Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan Soup)

Let me tell you, I was SO excited for this recipe that I could hardly wait to make it. The first time I ever tried this soup was actually when someone else made it at a company party about a year ago. I loved the soup then and was actually a little disappointed when I tried it for the first time at Olive Garden. The taste was the same but there was next to no meat in the soup and I am definitely a meat person.
I LOVED this recipe and I mean ABSOLUTELY LOVED it. It was so good! We got together with some friends when I made this and it was definitely a hit and everyone agreed that the taste was right, but it was even better than Olive Garden's because it actually had some substance.
This wasn't a difficult dish at all. The only thing that I did different was that I couldn't find Italian sausage in the sausage form so instead I used ground Italian sausage. The taste was awesome and substantial! Apparently kale can be a little hard to find but I lucked out and found it at Walmart of all places. Yum!

Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 large baking potatoes, sliced in halves then in 1/4 inch slices
2 cans chicken broth
1 qt. water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jar bacon bits (or use real bacon)
2 cups kale or Swiss chard, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Cook sausage, drain on paper towels, and cut into slices. Place onions, potatoes, chicken broth, water, and garlic in a pot. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are done. Add sausage and bacon bits. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn heat to low. Add kale and cream. Heat through and serve.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snickerdoodles with Sour Cream

I LOVE snickerdoodles, but have never made them until about 20 minutes ago. They turned out great, despite my confusion on the cookie dough texture. I will post a picture tomorrow.

Snickerdoodles with Sour Cream

1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups plus 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
1 cup unsalted butters
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Heat oven to 350ºF.
2. Mix cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar; taste to make sure the cinnamon is not too strong and add more sugar to taste. Reserve.
3. Combine the remaining 2 cups sugar, vanilla, salt and butter in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until the previous egg has been incorporated.
4. Beat in sour cream.
5. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together and beat into the butter until they are just incorporated.
6. Mix in the walnuts.
7. Roll, press or scoop the batter into balls the size of golf balls or large marbles; size isn't too important, just make sure they're all the same size.
8. Place on cookie sheets spaced well apart.
9. Generously butter the flat bottom of a glass or other flat-bottomed object like a measuring cup or small pan. *I used all of my butter for the cookies, so I just used vegetable oil on the bottom of a glass
10. Press the buttered surface into the cinnamon sugar, then use it to flatten each cookie ball. A layer of cinnamon sugar should stick to the cookie. If not, sprinkle some on. Repeat with all cookies.
11. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until cookies are puffed and golden and their bases lightly browned.
12. Let cool for a few minutes, serve and savor the flavor of awesome snickerdoodles!

Bruschetta 'n Cheese stuffed Chicken Breasts

This is what I like to call a cheater recipe. This is one of the reasons that I LOVE KraftFoods.com. They have quite a few "cheater recipes" on there. I love it. These are the recipes you make when you "just don't feel like cooking" and you "really don't have money to eat out" (a.k.a. the story of my life). Another great thing about this recipe and about KraftFoods.com is that they have videos that actually show you how to make some of their recipes! Talk about awesome!

I only made changes to this recipe because I couldn't find one of the ingredients at the store, and the other is a little bit too costly and it turned out great and still had a lot of flavor. Although, I'm sure it would have been tastier with the correct dressing. Instead of KRAFT Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing, I just used good ol' Zesty Italian and I sprinkled dried basil leaves over the top. I left the basil out of the filling completely because man, is it ever expensive!?!

Here is the unaltered recipe.

Bruschetta 'n Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

What You Need:
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
1-1/4 cups KRAFT Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken
8 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (2 lb.)
1/3 cup KRAFT Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing

HEAT oven to 350°F. Mix tomatoes, 1/2 cup cheese and basil in medium bowl. Add stuffing mix; stir just until moistened.
PLACE 2 chicken breasts in large freezer-weight resealable plastic bag. Pound with meat mallet or side of heavy can until chicken is 1/4 inch thick. Remove from bag; place, top-sides down, on cutting board. Repeat with remaining chicken. Spread chicken with stuffing mixture. Starting at 1 narrow end, tightly roll up each breast. Place, seam-sides down, in 13x9-inch baking dish. Drizzle with dressing.
BAKE 40 min. or until chicken is done (165°F). Sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake 5 min. or until melted.

Kraft Kitchen Tips: For a south-of-the-border-style chicken dish, use diced tomatoes with bell or jalapeno peppers, KRAFT Mexican Style Shredded Cheese instead of the mozzarella cheese and chopped cilantro instead of the basil.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chicken Carbonara

As a sneak peak to this recipe let me tell you what my husband's first reaction was. He takes a bite, turns to me with his eyes wide open and says, "Woman, this is the best-tasting food you have ever made."
This was an easy recipe and I went and made it a little bit more complicated, but still not too bad. The original recipe didn't call for any chicken, and well, we just can't do that here in our household. I also added green onions and garlic cloves to give the sauce more flavor and it certainly payed off.

Chicken Carbonara
Here is my edited recipe.

1 pound dry fettuccine noodles
8 slices bacon
4 eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 stalks chopped green onion
2 (big) chopped garlic cloves
ground black pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3 T olive oil.

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut chicken into strips and coat with bread crumbs. Pour 1 T Olive oil over chicken. Let cook for 10 minutes. Flip chicken over and pour another 1 T Olive oil and continue the rest of the cooking time. Cook for a total of 20-25 minutes. (This will give the baked chicken that pan-seared texture. (Or you could just cook it over the stove, but where is the fun in that?)
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook for 11 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3. Fry bacon in skillet over medium heat until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel. Chop with knife into bits.
4. Chop up garlic and green onions and saute them in 1 T olive oil until soft.
5. Beat the eggs, cheese and cream in a bowl, then add the bacon, garlic, and green onions. Pour over the pasta in the pan and toss gently using tongs.
6. Return the pan to a very low heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Don't overheat or the eggs will scramble. Season well with black pepper and serve.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Swedish Meatballs

I got this while watching the Food Network late one night waiting for Emi to come home. Have you ever watched Good Eats? Man, that guy is annoying!, but the recipe sounded awesome.

It turns out that this recipe WAS awesome. Emi loved it! I wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to serve it with because on the show, he did it as a type of appetizer. I remembered my other meatball recipe, and decided to serve it over noodles.

With the directions, it may seem really intense, but it was relatively quick and easy to put together and cooked pretty fast. I would just personally like to thank whoever gave me that electric skillet for my wedding. I can't imagine trying to make 2 pounds of pork/beef mixture in one of my tiny sauce pans!

Swedish Meatballs

2 slices fresh white bread
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
A pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I used regular salt)
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups beef broth*
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used closer to 1/2 c.)

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
2. Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk. Set aside.
3. In a 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds. (I don't have a scale. I just made little meatballs.)
6. Heat the remaining butter in the saute pan over medium-low heat, or in an electric skillet set to 250 degrees F. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.
7. Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet. Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.

*I must have accidently used the other can of beef broth I had for this recipe. Instead, I used 2 c. beef broth and 1 c. chicken broth. Eh, you do what you can.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Orange Chicken

I made this the other night when we had some friends over for dinner. It wasn't my favorite recipe that I have ever made, but it was pretty good. Maybe I just wasn't feeling the chinese cuisine that night. Definitely give it a try if you like orange chicken though! My biggest thing was that I REALLY wanted it to taste like Panda Express Orange Chicken, but it didn't. It probably would have if I had fried the chicken, but I'm trying to stay lean!

I tortured my guests and made them do a little "contest" to see who made the prettiest plate. It was pretty funny! Haha, I don't think I'd do that with anyone else though. :-D

Orange Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2" cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons oil or butter

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons green onion
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Heat oven to 350. In a shallow dish combine the flour, garlic powder and pepper. Dip each piece of chicken in flour mixture and coat evenly.

Pour oil (or melt butter and pour) in a shallow baking dish, large enough to accommodate chicken in a single layer. Arrange chicken in pan and bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine water, fresh orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, orange zest and whisk over medium heat for a few minutes. Then stir in brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and green onion and let it come to a boil. Combine cornstarch with water and let it dissolve and add it to the sauce until thickened.

After chicken has baked the 30 minutes, turn each piece over and pour 1/2 sauce mixture evenly over chicken. Bake another 30 to 40 minutes basting frequently.

Serve chicken over rice with extra sauce on the side.

Monday, January 12, 2009

7 Up Chicken Fajitas

This was so GOOD! You can do pretty much anything with this chicken, but I decided to make fajitas. I served it with Mexican Rice, cheddar cheese, sauteed onions, and sauteed green bell peppers in a flour tortilla. The marinade gives the chicken kind of a sweeter taste, but definitely not too sweet. I think this marinade might go well with a sweeter Enchilada like the Honey Lime Enchiladas or even with some Chicken Fried Rice. You should definitely try this out.
Another thing, I don't know about you, but when I grill my chicken, it tends to get a bit harder to chew. This chicken was SO soft to eat, it almost melted in my mouth. Also, I wasn't sure I was going to make this tonight until a bit later in the day so my chicken only marinated for 4 hours and it was FABULOUS! One thing that might have made a difference though is that I cut my chicken into strips before I marinated it. I don't know if this is true or not, but since I didn't have the full 6 hours or overnight to marinate it, I thought it might move a little faster if it didn't have to go through so much chicken. Maybe I'm a dork though, who knows?

7 Up Chicken Marinade

1 can 7Up (or sprite) [I used a 20 oz bottle of 7Up]
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tb horseradish sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Blend all ingredients and add chicken. ( I usually do this in a big zip loc bag) Let marinate over night or at least 6 hours, in the fridge.

Creamy Pesto

Where I live there is a restaurant that Emi and I used to frequent that has a really awesome Creamy Pesto Pasta dish. We have been trying really hard not to eat out too much so I decided I'd try to recreate the dish at home. I think I did pretty good! It wasn't exactly right, but I think next time I'll know what to do to make it better. We had the pesto in a pasta dish with chicken seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper and pan-fried in a little bit of Sunflower oil. I think next time I make pesto, I will try it on a Homemade Pizza with chicken. Another thing, I'm not a big fan of measuring, so I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but just kind of tasted it as I went and followed the recipe as a guideline. I would definitely use more garlic though.

Creamy Pesto

2 T olive oil (I used E.V.O.O.)
2 c. fresh basil leaves (pressed) *
1/2 c. fresh parsley
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese. (I probably used closed to 1/2 c.)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 c. walnuts**
4 oz softened cream cheese (I used Fat Free. SHHH! Don't tell Emi!)
1/4 c. heavy cream or half & half
Salt and pepper to taste

1. About a half hour to an hour before you're going to make the sauce, take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften.

2. In food processor, puree basil, parsley, & garlic with oil until pasty.

3. Add grated cheese & nuts and blend more.

4. Add cream cheese until well blended.

5. Add cream or half/half a little at a time till desired consistency.
6. Pour into a sauce pan to heat, unless you are serving it cold.

* I think basil is hard to find and expensive when you find it. I was only able to find a small package of basil at Walmart and it was pretty pricy, so I asked my friend what I could do instead, but fortunately I was able to find a bigger package of basil at Smiths. Next time though, to save some money and some searching, I will substitute half of the basil with spinach and it will still have a very nice pesto taste.
** In this recipe walnuts and pine nuts are pretty much interchangeable. Infact, I used both walnuts and pinenuts because I didn't have enough of either.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crockpot: Sweet & Spicy Chicken Tacos

We had these for dinner last night when some friends came over. These were really easy to make and they tasted so good! Have I mentioned before that I LOVE my crockpot? These were a hit and everyone loved their sweet and spicy flavor, even Emi! Next time, I think I will make Enchiladas with the chicken. You should definitely try this!
Funny note: This picture is of Emi's plate and he LOVES pickles. He eats EVERYTHING with pickles.

Sweet & Spicy Slow-Cooker Chicken
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
1 (14 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Approximately 1/4 c. White Cooking Wine**

Coat the inside of your crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Place all ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-10 hours, or until chicken shreds very easily with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Chicken will absorb liquid after it is shredded.) Serve in tacos or however your little heart desires.

Since I am serving this as Chicken Tacos you would need the usual things you would put on a taco. Lettuce, Cheese, Tomatoes, Sour Cream, Avocado, Onions... We also made some Mexican rice (courtesy of Rice-a-roni) and put that in there as well. Just use whatever you like.

*I put my chicken breasts in the crockpot frozen because they seem to come out more tender that way.
**If you use frozen chicken breasts, they seem to require more liquid. I like to use White Cooking Wine because it adds a nice flavor. Or you could just use some water.

I also made some Pico de Gallo to go with this. My friend Jessica makes an awesome Pico de Gallo recipe, and while this isn't her recipe, I am hoping that it will be just as good.

Pico de Gallo
1 large tomato, diced
3 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime

Mix ingredients together, cover and refrigerate overnight.

*If you use a food proccessor this recipe is VERY easy.

The pico de gallo wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but everyone did seem to really like it. I think next time I will add more salt and leave out the cumin altogether. Or maybe I will consult Jessica on what she does. If you do use a food processor, if you like your tomatoes more chunky - be sure to cut them up yourself. :-D

Butterscotch Crunch Cookies

I made this last night when our friends came over for dinner. I'm not sure that everyone liked them because not many of them got eaten, but Emi and I really liked them! It might have been because everyone was WAY too full from the actual dinner though. One thing though, these are not meant to be a soft cookie. They have more of a texture of a rice crispy treat, and that is because... well you use rice crispies in them. Yum!

½ cup butter (softened)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup butterscotch chips

Step 1: In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Add in vanilla and egg and mix well. Add salt, flour, and baking soda. Mix well. Stir in the crisp rice cereal and butterscotch chips.

Step 2: Drop dough by the rounded teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet.

Step 3: Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Homemade Pizza

I got this pizza dough and pizza sauce recipe from MyKitchenCafe. She has another pizza dough recipe on there that I will try next time. To view all of her pizza dough recipes go here. I doubled the pizza dough recipe so I can made two more pizzas tomorrow night when my brother comes over.

This was way easy to make and so good. Emi wasn't particularly looking forward to pizza tonight because he claims he doesn't like homemade pizza. Well, looks like I've squashed another one of Emi's prejudices.

Slow-Rize Pizza Dough
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 1/3 cup water
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt.

[The words of Melanie from MyKitchenCafe] The beauty about making this recipe the night before is you can just throw all the ingredients together cold (no warming the water) and stick it covered in the refrigerator. That is all I do - mix the dough to the desired consistency (I like my dough pretty soft) and really try not to overflour it and then place it in a greased bowl covered with saran wrap in the refrigerator. Be sure to take it out of the refrigerator a few hours before you make the pizza so the dough has time to warm and relax. This recipe makes 2 good-sized pizzas. I understand the term "good-size" is very subjective...but just know it feeds our family of two adults and two children and we eat a lot of pizza.

Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Crushed red pepper (optional)

[Melanie from MyKitchenCafe] Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until desired consistency. I leave mine slightly chunky. On the seasonings, I just sprinkle them in to taste. If I use crushed red pepper, I only use a few flakes because my kids don't like spicy things, but it definitely adds a nice kick to the sauce to use it. I also substitute for whatever I don't have: basil leaves for oregano, garlic salt for garlic powder, etc. This recipe is open to interpretation. Use what you like and it will be delicious.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bacon Roasted Chicken

I made a couple of changes to this recipe after reading the reviews on allrecipes.com. This came out very tender and yummy, but it did take longer to cook then the instructions said. Overall, I was pretty surprised at how easy it was to make! At the end of the hour and 15 minutes it still wasn't at an internal temperature of 180 degrees so I cranked the oven up to 375 for a bit. Will definitely make this again! We still have over half of the meat left on the chicken. This whole dinner costed me a about $5.

Bacon Roasted Chicken

2 tablespoons butter
1 (4 pound) whole chicken
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 carrots, cut in chunks
paprika to taste
McCormick's Montreal Chicken Seasoning
8 slices bacon
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C).

2. Rub butter over the entire chicken. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and Montreal Chicken Seasoning. Place the carrots inside the cavity, and tie the legs together. Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan. Lay bacon strips across the top of the chicken, and secure with toothpicks. Sprinkle with paprika. Pour the beef broth and balsamic vinegar into the roasting pan - do not pour over the bacon.

3. Roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, the reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Baste with some of the broth. Continue to roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) when taken in the thickest part of the thigh. Baste every 15 minutes with the broth.

4. Remove the bacon and discard toothpicks. Roast the chicken for 15 more minutes to brown the skin. Transfer to a serving platter, and remove the ties. You may eat the bacon, but it is best to discard the carrots.

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