Monday, January 30, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 4.

Vegan?  Check out the original recipe linked below.  I adapted it after hearing from a friend that it was great as a "real chicken" dish.  And you can feel good about eating this too.  It's much healthier than the traditional chicken pot pie.
Adapted from: Ellen

2 T olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1 cup celery
1 tsp. minced garlic
4T organic all-purpose flour
1 ea. 10oz bag organic frozen peas and carrots
2 c. chicken stock
2 c. diced cooked chicken
1 package Pillsbury pie crust
Melted butter as needed

Using a small stock pot, heat oil and sauté onion and celery until translucent.
Add garlic and sauté two minutes more.
Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
Pour in stock and stir.
Simmer until filling has thickened.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add remaining vegetables and chicken and stir.
Place filling in pie dish that has been coated with nonstick spray.  Top with pie crust.
Bake in pre-heated 400° oven for 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown.

My very imperfect crust:

Ugly, isn't it?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cake Batter Pudding Cookies

Cake Batter Pudding Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen.

A friend gave me this recipe and we made them together on the first snowy day of the season.  I can't believe it was mid-January before that happened!  Needless to say, it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.  The snow was falling, the babies were sleeping, and we were sipping coffee and munching on warm, fresh-outta-the-oven cookies.
Source: Chef in Training blog

1 1/2 sticks (or 3/4 cup) butter 3/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup sugar 1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix 3/4 cup yellow cake mix 2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp baking soda 2-1/4 cups flour 1/2 tsp salt sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Stir together flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together.
Add in pudding package and cake mix and beat until well blended.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add flour mixture slowly until well incorporated.
Mix in sprinkles.
Roll into balls and place on greased baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cheddar-Topped Shepard's Pie

Cheddar-Topped Shepard's Pie

Serves 8-10.

I'm going to be honest.  I skimped.  I used a box of instant mashed potatoes instead of making my own.  It was the first time I'd try that out, and wasn't too pleased.  I should've either made them myself or used a different shortcut: Bob Evans refrigerated mashed potatoes.  I don't know if you've tried those, but they're good.  Really good.  So don't hesitate to cheat, but buy a good cheat.
Also, the beef filling needs a bit more flavor, so I altered the recipe slightly by adding a cup of beef broth where it previously requested water.
Slightly adapted from: Martha Stewart

2 lbs. baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 T. vegetable oil, such as safflower
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. tomato paste
2 lbs. ground beef chuck
1 c. beef stock
1 c. whole milk
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)

Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup beef stock; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.

Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.

Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cake Batter Blondies

Cake Batter Blondies

Makes 12-16.

At church, each child received a gift box before Christmas to help them celebrate Jesus's birthday.  Even though it didn't mean much to a 5-month-old, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and use the Funfetti cake mix and frosting to make a cake on Christmas Day.  Next year, she may even be able to help out, because I WILL be making this recipe again... maybe annually on Christmas.  It was delicious!
Source: Six Sisters' Stuff blog

1 box yellow (or Funfetti!) cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 – 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles (if you use a yellow cake mix, add these in)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Sprinkles for the top
Frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the cake mix, oil, and egg in a large bowl. Add the milk slowly – you want the batter to remain as dense as possible. Then mix in the rainbow sprinkles and white chocolate chips.

Spray 9"x9" pan with non-stick cooking spray. Dump batter in pan and spread to the edges. Bake for 28-32 minutes. (They will be a little soft/gooey in the middle- just let them sit for about 20-30 minutes and they will set up.)

Frost when cooled (I used a container of Funfetti frosting, but feel free to use the original poster's homemade recipe below).

1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
2-3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar (more or less depending on how thick/runny you like it)
3-4 drops red food coloring to get desired pink color (optional)

Combine all ingredients until well-blended. Spread on top of blondies.

Add more sprinkles if you'd like:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recipe Revisited: White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Recipe Revisited: White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Serves 12.

This is one of my favorite desserts. Here's the original post.  And, in case you don't want to click through, here's the recipe again.
Adapted from: AllRecipes

2 c. graham cracker crumbs (original recipe calls for 1 c. chocolate cookie crumbs, but I like a thick crust)
1/3 c. white sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted (1-1/2 sticks)
7 T. raspberry preserves, divided
2 c. white chocolate chips
1/3 c. half-and-half
3 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 c. sugar, and 3/4 c. melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" springform pan that has been coated with non-stick spray.
Wrap bottom of springform pan with foil (see pictures below for help, if needed), and place in the middle of a jelly roll pan (or any pan it will fit in that has sides).
In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips with half-and-half, stirring frequently until smooth.
In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 c. sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate mixture. Mix well.
Pour half of mixture over prepared crust. Spoon 4 T. raspberry preserves into a microwavable dish. Microwave for 15 seconds. Stir until smooth, and then pour over first layer of cheesecake.
Using the tip of a knife, swirl to create a marbled effect.

Pour remaining cheesecake into pan. Repeat raspberry swirl with an additional 3 T. raspberry preserves (don't forget to microwave!).

Fill jelly roll pan with about 2 c. hot water to create a water bath. This will help keep the cheesecake from cracking while baking.

Transfer (carefully!) to oven and bake for one hour. After one hour, turn off oven, slightly open oven door, and let cheesecake sit inside for another hour. Then, remove from oven, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Do not remove springform pan until cheesecake has chilled for at least 8 hours and has completely set.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fish Dip Face-Off

Fish Dip Face-Off

Makes about 2 cups total, 1 cup of each dip.

In the little seaside town of Stuart, Florida, the Mister's family has been vacationing for years.  And while there, they always have to have Mrs. Peters' Smoked Fish Dip.  They love it, and I was recently introduced to it myself when we went there last spring.. its great.  In an attempt to recreate it myself, I made two fish dips for the family to judge.  Dip #2 was supposed to be the most like Mrs. Peters' (based on the ingredients listed on her website), but Dip #1 was the winner in terms of taste!

Start with:
10 oz. smoked mackerel (plain or peppered)
6 oz. smoked halibut

Dip #1 additions:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/8 c. mayo
4 T. minced onion
Garlic salt, to taste

Dip #2 additions:
1/2-3/4 c. mayo (you make the call)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 T. white vinegar
Garlic salt, to taste

Crumble smoked fish in a large bowl and divide equal portions into two bowls.

To bowl #1, add ingredients listed under Dip #1.

To bowl #2, add ingredients listed under Dip #2.

Stir both dips well.  Serve with crackers.  Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Makes 18.

I increased the amount of chicken thinking I would be able to make more rolls, but was only able to get 14.  I wanted to freeze the extras, because I just had a feeling they would be very tasty.  I was right in that they were very tasty.  So tasty that we didn't have a single leftover.  We even ate some the next day straight out of the fridge!
Source: Can You Stay For Dinner? blog

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 oz. container crumbled blue cheese
14 egg roll wrappers (roughly 4 square inches)
1/4-1/2 c. Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 c. broccoli slaw or cole slaw (dry)
Small bowl of water
Nonstick cooking spray
Blue cheese dressing, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lay egg roll wrappers on a clean work surface. In a small bowl, stir chicken* (see note below) and hot sauce until well coated, using more or less sauce depending on your spice preference. The meat should be moist with sauce.

Begin by placing one tablespoon of the broccoli slaw on the diagonal of the bottom right corner of one of the wrappers. Next, place 2 tablespoons of shredded spicy chicken evenly on top of the slaw. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the blue cheese crumbles over the chicken. Do not overfill.

To fold: Fold the bottom right corner over the stuffing mixture so that it covers it completely, with the tip of the corner now pointing to the center of the egg roll wrapper. Fold in the bottom left corner, followed by the right, so that you now have formed an envelope. Roll the wrap upward one time, leaving the top left corner open. Wet your index finger in the small bowl of water and press to moisten the top left corner. Now fold that down on top of the filled roll, sealing it like you would an envelope.
Repeat with remaining rolls.

Place the rolls on a wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet (or just on a greased cookie sheet) coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spritz each roll evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the rolls crisp and turn a light golden brown.

*Note: To make the chicken, place uncooked chicken breast in a small pot and fill with enough water just to cover it. Bring to a boil on your stovetop, reduce the heat slightly, then simmer for about 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Drain and let cool before shredding with two forks, pulling against the grain of the meat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

This was one of the best books I've read in a while.  It was so captivating, right from the beginning, and it read fast, so I didn't want to put it down.  It's an enchanting little read and the book itself is the cutest little size.

Book description from Amazon:

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Spinach and Pancetta Strata

Spinach and Pancetta Strata

Serves 12.

I changed a few things around from Giada's original recipe, and I think it's the perfect amounts of everything now.  (Her original recipe is linked below.)  This is a great breakfast casserole.  It was served to me somewhere recently and I had to get the recipe! 
Adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis

2 T olive oil
6 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 (10-oz.) boxes chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
10 c. cubed Italian bread, from a 1-pound loaf
1 c. shredded white cheese blend (or other white cheese of your choice, i.e. fontina, muenster, havarti, etc.)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan 
3 cups whole milk
15 large eggs

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a bowl. Add the onion to the pan drippings in the same skillet and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and garlic. Saute over medium-low heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, nutmeg, and the cooked pancetta.

Place the bread cubes in a large rectangular buttered baking dish. Top with the spinach mixture.  Whisk the milk, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over the strata. Top with shredded cheeses.  Chill the strata, at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.  (I chilled for almost 24 hours and it was fine.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake strata uncovered until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, about 60 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Quinoa Chicken Salad

Makes about 5 cups.

Here's a healthy way to start your new year.  I love eating this salad, and I always make a big batch of it so I can eat it for a couple lunches in a row.  I just don't get tired of it!
You could also omit the chicken and serve this salad as a side dish.
Inspired by: Oh She Glows

For the salad:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. uncooked quinoa
1/2 c. corn (fresh, if possible!)
1 can black beans
1 tomato, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4-1/2 red onion, chopped (depending on your preference)

For the dressing:
4-5 tbsp of fresh lime juice (Juice from 2 small limes)
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste

Cook chicken breasts until no longer pink in the middle; chop into bite-size pieces.  Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions.
While quinoa is cooking, prepare the chopped vegetables and whisk together the dressing.

Allow quinoa to cool after cooking for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the chicken, beans and vegetables; toss well.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste. Bring salad to room temperature before serving. Keep fresh in a sealed container for 1-2 days.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Private Selection Frozen Foods

Private Selection Frozen Foods

As another BzzAgent trial, I tested Private Selection Frozen Foods.  Specifically, I tested one of their frozen pizzas, one of their frozen appetizer packs, and a frozen dessert.  Here's my review, ranked in the order that I enjoyed them.

PIZZA:  I chose the pepperoni pizza.  The placement of the pepperonis and mozzarella "blobs" wasn't very even, but the taste was great.  Given the price, the size, and the fact that it is thin crust, it's not the greatest bang for the buck, but it's definitely a "fancier" frozen pizza than we typically buy.

APPETIZERS:  This appetizer trio was great.  The cost, when you factor in that there are only 9 pieces in a box, was not.  If you are needing a few appetizer snacks for a small group, then this would be a good option.  If you're looking to serve a crowd, though, save your money and either make your own or buy another brand that offers more pieces.

DESSERT:  I was excited about this dessert, but was let down.  The cake was kinda dry, and not even the gooey hot fudge center was enough to fix that problem.  This would be a good dessert to have on hand for kids, because it is FAST.  Pop it in the microwave, flip out onto a plate, and enjoy.