Saturday, December 12, 2009

Chicken Parm Snackers

I have been super busy with the upcoming holidays, but stull had time to flip through my Rachael Ray 'Big Orange Book'. My husband is a huge chicken Parm lover, so when I came across not one, but two chicken parm recipes, I had to give them a whirl. Except I had to make few changes. You can probably find the original recipe on Rachael's site, but this is the one that I created. This is a great recipe for small holiday get togethers. Just make sure you have wooden toothpicks on hand; the plastic ones I used didn't really hold the chicken together.  Also, adjust the dipping sauce to your liking; I made mine spicy. For a variety, prepare the dipping sauce a variety of different ways such as sweet, spicy or even cheesy.

Chicken Parm Snackers (Serves 4)
2 8-10 oz skinless,boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of SHREDDED Parmesan cheese
1 TBSP salt
1 TSP pepper
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
2 TBSPS of olive oil
1 TSP of parsley, to sprinkle on melted cheese
Wooden tooth picks

Dipping Sauce
1 small can crushed tomatoes(8-12 oz)
1 TSP minced garlic
1 TBSP grated Parmesan
Pinch of red hot pepper(just a couple of flakes)
1 pinch of sugar
1 TSP oregano
1 pinch of basil

Heat oil in a medium skillet. In a Ziploc bag, combine all chicken ingredients(not sauce ingredients) EXCEPT shredded Parmesan. Add chicken strips and shake until all is coated. In a small or medium sauce pan, Add all dipping sauce ingredients and stir frequently. Add chicken to heated pan, turning every two to three minutes until chicken is cooked through and outside is golden brown. When nearing the end of cooking, carefully sprinkle shredded Parmesan and parsley on top of each chicken strip. Allow to melt fully, then remove each strip. Fold each piece of chicken over and secure with a wooden toothpick. Serve sauce on the side for dipping.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Layers and Layers of Chocolatey Goodness

I have been missing for over a week now for various reasons, but I have stock piled some quick, easy and tasty yummies to post in my blog this week. I am going to start of with one of my favorite desserts - a chocolate layer trifle. It's fairly simple to make and you can get very creative with  the dessert. I have made it several different ways, but this recipe is, by far, my favorite. Basically, you're layering different types of chocolate mousse, with whipped cream, cake, cookies or candies on top of each layer. This time, I used mocha mousse and dark chocolate mousse. I cheated and did not make them from scratch. You can buy packets of instant mousse at the supermarket, in the pudding/baking aisle. Nestle makes a fabulous instant mousse. You simply add milk and use your mixer to whip it. I used good old fashioned chocolate cake mix and prepared to rounded 9 inch cakes. This was way too much for the trifle, BUT I found that you can serve the trifle OVER the left over cake. I used crushed oreos, which I Ziploc'd and crush with a hammer. Yes, you read that right. I used a hammer since I couldn't find my meat tenderizing mallet. It worked even better! As for candy, I topped with Hershey's Kisses and each layer was filled over with Cool Whip. You can use chocolate, peanut butter or butterscotch chips in the layers. I have often used ready made marble cake or angel food cake to fill in the layers. So, here it is. A fun, creative, yummy, yet easy to make treat!

Chocolatey Goodness Trifle
2 packages of instant chocolate mousse(It's great to use different flavors)
1 container of Cool Whip
1/2 of a 9 inch round cake or 1/2 of a ready made cake loaf, such as Entemann's, cut into cubes
12 crushed Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, such as Oreos
10 Hershey's Kisses

Prepare mousse and cake(if needed) according to box directions. Layer the first flavor of mousse into trifle bowl. Top with crushed cookies, then whipped cream. Add second flavor of mousse, then cake cubes. Top with whipped cream. Sprinkle remaining crushed cookies into center of whipped cream layer, then surround with chocolate kisses. Refrigerate until serving and refrigerate left overs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Cranberry Sauce Time!

Just stopping in for a quick hello and a yummy recipe for home made cranberry sauce and cranberry juice. I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday!

Easy to Make Cranberry Sauce(from the back Ocean Spray bag)

1 bag of Ocean Spray Cranberries - fresh
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water

In a medium pan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries. Boil until completely soft. Strain over heat proof container to catch the juice. When juice is cooled, add to a picture with ice and refrigerate. Then use potato masher to mash the cranberries to the sauce like consistency. Refrigerate to cool further and enjoy the sauce at the temperature you like. Add juice to a martini glass with a shot of vodka for a yummy drink!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Teriyaki Chicken and Fried Rice

So much for best laid plans. I thawed shrimp with every intention of making shrimp teriyaki tonight. When I unsealed the bag that held the shrimp, I was greeted by a surprisingly bad odor. In the (outside) garbage can it went and the plan turned to chicken. But wait, I had no fresh or defrosted chicken! So, what did I do? I used chicken nuggets. I had to - there were three hungry people in my kitchen. There were four, if you count me(can you count me? I am ALWAYS hungry). I threw the chicken nuggets in the oven and started in on the rice. Now, you can use regular rice, boil in bag rice, or even microwave rice. This will work with whatever you have in the house. It can be brown rice or white, whichever you prefer. Start to finish and depending which ingredients you use, this meal doesn't take more than twenty minutes. While I prefer to put more time and effort into my meals, this quick fix was just what I needed tonight. It was pretty tasty and enjoyed by all.

Jaime's Quick Fix Teriyaki Chicken and Fried Rice

10 chicken nuggets (you can also use 2 medium, boneless chicken breasts, breaded, fried and cut into pieces)
1 cup of white or brown rice (can be regular, boil in bag or microwave rice)
3 TBSP of teriyaki sauce (2 for the rice, 1 to add to chicken)

1 TSP of minced garlic
1 TBSP of olive oil
1 egg
1 TSP salt
1 TSP pepper

Prepare chicken nuggets according to box or bag, or prep and cook your breaded chicken cutlets. Prepare rice according to directions on box or bag. In a wok or medium pan, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil. Add rice when cooked. Stir in 1 TSP of minced garlic and 2 TBSP of teriyaki sauce. Stir intermittently for around three minutes then add salt and pepper. Finally, add egg to rice mixture and stir continuously until egg mixture is cooked and mixed into the rice. Then add cut up chicken to the rice mixture and add the last TBSP of teriyaki sauce. Keep stirring mixture for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Red Wine Mozzarella Burgers

I have to admit that I haven't had a great burger in a long while. Combined with that, and that fact that I needed to throw together a dinner of things I already had in the house, I was on a mission. 1/2 bottle of wine leftover from the weekend, CHECK! Ground beef, CHECK! Mozzarella I had no idea what to do with, CHECK! The result - a super juicy, yummy burger! I made a second batch, sans wine, for the kiddies. They loved it as well. I can't say the same for my oven baked  French fries, which refused to bake. In any case, we had awesome burgers and even some wine left over. WOOHOO!

Red Wine Mozzarella Burgers

1 LB ground beef
1 TSP dry mustard
1 small white onion, diced
2 TBSP of minced garlic
1 TSP pepper
1 TSP salt
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 cup Red Wine
2 TBSP of shredded Mozzarella per burger

Dice onions and sauté in 1 TBSP of olive oil. Remove when softened and set aside. Mix all ingredients, except mozzarella, in a bowl and make two patties. Broil burgers for 20 minutes, turning in between. Remove from broiler and spoon 2 TBSP of shredded cheese on each burger, returning to the broiler for 3 minutes. Serve on your favorite bread or bun.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Triple Berry Crisp

My son will eat fruit all day long if I let him. His latest obsession is berries - raspberries,blueberries and blackberries.  Today, I picked up a batch of each and searched the great wide web for a perfect recipe. to the rescue again.  This berry crisp was easy to make and went off without a hitch, not counting burning my hand on the pan. I served it with fresh, home made whipped cream.  Because I am a chocolate addict, I added some chocolate chips to my serving. YUM!!! Coming up this week, I will share simple recipe for making cranberry sauce and cranberry juice (Cosmos,anyone?), just in time for Turkey Day.

Triple Berry Crisp
from (SERVES 9)
3/4 cup fresh blackberries
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
 1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, gently toss together blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and white sugar; set aside.  In a separate large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press half of mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan (I used 8x8). Cover with berries. Sprinkle remaining crumble mixture over the berries. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until fruit is bubbly and topping is golden brown.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

R. Ray Day 3:Garlic Lovers Shrimp with Garlic over CousCous

We've all been sick in my house, started with a virus and ended with a cold. Hence, the reason my 3rd entry on Rachael Ray dinners is late.  Anyhow, we are on the mend, I am back to cooking and getting ready for the upcoming holidays. The only thing that puts a slight damper on my love of cooking and eating is the weight gain. While I am holding steady at my current weight, my sweet husband is not as lucky.  So, I am trying to prepare more healthy yet tasty meals for the blog.  Fear not, I will still be making sweets for my neighbors and little ones, so there will be plenty of great treat recipes coming up.  Also in my future is a blog feature on an idea I have for a kiddie holiday party. It doesn't necessarily have to be an all out party, but it is a great theme to base a day of cookie baking and tree decorating upon. So, keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks.  Now, back to the recipe. This recipe, by far, was the easiest to prepare and fits right in the 30 minutes or less category. Definitely tasty and I LOVED the couscous! My husband and children won't touch it again, but I am infatuated. I had never had it before and really enjoyed it. I cheated a bit and used a prepared box of quick cooking couscous and it only took about 5 minutes.  You can find those particular products in the rice aisle or international foods aisle.
Garlic Lovers Shrimp
12 to 15 cloves garlic, cracked away from skins
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 turns of the pan
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds, 30 pieces, jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, ask for easy peel shrimps
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Black pepper
1 toothpick, optional  
Process garlic in food processor to finely chop. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and butter. Add garlic and crushed pepper flakes to oil and butter. Season shrimp with salt and toss to coat. Add shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until pink and heads curl to tails. Add black pepper, to your taste. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 2 of Rachael Ray: Grilled Lime Cilantro Chicken Sammies with Pico- Guac

Ever make a recipe that made someone a believer? If you have been following my blog, you know that my husband is the pickiest man on the planet. He drives me nuts. He will not touch guacamole with a ten foot pole and I LOVE it. Avocado is one of my favorite foods.  I found this recipe in Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book(I have re-named it the 'Big Orange Bible') and decided to see if I could convert my husband to a guacamole fan. Mission(sort of) accomplished. While he wasn't thrilled about trying some of the pico-guac off of a spoon, he loved it as the sandwich topping. So, while he may not be the biggest avocado fan, he has certainly warmed up to it after I made this recipe. But of course, I did make one change to the recipe. My chicken cutlets were not defrosted enough, so I used a pound of ground chicken. I personally think the ground chicken absorbed the seasoning much better than a cutlet and gave the sandwich a more 'burger-like' feel. I also lightly toasted the rolls to give the sandwich some crunch.
Rachael Ray's Grilled Lime Cilantro Chicken Sammies w/ Pico- Guac
from 'Go Green Sammies')


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Grated peel of 1 lime plus juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper
Four skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 avocados
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 small plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
4 hamburger buns or crusty rolls, split and toasted
1 head bibb lettuce or green leaf lettuce
Tortilla chips, for serving

In a shallow dish, combine the EVOO, cilantro, scallions, thyme, lime peel, half of the lime juice, and the hot sauce; season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Grill the chicken until cooked through. In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, red onion, tomato, jalapeños, garlic, lemon juice and remaining lime juice; season with salt. Top each bun bottom with lettuce, a chicken breast, a mound of guacamole and a bun top. Serve with the tortilla chips.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

2 or 3 Days of Rachael Ray;Day 1:Steakhouse Shepherd's Pie

I have always been on the fence as to whether or not I was a Rachael Ray fan. On a whim, I bought her Big Orange Book, which is a bible of 30 minute meals and then some. She is now one of my heroes. If you don't own a copy of this book, I highly recommend you drag your self to the bookstore or get online and order it. Pronto. There are so many meal ideas in this book, it's crazy! So I have chosen to do two, possible three dinners, from her book. Rachael and I share a passion: steakhouses. So when I came across a recipe that combined all of her favorite elements from a steakhouse meal, I needed to get to work. Her Steakhouse Shepherd's Pie did not disappoint. It was, in my humble opinion, labor intensive. Then again, I can't chop onions and chives as fast as Rach. My best novice advice concerning this recipe is to read it over and set up all you pots and ingredients before you start. I also did not have an oven safe skillet, so I had to transfer my meat to a Corningware, but I can assure you the pie turned out fine. The only other let down was that I had to omit the mushrooms(my favorite) since my husband turns green at the mention of them.

Rachael Ray's Steakhouse Pot Pie   

2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices good quality bacon or peppered bacon, chopped
2 pounds ground sirloin
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pound button mushrooms, quartered
Black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 pound blue cheese, crumbled
3 to 4 tablespoons chives
1 teaspoon paprika 
Place potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring up to a boil. Season water with salt and boil potatoes until tender, 12 to15 minutes. Heads up: save a ladle of starchy cooking water just before draining. Heat a skillet with high sides over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, half a turn of the pan and the bacon. Crisp bacon and remove to paper towel lined plate. Add sirloin to the pan and caramelize the meat, 4 to 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and onions and cook until tender, 6 to 7 minutes more then season with salt and pepper.While meat cooks heat a small sauce pot over medium heat and melt butter, whisk the flour into butter, cook 2 minutes then whisk beef stock into flour, add Worcestershire and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Thicken 6 to 7 minutes. Pour gravy over meat and turn on broiler. Temper egg yolk by beating it with the starchy potato cooking water. Place drained potatoes back into the pot you cooked them in to dry them out a little. Mash potatoes with egg yolk and sour cream then fold in crumbled blue cheese and chives. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and spread across the top of the meat in an even layer. Garnish the potatoes with paprika and place under broiler to crisp and brown the potatoes, 2 to 3 minutes. Crumble reserved bacon over top. Serve immediately right from the hot skillet.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Good Old Fashioned Brownies

I volunteered to make brownies for my son's pre-school Halloween party. I always panic when I have to bake for a large group. This time, I wanted to make two pans full of brownies and naturally, I only had enough semi sweet chocolate to make one pan. I called my mother in law in a panic to see if she had any on hand and thankfully, she showed up on my doorstep bearing a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips. I had to keep the recipe simple. Not nuts of any kind were to be used, due to a student with allergies. As usual, I turned to my girl, Martha Stewart, for a suitable recipe. Two bits of advice - 1. It does matter what kind of chocolate you use in the recipe. For one pan, I used the semi sweet chocolate baking squares I had in the house. THAT pan was predominantly better than the pan made with the chocolate chips. Don't get me wrong, both pans were great, but the baking squares' pan had a little something extra. 2.  Your brownies will be cooked, just chewier if you only cook them for 30 minutes as opposed to 35 minutes. So, if you prefer the brownies chewier, shave off 5 minutes cooking time. Just check the brownies with a tooth pick to make sure that they are indeed cooked. Every oven is different, so my 30 minutes may be your 32 minutes. Served with a side of chocolate ice cream, these are sure to please.

Martha Stewart's Double Chocolate Brownies
Makes 9 large or 16 small squares
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces coarsely chopped good-quality semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside. Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until butter and chocolate are melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping down sides of bowl, until well incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out brownies; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Cranberries

In case you couldn't tell, I love to make meals in the slow cooker. It's a genius invention. I can easily rummage through whatever I have in the fridge,freezer or pantry and come up with a meal. Then, I just throw it all in the pot and leave it. I wanted to make this recipe for sometime, but other projects(ahem,cookies) took priority in using my cranberries. Well today, I decided, was the day. I had to make some changes, as I didn't have every ingredient in the house. The dish came out pretty good, but cooked up quicker than I had expected. Over all, it's a very healthy meal and tasty, but personally, I'd rather make oatmeal raisin-cranberry cookies to use up the fruit!
Chicken-wild Rice Casserole with Dried Cranberries(8 servings)Betty Crocker- More Slow Cooked Recipes

1 1/2 cups of uncooked wild rice
1/3 cup of dried cranberries or cherries
1 TBSP onion powder
1 cup cut up baby carrots
2 medium stalks of celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup chunky applesauce
1/2 TSP of salt
8 chicken drumsticks(skin removed)
8 chicken thighs (skin removed)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) beefy mushroom soup
1 can (14 oz) chicken broth
2 TSP thyme leaves 
Add all ingredients, except chicken,broth,soup and thyme. Arrange chicken on top. Add soup, then broth and sprinkle thyme on chicken. Cook on high for 4-6 hours. Check it at the 4 hour mark to make sure the rice doesn't burn.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Birthday Bash

Lobster stuffed beef tenderloin, roasted red potatoes and yellow buttermilk cupcakes, oh my!!! For my father in law and nephew's birthdays, we had a dinner party in our home. We kept the meal to meat and potatoes, with a little lobster thrown in to spruce things up.  My sister in law, Janet, made the amazing lobster stuffed beef tenderloin. It was extremely tender and flavorful.  She made a garlic butter sauce as a garnish to drizzle over the meat and fish.  I kept things simple as well, making basic oven roasted red skinned potatoes and yellow cupcakes. I spent a long time icing and decorating the cakes to get some practice with my decorating tips. I have a lot to learn, but it was definitely fun! I used Martha's Stewart's Yellow Buttermilk Cupcake Recipe and Wilton's Buttercream Icing Recipe  for the cake and icing.I used M&Ms,colored sprinkles and marshmallows for a decorative touch. The potatoes were awesome, spiced up with some white pepper and dill. Without further ado, here are the recipes used to make our dinner party a success.

Beef Stuffed Tenderloin  from (Similar to Janet's recipe)
3 whole lobster tails
4 pounds beef tenderloin filet
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt

8 Slices of bacon to garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add lobster tails, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from water, rinse and remove shells. Cut tail meat in half lengthwise. Cut tenderloin lengthwise, to within 3/4 inch of the bottom. Fill center of meat with lobster tails. In a saucepan, melt butter with lemon juice, garlic powder and 1 cup of the wine. Drizzle about 1/4 of the butter mixture over the lobster. Tie the tenderloin with kitchen string. Rub tenderloin with olive oil and place in a roasting pan. Pour remaining wine in bottom of pan. Sprinkle with cracked pepper. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Top tenderloin with bacon for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Stir garlic salt into remaining butter mixture, and serve with slices of roast.

Roasted Red Potatoes  from 
4 to 5 red potatoes, medium size
1/2 stick of butter
3 tbsp. Lawry's seasoned salt
2 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. chives, chopped
2 tsp. dill weed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and scrub 4 to 5 medium-size red potatoes. Chop potatoes into small pieces approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length and width. Place chopped potatoes into ungreased glass baking dish approximately 8 x 12 inches. Cut one stick of butter into 1/4 inch slices and place over potatoes so that potatoes are covered. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Lawry's seasoned salt over butter. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons white pepper, chopped chives and dill weed over salt. Roast in oven 45 to 60 minutes, turning potatoes every 15 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cranberry Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

I needed a treat to cheer up my son, who has a fever. What a better way to spend a Friday night than to watch "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and bake cookies? This is definitely one of my favorite Fall activities and I plan on making it a tradition every year. I wanted to try an old favorite, but with a twist. I decided on oatmeal raisin. For a sweet and tart combination, I added some dried cranberries. Totally easy and totally yummy!

Cranberry Raisin Oatmeal Cookies(makes 24)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed firmly
1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg 
1 TSP vanilla extract
3/4 cup of flour
1/2 TSP baking soda
1/2 TSP of cinnamon
1/4 TSP of salt
1 1/2 cups of quick or old fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup  of raisins
1/4 cup of dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350. Cream sugar and butter, then add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to batter. Add oats,raisins and cranberries. Drop in spoonfuls on an un-greased baking sheet.  Bake 8-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roasted Pepper Coulis over Broiled Chicken & Fusilli

There was a tough crowd in my house tonight. In an effort to get more veggies in our diets, I took stock of what was in the refrigerator. A fiery red bell pepper and gleaming yellow bell pepper caught my eye. Off to the cookbooks and Google I went.  I decided to make pepper coulis and serve it over broiled chicken and fusilli pasta. This was really a plan within a plan, since I thought I could introduce the plain chicken and pasta to the kids and slowly add some of the coulis to get them to try it.  I went balls out with my husband - spooning a hefty amount of the sauce over the chicken.  I was in love at first bite. I was so proud of my first coulis. Then I looked over at my biggest child - my husband. He was poking the chicken with his fork, a skeptical look on his face. He delicately licked sauce off one fork tine. Then made a face. "What is this?" he asked, pushing the chicken around the plate. I slowly and carefully explained how I made the pepper sauce. Then he decided it was the chicken he didn't like and ate the sauce over the fusilli. The baby tried a tiny, tiny bit over her pasta and seemed to like it. My son went nowhere near it, but at least he ate the pasta. Anyhow, I highly recommend this recipe, which I pieced together from different recipes I researched. Enjoy!

Roasted Pepper Coulis
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
1 TSP Sea Salt
1 TSP  Freshly Ground Pepper
1/4 cup of veggie or chicken stock

Heat oven to 450F.  Clean and rough chop peppers. Combine peppers in a roasting pan or Corningware with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper. Roast in oven until fork tender, around 20 minutes. Check peppers at the 10 minute mark and mix them around in the pan. Remove when done and allow to cool for five minutes. Remove peppers from pan and add to blender. Add the oil from the roasting pan to blender. Add 1/4 cup of stock to blender. On low, blend on the slowest setting. Once it starts combining, change method on blender to puree. Serve over chicken and pasta.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Cider Donuts...AKA Apple Cider Flip Flops

I love nothing more than to make my family happy. On a recent trip to a pumpkin farm, happiness came in the form of apple cider donuts.  I decided to do some research and found a recipe from Home Made Simple for this scrumptious treat. As I have stated before, I am not much of a baker, and this recipe proved the point even further. From a taste perspective, they were pretty awesome.  They were gone in seconds flat, so taste was not the problem.  It had to be the batter. Your supposed to be able to shape into donuts, but the batter was too watery. Instead, I tried a different tactic - just dropping batter balls the heat oil and flip-flopping it back and forth until fully cooked. This gave the 'donuts' more of a fritter look. My husband and son LOVED them.  My husband said it was a cross between a donut, French Toast and pancakes. In any case, try your luck with the recipe and enjoy the taste of Fall and the sugar high.
The recipe is pretty long and complex, so visit this link for the Apple Cider Donut recipe.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let's Spice Things Up!

I love spicy food. The spicier it is, the better I like it. I found this recipe on Cooking Light awhile back, but I tweaked it to make the shrimp and sauce the way I like it.  This dish, in my opinion, is a little too hot for the younger kids, so plan on making a separate dish for them. I use pre-cooked shrimp for the recipe and coat it with Italian bread crumbs. I think that gives the dish a little more flavor.  I toss the shrimp in a Ziploc filled with bread crumbs, then refrigerate the shrimp to help the bread crumbs stick better. I then brown the shrimp (around 3-4 minutes) and add the sauce, spices and add to pasta. A very savory and spicy dish indeed. Enjoy!

Shrimp Fra Diavolo
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil 

2 1/2 cups marinara sauce 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt 

1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1  pound  peeled and deveined medium shrimp(you can use pre-cooked shrimp)

1 /2 cup of Italian bread crumbs
Parsley sprigs (optional)


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm. Add bread crumbs to a Ziploc bag, then add cleaned, shrimp. Shake in bag to coat and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to brown, turning once.  Add Marinara sauce, red pepper, salt, and black pepper; bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Serve over pasta. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kid Happy Chicken Soup

Here is a recipe for a simple chicken soup that will satisfy your entire family's taste buds. I changed my traditional recipe simply because there was too much fat; I made this one with skinless, boneless chicken breast. Granted, there is still a bit of fat in the soup, but it is easy enough to skim off the top. The best way to make this is in a slow cooker, using kid friendly pasta, such as pastini, ancini de pepe, or orzo. You can make it with frozen chicken; just add your broth first and warm it up. Then slowly add your cutlets. Do not add all at once or to hot broth. Cook on low for 8 hours,adding the pasta at the end.

Kid Happy Chicken Soup
36-40 oz of chicken broth or stock
3 (6-8 oz) skinless, boneless chicken cutlets
Whole baby carrots (10-20, depending on how much you want; I cut them up as they get tender)
1/4 of a white onion, roughly chopped
Pinch of Thyme (optional)

Add broth and chicken to crock pot on low for 7-8 hours. Add chopped onion, carrots and thyme. Occasionally skim fat collection off the top of soup. In the last hour, boil the desired amount of pasta on stove. Drain, then add to crock pot. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thinking Ahead: Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

I am notorious for not wanting to wait for anything. As soon as September 1st hit, I broke out my pumpkin oil burner and fall decorations. The minute the Thanksgiving turkey is cleared from the table, I am dragging out my Christmas tree. Wrapped presents never stay that way for long. I wasn't sure whether I should wait or not on the almighty T-day sweet potato casserole smothered with mini marshmallows. Of course, I gave in and here it is, over a month early - sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. Now, I must start on my Christmas shopping....

Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows(meant to feed an army; you can cut the measurements to suit your needs) From

8 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. hot milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or nutmeg
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 lb. marshmallows

Cook sweet potatoes until tender. Remove skins and mash. When smooth, beat in butter, milk, salt, spices. Beat well. Fold in walnuts and turn into buttered baking dish. Top with marshmallows and bake at 350 degrees until marshmallows puff and become golden brown.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Garlic Chicken with Cannellini Beans Soup

Here's another one to add to your crock pot files. A tad bit more involved than the usual 'throw it in the pot and see what happens', but well worth it. The additional step includes browning the chicken prior to adding it to your slow cooker.  You also should de-bone the chicken and clean out the fat just prior to the end. This is a hearty soup and a great fall food - enjoy!

Garlic Chicken with Cannellini Beans Soup
4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks
2 TBSP olive oil (for browning)
1/2 TSP of salt
1/2 TSP of pepper
1 medium garlic clove, separated and peeled
1 can 32 oz. diced tomatoes
1 cup of chicken broth
2 cans of Cannellini beans(15 oz  each), drained and rinsed
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
Basil and grated Parmesan cheese for garnish 

Heat olive oil in a medium pan. Salt and pepper the chicken, then brown.Add all ingredients and browned chicken to crock pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Prior to completion, check chicken to endure the insides are fully cooked. Remove and skin; discard. Serve with crescent rolls or crusty Italian bread. Garnish with a pinch of basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Crispy Honey Chicken Cutlets

Boring chicken cutlets. What to do,what to do? I happened to come across this old recipe from that I had saved on my computer and decided to give it a try. The result was a delicious, sweet and savory chicken that was great, even as leftovers. Both the baby and my toddler son loved the taste!

2 1/2 to 3 lb. chicken
1 c. cracker and bread crumbs
2 beaten eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. honey


Skin the chicken and dip into eggs and crumbs; coat well and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. The last 15 minutes coat with butter and honey whisked until smooth. Instead of the egg, the chicken can be dipped into Italian dressing or brushed with Miracle Whip. Serves 4.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Love NY.....Cheesecake!

Let me start off by saying this: I am not a cheese person. I like pizza and Doritos, but that is usually as far as it goes.  So you can imaging my surprise when I craved cheesecake during my pregnancy, and that craving never went away. Aside from anything chocolate, it is my 'go to' dessert when out to dinner. I had never made a cheesecake before and I decided that the more simple the recipe, the better. So, I researched and found a grass-roots NY style cheesecake recipe that only has a few simple ingredients. The taste - pretty great for a first attempt. There were some little cracks in the sides, but I found out that if I grease the sides of the pan, that probably won't happen in the future. My tip? Make extra crushed graham crackers to sprinkle on the top - the graham crust is our favorite part of the cheesecake.
NY Style Cheesecake 
1/3 cup butter, melted (I ended up using a little more)
1 1/2 cup cinnamon graham cracker crumbs (I used original)
3 1/4 packages (8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
1 can 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter; press evenly on bottom of 9 inch pie pan. In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk, beating until smooth.Add vanilla and eggs, mix well. Pour into prepared pie pan.
4Bake for 1 hour, turn off oven but leave cheesecake in oven with door propped slightly open for an additional hour. Refrigerate at least 6 hours until firm.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Garlic Bread Steak Sandwich

Here's a quick bite for you on this happy Tuesday. When I buy London Broil, I usually buy it in bulk, cut it up and freeze it. I needed an idea on what to do with the steak, and since I made a fresh loaf of French bread today, I decided to go with sandwiches. To give it an extra bit of flavor, I turned the French bread into French garlic bread. I seasoned the steak with some McCormick Montreal seasoning and broiled it. Ding,ding,ding....dinner's done - come and get it!

Steak Recipe (serves 1)

London Broil, cut into 6-8 oz
1/4 cup of McCormick's Montreal Seasoning

Rub seasoning into steak. Place in broiler for 10 minutes. Remove and make thin sliced grooves and continue to watch meat for another 5-10 minutes, depending on the desired cooking temperature. Remove when complete and slice through. Make sure the slices are thin.

French Garlic Bread
2 slice of French bread(ends work best)
2 TBSP butter
2 TSP garlic powder 
Slice the ends of a loaf of crusty French bread. Spread with 2 TBSP of butter and top each piece with 1 TSP of garlic powder. Bake in toaster oven on toast mode at 350 for 10 minutes, being cautious not to burn on the edges. When done, top with sliced steak and enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Italian Three Cheese Chicken Cutlets Over Pasta

 Today was a lazy day that consisted of sitting home, drinking beer and watching football. Not the kids, mind you- just us drinking the beer. It turned into the type of day where I wanted to make something quick and easy, using what I already had in the house.  Chicken cutlets and bread crumbs - CHECK! Three different types of cheeses, homemade sauce and pasta - CHECK! It was quick, yummy, and easy - plus, I cleaned out some of the refrigerator. I served the dish over pasta, but if you have some Italian bread in the house - serve it up as sandwiches!

Italian Three Cheese Chicken Cutlets Over Pasta (Serves 2)

 2 5-6 oz chicken cutlets
1/2 cup of Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 box of Penne pasta (8 oz)
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup of shredded Romano cheese 
1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (season with 1 Tsp garlic & 1 Tsp oregano)
3 TBSP olive oil

Heat olive oil in pan on medium heat. Combine chicken cutlets and breading in a Ziploc baggy; shake to coat. You can refrigerate for 5 minutes to help the bread crumbs stick to the cutlet. Add breaded cutlets to heated pan, turning ever 4 minutes until cooked. Cook approximately 20  minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Heat and season sauce in separate pan. Boil pasta and drain when finished. When chicken is almost complete, spoon tomato sauce over cutlet to cover; then evenly distribute three cheeses to the cutlets. Serve when melted - approximately 7-8 minutes. You can add more cheese if necessary. Add remaining sauce to pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a pinch of oregano. Serve cutlets over pasta.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

BBQ Pork Chops in the Crock Pot with Baked Pumpkin Pie Spice Apples

In case you haven't noticed, I have busted out the crock pot and started cooking away. I started with the tacos and finished with tonight's meal, BBQ Pork Chops. I needed a yummy side to go with my lovely, spicy sauced babies, and what would be a better way to finish off my apple picking conquests? The whole dinner was simple really; the crock meal took about 5-6 hours on low. The baked apples took about 16 minutes.  This is a great side dish for babies, since it is soft and easy for them to chew. My daughter went to town on them! I rounded the meal off with some good old fashioned Fried Rice A Roni and a glass of Ten Lakes Chardonnay. For your eating pleasure, here is a recipe for a great fall dish.

Slow Cooked BBQ Pork Chops (From Betty Crocker's More Slow Cooked Meals)

4 Boneless loin chops, about 1 inch thick (3/4 pound)
4 Slices of onion
1 clove of garlic
3/4 cup of apple sauce
1 TBSP of water
2 TSP cornstarch

Place chops in 3 1/2 - 4 quart slow cooker. Top each with 1 slice of onion and a sprinkle of garlic. Pour BBQ sauce over chops.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  5 minutes prior to serving, remove the pork from cooker and place on serving platter, covered for warmth. Mix water and cornstarch  in a microwaveable bowl and add juices from cooker to mixture. Heat uncovered on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until mixtures boils and thickens slightly. Serve sauce over pork.

Baked Pumpkin Spice Apples
2 Macintosh apples, medium, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup of water
1/4 stick of unsalted butter(small sliced pats)

1 TBSP of pumpkin spice

Preheat oven to 350. Place sliced apples in baking dish. Add water. Sprinkle pumpkin spice evenly over apples, then add butter pats over apple slices. Cook for around 16-20 minutes, checking in between to make sure they are softening. Remove and cover until ready to serve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crock Pot Tacos

My husband can be a pickier pain in the neck than my son, especially when it comes to beef stew. He despises it, but does like the tender consistency of the slow cooked beef. I found a recipe in Betty Crocker's More Slow Cooker Recipes cookbook for Mexican Beef Stew and found a way to adapt it to my husband's tastes. Instead of serving it as a stew, I made it as a taco dish. I used a slotted spoon to remove the beef, tomatoes, corn and beans, draining most of the juice away. I served the beef, beans and veggies with crunchy and soft taco shells, taco sauce, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. The result? My husband said it was the best crock pot dish I have made.

Crock Pot Tacos

2 lb beef stew meat
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained (I used plum tomatoes)
1 cup frozen small whole onions (from 1-lb bag)(I omitted)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 can (15 oz) red or black beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (11 oz) whole kernel corn
6 crunchy taco shells
6 soft taco shells

To garnish: 1 package of taco sauce, shredded lettuce,sour cream and shredded cheddar

Mix beef, tomatoes, frozen onions and chili powder in 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. Stir in taco seasoning mix, using wire whisk. Stir in beans and corn. Cover and cook on high heat setting 15 to 30 minutes or until thickened.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dinner Disaster but a Dessert Thumbs Up!

I had a bad cooking day. Burned the roast beef, the mashed potatoes were dry and tasteless and the carrots, well, they're carrots. Boring and bland, not what you typically expect in this household. My family was actually pretty nice about it.  We played a few rounds of frisbee with the roast and made make shift vampire fangs with the steamed baby carrots. After playing with our food's novelty wore off, I decided to make a sweet treat I wanted to experiment with for the last few weeks. I made S'mores Candy Apples for a very happy and impressed crowd. I paired it with some iced hot cocoa, topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder. Once our bellies were full, we used out sugar high to continue our game of roast beef frisbee. That ended as soon as the dogs decided to play. Well, at least they enjoyed the roast.

S'Mores Candy Apples(makes 4 medium apples)

4 Red Delicious Apples (stems removed)
4 Candle Apple sticks 
1 sheet of wax paper
6.5 ounces of meltable chocolate (I used Wilton Candy Melts)
4 Graham Cracker sheets
40 mini marshmallows

Clean apples, cut off stems and insert sticks. Place apples on wax paper. Melt chocolate in microwave safe dish(make sure it is wide enough to dip the apples in one at a time) at 50% power for 45 second intervals, stirring in between.Place graham cracker sheets in a Ziploc bag and crush using a baking pin or meat tenderizer. Crush until fine. Sprinkle about 1/4 of the bag in a wide, shallow dish and set the rest aside. Remove melted chocolate from microwave. Dip apple in chocolate and twirl in microwave dish to cover apple fully. Remove and slowly roll apple in graham crumbs, coating the sides and finally bottom. Place back on wax paper. Attach mini marshmallows, one at a time, to chocolate apple. If you are having trouble getting the marshmallows to stick, dip one side of the marshmallow in the extra melted chocolate, then attach to apple. Repeat with the remaining apples and refrigerate immediately on wax paper. They will be ready to eat in 30 minutes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baby BLTs

I felt inventive today.  I decided to try a new spin on an old fave, BLTs. I wasn't sure the route I wanted to go, so I decided to try something simple - making them tiny and serving them up on baby sized biscuits.  I thought that these little gems might be a yummy and cute item for an appetizer or quick breakfast.  My savior, Bisquick, came to help.  Bisquick has a handy recipe cheat sheet on the back of the box, which includes, biscuits. I decided to use the drop biscuit method, but after the results, I probably should have kneaded the dough and cut out the biscuits.  They didn't turn out bad and were quite yummy; you just end up with a crumb farm on your plate,table in lap. This isn't a really big problem for us since we have a dog named Hoover(he works better than a vacuum ever could).  All in all, the biscuits kept falling apart and were hard to keep together.  I don't feel as though this was an epic failure and I am certain I can manipulate the biscuit recipe a little more to make it a little less messy. On a side note, my little ones ate the 'biscuit sandwiches' with scrambled eggs and bacon and loved them a lot, especially the extra crumbs they were able to feed to Hoover.

Baby BLTs(makes about 9)
2 1/4 cups of Bisquick mix
2/3 cup of milk
9 slices of bacon (turkey or regular)
2 small tomatoes, sliced thin
Torn lettuce leaves, small enough to garnish each sandwich
1/4 TSP (roughly) of mayonnaise for each BLT(optional)

Heat oven to 450. Prepare dough, mixing milk and Bisquick mix. When fully mix, drop biscuits on to ungreased cookie sheet using a tablespoon. Bake for around 10-12 minutes, until biscuits are turning gold. 
Remove and allow to cool.  When cool, carefully slice in half. Cook your turkey bacon until done, cutting slices in half. Add 2 bacon halves, a thin slice of tomato and lettuce garnish to biscuit bottom. Finish with mayonnaise, if desired. Top with biscuit top.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hey Kids! Cappuccino Brownies!

I was lucky enough to come across this great recipe provided by Tasty Table.  They looked so awesome in her blog and I am a BIG cappuccino fan, so I felt like I should give them a shot. I have never been great with baking brownies, but I was determined to try. The process did take a little while, with cooling each layer in between frosting and glazing, but it was worth it. I was trying very hard not to eat the cappuccino icing while I was waiting to frost the brownies. I did manage to take a tiny square off the corner of the brownies to test them out. YUM! My husband was the first to try the full production and he said it was amazing, which is a huge compliment coming from him. So thanks again to Tasty Table for sharing this yummy brownie recipe!

Cappuccino Brownies

Ingredients for the Brownies
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp instant espresso coffee powder
1 tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder
1 - 2 tbsp milk or cream
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup whipping cream

Directions for Brownies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of an 8 x 8 square baking pan (or line with parchment paper).In a medium bowl combine flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Put the chocolate chips and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and whisk in sugars and vanilla until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature. Add in the eggs one, one at a time, whisking lightly after each addition. Using a spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just combined. Do not over beat! Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 - 35 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack.

Frosting Instructions
In a bowl, combine espresso powder and 1 tbsp of milk or cream, stirring to dissolve. Add in butter and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed to blend then on medium speed until creamy, adding more milk, if necessary to make a smooth, spreadable consistency. Spread evenly over the brownie. Chill to harden, about 1 hour.

Glaze Instructions
Put the chocolate chips and whipping cream in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Let cool to lukewarm. Spread over frosting. Chill until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Cut into bars or squares.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Insalata Pisani

My husband and I are not big salad fans, but we do try to squeeze one in once a week. I threw this colorful creation together once again using what I had in the house.  It is a very simple recipe that you can adjust to your own tastes.  I marinated the chicken using a McCormick marinade pack and made a simple dressing of olive oil, vinegar, balsamic vinegar, with salt and pepper. You can use whatever cheese is your favorite to sprinkle on top. The result was a healthy, colorful meal with lots of flavor.

1 green bagged salad
4 sweet peppers - two yellow and two red
8-12 oz of grilled chicken boneless breasts, marinated for at least two hours (I used McCormick Peppercorn Marinade)
Olive oil - 2 TBSP for roasting  3 for dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup of shredded Romano cheese

Slice peppers lengthwise and mix with 2 TBSP of oil, freshly grated pepper and salt.  Roast in oven at 400 for around 20 minutes, checking to make sure there is no burning. Grill chicken at 350 for 25 minutes or until no pink in the center.  In a large bowl, toss salad greens with oil, vinegars and salt and pepper. Top salad with chicken, peppers and cheese. Enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Do you know how there is a famous recipe that travels through certain circles? This vodka recipe belongs to Amy K. in our NJ Nestie group and is the most requested recipe to be shared. This is by far and away the best vodka sauce I have ever had, beating out every Italian restaurant I have ever eaten in. In the past, I have made some substitutions to the recipe. For example, when I was too lazy to go out and pick up prosciutto, I have substituted turkey bacon or regular bacon.  I have to admit that even those it was fine to use the bacon, the prosciutto gives the sauce the best flavor. Today I mistakenly picked up shredded Romano cheese instead of the grated, but it worked out just fine. It look a little bit longer to get the consistency of the sauce to be perfect, but I managed. I also made this last year for our family on Christmas and it was huge hit.

Amy's Vodka Sauce
Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of penne.

1/2 c vodka
1 tbs red pepper flakes
2 tbs oilive oil
1 med onion, chopped
4 slices chopped prosciutto
1 lg can crushed tomatoes
1 c Romano cheese
2 c heavy cream
1/2 stick butter

Soak vodka and pepper flakes for 10 minutes - the longer the pepper flakes soak, the hotter the sauce will be. Remove flakes; vodka will turn red. Saute olive oil, onion, prosciutto in pot for 8 minutes. Add tomatoes. Add vodka, cook on low for 1/2 hour, then add Romano cheese, heavy cream, and butter.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sneaky Carrot Burgers

I have one picky kid, one teething baby. Trying to find something to suit both of their needs while being healthy can be quite the challenge. My son loved to gobble up veggies when he was an infant in the high chair. I guess it broke up the monotony of always having strong smelling, foul tasting formula.  Once he was old enough to realize that there were other foods out there more to his liking, it hasn't been so easy to get veggies in his little belly. At a year old, my daughter is still pretty veggie friendly, but her incoming molars don't allow her to chew much without being in pain.  Awhile back, I had purchased Jessica Seinfeld's recipe book,"Deceptively Delicious".  Through trial and error, I have found out what works and what doesn't work (noodles 'buttered' with zucchinni and brownies with spinach are big hits. One pancake recipe with beets, ended up looking like Pepto Bismol and didn't taste much better). The other night I decided to make my variation of Jessica's 'Burgers 1'.  I make mine with a little twist that makes the burgers a little sweet. The burgers are also really moist, so they were easy for my teething beauty to chew.  My son hadn't had them in awhile and was skeptical, but once he tried one and remembered he liked them, the goal of feeding him vegetables was accomplished. I paired the burgers with some crispy oven fries, mashing a few up for my little girl so she could enjoy them too.

Sneaky Carrot Burgers (based on JS' 'Burgers 1)
1 LB ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 TBSP ketchup
1/4 TSP Worcesteshire Sauce
1/2 TBSP Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 TBSP Soy Sauce
1/2 cup of steamed and pureed carrots
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
2 TBSP olive oil for cooking

Steam your carrots(I use a steaming bag in the microwave). When complete, use blender to puree. Mix all ingredients together, then add the pureed carrots. This will make you approximately 9-12 mini burger patties.I usually use the ground beef for this recipe because it comes out moister and tastier. Coat medium size pan with 2 TBSP of olive oil and add patties. Cook until done and serve on whole grain buns or alone.
These are great with some extra ketchup.

Crispy Oven Fries (Serves 4)
1 LARGE Russet potatoe, cleaned, peeled and cut into french fry strips
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP Kosher Salt
1 TSP pepper
1 TSP garlic powder
1 TSP Paprika
Cooking Spray, such as PAM

Preheat oven to 375. Toss all ingredients together until fully coated. Spray cookie sheet with PAM to help avoid sticking. Bake for 10 minutes and flip fries to the other side. Bake for 10 more minutes, then rotate cooking sheet. Cook for at least 5 more minutes, at most 10 minutes, to achieve the desired crispiness in the fries.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Candy Apples, Anyone?

Fall feels like it came early this year. Where there is Fall, there is always apple picking. Each year we come home with tons of apples, and try as I might, I never find a use for them all. This go around, I added a new treat to my apple repertoire -candy apples.  Traditional, yet yummy.  Since this was my first attempt at making them, the results were a bit skewed.  I had to thin out the caramel using a 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Prior to doing that, the caramel was getting pretty thick and gob-like, not adhering to the apples the way I would like. I also used melted chocolate, which was a bit easier to maneuver. The best advice I could give is to make sure you have all your materials set and ready to go before starting to melt the caramel and/or chocolate.  Put your sprinkles and caramel in small, wide bowls. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Prep your apples with sticks. I actually bought a candy apple kit from King Arthur Flour, which supplied me with the sticks. From what I have read, you can get the sticks from any craft store. I also purchased the Wilton Candy Melts for the chocolate.  I had very little success rolling the apples in hard coated chocolate candies. They didn't seem to want to stick. For the next time, I may try crushing them up before rolling the apple.  This is a great project because you can get creative with the type of dips - caramel, white chocolate, or dark chocolate for example.  You have a wide range of sweet items you can use to coat the outside, including crushed candies, colored sprinkles, or coconut. I thought I pulled one over on my son, who hates apple skins. I figured he would eat the skin, being that it was covered in chocolate and sprinkles. I came back to find apple skins spit on my table, with all the chocolate and sprinkles licked off.

Candy Apples
9-12 small to medium apples ( I used Macintosh)
1 bag (14oz) meltable chocolate
1 LB  Caramel ( I used a kit from King Arthur Flour)
9-12 sticks
Colored Sprinkles, Crushed Candy or Coconut, set up in wide round bowls
1 cookie sheet, covered in parchment or wax paper

Heat the chocolates in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, big enough to dip an apple in.  Heat in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between until chocolate is melted.  At the same time, start melting the caramel in a pot on low heat, stirring every couple of minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream if you feel that the caramel is too thick once melted. Make sure sticks are securely in the apples. Dip the apple in to melted chocolate or caramel, coating the bottom fully, then slowly remove it. Twirl the apple over the bowl to finish coating the apple and drip off the excess. Slowly roll the apple in your candy, using the same motion, but rolling more on the side. Set on parchment to dry. When all apples are complete, cool them in the refrigerator until completely set.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MS's Chocolate 'n' Creme Sandwiches

Mostly ever one I know loves sandwich cookies, which is why I decided the treat of the week would be these beauties. The came out a little differently than I pictured, but all in all, tasty. My son loved them, licking the creme out of the center first and washing it all down with a glass of milk. The batter was easy to make, as was the creme. These are fun cookie to make, especially if you have a cute little helper. But, they are even more fun to eat! Enjoy!
Martha Stewart's Chocolate 'n' Creme Sandwiches
Ingredients Makes 15
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In another bowl, stir together butter, sugar, and egg. Add flour mixture, and stir until a dough forms. Divide dough in half; roll out between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4-inch thickness. Stack on a baking sheet, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut dough into rounds. Place on sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake until cookies are firm and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool. Spread half the cookies with 1 tablespoon Cream Filling; top with remaining cookies. (To store, refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 5 days.

Creme Filling

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners' sugar and granulated sugar, beating until combined. Beat in vanilla extract.

Lime and Cilantro Steak Marinade

I needed to liven up the steak situation in my house. Granted, grilled steak is usually pretty good, but once in awhile, it could use a swift kick in the pants.  This is what this recipe did for it. I marinated it for around two hours, but the longer you marinate, the more intense the flavor will be. I paired the steak with a baked potato and steamed vegetables.
Cilantro Lime Marinated Steaks
This is from the Aug/Sept. 2005 Cooking Pleasures magazine via Pimp My Dinner Blog
1/2 C. chopped cilantro
1/2 C. lime juice
1/4 C. olive oil
1 Tbs. grated lime peel
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 tsp. kosher (coarse) salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
 Place all marinade ingredients in blender; blend until smooth. Place steaks in 1-gallon resealable plastic bag; pour in marinade. Seal bag; turn to coat steaks. Refrigerate at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.When ready to grill, place all cilantro spread ingredients in food processor or blender; pulse until paste forms. Place in small bowl.Heat grill. Remove steaks from marinade; discare marinade. Pat steaks dry. Place on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals; cover grill. Grill 10 to 14 minutes for medium rare, turning once. Place on platter, cover loosely with foil. Let stand 5 minutes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lemon & Garlic Roast Chicken with Rice Pilaf and Roasted Veggies

Nothing says Sunday to me more than a hearty, gut busting family dinner.  If you ask my husband the same question, he'd most like answer watching football while grading papers. In any case, we got the best of both worlds by enjoying this roasted chicken (I used Ina Garten's recipe), along with some yummy roasted vegetables and Rice Pilaf (my mother in law's recipe). It was over two hours of cooking and ten minutes of eating. I have never seen food fly so fast off the table. I highly recommend this recipe for any gathering. It's sure to please even the finickiest of eaters.
Ina Garten's Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

1 (5 to 6-pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
4 lemons
3 heads garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 pound sliced bacon
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the thyme, reserving enough thyme to garnish the chicken dish, 1 lemon, halved, and 2 halves of the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Cut 2 of the lemons in quarters and scatter the quarters and remaining garlic around the chicken. Lay the bacon slices over the chicken to cover. Roast the chicken for 1 hour. Remove the bacon slices from the top of the chicken and set aside. Continue roasting the chicken for an additional 1/2 hour, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.
Slice the chicken on a platter. Garnish the chicken platter with the bacon slices, roasted garlic, reserved thyme and 1 lemon, sliced. Serve with the gravy.

Mimi's Rice Pilaf
1 cup rice,uncooked
1/2 cup butter
2 TBSP onion powder
1 can (10 3/4 oz) beef broth(I used chicken)
1 can water
1/4 TSP Majoram
1/4 TSP ground Sage
1/4 TSP Rosemary

Melt butter and add to casserole dish.Mix herbs and ice with butter and add to dish. Add broth and water and bake at 350 for 1 hour, uncovered. Cover with foil to keep warm until served.

You can use my recipe for  Roasted Veggies  here.I used about 15 baby carrots, cut and 1/4 butternut squash, 2 garlic cloves and 1/4 of white onion, roughly cut.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lazy Mama Baked Penne

Today's craptastic weather did nothing to spur my motivation to go grocery shopping. I still had to figure out what to make and pasta is always on the list of my 'go to' meals. I had a whole box of unopened Penne Pasta. Great! One can of Tuttorosso Tomato Sauce. A small container of ricotta cheese I mistakenly through in my shopping cart last weekend. What better thing to make with these ingredients than baked pasta? Well, lo and behold, the cheese situation was a bit sketchy. I only had about 1/4 bag of shredded Mozzarella, so I needed to improvise. I did have some shredded Parmesan, as well as greated. I figured I would just throw it together and hope for the best. The outcome? A big thumbs up from the family!  This can feed about 4 or 5 people and it took about half the time since it wasn't a big batch.

Lazy Mama Baked Penne
1 can (29 oz) of Tuttorosso or any canned tomato sauce (I used about 3/4 of this can)
1/4 bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese(part skim,low moisture)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 TBSP garlic or 1 diced garlic clove
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TSP basil
Salt & pepper to taste (start with 1/4 tsp and add as you cook sauce)
1 Box (16oz) of Penne Pasta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450.
Boil  water for pasta. In a separate sauce pan, add tomato sauce and all spices. Stir intermittently.
When pasta is done, drain and hose off with cool water. Remove sauce from heat.  In a bowl, mix Ricotta, 1/2 the Mozzarella, shredded and grated Parmesan. Once pasta is cool, add to bowl with cheese. Once sauce has cooled, as to pasta and cheese. You can use you hands thourough mix sauce, pasta and cheese. Add a small layer of sauce to coat bottom of lasagna pan. Add pasta mixture to lasagna pan, topping off with the remainder of Mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with garlic bread.