark
bowls for dipping
wax paper
aluminum foil
lollipop sticks
sprinkles, m&ms or something similar for top of cupcake
small plastic treat bags and ribbon to package the Cupcake Pops
styrofoam block

Bake a cake from a mix or from scratch and cool completely.

Crumble cake into a fine consistency into a large bowl.TIP: If the texture is too coarse, you can run it through a food processor.

Add can of cream cheese frosting and blend together using the back of a large spoon. Blend thoroughly.

Roll mixture into 1.25" - 1.5" size balls and lay on wax paper covered cookie sheet. You may want to periodically rinse and dry your hands off in between.

Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for several hours. TIP: You can speed this up by placing in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Remove. Begin to shape into cupcakes using a small flower-shaped cookie cutter. Take the chilled ball and roll it into more of an oval and then slide into cookie cutter. Push it into cutter until about half fills the cutter and the rest sticks out of the top in the shape of a mound. Then push the shaped cupcake carefully out of the cookie cutter from the bottom. Set right side up on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Continue with remaining balls.

The ones on the left are already formed, and the ones on the right are waiting to be molded.

Once shaped, cover and return to freezer. (5-10 minutes)TIP: You can leave them covered in the refrigerator overnight if you want to do the dipping on the following day.

While cupcake shapes are chilling, begin to heat up your chocolate bark. Brown chocolate bark for the bottoms. Pink or white chocolate for the tops.

Follow the instructions on the package for melting. Most recommend heating for 30 second intervals at a time and stirring in between. You can also do the double boiler method.

When you are ready to dip, remove from freezer and set up another wax paper covered cookie sheet.

Take the cupcake shaped mixture and dip bottoms into the melted chocolate - just to the point where the mounded shape starts. (You can skewer the tops of the cupcakes here for easier dipping.)

Remove from chocolate, turn upside down and wiggle so that the excess starts to slide down slightly. Then lay on the wax paper upside down. If you want them to be lollipops, then go ahead and insert the lollipop sticks while the chocolate is still wet. Continue with rest of the cupcakes. TIP: Dip end of your lollipop stick in the melted chocolate before inserting into chocolate bottoms. Not sure if this helps a lot, but it couldn't hurt.

DON'T - get water in the chocolate. Make sure your hands are completely dry. Water will cause the chocolate to separate and mess up all your hard work.

Dry completely. (15-20 minutes) Once dry, dip the tops of the cupcakes in the pink or white chocolate. You may need to move it around a little to cover all the exposed areas.

TIP: Let the pink chocolate sit for a few minutes after heating to thicken. This will help it from dripping down the sides of the cupcake.

Remove from the pink/white chocolate and turn right side up. You may need to hold and rotate it if there is any excess so that it doesn’t drip down too far.TIP: You can use a toothpick to help cover any areas the melted chocolate didn't cover.

Continue holding and place an m&m on the top and add sprinkles while wet. Let them dry in a styrofoam block that you have already poked holes into.

When completely dry, cover the lollipops with small plastic treat bags and tie with a ribbon.

Happy 1st Birthday, Carlyn!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Better Than S*x Cake

This cake was popular on the cooking board I post on so I tried it last year and I am SO glad I did. Everyone I have made it for since has LOVED it, and it's so easy to make! I made it this time to bring to my cousin's house for New Year's Eve. It's a perfect casual dessert!

I highly suggest that you make this abour 24 hours in advance. That will give the caramel mixture time to soak into the chocolate cake. Yum!

Better Than S*x Cake
from Now That's What's Cooking
Makes about 8 large servings

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 (12 ounce) bag chocolate chips
1 (16 ounce) jar caramel sauce
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tub Cool Whip
1 (8 ounce) bar cream cheese
1/2 bag heath bar bits

Preheat oven as directed on cake box.

Prepare cake mix as directed on box Add half the bag of chocolate chips, pour in cake pan and top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake as directed on the box.

Meanwhile, mix the caramel and the condensed milk together in a bowl. When the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes in the cake with a straw and then pour the caramel mix over the top and let sit until cool.

In medium bowl, beat Cool Whip and cream cheese until combined. Top cooled cake with Cool Whip mixture and the candy pieces.

Keep chilled before serving.