Pan Seared Garlic Chicken

Pan Seared ChickenSo you have some boneless, skinless chicken breasts? Need an idea what to make with them? With a few kitchen staples you can turn plain chicken breasts into a delicious entrée in less than 30 minutes. Yes, even Rachael Ray would be proud of you. And while your chicken is cooking, go ahead and sauté some fresh vegetables to serve on the side.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 lemon cut in half and seeded
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add olive oil to sauté pan and turn heat on medium high.
  2. Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika on both sides of chicken breasts.
  3. When oil ripples, carefully place chicken breasts in pan. Reduce heat to medium.
  4. Add garlic cloves, wine and chicken broth.
  5. Squeeze 1/2 lemon to juice on top of each chicken breast (about 1/2 teaspoon on each)
  6. Turn chicken over after 5-6 minutes. Squeeze other 1/2 lemon to juice on top of each of the cooked sides.
  7. Cook chicken breasts for another 5 minutes until done. Do not over cook.
  8. Remove pan from heat.
  9. Optional: Add butter and sugar to make pan sauce to serve with chicken. (I like to place sauce on plate and chicken on top of sauce.)

Pan Seared Chciken plated

Beef Stew

Beef stew potCold weather and a hot pot of beef stew. There’s nothing better than comfort food. And what’s better than a one pot main dish? I love to cook and bake. But I hate the clean up afterwards. If it can be made in one pot, you bet I’ll be the first to jump at that recipe. After a day of running around in the cold, a bowl of hearty stew sounded especially good. I happened to have a good assortment of vegetables on hand, but this can be made with just potatoes and carrots if you like. Add or omit vegetables to your taste.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup sliced zucchini
  • 2 cups red potatoes diced into 1-2 inch chunks
  • 1 can 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 carton 32 oz beef broth
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon anise seed (not star anise cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (basil, oregano and thyme mix)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a dutch oven or large pot with lid add olive oil and turn heat to high. When oil ripples, carefully add stew meat to pot and stir until meat is browned, but not cooked through. (About 1 minute)
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms and sauté with stew meat for 1 minute.
  3. Add tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and wine and stir.
  4. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, anise seed and Italian seasoning and stir well.
  5. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  6. After an hour of simmering, turn heat back up to medium high and add potatoes, stir and let cook for 20 minutes.
  7. During the last 5 minutes of potatoes cooking in the stew, add yellow squash and zucchini and stir into stew.
  8. Make a slurry in a small bowl using the cornstarch and cold water. Add to stew and stir. The slurry will thicken up the sauce to make it more of a gravy consistency.
  9. Once sauce has thickened, your stew is ready. One pot and small bowl to clean. Not a bad deal for the hour plus cooking time you had to wait.Beef Stew

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings 2015Okay, I’ll admit it. I am addicted to chicken wings. The saucy and spicier the better. But sometimes I want the spice, but not the saucy mess.  I came across salt baked chicken wings on the appetizer section of a local Chinese restaurant one day and decided to try them out. They were pretty good. But I think their description was off, since the wings were fried not baked. And so I thought, “Hmmm..I could make these.”  Here’s my version. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lbs chicken wings, separated at joints, tips trimmed off (save for stock!)
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon white pepper, separated into two 1/4 tablespoon portions
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • canola oil for frying plus 1 tablespoon for sautéing vegetables
  • 2 Serrano peppers sliced
  • 1/2 white onion sliced into half moons and separated
  • 1 bunch of green onions cut into 2-3 inch segments
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Marinade wings in Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce and 1/4 tablespoon white pepper for 20 minutes. Drain wings and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Pour oil to the depth of 2 inches in a wok or high sided pot. Heat oil on high to 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer.
  3. In a mixing bowl add cornstarch, kosher salt and remaining white pepper. Add wings toss and coat. Shake off excess.
  4. Add wings to hot oil and fry 6 to 10 minutes, until deep golden brown and cooked through. You may have to cook in batches depending on pot size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer wings to paper towels to drain briefly.
  5. In another wok or high sided pot, add 1 tablespoon canola oil and heat on high. When oil ripples, add Serrano peppers, white onions, garlic, green onions and optional Sriracha sauce.
  6. Sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the fried wings and sauté until wings are coated with the vegetable mixture, about 30 seconds.
  7. Serve and enjoy.

Pasta e Fagioli Beefed Up (Pasta and Bean Soup)

Pasta e FagioliOne thing I remember when I was little was what a treat it was to be invited to lunch or dinner at one of my friend’s house. Bless my dad for being the main cook in our family, but you can only eat so much Chinese food before you want something new. And getting an invite to my friend’s house was like winning the lottery. My friend’s mother made the best Italian dishes. When you walked into their house there was always the aroma of something cooking on the stove or baking in the oven. It was like walking into a tomato, basil and garlic cloud of yumminess. On a few occasions I was treated to a delicious bowl of pasta e fagioli. (Pasta and bean soup.)  Through the years I have added or changed out some of the ingredients that my friend’s mother used. Adding ground beef being the biggest change. (Sorry , Mrs. P.)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 2 carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1 cup diced onion (about 1 small or half a large onion)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef (if you are going meatless add 2 cups diced escarole or Swiss chard)
  • 1 28 oz can Cento San Marzano peeled tomatoes (or 1 jar spaghetti sauce and 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 32 oz beef stock (you can substitute vegetable stock if you are going meatless)
  • 1 15 oz can red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 15 oz can cannelini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning (Basil, Oregano and Thyme mix)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 oz dry ditalini noodles (or any small pasta of your choice)
  • Shaved parmesan cheese and basil for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a heavy stock pot add olive oil on high heat. When oil ripples, add diced carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add ground beef. Mince ground beef until browned. Once ground beef is browned, discard fat from pot.
  3. If using San Marzano tomatoes, mash-up with potato masher or your fingers. Add tomatoes to vegetables and beef.
  4. Add beef (or vegetable) stock, both types of beans, Italian seasoning and pepper. Stir and mix well.
  5. Lower heat to simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. If you have enough hungry eaters to finish the entire pot of soup, add ditalini noodles during last 10 minutes of simmer. Otherwise, cook ditalini noodles in separate pot and serve into individual bowls as needed.
  7. Serve soup topped with shaved parmesan cheese and basil. (optional)

Makes 6-8 servings.

Lasagna

Lasagna sliceCheesy, meaty, saucy heaven. Nothing beats a cold winter’s day than coming home to a hot plate of lasagna. Growing up, my mom worked swing shift so dinner was usually made by my dad. Needless to say, lasagna was not on his repertoire of dinner items.

So, lasagna was something I had to learn to make myself. Through the years my tastes and cooking style has matured. I’ve learned to make lasagna many different ways. But I always come back to my first recipe. This recipe is tweaked a little since the 10-year-old back then was not allowed access to wine. But otherwise, it remains true to my younger version.

INGREDIENTS FOR SAUCE:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion diced
  • 1 cup sliced brown or white mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, thyme mix)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3 teaspoons sugar

INGREDIENTS FOR LASAGNA:

  • 1 12-16 oz box of lasagna noodles
  • 1 32 oz carton of cottage cheese
  • 3 cups shredded Italian blend cheese (Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Romano, Fontina & Asiago)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9X13 casserole pan with cooking spray or rub all sides of  pan with vegetable oil. Set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to sauce pan. Turn burner heat to medium high. When oil ripples, add diced red onion and mushrooms. Saute for 5 minutes until onions and mushrooms are tender.
  3. Add ground beef and separate and cook until browned. Once ground beef is browned, discard any fat from pan.
  4. Lower burner heat to low.
  5. Add spaghetti sauce, red wine, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and sugar and stir until mixed well and simmer for 5 minutes. (Yes. Sugar. My 10-year-old self thought spaghetti sauce was too tart. And grown up me still thinks so too.)
  6. Don’t forget to turn off burner.
  7. In the 9X13 casserole pan spoon a thin layer of sauce on bottom.
  8. Place a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles in pan. (Yes, uncooked. No need to boil noodles when the oven and sauce can do all the work for you. It just takes more baking time)
  9. Next add the entire carton of cottage cheese and half the shredded Italian blend cheese as a layer. (Why cottage cheese? 10-year-old self didn’t like the taste and texture of ricotta cheese. And a grown up plus is cottage cheese is less fattening than ricotta cheese.)
  10. Next add another layer of lasagna noodles.
  11. Now add half the sauce you prepared earlier over that layer of noodles.
  12. Add your final layer of noodles.
  13. Add the last half of sauce. Be sure to get more sauce around the edges of noodles, rather than the center. This will ensure the edges get cooked as well and not burn.
  14. Add the remainder of the Italian blend cheese on top.
  15. Cover casserole with foil. Cut vent holes in foil with knife or fork. Place casserole on baking pan to catch drips and prevent oven burn.
  16. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  17. Uncover and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy a piece of my childhood!

Lasagna

Ground Beef Tacos

TacoIn a hurry? Who says you can’t whip up a main dish in 15 minutes? Tacos are one of my go to recipes for those days where I just don’t feel like cooking an elaborate meal. The best part is everyone gets to build their own tacos with items they want. So the picky eaters in your family will even be happy.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 12-15 flour or corn tortillas

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to saute pan. Turn heat to medium high. When oil begins to ripple, add ground beef.
  2. Brown ground beef separating into small pieces.
  3. While beef is browning, mix together chili powder, paprika, garlic powder and cumin in small bowl.
  4. Add seasonings to beef and stir. Add tablespoon of cold water to help seasoning mix and coat meat.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil and then turn down heat to low. Cover pan. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile heat up your tortillas either in the microwave, on a pan or over your gas burners. (Yes, I am guilty of doing the later..)
  7. Serve with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS:

  • Shredded Mexican blend cheese or any cheese you enjoy
  • Sour Cream
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced green or white onions
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Your favorite salsa
  • Sliced olives
  • Sliced jalapeno

Asian Style Chicken Marinade

Asian Marinade ingredientsTired of the same old chicken recipes? Try this versatile marinade. It works well with all chicken parts. And you can either bake your marinated chicken or grill it. Best of all the prep time for the marinade is less than 5 minutes.  Besides the chicken you will only need six other ingredients and a Ziplock bag.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 chicken thighs or breasts, or 12 chicken wings or 12 chicken drumsticks

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine light brown sugar, soy sauce, lime juice, red pepper flakes, curry powder and garlic in a large Ziploc bag. Add chicken. Seal and marinade at least 4 hours or overnight. Be sure to turn occasionally.
  2. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees or pre heat your grill to medium high heat.
  3. If oven cooking: place chicken in  single layer in baking pan along with marinade. Bake for 1 hour.
  4. If grilling: remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Place marinade in saucepan. Bring to boil and let cook for 1 minute. Use cooked marinade for basting on grill.
  5. Coat grill rack with cooking spray and place chicken on grill. Turn and baste chicken pieces with marinade frequently. Grill for 20 minutes or until chicken is done with internal temperature reading at 165 degrees.
Asian chicken grilled

Asian chicken grilled

Asian chicken baked

Asian chicken baked

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Sometimes getting a little pre-made help makes all the difference. Meet my two best friends when it comes to making this chicken enchilada casserole dish.

El Pato and Las Palmas

Both items can be found in your local grocer’s International or Mexican food aisle. If you cannot find the El Pato jalapeno salsa, substitute your favorite salsa instead. But do try to use the Las Palmas green chile enchilada sauce if at all possible.

To be honest, I created this dish out of sheer laziness. I just didn’t feel like rolling individual enchiladas. I thought, why not layer the enchilada ingredients like a lasagna instead? So the enchilada casserole was introduced to my family.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cans El Pato jalapeno salsa or 32 oz of your salsa of choice
  • White or yellow corn tortillas; depending on the tortilla size you will need at least 27 traditional 6 1/2 inch tortillas or 18 of the larger 9 inch tortillas for a 10X15 casserole pan.
  • 2 cans Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (28 oz each)
  • 4 cups grated Mexican blend cheese (Or 2 cups grated Monterey Jack and 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large pot add salsa and chicken. If needed add cold water so liquid covers chicken.
  2. Set heat temperature to high until liquid boils. Cover pot with lid and turn down heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour.
  3. After an hour chicken should be fork tender. Discard liquid from pot and let chicken cool until you are able to handle to shred.
  4. Shred chicken using two forks or the best kitchen tools around, your fingers. Set chicken aside.
  5. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. In a 10X15 casserole pan, place a thin layer of the Las Palmas enchilada sauce on the bottom.
  7. Next place a layer of your corn tortillas over the enchilada sauce. Overlap if you need to.
  8. Next add a layer of your shredded chicken. (Should be about half your shredded chicken.)
  9. Next add a layer of the cheese. (About 1/3 of your cheese)
  10. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce over the chicken and cheese. Pour just enough to coat, don’t drown it or your tortillas will turn to mush.
  11. Repeat tortilla, chicken, cheese and sauce layer.
  12. Add final layer of tortillas.
  13. Add last 1/3 of your cheese.
  14. Pour layer of enchilada sauce. Be sure all sides of pan are covered in sauce so tortillas don’t get extra crispy or burn.  If you have extra sauce left do not pour onto casserole. Save for serving on the side.
  15. Cover casserole with foil. Use fork or knife tip to poke ventilation holes into foil.
  16. Place casserole on baking sheet to prevent sauce dripping or burning on oven bottom.
  17. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  18. Remove foil and let casserole cool and settle for 5-10 minutes
  19. Optional: Serve portions topped with sour cream, diced tomatoes and green onions.

Serves 6-8

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Chinese Spare Ribs in Black Bean and Garlic Sauce

Chinese Black Bean Spare RibsHere’s a traditional Chinese dish that may look complicated, but is really easy to make. The main ingredient that does all the flavoring for you is a concentrated black bean and garlic sauce.  You should be able to find this in most grocery stores that have an Asian or International aisle. I like to use the Lee Kum Kee brand, but any brand should work.

Black bean and garlic sauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lbs. pork rib tips (if you cannot find, substitute with country style pork ribs)
  • 1/2 medium white or yellow onion cut into 1/4 inch half-moons and separated
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons black bean and garlic sauce
  • 32 oz. beef broth
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice wine or mirin – not rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 cup Chinese long beans cut into 1-2 inch pieces (you can substitute with fresh green beans)
  • 3 russet potatoes peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut the pork rib tips into sections, leaving only one bone per section. (If you are using country style pork ribs, cut into 2 inch cubes.)
  2. In a large pot (or wok that has a lid) add vegetable oil and turn heat to medium high.
  3. When oil begins to ripple, add onions and pork. Continually stir to saute onions and pork for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add black bean and garlic sauce, enough beef broth to cover pork, rice wine (optional), sugar and stir to mix.
  5. Once broth comes to a boil, lower heat to medium low, cover pot and let cook for 1 hour.
  6. After an hour has passed, turn heat back up to high.
  7. Make a slurry in a small bowl with cornstarch and cold water. Mix well.
  8. Add remaining beef broth if any. If not add 1/2 cup water.
  9. When broth is back to a boil, add slurry mixture and stir until thickened to thin gravy consistency.
  10. Add Chinese long beans (or green beans) and potatoes (which is optional, but I like them to cut down the saltiness of the black bean and garlic concentrate.) Stir.
  11. Lower heat down to medium and cook for 20 more minutes. (10 minutes if not adding potatoes.)
  12. Serve over rice.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Cranberry Orange Bars aka Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

cranberry orange bars

BARS

1 cup unsalted butter ( 2 sticks, softened to room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup craisins ( dried cranberries)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

FROSTING

1/2 bar of cream cheese, softened about 4 oz
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract

TOPPING

1/3 cup craisins, chopped
1 -2 tablespoon grated orange rind
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon canola oil

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 for a glass or dark pan). Prepare a 9×13 pan by lining it with parchment paper or use a non-stick spray.
2. BARS: With an electric mixer, beat together softened butter and sugars 3-5 minutes until light; gently blend in eggs and orange extract (don’t overbeat eggs). Add the flour, baking powder, and ginger and beat briefly. Add the cranberries and chips, stirring just until incorporated. The batter will be very thick.
3. Spread batter in prepared 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for 25-27 minutes until light brown at edges and a toothpick tests clean. Don’t overbake or your bars will be dry. Let it cool completely.
4. FROSTING: Blend cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add orange extract and confectioners sugar and beat until frosting is fluffy and spreadable (adding 1 t. milk if needed). Spread evenly over COOLED bars.
5. GARNISH: Use a zester to remove rind from an orange; sprinkle zest over frosted bars. Chop 1/3 cup Craisins coarsely; sprinkle over frosted bars.
6. DRIZZLE: Mix white chocolate and oil in a glass measuring cup. Microwave 1 minute; stirring every 15 seconds until melted. Use a fork or whisk to drizzle the white chocolate diagonally across the bars.
7. Allow one hour for the white chocolate to set before cutting. **I like to cut into little rectangles, but to make signature Starbucks look alike triangles, cut into 20 large squares (5 cuts by 4 cuts with the knife). Then cut each square in half diagonally to create triangles.