{In case you're wondering, that means "Everyone to the table to eat!" in Italian}

Monday, December 12, 2011

Double Chocolate Waffles w/ Berries & Cream

Double Chocolate Waffles with Berries & Cream

recipe from Our Best Bites

2/3 C flour
1/3 C corn starch
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/8 t cinnamon
6 T granulated sugar
1 C milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C mini chocolate chips

Berry Sauce & Topping
3 C berries, fresh or frozen
1/4 C raspberry jam (you could use strawberry if you prefer)
2 T hot tap water
optional: powdered sugar to taste

Sweetened whipped cream
Start by making the berry sauce since it can sit while you make the waffle batter. Combine jam and warm water and whisk until combined. Add in the berries and gently stir until combined. Depending on the sweetness of the berries, you can add a little powdered sugar if you'd like. Set berry sauce aside and make waffle batter.

Preheat a waffle iron. Combine flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Use a whisk to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together sugar, milk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Whisk for a minute so it gets a little frothy. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry a little at a time, whisking to combine. Just stir until they're combined and don't over mix. Stir in the chocolate chips. This is a pretty thin batter, so don't be expecting something that looks like a pancake batter. It's supposed to be thin.

You shouldn't need to grease your waffle iron. Place batter in and cook according to your iron. Be careful to not overfill. This batter has plenty of leavening so it will expand.

A tip: Instead of pouring batter, use a ladle and spoon it in, making sure to stir the batter each time. Otherwise the chocolate chips won't be distributed.

It's a little harder to tell when chocolate waffles are done because you can't go so much on color. Go by smell and touch and realize that they will crisp up a little more after they come off the iron.

When done cooking waffles, top with berry sauce and sweetened whipped cream.  YUM!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shrimp Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

This pasta dish was really easy and delicious!  We always love shrimp and the flavors in this were really good.  I made the oven-dried tomatoes ahead of time and kept them in the fridge, and the rest of the dish came together quickly!  I'm sure if you were in a hurry, you could use sun-dried tomatoes instead.  The recipe came from Annie's Eats.  We served it with crusty garlic french bread.

Shrimp Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Small pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and pepper

1 lb. bowtie pasta
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
6 oz. mascarpone cheese
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving


To make the oven-dried tomatoes, preheat the oven to 225˚ F. Place the tomatoes in a small baking dish in a single layer, cut side facing up. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Bake for about 3 hours, or until the tomatoes are mostly shriveled up. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.

While the pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook in a single layer, flipping once during cooking, just until opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate, tent loosely with foil and set aside. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the pan. Sauté the onion until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and sauté just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine or broth and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Return the shrimp to the pan and add in the drained pasta along with the oven-dried tomatoes. Add the mascarpone to the pan and stir until completely melted. Stir in the basil and Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan as desired.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers {Updated}

My mom always made these growing up, but I think the recipe came from my grandma, Mimi. When the other colors of peppers are on sale, I sometimes use the orange, yellow, or red ones. Get nice big peppers for this recipe!

Stuffed Bell Peppers
3-4 large bell peppers
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1/2 med. onion, chopped
1 can tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
salt & pepper
1 1/2 c. grated cheese
2 c. cooked rice
Cut peppers in half and remove membranes and seeds. Blanch in boiling water about 5 minutes, remove from water, drain on paper towels, and salt insides of peppers lightly. Meanwhile, brown meat and onions, drain. Mix in tomato sauce and season to taste w/ salt & pepper. Mix in rice and 1 c. cheese. Fill peppers with mixture, place in baking dish, and top w/ remaining cheese. (I always have extra filling, so I put it in a small dish to bake for the little ones who don't like peppers). Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grilled Pizza {A How-To}

Step 1: Prep your ingredients and pre-heat your grill. You will need pizza dough, about 1 cup of sauce (I used pesto), 1 lb. of sliced fresh mozzerella, any desired toppings (I did grilled veggies on this one), 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, and some olive oil.

Step 2 (no photo, sorry!): Grill your veggies. I sliced up 2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash on an extreme diagonal, drizzled them with olive oil, seasoned them with s & p, and grilled over medium heat until tender. I also roasted an orange bell pepper, placed it in a ziploc to steam for about 20 minutes, removed the blackened skin and sliced it.

Step 3: Roll your dough out into a rough rectangle shape about the size of a cookie sheet. Brush or rub olive oil all over it. Place on the grill oiled side down (very carefully) and close the lid. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the bottom is done and has nice grill marks. Make sure to keep an eye on it so you don't burn it! Loosen with a spatula, and using a cookie sheet, carefully slide it off the grill.

Step 4: Working quickly, oil the un-baked side of the crust and flip it over. On the baked side, place your toppings- first sauce, next mozzerella, then desired toppings, and last a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Step 5: Very carefully, slide your pizza from the cookie sheet back onto the grill. Cook just until bottom has grill marks and cheeses are melted.

Step 6: Remove pizza from grill, slice, and eat to your heart's content. The crust is crispy, the cheese is melty, and the veggies are smoky and delicious. This was definitely the best pizza I've ever had! Enjoy!

Grilled Pizza
for the dough:
1 tsp yeast
3/4 c. warm water
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tb olive oil + more for brushing
for the pesto (you can also use plain 'ol pizza sauce, alfredo, or whatever):
3/4 c. fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3 tb. pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
s & p
1/3 c. olive oil
for the toppings:
1 lb. fresh mozzerella, sliced
1/2 c. grated parmesan
desired toppings (some ideas are grilled veggies, ham & pineapple, sausage & mushrooms, pepperoni & olives, sliced tomatoes & fresh basil, grilled chicken & artichoke hearts, etc.)

Make the dough by combining yeast & water and letting sit for a few minutes. Mix flour and salt, add yeast mixture and oil. Mix by hand or mixer and then knead for a few minutes. Roll into a rectangle about the size of a cookie sheet. Brush dough with oil & set aside.

Make pesto by combining basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, and a little s & p in a blender or food processor. While machine is running, slowly add olive oil until combined. Set aside.

Prep all topping ingredients, slice & grill any meats or veggies. Pre-heat grill to medium heat. Place all ingredients on a table near the grill.

Grill crust, oiled side down, with the lid closed for about 10 minutes or until it is cooked on the bottom and has nice grill marks (watch carefully to avoid buring). Very carefully, loosen with spatula and remove to cookie sheet. Oil un-baked side and flip over. On baked side, top with pesto or other pizza sauce, sliced mozzerella, desired toppings, and grated Parmesan. Carefully slide back onto grill and cook until bottom is cooked and cheeses are melted. Remove, slice, eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fruit Soup

I like to plan my weekly menu every Sunday night before I go shopping Monday, but I've been in a bit of a recipe-idea slump lately. So I enlisted my family's help. Everyone -my three oldest kids (5, 7 and 10) and my husband- thinks up one dinner idea each week and then I fill in the gaps. They have actually come up with some good ideas- fish tacos, ribs, eggs & bacon, etc. But sometimes I have to tweak the kids' ideas a bit. My 5 year old wanted soup and grilled cheese for his dinner, so I adapted that to a summer version, and we had croissant sandwiches and this delicious fruit soup. I had seen the idea on the Sister's Cafe and adapted it to suit our tastes (it called for canned peaches and orange juice concentrate, neither of which I ever buy, so I changed those). It was so fruity, cool and refreshing- I could've eaten the whole thing myself!

Fruit Soup
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 c. orange juice
3 Tb tapioca (be sure to use the “minute brand” quick cooking tapioca)
2 1/4 c. additional orange juice
2 cans mandarin oranges (with or without juice)
1 bag frozen mixed berries (or an equivalent amount of fresh)
2 c. fresh strawberries, sliced, just before serving
2 bananas, just before serving

Bring sugar, water, orange juice and tapioca to a boil. Continue boiling on medium high for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Some tapioca will be clear and other granules will have a white center. Take off heat. Let sit for 30 minutes. (This is when the tapioca will become more clear.) Add 2 1/4 c. orange juice. Chill for several hours or overnight. Add mandarin oranges and mixed berries. Before serving add strawberries and bananas.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strawberry-Lime Chiffon Cake with Coconut Cream

I got the idea for this dessert from a blog post at Our Best Bites, but all I remembered was the title and I didn't want to go find the recipe, so I made up my own. It turned out just as good as I had hoped. It was the perfect spring dessert!

Strawberry-Lime Chiffon Cake with Coconut Cream

for the Chiffon Cake (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen):
2 c. sifted flour
1 1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

for the Strawberries:
1 lb. strawberries, washed, stemmed and sliced
1/4 c. sugar
2 tb. lime juice

for the Coconut Cream:
1 c. whipping cream
2 tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. coconut extract

for topping:
toasted coconut, if desired
(toast in oven for about 10-15 minutes, checking and stirring frequently to avoid burning)

Make the cakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have two 9-inch round cake pans ready, lined with parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, but otherwise ungreased. (I actually used two 9 x 5" loaf pans this time, greased only, and it worked fine)
2. Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice into a large bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
4. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Do so gently, only until the egg whites are no longer visible. Overdoing it will deflate the egg whites, and yield a denser, shorter cake.
5. Scrape the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean 40 to 50 minutes, checking your cake every five minutes or so from the 30 minute mark on.
6. Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate (or your hand, if you’re daring) and then another plate. I only used one cake for this recipe (that will feed about 8-10 people) and froze the other for another time.

While the cakes are baking, mix the sliced strawberries, sugar and lime juice. Place in refrigerator. Just before serving, whip the cream and add sugar and coconut extract. To serve, slice cake into 8-10 pieces, top with strawberries, coconut cream, and toasted coconut. YUM!

Update: The OBB recipe is very similar to this AND is in their new cookbook, which I got for Mother's Day. It is full of great recipes and beautiful photos- I highly recommend it!!

Chicken Pot Pie {Easy & Delicious}

I got the idea for this meal from my mother-in-law, Jullee, and then tweaked it to make it my own. It is super quick and easy, and SO good!

Chicken Pot Pie
1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 16 oz. bag frozen veggies (your favorite)
2 pie shells, frozen and thawed, or home-made
2 cans cream-of-brocolli soup
1 tsp. poultry seasoning, or thyme or sage is good too

Cook the frozen veggies in your microwave for a few minutes, mostly just to thaw them out. Mix cooked chicken, veggies, soups and spices. Pile into one of the pie shells. Place the other on top and press to seal around the edges. Cut vent holes in top crust. Place pie on a baking sheet to catch drips, and bake in a 350 degree oven about 45-50 minutes, or until center of crust is golden and crispy. Let sit about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf

I saw this recipe on the Our Best Bites blog, and just knew I had to try it. I have always liked meatloaf, but never considered wrapping it in bacon. The bacon, the spicy-sweet glaze, and cooking it on a cookie sheet instead of drowning in grease in a loaf pan really made this meatloaf. It was fabulous! I'm pretty sure I'll never go back to my old recipe again...
Glazed Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf

1/2 cup chili sauce (or substitute ketchup, but I liked chili sauce)
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider vinegar (or white vinegar in a pinch)

Meat Loaf:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , chopped medium
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or whole milk)
1 pound ground beef chuck (I used ground turkey)
1 pound ground pork
1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs (or oats or almond meal for wheat-free)
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
6 – 8 ounces bacon , thin sliced (8 to 12 slices, depending on loaf shape)

1. For the glaze: Mix all ingredients in small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened and set aside. Divide in half.
2. For the meat loaf: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing remaining ingredients.
3. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in large bowl along with crackers, parsley, and cooked onion and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture sticks, add additional milk or yogurt, a couple tablespoons at a time until mix no longer sticks.)
4. Turn meat mixture onto work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9-by-5-inch loaf shape. Place on foil-lined (for easy cleanup) shallow baking pan. Brush with half the glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise, over loaf, overlapping slightly and tucking only bacon tip ends under loaf.
5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Cool 10-15 minutes. While meal loaf is cooling, re-heat remaining sauce and brush some over meat loaf if desired. Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze passed separately.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti

Another delicious pasta dish from the Pioneer Woman. Yum!

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole (Pioneer Woman)
1 whole Cut Up Fryer Chicken
1 stick 1/2 Cup Butter
16 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Sliced
¼ cups Dry White Wine (I use cooking wine)
Kosher Salt And Pepper
¼ cups Flour
2 cups Chicken Broth (reserved From Chicken Or Canned)
1-½ cup Whole Milk
¼ cups (additional) Dry White Wine
1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Whole Black Olives, Chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt, Or To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Extra Cheese, For Sprinkling
1 pound Thin Spaghetti

Place chicken in a pot of water and boil on medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool slightly. Keep broth in pot.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Throw in mushrooms, add 1/4 cup white wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until liquid has totally evaporated. Remove mushrooms from skillet. Set aside.

Bring broth to a boil. Break spaghetti into thirds (shorter pieces). Add spaghetti pieces to boiling broth and cook. Drain when al dente. Remove meat from bones and shred until you have 2-plus cups of shredded chicken.

Return large skillet to medium-low heat. Add 6 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle flour over butter, whisking to combine. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in 2 cups broth and whisk to combine. Pour in milk, additional 1/4 cup wine, salt and pepper to taste, then cook and bubble until thick. Turn off heat, add Parmesan cheese, and stir.

Add mushrooms, chicken, and chopped olives. Stir to combine and check seasonings. Add cooked spaghetti and stir.

Turn into a 9 x 13 casserole pan. Bake at 350 degrees or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with salad and warm, crusty bread.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Amazing Chicken Wings...Finally!

This is my version of Winger's Chicken Wings and their Original Amazing Sauce. I posted my version of their delicious Asphalt Pie almost a year ago- and promised I'd soon post my version of their wings. So almost 1 year later...here it is! These wings are sweet and spicy, but not so spicy that my kids won't eat them. If you like them hotter, just decrease the amount of brown sugar in the sauce or add some Tabasco. Be sure to serve them with some thinly sliced celery sticks and lots of Ranch dressing! Loaded potato skins are also a great side dish.

Amazing Chicken Wings
4 lbs. chicken wings
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. Frank's Red Hot Sauce (original)
1 c. brown sugar
3 tb. butter
oil for frying
Pour about 2 inches of oil into a large saucepan. Heat to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, place cornstarch in a large ziploc bag. Rinse chicken wings and pat dry with paper towels. Toss wings in bag of cornstarch. When oil is heated (it should bubble vigorously when you place a wing in), carefully place a single layer of wings in oil (you will probably have to fry the wings in two batches). Fry 8-10 minutes, until outsides are golden & crispy and meat is cooked through. Drain on paper towels and fry second batch. While wings are cooking, Mix Red Hot Sauce and brown sugar in small saucepan, and heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted. Get out a large bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Place drained wings in bowl and pour sauce on top. Place lid on bowl and shake until wings are coated in sauce (you may want to do this over the sink, just in case!). Serve with some celery sticks and plenty of Ranch for dipping. Enjoy! Serves 6 hungry people as a main dish, 8-10 as a side or party dish.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Strawberry Napoleons

Need a last minute Valentine's Day dessert? I just couldn't resist the strawberries on sale this week, so we've had strawberries in fruit salad, strawberry sauce on pancakes, and these for dessert tonight. These little babies were refreshing, light and delicious. The perfect sweet ending to a Valentine's dinner! And super easy, too!
Strawberry Napoleons
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (that is 1/2 a package)
1 lb. strawberries, sliced
4 tb. sugar, divided
1 c. heavy cream
chocolate sauce or melted milk chocolate, if desired
Unfold puff pastry and cut into 3 strips along perforations, and then cut each third into 4 pieces. Lay on greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, remove to wire rack to cool. Sprinkle sliced strawberries with 2 tb. sugar and stir (this can be done ahead of time and kept in fridge). Whip cream and mix in sugar. Once cool, split each pastry piece in half (so you should now have 24 pieces). Lay one piece on a plate, top with a few strawberries and a spoonful of whipped cream, then another pastry, more strawberries and cream, and then a third layer. Top with a fourth pastry piece and a drizzle of chocolate sauce or melted milk chocolate, if desired. Continue to make 5 more servings with remaining ingredients. Makes 6 servings. Enjoy!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup & How to Cut an Avocado

I have my old standby Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe that I got from a roommate in college, but I saw a new recipe on Pioneer Woman's blog and liked some of her ideas. So I took both recipes and combined them. We absolutely loved the results- this has all the things I loved about my recipe (corn and a sprinkle of lime juice at the end), plus some new flavors- like the black beans and ro-tel instead of a tomato and fresh jalapeno- which was always a little too spicy for the kids. I also loved this method of cooking the chicken- it was so flavorful and juicy! It is my new go-to recipe for quesadilla chicken, and you can change the spices to adapt it to any recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

2 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1-½ teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
½ teaspoons Garlic Powder
½ teaspoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 cup Diced Onion
1/2 cup Diced Green or Red Bell Pepper
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 can Rotel Tomatoes And Green Chilies (I used mild)
32 ounces Low Sodium Chicken Stock
3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
4 cups Hot Water
1 can Black Beans, drained
1 can Corn Kernels, drained
3 Tablespoons Cornmeal Or Masa
5 whole Corn Tortillas, Cut Into Uniform Strips Around 2 To 3 Inches
Diced Avocado
Grated Colby Jack or Cheddar Cheese
Lime Juice
Chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on chicken breasts, then sprinkle a small amount of spice mix on both sides. Set aside the rest of the spice mix.
Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Use two forks to shred chicken. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, peppers, and minced garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the rest of the spice mix. Stir to combine, then add shredded chicken and stir.
Pour in Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.
Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more if needed—be sure not to undersalt. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Five minutes before serving, gently stir in tortilla strips and corn kernels.
Ladle into bowls, then top with diced avocado, grated cheese, chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of lime juice!

Here is a super easy and not-so-messy way to cut an avocado:
1. First, cut all the way around the avocado, splitting it in half lengthwise. Make sure to cut all the way to the pit. Open the 2 halves by gently twisting them in opposite directions.

2. To remove the pit, carefully insert your knife into the pit. Twist it slightly and the pit will slide right out (make sure your avocado is ripe enough, or some avocado flesh will stick to the pit. You don't want to waste any of that yummy goodness!)

3. You can now scoop out the flesh, but wait! If you are slicing or dicing, it is much less messy to do it while the flesh is still in the skin. Just slice it right in there, being careful not to cut through the skin (or your fingers!). If you need it diced, just turn it and slice again the other way.

4. Now just scoop the flesh out of the skin using a medium-sized metal spoon. Now wasn't that easy?!

5. Now what to do with that avocado? Use it to top sandwiches, hamburgers or tortilla soup. Or mash it with a potato masher and make it into guacamole- awesome on enchiladas, quesadillas, or as a dip for chips. If you are making guacamole or another dip (how about Mexican Caviar or Shrimp Ceviche Dip?), make sure to save that pit. Store the dip with the pit in the middle and plastic wrap pressed down onto it to help keep the avocado from turning brown.
*Need to know how to pick a good avocado? Here are my tips: first, you need to decide when you need the avocado. If you are grocery shopping Monday and don't need it until the weekend, go ahead and choose a very firm avocado (it will be bright green in color). You can speed up the ripening process by placing it in a paper lunch bag with an apple- but this still takes a day or two. If you need the avocado right away, you'll have to buy one that is already ripe- it should give a little when you press the skin (sort of like a peach), but still be slightly firm (it will be dark green). I NEVER buy the ones that are already mushy and black!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chicken Fajitas (and homemade seasonings)

Easy, quick and delicious, these are a perfect weeknight meal. Although you could certainly use a fajita seasoning packet, the homemade spice mix I used is easy as can be and uses spices found in any Mexican-food-lover's pantry. I have also included the recipe I use for homemade taco seasoning. They both make enough to season several batches of fajitas or tacos, so you can just make them up and store them for the next time!

Chicken Fajitas
1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" strips (or use beef if you prefer)
4 tb. canola oil, divided
fajita seasoning (4 1/2 tb. homemade, or 1 packet)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 medium onion, cut into strips
10 corn or flour tortillas
1 c. grated cheese
In large saute pan, heat 2 tb. of the oil over medium-high heat. Saute peppers and onions until crisp-tender and nicely browned (even some smoky black parts are great on these babies!). Remove from pan and set aside. Heat remaining 2 tb. oil over medium-high heat. Toss chicken pieces in fajita seasoning, then saute in pan until chicken is cooked through (about 5-7 minutes). Add peppers and onions back to pan, toss and heat until warmed through. Serve in warm flour tortillas with grated cheese.

Fajita Seasoning
3 tb. cornstarch
2 tb. chili powder
1 tb. salt
1 tb. paprika
1 tb. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cumin
Mix all together, store in airtight container. Makes enough for 3 batches of fajitas (use 4 1/2 tb. mix for each pound of meat).

Taco Seasoning
2 tb. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. paprika
3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
Mix all together, store in airtight container. Makes enough for 4 batches of tacos (use 4 tsp. mix for each pound of ground beef or chicken chunks). To prepare, cook 1 lb. meat until browned and cooked through. Add 4 tsp. taco mix and 1/2 c. water, mix, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until almost all liquid is cooked out. Serve in hard or soft tortillas w/ cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baked Brie with Apple Compote

I love Brie, so when I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats I knew I had to find a special occasion to make it for. I ended up making it for the baby shower my mom and Sarah gave me in El Paso. It was so delicious- everybody loved it! I ate the last piece warmed up for breakfast the next morning with a tall glass of milk (come on, apple cheese pastry for breakfast, that's healthy, right?).

Baked Brie en Croûte with Apple Compote
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut to ½-inch dice
¼ cup sugar
Pinch grated nutmeg
10-inch round puff pastry, rolled to ¼-inch thickness
1 round Brie cheese, 6-8 oz. and about 4½ inches wide, chilled
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Water crackers, for serving
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples have released most of their juices, about 5-7 minutes. Mix in the sugar and nutmeg, stir well to combine, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 12-15 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Transfer the round of puff pastry to the prepared baking pan. Using a sharp knife, cut the disc of cheese in half horizontally to create two thinner discs. Place the bottom disc in the center of the puff pastry round. Spread about half of the apple compote over the surface of the cheese. Top with the remaining cheese disc. Layer with the remaining compote. Bring the puff pastry up around the edges of the brie-apple layers. Fold and pinch the edges so that only a small portion of the top surface is exposed. Brush the surface of the puff pastry lightly with the egg wash.
Bake until the puff pastry is golden all over and crisp, 40-45 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, then transfer to a serving platter with a knife and crackers.