Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken with Melted Tomatoes



I'm trying to start this post but I keep getting distracted looking at the picture. I'm so hungry right now (probably not a good idea to write about food when I'm hungry) and this dinner was so good that my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I picked up some bone-in split chicken breasts for roasting, but not yet sure what other ingredients I would use or how I would season them. When I pulled them out to make dinner, I remembered that I had half of a container of assorted tomatoes left over from the previous night's dinner of grilled pork tenderloin with chimichurri and a side of oven roasted tomatoes. I loved the way these tomatoes melted in the oven so I wanted to use them again in this chicken dish.



I also ended up using a flavor combination I have been using often recently - lemon and garlic, with the addition of some thyme and balsamic vinegar.



All of these flavors combined so perfectly that I wouldn't change a thing about this recipe. The chicken was juicy and really took on the lemon garlic flavors. The tomatoes melted and formed a nice sauce around the chicken, and the balsamic gave the whole dish rich and deep flavor with some sweet notes. I served the chicken with quinoa and steamed green beans.



Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken with Tomatoes
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients

  • 2 bone-in split chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, cut in half (3 for the chicken, 3 for the pan)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar plus more (approx 2 Tbsp) for cooking
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 c mixed tomatoes, halved (larger tomatoes quartered)
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 4 thick slices of lemon
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • In a food processor, blend the olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and thyme. Gently lift the skin from the chicken and spread the oil/lemon mixture all over the chicken under and on top of the skin. Place in an oven-safe baking dish. 
  • Surround the chicken with the tomatoes, onions and garlic
  • Sprinkle everything with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar; top each chicken breast with 2 slices of lemon
  • Roast the chicken for 1 hr - 1hr 20 minutes, basting occasionally with the cooking juices, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.  



 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Monday, March 28, 2016

Best of Bucks!


For the second year in a row, Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations is a finalist in the Bucks Happening List



The Bucks Happening List is a people's choice contest for all sorts of categories of businesses in Bucks County. This blog was a finalist in the People category. Out of 25+ people and blogs, Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations ended up in the top 5. 

Thank you to all of my readers for voting!! 


 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake

Confession - before last week, I had never tried Nutella.

I had always heard people raving about it, but for some reason just never had the chance to try it. Maybe I should have kept it that way because, um, wow. Even my husband who didn't get the Nutella hype was all over it.

I bought my first jar (actually, Costco sized tub) of Nutella last week in preparation for hosting Bunco/Girls' Night. Once a month a great group of women in my neighborhood get together to play Bunco, a game that doesn't require any skill or much concentration, so it's perfect for a night of talking and catching up with each other. And of course there is always yummy food and wine.

When I started to plan my menu the food came easy, but dessert always stumps me since I'm not much of a baker and don't really eat sweets. I turned to some food blogging friends for ideas and was given one for a creamy Nutella dip with pound cake and fruit. I loved the idea - it would be simple - but then I saw this recipe for a No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake and I knew it would be perfect (and still simple!).

This cake has so many textures and flavors - a crunchy Oreo bottom, a creamy and silky Nutella center, a rich ganache topping and finally some crumbled hazlenut Ferrero Rocher candies. To say this dessert was a hit would be an understatement. ... it was such a hit that a few girls even wrapped some up take home to their husbands.

I wish I had a picture of the cake once sliced, but it went so fast, and then I may have dropped my remaining slice upside down (don't worry - it was covered with plastic wrap and only dropped on my counter so while smushed, it was still delicious). That just means I need to make it again just so I can photograph it. Actually, I will be making this one many times over, maybe as soon as Easter weekend and then for every gathering and holiday after that. Put this one on your must-make list and then make it soon!



No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake
Source: Life, Love and Sugar

Ingredients

Crust
  • 2 cups Oreo crumbs (grind in a food processor) leaving the filling in the Oreos
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
Filling
  • 24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups Nutella
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 8 oz Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream)
Nutella Ganache
  • 1/2 c Nutella
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 6 Ferrero Rocher candies, chopped
Directions
  • Combine Oreo crumbs with melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, being sure to come halfway up the sides of the pan. Set in the fridge to set (at least one hour).
  • Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, Nutella and cocoa powder together in a large bowl until smooth and well combined. 
  • Gently stir in the Cool Whip. 
  • Pour filling over the Oreo crust and smooth the top. 
  • Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours or until set (I let it set overnight).
  • Remove cake from the springform pan and transfer to a cake plate (leave the bottom of the springform pan under the cake). 
  • Make the ganache: Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave. Pour over the Nutella in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined and silky. 
  • Let the ganache cool and thicken slightly before pouring it over the cheesecake. I used a thin baking spatula to help me evenly spread the ganache over the top of the cake. 
  • Sprinkle the Ferrero Rocher candies over the top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 


 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Friday, March 18, 2016

Three Garlic Risotto




Garlic can have so many different flavors that can be achieved in the way you use it in a dish. When raw it is very aromatic yet spicy and sharp, while roasted garlic is sweet. Sauteed garlic mellows out quite a bit, but still adds great flavor to dishes. Finally, toasted garlic (not burnt!) takes on a caramelized flavor, but different from the slow roasted sweetness you get in roasted garlic.  


Many years ago I first made this risotto, and over the years have tweaked it, so I am sharing this updated version with you.

I know, one-and-a-half cloves of garlic seems like a LOT for one dish that serves 4 people. But believe me, by cooking the garlic three different ways - roasted, sauteed, and toasted - you will get many layers of garlic flavor that all add something to the dish.



Three Garlic Risotto
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients
  • One bulb of garlic kept whole for roasting
  • Half bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4-5 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed in a pot
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley (dried parsley works just fine in a pinch and I often use it)
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Chop the top (the non-stem side) of the full bulb of garlic off to just slightly expose the garlic. Place the full bulb of garlic cut side up in a ramekin lined with foil. Pour 1 tsp olive oil over it and gently close up the foil. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes; the garlic cloves should be soft and golden brown (see second picture above). Remove from the oven, let cool,and squeeze garlic cloves out of the paper skin. This step can be done ahead of time - if you roast it early in the day, you can keep it covered on your counter. If you roast it a day or two ahead of time, place it in a covered container in the fridge. Chop roughly before using.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add half of the chopped raw garlic and cook in the oil, stirring almost constantly, until the garlic turns crispy and gets a nice, golden brown color. You want to be very careful during this step to toast, not burn, the garlic. Remove it to a paper towel as soon as it reaches the color you want - even a few seconds too long could ruin the garlic.
  • Melt butter in the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Add the shallots and the rest of the chopped raw garlic; saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the arborio rice and stir until everything is coated; the rice will start to turn slightly translucent 
  • Add the wine and stir until it has all absorbed.
  • Add 1 large ladle of the broth as well as the chopped, roasted garlic. Stir, mashing up the roasted garlic, until all of the broth has absorbed Continue adding broth, 1-2 ladles at a time, stirring constantly. Do not add more broth until the previous broth has completely absorbed. This process will take about 18 minutes. Starting at about 15 minutes, start tasking your rice - you want it cooked to al dente - soft with just a touch of resistance when you take a bite. 
  • Stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. 

 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Monday, March 14, 2016

Skillet Beef Stroganoff



Years and years ago, when Jon and I first got married, I wasn't much of a cook. On top of that, I was a vegetarian and he was a carnivore, so every meal included two versions of the dish.

I used a lot of tofu and fake meats, like recipe crumbles. I still love tofu but now that I eat meat again, I have no use for the fake meats. However, back then they came in really handy, especially when making dishes that called for ground meat. We were both able to sit and enjoy things like tacos, stuffed peppers, and meat sauce and spaghetti together, even if it did mean extra pots to wash.

One dish I started making was a stroganoff casserole. Over the years it has changed and evolved, so I thought it was time to post what the recipe has become, this Skillet Beef Stroganoff. Now I make it with real ground beef and we all eat it that way, but this dish could easily be made using recipe crumbles and a vegetarian broth.

Besides cooking the noodles (which you could easily do ahead of time), this is a one pan dish. Everything is prepared and baked in the skillet, and the result is a beefy, hearty, creamy and cheesy comforting dinner.




Skillet Beef Stroganoff
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 sm onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 white or crimini mushrooms, rubbed clean and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 c beef stock (you may not need this much or you may need more so have it on hand).
  • 3 Tbsp sour cream 
  • 1/2 c cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz cooked egg noodles (I love using the yolk free noodles)
Directions
  • Heat your oven to 375 degrees
  • Heat a large, oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, chopping into smaller pieces, until almost cooked through.
  • Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Cook 4-5 minutes until everything has softened.
  • Add salt, pepper, and thyme; stir. 
  • Slowly add the beef stock - you may not need all of it, you just want it to be a nice gravy under the beef. You can always add more as you begin to mix anything, but you can't take it out if you add too much!
  • Mix in the sour cream, half of the cheese, and the noodles. If you can't see any of the stock, add a bit more and stir. 
  • Top with the rest of the cheese and transfer to the oven; bake 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 
 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Beef Stew Meatballs

Beef stew is the ultimate one-pot comfort food meal. There is so much to love about it - how it smells as it cooks all afternoon, how it sounds as it simmers all day, how warm it makes the kitchen feel, and of course I also love eating it and having leftovers that are even better the next day. 




I was really craving beef stew last week but it was a weeknight and I just did not have the time for it. I thought about making it at night to have the next day but that wasn't satisfying me - I needed it now. 




I started to think about how I could make a quick beef stew. Something where the meat wouldn't need to cook for a few hours to get tender. That's when I thought of making it with meatballs. I love baking meatballs - they only take 20 minutes to cook. In that time I could start the stew, and then throw it all together and let it simmer while we were taking care of after school things and homework.




Instead of making our traditional meatball recipe (beef, meatloaf mix, seasoning, onions, breadcrumbs, egg), I decided to put some of the elements of the beef stew into the meatballs. So into these balls went some grated carrot, onion, garlic, tomato paste, thyme.



As soon as the meatballs were done I had to taste one (as I always do). They were herby and tender with a small bit of sweetness from the carrot. Nailed it.

While I will still make my favorite Guinness Beef Stew as often as I can, I'm so happy to have this recipe to turn to when I need something quick and easy.


Beef Stew Meatballs
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Serves 5-6

Meatball Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef (I use 93%)
  • 1/2 lb meatloaf mix
  • 1/2 sm onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of an egg (I whisked it and then used half)
  • 1/3 c bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp grated carrot
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

Stew Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped into large chunks
  • 4 mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into large chunks
  • 2 baking potatoes, chopped into large chunks
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Bay leaf
Directions
  • Start the stew: In a large pot or Dutch Oven, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic; saute 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add the flour and stir to coat, and then add the tomato paste. Stir. 
  • Add all of the veggies followed by the broth, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a low simmer, and let simmer, partly covered. 
  • Heat the oven to 375; line a cookie sheet with tin foil. 
  • Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix all of the meatball ingredients until combined. Spoon into medium balls (you should be able to make 20), and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked, add them to the stew and stir to combine. Taste and adjust any seasoning. Let simmer at least 20 minutes and up to an hour, or until ready to eat. 

 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lemon Butter Chicken



A few weeks ago my friend Sarah from Taste of Home Cooking posted a recipe and glowing review for Lemon Butter Chicken. Before even reading the recipe - solely based on her review - I saved it and knew I'd have to make it. That's how much she raved about it!



Picture the flavor of chicken picatta - that lemony sauce - but made even better by turning it into a creamy, slightly cheesy dish with wilted spinach. That is exactly what I thought of when I took my first few bites.


I was nervous at first about mixing lemon and cream, but it works. It totally works. And this was easy, too. You sear your chicken, mix your sauce, and then return everything to the pan to bake for 20 minutes. You'll want to make sure you serve it with some noodles, pasta, mashed potatoes, or even some crusty bread for sopping up all that sauce. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this recipe! 

Lemon Butter Chicken

Slightly Adapted From: Taste of Home Cooking
The original recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I changed that to boneless chicken breasts just based on our preferences. That also cut 10 minutes off the total cooking time. I also used regular paprika instead of smoked (again, personal preference) and added some sliced onions. Next time I'll make one other change - I won't add the spinach until 3 minutes until the dish is done cooking. While the spinach did have a creamed spinach feel, I did not care for the consistency after it cooked for so long. I think I'd also play around with using some fresh lemon zest at the end. 

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts
  • Paprika, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 c light cream
  • 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 sm onion, sliced
  • 1 6 oz bag baby spinach
Directions
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
  • Season the chicken with paprika, salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Combine the chicken broth, light cream, Parmesan, lemon juice, and thyme in a measuring cup or bowl.
  • Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high head. Add the chicken; sear both sides until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
  • Melt the remaining Tbsp of butter in the skillet. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the sauce ingredients (chicken broth, etc.) you combined earlier. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and stir in the spinach (see my note about waiting until the dish is almost done before adding the skillet). Place the chicken back in the skillet. 
  • Put the skillet in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees (F). Remove from the oven, remembering to place a pot holder on the handles so you don't burn yourself. Serve immediately. 

 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Creamy Roasted Poblano Soup



My favorite way to use poblano peppers is to roast them first before using them in any dish. Roasting gives them a great smoky flavor without amping up the heat. And while I prefer to do my roasting on a grill outside, I also have no problem throwing them on the grate of my gas stove...as long as I keep a constant eye on them as some sparks can fly!

This soup was the product of having leftover poblano and jalapeno peppers as well as some cilantro from when I made this Creamy Chicken Chili. So since I needed a soup to have for lunch for the week so I threw my peppers on the open flame and came up with this creamy, smoky soup that I brightened up with some cilantro and fresh lime juice. And to make it a little heartier so it would hold me over all afternoon, I added some cooked quinoa to my bowl.

The flavors were exactly what I imagined, and the texture was so smooth and velvety. It was easy to make, too, the longest step being waiting for the peppers' skins to be ready peel and removing the stems and seeds.

If you like heat, you could definitely saute some raw jalapenos (or even spicier peppers, like serranos or habaneros) before adding the roasted peppers. But since my 40 year old self can't take heat the way it used to, I stuck to just roasted peppers this time.



Creamy Roasted Poblano Soup
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen Smith of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Ingredients
  • 1 large Poblano pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 28 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 8 oz light cream
  • Juice of a 1/4 of a lime
  • More cilantro for serving
  • Optional: Quinoa for serving
Directions
  • Roast your peppers: Place your poblano and jalapeno over an open flame (I use my gas stove but would use my outdoor grill when we aren't snow covered). Keep the peppers on the flame, turning every 1-2 minutes, until the skin is completely charred. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic. Let sit 10 min. Remove from the bowl and peel the skin. Chop the peppers (keeping or discarding the seeds depending on how much heat you want), reserving a few slices for garnish. 
  • Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat
  • Add the onions and garlic; saute 2 minutes
  • Add the flour and stir, creating a roux. 
  • Add the chopped peppers, broth, cilantro, salt, pepper, and cumin. Let simmer 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and puree the soup in a blender or with a handheld immersion blender.
  • Return to low heat and slowly add the cream, stirring as you add it. 
  • Stir in juice of 1/2 of a lime.
  • Adjust salt if needed. 
  • Serve topped with more cilantro, if desired. I served mine with a spoonful of cooked quinoa making it a full meal that held me over all afternoon. 
 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Slow Cooker Chinese BBQ Pulled Pork (Char Siu)



Over the past few months, when I have been stuck for an idea for dinner and need something easy and mostly hands-off, I have been turning to pulled pork. I have a few recipes I like to use, including Guinness Pulled PorkAsian Pulled Pork and Pork Carnitas. A big plus is that these recipes make enough that you'll have leftovers for the next day.

Last week I was browsing through recipes online and came across one for a Chinese BBQ Pulled Pork, or Char Siu.



After reading through the recipe I knew what changes I would make based on our preferences, and had an idea as to how it would taste. I also knew I would serve it with noodles and sauteed bok choy for a really simple weeknight meal that would definitely give us leftovers.


This smelled so good while cooking - I could not wait to eat. The pork was so tender and juicy, sweet, salty and spicy - a perfect combination.


The only problem with making this recipe is I now have another pulled pork recipe to turn to, and when I love them all as much as I do, deciding which one to make is hard! I guess that's a good problem to have.


Slow Cooker Chinese BBQ Pulled Pork
Loosely Adapted from: Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 2 lb pork loin
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 c reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Vietnamese chili garlic sauce or Sambal Oelek
  • 1/2 c beer (I used Sapporo) 
Directions
  • Season the pork generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder
  • Mix together the soy sauce through the end of the ingredient list
  • Turn the slow cooker on high and layer the onions and garlic in the bottom of the pot
  • Place the pork loin on top of the onions and pout the sauce mixture over the pork. 
  • Cover and cook until it falls apart with 2 forks, approximately 5 hours on high or 8 on low. Shred with 2 forks and keep on low for another 30 minutes, max, or warm until ready to serve. 




 photo marysig_zps976fc4b2.png