Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And on the eight day God created...

Bread Pudding! This bread pudding to be exact, with a Jack Daniels Cream sauce. Oh, you don't believe God would have used whiskey? Just taste this, they you won't question me. And if it really bothers you, you boil it, so the alcohol dissipates. Isn't that what they say anyhow? Once again this recipe comes from the Pioneer Woman herself, if you haven't been to her site will you just go there. You won't regret it. Well your stomach won't, but your thighs and your butts may begin to loathe her. One word from the wise (yes I am wise, I have made this multiple times already), DO NOT overfill the baking dish with bread. DO NOT stuff it in there, it will pop out of the sides and fall to the bottom of the oven and make gross burnt eggy sticky charred spots. Trust me, you don't want to learn this from example, okay!

See...don't stuff too much bread in, you will regret it!

Oh yeah, enjoy!

The Best Bread Pudding

2 eggs

2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 to 5 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (Iused French Bread, because I had it)
1/3 cup pecans, chopped finely (omitted but used raisins in its place)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together eggs, butter, vanilla, and milk. Add sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved. Arrange bread cubes tightly in a nine-inch baking dish, keeping the crust facing up around the edges in scattered within the dish. Pour liquid over the bread. Sprinkle pecans all over and bake for 55 to 70 minutes, or until crust is golden brown all over the top.

While the bread pudding is baking, make the Whiskey Cream Sauce:
1/2 cup sugar

1 stick butter
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup Jack Daniels
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until mixture reaches a low boil. Pour a small amount over the individual servings of bread pudding.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Exclamation Marks

I just realized that I use the exclamation mark a lot. Maybe even a little bit too much. I hope just translates to you readers as excitement about everything. I reread my entries and I punctuate nearly everything with them. My 5th grade teacher Ms. Stavig would be so ashamed. I hope that she never finds this blog. I have been a bit liberal with them, I promise, I will try to cut back!

Homemade pesto, the Weight Watchers way!

We love pesto in our house on sandwiches, in wraps, on pasta, you name it and we have probably tried it. But it is expensive to buy prepared and it is SO fattening, so I did some investigating and found this wonderful recipe that lightens it up quite a bit, yet it still tastes great! We made ours into a cream sauce (which was not Weight Watchers friendly) and served it over tortellini with chicken and broccoli. It was excellent! Pesto also freezes really well, my favorite method is to freeze it in ice cube trays, then you just pop out however many you need, instead of defrosting a whole batch. I actually intend to freeze some today if I ever get off the nest and my blog. Enjoy the lighter side of pesto!


2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 cup basil, leaves, fresh
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium garlic clove(s), peeled
1/2 tsp table salt

Place pine nuts in a small skillet and set pan over medium heat. Cook until nuts are golden, shaking pan frequently to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool.
In a blender or food processor, combine nuts, basil, broth, cheese, oil, garlic and salt; process until smooth and thick. Yields about 1/4 cup per serving at a points value of 2. Makes 4 servings.

*If you want to make it into a cream sauce as we did, we mixed 2 cups of 2% milk with 1/2 cups of pesto and let simmer on stove top. I added a little cornstarch to help it thicken up.*

Something from my mother finally!

I am surprised that nothing I have posted so far has come from my mother, but this recipe comes from her big spacious kitchen at home in Washington(oh how I miss that big spacious kitchen with all its counter space and cupboards!). This recipe is always a hit, we make it at least 3x a month just for us, and almost every time we have company also. If you don't want to use the baking method which is detailed below, you can serve it all cold, which is easier for parties where your oven is already busy. To do so, just cube the mozzarella and add it in with the tomato mixture and serve with bread/crackers. And whatever you do, do not leave out the balsamic vinegar, it is what makes it sooo delicious! This mixture is also great over salad or mixed with pasta, but you won't have any leftovers because it is that good, you will just have to whip up another batch!

Bruschetta with Double Tomatoes

6 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (I rinse mine to cut down on calories)
3 cloves minced garlic
2 TB olive oil + some for brushing bread

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 baguette/loaf of french bread/melba toast etc.
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, combine the roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for half an hour or longer. It helps all the flavors blend together.

Turn on broiler. (If your oven doesn't have a broil function, no worries mine doesn't either, just turn it to the highest temperature and watch closely!)
Cut your bread of choice into 3/4-inch slices. On a baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer, brush with olive oil, and broil just until brown about 1-2 minutes.

Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices. Top the slices with mozzarella cheese.
Broil for 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dinner Divas #3 YUMMO!

First off, you will never here me say yummo again, I promise! It is just that it is a Rachel Ray recipe, so I feel like it is necessary to say yummo, oops there is was again, and EVOO. Alright, I have them out of my system now, on to the review.
Honestly, we really liked this macaroni and cheese. It was simple and authentic tasting. I made a few changed, which are noted below, but we will revisit this recipe in my kitchen, it may even enter regular rotation!
Also, I must note that I got to pick 2 September recipes for my cooking group Dinner Divas, so this was one of my picks, and there will be an Emeril Apple Pie coming up in the near future. Both of these recipes were picked on behalf of Michael. He has been asking me to cook both, so he was my inspiration when looking for recipes this month.

Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli
From Rachel Ray
Serves 4
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound macaroni elbows or cavatappi corkscrew shaped pasta twists (we used fussili)
2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets, available packaged in produce department (no broccoli for Michael, but we added peas)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper ( didn't have any, added some tapatio)
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups whole milk (I used a mixture of whole and nonfat)
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar (I also added some goat cheese)
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard (I used about 2 TB)
Place a pot of water on to boil for macaroni.
Heat a medium pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute a couple of minutes then add onion and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve.
To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender.
While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour, cayenne and paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and stock and raise heat to bring the sauce to a quick boil. Simmer until the sauce thickens about 5 minutes.
Drain macaroni or pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to the pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli.
Add cheese to milk sauce and stir to melt it in, a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings and transfer to a large serving platter and serve.

I hope they make these in Heaven!

Let me set the scene for you, it is early on a Saturday morning, and I have a lot to accomplish. First though, I decide to color my hair. So now imagine me in the kitchen, with a bag on my head, seeding and degutting (yeah, I know I made that word up) 100 grape tomatoes. Why would I do that you wonder? Because I want to bring the beauty of this recipe to a football party, and they would be so much easier to eat if they were bite-size, wouldn't they? Here I am an hour later, with 90 grape tomatoes (some were lost to the degutting process) trying to decide how to make them stand up in a pan, and how to stuff them. Oh yeah, and I really need to wash my hair before it turns black or falls out of my head. So after a shower and some inspiration I realize I will have to cut the ends off of these tomatoes so they can stand, and I will have to pipe in their stuffing. 2 hours later they finally go in the oven, and I emerge a brunette.

Alright, now that you see how my Saturday morning was, let me share the recipe! The following recipe from Pioneer Woman is my latest obsession. I want to make these and eat them every single day. No seriously, they are that good. I got a little giddy and Martha Stewart on this recipe one day and decided that they would make the cutest appetizer in little grape tomatoes...dumb idea. Cute-yes, labor intensive-YES! So I will stick to Roma tomatoes in the future, the tomato stands up better in the oven that way anyhow. Also, I have no pictures of my own, because they always get eaten before the camera ever makes it out, so the picture below is from . So without further ado, read this recipe, and then get in the kitchen and make them, everyone who eats one will thank you!!!
Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes

Picture from Pioneer Woman

Dinner Divas #2 FLOP!!!

Second Dinner Divas recipe is going up quite late, but better late then never, right! Michael had VERY high hopes for this recipe, I think that he was expecting Panda Express fried orange chicken though, so he was already set up for disaster. I am not sure if I messed up on the recipe somewhere or what, but we really did not like this dinner, and my orange chicken wasn't orange. I'll post the recipes and the pictures, because we all have flops sometimes, but that will not be made in my kitchen again!

Orange Mandarin Chicken
Source Cooking Light
Serves 4

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges in light syrup, undrained
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.
While chicken cooks, drain oranges in a colander over a bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Add oranges, 2 tablespoons liquid, onions, jalapeño, and garlic to pan. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes. Combine broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch; add to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pioneer Woman, where have you been all of my life?

Alright, so I am counting my lucky stars that I stumbled upon Pioneer Woman's blog last weekend, we have eaten something off of her blog every night this week. She is FUNNY, and she has some awesome recipes on her blog. I haven't been disappointed yet! If you haven't been to her blog yet, I recommend you go here immediately, and have a pen and paper ready so that you can start a grocery list of all the things you need to start making some of her recipes. From now on PW will be used to talk about her, get used to it, you will see it a lot.

PW's Crispy Yogurt Chicken

I know, you are thinking crispy yogurt chicken, that sounds disgusting. But the yogurt marinade was delicious, and although the crispy part didn't quite work out, I will be trying this again in the future.

Chicken drumsticks (I used breasts, which may have contributed to the uncrunchy chicken)
2 cups plain yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
The juice of one lemon
2 cups of panko (I used regular bread crumbs, couldn't find panko. Also may have contributed to the uncrunchiness)

Combine lemon juice, yogurt, parsley, and minced garlic.
After thoroughly rinsing the chicken, pat it dry and sprinkle it with salt.
Put the panko in a bowl with a generous sprinkle of salt and butter the baking dish
Now dip the chicken in the yogurt marinade, and then the panko, and then place in the baking dish. Complete the process with all of the chicken and then top each piece of chicken with a pat of butter. (PW says this is the most important part, I forgot until half way through, but I did add it.)
Bake at 350 for 1hour - 1 1/4 hours.

An Ultimate Comfort Food

So everyone was talking about this recipe on the Nest's What's Cooking board the other day, so I decided we had to try it in our weekly rotation. I made a few changes that we were very happy with, and Michael enjoyed it so much he asked for the leftovers for lunch two days in a row! It will definitely be a regular in our rotations from now on. The original recipe came from Lindsay, but it was for a 9x13, which was way too much casserole for 2 of us, even when we do both like leftovers, I also saw some room for improvements, so the recipe below is what I ended up with. I hope that you all enjoy as much as we did!


1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 TB minced garlic
1 packet taco seasoning
8 oz. tomato sauce
4 oz. seashell pasta (I used elbow macaroni, it was all they had at TJ's)
4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened in microwave (I used fat free)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
1 can of sliced olives
1 can of black beans, drained
6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used cheese from 2% milk)

So far assembled: pasta, cream cheese spread, and the black beans

Finished off with the meat, cheese, and olives

Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain if necessary. Add taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, cook pasta according to directions. Drain.
Mix softened cream cheese and sour cream in separate bowl.
Spray bottom of 8x8 pan. Put pasta in bottom of pan. Spread cream cheese mixture over pasta. Sprinkle the can of black beans over the cream cheese mixture. Spoon ground meat mixture over this. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Finally sprinkle the olives on top pf the cheese.
Now you can pop it in the oven and bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
I served our taco bake with some sauteed green beans and some garlic cheddar sourdough. Yummy!
Dinner is served!

Easy dinner when you're short on time and craving big flavor

I finally caved and got Michael a panini press, and boy am I glad I did. It was the only thing that he officially registered for on our wedding registry, and he is so happy to now have it in our possession. Anyways, my favorite sandwich to grill is noted below, as well as the salad I served with it. Who can go wrong with all that melty cheese anyways?

Caprese Panini

Panini Rolls
Pesto (about 2TB per sandwich)
Balsamic cream (I just mixed balsamic into ff mayo) (2 TB per sandwich)
Fresh basil

Brush live oil on outside of roll and place bottom on grill. Brush pesto on roll, top with tomatoes and fresh basil. Place thick sliced (I like it about 1 inch) mozzarella on top of basil. On inner top of roll spread the balsamic cream and then place on top of sandwich. Close panini press and bake until cheese is melted. ENJOY!

Tortellini Pasta Salad

I package of tortellini, cooked according to directions on package ( we like pesto or cheese filled)
2 Roma tomatoes
3 TB pesto
3 TB mayo
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 small can of sliced olives, drained

After you have cooked noodles allow to cool by gently running cold water over them. While they are cooling combine pesto and mayo to make a nice creamy sauce. Cut tomatoes into bite sized chunks, and toss all ingredients in a bowl. This is best when left to sit overnight, although you may need to add more sauce if the tortellinis soak it all up. Feel free to use more or less sauce depending on how "saucy" you like your salad"

Yeah...I realize it has been a while

Don't know how I got so far behind blogging. It is not like I haven't been cooking every night, I guess I have jest been to lazy to blog it. So here is an onslaught of new posts, as you can see my kitchen has been pretty busy!