On The Menu: (Quick and Easy)

  • Herb Chicken Con Broccoli
  • Stuffed Shells

 

When I plan out the menu for the week, I always think of ways that I can take short cuts.  One of the ways is cooking meat before (as long as it’s not the main protein for the dish because you don’t want dry protein).  Another way is making dishes that share ingredients.  Also, when I’m making a huge meal, I usually have a pot of boiling water on the stove and so I also take the opportunity to blanch certain veggies (in this case the broccolini) so that it could be ready for use later in the week.  These are two dishes that are quick and easy to make.  Chicken con broccoli is one of my favorite and I really enjoy making it because it’s so fast.  The night that my husband grilled, I asked him to cook some chicken for me on the side so that I could prep ahead for two dishes.

Herb Chicken:

  • two whole chicken breasts (butterfly both pieces so it’s about 1/2 in thick)
  • 2 tblsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of rosemary
  • 1 tsp of thyme
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves

Rub both chicken breasts with all the seasonings, oil and garlic.  Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes so that the seasonings can settle onto the chicken.  Grill (or cook it in the pan) until you have a nice golden color on both sides. After cooking, I let it cool and chopped it into chunks and set one breast aside for the chicken con broccoli and the other breast for stuffed shells.  I also cooled the broccolini after blanching and placed it on a plate with the chicken, covered it and set it in the fridge. 

 

Chicken Con Broccoli: (serves 3-4)

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  • 1 fully cooked herb chicken breast diced into chunks
  • 1 bunch of broccolini that’s been cut into 3 inch pieces and blanched
  • Half a box of cooked orecchiette pasta
  • 1 tblsp of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of flour
  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of light cream (as opposed to heavy whipping cream)
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper the sauce to taste

I wanted to cut the fat because other recipes had full cups of heavy whipping cream and since we’re both not fans of super heavy, creamy food, I thought putting in light cream and combing it with chicken broth would be fine.  It came out wonderful! You simply need to heat up a large pan with olive oil and toss in the garlic.  Just when it starts getting fragrant (don’t let it burn), sprinkle in the flour and whisk it to break up the chunks of flour.  Once combined well, whisk in the cream and chicken broth.  Cook for about 5 minutes while whisking.  Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper.  It will look somewhat still runny but the pasta will tighten everything up so no worries! Put the pasta, chicken and broccolini in the pan.  Toss gently and the pasta will become thicker (about 5 minutes).  Throw in the parmesan and toss once more and serve! So simple and so fast!

 

Stuffed Shells: (serves 3-4)

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  • Half a box of cooked jumbo shells (about 16 pieces)
  • 1 fully cooked herb chicken breast diced into chunks
  • 1 jar of pomodoro sauce
  • 1/2 box of baby frozen spinach (squeeze water out)
  • 1/2 onion finely diced
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 8 oz. skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of mozzarella (divided into 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper

After the pasta is done cooking, set it aside to cool.  Quickly saute the onion and garlic with some olive oil.  Toss in the diced chicken last minute to heat and soften.  In a bowl, combine the cooked mixture, spinach, ricotta, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, egg, salt and pepper and mix it well so that everything combines.  Put a layer of pomodoro sauce in a 9×9 baking dish.  Stuff each shell with about 1tbslp-1 1/2 tbslp of filling so that it becomes full but not over-stuffed.  Lay the stuffed shells side by side in the dish.  Once the dish is full, spoon pomodoro sauce across each row.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese on top.  Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. 

 

Both dishes share similar ingredients and can be prepped ahead of time.  Once the shells are stuffed, you can freeze these for a later day.  Just add the sauce when you’re ready to cook.  I hope you enjoy both… they are very yummy!

On The Menu: (Hubby’s Cooking!)

  • grilled asparagus
  • cheddar grit cakes
  • whole grilled baby vidalia onions
  • grilled lamb lollipops

 

Let me begin by saying that tonight was my first time trying lamb.  I don’t know why I had never tried it before but perhaps because people told me it was very “gamey.”  The hubby thought it would be a change to our dinner and since it was a beauitful day in Georgia, he wanted to grill outside.  After trying it, I have to admit I am not a fan. I will try it again since Andrew Zimmern always tries things twice. But I am always so thankful to have a husband who loves cooking as much as I do so I will post this blog on behalf of him!

 

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Grilled Asparagus:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tblsp of olive oil

Grilled Vidalia Onion:

  • 3 whole onions
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tblsp of olive oil

He really likes eating asparagus with grilled food.  It’s an easy side to make and you can prep it ahead of time and toss it on the grill last minute.  Likewise with the onion.  I always wash and cut the ends of the asparagus off since it’s more tougher towards the bottom end.  After, we tossed it in the olive oil, chopped garlic and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  He threw it on the grill for 3-4 minutes so that it cooks but it doesn’t become soggy. That’s it! The vidalia onions were washed and cut into halves then drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  These stayed on the grill for about 15 minutes.  It was so sweet and the char on the outsides made it taste even better!

 

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Cheddar Grit Cake:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of stone ground grits
  • 1 cup of white cheddar
  • 1 cup of sharp yellow cheddar
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: drizzle honey on top in the end

Living in the South means that grits are pretty much everywhere.  My husband loves them and I am slowly growing to like them.  However, his version of this grit cake was amazingly cheesy, delicious and sweet (with the honey on top).  He put the water and grits in a pot and brought it to a boil.  He turned the heat down low and stirred frequently for 30 minutes.  The grits will tighten up.  He then tossed the grated cheese in, paprika, salt and pepper until it was all combined.  He put this mixture into a small rectangle baking dish and cooled it in the fridge.  Once firm, he cut it into rectangles, put a bit of flour on both sides and fried them in a pan until golden and crispy.  I liked the addition of the honey but he ate his without.  Regardless, it was deeelicious!

 

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Grilled Lamb Lollipops:

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 1 tblsp of salt
  • 1 tsp. of pepper
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 2 tblsp of olive oil

My husband cut the rack into individual lollipops.  He tossed the seasonings and olive oil into a bowl and mixed it around.  Then he tossed in the lollipops and had it marinate for about 30 minutes.  Grilling this took no time at all.  It was about 3 minutes on each side and then indirect heat for about 5 minutes.  The lamb came out medium rare to medium.  The texture was absolutely phenomenal but the taste… I just can’t get over it.  I guess it’s not for everyone. 

 

It’s been a good night thus far… 🙂

 

On The Menu:

  • spicy pulled pork tamales
  • chicken enchilada casserole

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Since moving to the South, my husband and I both agree the only drawback is the lack of good Mexican food.  We miss the street tacos, the famous El Taurino and King Taco hot sauce and tamales.  As I was planning out the menu for the week, I knew I wanted to make a chicken enchilada casserole but I wanted to add something else.  I went into Whole Foods and while searching for grits I found Maseca.  It’s basically instant corn masa mix that you can make tamales with. The recipe for the tamale dough called for:

  • 2 cups of Maseca
  • 2 cups of broth (I used chicken broth)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 of lard of vegetable shortening (found some organic shortening… woo hoo!)

When combined, you want it to come into a spongy texture. If it’s too dry, it won’t spread well and if it’s too wet, then you’ll have a hard time even keeping it in the husk.

For the filling:

  • 5 chile pods (soak for at least 2 hours of boil for 20 minutes)
  • 2 pounds of pork butt
  • 1 tbl oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, another 2 for chile sauce
  • 8 cups of water
  • salt
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 18 corn husks (soak for at least 2 hours)

I combined the pork butt, oregano, cumin, onion, garlic and salt into a pot and brought it to a boil then put it on the lowest heat for 2 hours.  The meat was so tender, it was difficult to take it all out in one piece.  For the red sauce, I seeded the chile pods and tossed them into a blender with the cup of chicken broth, garlic, cooked onion that was in with the pork butt.  Once it was smooth, I combined it with the shredded meat and tossed it together.  I spread the tamale dough at the widest part of the husk, spreading it up only half way and left it about 1/4 in thick.  I wanted to pack in as much meat as possible because I always hate how some tamales in restaurants came with very, very little meat.  Once the meat was in (about 1-2 tblsp), I rolled one side in, then the other and folded it in half.  Apparently, the best way to steam tamales are standing them upright on the fold.  I steamed them for 1 hour and they came out perfect and super good!

 

My mom loves my chicken enchiladas. I always think of her when I make them. So today, instead of rolling up each one, I thought of just layering the dish and making a casserole in a 9×9 dish (serves 4):

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  • 1 Frontera (by Rick Bayless) Enchilada Sauce Pack
  • 2 chicken breasts (boiled and shredded)
  • 1/2 packet of taco seasoning
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 box of organic Pacific brand condensed chicken soup
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup of monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup of sharp cheddar
  • pickled jalapenos
  • 12 mini corn tortillas (street taco size)

After shredding the cooked chicken, I combined the taco seasoning and some water and tossed the chicken to season it.  I poured some enchilada sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish and laid 4 tortillas down.  Then I combined the sour cream, condensed soup and onion and smeared 1/3 of it on the tortillas, then put 1/2 of the chicken all over, sprinkled on the cheese and put some jalapenos all over the top and covered it with 1/3 of the pouch of sauce.  I repeated this until the third layer of tortillas.  After I put those down, I put the sour cream mixture and the rest of the enchilada sauce on top and covered it with cheese.  Baked it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  I tried it since it was a new test recipe and it was deeee-licious!

 

Too bad this is my dinner tonight:

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toodaloos everyone!

    On The Menu:

    • good old fashioned hamburger
    • Alexia seasoned waffle fries (so good!)

     

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    Today was what I called a “short cut” day (a.k.a. not made from scratch day).  My mom taught me to keep certain things in the fridge/freezer/pantry at all times.  She said you must always have ground beef, chicken, onions, potatoes, pasta noodles, pasta sauce, milk and some other basic stuff.  That way, if I was ever in a pickle and for some reason could not go grocery shopping,  I could whip up something using those ingredients.  Since my husband had work today (he works 3pm-3am) I knew I had to pack him dinner and make our lunch.  For his dinner, I threw together a pesto pasta using pre-made pesto from the store, heated up some rolls and put together a cheese, fruit, veggie and dip snack that was left over from the weekend.  While I was doing this, I was thinking of what we could eat for lunch since it was going to be our only meal together today.  I opened the freezer and found some ground beef and saw the Alexia waffle fries and then I remembered the beautiful tomatoes that we had bought over the weekend from the farmer’s market. So of course I immediately thought of hamburgers and fries! Great, awesome… but no bun.  So I had the genius idea to make hamburger rolls from scratch.  I started doing resesarch while the pasta was boiling and saw that the ingredients were simple and I had yeast in the pantry.  I followed the instructions and I thought the dough didn’t look as pillow-y as it should but I continued on. Needless to say, my hamburger “buns” came out looking like shiny light brown baseballs with the dough still being raw in the  middle.  For some reason, I can follow a recipe and cook but I cannot bake! It’s so frustrating and I just can’t figure it out! Can anyone feel my pain??!

    I ran out to the store and grabbed some freshly baked rolls from the bakery while my husband cooked the patties and watched the fries.

    Moral of today’s Short Cut Day: always listen to what your momma says because she’s right and find a baking class pronto!

     

    On The Menu:

    • herb and garlic rubbed roasted pork tenderloin
    • white truffle macaroni and cheese
    • cornbread dressing
    • garlic green beans

     

    I first started with baking my own cornbread from scratch.  I found an easy recipe online for a sweet cornbread thanks to allrecipes.com by bluegirl but I added a little less sugar:

    • 1 cup of white flour
    • 1 cup of yellow cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup of cane sugar
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup of milk
    • 1/3 cup of canola oil

    Really good cornbread!:

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    From this I simply let it cool and cut half of the portion (it was baked in a 9×9 dish) and cubed it for the dressing. 

    For the dressing:

    • 1/2 onion chopped
    • 2 small sage leaves of 1 medium leaf
    • 1 stalk of celery diced
    • pinch of salt and pepper
    • the cubed cornbread
    • 1/2 cup of chicken stock

    I cooked the onion, sage and celery first until it was translucent.  Added some salt and pepper to season and then added the cornbread and mixed it up before adding the chicken stock.  This was my own recipe so I tried to stay close to the measurements but I usually eye-ball everything so add the stock slowly so that the dressing does not turn into a complete mush.  I put it into another smaller baking dish and baked it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until the top was browned.

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    The white truffle macaroni and cheese takes some time and love but the finished product is truly an indulgence and so amazingly wonderful.  After doing much research online and looking at various recipes, I settled on this one that ended up being my own since my husband is not a fan of mushrooms and we think too many strong cheeses are too much in macaroni and cheese:

    • 1 box of spiral macaroni (we use Delverde’s Tortiglioni)
    • 4 tblsp of butter
    • 4 tblsp of flour
    • 2 cups of milk (we use reduced fat)
    • 1 tsp of salt
    • 1 tsp of cayenne
    • 3/4 cup of grated fontina
    • 3/4 cup of grated monterey jack
    • 3/4 cup of grated white cheddar cheese
    • some parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
    • 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs for the top
    • 2 tblsp of white truffle oil

    Cook the pasta according to the box’s directions.  You start this recipe like any other mac and cheese recipe, making a roux.  Put the butter in the pot and when it has all melted, add the flour and whisk frequently for about 5 minutes.  To this, slowly stream in the milk while whisking and you’ll find that the sauce will become thicker and thicker.  You want to get any clumps out and have the sauce smooth.  Then add the salt and cayenne and lower the heat.  Add all of the cheese and the mixture will become thick. Whisk in the cheese until the sauce becomes smooth again.  Turn the heat off and add the already cooked and drained pasta to the sauce.  Toss until everything is will coated and put into a 13×9 baking dish.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top and put it into a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes.  After about 20 minutes, drizzle the truffle oil all over the dish and finish baking. Comes out with a nice, crusty top and a delicious aroma from the truffle oil:

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    We have green beans very often because my husband loves them so much! It’s one of the most easiest sides to make and it’s almost fool proof! (Just don’t burn the garlic):

    • half a pound of green beans
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • salt and pepper to taste

    While my pasta is cooking, I always blanch my cleaned green beans in the water with a spider skimmer on top.  It never affects the cooking of the pasta and I just do it in batches because the blanching takes about 20 seconds per batch.  Then I just add some olive oil to my pan and toss in the blanched green beans, garlic and salt and pepper.  Toss it around for about 5 minutes and it’s done.  At our house, we don’t like soggy green beans unless in a casserole so these will still have a slight crunch to them:

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    For the pork tenderloin, it was my first time cooking with it. One of my girlfriends said how good it was and how easy it was to make.  I was always worried about the it being too dry but it came out fantastic! Ingredients are simple:

    • 1 pound pork tenderloin
    • 1 tblsp of salt
    • 1/2 tsp of rosemary
    • 1 tsp dried basil
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

    Take off some of the silver skin on the tenderloin but leave the fat on.  Put together all of the herbs, garlic and salt and rub it together.  I did it with my fingers so that the salt would break down the garlic.  Rub this all over the tenderloin and massage it in.  I let this sit for about an hour in the fridge.  Set the oven to 425 and bake the tenderloin for about 25-30 minutes.  Make sure the temperature reads 155 degrees before it’s taken out.  This needs to rest, covered with foil so that all the juices stay in the tenderloin.  After resting:

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    This dinner can feed 3-4 people with leftovers of the mac and cheese.  We like leftovers because then I don’t have to think about what my husband can take to work the next day.

     

    Enjoy!