Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Parmesan Chicken

Sometimes my recipes come from being creative with the limited food in my fridge and pantry. Sometimes I see a recipe and think, "I can do better than that!". Sometimes I take a good recipe and challenge myself to make it better. This chicken recipe is in that third category! The original looked really good, and I intended to make it as-is, but naturally, I put my own twist on it.

I bought boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.77 per pound at Kroger on Friday. Since they were pretty big, I decided to cut them in half, making two cutlets out of each breast. I placed 4 cutlets in each quart-sized freezer bag, then poured the marinade over them. One bag went in the fridge for dinner and one bag went into the freezer for another night. When I mixed the bread crumbs and Parmesan, I used half for dinner and put the other half in a freezer bag, in the freezer to use with the other chicken. Two meals, one prep time! This recipe is for the full amount of chicken, and you can divide it like I did if you don't need 8 pieces of chicken.

Parmesan Chicken

4 large chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, or 2 teaspoons dried herbs (I used parsley, oregano and rosemary)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used whole wheat bread in the food processor)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan

In a small sauce pan, combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat gently on low for 3-4 minutes. You just want to get the flavors infused into the oil, you're not cooking it really. Remove from heat. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken breasts cross-wise into cutlets. (This works best if the chicken is partially frozen.) Place the chicken in a resealable bag and pour the marinade over it. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the fridge, and preheat the oven to 375°. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Press both sides of each cutlet into the crumb mixture and place in a baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, flip them over, and bake for 10 more minutes until the juices run clear. Don't overbake it!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcakes

When I saw a picture on Pinterest of cupcakes topped with spaghetti and meatballs, I knew I'd be making them soon! I love making cupcakes for when I need a dessert for a crowd. It's fun to fix them up in different ways. As usual, I used a boxed mix for the cakes themselves, though I always doctor it up a bit. I made cream cheese frosting to top the cakes.

You can see here I've already piped on the "noodles". After applying a thin "base coat" of frosting on the cakes, I tinted the rest with a touch of yellow food coloring, and added a bit of cinnamon to give it a slightly browner tinge, plus it adds flecks.

Now for the "marinara sauce" - strawberry jam.

The "meatballs" - Whoppers, of course! And no Italian dish is quite complete without a little "Parmesan cheese" - grated white chocolate.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Apple-Bacon Pork Tenderloin

Inspired by a recipe I found on Pinterest, last night I made a pork tenderloin. In the end, the only elements of the recipe that I actually used were the idea of wrapping the tenderloin in bacon and using apple to flavor it. It turned out even better than I expected! One element you shouldn't skimp on is the juice. We love the natural apple juice (Mott's brand) because the apple flavor is so strong. It really does taste like fresh-pressed apples. You could use cider or spiced cider, too.

Apple-Bacon Pork Tenderloin

1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons apple butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 slices bacon
pork tenderloin

In a small bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Marinate the tenderloin in the mixture for at least 4 hours (you could do it all day, or overnight, too). In a large skillet, or in the oven, cook bacon until some of the fat is rendered but it's still limp. Remove the tenderloin from the marinade and wrap the bacon around it. Place on a baking sheet or in a dish. Bake at 375° 20-25 minutes.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Barbecue Cheddar Meatballs

Typical Thursday - I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, food-wise. Normally I have a meal planned out, but this week I just happened not to. I thawed a package of ground beef and hoped inspiration would strike. Thankfully, it did! Working with limited resources, I decided to make Barbecue Cheddar Meatballs. Little One and Handsome had seconds, and apparently they were good enough for The Boy to have seconds, too! He speared a meatball with his fork and declared, "Now you must face your demise!"

Barbecue Cheddar Meatballs

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I used Spicy Honey from Kraft)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/3 cup bread crumbs

1 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup salsa

Bring a large skillet up to medium to medium-high heat. In a bowl, mix together the first 7 ingredients. Form tablespoonfuls into meatballs. Saute in skillet until browned on all sides. Reduce heat to low; stir in BBQ sauce and salsa. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through, stirring occasionally.

These would have been great with some mashed potatoes, but we're out of milk ... So, I served them with Green Beans, Carrot Zucchini Fritters, and corn.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

My favorite main dish of all time would have to be Chicken Cordon Bleu. I just love the combination of flavors! Sadly, no one else in my family actually likes ham, so I don't get to have it very often. I came up with this recipe recently, though, when I needed a meal to take to a friend who was having surgery. One of these days I'll make it for my family and hope for the best!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

2 cups shredded/cubed cooked chicken
8 ounces uncooked pasta (rotini, shells, penne)
1 (10-3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup cubed ham
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and place in large bowl. Mix in chicken, soup, sour cream, ham, thyme and cheese. Salt and pepper as you like. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and butter. Sprinkle over the casserole. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and topping is lightly browned.

 This recipe is a variation of my Chicken Ranch Casserole, which is one of my most often requested recipes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Peach Cobbler

Recently I needed an easy, cheap, tasty dessert to share with a couple who'd had a baby. Baking things from scratch is typically cheaper, but cakes are not my favorite thing to make. They're so unpredictable! Anyway, in this case I decided to make a peach cobbler. There are a lot of different ways to make cobbler - this is just one of the easiest.

Peach Cobbler

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups chopped peaches
1/2 teaspoon maple extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and milk until smooth. Pour over butter. In a separate bowl, stir together peaches, cinnamon and extract. Sprinkle the fruit over the batter in the pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until peaches are tender and crust is golden brown. Serve warm!



(As you can see from the pictures, I used a smaller, square pan. I just halved the ingredients.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Barefoot In The Kitchen Podcast #1

Despite the stereotype of our parents' generation being completely inept at computers, my mom is a lot more technologically advanced than I am! A couple of weeks ago, she asked me if I'd be interested in doing a video presentation of one of my recipes. She had taken a class where she learned about making podcasts and she wanted to try out her new skills. I readily agreed! Here is our first attempt at a demonstration video, using the recipe for Lasagna Rolls that I featured a few weeks ago.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Modern Times

It turns out that going to the gym is good for something! I found a great new recipe in Southern Living while I tortured myself on the elliptical machine. Hey, remember back in the old days when, if you found a recipe in a fifteen year old Southern Living while waiting for the dentist, you had to scrounge around in your purse for a quill and ink pot, and then you'd painstakingly scribe the entire recipe in illegible shorthand on a gas receipt and two gum wrappers, one of which you'd promptly lose? Well, I'm glad to say times have changed! I just waited until I got home and went to Southern Living's website and did a quick search for the recipe, Roasted Brown-Butter Pecans with Rosemary. (Is there any entity in the world that uses longer recipe names than our beloved SL?)

I made a small batch yesterday, because I wasn't sure I'd like them - I don't tend to like roasted nuts because they taste burnt to me no matter how carefully they're done. I'm pleased to say this recipe is perfectly lovely! A nice mix of salty/sweet, and the rosemary is a nice touch without being overpowering. It also helps to have in-laws with pecan trees, so you can get really fresh, perfect pecans!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Barbecued Chicken Legs

Last Friday I was in the produce department of Kroger when a thought hit me: I hadn't decided what to make for our college people on Sunday night! After some serious brainstorming and a check in the meat department for sales, I decided on trying my hand at barbecued chicken legs. I ended up getting 15 drumsticks for about $4.50! I decided to make my own barbecue sauce with whatever I had on hand. This recipe will work for any amount of chicken, though.

Barbecued Chicken Legs

chicken legs
lemon-pepper seasoning
garlic salt

Remove the skin from the drumsticks. This is the most time consuming part of the process, and many stores sell them already skinned - especially during grilling season. Lay the legs out on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with the two seasonings, flip 'em over and season that side, too. Roast them in the oven at 375° for 30 minutes, turn, roast 15 minutes more. During the last 15 minutes, baste them occasionally with the barbecue sauce. Serve with more sauce on the side for dipping.

Red-Eye BBQ Sauce

1 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes (while chicken bakes). Store leftover sauce in the refrigerator.

Since I was feeding a crowd and we eat after the evening church service, I elected to finish these off in the slow cooker. After the roasting process, without basting them, I put the drumsticks in my slow cooker insert and poured the completed Red-Eye BBQ Sauce over them. The insert went into the fridge until the next day, when I set the slow cooker to low before going to church that evening. They heated for about 3 hours, which was perfect! Enough to heat them through, but not to cook them any further.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

I wasn't feeling 100% this weekend, so I took the easy route for dessert Sunday night. I usually make my own cake and whipped cream for Strawberry Shortcake, but I sent Handsome to the store instead this time!

Strawberry Shortcake

16 ounces fresh strawberries
1 small orange
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Wash and hull strawberries; slice and place in a small bowl. Zest and juice the orange; add those to the strawberries. Stir in the powdered sugar. You may not need the full amount of sugar, if any at all! The sugar does help pull out the juices, though, which is optimal for strawberry shortcake.

For the super-easy version of this dessert, just use storebought:

dessert shells
whipped cream (frozen and thawed, or the kind in the can)

Then you simply layer the shells, berries and cream.

For a simple way to make your own whipped cream, check out my Cinnamon Cream Fruit Dip. For a plain version just use powdered instead of brown sugar, and omit the cinnamon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Baked Potato Casserole

I've seen lots of different versions of this, but when I made it this time I didn't bother to use a recipe. I just tossed things together until they looked good! Apparently it worked because our folks cleaned out the pans and I got lots of positive feedback! I'm giving you the recipe as I made it, but of course you can cut it in half for a more reasonable amount.

Baked Potato Casserole

3 pounds red potatoes
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled - reserve 1/4 cup drippings
3 green onions, sliced
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
salt and pepper

Bake the potatoes until tender. (I just scrub them and pop them in the oven. They took about an hour at 400°.)

When the potatoes are cool enough to work with, cube them into bite-size pieces and divided them between two 9 x 13 pans. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, onions, bacon, and cheese. Pour on the butter, bacon grease, and sour cream (divide it between the two pans). Carefully stir the potatoes until well coated. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. I served them with more sour cream on the side for those that wanted it.

If you want to make this dish in shifts, you can bake the potatoes the day before and store them in the fridge whole. I wouldn't keep them longer than 24 hours like that, though, as the texture will not be as good.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Link Love

I love finding new recipes and I especially love it when they're good enough to add to our list of favorites. I've made a few of those over the last couple of weeks.

Oreo Cake - This was really easy and a big hit!

Sour Cream Chicken - My mom made this in the oven when I was a kid, with the addition of dried beef on the bottom. I thought the recipe was good, but a bit bland. I'll have to play with it to boost the flavor.

Watermelon Sorbet - Handsome requested a watermelon last week, but he's the only one that really likes it. I cut up half of it for eating and for use in this sorbet, then took the other half to a Fourth of July party.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream - I made this for a church ice cream social a couple of weeks ago. It is delicious and a great alternative for if you don't have an ice cream maker.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How to Really Help Your Hamburger

When Handsome and I first got married, I made a lot of packaged foods and our pantry was full of cans and boxes. As I grew more confident in the kitchen I made more and more things from scratch using fresh ingredients. Especially during my first pregnancy I determined to increase the nutritional value of our meals with whole grains and more fresh vegetables. Now I can't remember the last time I cracked open a box of Hamburger Helper! Here's my nostalgic homage to those newlywed days.

Ground Beef Stroganoff

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced 1/2 pound 93% lean ground beef
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons flour
1 carton (32 ounces) reduced-sodium beef broth 
1 cup frozen peas
8 ounces thin egg noodles
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (or reduced-fat sour cream)

In a large skillet, saute the carrots, onion, and garlic in the butter for 3-4 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook and stir until the meat is fully browned. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, paprika and flour. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the beef broth, stirring until the flour is fully incorporated and sauce is smooth. Stir in the noodles and peas. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt.