Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mini Mac and Cheese Bites

I've made these awesome little bites about four times and this is the first time I've been able to get a decent picture before they were eaten. I served them last Sunday night with grilled hamburgers and fresh watermelon.

Mini Mac and Cheese Bites
Source: My Italian Grandmother

1/2 lb elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (I used regular)
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425°

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process and to keep the macaroni from sticking to itself.

Spray two 12 cup muffin tins with Pam and sprinkle half the Parmigiano cheese into the bottom of the cups. (Can also use mini muffin tins)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter, then over medium heat, whisk in the flour. Cook for two minutes until boiling. Whisk in the milk and continue whisking until boiling, about 5 minutes. It should be nice and thick. Stir in the American and cheddar cheeses until melted. Off the heat, stir in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni. This is also a good time to taste and season accordingly. I like to add salt and a lot of pepper during this step.

Spoon evenly into the muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano cheese. (I have decided to skip this step and put all the Parmigiano cheese into the bottom of the tins, I think it makes the bites a little too crunchy to have this extra cheese on top, but that's just our preference).

Bake in the upper part of the oven for about ten minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes so they don't fall apart. Use a spoon to remove them from the muffin tins.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole

I purchased some photo editing software a month or so ago, but I never got around to learning how to use it. I made this casserole for our dinner the other night and when it was finally done, it was dark outside. The pictures I took all turned out dark and awful! I couldn't not (yes, I realize that's a double negative, I'm using it for effect) share the recipe, but I was embarrassed by my dark photography. Thank goodness for that software, I was able to enhance the light enough on this picture so ya'all bloggity readers can tell how yummy the recipe actually was.

Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole
From: Lauren's Kitchen


2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (next time I'll probably use two, we like onion)
1 bell pepper, diced (I left out, I don't like green bell peppers that much)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb diced ham
2 c cooks, shredded chicken breast (I used a pound package)
4 T butter
1/4 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
14 oz can chicken broth
3 cups cooked rice (I used cooked minute rice and it worked just fine)
1 c shredded cheddar
1 c shredded mozzarella or swiss

Preheat oven to 350°

I precooked the chicken by poaching it in a pot of water with chicken granules for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool and shred with your hands or a fork.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the onion and peppers until tender.

Add garlic, chicken and ham and cook until heated through, another 5 minutes or so.

Add the butter and once melted, sift on the flour salt and pepper and stir. You're making a roux here so allow to cook for a few minutes while the mixture thickens.

Stir in the chicken broth and rice.

Pour the mixture into a 9x13 casserole and top with the cheese mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melty and yummy. You might need to cover with foil to keep from overbrowning the cheese while the casserole heats through.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bruschetta Pasta

My basil plants are starting to really produce, so the other night I went out and harvested up a batch of beautiful leaves and created this pasta out of things from my pantry. I wish I would have had some dethawed chicken breasts, this would have been perfect with grilled chicken.


1/2 lb. penne pasta
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
Red pepper flakes to taste
Basil leaves, chiffonaded (is this a word?) Let's just say, cut into ribbons.

Cook the pasta to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat enough oil to saute the garlic and once fragrant, add the diced tomatoes and red pepper flakes to taste. Allow to simmer until the pasta is finished. Mix in the drained pasta and basil. Finish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Salami Pickle Rollups

My mom had these at a cocktail party around Christmas time. Thankfully we had an event this spring to make them for ourselves and of course they were a hit! Assembly was fun too, just have your friends form an assembly line and let the fun begin! Of course, the amount of ingredients you buy depends on how many apps you're making.

Hard salami, sliced thin
Jalapeno cured pickles, sliced lengthwise
Cream Cheese


Smear each slice of salami with a little cream cheese. Place a pickle slice in the center of each slice and roll up! That's it, pretty easy and very yummy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Frosted Marshmallow Brownies

I first made these brownies two weekends ago. As soon as they were frosted, we were invited over to spend the evening with my in-laws. The brownies went with us and never made it back home for their photo session. I remade them again yesterday for another dinner gathering with my in-laws, but I made sure some of them made it back so I could share the recipe. And yes, I took this picture outside with the plate on top of my mailbox. It's a beautiful sunshiny day and I'm tired of bad indoor lighting. After I snapped the shots, I took the plate over to Jay and Leslie of West 95 so I could share some bakinglove with them!

The recipe is super easy and tastes awesome. The little surprise of marshmallow makes them a little more fun than regular brownies, IMHO.

Frosted Marshmallow Brownies


3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 T baking cocoa
3-4 cups mini marshmallows

3/4 stick butter
6 T Milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup mini marshmallows or 4-6 large marshmallows
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°

Lightly grease a 9x13 pan

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilly and beat until fluffy.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Add to dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then spread into the 9x13 pan.

Bake for 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the mini marshmallows. Bake for another 2-3 minutes until the marshmallows are melty and spreadable. Using a butter knife dipped in water, spread the marshmallows over the brownies evenly.

For the frosting, combine the butter, milk and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir constantly until the mixture has boiled for one minute. Add the marshmallows and chocolate chips and stir until completely melted and combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken slightly. This is best done by running a sink of cold water and setting the saucepan into it while you continue stirring. I didn't do that the first time, but I did the second. The frosting definitely turned out smoother and shinier the second batch. Pour the frosting evenly over the bars. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Scallopine

This recipe tasted wonderful, but I messed up the sauce somehow. The cream seemed to separate on me and it never really thickened. Good thing Brent isn't picky about minutia like that, as long as he has a piece of crispy bread to soak up the sauce, he's happy.

Since I'm pregnant and don't really keep any wine around the house, I had to use chicken stock for the sauce. I know it would taste better than stock, I wish I had sent Brent to the package store for a bottle of chardonnay.

I loved her method for browning the chicken breasts. The olive oil/butter combination made them taste amazing, plus the house smelled great from the browning butter. Next time, I think I'll use baby portobella mushrooms, they have so much more flavor (I sound like Ina).

Chicken Scallopine
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

1 pound linguine
6 chicken breasts
Salt & Pepa
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
12 ounces white mushrooms, sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
1 lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 heaping tbsp capers

Cook the pasta until al dente.

Flatten the chicken breasts using a meat mallet, or whatever kitchen utensil you use for this task (I use a rolling pin). Season both sides with salt and pepper, than coat with flour. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet, add the chicken and fry until golden brown (time depends on the thickness). Remove chicken from pan, set aside.

Add mushrooms to the skillet and stir to coat with the remaining oil. Deglaze the pan with the wine and the juice from the lemon (amount to taste). Cook for one minute, or until the sauce reduces.

Reduce heat to low (here's where I made my mistake, I think my sauce was still too hot when I added the cream). Add the cream, capers and parsley, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and pasta and serve with crusty bread and parmesan cheese.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cocktail Bacon Wrapped Weenies - in the Crockpot!

These weenies are a favorite of mine from forever ago. My mom has played in a ten-point pitch club since I was a kid. When it was her turn to host, she'd always make these and my dad and I would sit in the basement watching television and sneaking these snacks out of the kitchen while the ladies were playing cards.

Now, I make them for parties and for football games, whenever the situation calls for sweet and salty meaty treats!


2 packages cheap hot dogs
2 packages cheap bacon
brown sugar


Cut the hot dogs into quarters. Cut the bacon in half, short ways. Wrap a slice of bacon around each hot dog piece, securing with a toothpick. Place in a crockpot and cover with brown sugar. You'll have to eyeball the amount, I've never measured. Put on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3.

The fat from the bacon melts and combines with the brown sugar making a yummy salty/sweet coating for the snacks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Penne Pizza Pasta Bake

I saw this recipe pop up in my Google Reader and starred it immediately. In fact, I think I made it the next day for dinner. I love making casseroles that leave us lots of leftovers for the next day or two. The food to dirty dish ratio is important to me during the week :) You can also make this ahead and freeze for baking at another time, if that's your M.O. I personally don't have the freezer space for doing this, but it sure would be handy! I ended up cutting the recipe in half and making it in a 9x13 pan.

Penne Pizza Pasta Bake
Source: Crista's Kitchen Creations

2 lbs of ground sausage (I used 1 hot, & 1 pound of hamburger)
2 jars tomato spaghetti sauce
16 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz chopped fresh mushrooms
1 lg bell pepper, chopped (I left this out, I don't care for green bell peppers)
1 onion, chopped
1 pkg pepperoni slices, quartered
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 boxes penne pasta

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large skillet, brown the sausage and onions. Next add veggies, seasonings, and sauce, and allow to simmer while cooking pasta. Cook pasta as directed on box, drain, and add to the sauce mixture. In a large bowl, blend shredded cheeses.

Fill 3 8x8 pans half full with pasta mixture. Next top each pan with a cup of the shredded cheese mixture. Top of each pan evenly with the remaining pasta, and then the remaining cheese. cover and freeze 2 pans for later. Bake in oven until cheese melts.

When preparing frozen pans, allow to thaw overnight and then bake at 350 for about 45 min, or until warmed through.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

April showers...May flowers

On the north side of my house is a beautiful peony bush. It blooms a little later than other peony's around my neighborhood since it's not in direct sun. When Brent was working on the fence yesterday I snapped some pics of the buds, they are just about to burst. A couple days of sun and they should be all out!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fence construction!

The wooden privacy fence in our back yard has been deteriorating for awhile. A few weeks ago the weakest post finally gave into the elements and broke off at the ground. Brent worked out a sweet deal with the neighbor where he bought the material and Brent did the labor for a little bit of cash. He ended up replacing four sections of fence, of which two posts had to be removed and replaced. That meant we got to mix up some quick set concrete and put our initals in it!

Brent started the project yesterday and got up pretty early this morning to finish since there is again a chance of rain, imagine that. It's only been raining for 40 days and 40 nights. There have been a few breaks in the clouds and people's lawnmowers have been going like crazy. Thankfully Brent finished the fence project today before the rains returned.

Gracie really liked checking out the neighbor's yard. There used to be a knothole in the old fence and she'd look through it all day spying on them. She's a snoopy dog.

***In case any of you had noticed before and were wondering, Gracie's tail is docked. We didn't do it on purpose, we adopted her from the shelter and she was pretty sick and malnourished. When we got her her tail was unbelievably long and skinny and was really badly infected. We tried to doctor it under the vet's supervision, but the infection spread up her tail, making her sick. The vet decided to dock it when he spayed her. I'm glad it's gone, if you've ever had a dog with a long tail with an infection in the end, you know what I'm talking about. It took months to get all the walls clean. blech.

I was able to help Brent a little by holding the cross bars while he made measurements before cutting them to size. I also held them while he screwed them in. Oh, and I made sure the post was square while the concrete was poured and setting. I guess that's a pregnancy perk, I wasn't able to help with the really dirty and heavy stuff, like pulling the old posts with their concrete settings out of the ground. I actually stayed clean during this project :)

Since it's so cloudy, the airport must be having their planes come in low, we usually don't see or hear landing airplanes unless it's stormy.

Spicy Chicken Enchiladas

Before now, enchiladas have intimidated me, but after preparing them using a recipe a couple of times I lost the fear and decided to experiment. I created this recipe using flavors we like, so feel free to substitute. Brent likes his Mexican food spicy and this recipe definitely fit the bill. The addition of the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce gave them a spicy/smoky flavor. The filing came out so colorful, I wish I had a picture of it before I rolled it into the tortillas.

I poached the chicken breasts a few days before I prepared this meal. In the past, I've severally overcooked chicken when poaching. This time I kept a closer eye on it because dry chicken sucks. In a large pot, three large chicken breasts (one pound) took about 22 minutes to cook through. I also added a tablespoon of chicken bouillon to the water which really amped the chicken flavor.


1 red onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, drained and chopped (reserve the liquid)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 box cream cheese, softened
1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
cilantro (optional)
3 cans red enchilada sauce
3-4 cups cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°

In a skillet, saute the onion, poblano, garlic and bell pepper until soft but still colorful, season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the sauted veggies with the chipotle peppers, chicken, cream of chicken soup, cream cheese and cilantro (optional). Mix until combined. Separately, combine the three cans of enchilada sauce with the reserved adobo sauce (use discretion, that stuff is spicy!).

Lightly grease a large roasting pan, or two 9x13 pans. Pour a little of the red sauce into the bottom of the pan and tilt to coat. Using a portion scoop (or your fingers!) roll up a portion of the mixture into each tortilla and line the enchiladas up in the pan. Top with the red sauce and the cheese.

Bake until heated through and cheese is melty and yummy, at least half an hour. You might have to cover the pan with tin foil to allow the interior to heat up without overcooking the cheese.

Here's a sexy nighttime picture of the enchiladas:

Evidently Sadi had a really good time helping me cook, check out this grin:

Spicy Party Nut Mix

Source: Redbook


4 tsp chili powder
4 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp dried thyme
12 oz. unsalted cashews
1.25 oz. pecan halves
4 tbsp melted butter
1.5 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine the spices in a bowl. Melt the butter, then stir the spices into the butter. Pour the mixture onto the nuts, tossing to coat. Transfer to a jelly roll pan and bake, stirring occasionally until fragrant and crisp, about 15 to 18 minutes, careful not to burn.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I made these the other night for my husband and father in law. Unfortunately the only picture I have is this sloppy picture of the stuffed peppers on a baking sheet. I'm kicking myself for not getting another picture once I had plated these babies, the plate was beautiful I tell ya, just beautiful. I served them with Mexican Sour Cream Rice, but I changed up the rice recipe by including cilantro and changing the cheese from Monterrey Jack to medium cheddar. Brent and I liked this version MUCH better, probably because it was more colorful!

I was initially inspired by this Black Bean and Rice Stuffed Poblano recipe on Food alla Puttanesca. I love black beans, but Brent isn't really a fan, plus, he prefers meals with meat. I created my recipe to fit his criteria :)


8 poblanos, 6 sliced lengthwise, with seeds removed, 2 diced
1 pound hamburger
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes
1.5 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups quick cooking brown rice
3 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
Dashes of hot sauce
Salt and pepper
2 cups cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°

Place the 12 halved poblanos on a baking sheet (I like to line with aluminum foil).
In a skillet over medium heat, brown the hamburger and season with salt and pepper. Remove the hamburger and drain.
Next, in a little olive oil, saute the red onion, garlic, and diced poblano until soft. Add the tomatoes, stock and spices and bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir to combine and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked.
Now, take the poblanos out of the oven (they should be getting soft by now), spoon the hamburger mixture into the pepper halves, top with cheese and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and yummy.