Tuesday, January 31, 2012

crock pot chicken and gravy

















Simply put, our afternoons are crazy so out of necessity I have been trying out more slow cooker recipes.  Would you believe me if I told you I loved this recipe?  It's so easy it's almost embarrassing to admit (almost as embarrassing as my spell checker telling me I keep spelling that word wrong).  I made this when I knew my husband would be working late and not want dinner because he's more of a California fresh kind of guy; not your standard meat and potatoes kind of guy.  I pretty much love everything and this was no exception.  My kids and I had several helpings of this stuff.  I had mine over rice and my kids enjoyed it over mashed potatoes  This will be a regular for those crazy busy afternoons served with a fresh salad, of course.

crock pot chicken and gravy (blog: Plain Chicken)
2 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 envelope of chicken gravy mix
hot steamed rice or mashed potatoes

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Before serving bread the chicken breasts into bite sized pieces.  Serve over hot steamed rice or mashed potatoes.

What I have to say- I put the soup and gravy mix in the crock pot with 2 large frozen chicken breasts (Foster Farms from Costco).  I started the temperature at high then when the chicken looked defrosted I turned it down to low for about 4 hours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

southwestern stuffed peppers









These stuffed peppers are delicious- the flavors are simple yet distinct.  Another great recipe from Real Simple Magazine.  If you aren't already a subscriber I highly recommend it.  It's a simple, classy magazine unlike so many others that are out there.  You get a bit of everything from fashion to finances to really delicious recipes.  Say goodbye to old fashioned Italian stuffed peppers (I've never liked them) and hello to these.

southwestern stuffed peppers (adapted slightly from Real Simple Magazine, February 2012)
1 cup brown rice, cooked
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup frozen corn
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
kosher salt and black pepper
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed
1/2 cup light sour cream
salsa for serving (I used Tapatio sauce)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook the rice according to package directions.
In a large skillet over medium high heat cook the ground beef and scallions (white parts), breaking up the beef with a spoon until no longer pink.  Stir in the corn, chilies, cumin, cooked rice, 1/2 cup of the cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Arrange the bell peppers, cut-side up in a 9x13-inch baking dish or pan.  Divide the beef mixture among the bell peppers, add 1/2 cup water to the dish, tightly cover the dish with foil, and bake until the bell peppers are soft, 30 to 40 minutes.  Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until browned, 5 to 7 minutes more.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cram and 1/4 cup water.  Drizzle over the bell peppers and top with salsa and scallion greens.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

meatball and spaghetti soup









My kids love meatballs so I thought I'd give this soup a try.  I usually do not make recipes that call for ground turkey or I substitute it for ground beef or ground chicken but I decided to go ahead and try it.  Glad I did.  This is such a nice, comforting soup and quite tasty as well not to mention quite healthy!  This is a soup I will make again and again, especially on a cold, rainy day.  We've had a few of those lately.

meatball and spaghetti soup (slightly adapted from Skinnytaste)
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 chopped garlic cloves, divided
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/2 onion, chopped, divided
6-8 tablespoons tomato sauce (I used marinara sauce)
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
6 ounces dry cut up spaghetti (I used whole wheat)

1 pound ground turkey
1 small egg
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon basil

In a soup pot over medium heat, bring chicken broth, water, 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1/4 of the onion, tomato sauce, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh black pepper to a boil; simmer about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the meatballs by combining ground turkey, cheese, egg, remaining garlic, remaining onion, remaining parsley, breadcrumbs,  1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Form into little 1-inch balls.
Drop meatballs into the broth, cook about 3 minutes; add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Add basil, adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

What I have to say- the turkey I bought came in a 2-pound tray so I doubled the recipe and froze half.  It will be so easy to pull out the next time I'm in the mood for a nice bowl of soup.

Monday, January 23, 2012

baked club pinwheels









My kids and I loved these.  We took the original recipe and made it a little healthier by making homemade whole wheat bread dough.  My oldest asked why we have to make everything whole wheat as though I'm trying to make her life miserable but she ate the most pinwheels.  I think next time she'll trust me.  The photo doesn't quite capture how savory and yummy these sandwiches actually are.  The bacon is a must. 

baked club pinwheels (idea from blog: Plain Chicken)
6 slices pre-cooked bacon, chopped
whole wheat bread dough or whole wheat pizza dough
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
5 slices thinly sliced deli turkey
5 slices thinly sliced deli ham
5 slices thinly sliced deli roast beef

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Roll out dough to an 11x7 rectangle.  Sprinkle cheese over dough.  Top with bacon first then turkey, ham and roast beef.  Starting with long side, roll up dough; press edges to seal.  Place on sprayed cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 5 minutes.  Cut into 1-inch diagonal slices

whole wheat dough (or use Trader Joe's refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
enough whole wheat flour to make a nice, soft dough

Pour yeast into a medium sized bowl.  Add water, salt and olive oil.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Add enough whole wheat flour to make a nice, soft dough, kneading as you go along.  Place your ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with a piece of plastic wrap.  Let rise for 1 hour.

What I have to say- Next time I will add 1 cup Mozzarella cheese to the sandwich.

baked bacon









When I saw that you can cook bacon in the oven instead of frying it, only to create a big greasy mess, I was so excited!  I had to try it out on my baked club pinwheels.  Have you ever read the cooking directions for bacon on the package?  Apparently I'd never read my bacon package before but I should have because the baking instructions are right there and have probably been there for awhile.

baked bacon 
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place bacon side-by-side on a cookie sheet with a rim.  Bake for 15 minutes for perfect bacon.  How easy is that?!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

pudding cookies

















These cookies seemed to have a good reputation so I thought I'd give them a try.  They're great!  They make a great big batch (6 dozen) and were perfect to serve at my kid's movie matinee party today.  They invited a few friends to eat hot dogs, popcorn, M&M pudding cookies and drink soda and lemonade.  Spoiled kids...

pudding cookies (blog: Sunday Baker)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups of add-ins (M&Ms, chocolate chips, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, candy bars, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside; in a large bowl, cream butter, brown and white sugar.  Beat in pudding mix until well blended.  Stir in the eggs and vanilla.  When smooth, slowly add in the flour mixture.  Add the fillers.  Shape into 1" balls and  bake for 8-12 minutes until just right.

What I have to say- the pudding in the dough made the dough smell kind of funny, like if you've ever tried to make cookies from a vanilla cake mix.  Never fear, they will turn out nicely unlike when you try to make cookies from a vanilla cake mix.

Friday, January 20, 2012

vanilla ice cream in a bag























I took my kids to Mother Goose Asks Why at the library.  They always do an outstanding job.  This time my kids learned about solids and liquids and this very nice lady demonstrated how to make ice cream in a bag.  You don't need a fancy ice cream maker- just a ziplock bag!

vanilla ice cream in a bag (from the nice lady at the library and inside book Change It! Solids, Liquidfs, Gases and You by Adrienne Mason)
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small sealable plastic bag
1 large sealable plastic bag
12 ice cubes
2 tablespoons salt

Put the milk, vanilla and sugar into the small plastic bag.  Seal the bag.
Place the ice cubes in the large plastic bag.  Sprinkle the salt on the ice.
Place the small bag in the large bag.  Seal the large bag well.
Put on some music and shake the bag for 10 minutes.
Scoop your ice cream into a bowl and enjoy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

herbed chicken in pastry

















When my friend from Hershey emailed this recipe to me I knew I'd love it.  I happen to love garlic and herb spreads.  They remind me of traveling through Switzerland when we picked up my grandparents from their mission.  I was four years old and sat on the back seat of their VW bus while my grandma spread "stinky cheese" on crackers for me.  Maybe they were referring to my breath?!  I loved those cheese and crackers and still do.  The garlic and herb spread gives the chicken and pastry a delicious flavor.
I must admit there were two pastries to choose from at the store and I picked up the wrong one.  I used fillo dough which is different from puff pastry sheets.  Either one will work but I think the puff pastry will work better.

herbed chicken in pastry (my friend Morgane found it here)
1/2 of a 17.3 ounce package of puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
ground black pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons butter
1 container (4 ounces) garlic & herb spreadable cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork or whisk.
Season the chicken with black pepper.  Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until it is well browned on both sides.  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 24 hours.
Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square.  Cut into 4 (7-inch) squares.
Spread about 2 tablespoons cheese spread in the center of each pastry square.  Top each with 1 tablespoon parsley and 1 chicken breast.  Brush the edges of the pastry square with the egg mixture.  Fold the corners of the pastry squares to the center over the chicken and press to seal.  Place the filled pastries seam-side down on a baking sheet.  Brush the pastries with the egg mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  Let the pastries cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

store bought favorites- swiffer wet jet












Meet my new best friend.  Isn't she pretty?  She smells pretty too.  I don't even know where to begin.  Okay, I'll begin with my kitchen floor.  It's a disgrace.  I am constantly sweeping crumbs.  I feel like all I do all day long is sweep.  However, sweeping does not get the grime off the floor which there is a lot of.  I should be on my hands and knees scrubbing a lot more frequently than I do.  But I don't.  It's a royal pain and there are other things to do besides scrub my kitchen floor.  A friend suggested I get a Wet Jet Swiffer.  I was hesitant and you know why because you probably have a million different cleaning agents like I do.  The thing is, one cleaning agent won't work for everything and I have come to accept that...finally.  We have an upright vacuum, a hand held vacuum, a shampooer, a Shark (steam cleaner for our wood floors and granite), a broom, etc.  And now this.  This is exactly what I needed for my tile.  If you don't have one of these do yourself a favor and grab a starter kit for $20.  You will love it.  Pop in 4 AAA batteries, put the bottle of cleaner in (it smells soooo good!) and away you go.  It's so easy.  After I was done with the kitchen and laundry room I carried it upstairs to my kids' bathrooms.  I did not have to get down on my hands and knees and scrub the grimy stuff!  Do yourself a favor.  Best spent $20 ever.

P.S.  See that crock pot in the background?  Best crock pot so far.  It's my 3rd or 4th.  Hamilton Beach.  The lid clamps on tight, it has a handle and even comes with a spoon.  It has a fun little place for you to insert the name of whatever dish you're cooking should you take your crock pot to a party.  Deserves it's own blog entry...one day.

artichokes au gratin









I know it doesn't look like much, just a lot of cheesy cheese.  Underneath and surrounded by cheese you'll find big chunks of artichoke hearts and because I used pepper jack cheese there are also spicy peppers throughout.  Yum!  This dish was actually better the second day.  Next time I might throw in some pimientos for color and some sour cocktail onions for good measure.


artichokes au gratin (served at our church Christmas party)
2 cans (14 ounces each) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup butter, divided (I used 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided (I used jalapeno jack)
1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon paprika


In a small skillet, saute the artichokes and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until tender (I did not use any butter or oil).  Transfer to a greased 1-quart baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth.  Gradually add milk.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from the heat.  Stir a small amount of hot mixture into egg; return all to pan, stirring constantly.  Stir in 1/4 cup cheese until melted.  Pour over artichokes; sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Combine crumbs and paprika; sprinkle over top.  Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.  Yield: 6 servings

What I have to say- this recipe was so popular it was sent out in the weekly RS update.

Monday, January 16, 2012

ctr pretzels











What do you do when the kids are out of school and there's snow outside (and it only snows once a year)?  First of all, you smile to yourself because it only snows once a year.  Then you bundle up yourself and your kiddos and go play in it then come inside and drink hot cocoa and make CTR pretzels.  The "pretzels" are more like breadsticks but they were fun to make nonetheless.

ctr pretzels (The Friend Magazine, January 2012)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
melted butter
sea salt for sprinkling


Mix the first 5 ingredients until they form a ball.  Then knead dough until smooth and elastic.  Cover with a clean towel (or plastic wrap) and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.  
Pull off sections of the dough and roll into long ropes.  Form the ropes into letters or shapes.
Put the pretzels on a greased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes at 450 degrees.   Brush pretzels with butter and sprinkle with sea salt.

green chile tacos (or stew)

















My husband wasn't in the mood for dinner until he tried a taco.  Then another.  He said it was sooo close to Hall of Fame that I'm going to go ahead and declare this dish Hall of Fame!  The pork was incredibly tender and the filling is extremely flavorful.  You can enjoy it as stew or in a taco.

green chili tacos (or stew) (idea from allrecipes.com)
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, cubed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 (7 ounce) can fire roasted diced green chiles
4 cloves minced garlic
1 cup water
15 ounces green enchilada sauce (I recommend Las Palmas)

In a large pot over medium high heat, brown the pork in oil.  Add tomatoes, chile, garlic, water and enchilada sauce.  Cover and simmer until stew is thick and meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

peanutty chex mix treat with m&ms












My friend Kris shared this recipe with me.  Her son has celiac disease so she tries to cook and bake completely gluten free.  I watched as 12 kids attacked a giant platter of these little goodies.  They are a combination of caramel, peanut butter and chocolate with a little crunch. 

peanutty chex mix treat with m&ms (my friend Kris C.)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
8-9 cups chex mix cereal
m&ms

Over the stove, combine white sugar and corn syrup over medium heat.  When the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is almost to boiling, remove from the heat and add the peanut butter.  Stir until creamy.
Make sure you have a large bowl handy that contains the chex mix cereal.  Add the sugar/peanut butter mixture to the chex mix and stir to combine.  Add the m&ms.  Drop by blobs onto waxed paper and let set.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

creamy lemon crumb squares









These creamy lemon crumb squares are delicious!  They were even better than I expected after having looked at the list of ingredients.  I found this recipe on my friend Annie's pinterest and she has good taste so I knew I was safe in trying them.  I love citrus and I love creamy so there you have it- a terrific treat.

creamy lemon crumb squares (The Girl Who Ate Everything)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter, slightly softened
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup oats
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cups lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.  Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.  Add oats and flour to butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine. 
Press half of the oat crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9x11-inch pan.
Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Spread onto the bottom layer of the crumb mixture.  Crumble the other half of the crumb mixture on top of the lemon layer but don't press.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow pan to sit on the counter for 30 minutes after baking.  Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.  Serve cool.

almond joy cookie bars









As luck would have it I woke up this morning, exercised then quickly checked my google dashboard and saw this recipe.  I knew I had all the ingredients on hand and I also knew I invited the women I visit teach over for lunch tomorrow kind of last minute and needed something for dessert.  This will be perfect.  These cookie bars are superb.

almond joy cookie bars (Your Cup of Cake)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos (for a 9x13 pan I think you'll need more like 2 cups)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13 pan (I prepared an 8x8 because my bottom layer wouldn't fill a 9x13).  If your almonds are raw and not toasted, toast the almonds on a pan in the oven for about 5 minutes. (I stuck them in the oven while the oven preheated).
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and crushed Oreos.  Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared pan and press firmly to create your crust.  Spread the chocolate chips and toasted almonds on top followed by the coconut.  Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the coconut.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top starts to brown.  Let it rest in the pan for at least 30 minutes then cut.

lemon sage chicken cutlets









I saw this recipe a while back in my Food Network Magazine but I didn't bookmark the recipe.  Lucky for me I saw this recipe again on a blog and was determined that I should go ahead and try it.  Glad I did.  These cutlets are very delicious.  The lemon and sage is very subtle yet very tasty.  The chicken was amazingly tender.  Recently I've been buying only Foster Farm's frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast (at Costco) and every chicken recipe is ten times better than before.

lemon sage chicken cutlets (blog: What's for Dinner? and Food Network Magazine)
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
all-purpose flour for dredging
2 large eggs
juice of 1 lemon plus lemon wedges for serving
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs sage, leaves only
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine (omitted)

Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to make 2 thin cutlets.  Sprinkle lightly with water, place between two sheets of plastic wrap and pond until  1/4-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour some flour into a shallow dish and season with salt.  Lightly beat the eggs with the lemon juice is another shallow dish.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking off any excess; dip in the lemon-sage leaves to the skillet, then turn the cutlets and cook until golden on the other side, about 2 more minutes.  Transfer the cutlets and sage to a paper towel-lined plate.
Pour out any remaining oil from the skillet.  Add the wine and chicken broth and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Add the butter and swirl until melted.
Transfer the chicken to a platter.  Top with the fried sage and drizzle with the pan sauce.  Serve with lemon wedges and these excellent potatoes on the side.

crispy garlic sage potatoes

















Hall of Fame!  I made a beautiful dinner- lemon sage chicken cutlets, these garlic sage potatoes and artichokes au gratin.  Did my kids eat anything but the potatoes?  No.  They were in too in love with these potatoes to eat anything else.  By the time my husband got to the table (he was lying down because he didn't feel very well) he was lucky to get the last 5 potatoes that I swiped before my kids got to them.  Fantastic!

crispy garlic sage potatoes (blog: What's for Dinner?)
4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges (I didn't peel mine)
1/2 cup olive oil
6 chopped sage leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 smashed garlic cloves (I used minced)

Put a baking sheet on the bottom oven rack and preheat to 375 degrees.  Toss potato wedges with olive oil, chopped sage leaves, springs of sage, garlic, salt and pepper.  Spread on the hot baking sheet and roast 30 minutes.  Stir them around.  Continue roasting until golden, about 30 minutes.  Increase the temperature to 400 degrees and cook until crisp, 15 more minutes.  Season with salt if necessary.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

sun dried tomato and basil vinaigrette










I love friends who love food.  I really do.  My friend Kiana introduced me  to my new favorite homemade salad dressing.
sun dried tomato and basil vinaigrette (my friend Kiana)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed (Trader Joes)
1 shallot, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
salt and ground black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Process vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, shallot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in blender until shallot and garlic are finely chopped.  With blender running, add basil, then oil and continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds. 

What I have to say- Kiana served this dressing over greens, red cabbage, snap peas and sliced carrots. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

linguine pescadoro









My husband and I love chioppino.  It just so happens that to our surprise this recipe tastes a lot like chioppino except it's served over pasta.  I like the hint of spiciness and decided to throw in some capers for a little extra zing.  Super tasty!

linguine pescadoro (allrecipes.com)
1 (16 ounce) package linguini pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced
1 (10 ounce) can whole baby clams
1 (6.5 ounce) can minced clams, with juice
1/4 pound small salad shrimp
1/4 pound scallops
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (oops, forgot!)
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
couple tablespoons of capers

In a large pot of boiling salted water cook linguini until al dente.  Drain.
Meanwhile in a heavy saucepan over medium heat saute garlic in olive oil until garlic softens.  Add Italian seasoning, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, black olives and the juice from both cans of clams.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Mix in canned clams, shrimp, scallops, lemon zest, capers and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for an additional 15 minutes or until shrimp and clams are cooked.
toss cooked and drained linguine pasta over seafood sauce.  Serve warm.

What I have to say- if you like clams I highly recommend the double pack of clams from Costco.  Each can contains 51 ounces of freshly shucked sea clams ready to use.  The brand is Sea Watch.  The clams are nice-sized and very delicious!

italian goat cheese and pesto spread









Hall of Fame!  This spread doesn't look as good as it is.  Just trust me and go make yourself some.  Invite a few friends over or you'll be tempted to eat the entire spread yourself which may not be such a good idea.  Serve with the little melba toasts.  Delish!

italian goat cheese and pesto spread (The Sisters Cafe)
4 ounces goat cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup pesto (thick)

Line a medium sized bowl with plastic wrap, edges hanging over.  Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray.  Combine goat cheese, cream cheese and salt and pepper with electric mixer until smooth.  Reserve 1/3 cup of the mixture.  To reserved 1/3 cup mixture add tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes and vinegar.  Mix with spatula until smooth.  Take half of the goat cheese mixture and spread on bottom of bowl.  This part can be tricky since the plastic wrap likes to stick to the cheese and not the bowl as you're trying to spread it.  Run a spoon under hot water until the spoon is warm then use the back side of the spoon to gently press the cheese mixture along the bottom of the bowl.  Next spread with pesto then with the sun-dried tomato mixture.  Smooth remainder of cheese mixture on top using the warmed-spoon trick.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.  Before serving, invert onto a serving platter.  Serve with toasted baguette slices.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

chicken cordon bleu

















It sounds so fancy which is one of the things I love about this dish.  So easy to make and so good.  This time I spiced it up a bit by using jalapeno jack cheese instead of Swiss which I thought made it extra good this time.   A big hit with the entire family.

chicken cordon bleu (the way I make it)
6 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (or filet 3 giant breasts)
6-12 deli thin slices of smoked ham
6 rectangular shaped slices of Jalapeno Jack cheese or Swiss
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon paprika
1 jar of Alfredo sauce

Pound chicken breasts until thin.  On one end of each chicken breast, place 1-2 slices of smoked ham and 1 slice of cheese.  Roll up.
Place breadcrumbs mixed with paprika on a dinner plate.  Place a chicken "roll" on the plate and use your fingers to sprinkle the breadcrumbs from the plate over the chicken.  Do this with each chicken "roll" and place on a baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Heat up the alfredo sauce and let each person pour their own on top.  Serve with pasta and a nice salad.

york miniature peppermint patties brownies

















Chocolate+mint =a happy family.  This is an easy way to jazz up a pan of chocolate brownies, not that they ever need to be jazzed up, but sometimes it's fun to try something new.  When I saw this recipe in a magazine I could see the white mint layer from the York patties but I had thin mints on hand so I did not get the nice white layer as I had hoped.  Next time!  Either way, they are minty, chocolatey and delicious.

york miniature peppermint patties brownies (Real Simple Magazine, October 2010)
Prepare a 19-0unce box of brownie mix.  Spread half the batter in an oiled 8-inch square pan.  Top with 16 Hershey's York Miniatures Peppermint Patties, leaving even borders of batter.  Spread the remaining batter on top, bake according to directions.  Cool, cut into 16 squares.

P.S.  Hello Hershey friends- I thought of you when I made this recipe!

Friday, January 6, 2012

melted snowman s'mores




























My friend Lindsy hosted preschool yesterday.  What a fun lesson.  She read Snowmen at Night, we had Snowman Races, Snowman Making (on paper of course), Snowman Painting (in a bag!), etc.  I love S'mores.  Making s'mores reminds me of when we lived in Hershey.  The Agarwal family would give us a call to walk down to their house where the kiddos would put marshmallows on skewers and roast them over a pit and assemble their S'mores with none other but Hershey's chocolate (Mr. Agarwal works for Hershey!).  Those were really fun times that we cherish.
When the kids had their Snowman Races, they were each given a ziplock bag to hold the ingredients for their take-home melted snowman s'mores. 


melted snowman s'mores (my friend Lindsy, also at Preschool Alphabet)


1.  Use a sandiwch-sized ziploc baggie for each kit.
2.  Place 4 graham cracker squares, 2 large marshmallows and 1 small chocolate bar.
3. Print, cut out and fold the "Melted Snowman S'mores" topper.  (go to Preschool Alphabet to download).
4.  Go home and follow the instructions to make a delicious s'more!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

honey whole wheat bread


















The Activity Day Girls came over yesterday to make and bake bread that will be used as part of the sacrament over the next several weeks at church.  The girls learned how to grind wheat- something I've never done before!  This bread was so fresh and delicious and of course loaded with nutrients.  Excellent homemade bread recipe.  Serve with homemade honey butter!

honey whole wheat bread (my friend Kiana)
makes 4 loaves
5 cups warm water
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon yeast
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup honey
2 tablespoons salt
12-15 cups flour (Kiana used freshly ground winter white wheat)
cooking spray for bread pans

Add the warm water and yeast to a Bosc and swirl it around.  Add applesauce, honey, salt.  Add the flour a little at a time until it starts pulling away.  The messier and stickier the dough but still workable is what you are looking for.  Divide dough into 4 balls.  Use a kitchen scale to weigh them so they cook evenly.  Roll out each ball and slap down.  Shape into loaves and put into prepared pans.  Let rise for 1 hour.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
To be sure the bread is done, insert a thermometer into the center the bread, from the side of the loaf.  The bread should be around 200 degrees in the middle.  Brush with butter and serve with homemade honey butter. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

slow cooker beef and tomato stew









This stew is rich, hearty and satisfying.  Perfect for a wintry night.

slow cooker beef and tomato stew (Everyday Food Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced small
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups cooked brown rice
6 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt (or light sour cream)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, 10 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker and add beef, tomatoes, broth, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Cover and cook on high, 6 hours, stirring occasionally.  To serve, divide brown rice and stew among six bowls and top with sour cream and parsley.  To store, refrigerate stew in an airtight container up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

pablo's authentic pork tacos









My husband enjoys cooking so volunteered to cook dinner during his time off (the holidays have been slow thank goodness!).  He combined several recipes to create his own tacos and they were really good.  They tasted authentic and had a definite kick thanks to the peppers.  He asked for poblanos but I couldn't find them so grabbed some peppers that looked similar and hoped they'd be good.  They were.

pablo's authentic pork tacos (my husband's recipe)
2 pounds boneless pork chops
1 yellow onion, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
3 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced
cilantro
a few tomatoes, diced
lime juice
white corn tortillas

Slice pork across the grain.  Put pork, onion, cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper in a dutch oven or oven-proof pot (we recommend Calphalon!) and brown.  Put the lid on the pot and place in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for a couple of hours.
In the meantime, fire roast 3 peppers.  You can do this on the grill or my husband roasted them right on our gas range in the kitchen.  Get them nice and black and bubbly then rinse off in cold water and peel the skins off.  Slice.
You can add the peppers to the pork that is in the oven or if the peppers are too spicy for everyone in the family you can keep them separate in the oven like he did.
Chop the tomatoes and some cilantro and mix together with a little lime juice and salt.
Warm up the corn tortillas and make tacos!