Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mac and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

Mac and cheese makes a great comfort food for a cold winters night, but it's also great to eat any time of year. I'm not talking about the boxed pasta with that powdery cheese, or even the deluxe version with over powering fake cheese sauce. I'm talking about the creamy, luscious, real cheese sauce that coats every inch of the pasta you're using. The traditional pasta, of course, is macaroni, but I like to use a corkscrew pasta or even a medium shell pasta. When using shells, they fill up with cheese and it's just so ooey gooey and yummy. Plus, because this is mac and cheese, your kids are sure to eat it up! I make it a complete meal by throwing in some chicken breast and broccoli too. I also use a blend of three cheeses. The Gruyère and Cheddar provide the flavor, while the fontina adds creaminess.

What You Need:

1lb pound of pasta (macaroni, shell, etc)
1/2 lb (8oz) Gruyère cheese (shredded)
1/2 lb (8oz)  extra-sharp cheddar  (shredded)
1/4 lb (4oz) fontina cheese  (shredded)
4 tbs butter
4 tbs flour
4 cups milk
1 lb chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1 lb broccoli, fresh or frozen cut into bite size pieces
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it boils, salt it heavily and cook your pasta a minute or two shy of doneness because it will continue to cook in the cheese sauce. During the last few minutes, add in your broccoli, obviously if you're using fresh, it will take a bit longer to cook then frozen which really just needs to be heated through.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and let cook for a minute or two to remove the flour taste. Very slowly, whisk in the milk to prevent lumps. Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a bubble so that it thickens about 10 minutes. Once the milk has thickened a bit, slowly stir in the cheeses, little by little, waiting until the additional has melted before adding in more. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Add in the bite sized chicken and let cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. This will start the chicken cooking.
Once the pasta is cooked, stir it and the broccoli into the cheese sauce. Place into a large casserole dish that has been lightly sprayed with oil or cooking spray and bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 30 minutes or until it's bubble and a bit browned on top. You can always give it a sprinkle with bread crumbs before baking too which would give it a bit of crunch on top, or even some crushed up cheese doodles.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mexican Fiesta Rice

I am always looking for great side dish recipes. Latin inspired foods are some of my favorites but I am always looking for a dish that isn't plain Spanish rice or black beans. I decided one night while making enchilada's that I was going to come up with something different. I raided my pantry and freezer and found all sort of great thing and the idea just came to me. The basis is still rice, but the side dish really could be a meal in itself. It has great protein from the beans, starch from your rice and veggies in the form of corn. Very tasty and flavorful and great along with just about anything.

What You Need:

1/2 c rice (not minute rice)
1 cup water
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can chick peas (drained and rinsed)
1 c frozen corn
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs ground cumin
a handful of cilantro, chopped

What To Do:

In a pot, bring the rice, water and can of diced tomatoes to a boil over high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for about 15 minutes without removing the lid. Once the 15 minutes is up, add in the rest of the ingredients, except for the cilantro, and give it a stir. Put the lid back on and let sit for 15 minutes so that the rice becomes fully cooked and everything else is heated through. Stir the cilantro in before serving.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Peas and Pasta

I am sitting here, watching the newest episode of Grey's Anatomy while I type up this recipe. It will probably take me the full hour to type this quick and easy pasta dish but that is only because I am obsessed with Grey's.It is my favorite show. So onto the recipe. Creamy ricotta cheese is mixed with smushed up peas and then thinned out with some pasta cooking water to make a delicious sauce for penne pasta. There isn't much in the way of flavor to this dish so seasoning it well will go along away. The basic recipe was something that Rachel Ray did not that long ago. I added some garlic and red pepper flakes to boost up the flavor a bit. If you want your kids to scarf this down, (which it's really kid friendly, I mean green pasta? What's for kids not to like!) just omit the red pepper, unless your kids are like mine and enjoy spicy things.

What You Need:

2 cups frozen peas
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 c chicken stock
2 clove garlic, minced finely
dash red pepper flakes
1/2 c parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 lb penne pasta with the ridges

What To Do:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt heavily. Cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure to save about a cup of pasta water to help thin out the sauce.
In a small sauce pan over medium low heat, cook the peas until hot, about 5 minutes or so. Remove 1/2 c of the peas and set aside. Mash the rest of the peas and stock with the garlic and red pepper or place in a food processor and puree, then stir it together with the ricotta, parmesan, salt and lots of pepper. If the sauce is a little thick, use some of the pasta water to thin it out. Combine the pea and ricotta mixture with the pasta and whole peas that you set aside. Serve.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Apple Cider Cake

I got this idea from a friend of mine. She was trying to figure out what kind of cake to bake for a friends birthday. She showed me a couple options and one of them was an apple cider cake. I thought it sounded good but was more for the fall, thinking I wouldn't be able to find apple cider in the dead of winter. While grocery shopping two weeks ago, I decided to check out the case that my grocery store keeps their cider in, surprised to actually see they still had it! So I picked up a bottle, returned home and made this moist cake using a bunt pan, apple cider and apple sauce. This cake has very little fat in it and doesn't raise very much at all.

What You Need:

1 box yellow cake mix (not a pudding one or a butter recipe)
1 c apple cider
3 eggs
1/3 c apple sauce
2 tbs veg oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs apple cider

What To Do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degree and grease a bunt pan well.
In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix with the apple cider, eggs, applesauce, oil and cinnamon until moist and well combined. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack to finish cooling. Once the cake is cooled, mix together the cider, powdered sugar and cinnamon. It will take a minute to get all the powdered sugar combined but don't add anymore liquid, just keep stirring. It will look brown because of the cinnamon but it gives the cake a shinny appearance. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and it's ready to go.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Sliders have become a craze in american food. These mini sammies are made much in the way their larger counter parts are. They can be made from ground beef, ground chicken, thinly sliced meats or mini chicken patties. You can top them with whatever you'd like as well. I kept things very simple. Just a yummy cheese burger sliders with a spicy mayo to give it a little kick.

What You Need:

1lb of ground beef
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

lettuce leaves
tomato, sliced
1/2 c mayo
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
6-8 slices of cheddar cheese ( I like to use the "cracker cuts" because they're the perfect size)
Slider buns

What To Do:

Combine the ground beef with the onion and garlic, along with some salt and pepper. Form into 6-8 small patties. To make this easy, and to insure that they are close to the same size, I use a monster cookie scoop. Either grill the sliders over high heat, only flipping once so that they don't fall apart, or cook them on the stove top over medium high heat, again only flipping once. While the sliders are cooking, mix together the mayo with  cayenne and cumin and place a dollop on the top of each of your slider buns. On the bottom of each bun, place some lettuce and a slice of tomato. Once the burgers are just about done, turn the heat off and place a slice of cheese of the top of each. Close the lid to the grill or place a lid on top of your skillet and let them finish for a minute or two or until the cheese has melted. Place on top of your bun and cover with the top bun.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Alfredo sauce is dubbed a "heart attack on a plate" and that is because it is normally made with tons of heavy cream and butter. While my version still has some calories, it's reduced quite a bit by using 2% milk instead of the heavy cream. It doesn't lack in flavor with lots of garlic and Parmesan cheese too. To make this dish a complete meal, I added in some broccoli and sauteed chicken breast. Toss everything together with pasta and you have a big plate of yummy!

What You Need:

4 tbs butter
2 cups milk
2 tbs flour
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c Parmesan cheese
2 chicken breast
1lb fresh broccoli crowns, cut up
1lb pasta such as fettuccine, or spaghetti
salt and pepper
1 tbs oil

What To Do:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once it boils, salt it heavily and cook your pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a sautee pan, heat the 1 tbs of oil over medium high heat. Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper. Once the pan is nice and hot, add your chicken, cooking a few minutes per side, or until cooked all the way through. Once cooked set a side to rest. 

To make the sauce, in a pot or large skillet, sautee the minced garlic in the 4 tbs of butter over medium heat. Once the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, whisk in the flour and let cook for another minute or two to remove the "flour" taste. Slowly whisk in the 2 cups of milk to prevent lumps, bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often until it has thickened a bit. Reduce the heat to medium/low and slowly stir int he parmesan cheese until melted.
During the last few minutes of the pasta cooking, add in the broccoli. Once both are cooked, drained and toss in the pot with the sauce.
Slice your chicken breast and either serve on top or toss together with the pasta.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How To Make: Homemade Ricotta Cheese

This is so simple, you'll wonder why you ever bought it at the store. Not only that, but I'll never need to run to the store to pick up a container when I want to make lasagna! Three ingredients plus a little cooking time is all you need!

What You Need:

6 c milk
1 tsp salt
3 tbs distilled white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

What To Do:

Line a large sieve with two layers of dampened cheese cloth or food safe paper towels and place over a large bowl.
In a large stainless steel or enameled pot, bring the milk and salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Once it boils, turn the heat off, add in the vinegar and give it 1 stir. Let it sit for one full minute then strain through the cheese cloth. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, draining the water or whey that is left behind. The long you let it drain the thicker it will become.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pot Stickers

About two weeks ago I was trying out some new Asian inspired recipes. I love the combination of flavors within this type of cuisine. Garlic, ginger, soy and some heat from chili's pair together so nicely in my mouth! When we order out from a local Chinese place, my husband gets these steamed dumplings. I'm not sure what's in them to be honest, but I wanted to try and recreate them. According to hubby, I did a darn fine job of doing so. I mixed together some ground pork with garlic, ginger along with some shredded carrots and peas to get some veggies in the mix. The dumplings that my hubby gets are just steamed, which you can do, but I turned them into pot stickers because I love a little bit of crunch!

What You Need:

1 lb ground pork
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs soy
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs sherry wine or vinegar
1 tbs minced ginger
2 cloves garlic minced
1 carrot, finely shredded
1/2 c frozen peas
2 scallions, minced using both the white part and most of the green parts
1 pkg of wonton wrappers (square) or pot sticker wrappers (round)
Salt and Pepper

What To Do:

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients together, minus the wrappers. Use your hands to throughly mix everything together. Place about 1 tsp or so into the middle of the wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a bit of water and fold to close up. If using pot sticker wrappers, just fold one side over the filling, making a half moon shape. You can then pinch the edges together to form a ribbon looking design which is was traditional pot stickers look like. If you can't find the round ones, and are using the square wonton wrappers, moisten the sides and bring the opposite corners together to make an almost pyramid looking shape. Continue until all the filling is gone.

Bring a steamer up to a full boil. Line the steamer with a piece or parchment with holes, or lightly grease the steamer so that the stickers don't stick. Steam the pot stickers in a single layer for 10 minutes. Once steamed sautee them in a skillet with just the tiniest amount of oil until they are golden just on one side. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or make your own by combining some soy sauce, along with ginger, rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Skillet Potatoes

Potatoes are a classic all american staple in houses all across the country. They're inexpensive and you can make so many things with them. From tater tots, to oven french fries, salad and of course mashed, potatoes are one of the easiest things to work with. Lately my husband has been wanting skillet potatoes. They are nice and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. It makes a great side dish for all sorts of things. I love it along side meat loaf or grilled chicken, or even in the morning with some eggs. It's a low maintenance  dish too, all it needs is some stirring every once in a while, so your focus can be on another part of the meal that might need more attention.

What You Need:

3 large russet potatoes
3 cloves of garlic

What To Do:

In a cast iron skillet, heat enough oil to just cover the bottom over high heat. Peel the potatoes and cut into small bite sized pieces, Once the oil is hot, carefully add the potatoes and try to get them in a single layer, but don't worry if you can't. Let them sit for a few minutes so they get golden brown before giving them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook them, stirring occasionally so that they get golden on each side. It will take any where from 20 to 30 minutes to cook the potatoes through depending on the size you've cut them. During the last minute of cooking, season with salt and pepper and stir in the garlic.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ina's Coconut Cake

I love coconut. It's so yummy!! I was watching Barefoot Contessa, it's one of my fav's, and she made this incredible coconut cake! I'm going to let the picture speak for it self in this one and just copy and paste her recipe. I did make a few changes that I will note: I used 6 large eggs instead of extra large eggs for the cake and in the frosting. I omitted the almond extract from both the cake and the frosting and I added a vanilla bean so it had all those little dark specks in the frosting. Super yummy!!

Ina Garten's Coconut Cake:

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dustlightly with flour.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.
For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).
To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pork Chops

My husband friend raises pigs, among other things, and for the past couple of years when it comes time for slaughter, we've been buying half a pig from them. We get all sorts of cuts, hams, pork roasts, bacon and of course these huge beautiful pork chops. When I get meat like this, I normally don't want to do much to them. A little salt, some pepper and a good seasoned cast iron skillet is all you need to make some incredible pork chops.

What You Need:
1 pork chop per person
veg or canola oil

What To Do:

If you have a gas oven with different BTU burners, put a large cast iron skillet over the highest one and turn on to high. Meanwhile, take the pork chops out to take the chill off of them. Season both sides of the chops well with salt and pepper and a light drizzle of oil. Once the skillet is screaming hot, place the pork chops in the pan very carefully. Only do 1 or 2 chops at a time, you don't want to over crowed the pan because then the chops won't sear, they'll steam. Depending on the thickness of the chop, they'll need to cook for anywhere between 1 minute to 5 minutes per side. If you have very thick cut chops, sear them in the pan until golden on each side and finish in a 350 degree oven until their cooked through. If you're making more pork chops then can fit in your pan, keep the ones that you've cooked already warm in the oven until ready to serve them. I love these pork chops with my Maple Roasted Veggies.
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