Project Kids In The Kitchen : Pizza Night


Food is such an important and amazing part of life.  I feel bad for those who are not truly enjoying their food, and think of it only as a necessary substance to fuel their bodies.  Of course it does that, but it is so much more.  Food brings people together, and makes memories that last a lifetime.  Food comforts you.  Food shows people you care.  It excites and impresses them.  Food can take you on a journey, or make you step out of your comfort zone.

Obviously I love food.  So it kills me that my own kids don’t share that appreciation of trying new things.  They are crazy picky, and each has a small list of foods they typically eat.  I do have hope that someday they will come around, since I was admittedly a bit on the picky side myself as a kid, but I just don’t want them to waste so much time getting around to it.

My mom was a great cook, and knew the recipes in her repertoire like the back of her hand, never using a recipe or measuring things.  She wasn’t one to deviate too far from her comfort zone though, and so I wasn’t exposed to many different foods as a kid.  My kids have the opportunity to try a lot of different things, but getting them to do so is often like pulling teeth.

I have thought long and hard on many occasion about ways to make my kids try food, and always come up empty handed.  Ideas I thought would work, failed miserably, and I am left feeling discouraged and annoyed.  It occurred to me that I wasn’t really adventurous in my food choices until I got out on my own and started having to cook for myself.  I know as you age your palate matures, and so they wouldn’t appreciate some of the dishes I typically make, but I began to think MAYBE, if I could get them involved with what I was making they would not only learn valuable lessons in the kitchen that would serve them their entire lives, but maybe they would also be a bit more adventurous in their food choices.

So with loads of ideas racing through my mind I decided to carve out a part of this blog to hopefully share with all of you their transformation into little foodies with a jumpstart on kitchen skills…. or at least more tolerable eaters lol.

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For our very first installment of what I am calling Project Kids In The Kitchen (or KITK) I decided to go with something that I knew would be fun to make, and also something I knew at least one of my kids was crazy about.  I am planning to ease them into the more adventurous stuff later on.  As I mentioned, KITK is not just about trying new foods, but also teaching them valuable kitchen skills that they will use the rest of their lives, and hopefully help them skip over that period of time when kids first start out on their own and their best friend becomes a microwave when they no longer have mom to cook for them.  So in honor of my oldest’s favorite food, it was PIZZA NIGHT!

It made me excited that the kids were so excited about KITK.  My youngest asked for days each morning when he got up if it was that day.  In order to make a lasting first impression I went all out.  We made everything from the sauce (well one of them anyway, let’s not get TOO ambitious on our first run lol), to the dough, and grating our own cheese (more to come on that).  It was definitely a success, but there was an added bonus I wasn’t really planning on of just some good quality family time spent together.

Probably the hardest part was trying to document the process at the same time through photographs.  Not only is the light dreadful in my kitchen, leaving me quite restricted in where and how I could set up, but it’s not easy running back and forth to take pics while trying to teach, so I enlisted the help of my husband as well.  I apologize in advance for what will probably be a lot of pictures….

Things we learned today :

  • How to properly measure flour
  • The importance of dry and wet measuring utensils
  • How to make White Sauce
  • Time management and planning ahead
  • How to use yeast
  • How to knead dough, and flour our surface
  • How to roll out dough
  • Stove safety, and they watched me fry some proscuitto, and wilt some spinach
  • How to use a cheese grater… and how not to.
  • The art of assembling a pizza
  • Following a recipe, and directions

We started off by making the white sauce for my youngest’s pizza.  Even with this option pizza is usually a hit or miss for him, so I wanted to make sure I gave him his best shot to succeed with this.  We made just a basic alfredo sauce with butter, cream, and parmesan cheese.  And very importantly… we each tasted it when we were done.  This is something I want to encourage when cooking so they are not only more mindful of what they are making and how flavors go together, but of course to trick them into trying new things lol. Here are two eager boys (though you won’t be able to tell from their cheesy and bored expressions in these photos lol) ready to get started! _MG_0964-1 And diving right in! _MG_0978-2 _MG_0982-4 Once that was done we moved on to the dough.  We made two batches so we’d have enough for 4 pizzas.  I decided the best way was to show them how with the first batch, and then let them do the second while I took pics.  While they waited for my yeast to activate I had them measure out their flour so we’d be ready. _MG_0986-1 Watching the yeast provided some excitement… though they weren’t much impressed by the smell lol. _MG_0988-1 Once our dough was mixed, it was time to knead.  This proved a bit difficult for them, but they gave it their best shot anyway before I finished them up. _MG_0993-1 _MG_0994-2 Dough is proofing in the oven while we clean up and get ready for the next step. _MG_0996-3 Time to master the cheese grater… or in my youngest’s case, learn some respect for it!  Even though he knicked himself a little, he was a great sport and didn’t let it keep him from trying again, and it’s good that he learned this lesson.  Heck, who hasn’t cut themselves with a knife, or knicked themselves with a grater or peeler before?  As you can see they took these tasks very seriously lol. _MG_0999-1 _MG_1002-2 _MG_1005-3 Our dough was ready to roll out, but first the kids thought it was hilarious that we had to punch it down…. it’s the little things lol. _MG_1009-1 _MG_1010-2 _MG_1014-3 _MG_1021-4 Now comes the fun part of assembling the pizzas!  We had a mini success before we even finished because both kids tried proscuitto and spinach, with the youngest even opting to make one slice of his strictly cheese and white sauce pizza have some torn up proscuitto on it (which he loved). _MG_1022-1 _MG_1024-2 _MG_1025-3 Masterpieces ready to go in the oven!  And of course a shot of the final product for good measure.  Also not shown, we made two other pizzas for my husband and I.  His was some meaty concoction of course, and mine was my attempt to copy-cat my favorite pizza from The Rock. _MG_1031-1 _MG_1034-2 _MG_1035-3 _MG_1037-4 When all was said and done… and it was sort of a long day in the kitchen for sure… we all had a great time, and everyone enjoyed the pizzas they made from scratch.  Thank you for making it through this long, and I suppose personal post.  I hope that our adventures in the kitchen inspire many of you to get your own children in there as well, and I would love to hear about it from you!  Time to start planning our next dish!

Pasta with Shrimp, Lime & Saffron


Whenever I make a dish with fish or shellfish in it I just feel like I am eating better.  Obviously that is not always the case, but generally I do feel it holds some truth.  Fish and shellfish are both very low calorie and fat, and generally are prepared in ways that keep things light and fresh.  Despite the large amount of olive oil in this dish (but keeping in mind olive oil IS good for you lol) I do feel like this is a pretty light, yet satisfying dish.  The nice fresh, slightly sweet taste of the shrimp pairs perfectly with the bright tangy and spicy sauce.

Let’s talk about saffron for a minute.  It is the most expensive spice on the market and most people have probably never tried it.  It is actually the stigma of a certain type of crocus.  It lends a sort of sweetness to a dish, and a little goes a LONG way.  When you buy it you often get a tiny amount and you really only need a few threads for a dish.  If you just can’t justify spending so much on a spice, I think this dish would still be a winner without it, but if you’re curious definitely give a shot!  It will probably last you a long time because not many dishes call for it.  A tip I found for dispersing the flavor more evenly in your dish is to soak the threads for about 5 minutes in a teaspoon of warm water or white wine to then be used in your dish.

The recipe I followed actually had a slightly different name (Pasta with Scampi, Lime & Saffron), but I don’t think it’s correct.  When I think of scampi I think of shrimp cooked in a garlic butter sauce, and there is no butter in this dish.  There is however a good deal of garlic.  Don’t shy away from it, it’s not nearly as intense as it seems lol.  I used a shallot as my onion for a more mild onion flavor.  The recipe was also originally written for a full lb box of pasta, but I used a bit less (11oz).  I didn’t end up needing any pasta water to thin my sauce out, but don’t forget to hang on to it just in case.  The recipe I followed called for Nolly Pratt, but I have no idea what that is (however they referenced white wine in the article so that’s what I went with), instead I used a chardonnay.  And, as always, if you can get your hands on some nice fresh shrimp that would definitely be best.  However frozen is fine too.  I wanted to leave the tails on for a prettier picture, but the part of me that can’t stand food that is a hassle to eat won in this case.

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Pasta with Shrimp, Lime, & Saffron

Ingredients :

  • 12 oz. linguine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 18 medium sized shrimp (about a lb)
  • 1 onion finely chopped (or shallot)
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 100 ml white wine
  • few strands of saffron (remember a little goes a long way)
  • zest of 2 limes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1/4 sliced green onions
  • black and white sesame seeds for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

  1. Clean, devein, and prepare shrimp how you like them.  Salt and pepper them.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium to medium-high heat with a bit of your oil and cook shrimp on each side for about a minute and set aside.  They should be mostly cooked through because they won’t cook much longer after this, but remember shrimp are easy to over-cook.
  3. Add the rest of your oil to the skillet and saute onions for a few minutes until softened.  Add garlic, chili flakes and saffron (on medium so your garlic doesn’t burn) and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add white wine, and scrape any bits off the bottom of your pan.  Bump it back up to medium-high and let it simmer for a couple minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions and reserve some of the starchy pasta water to thin your sauce as needed.
  6. Add to your pan the chopped parsley, lime zest, lime juice, green onions, and drained pasta.  Add a little of the pasta water at this time (only if necessary) as well.
  7. Add your shrimp, toss to coat, and heat through… make sure your shrimp are now fully cooked through.
  8. Garnish with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds and a wedge of lime.

Recipe from My Kitchen Treasures

 

 

Tamale Pie


As it sometimes goes, I ended up with a recipe that while I am not sure it turned out as intended, it did taste really good.  I debated for a long time whether or not I should blog it, but with an enthusiastic 5 star review from my husband I decided in favor of sharing and just explaining my experience.

On the menu tonight was Tamale Pie.  I am also going to admit upfront that I don’t know if I have ever eaten a traditional tamale….. so I honestly can’t say how similar it is to the real thing.  My husband, however, has and he even made a comment that he enjoyed the cornbread over the traditional variation.  My issue tonight was definitely not with flavor, which was great, and very comforting, but rather with the texture of the cornbread.  It was just really soft, and almost mushy.  It could be as simple as just allowing it to cook longer initially (though I did make sure it was set up before pulling it out) or even using less enchilada sauce to keep a more firm texture.  Perhaps I was even wrong in my assumption that it should retain texture, since the idea IS to soak the enchilada sauce into it.  I do think it would be even better though with a more firm cornbread, or at least more presentable.

As I said the taste wasn’t compromised at all by the mushy cornbread, it just didn’t look very good on the plate lol.  In fact, I am including a shot of my slice for you, and you’ll see what I mean.  Because it was mushy on day one, I had feared it would be gross for leftovers, but by reheating it in a cake pan in the oven the next day (at 350, covered for first half) I was able to keep it from getting mushier and it tasted pretty much exactly the same on the second day.  I am sure you can use the microwave if you wanted, but I just really loathe what microwaves do to food lol.

Let’s quickly talk toppings… I think you can really go with whatever floats your boat so to speak.  I went with a chunky salsa, cilantro, black olives, sour cream, and green onions.  The recipe also says cheese of choice, but like the original blogger, I went with a sharp white cheddar.

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Tamale Pie

Cornbread Ingredients :

  • 1/2 C. cornmeal
  • 2/3 C. flour
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 T. oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1/3 C. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small can diced green chiles
  • 1 can creamed corn

Meat :

  • 1 lb. ground beeef
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Tamale Pie :

  • 1 1/4 C. enchilada sauce
  • 2 C. shredded cheese
  • toppings of choice

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add oil until soft crumbles form. Whisk in milk and egg. Gently fold in chiles and corn. Pour into greased baking pan (9×9, 9×13, large cast iron skillet). Bake until set, about 20-25 minutes.
  3. While cornbread is baking, combine beef with spices and sauté in a skillet over medium heat until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. Once cornbread is done baking, reduce oven to 350 degree F. Poke holes in cornbread with a fork and pour enchilada sauce over it. Top with ground beef and shredded cheese, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and back until cheese begins to brown, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving with desired toppings.

Recipe from 2 Teaspoons

Published in: on January 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chipotle Lime Chicken Bacon Flatbread Tacos


That name sure is a mouthful, but nothing compared to the actual mouthful you get from these delicious gourmet tacos.  They are definitely a bit on the labor intensive side, but I consider truly good food to be a labor of love.  The great thing is you can easily make this in pieces ahead of time.  Myself, I spaced things out through the course of the day…. marinating my chicken and making the sauce when I got up.  Then midday I made my bacon… in the oven of course which I have talked about more than once on this blog.  When it came time to really get down to cooking I still had a few tasks to get through, but it wasn’t quite as chaotic as it probably would have been.  Let’s just say multitasking in life is a forte of mine I like to think, however multitasking in the kitchen…. not so much!  This is why I like to get everything ready BEFORE I start cooking. I LOVED these tacos…. if you can call them that.  As the blogger from whom I got this recipe mentioned, there is not really a good way to fold over such an overflowing mountain of goodness in a taco shell…. but I guess if you must you can just go lighter on everything to make it fit better.  I piled mine HIGH both for the picture aspect and because I knew I was only going to eat a couple so wanted to get my money’s worth!  I was thinking these would make a great taco bowl though if you want the best of both worlds.  You do want the thicker shell though.  The recipe calls for flatbread, but I was able to find very thick handmade taco shells at my local grocery store that worked perfectly and I imagine folded up a bit easier than flatbread would. There is an overwhelming amount of flavor packed into this taco.  You get the smokey heat of the chipotle, the acidity and brightness of the lime, the creaminess of the avocado and sour cream, the freshness of cilantro (my addition) and other toppings, and then who could forget the bacon….. mmm the bacon!  This is definitely not your average taco, but rather one to impress with….. my husband sure seemed to be! I took the suggestion of melting my cheese directly onto the chicken under the broiler for a minute and that worked perfectly, keeping the cheese from falling out… brilliant!  To keep all my goodies on top I also spread the chipotle sauce onto the tortilla first (which I heated beforehand until started to brown/firm up a bit) and that acted as my glue for the chicken.  The recipe does suggest lettuce as a topping, but I decided to just leave it out.  I honestly don’t think it is necessary at all.  For cheese I chose pepperjack.  The recipe doesn’t really say how much bacon to use… I cooked up about 9 slices and we used that for about 6 tacos, which allowed us a fairly generous amount on each.  It also doesn’t specify type of onion, but I suggest red/purple onion for this, it just goes so well with the flavor profile. _MG_0863-1 copy copy

Chipotle Lime Chicken Bacon Flatbread Tacos

Chicken Marinade:

  • 4 chicken breasts (I used about 1lb total)
  • 3 T. chipotle in adobo, smashed up or pureed
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 T. light oil (I used evoo)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Chipotle Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 T. chipotle in adobo, smashed or pureed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. lime juice
  • pinch of salt

Guacamole:

  • 2 avocados
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 T. onion, chopped (I used a bit more)
  • 1/4 C. tomatoes, chopped (I used roma, with seeds removed)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt to taste

Other Taco Components:

  • flatbread (note above, I used thick small tortillas, and we made 6 generously filled tacos)
  • cooked bacon
  • cheese
  • optional toppings : additional chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, avocado, etc.
  • Lime wedges

Directions :

  1. Combine the lime juice, chipotles, oil, and salt for the chicken and marinade the chicken and then grill it. When it’s done, chop it up small and toss it with more chipotles in adobo sauce if you want it spicy.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the chipotle cream sauce and set aside.
  3. For the guacamole, smash up one avocado and then add the lime, garlic, onion,  tomatoes, and salt and mix well. Chop up the remaining avocado and stir it in, smashing it up slightly.
  4. Assemble tacos for best results… heated flatbread/shell, chipotle sauce, chicken and cheese (melted together), guacamole, other toppings and bacon.  Serve with wedge of lime.

*Remember you can do multiple steps earlier in the day when you start your marinade cutting back on the workload later.  You do want to make the guacamole just before assembling however, because it will start to brown (though with that amount of lime juice not quite as quickly as without). Recipe from Yammie’s Noshery

Skinny Capellini Carbonara


In my last post I covered that all too familiar scenario where you plan out your meals and realize when you’re at the store that you can’t get certain ingredients.  Similar to that, I often find that I can’t find a specific version of something.  This can become a major issue for a less experienced cook because if you do have to substitute you may find that you need to tweak the directions in order to get a good result.  In this case, it was proscuitto.  Although you can get thinly sliced proscuitto at nearly every store around me, I have yet to see it in a form that would allow me to dice it up.  I have a feeling you need a specialty store, or butcher for that sort of thing.

Anyway, with really no other options, I decided to just go with the thinly sliced stuff, which thankfully I am familiar with.  If you put a thin slice in a hot skillet it will sort of wrinkle and curl up and though it will cook, it won’t be very even.  I decided instead to pile it up and just roughly cut it up, allowing it to stick together and form bits.  I also don’t think you get the amount of fat in the skillet that you would if you were using a thicker cut, so I added just a bit of olive oil to my skillet to get it going.  As it cooked, I stirred it around pretty constantly as I didn’t want areas to overcook, which can happen quickly.  I cooked it over medium or even a little lower for about 5 minutes until it started to crisp up and all the fat pieces loss that chewyness I don’t enjoy.

The packages at my store came as 3oz, which I think is pretty standard, so I grabbed 2… and because I had nothing in mind for the leftovers I used it all.  I figured my husband especially would appreciate the extra in a pretty simple dish.  It was good that way, but the proscuitto does add a good deal of saltiness to the dish, so if you aren’t big on salty foods I would stick to 4oz as I am sure it would have been plenty.  The other substitute I made, if you can even really call it that, was to use shredded Parmesan instead of grated because I already had that and shaved and didn’t want to purchase a third variety.  I just ran my knife through it a bit until it was closer to grated texture and that worked out just fine.  The recipe states that you could need additional pasta water to thin your sauce, but I definitely didn’t find that to be the case, it was nice and thin with just the 1/2 cup.  For the capellini, I used thin spaghetti, and mine was actually a vegetable variety which I hadn’t tried before.  I have never seen capellini in my stores, but I am pretty sure there really isn’t much if any difference between the two, or you could even use angel hair pasta.

Now for the review…. I have to say I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did!  I had hoped I would of course, but I guess having the word skinny in the title just makes you assume it’s going to be bland at best.  The proscuitto adds so much flavor to this dish, and especially if you use 1 1/2 the amount like I did lol.  The peas give that nice counter balance of freshness to the decadent and velvety smooth sauce.  All in all, a fantastic pasta dish!  This is also a very quick dish to prepare which is perfect for most people on a busy weeknight.

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Skinny Capellini Carbonara

Ingredients :

  • 1/2 lb capellini pasta (sub thin spaghetti or angel hair)
  • 4 oz. proscuitto, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I doubled that)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, at room temp
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  • 1/2 cup cooked peas
  • additional Parmesan for top

Directions :

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the proscuitto until golden, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Turn off the heat. (See notes above if you had to use thinly sliced proscuitto)
  2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Approximately 2-3 minutes (or according to package directions if you substituted another pasta)
  3. While the pasta cooks, whisk the eggs with the cheese, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of pasta water to the eggs to temper them. (So they don’t scramble when mixed into the pasta.)
  4. Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon and transfer to the skillet with the proscuitto. Mix the pasta with the fat and proscuitto and then slowly add the eggs to the pasta while stirring constantly. If the pasta still seems dry add another 1/4 cup of the pasta water and stir until cream. Fold in the peas and serve immediately.

Recipe from The Suburban Soapbox

Published in: on January 13, 2015 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thai Quesadillas With Grilled Chicken


You know the feeling…. the one where you made the effort to plan well thought out meals for the week, made your grocery list and then find out the grocery store doesn’t have one of the ingredients you so desperately needed for that new recipe!  This happens to me fairly often actually.  Living in Portland, OR I could likely find whatever ingredient I needed by going to one of the many choices I have for markets around here.  However, as a busy mom, that is not always practical, so like most of the world I just make do and find a substitute if I can.

Tonight’s recipe called for red chili peppers.  I’ve seen them, and even bought them before, but apparently it wasn’t at my main store.  In the past I have just substituted serranos or even jalapenos, but I just felt like it wasn’t enough for some reason.  Maybe I just wanted more color… forgetting that it would be blended up anyway.  Anyway, for some reason unbeknownst to me I grabbed some habaneros….. if you know much about peppers you know they are HOT.  I apparently wasn’t think about that, and was surprised to find out they are more like doubling up on your jalapenos.  OOPS.  Too late, I decided to just go with them, and use less than the recipe called for.  Like a good chef I tested a piece before I put it in there…. yep, definitely hot lol.  It worked out though, as the rest of the ingredients in the sauce mellowed it out nicely and it really wasn’t hot at all.  My husband would have liked it hotter, but I like it where you can taste the heat at certain points but not be overwhelmed by it so it was great for me.

The dish in it’s entirety was AWESOME!  Great Thai flavors for sure, and a nice combination of textures with the bit of crunch from the peanuts and carrots.  Everything comes together very quickly, and even more so if, like me, you opt to use rotisserie chicken.  Why not take a shortcut when you can?!  I did taste my sauce after first mixing it and decided to add a bit more of the more acidic ingredients (vinegar and lime juice) because it was almost too peanut buttery still.  I also threw in some lime zest…. no sense in wasting it!  I used about 1.5 T of the sriracha.

Having a child with peanut allergies (obviously  he doesn’t eat things like this lol), means extra work.  I am not a minimalist cook, and use a lot of dishes/surfaces to create my masterpieces.  Especially if I am blogging the dish and want it to look as good as it tastes as there are sometimes extra steps to ensure that.  This means peanuts of some form likely touch MANY surfaces in my kitchen before I am done.  That means EXTRA cleaning up after it’s all done, and definitely not being able to take the lazy approach and swear to myself I will get it later.  But a great Thai dish with a peanut sauce is ALWAYS worth it for me!  Such a fantastic blend of flavors!  If you have never tried it, I suggest you dive right in and make this dish ASAP!

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Thai Quesadillas With Grilled Chicken

Ingredients :

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used about 8oz shredded rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 T. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 T. peanuts, crushed
  • 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used about like 6 oz)
  • 4 (10″) flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup + peanut sauce (below)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray
  • cilantro for garnish

Sauce Ingredients :

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili peppers, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
  • 1/2 T. olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lime (throw in zest too optional)
  • 2 T. water
  • 1-2 T. sriracha

Directions :

  1. To make chicken, preheat an indoor grill over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and place on the hot grill. Grill each side until cooked through and the juices run clear, about 4 minutes per side. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest.
  2. While the chicken is resting, prepare the peanut sauce. Add all of the ingredients to a blender and pulse until smooth. Add additional Sriracha for a spicier sauce. Set aside.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with a little cooking spray and add the onions. Cook until the onions start to soften, then add the carrots.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat. Set aside.
  4. Cut the chicken into strips against the grain. Toss the strips with about ¼ to ⅓ cup of peanut sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce for drizzling.
  5. Assemble the quesadillas by topping a tortilla with half of the chicken in peanut sauce, onions, carrots, cilantro, and cheese. Top with a second tortilla. Place the tortilla on a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Once the quesadilla is golden on the first side, carefully flip the quesadilla over. Cook until the cheese has completely melted and the second side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining tortillas and fillings.  * a tip for flipping it is to slide it out of the skillet onto a flat surface so you can better get a spatula and hand under it without burning yourself.  This way you can also respray your skillet to ensure better browning on the second side, then just flip it carefully in.
  6. Top the quesadillas with cilantro, crushed peanuts, and a drizzle of the remaining peanut sauce. Serve immediately.

Recipe from That Oven Feelin’

Tex-Mex Taco Pasta


If you’re like most people you probably find a recipe you like and then make it over and over until you eventually know it like the back of your hand.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  As some would say, why fix it if it’s not broken?!  I, however, look at things a little differently and rarely do I make the same recipe twice unless it was just so amazing that there is no question in my mind of whether a different version could ever top it… and even then I still might try.  Because of this, I have found that though a recipe can essentially have the same ingredients and even be prepared similarly, it only takes a small change to sometimes make a more substantial difference in flavor.  This allows me to not only find “better” (or sometimes worse) versions of a dish, but I guess i get to enjoy many good versions of a good dish without it ever seeming too familiar or boring.

This dish is one of those dishes.  I have made plenty of taco inspired pastas or casseroles, and they use basically the same things, but each is a little different from the other.  Some are more punchy or spicy in flavor, some more cheesy and indulgent, textures vary, etc.  I would consider this version a family friendly version which we really enjoyed, with all the great flavors you would expect but somehow in a mild form if that makes sense.  This one is also quite simple to prepare, which I guess most are, but this one especially so, making it a perfect weeknight meal.  There was enough for us to have this two nights which is always a bonus during a busy week!  Even my picky child…. ok BEYOND picky…  said he didn’t totally hate this.  Which actually means he kind of liked it and just won’t admit it and eat new foods.

My only issues with the recipe were minor things.  The first being the rotel tomatoes… it called for 15 oz, and I could only find 10 oz cans.  No biggie, I just went with 2 and I think that worked out perfectly.  The second issue was during the step where it says to season the browned meat with the taco seasoning.  I have seen recipes that go both ways, and this one did NOT state whether I should use the water as directed on the packet.  However, it did say to simmer, which I imagine couldn’t happen very well without the water so I decided to go with it and I am glad I did.  Whether or not it was intended it worked out great that way and I would suggest for sure using it as directed on the packet.  The last small thing was that the recipe said to add the beans, corn, and rotel at the end of simmering the meat and turn off heat.  I wanted to be sure everything was heated through so I just left the burner on medium-low and kept it stirred until my pasta was done.

I used an organic 85/15 beef, and a taco blend of Mexican cheeses.  I also opted for the original rotel tomatoes, which I am sure has a lot to do with my mild flavors, but if your family is all ok with some heat feel free to use a spicier version. Of course I could add various things to this to make it better, or different at least to better suite our tastes…. but that would be a new recipe… and perhaps one I will come across later on!

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Tex-Mex Taco Pasta

Ingredients :

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 packet low sodium taco seasoning (plus water suggested on packet)
  • 12 oz. farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 15 oz rotel tomatoes (or 20 oz in my case), drained of excess liquid
  • 15 oz can sweet corn, drained
  • 15 oz. can black beans (low sodium), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • cilantro

Directions :

  1. Cook farfalle according to package directions in salted water.
  2. Meanwhile brown your beef in a high-rimmed skillet over medium-high heat.  Drain the excess grease off.  Add taco seasoning (and water) and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add rotel tomatoes, corn, and black beans.  Reduce heat to a medium-low or low and stir occasionally to keep things heated through until the pasta is done.
  4. Drain pasta, and put back into pot.  Add the meat mixture, cheese, and heavy cream.  Stir until cheese has melted in. 
  5. Serve with chopped cilantro to garnish.

Recipe from catz in the kitchen

Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Porcini Fettucine Alfredo


As I mentioned in my last post, there were a couple recipes I tried this week that had a snag or two.  This was another one, though not to worry, it’s easily fixed.

As in the last dish, the sauce was just too thick.  The picture on the blog I got this from showed a much thinner sauce, but mine was thick from the moment I added the cream cheese, and never needed time to thicken up as the recipe suggested.  Had I realized this would be an issue I would have been less heavy handed, so part of it was my fault, but I didn’t use much more than it called for, so be prepared.  I was able to thin it out enough by just adding a bit more of the mushroom soaking liquid (save it all just in case) which just amplified the mushroom flavor that much more.  In my book that is a good thing!  I SHOULD have saved a bit of the pasta water, to further thin it out since I prefer my alfredo somewhat on the liquidy side, but I almost always forget to save any (generally a good idea for many dishes to have some just in case because the starchy salted pasta water will thin sauces without watering them down).

The good news is that even with a thick sauce this is a very good dish!  It has a nice earthy flavor which I just love!  I know there are lots of people that don’t like mushrooms but I just can’t get enough of them personally.  For me they are perfectly acceptable as a meat substitute… however, if you have a picky husband like I do you could definitely get away with adding some chicken or something to this dish as well.  The dish was listed as a lighter version, but I was unable to find light whipped cream cheese, so I guess mine wasn’t quite as light in the end.  Still… it’s probably at least slightly healthier than a more traditional alfreo with LOTS of butter and cream lol.  Speaking of butter, I did add a pad to my mushrooms and shallots while sauteing just to keep them moving around in the pan a bit better and for flavor of course.  The recipe didn’t list how much oil to use, but I used about a tablespoon, maybe less.  I prefer a mix of oil and butter when sauteing mushrooms personally.

Although I did enjoy the dish as written, I had a hunch that I could make it even better with a little marsala wine added in…. SO RIGHT!  I didn’t use very much, and unfortunately didn’t think to add it until after I had combined everything (I imagine it would work best added in while cooking), but it just gave it that little something that kicks it up to the next level, at least for me.  If you are comfortable tweaking recipes to your taste without specified measurements this is a MUST addition.  I won’t give a suggested amount though since I didn’t measure what I used and that was for only a portion of the recipe to begin with.

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Porcini Fettucine Alfredo

Ingredients :

  • 3/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 12 oz. whole wheat fettucine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. light whipped cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Directions :

  1. Combine boiling water with mushrooms in a small bowl, cover and let stand 30 minutes or until soft.  Drain through a sieve over a bowl, and reserve liquid (see notes above, I suggest to save it all, but recipe calls for 1/4 cup).  Chop mushrooms if not already desired size.
  2. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions in generously salted water. (save some pasta water just in case!)
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Add shallots and mushrooms, saute 5 more minutes (see note above regarding oil and butter), stirring frequently.
  5. Add cream cheese and heavy cream, bring to a boil.
  6. Stir in salt, pepper, lemon zest, parmesan and 1/4 cup soaking liquid (or more as needed if your sauce is thick like mine ended up being, this would also be a good time to add the marsala wine if you wanted as mentioned above).  Simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  7. Add pasta, toss well to coat.  Serve with parsley on top.

Recipe from Divine Cuisine

Crispy Asian Chicken Bites


A new year brings new beginnings…. or not so much beginnings as just picking up where I left off I hope!  Last year I really neglected this blog, but I hope to do better this year.  The great thing is that even in my year off I had lots of views for my blog, so people are still enjoying it which is great!  That’s one of the best things about a food blog… it has staying power!  I find myself browsing back through all the recipes from time to time even, when I am stuck and not sure what to make.  Anyway, thanks for sticking around!

As is typical for me, I am feeling refreshed after the new year and ready to take on new projects, and more specifically new recipes!  Unfortunately I haven’t had uber success yet with the few I have tried, but a couple were still good enough to make my blog, just with a few notes and tweaks.  This is one of those.

My issue was with the sauce.  I doubled everything, and was very careful when jotting it down, so I can only assume the error (if there is any) lies in the recipe itself.  Who knows, maybe, had I just trusted it, things would have worked out, but I just don’t think so.  Once I got to the part where you add the corn starch slurry it thickened up immediately into one gelatinous blob!  I would hardly call it a sauce by any means… and I was certain it would NOT coat the chicken bites.  Admittedly I was a little shy on the soy sauce (ran out) but it is not my belief that this small amount could have made that much difference.  As I searched through my fridge and cupboards for ANYTHING Asian inspired to add to this blob to help thin it out I realized I really needed to get to the store and replenish my stock!  So I hesitantly added some water instead… which did help, but I didn’t want to JUST add water and wash out the flavor.  I decided any good sauce needs some acid so I grabbed some rice wine vinegar and added a bit of that as well.  After some back and forth tweaks I was able to get a really thick sauce, and decided to just go with it.  Thankfully it worked out ok, though ideally it could have been a bit thinner.  I would suggest first off, having plenty of soy sauce on hand.  Second, start with maybe half or 3/4 of the cornstarch slurry and add more as needed.

Despite that little set-back we did enjoy this dish, and I served it along with some brown rice.  I know my limitations however and cut back the sriracha to just 2 T (I had doubled everything remember).  This was a nice heat level for us.  I also added just a bit of salt and pepper to the flour when coating my chicken out of habit.  I wouldn’t say my chicken was crispy as the name suggests, but it was definitely more so before adding the sauce.  Perhaps a lighter sauce would have allowed it to retain some crunch.

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Crispy Asian Chicken Bites

Ingredients :

  • 8oz chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • 1/2 T. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 T. honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 T. sriracha
  • 1/2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 T. water
  • scallions for garnish (optional)

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Bread chicken by first rolling in the flour, tapping off the excess.  Then dipping into the egg and allowing the extra to run off, before placing it in the panko and rolling it around.  Shake any excess off.
  3. Place breaded chicken on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until fully cooked.
  4. While chicken is baking make your sauce.
  5. Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add garlic and saute just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add honey, soy sauce, pepper flakes, sesame seeds, sriracha, and sesame oil.  Bring to a simmer.
  7. In a small cup mix together cornstarch and water until dissolved.  Once sauce is simmering add this (see notes above as I suggest starting with less) and mix in.  Allow to come back to a simmer and continue to cook until thickened.  Keep sauce warm on low heat until chicken is done.
  8. Once chicken is cooked toss in the sauce and serve with sliced scallions on top.

Recipe from Chef Savvy

Published in: on January 7, 2015 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Meatloaf Burgers


Let’s say it’s the middle of the week, and you have a craving for meatloaf.  Let’s also assume you don’t have the time or patience it takes to cook a traditional meatloaf…… which in my experience is forever and even then I often get it wrong.  If this sounds like you, this is probably the perfect recipe for you!  It may not satisfy the pickiest of meatloaf fanatics, but my husband and I definitely felt it had a meatloaf taste without all the hassle.  In fact, I don’t even like meatloaf all that much…shhh…. but even I liked it in this burger form with the BBQ sauce slathered all over it.  Heck, this even saves all those people that end up eating their meatloaf as a sandwich a little extra time!

These definitely comes together quickly and simply.  I used my double burner cast iron grill indoors tonight because it’s Fall and not worth trekking out in the chilly, often wet, weather to uncover the grill and clean it just for a couple burgers.  I couldn’t live without my stove top grill!  Anyway, for some reason I tend to make my burgers rather thick, and occasionally have issues getting them to then cook all the way through, but these turned out well.  I did about 5-6 minutes a side, and then used a roasting pan lid to cover all of them at once with the cheese on at the end to get it nice and melted.  This also probably helped ensure I got them cooked through…. I do NOT like pink in my burger!

I have to admit I was kind of skeptic that these would resemble meatloaf all that much with so few ingredients added and so little of them, but somehow it worked.  The sauce is very sweet, so if you prefer your BBQ sauce a little less so, just adjust the sugar or even leave it out if you want.  I used some potato buns for ours and topped it only with the sauce.  IMO it didn’t need anything more, but I am sure you could add whatever floats your boat.  All in all these were very good and the perfect compromise between my meatloaf loving husband and I.

Not much to the picture… I got a little cheese happy and the burger was almost entirely encased it it lol.  But here is a little peek if you look closely….

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Meatloaf Burgers

Ingredients :

  • 1 lb ground beef (I used grass fed 85/15)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 8 saltines, crushed
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic sauce
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese

Sauce Ingredients :

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup bbq sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard powder

Directions :

  1. Mix burger ingredients, minus the cheese, together by hand and form into one big ball.  Score the meat with the side of your hand to make 4 even sections and form those sections into patties.
  2. Grill on medium heat until cooked through, about 4-6 minutes a side.  Once done, top each burger with a slice of cheddar and either close the grill lid or form a tent with a lid or foil if using a stove top grill to allow cheese to melt.
  3. To make sauce combine ingredients in a microwave safe dish and heat for about 45 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave until sugar is melted, Whisk to remove any lumps.
  4. Top each burger with sauce and enjoy!

Recipe from Noshing with the Nolands

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Macadamia Nut White Chip Pumpkin Cookies


A couple weeks ago, in my excitement over the Fall Season, I bought one of those little recipe booklets you find by the check-out line at your grocery store.  This one was all about Pumpkin!  After quickly thumbing through it I was certain I would try enough of the recipes to make it worth the little splurge…. and THIS was definitely first on my list!  I love white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, so the addition of pumpkin had me drooling just thinking about it.

The verdict… AMAZING!  Like maybe my favorite cookie ever now.  I would say these cookies are dangerously good…. because one day I think I actually ate like 7-8 of them!  They did not last long in my house….  I can never bring myself to make cookies as small as suggested, so I got about 3 dozen out of this recipe.

I did run into a little issue… or maybe not, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  I thought they would be more cookie-ish I guess, but the texture of mine turned out much softer and more like pumpkin bread.  I even baked them slightly longer than suggested trying to make sure the centers were set up because I could tell they were so soft.  Once I accepted that they weren’t going to firm up however, and embraced the pumpkin bread texture of them I honestly couldn’t have been happier.  I LOVE pumpkin bread lol.  It just made for a harder time storing them without being able to stack them up.  If I had to guess, and I am no expert on the science of baking, I would say there is just too much butter and pumpkin, and not enough flour to get that cookie texture, but as I said I wouldn’t say it was a flaw, just something to be aware of perhaps.

This is definitely one I will make every year to ring in Fall, and I may even share some of them…. maybe.

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Macadamia Nut White Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Yield : 3 dozen

Ingredients :

  • 2 cups all purpose four
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts, or walnuts

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda in a small bowl. 
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large mixer bowl until creamy.  Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until well blended.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto greased baking sheets (or lined with parchment paper); flatten slightly with back of spoon.
  6. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until centers are set. (Read above).  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Recipe from Pumpkin recipe booklet

Published in: on September 28, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Healthy One Pot Chili Mac


Look at me, two days in a row cooking… lol.

Anyway, if you can’t tell, I am ready for cooler weather and the kind of foods that warm your belly.  What originally drew me in to this recipe was the “one pot” promise.  Even though in our house the dishes fall mainly on my husband as a sort of way to show his appreciation for all the wonderful meals I make, it’s always nice to have LESS dishes, and especially on a weeknight.  This particular dish also comes together easily and quickly making it perfect for a busy work day.

You could definitely use beef in this recipe, the turkey just goes along with the “healthy” claim.  I didn’t plug the numbers or anything, but I imagine it’s not too bad, though I definitely added more cheese than it called for so that made it slightly less healthy.  Another change I had to make was to use a Serrano pepper because believe it or not my grocery store was completely out of jalapenos the other day.  I am not sure it really makes much difference though.

Chilis vary so greatly from person to person, and what is good to some may not be to others.  So with this in mind I will say I really liked this chili.  For me it had the right amount of chili powder and spices.  I also felt the additions were well balanced in this.  I did use 1.25 lbs of turkey, only because that’s what the package came as and I didn’t want to put .25 lbs back in the freezer.  I realize that the addition of macaroni to chili is probably a strange concept to some, but I grew up with my mom making something quite similar actually (though it was more of a soup) so it wasn’t new to me at all.

One note I would make…. the recipe says to use a large pot, and it shows them using a large saute pan…. I imagine things would be hard to fit in there without making a mess.  I used my dutch oven and it worked perfectly for this.

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Healthy One Pot Chili Mac

Ingredients :

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (I used a Serrano)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2 Cups water
  • 1 1/2 Cups macaroni noodles
  • 1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions :

  1. In a large pot (or dutch oven) over medium heat, add oil and saute the onion, garlic, green pepper, and jalapeno until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add turkey to the pot and break up, cooking until browned.
  3. Add the seasonings, tomatoes, beans, water and macaroni, stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer until macaroni is soft, about 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add the shredded cheese.
  5. Serve with additional cheese on top if desired.

Recipe from Oh, Sweet Basil

Marsala Mushroom, Spinach & Hazelnut Orzo


First things first… some of you may have noticed I took a rather long hiatus from this blog.  There were multiple reasons, it was just basically something I needed to do, but I am ready to get back into things…. I hope lol.  Life is a bit chaotic right now as I am adjusting to new schedules with my baby finally in preschool 3 days a week, but I have been having that urge to not only start meal planning and trying new recipes again, but to blog them as well.  The rest of you, maybe didn’t notice at all, and that’s ok too lol.  I hope in my absence everyone still enjoyed the many wonderful recipes already posted on my blog.

Now for the recipe…

This was definitely a winner in my book.  Such wonderful flavor and a great blend of textures.  I especially liked the crunch and nuttiness of the hazelnuts along side the mushrooms.  This does make a lot, so I am hoping the leftovers are just as good, which I think they will be.

I actually have never cooked with marsala wine before, and it was kind of funny… I was searching all over the wine section for it, when I had to look it up on my phone and realized it would be near the vinegars.  So there, I have saved you that bit of embarrassment if you have never purchased it before.  Anyway, I love a good mushroom dish and this is exactly that.  It called for 3 cups of mushrooms, but I honestly don’t know how you can measure mushrooms by the cup… so I just grabbed like 12-14 and eyeballed it.  I cut them fairly thick so they would stand up to the cooking and retain a bit of meatiness to them and that worked out well.  I actually simmered everything for about 9 minutes, instead of the 5, because I had a late start getting my orzo into the boiling water.  Everything came together very easily, and dinner was ready in a short time which is always a plus on those busy weeknights.

I tried something a little different from my norm, which is just taking a shot at the end… and attempted to get some ingredient shots and even some cooking shots, but it wasn’t hard to realize that’s not my forte!  Not only is the light in my kitchen not very conducive to that sort of thing, but I just don’t have the time while cooking to fiddle with it.  I am usually always doing SOMETHING, and more often than not I am a sweaty, frazzled mess and the last thing I want to do is take pictures lol.  I might try from time to time, but I can’t promise anything.

Because I was in a rush when copying the recipe down I forgot one of the ingredients (which I did put in the dish since I added it in the steps), so it didn’t make it in the picture.  Any guesses as to what it was?  I will give you a hint… it’s not the salt and pepper (though also not pictured) and it’s one of my FAVORITE and most used ingredients…..

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 Marsala Mushroom, Spinach & Hazelnut Orzo

Ingredients :

  • 2 C. uncooked orzo
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 C. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 C. vegetable stock
  • 3/4  C. marsala cooking wine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 C. fresh spinach
  • 1/2 C. marscapone
  • 1/4 C. pecorino, or an Italian blend like parmesan and romano like I used
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2/3 C. toasted hazelnuts

Directions :

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile saute shallot in oil over medium heat until softened (about 2 min.).  Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
  3. Add mushrooms, cook until they begin to brown and soften.  This takes about 3-4 minutes.  Stir often.
  4. Add Vegetable stock, marsala, salt and pepper, making sure to deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer at least 5 minutes (or longer if you are waiting on your orzo like I was).  Stir often and make sure not to overcook your mushrooms.
  5. Add mushroom mixture to drained orzo, then add your spinach, marscapone, and Italian cheese, stirring until cheeses are melted and spinach is wilted in.
  6. Stir in lemon juice and hazelnuts and serve immediately.

Note : it calls for toasted hazelnuts.  I find it best to do this BEFORE I start cooking so I don’t totally forget about them and end up burning them.  There are two ways to do this…. some people like to do it in the oven, or you can do it like I do, in a skillet over medium heat stirring almost constantly and watching closely.  Once they start to toast they will burn quickly if you aren’t careful.  I prefer the skillet method because I am not only watching them the entire time and not likely to forget them, but I find they cook less evenly when just left on a sheet in the oven and some will still burn in there.

Enjoy!

Recipe from Orchard Street Kitchen

 

Quinoa and Turkey Stuffed Peppers


Going to try to keep this simple because I have a million and one things to do… but as I mentioned on my facebook page, I have been trying to find some healthier recipes to get me back on track after the holidays.  You know how it goes… beginning of the year, time to diet and make all sorts of promises to eat healthier and yadda, yadda, yadda…  Well, for now I really am trying to eat better and we’re counting calories so that means a lot of my usual recipes just don’t make the cut… boo!  So you may find that it takes me longer to get up new recipes as I wade through the world of “healthy recipes”, because after trying many of them I just don’t feel they are blog worthy, or even worth finishing my plate at times.  Anyway, that’s where I am at and why it’s taking me so dang long!

I have made stuffed bell peppers in the past, usually with some sort of rice, and beef.  Jeff claims to have hated them, so I don’t make them often, though I always enjoyed them.  I figured it was time to try again however, and have been wanting to try them with quinoa for quite some time.  So glad we did!  They are definitely filling/satisfying with the quinoa, and the flavors were great.  The recipe I was following didn’t call for any meat… afterall quinoa has a good deal of protein itself, but Jeff is usually more willing to try things if it has some meat in it lol.  I think the addition of the ground turkey I used, seasoned with a bit of chili powder and smoked paprika worked really well in this.  Jeff even gave them rave reviews and said I could make them often… quite the turn around I’d say. 

My only issue with stuffed peppers is that I can never get them tender enough… at least not following the cooking instructions.  I feel like they maybe need a headstart in the oven before stuffing them to really soften them up.  Of course this just depends on your preference for texture.  I don’t mind them firmer, but I think I would like them even more if they were soft.  So my plan next time is to try cooking them a bit first and then finishing with the filling.  As it stood, with these, I ended up cooking them probably closer to 40 minutes and there was still a good deal of crunch to the peppers, but we really didn’t want to wait any longer as it was getting late.

Quinoa & Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Makes : 6 peppers

Ingredients :

  • 6 bell peppers of your choice (make sure to pick well rounded ones that can stand up)
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey (cooked and seasoned to taste)
  • 1 roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen and thawed them in a bit of water)
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small can green chiles
  • 3 T. chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine your stuffing ingredients. 
  3. Cut tops off peppers, and remove seeds.  Spoon stuffing in peppers.
  4. Bake until peppers are tender and filling is heated through, about 25-30 minutes (see note above).

Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious

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Skillet Baked Ziti with Sausage


Let me start off by saying that though this is REALLY good, I mean seriously so, a friend that has made real baked ziti many times (something I can’t say that I have ever tried) says this does not resemble it very closely.  She did agree that it was fantastic however.  So whether you want to call it baked ziti or not, you should try this for sure!

The sauce is amazing, and everything together screams comfort food.  I did make a few changes/substitutions in my version as did the friend I mentioned.  So I am going to list the recipe out with those ingredients.  One big change I made was to use fresh roma tomatoes rather than canned peeled tomatoes because I am trying to avoid canned foods as much as possible.  This is a personal choice, but I have been hearing so much about BPA in the lining and I am just really trying to make better food choices for my family where and when I can.  Having never substituted fresh tomatoes for canned in something like this I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect.  I read about how to blanch and peel tomatoes but I didn’t want to go through the hassle.  I knew that might mean I would have pieces of the skin left in my dish but honestly I didn’t notice it if there were.  They blended up nicely in the processor.  The other notable change I made was to use chicken sausages (the kind that are more like hotdogs).  I don’t love sausage, so again this is preference.  I didn’t have any casings to remove, and I ended up chopping it into bite sized pieces.  Since it comes fully cooked I just had to heat it up really and let it get some browning before moving on with the next step.  Of courses I added more cheese… but I will list that as it stated and let you be the judge there.

I made mine in my cast iron skillet, just make sure you are using an oven proof one.  I love dishes like this where you make everything in one skillet.  Saves on dishes… even though admittedly that’s my husband’s job… and it’s just easier.  I really love the rustic look of serving a full dish in a cast iron skillet too.

 

Skillet Baked Ziti with Sausage

Ingredients :

  • 28oz fresh roma tomatoes (about 5-6)
  • 1 4-pk Italian Chicken Sausages, cut into bite size pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 oz. ziti (I used penne)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (or more!)

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 475 F.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until there aren’t any large pieces left, about 12 pulses.
  3. Set a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is slightly browned.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and the salt (if you’re not using a nonstick pan, now is a good time to scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits). Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes don’t taste raw anymore.
  4. Add the water and pasta to the pan (the pan will probably be quite full, just stir gently to prevent overflow). Cover the pan and turn the heat up to medium to medium-high (adjust as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer). Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan, for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. The pasta will not have absorbed all the liquid in the pan.
  5. Add the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and parsley to the pan. Stir to incorporate, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Top the pasta with the mozzarella cheese then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned.

Recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

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