Thursday, September 30, 2010

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

A chocolate chip cookie is one of those desserts that I think just seems quintessentially American. Who doesn’t love a good chocolate chip cookie? There are so many variations of this type of cookie that I want to try, but when I saw this recipe on my friend Lisa’s blog, I was so incredibly excited about it that I moved it right to the top of my list.

What makes these cookies special and unique is that you brown the butter before you add it to the cookies. Butter + brown sugar = TOFFEE HEAVEN. The original recipe is just called “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies,” but I added toffee to the title because you do get a really strong toffee flavor in these. They make your house smell incredible while they’re cooking, and they taste even better than they smell. They’re crispy on the edges and perfectly soft in the middle, and they have such a deep, complex, amazing flavor.

These aren’t really a classic chocolate chip cookie to me because of the strong toffee flavor, so for the classic version I think Martha Stewart’s cakey cookie will still be my go-to. But these were still delicious, and we all loved them so much that I will for sure make them again.

Oh, and a final word of warning: These cookies will seriously be nearly as big as your head. Just so you’re not as surprised as I was when I took them out of the oven. :)

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
from America’s Test Kitchen

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BBQ Chicken and Bacon Pasta

I know I’ve mentioned this before (and those of you who were around here last summer experienced it first-hand), but when I was pregnant with my sweet little Will I could not get enough barbecue. They say you crave strange things when you’re pregnant, and craving barbecue was definitely odd for me since I’d never really been a big fan of it. I liked it okay, I guess, but would never go out of my way to eat it in a restaurant or cook it at home.

But even now that Will is here, I’ve found that I still just can’t get enough of anything and everything barbecued. The craving stuck around! Needless to say, Joe is thrilled about this, since barbecue is one of his favorite things. When I saw this recipe show up on one of my friend Allison’s weekly meal plans, I was instantly sold. I knew we’d love it.

Because I have to be me, I made the recipe just slightly more complicated by cooking the pasta separately, then adding it to the sauce. I also added some bacon to make this even smokier and more delicious. It may sound a little odd -- BBQ chicken in pasta? -- but trust me, this is so good. It’s smoky and creamy and cheesy. It’s pure comfort food, and something that this barbecue-loving family will be indulging in frequently.

BBQ Chicken and Bacon Pasta

adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café

1 pound penne or other short pasta
1 pound bacon, chopped
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
1 red onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Green onions, bacon, and shredded cheese for garnish, if desired

1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain.

2. Meanwhile, add bacon to a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towel.

3. Add the chicken and red onion to the bacon grease in the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through and the onion is softened. Stir in the reserved bacon, barbecue sauce and sour cream. Once mixed, add in the shredded cheese. Add pasta and stir to combine; heat through.

4. Serve immediately, garnishing with red or green onions, bacon and shredded cheese, if desired.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Southwestern Veggie-Stuffed Peppers and Leftover Baked Veggie-Rice Burritos

Sorry for not posting yesterday. I was home with my youngest son, who has croup. The poor little thing was so pathetic and just wanted to be held all day long (who can blame him?) so I didn’t have a chance to get on the computer. To make up for my second child-related absence in two weeks, I’m giving you a two-for-one recipe today.

Who doesn’t love a good stuffed pepper, right? I have to confess that this is the first time I’ve ever made stuffed peppers at home, but it definitely won’t be the last. They were incredibly easy -- much more so than I thought they’d be. I adapted the recipe from one I saw on $5 Dinners, but I only used one type of beans and added both zucchini and corn to the filling to make it even more veggie-full.

(I did have an unfortunate tearing incident with one of my peppers, which is why you only see half a pepper filled in the second picture. But it was the perfect size for Andrew, who devoured it!)

I had a ton of filling left over, so I used it the next night to make us some delicious baked burritos. I mixed sour cream and cheese with the leftover filling and rolled it up in flour tortillas, and it made another big, satisfying, yummy dinner for us (pardon the picture; I know it's awful). Make the peppers on Sunday night, since they take a little longer, and have the burritos on Monday since they take no time at all. We’ll be having this combination of dinners a lot!

Southwestern Veggie-Stuffed Peppers
adapted from $5 Dinners

1 cup instant rice
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
4 green peppers
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Cook the rice as directed; set aside.
2. In a small amount of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, sauté onion and zucchini until softened. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes with green chilies, black beans, corn, and cilantro. Season with chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in rice.

3. Meanwhile, slice the stem out of the top of the green peppers and place them in a pot of boiling salt water for 5 minutes. Remove from water, then stuff with the filling. Top with a pinchful of shredded cheese.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Leftover Baked Veggie-Rice Burritos

(Approximate the ingredients according to how much filling you have left.)

Leftover filling
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Flour tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine leftover filling, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.

3. Divide filling in equal amounts among flour tortillas. Wrap each filling securely and place seam-side down in a casserole dish you’ve sprayed with cooking spray.

4. Bake until flour tortillas begin to crisp, about 20 minutes.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.27.10

Monday: Ranch chicken, roasted potatoes, steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Vegetable oven pancake, fruit

Wednesday: Crock pot pork roast with potatoes and carrots, salad

Thursday: Creamy tortellini with spinach and tomatoes

Friday: Pizza night

Saturday: Chicken enchilada ring. This looks like good football watchin’ food to me! Big 10 conference play starts next weekend -- Go Bucks!!

Sunday: Fall minestrone, rolls

Friday, September 24, 2010

Boston Cream Cake

Can you look at that picture without drooling?

Yeah. Me neither.

My husband and I celebrated six years of marriage early in August, and we aren’t really big on gifts for special occasions. For our kids, yes; for ourselves, not so much. Usually, if we see something we want throughout the year (for ourselves or for each other), we just buy it then. So on gift-giving occasions such as anniversaries, neither of us ever knows what to give to the other person.

This year, I decided to make Joe this cake. He loves Boston cream pie, and I’d had my eye on this recipe for a while, so it seemed like a natural fit. Not surprisingly, he loved this! Everyone who tried it did, in fact. And really, what’s not to love? There’s just something so perfect about the combination of a moist yellow cake, a cool pastry cream, and a silky, velvety chocolate ganache. You could of course use a homemade yellow cake recipe, but the boxed SuperMoist mix works just fine for me.

Give this one a try for your next special occasion!

Boston Cream Cake
adapted from Rachael's Favorite Recipes

For the cake:
1 box moist yellow cake mix
Water, oil, and eggs called for on box

For the filling:
1 3.4-ounce box instant French vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream

For the ganache:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Prepare cake batter according to directions on box. Divide batter evenly among two greased 8- or 9-inch cake pans. Bake according to directions on box. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

2. Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients and beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate while you prepare the ganache.

3. Place chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and set aside. Heat 1 cup of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan to boiling. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate chips. Stir in a figure-eight motion until chocolate is completely melted and ganache is shiny and smooth. Let cool slightly.

4. Place one of the cakes on a cake plate. Spread filling evenly over cake, then place the other cake on top. Pour ganache over completely cooled cake. (Be sure the ganache and cake are both cool.) Refrigerate before and after serving.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

Sorry for not posting yesterday, guys. I spent most of the day at home with a sick toddler (who really didn’t act all that sick, of course, but you know how that goes), and as a result I’m playing catch-up in pretty much every aspect of my life today. I don’t have much time to post, but I couldn’t leave you guys in the lurch two days in a row. :)

We all liked this chicken tortilla casserole a lot. I used the Betty Crocker recipe as a base and added my own touches to this: chili powder and cumin, black beans, and tortilla chips instead of corn tortillas. The chips added a great crunchy texture, which I think this dish really needed. Some cilantro and corn would be great additions to this dish too, which is something I'll try when I make this again -- which I definitely will do!

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

adapted from Betty Crocker

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chiles
1 8-ounce container sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (1 cup)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups tortilla chips, roughly crushed
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In large bowl, mix soup, chiles, sour cream and milk until blended. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Stir in chicken, bell pepper, tomatoes, and black beans. Layer half of the chicken mixture in a baking dish; top with 1 cup of cheese and 1 cup of tortilla chips. Repeat layers, ending with tortilla chips.

2. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Classic Fried Rice

Fried rice is so ridiculously easy to make at home. This may seem pretty obvious to most of you, but up until pretty recently, I have to confess that I always used the boxed version when I made Chinese food at home. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against boxed rice and pasta products (rice pilaf and white shells and cheddar, I’m looking at you), but when I went to buy a box of fried rice recently I thought to myself, “C’mon, Cassie. You can make this yourself.”

And so I did. And it was good! This is a very classic version of fried rice, made with eggs, onions, peas, carrots, and soy sauce. It’s still pretty quick since it’s made with instant rice, but the rice still has tons of flavor because it’s cooked in chicken stock. My soy sauce measurement below is approximate; I just kept glugging it over the rice until I was happy with the color and flavor, so be sure you taste often and adjust up or down accordingly. My husband thought my version was really good, and he's a huge fan of fried rice, so I'll definitely take his word for it!

I served this alongside our favorite chicken lettuce wraps, and it would also be delicious as a bed for a heaping serving of Asian shredded beef. Yum!

Classic Fried Rice

1 cup uncooked instant rice
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 eggs, scrambled
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas

1 carrot, shredded
Approximately 2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Cook the rice in chicken stock according to package directions; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the eggs, and season with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt).

3. When the eggs are nearly cooked, add the rice to skillet. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, or until rice begins to get just slightly brown. Add the peas, carrots and soy sauce and stir to combine.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicken Cordon Bleu in Pastry

I have a winner winner chicken dinner recipe to share with you today (and no, it’s not a Guy Fieri recipe, but I don’t think he’ll mind if I borrow his expression). This recipe comes from my friend Mercedes over at The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife (if you haven’t checked out her blog, her food is fantastic, so go now!). I knew we’d love this as soon as she posted it. Cream cheese, chicken, ham, and cheese, all wrapped up in a pretty little crescent roll package? Sign me up!

Not only is this recipe absolutely delicious -- every bit as good as it looks and sounds -- it’s also really forgiving, as I learned the night I made it. Right after I put the chicken in the oven, our power went out. I was upset that dinner was going to be ruined, but by the time the power came back on about 20 minutes later, dinner had virtually cooked itself. Can’t beat that!

The only changes I made to the recipe were to sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and to use provolone cheese instead of Swiss because I had some to use up (and, of course, I used more cream cheese than the recipe called for; are you surprised?). This was a really tasty dinner, so simple to prepare but fancy enough for company. I’ll definitely be making this one again. Thanks for a great recipe, Mercedes!

Chicken Cordon Bleu in Pastry
adapted from The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife, who got it from Taste of Home

1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/4 cup spreadable chive and onion cream cheese
4 thin slices deli ham
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices Swiss or provolone cheese

1. On an ungreased baking sheet, separate dough into four rectangles; seal perforations. Spread 1 tablespoon cream cheese lengthwise down the center of each rectangle. Place ham widthwise over dough. Arrange chicken in center of each rectangle. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap ham around chicken. At each long end, pinch dough together around chicken, forming points.

2. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the chicken reads 170 degrees. Top with slice of Swiss or provolone cheese; bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and pastry is golden brown.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.20.10

I know I'm posting the meal plan pretty early this morning. That would be because a little Mr. Someone woke me up quite early with a blowout diaper, and after dealing with that mess, there was no way either of us were going back to sleep (and yes, I totally just mentioned poop on my food blog. If you're a parent, you know that poop happens, and if you're not, I'm sorry if you're offended, and feel thankful you had a more peaceful start to your day).

The little offender is now babbling away and going to town on his brother's toys while he has them all to himself, so I thought I might as well get this posted. After I do, I'm off to make some cream cheese apple muffins. (How sad is it that my life is so full of poop that it doesn't even make me lose my appetite anymore?) If they turn out, I'll share them with you coming up in October, when I'll have an entire week of apple-y goodness for you!

: Chili mac and cheese (made with last night's leftovers; it was a great batch!)

Tuesday: BBQ chicken wraps, potato chips

Wednesday: Creamed chicken and biscuits, salad

Thursday: Pasta All’Amatriciana (I never made this when it was on the menu a couple of weeks ago), salad

Friday: Leftovers, pizza, or take-out

Saturday: Appetizers for dinner while we watch football (even though it’s not a big game, but oh well): chicken wing pinwheels and spinach dip with tortilla chips

Sunday: Baked ziti with spinach, garlic bread

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ham, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Cups

Thank you guys so much for all of your sweet comments yesterday! Onward with the next 500! :)

I saw these adorable little ham cups on a Friday night, and I loved how they looked so much that I made them for breakfast the next morning. I love these savory little delights because they look a little bit fancy, but they’re so easy to make and they taste absolutely delicious. You can customize each individual serving to the eater’s liking with no problem. You could use deli turkey slices instead of ham, you could scramble the egg, you could add whatever veggies you like. You could even serve them as an appetizer at a party. No matter how you choose to make them, this method is fail-proof.

I kept ours pretty simple, with just a cracked egg, some cheddar cheese, and a sprinkling of chives. The egg cooked absolutely perfectly; the white was done and the yolk was still slightly runny. For something that took very little time and effort, they certainly were a hit with the husband and toddler...and me, too! These ingredients are staples in our house, so it’s nice to have this quick and cute little breakfast in my arsenal. Make them this weekend!

Ham, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Cups
adapted from Food for a Hungry Soul

2 deli ham slices per cup
1 egg per cup
Salt and pepper to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spray one muffin cup for each serving with cooking spray. Using two slices of ham for each cup, lay the ham slices criss-crossing each other, ruffling the slices into the muffin cup and up the sides to make it fit.

3. Crack one egg into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with cheese.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until white appears cooked. Sprinkle each serving with chives.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating 500 Posts with Nutella Mousse Tartlets

This is my 500th post here! I can’t believe it. When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I was looking for a way to get inspired by cooking again after going through a major kitchen renovation (that lasted for nearly the entire length of my first pregnancy). I had no idea if anyone would even read this. I didn’t know how long I’d actually stick with it. And now, half a thousand posts later, I’m still here and have no intentions of going anywhere, and more than 200 people are subscribed to this little website of mine. That may not sound like much, but to me it’s everything!

I have no grand allusions that this food blog is going to catapult me to Pioneer Woman fame. All I really want to do is make delicious food for my family and share it with all of you, and maybe a few of you will like it too. I don’t make recipes that are elaborate or complicated or call for exotic ingredients. I make food for real people, and I’m incredibly honored that so many of you have responded positively to the recipes I post. I sincerely want to thank each and every one of you who stops by occasionally to see what I’m cooking. I wish I could invite all of you over for dinner!!

I chose these tartlets to share today because I think they represent my food philosophy perfectly since they’re so simple, quick, and delicious. Plus, Nutella is the main ingredient, and if I could build an entire food philosophy around Nutella, I TOTALLY WOULD. These tartlets are so delectable, and it’s incredibly hard to eat just one. Trust me, I tried! (And failed. About 10 times.) I had a ton of filling left over even though I used all the phyllo shells, so I used the rest to frost a batch of brownies. I heartily recommend that you do this too. The Nutella mousse tasted amazing on top of the brownies!

I’d love to hear from all of you today! Who are you? Have you tried any of the recipes? And what would you like to see from my blog in the next 500 posts?

Thank you again for reading!

Nutella Mousse Tartlets
adapted from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures

1 1/2 cups Nutella

2 cups heavy whipped cream
3 packages phyllo shells

1. Place the Nutella in a large mixing bowl and set aside; place phyllo shells on a serving platter and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cold heavy whipping cream on medium high heat with the whisk attachment to stiff peaks.

3. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the Nutella in the large bowl until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture into a pastry bag or large gallon sized plastic storage bag with a corner snipped off. Carefully pipe the Nutella mousse into the phyllo shells. Refrigerate.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken with Jalapeno Popper Sauce

This is another one of those can’t-wait-to-share-it, so-good-I-want-to-scream-it-from-the-rooftops sort of dishes. This was our dinner last night, and I’m actually wishing we could have the exact same thing tonight. We would, if I still had all of the ingredients on hand. Rest assured that this one will be showing up frequently in our rotation.

The instant I saw this recipe show up on Krista’s Kitchen, I felt like it must have been created just for me. You all know my love of jalapeno popper-y things, and I think I immediately started drooling when I saw this. I had intended to make this just the way it was written, but on the way home from work I had a brainstorm to bread the chicken with cornmeal, so it would be super crispy in contrast to the creamy sauce and pay even more homage to the jalapeno popper.

You guys. This was so incredibly good. The chicken was crispy and so flavorful on its own, but the sauce. Oh, the sauce was the total star of this dish. It was so creamy and smoky and luxurious and just slightly spicy (but not so spicy that my toddler couldn’t eat it; he devoured his portion!). I may have eaten the leftover bits of the sauce with a spoon, right out of the pan. I’m just saying. That might have happened.

Like Krista, I served this with taco rice out of a packet, and I even shamelessly topped the rice with the sauce. I think I would eat this sauce on just about anything and it would taste good.

This is an awesome recipe. You're going to love this one.

Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken with Jalapeno Popper Sauce
adapted from Krista’s Kitchen, who got it from Mommie Cooks

3 chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 slices of bacon, chopped
3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Fry bacon until crisp in a high-sided skillet. Remove to paper towel-lined plate.

2. Meanwhile, combine cornmeal, chili powder, cumin, and salt on a rimmed plate. Dip each chicken breast in egg, then in cornmeal mixture. Shallow-fry in vegetable oil in a large skillet until crisp and juices run clear. Remove from skillet, drain on paper towels, and keep warm.

3. Add jalapenos to the skillet you used for the bacon, season with salt and black pepper, and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in chicken broth, using a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in shredded cheese and reserved bacon, stirring until the cheese in melted.

4. Serve chicken topped with (lots of) sauce.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

I’m such a spaz. Yesterday I was singing the praises of fall, and today I’m sharing an ice cream recipe that screams summer. But in my mind, ice cream is really a year-round treat, and this particular ice cream is too delicious not to share regardless of the time of year.

This ice cream represents a hybrid of my husband’s two favorite flavors: mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream. Occasionally I like to do nice things for him, and I thought he’d really enjoy this homemade version combining the two. He did. So did I. And so did Andrew. Between the three of us, we polished off the entire batch in less than a week. (Okay, I’ll be honest: It was much less than a week. It may have been more like a couple of days.)

What I love about this ice cream is that it’s not custard-based, so it’s super quick and easy to throw together. The mint Oreos adds such a great minty flavor that you don’t really need to add any mint extract at all. I will change one thing when I make this again, though: I added the cookie pieces while the ice cream was churning in the ice cream maker, and they broke up and made the ice cream look sort of…gray, which wasn’t very appetizing. The gray didn’t go away even when I added green food coloring (which I never really intended to do). Next time I’ll wait until the ice cream is frozen and stir the pieces in then (I’ve indicated this in the recipe below). Regardless of how it looked, though, it sure did taste good!

Mint Cookies and Cream Ice Cream
adapted from Allrecipes

2 cups 2% milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 1/2 cups mint Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

1. In a large bowl, stir together the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until the sugar has dissolved. Color to your liking with the green food coloring, if desired.

2. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. After the ice cream has thickened, about 30 minutes later, stir in cookie pieces. Spoon into a container and freeze for 2 hours before serving.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Creamy Burrito Casserole

How about a casserole recipe today? It seems like a good day for a casserole. Fall is in the air, for sure, and cooler weather always makes me hungry for hearty comfort food. And this casserole is definitely that.

I actually made this during the summer (I am so behind on posting!), and we all really liked it, even Andrew. It’s very highly-rated on, so I think I expected it to be transcendent, and while it wasn’t quite that, it was very good and something I’ll certainly make again. The original recipe calls for the tortillas to be broken up, but I found that unnecessary. I just layered them like lasagna and it worked out perfectly. There were only two and a half of us eating this, so we had lots of leftovers, but that was fine with me since I usually take leftovers for lunch. You could definitely divide the meat mixture in half and make another casserole for freezing, though.

This is a solid recipe, and something I think would please a crowd. It definitely pleased us!

Creamy Burrito Casserole
source: adapted from

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 package taco seasoning
6 medium flour tortillas
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, undrained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
4 ounces sour cream
Salsa and additional sour cream, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Brown ground beef and onion over medium-high heat; drain.

3. Add taco seasoning and stir in refried beans and green chilies.

4. Mix soup and sour cream in a separate bowl. Spread half of the sour cream mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Top with three flour tortillas, tearing as necessary to completely cover the sour cream mixture.

5. Top tortillas with half of the meat mixture, then top with cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese.

6. Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.13.10

Monday: Chicken spaghetti (I’ll update the link with a new picture, because the one in my original post is sort of hideous), salad

Tuesday: Mexican chicken with jalapeno popper sauce (I think this recipe was created just for me), taco rice (from a packet; convenience FTW!), salad

Wednesday: Apple-stuffed chicken breasts (I can't find the recipe to link to right now, but I think it's from Betty Crocker) (update: It's from Taste of Home, and here it is), rice pilaf, buttered steamed peas

Thursday: Chicken chipotle alfredo (based on this recipe from Beth)

Friday: Pizza night

Saturday: Chili (the first of the season, Joe’s going to l-o-v-e me)(more than he already does, that is, haha!), Monterey ranch bread

Sunday: Joe’s BBQ ribs (which we didn’t have last week), our favorite hash brown casserole (I can't believe I haven't shared this yet!), green beans

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shredded Buffalo Chicken Salad

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is directly influenced by what I’m craving right now. I’m sitting here starving, wishing I had a huge plate of this salad to eat for lunch today (instead of the ho-hum low-fat freezer meal I brought -- boo). So I thought I’d share it with all of you so you’re hungry for it too. Misery loves company, right? ;)

Since I first discovered this salad a month or so ago, I haven’t been able to get enough of it. It is so delicious, and dangerously easy to prepare. Recently my grocery store had an awesome sale on avocados, so I had this salad for lunch every day for an entire week. And I never got sick of it! In fact, I think I could eat this salad every day for the rest of my life, and I don’t think I’d enjoy it any less.

The salad consists of spicy shredded chicken, crushed tortilla chips, and sharp cheddar cheese sitting on a bed of fresh, crisp romaine. The piece de resistance, though, is the dressing. I just use store-bought ranch, but I add half a mashed avocado to it. So the dressing is super creamy and thick and cool and the perfect balance to that spicy chicken. Yum.

The chicken, by the way? It’s cooked in the slow cooker. So throw it in before you leave for the day, and then in the evening all you have to do is assemble the salad and dinner is ready. It couldn’t be any easier, and it definitely couldn’t taste any better. You’re gonna love this one!

Shredded Buffalo Chicken Salad
source: adapted from The Sisters’ Café

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup hot sauce (recommended: Frank’s Red Hot)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup ranch dressing
Half an avocado, mashed
Chopped romaine lettuce
Crushed tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. Pour hot sauce over chicken and top with butter. Cook on Low heat 6 to 8 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker, shred with two forks, and set aside.

2. Combine ranch dressing and avocado in a bowl; whisk until smooth.

3. Arrange romaine, tortilla chips, and cheese on a plate. Top with chicken and drizzle with dressing.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Broccoli, Salami, and Mozzarella Pizza Pockets

Oh, you guys, this was The Meal That Almost Wasn’t. Everything seemed to go wrong when I was making these pizza pockets.

…Okay, not everything; that may be a little bit dramatic. I was originally planning to make this stromboli from Martha Stewart, but then I sliced my pizza dough in a way that didn’t allow for all the filling to fit. So then, thinking myself quite clever, I decided to make pizza pockets instead, and I divided the dough into 8 squares. I’m brilliant! I thought.

In my brilliance, I added the filling to each one and wrapped the dough around all of them...before I realized I hadn’t seasoned the filling in any way, or added the marinara sauce. So I had to improvise further. I decided to heat the marinara and just use it for dipping, and quickly melted and seasoned some butter, which I brushed over the top of the pizza pockets before I baked them.

Then I crossed my fingers and just hoped they were edible. Much to my surprise, not only were they edible...they were absolutely delicious, and something we all loved. When I thought about it later, I realized this really shouldn’t have been all that surprising, since what I did was pretty much unknowingly follow the directions for these pizza rolls. In any case, I still think these are worth sharing, especially since this particular filling combination is a knock-out. Whether you make the stromboli in the original recipe, or you adapt it into these pizza pockets out of necessity as I did, this is definitely something worth trying. The filling options are endless, and I’ll be trying lots of variations in the future.

(And I know I've listed marinara as the dipping sauce in the recipe, and while that was very good, I should also mention that I ended up dipping one of my pizza pockets in ranch dressing, and I loved that. Ranch is the best!)

Broccoli, Salami, and Mozzarella Pizza Pockets
source: heavily adapted from Martha Stewart

1 package refrigerated pizza dough
1 package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
4 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami, chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and black pepper to taste
Marinara sauce, warmed

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pizza dough and cut into 8 equal squares.

2. Place broccoli in a strainer, and press to remove excess liquid. Transfer to a double layer of paper towels, and pat dry.

3. Dividing evenly, scatter broccoli over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with mozzarella and salami.

4. Carefully lift up each square and wrap the dough around the toppings. Pinch to make sure each ball is sealed shut and then place them seam side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Slice a hole in the top of each to vent.

5. Combine melted butter, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper and brush over tops of pizza pockets.

6. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with marinara (or ranch!) for dipping.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chicken Parmesan Cakes

I think it’s fairly obvious that I love chicken parmesan. First there were the meatballs, then there were the open-faced sandwiches...and now, these chicken parmesan cakes. I guess I really must love recipes that reinvent the classic dish and turn it into something a little bit more interesting.

These chicken parmesan cakes are a delicious alternative to the traditional version, that’s for sure. They make use of store-bought rotisserie chicken, so they come together really fast. They’re a lot like crab cakes in appearance and texture, but they taste like chicken parmesan through and through. There’s not nearly as much work required, though, so they’re perfect for weeknight cooking, especially on those nights when you just don’t know what else to make. We all liked these, even the toddler. This is a great one to have in the quick-cooking arsenal!

Chicken Parmesan Cakes
source: slightly adapted from Betty Crocker

1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups finely chopped deli rotisserie chicken
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tomato pasta sauce, heated
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Pasta, if desired

1. Mix together chicken, bread crumbs, egg, milk, parmesan cheese, salt and garlic powder.

2. Shape chicken mixture by about 1/4 cupfuls into 8 (3-inch) cakes.

3. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook cakes in oil 4 to 5 minutes, turning once, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

4. Serve over pasta, if desired, with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Smoky Macaroni and Cheese

I know fall doesn’t technically start for another couple of weeks, but for me, Labor Day feels like the end of summer. So what if it’s 90 degrees and absolutely stifling outside today? It’s FALL. Bring on the apples, bring on the pumpkins, bring on the brightly-colored leaves. And also? Bring on pots and pots of this macaroni and cheese!

I actually made this version of mac and cheese back in the middle of summer, but it’s definitely the kind of dish that just screams autumn. It’s got this awesome smoky flavor from the fire-roasted tomatoes and smoked cheddar cheese. Smoke makes me think of bonfires, and bonfires make me think of fall. See how that logic works? :)

The only thing that could improve this mac and cheese in any way would be about half a pound of bacon. I know, I know, I always want to put bacon in everything, but just look at the title of this recipe: “Smoky Macaroni and Cheese.” This dish is definitely meant to contain bacon.

Next time I may try mixing up the smoked cheeses I used, too. When I was buying the smoked cheddar for this recipe (usually in the specialty cheese case at the grocery store, and take some time to look for it; it’s most likely there, just hidden), I noticed smoked provolone and smoked gouda, which I think would also be amazing in this. And don’t even get me started on smoked fresh mozzarella. Mmmm, smoky deliciousness!

Okay, now I want a huge bowl of this to eat. While sitting beside a bonfire. On a crisp fall evening.

Smoky Macaroni and Cheese
source: slightly adapted from Betty Crocker

1 pound uncooked elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red cayenne pepper
8 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
1/4 cup sliced green onions (4 medium)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Cook and drain macaroni as directed on box. Return to saucepan; cover to keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In 2-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream, mustard, salt and red pepper to boiling. Reduce heat; stir in Cheddar cheese with wire whisk until smooth.

3. Pour sauce over macaroni. Stir in tomatoes and onions. Pour into baking dish. In small bowl, mix Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Stir in oil. Sprinkle over top of macaroni mixture.

4. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and top is golden brown.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 9.6.10

I hope you're all enjoying the long weekend! Our weather has been absolutely gorgeous, so we've spent most of our time doing this:

We've been having such a great weekend so far. The cook-outs start this afternoon, so I can't wait to say goodbye to summer with some delicious grilled eats! If you're still looking for something delicious to eat this weekend, be sure to check out this post!

Anyway, on to the meal plan. There's lots of chicken this week, I know. What can I say, it was on sale. Gotta love those Labor Day specials!

Monday: Asian wonton chicken salad. Our cook-out is mid-day on Monday, so I thought this would be a nice light dinner for us that night. (If we're hungry, that is.)

Tuesday: Butter chicken, roasted broccoli, rice pilaf

Wednesday: Chicken with pesto mushroom cream sauce over angel hair pasta, cheesy roasted tomato bread (again with the roasted tomatoes; I'm totally obsessed lately)

Thursday: Rustic chicken over rice, rolls

Friday: Pizza night

: Baked potato bar with assorted toppings (bacon, broccoli, chili, cheese, sour cream), salad

Sunday: Pasta All’Amatriciana, garlic bread

Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Recipes You'll Love

Instead of posting a new recipe today, I thought it would be fun to share a list of foods worthy of your Labor Day cook-outs this weekend. I love Labor Day weekend, although I’m always a little sad that summer is ending for another year. Our family always utilizes the grill in a big way, and after a delicious mid-afternoon meal we go swimming, then visit the flea market, so Labor Day really is like summer’s last hurrah for us. Here are a few (okay, 13; it was really hard to narrow them down!) of the dishes I thought would be just perfect for a late-summer cook-out.

Cowboy burgers. These savory burgers are topped with caramelized onions that have been drowned in steak sauce. They’re messy and taste amazing, and definitely one of our favorite burgers.

Summertime hot dogs with Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce. Use any kind of meat you like, it really doesn’t matter; the BBQ sauce is the star here. And the Dr. Pepper is the star of the BBQ sauce. It adds a really deep, sweet, syrupy taste that I just love. (Not surprising, since Dr. Pepper is my biggest vice.)

Foil-packet potatoes. So much flavor in such a compact package. These are endlessly adaptable, easy to make for a crowd and grill up in no time. And the best thing about them? They’re mouth-wateringly good.

Potato salad. This is one of the most-requested recipes from my family. My mom’s potato salad was a staple at all of our family gatherings growing up, and now that she’s gone, the torch has been passed to me. Every cook-out needs a good potato salad, and this is definitely better than good.

Wonderful pickles. This is another classic family recipe. Crunchy cucumbers are combined with onions and sweet peppers and drenched in a sweet, tangy dressing. I always have this in my refrigerator all summer long, and since it doesn’t contain mayonnaise, it’s the perfect cook-out food.

Pesto pasta salad and deviled egg pasta salad. I’m including both of these in the list because if you put a gun to my head, I don’t think I could choose which one of these I like better. They’re so different, but they’re both so delicious. If you’re going for something a little more upscale, try the pesto version. If you just want a pasta salad that’s plain old delicious, go for the deviled egg version. I honestly don’t think you could go wrong either way.

Broccoli salad. This salad is seriously so good. It’s a great thing to make ahead of time so the flavors can really combine. This is one of the dishes I’ll be taking to our cook-out this year.

Summer fruit salad with creamy lime dressing. I sang the praises of this salad earlier this week, and it really is perfect cook-out food. Blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe are still in season and readily available at the markets (and cheap!), so this is a great way to utilize them before they disappear.

Grape salad. I could write love poems about this salad, I love it so much. Our entire family is crazy about it, and it’s the second dish I’m taking to our cook-out this weekend. Everyone insisted.

Sour cream peach pecan pie. This isn’t your typical peach pie, but it’s still an incredible way to highlight the flavor of those delicious, juicy peaches that are just falling off the trees right now. My favorite part is the buttery, crispy, streusel-like topping. I could probably eat an entire pie made up of just that and be perfectly happy.

Rich chocolate chunk brownies. I mean, c’mon, how much more American does it get than a gooey, fudgy brownie? Top it with some homemade vanilla ice cream (another staple in our family) and it’s pretty much Heaven in a dish.

Peanut butter pie. This is my mom’s recipe, and the third and final dish I’m making for this weekend. If you like peanut butter pie, you’re going to love this version. Instead of topping the pie, fresh whipped cream is folded right into it, resulting in a light, creamy texture. And the crust? It's made from peanut butter Oreos. You won’t believe how good this pie is. Mmmm. Delectable.

Have a great long weekend!