Thursday, November 29, 2012

Penne Gorgonzola with Chicken

I have recently discovered another love. Can you guess what it is?

I suppose "cheese" would always be a safe guess. And if that's what you said, you'd be darn right! No, I haven't recently discovered a love for cheese in general. I have loved cheese since...well, probably since I could eat cheese! But for many, many years, my knowledge of cheese was limited to varying shades of cheddar. Which is amazing, by the way. But along the way of my cooking journey, I have discovered SO MANY kinds of cheeses! Amazing cheeses!! Soft cheese, hard cheese, crumbly cheese. Who knew there were so many kinds to love??

Among the many textures, flavors, and colors, there is one in particular that I have recently been over the moon about. Gorgonzola. OH. MY. GOODNESS. This cheese is so incredible. I think it started on our anniversary this summer when we ate an appetizer of Gorgonzola Waffle Fries with a Gorgonzola dipping sauce. I could have eaten that alone for dinner. Every once in a while, I daydream about it. Wish I could find a way to replicate it. *sigh*

Anyways, this cheese, with its contrasting sharpness and sweetness, has captured my heart and my taste buds, which is why I cannot wait to share this fabulous pasta recipe with you! It is creamy and flavorful and laced with the pleasant flavors and aroma of fresh herbs and a quality cheese.

Penne Gorgonzola with Chicken
slightly adapted from Taste of Home
serves 8

1 package (16 oz) whole wheat penne pasta
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 TB olive oil
1 lg. garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups (8 oz.) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
extra Gorgonzola and fresh parsley for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, over med. heat, brown chicken in oil on all sides. Add garlic, cook 1 min. longer. Add wine, stirring to loosen browned bits from pan.
Add cream and broth; cook until sauce is slightly thickened and chicken is no longer pink. Stir in the Gorgonzola cheese, sage, salt and pepper. Cook just until cheese is melted.
Drain pasta; toss with sauce. Sprinkle with additional cheese and parsley.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

I don't know about you, but I loooove chicken caesar salads.

I don't care if there are anchovies in the dressing!

Who brought that up anyway??! Back to the salad.

A Caesar salad is such a simple thing. Romaine lettuce, Parm, croutons. Occasionally chicken. And the dressing. Mmm, the dressing. My current favorite is Ken's Lite Creamy Caesar. It really doesn't taste light. It is yummmy.

So you know what is just a crazy genius idea? Putting all that Caesar salad goodness into a sandwich! And even more awesome? Let's use the crock pot! Or this would also be amazingly simple with leftover shredded chicken.

It is really amazing just how much these sandwiches taste like a classic Caesar salad. There's chicken, totally soaked in your favorite Caesar dressing. Then there's Parm- mixed in to the chicken and sprinkled on top. There's a good helping of crispy green romaine. And even the buns, golden toasted, pose pretty convincingly as croutons.

Wow, seriously. If you're having a Caesar salad craving, try one of these sandwiches. So good and incredibly simple!!

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches
slightly adapted from Chef in Training
makes about 6 large sandwiches

2 lbs. chicken breast (or leftover shredded cooked chicken)
1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite Caesar dressing
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded or chopped romaine lettuce
6 hamburger buns (you could also do sliders!)

Place chicken in slow cooker. Cover with 1-2 cups water, cover and cook on low 4-6 hours. 
Remove chicken and shred. Pour water from the slow cooker. 
Return chicken to slow cooker and add dressing, Parmesan cheese, parsley and pepper. Stir until combined. Cover and cook on high 30 min. or until hot.
Toast hamburger buns until broiler until just browned.
To assemble, put some chicken mixture on each bun, top with extra Parmesan cheese and lettuce and serve!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chicken Paprikash

Isn't it funny how many comfort foods contain pasta? Spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine alfredo...somehow a delicious sauce, poured over steaming noodles (no matter the shape!) does wonders for our souls.

This chicken paprikash is a new one for me- it definitely stirred up some homey feelings and I was sure it reminded me of something.

Maybe it was the tender chicken simmering in a flavorful red sauce that reminded me of my mom's chicken spaghetti.

Or maybe it was stirring sour cream into a tomato based sauce that put me in mind of stroganoff.

Either way, this sauce has a flavor of its own- and if you haven't guessed it yet, refer back to the title. Paprika! Two whole tablespoons of the sweet and smoky substance make up about the only spice in this dish (besides salt and pepper of course!). And it is amazing. Down home comfort with a flavor twist.

Do you have a favorite "comfort food" recipe?  I'd love to try it! Please email me at and maybe I'll feature your recipe on my blog!!

Note on the recipe- Annie recommends using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and/or legs...I chose to use skinless, boneless chicken breast and it was wonderful- so go by your preference!

Chicken Paprikash
serves 8

3 lbs. chicken thighs, legs or breast
salt and pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 lg. yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB sweet paprika
3 TB flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
cooked egg noodles for serving

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In large pot, heat oil over med-high heat. Place the chicken pieces in the pan, skin side down (if using thighs or legs) and cook until browned, about 6 min (time will be shorter if using breast). Flip and cook other side until browned. Transfer to a plate.
Discard all but 1 TB of fat from pot and lower heat to med. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 2 min. Add garlic and continue to cook, about 3 min. more. 
Stir in paprika and flour, season with salt and pepper, and stir constantly until the mixture is fragrant and begins to stick, about 1 min.
Stir in broth a bit at a time, whisking until smooth. Add tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Return chicken to the pot. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 20 min. Prepare noodles while chicken is cooking.
Remove chicken pieces to a cutting board and shred, removing skin and bones if necessary. Stir shredded chicken back into the pot. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream or yogurt. Serve warm over egg noodles.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meals for a Month {November/December}

Since we've had several inches of snow drop this past weekend, November is feeling a lot more like winter than fall! However, I refuse to give in to Christmas urges just yet. The icicles and snowflakes may beckon, but until after Thanksgiving I'm devoted to fall!

Week 1 (Nov. 13-17)



Dinner at a friend's house

Week 2 (Nov. 20-24)

This week is up in the air since we will be gone part of the week for the holiday

Week 3 (Nov. 27-Dec. 1)

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (from freezer)

Breakfast Burritos

Week 4 (Dec. 4-8)

Roast Turkey
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (from freezer)


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Baked Pumpkin French Toast

When I made this dish, I realized I couldn't even remember the last time I'd had french toast. Isn't that sad? I certainly realized just how sad when I tasted this delectable treat!

Where have you been all my life, baked pumpkin french toast??!!

Seriously. This is so amazing. I'm not sure how to describe it without using cliche words and phrases like "melts in your mouth," "creamy," "to die for," "I want to eat the whole pan right now" and so on. So I guess I will. The eggs, pumpkin, milk and spices transform a loaf of bread (although no ordinary loaf of bread, mind you- I employed my homemade Italian bread...and really, please don't get on my case about using Italian bread for French bite and you wont' care what nationalities are mixed up in your mouth, I promise) into this amazing soft, creamy sweet treat that (literally, cliches aside, this one's for real) melts in your mouth. Sheesh, it could practically be dessert. For us it was dinner. Then breakfast. But it could really be served as dessert and I would be crazy happy to welcome it as such.

It's also great because you can make it ahead of time (even the day before!) and just pop it in the oven when you're ready to eat!

Oh, and it doesn't really need a drizzle of maple syrup, but go ahead. You know you want to.

Baked Pumpkin French Toast
serves 8-12

1 loaf French bread, cut into cubes
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
2 TB vanilla (yes, tablespoons!)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Place bread chunks evenly in the pan.
In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and spices. Pour evenly over bread. Cover pan and store in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar and spices. Add butter and cut into dry ingredients using a fork, your hands, or a pastry blender. Combine until mixture resembles sand with a few pea sized chunks. Cover and store in refrigerator.
When you're ready to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350. Remove French toast from the refrigerator and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top. Bake 45-55 min. or until set and golden brown. Serve warm with syrup if desired.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Easy Butternut Squash Shells and Cheese

Do you remember last year when that one amazing soup totally sent me on butternut squash kick for awhile?

Welllll...I think it's started again. There is just something so irresistible to me about that creamy orange, mildly flavored squash. And when you pair it with ooey gooey cheese? Don't even get me started.

This recipe is no exception. It is very similar in flavor and texture to the awesomely delicious pumpkin macaroni and cheese and fairly easy to prepare. Tackling the squash is, as always, the most difficult part. You'll need a good sharp knife and some elbow grease to slice your way through the tough skin and firm flesh- but it's definitely worth it!

Easy Butternut Squash Shells and Cheese
serves about 6

3 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta shells
4 cups cubed uncooked butternut squash (about 1 medium)- peeled and seeds removed
2 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups milk
6 oz. shredded cheese (I used Gruyere- fontina was recommended)
4 oz. shredded Parmesan cheese
2 TB brown butter (for "how-to" click here)
2 TB fine bread crumbs
chopped fresh herbs for garnish (I used sage)

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare water for pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.
While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over med-low heat. Add oil, then toss in squash with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add stock and cover skillet, cooking for 15-20 min., stirring occasionally, until squash is soft and can be easily mashed. Remove cover and reduce heat to low. Mash squash with a potato masher or fork, smoothing it out with a spoon to remove all the chunks.
Add in milk, 4 oz. of the Gruyere or fontina and all of the Parmesan, stirring until melted and smooth, about 5 min. If needed, add more milk a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Stir in brown butter, again mixing for a minute or so until incorporated. Taste and add more seasoning, if desired.
Fold shells into the sauce, coating completely. If not using an oven safe skillet, transfer shells to a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 min. If a bubbly, golden topping is desired, broil 1-2 min. after cooking. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Pancakes {with Cinnamon Syrup}

It's Saturday, y'all! You know what that means in our house...breakfast for dinner!

Last weekend I made a batch of these whole wheat apple cinnamon pancakes from Two Peas and Their Pod and man, were they yummy! But let me tell you straight up: the syrup is the best part.

Oh wow. Really. It's like, so amazing. You'll want to put it on everything (after you send your pancakes drifting out to sea on it, that is). Like more apples. Or maybe some peaches. Toast or oatmeal, anyone? Leftover apple cider waffles? Grab anything you can find (including your own fingers of course) and dunk it in this syrup, because yeah, it's that good.

But back to the pancakes. Hearty wheat taste, bursts of fresh apple chunks, hints of spice...I'm pretty much convinced that the "whole wheat" and "apple" parts of the title are just to trick us into thinking we're being all healthy while simultaneously pouring on copious amounts of spicy, sugary syrup that is basically like liquid gold .

The edible kind.

But there I go about the syrup again. Gee. Anyways. Do yourself a favor this weekend and make a batch of syrup. Er. Pancakes.Whatever.

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with Cinnamon Syrup
serves 3-4

For pancakes:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 TB brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup buttermilk, plus 2 TB
1 TB canola oil
1 lg. egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup diced, peeled apple

For syrup:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TB flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water

In a med. bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold in apples.
Heat griddle or non-stick skillet over med. heat. Spray with cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle pan, spacing out pancakes a few inches from each other. When the pancakes start to bubble up, flip and cook until lightly browned.
While the pancakes are cooking, make the syrup. Stir together dry ingredients in a small saucepan. Then add water and vanilla. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Continue boiling and stir until mixture thickens to syrup consistency, about 5-8 min. Remove from heat and let stand a few minutes before serving.
Serve the pancakes with warm syrup. Enjoy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Upside-Down Mexican Pot Pie

You know how a pot pie is just this delectable thing with veggies and tender meat in a creamy, rich sauce topped with a flaky pastry crust?

Well, what if pot pie went Mexican?

What if you had some cheese joining the party...tomatoes and veggies hanging out with some tender ground beef spiced with seasonings and peppers topped off with moist cornbread? That would be all right, wouldn't it?

Oh wait.

Turn that upside down.

Yep, the whole thing.

Now you've got it. If you're gonna turn the whole pot pie idea upside down, you might as well go ahead and turn the whole pot pie upside down.


At least that's how I explain to myself why this pie is upside down. Besides the fact that it's fun. To say. And to eat.

Upside-Down Mexican Pot Pie
adapted from the Gooseberry Pot Pie Cookbook
serves 6

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn, drained
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 (8.5 oz.) pkg. cornbread mix (will need egg and milk)
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 2 qt. casserole dish.
In a skillet over medium heat, brown beef with onion, garlic, green pepper, and zucchini. Drain. Add tomatoes with juice, corn and seasonings (adjust to taste). Simmer about 5 min.
Meanwhile, prepare cornbread mix according to package directions.
Pour batter into prepared dish. Spoon beef/vegetable mixture over batter. 
Cover with foil and bake 25 min. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake 5-10 min. more or until cheese is melted and bubbly and pie is heated through.
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