29 October 2010

This is part of a Better Homes and Gardens recipe I tried the other night.

Cinnamon Roasted Chicken

4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange chicken breast halves in a baking pan. Drizzle chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and cinnamon. Rub the spices over all sides of the chicken.

Roast in preheated oven 18 to 20 minutes or until no longer pink and juices run clear.

Makes 4 servings.

You would think that putting that much cinnamon on a chicken breast would make the flavor overwhelming, but it doesn't. It just gives it a nice subtle flavor. It's not spicy or sweet in any way. I cut the salt back a little bit from the original because we found it a bit salty, but other than that I didn't change anything.

I served this with the other part of the recipe, Pumpkin Sage Polenta. It made an awesome autumn dish.

28 October 2010

This is part of a Better Homes and Gardens recipe that I tried last night.

Pumpkin Sage Polenta

1½ cups water
⅔ cup instant polenta
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp poultry seasoning
½ tsp salt
⅓ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Sage leaves for garnish
Milk, for thinning, if necessary

In medium saucepan bring water to a boil. Stir in polenta until combined. It will thicken immediately. Stir in pumpkin, poultry seasoning, and salt. Remove from heat; stir in cheese.

Top with sage leaves if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: Polenta will thicken upon standing. If it gets thick before you are ready to serve it, stir in a little bit of milk to thin it out.

This is so good and takes all of 5 minutes to make. The original recipe called for using fresh sage instead of the poultry seasoning, but the store I went to was out of fresh sage (it's that time of year again!), and I don't really care for using it anyway. I can never seem to chop it small enough that it doesn't taste like I am eating chunks of a leaf. So the dried poultry seasoning was a good substitution.

Make sure you are using instant polenta, not regular. I had the hardest time trying to find instant polenta. I eventually found it at a specialty grocery store, then a few hours later found it at Meijer, just not where I thought it would be. I always looked for it in the baking section with the cornmeal. Regular polenta is in that section. But then I stumbled across it in the pasta section. I think it's kind of weird that it's in the pasta section, but I guess it's because it's considered Italian ethnic food. I had even asked store employees where to find it and they had no clue. So if you are having trouble finding it, look in the pasta section! Now that I have found it, I make it a lot. It's a nice alternative to the usual side dishes of potatoes, rice, and pasta. It makes really good comfort food and Jim likes it in the morning with a fried egg on top.

Like I said in the recipe, it thickens up immediately. And as it sits, it gets thicker. So don't start this until right before you are ready to serve. I was serving it with chicken, and my chicken took about 5 minutes longer than the recipe stated, so I stirred in a little bit of milk to the polenta to loosen it up a bit before serving.

I served this with the other part of the recipe, Cinnamon Roasted Chicken. It made an awesome autumn meal.

26 October 2010

This is a dish that my husband found online and tried last night. It's from Real Simple.

Glazed Salmon With Broccoli Rice

¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 head broccoli, florets only, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 pieces skinless salmon fillet
1 large shallot, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

Heat broiler. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and soy sauce. Set aside.

Cook the rice according to the package directions, stirring in the broccoli during the last 5 minutes.
Let the rice and broccoli stand off the heat until the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, place the salmon and shallot on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with ½ tsp salt. Broil until the salmon is opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes, spooning half the soy sauce glaze over the fish during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Serve the salmon and shallot with the rice and the remaining glaze.

Makes 4 servings.

It was pretty good. I thought the glaze was just a tad on the sweet side, but not bad. Jim said he had trouble getting the brown sugar to completely incorporate to the soy sauce, so he thought next time it might be good to heat it up a little bit so that the sugar melts.

The other thing he mentioned was that the broccoli was a bit undercooked. It was supposed to be added 3 minutes before the rice was done, so next time he suggested adding it 5 minutes before.

The original recipe called for red onion instead of the shallot, but we didn't have red onion and Jim likes shallots better anyway. It was really good with the shallot.

25 October 2010

This is adapted from a recipe I saw in a magazine I get, Cuisine at Home. It's like a baked macaroni and cheese dish, but uses gnocchi instead of the macaroni. Comfort food at its best!

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese

16-17 oz. gnocchi
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
1¼ cup milk
2 cups Fontina or Monterey Jack cheese, grated
⅔ cup soft bread crumbs
⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375°. Coat a 1½ quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then slowly whisk in milk. Increase heat to high and continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Turn heat down to low and add cheeses, ½ cup at a time, stirring until melted before adding the next ½ cup. When cheese is completely melted, remove from heat and add gnocchi.

Pour into prepared baking dish. Combine bread crumbs and parmesan and put on top of gnocchi.

Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

This is so good. Not something I would make every week, but like I said, comfort food.

I did make a few changes from the original recipe. It called for a total of ½ cup of cheese. ½ cup? For 4 servings? That would mean that each serving would have only 2 tbsp of cheese. I would expect a dish that has "cheese" in the TITLE to have a bit more than that! I was really surprised the first time I made it and it only had that much cheese. I also increased the sauce because it didn't even make enough to cover the gnocchi.

The other thing I changed was adding the soft breadcrumbs to the topping. The original recipe called for just Parmesan cheese. But I always like a breadcrumb topping on traditional mac and cheese, so I thought it would be good on this. And it is.

The last time I made this I used whole grain gnocchi and that was just fine. Gnocchi comes in many different varieties, and any of them would be good in here.

The gnocchi are dark colored because they are whole grain.

23 October 2010

I can't take credit for this one; my husband made it. I have a cold and wasn't feeling like making dinner last night, so Jim stepped in and did it. Usually when he does that, he will make something easy, or something he made up, but last night he decided to go with the recipe that was on my meal plan. It's from Sunny Anderson.

Apple Cider Chicken

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into ¼" wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp flour
1½ cups apple cider

Heat oil and 1 tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, add to pan and sear until golden, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken from pan, and set aside. Add remaining butter and onion, apple, garlic, thyme and bay leaves. Sauté until apple begins to get color and onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Nestle chicken back into pan, add cider, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

This was really good. The perfect fall dish. I asked Jim if there was anything about the recipe he would change, and he said there wasn't. The only thing I would change is to remove the apples before serving. They got really soft and mushy and they looked kind of unappetizing in the finished dish. With the green skin, they looked a lot like green peppers in there! So I would suggest taking them out of the sauce before serving. Other than that, it was perfect. It was slightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

We served this with stuffing (Stove Top now has a reduced-sodium variety that is really good). It went really well with the chicken. This would also be good with pork chops or turkey cutlets.

22 October 2010

If memory serves me correctly, this was the first Rachael Ray recipe I ever tried. I made it for the dessert for a dinner party we had when we lived in Texas. I hadn't made it in years, but I've been in such a fall-themed mood when it comes to food, that I decided to bust it out and dust it off.

Baked Stuffed Apples

6 medium McIntosh apples
2 wedges lemon
6 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, finely chopped
½ cup flour
¼ cup oatmeal

Preheat oven to 425°. Trim bottom of apples. Cut tops off. Hollow out inside. Rub tops and cavities with lemon. Combine all other ingredients. Mixture should be crumbly. Pack into apples. Place apples in a shallow baking dish and add ¼ cup water. Bake 17 to 20 minutes until filling bubbles and apples are tender, not soft.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

My recipe is a little bit different from Rachael's. Hers had raisins in it. And the serving size has been adjusted from 4 to 6 because, like I said, I originally made it for a dinner party. Last night I made them for just the two of us, and I halved the filling recipe. The apples I used were tiny (I get little ones for Lena), so I made 4. And I still had some filling left over. If you are serving these for guests, try to get medium or large apples.

These are so good served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. We didn't have any caramel sauce, so Jim made some from a recipe he found online.

20 October 2010

This is a recipe I tried last night and loved. It is adapted from one on Allrecipes.

Curried Honey Baked Chicken

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
4 chicken breasts

Combine olive oil, honey, mustard, salt, and curry powder and stir to combine. Place mixture in a large resealable plastic bag and add chicken. Toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan lined with foil. Drizzle marinade over the chicken.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

Makes 4 servings.

This chicken was so good! I never would have thought to pair honey, mustard, and curry, but it is great on chicken. If you are worried about it being hot, it's not. Well, I guess it depends on what kind of curry you use. If you use a spicy curry, then it would be, but I use a sweet curry. It's basically all of the flavor without all of the heat.

The original recipe called for using a whole chicken cut into pieces. I don't like doing that, and several reviewers said that they made it with boneless skinless breasts, so that's what I did. I halved the marinade and doubled the curry. It was perfect.

The original recipe didn't call for marinating, but it was suggested by reviewers. I didn't get to marinate mine for a whole hour (it was probably only 15 mins), but I think that would make it even better. Make sure you put foil on your pan because the honey will burn (on the pan, not on the chicken), and it would be very difficult to clean.

The first time I made this, I used butter like the original recipe called for. But then I was wondering if it would work with olive oil instead (especially since it is supposed to marinate in the fridge), so I tried it that way tonight. Just as good and a little bit healthier.

So glad I found this recipe. I'll definitely be making it again.

18 October 2010

This is a recipe adapted from one I read in a new cookbook, The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook. The author has a food blog, Coconut and Lime, where she posts her original recipes. The book is great, because it's an entire cookbook of slow cooker recipes and not one of them includes cream of mushroom soup as an ingredient! The recipes are all healthy and very creative.

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup

½ large onion, diced
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup sour cream
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ cup green onion, sliced

Place the onions, potatoes, water, and salt into a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours, or high for 4 ½ hours.

With a ladle, remove some of the cooking liquid and set aside. Either mash potatoes using a potato masher (for a chunkier soup), or puree using a stick blender (for a smoother soup). Add more cooking liquid until soup is desired consistency. Stir in the cheese, sour cream, bacon crumbles, and green onion.

Garnish with more cheese, bacon, and green onion, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Okay, so my version isn't quite as healthy as the one in the book. I increased the sour cream (reduced-fat is fine), cheese, and bacon. I know, I know, but it's cold outside and I need comfort food! :) The other thing I changed is the amount of salt. The recipe in the book called for ¼ tsp. ¼ tsp for 4 large potatoes? Who could eat that and not find it bland?

Overall, I loved this soup. Mashing it with a potato masher was my idea; I like a few chunks of potato in my soup and I didn't really feel like digging out the stick blender. Taking the cooking liquid out was my idea too; it just looked so watery before I mashed the potatoes that I was worried it would be too runny. So I took about two cups out and saved it. Then after mashing, I started adding it back, and actually ended up adding all of it back. But it's a good way to customize the consistency. I loved the raw green onions in it; it really made it taste like a loaded baked potato to me. But Jim doesn't like raw onions, so I only put them in my serving. Then I chopped up a few more and put them in a container in the fridge for when I had leftovers.

I'm sure I'll be making this again throughout the fall and winter. I had planned to serve this soup with sandwiches, but when it was done, it looked so good that we had no interest in sandwiches and ate the soup all by itself.

Again, I highly recommend this cookbook if you are a slow cooker user. I found about 30 recipes in there that I want to try eventually!

15 October 2010

Everyone needs easy, fast, go-to meals that can be made with pantry ingredients for busy evenings. This is one of mine.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
½ - ¾ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
12” pizza crust (homemade or store-bought)
½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Ranch dressing, optional
Cole slaw, optional

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine chicken and barbecue sauce. Spread evenly over pizza crust. Top with cheese.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve with ranch dressing for dipping or cole slaw for topping, if desired.

Makes 4 servings, two slices each.

Note: If you are using a homemade crust, you will need to adjust the baking time. The store-bought one that I use is pre-baked.

Like I said, this is a great go-to meal because everything comes out of the pantry (except the cheese, but I always have cheese in the fridge!). Here is the crust I buy at Meijer:

In the past I have made my own barbecue sauce, but then we found a store-bought one that we really like. It's Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle. It is really good. Sweet, but with quite a kick from the chipotle. In the summer, we went through about two bottles a month!

I like my pizza dipped in ranch dressing. There is something about the combination of the sweet and spicy from the pizza with the creamy and cool of the dressing. Really good. Jim likes cole slaw on his barbecue sandwiches, so this time I made some cole slaw to go with it and he put it on top of his pizza. He liked it.

14 October 2010

I got this recipe from a food blog consisting only of slow cooker recipes.

Slow Cooker Broccoli Beef

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 lbs. beef (I use ribeye)
2 bags frozen broccoli florets, thawed, or two heads fresh broccoli

Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in slow cooker. Slice meat into thin strips and add to slow cooker. Toss to coat thoroughly.

Cook on low for 6 hours. An hour before serving, add broccoli. Cook for another hour or until broccoli is at desired tenderness.

Stir gingerly to coat broccoli. Serve over rice.

Makes 6 servings.

Super good! This is doubled from the original recipe, because it was so good that I was kicking myself for not doubling it the first time. We would have loved to have had leftovers for lunch the next day.

It's super easy too. I had the beef sliced up the night before and ready to go in the fridge. It only took me about 5 minutes to throw the rest of the ingredients in there before going to storytime at the library. The beef was almost done when we got back (2 hours later), but it gets really tender if you leave it in there all day. After 6 hours it was so tender it was practically falling apart. I like stir-fry, but everytime I have made it, the beef seems to get really tough on me. I don't know if I am using the wrong cut of beef or cooking it wrong, but this was way better than any stir-fry I have made.

A tip for you working people: if you are unable to add the broccoli an hour before serving, you can just steam it (in the microwave, or however you like), and add it to the beef right before serving. It won't have soaked up as much of the flavor, but it will still be good.

I will definitely be making this again.

09 October 2010

I had never made acorn squash before, but I'm currently on a fall kick when it comes to cooking, so I thought I would give it a try. I stumbled across this Tyler Florence recipe and thought it sounded awesome. This is the first time I have made one of his recipes.

Roasted Amaretto Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, about 2 lb. each
Kosher salt
Olive oil
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
3 tbsp amaretto
½ cup vanilla wafers, crushed

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Split the squash in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Set the squash halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with olive oil. If squash are very large, cut lengthwise into quarters.

In a bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, and almond liqueur. With a brush or a spoon coat the cut sides of each squash half with the butter mixture. Sprinkle with the crushed cookies.

Bake until tender, about an hour, basting every 20 minutes with any remaining butter.

Makes 4 servings.

This is so good! I don't really like acorn squash that much; I think it's the texture. So the only way I can eat it is to make it sweet. And this recipe gets the job done! When he came up to the table, Jim said, "I see dessert, but where's dinner?" :) He loved it, of course. And I did too.

The original recipe called for 1 lb. acorn squash and it was supposed to cook for only 30-35 minutes. But the smallest ones I could find at the grocery store were 2 lbs. each. So if you can find smaller ones, they won't need to cook as long. The 2 lb. squash make the serving size a bit large (I couldn't finish my half), so if you can find the small ones, get those.

The amaretto is so good with this. I was going to try it with Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur), but they only had a huge bottle at the store and I didn't feel like spending $26 on it! So I got a small, cheap bottle of amaretto and now I'm glad I did because I loved it.

I highly recommend this recipe. I know I will be making it again!

I served these with Pecan Crusted Pork Chops. Great fall dinner!

Amy from A Little Nosh chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in October 2012.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

08 October 2010

This is a recipe adapted from one on Allrecipes.com. A perfect dish for fall.

Pecan Crusted Pork with Pumpkin Butter
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
¾ cup apple juice
¼ cup brown sugar
⅛ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan chips
¾ cup soft bread crumbs
4 boneless pork chops
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400°.

Whisk together pumpkin puree, apple juice, brown sugar, cloves, and cinnamon in a saucepan until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the mixture has reached the consistency of applesauce. About 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine pecan chips and bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Season pork chops with salt and press into the pecan mixture to coat.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add breaded pork chops and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove skillet from stovetop and place in preheated oven until pork chops are cooked through, about 20 minutes, depending on thickness.

Stir butter into pumpkin butter and serve over the warm pork chops.

Makes 4 servings.

I changed a few things from the original. I changed the sugar in the pumpkin butter from ¾ cup white to ¼ cup brown. Reviewers of the original recipe said it had too much sugar, and I already had the brown sugar out for another recipe, so I used that instead of white. I also added the butter to it. It is called pumpkin butter, after all! I just thought it would help the texture out a bit.

The original recipe called for cooking the pork chops through completely on the stove top. But a lot of people said theirs didn't get done that way because they were thicker than what the recipe called for, ½". Mine were thicker than that too, so I browned them in the skillet and finished them off in the oven. And they came out perfectly. Also, the original recipe didn't call for salting the chops before breading, but I didn't think that pecans and bread crumbs would be enough seasoning.

If you can't find pecan chips at the store, get chopped pecans, and either chop them a little finer or use your food processor. They need to be smaller than the chopped pecans I saw at my store, which is what the original recipe called for. But when I saw the pecan chips, I knew they would be perfect and wouldn't need any further chopping.

Outside of fall, these chops would be great without the pumpkin butter. I really liked them a lot.

I served these pork chops with Roasted Acorn Squash. Yummy!

07 October 2010

This is something I saw on a blog a while back and headed right to the kitchen to make! Super easy snack.

Roasted Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°.

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Spread out on a kitchen towel and pat dry. Place chickpeas on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt.

Bake about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Makes 4 servings (as a snack).

Not much to say about it, except make sure they are really dry before drizzling the oil on them. They won't get crispy if they aren't completely dry.

Oh, and you can add any kind of spices to these to make them a little more interesting (although they are pretty darn tasty on their own!). I saw a recipe for roasted chickpeas with Moroccan spices that sounds pretty good. Maybe I'll try that next time.

Apparently they sell these as street food in Mediterranean countries.

And even though I put 4 servings, Jim and I ate nearly one whole can by ourselves. :)


06 October 2010

This is a Taste of Home recipe that I discovered this summer. Makes a simple and very tasty side dish for a variety of main dishes.

Ginger Garlic Linguine

12 oz. uncooked linguine
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp garlic, minced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Parsley or cilantro for garnish

Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the onions, ginger, and garlic in butter for 3-4 minutes or until onions are tender. Drain the linguine; add to skillet and toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and salt. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

I decreased the butter from the original recipe and changed some of the spices (it had cayenne, I think). I like this dish because probably 85% of the main dishes I make have either garlic or ginger (and many have both!), so this is one of my go-to side dishes.

05 October 2010

While I was working on my meal planning for October yesterday (yes, I'm behind!), I came upon a recipe called "Sweet Potato Soup." I thought it sounded good, but when I read it, I thought a chowder would be even better. I went to Allrecipes.com and they only had one recipe for sweet potato chowder and it didn't sound like what I had in mind. Then I went to Food.com and they had about 20 sweet potato chowder recipes, but none of them were quite what I had in mind either. So I just made up my own recipe. I was so excited about it that I decided to make it for dinner last night. I had everything on hand except the bacon, and Jim was more than happy to stop by the store in order to pick some up.

This is how it turned out.

Roasted Sweet Potato Chowder with Bacon

2 large sweet potatoes
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
3 cups milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup corn
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Peel and cube one of the sweet potatoes. Boil or steam until tender. Meanwhile, wrap the other sweet potato in foil and bake at 425° for an hour and 15 minutes, or until very soft. Unwrap, peel, and mash. Set both mashed and cubed sweet potatoes aside.

In a large pot, saute onion, garlic, and ginger in butter until onions are soft but not browned. Add flour and cook for a minute or so. Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Once it starts to thicken, reduce heat to low add mashed sweet potato. Stir well to completely incorporate it. Then add potato cubes. If the cubes look a bit large to you once inside the pot, break them up a little bit with a potato masher. Add corn, bacon, salt, and nutmeg. Stir until well combined.

Garnish with a little bit of extra bacon crumbles, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Serving size is a guess. Jim put away the leftovers so I didn't see how much was left, but it seemed like it made a lot.

Bacon Fontina Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

4 slices bread
2 oz. Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
4 slices bacon, cooked

Butter one side of each slice of bread with the butter. Place a few slices of cheese and two slices of bacon on the unbuttered side of one piece of bread and top with another one, buttered side up. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat and place sandwiches on. When brown and crispy on one side, flip over and cook until brown and crispy on the other side.

Remove from heat and place on cooling rack for a few minutes before cutting in half.

Makes 2 servings.

This turned out perfectly. It was just what I had in mind: creamy sweet potato flavor running throughout the chowder, with small chunks as well. I had to use two different cooking methods to achieve this, but it's not that much work and it was well worth it. I used the Pampered Chef microcooker to boil the cubes. Just put them in, cover them with water, and microwave for about 11 minutes. But you could easily do that on the stove top. And how easy is it to throw a potato in the oven?

And the bacon grilled cheese sandwiches were the perfect accompaniment. You can use any cheese you like, of course. But I had some leftover Fontina from another recipe and it worked really well. I only had enough for one sandwich, so I made Jim's with that, and I used some leftover Monterey Jack for mine. That was really good too. The fontina reminds me a little bit of Swiss, but not as bitter.

Makes a pretty chowder, I think.

Look at all that ooey gooey goodness!

04 October 2010

This is a yummy apple dip that I came up with recently. Super easy.

Fall Spice Apple Dip

½ cup sour cream
3 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 medium apples

Combine sour cream, brown sugar, and pie spice. Stir well to combine. Core apples and cut into wedges. Arrange apple wedges on a plate around the dip.

Makes 4 servings.

Doesn't get much easier than that. I'm not a big apple lover, so I usually like to have some kind of a dip with my apples. I like that caramel dip from the store, but if you don't have any of that, this is easy to put together in just a few minutes.

I'm not happy that summer has left us, but I do enjoy making fall recipes. More to come!

03 October 2010

This is a recipe I got from a blog where the author made a resolution to use her slow cooker every day in 2008. She did all kinds of dishes from appetizers to desserts. This is one of the desserts that caught my eye.

Slow Cooker Six Layer Brownies

1 package brownie mix
¼ cup butter, melted
1 egg
¼ cup water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)

Combine brownie mix, butter, egg, and water. Pour into slow cooker (I used a 6 qt.). Smooth out the top. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the brownie mix and smooth out. Sprinkle on chocolate chips, oats, coconut, and nuts.

Put on lid and cook on low. Mine took about 6 hours, but start checking it at around 4 hours by poking a fork into the middle of it to see if it comes out clean. You can also tell it is getting done when the edges start to pull away from the sides of the crock.

Makes about 8 brownies.

Note: The yield is a total guess; since mine ended up in a jumble on the serving plate, I can't really tell how many brownies it made.

I call mine "Six Layer Brownies" while hers were five, because I added the chocolate chips. A reviewer on that blog suggested it and I thought it sounded like a good addition!

The only bad thing about these brownies is that they are really difficult to get out of the slow cooker. I thought about using a slow cooker liner, but changed my mind. When it was time to serve, I was regretting that decision. I think it would be really easy to lift the whole thing out and then cut it. I tried lifting it out with two pancake turners, but one side of it crumbled on me.

Looks so pretty in the crock.

Not so pretty on the serving dish!

I didn't really care for these brownies too much, but that's because I don't like coconut or nuts. I made them for Jim (in lieu of a birthday cake), and he loved them, so that's all that matters. He ate his with ice cream.

If you don't like coconut or nuts, you can omit those. I was able to pick some of them off, and the brownie with just the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk was pretty awesome. The sweetened condensed milk comes out looking and tasting like caramel.

I would call my first attempt at baking in the slow cooker a success!

02 October 2010

This is a recipe I made for my sister and her husband for their wedding anniversary. I got it from Food.com, formerly known as Recipezaar.

Gorgonzola Penne

1 lb. penne
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. gorgonzola, crumbled
3 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
½ tsp salt

Boil penne according to package directions. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute until soft and translucent.

Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and heavy whipping cream. When it comes to a boil, turn heat down to low and add gorgonzola, sage, and salt. Stir until cheese melts into sauce.

Add cooked pasta to skillet and toss to coat. Garnish with more chopped sage, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

You have to really like gorgonzola to like this dish, but if you do, then it's awesome. Creamy and tangy. We served it with grilled steak, green beans, caesar salad, and garlic breadsticks. A note on the number of servings: It makes 4 servings as an entree. If you are serving it as a side dish, like we did, it will make much more than 4 servings, probably more like 8.

Note: Gorgonzola should not be eaten by pregnant women. There is a restriction on soft, unpasteurized cheeses for pregnant women. It was one thing that my sister and I really missed when we were pregnant. So this would be a great dish to make for a gorgonzola lover who just had a baby! :)

This is another original creation that I came up with. If you haven't noticed by now, I love chipotle, and decided to make a soup with it.

Chipotle Cheddar Chicken Soup

3 tbsp butter
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chipotle, minced, with 4 tbsp adobo sauce
3 tbsp flour
3 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup corn
3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Tortilla chips

Heat butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, chipotle, and adobo sauce. Saute until onions are translucent but not browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook another minute or two. Slowly add the milk and chicken stock, whisking thoroughly to combine. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add chicken, corn, and cheese. Heat until cheese is melted.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 4 servings.

It turned out really well. It has a nice heat to it, making it the perfect soup for those cold winter nights. I wouldn't make it in the summer! You can easily adjust the heat by increasing or decreasing the chipotle. Like the recipe says, I used one chile (seeds removed), and 4 tbsp of the adobo sauce. Make sure you mince the chipotle really finely because you don't want to bite into a big chunk of it.

Jim really liked it too. He suggested adding either rice or black beans to it. Those would both be good additions.

I served this with a nice sweet cornbread. That turned out to be the perfect complement to the spicy soup. Jim even crumbled some of his cornbread into his soup and he said that was really good too.

I will definitely be adding this to my December meal plan. And probably January, and February, and maybe even March! Gotta love Michigan winters! (Not really.)

01 October 2010

This is the other part of the Rachael Ray recipe. The one that she made with the Chicken Taquitos.

Chipotle Pork Burritos

8 (8”) flour tortillas
2 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, minced
1 lbs ground pork
1 small zucchini, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
3 tbsp chipotle in adobo, mashed into paste
1 tsp salt
1 (15 oz.) can black beans
2 cups Chihuahua or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat olive oil. Add the onion and pork, brown it for 2 minutes then add in zucchini, garlic, chipotle in adobo, beans, and salt. Cook for about 7 to 8 minutes more.

Soften tortillas by placing them in a kitchen towel and microwaving for 10 seconds. On each tortilla pile a little filling and some cheese. Tuck in the sides then wrap and roll the tortilla.

Makes 4 servings.

I only changed a few things. The addition of the onion was mine. The major thing I changed was the beans. Her recipe called for mashing the beans and cooking them in oil. Then she layered her burritos with pork filling, beans, and then cheese. Jim was just mentioning the day before I made this that he really likes whole beans in a burrito. So I decided to leave them whole and just add them to the pork filling. Easier and just as tasty, in my opinion.

You may think the addition of the zucchini is weird. That wasn't me; it was in the original recipe. You can't really taste it very much, so no worries. It just adds pretty color and I'm sure some nutrients of some sort. Rachael also added shredded lettuce to her burritos, but I omitted that. We served ours with sour cream.

You will have to play around with how much chipotle to use. The recipe called for 2 to 3 tbsp and I think I used 3. I think it could have even used more. So you'll just have to taste it as you go.

These are really good and I will definitely be making them again.

This is a Rachael Ray recipe that I tried last night. Her recipe also includes a pork chipotle burrito, and I made those as well, but for a separate dinner. The bean dipping sauce wasn't a part of Rachael's recipe; that's something I came up with myself.

Chicken Taquitos with Bean Dipping Sauce

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few leaves fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Vegetable or canola oil
12 (6”) corn tortillas
1 can refried beans
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup salsa
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425°.

Pour about 1” of oil in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Season the chicken with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper and mix in the cheese and cilantro. Briefly dip the tortillas in warm oil to soften. Tightly roll a couple of forkfuls of chicken up in the tortillas. Place seam side down and bake 12 minutes.

Place all remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally. (You can also place ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and microwave.) Serve with taquitos.

Makes 4 servings.

I had never made taquitos before. In fact, I'm not sure I had ever eaten them. Jim likes the frozen kind you buy at the store, but I had never had them. I assumed that traditional ones were made by deep frying and I have no desire to deep fry anything. Then I saw Rachael make these on 30 Minute Meals. I'm not sure they are any healthier than if they were deep fried, since they are still dipped in oil, but oh well. The only thing I didn't like about this recipe is that the hot oil burned my fingers as I was trying to roll them up. I think I had the oil a little hotter than it was supposed to be. It is supposed to be warm, not hot. The tortillas shouldn't start to fry in the oil. It's just to soften them up so you can roll them, and then to make them crispy in the oven.

These were a hit in our house. Lena loved them too, but to be fair, she loves anything she can dip with.

It would be really easy to change up the filling in the taquitos. Ground beef, shredded taco beef; anything would be good inside there.