Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chili Mac and Cheese

In our family, the preferred way to use up chili leftovers is to turn the chili into mac and cheese. My mom used to do this all the time when I was little, and I've carried on the tradition. We had just the right amount of chili left from Saturday's dinner to make a delicious, comforting, creamy pile of mac and cheese. I guarantee you that if you try this, it'll become a favorite in your family too!

Chili Mac and Cheese
Source: family recipe

1 box cavatappi (or your preferred short pasta)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Leftover chili (my chili recipe is here)

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add cavatappi and cook until al dente, 8 or 9 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly, about 1 minute. Add milk and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and add sour cream and cheese.

3. When cheese is thoroughly combined in the sauce, add leftover chili directly to the cheese sauce and stir. Heat through.

4. Pour chili-cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Hands down, my absolute favorite thing to make in the autumn and winter months is a big, steaming pot of spicy, soul-feeding chili. Andrew and I were out running errands on Saturday, and I was craving chili, so I picked up everything I'd need. When we got home, I threw the chili together and let it simmer on the stove for about four hours. The smell permeated the house, and I can't recall the last time I was so excited for dinner time to arrive! This is my own recipe, and it's my favorite way to make chili. The beer adds a really nice tangy flavor, but if you want to leave it out just add more beef stock. What a way to say hello to the cooler months!

Cassie's Chili

1 pound ground beef
1 pound spicy sausage
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped (leafy tops included)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle Mexican beer (I prefer Dos Equis or Corona)
Half a box of beef stock (or 1 can)
1 large can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can chili-ready tomatoes, undrained
1 can light red kidney beans, partially drained
Salt to taste
Red Hot to taste
Sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, if desired

1. In a dutch oven, heat a small amount of vegetable oil. Add beef and sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon until the meat mixture is very fine. Season with chili powder and cumin.

2. Add onion, celery and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add beer to pan, stirring constantly while the alcohol cooks out to pick up pan drippings.

3. Add beef stock, tomatoes and beans and heat to boiling. Taste for seasoning; add salt and Red Hot to taste and reduce heat to simmering. Simmer to desired thickness.

Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry

Let's be honest: Sometimes there's nothing that tastes as good as take-out Chinese food. Am I right, or am I right? Friday night's dinner was a MYOTO version of a traditional Chinese stir fry, and it was absolutely delicious. I can't rave enough about the sauce; it was perfectly sweet and salty and had the perfect tinge of sourness in the background. Joe and I both absolutely loved this meal. I don't think it'll replace my hankering for really good Chinese take-out, but it's a nice back-up for when I'm too lazy to go pick up the food from the restaurant!

Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry
Source: Our Best Recipes, also found on the Better Homes and Gardens website

12 ounces boneless beef top round steak or sirloin steak
3 tablespoons dry sherry or orange juice (I used orange juice)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons bottled hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used fresh)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup thinly bias-sliced carrot
1 14-ounce can whole baby corn, drained
1 red sweet pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup frozen broccoli florets
2 cups hot cooked rice
Thinly sliced green onions (optional)

1. For easier slicing, partially freeze meat. Trim fat from meat. Thinly slice meat across the grain into bite-size strips. Set aside.

2. For sauce, in a small bowl stir together sherry, soy sauce, water, hoisin sauce, ginger, cornstarch, sugar, garlic, and crushed red pepper (if using); set aside.

3. In a wok or large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat (add more oil if necessary during cooking). Add carrot; cook and stir in hot oil for 2 minutes. Add baby corn and sweet pepper. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from wok.

4. Add meat to wok. Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until meat is slightly pink in center. Push meat from center of wok.

5. Stir sauce. Add sauce to center of wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return cooked vegetables to wok. Stir all ingredients together to coat. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes more or until heated through. Serve immediately with hot cooked rice. If desired, sprinkle with sliced green onions.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cajun Chicken Lasagna

I've had this recipe ear-marked in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for a long time. I can't believe I waited so long to make this! This lasagna was absolutely delicious -- so creamy and flavorful, and on top of that so easy to throw together!

My parents lost power for about a week due to a major windstorm that wreaked havoc on our entire state, so they had some meat that defrosted and had to be used up quickly. I used their thawed-out rotisserie chicken for this recipe, and it worked perfectly. When I make this again (and I definitely will!) I'll add some hot sauce in with the vegetables while they're sauteeing to provide a little more of a kick. If there's anything that can make an already delicious dish even better, it's Red Hot!

Cajun Chicken Lasagna
Source: Our Best Recipes (page 100), also found on the Better Homes and Gardens website

16 dried lasagna noodles
1 pound andouille sausage or smoked pork sausage, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 to 3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried
sage, crushed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped green sweet pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 10-ounce containers refrigerated light Alfredo sauce
1/2 cup grated
Parmesan cheese
Nonstick cooking spray
1-1/2 cups shredded
mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; rinse.

2. Combine sausage, chicken, Cajun seasoning, and sage. In a large skillet cook meat mixture 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from skillet using a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in skillet. Set meat mixture aside; keep warm. In same skillet cook onion, celery, sweet pepper, and garlic in drippings until vegetables are tender. Stir in meat mixture, one container of the Alfredo sauce, and Parmesan cheese.

3. Lightly coat a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with nonstick spray. Arrange 4 noodles in bottom of dish. Spread with 2 cups of the meat-vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Repeat layers, ending with noodles. Carefully spread remaining Alfredo sauce over the top (if sauce is too thick, heat slightly). Cover; bake 1 hour or until heated through. Let stand 15 to 20 minutes before carefully cutting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ground Beef Stroganoff

Ground beef stroganoff was one of my favorite meals growing up. I have a recipe for "updated," "healthier" stroganoff that I sometimes make, but last night I wanted something quick, comforting, and delicious, and I didn't really care how healthy it was. I had all the ingredients on hand for ground beef stroganoff, so I decided to whip some up.

This isn't one of Joe's favorite meals; he doesn't think it's anything special. But I love this meal. It tastes so creamy and comforting all the way down the throat. It's possibly the ugliest meal EVER, but it's so, so good.

Ground Beef Stroganoff
Source: Cassie

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3 ounces Velveeta cheese, chopped
Cooked egg noodles

1. Season beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder and brown in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until onions are translucent.

2. Add sour cream, soup and cheese to the beef. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.

3. Serve over egg noodles.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monterey Jack, Corn and Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

When I was trying to find a side dish to go with last night's pecan chicken, I remembered a recipe for cream corn risotto I stumbled across in one of my cooking magazines. Unfortunately, I couldn't find that recipe, but a quick Google search brought up a Cooking Light recipe that sounded so delicious, I just knew I had to try it.

This was my first time making risotto, and I have to say that I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. The consistency was perfectly creamy with just the right amount of heat hitting the back of the tongue; the only problem was that it definitely needed salt, which the recipe doesn't call for. As soon as I tasted it, I flashed immediately on Gordon Ramsay on Hell's Kitchen, yelling at the chefs for bland risotto. I will definitely make this again, but next time I will be sure to add salt. I can cross risotto off the list of dishes that intimidate me!

Monterey Jack, Corn, and Roasted Red Pepper Risotto
Source: My Recipes, originally seen in Cooking Light

1 3/4 cups water
2 14 1/2-ounce cans vegetable broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup uncooked Arborio or other short-grain rice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
(I didn't use)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
(omitted; I didn't have any)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
(I used 1/2 teaspoon)
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
3/4 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers (I used fire-roasted)

1. Combine water and broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice, cumin, coriander (if desired), and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of liquid is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Stir in the onions, cheese, hot sauce, corn, and bell peppers; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Paula Deen's Pecan Chicken

I can't believe I'm saying this, but last night, I made a Paula Deen recipe that was actually a little bit disappointing. I'd been looking forward to trying her pecan chicken since I put it on the menu last week, but in the end I just wasn't blown away by it. The crust didn't get nearly as crispy as I would have liked; it looks crispier in the pictures than it actually was. I wonder if this has something to do with the fact that I used boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of bone-in chicken; I'm not sure. In any case, I don't know if I'll be making this again.

Pecan Chicken

Source: The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, also found on Food Network

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ground pecans
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds (omitted; I didn't have any)
2 (2 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into quarters or pieces (I used one pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Melt butter in a 10 x 15-inch baking pan. In a shallow dish, combine buttermilk and egg. In another dish combine flour, pecans, salt, paprika, pepper, and sesame seeds.

3. Dip chicken in buttermilk then in flour. Place skin side down in melted butter. Turn to coat and leave skin side up. Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes. (I reduced the cooking time since I used chicken breasts.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Broccoli Ham Turnovers

Last night's dinner was so, so good. Of course, when you stuff pretty much anything in a pie crust it's bound to be tasty, but the combination of broccoli, ham and cheese in this dish was particularly delicious. What's awesome about this is that you can stuff the pastry with pretty much anything -- berries and cream cheese, apple pie filling, pizza ingredients, tons of vegetables, or spinach, roasted red peppers and feta...I now have a thousand different recipe ideas, all thanks to this recipe! This was a delicious, comforting dinner, and I definitely recommend that you start "stuffing" things in your kitchen!

Broccoli Ham Turnovers
Source: Taste of Home's Best of Country Breakfast and Brunch, also found on the Taste of Home website

2 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used about 1 cup of shredded cheese and 1/2 cup of Velveeta)
1/2 cup cubed fully cooked ham
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (omitted)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (omitted)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pastry for double-crust pie
1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

1. Place broccoli in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a saucepan. Cover and steam for 5-8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Rinse in cold water; drain well.

2. In a bowl, combine broccoli, cheese, ham, onions, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

3. On a floured surface, roll out pastry; cut each in half. Place 1 and 1/2 cups filling on one side of each half; flatten filling with a spoon. Combine egg and cream; brush some over pastry edges. Fold pastry over filling. Seal edges and prick tops with a fork.

4. Place on a baking sheet; brush with remaining egg mixture. Bake at 400° for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Taco Salad

Last night I didn't feel like cooking anything even remotely complicated, so I turned to an old favorite, one for which I always have all of the ingredients on hand: taco salad. There's no real recipe here; just throw together your favorite combination of taco ingredients and you're good to go. Below is the list of what I use for our favorite version of this salad.

Taco Salad
Source: Cassie

1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 pound ground beef, cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning
1 box Mexican-style rice, cooked according to package directions
1 can refried beans, warmed
1 can Mexicorn
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

Arrange lettuce in a bowl. Top with remaining ingredients in this order: Mexicorn, refried beans, rice, ground beef, shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Crumble tortilla chips over the top.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Oh my stars, Baklava Bars!

I've discovered that the only time I'm really able to bake now that I have Andrew is after he's gone to bed in the evenings. He goes to sleep at 7:30, so I still have plenty of time, but baking at night has been an adjustment. I guess the plus side is that now I get to go to sleep with the smell of delicious baked goods permeating my senses!

Baklava is my favorite dessert EVER. When I was younger, my mom dated a man whose mother made baklava all the time, and she always sent some over with him. When he and my mom broke up, I was more upset about losing my baklava hookup than anything else!

When this recipe was sent to me in my weekly Betty Crocker e-mail, I knew I had to make these bars right away. And they did not disappoint. They have all the flavor of a piece of baklava, but they're not nearly as tedious to put together as the traditional dessert. They are very, very rich and super-sticky, just like good baklava should be. Joe and I both really enjoyed these; Joe's only complaint was that the fillo shells cut the roof of his mouth. I didn't have that problem, but that could be because I was too busy enjoying the flavor and stuffing my face!

Baklava Bars
Source: Betty Crocker

Cookie base:
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 egg

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 frozen mini fillo shells

1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350°. Spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

2. In large bowl, stir cookie base ingredients until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, stir walnuts, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the salt with fork until mixture is well mixed and crumbly.

4. Sprinkle nut mixture evenly over partially baked base. With hands, crumble frozen fillo shells evenly over nut mixture. Bake 18 to 20 minutes longer or until golden brown.

5. Meanwhile, in small microwavable bowl, microwave 1/3 cup honey, 2 tablespoons butter, the brown sugar, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon uncovered on High 1 minute or until bubbly. Stir in vanilla.

6. Drizzle honey mixture evenly over fillo. Cool completely, about 2 hours.

7. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Before serving, drizzle 1/2 teaspoon honey over each bar. Store covered at room temperature.

Scallop Saltimbocca

Scallops are just about my husband's favorite food on earth; he absolutely loves them. Unfortunately, the only time he ever really gets to have them is when we go out to eat, because they're just too expensive ($14.99 a pound!!!) to buy and make at home.

But last week I came across a recipe for scallop saltimbocca in Tyler Florence's cookbook that sounded too good to resist. Luckily, when we did our grocery shopping yesterday, the butcher gave us a deal on the scallops because their "sell by" date was close. Since I was planning to make them last night anyway, this worked out fine.

This was a delicous meal -- the perfect balance of salty and sweet. The flavor profile is very simple, but all the flavors and textures work in such harmony. This meal is surprisingly filling, too. I added some onion, and I'm glad I did, because I love the combination of apples and onions. This was the first of many apple recipes I'll be making this fall!

Scallop Saltimbocca
Tyler's Ultimate by Tyler Florence

6 slices prosciutto
12 large sea scallops
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 lemon

1. Wrap half a strip of prosciutto around the circumference of each scallop and squeeze gently so it adheres to the scallop. Tie a length of kitchen string around each to keep prosciutto in place. Trim the edges. (I used a toothpick to secure the prosciutto to the scallops, and it worked just fine.)

2. Heat olive oil and butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and fry until lightly browned and crisp, 2-3 minutes. Gently lift the leaves out of the pan and drain flat on paper towels.

3. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the hot pan and cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until well-browned. Remove scallops from pan and put them on platter.

4. Add apples and onions to the pan and give them a quick saute until the apples are wilted and both are caramelized, 4-5 minutes. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Discard toothpicks from scallops. Place on plate and spoon apples around, garnishing with the fried sage leaves.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pork Scallopini with Mushrooms and Marsala Sauce

Ever since little Mr. Andrew came into my life, I'm all about meals that are fast without being fast food and delicious without being incredibly unhealthy. The less time I spend in the kitchen, the more time I get to spend cuddling my little boy. At the same time, I love to cook, and I want to do it because I want our family to eat healthy meals, not ones out of a paper sack.

Last night's dinner of pork scallopini fit my meal philosophy perfectly. It was so easy and quick to make and required very little clean-up, and it was relatively healthy and very, very tasty. The recipe calls for Williams-Sonoma's pre-made marsala finishing sauce, but there's no way I was going to buy that; if it's like everything else in that store, it's probably pretty expensive. I just bought a $5 bottle of Marsala wine at the grocery store and reduced it, and it was perfectly delicious. The pork was nice and tender, and the mushrooms and sauce made this a very flavorful dinner.

Pork Scallopini with Mushrooms and Marsala Sauce
Source: Williams-Sonoma

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1/2 pound white button or cremini mushrooms, cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 slices
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup marsala finishing sauce* (I used marsala wine)
Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (omitted)

1. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

2. One at a time, place the pork slices between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat pounder to 1/4-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge the pork slices in the flour, shaking off the excess, then place the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.

3. In the same fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until almost smoking. Working in batches (do not overcrowd), cook the pork slices, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Transfer the pork to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

4. Wipe out the pan with paper towels. Set the pan over medium-low heat, pour in the marsala finishing sauce and add the mushrooms. Stir until the sauce is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes; do not allow it to reduce. (Like I said, I used marsala wine, so I did allow it to reduce so the alcohol would cook out. I used 1-2 cups, which provided the perfect amount of sauce after it had reduced.)

5. Transfer the pork to a warmed platter and spoon the sauce over the meat, coating the slices evenly. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions

Last night's dinner was the perfect meal to support why I need an herb garden in my back yard. The dish calls for fresh basil, so I bought some at the store. UNFORTUNATELY, I bought the basil a week ago and apparently didn't use it quickly enough, because when I went to add it to the dish the leaves were starting to brown, and a taste test confirmed that the flavor of the basil was definitely starting to sharpen. So, sadly, I had to omit it from the recipe. See, if I had an herb garden, I would have been able to just walk outside my door and pluck a few leaves. Sigh. Maybe one day.

I have to say, though, that even without the basil this was a delicious dinner. I did add chicken to give it a little more substance (my husband is a carnivore), and I used multi-colored sweet peppers, but other than that I didn't change a thing. I know that fall will be upon us soon (even though today it certainly doesn't feel like it, it's 95° here), so I'm trying to get a few more summery meals in before it's time to switch to fall food, and this tasted like the best of summer. The taste of grilled peppers is just about my favorite taste in the world!

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions
Source: Real Simple

2 medium red onions, sliced into rings
2 large red bell peppers, cut into quarters (I used three sweet peppers: one red, one yellow, one orange)
2 chicken breasts
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
12 ounces (4 to 5 cups) rigatoni (I used 1 box)
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. While vegetables are grilling, season chicken with salt and pepper and pan-fry in olive oil until cooked through. Let rest, then slice.

3. 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, chicken, 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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Provolone- and Pancetta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

The inspiration for this recipe comes from a recipe I found on Williams-Sonoma's website for provolone and pancetta-stuffed chicken breasts. The main elements of the dish are the same; I just skipped the whole breading and freezing part of the original recipe.

This was an absolutely outstanding meal. It was very easy to put together, but it looked very fancy and like it took hours to make. This is a meal I would definitely entertain with. The chicken was so moist, and the flavor and texture of the stuffing was out of this world. The tangy provolone, the salty pancetta, the woodsy, heady sage, the sharp garlic...It was the perfect balance of flavors and textures. I didn't miss the breading at all, although I'm sure it would have been delicious. I think this one's definitely going into the regular rotation!

Provolone- and Pancetta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Source: adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded 1/2-inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 ounces aged provolone cheese, grated

1. In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm a small amount of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Transfer the pancetta mixture to a small bowl and stir in the sage.

2. Create a pocket in each chicken breast: Lay the breast on a work surface with the pointed end away from you. Insert a long paring knife in the center of the end closest to you (the rounded end). Move the knife around to enlarge the opening, forming a pocket; be careful not to cut through to the outside of the breast. Then remove the knife. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Stuff each chicken breast with a some of the cheese and a portion of the pancetta mixture.

3. In a wide, oven-safe pan over medium high heat, heat some more olive oil. Fry the chicken until crisp and browned on each side. Transfer to a 350° oven and cook chicken until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Cabbage and Noodles

It's an aquired taste. But if you grew up like I did, with a Hungarian grandmother who served this all the time, and her son (your father) followed in her footsteps and made it once a week, you'd love it too. My husband thinks it's all right, nothing really special, but he puts up with it because he knows how much I enjoy it. Cabbage and noodles is Eastern European comfort food, and the smell of it reminds me of my childhood. All the bacon grease renders it completely unhealthy, but in this case I don't really care all that much. This is definitely one of my favorite meals to make, because it reminds me of everything that represents home.

Cabbage and Noodles
Source: my grandmother

Half of a 1-pound bag of egg noodles
Half a head of cabbage, chopped
Half a package of bacon, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add egg noodles and cabbage and boil until noodles are cooked. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, add chopped bacon to a skillet over medium heat and cook until crispy. Add noodles and cabbage to bacon and grease and toss to combine. Add salt to taste (you probably won't need much, since the bacon's salty) and lots of black pepper.