Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cooking for the Big Game

Do you watch the Super Bowl at home, out, or at a house party?

We usually watch at home, but have also gone to house parties over the years. And while I like football (something about the sounds of football that I really love!), I don't really have a team of my own and I'm not all concerned with who wins. For me it's more about the commercials, half-time, and of course, the food.

Fun appetizers are a must for game watching. Couldn't you just make a meal out of appetizers? I totally could and always go overboard when making apps - there's no such thing as too much in my opinion.

Here are some of my favorite apps to make for friends and family - I hope you find some to add to your game day grub! For the complete list of my apps, check out the Appetizer page of my Recipe Index.


This Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Gruyere Dip is one you will want to sit in front of and not move. It has been a big hit every time I have made it.

If you have two minutes you can make this Loaded Baked Potato Dip.

Jalapeno Popper Dip.  Need I say more?

And for something a little fancier, try this Creamy Sundried Tomato Pesto Dip. Sundried tomatoes, artichokes and hot and bubbly cheese - yes please!


These Tortilla Pinwheels are one of the simplest appetizers on my blog and they get the most hits! I make them for almost every party and have brought them to many gatherings. By the end of the party I always have several people asking for the recipe. Best thing about them - you make them the night before, wrap them up and store them in the fridge overnight. When it's time for the party, just slice and serve.

My mouth is watering thinking about these Loaded Baked Potato Bites. Aren't they so cute?

I love pizza. Serve it up in a adorable little package with these Pepperoni Pizza Rolls.

And one fancier option, French Onion Cheese Bread.

Some Main Dish Ideas
Want something more than apps but still keeping with the Big Game theme? Try these -

Sweet Ham and Swiss Sliders

White Chicken Chili

The Easiest & Creamiest Mac-n-Cheese. I'd serve this one up with some kielbasa or sausage on the side.

Spicy Taco Chili

Love Spinach Artichoke Dip? Look at these Chicken Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Shells.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Broccoli-Cheddar Risotto

Back in college I actually did like to cook once I was living in an apartment and the sorority house. But even though I'd make something like a roasted or sautéed chicken breast, I'd still use instant sides (hey it was college - just making the chicken is pretty impressive).

One of my favorites was the Uncle Ben's rice packet that had the seasoning and veggies all mixed in, specifically the broccoli cheddar one. It was easy, didn't take much time, and when it was done you had a creamy, cheesy side that was both your starch and veg. Nevermind the fact that it had more sodium that any person should eat in a week - I didn't care about that stuff back then.

Well when I saw this recipe pop up in my Feedly app, I instantly thought of those college days and was immediately craving cheesy rice with broccoli. My favorite college dinner turned into a homemade, grown-up risotto - yes, please!

Risotto is one of my favorite things to cook and eat. I love this creamy rice dish so much that I created a page in my recipe index dedicated solely to risotto. Take a look - there are more than 20 risotto recipes ranging from simple parmesan-garlic and mushroom recipes to black truffle risotto and even some really interesting ones like Mexican risotto and Asian-inspired risotto.

I'm so thankful that my friend Sarah found this recipe, made it, and posted it on her blog A Taste of Home Cooking because honestly, while I have experimented with many ingredients when making risotto I never thought of using broccoli and cheddar. But it works - it totally works.


Cheddar-Broccoli Risotto
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
  • 4-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 large broccoli crown, cut into small florets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • Bring the chicken broth to a low simmer in a saucepan. Keep warm.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper. Saute approximately 10 minutes until the broccoli is tender and browning in spots. Remove the broccoli from the pan.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in the pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion; sauté 2 minutes.
  • Add the rice and stir to coat.
  • Add the wine and stir until evaporated, about 1 minute.
  • Start adding the chicken broth one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully absorb before adding more. This process takes anywhere from 17-25 minutes - near the end keep tasting your rice to see if it is cooked through.
  • Before you add the final ladle of broth, add the broccoli back in.
  • Add the final ladle of broth and once it's just about absorbed, turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore

When you are having guests for dinner the last thing you want is to be tied to your stove, right? Over the holidays my cousin and I got together to cook for our family, and we came up with a menu that would allow us to prep and cook ahead of time while having a few drinks and catching up. And then when everyone arrived we had a few things left to do in the kitchen, but most of the meal was already prepared.

Here is the menu we prepared:
   Appetizers: Antipasto platter of cheeses, meats, olives, roasted peppers, crackers
   Crusty Bread
   Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
   Roasted Baby Red Potatoes (our other option was polenta which I think would work perfectly)
   Roasted Green Beans

The oven braised chicken cacciatore was a new creation based on a recipe I have previously used for a quicker stove-top cacciatore and my desire to make a meal completely in the oven. We basically seared the chicken, cooked the veggies down a bit, and then transferred everything to a roasting pan to braise. Super easy, right? And the aromas you get while this is cooking away in the oven will make your guests so hungry for dinner.

Take a look at how beautiful this was coming out of the oven -

This chicken was tender and juicy - the perfect result of braising. But the star of the dish was the sauce, one of the most delicious things I have made - seriously. It's basically a tomato broth, but when combined with the wine and herbs and veggies it turns into a rich and comforting sauce and you won't be able to get enough of it. Every single person was sopping it up with the bread after dinner and some of us even went back for more sauce and bread.
Put this one on your list for your next dinner party, or Sunday dinner, or snowy day meal, a rainy day meal, the first chilly day of the year, the last chilly day of the year, when you are craving chicken, when you have a loaf of bread that is dying to be dipped in sauce, a weeknight when you have just a little extra time... get the picture? No reason needed, just make this one. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Oven Braised Chicken Cacciatore
Ingredients (serves 8)
  • 8 chicken breasts (or thighs, your preference)
  • Spices and herbs to season your chicken: salt, pepper, dried thyme, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika. Be generous.
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1-2 c chicken broth
  • Additional salt, pepper, and thyme
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
  • Season your chicken generously with the salt, pepper, and herbs. Coat with flour.
  • Heat half of the oil and half of the butter in a large sauté pan. Shake excess flour off the chicken and add to the pan (cook only 3-4 at a time so as to not crowd the chicken in the pan). Cook 3-4 minutes per side until you have a nice, golden sear. Transfer to a large roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • If your pan is dry, add a touch of oil. Add the peppers, onions and mushrooms to your pan. Saute 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute
  • Add the wine and stir, scraping up all the brown bits left by the chicken
  • Add the tomatoes, stir, and let cook 2-3 minutes
  • Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken, and then add the broth slowly until your chicken is almost completely covered. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.
  • Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and cook, uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Garlic and Herb Rubbed Roast Pork Loin with a Mushroom Wine Gravy

 I remember many Sunday dinners at my grandmom's house that featured a roasted pork loin as the main dish. Roast pork is easy and elegant and can be seasoned in so many ways. For this dinner I chose garlic and herbs and finished it with a Mushroom Wine Gravy.

When making my gravy I added my liquid slowly which gave me a richer, thicker gravy.

The best part - tasting it along the way!!

Garlic and Herb Rubbed Roast Pork Loin with a Mushroom Wine Gravy

  • 2 lb pork loin
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • A few pinches each of dried thyme, sage, and Italian seasoning blend (or whatever herbs you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 c chopped mushrooms (white or crimini)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 c chicken broth

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
  • Mix the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, Italian seasonings. Rub the mixture all over the pork loin, and then set the pork on a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Roast on 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and then lower your heat to 300 degrees and roast until the internal temperature reaches 140-145 for medium or 155 for well (approximately 25 minutes per pound). Transfer the pork to a dish and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Do not discard the drippings from the pan.
  • Just before you take the pork out of the oven, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms soften, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute
  • Add the flour and stir to coat everything, and then add the wine, stirring until it has absorbed.
  • Lower the heat and add the broth, 1/4 c at a time, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Repeat until you have used all of the broth and you have the consistency and quantity of gravy that you want. You can also add the drippings from the roasting pan when you first add the broth.
  • Slice the pork and serve with the gravy.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie Pasta

A few weeks ago I was craving both Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken and Dumplings in the worst way. We had a really busy week though and I didn't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen so I didn't get to make them.

So to satisfy my craving I threw together a creamy chicken dish with all of the flavors of chicken pot pie without the work. And instead of potatoes and crust that are normally in pot pie, I subbed pasta.

To make this a REALLY quick and easy meal, use rotisserie chicken.

Chicken Pot Pie Pasta
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations, Inspired by my Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken and Dumplings

  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • Salt, pepper, dried thyme
  • Touch of olive oil for cooking chicken
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Handful of white or brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1/2 sm yellow onion, diced
  • 1.5 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1-2 cups of chicken broth (see notes in directions)
  • 1/2 c frozen peas
  • Optional: frozen corn
  • Pinch each of dried thyme and dried dill weed
  • 1/4 c light cream
  • 8 oz cooked pasta, small shape
  • Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and a pinch of dried thyme
  • Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan; add the chicken and cook 6-8 minutes until done; transfer to a plate.
  • Add the butter to the pan and add the mushrooms; sauté 8 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, onion, and celery; cook 2 minutes
  • Add the flour and stir to coat everything
  • Add the wine and stir until absorbed
  • Slowly add the broth 1/4 c at a time, stirring to thicken. Repeat as needed, slowly, taking your time to develop a thick and creamy sauce. Season with thyme and dill
  • Once you have as much sauce as you want (you may not use the entire 2 cups - it's up to you!), stir in the frozen peas and then return the chicken to the pan.
  • Add the cream and stir until heated through
  • Add the pasta and toss to coat