Monday, June 30, 2008

BBQ Chicken & Mom's Mac & Cheese

DH loves bbq chicken legs and I was watching Food Network's Mac & Cheese Challenge yesterday, so voila. Props to J next door for his recommendation on the bbq sauce - total cheat, but totally good. Oh, and boxed macaroni and cheese is not permitted in the RVA household, so I don't make this too often - but darn it's good.

Easy-Peasy BBQ Chicken

Marinate your favorite chicken pieces (I used drumsticks and a boneless, skinless breast for me) in Sonny's Sweet Sauce (I used about 8 packages for 6 pieces of chicken) for several hours. Grill pieces til cooked through, basting often. Serve with lots of napkins.

Mom's Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Guess what? No measurements! This is one of those recipes that you just sorta kinda feel your way through. It's got cheese - how can it be bad?

Cook your favorite pasta according to directions (I used mini penne and I make it very al dente). Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, make a roux out of equal parts butter and flour. I tend to make mine a little soft for a creamier sauce. Over low heat, add about 1-2 cups of milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until roux is completely dissolved and milk has thickened. Add one block of shredded cheddar (1 3 cup bag of pre-shredded will work fine) and stir until all cheese has melted. Salt & pepper to taste.

Pour drained pasta into the cheese sauce and toss until pasta is well coated. Pour 1/2 mixture into a casserole dish and top with more shredded cheddar. Repeat with remaining mixture and more cheese.

In a small saucepan, melt a few tablespoons of butter. Add breadcrumbs and combine until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and until crumbs are golden brown.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

S'mores Cupcakes

These are among my favorite so far. We had some out of town guests, so I thought these would be cute to serve. They were met with rave reviews.

1 pkg devil's food cake mix (eggs, water & oil as directed)
24 dark chocolate hershey's kisses
marshmallow frosting (recipe to follow)
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 Hershey bars, broken into 24 cupcakes (on the lines).

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray cupcakes pans with nonstick spray. Prepare cake batter according to directions. Fill each cup 2/3 full with batter. Insert one Hersehy kiss per cup. It makes a rich "fudgey" filling.
Bake approximately 20 minutes, until done. Frost with marshmallow icing. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and top each cupcake with a piece of Hershey bar.

Marshmallow Frosting

2 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp water
1 tbsp light corn syrup
½ tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, water, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and salt. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the mixture until it is very warm and soft (but not dry) peaks form, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer to low and add the marshmallows and vanilla. Continue beating until the marshmallows are melted and the frosting is completely smooth, about 2 minutes more. Use immediately.

Ramen Noodle Salad

This is a different twist on your average cole slaw. It's light and slightly sweet - perfect for summer cookouts. As you can tell by the picture, the recipe makes a lot, so I halve it.

2 pkg ramen noodles (chicken flavor)
1 16oz pkg cole slaw mix
2 bunches of scallions, sliced thin
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 flavor packets from ramen noodles
3/4 cup salad oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar

The night before serving, mix the dressing (flavor packets, oil, sugar & vinegar) and refrigerate.

Right before serving salad, combine the rest of the ingredients and toss with dressing.

Bourbon Cheeseburgers

There's nothing better than a burger on the grill. If you make your own burger patties, try this recipe for added kick.

1 lb ground beef
1/4 red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 white mushroom, minced
1/4 cup bell peppers, minced
2 tbsp bourbon
montreal steak seasoning
pepperjack cheese
burger rolls

Combine all ingredients and form into burger patties. Grill to the desired temperature. Melt pepperjack cheese on each patty and remove from grill. Serve with favorite condiments.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Moroccon Chicken & Lentils

Credit for this again goes to Nancy, who has introduced me to some really new and fantastic flavors. I never, in a million years, would have thought to use lentils as the base of a dish. It's a fabulous touch.

8 cups water
3 teaspoons salt, divided
1 pound dried brown lentils, rinsed, drained
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons ground cumin, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Combine 8 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Add lentils; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well; rinse with cold water and drain again. Place in large bowl.

Whisk 1 cup olive oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons cumin, 2 tablespoons chili powder, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt in large measuring cup. Pour 1 cup dressing over warm lentils and toss. Cool.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over high heat. Add onion; sauté until dark brown and soft, about 5 minutes. Add chicken; sauté 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder, and cinnamon. Sauté until chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes longer.
Arrange lentils on large platter. Place sliced chicken atop lentils. Drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle with parsley. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sloppy Turkey Joes & Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Thanks to Dana for the inspiration for this one. DH loved it (according to him, "the streak continues"), and it was healthy and easy.

Sloppy Turkey Joe's
*ingredients are based on your taste - I don't like a lot of sauce, and I prefer more veggies, so that's what I did.
1 lb ground turkey
Prego mushroom sauce (whatever sauce you prefer, or use tomato paste & sloppy joe mix)
mushrooms, chopped fine
1 shallot, chopped fine
green or red bell pepper, chopped fine
garlic salt
kaiser rolls, toasted lightly

Saute ground turkey in a pan with herbs & spices, until mostly cooked through. Drain fat. Add vegetables and cook until done. Add sauce and simmer until ready to serve. Serve on toasted kaiser roll.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
sweet potatoes, sliced into fry-shaped pieces
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.

Line potatoes up on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add herbs and spices to taste. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with bleu cheese dressing.

Shown served with baby lima beans

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad

Kerry is the one who reminded me of this simple and easy favorite. Pasta with pesto is one of my favorites and the addition of raw veggies really makes this perfect for a summer dinner. I have yet to get a food processor, and when I do, I will be making my own pesto from scratch - in the meantime, I use Knorr's pesto mix and it works well.

1 lg package or 2 small packages fresh tortellini (I use three-cheese)
1 pkg Knorr pesto or creamy pesto
veggies - chopped - whatever you like (I used shallots, green onion, black olives, mushrooms, che.rry tomatoes, tri-colored peppers)
basil, oregano, salt & pepper to taste
block of mozzarella, cubed

Boil water - prepare tortellini. Draini and shock immediately with cold water. Contine to drain.

In saucepan, prepare pesto according to directions. Allow to simmer.

When tortelli is cooled, mix with remaining ingredients, except for the cheese. Chill several hours or overnight. Add cheese prior to serving.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Whoopie Pies

Thanks to Dana for sending me the link to this Martha Stewart recipe. The picture alone convinced me to give it a shot. It was my first experience with a candy thermometer (terryifying, to say the least), but all in all, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Whoopie Pies
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Seven Minute Frosting (recipe below).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. Line two baking sheets wtih parchment paper. In an electric mixer (use paddle), cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until well combines. Add dry ingredients slowly. Mix until combined.

Use a 1 ounce ice cream scoop to place 12 cookies on to each baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes and cool on a rack.

Spread 2 tablespoons of frosting onto half of the cookies. Sandwich together with the remaining cookies. Store covered for up to three days.

Seven Minute Frosting
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
6 large egg white, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cook 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup water, and the corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 4 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high; cook, stirring, washing down sides of pan with a pastry bursh dipped in water to prevent crystals from forming. Bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring until mixture reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer, 4, to 8 minutes, depending on humidity. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, beat egg whites on medium speed in the bowl of an electirc mixer (using whisk) until soft peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer running, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a slow, steady stream. Reduce speed to medium-low, and carefully pour hot syrup down side of bowl.

Beat on medium until frosting is thick, shiny and completely cooled, about 7 minutes. Mix in vanilla and use immediately.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

German Potato Salad

Not so sure why I thought this was a great idea today, but we had bacon and potatoes to use up, so why not? I halved the recipe because it makes a lot, but it was yummy, even with my disinterest in measuring anything.

3 lbs potatoes
1/2 lb bacon
3 tbsp flour
1 medium onion (diced)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar

Boil, then peel & slice potatoes.

Brown bacon and break into small pieces.

In large pan, heat 3 tbsp bacon grease. Add flour and 1 1/2 cups water; stir until mixture thickens.

Add onion, sugar and vinegar to mixture and simmer for 5 minutes.

Salt & pepper potato slices to taste. Add bacon.

Pour mixture over potatoes. Garnish with parsley. Can be served hot or cold (although I prefer cold).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pistachio & Chocolate Cupcakes

Since I had a ton of leftover pistachios, I had to find a way to use them up. Inspiration struck and we found a winner. Strangely, these are DH's favorite so far.

1 box white cake mix
4 eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 package instant pistachio pudding mix
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
chocolate frosting (I was lazy and used storebought triple fudge chip)

Preheat oven to 350 and spray cupcake pan with nonstick spray.

With an electric mixer, mix cake mix, eggs, water, sugar, oil and pudding mix on low for one minute. Scrape sides of bowl and mix at medium speed for two minutes. Fill cupcake spaces halfway and bake for 20-24 minutes or until cake is done.

Cool for ten minutes in pan and then completely on wire rack or serving platter.

When cool, decorate with chocolate frosting and pistachios.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cous Cous Salad with Chicken & Nectarines

Thanks to Nancy for this delicious recipe. I played around with it a little bit, but DH and I both agreed that it's a keeper for the future.

1 cup instant cous cous
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped parsley leaves (approx. 6 sprigs)
6 tbsps olive oil
2 spicy grilled chicken breasts
3 fresh nectarines, cut into bite sized chunks
2 small shallots, thinly sliced rings
3/4 cup of pistachio nuts, shelled
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Place cous cous in a medium bown. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and stir in the cinnamon, cumin, salt, and pepper. Pour mixture over cous cous. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Stir in the parsely and 2 tbsps of the olive oil. Set aside.

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the nectarines and shallots. Drizzle with vinegar and the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in cous cous. Add pistachios just before eating.

Eggs Bagel-dict

For DH's first Father's Day, I wanted to make him a very special breakfast, since we didn't get to make a brunch reservation. His favorite is Eggs Benedict. Well, we were missing some key ingredients, so I made my own version, which he swears was the best he's had, seeing as how he prefers bagels to english muffins and regular bacon to canadian bacon. I won't touch this particular dish, but it looked good.

Hollandaise Sauce
3 egg yolks
salt & pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 sticks unsalted butter, clarified
Hot water, to thin sauce

In a blender combine yolks, pepper and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
In a small saucepan heat the clarified butter until bubbling hot.
Cover the blender and blend the yolk mixture on high speed for several seconds. Either remove center cap of blender lid or carefully remove lid with blender still running. Pour hot butter in a thin stream into blending egg mixture. As sauce thickens add a tablespoon of hot water at a time to help prevent the sauce from thickening too much. Taste the sauce and adjust with with lemon juice, salt and pepper, as needed.

Eggs Bagel-dict (directions per serving)
bagel, split & toasted
bacon (baked at 400 for 12 minutes on each side, until crispy)
2 eggs (poached - crack eggs into a pan of barely simmering water)
hollandaise sauce

Set up bagel on plate. Place strips of bacon on each half of bagel.

Gently spoon poached eggs on to each side of the bagel.

Pour hollandaise sauce over the eggs and garnish with chives. Serve warm.

Chocolate Mint Chip-cakes

I cheated and used a packaged cake mix, but the end result is yummy.

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes
1 box devil's food cake mix (3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil, 1 1/3 cup water)
1 tsp mint extract
1 bag mini chocolate chips (3/4 for cupcakes, 1/4 for garnish)
buttercream frosting
Preheat oven according to directions (325F). Prepare pans with nonstick spray.
Prepare cake mix according to directions. Add mint extract with wet ingredients. Gently fold chips into batter. Fill cupcake spaces 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then on serving platter Cool completely before decorating.

Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
green food coloring

Beat ingredients until smooth. Add food coloring to get desired tint.
Decorate cupcakes with frosting and 1/4 bag mini chips.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Thanks to my friend, Nicole, I was inspired to try these out at home. The end result? So. Good. And cute too!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
18 tsp pink sugar (mix red food coloring into granulated sugar)
1 package white cake mix (3 egg whites, 1/3 cup oil)
water (amount based on cake instructions)
3/4 cup thawed frozen pink lemonade concentrate
red food coloring (2-3 drops)
buttercream frosting (recipe below)
18 raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven 350°F

Spray pan with nonstick pan spray; sprinkle 1 teaspoon colored sugar into each cupcake-space in the pan.

Add water to pink lemonade mix to total amount of water called for on cake mix package directions.
Follow cake mix package directions to prepare cake. Add red food coloring to make batter desired shade of pink. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack; remove and cool completely before decorating.

Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Beat ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Shrimp with Orzo & Feta

In a bowl, whisk together the following:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper

Add 1/2 lb medium shrimp to the mixture. Coat well and chill for 3 hours.

In a blender, combine the following:
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
black pepper

Pulse until a dressing is formed.

In a pan, saute shrimp with 1 cup fresh green beans.

Cook 1/2 lb orzo according to directions and drain well.

Toss orzo with dressing, 3 oz crumbled feta cheese, and 3 chopped scallions. Add shrimp and green beans to the top.

Chicken & ChickPea Salad

2-3 cloves minced garlic

2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp curry
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup white wine
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tomatoes, diced
cucumber, diced
1 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 scallions, chopped
3 tbsp minced red onion
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Combine wine, garlic, ginger, cumin, curry, salt, and red pepper. Pour marinade over chicken and chill for 2-4 hours.
Combine remaining ingredients (except butter & vinegar) in a serving bowl and chill.

Bake chicken at 375 in a glass dish with butter for 30 minutes. Slice and arrange over salad. Toss with vinegar.

Rum Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
2/3 cup dark rum
dash of Grand Marnier
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tbsp worcestshire sauce
6-7 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 piece grated ginger (1 tsp powder)
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together everything but the chicken. Submerge chicken breast and marinate in the fridge for 1-4 hours. Grill on medium-high heat to desired temperature and serve garnished with orange slices.

Vegetable & Cheese Quiche

1 9" prepared pie crust
1 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, frozen and drained
1.5 cups of cooked mixed veggies (I did peppers, mushrooms & onions)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup fat free milk
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp crumbled bacon
oregano, salt & pepper to taste
parmesan to garnish.

Preheat oven to 375.

Line bottom of pie plate or tart pan with pie crust.

Mix spinach and cooked veggies and spoon into pie crust. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, cheddar, eggs, milk, mustard, bacon, salt, pepper and oregano. Spoon over veggie mix. Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.