Friday, April 30, 2010

Banana Berry Muffins

Let it be known: I love these muffins. I love them so much that I sort of think I should make a batch of them every single weekend, so that I can have one for breakfast on my way to work every day, and then another one for an evening snack each night. All I was really looking for was a way to use up the bag of frozen blackberries I’d had in my freezer for about a year. I had no idea how much I’d like the muffins that resulted.

You can use any berries you like for these. I made a second batch a few days later (yes; the first batch only lasted a couple of days, I KNOW) using strawberries, which were just as delicious. Raspberries and blueberries, or a combination of a few types of berries, would also be great. This recipe makes an incredibly moist muffin, and when eaten warm with a bit of butter melted over the top? Well, that’s pretty much my definition of paradise.

Banana Berry Muffins
source: adapted from iChef

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint fresh berries (or 1 12-ounce bag frozen berries)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

4. Puree bananas, sour cream and vanilla.

5. Alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additions and banana mixture in 2 additions to the egg mixture. Beat enough to incorporate. Fold in berries.

6. Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until puffed, browned and springy. Makes about 15 muffins.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beef, Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

I love enchiladas. Can you tell? The thing is, though, I’ve only ever made them at home using chicken – something Joe noticed a while ago and took it upon himself to mention to me. He asked if I could make a beef version, and I was happy to oblige (see above: I love enchiladas), but nothing on any of my usual recipe websites was standing out to me. So I decided to create my own version, and this is what I came up with.

We liked these enchiladas a lot. The thing I was most proud of was the sauce, which I made from scratch (well, aside from the canned tomato sauce, that is). I’ve used the canned stuff in recipes before, and there is just no comparison: The homemade version is much better. It does make a lot of sauce, but I froze the leftovers to use for a future batch. I’ll definitely be adding this version of enchiladas to my list of favorites!

And I guess I should note that I like my cheese crispy on top, but if that’s not how you roll you should probably lower the oven temperature or cook these for less time.

Beef, Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

1 medium onion, chopped
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
3 cloves minced garlic
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Mexican-style refried beans
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

8 10-inch flour tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cook onion and green chilies in olive or vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, season ground beef with chili powder, salt and pepper and cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Stir in refried beans and 1 1/2 cups cheese. Stir in 1 cup of the enchilada sauce.

4. Place an equal amount of the beef mixture in the center of each tortilla and roll up. Place seam-side down in a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Pour enough sauce to cover the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese.

5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Top with sour cream, if desired. (I'm also going to try guacamole on these next time I make them. I think that would taste amazing!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Subs

I’ve mentioned my love of roasted vegetables before. I love the deep, nutty flavor, the texture, the beautiful colors. I pretty much love everything about them.

I was inspired to make these subs after Joe and I loved the roasted vegetable soup I made a while ago so much. I thought roasting the vegetables with some balsamic vinegar and piling them on rolls with tons of cheese would make for an absolutely delicious dinner – and I was right. These subs were so yummy that we didn’t even miss the meat. The balsamic vinegar adds an additional depth of flavor and a wonderful tang that’s just delicious, and the melty cheese is a nice contrast to the crisp-tender vegetables. You could use any combination of vegetables you like; asparagus, zucchini, or a poblano pepper for a little kick would also be delicious. I kept ours simple with a combination of bell peppers, onions, garlic and mushrooms. I can’t wait to make these again! (Only next time I won’t burn the rolls; I got distracted by two little boys who shall remain nameless.)

Roasted Vegetable Subs

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound whole button mushrooms, quartered
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sweet Italian rolls, split and toasted
6 slices provolone cheese

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet; add olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper and toss to combine. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until golden brown and tender.

2. Pile half of the vegetables on each roll and top each with 3 slices of cheese. Broil to melt cheese, if desired.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.26.10

Well, I just looked at this menu I so painstakingly planned out and realized that it's shaping up to be a meaty week. I'll have to make up for it next week and plan for four vegetarian meals. (Yeah right -- like Joe will let that happen.)

: We're going out for dinner with friends.

Apricot and cheddar chicken and ham melts, spinach salad. I didn't get to make this meal last week.

Wednesday: Smoked sausage with sour kraut, mashed potatoes, green beans. Didn't make this meal last week either. I was a total slacker.

Thursday: Hot dogs (for me and A-man) and brats (for Joe) on the grill, fries

Friday: Leftovers, sandwiches, or take-out

: Buffalo chicken lasagna

Sunday: Asian wonton salad

Friday, April 23, 2010

Creamy Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes

If you visit my website regularly, you’ve probably noticed my list of “Coming Soon” recipes over there on the left. I try my best to share things in the order that I make them, but every once in a while, a recipe comes along that just begs to be shared IMMEDIATELY. And guys, this is one of those recipes. We had this for dinner last night, and I literally couldn’t wait to share it with you today.

It may not look like anything special, but you won’t believe how delicious this really is. The sauce is creamy and cheesy and tangy and peppery and tastes so amazing with the tortellini. The spinach soaks up the sauce, making it flavorful and delicious, and the tomatoes add a wonderful sweetness. I can’t wait to make this again. I’m actually considering putting it on next week’s menu, and there are very few things that make my menu in back-to-back weeks. We all loved it, and I think you should try this very soon, because I promise you will love it too.

Creamy Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes
source: adapted from Kraft Foods

1 19-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup milk
5 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1. Cook pasta as directed on package.

2. Meanwhile, heat milk and cream cheese in large skillet over medium heat until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add spinach; mix well.

3. Drain pasta. Add to spinach mixture; mix lightly. Stir in tomatoes and remaining parmesan cheese.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Rice Krispy Treats

Happy Earth Day, everyone! I hope you're all doing a little something to be environmentally conscious today. We do small things throughout the year around our house -- recycle, avoid the use of paper towels and paper napkins, use energy-efficient light-bulbs -- but I think today is the perfect day to start stepping up our efforts even more. I think I'm going to make the switch to re-usable shopping bags this evening when I stop by the grocery store. Meanwhile, Joe is spending the day planting flowers and herbs and mulching the flower beds around our home. It's only a coincidence that he's doing this on Earth Day, but I think it's nice anyway.

I made these Earth Day Rice Krispy treats for Andrew's class at daycare. (Yes, I am so that mom; first the Dr. Seuss cupcakes, then the Easter Bunny cookies, and now these!) They didn't turn out exactly like I'd hoped (I didn't use nearly enough food coloring, as you can see), but I think the idea is creative so I'm sharing them anyway. Even if they don't look exactly like Earth, I think the two-year-olds are still going to love them!

I got this idea from a preschool website whose name I can't recall, but it seems like they're all over the internet.

Earth Day Rice Krispy Treats

3 tablespoons butter, divided
40 large marshmallows, divided
Blue and green food coloring
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal, divided

1. Heat two large pots over medium heat on the stovetop. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter to each pot. When butter is melted, add 20 marshmallows to each pot. Stir until completely melted.

2. Add blue food coloring to one of the pots, and green food coloring to the other. Tint to desired color and stir to combine.

3. Add 3 cups of Rice Krispies cereal to each pot and stir to combine with the marshmallow mixture.

4. Once mixtures are cool enough to handle, grab a small amount of one color and roll into a log shape. Repeat with other color. Wrap the two logs around each other and shape into a circle. Repeat with the rest of the mixtures.

5. Cool on wax paper. Store covered.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunday Dinner Pork Chops

Back in the days when my cooking repertoire consisted of five or six entrees repeated in an endless, boring loop, I used to make these pork chops for us for dinner every Sunday night. Joe never once complained, though, because he absolutely loves these. I decided to put them on our menu a couple of weeks ago, and he was as excited as a little kid. He's really adorable sometimes, and he makes me feel like a rock star in the kitchen, which I love.

Anyway, enough about him. Let's talk about pork chops! For this recipe I like to use a thick, boneless pork loin chop. Those are much easier to over-cook, but this method uses so much butter that they stay nice and moist. It's important to use rubbed sage for this recipe and not powdered sage, because the powdered spice will burn too easily. Basically the purpose of the sage is to give the butter an earthy, deep flavor. That flavor, in turn, works wonderfully on the pork chops.

I always serve these with steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes, and it is a simple, lovely meal.

Sunday Dinner Pork Chops

4 thick-cut boneless pork loin chops
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in sage for about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium high.

2. Season pork chops liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and add to skillet. Cook, turning once, until pork chops are browned and cooked through.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Perfect Oven-Fried Bacon

I could never be a vegetarian. I could give up most meats -- chicken, pork, even steak (although I certainly wouldn't like it) -- but I could never give up bacon. I love it way, way too much. And finally, at last, I have found the perfect way of cooking it.

Frying bacon on the stovetop is a messy, messy business. I inevitably burn myself at least once every time I make it that way, not to mention the grease splatter that gets all over the oven, the counters, and the walls. And then there's the matter of disposing of the bacon grease. Do you dump it somewhere while it's hot? Wait for it to solidify and scrape it out of the pan? You could do what my dad does, which is pour it into a glass jar and freeze it until he needs it for his eggs, but even I, his daughter, admits that that's a little...strange.

Since I perfected this method, though, I haven't used the stovetop to make bacon a single time. I always, always cook it in the oven now. This method is no-fail and no-mess, and it results in perfect bacon every single time. Joe and I like bacon a very specific way that we call chewy-crispy -- the bacon snaps in two if you break it but still has some give and chew to it -- and this method gives us bacon like that every single time. Aside from how delicious bacon is when you cook it this way, there is little to no clean-up involved; the bacon is cooked on a piece of aluminum foil, so you can just let the grease cool and harden, then fold up the foil and toss the whole thing in the garbage. And your house will still smell amazing as the bacon is cooking, don't worry about that.

Try this method for bacon next time you make it. Your BLT with thank you.

Perfect Oven-Fried Bacon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Layer 8-10 strips of bacon (you can use a whole package, but usually 8-10 strips is all that will fit on one cookie sheet) side by side on the cookie sheet. It's okay if they overlap a little.

2. Cook for 10 minutes in preheated oven. Turn bacon over and cook for 10 more minutes, or to desired crispness.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creamy Black Bean Burritos

Here's the thing: As much as I love to cook (and I'm sure you know by now that I really, really do), I can't stand being in the kitchen in the spring and summer. Our sun-soaked back yard calls to me, and when the weather starts to get really beautiful, I am powerless to ignore its siren song. So for us, warm weather means quick meals or grilled dinners. I refuse to spend more than half an hour on dinner when all I want to do is be outside in the sunshine with my family.

So these burritos are pretty much the perfect dinner for us during this time of year. From start to finish, they only take about 10 minutes. And man -- are they ever delicious! They're spicy, creamy, and flavorful. And vegetarian! And so quick! I can't say enough about them, and we all loved them so much (Andrew ate his without a tortilla) that I'm sure I'll be making them a lot this spring and summer.

Creamy Black Bean Burritos
source: adapted from Lemons & Love

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can Rotel, drained
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup cooked white rice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Flour tortillas

1. Heat a small amount of oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

2. Add beans, Rotel, and cream cheese and heat through. Stir in rice and season with cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro.

3. Wrap in a tortilla with desired toppings (next time we'll use shredded cheese and avocado).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.19.10

Not a lot of words today, just the menu. I'm sleep-training my three-month-old. I'm very tired.

: Chicken cordon bleu bake. I made this last week for some friends who just brought their baby girl home, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. This is definitely one of our favorites!

Tuesday: Smoked sausage with sour kraut, mashed potatoes, green beans. This is another one of our favorite meals, and for some reason we usually only eat it in the spring and summer.

Wednesday: Apricot and cheddar chicken melts, spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Thursday: Creamy tortellini with spinach and tomatoes

Friday: Leftovers, sandwiches, or take-out

Saturday: Pepperoni pizza puffs, salad

Sunday: Jalapeno popper mac and cheese. Yes, you read that right! Just a little somethin' I'm trying out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Secret Kiss Cookies

Do any of you get those recipe packets sent to you in the mail? You know the ones I mean -- where a company sends you ten or so recipes on those 5 x 7 cards, in hopes of luring you into ordering even more recipe cards? I get them all the time and I have for years, but to date these cookies are the first recipe I ever tried. Joe saw the picture on the front of the card and said, "You have to make those. Right now." And who am I to deny a request from anyone for cookies?

Okay, I'm going to warn you: I found these cookies to be very inconsistent. The first time I made them they turned out so dry they were barely palatable, and I decided that I wasn't going to post the recipe. But then I thought I'd try them again, just to be sure, and the second time they turned out perfectly: nice and chewy with a sweet, semi-soft chocolate surprise inside. I have no idea what I did differently the second time. Because of the inconsistency, I don't know if I'll make this particular cookie again, although I do love the idea of them. Maybe I'll try them with a chocolate chip cookie dough, or maybe I'll use the peanut butter dough from these Snickers cookies to make them taste like inverted peanut butter blossoms. (Holy yum!) If you try them, will you let me know how they turn out?

Secret Kiss Cookies
source: Great American Home Baking recipe card

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
25 Hershey's Kisses
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Preheate oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Combine the flour and cinnamon in another medium bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.

2. Shape the dough into 25 1-inch balls. Flatten each ball into a 2-inch round. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Place 1 Hershey's Kiss in the center of each round. Enclose the candy with the dough, making sure the candy is completely sealed in the dough. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

3. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cocoa in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot cookies. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Baked Potato Eggs

I've been seeing lots of recipes for baked eggs popping up everywhere lately. There's the recipe in the current issue of Everyday Food for baked eggs and tortillas that I've been wanting to try (and which, by the way, I failed to make for the fourth week in a row, dammit); there's a recipe for baked eggs with caramelized onions in the new issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that looks amazing. And then there's this recipe, which I stumbled across randomly and promptly put on our menu. It's like an entire breakfast stuffed inside a baked potato. How could I resist?

We loved these. Even Andrew ate almost an entire potato by himself! They were so simple to make and tasted absolutely amazing. You can change up the filling in a bunch of different ways; next time I think I'll add green chiles, sour cream, and cheddar cheese to the filling to give these a Southwest flare. But you can use any combination of flavors you personally like. These will be showing up on our weekly menus frequently!

Baked Potato Eggs
source: adapted from Real Simple

2 large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
7 breakfast sausage links, cooked and diced
4 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and pierce each with the tines of a fork. Bake until fork-tender, about 45 minutes.

2. Carefully cut each potato in half. Scoop out the insides and stir in the butter and cheese. Fold in the sausages. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture back into the potato halves, creating a hollow in each center. Break 1 egg into each hollow. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange on a baking sheet and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until set.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

White Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chile Sour Cream Sauce

The recipe I'm sharing with you today is a rock star. We loved these enchiladas so much the first time I made them that I've already made them two more times, before I ever even got the chance to blog about them. And I really can't wait to make them again. They're simple, flavorful, and incredibly delicious. I don't know what else to say about them. Just look at this gorgeous pan of food:

Now go make them for dinner tonight.

White Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chile Sour Cream Sauce
source: Home Cooking with Sonya

8-10 soft taco size flour tortillas

2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese, divided
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 7-ounce can diced green chiles
Cilantro for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix together 1 cup of the cheese and the chicken. Place an equal amount of the mixture into each tortilla, roll up and place seam side down into a 9 x 13-inch pan.

2. In a skillet or saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Stir in sour cream and green chiles. Pour over the top of the enchiladas; sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roasted Potatoes

I mentioned one day last week that there are some dishes I don't write about because they just seem too simple. But I really am making an effort to change that. I truly believe that sometimes the simplest recipes really are the best, and just because something is easy doesn't mean it doesn't deserve to be highlighted here.

Take these roasted potatoes, for example. They're amazing -- my go-to roasted potato recipe. I've never posted about them before because I tend to think that everyone already has a roasted potato recipe in their cooking repertoire. And maybe that's true, but maybe it's not. Maybe some of you out there are looking for a really good, no-fail recipe for roasted potatoes. If you're one of those people, then this post is for you.

I'm a purist when it comes to roasted potatoes. I don't like them too...herby. If I do use an herb, I only use one; I don't combine two or three different herbs together. I've made a version with rosemary and one with parsley, and those were both delicious. I've also used garlic powder and red pepper flakes for a kick. But I tend to like these best with just salt and pepper. The earthy flavor of the potatoes and their delicious, crispy skins really shine through that way. You can change them up however you want, but I guarantee no matter what you do to them they'll be delicious. They work great as leftovers, too -- right out of the fridge, or fried up with a couple of eggs for a quick hash. (Not that we ever have any leftovers.)

Roasted Potatoes

8 baby red potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2. Melt butter and mix with olive oil. Add to potatoes, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. (Seriously, go crazy with the salt and pepper. The potatoes can take a lot of seasoning.)

3. Roast in the oven, stirring frequently, for 20 to 30 minutes to desired crispiness.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baked Penne with Broccoli and Three Cheeses

Basically this dish is a meatless baked ziti, only with penne pasta and broccoli. So right away I knew we would all like it -- Joe for the "three cheeses" part of the recipe, Andrew for the "broccoli" part and me for the...well, all of it. My love for pasta knows no bounds, which probably comes as a shock to exactly none of you.

Anyway, this was delicious. I loved the addition of the basil, which made it taste really fresh. I used whole wheat penne for this recipe, and although I usually love whole wheat pastas, the texture of it bothered me in this dish. Next time I'll just use regular semolina pasta. Other than that, though, I wouldn't change a thing. This was a fast and flavorful dinner that the whole family enjoyed.

Baked Penne with Broccoli and Three Cheeses
source: slightly adapted from Epicurious

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups penne pasta
3 cups 1-inch broccoli florets
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups purchased marinara sauce
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir oil and garlic in small skillet over medium heat 1 minute; set aside. Cook penne in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 11 minutes. Add broccoli; cook 1 minute. Drain. Gently stir in butter and 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

2. Mix marinara, 1/2 cup mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic in large bowl. Add pasta and broccoli; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a glass baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan over.

3. Bake pasta uncovered until cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.12.10

I'm giving myself another easy week this week in the kitchen. Working a full week last week and having a litany of illnesses on top of it (which you can read about here, if you're really interested) definitely took its toll on me. I feel like I'm starting to get a little bit boring in the kitchen, which upsets me, but right now feeding my family in a timely manner and trying to find some time to relax are the most important things to me. That means lots of tried-and-true favorites and only a couple of new recipes this week.

: Will and I are going to visit some friends, so Andrew and Joe will be on their own for dinner. This means they'll be eating pizza rolls.

: Baked eggs and tortillas. I didn't make this again last week. It's actually getting sort of comical.

Wednesday: Chicken BLT salad. I've been craving this salad hardcore. I just can't get enough of it. It is so good.

Thursday: Peach French toast

Friday: Leftovers or sandwiches

: Crock pot chicken with black beans and cream cheese, cilantro-lime rice

Sunday: Spicy black bean burgers, Mexican sour cream rice

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spicy Sesame Ginger Chicken

I've mentioned this before, but I just don't think there's a meat that lends itself to weeknight cooking quite as well as chicken cutlets. They cook up so quickly and they're pretty delicious if you cook them right. The problem is, having plain old chicken for dinner two or three nights a week can get really boring, really fast. That's why I've been on the hunt for new chicken cutlet recipes to add to my rotation. And the one I'm sharing with you today is definitely one that I'll make again.

With very few ingredients and a preparation time that's less than 30 minutes, this sesame ginger chicken just couldn't be any easier. I made a few modifications to the original recipe to make this even more flavorful, and those are reflected below. I cooked these on my indoor grill because we hadn't set up the outdoor grill yet, but going forward I'll definitely make them on the outdoor grill. George Foreman is no match for the gorgeous grill marks and depth of flavor you get when you grill outside. I served the chicken on top of fresh bean sprouts (which Andrew gobbled up, I just love that kid) and alongside a steamed Asian vegetable medley from the freezer section, jazzed up with a touch of butter and some soy sauce. This was a quick and easy dinner that we all really enjoyed!

Spicy Sesame Ginger Chicken
source: adapted from Betty Crocker

2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seed, toasted
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
Salt to taste
Fresh bean sprouts for serving, if desired

1. Heat grill. In small bowl, mix teriyaki sauce, sesame seed, ginger, and red pepper flakes. (To toast sesame seed, heat in ungreased skillet over medium heat about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.)

2. Carefully brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Season chicken with salt and place chicken on grill rack over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 15 to 20 minutes, brushing frequently with sauce mixture and turning after 10 minutes, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut. Discard any remaining sauce mixture. Serve over bean sprouts, if desired.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grilled Roast Beef Sandwiches with Provolone Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Obviously, my first full week back at work has put a damper on my daily posting schedule. And as you can see from my list at the left, I am woefully behind in sharing recipes with you. The whole family has been feeling a bit under the weather lately, passing a bunch of nastiness back and forth and back again, so that hasn't helped either. Hopefully once I get back in the swing of things and start feeling better I'll be able to post more regularly again.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today is definitely not fancy. In fact, it's just a sandwich. But it's one of our favorite sandwiches, one that we eat all the time. Sometimes I neglect to post certain things because I think they're too simple, but I'm doing my best to change that. If it's delicious, no matter how simple it is, it deserves to be represented on this website. If it's something I make again and again, it should definitely be written about here -- and that's the case with this sandwich.

This sandwich is a little bit like a French dip, minus the fancy bread and au jus, and with the addition of caramelized onions. The onions make it a little bit more special than your average lunchmeat-and-cheese fare, but I have to admit that it's almost equally as good if you leave the onions off, make a batch of French onion soup, and use the sandwich for dipping. I've made these both ways countless times, and Joe never fails to rave about them. I have to admit that I really love them too, and they're a delicious, quick and easy dinner option during the week.

Roast Beef Sandwiches with Provolone Cheese and Caramelized Onions

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons butter, plus more for bread
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package thin-sliced roast beef
8 slices provolone cheese
8 slices bread

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes or until onions are caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prepare sandwiches. Butter four slices of bread and place butter-side down on a pre-heated griddle. Top each with 1 slice provolone cheese, a quarter of the meat, a quarter of the onions, and another slice of provolone cheese. Butter one side of remaining four slices of bread and use to top sandwiches. Cook until bread is golden brown and crispy and cheese is melted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cauliflower Pie with Potato Crust

This was a great vegetarian entrée, and a fun, different way to use cauliflower. Andrew, of course, wouldn't touch it, given his hatred of cauliflower, but Joe and I both really enjoyed it. Cauliflower and cheese is a match made in heaven anyway, and the flavors work really well together in this dish. I thought the pie itself was a bit dry; I wanted it to be wetter, so next time I'll add more milk or another egg. I think I'll definitely make this again, though. It's an impressive vegetarian dish for brunch, lunch or dinner, and it really does taste delicious.

Cauliflower Pie with Potato Crust
source: adapted from Lemons & Love, who got it from Branny Boils Over

2 cups packed grated raw potatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, beaten

1 cup grated strong cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup chopped onion
Dash of dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
Black pepper to taste

1. Combine grated potato with salt and beaten egg. Press into a greased pie plate. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese over pie crust.

2. Meanwhile, saute chopped onion in a nonstick pan with thyme and salt. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add pepper to taste. Break cauliflower up into small florets. Combine onion mixture with cauliflower and remaining cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared pie crust. Beat together milk with egg and pour over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Filling will appear dry.

3. Bake for 40 minutes until tender. Let set 5 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 4.5.10

Ahh, April! Finally! Spring! Finally! There's something about the nice weather we've been having that just puts me in a perpetually good mood, despite the fact that this week is my first full week back at work and I'm very sleep-deprived.

Since it's my first full week back, I'm giving myself an easy week this week -- nothing too high-maintenance and nothing that requires a lot of prep.

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you have a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate.

: BBQ beef and cheddar quesadillas. I'll make the quesadillas using the leftovers from the pulled beef sandwiches I made last night, and share both recipes with you at the same time.

: Pasta and bean skillet. Thanks for sharing this one, Kat! I can't wait to try it!

: It's my sweet husband's 30th birthday, so he can have whatever he wants for dinner. (He hasn't told me yet what that is, but he'd better soon, because I'm going grocery shopping tonight.)

: Pulled chicken suiza sandwiches. We love these. Delicious, quick, and simple.

Friday: Leftovers or sandwiches

: Baked eggs and tortillas. This is on the menu for the third week in a row. I am seriously going to make it this week. For reals.

: French-fried onion chicken tenders, fries, green beans

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Asparagus Two Ways

I love Easter. To me, the Easter feast is the official beginning of spring. I think it's all the fresh flavors that are typically a part of the meal: spring vegetables, deviled eggs, something lemony for dessert. I've never hosted an Easter dinner, so I've never been responsible for the main event (which, in our family, is usually a yummy, sweet-salty-smoky ham), but for the past five years or so I've always been responsible for the asparagus. Asparagus is the perfect side dish because it's so easy to prepare, so good for you, and so incredibly delicious.

I didn't always love asparagus. The first time I tried it, in fact, I was in my 20s, and I hated it. It
was way over-cooked. It's Joe's very favorite vegetable, though, so I took it upon myself to find the perfect preparation for it. Over the years I've come up with two ways of cooking it that I absolutely love -- roasting and grilling -- and I thought I'd share both of them with you today so you can add one of them to your Easter feast. It's not too late!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Roasted Asparagus

1 pound asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine olive oil and butter; pour mixture over asparagus and toss to combine. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

2. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook 15 minutes, or until slightly browned and crisp-tender.

Grilled Asparagus

1 pound asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss asparagus with olive oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt and pepper.

2. Arrange in a single layer on a piece of foil and place on grill. Grill, turning frequently, until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 15 minutes.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Bunny Cookies

For those of you who celebrate Easter, here's a fun cookie to make for -- and with! -- your kids. I made these for my son's daycare class, and I think he and his friends are just going to love them. Start out with a batch of your favorite sugar cookies (or just buy a mix like I did, semi-homemade girl that I am), add icing, shredded coconut, and decorations, and voila!: adorable little Easter bunny cookies. I was going to make some flowers too, but it turns out the cookie-cutter that I thought was a flower was actually a snowflake, which isn't exactly appropriate for the season. I think the bunnies are cute enough on their own though.

Easter Bunny Cookies

Equipment: bunny-shaped cookie cutter
1 batch of sugar cookies (make them from scratch, or use a mix)
White icing
Shredded coconut
Easter M&Ms
Black decorating gel

1. Cut sugar cookie dough using bunny cookie cutter; bake cookies (according to directions on package, if using a mix). Cool.

2. Spread cooled cookies with icing and sprinkle with shredded coconut, pressing gently to ensure that the coconut sticks to the icing. Add M&Ms for eyes and nose. Use decorating gel for eyeballs and mouth.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chicken BLT Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

You guys, this is one of the best salads I have ever had. The idea is absolutely genius -- all the flavors of a BLT, which in and of itself is one of my favorite things, in salad form. I added some chicken to make this a little bit more meal-like, and it was a delicious addition. I can't wait to have this again. I think it's going to make it onto our dinner table a lot this spring and summer.

I've linked to the original recipe, but I took lots of short-cuts with this to make it even easier. I used store-bought croutons (but the Texas toast kind, so they were more delicious than "normal" croutons) and bottled salad dressing. I would have used my grandma's homemade buttermilk dressing if I had a jar on hand, but I didn't. One day I'll have to share that recipe with you, because my grandma makes
amazing buttermilk dressing.

But I'm getting side-tracked. The point is, this salad is delicious, fresh, crisp, and flavorful, and I think you should make it really
really soon.

Chicken BLT Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

source: adapted from Steamy Kitchen who adapted it from Everyday Food's Fresh Flavors Fast

2 chicken cutlets

8 slices bacon

1 bag or box croutons

Buttermilk salad dressing

1 pound romaine hearts, coarsely chopped

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until bacon is crisp. Crumble the bacon into large pieces.

2. Meanwhile, season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Grill or pan-fry until completely cooked through; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and croutons; toss to coat with dressing. Slice chicken cutlets and place on top of individual salad servings. Serve immediately.