Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mediterranean Forray

So I didn't exactly plan for the whole Mediterranean theme, it just kind of happened. And it was definitely tasty. I was browsing through trying to find something new to try (that wasn't a dessert) and the Feta Chicken recipe sounded fairly easy and had some pretty good reviews.

I slightly tweaked the recipe and substitued Garlic and Herb Feta instead of the tomato basil, but it still turned out really delish. Below is my take on the recipe, you can click here for the original. I just paired these with Mediterranean salad with Greek vinaigrette.

Feta Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I used Perdue's scallopini-style chicken so I wouldn't have to pound the chicken out)
4 ounces garlic and herb feta cheese
Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper. Gently pound chicken with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/4 inch thick; remove wax paper. (You can skip this if you use the thinnly sliced chicken.) Place 1 ounce of feta cheese in the center of each chicken breast, and fold in half.

Dip the bottom of each piece in melted butter, then in breadcrumbs. Place in pan. Coat the top of each piece with butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs until coated.

Bake 25-30 minutes in the oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

And of course, we had to have dessert! Two days out and still great!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If you give a mouse a cookie...

Let me preface this entire post with the disclaimer that I have never before in my life made fondant, much less know what it really even tastes like. I attribute this fact to everyone always complaining about how horrible it tastes, thus, why make it/order it if it's not good? So why in the world would I even attempt to make fondant in the first place? Well, there was this recipe posted on RB from sarahnjoe about "good" fondant that was made with marshmallows, and I have always been curious about fondant...

I figured what the heck. I'll give it a try. Oh. My. Goodness. I didn't think the mixer was going to make it. Or me. First off, I didn't read the recipe thoroughly enough -- apparently I was supposed to have a stand mixer with a dough hook, of which I had neither. However, standing in the kitchen with all my ingredients, I said screw it, I'm going to try it anyway. After wrestling with the mixer and melted marshmallows to no avail, I resorted to good old hand mixing (I'm pretty sure I lost a good chunk of the fondant this way). Eventually I had it mixed to the right consistency, I think.

After letting that rest for a while, I started on the cake portion. I was excited to try out a new chocolate cake recipe I had found on that had supposedly won an award. I am so glad I sucked it up and didn't go for the cake mix. I was a little leary at first -- sour cream in a cake? -- but it turned out soooo moist and delicious. I could have easily eaten the cake by itself (okay, well I did, but that's beside the point).

The recipe called for 3 9-inch cake pans, but I really didn't want to make a huge cake, as I wanted to take some up to Adam tomorrow. Instead, I ran out and grabbed six 4" cake tins which essentially just made really big cupcakes.

Then, of course, I had to try another new recipe for buttercream, since I didn't want to ruin all this homemadeness with store-bought frosting. And once again, I'm glad I did. I forgot to add the 2 tbsp of milk, but I totally didn't even notice. It was also excellent.

Icing the dang cakes were definitely not my forte. For sure. However, I figured I'd coat the cake with buttercream just in case the fondant was horrible, people could pick it off and still have icing.

And somehow, magically (with the help of the microwave and lots of shortening), I had my very own first cake with fondant icing.

I know it's not really much to look at, but I'm still proud of it. The fondant does get hard after a little bit (only a few min), but it seemed to hold up well under repetative microwaving.

In the end, I'm glad I at least attempted the recipe. Did I even come close to getting it right? I have no idea. It only took me 1/2 the day to make it, and I think my tongue is numb from all the sugar I consumed, but I think the little cakes look rather cute.

Even if you have no interest in the fondant, I still highly recommend at least trying out the cake and the buttercream recipes. They were definitely awesome!
Marshmallow Fondant
16 oz bag plain marshmallows (the small ones, not the jumbo ones)
2 Tbsp water
shortening, for greasing bowls
1-2 tsp flavoring (I used 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tsp almond extract -- very good)
2 lb confectioner’s sugar, divided
pinch of salt

Grease a microwave safe bowl, a spoon, the dough hook, and the bowl of your stand mixer with shortening (grease it well).

Place the marshmallows and water in the greased microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Stir with the greased spoon. If all the marshmallows have not melted, microwave for 30 seconds more. Stir in flavoring.

Place confectioner’s sugar and salt in the stand mixer bowl, reserving 1 cup, and make a well in the center. Pour in the marshmallow mix and turn the mixer on to the lowest setting. When it sounds strained, increase the mixer speed up one setting. Turn off the mixer once all sugar has been incorporated. If the fondant is sticky, add the reserved confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time.

Turn fondant out onto plastic wrap. Rub a bit of shortening on the outside of the ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, place in a ziploc bag, and let rest for at least 2-3 hours. Keep unused portions covered when not using. If the fondant becomes stiff, place in microwave for 20 seconds at a time until pliable.

Roll out on a greased mat/fondant circle to the desired thickness.
Sandy's Chocolate Cake
3 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/3 cups boiling water
In a mixing bowl, cream brown sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add alternately with sour cream to creamed mixture. Mix on low just until combined. Stir in water until blended. Pour into three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. (In my small pans it took about 20-24 min.) Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
(There is also a chocolate frosting recipe that is also included with this recipe, but I chose not to use it.)
Buttercream Icing
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
(I used 1 c. butter, no shortening, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla with a 1/2 tsp. almond extract)
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and vanilla. Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Keep icing covered until ready to decorate.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Crash and Burn

Well, the crash part may not have anything to do with my latest meal, but the burn part sure does. Wow. What a mess.

So I attempted to make a quick an easy 4 ingredient recipe from Betty Crocker -- some simple Ranch Chicken. Easy, no? Apparently for me it's a no. Everything started out well, and they looked beautiful going into the skillet, but it just went downhill from there.

By the end, the bottom of the chicken was solid black (it said to flip only once, so of course I didn't check it) and I just wanted to throw them away. However, Jen came to save the day and suggested we just cut off the bottom, cut up the chicken and have "chicken medallions" to dip in Ranch dressing. Worked for me!

I don't know if I would try this recipe again -- I'm half tempted to, to see if I can get it right. Although I think I would throw it in the oven and bake it instead of trying to cook it stovetop again.
For any of you brave souls out there wanting to try this, here's the recipe:

Ranch Chicken

from: Betty Crocker

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1/4 lb. each)
1/4 c. ranch dressing
1/3 c. seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil

Remove fat from chicken.

Pour the dressing into a shallow bowl or pie pan. Place the bread crumbs on waxed paper or a plate.

Dip chicken, one piece at a time, into dressing, coating all sides. Then coat all sides with bread crumbs.

Heat oil in 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil 12 to 15 minutes, turning once until golden brown and juice is no longer pink when the centers of the thickest pieces are cut.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I think I have a chocolate addiction...

I totally feel like the weekend is already over, and it's not even Sunday yet (or well, I guess it is now...). I think doing the whole Thursday & Friday up in Pittsburgh really throws me off. However, I can't wait until Thursday so I can go to KC!! Woot!

So as the title claims, I really think I may have a slight, or massive, addiction to chocolate -- I made chocolate cupcakes, AGAIN. However, in my defense, it was mostly because Adam was begging me to while giving me the puppy dog eyes. How can I refuse that? And... it's chocolate cupcakes. Seriously, who am I to resist?

Well, before I go into depth on the amazing chocolate cupcakes, which may or may not have Thin Mints mixed in, I must also rave on another new chicken recipe I tried out. I got this one from Mrs W (an RB, of course) and it's actually pretty simple to make and only has a few ingredients.

Chicken with Cream Cheese Sauce

3 chicken breasts, trimmed and kept whole or cut into strips or chunks
1 can chicken broth, separated
4-8 cloves garlic
red pepper flakes
4 oz cream cheese
1.5 tbs flour
2 tsp white wine

Put chicken in large pan with a little bit of olive oil. Add red pepper flakes and pressed garlic. After 1-2 min, add white wine to deglaze the pan and then add ¾ can chicken broth. Bring to a boil then simmer 20-25 min until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken and place in a covered dish; keep warm.

Mix flour with remaining broth and add to pan; mix. Add cream cheese, mix until thick and bubbly. Pour sauce over chicken (this is great served over rice, egg noodles, or with steamed or stir-fried vegetables).

Although I forgot to make any rice or noodles to go with it, but it worked just fine without it.

Now about those decadent cupcakes... I was really worried to begin with once I brought all the ingredients home to Adam's apartment and realized he didn't even have a mixer. I was in luck though, and he did have a muffin pan (but oh so little else). So after hand mixing everything together, the batter was still super lumpy, although I think they ended up turning out okay.

Adding the Thin Mints to the cupcakes gives them just a little crunch and a light minty flavor. Depending on how minty you want them determines how many Thin Mints you add. (Although I'm sure Keebler Grasshoppers would probably work here too if you just can't part from those cookies.)

Dark Chocolate Thin Mint Cupcakes

Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup water
Girl Scout Thin Mints
Betty Crocker Whipped Vanilla Frosting

Prepare cake mix as directed by back of box. Crush several Thin Mints. Fill cupcake tins 1/4-1/3 full with batter, add a layer of crushed Thin Mints, then finish filling cup 1/2-2/3rds full with batter. (You could probably also just mix the crushed cookies into the batter prior to filling cups, I just did this as an afterthought.)

While cupcakes are cooling, grind 5-6 cookies and mix into Vanilla Frosting. Once cupcakes are cooled, frost and enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mmmm Chicken Pillows

After rushing around like a crazy person this morning to get to Pittsburgh by 4 to sign for Adam's Beer of the Month package, he of course texts me 10 min into the drive saying that they couldn't deliver it anyway b/c for some odd reason they don't have their liquor license up to date. Anyhoo, so I ended up here way before he got off of work, bored out of my mind. And sitting here thinking about how wonderful dinner is going to be because we are having one of our all time favorites: Chicken Pillows. SO good.

Once he gets home and we workout at the gym for a little bit, we decide we are both ridiculously hungry and must eat. I had been keeping this recipe a secret from him for a while -- not for any reason in particular, just to torment the poor thing since he likes them so much. I finally broke down and showed him how to make this tasty creation tonight. And thus, I pass it on to you:

Chicken Pillows

2 cans (10 oz.) white chicken chunks
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cans crescent rolls
3/4 c. Italian breadcrumbs
4 tbsp. butter

Drain chicken. Mix shredded chicken with three-fourths of the softened cream cheese.

Separate the crescent rolls into four squares (the way it comes), blend the diagonal perforation together to form a rectangle. Divide rectangle into 1/3s so strips are about 2" wide. Place 1 Tbsp of chicken mix into dough square. Fold dough in half (making a "chicken pillow"). Dip one side in melted butter, then breadcrumbs. Place crumb side up on pan.

Bake at 325 for 15 min. Makes 24 pillows.

Of course, I halved this recipe and served it with some Lipton's Chicken Flavored RiceSides which goes beautifully with these, although they can also make great appetizers. Enjoy!

My First Cheesecake(s) Ever!

Thanks to Nemmie, I discovered the best competition ever created: Death by Chocolate by Culinate. Anyhoo, so I found some Mini Mint Chocolate Cheesecakes by Sugar Plum which ended up being the perfect "birthday cake" for Laura, as both her and my sister are avid Cheesecake Factory fans.

I think I overdid the mint flavoring a tidge, but other than that, these were pretty tasty and easy to make!

Mini Mint Chocolate Cheesecakes

5 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely ground
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (generous)
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 large egg1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter 4 Texas-sized muffin cups, or 6 regular muffin cups.

In a small mixing bowl, combine cookie crumbs, and butter, until combined. Press into bottom of muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven, and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

In a medium mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese until creamy. Beat in sugar, vanilla extract, and mint extract, until combined. Beat in cream and melted chocolate, until combined. Beat in egg, until just combined.

Pour batter onto crusts, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cheesecake is starting to crackle on the outsides.

Cool pan on a wire rack, for 30 minutes; top with ganache.

To make the ganache, heat the cream and butter in a small saucepan, over medium heat, until butter is melted, and mixture is hot. Remove pan from heat, and stir in chocolate, until melted, and well combined. If necessary, place pan back on the heat source, and stir until melted.

Spread the ganache evenly over cheesecakes.

Chill muffin pan in the refrigerator for 3 hours, or until ready to serve. Run a knife around the outsides, and scoop the cheesecakes out onto a serving platter.

Yield: 4-6

Monday, February 4, 2008

Another Remake, Another Trial and Error

Tonight my sister surprised Laura and I when we got back from the gym and had already made Lesary's Garlic Lemon Double-Stuffed Chicken (which we had planned to make when we got back). I don't know, I think the baby was hungry which made her actually jump into action tonight.

Anyhoo, so I think the chicken breasts we had were waaaay too fat for this recipe. It took another 15-20 min longer to cook than the recipe called for, which I didn't have a problem with the first time. Also, the ratio of cheese to chicken went down, which of course made me sad, as I lurve me some gooey cheese.

However, with the right sized chicken breasts, I must say that this recipe is absolutely delish! and is ranked very high on my favorite meal lists. So here it is, the Garlic Lemon Double-Stuffed Chicken:

Garlic Lemon Double-Stuffed Chicken

oil, for greasing pan
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 (8 ounce) package Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Using a sharp knife, slice each chicken breast in half horizontally through the center (butterfly), cutting almost but not completely through. Place one slice each of Cheddar and cream cheese in the center of each breast.fold the unused half of the chicken breast back over, securing with toothpicks. Repeat with remaining chicken breast and cheese.

Pour milk into a shallow bowl. In another small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Romano cheese. Dip each stuffed breast in milk, then roll gently in breadcrumb mixture, patting lightly to coat. Place breasts in the prepared baking dish.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in lemon juice and garlic, and drizzle evenly over chicken. Season breasts with garlic salt and paprika, if using.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Mmmm tasty! Sorry, no pic for this recipe (yet, maybe next time)!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 333g
Amount per serving
Calories 909Calories from fat 553
% Daily Value
Total Fat 61.4g94%
Saturated Fat 32.3g161%
Cholesterol 290mg97%
Sodium 1174mg49%
Total Carbs 16.3g5%
Fiber 1.2g5%
Sugars 3.2g
Protein 71.0g
Vitamin A 31%Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 63%Iron 19%

A Little Trial and Error

So I'm falling a little behind with posting all the delicious recipes I've been discovering as of late, so I'll just make two separate posts today for dinner last night and tonight.

Last night I tried out Lolo's Easy Baked Chicken and Brie recipe for a second time. The first time was good, but it tasted like it was almost missing something, so I decided to have a round two to turn it up a notch.

Easy Baked Chicken and Brie

1 cup light beer or dry white wine
4 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 ounces brie cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pour beer into a glass baking dish. Add chicken breasts and season with salt, pepper, and oregano on both sides. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until juices run clear. While chicken is baking, slice brie with the rind into 1/4 inch thick slices. When chicken is done, place slices of brie over the top. Return to oven for 3-5 more minutes until cheese is melted.

I really liked the original recipe, but I felt it needed an extra kick, so I added just a bit of some Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette on top. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong dressing, I should have gone with just the straight Raspberry Vinaigrette as the one I had ended up with a really strong walnut taste. O well, live and learn and fix it for next time.

Nutrition Facts - with no dressing
Amount per serving
Calories 319Calories from fat 164
% Daily Value
Total Fat 18.3g28%
Saturated Fat 10.4g52%
Cholesterol 123mg41%
Sodium 541mg23%
Total Carbs 1.5g0%
Protein 35.2g
Vitamin A 7%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 11%Iron 3%

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Most Amazing Burgers EVER

About a week or so ago while trying to figure out what to eat for dinner, I discovered that we had a bunch of hamburger hiding out in the freezer. As I am horrible when it comes to cooking anything cow, the only thing that sounded remotely appetizing with ground round was hamburgers. But I am not an overly huge hamburger fan. So I decided to search for some sort of Asian-type burger to make and then try to recreate the awesome fried rice I love so much at Japanese Steakhouses.

Last night I took the plunge and ended up creating some of the best tasting burgers ever! I found a really good ginger sauce recipe on that I think brought the whole meal together.

Ginger Dipping Sauce
Adapted from:

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar

In a blender, combine onion, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Ginger Teriyaki Burgers

2 tablespoons Teriyaki Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 pounds hamburger
Ginger Dipping Sauce (Double the recipe)
8 slices Pepper Jack cheese
8 hamburger buns

In a small bowl, combine Teriyaki and Soy sauces. In a large bowl, mix the hamburger and 2 Tbsp. of sauce mixture. Separate hamburger into 16 patties. Place cheese on the center of 8 of the patties. Cover these with the other eight patties. Blend sides together. Cook burgers, basting generously on both sides with Ginger Dipping Sauce. Continue to baste with sauce until burgers are done. Serve placed on buns.

Fried Rice

2 cups white rice
4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces frozen peas/carrots (or any other veggies you want)
Teriyaki Sauce
Soy Sauce
Ginger Dipping Sauce

In a saucepan, bring rice, water, and butter to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium-low heat and cover. Cook for 20-25 min (until water has been absorbed). Remove from heat and fluff with a fork; set aside for 5 minutes (or until needed).

Add a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil to a large frying pan. Add frozen veggies and turn burner on high. Once veggies have thawed, add rice. Season with Teriyaki and Soy sauces (in same ratio as with burgers) to taste. Add Ginger Dipping Sauce to taste (should not be overpowering).

Dessert Sushi

I also finished up the pseudo-Asian meal with one last final touch -- Dessert Sushi. I saw this on an online forum, and thought these were super cute. I'm just going to link to the page with the recipe on it for you! Dessert Sushi Recipe.

Nutrition Facts - Ginger Teriyaki Burgers
Amount per serving
Calories 463Calories from fat 177
% Daily Value
Total Fat 19.6g30%
Saturated Fat 10.3g51%
Trans Fat 0.2g
Cholesterol 125mg42%
Sodium 1825mg76%
Total Carbs 25.0g8%
Dietary Fiber 1.2g5%
Sugars 4.3g
Protein 40.6g
Vitamin A 10%Vitamin C 16%
Calcium 33%Iron 28%


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