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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Treats


Happy Easter!!! Our friends in Weehawken hosted an Easter egg hunt and an early Easter supper yesterday.  They hid ~200 eggs in their basement and backyard, and watched as 10 of their friends ran around, frantically trying to collect the most eggs.  KK had never participated in an Easter egg hunt and, with beginner's luck, he collected the most eggs.  KK won $5, but also managed to pickup one of the reward/chore eggs, and was on bartender duty for the next 1.5 hours.  I think the "punishment" was fair considering he won cash and picked up the most candy! My reward was something from the 21+ grab bag - no chore for me! One of our friends also won the same 21+ reward, but his reward was accompanied with a chore - wearing pink bunny ears for the rest of the evening!

The Easter supper spread was amazing! Unfortunately I forgot to snap a picture of it, but we had salad, rolls, ham, rotisserie chicken, green beans, potatoes au gratin, and a savory pineapple casserole.  My favorites were the potatoes and the pineapple casserole... I hope my lovely friends are willing to share their family recipes with me.

Luckily most of us saved room for dessert! There were cupcakes, chocolate trifle, and cake batter & sprinkles dip.  After devouring the sweet treats, we played LCR and Fast Track.  Our friend's grandfather made the Fast Track game board himself.  KK was on a winning streak, so he of course took home the winning title (no prizes this time) in Fast Track.  


Trifle tips: I made the brownies on Friday night to ensure there was enough time for them to cool completely.  I also thawed the whipped topping in the refrigerator overnight.  The chocolate pudding layer was a bit thick, so be careful as you're layering so it doesn't get all over the sides of your trifle dish.  In a festive mood, I used Easter M&Ms for my topping, but feel free to get creative and use anything that comes to mind - Heath bars, crushed Oreos, sprinkles, fresh fruit - the possibilities are endless! 

Dip tips: After stirring the ingredients together by hand, I noticed the mixture wasn't very smooth.  I wasn't going to, but I'm glad I pulled out the hand mixer because the consistency of the dip was perfect afterwards!

Chocolate Trifle

Adapted from All Recipes
Time: 1 hour + cooling time
Serves: 12

Ingredients

1 (19.8 oz.) package brownie mix
1 (3.9 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup water
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
20 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate candy or candy bar

Directions

1. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions.  Cool completely and cut into 1 inch squares.

2. In a large bowl, combine pudding mix, water, condensed milk, and 8 oz. whipped topping.  Mix until smooth and no streaks remain.


3. In a trifle bowl or glass serving dish, place half of the brownies, half of the pudding mixture and half of the remaining whipped topping (6 oz.). Top with chopped chocolate candy.  Repeat layers, topping off the trifle with the remaining chocolate candy for garnish. Refrigerate 8 hours before serving.


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Cake Batter & Sprinkles Dip
Adapted from I'm Topsy Turvy
Time: 10 minutes
Serves: A lot!

Ingredients
2 cups whipped topping
1 (18 oz.) package Funfetti cake mix
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
Sprinkles

Directions
1. Place whipped topping in a large microwave-safe bowl; heat in the microwave for 20 seconds to slightly thaw it.

2. Add cake mix and yogurt to the bowl.  Mix until smooth, with a hand mixer if necessary. Stir in as many sprinkles as you'd like!

3.  Chill for at least 1 hour before serving with cookies, pretzels, or fruit.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Creamy Jambalaya Pasta

It's been a crazy couple of days in Hoboken! On Tuesday around midnight, a car flipped over just outside my apartment. How does that happen with stop signs every other block and a speed limit of 20 mph!? Thankfully the driver and passenger only sustained minor injuries.  I imagine there was more extensive damage to the cars parked nearby.  Personally, I suffered from a lack of sleep due to the numerous ambulance, fire truck, and police car sirens blaring outside the apartment for an hour.  KK somehow slept through the whole thing.

Besides being a bit tired on Wednesday, things were calm in Hoboken.  To spice things up, I repeated this Creamy Jambalaya Pasta.  Last time I made it, I used light cream for the sauce, but this time I used the leftover evaporated milk from the One Pot Thai Chicken Pasta.  Although it tasted the same, the sauce didn't come together as smoothly as it did with light cream.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of white wine, so we enjoyed the rest of the bottle with dinner: a 2009 Flygirl White Vineyard Salute from Airfield Estates (60% Viognier, 18% Chardonnay, 15% Gew├╝rztraminer, 8% Roussanne).  This worked well, but it would also pair nicely with Chenin Blanc or Riesling.

Chaos returned on Thursday when there were TWO water main breaks in town.  Hoboken was without water for most of Thursday.  Thankfully KK was out watching the March Madness games, and I had dinner and drinks in the city at Dos Caminos.  There's still have a boil advisory today, so I think we'll stick with leftovers for dinner this evening!



Creamy Jambalaya Pasta
Adapted from Plain Chicken
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients

8 oz. pasta, such as Farfalle or Ziti
14 oz. spicy andouille sausage, sliced into bite-size pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 cup light cream (or half & half, heavy cream, or evaporated milk)
Chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and brown sausage over medium-high heat, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Once sausage is browned, reduce heat to medium, add onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add white wine to skillet, and let wine reduce by half, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in Cajun seasoning, paprika, salt, pepper and tomato sauce. Add cream and heat to almost bubbling, then reduce heat to medium-low. Allow the cream mixture to reduce by half, about 5 minutes.

5. Drain pasta and add to skillet. Top with parsley and grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One Pot Thai Chicken Pasta

Until now, coconut or anything coconut-flavored had never entered my kitchen... unless my old roommate did so without telling me! :) Anyway - I tend to avoid coconut like the plague, but when KK and I were on our honeymoon in Thailand, we had the opportunity to make the most amazing curries! "When in Rome," right? Or Thailand! Based on a recommendation from KK's cousin and his girlfriend, we went to a half-day cooking course at Siam Rice Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai.  It was most certainly one of the honeymoon highlights.  The course took us to the local food market where we learned about the common ingredients used in Thai cooking - lemon grass, holy basil, Thai basil, turmeric, Thai eggplant, and satoh beans.  After the market, we met with the head chef and owner of Siam Rice, Nancy; she was cheerful, knowledgeable, and put us to work right away! KK and I each cooked several dishes: a soup, noodle dish, stir fry vegetables, curry paste and, of course, a curry.  After using a mortar and pestle to grind our curry pastes by hand, KK and I ended up with a Panang curry, and a red curry with pumpkin.  Since our Thai curry-making was such a success back in November, KK decided we might as well give coconut cooking a try at home!

This recipe required a good deal of hands-on time, so I recommend having everything prepped in advance - chopped, minced, and measured! We didn't have coconut milk, so KK did a little research and decided that we should use half coconut water and half evaporated milk (or heavy cream).  The substitution probably decreased the intensity of the coconut flavor, so it worked perfectly for us!

One Pot Thai Chicken Pasta
Adapted from Heat the Oven to 350
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces pasta, bowties or spirals
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 pound sugar snap peas
1 can water chestnuts
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper

Directions
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Cook chicken until it is lightly browned but not fully cooked, about five minutes.  Set chicken aside.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil the same skillet (less dishes to wash), and add chopped onion, red pepper flakes, coriander and a dash of salt. Cook until onions soften, about 3-4 minutes; stir frequently to avoid burning.  Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

3. Sprinkle pasta evenly into the skillet, and pour the broth and coconut milk over it. At medium heat, cover skillet and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the red peppers and water chestnuts. Recover and continue to simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the pasta begins to soften, about 10 minutes.

5. Stir in the sugar snap peas and chicken and any accumulated juice from the chicken. Cover and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes longer.

6. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pesto Chicken and Creamy Rice

KK called Monday night's dinner a "set it and forget it" meal.  The directions were simple - throw everything into a pan, cover, and bake.  The long baking time allowed me to get some chores done before KK got home, and the pesto made the apartment smell heavenly! After 45 minutes of baking, the pan looked very soupy but the chicken seemed to be done.  When I noticed that the rice was not cooked all the way through, I put it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.  Even after that, some of the rice was a bit chewy, but I worried that extending the cook time any further would have resulted in dry chicken.  Next time, I'll choose regular rice instead of Basmati, and we'll see how that goes!

Pesto Chicken and Creamy Rice
Adapted from Plain Chicken
Serves: 2-4
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
4 chicken breasts
3/4 cup long grain rice (not instant)
1 cup milk
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, divided
2 Tbsp pesto
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a 9x9-inch pan, combine soup, rice, milk, pepper and 1/2 tsp garlic powder.

3. Place chicken on top of rice.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp of garlic powder and spread pesto on chicken.  Top chicken with Parmesan cheese.

4. Cover dish with foil.  Bake for 50 minutes. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Easy Tomato Florentine Soup


I finally made use of my last unopened bridal shower gift – the Dutch oven! According to Wikipedia, Dutch ovens are well suited for long, slow cooking, such as in making roasts, stews, and casseroles.  I went the more commercial route for my first Dutch oven, opting for a Calphalon non-stick aluminum one instead of cast iron.  I figured it would be easier to use, but I already have my eyes on a spare Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch oven that’s lying around my Dad’s house… and it’s red! It just may find its way into my car next time I’m visiting him! Although the Dutch oven was high on my registry list, I left it in the box (and stored in the guest bedroom closet) for several months before using it.  What was I thinking!?!? The 5-quart dish made cooking soup much easier than the other 3-4 quart saucepans that I’d been using.  Now I have a project for this week – organizing pots and pans to make room for the Dutch oven in the kitchen cabinets.

I echo Good Life Eats enthusiasm for having a stocked kitchen.  KK and I already had all of the soup ingredients in stock, so I’ll keep this recipe in mind for the rare evening when we need a last-minute dinner plan! The original recipe called for 3-5 cups of vegetable/chicken broth, so I made the executive decision to use 4 cups.  Things looked rather liquidy while simmering, but most of the broth was absorbed when I added the pasta.  Dinner ended up being more like a watery pasta instead of soup.  I've updated the directions below, recommending that you use 5 cups of broth to get the perfect soup-to-pasta ratio.

Easy Tomato Florentine Soup
Adapted from Good Life Eats
Serves: 4
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

8 oz. small pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 - 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 3 cloves
2 tablespoons flour
2 bay leaves
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes (reserve juices for a later use). Cook until the tomatoes begin to dry, about 13 minutes.

3. Add the garlic to the dutch oven, stir, and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and continue to cook for another minute.


4. Stir in the reserved tomato juice and bay leaves. Pour broth slowly into the Dutch oven.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.


5. Remove bay leaves; stir in pasta, spinach and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, serve with baguette and grated Parmesan.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup

The winter weather just won't let up! I was hoping for nice weather weekend, but Saturday was both cold and windy.  We picked up a dresser from Craigslist on in Jersey City, and the drawers nearly blew other while we were loading the car! Since it's not feeling like spring yet, KK decided to sneak in this hearty soup into the rotation.  Monday's forecast is also calling for snow, so maybe we'll add a few more soups to the menu plan before spring finally arrives!

I only defrosted 0.8lbs of chicken so KK and I were a bit nervous the soup wouldn't be filling enough.  To accompany the soup, I cooked up a side of Chicken Fajita Rice a Roni.  The rice and soup seasonings were a prefect pair.  Once I finished cooking the chicken, I placed it in a mixing bowl and used my hand-mixer to shred it.  Going the hand-mixer route was much easier than shredding the chicken with a fork! I almost skipped the tortilla chips, but KK insisted and I'm glad he did - they were a nice, crispy topping for each bowl!

Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup
Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny
Serves: 2-4
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (14 oz) can fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 (6-inch) tortillas, cut into strips
Cooking spray 

Directions
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add minced garlic and shredded chicken; saute for about 2 minutes.  Add chipotle chile powder and cumin; stir well.  Add water, salt, chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place tortilla strips on a baking sheet.  Spray strips with cooking spray and sprinkle with a touch of chipotle chile powder.  Bake at 350 for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Top soup with baked tortilla strips.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pesto Veggie Manicotti

I make homemade bread once and all of a sudden - I'm a regular baker! KK and my Dad requested the homemade baguettes again and, since they weren't actually difficult to make, I obliged.  Also, I (not so) secretly wanted fresh bread myself because I knew it would be the perfect compliment to Friday night's Italian dinner. On a quick, unrelated note, my Dad had me try Cafe Solano by Peet's Coffee this morning.  It was a bit stronger than the Hazelnut Dunkin Donuts I'm used to, but it was still pretty good!

Back to dinner - which KK started asking about around 10AM today.  I prepped the manicotti while the bread baked, and things got a bit messy.  I tried to pipe the cheese mixture into the pasta using a Ziploc bag, but I struggled with that because the spinach kept getting caught on the bag.  I emptied the Ziploc back into the mixing bowl and filled the manicotti by hand.  The pasta tore a few times, but neither KK nor my Dad noticed once the dish was cooked, covered with sauce and cheese.  To complete the meal, we paired it with a 2007 Rulo Columbia Valley Syrah.  According to this review, this Syrah is "extremely dense, with deep and intense raspberry and cassis fruit flavor augmented with coffee grounds, smoke, and iron filings." Maybe that's why I had Peet's coffee on the brain?


Pesto Veggie Manicotti
Adapted from My Happy Meals
Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
1 box of manicotti noodles
1/2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup of grated carrots
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp of pesto
1 bag fresh baby spinach, torn into small pieces
1/2 tsp garlic powder
to taste: black pepper, salt, parsley, oregano, thyme
mozzarella cheese for topping
24 oz jar sauce

Directions
1. Cook manicotti according to package instructions.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.

3.  Saute onions, garlic, and carrots in a pan with 1/2 tsp of olive oil.

4. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, pesto, spinach, cooked veggies, and spices.

5. Cover the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. 

6. Stuff the noodles gently with the cheese mixture and arrange in the pan.

7. Cover stuffed manicotti with the remaining sauce, and top with shredded mozzarella and parm cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I last cooked this dish a few years ago in KK's NYC apartment.  His studio kitchen was so small (although not really that bad when compared against the NYC standard), and I had such a difficult time flipping the chicken on the less-than-9x13-sized pan.  Things were much easier this time around with a proper baking dish!

I also remembered the chicken being a bit dry, so I decided to double the sauce this time (ingredients below are already doubled).  During the last 12-minute cooking period, I sauteed some water chestnuts, sliced carrots, and green peppers to add a little color and nutritional value to the meal.  During dinner, my Dad suggested adding something to give the meal some added crunch, so I'll try adding cashews next time.  I served the chicken and vegetables with brown rice, and the sauce-to-chicken-to-rice ratio was perfection.  Topping it off with Sriracha sauce, I kept dinner sweet by pairing the meal with a bottle of 2008 Mandelberg Gewurztraminer.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Chicken Ingredients
1 to 1½ lb. chicken breasts, cut into chunks
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup canola oil

Sauce Ingredients
1½ cup sugar
8 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup vinegar (rice or white)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

3. Working in two batches, toss the chicken pieces in cornstarch and then coat with the egg. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and again in two batches, brown the chicken, turning it so that all sides are browned.

4. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray, and place the chicken in a single layer in the dish.

5. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a bowl and pour evenly over the chicken. Turn the chicken to ensure each piece is coated.

6. Bake for 50 minutes, turning the chicken four times - every 12-13 minutes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Homemade French Baguettes

My Dad drove up from Virginia today for a belated birthday visit.  He was supposed to visit the week before my birthday, but the original trip was postponed due to Winter Storm Saturn (when did they start naming snowstorms?).  A belated birthday visit meant belated birthday gifts - one of which was a baguette pan!

With the day off from work, I didn't waste any time testing out the pan.  During the inaugural use of the baguette pan, I also had my first experience baking with yeast.  I have an irrational fear of using yeast, so I've only experimented with quick bread recipes.  I don't really know what I was worried about - cooking with yeast was easy, although a good deal of patience was required while the dough was rising.  The bread came out beautifully! It turned golden brown after 10 minutes so I took it out of the oven early, but I should have left it in a few minutes longer to really crisp up the crust.  The inside of the bread still turned out to be extremely moist.  Between me, my Dad, and KK - we devoured the first loaf in a matter of minutes (as part of lunch, I swear!).  We'll see if the other loaf lasts until dinnertime!

One final warning: I used a Corningware dish as my oven-safe bowl, but thought it was a good idea to preheat with the dish in the oven. WRONG! After the bread finished baking, I removed the Corningware from the oven and noticed a large crack in the dish.  Thanks to Corningware's 1-year warranty that you don't need to register for, I'll be receiving another gift in 7-10 business days: a new casserole dish!



Homemade French Baguettes
Adapted from Cooking Channel TV
Time:1 hr 35 min
Yields: 2  12-14 inch baguettes

Ingredients
1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast
2 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
Canola oil, for greasing bowl
3 to 4 ice cubes

Directions
1. Combine the honey, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water.  Stir to combine and let the mixture stand about 5 minutes until the yeast activates and begins to foam.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl (KitchenAid if you have one!) with a dough hook and slowly add in the yeast mixture. Gradually add 1 cup warm water and mix until the dough comes together into a ball that is not too wet.  You might not need all of the water. If the dough is sticky, add a little bit more flour.

3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 2 to 6 minutes. To test if the dough is kneaded thoroughly - press in the dough with your thumb and it will bounce back when it's ready. 

4. Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl.  Cover with a dishcloth, and let rest in a warm environment until doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes. 

5. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape into 2 baguettes by making a flat rectangle out of your dough, then folding the top and bottom towards the middle, like an envelope, and sealing the seam with your fingers. Keep repeating the folding and sealing, stretching the rectangle lengthwise as you go, until it's about 12 to 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold and seal either end to round. Flip seam-side down and place on a sheet pan or baguette pan that has been dusted with flour. Score the tops of the loaves, making deep diagonal slits 1/2-inch deep.  Again, cover dough with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm environment until they have doubled in size, 25 minutes. 

6. Position your oven racks with one on the bottom and the other in the middle, then preheat to 450 degrees.

7. Once the oven is preheated and the dough is nearly ready, place an oven-safe (non-glass) bowl or pan on the bottom rack. 

8. When your bread has doubled for the second time, quickly remove the towel.  Simultaneously slide the sheet tray with the baguettes onto the middle rack while carefully throwing the ice cubes into the bowl on the bottom rack. The ice will create a burst of steam that will give you a nice crispy crust. Quickly shut the oven door so no steam escapes. Bake the baguettes until golden brown, 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Southwest French Bread Pizza

What a busy weekend! I did almost no cooking, but it was a very food-centric weekend.  For my birthday on Thursday, KK and I went to Teak for Customer Appreciation Night... nearly everything is half price! Teak's sushi is delicious, but it's even better when it's 50% off.  On Friday, I organized a birthday happy hour at McSwiggans; their Friday special: $5 All-You-Can-Eat Nachos! I had such a great time seeing all my friends in one place! My friend Liz and her husband were in town from Philly on Saturday, and we went for a BYOB (or sake) dinner at Illuzion and drinks at Hoboken Bar & Grill.  Today we went to KK's cousin's baby shower.  It was such a cute, Winnie the Pooh themed party and the catered Indian food was delicious, especially the spicy Paneer 65. 

This recipe would be perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal.  The original recipe called for pico de gallo, but we used store-bought salsa instead.  Although the final product was delicious, it didn't seem quite crisp enough.  Next time, I'll try toasting the bread before adding the toppings. Fingers crossed the leftovers reheat well!

Southwest French Bread Pizza
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 can 14.5-oz. black beans
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 can 4 oz. diced green chilies
2 cloves garlic
1 ½ cup salsa
1 loaf French bread
¾ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado, sliced

Directions
1. Drain black beans, but do not rinse. Pour beans into a skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add chili powder and stir. After 2 minutes, add diced green chilies. Continue to cook on medium heat for 2-3 more minutes while stirring. If it seems too dry, add in a tablespoon or two of water.

2. Dice garlic and add it to the black bean/green chili mixture. Keep on medium heat for another 2-3 minutes while stirring.

3. Remove mixture from the heat; stir in salsa.

4. Cut French bread in half lengthwise, then cut the halves into pieces about 6 inches long. Carve out a small area in the middle of each piece of bread. Spoon the black bean mixture onto the bread and cover it completely with the mixture.

5. Top pizzas with the shredded cheese.

6. Put pizzas into broiler for about 2-3 minutes. Cook until the cheese is slightly brown, but try not to burn the bread.

7. Top with the sliced avocado and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Savory Peach Chicken

This weekend's 50+ degree weather has KK and I ready for spring! KK added this peach-chicken meal to the menu as soon as we turned off the thermostat and opened the windows for some fresh air! Although it's a tad too early for peach season, we still managed to find a decent selection at the store this weekend. Success!

When we first tried this meal, I was highly skeptical of mixing fruit with chicken.  Boy, was I wrong! The slightly-softened peaches are amazing, and the sauce has a hint of sweetness but isn't too overwhelming.  When it comes to incorporating fruit with dinner entrees, this recipe pushed me over the edge, and now I'll willing to try anything.  One day I'll post the mouthwatering recipes I have for Rosemary Chicken & Wild Rice, and Toasted Pecan Chicken, both of which require orange marmalade.  The recipe I have for Sausage, Grape & Pasta Skillet is also pretty tasty! Still so many recipes to blog about! Do you have any dinner recipes that require fruit?


Savory Peach Chicken
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients
2/3 to 1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 peaches, sliced thin
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness
salt & pepper
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated

Directions 
1. Prepare rice according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, orange juice, chicken broth, and sliced peaches in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Preheat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt & pepper, then place in the hot skillet. Cook until golden brown on one side, then flip and repeat on the other side, 4 minutes in total. Chicken will not be cooked through. Plate and set aside.

4. Add ginger and garlic to the hot pan and stir constantly for 10 seconds. Immediately  add the sauce/peach mixture to the pan, and increase heat to high. Cook for 6 minutes, stirring once or twice, until sauce has thickened and peaches start to become soft.

5. With the sauce still in the skillet, nestle chicken between the peaches, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Serve on top of brown rice.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pesto Orecchiette With Chicken Sausage

Confession: I didn't use orecchiette, but I guess that's pretty obvious from my pictures :) I read somewhere that orecchiette is best suited for vegetable sauces, probably because the veggies get stuck in the little pasta bowls.  I would normally use orecchiette, but we didn't have enough on hand, so I substituted with Farfalle.  It all tastes the same to me!

This was a nice change from the traditional pasta with red sauce.  The combination of chicken sausage, Parmesan, and pesto makes for a flavorful dish.  In the absence of an Electrolux stove which apparently boils water in 90 seconds (is that actually possible?), this dish comes together quickly once you get the water boiling. I found that 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water was enough to keep the pasta from sticking. As usual, I think adding a couple dashes of crushed red pepper brings the dish up a few notches!

Pesto Orecchiette With Chicken Sausage
Adapted from Real Simple
Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-4

Ingredients
12  ounces orecchiette, or any pasta
1/2  pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2  cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon  olive oil
8 ounces chicken sausage, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the green beans and peas during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot.

2. Once the pasta water boils, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Add the sausage, pesto, Parmesan, and ½ cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and vegetables and toss to combine (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry). 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lighter General Tso's Chicken

To recover from the hectic week and prepare ourselves for losing an hour of sleep, KK and I had a low-key weekend.  That being said, I still went to a friend's birthday brunch at 10th & Willow, and for a run along Hoboken's waterfront.  We dusted off some recipe favorites as well - Tofu Pad Thai on Friday, Pizza Spaghetti paried with a Wine Garage Pinot Noir on Saturday, and this lighter version of General Tso's chicken on Sunday.  My good friend Stephanie was promoting the blog to her friends (thanks!!), and raving about this dish.  Since it wasn't on the blog, KK quickly added the old favorite to the dinner rotation.  Luckily, it was just as good as I remembered.  Bon appetit! 



Lighter General Tso's Chicken
Adapted from Proceed with Caution
Serves 4
Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1/4 cup cornstarch, divided
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
salt & pepper
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions
1. Cook rice according to package instructions.

2. In medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil over medium-high.  Shake off excess egg-white mixture, add chicken to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add sugar snap peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine.

5. Add sugar snap pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until sugar snap peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chicken and Cheese Taquitos

I cook a lot of Italian food, so based on the number of posts categorized under Italian, one might assume it's my favorite cuisine.  However, if push came to shove, I don't know if I'd be able to choose between Italian and Mexican.  Despite my attempts to be health-conscious, I can never say no to anything smothered in cheese and salsa (or marinara sauce)! My two favorite restaurants in Hoboken are Charrito's and Cafe Michelina.  Stay tuned for some restaurant reviews next time KK and I go out for dinner. 

I've had several late night at work over the past few weeks, and this week was no different.  Yesterday, to reward myself for all of the hard work,  I decided to grab a beer at happy hour with some coworkers.  We ended up staying longer than I originally planned, and I got home at the same time as KK.  Since it was already late and I was starving, my immediate vote was for carryout, but KK insisted that this meal would be quick and easy.  He was, as usual, correct.

As the oven preheated, I quickly cooked up the chicken in a skillet, and mixed together the rest of the filling ingredients.  Roll-up assembly was speedy, and these things were in and out of the oven in what felt like a matter of minutes! I chose to top mine with extra salsa, while KK chose sour cream.  Either works!

Chicken and Cheese Taquitos
Adapted from Baked Bree
Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients
1 lb chicken, chopped
2 Tablesoons extra virgin olive oil
8 oz block cream cheese, room temperature
1 can enchilada sauce
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
1 large package flour tortillas
sour cream, optional
salsa, optional

Directions
1. In a skillet, heat olive oil and prepare the chicken until cooked through.

2. In a large bowl, mash together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, lime juice, spices, garlic, and onion. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the cheese and shredded chicken.

4. Warm up your tortillas so that they are more pliable. Put a few Tablespoons of the filling in the tortilla and roll up.

5. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, spray it with cooking spray. Place the taquitos seam side down. Spray the top with cooking spray. Top with remaining enchilada sauce.

6. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the tortillas are brown and crispy.  

7. Top with sour cream and/or salsa as desired.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spicy Tomato & Turkey Soup with Stelline

With a mid-March snow storm forecasted for Wednesday/Thursday in the mid-east, soup seemed like the perfect dinner choice.  

I used Target store brand marinara sauce for the soup and, although I'd never tried it before, it worked just fine.  For the pasta, I used Stelline.  You can hardly see the tiny star-shaped pasta in my picture, but I swear there's pasta in there! We had half a box in the pantry (not sure where it came from though!), but even with doubling the pasta quantity, we're still left with about a cup left.  Luckily this soup was so good, it'll likely make it's way into the dinner rotation again soon.

Spicy Tomato & Turkey Soup with Stelline
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Serves 4-6
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
10 baby carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1lb ground turkey breast
salt & pepper
1 jar marinara sauce (23-28oz)
5 cups chicken broth
1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup Stelline, or other small pasta

Directions
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add in carrots, onion, garlic and turkey breast, and season with salt & pepper. Cook until turkey is no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Pour in marinara sauce, chicken broth, beans, red chili pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. Cover and bring to a boil.

3. Once broth is boiling, add in pasta and simmer soup for 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Add more salt & pepper if necessary, and ladle into bowls to serve.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

What Monday is complete without a trip to the DMV? I spent over an hour at the DMV this afternoon, and then wasn't even allowed to smile in my new picture! When did they make that a rule? I have a huge smile on my face in my first NJ license! Nevertheless, despite my mumbled complaints, I'm one step closer to making my "Mrs." status official! Next step - passport.

Any-who... you didn't come hear to read about the DMV. Let's talk about food! I have quite the list of cooking blogs on my Google Reader, but it's always nice to find new recipes and ideas on Pinterest.  This Parmesan Crusted Chicken was incredibly easy.  The most time-consuming step was preheating the oven up to 425 degrees.  I didn't have any regular mayo in the fridge, so I used Kraft Mayo with Olive Oli & Cracked Pepper (reduced fat!). Yum.  To complete the meal, I served the chicken with Knorrs Herb & Butter ride sides and a salad.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Adapted from The Enchanted Cook
Serves 2
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
4 teaspoons Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
salt & pepper

Directions
1. Preheat oven 425 degrees F.

2. Mix mayo and cheese together in a small bowl. 

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.  Lay chicken breasts on baking sheet and spread mayo mixture evenly atop each.  Evenly sprinkle bread crumbs on top of each chicken breast.

4. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly and juices run clear. Tops will be browned and chicken will be incredibly juicy. Consider finishing off the chicken under the broiler for a minute or two to get them extra browned on top.  If desired, season with a dash of salt and pepper.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Creamy Italian Chicken Skillet

With all of my Parade Day write-ups, I have a backlog of posts! We had a semi-lazy Sunday, but also did some serious cleaning.  I also found time to make Cream Cheese & Potato Soup for lunch.  After mopping the floors, cleaning the kitchen, and folding several loads of laundry, it was finally dinner time!

The original recipe called for Lawry’s Garlic Herb Marinade, but I found a Target brand that worked just fine!  Since we have 1/2 the bottle left (and because dinner was good!), KK informed me that Creamy Italian Chicken Skillet will be on the menu again soon.  I'm ok with that.  I'll probably use 12 ounces of pasta next time (updated in ingredients below); tonight's dish was a little on the saucy side, so adding more pasta should fix that.  Also, we'll try using evaporated milk like Iowa Girl Eats did; we had a can on hand for this evening, but already had a pint of heavy cream open in the fridge.  If you haven't already figured it out - KK likes to make sure nothing goes to waste, so using the open heavy cream was a must this weekend!

Creamy Italian Chicken Skillet
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 2-4

Marinade Ingredients

1 lb chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/2 bottle garlic herb marinade
2 tablespoons pesto

Skillet Ingredients 

12 oz. pasta (penne, fusilli, etc.)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 small onion, minced
salt & pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
8 oz tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon flour
4 teaspoons pesto
crushed red pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Combine marinade and pesto in a large Ziploc bag then add chicken and squish to coat. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.

2.  When you're ready to start cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil then season with salt and add pasta. Cook until al dente then drain and set aside.


3. Meanwhile, saute marinated chicken in a large skillet sprayed well with non-stick spray over medium heat for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Plate cooked chicken, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.  Set aside. Carefully wipe out skillet with a paper towel. 


4. Still over medium heat, add oil to the same skillet, then add onions and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes, or until tender, then add garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for 30 more seconds. 


5. Carefully add chicken broth then let simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. 


6. Add tomato sauce and heavy cream; whisk in flour and pesto. Simmer until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Add cooked pasta and chicken, then toss to combine. To add more seasoning to the dish, top with crushed red pepper.
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