Sunday, January 25, 2009

Simple Brownies

Who knew I had everything in the kitchen to make these?? I think there are a lot of little recipes that I can make, but I don't realize that I have all of the ingredients to do it. I have really been wanting chocolate cake or brownies for a couple of days now, and was even willing to make a trip to the store today. Before I did, I thought I'd browse a few blogs and see if any recipes caught my eye. I found this one (, and didn't even have to go to the store! That made it even better. 25 minutes later....I had some delicious brownies! Note that I didn't use her revisions on the cocoa, and I mixed up my use of nuts because it was all I had...what I ended up doing is as follows:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used half walnuts and half pecans)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. (I used an 8×8 square pan) Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of the pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.

Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup! I found a few recipes online, and mixed them together to come up with this one. I don't have a lot to say about it, because it was perfect for me. I love a tortilla soup that is brothy, with very strong flavors of chicken, peppers and cilantro. This was just right. I don't like it too's the best when my tortilla chips can be mixed in and soak up broth and the little bits of onion, pepper, and chicken come along with it.

10(6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2 cup Canola Oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large poblano (seeded, veins removed, chopped)
1 large jalapeno (seeded, veins removed, chopped)
8 cups chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
3/4 lb. shredded cooked chicken
1 ripe medium avocado cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Small bunch chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges

Cut tortillas in half; cut halves into 1/4-inch strips. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Fry strips in oil, 1/3 at a time, until light brown and crisp. Remove from pan; drain on paper towels and reserve.

In the same skillet, heat oil remaining over medium-high heat. Cook onion in oil 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, poblano, and jalapeno; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer this mixture of veggies into a stew pot with chicken broth, tomatoes, and salt. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add chicken, and a couple tablespoons of the chopped cilantro; heat until hot.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and avocado slices. A lime slice is great on the side to be squeezed over the soup. Tortillas can be served in the bowl or on the side.

Tyler Florence’s Chicken Salad

I saw Tyler making this on the Food Network, it looked so delicious, but it was one of those recipes that looked a little bit hard to replicate. Well, I looked it up, and decided to go for it! I think the biggest thing that intimidated me was the chicken; I think that is just a process that is just way too time consuming for me, and not worth the outcome for a recipe like this. Of course, Tyler cooked his own chicken...I didn't. If you choose to do Tyler's chicken, I put that part of the recipe at the bottom of the post. I did what I have been doing a lot of lately, and that's using an already cooked rotisserie from the deli that I debone and have ready to go in the fridge. (I have ready-to-go chicken all the time lately; if not the rotisseries, then just some boneless skinless breasts that I season, bake and keep in the fridge just the same). OK, so once I got past the was simple! This is such a great recipe to really impress someone. Having friends over, or the in-laws? This, and a nice fruit plate, or a simple tastes good, and looks fancy. Using the bread Tyler did, will really make it look better, I promise. It's meatier, fluffier. We just don't eat any type of white bread.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches:
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
About 1 cup mayonnaise
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 celery stalks, small diced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves plus sprigs, for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil ***( in the end the EVOO flavor was too heavy to me, I will cut back on this to 1 tbsp next time)
Freshly ground black pepperBold
2 cups shredded chicken meat , roughly chopped
8 slices sourdough bread , cut 1/2-inch thick ***(I used plain whole wheat bread)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature ***(I omitted this)
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
1/2 pound brie
1 green apple, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Roughly chop the walnuts and then gently toast in a dry skillet over medium heat until they brown and are slightly fragrant. Season walnuts with salt once they are finished toasting. Add the walnuts, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, celery, parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste, in a large mixing bowl and combine. Fold in the shredded chicken and set aside while you prepare the bread.
Toast the bread in a hot oven until golden. Smear each piece with a little butter and then a tablespoon of cranberry sauce over 4 of the pieces. Lay the 4 cranberry-smeared pieces out on a sheet tray and top each piece with 2 to 3 slices of thick-cut brie. Pop this back in the oven for a minute or 2 so the cheese is slightly melted and creamy. Remove from the oven and top with a few slices of green apple. Top with a scoop of the chicken salad and cover with the other half of the bread to complete the sandwich. Serve.
***I served mine "open-faced" instead of like a sandwich. It doesn't change the directions for the recipe. Also, IBold didn't like putting the cranberry sauce on the toasted bread, and then putting in back in the oven again to melt the cheese. It toasted the bread too much. When I made these again with the leftovers I didn't do them "open-faced". I toasted the bread, immediately placed the sliced cheese on one slice of hot bread, topped with apples, then the chicken salad. Then I smeared the cranberry sauce on the other slice and used it to top the sandwich. Hopefully that makes sense...I just liked how it worked out better. And having the cheese right next to the apples is key to me-just flavor combo!

Poached Chicken
1 (2 to 3-pound) whole chicken
1 gallon water
2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
3 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 onion, halved
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
2 turnips, halved
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
10 peppercorns
3 bay leaves

Put the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with 1 gallon of cool water. Add the vegetables and herbs and bring the pot up to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim well; then simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming frequently as the oil rises to the surface. When done, remove to a platter and set aside to cool. Strain the liquid and reserve it for use as chicken stock. Shred the chicken meat and discard the skin and bones.

Berry Blue Smoothies

In my efforts to find more ways to get fruits and veggies in, smoothies are my latest addition to our list of snacks or things have with breakfast. This is a great way to get fruit in, and blueberries are WONDERFUL for you. Now, I'm not a fan of the blueberry. I mean, I like the blueberry flavor (like a yogurt, candy, smoothie, etc), but not the berry itself. That makes this smoothie perfect, and I'm glad because of all of the benefits of the blueberry!
Brett's favorite fruit, snack, food, etc. is blueberries, and he LOVED this smoothie. He typically eats blueberries by the handful or in cereal (and if he had it his way those are the only things he would eat), and though he is happy with that, he welcomed the change.

Pulse the following ingredients in a blender until smooth:
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
8 oz. low fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup milk (I used skim)
6 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
3 tbsp. honey
1 1/2 cups ice cubes

I like a thick smoothie, and when first pouring these, I considered them pretty thin. But after sitting just a minute or so, they thickened up nicely. The flavor is so good. The blueberry is so fresh and the pineapple flavor is just the perfect compliment. This is even a great "treat" instead of ice cream, or other things I might indulge in that I shouldn't.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

This was such a hit with my husband, his has made a recommendation. For each new post there should be a photo of him. He will either be all smiles, and thumbs up, or a frown and thumbs down. But really, would be ever give his wife a thumbs down??? No food review specific photos came about, BUT, for future reference, this is my Brett!

For this recipe, he was definitely all smiles and a full tummy. He said "I can't stop myself from eating!". That's a shocker for Brett...he has lots of self control and resists unhealthy temptations with ease. He had planned on only one quesadilla, but before he knew it he had eaten the second one, which was supposed to be his lunch tomorrow! Here's the best part, this was so easy, I think I can describe it in pictures. Well, pretty much...see the description below.

Here it is in a nutshell. I took leftover chicken (from the couple already cooked rotisseries birds I got at the Wal-Mart deli), mixed in some chopped purple onion and BBQ Sauce (our very favorite is Sweet Baby Rays-it is hands down the best). Then I just made a quessadillas as usual, in a skillet on medium heat. Buttered tortilla (whole wheat for us, and I used spray butter because it's easy and its not heavy so you get a real crispy tortilla), layer of cheese, then the chicken mixture, some more cheese, another tortilla (buttered)...I think it was about 3 minutes on each side. Just depends on the heat and such. I like a high heat so I get that perfect crisp, but not so fast that it isn't heated throughout.

I really think the purple onion and a good quality BBQ sauce make this recipe what it is. I don't think I would even try it without the purple onion-it's just a perfect fit to me. And again, that Sweet Baby Ray's....SO GOOD! I bet any cheese wouldn't make too much of a difference...experiment with that aspect. Brett ate his with some additional BBQ sauce, while I had a couple of bites with some chunky salsa. Next time I might add some sliced jalapenos to the chicken mixture, and serve this with sour cream for dipping.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Catalina Bean Salad

This is really me trying to do two things: 1) find new snacks and 2) get more veggies in. Well, its pretty healthy. I did use Kraft FREE dressing, and low fat cheese so that helps, other than that its all veggies...oh, yes, those are Fritos, but come depriving myself completely only leads to things much much worse. Think of them as a garnish or a condiment, not a side like you would have fries with a burger or chips with a sandwich!

Keep in mind you can really do whatever you want with this recipe. You can use any variation of beans...kidney, navy, ranch style, black, or any combination of those. The same goes for the cheese...cheddar, mexican, sharp, mozzarella, colby jack, etc. I used a white onion, if you like red, use red! Or leave them out all together. I know I've seen this recipe with jalapenos, red or green bell peppers, even hamburger meat, or shredded lettuce. My only comment on the lettuce. Add this over lettuce, or stirred into lettuce when this is served, or else it gets mushy. Same with the fritos. I stir my fritos in last minute! My mom, just has everything chopped and on hand and when everyone is ready to eat she throws all the ingredients in a giant storage bag, shakes it up and dumps it in a bowl. Everything is fresh, the lettuce is crisp and the Fritos are crunchy! YUM!
All that being said, I guess this isn't really a recipe, you can toss things together and make it your own...the keys things are, Catalina dressing, beans, cheese, and a few other chopped veggies, and some crunchy chips on top (Fritos seem best, but tortilla chips would work). So here is my version and my snack for the next couple of with it and enjoy.

Toss/Mix the following together in a bowl and serve chilled:
1 can Ranch style beans (half way drained)
1 small can sliced black olives
1/4 finely chopped white onion
1/2 diced tomato
1-1 1/2 cups of low fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz. Kraft Free Catalina Salad Dressing

Use Fritos crushed atop this as a salad (or you can use the scoops and even eat as a dip!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chicken and Dumplin's

When you're feeling blue, it's cold outside and you know there's that one dish that will hit the spot....that's right...good ole chicken and dumplin's! I got my recipe from combining my mom's use of biscuits for dumpling's and then the ingredient's and methods of a couple of recipes I found online. I wanted something just as tasty as "from scratch", but much easier and faster. This was accomplished perfectly by using the biscuits (instead of homemade dumplings), and an already cooked rotisserie chicken (instead of cooking your own and then using that broth). I am very happy with the result, and will be making this again, for sure!
2-32oz boxes of reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup
chopped/shredded/pulled apart meat from 1 cooked rotisserie chicken (got mine ready to go from the deli at Wal-Mart)
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-10 oz cans biscuits
salt and pepper to taste

Simmer the chopped onion and celery in the chicken broth until tender. Add the 2 cans of soup. I will say at this point I wanted my broth a lot thicker, so I transferred a couple of ladles full into a small saucepan, added about 3-4 tablespoons of flour to thicken it up and then combined it back into the larger batch. I don't like really brothy chicken and dumplin's! Bring mixture to a boil and pinch biscuits into "halves" or "quarters" depending on your liking, and drop into the soup/broth mixture one by one. I did the biscuits in quarters so I could gauge the doneness better. After all of the biscuits are in, fold in the chicken. Cook on medium-medium high for 15-20 minutes. You can turn the heat down a bit and cook longer if you like. Give the dumplin's a good stir now and then to allow for equal cooking.

Before you serve, make sure to spoon up the celery, onions and chicken from the bottom!