Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chicken Pesto Pasta

I needed another excuse to use my food processor and have always wanted to make pesto, so this was the perfect opportunity. Jim is "allergic" to nuts like almonds, pecans, etc., so I used pistachios for this. He says pine nuts would be fine, but I didn't have any on hand, so pistachios it was.

For the chicken, I just roasted two bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts.

Pesto recipe
1-1/2 cups basil
1/2 cup parsley
zest of half a lemon
3 cloves garlic
1 cup pistachios
1/4 - 3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

I just whipped up the pesto, cooked up some pasta, cut up the chicken (once it was cooled a little) and mixed it all together in a pot. Add as much or as little pesto as you'd like...I used about half of what this made. I also added about half a cup of the pasta water to sort of loosen up the pesto a little and make it more sauce-like. It was delicious!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Holy crap, this was heaven! It was the perfect dessert for our Valentine's Day dinner. The only thing I changed was using Kahlua instead of rum. I thought we had rum, but apparently I was wrong. I made this the night before so it had time for the flavors to mingle, but oh sweet lord. I couldn't get enough of this. Not exactly the healthiest dish in the world

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
2 tablespoons rum (Kahlua)
2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies (I used one 7-oz package of Alessi Biscotti Savoiardi Lady Fingers)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.

In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum (Kahlua). Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise and drizzle with coffee mixture. (I laid the ladyfingers in the dish first and drizzled the coffee mixture on top of them).

Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish (I used an 8x8 dish). Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.

Ultimate Lasagna

So yesterday was Valentine's Day and I told Jim I'd make him his favorite...lasagna. I found a few recipes online, sent them to him and this is the one he picked. It called for cinnamon, which I was a little hesitant on adding, since I had added it to a meat dish once before and it was horrible. Jim told me to keep the recipe as it was and not change anything. Well it was really good, but you could definitely taste the cinnamon. I think next time I would just leave it out. We also cut the recipe in half since the original uses a 4-inch deep 13x9 pan. I just served this with a salad and some breadsticks.

1 pound dried lasagna noodles
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground Italian sausage - I used the Jennie-O Hot Lean Italian Turkey Style Sausage and removed the casings
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 carrots, chopped
1 stalks celery, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tbsp. chopped oregano leaves
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
1.2 tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 quart ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
Grated Parmesan and mozzarella, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook the lasagna noodles in plenty of boiling salted water until pliable and barely tender, about 10 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles thoroughly and coat with olive oil to keep them moist and easy to work with.

Coat a large skillet with olive oil, add beef and sausage and brown until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, an oregano. Process until pureed, add to the pan with the ground meat and stir to combine. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes and add the heavy cream and the cinnamon.

In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta and the parmesan. Stir in the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna: Coat the bottom of a deep 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce. Then, line each end of the pan with a lasagna noodle. This forms a collar that holds in the corners. Dollop 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, spread to the edges with a spatula. Spread 1/2 of the meat mixture over the ricotta. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Top with a ladle full of sauce, spread evenly. Repeat with the next layer of noodles, ricotta, sauce, and cheeses. Top last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pan to force out air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily.

Caramel Apple Pork Chops

Jim found this recipe. We had to change things up as we went along, but the end result was SO GOOD!

4 (3/4 inch) thick pork chops
1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 large Granny Smith apple - peeled, cored and sliced

Combine cider vinegar, salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag and add in pork chops. Let marinate for about 15 minutes. In a medium skillet, saute 2 small onions in butter and olive oil until really soft and tender. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. In the meantime, in another medium skillet, cook the pork chops, browning on both sides. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan with the onions, then add in the brown sugar mixture and the apples. Cover and cook until the apples are tender. At this point I removed the onions and apples, added in about 1/2 cup of apple juice and a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Once it had thickened, I added the apple mixture back to the pan.

We served these pork chops with, you guessed it, roasted asparagus, and brown rice.

Roasted chicken breasts

Not really rocket science here, but these chicken breasts were delish! I watch Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network sometimes, and this is how she always makes roasted chicken for dishes. I figured it was worth a try. They were so moist and juicy!

whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked.

We always use a meat thermometer to make sure the food is done and I think it took ours closer to 50 minutes to cook through.

We served the chicken with roasted asparagus and leftover pasta with cottage cheese on top. Gross you say? Try it! It's so good!

Artichokes in a Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce

It was one of those days where we had no idea what to make and were sort of limited on ingredients. I did a search for what ingredients we did have and this is what I found. We used thin spaghetti noodles instead, and Jim felt it necessary to use the entire box instead of half a box like I had planned. So there was A LOT of pasta. We also left out the butter, used parsley instead of basil, used marinated artichoke hearts and added red pepper to the mix.

1/2 pound uncooked pasta of your choice
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 (8 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook according to package instructions, until al dente, and drain. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Mix in the red pepper and artichoke hearts and cook until red pepper is tender. Add in the garlic and parsley and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Toss with the cooked pasta to serve.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Homemade" Pizza

Ok, well we really did want to make the pizza dough ourselves, but by the time we got home from the daily errands (a grocery store trip that took way too long) it was just too late to wait for dough to rise. Luckily we thought ahead and bought pre-made dough at the store. I did find a sauce recipe to use though.

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
6 fluid ounces warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, water (I used a small can of sauce instead of paste and water), Parmesan cheese, garlic, honey, anchovy paste, onion powder, oregano, marjoram, basil, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and salt; mix together, breaking up any clumps of cheese. Sauce should sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors; spread over pizza dough and prepare pizza as desired.

We added fresh mozzarella, ham, red onion, marinated artichoke hearts, and Jim put mushrooms on his half.

I can't remember what temp or how long we cooked the pizza, but we just followed the directions on the dough container.

When the pizza came out I added fresh basil on top as well.

This was definitely a different kind of pizza sauce than I was used to. I don't know if it had to do with the sauce I used instead of the paste, but definitely different. It was good though. And it was even better the next day as leftovers for lunch!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese stuffed Chicken Breast

Well we took out some what. We had some roasted red peppers and some of those Babybel cheeses hanging around, so I cut them up, rolled them up in the chicken (which we had pounded to thin them out) and threw them in the oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. After 30 minutes we checked them and decided they needed another 10 minutes. It was pretty good, but a stronger tasting cheese would be good...maybe next time.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shrimp, asparagus and quinoa

When we came home form work tonight, we were just going to eat whatever was leftover in the fridge. Well, there really wasn't much to choose from and I was starving! I looked around to see what we had and came up with this. We had some quinoa, frozen asparagus spears from Trader Joe's (not the best by the way...stick with fresh) and some shrimp. I decided to roast the asparagus, cook the shrimp scampi style, and then mixed everything together. It was quite yummy and Jim said it's a keeper. Score!

1 pound roasted asparagus - I just used olive oil, salt and pepper on these
Quinoa - cooked according to package (mine was 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups water - it basically cooks like rice)
1.5 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1/2 lemon

The asparagus and quinoa can cook at the same time since they'll both take about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and shrimp. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in wine and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds while stirring constantly.

Add the cooked shrimp (with a little of the leftover juice) and quinoa to a serving dish. Cut the roasted asparagus into 1.5-2 inch pieces and add those as well. Add in the parsley, a little bit more black pepper, a little salt to taste and the juice of half a lemon. Enjoy!

Hash Brown Casserole

So what better side dish for the shredded pork sandwiches than a nice, cheesy, carb-filled dish? This hash brown casserole wasn't the healthiest choice, but it was Super Bowl Sunday! So good!

1 (2 pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 cup melted butter
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups crushed cornflakes cereal - I used Ritz crackers instead
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, saute cornflakes (Ritz crackers) in 1/4 cup melted butter, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the casserole. Bake covered in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Shredded Pork

Jim decided to have his dad over to watch the Super Bowl so I thought it would be a good time to try and make shredded pork. He had bought a pork loin and cut half into chops and half into a roast. So it was about a 2-2.5 pound pork loin roast. He put a dry rub on it and let it sit, wrapped in plastic, overnight in the fridge. It doesn't need to sit that long, but it should sit for at least a few hours.

Ingredients for dry rub:

2 tbsp. kosher or coarse salt
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. dried tarragon (optional)

apple juice
BBQ sauce

Rub the roast with the dry rub and let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours to overnight.

When it comes time to cook the roast, add enough apple juice so that it is 1/2" up the side of the crockpot liner. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Once cooked through, remove the roast, discard the liquid, and shred the pork using two forks. Return the pork to the crockpot and add your favorite BBQ sauce. We ended up using an entire bottle (16 oz) of Stubbs BBQ sauce. It can sit in there on low until you're ready to eat.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oat 'n' Toffee Grahams

So Jim decided to have his dad over to watch the Super Bowl since we didn't have any plans. I wanted to make something sweet and came across this quick and easy dish. OMG, so yummy!

12 graham crackers
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tbsp. flour
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces - I had half a leftover package and added in a Hershey bar
1/2 cup whole smoked almonds, coarsely chopped - I left these out

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 15x10x1 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil beyond edges of pan. Arrange whole graham crackers in a single layer in pan. In a large bowl, combine oats, sugars, and flour. Stir in melted butter, egg and vanilla until well combined. Spoon over graham crackers and spread evenly to edges of pan to cover graham crackers. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until oat mixture bubbles and is lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and sprinkle with almonds and chocolate pieces. Pop the pan back into the over for another minute or two then remove from oven and spread the chocolate out a little, as best you can. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift from pan. Remove foil. Cut or break into bars.

Chicken Florentine Artichoke Bake

This is definitely a grown-up casserole. I know there's a lot of people that hate casseroles, but I would definitely give this one a try. This is a recipe I clipped from my Better Homes and Gardens magazine (who know how long ago) that we finally decided to make. We will definitely be making this again. The only change I made was using roasted red peppers instead of the tomatoes because a) Jim couldn't find them at the store and b) Jim isn't a HUGE fan of tomatoes.

8 oz dried bow tie pasta
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1/2 cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and chopped - this is where I used roasted red peppers instead
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In medium skillet cook onion in 1 tbsp butter over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside. In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir in chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, half of the Parmesan, cooked pasta, and onion. Transfer to 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. In small bowl combine remaining Parmesan, bread crumbs, paprika, and melted butter. Sprinkle mixture over pasta. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes more or until golden.