Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chicken Stuffed with whatever- because yummy food inside yummy food is good.

Christmas Eve was a little different for us this year. Usually we have a house full of out of town family for dinner and the menu is planned out weeks in advance. This year it was just my family of five and found myself not even thinking about dinner until 4 o'clock that afternoon.

After scrounging around in the fridge, I managed to come up with some ingredients that I thought would be excellent together:

Sun dried tomato and mozzarella Laughing Cow spreadable cheese
A partial wedge of Smoked Gouda
a handful of baby spinach leaves
a tube of crescent rolls
3 chicken breasts

First, I cut a pocket in the chicken and spread the Laughing Cow cheese.

Then I added several slices of the Smoked Gouda to the pocket and seasoned the outside with freshly ground salt and pepper.

I seared the chicken in a hot pan.

This is when I realized that I had forgotten the spinach so I quickly stuffed it in.

After the chicken breasts were browned on each side, I rolled them in a rectangle of the crescent roll dough and baked them for 25 minutes.

The finished product looked good, tasted great and everyone loved it!

This was really simple and used up several ingredients from my fridge. I would definitely have to say that stuffing yummy food inside other yummy food is always good, especially when you wrap it in dough. next time, I think I need to figure out how to add bacon!

Chicken Breast- صدور الدجاج

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yay! New layout

Check out the new layout by Becca at Jumping Jax Designs . She is awesome and makes really great cards as well! I am loving it and can't wait to start writing more blog posts. Check back in a few days for lots of new dinner ideas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Confession of a non-baker

Its the week of Christmas and everyone is baking like crazy. I have looked through blogs and books of Christmas treats and tried to decide what to try this year. I have lined up all the goodies that we are going to be making for the two upcoming sessions of cookie camp, but what will I be making for my family.

Cookies? Pies? Cakes? Candy? This is always such a hard decision for me because I have a secret.

I AM NOT A BAKER. I don't not enjoy it. Not even a little. Don't get me wrong, I love baked goods and will definitely partake of more than my share of sugar cookies and kissy blossoms this year, but I am not a fan of the process. One of my favorite parts of cooking is the freedom to throw together ingredients and try new methods. Baking doesn't give me that freedom. You have to use measuring cups for goodness sakes! To me measurements are just suggestions and the idea of leveling off a teaspoon of baking powder is just ridiculous. I can't do it.

So there is my problem, I hate the measuring so I guestimate . Guessing is not a good thing in baking so most of my treats are less than stellar. This Christmas I am trying to be better though! After scouring the internet for fool proof recipes, I think I am armed with the motivation to make some yummies for my family this year.

So today's plan is to stifle my creative spirit and whip up some  peanut butter cookies. Its chore to follow the recipe, but I will do it. I won't like it, but I will definitely like the treats :)  Happy Holidays and if you have any ideas on some goodies that don't require a lot of structure, let me know! Please- you might even convert me into a baker.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wild Mushroom Lasagna Rollups Gone Wrong

Today was a series of dinner mishaps that led to one large pan of reasonably yummy lasagna. To begin, I had decided to pull a pan of Wild Mushroom Lasagna Roll ups from the freezer because my in-laws were coming to town and it's an impressive dish. Unfortunately, while checking the thawing status I realized that  the pan I pulled was actually tater tot casserole. That won't do for a fussy in-law dinner, so I ran to the store and grabbed the ingredients to make some roll-ups. Well of course, this had to be one of the crazy busiest days I have had in a long time. I decided to boil the noodles and leave them in the water while I ran to do the elementary school pickup. I came home and mixed up the cheese filling and the mushroom filling.

The mushroom filling didn't look like it was going to be substantial enough to fill 16 rolls

So I added some seasoned lean ground beef

Yes, that is a potato masher in the cheese filling. It really is the best tool for this job.

The first noodle tore a bit when I pulled it out of the water, but I managed to spread a layer of cheese.

Then a layer of mushroom filling

And rolled it up.

Then next noodle was not as willing to come out of the water. The pot of noodles had turned into a big mass of lasagna  knots. I ended up unrolling my noodles and just trying to layer them like a regular lasagna. I figured that if I threw enough cheese on the top it would cover the top and glue the dish together. This was a relatively good plan and it work out pretty well and the dish looked good.

The next problem was the taste. In my efforts to be health conscious and reduce the fat of the dish, I eliminated the flavor. Ugh seriously yesterday was not my day!  But I am going to try to turn this into a learning experience and I have come up with some ideas on how to perk up this bland dish and still keep it healthy. My changes from the original are in red. If you have any suggestions let me know!

Wild Mushroom, Lasagna Roll-Ups

• 16  lasagna noodles
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 4 ounces sliced baby portabella Mushroom
• 4 ounces slice shitake or other wild mushroom
• ½ onion, diced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/3 cup Red Wine
• 1 pint fat free ricotta cheese
• 4 ounces fat free cream cheese
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
• 1 egg, slightly beaten
• 4 large leaves fresh basil
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• Fresh ground pepper
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain and rinse to cool.
Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, heat olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl, blend together ricotta, Cream cheese, egg, basil, oregano, pepper and salt.
One noodle at a time, spread a layer of cheese and then a light layer of mushroom/onion mixture.
Roll up noodle, place in baking pan.
Once all rolls are filled, top with remaining ricotta mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella.
Cover in aluminum foil and freeze.

Thaw Completely - Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for one hour or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Makes 16 rolls.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dinner from the Slow Cooker

Blaze (my CrockPot) is finally starting to redeem herself and  put out some good dinners. The holiday craziness is overwhelming my house, so no work dinners are definitely coming in handy!

Yesterday I decided to cook one of the chuck roasts that were featured in last weeks grocery ads. I used the French Dip recipe that I posted last week. I can absolutely see why this is one of the most popular dishes from my batch parties. It was great!

This the seasoned roast from the the freezer hanging out by Blaze and getting ready to get to work.

Step one- Dump in the roast and the rest of the contents of the bag

Step two - cover

Yummy cooked roast

Step 3 - Shred the cooked meat and put on sandwich bread-

Make sure to serve with the cooking juices.

This was a great dinner the family loved and it was as easy as PB&J!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Favorites: Sugar Cut Out Cookies

My family has made sugar cookie cut outs during the holidays for as long as I can remember. They are never the beautifully decorated ones that you see in magazines or bakeries, but more of the "loads of icing and as many sprinkles as you can get to stick" variety. They are made by giggling little children on a creativity and sugar induced high. Like most kids, for generations the ones in my family have had no idea of what "too much" is. There is no such thing as too much colored sugar on Santa's hat.

Check out this year's first batch. Aren't they beautiful?

My grandmother used a recipe that had been passed to her from her mother and this is the one my mom used. I have a secret. I don't like it. Yes, I know it is horrible to say that I do not like the cookies of my great grandmother. Honestly, until the past few years I have felt that the cookie was really just a vehicle to get the icing and sprinkles to my mouth. About 6 years ago I started testing out different sugar cookie recipes trying to find one that had some flavor without overpowering the icing. I tried Martha Stewart's recipe and used it for a couple of years. It had brandy in the dough, so how could it be anything but fantastic? Well, the cookie was just to crisp for me. I like cookies to be a bit soft and chewy, not really cracker like.

This year I think I may have found the recipe to pass to my kids- or at least a really close version of what I will turn it into. That splash of brandy in Martha Stewart's recipe may just have to find its way in.  So far I have used this recipe three times and it has been consistently a favorite. The recipe calls for a ton of butter, so the dough has to be chilled for at least an hour before you can roll it out. Definitely have extra flour on hand to help with sticking during the rolling process.

I found this on the Food Network website. It is a recipe from The Neely's and is really really good.

Shelbi's Butter Cookies

Yield: 24 cookies


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sifted sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Sift together flour and salt into a bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter and mix on medium-high until fluffy and light. Add the sugar and the eggs, 1 at a time, until and mix until combined. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour to the butter, sugar, egg mixture. Mix until batter looks smooth. Place dough onto a flowered cutting board and cut the dough into quarters, flatten and wrap with the plastic. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With a rolling pin covered in flour, roll out dough quarters 1 at a time, on a floured work surface to 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Use a variety of cutters to cut out cookies. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and space cookies about 1 1/2-inches apart.

Bake cookies until they are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Using a using a spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool

Friday, December 10, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Chicken Marsala

This has been one of my favorite dishes since my days of working at the Olive Garden. The sweet smell of Marsala wine and buttery mushrooms can be intoxicating (especially if you sneak a few sips off  the Marsala bottle) and the tender chicken just drinks in the flavor. This versatile dish can be served over rice or pasta or even next to some rosemary roasted potatoes. Crusty bread is essential to sop up every last bit of the flavorful sauce.

First, I trimmed the fat off of a large chicken breast.

I repeated 5 more times for a total of 6 chicken breasts.

Then I seasoned flour with Italian seasoning, salt and oregano.

The next step is to cover the chicken with wax paper and flatten it. 

Look at them all flat and uniform in thickness!

2 tablespoons of bottle and 2 tablespoons of olive oil are combines and heated until the butter melts.

Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour and place in the skillet.

 Wait for the chicken to start to become white about halfway up before flipping.

If you start to feel resistance like the chicken is stuck to the pan when you are trying to turn the chicken, stop and wait another minute. The chicken will release when it has a sear on it.

Cook the chicken in  batches so that the pan is not crowded and it gives the chicken room to fully brown.

Once the chicken was browned I returned it all in the pan.

Add the mushrooms on top of the chicken

Pour Marsala wine over the top of the chicken and mushrooms

Cover the pan and let the mushrooms cook down.

Look at the yummy sauce!

The final dish - I cooled the chicken and then froze it.

We had it for dinner and it was delicious!!!!

Easy Chicken Marsala

• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
• 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves about 1.5-2 pounds
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 tablespoon butter
• 1.5 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
• 3/4 cup Marsala wine

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, garlic salt, pepper, and oregano. Dredge chicken in the mixture to lightly coat.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the chicken in the skillet for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned on one side. Turn chicken over, and add mushrooms. Cook about 2 minutes, until other side of chicken is lightly browned. Stir mushrooms so that they cook evenly.
3. Pour Marsala wine over the chicken. Cover skillet, and reduce heat to low; simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and Freeze.

Thaw and place in saucepan cook 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Serve with cooked noodles or roasted potatoes.

Tip: If you pound the chicken flat it cooks much quicker and more evenly

Serves 6

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Taking Advantage of Grocery Ads: Boneless Chuck Or Shoulder Roasts

This week is kind of slim picking on great grocery ad specials. The one thing that really stood out as a deal is Kroger's price on boneless chuck or shoulder roasts for $1.97.

You might be asking yourself "How do I make a large hunk of tough meat turn into something tender and delicious?".  The secret is long slow cooking on a low temperature. Of course, pot roast is the first thing that comes to mind. My family is not really big on pot roast, but we have tried out these recipes to see if we would become converts. The general consensus was that they were good, but we are just not pot roast people. I will post the recipe for those of you that are pot roast lovers.

However, we really really like french dip sandwiches. The recipe I use for these is SO ridiculously easy that I am almost embarrassed to post it. Honestly, it is one of the biggest hits on my batch party menus!

In my quest to try something new, I have found recipes that look really interesting and got 5 stars on the Food Network site. One is a Chimichanga recipe that I am sure my kids will love, mainly just because they would get the chance to say chimichanga repeatedly. The next one is an amazingly delicious looking recipe for Beef Stroganoff over Buttered Noodles. I will let you know how these go!

I plan on going this morning to stock my freezer with a couple of inexpensive roasts that will feed a crowd. When I cook them I will post pictures for you. Don't  forget to let me know if you try anything! I want to know what you think.

Winter Pot Roast

Serves 6

2.5 pound pot roast
2 tbls steak sauce
2 onions thinly sliced
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Splenda
¼ tsp pepper
1.5 tbls pure horseradish

Combine all ingredients except roast and pour over the roast in a gallon freezer bag. Freeze.

Thaw and place all the contents in a Crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Add water as needed. Cut meat into cubes and put back into sauce.

Pot Roast

Serves 6

2 ½ lb beef roast
2 tablespoons steak sauce
2 medium onions thinly sliced
15oz can tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ tablespoons pure horseradish

Combine all ingredients and put in a freezer bag. Freeze

Thaw and place the roast and sauce into a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add water if the sauce looks to thin. Cut meat into cubes and place back into sauce. Serve with potatoes or on bread.

Slow Cooker French Dip
Serves 6-8

3-4 pounds sirloin tip or boneless beef rump roast
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 packet French dip or brown gravy mix
8 sandwich rolls

Combine roast and Worcestershire sauce in a gallon freezer bag and freeze.

Thaw completely and place roast in slow cooker. Sprinkle with gravy mix and add ¼ cup water. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Serve thin slices of roast on sandwich rolls with bowls of juices on the side.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Easy Dinner When You Feel Nasty

Yesterday my dinner plans got derailed by a couple of kids that weren't feeling too hot. Instead of eating the Bacon and Gouda Stuffed Pork Chops I had planned, we decided to go a bit easier on there stomachs. My favorite type of comfort food is Chicken and Dumplings, but the last thing I wanted to do was spend an afternoon over the stove while dealing with sick kids. I gave my slow cooker, Blaze, another chance to help us out and whipped up a big pot of Easy Chicken and Dumplings.

First thing I did was melt the butter in the CrockPot.

The onions were chopped in my Cuisinart mini chop. The family doesn't like large chunks of onion and this chopped it really finely.

After putting the onion in the crockpot, the chicken breast were layered into the pot.

Pour cream of chicken soup over the top and a bit of water to completely cover. Then I added my secret ingredient. No that's not weed, its dried tarragon from my garden!

The tarragon was sprinkled over the top and then covered and cooked on low for 4 hours to compensate for Blaze's super heating power.

During the last hour I took a refrigerated dough

and cut each biscuit into 8 little pieces.

Every 15 minutes I would come in and gently stir the uncooked biscuits into the broth. It was a tasty and  comforting meal with very little effort.

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Serves 6-8


4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1 onion, finely diced
2 tbls tarragon
2 (10 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough, torn into pieces

DIRECTIONS – this is assembled and cooked on the same day.

1. Place the chicken, butter, soup, and onion in a slow cooker, and fill with enough water to cover.
2. Cover, and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High. About an hour before serving, place the torn biscuit dough in the slow cooker. Cook until the dough is no longer raw in the center.

Slow Cooker