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Friday, March 30, 2012

Pasta with Peas & Eggplant

I'm sure I'm not the only one who cooks with ingredients that their spouse doesn't like when they're not home for dinner.  Right?  Raise your hand, friends...nice and high...I know you're out there.

One of the items on Frank's black list is peas.  Such a shame, because I really like them.  Not only are they tasty, they also add such nice color to dishes.  Once in a blue moon, I'll have no choice but to add them to a dish I'm making, mainly for aesthetic reasons, and force him to pick them out.  Bad wifey.

Anyway, I used them (a LOT of them!) in a pasta dish for myself while he was working late.  I also threw in a Japanese eggplant that Bella picked out while we were at the local market, because her favorite color is purple.  Naturally.

I also used a healthy amount of crushed red pepper in the oil, which I normally don't do when Mr. I Hate Spicy Food Frank is home.  When it's just me, I say bring it on...

This super quick dish is perfect for busy nights, and also for wives of pea haters :)

Pasta with Peas & Eggplant
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, chopped
crushed red pepper
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into small cubes (can sub regular eggplant)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste
grated pecorino romano cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a medium sized pot, heat oil, then add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Add eggplant, salt and pepper, and cook until slightly brown, followed by peas.  Lower heat and stir to combine.

Drain pasta and add to veggies.  Add cheese, toss and serve.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Medjool Dates with Almonds & Pecorino Romano

You've found your next go-to appetizer...especially when you have to feed a big crowd.

I recently catered a women's networking event and had to supply appetizers for about 50 people.  The caveat - I had no stove, no oven, no fridge...so I needed to get creative.  These little beauties were perfect (and EASY!)...people loved them.

Sorry for the awful pic but I only had my point and shoot with me that night.  Still, you get the idea of how delicious they are, and how ridiculously simple they were to assemble!

Medjool Dates with Almonds & Pecorino Romano

Medjool dates
wedge of pecorino romano
whole unsalted roasted almonds

Split dates lengthwise and remove pits.  Stuff an almond (or two, depending on size of date) followed by a thin slice of cheese inside.  Place toothpick on top and serve.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BBQ Chicken Enchiladas

We went to a great BBQ restaurant over the weekend for my Dad's birthday.  There were about 15 of us (as usual) so we went ahead and ordered 2 HUGE platters of nothing but MEAT.

Now I'm mad that I didn't take pics, but let's just say these plates were insane.  Four different kinds of ribs, sausage, brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken...it was never ending.  And the sides...oh my...

Somehow we ended up with the leftovers (I honestly didn't want them!).  I heard a little mumbling about how if anyone could come up with a way to use them, it was me.  Um, tell me something I don't already know.

I mean, this was a no-brainer.

The next time you have leftover shredded BBQ chicken, or pork, or both (!)...don't throw it away!!  Do yourself a favor and make this.

BBQ Chicken Enchiladas
inspired by How Sweet It Is

leftover BBQ chicken (I used the pork, too!)...about 2 cups**
2 onions, sliced
canola oil
2 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (canned or use this homemade recipe)
8 whole wheat tortillas, medium size
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded colby jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Add oil to pan and once heated, add onions and a sprinkle of salt.  Turn heat to medium low and cook until somewhat caramelized, about 10 min.  Add chicken, 1 cup enchilada sauce and cayenne.  Add half of each type of cheese and mix.  Turn off heat.

Coat bottom of baking pan with enchilada sauce.  Lay tortilla flat and place filling on one side.  Carefully roll up and place seam down in pan.  Cover enchiladas with rest of sauce and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Finish off with your favorite toppings, if desired.

**If you feel there isn't enough BBQ sauce on your leftover meat, simply add more!

Linked to: Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Marshmallow Fudge Cake

We recently celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday on St. Patrick's Day.  She made delicious corned beef and cabbage, and we ended the meal with her cake request.

Last year, when I made her brown derby cake, she was thrilled.  I thought about using the same chocolate cake recipe this time around, then I saw a more fudge-like recipe on my Ghirardelli cocoa can.  Knowing it couldn't be anything short of awesome, I went to work.

Then, it was off to find a marshmallow frosting recipe that would be sure to please.  I was very happy with the results as far as taste, but unfortunately the looks left a lot to be desired :(  It was the first time I made an icing of this consistency, so I guess I'll just have to keep practicing...


But you know what?  It was awesome.  Like a big devil dog.  SO much better than I imagined it would be.  And that was the general consensus :)

Whose birthday was it, anyway?

Marshmallow Fudge Cake
cake recipe from Ghirardelli, frosting recipe from Pixelated Crumb

for the cake:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups AP flour
1 3/4 sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

for the frosting (seven minute frosting):
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and lightly flour two 9 inch round cake pans.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, and add vanilla, then eggs one at a time, scraping bowl after each is added.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk (beginning and ending with flour) while mixing on low.  Continue to mix until smooth.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out of middle clean.  Let cool before removing from pans.  Keep cake refrigerated until 15-30 minutes before you're ready to frost.

Combine all frosting ingredients in a large metal or glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Make sure bowl is considerably larger than ingredients since they will grow.  Beat on high with handheld mixer until thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Remove bowl from heat and continue mixing until slightly cooled (use frosting day it is made).

Put bottom layer on cake plate and add frosting on top.  Add second layer, then frost top and sides.  Refrigerate until shortly before serving.

If frosting is runny, freeze cake for a little while before putting in the fridge or serving (this is what I ended up having to do!)

Linked to: Sweets for a Saturday

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Turkey Barley Vegetable Soup

Well, it was nice while it lasted.  Who could complain about 70+ degree temps in mid March for well over a week?  It was a beautiful preview of what's to come.

And now, the weather has shifted back to more seasonable conditions, which actually is fine by me because I like it a little chilly :)  So, keep your crockpot on the counter, your dutch oven on the stove, and soups on the menu.  At least for a little while longer.

This soup is ridiculously easy and perfect for a quick weeknight meal.  And SO good.  Use whatever veggies you have on hand, and feel free to sub ground beef or chicken if you like.

Turkey Barley Vegetable Soup
from Real Simple

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup pearl barley
salt and pepper
3 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped

Heat oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven.  Add turkey and cook until brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Return turkey to pot and add broth and barley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat and simmer until barley is tender, about 25-30 minutes.  Add spinach and serve.  (if freezing or making ahead, do not add the spinach until ready to serve)

Serves 4.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Guest posting at The Heritage Cook!

Head over to Jane's blog and see what I'm cooking up over there today!  Here's a peek :)

Check out The Heritage Cook right now!

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Salmon with Lemon Compound Butter

Our recipe swap theme this time around was a repeat of the Secret Recipe Club style swap we did a few months ago.  It was a such a big hit that we chose it again!  It's always fun to go shopping on someone's blog and picking a favorite :)

My blog assignment was Jenna's Cooking Journey, which had some great recipes to choose from.  Being that we're in the middle of Lent, I'm more on the hunt for different seafood dishes than usual.  When I saw this one, I knew it was a keeper.  Not only did it look delicious, it was REALLY easy and made in minutes.


I cut back on the amount of butter from the original recipe but left all of the seasonings and flavors as they were (well, except I added more garlic, of course).  It was more than we needed and still tasted great.

Give this a shot tonight if you're observing Lent...or any weeknight that you want an easy and satisfying (and healthy!) meal.  We loved it!

Salmon with Lemon Compound Butter
slightly adapted from Jenna's Cooking Journey

1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
2 lemons, zested
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
kosher salt
3 salmon filets
extra virgin olive oil

Combine butter, lemon zest, dill, thyme and garlic in a small bowl and mix.  Season with salt to taste.  If using right away, keep out at room temperature, otherwise refrigerate and bring to room temp before using.

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium.  Season salmon with salt and add oil to both sides.  Brush and oil grill and place salmon skin side down.  Cook for about 3 minutes, turn 90 degrees, and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Turn salmon over and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Plate and top with butter.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lemon Lentil Salad

How's the weather by you?  We've been having very unseasonably warm temps here in Northern NJ.  I'm excited to start firing up the grill more and switching gears a bit with what we've been eating.  With warmer weather comes lighter foods and cold dishes.  And I'm glad I discovered this one.

We love lentils in this house, and I've been meaning to start incorporating them in salads.  This will be a regular dish here from now on, and you can bet there will be lots more to come!  I brought the leftovers to work for lunch and they were even better the day after.

I served this with grilled Italian sausage...YUM.  I think it would go with lots of things...fish, chicken, pork tenderloin...whatever you like.  Plus, this is a great side dish to take to picnics - no mayo and easy to transport.

Try it soon!

Lemon Lentil Salad
adapted from Allrecipes

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups water
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 bay leaf
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (which I forgot to add...oops!)
2 scallions, chopped

In a small bowl, combine first 9 ingredients and set aside.

Add water, lentils and bay leaf to a pot and bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, until slightly tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain and discard bay leaf, and place in medium sized bowl or container.  Add tomato, parsley, scallions and dressing and stir gently.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serves 4.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Tomato Sauce & Feta

LOVE this dish.  Another Greek classic...

This dish wasn't a common one during my childhood - why, I'm not sure - but it's always been a favorite.  The combination of flavors is just awesome.  Get some nice fresh crusty bread and you're all set!


Baked Orzo with Shrimp, Tomato Sauce & Feta
slightly adapted from Gourmet

1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 pound orzo
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a dutch oven, cook onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper in 1 tablespoon oil.  Stir until onion is soft.  Add wine and boil until reduced by half.  Stir in tomatoes and salt, reduce to simmer and and stir frequently until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.  Stir shrimp in and simmer for about 3 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, boil orzo in a dutch oven (follow package directions, but shorten time a few minutes to cook al dente).  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain orzo.  Return orzo to pot and add remaining tablespoon of oil.  Add orzo to sauce, followed by reserved cooking water, then olives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add feta to pot and bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes.

Serves 6.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Banana Cream Pie with Vanilla Wafer Crust

My niece Maddie celebrated her 11th birthday a few weeks ago.  As per our family tradition since my blog started, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted me to make.

Last year I made her a delicious strawberry shortcake and this year, she followed along with more fruity goodness.  Unlike just about every other 11 year old on the planet, little miss Maddie doesn't like chocolate...and it definitely makes me question the fact that we're related :)

So, because no gathering with my family is small, I had to make the pie into more of a cake size dessert (I doubled the recipe below in order to adapt it to a 9x13 pan).  Still, the words couldn't fit using whipped cream, so initials had to suffice.

This is one delicious dessert.  The custard is phenomenal.  The crust is to die for.  All in all, it was a big hit!

Unfortunately though, it isn't very pretty...

I have to admit, I wasn't very excited about Maddie's choice when she first gave it to me, but this was a pleasant surprise.  Really, really good!  I'll definitely be making it again soon.

Happy Birthday, Maddie!

Banana Cream Pie with Vanilla Wafer Crust
adapted from Prepared Pantry

for the crust:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (use a plastic bag and rolling pin for best results)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

for the filling:
3 bananas, sliced
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup AP flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter

Place crushed wafers in a 9 inch deep dish pie pan.  Add sugar and stir to combine.  Add melted butter and mix to distribute evenly.  Press mixture evenly throughout pan.  Place in freezer while preparing filling.

Place dry filling ingredients in a saucepan.  Add milk and whisk together, followed by egg yolks.  Cook over low heat, stirring regularly, until mixture is thick and just begins to bubble.  Add butter and vanilla and stir.

Let cool for 15 minutes.  Spread banana slices along crust then pour filling over it.  Let chill for several hours.

Linked to:  Sweets for a Saturday

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Hot Reuben Dip

Tired of corned beef yet?  Yeah, I know...this post is a few days late.  But honestly, this dip is a hit any time of the year!  Plus, if you have leftovers from this weekend, this is a great way to use them up.

Men (especially my man) go NUTS over this!  The guy at the deli counter (who was kind enough to shred the 4 pounds of corned beef I ordered) even started drooling over it without even trying it.

It's perfect for crowds, and can be made in no time at all.  It takes under an hour to heat up, and it can sit in the crockpot on warm for hours as well.  Great for game day...or, like I said, any day :)

Hot Reuben Dip
adapted from allrecipes

4 pounds shredded cooked corned beef
4 cups shredded swiss cheese
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup thousand island dressing (homemade or store bought)
1 large can (25 ounces or so) sauerkraut, drained

Place all ingredients into crockpot and stir to combine.  Cook on high for about 45 minutes if in a hurry, or longer on low until cheese has melted.  Stir occasionally.  Serve on mini rye or pumpernickel slices, or on crackers.

Serves an army!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Sicilian Artichoke Pie (Tortino di Carciofini)

These are a few of my favorite things...

Sicilian food.

Combine them and what do you get?  Well, awesomeness is one word that comes to mind...

My dad found an old cookbook that we've been sifting through and finding some pretty incredible recipes.  This is one of them.  And it brings me right back to the homeland.

Lunch, dinner, snack, appetizer...you decide.  Enjoy this little slice of heaven, no matter when you have it!

Sicilian Artichoke Pie (Tortino di Carciofini)
from The Art of Sicilian Cooking (the version we have is WAY older than this one!)

for the crust:
2 cups sifted AP flour
pinch of salt
3/4 cup shortening (or 2/3 cup lard)
1/3 cup ice water

for the filling:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup grated caciocavallo cheese
8 ounces mozzarella, chopped
salt and pepper

Place flour and salt in bowl, and cut in shortening with two knives or pastry blender.  Continue until mixture resembles small peas.  Sprinkle ice water, one tablespoon at a time, over mixture, adding to driest part each time.  Mix gently with fork until fully moistened.  Form into ball and divide in half.

Roll one half between two pieces of waxed paper to 1/8 inch thickness and 1 inch larger than 9 inch pie pan.  Fold in half and place loosely in pan, working carefully.  Set aside.  Do the same for other half for top crust; set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Saute garlic in hot oil.  Add artichokes and brown lightly on both sides.  Transfer to bowl and stir in eggs and cheeses.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, then pour into pie pan.

Cover with top crust and trim off all but 1/2 inch of excess dough.  Turn under, sealing two crusts together.  Flute crust gently and cut air holes on top with a knife.  Bake for about 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Serves 6-8.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homemade Hamburger Buns

I'm still working on this whole yeast thing...also known as the elephant in my room.  I never bothered baking my own bread because, honestly, bread doesn't get any better than what's available around here.  

Still, I felt the need to start baking my own, and now I'm really starting to enjoy it!  It's getting better, I must admit, but I definitely need more practice.

Like with these buns.  They were really good, but next time I'll probably pound them down a bit more.  And add sesame seeds.  Fun!

To all you other fraidy cats...try this recipe!  You'll surprise yourself and everyone else, I swear!  It's easy.

Homemade Hamburger Buns
from Frugal Living NW (more tips on this from King Arthur Flour)

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 1/4 cups flour

In mixing bowl, sprinkle sugar and yeast over water.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Add salt, egg and butter.

Turn mixer (with dough hook attachment) on low and slowly add flour, one cup at a time, until soft dough is formed.  Knead dough in mixer for several minutes.

Lightly flour hands and shape dough into ball.  Coat inside of mixing bowl with cooking spray.  Place dough back in bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Divide into 8 pieces and form into rolls or buns.  Let rise on greased baking sheets for 30-40 minutes.  If desired, brush melted butter on tops and add sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, poppy seeds, or whatever you like.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until tops are LIGHT brown.  Cool on rack.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Classic Diner-Style Chocolate Pie for Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day! (and incase you have no idea what I'm talking about, today's date is 3/14...get it?)  What better way to celebrate than with, of course, pie.

And let me tell you...THIS is the one to pick.  Run to the store NOW, get what you need, fly home and make it.  You will love me for it, without question.

Have you seen, or read, The Help?  If so, you'll know exactly why I chose this as the dish to represent that movie at my 24x24 party.  Naturally, I left the "special" ingredient out, and headed over to Baked: Explorations for the real deal.


Not much else to say except you may feel like nothing will ever top this pie...besides some whipped cream :)

Classic Diner-Style Chocolate Pie
from Baked: Explorations

for the chocolate cookie crust:
30 chocolate wafer cookies
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

for the chocolate filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chocolate malt (like Ovaltine)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons whiskey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

whipped cream

for the crust:  Grind cookies in food processor until consistency is of fine powder (about 1 1/2 cups).  Put crumbs in bowl and mix in sugar.

Pour butter in and mix well until combined.  Mixture will be wet.  Turn onto 9 inch pie plate and press into bottom and sides.  Freeze while making filling.

for the filling:  Whisk sugar, malt, salt and cornstarch in pot.  Add yolks and whisk until combined.  Mixture will look like thick paste.  Slowly pour milk and cream in, whisking constantly.  Bring to boil over medium heat while whisking to prevent bottom from burning.  Boil for 30 seconds then remove from heat.

Add chocolates, whiskey and vanilla.  Whisk until combined.  Continue whisking for a few minutes to cool mixture slightly.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  If skin forms, whisk before pouring into pie shell.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.  Top with whipped cream.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday
                  Sweet Tooth Friday

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My phone call with Lidia!

I was so excited after winning Lidia Bastianich's recipe contest with my Pasta e Fagioli.  I had some great loot sent to me (can't wait to really dive into the cookbooks!), but the best prize came last week when I got a phone call from the one and only herself.


I really had no idea what to expect going into it.  First of all, she called me directly, which really surprised me!  I was expecting a patch-through or something.  But nope...I answered my phone, and there she was.

We talked about my winning recipe, and she asked me (a lot of) questions about it.  Where did it come from, why did I enter that particular one, etc.  Lidia and I have at least one thing in common - we both love food and love family, and they tie in together naturally.  So, we chatted about that, too.

The best part?  She was looking at my blog while we were talking!  I couldn't believe it.  And she loved it.  I'm not sure if anyone realizes what a HUGE compliment that is for me, but seriously, it doesn't get much better than that.

Lidia was gracious enough to allow me to post my blog link and Facebook page link onto her Facebook page.  She said that her fans and my fans must have a lot in common, so they'd definitely appreciate checking out my blog and recipes.  Again, another amazing compliment!

All in all, it was a wonderful conversation and an amazing opportunity.  Never in a million years did I ever think I'd end up chatting away with Lidia Bastianich.  The closest I've ever been to her is sitting my butt down on a chair in one of her restaurants, eating some incredible food that likely came from a recipe developed in her mother's kitchen.  Now, I feel like I actually know her :)

Thanks to everyone who supported me and voted during the contest.  Without you, this wouldn't have been possible!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Oven Fried Panko Chicken

Mother Nature has really been good to us here in the Northeast this winter.  Barely any snow, mild temperatures, sunny days...I'll take it!  This week temps are going to be in the 60s most days, which is a rarity in mid-March.  As the spring weather enters I think more about picnics and outdoor eating - something I really enjoy doing.

And this chicken is perfect for what I've been thinking about.

I served it (indoors) over the weekend with baked macaroni and cheese, but a pasta salad of some sort (like this one!) would be a great picnic side dish to accompany this.  

Who else is ready for spring to officially start?

Oven Fried Panko Chicken
slightly adapted from Epicurious

2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons butter, softened
12 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on, rinsed and patted dry

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place rack in middle.

Combine panko, cayenne, and a little salt and pepper.  Put mixture in a shallow dish.  

Stir together butter with a little salt and pepper in a bowl, then brush all over chicken.  Add chicken to crumbs and gently press them into chicken so they stick.  Place chicken in a baking dish as you go, skin side up.

Bake until browned and cooked through, about 40 minutes.  Let stand for around 10 minutes to crisp up.  Serve warm or at room temp.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Alfredo Stuffed Shells with Chicken & Artichokes

Our latest recipe swap theme was pasta, back by popular demand.  As you know, we're never short on ideas for pasta here, but new ones are always welcome!  This recipe, from Leanne at Around the Table: Loving Food in RI and Beyond, was a nice addition to our arsenal.

As most of you know, I've been favoring make ahead meals lately because of my work schedule.  I was excited when I saw this assignment because I figured it was a dish that I could make the day before, pop in the fridge, and reheat the next night.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out as planned.  Don't get me wrong, it was still good...but the creamy aspect of the sauce kind of just disappeared.  It turned into more of a buttery liquidy sauce.  So, next time I'll either prep it the day before and not bake it until serving, or I'll make it the same day we eat it :)

This picture was taken after I baked them and before I refrigerated them...delicious!  And, the pan you see is one of the three in the set I got from Lydia - LOVE them!

Check out the link below for Leanne's original recipe - I made changes based on ingredients that I had on hand.  Thanks for a great pasta dish, Leanne!

Alfredo Stuffed Shells with Chicken & Artichokes
adapted from Around the Table: Loving Food in RI and Beyond

24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente
1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese, divided
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While pasta is cooking, cook the sauce.  Warm cream and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium low heat until steaming.  Whisk in butter until melted.  Add 1 cup cheese, pepper and half of the parsley.  Raise heat and cook until reduced to one cup, stirring frequently.  Add chicken and artichokes and remove from heat.

Fill each shell with mixture, then top each with remaining cheese.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Roasted Salmon, Potatoes, Asparagus & Cherry Tomatoes

I have a confession to make.  I've been struggling lately with juggling work, my daughter and everyday life - and my dinner prep.  I try...I really, REALLY try to make a menu plan every week.  And then I never stick to it.

I need a meal plan intervention!  Any volunteers?

All I have to say is, it's a good thing I have this blog...it's definitely keeping me motivated to stay on track and keep cooking delicious stuff.  Like this one.  Delicious, and easy, and one pan, and healthy...what else do you need?

A great meal for tomorrow's Lent observers!

Roasted Salmon, Potatoes, Asparagus & Cherry Tomatoes
3 salmon filets
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
12 small potatoes, cut in half
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a baking dish, add potatoes and drizzle with oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  Add asparagus and cook for another 15 minutes.

Season salmon with salt and pepper and add to pan with tomatoes.  Drizzle vinegar over all ingredients, return to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes.  Serve right out of the pan!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Salty Sweet Candied Peanuts

Ah, the ballgame.  One of my favorite past times.  All my life I've been a huge sports fan...and yes, I mean HUGE.  I don't think anyone else can say they knew a 7 year old girl who memorized all the stats of each player on her favorite baseball team, hmmm? 

Although we are partial season ticket holders, I rarely get to any games these days.  Life just gets in the way.  But, I'll be sure to teach my little girl how to appreciate the beauty of baseball.  She already wears her pink Yankees hat with pride :)

This delicious snack was the dish I chose to represent "Moneyball" at my 24x24 party.  And it should come with a warning label.  No joke.

Ignore the bad picture and concentrate on the virtual deliciousness.  This is a home run!

Salty Sweet Candied Peanuts

2 cups salted peanuts (or whatever nuts you like)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix peanuts, sugar and water together in a large pot.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently.  You'll notice the mixture will start to look sticky.  Keep stirring, through when it turns dark, until it becomes golden brown in color.  Remove from heat.

Stir in salt and cinnamon.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat and dump nuts on top.  Let cool and break apart.  Keep in airtight container.  

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oven Baked Pork Stew

I often speak of my love for Le Creuset here.  There's no hiding it...the pieces I have make life so much easier. I love dishes that go from stovetop to oven to table.  One pot to wash - I'll take it!

My other love is one pot meals.  You can't go wrong with throwing everything together and having a complete meal.  Awesomeness.

Long story short - this was a winner.

Oven Baked Pork Stew
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 1/2 pounds pork meat (I used pork tenderloin), cut into cubes
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 cups beef broth
2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup AP flour
5 sweet potatoes, cut into half rounds
1 cup frozen green beans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a dutch oven, brown meat in hot oil.  Stir in broth, oregano, marjoram, lemon pepper and garlic powder.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.  Cover tightly and bake for 45 minutes.

Combine water and flour.  Remove stew from oven and stir mixture into it.  Add potatoes and green beans.  Cover and bake for around 60-75 minutes, or until meat and vegetables are tender and liquid has thickened.

Serves 6.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Diner Style Cranberry Walnut Muffins (Secret Recipe Club)

One of the things I love most about the Secret Recipe Club is that it exposes me to some great blogs that I've never seen before.  This month is no exception.  Amber, who writes Bluebonnets and Brownies, is originally from Texas and currently lives in the great state of NJ :)  As soon as I received my assignment I headed right over to the blog (as usual) and immediately fell in love.  Amber's got some great recipes - it was tough to pick just one!

One thing NJ is well known for is their diners.  The fact that you can go pretty much anywhere in the state and get a kick ass meal round the clock is awesome.  So when I saw Amber's recipe for these muffins, which were called "diner style", I had to try them out.

These muffins were delicious!  I'm not sure I agree that they're diner style, though.  The muffins I usually see in the diners around here are way bigger (yeah, I guess if I had a big muffin pan, mine would be too) and fluffier.  Still, they were good, and very easy to make.

I'm looking forward to trying more of Amber's recipes...be sure to check out her blog if you haven't done so before!

Diner Style Cranberry Walnut Muffins
from Bluebonnets and Brownies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups pancake mix
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
3/4 cup cranberries (I used frozen, which I thawed first)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
turbinado sugar for topping (optional...I wanted to use it and forgot!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream sugar and butter together in mixing bowl.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.  Add pancake mix in one cup at a time, also fully incorporating each time.

Scrape bowl down then add milk while mixing on low speed.  Fold cranberries and walnuts in by hand.

Spoon mix into paper lined cups evenly.  Sprinkle with sugar if using.  Bake for 25-35 minutes.  Cool before removing from pan.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cuban Pork Chops for Krystal's Baby Shower!

When fellow food blogger Joelen emailed me about participating in Krystal's virtual baby shower, I replied immediately.  Krystal is a friend who I've made through blogging (be sure to check hers out if you aren't already a reader), and even though she's all the way across the country, I'm confident that we will meet in person one day.

I know that Krystal has had a bit of a rough road to get where she is right now, but soon Cookie will be here and she'll be holding her little miracle in her hands.  I know firsthand what an amazing feeling that is, and I can't wait for her to experience the same thing!

All the participants (and wait until you see the shower on Joelen's blog tomorrow...there are a LOT of us!) were asked to make something from one of two cuisines, representing Krystal and her husband - either Cuban or Filipino.  Well, many of you know my mad love for Cuban food, so off I went to find a dish that I knew they would enjoy.

I went with something simple, figuring an easy dish would come in handy once the new parents are busy with Cookie.  Like Italian and Greek cuisine, there are many Cuban dishes that have few ingredients but are very, very delicious.  This is one of them.

Anything with this many onions is more than good in my book :)

Congratulations, Krystal...can't wait until the big day!

Cuban Pork Chops
slightly adapted from La Cocina de Nathan

4 boneless pork chops
6 garlic cloves, mashed
juice of 3 limes, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, sliced

Rub pork with garlic, lime juice from 2 limes, 1 teaspoon salt and cumin.  Heat oil in a large pan and add pork.  Cook each side well, about 10 minutes or so (depending on thickness of chops).  If the garlic burns, that's okay.

Remove pork from pan and add onions.  Add salt (be generous!) and saute onions until brown.  Add juice from last lime to deglaze and scrape bits from bottom of pan.

Add pork back to pan and pile onions around and on top of chops.  Turn off heat, plate and serve.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream

"The Descendants" takes place in Hawaii, so as part of my 24x24 party last weekend I knew the dish I'd choose to represent it would be something tropical.  Since the movie ends with the family sitting on the couch eating ice cream, I thought merging both ideas would be pretty cool.

And so was the outcome.

All we needed was some palm trees and we would have been all set ;)

Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream
from A Sweet Pea Chef

1 can (15 ounces) cream of coconut
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 cup coconut flakes, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple (or canned crushed pineapple)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add coconut flakes and stir.  Pour into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions.  When there is about 5 minutes left, add pineapple.

Freeze in airtight container for at least 5 hours (preferably overnight).  Top with coconut flakes (toast them if you like by baking in a 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes, moving them around every 5 minutes, on a parchment lined baking sheet).

Linked to: Sweets for a Saturday

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Raw Kale Salad with Walnuts, Pecorino & Lemon

Kale is everywhere these days.  I find it funny that over 20 years ago, when I was waiting tables at a family restaurant while in college, we used it as a garnish for plates.  No one would even dream of eating it.  Now, it's one of the famous "super foods" that's all the craze.   And I will proudly say that I'm a fan.

This salad was delicious.  It was the dish that represented the movie "War Horse" for my 24x24 party.  In the film, the horse owner was a farmer, so I wanted to choose a farm to table dish to represent it.

Crunch, crunch.

So eat up and make Dr. Oz proud! :)

Raw Kale Salad with Walnuts, Pecorino & Lemon
slightly adapted from Amateur Gourmet

1 bunch kale, stemmed, washed and torn into pieces
1 cup walnut pieces
2 lemons
grated pecorino romano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put kale in a bowl.  Place walnuts in a dry skillet and toast until fragrant and warm.  Remove and chop.

Zest both lemons and add to kale.  Toss in walnuts, then juice lemons over the mixture.  Add oil (a generous amount, or else however much you like), salt and pepper, then toss.

Add cheese in (again, as much as you like) and toss salad several times to ensure everything is coated.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.

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