Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cheesey Chicken Skillet

I've somehow managed to feed my family this week without a big grocery shop.  I've stopped at the store a few times for odd and ends, and yeah, we got a dinner out once this week, but other than that, I've somehow made do.  I had some chicken breasts defrosted, and found an older recipe on Lauren's blog that I had everything to make.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, and it really didn't look photo worthy anyway, but it sure was EASY and TASTY.  Total wins here.

I (surprisingly) didn't have any mozzarella, so used sharp cheddar instead.  It worked just great. 

This came out a little saucier than I prefer.  I held off on adding the pasta to the sauce for a few minutes (probably adding it with 3 minutes left on the timer) so it could thicken up a little.  Maybe this is what caused the problem, and the pasta would've soaked up some of the sauce?

I also had some fresh basil in the house, which I used for the dried.  Yum!

Cheesey Chicken Skillet from Brooke, via Lauren
  • 2 cups of pasta
  • 3/4 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 can Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Cook the pasta as directed. Heat 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken & cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium; stir in soup, tomatoes, milk and seasonings. Stir in cooked pasta. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until bubbly & heated through. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat, cover & let stand about 5 minutes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Wordle is a site that takes text, or even a blog, and puts the commonly used words into visual representation.  I inputted this blog out of curiosity, and was surprised that I didn't see any of my family names in there, but that I use the word SHRIMP a lot (it's one of the largest, after "minutes," which makes sense in all the recipes)

Wordle: Untitled

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich

Another week, another swap.  This one happened to come the day after my husband said something along the lines of, "My favorite food is sandwiches," probably making some reference to Joey from Friends.  I received this from Gianna, who also submitted the eggplant parm I made a few weeks ago.

This came out so good looking.  We joked that it would have tasted so much better with tomato, because the recipe suggests it and I didn't realize we were out.  Otherwise, it was perfect, and planned so well with a spot of good weather this afternoon just seeming right to bust out the grill.

I loved the rolls I got for this, Wegman's whole wheat sandwich rolls.  If you have a Wegmans, try these rolls cause they're yummy and really made the sandwich.

Instead of following the recipe, I used store bought honey mustard in place of the honey and the mustard, and added maybe 1t of more honey to make it sweeter.  This worked wonderfully.  I also brushed the honey mustard mixture on the chicken before grilling, then brushed it on the roll before serving.

I love that this recipe is so versatile.  Before we had a grill, I was often disappointed that I couldn't make grilling recipes.  This, however, could easily be made on a George Foreman, in a skillet, under a broiler, or even baked.

Thank you, Gianna, for a great, easy, dinner recipe!

Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwiches
½ cup Mayo
2 tbsp. deli-style mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Green onions (chopped)

Mix all ingredients in bowl. 

1- Grill 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
2- Brush chicken with 2/3 of mixture.
3- Serve on sandwiches (nice crusty bread) with lettuce, tomato and leftover honey mustard mixture!

Lemon Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Trying to cut costs in the grocery area, I've been trying to find meals that are less expensive, and use ingredients we already have in the pantry or around the house (my spice cabinet is a testament to buying stuff for that one recipe--no more.  It's ridiculous--cost wise, space wise.)  Melissa D'Arabian is known for her Ten Dollar Dinners, so I figured I'd check out her recipes, and this one was really highly rated on the Food Network website.

It was delicious.  So good!  The best part was the pasta, which soaked up all the delicious, fresh, lemony goodness!  I didn't bother butterflying the shrimp, because I didn't see the point, and I bought shelled shrimp, so couldn't make the shrimp stock.  I used chicken broth, in which I simmered minced onion, instead.

This is a case where you HAVE to use fresh lemon juice and zest.  The lemon flavor is so forward, you definitely want the good stuff!

Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta by Melissa D'Arabian


  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp (21 to 25), peeled, deveined and butterflied (reserve shells)
  • 1/4 onion
  • 3/4 pound thin linguini
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small bunch parsley, leaves chopped


In a bowl, combine the garlic, zest and juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and the shrimp. Set aside.

Meanwhile make a quick shrimp stock: In a small pot, over medium heat, add the shrimp shells and onion. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a bowl and discard the shells and the onion.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add a generous amount of salt. Add the linguini and cook until just tender, 2 minutes less than instructed on the package. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water.

Heat a skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and start to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan to a plate and add the remaining marinade. Let cook a few minutes then add about 1 cup of shrimp stock and about 1/2 cup pasta water. Continue to cook until sauce reduces by half. Add the zest and juice of the remaining lemon, the butter and the parsley and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Add in the shrimp and pasta and toss to combine with the sauce. Turn out into a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hot Dog Rolls

I didn't take pictures of these, because they didn't come out awesome or pretty.

So, I'm looking to save money.  I'm concerned about what's in our food, stuff like HFCS (which is in just about every bag of rolls in the bread aisle, except the potato rolls), too much sugar and salt, etc.  So, while making bread at home is a daunting task, I figured I'd go for it.  What do I have to lose?  Annie has great recipes that, thus far, have been pretty foolproof for me, so I gave it a go.

When Annie made her rolls, she made hamburger buns and not hot dog rolls.  So, I followed the original recipe's directions, from King Arthur flour.  It seemed strange to me that the directions suggested making the dough into 18 pieces, while Annie divided into 9.  Maybe that's where things went wrong.  I had a very hard time getting the pieces to be equal, and so some rolls were really large while others were teensy.

They didn't at all come out like hot dog rolls.  They are much firmer than the ones you'd buy at the store.  That's not to say they're not tasty, because we've been snacking on them, but they weren't so great as hot dog buns.

I'll be trying again another time, and if you have the gumption to try, go for making your own hamburger/hot dog buns.


I've been trying to keep an eye on our grocery budget.  It's a struggle to cook fresh foods and keep the grocery bill under $100 a week, which is shockingly high to me, but it is what it is.  With the budget in mind, I went to Melissa D'arabian, host of Food Network's Ten Dollar Dinners, for some dinner ideas.  I found this meal, which used ingredients I had on hand and also sounded really good.

I struggled with the pie crust.  A lot.  I almost threw everything away to make a different meal.  See, I followed her directions, but then realized my food processor is really too small to make the dough as written.  I soldiered on, however, and made it.  It came out really doughy, perhaps because I lost some of the flour mixture to the counter, and was impossible to roll.  I added a LOT of flour, and was really nervous about how it would turn out.  Nonetheless, M even commented on the pie crust, saying it was really good.  Sweet!  It was pretty easy as pie crusts go (the only other ones I've made have been of the Dorie Greenspan variety), especially if you have a larger processor bowl than mine!

I made a few modifications based on what I had.  First, no Gruyere round here (though I probably chose this recipe because of the Gruyere in the fridge that needed to be use, but ), so instead used the shredded cheddar and shredded monterey jack in the fridge.  I also had no fresh thyme, so just used a little bit of dried thyme, and left it in the cream.  I upped the cream to 1 cup, following the suggestions of reviews on the food network website, and also took the reviewer's suggestion to pre-roast the potatoes (I sliced them thin, drizzled with olive oil, and cooked them for 10 minutes on 375, flipped them, and cooked for another 10 minutes). I also topped the layers with some tomato; awesome choice there!

And that's one of the great things about this recipe.  It can be customized to pretty much what you like, have in your kitchen, or need to use up.  Vegetarian?  Omit the bacon.  Find a great deal on fresh produce?  Do it!
I really wish the pictures had come out decent for this...

Potato-Bacon Torte courtesy Melissa D'Arabian
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Pie Crusts, recipe follows
  • 3 medium baking potatoes, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 egg yolk, whisked with a splash of water


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until just crispy. Drain on paper towel lined plate and set aside. Crumble the bacon when cool to the touch.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the thyme and cream over low heat to a bare simmer. Turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and then finely slice the potatoes. Working in circles, arrange the potato slices in the pie crust, stopping to season each layer with salt, pepper, and about 1/4 of the crumbled bacon. Continue layering until the pie pan is nearly full. Top with an even layer of the cheese and gently pour cream around and over the entire pie, allowing it to seep down between the potato slices. (You may not use all the cream.)

Roll out the remaining disk of refrigerated dough. Cover the pie with the dough and crimp the edges closed. Brush the top and edges of the crust with egg wash. Make a few slits in the center of the top crust, for the steam to escape, and put the pie pan on a baking sheet. Bake the torte until the crust is browned and crispy and the potatoes are cooked through, about 50 to 60 minutes. If the crust edges get too brown, cover them with some strips of aluminum foil. Remove the pie from the oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

Pie Crust:

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed and chilled
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 to 10 tablespoons ice water
Put the butter, flour, and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each spoonful of water. Keep adding water until the dough just begins to gather into larger clumps. Transfer equal amounts of the dough into 2 resealable plastic bags and pat each into a disk. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Remove 1 of the disks from the bag to a flour coated surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 10-inch round. Gently fit the rolled dough into a 9-inch pie pan, and refrigerate while you prepare the torte ingredients.

Yield: 2 (9-inch) pie crusts

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll Ups with Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

 I purchased a container of shredded Gruyere for my friend's baby shower to use in these tartlets but then forgot to use the Gruyere.  I wanted to use it up and turned to the internet for ideas.  Rachael Ray has been pretty hit or miss for me lately, but the recipe looked simple enough and I had nearly everything on hand, so went ahead and used her Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll Up recipe.  Funny, I ended up making the recipe on the day said friend was in labor and went on to have her baby boy!

These were pretty easy to put together, and were also really tasty.  I thought I'd be clever, though, and use white wine in place of the chicken broth.  In this case, it didn't work.  It made the flavor of the cheese sauce too... well, I can't place the taste, but it wasn't right.
I served with some leftover asparagus I had from the other night, and also followed Rachael's recipe for Roasted Tomatoes.  They could have cooked a little longer, but were a great side here.


So, thumbs up to the Queen of Perky on this one!  It really was "Yum-o!"

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-ups with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce Courtesy of Rachael Ray


  • 16 cremini caps, cleaned with a damp towel and finely chopped in food processor
  • 1 small yellow-skinned onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or the equivalent of freshly grated
  • 2 cups part skim ricotta
  • 8 curly edge lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente (12 to 14 minutes)
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 8 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

Serving suggestions:

  • Steamed asparagus (2 small or 1 large bundle asparagus)
  • Broiled tomatoes (4 vine-ripe tomatoes)


In a medium skillet over moderate heat, saute mushrooms, chopped onions, and garlic in oil until mushrooms give off their juices and darken and onions are tender, about 7 or 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; the salt will help draw water out of the vegetables as they cook.
Add dry chopped spinach to the pan and heat through for 1 minute. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Add ricotta and stir into mixture to heat cheese through, 1 minute longer. Remove pan from heat but leave in the warm skillet.
Heat broth in a small pan over moderate heat. Melt Gorgonzola into broth and bring liquid to a bubble. Stir in cream and thicken sauce 2 minutes.
Place cooked lasagna noodles on a large work surface or cutting board. Spread lasagna noodles with a layer of spinach-mushroom filling. Roll up pasta and arrange the 8 bundles in a shallow casserole dish. Pour warm sauce over roll-ups and top with mozzarella. Place casserole under broiler to melt cheese. Serve with steamed asparagus and broiled tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatoes:

  • 4 vine-ripe tomatoes
Split 4 vine ripe tomatoes across the center and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Broil tomatoes.
Serve along side your completed casserole. Top with any fresh herb you have on hand: basil, thyme, or rosemary

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Salami-Mozzarella Calzone

My husband likes to flip through Food Network Magazine when it arrives.  He will sometimes mark things that he requests for dinner, or he'll mark things he'd like to make himself.  This month's issue was no exception, and he chose this calzone as his birthday dinner, though due to the meat, it couldn't actually be the dinner ON his birthday.

So, making a calzone, I knew it wouldn't be the world's most healthful meal.  But, as I was eating it, I just couldn't get past how very much SALT was in it (pickled vegetables, plus salami, plus all that cheese!) and, as a huge fast food fan, I can usually get past that, but this wasn't even good to make it worth it.

It's a really good, basic calzone recipe.  It turned out very pretty, but this combination of flavors "was a no for me," in the words of Florian Bellanger.

Salami-Mozzarella Calzone from Food Network Magazine May 2011
Also found here
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 pound shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 13.8-ounce tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1/4 pound deli-sliced salami, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 cups giardiniera (pickled mixed vegetables), drained
  • 1/4 pound sliced provolone cheese


Place a baking sheet upside down in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Beat the eggs, parsley and lemon zest in a small bowl. Pour half of the egg mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the mozzarella. Reserve the remaining egg mixture for brushing on the crust.
Turn another baking sheet upside down; line with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Unroll the dough on the parchment paper and pat into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread the mozzarella mixture over one half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the edge. Top with the salami, followed by the pickled vegetables and provolone. Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the filling. Crimp and roll the edges to seal, then pierce the top of the dough in a few places with a knife.
Slide the calzone with the parchment paper onto the hot baking sheet; bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining egg mixture, then continue to bake until the crust is golden, 5 to 10 more minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut into wedges.


I love asparagus.  It's also one of the many things on my husband's do not eat list.  Nonetheless, when I saw bunches of them at the entrance of our grocery store, I grabbed a nice looking bunch.  I made them last night, alongside a tasty but not very photogenic meal from Cook's Country magazine, and served them to the boys and me.

Astonishingly, I didn't have any regular lemons on hand, but did have some Meyer lemons around, so I used them.

This was so simple, so light and fresh and delicious.

Lemon-Parsley Asparagus Food Network Magazine May 2011
Also found here
Boil 2 bunches asparagus 4 to 5 minutes; drain. Mix 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon each lemon zest and juice, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and top with the parsley mixture.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrity Chefs Challenge: Emeril's Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs

Last week, I made Aarti's Lady Marmalade Chicken Salad for The Celebrity Chefs Challenge, and the other night, I made Emeril's take on Chicken Salad.

I've never made an Emeril recipe before.  I sort of have this bias against poor Emeril, and it's not even his fault.  In college, I waitressed at the now defunct Chi Chi's restaurant.  The GM decided to spice things up, I guess, and wanted every server to take a handful of something (cilantro maybe?  I have no idea; it was green), toss it on the plate, and say BAM!  He wanted us to yell it.  What the point was, or how this at all improved anything is beyond me, but it's all Emeril's fault.

At any rate, this was my first Emeril recipe, and gosh darn it, it was freaking awesome.  I omitted the celery seed, because seriously?  That $4 bottle would sit in my cabinet, crowding it even further, and only get used for this one dish.  No thanks.  I also no longer keep Dijon mustard on hand, instead following this recipe for Dijon at home.  I also used dried herbs de Provence in place of the fresh herbs.

This was even more awesome the second day.  I served on ciabbata rolls, which was an awesome choice, and served tomato mozzarella salad with basil on the side.  Yummy lunch and dinner!

Chicken Salad with Fresh Herbs courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, published in Food Network Magazine, April 2011

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery stalks, plus 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as parsley and tarragon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 to 3 avocados, halved and pitted (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the chicken briefly under cool running water, then pat dry with paper towels. Season on both sides with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan over high heat. Add the chicken and cook 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and immediately place the pan in the oven. Roast 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, mustard, celery, celery leaves, red onion, herbs, celery seeds and cayenne pepper. Mix well.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into a 1/2-inch dice, add it to the mayonnaise mixture and mix well. If not serving immediately, transfer to the refrigerator to chill. Serve in avocado halves, if desired.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Homemade Yogurt!

A woman with whom I work makes her own yogurt all the time.  I just now got around to trying out how it would work to make my own yogurt.

As many families with young children do, we go through a TON of yogurt.  Since I'm concerned about the impact of pesticides in our food, I try to buy organic yogurt as often as I can.  Of course, like many organic foods, organic yogurt is substantially more expensive.  I also happen to love the even MORE expensive than that Greek yogurt, and have struggled to find an affordable, organic, version.  So I made that too.

I'm pretty happy with how the yogurt turned out.  It doesn't have the exact same taste as store bought yogurt, but it's still good.  My 3 year old tried it with homemade granola, and said it was really good.

I followed The Crockpot Lady, Stephanie O'Dea's, directions exactly, taking the advice in the comments to add 2T dry milk when I mixed in the yogurt starter.  I used organic skim milk and organic non fat yogurt.

To turn the finished product into Greek style yogurt, I put a strainer over a bowl, and put a dishtowel in the strainer.  I put the yogurt I'd made into the dishtowel (you can also use cheesecloth if you're icked out by using a dishtowel), and let the whey strain out, about 3 hours (though I've read it's supposed to sit 8-12 hours, but I had good results in 3).

Hubby said he wasn't much interested in trying the homemade yogurt (even though he was VERY interested in the fact that I was MAKING yogurt), because he "like[s] the fruit goo on the bottom, which hides the taste of the yogurt."  I told him that I like to throw in fruit, but he insisted he wants the goo.  I told him I could puree fruit for him, like I did for the baby, and he said maybe.  I seriously can't make this guy up.

Next up is making a whole milk yogurt for the under 2 set!

The Directions.

This takes a while. Make your yogurt on a weekend day when you are home to monitor.

I used a 4 quart crockpot. This is so exciting. My fingers are shaking!

Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.

Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened---it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt.

Blend in batches with your favorite fruit. I did mango, strawberry, and blueberry. When you blend in the fruit, bubbles will form and might bother you. They aren't a big deal, and will settle eventually.

Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.  (**From what I've read, you can only use the starter so many times before the live active cultures will die)

Pasta Primavera

Another Lenten Friday, another meatless meals, another Friday dinner made by hubby.  This was a really yummy vegetarian meal, and very filling too.  It comes together much quicker than Giada's  Pasta Primavera (though I love the flavor of the roasted veggies in Giada's) and is deliciously veggie loaded.

I have to admit I was nervous about the goat cheese.  Goat cheese is not a flavor I typically seek out, because I equate it to feta in my brain.  But it worked here, and was really good.

So, give this yummy one from the folks at Food Network Magazine a whirl.  You won't be sorry.

Pasta Primavera from Food Network Magazine April 2011


  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces fusilli or other corkscrew pasta
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, halved lengthwise, or broccoli florets (or a combination)
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved  (we used whole grape tomatoes)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fusilli and cook as the label directs. Add the sugar snap peas and/or broccoli, carrots and bell pepper to the boiling water during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and vegetables and return to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until just golden, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until the tomatoes begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water. Pour the tomato mixture over the pasta and vegetables. Add the mint, parmesan and half the goat cheese and toss to combine. Season with salt.

Divide the pasta among bowls. Top with the remaining goat cheese and drizzle with olive oil.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's the story, Morning Glory?

I love that song.  You know the one by Oasis?  And, if I'm being honest, the one from Bye Bye Birdie too.

I'm not sure why these are called Morning Glory Muffins, but they sure are tasty.  It was a lot of work putting them together, but it's probably worth it to have something different in our breakfast list of oatmeal with fruit, Cheerios, and waffles.  In the future, I will double the recipe and freeze some.

My husband kept saying, "there  XX in it?  And YY??  That can't be good," but he really enjoyed them too.  We all really liked them!

Morning Glory Muffins from Cook's Country April/May 2011
3/4c unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
1/2c chopped walnuts, toasted
2-1/4c all purpose flour
3/4c sugar
1-1/2t baking soda
1t ground cinnamon
1/2t baking powder
3/4t salt
8 oz can crushed pineapple
1 apple, peeled, cored, and shredded
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 large eggs
1t vanilla extract
3 medium carrots, shredded
1c raisins

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Grind coconut and nuts in food processor, and transfer to stand mixer.  Add flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and combine. 
2.  Put pineapple and apple in a strainer over a bowl; squeeze all the juice from the fruit until you have about 1c of juice.  Boil juice in a large skillet over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/4c, about 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Combine cooled juice, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and combine.  Add in all fruit and veggies and mix well.
3.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.  Bake 24-28 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack.

It may not look pretty, but whoa was it yummy!

Cheesey Chicken Shells

I've been participating in a recipe swap with some friends; it's been such a great experience, since I'm always looking to add to my repertoire but also because it forces me to make dishes I never would have considered otherwise.  This week's category was chicken.  I have to admit, I was really happy that this had chicken not quite as the star of the dish.

This comes from Pam's blog, My Healthy Indulgence, and she got it from Weight Watchers.  If this is in fact, a "diet" recipe, sign me up because it absolutely does not taste anything but decadent.  It could've been the sauce.

I found myself without marinara sauce, which NEVER happens around.  I always stock up on the Francesco Rinaldi when it's 99 cents, and failing that, have a batch of homemade in the freezer.  Not tonight, it seems!  When Classico goes on sale, I try to pick up a few jars of their Sun Dried Tomato Alfredo, because BAJ loves it for Chicken Alfredo.  I figured I'd give it a shot here, and wow, it was freakin fantastic.  Look for this.  Definitely not as figure friendly as marinara, but......

I used twelve jumbo pasta shells, but wish I'd made at least 15 of them.  I had filling left, and we could have eaten another one each and E could probably have eaten another three.

Cheesy Chicken Shells

12 jumbo uncooked manicotti shells (I use shells for regular stuffed shells, not manicotti)
1 1/2 c. favorite tomato sauce
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
4 oz. chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 tsp. garlic powder
15oz container part skim ricotta
1 tbsp. oregano
1T Italian seasoning
1t crushed red pepper flakes
3/4c. part skim shredded mozzerella
1/3 c. grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook shells according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

Coat a 9x13 pan with spray. Spread 1/2 c. sauce over the bottom. 

For the filling, in a large bowl stir together egg whites, ricotta, chicken, garlic powder. Stir in 1/4 c. each of mozzerella & parmesan cheeses. 

Spoon mixture into shells & place in dish. Spread remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Celebrity Chefs Challenge: Lisa Cooks Burgers!


Lisa was the first participant to make something using two chef's interpretations, according to The Celebrity Chefs Challenge, and chose to make burgers following the recipes of Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay.

First, Lisa made Rachael Ray's Pub Patties with Horseradish Sauce and Cress.

Lisa didn't comment on this recipe, since she posted her thoughts about it as compared to the second, so see what she thought about it below!

She made Bobby Flay's Napa Burger second.
Here's what she had to say about this burger:

I LOVED this hamburger.  The Rachael one was really good, and I would definitely make it again, but this one was just as good as the one in the restaurant and it was so much fun to be able to replicate it at home.  I would say this is the winner.  [My husband] disagreed and liked the Rachael burgers better.  This was a little surprising since I overcooked the Rachael ones (to medium well, which is perfect for me but [he] likes rare, which I pretty much refuse to do) and took his off the grill pan tonight at medium rare, but he says he looked past the chef's error.  Ha, so funny.

So it's a tie, I guess -- but I am the blogger, so I can say that I give the edge to Bobby's Napa Valley Burger.

So, for Lisa, Bobby Flay is the winner!   Thank you for being such an enthusiastic participant in my silly little challenge!  Go check out Lisa's blog and all the tasty looking meals she's made!

What recipe will you try two interpretations of?  I'd love to have you participate and share your thoughts!

Bobby Flay's Napa Valley Burger

I love watching Bobby Flay's shows.  He's got such a great presence on tv, and his food always seems so yummy.  That said, I've never made one of his recipes before.  They always seem so complicated that I don't even try.  I'll just stick to watching yummy Bobby Flay...  wait!  Scratch that, reverse... Bobby Flay's yummy food.... on tv.

But when Lisa at Lisa's Cooking Adventures posted a rave review (for the Celebrity Chef Challenge; her thoughts on that in a minute!) for Bobby's Napa Valley Burger, I changed my meal plan for the week and added it.

Wow, all my pictures came out poorly.

Clearly, I forgot to melt the goat cheese.  I really can read, I promise.

My first bite was...  weird.  I think it was a bit too heavy on the Meyer lemon, but the burger itself was pretty good in all the other spots.  I did think it was strange that the burger was so simple; it was ground turkey sprinkled with salt and pepper, that's it.  It seems that there could have been more complexity or interest if there was more to the burger itself, though I guess doing so might distract from the other flavors.  Hubby complained that when he got a bite of just burger, it was plain because it was just turkey.  He went on to say the burger was good, but way more "sophisticated" than he typically likes.

I was a little disappointed in the process of the burger itself.  Not only was it just ground turkey, but there really aren't any instructions for cooking it.  I'm an inexperienced burger fryer, so really had no idea how or how long to cook these buggers.  I guess it came out ok, since they were juicy but brown throughout.

So, we enjoyed this, but probably won't go to the effort of making it again.  Thanks, Lisa, for bringing this one onto my radar!

Napa Valley Burgers
Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries and Shakes, via Lisa's Cooking Adventures
Meyer Lemon-Honey Mustard
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon Clover honey
1-1/2 teaspoons grated Meyer lemon zest, or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1-1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice, or 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lbs ground chuck (80% lean) or ground turkey (90% lean)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
8 round slices fresh goat cheese, each 1/2 inch thick
4 sesame see hamburger buns, split, toasted
1 handful of watercress
To make the Meyer lemon-honey mustard, whisk together the mustard, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours before serving to allow flavors to meld.
Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 oz each).  Form each portion loosely into a 3/4 inch thick burger and make a deep impression in the center with your thumb.  Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.
Cook the burgers, using the canola oil, and topping each one with 2 slices of goat cheese and a basting cover during the last minute of cooking.
Place the burgers on the bun bottoms, drizzle with some of the Meyer lemon-honey mustard, and top with watercress.  Cover with the bun tops and serve immediately.

Homemade FRIES!

I've never tried making french fries at home before... that is, nothing but the kind that comes from the freezer.  When I saw this recipe in the October/November 2010 issue of Cook's Country, I knew I'd have to make them one day. 

Making burgers tonight seemed like the perfect time to do that.  I, as usual, didn't plan ahead and do the prep in advance.  This made for a much more hectic meal prep since I was running all over the place.  But, despite my poor planning, it was really easy to make these fries at home!  And, of course, since they are from the folks at Cook's Illustrated, they came out perfect.

BBQ French Fries, adapted from Cook's Country magazine, October/November 2010
3lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" thick fries
1/4t liquid smoke
1/2t chili powder
1/2t smoked paprika
1/4t salt
1/8t brown sugar
1/8t cayenne pepper
1/8t onion powder
3qt peanut or vegetable oil

1.  Add potatoes and liquid smoke in a large bowl.  Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave 6-8 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.  Drain potatoes and cool on a towel lined baking sheet, about 10 minutes.
2.  Heat spices in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring occasionally.
3.  Heat oil in a large pot to 375 degrees.  Fry half the potatoes until golden, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  If not using immediately, place on a baking sheet in a preheated oven set to 200 degrees.  Return oil to 375 degrees, and fry remaining potatoes.  Toss potatoes and spice mixture, and serve.

Celebrity Chefs Challenge: Aarti's Lady Marmalade Chicken Salad

I've followed Aarti Sequeira's rise to Food Network stardom because hers was the first season of Next Food Network Star I watched.  I enjoy watching her show, Aarti Party, but have never gotten around to making any of her recipes.  When I saw the article in Food Network magazine "He Made, She Made," I decided to go for it and host another challenge, The Celebrity Chefs Challenge (and I'd love to have YOU participate too!).

I made Aarti's Chicken Salad for dinner on Sunday because weekend meals aren't the fancy occasions around here that many others have.  We're usually running around, and so smaller easier meals are more likely to happen on the weekend than a weeknight!  Since we were running around, I had a few mis-steps and made a few errors.

The first problem was that I didn't realize I was out of Greek yogurt!  I improvised by straining some regular yogurt, but that only yielded about 1/2 a cup.  I used sour cream for the rest.  I also used too big a pan (See, I really do belong on Worst cooks in America.  They always say, use the right equipment for the right job), and so the mustard seeds may or may not have cooked properly.  But then I forgot to add the curry to that pan, and added it uncooked.  This may or may not have contributed to the overly curryliciousness of the chicken salad.

My husband said the chicken salad tasted strange, but that he likes mayonnaise in his chicken salad, so it's probably the yogurt.   As if he would've noticed had I not mentioned the yogurt.  And yes, he seriously is this much a pain in the butt when it comes to food.  The Boy ate his, but only because he wanted at those grapes!

So, Aarti's take on chicken salad was good, but a whole lot of work.  I'm not sure it's worth so much work for an ok dish, though it's entirely possible the dish is better without so much user error!

Lady Marmalade Chicken Salad, courtesy Aarti Sequeira


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt, mixed well
  • 1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds or cumin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons roasted salted cashews, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Put the chicken breasts on the foil and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub until coated. Pop the chicken in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 150 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes.

Switch the oven to the broiler setting. Brush 1 tablespoon marmalade on each chicken breast. Broil, brushing occasionally with the pan drippings, until the chicken is cooked through and golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, build the salad: Toss the shallot, apple, grapes, lime juice, yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon marmalade in a large bowl.

Heat the canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and garlic; cook until the seeds stop popping (cover if they're popping out of the pan). Quickly add the curry powder; cook, stirring, 30 seconds, then pour the spiced oil over the yogurt mixture. Stir until combined.

Once the chicken breasts are cool, thinly slice them. Fold into the salad and adjust the salt and pepper. Top with the cashews and cilantro.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yoplait Greek Yogurt: We have a new winner!

Alicia C. said...

I'm a new GFC follower
ohmiss14 at yahoo dot com

Alicia, you have until midnight (EST) on Tuesday April 5 to email me at smallbutfeisty78 at gmail dot com with your contact information (First and last name, address, and phone number), or the prize will pass to another winner.

Shrimp with Artichokes and Mushrooms

Made and shot by hubby, who claimed, "My pictures are better than yours!" 

I can't speak to the recipe itself, but really enjoyed this meal.  I believe I recall him saying he blended with his Spicy Shrimp recipe, so didn't follow the recipe exactly.  I do wish he had made rice to go along with it, or even pasta, but it was quite filling even without. 

I forgot to defrost the artichokes before he started cooking, and he said that caused him a lot of problems.  So his suggestion is to make sure they are defrosted (as indicated in the recipe).

So, since this is from Cook's Country, and since I didn't make it myself, I don't think I can post the recipe.  I guess that means I have to make, photograph, and post it again!

Pasta Fagioli

When my very good friend Lishie had her baby shower in 2009, the favor was the very clever gift of a recipe and box of alphabet pasta.  I'm just finally getting around to making the recipe.

I made it on Thursday, to enjoy on Friday, which happened to be not only a Lenten Friday, so no meat, but also a snowy April Fool's Day in these parts.  A hearty bowl of soup was just the ticket.

Because it was a meatless day, I'm happy I followed the instructions to use a cup of water, but in the future, I will probably use chicken broth instead.  I also will probably use more pasta next time, or maybe a thicker pasta (though if making for kids, definitely go with alphabet!  Even though E is way too young to know the difference *I* think it's super cute!)  I didn't use canned beans, instead using dried garbanzo beans and soaking then cooking them.  To compensate, I used a can and a half of water instead of measuring out a cup.  Finally, I didn't have the recommended styles of diced tomatoes, but think I used one can of regular diced tomatoes, and two cans with basil and onion.

I didn't measure out the spice, but since I was making it for my baby as well as myself, gave it a few shakes.  It's perfect; there's a hint of spice to it, but nothing that would make me say "too much" or even, "that's spicy."  It's got a nice kick that way!

Alphabet Pasta Fagioli from DeLish!
1T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1c onion, coarsely chopped
14-1/2 ounces diced tomatoes, do not drain
14-1/2 ounces diced tomatoes with basil
14-1/2 ounces diced tomatoes with roasted onion and garlic
15 ounces garbanzo or navy beans, do not drain
1 c water
1/2t dried basil
1/4t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2t sea salt
1/3c Alphabet pasta
2T fresh basil, minced
1/8t freshly ground black pepper

Heat up the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan until shimmering; add garlic and cook until it "speaks."  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add and combine the tomatoes and beans, water, seasonings, and bring to a boil covered.  Cook for about 4 minutes, then add the pasta and reduce heat to medium.  Cook pasta uncovered for about 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked as you like.  Just before serving, add fresh basil and pepper.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yoplait Greek Yogurt: We have a winner!

We have a winner in the Yoplait Greek Yogurt gift pack giveaway!

Surina said...
i like strawberry yogurt
April 1, 2011 1:40 PM

Surina, you have until midnight (EST) on Saturday April 2 to email me at smallbutfeisty78 at gmail dot com with your contact information (First and last name, address, and phone number), or the prize will pass to another winner.
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