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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I'm always looking for fast, easy, cheap, and yummy dinners.  I think this may be a new go-to for us.  My mother-in-law made it for us last time we were in Utah for a visit, only she used shrimp instead of chicken.  It was delicious and came together so quickly!  I thought I'd share it here just in time for Mardi Gras (which is February 12th this year).  Jeff spent a few years of his childhood in Lousiana, so at our house we use that as an excuse to celebrate Mardi Gras and eat yummy Cajun food.  So, if you need an excuse to make this, use Mardi Gras and you can thank me later.  



Cajun Chicken Pasta


Ingredients:

For the blackened chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

For the sauce:
1- 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2-3 teaspoons cajun/creole seasoning (some brands are spicier than others, so season gradually and taste as you go)
1- 15 ounce jar alfredo sauce (or make your own. This is my favorite--just use half of a batch.)
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound linguini, or other pasta, cooked and drained

Directions:


Preheat oven to 350. Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat for 5 minutes until it is smoking hot.
Mix together the paprika, salt, cayenne, cumin, thyme, white pepper, and onion powder. Oil the chicken breasts with cooking spray on both sides, then coat the chicken breasts evenly with the spice mixture.

Place the chicken in the hot pan, and cook for 1 minute. Turn, and cook 1 minute on other side.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness.  When the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165, remove chicken breasts from skillet and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  While chicken is resting, cook your pasta and prepare sauce.  

In a medium saucepan, combine crushed tomatoes, alfredo sauce, and cajun/creole seasoning. Heat over med-low, until hot and bubbly.  Slice chicken and serve with sauce over hot pasta.  .  

Notes:

The chicken is a bit spicy, if you want to reduce the spiciness, cut back on the cayenne pepper.
This is also really yummy using shrimp instead of chicken.  
If you have leftover chicken and sauce--use them on a pizza! :)


Recipe Source: My mother-in-law Karen, and allrecipes

Monday, January 28, 2013

Skookies {Favorite Cookie in a Skillet}


I have a series of recipes I want to share with you leading up to Valentines Day.  I don't know how you like to spend Valentines Day, but we boycotted going out to eat after year one of being together for Valentines. The wait was insanely long, and the food wasn't worth the wait [that could have been our choice of restaurant, but nonetheless we've been staying home and making a extra fancy meal and dessert the last several years].

But before I keep blabbing, let me just tell you about a Skookie, in case you've never had one.  First off you'll want to use your favorite cookie dough. We hold partial to using a classic chocolate chip [this one is one of my favorites] or oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But I've seen them done with brownie batter, and other cookies doughs, such as white chocolate macadamia nut.  Check our our Recipe Index for other cookie recipes.  Choose your favorite cookie dough recipe - bake it in a Skookie skillet and top it with ice cream. I can't recommend anything but vanilla ice cream.  The cookie bakes about the same amount of time as your recipe calls for. You eat it fresh out of the oven [out of the skillet] topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  We tend to keep adding ice cream as we go. There is something about hot fresh cookies that makes you need the cold vanilla to tone down the sweetness. Sounds crazy, I know!  Anyhow....

The Skookie is near the top of my husband's favorite dessert list. And since we've started a year-long no dessert/candy deal, back in October, with the exception of birthday's and Thanksgiving [oh, and we just added a new rule, that we can have it once a month] choosing a dessert is a big deal around here! Like, HUGE! We just recently celebrated my husbands birthday and he was trying to decide between cheesecake and skookies.  So naturally, I'll be sharing my favorite cheesecake recipe later this week too, and then I'll share a new creation I made in his honor to satisfy his need for Skookies and cheesecake!  So get excited, cause it's pretty exciting! :)

Do you spend Valentines at home for a nice meal or out?  Share your thoughts and ideas for making your Valentines a special night! 

And a side note about skookies:
I know that most people probably don't have these cookie skillets in the stash of kitchen gadgets, but these became really big in Utah a few years ago [my sister got 4 sets - 8 skookie pans]. The Utah based company Camp Chef, designed some of these mini cookie skillets and called them Skookie Cast Iron Skillets.  I've seen them at Bed Bath & Beyond, and obviously you can order them online directly from Camp Chef. I don't have any brilliant ideas for making these without them, but if you do, please share! Another reason I assume they became so popular in Utah was because of Firehouse Pizzeria. On their menu they used to have "Ph'zookies" - which was this same idea. Anyways, they are delicious! 


Skookies {Favorite Cookie in a Skillet}

Printable Version
Ingredients:

Your favorite cookie dough (chocolate chip, oatmeal chocolate chip, or white macadamia nut
dough are the ones I’d recommend)
Skookie pans
Vanilla ice cream
Toppings [chopped nuts, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, etc]

Directions:


Mix up your favorite cookie dough and place it in the cookie skillet, leave about 2 inches for spread, you don’t want it to overflow the skillet.  Bake according to recipe instructions and check for doneness. You’ll want the cookie to be lightly browned.  

When finished baking, top with your favorite vanilla ice cream and any additional desired toppings!

Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Idea from the Skookie pan box - adapted with my favorite cookie doughs.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies {with Cream Cheese Frosting}

Homemade Oreos.  These babies are obviously not very much like the Nabisco variety, but are so very delectable in their own way.  These are definitely not new or inventive, but they are so delicious!  In the event that everyone in the world doesn't already have this recipe, I'll share it here.  My mom used to make these on occasion and they would disappear fast!  I kind of forgot about them and rediscovered them last month.  Since then, I've made for 3 different occasions!  By using boxed cake mix, they come together so quickly and can be made super cute and festive by adding a little food coloring to the frosting or rolling the cookies in some fun sprinkles.  

I've seen a few versions that use shortening rather than oil.  I have some kind of aversion to shortening, (I'm more of a butter kind of girl!) so I love that this version uses oil and doesn't give you a totally flat cookie.  Plus, the oil is much less fussy to measure.  



Chocolate Sandwich Cookies {with Cream Cheese Frosting}

Printable Version

Ingredients:


2 boxes devil’s food cake mix
4 eggs
¾ cup +1 tablespoon canola oil

For the frosting:
1- 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened (Neufch√Ętel cheese works great too!)
½ cup butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
3 cups powdered sugar (use less if you don’t like it as sweet)

Food coloring (optional)

Directions:



Preheat oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl (or mixing bowl of a stand mixer) combine cake mix, eggs, and oil.  Mix (using paddle attachment) until uniform and well combined.  Roll dough into ping-pong sized balls and place on parchment or silicone lined baking sheets.  Using the bottom of glass (or something else flat) press the cookies ever so slightly.  Bake for 8-10 minutes being careful not to overbake.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  

For the frosting, beat all ingredients with an electric hand mixer until smooth and fluffy.  If you wish, you can transfer the frosting into a quart-size ziploc freezer bag and snip the corner off for fast and mess-free cookie assembly.     

When cookies are cooled completely, match them up by size and frost as desired.  Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  

Notes:


I use the cake mix that has pudding in the mix with great results.  It makes for extra-soft cookies.  You can change the amount of oil in the recipe anywhere from ⅔ cup to 1 cup depending on how thick you like your cookies.  Just keep in mind that you will be sandwiching 2 together, so you don’t want them too thick.  Also, if you want to make giant cookies, roll the balls bigger and add a few minutes to the baking time.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

{Baked} Beef & Bean Taquitos



Last week I posted a recipe for {Baked} Creamy Chicken Taquitos. Between the chicken taquitos and the {Baked} Beef & Bean Taquitors I'm sharing today, these are two recipes that appear on our dinner menu every month.  I like them because they are easy, healthy, TASTY and pretty slick to make.  My husband says he prefers these over the chicken ones. But for me it's kind of a toss up. I like them both A LOT!

The filling of the taquito is mainly beef, bean and cheese.  The spices, onions, and garlic give it the perfect "pop" to make your tastes buds happy! 


Last week I mentioned that my 2 year old loves the chicken taquitos. She also loves these beef and bean taquitos. And still 3 or months in a row this is the ONLY kind of thing she will eat meat in! So maybe that is one more reason why these little beauties appear on our dinner table more than once a month. I like to scramble the beef really fine. The fine bits of cooked beef mixed with the bean and cheese is easy for my little lady to eat - and I like it that way too. My daughter usually asks for more after devouring a whole one! I love when I can get her to eat something good for her!

We enjoy these dipped in salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole!

I hope you'll love them as much as we do!



{Baked} Beef & Bean Taquitos
Printable Version
Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
3 cloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
⅓ cup onion, diced
¾ cup refried beans
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup red or green salsa
1 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
small flour or corn tortillas (I prefer the flour since I love them, and always have them on hand)
kosher salt
cooking spray

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 375-400 (my oven is pretty hot, so I do 375) and line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray..

In a skillet cook ground beef with onion and garlic until no longer pink and cooked thoroughly.  Drain excess fat and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Add beans, cilantro, green onion, cumin, cayenne, salsa, and cheese. Mix until combined well.

If you are using corn tortillas work with only a few at a time. Do this by heating them in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It is helpful to place them between damp paper towels. 20-30 seconds should be enough time. If they are cracking, try heating them just a little warmer.  If you are using flour tortillas there is no need to do this. I usually use the uncooked flour tortillas (they taste much better, I think), so I quickly brown them before filling them. I’ve do it without doing this and it doesn't turn out as good since the bottom where the tortilla will overlap when rolled doesn’t cook crispy like the rest of the taquito.  But if you are in a hurry you can use uncooked tortillas. 

Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of the beef mixture and place it on the lower third of each tortilla, keeping it about ½ inch from the edges. And then roll it up as tight as you can.

Place the seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. At this point you can stick them in the fridge and keep them there until dinner time. I do this a lot so I can have a quick meal come dinner time.  Before baking, spray the top of each taquito roll lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Dip them in salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc. I like sour cream mixed with salsa! :)

Makes 8-10 on flour tortillas, and more like 12-16 on corn tortillas.

Freezer Meal Note: 
I assemble these the same as the recipe except for I don't spray them with grease or salt them.  I like to freeze them until solid on a foil or wax paper lined cookie sheet and then transfer them into a gallon-size freeze bag and freeze til ready to use. The day I want to use them I pull them out and put them on a greased foil lined cookie sheet for easy clean up - and let them thaw in the fridge if I think about it in the morning, or I let them thaw on the counter an hour or two before I want to bake them.  When they are ready to bake I lightly spray them with spray grease and sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt on them and bake as directed in the recipe.  
Recipe Source: Leesh & Lu's Recipe Box, by Lu
 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

{Baked} Creamy Chicken Taquitos

I've been meaning to share this recipe for a long while!  We've been making this quick dish for dinner multiple times a month for the last year or so. Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos are definitely a request my husband makes every time I ask what he wants on the menu.  He also requests my own version off beef taquitos too. I'll be sharing those next, in a few more days. 


If you've ever had the store bought taquitos that are tiny and wrapped in corn, you are probably thinking greasy and saturated.  These are not that at all. Because they are baked you don't get that icky-seep-through-the-tortillas-grease that coats the roof of your mouth like you do with the store bought ones (am I the only one that feels that way about those things?). These are light and healthy. The base of the filling is cream cheese (I use the 1/3 less fat because it's softer and healthier), salsa verde, a few spices (that don't make these spicy, just flavorful), chicken, fresh green onion & cilantro, and cheese.  All of that goodness wrapped up in a flour or corn tortilla (I prefer flour) lightly sprayed with cooking spray and baked to a golden crisp is irresistible!   We love these dipped in sour cream and/or salsa. I often mix salsa verde and sour cream together for a nice creamy dip. Or I also love a side of fresh pico de gallo and sour cream! Yum! These are light and refreshing!

One more reason I love these is that my whole family LOVES them. Even my picky 2 year old will gobble up a whole taquito (and sometimes more)! This is the only way I can get her to eat any meat these days! 

And one last thing - these work great as a freezer meal, see note below. 

See below the recipe for a few more pictures!


Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Printable Version
Ingredients:
⅓  cup (3 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temp (regular & low-fat work great)
¼ cup salsa verde
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
2 cups chicken, cooked & shredded
1 cup pepper-jack cheese, grated (can use Monterey Jack too)
small flour or corn tortillas (I prefer the flour since I love them, and always have them on hand)
kosher salt
cooking spray

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 375-400 (my oven is pretty hot, so I do 375) and line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray..

Soften cream cheese in microwave for 20-30 seconds if you forgot to leave it out to soften. Add the green salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir to combine, and add cilantro and green onions. Add the chicken and cheese and mix to incorporate.

If you are using corn tortillas work with only a few at a time. Do this by heating them in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It is helpful to place them between damp paper towels. 20-30 seconds should be enough time. If they are cracking, try heating them just a little warmer.  If you are usiing flour tortillas there is no need to do this. I usually use the uncooked flour tortillas (they taste much better, I think), so I quickly brown them before filling them. I’ve do it without doing this and it doesn't turn out as good since the bottom where the tortilla will overlap when rolled doesn’t cook crispy like the rest of the taquito.  But if you are in a hurry you can use uncooked tortillas. 

Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture and place it on the lower third of each tortilla, keeping it about ½ inch from the edges. And then roll it up as tight as you can.

Place the seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. At this point you can stick them in the fridge and keep them there until dinner time. I do this a lot so I can have a quick meal come dinner time.  Before baking, spray the top of each taquito roll lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Dip them in salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc. I like sour cream mixed with salsa! :)

Makes 8-10 on flour tortillas, and more like 12-16 on corn tortillas.


Freezer Meal Note: 
I assemble these the same as the recipe except for I don't spray them with grease or salt them.  I like to freeze them until solid on a foil or wax paper lined cookie sheet and then transfer them into a gallon-size freeze bag and freeze til ready to use. The day I want to use them I pull them out and put them on a greased foil lined cookie sheet for easy clean up - and let them thaw in the fridge if I think about it in the morning, or I let them thaw on the counter an hour or two before I want to bake them.  When they are ready to bake I lightly spray them with spray grease and sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt on them and bake as directed in the recipe. 

Recipe Source: slightly tweaked from Our Best Bites





Although she doesn't look happy, she does love these taquitos. She was just going through a phase of not liking her picture taken.  I think she was saying "put that camera down and eat, Mom!".  I'm sure my family loves that I pause after dishing up a meal and say "let me just snap a photo real quick!" LOL!