Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken Divan

I had no idea this recipe had a legit name, but the more I looked up recipes for Chicken Divan the more I realized this was pretty much what my mother called Broccoli-Chicken Casserole growing up. I decided I would go ahead and give the old stand-by a try with a few tweaks.

Chicken Divan
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, cooked, shredded
16 oz package of frozen chopped broccoli
1 can Cream of ______ Soup (you can use chicken, mushroom, etc.)
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Worcestershire
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
12 Ritz crackers, crumbled
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a casserole dish (I used my 2.5 quart dish) put the broccoli on the bottom layer, then your cheese, then the shredded chicken.
  3. In a bowl mix together canned soup, milk, lemon juice, curry powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to your liking and pour over the top of the casserole.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle crumbled crackers and breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole and return to the oven.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes.
Next time I will play with the seasonings a bit more. The curry powder really made this interesting, but I think it could have used a bit more. It was definitely a good start to a future pantry staple.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Unsweetened Coconut

I am having a terrible time finding unsweetened coconut at my average supermarket. Whole Foods makes me feel inferior, but it may my next stop if I ever want to attempt making this:

...funny thing is, I don't even really like coconut, but in my head this would be delicious like the Coconut Shrimp at Outback.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Baked Shells Casserole

I decided to give one of Rachael Ray's Top 10 Recipes of the Year from 2010 a try this week. I love me some stuffed shells and had hoped this would be a quicker, easier way to get the same flavors. I made some adjustments, but in the end, I had the same amount of dirty dishes as if I had actually stuffed shells. Since I have a pretty rockin' stuffed shells recipe, I'm not sure this one will happen again (especially since while I enjoyed it and rated it a 4, Hubby on the other hand barely finished his portion and whined about my forcing him to each spinach as he wandered to the fridge to get some ice cream.) It's meat-free and has a little kick which I thought was pretty tasty.

Baked Shells Casserole
Adapted from Rachael Ray
Serves 4-6

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
1 onion, finely chopped, divided
Salt and pepper
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp parsley
10 oz chicken stock
28 oz can Italian crushed tomatoes
7 oz medium shell pasta
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
Nutmeg, to taste
1 cup cottage cheese*
4 oz Shredded Italian Cheese Blend
1 egg yolk
  1. In a large pan, saute most of the onion and 2 cloves of garlic in some olive oil.
  2. Add in oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and parsley.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and allow to reduce a bit before adding in the crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Let this simmer while you cook the pasta, undercooking it by a minute or so (according to package instructions). Be sure to reserve some of the cooking liquid before draining your pasta.
  5. In a smaller skillet, saute another clove of garlic and the rest of the onion in some olive oil.
  6. Add in the spinach to heat through, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  7. Once pasta is done, put it back in the hot pot, pour in the spinach mixture and add in cottage cheese and 2 oz of shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper if needed then add in the egg yolk and combine.
  8. Put a layer of sauce down in a casserole dish then pour pasta mixture into the dish. Sprinkle with the other 2 oz of shredded cheese and cover with some more sauce (there will be extra sauce you can use when you serve the finished pasta.)
  9. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 and then serve with the extra sauce and more cheese, of course!

*You may remember that I generally hate ricotta cheese...cottage cheese is my go-to substitute and I've found it works out just fine in most recipes calling for ricotta. By all means use ricotta if you so desire (that was what the original recipe called for anyway.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars

This is one of my favorite episodes each season and I was highly anticipating the All Stars rocking this one.


My Top Ten Top Chef Moments of the Week

10. Marcel getting chosen as one team captain, realizing that if his team loses, he'll be going home (it was time for this to happen, for sure...regardless of how much I dislike Dale...)

9. Blais telling his McDonald's story. I would have loved to have seen that one live!

8. Fabio smacktalk during confessionals. I like it when he gets giddy.

7. This episode made me like Angelo...a lot...even though he lost. He plays this game well. Sure he got slammed for not stepping in, but that wasn't going to get him sent home.

6. Hearing Padma say "Marcel, please pack your knives and go" for the first time ever.

5. The sad faces from Bodega's team members that turned to faces of relief. Poor Blais looked like he had been run over by a truck and then he went on to be the winner.

4. The shot of Richard chowing down on some ribs behind Marcel's scared/anxious face.

3. Fabio in the front of the house is fun. I want to eat at one of his restaurants someday. If he and Blais went in together on a restaurant, I'd so be there in a heartbeat.

2. I wanted to eat everything on Bodega's menu.

1. "If your redneck cousin won the lottery, what would he do with his caviar? He'd dip it in Ranch Dressing."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tropical Chicken with Poppyseeds

This was supposed to be dinner on Monday, but after having a rough day at work I decided not to put Hubby through a new recipe, but instead made him something tried and true. Tuesday there was no turning back. I have no idea what this should be called, but Hubby vetoed "Fruity Chicken"...I had been collecting ideas for this recipe for a while and this is what I came up with:

Tropical Chicken with Poppyseeds

4 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp dried, chopped onions
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup finely diced pineapple
3 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp poppyseeds
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp corn starch (dissolved in a few tablespoons of water)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Ground ginger, to taste
  1. Brown chicken in a large skillet with some olive oil.
  2. Add in vinegar, onions and garlic, cook about one minute so the vinegar can reduce a bit.
  3. Add in chicken stock, apricot preserves, pineapple, honey, soy sauce, and poppyseeds.
  4. Once simmering, add in butter and season with ginger, salt and pepper.
  5. Reduce for a few minutes and then stir in the dissolved corn starch to help thicken up the sauce to your desired consistency.
I served this with quinoa that I cooked up in chicken stock with some onions, frozen peas, and cranberries. This is a new adventure into the world of the super grain for us...hoping for some tastiness in the future.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Top Chef: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Still kind of angry about Casey being gone so soon, I was excited for a double elimination this week. This prompted me to try out a new thing on the blog, Top Chef is still food related, so that's how I am merging my love for TV into the blog ;-)


My Top Ten Top Chef Moments of the Week

10. Fishing for your own protein, genius.

9. Marcel and his foam which made for lots of judges table chuckles. Why must he put a foam on everything?

8. Carla is so fun when she wins things.

7. Tom's elimination challenge walk-through. I love when he is condescending when he doesn't like what a chef is doing...his facial expressions are clutch.

6. Tre's giggling.

5. Wanting to devour Antonia's Po' Boy sandwich...looked delicious...

4. The Blaze/Fabio bromance develops. They are kind of adorable although it is definitely showing Fabio as a weak contender in my opinion. Still glad he's there for comedic purposes.

3. Intoxicated Marcel ranting/rapping...felt good for someone to beat up on Dale...he's on my short list and needs to be taken down a peg or two (sadly, this was not the episode for that to happen...)

2. Angelo discussing his fear of water which originated from watching Jaws. Hilarious, probably would have been number one if it hadn't been the week we have been waiting around for since episode two...

1. Jamie has finally gone home!

Thanks for letting me indulge in some TV goodness...I promise at least one new recipe next week...I got a couple in mind that should hopefully be pretty tasty!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roasted Potatoes

These potatoes are one of our dieting go-to sides. Super easy and pretty flavorful which is a high demand during diet season. I made these to go along with Lombardi Chicken and it was a tasty match-up!

Roasted Dijon Potatoes
Serves 4
Estimated 2 pts.

1 lb potatoes, peeled, washed, and cubed
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp rosemary
1/2 Tbsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a large Ziplock bag mix all of the ingredients together, shake to coat.
  3. Pour into a greased pan.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, stirring once in the middle of the cook time. Cook time will vary based on the size of your potato pieces.
I've also done these at 425 for 25-30 minutes so it can work with a variety of other sides/proteins you may have in the oven at the same time. I love me some versatile sides!

It's on my to-do list to attempt these with honey mustard instead of Dijon since I usually don't like mustard at all...I am only mildly turned off by the mustard flavor in these potatoes. I wonder if I would like them even more if I experimented with the mustard flavor...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Julie & Julia

So I realize that I am very late to the ball game on this one, but I finally watched Julie & Julia the other day and since it is cooking related I'm being a nerd and merging two of my absolute favorite things, movies and cooking together in this post =)

I had bought Julie & Julia in book form from CostCo probably a year ago with the intention of reading it "with all my free time once I become a stay-at-home-mom". (Yes, you may laugh out loud at my ridiculous idea of "free time.") I think I at least got as far as Julie's first recipe attempt, but that was probably during the week my mother was staying with us and feeding us all three meals a day while I recovered from an ugly labor and delivery situation. The language in the book was a total put-off for me and so I was pretty disappointed and didn't feel the need to press on to finish the book at the time.

Julie & Julia, the movie, got so much buzz and a PG-13 rating so I was more optimistic. I grew up watching Julia Child on TV and was really impressed with Meryl Streep's portrayal of Mrs. Child, a real American TV icon. Her Oscar nomination was totally deserving (and probably would have won if not for Sandra Bullock's win for The Blind Side.) I'll watch Amy Adams in anything and she was perfect in this role. Overall I though it was a casting win with all the minor characters as well. The food was beautifully shot and the transitions between Julia and Julie's worlds were cleverly integrated and kept the movie flowing seamlessly.

The whole time I was watching I kept thinking, "why didn't I think of that?" with regards to blogging your way through a cookbook. Don't get me wrong, there's no way I'm going to cook my way through anything that complex, but what an excellent goal. Movies that make you want to make a change, regardless of how small, in your own life always stand out in my mind and while I won't be attempting to be the next Julia Child anytime soon (or ever!) I will take to heart the fearlessness of Julie in her attempt to tackle something so foreign to the 21st Century woman.

I highly recommend the movie (and the language was way tamed down compared to portion of the book that I have read) and maybe, just maybe, I will seek out a Julia Child recipe to try my hand at this year ;-)

PS - Thanks for letting me morph my love for movies and food into the blog this morning =)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ranch Potatoes

A delicious side, but not for ones who fear butter. I made this several weeks ago (we're talking before Christmas) and for whatever reason forgot to write down the recipe.

Ranch Potatoes
Adapted from Mandi

1 bag of baby red potatoes
4 Tbsp butter/margerine
1 packet, Ranch Salad Dressing/Seasoning Mix
  1. Wash potatoes and prepare as you would for mashed potatoes (for me that means cutting them in half or quarters depending on the size of the potatoes, skins on).
  2. Drain and pour into a baking dish.
  3. Melt butter and dissolve ranch seasoning packet. Pour over potatoes
  4. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
This method was quite ranch-y, if you make with regular potatoes, I'd say 3 or 4 large potatoes would do the trick, the small bags of mini potatoes may be a little too heavy on the ranch-side depending on how salty you like you food. It could be delicious, or scary. Perhaps playing with the butter ratio would be a good idea too, especially if you're using salted butter or margarine.

Regardless, this will definitely be happening again once the diet is over ;-)

PS - I've also tried just mashing the potatoes with the butter, ranch, and about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese for some loaded mashed potatoes. We were too hungry to wait for the baking step the first time I made these potatoes so I did a mash instead and it was amazing. Reminded me of the Sargento Potato Finishers which we absolutely love, but can no longer find in our local market (none of the three I frequent on a regular basis, very sad =( ) so I'm not even sure if they are still producing those baggies of joy or not....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Apple Pie

Last night I gave the new pie pan a true pie. I have never been able to bake an apple pie that turned out quite right, but I must say I'm getting closer. This year during the traditional Post-Thanksgiving-Lasagna-and-Apple-Pie gathering with Hubby's family and friends I helped out with the apple pie making to try and fix this problem. There is no measuring with this apple pie (mostly because a lot is dependent on the pan you are using and you have to customize the quantity of filling to make the pie as delicious as possible), but I think one of the key's is in the actual baking of the pie.

Notes for future attempts:
  • Adorable pie pan needs more than 3 lbs. of apples (Granny Smith's of course!)
  • Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 for 30 minutes. (Bottom rack)
  • Cover the edges of the crust during the first half of cooking next time instead of the last half.

**Please disregard the weirdness of my photo...I take terrible pictures, but figured this would be the best way to remember what 3 lbs. of apples cooked down to look like for future reference.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

For Christmas I got a new pie dish...a nice one, we're talking legit pottery, not see-through glass. Very exciting stuff. To christen the new pan I decided to make some chicken pot pie. I tried this recipe a few weeks ago in a sort of deconstructed manner which, despite one fatal flaw, turned out pretty delicious. I decided to give it another go in a slightly more traditional one-crust chicken pot pie construction for my second attempt (I'll describe how to make both attempts...including a hint as to my fatal flaw...) Very happy with the results and pleased with myself for not resorting to condensed soup as an ingredient which you all know is one of my go-to pantry items which I am going to reduce our consumption of during 2011 if at all possible.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 roll of Pillsbury Crescent Recipe Creations dough
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (on round two I deboned a rotisserie chicken)
2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
Garlic Powder/Garlic Salt, Italian Seasoning, Salt, and Pepper, to taste

For the Pot Pie Filling:
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter and cook flour until bubbly.
  • Add in broth and milk while wisking and cook until sauce thickens.
  • Add in the cheese and stir until combined.
  • Add in chicken, veggies, and mushrooms and cook until the veggies are heated through.
  • Season to taste. (My go-to "something is missing" dash of Worcestershire comes into play here if that strikes your fancy.)
For "traditional" one-crust Pot Pie:
  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Pour the pot pie filling into a greased pie pan.
  • Cover with the crescent roll sheet (you can make shapes or whatever you want to cover the pie evenly. I tried lattice once and it was kind of a disaster...could have just been me though.)
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
For "deconstructed" Pot Pie:
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Take 4 6-oz ramekins and place them upside-down on a cookie sheet.
  • Grease the ramekins thoroughly.
  • Cut the sheet of crescent dough into 4 squares and place over the ramekins and shape to form a bowl.
  • Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Once the mini bowls have cooled enough to touch, place on a plate and fill the "bowl" with the pot pie mixture.
Sadly my silicone whisk has died. I can't say I'm too sad about this though as it was quite large to the point where it was barely useful. Hopefully this time when I go to purchase a replacement I will be able to find something a little more normal looking...until then, a rubber spatula worked just find to make the white sauce.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ham and Hashbrown Casserole

Both Hubby and my dad decided that this need not be relegated to being "a breakfast food" but they said they would eat it any time of day...probably due to their joint love for ham and potatoes in virtually any form imaginable. Oddly enough, this was not the first time I've made this casserole, but it was the first time I've been able to taste the results (it was a work breakfast pot-luck favorite at Hubby's office so they were the ones who had done the taste testing). I will have to say, second only to the Ham Biscuit, this is my favorite use of leftover holiday ham, for sure!

Ham and Hashbrown Casserole

32 oz bag frozen hashbrown potatoes
8 oz cooked ham, cubed
2 cans condensed cream of potato soup
16 oz sour cream
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix the ingredients together and pour into a 13 x 9 inch pan.
  3. Bake for 1 hour.
Yes, it is that ridiculously simple.

Sometimes I add parmesan cheese to the top before know, if I'm feeling wild/crazy/cheesy.

Grandma Jeanne's Molasses Sugar Cookies

As one of my cousins put it, "the cookies taste like my childhood" so it was a no-brainer that these bad boys needed to be baked for Christmas! Soft and delicious...these are pretty much a guaranteed hit and sometimes an unexpected blast from the past for people when you show up to parties or cookie-exchanges with these in tow.

Grandma Jeanne's Molasses Sugar
(in her own recipe format no less!)

Melt: ¾ cup shortening - let cool

Add: 1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses (beat well)
1 egg

Mix together:

2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups sifted flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cloves ground
½ tsp. ginger

Add to shortening - mix well and chill for several hours.

Roll in 1" balls and roll in sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes

Makes 3 dozen