Thursday, September 29, 2011

Italian Sausage and Red Pepper Risotto

Every once in a while, a recipe comes along that you know may take a while to cook, but you still have to give it a try.  This is definitely one of those recipes! 

Up until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of risotto!  Some of you might be thinking, what?!?  I know....I know.....I can't believe it either!  It's like I live under a rock.  How have I gone my whole life oblivious to the fact that something so scrumptious existed!?!

Risotto may take a little while to cook, but believe me when I tell you that it's well worth your time and effort, and if you follow each step of the recipe; it's also very easy.  Therefore, my suggestion to you is to clear an evening, stay in, cook dinner, relax (maybe with some wine), and grab a good movie or book!

Italian Sausage and Red Pepper Risotto
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Serves: 4-6
5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
8 oz. Italian sausage, casing removed (or you could use ground sausage)
¾ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups Arborio rice
¾ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

In a medium saucepan bring the chicken broth to a gentle simmer.  Cover and keep the broth warm over a low heat.

Now, in a large saucepan, over a medium heat, melt the butter.  Add in the sausage and sauté until golden brown in color, and cooked through.  Toss in the onion and red pepper and sauté until tender, about 5-8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice into the sausage and vegetable mixture and stir until the ingredients are well combined.  Pour in the wine and simmer until it has almost evaporated, about 1 minute.  Remember to stir.

Add in ½ a cup of the simmering broth and stir until it is almost completely absorbed, about 1-2 minutes.  Continue cooking the rice, making sure to continue to add the broth ½ a cup at a time until it almost completely absorbed, before adding more.  This process should take about 25-30 minutes and when completed the rice should be tender but still firm, and the mixture should appear creamy.

Add in the parmesan cheese and stir until melted.  Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley and a little more parmesan cheese.

Source: Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey-Jalapeno Chicken with Sesame Soba Noodles

I love the weekends, because not only is it a nice break from work, but it also gives me the opportunity to experiment with new recipes that I don't typically have time to make!  Surprisingly though, this recipe doesn't take as long as I thought it would, and if you cook and shred the chicken ahead of time, it'd be even quicker.  I'll definitely be making this dinner again!

 Honey-Jalapeno Chicken with Sesame Soba Noodles
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12 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 to 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or sliced
3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped scallions, green part only
2 tsp. ginger

Bring a pot of water to a boil and place in soba noodles.  Let the noodles cook for 10 minutes and then drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

While the noodles are cooking place the jalapeno, honey, cilantro, salt, and pepper, in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to the mixture until desired consistency is reached. 

Pour the 2 teaspoons of olive oil into a preheated skillet and add in the precooked chicken and the honey-jalapeno sauce.  Mix together until heated through.

In a medium size bowl, combine the soba noodles, soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, and ginger.  Toss together until the noodles are well coated.  Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the honey-jalapeno chicken mixture.  Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!

Slightly adapted from: Food Network

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Black and White Scones

When I'm looking for a quick and easy breakfast idea, scones always pop into mind.  A great thing about scones is that they make a lot and will last for around a week or so, especially if stored in an airtight container.  This is nice because it means that you'll always have something on hand for breakfast, which is very convenient for those busy mornings, and what better flavor to make than chocolate.  YUM!!

Black and White Scones
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Serving size: 12 pieces
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
6 Tbsp cold butter
1 Egg
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl mix together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in half of the white chocolate chips.  Now, using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut in the butter.  When the mixture looks like cornmeal, add in the rest of the white chocolate chips and  stir around.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk.  Slowly add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, making sure to stir until the mixture is evenly moistened.

Knead the dough together until it becomes one solid ball.  Divide the dough into 3 even sections.  Shape each section of dough into a circle, about an inch thick.  Using a knife, or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 4 wedges.

Place the wedges onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the tops start to turn a very light golden color.  Remove from oven and enjoy!

Slightly Adapted From: From Ketchup to Chutney

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foil Chicken with Snap Peas and Carrots

Sometimes everyone just needs a meal that is quick, easy, and healthy.  I am here to let you know that this is definitely one you want to try!  The meal itself really couldn’t be any easier to toss together, and knowing that it’s also healthy, is a bonus. 

If you want to save even more time though, you could assemble the foil packets the night before and refrigerate them until you are ready to place them in the oven.

Foil Chicken with Snap Peas and Carrots
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Serving Size 4-6 packets
18-24 baby carrots
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated (I grated mine on my microplane)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
Salt and pepper
4 small chicken breasts or 2 chicken breasts that have been butterflied
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Double stack pieces of aluminum foil that have been cut into 12 inch squares.  You will need 4-6 stacks.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic and ginger.  Arrange the carrots and peas on the pieces of aluminum foil and then sprinkle the vegetables with the garlic/ginger mixture.  This will not sprinkle easily (it will be in clumps), but it will absorb during baking.  Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.  Finally, brush both sides of the chicken with the hoisin sauce and place a piece of chicken on top of the vegetables.  Salt lightly.

Bring in the outer edge of the foil, to wrap over the chicken, and fold it over 3-4 times.  Now, bring in the sides of the foil and fold over 3-4 times.  The chicken should now be completely sealed in.

Place the foil packets onto a baking sheet and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  When finished, open the packets slowly, as the steam escaping will be quite hot.  Transfer the contents of each packet onto a dinner plate and enjoy!

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe, originally adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Biscotti

Nothing beats a morning cup of coffee, except for maybe a morning cup of coffee with a delicious piece of biscotti served on the side. 

When I first discovered this recipe, on another bloggers page, I knew that I just couldn't resist trying it out.  Since then, I have made it numerous times, and have never been disappointed.  This has definitely become my new favorite biscotti!
Reese’s Peanut Butter Biscotti
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4 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips
1 1/3 cup Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gently beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flower, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter, sugar, and egg mixture until just combined.

Stir in the chopped peanuts, Reese’s peanut butter chips, and the chopped Reese’s peanut butter cup.

Divide the dough into two equal parts and form each part into a log, about 8 X 4 inches, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and place on a cooling rack for about 10-15 minutes.  Reduce the ovens heat to 325 degrees.  Using a serrated knife slice the logs into ½ inch slice and place the slices back onto the baking sheets.  Bake for another 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking.

Garnish with melted chocolate, or serve plain.  Serve with a side of coffee.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles and a Spicy Almond Butter Sauce

(I would just like to start off today by saying that if you haven't tried Soba noodles yet, you MUST!  They are absolutely delicious and very filling.  I'm already planning to go out and pick up another pack!)

I'm sure that I've mentioned this before, but I have been trying really hard to eat healthy lately, even though I may slip up more than I care to admit.  Therefore, I've been planning on trying this recipe for some time now, but was having a difficult time finding Soba noodles.  (I recently discovered that they are a Japanese noodle and therefore are found in the oriental section of my local grocery store, and not with the rest of the noodles like I originally thought.)

Now that I've found Soba Noodles, and discovered just how delicious they are, I'm already thinking of new recipes that I could make to incorporate them!
Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles and a Spicy Almond Butter Sauce
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Serves 4
8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 ½ cups broccoli florets
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
4 scallions, sliced thinly
½ cup almond slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Almond Butter Sauce:
3 Tbsp. almond butter
3 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

Bring a large pot, half full of water, to a boil, and add in a dash of salt and olive oil.  Gently add the soba noodles and let cook until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain, cool with water, and set aside.

Heat a dash of olive oil in a wok, over medium-high heat.  Then, add in the cabbage, red pepper, and broccoli, sautéing for 5 minutes.  Now, add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until desired crispiness is reached.

Remove the vegetables from the heat and add in the soba noodles, scallions, sliced almonds, and red pepper flakes.  Toss together until well combined.

To make the sauce:
In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter, water, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.  Pour over the stir-fry and toss together until well coated.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pepperoni Baked Chicken Parmesan

Up until today, chicken Parmesan was one food that I never thought could get any better.  It's usually what I tend to order whenever I go out to eat at an Italian restaurant.  For some reason I just love the breaded chicken dishes, and the wonderful thing about chicken Parmesan is the fact that it's also topped with marinara sauce and melted cheese.  Mmmmm......melted cheese, whatever could be better than that? (well....except for maybe burnt cheese)

Anyway....back to what I was saying.  Oh yes, chicken Parmesan.  That was what the plan was, for the dinner menu this evening, but I really wanted to go and watch a local high school football game.  That meant I would not have much time to actually make dinner.  Therefore, I knew I would have to improvise and change the way I made things.  I'm glad that I did too, because the end result was fabulous!  This is definitely a recipe I will make often and it's also a meal that's very quick and easy!

Pepperoni Baked Chicken Parmesan
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Serves 4
2 large chicken breasts, butterflied
dash of salt and pepper
2 large eggs
½ cup flour
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
½ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. dried parsley
¼ tsp. basil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 oz. pepperoni

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, gently whisk together the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, oregano, dried parsley, basil, and red pepper flakes.  In another shallow bowl or pie plate whisk together the 2 eggs.  You will also need another pie plate to place the flour in.

Now, butterfly the chicken breasts in half, so that you have a total of 4 pieces.  Lightly season both sides with a dash of salt and pepper.  Using tongs, or a fork, and working with one piece of chicken at a time, coat both sides of the chicken by placing it in the flour.  Shake lightly to remove any extra flour.  Then, dip the chicken into the eggs, coating both sides and letting any excess drip off.  Finally place the piece of chicken in the breadcrumb mixture, making sure that each side is evenly coated.  You may need to use your hands for this.  Transfer the prepared chicken to the wire rack and repeat the process with the remaining pieces of chicken.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and top the pieces of chicken with a little of the marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and slices of pepperoni.  Place the baking sheet back into the oven and let bake for another 6-8 minutes.

If desired, serve over noodles, garnish with a little fresh parsley, and serve with a side salad or a piece of garlic bread.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Anyone Can Make It, Peach Cobbler

All summer long I have been craving peach cobbler.  I found this wonderful recipe that I wanted to try out, but the only trouble was that every time I went to the grocery store, I could never find good peaches to use.  Deep down I knew that I could always use canned peaches, but being summer, I was in the mood to use fresh ones. 

This past weekend, on my weekly trip to the grocery store, I couldn't help but notice all the fresh peaches that were in stock.  Right away I knew that I needed to pick some up and am very glad that I did!  The result was extremely delicious and made for some fantastic afternoon and evening snacks.

Anyone Can Make It, Peach Cobbler
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5-7 large peaches, sliced (if desired, you can use canned)
1 Tbsp. sugar
16-20 oz. homemade yellow cake mix (yellow boxed cake mix will work too)
8 Tbsp. butter, chilled
½ can of Fresca (sprite or 7-up will work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.  Layer the peaches on the bottom of the baking dish and gently dust with the sugar.  Sprinkle the yellow cake mix over the peaches and scatter the pieces of butter over the top.  Open a can of Fresca and pour half of it over the peaches, cake mix, and butter.  Help yourself to the rest, as I am sure you are thirsty!

Place the cobbler in the oven, and bake for around 45 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.  Remove from oven and serve warm.  Feel free to top with vanilla ice cream!

Slightly Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cashew Chicken

One of my favorite types of food would definitely have to be Chinese.  I can't think of a single Chinese dish that I've ever tried, that I didn't enjoy.  Naturally, I decided that I would attempt making a homemade version of some of my favorites. 

To start off my Chinese food cooking frenzy (meaning there will be more to follow at a later date), I decided to attempt making cashew chicken.  To me, it just sounded like it would be one of the easier dishes.  After a few tires though, and following different recipes (because I was never fully satisfied), I finally found what I feel to be a great version of cashew chicken.

Cashew Chicken
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1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
¼ cup water
¾ cup raw cashews, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
White or brown rice (optional)

Combine the chicken, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a large Ziplock bag and shake until the chicken is well coated.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium to high heat.  Cook the chicken, tossing often for about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and the white parts of the scallions to the skillet.  Continue cooking until the chicken is browned.  Now, add in the vinegar and cook until it is evaporated, about 20-30 seconds.  Next, pour in the ¼ cup water and hoisin sauce.  Continue to stir all together until the chicken is completely cooked through.  Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the green parts of the scallions and the toasted cashews.  If desired, garnish with extra scallions and serve over white or brown rice.

Source: Let's Dish

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Marinara Sauce

One thing that we can never have too much of around my house is marinara sauce.  I seem to use it as a topping on a wide variety of foods ranging from pizzas, pasta dishes, and chicken.  It also makes for a fantastic dipping sauce.  Needless to say, my husband and I can devour a store bought bottle pretty quickly.  That is why I decided to attempt making it from scratch.  When I discovered just how easy and delicious it actually was, I decided that I would never go back to buying it.

Marinara Sauce
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12 oz. can tomato paste
1 ½ cups tomato sauce
1 tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. basil
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the tomato paste and the tomato sauce and cook until it begins to simmer.  Now, add all the dry ingredients into the tomato sauce and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended.  Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 35-50 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Remove the pan from heat and use right away, or (once cool) store in airtight containers.

Source:  Adapted from Ehow Food