Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fried Sweet Potato Chips


Six words: easy, yummy, crispy, kid friendly & delicious!! Looking for a fun side to serve alongside your favorite BBQ, burgers or brats? Well here's a simple solution =)

Fried Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and washed
vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions

In a small bowl, combine dry spices. Set aside.

Using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, slice potatoes thinly creating thin round discs. (If you have a five sided grater, you may have a side for thinly slicing cheeses. I use this to slice my potatoes and it works out great! You can also use it for making au gratin potatoes. You gotta put a little elbow grease into it, but it's much cheaper than buying a mandolin =)

In a medium to large pot, fill it about 5" up the side with oil. Heat oil on medium high heat until it reaches about 360 degrees. Add potatoes to hot oil, working in small batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry potatoes for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain. (Spread them out evenly to ensure they get an even amount of seasoning). While they're still hot, immediately season generously with dry spice mixture - you should use up about 3/4 of your spices by the time you're finished. Continue this process until all of your potatoes are fried to crispy perfection and then munch away!! These are hard to stop eating once you start =) Enjoy!

Serves about 4 people as a side

Guy Fieri's Bacon Tomato Pasta


If you like bacon, and you like pasta, you're going to love this dish! One of the reason's I love watching Guy's show on the Food Network is because everything he makes is always a little bit on the naughty side, and always rich and full of flavor. Try out this recipe, and I promise you'll love it =) Now I do make a few small adjustments to this recipe when I make it, so I made some small side notes if you want to try it my way. Either way, this dish is de-lish!

Bacon Tomato Pasta

Ingredients

2 tablespoons kosher salt
16 ounces spaghetti pasta
1 pound thick-cut bacon or pancetta, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
*3 tablespoons butter (I like to add it for extra richness!)
1 cup red onion, diced
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup red wine (*I just leave it out b/c I don't keep any on hand & it tastes great w/o it)
4 tablespoons basil, chiffonade (*if you use dried basil, I would definitely use much less, maybe only 1 Tbsp... but I don't know why you'd want to do that ;)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large stock pot, boil 3 quarts of water, when boiling add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente.In a large saute pan over medium heat, add bacon and saute until bacon is crispy. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel-lined plate and remove 3/4 of the bacon fat from the pan.
Add extra-virgin olive oil, *butter, onions, and red chili flakes. Cook until onions are translucent, add garlic, cook for 2 minutes then add tomatoes. Saute for 5 minutes, then deglaze with wine.
Drain pasta and add to the tomato mixture pan. Add basil and bacon. Toss with Parmesan, and add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serves 4-5 as an entree

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ina's Potato Salad


I scribbled down this recipe while watching Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, one day on the foodnetwork. She is one of my favorites! A lot of her recipes are made with classic, every day ingredients and this potato salad is the perfect example of just that.
This potato salad is like no other I've ever tried. When I think potato salad, I usually think of mushy potatoes drowning in mayo and mustard - which is why I usually would say I don't like it. But this recipe is one I'll make as a side any time of year. This warm potato salad is simple, with few ingredients, giving it a classic potato taste you'll love. If you like potatoes, you've got to try:

Ina's Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds small white potatoes ( I prefer/use Yukon Gold as they are much waxier and hold together very well when cooked)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion

Directions

Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Libby's Pumpkin Roll


I made this recipe to the tea. Although, I'm certainly not a master baker, this recipe couldn't have come out better. The moistness of the pumpkin cake was perfect to keep it looking neat and fancy. This looked like a bought it at the store when I was finished making it - and for me, that's NOT normal! =) So here it is.

Libby's Pumpkin Roll

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle towel with powdered sugar.
  2. COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.
  3. BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.
  4. BEAT cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.


Chicken Tortilla Soup


This recipe is so easy, it's almost embarrassing to admit! If you know how to open a can, then here's the recipe for you =) Even though this soup takes 5 minutes to throw together, the flavor tastes like it took hours. This is the perfect substitute to chili when you're looking for a hearty winter stew! Enjoy this rich and delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup all winter long.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)
2 cans golden corn (drained)
2 lg. cans white chunk chicken breast
1 lg. jar of your favorite salsa
5 cups chicken stock
1 taco seasoning packet

Garnish
sour cream
shredded co-jack cheese
tortilla chips

Directions

Throw everything in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to low. Allow it to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve in bowls with a generous dollop of sour cream, a handful of shredded cheese, and serve with chips for non-stop dipping! mmm!

Serves 6-8 as an entree

Easy Puffy Tacos



This is so easy you're not going to believe how easy it is, but it is so delicious, I'm sure you'll make it again and again! These puffy taco shells are not only a nice change from traditional plain, boring, flat tortillas, but the crisp and flaky texture is so buttery and delicious, you and the kids will love these! Here it is:

Puffy Taco Shells

Ingredients

Plain flour tortillas - fajita size (I use "mission". They crisp up nicely!)
Vegetable oil
Salt to taste

Directions

Fill a medium to large skillet with about 3/4" of vegetable oil. Heat on medium and wait until oil is nice and hot. (You'll know it's ready when you start to see little bubbles forming) Loosely fold the tortillas gently in half and grab the top, where the sides meet, with tongs. Gently lay the tortilla in the oil and brown all sides (It will brown fairly quick, within seconds so be sure to rotate the tortilla from side to side to avoid burning.) Once the tortilla is golden on either side, lay it upside down, as shown below and allow to drain on a paper towel. Immediately dust with salt and serve with your favorite fillings! Enjoy!




Monday, October 5, 2009

Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet


This chilly weather is the perfect time to practice making all your favorite soups and stews. If you like rustic, hearty soups, you'll love the Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet. This slow simmered soup is so rich and full of flavor, you'll look forward to the left overs =)

Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet

Ingredients

Sausage:
5-6 Sweet Italian Sausage links
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Vegetables:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (about 1/4")
4 stalks of celery, also thinly sliced
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 large yukon gold potatoes, cut about 3/4" pieces
2 cans white cannelini beans (drained)
4 quarts good chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
salt and pepper

Directions

In a large stock pot, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. Remove sausage from casings and saute it in oil, breaking it up into small pieces. Cook until there is no more pink left. Using a spoon, scoop out sausage and set aside. In same pot with heat still on, add remaining 1/4 cup of oil and to it add carrot, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Saute mirepoix until golden around the edges. Add garlic and continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add chicken stock, scraping up all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, and then continue to add the remaining ingredients one at a time and season generously with salt and pepper (be careful if you use chicken stock that may be high in sodium. If so, you won't want to add as much salt. I recommend cooking with low sodium chicken stock, so you can better regulate the saltiness of your soup). Let soup come to a boil, and then lower heat to medium low and allow the soup to simmer for about an hour or until potatoes are tender. Add sausage back into pot, stir together and cook for another 10 minutes to heat sausage through. Serve along side a fresh french baguette and enjoy.

Serves 8 - 10 as an entree


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ham & Cheese My Way


I don't know about you, but I constantly get bored with the same old sandwiches every day for lunch. This afternoon, I was sifting through the fridge and suddenly became inspired =) No this isn't the most crazy sandwhich ever, but it's definitely a nice new twist on a traditional ham and cheese. With crunchy layers of toasted bread, iceberg lettuce and fresh tomato to the creamy layers of honey dijon and creamed cheese, you're going to love eating ham and cheese this way - I promise =)


Jamie's Ham & Cheese


Ingredients


toasted wheat sandwich bread

sliced honey ham

creamed cheese

sliced oven roasted turkey breast

vine ripe tomato

iceberg lettuce

honey dijon mustard


Directions


Layer ingredients in the above order and enjoy this yummy sandwich!

Crispy Roasted Rosemary Potatoes - recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence


One of my favorite chefs on the Food Network is Tyler Florence. Not only is he easy to learn from, but everything he makes is always so rich and delicious. He's one of the few chefs that I can honestly say, every one of his recipes has come out great!
We actually had these potatoes last night as a side to some steak I made, and the ease of this dish was not evident in it's creamy and crispy texture. With only 4 ingredients in the entire dish, these potatoes cook up with little effort, and they lightly crisp up on the outside and leave a smooth, creamy potato on the inside leaving you wanting more. My husband and Jace both loved these potatoes which means I will definitely be making these again! =)


Crispy Roasted Rosemary Potatoes



Ingredients



4 medium yukon gold potatoes

2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary

extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper



Directions



Wash and scrub the outside of your potatoes well, and then slice each one in half.



Place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Remove rosemary from stems, tear and sprinkle evenly over potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper and then toss with hands to evenly coat. Lay each potato face down and place in a preheated 400 degree oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, turn potatoes over (so they're face up) coat again with olive oil, dust lightly with salt and return to oven for another 25-30 minutes or until tender. When done, the potato's skin should be golden and crispy, and the inside should be tender. Serve beside your favorite dish and enjoy!



Serves 2-3 as a side

Friday, September 25, 2009

Basil Chicken Scallopine - Inspired by Giada De Laurentis (picture from foodnetwork.com)


Due to the crazy season, it's been a couple weeks since my last post - sorry! But believe me, this recipe is worth the wait. In spite of it's complex sounding title, it's fairly simple to make and tastes oh SO yummy =)

I originally saw a recipe similar to this one on the food network. One of the things I love most about this recipe is the simplicity and the freshness of the sauce. Served over warm pasta, it is the perfect example of a simple & classic tomato sauce. With chunks of tomato in every bite, and the fresh flavor from the basil, this dish is a great way for a pauper to eat with the palate of a prince ;)

Giada made a Sage & Fontina Chicken Scallopine - which I've also made and it's just as good as this one, but last night, I didn't have those ingredients on hand, not mention, I don't cook with sage very often, so buying it seems to always be somewhat of a waste. If you'd like to check her recipe out, here's is the link for her version:www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/chicken-scallopine-with-sage-and-fontina-cheese-recipe/index.html

And here is my version =) I hope you enjoy this rich and rustic Italian dish.

Basil Chicken Scallopine

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin (to about 1/4")
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to season chx.)
8 basil leaves
6 Tbsp. finely shredded Italian blend cheese (I like to use a mixture of Romano, Parmesan & Mozzarella)
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, halved and smashed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (with juice)
8-10 chiffonade basil leaves
1/2 cup diced sweet yellow onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment: toothpicks

Directions

Place the chicken breasts on a clean work surface, narrow end facing you. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 4 basil leaves crosswise on each of the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle each of the pieces of chicken with about 3 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Roll up the chicken tightly carefully making sure to keep cheese and basil tucked in, and seal with one or two toothpicks.(I usually use 2 or 3 just to be sure it's sealed nice and tight)

Warm the olive oil, onions and halved garlic cloves in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and remove and discard the garlic. Add butter and simmer for about a minute while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Once butter is melted and onions are evenly coated, add canned tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan. Simmer the chicken in the tomato sauce for about 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan. Spoon the tomato sauce onto serving plates or a serving platter. Remove the toothpicks. Place the chicken over the sauce and serve immediately with your favorite pasta! (There should be plenty of sauce to go around =)

Serves 2 as an entree

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monthly Meal Planning Tips

After so many people asking me what I do to plan meals for the month, I thought it might be worth while to share what my process is in planning out our meals, and if it's helpful to anyone out there, then great =)

So Here Goes =)

1. I try to stay under $250/month. (this includes all of Jace's needs - diapers, wipes, etc)

2. Because of our busy schedule we certainly don't eat every night, but we also try not to eat out more than 2-3 a month (this includes fast food)

3. For each month I try to plan 5 cheap/quick meals, and about 12 normal, but hopefully quick =) meals (I'll give you some examples in a second)

4. I limit myself to trying only 2 new/more extensive recipes a month. I do that because many times, new recipes always require a few ingredients that I don't typically keep on hand = extra cost.

5. Once I have all my favorite cookbooks/recipes in front of me, I sit down and go through them, and based off of what I already have in my pantry, I try to pick recipes that won't require me having to buy ALL of the ingredients needed. Now this obviously takes some time, but I try to mentally get myself geared up on my day off, and then knock it out during one of Jace's naps. Once it's done, it's such a relief because then throughout the month I'm not scrambling to figure out the night before what to make the next day. The one day of planning really pays off=)

6. I list out each of my meals for the month and post it on the fridge for quick reference.

7. As I select meals I'm going to make that month, I have a separate list I'm compiling of all the ingredients I'll need to purchase, hopefully some of them I already have on hand =)

8. Once I've finished my meal list - my separate list is now my grocery list for the month =)

9. I always have a paper on the fridge for ingredients I run out of throughout the month. I take this list and my new grocery list and put them together, just to be sure I don't forget anything.

10. To stay organized, I like to type up my grocery list in a word document and then separate ingredients by category. For instance: Dairy, Meat, Frozen, Produce, etc. It's an extra step, but again, when I'm getting groceries for the entire month, it really helps me to take the extra 10 minutes & helps make my grocery trip go much faster when I can get everything from one section of the store all at once.

11. Once I have all my groceries and I'm making making meals, I try to be mindful of my most perishable ingredients and incorporate those meals into the beginning of the month. One of the biggest wastes of money, in my opinion, is buying tons of yummy produce and then throwing it away before you can even use it :/

12. Try to go under budget because even though you'll be able to get most of your groceries for the month, there are a few things you'll want to pick up throughout the month as well, i.e. fruit, milk, and anything extra you either forgot or run short on. Its a nice thought to think you can get absolutely everything for the month all at once, but milk just doesn't stay good for that long =) a long with a few other things :P

13. Here are some examples of what I meant when I said, "cheap/quick" meals:
a. Taco's (using the $3 taco kits from the store)
b. Chicken Ceasar Salads (I buy the $3 salad kits then add my own grilled chicken)
c. Sausage Jambalaya (entire meal costs around $7. all you need: Zataran's jambalaya box rice mix and Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage. So easy and Chris loves it!)
d. Breakfast for dinner (i.e. Biscuits and sausage gravy. Usually costs me around $5. or you can do Pancakes and bacon, again only about $5-7 for the meal)
e. We do a lot of grilled chicken with different marinades. I usually serve it with a side of veggies. (Takes 15 - 20 minutes to make and usually only costs about $8 for the chx and veggies put together)
f. Frozen Pizza - definitely low on glam =), but on a Wednesday night after a long day and youth service, who wants to cook?! Spend $6 on a more expensive brand that you really like, and you've got a quick, cheap, and tasty dinner for two =)

14. Here's one last tip, once I've got my grocery list in hand, I shop at Aldi's first. They don't have a huge selection, but what they do have is much cheaper than even Walmart's prices. I get whatever I can from there, and whatever else I can't get, I either get from Sam's or Walmart.

15. Don't be opposed to going to a few stores. Convenience doesn't always = savings. I always do Aldi's first, and then Walmart, but many times I'll also go to Target. I'm not a fan of going to Target for groceries because I feel like they're mostly over priced, but their diapers are my favorite. They're only $13 a box and they fit Jace just as good as Huggies, w/o paying $20 a box.

16. Finally, of coarse, without a doubt, cut coupons. Be mindful of what coupons you have when planning your meals. BE CAREFUL though. A lot of people make the mistake of cutting coupons and buying those items simply because they have a coupon for it. Here's a helpful hint: ONLY CUT IT, IF YOU NEED IT =)

Hope this helps =)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chicken Paprika


This recipe is straight from one of my Paula Dean cookbooks. I made a few variations, like I use boneless breasts and she uses bone in, and my cook time is much shorter because of using the boneless chicken, but the taste is nothing shy of Paula's rich flavorful style! I hope you enjoy this simply savory recipe!


Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Paprika
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup water
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and cook onion until just golden. Add garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes more or until you can begin to smell the aroma cooking off. To the skillet add the chicken breasts, and season generously on each side with salt, pepper and paprika. Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes, or until the skin turns from pink to white, turning only once. Add water to skillet and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet, and in a small bowl combine sour cream, flour, and one cup of liquid from the pan. Whisk until completely combined and transfer back into skillet. Heat it through and it should be the consistency of a light gravy. Pour over top of cooked chicken and serve over rice, noodles, or with dumplings! Enjoy!

Serves 2 as an entree

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cheesy Penne Pasta


I got a variation of this recipe from Claire Robinson's show, "5 ingredients or less". For the most part the recipe is very close to her version, with just a little twist of my own. This dish is a combination of cheesy, rich and creamy all rolled into one. The Vermont cheddar makes this dish. It's sharp and pungent, yet it melts to perfect creaminess! This recipe is one I'll definitely make again, and again. I hope you enjoy the simplicity and richness of this dish =)
For another variation of this dish, try it with chicken!

Cheesy Penne Pasta

Ingredients

3 cups penne pasta cooked to al dente
1 1/2 cups milk (divided)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. flour
8 ounces grated or finely shredded aged Vermont white cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Directions
While pasta is cooking, in a small saucepan melt butter completely and then add flour and whisk to make a rue. Once the flour mixture is thick, smooth and golden, slowly begin adding milk the rue while constantly whisking out any lumps at the same time. To ensure you get out all the lumps, add just bit's of milk at a time. Continue adding milk until you've added a full cup. Continue to heat and whisk until the mixture become a nice light cream sauce. (If you want to skip this step, in the original recipe, she just uses heavy cream. I didn't have any, so I opted to make the rue and do it that way instead. It's totally your preference. The heavy cream would definitely be a time saver.) Once the sauce is at the appropriate consistency remove it from the heat and set aside.

With remaining 1/2 cup of milk, whisk it and dijon mustard together and set aside as well.

Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and then add it back into the large saucepan. To it add cream sauce, dijon mixture, salt, pepper and shredded cheddar cheese. Place on medium low heat and continually stir until all the cheese is melted and the pasta is thick and creamy. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy.

Indulge yourself in this delicious, cheesy dish!

Serves 2-3 as an entree

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Homemade Mac & Cheese

This is one of the best side dish recipe's my mom passed down to me. It's great anytime of year, it's a little heartier than traditional mac and cheese, not to mention, once you make this once, it's so easy, you'll definitely want to make it again and again. If you're like me, you might even make it an entree once in a while to save yourself a bit of extra work ;) I hope you enjoy my mom's twist on mac and cheese.

Homemade Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

1 lb. box of medium sized shell pasta
3 cups milk (divided)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt (I don't measure, so this is totally a guess. I may use a little more or less, that's where your taste testing skills come in =)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp corn starch
3 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese (divided)
2 cups shredded milk cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil

Directions

Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water. To it add oil and salt generously. (Some people avoid salt, but when cooking pasta, this is one step you don't want to cheat through. In fact I usually add about 3 Tbsp. Adding salt to your water is your only opportunity to directly flavor the pasta itself. This is one step that adds a lot of flavor in the end and can make all the difference in the world.)
Place on the stove top on high and bring the water to a rolling boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for approximately 10 - 12 minutes or until al dente. (It's very important that you don't overcook the pasta because your going to continue cooking it later in the oven. If you over cook it, it won't hold up as well, and may become mushy.)

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat. Once melted, add 2 1/2 cups of milk (reserving 1/2 cup), salt, and pepper. Cook until it comes to a light simmer, stirring constantly. In a seperate measuring cup whisk together remaining 1/2 cup of milk and corn starch. It will be thick but should come together pretty quickly once you begin whisking. Once it's completely dissolved, add cornstarch mixture to warmed milk and continue stirring constantly. (Once you add the cornstarch, the milk should thicken in a matter of minutes. Don't raise the heat unless it doesn't thicken until after 5 minutes or so and don't walk away!!!! I've experienced on a number of occasions, the milk will come to a simmer and then boil over if I don't constantly watch and stir - be patient =) Once it comes to a nice thick cream sauce, remove from heat and set aside. (A good test of whether or not it's thickening properly is by dipping the back of a silver spoon in the cream and then pulling it out. As the cream drips off, it should leave a nice thick coat on the back of the spoon. If it doesn't and simply drips right off, keep cooking and keep stirring=)

Place cooked pasta in a large pyrex dish. Pour hot sauce all over the top and mix it into noodles so that noodles are evenly coated. Next spread 2 cups of both cheeses (reserving one cup of the chedd/jack) over noodles and mix well. Spread out mixture evenly with spoon and then sprinkle remaining cup of cheese over the top.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and bubbly around the edges. Serve warm and enjoy!

Serves 6 as an entree; 10 as a side

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mango Iced Tea


I received a variation of this recipe from Amy Deas (she makes a yummy Apple Cinnamon Iced Tea) and I decided I had to share it. Chris and I drink this practically every day. It's so crisp and refreshing with a touch of Mango - it's just a great change from everyday Sweet Tea. Hope you enjoy this cool summer beverage!

Mango Iced Tea

Ingredients

4 Liters of water
2 Lipton Iced Tea Brew tea bags
4 Celestial Seasons - Acai Mango tea bags (for single cup brewing)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
*1 cup lemon juice (optional) - sometimes I like to add it for an extra zing, but I prefer it most of the time without it.
1 4 Liter Iced Tea Pitcher

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups and tea bags to a light boil. As soon as it begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

Carefully pour the tea into your iced tea pitcher and add sugar. Stir until all of the sugar is completely dissolved (about one minute). Add water to the top of the pitcher and chill. (If you don't want to wait for it to chill - which I never do! - once you dissolve the sugar, add about 4 cups of ice and stir until the ice has dissolved. Continue alternating ice and water, stirring between each time, and once the ice stops dissolving top it off with a bit more water and enjoy it iced cold! =)

Serve Iced cold and enjoy!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chili's Fajita Marinade


I made this yesterday for dinner and it came out amazing! The trick is to whip it up in the morning and give it all day to marinate. The chicken is loaded with flavor and super tender! I also included the recipe for their sauteed peppers and onions. This recipe is also from one of my favorite cookbooks, "A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes". Hope you enjoy!

Chili's Fajita Marinade

Ingredients

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large garlic clove, pressed
3 tsp vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Dash onion powder
2 large boneless chicken breasts (or 4 small)

Directions

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all of the above ingredients. Place your chicken in a large Ziploc bag and pour marinade over the top. Using your hands, rub the outside of the bag, ensuring all of the chicken is evenly coated. Place the bag in a flat shallow dish and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

(You can grill as you like, but I like to grill the chicken on medium heat for about 6 minutes on each side. Allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.)

Chili's Sauteed Peppers and Onions

Ingredients

2 medium green bell peppers sliced
1 large Spanish onion sliced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp. lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat a skillet over medium/high heat. Saute the onion and pepper slices in the oil for 5 minutes. Combine the soy sauce, water and lime juice in a small bowl and pour it over the pepper/onion mixture. Add the salt and black pepper and continue to saute until the peppers are tender and have lightened in color and the onions are translucent and dark on the edges.

When finished, served sliced grilled fajita chicken over the bed of peppers and onions and serve right out of the hot skillet. yum!

Serves 3-4 as an entree

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roasted Italian Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes


I got this recipe from a friend of ours, April Domine. She is definitely a great cook and quite the hostess. We used to make regular trips to her house after church and somehow, even if she'd only been home for a half hour, she would always come up with something absolutely amazing for us to try. Well this recipe is one that she made for us and it was so good I just had to try making it myself. Not only is it easy to make, but we enjoy it time and time again. It's a classic example of how sometimes less is more. The basic ingrediants in this dish merry together to make a rich and hearty meal that's good anytime of year.

Roasted Italian Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes

Ingredients
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1" pieces
4 big russet potatoes, skin on, washed and cut into 1" pieces
2 green bell peppers, cute into strips (about 1/2")
1 large, or 2 medium onions, cut into strips (about 1/2")
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine sausage, potatoes, peppers and onions. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss together with hands so that each piece is evenly coated with oil and seasoning. Place mixture onto a large cookie sheet and spread out ingredients evenly with hands. (I always line my cookie sheets with AL foil, that way the clean up is much easier!) Top it off by sprinkling oregano evenly over the top and drizzle a little more olive oil over the top to finish. Bake for approximately one hour or until sausage is cooked through and potatoes are tender. (*I always like to stir everything after the first 30 minutes of cooking. That helps prevent the potatoes from sticking to the cookie sheet and then falling apart when you try to serve it.) Serve hot and enjoy =)

Serves 4-5 as an entree

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buttermilk Pecan Chicken - "5 ingredients or less"


So our computer at home is temporarily out of commission so I'm sorry to say that I don't have any pictures just yet, but I just had to share this recipe with you all because it was surprisingly so simple and delicious I just couldn't keep it to myself.

I recently found this recipe off the Food Network (big surprise!) and it's from a show called "5 ingredients or less". That alone was enough to grab my attention. At first I was hesitant to try it, simply because I tend to like complex, rich flavors. Knowing there were only five ingredients didn't really scream flavor to me, but last night when I served this dish to my husband, he and I both loved it. It was simple, moist and shockingly very flavorful.

If you're looking for a quick, easy, yummy meal, here's one for the recipe book:

Buttermilk Pecan Chicken

Ingredients

-2 boneless chicken breasts
-1 cup buttermilk
-1 cup pecans
-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Between two pieces of saran wrap, pound out your chicken to about 1/3 of an inch thick.

In a large ziploc bag combine your chicken and buttermilk. Allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for one hour (you definitely want to give it the full hour because it allows the buttermilk to better adhere to the chicken, giving you a much better crust!).

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until they are the consistency of a coarse bread crumb. In a shallow dish, combine the pecan crumbs and panko crumbs. Remove chicken breasts from bag and season liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in pecan mixture and then shallow fry in a large pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. (Because the breading has brown pecans in it, the color will be a darker brown. Don't worry, that doesn't mean they're burnt =)

Remove chicken from the oil and place on a paper towel. Allow it to rest for atleast 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Serves 2 as an entree

Saturday, August 1, 2009

California Pizza Kitchen's "Thai Chicken Pizza"


I got this recipe out of a cookbook called, "A Treasury of Top Secret Recipes". This cookbook has anything from how to make a "snickers" bar to Cheesecake Factory's "Cajun Chicken Pasta". In fact, I got my Alfredo recipe from this cookbook and I have yet to find a recipe that doesn't taste just like the restaurant's pick.

Now this recipe does have a few Asian ingredients that I may not use that often, but what's great is if you keep them in the fridge, they keep for months, and they're all relatively very inexpensive.

I hope you take a break from traditional dishes and try this spin on Chicken Pizza that will make your taste buds smile!

Thai Chicken Pizza

Ingredients

Peanut Sauce:
-1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
-2 Tablespoons Teriyaki sauce
-2 Tablespoons Hoisin
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
-1 Tablespoon brown sugar
-2 Tablespoons water
-2 teaspoons sesame oil
-1 teaspoon soy sauce
-1 1/2 teaspoons minced onion
-1 teaspoon minced gingerroot

The Crust:
* I like to buy frozen bread dough from the grocery store and use it instead of making it from scratch; I could go the extra mile, but what's nice is how quick this recipe is without it ;)

Toppings:
-1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
-1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half, cut into bite sized pieces and cooked in peanut sauce (recipe listed below)
-1 cup shredded mozzarella
-2 green onions, julienne
-1/2 cup bean sprouts (I actually left these off just because I know Chris wouldn't like them, and he's totally a visual eater; if it doesn't look good, he probably won't like it =)
-1/4 cup of carrot, julienne
-1/4 cup mozzarella (placed just around the center)
-2 teaspoons minced cilantro (placed just around the center)
-1 Tablespoon chopped peanuts (placed just around the center)

Directions
Mix together the ingredients for the peanut sauce in a small, microwave safe bowl. Pour this mixture into a food processor or blender and blend for about 15 seconds or until all the garlic, onion and ginger are reduced to small particles. Place in the microwave and heat for just about a minute. The sauce should be slightly darker in color now.

In a small ziploc bag, combine chicken and 1/3 of the peanut sauce. Seal and place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least 2 hours.

Roll out and shape pizza dough and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Brush the edges lightly with olive oil or butter.

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Cook the marinated chicken for about 4 minutes in the pan, or until just cooked through.

Using the remaining 2/3's of the peanut sauce, spread a thin layer on the pizza dough. Next layer your toppings in the same order as listed above starting with cooked chicken breast.

Place in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and center is cooked through.

Let rest for 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Serves 2-3 as an entree

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chicken Fried Steak - courtesy Tyler Florence


Tonight I decided to be adventurous and try something new. Thank goodness for the Food Network website for whenever I'm stuck and unsure of what to try next.

Just recently, I bought some steaks in bulk and it just so happened that there were 9. Well with just me and my hubby to eat steak, I wasn't sure what to do with the "odd-ball" steak. Not only was it extra, but it was odd shaped, and way too big for one, but too small for two. At first I thought maybe I'd grill it up and use it for fajitas, but then something inside me said, "why not try something new?" And so I did =) Not only was this an easy recipe, but both my husband and I loved it. I will definitely be making this one again.

The only difference between the ingredients below, and the original Tyler Florence recipe is that I omitted the hot sauce. He actually puts some in his dredging liquid and his gravy.
If you're in the mood for some southern cooking, you've gotta try this chicken fried steak!

Chicken Fried Steak

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk or whole milk
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium flat dish add the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt and pepper, to taste, and combine well. In another flat dish stir together the eggs, buttermilk and hot sauce, to taste, and season well with salt and pepper, to taste. Cut beef into 4 (1/2-inch) thick slices then pound out using the teeth side of a meat mallet. This tenderizes the meat. Dredge each piece of meat in the seasoned flour, then in the seasoned buttermilk and back into the flour, allowing excess to drip off. Set out on a rack fitted over a baking sheet and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 20 to 25 minutes before cooking.

Add about 2 inches vegetable oil to a large cast iron pan and heat over medium-high heat to 365 degrees F. (It takes a few minutes, but your patience will be rewarded. Waiting for it to reach 365 ensures you get that crispy southern crunch!) Once heated and working in batches, fry steaks 2 to 3 at a time until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove steaks and drain on a paper towels.

Carefully remove some the fat from the cast iron pan, reserving 1/4 cup. With the pan over medium heat, sprinkle in 3 tablespoons of flour and whisk to make a roux, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Once the flour has been fully incorporated slowly add the buttermilk and milk and continue to whisk until the gravy is nice and thick. Season well with salt and plenty ground black pepper, then whisk in hot sauce, to taste. Place the steaks on a serving platter, top with gravy and serve

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tip!: Iced Coffee Lovers only =)


I was watching the Rachel Ray show this morning, and just as I turned it on, I picked up a great tip that I thought I would share with all of you!

Do you ever have a pot of fresh hot coffee, but as soon as you get ready to pour it, you think about the warm weather outside and think to yourself, "Boy, I'd love an iced coffee right about now". Well if you're like me, you load up a tall glass full of ice, pour the hot coffee over the top and mix in all the good stuff (a little sugar and vanilla cream for me please ;). The only problem is, as soon as you start pouring the hot coffee in your glass, all the ice melts, and the end result is a watery iced coffee which is not so much what I was originally going for!

Here's the solution: Take your left over morning coffee and pour it evenly into an ice cube tray. Keep it in the freezer and then whenever you're in the mood for a rich, delicious iced coffee, just pour your hot coffee over the top of your coffee cubes, and as they melt, you don't miss out on any of that robust, coffee flavor! What a novel idea ;)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Banana Nut Muffins


Don't you hate how fast bananas go bad? It seems nowadays I can't eat them up fast enough before they ripen. Well one great thing I've discovered that comes from over ripe bananas are these muffins. This is one time you definitely want your bananas to be ripe!

I've made these time and time again, and my husband can't seem to get enough of them. Many times I've resorted to making a bread, but it seems like muffins are not only more convenient for an "on the go" breakfast, and not only do they cook up much faster, but they store nicely in a freezer bag, so all in all, I probably prefer making my bananas into muffins.

If you like bananas, and you like muffins, you'll love these =)

Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients
-2 medium or 3 small ripe bananas
-1 tsp. baking soda
-2 eggs
-1 stick of butter (melted)
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp. baking powder
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mash together bananas and baking soda. (You want to mash them thoroughly so they're fairly smooth, but it's good to leave some bits of banana for moisture.) Set aside.

In another small bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat together eggs, butter and sugar, but don't cream. (The more you beat the mixture, the dryer your muffins will turn out so try to mix everything just enough ;) Carefully fold in half of the flour mixture and then half of the banana mixture, stirring well in between each time. Repeat until all of the flour and banana mixture is completely incorporated. Add 1 cup chopped Pecans and stir.

Using an ice cream scoop (I like to use one to ensure all of my muffins are exactly the same size and it also helps ensure they cook evenly), scoop banana mixture into a greased muffin tin or you could use muffin wrappers. Rap the tin on the counter a few times, causing any air bubbles to rise to the top. Finally, top each muffin with a whole pecan and then bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, remove the muffins from the tin and enjoy for breakfast, dessert, or a mid-day snack =)

*Makes 18 muffins

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nani's Spinach Lasagna


When visiting Chris's grandparents in France, back when I was still pregnant with Jace, one thing I made sure to do was to get some of Chris's Nani's recipe's from her old cookbooks. One of the recipe's I stumbled across was this one. Not only is this a simple recipe that she used to always make for her family, but if you like spinach, the fresh, crisp flavor of spinach shines in this dish. Of coarse I made a few adjustments and if you know exactly what you like, hopefully you will too. If you love Italian and spinach, you'll love this dish!

Nani's Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients
-16 oz. frozen chopped spinach (thawed and thoroughly drained)
-1 egg
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
-1 tsp. dried oregano
-1/4 grated Parmesan
-1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella (divided)
-16 oz. small curd cottage or ricotta cheese (I used cottage)
-1 lb. lasagna noodles
-1 3/4 cups homemade marinara sauce (or you could use your favorite spaghetti sauce; I like to make my own in big batches and jar it for future use.)

In a large bowl combine spinach, 1 cup of Mozzarella, Parmesan, cottage cheese, egg, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. (The mixture should be thick. If for any reason it's runny, you probably just didn't drain the spinach well enough. I like to place my thawed spinach into a hand towel and squeeze out the access moisture that way. It works great!)

In a large stock pot, bring salted water to a boil and add lasagna noodles. Cook to al dente or just under done and drain pasta into a colander.

In a 9x9 glass Pyrex dish, begin layering sauce, then noodles, then spinach and cheese mixture. Continue layering in this order until pan is full. (I like to make my sauce and spinach layers thin, that way I can have more layers. Seems the more layers of noodles I have, the sturdier my lasagna holds up when serving.) Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for 15 minutes or until melty and bubbly. Let lasagna rest for 20 minutes and serve. (Letting the lasanga rest is mostly a cosmetic step. Not only does it allow the cooking process to continue, but it ensures that when you serve the lasagna, it won't fall apart into a sloppy mess - in other words, it makes it look pretty =) In the words of Chris's Nani, "Bon Appetit!"

Serves 4 as an entree

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baked Chicken Pastina


Every month I like to try out at least 1 new recipe, and this month one recipe I decided to try, was this dish, "Baked Chicken Pastina". I got this recipe while watching Giada De Laurentis on the Food Network, and I knew as soon as I saw the ingredients: pasta and tomatoes, this was a dish for me =) Not only did it come out right, but it was delicious. Even better, it only took me a little over a half hour to make! .... And I did get a picture ;) Now I did add a little here and there, but for the most part, I didn't go far from the original, so here it is. Yum!

Baked Chicken Pastina

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes) ... (or 2 boneless breasts)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 Tsp. dried flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly chopped oregano (I added this ingredient, simply because I love fresh oregano)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used a little more =)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 8-9 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter (I like to cut it into small cubes and then evenly layer it on top). Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Garnish with another sprinkle of fresh oregano and enjoy.

Serves 4 as an entree

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mom's French Toast


Every once in a while, I don't want to make a huge mess in the kitchen, and I don't want to spend a whole lot of time cooking, well that's how I felt tonight and so I decided to serve my family breakfast for dinner. It's not only a nice change from the norm, but it's also almost always relatively inexpensive. Most of the time, whether I'm making pancakes, biscuits and gravy or mom's french toast, I can feed my family dinner for about $5 - now that's nice!

So here's a "toast" to my mom. This is a simple and delectable version of french toast that my mom always used to make for me when I was a little girl. Enjoy and I hope it makes you full and smile the way it does me =)

Mom's French Toast

Ingredients

-8 slices of sandwich bread (your choice, I use honey-wheat, but sour dough or even just white bread would be fine)
-3 large eggs
-1/4 cup milk (the thicker the better; I use vitamin D)
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
-pinch of salt
-2 Tbsp. butter
-1/4 cup powdered sugar
-maple syrup

In a shallow dish, beat eggs and then add milk, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.

Heat up a medium sized saute pan on medium heat and grease pan with butter.

Dip bread in egg mixture, evenly coating both sides of bread and allowing the access to drip off. Place bread in hot pan and cook until golden brown on under side and then flip. Cook other side until golden brown as well (should take only a couple minutes per side). Continue this process until all of bread is cooked (be careful not to overcrowd the pan=)

Place on a serving dish and dust with powdered sugar. Drizzle with maple syrup or eat as is =) Mmmm!

Serves 8 slices of cooked French Toast

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nine Layer Dip

This recipe is based off of T.G.I.Friday's nine layer dip with just a few alterations ;)

I actually just made this dish last night for our community group "fajita" night. This is not only the perfect side dish to bring to a party or pitch-in, but if you're looking for something to munch on during a movie or while playing cards, this is a great option. It has a fresh taste, with a complex flavor profile that will make your taste buds smile. This fresh dip is the perfect summer treat =)

Nine Layer Dip

Ingredients
-1 1/3 cup sour cream
-1/4 teaspoon cumin
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1/4 teaspoon paprika
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-1 16 oz. can refried beans
-1 3/4 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese
-1 cup guacamole (*If you don't want to make it fresh, I recommend trying "wholly guacamole" from the grocery store)
-1/2 cup sliced black olives
-4 green onions chopped (1/2 cup)
-2 medium tomatoes, chopped and drained
-2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, mix together sour cream, cayenne, paprika, cumin and salt. Set aside.

In a 9 x 9 glass pyrex, layer ingredients and spread evenly in the following order:

1. refried beans
2. 1/2 of shredded cheese
3. guacamole
4. sliced olives
5. seasoned sour cream
6. green onions
7. tomatoes
8. rest of shredded cheese
9. cilantro

Serve immediately at room temperature with tortilla chips for dipping, or chill and serve later =)

Serves 6 - 8 as a side

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Classic, Savory and Sweet & Salty Kettle Corn


One of my husband's favorite late night snacks is popcorn. So just within the last few months, I decided to stop spending money on quick, stale, powdery popcorn and invest a few minutes in making my own fresh, light and crispy popcorn, and what's so great is it's still really quick and easy to make! Now I'll be honest, this process included quite a bit of trial and error, but now that I've got it figured out, it's a cinch! Each person likes their popcorn a certain way, so if my way isn't exactly what you were hoping for, change it up and make it so it is =)
Below I included not only how I do my classic popcorn, but I also included a sweet and a savory version, all of which are scrumptious!!!!

Classic Popcorn:

Ingredients
- 1/2 cup corn kernels
-1/4 cup canola oil
-4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
-1/2 tsp. salt

In a large pot, heat oil, salt and kernels on medium heat. Cover and watch closely. (Once the pot begins to let off the aroma of popped corn, and the kernels lighten in color, the kernels should start popping shortly thereafter) As soon as the kernels begin to pop, using two pot holders, shake the pot in a circular motion and place pot back onto the stove. Repeat this every 3-5 seconds. (Swirling the pot in circles will help bring the popped popcorn to the top so it doesn't burn and the un-popped kernels closer to the bottom.) Once there is about a 2 second pause between the pops, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour popcorn into a serving bowl.
In a glass liquid measuring cup, melt butter in microwave for about 30 seconds. Pour melted butter evenly over popcorn and stir until all the popcorn is evenly coated. Serve and enjoy!!

Savory Popcorn

-same as above, plus...
-dried oregano
-grated Parmesan cheese
-garlic powder

Follow all the steps listed above, and once you've topped your popcorn with butter, give it a generous dusting of grated Parmesan cheese, and a light dusting of garlic powder and dried oregano. Mmm!



Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn (Courtesy of Alton Brown: Food Network)

(I recommend reading the entire recipe before making this popcorn.)

Ingredients
-1/2 cup corn kernels
-1/2 cup granulated sugar (if you like a lighter flavor you could do 1/3 cup)
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-2 Tbsp. butter flavored shortening or Margarine *See tip below
-1 tsp. salt

Now this took me a few tries before I got it right. My biggest mistake was either I had my heat too high, added my sugar too soon, or I didn't pull the popcorn off the stove fast enough. Hopefully you'll get it on your first try ;)

Using a large covered pot, heat all of the above ingredients except for the sugar on medium-high heat (If you have a gas stove, you may want to try just medium heat, that's what I do and it works just fine.) Once the kernels begin to lighten in color and give off the smell of popped popcorn, add the sugar and mix well. Place the cover back on the pot and repeat the same steps as above, watching for the popcorn to pop and constantly, vigorously shaking the pot in a circular motion every 2 or so seconds. (I begin swirling the pot as soon as I add the sugar. Even though the kernels may not be popping yet, it helps ensure the sugar coats every single kernel and it helps keep the sugar from sticking.) As soon as the kernels pause between pops, take off the top, pour immediately into a serving bowl and let the popcorn cool. CAUTION!: the popcorn will be extremely hot when it first comes out of the pot. (If I'm not too impatient, I like to pour the popcorn out onto a cookie sheet instead. That way, not only does it cool down faster, but then I can pick out any burnt kernels... yes there are usually still a few ;)... and break up the rest that may stick together in small bunches.)

I know it sounds like its easy to screw up, but once you get it right and try it, this kettle corn will knock your socks off =)

*Sugar combined with high heat burns very easily. That's why I recommend waiting until right before you think the kernels are getting ready to pop to add the sugar to the pot.

*Also, using margarine or shortening can minimize burning as well as oppose to using butter. Margarine and shortening have a higher melting point, thus taking longer to burn. If you don't have either, I don't recommend trying out this recipe. Chances are, your popcorn will definitely burn if you use butter.