Sunday, May 31, 2009

Antipasto Pasta Salad

I made this pasta salad for a cookout we had planned with some very good friends that we have not seen in WAY too long! No sooner did we sit down to eat than my two year old managed to fall head-first out of his chair, landing on their brick deck. Long story short, we had to leave dinner early and I am now sitting at home on 'concussion watch '09'. My poor kid inherited my klutziness! I didn't get the opportunity to eat much of my dinner-- but I did enjoy the few bites I got in before disaster struck! (Sorry again, Becca!) Becca is an awesome cook and I've been trying to convince her to start her own blog to share her recipes-- watch for that to be coming soon, hopefully!

I started with a recipe I found on, but ended up with a very different pasta salad. There were several ingredients that I felt were missing from the dish, and some of the technique was very different from what I traditionally would do with a pasta salad. All in all, my final recipe ended up quite different from what I started with-- though I do want to give credit where credit is due! I liked the idea of the antipasto salad and that, along with the core ingredients came from the site.

Antipasto Pasta Salad
1 pound tri-color pasta
1/4 pound Genoa salami, chopped
1/4 pound pepperoni sausage, chopped
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1 small or 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1 small or 1/2 large green bell pepper, diced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, and cool under cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, salami, pepperoni, cheddar cheese, black olives, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, green onions and tomatoes. To prepare the dressing, whisk together the envelope of dressing mix, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Strawberry Muffins

I knew I'd be making these the moment I saw them on Donna's blog. My little boy loves strawberries and will eat them by the handful. I'm always looking for healthy breakfast options for him-- and these certainly fit the bill. With strawberries on sale everywhere at the moment, they were really inexpensive to make and they seriously came together within 15 minutes. They were incredibly moist and he (as well as the rest of us) loved them. These will certainly be made often through the coming months!

Strawberry Muffins
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
6 teaspoons sugar
2 cups chopped strawberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and one cup of sugar in a medium bowl. Toss the strawberries into the dry ingredients, set aside. Beat together eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Spoon batter into muffin tins lined with paper liners. (Fill 2/3 of the way.) Sprinkle a small amount of sugar on the top of each muffin. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Source: My Tasty Treasures

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chicken with Lemon Sauce

My sister was kind enough to prepare this meal for us right after my little girl was born. . . and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since! I had so much fun making it the other night. I love that the chicken is breaded with a combination of flour and parmesan cheese-- it had such a delicate flavor, not at all too heavy. When I was at the grocery store, they had chicken breasts on sale, and one type of package had the chicken 'thin sliced'. It was a little bit more expensive, but was already perfectly prepared and cut my prep time drastically. (It wasn't so expensive that it wasn't worth the time saver!) If you can find your poultry this way, I'd highly recommend it with this dish. You want your chicken pieces to be very thin and this is a nice way to ensure that it is. (I went ahead and included Rachel's original directions in case you are using regular chicken breasts.) This is a nice meal for company also, as it really does present well.
Chicken with Lemon Sauce
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, divided
2 eggs
5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups apple juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Flatten chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. In a shallow bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour, Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Dip chicken into eggs and coat with flour mixture. In a large skillet, cook chicken in 2 tablespoons butter and oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm. In a small bowl, combine the remaining flour, salt and pepper; stir in broth until smooth. Add apple juice to the skillet, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Stir broth mixture and add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in lemon juice; cook for 1 minute. Add parsley and remaining butter; cook and stir until butter is melted. Serve over chicken. (I serve next to linguine and poured extra sauce over the pasta.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taco Puffs

I had these taco puffs on my weekly menu for next weekend, but when my husband saw them on the list, he requested that they be 'bumped up'. If he had his choice, he'd have tacos every night! Needless to say, he's been a big fan of Heidi's blog lately! When I first started making these, I thought they were going to end up in disaster! I had a really hard time getting my crescent pieces to stick together to create the pockets. Heidi does recommend letting the meat mixture cool a bit before filling the shells, and maybe I didn't quite let them cool enough. While I was a bit afraid putting these in the oven, they really baked together well and stayed exactly in form. They were so cute! My whole family really enjoyed them and my husband already asked when I will be making them again!

Taco Puffs
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 envelope taco seasoning
2 tubes refrigerated crescent
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
Garnish (I used sour cream, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, diced onion, and additional cheese)

In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Cool slightly. Unroll crescents leaving 2 crescents together to form a square. Press seems together and place in a greased cookie sheet. Spoon 1/4 cup meat mixture onto each; sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Pull crescent dough around the filling and pinch edges to seal tightly. Bake at 400 degrees for 13 minutes or until golden brown.

Source: Tried and True Cooking with Heidi

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Onion Rings

This is a recipe that got thrown together due to a great deal on a large bag of Vidalia Onions that I found on sale. I've always loved onion rings, but have never before attempted to make my own. They were surprisingly easy to put together. I'm not promising that this is the best way to make them, but my entire family thoroughly enjoyed them. They had just a nice bit of kick to them without being too overwhelmingly heavy. The breading was nice and light and they perfectly complemented our grilling. The only negative was that my house smelled like a carnival for the rest of the night!

Onion Rings
1 large Vidalia Onion, cut into rings
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (or less depending on preference for heat)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
canola oil

Fill a large skillet with canola oil (enough to completely cover your onion slices) and place over medium-high heat. In a wide bowl, mix the milk and eggs until well beaten. In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Place onion slices into the milk mixture, then place in the flour-- coating well on all sides. Shake off any excess flour. Place coated rings in the oil and fry until golden brown. Once at desired color, place on paper towel to drain off extra oil. Serve hot.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Salsa and Guacamole

A short while ago, I had some co-workers over to our house for dinner. A member of our first grade team is retiring at the end of this school year and we wanted to honor her before her last day. Her request was for a Mexican themed dinner-- which is certainly not my specialty! I needed to make something that didn't need a ton of last minute work as my husband was out of town and I was on my own with both kids. I decided to do a 'taco bar' with all of the fixings and also made chicken fajitas. I need to give special thanks to my other team members who brought some sides, dessert, and drinks. It was a really nice opportunity to catch up and relax a little in the middle of what is typically a hectic time of year!

I wanted to have some appetizers ready that my guests could work on while waiting for dinner-- and figured that I couldn't go wrong with some homemade salsa and guacamole. I wish I had more time to play with homemade tortilla chips, too! That will be my next project! I knew I had to make Pam's salsa once I saw it. It looked and sounded just like our favorite restaurant salsa and I was not at all disappointed. I tend to be a little weak when it comes to spice, so I did not make mine too 'hot'. This would certainly be an easy thing to adjust when making yours. For my guacamole, I had to go with my mom's old standby. It's a classic and still my favorite. Both dips come together very quickly and go far-- they'd be great outdoor appetizers with a great big margarita!

10 tomatoes (I used vine ripened)
2-3 green onions
2-3 cloves of garlic
Handful of cilantro
2 jalapenos, seeded and deveined
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Clean tomatoes, remove stem, then gently cut an X on the bottom of the tomatoes. Heat a large pot of water until boiling. Add the tomatoes and boil for 10-15 seconds. Remove from water and put into an ice bath. Once the tomatoes have cooled, gently peel off the skin. Place tomatoes, garlic, green onions, cilantro, jalapenos, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper in a food processor or blender. Puree until thoroughly mixed. Taste and re-season if necessary. (Pam recommends letting the salsa sit in the fridge for a bit for the flavors to combine. I highly recommend this as well. My salsa tasted even better the next day.)

Source: For the Love of Cooking

4 ripe avacado
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
White pepper and garlic salt to taste
Handful of fresh cilantro (leaves only)
1 Lime

Mash the avacado in a medium sized bowl. Add the chopped onion and tomatoes. Finely chop the cilantro and add to mixed guacamole. Season to taste. Sprinkle with juice from one lime.

(No matter what you do, your guacamole is going to turn brown after sitting for a while. If you stir it up, it will return to it's green color. To try to prevent this from happening, you can store the guacamole with one or two of the avacado pits placed in the center of the bowl-- be sure to remove them before serving. The lime juice will also help with some of the color change.)

Source: Adele Fine

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pesto Barbeque Pork Medallions

This is a nice simple meal that is perfect for summer grilling. A friend of mine from school used to make a version of this and it quickly became a favorite. It's a recipe that comes together very quickly and has a very unique flavor. I'm almost embarrased to post this as a recipe, as it is so incredibly simple-- but the flavors cannot be beat. You can use any pork chop to make these-- I have used a thin cut, thick cut, bone-in, boneless, and now these medallions. All work well and it's nice to know you can use whatever is on sale! I haven't tried it on a tenderloin yet. . . that might have to be next! My outdoor grill is still broken, so I used a grill pan to make mine. I do think I prefer the outdoor grill for these, but they certainly work inside if you options are limited.

Pesto Barbeque Pork Medallions
Pork medallions
Pesto sauce (either homemade or jarred)
Barbeque sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays)
Garlic salt

Rinse pork medallions and dry well. Season to taste with garlic salt and pepper. Use a pastry brush to coat both sides of the pork with pesto sauce. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Place on a hot grill and cook through. For the last few minutes, brush with barbeque sauce on both sides.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Easy Cheezy Pasta Bake

I've yet to find a pasta that I don't love. The South Beach Diet and I do not get along well as I am pretty sure that I cannot survive without carbs. Sad, I know. There is very little willpower! This dish made me feel like I was back in school. My dorm had a food court style cafeteria and included a Sbarros restaurant (think food court pizzaria in just about any mall). I think I lived on their baked ziti for a majority of the year. Ah, comfort food!

I've made many different varieties of baked ziti over the years, but this is the first one that included ricotta cheese. It really had more of a disassembled lasagna feel to it, which I really did enjoy. My husband even declared this one as his new favorite pasta dish. It came together really quickly and would be a great weeknight meal.

Easy Cheezy Pasta Bake
1 lb dried ziti
16 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
26 ounces spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 pound italian sausage, browned

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" dish. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain thoroughly. In a large bowl, stir together cooked pasta, ricotta, italian sausage, and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese until well-blended. Pour 1/2 of the spaghetti sauce, covering the bottom of the greased 9x13" pan. Spread pasta/cheese mixture over spaghetti sauce. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & remaining mozzarella. Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until the casserole bubbles on the edges.

(The blog I found this on states that you can prep this in advance and can refrigerate it until you are ready to bake it. If you do this, they recommend baking for the full 30 minutes.)

Source: Dinner Time Ideas

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cookbook Review - Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I'll admit it now-- I am a cookbook junkie! I love browsing through new cookbooks and refreshing myself on old 'tried and true' recipes as well. My standard rule before buying a cookbook is that if I randomly do a quick flip through the pages, I have to find at least a five dishes that I can see myself preparing for my family. While this does typically give me a good indication of how much a book will be used, I sometimes wish that I could find real people using a book to determine its worth. With this in mind, I have decided to start a regular cookbook review section to at least share my experiences with different books. I'd love it if people would share some of their favorite cookbooks as well! Please feel free to leave comments on which books you find yourself going back to again and again.
For the first cookbook review, I decided to look at the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Dr. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. In my opinion, there are few smells better than that of a freshly baked bread. If I were able to, I would be baking bread on a daily basis (though my figure would surely be hurting!). My main reason for not baking bread more often is that it is hard to find the time to do so. Most recipes involve a series of kneading, rising, waiting, etc. My friend, Christy, bought this book and when she told me about it-- I was so excited to start playing! The concept of the book is that you create different starters which can be stored in your fridge for a period of time. Each day, when you want to bake bread, you break off a chunk of the starter and are able to quickly prepare fresh baked breads in a matter of minutes (depending on the recipe you choose to make).
Christy and I decided that since we were just starting out, we would split one of the starters and would each make a few different recipes using it. We chose to start with the brioche starter. I can't begin to explain how much fun, and how easy, this was to use! For my recipes, I chose to make a brioche filled with chocolate ganache, French beignets (donuts), and jam filled beignets. Even with the same starter, they all had such unique flavors. I can't wait to start playing with some of the other starters-- I think I might be making the traditional sandwich bread next! I'll be sure to post results!

Be sure to check out Christy's blog, Christy's Kitchen Creations, to find what she made with her brioche starter as well! I'd highly recommend this cookbook and think that it will be one incorporated into our regular routine.

(Please remember to let me know what cookbooks you've used time and time again! I'd love to hear any recommendations!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I've joked before that we either cannot keep enough bananas in the house or we have a pile of black ones waiting to be baked! There's no middle ground with my son-- either all or none! I've been playing with different types of banana bread and muffins, but was looking for something new for a change. I've added chocolate chips to my banana bread before, but never thought to do a chocolate base bread, much less a double chocolate bread! I wasn't sure how much of the banana flavor would actually come through with the amount of chocolate in the recipe, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it really held its own. There is a definite banana flavor to the bread and it goes so well with the chocolate foundation. This might be my new 'go to' recipe for ripe bananas.

**Melanie, at Sister's Cafe, stated that she preferred to use a Dutch Process cocoa when making her bread. I followed her advice and it really did make a big difference. You can use either, but if you have the Dutch Process available, I'd second her recommendation.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 3)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. Spray bottom of 8x4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Beat sugar, eggs, and oil in large bowl at medium speed until combined. Beat in banana and vanilla at low speed. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; beat into banana mixture at low speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into pan. Bake 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

Source: The Sister's Cafe

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sausage Skillet Supper

This is a great recipe for those days when you have to throw together a quick meal. The cookbook I found it in says to allow 5 minutes for prep and 15 minutes total cooking time. A lot of times when a recipe says that, it isn't necessarily an accurate estimate. I was thrilled to find that this one truly was! It had a really good, comfort food kind of feel to it and consisted of ingredients that I normally would have in the house at all times. Even better, the whole meal is made in one skillet making clean up a breeze!

Sausage Skillet Supper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bag (24 ounces) frozen diced potatoes with onions and peppers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups broccoli flowerets
1 ring (about 3/4 pound) smoked sausage, cut into 6 pieces
4 slices American cheese, cut diagonally in half

Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes. Stir occasionally, until potatoes are light brown. Stir in the broccoli and sausage. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the sausage is heated through. Top with the cheese. Cover and heat until the cheese is melted.

Source: Adapted from Betty Crocker - Quick and Easy Cookbook

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicken with Creamy Mushrooms and Snap Peas

This is, by far, one of my new favorite dinners! I found it right next to the BLT Pasta Salad (which I posted about earlier this month) in this month's Food Network Magazine. I seriously couldn't wait to make it. It was simple and quick to put together but had such a sophisticated flavor. Chicken breasts were not on sale when I did my shopping, so I bought a package of chicken tenderloins instead. I did pound them out a bit to make them a little thinner and wider and they worked perfectly. I actually think I would use these again next time, in place of the regular pieces as they also cooked up quickly and stayed very juicy. The recipe also calls for either button, cremini, or shiitake mushrooms. My grocery store had a package that combined 4 different types of mushrooms (if I remember correctly, it was button, baby portabella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms) and it was the perfect addition to the recipe. The variety provided a nice variance of texture and created a really nice sauce. There wasn't much left over after this meal, but what was left reheated really well and made for a great lunch. I can't wait to make these again!

Chicken with Creamy Mushrooms and Snap Peas
4 chicken cutlets (about 1 1/4 pounds) patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
All-purpose flour, for dredging
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 scallions, thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake or a combination, quartered)
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups sugar snap peas, stemmed and halved lengthwise
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Dredge 2 chicken cutlets in flour, shake off any excess and place in the skillet. Cook until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes per side, and transfer to a baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the other 2 chicken cutlets. Cover the dish loosely with foil; place in the oven while you prepare the vegetables.
Add the butter to the hot skillet, then add the scallions and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms brown, about 4 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and boil until the sauce thickens slightly, 3 to 4 more minutes. Stir in the snap peas and heat through; season with salt and pepper. Serve the chicken topped with the creamy vegetables.
Source: The Food Network Magaine

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Homemade Soft Pretzels. . . Almost.

*I'm having a ton of trouble with formatting on blogger today! I apologize for the appearance of this post! Anyone have any tips? It's making me crazy! :)

Ever since finding this recipe, I have been dying to make these pretzels! My husband and I are both huge fans of soft pretzels and we managed to pass that love on to our son as well. My friend Christy and I decided to make these this morning, but due to another day of crazy weather-- the dough took much longer to rise than the recipe had called for. Unfortunately, she had to leave before they were ready to shape into pretzels. I was so lost on my own! It's almost embarrasing how much trouble I had folding these into the proper shape. They really don't look like the perfect pretzels that I had envisioned in my head-- but they tasted WONDERFUL! So-- if yours look like mine, just close your eyes and enjoy! Your stomach will never know the difference!

I made half of my pretzels with the traditional salt, the other half were made into cinnamon-sugar pretzels. I had a hard time deciding which I liked more. . . I guess I'll just have to eat one of each to help me choose!

Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/4 cup warm milk

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

2 3/4 cups bread flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter, softened

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons water

kosher salt

Combine water, milk, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Sprinkle yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add flour and butter. Stir until well-combined.
Knead for 5-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Spray a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Put dough into bowl and cover with plastic wrap that has also been sprayed.
Let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.

Put water and baking soda in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil. While water is heating up, divide dough into eight sections. Roll each section into a "snake" that is about 12" long. Let dough sit for five minutes. Now roll the dough into a longer "snake" of about 18". (I believe that this might have been part of my problem getting the shape I desired. I would recommend rolling them thinner to give yourself more length to play with while assembling them.) Form the dough into a pretzel shape. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease them).
Put each pretzel individually into the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spatula and place on a baking sheet. Put four pretzels per sheet. Beat egg yolk with 2 Tbsp water. Brush over the top of the prezels. Add salt. (If making cinammon/sugar pretzels, leave off the salt. Once they are out of the oven, brush the pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Shake off any extra.) Bake at 450 for 13-14 minutes. Check on the pretzels after 9 minutes and top with a sheet of aluminum foil if they are getting overly browned.

Source: Rara Bakes

Monday, May 11, 2009

BLT Pasta Salad

This pasta salad will be a great addition to our summer grilling repertoire. (Now all I need is a working grill! Ours broke last fall and I am desperate to replace it... I'm not sure I can go a whole summer without grilling.) When I received the lastest addition of Food Network Magazine, this recipe really jumped out at me. My sister recently wrote about a different version of BLT Pasta Salad on her blog and it is one that I have made (and eaten) many times before. It is one of my favorite summer salads and I was definitely intrigued by some of the different ingredients and preparation in this new version. The recipe says to serve this warm, but I made it ahead of time to take advantage of 'nap time' at our house. I tried a little bite (all the self control in the world) when making it and it was very good warm-- but I think I might like it even better cold. I had some the next day for lunch and it was wonderful straight from the fridge. If anyone tries it, I'd love to hear how you liked it best-- warm or cold.

**A tip they offer in the magazine is to toss the cooked pasta with milk to keep it from becoming gummy. I have used cold water before to keep the pasta from sticking when using it in a salad, but had not tried milk. It worked really well, better than water, and is a method I would definitely use again.

BLT Pasta Salad
12 ounces corkscrew-shaped pasta (I actually used 16 ounces of rotini)
1/2 cup milk
12 ounces lean bacon (I used 16 ounces to match my increase in pasta)
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons chopped chives or scallion greens
5 heads Bibb lettuce, quartered or 5 cups chopped romaine hearts

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as the label directs. Drain and toss with the milk in a large bowl; set aside. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but 3 tablespoons drippings from the pan. Add the tomatoes, thyme, and garlic to the pan and toss until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper. Crumble the bacon into bite-sized pieces; set aside 1/4 cup for garnish. Toss the remaining bacon and the tomato mixture with the pasta. Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, and 3 tablespoons chives with the pasta until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lettuce; toss again to coat. Garnish with the reserved bacon and the remaining 1 tablespoon chives. Serve at room temperature (or cold!).

Source: Food Network Magazine

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Salmon Patties with Lemon Dill Sauce

This is another one of those dishes from my childhood that make me feel like I am a little girl again! Just the smell of these patties frying brings many memories straight to mind. My mom used to make these all the time, normally with tuna instead of salmon. . . you can use either one depending on what you have or what is on sale. These patties have a nice delicate texture and are not too overwhelmingly 'fishy'-- meaning that you can probably disguise them enough to get little ones to eat them. My little boy was all about these, especially when he realized that they came with their own 'dippy'. :) I always serve mine with macaroni and cheese, just as my mother did. It's another tradition that I have no problem continuing!

Salmon Patties with Lemon Dill Sauce
2 small cans of tuna (in water) OR 1 large can salmon
1 cup finely crushed saltines
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (more if desired)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
salt and white pepper to taste

Lemon Dill Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 - 2 teaspoons dried dill weed

Drain and flake tuna (or salmon). Stir in cracker crumbs, celery, onion, mayonnaise, eggs, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Shape into 12 patties, using about 1/4 cup of mixture for each. Cook in a greased skillet for 8-10 minutes, turning once.

For sauce, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, and dill weed. Mix well and spoon over patties.

Note: Alternate meal idea: serve tuna pattties in warmed, split pita bread with sauce, lettuce, tomato, and cheese.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shredded Beef Taquitos

I love to order these when we go out to a Mexican restaurant, but I have never before attempted to make them at home. When I saw them on the blog, For the Love of Cooking, I knew that they were going straight on my next menu. I'm not quite sure why mine don't look half as nice as Pam's. Her photo looks beautiful, with picture perfect rolls. . . mine look a bit messier! They tasted wonderful though. More importantly, the house smelled incredible as the meat cooked!

Shredded Beef Taquitos
For the beef:

1 1/2 pounds of round roast
1-7 ounce can of whole green chiles reserve the juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4-5 cloves of chopped garlic
1-2 cups of beef broth

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. Combine seasonings and rub onto the meat thoroughly. Sear the meat in the olive oil on all sides. Spread the green chiles over the roast. Add beef broth, reserved green chile juice and chopped garlic. Cover pan and place in oven. Cook 4-5 hours until the beef shreds easily. Check on roast every couple of hours to make sure there is plenty of liquid... if it's low add more broth. You can also cook this dish on the stove top or in a crock-pot. Shred the meat and mix into the remaining liquid. Taste and re season if necessary. Set aside and let cool.

To make Baked Taquitos:
Corn Tortillas
Shredded beef
Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wrap corn tortillas in damp paper towels for 1-2 minutes in the microwave to soften. Place a bit shredded beef in the center of the tortilla then roll. Place, seam side down, on a baking sheet that's been coated with cooking spray. Finish rolling the rest of the taquitos, then spray each of them with cooking spray and bake for 5-6 minutes then turn over and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

Note: You can also add shredded cheddar cheese or cotija cheese to the taquitos. Be sure to place the cheese on the tortilla first then the meat. It will help keep the cheese from leaking out while baking.

Source: For the Love of Cooking

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cheeseburger Pies

Please forgive my picture! For some reason, my camera card did not store the original pictures that I took of this meal. I was forced to dig out my leftovers (the one pie that was actually left) and took a next day - cold meal picture. Not the best, I know... but these were too cute not to share!

These little packets were very easy to make and had a delicious flavor. I normally don't add a steak sauce to my burgers but the flavor was definitely a welcome addition. It really brought the flavor of the beef out for me. One note that I will make is that while the recipe is designed to make 5 pies, I only made 4. To begin with, I wanted my burgers to be a little larger so that they wouldn't dry out in the cooking process. As I got into making them, however, I realized that an even bigger issue was the puff pastry. It was all I could do to get the pastry to cut into rectangles big enough to cover 4 patties, I can't imagine trying to get 5 out of one sheet! When I make this again (which I will) I will definitely make sure that I take the time to roll it out enough to save me some stress! :)
Cheeseburger Pies
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup finely diced Vidalia onion
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon Dale's Steak Seasoning Sauce
5 slices cheese (I used American for my husband and son, Cheddar for mine)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, allowed to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes
1 egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 375. Prepare the grill. Mix the ground beef, onion, steak seasoning, steak sauce, togeter (using your hands is the most efficient way to do this). Form into 5 (I made 4) small, flat patties. Grill burgers to medium-well. (You may also panfry the patties.) Remove from te grill and top each burger with a slice of cheese.
Roll the puff pastry sheet to flatten slightly. Eyeball the sheet and cut it into 5 relatively even rectangles. (Again, I made 4.) They don't need to be exact. Cover each burger with a piece of puff pastry and wrap it around the bottom, pinching all of the edges to seal. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, pinched side down.
Whisk together the egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush each wrapped pastry with the egg wash. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the puff pastry is nice and brown.
Source: Paula Deen

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chicken Fried Rice

This fried rice is unlike any I have ever made before. Mine is always heavy on the soy sauce (more for color than anything) and this one has a much more delicate flavor. I made it as a main dish, but it could easily be served on the side for a Chinese food spread as well. I got this recipe from my friend, Becca, and she has yet to disappoint me on any that she offers. Becca is an amazing cook-- and every recipe she has given me has been an instant hit. (Which makes me think of her Paris Chicken... so good! I'll definitely have to make and post that one soon!)

This dinner is really a healthy one and is very affordable as well. There was a little extra cost the first time it was made as the sauces used are more of a specialty variety that I didn't have on hand, but they do go far and I will definitely be making this again so they are a good investment! The sauces weren't expensive, by any means, but the next time I make it I will only need to veggies, chicken, and rice.

Chicken Fried Rice
Serves 4

1 cup uncooked rice (white or brown)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (Becca usually tosses in a splash of sesame oil for flavor-- I didn't have any so I omitted)
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh garlic or 1/8 tsp. dried (both taste equally good)
3 garlic cloves minced
6 ounces chicken breast- sliced thin/or cubed
½ cup shelled edamame
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup finely diced onion
½ cup sliced bell pepper (any color will do, but red/yellow/orange make it brighter)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Chili garlic hot sauce (you also can use liquid hot sauce, but this garlic sauce really made the dish, in my opinion)- add less for less heat. This can be found in the asian food section of your local grocery.

Cook rice according to package directions. (This can be a great use of leftover rice, or you can cook it the day before to eliminate extra step while cooking. You also could just pick up a quart from Chinese take out.) Add ½ teaspoon of the oil in skillet over medium heat. Add ginger ( if using fresh) and garlic – sauté 1 minute. If using dried ginger, wait until you add chicken to pan and sprinkle on top. Add your chicken to the garlic in the skillet and cook for 5-6 minutes (until there is no pink when you cut into the chicken). Set aside and keep warm

Add another teaspoon of oil to pan. Add your shelled edamame and shredded carrot, sautéing for 2 minutes. Add onions and bell pepper, sauté for another 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan- stir in broth , hot sauce and rice vinegar. Add rice and soy sauce to pan and stir until combined, cooking for an additional 3-4 minutes.

(Becca noted that she finds her edamame at Trader Joes and shells it herself after steaming, making it much more affordable. I found mine in the frozen foods section at my local grocery store. I steamed them quickly and they popped right out!)

Source: Becca Cattell

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Homemade Waffles

I have to admit that my waffle routine normally consists of opening up my box of Hungry Jack and mixing with milk and eggs! I am not much of a morning person and this makes for a tasty, quick breakfast for my family. The other day, however, I found that my box had maybe a tablespoon of mix left in it. We're not huge eaters in the morning, but this obviously wasn't going to do anything for me. I quickly pulled up and found this recipe with 569 positive reviews on it. Good enough for me! A definite plus is that you probably have all of the required ingredients on hand, so this doesn't require much planning ahead. I also liked that it says you can keep this batter in the fridge, covered, for up to a week. This will definitely make a good option for fresh breakfast during the week as well, without requiring a whole lot of time. I did note that on one review, the person said that they would recommend whipping the egg whites before adding them to the batter. I have found, in the past, that this does make for a lighter, fluffier waffle. I would highly recommend taking the time to do so when you make these, and I have noted the change in my directions.

Homemade Waffles
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat waffle iron. Beat egg whites in large bowl with beater until fluffy. Set aside. In another bowl, beat flour, milk, vegetable oil, egg yolks, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla, just until smooth. Fold in the whipped egg whites.

Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve hot.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Brussel Sprout Hash with Carmelized Shallots

More than any other food, I hear complaints about brussel sprouts. If you ask someone what food they absolutely will not eat, they are often at the top of the list. When I was a child, I was right there in those ranks. I remember many hours at the table having a stare down with that pile of brussel sprouts that kept me from being excused from the dinner table. (I think our Golden Retriever even turned down the ones that 'accidentally' made their way to the floor.) As an adult, however, I decided to give them another try. I am so happy that I did! I don't care if they are sauteed, boiled, steamed, whatever-- I LOVE brussel sprouts. I'm not sure what the difference is, whether I just got over myself or finally developed a palate that would appreciate the flavor, but they are now one of my very favorite vegetables. So, if you have not tasted a brussel sprout since your childhood, I beg you to give them a whirl. This recipe is a great place to start. So yummy!
Brussel Sprout Hash with Carmelized Shallots
6 tablespoons butter, divided
½ pound shallots, thinly sliced
Coarse Kosher salt
4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Saute until soft and golden about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes. Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise and then into thin ½ inch slices lengthwise. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until brown at edges, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Saute until most of water evaporates,and sprouts are tender but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thank you for the Awards!

I am so unbelievably touched and honored to receive the following blog awards!

This award was passed to me by Rachel, from Rachel vs. The Kitchen. For those of you that don't know, Rachel is actually my sister and I have been having so much fun sharing the 'blog world' with her! We both were raised to love to cook, and it is so nice that even though we don't get to see each other as often as we might like, we can connect and share our recipes and ideas with each other as well as all of our new blogging friends. Thanks for the award, Rachel!

Along with this award, I'm supposed to share seven things about my personality and then pass along the award and meme on to seven other bloggers for them to do the same. I've really enjoyed "meeting" new people from all over the country and am excited to learn even more about some of my fellow bloggers!

1. I have to borrow Rachel's number 1 also-- Family Oriented. I am definitely someone who needs to be surrounded by family. I would do anything for them and know that they would for me. It is very important to me that my children are raised surrounded by family as well and are able to understand the bond that a strong family shares.

2. Mommy-genes. This could really be rolled into number 1 and isn't necessarily a 'personality trait' per se, but I LOVE being a mommy. I have never known love like that shared between a mother and her children. I would literally walk through fire for my little ones.

3. Teacher/Mentor. I have taught first grade for 6 years and I love every second of it. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I can imagine and I love to watch the excitement on a child's face as they learn something new and build their confidence.

4. Goal Oriented. I have a dream to one day open up a bakery/cafe. My friend Christy and I have been working on a side business along these lines but one day hope to open up an actual storefront.

5. Patient. As a first grade teacher, patience was a necessity. My husband would also probably joke that being married to him requires some patience as well! :)

6. Loyal. I would like to think that I am a loyal person and will stand by those that I love. (I hope my friends and family would agree!) My husband and I met in high school, started dating in college and now have been together for 10 wonderful years. I'd walk to the ends of the earth for him.

7. OCD. I seriously have a problem! :)

I am passing this award along to the following bloggers:

1. Christy, from Christy's Kitchen Creations

2. Pam, from For the Love of Cooking

3. Shelby, from The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch

4. Monica, from Lick the Bowl Good

5. Holly, from I Heart Bowheads

6. Marin, from Marin's Creations

7. Cathy, from Accountants Can Cook

The other award I was lucky enough to receive came from Kathy at Three on Food. Thank you so much, Kathy!

The Rules:

1. Put the logo in your blog

2. Write five things you are passionate about apart from blogging

3. Tag 5 people on your lists and let them know you tagged them.

A lot of these are going to be the same as the other award... but here we go!
Five things I'm passionate about...

1. My Children/Husband - My family means everything to me and comes before anything and everything else!

2. My Career - I take my responsibility to teach very seriously and fully understand the great trust that parents have when they allow me to work with and for their children. It is an honor to be in such a position.

3. My Religion - My parents always worked to instill a sense of pride within our religious background, but not until recently have I come to fully understand the power of faith and prayer. I am very grateful for the foundation that my parents have provided and hope that I can do the same for our children.

4. My Family - I said it before and it's worth saying again. I am blessed to have close relationships with so many members of my family and would do anything for them. Family is very important to me and I want to model that for my children as well.

5. My Friends - I am so unbelievably lucky to have such a great group of close friends that I know I can count on no matter what! (I wish I haven't always given you guys such ample opportunities to prove that!)

I would like to pass this award to the following people:

1. Rachel, from Rachel vs. The Kitchen

2. Christy, from Christy's Kitchen Creations

3. Leslie, from The Seasoned Homemaker

4. Aubrey, from The Fam Five

5. Jen, from Jamie and Jen Dish