Monday, September 30, 2013

September Re-Make Recap

I feel like every time I write one of these recaps I begin with a statement like, "Wow, another month is gone! Where did the time go?!" So even though that's all still true, I think we can skip it, right? And just get to the food? Let's do it.

(But yes, the time is still going way too fast. Christmas is in three months, people!)

I made broccoli salad for a little Labor Day cookout we had at my stepmom's house, and it was a huge hit as usual. Everyone loves this stuff.

Also on the menu for Labor Day: a batch of these fruit pizza cookies, made with strawberries, blueberries, and white peaches. I used lime juice and zest instead of lemon in the glaze this time, and I liked that flavor a lot.

It had been a while since I'd made two-packet pork chops with ranch-roasted potatoes, so I thought it was high time I put this meal on our menu. Instead of using the onion soup mix this time, I used mushroom gravy mix because I had it on hand. I also used more of a traditional bread-and-fry method for the pork chops, by mixing the ranch seasoning and mushroom gravy mix into the flour, then dipping the pork chops in eggs before dredging them in the flour mixture. If this meal was good before, well, that small change just took it to a completely new level of deliciousness.

This recipe for bacon fried rice is a favorite in our house, and I've made it a few different ways. This time, I did away with the chicken and topped each serving of rice with an egg fried over-easy and a drizzle of sriracha. SO GOOD.

I made a riff on these BBQ chicken taquitos this month using some leftover pulled BBQ chicken I had on hand (look for a great new sandwich recipe here later this week). Since I already had the seasoned BBQ chicken, I didn't need to worry about adding the spices; I just added the cream cheese and cheddar cheese to the chicken, along with some diced green chilies and some bacon I'd reserved from the bacon fried rice for just that purpose. Let me tell you, what a delicious way to use leftovers. I'm already planning to make pulled BBQ chicken again soon, just so I can make these taquitos the next night.

This recipe for chicken and vegetable pasta with roasted garlic cream sauce is my favorite pasta to bridge the seasons. You can still use summer vegetables in it, but it has that warm, heavy, comforting quality that makes you think of fall. I added some fresh broccoli this time as well, which worked great with the rest of the vegetables.

Speaking of pasta, I couldn't wait any longer to make this cheesy sausage penne, which is definitely a favorite in my house. I've made this recipe so often, I could probably make it in my sleep. It is just SO GOOD.

Can you tell I'm in fall mode? I put this best ever roasted tomato soup on our menu on a day that it happened to be about 85 degrees. Why can't the weather agree with my cravings? This soup is so delicious, though, it was well worth heating up the kitchen for.

I have a coworker with a September birthday, and when I asked him what kind of cupcakes he wanted, he didn't even hesitate before he asked for these Oreo overload cheesecake cupcakes. They're the same cupcakes I made for him last year, incidentally, and he said he's been thinking about them ever since. Upon tasting them again, I have to say that I think these are the best cupcakes I've ever made. They're just absolutely perfect.

I made biscuits with sausage gravy on a night that I got home late (which, for me, is like 5:00), and I still managed to have dinner on the table by 5:30. This stuff only takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and it is so simple and delicious that I honestly don't know why I don't make it every single weeknight.

It wouldn't be a fall recipe recap without spicy sausage dip! I typically make this a few times a month during football season, since it's our favorite football snack. I made it last weekend for Joe and me while we watched the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin. Go Bucks!

It's time for chili. I just couldn't wait any longer. I've improvised a lot on my chili recipe since I posted it (every time I make it it's an improvisation), but here are some things I did differently in the batch I made last weekend: I added a bay leaf, replaced the petite diced tomatoes with a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, used an entire box of beef stock, and replaced the spicy sausage with chorizo. I think this may have been my best batch yet, and I'm eager to confirm that theory tonight, when we're using the leftovers for chili dogs. Yum!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Burger and Fries Friday: Crunchy Jalapeno Bacon Ranch Cheeseburgers

I make the most ridiculous burgers. They're ridiculously good, but they're just ridiculous too. I know this. Here's my thinking on a burger: If I'm going to use my calories for a hamburger, I am going to use the calories. I am going to pack those burgers with as many awesome things as I possibly can, and I am not going to feel guilty about it either. I am going to enjoy the heck out of that highly-caloric deliciousness. It's not like I eat a burger every single week...but man, how I wish that I could. Especially when a burger tastes like these crunchy jalapeno bacon ranch cheeseburgers.

So, for these burgers, here is what I did: I topped them with pepper-jack cheese. Then I added bacon. Then I added fried jalapeno strips. Then I added ranch dressing. Then I just about moaned when I tasted them because they were so fantastic. You get the creamy-spicy cheese, the crunchy-spicy jalapenos, the salty-smoky bacon, and the creamy-cool ranch dressing, all in one bite. To say I am completely smitten with these burgers would be a massive understatement. Try them, and you will be too.

Crunchy Jalapeno Bacon Ranch Cheeseburgers
inspired by High Heels & Grills

For the jalapenos:

2 jalapenos, cut into 1-inch strips
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 cup canola oil for frying
Kosher salt for sprinkling

For the burgers:

4 hamburger patties
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices pepper-jack cheese
4 strips bacon
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
Prepared ranch dressing

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy; remove to paper towels to drain. Season the burger patties with salt and pepper and add to the bacon drippings. Cook to desired doneness, then reduce heat to low, add cheese, and cover the skillet to melt the cheese.

2. Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Combine the flour and ranch mix in a shallow dish. Dip the jalapenos in egg, then in the flour mixture. Fry in batches until browned and crispy; remove to a paper towel to drain excess oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

3. To assemble the burgers, add the burger patties to the bun bottoms. Top each burger with a slice of bacon, 1/4 of the jalapenos, and a drizzle of ranch dressing.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

It's September, so we gotta talk apples. This seems like the perfect time to tell you about this pie, which I am ashamed to say that I made one entire year ago. It's truly heinous that I haven't shared it with you before now, because it's insanely delicious. I made it last fall after our trip to the apple orchard, and since we're planning another trip soon, this pie has been on my mind. It will be happening again in my kitchen very, very soon.

This pie. Oh, this pie. It's like a cross between pecan pie, apple pie, and cheesecake, all in one delicious slice. I don't really know what I need to say beyond that. I actually probably didn't need to say anything, right? I think the photo says it all. Apple-y, caramel-y, creamy deliciousness.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake  Pie
slightly adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

For the crust: 

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 cup chopped pecans

For the apple filling:

5 apples, peeled, cored, sliced very thin (I used Rome; you could really use whatever cooking apple you like)
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cream cheese filling:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups whipped topping
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. For the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Mix well and press into a 10-inch pie plate and up the sides. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until golden in color. Remove pie shell from oven and cool completely.

3. Pour caramel into pie shell, and sprinkle with 1 cup of chopped pecans. Refrigerate pie shell while making apple filling.

4. For the apple filling: In a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add apples and stir. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes until apples are softened and tender. Let cool for 10 minutes and pour into pie shell.

5. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. 

6. For the cream cheese filling: In a medium bowl, using a hand-held mixer on low speed, combine cream cheese and sugar for about 1 minute until smooth. Add egg, lemon juice and vanilla and beat for 1 minute or until fully blended. Pour over apple filling in pie shell.

7. Bake for 30 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean. Remove pie from oven and let cool. Refrigerate for 4 hours. Let stand outside the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

8. Top with whipped topping and caramel. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chicken and Zucchini Parmesan

Whoa, has it really been two weeks since my last post?! That was completely unintentional, and can be attributed to nothing more than sheer laziness on my part. I've still been cooking, taking photos, and eating -- it is just the actual blogging part I've been slacking on. Rest assured that I have tons of great recipes to share with you in the days/weeks to come!

Here's one of those great recipes for you right now. What's better than chicken parmesan? Chicken parmesan that also has breaded zucchini in it. My family went nuts over this meal, which really isn't shocking, because what's not to love? 

Yeah, there are a few steps involved with breading and frying, and it dirties a few dishes, but we've come to the time of year when comfort food is king and this is definitely worth the time and mess. The flavor is just phenomenal, and I'm really kicking myself for not adding breaded zucchini to chicken parmesan before now. I'll definitely be doing it most (if not all!) of the time from now on. Not only is this dish delicious, it's really cost-effective it's a win-win for me.

Chicken and Zucchini Parmesan
inspired by Simple Bites

1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs, divided, beaten
1/2 pound chicken breast tenders
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 jar prepared marinara sauce
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pasta for serving, if desired

1. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flour, parmesan cheese, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Divide the breadcrumb mixture evenly between two shallow dishes. Place the beaten eggs in separate bowls (one in each bowl).

2. Heat an inch of olive oil in a large skillet. Dip the chicken tenders in one of the eggs, then in one bowl of the breadcrumb mixture. Cook over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.

3. Add more olive oil to the same skillet, if necessary, and heat over medium heat. Dip the zucchini slices in the other beaten egg, then in the other bowl of breadcrumbs. Cook until browned and crispy, then add to the baking sheet with the chicken.

4. Drain the oil from the skillet and use a paper towel to wipe it clean. Add the marinara sauce to the skillet and heat through. Add the reserved chicken tenders and zucchini in an even layer, spooning some sauce over the top. Top evenly with mozzarella cheese and cover until the cheese melts.

5. Serve with pasta and additional parmesan cheese.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blueberry Zucchini Mini Muffins

I feel like the second the calendar changes over to September, everyone is all about the flavors of fall. Pumpkin, apples, maple, etc. etc. Especially pumpkin, am I right? I include myself in this "everyone," because the flavors of fall are probably my favorite; they're so warm and comforting and aromatic. However, it's still technically summer, as my boys (who spent all day yesterday engaged in an elaborate water balloon fight) would be quick to remind you.

And on that note, raise your hand if you still have a ton of zucchini, that pervasive summer favorite, to use up. If so, what better way to use it than in some muffins? Muffins are a huge breakfast favorite around here, even more so if they're bite-sized. This version is loaded with zucchini and blueberries, so they're pretty healthy too. My boys enjoyed them for breakfast for an entire week straight.

And the great thing about (shredded) zucchini and blueberries? They both freeze really well. So you can enjoy a batch of these muffins any day of the year. Next time I make them, I may whip up a quick brown sugar-pecan streusel for the top.

(By the way, I founds this recipe on The Baking Robot blog, which I highly recommend checking out if you haven't already. Hilarious!)

Blueberry Zucchini Mini Muffins
adapted from The Baking Robot

3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups zucchini, shredded
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 24-cup mini muffin tins with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, vanilla and sugar. Fold in the shredded zucchini.

3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Fold in the blueberries.

4. Fill the baking cups three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes (at least) 4 dozen mini muffins.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chicken Club Sandwiches with Peach-Tomato Chutney

I hope you all had a fabulous Labor Day weekend! Ours was busy, but also incredibly fun and relaxing. I can't say that I'm ready to head back to the grind today, but I guess I don't really have much of a choice in the matter. Darn you, real life!

Anyway, before we all ease ourselves and our kitchens into autumn (pumpkin pumpkin football pumpkin maple apple pumpkin pumpkin), I thought I'd share a few last summer-ish recipes with you this week. After all, peaches are still at their juiciest and most delicious, and zucchini is still just as abundant as ever. 

So today I'm sharing a fantastic sandwich recipe with you...which, I know. Another sandwich? Yes. Another sandwich. (Why are you so good, sandwiches?! Why can't I stop eating you?!) Trust me, this is one you won't want to miss. Sauteed chicken is paired with bacon, fresh mozzarella, and crisp greens, and topped with a savory-sweet peach-tomato chutney. This sandwich is an explosion of flavors that all combine in a perfect balance: sweet, sour, salty, smoky. 

Joe gave me the side-eye when I told him that I was pairing peaches with cherry tomatoes for dinner, but in the end, he was crazy about the chutney. It's a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy and is the perfect topping for these decadent sandwiches. They're just as delicious as they are gorgeous, and I think you'll love them.

Chicken Club Sandwiches with Peach-Tomato Chutney
heavily adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

For the peach-tomato chutney:

1 tablespoon butter
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup water, divided, plus more as needed
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 medium peaches, pitted, peeled, and diced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the sandwiches:

8 strips bacon
4 boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
Salt and pepper to taste
4 thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
Butter-grilled buns
Mixed greens for serving
Mayonnaise for serving

1. To make the chutney, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently just until softened (you don't want any color on the onions). Add the tomatoes and 2/3 cup of water. Raise heat to medium-high and cook for 5 to 7 more minutes, until tomatoes burst. If the mixture gets too dry, add more water by tablespoonfuls as needed. Using a tomato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, gently smash the tomatoes, releasing their juice. Add the peaches, remaining 1/3 cup water, vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring just to boiling to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally.

2. While the chutney is simmering, prepare the sandwiches. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat to desired crispness; remove to paper towels to drain. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and saute in the bacon drippings until cooked through. Top each piece of chicken with a thick slice of mozzarella; cover the pan to let the cheese melt. 

3. To assemble the sandwiches, place chicken and cheese on the bottom of a butter-grilled bun. Top each sandwich with two slices of bacon, a pile of greens, and a generous helping of chutney. Spread the roll tops with a bit of mayonnaise (it's optional; I just like the creaminess it adds) and close the sandwiches. Serve immediately. (The remaining chutney can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It was delicious on my turkey-and-Swiss sandwich the next day.)