Monday, December 22, 2008

Chicken and Potatoes

I have been on a blog hiatus for a while. Mostly because of the holidays. I didn't cook or bake much over the holidays. I figure if I baked, I would just eat it all, which wouldn't be good for my New Year's Resolutions.

Who made New Year's Resolutions this year? I did! One of mine is to continue on with my healthy eating path and lose some more weight. Again, with the holidays, I plateaued for a while. That's okay because I am back on track and am on the road to a loss.

The recipe below is one I found while looking online for healthy recipes. My husband is a meat and potatoes guy, so this was perfect! It had all the elements of a yummy dinner: Tomatoes, meat, potatoes and spicy. I couldn't believe how good this tasted considering it's healthy! I really shouldn't be surprised any more because I have been proven time and time again that eating healthy CAN taste good.

This is a recipe from Cooking Light. Can I just say how excited I am that I received not only a year subscription to Cooking Light magazine, but I also received their 2008 Cookbook! I have been having a really good time going through all the recipes and bookmarking the ones I want to make. Stay tuned for some amazing recipes through this year.

This dish takes some unusual ingredients, but if you have a well stocked pantry, you should be okay. I had to buy some of the items, but most of them I had on hand. Splurge and buy good quality pepperoncini and kalamata olives. That way, you can store them in the fridge and use them again for another dish.

I particularly liked this dish because it didn't use up many dishes. It used a baking pan for the potatoes, and also the pot it cooked in, but other than that, not much clean up!

Enjoy my first post of 2009. Here's to healthy eating this year!

Mediterranean Chicken with Potatoes
from: Cooking Light (online)

4 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
12 small red potatoes, halved (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup vertically sliced red onion
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 cups chopped plum tomato
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Thyme sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine 2 teaspoons garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and potatoes on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until tender.

Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add half of chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken; remove from pan.

Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring wine to a boil; cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 2 minutes). Add potatoes, chicken, broth, pepperoncini, and olives; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, tomato, basil, and artichokes; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with cheese. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Is It Meatloaf or Chili?

That is the question of the day. The recipe is called Individual Chili Meatloaf, but the actual mixture could be a meatloaf, or it could be a chili. At any rate, this was dinner. It was good. Of course, almost all the recipes from Weight Watchers are good. I haven't found too many that aren't tasty. This had meat, but it also had all the elements for chili. The best of both worlds I suppose!

First off, I would like to say that this recipe lies a little. It says it serves 12. Well, I suppose that would be true if you baked the mixture in mini-loaf pans like it says, but who really has that many mini loaf pans lying around? I most certainly don't. But, the recipe did also say you could use muffin cups. Right on! I have plenty of those. Well, even after the mixture went into the pan, I had way more than 12 servings. I had almost 18. Oh well. Jason likes meat, so he will get the leftovers for a while. Also, the recipe doesn't tell you what to do with the veggies or beans. So, I assume you dice them and drain and rinse them. I added those instructions below.

Do yourself a favor. Don't be an idiot like me. I had never handled Poblano peppers before. I am wiser now, but I wasn't three hours ago. Don't cut a Poblano pepper and than not wash your hands afterwards. Better yet, use gloves! I still have the burn under my fingernails. It's not pleasant. Even after washing my hands, it still hurts.

Here is what the mixture looks like before adding the ground beef. See what I mean about chili vs. meatloaf?

Add some mashed potatoes, a vegetable and a salad, and your meal is complete. I prepared our's ahead of time since I had late errands to run tonight. So, I called Jason a few minutes before I was going to get home to preheat the oven. That way, I could stick them in when I got home.

They were tasty! Pretty spicy, so if you don't like a lot of heat, cut the peppers out completely, or maybe only use one.

Individual Chili Meatloaf
from: Weight Watchers

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves
2 cups onion, diced
2 large poblano peppers, small diced
29 oz. canned diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
15 oz. canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cups cilantro, chopped
2 pounds uncooked lean ground beef
sour cream and scallions, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 12 mini loaf pans (or large muffin tins) with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds (do not allow garlic to burn). Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes, lime juice, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, both beans and cilantro; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring mixture to incorporate flavors from bottom and sides of pan, about 10 minutes. Allow mixture to cool.

3. Place beef in large bowl and add chili mixture; mix thoroughly to combine. Place about 1 cup of the meatloaf in each prepared pan (or muffin tin). Bake until the juices run clear, about 35 to 45 minutes; let stand 10 minutes before turning out of pans. Top each meatloaf with 2 teaspoons each of sour cream and scallions.

These fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan. Follow the directions and let them sit for 10 minutes before removing them. Of course, I am never one to follow directions.

Lighter Muffins

I had some overripe bananas on hand, and knowing that I hate to throw food away, I wanted to use them. So, I debated: Banana bread or banana muffins? In the end, the muffins won. I found a recipe on that I could use, but I made some modifications to it. Why? Because I wanted a muffin with less Points than the recipe called for. Plus, if you scrimp on Points, you can add tasty extras like oh, mini chocolate chips. Tee hee.

As I looked over the recipe, I thought "Hmmm, what could go in this to help cut down some of the calories?". I remembered that I had some wheat germ on hand, which could substitute some of the flour. To cut calories even further, in place of the sugar, I used Splenda. Of course, these substitutions are completely not necessary, but again, chocolate chips anyone?

This recipe is light because it doesn't use oil or butter. The bananas act like the moisture in that respect. When you stir the ingredients together, the batter is very thick, but that's okay. They will turn out like muffins in the end.

My substitutions did me well. These are tasty muffins. If you heat them up in the microwave for 10-15 seconds, they are even better. You can't really tell they are healthy. Even the hubs liked them. Of course, he isn't getting his hands on anymore of them since he has Gingerbread Loaf from Starbucks to consume. Muffins=Mine!

Lighter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
from: Pachey

2 eggs, beaten
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1.5 cups flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Splenda
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line 12 muffin cups.

2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs and bananas. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, wheat germ, salt, Splenda, and baking soda. Stir in banana mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared tins.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Make Ahead Meal

I didn't pick this recipe because it's a make ahead meal, but instead, it just looked tasty. Every month, I pick up a copy of Cooking Light. I love looking through the magazine and picking out the recipes I want to save. This one happens to be from the November edition. It came from an article about a church group that pre-makes and freezes meals to take to parishioners who have lost a relative or had a new baby. The picture of this recipe looked very tasty, which was what made me dog-ear the page.

Of course, my version of it didn't turn out nearly so pretty. Maybe it was because I didn't have an 8x8 pan to bake it in. Maybe because the editors at Cooking Light have a job to make the food look pretty. Whatever the reason, at least it tasted good.

It felt strange to me not to pre-cook the pasta noodles. But, while the casserole is baking, it will cook the pasta in the soup and broth mixture. Don't worry, it will turn out okay. I followed the recipe exactly how it is written. I even have an extra pan of this stuff in the fridge for later in the week when I need a hot dinner. I suppose you could just bake the whole thing in a huge casserole dish, but that's entirely up to you.

I can't recall ever making a casserole that has diced celery in it, but surprisingly, it adds a really nice crunch and texture to the dish. This has a lot of veggies in it, so you don't have to guilty for eating it. After all, it is from Cooking Light. It's LIGHT.

Again, the picture didn't turn out very good, but then mine never do. Trust me, it tasted good. Paula Deen has a term for when food tastes really good but doesn't look so pretty: Grub. So, enjoy my grub, er, Cooking Light's grub.

Aunt Liz's Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
from: Cooking Light

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
2 cups uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces (about 7 ounces)
1 cup (1/4-inch thick) slices celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cans (10.75 oz) condensed 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine broth, salt, pepper, and soup in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add soup mixture to chicken mixture; toss. Divide mixture evenly between 2 (8-inch) square or (2-quart) baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over each casserole. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

To bake a frozen casserole, covered, for 55 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

I would just like to say that yes, I have lost weight by eating this way. Even though the food doesn't photograph pretty, it tastes good. So, neener neener neener. I am down 11.5 pounds so far.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yes, it really is LIGHT

Who would have thought that Fettuccini Alfredo could be light, or healthy? Well, leave it to Weight Watchers to be able to make a favorite dish lighter in calories and fat. I thought for sure Jason would grumble and groan about making a fat laden dish light, but he really enjoyed it! So did I considering I am not a huge fan of alfredo. I will eat it, but I don't make it very often, except that one other time (see old blog entry).

I altered this recipe slightly. It called for rubbing the chicken with whole garlic cloves. I love garlic, so I ended up using minced and kept it in the sauce. It turned out great! Also, believe it or not, the pasta doesn't taste like "whole wheat". Once it's covered in the sauce, nobody would really even know it was the healthier stuff.

I had never cooked or eaten Greek yogurt before, but it really added a zip and creaminess to this sauce. My local grocery store didn't carry it, so I had to make a special trip to Whole Foods. Now I will have to find another recipe that uses Greek yogurt. I suppose I could just eat it plain though, maybe with a little honey.

I hope you enjoy this lighter version of alfredo. Now, don't go mess it up by eating a piece of cheesecake for dessert or anything. Unless it's a healthy cheesecake : )

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo
from: Weight Watchers with my alterations

6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed and patted dry (four 4 oz pieces)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
cooking spray
1/2 cup canned chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt, Greek style
8 oz. whole-wheat pasta, fettuccini or spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium low heat. Spray with cooking spray. Saute garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken and cook until golden, flipping once, about 5 minutes per side.

2. In a small bowl, combine broth, heavy cream and yogurt; pour over chicken and scrape bottom of pan with a spoon to incorporate seasonings. Simmer chicken gently, turning once, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

4. Remove chicken from cream sauce and set aside. Add Parmesan cheese to sauce and mix until well combined. Add cooked pasta and toss well. Serve pasta topped with chicken.

That green stuff in the picture? That's a big ole pile of cooked spinach. Mmmmm!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Salad

I don't know how your family works, but in mine, we never had salad with Thanksgiving dinner. But, that's okay. I realize that not everyone is like my family. This year, I went over to my in-laws house for Thanksgiving where they typically host about 30 people. It was a slightly smaller crowd this year with only 20. It's similar to a potluck style where everyone brings a side dish. I was assigned to a fruit salad. Again, this is not something that I would have grown up with.

Being a rebel and a rule-breaker like I am, I decided to do a salad with fruit in it but not a traditional fruit salad. Make sense? So, I purused (is that a word?) All Recipes and found the salad below. Hey, it's got fruit in it! Doesn't that typically make it a fruit salad? Like I said, I am a rebel.

The salad below isn't from Weight Watchers, as most of my recipes have been lately. Instead, this one is from All Recipes, but if you use low fat yogurt in place of full fat, it is very healthy. I tasted some (bad Pachey!) to see if it was sweet enough, and yum!!! The cranberries were not tart at all.

I would suggest putting the cranberries in a food processor to chop them. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to sit there and chop that many cranberries. The picture didn't turn out so well, but I think the resulting salad is very pretty!

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you enjoy your holiday. Check back with me at a later time to see just how much people liked my salad. It's a little "exotic" for my husband's family, but oh well. Rebel!

Cranberry Waldorf Salad

1.5 cups chopped cranberries
1 cup chopped red apple
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 container (8 oz) vanilla yogurt

1. Combine cranberries, apple, celery, grapes, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and yogurt. Toss to coat. Cover and chill 2 hours.
2. Stir just before serving. Garnish with frosted cranberries and mint leaves if desired. For frosted cranberries, wet cranberry and roll in sugar.

Let There be Leftovers

A few days ago, I was working from home, and wanted something sweet. It took me all day to figure out what to make, and as soon as I logged off from work, I got busy in the kitchen. I had leftover applesauce and some sour cream that I needed to use up, so....enter the cake.

I found this recipe in my box and I had never made it before. It contained applesauce, sour cream and regular, standard baking staples. It sounded easy enough, and tasty (obviously a requirement), so I went to work.

In the end, this made a moist, sweet cake. I am not sure why it's titled a coffee cake, because it didn't seem very coffee cake-like. Oh well. It was still good. I cut it into 16 small pieces right when it cooled out of the oven. That way, I wouldn't eat too big of a serving size. If I hadn't cut the cake this way, I would have ended up eating half of the pan at once! So, portion control people!

The only thing I did differently to this recipe was add a tiny bit of nutmeg. I always think cinnamon and nutmeg go well together, so I put some in there. Guess what? It was good. ::Pat on the back for Pachey::

This cake gets an A in my grading criteria. It used up leftover ingredients from my refrigerator, it was easy to make, tasted good and healthy. Yes, a cake can be healthy. It really is possible.

So, next time you have leftovers in your pantry or fridge, don't throw them out. Put them to good use! You just may end up with a tasty treat like the one below.

Applesauce Sour Cream Coffee Cake

from: Weight Watchers

1.5 cups flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Stir together sour cream, oil, and applesauce in a small bowl. Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture just to mix (do not beat).

3. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake about 40 to 45 minutes. Allow cake to cool to warm or room temperature before slicing into 16 pieces.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Italian Night

Tonight was pasta night in our home. I don't think I can go a week without eating some sort of pasta. The only requirement is that the pasta have tomatoes (for me) and meat (for my husband). I don't always meet these requirements, but tonight I did.

I think I may have said this before, but if I could, I seriously would eat pasta every night. Every single night. I wouldn't get bored with it. What can I say? I am a carb girl. Jason on the other hand, could eat steak and potatoes every night. To each is own right?

The package of sausage that I bought was a pound, so I have leftovers, which is great. Sausage and pasta for me another night! If you like a lot of heat in your food, I would suggest using hot Italian sausage rather than mild. I couldn't find crushed fire roasted tomatoes at my grocery store, so I used diced instead. It worked out great because the sauce ended up being a little more chunky.

I made the pasta al dente because it soaks up a lot of the juice from the sauce. However, it is your preference how you like your pasta! I didn't have any whole wheat rotini on hand, but for the portion size that you are eating (if you follow the Weight Watchers portion size, which is 1 and 1/3 cup), it's okay to use regular pasta. Whole wheat would be delicious though.

This makes tons, and I sectioned up the portions into little containers. That way, for dinner this week, I can take out a pre-measured container and heat it up. Add a green salad and you have a healthy dinner.
Who would have thought that eating healthy could be so yummy? I know it's a cliche, but I really do enjoy looking for foods that are good for you and taste good as well. I think I have found a good one with this recipe. Now, if I could just find a healthy and low-fat cupcake recipe, I would be all set! Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta
from: Weight Watchers

1/2 pound raw turkey sausage, Italian-style, casings removed
2 teaspoons olive oil, extra-virgin
2 medium yellow peppers, cut into long thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1.5 tablespoon minced garlic
28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted if you can find them
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz. whole-wheat rotini pasta (or fusilli)
1/3 cup basil, fresh, chopped
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, to make sauce, in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage, stirring and breaking up meat with back of a spoon, until cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes; remove to a plate.

3. Heat oil in same skillet. Add peppers and onion; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are lightly colored and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Add wine and garlic; cook until most of liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt and browned sausage; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender and sauce is heated through, about 10 minutes.

5. While sauce simmers, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta, return to pot. Add sauce and basil; toss to mix and coat.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Well, we are back from Disney World. We ate a lot, although the food wasn't very good, and walked even more. Even though I wasn't watching what I was eating while on vacation, I still managed to lose about 1.5 pounds. Must have been all the walking and 85 degree weather!

Now that I am back from being a glutton, it's back to cooking healthy. The recipe below has been going around The Nest for quite some time, but I haven't made it before now. I can't believe I haven't tried it before! It is seriously my new favorite recipe. It was absolutely delicious, and believe it or not: Healthy! Depending on the type of soup and sour cream you use, it's very low in fat but it delivers on taste, that's for sure.

I can't rave about this one enough. The chicken was perfectly cooked, it had the right amount of zip from the salsa, and it was creamy! I might have to hide the leftovers from my husband, otherwise, I won't get any of them.

Introducing: Salsa Chicken! This is sure to become a regular visitor at my house.

I used three chicken breasts because they were so big, and then cut them in half (the recipe makes 6 servings). If you prefer a spicier dish, I would recommend medium or hot salsa instead of mild. I served it over white rice, but brown rice, egg noodles or another pasta would work well also.

What could be easier than dumping all the ingredients in a crockpot? Well, nothing really. This truly is an easy dinner, and very very delicious!

Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken
from: Spark People

4 bonless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup salsa
1 package taco seasoning
1 can reduced fat (98% fat free) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

Add chicken to slow cooker. Sprinkle taco seasoning over chicken. Pour salsa and soup over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Whole Enchilada

Well, this isn't really an enchilada, but whatever. I say the whole enchilada because this recipe has got the whole package: Carbs, veggies, meat and dairy. It's the perfect balanced meal. Pssst. It's healthy too. Granted, it isn't healthy if you eat the whole pan, but if you stick to the serving size, it is. This casserole serves 8, and I must say, the portions are very large. You won't go hungry eating this dish.

Here's how it's healthy. You use very lean ground beef, and then to top it off, drain off what little fat is left. It's chock full of beans and tomatoes, which are high in fiber and vitamins. The cheese is low-fat. Don't scrimp and use fat-free. The result is a weird rubbery consistency. The 2% fat cheese works perfect. The tortillas are good because they are corn, which is lower in calories and fat than a flour tortilla.

It's tasty, it makes a lot and it's healthy! What could be better? Unless you like Tabasco, and then add some! We do and it's delish. Yes, I realize it looks strange in the picture. I have never met a casserole that looks pretty.
FYI, it's a short blog this week because I am getting over a cold and not feeling up to par.
FYII, I won't be blogging next week because I will be meeting the Mouse in DisneyWorld.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Layered Tortilla Bake

1 pound very lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (28 oz) tomatoes, Mexican style
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chiles (mild)
1 package Taco seasoning mix
1 package (10 oz) corn tortillas
1 cup (4 oz) shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat in large nonstick skillet; drain well.

2. Mix in beans, tomatoes, chiles and taco seasoning. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

3. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut tortillas in half, place half of them in bottom of baking dish, overlapping.

4. Spoon half of meat mixture evenly over tortillas. Cover with remaining tortillas and then remaining meat mixture. Top with cheese. Cover; bake 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mexican Again

I am not sure why, but it seems a lot of our meals lately are slightly Mexican in theme. First, there was the Tamale Casserole, last night it was the Chili Mac, and tonight, it's Mexican Meatloaf. Stay tuned next week when I make Tortilla Casserole by the way.

Maybe it's the spicy food that appeals to me in this cold fall weather. Maybe it's that it seems you get a lot more bang for your buck with Mexican food. All I know is that it's extremely tasty!

My husband being a huge meat eater, I wanted to make something that would appeal to him but was also healthy. This meatloaf is healthy, as long as you don't eat the whole loaf of course. Portion control folks! This whole loaf makes 8 slices of meatloaf.

Call me a weirdo, but I always like to mix my meatloaf. Something about squishing all the ingredients together is fun. If this grosses you out, wear gloves.

I wasn't sure if we were going to run errands tonight before dinner, so I prepared this meatloaf ahead of time. I combined all the ingredients and put them in my loaf pan and then stuck it all in the fridge. I took it out of the fridge about 30 minutes to rest before putting it in the oven.

Serve this meatloaf with mashed potatoes like I did, or you can get really creative and have Spanish rice. To go along with the healthy recipe, we also had green beans and a salad. You have to remember to eat those vegetables!

Maybe after a few weeks, my obsession with cooking Mexican food will pass. After all, there are only so many things you can make before you get tired of them. Although I do love a good plate of nachos.....Mmmmmmmm.

Mexican Meatloaf
from: Weight Watchers

1.5 pound lean ground beef (7% fat)
1 cup rolled oats
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 ounces canned green chiles, mild, diced
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
8 ounces canned tomato sauce

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine all ingredients, except half of the tomato sauce, together in a large mixing bowl. Set remaining sauce aside. Spoon meatloaf mixture into prepared pan and smooth top.

3. Bake for 60 minutes. Spoon remaining sauce over meatloaf and cook 5 minutes more. Slice into eight pieces.
Dang it, why did the meatloaf have to fall apart before I could get a good picture of it?

The Perfect Crunch

How many of you have tried biscotti from a coffee shop? I usually don't buy it, because it's way too crunchy for my liking. Even after dunking it in a cup of coffee, it hurts my teeth. There is one place here in Portland that makes biscotti that doesn't break your teeth, but that is another story.

I made the perfect biscotti today. Just crunchy enough, but still a teeny bit soft in the middle. It has mini chocolate chips in it to give just enough chocolate flavor. It's the perfect crunch to go with that hot cup of coffee or tea.

Did you know that biscotti translates to Itwice cooked in Latin? It comes from the words bis coctus. I just like to refer to them as Italian biscuits. In England, aren't biscuits cookies? It always makes me smile when my mom talks about having digestive biscuits on her trips to London.

This recipe is easy to make, and as the name implies, it is twice cooked. You first start out by mixing the ingredients, and then forming them into a log. After that you bake the log, slice when cooled and bake again. The results are tasty!

Biscotti before baking:
After baking. It puffs up a little.

Because I am an independent thinker (also known as stubborn), I don't cut the biscotti crosswise on a diagonal as the instructions indicate. I don't do this because I like all my biscotti to be equal size. There will be no skimping here! So, it's easier for me to cut in half, and in half again. The four quarters will each equal five biscotti. For people that aren't good at math, that is 20 biscotti total.

So, enjoy a biscotti with a cup of coffee, tea, or even as a sweet treat after dinner. There will be no teeth breakage here.

Chocolate Chip Biscotti
from: Weight Watchers

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.

3. With an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until frothy, about 2 minutes. Stir the dry ingredients in just until moistened and dough forms. Shape the dough into a 13x3 inch log on baking sheet.

4. Bake log 30 minutes and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees.

5. Cut warm log crosswise on a slight diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices. Stand slices, about an inch apart, on baking sheet and return to oven for 12 minutes. The centers will be soft, but biscotti will crisp when cooled.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chili Mac Not From a Box

I have known lots of people who make chili mac. You know? The kind where you make a box of macaroni and cheese and stir in a can of chili? All the better if it's Kraft, with its nuclear orange cheese mix. I honestly never could acquire a taste for the stuff. I like chili, and I like mac&cheese, but not together. However, on my quest to find healthier recipes, I wanted to branch out. Try some new things. Go out on a limb. You get the picture.

What sold me on this recipe was the overwhelming amount of tomatoes it contains. Score! Me and my love affair with tomatoes should get some therapy. It's getting a little out of control. I could seriously eat tomatoes straight, and sometimes I do. I eat tomatoes for almost every meal. How do I eat tomatoes at breakfast you may ask? I toast an english muffin, scramble an egg with cheese and add a tomato slice. That's how.

But, back to the recipe at hand. This makes a ton. I almost didn't have room in my skillet to hold all the ingredients. I really started to worry when I added the macaroni. I thought for sure, I would have an overboard moment. I didn't though.

This is a very simple dish to make. It doesn't require much effort other than opening all the cans, and browning some meat. It's very healthy with all the tomatoes and beans. So, enjoy a big serving, because it's got tons of vitamins and minerals. Most of the ingredients are those you would have on hand. A plus for me, since I love using up what's in my pantry.

I am a happy girl, because I had so much leftover, that I will have simple dinners for the rest of the week! Just microwave, add a salad, and voila. Dinner.

Cheesy Chili-Mac
from: Weight Watchers

2/3 pound extra-lean ground beef
2 medium onions, chopped
29 oz canned stewed tomatoes, Mexican style
2.5 cups canned tomato juice
4 oz canned green chiles, diced, drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
1.5 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
31 oz canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese

1. Coat a large skiller with cooking spray. Cook ground beef and onion over medium-high heat until meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Drain off fat.

2. Stir in stewed tomatoes including juice, tomato juice, chiles, and chili powder. Bring mixture to a boil.

3. Stir in macaroni and beans; return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until macaroni is tender, about 15 minutes. Spoon chili into bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

Soup's On

It's been the perfect weather lately for soup. Cold, brisk, fall days that warrant a hot bowl of soup. I make three of four different kinds regularly, but I tried a new one today. I didn't have a whole lot of time before I needed to run to a meeting, so I threw together the ingredients and set the crock pot to High. In five hours, I had a delicious bowl of soup for lunch.

Knowing myself well, there is hardly a time where I don't cook without tomatoes. Today was no exception. The base for this soup is actually a can of diced tomatoes. Big shocker! The recipe comes from Weight Watchers, which I have been relying on heavily lately. I have been cooking very healthy for the past few weeks and the payoff is starting to show. I am wearing a pair of jeans today that are a size smaller than I usually wear. So, yay me!

Serve this soup by itself as a starter, or alongside a sandwich for those cold nights. I had a wrap sandwich and a piece of fruit, and that was the perfect lunch. There are tons of things that you could add to this soup if you would like some protein. A can of beans (kidney or cannelini to go along with the Italian theme would be good), some cubed chicken breast, or even tofu if you happen to eat it. I used organic chicken broth in this recipe, rather than the vegetable. Chicken, I find, is more flavorful, and it's a lot cheaper for some reason.

Enjoy this soup, and enjoy the fall weather if you happen to live in a colder state!

Slow Cooker Soup
from: Weight Watchers

10 oz spinach, baby leaves
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium garlic clove, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
2 pieces bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker; cover and cook on high for 5 hours. Remove bay leaves, stir and serve.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

See a Pattern?

If you have been reading my blog the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed a trend. I am using a lot of Weight Watchers recipe. That's no mistake. Here's my confession: I am doing Weight Watchers. I had success several years ago, and due to a wedding, busy life, and being lazy, I have gained some weight. So, the next few months, you will see a pattern of healthy recipes on my blog.

Tonight, it was Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese. Not Stovetop stuffing, but stovetop being the cooking method. This is a very easy recipe to put together. It takes no more than 30 minutes start to finish. Really, it only takes 10 minutes if the pasta is already cooked. That's the number one reason why I like it. Number two is that it's tasty, and the ingredients are minimal. Who doesn't have a can of diced tomatoes laying around? Who doesn't have some cheddar cheese in the fridge?

You may think that tomatoes in macaroni and cheese is odd. Well, it's not. Especially if you understand my love obsession with tomatoes. I could eat them every meal. I sometimes do actually. For instance, I had a sliced tomato on my egg and muffin sandwich this morning. For lunch, my soup had tomatoes in it. For dinner....well, you get the idea.

The picture below doesn't do this dish justice. It is really really good. I paired dinner with a green salad and a little of my homemade applesauce (see previous entry). It was perfect. I think I covered every food group in the meal. Well, except meat. But who needs meat anyways?

So, for all you Weight Watchers fans out there, this one is for you! You can still have your macaroni and cheese, just in moderation.

And the picture reminds me that I either need a new camera, or need to learn to take better pictures! Oh well. The point of this blog is really for me anyways. I like to track the recipes I have made in months past. Maybe my upcoming vacation can hone my camera skills. One can only hope right?

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
from: Weight Watchers

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, do not drain
1.5 cups shredded reduced-fat mild cheddar cheese
1/2 low-fat milk (1%)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni

1. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes.

2. Stir the cheddar, milk, Parmesan, mustard and salt into the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly until the cheese melts and the mixture is smooth, 2-3 minutes.

3. Stir the pasta into the skillet and cook until heated thoroughly and well coated, 1-2 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes before serving.

Apples, Apples, APPLES!

What do you think of when you think of fall? For me, it's Thanksgiving, candy corn and apples. Others like pumpkins, cold weather and the changing of the leaves. Here's why I love apples: apple pie, applesauce, apple crisp, and apple cider. I love eating apples plain too, don't get me wrong.

Today, I went to the Apple Fest at Portland Nursery. Every year, they have apple tasting, entertainment, fresh apple goods and much more. Considering that apples are about $2.00 per pound at the grocery store, the $.89 a pound at the nursery was appealing. Even better, they sell apples in these huge bins, and they always have kinds that you can't buy on the West Coast, like Cortlands. I love East Coast apples. That's where I grew up, so I have fond memories of going apple picking in the fall.

With my apple loot, I came home and made sauce. It's my first attempt, so I had to ask my Mom for help. Below is my picture biography of my applesauce venture.

1. First, begin with your apples. I used a combination of Swiss Gourmet and Spitzenburg. I wanted Macintosh, but the nursery was out.

2. Cut the apples to a uniform size. If you have small apples, half them, and then half them again. If they are bigger apples, cut them into about 1/8ths, or about 2-inch chunks. Don't worry about the seeds. Deep breath people. Trust me, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE SEEDS. Do take the stem off and the weird blossom thing at the bottom though. Oh, and don't peel them.

Exhibit A:

3. Get a big pan and fill the bottom of the pan (just so it's covered) with water. Place the apples in the pan. Cover, heat on high until the water starts to boil. Then, turn down the heat to low and simmer. Cook until the apples are soft. This took about an hour on my stove.

Exhibit B:

4. Once the sauce has cooled a little, strain it. I used a colander because the mesh strainer I had turned my applesauce into apple juice. Mush the pulp through the holes until you have nothing but the skins.

Exhibit C:

This is all the skin that was left from that huge pan.

5. At this point, you have complete applesauce. Don't add cinnamon or anything to it until you are ready to eat. The spices will turn it a weird brown color.

So, my foray into applesauce was a success. I have enough to eat, freeze, and to make an applesauce cake. Plus, I have apples left over for an apple crisp!
Exhibit D:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ole Ole!

It's getting colder and colder outside, and do you know what that means? It's casserole season! Okay, okay, I cook casseroles year round, but they really are more appropriate for fall and winter. I use my crockpot year round too, but that's another story.

This is one of those recipes I have had forever, and never made. So, I figured why not? We haven't had Mexican in a while, and this one sounded good. It's called Tamale Casserole, and even though it doesn't have real tamales in it, it does have polenta. Hey, cornmeal is used in both polenta and tamales, so it's sort of similar, no?

Pssst, this is a Weight Watchers recipe! Don't tell my husband! If you are wondering why I say that, please see my previous blog entry. He has this stigma in his mind that healthy equals flavorless. Now, I can assure you that with the chipotle en adobo, the cilantro and the scallions, this recipe is FAR from flavorless.

Please don't scold me. I forgot the cilantro at the grocery store, so I didn't use it. The recipe called for 2 tablespoons, so I know I was lacking some flavor, but trust me, it was still good!

When I went to the grocery store this week, I specifically had scallions on my list. That is exactly what I call them too: Scallions. I couldn't find them at the store, which seems odd to me, because they are pretty common. So, I asked where the scallions were. The person working in the produce department looked at me funny. "You mean green onions?". I guess I thought that scallions were called scallions and that it was a pretty common name. I guess not. Maybe it's an East Coast thing.

This is only the second time in my entire life that I have cooked with polenta, and it was really good! I will have to find other uses for it. If you have any healthy suggestions, send them my way! I had the chipotle chiles in the freezer from a recipe I made a while back, so all I did was thaw them out and pop one out of the container. Back in the freezer they will go for another dinner some time.

This makes tons, but the serving size says it serves 4. Good for me because I can still eat a lot without a lot of calories.


Tamale Casserole
from: Weight Watchers

1 can (16 oz) fat-free refried beans
6 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 chipotle chile en adobo, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes, broken up
1 tube (16 oz) fat-free polenta, cut into 12 rounds
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons sliced, pitted ripe olives

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the beans, scallions, sour cream, cilantro, and chipotle in a medium bowl, set aside.

3. Spoon half of the stewed tomatoes into the bottom of the pan. Arrange the polenta rounds in one layer over the sauce. Spoon the mixture (bean mix) on top of each round. Top with remaining stewed tomatoes. Sprinkle with cheese and olives.

4. Bake, uncovered, until heated through and the cheese melts, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Chicken Parmesan, Healthy!

This recipe is one that I have had for years. It's a super easy version of Chicken Parmesan, plus (bonus points), it's healthy!

I got this from the Weight Watchers website, and it's so easy to put together that I used to make it at least once a week. It's cost effective too because canned sauce is inexpensive, and chicken breasts are pretty inexpensive if you buy them frozen. In this tough economy, who doesn't want to save a few pennies?

I made this last night along with whole wheat pasta. Now, for the skeptics of whole wheat pasta, let me tell you that it's come a loooong way. When it first came out, it was very gummy, chewy, and didn't taste very good at all. But, give it a try. There are so many brands and shapes on the market now, and they taste really good. It gives your pasta a very nutty flavor. I am going to start making it more often, especially for the health benefits it has.

Usually, when I cook something healthy, my husband gives me the side-eye. "Oh great, it's another healthy recipe". He doesn't trust healthy eating for some reason, but because I have mad skills (haha) in the kitchen, I can usually win him over. He likes this one.

I don't pound the chicken like the recipe calls for, and it always cooks through in the oven. And, I usually sprinkle a little bit of extra Italian seasoning on top of the sauce, before I add the cheese. It gives it a little something extra.

Go ahead, give this a try! You will be pleasantly surprised as well.

Chicken Parmesan
from: Weight Watchers

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly pounded (four 4oz pieces)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon olive oil
1.5 cups canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8x8 inch square pan with cooking spray.

2. Dip chicken in egg whites, and turn to coat. Then mix breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning and dip chicken in breadcrumb mixture, turn to coat evenly.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet; add chicken. Cook until lightly browned and no longer pink in center, about 4 minutes per side; place on paper towels to drain.

4. Pour 1/2 cup sauce into prepared baking dish; place chicken in dish and pour remaining sauce evenly over chicken. Sprinkle with cheeses and bake until bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm Cultured!

Well, at least this recipe is. I got it from Bon Appetit, oooooooh. My lovely husband got me a subscription when he bought my mixer last year. Sadly, I have never attempted a recipe out of this magazine until today! The ripped out magazine page has been hanging on my fridge for a few days and I feel I should frame it and hang it on my wall. Why? Because this was the most delicious pasta dish I have ever eaten. It definitely makes it into the Top 3 for sure. I will most certainly have to make more of the recipes out of this magazine in the future.

Jason was hesitant when he heard there was lettuce (arugula) in this dish, and I was a little skeptical myself. Let's face it, I don't even like arugula in a salad. After eating it, I understand why the arugula was there: It adds crunch and a bit of peppery flavor. It was downright perfect.

The only thing I did differently was add extra rigatoni. Being a huge pasta fan, I didn't think 8 ounces of rigatoni would be enough. I am glad I added the extra because now I have lunches for the next week! Evidence below:

We ate this and it didn't need any accoutrements. The only thing we did eat with it was a yummy crusty Kalamata and rosemary baguette. It was heaven on a plate for sure.

Ohhhhh, I wish I could go back and eat this entire plate of pasta all over again. Instead, I will have to wait until tomorrow for my lunch.

Bon Appetit! Get it? Tee hee, because I got the recipe from the magazine of the same name?!? Get it? Oh never mind.

Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage-Tomato Sauce, Arugula, and Parmesan
from: Bon Appetit Magazine June 2008

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds fresh hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes in juice
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes with added puree
8 ounces rigatoni
2 cups (packed) fresh arugula, stemmed
1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add sausage; cook until browned, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Drain drippings. Add wine, diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Stir pasta, arugula, basil and oregano into tomato sauce. Simmer until arugula wilts, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's Puffy All Right

Tonight, we had breakfast for dinner, yum! I had a few pieces of bacon from a couple of weeks ago's pasta recipe (See Bacon Pasta post), and I had all the ingredients on hand for this Betty Crocker recipe, so Puffy Oven Pancake it was! Add some eggs, and it was a complete meal.

I wanted a little more pizazz, so I made the variation at the bottom of the recipe for Apple Oven Pancake. What better way to usher in the fall by celebrating with apples?
This dinner baked up very quickly, and I am not so great with timing everything to finish at the same time, so a big pat on the back. The pancake, bacon and eggs were all done at the same time! No cold food in sight. I think that's why I like casseroles so much. Everything is done and hot at the same time.

I bet this recipe would be good with other fruit too. Maybe peaches? I would suggest pineapple, but the husband doesn't like pineapple. Such a shame considering all the fresh pineapple that we encountered while vacationing in Jamaica.

I served this plain, with a tiny bit of maple syrup over the top. It was sweet enough that it didn't need syrup, or even extra butter.
Here's to pancakes in the oven!

Puffy Oven Pancake
from: Betty Crocker

2 tablespoons stick margarine or butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
lemon juice and powdered sugar or cut-up fruit if desired

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt margarine in pie plate in oven; brush margarine on side of pie plate.

2. Beat eggs slightly in medium bowl with wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in remaining ingredients except lemon juice just until mixed (do not overbeat). Pour into pie plate.

3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until puffy and deep golden brown. Serve immediately sprinkled with lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Apple Variation

Prepare Puffy Oven Pancake as directed, except sprinkle 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon evenly over melted margarine. Arrange 1 cup thinly sliced peeled baking apple (1 medium) over sugar. Pour batter over apple. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Immediately loosen edge of pancake and turn upside down onto heatproof serving plate.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chicken from Camille

Mind you, I have no idea who Camille is. That is just the name of this recipe. So, thanks Camille! I appreciate you contributing to my blog. And thank you to All Recipes. I have to say how much I love their website. Not only do I get daily emails from them with a recipe of the day, but I can always find a good recipe by using the search tools.

Tonight, to go along with our herbed dinner rolls, I made Chicken a la Camille. Essentially, this is herbed chicken coated with barbeque sauce. Yum yum yum.

The nice thing about this recipe is that chicken, Italian seasoning and barbeque sauce are always things that one would have on hand in the pantry. Sometimes, it's nice to make things that aren't fussy and take little time.
Add some potatoes and a veggie, and you have a nice dinner in under 30 minutes. I sound like Rachael Ray. Sheesh.

Chicken a la Camille

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup Italian seasoning
1 cup barbeque sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place chicken and seasoning in a resealable plastic bag; sell and toss to coat; place chicken in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish.
3. Bake for 20 minutes.
4. Place sauce in a shallow dish or bowl and dip chicken in sauce to coat.
5. Bake for another 20 minutes; serve with additional barbeque sauce

An Uprising, Deux

If you read my blog (who am I kidding, no one actually reads this thing) you will notice that I made cinnamon rolls last weekend. Since I had extra yeast, I decided to try my hand at making rolls. I found the recipe on, my go-to place for a good recipe. I wanted rolls, but didn't have shortening to make them, so I found an alternate recipe using butter. To go alongside our herbed chicken, I thought the herbed rolls sounded delish! So, I went and gave the chives in my garden a haircut. I don't have fresh parsley, so I subbed it with dried parsley, dill, and some Italian seasoning.

I got to use my mixer! It's always a treat when I get to. So, off to make herbed rolls. I started these at about 3:30 with the intention to have them with our dinner, some time between 6:00 and 7:00.

The best part of making this was watching the yeast dissolve. I know, I am a weirdo. It is really fun to watch the bubbles, although it's slightly creepy that it's alive. If you ever need to get some aggression or anger out, kneading dough is a good way. Not that I really have any anger.........

Here is a fun trick for you: If you don't have a very warm place for your dough or rolls to rise, I stoll this trick from Alton Brown: Place the bowl on top of a heating pad, set to low. It works like a charm!

Here are the rolls all ready to be baked, after their second uprising:

So, enjoy these rolls. And for those that don't want the herbs, you can always omit them and use a little bit more flour to make up for it.

BTW, they do need butter or margarine after taking them out of the oven. It definitely adds a little something to the rolls.

Fresh Herb Dinner Rolls

1 package (.25 oz) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 cup milk, room temperature
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 cups bread flour
1 egg white
2 tablespoons water

1. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in 1 cup warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the yeast mixture with milk, eggs, salt, butter, parsley, chives, and 4 cups flour. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough has pulled together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about one hour.

3. Grease two 9x13 inch baking pans. Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball and place into the prepared pans. Cover the rolls with a warm, damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg white with 2 tablespoons of water; brush egg wash over top of rolls.

5. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Uprising!

Who doesn't love hot cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven? If you can honestly answer no to that question, there may be something wrong with you.

I haven't had a lot of experience with yeast breads, however, I thought I would take a shot at cinnamon rolls. I figure, even if I mess them up, they would still taste pretty decent.

These weren't terribly hard to make. The only thing that was worrisome for me was where in the world I was going to roll out my dough. Let me explain: My kitchen is tiny. Very very tiny. See proof below:
See? So, instead of rolling out the dough in my kitchen nook on our breakfast table, I decided to use the counter. I moved those canisters you see, and it worked out just fine!

I can honestly say that these were a success. They were easy, fun to make, and tasted really really good. I pulled the frosting recipe from another cinnamon roll finding on allrecipes, and the two recipes in combination were a hit! I normally don't like cream cheese frosting, but this wasn't overly cream cheesy (is that a word?).

See my progress in the pictures below.

Here is the dough all rolled out ready to rolled into the rolls. That's a lot of the word roll in one sentence. Doesn't the filling look yummy? I used the Makara cinnamon that Cinnabon sells.
All ready to go in the pan. Look how tiny they are!

Here they are halfway through rising. The picture looks funny because there is plastic wrap over them. I set the pan on top of my washing machine. It was the warmest place in the house since the sun comes through the window there. It ended up being the perfect place for them.

Here they are after completely rising.

Now it was into the fridge for a couple of hours until Jason got up to enjoy them also.

Cinnamon Rolls

1 package (.25 oz) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
2.5 cups bread flour

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the sugar, salt, egg and 1 cup flour; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking pan. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Smear the dough with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll up the dough along the long edge until it forms a roll. Slice the roll into 16 equal size pieces and place them in the pan with the cut side up.

4. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Out of the oven. Yummmmm.

Cinnamon Roll Icing

1/2 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons milk

1. Mix all ingredients together and spread over warm, not hot, cinnamon rolls.

Potluck Offering

My family is large, and so when we all get together, there is tons of food. I thought that I would be different and bring a bean and olive spread, but alas, I arrived at the potluck and there were already five other spreads. There was salmon dip, guacamole, clam dip, french onion dip, and some other odd looking thing. I didn't taste that one.

Here I was thinking I was going to be creative, but noooooo. Oh well. I thought my spread was delicious, and probably the only one there that was light.

This was easy to assemble and the ingredients are probably ones that you have on hand, except maybe the Kalamata olives. All you is pop the items into a food processor and voila! Bean olive thingy. I brought whole wheat crackers and they were the perfect addition to the dip. Guess what? I still have tons left over. I plan on using the spread on sandwiches, and on the leftover crackers.

So, the next time I go to a potluck, remind me to see if there are other people bringing dips. Please?

Provencal Olive Spread
from: Cooking Light June 2005

2 cans (15.5 oz) Great Northern beans or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 teaspoons capers
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 Kalamata olives, pitted

* Place all ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Bacon Pasta

Two things you don't think of when you think of pasta. But, just be imaginative for a minute. Do you like bacon? Do you like pasta? Then you will probably like this easy and quick recipe.

I am always looking for pasta my husband will actually eat. It's not his favorite dinner choice, which is unfortunate, because it's always MINE. So, I figure he really likes bacon, and I really like pasta. Best of both worlds.

This recipe took about 30 minutes to pull together. As I was browning the bacon, I had the pasta water going. Plus, I made an herb and cheese foccacia, so that was in the oven.

The only thing that I was disappointed in was the fact that I had no green onion. I had every intention of using some from my garden, but my garden didn't produce enough this year. Dang this stupid Portland weather! I would highly recommend using green onion if you decide to make this. Notice there is also tomato in this recipe. You don't think I would actually make something without tomato do you?

If you choose to make foccacia also, it's super easy. I buy a pre-made foccacia in a package and jazz it up a bit. First, spread extra-virgin olive oil over the top of the bread. Then, sprinkle Italian seasoning on the top. Then, sprinkle fresh grated Parmesan over the top of that. Bake the loaf in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. You end up with a nice browned, crispy outside and a soft, warm inside. Pure heaven!

I don't have much else to say other than this was really good. Jason loved it, which is great, because he got the leftovers in his lunch the next day.

Peppered Bacon and Tomato Linguine

1/2 pound peppered bacon, diced
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
1 package (1 pound) linguine
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly browned. Drain, reserving drippings and set aside.

2. Saute green onion and garlic in bacon drippings over medium heat for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, basil, salt and ground pepper, simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

4. Toss hot pasta with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

People Stink

I had to set my blog to private because anonymous people (rude ones) were leaving nasty comments. So, maybe when I am more brave at some point in the future, I will make it public again. Instead, it's now invite only. Besides, this blog was more for me anyways to track my cooking progress.

So, here's to you stinky rude people! Take that!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Dijon Cluck Cluck

I made a Dijon Chicken last night. It was okay. Jason liked it better than I did. He actually requested I keep the leftovers to pack in his lunch. That is usually the sign of a success in our house.

The recipe was very easy to put together, so if you only have a few minutes, I would suggest making this. It takes ingredients you would probably have on hand, like flour, dijon mustard, and fresh mushrooms. Of course, if you aren't a fan of fungus, you could probably skip the mushrooms. I personally like them, so there.

This is a very rich dish, so I would suggest pairing it with something light, like a green salad or a green vegetable. We had broccoli with our's. I made rice also to soak up the sauce that the chicken is cooked in. It would also be good with egg noodles. This reminded me of beef stroganoff, except with chicken. And mustard. Oh, and whipping cream rather than sour cream. Okay, not like stroganoff at all.

I wanted to put the green onions in the recipe, I really did. However, with the issues my garden was having this year, I had no green onions. They all rotted in the garden before I could use them. Stupid rain and cold weather.

Oh, and if you are cooking for yourself, follow the recipe. If you are feeding two or more, you will probably have to double it.

Have fun taking out your aggression on the poor chicken.

Mushroom Chicken Dijon

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon butter
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 ounces chopped green onions
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard

1. Cut chicken breast in half, and pound until flat. Coat with flour. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat and saute the floured breast on one side for 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Flip chicken breast. Add mushrooms, green onions, salt and pepper to taste. Add cream and mustard, stir all together and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and serve.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ode to the Cupcake

I got a new cake pan. I have wanted it for months and months, and finally broke down and spent the $34.95 to buy it. In my defense, I used a gift card.

What's so special about this cake pan? It's a cupcake! No, not a cupcake pan with individual cakes, but one single giant cupcake. It's super cool and I can think of a million uses for it (baby showers, birthdays, potlucks, molding ice cream). The pan is divided into two sections: The frosting top part, and the paper wrapper bottom.

Follow this link and you will understand:

This week, there will be no recipe. This is because I used a boxed cake mix. Hey, I needed to test it out and didn't want to spend a lot of money or time on something that could have been a disaster. Plus, the husband likes boxed cakes (I know, right?).

So, here goes the giant cupcake. I greased and floured the pan. Now, normally I would use all flour, but I wanted my bottom part of the cupcake not to have white dust. So, I used cocoa powder. I believe I learned to use cocoa from Martha Stewart.
Exhibit A:
The instructions on the pan say that for a boxed cake, you need more than one box to fill it. Each side of the pan needs to be two-thirds full. So, here is what it looks like. I think I filled them too much. Oh well, live and learn.
Batter in:

Bake! I had no idea how long they would need to bake for, so I kept checking after ten minutes. I think total, it took about 40 minutes to bake.

Yep, I filled them too much:

I ended up having to cut off some cake on each side, otherwise, the two pieces wouldn't have gone together right.

They are starting to look like a cupcake! On goes the frosting and the sprinkles. Yes, I bought sprinkles. What can I say? I was looking for presentation.

Now THAT'S a cupcake! I really don't want to cut into it. I have a feeling it's going to fall apart. But, at least it looked pretty for a little while.