Friday, April 8, 2011

Easiest Homemade Bread and Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

So the other day we had my husband's grandfather over for dinner. Considering our entire house was going on the third week of fighting colds, I decided that I wanted something easy and simple to make. So Saturday night I put the minestrone in the crockpot, made lemon bars, and then made this homemade french peasant bread that I found the recipe for here. I followed the recipe pretty exactly and it turned out AMAZING!

French Peasant Bread

adapted from Recipe Shoebox

makes 2 round loaves

1 tablespoon quick rising yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups all-purpose flour (you may need more or less than this)

corn meal
1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large bowl. Allow the yeast to bloom for a few minutes. Add the flour and salt and stir just until combined. Do not knead. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Dust a cookie sheet with corn meal. Remove from the bowl, and with floured hands, shape into 2 round loaves. Place loaves on the prepared cookie sheet. Let rise for an additional hour.

Preheat oven to 425F. Use half of the melted butter and brush on top of the loaves. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375F and cook an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with the remaining butter.

So needless to say all the bread was gone by like Tuesday. We sent some home with Pop and all enjoyed a bunch of it. So when I decided I was going to make some Crockpot Chicken Parmesan for dinner tonight I knew I was going to make some more bread too. It is so easy and seriously effortless. I could see myself never buying bread again. Start to finish it takes less than 3 hours. But it's only about 20 mins of your elbow grease and the rest is just waiting.

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan
Not sure if I've posted about this before and frankly, right now I'm too lazy to go and look. This is my favorite chicken parmesan recipe. Again, this is simple and easy and FABULOUS!!! I got this recipe from here at Crockpot365.
Basically I just bread the chicken and put it in a crockpot that I've greased with some olive oil. Then I dump a jar of spaghetti sauce on top. Then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Cook for 3 hours on high or 6 on low.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Healthy General Tso's Chicken

One of Mike's favorite meals is General Tso's Chicken which as we all know is fried and slathered in sauce on top of a pile of rice making for a rather unhealthy meal. I know the Chinese restaurants put a little bit of broccoli on top which makes it so ridiculously healthy for you, hahaha. So anyways it has always been my goal to make it a healthier meal so that we could enjoy it. There is a bottled version of General Tso's sauce that is actually pretty decent but again it's not exactly beneficial to the waistline. So when I stumbled upon this recipe for a Healthier version of General Tso's Chicken I was super excited. I just had to try it, but then it was a matter of waiting until I had the time, energy, and ingredients - all of which have been in short supply lately. But finally this morning I had the ingredients and I woke up with a decent amount of energy and thanks to my wonderful husband distracting Natalie I had the time.

General Tso's Chicken
This is where I got the original recipe. I adapted it some, but mostly just added a TON more veggies.(Note: ginger isn't one of my favorite ingredients - so I was worried that this would be too much - it wasn't. Money saving tip: Buy a whole ginger root and keep it in the freezer. Then whenever you need some pull it out cut off a piece, peel and grate. It'll defrost quickly and last for months (or like me for years).

General Tso's Chicken
Sauce: 1 Tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup water
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (I used about 1/2 inch chunk)
4 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy, I was worried about my daughter so went low)

Mix the cornstarch and water together until smooth. Then add in all the other ingredients.

2 large egg whites
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 lb chicken, cut into bite sized pieces ( I cut about 7 chicken breasts up into cubes)

2 cups snow peas, trimmed and cut into about an inch
1 sweet onion, sliced into half rings
1 cup frozen peas

Whisk the cornstarch into the egg whites until a little tiny bit frothy. Stir in the chicken chunks until it is coated with the mixture.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Add chicken to the skillet, allowing the excess mixture to drip off. I use tongs to put each piece into the skillet one at a time. Then use a slotted spoon to stir and flip the chicken around. Cook off all the chicken and then remove it to a bowl or plate. Make sure that the oil level stays good or else your chicken will start to stick and burn badly! Add a little more oil and add the onions and snow peas. Cook until the onion starts to soften slightly. Then add the frozen peas and chicken back into the pan. Pour the sauce into the skillet. Cover and simmer, stirring regularly (like every 2 mins) until your sure the chicken is fully cooked and make sure the onions are soft (unless you like them crunchy).

I served this over rice. I also steamed some broccoli and carrots in my rice cooker so we had that in addition to all the other veggies in the sauce. My original intent was to stir the broccoli and carrots into the sauce too but my skillet ran out of room and I decided to just have it on the side.

This was great! A+ in my book, A in Mike's, Natalie ate several pieces of chicken so that is a total plus. Depending on how much chicken you make this is a little involved. I'd like to try baking the chicken in the egg mixture which would make it even more healthy.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Turkey Burgers

Tonight I made turkey burgers for Mike and Natie for dinner. I ate some of the leftover smothered chicken because it's just that good. I like to eat the turkey burgers for breakfast either plain, on a bun, or with a egg on top. I put them in those sandwich baggies that just fold over. Then I put them in a freezer bag and pull one out when I want one for breakfast or for a meal for Natie.

I've made these different ways before so I'll include both recipes.

Salsa Turkey Burgers
Mix 1 jar of salsa into 3 lbs of ground turkey. This may be too wet, so you may need to add some quick cooking oatmeal to help dry it out or you could use bread crumbs. Form into patties.

Garlicky Turkey Burgers
3 lbs ground turkey
minced garlic and juice (I used some of that refrigerated garlic that you can buy in a jar at the store)
Parmesan Cheese
Italian flavored bread crumbs

I do this by sight so I can't really give you measurements. Start with a little and add if you need more wet (garlic) or dry (cheese or bread crumbs). Mix until it's well mixed; then form into patties. I usually do slider size because that works for Natie and my breakfasts.

I used a little too much garlic this time, but I still love these. They are just a great way to get protein into me for breakfast which is when I need the protein the most. Normally these would get an A+ from me but this time they just get an A because of the too much garlic. Mike likes to spread Thousand Island or BBQ sauce on his. He finds the turkey to make these a little too bland to eat without some kind of sauce. I think he's crazy to think they are bland, but it's all about taste preference.

I also have to include a recipe my mother gave me that I've been making almost everyday for Natie to eat.
Toast Pizza:
Make toast. Then spread the toast with a little pizza sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Broil or microwave until cheese is melted. Cut into little pieces.

Natalie loves this. She has no clue that it isn't pizza. I tried one bite the other day and you really can't tell it isn't a thin crust pizza except for crust pieces, but you could always cut the crust off.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Diet Month - Meal 1 and 2

I'm the kind of person that needs to have a plan. If I don't plan ahead I tend to rationalize, justify, and otherwise change my mind. So in order to diet and stick with it: I have to have a menu for the whole month. So I went and planned for a whole month of mostly new recipes. So when I remember I will post some of them and our review of them. Basically I'm going low carb, high protein and veggie in addition to trying to keep calorie intake low. So sort of South Beach, sort of Weight Watchers, but all around healthy and hopefully we'll see a difference on the scale! :)

So to start this all off I made my version of the Weight Watchers Soup/ Minestrone: A+
Approximately 2.5 lbs of ground beef, browned and drained (I sprinkle a little Adobo seasoning on the meat just before it's done and stir it in)
3 onions, diced
2 medium zucchini, grated
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped
3 carrots, grated
1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 bag of frozen peas
1 (32 oz) can of ground or crushed tomatoes (DO NOT DRAIN)
1-2 beef stock bouillon cubes (depending on your tastes and size of your crockpot)

Dump it all in crockpot and add enough water to fill to the top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
This freezes well. It tastes great with some rice or noodles mixed in. The hubby likes it with mashed potatoes mixed in; I've had it before with a baked potato diced up - tasted good to me! I don't add any spices to mine but you're more than welcome to season to your tastes.

I eat this for dinners, lunches, and snacks.

Meal 1: Garlic Lime Marinated Pork Chops
This is where I stole the recipe from. I skipped the lime zest, salt and pepper. This got a B-. It was missing something. So if we try it again we'll probably use the salt, pepper, and lime zest this time. The combo of spice and lime juice and garlic is fantastic, but like I said it was missing something. I broiled them.
from Gina's Weight Watchers Blog

Meal 2: Smothered Chicken Breasts: A+
modified from Taste of Home
6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
3 onions, sliced into rings
1/2 stick of butter
6 slices of bacon, diced
6 handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp brown sugar

Put butter into crockpot until it melts. Add onions into crockpot and cook on low until softened. If you're concerned about burning then add a little chicken stock.
Saute bacon until crispy. Drain off all the grease and wipe pan with a paper towel. Then add the onions back into the pan with the brown sugar. Stir until sugar is absorbed and cooked off.
Bake the chicken at 350 degrees until done. I drained the pan off twice to eliminate the water and gunk that comes out. Then layer with onions, bacon bits, and cheese. You can put it back in the oven to melt the cheese or pop each plate in the microwave.

This was one of the best recipes I've ever had! Mike thought it was good. I wish we could have this for dinner EVERY SINGLE NIGHT FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES! :) Okay, so maybe it's a bit of an exaggeration, but it was seriously delicious!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roast Chicken Dinner

A roast chicken is perhaps one of my favorite meals. My mother makes the best roast chickens in the WORLD. Seriously, I cannot even come close to achieving the same deliciousness she delivers when she serves a roast chicken. I always end up needing to put the chicken back in for longer after the little thingy pops.

So tonight I tried again to make a marvelous chicken dinner with roasted veggies. SO GOOD!

I cleaned the chicken and stuffed it with onions, then sprinkled Adobo seasoning and olive oil on top. In the pan I diced 7 medium potatoes, 4 apples, 1/2 a butternut squash, and threw in about a dozen baby carrots. Sprinkled it all with olive oil.
I love making this meal because I get so many meals out of it. We get the initial night when I roast it all like tonight. Then tomorrow I will cook the carcass and make chicken stock. Then I will shred all the meat and make chicken and dumplings. With any meat I don't include in that meal I will make some buffalo chicken for my hubby to make quesadillas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Eve Spread Part One

So this Christmas Eve the festivities are going to take place at our home. This will be my first holiday celebration that I'm hosting. However, due to the fact that we only have enough seats at our table to seat 6 and I'm not into have multiple tables at family holiday meals (I feel it separates family at a time when they should be coming together); we're doing an Appetizer and Cookie Spread.

My mother-in-law is going to make homemade rolls and my father-in-law is bringing the shrimp. My mother is bringing antipasto fixings and the veggie tray. The rest is all me! I'm so excited to finally be able to do a holiday feast myself. Christmas Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays. I like it even better than Christmas morning, shh don't tell. Christmas Eve growing up has always been snacks, appetizers, and cookies. As a family we sit around and talk or play games. We were allowed to open one or two gifts.

So anyways, my menu is 15 appetizers (including those already mentioned) and 15 kinds of cookies. So I have started making the cookies and testing a few of the appetizer recipes. So here's what I've made already and my comments on the recipes.

Raspberry Truffles
1 tbsp butter
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 1/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
7 1/2 tsp seedless raspberry jam
6 oz white or dark chocolate candy coating
2 Tbsp shortening

In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, cream and chocolate chips. Cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes or until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in jam until combined. Cover and freeze for 20 mins. Drop by tsp onto a foil lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes. Roll into small grape size balls; freeze until firm. Melt candy coating and shortening; stirring often. Cool slightly. Spoon over balls. Place on wax paper. Let stand 15 mins or until firm. Store in the refrigerator.

Okay, so first of all I hate when recipes list chocolate measurements in ounces. I buy chocolate chips and don't own a scale. It's on my kitchen items to buy but haven't gotten there yet. So it's really difficult to know what 6 oz is, other than approximately half of a 12 oz bag. So I tried that which turned out to be about 1 cup, which was not enough.
But other than that: My hubby didn't like these at all. They aren't a sweet truffle. They are only slightly sweet. The raspberry flavor is good. I thought they were pretty good, not the best I've ever had or anything. But decently good. I probably won't ever make them again because hubby didn't enjoy and I got 4 dozen from the recipe which is alot to eat myself. But if I had someone who loved raspberry coming to visit I might make them because of that.
My second thought is to try mixing milk chocolate into the truffles instead of semisweet.Second: Perky Penguins
This recipe is labor intensive and I only made it because I adore PENGUINS! but only cute ones!

First there are 2 doughs:
First dough:
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c butter, soft
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Beat sugars, butter, vanilla and egg. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Second dough:
1 c sugar
1/2 c butter, soft
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 (3oz) pkg cream cheese, soft
3 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, egg, cream cheese, and chocolate. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape plain dough into 1 1/2 inch ovals for bodies. Shape wings and heads from chocolate dough. Shape beak, eyes, and feet from plain dough. Bake 8-10 minutes.

The plain dough was a little crumbly so I think I might add 1 oz of cream cheese to the dough to make it a tad creamier. But hubby loved the plain dough flavor. I loved the chocolate dough flavor. I only made 1 tray of penguins. Then I just shaped the rest of the dough into balls. These are definitely doughs that I will use again but probably won't take the time to make penguins out of them again. I've decided to invest in a penguin cookie cutter instead. :) I thought the chocolate dough tasted like Hershey's chocolate syrup in a gooey cookie form.

Third Cookie is my PB bars, which I tried cutting with cookie cutters. They turned out a little too crumbly for that this time. But still so yummy! See a previous post for that recipe.

Fourth Cookie:
Vanilla Butter Spritz
1 1/2 c unsalted butter, soft
3/4 c and 2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pure almond extract
3 1/2 c flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together. Add egg yolks, vanilla, and almond. Gradually add flour and mix until smooth. Use a cookie press to make the spritz cookies. Bake 8-9 minutes. Cool completely.

I thought they were a little crumbly. Hubby thought they were amazing. Probably make again because they are super easy and hubby liked them. :)

Fifth Cookie:
Butter Cut Out Cookies
1 c butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp regular salt
1 egg, at room temp
1/4 c milk, at room temp
3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, almond, and salt until light and fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl then add the egg and milk. Mix on medium speed until pale in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides again and add the flour and baking powder. Mix until the flour is well incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least an hour or overnight. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare 2 pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half, leaving the half you aren't working with in the fridge. Dust your work surface with powdered sugar and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut the cookies with cookie cutters and place on the prepared pan. Re-roll the scraps as many times as needed, just be careful not to use too much sugar for dusting.
Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies are just slightly golden at the edges and firm in the center. Cool for 10 minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

One of the best cut out recipes I've ever found. Definitely will be making these again. I haven't added any decorations or frosting because there really quite good plan.

I've tried to recipes for the appetizers. I want to make some sort of chicken nuggets or fingers but I don't want to have to fry anything the day of so therefore can't use my normal recipe. So I either need a fried recipe that can be frozen or a recipe to bake.

I made two tonight:
Homemade Chicken "Things" from Cooking During Stolen Moments
3-4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 1/2 c complete pancake mix (the kind you just add water)
3/4 c -1 c water
2 Tbsp hot sauce
2 tsp salt and pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together pancake mix, water, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Add more water if needed. You want the mix to be a little thinner than you would for making pancakes, but not very much. Heat oil in a fryer or in a medium-sized pot. Add chicken pieces to the batter and stir to coat completely. When oil is hot, use a slotted spoon to transfer chicen from the batter to the oil. Depending on the size of chicken pieces, only cook about 5-10 pieces at a time. Cook about 3-4 minutes per side, until batter is browned and chicken is completely cooked.

Note: The recipe makes a TON, but can be cut down if you're not planning on making as much. I am trying to freeze some as the blogger at Cooking during Stolen Moments claims that they freeze well. To reheat, bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

These were excellent. Hubby loved them. Not sure I want to go to all the work of making these for Christmas Eve however.

Golden Chicken Nuggets
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2 inch piece
1/4 c honey mustard
2 c French's Fried Onions, finely crushed

Dip chicken in mustard. Then coat in onion crumbs. Bake 15 mins at 400 degrees. Serve with additional honey mustard.

These weren't too bad. I personally can't stand mustard so I didn't like them very much. Hubby thought they were okay.

So I'm thinking I'm going to try making them with a differently flavored dip and then the onions. Maybe a flavored mayonnaise or a creamy salad dressing.

That's take one! Stay tuned for more as long as a certain someone continues to remind me to keep posting :) or someone comments :) :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

This is one of my husband's FAVORITE meals right now. Every time I ask him what he wants to have for dinner this is on his list. I've had many different variations of this recipe and I think this one is my favorite. I know it'll seem a little involved, but A) it's totally worth it and B) it's only about 20-30 minutes of actual work.

Mexican Lasagna
Ground Beef (Approx 3 lbs)
Diced Onions (I usually do approx 1 cup because I like onion. So 2 small or one medium onion)
1/4-1/2 c pineapple juice
14 oz can of diced tomatoes
Half a jar of spaghetti sauce (I actually don't know the oz size of the jar but it's the average size the grocery stores sell.)
1 cup of salsa
mexican blend shredded cheese
1 lb lasagna noodles

Brown ground beef on medium heat. When there is just the slightest hint of pink left, stir in the onions. Then drain out as much of the grease as you want to. I usually do about 3/4 of the grease. Then toss it all into the crockpot for 3-4 hours on high.
When the taco meat is just about done in the crockpot, cook the lasagna noodles to very al dente. You still want them to be rather chewy, not quite done.

Layer a little bit of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Next add a layer of noodles, then a layer of taco meat, then a layer of cheese. Again noodles, meat, cheese, noodles, meat. Then pour the pineapple juice over the whole thing. Just be careful not to come to close to the top of the pan.

Bake in a 350 for 30 mins. Top with cheese and bake for another 5 mins. We like it with a dollop of sour cream on top.

If you like it spicy, add some spices to your taco meat. Use all salsa and no diced tomatoes or sauce. Make your taco meat to taste. If you want a recipe for a spicier taco meat, just ask - my Mom makes her tacos much spicier than I do so I know how, I just choose not to.
We like our taco meat sweet, hence the pineapple juice. You can skip it if you want.
You could add a layer of refried beans between the noodles and the taco meat. You could also add black beans to your taco meat. I've even added corn to the meat mixture, but the hubby doesn't like it that way.
Some people use flour tortilla shells instead of lasagna noodles but we prefer the texture of noodles in this case.

This freezes fantastically. I love to use old cool whip containers or Chinese take out containers (my parent's local Chinese take out uses plastic take out containers and they give them all to me! ) But a foil pan or Tupperware container would work well too. Just defrost and microwave or just microwave. Or you could make 2 8x8 inch pans. Bake one for dinner that night and freeze the other for another night.