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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

I came upon the recipe that inspired this in my latest “Cooking Light” magazine issue. Indeed it may not be quite the “lightest” dinner ever.  Chicken – good, herbs – good, goat cheese – eh…But you know what?  Goat cheese is certainly better than stuffing it with cheddar or fontina (which I have done and loved), so if you want a stuffed chicken breast, this probably is still on the “light” side.  And hey, speaking of “light side”, I did have a light side dish.  What’s healthier than steamed asparagus?

I started this dish by digging out my seldom used and under appreciated Cuisinart mini-prep.  It has become the ugly step-child of the kitchen ever since its big brother entered the picture.  Nonetheless, it works extremely well for small applications like this.  Here, I have combined a few fresh basil leaves, some thyme, black pepper, and about 2 oz plain goat cheese.

cheese mix

Blitz it up with a tiny bit of olive oil to make it slightly more pliable.

Herbed Goat Cheese

Herbed Goat Cheese

Then move on to prepping the chicken.  I used boneless skinless chicken breasts which I then butterflied and pounded out.

Pounded Chicken

Pounded Chicken

A small cast-iron skillet is the perfect meat-pounder if you don’t own a “real” meat pounder.  Its flat, heavy, and has a large surface area.  Just don’t forget the plastic wrap!

Cast-Iron Meat Pounder

Cast-Iron Meat Pounder

Once the chicken is evenly flattened, spread the goat cheese mixture on in an even, thin layer.  Cover only 1/2 or 1/3 of the chicken so that you can fold it over to cover the cheese.

Spread the Cheese

Folded over Chicken

Folded over Chicken

Try to make sure that not too much cheese is going to melt out, although so melting is inevitable.  Luckily, the cheese doesn’t burn if it melts out, just gets oozy.

And after all that fussiness, I needed a super simple side-dish!  Have I ever mentioned how much I love my Farberware Steamer Pot?  I do, I love it.

Steamed Asparagus

Steamed Asparagus

And that’s all folks.  It turned out to be too much food, the chicken was very filling!

Lovely Springtime Dinner

Perfect Springtime Dinner

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 6/10
– the flavor was delicious, however, the chicken was a bit tough by the time it was cooked.

Simple recipe after the break.

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Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband just got his wisdom teeth out.  He’s doing fine, sipping down Instant Breakfasts like a champ, however, he’s still off solid foods for at least one more day.  So he told me to go ahead and make a meal that I love that he doesn’t.  I immediately decided on my Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower Pasta.  I made this one up about a year ago after the raging success of the Summer Squash Spaghetti.  However, the reviews of my new recipe brought me back down to earth and reminded me that I couldn’t just pass any old veggie/pasta dish by my husband and expect him to love it.  I did NOT have carte blanche with noodles and vegetables.

However, I thought the dish was delicious.  Before trying this, I had never experienced the wonders of roasting broccoli and cauliflower.  It is amazing the transformation these vegetables undergo when roasted.  They get slightly brown and caramelized, sweet, nutty, so delicious!

Veggies, Pre-Roasting

Roasted Veggies

Want to see that transformation close up? Here you go.

Pre-Rosting, close up

Roasted Veggies, close-up

Now I know what you’re thinking.  THEY’RE BURNED!!! You MESSED UP!!  But I promise you, dear readers, they are not burned.  They don’t taste burned, they taste delicious!  This is what you want – would I lie to you?  Never.

Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

I pair the roasted vegetables with a vinagrette made with lemon juice and zest, thyme, rosemary, and olive oil.  The lemony brightness goes beautifully with the nutty roasted vegetables.

Zesty!

Zesty!

This is one of the few dishes where I actually prefer whole wheat pasta.  I know I should eat it all the time.  High protein, high fiber, blah blah blah.  But I just don’t like the flavor or texture of it with traditional red or white sauces.  But with this dish, it works perfectly.

So if you’re up for another vegetarian pasta dish, give this one a whirl, especially if you have never tried roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Dinner for One

Dinner for One

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 8.5/10

Get the recipe after the break:

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Post-Surgery Cravings

J-E-L-L-O

J-E-L-L-O

Remember when I was complaining back when my mouth was hurting that all the good food are crunchy? Toast, chips, cereal, crackers…Well, now I’m having a hankering for the softer side. Its all about wanting what you shouldn’t have.  So trite, yet so true.  Let me explain.

My husband got his wisdom teeth extracted today, so I’ve been preparing soft and slurpable foods for him.  And of course now I want nothing more than to eat all of his soft foods.  Jello, pudding, ice cream…even those instant-breakfast shakes.  Its nothing but processed sugar, but now that I’m surrounded by it, it all looks so good!

A few days ago I was at the store shopping for the slurp-ables and I called the Hubby to ask what flavor of  pudding and Jello he preferred.  He said “I like brown pudding and red Jello.”  Its the cute things that make life so enjoyable!

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Summer Squash Spaghetti

Summer Squash Spaghetti

Summer Squash Spaghetti

I know its not quite summer yet, but I feel like I need to start getting warmed up for the months of non-stop zucchini production by getting reacquainted with making my old summer standby- Summer Squash Spaghetti.  I made this up while I was living in Tucson out of laziness and the desire to add more vegetables to my diet.

When I moved back to be in Kansas with my husband, I didn’t figure that he’d go for a dish like this.  One time for dinner, I was at a total loss for what to make and he told me to just make something I would have made for myself in Tucson.  So I made us up a pan of the squash spaghetti and guess what…he actually liked it…a lot!  I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are.  I thought I’d have to trick him into eating this many vegetables in one sitting by covering them in melted cheese and sprinkles, but to my utter delight, this has become a meal he frequently requests!

Just tonight as I was making dinner, he came by and said that he had been looking forward to this specific meal since we haven’t had it in a long time.  See?  It warmed my heart to hear such praise for a vegetarian dish, heavy on the vegetables.

This recipe is super simple, its all about the ingredients.

The Veggies

The Veggies

The Pasta

The Pasta

Add in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese, and that’s literally all there is, folks.

Cooking Veggies

Cooking Veggies

Saute the vegetables in a good helping of olive oil – its the only “sauce” there is, so you can’t skimp too much – and add a generous pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  I like to saute them over fairly high heat so the squash and onions get slightly browned and carmelized.  The garlic is grated in a little later so it won’t burn.  You can finely mince the garlic, but I find the micro-plane the perfect tool for grating it down.

Adding the Garlic

Adding the Garlic

Cooked Veggies

Cooked Veggies

Once the veggies are done, simply pile them atop some cooked spaghetti and top with grated Parmesan.  You can of course use whatever pasta your little heart desires.  I’ve tried it with whole wheat Penne and thought it was good, but the Mister isn’t so hot on the whole wheat pasta.

Veggie Pasta for Two

Veggie Pasta for Two

Prep Ranking: #1 – Make on the Fly (it takes about 15 minutes start to finish)
Tastiness Grade: 8/10

Simple recipe after the jump.

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Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

I pulled out the slow cooker once again.  I think its the best way to make a meal with a big ‘wow-factor’ with the least effort.  I’ve fallen hard for my slow cooker.  Since I’ve discovered the wonders of slow cooking, my new favorite food is probably any meat that has cooked for 8 hours and has the ability to melt on your tongue.   It is truly amazing how a cheap cut of meat can turn into the most mouth watering treat when you let it cook for 8 hours at low heat with a bit of seasoning.

I started the pork last night, letting it sit coated in the dry spice rub overnight.  I know its not exactly in the tradition of K.C. bbq (which is more sauce-based), but I really like the flavor of meats cooked with dry rub.  I found a recipe for a spice rub mix, originally published in Cook’s Illustrated.  I of course made my own alterations to it.  Here’s what I ended up with.

BBQ Dry Rub Mix, enough for a 3-4lb pork shoulder

1 Tbsp Chili Powder (medium hot)
2 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
1/2 Tbsp ground Corriander
1/2 Tbsp ground Cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground White Pepper
1/2 Tbsp dried Oregano
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Granulated Garlic
1 Tbsp Salt
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp White Sugar

Combine everything in a gallon sized ziploc.  Once the spices are mixed, add the pork roast to the bag and either using your hands or smooshing it around in the bag, thoroughly coat the pork with the rub.  Let it sit in your fridge overnight.  Yes, you must plan ahead for this one.  But oh, is it worth it!

Spice Rub

Spice Rub

There's a roast in there, I swear

There's a roast in there, I swear

The next morning, transfer the roast to a 5-6qt slow cooker.  I cut mine into a couple of big hunks, but this probably wasn’t necessary.  Add 1/4 cup water to get the juices going and cook on low for about 8 hours.  When time’s close to being up, give it a poke with a fork.  If it disintegrates under slight pressure from a fork – its done!  The pork should be absolutely falling apart.

Cooked Pork

Cooked Pork

Transfer it to a bowl or a plate and commense shredding.  Remove any big hunks of fat (duh).  I added back about 1/2 cup of the juice from the crock pot.  It added moisture and a lot of flavor to the meat.

Shredded Pork

Shredded Pork

The shredded pork is wonderful eaten on its own or simply on hamburger buns, which is how we enjoyed it tonight.  I also made potato salad for the side (straight from Betty Crocker, tried and true).

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

And for full disclosure, I also made a chocolate cake tonight.  The decadence of it all.  It was a very belated birthday cake for my husband.  He requested chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  With all of the other food I was preparing today, I asked him if it’d be OK for me to use a box mix.  He said – of course.  I then asked if I could use store bought frosting.  Once again – fine.  So I went to the store to buy the box mix and frosting.  However, when I picked up the frosting and checked out the (scary) nutrition label, I noticed that it actually still had trans-fats. A lot of trans-fat.  Can you believe that?  I just couldn’t bring myself to make a cake for my husband that was chalk-full of trans-fats.  So I bought the box mix and made chocolate buttercream frosting from scratch.  Delicious.

For the Pulled Pork:
Prep Ranking: #3 – Slow Cook, Minimal Effort
Tastiness Grade: 10/10 – I could eat this all day long

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Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan

After a very long day of toiling in our soon-to-be garden, we needed something hearty.  I promise to poast an update about the seedlings and garden soon, there has been transplanting going on and a LOT more rock excavation.  Seriously, I think there’s a rock quarry in our backyard.

So back to our hearty dinner – Chicken Parmesan.  I love getting chicken parmesan when we go out, that crispy, breaded chicken is so yummy!  But as I have documented here, I’m not much of a deep-frier, due to the ridiculous clean-up that follows.  I think this is the only recipe from Giada De Laurentis I use on a regular basis, but I think its a winner.  And its pretty quick to make provided you have some ready made marinara sauce, either yours or store-bought.

Herb Oil

Herb Oil

The great flavor of this recipe lies in the fresh herbs used to coat the chicken before it is cooked.  The recipe calls for fresh Parsely, Rosemary and Thyme.  My rosemary was looking a bit long in the tooth, so I substituted dried basil, and it worked just fine.  I think I’ve even made this recipe with only dried herbs and that worked OK too, just not quite as fresh tasting.

Herb-Coated Chicken

Herb-Coated Chicken

The chicken is cooked in a hot, oven-safe skillet for just a couple of minutes to brown each side.

Cooked Chicken

Cooked Chicken

Once the chicken is browned, the pan is put into the oven with all of the goodies, marinara sauce, Parmesan, mozzarella and a bit of butter for good measure.  Cook it at 500F for about 4-6 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and its at the appropriate Ooey-Gooey-ness.

Ooey Gooey Chicken Parm

Ooey Gooey Chicken Parm

Serve it up on top of whatever pasta you prefer, and that’s it.  Another simple chicken recipe to add to your repertoire.

Chicken Parm for Dinner

Chicken Parm for Dinner

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 8/10
(me), 9/10 (Greg, he loves him some Italian food)

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Ham, Apple and Blue Cheese Panini

Ham, Apple and Blue Cheese Panini

I’ve been a bit M.I.A. from the kitchen the past few days.  Very, very busy at work lately, plus I’ve been having mouth issues.  My issues stem from (yes I’ll admit it) my poor flossing habits as well as a medication I take that has a lovely side effect of mouth sores.  Sorry for sharing too much, but I have to have some valid excuse for the fact that my last two dinners have consisted of Ramen Noodles and Hot Dogs.  Both very gum-friendly foods.  Have you ever noticed that all the good foods in the world are crunchy?  Well, that’s not true, but it certainly seems that way when your mouth feels like one big, exposed nerve.

So I’m back on the horse tonight, in a big way with these crusty, crunchy panini sandwiches.  This recipe was inspired by the Harvest Ham sandwich at a fabulous restaraunt here in Lawrence, Freestate Brewery.  Greg fell in love with the sandwich, which is only available seasonally, so he asked me to try making it at home.  I was looking for excuses to use our fun panini press we received as a wedding present.

The main components of the sandwich are Ham, tart apple and blue cheese crumbles.  Oops, I gave that away in the title didn’t I?  Since I’ve never actually eaten the sandwich at Freestate, I had to take a guess at what kind of dressing was used to moisten the bread on the inside of the sandwich.  I’m not a mustard fan, and I didn’t think mayo would go well.  So I whipped up a balsamic vinegrette and it worked absolutely perfectly.

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

After whisking it up with some salt and pepper, spread it onto some good quality sour-dough with a pastry brush.

Vinagrette on the bread

After that, its just sandwich assembly.  First the ham, then the thinly sliced apple, then the blue cheese.

The Perfect Combo

The Perfect Combo

Squish it all together and lightly butter the outsides.

Sandwich Assembly Line

Sandwich Assembly Line

Throw it on a hot panini press and let it toast and heat through.  The apple will soften and the cheese will melt.

Gettin' Pressed

Gettin' Pressed

If you don’t have a fancy panini press, you can put them in a heated cast iron (or nonstick) pan with another heavy (or weighed down) pan, lined with foil, an top of the sandwiches.  This really does work well, I did it for a long time before the fancy panini press entered our lives!

A very CRUNCHY dinner

A very CRUNCHY dinner

As I was easing back into the whole food preparation thing tonight, a side dish was beyond the scope of my abilities.  Hence the tortilla chips and roasted tomatillo salsa.

Oh, and if you have just a tiny bit of ham leftover, and maybe a spare slice of apple and a wayward crumble of blue cheese, you won’t be sorry if you just smoosh it all together and pop it in your mouth.  Its a magical combination 🙂

Leftovers? No Problem!

Leftovers? No Problem!

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 8.5/10

Recipe after the break.

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His and Hers Banana Breads

Hers (left) His (right)

Hers (left) His (right)

As anyone in a successful long-term relationship can attest, compromise is the name of the game.  Now, in my eyes, compromise does not mean giving up what either of you want for the benefit of both, it means finding a solution in which BOTH people get what they want.

Enter the mini-loaf pan.

Greg hates nuts in his baked goods.  During my teenage years, I may have agreed with him on this point, but when I had my first slice of warm banana bread with a few tender yet cruchy walnuts tucked into the soft texture of the bread, I was a convert.  Yet, now that I have to factor in my husband’s tastes when I make banana bread, so I am always foregoing my beloved walnuts so he’ll feel as if he can eat the bread.  At the same time, he keeps asking me to put chocolate chips into the banana bread.  Chocolate chips?  Huh uh.  Now I’m not agains chocolate chips in all quick-breads (or pancakes for that matter), I certainly don’t mind them in zucchini bread.  But to me, banana bread is already sweet enough and the chocolate really just doesn’t compliment the flavor.

So after yet another discussion today about how the banana bread would be prepared, we finally came upon the solution.  And why did it take us so darned long to think of this?

All you have to do is take the regular banana bread recipe, which is enough for 4 mini-loafs, and split it in half.  You can do this division weight wise on a kitchen scale, or by eye if you’re good at estimation.  Or you could do like I did and make a terrible estimation, then spend 5 tedious minutes scooping batter out of the chocolate-chip loafs into the walnut loafs, carefully avoiding the multitude of chocolate chips mixed in.

Loaves Pre-Bake

So as I was saying, make a full recipe, divide it in half, then stir in 1/3 cup of your desired add ins.  Chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, chocolate chips, raisins, whatever you want.  Divide each portion into 2 mini-loaves.

Loaves Post-Bake

The baking time is much shorter also than the regular loaf.  These were finished in about 35 minutes at 350F.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Walnut Banana Bread

Walnut Banana Bread

So now we have our own individual mini-loaves.  Aren’t they just the cutest?  Greg was quite scandalized to look over and find me literally tearing chunks off of one of mine and eating it right over the counter without a plate or anything.  Its MY LOAF and I can eat it the way I want to!!

Ah, the things I do for love.

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Good Eats - Pancakes

Good Eats - Pancakes

This morning I finally decided to try Alton Brown’s pancake recipe.  If you’re not a food network junkie like me, you may not know who Alton Brown is, but you should.  He’s awesome.  He marries the wonderful world of food with the nerdy world of science.  Hmmm, now why would that appeal to me?

Like many of his recipes, they are a bit more complex than your average recipe.  But really, aside from the fussiness of separating the eggs, it wasn’t bad at all.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

So you see here for the liquid ingredients: 2 separated eggs, melted butter and buttermilk.  The egg yolks get mixed into the butter, and the egg whites are mixed in with the buttermilk.  It actually makes a lot of sense, as Alton describes, the fats go together (butter and yolks) and the non-fats go together.  Then they all get mixed together into one glorious, goopy mess.  Then the liquids go in on top of the dry ingredients.  Mix together – but not too much – and voila!

Pancake Batter

Pancake Batter

And of course meanwhile, you have the griddle getting nice and hot, right???

These pancakes cooked up very nicely, although I had to watch them like a hawk so they wouldn’t burn.  I think the addition of butter instead of oil in the batter makes these slightly more susceptable to burning.

Pancakes on the Griddle

Overall, we thought this recipe was a winner.  Greg even commented that he like these better than other buttermilk pancakes that I’ve made in the past because they don’t have a slightly sour aftertaste.  I guess he’s sensitive to the buttermilk flavor.  The texture was nice and the flavor was perfectly pancake-y.  Well, what else can you say about the flavor about pancakes?  They taste like butter and maple syrup, right?

Prep Ranking: #1 – Make on the Fly (easy, but I’d save it for the weekends for breakfast, unless you regularly get up with an hour to spare)
Tastiness Grade: 9 out of 10

You can find the recipe here.

I made the recipe using 2-cups dry ingredients: 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, plus the requisite wet ingredients.

I got 15 good sized (5-6 inch) pancakes out of it.

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Individual Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pie - Insert Fork

Chicken Pot Pie - Insert Fork

Oh sweet lovin’, I love chicken pot pies.  I love the crust, the chicken-stew filling, the “individual” nature of them.  Oh yes, they have to be individual pies.  You get that higher crust-to-consumer ratio that I feel is far superior to “family style” pies.  However, chicken pot pies fall firmly into the category of Comfort Food, and by definition, that makes them unhealthy.  And no, this isn’t some magical “healthy” version of a pot-pie.  It has pie crust made with butter, more butter in the filling, and then its eaten with a side of butter.  OK, that last part was not true, but the first two elements constitute enough butter that these probably shouldn’t be consumed any more than occasionally.

The pies start off deceptively healthy.  Diced carrots and potatoes go on to boil until tender.

Boiling Carrots and Potatoes

Boiling Carrots and Potatoes

At the same time, get the onions and diced chicken going in some melted butter.  Throw in some thyme for good measure.

Chicken, onions, butter, mmmm

Chicken, onions, butter, mmmm

The hardest part of the pot pie is, of course, the crust.  But remember our old friend from Pi Day?

Pi Day Leftovers

Pi Day Leftovers

In fact, my inspiration for making the pot-pies today was using the other half of the pie crust I made for the apple pie made to celebrate Pi Day.  I had it frozen, double wrapped in plastic since last month.  Last night, I set it in the fridge to thaw, and it was perfect for use today!  I love when a plan comes together.  So of the half-recipe I had remaining (which would be enough for one bottom crust of a pie), I divided the dough in half, then divided those halves into 1/3 and 2/3 segments (two unequal portions).  The smaller portions were used for the top of the pot pie and the larger portions were for the bottom/sides of the pot pies.

Divided Dough

Divided Dough

Roll those all out on a floured surface.  Place the larger portions in the baking dishes.  I used Corningware oven safe dishes (500 ml / ~1 pint sized).  Tuck the dough in the bottom, into the bottom corner and in along the sides.

Dough in the Dishes

Dough in the Dishes

And back to the filling.  Once the onions are tender and the chicken is cooked on the outside (not cooked through) add the flour and stir into the butter to make a roux.  Let this cook for a couple minutes, then add the liquids (milk and chicken stock in this case).  Stir to a boil so it thickens.  Once the sauce has cooked for a few minutes to thicken, add the drained vegetables.  By now, the potatoes and carrots should be cooked through and I have added a handful of frozen peas and corn.

Completing the Filling

Completing the Filling

Once the filling is ready, ladle into the wating crusts.  Don’t take the filling all the way to the top, leave about half an inch.   I had quite a lot of filling left over because the recipe is enough for 4.  However, I don’t mind at all because this will make some stellar leftover chicken stew to eat with some crusty sourdough toast.

Filled Pies...and Tomorrow's Lunch

Filled Pies...and Tomorrow's Lunch

Now put on the top crust, seal it to the bottom crust and pinch together with a fork.  And make some (4) slits in the top crust to prevent explosions.  You want to eat your pie right? Not scrape it off the top of your oven?

Pies Pre-Bake

Pies Pre-Bake

Pies Post-Bake

Pies Post-Bake

And of course you remembered to put the pies on a baking sheet to avoid having to clean your oven tonight, right?

Bubbly Goodness

Bubbly Goodness

Now let them sit so they can come down from Atomically Hot to just plain-old Scar-the-Roof-of-your-Mouth hot.

Prep Ranking: #4 – Weekend Afternoon
Tastiness Grade: Me – 9/10 (one of my favorites, it can’t fail me)
Tastiness Grade: Greg – 7.5/10 (needed salt apparently)

Now live it up and enjoy, just not too often, OK?  Recipe after the jump, and please refer back to Pi Day for the classic pie crust (or use your favorite recipe, or a store bought crust  –  I won’t tell).

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