Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cheese Filled Manicotti

Cheese filled manicotti
Since I am working again, making dinner has become a bit more challenging. It has also become more important- it is our family time. So dinner has to tasty (and quick). Cheese stuffed manicotti are one of those meals. My family loves these. They can be made the night before and then baked in the oven (the first person home can throw them in the oven). They can also be made ahead (don't bake) and frozen. Just defrost and bake.
The noodles need to cool before you fill them so I either cook the manicotti the night before or have my husband cook them during the day. I use a variety of homemade sauces for these. My daughter's favorite is Sweet Tomato Sauce, my favorite is Vodka Pasta Sauce, but Roasted Balsamic Tomato Sauce is also good. In a pinch you can use a jar of pasta sauce.

1 Package (8 oz) of Manicotti
1 3/4 Cups (15 oz) of Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese
2 Cups (8 oz) of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 Cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Parsley, Chopped
Salt and Pepper, To Taste
3 Cups (28 oz) of Pasta Sauce

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain, and lay pasta flat on foil to cool.
Cooling manicotti
Preheat oven to 350F/176C/Gas Mark 4. In a large boil combine all of the ingredients except the pasta sauce.
The fresh parsley really adds to the dish
Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 inch (30x20 cm) baking dish.
A thin layer of pasta sauce
Carefully spoon the cheese mixture into the manicotti and place in a single layer in the baking dish.
Filling the manicotti; don't overfill or you will run out of cheese
Cover with the remaining pasta sauce.
Ready for the oven
Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The manicotti should be hot and the pasta sauce bubbly. Serve.

The bottom line: Will I make these again. Yes. I love these. Sometimes I fill them with spinach and cheeses. I also have made meat filled manicotti. The cheese filled are my favorite.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Time to channel your inner Julia. This is an amazing recipe. Once you get past the intimidation factor, it is an easy recipe. When you are finished, you have a sophisticated dish. And it is delicious. I made three chicken cordon bleu but you can make many more (and freeze them).

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Boneless Chicken Breasts
Slice of Swiss Cheese (One Per Chicken Breast)
Slice of Baked Ham (One Per Chicken Breast)
One Large Egg, Beaten
Toasted Bread Crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350F/176C/Gas Mark 4. Place the chicken breast between pieces of plastic wrap. Pound each chicken breast until thin. Place a piece of cheese and ham into the center of the pounded chicken.
Chicken, ham, and then cheese
Fold the chicken over the ham and cheese and secure with toothpicks.
The first step in rolling the packet
Making the chicken packet

Chicken packet

Roll the chicken packet in flour, then egg, and then bread crumbs.
Rolling in flour
Rolling in bread crumbs

Place in a greased pan. Bake for 40 minutes.
Baked chicken cordon bleu
The botton line: will I make this again? Yes. It is incredible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fish Tacos

Fish taco
I love fish tacos. I really love the deep fried ones... delicate pieces of fish deep fried and smothered with a creamy spicy sauce...... drool.... We didn't have those. We are eating healthier (grrrrrr). So we grilled the lovely fish. Did I miss the deep fried goodness? Strangely no. These were amazing.

Fish Tacos

2 Tbsp of Vegetable or Canola Oil
3 Tbsp of Lime Juice (Juice from One Lime)
1/2 Tbsp of Ancho Chile Powder
1 Hot Pepper, Chopped
1/4 Cup (5 g) of Cilantro
1 1/2 Pounds (.7 kg) of White Fish
Several Flour Tortillas

Combine all of the ingredients, except the fish and tortillas. Add the fish to the marinade and marinate for 10-15 minutes.
Marinating the fish
Grill fish until flaky.
Grilled fish
While fish is resting, grill the tortillas for approximately 30 seconds each side (the tortillas will slightly puff up when ready).
Grilled tortilla
Spicy Sour Cream

1/4 Cup (60 g) of Light Sour Cream
1 Tbsp of Lime Juice
2 Tsp of Ancho Chili Powder
1 Tsp of Cumin

Combine all of the ingredients.

The garnishes

Spicy Sour Cream
Shredded Cabbage
Shredded Carrot
Sliced Limes
Diced Tomatoes


Place grilled fish and garnishes in a grilled tortilla.

The bottom line: will I make these again? Yes, they were wonderful. So easy to make and healthy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev
When I was a kid, I love chicken kiev and chicken cordon blue. My mom used to get them frozen and they were a special treat. My husband also had them as a kid and loved them. So, I decided to make them from scratch. I also decided to bake them because it is healthier (and my stove doesn't get spattered with grease; I use a spatter shield and I still get grease everywhere). This dish has more prep time and steps than I want for a weekday meal but it would work great for the weekends. Also you can make a batch of them and freeze them! After you roll them in the breadcrumbs just freeze them. When you are ready to eat them, defrost completely, and bake as directed.

1/2 Cup (113 g) of Butter, Softened (2 Tbsp of Butter per Chicken)
1 Garlic Clove, Minced
2 Tsp Dried Herbs (I used a mixture of dill, lemon zest, and chives)
1/4 Tsp of White Pepper

Place all of the ingredients into a mixer or a bowl and mix until well combined. Place the butter mixture on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log, and freeze.
A log of herbed butter
4 Pieces of Boneless Chicken
Butter Mixture, Cut into 5 Pieces (Save one piece for the the bread crumbs)

Place a piece of chicken in between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound.
Pounded chicken
It is a great way to work out the tension from the day. The chicken should be about 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick. Place a piece of the butter mixture in the center of the chicken and fold so that the butter is encased in chicken.
Place the frozen herbed butter in the center of the chicken
Fold over to form a log
Fold over to form a package of chicken around the butter
Place the chicken on a pieces of plastic wrap crease side down wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least two hours. Repeat with remaining chicken.

1/2 Cup (60 g) of Flour for Dredging
1 Large Egg
1/4 Cup (60 ml) Milk
2 Cups (300 g) of Breadcrumbs or Panko
1 Piece of Butter Mixture, Melted

Preheat oven to 350F/176C/ Gas Mark 4. Grease a baking pan. Place the flour on a plate or in a bowl. Crack the egg into a bowl, add the milk, and beat the egg and milk together.  If you are using fresh bread for the bread crumbs, toast the bread. Combine the bread crumbs and butter in another bowl. Roll each piece of chicken in the flour, then egg, and then bread crumb mixture.
Rolling in bread crumbs
Place in the baking pan. Bake for 20-40 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165F/74C. How long you cook the chicken really depends on how thinly you pound the chicken. You usually test the temperature by placing the meat thermometer in the middle but don't do that for this. Test the end otherwise all of the butter goodness will escape and you don't want that.
Baked chicken kiev (the lighter bundle is the panko coated chicken)
The bottom line: will I make this again? This exceeded my expectations. It was incredible. So much better than store bought (or truck bought). I tried to sneak back and get the last chicken kiev, was caught, and had to share it. I preferred the chicken with homemade breadcrumbs and not the panko. So I will be making it again with breadcrumbs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nutella Pop Tarts

Nutella pop tarts
It was Nutella day on February 5th. Nutella is so awesome that it gets its own day. If you have never had Nutella-- you are missing one of the great culinary joys. Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread. Full of fat and taste. I love it so.
I decided to make Nutella Pop Tarts in honor of this important day. I dearly love Pop Tarts. I always feel guilty eating them and I eat them at a remarkable pace. These I feel less guilty about so they were gone in seconds. You can use your favorite pie crust for the pop tarts (I have one of mine below) or store bought crust. The dough I used was really easy to make and work with.

Nutella Pop Tarts

Pie Crust
1 Large Egg, Beaten

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board.
Ready to roll out the dough

If you have mad rolling skills (I do not), roll the dough into a rectangle. I get close to a rectangle and cut the dough into a rectangle. I love the edge a ravioli cutter gives the dough so I use that to cut the dough. Cut the dough into equal sized rectangles.
I love the edge the ravioli cutter makes
I use a spatula to move the bottom rectangle to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush a little of the beaten egg around the side of the rectangle. This helps seal the pop tart and lets you know how far to spread the Nutella. Place a dollop of Nutella in the center of the rectangle and spread evenly to the edge of the beaten egg.
Spreading the Nutella
Carefully place another rectangle of dough on top of the Nutella covered rectangle and seal with a fork- creating a lovely border. Prick the top of the pop tart with a fork (this allows the steam to escape). Repeat until you have used all of the dough.

Ready for the oven
Place the pop tarts in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and preheat your oven to 350F/176C/Gas Mark 4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown. Cool (ha! like that is going to happen in my house -- but be careful the filling is HOT).

Pie Crust

1 1/8 Cups (140 g) of Unbleached Flour
1/2 Tsp of Salt
1 Tsp of Sugar
1/2 Cup (113 g) of Butter, Cut into Tbsp Pieces (8 Pieces)
3-4 Tbsp of Ice Cold Water

Place the flour, salt, sugar, and butter into a food processor.

Pulse until the mixture looks like cornmeal (this does not take long).

Transfer to a bowl and add 3 tablespoons of water. Using a wooden spoon mix until a soft ball forms- you may need to add more water and you may need to use your hands.

Transfer the ball to a piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a disc, wrap tightly, and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

The bottom line: will I make this again? Do you even have to ask? I love these. They are so much better than store bought. The better question is did I share any of them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Superbowl Sunday Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo chicken dip with veggies
I love Buffalo chicken wings. So full of deep fried spicy goodness. When my husband and I were dating, we went to wings night every Monday night at a local pub. They had great wings. Unfortunately, they no longer have wings night. This dip is my substitute for wing night. It has all of the yummy goodness of Buffalo chicken wings without the hassle of deep frying the chicken Actually, it is even easier than that. You just add the ingredients to a saucepan (or crockpot), heat, and enjoy. You could also bake it  (350F/176C/gas mark 4 for 20-30 minutes). When I bake this dip, I add some extra shredded cheese to the top. You can use canned chicken if you want to but I don't. Depending on the weather, I either grill, bake, boil, or boil the chicken. Yes, grilling takes more work but it adds another layer of flavor. This time I decided to boil the chicken (I made extra for chicken salad). I think this dip would be good without the chicken too. If you don't like blue cheese, then use ranch dressing.

1 lb (.45 kg) of Cooked Chicken, Chopped
2 (8 oz/227 g) Packages of Cream Cheese, Softened
Blue Cheese Dressing
1/2 Cup (120 ml) to 3/4 Cup (180 ml) of Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 Cup (80 g) of Shredded Mozzarella or Jack Cheese

Everything but the chicken is added
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.
I like big pieces of chicken- if you don't finely shred the chicken
Heat over low heat while stirring frequently until heated through. Serve with chips and/or veggies.

The bottom line: will I make this again? Yes, the next time I am craving Buffalo chicken wings.