28 May 2013

How was your Memorial Day weekend?  I hope the weather was better where you are than it was here in Wisconsin.  Cold!  And now it's getting warmer but it's supposed to rain ALL WEEK LONG.  Ugh!  I'm definitely not loving this spring.  So ready for summer!

I have a great recipe for you today.  Yummy cornbread topped with taco-seasoned chicken, black beans, and cheese, and drizzled with a super tasty ranch tomatillo sauce.  Really easy to throw together and a definite crowd pleaser.  I got the idea from Barbara Bakes, but ended up changing it quite a bit.  Do you remember my Mexican Deep Dish Pan Pizza?  This is similar to that, but with chicken instead of beef and a different sauce.

Chicken Taco Cornbread Wedges

½ cup ranch dressing
½ cup tomatillo salsa, aka salsa verde
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped            
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
¾ cup milk
1 egg
1 cup corn
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 tbsp taco seasoning
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp taco sauce
1½ cups shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.  Coat a 12” oven-safe nonstick skillet with baking spray.

Combine ranch dressing, salsa, and cilantro leaves in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Combine cornbread mix, milk, and egg in a medium bowl.  Stir in corn.  Pour batter into prepared skillet. 

Put chicken in another medium bowl.  Season with taco seasoning.  Stir in black beans and taco sauce.  Pour chicken/bean mixture evenly over the cornbread batter.  Top with cheese. 

Bake for 18 minutes or until cornbread begins to brown. Cut into 8 wedges.  Drizzle with dressing.

Makes 4 servings, 2 wedges each.

Here it is without the sauce so you can see what's going on.

These wedges are so good!  I love the combination of the slightly sweet cornbread, spicy chicken, and creamy sauce.  Amazing.  My kids loved it too.  And the beauty of it is that you can customize it any way you want.  Add anything that sounds good to the chicken filling.  Onions, peppers, olives.  And Barbara topped hers with lettuce and tomato to make it more like a taco pizza.  It would be good that way too.  You may notice that there is no cilantro in my ranch tomatillo sauce.  It's because I was out of cilantro that day.  But I will definitely add that next time.

I suggest covering the handle of your skillet with an oven mitt after you take it out of the oven.  It never fails: I always grab the handle while cutting and serving because I forget that it's hot.  So please, be careful!

I know that this recipe will end up in regular rotation in my house.  It's the perfect use for leftover roasted chicken.  It would even be good with leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.

21 May 2013

My husband and I always get obsessed with grilling out this time of year.  We've been going through the charcoal like crazy.  We do chicken a lot, but yesterday we mixed it up a little by grilling some thin cut pork chops.  My friend Brenda saw some coffee-marinated something in Food Network magazine and it reminded me that I had tried coffee-marinated pork chops once.  I dug the recipe out and my note on it said that we really liked them.  So I decided to make them again.  This is adapted from a Taste of Home recipe.

Coffee Molasses Grilled Pork Chops

½ cup double-strength brewed coffee
¼ cup molasses
¼ tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
4 bone-in pork chops

In a small bowl, combine the coffee, molasses, thyme, vinegar, mustard, salt, and ginger.  Pour the marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add the pork chops.  Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Drain and discard marinade. Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, lightly coat the grill rack. Grill chops, covered, over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a thermometer reads 145°. Let meat stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

This is a super simple recipe, but so tasty.  The pork chops don't come out tasting like coffee.  Really, they don't.  The molasses is more noticeable.  It doesn't make the chops sweet, but it lends a lot of flavor to them, especially along the edges.  The vinegar in the marinade makes them very tender.  I use decaf coffee, so as not to give my kids a post-dinner caffeine rush, although I'm not sure very much of it would transfer to the chops.  Better safe than sorry, I say!  Two hours is plenty of time for thin chops like I used, but if you have thick-cut chops, I would marinate them a little longer.

The original recipe called for boiling the marinade instead of discarding it and making a gravy out of it.  The note I wrote on the recipe the first time I made it (back in February of 2012) said, "Gravy is gross-don't bother."  So I didn't.  They really don't need a gravy anyway.  They are plenty tender and moist and flavorful enough on their own.

We had these with our go-to grilled side dish, Foil Pack Potatoes, and some lima beans.  My almost three-year-old, who doesn't usually touch pork chops, asked for seconds.  That's a winner in my book!

I know we'll be making these several times throughout this grilling season. Thanks so much Brenda, for reminding me about this recipe!

16 May 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 cinnamon and sugar.  Hmm.  Cinnamon and sugar.  Of course, I wanted to think beyond baked goods with this challenge.  I tried to come up with something savory that contained cinnamon and sugar, but it wasn't easy.  I scanned my Pinterest boards for inspiration, and finally came upon a pin for this recipe on Coconut and Lime.  It's a homemade barbecue sauce.  I have made homemade barbecue sauce before: a basic one, and then last year I made Mango Barbecue Sauce for the Eating the Alphabet challenge.  This one is really interesting because it doesn't use a tomato product as the base.  But you would never know it.  The base is apple butter.  

Apple Butter Barbecue Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, diced
1½ cups apple butter
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp garlic powder
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tsp mesquite liquid smoke
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp hot sauce 

Heat oil in a saucepan.  Sauté onion until it begins to soften.  Add remaining ingredients.  Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.  You can use it as it is now, or you can simmer it on the lowest setting until heated through and thickened slightly. Allow to cool.

Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes about 2 cups.

 Of course, how it turns out depends largely on the apple butter you use.  I had never made apple butter before, so I bought some at the store.  I only had time to hit the regular grocery store, so I ended up with Musselman's.  If I had more time that day, I would have gone to the Cheese Castle, because they have an awesome selection of specialty jams, jellies, and all kinds of condiments.  I bet they would have some really good apple butter there.  But it was just fine with the Musselman's.  I put 1-2 tbsp of brown sugar in the recipe because how much you need will depend on how sweet your apple butter is.  The Musselman's is pretty sweet.  I used 2 tbsp, and it did turn out pretty sweet, but that's okay because that's how my husband likes it.  I did add a tiny bit of hot sauce to counter the sweetness.  I used Clancy's Fancy, which I got in my Taste of Michigan swag bag.  It was perfect for this because it's really smoky-tasting.

I thought the best way to try this barbecue sauce out was on some grilled chicken. 

 It was fabulous.  I served it with my Foil Pack Potatoes and some corn.

This is really good barbecue sauce!  The apple and cinnamon make for a very interesting flavor that is perfect for chicken or pork.

Homemade barbecue sauce is so easy to make and it really adds a nice touch to your summer grilling.

Check out all the other cinnamon and sugar recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with fish and chips.  Oh boy!

14 May 2013

A whole new world has been opened up to me.  (Do you have that dorky Disney song in your head now? Sorry!)  What is this new world I speak of?  Baked oatmeal.  I have seen lots of recipes for it, and it always looks and sounds really good, but I had never tried it before.  I decided to finally give it a try this weekend, and it turned out to be a special Mother's Day treat I gave myself!  I had some frozen peaches that needed to be used up, so I googled "peach baked oatmeal" and found a post on Becky Bakes.  (I happened to notice that it was posted on the day my youngest daughter was born. It was meant to be!)  She originally made the oatmeal with blueberries, and then had to post again when she tried it with peaches because it was just so good.  I changed her recipe just slightly; here's my version.

Peach Baked Oatmeal

4 tbsp butter, melted
2 ½ cups peaches, fresh or frozen (partially thawed), chopped
4 tbsp brown sugar, divided
¾ cup milk (I use vanilla soy)
½ cup honey
2  eggs 
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Pour butter into the bottom of an 8” or 9” square baking dish. Sprinkle peaches and 2 tbsp brown sugar on top of the butter. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, honey, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  In a large bowl, whisk together oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour over the fruit and smooth the top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tbsp brown sugar.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until browned on top and fruit is bubbly. Allow to cool slightly. Serve as-is, or with milk or cream. 

Makes 6 servings.

To make ahead: Assemble as directed, excluding the 2 tbsp of brown sugar on top.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, remove dish from fridge and preheat oven.  Uncover, sprinkle with 2 tbsp brown sugar, and bake as directed.

Oh my goodness, this was amazing!  It's perfect because the oats on the bottom get all soft and yummy, mixed with the fruit and the butter, and the oats on top keep their shape and get kind of crunchy.  It's the best of both worlds!  The main change I made to Becky's recipe was to use canola oil instead of another 1/2 cup of butter.  It was perfect that way, and slightly healthier. I also used more fruit than she did.

My husband and five-year-old daughter loved this.  My almost three-year-old wasn't impressed, but I'm not sure she's ever had oatmeal before, so she probably just needs to get used to it.

There are several great things about this recipe.  One: I love how it can be made ahead of time.  I'm not a morning person, so putting together a dish like this (easy as it is), is not what I want to do first thing when I wake up.  It's so easy to put together the night before, then just pop in the oven when you wake up.  Perfect.  I will probably make it an 8x8" next time, mostly because my 8" dish has a lid and my 9" dish doesn't.  Two: You can make this with any fruit you want.  I told my daughter we would do blueberries next because they are her favorite.  I also want to try it with strawberries.  It would be good with apples too.  And you can use fresh or frozen.  I used frozen peaches that I had partially thawed.  I'll update this post with more pics as I try it with other fruits.

Update: This is really good with cranberries!

Cranberry Baked Oatmeal

For the cranberry oatmeal, chop up 2 cups of fresh cranberries and use them in place of the peaches above.  (I pulsed them in my little 3 cup handy chopper.)  Everything else is the same.  I thought it might need more brown sugar since the cranberries are more tart than the peaches, but it was just fine the way it was.  My daughters loved this.  Here are some pics of them enjoying it.

Three-year-old Eva gobbled hers up and asked for more.

Five-year-old Lena loved hers too.

I know this will be going into regular rotation at our house from now on.

Come back on Thursday to see my post for this month's Improv Challenge.  This month's ingredients were cinnamon and sugar, but I didn't go the baking route.  I made something that you can use lots of this summer.

11 May 2013

Have you decided what you are doing for your mother or wife for Mother's Day tomorrow?  If your plans include cooking for her, I have a great recipe for you.  All the flavors of spinach artichoke dip in a quiche!  I love getting creative with quiche and this is one I created last fall.  I went to the store not knowing what kind of quiche I wanted to make and while I was there inspiration struck. Spinach artichoke.  I created this recipe and it turned out really well.

Spinach Artichoke Quiche

1 (9”) refrigerated pie shell
6 eggs
¼ cup Savory Garlic Cooking Crème
½ cup quartered artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ cup shredded mozzarella or Swiss cheese
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9” pie plate with baking spray.  Remove pie shell from fridge and let come to room temperature.

Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl.  Add cooking crème and whisk until smooth.  Stir in artichoke hearts, spinach, cheese, and salt.

Line the pie plate with the pie crust and crimp edges.  Pour egg mixture into pie shell.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until eggs are set.

Makes 6 servings.

Tasty and pretty too.  And very easy to make.  Your favorite mom will love it!

Here are some more quiche recipes for your Mother's Day perusal:

10 May 2013

Today I have for you a super easy and fun dinner that your family will love.  Chicken, broccoli, and cheese baked inside a biscuit cup.  Isn't it cute?  I got the recipe from my friend, Brenda.

Chicken Broccoli Cups

2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded 
1½ cups shredded cheese, divided
2 cups small broccoli florets
2 tsp dried dill (I use the Pampered Chef's All-Purpose Dill Mix)
½ cup mayo
6 Grands refrigerated biscuits

Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat a jumbo muffin tin with baking spray.  

Take each biscuit and flatten it out, either with a rolling pin or just with your fingers.  Line each muffin cup with a biscuit, creating a cup shape. 

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the chicken, 1 cup cheese, broccoli, dill, and mayo.  Fill each biscuit cup with the chicken mixture.  Top with the remaining ½ cup cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuit cups are golden brown.

Makes 6 servings.

This recipe is not only super easy, but it's easy to customize it.  You can use whatever kind of cheese you like.  I used my favorite shredded cheese, Kraft's Mexican blend.  Brenda used white cheddar.  I think it would be good with Swiss too.

The biscuit part is flexible too.  Brenda used the garlic butter variety of crescent rolls (yum!), but I happened to have some Grands on hand the day I made these so that's what I used.  Use whatever you have.

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken from roasting or if you snagged a rotisserie chicken from the store.  I didn't have any leftover chicken when I made this, and I was feeling lazy and used a can of Hormel chicken.  That works too.

If you keep your broccoli pieces small, they don't need to be precooked.  They come out perfectly in the 15 minutes they are in the oven.

I loved this recipe so much that I used the same method with a different filling.  I combined ground beef, baked beans, and barbecue sauce for that one.  It was terrific too; check out my Barbecue Beef and Bean Cups.

Thanks so much Brenda for a terrific recipe!

05 May 2013

Today is reveal day for The Secret Recipe Club. 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.

This month I was assigned the blog The Saturday Evening Pot.  It's written by a chef and his lovely wife. I saw a few recipes there that I would like to try.  Their Smothered Pecan Crusted Chicken with Apple Butter sounds amazing.  But, it's the wrong time of year.  Can't wait to try that in the fall.  I was also interested in their Poor Man's Fried Rice as I love fried rice.  But ultimately I couldn't resist remaking their Squash and Goat Cheese Casserole.  I kept the original ingredients and just changed the method slightly to produce a sauteed dish instead of a casserole.  Here's my version.

Summer Squash with Bacon and Goat Cheese

4 strips bacon, chopped
½ large onion, diced
4 medium summer squash, cut into ½” slices
Salt, to taste
½ cup herbed goat cheese, crumbled

Cook bacon in a large skillet until the fat renders.  Add onion and sauté until the onion begins to soften.  (If your bacon doesn't render much fat, add some olive oil to the pan at this point.)  Add the summer squash and cook on medium-high heat until it has reached desired tenderness.  Remove from skillet onto a serving dish.  Top with crumbled goat cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

The only real difference between The Chef's recipe and mine (besides my addition of onions) is that he cooked his squash down all the way and mashed it.  I'm sure it's terrific that way, but I wanted to try it keeping the squash intact.  I love summer squash and I usually like it with a little bite left to it.  And I knew I had a great chance of my kids eating it if it wasn't complete mush. 

It's a very simple recipe, but so amazing!  The combination of flavors is incredible; the summery yellow squash, the salty bacon, and the slightly sweet goat cheese go together so well.  And doesn't it make a pretty side dish?  We had this with grilled chicken thighs and Smoked Paprika Teeny Tiny Potatoes.  It made for one amazing spring dinner.

My husband could not stop raving about this dish!  Which is pretty good considering he's not a big veggie lover.  He absolutely loved this.  I think he would have eaten the whole platter if I had let him.  I don't usually put bacon with my veggies, not because it isn't awesome, but because I really do try not to be nutritionally naughty!, so I probably won't make this too often, but it's great for a special treat.  Especially if you are entertaining.

Thanks for a great recipe!

Be sure to check out all the other great Secret Recipe Club recipes below.

03 May 2013

It's the final day of Cinco de Mayo week.  I have really enjoyed sharing these easy, family-friendly Mexican meals with you this week.  It's only fitting to finish the week off on a sweet note.  This is a really easy dessert to put together.  While definitely not "traditional" Mexican fare, it's inspired by the Mexican treat "churros", which are fried pastries coated in cinnamon sugar.  This dessert pairs the flavors of a churro with a simple cheesecake filling.  I got the recipe from The Recipe Critic.

Churro Cheesecake Bars

1 cup sugar, divided
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 cans (8 oz. each) cans refrigerated seamless dough sheet
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Coat a 9x13” baking dish with baking spray.

Mix together ½ cup sugar and the cinnamon.  Sprinkle half of it (about ¼ cup) evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Unroll one of the crescent dough sheets and lay it over the cinnamon sugar. 

Beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, egg, and remaining ½ cup sugar until smooth.  Spread evenly over the dough.  Unroll the other crescent dough and lay it on top of the cheesecake filling.  Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar evenly over the top.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Let cool before cutting.

Can be served warm or cold.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 24 bars.

Remember those seamless crescent roll sheets I was going on and on about yesterday?  This is another fantastic use for them.  No worrying about getting the seams pinched together.

These things are so good!  I love the cinnamon sugar on the dough.  It's almost like an elephant ear.  And I love how it's on the bottom as well as the top.  So yummy.  The cheesecake filling is just perfect.  Creamy, but not too heavy.

I made these when we had friends over last Sunday and they loved them.  They are the perfect finish to any yummy Mexican meal.


Cinco de Mayo Week Recipes:

Links to all of my other Mexican Recipes:

Sarah from The Pajama Chef chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in August 2013.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

02 May 2013

Today is Day Four of my Cinco de Mayo week.  Have you been enjoying these Mexican recipes?  The one I have for you today is probably more of a "Tex-Mex" meal.  It's really easy to put together and your family will love it.  It's a baked dish with crescent roll dough on the bottom, ground turkey and chili beans in the middle, and melty cheese on top.  It's slightly adapted from Pillsbury.

Mexican Turkey Crescent Bake

¼ large onion, diced
1lb. ground turkey
1 (15 oz.) can beans in chili sauce, undrained
1 tbsp taco seasoning or half of a packet
1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1½ cups shredded cheese
Sour cream, for topping

Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat a 9x13” baking dish with baking spray.

In a large skillet, sauté onions until almost tender.  Add turkey and cook until no longer pink.  Add beans and taco seasoning. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. 

Place dough in baking dish; press over bottom of pan to form crust. Spoon turkey mixture evenly over dough; sprinkle with cheese. 

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Top with sour cream, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Of course, you can make this with ground beef if you prefer.  It would be great either way.  It would probably also work with shredded or cubed chicken.  The original recipe called for "black beans in chipotle sauce with corn and red peppers".  I had never seen that before, so I just used chili beans.  It would be good with some corn thrown in there too.

Have you used those seamless dough sheets?  They are the same thing as a roll of crescent dough, but without the perforations.  Pillsbury apparently realized that cooks use crescent rolls for so much more than the actual rolls, and these seamless dough sheets are awesome.  No pinching the seams together.  I have made several different varieties of "bakes" with them.  This was the first, I think.  I've also made a meatball sub bake that is awesome.  Then I made a creamy tuna bake with it.  It's a very handy thing to have on hand for a quick dinner made with whatever you happen to have in the fridge or pantry.  (And no, this is not a sponsored post; I just really like these seamless dough sheets!)

Tomorrow I will finish up Cinco de Mayo Week with a yummy dessert.

Cinco de Mayo Week Recipes:

Links to all of my other Mexican recipes:

01 May 2013

It's Day Three of Cinco de Mayo week here and today I've got a great copycat recipe for you.  My husband's favorite menu item at Taco Bell is their Grilled Stuffed Burrito.  So when I saw a recipe for making it at home, I had to try it.  Good thing too, because I don't think Taco Bell offers the regular grilled stuffed burrito anymore.  They have a new "XXL" version that has guacamole and pico de gallo, which my husband doesn't like.  So now I can make his favorite at home.  It's cheaper and healthier that way too, of course.  I got the recipe from Semi-Homemade Mom.

Grilled Stuffed Burritos

1 pkg. Spanish Rice (and the ingredients to prepare)
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp homemade taco seasoning or 1 packet
1 can refried beans
2 cups shredded cheese
Taco sauce
12 larege flour tortillas
Sour cream, for serving

Prepare Spanish rice according to package directions; set aside.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a pan over medium heat, drain the excess grease, mix in taco seasoning.  Stir in refried beans. 

Preheat panini press or indoor grill.  On a tortilla, spread a heaping spoonful of meat filling. Top with a good scoop of rice and sprinkle with cheese. Top with taco sauce.  Wrap up burrito style and grill for 5 minutes. Serve with sour cream if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

Here are a few pics of the layering process:

Start with bean/meat mixture.

Then some rice. You can certainly use homemade Mexican rice if you have a good recipe. If not, the packet is super easy.

Taco sauce.  You can use salsa if you prefer.

Then finish it with cheese.

Fold it.

Wrap it up.

Mine turned out kind of square.  Make the blob of meat mixture more long and skinny for a more traditional burrito shape.

I use my handy dandy panini press.  You could also use a Foreman grill or a grill pan on the stove.  (Just remember that it will only have grill marks on one side.)

Grilled to perfection.

Tomorrow I will be sharing with you a baked Tex-Mex dish that your whole family will love.

Cinco de Mayo Week Recipes:

Links to all of my other Mexican recipes: