Monday, January 16, 2012

Honey Chicken Stir Fry

Tonight's dinner was supposed to be something yummy sounding from Cook's Country. There were issues. My husband suggested we have chicken stir fry, so I went online and came across this recipe. After reading through the reviews, I decided to make some of the modifications suggested and came up with this version:

Honey chicken Stir Fry adapted from Caroline Sperry via Allrecipes

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
3 garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 (16 ounce) package frozen broccoli stir-fry vegetable blend
Hot cooked rice

Combine garlic, honey, chili sauce, soy sauce, orange juice and ginger in a large bowl. Add cubed chicken and marinate for 20 minutes. In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat two teaspoons oil until just smoking. Add the chicken and marinade. Cook and stir until chicken is lightly browned and juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.
In the same pan, stir-fry the vegetables in remaining oil for 4-5 minutes or until heated through. Return chicken to the pan; mix well. Serve over rice.

I always struggle to make rice properly, so turned to the internet for help and found these directions. For the first time ever, rice (that wasn't Minute Rice) came out PERFECTLY!

How to Cook Rice by Steve Pavlina
Put brown rice and water together in a pot with a lid. Use the ratio of 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice. I normally make 3c rice with 4.5c water for a single batch.
Set the heat to maximum, and bring the rice/water to a boil uncovered. Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer. If your lid has a steam valve, keep it closed. Let the rice simmer for 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 minutes. It’s OK if you let the rice sit longer than 10 minutes (20 or 30 minutes is fine too), but don’t let it go any less. I prefer my rice to be slightly chewy, not mushy, so I usually remove the lid after 10 minutes.
Eat and enjoy. Be careful when you remove the lid, since a lot of steam may escape when you do.
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Family Cookbook Deal

Here's a special deal I was given for my readers from the Family CookBook Project.  This is an easy way to collaborate online to create a collection of all your favorite family recipes.  Let me know how yours turns out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce

What a mouthful!  In my meal planning for the week, I used Giada's Family Dinners.  When I saw this, I added it to the shopping list immediately (c'mon, not only is marsala one of M's favorites, but I had everything but the mascarpone!) and it did not disappoint.  Another big hit for the whole family, this came together easily and was incredibly delicious.  It had many of your typical marsala flavors, but the mustard definitely added something different, interesting, and delicious to the mix.

Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce Source:  Giada's Family Dinners by Giada Di Laurentiis via

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, each breast cut crosswise into 3 pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, plus whole sprigs, for garnish
  • 12 ounces dried fettuccine


Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cool slightly.
While the chicken cools, melt 2 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet over medium-high heat, then add the onion and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 12 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone and mustard. Cut the chicken breasts crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain. Toss the fettuccine with 3 tablespoons of butter and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Swirl the fettuccine onto serving plates. Spoon the chicken mixture over top. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Ahh, Giada.  I love her cookbooks.  Her recipes are usually quite good, when I can get past how overwhelming they sometimes seem.

This wasn't one that overwhelmed; it just looked good.  Everyone loved it in my house, and the leftover sauce (in the book, but not on the website) was excellent in the Crock Pot Lasagna I made that day.  Deliciousness!!  You really have to try the tomato sauce Giada listed in her book; it's incredible.

Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce Source:  Giada's Family Dinners by Giada Di Laurentiis via


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add about 1/4 cup olive oil to the water to help prevent pasta from sticking. Add the ravioli and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain the ravioli, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss the ravioli with the remaining oil to coat.
Meanwhile, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking often. Whisk in the ricotta and enough reserved cooking water to thin the sauce to desired consistency. For a thicker sauce, use less pasta water; for a thinner sauce, add more water. Return the sauce to a simmer. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon 3 tablespoons of sauce over the bottom of each of 6 bowls. Arrange the ravioli over the sauce.Drizzle the remaining sauce over the ravioli. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and the basil, and serve.

Quick Marinara Sauce, from Giada's Family Dinners by Giada Di Laurentiis

2 – 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes in juice
1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed
½ c. good quality olive oil
2 small onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. sugar
1 Parmesan rind (if you can find it; ask the ladies in the cheese department if they have some stashed away – optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a blender, puree the tomatoes with their juice and the basil until almost smooth.  Set the tomato puree aside.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and sauté until very tender, about 12 minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree, oregano, sugar and optional Parmesan rind.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes (I usually let mine go about an hour).  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  Discard Parmesan rind.
The sauce can be made 1 day ahead.  If storing for future use, cool, then cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meatless Monday--Tempeh Tacos

I'm often nervous serving my family, my husband in particular, healthful food.  Not that he doesn't want to eat well; he absolutely does.  He's not one, however, to give up anything in taste to save a few calories, be better to the planet, etc.  So, I was really nervous serving something I'd never heard of before (Tempeh), but since the source is a very trusted one (Cook's Illustrated), I figured it was a good place to start.

As soon as he put it in his mouth, he gave a kinda grunt of it being good.  After he told me he really liked it, I told him that it was "pretty good for meat free, huh?"  I then told him what tempeh is--and the five grain tempeh I bought includes soybeans, brown rice, millet, barley, and rye--and after talking about the nutrition information, we concluded that not only was this a tasty dish that took only about 20 minutes to put together, but that it's a reasonably healthful one as well.  I told him the worst stuff on our plates were the cheese and sour cream.

I went to the "fancy" grocery store because I thought I wouldn't find tempeh, but when I was at our regular grocery store, I discovered they carry it as well, right next to their soy products in the produce section.  I assume it's not nearly as hard to find as I anticipated.

Try this.  You'll like it.  You won't miss the meat at all.

I didn't have any tomato sauce, so used 8oz of regular old jarred marinara sauce.

Tempeh Tacos Source:  America's Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2011 via

Serves 6 (2 tacos each)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 (8-ounce) packages low-fat, five-grain tempeh crumbled into 1/4-inch pieces
1 (8-ounce) can plain tomato sauce
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper
12 store-bought taco shells, warmed
1. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until simmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, garlic and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add tempeh to skillet; cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, broth and brown sugar. Bring to simmer; cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.
3. Off the heat, stir in cilantro and lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide filling evenly among the taco shells and serve.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cook's Illustrated Recommended Tools

If you've been reading this at all, you're aware my love for America's Test Kitchen.  Their recipes are nearly always foolproof (I can only think of one recipe that wasn't to our liking), and my first purchase of their work gave me confidence in the kitchen so that baking was no longer something I couldn't do.  The recipes in their Best 30 Minute Recipe cookbook actually take 30 minutes or less.

The Test Kitchen folks are known for their rigorous testing of recipes, but also give lots of recommendations on products.  They consider not only how well a product performs, but also how affordable the product is.  It seems they're a truly a real home cook's best friend, particularly if that home cook is just starting out.

So, this is a shout out to all the products rated with a "Highly Recommend" by America's Test Kitchen.  Most of these are recent recommendations, coming from my year and three month subscription to Cook's Country magazine.  So, without further adieu, here's the list.  Clicking on the picture will (*should*) take you to the listing of the product.

Rimmed Baking Sheet
Sheet Pan Half Size - 12-7/8'' x 17-3/4'' Heavy Duty, 13 Gauge
ATK recommends this as their go-to rimmed baking sheet in the Feb/March 2012 magazine.  They say it deals well with high heat and is incredibly versatile; they use it not only as one would typically use a jelly pan, but that it's even more handy because it can be used for other applications with a cooling rack inside it.

Cookie Jars
Product Details

Also recommended in the Feb/March 2012 magazine, ATK liked the OXO cookie jar because of its tight seal and relative ease for cleaning.  They do warn that the lid is difficult to clean (but how often do you really need to clean the lid for your cookie jar?  Err, maybe I'm just gross....)

Cake Carrier
Progressive International Collapsible Cupcake and Cake Carrier
ATK rated this in their Dec/Jan 2011 magazine.  They liked the "comfortable handles" and locking system as well as its ability to collapse for storage.  Further, this product can carry not only cakes, but also cupcakes.  Reviewers on amazon, to some extent, complain that the handle is not well made and that they have dropped cakes by holding it only by the handle (to which there were many responses that you should NEVER trust a handle on its own for a cake without supporting it by the bottom).  Another reviewer's response was that he/she thinks CI is "deplorable" and doesn't know why anyone trusts them.  I don't know; I like them (obviously!)

Slow Cooker
Crock-Pot SCVT650-PS 6-1/2-Quart Programmable Touch Screen Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel
Also in their Dec/Jan 2011 issue, Cook's Country recommends the Crock Pot Touchscreen Slow Cooker.  They like the 6qt size, its keep warm setting, and a power light.  Further, the crock is dishwasher safe (!!) and has its own handles to easily remove it from the base using potholders.

Spider Skimmers
Stainless-Steel Wok Skimmer
In Feb/Mar 2011, Cook's Country tested spider skimmers.  This 13cm skimmer was their pick because of its ease of use and cleaning as well as the angled handle and deep basket.

Muffins Tins
In the Feb/Mar 2011 issue, Cook's Country didn't rank any muffin tin as "Highly Recommended," but they did rate several as "Recommended."

  • First, Wilton Avanti Everglide.  They like its wide rims and ease of gripping, even with thick oven mitts, its durability, and its nonstick coating.  They also commented on its "acceptably even--though not stellar" browning and its low price.
  • Next, the Norpro Nonstick 12-Muffin Cupcake Pan, which got high marks for its relatively even browning and easy release, but got low marks for construction.  It has but one extended rim, which oddly enough is on a long side.  CC says it was hard to hold.
  • The Anolon Advanced Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan had "good 'grab-ability,'" silicone handles, and a raised lip, but is more expensive than the others listed and also got the same rating in browning as the Wilton.
  • Finally, Bonjour Commercial Nonstick Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan got high marks for its cupcake performance, but its rating was lowered because blueberry muffins clung to the pan and of its "not generous" handles.  It also has the same price as the Anolon.

So there you have it; some of the best rated cooking equipment from the folks at America's Test Kitchen!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Overnight Egg Casserole

When it comes to breakfast, many of us just grab and go.  Fast is the name of the game, but we know that fast generally results in the hungry monster making an appearance at 9 (oh wait, is that just me?).  Something that can be made ahead and baked  while doing other things or fully cooked and heated in the microwave is a perfect solution.  I've recently learned that protein helps keep that monster at bay by making us feel fuller longer, so I've been looking for ways to incorporate "The incredible, Edible Egg" into my morning routine.

This meal, made for our Breakfast for Dinner New Year's Eve party, is a perfect solution.  It combines carbs in the potatoes with protein in the ham and eggs, plus is adaptable enough that one could easily add some veggies--broccoli seems the perfect fit here.

I made it yesterday morning, baked it around dinner time, and it was really good.  This morning, I warmed it in the microwave, and it was still just as good.  So the only time you'd need in your manic Monday morning is to slop it on a plate, nuke it for 30 seconds, and eat it.  It's not the most grab and go of breakfasts, but it still is really fast.

A little secret; it made me so happy to have a use for my leftover Christmas ham!!

Overnight Egg Casserole Source:  Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious March/April 2006.  Online here.


  • 4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1 cup cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Salsa, optional


  • In a greased 8-in. square baking dish, layer the hash browns, ham, chilies and cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and pepper; pour over the casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 1 hour or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5-10 minutes. Serve with salsa if desired. Yield: 9 servings.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bacon and Cheese Strata

Continuing the Breakfast for Dinner we had for New Year's Eve, I also made this Bacon and Cheese Strata from  I ended up not having a 9x12 pan, so made it in two 8x8 pans; this meant I had one for NYE and one for today! 

It looked so pretty when it came out of the oven.

and was really delicious too.  The Dijon mustard was a really interesting twist, and it was cheesey and gooey and so yum.  So easy to put it together, and so tasty too!

Bacon and Cheese Strata Source:
  • 6 slice(s) bacon
  • 2 tablespoon(s) Dijon mustard
  • 12 slice(s) firm white bread
  • 6 ounce(s) Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 9 large eggs
  • 3 cup(s) whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) freshly ground black pepper

  1. Lay strips of bacon on a foil lined baking sheet so that they don't overlap.  Bake for 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Let cool and coarsely crumble bacon.
  2. Meanwhile, grease 13" by 9" ceramic or glass baking dish.
  3. Spread mustard on 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange 6 bread slices, mustard side up, in bottom of baking dish, cutting slices to fit if necessary. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Top with all but 2 tablespoons crumbled bacon, then remaining bread slices, mustard side up.
  4. In large bowl, with wire whisk, beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until blended. Slowly pour egg mixture over bread slices; press bread down to help it absorb egg mixture. If necessary, spoon egg mixture over any uncoated bread. Top with remaining cheese and bacon. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake strata 40 minutes or until puffed and golden and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.

Meal Plan Monday

Monday--Tempeh Taco (Cook's Illustrated Light and Healthy)
Tuesday--Clear out the fridge night
Wednesday--Mac and Cheese (Cook's Illustrated) with Artichoke and Pea Gratin
Thursday--Cajun Stuffed Peppers
Friday--Crock Pot Lasagna
Saturday--Chicken Marsala with Mustard and Mascarpone
Sunday--Ravioli with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Syrupy Banana French Toast

We had some friends over for a very low key New Year's Eve gathering.  We've done this since 2007 when our first son was born, and invited others interested in a low key, bring along the kids, night.  On the evite, I asked everyone what their preference for dinner was--Mexican or Breakfast?  Breakfast was the winner, and so I turned to the internet to find make ahead breakfast dishes that would be kid friendly and delicious.  I came across Good Housekeeping's recipe site Delish and found many recipes that seemed perfect.

First up is the all around favorite, Syrupy Banana French Toast.  This was so easy and so yummy.  I put it together on Saturday morning and it was ready to go for dinnertime.  The brown sugar and butter "crust" caramelized so that it didn't even need the addition of syrup.  I used a French baguette, which meant that the 1" slices of bread were way too much for this dish; next time I'll either use thinner slices of baguette or a loaf of French bread.

I toyed with the idea of throwing in some chocolate chips, because banana chocolate chip pancakes are so yummy, but instead made the recipe as written.  One note is that this does not reheat well.  We tried to have it this morning for breakfast and found it was pretty disgusting.


Syrupy Banana French Toast Source:
  • 6 tablespoon(s) butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) packed brown sugar
  • 5 large ripe bananas, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1  (12-ounce) long loaf French or Italian bread, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cup(s) milk
  • 2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup(s) sliced almonds or coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

  1. In microwave-safe small bowl, heat butter in microwave oven on High 1 minute or until melted. Stir sugar into butter until moistened. With fingertips, press sugar mixture onto bottom of 13-inch by 9-inch glass baking dish. (It's okay if mixture does not cover bottom.) Spread fresh or dried fruit over sugar mixture; top with bread slices, cut sides down.
  2. In medium bowl, with whisk, beat eggs; whisk in milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Slowly pour milk mixture over bread; press bread down to absorb egg mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap from baking dish. Bake, uncovered, 45 to 50 minutes or until bread is golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

    Note: If you don't have bananas, substitute 3 to 4 very ripe pears or peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced; or 1 cup dried cherries, cranberries, or raisins.
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