Thursday, October 28, 2010

Abbie's Birthday Party Menu

It's hard to believe, but this little lady:

is about to turn ONE! We are having a small party with all of Abbie's aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Not too many people, so that allows me to make all of the food and be more creative with my ideas. I liked the idea of an anitpasto platter because you can incorporate a lot of different components without taking too much prep time. And virtually everything on the dinner menu can be prepared the day before. More time to celebrate my baby girl's big day!

Happy Birthday, Abigail Claire!

Abbie's Birthday Party Menu




Monday, October 25, 2010

Penne Vodka with 3 P's - Prosciutto, Pancetta, and Peas

Recently, Chuck and I booked a session with a professional photographer to get some photos taken of Abbie. It was a brisk fall day and we met the photographer at a local park to take some shots. It was late afternoon, the leaves were changing, the air was crisp, and Abbie was smiling up a storm. We came home and I wanted to make something hearty and delicious for dinner -this dish certainly delivered! With just a little bit of time spent on the sauce, this resulted in a flavorful pasta chock full of crispy pancetta and prosciutto. I served this with caprese salad and some nice red wine for the end to a perfect fall day.

Note: I printed this recipe out way before I started blogging so unfortunately I don't have any citation. If this is yours, please leave a link to your post in the comments and I will link to you within the post.

Penne Vodka with 3 P's
slightly adapted from unknown source
Makes 6-8 servings

1 pound penne pasta
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced 1/4" thick, diced
1/4 pound prosciutto, sliced 1/4" thick, diced
1 large (28-32 ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
kosher salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup light cream
1 cup green peas
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the garlic, pancetta, and prosciutto. Cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes.

Either pour tomatoes with their juices into a food processor and pulse several times to chop them or simply pour into a large bowl and break them up with your hands. Add to the saute pan with the meat. Season with salt and red pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Lower the heat and add the vodka carefully. Turn heat back up and bring sauce to a boil; then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the peas after about 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in the cream, then add the pasta to the sauce. Gently toss to coat the pasta. Add the cheese and top with parsley. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Irish Tea Bread

This is a delicious little quick bread from my good friend Rita. Best served warm with butter, it's a hearty bread that goes well with tea (obviously) or coffee. It is simple to make and freezes well, so make some for a leisurely weekend breakfast. :)

Irish Tea Bread
from Rita
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cup raisins
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
2/3 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
raw/turbinado sugar, to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 x 4 or 9 x 5 loaf pan.

Place raisins in a small bowl, cover with boiling water, let sit about 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, softened raisins, melted butter, and egg. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mix just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle raw sugar over top.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until toothpick stuck into center comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cheesy Sausage Penne

If you love creamy, cheesy goodness with your pasta; then this is for you! It is basically a delicious combination of Italian sausage, three different kinds of cheese, and your favorite "spaghetti" sauce. I was a little hesitant to use the green onions at first, but they add just the right amount of flavor to the dish. Additionally, the original recipe calls for cheddar cheese, which I didn't think went all that well, so I used a 6-cheese Italian blend. I would also recommend a simple mozzarella as well. That is the only modification I made to this recipe so I will link you right to the Taste of Home website below:

And, as always, gooey, cheesy comfort food doesn't photograph all that well!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apple Sour Cream Cake

This is a delicious little recipe that I got from my mom awhile ago. It's really more of a dessert bar than an actual cake, but uses a cake mix so I guess that's where the name came from. And it is my favorite way to use a cake mix - just mixing it with butter to form a delectable crust. Then it's topped with fresh apples, apple pie filling, and a sour cream/egg mixture. You really can't go wrong - oh, and I forgot to mention the cinnamon and sugar. :)

Apple Sour Cream Cake
from Jo's kitchen
Makes 13 x9 pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 box yellow cake mix
1 can apple pie filling
2-3 fresh apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine butter and cake mix and press in 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven (leave oven on).

Scatter sliced apples over warm crust. Spoon pie filling over apples, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. In small bowl, combine sour cream and egg; drizzle over top of bars.

Bake 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feta Crostini with Tomato, Bacon, and Apple Jam

This was an elegant little appetizer that was easy to put together and made an impressive presentation. The bacon gives the jam a smoky, salty flavor; while the apples give it a little bit of sweetness. Try to cut the apples and onion the same size as the diced tomatoes so that the jam has a uniform look to it and you get all the flavors in one bite.

So make this for a cozy evening in at home or to bring to a dinner party - it will be a hit!
Feta Crostini with Tomato, Bacon, and Apple Jam
from Better Homes and Gardens, September 2010 issue
Makes about 30 pieces

1/2 pound smoked bacon, or 8 tablespoons REAL Bacon Bits
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup sugar
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 loaf baguette style French-bread, thinly sliced (toasted, optional)
8 ounces crumbled Feta cheese
snipped fresh or dried chives

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until just browned, about 5 minutes. (Omit if using Bacon Bits.) Transfer to paper towel to drain and cool; crumble.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine drained tomatoes, sugar, apple, onion, vinegar, salt, pepper, and bacon. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, for 12 minutes or until apples are tender and most of the liquid is reduced.

Remove pan from heat; let sit for 5 minutes. (If making jam ahead, just rewarm.)

Top each baguette slice with a spoonful of warm jam, then sprinkle with crumbled Feta and chives. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Peanut Chicken Stir Fry

Since I get so many of my recipes from the internet these days, I like to take cookbooks out from the library so that I can browse them and save some recipes without paying for a whole cookbook. :) I often pass them over to Chuck and ask him to pick a few meals that he would like me to make - this was one of them.

This recipe was fairly easy to make - frozen vegetables and coleslaw mix shortens the prep time. Chuck and I both liked it but thought there wasn't enough peanut taste. Admittedly, I didn't sprinkle the final dish with peanuts like the recipe called for, but next time I will probably just use more peanut butter. I also served this over noodles to make more of a complete meal.

You can only access this recipe on the Pillsbury site if you are a member so I have copied it below for you. I halved the recipe for the two of us.

Peanut Chicken Stir Fry
Makes 4-6 servings

1 tablespoon oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (16-ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, carrots, and water chestnuts (or something similar)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon ginger
5 to 6 drops hot pepper sauce
3 cups purchased coleslaw blend
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes to brown. Add frozen vegetables; cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and chicken is no longer pink.

Add all remaining ingredients except coleslaw and peanuts; cook 2 more minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in coleslaw; cook and stir 2 minutes. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Serve over cooked pasta.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gingerbread Cake

Along with pumpkin, apples, and cranberries; gingerbread reminds me of the fall/holiday season. This is a delicious little cake with the perfect amount of gingerbread flavor. It is supposed to be a layer cake, but I had too many people I wanted to share it with so I made two single-layer cake rounds and iced them separately. I used a simple cream cheese icing instead of the orange cream from the original recipe and everyone loved it.

No major changes from the original recipe so I have linked you below - enjoy!

Yes, that is a Christmas plate!

Friday, October 1, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ chicken pizza is one of my new favorites to order out or even buy as a last-minute frozen dinner. So when I saw this recipe in one of my mom's cookbooks I copied it down right away. It happens to be California Pizza Kitchen's recipe for one of their most famous pizzas. And it. was. awesome. Seriously, if you even remotely like BBQ sauce, please try this soon.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of smoked Gouda, but I don't like that taste enough to buy a whole hunk of cheese for 2 tablespoons, so I used some leftover crumbled blue cheese I had on hand and I am glad I did! Blue cheese and BBQ sauce go great together, especially if you use Sweet Baby Ray's like I do :) Additionally, I may try to caramelize the red onions next time I make this. I think the sweeter flavor would go better with the rest of the flavors, rather than the slight crunch they had here.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Makes 1 10" pizza

1 chicken breast or 1/2 pound chicken tenders
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided
pizza dough, homemade or store-bought
2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup red onion, sliced (caramelized, if desired)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare pizza stone or baking sheet.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook thoroughly. Remove from heat and cool slightly, coat with 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Form dough into 10" crust. Spread remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce evenly onto crust, leaving small border around edges. Sprinkle blue cheese and 1/2 cup mozzarella over crust. Add chicken, red onion, remaining mozzarella, and cilantro.

Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is slightly browned. Cool slightly before slicing.

Don't mind the free-form crust. I had a little issue transferring from the counter to the pizza stone