Monday, January 31, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Herb Rub

Roasted Chicken with Herb Rub

Serves 4.

I think this was the first time I've cooked with whole chicken pieces. We aren't usually huge fans of eating meat off the bone (besides ribs and chicken wings of course!) but this turned out great. The herb rub smelled delicious as I was putting it together.
Source: Everyfood Food magazine

1 whole chicken (3-1/2 to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
coarse salt and ground pepper

Herb Rub:
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 T. finely grated orange zest
2 T. fresh orange juice
1 medium bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a food processor, combine garlic cloves, fresh ginger, jalapeno, orange zest and orange juice, and process until finely chopped. Add cilantro and olive oil; process until finely chopped, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides as needed.

Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and coat all over with herb rub. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, skin side up, until chicken is cooked through, about 35-45 minutes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brown Bean Chowder

Brown Bean Chowder

Serves 3.

Very similar to chili, but with fewer beans and no chunky tomatoes. Like chili, top with sour cream and shredded cheddar.
Adapted from:

1 lb. ground beef
1 t. minced garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1-1/2 c. tomato puree
1/2 c. vegetable broth
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Brown ground beef in a saucepan. When about halfway cooked through, drain any excess fat and add chopped onion and minced garlic. Continue cooking until ground beef is fully cooked and onions are tender and garlic is fragrant.

Add chili powder, salt, and pepper; mix to combine. Add tomato puree and vegetable broth; stir. Add pinto beans; stir.

Bring to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer. The longer the soup simmers, the more the flavors will combine.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spinach Manicotti

Spinach Manicotti

Serves 4-5.

Don't you love it when healthy food tastes awesome??? The original recipe says to use 8 manicotti shells, but I found the filling went further than expected.
Source: Everyday Food magazine

coarse salt and ground pepper
10 manicotti shells (from an 8-oz. package)
1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
1 container (15 oz.) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese (2 oz.)
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 c. prepared marinara sauce
1/4 t. dried oregano
2 T. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain well and arrange in a single layer on an oiled rimmed baking sheet.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and lemon zest. Stir in spinach and season filling with salt and pepper.

Transfer filling to a large zip-top plastic bag. Twist and squeeze bag so filling is in one corner. With scissors, snip a 3/4" opening in corner. Pipe filling into both ends of each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells in an 8" square baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together marinara sauce, oregano, and cream. Pour sauce evenly over stuffed shells and top with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake until sauce in center of dish is bubbling and Parmesan is browned in spots, about 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

A Note From The Little Lady: If dish has been made ahead of time and refrigerated, increase baking time to 50-60 minutes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

A classic mystery novel that's been around for years. It's undergone name changes and has even been developed into a video game. Who's the murderer? Can you solve the mystery? review:

Considered the best mystery novel ever written by many readers, And Then There Were None is the story of 10 strangers, each lured to Indian Island by a mysterious host. Once his guests have arrived, the host accuses each person of murder. Unable to leave the island, the guests begin to share their darkest secrets--until they begin to die.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

Chicken and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

Serves 2.

A meal we both loved!
Adapted From: Everyday Food magazine

1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1 breast), cut into small pieces
1/2 t. minced garlic
1/8 t. cayenne powder
coarse salt and black pepper
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 corn tortillas, warmed and halved
1 c. salsa
3/4 c. shredded cheese, such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican blend

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring often, until cooked through. Add garlic and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Add black beans and stir to combine. Cook until beans are warmed through, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Arrange 3 tortilla halves in a baking dish. Top with half the bean mixture and 1/4 cup salsa, then sprinkle with one-third of the cheese. Repeat with another layer of tortilla halves, bean mixture, salsa, and cheese. Top with remaining tortilla halves, salsa, and cheese. Cover with foil and bake until center is hot and cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is bubbling, 5 minutes.

Two Notes From The Little Lady:
1. The original recipe is for mushroom (not chicken) and black bean tortilla casserole. Create that by subbing 1/3 lb. cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered, for the chicken.

2. I don't think I followed the layering instructions perfectly. As long as you make layers of tortillas with the bean mixture, cheese, and salsa in between, you'll be golden. If nothing else, make sure you have shredded cheese as the final top layer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fresh Pasta Sauce for One

Fresh Pasta Sauce for One

Serves 1.

You've got tomatoes and a few veggies to use up. You don't have anything planned for dinner. It's just you. Try making this.

1 t. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. diced onion
1/2 t. minced garlic
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
3 miniature carrots, diced
1/4 c. diced cauliflower
3 oz. uncooked linguine

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add onion and garlic; heat until fragrant and the onions are tender. Toss in tomatoes, carrots, and cauliflower; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until flavors combine and vegetables are tender, about 15-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook linguine according to package directions. Serve sauce over cooked pasta.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Take 5: Easy Breakfasts

I know you've heard it before, but breakfast is such an important meal of the day! Few of us have time to cook up a full-fledged breakfast, but there are plenty options out there that give you energy and nutrients without requiring much of your time.

1. Peanut Butter and Banana Wrap

This is my ultimate go-to. I have it at least once a week, every week.

On a whole wheat wrap, spread peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, your choice!) and then top with sliced banana (you'll only need 1/3-1/2 of a banana). Roll up and enjoy!

2. Cottage Cheese with (Homemade) Preserves and (Fresh) Fruit

Cottage cheese has tons of protein, did you know that? I was wary of it for a while. It looks funny, it's called cheese, but you mix it with fruit? Once I got over my hesitations, though, I realized it's a great addition to my line-up!

Top 1 cup of cottage cheese with fruit preserves and/or chopped fresh fruit. We are lucky enough to get homemade preserves from The Mr.'s grandmother, but Smucker's works just as well.

3. Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sammies

A diner classic. A prefect addition to your weekly line-up.

Scramble two eggs. Top with a slice of cheese and allow to melt. Transfer to a toasted sandwich bun (or croissant, English muffin, or bagel) and top with one crisp bacon slice, halved into two pieces. If your mornings are typically rushed, make this in the evening, refrigerate over night, and pop in the microwave in the morning. It's not quite as good, but it works!

4. Frozen Yoplait Smoothies

These are new on the market. Just blend the frozen chunks of smoothie, fruity goodness with milk and you've got yourself a fresh-tasting smoothie. Here's the Yoplait description. What's pictured is the Mixed Berry flavor.

5. PB & Banana on Toasted English Muffin

I, for one, can't get enough of the peanut butter and banana combination. And before you claim that this is a copy-cat of #1, please note that it's not! First of all, a toasted English muffin offers a slight crunch, and the fact that it's piping hot when you spread the peanut butter makes for an extra creamy, warm delight. And, with this breakfast, you kinda get two for the price of one. :)

Toast an English muffin; spread with peanut butter, and top with sliced banana (about 1/2 of one regular banana).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

Serves 2.

I was surprised how well the cottage cheese worked in this recipe. And when you consider all the ingredients, this is a protein-packed, good-for-you meal!
Slightly adapted from: Everyday Food magazine

1 c. low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 flour tortillas, fajita size
nonstick cooking spray
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 small white onion, diced small (1/4 c. reserved for serving)
2 t. chili powder
1 T. white vinegar
1/2 can (7.5 oz.) tomato puree
1 c. vegetable broth
fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, process cottage cheese until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in black beans. Season with salt and pepper.

Working with one tortilla at a time, lightly spray both sides with cooking spray, and place 1/3 of bean and cheese mixture down center of each. Roll tortilla around filling and place, seam side down, in a baking dish. Bake tortillas until heated through, about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, 5 minutes. Add chili powder and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Whisk in vinegar, tomato puree, and broth; bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids).

To serve, divide enchiladas among two plates. Top with sauce, and sprinkle with onion and fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

What a great little read. The whole story is written from the mindset of a dog, and he, Enzo, takes you through his life. Starting from the time he was a puppy through the struggles of his aging body, he reflects on the life he witnessed and all that has impacted him. If you have a dog, or once had a dog, you should pick this up.

Publishers Weekly review from

If you've ever wondered what your dog is thinking, Stein's third novel offers an answer. Enzo is a lab terrier mix plucked from a farm outside Seattle to ride shotgun with race car driver Denny Swift as he pursues success on the track and off. Denny meets and marries Eve, has a daughter, Zoƫ, and risks his savings and his life to make it on the professional racing circuit. Enzo, frustrated by his inability to speak and his lack of opposable thumbs, watches Denny's old racing videos, coins koanlike aphorisms that apply to both driving and life, and hopes for the day when his life as a dog will be over and he can be reborn a man. When Denny hits an extended rough patch, Enzo remains his most steadfast if silent supporter. Enzo is a reliable companion and a likable enough narrator, though the string of Denny's bad luck stories strains believability. Much like Denny, however, Stein is able to salvage some dignity from the over-the-top drama. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chicken Fajita Wrap

Chicken Fajita Roll-Up

Makes 2 wraps.

Looking to use up your leftover chicken after fajita night? Make this scrumptious wrap -- it makes a great packed lunch or an easy dinner.
Inspired by: Kraft Foods

2 flour tortillas
1 c. leftover fajita chicken
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded lettuce
1/8 c. Ranch dressing
1/8 c. salsa

Prepare tortillas by spreading equal amounts of Ranch dressing and salsa on each. Top each equally with leftover chicken, shredded cheddar, and shredded lettuce. Cut in half and serve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cheeseburger Soup: Revisited

Cheeseburger Soup: Revisited

Serves 6-8.

I made this a while back, but at the time, felt it was lacking something. Well, I've figured it out and now I think it's fantastic! Bacon, bacon, bacon!
Here's the original recipe, but look below for the new and updated version.

1/2 lb. ground beef
3/4 c. chopped onion
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried parsley
3 T. butter
3 c. chicken broth
4 c. peeled, cubed potatoes
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. shredded (or cubed) cheddar cheese
1-1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. sour cream
7 strips bacon, chopped

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until just beginning to crisp. Remove bacon from pot, but leave bacon drippings. Add ground beef and onion to pot and cook until beef is cooked through and onions are tender and fragrant. Stir in basil and parsley. Add broth and potatoes. Bring to boil, and then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Melt the butter in a separate bowl and stir in flour. Add the milk, stirring until smooth.

Gradually add milk mixture to soup pot, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in cheese and bacon. When cheese is melted, stir in sour cream. Heat through, but do not boil

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fajita Seasoning Mix

Fajita Seasoning Mix

Makes the equivalent of one store-bought packet.

This is a great thing to have on hand. I eliminated a few ingredients that I didn't have -- and that you might not either? -- such as crushed chicken bouillon cube.
Looking for taco seasoning? Click here!
Adapted from:

1 T. cornstarch
2 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. onion powder
1/8 t. ground cumin
dash crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. water
1 to 1-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 T. olive oil

Combine all ingredients, except for water, chicken, and olive oil, to create seasoning.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook chicken strips in olive oil, until cooked through. Add seasoning to skillet and toss to coat. Add water, a little bit at a time (you may not need an entire 1/2 cup), to combine flavors.

Serve with all your favorite fajita fixings!

A Note From The Little Lady: When the chicken was just about cooked, I added in 1 cup of sliced onions before seasoning. It proved to be a great addition! You could also add green/red sliced peppers at this point too.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Handle With Care

Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

I love Jodi Picoult's novels. I can't read them back-t0-back as I feel they are often similar, no matter how different their storylines. But spaced out, they are perfect. I always find myself engrossed in the story, and I usually learn a lot too. I wouldn't say this is Picoult's best work, but it's still a great read.

Publishers Weekly review from

Starred Review. Perennial bestseller Picoult (Change of Heart) delivers another engrossing family drama, spiced with her trademark blend of medicine, law and love. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe's daughter, Willow, was born with brittle bone disease, a condition that requires Charlotte to act as full-time caregiver and has strained their emotional and financial limits. Willow's teenaged half-sister, Amelia, suffers as well, overshadowed by Willow's needs and lost in her own adolescent turmoil. When Charlotte decides to sue for wrongful birth in order to obtain a settlement to ensure Willow's future, the already strained family begins to implode. Not only is the defendant Charlotte's longtime friend, but the case requires Charlotte and Sean to claim that had they known of Willow's condition, they would have terminated the pregnancy, a statement that strikes at the core of their faith and family. Picoult individualizes the alternating voices of the narrators more believably than she has previously, and weaves in subplots to underscore the themes of hope, regret, identity and family, leading up to her signature closing twists. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Take 5: Easy Weeknight Meals

Let's face it... not every night is a cooking night. I consider there to be three different types of nights, actually.
1) Full-blown cooking: A well-balanced meal that I spent a decent amount of time on
2) Half-hearted attempts: What you see here. Still kind of homemade, but surprising easy, and requiring few ingredients.
3) Cook? Me?: Lean Cuisines, Hot Pockets, cereal, etc.

1. BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Marinate one chicken breast in your favorite BBQ sauce for a few hours, or overnight. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven and shred chicken with two forks. Serve on buns with additional BBQ sauce.

2. Easy Chicken Tacos

Marinate one large chicken breast in taco sauce for at least a few hours. Grill or pan fry until fully cooked and no longer pink in the middle.

Serve with taco fixin's: lettuce, shredded cheddar, red onion, diced tomato, taco sauce, sour cream, and guacamole.

3. BBQ Chicken Salads:

Mixed greens topped with thinly sliced red onion, crumbled blue cheese, croutons, sliced BBQ chicken, and tossed in ranch dressing.

Marinate chicken in BBQ sauce for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight, and then grill. I typically marinate and toss in the freezer so that the term "easy" weeknight meal actually takes effect.

4. Egg & Cheese breakfast sandwiches, with sausage

Scramble 2 eggs (or 3 egg whites) with minced green onion, salt, and pepper. Top with a slice of American cheese (preferably Kraft singles) and allow to melt. Transfer to a bun and serve with sausage or bacon.

5. Hot & Spicy Kung Pao Chicken Seasoning Mix:

Follow directions on the back of the packet. Makes a great meal and is quick and easy!

The finished product:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blackberry Scones

Blackberry Scones

Makes 8.

My first time making scones! And I must say they came out better than I expected! I love the bursts of blackberries in these.
Source: Gold Medal Self-Rising Flour bag

1-3/4 c. self-rising flour
3 T. sugar
1/3 c. firm butter or margarine
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 t. vanilla
4-6 T. whipping cream
1/2 c. fresh blackberries
Additional whipping cream
White decorator sugar crystals, or granulated sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together flour and 3 tablespoons sugar. Cut in butter, using a pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in egg, vanilla, and just enough of the 4-6 tablespoons of whipping cream so dough leaves the side of the bowl. Stir in blackberries.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface; gently roll in flour to coat. Knead lightly 10 times. On ungreased cookie sheet, roll or pat dough into 8-inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges with a sharp knife that has been dipped in flour, but do not separate wedges. Brush with additional whipping cream; sprinkle with sugar crystals.

Bake 14-16 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; carefully separate wedges. Serve warm.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy new year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are easing back into the routine of school, work, and schedules.

The holidays were especially busy for us, and with all the traveling and activities, I didn't have much time for blogging. Thus, I think I need a week off to regroup and get some things lined up.

In the meantime, browse old recipes and let me know if there are any specific requests for 2011.

See you on January 10th!