Monday, January 30, 2012

Shepherd's Pie {Mini}

I love ramekins. They're just so darn cute! Anything you make in them gets an instant "cute makeover." My latest experiment involved my new 14 oz. ramekins- perfect for individual dinner serving sizes! I used my mom's yummy shepherd's pie recipe, with a few tweaks and served it in these adorable portion-size dishes.

It was perfect! And so fun to have your own dish to scoop delicious casserole from. I will definitely be trying more casseroles or other dishes (lasagna, anyone?) in my new larger ramekins.
Start with seasoned ground turkey, layer with corn and then top generously with mashed potatoes, a pinch of pepper and a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Mmmm....comfort food- in a perfect portion size!

Mommy's Shepherd's Pie
(printable version)
(with my tweaks)
serves 4

1 lb. ground turkey or hamburger, browned
1 recipe taco seasoning (find the recipe here)
3/4 cup water
1 can corn (or frozen corn)
mashed potatoes, prepared according to box directions for 4 servings (or substitute your own homemade potatoes- you'll need at least 2 cups)
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded cheese

Combine turkey, seasoning and water, simmer at least 15 min.
Divide seasoned turkey into 4 large ramekins (or use 1 8x8 pan).
Divide corn evenly among ramekins; top each with 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes.
Sprinkle with pepper, top each with 1/4 cup of cheese.
Bake at 350 for 20-30 min. or until hot through.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Autumn Chopped Salad {and Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette}

I know, I know. It's winter. It's not autumn. And it's not salad weather. Well, maybe it's "salad weather" where you are, but here in the Inland Northwest we have piles of snow and icy slush everywhere. However, despite the cold (or perhaps because of it...) I decided a salad sounded quite tasty. Most of my winter cooking consists of soups, casseroles and other hearty, soul-warming food, but today was a salad day. Something about a crisp, green salad piled high with beautiful looking veggies (or fruits, in this case) takes the edge off those winter blues.
This is a fantastic salad. Come summer time, I am sure it will become a staple! I tweaked it from the original version, which I discovered on Pinterest (making a lot of good discoveries there these days!), and boy, was it tasty! It is a beautiful and filling main dish salad, or you could leave the chicken out and serve it as a lovely side to some tasty barbecue.
If you're having a "winter blues" kind of day, or if you just need to shake up the same ol', same ol' routine, whip up this salad and you've got the cure!

Autumn Chopped Salad
(printable version)
serves 4 as a main dish

7 to 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
2 chicken breasts, cooked to your preference (I pan-fried mine in olive oil and butter, drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar!) and cubed
1 pear, chopped
1 apple, chopped
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
7 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon), crisp cooked and chopped or crumbled
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Poppy seed salad dressing (I used approx. 1/2 cup)
Balsamic Vinaigrette (I used approx. 1/4 cup- recipe for homemade follows)

Combine all ingredients except dressings in large salad bowl. 
Drizzle generously with poppy seed dressing. Follow with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Add more if necessary.

Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
(from back of Pompeian vinegar bottle)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil (or, since olive oil is expensive, I use part olive oil, part other oil)
1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 TB fresh garlic, minced (I like the powder since it dissolves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine. Store in the refrigerator.

Source for Salad: Espresso and Cream Recipes

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Penne with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce {and Chicken}

As I have mentioned before, I have a lot of pumpkin to use up. Not only in baggies in my freezer, already pureed, but also still in pumpkin form in my cold back pantry, awaiting puree-ification. So, I'm trying to get creative. I have made pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin mac 'n' cheese, pumpkin donut holes, you name it. They have all, by the way, been delicious. And I am glad that my over-abundance of pumpkin means that I will be able to cook and bake with it all year, instead of being constrained to it's seasonal spotlight, autumn. My latest foray into cooking with pumpkin is another pasta dish, which tasted remarkably similar to its cheesier baked cousin, pumpkin mac 'n' cheese. This is definitely a simpler method of mixing your pumpkin with your pasta and it is incredibly tasty too! I am sorry to say that it is not a very pretty dish, which always grieves me. I confess, I am partial to food that looks just as pretty on the plate as it tastes delicious in your mouth. This is not one of those. It is unfortunately not very eye-catching, but it is delicious, and for that, I must share.
The original recipe I found was a non-meat entree, but I fixed that. :) I decided the addition of chicken tossed in the creamy sauce sounded fabulous, so the first step I took was to bake a couple of chicken breasts. I did not really season them, since I wanted them to soak up the flavor of the sauce. I recommend baking chicken breast uncovered in a 350 oven for about 45 min to an hour, depending on thickness. Chicken is done when no longer pink inside and juices are clear. When the chicken gets close to being done (say, 25 min. till), you can start on the pasta. Cook your penne (I like to use whole wheat penne) or other pasta, if you have an aversion to penne.
Meanwhile, in a pot, stir together cream cheese, Parmesan, butter and milk over low heat until it is all melted and creamy (I accidentally added the pumpkin at this juncture as well, but it didn't seem to hurt). If you can't resist the urge, go ahead and dip your finger in for a taste test. Mmmmm....

Add the pumpkin (if you didn't add it prematurely like me) and seasonings.

Make sure it's all creamy and hot through, then add it to the pasta. When the chicken is done, cube it and throw it in; toss, and you've got yourself a creamy, delicious dinner! I served ours with asparagus and homemade Italian bread (I should share that recipe with you soon- it is delicious!!). Enjoy!

Penne with Chicken and Creamy Pumpkin Sauce
(printable version)
serves 4

2 chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed
1/2 box of whole wheat penne pasta (about 8 oz)
4 oz. cream cheese (half a package), cubed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canned (or homemade) pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp ground red (cayenne) pepper
nutmeg to taste (start with a dash)

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat cream cheese, Parmesan, butter and milk on low until cream cheese is melted, stirring frequently. Add pumpkin and seasonings and stir, heating through.
Drain pasta; add sauce and chicken and toss to coat.

Source: Kraft Foods

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Huckleberry-Ricotta Pancakes {with Honey Syrup}

Travis and I do not have TV (we have a TV, we just don't get TV), so it is a rare and special occasion when we get to watch The Food Network at his parent's house. I love cooking shows, and I have to admit, my guilty pleasure is "Cupcake Wars" which starts late on Sunday nights. When we were there a few weeks ago, however, we amused ourselves with watching several episodes of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", where the host travels around the country sampling fare from many different local establishments. As we watched the chef of one restaurant prepare a few of his staple favorites, I was drawn in. Not only did he make his own fresh ricotta cheese, he then proceeded to make these amazing looking pancakes. I thought to myself, I can do that. So it promptly went on my menu. Now, I googled the combination and came up with many recipes, but I decided to try tweaking a fairly simple one that I discovered, appropriately enough, on the Food Network website.
Travis and I don't get to cook together very often- that is usually a luxury we enjoy on his day off, cooking breakfast together. So it was a special treat to whip up these scrumptious pancakes with him, laughing, blasting Keith Green music and inhaling delicious aromas of berries, coffee and bacon.
The pancakes were absolutely fantastic! I am not much of a pancake girl myself, but these are not any old pancakes. Although the recipe is very little altered from a traditional pancake mix and water regimen, the minor additions make a major difference. I am certain you could get crazy with making your own pancake mix from scratch (which, incidentally, isn't that difficult), but if you have a giant bag of Krusteaz in your pantry that needs to be used up (like I do), why would you? Anyhow, complicated or no, these beautiful pancakes are a winner in my book. The addition of ricotta cheese to the batter made the cakes light and creamy, almost melting in your mouth. The tang of the beautiful berries (blueberries would work just as well here, if you don't have huckleberries handy) kept it from being overly sweet, and the honey syrup...oh, the honey syrup!
While Travis flipped the flapjacks, I worked on the syrup which was suggested by the Food Network to pour over our pancakes. I was slightly skeptical, and ended up reading the recipe wrong (in my defense, it is written in a confusing way!) and had to make the whole thing over. But the end result was well worth it. Something about the honey perfectly complimented the other flavors. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one that would be just as well suited to a quiet weekend breakfast as a special brunch for company.

Huckleberry-Ricotta Pancakes with Honey Syrup
(printable version)
originally by Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network
serves about 4

For Pancakes:
1 2/3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups pancake mix (Krusteaz recommended)
1 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup frozen huckleberries (or blueberries)
For Syrup:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey

In small saucepan, dissolve sugar in 1/3 cup water over medium heat (about 5 min). Stir in honey and keep syrup warm.
Heat griddle to medium heat.
Stir 1 2/3 cups water and vanilla together in large bowl. 
Add pancake mix and stir just until moistened but still lumpy. 
Stir in ricotta, gently incorporating, but maintaining lumpy batter.
Fold huckleberries in gently.
Grease griddle lightly with butter or oil. 
Working in batches, spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle for each pancake.
Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with honey syrup.

Source: Food Network

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Meals for a Month- Jan./Feb.

If you need some ideas, here's my proposed menu for the month of January! I say proposed because it often changes with our schedule- but I like at least having ideas to go off of!

Jan. 10-14
Side: Fruit smoothies and tortilla chips
Side: Homemade Italian Bread and green salad
Entree: Tacos
Side: Fresh fruit
Entree: Hawaiian Pizza
Side: Fresh Veggies
Side: Italian Bread

Jan. 17-21
Entree: Balsamic Garlic Chicken
Side: Risotto and asparagus
Side: BLTs on homemade bread
Entree: Breakfast for dinner- maybe a quiche?
Side: Fresh fruit
Entree: Chicken, Garlic, Tomato and Spinach Pizza
Side: Fresh Veggies
Side: Rice

Jan. 24-28

Entree: Shepherd's Pie (with ground turkey)
Side: Rolls
Side: None
Entree: Herb Baked Chicken and Potatoes
Side: Asparagus and rolls
Entree: Pepperoni and Olive Pizza
Side: Fresh Veggies or Fruit
Entree: Tomato Soup
Side: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Jan. 31-Feb. 4

Entree: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Chicken
Side: A veggie
Entree: Split Pea with Ham
Side: Italian Bread
Entree: Ricotta and Huckleberry Pancakes
Side: Sausage or Bacon
Entree: Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza
Side: Fresh Veggies or fruit
Entree: Pork Stir Fry
Side: Rice

Feb. 7-9

Entree: Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
Side: Rolls or Bread and a veggie
Wednesday- Thursday
Entree: Leftovers for Hubby to reheat while I'm gone at a friend's wedding

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...