Friday, April 26, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Pasta

It's time for another Blogger's Choice Recipe Swap hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking. I was given the blog Carrie's Sweet Life. Now, I've "known" Carrie for several years through a cooking board we both participate in, and I'm familiar with her blog, so I immediately went to her pasta recipes to choose one for this swap.

I chose this Buffalo Chicken Pasta, cheesy, gooey pasta and chicken with the flavor of buffalo sauce and blue cheese. And since the temperatures have been more like winter than spring, I thought this would be the perfect comfort food dinner.

Carrie omitted a few things from the recipe, so I went back to the source, which happened to be our host for this swap, to see what changes were made. The original recipe called for green onions and cilantro to top the baked pasta, so I decided to add these things back in to the recipe.

As a lot of my meals have been lately, this is another one that falls into the category of can-be-prepped-ahead or can-be-repurposed. A few ideas to save time - poach and shred your chicken the day before you are planning to put this dish together. Make extra chicken so you can use it for something else later in the week. Make extra pasta so you can use it for something else later in the week. Make extra cheese sauce to toss with the chicken, and use this filling for enchiladas or quesadillas.

For some reason our daughter was really excited for dinner when I made this. She saw me draining the pasta and starting yelling "yay, pasta!" and was asking me every 2 minutes if it was ready. As soon as I said it was she ran to her chair and sat waiting for her plate. But then she looked at it - an orange sauce with green things on top and everything mixed together - and her face fell. She likes flavor (sriracha is her favorite condiment!), but she also likes everything on her plate to be separate, so pasta mixed with chicken was going to be a tough one. Then she surprised me...she took a bite, chewed it, and then looked at both of us and said "mmmmmm!" Success!

I liked this as well, and am looking forward to the leftovers. Jon was on the fence, although he's not the biggest fan of warm blue cheese, so I can understand that.

Below is the recipe with a few very minor changes - I poached and shredded the chicken instead of cutting it into cubes. I added a bit of blue cheese into the cheese sauce; the original recipe only called for topping the finished dish with blue cheese. Finally, I made my sauce in an oven-proof saute pan, so once it was done I tossed the pasta and chicken into the pan instead of transferring everything into a baking dish. I used 3 pots and 2 cutting boards to make this dinner - I didn't need another baking dish to wash!

Thanks for sharing this, Carrie, and I'm glad you have decided to join us in these swaps again!

Buffalo Chicken Pasta

  • 1 pound short-cut pasta
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I poached the chicken in water, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder; once cooked, I shredded the chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I needed a touch more - just under 2 c)
  • 4 ounces grated Monterrey jack cheese + more for topping
  • 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese + more for topping
  • 2 tbsp blue cheese + more for topping after cooking
  • 1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped green onions and cilantro for garnish
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare water for pasta and cook according to directions.
  • While pasta is cooking, heat a large, oven-proof saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter, and once it’s melted and bubbly add the flour. Whisk together to create a roux and cook for 1-2 minutes until mixture gets a bit golden in color.
  • Add milk, stir and turn down heat to low. Continue stirring until milk thickens.
  • Remove from the heat (so mixture doesn't get chalky) and add in grated cheeses, blue cheese, and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in buffalo wing sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Add pasta and chicken to the pan (add it slowly - I ended up using about 3/4 of the pasta I cooked). Sprinkle with the rest of the shredded cheeses (not the blue) and the bread crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown, hot, and bubbly.
  • Remove from oven and immediately top with the remaining blue cheese; garnish with the green onions and cilantro

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spinach Pie - Let's Do Brunch!

Over Easter weekend, my parents cooked a fabulous Polish feast. We had everything from potato pancakes and galumpki to kielbasa and sauerkraut. We all ate way too much, but it was SO worth it! I'll be posting a recap soon.

Because we had our big dinner on Saturday, I decided to host brunch on Sunday morning. One of my main dishes was this incredible Spinach Pie. The author of the blog Dainty Chef suggested I include it on my menu, and I'm glad she did.

When planning my menu I wanted things that would be easy to prepare since we'd be spending most of our morning with our daughter hunting for eggs and checking out what the Easter Bunny put in her basket. This pie was super easy to prepare, especially because it I used a frozen pie crust.

I followed the recipe exactly, and actually had more filling for the pie than I needed, so I think the ingredients could be cut down, or you could make one regular sized pie and maybe one single-serving pie or crustless pie in a ramekin. One note - it's really important to let your spinach thaw and then to press out all of the water. Don't try to rush or skip this step!

Everyone loved this pie, and it was awesome to have some leftovers for lunch the next day.

Spinach Pie
Source: Dainty Chef (my changes in italics)

  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 packages (boxes) frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 pie crust (packaged or make your own; I used a frozen pie crust; let it sit on your counter for 15 minutes before adding the filling)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan; Saute onions in pan until tender.
  • Thaw spinach, make sure to squeeze out excess water.
  • In a large bowl, combine spinach, onions, cheeses, eggs, and seasonings. Mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust and bake for 40 minutes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chicken Stir-Fry Lettuce Wraps

Chicken was the theme for this Taste of Home Cooking Recipe Swap. I make chicken at least once a week, and am always looking for and trying new ways to prepare it. I currently have over 100 chicken recipes in my blog and love that I'm nowhere near close to running out of new recipes to try. Chicken is so versatile and works with almost every ingredient, flavor, and cuisine imaginable.

I submitted my Lemon Romano Chicken and was given a recipe for Chicken Stir Fry Lettuce Wraps from the blog Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks.

I have made chicken lettuce wraps before using a copy-cat P.F. Changs recipe that called for ground chicken. This recipe, however, used strips of chicken breasts, giving it more of a fajita feel. Actually, I think this recipe would work well seasoned with Mexican flavors too - some chilis, lime, and cilantro!

This was a really easy recipe, making it perfect for a weeknight. The sauce was very simple, but flavorful. The original recipe called for jasmine rice but I used plain white rice since that's what I had on hand. I planned on making just one other change - I cut up some green onions to put on top of the wrap, but when it came time to eat we both forgot about them!

Since I'm always looking for ways to make weeknights easier, re-purpose leftovers, and cut down on prep time, I thought about how that could be done with this recipe (unfortunately, or fortunately, we liked it so much that we didn't have any leftovers!). Anyway, you could make this dish using leftover chicken, and just make the sauce when you are ready to eat. Alternatively, make extra of everything, and fry your rice the next day giving you a new dish using your leftovers. Or just make extra chicken and toss it with some romaine, crunchy noodles, matchstick carrots, green onions, and this sesame dressing for a great lunch.

Thanks for sharing this recipe, Heather Lynne!

Chicken Stir-Fry Lettuce Wraps
Source: Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into short, thin strips
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (I used some freshly minced ginger root)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce (I used a bit more so we'd have more sauce)
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha (we like spicy - I definitely used more than this)
  • 1 c Jasmine rice, cooked (or white rice)
  • 8 Romaine hearts
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper
  • Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
  • Wipe out the pan and add the remaining olive oil.
  • Add the peppers and onion; saute for 3 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes; saute 1 minute.
  • Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and Sriracha; cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the pan. Toss to coat. Let simmer 2 minutes to warm up the chicken.
  • To serve, put some rice in the center of a Romaine heart. Add some chicken, veggies, and sauce.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Creamy Dill Pork Chops

A few sprigs of leftover dill inspired this pork chop recipe. This was a weeknight meal, so I wanted something quick and somewhat easy. I created this using a combination of this recipe for Creamy Dill Chicken and this recipe for Pork Chops in a Dijon Chive Sauce.
I did all of the prep work and then Jon told me to hang out with our daughter and he cooked. I was creating this recipe in my mind as he went, so I was calling out instructions to him. He's a really good cook though, so I didn't have to give much guidance beyond my vision and the general order of things.
He cooked these thin pork chops perfectly - they were juicy and full of flavor. The sauce was seasoned perfectly, and was awesome over the rice (I thought I had a package of egg noodles but I didn't, but the rice was a great second choice). Our daughter who has been Miss Picky recently even ate some of it.
  • 3 thin boneless pork chops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c of dry white wine
  • 1/2 low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 sprig of fresh dill, minced
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat
  • Season the chops with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Cook on one side until they release from the pan (about 4 minutes or so). Flip and cook until they release from the pan again, then transfer to a covered dish (approx 8 minutes total).
  • Add shallots and garlic to the pan; saute 1 minute
  • Add white wine and simmer 1-2 minutes
  • Add broth, bring to a simmer
  • Whisk in the sour cream; once combined, add the dill.
  • Return chops to the pan, now over low heat, and let simmer 1 minute.
  • Serve over rice or egg noodles.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bacon and Blue Cheesed Stuffed Chicken

My new favorite toppings on a burger are blue cheese and bacon, two ingredients that I love together. Whether on a burger, in a dip, dressing a salad, or combined with caramelized onions and baked on this appetizer tart, I can't get enough of bacon and blue cheese.

Cold blue cheese is good, but hot and bubbly blue cheese has such an amazing, rich, and strong flavor. I love it, and that love was my inspiration for this chicken dish, something I created as I cooked. It turned out exactly as I wanted, I only wish there was some way to get more stuffing in the chicken!

Bacon and Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken
Original Creation
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 tbsp blue cheese
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Panko bread crumbs for the stuffing; approximately 3/4 c for the breading
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; spray a glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Prepare chicken breasts by slitting a pocket in the side, being careful not to cut all the way through. Season lightly with salt and pepper
  • Prepare the stuffing: mix the cooked and crumbled bacon, blue cheese, cream cheese, milk, garlic, and 2 tbsp breadcrumbs.
  • Gently spoon the mixture into each chicken breast. Pinch pocket closed, or reinforce with a toothpick, if desired.
  • Set out breading ingredients in three separate bowls - flour, then the beaten egg, then the Panko breadcrumbs.
  • Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip in egg. Dip in breadcrumbs to coat. Place in the baking dish.
  • Bake for approximately 18 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, turning on the broiler for the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Potato, Green Cabbage, and Leek Soup with Lemon Crème Fraîche

As the weather has remained cold here in the Northeast through March, I have continued to make a big pot of soup every Sunday. I have a few soups that are pretty regular in my rotation, but every other week I usually make something new.

I was scrolling through soup recipes on Epicurious one day when I came across one for Potato, Green Cabbage, and Leek Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche. I have to be honest with you - I only clicked on the link not because it sounded good, but because it sounded interesting. It was one of those recipes that I read, and still really had no idea what it would taste like. Those of you who love to read recipes - you know what I mean, right? Usually you can read a recipe and between the list of ingredients and cooking instructions you have a good idea of the general flavors and textures. Well, with this one I really had no idea other than getting some brightness in there with the lemon crème fraîche.

I followed the recipe exactly, and while cooking I kept tasting it and started to get really excited for the finished product. As soon as it was done I made a bowl to take a picture, and ended up eating the whole thing. I wasn't even hungry - it was between lunch and dinner time - but it was just THAT good. It was velvety and smooth, tasted mostly like a potato soup with a touch of earthiness, and then had the bright zing of lemon once the crème fraîche mixed in.

I'm so happy I tried this one!

Potato, Green Cabbage, and Leek Soup with Lemon Crème Fraîche
Source: Epicurious

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups diced green cabbage (1/2-inch dice; from about 1/2 medium head)
  • 3 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only; 3 to 4 large)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 2 x 2-inch piece Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
  • 1 Turkish bay leaf
  • 6 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (for garnish)
  • Whisk crème fraîche, lemon juice, and lemon peel in small bowl to blend. Cover and chill. Can be made 4 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add cabbage; sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sauté until cabbage is almost tender but not brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer 1 cup cabbage to small bowl and reserve for garnish (I completely forgot to do this, but really didn't miss it - I liked how the soup was velvety smooth).
  • Add 1 tablespoon butter to pot with cabbage; add leeks and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until leeks soften slightly, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in potatoes, Parmesan rind, if desired, and bay leaf. Add 6 cups broth; bring to boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until all vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Discard Parmesan rind, if using, and bay leaf. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth (I used a handheld immersion blender). Return puree to pot.
  • Simmer until heated through, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup to desired consistency (I did not need to add any additional broth). Season with salt and pepper.
  • Ladle soup into bowls. Top each serving with some of reserved sautéed cabbage. Drizzle crème fraîche mixture over soup; sprinkle with chives and serve.

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