Monday, August 30, 2010

Kitchen Sink Asian Chicken Pasta

Okay, so this is how I really cook. I look at a recipe. Make sure I have most of the key elements, and then I 'wing it' for the final dish. Perhaps this is why baking has been such a challenge for me. But it's just so much more fun to do it this way! I call this Kitchen Sink Pasta only because I use whatever vegetables are in my refridgerator at the end of the week. Anything that needs to be cut up and cooked goes in!

Kitchen Sink Asian Chicken Pasta
adapted from Nigella Express


2 big spoonfuls of peanut butter
1-2 glugs low-sodium soy sauce
1-2 glugs sesame oil
1-2 glugs olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 glugs lime juice

snow peas
red bell pepper
red onion
2 green onions (white and green parts)
tbsp cilantro

1-2 cups cooked chicken

1/2 lb pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti)

Mix all the sauce ingredients together and pop in the microwave for 30-second increments until it is 'saucy.'

Put noodles in salted, boiling water and cook as directed on package.

Meanwhile, cut all vegetables, with exception of the cilantro, and put in a heated skillet with a little olive oil. I like my vegetables slightly cooked - just about 5 minutes or so.

Drain noodles, and put in large bowl. Add sauce, then veggies, then cooked chicken. Stir altogether, add cilantro, and enjoy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies - Dream, Dream, Dream

I have always wanted to own my own bake shop. Nothing but coffee, muffins, cookies, coffee cakes, and cupcakes.

And books. Lots of them.

In order to fulfill my bakery-slash-bookstore dream, I'm going to cook a few bakery items each week to at least know I would at least have the repertoire for this venture. Keep in mind, I'm a TERRIBLE baker. So this experiment will go well, I'm sure.

Nothing is going to be fancy. That's a guarantee. But the idea of the house (and in my mind, the bookstore) smelling like vanilla and cinnamon makes me happy. Really happy.

Here is a cookie recipe I LOVE. The more I practice my baking, I'm hopeful I can improve. This cookie is one of the best I've ever done. I love the chewiness, along with the sweetness. It's a great combination, and to top it husband AND my son love these. I'll be making these again.

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light, Annual Recipes 2009
Makes 2 Dozen

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup almond toffee bits (I crushed two SKOR candy bars - no toffee bits in my house!)
Cooking spray

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees
* Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt in medium sized bowl
* In a larger bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix on medium speed until well blended; add vanilla and egg. Beat well.
* Add flour mixture and beat until all is combined.
* Add toffee bits (I also added a few semi-sweet chocolate chips)
* Coat baking sheets with cooking spray and drop cookie dough in tablespoon balls on sheet roughly 2 inches apart.
* Push cookies down with fingers to even amounts.
* Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, rotating cooking sheet in oven halfway through.
* Cool on pan for at least one minute; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Baked Chicken Parmesan


The answer is no.

I'm not Italian (I'm sure if you are, you are laughing at the notion someone might think I am.). I realize there are a lot of pasta dishes on this site (so far!), but the thing is...not too long ago I was a coupon clipper.

And by coupon clipper, I mean COUPON CLIPPER. I sort of went nuts. I was literally getting a 'high' by saving $.30 on a can of tomatoes. My addiction started slowly, but it increasingly got worse. Soon, I would come home with three boxes of floss, six deodorants, and four tubs of Country Crock margarine. We might not be able to pay our electric bill, but we'd have shampoo!

Generally speaking, being addicted to couponing is not a bad thing. However, the madness had to stop once I realized half my pantry was pasta. rotini, fettuccine, spaghetti, penne...the list goes on. I am not kidding when I say half a shelf was devoted to my free-or-almost-free pasta.

I have an overflow of toothpaste, too. However, I think this recipe tastes better.

Baked Chicken Parmesan - serves 2
adapted from Evil Shenanigans

2 Chicken Breasts, boneless & skinless
salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg white
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
2 Cups tomato sauce (I used this recipe, sans meat)
4 ounces uncooked pasta (Use whatever you like. I had LOTS of spaghetti, so that's what we used)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray cooking spray on foil.

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/2" thick, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

In small bowl, whisk egg white until frothy.

In another bowl, add panko bread crumbs and Italian seasoning.

Dredge chicken in egg white first, shaking off any excess egg white. Then drop in panko bread crumb mixture. Turn to coat.

Put both chicken breasts on lined baking sheet and let sit for ten minutes. This helps the breadcrumbs set.

Bake for 20 minutes (or until internal temperature is 155 degrees). Remove chicken from oven and add sauce, then top with cheese. Continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

Remove chicken from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

While chicken is baking, prepare pasta as directed. Toss pasta with sauce, then top with chicken.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Version One

One of my fondest memories growing up was when my mother made chocolate chip cookies. It wasn't so much the cookie part, though. It was the dough. She would make a batch of Nestle cookie dough (I mentally will always call them Nestle with a French accent, thanks to Phoebe on Friends.) in her mothers pale yellow Pyrex bowl. Then she and I would each get a spoon and dip to our hearts desire.

If I remember correctly, we'd take turns getting a spoonful while the other played Pac-Man on the Atari. I can't even recall if we ever even baked the cookies, because I vividly remember the dough being covered with Saran Wrap in the fridge.

This recipe is from The Best of America's Test Kitchen. It is fantastic! I even got as far as baking them, but only for photo's sake. I ate a lot of dough. Lots. Double-dipping is sooooo okay at our house.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen, 2010

* Makes 16 Cookies *

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the butter , swirling in the pan constantly until the butter is a golden brown color and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from heat and transfer butter to a heatproof bowl. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
5. Add both the sugars , salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter and whisk until incorporated. Add the egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no lumps, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture rest for 3 minutes. Repeat whisking for 30 seconds, resting for 3 minutes two times.
6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter, stirring until just combined. Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using), and give your mixture a final stir.
7. Roll dough into roughly 3-tablespoon balls. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and bake 10-14 minutes*, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time.
8. Transfer to a wire rack and cool before serving.

* When I baked these, it only took 8 minutes.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Coffee Cake Muffins - Oh... Emm... Gee...

Confession time. 

I once had a job as a donut fryer at I.G.A. Supermarket. 
The hours were from 4AM to 1PM.
I had to stand over a fryer until the store opened to the public at 7AM.
Then, I had the pleasure of helping customers.
After I'd been over the fryer for three hours.  After I'd been over the fryer for three hours.

I lasted one day. 

As it turns out, early mornings, frying food, and then trying to be presentable for the public was just not my gig.

These, however, are soooooo my gig.  I almost want to get up at 4 AM to make these babies just so I can relive the 'good ol' days' of my donut frying career.

Who am I kidding?  I'll just get up at 4 AM to eat these.  You will, too.  Promise.

Cinnamon-Sugar Crusted Coffee Cake Muffins
from Can You Stay for Dinner?

(Makes 12)

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

For the Cinnamon-Sugar topping:

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together until blended.

In a large separate bowl, combine the oil, sugar and egg.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones.  Mix just enough to combine.

Coat your muffin pan liberally with cooking spray.  Divide mix into each cup evenly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in separate bowl.

Once the muffins are done, run a knife on the edges to pop them out of the muffin tray while they are still hot.  Let them cool for about five minutes, or just long enough to be able to hold them.

Then, the fun begins.

Dip them in butter, then go straight to the sugar/cinnamon mix and douse them in there.

Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cajun Chicken - An Ode to New Iberia

In high school, I was a member of Drill Team.  For two summers, the team would go away to summer dance camp to learn new routines, get to know other teams in the area, and compete for dance awards.  Ugh.  Even now, I am starting to itch and feel a hive popping up.

Summertime heat.
High school girls.
Pom poms galore.
Bows for as far as the eye could see.

Good times, huh?

However, the proverbial silver lining was that I got to listen to what a real, live Cajuns sounded like.  Honestly, I don't believe I blinked while the girls from New Iberia, Louisiana talked.  I even remember their colors were black, yellow and white!  I think the majority of the girls at camp were sneaking up behind them to hear their accents.  Talk about jealous!  My own version of Redneck Speak sounded

The point is, that whenever I hear the word Cajun, I always remember those girls at camp.  And so, New Iberia, this one is for you.

Cajun Chicken

Cajun seasoning - Emeril's Essence (see below)
2 Skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed of fat
Cooking spray

Cajun seasoning - Emeril's Essence
2 1/2 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  I put it all in a sealed container and shake it up really well (this counts for exercise for me). 

Take both chicken breasts and put between two sheets of wax paper, saran wrap or even in a Ziploc bag.  What you want to do is pound them until they are uniformly the same thickness.  I use a rolling pin and put the breasts between two sheets of wax paper.

Heat non-stick skillet to med-high and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Lots of it. 

Remove top sheet of wax paper on chicken, and sprinkle about one tablespoon of Essence on breasts.  Once skillet is hot, put chicken, season side down on skillet.  Then, sprinkle another tablespoon on top of breasts.

Cook on medium high for 4 minutes.  If the skillet gets a little dry, spray more cooking spray. 

After four minutes (or when bottom of chicken looks opaque), flip 'em, and turn the heat off of skillet. 

Cover (I just use aluminum foil) and let 'cook' for another 4-5 minutes.

Serve on your favorite noodles and sing, "Son of a Gun, We'll Have Some Fun, On the Bayou."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Turkey Meatballs with Tomato Cream Sauce

Growing up, Franco-American Spaghetti was one of my favorite meals.  I was ten.  I would have at least two cans a week for dinner, and each time I would close my eyes and think I'd gone to Italian heaven. 

Canned noodles.  Nothing says "healthy" like it.  As an adult, I bought some Franco-American SpaghettiOs and some Chef Boyardee Ravioli.  I was feeling particularly nostalgic, and was in a Dorothy moment.  You know, clicking my heels and saying, "There's no place like home, There's no place like home."

Little did I know, the Wicked Witch was in those cans.  Whoa.  Really?  I thought those were good?  It's not like I have a sophisticated palate.  Believe me.  I *heart* Night Hawk frozen dinners to this day.  In fact, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I had one a month ago. 

However, canned noodles can forever be taken off my "likes" list.  Instead, I am going to fix this recipe below and PRETEND it is from a can that will take me back to when I was ten.  I will PRETEND all I have to worry about is making it in front of the TV for the Donnie & Marie show, worry about my not-necessary bra, and hoping that a certain Michael Hinkleman will ask me to couples skate.

Turkey Meatballs with Quick Tomato Cream Sauce
Adapted from Evil Shenanigans


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 - 12 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar (I used a packet of Splenda)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream (No heavy cream in the house!  I used 2% milk, and it was just fine to me.)

1 pound lean ground turkey
2/3 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh cracked pepper (I used LOTS!!)
1 pound rotini, or whatever noodle floats your boat.

Heat the olive oil in saucepan until it simmers, then add onion and cook until softened (about three minutes).  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring for about a minute.  Add tomatoes, thyme, oregano, salt and sugar.  Just throw it all in there and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer.

Pour mixture into blender (I used a food processor), along with basil and combine until smooth.  Pour sauce back into pan and bring back to a simmer.  Mix in cream and turn off heat.

Turn on broiler, and spray cookie sheet with oil.

Combine turkey, carrots, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, and egg.  I added a little more bread crumbs than suggested to make mine a little more dense.  Add herbs, salt, pepper and cheese, and mix well.

Roll meatballs onto cookie sheet.  These are about two tablespoons each, and you should be able to get 25-30.  Top each with a dash of paprika.

Bake under broiler for 10-15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 F.

While meatballs are in the oven, prepare noodles according to directions.

To serve:  I mixed noodles and half the sauce together and put in a serving bowl.  Add the meatballs, remaining sauce, and top with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese - The King of Comfort

It is 100 degrees outside along with 100% humidity. Nothing screams SUMMERTIME like macaroni & cheese, right? I know this is typically a winter comfort food, but hear me out.

On days like that, when I am particularly longing for colder weather, I create it at home. My husband protests like a maniac, but I think we both realize at this point that his protests fall on deaf ears. One night is just fine.

I put the air conditioning on to 70 (I would go lower, but I do know my limits with Brian.). Not only do I put the air down, but I also put on my comfy winter pajamas.  And I make comfort food. Some days it’s soup, some days it’s chicken-fried steak, and some days it’s macaroni and cheese.

It’s funny how thinking it’s cold outside makes me feel warm inside. I love feeling cozy and snuggly. This does the trick, every single time.

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

8 oz. Macaroni (I used Penne - I feel more adult if I use Penne instead of Macaroni)

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

2 cups milk

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, divided

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, divided

2 Laughing Cow swiss cheese wedges

Black pepper, to taste

1) Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

2) Melt 2 T. butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually, add flour and salt.  Stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in dry mustard. Add milk gradually, whisking constantly (this is IMPORTANT!!).

3) Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

4) Stir in the cheddar, the mozzarella, and the Laughing Cow wedges, stirring constantly until you get the creaminess you want. Pour drained pasta into sauce pan, coating all noodles with cheese sauce.

5) Add black pepper, if desired, and serve while lounging in your favorite flannel pajamas.  It's ideal to have a terrible reality tv show or a sappy Lifetime move at the ready also.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Best BLT EVER.

I'm Not Even Hungover. Really.
Take a look at this sandwich. How good does that look? I know it’s easy to make, but I thought it was just so good looking. I had to take a picture (plus, I could use the practice - obviously).

I’ve been watching a lot of Nigella Lawson on the Cooking Channel recently, and I fear I’ve adapted her lingo. I consistently want to say things like “delightful” and “morsels.”

Keep in mind, I’ve got an Arkansan accent, with a hint of Texan. It’s my own unique version of hick.

Now, imagine that hick trying to say “scrumptious” and “it’s really quite lovely.”

Good times.

My New Favorite Sandwich

Whole Wheat English Muffin (I like Thomas’s brand)

2 slices of cooked Bacon



¼ Avocado, mashed

Mayo (because I was feeling particularly “naughty”)

Toast bread. Assemble sandwich – I like mayo on one side, avocado on the other. Eat and please say, “Perfect!” in your best British accent