Monday, January 27, 2014

Citrus Chicken Burritos

Well, as if I wasn't already sick enough of winter, this weekend was the final straw. We got about 6 inches of snow and were under multiple snow emergencies and various winter weather advisories...causing my cooking club to postpone our monthly get-together. In two years, it's the first time we've ever had to postpone, and we were all pretty bummed about it. Winter has officially over-stayed its welcome.

In blatant defiance of the crappy weather, I'm sharing these citrus chicken burritos with you today. I know they're much more of a summer-type meal, but our cooking club theme this month was Mexican food, and dammit, I'm going to have my Mexican food! (Or at least blog about it.)

I love everything about these burritos, from the bright, citrusy chicken, to the pico de gallo, to the rice, to the guacamole...just all of it. They're absolutely delicious. I fail at rolling burritos, so mine are always overfilled and never rolled very tightly, but these are definitely worth the somewhat untidy appearance.

I made these on a Sunday because, as Sarah mentions on her site, while they are relatively quick-cooking, there is quite a bit of prep work involved. Just a heads-up if you make these -- and you definitely should, because they're really fantastic.

Citrus Chicken Burritos
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking

For the chicken:

Juice of half a lemon
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

For the pico de gallo:

4 roma tomatoes, cored and diced small
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime

For the cilantro-lime rice:

2 cups cooked basmati or other long-grain rice, warm (from 1 cup dry)
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the guacamole:

1 ripe avocado, pitted and flesh removed
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

For serving:

4 burrito-sized tortillas
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Put lemon, lime and orange juices in a plastic food storage bag with the oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Add the chicken to the bag, seal and toss to coat. Marinate the chicken for 2 to 4 hours.

2. Combine the tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, and chopped cilantro. Stir in the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Drizzle the lime juice and oil over the top of warm rice; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and salt; fluff with a fork.

4. Mash the avocado in a small bowl. Add the lime juice, cilantro and salt. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed (I usually use 2 limes, since I like my guac very lime-y).

5. When ready to eat, grill the chicken breasts in a grill pan for 5 minutes over medium high heat. Flip and cook another 4 minutes. Allow to rest before slicing into strips.

6. Warm tortillas on the microwave for about 15 to 30 seconds. Place on a flat surface, evenly distribute the rice and chicken, then top with the pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. Fold the flap nearest you over the filling, then fold in the sides. Roll the burrito away from you, keeping it tight to form a log. Repeat with all burritos.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Burger and Fries Friday: Bacon, Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Cheeseburger Sliders

We don't eat hamburgers in our house anymore. I don't know if I told you that. Nope, no hamburgers around here. Instead of hamburgers, we eat crabby patties.

That's right. In the tradition of sauce cake and tweetos, my sons have given hamburgers a new name. This one comes directly from SpongeBob SquarePants, which is not exactly my favorite show for them to watch, but I will admit it has gotten me through a stressful afternoon here and there.

Up until recently, the boys actually weren't big fans of burgers. They loved the idea of them and the novelty of calling them "crabby patties," but when it came to eating them? Not so much. That is, until it occurred to me to make boy-sized burgers (a.k.a. sliders) and let them choose their own toppings. And thus, Build Your Own Slider night was born. 

BYOS night has since become a favorite in our house. The boys love having things deconstructed for them so they can build them back up, and these sliders are a perfect example of this (I also do this with them for salads and any type of Mexican meal involving a tortilla). 

I've made a few different types of sliders for BYOS night, but this is definitely our favorite. The sliders themselves are loaded with caramelized onions, bacon, and cheddar cheese. I offer all the fixings on a big tray, and we each add whatever toppings we like. The possibilities are endless with these!

These sliders cook up in no time, and they're such a fun dinner idea -- especially during the middle of the week, when we're feeling burnt out and just really need a crabby patty in our lives.

Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Cheddar Cheeseburger Sliders

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hamburger seasoning (or a combination of salt, pepper, and granulated garlic)
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Slider buns
Lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments for topping

1. Heat a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.

2. Add the butter to the reserved drippings in the skillet, then add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown and caramelized. Set half of the onions aside for topping the burgers later. Cool the other half of the onions, then chop finely.

3. Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Add the chopped caramelized onions, the reserved bacon, the Worcestershire sauce, the hamburger seasoning, and 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese. Mix well. Divide the meat mixture in half, then divide each half in half, and then each resulting half into thirds, for a total of 12 sliders. Cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat to desired doneness. Divide the remaining 1 cup of cheese among the sliders and cover the skillet to melt.

4. Serve the sliders on slider buns with the reserved caramelized onions and any additional toppings you like.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Smoked Sausage Tortellini Skillet


I know this is a food blog, but I was hoping we could talk about books today. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I like to read even more than I like to cook. As in, I'm never not in the middle of reading a book. When people hear how much I read, they sometimes can't imagine reading that much, while I can't imagine not reading that much. I'm the person who routinely has about 15 books checked out from the library at any one time...and that's not even counting the books my boys have checked out.

When I don't have time read...well, I make time. Whether it's reading on my lunch break at work (which I do every day), sneaking away for 30 minutes in the evening while the boys are playing elsewhere with Joe, or making low-maintenance dinners like this one so I can read a few pages while I'm cooking.

Back to books in a second, but let's talk about this meal first. We all loved this. The ingredients are nothing fancy, but they come together to form a really delicious and simple dish. The original recipe didn't call for peas, but I added them for a pop of color and sweetness and vegetable-ness. In addition to being delicious, this comes together start-to-finish in only about 15 minutes. While that's not a lot of time for me to read while it's cooking, that does equal more time to read after dinner, since both the cooking and the clean-up are so quick. It's a win-win!

So tell me, what's the best book you read recently? Some of my favorite recent reads are Eleanor and Park, After Her, Shadow and Bone, and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. If you'd like to talk books with me more, you can find me on Goodreads here!

Smoked Sausage Tortellini Skillet
adapted from Kevin and Amanda 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound smoked sausage
3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 package frozen cheese tortellini

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slice the smoked sausage thinly and add it to the skillet and cook until well-browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds.

2. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, heavy cream, and salt and pepper and stir until simmering and bubbly. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted, then add the frozen peas and heat through.

3. While the sauce is simmering, cook the tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain.  

4. Add the tortellini to the skillet and stir gently to coat with sauce. Serve.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is Friday, January 17, 2014, and I'm calling it: I'm officially D-O-N-E with winter. I'm over it. I don't want any more cold, I don't want any more snow, I don't want any more below-zero wind chills. I'm so ready for spring that I'm practically aching with it.

I always get kind of blah during the winter, but this year, it's especially bad. I have no energy and no motivation and I know it's all connected to the weather. Basically, I would like to hibernate until at least April in flannel pajamas, in my cozy house, with my family and a few batches of these peanut butter bacon chocolate chip cookies to keep me company. Why can't that be my life?

Let's talk about these cookies, because if anything can pull me out of my wintertime funk it's these beauties. These peanut butter cookies not only have sticky, brown sugar bacon pieces in them; they also have bacon drippings in them. Along with peanuts and chocolate chips, of course. This is another of those instances where I need the smiley face emoticon with the hearts for eyes to describe how I really feel. These cookies are a little sweet, a little salty, and a lot sinful. So, in short, you're going to love them.

Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Food Network

5 strips bacon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped honey-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Place the bacon on the baking sheet with space between each strip. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Bake, turning once, until bacon is crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings and set aside to cool. Set bacon aside to cool and, once cool, chop into small bits. 
2. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Beat the butter and reserved bacon drippings in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the peanut butter until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the granulated and light brown sugar until creamy, about 4 minutes, then add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture in 2 additions, scraping down the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the peanuts and all but 2 tablespoons each of the chocolate chips and bacon.

5. Form the dough into 12 balls and arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten with your fingers (the cookies will not spread in the oven); press the reserved bacon and chocolate chips on top. Bake until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pulled Pork Pita Pizzas

Have you ever eaten a meal at a restaurant and just kept obsessing over it until either a.) you went to the restaurant again specifically to have that dish one more time, or b.) you finally broke down and tried to duplicate it in your own kitchen? That exact thing happened to me after I tried the pulled pork pizza at Rivage Atlantique during a lunch with my family a couple of months ago. It was so delicious that I thought about it for weeks until I finally decided to make my own version at home.

This may sound simple, and it is; it's just pulled pork, coleslaw, cheese, and pickles on a pizza. But the end result is insanely delicious. It's such a wonderful combination of flavors, and one that most people enjoy on a sandwich -- so why not on a pizza?

Instead of using pizza crust, I pulled a package of pitas out of the freezer and used those -- they're the perfect size for personal pizzas. The hands-on cooking time is very minimal, making these pizzas perfect for a weeknight. And I can guarantee that they'll make your family very happy! You'll definitely have pork left over, but that's okay; you'll probably want to make these again the next night...and the next.

Pulled Pork Pita Pizzas
inspired by a meal at Rivage Atlantique

For the pork:

1 2-pound pork shoulder or butt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

For the pizzas:

4 pita breads
2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
Prepared coleslaw
Refrigerated pickles, sliced

1. Combine garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil, and vinegar. Rub pork with garlic mixture and refrigerate overnight. Cook in a Crock pot on low for 8 hours. Turn off the heat and stir in the BBQ sauce; replace the lid and let sit until warmed through.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pita breads on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and top each pita with 1/2 cup of the pork, 1/2 cup of cheese, and sliced pickles to taste. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until pita is crisp and cheese is melted. 

3. Top with coleslaw and cut each pizza into slices. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Skillet Cheesy Chicken Pasta with Broccoli and Bacon

I've had a few signs lately that I'm getting older. There are the gray hairs that are starting to appear on the top of my head, which I promptly pluck out, old wives' tales about seven more growing in each one's place be damned. There's the fact that I went out for a friend's surprise birthday party over the weekend and we ate dinner at 9:00, which was the latest I have had dinner for, literally, years. And then there's the fact that few things these days get me as excited as the prospect of a one-pot dinner. Because one pot = so many less dishes to do. I'm beginning to find doing the dishes very tiresome in my old age.

So yeah, I love a one-pot dinner, especially if it involves pasta like this one does. This one-pot dinner also involves broccoli, bacon, and tons of cheese. It's flavorful and creamy, with a great balance of textures, and although there are lots of steps, it's really easy to prepare. And then, after dinner has been enjoyed, there's only one pot to clean. Which means I have more time to do the things that people my age really like to do, like plopping myself on the couch to watch my stories and going to bed early. ;)

Skillet Cheesy Chicken Pasta with Broccoli and Bacon
adapted from Center Cut Cook

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 strips bacon, chopped
2 chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces short pasta
1 2/3 cup chicken stock
2 3/4 cup water, divided
8 ounces broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and add to the pot. Cook until browned; remove from the pot and set aside.

3. Add the onion to the pot (add more oil if needed). Cook until onions are translucent, then add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

4. Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with 2 cups of the water. Add the pasta and bring to a boil. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed by the pasta.

5. Add the broccoli and the remaining 3/4 cup of water to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender.

6. Add the chicken, half of the reserved bacon, the evaporated milk, and the cheddar cheese. Increase the heat to medium high and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. 

7. Add 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and more as needed to taste. The sauce will continue to thicken as it stands. Sprinkle each serving with the remaining bacon.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Recipe Rewind: Our Favorite Shepherd's Pie

It makes my life much more stressful, but I'm one of those people who gets very, very anxious about the weather during the winter. You'd think after 30 years of Ohio winters I'd be used to the awfulness but somehow, I'm not. This winter has been very snowy and, lately, very cold, so my anxiety has been ratcheted up pretty high.

For me, the only saving grace of an awful winter is that it pretty much requires us to eat lots of comfort food -- and there is nothing I don't love about comfort food. I've been making this shepherd's pie (one of my very favorite comfort foods) for years now. I posted this recipe in the very early days of my blog, and I thought it was high time I revisited it here -- because it's just that good.

This shepherd's pie recipe has such wonderful flavor -- the cinnamon and cloves make it so interesting and special -- and it's simply ideal for warming you up on the frigid winter days we've been having. The ingredients are humble, but the dish as a whole is exceptionally delicious, and one of my family's absolute favorites.

Shepherd's Pie
slightly adapted from There's a Chef in My Family! by Emeril Lagasse

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large Idaho potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sour cream
3 ounces cream cheese
Splash of milk as needed
1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1. Grease a casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan, place the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil until fork-tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the sour cream, the cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Add a splash of milk if needed for consistency. Mash with a potato masher until smooth and set aside.

3. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the beef and cook, stirring to break up the meat chunks, until cooked through.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Tilt the pan away from you, and carefully remove as much excess liquid as possible from the pan. Discard the liquid.

5. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the Italian seasoning, thyme sprigs, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, the cinnamon, and the cloves, and cook until the meat is well-browned, stirring frequently, about 6 to 8 minutes.

6. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then add the beef broth and the peas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.

7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish and spoon the mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

8. Increase the oven temperature to broil and cook until golden brown and crisp around the edges, about 4 to 6 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.