Friday, April 30, 2010

Lemon Linguine with Grilled Chicken

I think I am officially back to cooking regular meals. It feels good. I don't like being in limbo, but I think we've got a little more stability around here now and I can actually get to my kitchen and cooking utensils.

Now on to the meal. I have eaten this lemon linguine many times but I have never made it! This is one of my mom's regular meals and I always ate it when she made it. It is so delicious and refreshing. The fresh flavors of the lemon, tomato and basil just shout spring.

For the tomato mixture:
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1-2 tsp. salt
2-4 leaves fresh basil
2 Tbsp. dry basil
2 Tbsp. parsley
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
juice of 2 lemons

For the sauce:
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup half and half
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon

For the chicken:
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
olive oil
your favorite grill seasoning, such as Montreal Chicken Seasoning, or Johnny's Garlic Spread seasoning

1/2 lb. linguine*
Parmesan cheese

2-3 hours prior to mealtime, combine all ingredients of the tomato mixture and let sit on the counter until you're ready to eat.

For the sauce, heat cream and butter in a medium skillet until cream begins to boil. Add lemon juice and zest. Reduce sauce over medium-high heat until reduced by half; stir occasionally.

In the meantime, preheat outdoor grill and fill a large stockpot with water. Salt the water, cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Drizzle olive oil over chicken and sprinkle with seasoning. Place chicken on grill an cook until no longer pink; about 5 minutes on each side.

When the water comes to a boil, drop the pasta and cook according to package directions. Remove chicken from grill and let rest. Cut into thin slices.

Drain pasta and place in a large serving dish. Pour in sauce and toss to combine. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

To serve, spoon pasta onto a plate, followed by the sliced chicken and topped with the tomato mixture.

*I think my mom may use close to a whole pound of pasta for this sauce but I like a lot of sauce on my pasta so 1/2 lb. is just the right amount for me.

This recipe linked to Potluck Sunday @ Mommy's Kitchen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jamaican Banana Bread

*I'm back, yeah! We moved on Saturday and it has been quite an ordeal! I hope I don't have to move again for a LONG time! We just bought our first place and it's been fun decorating a little as I unpack things. I still have about half of our stuff left to unpack but I'm tempted to just toss it, this is really tiring.

This is the last recipe I had saved to post while we were in transition. Hopefully I'll be up and cooking here soon. I think I've cooked 1 or 2 times in the past week and I'm ready to get back to my kitchen.

Oh how I love my Cooking Light cookbook. I think it's my favorite ever. I don't think I've made anything from it that I didn't like. This banana bread is no exception! I actually saw this pop up on another blog and it reminded me that I already had this recipe. I wasn't sure about the flavor combinations at first but it looked too good to pass up and I had bananas that were screaming banana bread! I figured it would be good because my two most favorite banana bread recipes, classic banana bread and banana chocolate chip bread, are from Cooking Light.

I could not wait to cut into the bread after it was done. I was pleasantly surprised. This bread is so soft and fluffy and the lime glaze keeps it moist for days!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. grated lime rind
2 tsp. lime juice
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt or lite sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. flaked sweetened coconut, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 350°.

Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, fitted with a paddle attachment, add sugar, butter, lime rind and 2 tsp. lime juice; beat until well blended. Add egg and beat well. Add banana, yogurt/sour cream and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/4 cup coconut.

Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 2 tablespoon coconut. Bake at *350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. If you are using a dark, non-stick pan, reduce the heat to 325 and cook 10-15 minutes longer, checking for doneness about every 5 mintues after 60 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely on wire rack.

SOURCE:Adapted from Cooking Light

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Perfect Pizza Crust

*Wow, has it already been a week since my last post? Time flies when you're packing. The big day is Saturday. Then all the unpacking, ugh! Here's another one I saved up for ya'll.

We make pizza for lunch at our house about once every other week and we LOVE it! I used to use my white bread recipe but I found this one from Annie's Eats that I now use all the time. It's easy and it's yummy and it's quick. This dough makes enough for one pizza.

Perfect Pizza Crust
Makes 1 large pizza
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup hot tap water

Place flour, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Pulse a second or two to combine dry ingredients. Add oil and hot tap water and mix for about 10 seconds. If it looks too wet, add a little more flour, if it's too dry, add a little more water. (NOTE: You want it wet enough to leave a little residue on the side of the bowl at this point but not so wet that it's gooey.) Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Dough should be a little sticky to the touch. Do not add any flour or water after the dough is done mixing.

Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap,a damp towel or a lid. Let rise until doubled in size (times will vary, so just keep an eye on it). Punch dough to deflate it.

Form dough into a ball and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven and your pizza stone to 450 degrees F. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use the back of a cookie sheet.

Roll out dough on pizza peel that has been generously dusted with cornmeal. If you don't have a pizza peel you can use parchment paper and slip it right onto your hot stone. If you are using the back of a cookie sheet, no need to preheat it.  Add toppings of your choice. Gently slide pizza off onto the stone and bake about 7-10 minutes or until the edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots.

SOURCE:Adapted from Annie's Eats.

Lemony Poppy Chicken with Sweet Pea & Mint Cous Cous

*No Sunday Soup today. We're busy,busy, busy in the middle of moving and painting and cleaning. I typed this up the other day, knowing I wouldn't have much time. Enjoy!

This is another family favorite. I love Rachael Ray recipes because they're tasty and so quick to put together. This is about a 15-20 minute meal from start to finish and even faster if you prep everything beforehand. With my husband working most evenings I'm always on the lookout for meals that don't take too much effort so I can still be with my little girls; this one fits the bill. I didn't make any alterations to the original recipe, but I have made the cous cous without the basil and mint. If you don't grow your own, buying fresh herbs can be pricey. If I had to choose one or the other to include, it would definitely be the basil!

2 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 10-ounce box frozen peas
1 1/2 cups couscous
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper
2 lemons zested, 1 juiced
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
10 leaves of basil, chopped
10 leaves of mint, chopped

Place a medium-size saucepot over high heat and add 1 1/2 cups of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil then add the peas and the couscous. Place a lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes.

While the stock is coming up to a boil for the couscous, place a large skillet over high heat with 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. While the skillet is heating up, place the flour on a plate. Toss the chicken in the flour to coat, shaking off any excess. Add the chicken pieces to the hot skillet. Season the chicken liberally with salt, pepper and the lemon zest, and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every now and then to get them brown all over.

Once the chicken has browned, add the remaining cup chicken stock to the skillet. Once the stock is hot, add the butter and poppy seeds. Stir until the butter has melted and the sauce has thickened up a bit, about a minute. Add the garlic the last 2 minutes of cooking. Turn off the heat and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the pan.

When ready to serve, take the lid off the cous cous, fluff with a fork and add the fresh mint and basil.

SOURCE:Rachael Ray

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownies

If you're a chocolate and peanut butter lover you have just got to try these! They are totally out of this world. I made them a while back for my extended family and haven't made them since for fear I would eat the whole pan if I did. Well, I found occasion to make these again recently but I didn't have any plans for sharing them-BIG mistake! I kept eating and eating them. Luckily my husband came home during his dinner break the day after I made them and asked if he could take the rest back with him. Whew! That was a close one. I quickly packed the rest up for him and they were outta my hands.

For the brownies:
1 box of your favorite brownie mix (13x9 size)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 pouch peanut butter cookie mix (1 LB 1.5 OZ)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg

For the Ganache:
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of *13x9-inch pan. Make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and 2 eggs. Spread in pan.

Make cookie mix as directed on pouch, using butter and 1 egg. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter; press down lightly.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center come out ALMOST clean. Cool.

To make ganache, pour chocolate chips into a medium sized mixing bowl. Heat cream and butter in small saucepan until just a boil. Pour over chocolate chips and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Stir until the cream and chocolate are completely incorporated and ganache is smooth and glossy. Pour over brownies and cool completely.

*I always cook my brownies in a smaller pan because I like them thick. I used an 8x11.5-inch pan and had to bake them for about an hour, but I was checking every 5-7 minutes after they had been baking 40 minutes. I also halved the ganache recipe but I think I would even go for a little more and do 2/3 the recipe next time. If you use a dark, non-stick pan, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

SOURCE: Adapted from Betty Crocker

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Sunday Soup

Another tomato soup winner! This soup is thick and full of flavor without adding any dairy; my husband will thank me for that. I love the combination of the tomatoes and the red peppers, it reminds me of a simple bruschetta. The sun-dried tomatoes also help to thicken the soup as well as add depth of flavor. If you don't have sun-dried tomatoes and don't want to fork out a ton of cash to buy them, you could make your own, as I have, or slow-roast your tomatoes. (See below)

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 quart jar tomatoes (whole, halved, stewed, whatever you have, or 1 28-oz can tomatoes if you don't have)
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers*, skins removed, roughly chopped
1 can chicken broth
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4-1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

fresh basil
parmesan cheese
cream or milk

Put sun-dried tomatoes in a small pot and barely cover with water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook about 5 minutes to rehydrate; most of the liquid should be gone. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onion and turn down heat to medium low and cook until just starting to brown. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute about a minute. Add tomatoes, peppers and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer about 5 minutes. At this point, either use an immersion blender to puree soup or use a blender, pureeing in batches. Add brown sugar and basil and check for seasoning, adding more, if needed.

Ladle hot soup into bowls. If you want a more creamy soup, drizzle cream or milk into the soup and top with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese. If you want to add cream or milk to the whole pot of soup, add about a cup.

*To roast peppers, chop peppers in half, removing stem and seeds. Place, cut side down, on a cookie sheet and put under broiler until black. Remove peppers to a bowl and either cover with a lid or with plastic wrap. Let peppers cool completely. When cool, skins should slide right off.

**To slow-roast your tomatoes, cut them in half and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper (or even Italian seasoning if you wish). Cook on 225 degrees F for about 4 hours.

SOURCE: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Linked to...
This Week's Cravings @ Mom's Crazy Cooking

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thai Coconut Rice

Wow, we've been busy. I'm finally just getting time to post this tonight after making it earlier this week. I made this rice to go with the Honey Curry Chicken. I love coconut and this was really good. I loved the coconut in the rice as it cooked as well as the toasted coconut garnish that gave it another dimension of texture. I used regular coconut milk and the rice was very creamy. I liked it, but next time I may try lite coconut milk to see the difference. This is a great side dish for any curry-type or spicy dish. You could also add in fresh pineapple or mango, especially if you're doing an island theme dinner.

2 cups Thai jasmine-scented white rice
2 cups coconut milk
1 3/4 cups water
2 Tbsp. dry shredded unsweetened coconut (baking type)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oil

1-2 Tbsp. toasted coconut
Chopped fresh cilantro

Rub oil over the bottom of a deep-sided pot. Place rice, coconut milk, water, shredded coconut, and salt and set over medium-high to high heat. (You can also add about 2 tsp. sweetener, such as sugar, at this point if you wish.) Stir until liquid comes to a gentle boil; stop stirring and reduce heat to low (just above minimum). Cover tightly with a lid and let simmer about 15-20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.

When the liquid is gone, turn off the heat, but leave the covered pot on the burner to steam another 5-10 minutes, or until you're ready to eat. Toast coconut by placing dry shredded coconut in a frying pan over medium-high heat and stir ("dry fry") until light golden brown.

When ready to serve the rice, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Garnish with toasted coconut and cilantro.

SOURCE:Adapted from

*Still have leftover ham? Try this Penne Pasta with Smoked Ham and Pepper Cream Sauce, it's one of our faves!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honey Curry Chicken

Who doesn't like chicken and rice? It is so versatile with endless possibilities for flavor combinations. Curry and coconut go great together. They are a perfect match. The sweetness and creaminess of the coconut rice balances out the slight spiciness of the curry. This is a very easy recipe, quick to pull together and uses ingredients that are most likely already in your pantry or fridge. I have chosen to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but it would also be great with legs or thighs or even a whole chicken. I got this recipe from my mom She just uses the sauce as a marinade and cooks her chicken on an outdoor grill. Baked or grilled, this is a keeper!

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. curry powder
1-2 lbs. chicken (which ever cut you choose-I usually cut my chicken breasts into tenders so more of the chicken gets flavored)

Melt butter and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Place chicken in a large baking dish and pour sauce over chicken. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes or until done, basting about every 10 minutes.

To grill, thread chicken tenders onto skewers and grill on medium heat until done, turning half way through.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Crustless Quiche Cups

First of all, I have to say that these were delicious! They were so flavorful, while still being healthful at the same time. I love the mix of mushrooms, peppers and asparagus, together with the smokiness of the ham. One of my favorite flavors was the herbes de Provence used to season the mixture. I couldn't find it at my local grocery store so I made my own. I'll put the recipe at the bottom if you find yourself in the same predicament.

The picture here doesn't do these quiche cups justice. Regardless, put this in your recipe stash and pull it out when you're ready to use up some of that holiday ham.

2 tbsp olive oil
1/4- 1/2 cup onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 cup cooked ham, chopped
salt and pepper
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan
6 large eggs
1/2-3/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add pepper and onion and saute until just tender. Add mushrooms and saute 2-3 minutes more, then add herbes de Provence and asparagus and saute another 2 minutes. Remove veggies to a large bowl and set aside. Add about 2 tsp. olive oil back in the pan and saute ham until just barely starting to brown. Add to the veggies.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine cheeses, milk, eggs and salt and pepper. Add to the veggies and mix.

Using a scant 1/3 measuring cup, pour egg and veggie mixture into well-greased muffin tin. Bake for 30 minutes, or until eggs are cooked.

Remove from oven and cool slightly. Slide a knife around each cup and gently ease the quiches out. Cool before serving.

Herbes de Provence

2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried fennel seed

Mix together and store in an airtight container.

SOURCE:Adapted form Good Things Catered

Monday, April 5, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday

I found the cutest cupcake Easter eggs I bought several weeks ago at Walmart. I acutally forgot to get them out for Easter, but I thought they would be fun for a muffin tin lunch. They have removable tops so after I put all the lids on, it was a surprise every time my daughter would open one to eat. It was lots of fun.

I filled the cupcakes with cheese cubes, peanut butter sandwich, strawberries and pineapple and one with chocolate candy. We'll definitely have to use these again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lentil Soup

Sunday Soup

If you're looking for a quick, one pot, healthful meal, this is it. This is a really delicious soup that is filled to the brim with goodness. It is also a great recipe to have on hand when trying to use pantry items such as dried herbs, lentils and rice. I love the balsamic vinegar and bacon in this soup; they really enhance the flavor. The recipe calls for brown rice, but if you only have white rice on hand, you can substitute it; just add it in the last 20 minutes instead of at the beginning. You can also omit the rice altogether if you want a more "soupy" soup. The lentils will thicken as they cook.

This makes a lot of soup, about 12 1-cup servings. You may want to half the recipe if you are feeding fewer people and don't want to be eating on it for a whole week straight. You could also make the whole recipe and freeze half of it for an even quicker weeknight meal.

8 cups beef stock
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 (28-oz.) can tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/tsp. fennel seed
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1-2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

grated parmesan cheese

Bring broth to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add bacon and next 12 ingredients; stir well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in parsley and next 4 ingredients. Discard bay leaves before serving. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

NOTES:This is a meatless soup but it would also be great with either browned hamburger or Italian Sausage, cooked and crumbled. If you choose to add the sausage, I would omit the fennel seed as it may be overpowering.

SOURCE:Adapted from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Friday, April 2, 2010

Junior Mint Cupcakes

It's fun making treats for other people. I made these for my dad's birthday. He loves junior mints, and so I. These cupcakes did not disappoint. They were delicious and very moist. I decided to make these with little time to spare so I used a box mix (eeek!). Making them from scratch wouldn't have taken that much more time but the chocolate cake recipes I have tried lately (in my search for the perfectly dense and moist cake) have been a little lacking and a bit dry. Using a box mix was a quick alternative and I decided to throw in a box of pudding mix as well to make sure they would turn out moist. Everything came together quickly and they were enjoyed by all!

For the cupcakes:
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small box instant chocolate pudding mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 1/3 cups water
2 4-oz. boxes Junior Mints

For the frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or 325 if you're using a dark non-stick pan. Line 2 muffin tins with 24 muffin liners. In a mixing bowl, combine everything except the Junior Mints. Fill each liner about 2/3 full with batter. Put 3 Junior Mints in the center of each cup and barely press down into the batter without completely submerging them. Bake 18-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan about 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately, add powdered sugar and milk to spreading consistency. Add more milk if necessary. Stir in peppermint extract.

Frost each cupcake and garnish with and extra Junior Mint candy.

SOURCE:Adapted from Picky Palate
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