Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chicken Pasta with Lemon & Artichokes


I know that I've talked a million times before about my favorite cookbook, Grand Temptations.  You know, the one that was made by the Grand Rapids Junior League that I was a part of?  Yeah....that one.  I really wish that I could buy a bunch of copies and give them to y'all because it really is a fantastic book.  There is not one single item that I've made from it that wasn't good.  And believe me when I say that I've made a ton of recipes from it and every dish has been superb!  It's such a great book for entertaining as well because it really helps you to be a "show off" in the kitchen (but not in a mean, snotty, "I'm better than you" way).  They're impressive recipes and they come from renowned chefs and restaurants in West Michigan, so they better be good, right?!  I'm telling you, you need to go out and get this book.  Who knows?  Maybe someday (soon) I'll end up giving one away!

Okay, enough about the book and onto the recipe.  I needed to talk about the book a little bit as my segue into this dish because, well, it's a recipe found in the book!  This was actually my first time making it and I've been eyeing it for a while but just never got to the actual task of preparing it.  So in planning my menu for the week, I went through my list (yes, I have a list...a long list, actually, of dishes I'd like to make in the next couple of months) and saw it on there.  It actually reminds me of an adaptation of Chicken Piccata, which if you're ever looking for a good recipe, Ina Garten's version is definitely the best!

Anyway, this recipe is a little more heavy than Chicken Piccata but the lemon juice helps to lighten it up a touch and the breading on the chicken is rather light as well.  All around, it's a great dish to make for Fall and into the Winter and served with a nice salad and some Italian bread, it'd be a great meal to entertain with as well!

Chicken with Lemon & Artichokes

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (I prefer Panko)
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Olive Oil
1 Sm. Onion, minced
1- 12oz. jar Artichoke Hearts, roughly chopped
1 Lemon, juiced
1/3 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Tsp. Dried Basil
1/2 cup Butter
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1/2lb. Spaghetti, cooked

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.

Set up a station to coat the chicken breasts with 3 shallow bowls.  In the first bowl, add the flour.  In the second bowl, combine the eggs and milk; whisk until blended.  In the third bowl, combine the bread crumbs and cheese; mix until combined. 

Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and begin the breading process by dipping each breast in the flour, then into the egg mixture followed by the bread mixture (be sure to coat both sides). 

Carefully place each chicken breast into the hot skillet and saute' until golden brown on each side (about 1-2 minutes). 

Remove the browned chicken breasts to a baking dish and bake until the juices run clear (about 25 minutes).

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over med-high heat.  Add in the onion and saute until tender.  Add in the artichokes, lemon juice and chicken stock; mix well and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally.  Mix in the basil and butter to create a smooth sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken over the pasta and top with the lemon and artichoke sauce.

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: Adapted from Grand Temptations
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PB Oatmeal Chocoloate Chip Cookies


What do you get when you mix a peanut butter cookie with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie?  Only my favorite cookie in the world!  Words cannot express how much I love these cookies.  I know I've mentioned my food indecisiveness before and if you really don't believe how bad it is, just ask Chris!  He'll tell you the agony he goes through in waiting for me to decide where I want to go out to eat at, what I'm going to order, what kind of drink I want, and do I want the peanut butter cookie or the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie?!  He's such a great guy...waiting so patiently for me to decide and explaining to the waiter/waitress to come back in about 20 minutes after I've had time to mull over the options and decide what I want!

This not only affects my food-related decisions, but it also trickles down into other areas of my life (especially right now when trying to decide how to decorate our new house).  It's painful, I tell ya....just painful and torturous and dreadful and annoying.  I'll stop there...

So years ago when I came across this recipe for a peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, I about fell off my chair!  At first I was excited and absolutely thrilled to have found this ingenious idea.  And then I became mad at the thought that I hadn't come of with the idea of combining my two favorite cookies to form one amazing cookie.  But I got over it, made the recipe and loved it more than I had ever anticipated and I've been making them ever since.  I really can't believe that I'm just now sharing this with you (and Chris).  Can you believe in the 2 years we've been together, I've never made these for him?!  Crazy, I know.  But that's neither here nor there and the moral of this story is that you should stop whatever it is your doing and MAKE THESE COOKIES!!!  I promise, you will thank me you did!

PB Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Flour
1 cup Old-Fashioned Oats
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp. Salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, softened
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 cup Peanut Butter (I prefer Peter Pan for baking)
1 Egg
1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla; mix well.  Gradually add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing well until blended, followed by another 1/3 of the mixture.  Add the chocolate chips into the remaining flour mixture and toss to make sure the chips are coated with flour (this prevents the chips from sinking to the bottom of the dough when mixing); add into the butter mixture and mix until well blended.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop the dough in tablespoonfuls, 2-inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes (or until lightly browned).  Let cool.

Yield: 30 cookies
Source: Adapted from
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pork Loin with Cranberry Sauce


Since we've moved, one of the things I've been really trying to stay on-task with is fixing a big dinner on Sundays.  Especially now that it's Fall, there's nothing more comforting to me than having a warm, home cooked meal on Sunday and sitting down to a game of football!  Comfort is defined by food in so many ways with things like soup, chili, pot roast, turkey dinner, and pork loin (to name a few).

Roasting a pork loin is actually one of the easiest things to do in the kitchen; however I know that it can be frightening and very intimidating for some.  But it really is a fool-proof dish and one that can help you to overcome any fears you may have about cooking pork if done the right way.  I'm telling you that by following this method of searing and roasting to temperature, you can be guaranteed to have a delicious, juicy and tender pork loin cooked all the way through!  It really is fool-proof!

This recipe actually comes from the Pioneer Woman and while I know there are mixed reviews of her recipes out there, I will say that so far, I have yet to be disappointed.  I love a good pork loin but I am obsessed with dressing it up with some sort of sauce!  The sweet and savory combination is one that tickles my taste buds and the cranberry sauce that accompanies this dish is by far, my favorite yet!  I cannot get enough of it!  Seriously, y'all, this sauce is a that!  It's sweet from the onions, but it has a slight hint of the tart cranberries and the warmth of the rosemary and chicken stock help to bring it back around.  It is purely delightful and the nice thing about it is that it would pair well with poultry (especially at Thanksgiving or Christmas)!

Pork Loin with Cranberry Sauce

2lb. Pork Loin, trimmed of fat
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
1 Sm. Onion, chopped
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 Tsp. Dried Rosemary
1/2 cup Cranberry Sauce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan over high heat.  Generously season all sides of the pork with salt and pepper and transfer to the hot pan, searing it for 1 minute on each side to form a nice brown crust.  Transfer the pork to a roasting dish or pan and roast in the oven until the inside temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees (approximately 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over med-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they become tender and translucent (approximately 3-5 minutes).  Add in the chicken broth and rosemary; stir to combine.  Mix in the cranberry sauce and cook until heated through, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and let thicken. 

Remove the pork from the oven and set on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes.  Slice the pork and serve with the cranberry sauce on top or alongside for garnishing.

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies


There are lots of flavor combinations in this world that, in my mind, are to die for!  Especially combinations including chocolate.  For instance: chocolate + peanut butter, chocolate + coconut, chocolate + cherry, chocolate + banana, chocolate + vanilla and the very best yet: chocolate + raspberry.

I absolutely LOVE chocolate and raspberry anything!  When I get ice cream, I typically order chocolate ice cream with raspberries on top.  When I get a piece of chocolate out of the box, I go for the the piece with creamy raspberry filling inside.  And when I eat brownies, I prefer them with raspberry jam swirled throughout.  Giada De Laurentiis has never, ever, disappointed me with her recipes and this lovely comes straight from her!

Brownies are good by themselves; they can certainly stand alone.  But every now and then I like to mix it up and add some fun to them.  Lately, when I have made brownies, I swirl a little raspberry jam in the mixture and top them off with drizzled white chocolate and chopped almonds!  Yum, yum, yum!  This is, by far, my favorite way to make them now and they have not let me down when I've taken them to gatherings with friends!  The raspberry in the chocolate speaks for itself while the white chocolate on top really complements the two flavors without making them overly sweet.  And the almonds?  The salty flavor and crunchy texture bring these bad boys to a whole other level!

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

1 box of Brownie Mix
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup Water
2/3 cup Raspberry Jam
4 oz. White Chocolate , chopped
1/2 cup Almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9x13-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the brownie mix, eggs, oil and water until smooth.  Spread the batter evenly into baking dish.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the jam over med-high heat until melted into a smooth consistency.  Carefully pour the jam into the brownie batter and swirl with a butter knife to incorporate the jam throughout the mixture.  Bake for 27-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Prepare the white chocolate by melting over a double boiler until smooth and creamy.  Drizzle the chocolate over the brownies and sprinkle the almonds on top.  Let cool.

Yield: 16 Servings
Source: Adapted from Giada at Home
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Southwest Turkey & Black Bean Soup


It seems that Mother Nature, herself, is playing games with us here in the South lately.  While we've had our fair share of abnormally warm hot weather this Summer, it doesn't seem like she really cares.  Being from MI, this is the time of year that I look forward to the most and it's usually right around this time that it really starts feeling (and looking) like Fall.  I realize that the further South you go, the longer it takes and I'm okay with that.  Last year was beautiful down here during the Fall and I really have no complaints.  However, it has been cooling off quite a bit at night and in the mornings around here (so much that Chris even wore a jacket to work last week) and we even had a few days in the 80's which, to us down here, feels like it's in the low 70's.  I got excited!  I brought out my cute little cardigans and wore them around with jeans and I even had my first taste of the year of the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte!  You know it's Fall, when those little babies come out! 

But oh the mind games that Mother Nature plays with us.  Wouldn't you know it?!  It's been well over 90 degrees again and in some spots, it even reached 100 degrees.  100 degrees?!  Really Mother Nature?!  That's what you're going to give us after we've suffered through a grueling and ridiculously hot Summer?!  Please....that hot weather doesn't scare me and it certainly doesn't stop me from already making my Fall meals and baked goods (hence the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones with Maple Glaze). 

With the very short spurt of what felt like cooler weather on it's way, the shelves overflowing with Autumn and Halloween goodies in the stores and the ads for cute jackets, sweater dresses, awesome boots and the like, I'm already geared up and ready to go!  So with Fall weather, comes a lot of warm, hearty and comforting meals, especially soup!  This recipe is definitely one of my favorites (I know, I say that about every recipe) but I realized that I had never made it for Chris!  It's actually a healthy soup as it's made with ground turkey, but you would never know it because the flavors are so warm and wonderful together! 

Chris especially loved this meal!  We had it with some nice, crusty French bread (perfect for dipping or as they say here in the South, "sopping") and he even had another helping and took some for work the next day....that's a sure sign, in our house, that the meal was a success!

Southwest Turkey & Black Bean Soup

2 - 15oz. cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Sm. Onion, chopped
2 Sm. Green Peppers, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tsp. Cumin
1 - 15oz. can Diced Tomatoes, un-drained
1 Sm. Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and minced
1-1.5 lbs. Ground Turkey
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, puree' 2 cups of the black beans with 1 cup of chicken broth; set aside. 

In a Dutch Oven or large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the onions and peppers; saute' until tender (about 7 minutes).  Add in the garlic, cumin, tomatoes, the remaining black beans and black bean puree'; mix well.  Gradually add in the remaining chicken broth, stirring constantly.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. 

In a large pan, cook the ground turkey over med-high heat until slightly browned.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix in with the soup mixture.  Add in the jalapeno and cook until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 Servings
Source: Adapted from Grand Temptations
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones with Maple Glaze


Well hello there!  Long time no see, huh?!  Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that it's been several months since I've been on here!  I really had no intention of taking that long of a hiatus but it was very necessary and some much needed time off.  I hope you can understand. 

So much has happened in the last few months....we found out we were moving for Chris' job, we actually made the move to Atlanta (with several commutes back and forth to South Carolina and a month in temporary housing), we found a house and are still making progress on settling into it, and we got engaged!  Yep, Chris finally popped the question and I couldn't be more happy or more excited about how it all came together!  And oh my goodness, y'all, the ring he picked out is absolutely gorgeous!  He did such a good job and I'm so proud of him!

So, with the whirlwind of events taking place in our lives, the idea of cooking and baking was not very appealing to me!  And the idea of staging the food, taking pictures, writing up a post and then adding it to the blog was even more unappealing.  I temporarily lost my passion to have anything to do with the kitchen!  You would think that after eating out for over a month, I would've been excited to get in there and make a home cooked meal.  Well, I really wanted a home cooked meal, but I didn't want to make it!  But I finally got back in there and I finally got my drive back to start blogging my cooking adventures here again!  I'm really sorry to leave y'all hanging like that.

So without further ado, let me introduce to you this yummy Autumn-flavored Pumpkin Scone!  What better way is there than to get back into the swing of things with a tasty Fall treat?!  There isn't.  I know I said it last Fall year and I'm sayin' it again now....I LOVE PUMPKIN!  And this scone is such a nice addition to any Autumn breakfast, tea (or coffee) with friends or dessert after a nice warm meal.  It is so good and the addition of chocolate chips really balance out the pumpkin flavor.  I decided to add a drizzle of maple glaze on top to add just a touch of sweetness and boy, did it do the trick!  These are great little things you can quickly throw together for an unexpected guest or even to freeze for future use.  They've got substance to them and hold up nicely!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones with Maple Glaze

Ingredients - Scones
2 cups Flour

1/3 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 Tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp. Salt
8 Tbsp. cold, Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree'
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

Ingredients - Glaze
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
1 cup Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add in the butter and stir with a fork to combine.  Using the fork or a pastry blender, but the butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs (the largest pieces of butter should be no larger than the size of a pea).  Add in the chocolate chips and mix to combine.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla; mix well.  Add into the dry ingredients and stir together gently just until the dough comes together.  **I found the dough to be quite sticky, so I kneaded it for a bit on a floured surface just to help it come together more.  Be careful, though, to not overwork the dough if you do this**

Move the dough to the prepared baking sheet and pat it out into a 9-inch round.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 22-25 minutes).  Allow it to cool and slice it into wedges.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the butter and maple syrup over medium heat until combined.  Gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Allow it to cool just enough to transfer to a pastry bag (or Ziploc bag with the tip slightly cut off) and drizzle the glaze over the cooled scones.

Yield: 8 Servings
Source: Scone recipe adapted from Annies Eats, originally from Joy of Baking and Maple Glaze recipe from Martha Stewart.
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