Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Serves 8-10.

It's soup season, my friends.  I made this on the stovetop and then transferred to the crock pot for continued simmering and for easy serving with guests.  It was great!
Source: Homemade by Holman blog

3 cups chicken stock
2 skinless, chicken breasts (I used 1.3 lbs total between the two)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
4-6 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup tomato paste
8 oz cotija cheese, crumbled
8 oz pepperjack cheese, divided
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Tortilla chips

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, add chicken stock and heat over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Simmer about 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, shred into bite-size pieces and set aside.

*** (see below for crock pot instructions) Add tomatoes, jalapenos, bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the pot. Simmer about 30 minutes, covered until tomatoes have begun to break down. Add black beans, corn, and tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Add cotija cheese and half of the pepperjack cheese and stir to melt. Return chicken to soup and cook about 20 more minutes until desired consistency.

***To cook in a crockpot, add all ingredients (including the chicken stock you used to cook the chicken, but besides the cooked chicken itself and cheese) to the crock pot and cook on low; the longer the better, but at least 3 hours. Add chicken and cheese about 30 minutes before serving.

If soup isn't as thick as desired, you can add strips of flour tortillas. They will dissolve into the soup to thicken the broth. Add cilantro, reserving some to top individual bowls if desired. Ladle into serving bowls and top with crushed tortilla chips, reserved pepperjack cheese and cilantro if desired.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pressed Picnic Sandwich

Pressed Picnic Sandwich

Fall is here and the weather is perfect for a picnic.  So pack up your basket with some wine, snacks, and this sandwich and head to your favorite spot.
Slightly adapted from:
Donal Skehan

1 foot long ciabatta loaf, sliced in half lengthways
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
A generous handful of baby spinach or baby greens
10 marinated artichoke hearts
A small handful of sundried tomatoes (I used roasted red peppers instead)
8 slices of proscuitto
A good handful of basil, finely chopped
100g of goats’ cheese
1⁄2 red onion, very finely sliced
Salt and pepper to season

In a bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and mustard.

Remove the toasted ciabatta halves from the tin and drizzle the base slice with a little of the dressing.

Arrange layers of the rest of the ingredients, baby spinach, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, proscuitto, basil, goats’ cheese and red onion.

Drizzle over the rest of the dressing, season with sea salt and ground black pepper and pop the top slice of ciabatta on and press down.

Wrap in parchment paper and pop into the fridge, pressed down with another baking tray filled with heavy tins, overnight or until you are ready to serve.

Serve in nice hearty slices for the perfect picnic snack.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cobb Salad Club Sandwich

Club Salad Club Sandwich

Serves 4.

I love a good sandwich for dinner, and these hit the spot.  The Mr. gave me a wonderful compliment without realizing it when he said that they tasted like something he'd get at a restaurant.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Special Publication magazine: Best Comfort Food

4 hard-cooked eggs
3/4 c. bottled chunky blue cheese salad dressing (you could also use mayo here if you prefer the taste of BLT)
12 slices home-style whole grain white bread, toasted
12 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and well-drained
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
4 romaine lettuce leaves

In small bowl mash eggs with 1/4 cup of the blue cheese dressing; season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spread 8 of the toast slices with salad dressing. Arrange bacon on 4 of the slices; top with sliced tomato.

Spread the 4 remaining plain toast slices with egg mixture; top with onion and lettuce. Place one egg-topped toast on top of each bacon-topped toast. Top with remaining dressing-spread toast slices, spread side down.  Cut each sandwich in half using a sharp knife.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf AND Meatballs

Turkey Meatloaf AND Meatballs

Makes enough for 2 meals, each with 2-3 servings.

Here's a healthier twist on two classics. Nothing can compete with the taste of traditional ground beef for me, but these are nice for a change from the usual.
Source for meatloaf: Skinny Taste blog

Here's your base recipe:
1.3 lb 93% lean ground turkey
1 large egg
1/2 small onion, minced
1 T. olive oil

Additional ingredients you'll need for the meatloaf:
1/4 c. oatmeal
1/4 c. ketchup
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. marjoram
additional ketchup, BBQ sauce, or shredded cheese for topping

Additional ingredients you'll need for the meatballs:
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl mix turkey, onion, egg and olive oil until well combined.  Divide mixture in half and transfer one half to a second bowl.
To the meatloaf bowl, add oatmeal, ketchup, salt, Worcestershire, and marjoram.  Divide into 2-3 equal loafs and place on an ungreased nonstick baking pan.  Top with ketchup or barbeque sauce if desired.  Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes.  Add a topping of shredded cheese for final 10 minutes, if desired.

You could also wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to bake.  Simply thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as directed.

To the meatballs bowl, add breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or freeze on a baking sheet before transferring to a freezer bag.  Thaw overnight in fridge before baking.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lightened Up French Toast

Lightened Up French Toast

Serves 6.

Skinny Taste is one of my new favorite blogs to browse!  Gina, the brains behind Skinny Taste, creates and modifies recipes to be Weight Watchers-friendly without losing their great taste.  Take this French toast, for example -- it tastes awesome AND it's so much better for you than the traditional fat- and calorie-laden French toast casseroles.
Source: Skinny Taste blog

1 c. unpacked brown sugar
1/4 c. water
cooking spray
10 oz Challah bread, sliced 1 inch thick
2 large eggs
1 c. egg substitute
1-1/2 c. 1% milk
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. Meyers rum (optional)
1/4 t. salt
1 t. powdered sugar
1 t. cinnamon

In a small heavy saucepan melt brown sugar and water over moderate-low heat, stirring, until smooth and melted, about 1 minute, then pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit.
In a large bowl whisk together eggs, egg substitute, milk, vanilla, rum, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350° F. and bring bread to room temperature.
Bake uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 40 to 50 minutes.
Top with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sweet Potato Muffins

Sweet Potato Muffins

Makes 2 dozen traditional-sized muffins, or 4 dozen mini muffins (shown above).

What a great little muffin.  These surpassed my expectations and got rave reviews when I served them while hosting book club.  They're dense, yet not rich.  Sweet, yet not "sugary" tasting, and perfect for a cool autumn evening.
Source: Taste of Home: Simple & Delicious magazine, Oct/Nov 2010

2 c. self-rising flour
2 c. sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 egg
2 c. cold mashed sweet potatoes (without added butter or milk)
1 c. canola oil

1 c. confectioners' sugar
2 T. + 1-1/2 t. milk
1-1/2 t. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon.  In another bowl, whisk the egg, sweet potatoes and oil.  Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.

Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm muffins.

A Note From The Little Lady: I assumed that baking in a mini muffin tin would decrease the baking time, so I started at 12 minutes.  After repeated checks, my minis needed close to the suggested 18 minutes of baking time.  I'm not sure if this will affect the baking time for regular size muffins, so don't be alarmed if you need to bake longer.  I'll also add that the density of these muffins caused them to "collapse" while cooling.  I was disappointed at first, but found it to be a good way to let the glaze pool on top.  Plus, you'll appreciate the density when you take that first, glorious bite.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

Do you ever start reading a book and things seem eerily familiar?  You think to yourself, "Have I read this before?"  That's what happened to me with this book.  I loved it the first time and must've forgotten the title, because I picked it up again after seeing the great reviews on Amazon.  I didn't go through with reading it a second time, but I will say that it's a great read!

Publishers Weekly review from Amazon:

Master caterer Sarah Laden is barely holding her life together as a widow with two difficult sons—recalcitrant teen Nate and troubled fifth-grader Danny—when the unthinkable happens. Her best friend and neighbor, Courtney Kendrick, is arrested in a child sex abuse scandal. Courtney's husband has vanished; their 11-year-old son, Jordan, is in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt; and across the street Nate is finding, in Jordan's backpack, evidence of unthinkable abuse. Kittle (Traveling Light; Two Truths and a Lie) crafts a disturbing but compelling story line, as Sarah, Nate and Jordan uncover and come to terms with the horror in alternating chapters. Sarah, for instance, is shocked to learn that she dropped off food for the Kendricks' sex parties; Jordan must decide whether or not he wants to continue a relationship with his mother—who insists she's innocent—if and when she gets acquitted. Kittle's research sits awkwardly in expository dialogue—"One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their eighteenth birthdays," intones the detective who will later become Sarah's love interest—but it doesn't slow the momentum. Though the movement is toward healing, there are bumpy roads ahead for everybody in this melodramatic but gripping read. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Caramel Club Bars

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Caramel Club Bars

Makes about 15 bars

Oh boy.  These are good.  Really good.  And really rich.  Cut them small, because you might only be handle a little bit.  And if not?  Well, if not, then you can also use the size to rationalize going back for a second.  I fall into the second-helping category.
By the way, spend some time browsing the Picky Palate blog.  Your mouth will water constantly. I plan to make a lot more recipes from here...
Source: Picky Palate blog

45 Club crackers
1 c. peanut butter chips, divided
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1-1/2 c. chocolate chips

Place 15 club crackers in the bottom of an 8×8 inch square baking pan that’s been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle 1/2 Cup peanut butter chips on crackers.

Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium high heat stirring constantly for 4 minutes, until bubbly, smooth and creamy caramel forms.  Pour 1/2 Cup or so of caramel over peanut butter chips then add another layer of crackers, peanut butter chips and caramel.  Top with one final layer of crackers then spread with melted chocolate.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Prosciutto and Egg Panini

Proscuitto and Egg Panini

Serves 4.

So mine is more of a grilled sandwich and less of a panini, but you get the idea.  Any deliciously melty cheese will do.  And if you've already got sliced bread in the house, don't hesitate to substitute that for the soft rolls.  That's what I did!
Source: Real Simple

large eggs
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
soft rolls, halved lengthwise
8 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
8 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in the eggs and scramble until cooked through. 

Divide the eggs among the bottom halves of the rolls. Top with the prosciutto and cheese and sandwich with the tops of the rolls.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a grill pan or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place two sandwiches in the pan.  Cook, pressing often with a spatula or placing a pan on top to weigh down the sandwiches, until cheese has melted and bread is golden, 4 to 6 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How High the Moon

How High the Moon by Sandra Kring

I find most of my books by looking under the customers-who-bought-this-also-bought-this section of Amazon.  Found this one there.  And it had 5 star reviews.  But upon reading it, was kinda disappointed.  It reads like a young-adult lit book.  But TOO young adult.  Too slow.  Too boring.  Not enough drama.  The reviews speak otherwise though, so maybe you should decide yourself.

Publishers Weekly review from Amazon:

The summer of 1955 is a tough one for 10-year-old ragamuffin Isabella, nicknamed Teaspoon, who's been enlisted into a Big Sister–style program that's supposed to teach her civilized behavior. Five years earlier, Teaspoon's mother took off for Hollywood, leaving her boyfriend, Teddy, and her daughter to take care of each other; now a full-fledged tomboy, Teaspoon is paired in the program with popular 18-year-old Brenda Bloom, whose mother owns the movie theater in their suburban Milwaukee town. Sketched with nostalgic sweetness, this hard-luck coming-of-age story sees Teaspoon discovering her talent for singing while getting caught up in plans for the theater's gala re-opening, her mother's promised return, Teddy's budding relationship with Sunday school teacher Miss Tuckle, and Brenda's romantic dilemmas. Kring (The Book of Bright Ideas) gives her young, put-upon protagonist an authentically weary voice, but telegraphs her plot revelations, provoking little emotion beyond the mildly touching. Though the chatterbox heroine makes an engaging narrator, readers may be reminded more of Dennis the Menace than Anne of Green Gables.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondies

Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondies

Makes 16 2"-square bars.

Mmm... amazing!  The original recipe recommends a baking time of 25-30 minutes, but after 28 minutes, mine were still very underdone, so I've upped the time to 30-35.  If you have a hot oven, check earlier.  And my "chocolate drizzle" kind of turned into a spread.  Se la vie.
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. salt
4 oz. unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ t. vanilla extract
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1 c. chocolate chips or chunks

1 c. chocolate chips
1 t. butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine the flour and salt; set aside.  Stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla extract until well blended.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until blended, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth even with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set in the center but still soft. Do not overbake. Let the bars cool slightly before drizzling with chocolate, then cool completely before cutting into squares.

For the topping, combine the chocolate and butter in a small bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle over the bars. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Eggs With Tortilla Chips, Salsa, and Cheese

Eggs With Tortilla Chips, Salsa, and Cheese

Serves 4-6

Yum!  What a tasty twist on your standard scrambled egg breakfast.
Source: Real Simple

1 1/2 T. unsalted butter
10 eggs
2 T. milk or water
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. shredded Monterey jack cheese
3/4 c. salsa (drained)
1 c. crushed tortilla chips

Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, to desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes, adding cheese just before they’re set. Fold in salsa and chips.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vodka Pasta

Vodka Pasta

Serves 4.

(This was supposed to post on Labor Day Monday, but I dropped the ball somehow and cancelled the posting without realizing it. So here's for your Thursday enjoyment...)

TRUE STORY: I scheduled this post weeks ago (I schedule my posts a week or two out so I don't need to worry about blogging every day.  This surprises some people.  And I think it squashes a vision for others, who think they've reading about my "last night's dinner," when in actuality it's usually a few days/weeks old.), and just a few days ago realized that it would be posting on LABOR day.  Read on...

I was flipping cookbooks the other day, looking for inspiration on what to make next, when one of them opened up to this Vodka Pasta recipe, bookmarked by the cover flap.  And that's when I realized that I had made this for The Mr. and I the night before I went into labor, and never got around to blogging it.  I guess I was just a little too busy having a baby, spending a few nights in the hospital, and bringing home a little bundle with no other intention than to snuggle her 24/7.  But alas, here it is.  And for all you who believe in Old Wives' Tales, maybe you'll make this next time you're hoping to kick start active labor.   
Source: Rachael Ray

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream
1 T. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 c vodka
1 c. chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 oz. pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 c. heavy cream 
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock 1/3 cup at a time (you may not need all of it), tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

A Note From The Little Lady: I think 1 cup of chicken stock is too much, as it seemed to make my sauce a little too runny.  See what you think for yourself, but consider adding the chicken stock in parts, as I suggested above, and stop when it seems right.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Last Child

The Last Child by John Hart

Looking for a mystery?  This book gets great reviews and will definitely raise the hair on the back of your neck.  In fact, some parts will a little TOO spooky for me.

Publishers Weekly review from Amazon:

A year after 12-year-old Alyssa Merrimon disappeared on her way home from the library in an unnamed rural North Carolina town, her twin brother, Johnny, continues to search the town, street by street, even visiting the homes of known sex offenders, in this chilling novel from Edgar-winner Hart (Down River). Det. Clyde Hunt, the lead cop on Alyssa's case, keeps a watchful eye on Johnny and his mother, who has deteriorated since Alyssa's abduction and her husband's departure soon afterward. When a second girl is snatched, Johnny is even more determined to find his sister, convinced that the perpetrator is the same person who took Alyssa. But what he unearths is more sinister than anyone imagined, sending shock waves through the community and putting Johnny's own life in danger. Despite a tendency to dip into melodrama, Hart spins an impressively layered tale of broken families and secrets that can kill. 175,000 first printing; author tour. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Key Lime Coconut Squares

Key Lime Coconut Squares

Serves 2.

Labor Day weekend is upon us.  And that means that summer is just about over.  I must admit: As much as I hate to see summer go, I love knowing that we have embarked on my favorite month of the year.  And crisp fall days are in our future.  Beautiful leaves, football games, hot cider, and pumpkin. 
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The reason for posting these Key Lime Coconut Squares is to urge you to make the most of these last days of summer: sunshine, warmth, barbeques, and cool drinks.  And what says summer better than key limes AND coconut???
Source: Small Batch Baking cookbook

For the crust:
Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the loaf pan
1/4 all-purpose flour
3 T. confectioners' sugar
1 t. grated lemon zest
2 T. sweetened flaked coconut
Pinch of salt
2 T. unsalted butter, chilled and diced

For the filling:
1 large egg
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. all-purpose flour
1 T. fresh key lime juice
1 t. grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
About 1 T. confectioners' sugar

Pan required:
1 petite loaf pan (2 c. capacity, about 5"x3")

Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease and butter the mini loaf pan.

Make the crust: Place the flour, confectioners' sugar, lemon zest, coconut, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl.  Add the butter pieces and cut them in with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture is crumbly.  Press the mixture in an even layer into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan.  Bake until the crust is beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside.  (Keep the oven on.)

Make the filling: Place the egg, sugar, flour, key lime juice, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to blend well.  Pour the filling over the warm crust.  Bake until the filling is set, about 20 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1-1/2 hours.

Cut into 2 pieces and dust with confectioners' sugar.