Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cupcakes That Fill Themselves

Cupcakes-that-fill-themselves have become a birthday tradition in the Genereux family. I believe the recipe originated from our country church cookbook. As children, these are the cupcakes my mom would make to send to school with us on our birthday. As adults, these cupcakes are still requested for birthdays and special occasions. When we were invited to our friend's birthday party this week, I thought these cupcakes would be the perfect treat to bring.  What makes them so special is that they look like your basic chocolate cupcake, but once you bite into one, you discover a cream cheese and chocolate chip filling that resembles a burst of cheesecake. They are perfectly topped with cream cheese frosting (and a birthday candle).
Cupcakes that Fill Themselves
1 box chocolate cake mix, batter prepared as directed
1 8oz block cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. mini chocolate chips
In a large bowl, prepare chocolate cake mix as directed on box. Set chocolate cake batter aside. In a medium size bowl, beat cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Fold in chocolate chips. Place cupcake liners in your cupcake pan and scoop a tablespoon of the chocolate batter on the bottom of each. Next scoop a tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on top of the chocolate layer. Finish by scooping a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate cake batter for the last layer. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. (Makes 24 cupcakes)
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
4 c. powdered sugar
2-3 Tbs. milk
1-2 tsp. vanilla
Beat all ingredients in a large bowl until fluffy. You will have to add milk and powdered sugar as needed to achieve perfect consistency.
Printable Recipe

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Like many days, I sat during my lunch break today wondering what to make for dinner tonight. I was torn.  I really felt like breakfast-for-dinner (a meal that seems like a treat when you make it about once a month). On the other hand, I had these sweet potatoes sitting in my pantry and I knew they weren't getting any younger. Then it dawned on me, "could it be...could my breakfast-for-dinner and my pretty sweet potatoes co-exist in one harmonious meal?" A quick google search later and I had sweet potato pancakes (courtesy of Joseph's on I added pecans to the batter because I love a pancake with a little crunch. These were slightly sweet and simply beautiful. The cinnamon and nutmeg add a warmth that tastes a lot like autumn. Try these pancakes for dinner or a weekend brunch!

Sweet Potato Pancakes
2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 c. milk
2 eggs
4 tsp. melted butter
1 sweet potato, cooked until tender, peeled and pureed (about 1 cup)
1/2 c. chopped pecans (for topping)
In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl blend the liquid ingredients, including the sweet potato. Pour liquid ingredients over dry and mix until just combined. (Batter will be slightly lumpy.) Heat electric skillet to 350 F. Butter skillet and using a 1/2 c. measuring cup, ladle pancakes unto skillet. Sprinkle each pancake with pecans. Wait for pancake to form bubbles on the surface and flip. Cook until golden brown.
Adapted from
Printable Recipe

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Creamy Baked Chicken

Creamy baked chicken in a one-pot-wonder that can easily be put together for a week night meal in a hurry. It could also be assembled a day in advance and then baked the next day if you are really short on time. This is a classic "pantry meal" for us. I always have the ingredients for this on hand so when I do not have time for the grocery store, I have all of the components to a hot meal in my pantry (and freezer). This chicken is moist, the gravy is tasty, and the stuffing adds a crunchy topping that is unexpected (and my favorite part). I have also topped the chicken with crushed croutons when I don't have stuffing on hand. I always serve this chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes since it bakes in a rich gravy.  Creamy baked chicken is not only simple to prepare on a Wednesday night, it is a downright delicious pick-me-up in the middle of the week.
Creamy Baked Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices swiss cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. coarsely crushed seasoned stuffing mix (i.e. Stove Top)
1/4 c. melted butter
Arrange chicken in a shallow baking dish. (I use a 9x9 glass pan.) Place a slice of swiss cheese on each piece of chicken. Stir the soup and wine together in a small bowl and pour over chicken. Sprinkle stuffing mix over the chicken. Evenly drizzle with melted butter. Bake uncovered at 350 F for one hour. Serve with mashed potatoes.
Printable Recipe

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good Spaghetti Sauce

It is easy to make delicious spaghetti sauce in the summer when ripe tomatoes are plentiful. But in the winter, I make a semi-homemade sauce that uses 2 cups of already prepared marinara sauce and then I soup-it-up with a bunch of extras that make it taste homemade and authentic. This sauce is robust and hearty. I like to use ground beef in my spaghetti with just a little Italian sausage. I buy Italian sausage links in bulk and then separate them into small bags and freeze them. That way I can add sweet Italian sausage in small amounts to my lasagna, pizza, pasta, etc.
Good Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
2 Italian sausage links, casings removed (about 1/4 lb.)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 sm. onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/4 cup)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. savory
1/2 tsp. basil
2 tsp. parsley
15 oz. tomato sauce
1/4 c. red wine
2 c. marinara sauce

In a large skillet, brown ground beef and Italian sausage. Drain excess fat and set aside. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, pepper and garlic and saute for 5-6 minutes or until tender. Add remaining ingredients to the pot and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Add ground beef and sausage and simmer 15 minutes more. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles.
Printable Recipe

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chocolaty Goodness Cookies

Any time I have a dentist or doctor appointment, I spend my time in the waiting room immersed in the variety of food magazines lying around. I always bring a pen and paper because I never know when a recipe may catch my eye. These cookies are the result of this process. I couldn't tell you what food magazine they came from, but I do know that they are a Paula Deen recipe. These cookies are soft and chewy. The cream cheese helps keep them tasting fresh even a few days after baking - if, that is, they last that long in your household. You will be surprised at how rich they are for only having a few ingredients in them. Although Paula calls them "chocolate gooey butter cookies" we renamed them "chocolaty goodness" in our house because it was the first thing that came out of my mouth when I took my first bite.
Chocolaty Goodness Cookies
Paula Deen's Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies - slightly altered
1 box dark chocolate cake mix (dry)

1 large egg
1/2 c. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sugar
In large bowl, beat cake mix, egg, butter, cream cheese and vanilla until well mixed. Dough will be stiff. Roll dough into balls and coat in sugar. Place chocolate balls on a sheet pan and slightly press dough down with your fingers. Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will seem very soft but will set after cooling.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

This is my families' all-time favorite soup. There is always an argument as to how thick this soup should be: my dad likes a thin broth; my husband likes his spoon to stand up in it; I like it somewhere in the middle. You can use more or less chicken broth to get it the thickness that you desire. I think this soup is so popular because it has ingredients that most people are comfortable with. The carrots, celery, chicken and rice soak up the cream making you feel warm and loved as you eat it.  You can speed up the cooking process by buying a roasted chicken from your grocery deli and buying your wild rice already cooked and plump in a can. I have been pefecting this recipe for probably the last ten years and I have found that this soup is pretty forgiving. As long as you have most of the ingredients on hand you will end up with a mini masterpiece.
Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
1/4 c. butter
2 c. carrots, sliced
2 c. celery, sliced
1 c. onion
2 cans chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 c. half and half or cream
1/2 c. minute rice, white or brown, uncooked
2 c. cooked wild rice
1 sm. chicken, meat cut in medium size chuncks
1 tsp. parsley
In a large stock pan, melt butter and add carrots and celery. Saute on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add onions and continue to saute and stir occassionaly for 5 minutes more. Add chicken broth and simmer until vegetables are tende but not too soft. Add cream of chicken, cream, minute rice, wild rice and seasoning. Simmer on low for 15 minutes. Add chicken and heat through.
If you don't have cream, add another can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup and use 1 c. milk
If you want to thicken your soup, add more minute rice
If it needs more flavor, add a couple of Tbs. worchesteshire sauce
I like to use a cooked chicken from my grocery store but I have also cooked 2 fresh or frozen chicken breasts or a large can of shredded chicken
Freeze leftovers for a quick work lunch
Printable Recipe

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Game Day Potato Skins

Last week I made these bacon-cheddar potato skins for the Vikings game. Since I know almost all of Minnesota will be hosting or attending some sort of football party Sunday night I thought I would pass this recipe on for others to enjoy. Thanks to some bacon grease (sorry - but it works so well) the skins come out nice and crisp. I topped mine with bacon, cheddar cheese and green onions but you can do various toppings.  I should tell you that they are kind of a process to make with three different baking steps, but I did most of the work on Saturday so that on Sunday all I had to do was bake them a final time and cheer for Brett Favre - Skol Vikings!
Crispy Potato Skins
8 small - medium sized russet potatoes
8-10 strips bacon, diced
4 green onions, diced (green stem included)
3 Tbs. butter
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
seasoned salt
1/2 c. sour cream (optional)

Wash potatoes and pierce 4 times with a fork. Bake at 375 for an hour or until soft. Meanwhile, cook bacon and then drain grease. Keep a small amount of grease for later. When potatoes are cooked and cooled slightly, cut in half, lengthwise and scoop out center of potato, leaving about a 1/4" of potato with the skin. Discard center or use for mashed potatoes. Brush the bottom, skin side of the potato with bacon grease and place on baking sheet. Now brush the center part of the potato with melted butter and season with salt, pepper and any other favorite seasonings. Bake at 425 F for 8-10 minutes. Fill potato boats with bacon, cheese and green onion. (If making in advance, you can now refrigerate filled potato skins and bake the next day). Place filled potato skins on baking sheet and bake at 425 for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and skins are crisp. Top with sour cream if using.
Printable Recipe

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ina's Garlic Ciabatta Bread

Up until now I have only made garlic bread one way. Up until now I have thought of garlic bread as a minor detail - just something necessary when making spaghetti or lasagna. Up until now I did not consider myself a big fan of garlic bread in general. All that changed when I made the Barefoot Contessa's garlic ciabatta bread tonight!! This recipe transforms bread from a boring side, to a meal in-itself. I used fresh parsley (very necessary) but didn't have fresh oregano so I used one teaspoon of dried. The chopped garlic and parsley fill every crevice of the ciabatta bread so each bite is packed with flavor. I obviously made more than garlic bread for dinner tonight but I thought this recipe deserved it's very own posting.
Garlic Ciabatta Bread
(From Ina Garten's, Bake to Basics)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 c. fresh parsley
2 Tbs. fresh oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. olive oil
1 lg. loaf ciabatta bread
2 Tbs. butter, softened
Place the first five ingredients in a food processor and chop until minced. In a small saute pan heat the olive oil and then add the garlic mixture. Cook on low for 3-5 minutes - do not let the garlic brown. Remove from heat. Cut the bread in half, horizontally and spoon the oil-garlic mixture on the bottom half. Butter the top half of bread and then place the two halves together again. Wrap in tin foil and bake at 350 for 6 minutes. Carefully remove the tin foil and place directly on the rack and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Enjoy warm!
Printable Recipe

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tater Tot Hotdish

Tater tot hotdish is one of those foods one would probably not make for dinner guests and I'm not sure why. Why are hotdishes, casseroles and goulashes never publicly recognized?? I have never seen them on a menu, my collection of cookbooks  is bare of any mention, and I have never been served a hotdish while at someone else's house. This leads us to making the same casseroles that our mothers and grandmothers made before us. Well, I love making them and I love eating them. Meat, potatoes and vegetables all cozied and baked together. It would be perfect for guests since it can be assembled and refrigerated until ready to bake.
I usually make this tater tot hotdish with a frozen vegetable mix, but the last couple of times I've use fresh vegetables and they make a world of difference. Tonight's star was a sweet potato - hearty, slightly sweet and a wonderfully vibrant orange. This meal is perfect for dinner and the leftovers make for an anticipated lunch the next day.
Tater Tot Hotdish
1 lb. ground beef
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 lg. sweet potato, peeled, and chopped
1 c. peas
1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 c. half and half
3 Tbs. ketchup
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
3 c. tater tots
In a large pan, brown ground beef, drain and set aside. Coat pan in olive oil and add sweet potato, onion, garlic, salt/pepper and cook over medium heat until potato is tender (about 5 minutes). Add meat back to the pan and stir in peas, soup, half and half, ketchup, and worcestershire sauce. Place mixture in a baking dish and top with tater tots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until tots are golden brown.
Printable Recipe

Monday, January 18, 2010

Apple Dew

Apple dew is one of my favorite "quick" desserts. (The picture doesn't give it justice.) It was the first dessert that I made Ryan when we were dating and he asks for it every time he sees granny smith apples. I like to make this for guests and try to make them guess what is in it. No one has been able to guess correctly because no one would ever think that Mountain Dew is a key component. The crescent rolls are light and crisp and the apples in the center bake until they are as soft as butter. The soda makes for a warm sticky sauce that tastes wonderful over vanilla ice cream.
Apple Dew
2 granny smith apples
2 cans crescent rolls
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 c. Mountain Dew
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cut, core and peel each apple into 8 slices. Roll out crescent triangles and place an apple slice in the middle of each. Roll up crescent from the widest side of the triangle to the tip. Place each apple roll in a 9x13 baking dish. Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, melt butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar and cinnamon over medium heat, stirring until melted. Add Mountain Dew, stir until combined and then remove from heat. Pour butter mixture over rolls and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.
Printable Recipe

Sunday, January 17, 2010

House Salad with Pancetta & Pears

Confession: there are times when I feel a little un-inspired in the kitchen. Ninety-nine percent of the time cooking and baking is my pastime, my personal therapy, my passion, my fun. But once in a while it will lean in the direction of a chore. (Do not be worried, these episodes do not last long!) At any rate, tonight we will feast on my go-to meal for when I want something fabulous in less than 15 minutes. I mix every vegetable I have on hand with a bag of lettuce and top with a good dressing. This salad dressing is my co-worker's "house dressing" and after he shared it with me it became ours. It is light and tangy and keeps well in the refrigerator for weeks. I'll list all of the ingredients we used tonight, but anything as creative as you'd like.
House Salad with Pancetta & Pears
Butter lettuce blend
Cucumbers, sliced
Cherry tomatoes
Frozen peas (they only take 5 minutes to thaw)
Canned chick peas (rinsed)
Cooked pancetta
Pear, sliced
Parmesan cheese
House Dressing
Wisk together:
1/3 c. seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbs. dijon mustard
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Very Berry Sorbet

We have only had our ice cream machine for a few weeks and we have already made 4 different ice cream creations. Although we are enjoying every bit of it, our waistlines are not so happy. Our temporary solution…homemade sorbet! This Very Berry Sorbet was divine. The strawberries bring the sweet; raspberries add the tangy; and lemons make this dessert oh-so-refreshing. When I take a bite and close my eyes (while standing next to my warm oven) I can see sunny summer days off in the distance. For a sparkling, kid-friendly cocktail, add two scoops of berry sorbet in a glass, then fill with 7-Up or Sprite.
Berry Sorbet
3/4 c. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 c. fresh raspberries
1 c. sugar
Juice of 2 medium lemons
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 white corn syrup
1 3/4 c. water
In a medium bowl mix berries, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. In a blender or food processor, puree berry mixture. Add corn syrup and water and stir until blended. Pour liquid into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the machine instructions.
Note: This sorbet was the perfect after freezing for a couple of hours. After freezing for a night or two it becomes much more hard and required a longer time to thaw to be scoop-able. It was still good but lost that smooth texture that sorbet is known for.
Printable Recipe

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chinese Noodle Soup

I love this soup!! All day long I was thinking of curling up to a steaming bowl of Chinese Noodle Soup. There are two great things this soup has going for it. 1. It can be made in less than a half hour - 20 minutes if you are fast at chopping. The Ramen Noodles speed up the cooking process because they only take a couple of minutes to cook. 2. It is low in fat and loaded with flavor. I use lean ground turkey breast which is a large feat for a girl raised on a beef cattle farm. (I never knew ground turkey breast existed until I was living on my own.) The ginger, green onions, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes are the base of a broth that is slightly sweet and tangy with just a hint of spice. Making and eating this soup was definitely the highlight of my day.
Chinese Noodle Soup
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 bunch green onions, sliced (save some for garnish)
3 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 (14 oz) cans chicken broth
1 c. water
3 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 baby bok choy, (about 2 cups) sliced
1 (3 oz) package of Ramen Noodles (noodles only, not the season packet)
In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add turkey, green onions, ginger, garlic, white pepper and crushed red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat until turkey is no longer pink. Set cooked turkey mixture aside. Add chicken broth, water, soy sauce, vinegar and bok choy to sauce pan and bring to a low boil over medium high heat. Add bok choy and Ramen Noodles and let cook for 2 minutes. Add ground turkey and heat through. Top with sliced green onions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

After enjoying a wonderfully roasted turkey this past Thanksgiving, I wondered why I utilize this method of cooking only once a year. Lemon Rosemary Chicken is my way to enjoy roasted poultry all year long. I prepare this bird in a similar way that I do turkey, but because of its small size it is much easier since I can marinade in a plastic bag. I pour chicken broth in the bottom of my roasting pan which helps keep the chicken moist and gives me a base for a quick gravy after my chicken is done roasting. When you try this dish, you will find that lemon and rosemary are a chicken's best friend.
Lemon Rosemary Chicken
zest of 1 lemon
juice from 2 lemons
rosemary - 3 sprigs
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbs. minced garlic
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 whole chicken 3-4 lb
1 3/4 c. chicken broth
Combine lemon zest, juice, rosemary, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a gallon size ziploc bag. Add chicken to the bag and marinade 4-6 hours or overnight. In a small-medium roasting pan place chicken on roasting rack and pour 1 c. chicken broth on the bottom of the pan. Bake covered at 350 F for 1 1/2 hours. Then turn the heat up to 425 F and bake uncovered for 15-30 minutes.
Printable Recipe

Monday, January 11, 2010

Braided French Toast

While watching Iron Chef I saw a competitor make french toast using a beautiful loaf of brioche. That was two weeks ago and I still can’t get the image of the delicious bread out of my mind. I looked at my regular grocery store but of course they did not carry it. I find it very disheartening that the average grocery store will devote one entire isle to bread yet none of them are anything special. I want to see sourdough and baguettes that are hollow when you tap them and are rich and chewy in the center. Now, I know I could have trekked out into the cold this weekend to find a bakery that would make a suitable loaf, but instead I decided to warm my house and my spirits in a way that only kneading bread can do. I decided to make challah: a rich, egg-y, buttery, braided bread. This lightly sweetened bread worked perfectly for the  french toast I had been dreaming about.
2 pkg. rapid rise yeast
1 c. warm water (105-115 F)
1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs, plus 1 egg beaten for glaze
5 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter at room temperature
In a stand mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water for 5 minutes or until foamy. Add the sugar, 3 eggs, 4 1/2 c. flour, salt and butter. Attach dough hook and knead 5-7 minutes or until smooth. Form the dough into a ball and transfer into large bowl brushed with oil. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm draft-free spot for 2 hours (dough will double in size). Punch down dough and place on a floured work surface. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces. Lightly knead each ball of dough and shape into 3 ropes a little longer than the length of a baking sheet.
Place 3 ropes of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Braid dough and tuck each end under the braid. Cover braided loaf with a towel and let rise again in a warm spot until it doubles in size (45-60 min). Brush the braid with a beaten egg and bake at 350 F 30-35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking
Braided French Toast
3 eggs
3/4 c. half and half or milk
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
Challah bread

In a shallow bowl, beat eggs. Add milk and seasonings and mix until well combined. Dip thick bread slices into egg mixture and cook in a large skillet or electric skillet that has been brushed with butter. Cook approximately 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. I like to top with honey butter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Giada's Sausage, Artichoke & Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

As many know, I am a big fan of Giada DeLaurentiis. There is nothing better than having her show playing in the background while I am at home busy in the kitchen. I feel satisfied from just looking at the food she prepares! Needless to say, I was ecstatic to get her first cookbook when it came out, and this is the first recipe I made from it. It is love at first bite. The sun dried tomatoes plump in the white wine and their concentrated flavor is more powerful than if they were fresh. The warm pasta heats the fresh basil and fills the kitchen with the aroma of summer.
Giada's Sausage, Artichoke & Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
3/4 cup drained oil packed sun dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1 pound sweet italian sausage (casings removed)
1 (8oz) package frozen artichoke hearts
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
12 ounces bowtie pasta
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 oz fresh mozzarella, cubed (optional)
Heat reserved oil from tomatoes in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up the meat into bite size pieces, about 8 minutes. Transfer cooked sausage to a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain excess fat. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun dried tomatoes. Simmer over medium heat until the sauce reduces slightly, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water with 1-2 Tbs. salt to a boil. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente, about 8-10 minutes and drain.
Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture. Toss until well coated. Stir in the mozzarella, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with additional parmesan cheese.
Note: I altered tonight's recipe by adding frozen peas at the end but I don't think I will do that again.
Recipe (slightly altered) from: Giada DeLaurentiis, "Giada's Family Dinners"
Printable Recipe

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Crescent Roll Hotdish

This is my older brother's famous dish. I don't know where it originated but I know that Kevin and his roommates ate so much of it in college that I should have bought stock in Pillsbury. I appreciate a good hotdish and this one is a nice change of pace. It only has a few ingredients and it feeds a crowd (hence the college appeal). Tonight we cut the recipe in half and made it in a pie pan which still feeds four. I served green peas with it and they were a perfect pair. I should mention that I made this recipe for a family that I used to nanny for. The day after making it, the 4 year old told me that nobody in their family liked it and they threw the whole thing in the garbage. (I love a preschooler's honesty!) I think of that story and laugh every time I make this now. Regardless of their opinion, my family really likes crescent roll hotdish and I think yours may too.
Crescent Roll Hotdish
2 cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls
1/4 c. sour cream
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. oregano
1 lg. jar spaghetti sauce
1-2 c. shredded colby-jack or mozzarella cheese

Place crescent dough flat and spread a generous layer of sour cream on each triangle. Roll crescent rolls up individually as directed so you have 16 prepared rolls. Set aside. Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a medium skillet and drain excess fat. Stir in oregano, salt/pepper and spaghetti sauce. Pour mixture into a 9x13 pan and sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Place crescent rolls on top of cheese. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes or until dark golden brown.
Printable Recipe

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

I received a very fun "toy" this Christmas - an electric ice cream machine!! An ice cream machine has been on my wish list for the past five years so I was delighted, to say the least. I am already dreaming about future sorbets, daiquiris, and ice cream creations that I will now be able to make. I know not everyone will have an electric ice cream maker on hand. The hand-crank style mixers also work well. My husband has great childhood memories of taking turns mixing a big bucket of ice cream. When I was a kid I was desperate to make homemade ice cream. Without a machine of any kind I had  to improvise. I poured my cream mixture into a quart size ziploc bag and then filled a gallon size ziploc bag with ice and about 1/4 c. rock salt. I placed the sealed quart bag inside the ice bag and shook the contents until a soft-serve mixture evolved. It was fun and can work in a pinch, but it was kind of a mess.  Whatever your process, enjoy the simple pleasure of making a delicious dessert out of a few basic ingredients.
Cookies & Cream Ice cream
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. skim milk
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 Oreo cookies, crushed

In a medium bowl, wisk sugar with skim milk until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and vanilla. Pour into ice cream machine and let mix about 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir in crushed cookies and transfer ice cream into an air tight container. Let ripen 1-2 hours in the freezer. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

I know we all love to cook with chicken - it is readily available, economical and can please almost everyone in the family. I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk so I need to think of creative ways to use it for dinner. I started making this dish a couple of years ago and I get many requests to make it. It can all be made in one dish which is always wonderful for clean up. I also like that it is easy enough for a week night but elegant enough for dinner guests. I have used homemade marinara and store-bought canned sauce. If you are using canned be sure you are using a good quality marinara (check the list of ingredients and make sure diced tomatoes are the first ingredient listed and not tomato paste). This meal is greatly enhanced if you can use a handful of fresh basil but given the season, dried herbs get the job done. Enjoy with garlic mashed potatoes or on your favorite pasta.
Chicken Parmesan
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced (optional)
4 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. milk
1 egg
3 c. marinara
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. shredded parmesan

In shallow dish, beat egg and milk and season with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish combine bread crumbs, basil and parsley. Using tongs, dip chicken in egg mixture and coat in bread crumbs; dip back into egg mixture and bread crumbs so the chicken is coated twice. Heat large, heavy skillet to medium and add 3 Tbs. olive oil. Place breaded chicken in skillet and cook on medium to medium low temperature for 5-6 minutes on each side or until a dark crust is formed on chicken. Remove chicken and place on a plate. Add a Tbs. more of olive oil into skillet and saute garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes. Carefully pour marinara in skillet and then place chicken on top of sauce. Simmer on low for 5 minutes. Top with cheese and then simmer an additional 5 minutes.
Printable Recipe

Monday, January 4, 2010

Homemade Pizza

I am excited to share my favorite recipe with you. This homemade pizza recipe is probably the one meal that we made the most in the past year. Because our toppings are never exactly duplicated, we enjoy a slightly different pizza every time. Ryan claims this version was our "best yet", but he says this every time I make pizza for dinner. I roll my crust out thin but this pizza dough recipe can also be used for a thick crust. I make a double batch of dough and freeze it for up to 3 months so we can have pizza on the table in less time than it would take to have it delivered. I don't feel like I can give an exact recipe since everybody's pizza preferences are different (some like a lot of pizza sauce, some like a lot of cheese). I will share with you my method and tips for getting the basics and you'll have to experiment from there.
My two secrets for best-ever-pizza:
  1. Get your oven hot: 500 F and always place your pan on the lowest possible rack so the crust gets cooked without burning the cheese.
  2. Oven-roast your toppings: I want everything that goes on my pizza to already be cooked. (with the exception of olives)
Homemade Pizza
Preheat oven to 500 F. Sprinkle baking sheet or pizza pan with cornmeal to prevent the crust from sticking. Roll out dough on a floured work surface until thin and transfer onto prepared pan. Spread a thin layer of pizza or marinara sauce and half of your cheese (I like mozzarella and parmesan). Next add your meat of choice and prepared vegetables (see below). Top with remaining cheese and cracked black pepper. Drizzle the edges with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and bake approximately 8 minutes - keep a close watch on it since the oven temp is so high.

Pizza Dough: makes two crusts
1 pkg. rapid rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. sugar or honey
1 c. warm water (105 - 115 F)
1 tsp. salt
2 3/4 c. flour plus extra for kneading
Mix yeast, sugar and 1/4 c. warm water in a measuring cup and allow to stand until mixture is foamy, 10-15 minutes. Stir together the salt and flour in a large bowl. Pour yeast mixture and remaining 3/4 c. warm water and stir until dough just comes away from the side of the bowl. Knead on a lightly floured surface about 5 minutes and place dough in a separate bowl that is lightly brushed in olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Tip: If you want to make a thicker crust, adjust your oven temperature to 350 F.

Pizza Toppings
Slice all veggie toppings and place on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil until well coated and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until caramelized. Toppings that I roast: onions, garlic, green and red peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. Additional toppings that do not require roasting: pepperoni, green & black olives, artichoke hearts, italian sausage (cooked and drained), mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Printable Recipe

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Puppy Chow

You can't have the holidays without some sort of chex mix on the table. We spent New Year's day cozied in the house playing cards and looking forward to our belated Christmas dinner that we would be enjoying later that night. Puppy chow is the perfect sweet snack for a day like today. You can be as creative or boring as you'd like with your add-ins. In my opinion, any snack dipped in peanut butter chocolate and then coated in powdered sugar tastes great. We kept it simple and added pecans and dark chocolate M&M's. Pretzels, mixed nuts and additional cereals are all great additions. Enjoy with your family tonight - Happy New Year!!
Puppy Chow
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Butter
1 cup Chocolate Chips
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
8-9 cups Crispix or Chex cereal
1 cup whole pecans
1 bag M&M candies
1-2 cups Powdered Sugar
Combine peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute then stir to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Add 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Stir well.
In the largest bowl you own: mix cereal, M&M’s and pecans and pour the butter-chocolate mixture over the cereal and toss evenly, making sure everything is well coated.
Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cereal and toss as you sprinkle to cover each piece well. (You can sprinkle powdered sugar in the bowl or in a separate Ziploc bag.)