Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sweet Potato Mac N Cheese

Here's another entry in my quest for the perfect mac n cheese recipe. This packs a nice nutritional punch with pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, and beans hidden in the cheese sauce. Apologies for the picture, this dish just does not photograph well. As Philip so eloquently put it: "That photo looks like cat vomit! Fortunately it tastes significantly better than that!" So there you have it. Enjoy! ;)

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb mixed vegetables, frozen
1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 lb sausage, cooked
8oz sharp cheddar cheese

Boil the sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and garlic in just enough water to cover them. When they are soft, transfer in batches to a blender and puree with a little bit of the water they have been boiled in. Return puree to a pan and add beans, veggies, pasta, sausage, and cheese. Stir until combined and cheese has melted.


  • This recipe makes a lot, maybe 15-20 servings. I didn't realize this and ended up freezing half the batch.
  • I used frozen peas and carrots instead of mixed veggies. You can probably use whatever you have available and it would taste fine.
  • My family tends to dislike visible vegetables so I pureed everything again after I added the beans and frozen veggies. I think there's nothing wrong with a little trickery if it gets your family to eat something healthy.
  • You might want to use more meat. I only used enough for half the batch so that we could eat the other half on Lenten Fridays if we needed to.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Partially Clothed Chicken Parmesan

A while back I ran across this recipe for Naked Chicken Parmesan; essentially chicken parm without any breading. I was intrigued by the idea, but quite frankly, I really really love the traditional breading. I don't, however, like the extra calories it brings to the dish. So for my version I basically only cover half of the chicken which is enough to give me my breading fix and still remain a healthier version of the classic approach.

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
Salt and pepper
1 can tomato sauce
Italian seasoning
garlic powder
onion powder
mozzarella cheese

Place your chicken between two pieces of Saran wrap and pound to 1/2 " thin with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and then cook in a skillet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray for about 3 minutes on each side. Place the chicken in a casserole dish or baking sheet that has been either covered in foil or sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Top with enough breadcrumbs to cover most of the surface and spray very lightly with cooking spray. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in a small saucepan and season to taste with dried seasonings. Add sauce to top of chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through with no more pink in the middle.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweet Pea Risotto

I've never had risotto, but it sounded really fancy, so I wanted to try making it. The only changes I made to this recipe is in the proportions of ingredients. I liked the flavor combination of the rice with the sweet peas, and I loooooved the texture. Michaela didn't eat it on it's own, but when I put it in a tortilla with cheese she ate a few bites. I wonder how long I'll have to make quesadillas to get her to eat what I make?

4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup onion, chopped finely
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup peas
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, saute the onion in a little bit of olive oil. Add the rice and stir until nicely browned. Add the vegetable stock 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until the liquid has absorbed before adding the next cup. This process should take about a half an hour. When all the liquid is absorbed, the texture should be moist and creamy. Add butter, peas, and parmesan and stir to combine.

  • On Hell's Kitchen they always make a green risotto, but I'm not sure what vegetable it is. I think next time I would puree the peas so that the whole dish is green, then maybe I could add some fresh herbs into the puree as well.
  • I 'm sure you could make this with any type of rice, you just wouldn't get the same creamy texture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Real World Wednesday - Quesaninis

A few weeks ago we ate delicious gourmet quesadillas made with a George Foreman grill at a friends house. They looked like paninis, so I named them Quesaninis and vowed to recreate them at home. These are so quick and easy to put together, and you can use whatever ingredients you already have on hand.

tortillas or wraps (I used spinach herb wraps)
Sliced turkey breast, or any other meat
Sliced cheddar, or any other cheese
Sliced tomato
Sliced avocado
Sliced mushrooms
Any toppings of your choice (Salsa, green chile, and bacon are a few other toppings I want to try.)

Lay out your tortilla or wrap and place ingredients on one half. Fold the other half over the ingredients and cook in a lightly greased George Foreman for 5 minutes or until warmed through and cheese has melted. If you don't have a George Foreman, cook for 5 minutes on each side in a non-stick skillet.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Aussie Turkey

There is a honey mustard chicken dish that I love making but Philip isn't too fond of it. This recipe for Aussie Chicken, which is a copycat of Outback Steakhouse's version, looks just like my dish but is much more man friendly because it adds bacon, mayonaise and cheese. For Michaela, my little meat hater, I shredded the turkey after it was cooked and added it to her mashed potatoes along with some corn.

4 turkey tenders
8 slices bacon, cooked and cut in half
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoon mayonaisse
1/2 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1 cup cheddar cheese

Mix honey, mustard, mayonaise, and onion flakes in a bowl. Place the turkey in a 8x8 casserole dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with the honey mustard mix and top with bacon and cheese. Bake in a 350 degree for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

*The original recipe adds mushrooms. I didn't have any, but next time I would definitely try this.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Salmon Sticks

Looking for a quick Friday Lenten meal that is a bit more complex than grilled cheese sandwiches, but still something my family would enjoy, I came across this recipe for salmon fish sticks. Philip ate seconds and Michaela ate almost two, which is way more than she usually eats for dinner, so it was definitely a success.
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons honey
2 medium skinless salmon fillets

Mix bread crumbs, spices, flaxseed and Parmesan together in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk egg and honey together. Cut salmon into sticks of your desired size. Dip the salmon into the egg mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture. Lay out on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.
*Although we enjoyed these, both Philip and I thought they could be better. Perhaps next time I would pulse the bread crumbs in a food processor so that they coated the fish more evenly, or maybe I would use molasses instead of honey. If you experiment with this recipe with success, let me know so that I can try out your version!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Moroccan Chicken and Date Pastilla

Every month my Mom's Club hosts a potluck cooking club with various themes. I knew as soon as I heard that this month's theme was International Foods that I wanted to make something Moroccan. Have I ever had Moroccan food? No. In fact I had no idea if Moroccan food was even good, the name just popped into my head and I couldn't think of anything else. I googled Moroccan food (how would we survive without Google?!?) and found this dish that sounded oh so yummy and relatively kid friendly. I don't know why, but I have a thing for dishes that mix the savory and the sweet, and boy does this fit the bill. I realllly enjoyed this, and the other mommies seemed to also. Michaela didn't eat any because there was chocolate mousse and whipped cream in the room, which completely clouded her desire to eat anything else. I have a feeling that she would enjoy this, so I'll have to try feeding her the leftovers for lunch.

1 onion, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon + 1 pinch turmeric
2 lbs chicken breast
2 cups chicken stock
3 eggs
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped coarsley
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
6 sheets phyllo dough
olive oil
powdered sugar and cinnamon

Saute onions in a bit of olive oil for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add chicken and chicken stock. Cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and shred. Return to the pan along with the eggs, dates, raisins, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper. Incorporate all the ingredients together.

Prepare your phyllo dough on a flat work surface. Lay out one sheet and brush with olive oil until the whole sheet is moistened. Lay another sheet tilted 45 degrees on top of the first and brush with olive oil. Repeat with 4 more sheets (6 total) tilting each 45 degrees from the previous one. Lay the phyllo dough in a 9 inch springform pan and fill with the chicken mixture. Fold the overhanging dough over the top to seal the pie. Brush olive oil on the top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until brown. When cooled, top with powdered sugar and cinnamon and serve.

*To toast the almonds, spread them in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. You can use untoasted almonds, but toasting them releases their flavor.
*If you don't have a springform pan, a regular pie pan would be fine, you would just have to scoop out the servings.
*If you are using a larger pan (I used a 10 inch), your phyllo dough won't close over the top. Simply prepare another 6 pieces of dough as above and cover the top, tucking in the extra around the sides of the bottom crust.
*The original recipe calls for saffron, but this is not an ingredient readily available in my area. If you are using saffron, use a pinch in place of the extra pinch of tumeric.
*Tumeric stains! I didn't wipe up the juice from the chicken that fell on my counter until several hours later, and by then it had already left quite a stain. I managed to remove most of it with the magic eraser, but please be careful with this.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mardi Gras Meal - Turkey Jambalaya & Cranberries Jubilee

In college, Philip and I went to a church on campus that used to feed the students dinner after every Sunday evening Mass. Every year on the Sunday before Lent began, a certain parishioner used to make a delicious Mardi Gras dinner complete with Jambalaya and flaming Cherries Jubilee. This was one of Philip's favorite meals of the year, so since I happened to have turkey tenders and sausage in the freezer this year, I decided I would attempt to recreate that meal. The recipes these are based on can be found here and here. I didn't have cherries but I did have cranberries. I figured it was similar enough so I used those instead. I also tried to whip up some ice cream with Michaela using these instructions, but it didn't really turn out. There were some small chunk of ice cream, so I think it would have if we had shaken longer. Oh well, we enjoyed our ice cream soup! Also, since Michaela is not a huge fan of soups, I shredded some of the chicken and turkey and put it in a tortilla, along with some of the rice and some shredded cheese. She loved her jambalaya quesadilla!

Turkey Jambalaya
1/2 onion, diced finely
1 lb Turkey tenders, diced
1lb turkey sausage, diced and casings removed
1/2 red, yellow, and green bell pepper each, finely diced
1 jar salsa
1 can tomatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 1/2 c rice


Saute onions in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add chicken to the pan and brown. Add sausage and cook thoroughly. Add bell peppers, salsa, tomatoes, chicken broth & spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions. When cooked, add rice to the turkey mixture and serve.

Cranberries Jubilee
1 cup cranberries
1/4 cup juice from jar of maraschino cherries
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 cup brandy
vanilla ice cream

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add water and juice a little at a time and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add cranberries and cook 3-5 more minutes or until soft, stirring constantly. Pour into a flame-proof dish. Add brandy to the top and set on fire. Before serving, blow out the flames and pour over vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Real World Wednesday - Chicken Soup with Rice

This is my staple dish whenever I have a leftover turkey or chicken carcass. What I really call it is Carcass Soup, but that doesn't sound very appetizing. If I start this in the morning after breakfast, it is the perfect amount of time to have it finished for dinner. What a perfect meal for a cold day!
Chicken carcass
1 cup rice (I use a wild rice blend)
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup spinach, torn into small pieces
Place carcass in a crockpot and cover with water. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or until meat is falling off the bones. Pour through sieve into a bowl and remove all skin, bones and cartilage from the broth, leaving only the meat. Return the broth and meat to the crockpot. Add rice, carrots, spinach and any other desired vegetables. Cook on high for another 3-4 hours.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Zuppa Toscana

I've been trying to find a good copycat recipe of my favorite Olive Garden soup for awhile now. This recipe is adapted from Annie's Eats and Copykat Recipes. Although it's been awhile since I've had this at the restaurant, I thought it tasted exactly the same as I remembered. So creamy and delicious! Philip thought it was a little bland but said he would enjoy eating it over and over again. Michaela ate the potato bits and tried to eat the liquid, but it's still a little hard for her. Considering how easy this was, this is definitely being added to my rotation of dinner regulars.

3 links sausage, cooked & crumbled
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
2 potatoes, diced
1 cup kale, chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until onion is translucent. Add the white wine and swirl it around a bit to deglaze the pan. Add the chicken broth, water, and potatoes. Simmer about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add the kale and cook until soft. Add the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.
  • I don't think it matters too much what type of wine you use. I used a fruity Pinot Grigio, but I'm guessing a dry wine would work well too.
  • I'm guessing this could be adapted fairly easily to the crockpot. If I were to try it, I would saute the onions and garlic, then brown the sausage in the same pan. Then I would put all the ingredients in the crockpot except the cream and cook on low for 3-4 hours, adding the cream right before serving. If anyone tries it this way, please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Real World Wednesday - Baked Potato Bar

Back in my working days, when I wouldn't get home until 7 at night, I used to make a potato bar for dinner quite often. I hadn't made this in awhile but remembered about it last week when I was short on dinner prep time. It's so easy to pull together, and you mostly use ingredients that you already have on hand.

Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream (I use plain yogurt)
Bacon bits
Flax Seed
Shredded Chicken
anything else you have on hand

Clean the potatoes, poke holes in them with a fork and rub them lightly with olive oil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 1-1.5 hours. When finished, let cool and top with desired toppings.

  • This is a great way to get kids involved in meal prep. They'll love choosing their own toppings and making the potatoes to their liking.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicken Skin Bacon

I saw this idea around Thanksgiving time and thought it was an ingenious idea. I used the skin off a precooked rotisserie chicken. The taste is a tiny bit different than real bacon, but it is still delicious and would be a great addition to soups and baked potatoes.

Chicken Skins
Salt & Pepper

Place skins on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper and bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Honey Lemon Enchiladas

I'm generally a purist when it comes to Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas (a recipe which I'll have to post sometime soon), but this recipe caught my eye and had me intrigued. This flavor combination is such an interesting combination of savory and sweet, my tastebuds are already itching for tomorrows lunch of leftovers. Philip liked it but said it wasn't his favorite. Michaela didn't touch it, but it is so mild that I think kids who don't have an aversion to gloopy textures would really love the sweet notes in this dish.

4 tablespoons Honey
4 tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
12 oz Chicken, cooked and shredded
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 jar Medium Green Chile Sauce (2 cups)
8 oz Cheddar Cheese, shredded
4-5 Flour Tortillas

Mix honey, lemon juice, chili powder, and garlic powder together. Pour half over chicken and let marinate at least half an hour. Combine the rest of the honey lemon mixture with the cream & jar of green chile sauce. Spread some of the mixture on the bottom of a 8 x 8 casserole dish. Fill each tortilla with some of the meat mixture and shredded cheese, roll like a burrito, and place side by side in the casserole dish. Top with remaining chile mixture and shredded cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

  • The recipe this is based off called for lime juice but I didn't have a chance to go to the store. I would love to try it this way some time.
  • The chicken I used was just from a pre-cooked rotissere from the grocery store. So convenient!
  • I think next time I'll try using homemade green chile sauce instead. Yum!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Real World Wednesday - Healthy Nachos

This recipe was born from one of those evenings where I had an empty fridge and pantry and had no idea what to make. I whipped this together from what I had on hand and it instantly became a favorite of mine and Philip's. It's too spicy for Michaela, so I usually set apart some non-marinated chicken and make a small quesadilla for her.

Chicken thighs, enough for your family
Salsa, enough to cover chicken
Corn Tortillas, 2-3 per family member
Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Marinate the chicken in the salsa for at least 1 hour. Cut or tear the corn tortillas into 8 triangles and lightly spray both sides with olive oil cooking spray. Lay out on a baking sheet and bake at 4oo for 7-10 minutes or until crispy. Cook the chicken in a skillet and then cut or shred. Layer the tortilla chips, chicken, and cheese on a plate and serve.