Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BBQ Cheddar Chicken Meatball BLT Sliders

I feel like you guys are probably kind of worried about me at this point. Like, I know you're whispering amongst yourselves over there in the corner. "Does she really eat that much bacon? Does she make anything that doesn't have bacon in it? It might be time to schedule a bacon intervention. A baconvention."  

And honestly, I understand where you're coming from. I really do. I do share lots of recipes that include bacon. But I feel that it's important that I also tell you that I make plenty of meals that don't involve bacon. Granted, most of the meals that don't involve bacon leaving me thinking how much better they'd be with bacon, but still. And I promise, one of these days I'll share a non-bacon-centric recipe.

But today is not that day.

We're talking BBQ chicken meatball BLT sliders today, and they definitely include glorious, glorious bacon. They also include other yummy ingredients, like BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese, but mostly bacon. They're like the most kicked-up version of a BLT you've ever had, and they are amazing. They're super quick, super flavorful, and super delicious. And super BACON-Y. Life is good.

BBQ Cheddar Chicken Meatball BLT Sliders
adapted from Inside BruCrew Life

1 pound bacon
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 egg
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
Sliced Roma tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
12 slider buns

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain. Crumble 4 strips of bacon or chop it finely. Reserve the remaining 12 strips for the sandwiches.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the chopped bacon, the chicken, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, garlic and egg.

3. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

4. Coat the cooked meatballs in the BBQ sauce. Assemble each sandwich with 2 meatballs, 1 slice of bacon (broken in half), a slice of tomato, and some lettuce. Smear the slider buns with mayonnaise and serve.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Conversation Heart Rice Krispie Treats

I used to pride myself on being the mom who always made something homemade, adorable, festive, and time-consuming for my children's various daycare/preschool celebrations. But now? While I still try for adorable and festive, the time-consuming part (and sometimes the homemade part, too) has gone somewhat out the window. Now I'm mostly the mom who scrambles to make something at the last minute. With Andrew in kindergarten now, there is always something to do/make/buy/remember. I know all you other mamas understand where I'm coming from.

So, when it comes to Valentine's Day this year, I'm buying a box of SpongeBob or Angry Birds or Mario Brothers cards. And when it comes to Valentine's Day snacks, I'm standing behind these Rice Krispie treats 100%. 

Who doesn't love a Rice Krispie treat? And this version is adorable and festive, and semi-homemade too! Last Minute Mamas of the world unite!

Conversation Heart Rice Krispie Treats
from Frugal Coupon Living

4 tablespoons butter
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
10 ounces marshmallows
Red food coloring
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup conversation hearts

1. In a medium to large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add the large marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Stir in enough food coloring to make the marshmallows pink. Remove from heat.

2. Add Rice Krispies cereal and mini marshmallows. Stir until cereal is well combined.

3. Prepare a cookie sheet with sides by spraying with cooking spray or coating with butter. Butter a spoon or your hands or use wax paper to press the mixture into the pan evenly.

4. Press conversation hearts evenly around the mixture. Cool completely and cut into squares or heart shapes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach

I often marvel at how differently my kids eat from how my brother and I ate growing up. Don't get me wrong, my mom was an amazing cook -- but we ate a lot of the old-school standards: meatloaf with "scalloped" potatoes, lasagna, shredded chicken sandwiches, hamburger hash...that kind of thing. And while all of those things definitely make an appearance on my menu, I also make a much wider variety of foods for my kids. I don't think I tried Mexican food until I started dating Joe (not even Taco Bell -- really!), and I know that I never tried risotto until I made it myself for the first time, well into my 20s.

As an adult, risotto has become one of my great food loves. I love the whole process of cooking it, how adaptable it is, and how so few ingredients can come together to make something that tastes so amazingly flavorful. Risotto has it all: texture, flavor, epic deliciousness, you name it. And this recipe right here is one of the best versions I've found. This version is loaded with bacon, caramelized onions (cooked in the bacon drippings), and spinach. It's hearty and flavorful and restaurant-quality. It was a huge hit in my house, and I already can't wait to make it again.

Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced into thin rings
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Add the bacon to a large pan over medium heat. Cook until crisp and remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the baking drippings in the pot; discard any excess. 

2. Add the butter to the bacon drippings, then stir in the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the onions often so they brown slowly, and let cook for at least 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning. Like my friend Sarah, I added a bit of water to the pan as needed to keep the onions from burning, which also helped to pick up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Remove the onions from the pan and allow to cool before chopping into small pieces.

3. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed.

4. Start adding the chicken broth one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully absorb before adding more. This process takes anywhere from 17-25 minutes.

5. Before you add the final ladle of broth, add the caramelized onions, spinach, and half of the bacon. Taste the rice to make sure it's cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Top each serving with some of the reserved bacon.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

December and January Re-Make Recap

I can't remember the last time I was this excited for February to be here. Usually, a winter month is a winter month to me, and I don't really distinguish too much between them. But this year? The fact that it's February means that it will be April in two months. And in April, I'm hoping that it will at last be NOT SNOWY. I'm really excited for it to be not snowy.

I'm combining December's and January's recaps in one post this time, since I posted my 2013 favorites at the end of last year and missed December's recap. I just couldn't skip highlighting December's recipes! So the recap this time is absolutely loaded with good stuff that you should rush out and make ASAP.

My family loves it when I make two-packet pork chops and ranch-roasted potatoes. This pork chop recipe has become my absolute favorite. I've been using mushroom gravy mix instead of onion soup mix and making a heavier breading to give them a golden crust, and they really do come out perfectly. They're flavorful and crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. And speaking of flavorful -- the ranch seasoning mix makes the roasted potatoes taste so awesome.

These foil-baked chicken parmesan sandwiches are a great make-ahead meal. I fried up the chicken cutlets and assembled the sandwiches the night before, then just popped them in the oven after I got home from work for a simple and delicious dinner. I skipped the basil this time, and I really missed it, so definitely add the basil if you have some on hand.

I made bacon cheeseburger meatloaf and ranch macaroni and cheese on a night that my father-in-law came over for dinner. It so happened that I wasn't aware he was coming for dinner until I got home from work (thanks, Joe), so I was happy that I had something so hearty planned to make. We all love this meatloaf and this mac and cheese. I think the ranch mac and cheese is the perfect, creamy compliment to the intense flavor of the meatloaf.

This smothered chicken recipe has really withstood the test of time in our house. I've been making it for years now, and it's something that Joe and I both still crave. Lately he's been eating it on a hoagie roll with a smear of mayonnaise, but I still like it straight-up: just a big pile of cheesy chicken and vegetables. Mmm.

I know I keep hitting you guys over the head with this sweet and spicy pork and asparagus stir fry, but that's because it's just so good. My whole family loves this, and it's the perfect weeknight meal since it's so quick-cooking.

I made these dark chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream in layer cake form for my mother-in-law's birthday at the end of December. This frosting is just as delicious as I remembered. My mother-in-law claimed this as "her cake" going forward, which I guess shows how much she loved it!

I made Joe's favorite meatloaf in December -- the bacon cheeseburger meatloaf -- so I had to make my favorite meatloaf in January. I mostly love this smoky meatloaf for the leftovers; on bread spread with mayonnaise and a slice of Swiss cheese, it makes the best meatloaf sandwiches in the world.

Bacon fried rice has become a staple in our home. Sometimes I make it with the honey-teriyaki chicken from the original post; sometimes I leave the chicken and scrambled eggs out and top each serving with over-easy eggs; and this time, I just chopped and sauteed some chicken breasts and mixed them up with the rice. I added corn and left out the bean sprouts this time. I love everything about this recipe: how simple it is, how adaptable it is, how freaking delicious it is.

This creamy butternut squash soup is one of my favorite soups -- if not my absolute favorite. I'm having a hard time finding butternut squash in the grocery store lately, so I used two boxes of frozen pureed winter squash to make the soup this time. I skipped the Crock pot and cooked it on the stove top. It was so quick, simple, and delicious. I found a habanero-jalapeno-chipotle Gouda cheese at Aldi the last time I was there, so I used that for the grilled cheese sandwiches we ate alongside the soup. The spicy grilled cheese was the perfect compliment to the sweet, creamy soup. If you haven't tried this soup, you simply must. For such a short ingredient list, you'll be amazed at how flavorful it is.

I made these chipotle pork tostadas with pine-apple salsa in soft taco form, and they were as delicious as I remembered (it had been far too long since I made them). The sweet salsa pairs so perfectly with the spicy pork. I prefer them as tostadas for the crunchy element, but Joe likes them as soft tacos because they're easier to eat. Either way, they're fabulous.

With the frigid weather we've been having lately, comfort food is pretty much a must, and these Swedish meatballs are a great comfort food. They have such fantastic flavor, and the gravy is to die for. I always serve them over egg noodles with butter and parsley. If I'm feeling ambitious, I make my own egg noodles. (I wasn't feeling ambitious this time.)

Heaven knows we've had enough snow this year to make snow ice cream! This is a once-a-year tradition for us, and something the boys look forward to every winter. It's more about the method than the flavor in this case; the boys love collecting the snow and mixing the ingredients. (We always add sprinkles, too.)

These ranch chicken tacos have become one of my family's favorite meals. They are so simple -- just 3 ingredients to make the filling! -- but they are so incredibly good. We always top ours with lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheddar, and ranch dressing. I could seriously eat these once a week...if not more often than that.