Monday, March 28, 2011

Awesome Awesome Awesome Roasted Potatoes

Yes, that is awesome 3 times! They are that good! I loooovvve these things! This is a recipe that I generally only make when others are around. The reason? If I made these and I was the only one around..I would eat the WHOLE pan. Yes, I would shamefully and blissfully eat the entire darn pan of this yummy deliciousness. Don't judge me. You'll understand if you tried this (and it wouldn't hurt if you really like potatoes). 

This is another one of my simple recipes that require very few ingredients. If you like french fries, these are way better tasting and way better for you. I happened to serve these with Mamwich Sloppy Joes for dinner. Good ol' hearty meal (no worries, I use 93% lean beef). Oh, a word of very helpful advice relating to Mamwich, if you're going to do the short-cut route and buy the pre-made mix (which I do), DO NOT use the off-brand powdered sloppy joe mix. Use only "name brand" Mamwich in the can. Trust me on this. The package is not even close to the same. I shudder to remember....(okay, it wasn't that bad of an experience, but if I have a will, I will choose Mamwich).

 Serves 4
Ingredients:
1-1/4 lb of Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder 
1/4 tsp Paprika (optional)
1 Tbs Olive Oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil) 

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Wash potatoes. Dice into bite-size pieces.
3) Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Toss until potatoes are evenly and thoroughly coated with seasonings and oil. 
4) Spray non-stick spray to grease a baking sheet. Spread potatoes evenly on pan.
5) Roast potatoes in oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn/Toss halfway during cooking time (helps ensure even cooking).
6) Once potatoes are cooked through and lightly browned, remove from oven.
7) This is the hard part...wait until potatoes have cooled some. Serve. 
8) You may now partake in the yummy deliciousness of the simple roasted potato.

P.S.Man, you can tell, I really like garlic from all these recipes...


Friday, March 25, 2011

Chicken a la Alfredo & Blackened

Behold, the chicken of the alfredo & blackened. Ta da! Had to make it sound fancy! Har Har! Last night's dinner was one to fill my craving for a "hearty" meal. The "hubs" (aka Aaron) had been out of town on his "vay-cay" (ie vacation) last week. As such, I ate things I wanted...meaning not so "heavy" foods. For instance, I had really  been craving shrimp... Since the hubs thinks shrimp to be "not filling"...Really?... He's a guy so I guess when it is not a side of beef, he might have a *small* point. Okay, back on the subject at hand, bottom line is, I was starvin' like a marvin' for something yummy and filling. Well, as much as I wanted to "pig out", I still try and convince myself to not go all out and maintain some measure of healthy. So, the answer to my dilemma? Why pasta, I do say!

Alfredo is something that, when ordered out, can be super bad for you (Think heavy cream, butter, refined white flour, etc...you get the point). While, I shall not judge those who prefer dining of alfredo during a night on the town (because who are we kidding...it IS quite tasty), me being me had to "health-it-up", so to speak.

I had the bottle sort of alfredo. But, the homemade stuff is better tasting and better for you! Plus, Aaron requested homemade. And as this was for "dinner", dear sirs, I found the request appropriate. Off to cook I go. Keep in mind the recipe measurements are "guesstimate" since I didn't measure exactly.

I used Smart Balance Spaghetti. This is a brand I recommend for those who do not care for the texture of whole wheat pasta. I have found Smart Balance pasta to be quite close to regular white pasta. It doesn't have the undesirable toughness as some whole wheat pastas. We all know how to cook pasta. No instructions needed.

For the Alfredo Sauce: Saute onions and mushrooms in a pan with 1 Tbs light butter until soft. Then, add in about 2 Tbs flour and cook 2-3 minutes. Next, whisk in 2 1/2-3 cups of milk, 1 Tbs garlic powder, 1 Tbs dried parsley, 1 Tbs lowfat cream cheese, 1/3 cup of shredded parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue whisking until sauce thickens. Once thickened, add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon for a swig of freshness.

*Helpful Hint: If you like your alfredo "extra saucy", double the alfredo sauce recipe. I found I almost always underestimate the amount of sauce I need, since the pasta really absorbs the sauce. Not enough yummy "goo" = a dry alfredo dish = not good.

For the Blackened Chicken: Season chicken breast tenderloins with salt, pepper, & Zataran's blackened season. I then grilled mine on the good ol' George Foreman until done. Then, cut up chicken into bit size pieces and add to the alfredo sauce.


 
Drain pasta. Add sauce & chicken to pasta. Stir and serve.

I served with Bisquick Cheddar Biscuits. These are similar to Red Lobster's Cheddar Biscuits. The recipes requires you to only add water and bake in the oven. If you are feeling frisk and want to amp up the flavor, add extra garlic powder and cheddar.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simple Pimento Cheese

Okay....fine. Here's an "easy" one. I'll cut a few peoples some slack. So, I haven't been cooking anything extravagant lately, just the basics like Pot Roast and this featured recipe...Pimento Cheese Sandwiches.  I even debated putting this one on here. I didn't even take a picture! Oh, heavens forbid! The audacity! The horror! Simple and no picture? Wha? Who might this blogger be? Yes, it is still me, the let's-see-what-I-can-try-next wanna-be cook. But, heeeyyy, Relax! I haven't totally gone off the deep-end. After all, I didn't follow the recipe. See. There is a gleam of the familiar in this after all.

First, let's just say the original recipe called for waaay too many pimentos. Yeah, I know, it is pimento cheese, but really! We all know the good stuff is the cheese and goo (aka the salad dressing). Who needs a vegetable in there?? Ha ha. Joking (I really do LOVE vegetables!). Second, the husband (for whom the pimento cheese was requested by) does not like sharp cheddar cheese. Third, I really didn't have colby cheese either, or much of it. So, yeah know, I did what I do...I changed it to my liking. After all, I think that is what makes cooking, well, cooking.

This is super fast to fix! This was ready in oh...say 5 minutes! Why in the world would anybody buy store-bought stuff when the homemade stuff is so much better AND super easy. Now, I know my "easy" is not everyone's definition of easy when it comes to cooking. But trust me, this one really is.


Simple Pimento Cheese Recipe (how I made it):

1 cup Miracle Whip (light)
3 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
4 oz jar of pimentos, drained
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1) Mix all together until combined. Serve as sandwiches or with celery or chips. Yum!


For the original recipe:
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Quick-and-Easy-Pimento-Cheese/Detail.aspx

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oh-So-Yummy-In-My-Tummy Shrimp Crepes


Yay! I finally did it! I made crepes! Making crepes has been a technique that has interested me for a while. It has definitely been one of those things I have wanted to try to make for a long time. Well, tonight was the night. Hot-diggitiy-dog. Well, all recipes have a story. This one happens to a doozy. So, here goes the tale of the yummy-tummy shrimp crepes...

Well, I received my issue of Food Network Magazine this past week. Generally, I don't find many of their recipes practical or really my style. But, this one has a couple of good ones in it (next up may be a Grilled Cheese Prosciutto-Date Sandwich (?)). One the car-ride to drop off my hubby at the airport for his "vay-cay" (Translation: annoying word for "vacation"), I decided to take advantage of the spare time and read the latest edition. 'Tis true, my eyes found the "Chicken and Asparagus Crepes" recipe. Sounded darn good and I decided I wanted to try. But of course, I didn't follow the recipe! What would you expect...for me to actually follow the recipe exactly???? Yeah, right!

First off, to my defense, the recipe calls for store-bought crepes. Ha! Right...don't think I will found those in my small ol' town. Let's just say crepes are not a common food item here (now, if you want some slammin' gyros and sushi, this small town does have those :)). Plus, buying crepes takes all the stinkin' fun out of it (and totally obliterates my crepe-making objective). Second, I didn't have asparagus and I didn't have chicken. Yep, definitely two big "don't-haves". So, being a believer of using what you have (aka not following the recipe), I used what I did have...shrimp, broccoli, and cauliflower. So, to appease my wants and current resources, I combined 3 recipes to formulate my 1 Oh-so-yummy-in-my-tummy recipe. Gosh, it was good! The 3-part recipe consisted  of 1) finding a basic crepe recipe, 2) finding a good shrimp recipe, and 3) using the original food network recipe.

This was delicious!!!! I will say, I do believe I need to make my crepes a little thinner next time (or maybe they were how they were suppose to be?). And I found out what they say is true...the first crepes does not turn out :(. My mistake with the first crepes was that my pan was not hot enough (no worries, the rest turned out). And might I say, I displayed some decent crepe-flipping skills! It is all in the wrist. Oh, yeah, had me some smooth moves! Joking! Anyway, this is a definite keeper. Being this was the first time I made this, it did take me a while and has a lot of steps, but it was worth it. Definitely. Here's the recipe. It serves 4.

Basic Crepe:
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs (used egg substitute)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs butter, melted (and used light butter)

Cheese-Herb Filling:
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (used cheap ol' jar stuff, probably would have been awesome if I used fresh)
1 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese (used lowfat)
1/4 cup chopped herbs (dill, mint, chives, or parsley...used 1 tbs dried parsley)
Salt and pepper to taste

Shrimp & Veggie Filling:
1-1 1/2 pounds thawed, uncooked, shrimp (tales removed)
1/2 chopped onion
1 Tbs butter (used light butter)
2 cloves of garlic (used garlic powder to taste)
3/4 bag of frozen broccoli and cauliflower, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste

Simple Sauce:
3/4 cup of Chicken stock
1/4 of Chopped onion
1 tsp Lemon zest
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs flour

Directions:
1) For crepes, combine wet ingredients. Whisk in flour until loose batter is formed (add water if want batter to be thinner, if desired)
2) Preheat skillet on medium-high heat. Grease with non-stick spray very well. Pour batter. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bottom of crepes is lightly browned. Use your "smooth moves" to flip the crepe and cook other side (conjure the power within...you can do it!). Set finished crepes aside and repeat until all are cooked.
3) For shrimp filling, Saute onion and garlic in butter until onion is translucent. Add in shrimp and veggies. Salt and pepper the filling. Cook until shrimp is pink (don't overcook!). Set aside.
4) For cheese-herb filling, mix all together. Set aside.
5) Assemble crepes by putting in shrimp and cheese-herb filling into the crepes. Then, roll up crepes. (If you want to heat through, just pop in the oven on 350 for about 10 minutes)
6) To make simple sauce, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add flour and cook through. Slowly whisk in chicken stock. Cook until sauce has thickened. Add in salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Pour over finished crepes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Okay...So, I Was in a Hurry...

Okay, I've shown you "pretty" food, now, here's the not-so-pretty. I know, you're thinking...what is heck is that???? Well, it looks like...can't say it...but, I think we all know what it looks like. *Sigh* I said I'd share my "bearable dishes" and I think this qualifies. Okay...fine...it's cookies. I know, right??? Look real close....Now you see it? Takes some imagination, but it is two cookies. Peanut butter with reese pieces, to be exact.

Well, these were suppose to be for a friend's birthday. I told her I'd make her peanut butter cookies since she loves peanut butter, a lot. I rushed home after work, mixed up the batter, rushed my hubby to night-class (currently both using one car, the other is in the shop), and came back home to bake these before a Stampin' club meeting at 6:30. These are my "Easy 1-2-3 Peanut Butter Cookies" which always turn out. Always, except, of course, this time. The exception, or as I refer to, the culprit (sounds more evil that way), was natural peanut butter. Well, heck. The natural stuff changed the cookie. Darn, hippies. JOKE! Well, these were still warm when I tasted and determined these were not fit to be "birthday cookies". To me, birthday deserve more tastiness...it's somebody's birthday for crying out loud! You want warm deliciousness, not disappointment or just "eh" (my husband favorite description, btw). So, I came to our stamping meeting empty handed with promises of birthday yumminess in the near (but ah, so distant) future.

However, when I came back home, of course Aaron (the husband) and I re-tasted. Since they had cooled, they did end up tasting okay-the reason for the "bearable" rating. Not bad, but not delicious. Still not up to the standard of "birthday". Guess I learned two, no, three lessons. 1) Don't use natural peanut butter for 1-2-3 PB cookies, 2) let the cookies cool, and 3) don't be in a hurry and make cookies that end up looking like.....

Still not gonna say it. Here's a fun game...use your imagination to post your own ideas of what these look like :), I won't take offense! Trust me, I think we all know what I think they look like.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mini Chicken Cordon Bleu

'Twas a dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu's, green beans, and butter beans (ok, so, I like beans!). I am generally bugging my husband about "what sounds good", aka what should I try to make. He mentioned that he had not had chicken cordon bleu in a while. I agreed that it sounded yummy and so it began.
First off, I remembered that I had purchased chicken tenderloins at the recent trip to the grocery and not chicken breasts. Hmmm, me thinks to myself...how to do this. Of course, I utilized one of my 
favorite resources...Google. If I need to know just about anything, "Google it!", I say!

In my googling escapade,  I came across a recipe for mini chicken cordon bleu that used chicken tenderloins! Perfecto! But of course, my need to tweek is incessant. Then, I went to my other favorite site, allrecipes. I need research! What I did was combine two recipes, one for the chicken, the other for my sauce.

The result was success! It was ruled a definite make-again dinner (by husband and a friend) and it is so gosh-darn pretty! Definitely make if you want to impress someone. While this is time-consuming, it is worth it. I prepared mine the night before, then baked it the next night for supper (because I knew I'd be a starvin' marvin after work). Don't be scared by the extra-time this takes...it is still definitely do-able if you prepare. My only personal critique was that the "sauce" was not ideal for me. Maybe that was just me since the other two dinners thought it to be tasty. I'll leave that one up to you. Here goes...

Ingredients:
Chicken:
12-20 chicken breast tenderloins
1 slice of Swiss cheese per 4 tenderloins
1/2 lb ham (deli counter)
20-ish toothpicks
Egg Wash
2 eggs whisked with 2 Tbs water
Flour Mixture
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
Panko Crumbs
2 cups Panko bread crumbs (can be found at Walmart or other grocers)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
Creamy Sauce
1 (10.75 oz) can of cream of chicken soup (I used low sodium)
1 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1 tsp lemon juice
Pepper & Parsley to taste

Directions:
1) Pound out chicken tenders to flatten
2) Place 1/4 of slice of swiss cheese and 1/4 slice of ham inside chicken tender. Roll up and secure with toothpick (s). Set aside.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and water for egg wash
4) In a separate bowl, combine flour mixture ingredients
5) In (another) separate bowl, combine panko mixture ingredients
6) First, dip rolled-up chicken in flour mixture. Then, dip in egg wash. Lastly, dip in panko mixture. Place mini chicken cordon bleus in greased casserole dish. (If you are making ahead, cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator overnight.)
6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is browned and cooked through.
7) For sauce, while chicken is baking, combine all the sauce ingredients on stovetop. Simmer on low heat.
8) Remove chicken from oven. Let rest a couple of minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve & Yum!











Ah, the Great Beginnings...

Let's get the formalities over with. My name is Jennifer, and I like food. I love all things food, from reading nutrition labels, trying foods I've never had before, weird food, methods of cooking, various cuisines of cooking, etc...When it comes to food, you name it, I'm there (almost..don't LOVE the unhealthy grease-fests as a rule of thumb, but I have partaken in a few embarrassing grease binges *blush*).  Bottom line is I like to eat, but I often try to find the "healthier" versions of my favorite foods. So often, if I find a recipe, I tend to make a "lighter" version as long as it keeps the desired tastiness. So, I often experiment and try  new things (oh, the poor husband).

 Mind you, I come from a family of "instant" cooking. Alas, I grew up in the days where waifs of our of "Lee's Famous Chicken" filled our Sunday after-church dinners, meals were often of the microwave-nuked kind, and our potatoes were instant. 'Tis true, my mother was not a "from-scratch" cook. But mind you, she did cook (love your taco salad and no-bake cookies, Mom!). I just had to learn a few (okay...a lot of) basic things after marrying into a country-cooking family (I.E. From-scratch buttermilk biscuits, gravies, etc).

While I am no master-chef, I believe I have come a long way. I might say, some of my dinners are sometimes tasty! *Gasp* Who knew, the girl who had to learn how to make a pot of chili (like open the mix packet, add the cans of veggies, & brown meat-simple, I know), has come to attempt the makings of such things as home-made soft pretzels, chess bars, and chicken-biscuit pot pie. In my short time as a "wannabe", I have learned that cooking takes trial & error, love, passion, and darn-tootin' determination to keep on trying! Here's a shout to all those who came from "instant" cooking like mine and those who grew up with "down-home" cooking like my hubby. I'll share with you both my successes, bearable dishes, and failures if you would like a peek into the simple creations of a wannabe chef. Hope you enjoy!