Friday, June 6, 2014

Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles with Cucumber Sambal

Okay, I know this probably looks kind of weird. It's not often that you see hot noodles and chicken paired with a cold salad. It probably sounds even weirder than it looks. And I know you're thinking that the ingredient list seems really long. But basically, you're just gonna have to trust me on this one. Have I ever steered you wrong before?

My kids are huge fans of both peanut butter noodles and cucumbers, so when I spotted this recipe I immediately had them in mind. Not surprisingly, they absolutely loved this meal, and so did Joe and I. There's something about the silkiness of the noodles paired with the cool, refreshing salad and crunchy peanuts that is just amazing. All of the ingredients work together in perfect balance. We loved, loved, loved this meal. 

Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles with Cucumber Sambal
slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces dry spaghetti
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet red chili sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt 

For the peanut sauce:

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons  brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet red chili sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced 

For the cucumber sambal:

1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt

1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Toss with chicken and grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from grill (or grill pan), and tent with foil while preparing the other ingredients.

3. Prepare the cucumber sambal by tossing together the sambal ingredients. Set aside till serving.

4. Cook the pasta according to the package; drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile, prepare peanut sauce. Heat broth, peanut butter, brown sugar, vinegar, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, and ginger in a saucepan over medium heat to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in salt, then pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat.

5. Top each serving of pasta with a chicken breast and cucumber sambal. Garnish with peanuts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins

My kids love BBQ anything. BBQ chips, BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs...I could probably pour BBQ sauce over ice cream and they'd eat it. This is so different from the way I was when I was a kid that it makes me laugh. I was completely indifferent to BBQ sauce until my pregnancy with Will. Now, though, I'm with them: I love BBQ anything.

Another thing we all love is meatloaf (aka sauce cake), so it was only a matter of time before I combined those two loves. And thus, these BBQ cheddar meatloaf muffins were born. Let me tell you, it was love at first bite for all of us.

What makes these extra-delicious are the crushed French-fried onions I stir into the meat mixture. They give the meat such an incredible flavor. With only a handful of ingredients, these couldn't be simpler to prepare -- and they are so incredibly tasty. 

I served the meatloaf muffins with corn and coleslaw. The next day, I put a couple of the leftover muffins and some of the leftover coleslaw on a bun to make the most delicious sandwich in the entire universe. I'm giving myself a fist bump for that.

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins

1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups freshly-shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 small can French-fried onions
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Using a food processor or blender, pulse the French-fried onions until finely crushed.

2. Combine beef, 1 cup cheese, the crushed French-fried onions, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Divide into 12 equal portions and place in the prepared muffin tin. Brush remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce over each portion. 

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over each portion. Cook for 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 2, 2014

May Recipe Re-Make Recap

It's June, you guys! JUNE! After that hideous winter we had it's been difficult for me to accept that warm weather is here to say (at least for the next few months), but now it's JUNE and there's no denying it. It's summer! Let's all breathe a collective sigh of relief....Ahhhhh. 

May was definitely the busiest month we've had so far this year, and that's really saying a lot. Will finished up his soccer season with a total of four goals scored, and is already asking when fall season is going to start. Andrew is deep into his tee-ball season with Joe coaching. He's barely batting from the tee at all anymore, and is making great progress at hitting. He turned six (!!!!) on May 10th and graduated from kindergarten last Friday. It's hard for me to believe that I'm the mother of an almost-first-grader!

We've been working on a lot of outside projects -- putting up our pool (and filling it up -- ugh, I'm already fretting about that water bill!), planting our garden, and building a new and improved fire pit. I'm more excited about summer than I've ever been before, thinking about all the fun we're going to have and all the fresh food we're (hopefully!) going to eat.

Even as busy as we've been, I managed to cook quite a few meals. Many of our favorites made reappearances this month, including a few recipes I hadn't made for literally years

These grilled chicken Caesar flatbreads are definitely a favorite around here. The chicken is so flavorful and succulent, and I just can't think of much better than eating a portable Caesar salad. ALDI sells naan now for a great price, so I picked some up to use for the flatbreads. I will probably always use naan for these now.

Over the winter, when I was pining for warm weather and grilled foods, this grilled pesto chicken with tomato cream penne was the meal I was most looking forward to. It didn't disappoint. It never does.

Shrimp po boys are a favorite around here, with kids and adults alike. I should actually start doubling the amount of shrimp, since we're all guilty of snacking on them while I'm frying the batches. I think this is one of the best sandwiches there is.

I hadn't made this vegetable lasagna for a few years. When one of my co-workers and his wife had a baby recently, I knew this was the perfect thing to make for them. I made two: one for them, and one for us. It was just as hearty and delicious as I remembered. Unattractive photo aside, you really must try this. It's a delicious meatless entree, and loaded with good-for-you veggies.

I also made the new parents a batch of vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies, because what's more soul-soothing than a batch of cookies when you're dealing with new parenthood? (Or any type of parenthood, for that matter.) This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Lately, I've been adding 1 cup of dark chocolate chips to the batter, too.

I made a batch of creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese to go with steamed broccoli and homemade chicken nuggets, because sometimes it's just fun to eat like a kid. I love this recipe; it's so simple, and the macaroni is perfectly creamy and cheesy.

When life hands you rotten bananas, everyone knows you make banana bread. I modified my favorite recipe into muffins this time (they cooked for about 25 minutes). These were a delicious breakfast for us -- while they lasted!

This Crock pot pork roast with potatoes and carrots was a perfect meal for one of our especially busy nights this month. I got a new, larger Crock pot for Christmas, so I was delighted that I could fit even more potatoes and carrots in (that's my favorite part of this meal; I mash them with butter and salt, and they are amazing).

I reserved half of the pork roast to use for these pulled pork pita pizzas. This was a delicious 10-minute dinner, equally suited for another busy night!

This rosemary ranch chicken is hands-down my favorite grilled chicken recipe. The flavor is so amazing, and the marinade makes the chicken incredibly tender. Every time we make it, we're wowed all over again by how delicious it is.

Speaking of ranch chicken -- these ranch chicken tacos are another family favorite. I didn't even have them on our menu plan, but I got a sudden craving for them and had to make them. They're so simple and delicious; the only problem is, however much chicken I make, we never seem to have enough!

Here's another meal that I crave. Biscuits with sausage gravy is probably one of my favorite meals on the planet. This time we had cheesy hash browns on the side, and I may or may not have loaded those up with the gravy too...

This taco macaroni and cheese has become one of the most popular recipes on my site. I made it for us on a whim, since it had been a while since the last time we had it. I just had to confirm that all of the attention it's getting is well-deserved -- and I believe that it is!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Recipe Rewind: Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions

Memorial Day cook-outs are all about The Meat. We know this. BBQ chicken, brats, burgers, hot dogs...We load the grill up with all of it, and we go for it

But may I suggest that, this year, you leave a tiny bit of space open for some bell peppers and onions, and make this pasta dish to go alongside all of The Meat? I promise you won't be sorry.

I first made this pasta years ago, and it was long overdue for a reappearance here. This is one dish that's every bit as delicious as it is gorgeous. It's hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish, but it's also a perfect side dish. The flavor of the grilled peppers and onions, especially in combination with the basil, is just fantastic. 

This is perfect summer food: It's healthy, simple, and oh-so-satisfying.

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions
from Real Simple
2 medium red onions, sliced into rings
2 large sweet bell peppers, cut into quarters
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
12 ounces (4 to 5 cups) rigatoni
1 bunch spinach, stems trimmed, or one 5-ounce package
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan
3/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the onions, bell peppers, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the grilled vegetables, spinach, the reserved pasta water, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Top with the basil and the remaining Parmesan before serving.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chicken Parmesan Ravioli

It's just a fact that some of the best meals I make are afterthoughts -- things that I throw together only with ingredients I happen to have on hand. Inevitably, those meals are uncomplicated and prepared with straightforward ingredients, and my family always loves them. 

This chicken parmesan ravioli is a perfect example of that type of meal. I had a bunch of random ingredients on hand that I'd purchased for a dish I never got around to making -- so I made this with them instead. Breaded chicken nuggets, cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, and some chunks of fresh mozzarella and chopped basil tossed in at the end...I think I liked this version better than classic chicken parm, and judging by the way my family inhaled it, I don't think they had any complaints either.

Chicken Parmesan Ravioli

1 pound chicken tenders, cut into chunks
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 package frozen cheese ravioli
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
Shredded parmesan cheese

1. Place the breadcrumbs, flour, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in a plastic freezer bag. Dip the chicken chunks in egg, then add to the bag and shake to evenly coat. 

2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Fry the chicken in batches until crisp and cooked through. Remove to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven while you prepare the rest of the meal.

3. Meanwhile, heat the spaghetti sauce over gentle heat in a medium pot. Cook the ravioli according to package directions; drain.

4. Return the ravioli to the hot pot. Add the heated sauce, the reserved chicken pieces, the chopped mozzarella, and most of the basil. Stir gently to combine.

5. Sprinkle each serving with additional basil and parmesan cheese.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sriracha Beef Tacos

As much as I love to cook, I frankly just don't have the time or the energy lately to make dinners that take a lot of time. The Cassie of Spring 2014 is giving the side eye to the Cassie of Fall 2013 (the girl who made chicken noodle soup completely from scratch and bolognese sauce for days) and wondering just who the heck that girl was, and how the heck she had that much time. Cassie of Spring 2014's days are filled with work deadlines and soccer games and tee-ball games and a multitude of social activities that I am committed to, whether I like them or not. So dinner's gotta be easy. And fast.

These tacos take about 15 minutes to make, start to finish, so they fit into my current food philosophy perfectly. They're just ground beef tacos, yes, but they're taken to a completely new level with the addition of sriracha (one of the world's best ingredients, in my opinion). The sriracha is spicy, but ranch dressing and avocado provide just the right amount of cool creaminess to take the edge off. They're fabulous and simple, and a fun and delicious take on taco night.

Sriracha Beef Tacos
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking and originally from Sweet Beginnings 

1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion , finely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons sriracha, divided

1/2 cup ranch dressing
8-10 flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese

Chopped tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
Sliced avocado 

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened. Add sirloin, stir to combine, and cook until browned. Add water, chili powder, cumin and 1 tablespoon sriracha to the meat mixture. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. While taco mixture finishes cooking, combine ranch dressing and remaining 1 tablespoon sriracha in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Warm flour tortillas; spoon taco mixture into tortillas and top with cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and sriracha ranch sauce.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bagel BLTs

Can we all agree that it's pretty hard to improve upon a BLT? I mean, it's a classic for a reason, am I right? That being said -- I still find it fun to make new and different versions. So when I saw a bagel BLT in a recent issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray, I had one of those immediate I need that nowwww!! moments. I think we had these for dinner the very next night. 

Let me tell you guys, this is an absolutely delicious take on the BLT. Garden veggie cream cheese is one of my favorite food items in the world (I've been known to spread it on Ritz crackers and call that dinner), and it works so well on this sandwich -- with the bacon, in particular. Something about the creamy cheese and the crisp, salty bacon is just absolutely perfect. 

And, with only 5 ingredients and 15 minutes of cook time? I. am. smitten.

Bagel BLTs
adapted from Rachael Ray

12 slices bacon
4 bagels, split and toasted
Garden vegetable cream cheese 
8 lettuce leaves
4 slices tomato

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a broiler pan; bake until crisp, 15 minutes.

2. Slather each side of the bagels with a thin layer of the cream cheese. Top each bagel bottom with three slices bacon, two lettuce leaves, and a slice of tomato. Season with salt and pepper and add the bagel tops.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Brown Sugar Grilled Onions

If there is one thing that our incredibly long winter did to me (aside from making me curse a lot more than usual and start dreaming about moving to a warmer place), it made me pine for grilled foods of all kinds. Pretty much the second that the weather finally turned warm for good, Joe replaced the grill's propane tank, and we started cooking outside more often than not. We have been grilling All The Things, and these sandwiches are one of our recent favorites.

I had a craving for BBQ chicken sandwiches with pickles, and then I thought, why not add some onions to those sandwiches? And why not coat those with brown sugar and grill those, too? And why not add tons of cheese and, also, why not butter the buns and grill those as well? Sometimes I love the way my mind works. 

Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Brown Sugar Grilled Onions

4 chicken breasts
1 cup Italian dressing
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 orange
2 teaspoons chili powder
BBQ sauce

1 large sweet Vidalia onion, sliced into thick rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 sandwich buns
Sliced pickles

1. In a large food storage bag, combine the dressing, Worcestershire, orange juice, and chili powder. Add the chicken, close the bag, and toss to combine. Marinate for 1 hour, up to overnight.

2. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss together the onion rings, olive oil, brown sugar, and salt and pepper in a bowl.

3. Add the chicken and the onions to the grill. Cook until the onions are tender and charred and the chicken is cooked through. Brush both sides of the chicken generously with BBQ sauce.

4. Top each of the chicken breasts with a pile of the onions. Add 1/4 cup cheese to each breast. Close the grill and let the cheese melt.

5. Butter the buns and add them to the grill, cooking until crisp and fragrant. Serve each chicken breast on a bun with pickles and mayonnaise.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Restaurant-Style Salsa and Queso Blanco Dip

Monday is cinco de Mayo, and there is one thing I know for sure: I am going to be ready for a margarita at the end of it. Bright and early Monday morning, I'm chaperoning Andrew's kindergarten class field trip to the local science center. I'm sure it will be fun, and also that it will be stressful. I will definitely be ready for a siesta instead of a fiesta by the end of the day.

When I was looking through my saved Mexican recipes (and there are a lot of them!), searching for something to share to celebrate this fun holiday, it didn't take me long to settle on these two. This is the best restaurant-style salsa I've ever tried, and this is the best queso dip I've ever made. And I firmly believe that they are both required elements of any good Mexican spread.

The salsa is spicy, with awesome tomato flavor and the perfect texture and consistency. The queso is...Well, there are just no words to describe the queso, really. It's incredible. I'm telling you, you're going to love both of these recipes -- especially if you eat them together over tortilla chips. Mmm.

Restaurant-Style Salsa
from The Pioneer Woman 

Two 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin, with seeds and membrane
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 lime, juiced

1. Combine the diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, cilantro, onions, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice in a blender or food processor.

2. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you like, about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

3. Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving.
Queso Blanco Dip
1 1/4 (1.25) pound block white American cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup diced green chiles, from a can
2 pickled jalapenos, chopped
1 ounce pickled jalapeno juice
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cold water
1. Toss all ingredients into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5-7 minutes, stopping to stir after every minute. The mixture might seem watery during the first few stirs, but should come together as a nice runny dip after all the cheese is melted.

2. Serve immediately as a dip with tortilla chips.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sliders

Oh hi. Remember me? It's been a while, huh? Just to catch you up, here's some of what I've been up to in the month-and-a-half since I was last here:

1. Taking Will back and forth to soccer practice and soccer games.
2. Taking care of the secretarial duties that come with being a tee-ball coach (Joe is coaching Andrew's tee-ball team this year).
3. Surviving the end of another tax season at work.
4. Reading A Game of Thrones. (OMG so good!)
5. Watching Game of Thrones.
6. Working on landscaping projects and getting ready to install our pool (!!!) and plant our garden (!!!). 
7. Making delicious food and generally being too busy (and too selfish with the free time I do have) to share it with you. Shame on me!

One of the delicious foods I've been making are these buffalo ranch chicken sliders, which I have made no less than three times in the last month. Joe and I are both kind of obsessed with them, and can you really blame us? 

These were inspired by the parmesan ranch buffalo wings Joe made for pretty much every televised sporting event after my lovely bonus mom got me a deep-fryer for Christmas. I've never been a huge fan of wings; I mean, I'll eat them and enjoy them, but I definitely prefer boneless chicken. Wings seem like a lot of work and a lot of mess for not that much meat. So I took Joe's wing recipe, modified it slightly, and came up with these sliders. They're a winner on all levels, and our whole family loves them (I just leave the buffalo sauce off of Andrew's and Will's sliders to make them kid-friendly). 

We could eat these once a week -- and basically have for the last month. And we probably will have them once a week for all the months to come, forever.

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sliders

6 chicken tenders, cut in half width-wise
1 cup buttermilk
2 packages ranch dressing mix, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup Frank's red hot
2 tablespoons butter

Vegetable oil for frying
3 slices cheddar cheese, cut into 4 squares per slice
12 slider buns
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
Prepared ranch dressing

1. Stir together the buttermilk, 1 packet of ranch dressing mix, and black pepper in a bowl. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Cover and let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours. 

2. After the chicken has marinated, scramble the egg in a small dish and add to the buttermilk mixture with the chicken. Toss to combine. 

3. Whisk together the flour, panko and remaining packet of ranch dressing mix. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

4. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches and cook until browned and crispy, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. 

5. Meanwhile, while the chicken is frying, in a small saucepan, heat the hot sauce and butter over low heat.

6. After the chicken is fried, use a brush to spread the hot sauce mixture over each piece. Add a square of cheddar cheese to each piece of chicken. Serve on slider buns with slices of avocado and ranch dressing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chicken and Spinach Tacos with Creamy White Bean Mash

Since I'm the one who does the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, I'm the one who plans our meals. As a result, I'm the one who usually chooses what we eat. Every once in a while the guys in my life will make a request (Will's is always spaghetti, Andrew's is always pork and asparagus stir fry, and Joe's is always bacon cheeseburger meatloaf), but for the most part, I make the choices.

My choices aren't always met with complete agreement, either. When I told Joe about this particular meal, he definitely gave me the side-eye. The boys looked at it skeptically when they saw their plates, too. But, happily, all three of them loved these tacos once they took their first bite. That's usually the case. You'd think by now they'd have a little more trust in me!

When it comes to mashing, I see no reason why black beans should have all the fun. White beans, with their naturally creamy texture, are perfect for making a mash that is flavorful, velvety, and delicious. With the protein in the beans, the lean chicken, and vitamin-rich spinach, this meal is healthy as well as delicious. These tacos are a tasty and very quick light meal!

Chicken and Spinach Tacos with Creamy White Bean Mash
inspired by Cooking Light

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch pieces
3 cups baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
2/3 cup water

Warmed flour tortillas
Crumbled queso fresco cheese

1. Heat some vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add garlic and salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Using a potato masher, mash the beans. Stir in the sour cream and heat through. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

2. Heat some vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until browned and cooked through. Add the spinach, taco seasoning, and water and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer while the spinach wilts. 

3. To serve, spread some of the white bean mash on the bottom of a flour tortilla. Top with the chicken mixture, queso fresco, and salsa, if desired.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tater Tot Omelet Cups

I struggle with breakfast.

I mean, not with eating breakfast. I love to eat breakfast foods at all hours of the day. The part that I struggle with is the making of breakfast. It's definitely not going to happen when I first wake up, because mornings are another thing that I struggle with. As much as I want to be a morning person...the siren song of my warm bed and snooze button win every time. Nearly 31 years, and this is still a work in progress for me. At this point I don't know if I'll ever be able to change my ways.

So if I want my family to eat a breakfast that doesn't come from a carton of some type, I have to plan ahead. I've been doing some batch breakfast-sandwich-making on the weekends, and I love having those on hand in the freezer. I love having this recipe for tater tot omelet cups in my cooking arsenal, too, because they also freeze really well and are absolutely delicious. They're an omelet you can eat with your hands -- what's not to love about that? 

These are also customizable in lots of different ways; our favorite way is with bacon, green peppers, green onions, and cheddar cheese. But I could also get behind using sausage, ham, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, even broccoli...pretty much anything. They're hearty, simple, convenient, adaptable and delicious -- perfect for a mama like me who just can't get going most mornings. :)

Tater Tot Omelet Cups
adapted from Ella Claire Inspired

36 frozen tater tots
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
Dash of hot sauce
1/2 pound bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray (really, really well). Cook the tater tots in the microwave for 2 minutes on high heat to thaw.

2. Press 3 tater tots into the bottom of each muffin tin, using the bottom of a small glass (a shot glass works well for this). Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

3. While the tater tots are baking, whisk together the eggs, milk, and hot sauce. Add the bacon, green peppers, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. When the tater tots have baked, remove them from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Pour equal portions of the egg mixture into each cup and top each cup with 1 tablespoon of cheese. 

5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until eggs are set. Gently run a butter knife around the edge of each muffin cup and use a fork to pop them out of the cups.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce

I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since the last time I posted! I guess I've been keeping myself busy in other ways, like playing 1 million games of Hungry Hungry Hippos, cursing the snow that just won't stop, and praying for spring to arrive sooner rather than later. Yes, all of those things are directly related to being cooped up in the house for too long. This winter has sapped my energy for everything; I can count on two hands the times I actually cooked dinner during the entire month of February. It's desperate times around here, folks. Spring needs to get here STAT.

But finally, I found a recipe to pull me out of my blogging funk -- one that I just had to share with you right away. This was our dinner on Saturday night, and I'm already looking forward to making it again. And again...and again...and again. This pasta dish is so fantastic. Basically, you boil some pasta and you roast some tomatoes. You bread some chicken in panko and fry it. You caramelize some onions and toss them with some cream. Then you stir it all together and devour it. Oh yeah.

This pasta has it all. The sweetness of the onions, apple juice and cream are balanced out by black pepper to make a luxurious, velvety sauce. The soft, bursting roasted tomatoes are counterbalanced by the crispy nuggets of chicken. It does use a few pans, but it's more than worth it. It's so perfect that, when we sat down to dinner last night, Will was near tears because he wanted to eat this pasta for dinner for a second night in a row. And these days Will doesn't really want to eat anything, so this was a huge development. If my picky four-year-old loves it, then it will probably taste transcendent to you.

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce
heavily adapted from Everyday Reading

For the pasta:

8 ounces linguine
Parmesan cheese

For the roasted tomatoes:

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:

1 large chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:

1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cook for 20 minutes or until browned and bursting.
2. Meanwhile, add the beaten egg to a large bowl. Mix together the panko, Italian breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan (enough to shallow-fry the chicken). Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in batches until golden and crispy; remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with coarse salt.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are fragrant and caramelized.  

4. While the onions are caramelizing, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions; drain. 

5. Add the garlic to the caramelized onions; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Raise heat to medium-high and stir in the apple juice, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any browned bits. Let the apple juice reduce slightly, then stir in the cream. Reduce heat back to medium-low and heat gently until thickened; taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Gently stir together the reserved tomatoes, crispy chicken, and pasta. Add the sauce and toss gently to combine. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BBQ Cheddar Chicken Meatball BLT Sliders

I feel like you guys are probably kind of worried about me at this point. Like, I know you're whispering amongst yourselves over there in the corner. "Does she really eat that much bacon? Does she make anything that doesn't have bacon in it? It might be time to schedule a bacon intervention. A baconvention."  

And honestly, I understand where you're coming from. I really do. I do share lots of recipes that include bacon. But I feel that it's important that I also tell you that I make plenty of meals that don't involve bacon. Granted, most of the meals that don't involve bacon leaving me thinking how much better they'd be with bacon, but still. And I promise, one of these days I'll share a non-bacon-centric recipe.

But today is not that day.

We're talking BBQ chicken meatball BLT sliders today, and they definitely include glorious, glorious bacon. They also include other yummy ingredients, like BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese, but mostly bacon. They're like the most kicked-up version of a BLT you've ever had, and they are amazing. They're super quick, super flavorful, and super delicious. And super BACON-Y. Life is good.

BBQ Cheddar Chicken Meatball BLT Sliders
adapted from Inside BruCrew Life

1 pound bacon
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 egg
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
Sliced Roma tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
12 slider buns

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain. Crumble 4 strips of bacon or chop it finely. Reserve the remaining 12 strips for the sandwiches.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the chopped bacon, the chicken, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, garlic and egg.

3. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

4. Coat the cooked meatballs in the BBQ sauce. Assemble each sandwich with 2 meatballs, 1 slice of bacon (broken in half), a slice of tomato, and some lettuce. Smear the slider buns with mayonnaise and serve.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Conversation Heart Rice Krispie Treats

I used to pride myself on being the mom who always made something homemade, adorable, festive, and time-consuming for my children's various daycare/preschool celebrations. But now? While I still try for adorable and festive, the time-consuming part (and sometimes the homemade part, too) has gone somewhat out the window. Now I'm mostly the mom who scrambles to make something at the last minute. With Andrew in kindergarten now, there is always something to do/make/buy/remember. I know all you other mamas understand where I'm coming from.

So, when it comes to Valentine's Day this year, I'm buying a box of SpongeBob or Angry Birds or Mario Brothers cards. And when it comes to Valentine's Day snacks, I'm standing behind these Rice Krispie treats 100%. 

Who doesn't love a Rice Krispie treat? And this version is adorable and festive, and semi-homemade too! Last Minute Mamas of the world unite!

Conversation Heart Rice Krispie Treats
from Frugal Coupon Living

4 tablespoons butter
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
10 ounces marshmallows
Red food coloring
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup conversation hearts

1. In a medium to large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add the large marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Stir in enough food coloring to make the marshmallows pink. Remove from heat.

2. Add Rice Krispies cereal and mini marshmallows. Stir until cereal is well combined.

3. Prepare a cookie sheet with sides by spraying with cooking spray or coating with butter. Butter a spoon or your hands or use wax paper to press the mixture into the pan evenly.

4. Press conversation hearts evenly around the mixture. Cool completely and cut into squares or heart shapes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach

I often marvel at how differently my kids eat from how my brother and I ate growing up. Don't get me wrong, my mom was an amazing cook -- but we ate a lot of the old-school standards: meatloaf with "scalloped" potatoes, lasagna, shredded chicken sandwiches, hamburger hash...that kind of thing. And while all of those things definitely make an appearance on my menu, I also make a much wider variety of foods for my kids. I don't think I tried Mexican food until I started dating Joe (not even Taco Bell -- really!), and I know that I never tried risotto until I made it myself for the first time, well into my 20s.

As an adult, risotto has become one of my great food loves. I love the whole process of cooking it, how adaptable it is, and how so few ingredients can come together to make something that tastes so amazingly flavorful. Risotto has it all: texture, flavor, epic deliciousness, you name it. And this recipe right here is one of the best versions I've found. This version is loaded with bacon, caramelized onions (cooked in the bacon drippings), and spinach. It's hearty and flavorful and restaurant-quality. It was a huge hit in my house, and I already can't wait to make it again.

Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Add the bacon to a large pan over medium heat. Cook until crisp and remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the baking drippings in the pot; discard any excess. 

2. Add the butter to the bacon drippings, then stir in the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the onions often so they brown slowly, and let cook for at least 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning. Like my friend Sarah, I added a bit of water to the pan as needed to keep the onions from burning, which also helped to pick up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Remove the onions from the pan and allow to cool before chopping into small pieces.

3. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed.

4. Start adding the chicken broth one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully absorb before adding more. This process takes anywhere from 17-25 minutes.

5. Before you add the final ladle of broth, add the caramelized onions, spinach, and half of the bacon. Taste the rice to make sure it's cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Top each serving with some of the reserved bacon.