30 April 2013

It's Day Two of Cinco de Mayo week here.  Today's recipe is really fun.  Kind of a cross between quesadillas and taco pizza. It's like taco pizza that uses a quesadilla as the crust.  One of those "why didn't I think of that?" recipes.  My version is adapted from Closet Cooking.

Quesadilla Taco Pizzas

1 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp homemade taco seasoning or store bought packet
2 tbsp flour
¼ cup water
1 can refried beans
12 medium flour tortillas
3-4 cups shredded cheese
1 tbsp oil
1½ cup salsa or taco sauce
4 green onions, sliced
Any other toppings you like
Sour cream

Brown the ground beef in a pan over medium heat, drain the excess grease, mix in seasoning, flour, and water and simmer until thickened.

Spread the refried beans over 6 of the tortillas.  Top each with ground beef and cheese.  Place the remaining tortillas on top to make the quesadillas.

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Place one of the quesadillas in skillet and cook it over medium heat until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are lightly golden brown, about 2-4 minutes per side.  Repeat with remaining quesadillas.

Place the quesadillas on a large baking sheet.  Spread the salsa or taco sauce over the tops of the quesadillas, sprinkle on the cheese, green onions, and any other toppings of your choice.

Broil in a preheated oven until the cheese has melted, about 2 minutes. (Keep an eye on them so they do not burn!)  Remove from broiler and cut into wedges.  Serve with sour cream.

Makes 6 servings.

This recipe is really easy to customize.  You can make the quesadillas with any kind of filling you like.  You can use chicken or shredded beef instead of the ground beef.  Or you can use black beans instead of refried beans.  (If you do that, I suggest putting a layer of cheese on both tortillas since the refried beans help hold them together.)  You can also top these babies any way you want.  Top them with whatever you like on a taco pizza.  Black olives, lettuce, fresh tomatoes; the possibilities are endless.  I used salsa on top of mine, but my husband isn't so much a fan of "chunky" tomato sauces, so he used taco sauce instead.  They both worked perfectly.

These quesadilla pizzas make for a very nice twist on boring old taco night.  Since they are individual, each person can make theirs however they like it.

Tomorrow I will be sharing with you a homemade version of a popular Taco Bell menu item.

Cinco de Mayo Week Recipes:

Links to all of my other Mexican recipes:

29 April 2013

A week or so ago I was looking through my recipe files to see what Mexican dishes I could share with you in honor of Cinco de Mayo.  I have a backlog of about 60-70 recipes that I have made and photographed, just waiting for me to share with you.  I went through them and wrote down all the Mexican recipes.  There were six.  I thought it might be fun to post a Mexican recipe each day the week before Cinco de Mayo.  My Facebook fans confirmed that this was a great idea.  So today is Day One of Cinco de Mayo Week!

I'm starting the week off with a bang; sharing with you my favorite of the five recipes I have for you this week.  I have made this three times now and it has been amazing each time.  "Stacked Chicken Enchiladas Suizas" might sound like a long, and weird, name, so let me break it down for you. "Chicken Enchiladas" is pretty self-explanatory.  "Stacked" means that the enchiladas are layered in a baking dish instead of rolled up like traditional enchiladas.  The enchilada filling is layered in between tortillas.  "Suiza" is a special kind of enchilada sauce.  From Wikipedia: "Enchiladas suizas (Swiss-style) are topped with a white, milk or cream-based sauce, such as b├ęchamel. This appellation is derived from Swiss immigrants to Mexico who established dairies to produce cream and cheese."

So this recipe is basically chicken enchiladas made with a creamy white sauce and layered in a baking dish.  It's really very easy.  My recipe is adapted from one I saw at Jennifer Cooks.  She made her sauce from scratch, while I made mine a little easier by using a jar of roasted tomatillo salsa from the store.  

Stacked Chicken Enchiladas Suizas

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup roasted tomatillo salsa
½ cup sour cream
4 medium-sized flour tortillas, trimmed to fit an 8” square baking dish
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
2 cups shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat an 8” baking dish with non-stick spray.

To make the suiza sauce: In a saucepan, melt butter.  Add flour, stirring constantly for about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in chicken broth and continue stirring until smooth.  Stir in tomatillo salsa and sour cream.  Remove from heat.

Place some of the suiza sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Spread to evenly coat the bottom.  Place one trimmed tortilla on top, then ½ cup of the cooked chicken, then a little more sauce, then about ½ cup of cheese.  Repeat these layers, ending with a tortilla, the last of the sauce, and the last of the cheese.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Here are a few pics of the process:

First layer: the suiza sauce. 

Then a tortilla.  Just trim a little sliver off each side so it fits in the square pan.  I used Mission soft taco-sized tortillas.  If you are doubling this recipe, use a 9x13" pan and don't bother with the trimming.  The tortillas can overlap a little in the center.

Up next: the chicken.  I usually cheat and use canned chicken.  This would be a perfect way to use leftovers from a roasted or rotisserie chicken.

Then a little more sauce.

 And a generous amount of cheese.  My favorite is the Mexican blend from Kraft. 

A pic from another time I made it.

This is the roasted tomatillo salsa I use.  If you live anywhere near a Meijer, you've got to try it.  It's really good.  It's not only perfect in this recipe, but it's great just on tortilla chips too. I love it so much that I stocked up on it (bought 3 or 4 jars) before we moved from Michigan to Wisconsin, because there are no Meijer stores in Wisconsin (yet!).  If you don't live near a Meijer, you can of course use any tomatillo salsa (aka salsa verde) you like.  You could probably use a regular red salsa too.  But I just love the flavor of the tomatillo salsa, especially the Meijer Gold brand because it has a lovely roasted flavor to it.

These stacked enchiladas are amazing!  The creamy sauce is just incredible.  I made these again last night and my five-year-old asked for seconds.  We had friends over and they all loved it too.  It's a definite crowd-pleaser!

Come back tomorrow for an interesting twist on quesadillas.

Cinco de Mayo Week Recipes:
Tuesday: Quesadilla Taco Pizzas
Wednesday: Grilled Stuffed Burritos
Thursday: Mexican Turkey Crescent Bake
Friday: Churro Cheesecake Bars

In the meantime, here are links to all of my other Mexican recipes:

26 April 2013

This is a super easy dessert that is great because it's a little out of the ordinary.  My husband made this for me last year on my birthday and I loved it.  I just made it again yesterday for the spaghetti dinner at my daughter's school.  It has the yummy flavor combinations of Boston Cream Pie, but in a simplified form.  It's really easy to make since it uses a boxed cake mix, instant pudding mix, and canned frosting.  I got the recipe from The Country Cook.

Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
Eggs, oil, and water called for on cake mix box
2 (3.4oz) boxes instant French Vanilla pudding
4 cups milk
1 can chocolate frosting

Make cake mix according to directions and bake in a well-greased 9x13 pan.

When cake is finished, while still warm, poke holes all over cake (about 1-inch) intervals using a wooden spoon handle or other similar size object.  The holes should be fairly big so that the pudding has plenty of room to get down in there.  Be sure to poke right down to the bottom of the cake.

In a bowl, whisk together instant pudding mix with milk.  Pour pudding over cake, taking care to pour it right into the holes as much as possible.  Spread it all out and using the back of the spoon, gently push pudding down into the holes.  Put the cake into the fridge to set and cool (about 2 hours).

Remove the lid and foil covering from the tub of chocolate frosting.  Pop it in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds.  Stir with a spoon. It should still be a little thick but pourable - not bubbly hot.
Pour chocolate frosting on top of pudding.  Spread frosting evenly over cake starting in the center then spreading it towards the sides.

Allow to cool on the counter for a few minutes, then put into the fridge to fully cool and set up. It is best made the day before serving.  Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Makes about 24 servings.

See? Couldn't be easier.  And so much better than boring old cake.  It really does taste like Boston Cream Pie.  

24 April 2013

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today.  It is pure genius!  It's one of those recipes that is kind of dangerous to know, because it's so easy to make that you'll find yourself making it all too often.  

My sweet friend, Brenda, made me (and my family) a lovely steak dinner on Sunday for my birthday.  It was amazing!  She made smashed red potatoes and a really yummy pan sauce made with goat cheese. Mmm! And roasted Brussels sprouts, which are my fav.  So good.  I brought dessert.  I wanted to make a cheesecake, because I love cheesecake, and because I had gotten a jar of chocolate raspberry sauce with my last Pampered Chef order, and what better to drizzle it over than cheesecake?  But alas, my oven was broken.  Cheesecake would not be happening.  So I scanned my "Easy Dessert Recipes" board on Pinterest for some no-bake inspiration.  I ran across a pin for "Name Your Flavour Cheesecake Pots" at Always Leave Room For Dessert and thought that sounded perfect.  Probably not quite as good as traditional cheesecake, but kind of the same idea, and easier too.

The awesome thing about these individual cheesecake cups (aside from how easy they are), is that you can very easily change up the flavor in countless different ways.  You can make them fruity by using fresh or frozen berries or fruit jam of any type.  You can make them chocolatey by using a chocolate ganache or Nutella.  I haven't tried it, but I bet you could even use peanut butter or caramel.  If you can stir it in, it will work! 

Because I can never make a recipe exactly as it is written, I added a little something to these.  Since they are cheesecake-y, I added graham cracker crumbs to the bottom.  A little added touch which I think really takes these over the top.

Individual No-Bake Cheesecake Cups

½ cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp melted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup of mix-in of your choice:
·        Nutella
·        Pureed fresh or frozen fruit
·        Seedless fruit jam
·        Peanut butter
·        Anything else that sounds good!
2 – 4 tbsp milk, if necessary
Whipped cream

Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl.  Put 2 tbsp crumb mixture into each of 4 small juice glasses or dessert cups.  Press down to pack.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Stir well to smooth out any lumps.  Stir in vanilla.  Stir in whatever mix-in you have chosen.  If using a thick ingredient like Nutella or peanut butter, stir in 2 tbsp of milk.  If still thick, stir in another 2 tbsp until smooth.  If using fruit jam, you will probably not need the milk.  The consistency should be somewhat thick, but still pourable.

Put ⅓ cup of filling in each dessert cup on top of the graham cracker crumbs.  Use a spoon and try not to get it on the sides as you are filling them.  Cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour, or until filling sets.

Right before serving, top each with whipped cream.

Makes 4 servings.

 Nutella No-Bake Cheesecake Cup.  Amazing!  

Raspberry No-Bake Cheesecake Cup made with seedless raspberry jam.  This was really good too.  It turned out thinner than the Nutella one; I probably should have left out the milk.  But it was still incredible as it was.

 Aren't they just too cute!  These are perfect for parties.  

I am so glad I came across this recipe.  I can't wait to try it with different ingredients.  What flavor would you choose?

18 April 2013

It's time again for the Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

The assigned ingredients this month were bacon and eggs.  I didn't get too creative this time, but I did use this opportunity to try a classic dish that I had been wanting to make for a long time.  Pasta Carbonara.  I've always been intrigued by it.  Pasta (usually spaghetti) tossed with bacon and a sauce made of eggs and cheese.  How can eggs make a pasta sauce?  How do they not scramble?  I don't really know the answer, but I'm guessing maybe it has something to do with the fact that the eggs are mixed with cheese before being added to the hot pasta.  Whatever the science behind it, it makes a really tasty pasta dish.  You can find a million recipes for pasta or spaghetti carbonara online, but I based mine off of the one I saw Lucinda Scala Quinn make on Mad Hungry.  

Pasta Carbonara

½ lb. spaghetti or other pasta
½ lb. bacon, sliced into ½” pieces
2 large eggs
⅔ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and cook the spaghetti. 

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until just crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain all but 1 tbsp of the fat. Drain the pasta, add to the bacon in the pan, and toss to combine.
Whisk together the eggs and cheese in a small bowl. Pour into the pasta, and combine thoroughly. 

Serve immediately with extra grated cheese, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

So simple and so tasty.  I just love how it only has four ingredients.  Easy peasy!  I actually already had some bacon that I cooked the day before, so I just chopped it up, melted 1 tbsp of the fat that I had stashed in the freezer, and tossed the vermicelli in it.  I was really worried that the eggs would scramble when I added them to the hot pasta, but they didn't.  They (along with the freshly grated cheese) just made a beautiful, creamy sauce.  You can't see it very well in the pictures, but it's there.  I was going to add a chiffonade of basil on top for garnish, but I forgot.

The only negative about this dish is that the leftovers aren't so great.  The pasta absorbs the sauce and it turns out kinda dry.  So don't plan to make more than you think you'll eat.  This dish is best served immediately.

I'm so glad I got this little push to finally try this yummy dish.  Check out all the other bacon and egg dishes below and come back next month to see what I make with cinnamon and sugar.

16 April 2013

So Saturday is my birthday, and since I don't know what I'll be doing that day, I thought I would go ahead and share a sweet treat with you today in celebration.  You know I love to make bars; they are so much easier than cookies.  These are some of the best bars I have ever made.  Very rich, very sweet, very indulgent.  I got the recipe from Greens & Chocolate.  They were called Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars, and used chocolate chips and toffee chips, but I didn't have enough chocolate chips the day I made these, so I substituted white chocolate chips for part of it, and oh yum!  The combination of the chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and toffee chips is amazing, so I named my version Triple Chip Bars.

Triple Chip Bars

2½ cups flour
⅔ cup brown sugar
¾ cup butter
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1½ cups white chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 oz.) package toffee baking bits, divided
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat 9x13" baking dish with baking spray.  Set aside.

In large bowl, stir together flour and brown sugar.  Cut in butter with pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add egg and mix well.  This part seems like it's not going to work but just keep mixing until egg is evenly distributed.  

Stir in white chocolate chips.  Reserve 1½ cups of mixture and press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  

Once partially baked, pour can of sweetened condensed milk over crust.  Reserve ¼ cup of toffee bits and sprinkle remaining toffee over milk layer in pan.  

Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture and chocolate chips over top.  Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Sprinkle with remaining toffee bits and cool completely.  

Makes 24 bars.

 I probably don't have to tell you how amazing these bars are.  I think the ingredient list and the photos speak for themselves!

I am totally going to ask for a pan of these in lieu of birthday cake this year!

11 April 2013

It's been a long time since I posted a new meatball recipe.  This is one that I created myself.  I guess I had made enough different meatball recipes to come up with one on my own.  I don't remember what inspired this particular creation, but it was definitely inspired!  These meatballs are made with ground turkey, and lots of garlic, as the name implies.  These are for all of you garlic lovers out there.

Garlic Turkey Meatballs

1 lb. ground turkey
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, grated

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, and garlic.  Mix until combined.  Form into 24 tablespoon-sized meatballs.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 4 servings, 6 meatballs each.

These meatballs are so tasty!  They do have a strong garlic flavor, but it's not bitey like raw garlic.  More of a mild cooked garlic flavor.  I like the consistency of them too.  They are compact and smooth, but not dense.  Just right.

The beauty of these babies is that they will go with pretty much any side you want to serve them with.  Mashed potatoes? Yep.  Spaghetti?  Yep.  Asian noodles?  Yep.  Your favorite risotto?  Yep.  Extremely versatile.

This is a great meatball recipe to have on hand since it uses basic ingredients that most likely always have in your pantry.  

07 April 2013

It's my favorite Monday of the month: Secret Recipe Club reveal day.  The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

I was so excited when I got my assignment for this month.  I was assigned to the blog penned by our group's lovely hostess, Jane.  Jane is a super sweet lady who is always there to help out and can be depended on for anything.  Jane is the reason Group A is the best group in the SRC.  (Not that I am biased or anything!) Jane's blog is called The Heritage Cook.  It is an amazing blog with a great variety of recipes.  Jane posts a chocolate recipe every Monday (gotta love that!), and has lots of yummy gluten-free recipes to offer.  It was so hard choosing which recipe to make! Since it was just before Easter that I was deciding, the first recipe to catch my eye was her Bourbon Glazed Ham.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to make a big Easter dinner this year, but I did buy a ham to stick in the freezer, so I am definitely trying that one soon.  Another one that interested me was her Peach Mustard Grilled Pork Chops, but I am currently grill-less (getting one this week though, yay!).  And then, of course, there are desserts.  I know it's the wrong season, but her Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars look so good! 

But you know, I love to cook seasonally, so I absolutely could not pass up the opportunity to make her Penne with Asparagus and Prosciutto in Lemon Cream Sauce.  Nothing says "spring!" more than tender asparagus, delicate prosciutto, and lemon.  If you read my blog last Wednesday, you probably already know that I like a little hint of lemon in my pasta (yeah, probably should have planned better and spaced these two recipes out a little, but oh well!).  But this takes the whole lemon pasta thing up a notch by adding fresh verdant asparagus and salty prosciutto to make it a main dish with a lot to offer.

Penne with Asparagus and Prosciutto in Lemon Cream Sauce

1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
6-8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. penne or other short cut pasta
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut asparagus spears into bite-sized pieces. Combine with the shallot and prosciutto; place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Transfer to oven and roast until nearly tender, about 15-20 minutes. (Timing will depend on the thickness of spears.) Remove from oven and set aside.

While asparagus is roasting, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil over high heat and add 2 tbsp kosher salt. Cook pasta until just barely al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

While pasta is cooking, combine the cream, garlic, butter, lemon juice, and zest in a large skillet,. Warm over medium heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and remove the garlic pieces and discard. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

Whisk ½ cup of the cheese into the sauce until smooth. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat thoroughly. Cook over medium heat for about 3 more minutes or until pasta is cooked through. Stir in the roasted asparagus, shallots, and prosciutto, tossing to combine and cook another minute to warm it through. Add a little of the cooking water at a time, if needed, to get the sauce to your desired consistency.

Transfer to serving platter, sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese and chives. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Isn't that a beautiful dish?  Oh my goodness, it is so good!  The lemon isn't overpowering (you can easily customize the amount of lemon to your preferences), and it pairs so well with the asparagus and the prosciutto.  And the grated cheese and snipped chives just take it over the top.

Asparagus, prosciutto, and shallots before roasting.

 And after.  I love how these roast at a lower temperature, so they don't get too brown and crispy.  I love brown and crispy, usually, but in this dish they are perfect just being tender but still keeping their gorgeous bright color.  

 I also loved the shallots in this dish.  I had never roasted shallots before; now I want to put roasted shallots in everything I make!

 I just love the colors in this dish.  

The lemon cream sauce is light and bright, with just the perfect amount of lemon and garlic.  It coats the pasta nicely without being thick and heavy.

Thanks for a great recipe, Jane! And for being the best hostess in the SRC! :)

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing.  Jane is a San Francisco Giants fan.  And since I am a Cardinals fan, I just have to ask: Jane, did you see the score from yesterday's game? Ouch! :)  I am seeing the Giants play the Brewers in Milwaukee next week, so I will give them a special cheer just for you!

05 April 2013

Do you still have ham leftover from Easter?  If so, I've got a great way to use it up.  You can make tasty muffins with it!  Savory muffins are a wonderful breakfast treat.  These go really well with eggs, or fruit, or even just to grab as you are walking out the door.  This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker.

Ham and Cheese Muffins

2 eggs
3 cups Bisquick
⅔ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
¾ cup ham 

Heat oven to 400°. Spray bottoms and sides of 12 regular-size muffin cups with baking spray. 

Beat eggs slightly in medium bowl with fork. Stir in Bisquick, milk, oil, and sour cream just until moistened. Stir in ¾ cup of the cheese and the ham. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese evenly over tops of muffins.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from pan. Serve warm. Refrigerate any remaining muffins.

Makes 12 muffins.

 You can make this with deli ham if you don't have any Easter ham leftover.  Good either way.  These muffins would also be great with cooked crumbled bacon in place of the ham.

  These muffins are more filling than their sweet counterparts because they are packed with protein.  They'll keep you going until lunchtime.

These would also make a great side dish when you're serving soup for supper.  Especially tomato soup or some other pureed vegetable soup.