Friday, June 29, 2012

Burger and Fries Friday: Texican Burgers

There are burgers, and then there are BURGERS. And this one definitely falls into the latter category. This burger is serious business. Seriously delicious business, that is.

The buns are spread with a layer of refried beans, then the burgers are topped with tons of cheese, pico de gallo, and a spicy, creamy, chipotle ranch sauce. They're messy, juicy, and flavorful -- in other words, excatly how you want a good burger to be. Next time I'll add some sliced avocado to these...and there certainly will be a next time. This ranks right up there with my favorite burgers of all time.

Texican Burgers

4 burger buns
4 ground beef patties
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup vegetarian refried beans
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo, pureed or chopped

1. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the burgers with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook the patties to desired doneness, then splash each patty with Worcestershire sauce.

2. While the burgers are cooking, combine ranch dressing and chipotle in adobo. Set aside.

3. Top each patty with about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese, cover the skillet, and let them cook until the cheese is melted.

4. To assemble the burgers, spread about 2 tablespoons of refried beans on the bottom bun. Top with a cooked burger, a generous scoop of pico de gallo, and a spoonful of the chipotle ranch sauce.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pina Colada Cupcakes

Somehow, I’ve officially become the Birthday Cupcake person at work. It’s my own fault, mostly. I made cupcakes for someone’s birthday, and then realized that there was another birthday coming up and I’d feel bad if I didn’t make some for that person too...etc., etc., etc. It’s a vicious cycle. I don’t really mind, though; I love to bake, and experimenting with new flavor combinations is always really fun for me.

One of my co-workers had a birthday earlier this month, right before she was leaving for vacation in Mexico, so I thought these pina colada cupcakes would be the perfect thing to make to celebrate both her birthday and her impending tropical getaway. The cupcakes themselves are loaded with pineapple and coconut flavor, and they’re topped with a lime/rum/coconut cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes are so moist thanks to the pineapple in the batter, and the frosting has a great tangy bite to it.

I found a lot of recipes for made-from-scratch pina colada cupcakes when I was trying to decide on a recipe, but I have to admit that I really like starting from a boxed mix when I’m making cupcakes. They’re always going to rise perfectly and they always have a great texture. And they can be doctored up in so many ways. These cupcakes were a huge hit (especially with the birthday girl)!

Pina Colada Cupcakes
cupcakes adapted from Betty Crocker; frosting is my recipe

For the cupcakes:

1 box yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 teaspoons rum
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
3 eggs

For the frosting:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
Zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon rum
1 teaspoon coconut extract
4 cups powdered sugar

Lime slices, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, oil, water, rum, coconut extract, pineapple, and eggs with electric mixer until well-blended, scraping the bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. To make the frosting, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add lime zest, rum, and coconut extract and blend. Gradually add powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. Frost cooled cupcakes and garnish with slices of lime, if desired.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mexican Chicken Quiche

Remember how I said that, when I take photos of food for this website, I always photograph my actual dinner plate? Well, that still holds true for this recipe. I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that the entire piece of quiche up there was mine, and that I ate the whole thing. It was just too delicious for me to feel the least bit guilty about it.

I have a lot of Mexican recipes waiting in the queue to share with you, but this quiche just may be the best. It's spicy, creamy, cheesy, and incredibly tasty. The topping is crispy, and so is the crust, and the inside is perfectly set and loaded with good stuff: eggs, tortilla chips, salsa, green chilies. You could even add corn or black beans if you wanted to, both of which would be delicious. The leftovers reheat really well, too, which is definitely an added bonus!

Mexican Chicken Quiche
adapted from Pillsbury

1 pie crust
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups broken tortilla chips
3 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 cup salsa
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sour cream, salsa, and cilantro for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a wire whisk. Beat in the milk. Stir in chicken, tortilla chips, cheese, salsa, green chilies, and salt. Pour into the crust-lined pan.

3. Bake 55 to 65 minutes, or until crust is light golden brown and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sour cream and salsa.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.25.12

It seems unbelievable that this is the last meal plan for June. When I was a kid, it seemed like summer stretched out languorously, but now it's here and gone in the blink of an eye. I can't believe how quickly time passes when you're an adult, and constantly busy.

I planned a full week of meals this week, but I just remembered that the boys are spending this coming weekend at my stepmom's house (I don't know how I forgot this; I've been looking forward to it for quite some time). So it's unlikely that I'll be cooking. I'll be too busy savoring every. single. second of peace and quiet. And really, can you blame me?!

Monday: Ranchero chicken crostada, salad. This crostada is a family favorite, and since I have a pie crust in the fridge just waiting to be put to good use, it seems like a good week to make it.

Tuesday: Grilled pesto chicken with tomato cream penne. This is a Pinterest find, and I'm quite smitten with it already, even though I haven't made it yet. Using pesto in a marinade is genius and I can't believe I never thought of it before!

Wednesday: Black bean patties with corn relish and avocado cream sauce topped with fried eggs. My friend Sarah made these recently, and the egg idea came from her. Brilliant! I'm excited to try these, since they've gotten resounding recommendations from so much of the blogosphere.

Thursday: Joe's softball night. His game is later than usual, but we'll still probably do something really simple for dinner -- sandwiches or Chinese take-out, most likely.

Friday: Crescent roll breakfast casserole. Another Pinterest find. The picture sold me on this one, but the ingredients sound amazing too!

Saturday: Chicken with summer squash and spinach, rice pilaf. I saw this one on Pinterest too (sensing a pattern here?), and I immediately knew Joe would love it, since he's a sucker for Muenster cheese. This is pretty healthy, too (although I know the boys will pick out the spinach, and probably the squash too).

Sunday: Tortellini and vegetable bake. I have some adaptations planned for this one, namely using whole wheat tortellini, adding zucchini and summer squash, and stirring in some pesto. Yum!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Greek Meatball Lettuce Wraps

More and more, I’m loving lettuce as a replacement for bread and/or tortillas. I love that something like the lettuce wrap, which used to be so decidedly Asian in nature, has expanded to other cuisines as well. In this version, Greek-flavored meatballs are placed inside romaine lettuce leaves and smothered in tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, and feta. Yes, they are as delicious as they sound!

I made my meatballs pretty small, so I thought romaine was the perfect vehicle for them (I love the crunch of it). But if you make your meatballs bigger, romaine may not be hearty enough. I’d imagine you could use any type of lettuce for these and have similarly delicious results. The boys popped the meatballs like candy, which left me wishing I’d doubled the recipe. You could use ground turkey or chicken to make these even healthier. I served the lettuce wraps alongside Greek quinoa, and this lighter, Mediterranean dinner really hit the spot!

Greek Meatball Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 tablespoon Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
Romaine hearts
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Feta cheese

1. Place the beef in a medium bowl. Add the grated onion and all of the spices. Using a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon, scoop out the meat to form meatballs.

2. Heat a frying pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning often, until they’re well browned and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Separate the romaine hearts, setting aside the biggest leaves to use for the lettuce wraps. Put four meatballs into each lettuce cup. Top with tzatziki sauce, cherry tomatoes, and feta.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Recipe Rewind: Creamed Chicken over Biscuits

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 58 years old today. Even now, five and a half years after she died, I still think about her and miss her every single day. There's so much she's missing -- mainly, of course, my boys growing up...but she's also missing this blog, which is something that she would have really loved. In fact, I'd bet that, if she was still alive and well, she'd be working on this blog with me -- or at least giving me inspiration for it.

But, the truth is -- she is still inspiring me, even though she isn't here. I grew up with a mom who made dinner nearly every single night -- and that is something that I strive to give to my own kids. I wouldn't be half the cook (or the mom, or the woman) that I am today if it wasn't for her. That's for sure.

I posted this recipe in the early days of the blog, but since it's one of my mom's recipes, her birthday seems like the perfect day to repost it with an updated photo. This meal is pure comfort food to me, and something I grew up eating, and something that my boys will grow up eating too. I want them to know her, and aside from the stories I tell them about her, making her food for them is the best way to ensure that. I'm so glad I have food memories of her that I can pass down to them in dishes like this one.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Creamed Chicken over Biscuits

1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can peas and carrots, drained
1 can creamed corn
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 package refrigerated biscuits, cooked according to package directions

1. Melt the butter in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and translucent. Stir in chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, milk, salt and pepper, peas and carrots, and creamed corn. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese.

2. Separate a biscuit onto a plate and spread with butter, if desired. Top with the creamed chicken mixture.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Maple-Glazed Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

It wasn't until very recently that I even realized there were people out there in the world who don't like the Pioneer Woman. Apparently, some people think she's really annoying? I guess I can see that; she certainly does seem to have a perfect life (and, whether you like her like I do or really don't like her much at all, you should go read this post. Right now. I'll be here waiting after you wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes). And, yeah, I would agree that the step-by-step photos on her website are just ever-so-slightly unnecessary. Love her or hate her, though, I don't think anyone would disagree that she's marketed herself really well.

And in my experience, she definitely has the cooking chops to back up all the hype. To this day, I've never tried a recipe of hers that wasn't loved by my entire family. This is another one of those recipes. We all just went ga-ga for this chicken. The sweet and salty glaze on the chicken is amazing, and it tastes even better the more it caramelizes on the grill. The sweet and spicy salsa is delicious and perfectly balanced. This was such a delicious dinner, and absolutely perfect for summer.

Maple-Glazed Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 cup finely diced or crushed pineapple
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely choped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine maple syrup, soy sauce, and pineapple juice in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and let it bubble up and reduce by about one-fourth. Set aside to cool.

2. In a small bowl, combine chopped pineapple, jalapeno, cilantro, red onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

3. Grill the chicken until it's done, then baste the maple reduction over the chicken, on both sides, toward the end of the grilling time. Remove them from heat and place them on a platter. Top with the pineapple salsa.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.18.12

Well, we've certainly had an interesting few days! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend celebrating the dads in your life! We took my dad out for dinner on Saturday night, then yesterday we spent the day with Joe's family, cooking out and swimming (before the rain came, that is). I'd intended to post the meal plan last night, but I had incredibly important things to do -- you know, like watch True Blood.

And then I was going to post it this morning, but Will and I ended up having a pretty exciting day. He fell at daycare this morning and busted his lip on the edge of a table, and after the pediatrician looked at it, she ordered us to the hospital for stitches. While we were waiting for the suture team, he entertained himself by taking "pictures" of me with his phone.


He ended up getting two stitches, and was such a brave boy. He fell asleep in the car, stayed asleep when we got home, and is still sleeping. I figured I'd try to post this quickly before I have to go pick up his brother from preschool.

Due to our busy weekend, a couple of the meals from last week are carrying over. The rest are new, and I'm pretty excited to try all of them.

Monday: Peach pecan chicken sandwiches with jalapeno mayonnaise, corn on the cob. A carry-over from last week. I have the chicken soaking in buttermilk as I type this. Yum!

Tuesday: Chicken and basil stuffed twice baked potatoes, steamed broccoli -- except instead of the basil, I'll use prepared pesto, and maybe add a little bit of cream cheese for creaminess.

Wednesday: Baked BBQ chicken taquitos, rice. To say that Joe is excited about this meal would be a massive understatement. I have a ton of packaged rices that I bought when they were on sale, so I'll just use one of those for a quick and easy side.

Thursday: Joe has a softball game, so no cooking for me!

Friday: Ranch chicken tacos and Mexican rice. I haven't decided what recipe I'm going to use for the rice yet, so if you have a good one, please send it my way!

Saturday: Maple sausage and waffle breakfast casserole (another carry-over from last week).

Sunday: Gouda bacon cheeseburgers with smothered onions, spinach dip and crackers. This burger is based on a Rachael Ray recipe, which I know is in one of my cookbooks, but I'm not sure which one. I should probably figure that out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

This isn't a pretty plated dessert. It's not fancy by any means. My picture is mediocre at best. But believe me when I tell you that these brownies are insanely good. They're composed of a brownie layer, a peanut butter cheesecake layer, a chocolate layer, and a layer of crushed peanut butter cups. Are you drooling yet?!

These are incredibly rich, so be sure you have someone to share them with. They're so decadent that you really can't eat more than one -- even though you'll definitely want to!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies
adapted from Chef in Training

1 fudge brownie mix (and anything it calls for)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons whipping cream
8 Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.

2. Prepare brownie batter according to directions and pour batter into the pan; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spoon cheesecake mixture over brownie batter evenly. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until cheesecake layer is set and edges are golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. In a microwave safe bowl, add chocolate chips and whipping cream. Melt on high in 30 second increments until melted and smooth. Pour and spread evenly over the top of brownies/cheesecake. Sprinkle the 8 peanut butter cups over the top.Store covered in refrigerator. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grilled Chicken Caesar Flatbreads

Last month, I hosted my cooking club at our house for Greek food. The main course (which I was responsible for making, as the hostess) was grilled chicken gyros, so I bought a bunch of flatbreads at the bakery to serve them in. But I misjudged how much my friends eat, I guess, because after they left, I realized that I had a lot leftover. I knew I had to use them for something, and this is what I came up with.

This dinner is one of the simplest, most delicious meals we've eaten lately. The chicken is marinated in Caesar dressing, then grilled, and placed on grilled flatbreads along with a pile of Caesar salad. It's so incredibly easy, and so incredibly tasty. The chicken is succulent and flavorful because of the Caesar marinade, and grilling the flatbreads gives them great texture and a nice smoky flavor. It's a perfect summer meal, since it adds no heat to the kitchen. Mark my words, I'll be making these a lot this summer!

Grilled Chicken Caesar Flatbreads

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup Caesar dressing, plus more for the salad
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Chopped romaine lettuce
Parmesan cheese
6 flatbreads

1. Combine 1 cup dressing, lemon juice, and Worcestershire in a plastic container or a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken; seal container and marinate at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

2. Heat grill to medium-high heat and grill chicken until cooked through. For the last couple minutes of cooking, add flatbreads and grill each side until marked and slightly crispy. Let chicken rest, then slice on an angle.

3. Combine romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, and Parmesan cheese. Add some of the salad mixture to each flatbread. Top with sliced chicken. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rigatoni with Bacon, Zucchini and Cream

When I told Joe about this dinner (basically conceptualizing it out loud), he heaved a massive sigh. You see, Joe is always wary of me using zucchini in a recipe, because he's worried I'm going to get obsessed with it like a did a couple of summers ago (resulting in this week of zucchini recipes, as well as several others). I think he ate more zucchini that summer than he'd ever eaten in his entire life. I had to entice him into eating this pasta by assuring him that it would contain plenty of bacon. Bacon is something that he is incapable of resisting.

He actually ended up enjoying this meal quite a bit, and the boys and I did too. The ingredients are simple, but the flavor is actually quite complex. The earthy zucchini and salty bacon pair perfectly with the sweet, creamy sauce. I didn't say anything out loud, but I was feeling pretty smug when Joe went back to the pot for seconds!

Rigatoni with Bacon, Zucchini and Cream

1 pound rigatoni
6 strips bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente; drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain.

3. Discard all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the pan. Add butter, and when it's melted, add the zucchini and onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent and the zucchini is softened. Add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

4. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the skillet to pick up all the drippings. When wine has reduced, reduce heat to medium and add cream. Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, then stir in the parmesan cheese and the reserved bacon. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

5. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Boursin Chicken Quesadillas

I'm not going to lie: I consciously seek out excuses to cook with Boursin cheese. In my mind, it is simply one of the most delicious cheeses -- or foods in general, really -- on the planet. So I have to admit that I'm still patting myself on the back for this recipe: a quesadilla that uses Boursin cheese. These were so delicious that they made Joe curse, as in: "These are so _______ good." 

Boursin seems to fancy everything up, so these quesadillas are both casual and really special at the same time. I added some chopped tomato because I thought it would pair nicely with the garlic and herb flavors of the cheese, and it did. I prefer to use seasoned chicken that I saute and then chop, but you could definitely use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for these to make them come together even more quickly. These are so delicious, and so simple too!

Boursin Chicken Quesadillas

1 cup cooked chopped chicken
8 tablespoons Boursin garlic and herb spreadable cheese, divided
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
8 flour tortillas

Spread 1 tablespoon of Boursin evenly on each flour tortilla. Sprinkle four of the tortillas with chicken and tomtato, then top with another flour tortilla, cheese-side-down. Cook quesadillas on both sides until crispy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Classic Chicken Parmesan

I am consistently disappointed in chicken parmesan whenever I order it in restaurants. It always just tastes so bland to me, like the chicken or the sauce isn't seasoned enough. I've made several different recipes inspired by chicken parmesan in some way (these patties, these meatballs, and these open-faced sandwiches, to name a few), but I'd never tried making a classic version myself at home. But when I saw the Pioneer Woman make her recipe on an episode of her show, I knew that had to change.

I wasn't surprised that we liked this as much as we did; it's Ree, after all, and everything she makes is pretty amazing. I made a couple of changes to her recipe (I used white wine instead of red and basil instead of parsley, and gilded the lily with some fresh mozzarella), and I'm happy to have this recipe in my arsenal. It's good enough for company but easy enough for a weeknight dinner, and that's my kind of meal.

Classic Chicken Parmesan

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to a uniform thinness
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cups white wine
3 14.5-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into a chiffonade
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1 pound thin whole wheat spaghetti, cooked to al dente

1. Mix flour, salt, and pepper together on a large plate. Dredge flattened chicken breasts in flour mixture. Set aside.

2. Heat olive oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and oil/butter mixture is hot, fry chicken breasts until nice and golden brown on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken breasts from the skillet and keep warm.

3. Without cleaning skillet, add onions and garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavorful bits off the bottom. Allow wine to cook down until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

4. Pour in crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Add sugar and more salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook for 30 minutes. Toward the end of cooking time, add most of the basil and give sauce a final stir.

5. Carefully lay chicken breasts on top of the sauce and completely cover them in grated Parmesan. Place lid on skillet and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until cheese is melted and chicken is thoroughly heated. Slice mozzarella into 8 slices and add two slices to each piece of chicken. Simmer until cheese is melted.

6. Place cooked noodles on a plate and cover with sauce. Place chicken breast on top or on the side and sprinkle with more basil. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.11.12

I think I'm going to have to start sleeping with a notebook and pen by my bed. I went to bed on Friday night with lots of different meal ideas floating around in my mind...but when I woke up on Saturday morning and had to plan our menu before I went grocery shopping, every single one of those ideas was gone.

Thankfully, I brainstormed with Joe and the boys, and between the four of us, we were able to come up with some delicious meals for this week. But still. Come on, mind! Start remembering stuff!

Monday: Chicken parmesan pasta. Andrew said he wanted pasta with chicken and red sauce, so this fits the bill perfectly.

Tuesday: Taco rice. This one is always a hit.

Wednesday: Grilled chicken Caesar salad. I made grilled chicken Caesar flatbreads last week that were absolutely fantastic (I'll post the recipe this week), and this is basically the same thing, minus the flatbreads. Joe loved it so much he requested it again this week.

Thursday: Joe has a softball game. The boys and I will probably have sandwiches before heading off on our weekly Thursday night adventure.

Friday: Bacon cheeseburgers and fries. I have all of the ingredients on hand, so there's just no way I can resist.

Saturday: Peach pecan chicken sandwiches with jalapeno mayonnaise. Will requested "peachies" this week (he's on a peach kick lately), so I think he'll enjoy this meal. I'll leave the spicy mayo off the boys' sandwiches, of course.

Sunday: Maple sausage and waffle breakfast casserole. The boys requested breakfast for dinner, and since I've been thinking about this delicious casserole a lot lately, I thought it would be the perfect choice for Sunday dinner.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Strawberry Cake with Thick Strawberry Glaze

I made this cake last month for a Mother’s Day dinner/birthday party for Andrew with Joe’s family. When I was throwing out cake ideas, Andrew got pretty pumped about the idea of strawberry cake – and I thought it would be a lovely springy sort of cake, so that’s what I went with. When we got to the dinner, though, we discovered that Joe’s grandma had made Andrew a chocolate cake shaped and decorated like a teddy bear – so all excitement about my humble strawberry sheet cake went right out the window. That sweet lady is a constant reminder to me of what I need to strive for in my culinary life; she’s an amazing baker!

Thankfully, everyone still loved this cake, me included. The cake itself is moist and packed with strawberry flavor, but it’s the sweet, sticky strawberry glaze that takes it over the top. The glaze was supposed to be a frosting, but I used more strawberries than the original recipe indicated, so it turned out to be thinner than a frosting but thicker than a traditional glaze. What a happy accident that was! Since strawberry season is now in full swing, I’m eager to try this again with juicy, sweet fresh strawberries.

Strawberry Cake with Thick Strawberry Glaze
adapted from Food Network

For the cake:

1 18.25-ounce box white cake mix
1 3-ounce box strawberry-flavored instant gelatin
1 15-ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

For the frosting:

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 10-ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed
7 cups confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch cake pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

3. To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixture until smooth and creamy. Beat in the strawberries. Gradually add confectioners' sugar to desired thickness, beating until smooth.

4. Spread frosting over cooled cake. Store leftovers (if there are any!) in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Greek Quinoa Salad

Earlier this week, glasses of wine in hand, my best friend and I watched The Bachelorette, just like we do every week (don't judge). In part of the episode, the bachelorette took two bachelors with her on a date. When they got their meals, both of the guys remarked on the “quinn-o-ah” on their plates. They talked about how much they liked “quinn-o-ah” and how healthy it was. They were, of course, talking about quinoa.

Maybe it was the wine, but I couldn’t stop giggling over their mispronunciation – even though I didn’t really know how to pronounce the word correctly myself until relatively recently, and to this day, when I say “quinoa” in my head, I still pronounce it exactly the way they did. I think it was the fact that both of these guys thought they were pretty awesome, so it was kind of fun to laugh at their mispronunciation when they were so obviously trying to impress a girl.

Regardless of how you pronounce it, quinoa is pretty amazing. In this recipe, it gets a Greek twist with the addition of spinach, chickpeas, feta, cucumbers, and lots of other yummy, healthy ingredients. It’s a feast for the eyes and for the body; it’s just as pretty to look at as it is healthy and delicious to eat, and I happily took this to work for lunch for more than a week. Even Andrew and Will loved this!

(P.S. Add kalamata olives if you’ve got ‘em. Joe hates them, so I left them out, but I missed them!)

Greek Quinoa Salad

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, rolled into a chiffonade and thinly sliced
1 cucumber, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, spinach, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, chickpeas, and feta. Toss to combine.

2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir until combined.

3. Pour the dressing over the quinoa. Stir well to fully coat the quinoa and vegetables.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chicken Suiza Crescent Pockets

Yes, yes, I’m still stuffing things inside crescent rolls. I just love those flaky little pastries so. They’re so versatile, and they’re usually pretty easy to work with too. Although sometimes, I will admit, it can be kind of a pain to keep those edges sealed together. The night I made these, I was having a particularly difficult night keeping the edges sealed – but the end result was worth my frustration.

For this version, I took my inspiration from this sandwich, which is one of our favorites. I made a creamy filling of chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, and salsa verde, and added a bit of honey for sweetness, some lime juice for tanginess, and lots of ooey gooey Swiss cheese. These were absolutely incredible and tasted exactly like enchiladas suizas but with less work, and in a handy little portable crescent roll package. They're sweet, spicy, and delicious. I’ll definitely be making these guys again.

Chicken Suiza Crescent Pockets

2 packages crescent rolls
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup prepared salsa verde
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Separate crescent dough into 8 rectangles (2 triangular rolls pressed together) and seal the edges.

2. In a bowl, combine chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, salsa verde, honey, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper, and Swiss cheese.

3. Place about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each rectangle. Wrap crescent rolls around the filling and pinch the edges to seal completely. Place on ungreased baking sheets.

4. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until rolls are golden brown. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 6.4.12

I hope you guys are having a great weekend. After the wonderful insanity of last weekend, I was eager to just spend a relaxing weekend at home, so that's precisely what we're doing. Yesterday we explored the deserted playground of a closed elementary school in our town, and the boys had so much fun. I think we'll probably go back today.

Other than that, the day's agenda is pretty wide open: some baking, some playing, hopefully some napping, and not much else.

As far as the food for this week goes, I'm pretty excited about the meals I've planned. I feel like I've finally gotten my cooking groove back, and I think these delicious meals are just going to continue that trend.

Monday: Fried pickle ranch burgers, fries. I honestly haven't been able to get these burgers out of my mind since the first time I made them. I want -- nay, I need -- to make them again.

Tuesday: Zucchini bacon pasta, garlic bread. I'm not sure exactly what this will end up looking like, but if it involves bacon, zucchini, and copious amounts of cheese, I'm sure I'll be happy with it.

Wednesday: Grilled chicken Caesar flatbreads. I'll marinate chicken in Caesar dressing, grill it, then pile it on grilled flatbreads along with some romaine and parmesan. I think this'll be a delicious summery meal.

Thursday: Joe's softball game is late this week, but I still haven't planned a meal for this evening. I kind of look forward to not cooking on Thursdays during softball season!

Friday: Crock pot cheddar beer chicken tacos and Mexican sour cream rice. This is probably the meal I'm most looking forward to this week.

Saturday: Bacon cheeseburger meatloaf, mashed potatoes, buttered corn. This meatloaf is all Joe ever talks about. Every time I ask him what he wants for dinner, he tells me he wants this. So I'm adding it to our menu in hopes that maybe he'll stop talking about it for a month or so. But I doubt he will.

Sunday: Santa Fe egg bake. I saw this in a booklet of casseroles and thought it looked amazing. I can't wait to eat it!