30 September 2010

This is a recipe my good friend and favorite Pampered Chef consultant, Brenda, made at the fundraising show we had at our church in August. It's really easy and really tasty.

Chicken Piccata Pasta

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
½ tbsp lemon pepper or Penzey's Trinidad seasoning
6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
½ medium onion, chopped
12 oz. angel hair pasta
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained
¼ cup capers, drained and rinsed
Grated fresh parmesan cheese, optional

Combine chicken, 1 tbsp of the oil, and lemon pepper or Trinidad in a bowl; toss to coat. Heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to skillet; cook and stir 10 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and centers are no longer pink.

Meanwhile, heat broth in micowave or on stovetop until boiling. Add onion to skillet. Carefully add broth and pasta to skillet; cook uncovered 10 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.

Add lemon zest, juice, and cream cheese to skillet; stir until cream cheese is fully incorporated. Add artichokes to skillet. Cook, covered, 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Remove skillet from heat; stir in capers. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

I only changed a few things about the original recipe. I didn't have lemon pepper seasoning because I don't really like pepper, but I did have Penzey's Trinidad seasoning, which is a lemon garlic seasoning. The recipe called for 1½ tbsp. But I only had ½ tbsp left in the jar. It actually turned out to be enough. Jim's quote when I asked him how he liked the dish: "The chicken was seasoned and cooked perfectly." Nice! So I guess it only needs ½ tbsp.

The other thing I changed was the result of a mistake. The original recipe called for removing the chicken after it was done, then cooking the pasta in the skillet, and then adding the chicken back in at the same time as the artichokes. I forgot to remove the chicken and didn't realize it until I already had the pasta and the broth in the skillet. Whoops! But it worked out just fine. The pasta took about 2 minutes longer to cook than the recipe said; maybe it was because the chicken was in there. Since it dirtied up one fewer dish, I think I will just keep the chicken in the skillet next time.

I put 2-3 oz. cream cheese because it originally called for 2 oz. but next time I am going to try it with 3. It's not because I think it needs more; it's because when I was grocery shopping, I didn't want to buy a whole 8 oz. package just for 2 oz. I saw that there was a tiny package that had 3 oz. in it. I got that and cut off 2 oz. for the recipe, leaving me with 1 oz. of cream cheese in my fridge that in all likelihood will not get used. So since the cream cheese is not prominent, I want to try adding the other 1 oz. just so there isn't any leftover.

This dish does not come across as cheesy at all. If you didn't know, you might not guess there was cream cheese in it. It just combines with the broth to make it a little bit more creamy. My favorite thing about this dish is how the pasta cooks right in the skillet. No need to boil it separately; dirtying up a big pot for that and a colander for draining the water. I love that! (And I hate dirty dishes. Can you tell?) This meal actually dirties up only two things, the skillet and whatever you heat the broth in. Nice!

Jim really liked it and my two year old loved it. She actually asked for seconds! She is diary intolerant, but there was so little cream cheese in here that I didn't think it would hurt her. And it didn't. She had two toddler-sized bowls of it and she was fine. She even ate the capers and artichokes.

Makes a pretty bowl.

This recipe makes a ton of food! I thought about halving it, but it's hard to halve a can of artichokes, and I knew I needed leftovers for the next evening because I wouldn't be home for dinner, so I just made the whole thing.

29 September 2010

Today is my husband's birthday. Since I like to cook, I enjoy making him special meals on his birthday. This is the second year in a row that we have had things going on in the evening on his birthday (last year it was an elder's meeting; tonight he has a Divine Service and I am going to a cooking class), so it has become a new tradition for me to make him a special birthday breakfast. Last year I made a Rachael Ray recipe, Apple Maple Chicken Sausage Patties (which I never got around to blogging about). I wasn't sure what I was going to make this year, until I saw this recipe in my blog reader. I knew as soon as I saw the title of the recipe that this was the one! I made very slight adjustments; here is my version.

Apple Bacon Pancakes with Cider Syrup

1 cup apple cider
5 tbsp light brown sugar, divided
1 tbsp cornstarch
½ cup pastry flour
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
½ cup buttermilk
1 medium apple, peeled and grated, about 1 cup
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon canola oil, divided

Combine cider, 4 tbsp brown sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Whisk pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 tbsp brown sugar in a small bowl. Whisk egg, egg white, and buttermilk in a large bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients, apples, and bacon until just combined. (The batter will be thick.)

Brush a large nonstick skillet with ½ tsp oil and place over medium heat until hot. Cooking 4 at a time, use about ¼ cup batter for each pancake and gently spread it to make them about 3” in diameter. Cook until the edges are dry and bubbles begin to form, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining oil and batter, reducing the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Reheat the cider syrup, if desired, and serve with the pancakes.

Makes 4 servings, 2 pancakes each.

This is the perfect breakfast for a crisp fall morning. You don't really taste the apple so much as it just lends a slight sweetness to the pancake. And the bacon makes it savory and smoky. The perfect complement to the sweet cider syrup.

I only made a few changes. The original recipe called for lemon juice in the syrup, no salt in the pancakes, and for the apples to be diced instead of grated. But a reviewer said that she halved the lemon juice, and I tried it that way, but I decided to just cut the lemon juice all together. It was quite tart and I think the cider alone will make it tart enough. She also suggested adding salt. And she said that even with dicing the apple very finely, they didn't cook through in the time it took to cook the pancake, so grating is the way to go. The only other thing I changed was that I doubled the syrup recipe. It just didn't seem like very much and if I know my husband, I know he likes syrup! I'm glad I did because it was just the right amount.

I've never been very good at making pancakes, but these turned out pretty well. A few of them got a little bit darker than they needed to be, but they were far from burned. If you double this recipe to cook for a crowd, put the oven on low and transfer the finished pancakes there to keep them warm while the rest cook.

I'm really glad Jim was born in the fall, because there seems to be no shortage of interesting fall breakfast recipes.

Happy Birthday, Jimmy!

28 September 2010

This is a recipe I created for a recipe contest. The challenge was to take any recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book and change it up in a new and interesting way. I took their basic meatloaf recipe and turned it into a Thai-style meatloaf. I replaced regular onion with green onion, and replaced the traditional Italian seasonings with ginger and garlic, and replaced the parsley with cilantro. Instead of the ketchup/brown sugar topping, mine has a peanut sauce topping. The results are amazing! I have never been a big fan of meatloaf, but this is so good! You really should try it.

Thai-Style Meatloaf

2 eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
2 cups soft bread crumbs (3-4 slices)
¼ cup green onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tsp ginger, grated
1½ lbs. lean ground beef, ground lamb, or ground pork (I like 1 lb. beef & ½ lb. pork)
¼ cup jarred Thai peanut sauce

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs and milk; stir in bread crumbs, green onion, cilantro, salt, garlic, and ginger. Add ground meat; mix well. Lightly pat mixture into an 8”x4”x2” loaf pan.

Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours or until internal temperature registers 160° on an instant-read thermometer. Drain off fat. Spread peanut sauce over meat. Bake for another 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 slices.

Makes 8 servings.

This is literally the best meatloaf I have ever had. It doesn't just taste like a big chunk of hamburger, like the ones I have made in the past. I think it's the soft bread crumbs that make the difference. Don't be tempted to use the kind you buy in a can in the grocery store. It's super easy to put a few pieces of fresh bread (I use whole grain wheat) in the food processor or mini chopper and pulse it a few times. Combining milk and bread into a paste is called a panade, and it makes meat (like meatloaf or hamburgers) so moist and delicious.

The flavors in this meatloaf work really well together. Green onion, cilantro, garlic, and ginger are classic Thai flavors and they are so tasty in a meatloaf. I tried several times to come up with my own recipe for a peanut sauce topping for this meatloaf that would be the ketchup and brown sugar counterpart. I tried three different times, eventually giving up and using a peanut sauce from a jar (I happened to use the Pampered Chef one, but you can use any that you like). I actually made this meatloaf three times in as many weeks just to try to get the topping right. The meatloaf part of it I got right the first time I made it! And even though I made it three times, we never got tired of it. I was planning on freezing the third one, but it made the house smell so good as it was baking, that I had to have it for lunch that day!

The first time I made it, I served it with Asian Noodles and Sesame Broccoli. It's also good with plain old mashed potatoes.

22 September 2010

Summer is pretty much over here in Michigan, so here is one last summertime recipe for the road.

Margarita Grilled Chicken

2 limes
¼ cup tequila
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 handfull cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt
4 chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)

Combine 1 tsp lime zest, juice of both limes, tequila, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and salt. Place in a large plastic bag and add chicken, turning to coat. Marinate chicken in refrigerator about 8 hours.

Grill the chicken until cooked, about 5-7 minutes per side.

Garnish with more chopped cilantro, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

So tasty. How can you go wrong with chicken and the flavors of a margarita? While I am not a huge drinker by any standard, I do enjoy margaritas. But due to pregnancy and breastfeeding, I have not been able to enjoy one for over a year now. This dish satisfied the little craving in me!

I served mine with Ginger Garlic Linguine and grilled zucchini.

Bring on the fall dishes!

21 September 2010

This is a dish that Jim came up with one night when I didn't have time to make supper. I had some chicken thawed for another dish, but something came up and we ran short on time and I had to feed the baby right during the time I usually make supper. So Jim went into the kitchen and created this dish. He doesn't cook very often, mostly because I like to cook so much, but this dish proves that he really can step up to the plate when necessary!

Jim's Chicken Taco Quesadillas

¼ cup taco seasoning
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 chicken breasts, sliced
4 large flour tortillas
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Cilantro, for garnish
Sour cream

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Combine taco seasoning and 2 tbsp oil in a large plastic bag. Add chicken and shake to thoroughly coat. Place chicken slices on grill. Grill until no longer pink, turning once. Remove from heat.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Take each tortilla and place 2 tbsp of the cheese, then ¼ of the chicken, and then another 2 tbsp of the cheese on one half. Fold tortilla over. Place in skillet and cook until golden brown on one side, then flip and cook until golden brown on the other side.

Remove from pan and cut into wedges. Garnish with cilantro and serve with sour cream and salsa.

Makes 4 servings.

Jim likes to do it that way, but an alternate way is to leave the chicken whole, season it, grill it, then cut it into strips. Either way works just fine. He says that the chicken gets better covered with the seasoning if you cut it first. He makes a good point. But if you were inclined to grill your chicken outside, I think it would be better to grill it whole, and then slice it so that the slices don't fall through the grates.

These quesadillas are really easy to customize to your liking. Jim likes to put some taco sauce inside his quesadilla before he cooks it. That's too much flavor for me; I take mine without. But I do like some finely chopped onion in mine. You can add anything you like in there. Just make sure you keep a good amount of cheese to glue it all together!

We actually don't serve these with sour cream and salsa like the recipe says. Our favorite condiment for these quesadillas is my Cilantro Cream Sauce. The cool creaminess of the sauce is the perfect balance to the spiciness of the filling. Yum!

18 September 2010

Great news! I recently won a recipe contest! I entered it on a whim, and was so surprised to get an email a couple of weeks ago saying that I had won! It was on a website called Tried and Tested Recipes. The recipe I entered was my Mexican Lasagna. The theme of the contest was summer, and this recipe has zucchini in it, so I thought that would be a good one to enter.

Here is a link to my "winner's page" on the website: Recipe Contest Winner Summer 2010

I won a $50 Amazon.com giftcard. I haven't yet decided what to buy with it; there are so many things I want!

This win has inspired me to enter more recipe contests. I am currently working on a couple of recipes for Better Homes and Gardens contests.

This is actually the second recipe contest I have won. A couple of years ago, I entered one sponsored by Hunts tomatoes. It was my Simple Stovetop Chili. I had totally forgotten about it, when one day I received a copy of Martha Stewart's book, Cooking School. I was a runner-up.

I heard about a recipe contest where you had to make a recipe using lemons and I wanted to try combining lemon with chicken, so this is the recipe I came up with.

Crunchy Lemon Chicken

2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp salt
4 chicken breasts
1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
½ cup flour
2 egg whites
1 tbsp water

Combine zest of 1 lemon with the juice of both. Add olive oil, ginger, and salt. Place in plastic bag and add chicken breasts. Marinate chicken in lemon marinade for about 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine bread crumbs and oil in a skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Spread the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and cool slightly; when cool, stir in the thyme.

Place flour in a shallow dish. Beat egg whites and water together in another shallow dish.

Remove chicken from marinade, draining well. Coat each breast in flour, dip in egg white, and coat with the panko. Spray a baking rack with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. Place chicken breasts on rack.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Makes 4 servings.

This is yummy! I marinated the chicken a bit too long (8 hours), and the lemon juice actually "cooked" the chicken a little bit. It was totally white when I got it out of the marinade, instead of pink. So I think it should only marinate for 4 hours. But it still tasted just fine the way it was. The thyme is a nice addition; you could use fresh if you have that on hand.

Toasting the panko before breading the chicken ensures a wonderfully crispy and golden brown coating. And using only the egg white instead of the whole egg cuts down on fat and cholesterol.

If you would like to vote for this recipe in the contest I entered it in, you can do so here:

I served this with some potatoes and green beans.

Lisa at Parsley, Sage, Desserts, and Line Drives chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in April 2012.  She switched it up by using lime and coconut.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club