Friday, August 8, 2014

White Cheddar Truffle Mac and Cheese


I absolutely love truffles and anything truffle related. Seriously, if you ask anyone who really knows me, they will tell you it's borderline obsessive. Every time I see anything on a menu with truffles, I have to try it. So naturally, when I saw this English Farmhouse Cheddar with Italian Truffles cheese at Trader Joes, I had to have it! It was everything I imagined it would be...creamy, trufflely goodness. After eating about half the block, I got to thinking of what I could do with the rest to avoid eating it in one sitting. Mac and cheese, duh! So that's where this amazing gem came from. You can leave out the chicken if you just want it as a side dish, maybe top with some bacon...yum! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes 
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 4 Tbs flour
  • 3.5 cups milk (I used 2%) 
  • 4 cups Trader Joes English Farmhouse Cheddar with Italian Truffles
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper 
  • 1/2 cup garlic & herb breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 Parmesan cheese 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°

Cook pasta according to package directions using a large pot with salted water. Drain pasta, do not rinse and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium high heat with 1 Tbs olive oil. Season chicken with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you want. I used a garlic herb seasoning. Add the chicken to the pan, cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. The chicken doesn't need to be fully cooked at this point as it will continue cooking in the oven. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside. 

Add onion to the pan, adding more oil if needed. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the stick of butter and allow to melt. Once melted, add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add in the milk while whisking to avoid any lumps. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cooking for 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon). Turn off the heat and add the cheese, stir to combine and melt the cheese. Add the salt, pepper, pasta and chicken. Stir until combined. Taste for seasonings, you may need more salt or like more pepper. 



In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan with 1 tsp olive oil. Pour the pasta mixture into a greased 13x9 inch pan; top with breadcrumb mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and the top is crisp. 

Then, indulge! :) 





Monday, July 7, 2014

Ultimate Summer Pasta Salad


To me, 4th of July is the official declaration of summer. Not Memorial Day or June 21st as it is to most people. It just REALLY feels like summer on this day, with all the BBQ's and the smell of fireworks in the air. This year I made some festive cupcakes and the cutest jello shots shaped like watermelons.



I did not make this pasta salad for weekend festivities, but with all the summeriness I was craving a good pasta salad. I saw one similar on The Pioneer Woman Sunday afternoon, so I decided to use that one as a base to create a pasta salad full of fresh summer veggies and of course bacon and cheese :) You can use any combo of ingredients, adding broccoli and cauliflower would be delish in this too. This post is also full of some super cool "food-hacks" for cherry tomatoes and corn! 

Ingredients: 

  • 12 oz bowtie or other small pasta
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (fun to use this method to cut them!) 
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 5 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
  • 1/2-3/4 cup mayo or miracle whip*
  • 4-6 tbs apple cider vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper 
  • 5-10 basil leaves, chopped 
Method:

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile prep the other ingredients. 

Steam corn in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high until cooked but still has a nice fresh crunch. This is the best way I have found to cook corn in the microwave. Remove corn from ears. Cook and chop the bacon, cut the tomatoes and chop the scallions and cube the cheese. Throw everything together in a big bowl.



In a small bowl, mix the mayo, vinegar, salt and pepper together. *You'll want to use the 1/2 cup mayo and 4 tbs vinegar if you plan to serve this right away. If you are going to refrigerate this for a few hours or overnight, use the 3/4 cup mayo and 6 tbs vinegar. Reserve 1/4 of the mixture to toss over everything once you remove it from the fridge as most of the initial sauce will have absorbed into the pasta. 

Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until cool. You do NOT want this pasta to be hot or it will melt the cheese and make everything else taste weird. 

Toss the pasta with the ingredients in the big bowl, then mix in the sauce. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the chopped basil just before serving.



Enjoy! 




Friday, June 13, 2014

Chicken Parmesan Lasagna Bake


I posted this photo on my Instagram yesterday and got a lot of requests to post the recipe, so here it is! :) It is definitely one you want to keep in your repertoire, it's fairly quick and oh so yummy. My boyfriend is lucky (most of the time) enough to be my taste tester, and this was one of his favorite meals. I haven't fed him anything that has killed him yet, but there has been some so/so recipes I have tried. This is not one of them. This one is amazing. So go make it, like now. 

Ingredients:

For the lasagna:
  • 10 no bake lasagna noodles, broken into pieces 
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (2 chicken breasts or 3/4 of a rotisserie chicken) 
  • 10 oz frozen peas 
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 cup Swiss cheese (I used 2 slices) 
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil 
  • Fresh basil for topping
For the sauce:
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 6 tablespoons flour 
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 5 cups milk 

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°.  

To make the sauce: melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted add garlic, cook for 1 minute, careful not to burn. Add flour, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes to make sure you don't have a raw flour taste in your sauce. Add the milk, one cup at a time, allowing the sauce to slightly thicken with each addition. This should take about 20 minutes total for the 5 cups. Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna: Grease a 9x13 pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with half of the broken lasagna noodles, half of the sauce, half of the chicken, half of the peas, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup Swiss (1 slice cut into small pieces) and 1/3 cup water. Repeat the layer once more: half of the broken lasagna noodles, half of the sauce, half of the chicken, half of the peas, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup Swiss (1 slice cut into small pieces) and 1/3 cup water. Cover  tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes. 


For the topping: mix together the breadcrumbs and olive oil. After 40 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.


Note: I had to put a sheet pan under the 9x13 pan to catch over flow from the water/sauce. Do not omit the water, it is important to use it to help the noodles cook. 



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lemon and Chive Goat Cheese


I loooove goat cheese! I think most people do; however, it can be pricey, and the store bought stuff is full of preservatives. It is so simple to make your own and you can add any flavors you want. 1 quart of goats milk will give you 2 logs of cheese and the kind I buy at Whole Foods only costs about $4. This particular kind has a lemony flavor because of the lemon juice, which I love. You can however, substitute white vinegar for less flavor or use apple cider vinegar to make crumbled goat cheese (delicious on pizza!). The possibilities are endless: you can add garlic, herbs, honey, nuts, etc. For this one I just used chives. The slight onion flavor complements the lemon flavor nicely. This is also wonderful to use in Kale and Quinoa Pilaf or Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

Ingredients: 
  • 1 quart goats milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 large lemons) 
  • salt
  • chives or other herbs
Method:

Using a heavy bottom sauce pot, heat milk to 180°, stirring constantly (use a candy thermometer to keep temp). The milk should have gentle bubbles and a slight foam but not be boiling. Turn off the heat.


Stir the lemon juice in the milk and let set 10-15 minutes. The milk will curdle and become slightly thicker on the surface.


Next, line a siv with 2 layers of cheese cloth. Gently pour the milk mixture into the cheese cloth, letting the excess liquid drain away. Gather the ends of the cheese cloth and tie it into a bundle. You can also use a rubberband to keep the bundle together. IMPORTANT: Do not squeeze the bundle of cheese to rid excess liquid. 

Tie the bundle to a handle of a wooden spoon and hang over a deep pot or bowl to drain. Let the cheese drain 6-8 hours un-refrigerated. 


Scrape the cheese into a bowl and season with salt and any desired herbs. Form into logs. 


Voila, homemade delicious goat cheese! It will keep in the fridge for up to a week. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pecan Pie Bars



I made these pecan pie bars for my Mom for Mother's Day and they were a hit! They are the best of both worlds, shortbread like cookie crust on the bottom, and creamy/crunchy pecan pie filling on top. They are great on their own but even better with a scoop of ice cream. Yum! 

Ingredients: 
Crust- 
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup butter, slightly softened 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup pecans finally chopped (I used the food processor) 
Filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup 
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar 
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/8 cup flour 
  • 2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
Method:

Preheat oven to 350°

Line a 8x8 pan with parchment paper for easy removal. 

To make the crust, combine the flour, butter, sugar and pecans in a medium bowl. Using your hands, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles a coarse meal.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan and bake 15-18 minutes until slightly brown (par baked). 


For the filling, combine the brown sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla and salt. Mix with a mixer or by hand with a whisk until smooth. Add in the corn syrup, mix until combined. 


Stir in pecans. 


Spread evenly over the hot partially baked crust. 


Return the pan to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until a knife inserted 2 inches from the side comes out clean. 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zucchini Cakes


Sometimes you come across a recipe in your archives that you don't know why you haven't made in ages, this is one of those. I had an abundance of zucchini thanks to Trader Joe's only selling them in packages of 100. Okay, maybe not 100, but there was at least 6 in there, and that's a lot of zucchini!  The great part about these cakes is you can alter the flavors to change them up and keep them exciting if you add them to your repertoire. Instead of the seasoned breadcrumbs you can use plain and add Greek seasoning or fajita seasoning or even Cajun. The possibilities are endless! I only had plain panko breadcrumbs this go 'round, so I added a little garlic powder and Italian seasoning to them. You can also make them all kinds of shapes and sizes so they are prefect regular sized for a side-dish or mini for appetizers. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 1/2 cups zucchini, about 2 large
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbs butter, melted
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (or plain with your own seasonings)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • oil for frying

Method:

Grate zucchini, then place in a cheese cloth or a kitchen towel if you don't mind having one that turns green and squeeze out all of the excess water. You want to get the zucchini pretty dry, so squeeze hard! 


Add the egg, butter, breadcrumbs, seasonings, flour, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients together until combined. The best way is to use your hands, like you're mixing a meatloaf. Form into patties. You can make them big or small...big will make about 6, small will make 18. 


Heat about a 1/4 inch of oil in a frying pan and add the patties, cooking for about 4 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel and serve! 


I made a simple dipping sauce to go with them: Trader Joe's fresh Parmesan ranch and a little horseradish stone ground mustard. So good! Incase you haven't heard, this stuff is the most amazing ranch on the planet. I should be getting a cut of the profits for how much I rave about it! Seriously, get some. 



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Swiss Chicken


You know what's delicious? Like really delicious? Stuffing. It's unfortunate that it is usually only associated with holidays when it can be used year round in fabulous recipes like this one. Mix it up with chicken, cheese and creamy goodness, how can you go wrong? 

This recipe brings back happy comforting memories for me as my Grandmother used to make this quite a bit, then my Mom. It takes an hour to bake but only 10 minutes to put together. Most recipes for Swiss Chicken call for milk to mix with the soup, and my family always added it, but I found you don't need it. It's the perfect meal for a crowd or maybe for one if you're feeling particularly adventurous. 

Oh! You can also use leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to cut down on the cooking time if you wish. I also like to use the Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing, it's what we always use during the holidays and I think it's the best packaged stuffing out there.


Ingredients:
  • 6 chicken tenders or 4 chicken breasts 
  • 1 10oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 package or about 6 slices Swiss cheese 
  • 2 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing Mix
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°

Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray, layer chicken on the bottom and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Put a little bit of the soup on top of the chicken and spread evenly. Next, layer the Swiss cheese, overlapping the pieces. Scoop the rest of the soup over the cheese and spread evenly. 


Cover the top completely with the stuffing mix then drizzle the butter over top. I like to press it down a little with my hands to ensure the butter is evenly distributed.  


Bake for 50-60 minutes until chicken is cooked but still tender.