Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beer and Brown Sugar Pork Chops

I’ll just be honest: I don’t know a lot about beer. I know that I enjoy Corona with a couple of lime slices every once in a while, but that I much prefer fruity cold drinks to a bottle of beer. And I’m okay with my beer ignorance, really. I'll just be over here with my strawberry margarita.

My husband loves beer, though, and I knew he’d enjoy this recipe the instant it popped up in my Reader. The recipe calls for dark beer, so that’s exactly what I wrote on my grocery list. But then I got to the beer case and, well, I realized that I didn’t really know which beer to choose. There are exactly two beers that I know to be dark: Killian’s and Guinness. But since this recipe has an Asian spin, I didn’t know if those would be quite right. I finally settled on Jamaican Red Stripe Lager, figuring that the word “lager” meant that the beer would be dark.

Well…it wasn’t. But in the end, I really don’t think it mattered all that much. These pork chops were still intensely flavorful. The beer, soy sauce, and brown sugar in the marinade worked together to create a yeasty, salty, sweet flavor. As suspected, Joe loved these pork chops – and I didn’t think they were bad, either, despite the fact that they didn’t taste a bit like a strawberry margarita. :)

Beer and Brown Sugar Pork Chops
seen on Kitten with a Whisk and originally from Sam Zien

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup of dark beer
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 boneless pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick

1. Mix brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, beer, and garlic together. Place chops in an airtight container and pour marinade over it. Make sure chops are fully submerged and refrigerate overnight.

2. Heat grill to medium high heat and grill chops for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn chops once halfway through. Chops are done when they are white throughout and firm, and the internal temp is 160 degrees.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grilled Pesto Spread

This, my friends, is probably one of the easiest and most delicious recipes I’ve shared on the blog to date. It’s the perfect appetizer for your next summer cook-out (like…maybe for the Fourth of July this weekend? Hint hint!). It’s three ingredients – four if you count the crackers – and it comes together so simply and tastes so incredibly good. It’s basically a brick of cream cheese, topped with pesto and mozzarella, wrapped in foil, and grilled until the cream cheese is perfectly softened and the mozzarella is melted.

You could make this in the oven if you don’t have a grill, of course, but if you do have a grill – take advantage! Keep the heat out of your kitchen! I served the spread with crackers, but I could also get behind slathering it on slices of grilled French bread. Mmmm. I’m totally trying that next time.

(By the way, this cooking method would also work with cream cheese and pepper jelly – one of my favorite appetizers of all time.)

Grilled Pesto Spread
adapted from Kraft Foods

1 8-ounce package cream cheese (low-fat is fine)
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese
Crackers for serving

1. Heat the grill to medium heat.

2. Place unwrapped cream cheese on 8-inch square sheet of heavy-duty foil; top with pesto and shredded cheese.

3. Place foil on grill; cover with lid. Grill 8 to 10 minutes or until shredded cheese is melted and cream cheese is softened, but still holding its shape.

4. Transfer foil to platter. Serve spread with crackers.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fruit Pizza Cookies

We went to my husband's aunt's house for a cook-out for Mother's Day last month, and among the spread of delicious food she served were these adorable little fruit pizzas -- made with slice-and-bake sugar cookies and topped with a lemony cream cheese frosting and fresh fruit. I ate way more of them than I should have, and for the past month I haven't been able to get them out of my mind. I was just looking for an excuse to make them myself, and the Fourth of July seemed like the perfect opportunity. I didn't have a recipe for the frosting, so I just winged it, and it turned out perfectly.

These individual fruit pizzas couldn't be easier to make. They use slice-and-bake sugar cookies, and the cream cheese frosting comes together in minutes. And oh, they're so good. The crispy cookie, the creamy frosting, and the sweet fresh fruit come together to make a treat with the perfect balance of flavors and textures. You can use whatever combination of fruits you'd like -- Joe's aunt used strawberries and kiwi, and I used strawberries and blueberries to make these patriotic for the Fourth of July. Mandarin oranges would also be delicious in combination with blueberries or raspberries. The possibilities are endless.

If you're looking for a quick, refreshing treat for the Fourth of July, I think you'll love these fruit pizza cookies!

Fruit Pizza Cookies

1 package refrigerated slice-and-bake sugar cookies
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Fresh fruit of choice

1. Bake and cool cookies according to package directions (I let mine go a little longer than suggested because I like them crispy).

2. While cookies are baking, mix together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and lemon juice and set aside until ready to use.

3. To assemble the pizzas, spread about a tablespoon of frosting on each cookie and top with fruit. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.27.11

Monday: Portobello pesto pizza. To say I’m excited to eat this pizza would be a drastic understatement.

Tuesday: Sausage biscuit sandwiches and roasted potatoes. A coworker found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen and sent me the link last week, and I was instantly smitten. Cream cheese and raspberry jam on a sausage biscuit. YUM!

Wednesday: Black bean chilaquiles – my Rachael Ray recipe for the week. I’ve noticed I gravitate towards her BLD-type fare, and this particular one looks so incredibly delicious.

Thursday: Joe’s softball night, so it’s “whatever sounds good” night for the boys and me. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that Andrew will want macaroni and cheese, William will want waffles, and I will eat cereal and cinnamon toast.

Friday: Brats with sauerkraut and macaroni and cheese (wow, that post needs a new photo). Brats will be on our menu a lot over the next few months; they’re hands-down one of our favorite things to eat during the summer. I’m mostly making the mac and cheese for Saturday’s dinner of...

Saturday: BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese paninis and wonderful pickles. Oh yes, I’m going there!

Sunday: Fourth of July cook-out. I'll be taking grape salad and fruit pizza cookies, which I'll be sharing with you tomorrow!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Sloppy Cubanos

One of my favorite things about Rachael Ray is her ability to take a classic dish and make it in a completely new way. She seems particularly fond of reinventing the classics into macaroni and cheese or sloppy joes, and my list of these types of her recipes that I want to try is about a mile long. When I stumbled across her recipe for sloppy Cubanos, I had to make them immediately. The traditional Cuban sandwich is one of our very favorites, so I was eager to see how it would taste in sloppy joe form.

These were delicious! They really did echo all the flavors of a traditional Cuban. I made some modifications (because I always make modifications), and I was very happy with the end result. I’ll definitely make these again. I only had shredded Swiss cheese on hand, but I’ll definitely use the slices next time. And the pickles are a must – don’t skip them!

For more great Rachael Ray recipes, be sure to check out Taste and Tell's Saturdays with Rachael Ray!

Sloppy Cubanos
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced ham
1 pound ground pork
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon allspice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Grated peel and juice of 1 lime
1 cup chicken broth
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
4 rolls, split
4 deli slices Swiss cheese
3 to 4 large dill or half-sour pickles, chopped

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, crumbling it with a spoon, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Stir in the ham, onion, garlic, paprika, coriander and allspice; season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add the brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lime peel and lime juice and mix well; stir in the chicken broth, tomato sauce and mustard and simmer for a couple of minutes.

4. Lightly toast the rolls under the broiler. Pile the meat mixture onto the roll bottoms. Cover with the Swiss cheese and broil until melted, about 30 seconds. Scatter the pickles on the sandwiches and cover with the roll tops.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pepperoni Sauce

How many of you watched Top Chef All Stars? If you did, you almost certainly remember cheftestant Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce in the finale. Gail Simmons couldn’t stop raving about it. It did look absolutely delicious, so when Bravo put the recipe on their website a month or so later, I couldn’t wait to try it.

I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Mike the first time he was on Top Chef. For lack of a better term, he seemed like a total douche. But in the all stars season he didn't bother me nearly as much, and I actually don’t think I would have minded if he would have won. His food always looked delicious, and if the rest of his dishes tasted as good as this pepperoni sauce? Well, then I would say that he deserved to win.

This sauce has such incredible flavor. The pepperoni adds a wonderful spiciness and it works perfectly with the toasted fennel seed. Next time I make this I’ll double it so I can freeze a batch. This would be a perfect flavorful sauce to have on hand in the freezer for those nights I just don’t feel like cooking.

Pepperoni Sauce
slightly adapted from

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into small dice
5 medium cloves garlic, cut into very thin slices
1 pound pepperoni, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
14 ounces canned Italian tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 fresh bay leaf

1. Toast the fennel seed in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the skillet often to keep the seeds from burning. They will become fragrant and slightly darker in color.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil simmers. Add the onion and garlic; cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden and fragrant.

3. Stir in the pepperoni; cook for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and evenly coated, then add the toasted fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring.

4. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the broth, and the bay leaf; stir to incorporate. Once the mixture starts to bubble at the edges, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pepperoni slices will be soft, with a deeper color. Remove from the heat.

5. Working in batches as needed, transfer to a food processor or a high-powered blender (including the bay leaf). Puree until smooth. Serve with pasta.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.20.11

I hope you all had a nice weekend celebrating the dads in your lives. We certainly did. I couldn’t ask for a better dad for my boys than the man I married, that’s for sure!

This would have been my mom’s 57th birthday, so she’s at the forefront of my mind today. I thought I’d list a few of her recipes that I’ve shared here over the past few years. Whenever I make one of these dishes, I feel like she’s here with me. I just made her potato salad yesterday, in fact, and I think she would have been proud of how it tasted. :)

Crock pot pork roast with potatoes and carrots
Sweet potato casserole
Shredded chicken sandwiches
“Scalloped” potatoes
Biscuits over creamed chicken
Cajun meatloaf
Peanut butter pie
Potato salad

Anyway, on to the meal plan. This week’s plan is a hodgepodge of old favorites and a few new dishes I’ve been wanting to try. I based the meal plan on what was on sale at the grocery store, which I always try to do, but some weeks I succeed more than others. This week was a success!

Monday: Pizza panini and mozzarella sticks

Tuesday: Grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing, grilled corn on the cob, warm pesto dip with crackers

Wednesday: Chicken salad club sandwiches with potato chips

Thursday: Joe’s softball night, also known as “the night the boys and I have cereal for dinner.”

Friday: BBQ pulled pork nachos

Saturday: Pork chops, steamed broccoli, roasted potatoes

Sunday: Braised beef with potatoes and tomatoes, garlic bread

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Bacon and Egg Quesadillas

I mentioned in a previous post that I've spent some time lately clearing out my magazine collection. I've been going through old magazines clipping the recipes that I want to keep, and recycling whatever I don't. The first magazine I tackled was Everyday with Rachael Ray -- the subscription I've had the longest. It was pretty time-consuming to clip the recipes I wanted to keep, because there were so many of them! This particular recipe for bacon and egg quesadillas actually appeared in two issues of the magazine, so I knew it must be good!

IT WAS. These quesadillas are a new family favorite for sure, and Joe loved them so much that he didn't even mind when I made them three times in one week. If you know me, you know it's unheard of for me to make a recipe twice in the same month, let alone three times in a week!

There's really nothing not to love about these quesadillas. They're such a fun new twist on bacon and eggs. I love that the eggs are only cooked to over-easy, so the yolks are still soft when you bite into them. I also love that the quesadillas are crisped in bacon grease -- it's not very healthy, sure, but it makes them so perfectly crisp and adds a ton of flavor too. Joe topped his with hot sauce for a little more heat, and I topped mine with sour cream. You could also serve them with salsa if you wanted. What a simple and delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner these were!

Be sure to check out Taste and Tell's Saturdays with Rachael Ray for more great recipes!

Bacon and Egg Quesadillas

4 medium flour tortillas
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound bacon
4 large eggs
4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

1. Working in batches, in a nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; drain on paper towels. Leave about 2 tablespoons bacon fat in the skillet, reserving the rest of the fat. Cut the bacon strips in half.

2. Working in 2 batches, in the skillet, cook the eggs over easy, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste; transfer to a platter. Reserve the skillet.

3. Lay the tortillas on a work surface. Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup cheese; top with 1 egg and bacon strips, then fold to enclose.

4. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat over medium heat, add quesadillas and cook, turning once, until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Butter Baked Chicken

Every once in a while the craving for fried chicken hits me. It’s not something I indulge in very often because it’s just too unhealthy for me to justify eating it on a regular basis (even though I’d really love to), but every once in a while I give in to the craving and we order a bucket of extra crispy from KFC for dinner. We devour it, and moan at its deliciousness, and then spend the rest of the evening feeling guilty for the two pieces we ate. (Well…at least I do that. I don’t think the rest of my family really cares.)

I’m happy to say that, in this recipe, I’ve discovered a delicious substitute for KFC’s extra crispy fried chicken. The recipe isn’t intended to be a copycat, but it tastes almost exactly like KFC’s version. Except that this version is coated with buttery cracker crumbs and the chicken is skinless, and it cooks in the oven, so it’s much less unhealthy. The chicken stays really moist and juicy. This will definitely be my go-to whenever that craving for fried chicken hits!

Like Rachel, I served this with garlic spinach noodles. Next time I’ll probably serve it with mac and cheese and cole slaw. But you’re going to love this one, no matter what you serve on the side!

Butter Baked Chicken
adapted from Recipes Straight from the Kowboys Home

10 skinless bone-in chicken pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
2 sleeves crushed Ritz or other buttery crackers
Seasonings of choice (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and marjoram)
4 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in a large pan on stovetop.

2. Meanwhile, mix egg and milk together in a bowl. Put flour in a separate bowl. In another separate bowl, add crushed crackers and seasonings. Dredge the chicken pieces, then egg mixture, then cracker mixture.

3. In pan with melted butter, brown breaded chicken well on both sides in batches. Transfer to a 13 x 9 baking dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garlic Spinach Noodles

When I’m planning meals for the week, the thing I struggle with most is coming up with side dishes – particularly starchy ones. Vegetables are easy, but starches are much harder for me. Usually we have some kind of rice or some kind of potato, but it gets a little bit boring after a while (to me, at least; my husband and sons could eat boxed rice pilaf every day for the rest of their lives and be perfectly happy). When I saw this recipe for garlic spinach noodles, I couldn’t wait to try it. It seemed like a great side dish, and a way to sneak some spinach into my boys’ diet – for which I’m always grateful.

We all really liked these noodles. Their flavor is sweet, tangy, and garlicky – a really nice combination of flavors. Tomorrow I’ll share the chicken I made to go with them.

Garlic Spinach Noodles
adapted from Recipes Straight From the Kowboys Home

8 ounces penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with hot water; drain and keep warm.

2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together chicken broth, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add spinach to pan along with vinegar mixture; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until spinach is hot. Stir in pasta and heat through. Remove from heat and toss with cheese.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.13.11

Monday: Brats with sauerkraut, fries. This is one of Joe’s favorite meals, and I love it too – it’s simple and delicious. Joe tops his brats with kraut and sweet relish, and I top mine with kraut and honey mustard. I guess we both like something sweet to balance out the sourness of the kraut.

Tuesday: Crock pot Asian peanut butter pork with stir fry vegetables and rice. The first of three meals I’ll be making in my Crock pot this week. Pork, peanut butter and rice are three things my boys will always eat, so I’m hoping this goes over well.

Wednesday: Pepperoncini beef sandwiches, pasta salad. I just realized I never planned a side dish for these sandwiches, so pasta salad it is. I’ll use whatever noodles, veggies and cheese I have on hand and make a quick balsamic vinaigrette. Nice and simple.

Thursday: Joe’s softball night; the boys and I will probably do breakfast-for-dinner.

Friday: Creamy chicken tacos and Mexican sour cream rice. I put these tacos on our menu the instant they popped up in my reader. Can’t wait to try them!

Saturday: BBQ beef sandwiches with cole slaw, potato salad. I’ll use Wednesday’s leftovers for the sandwiches. I love dual purpose meals.

Sunday: Spicy chicken wonton tacos. Another recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while. If they’re anything like the little tacos at Applebee’s, I’m sure they’ll be delicious!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

I’m back for another round of Saturdays with Rachael Ray, and I’m so excited about the recipe I’m sharing today. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this recipe is genius. I will certainly be making these Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes again and again.

These sloppy joes come together so quickly and hit all the same bells and whistles as traditional Philly cheesesteaks. I added mushrooms and green peppers to them for even more flavor, and I gilded the lily by adding sliced provolone to the finished sandwiches in addition to the cheese sauce. The results were beyond delicious, and Joe and I couldn’t stop raving about them (or eating them).

For more great Rachael Ray recipes, be sure to check out Taste and Tell’s Saturdays with Rachael Ray. And since we’re talking about Philly cheesesteaks and Rachael Ray, check out this Philly cheesesteak mac and cheese while you’re at it!

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
adapted from Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
6-8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup steak sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Provolone cheese slices
Toasted buns

1. In large skillet over medium-high heat with one turn of the pan of olive oil, brown the ground meat, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onion, green pepper, and mushrooms and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion and peppers start to get tender and the mushrooms are browned. Stir in the steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and beef stock, season with salt and pepper, bring up to a bubble and cook for about 2 minutes.

2. While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a medium size skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, then bring up to a bubble and let thicken, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese in a figure-eight motion until it is all incorporated.

3. To serve, place a scoopful of the meat mixture onto the bottom of the toasted buns, then top with the cheese sauce and a slice of provolone cheese and add the top of the roll.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Potato Chip Pork Chops

You’ve probably noticed that I’m always trying new recipes. We have our favorites that I go back to again and again, of course, but I love keeping things interesting in the kitchen and trying new dishes. When I told Joe I was trying out a new pork chop recipe, he said, “Why? You know how much I love your usual pork chops.” After he tasted these, though, I think he was glad I tried something new.

In this recipe, pork chops are breaded with potato chips rather than breadcrumbs. The potato chips add a really delicious salty, crunchy quality to the pork chops. This is a versatile recipe that would work with chicken or fish as well, and many different flavors of potato chips (BBQ, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, ranch, or even my favorite -- cheddar and sour cream. Mmmmm.). I recommend coarsely crushing the chips to make sure they stay crunchy while baking, and also to broil the chops for a minute or two to get that nice, toasty color.

Potato Chip Pork Chops
very slightly adapted from What’s Cookin’, Chicago?

1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless center cut pork chops
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 1/3 cup potato chips, coarsely crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Liberally season both sides of each pork chop with the seasoning mixture.

2. Dredge the seasoned pork chops in the flour.

3. Whisk the egg into the buttermilk into a medium sized bowl. Dip the flour coated pork chops in the buttermilk and egg mixture.

4. Place the finely crushed potato chips into a shallow pan and dredge the pork chops to coat completely.

5. Place the coated pork chops on a greased baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Broil until browned, if desired.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pepper Jack, Chicken and Peach Quesadillas with Honey-Lime Sour Cream

I’ve come to the conclusion that people in my state (myself included) are never happy when it comes to the weather. First we were dealing with 40 degree temperatures in May, and we complained that it was too cold. Then we had solid weeks of rain, and we complained that it was too wet. And now? Well, now we’re dealing with temperatures in the mid-90s and really high levels of humidity. So now we want it to cool down a little bit – and to rain, if for no other reason than to wash away some of the humidity. Straighten up, Ohio weather!

Yesterday the temperature topped out at about 97 degrees, and the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven to make dinner. Thankfully, I had these quesadillas on the menu. They came together very quickly and didn’t heat up the kitchen too much, and they were absolutely delicious. The combination of pepper-jack cheese and peaches is so perfect, and the sour cream sauce is so refreshing and yummy. My boys each ate an entire quesadilla. I served this with our favorite cilantro lime rice, although Mexican sour cream rice would also be a delicious side.

I used white peaches because they looked the best at the store, but in a few months, you can bet I’ll be making these quesadillas again with peaches straight from the orchard. These quesadillas are already so good, I can only imagine how delicious they’ll be with even fresher peaches. I’ll be sure to report back. :)

Pepper Jack, Chicken and Peach Quesadillas with Honey-Lime Sour Cream
slightly adapted from On My Menu

1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
4 8-inch flour tortillas
3/4 cup pepper-jack cheese
1 cup chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced peeled firm ripe peaches
Cooking spray

1. Combine honey and lime juice in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir sour cream into honey mixture; cover and chill until ready to serve.

2. Place tortillas flat on a work surface. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese over half of each tortilla; top each tortilla with 1/4 cup chicken and 1/4 cup peaches. Fold tortillas in half.

3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Place 2 quesadillas in the pan. Cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until tortillas are crisp and lightly browned. Remove quesadillas from pan; set aside, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with the remaining quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into wedges. Serve with sauce.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kicked-Up Carbonara

I came across this dish on Krista’s Kitchen a while ago, right after I adapted her recipe for Southwestern bacon mac and cheese. It was one of the suggested recipes at the bottom of her post, and it looked delicious. Then I read her post and saw that she and her family didn’t like it, at all. She thought this was probably because of her wine choice, so I thought I’d go ahead and give the recipe a shot. I wouldn’t be in danger of using cheap wine since I don’t drink wine very often and very rarely buy it just for a recipe (other than risotto -- wine is a must in risotto recipes, in my humble opinion).

So I made this, replacing the wine with chicken broth, and we all really enjoyed it. Joe especially raved about it, and kept saying, “This is really, really good” between bites. He was right. This is basically pasta alla carbonara, with a few more ingredients thrown in to make it even more delicious. The sauce is silky, creamy, and yummy, and every bite of this pasta is loaded with flavor.

Kicked-Up Carbonara
adapted from Krista’s Kitchen

12 ounces linguine or thin spaghetti
5 pieces thick-sliced bacon, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan; keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, in large skillet, cook bacon until crisp; remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet; discard remaining drippings. Add garlic and red bell pepper; cook and stir until bell pepper is slightly softened. Add chicken broth and bring to boiling. Reduce heat; boil gently, uncovered, 3 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

3. In medium bowl whisk together eggs and half-and-half. Add egg mixture to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until egg mixture coats a metal spoon. Do not scramble.

4. Add egg mixture to pasta along with bacon, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Cook over medium heat 1 minute just to heat through, tossing with tongs to combine. Add reserved pasta cooking liquid to pasta mixture as needed to make creamy. Top with black pepper and additional parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.6.11

We had a great weekend. It was pretty hot, but we still managed to spend a lot of time outside. The menu this week is a combination of slow cooker, quick and easy, and grilled meals to keep us outside as much as possible. 

Monday: Chipotle beef tacos with honey lime coleslaw

Tuesday: Spicy Asian lettuce wraps, fried rice

Wednesday: Pepper jack, chicken, and peach quesadillas, cilantro lime rice

Thursday: Joe has a softball game, so the boys and I will be eating on the fly.

Friday: Beer and brown sugar pork chops, fried potatoes, buttered corn

Saturday: Citrus-glazed chicken, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli

Sunday: Tex-Mex rice bowls

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturdays with Rachael Ray: French Dip Sandwiches

I'm happy to be participating in Taste and Tell's Saturdays with Rachael Ray again! I've been making Rachael's recipes like crazy lately (I recently went through a bunch of my magazines), so hopefully I'll be able to participate for a few weeks to come as well.

Every so often, I make a meal that we enjoy so much that I've made it again and again before I even get the chance to blog about it. That's what happened with these French dip sandwiches, which I've made a handful of times now. They're made from ingredients I always have on hand, they're so quick to make, and they're absolutely delicious. And since they're dippable, my toddler adores them, and I'm always eager to get him to eat something besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

For as quickly as these come together, the flavor of the dipping sauce (or jus, if you prefer) is suprisingly intense, and tastes like it took a lot longer to cook. These oven rings are the perfect accompaniment. Delicious!

French Dip Sandwiches
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking and originally from 30 Minute Meals

2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cans beef broth
1 1/2 pounds deli sliced roast beef
Salt and pepper
4 bolillo rolls, split
8 slices provolone cheese

1. In a large, shallow skillet over moderate heat, melt butter. Add shallots to butter and saute 2 minutes. Add flour to butter and shallot and cook a minute longer. Whisk in sherry or brandy and cook liquid out. Whisk in broth in a slow stream. Bring sauce to a bubble and allow to simmer over low heat until ready to serve sandwiches.

2. Pile meat loosely across your cutting board or a large work surface. Season meat with salt and black pepper. Add to sauce to heat through. Set out ramekins or small soup cups for dipping sauce.

3. Toast the rolls. Using a pair of kitchen tongs, pile meat onto rolls. Top with slices of provolone cheese and broil to melt the cheese. Set ramekins or cups with extra dipping sauce alongside the sandwiches.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Pizza Panini

I think this is one of the best ideas for a quick and easy lunch or dinner I’ve ever had. It’s a pepperoni and cheese panini, and the bread is store-bought garlic Texas toast. Served with pizza sauce on the side for dipping, this meal is literally ready in minutes, and it’s absolutely delicious. It’s also a kid-pleaser, to which I’m sure both of my boys would attest.

The panini itself is easily customizable – use any combination of pizza toppings and cheeses you like. I think black olives and/or banana peppers would be particularly delicious in addition to the pepperoni. I kept them simple for my first go-round, but I’ll definitely be experimenting with different ingredients when I make these again!

Pizza Panini

Frozen garlic Texas toast
Deli-sliced pepperoni
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Pizza sauce

Prepare garlic toast according to package directions. To assemble sandwiches, top a slice of garlic toast with pepperoni and a sprinkling of cheese, then another piece of garlic toast. Cook in a panini press until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve with warm pizza sauce for dipping.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread Muffins

My oldest son really loves baking with me, and he’s at an age where he’s able to help me a lot more. I usually bake something every weekend and he’s always right there with me, pulling a chair in from the dining room, saying, “What we makin’ today, Mommy? I help you!” When I told him one weekend that we were making peanut butter cup banana bread muffins, I rendered him speechless. So many of his favorite things, all in one treat – it was probably the pinnacle of his young life.

These muffins really are pretty incredible. The banana bread base is moist and flavorful on its own, but the addition of peanut butter cups just takes these muffins over the top. They were a huge hit with both of my boys and my husband. And to his credit, Andrew didn’t steal too many of the peanut butter cup pieces for snacking. He is three, though, so some product loss was to be expected. :)

Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread Muffins
adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

2 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
4 very ripe large bananas
4 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 regular sized peanut butter cups, chopped into small pieces and coated in 1 tablespoon of flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 12-cup muffin tins or line them with paper liners.

2. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and bananas and beat until uniformly blended.

3. Sift together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until you cannot longer see any of the dry ingredients. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in candy pieces.

4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pork Chops with Creamy Mushroom Gravy

I didn’t eat pork a whole lot during my early years. My dad’s family didn’t eat meat at all, but pork was particularly off-limits due to their religion, so when my mom married him she just adopted that habit. My dad didn't follow the no-meat rules, but pork was still something my mom very rarely made (excluding bacon; I come by my love of that particular pork product honestly). The first time I ever tried a pork chop was at a friend’s house when I was 10, and man -- it was so delicious.

In addition to the meats we did eat often, like chicken and beef, we also ate a variety of meat substitute products. Joe thinks they’re disgusting, but to this day I still love so many of those products. Maybe it’s because I grew up with them, but seriously: Have you ever had a Morningstar Farms sausage patty? Those things are amazing.

This recipe reminds me a lot of the way my mom used to prepare vegetarian choplets, and it was one of my favorite meals as a kid. It also reminds me a lot of the way my grandma (my mom’s mom) used to prepare pork chops -- which I happily ate from age 10 on. The gravy is particularly delicious on mashed potatoes. I’ve made this one a few times now, and my boys love it. They always love anything made with pork -- I couldn’t keep it from them even if I tried (which I won't).

Pork Chops with Creamy Mushroom Gravy
adapted from Erin’s Eats

4 boneless center cut pork chops
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
1 10.75-ounce can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup
1/2 can milk (use the cream of mushroom can)
1/2 cup sour cream
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil and butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Season chops on both sides with seasoning salt and black pepper. Add chops to skillet and brown on both sides (approximately 5 to 7 minutes per side).

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together cream of mushroom soup, sour cream and milk. Set aside.

4. Once pork chops are browned, place them in a greased glass baking pan. Cover the chops with the soup mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour, until pork chops are tender.