Category Archives: Chicken

Beer, Broccoli and Cheese!

Long overdue, a few of us girls finally got together last night to catch up and eat some grub! One of my friends, Nicole, is doing the triathlon this coming Sunday in Chicago (amazing I know) and since I was in charge of cooking dinner, I wanted to come up with a balanced, healthier meal that would help keep her fueled…one chock full of healthy fats, protein, carbs and loaded with vitamins and nutrients. I saw a recipe on Pinterest for a broccoli cheese casserole sans any ‘cream of anything soup’ which intrigued me, so I decided to go that route, but adding in some chicken for more protein! I also made a beer bread to go along with it for fun! Add in some baked polenta appetizers and an amazing salted caramel pie baked by my friend Em and we had one complete dinner!

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheese Casserole:

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or sliced thing
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 3/4 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • few squirts of lemon, to taste
  • dash of mustard powder
  • 1 t spicy mustard (I used a Habanero mustard, but Dijon or any similar would work as well)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, plus another cup for topping
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 3 cups cooked broccoli
  • 3 cups cooked rice (I used black rice, more antioxidants than blueberries and more fiber than brown rice, a little healthier alternative)!
  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced

Cook rice, broccoli and chicken and set aside. I steamed the broccoli, threw the rice in a rice maker and grilled chicken breasts with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and heat oil and butter in saucepan until butter is melted.  Saute onions until soft, 5-7 minutes, add garlic, cook another minute or two. Whisk in flour, cooking only for a minute, not browning it. Slowly add in milk, broth, lemon juice and mustard whisking constantly until smooth. Once smooth, let cook and thicken for 5 or so minutes, whisking only occasionally. Once thickened, add in the cheeses and remove from heat. Once cheese is melted, add in cooked broccoli, rice and chicken. Stir to coat everything, pour into a casserole dish or 9X13 pan. Top with cheddar and more parmesan, bake for 45 minutes.

Beer Bread with Cheddar and Garlic:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt, divided
  • 10 ounces or 1 1/4 cups beer (guess you’ll just have to drink those last two ounces)!
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 t garlic powder, plus more for top
  • 1 t onion powder, plus more for top
  • 1 t mustard powder, plus more for top
  • 1 T butter, melted

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and mustard powder. Slowly mix in beer with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Do not over-mix. Add in cheese, until just combined. Pour (I use this word lightly as the batter is very thick and will not ‘pour’) into a 9X5 loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area for 30 minutes. The dough will puff lightly and grow a little in the pan. Brush the top with the melted butter and sprinkle seasonings over top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Polenta Appetizers:

  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 large leek, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or sliced thin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh mozzarella
  • parmesan cheese
  • seasonings of choice (I used rosemary and thyme)
  • more olive oil for drizzling (this has to be really good olive oil, I used a garlic olive oil I infused myself with excellent quality oil from Italy)
  • log of polenta (I got mine from Trader Joe’s but I have seen them at Jewel, etc)

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil. Add in mushrooms and leeks, saute until softened 5-7 minutes. Add in garlic and cook a few minutes more. In the meantime, slice the polenta into slices. Cover with mozzarella cheese then mushroom leek mixture, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese, seasonings and drizzle with a smidge of olive oil. Transfer to greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and polenta is browned a little on the bottom.

Em’s Salted Caramel Pie:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 T butter, melted
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • salt

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix graham cracker crumbs and melted butter, press into a 9-inch pie plate. Top with sweetened condensed milk, sprinkle with salt. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, covered with foil! This is very important, as I burned the crap out of mine when I baked it uncovered!

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Savory Bread Pudding, aka Stuffing!!

I had three chicken breasts, a container of  mushrooms, a log of goat cheese and a fresh block of pecorino-romano in the fridge and figured they would all go great together but did not want to do yet another pasta. I also had four Trader Joe’s brioche buns that were a few days old that I didn’t want to waste since they are sooooo good…so I made my first attempt at a savory bread pudding. Overall, I am not a huge bread pudding fan, not rich enough for my dessert tastes and always seem to make a better cold breakfast to me! I do however have one go-to sweet bread pudding recipe that seems to get rave reviews so I will share that recipe as well! The savory bread pudding turned out to be very good; moist and creamy, yet reminded both Josh and I of stuffing at Thanksgiving! This is obviously not a bad thing at all, but savory bread pudding is essentially a version of homemade stuffing! I would definitely  make it again and again, adding different ingredients and seasonings each time, great recipe to play around with!

Savory Bread Pudding:

  • 8 ounce container mushrooms of choice (I happened to have Portobello)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced finely or sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 T butter
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 or so cups of torn bread (I used 4 Brioche buns from Trader Joe’s and it was a little too much actually, but I didn’t want to waste any 😉
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk (or you can do 2 cups heavy cream for more richness)
  • 5 ounce log goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup pecorino-romano, plus more for topping
  • Thyme and rosemary to taste (this is what really gave it the Thanksgiving stuffing feel)!
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, diced

Heat oil and butter in large saucepan over medium-high until butter has melted. Add in mushrooms, zucchini and onions, saute until softened, 5-7 minutes, salt and pepper to taste (you can also add a little thyme and rosemary to the veggies as well). Add in garlic and saute a few minutes more. Pour in white wine to deglaze the pan and let simmer until most of the liquid has reduced. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, seasonings to taste and cheeses. Add in bread pieces and chicken, toss to combine. Add vegetables to bread mixture, mixing so everything is coated with the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, tossing every so often. When ready to cook, top with more pecorino-romano and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through and center is heated through. We ate it right out of the oven for dinner last night and cold for breakfast this morning and I can’t say which I liked more but I am leaning towards cold breakfast, just like the sweet bread puddings I’ve had!

As is custom, no meal in our household is complete without dessert and I stumbled across an amazing looking picture online and wanted to repeat the recipe and of course after much research, could not find a recipe online! The bars are for sale online by Whimsy and Spice and look divine! Just look at this picture:

My own version of Chocolate Butterscotch Bars:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Brownie layer:

  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional but enhances that deep chocolate flavor)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Butterscotch Layer:

  • 1 (14 ounce) can condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch morsels

For the graham cracker crust: pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together crumbs and melted butter until moistened. Press into greased 9X9 baking pan. Bake 11-12 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, for the brownie layer, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a double boiler and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan and let cool. Add 1 egg to the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining egg and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be too cakey. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. Pour the batter over the top of the graham cracker crust. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. While cooling, for butterscotch layer, heat sweetened condensed milk and butter in saucepan over medium heat until thickens and begins to turn a nice amber color, about 10-12 minutes. Add in butterscotch morsels and remove from heat, stirring until smooth and morsels have melted completely. Pour over brownie layer in pan and let bars cool completely before cutting.

These turned out to be just ok. A little too much butterscotch in my opinion and by the end of the night when they had really fully cooled, the butterscotch layer became quite hard and unappetizing in my opinion! The only thing I can think of would be to use less condensed milk and a few tablespoons more butter next time! Here’s how mine looked…not quite as pretty as Whimsy’s!

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Lastly, as promised, here is the only bread pudding recipe I have yet to really like!

Cinnamon Caramel Bread Pudding:

  • 20 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • Purchased caramel sauce, warmed

Cut or rip bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Place in very large bowl. Whisk eggs, milk, 1 cup cream, and next 4 ingredients in large bowl until sugar dissolves. Pour egg mixture over bread; toss to coat. Cover with plastic and chill at least 4 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Let stand at room temp 30 mins. Preheat oven to 375. Butter 13X9 baking dish and pour in bread pudding. Bake pudding until puffed, edges are golden, and tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Serve with caramel sauce over top!

With that much cream and fattiness, there’s no wonder this is the only one I’ve ever really cared for…sadly though, it is still a breakfast to me, fattiness and all!

 

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Josh and I have been celebrating our one year wedding anniversary for a few weeks now…we have already had three celebrations so far and a fourth is yet to come in June! I say after such a spectacular first year of marriage, why not celebrate the hell out of it!? We started a week early when Josh surprised me with a Tiffany necklace and we went out to a wonderful dinner at Kinzie Chophouse. What a great restaurant, we had been there a few times before for dessert and drinks (fantastic wine list and molten chocolate cake)! I knew it would be good, after all it’s a Chicago steak house but it really surprised me how good it really was. My filet was cooked absolutely perfectly and was so tender and juicy, and they serve their steaks with four different dipping sauces, all of which were fantastic additions, even though, not necessary since the steak was so good on its own! We also shared a baked french onion soup that was better than most I have had in French restaurants and a roasted red pepper pureed soup that was also smooth and flavorful. We also shared a broccoli fondue, which was not awesome but very tasty…can’t go wrong with broccoli and cheese! Lastly, they brought us out a buttered rum cheesecake that was to die for! I was a little upset at first, thinking I wasn’t getting my molten chocolate cake, but what a welcomed surprise, it was sooo good and went perfectly with our wine and cappuccinos! I definitely cannot wait to go back!

photo.JPG

Our next mini-celebration took place on our actual anniversary, May 14th. We were working late and Josh had to coach a hockey game late that night, so I stuck around and we had some dinner, went to see the Avengers and ate some of our wedding cake! Nice romantic, not fancy way to spend our night together!

Third celebration took place last night, our first night home together for dinner in a while! So we teamed up in the kitchen and cooked an amazing dinner of basil orzotto with goat cheese stuffed chicken and a nice bottle of wine, followed by yet more wedding cake! Orzotto is risotto made with orzo instead of Arborio rice! The orzo was super creamy and cheesy and the chicken was a perfect highlight for the pasta. The goat cheese and lemon from the filling paired perfectly with the basil and parmesan in the orzo.

Basil Orzotto:

  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 T chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in pan over medium, add shallots, cook 3-5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and orzo, cook until orzo is slightly browned. Deglaze pan with white wine. Cook until wine is evaporated. Add the broth, salt & pepper to taste and let come to a boil. Simmer over low, cover and cook until liquid is evaporated, about 12-15 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat, add in peas, parmesan, heavy cream, butter and fresh basil.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 1 t chopped fresh basil
  • 1-2 T grated parm
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Mix together the goat cheese, lemon juice, basil, parm, salt and pepper. Pound each chicken breast until thin but not too thin that it will fall apart when rolling. Place 1/3 of the filling in the center of each pounded chicken breast, roll up tightly. Salt and pepper outside of each breast (or use lemon pepper or any other seasonings you prefer). Grill or bake until cooked through. Serve atop the orzotto! We followed this decadent meal with the top-tier of our wedding cake…pistachio, Josh’s absolute favorite and a Ma Crawford special! She had never made pistachio for a wedding before we put in a special request…it came out sooooo good!!
And last but certainly not least, our fourth celebration is yet to come! We are going to Italy in June! We debated going for our honeymoon but in the end decided we would rather sit on a beach, relax and do nothing but be waited on hand and foot! Best. Decision. Ever. I don’t think I would have truly been able to appreciate Italy having gone right after my wedding, being exhausted, excited, overwhelmed, etc!  But when we got married, Josh promised we would go for our one year anniversary and I thought he was full of it! But much to my extreme delight, he is making it happen! I. Cannot. Wait.

Easter!

Yes, I realize this post is a bit late but still wanted to share about our Easter anyways! We all went over to my brother’s house since they just recently had the new baby and wouldn’t have been able to celebrate with us otherwise. My gram has a problem with overdoing everything (no surprise there) so she ended up catering an entire home-cooked Easter dinner over to their house. Crazy, yes, delicious, yes, unnecessary, probably! In an effort to help her out, we all made little things to bring along. I was given the task of side dish, appetizers and a dessert. I went with a pesto cream cheese dip with homemade pesto, a buffalo chicken ring, cheesy potatoes, and a caramel pie with a chocolate pretzel crust. So here they are:

Pesto Dip:

Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup salted almonds
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Add almonds, garlic and arugula to nut grinder, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to incorporate/chop a little, then stream in olive oil until all blended, chopped finely enough for your liking. Pour into bowl, mix in parm.

For the dip, spread 1 (8-ounce) package of room temperature/softened cream cheese on the bottom of a serving bowl/platter. Top with homemade pesto and then diced cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with more parmesan. Serve with crackers, chips, pretzels, anything your little heart desires will do!!

Buffalo Chicken Ring (aka, the one ring to rule them all):

I got this recipe from my best friend’s fiance Joe, he emailed it to all of us asking one of us to please make it for him! Here is the website he sent us: http://jayesel.net/2011/11/10/recipe-buffalo-chicken-ring/

  • 2 crescent roll packages
  • 1-2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/2 packet of ranch dressing mix
  • Frank’s to taste
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil chicken until cooked through, set aside to cool. Combine cream cheese and ranch packet, set aside. Mix shredded chicken, cream cheese mixture, and Frank’s to taste. Mix in celery and cheese. Open crescent packages and keep in two’s; on a pizza stone,  form a circle, overlapping the corners so it looks like this:

recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring

Fill the ring with the chicken mixture and fold over outer edges, seal to close, like so:

recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring   recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring

Bake about 20-25 minutes, until crescent dough is cooked through. BE CAREFUL, you will want to eat this immediately out of the oven because it is so incredibly delicious but it will burn the shit out of your mouth, I promise! Let cool before indulging!!

Cheesy Potatoes:

This is a Hover family favorite, definitely all the credit for this recipe goes to them! I also cannot remember for the life of me if I have already shared this recipe in a previous blog, but it is  definitely worthy enough for another post if I have!

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup (or 1 large can)
  • 1 medium container of sour cream
  • 1 bag frozen potatoes or hash browns
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat, add onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, in a very large bowl, mix together the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and 2 cups of the cheese. Add in potatoes and butter/onion mixture. Pour into a 9X13 baking dish, top with remaining 2 cups of cheese and bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Caramel Pie:

Emily made this pie for me and our friend Sisen a while back and it was sooo tasty, I had to try it myself (and her version was salted, which upped the tasty factor in my book)! Instead of salting the caramel, I decided to add the salty element into the crust. Warning, this recipe did not turn out how it was supposed, I should definitely have practiced this one ahead of time! It was still delicious however presentation was seriously lacking!

  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups chopped pretzels
  • 6 ounces chocolate, melted
  • 5 T butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together melted chocolate, melted butter and pretzel crumbs. Press into bottom and up sides of a greased 9-inch pie plate. Pour sweetened condensed milk into crust, bake for 1 1/2 hours, COVERED WITH FOIL! This was my big mistake, I did not cover until half way through which caused a lovely burned topping of my pie. Luckily, this was easy to salvage by removing the burnt top and exposing the wonderfully cooked caramel underneath! I also disguised this by adding some crushed pretzel crumbs and drizzled chocolate on top.

Mia Rose!

I would like to announce the birth of my beautiful niece Mia Rose! She was born on April Fool’s Day (no joke) at 11:54 pm, weighing in at 7 lb 7 oz and she is just adorable, and with a full head of dark brown hair! We now have two beautiful, healthy, precious little girls in our family!

Here's proof!

I knew my brother and sister-in-law would be absolutely exhausted upon getting home and could use all of the rest they can get with a newborn so I decided to help them out and cook them a few dinners and save them some time/money! I even had my other niece, Arianna, ‘help me out’ in the kitchen! What a great little helper she is too!

I wanted to think of things that would be super easy for them that they could just throw in the oven or heat up so I settled on homemade mac & cheese with prosciutto and a chicken broccoli cheese casserole. The casserole is so amazingly simple yet delicious, it is a must have on our menu rotation! And of course, I baked them something as well, a zucchini bread.

Macaroni & Cheese with Prosciutto

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • Prosciutto, ham, bacon cooked and chopped
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 t mustard powder or 1 – 1 1/2 t mustard
  • 8 ounces american cheese, chopped up
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • parmesan cheese
  • bread crumbs or panko

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a casserole dish or 9X13 pan. Cook macaroni  in boiling salted water until al dente, drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan, add onion and saute until soft, 5-7 minutes. Once soft, add flour, whisk and let cook 1-2 minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking to incorporate flour. Add salt & pepper to taste and let come to a boil and begins to thicken. Lower heat and add in american cheese and 2 cups of cheddar, stir until melted. Combine sauce with macaroni and pour into baking dish. Top with other 2 cups of shredded cheddar. Mix bread crumbs or panko with parmesan cheese, sprinkle over top and bake 30 minutes. (I fried up some prosciutto in a little olive oil beforehand to get it somewhat crispy and mixed it in with the cheese sauce and macaroni before baking).  You can add any type of meat you like, or leave it out completely, whatever suits your fancy!

Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole

  • 1 package broccoli (I use eat smart veggie bags)
  • 1 bag cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 2-3 T lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cream of mushroom soups, the lemon juice and half of the cheddar cheese. Add cooked chicken and broccoli. Pour into prepared pan and top with remaining half of cheddar cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through. See, I told you it was easy! We like to serve ours over white rice, but you can use whatever you like or just eat it plain! Also, you can add in any other veggies you like, we always add mushrooms with ours but since my brother is ‘allergic,’ I omitted them! I say ‘allergic’ because he really is not, he just doesn’t care for them so he tells restaurants that he is allergic so they don’t make the mistake of putting them in any of his food! Cracks me up! But I did get him to branch out a little and try, and even like, a blue cheese mushroom marsala sauce for steaks (http://wp.me/s1InCv-saucy)!

Last but not least:

Zucchini Bread

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 t vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9X13 pan. Dissolve sugar in oil, add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon. Add wet to dry, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in zucchini. Pour into prepared pan, fill 2/3 of the way full (if there is extra batter, use for muffins or whatever you’d like…but I fit it all into one pan and it just made one very large super loaf)!

More Beer Please!

As a non-beer drinker, I was surprised to fall in love with bakery product with the main ingredient of beer! I joined pinterest a few weeks ago and found a blog through a friend with some delicious and interesting looking recipes. The blog that inspired last night’s dinner menu is http://honestfare.com/. We were gone all weekend in Cleveland, OH for an outdoor hockey tournament in Progressive Field, where the Indians play. They set up an outdoor hockey rink, an ice skating track and a sledding luge…super fun and such a great idea! Anyways, being gone all weekend, eating every meal out with 21 high school boys consisted of pizza multiple times, buffalo wings, also multiple times, a few burgers and some mac & cheese…needless to say, I was craving something a little different and slightly more gourmet when we got back! Sunday night we settled on fresh ribeyes from the butcher with some pan-fried vegetables (my first vegetables in 3 days)! I knew we would be back late from work Monday night so I decided to make a soup to have on hand that would just need to be heated up when we got home. As usually happens, there was a slight hiccup in our plan. The condo we are renting was sold and the new owner wanted to meet with us so I had to take the train home early from work to get things looking presentable for his arrival! I have been wanting to bake a beer bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches with for a while now and figured this would help make this comfort food tradition become a little more elegant and sophisticated. I quickly whipped up a beer bread and cleaned while it was baking in the oven. I ended up caramelizing some onions in beef broth and Worcestershire sauce to go on the sandwiches as well. The final product was a fantastic twist to the traditional grilled cheese sandwich! Here’s how it all went down:

Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup:

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8-10 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 Chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup rice, uncooked (I used black rice but wild rice would probably be the norm)!
  • 1 t basil
  • 1/2 t thyme
  • 1/2 t sage
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 T melted butter

I sautéed the onion, carrots and celery in a bit of olive oil until softened, then added in the garlic until fragrant. Then add the chicken broth, chicken, rice and seasonings. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5, then bring to a simmer and cover for 15 or so, until rice is softened. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, evaporated milk and melted butter. (This step can be completely avoided if you have heavy cream on hand, for the first time in my life, I did not)! Add milk mixture to soup once rice is cooked and bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

Beer Bread:

  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 (12-oz) beer
  • 4 T melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Slowly add in beer, just until incorporated and all flour has been moistened. (Do not overmix this batter or you will end up with a super dense, gummy loaf! Also, it is important to sift the flour or to spoon it into the measuring cups (if you do not have a sifter) because compacting the flour too much will result in the same dense, gummy type of bread). Brush the melted butter over the top of the dough and bake for 45-50 minutes. The greatest part about this recipe is how versatile it is! You can add anything into the batter you want, including pepper, rosemary, Italian seasonings, cheeses, etc! I kept mine plain so I can toast pieces and spread them with peanut butter for breakfast! But I think adding in some black pepper, cheddar cheese and/or rosemary would be delicious for the grilled cheeses!

To assemble the grilled cheese sammies, I buttered two sides of the beer bread and spread Dijon mustard on the opposite sides. I then layered a slice of swiss cheese, Muenster cheese and sharp cheddar cheese, followed by the caramelized onions. We used our Panini maker but a fry pan would work just as well! We were very pleased with the result! Josh went without the caramelized onions for his second sandwich and said he liked it better because he was able to taste all of the different cheeses…personal preference I suppose!
And what else is new!? I am terrible with the whole picture taking thing…I would snap a pic of the beer bread when I get home tonight, but I am pretty sure there is only a slice or two left! I promise to work on this in the future and all of my future posts will have pics!

Food Coma Heaven!

I am sure the last thing most people even want to think about right about now is food! Lucky for me, I don’t have that problem! Today is my first day attempting to return to somewhat normal eating habits…all the amazing leftovers make it way too difficult though! It’s hard to have one thing and not another, and by the end, my plate(s) seem as full as they did on Thanksgiving! Pizza, chinese and Dairy Queen have made appearances the last few days as well, in an effort to take a break from leftovers, but tonight will be a different story! I would like to share a few of our favorite family recipes and turkey leftover recipes with you guys so you don’t get bored eating all that turkey! The first recipe is courtesy of Josh’s family, the tried and true cheesy potatoes…amazing every time! This is no dish for the faint of heart and those ‘watching their weight’ that’s for sure, but it is definitely worth every calorie, trust me!

Cheesy Potatoes

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 (16-ounce) bags frozen diced potatoes or hash brown potatoes
  • 1 medium container sour cream
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 packages (or 1 large) cheddar cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar myself)!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat, add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, mix together potatoes, sour cream, cream of chicken, and half the cheese. Add in onion and butter mixture, spread into a 9X13 dish, top with remaining bag of cheese and bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is golden brown. Ah-mazing!

And now, here are a few of my favorite ways to use up some of that leftover turkey!

Turkey Enchiladas (also courtesy of the Hover clan)

  • 2 cans cream of chicken
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 package cheddar cheese
  • 1 package tortillas
  • cumin to taste
  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked or leftover turkey
  • black olives to top
Heat oven to 350. Combine cream of chicken, sour cream, half the cheese, cumin and chiles. Half the mixture. Add pieces of shredded chicken or turkey to one half. Roll in tortillas, put into baking pan. Put the other half of the mixture on top. Put rest of cheese and olives over and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.
Buffalo Turkey Mac & Cheese
  • 1 pound shells or elbow macaroni
  • 2-3 cups shredded leftover turkey
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 5 T butter
  • 2 T Flour
  • 2 t dry mustard powder
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 bags cheddar cheese, again, I prefer sharp!
Pre-heat oven to 350 and cook pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, melt 3 T butter in large skillet, sweat onion until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic then turkey and cook a few minutes more, then add in 1/2 cup of the hot sauce, simmer about 2 minutes. In another skillet, melt remaining butter, add in flour and mustard, cook for about 1 minute, then slowly, whisking constantly, add in the milk.  Stir until smooth and then add in remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce, cook about 2 minutes. Then whisk in the cheese and cook until melted and smooth. You can layer the three placing half the pasta in the bottom of a greased 9X13 pan or casserole dish, then the chicken mixture, then remaining pasta and pour the cheese sauce over top or just mix everything together and then spread it into the prepared pan. Either way, bake it about 30 minutes. You can add blue cheese and/or panko bread crumbs on top before baking  for a bit of a crunch and/or browning if you’d like!

And lastly, the most simple, yet delicious way to use up that leftover turkey is to make one fantastic sandwich! Having good bread is key here, as is having good, homemade stuffing (not that I’m bias at all, but my gram’s is the BEST)! Spread two slices of good, hearty bread with mayo, layer on stuffing and turkey, assemble sandwich and enjoy! It is as simple as that and is always great, every time!

And for the record, the pumpkin cheesecake recipe, courtesy of Paula Deen was delicious! Great texture, very creamy and not too rich at all. Her recipe can be found on Food Network or through google…I didn’t change a thing! The only thing I would recommend to do different would be to bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Place the springform pan in a larger dish and fill half way up with water and bake that way. This should prevent some of the cracking that happened to mine! I’ve got to say though, appearance didn’t matter much since it tasted so good! And any cracking was easily disguised with whipped cream anyways!

Pumpkin Bliss!

So to continue with the pumpkin fun, I went out on a limb and tried a new recipe combining two things I usually don’t like together: pumpkin and chocolate. I think the reasoning behind this is that I am not a big fan of cinnamon with chocolate…I like fudgy rich chocolate all on its own or pumpkin pie with all its cinnamon and nutmegy scrumptiousness! But I figured for the sake of the fall season, I’d give them a whirl! Not gonna lie, they’re not my favorite, but I figure I’ll share just in case some of you love the choco-pumpkin combo! You can start with any standard brownie recipe you have/love/typically use or even go with a boxed version to save some time and energy (don’t worry, no one will scoff at the idea)…and then just swirl or layer in the pumpkin cream cheese mixture. Here’s the recipe I used:

Brownies:

  • 5 oz chocolate (I prefer to use semisweet Ghiradelli)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • Dash of salt
Melt chocolate and butter together in saucepan over medium heat or in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove from heat once almost melted and stir until smooth, and stir in sugar. Add in eggs, vanilla and dash of salt. Fold in flour and pour into buttered pan (I like to use 9X9 because I love super thick, extra rich brownies, but this does increase cooking time and it is standard to use a 9X13 pan)!
Pumpkin Swirl:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 – 2 t pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg combo, whatever you prefer)
Beat softened cream cheese with pumpkin puree. Add in egg, sugar and spices. If you put the pumpkin cream cheese layer between half the brownie batter, you can either leave it as a separate layer in the middle of the brownies or  swirl in with top layer of brownie batter. Or just spread it atop the brownie batter and leave it as its own layer on the top…however you prefer, it will taste the same regardless and is more a matter of presentation! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes!
IMAG0158-1.jpg
Not the best pic but it’ll do!!
I would also like to share with you the easiest recipe in the world. Also one that is perfect for cold nights or when you are feeling under the weather! It is Josh’s family’s chicken noodle soup and it is hearty and delicious and most importantly incredibly easy!
3 chicken breasts
1 bag of shredded carrots or you can shred/dice your own (personal preference)
4 ribs celery, diced
14 cups chicken broth or stock
2 packages Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper to taste
I like to sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then grill it before adding it into the soup instead of letting it cook in the soup, I think it adds a bit more flavor! So while that’s grilling, heat up the chicken stock/broth/bouillon cubes and add the diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Once boiling, add in the noodles, cook for about 5 minutes then lower heat and let simmer about a half hour. With so few ingredients, the keys here are to use quality chicken broth or stock since it is a main flavor component, to let it simmer for a bit so the chicken flavor creeps into all of the veggies and chicken itself, and to use these particular noodles (they are pretty much the star in this soup, being so thick and gummy)! You can find the noodles in the freezer section of the grocery store, by frozen breads and pastas! Served with take-and-bake ciabatta bread rolls (our personal favorite), this is a great, easy, quick and filling dinner!
 Most of the broth has already been soaked up…easy fix, just add a cup or so more of broth when re-heating!

Spicy!

My husband and I are obsessed with this little place in Evanston, called Dixie’s Kitchen and Bait Shop that serves what I find to be the best jambalaya ever! (Sidenote: also a favorite little spot for the Obama’s when they are in town)! So we figured, why not try to make our own version! So we downloaded Emeril’s recipe from Foodnetwork.com and altered it slightly and made it into a crock pot recipe.

Monday night, Josh and I cut up some sausage and chicken and defrosted some shrimp in preparation for our very first attempt at making jambalaya. We added some diced green pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, and tomatoes along with chicken broth, Worcestershire, frank’s red hot, some olive oil,a few bay leaves and a whole lot of Cajun creole Seasoning and cayenne pepper. BAM!! We let that all marinade overnight in the refrigerator so the flavors could fully meld together.

Yesterday morning before heading out to work, we threw the mixture into the crock pot and set it on low, hoping we would have a delicious dinner waiting for us when we got home! We didn’t add the shrimp or rice into the crock pot since they would overcook so we grabbed white rice from a Chinese Restaurant down the street and pan-fried the shrimp in olive oil and Cajun creole seasoning when we got home! All in all, it turned out delicious! Luckily we both love spicy food because this was very hot! Maybe it was marinating everything together overnight or maybe it was the hot Italian sausage we used in place of Andouille, either way, a definite success in my book!

Here is the recipe we ended up coming up with:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, sliced
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 T Cajun Creole Seasoning
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 package frozen shrimp, defrosted
  • white rice

I’d love to hear your feedback if you decide to make your own Jambalaya, if you liked this recipe or how you altered it to make it your own!