Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Today marks one year since my very first post on Sweet and Savory Shenanigans! It's probably a little silly to celebrate it, considering I barely posted in the second half of that year, but since I did post over 50 times prior to that, I figured what the heck. It's my blog; I do what I want!

I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the most popular recipes I posted over the last year. Despite not being much of a math person AT ALL, I love examining all the stats on my blog and seeing what posts appealed most to people. It's always interesting what piques everyone's interest (I get the majority of my traffic from Pinterest) and I'm sometimes surprised by what food attracts people more than others.

So, without further ado, the top 10 most-viewed posts on Sweet and Savory Shenanigans:

1. Peanut Butter Bacon Provolone Pizza









2. Pepperoni Pizza Pull-Apart Bread


3. Apple Cider Sangria


4. Overnight Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal


5. Shrimp Scampi


6. One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta


7. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake


8. Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle


9. S'more Cake


10. Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Corn Salsa











Here's to another year, perhaps with more consistent posting this time around!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Oh hello. No, I haven't been in a food coma all summer and physically unable to blog. But I also haven't been cooking. My cooking and baking have always had a tendency to fall off a bit during the summer, but this year was worse than ever. I actually got back in the kitchen today and cooked for perhaps the first time since early July.  That's pretty sad. But, a combination of the start of football season and this week's release of Seriously Delish, the new cookbook from my food blogging idol and pretend best friend, have brought back a little of my passion for food and creating delicious things.

Since I was busy cooking and baking today, and polishing my nails with one of my new favorite nail polishes ever, and watching my Patriots crash and burn, I haven't yet edited the photos of my new kitchen creations so I can't share them yet. But, to ease back into this whole blogging thing, and to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year (football season), I thought I'd share some game day foods I've previously posted here. Maybe you're new to the site, or maybe you've forgotten I ever posted them because I fell off the internet radar, but whatever the case may be, I hope you'll give one of these a try this football season.


Black Eyed-Pea and Sweet Corn Salsa


Buffalo Chicken Crostini


Buffalo Chicken Nachos


Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Cups

Hmm...I'm sensing a buffalo chicken theme here...but stick with me - I swear I do make other things!


Pepperoni Pizza Pull-Apart Bread


Pulled Chicken Jalapeno Popper Sandwich


Bacon Cheeseburger Dip


Hot Pizza Dip


Texas Chili

I'll be back soon with some new recipes, I promise!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Margarita Cupcakes


It's been a few months since I posted on here, I know. I just haven't felt like it. It was a busy end of winter/start of spring, and when I had some free time, I didn't want to spend it blogging. But, I have had this photo and recipe in my "to-blog" file since I started this thing, with the intention of saving it until Cinco de Mayo came around. Well, Cinco de Mayo is a week from today, so I couldn't be lazy any longer. If you're having a Cinco de Mayo party this weekend, or just feel like making delicious cupcakes, look no further. I've made these cupcakes a number of times over the years, and they're a hit every time.

As much as I love baking, I can be pretty lazy about it. So recipes like this, that start with a cake mix and save me from measuring flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. are my favorite. Preservatives be damned. This is a recipe with alcohol in it, so I'm not about being healthy at this moment! Though there is alcohol in the cake batter, the alcohol bakes out and the frosting is nonalcoholic, so these are safe for kids to eat. But, do you really want to share them?

Margarita Cupcakes
Recipe from Recipe Girl
 

Cake Ingredients
9 oz. bottled margarita mix
3 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec if you're on a budget)
1 (18.25 oz.) box white cake mix
3 large egg whites
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp lime zest

Lime Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
1 cup butter, at room temperature
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp lime zest
green food coloring, if desired

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350° and line two 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

Whisk together the margarita mix, tequila and Grand Marnier in a small bowl. Measure out 1 1/4 cups for the recipe; the rest can be poured over ice to drink while you bake!

In a large bowl, blend cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest and the reserved 1 1/4 cups of the margarita. Blend on low for about 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium and blend for two additional minutes. Batter may be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 min, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pans, then remove them to a rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting:
Place the butter in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until butter is fluffy. Add 5 cups of powdered sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until thick and creamy. If necessary, add more powdered sugar until the frosting is at the desired consistency for spreading or piping. Mix in a tiny amount of green food coloring - just a couple of drops will do it - you want it to be a pale green, not St. Patrick's Day green! Once cupcakes are completely cooled, spread or pipe the frosting on and serve.
 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Texas Chili

 
This has been the kind of winter when you feel like eating chili every single day. It's been so cold, so snowy and icy, that warm and hearty meals are pretty much required. This is a very different chili from what I typically make and what my mom made when I was growing up. Being northerners, we usually use ground beef and add lots of beans and veggies. This however, is Texas chili. From what I've heard, Texans scoff at any chili that has beans and don't even consider it to be chili. I ripped this recipe out of my Food Network Magazine about a year ago and I'm glad I finally gave it a try. I don't know that this would necessarily replace my usual go-to recipe, but it was fun to switch it up for a change.

Just a note - I wrote the recipe below as it was in the magazine. However, I forgot to get masa harina when I did my shopping for this, so I just used cornstarch to help thicken it. Having never cooked with masa harina, I can't really say how it compares to cornstarch, but I've read that it not only thickens, but also adds flavor, which cornstarch really doesn't have. I'd be curious to try it the correct way some day.

Texas Chili
From the January/February 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 lbs boneless beef chuck or shoulder, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbsp chili powder
4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp dried oregano
4 (14 oz) cans low-sodium beef broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup masa harina (instant corn flour)
Optional toppings: chopped onions, shredded cheese, jalapenos   

Directions
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the beef and cook, stirring, until browned, about 4 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pot and brown the remaining beef, then return the first batch to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic.

Combine the chili powder, cumin and flour in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the meat in the pot and stir until evenly coated. Crumble in the oregano with your fingers, then add 3 cans of beef broth, 2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low; partially cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, about an hour and a half.

Whisk the remaining can of broth with the masa harina in a bowl to make a creamy paste; stir into the chili. Continue simmering over low heat until the meat is almost falling apart, 30 minutes to an hour, adding up to 2 cups of water if the chili gets too thick. Divide among bowls and add desired toppings.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No-Bake Energy Bites


Well, we've reached the point in the year when people's New Year's resolutions to eat better have started to waver. Right? No? Hmm. Maybe that's just me then. That's why these energy bites are the perfect snack. They're sweet and will serve as a dessert, but without completely blowing your diet. They have good-for-you ingredients in them, including chia seeds, which appear to be the super food of 2014. I'll admit, I've fallen for it and I add chia seeds to my smoothies every morning and have pinned a whole bunch of recipes with chia seeds on Pinterest. I have no idea if they're doing anything for me, but I like to think they are.

I made these bites pretty small, because I like to be able to have a couple of them without feeling guilty. I got about 30 bites out of the batch with them being at or just under an inch each. I kept them in the refrigerator because that's what the recipe I worked off of said to do, but just a warning, I think that makes them a little crumbly. With almost every one, they started to crumble a bit after the first bite. This could be solved by popping the whole thing in your mouth, but I annoyingly nibbled on them to make them last longer!

Important note here - when I say use ground flax seed, do what I say. Don't be like me and figure that to save money, you'll grind your own flax seeds that you already have at home. Do you know how long it takes to grind flax seeds into 1/2 cup of ground seeds? I do. It takes one hour. I started grinding them in the kitchen standing over the counter and quickly realized how long it was going to take. So I moved into the living room and watched an entire episode of Chopped while grinding the seeds. Granted, I did have to take a few very short breaks because my hands were cramping up (sad, I know) but it took a really long time. Don't be like me. Buy your flax seed already ground!


No-Bake Energy Bites
Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients
1 cup old-fashioned oats (quick cooking oats would work fine too)
2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes*
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup maple syrup (you could also use honey)
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla extract

*To toast the coconut, spread the flakes in a single layer in a skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until the flakes begin to turn golden brown.

Directions 
Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week.




Monday, February 10, 2014

Creamy Tomato Soup with Garlic Brown Butter Croutons


Is it as horrendously cold and snowy where you live as it is here in Connecticut? I can't take it anymore. I don't usually mind winter all that much, but we have had endless weeks of blah frigid weather. I miss my flip flops! But, until it's socially acceptable for them to make an appearance again, one of the few perks of winter is that you can make delicious warm, comforting soups like this. This reminded me a lot of the creamy tomato soup from Panera Bread, which I love. But these garlic brown butter croutons are even better than Panera's asiago croutons, believe it or not. It's no secret that I'm fairly obsessed with brown butter, so it's not surprising that these blew me away.

I lightened up the soup from the original recipe I used, partly because I'm trying to be healthier, and partly because I didn't feel like spending money on mascarpone and havarti when the recipe only called for a little of each. For someone trying to lose weight, having extra cheeses hanging around the house is bad news. When I made this, I had some heavy cream leftover from the cheese sauce on my Pulled Chicken Jalapeno Popper Sandwiches, so I did add a little for some richness, but without spending any extra money, and I definitely saved a few calories too.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Garlic Brown Butter Croutons
Recipe from How Sweet Eats (my food blogging idol/pretend best friend)

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 (28 oz) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream

2 cups cubed whole grain bread
3 Tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced

Directions
Heat a large pot (I used my Dutch oven) over medium-low heat and add olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter. Add onions, salt, pepper, and seasonings, then stir well to coat. Cook until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste, mashing the tomato paste and stirring to evenly distribute it throughout the onions. Cook for another 5-6 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add in both cans of the tomatoes (with juice) and the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes down a bit.

While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the 3 Tbsp of butter as follows: add the butter to a small pan over low to medium-low heat. Allow butter to melt and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns an amber color and develops an almost-nutty fragrance. Keep a close eye on it - it can go from brown to burnt very quickly! Remove from heat and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then toss in the minced garlic cloves and stir for 30 seconds. Add bread cubes to a large bowl and pour the garlic/butter mixture over the bread, tossing well to coat. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking.

When the soup has simmered for an hour, use an immersion blender to completely puree all of the chunks of tomatoes, onions, and garlic. If you don't have an immersion blender, very carefully add the mixture to a regular blender (you will probably have to do this in two parts) and puree until totally smooth. Once smooth, stir in the heavy cream, then taste the soup and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a handful of croutons on top.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Promises


If you're looking for a perfect treat for Valentine's Day next week, look no further. I made these back in December, so the Dove Promises available at that time had snowflakes on them, but in stores now, you can get heart-shaped Dove Promises. The hearts, coupled with the pink and red colors in these cookies, would scream Valentine's Day, whether you need something for your own loved one, to send into the classroom with your child, or to drown your own sorrows in. I don't judge.

These are basically a shortbread-like base, trashed up with chopped up maraschino cherries and cherry juice. The chocolates (I prefer milk chocolate here) are the perfect finishing touch. You could certainly use Hershey's Kisses too, which is actually what the original recipe called for, but I like the seasonal touch, plus these are easier to stack if you need to take them somewhere. And, I just really adore Dove chocolate more than any other brand! If you need to take these somewhere shortly after making them, you might want to stick them in the fridge to cool. The heat from the cookies makes the chocolate very soft and while it will hold its shape if left alone and allowed to harden up again, if you touch or try to stack them too soon, the chocolate will completely melt and blob all over.


Chocolate Cherry Promises
Recipe from The Curvy Carrot

Ingredients
2 sticks butter, softened, but still slightly cool
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp maraschino cherry juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling the cookies (optional)
36 Dove Promises (or other chocolate candies), unwrapped

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to the lowest setting and slowly add the powdered sugar and salt. Add the cherry juice and the almond extract until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the cherries.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and place the balls on a baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. If you'd like a little extra sweetness you can either sprinkle sugar on top of the balls or roll them in sugar. Bake the cookies until the bottoms are lightly browned, about 14 minutes.

Once removed from the oven, press a chocolate candy into each cookie’s center. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions


This is less a recipe, and more a technique that can be used with any number of different vegetables, but this was my most recent roasting experiment, and it. was. delicious. The sweet potatoes were tender yet slightly crispy, and the onions, particularly the blackened parts, were filled with flavor and a satisfying crunch.

I ate this as a side dish, but you could easily make a meal out of it if you're so inclined. Not only is it really tasty, but it's healthy too. Good vitamins and beta carotene from the sweet potatoes, and healthy fats in the olive oil. Divided into four servings, it's only about 3 WW points plus per serving depending on the size of your sweet potatoes.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions
Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8-inch thick
1 onion, quartered then cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 Tbsp. oil (I used olive oil)
Salt and Pepper to taste (don't be stingy with the seasonings!)



Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss until vegetables are evenly coated. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Transfer vegetables to the baking sheet, and spread so that they are evenly spaced in a single layer. If necessary, use two baking sheets - you don't want the vegetables crowded, or they won't get crispy. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until onions begin to brown and sweet potatoes are cooked through. I tossed the vegetables around about halfway through to make sure they roasted evenly.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Hot Pizza Dip


So here's the thing about this dish. I made it for my family Christmas party and totally forgot to take a picture of it until everyone had already started digging in. So, sorry about the photo of half eaten food! I guess you can take comfort in the fact that everyone wolfed this down really quickly, because at least now you know it's a good recipe!

This is my last Super Bowl themed post, and it's not too late to add it to your game day menu. I served this with cubes of Italian bread because I figured that was a natural companion to this saucy cheesy goodness, but you could certainly use crackers, or serve it with baguette slices and let your guests spread this on. 

Like the Bacon Cheeseburger Dip that I posted on Wednesday, you can easily make this ahead of time up until the step where you put it in the oven. That makes this even more perfect for a Super Bowl party because it won't take you away from your guests or the game!

I wish I knew where I got this recipe so I could give them credit, but I made this for the first time a few years ago and all I have is a printout of a Word document with the recipe on it. If by any chance the creator of this recipe reads this, please let me know!

Hot Pizza Dip

Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 (8 oz.) can pizza sauce
Bread or crackers for serving

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine cream cheese and seasoning and spread into the bottom of a pan (I used a 9 inch pie plate). Combine mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and sprinkle half of the mixture over the cream cheese. Spread the pizza sauce over the cheese and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is starting to melt and get browned on top. Serve with bread or crackers.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bacon Cheeseburger Dip


This is admittedly not the most photogenic recipe in the world. But I swear, it tastes awesome, and would be another great addition to your Super Bowl spread. It's full of all of the flavors that make up a great burger and it's warm, cheesy, and comforting. I served this with Snaps, those Snyder's pretzel squares with a grid/waffle pattern, because my absolute favorite way to eat a burger is on a pretzel roll and I wanted to mimic that. But you could easily eat this with your favorite crackers, potato chips, or even baguette slices. 

You can make this ahead of time up until the baking stage, which is what I did, though I kept the bacon separate until I was ready to put the dip in the oven. I didn't want my gorgeous crispy bacon to soften up by sitting in the dip in the fridge for a while. It was hard not to eat all of the bacon before I mixed it into the dip, but I did manage to get most of it in there!

Bacon Cheeseburger Dip
Recipe from Closet Cooking

Ingredients
1/2 pound ground beef
6 strips of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. ketchup

Directions
Cook the ground beef in a pan over medium heat; when cooked through, remove the beef and drain the grease from the pan. (Full disclosure: I actually used my Pampered Chef Micro Cooker to cook the ground beef in the microwave - the holes in the lid of the cooker are perfect for draining out the grease quickly and easily) Cook the bacon in the pan until crispy, about 6-10 minutes; remove to a paper towel-lined plate and drain all but a tablespoon of the grease.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the onion to the bacon grease and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Return the ground beef and bacon to the pan and stir in the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella, cheddar, worcestershire sauce and ketchup until cheeses are melted and everything is combined.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake until the top starts turning a light golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 20-30 minutes. Serve with pretzels, crackers, chips, or bread.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pulled Chicken Jalapeno Popper Sandwiches


If you're trying to figure out what to serve during the Super Bowl this Sunday (assuming the weather cooperates and the game actually is on Sunday - what is this possible Super Bowl Friday, Saturday or Monday nonsense??), look no further. This is a perfect meal for the big game. The main component - pulled chicken - is made in the crockpot, so you can get it started in the morning and not have to worry about being in the kitchen cooking while the game is on. Or while the commercials are on! I've gotten so used to fast forwarding through commercials, or using them as a bathroom or food break, that sometimes during the Super Bowl I forget to pay attention to them!

This sandwich has a few components to it, but they're all easy to make (the breadcrumbs can be toasted ahead of time too) and they all work SO well together, with all the flavors of a classic jalapeno popper. I would eat the cheese sauce with a spoon, and while it seemed a little odd to put breadcrumbs on a sandwich, they provide a seriously awesome crunch that really made the sandwich.

The original recipe called for a mix of chicken breasts and thighs, but since I'm trying to be a little healthier, I used all chicken breast. But if you're not counting points, by all means consider using both kinds of chicken. The original recipe also called for chicken bouillon cubes, which I thought I had, but when I started cooking I realized I was out, so I didn't use any. I didn't notice that anything was missing, so I don't think you need them.

I made these for the AFC championship game, and sadly, my Patriots beer koozie did not bring the team good luck. But, I happen to love Peyton Manning (I actually like him more than Tom Brady, shhh) and Wes Welker, despite him leaving the Pats, so I will happily root for the Broncos to win. I think Peyton's a phenomenal football player, and a real class act, so I'd like to see him get his second Super Bowl ring.



Pulled Chicken Jalapeno Popper Sandwiches
Recipe from Food Fanatic
Makes about 8 sandwiches, maybe with a little chicken leftover 



Ingredients

For the Chicken:
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, diced 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
3 (10 oz.) cans Rotel (diced tomatoes with chilies) 
2 tablespoons chili powder 
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
 
For the Panko Topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs 
2 tablespoons butter
 
For the Cheese Sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream 
2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed
 
Extras: 
Pickled jalapeno pepper slices
Rolls
 
Directions

For the Chicken:
Place diced onion and minced garlic in crock pot. Place chicken breasts on top. Pour Rotel, undrained, over the top of the chicken. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper over top. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours. 

Once cooked, remove the chicken breasts and drain most of the juices out of the crockpot. Shred the chicken and return to the crockpot. Check to see if more salt and pepper are needed and adjust accordingly.
 
For the Panko Topping:
Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add panko crumbs, stirring until lightly toasted. Set aside.
 
For the Cheese Sauce:
In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream until almost boiling, stirring constantly. Add in cream cheese and stir until melted. Then add the cheddar, stirring until smooth and combined.
 
To Assemble the Sandwich: 
Place chicken on a sliced roll. Top with cheese sauce, crispy panko and sliced jalapenos.




or the Pulled Chicken:
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes with green chilies, 2 cans - like rotel
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
For the Crispy Panko Topping:
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
For the Cheese Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
For Topping:
  • jalapeno pepper, pickled or fresh, sliced

Directions

For the Chicken:
  1. Place diced onion and minced garlic in crock pot.  Place chicken on top.  Open cans of tomato and pour that over the chicken.
  2. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin salt and pepper over top.  Put bouillon cubes in.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.
  4. Drain almost all of the juices and season more to taste, if necessary.
​For the Panko Topping:
  1. In a skillet melt butter.  Add panko crumbs, stirring until lightly toasted.  Set aside.
For the Cheese Sauce:
  1. In small saucepan heat heavy cream until almost a boil, stirring constantly.  Whisk in cream cheese, until melted.  Then add the cheddar, stirring until smooth and combined.
To Assemble the Sandwich: 
  1. Place chicken on a bun.  Top with cheese sauce, crispy panko and sliced jalapeno.
- See more at: http://www.foodfanatic.com/2013/11/crock-pot-pulled-chicken-cheesy-jalapeno-popper-style/#sthash.QfnKfxGM.dpuf
or the Pulled Chicken:
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes with green chilies, 2 cans - like rotel
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
For the Crispy Panko Topping:
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
For the Cheese Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
For Topping:
  • jalapeno pepper, pickled or fresh, sliced

Directions

For the Chicken:
  1. Place diced onion and minced garlic in crock pot.  Place chicken on top.  Open cans of tomato and pour that over the chicken.
  2. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin salt and pepper over top.  Put bouillon cubes in.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.
  4. Drain almost all of the juices and season more to taste, if necessary.
​For the Panko Topping:
  1. In a skillet melt butter.  Add panko crumbs, stirring until lightly toasted.  Set aside.
For the Cheese Sauce:
  1. In small saucepan heat heavy cream until almost a boil, stirring constantly.  Whisk in cream cheese, until melted.  Then add the cheddar, stirring until smooth and combined.
To Assemble the Sandwich: 
  1. Place chicken on a bun.  Top with cheese sauce, crispy panko and sliced jalapeno.
- See more at: http://www.foodfanatic.com/2013/11/crock-pot-pulled-chicken-cheesy-jalapeno-popper-style/#sthash.QfnKfxGM.dpuf
or the Pulled Chicken:
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes with green chilies, 2 cans - like rotel
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
For the Crispy Panko Topping:
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
For the Cheese Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
For Topping:
  • jalapeno pepper, pickled or fresh, sliced

Directions

For the Chicken:
  1. Place diced onion and minced garlic in crock pot.  Place chicken on top.  Open cans of tomato and pour that over the chicken.
  2. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin salt and pepper over top.  Put bouillon cubes in.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.
  4. Drain almost all of the juices and season more to taste, if necessary.
​For the Panko Topping:
  1. In a skillet melt butter.  Add panko crumbs, stirring until lightly toasted.  Set aside.
For the Cheese Sauce:
  1. In small saucepan heat heavy cream until almost a boil, stirring constantly.  Whisk in cream cheese, until melted.  Then add the cheddar, stirring until smooth and combined.
To Assemble the Sandwich: 
  1. Place chicken on a bun.  Top with cheese sauce, crispy panko and sliced jalapeno.
- See more at: http://www.foodfanatic.com/2013/11/crock-pot-pulled-chicken-cheesy-jalapeno-popper-style/#sthash.QfnKfxGM.dpuf

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pepperoni Pizza Pull-Apart Bread


My next three or four blog posts are all going to help you plan your Super Bowl Sunday menu. Whether you're a football fan or not, I'm willing to bet you're a football FOOD fan! Who isn't? This recipe that's barely even a recipe would be a perfect addition to your menu. Pepperoni? Good. Bread? Good. Cheese? Gooooood. Did you just hear Joey Tribbiani right in that moment? Me too.

Like with the Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Cups that I posted on Monday, I served this at one of my Christmas parties, so I was only able to snap one quick photo before everyone dug in! But it looked pretty impressive, if I do say so myself, and tasted really good too.

The trick with this is to really shove all the ingredients down into the slits you cut into the bread. Don't be shy; really cram it in there from bottom to top. I admittedly didn't do a great job of this and the bottom of the loaf didn't have many of the toppings. So learn from my mistakes and go very generous with everything. Really fill it up and use the full amount of ingredients recommended, even if it seems like a lot as you're cutting it up.

If you happen to have any leftover, this actually reheats really well. I had a little bit left, and popped it in the oven at 350 for a few minutes just until it was warm and re-crisped.

Pepperoni Pizza Pull-Apart Bread
Recipe from Let's Dish

1 round bread loaf (I used sourdough)
10-12 oz. mozzarella or Provolone cheese slices, cut into 1-inch squares (I used a mix of the two cheeses)
1 (3.5 oz.) package pepperoni, halved
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2  - 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded
Marinara sauce for dipping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Make horizontal then vertical cuts deep in the bread, about one inch apart, being careful not to go through the bottom crust. Place the cut loaf on a foil-lined baking sheet and stuff cheese slices and pepperoni halves between the cuts. Combine the butter, garlic powder and oregano. Drizzle or brush the butter mixture over the bread with a pastry brush. Sprinkle the bread with the shredded Parmesan cheese.

Wrap the loaf completely in foil and bake for 15 minutes. Unwrap the bread and bake another 10 - 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden and crusty.

Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nana's Crescent Cookies


Today is my dad's birthday. I'm not sure he's ever read this blog, but I'll give him a shout-out anyway. Happy Birthday, Dad! Five or six years ago, I found out that his favorite cookies are these crescents that my grandmother used to make many years ago. So I got the recipe from my aunt and have made these cookies and mailed them to him for his birthday every year since. He's not one to ever want gifts, so this is a nice, somewhat sentimental way to let him know I'm thinking of him.

These cookies are very similar to what you might know as Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes or any number of other names, but in my family, they're simply called Nana's Crescent Cookies. Of course she had to be difficult and make the cookies into a crescent shape rather than a much easier ball/circle. Even after all these years, I still have not perfected the crescent shape all that well, but I don't think my dad minds too much!

The tricky part about these cookies is getting them at the right temperature before rolling them in the powdered sugar. If they're completely cool, the sugar doesn't always stick as well. If they're too warm, the sugar sort of melts into the cookie, almost disappearing and making them a bit sticky. This is nearly always the trap I fall into, and I find myself having to roll them in the sugar a second time, after they've cooled a little more, to coat them and cut down the stickiness. One of these years, I'll get it right. But until then, my dad's worth the extra work!


Nana's Crescent Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
5 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp water
½ tsp salt
2 cups flour
2 cups pecans, finely chopped
Powdered sugar, for rolling (about 1/2 - 3/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl until fluffy and then add sugar and mix until combined. Add vanilla and water and mix well. On low speed, add salt and flour and mix until it's all incorporated. Stir in chopped pecan pieces.

Form into crescents (or balls if you don't have tradition standing in your way!) and bake for about 20 minutes until the bottoms and edges are starting to brown. I scooped about a one inch ball of dough to make each of my crescents and got almost 50 cookies out of the batch.

Allow cookies to cool a bit and while still slightly warm but easy to handle, roll in powdered sugar and move to a rack to finish cooling completely. If necessary, roll them in the powdered sugar again once totally cool.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Cups


Happy MLK, Jr. Day! I am lucky to have today off and couldn't be happier to sleep in, maybe take a bubble bath, and basically do nothing but relax!

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture that truly does these delicious little appetizers justice. I made them for a Christmas party and needed to serve them to my guests while they were still hot, so I didn't have time to take 20 pictures from all different angles like I normally do. But trust me, these are good! The filling is very similar to buffalo chicken dip (but better, according to my brother, who's a very tough critic) and it sits on little cups made out of Fritos and cheddar cheese. How could they not be delicious?? They'd make a great Super Bowl appetizer, so add these to your list if you're already planning what to make on February 2nd. They'll be a hit, I promise!

This recipe is from Pampered Chef, as is the bamboo serving platter in the photo above. I LOVE that platter! The recipe is in PC's Fall/Winter 2013 Season's Best Recipe Book. As soon as I got the book, that was the first recipe that caught my eye and it did not disappoint!

Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Cups

2 cups corn chips (like Fritos)
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups, divided)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup finely diced cooked chicken breast (I poached the chicken)
2 Tbsp hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
2 Tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray wells of a 24-cup mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray

Pulse corn chips in a food processor until they're broken into crumbs. Add one cup of the cheddar cheese to the processor and process until the cheese and chips are incorporated. Spoon about 1 Tbsp chip mixture into each well of the pan (I used my PC small scoop to make this easier) and flatten the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the wells. Again, PC came to my rescue with their mini-tart shaper to do this job, but you can use your fingers, the handle of a wooden spoon, whatever works. Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until cups are slightly bubbly and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool 3 - 4 minutes.

Set aside 1 Tbsp of green onions for garnish and add the rest to a mixing bowl. Add chicken, hot sauce, sour cream, blue cheese, and remaining 1/2 cup cheddar. Mix well and then microwave, uncovered, for 30 - 60 seconds or until mixture is warm enough to your liking and the cheese is slightly melted.

Gently remove the cups from the mini muffin tin and place on your serving platter. Spoon about 1 Tbsp of chicken mixture into each cup. Drizzle with additional hot sauce, if desired, and sprinkle with reserved green onions.




Friday, January 17, 2014

Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage over Fried Polenta


This is officially one of the best meals I have ever cooked. It was so good. So, so good. Creamy, filling, comforting. Total perfection. The sauce is hearty and booming with flavor, and that's even before adding the parmesan cheese, which takes it totally over the top in smell, richness, and taste. And I'm fairly obsessed with polenta. The place my friends and I go to for our weekly happy hour has a jalapeno polenta pizza on the menu and it's probably safe to say I order it two weeks out of three. Polenta is so fluffy and delicious, so when I saw the idea to top it with a spicy Italian sausage sauce, I was sold. Even better, this all came together in barely over half an hour. I think the part that took the longest was removing the casing from the sausage, and that was no big deal at all.

I adapted this a little from the original recipe that I was working from. That called for two Italian chicken sausages and one regular Italian sausage. I couldn't justify buying two different sausages and using only one or two links from each package for this recipe, so I went with all chicken sausage and used all four links in the package. More economical, and a little healthier. I also left out the sun-dried tomatoes that the original recipe called for. I don't love their texture, and definitely don't think the dish suffered from not having them. Made the way I did it, this is 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus if you make it into five servings. I had planned for it to be 4 servings at 10 PP each, but cutting the polenta into 10 slices worked better. Divided into five servings it was still a good amount of food, but if you're not worried about points, then obviously feel free to help yourself to a bit more!

You really need to make this. Soon. I made it for dinner Tuesday night and by the time the dishes were washed I was already looking forward to having some leftovers for lunch the next day. And I'm happily eating leftovers again as I type this. It's that good! I already had blog posts planned for the majority of the remainder of this month, but I had to bump what I had planned for today because I couldn't wait any longer to blog about this. I can definitely see this becoming a regular addition to my easy meal repertoire and I hope you like it as much as I do!

Italian Chicken Sausage over Fried Polenta
Recipe adapted slightly from Willow Bird Baking

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 links spicy Italian chicken sausage (I got mine at Trader Joe's and I think the package was 12 oz. total)
1 cup onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tube cooked polenta (Mine was from Trader Joe's and was 18 oz.)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions:
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. If your sausage has casings, remove them and crumble the sausage into the pan. Brown it for a few minutes, then add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds or so before adding the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and wine. Be sure to scrape up any sausage bits off the bottom of the pan to get all that flavor into the sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat and allowing it to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the mixture is simmering, heat the other 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Slice the polenta into even slices, about half an inch thick or just slightly under that. I got 10 slices out of my 18 oz. tube. Once the pan is hot, add the slices of polenta, frying them for a few minutes on one side until they're starting to brown. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and then flip over, adding salt and pepper to the other side. Cook for a few minutes, then sprinkle them with a little Parmesan cheese. Remove them to your serving plate.

While the second side of the polenta is cooking, stir 1/4 cup of basil and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese into the sausage and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 more minutes before spooning the mixture over the fried polenta. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and Parmesan, and serve.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle


Chocolate chip cookies that you don't even have to scoop or shape into individual balls? And that contain no egg, so you can safely eat the raw dough? Doesn't get much better than that! I'd be willing to bet that at this moment, you likely have all the ingredients you need to make this, which is equal parts awesome and dangerous. That's how I settled on making these. I had pinned the recipe a couple of years ago, but never got around to making it until this past New Year's Eve. I needed to bring a dessert to a party I was going to, but I was in the midst of my do-nothing-but-watch-Sons-of-Anarchy multi-day stretch and I really really really didn't want to go to the grocery store. So as I was skimming my Pinterest boards for inspiration, this looked like the best option that would allow me to avoid leaving my house until it was time to go to the party. Sometimes my laziness works out, because these were so good and I'm glad I finally made them!

A word of warning to you - you might want to use a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with sides. All of my cookie sheets have perfectly flat edges and while, without eggs or leavening ingredients, the dough didn't spread TOO much, it spread just enough for a little bit of it to drop over the side and burn onto the bottom of my oven. So I am now greeted with a burning smell and a bit of smoke every time I use my oven. Yes, I should clean it. But please see the above paragraph about my extreme laziness.



Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle
Recipe adapted only slightly from Piece of Cake

1 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit2 tsp pure vanilla extract1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl, and stir in the vanilla. Add the sugar, salt and flour and mix to combine - no electric mixer needed! The mixture might be a little crumbly, but that's ok. Stir in the chocolate chips. Press the dough into a thin, even layer onto a large ungreased cookie sheet. You don't have to fill the entire sheet - use the chocolate chips as your guide and try to get them into a single layer, then you'll know you made the dough thin enough.

Bake for 20 - 24 minutes, until light golden brown (the edges will be a bit darker than the center). Let cool completely before breaking into pieces. I used a pizza wheel to cut it up and it just sort of cracked naturally into different size pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Baked Taco Pasta


This is a really easy, really delicious comfort food dish that's perfect for a cold winter night. Tacos are one of my favorite foods, as is pasta, so why not combine the two??

I sort of wished I had crumbled up some Fritos or tortilla chips as a topping, to give this the sort of crunch I love from hard shell tacos, so I'd recommend giving that a try. You could add any number of other toppings too, based on your preferences - fresh or pickled jalapenos, olives, sour cream, whatever floats your boat. Make it work for you!

Baked Taco Pasta

16 oz. rigatoni noodles
1 lb. ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
1 cup water
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheese
Toppings - tomatoes, scallions, jalapenos, olives, sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil the pasta for the shortest time listed on the package instruction so it remains a little al dente. Drain.

Cook the ground beef in a large skillet and drain the excess grease. Add the taco seasoning and water to the ground beef and cook for a few minutes until thickened. Add cream cheese to beef mixture and stir until melted.  Put cooked pasta in a casserole dish (I used a deep 9 x 13 pan), and mix in 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese. Add the beef mixture to the pasta and gently combine. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and the top is beginning to get slightly brown. Serve toppings per your personal taste.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. I finished Sons of Anarchy on Sunday. It took just under a week to watch the whole series, about 70 - 75 hours of TV. I'm obsessed and wish there were 6 more seasons. I don't know how I'm going to wait until September for the next season premiere.

2. My best friend is coming to visit this weekend. I haven't seen her since last Christmas, the longest we've been apart in 22 years of friendship. We don't have any big plans. I'm just so excited to hang out together!

3. I have been a Nutriblast nut this week. I've had more fruits and vegetables in the last three days than I have in the last three months combined. And the Nutribullet continues to amaze me. It blends right through fruit skins, seeds, anything I've thrown at it. It's magical. 

4. Going back to work after 13 days off sucked. I had to actually set an alarm and put on real clothes. Not cool. I really could have used a few more days to get through the to-do list I had made for myself and completely neglected because of my SoA obsession. 

5. Now that Christmas is over, I'm basically ready for April or May to get here. These next few months suck. Cold weather, nothing exciting to look forward to. Bring on springtime!

6. I'm tired and out of thoughts. 




Hershey Kiss Pies


I kind of screwed up with this one, because I forgot to take a few neater, more presentable photos of the finished product. I made these in the middle of a three-day Christmas baking spree, on a very snowy Saturday when my friends and I were trying to decide the wisdom of venturing out in the bad weather to go to our favorite Christmas party of the season. So I wasn't quite focused and have to apologize that the above picture is all I have to show you!

These are really simple (only TWO real ingredients!) and pretty delicious, though they do take a bit of practice and care to avoid exploding pies like you see a few of in the photo above. It's really important to properly pinch together and seal all of the dough, or they won't stay together once the crust begins to expand as it bakes. It's fine if they open a little (they likely will) but you want to avoid them completely opening up like that one at the top. Here's what they look like before they bake:


You can use any flavor of Hershey Kisses that you'd like. I went with the Mint Truffle Kisses since I was bringing them to a Christmas party, but any other variety, or the good old originals, would be delicious. I got 13 or 14 pies out of each crust, so I used both crusts that came in the package to make enough to bring to the party. Good thing I did too, after some of them were too much of a mess to bring anywhere!

Hershey Kiss Pies
Recipe from Picky Palate

2 refrigerated pie crusts, thawed
28 Hershey Kisses, any flavor
1 egg white
Granulated sugar for sprinkling before baking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unroll pie dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use a biscuit cutter or the top of a glass to cut circles around the pie crust. The circles should be about 3 inches in diameter. Place a Hershey Kiss in the center of each circle. Fold half of the pie dough around the top of the Kiss and pinch the edges together. Bring the remaining sides up to the top of the Kiss as well, and pinch all sides together to make little pouches like in the second photo above.  Reroll the scraps of pie crust to get a few more pies out of the first crust, and repeat with the second crust.

Whisk the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush all of the pies with the egg white wash, then sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for 20 - 24 minutes or until the pies are golden.  Remove and let cool.