Friday, February 25, 2011

Chicken Parm Burgers

Dear friend, please promise me that you will make this as soon as possible. Because I love you. And I don't want you to miss out on something that will make your tastebuds sing.

And what will make your tastebuds sing, you ask?

Chicken Burgers + Parmesan Cheese + Breadcrumb Coating + Mushroom Marinara + Mozzarella = The Hallelujah Chorus

For the marinara sauce, simply saute one pack of sliced mushrooms, then add to the saucepan one can of crushed tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, basil, and oregano.

Mix one pound of ground chicken breast, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce just until everything is incorporated. Pat out your burgers; I divided one pound of meat into 6 burgers and made them fairly thin. I think for this recipe, thinner is better, so that it more resembles traditional chicken parmesan.

Once you have your patties made, coat them with breadcrumbs on both sides and then cook them for 4-5 minutes on each side, in heated olive oil in a skillet on medium heat.

To assemble, just place the burger on the bun, spoon some marinara on the burger, and top with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.

Please try these tonight.



Crock Pot Chicken Teriyaki

Once again, this idea came from Rachael Ray, with a few adjustments. Sometimes I sign my checks "Rachael Ray" and then tear them up. Not really. Not really at all.

Dump the following ingredients into the crock pot...

2 cups brown rice (I used brown basmati rice and it was great!)
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 cup Teriyaki sauce
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1/4 cup honey
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
About an inch and a half of ginger root, grated

If using raw chicken pieces, go ahead and add it now. I used previously cooked and shredded chicken breast, so I added it much later, just an hour or two before serving. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Check on the liquid levels as time gets closer to 6-8 hours; you may need to add a little more water to keep the rice from drying out, depending on how long you plan to cook it.

Apparently I did not take a picture of this one! I'm so sorry!

But...enjoy anyway!

Easy Beef Stroganoff

Super good. Super easy. Try it.

Brown one chopped onion and one pound of ground sirloin or venison in a pot. Once these are cooked through, add 1 pack of chopped mushrooms and cook for five more minutes. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over everything, stir for a minute, then add about 1 and 1/2 cups of beef broth, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.

While the beef mixture thickens, cook one pound of whole wheat egg noodles.

5 minutes before serving, add a few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves and let them wilt down into the meat mixture. Just before serving, stir in 2 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings

So, I am a Rachael Ray junkie. And this week she is doing an awesome thing...every day she is introducing a new slow-cooker recipe. I loooove slow cooker recipes. It is so satisfying to do the work in the morning and then have the aroma of home-cooked food drifting throughout the house all day. Well, old Rach gave a slow-cooker chicken and biscuits idea the other day that inspired me. I liked her idea, but I modified it and added dumplings instead of biscuits. Because everyone loves dumplings. Or at least they should. They should especially love this version, because it has relatively little fat, and is full of nutritious vegetables.

Start by chopping up...
5 carrots
2-3 ribs of celery
1 butternut squash

Put these vegetables in the crockpot, along with a bag of frozen peas.

Sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour over the veggies. Cover with chicken broth - about 3 to 4 cups. Add salt and pepper; turn it on low and forget about if for about 6 hours.

An hour before you are ready to eat, turn the temperature on high and add your cooked, shredded chicken to the pot. Then make the dumplings...

2 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Mix together and drop little pieces of it into the hot crock pot. Stir to incorporate and then pop the lid back on and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

And then...

Thoroughly enjoy!

Chicken and Pesto Pasta

When I got married nearly five years ago, I never would have touched anything called "pesto." Actually, I wouldn't have been able to even identify the food, but by virtue of its green character, I would have stayed away from it. My, how things have changed. This is now one of my favorite meals.

Now, store-bought pesto is good, but nothing compares to homemade pesto. In my version, I use considerably less oil...most recipes call for at least 1/2 cup, but I use less than half of that. This results in a thicker, bulkier pesto, but for this dish I think the texture is perfect.

To make the pesto, put the following ingredients into a food processor...
2 cups (packed) fresh spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic (I go ahead and mince my garlic to avoid any pieces that may not get pureed)
1 bunch (a little less than 1/2 cup) fresh basil
Juice of 1 lemon, plus a little zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Process until all the ingredients are well-blended. The mixture will not be "smooth" but will have a thick and kind of chunky texture. If you make the pesto ahead of time, just store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to use.

For the chicken, you could cube a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts and brown them on the stove, or use shredded or cubed boiled chicken. I used chicken that I had previously boiled, shredded, and frozen (see this post).

Spread one pint of grape or cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Boil one box of whole wheat penne pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, stir in the pesto. Once the pesto is incorporated, add the chicken. Finally, add the roasted tomatoes, mix everything together, and...


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Money Saving Tip...Homemade Chicken Stock

I go through chicken broth like it's going out of style. It is ALWAYS on my weekly grocery list. I don't make my own broth all the time...but there are times when it would be wasteful not to! Last week I got two packs of bone-in, skin-on, split chicken breasts for $0.98 per pound. So tonight I took the time to make my own stock. This is time-consuming, but I ended up saving at least $15.00 (maybe more) and I love the feeling of controlling the quality of my ingredients. I know exactly what is in my chicken broth, and I can feel good about serving it to my family.

So...I started by dumping both packs of chicken in a big, beautiful stock pot that I got for Christmas (thanks Mom!) To the chicken I added some vegetables: two ribs of celery, chopped into big pieces; 4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds; half an onion, leftover from something I made earlier in the week; and a handful of asparagus stalks, which I had saved from the last time I cooked asparagus (don't throw away those ends that you chop off - put them in a baggie and freeze them for making stock!) Cover everything with water, and then set it on the stove to cook! Bring to a boil (add salt at this point) and then let it simmer for a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

After a few hours, I pulled the chicken out one by one, took off the skin, and used two forks to pull the meat apart. Seriously, the meat was falling off the bone. It was so tender. I shredded it with my forks and set it aside to cool.

After cooling, store in ziplock bags in the freezer. I ended up with six bags of shredded chicken, not to mention the chicken that I went ahead and used tonight for quesadillas!

Now for the stock. This part is messy and time-consuming, but so worth it. I poured some in a glass storage bowl (pouring through a strainer) and put it aside. I will use that for some kind of soup, something that requires a lot of broth. But most recipes don't call for that much broth. Usually I need one to two cups for a normal recipe. So I ladled broth out and poured through a strainer into a measuring cup.

I stored one and two cup portions in ziplock bags and froze them. I ended up with 5 one-cup bags, and 6 two-cup bags, as well as the bowl of broth. That equals out to somewhere around 22 cups of chicken stock.

22 CUPS. Plus enough chicken for 7 MEALS. Hello? Can I get an "amen"???

I spent around $8 on the chicken, and less than $2 on the root vegetables used in this stock. That's $10.00 tops. And I got 22 cups of high quality chicken stock and 7 portions of meat out of it.

And it's soooo good. Try it! Enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pizza Casserole

I heart pizza. Soooo much. We eat homemade pizza at least once every two weeks. I can't live without it. Please don't make me give up pizza, Lord.

Tonight I put the flavors of my favorite meal into a casserole.
Pizza + Pasta + Casserole= True Love

This dish has so many possibilities, I can't even begin to fathom them. But in my version tonight, here were my ingredients...

1. Ground Venison. I browned the meat and seasoned it to resemble sausage...a couple of tablespoons of fennel seed, some cumin, chili powder, and red pepper flakes, and of course, a few cloves of minced garlic.
2. Mushrooms. I chopped a whole box of them and threw them right in there with the browned meat.
3. Pizza Sauce. I used one 20-oz can of tomato sauce and seasoned it with marjoram, basil, and oregano.
4. Cheese. I used mozzarella and 2% sharp cheddar. Yummmmm.
5. Pasta. I used whole wheat rotini. I think whole wheat elbows would be just as delicious.

That's it! Just mix all your (cooked) ingredients together in a big pot, pour it in a casserole, top with more cheese if you like, and pop it in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Mmmmm. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

BBQ Cubed Venison

Confession...10:25 PM. I just went to the refrigerator, pulled out the leftovers of this meal, and started eating cold potatoes from the top of the bowl. If that's not a recommendation for this one, I don't know what is.

Besides the amazing potatoes, another great quality of this meal is the fact that it took me 10 minutes to prepare before I walked out of the house this morning.

Spread out 2 pounds of cubed venison in the bottom of a crock pot. Pour one bottle of good quality (meaning NO high fructose corn syrup or any ingredients that you can't pronounce) BBQ sauce, 1 cup beef broth, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce over the meat. Slice up one red bell pepper and one onion and add to the pot, then fill the rest of the pot with cubed potatoes. I used probably 6 or 7 small Idaho potatoes.

That's it. Pop the lid on and cook on low for 7 or 8 hours. I actually cooked it for 10 hours, and it was still great. Serve alongside roasted broccoli or another green.

Enjoy the midnight leftovers!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chicken Parmesan

This. Is. Scrumptious. You must try it. It is such a simple recipe, and you can make it in under 30 minutes! I was going to say that this dish is "to die for," but then I thought that might sound a little idolatrous.

The Sauce:
Pour 1 can of crushed tomatoes into a saucepan. Grate 4 cloves of garlic down over it, and season with basil and oregano. Bring to a boil; add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese to the sauce and then simmer. DONE.

The Chicken:
Take one boneless skinless chicken breast for every two adult portions. Butterfly the chicken by slicing it open like a book. Pound it out; dip in milk and then breadcrumbs. (If using plain breadcrumbs, then season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning first.) Place in a skillet with heated olive oil over medium heat; cook 4-5 minutes on each side, or until white all the way through. DONE.

The Rest:
Cook one box of whole wheat thin or angel hair spaghetti according to package directions. Roughly chop and then saute a package of white mushrooms. Add the drained pasta and cooked mushrooms to the sauce. Cut each cooked chicken breast in half and serve over pasta and sauce. DONE.

We ate ours alongside a simple salad of spinach, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers. I also made some super easy and quick dinner rolls (I'll share that recipe soon.)

It. Was. Scrumptious. (oh, did I already say that??)


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Enchilada Lasagna

I LOVE making enchiladas. Correction: I love EATING enchiladas. I really don't mind making them either, but sometimes I just get a little frustrated filling each shell individually with enchilada stuffing. It seems like I always overstuff the first couple, and then I don't have enough when I get to the end. Or, I understuff at first and then overcompensate on those last two. It's very hard to make them even. Soooo...what if we could make enchiladas without the work of stuffing each one???

Let me introduce you to...Enchilada Lasagna.

Note: If you are using long-cooking brown rice in this dish, go ahead and start the rice before preparing the sauce. Whatever type you use, prepare one cup dry rice (yields 2 cups cooked).

To make the enchilada sauce...
Heat 2 T canola oil over medium heat. In a small bowl combine 2 T flour, 2 T chili powder, and 2 tsp cumin. Stir flour mixture into hot oil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. After one minute, stir in 1 can tomato sauce and 2 cups water. Remember, the more slowly you add the liquids, the more quickly the sauce will thicken.

While the sauce simmers, brown one pound of lean ground meat in a large pot (I used venison). To the browned meat, add one can of black beans, one can of pinto beans, one cup of corn (fresh, frozen, or canned), and two cups of cooked brown rice. You may want to add some salt and pepper at this point as well.

Then layer away.
1. Spread a little sauce on the bottom of a casserole.
2. Make a single layer of corn or flour tortillas (I used whole wheat flour tortillas. Flour tortillas get very soft, while corn tortillas would be a little sturdier).
3. Scoop out some filling (beef/beans/rice/corn mixture) and make a layer on top of the tortillas.
4. Sprinkle cheese on top of the meat.
5. Pour some sauce over everything, and start the next set of layers!

Save a little sauce to pour over everything right before you put it in the oven...400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

Tortillas + Stuffing + Cheese + Sauce - Work = Enchilada Lasagna


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Chili

I went to the grocery store the other day and found ground chicken breast for 2.98 a pack. That's the best price I've seen on white meat ground chicken, so I grabbed four of them before I left. When my price rang up at the register, I thought, "My, that's a little more than I expected to spend!" I should really have more faith in my internal calculator because when I got home I looked at my receipt and sure enough, they had charged me 5.00 for each pack! Note: ALWAYS check your prices as they ring up or check your receipt before you leave the store. So I made the trek back the next day to get my 8.00 back.

All that to say, I have a lot of ground chicken in my fridge now. So I either need to use it or freeze it. Tonight I decided to make buffalo chicken chili.

First I browned the chicken in a soup pot. Then I finely chopped and sauteed one onion and two carrots along with the meat. (Coach looked at me really funny when I asked him to get two carrots out of the fridge and peel them for the chili. I've never put carrots in chili before. But I had an instinct to put them in this, and I'm glad I did. So is Coach.)

After the veggies were tender, I added three tablespoons of tomato paste and stirred it around for a minute. Then I put in one can of original Rotel tomatoes, two cans of light red kidney beans, and probably around 2 to 3 cups of beef broth (depending on how thick or thin you want it). That's also kind of weird, I know...adding beef broth to a chicken dish. But what can I say? I thought it would be better than chicken broth. And it was. Finally, add two teaspoons of cumin, a palmful of chili powder, salt to taste, and, to make the buffalo in the chicken chili, hot sauce. How much? I don't know. I shook the bottle ten times over the pot. So, whatever equals 10 shakes, or thereabout.

Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for at least an hour.


Roasted Eggplant Pasta

I don't love eggplant, mostly because of the texture. But when I saw Rachael Ray do a dish like this one, pureeing the eggplant and combining with garlic and tomatoes, I thought I had to give it a try. And I'm so glad I did!!! This was a big hit in our house this weekend. In fact, I think it ranks up there with Little Bit's favorite meals now!

To begin with, roast an eggplant and a whole head of garlic. Place the whole eggplant on a baking sheet, stab it a few times on the top, and put it in the oven at 425 degrees. Cut the top part off the garlic to expose the bulbs, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and wrap it up in aluminum foil. Put it in the oven as well. It should take about 40-45 minutes for both. The eggplant will look kind of wrinkled when you take it out. Set both aside to cool.

On the same baking sheet, empty out two pints of cherry or grape tomatoes. I cut mine in half, but I'm sure you could leave them whole if you wanted less work.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put in the oven at 400 for about 15 minutes.

Now it's time to puree everything. For the eggplant...remove the purple skin with a paring knife, cut the flesh into chunks and put into food processor.

For the garlic...squeeze out the guts of the roasted garlic, mash with a fork, and put into food processor. For the tomatoes...just put them in, they're fine like they are. Now, I have a mini-food processor, so I can't fit all those ingredients in at once. I pureed the eggplant and garlic together, put it in my pot, and then pureed the tomatoes and added them to the pot. If you have a big processor, you can just puree them all together.

Add one can of tomato sauce to the pot and bring it up to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes. Spice it up! I used basil, oregano, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and a pinch of red pepper flake. While the sauce simmers, cook one box of whole wheat penne pasta according to package directions, and then drain and add to the sauce. Stir it all up, top with parmesan cheese, and...


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pasta alla Random

Every other week or so, we have pasta alla random...which, translated, is random pasta. It is officially whatever we have in the house tossed with pasta. Tonight it was butternut squash, mushrooms, and spinach. And chicken. And parmesan cheese. NEVER forget the cheese.

I peeled, cleaned out, and cubed a butternut squash. I just lied. You can find out how to prepare a butternut squash from this post. But I went to the store the other day and I found a package of fresh butternut squash, already cubed, in the produce section, with a choir of angels singing behind it. Once you cube it up or tear open the package and dump it out onto a baking sheet, dress it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put it in a 400 degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes, while you get the rest of the meal ready.

Chop a pack of button mushrooms and saute in a big pot. Don't really chop the package itself. Just the mushrooms will do. You also can add some chicken. I bought a really big pack of chicken breasts on manager's special, and I went ahead and cooked half the pack and chopped it all up earlier in the day. I'll freeze what I didn't use of the cooked chicken, and I also froze the uncooked half in individual bags for later meals. Back to the pot.

Once the mushrooms and chicken are cooked, sprinkle flour over everything, and then stir in 2 cups chicken broth. Add salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Let it thicken up for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Cook one box of whole wheat angel hair pasta for only 4 minutes. Then drain it and add it to the big pot to let it finish cooking. Once the noodles are tender, wilt in some spinach. I had half a bag in the fridge, so that's what I used, but it would have been good with more spinach. Finally, take out your roasted squash and add it to the pot. Stir it all around and then eat it!

Random pasta...a staple in our household. Enjoy!