Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Re-Make Recap

Before I start this month's recap, I just wanted to remind you that Google Reader will be going away tomorrow (*sob*). I've migrated my subscriptions to Feedly, which I'm liking so far. If you would like to keep reading (and I hope you do!) you can migrate to a new reader, or you can always subscribe by e-mail on the left side of the page!

Now that that's out of the way -- on to the recap, which I think is a pretty good one. I brought back quite a few of our favorites this month.

We're not quite to the height of zucchini season yet, but when you find yourself drowing in it in a couple of months, this rigatoni with bacon, zucchini and cream is the perfect way to use it...repeatedly. When I made it this time, I added in some summer squash as well. This is one delicious, luscious pile of pasta.

I made these bacon and egg quesadillas two more times this month. We just absolutely love them, and they're such a quick and simple weeknight dinner. I will say that when I make them now, I very rarely cook the quesadillas in the bacon drippings -- I just brown them in a separate skillet using cooking spray. They're just as delicious that way, and a little healthier too.

I actually made two batches of pepperoni pizza puffs this month: one for dinner one night, and one for the boys to take in their lunches throughout the week. They absolutely love these things. I've been meaning to experiment with different pizza-like add-ins, but I haven't gotten around to it because we all love this version so much.

These sweet potato and black bean foil packet tacos are one of Joe's favorite meals, and if you knew how carnivorous he is, you'd be really impressed with this statement. They're so flavorful and filling, we don't miss the meat at all. I did make one change this time: I used salsa in the packets rather than tomato sauce, and I'll definitely be doing that going forward. It made them even more flavorful.

I made creamy stovetop mac and cheese twice this month, too: once as a side dish for some of Joe's grilled ribs (mmm...) and once as a main dish. When I made it as a main dish, I added bacon and broccoli -- both delicious additions. It made me remember being a kid, when my mom used to mix the boxed broccoli Velveeta with the boxed bacon Velveeta. Ahh, childhood.

Shrimp po' boys are Joe's absolute favorite meal, so I made these sandwiches for him for Father's Day dinner. They were just as much a treat for me, honestly, because I just can't get enough of this sandwich (the sauce, in particular).

This chicken parmesan pasta is one of those back-pocket dishes for me. I always have these ingredients on hand, it comes together so quickly, and it's always a hit with everyone in my family.

I had completely forgotten about these jerk pork cheeseburgers with green apple slaw, but I was reminded of them when I made another recipe with ground pork. Once I was reminded of them, I couldn't get them out of my mind. Thankfully, they were just as delicious as I remembered. The slaw is amazing, and the perfect complement to the spicy-sweet burgers.

I love a good five-ingredient meal, esepcially when that meal is as delicious as these spinach lasagna rolls. They're just so simple, and so, so good.

When I was cleaning out my freezer recently, I discovered a plastic bag full of pureed butternut squash that I'd cooked...sometime. I have no idea when. I decided to put it to good use and whip up a batch of these delicious butternut squash enchiladas. Much like the sweet potato and black bean foil packet tacos, these are so flavorful and filling that you won't even miss the meat. Joe and I have happily been eating these enchiladas for dinner for the past two nights.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Minion Cupcakes

You guys all know what happens next week, right? Hint: The event that I’m thinking of doesn’t involve fireworks, parades, or cookouts. It does involve a villain with a really long nose and some adorable little yellow guys that do his bidding. That’s right: Despicable Me 2 comes out next Wednesday, and in our house, I think it may be generating more excitement than the upcoming Fourth of July festivities. And not just with my kids! Joe and I are equally excited about this movie, if not more so!

My boys love the first movie so much that I actually made these cupcakes for Will’s birthday, back in January. I thought this would be the perfect time to share them. Needless to say, they were a huge hit with all of the kids that had one, and I’m pretty sure they’re the cutest cupcakes I’ve ever made. There’s no real recipe involved here, and while they do take some time to make, they’re not difficult at all. I used two boxes of Twinkie-like sponge cakes, so I ended up with 16 minions.

Trust me, the little minions in your life are going to love these!

Minion Cupcakes
inspired by tons of pins on Pinterest

1 box cake mix
Water, oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
Prepared vanilla frosting
2 boxes Twinkies (or equivalent)
Black decorating gel
Melted semi-sweet chocolate
White M&Ms (available in the bulk candy aisle)
Chocolate sprinkles

1. Bake cupcakes as directed on box. Frost each cupcake with a layer of frosting, frosting more heavily in the center. Reserve about 1/4 cup of frosting.

2. To make the minions, slice each Twinkie in half cross-wise. Tint the reserved frosting gray with the decorating gel. Place a dot of the now-gray mixture on the back of two M&Ms and place them in the top middle of a Twinkie to make the minions’ eyes.

3. Place the melted chocolate in a plastic bag and use it to pipe the frames of the glasses, the eyeballs, and the mouth.

4. To make the minions’ hair, gently press individual chocolate sprinkles into the top of the Twinkies.

5. Place a minion upright in the center of each cupcake.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pineapple Chicken Salad

I’m sure this has just about everything to do with the weather, but I’ve been obsessed with pineapple lately. It’s my current phase, and you know how I go through phases like this with ingredients every once in a while. Thankfully, this is a much healthier phase than the crescent roll one. Or the bacon one, which is pretty much ongoing, unfortunately (or fortunately, because BACON).

Anyway, you can expect some pineapple-licious recipes over the next couple of weeks, if I ever get back on a regular posting schedule (making no promises here). First up is this chicken salad, which I simply can’t say enough good things about. It’s absolutely delicious. The juicy bits of pineapple are such a nice surprise throughout the salad and, although I was initially wary about the amount of Worcestershire sauce, I have to say I was pleased at how well its flavor paired with the other ingredients. We all happily gobbled up these sandwiches for dinner, and were even happier to have leftovers for lunches throughout the week.

Pineapple Chicken Salad
adapted from Annie’s Eats

2 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup thinly-sliced green onions
1/2 cup thinly-sliced celery
3/4 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded chicken, carrots, onions, celery and pineapple. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, Worcestershire, garlic powder, and salt and pepper, stirring well to combine. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed. Refrigerate until serving.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pasta with Chicken, Bacon, and White Beans

I'm trying to be better about looking in the cupboards before I plan our meals, so that I can plan based on things that I already have on hand. It saves money, for one thing, and it also ensures that I won't have a pile of unused ingredients falling on my head whenever I open the cupboard (this has happened before with our cereal/snack cupboard; thankfully I have relatively quick reflexes).

That's how this meal was born -- I had beans and pasta in the cupboard, chicken and bacon in the meat drawer, and some rosemary that was nearing the end of its life. I combined them all together to make a pasta dish that is a new favorite in our house, and that is nothing short of luscious. The flavors are perfectly balanced; you get the earthiness of the beans and rosemary, the smokiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the cream, and the saltiness of the parmesan cheese -- all together in one creamy, delicious bite. YUM.

Pasta with Chicken, Bacon, and White Beans

1 pound penne or other short pasta
6 slices bacon, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Set aside on paper towels to drain. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the skillet.

3. Sprinkle the chicken with rosemary, salt and pepper. Add the butter to the skillet to melt. Add the chicken and cook until both sides are browned and crisp and the chicken is cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

4. Add the garlic and beans to the same skillet; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add chicken stock and heavy cream, scraping the bottom of the skillet to pick up any browned bits; stir until thickened, then add parmesan cheese until melted. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Chop the chicken and add it, along with most of the bacon, to the reserved pasta. Add the sauce and stir to combine. Sprinkle each serving with additional bacon and parmesan cheese.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chicken Tacos with Quick Citrus-Pickled Red Onions

I don't think it's any secret by now that I love a good taco, and I especially love them during the summer months. They're such a light and quick dinner option, which makes them perfect for warm weather. Thankfully, Cooking Light has no shortage of taco recipes to choose from, and you know how I love my Cooking Light. In this version, chicken tacos are topped with citrus-pickled onions, creamy avocado, and queso fresco for a meal that is ready in minutes and tastes absolutely amazing.

This was my first time pickling onions, and I was so pleased with the results. The pickled onions were the real star for me. Boiling them for just a moment first takes away their sharp bite, and you're left with a sweet, tangy, still slightly crunchy garnish. The boys even enjoyed them, and I can see myself making the onions on a regular basis so I can use them as a topping for sandwiches and other types of tacos, too.

Chicken Tacos with Quick Citrus-Pickled Red Onions
slightly adapted from Cooking Light, April 2010

Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 pound chicken breast tenders
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Cooking spray

Flour tortillas
1 avocado, pittled and sliced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
Crumbled queso fresco cheese
Sour cream

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Place onion in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; drain and plunge onion in ice water. Drain onion; add to juice mixture. Chill until ready to serve.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle chicken with oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned and done, stirring occasionally. Shred or chop chicken into bite-size pieces.

3. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide chicken evenly among tortillas. Drain onion; divide evenly among tortillas. Top each tortilla with sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, queso fresco, and sour cream.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Pork and Asparagus Stir Fry

I know I’ve talked about this before, but Andrew really loves asparagus. Up to this point, Will hasn’t really cared for it -- but the recipe I’m sharing today is the one that made him an asparagus convert. He took a bite and his eyes literally lit up as he told me, "Hey Mommy, I like this! I like asparagus!"

Honestly, it would be really, really hard not to like this meal. My friend Sarah has never steered me wrong, and this recipe definitely delivers. It has such a perfect balance of sweetness and spice, and the flavor of the ground pork works perfectly with the asparagus and the sauce. I adapted the recipe slightly based on what I had on hand, and I was so happy with how this dinner turned out. This was a no-leftover night, which is always a sign of a great meal!

Sweet and Spicy Pork and Asparagus Stir Fry

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chicken stock
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound ground pork
3 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch thin to medium asparagus, trimmed, cut diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces
1 jalapeno, minced with seeds
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
Salt and pepper

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, chicken stock, and cornstarch. Add the pork and toss to blend.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy large wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, jalapeno, and ginger. Toss until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus mixture to plate.

3. Add remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil to wok. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until browned, using wooden spoon to break up pork into small pieces, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Return asparagus mixture to wok. Add honey and rice vinegar. Stir-fry until pork is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add water by tablespoonfuls if it becomes too dry. Add green onions; toss to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over steamed rice.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bacon and Cheddar Cornbread Cakes with Fried Eggs

Since our lives have been so crazy lately, I've been diligently grocery shopping as usual, but then neglecting to make so many of the things I put on our meal plan. Finally, last week, I decided to cook completely from items I already had in the pantry and fridge, and only grocery shopped for our weekly staples. I didn't even plan our meals. This taught me a couple of things: 1. I am a Planner, and I definitely prefer having at least some sort of idea of what we'll eat during the week; and 2. I am much better at making meals on a whim than I thought I was.

I never used to be able to cook by just throwing ingredients together, and I don't exactly know when I got better at this. I was talking to my mother-in-law about this just the other day, and she told me that she has never, not once, cooked from a recipe. Maybe she's rubbed off on me over the years! In any case, this meal is one of the ones that I made with just what I had on hand, and you guys. It was PHENOMENAL. All four of us gobbled up these cornbread cakes.

I don't know why I even bought a box of cornbread stuffing in the first place, but I sure was glad I had it on hand for this recipe! Cornbread is typically too dry for me, but that definitely wasn't the case with these cakes. They were crispy on the outside and moist in the center, and, as they were loaded with bacon and cheddar cheese, they had tons of flavor. I thought topping them with a velvety fried egg was the perfect touch. I definitely see a Southwestern version of these in our future...

Bacon and Cheddar Cornbread Cakes with Fried Eggs

1 box cornbread stuffing mix
1 1/2 cups water
1 egg
6 strips of bacon, diced
1 cup freshly-shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter
Eggs, cooked to desired doneness

1. Add cornbread stuffing mix to a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 egg and stir to combine.

2. Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and cool slightly, reserving the bacon drippings in the skillet.

3. Add bacon, cheddar cheese, and corn kernels to the stuffing mixture and stir to combine. Using your hands, shape the mixture into 12 equally-sized round patties.

4. Add the butter to the reserved  bacon drippings and heat over medium heat. Add the patties to the skillet in batches and cook until both sides are browned and crispy. Remove to a platter and sprinkle with salt.

5. In another skillet, cook eggs to desired doneness. Serve the patties with an egg on top.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Smashed Potatoes

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend. Ours was busy, but lovely. I took Andrew to a birthday party for one of his friends, which was held at a massive facility made entirely of trampolines. Not surprisingly, he had an awesome time. This place also offers exercise classes, which I am strongly considering trying. The flyer claims that you can burn up to 1000 calories in one hour, just by jumping on trampolines. If that is really true, it completely cancels out the calories in these decadent smashed potatoes, and makes me feel much less guilty for indulging in them.

At this point, I'm pretty sure I can turn just about any food into a jalapeno popper, and smashed potatoes were long overdue for their makeover. These potatoes are so rich, flavorful, and delicious -- not a shock, considering that they contain half a pound of bacon, a generous amount of cheddar, and a ton of butter and cream cheese. If you'd like to bake these, you could totally add a topping of panko breadcrumbs to give them even more of a jalapeno popper-y feel. Whether you bake them, though, or just serve them straight from the stovetop, I strongly, strongly encourage you to make these. And then go jump on a trampoline for an hour to cancel out the calories. :)

Jalapeno Popper Smashed Potatoes

3 to 4 pounds red potatoes, chopped
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add chopped potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil until potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from skillet, reserving drippings, and set aside on paper towels to drain. Add the jalapenos to the bacon drippings and cook until softened and fragrant. Add the jalapenos to the reserved bacon.

3. Add butter and cream cheese to the potatoes and use a potato masher to mash. Stir in the cheddar cheese, bacon, and jalapenos until the cheese is melted. The potatoes shouldn't need any additional liquid, but if they do, add milk until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.