Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baked parmesan tomatoes

For how simple these were, I can't believe that they stole the show for our Valentines dinner. Justin was popping them from the minute they came out of the oven, on the way to the table, during dinner, and cleaned up the plate afterwards.  I was amazed at how much flavor can come out of a tomato...I mean, they've always been a favorite of mine but roasting them like this just brings them to a whole 'nother level.  You have no excuse not to try these, they took like 3 minutes to prepare, they're not bad for you, and they're just so dang good!!!

4 tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1 t chopped fresh oregano
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
4 t olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tomatoes on a greased baking sheet and top with parmesan, salt, pepper, oregano, and drizzle with olive oil before baking for 15 minutes, or until tender.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Toasted quinoa salad with scallops

Quinoa is a delicately flavored, protein-rich grain. It also contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source, is a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, and is high in magnesium and iron, all while being gluten free.

In it's natural state it has a bitter tasting coating called saponin, which makes it unpalatable. Rinsing removes any residue of saponin, and we tasted no trace of it. This is the first time I've ever made quinoa, although I've seen it over a million times on blogs I read and heard my mother and everyone else under the sun rave about it's nutritional qualities.  Valentines day was the perfect time to try it!

I was looking for a scallop recipe for the romantic holiday and came across this one...

12 oz dry sea scallops, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used smaller scallops so didn't cut them up)
4 t reduced sodium soy sauce
4 T plus 2 t canola oil, divided
1.5 cups quinoa, rinsed well
2 t minced garlic (I used 4 cloves)
3 cups water
1 t salt
1 cup sliced up sugar snap peas
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 t toasted sesame oil
1 diced red bell pepper

Toss scallops with 2 t soy sauce and set aside.

Place a large, high-sided skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add 1 T canola oil and quinoa (make sure you have rinsed your quinoa like I mentioned before). Cook, stirring constantly until the quinoa begins to color (6-8 minutes). Add garlic and cook, stirring, until frgrant (about 1 minute more). Add water and salt and bring to a boil.  Stir once, cover and cook over medium heat until the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in snow peas and red pepper, cover and let stand for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, mix 3 T canola oil, the remaining 2 t soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil in a large bowl. Add the quinoa and veggies, and toss to combine.

Remove the scallops from the marniade and pat dry. Heat a large skillet over medium high until hot enough to evaporate a drop of water upon contact. Add the remaining 2 t canola oil and cook the scallops, turning only once, until golden and just firm (about 2 minutes total).  Gently stir the scallops into the quinoa salad.

Overall, this dish was really good....not something I wanted to shout from the rooftops, but I believe that was because we also had one of my favorite foods (crab legs) with this dinner so I was distracted by those.  I would compare it to rice texture wise, and the taste was mainly made up of the sauces used, which came out sort of asian inspired.  The veggies and scallops were perfectly done and crunchy, and the whole meal just tasted fresh and amazing.

I would like to try quinoa again, and have seen a quinoa mac and cheese that intrigued me so I'll let you know how that goes. It didn't blow my socks off but there's so many different ways to prepare it, I'm sure I can find the one that fits me! But if you're looking for a new and interesting dish with scallops....look no further.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Duct tape roses

Welcome to Valentines week! Yes, I know it was a couple weeks ago, but I have our splendiferous meal to post this week so I thought I would start with a crafty post.  Valentines day has never been much of a big deal to me, I feel like it's a made up holiday and although it sure feels nice to get flowers or something, I would much rather have them on some day when Justin was just thinking of me than on a day when they are twice the price, and pretty much forced.

Anyway, last year we went on our cruise to the Bahamas the week before V-day, so we decided to just make each other presents...homemade cards and all. He made me a paper rose (crunched up paper from his office secured to a wire stem with a zip tie) from things he found in the shop....and I just LOVED it (it's still perched in my printers drawer on the wall and I smile when I glace at it) so this year I decided to make him roses out of duct tape!  I found a tutorial online and away we went....

How to make a duct tape rose courtesy of Duck® brand tape and Todd Scott, the Canadian Duct Tape Sculptor.

Cut several strips of duct tape – about 2 inches each.

Sticky side up, fold one edge over itself, leaving some stickiness on the side and bottom.

Take the parallel edge and fold it over, leaving only stickiness on the bottom of the strip.
Roll this across tightly; this is your center.

Repeating steps 2-3 with strips of duct tape, loosely bind the strips around the center (these are your petals). Continue until you’ve reached the desired size.

For the stem, take a thin piece of floral stem wire, and a large strip of duct tape (the duct tape should be about a 1/2” shorter than the wire). Place the wire on the strip (parallel) and roll the wire across, wrapping the tape tightly around.

Insert the end with the 1/2” of wire (the end that doesn’t have tape on it) into the rose. Make a petal (steps 2-3) and secure the stem to the rose.

I think they're just as beautiful as real flowers....and they'll last forever too! If there ever was a manly flower, one made of the almighty duct tape would be it!  :)

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tortellini and Pancetta in mushroom cream sauce

I realize it's now lent so posting a recipe with meat in it on Friday is a little jerky, but the pancetta/bacon  could be removed from this recipe by simply adding more mushrooms.  I'll work on getting some good seafood up next week (Valentines day dinner was out of this world and was all seafood) but if you need something for right go to fish meal is a recipe of my friend Michelle's, and is super yummy and easy, while exuding a fancy have to try it!  So go check out Michelle's tilapia with mango salsa or a couple of my new favorite shrimp dishes: the roasted tomatoes with shrimp and feta, or the recently posted shrimp pomodoro!

12 oz tortellini
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta, cut into small chunks (I used bacon, since I didn't have pancetta)
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used skim milk)
cracked black pepper
1.5 cups grated pecorino romano cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add pancetta and mushrooms, saute until mushrooms are brown.

Add cream and stir frequently, until sauce begins to thicken. Turn heat down to low and add pepper and cheese. Stir until sauce is smooth. I also added some Gunpowder spice, which is a mix of peppers, just to give it some kick! You could use red pepper flakes if you like some bang in your bite know how I roll!

Drain pasta and put in pan with sauce. Turn heat off and stir together gently. Serve immediately, as the sauce will tend to dry up....

This was sinfully delicious...a lot heavier than I usually serve so it was a nice treat, especially with some garlic baguette to scoop it into my mouth. I shall be having the leftovers tonight as it seems that there is snow in the forecast so I'll be cooking for only myself....and here I thought for sure that Spring was in the air...

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chicken, broccoli, and potato divan

Like the chicken florentine casserole on Monday, this recipe was found on the Kraft website after I (on a whim) bought a couple of their cooking cremes at the store while browsing one day....I was sold at "savory garlic" could you not be?  I have since printed out more of these recipes, as this one was a hit!

What You Need:

1/2 cup  Italian dressing
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 lb.)
1 tub (10 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Savory Garlic Cooking Creme
1/2cup milk
1pkg. (20 oz.) refrigerated sliced potatoes (I used 4 small red potatoes and sliced them myself)
2 cups frozen broccoli florets (I just used the whole bag)
1 cup Cheddar Cheese (I used 2%)
1/8tsp. ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375ºF.
Pour dressing over chicken in shallow dish; turn to coat both sides of each breast. Refrigerate 30 min. to marinate...or overnight like I did.

Mix cooking creme and milk in large bowl. Add potatoes, broccoli and 1/2 cup shredded cheese; mix lightly. Spoon into 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Place chicken over ingredients in baking dish; sprinkle with pepper. Cover.

Bake 1.5 hours or until heated through, uncovering and sprinkling with remaining shredded cheese after 45 min. Although this takes quite a while to bake, this is a pretty hands off dish....mix everything together and throw some chicken on top.  This would be perfect for a weekend afternoon, so you can smell the baking process, which is one of my favorite parts of cooking. 

The creme isn't the lowest calorie option, which is another reason why this would be weekend food (I splurge on the weekends and try to keep the taters and cream sauces out of my life Mon-Fri)...

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrimp pomodoro

I have fallen in love with this dish at restaurants...I tried it first at the place we are doing our rehearsal dinner in Ames (this will be one of our dishes that night, no doubt about it) and then ordered it last week at Fire Creek in Des Moines.  Both times I was blown away and don't know how I've never discovered this on a menu before this point in my makes me sad I've gone 29.5 years without it.

This was actually a recipe my friend Amanda gave me from Pinterest...on there it's called spicy parmesan shrimp skillet.  But I knew once I saw the ingredients that it could be tweaked a tiny bit to turn into my new love, made at home! The world is coming together for me....

By the way, you were right, Amanda....very light, but filling, and such great taste while also being ridiculously easy to make for a weeknight meal!  I love when the stars align for me in the kitchen.  Hopefully they do the same for you when you eat this...

1 lb raw peeled and deveined shrimp (I used pre-cooked and just pulled the tails off, you just have to cook quickly so as not to over-do them)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup white cooking wine (I added this to the recipe)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t brown sugar
2 t soy sauce
2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 t red pepper flakes (I used more than that)

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together except for shrimp and tomatoes. Add the shrimp and tomatoes to a ziplock bag, and pour the sauce on in there too while you're at it. Let this bag of love sit in the fridge and marinate overnight, then pour it into a skillet to warm when you're ready to eat.

Cook pasta according to instructions on package, and pour the pasta into the skillet to join with the sauce in yummy matrimony.  Serve!  See....I told you it couldn't get any easier. Thank you notes can be sent to my home address...I will then forward them to Amanda for passing this on to me.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicken florentine casserole

I got this recipe off the Kraft website, which gives options on how to use their cooking cremes.  I've seen these in the store tons of times, but decided to grab a couple of the flavors a while ago to give them a shot. This recipe was actually made and devoured about a month ago when we brought dinner over for the Hofers after they got out of the hospital with their new little bundle of joy, Greyson John.   Two of our other friends were there as well so this recipe fed 6 adults, and there were even a few leftovers.

1 t oil
1 1b boneless skinnless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tub Philadelphia Italian cheese and herb cooking creme
3/4 cup milk
1 box bow tie pasta (farfalle), already cooked
1 package fresh spinach (10 oz)
1 cup mozzarella cheese (I used 2%)
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Heat oven to 375 and heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic, cook and stir 6-7 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in all remaining ingredients except bacon.  Spoon into 9x13 baking dish that is sprayed with cooking spray and bake covered for 25 minutes or until heated through, uncovering and sprinkling with bacon after 15 minutes.

If you make this ahead like I did, I might double the cooking cream used because the sauce tends to dry out. Plus, you will need to double the baking time to bring it from cold to hot, rather than from warm to hot. Other than that, it seemed to be a hit, and I'm sure it would great for kids as well! By the way, isn't bow tie pasta just adorable?!  It might be my favorite noodle, if one is allowed to have a favorite.  :)

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brat sammich

These photos were taken a few weekends ago, on a nice Saturday afternoon. I usually don't plan meals on the weekend...we scavenge for leftovers on our own whenever we're hungry and if we're feeling crazy (and hungry at the same time), we'll head out on the town for lunch.  That Saturday was different though...I came downstairs from putting away laundry to this:

A brat sammich.  Justin had a hankering, I guess, and thawed out turkey brats. I've got him totally switched on those without much complaint, which deserves a pat on the back, I must say. Anyway, he explained that he wasn't hungry enough for the full 2 brats with big buns and all the toppings (onions, pickles, sour kraut), but one just wasn't going to cut it. He thought 1.5 brats would be a perfect that's what he made himself.  I found this ingenious, as well as hilarious for some reason. He was a bit embarrassed that I felt the need to snap pics of his creation but knew exactly where the photos were the internet and beyond! :) He makes me smile....

While this is not much of a recipe, it is a pretty darn good pass this on to the men in your lives who might have the same portion problem with brats....Goldilocks and the three bears would approve, because this brat sammich is juuuuuuuust right (according to my main man)!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Smothered chicken and broccoli

This is one of the simple favorites around our house....we all have them, you know, the go-to option that pops in your head when you can't think of what to make for dinner.  You always have the ingredients on hand and know that it requires just as little time to cook as it does for the idea to pop into your head.  Well, that's this dish for us.  It's one of my faves because it's easy, hands-off, and no-fuss....and it's one of Justin's faves because....(wait for it) tastes good, duh!

I'm sure there's a million different variations of this floating around but I sort of just came up with it in college when I was having friends over one time and threw all the stuff into a pan and baked it.  From then on, it's been requested by others, and not just me, so I guess I'm not the only one with good taste.  :)

All you need is:

Uncle Ben's microwave rice packet
chicken breasts
fresh broccoli
cream of chicken soup (98% fat free, low sodium)
fresh cracked pepper on top

No cheese...yep, a casserole with no cheese calories. Craziness.

The best part about this is I can make enough for Justin and I, or enough to feed a kitchen full of girls getting ready to watch Grey's Anatomy...just use one package of rice and one can of crem of chicken soup per 2 people, and as many chicken breasts as you have people...and you're good to go.

I've used all different kinds of this rice, I just love the stuff.  They have brown rice, garlic rice, chicken flavored rice, etc. I have a fondness for long grain and wild but you can do whatever floats your boat...

Grease a small baking dish and layer your rice (do not microwave like directions say, just open and pour in) on the bottom of the dish.

Layer your raw chicken on the rice, your broccoli on top of that, and then slather your cream of chicken soup on top for the icing.  Cover with fresh black pepper and throw in the oven for 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees (once the chicken is cooked through)....I've even put tin foil on top and thrown it in the fridge for the next night's dinner to be a toss in the oven and eat type of meal.

It's hard to photograph this dish, because it looks like a pile of slop, to be honest. Most casseroles don't hold much of a shape and this one is no different. The picture below was taken after I dug out my piece of chicken and rice with all the yummy flavorful sauce oozing out...I thought the cross section in the dish was the only way to show this.

But I will tell you that I licked my bowl that night...I'm not proud of that fact, I'm just using it as a testimonial to the let you know that this should be in your rotation too. Unless you hate easy, quick, 4 ingredient, no hassle, fantastical tasting meals.  And if that's the case you may be reading the wrong blog...

I should mention that this is one of my go-to meals to prepare for others for freezer meals as well. My friend Cynthia recently had an adorable baby boy and I made the pork version of this for her to put in her freezer and whip out any night she needed an easy dinner. You have to remember to thaw it beforehand, but it comes out just as phenom as if it were fresh (not all meals do that after they've been in the deep freeze)!

P.S. The pork version just substitutes boneless pork chops for chicken breast, cream of mushroom soup for the cream of chicken, and mushrooms for the broccoli.....lordy, is that a good one too!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken quesadillas

Happy love day, everyone!! I hope everyone I know gets a smile put on their face by someone today, no matter if it's their significant other, their child, their friend, or the FedEx delivery guy.  I've always been kind of cynical about Valentines Day...not that I've ever really had a bad one in particular. I just don't really understand how people get all bent about getting flowers on the day of the year that they are twice the price than they are normally, and how all girls seem to want chocolates when most of the ones I know are on a diet this time of year getting ready for Spring.  Just never made much sense to me...although I do get super excited when I get my homemade Valentine in the mail from my Mama K each year.  Yes, I know that I am going to be 30 this year...but my mom will always be my first Valentine!  :)

Anyway, I should probably post a Valentine dinner recipe, or a tutorial on how I made Justin's duct tape roses this year (coming later this week, don't worry)...but I decided I'm just going to phone it in today. I am preparing a feast for this evening's dinner, which I will no doubt update you on very soon, but today I'm just posting an easy way to use your chicken taco leftovers from yesterday, which was only a three ingredient recipe anyway, so it makes it even better to get two dinners out of it! 

I just used the leftover chicken mixture to spread on some tortillas, put some cheese on top, and throw in the microwave, before cutting up to serve.  This was part of our spread on superbowl Sunday....easy peasy.  I promise to give you some more elaborate and elegant posts after this week...but for now, have fun with those leftovers and have a great VD, people!! 

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Crockpot chicken tacos

Three ingredients.  Tres, 3, trois....that's all. This was one of the simplest recipes ever, and you know how I love my trusty crockpot these days, when rushing home after Kosama literally leaves me chewing on my arm if I don't have food the minute  I walk in the door...

1 jar salsa
4 chicken breasts
1 taco packet

Add to the crockpot and GO!  Takes about 3 hours on high and then you can load your tortillas up with some lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and chicken for some excellant's that for an easy Monday meal?!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Beef noodle soup

This is one of my favorite cold day recipes, so it's sort of sad that we haven't had that many cold days this Winter, up until last week with the big snowfall we got. I said "sort of" because it's not really that sad...I would take warm Winters over any comfort food, but I did miss this soup! 

The base recipe is my mom's chicken noodle soup that she used to make for us as kids, I just switched it all to beef.  I still make the chicken noodle soup as well, but Justin seems to enjoy the beef better so it's a great thing to have a huge pot of it in the fridge for him for lunches during the week.

3-5 lb beef roast
2 bags no yolk egg noodles
2-3 cups carrots, cut up
2-3 cups celery, cut up
1 onion, diced
2 large jars beef broth (low sodium kind)
2 resealable containers beef broth
3-4 bay leaves

This is a very simple recipe to make on a cold Saturday afternoon.  As you can see by the ingredient list, you can add as much or as little of each veggie as you would like. Just throw your roast in the oven to bake at 375 for 1-1.5 hours or so, until it is a medium rare in the center. Dice your vegetables now. Put the 2 large jars of beef broth in a stock pot to bring to a boil with your bay leaves, and then add your vegetables to the pot. Cook at a rolling boil for 5-7 minutes, and then add the frozen noodles and boil for another 5-7 minutes.  Dice up your beef into bite sized pieces and add to the pot, now simmering for as long as you'd like.

The more it simmers, the more the noodles will soak up the broth, so you will have to continue to add more....but the more the noodles soak up, the better the soup will be, so this is a "good thing", as Martha Stewart would say.

Inevitably, the leftovers are better than the first bowl...I think the noodles break down a little after the soup cools and gives it a more substantial broth.  Whatever the reason, this is one of those recipes that gets better and better each day after it's made. I simply keep some beef broth in the fridge and keep adding it to the pot as the noodles soak it up.  This makes a fairly large batch so freezing it works perfectly so you don't even have to mess with making it next time!  Enjoy :)

These photos are a little blurry as the steam from the soup was fogging up my lense...but the taste of this soup with some oyster crackers and fresh cracked pepper is to die for, blurry pics or not!

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Baked garlic parsley fries

While searching for a place to hold our rehearsal dinner in the Fall, we've been going to dinner in Ames quite often. One place we've gone (twice) is Pazzesco on Lincoln Way on the West end of town. It's a new-ish Italian Chophouse and I have to say...the food is always wonderful there! We are about 99% sure this is the place for our rehearsal dinner in October...oh, how I love when things are checked off the list :)

Anyway, the last time we went I ordered a chicken dish that was a (very wonderfully) seasoned chicken breast with a pickled red pepper served on top of a bed of the most delicious garlic fries I've ever had.  I had just completed my workout at Kosama for the evening so I felt awful about eating a full plate of fries but did indulge a little....but since that night I've had such a craving for a huge plate of fries, it's really not even funny.  Sometimes, a girl's just gotta give in, you know?! 

So I decided to make a skinnier version and I was very pleased with how great they turned out, I couldn't even tell they weren't thrown into a vat of vegetable oil in a deep fryer....

I just cut up 4 red potatoes and threw them in a bag with 1 T olive oil, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 t parsley and then mixed them all up until the potatoes were coated evenly.

Spread them out on a greased cookie sheet....

And bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, before flipping them over to get the golden brown on the other side. Bake for another 10 minutes and either flip again or start to devour...depending on if you like your fries, mushy or crunchy, everyone's got a different preference when it comes to the love of a potato.

Simple as that and you have a plate of these beauties staring you in the face...without the side of guilt that goes with them!

I've had a fondness for french fries since I was a kid, when mom used to work weekends and dad would make us plates of fries for dinner...that's it, just fries that were deep fried in the greasy wok.  I LOVED it then, but my hips hate them now.  

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cowboy cookies gift jars

I waited a long time to post these because I had a bunch of Christmases to get through and didn't want to give up my secret before gifting these out! I finally remembered I had started this post a while ago and should probably post it before next Christmas....

These things are just so cute, and so versatile, you can make them for any occasion. Cynthia made some the other day with pink M&M's for Valentines day, you could do green ones for St Patty's, red for the 4th of July, and so on and so forth....just choose your material and ribbon to match your candies.  Done and done!

Layer all these dry ingredients in a large mason jar, packed tightly.

1 1/3 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 cup cooking oats
3/4 cup m&m's
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3-1/2 cup chopped pecans (I left this out because it was $7 for a bag of me cheap but it was a principle thing)

Directions (taped to the bottom of the gift jar): Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir jar of dry ingredients from jar into a large bowl and add:

1/2 cup butter (almost melted)
1 slightly beaten egg
1 t vanilla extract

Combine thoroughly and roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and bake for 10 minutes. You can download the handy dandy FREE .pdf label printables at the link below so you don't have to design your own too! How convenient :)

Bakerella's printable labels

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