Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Onion Strings

I don’t know how it is with you, but when I start to crave something, I can’t get it out of my mind until I eat it. A few weeks ago, that craving was for Red Robin’s BBQ chicken sandwich. I’ve had it a couple of times and absolutely love it, but it’s hard to resist the siren song of their amazing hamburgers, so it’s not something I get very often when we go there.

I decided to try to recreate the sandwich at home, and I have to say that my version is pretty spectacular. I grilled the chicken, slathered it with BBQ sauce, and topped it with Havarti cheese, homemade onion strings, pickles, and mayonnaise, and put all of that on a butter-grilled bun. The creamy mayo, the sweet BBQ sauce, the crunchy onion rings, and the briny pickles complemented each other perfectly. Cheddar would be a good choice for these, but I loved the tanginess of the Havarti on the sandwiches.

I’ll be making these sandwiches over and over again. And again, and again...

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Onion Strings

1 large onion
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
Canola oil for frying

4 chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
Salt and pepper
Barbecue sauce
4 sandwich buns
4 slices Havarti cheese

1. For the onions: Halve the onion, then cut each half in half cross-wise. Then slice the onion length-wise and separate all the pieces. Add buttermilk, salt, and pepper to a medium bowl. Add onions and soak for 10 minutes. Dip the onions in the flour, then in the buttermilk mixture again, then in the flour again. Heat canola oil in a large skillet and fry onions in batches until well-browned and crispy. Place fried onions on paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper until hot.

2. For the sandwiches: Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through. Using a basting brush, slather the breasts generously with BBQ sauce. Spread each bun half with a layer of butter, and grill until browned and fragrant.

3. Spread more BBQ sauce on the bottom of each bun. Top each with a piece of chicken, a slice of Havarti, some of the onions, and pickles. Spread the top of each bun with mayonnaise. Serve.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

There are many reasons I love pasta, of course, but probably one of the biggest of those reasons is because of how quick it is to make. A lot of pasta dishes are ready in the time it takes for the noodles to cook, and as an extremely busy working mom, that aspect alone is enough to make me jump for joy.

This chicken enchilada pasta is not only quick, it’s also SO DELICIOUS OMG. It’s also endlessly adaptable; black beans and corn would be great additions. It tastes exactly like a chicken enchilada, mixed up with pasta instead of wrapped up in a tortilla. My boys even loved this dish, which is a real testament to how good it is, because they’re not big fans of Mexican food. I really can’t wait to make this one again.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
adapted from Cooking with Cristine

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 10-ounce cans red enchilada sauce
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 cups colby jack cheese, shredded
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes
16 ounces penne pasta, cooked and drained
Sour cream and cilantro for serving

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until onion is softened and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for another minute.

2. Add chiliies, salt, chili powder, cumin, enchilada sauce, chicken broth, and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in cheese and stir until melted. Add cream cheese and stir until melted.

4. Pour sauce over noodles and stir to combine. Serve with sour cream and cilantro, if desired.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.28.12

I hope you're all having a fun Memorial Day weekend with your families and friends. It's always a fun weekend for my family; we have cook-outs and go to flea markets. I also hosted my cooking club at our house for Greek night last night, which was a blast, so this has definitely been a great weekend so far -- and will only get better with the addition of family cook-outs this evening and tomorrow.

Of course, Memorial Day is much more than just BBQ weekend/the offical start to summer. My Facebook wall is peppered with patriotic photos remembering our fallen soldiers, but even without those reminders, my family will be taking time to honor the real reason for this holiday. Two and a half years ago, we lost a very dear friend in Afghanistan, who was fighting for our freedoms and made the ultimate sacrifice. Tomorrow, we'll visit the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial (which happens to be in our town) in honor of him and the countless others who've sacrified their lives so that we can live ours in freedom. I hope you all take a moment to honor that sacrifice as well.

On to the menu for the week. I didn't realize this as I was planning our meals, but every single one of these dinners involves chicken. Good thing there was a crazy good sale on it this week!

Monday: We have a Memorial Day cook-out in the afternoon. We're also going to be swimming, and I'm betting we'll be too tired to mess with dinner -- so I'm not even bothering to plan anything.

Tuesday: Penne with chicken and vegetables in roasted garlic cream sauce, garlic bread. I didn't get to this meal last week. I think I'm going to grill the chicken, but I'll keep everything else the same.

Wednesday: Grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing, baked potatoes, corn on the cob. This is probably one of my favorite summer meals; it's simple and always delicious.

Thursday: Joe has softball practice, so this has sort of become the night when the boys and I get out of the house and do something fun. Last week we went to the toy store, and this week, I think a walk to the ice cream parlor is in order. We'll just grab something quick for dinner.

Friday: Tex-Mex chicken and white cheddar spaghetti. This looks simple and delicious, and white cheddar is one of my favorite cheeses.

Saturday: Chicken parmesan casserole and salad. YUM.

Sunday: BBQ chicken enchiladas, Mexican sour cream rice. I haven't completely conceptualized these enchiladas yet; however, I know that they will involve cream cheese, Sweet Baby Ray's honey chipotle BBQ sauce, and chipotle enchilada sauce. So how could they not be good?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

French Dip Crescents

I’m thinking I should create a “crescent roll” recipe category. Or put together an entire week of posts featuring recipes using crescent rolls. I just can’t get enough of those buttery little guys. Joe said jokingly the other night that we never just eat crescent rolls as they were meant to be eaten. I say, why be boring? There are so many things you can do with them, and they’re so easy to work with.

Take this recipe, for instance. I make a version of French dips that’s really simple and flavorful, but I just couldn’t resist trying this version, using crescent rolls as the bread. Not surprisingly, these were a huge hit with my whole family. Finger food and/or food that can be dipped is always a hit with the preschool/toddler set, and these were no exception. I whipped up a very simple au jus using beef broth and onion soup mix, but you could definitely make your own (the one in the recipe I linked to above is delicious).

French Dip Crescents
adapted from Mama Loves Food!

2 packages 8-count crescent rolls
1 pound deli roast beef, thinly sliced
4 ounces provolone cheese, cut into 16 equal pieces
1 can beef broth
1 packet dry onion soup mix

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Unroll crescent rolls onto cookie sheets. Place a slice of roast beef and a piece of cheese on each crescent. Roll up, starting from the wide end.

3. Bake for 13 minutes, or until crescents are golden brown and cheese is melted.

4. To make the au jus, heat the beef broth in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When boiling, stir in onion soup mix. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until crescents are done cooking. Serve au jus alongside the crescents.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chicken with Pimiento Cheese Sauce

Sometimes I am so jealous of people from the South. They get to claim things like pimiento cheese, sweet tea, and fried chicken as their own. They even get peaches! Here in Ohio, we don’t have very many regional foods (aside from fried bologna sandwiches, maybe? or Buckeyes? Cincinnati-style chili?), but I’m happy to borrow from other regions when I’m making dinner. I’m a huge fan of pimiento cheese, and in this recipe, I decided to use it in sauce form to top some crispy chicken cutlets. SO GOOD.

This is the third or fourth time I’ve used a cream cheese-based sauce over chicken cutlets, and I’m still such a huge fan. I love the tangy creaminess of the cream cheese in combination with a crispy piece of chicken. In this version, cream cheese is combined with pimientos, garlic, and cheese to make a silky, flavorful sauce for the chicken. I coated the chicken itself in cracker crumbs, which added a delicious salty, buttery, crunchy quality to the dish.

I know this isn't exactly traditional – but man, is it tasty.

Chicken with Pimiento Cheese Sauce

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1 egg
Canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
Half of an onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces diced jarred pimientos
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 to 1 cup milk or chicken stock
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Beat the egg. Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken cutlet in egg, then in cracker crumbs.

2. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add chicken cutlets in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) and fry until crispy and cooked through. Place on a rack in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

3. Melt the butter in another skillet. Add onion and cook and stir until translucent. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add pimientos and season with salt and pepper.

4. Stir in cream cheese and milk or chicken stock, starting with 1/2 cup and adding more to thin out the sauce as needed. Once the cream cheese is completely incorporated and the mixture is bubbly, stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

5. Serve the sauce over the chicken.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bacon Spaghetti with Tomato Cream Sauce

This is one of those dishes that just sort of came together based on what I had on hand. I had bacon, canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, a little cream, some whole wheat spaghetti, and of course I always have wine...and I just made this on the fly. And man, was it ever delicious. The salty bacon pairs nicely with the acidic tomatoes, and the cream gives the whole dish a welcome touch of sweetness and lushness.

The only thing I didn’t have on hand that I would have liked to use in this dish is fresh basil. That would’ve taken this meal completely over the top. Joe is slacking. He really needs to get my herbs planted!

Bacon Spaghetti with Tomato Cream Sauce

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
6 strips bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
Shredded parmesan cheese

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

2. Meanwhile, add bacon to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook to desired crispness; remove to paper towels to drain. Drain most of the bacon drippings from the pan.

3. Reduce heat to medium; add butter and onion. Let the onion cook until it’s translucent, then add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any browned bits, and cook until the wine is reduced by half.

4. Stir in tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and heat through, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in heavy cream and cook over medium heat until sauce is bubbling and slightly thickened. Return bacon to sauce.

5. Add sauce to pasta and top each serving with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.21.12

We're having a lazy day today. Right now, my younger son is napping, while my older one is having some quiet time on the couch, watching Bubble Guppies. Earlier we baked cookies, and I've done a bit of cleaning (although not nearly as much as I should've done). We tried playing outside for a while, but it's just so hot, and the boys got tired pretty quickly. I'm not going to complain too much but, um, 86 degrees seems a little warm for May, doesn't it?

I can't believe May is almost over, though. It's been a busy month already, and we're entering what will probably be the busiest week of this month. Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and we have a couple of cook-outs to attend. I'm also hosting my monthly cooking club on Saturday, so, um, I really should post this quickly and go clean my house more thoroughly.

Monday: Ravioli with bacon pesto mushroom cream sauce, garlic bread. I learned my lesson from last time I made this, and I'm doubling the recipe this time.

Tuesday: Texican burgers and Mexican rice. Joe and I recently bought a box of 36 burger patties for Andrew's birthday party on Mother's Day, and we have quite a few left over. I used some for the fried pickle ranch burgers, and I'll make use of the patties again for these. I've been excited to try these burgers for a while.

Wednesday: Brats with sauerkraut and whole wheat tortellini salad. Joe was so excited when he saw that I put brats on the menu. They're probably his favorite summertime food.

Thursday: Penne with chicken and vegetables in roasted garlic cream sauce, garlic bread. I know, I know: two cream sauces in one week. This one just sounds too good to resist, though!

Friday: Pork sandwiches with sour cream sauce, steamed broccoli. I love these sandwiches, and it's been too long since I made them.

Saturday: My cooking club. We're doing Greek food. I'm hosting, so I'm responsible for the main dish and the drinks. I haven't quite decided what I'm making yet, but I think I'm going to do marinated chicken and lamb (or beef) for gyros. For the cocktail, I think I'm going to make a Greek Tiger, which is ouzo and orange juice with a splash of lime, served over ice. But I think I'm going to blend it with ice instead, like a margarita or a daiquiri. It's supposed to be 90 degrees on Saturday, so I think it'll be really refreshing!

Sunday: We're going to a cook-out for Memorial Day at my aunt's house. I don't know what I'll be making yet, but I'm sure it'll be some kind of dessert. They always want me to make dessert -- not that I mind. :) I'm thinking a strawberry pie would be perfect...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Burger and Fries Friday: Fried Pickle Ranch Burgers

I find that fried pickles are a very divisive sort of food. People either love them or hate them. I bet you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I love them. If a restaurant has a fried pickle appetizer on their menu, you can bet I’m going to be ordering it – with a side of ranch for dipping, of course.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I had maybe the most genius idea of my culinary journey so far. What do we put on cheeseburgers? Well, pickles, of course. So why not put fried pickles on a burger? I KNOW, right?

This burger changed my life. I don’t even know what else to say. Make it.

Fried Pickle Ranch Burgers

For the fried pickles:

12 dill pickle slices
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Canola oil for frying

For the burgers:

4 hamburger patties
1 tablespoon dry ranch dressing mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
4 buns, toasted
Ranch dressing

1. For the pickles: Heat about an inch of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine milk and egg. Combine flour, ranch mix, salt and pepper. Dip the pickle slices first in the milk mixture, then in the flour mixture. Dip in the milk mixture again, then in the flour mixture again. Fry pickles in batches until coating is browned and crisp. Remove to paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

2. For the burgers: Season each patty with ranch mix and salt and pepper. Cook in a skillet to desired doneness; drizzle with some Worcestershire. Top each burger with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese and cover the skillet until the cheese is melted.

3. To assemble the burgers, top the bottom half of each bun with a burger patty and 3 fried pickles. Slather the top of each bun with ranch dressing and serve.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Buttermilk Chicken Tenders

No, these chicken tenders are not baked. Yes, they are shallow-fried in oil. But they are so delicious – so crunchy and juicy and flavorful and irresistible – that I refuse to apologize for it. They’re a once-in-a-while sort of food, and those are perfectly acceptable in my book.

A month or so ago, when I made these buffalo chicken quesadillas, Joe and the boys kept coming into the kitchen while I was frying batches of the chicken tenders. Thinking they were being very sneaky, they’d steal the fried, un-sauced ones I had sitting aside on paper towels. On one of his trips in, Joe said something about how good they were, and that we should just have those for dinner. I had to try one for myself, and I, too, was pretty impressed with how delicious they were on their own. The next week, I put the un-sauced version on our menu.

The secret to these delicious chicken tenders is, of course, the buttermilk. Buttermilk is just the perfect thing to soak chicken (or onions, for that matter) in before you fry it. It’s so tangy and creamy and it doesn’t take long for it to work its magic on the chicken tenders, keeping them moist and juicy while the coating gets crispy. With a generous dollop of ranch dressing for dipping, this is pretty much chicken tender heaven.

Buttermilk Chicken Tenders

1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenders
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Canola oil for frying

1. Add the chicken tenders to a medium bowl; pour the buttermilk over and mix to ensure that the tenders are coated completely. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature.

2. Mix together the flour, seasoned salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper in large bowl. Add the chicken tenders and dredge completely.

3. Heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When heated, shake excess flour from chicken tenders and add to skillet. Fry until cooked through, golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second side. Fry in batches, removing each previous batch to a paper towel to drain. Taste a tender for seasoning, and sprinkle with salt while still hot if needed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Breakfast Tacos

Sometimes it’s just fun to eat like a kid, am I right? I mean, I’m all for fancier (but still easy) homemade dishes, but sometimes, it’s nice to eat something that’s no-frills and simply delicious. I made these breakfast tacos for my little guys, who love breakfast for dinner, and who think they love tacos – until they taste taco meat. They’re not so crazy about Mexican spices these days, so I decided to give them a twist on a standard taco. This is what I came up with: sausage, cheesy eggs, tater tots, and salsa piled on a flour tortilla. The boys were in heaven, and Joe and I really enjoyed this dinner too.

You could use whatever breakfast ingredients you like for these, really. You could use bacon, or sausage links or patties; you could add refried beans, avocado, or pico de gallo. You could leave off the tater tots, I guess, but I loved the texture and flavor that they added to these tacos. I bet you could even freeze these for easy breakfasts throughout the week. In any case, I will definitely be making them frequently, because Andrew and Will gave them two thumbs WAY up!

Breakfast Tacos

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
Tater tots, prepared according to package directions
Flour tortillas (I used whole wheat)
Salsa and sour cream for serving

1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet, using a wooden spoon to break it up into chunks, until sausage is browned and cook through. Remove to paper towels to drain.

2. Meanwhile, scramble the eggs and season them with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat in a large skillet until they’re softly scrambled. Stir in cheese and remove from heat.

3. Assemble the tacos by topping each flour tortilla with some of the eggs and sausage, a few tater tots, and salsa and sour cream.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Rosemary Chicken Marsala

I’ve been really excited to share this recipe with you. I created it on the fly one night when I didn’t really feel like making the meal I’d planned. I took an inventory of what I had on hand, and this recipe is what I came up with.

This recipe definitely kicks the classic version of chicken Marsala up a few notches. I wrapped the chicken in bacon, and I added rosemary to the sauce. I thought the salty bacon and the earthy rosemary would pair perfectly with the Marsala and the mushrooms, and I was right. It all just worked. Wrapping the chicken in the bacon kept the chicken so moist, and the tender, juicy chicken was nicely contrasted by the crispy bacon. I bet you could make the chicken entirely in the oven (rather than starting it on the stovetop, then transferring it to the oven like I did), but I think the drippings are essential for the Marsala sauce.

I really think you’ll love this recipe. It tastes just phenomenal.

Bacon-Wrapped Rosemary Chicken Marsala

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 strips thick bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely diced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
1 cup Marsala wine
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Season chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap a slice of bacon around each piece of chicken. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken breasts in the skillet with the bacon’s seam-side-down. Cook on all sides until bacon is crisp. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and place in the oven while you’re preparing the sauce.

3. Add butter to the same skillet. Add shallots and mushrooms. When the mushrooms are browned, add garlic and rosemary and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Add Marsala to the mushroom mixture, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to pick up any browned bits. Let Marsala reduce by half.

5. Add chicken stock and heat through, until stock is slightly reduced. Return the chicken to the skillet and nestle in the sauce. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bananas Foster Cupcakes with Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I’m not posting the meal plan today, because I didn’t cook a single night last week. Okay, I think I made sloppy joes one night, but that’s it. All the various things we’ve had going on lately, added to the fact that I have a sinus infection and feel only slightly better than death, have equaled not a lot of time in the kitchen. So basically, I am back to cooking this week, but we’ll just be eating everything I’d planned to make last week. So if you came looking for a meal plan, just check out last week’s.

If, however, you came for the best cupcakes you’ve ever tasted in your life, then I can help you out right now. I made these cupcakes recently for a work birthday (Bananas Foster is the birthday girl’s favorite dessert), and weeks later, everyone is still raving about them. The recipe actually calls for making Bananas Foster, complete with flambéing, then stirring the mixture directly into the cupcake batter. It’s the first time I’ve ever flambéed in my kitchen, and Andrew is still talking about how cool it was. I think I went up quite a few points on the Cool Mom scale when he witnessed me deliberately set something on fire (in a controlled environment, of course).

Anyway, these cupcakes are amazing. The cupcakes themselves are moist and rich, with the barest hint of rum. The frosting is super-sweet and pairs perfectly with the not-as-sweet cupcakes. They’re seriously some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made – definitely worth the extra steps it took to make them.

Bananas Foster Cupcakes with Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from The Little Things

For the Bananas Foster:

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 firm but ripe bananas, sliced
4 tablespoons rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons rum
3/4 cup sour cream

For the frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup caramel sauce
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6-7 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk

For the Bananas Foster:

1. In a saute pan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cook until butter melts and sugar is dissolved (4 to 5 minutes).

2. Add the banana slices and cook until tender, turning once for 1 to 2 minutes per side.

3. Stir together rum and vanilla. Turn off the burner and add the rum mixture to the pan. Using a long match, light the alcohol by placing the flame just in the outer edge of the pan. Stand as far back as possible. The flame should extinguish in a few seconds. Gently shake the pan from side to side to coat the bananas with the sauce. Spoon the bananas into a bowl and set aside.

For the cupcakes:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, rum and banana mixture. Mix well.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream; blend thoroughly but do not overmix.

5. Pour into prepared cupcake pans.

6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 3 minutes in pan on rack. Remove and cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until fluffy; add the caramel sauce and cinnamon and beat until fully incorporated.

2. Slowly add powdered sugar into the bowl, 1/2 cup at a time and beating after each addition. Continue adding the sugar until you have a thick frosting of your preferred consistency. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a tablespoon or more of milk to thin out.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bacon Caprese Sliders

Have you ever wondered what could make a caprese salad taste better? I mean, fresh mozzarella, juicy tomato, and sweet basil is a pretty delicious combination on its own -- one of the best culinary combinations, in my opinion. So what happens when you add bacon to that already amazing trifecta? Could it possibly make it taste even better? The answer, of course, is yes.

This recipe was inspired by another recipe I saw, using puff pastry as buns for sliders that were similar to these. I'd intended on using the puff pastry, but the day I was making these, I remembered the little slider buns I had in the garage freezer, which worked great.

These little sandwiches couldn't be simpler: They're composed of nothing more than bacon, tomato, mozzarella, basil, and mayonnaise. The bacon adds a wonderful smoky, crispy, salty quality to the other ingredients. It particularly compliments the sweet, floral notes of the basil.

You're gonna love these cute little sandwiches.

Bacon Caprese Sliders
inspired by Domestic Fits

8 slider buns
8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
8 fresh basil leaves
8 slices of tomato
16 slices of bacon

1. Cook bacon to desired crispness; drain on paper towels.

2. Layer two slices of bacon, a slice of mozzarella, a leaf of basil and a slice of tomato on the bottom of each slider bun. Add mayonnaise to the sandwiches, if desired.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Honey Mustard Cashew Chicken Salad Wraps

I came across this recipe after I noticed half a jar of cashews in my pantry that needed to be used up. I thought cashew chicken sounded pretty fantastic, but I didn't have a go-to recipe, so I did a search on Allrecipes. This was the first recipe that popped up. I was thinking along the Chinese-sweet-sauce version of cashew chicken, but when I saw this one I was intrigued.

This type of meal is perfect for this time of year. It uses leftover chicken, and the wraps are served cold, so you don't have to worry about heating up your kitchen with the oven. Oh, and also? These wraps are delicious. The tangy sweetness of the honey mustard pairs perfectly with the nutty cashews, and the cashews and celery give this chicken salad a great crunch. These are a quick, easy, and yummy lunch or dinner.

Honey Mustard Cashew Chicken Salad Wraps
adapted from Allrecipes

1/2 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup chopped red onion
4 (6 inch) whole wheat tortillas, warmed
4 slices provolone cheese

1. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken, celery, cashews and onion.

2. Place a slice of cheese in the center of each tortilla. Spoon about 1 cup of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grilled Cajun Ranch Chicken Pasta

You guys know I'm a sucker for anything with "ranch" in the title. But I'd never thought of pairing the flavor of ranch with Cajun flavors until I saw this recipe on Pinterest -- and I was immediately in love with the idea. When I actually tried it, I was even more smitten. The tanginess of the ranch works perfectly with the heat of the Cajun spices. This pasta dish is creamy, spicy, tangy, and flavorful -- pretty much everything you could ask for in a meal. I would even call this a restaurant-quality dish.

Although the chicken itself was a bit too spicy for the boys, I cut down on the Cajun seasoning in the sauce so they could enjoy the pasta -- and they loved it. We all loved this meal. Our leftovers were gone within a day.

Grilled Cajun Ranch Chicken Pasta
adapted from Plain Chicken

For the chicken:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons sal
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

For the pasta:

16 ounces penne or other short pasta
1/4 cup butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. For the chicken: In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, cajun seasoning, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Pound chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness. Place chicken in an airtight container and cover with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to overnight. Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Grill chicken for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear. Let rest.

2. While the chicken is cooking, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in evaporated milk, Cajun seasoning, and parmesan cheese. Whisk together on low heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until sauce is thickened. Pour the sauce over the pasta.

4. Slice the chicken and portion it on top of each serving of pasta.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 5.7.12

I hope you're all having a great weekend. We're finally recovering from the nasty cold that struck our entire household last week, thank goodness. Having sick kids is no fun, but being sick while your kids are sick is even less fun.

Thankfully, last week was a relatively peaceful week for me, so I was able to relax a bit and concentrate on feeling better. This coming week is promising to be really busy again, so having a plan in place for our meals is going to be really important. The boys and I sat down yesterday and made the meal plan together, and I must say that they picked out a couple of delicious things! They picked solely on how appealing the pictures were, we'll see how well they actually eat the meals they chose.

Monday: Smoky white bean chicken chili, cheese quesadillas. This is a carry-over meal from last week. It's supposed to be really warm tomorrow, but we'll be eating in our air-conditioned house (usually I wait until after Memorial Day to turn the air on, but it's been so hot I had to break down!), so I'm not too worried about having chili for dinner.

Tuesday: Maple-glazed chicken with pineapple salsa, rice. As soon as PW posted this meal, I couldn't wait to make it. I don't think I'm going to do kabobs -- just grilled chicken breasts. I have tons of rice left over from a get-together for Andrew's birthday last night, so I'll just reheat that to go alongside.

Wednesday: My sister-in-law had a baby last Thursday (I'm an aunt!), so we'll be going to her place to visit and meet the new little princess. We'll probably eat on the way, and I'm taking cheesy sausage penne and some vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies for the new family to enjoy.

Thursday: It's Andrew's fourth birthday, so we'll eat out. Andrew's choice! I'm resigned to the fact that it'll probably be Chuck-E-Cheese.

Friday: Sloppy joe squares and tortellini salad. Andrew and Will picked this one, so we'll see what they think of their choice.

Saturday: Fried pickle ranch burgers, fries. I'm sure this one is self-explanatory and, I'm pretty sure, a stroke of genius on my part. Fried pickes! On burgers! YES PLEASE.

Sunday: Chicken enchilada quiche, salad. Another one chosen by the boys. Real men eat quiche, after all!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Once upon a time, my husband and I made BBQ chicken pizza. And it was good. Very, very good. And I thought I’d never forsake that version for another.

Once upon another time, my best friend and I went out for dinner and drinks before a concert, and we split a BBQ chicken pizza at the restaurant. And it was AMAZING. And I knew I had to duplicate that version in my kitchen as soon as humanly possible.

Well, I’ve officially found a new go-to version of BBQ chicken pizza – and it is so simple, you guys. Including the crust itself, this version only has six ingredients: crust, BBQ sauce, leftover grilled chicken, Monterey jack cheese, red onion, and cilantro. That’s it. But the ingredients all work together perfectly (the sharp bite of the onions, the tangy sauce, the bright cilantro) and make such a flavorful combination. I used leftover marinated, grilled chicken from a pasta I’d made earlier in the week (I’ll share that recipe tomorrow), and thought it worked really well for this. You could definitely use shredded cooked chicken, or any type of leftover chicken, but I thought grilled chicken worked just perfectly.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

1 store-bought or homemade pizza crust
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 cup cooked diced chicken
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Pre-bake pizza crust according to directions on package or instructions in your favorite recipe.

2. Top pizza crust with BBQ sauce, shredded cheese, chicken, onions, and cilantro. Return to the oven and cook for 6 to 10 minutes more, until edges of crust are golden brown, cheese is melted, and toppings are heated through.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Italian Macaroni and Cheese

When I was putting together our meal plan a couple of weeks ago, I asked the guys in my life for a little help, since I was feeling uninspired (and, also, way too busy to put a lot of time into the menu). Both of my boys requested mac and cheese, and while I knew they’d be perfectly content with the boxed stuff, I thought I was high time I created a new mac and cheese recipe. It’s been awhile since I did that.

Slowly, it started coming together in my mind.

Roasted tomatoes.



An Italian version of macaroni and cheese, which just may be one of the best recipes I’ve created yet.

We all absolutely loved this version of mac and cheese. With all of the additions listed above, plus a little bit of wine in the cheese sauce, it was so luxurious and special – a creamy, cheesy, flavorful delight. Use whatever Italian meat you’d like for this recipe; sausage, pepperoni, pancetta, or prosciutto would all be absolutely delicious in this. I just made this on Sunday night, and I’m already sharing it with you – which should tell you a little something about just how delicious it really is.

Italian Macaroni and Cheese

12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
4 ounces Genoa salami, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 cup prepared pesto

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

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are bursting, about 15 minutes.

3. While tomatoes are roasting, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salami and cook until onion is softened. Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add flour and stir until the ingredients are coated and the mixture is bubbling, about 1 additional minute.

4. Stir in wine and cook until reduced. Stir in chicken stock and milk. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat. Stir in cheese until melted, then add the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Combine penne, roasted tomatoes, and cheese sauce. Serve immediately.