Saturday, December 22, 2012

Recipe #26: White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Every year, around the holidays, I bake way too much. For the last 3 years, peppermint bark has been on my list. This year, I wanted to change it up a bit. In the past, I followed this recipe exactly. I've never been disappointed with it, and I liked how it was layered with milk chocolate and white chocolate.

*16 oz (4 bars) of high quality white chocolate
*2 teaspoons of canola oil
*1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract
*25 peppermint candies, crushed
*1/4 to 1/2 cup of mini milk chocolate chips

Prepare a 9x13 dish, lined with wax paper or parchment paper and set it aside.

Pour the canola oil into the top of a double boiler. (The water under the double boiler should be gently boiling.) Break up the white chocolate bars into small pieces, and add them to the canola oil. Stir frequently to allow all of the chocolate to melt. As you're stirring, scrape the sides with a rubber spatula to help prevent the chocolate from burning. Once the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the peppermint extract.

Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan, and top with the crushed peppermint candies and mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate until hardened, and then break up into small pieces. Easy as that!!

My husband loves this every year. I hope you do too!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Recipe #25 - Baked *Insert Pasta Here*

I was looking for something very easy when I came across this recipe... and it delivered! The original recipe calls for ravioli, but I used tortellini. I think it'll work just fine with whatever kind of pasta you want!

*25 oz frozen pasta
*1 jar of marinara sauce
*2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
*parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400*. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non stick cooking spray. Spread 3/4 cup of pasta into the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of the pasta in the baking dish. Top with half of the remaining pasta sauce and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layers, starting with the pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly in the center. Let stand for 10 minutes prior to serving.


Recipe #24 - Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe is actually not too difficult. The worst part was shredding the chicken... but it was worth every minute. It's actually two different recipes combined. The first recipe is for the enchiladas, originally found here. The second recipe is for the sour cream sauce, originally found here. (The sour cream sauce recipe also has a recipe for the enchiladas, but the first one sounded better to me, so I combined the two!)

Ingredients (for both recipes):
*1.5 cups of cooked chicken breasts, shredded
*1 medium onion (optional)
*3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, divided
*3/4 cup of salsa **modified from the original recipe
*4 oz of reduced fat cream cheese
*8 tortillas
*1/4 cup of butter
*1/4 cup of flour
*1 15 oz can of chicken broth
*1 cup of sour cream
*1 4 oz can of chopped green chilies (optional)
*fresh cilantro (optional)

To prepare the chicken enchiladas:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large skillet with non stick cooking spray. Add onion (if using one) and cook over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, or until tender. Add chicken, 1/2 cup of cheese, salsa and cream cheese. Heat and stir until cheese is melted. Spoon 1/3 cup of chicken mixture into tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in a 9x13 baking dish.

To prepare the sour cream sauce:
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Stir the flour in to make a roux, stirring and cooking until bubbly. Gradually whisk in chicken broth, stirring frequently, until boiling. Remove from heat and add sour cream and green chilies (if used). Stir until smooth.

Pour the sour cream sauce over the rolled enchiladas. Top with remaining cheese, and fresh cilantro, if desired. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until cheese on top is melted.


Recipe #23 - Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I had some beef already cut up and ready to use stored in my deep freezer, so I searched for a new recipe to try it in. That's when I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Stew. It was very good, and so easy!

*2 tblsp olive oil
*1.5 lbs of boneless sirloin, diced into 1 inch pieces
*1.5 tsp of kosher salt, divided
*1/2 tsp pepper, divided
*2 tblsp all purpose flour
*2 med onions, each cut into 8 wedges
*8 garlic cloves, crushed
*1/4 cup white cooking wine
*1 cup beef stock
*2 tblsp tomato paste
*3 bay leaves
*1 tblsp thyme
*1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes, drained
*3 cups of potatoes, diced into 1 inch pieces
*2 cups of carrots, diced into 1 inch pieces

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, sprinkle beef with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Cover beef with flour, until well coated. Place beef in skillet, until all sides are browned. Dump beef into crock pot.

Add garlic and onions to skillet and sauté for 5 minutes. (I did not use onions, only the garlic, so I only sautéed for about 2-3 minutes, until the garlic was fragrant.) Add wine to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen up browned bits. (I did not have white cooking wine so I just used a small splash of some white zin I had on hand.) Add mixture to crock pot.

Top beef and onion/garlic mixture with remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours, until beef is tender. I stirred about every 2 hours. With about 1-2 hours left, I realized the veggies were not as tender as I would have liked. I turned up the heat to high and cooked for about another 45-60 minutes, and it was perfect. Top with remaining salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves.

Enjoy! TTFN!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recipe #22 - Mini Marble Cheesecakes

It was a co-workers birthday, so I ventured out and tried another new recipe from my OREO With a Twist Cookbook. For starters, let me make a statement that I don't eat cheesecake. I don't like the texture. If I'm not sure whether or not I should chew something, I usually don't eat it. Now, with that being said, I loved these, but more on that later...

*24 OREOs, divided (The recipe calls for regular, next time, I'm using Double Stuf)
*2 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
*1/2 cup sugar
*2 eggs
*1 tsp vanilla extract
*2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted, cooled

Line muffin pan with muffin pan cups, and place 1 OREO at the bottom of each cup (16 total). Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Set aside 1/2 cup of batter. Spoon the remaining mixture even into the 16 prepared muffin cups.

Mix the extra 1/2 cup of batter with the melted chocolate. Spoon a small amount (about a teaspoon) onto the center of the previously filled muffin cups. Swirl the batters together to create a marbled effect. The original recipe says to use a knife, but I used a toothpick.

Bake at 350* for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is set and slightly puffed. I baked these in my convection oven, at 325*, and 20 minutes was too long to cook them, just FYI. Next time, I'll probably check on them at around 17 minutes. Cool then refrigerate until time to serve. Garnish the mini cheesecakes with the remaining OREOs.

The reason I loved these so much was because the OREO in the bottom didn't get very soggy - it just barely softened. With that being said, though, one OREO was not big enough to take up the entire bottom of the cup. I kind of wonder if large crumbles of OREOs would hold together well enough so that there could be more OREOs that take up the entire bottom. I guess anything that allows me to eat more OREOs is fine by me... :)

Happy Baking! TTFN!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Recipe #21: Summertime Chicken Tacos

Here is where I originally found the recipe:

Once again, I failed to snap any pictures... sorry! :(

*1/3 cup of olive oil
*1/4 cup of lime juice
*4 garlic cloves, minced
*1 tblsp minced fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
*1 tsp ground cumin
*1 tsp dried oregano
*1/2 tsp salt (optional)
*1/4 tsp pepper
*4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the all ingredients and blend well. Add the chicken, turning to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Drain and discard marinade. Grill chicken uncovered over medium heat until cooked through.

Serve in soft or crunchy taco shells with favorite taco toppings. (We actually served it over lettuce and had chicken taco salads!) I thought the chicken was wonderful - it stayed extremely moist and tender, and had wonderful flavor. The one thing I changed about the recipe was that I used fresh cilantro rather than parsley. I was worried how it might affect the flavor, but it wasn't that noticeable in my opinion!

We will definitely be doing this again! TTFN!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recipe #20 - OREO Cereal Bars

OHHHH another recipe from the OREO with a Twist cookbook. :) I think these are my favorite recipes to post, since they're my favorite to eat. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of these... we ate them way too quickly. Picture this - rice crispy treats, minus the rice crispies, plus cheerios and OREO pieces.

*32 OREO cookies (1 package)
*4 cups of cereal - I used multigrain Cheerios
*1/3 cup of butter or margarine
*1 10.5 ounce package of mini marshmallows

Spray a 13x9x2 pan and a large rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Place the cookies in a large plastic bag to coarsely crush the cookies. Put crushed cookies and cereal into a large bowl, and stir together with a wooden spoon.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the butter and marshmallows are melted and smooth, stirring constantly with the wooden spoon. Once the mixture is smooth, immediately pour over the cereal and cookies, and quickly mix everything together. Pour the mixture into the greased pan, and press down using the rubber scraper. Let stand until set. Use a knife to cut the cereal bars into squares and store in an airtight container.

Enjoy! TTFN!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recipe #19 - Fajita marinade

This past weekend, we had a few friends over for dinner. I wanted to make fajitas and all of the fixins', but I didn't want to buy the pre-seasoned fajita meat. I looked for a marinade I could try. The original recipe is here:

The ingredients below are based on either one pound of top sirloin or one pound of chicken breast.

Meat Marinade Ingredients:
*1/4 cup lime juice
*1/3 cup water
*2 tblsp olive oil
*4 garlic cloves, crushed
*2 tsp soy sauce (I used low sodium)
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp liquid smoke
*1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
*1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients and marinade the meat overnight. Grill meat over an open flame, flipping every 5-6 minutes, until thoroughly cooked. Thinly slice the meat. Set aside and keep warm.

Fajita Vegetable Ingredients:
*1 small onion
*1 small red bell pepper
*1 small green bell pepper
*2 tblsp water
*1 tblsp olive oil
*1 tsp soy sauce
*1/2 tsp lime juice
*1 dash salt
*1 dash black pepper

Thinly slice all vegetables, and set them aside. Mix remaining ingredients together in a large frying pan. Add sliced vegetables to the frying pan and cook them until brown. Add sliced meat to frying pan.

Let me first start by saying that I was really nervous about the marinade. I didn't like the way it smelled, so I was worried that would translate to not a good flavor. We cooked both steak and chicken. Both meats were so incredibly good! I was surprised by how juicy and tender the chicken was. This is definitely a keeper recipe, and it was so easy! I'll be saving this for game watching parties and tailgates!!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Recipe #18 - Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts

We actually tried this recipe about 3 or 4 weeks ago - I just have not had a minute to post the recipe! This is another find from I've actually found a lot of really tasty recipes from their site lately. Here is the original recipe:

*4 boneless chicken breasts
*4 slices of bacon
*3 to 4 oz of cheese
*1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
*1/2 tsp garlic powder
*1/2 tsp paprika
*1/2 tsp pepper

Flatten the chicken breasts to approximately 1/4" thick. Combine the cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika and pepper. Coat both sides of the chicken with the spices. Place small piece of cheese on the chicken and roll up firmly. Wrap each chicken breast with a piece of bacon. In a skillet, brown the bacon wrapped chicken over medium heat until bacon begins to crisp. Remove from skillet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.

The original recipe calls for smoked gouda cheese. I didn't have any on hand and used feta cheese the first time I made this. I thought it was good, but I want to try it with a different cheese next time. I had a hard time getting the chicken as flat as the recipe called for, which made it really thick when I rolled it up, and it needed to cook longer. The recipe was really good, though, and I'll definitely be trying it again!


Recipe #17 - Pepper Lime Chicken

Well hey there! It's been a while! :)

I originally got this recipe from It was very easy to make on a Sunday afternoon and throw in the fridge for a "quick" meal later in the week. It will definitely be made in my house again, and I'll probably make up a larger batch to freeze some additional meals.

*1/2 tsp lime peel
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1/4 cup lime juice
*1 tsp pepper
*1 tblsp olive oil
*1 tsp basil
*1/4 tsp salt
*4 chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients in a freezer bag. Add chicken to bag and coat well. Marinate the chicken over night in the fridge, or place in the freezer for later use. When you're ready to cook the chicken, bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350.

The original recipe says to serve over rice, which I did not. I probably will next time, though! The best thing about this recipe was how tender the chicken was. It was wonderful!!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Recipe #16 - OREO Crunch Bars

I finally busted out another recipe from the Oreo With a Twist cookbook... and it did not disappoint! :) In case you missed the first one, here ya go!

*34 OREO cookies, divided
*1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
*1 7.5oz jar of marshmallow creme
*1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
*1/3 c chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350. Coarsely chop 8 OREO cookies, set aside. Finely crush the remaining cookies and mix with the melted butter. Firmly press the cookie crust onto the bottom of a greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan (I actually used a 9" round pan...). Drop the marshmallow creme by spoonfuls onto the cookie crust, coming within about a 1/2 inch of the edges. (I found the marshmallow creme hard to spread once it was on the crust, so it needed a little TLC.) Sprinkle remaining OREOs, chocolate chips and nuts over the top. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the marshmallow creme puffs. Cool completely on a wire rack.

I made this recipe for work, so I did not use nuts, for not knowing about allergies. Next time, I will try them, at least on half. Rather than original OREOs, I used Double Stuf OREOs for the recipe. There aren't 34 in the package, so the numbers are a little bit altered for the first part. I coarsely chopped 6, instead of 8, and then used the remaining cookies for the crust. It was quite delish.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Recipe #15 - Baked Corn on the Cob

I do realize that I've more or less disappeared lately... I haven't slowed down on trying new recipes though! I have a few to catch up on.

Corn is a really popular vegetable in our house. During the spring/summer months, I like buying the ears of corn at the grocery store, rather than canned. Something about it just seems... fun?? Anyway, we ran out of propane for the grill, so I was in need of an alternative way to cook them.

*Ear(s) of corn, cleaned and completely free of husks and silk fibers
*Foil square
*any other seasonings, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425. Butter and season the foil squares. Place one ear of corn per foil square, and wrap the corn. I usually wrap it a little loose, but still closed. Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes, until corn is soft, turning over once halfway through.

Enjoy!! TTFN!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recipe #14 - Chicken and Brown Rice Pilaf

My mom gets a Kraft Foods magazine every so often. I used to get it, but it randomly stopped. Oh well. It always has a lot of good looking recipes, and I'll honestly admit I've tried quite a few!! So far, I tried 2 from the recent magazine she let me borrow. The first one, yuck! This second one, yummy!! Here is the link to Kraft's website with the original recipe. I'm only going to show my modified recipe below!

*3-4 slices of bacon, chopped
*4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb)
*1 bag of frozen broccoli
*2 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
*2 cups hot cooked long-grain brown rice

Prepare the rice according to the directions on the package. I haven't mastered making brown rice yet... it always seems dry. I'm working on it though. In a large skillet, cook chopped bacon, until crisp (about 6-7 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon pieces out of the skillet, leaving the grease. Lay the bacon pieces on a paper towel covered plate, to drain excess grease.

Before adding chicken to the skillet, make sure it's cut into small sections, or somewhat flattened, to allow it to cook a little faster. My chicken pieces were too plump, resulting in very crispy outsides. Add the chicken to the skillet, cooking about 6-8 minutes on each side, until its golden brown and cooked all the way through. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Add broccoli to skillet, along with a small amount of water (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet). Cover. Cook until broccoli is tender. Add rice and bacon to skillet with broccoli. Mix well. Top rice mixture with bacon pieces and chicken, and ta da!

So the original recipe only uses two strips of bacon, but OH MY the bacon was my favorite part. That's why I increased it to 3-4 slices here. I'll be trying it that way next time. I don't know what about it made the rest of it WONDERFUL! We prefer broccoli, so that is why I used it, rather than the other veggies. Plus, it's what I had on hand. I will try it with snap peas, once, though.

This was a very yummy and relatively easy meal! I'll definitely make it again.


Monday, April 9, 2012

FOLLOW UP: Recipe #12

Here is a link to the original post...

So I tried these again for Easter, because I knew I could do a better job than I did the first time I made them. I found a mistake that I made... I used a box of Devil's Food cake mix that was too small - it was only 15.25 oz, not 18.25 oz like the recipe called for. In all honestly, the taste was the same. The only noticeable difference was the texture of the cupcakes. The first time, they were more brownie like. This second time, they were more cake-y.

The biggest difference, in my opinion, was the frosting. Instead of using a store bought can, I made a butter cream frosting from scratch. YUM! Here is the blog where I found this recipe - This was actually the second time I've made it, and I was not disappointed! I also used it last year on Rylan's 1st birthday cake. The recipe, as she calls for, makes a lot of frosting. I don't put a ton of frosting on my cupcakes, so I initially cut the recipe in half. I still had some frosting left over, after I iced a batch of 24 cupcakes. Hopefully this will help give you an idea of what to make.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Recipe #13 - Boiled Omelets

Weekend before last, my Nana invited Rusty, Rylan and me over for breakfast... We agreed, packed up and headed over. We were also going to get a picture of Rylan and Paw Paw together with the Bluebonnets in his backyard. After we accepted her invitation, Nana asked if we'd ever tried her boiled omelets. We had not, so this was a new adventure for us!

While I'll still prefer a good old fashion omelet to this, they were very good, SUPER easy and really fun to make! I could see this being a lot of fun to do in a brunch setting with family and friends. It was a lot less stressful than cooking and cleaning up, that is for sure!!

*sealable sandwich bags
*permanent marker
*fork or whisk
*large measuring cup or bowl
*large bowl to discard egg shells (if a trash can isn't handy)
*large pot, on stove with rapidly boiling water (I highly recommend a pot that is shallow and wide, rather than one that is deep and narrow. More bags will fit this way.)

*eggs (only 2 per omelet!!!)
*any omelet fixin's you want!

In permanent marker, write your name on top most part of the sandwich bag (above where it seals). Add desired omelet fixin's to your bag. Scramble two eggs in the large measuring cup or bowl. Pour eggs into bag. Remove as much air from the bag as possible, then seal. After the bag is sealed, mix up the contents as best as you can. Add prepared omelet bags to water, and allow them to boil for about 13-15 minutes. (If you do more than two eggs, they don't cook throughout very well.)

Using the tongs, remove bags from the water and place them on the platter. Allow the bags to cool for 2-3 minutes. Open the baggies, and the omelets will fall right out onto your plate!!

(Sorry - the picture above didn't turn out very well, but it's the only one I got!!)

After breakfast, Rylan and Paw Paw finally got their bluebonnet picture together! I was really pleased with how it turned out... I usually can't get Rylan's attention for more than a second or two when it comes to snapping a picture.

Enjoy!! TTFN!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Recipe #12 - Chocolate Volcano (OREO) Cupcakes

Would you like to know what the greatest cookbook in the world is?? Well I'll gladly tell you! That would be OREO With a Twist. Every single recipe in this book involves OREOs in some way, shape or form. I've had this cookbook for a LOOOOOONG time. I don't use it very often, though, for a variety of reasons. First of all, I always eat the OREOs. They're so good on their own, why bother baking with them? Second, I can't keep OREOs in my house. (See first reason).

I recently used it to bake something for a coworker. A year or two ago, I went through most of my cookbooks and flagged different recipes I wanted to eventually try. I giggled when I got this one down, because almost every single page was flagged. :) I had the hardest time deciding what recipe to try first. I ultimately ended up on this recipe. For some reason I kept coming back to it. And let me just say - they're delicious, even despite me messing up and changing the recipe. :)

*1 18.25oz package devil's food cake mix
*1 1/4 cups water
*1/2 c vegetable oil
*3 eggs
*16 OREOs, coarsely chopped (go ahead and get out a few extra, you know you'll eat 'em!)
*1 can vanilla frosting

Mix cake mix, water, oil and eggs in a large bowl with electric mixer at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Gently stir in remaining OREOs (come on, you know you ate some). Spoon batter into 24 paper lined or lightly greased muffin pan cups, filling 2/3 of the way. Bake at 350* for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Remove pan from oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Then remove cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely.

Now, for this frosting part... These cupcakes are called chocolate volcano cupcakes because of how the original directions say to "ice" the cupcakes. Let me just say - it does NOT turn out pretty on your first go round. I think you definitely need a batch or two to practice. My first four were quite ugly, in fact. :) I ultimately ended up just icing them on top, and adding some sprinkles. Second, ditch the can frosting. Find a good butter cream icing recipe, and make the icing yourself. That's what I'm doing next time. I decided to follow the recipe instead of my instincts and was highly disappointed with the end result.

Fill pastry bag, fitted with rosette tip, with frosting. Gently insert the frosting tip just barely into the top of the cupcake. Slowly squeeze the icing to fill the cupcakes. The end product should look like a volcano - a chocolate cupcake with white icing coming out like lava would.

Don't use can frosting. :) It was too soft and basically melted straight off the cupcakes. I was SO upset by this! Ice the darn things how ever you want! :) Either way, they taste absolutely delish! In my picture below, you can already see that the icing is starting to melt down. It was so sad.

I was really curious how the cupcakes would turn out with OREO chunks in them. The OREO stuf part cooked away and you didn't taste it. The cookies softened up, but stayed in tact to create little pieces of soft OREOs mixed into the cupcakes. Yummy yummy!!!

Good luck on this recipe! I hope it turns out just as good for you.

PS - I will be trying recipes from this cookbook more often. Stay tuned!

Recipe #11 - Campbell's Kitchen Chicken Noodle Casserole

We had this recipe tonight for dinner. It's very easy, uses basic ingredients and was very filling! I originally found the recipe on I saw that I printed it back in January of 2011. Not really sure why I waited so long to try it, because it was pretty good!!

*1 can Campbell's condensed Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soup
*1/2 c of milk
*1/8 tsp black pepper
*1/3 c grated Parmesan cheese
*2 c cubed cooked chicken or turkey
*3 c cooked medium egg noodles

Let me go ahead and add this note - in my directions below, I'm going to tell how I deviated from the ingredients, rather than making a list of exceptions here.

First, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Since I have no idea how many cups of uncooked egg noodles eventually make 3 cooked cups of egg noodles, I measured out and added 3 cups of uncooked egg noodles to the boiling water. Let the noodles boil for 6-8 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse with warm water.

To cook the chicken - mix soup and milk together in a saucepan and mix well to thin out soup. Once warm, add cut up raw chicken pieces. Top with pepper and stir well. Cook over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink when cut open. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/4 cup of water and mix well. Cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add cheese and cooked egg noodles. Mix together well.

To go with the meal, I steamed some broccoli. I'm sure peas would go well with this too. Another variation I'll try of this in the future is adding cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan cheese, just to see how it changes the flavor.

Good luck and happy cooking!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Recipe #10 - Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

Here is a yay!! We'll be trying this one again, sometime! Here is the original recipe.

*1 (3 to 3.5 lb) fresh whole chicken, thawed and giblets removed
*3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp ground black pepper
*1/2 tsp garlic powder
*1 tsp dried basil leaves
*6 to 8 small red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
*4 ribs celery, cut diagonally into 1 inch slices
*3 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
*1 med onion, cut into 1/2 wedges

**Notes - the smallest chicken I could find at my grocery store was about 4 1/4 lbs. This seemed to work just fine with the other amounts of ingredients shown. As I was getting everything out, I realized my basil leaves jar was empty. :( I ended up using Italian Seasoning. I left the celery out of the veggie mix. Also, I don't think mine had giblets. I actually have no idea. I expected to find them in a nice little bag in the chicken's inside, kind of like with turkeys. I stuck my hand in there (nearly gagged...) and found nothing. I even made Rusty double check. Doing this once a year for Thanksgiving nearly convinces me to become a vegetarian. It's the worst thing about this recipe. Anyway, sorry. I got off topic. And I'm sure I already turned you off to the recipe. :)

Preheat oven to 375*. (I actually have a Roast setting on my oven, and I used it. I have no idea what kind of a difference it made. HA!) Find a glass casserole dish large enough for your chicken - coat it with non stick cooking spray (the dish! not the chicken!). Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Place the chicken breast side up in the greased casserole dish. Whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil in a small bowl. Reserve 1.5 tablespoons of the mixture for later. Using only half of the remaining mixture, coat the chicken thoroughly. Roast for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting, get a larger 13x9 casserole dish and coat it with non stick cooking spray; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the vegetables. Toss them with the 1.5 tablespoons of reserved olive oil mixture until evenly coated. Spread the coated vegetables into the greased casserole dish. Cover with foil.

Once the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven. Increase the oven temperature to 450*. While the oven is heating, coat the chicken with the remaining olive oil mixture. Place both dishes in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove foil from vegetables. Roast for 15 minutes more, until the chicken is 170* and veggies are tender. Allow chicken to sit for 10 minutes before carving.

*The original recipe suggests using 4 to 6 bone in chicken breast halves in place of a whole chicken. I even wonder about using boneless chicken and what difference it might make?

*Next time, I'm going to use different spices and different veggies, just for a twist on the recipe. I also will consider making a small foil tent to cover the top of the chicken. The skin cooked really quickly and was quite crisp.



The last four to five weeks have been... busy? Yes. Stressful? Yes. Needless to say, I haven't had a lot of extra time to try too many new recipes, much less post about them!! I'm still attempting to cook one new recipe a week, but time has not been on my side. Things seem to be slowing just a touch, so hopefully I'll get right back on track!!

I have tried a few new recipes, that I'll be posting over the coming days. Some are yays, some are nays. Needless to say, they definitely are not my favorite finds, so far. Don't get too excited about them! I have one on the dockett for this weekend that I am super excited about - it's nearly entirely from scratch. We'll see how that goes!! :)


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recipe #9 - Chicken Avocado Melt

This recipe we just had tonight! It's really good, and pretty easy to make. I love avocados, and quite honestly, I thought they were what made the dish so good. Even Rusty ate the avocados!! :)

*4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
*2/3 cup cornstarch
*2 tsp ground cumin
*2 tsp garlic powder
*2 tsp salt
*1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
*1 egg
*2 tblsp water
*1/2 cup cornmeal
*1/4 cup vegetable oil
*1 medium avocado, thinly sliced
*shredded cheese

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness, set aside on a large plate. Combine the cornstarch, cumin, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. In another bowl, combine the egg and water and beat. Dip the chicken first in the egg, then into the cornstarch mixture, and back onto the plate. Coat with cornmeal.

**Note: If you don't have a skillet large enough for all of the chicken at once, you can do this next step in two batches.** In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, until it's golden brown on both sides - about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the chicken into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Top each piece of chicken with the sliced avocado. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes, or until juices run clear. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve.

The original recipe (from The Best of Country Cooking 1998) calls for half of the amounts shown above for the cornstarch, cumin, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. I ran out of the coating mixture and wasn't able to coat my chicken as much as I would've liked to. I'm OK with throwing out a little extra, just to make sure I have plenty to use. If you find this to be too much for your preference, these ingredients can be cut in half.

I loved how tender the chicken was. The coating wasn't crispy, like I thought it might be. I'm not sure why I expected it to be that way. My favorite bites were those topped with avocado. I thought just the chicken needed a little more flavor, but I'm hoping that having the extra coating (by doubling that part of the recipe next time) will help out.

Overall, this recipe was really good and will get made again in this house! :)


Recipe #8 - Baked Potato Soup

Please forgive me - I'm catching up on posting the recent recipes I've tried. :)

Last weekend when we were planning our dinners, we wanted something nice and warm, since the week was predicted to be cold and rainy. Since Rusty is pretty picky, it's hard to find a good soup recipe that he'll actually eat, versus just picking at. I found a Baked Potato Soup recipe in The Best of Country Cooking 1999 that I thought I'd give a try!!

*2 medium potatoes, baked and cooled
*1 can (14.5 oz) of chicken broth
*2 tblsp of sour cream
*1/8 tsp of pepper
*any baked potato toppings you prefer

Peel potatoes and cut them into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place half of the cubes, along with the chicken broth, into a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into the sauce pan, along with the remaining potato cubes and sour cream. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated. Garnish the soup as you desire with baked potato toppings.

My first recommendation is that you shouldn't plan to have leftovers... they don't reheat well. Second, I'd use more spices. It was good, but kind of bland. I've tried another potato soup recipe a long time ago that I prefer over this one, but I have no idea where I got it, or if I still have it. :) I served the soup with small Hawaiian rolls. Their sweetness was a great companion for the flavor of the soup.


Recipe #7 - Mexican Beef Stir Fry

I'm not a huge fan of cooking beef at home (other than roasts and hamburger meat) only because I find that it's hard for it to be perfect, and it matters to me how it comes out. I'd rather not cook "ok" beef - I'd rather do without and leave it up to the professionals to get it right. Maybe I just need to keep working on it... :)

This recipe was good, and easy, but won't be at the front of the line when I'm ready to start repeating some of these new recipes I've found this year. It's been about 10 days since I actually tried this recipe, and I can't remember for sure exactly what kind of beef I used. I'm thinking I might not have used the best variety, only because of the outcome. More to come on that later, though.

*1 pound of beef flank steak
*2 tblsp of vegetable oil
*1 tsp ground cumin
*1 tsp garlic salt
*1 tsp dried oregano leaves
*1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
*1 medium onion, chopped
*1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and cut into slivers

Cut flank steak diagonally across the grain into 1/8 inch thick slices. Combine the oil, cumin, salt and oregano in a small bowl. Put 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a frying pan over medium-high heat, until hot. Add the vegetables and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender crisp. Remove from pan. Pour remaining oil mixture into frying pan, and stir fry the beef (half at a time) for 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the meat is cooked, add vegetables back to pan and heat thoroughly.

I used some flank steak (I think...) that was pre-sliced. I wonder if it made it less tender, because it was quite chewy (in my opinion). If it wasn't that, then I over cooked it. 1 to 2 minutes to cook the beef didn't seem like very long, and it was still way too red for my preference. It's very possible that I could have overcooked it, but we'll know for sure next time once I buy the meat specifically stated in the recipe.

I served the stir fry over tortillas, to give it a fajita twist. The flavor of the veggies and meat were wonderful! I just didn't appreciate the chewiness. As a side, I added some pinto beans that simmered with fresh jalapeno pepper chopped up in them. Meh... Note to self - I don't think I let them simmer long enough...

By the way, this recipe came from Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook, Collector's Edition. I haven't tried too many things from this book yet - it's a massive cookbook and is a little overwhelming!! :)


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Recipe #6 - Skillet Bow Tie Lasagna

YUMMY!! Rusty and I really like lasagna. It just makes so much and takes quite a bit of effort. I think it'll be a pretty big battle to see if my traditional lasagna recipe holds up versus this one. This recipe was so easy to make! I was also left with just enough for a small leftover portion, rather than 2/3 of an entire lasagna! (This is yet another recipe I got out of The Best of Country Cooking 2001.)

*1 lb of ground beef or turkey
*1 small onion, chopped
*1 garlic clove, minced
*1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
*1.5 cups water
*1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
*1 tblsp dried parsley flakes
*2 tsp dried oregano
*1 tsp salt
*2.5 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
*3/4 cup small curd cottage cheese
*1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, cook the beef or turkey, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Add the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, parsley, oregano and salt. Mix well. Stir in pasta and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover for 18-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender, stirring once about half way through. Mix the cheeses together in a separate bowl and set aside. Once the pasta is tender, stir once more. Drop cheese mixture on top of pasta/meat mixture by the spoonful - do not stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

My variations:
I did not use an onion - Rusty and I don't prefer them. :) On the diced tomatoes, I actually used the food processor to grind them up. Our preference is for a smoother sauce (rather than chunky).

What I'll change next time:
I think I'll use a little more pasta than it calls for... probably 2.75 to 3 cups. It was VERY meaty/saucy and I would've liked the pasta to stand out just a little bit more. I'll also use just a slightly less amount of water, since I grind up the diced tomatoes.

Overall, I was VERY impressed with this recipe, and I'll definitely be making it again!!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recipe #5 - Pecan Chicken with Seasoned Potatoes

This one is a two-fer!! The chicken was ok - Rusty LOVED it! Plus, it was really easy. I LOVED the potatoes - they were my favorite part! Several years ago, my mom cleaned out a lot of her cookbooks and I ended up with them... This one is from the Best of Country Cooking, 2001. (I will add - one thing that kind of stinks about going through cookbooks that are 10+ years old is that they don't have a lot of our current day mentalities of "light" or healthy. I've had a pretty hard time of using old fashion cookbooks yet still finding a nice meal that isn't an overload on the calories.)

The Main Course - Pecan Chicken
*1/3 c finely chopped pecans
*1/3 c dry bread crumbs
*1/2 tsp dried thyme
*1/2 tsp paprika
*1/2 tsp salt
*4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
*3 tblsp dijon mustard

Combine the pecans, bread crumbs, thyme, paprika and salt in a bowl. Coat chicken with mustard, then dip into pecan mixture. Place the coated chicken pieces in a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about the mustard flavor, but to be honest, it wasn't very strong. It gave it almost a sweet taste once it was done. The pecan mixture didn't stick very well to the chicken (not sure if I should've used more mustard??). After I coated the chickens and placed them in the baking dish, I dumped what was left of the pecan mixture on top of the chickens, just to give them a little thicker top coat.

Seasoned Potatoes
First of all, this recipe is only for 2 people. If you're cooking for more, you'll definitely need to increase the size. Second, I've NEVER used canned potatoes to cook with before, and I completely felt like I was cheating by using them. I will use them again though - they were so good!!

*1 tblsp butter
*1 can (15 oz) small whole potatoes, drained
*1/4 tsp of any seasonings/spices you prefer

In a skillet, melt the butter of medium heat. Add the potatoes and sprinkle the seasonings over potatoes. I used just a little bit of garlic powder along with all purpose seasoning salt. Cook and stir for 15-18 minutes over low-medium heat until the potatoes are golden brown and soft. **Note - if the potatoes start to pop at all, lower the heat.**

Enjoy! TTFN

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recipe #4 - Special Lemony Chicken

The name is funny, huh? At least I thought it was. Anywho... I forgot to take a picture of this one, so I don't have anything to pin!! I even tried finding one online, but no such luck. I got this out of a cookbook I've had for a few years - it's called "Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook".

Over the past few weeks, I learned how much we (I) like pasta. It's so easy and versatile, plus Rylan will eat it. I'm really trying to find some non-pasta recipes, just to be different. It is tough since Rusty is such a picky eater. (It's not fair if I don't recognize that I can be picky, too - but Rusty is a LOT pickier than I am.) This was my first attempt at really branching out and trying something a little out of our "norm".

*1/4 c unsifted flour
*1 tsp salt
*1/4 tsp pepper
*6 skinned boneless chicken breast halves
*1/4 c butter
*1/4 c lemon juice from concentrate
*8 oz freshly sliced mushrooms

In a plastic bag, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time. Shake to coat. (That's always my favorite part... especially after a long day at work!!) In a large skillet, let the butter just melt. Add the chicken and cook until it's brown on both sides. Add the lemon juice and mushrooms. Cover and reduce the heat. Allow this to cook until mushrooms are tender and chicken is fully cooked (about 15 minutes).

I actually also tried a lemon rice recipe to serve the chicken over. I didn't like it. It was way too dry. The rice got pretty sticky - it reminded me of the rice I was served from a large ice cream looking scoop in elementary school... you know when the rice never moved after the server would plop it on your plate? Yeah... I think just some plain, buttered rice would be perfect for this dish!

Rusty and I don't eat mushrooms, so I didn't cook with any. As for the chicken, it was quite lemony. Special, though? No, not really. I'm not dying to make this recipe again anytime soon, but I certainly will keep it on hand for a random day that I want something different. One other plus - the chicken was SOOO tender and juicy. I'll definitely try cooking the chicken this way again, and try some fun marinades and spices for different flavors.

Good luck! TTFN!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Recipe #3 - Cheesy Chicken Rotini

So this week, I actually tried 2 new recipes! I didn't like the first one (but the boys really did!) so I tried again with a 2nd recipe. I'll post the other one, eventually, but wanted to start with this one because it was SOOO good!!

I got the original recipe from It really was very easy, and quite delicious! It makes a very large portion, so I would probably only make half of the recipe in the future. (We only ate about half the first night, which made for yummy leftovers!)

*2 large chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
*2 cups of water
*3 cups rotini pasta, uncooked
*16 oz frozen veggies
*1 can (10oz) Rotel, undrained
*8oz of Velveeta (half of a small brick)

*The original recipe calls for a broccoli, cauliflower and carrot blend. I used all broccoli, because that's what I prefer. I think use your favorite frozen vegetables. :)
*I used the original Rotel flavor. I really wanted to use Hot or Extra Hot, but I didn't think Rylan would eat it if it was too spicy. I bet some of the other Rotel flavors could give it a nice taste twist, too!
*Rather than leaving the Rotel chunky, I actually used a food processor to liquefy mine. The end result was a thinner, runnier sauce, rather than being thick, like Velveeta can often be.

One more note - if you're making the full recipe, use a very large skillet... maybe even a stock pot. (Make sure you have a lid to fit it!!) I found that my batch was almost overflowing from mine.

Spray the skillet or stock pot with a cooking spray, like Pam. Add chicken pieces. Cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is no longer pink (about 6-7 minutes). Add water to chicken. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes until pasta is tender. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook covered until Velveeta is completely melted (about 8-10 minutes) stirring every couple of minutes.

I served it with some crescent rolls, and it was good eatin'! :) TTFN!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Recipe #2 - Buffalo Chicken Bites

Last night, we tried new recipe #2 of the year... Buffalo Chicken Bites. Here is where I originally got the recipe from: I did make a few adjustments, to better suit our preferences (and what I had). As a warning, this recipe is a little more labor intensive that I would've guessed... and it's pretty messy.

Ingredients (according to how I made them):
*4 cups of chicken, cooked and shredded (approx 2 large chicken breasts)
*2/3 c Frank's buffalo hot sauce (use less, for less "kick")
*4 2/3 reduced fat cream cheese, softened
*2 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated
*1 c all purpose flour
*4 eggs lightly beaten
*4 cups Corn Flakes, crushed

First, preheat the oven to 375. Bake the 2 large chicken breasts for approx 25 minutes (until no longer pink). Allow them to cool for approximately 10-15 minutes. Use two forks to separate/shred the chicken.

Line a large cookie sheet with either parchment paper or foil, and set it aside. Combine shredded chicken, hot sauce, cream cheese and cheddar cheese in a large bowl. Mix until all ingredients are well blended. (To help soften the cream cheese, I stuck it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds, and it was perfect for mixing.) Put flour, eggs and corn flakes into their own separate bowls.

Get a spoonful of the chicken mixture and roll into about 1 to 2 inch balls. I recommend making all of the balls first, and setting them aside on plate or platter until all of them are made and ready to be coated. After forming the balls, dip each of them first into the flour, followed by the egg, and finally the crushed corn flakes. Set each coated ball onto the lined cookie sheet. **Note: For my batch yesterday, 4 cups of corn flakes was not enough, but that will really depend on your preference. I was hoping for a very crunchy final product, which I didn't quite achieve.** Preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 20-25 minutes (until golden brown). Serve with ranch or blue cheese (if you like).

A few personal notes:
1. Prep time: 60 minutes total - 15 minutes to shred chicken, 45 minutes to make the bites
Cook time: 50 minutes total - 25 minutes for chicken breasts, 25 minutes for final product

2. The recipe, as stated above, could easily serve 6-8 people (I think). I will make only half of it for a small group of 2-4.

3. In the future, I'll probably try the less healthy alternative of battering and deep frying these, just to achieve a little crunchier final product. If I do, I'll follow up with how they turned out. :)

Happy Cooking! TTFN

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Recipe #1 - BEPs

It seems fitting that the first recipe of the year is Black Eyed Peas, served over rice, with corn bread. :) I'll spare everyone the details of the rice and corn bread and just dive straight into the Black Eyed Peas.

Before I do, though, I'll be very honest up front. Rusty and I are not huge fans of BEPs (the food, that is - we both like the music group). In order for this meal to come off as a success, I really needed to make sure and find a way to spice them up a bit.

First things first - we had some left over ham still in the freezer from Thanksgiving, so I thawed this a few days before, knowing I'd want to use it all up in this recipe.

*1 bag of black eyed peas
*6 strips of uncooked bacon, cut into pieces
*3 cups of ham, sliced or diced
*1 tsp of black pepper
*1 tsp of cayenne pepper (Rusty and I do like our food a little spicy)
*just a bit of garlic powder

I first soaked the BEPs overnight in water. All in all, they probably ended up soaking for about 10 hours. Next, drain the BEPs. Return them to the pot, and cover with water. **Note - for soupier BEPs, use more water. While cooking, do keep an eye on the water level to make sure the BEPs are covered. If too much water is lost, they could burn pretty easily.** Add remaining ingredients to pot, cover. Bring BEPs to a boil over medium-high heat, before reducing heat to low. I allowed the beans to cook all afternoon, over simmer. They took about 5-6 hours to get to the consistency I desire. To cook them more quickly, use a higher heat setting.

Most of the bacon, and the smaller pieces of ham will cook away into the water, providing nothing more than flavor for the BEPs. Any kind of meats can be used, if you don't prefer bacon or ham.

I enjoy serving the BEPs over some rice and just a little bit of butter. To add even more starch, a few pieces of corn bread are the perfect thing to soak up the juices of the BEPs. :) Enjoy!!

New Adventures in the Kitchen

Several weeks ago, I realized I hardly ever cook any more. I mean, I "cook" dinner every night, but it's not the fun kind...

After work, I have the responsibility of picking up Rylan from daycare (Rusty has drop off duty in the mornings). Usually as soon as his sweet little bum cheeks hit the carseat, he starts saying "More!" and doing the sign for it. Rusty usually gets home about 10 minutes before we do, and will begin getting everything out that we'll need from dinner. Once Rylan and I make our grand entrance, he goes immediately to his high chair, and I to the kitchen to begin (or take over) making dinner.

Anything we make in the evenings usually has to be a pretty quick meal, or else we'll have to deal with a whining, starving little boy. What can I say?! Rusty and I do our best to avoid his meltdowns, only because it sets the entire house into a funk for the rest of the night.

I've set out to try at least one new recipe a week. I thought that there has to be at least one meal that I can take over and make cooking "fun" for again. As I try my new recipes, I plan to use this as my tool to share the good (and not so good) adventures... Wish us luck!! :)