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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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)


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


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


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

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


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


-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


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.


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


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 ;)

-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)

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