Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Okay... not exactly the healthiest of meals I have prepared-- but definitely one that we will be made again just about as fast as I can!  I almost cried when I realized that the leftovers somehow did not make it to the fridge and had to be thrown out instead!  My husband and I both loved this recipe, and it made a TON of pizza!  Served with a nice fresh salad, you can definitely get a few meals out of this one!  Normally I like for my deep dish crust to be a little more buttery (if you've ever had Gino's, you know what I mean) but this is about as close as I have come to replicating authentic deep dish at home.  I'd love suggestions if someone has an idea for a different crust!

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
sliced pepperoni
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
28 ounces petite diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Press the dough into the bottom and the sides of a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  Cover bottom of the pan with sliced pepperoni.  In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until no longer pink.  Drain and sprinkle over dough and pepperoni.  Top with all of the mozzarella cheese.  In the same large skillet, saute the mushrooms and onion in oil until the onion is tender.  Stir in the tomatoes, oregano, salt, and garlic powder.  Spoon over the Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home Grand Prize Winners

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mushroom Pasta Primavera

I was really excited to find this recipe in the August/September 'Taste of Home' magazine because it gave me a chance to use some of the vegetables that are just now ripe enough to pick from my garden.  This is a great summer pasta dish-- light enough to enjoy on a hot day, inexpensive, and altogether pretty healthy!  It was also a great option for my milk allergy son as he was able to simply eat his without the Parmesan sprinkled on top.

My one bit of advice would be to have all of your vegetables chopped and ready before starting to cook them.  The magazine offers a great tip as well, which I learned from my mother years ago.  The recipe calls for peeled tomatoes.  In order to peel them easily, drop them into boiling water for about a minute, then immediately into ice cold water.  The skins will peel right off for you.  If you want to save a step, I really am not so sure that you need to peel them in the first place.  I think it would be just fine with the skins left on, and actually might allow the tomatoes to hold up a little better in the cooking process.

Mushroom Pasta Primavera

1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole garlic bulb, peeled and minced
15 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 medium carrots, grated
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 pound cooked pasta (I used fettuccine)
Parmesan cheese to top

In a large saucepan, saute the onion in oil until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, peppers, water, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Stir occasionally.  Stir in the mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until tender.  Serve over the cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Source: Slightly Adapted from "Taste of Home" magazine (August/September 2010)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Banana Craisin Bread

I guess that it has officially been summer break!  I just realized how long it has been since I last posted!  I sincerely apologize!  Apparently I need to get caught up. :)  I've been on the lookout for some new breakfast ideas for my kids.  It seems that we fall into our cereal rut and don't frequently stray from that routine during the week.  For some reason their little internal clocks are okay with venturing out on the weekend, but not at all during the week.  When I am home for the summer, I haven't quite figured out how they differentiate between the two.  I guess everyone can sense a good weekend!

One of our local grocery stores recently had Ocean Spray Craisins on sale.  I picked up a variety of bags (they had several infused with different fruits like blueberry or pomegranate which I would highly recommend) and headed over to the Ocean Spray website to see if they posted any recipes for a breakfast style quick bread.  Their recipe search feature is actually pretty advanced-- so check it out if you haven't already played there.  I was able to search by category, and then for recipes that specifically included the ingredients I had purchased.  They then give you all of the nutritional facts for the recipe.  This particular bread was very highly rated on their site, was easy to make, and was very quickly consumed by my little ones-- even on a Wednesday morning! :)

I went ahead and used the pomegranate infused Craisins to make this one.  They gave a little extra sweetness to each bite.  I would add that this is a great banana bread for people looking for more of a subtle banana flavor.  You can see from the color of the bread in the picture above that the banana was not an overpowering ingredient.  I think that I might even play with increasing the amount of mashed banana next time I make it.  Overall, it is definitely one that will be made again in the very near future.

(As a side note, I was able to easily make this into a dairy free item for my kiddo with allergies by substituting soy milk and soy margarine.)

Banana Craisin Bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (I omitted)
1 6-ounce package Craisins

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 -inch loaf pan.   Mix sugar and butter together in a medium mixing bowl until completely blended. Add banana, milk and eggs, mixing well. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until moist. Stir in nuts and dried cranberries. Spread batter evenly in a loaf pan.
Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool. 

Source: Ocean Spray

Monday, May 10, 2010

Skillet Penne and Sausage Dinner

When I stumbled across this recipe, I knew it was one that would be immediately popular with my family.  The creamy, sun-dried tomato sauce is the perfect pairing with the spice of the Italian Sausage.  By the time I added the spinach in, I was one happy camper!  The flavors had so much dimension and the colors looked beautiful on the finished plate.  Not only is it a quick meal to throw together, but it is a one-dish meal which earns even more points on a busy weeknight.  The whole meal came together well under 30 minutes and there was barely anything to clean up.

Skillet Penne and Sausage Dinner
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 pound sweet Italian Sausage (casings removed)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, rinsed and chopped fine
8 ounces penne 
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (5 ounce) bag spinach
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until simmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Sprinkle the tomatoes and pasta evenly over the sausage. Pour the broth and cream over the pasta. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the spinach a handful at a time and cook until wilted, about two minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Source: A Blog About Food, originally from America's Test Kitchen

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chicken Stir Fry Wraps

This is a perfect light and healthy meal for the upcoming summer months!  I've heard several friends raving about a similar dish that can be ordered at a local Chinese restaurant, so I jumped at making these once I saw the recipe.  The flavor of these wraps was incredible and the crispness of the lettuce leaves gave just the right amount of crunch to each bite.  My one recommendation would be to make these one at a time as you are ready to eat them.  The heat from the stir fry will otherwise wilt the lettuce some.  The entire meal was ready in under 30 minutes, so it is a great weekday option!  The filling heats up really well, so I would even recommend making enough to save some for lunch the following day.

The only change I made was to substitute green peppers for the red.  Red peppers have been really high around us lately and I wanted to keep the dish affordable.

Chicken Stir Fry Wraps
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves; halved horizontally and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons grated, peeled fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you prefer)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
12 to 16 Boston lettuce leaves (about 2 heads)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat.  Add half of the chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until opaque throughout (about 2-4 minutes).  Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.  Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the pan, along with the onion and the bell pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the onion is tender and golden.  If the onion is browning too quickly, reduce the heat.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes to the pan.  Cook, stirring, until fragrant.  Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch mixture.  Remove from the heat.  Add teh chicken and any accumulated juices; toss to coat.  Serve in the lettuce cups.

Source: Great Food Fast, Everyday Food

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chicken Milanese with Spring Greens & Parmesan-Browned Butter Orzo

Almost a year ago, I was lucky enough to win a subscription to Cooking Light magazine through another great food blog, Grumpy's HoneyBunch.  If you don't already get this particular magazine, I'd highly recommend it!  I'm always able to find healthy, easy meals to prepare for my family.  This particular grouping of recipes is no exception!

For many years now, I have heard my father speak of his new favorite meal-- Chicken Milanese.  He had it at one of his favorite restaurants and frequently looks for variations of that original dish.  I knew when I saw this recipe in the May issue of Cooking Light, it was a must try!  I'm not sure how close this one comes to the dish  he referred to, but I do know that this particular attempt was devoured in no time!  My husband and I both loved it and will definitely be making it again soon.

Chicken Milanese with Spring Greens & Parmesan-Browned Butter Orzo

3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Dash of sugar
2 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups packed spring mix salad greens
2 lemon wedges

Combine juice, vinegar, shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and sugar.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/2 inch thickness using a meat mallet or heavy skillet.  Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in a shallow dish.  Place flour in another shallow dish and the egg white in a third shallow dish.  Sprinkle the chicken breasts with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Dredge the chicken in flour; dip in egg white, and then in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place the chicken aside for 5 minutes.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes, turning once browned and cooked for another 2 minutes or until browned and done.  Add 2 teaspoons oil and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to the shallot mixture.  Stir with a whisk.  Add greens and toss gently. Place 1 chicken breast and 1 cup salad on each of 2 plates, served with a lemon wedge.

For the Parmesan-Browned Butter Orzo:
Cook 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat 4 minutes or until browned.  Add 1/2 cup orzo; cook for 1 minute.  Add 2 tablespoons white wine and cook for 1 minute.  Add 1 1/4 cup chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 13 minutes.  Stir in 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan.  Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chives.

Source: Cooking Light, May 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Grilled Pork Cabobs with Cucumber Tzatziki

Whenever we are able to get back to my hometown, one of my 'must have' meals is from the best little gyros shop I have been able to ever find!  (It doesn't hurt that my husband is a huge fan as well-- he doesn't hesitate when I suggest a quick lunch!)  One of the best elements of these sandwiches is the tzatziki sauce and I was really excited to find this recipe featuring the homemade version.  I've never tried to make my own before, but this recipe was so simple and easy to throw together.  It had a great flavor and was the perfect sauce for these tender pork cabobs.  I followed the recipe as listed, except for the substitution of red onions.  I prefer their flavor in grilled dishes.

Another benefit, other than the tzatziki sauce, the dish is a dairy-free option for my son!  He loved the pork and gobbled up his entire portion.

Grilled Pork Kabobs with Cucumber Tzatziki
4 burrito-size flour tortillas, halved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pork loin, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 onions, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges each (I used red onion instead)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup plain greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped mint
1/2 English cucumber, grated

Preheat a grill to medium-high.  Brush the tortillas with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Tost on the grill until browned, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, toss the pork and onions with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and season with the oregano, salt and pepper, thread onto bamboo skewers.  Meanwhile, mash garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a paste.  Transfer to a small bowl and add the yogurt, mint, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Press the cucumber in a sieve to remove excess liquid.  Stir the cucumber into the yogurt mixture.  Grill the skewers, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve with the tzatziki and tortillas.

Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray, May 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bailey's Caramel Shake

It's been a rough week.

Yes, it's only Tuesday-- but it still feels like a week best remedied by a combination of Bailey's and calories.  I don't have any specific measurements for this recipe mainly because people have such varying tastes for their milkshakes.  Some people like them thicker, some like them thinner.  Some prefer more chocolate, some less.  Some people prefer just a faint flavor of the liquor, some might choose to empty out their bottle.  No comment on where we fell on that scale!  This was such a nice treat that although simple, I still felt the need to blog about it!  As we head into some (hopefully) warm spring and summer weather, this shake is the perfect cap on a long day.

Bailey's Caramel Shake
2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream
milk (amount depending on how thick you want your shake-- it's always easier to add more)
chocolate syrup
Bailey's Caramel to taste

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Barefoot Contessa's Homemade Chicken Stock

I am completely and utterly in love with this soup.

I'm not sure if it was the rustic look of all of the ingredients thrown together in the pot, the unbelievable smell of the fresh herbs simmering on the stove, or the comfort of being able to put it together while working with my mother in the kitchen, but I LOVE this soup!  The stock was so rich and dark that it almost looked more like a beef broth.  I'm pretty sure that just the idea of this soup could instantly cure any ailment and it will certainly be my new 'go to' chicken soup.

(This chicken stock will last for 5 days in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer.  It is a great one to make ahead and keep on hand to use as needed.)

Homemade Chicken Stock
3 (5 pound) roasting chickens
3 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
6 carrots, unpeeled and halved
4 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds
4 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half
20 fresh parsley sprigs
15 fresh thyme sprigs
20 fresh dill sprigs
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

Place the chickens, onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, salt, and pepper in a 16-20 quart stockpot.  Add 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Skim any foam that comes to the surface.  Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours.  Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander, discarding the solids.  Pack in quart containers and refrigerate.  When the stock is cold, remove the surface fat and refrigerate again. (Makes 6 quarts.)

Source: Back to Basics, Barefoot Contessa

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto

When looking over the list of ingredients for this pasta dish, there was no doubt in my mind that it would be an instant favorite.  I found the recipe when browsing through the new "Food Network Magazine" and was intrigued by the use of prosciutto as the base of the sauce.  Just as the recipe promises, the entire meal was ready within 25 minutes-- start to finish.  I paired it up with a nice crusty French bread and enjoyed every last bite!  One adjustment that I did make was to increase the amount of sauce made. My husband tends to be a 'sauce guy' and I knew he'd want more of a saucy finish with this meal.  The sauce had a nice, rich flavor and I would definitely increase it again when making this in the future.

Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto
1 pound meat-filled tortellini
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces prosciutto, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (I used petite peas)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook as the label directs.  Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and prosciutto and cook until crisp, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Ladle in about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and simmer until reduced by about half, 3-4 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.  About 2 minutes before the tortellini are done, add the peas to the boiling water and cook until just tender.  Drain the tortellini and peas and add to the skillet, tossing to coat with the sauce.  Stir in the parsley and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Source: Food Network Magazine, April 2010


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chewy Granola Bars

This is the first recipe I tried from a book that has since become a life-saver.  If you are cooking for children with any sort of food allergy, this book is a must-have!  It is called the "Kid Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook" and the nice thing about it is that it offers different recipes, then gives you the appropriate variations depending on the allergy you are working with.  Even for non-allergy kids, there are lots of great kid friendly meals, snacks, and desserts offered.   It was recommended to me by a friend who has been navigating allergies for far longer than I have.  She lent me her copy and I went out to buy my own after the first night.  These granola bars are perfect for anyone!  I found myself addicted to them and I helped my little one polish off the batch we made!  The recipe makes a nice amount of bars and they really do last for a long time.  As long as they are covered well, we can eat them well over a week.  The other nice thing about the recipe is that you can use any combination of add-ins that you have on hand.  It's a nice pantry cleaner! :)  I have made ours with dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried cherries, raisins, soy chocolate chips, etc.  If not working with an allergy, I would love to try cranberries with white chocolate chips.  I think they'd be heavenly!  As a final side note-- I tend to be hesitant to make anything with a lot of coconut because I really am not a huge fan.  The coconut is a must in this one though.  The flavor is incredible, even to a non-fan like me!

Chewy Granola Bars
1 cup butter (If going dairy-free, use soy margarine)
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
4 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips and your favorite dried fruits (If going dairy free, be sure to use specific soy based chocolate chips)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 12 x 9 inch cookie sheet.  In a large pan, heat the butter, sugars, and syrup until melted.  Stir in remaining ingredients until evenly combined.  Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and press down, making sure the surface is smooth and even.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before cutting into bars.  I will cut some 'adult sized' bars and then some mini-bars for my children.  Once cut, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Source: The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook, by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Marie Rominger

Monday, February 15, 2010

A sincere apology and bribery through French Onion Soup

To begin with, I owe my followers a sincere apology for my absence over the past few months.  I promise I have a good excuse, but I'll get to that in a moment.  To make it up to my blogging friends, and to thank you for your patience, I am sharing the most incredible French Onion Soup today.  I made this as a special Valentine's Day treat as it is one of my husband's favorites.  The recipe is another winner from The Pioneer Woman, and like the rest-- this one does not disappoint.  It does take a little bit of time, but not a whole lot of energy.  The house smelled amazing and it was the perfect starter for a special meal.  As a special note, the flavor of the white wine really does come through, so make sure that you use one you wouldn't mind drinking. My only regret was that I would have loved to brown up the cheese a little bit.  It was nice and melted, but not as bubbly as I would have liked.  Unfortunately, my crocks were not broiler safe and I can't quite rationalize a kitchen torch at this time.  Maybe one day.... :)

Before I get to the recipe, I do want to share that I will be adding a new feature in coming days.  Part of my absence was due to the new diagnosis that my son is allergic to cow's milk.  Figuring this out has been a true miracle as he has been a completely different child since eliminating milk products from his diet.  His digestive system has been completely turned around and the child is now willing to eat regular meals.  He's three years old and for the first time is able to eat normal amounts of food, instead of picking as he always had before.  The poor thing looked at me the other day and said, "I'm happy because my tummy doesn't hurt anymore."  Hard to hear from your little one!  I've been doing a lot of research, trying to find foods that are made without milk products, and recipes that fit within his new dietary needs.  You wouldn't believe the items that have milk products in them-- it truly has been an education!  One thing that I have found is that it can be very difficult to find kid-friendly, dairy-free recipes.  Many of the specialty items that you can find locally are incredibly expensive and I have had to learn to make many new items from scratch to control what he does consume.  I'm hoping that if I share what I do find, and have success with, then I might be able to help someone else in a similar situation.  I've learned so much from the blogs and sites that I have found and would love to be able to pass some of that along.  Please watch for these special dairy-free features coming soon!

French Onion Soup
1 stick butter
4-5 large yellow onions, halved from root to tip and sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups beef broth
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
French bread
Swiss (or Gruyere) cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add your sliced onions and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes.  Place the entire soup pot in the oven, with the lid slightly offset to allow the onions to brown.  Cook the onions in the oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.  Remove the pot from the oven and place it back on the burner.  Add the wine before turning the heat back on.  Stir in the wine, scraping off the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook on medium for about 5 minutes (or until the wine is able to reduce).  Add the beef and chicken broth, the Worcestershire Sauce and the minced garlic.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the bread into thick slices.  Butter one side and broil over low heat, allowing the bread to become browned and crispy.  When the soup is finished, ladle it into an oven-safe soup crock.  Top with the bread and the cheese.  Grated works best, but you can use sliced if you have it.  Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  (Please be sure to check your crocks-- mine were not safe to go above 400 degrees in the oven, and this seemed to be a common trait of the soup crocks.  I simply melted my cheese at the max temperature.)  Serve immediately out of the oven.

Source: The Pioneer Woman