Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Quick, Easy, Tasty!

Driving home from work one night and I really didn't have much energy left after a particularly long day at the office.  I really wasn't in the mood to come up with something that would mean stretching my tired mind beyond a few ingredients.  The outcome... a Quick, Easy, Tasty, Baked Potato Dinner.

How can baked potatoes = quick you might ask?  Yeah just the baking process alone takes like an hour.  And a microwaved potato will work in a pinch, but there's just something missing.  That's when it hit me.  Pre heat your oven to 425.  Prep the potatoes like you usually would.  i.e. Wash 'em, poke 'em full of holes, then I like to rub them with some EVOO and give them a few shakes of the House Seasoning (or Salt & Pepper).  Start them cooking in the microwave about 5-7 min while your oven is heating.  Flip them over once during cooking.  Then transfer to the the oven to finish off the job when you prep the rest of your meal.  This way you'll get that nice crispy skin of oven baking.  Plus they can kinda just hang out in there until you are ready for them.

Prep your toppings.  I went with some steamed, roughly chopped broccoli, a rotisserie chicken - the breast meat into bite sized pieces, a quick B├ęchamel-ish sauce (see below) and some cheddar cheese.  You can really do what ever you want here though.  How about BBQ chicken, beef, or pulled pork, cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onions?  Or maybe some chili, onions and cheddar cheese?  Diced ham, broccoli & nacho cheese?  What ever sounds good to you.  Use your imagination & have fun!  Feeding several people?  You could do a Potato Bar and do a little of everything.

I was pretty pleased with the combo we had.  and even more pleased with how quick dinner was on the table.  So the next time you're looking for a quick no brainer dinner, grab a couple of potatoes and Enjoy!

B├ęchamel (Basic White Sauce)
2 Tbls butter
2 Tbls flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk

Melt butter over low heat.  Blend 2 tablespoons of flour into the melted butter, add salt.  Cook over low heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes. Cooking for this length of time will minimize 'flour' taste.

Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring constantly.  Continue cooking slowly until smooth and thickened.

At this point you can season it to suit your tastes.  Add more flavor by seasoning with celery salt, nutmeg, a teaspoon of lemon juice, onion juice, or sherry, or a few tablespoons of chopped chives or parsley.

I added some cream cheese and a splash of white wine. (I know, thus making it no longer a basic white sauce - but it sure made it taste darn good!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Italian Meatball Soup

This soup was so simple!  Even better than that, it tasted great!  I was looking for something quick easy to make for dinner, so I picked up the newest copy of the Raley's Something Extra magazine and spotted this one right away.  Quick, easy & not too many ingredients.  Give a try.  Enjoy!

1 (32 oz) container of chicken stock
1 package Aidells Sun-Dried Tomato Meatballs
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup each: chopped onion, carrot, celery & zucchini
2 tsp dried basil
1 cup dried pasta (optional)

Mix all ingredients together.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 min.  If desired, cook pasta until al dente in separate pot, drain & add to soup at the end of the 30 min.  Serve with Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Things I LOVE!

Just saw this post by Swanky Tables, in which she is featuring an AMAZING beverage dispenser.  Not only is it gorgeous, but its on sale for $29.99 (it's usually $49.99)!  You know you must have this, I had to have it, I had trouble ordering it through the site so I called 'em up & mine will be here in 10 or less days.  I couldn't keep this deal to myself.  I just HAD to share the love!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Have Your Cake...

So my Cakes! post of the past seems to be a pretty popular post as of late.  For the last few weeks it's had the most page views.  Which got me thinking, some of you may be hungry to see more.  If you haven't already seen Cakes! or these or these, click away.   Also, here are a few more cakes of the past for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chicken and Root Vegetable Pot Pie

(Photo from Cooking Light)
This dish started with a mission.  My grandma has quite a few diatary restrictions, but last week she had a craving for a chicken pot pie.  A "normal" chicken pot pie is probably one of the last things on the list of what she should be eating right now.  But she's my grandma, and I like to do what I can to make her happy.  So I set out to find a way for her to enjoy a chicken pot pie that would be a healthy alternative.  My mission was to come up with a Gluten Free, Non-dairy, Low Sodium, Low Fat version of something that is typically none of the above.  Hmmm, well it's gotta be possible right?

I started scouring the Internet.  And I did find many many Gluten Free, Vegan, Dairy Free, all sorts of sites that offered up ideas.  In the end I came back to one that was on the Cooking Light site.  It was neither Gluten Free or Non-dairy, but it had the Low Sodium I was looking for.  Plus the reviews were stellar & I'm a big fan of a recipe with good reviews.  I decided to use it and make my own modifications to achieve the Gluten Free, Non-Dairy, etc.

Now I'm sure when I say "pot pie" the last thing you think of is Cooking Light.  But I discovered on Sunday, this classic comfort food doesn't have to bad for you to taste good.  I skipped the puff pastry and used Gluten Free Bisquick for a drop biscuit like topping.  I also subbed lactose free milk and brown rice flour in the filling for her.  I was rather impressed with how tasty it came out!  I would gladly eat it that way again, but I lookforward to trying it as posted below, I think the addition of the puff pastry will be perfect!  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Chicken and Root Vegetable Pot Pie
adapted from Cooking Light

3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (I used the lighter sweet potato, not the orange yams)
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled celery root (I used celery)
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices parsnip* (you can use carrots if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces), 1 Tlbs removed and set aside (brown Rice flour for GF Modifications)
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed (Gluten Free Bisquick Drop biscuits for GF Modifications)

Preheat oven to 400°

Pour a small amount of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot, add onions and cook on med high heat until they begin to cook through.  Add potatoes, celery & parsnip; cook for 3-5 min.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 6 minutes. Add chicken; cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is done.  Add the peas in during the last minute.  Remove chicken and vegetables from broth with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl.

Increase heat to medium. Measure out flour and place all but 1 tablespoon flour in a medium bowl; gradually add milk to bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broth; cook for 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken mixture, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon flour on a work surface; roll dough into a 13 x 9-inch rectangle. Place dough over chicken mixture, pressing to seal at edges of dish. Cut small slits into dough to allow steam to escape; coat dough lightly with cooking spray. Place dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is browned and filling is bubbly.

Calories:388, Fat:13g

*Q: What the heck is a Parsnip??
A: Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler and have a sweeter flavor, especially when cooked.  Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles. In some cases, the parsnip is boiled and the solid portions are removed from the soup or stew, leaving behind a more subtle flavor than the whole root and contributing starch to thicken the dish. Or you can steam and mash them like potatoes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A lite version of enchiladas... impossible you say???

So, I don't know about you, but I've noticed a trend here on this blog of mine... these recipes that once used to focus on lite, healthy & delicious meals, have turned into pretty much just delicious (but ignore the fat and calorie count) kind of meals.  While I know that's fine here and there, I was feeling a little tight in the jeans the other day.  It just so happened, that's when this interesting looking dish was posted by one of my very favorite bloggers over at Noble Pig.  (If you haven't already, go check her out.  I'm sure you'll find something you'll have to make.)  I knew I had to give it a try and I wasn't disappointed.

I do have to say I really had to fight the urge to dump shredded cheese on top of them.  It just didn't seem right looking at them in the pan all rolled up and naked.  But I remained strong.  And as it turned out, once you got them on your plate, spooned the sauce over them and took a bite, you didn't even miss all the extra cheese!  (She was right, I should have believed her!)  Even the sauce is a lightened version of what you're used to.  It's doesn't have the thicker, heavier (albeit delicious) gravy like enchilada sauce.  This one has no starch and barley any fat other than a bit of olive oil.  I really enjoyed it.  Make them for yourself and see!  Enjoy!

Lite Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

Adapted from Everyday Food
2 cups low-fat (1% or 2%) cottage cheese
1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese
1 cup +/- shredded chicken (optional* - I used the breast meat of a rotisserie chicken)
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt and ground pepper
16 corn tortillas
1-2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, diced small (1/2 cup reserved for serving)
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 can (15 ounces) tomato puree
2 cups vegetable broth
fresh cilantro leaves for serving

Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, process cottage cheese & cream cheese until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in black beans & chicken*. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, 5 minutes. Add chili powder and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Whisk in vinegar, tomato puree and broth, bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids).  Pour some of your sauce into a pie pan for dipping tortillas and reserve the rest for serving.

Wrap stacked corn tortillas in a damp dish towel and microwave until softened, 2 minutes. Working with one tortilla at a time, dip in sauce, place two rounded Tablespoons cottage cheese mixture down center of each, then roll tortilla around filling. Place seam side down in baking dish. Bake tortillas until heated through, 10-15 minutes.

To serve, divide enchiladas among plates and top with sauce, onion and cilantro.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Western Bacon Cheesy Chicken

This was one of those quick weeknight dinners that got thrown together with what I had on hand. It all started when I saw the few leftover pieces of uncooked bacon from Sunday’s breakfast looking at me, just begging to be made into something. While bacon isn’t exactly known for its waist trimming properties, the upside… it’s pretty darn tasty! And thus began the Western Bacon Cheesy Chicken! Simple concept, simple flavors, simple prep, and tasted great. Ok, so perhaps the name is a bit long, but we can work on that one. Anyhoo, if you’re in a hurry and want to do something quick, give this one a try. Enjoy!

Western Bacon Cheesy Chicken
Chicken Breasts (I used chicken breast tenders, because it’s what I had on hand. I would have preferred to use regular chicken breasts, pounded flat.)
BBQ Sauce (mixed with a few shakes of hot sauce – optional)
2-4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 shallot or ½ small onion, chopped
Splash of beer (optional)
Cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Heat bacon in pan until about halfway done & blot out most of grease with paper towels. Add in shallot/onion and pepper; caramelize. Once bacon is done and onions are translucent, this is where you would add a splash beer to deglaze the pan. Cook until liquid is evaporated and remove from pan, set aside.

Add chicken to hot pan. Sear on both sides and cook until almost done. Remove from pan, coat with BBQ sauce and transfer to foil lined baking dish. Top each piece with bacon/onion mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

Place in oven until chicken is done through and cheese is melted. I served with quick and easy mashed potatoes & a side of steamed veggies. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

So I’m getting ready to leave the office last night & I think, “What do I want to make for dinner tonight?” And like a flash, it hits me – CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS! You know the ones like they make at P.F. Chang's with that delicious “Special Sauce” that they mix to your heat preference at the table.  Then you get to pour it on top of your tasty wraps.  (I'm ALL about condiments!)  Anyhoo, I’ve never made lettuce wraps before, but I’ve eaten plenty, so I decided with the help of a quick Google search that this would be the night to try.

When I saw this recipe I knew it was just what I was looking for! And with just a few modifications I had in mind it was perfect.  The original recipe was from Todd Wilbur and Top Secret Recipes. Here I’ve posted it with a couple changes.

If you’ve got a food processor, you’re going to want to pull it out for this one! It will make your life sooo much easier! If you don’t, improvise and get to chopping cause this is too tasty to miss! Enjoy!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2 Tlbs oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, still raw & roughly cut into cubes
1 cup water chestnut
1 cup mushroom
3 Tlbs chopped onions
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 carrot peeled & finely grated
1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts
4 - 5 leaves iceberg lettuce

Special Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tlbs soy sauce
2 Tlbs rice wine vinegar
2 Tlbs ketchup
1 Tlbs lemon juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 Tlbs hot mustard
2 tsp hot water
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 2 tsp red chili paste

Stir Fry Sauce
2 Tlbs soy sauce
2 Tlbs brown sugar
1/2 Tlbs rice wine vinegar

Make the special sauce by dissolving the sugar in water in a small bowl. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and refrigerate this sauce until you're ready to serve.

Combine the hot water with the hot mustard.  Add garlic and chili paste, mix and set this aside as well.  Eventually add your desired measurement of mustard and garlic chili sauce to the special sauce mixture to pour over the wraps. (I used it all and didn't find it too spicy.)

Put mushrooms, water chestnuts and onions in food processor, pulse until chopped.  Remove and set aside.  Then put your raw chicken in the food processor and pulse until ground.

Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan.  Add chicken and saute.  While cooking, prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl.  When Chicken is almost done, add veggies and stir fry sauce and cook for a couple more minutes.  At the very end add grated carrot and mix well.

Transfer mixture to a serving dish and top with chopped peanuts and one chopped green onion.

Serve with the lettuce"cups", a side of brown rice, and the "Special Sauce"on the side.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meatloaf Brasciole w/ Roasted Root Veggies

This Italian style meatloaf was the highlight of our cooking club in November. (A BIG shout out to Em & Darin and all the deliciousness they come up with at the Community Tap & Table! Check out their site, sign up for a class - it’s SUPER fun!) I fell in LOVE at first bite and knew right away I had to recreate it at home. I'm drooling now just thinking about it! It goes beautifully with the simple, rustic veggies. Other than that all you need as a salad and you’ve got a complete meal.

I’m not a fan of beets – at all. But I do like the way they look with the meal and what they do for the other veggies, so if you can tolerate them I’d say add them and then avoid them on you plate. If you like or even love them, then by all means eat ‘em up! I grabbed the ones from the organic section of my store that came complete with the beet greens to use in the meatloaf. Just make sure to soak them good, because they are full of dirt. Have fun with this one & enjoy!  (OH TRUST me... you WILL ENJOY!)

Preheat oven to 450. First the veggies…

Roasted Root Veggies
Selection of root vegies
Olive Oil
House Seasoning or Salt & Pepper

I selected Purple Potatoes, baby red potatoes, baby white potatoes, carrots and beets. Potatoes were cleaned and either halved or quartered depending on size. The carrots and beets were peeled and cut into pieces.

Coat veggies with olive oil & season; arrange on parchment lined cookie sheet. Roast for about 40 min. (you will add the meat after 20 min)
While veggies are roasting prepare the meatloaf)

Meatloaf Brasciole
2 lbs ground meat – mixture of pork, beef, and veal (I used pork only)
Salt & Pepper
½ cup bread crumbs
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ small white onion, chopped
3 Tbls raisins, chopped
3 Tbls pine nuts
4 Tbls parmesan cheese
2 Tbls flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup arugula or beet greens (I used beet greens)
6 slices prosciutto
6 slices provolone

Mix meat with ingredients salt through parsley. Flatten meat on parchment lined cookie sheet. It should be about ½ inch thick and rectangular in shape. Cover meat first with greens, then prosciutto and then provolone. Roll meat into a large log. (Use the paper to help you roll.)

Place on pan with roasting veggies (just make some space for the big ole meat log right in the center). Roast for 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Go see for yourself...

Happy New Year!  I certainly hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season.  Did you make anything special this year?  I've got a couple new things to show you, but I'm super busy with just getting back to work today, so I'll post a new recipe tomorrow.  For now, I thought I'd pass along a great giveaway that one of my favorite bloggers has on her site.

So you've seen me mention the lovely Hungry Housewife before.  (Remember that beautiful Cranberry Walnut tart, that was courtesy of her.)  She's pretty awesome, and if you haven't checked out her blog before, you should now.  Not only because it's full of fantastic recipes to try, but if you rush over there now, she's got a pretty cool giveaway happening and you just might want to grab a piece of the action!
Click HERE to see for yourself!

Good Luck!

The Best of 2010!

Trying to figure out what to make for dinner?  Well to wrap up the end of my first year in the blog world, I will count down the top recipes (determined by most page views) from my site.  Perhaps one of these will grab your attention and get you cooking!  Enjoy!

6.)  Fresh Corn & Tomato Salad  - It's no wonder how this little gem made it into the top recipes, I am a little surprised it didn't make it a little higher in the countdown however.  This has got to be hands down one of my most requested recipes.  I also hear rather often from others that they have made it.  I just love when people enjoy something I've shared with them by recreating it.

Unfortunately, with this one you will want to wait until Summer when the corn it oh so delicious.  But that gives us something to look forward to right?

Are you intrigued?  Go for it!  You know you want to!  You wont be sorry I promise!

When you fill it's time to fire up that grill again, do take the time to try this recipe!  I saw it in a magazine, made a couple of tweaks and quickly deemed it "the best thing I ever made"!  (Ok, so there are a lot of thins on that list, but this is definitely one of them!)  Just do yourself a favor and make this guilt free take on a chile relleno!

Everyone has had boring ole french toast!  Why not put a spin on it and slice up some homemade banana bread first?  Don't forget to top it with Homemade Pancake Syrup!

2.) Black Bean Quesadillas with Corn Salsa
The great thing about this recipe is it's a fun twist on quesadillas that can be tweaked to vegan, vegetarian or you can toss in some chicken or steak!  Top with the quick and easy corn salsa and they can't be beat!

This oh so decadent looking, but totally guilt free dessert will have you wondering we need to ever reach for the bad stuff!

So there you have it.  What was your favorite from 2010?