Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes

This is one of my all-time breakfast favorite's.  Or, let's face it, anytime favorite really.  Since blueberries are so delicious and also so very good for you, I try to incorporate them in as much of my cooking and baking as possible.  You would be surprised at what a little handful of blueberries a day can do for you.  These pancakes are light and airy, they literally melt in your mouth. 

2 T. of bacon grease (I reserve mine in a mason jar)
2 cups of Bisquick
1 T. of sugar
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 T. of lemon juice
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup of fresh blueberries (rinsed)

-In a large mixing bowl, combine the Bisquick, sugar and baking powder.  Stir in the milk, lemon juice and eggs.  Let stand and rest for 5 minutes.  Gently fold in the blueberries   Using the bacon grease and a heat-safe spatula, lightly grease a skillet or griddle and place over medium heat.  Drop by ladle-fulls onto the hot griddle.  Wait for the batter to bubble and pop, then they are ready to flip.  If they are browning too quickly reduce your heat slightly.  Serve with a slather of salty butter and syrup.  Makes about a dozen good sized pancakes.  Enjoy!

Chicken and Fresh Mozzarella Linguine

This recipe truly defines using everything but the kitchen sink!  I had all kinds of wonderful produce and no concrete ideas of how to use up the remains of the weeks unused extras.  So, I thought to myself, why not chicken and pasta with some veggies?  Half a bottle of wine later and I had this.  A truly wonderful pasta dish.

1 lb. of uncooked linguine
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I use frozen one's by Sun Chief-they are amazing-no thawing required!)
extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1 shallot (sliced)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp. of crushed red pepper
1 cup of dry white wine (I used Chardonnay merely since I had it open from company at the house)
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tsp. of sugar
2 slices of a granny smith green apple (diced)
1/2 a carton of grape tomatoes
3 cups of fresh leaf spinach (washed/ dried)
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (cubed)

-Get a large stockpot of water heating to a boil.  Heat about 2 tablespoon's of e.v.o. on medium-high  in a large deep saucepan.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts; place in hot oil and cook each side for about 12-15 minutes or until a nice dark golden crust forms.  You only need to turn chicken once.  Meanwhile prepare the linguine as directed on the package for Au dente' - remembering to add some sea salt and e.v.o. to the water once it has reached a rapid boil (prevents sticking and adds flavor). When the chicken is just shy of being done, add in another tablespoon of e.v.o. along with the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes.  Once the chicken is done, remove it and set it to the side.  Pour in the wine first to deglaze the pan (using a wooden spoon scrape all the the stuff-the flavor- off the bottom of the pan) then add in the chicken stock, apples and the sugar.  Bring it to a boil and toss in the tomatoes and spinach; cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then toss in the Au dente' pasta (it will continue cooking in the sauce) and lastly fold in the mozzarella cubes.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Wraps with Crumbled Blue Cheese

Sometimes even Superwoman has to cut some corners.  I am not a huge fan of frying, especially not in my own kitchen.  But, by using the frozen prepared chicken it saves time and keeps my kitchen clean.  I contemplated getting the chicken without buffalo sauce so I could just make my own, but to tell you the truth, I really like these just the way they are.  So, until I develop or come across a better recipe, I will continue overpaying for what I can't replicate.  These are a fresh and tasty way of spicing up your springtime menu.  And if you have little one's who can't handle the heat, use the un-sauced chicken and maybe change the dressing to ranch with crumbled bacon instead of fresh blue cheese.  The combinations are endless. 

1 large pkg. of frozen Tyson Buffalo Chicken Nuggets
sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce (julienne sliced thin)
1 large Romano tomato (julienne sliced thin)
blue cheese salad dressing
crumbled blue cheese
flour tortilla shells (warmed)

-Preheat oven to 400*.  Prepare chicken as directed on package.  Place  3-4 pieces of the baked chicken on a warm tortilla shell.  Top with cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  Drizzle with salad dressing and sprinkle on a small amount of crumbled blue cheese.  Serves 4-6.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Roasting Sweet Peppers

What an addition these roasted sweet peppers are to any meal.  Toss them on a sandwich or in with your pasta.  The possibilities are endless.  They bring forth a much deeper richer flavor than sauteing them.  It's easy and simple to do and not to mention much cheaper to grow your own than to buy them jarred from the market.

Any color of sweet pepper is fine (red, green, yellow, orange or even purple- which turns back to green as it is heated!)

 -Preheat oven to HI Broil.  Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut off a thin slice at the top of the pepper, removing the stem.  Pull out the seed pulp and cut the pepper lengthwise in half. Using a paring knife remove any white edging on the interior of the pepper.  Place the peppers cut side down onto a foil lined pan.  Place the pan on the second highest rack position to broil for 8-10 minutes (don't let them burn too much-just a little).  Remove from oven once the skin begins to blister up and slightly blacken.  Place pan on top of oven to cool with the foil folded up around them in a tent.  Cool for at least 15 minutes.  Then using a sharp paring knife remove as much of the skins as you can.  Place in jar with a screw on lid to settle.  They will eventually excrete their own juices to help store them for later use.  Place in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, freeze them in jars for up to 1 year, or process them to store in your pantry for up to 1 year.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Shrimp Bow Tie Pasta

This particular dish was fresh and delicious.  It definitely has me in the mood for the forthcoming of spring time.  The creamy seasoned sauce was the perfect match for the thick pasta.  And the grape tomatoes were a refreshing splash of flavor.  I complimented this pasta with some fresh crusty french bread and a crisp Riesling.  Perfect.

1 lb raw bow tie pasta
1/2 cup Sun-Dried Tomato salad dressing
1 lb uncooked de-veined shrimp (thawed and peeled)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1 T. of dried basil
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
4 oz. of cream cheese
1 carton of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup of shredded Romano cheese
2 fresh basil leaves (chopped)

-Begin by cooking pasta as directed for Au Dente'.  Remembering to add a little e.v.o. and sea salt to the pan prior to adding in the pasta, when it's at a rolling boil (this keeps your pasta from sticking together and it also flavors it). In a large saucepan, saute' shrimp in a small amount of the salad dressing until pink; remove and cover.  Return drippings in pan to a medium-high heat.  Pour in remaining dressing, stock, and seasonings and bring to a light boil.  Add in the cream cheese and whisk until combined.  Stir in tomatoes and cook about 3 minutes more.  Toss with Romano cheese and serve with a garnish of fresh basil.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roasted Greek Chicken and Potatoes

What a gorgeous dinner this was.  And to be honest with you, anyone can make this one.  All you need is a kitchen timer.  The chicken was so tender and moist that the meat sectioned off with just a fork.  And the potatoes were absolutely delicious and filled with flavor.  I like to use the red skinned potatoes exactly for recipes like these.  Not only does it add color, but they hold their shape and don't fall apart when cooked.  This is a perfect meal to create for company.  Almost everyone loves chicken and potatoes.

3-4 lbs. of chicken leg quarters (thigh & leg pieces)
6 large red skin potatoes (washed & quartered)
8 cloves of garlic (peeled)
3 large lemons (juiced)
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (it pays to spend more on this)
1 1/4 cup of water
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp. of white pepper

-Preheat oven to 355*.  Place chicken and potatoes in a large roasting pan; thoroughly season with salt and black pepper.  Combine the e.v.o. with the water and carefully pour it into each corner of the pan, making sure not to pour it over the food but under the chicken and potatoes.  Tuck leftover lemon halves and garlic cloves in between chicken and potatoes.  Heavily sprinkle with the oregano and add the white pepper. .  Roast for 1 hour at 355*.  Then turn chicken over and increase the oven temperature to 375*; continue roasting for another hour.  You want your chicken and potatoes to be a beautiful golden brown.  Serves 5-6.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mushroom and Spinach Salad with a Warm Bacon Dressing

Not only is this a delicious salad to eat, but it is also a delicious salad to look at.  I love the beauty of the deep green spinach and the perfectly shaped mushrooms with a splash of purple from the red onion.  Let's just be honest here and skip straight to the best part, a dressing made from bacon.   What a wonderful combination.

For Salad:
6 pieces of bacon (cooked crisp and chopped)
3 slices of red onion
1 pint of baby portabella mushrooms (sliced) (these have a lot more flavor than white button mushrooms)
6 oz. fresh spinach leaves (washed/ dried)

For Dressing:
3 T. of red wine vinegar
3 T. of reserved bacon grease
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. honey
1 T. country style Dijon mustard
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper to taste

-Toss all salad ingredients in a large salad bowl; set aside.  In a small saucepan on low heat, stir together all dressing ingredients with a whisk.  Once heated through, drizzle over salad.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blueberry Cream Bread

Hands down this is the most beautiful and rustic loaf of quick bread that I have ever made.  I absolutely love how it rose up above my stoneware and slightly cracked open, revealing a glimpse of the moist blueberry center.  And the only way to describle the way it tastes, is to simply say wonderful.  It tastes simply wonderful.

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 T. real un-salted butter (room temperature)
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. sugar

-Preheat oven to 350* and grease the sides and bottom of a loaf pan.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl; using a fork,cut in butter until crumbly.  In a small bowl whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.  Pour egg mixture into dry mixture and thoroughly combine.  Add in sour cream and stir well; gently fold in blueberries.  Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan; sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake for 1 hour or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Serves as many as you let it, or not!  Enjoy!

Chicken and Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo

This pasta dish is so wonderful.  It meets both rich and heavy along with bright and fresh.  And it pairs up perfectly with a nice cold glass of white wine.  The flavor from the pan-seared chicken is phenomenal.  What a difference from grilling it.  And especially in this particular meal, the use of the fresh cracked pepper is vital.  When you have a basic sauce as in this, it is necessary to use as many fresh ingredients as possible.  Simple is better.

2 large boneless-skinless chicken breasts (I used frozen one's)
sea salt/ fresh cracked pepper
1-2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 pint of whipping cream
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. of real un-salted butter
1 cup frozen chopped broccoli (defrosted)
1 lb. of un-cooked fettuccine pasta

-Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.  Generously season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large deep saucepan, over medium-high heat with e.v.o., saute' chicken breasts for about 10-15 minutes on each side.  Again, you are looking for a nice golden-brown crusting, not a burnt one.  Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove and slice it thinly across the grain of the meat; cover and set aside.  Meanwhile for the pasta, once your stockpot has reached a rapid boil, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of e.v.o. and a pinch of salt; add in the pasta and boil for 11-12 minutes for Au Dente' (remember it will continue to cook once it is folded into the hot sauce).  Add the whipping cream, Parmesan cheese and the butter into the still hot pan that the chicken was saute'd in.  While constantly stirring, bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer to thicken.   Toss back in the chicken and the broccoli.  Simmer for about 10 minutes while still remembering to stir often.  I myself, usually taste it at this point to see if I need more pepper or not.  I like my Alfredo sauce a little bit on the peppery side.  Fold in the Au Dente' fettuccine and serve.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy

I absolutely love the bold and rich flavor of this gravy.  The steak seasoning is the key for that.  And as for the pork chops, they really did come out perfect.  They were fall off the bone good and tender as can be.  This meal is nice and simple, great for all you busy moms or for you cooking-challenged ones out there.  This is a great way to have pork chops.

4 bone-in center-cut thick pork chops (the bone adds so much more flavor)
2-3 T. McCormick Grill-Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot (sliced-these are nice and mild)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup

-Heavily season each side of pork chops with steak seasoning.  In a large skillet, over medium-high heat with e.v.o., sear both sides of the pork chops.  You are looking for a nice golden-brown crusting, not a burnt one.  Halfway through searing the chops, toss in the shallots to saute' as well.  Transfer browned chops and shallots to your slow-cooker.  Pour the can of soup into the pan that you seared the pork chops and onions in and kind of stir it up, then pour into the slow-cooker (picks up all the little bits and flavor left in the pan).  Cook Low and Slow for 6-8 hours (the longer the better).  Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!