My husband has started his job 2 hours away from us and once the kids are done with school we will be joining him. Till then, we get to see him on the weekends. I worry about what he would be eating during the week I’m not around. He can cook if he has to, but he’s not comfortable with it. I’ve spoiled him way too much.
So, I’ve been making dinners on the weekends with enough to give him extra for dinners throughout the week. I love finding recipes that are great make-ahead dinners. I doubled this recipe to make sure I had enough for dinner that night and for hubster to have dinner later in the week. The kids and I really enjoyed it. It had the perfect chili flavor one would expect and the pasta and cheese made it even better. I ended up freezing the dish I set aside for my husband and sent it off with him that way. When he was finally able to get around eating it, he said he loved it. This makes a great make-ahead dinner as it froze really well and tasted even better doing it that way.
Chili Cheese Pasta Bake:
*I doubled this recipe with no issues
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni or any other twisty shaped pasta
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (85% lean)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 12 oz Colby Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and add dry macaroni; cook until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water and drain pasta. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
- Using the same large pot, wipe dry and heat over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until shimmering. Add ground beef and break it up in pieces to brown. Once browned, remove from pot and discard drippings. Set beef aside.
- Add remaining oil to the same large pot and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, red pepper, chili powder, and cumin; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and begin to brown.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, brown sugar, reserved 3/4 cup pasta water and beef to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until flavors have blended.
- Stir in the cooked pasta, 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a 9×13 baking dish and smooth over with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle the top of the dish with the remaining shredded cheese. Return the dish once again in the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes until the cheese begins to melt and brown. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Source: Joelen Blog
via Cook’s Illustrated
I think I might have a new goal; trying to make as many dishes I can out of the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. I have made a handful of recipes so far and they all have been really good. The biggest plus is that they are healthier for you. The newest one I tried was the Creamy Chicken and Spinach Casserole. I ended up doubling the recipe to make sure we had enough for everyone and it doubled nicely. The only thing I didn’t double was the spinach. I felt the one box of frozen chopped spinach I had was just enough for the dish. If I would have added another 10 oz box, it would have overpowered the dish. The kids and hubby really enjoyed it and my son had more than his fair share so I’m glad I doubled it.
Creamy Chicken and Spinach Casserole:
- 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
- 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced thin
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbs all-purpose flour
- 4 cups 1% lowfat milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped coarse. (chopped spinach is also good)
- Salt and Pepper
- 8 oz whole-wheat penne
- 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 2 oz)
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 inch square baking dish with vegetable oil spray and set aside.
- Heat 1 1/2 tsp of the oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken, break up any clumps, and cook until lightly browned but not fully cooked, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the skillet and return medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
- Return the chicken with any accumulated juice to the skillet. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Off the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice. Stir in the spinach, breaking up any clumps, until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and 1 tbs salt and cook, stirring often, until almost al dente but still firm to the bite. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- Add the chicken-spinach mixture and reserved cooking water to the pasta and toss to combine. Pour the pasta into prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Making pizza at home is something that a lot of people enjoy doing. It’s fun for the whole family to get involved in, especially the kids. My kids love to form the dough into the pizza shape and add whatever toppings they want. It’s really a great way to get little ones interested in cooking. Most grocery stores now have fresh dough you can buy, but they don’t compare to the dough you can make at home. I’ve made this recipe quite a few times now and it’s never let me down. The recipe says it’ll make 3 medium pizzas. Sadly, my pizza stone got broke some time back and I have yet to replace it. I have been making the pizzas in a sheet pan. If you like a very thick crust use the whole dough in one sheet pan. If you like it on the regular/thinner side, cut the dough in half. The dough also freezes very well. You’ll want to wrap it to freeze it once the first rise is done. I would recommend wrapping it saran wrap then put it into a gallon size freezer bag. The dough will expand a little till it’s frozen all the way through. When ready to use, take out of freezer and place in the refrigerator till thawed. Allow to come to room temperature (30 minutes) and it’s ready to be shaped.
One of my favorite pizzas is this white pizza. Heat olive oil in a small saute pan with 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped finely. Once the dough is ready for the toppings I use a pastry brush and spread the garlic infused olive oil all over the dough. I top it with dollops of goat cheese, mozzarella and Italian fontina cheeses. Bake at 450 degrees and it’s amazing! Serve with a spring green salad tossed with a lemon vinaigrette. 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice, 4 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together and serve.
Basic Pizza Dough:
Yields: 2-3 medium pizzas
- 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 1 envelope (about 2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
- 1 1/4 cup water, at room temperature
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Olive oil for oiling the bowl
- Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and 2tbs olive oil and stir to combine.
- Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate. The dough is now ready to be used. *Note* if you are having problems with forming the dough, let it sit to rest for about 15 minutes and try again.
To make by hand:
- Follow the recipe through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate. The dough is now ready to be used.
Source: The New Best Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated
We love fajitas in our family and the best way to make them is on the grill. I know there are people out there who will continue to use their grill in the snow and freezing cold; but I am not one of them. That’s why when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Making fajitas on the stove is a great to enjoy them on those really cold snowy days. I had been craving fajitas and these hit the spot. The whole dish came together nicely and we had no leftovers. I served these with a fresh tomato salsa. I can’t wait to make them again.
Stovetop Chicken Fajitas:
- 2 tsp canola oil
- 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin
- 1 red onion, halved and sliced thin
- Salt and Pepper
- 4 (6oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, pounded so the chicken is all the same thickness
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 3/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
- 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
- 1 tomato, cored, seeded and chopped medium
- 3 scallions, sliced thin
- 8 whole-wheat flour tortillas, warmed
- Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat until just smoking. Add the bell peppers and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and well-browned, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Combine the orange juice, 1/2 cup of the cilantro, Worcestershire, garlic, and chipotles in the skillet. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes. When the liquid is simmering, flip the chicken over, cover, and continue to cook until the chicken registers 160-165 on an instant-read thermometer, 10-12 minutes longer.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and shred it into bite-sized pieces when cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
- Off the heat, stir in the mustard, tomato, scallions, remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with the pepper-onion mixture and warm tortillas.
Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
It’s officially 2011 and I’m so ready for the start of the new year. My family went through a rough 2010 and I am determined to make 2011 much better. I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the year because I feel we always need to make changes in our lives throughout the years. But it doesn’t hurt to try and use this time to change something. I’m going to be a lot more positive about our situation and not worry about little things. I know that in a few months things are going to be looking up! I truly hope that everyone has the best year yet!
A great way to kick off the new year is by making some good luck food. It’s not too late to make this. Hoppin John Stuffing is a southern dish that combines food thought to bring you good luck. I took this from Wikipedia as it best describes what the ingredients mean.
The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion
We could all use that in our life.
The recipe has a few steps and you don’t have to make the pork in order to have the stuffing. I’ve made the Hoppin John to be served on it’s own. I still recommend using the egg to help bind the stuffing, but make sure to bake it at 350 for at least 40 minutes.
This is what the stuffing looks like after it’s been all mixed together. Yummm
If you are stuffing the pork roast, this is what it’ll look like when you have it butterflied and added the stuffing. Be sure to always season the pork with salt and pepper before you add the stuffing.
Here it is all tied up. There are many methods in which to tie up a roast. Do what you are comfortable with as long as it’s tied, who cares how it looks. It’ll be cut off before serving anyway.
Pork Roast with Hoppin John Stuffing:
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 1/2 medium-size green bell pepper, diced small
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice
- 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped collard greens, thawed (I used one 15oz can drained, since I could not find frozen)
- 1 15oz can Black Eye Peas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup diced cooked country ham (used leftovers from Christmas)
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 (2 1/2 – 3-pound) boneless pork loin roast
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Saute onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Add rice and next 5 ingredients; stir in egg. Set stuffing aside. (If only using stuffing, place in casserole dish and bake at 350 for 40 minutes)
- Butterfly pork loin roast by making a lengthwise cut down the center of 1 flat side, cutting to within 1/2 inch of bottom. From bottom of cut, slice horizontally to 1/2 inch from left side; repeat procedure to right side. Open roast, and place between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap (or ziplock bag); flatten to 1/2 inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.
- Spoon 1 1/2 cups stuffing evenly over roast, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Roll up; tie with kitchen string at 1 inch intervals. Place seam side down, in a lightly greased 11×7-inch baking dish.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in center reaches 150 degrees. Place the remaining stuffing in small casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Source: Southern Living Magazine, Published around 9 years ago.
I love a good bolognese and in order to achieve that it takes all day to make. The past couple weeks have been down right chilly and snowy. When the weather is like that, I want hot comfort food to warm me up. I wanted something like bolognese but didn’t have time to spend all day in the kitchen. My daughter is keeping me super busy with her cheerleading schedule and finding time in the kitchen has been hard. So, I turned to Ina’s new cookbook to help me out. She has a weeknight bolognese that doesn’t take long to make. This turned out fantastic. If you are like me this time of year, and have to run around like a crazy person. You can take comfort in knowing that you can still put a delicious meal on the table, even in the middle of your busy holiday schedule.
- 2 tbs good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
- 1 lb lean ground sirloin4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- Kosher salt & black pepper
- 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small pasta (I used 1 pound)
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
- Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5-7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more mintue. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tbs salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
- While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.
Source: How Easy is That? by Ina Garten
I’m on an Ina Garten “How Easy Is That?” kick. I love her new cookbook! There are so many great and easy recipes in it. I wish now that I had already bought all my Christmas gifts for family, because this cookbook would make a perfect gift for a lot of them. Anyway, I saw the recipe for lemon chicken breasts and I had a lot of the ingredients already. I knew I had bought chicken breasts from Costco a few week backs and pulled them out of the freezer. As I go to make the dish, I realize I didn’t buy chicken breasts but instead bought chicken tenders. Ugh! Well, gotta make the best of the situation so I used the tenders and I don’t think it made one bit of difference. I ended up doubling the recipe because I had a lot of tenders. The sauce is amazing and really made those chicken tenders taste great. I’m looking forward to trying this with chicken breasts next time to see how those turn out.
Lemon Chicken Breasts or Tenders:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbs minced garlic (9 cloves)
- 1/3 dry white wine
- 1 tbs grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
- 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on or 1 package of chicken tenders
- 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9×12 inch baking dish.
- Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.
Source: How Easy is That? by Ina Garten