Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spanakopita-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

If this seems all Greek to you, well, it is... this is a Greek inspired dish and where you can learn a little more about its origin..... pronounced: span-uh-KO-pee-tah. 

Growing up I wasn't a spinach person - I don't care how strong it made Popeye!  But now I do enjoy the flavor it adds to certain dishes and this one also has feta cheese and fresh lemon juice....mmmmm.... really good.  I think next time I might even add some lemon zest to kick it up a bit.  Mr. John really enjoyed it too.   Served with my favorite 90 second Uncle Ben's rice, this was a complete meal!

Source:  BH&G Chicken Dinners

The stuffing held up nicely under the skin and I think it helped keep the chicken moist.

Spanakopita-Stuffed Chicken Breasts Serves: 4 Calories: 468 Prep Time to Table: 50 minutes
Recipe : BH&G Chicken Recipes

-3 T olive oil
-1/2 cup finely chopped onion
-1 clove garlic minced
-1- oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
-1/3 cup feta cheese
-3 T fresh snipped dill
-2 T fesh lemon juice
-1/4 t nutmeg
-1/4 tsp pepper
 -4 large chicken breasts with skin and bone
-1/2 t salt

1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly coat a rectangular baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium skillet, heat 2 T oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic cooking 4-6 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and add spinach, cheese, dill and 1 T lemon juice, nutmeg and pepper…stir well to combine
2. Gently separate the skin from breast halves to make a pocket. Spoon ¼ of mixture under skin and press to make an even layer
3. Place chicken bone side down in dish. Combine remaining juice and olive oil and drizzle over chicken. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Limoncello Cupcakes

What do you do when life gives you lemons (and a bottle of Limoncello), make these heavenly cupcakes!  As many of you know, I love lemons - the tarter the better.  This cupcake has it all - a buttermilk based cake, a lemon curd filling and a buttercream frosting - all made by scratch - yes, you can do it!  It is well worth it.

I first saw this recipe over here, I knew I had to try them and Mr. John of course was a willing taste tester.

After the cupcakes were done and cooled, I used this handy tool to pull out a plug for the lemon curd.

Now I want to make even more cupcakes!  What should I do next??  Send some ideas my way.

Limoncello Cupcake Serves: 18 Calories: na
Recipe : Web Ingredients:

-1 ½ cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 stick butter
-2 oz cream cheese
-1 cup sugar
-3 eggs
-1 T limoncello liqueur
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-zest of one lemon

Lemon curd:
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
-zest of 2 lemons
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk

-1/2 stick butter
-6 oz cream cheese
-4 cups powdered sugar
-2 T limoncello

1. For cupcakes – preheat oven to 325. Beat softened butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each. Add limoncello and beat until well mixed. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk to butter mixture. Mix in lemon juice and zest until just combined. Pour into baking cups and bake at 325 about 20 or until toothpick comes out clean (this makes 18 cupcakes)
2. For curd: mix lemon juice, zest and sugar over medium heat until boiling. In separate bowl beat egg and additional yolk. Whisk lemon mixture into eggs (be sure to add a little bit at a time and constantly whisk so you don’t end up with the eggs cooking. Add back to pan and cover over medium heat whisking constantly until thickened. Pour into bowl and place plastic wrap on top (after it cools a bit) and cool completely.
3. Frosting: beat butter and cheese cream until smooth; add limoncello and beat until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency.

4. To assemble : scoop out some cupcake with a melon ball scooper to make a small hole; fill with lemon curd and then frost as desired.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Casablanca Pizza

Recently I went to Zpizza for lunch... I love their pizza - thin crust, yummy toppings and a great lunch special.  On the day I went one of the special pizzas of the day was called Casablanca  -  a roasted garlic sauce, artichokes, mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  I thought to myself - eureka - I could do this... so here is my attempt and I have to say it didn't disappoint.

I made a roasted garlic sauce with the following ingredients:
-1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
-2 T unsalted butter
-2 T flour
-1/4 t salt
-1/4 t cayenne pepper
-about 10 cloves of roasted garlic*

* to make roasted garlic, take one or two heads of garlic, cut off the tops and season with salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil on top, place flat side on bottom of foil, wrap tight and place in oven at 375.  It takes about 45-60 minutes for cloves to soften and turn golden brown.  When done and cooled a bit, the garlic can be squeezed out.

Heat milk in microwave just until warm.  Meanwhile over low heat melt butter and when foam subsides, add flour and whisk until smooth.  Cook for about 1 minute stirring constantly; gradually add milk whisking to combine.  Add salt and cayenne pepper and increase heat to medium; cook, whisking until sauce comes to boil and is thickened.  Remove from heat and add garlic.  Either use an immersion blender or regular blender to process until smooth.  Transfer to bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top until ready to use.

Oven should be set to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes.  Place your favorite dough on a pizza peel that has been dusted with corn meal.  Layer on the ingredients - a thin layer of sauce, sliced baby bella mushrooms, chopped artichokes (use plain and not marinated), parmesan cheese, thin slices of fresh mozzarella and dot with ricotta.  Slide onto hot stone and cook until bubbly about 14-18 minutes.

This has really great flavor - the roasted garlic sauce really kicks it up a notch!  I made this for Mr. John, Kristina and Benj.  They gave it 2 thumbs up!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cacio e Pepe

Hmmm... what's in a name... anyone speak Italian?  My mom did and wish she taught it to me.  If you read the About Me section, you know I grew up with an Italian family.  My grandparents came off the boat, settled in Pennsylvania and started a family.... my mom first learned English when she went to school.  So when I would be with my mom and grandmother, they would start talking in English, switch to Italian and back just came natural to them and I guess I never knew if they were talking about me :-)

Anyway back to dinner, this is not a family recipe but it will be now.  It came together so easy and I love Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper (fresh).  The English name of this recipe is Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper.  If you do decide to make this, do not substitute any other kind of cheese.  This cheese has a real distinct flavor with a nice, sharp bite to it.  Use fresh pepper if you have it too.

Source:  America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution

And here it is with more cheese!  Mangia!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chicken in Wine Sauce

This had to be one of the tastiest slow cooker meals I have ever tried.  I'm not much of a slow cooker person, no personal reason - I just tend not to think of using one especially during the warmer months.  But when I saw this recipe- the ease and yummy recipe picture - I dusted it off and gave it a go!

First, let's talk about slow cookers - I have 2.  The first one was a shower gift many moons ago (~29 years).  I'm guessing some of you have the same one - it still works but a few years ago I updated to a new modern one and just can't let this one go...

Pretty cool and retro!
Circa ~1983
The new ones seem to cook a LOT faster.  This recipe said 3 1/2 to 4 hours on high but it was done under 3 hours.

First, I prepared the veggies that went on the bottom of the cooker

Next the chicken was placed on top with some spices then added the wine and chicken broth

Cover and let it cook..

And here is the fancy Crock Pot

Once done (quicker than I thought), remove the chicken and veggies using the leftover broth/juices to make a sauce

I really think the whole key to this was the wine - it provided nice flavor as a compliment to the rest of the dish.  I told my friend Sue about this last night and I know she is waiting for the here you go!

Source:  Better Homes and Garden Low Calorie Recipes
(Printable recipe)

Chicken in Wine Sauce Serves: 6 Calories: 321 Prep Time to Table: 10 minutes plus cooking time
Recipe : BH&G Low Calorie recipes

-4 medium red potatoes, quartered
-about 1 ½ cup baby carrots
-2 celery stalks cut in 1” pieces
-1 small onion sliced
-7 to 8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed
-1 T chopped fresh parsley
-1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
-1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
-1 tsp minced garlic
-1 cup chicken broth
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-3 T butter
-3 T flour

1. In an slow cooker, place potatoes, carrots and celery on bottom. On top place chicken pieces on top and sprinkle with parsley, rosemary, thyme and garlic and ½ t salt and ¼ t black pepper. (best if chicken is in single layer)
2. Add broth and wine around sides
3. Cover and cook low 7-8 hours; or high 3 1/2-4 hours (though my cooker was quicker than this – about 3).
4. Remove chicken and veggies; skim fat from broth and strain broth
5. In saucepan melt butter then stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and stir until thickened and bubbly and cook an additional 1 minute.
6. Pass sauce with the chicken and veggies


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Skillet Lasagna

Happy Sunday!  Hope everyone had a good weekend.... we had a "HGTV" project weekend.  Both Mr. John and I did some planting - garden and flowers, he reorganized the garage and built a new workbench, and I painted one of the bedrooms (yeah, I know - not again and when Ms. D comes home, she'll be surprised). I even had time to get groceries and get dinner on the table.  Now back to work rest up, ha!

So the meal - if you like lasagna, but don't have the time to fuss, I really think you will want to try this one.  It is made in one skillet and from start to finish took about 35 minutes.  It also has all the ingredients you would expect and very flavorful! 

Source: Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution

Hope you have a good week ahead!

Skillet Lasagna Serves: 4-6 Calories: NA Prep Time to Table: 30 minutes
Recipe : Adapted from ATK Pasta Revolution

-3 (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 T olive oil
-1/3 cup finely chopped onion
-1 tsp minced garlic
-1/4 t red pepper flakes
- 8 oz ground beef (85/15)
 -8 oz hot (or mild) Italian sausage
 -10 curly edge lasagna noodles (broken in 1-2” lengths)
-2 oz mozzarella cheese
-1/4 c parmesan cheese
-3/4 cup ricotta (whole or skim not fat free)
-3 T chopped fresh basil

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and ½ tsp salt-cook and stir often for about 5 minutes; add garlic and pepper flakes stirring for 30 seconds.
2. Add beef and sausage, breaking up with a spoon until no longer pink
3. Add pasta to mixture then pour tomatoes on top; stir, bring to boil, cover and be sure to cook a good summer until pasta is tender – about 20 minutes
4. Remove from heat, stir in half of mozzarella and half of parmesan cheese. Season with S&P. Dot with ricotta cheese then sprinkle remaining cheeses. Cover and let sit about 4 minutes until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with basil and serve.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chicken Barley Chili

I don't mind how warm it is outside, I don't need a cold winter night to enjoy a delicious bowl of chili ... and luckily Mr. John feels the same way.  I was really drawn to this recipe because it had all the flavors I like plus it looked super easy to make and I could go about my business (whatever) until it was done.

Recipe Source:  MES Cookbook (recipe courtesy of Brenda S.)

The only change I made is adding quick cooking barley towards the end of the cooking time, I think it called for regular but I couldn't find that... I'm sure that's OK - you'll let me know Brenda if I'm wrong, right? :-)

My favorite way is topped with cheddar cheese that melts nice and gooey into the chili

Mr. John kicked it up notch by adding a dollop of sour cream...any way you like your chili, you'll want to include this recipe!

Chicken Barley Chili Serves: 6-8 Calories: NA Prep Time to Table: 50 minutes
Recipe : MES Cookbook Brenda S

-14.5 oz diced tomatoes
-15 oz can tomato sauce
-14.5 oz can chicken broth
-4 cups water
-1 T chili powder
-1 t cumin
-1 cup barley (fast cooking)

-15 oz. black beans, rinsed and drained
-16 oz. bag frozen corn
-3 cups cooked chicken, bite size pieces

1. In large pan, combine first 6 ingredients; bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30 minutes
2. Add barley and simmer additional 10 minutes then add beans, corn, chicken and simmer for an additional 5 minutes covered. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving
3. Top with cheddar cheese, sour cream and/or crushed tortilla chips


Monday, May 14, 2012

Mud Ball Martini Sundae

Mud Ball Martini Sundaes

This dessert has it all - ice cream, chocolate, fruit, whipped cream and even a cherry on top!  I told Mr. John that I am going to try to some new desserts from time to time, and of course, he is always game to be a tasty participant!  I'm not sure where this originated - I found it hand written tucked away in my recipes.

Source:  unknown

I bought some gourmet vanilla ice cream, with real vanilla beans, scooped them into balls and rolled them in finely crushed Oreos.  At this point, freeze at least 4-6 hours

Next take sliced strawberries and raspberries, sprinkle a little sugar, and add about 1-2 T of Chambord (or leave out to be kid friendly)

The end!  These were a huge hit!

Mud Ball Martini Serves: 6-8 Calories: NA Prep Time to Table: 15 minutes plus freezing time
Recipe : unknown

-Vanilla ice cream
-oreo cookies, finely crushed
-fresh strawberries -fresh raspberries
-Chambord liqueur
-maraschino cherries
-whipped cream
-chocolate sprinkles

1. Scoop ice cream into balls and roll in oreo crumbs and freeze at least 4-6 hours
2. Take sliced strawberries, raspberries, a little sugar and about 1-2 T of Chambord. Cover and chill.
3. Place berry mixture in a martini or margarita glass, place ice cream on top, add whipped cream and cherry – sprinkle with chocolate

Notes: kid friendly – leave out Chambord

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday Night Pizza - BBQ Style

Friday night was pizza night and I have been wanting to try a BBQ chicken pizza for awhile now.  I found a couple different recipes and combined them to come up with this tasty version.

I started by making my own dough (I am so close to getting it to the point where I will share it).  Next up was taking about 8 oz. of boneless chicken breasts, coating it in about a quarter cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Famous Dave's original) and baking for 25 minutes at 350.  When cooked and cooled, dice up into small pieces.

Heat a pizza stone in the oven on the middle rack for at least 30 minutes at 450....don't ask why :-), I've read to do this and it just seems to work.  Next place the dough (that has been stretched in a circle - or whatever shape mine happens to be) on a pizza peel that has a sprinkling of corn meal (this makes it easy to slide off onto the stone).  Once the dough is on the peel, brush about 2 T of BBQ sauce, drizzle a little olive oil and season with some S&P.  Next I scatter about a 1/2 cup of frozen corn that was thawed and dried off a bit.  On top of this layer, add fresh mozzarella cheese that has been sliced thin, top with the diced chicken and red onions that have also been sliced very thin.  I drizzled a little more BBQ sauce.  Slide onto stone and  bake for about 15-17 until crust is browned and the top is bubbly and cooked.

Prior to baking:

After baking:

Top off with some cilantro and serve... be careful not to burn your mouth :-)

We enjoyed our pizza with our daughter, her husband and some tasty beverages

I really enjoyed this pizza!  I would definitely make again!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Adobo Pork Chops

Meal dedication - Mr. John likes the other white meat so this meal is dedicated to him.  I realize most of my recipes are either chicken or pasta so when I found this recipe, and just the sounds of it made me even hungry for it, I had to give it a go.  Since the pork can marinate up to 24 hours, it is something you could make up the night before or even in the morning, come home, fire up the grill, cook about 7-8 minutes each side, microwave your 90 second Uncle Ben's rice and your steamed vegetables in bag and dinner could be on the table in 15 minutes!  Pretty healthy and tasty too!  And my favorite part - not a lot of clean up.

Recipe source:  BH&G Low Calorie Meals

The ingredients

Hot off the grill and ready to eat...

Side dish:  I went to a photography class tonight at Community Ed.  I sat there with my little Canon Point and Shoot camera surrounded in a sea of the "big boys"  I had camera envy.  Hmmm.... could I, should I - only time will tell.... class 2 is next week

Adobo Pork Chops Serves: 6 Calories: 189 Prep Time to Table: 20 min plus marinating time
Recipe : BH&G Low Calorie

-6 boneless pork loin top chops ¾”
-2 T brown sugar
-2 T olive oil
-2 T orange juice
-2 T snipped fresh cilantro
-1 T red wine vinegar
-2 t chili powder
 -1 t ground cumin
-1 t oregano
-1/4 t cayenne pepper
-1/4 t cinnamon
-1 garlic clove minced

1. Place chops in Ziploc bag. In bowl combine remaining ingredients and 1/2t salt and pour over chops. Seal bag and turn to coat. Marinate 2-24 hours… turning occasionally
2. Drain and grill for about 12-15 minutes – turning once.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Linguini Alfredo

I wonder if someone reading this will recognize their recipe?  I been wanting to try some of the recipes from the cookbook below.  First up is Kate's for Fettuccine Alfredo; however I struck out finding fresh Fettuccine so luckily Linguini is Fettuccine's cousin... and that I did find at Cub.  I've made Fettuccine Alfredo before but what really sets this one apart is fresh lemon juice and grated lemon zest.... yummmm so good!!!  And making it with fresh pasta (i.e, Buitoni's) made it lighter than using boxed.  Worth a trip to the south part of town.

Recipe Source: MES Cookbook* from Kate C

*I have another recipe in the queue... stayed tuned...

Now, I want to share a funny story about Fettuccine Alfredo... in 1991 Mr. John spent 3 months in Germany working.  About halfway through, the company flew me and the girls over (yes, I flew from NYC to Stuttgart Germany by myself and 2 small children!) Our friends Brian and Steph were on a 2 year assignment there and for 10 days we all took a trip to Italy.  One of the stops was Rome and Steph and I really wanted to go this restaurant (below)  so we went to the guy working at the hotel and said "could you tell us where Fettuccine Alfredo's is"... well, I'm sure he was just laughing on the inside thinking you crazy Americans!..... the restaurant was called Alfredo's not Fettuccine Alfredo's... anyway, we did go and had their famous dish! Everything was so white and sparkling and here the crazy Americans come with strollers and small children!  I'll never forget this trip and the fun we had...

Fettuccine Alfredo Serves: 2-3 Calories: NA Prep Time to Table: 20 minutes
Recipe : MES Cookbook (Kate Connor)

-9 oz. fresh fettuccine (or linguini)
-1 ¼ cup heavy cream
-1/4 c fresh lemon juice
-6T unsalted butter
-1 c parmesan cheese, grated
-1 t grated lemon zest
-1 pinch grated nutmeg
-S&P to taste

1. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until tender but still firm to bite; following package directions
2. Stir 1 cup heavy cream and lemon juice in large skillet to blend. Turn heat on medium and add butter until butter melts – about 3 minutes – stir occasionally. Remove from heat
3. Add pasta and toss and then add remaining heavy cream and parmesan cheese to skillet and mix.
4. Add lemon zest, nutmeg and S&P to taste. 5. Toss pasta mixture over low heat until sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Notes: this could be doubled and also cooked chicken or shrimp could be added

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Birthday Celebrations

Tonight I had the night off from the kitchen as it was a birthday dinner for 2 of my friends.  With their birthdays 2 weeks apart, we combined it into one celebration at a restaurant in Lake City, MN.  This restaurant is awesome and I thought you enjoy some of what we ate.  I'll be back in the kitchen tomorrow!

Check out the restaurant

Called a "Crazy Cosmo"

Salmon Mousse on a cucumber with capers

Cream of Morel Mushroom Sauce with wild rice - this was awesome!

Asparagus Salad

Grilled Hanger Steak

Grilled Scallops on Risotto with Arugula

Molten Lava Cake

Happy Birthday Sue and Signe - here's to many more fun times!