Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Mac 'n' Cheese



The last couple of weeks have been crazy and after this upcoming weekend, things should settle down and my life should return to some sort of routine. Or at least that's my optimistic outlook. This past weekend I traveled to Alabama to visit my brother and his family, I met my niece and nephew for the first time, and I got a brand new car!! It was an amazing trip and I enjoyed the time with my family so much. The drive home to Texas, however, was a bit...long. 12 1/2 hours long, to be exact. By myself. Ugh. I will say, though, that while it was long, boring, and my back was less than happy by the time I got home...it didn't feel like 12 1/2 hours, and I got to enjoy my new car. I did get a little behind on posts, and yesterday was a missed Taco Tuesday, but I'm going to make that up to you this weekend when I debut a new theme day! Be sure to check back on Saturday to see what it is! And, of course, Taco Tuesday will be back on deck next week.

And I'll share a few pictures of the new car with you as well :)




Panoramic Sunroof!! So awesome!


But, to get back in the swing of things, I have a delicious post for your Wednesday! What's that, you say? Another buffalo chicken recipe? Yes. Yes it is. This one has been on my radar for quite some time and I was so excited to get in the kitchen and make it! I did make one mistake in the process, but I learned from my (repeated) mistake. I may have mentioned this previously, but I do not like blue cheese. Not even a teeny bit. However, from time-to-time I will leave it in a recipe if it is a small amount. I figured 1/3 cup was not too much, and only on the top, so it should be ok. I figured wrong. For those who like/love/tolerate blue cheese, this is a perfect addition to this mac 'n' cheese. For me, hater of blue cheese, it was not a good idea at all. All I could taste in my first serving was the blue cheese and it totally ruined it for me. I scraped off the topping for my second helping and found only minimal traces of the blue cheese and enjoyed it much more. My only recommendation is that if you have even a slight aversion to blue cheese, omit it from th recipe and do everything else exactly the same. If you like it...keep it in there!! Overall it was another great buffalo recipe and I will definitely make it again!

Buffalo Chicken Mac 'n' Cheese
As seen on Sunny Side Up in San Diego

Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts - marinated in 1 cup buttermilk and 2 Tbsp Frank's Red Hot 2-24 hours
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni  or shell noodles, cooked and drained
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped (about 2 large stalks)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup half-half
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cups Franks Buffalo Red Hot (or other buffalo sauce), divided
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced or 2 tsp dry parsley
  • Blue Cheese dressing for drizzling over top
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a grill pan over high heat, grill the chicken breasts until the juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness of chicken. Chop the chicken into bite size chunks, cover to keep warm and set aside.
  3. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 4 minutes, or until the celery is soft and the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic, last 2 Tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup of Franks, stir to coat the celery and onions.
  5. Sprinkle in the dry mustard and flour and stir well with a whisk. When the flour is fully combined, pour in the milk and half and half, whisking constantly. Then whisk in the remaining hot sauce and sour cream. Bring to a light simmer, continuing to whisk.
  6. Stir in the cheese until smooth and melted. Add the chicken and stir to combine. You will have to stir quite a bit until all is well combined.
  7. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta.
  8. In a small bowl melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add the panko, blue cheese, and parsley and stir.
  9. Sprinkle the panko mixture over top of the mac and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.




Monday, February 27, 2012

Daring Bakers: Quick Breads


Boy, oh boy, do I love quick breads! I was so excited when I saw that this month's Daring Bakers challenge was Quick Bread. The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I had a hard time choosing which bread I would make, so I did a little poll at work to see what the girls would like. It was a tie between Green Onion, Cheddar, and Asiago Beer Batter Bread and the Meyer Lemon Loaf. So, I made both. However, I am only posting the Green Onion variety here today. Both were a big hit with the co-workers, so I'll share the Lemon Loaf another time. If you've never made a quick bread before, I highly recommend it!! So easy and so, so good!

Green Onion, Cheddar, and Asiago Beer Batter Bread
Makes one 9” x 5” (23 x 13 cm) loaf
Adapted from Recipe Girl’s Cheddar Chive Beer Batter Bread


Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup sliced green (spring) onion
  • 3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup (120 ml) (2 oz) grated Asiago cheese
  • One (12 oz) bottle beer (such as amber ale)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and divided
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F. Spray 9”×5″ (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add green onion and sauté 3-4 minutes or until tender. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl; make a well in the center of the mixture. Add onion, cheeses, and beer. Stir just until moist.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake for 35 minutes; brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake an additional 23 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Recipe Swap: Loaded Potato Soup

 
I may have mentioned in an earlier post that the only good thing about winter is soup...and what better way to say goodbye to winter than with a fabulous soup? The theme for this round of recipe swaps was soup, and I couldn't have been more pleased to get Caitlin's recipe for Loaded Potato Soup! Winter showed up pretty late here in Texas, and with 90 degree temps today, it seems to be on it's way out as soon as it got here...and I can't say I'll be sad to see it go! I will, however, be sad to say goodbye to this soup until winter shows itself again...
 
Creamy, rich, and delicious...the perfect potato soup for me! I did not use the broccoli this time around, but next time I definitely will! I suggest you give this soup a try before the wintry cold is gone...it's too good to put on hold for another 6 months.
 
Loaded Potato Soup
 
Ingredients
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 c chicken stock or broth
  • 2 oz cream
  • 1/4 c heavy cream or half & half
  • 1 c shredded cheddar, jack or colby cheese, divided
  • 2 c steamed broccoli
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
 
Preparation
  1. Heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove bacon from pan to paper towels to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot.
  2. Add olive oil if necessary for 2 tablespoons total, and add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, then add carrots and garlic. Allow the vegetables to cook until they start to develop some color. 
  3. Add the potatoes and thyme, stirring to combine, and season with salt and pepper again. Add the chicken broth and bring the soup to a simmer. Cook until potatoes begin to fall apart, about 10-15 minutes. Break up potatoes with a potato masher to desired texture. Over low heat, add the cream cheese and cream, if using, and stir until cream cheese melts. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese.
  4. Serve topped with the reserved bacon, remaining cheese, steamed broccoli and scallions.
 
 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's Baking: Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake



Oh, February how I love to hate you. As if I don't have enough trouble steering clear of chocolate on a normal basis, you bombard me with delectable chocolatey treats for almost a month...wrapped in pretty pink and red wrappers, with fun hearts adorning them. Sigh. But what you can not tempt with with in the stores, I can make for myself at home instead.

For What's Baking? this month, Sandra, of She Cooks and Bakes, selected the oh-so-appropriate theme of Baking with Valentine's Day Colors. I had a few ideas that ran through my head, but when I came across this Ghirardelli recipe for chocolate raspberry cheesecake, I knew that I had found what will quite possibly be the death of my diet! I absolutely adore chocolate and raspberry together, and cheesecake is one of my very favorite desserts.

 

I opted to show it in a regular slice as well as a heart-shaped cut-out, for options. I would have liked to have posted this prior to Valentine's Day, but hey...we don't always get what we want do we ;) Put this one on the files for a nice, romantic evening with your honey, or just as a delicious, decadent dessert for yourself or a dinner party. You won't be sorry. Your pants might not fit, and you might eat the whole thing yourself...but you'll be in absolute heaven while you eat yourself silly.


Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
Source: Ghirardelli
Ingredients

Crust
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
  • 1/4 ground almonds
  • 4 Tbl White sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
Cheesecake
  • 4 (oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup raspberry puree (recipe below)
  • 2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Raspberry Puree
  • 1 (10-12 oz) pkg. frozen raspberries
  • 4 Tbl white sugar
Chocolate Ganache (optional)
  • 8 oz Ghirardelli 60 % Cacao Bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbl Butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Additional Garnishes (optional)
  • Fresh Raspberries
  • 8oz White chocolate, melted for drizzling

Preparation
  1. To prepare crust, in a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Add the chocolate graham crackers, ground almonds, and sugar and mix until combined. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. 
  2. To prepare the puree, combine raspberries and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 3-5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and set aside. 
  3. To prepare cheesecake, in a small pot over low heat, bring the whipping cream to just boiling. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips. Set aside for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. 
  4. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and ¾ cup sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Remove approximately 1 1/2 cup of this batter and place into a smaller bowl and add 1/2 cup raspberry puree. Blend until combined. 
  5. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining batter and mix until combined. Pour the chocolate cheesecake batter into the pan. Very carefully layer the raspberry cheesecake mixture on top of the chocolate mixture. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until filling is set. 
  6. Cool in pan, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold before removing from pan. If desired, top cooled cheesecakes with one or a combination of the garnishes below. 
Chocolate Ganache: In a small pot over low heat, bring the heavy cream and butter to just boiling. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips. Set aside for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. Pour over cold cheesecake to form ganache layer, or drizzle over the cold cheesecake. Refrigerate until it is set.

Raspberry Puree: Pour remaining raspberry puree over cold cheesecakes.

White Chocolate: In double boiler over hot water, melt the white chocolate until smooth. Drizzle over cold cheesecakes. Refrigerate until it is set. Fresh raspberries on top or served on the side.

Note: To make the individual heart shape cheesecakes, prepare the recipe as directed using a 13 x9 inch pan instead of a springform pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. After the cheesecake cools, cut out the hearts using a metal heart shaped cookie cutter.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taco Tuesday: Turkey Tacos Picadillo



So, I had this crazy thought the other day about Taco Tuesday posts...that perhaps, just maybe, I should be posting them to the blog on Tuesdays. What do you all think? I mean, I realize that I make tacos on Tuesday at my house, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't make the post title coincide with the day it represents, right? So, starting today, Taco Tuesday posts will actually be on Tuesday. You're welcome :-)
And stay tuned in March for an additional theme day to debut as well.

I hope you all had a great weekend and that your week has started off well. Mine hasn't had quite the start that I expected. It seems that in light of all the excitement and traveling that is coming up starting this week, that my body has gone into overdrive and mother nature decided to bless me with my very first migraine headache (or tension headache, I'm not quite sure.) Anywho...whatever it was, it kept me pretty much flat on my back all of Sunday and Monday. I'm one of the lucky few that I know that doesn't have any allergies, rarely gets sick, and rarely even gets a headache, so this was by far some of the worst pain I have had to experience. I rarely call into work, so missing on Monday due to a headache was hard for me to swallow. However, I'm happy to report that as of today, Tuesday, I am alive and well, and without excruciating head pains.

Sunday was going to be a big cooking/baking day for me, but of course that did not go as planned. I guess sometimes life steps in and tells you to slow down when you are pushing too hard for too long. I'm hopeful that this was an isolated incident and that these horrific headaches will not become a regular part of my life. I still have a few great recipes to share with you this week despite the setback, so keep an eye out for those!
As for these tacos...they were amazing! I'm really growing to love adding diced tomatoes and green chiles to my taco mixtures, and this was a very flavorful turkey taco. I made a couple of small changes from the original, but nothing drastic. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Turkey Tacos Picadillo
Source: Food Network

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped canned tomatoes with green chiles 
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 12 prepared taco shells
  • 1/4 head romaine or iceberg, thinly sliced
  • 1 to 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • Sour cream, for garnish
Preparation
  1. Put the oil, onions, garlic, jalapeno, and spices in a medium skillet, season with salt and cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and boil to thicken, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the turkey and chicken broth, adjust the heat so the mixture simmers and cook until the turkey is cooked through and the mixture thickens but is not dry, about 12 minutes.
  4. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover.
  5. Assemble tacos with turkey mixture, topped with lettuce, avocado, sour cream, and cheese.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Braised Chicken in Tomatillo-Hominy Sauce


While on a weekend trip with T to Dallas a few weeks back, we stayed with a friend, and they served white hominy with dinner. It reminded me that I haven't had hominy since I lived at home with my parents, and that I actually really like it. So, when I came across this recipe on Bev Cooks, I was stoked to see it included white hominy, along with yummy braised chicken and tomatillo sauce! The night I made this for dinner, I posted a pic on my Facebook page, and my friend SG commented on what it looked like. Let's just say I'm glad I had already eaten, because it was probably the most unappetizing thing to read!! Shame on you SG!

However, despite her playful comment, this really was a delightful meal. I really love tomatillo sauces, and the chicken was seasoned and braised to perfection. I don't usually care for dark meat, but the thighs worked well for this dish. You could always make it with breasts if you prefer, but I can't promise it will be quite as good. 

Braised Chicken in  Tomatillo-Hominy Sauce
Source: Bev Cooks

Ingredients
  • 6 medium-sized whole tomatillos, husk removed and rinsed
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of any excess fat
  • 2 jalapenos, minced (leave the seeds in for more heat)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 oz) can white hominy, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups cooked jasmine rice
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven broiler, line a baking sheet with foil, and place tomatillos on top. Broil 5-6 mintues per side, until tops begin to turn black, and tomatillos soften. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Throw the tomatillos into a food processor and pulse until combined.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high. Add the chicken breasts and sear until browned on both sides, 6 minutes total. Remove from pot and set aside.
  4. Add a little more oil to the pot if needed, then toss in the jalapeno and onion. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and bloom for 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the the tomatillo puree along with the hominy. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Nestle the chicken back in, along with the collected juices, cover the pot and simmer until chicken is cooked all the way through, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Toss in the cilantro and the lime juice. Taste one more time. Season accordingly.
  9. Serve with jasmine rice.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Shells



Is it really Thursday already? The days are flying by, and before I know it I'll be on a plane to Alabama to see my brother and his family, and to pick up my new car! This trip is so exciting for me, because I'll get to see my niece for the very first time, it will be the first time I have visited my brother and his family at their home, and the first time I've been to Alabama. On top of that, I will get to drive home in a brand new car....the nicest car I have ever owned, as a matter of fact. 2012 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T, with leather seats and a panoramic sunroof. My brother works for the plant there in Alabama, so I get a family discount on the car...how lucky am I? This upcoming weekend will be the only weekend I am actually at home during the month of February, which means that I have to cram in a whole lot of baking, cooking, and cleaning!

I have had this recipe on the to-make list for quite some time and I was finally able to get it on the menu. And, holy crap was it good!! Not the lightest of recipes, but definitely a great combo of pasta and mexican flavors. I may have skipped Taco Tuesday this week, but I made up for it by having taco pasta, basically! It's not something that I will make often, because it's definitely a heavier meal, but it will definitely see my kitchen again and I recommend everyone to try it at least once!

Mexican Stuffed Shells
Source: The Way to His Heart

Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 package low-sodium taco seasoning 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 14-16 jumbo pasta shells
  • 1.5 cup salsa
  • 1 cup taco sauce
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Monterrey jack cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • Sour cream
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a frying pan cook ground beef; add taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions.  Add cream cheese, cover and simmer until cheese is melted. Blend well. Set aside and cool completely. 
  3. While ground beef is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to directions; drain. Set shells out individually on cutting board/baking sheet so that they don’t stick together.
  4. Pour salsa on bottom of 9×13 baking dish.  Stuff each shell with the meat mixture. Place shells in 9×13 pan open side up. Cover shells with taco sauce.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, add shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes, with the foil removed.  Top with any condiments you’d like (green onions, black olives, etc.) Serve with sour cream and/or more salsa.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

 
Usually on Wednesday I post the recipe from my Taco Tuesday, but this week there was not Taco Tuesday. Why, you ask? Did you forget already??? Yesterday was Valentine's Day! Now, originally I planned to go ahead with my regular routine, being single and all, but Mr. T is out of town for work, so me, T, and another girl friend, SG, got together for a girls Valentine's dinner. It was a nice change of pace and I really enjoyed the time with my girls. 
 
In preparation for a day of overindulging in chocolate treats, Italian food, and wine a light meal was definitely in order and what could be lighter than a nice salmon dish? I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the bourbon since I don't usually cook with alcohol other than wine, nor do I drink bourbon, but it turned out really well.

Taco Tuesday posts will return next week, so stay tuned and enjoy this delicious salmon in the mean time!

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

Ingredients
  • 1 pound fresh salmon
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
Preparation
  1. Combine the bourbon, sugar, mustard, garlic, honey, vinegar and worcestershire in a small saucepan and whisk. Heat over high heat and allow it to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until mixture reduces by about half. Pour mixture in a bowl and let sit at room temperature while the salmon cooks. The glaze will thicken a bit at this time.
  2. Preheat the broiler in your oven. Make sure the salmon is dry and season it with the coarse salt and pepper on both sides. Lay it on a non-stick baking sheet.  Broil for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until the top develops a crispy crust. If your salmon is very thick, you may need to go a little longer.
  3. Remove the salmon from the oven and brush it with the bourbon glaze.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Daring Cooks: California Turkey Burger


Every month I look forward to my Daring Kitchen challenges, and this month I was super excited when I opened up the Daring Cooks challenge. The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex & Lis of La Mia Cucina and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!

While browsing their suggested recipes, I came across a California Turkey Burger and I knew that was the patty for me! I love avocado with my burgers, and although my grocery store has been out of alfalfa sprouts for months (so they told me the day I needed them), I went ahead without them. I know they would have made it a better burger, but it was still so good! Ground turkey can be hit or miss on flavor, and sometimes a bit dry, but if well seasoned it is a great alternative to beef burgers (even though I love those too!)

I varied my version from the original, but not by too much. I added crumbled bacon to the patty mixture, and omitted the onions. I loved the sauce - a different variation of my favorite condiments and a great compliment to the burgers. I will definitely be making these again, as well as some of the other wonderful patties that these ladies shared with us! Thanks again Lis and Audax for a great challenge!


California Turkey Burger
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine September 2005

Ingredients (modified to make 2 burgers)

Sauce
¼ cup ketchup
½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ Tbsp fat-free mayonnaise

Patties
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 lb ground turkey breast
Cooking spray

Burger Fixings
Hamburger buns
Red leaf lettuce leaves
Kosher dill pickles
Sliced red onion, separated into rings
1 avocado,cut into slices
½ cup alfalfa sprouts

Preparation
Heat skillet or grill over medium-high heat.Prepare sauce and set aside.
To prepare patties, combine shallots and the next 7 ingredients (through turkey breast), mixing well. Divide mixture into 2 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place patties in skillet or on grill rack coated with cooking spray; cook 4 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in the middle.
Spread 1 tablespoon sauce on top half of each bun. Layer bottom half of each bun with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 patty, pickles, onion slices, avocado slices, and about 1/4 cup of sprouts. Cover with top halves of buns.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crab & Avocado Quesadilla


Woo, what a busy weekend it was! Friday night I went to see Luke Bryan at the rodeo with friends in San Antonio, Saturday I went out with some other friends, and Sunday I went to see The Vow. I am secretly - well, not so secretly - in lust with Channing Tatum, so this was a much anticipated trip to the theater for me, and the perfect end to my friend-filled weekend. I love my girls, and getting to spend this much time with them was fabulous! But, with all my adventures I wasn't at home very much so when I was, I needed something quick to fix for lunch and I had these crab quesadillas on my to-make list and thought they'd be perfect.

I don't have much experience with crab,  but I do love avocados and the combination sounded appealing and I'm glad I followed my instinct, because they were delicious! The shallots, although I like them, were a little overwhelming, so I would personally leave them out next time, but otherwise the flavors went great together. These quesadillas were a perfect lunch with not-so-ordinary ingredients.

Crab and Avocado Quesadilla
For one quesadilla

Ingredients
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 oz lump crab meat
  • 1 slice bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 2 slices avocado, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup low-fat, shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 slice pineapple, chopped
Preparation
  1. Combine all ingredients, except for tortillas and cheese in a bowl.
  2. Heat a skillet on medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Assemble tortillas with ingredients in between. Make sure there is cheese on both the bottom of one tortilla and the top of the crabmeat mixture to act as ‘glue.’
  3. Brown tortilla on both sides until cheese is melted. Cut into 4 triangles and enjoy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Recipe Swap: Pork & Potato Hash


Happy, Happy Friday friends! I am exceptionally happy about this Friday, because as soon as I break free of the workday, I'll be headed to the rodeo to see Luke Bryan with a group of my friends. I got a new pair of cowboy boots, some rockin' jeans and a flashy new haircut to boot! I am ready to let loose and have some fun!! I hope you all have some fun plans for the weekend too. I'd feel bad if I were the only one. Well, maybe not, but I really do hope you all have something exciting going on!

For the Potato recipe swap, I received Jenna's Pork and Potato Hash. Now, you all may have noticed that I have made several pulled-pork tacos recently, so when I looked over the recipe and realized that it was basically pulled pork on top of crispy potatoes I thought "hot damn I hit the jackpot!!"  And then I quickly gathered my composure and realized that I was going to completely railroad my eating habits this week. Without a single second thought. I actually made my pork on the stove and in the oven instead of the crock-pot as instructed in the original recipe due to time constraints, but you can do whatever works best for you! I gobbled my plate right up, and then went back for seconds. Potato overload week complete!! :)


Pork and Potato Hash

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces pork shoulder or butt, cut into 3-4 inch pieces
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed red potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons thinly diagonally sliced green onions
Preparation
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat with 1/4 cup of the chicken broth. 
  3. Season  the pork with rosemary, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper. Add the pork to the dutch oven and brown on all sides. 
  4. Pour the remaining chicken broth over the pork. Add the garlic into the broth mixture, cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove lid, turn pork pieces over and return to oven for 1-1 1/2 hours until tender, rotating pork about every 30 minutes.
  5. During the last 30 minutes,heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the potato and chopped onion,reduce heat to medium, and cook until both potatoes and onions are tender, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  
  6. Once the pork is done, shred with 2 forks or in a mixer. 
  7. Plate potatoes and top with pork and green onions. 

Recipe Swap: Boxty Potato Cake Salad


It's another double post Friday!! For this round of recipe swaps, Sarah chose the theme of Potatoes, since February is Potato Lovers Month and boy-oh-boy have I been loving potatoes!! This week alone I made three potato-based dinners, can you believe that?? Great for my hungry tummy, but not so great for the diet ;) One of our regular swappers wasn't able to participate this month, so I stepped in to cover her - hence the double post today :) And what a nice addition to my menu...this Irish recipe from Caitlin over at Caitlin's Cooking, was a perfect nod to my Irish heritage and a great addition to my recipe book. I enjoyed every single little cake...all by myself. And yes, I realize the insanity of that, but they were good. So good. 

I'm really glad I was able to fill in for this recipe, because it truly was amazing...try it and you'll see!

Boxty Potato Cake Salad
Source: Caitlin’s Cooking

Ingredients
  • 1 lb. potatoes, scrubbed
  • 4 oz. bacon, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1-2 cups chopped salad greens
  • 1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
  • 2-3 Tbsp sour cream

Preparation
  1. Cover the potatoes with cold water in a pan and add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, continuing to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain well, and set aside to cool.  This can be done the day before.
  2. Once potatoes have cooled, peel away the skins and grate into a bowl.  (I used the grater on my food processor, and didn't bother to peel the potatoes.)  Heat a pan over medium-high heat and cook bacon until crispy, 2-3 minutes, draining away most of the excess fat. 
  3. Remove 2-3 Tbsp of bacon crumbles from the pan, and reserve for garnish.  Add scallions, again reserving some for garnish, and cook for another minute, until soft.  Transfer bacon and scallions to the bowl with the grated potatoes.  Add the egg yolk and flour, season well with salt and pepper, and mix until just combined.
  4. Divide potato mixture into four and shape into patties, dusting with more flour if necessary.  Lay on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 1-24 hours.
  5. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, add the butter, and then add boxty cakes once butter has stopped foaming.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through and golden brown.
  6. Place one cake on serving plates, and dress greens with dressing.  Arrange greens on plate, and top with reserved bacon and scallions, and sour cream if desired.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Citrus-Crusted Tilapia with Blood Orange Salsa


I have been noticing more and more lately, foods that freak me out. Like, whole roasted pigs...totally freak me out. Purple potatoes...not natural! And, blood oranges. So dark against that bright orange peel...the name seems eerily appropriate. But, I still felt compelled to try them (unlike purple potatoes and whole roasted pig), and I couldn't have been more pleased. They may look a little weird, but they taste amazing!! A little sour, a little sweet and perfectly delicious. And they compliment this citrus-crusted tilapia so well, that I found it hard to have only 1 serving. Mmm mmm good!! Maybe I will get up the courage to try purple potatoes...or, maybe not ;) But you should definitely try blood oranges if you haven't already!

Citrus Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients
  • 4 fresh (or thawed) tilapia filets
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • the zest of 2 blood oranges, 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place a wire rack on top, and spray the wire rack with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, add bread crumbs, flour, citrus zest and pinch of salt. In another bowl, lightly beat egg whites.
  3. Season each piece of tilapia with salt and pepper. Dip each piece of tilapia in beaten egg whites, then coat with citrus breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. Place on the wire rack and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden. Serve topped with Blood Orange Salsa (recipe below.)
Blood Orange Salsa
  • 2 blood oranges, segmented and chopped
  • 1 Clementine, segmented and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
  • Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients together and mix. Let sit for 30 minutes so the flavors can combine.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Taco Tuesday: Roasted Potato Tacos



Happy Wednesday friends! I am so glad that we are half-way through this dreaded week. I am slowly getting all the pics re-posted on here, and want to thank you all for being patient while I get it done. In my menu planning I have a habit of trying to alternate which protein I use for the main dishes, but rarely do I make any sort of vegetarian dish. Mostly because I'm super picky about veggies, and I rarely find a main dish that suits my taste. However, while searching for taco recipes, I came across a few of the vegetarian variety and they looked great! And thus, they were added to the food calendar.

I love potatoes, though as I've mentioned before, I have haven't been cooking with them much until recently. Now it seems I'm in potato overload. You think I'm kidding, just wait for Friday's post! Anywho (and yes, I mean to say anywho, not anyhow), when I saw these Roasted Potato Tacos on Cassie Craves, I knew they were going to be delicious. Now, being the picky veggie eater that I am, I had to make some modifications but the flavors were amazing and I am super happy that I recently found Cassie's blog...you should check it out!

Roasted Potato Tacos
As seen on Cassie Craves, originally from Handle the Heat

Ingredients
  • 2 large red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded pepperjack cheese
  • Cilantro for garnish
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Combine potatoes, jalapeno, seasonings, and oil in a bowl. Stir until veggies are well-coated.
  3. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet and cooke for 30-40 minutes on the middle rack.
  4. When cooked through and browned, assemble tacos and top with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Puffs



It's been a rough week already...well, since Sunday anyway. With accidentally deleting ALL of my blog pics from the Picasa album that housed them, being out of town and not having time and/or the original pics to repost, and then the general chaotic start of Monday, I was glad to see the end of it. Today is Tuesday, and I feel it will be a better day. I'm getting my hair cut, my teeth cleaned, and I made some adorable cupcakes for a staff meeting at work. If miniature cupcakes can't start a day off right, I don't know what can. Except buffalo chicken pizza puffs...

With my buffalo chicken obsession kicking into high gear lately, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to wrap it in some delightful homemade pizza dough, now could I? And let's just say that they were so good....those crispy outside, ooey, gooey inside little puffs...that I had to take them all to work or I would have eaten every single one of them.

I used the pizza dough recipe from Pizza on the Grill, and then followed most of the basic steps from Taste and Tell, but cooked my own chicken instead of using canned. these little (well, some not so little) puffs were an amazing ball of buffalo chicken goodness that will definitely be making more appearances in my oven!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Puffs
Adapted from Taste and Tell

Ingredients
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ¼ cup buffalo sauce
  • ½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Pizza dough (recipe below)
  • 1 egg
Pizza Puff Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, cover chicken with water, and boil until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, drain water, and put in Mixer bowl. Using paddle attachment, shred chicken on low speed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese until smooth. Add in the chicken, blue cheese, buffalo sauce, and mozzarella. Mix until completely combined.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12x10 rectangle and cut into 6 squares.
  5. Divide the chicken mixture between the squares, about ¼ cup of the chicken mixture for each of the six squares. Working one at a time, pinch the edges together to form a ball of dough around the chicken mixture. Pinch to form a seam, making sure there are no holes. Place on the prepared baking dish, smooth side up. Repeat with the other 5 rolls.
  6. Beat the egg lightly and mix in 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash lightly over the top of each roll.
  7. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven until the dough is golden brown and cooked, about 10 minutes.
Pizza Dough
Source: Pizza on the Grill
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for coating the bowl
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Preparation
  1. Mix the water, honey & oil in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit until it gets foamy.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour & salt. Add the water mixture 1/2 cup at a time until fully incorporated. If the dough is sticky, add more flour; if it is stiff, add more water. Continue to mix until it feels elastic. Spread onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and easy to work with. Do not overwork or it will be tough.
  3. Oil a third bowl, and place the dough in it, turning to coat all sides. Drizzle a little extra oil over the top of the dough. Seal tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise, about an hour. Dough will double in size.
  4. Punch the dough down and knead on a slightly floured surface until smooth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Buttery Dill Monkey Bread


We took a little break in January to re-group and update some things, but for February, the Secret Recipe Club is back in action!! I received the blog Sweet As Sugar Cookies, and my goodness does Lisa have some delicious goodies to share! We share a love for cooking and baking, and for continually trying out new recipes! It took me awhile to narrow down the options since there were so many great recipes to choose from, but I finally decided to make this Buttery Dill Monkey Bread. The sweet treats were so tempting, but I figured I better steer clear for a little while longer ;) I've always wanted to try monkey bread, and adding butter and delectable dill just made it all the more appealing!

I baked mine in little ramekins, and they were almost too cute to eat! Next time I'll try it in a loaf pan, because I know those will be super cute too. I love the buttery flavor accented by delicious dill. Mmm mmm good!

As always, if you are interested in SRC, visit the link above for rules and a participation application. It has become increasingly popular over the last year, so at the moment there is a waiting list, but it's worth the wait!!

Buttery Dill Monkey Bread
Source: Sweet As Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

·     2 Tbsp warm water
·     1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
·     1 tsp sugar
·     2 1/4 cups bread flour
·     1/4 tsp salt
·     1/2 c. milk, lukewarm
·     1 egg
·     1 Tbsp butter, melted
·     1 Tbsp dried dill

Dill Butter

·     4 Tbsp melted butter, divided
·     1 Tbsp dried dill

Preparation

1.    Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.
2.    Mix the milk, egg, butter, and dill into the yeast mixture. Add the salt and the flour gradually until the dough no longer sticks to the bottom of the bowl. Knead lightly by hand and place the ball of dough in a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30-60 minutes.
3.    Meanwhile, make the dill butter by combining 2 tablespoons of melted butter with 1 tablespoon of dill.
4.    Once the dough is ready, punch it down and shape into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball into the dill butter and place in small greased ramekins or mini loaf pans (I used two mini loaf pans). The dough will rise more, so don't cram too much dough into too small of a space.
5.    Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 20-25 minutes.
6.    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Right before baking, brush some of the remaining dill butter over the dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes, brushing again with the butter twice throughout the baking process. Enjoy warm from the oven.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Technical Difficulties

Through a chance blunder with my new Smart Phone, I have managed to delete almost every picutre from my Picasa web albums, which subsequently deleted them all from the blog!!! Please bear with me as I go back and try to find/recover, and re-post  pictures. This may take me some time, but I'll get it done as quickly as possible. New posts and pics will still be coming every day, so watch for those!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream


I don't know what the weather has been like in your part of the world, but in Texas it has been exceptionally wonky this Winter. Don't get me wrong, I don't like to be cold, but when it's pushing 80 degrees in January and February, it just doesn't feel right. Besides, I have a whole slew of new sweaters to wear and the weather is not calling for that very often. But on the days where Mother Nature dealt the usual cold, dreary, wintry weather, soup was definitely a welcome meal.

Since January was National Soup Month, I tried to make as many new soups as I could fit in. This one looked good, but I have to admit I was worried that the taste would be too red pepper-y for me. Good thing I was wrong!! This soup is creamy and just plain delicious. Oh, and the cilantro-lime sour cream...amazing! Since I'm sure the winter cold is making it's presence known in many parts of the world, I highly recommend this soup to warm you up!

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup w/Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

Ingredients
  • 8 roasted red peppers packed in oil (about 1 large jar), drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Cilantro Lime Sour Cream, recipe follows
Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream:
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh cilantro leaves
In a mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients vigorously until light and creamy.
 
Preparation
  1. Saute the butter, onions, and garlic until soft in a heavy bottomed soup pot on medium-low heat.
  2. Add the red peppers, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat, and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the half and half, cilantro, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Mix the cornstarch with a little cold water to get rid of any lumps and add it to the soup to thicken.
  5. Simmer 5 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly, and then blend in batches in a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree. 
  6. Top with a dollop of Cilantro Lime Sour Cream.
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