Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two-Pepper Rigatoni with Cheese

If you haven't caught on at this point, Adam isn't a big fan of red or green bell peppers. Well, I wouldn't say not a fan, more in the will-only-eat-them-for-dinner-because-if-he-doesn't-it-will-make-his-wife-feel-bad category. Yet I keep insisting on trying to sneak them into meals on him. And he keeps finding them and not liking them. :(

Such a no-win situation. Hence, this recipe is currently crossed off our list for this very reason. Well, after I made it and tried to distract him with the TV while he was eating it. Didn't work.

Two-Pepper Rigatoni and Cheese
Adapted from: Cooking Light, December 2009

1 pound uncooked rigatoni
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups low-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced green onions
Cooking spray
2 (1-ounce) slices white bread

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well; place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add to pasta.

Add flour to pan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cheeses, stirring until cheeses melt and mixture is smooth. Stir in jalapeño and salt. Add cheese mixture to pasta, tossing well to coat. Stir in green onions. Spoon pasta mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place bread slices in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Combine butter and breadcrumbs in a small bowl; toss until blended. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta mixture. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until browned.

Serves: 8

It's actually just as well that Adam didn't care for the peppers though, this recipe didn't really sing for me anyway, just another version of mac n cheese. I think the leftovers are actually still sitting in the fridge, if that tells you how excited I was to have it for lunch the next day. (Let's just not talk about how long it's been in there though...)

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 412Calories from fat 126
% Daily Value
Total Fat 14.0g22%
Saturated Fat 8.0g40%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 43mg14%
Sodium 523mg22%
Total Carbs 54.5g18%
Dietary Fiber 2.7g11%
Sugars 7.0g
Protein 18.2g
Vitamin A 19%Vitamin C 27%
Calcium 30%Iron 14%

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bacon, Cheddar, and Potato Chowder

Ah bacon, how I have missed it so. Adam and I seemed to have been hitting the tasty pork a little hard a few months ago, and knowing just how great it can be for our arteries, I decided we needed to give to a rest for a bit. Well, I finally decided it was time to allow bacon back into our lives. And I am so glad I did. In moderation, of course. ;)

Bacon, Cheese & Potato Chowder
Adapted from: Kraft Foods

3 cups low-fat milk
1 can (10.75 ounces) condensed cream of potato soup
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups frozen hash browns
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
4 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Combine milk and soup in a large saucepan. Stir in hash browns (breaking apart if frozen together). Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Add in pepper and stir. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 3/4 cup of cheese into soup and stir until melted and mixed through.

Serve topped with remaining cheese, bacon, and onions.

Serves: 6

Oh, did I forget to mention how absolutely quick and easy this meal is? Because it most definitely falls in that category. I honestly didn't really keep my hopes overly high going into this meal as the past entrees I had tried from Kraft Foods had fallen a little short... but I was wrong on this one. I would definitely make this one again -- a good excuse to use up the remaining hash browns currently hiding in my freezer.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 399Calories from fat 205
% Daily Value
Total Fat 22.8g35%
Saturated Fat 8.8g44%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 49mg16%
Sodium 1191mg50%
Total Carbs 30.0g10%
Dietary Fiber 2.0g8%
Sugars 8.2g
Protein 18.2g
Vitamin A 10%Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 30%Iron 6%

Friday, May 14, 2010

Szechuan Noodles

I am such a sucker for things with peanut butter in them. Growing up I loved peanut butter sandwiches. Not peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just peanut butter. Never really was a fan of jelly, and honestly, I'm still not. Sure, I experimented with other add-ons -- marshmallow fluff, honey, banana slices, Nacho Cheese Doritos, you get the ideas. But I always came back to my peanut butter. Not only is it tasty, but extremely versatile. I love it in desserts (Peanut Butter Brownies), drinks (Green Monster Smoothies or Peanut Butter Chocolate Milkshakes from Johnny Rocket's), and especially in sauces (Udon Noodles with Asian Vegetables and Peanut Sauce).

Occasionally the peanut butter in sauces comes across very strong and in-your-face. This recipe throws a twist on it by including tahini. The tahini mellows out the peanut butter flavor a bit while still maintaining that nice thick creamy texture.

Szechuan Noodles
Adapted from: Annie's Eats

For the dressing:
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the salad:
1 pound buckwheat soba noodles
1/2 bag frozen peas
1 can baby corn

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the soba noodles to al dente according to the package directions. Drain the noodles. Thaw peas in the microwave according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, place the garlic and ginger in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until finely minced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in remaining dressing ingredients and puree until smooth.

Place the noodles in a large serving bowl and mix with about half of the dressing. Add the baby corn and peas; toss. Add remaining dressing to taste. Store remaining dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Serves: 8

I made quite a few adaptations to this recipe based on what I had on hand and what I could and could not find in the store. If you can't find soba noodles, or don't like them, you can always opt for another variety of asian noodles or even spaghetti. Also feel free to mix up the veggies in this dish -- the original called for bell peppers and scallions. Since I know just how much Adam loves bell peppers, I decided we should skip out on those and try something else. Even with the changes I made, this was delicious, and it's definitely going on our list of "usual suspects".

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 640Calories from fat 295
% Daily Value
Total Fat 32.8g50%
Saturated Fat 6.0g30%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1470mg61%
Total Carbs 75.8g25%
Dietary Fiber 6.0g24%
Sugars 13.8g
Protein 19.4g
Vitamin A 15%Vitamin C 12%
Calcium 11%Iron 26%

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Haitian Chicken Pâté Puffs

Wait! Wait! Don't run off on me after seeing the word pâté! I promise it's not what you think. It definitely wasn't what I thought. I'm actually surprised that I even stopped to check out the ingredient list after seeing that word. Usually, the first thing one thinks of when pâté is mentioned, is some sort of paste made of liver (okay, maybe that's what I think of). And that is where I draw the line -- no offal for this kid. I just think some things are not meant to be eaten...

Anyhoo. This does NOT have any such things hidden in it. Just ground chicken, veggies, and some spices. That's it.

We'll do a walk through on the steps on this one as every once in a while pictures work a little better than words. :)

Haitian Chicken Pâté Puffs
Adapted From: Cooking Light, May 2010

1 habanero pepper
Cooking spray
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 pound ground chicken breast
1/4 cup shredded carrot
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Cut habanero in half. Seed and mince both halves. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add minced habanero, onion, and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until browned; stirring to crumble. Add carrot; cook 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add lime juice and vinegar, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add green onions, parsley, thyme, black pepper, salt, cloves, and nutmeg; stir well. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Place cooled chicken mixture in a food processor. Process until almost smooth (will turn clumpy).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll each puff pastry into a 15x12-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Cut each pastry puff sheet into 10 squares (20 squares total).

Combine egg and water, stirring with a whisk. Brush egg mixture along edges of pastry squares.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon chicken mixture in center of each pastry square.

Fold each pastry square in thirds like a letter.

Press edges closed with tines of a fork.

Brush top with egg wash and arrange 1 inch apart on a baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes of until puffed and golden brown.

Yields: 20 puffs

The process to make these is fairly similar to making Chicken Pillows, just with different ingredients.

These were originally designed as appetizers, although staying true to form, Adam and I just ate them as an entreé. We both enjoyed these, although if you aren't a fan of spicy things, I would recommend switching out the habanero for a jalapeno. This would definitely be something a little on the different side when hosting a party.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 27Calories from fat 8
% Daily Value
Total Fat 0.9g1%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 18mg6%
Sodium 46mg2%
Total Carbs 1.4g0%
Protein 3.4g
Vitamin A 6%Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 0%Iron 1%

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bourbon Chicken

Ever go walking through the mall food court only to be bombarded by countless choices? Then you run across the cute little lady in front of the Chinese restaurant holding out her little tray of goodies. It's usually one of two things: orange chicken or bourbon chicken. Now, as tasty of these usually are, I'm just not a fan of your typical mall Chinese eatery. Way too much fatty things and dark chicken meat. Yes, I admit, I'm a white meat kind of kid. So when I ran across this recipe which contained all very identifiable ingredients (most already in my pantry) and chicken breast, I decided to give it a go.

3 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
Cooking Spray (or 1 tbsp. olive oil)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespooon cornstarch/1 Tablespoon water (optional)
2 cups cooked white rice

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray or use the olive oil. Add chicken and cook over medium heat until lightly browned (chicken will not be cooked all the way through). Remove chicken from skillet.

Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved.
Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

If you prefer a thicker sauce, combine 1 tbsp. water and 1 tbsp. cornstarch in a separate bowl and add a little at at time to reach desired consistency.

Serve over hot rice, if desired.

Serves: 4

As I don't really eat a whole lot of bourbon chicken from those kiosks in the mall, I can't really compare the two dishes, but whatever it is I made was delicious. A little sweet, but not overly so. Definitely serve this over rice as it so graciously sops up all the excess sauce.

And the best part about this meal... I did a nice very long run the following day and didn't get sick (which I can be prone to do). So plus for me!

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 575Calories from fat 64
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.1g11%
Saturated Fat 1.9g10%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 76mg25%
Sodium 1363mg57%
Total Carbs 91.5g31%
Dietary Fiber 1.5g6%
Sugars 15.6g
Protein 32.8g
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 13%
Calcium 6%Iron 31%

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chicken Nacho Bake

One of my favorite things at a Mexican restaurant is the free chips and salsa. Well, let me rephrase that -- the chips and salsa and I have a love-hate relationship. I love to eat them, but I usually eat so much that I forget to save room for my dinner. Actually, you know what's better than the chips and salsa? Chips and queso. Mmm delicious. And so terribly bad for you.

When flipping through my Kraft Foods magazine that came a while back, I hesitated on this recipe. Chips and salsa on a piece of chicken? But it looks so simple... The fact that it has only four ingredients (or 5 if you like sour cream) and only takes 20 minutes to make won me over. I'm so glad it did.

Chicken Nacho Bake
From: Kraft Foods

4 small (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup crushed baked tortilla chips
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup light sour cream (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange chicken on top of foil. Cover each piece of chicken with about an 1/8 cup salsa. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven. Top each piece with an 1/8 cup crushed chips, and a 1/8 cup shredded cheese. Bake for another 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

Top chicken with 1 tablespoon of sour cream prior to serving if desired.

Serves: 4

Surprisingly, the chicken came out very moist, and the combination of chips and salsa on top of chicken wasn't so weird after all. And now that I think about it... chicken nachos do exist. Silly me. We actually liked this dish so much we had it the following week -- which is actually saying a lot.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 374Calories from fat 153
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17.0g26%
Saturated Fat 7.3g37%
Cholesterol 122mg41%
Sodium 401mg17%
Total Carbs 15.5g5%
Dietary Fiber 2.3g9%
Sugars 1.3g
Protein 38.9g
Vitamin A 8%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 17%Iron 11%

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

You know what I love? A good excuse to make delicious treats. Actually, it doesn't even have to be a good excuse -- just an excuse. Holidays seem like they fit into that category, even if I don't really celebrate them. Enter Cinco de Mayo. Why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated so heavily in the US still baffles me to this day (no, it is NOT Mexico's independence day). I guess I'm not the only person that likes excuses -- in this case it's an excuse to drink.

What a better way to enjoy a balmy spring day in May than sitting outside enjoying a nice margarita? Make mine frozen and strawberry. Now put it in a cupcake and it will be perfect. Done.

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes
Cupcakes from: Confections of a Foodie Bride

For the Lime Cupcakes:
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temp
3 limes, zested and juiced
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325. Prepare muffin tins with paper liners or baking spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar on a high until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs one at at time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next one. Add lime zest and lime juice. Turn mixer to the low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches. Mix only until just incorporated.

Fill each muffin cup ~3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pans at the halfway point. Allow cupcakes to cool completely in the pans before removing.

Yields: 24 cupcakes

For the Strawberry Tequila Buttercream:
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 lb or more powdered sugar
6 medium strawberries, hulled
1 tsp vanilla
Tequila to taste

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add in 1 pound powdered sugar slowly, one cup at a time until mixture is smooth. Mix in vanilla.

In a blender, puree strawberries. Add puree to buttercream in small amounts until the desired strawberry flavor is achieved (I ended up using all of it). Add in tequila to taste. If the buttercream is too runny, add in extra powdered sugar until it becomes more firm. Be careful that the buttercream does not become overly sweet. Frost cupcakes.

Sad but true, the buttercream and I had a nice long fight. I lost, and the buttercream remained on the slightly running side... a.k.a. no pretty looking cupcakes. Just cupcakes looking like they had funny little pink berets plopped down on their heads. It's just as well though, I wasn't here to ooo and ahhh over how cute these guys looked -- I was only interested in the fastest way to get their strawberry-lime goodness into my belly.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 353Calories from fat 147
% Daily Value
Total Fat 16.4g25%
Saturated Fat 10.0g50%
Cholesterol 72mg24%
Sodium 182mg8%
Total Carbs 49.3g16%
Dietary Fiber 0.7g3%
Sugars 36.1g
Protein 3.1g
Vitamin A 10%Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 5%Iron 5%


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