Sunday, September 30, 2012

Angel Hair with Arugula and Toasted Panko

Pasta is usually my go-to ingredient when I want something quick and easy. This one caught my eye because I love arugula, and the chili-garlic oil mixed with some lemon juice sounded interesting. Toss in some toasted panko for texture and it's pretty much perfect.

Angel Hair with Arugula and Toasted Panko
Adapted from: Shutterbean


  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or more if you want more heat)
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1 bag of arugula
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

  • Directions
    • In a large saute pan, combine the panko with 2 tablespoons of the oil and toss to combine. Toast over medium heat, stirring, until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 5 minutes then transfer to a small bowl.
    • In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 4-5 minutes to infuse the olive oil. Right before you add the pasta (see next bullet), add the lemon juice and lower heat to the lowest setting.
    • In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and add to the pan with the oil.
    • Add the arugula and toss everything together.
    • Season with salt and pepper to taste; add the toasted panko and top with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Vegetable Lasagna

    It's Blogger's Choice time again! I love these swaps hosted by the blog Taste of Home Cooking. This time I was given the blog Life and Kitchen, and really enjoyed browsing through all of the recipes.

    Fifteen years ago I first started working after college... actually, it's 16 years ago now! Wow. Anyway, for lunch I'd often buy a frozen Stouffer's Vegetable Lasagna. Yea...I wasn't into cooking back then. I can't even count how many times I had that for lunch! But almost every day a group of us would get together in the lunchroom, eat lunch, chat, and laugh. I worked with such a great group of people at that company - I really do miss those times!

    Once I got into cooking I only made a vegetable lasagna once, and it was one with a red sauce. So this White Vegetable Lasagna recipe immediately caught my eye and took me back to those days sitting in the lunchroom.

    This was a pretty easy lasagna to put together, and I LOVE using the no-boil noodles - less mess and you don't have to deal with those fragile, hot, cooked noodles. For veggies I used frozen peas, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, chopped broccoli, red pepper, and green pepper. I didn't make any major changes to the recipe (very minor changes based on ingredients I had, noted in italics), but next time will use less butter to start the sauce as it was just a touch greasy. But overall, it was creamy, hearty, had great texture, and was simply delicious. And yes, MUCH better than a frozen lasagna! 

    The Sauce
    • 1 large onion, diced (I only had a 1/2 so I used onion and shallots)
    • 1 stick of butter
    • 1 tbsp chopped garlic (I used 3 larges cloves)
    • 2 cups heavy cream (I used light cream)
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    In a large skillet, cook the butter and onion (and shallot) for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft (I did this over medium heat). Add in the garlic, cream, milk, and cheese and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted and everything is combined, about 5 minutes.

    The Lasagna
    • 1 box of lasagna pasta (I use the no-boil kind, just make sure there is plenty of moisture covering them or else the noodles can end up dry)
    • 1 15-16 oz container of ricotta cheese
    • 1 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 egg
    • 4 cups mozzarella cheese
    • 1/2 Tbsp. dried Italian spices
    • 6 cups of chopped or thinly sliced vegetables, such as peppers, peas, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, etc.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, egg, 2 cups of mozzarella, and the spices.

    Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and put a ladle of cream sauce to lightly cover the bottom.

    Add a layer of pasta, then smear on a layer of the ricotta mixture as evenly as possible. Cover with vegetables, sprinkle with mozzarella, and then evenly ladle on another layer of cream sauce. Then repeat approximately 4 times until you have used all of the ingredients, making the last layer end with a topping of mozzarella.

    Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Tent the foil so that it isn’t touching the cheese. Then bake uncovered for another 10 minutes. Let rest at least 10-15 minutes before slicing!!

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    Beef and Broccoli - another version

    When I'm in need of a quick and easy dinner, I often turn to stir fry recipes - chicken, beef, tofu, or just veggies. I have made several versions of beef and broccoli in the past, using different ingredients for the sauce. Since I have been getting more into Asian cooking I have built up a nice pantry of ingredients to play and experiment with in my dishes.

    So when I made this one last week, I turned to two previous recipes - Mongolian Beef and Vegetable Lo Mein- for inspiration. I used the cooking method from the Mongolian Beef recipe, and the sauce recipe (with slight changes) from the Vegetable Lo Mein recipe.

    This turned out to be a lighter version (sauce consistency) of beef and broccoli. My past recipes, and the inspiration Mongolian Beef recipe, have a thicker and stickier sauce, if that makes sense (picture your takeout beef and broccoli). It still had great flavors though, and may be my go-to recipe from now on.

    • Olive oil (approximately 2 tbsp)
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
    • 1/3 c low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tsp mirin
    • Sriracha to taste
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 3/4 c beef broth
    • 1/4 c water
    • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • Thinly sliced sirloin (I used a .6 lb sirloin steak)
    • 2 tbsp cornstarch (approximately)'
    • Toss the beef with the cornstarch and a about 1 tbsp olive oil; set aside for 10 minutes max.
    • Heat some of the olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute being very careful not to let it burn.
    • Mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, sriracha, brown sugar, broth, and water. Add to the pan. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes then transfer to a bowl.
    • Add the broccoli and onions to the pan; stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Put a lid on the pan for 2 more minutes and let cook. Transfer to a bowl (uncovered).
    • Wipe your pan clean, then heat at least 1 tbsp olive oil in the pan. Add the beef and cook for 3-4 minutes. Return the sauce and veggies to the pan and let simmer for a few minutes. Serve over rice.

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Balsamic Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard

    Is anyone else as excited for fall as I am? It is my favorite time of the year - cooler temperatures, leaves changing, pumpkin festivals, fall food, Halloween, the MLB playoffs and World Series, and football!

    Jon goes out to watch his favorite team, the Buffalo Bills, at a local bar every Sunday. Before we had our daughter, I would spend all day Sunday in the kitchen prepping food for the week, making soup, and making a hearty Sunday dinner. It's a little harder to do that now, but I still love doing some good cooking on Sundays, and little by little am trying to get our little one more involved.

    Last Sunday I decided to try a crock-pot recipe since we had our neighborhood block party that afternoon. I starred this recipe for Balsamic Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard from Kelsey's blog several months ago and it sounded perfect for a Sunday dinner.

    I liked this dish. The sauce was tangy and the chicken took on so much flavor. I wasn't a fan of the Swiss chard, however (it was the first time I ever had it!) - it seemed to taste like beets and I was totally expecting a different flavor.

    The changes I made included seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper and searing them quickly before putting them into the crock-pot. I also only used 3 chicken breasts. Additionally, I used 1 tbsp of Worcestershire instead of the anchovy. The original recipe is below.

    • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 onion, minced
    • 5 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
    • 1 TBSP tomato paste
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and minced (I used 1 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste)
    • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
    • 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1/4 c. dry red wine
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 12 (6 oz.) bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed (I used 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
    • 6 oz. Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves sliced 1/2 in. thick
    • Heat oil in 12-in. skillet (or super sweet slow cooker!) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, thyme, tomato paste, garlic, anchovy, and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is softened and slightly brown, 8-10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute more.
    • Slowly whisk in vinegar, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps. Cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
    • Stir tomatoes, broth, wine, and bay leaves into slow cooker.
    • Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4-6 hours, on low.
    • Gently stir in chard, cover, and cook on high until tender, 20-30 minutes.
    • Transfer chicken to platter and tent loosely with foil. Let braising liquid settle 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sauce spooned over each chicken piece. Serves 6-8.  

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Dijon and Wine Braised Pork Chops with Vegetables

    It's only early September and already I am cooking like it is fall! The few rainy days we have had definitely helped get me in the mood for fall cooking. Last week I made this Italian Pot Roast, and last weekend I decided to braise pork chops instead of throwing them on the grill which is how we usually cook them.

    I took my inspiration from this recipe for Braised Pork Chops with Peppers and Onions. The recipe called for red wine and tomato paste for braising, and peppers and onions to be added. I decided to use white wine, broth, and Dijon mustard for braising, and peppers, shallots, and julienned zucchini and squash as the veggies. I also added thyme as I love thyme with Dijon mustard.

    Braising the chops kept them so tender and juicy - just perfect! I will definitely use this method again, and can't wait to play around with some other flavor combinations using this versatile recipe.

    My adaptation of the recipe is below.

    • 3-4 boneless pork chops (don't use the extra thin chops - they will cook too quickly)
    • Salt, pepper, and dried thyme
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 shallot, sliced
    • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
    • 1/2 each red and green pepper, sliced into 1.5 inch strips
    • 1/4 c dry white wine
    • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
    • Pinch or two of dried thyme (to taste)
    • 1/2 c chicken broth
    • 1/2 each small zucchini and squash, cut julienne style
    • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Season the chops with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add to pan, and sear 2-3 min per side. The chops will release from the pan easily when properly seared. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
    • Add remaining oil to the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; saute 1 minute. Add peppers, saute 2-3 minutes.
    • Add wine and stir, scraping up all the brown bits.
    • Add Dijon mustard, broth, and additional thyme to taste.
    • Return chops to the pan and let cook (flipping once), until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees (160 for well done). Remove chops from the pan and let rest.
    • Put the zucchini and squash into the pan and stir; let simmer 2 minutes.
    I served the chops over noodles and topped with the sauce and veggies. Next time I'd serve them with a starch that will add some texture. Because the chops were so tender, the noodles didn't really add much to the dish. Crispy roasted potatoes probably would have been perfect. Next time!

    Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    S'mores Rice Krispies Treats

    A few weeks ago we got a note in the mail that our neighborhood was going to hold a block party. Sounds like fun! I knew it wouldn't be anything like the block parties I used to organize for our block in Philly - if you are from Philly or have lived there you know what I mean! Every yard packed with friends and family all afternoon and night, grills smoking in every yard, games, prizes, decorations and Christmas lights, and dancing until midnight or later. But it would still be nice to get out and see our neighbors and maybe meet some new people, too.

    The note asked everyone to bring something for the food tables. What you brought depended on the first letter of your last name. A-M brings an appetizer, N-Z brings a dessert.

    Great, I fall into the dessert category!

    I never make dessert and I do not enjoy baking at all. I considered buying something, but then turned to the wonderful ladies on the cooking board I belong to for ideas. I knew I could count on them to give me ideas for something fabulous that wouldn't frustrate someone who hated all the precise measuring involved with baking.

    Elly suggested that I take a look at a recipe Courtney had posted on her blog, Cook Like a Champion, for S'mores Rice Krispies Treats. I didn't even have to look at the recipe to know that I wanted to make them. Who doesn't love Rice Krispies Treats? And add in some of the ingredients from s'mores - sounded great!

    Wow - these were so easy, so adorable, and were the perfect treat to bring to the party.

    I made one change to the recipe (original is posted below). I used the entire 8 oz of chocolate in the treats, and then topped the treats with mini milk chocolate chips.

    S'mores Rice Krispies Treats (As seen on Cook Like a Champion)

    • 8-9 whole graham crackers
    • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into squares, 1/2 cup chopped and reserved
    • 1 bag (10 ounces) miniature marshmallows, 1 cup reserved
    • 6 cups rice cereal
    • Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375ยบ. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking dish with foil, leaving an overhang on the long sides of the dish. Lightly mist the foil and sides of the dish with cooking spray. Line the bottom with graham crackers, cutting as necessary to cover the bottom of the dish. (my note - these don't have to be perfect, but make sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan. The sugar/butter mixture and chocolate will help hold them together)
    • Combine 6 tablespoons of butter and the sugar in a large saucepan set over medium heat. When the butter melts and begins to bubble, pour it over the graham crackers and spread evenly. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the sugar bubbles. Remove from oven and top with chocolate squares. Return to oven for 2 additional minutes to melt the chocolate. Remove from oven and spread chocolate evenly over graham crackers.
    • Return saucepan to burner and melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring frequently, until the marshmallows are completely melted. Add the cereal and stir until incorporated. Scape the cereal over the chocolate covered grahams. Lightly grease your hands with cooking spray, then press the cereal mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle remaining marshmallows and chocolate (or chocolate chips) over the top, gently pressing onto the warm cereal to adhere. Refrigerate to set.
    • When ready to serve, use the foil overhang to lift the bars from the dish. Cut with a greased knife. Serve, storing any leftovers in an airtight container.
    • I cut these treats into smaller squares since they would be served on a dessert buffet.

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Jalapeno Popper Bites

    I was just going through my post list and saw that I started this post, but never published it! These little appetizers were so good, I can't believe I forgot to share them with you! Well, now that it's football season again and the last time I made this recipe was on Superbowl Sunday, I guess the timing is perfect.

    I saw the original recipe for these Jalapeno Popper Bites on Pinterest, and it comes from the blog Hello Hue.

    These are so easy to make, are addictive, and will disappear in minutes!! I love real jalapeno popper bites, but these are a much easier way to get the same flavors in one bite without all of the work of cleaning out peppers for traditional poppers.

    Ingredients for 16 Poppers

    • 1 can of Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough
    • 2 fresh jalapenos, seeds removed, sliced
    • Approximately 2 tbsp cream cheese
    • 3-4 strips of cooked bacon, roughly chopped
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    • Roll out your dough - you'll see perforated triangles. Cut each triangle in half.
    • Layer each small triangle with a dollop of cream cheese, a piece or two of jalapeno, and a piece of bacon. Bring the corners up, twist, and press any open seams together. Or really, just roll/close them up any way you want!
    • Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

    Friday, September 7, 2012

    Chicken and Veggie Tortilla Casserole

    When I told Jon I was making a casserole for dinner last night his response was "A casserole, really? But that's fall or winter food." He had a point as most casseroles I make are on the heartier side and can be considered comfort food. But the casserole I made last night was light, packed with veggies, and had the bright flavors of cilantro and lime which made it taste like summer.

    I saw the original recipe for a Chicken Tortilla Casserole on Josie's blog, Pink Parsley. I liked the idea of chicken and chips in a casserole, and the fact that it was so simple meant I could add a lot of veggies and make it my own. I changed a few things including the cooking method  - I poached the chicken instead of pan frying it. I prefer poaching chicken when I am going to shred it because the poaching liquid can be flavored with any herbs or spices you'd like, therefore infusing the chicken with flavors as it cooks. I also think that poached chicken is much more tender and easier to shred.

    This was a really simple dish to pull together. And if you have leftover shredded chicken, even better! You could throw in whatever veggies you have lying around and have it together in less than 15 minutes.

    Like many stews, casseroles, and one pot dishes, this one got better with time. I just had it for lunch and think it was even better than it was for dinner last night.

    My version of the recipe is below. I didn't measure as I created this dish, so amounts are approximate. It also looks like a long list of ingredients, but you don't have to use all of the veggies I listed. I did love it with all of the veggies though, and it was so colorful!  

    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • Enough water and/or broth to cover the chicken in a pot
    • Spices - I used a few pinches of chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic, and pepper
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 sm red onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
    • 1 jalapeno (or less, depending on how hot it is), chopped
    • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
    • 1/2 of a 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
    • Approximately 1/2 c frozen corn, thawed
    • 1 tomato, chopped
    • Large handful baby spinach, chopped
    • 2 c chicken broth
    • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
    • Pinch of cumin and chili powder
    • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
    • 4 handfuls of tortilla chips, crushed
    • Approximately 1.5 cups shredded cheese; I used a Mexican blend
    • Place chicken in a pot and cover with water and/or broth. Add spices and cook on medium high (steady simmer) until internal temperature reaches 170, approximately 12 minutes. Remove to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes. Shred with 2 forks. You can do this step in advance, even the day before, and store covered in the fridge.
    • Preheat broiler on high
    • Heat olive oil in an oven-safe saute pan over medium-high heat
    • Add onion and garlic; saute 2 minutes.
    • Add red pepper, jalapeno pepper, and the chopped chipotle pepper; saute 2 minutes.
    • Add the corn, black beans, and tomatoes; saute 1 minute.
    • Add spinach and mix
    • Add the broth, lime juice, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a simmer.
    • Add about 2/3 of the chips and mix into the veggies. Let simmer 1 minute to soften the chips.
    • Add the shredded chicken, most of the cheese, and cilantro; mix to combine everything.
    • Top with the remaining chips and cheese. Put under the broiler until the cheese melts and the chips brown lightly.

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012

    Grilled Chicken over Southwestern Romaine Salad

    Grilled chicken over a veggie packed salad is the perfect warm weather dinner for us. 

    This Southwestern inspired meal starts with a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes, corn, onions, black beans and cheese. Homemade fried tortilla strips give it a nice crunch while the chipotle dressing adds a creamy, tangy and smoky flavor. Finally, the marinated and grilled chicken served warm over the cold salad is just perfect. This simple dinner will definitely fill you up! 

    Grilled Chicken over Southwestern Romaine Salad
    Loosely adapted from Cara's Creature Comforts

    The Salad Dressing
    • Handful of chopped cilantro
    • 6 oz sour cream
    • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo along with about a teaspoon of the adobo sauce
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    Combine these ingredients until blended. I used my handheld immersion blender, but a food processor or blender would also work. Note - this makes enough for 4 or more salads.

    The Chicken 

    • 2 chicken breasts
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • Zest of 1/2 of a lime
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1/4 tsp each chili powder and cumin
    Mix the olive oil, lime juice, zest, garlic, chili powder and cumin. Pour over the chicken and marinate for 4 hours. Grill until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve over the salad. 

    The Tortilla Strips
    Cut 5 corn tortillas into strips. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a deep pan over high heat. Add the tortilla strips and cook until lightly browned. Remove and place on paper towels and quickly season with salt. Serve over the salad.

    The Salad (for 2)
    • 2 heads of Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
    • 1/4 red onion, chopped
    • 1 c frozen corn, thawed
    • 1 large tomato, chopped
    • 1/2 of a 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed
    • Handful of crumbled fresh cheese (queso fresco or ricotta salata)
    Toss all ingredients except cheese with the salad dressing and top with the sliced chicken, tortilla strips, and fresh cheese.