October 25, 2011

Leftover madness and other topics

I haven't made dinner in a while. I'm a lazy lump. My work had me going to Tulsa last week for a seminar, I've been petsitting, and poor Zach has been a ball of stress. So, we've been picking our way over the leftovers, eating with my folks, and eating pizza. Healthy, I know. I noticed we had rice left over from the burritos last week, so I'll be making a sweet casserole. Here's the recipe:

Tex-Mex chicken casserole

* 2 whole Cooked Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts, Shredded
* 1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies - Drained, 10 Ounce Can
* 1 can Cream Of Chicken Soup (10 Ounce Can)
* ½ cans Refried Beans, 15 Ounce Can
* 2 cups Cooked Rice (cooked According To Package Instructions)
* ½ cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (will be omitting this and substituting small can of mushrooms)
* ½ cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese


Mix together all of the ingredients except the cheddar cheese in a casserole dish then top it with the cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. You can finish off the last 3-4 minutes on broil if you like crispy cheese on top!

I have been itching for a pumpkin dessert lately, and about had a fit when I saw the recipe for these pumpkin blondies... They remind me of the Dorothy Lane inspired brownies PW influenced me to make this summer.


* ¾ cups Butter, Softened
* 1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
* 2 whole Eggs
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
* 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
* 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
* ½ teaspoons Nutmeg
* 1-¾ cup All-purpose Flour
* 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
* ¼ teaspoons Salt
* ½ cups Chopped Walnuts
* ¼ cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
* 14 ounces, weight Caramels, Unwrapped (1 Bag)
* ¼ cups Heavy Cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan with non stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs, vanilla and pumpkin until combined. Slowly incorporate the remaining ‘blondies’ ingredients into the batter. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly to ensure a smooth batter. Spread about 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

For the filling: Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over top of the batter.

Place caramels and cream into a heat-proof bowl. Microwave on high until caramel is smooth and completely melted, being sure to stir every 20 seconds. Stop as soon as it’s melted and smooth.

Pour melted caramel over chocolate and nuts. Spread around evenly with a butter knife or spoon. Place dollops of the remaining batter over the top of the caramel layer. Spread those dollops out to try and get a smooth layer of batter over top. (It’s fine if some of the caramel layer is peeking through.)

Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. (It might come out with a little caramel on it which is fine. You don’t want batter on the toothpick.)

Cool completely before serving. Or be prepared to get a whole lot of oozing caramel if you serve it warm.

All of this stuff is getting ready to go in the oven, so I can slip off around 6:45 for a young friend's high school choir performance. I'm excited! :)

October 15, 2011

Exciting fish dish!!!

I love love love fish, but sometimes it doesn't love you. You cook it up and it tastes like watery gravel. Ick! So, I try to find ways to make fish beautiful and tasty, as much of the fish I make is frozen (Curse Oklahoma's land locked position!).

One more from the vault at Tasty Kitchen, and this one's even Gluten-Free, thanks to Alyssa, aka Queen of Quinoa for posting it: Cinnamon & Paprika Pecan Crusted Salmon!


* ¼ cups Raw Pecans
* 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon Paprika
* 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
* 1 Tablespoon Whole Grain Mustard
* ¾ pounds Atlantic Salmon


reheat the oven to 400ºF.

In a food processor, pulse the pecans until the they are finely chopped and crumbly. Pour them onto a plate and add the cinnamon and paprika. Mix the spices into the pecans with a fork.

In a cast iron pan, heat your oil on medium-high heat.

Spread the mustard evenly over the flesh of the salmon. This will give you a nice “sticky” layer to bind with the pecans. Coat the top of the salmon with the crust by placing the fillet skin side up in the pecan crumbs. Make sure to crust all sides of the fish (except the skin) to get the full flavor of the crust.

Place the crusted side down in the hot oil. Let it sizzle for 3 minutes, being careful not to let it burn. When there’s a nice brown coloring to the pecan mixture, flip it over (skin side down) and place the skillet in the oven. Bake it in the center of the warm oven for 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet, until the fish flakes easily.

October 14, 2011

Vegetarian leanings

Zach and I aren't real card-carrying vegetarians, but if you look at our meat consumption habits, we're probably pretty close. We actually like tofu and other meat substitutes... lol :) Zach loves black bean burgers, so I've been looking for a nice-looking homemade burger. Here's the first attempt, from my BFF Tasty Kitchen, submitted by Boyfriend-approved Bites:


* ⅓ cups Jalapeno Slices
* 2 cloves Garlic
* 2 cans Black Beans (15 Ounce Cans), Drained Well
* 1-½ cup Bread Crumbs
* 3 Tablespoons Sweet Chili Sauce
* 2 Tablespoons Tomato Sauce
* ¾ cups Corn Kernels, Fresh Or Frozen
* 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
* 1-½ teaspoon Salt
* 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
* 2 Tablespoons Water
* 6 Hamburger Buns
* 6 slices Each Of Avocado And Tomato
* Optional Burger Garnishes: Mustard, Ketchup, Sriracha Chili Sauce, Etc


Mince the jalapeno and garlic and place them in a bowl. Add one can of beans. Make sure the beans are drained well. If not the burgers will be too watery. Add the mixture to your food processor and pulse until well combined and smooth.

Pour the bean mixture into a bowl and add the bread crumbs, sweet chili sauce, tomato sauce, and corn. Stir well. Add the other can of beans, the cumin and the salt and mix to combine.

Make into patties. Heat a skillet (medium heat) with a bit of olive oil and then add the patties. Cook for about four minutes on each side.

Place on warmed buns and garnish with avacado, tomato, ketchup, sriracha sauce if you’d like.

October 13, 2011

I Heart Crockpot, True Luv 4ever.

On the nights I'm at work until 9, my choices are dicey unless I've put together something for the crockpot. It keeps me from cooking so late, but it also makes the waitstaff at my favorite restaurants worry about me. LOL :)

Yet another Tasty Kitchen find, this one from the imagination of TK user Mama2Dutchies: Crockpot Baked Potato Soup!

* 8 cups Potatoes, Chunked
* 1 whole Small Onion, Diced
* 3 cans Chicken Stock (14-15 Ounce Size)
* 1 can Cream Of Chicken Soup (10 Ounce Can)
* 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, Cubed
* Salt And Pepper, to taste
* ½ pounds Bacon, cooked and crumbled
* Optional Garnishes: Shredded Cheese, Sour Cream, Diced Chives


Combine potatoes, onion, broth (2 of the 3 cans), and cream of chicken soup in crockpot. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or until potatoes are tender.

Then add cream cheese, salt and pepper and blend. (I used a hand/stick blender).

At this stage, if the soup is too thick, this is where the third can of stock comes in. Add it to the soup to get the consistency you prefer, and heat. Taste and season more if needed.

Top with bacon, cheese, chives and sour cream before serving.

October 12, 2011

Comfort food deluxe!

The school semester is in full-swing around here, and trying to make dinner nightly is not always a basket of kittens, lemme tell ya. lol :) I strive for a handful of objectives when making our dinners:

1. minimize dairy for me, so I can be a better roommate and co-worker :)
2. utilize on-hand ingredients where possible
3. fast/easy but still delicious
4. not spending a mint on ingredients

Keeping that in mind, I scour my favorite recipe sites looking for gems. Here's another one from Tasty Kitchen, submitted by Julie's Treats and Eats: Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole!


* 6 ounce package Wild Rice
* savory spices as desired (I'm thinking bay leaf, oregano, thyme...)
* 2 Tablespoons Butter
* 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
* 1 pound Chicken Breasts, Cooked And Shredded
* ½ cups Sour Cream (I substitute Tofutti Better than Sour Cream)
* 10-¾ ounces Cream Of Chicken Soup


1. Cook wild rice according to package directions. While the rice is cooking, melt butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add mushrooms and spices, saute until tender. Add chicken, sour cream and cream of chicken soup to mushroom mixture. Remove from heat.

2. Add cooked wild rice to mixture and combine. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish and bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes.

October 11, 2011

Clinging to warm days...

It's definitely feeling more like Fall now. The sun sets so early! :/ I wanted a sweet, crunchy, summerlike dish... Zach made a mango chutney thing in the crockpot a while back and I was not a fan, sadly. We still have a jar of mango chutney kicking around, so I hunted for something on Tasty Kitchen that would use this in a different way. I came up with Thai Chicken Salad! Here's the recipe from TK user Ashley Elizabeth of Sweetpea Lifestyle:


* 6 Tablespoons Mango Chutney
* 6 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
* 3 teaspoons Fish Sauce
* 3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
* 3 Tablespoons Sugar
* 4 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
* ½ cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* 1 pound Chicken Breasts
* 1 head Romaine Lettuce, Chopped
* 1 cup Shredded Carrots
* 1 bag Broccoli Slaw, 12 Ounce Bag
* 1 cup Diced Cucumber
* 1 cup Red Bell Pepper, Diced
* 1 can Mandarin Oranges, 15 Ounces
* 1 cup Craisins
* 1 can Crunchy Chinese Noodles, 3 Ounces


Mix the first six ingredients (don’t add in the oil – you’ll add it later) in a bowl, reserving half to use as dressing. Marinate chicken in the bowl with the remaining marinade mixture, at least 4 hours.

When ready to make salad, throw the chicken on the grill and grill till perfectly done (over medium heat, typically this will take 5 minutes per side, but it depends on the size of your chicken breasts). Then remove chicken from the grill and let it rest a few minutes before slicing!

Into your reserved marinade, add half cup of extra virgin olive oil and mix. (I like to use a small mason jar, pour liquids in, screw on the top, and shake it up, baby.)

Now, you are ready to create your salad. Mix your chopped greens, carrots, slaw, cucumbers, peppers, oranges and Craisins in a BIG bowl. Add your dressing and toss well. Place into bowls/plates/whatever kind of individual serving dishes your heart desires, and top with sliced chicken and crunchy noodles!

October 10, 2011

Fast (dinner) times in Norman...

I wanted a hot meal in less than an hour tonight, so I turned to her royal tastiness, The Pioneer Woman for inspiration. She made 16 minute beef and bean burritos last July, and I have been craving tex-mex like it's going out of style. So, gathering inspiration and making ingredient substitutions, I marched bravely forward.

It took me more than 16 minutes, but I don't do my prep beforehand, my rice wasn't already cooked, and my meat was frozen. I know, I've gotta quit whining and man up. At least now you're warned.

Burritos of the gods

-1 pound ground turkey
-1/2 diced yellow onion
-2-3 cloves crushed garlic
-salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder to taste
-7oz can mexican-style tomato sauce (I used El Pato brand from the "international" aisle at the store)
-14 oz refried beans
-grated sharp cheddar, to your liking
-1 small can diced green chiles
Optional but so tasty fillings:
fresh salsa/pico de gallo
spanish rice

Cook turkey, diced onions and garlic over medium heat in a skillet, add a little water so it doesn't burn and adhere to the pan. :D If you get a low-fat variety, you likely won't have any fat to drain. Add your spices, half the green chiles and half the tomato sauce, simmer until it's all bubbly and nice. Heat your beans up and add cheese and the other half of the green chiles in a saucepan. Heat up some tortillas and get to work filling them up with your meat and beans plus whatever else you want to pop in there. Once you get them assembled and folded, top with remaining tomato sauce and grate some cheese on them. Let it melt and get all nice (you might need a 375 degree oven to help you here), then serve it to your hungry compadres. They will love you.

Verdict? OM NOM NOM :D

October 6, 2011

A lasagna without cheese? I may faint from happiness!

Another secret to my kitchen happiness and success?
1. Zach does the dishes (It's true!).
2. I'm an avid user of Tasty Kitchen. They have everything under the big blue sky in their treasure trove, all user-submitted. I have found so many wonderful recipes there, and have loved them all. I saw this one a few weeks back and have been salivating like mad waiting for a proper fall day to make this gem. The cute BethanyRae is behind posting the gorgeousness that is this Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna (originally found in the book Frame by Frame Italian)... Without further ado!


* 3-½ ounces, Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Soaked
* 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
* 1 whole Onion, finely chopped
* 1 pound Ground Chicken
* 3-½ ounces, weight Smoked Pancetta, Chopped
* 3-½ cups Cremini Mushrooms, Chopped
* ⅔ cups Dry White Wine
* 14 ounces, weight Canned Chopped Tomatoes
* 3 Tablespoons Basil Leaves, Chopped
* 9 whole Lasagna Sheets (I Use Barilla No Boil, They Work Great!)
* 3 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, Finely Grated
* Salt And Pepper, to taste
* 2-½ cups Milk (any Percent Works)
* 4 Tablespoons Butter
* ½ cups All-Purpose Flour (scant 1/2 Cup)
* 1 whole Bay Leaf
* Salt And Pepper, to taste

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

(Make the white sauce first and set aside, covered, while you make the rest of the lasagna.)

For the white sauce, start by heating the milk, butter, flour and bay leaf in a pan over medium heat. While it is heating, make sure to whisk the mixture constantly, until smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Boil about three cups (or as directed on package of mushrooms) of water in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, add the water to a heatproof medium bowl and add the dried Porcini mushrooms to the boiling water. Let sit for about 20 minutes until moistened, drain, and set aside.

Now begin to prepare the lasagna: Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onions over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chicken and pancetta and cook for 6-8 minutes.

Stir in both types of mushrooms and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Then pour in the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Then stir in the basil. Remove from heat and set aside.

Arrange 3 of the lasagna sheets in a rectangular ovenproof dish.
(I use Barilla No Boil lasagna noodles. They cook in the sauce and you don’t have to boil them before baking the dish. If you use noodles that require boiling, make sure to boil those – according to package instructions – while you are assembling the chicken and mushroom sauce.)

Then spoon a third of the meat sauce over the noodles.

Remove the bay leaf from the white sauce and throw it away, you don’t need it. Spread a third of the white sauce over the meat.

Repeat the layers two more times (noodles, meat sauce, white sauce), finishing with a layer of the white sauce.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and bubbling.

Serve and enjoy!!!!

October 5, 2011

Crockpot fun, again!

Stephanie O'Dea to the rescue again, with her crockpot wizardry! I'm making her Brown Sugar Chicken, which her kids redubbed "Candy Chicken." LOL :)


--12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 6 boneless, skinless breast halves
--1 cup brown sugar (it's okay. you can brush your teeth after.)
--1/4 cup lemon-lime soda (stay with me...)
--2/3 cup vinegar (I used white wine, but think regular white would be fine)
--3 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
--2 T soy sauce (La Choy and Tamari wheat free are GF)
--1 tsp ground black pepper

The Directions:

Use a 4 quart crockpot for this recipe.

Plop the chicken into your crockpot. Cover with the brown sugar, pepper, chopped garlic, and soy sauce. Add the vinegar, and pour in the soda. It will bubble!

Cover and cook on low for 6-9 hours, or on high for 4-5. The chicken is done when it is cooked through and has reached desired consistency. The longer you cook it, the more tender it will be.

Serve over a bowl of white rice with a ladle full of the broth.

October 4, 2011

I love my crockpot!

To be successful at the "making dinner 3 times a week" goal, I have been leaning pretty heavily on my crock pot, what with my crazy schedules at work. I actually use a Hamilton Beach slow cooker with 3 interchangeable bowls. It's pretty sweet! The bitty 2 quart bowl is good for small dishes and dinner for 1. The 4 quart sees the most action around here, and is tall enough to accommodate stuffed peppers. The mighty 6 quart only comes out for the occasional vast amount of soup or roast, but I'm glad I have the choices.

Recently, I stumbled upon the delightful Stephanie O'Dea and her bevy of slow cooking delight. I'll be making one of hers tonight: Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms!

--4 large portabella mushrooms
--1 1/2 cups baby tomatoes
--1/4 cup olive oil
--1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
--1/2 t kosher salt
--1/2 t black pepper
--1 T dried basil
--1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
--1/4 cup bread crumbs

The Directions:

--with a paring knife, carefully cut off the stems of each mushroom. Chop the stems up, and put them in a mixing bowl.

--use a spoon to scoop out the brown hairy looking stuff from the mushrooms. Put that in your mixing bowl, too.

--chop up the tomatoes, and add them to the mix along with the bread crumbs, olive oil, vingegar, cheese, and spices.
--mix it up.

--smear a bit of olive oil on the bottom of your crockpot stoneware insert
--put the mushroom caps on top of the oil. I have a large 6qt, and my mushroom caps did not fit "nicely"---they were kind of on top of each other at the edges and were leaning a bit up the sides of the stoneware.
It's okay. They will still cook for you.

--spoon your filling mixture on top of the mushrooms. Remind yourself that you aren't making food to appear in Gordon Ramsay's kitchen---this is for your family. It needn't look "perfect!"

Cover and cook on low for 4-7 hours. I left our mushrooms on for 6 hours and served them over rice.

October 1, 2011

What I've been up to...

The month of September was very productive, believe it or not! I resolved myself to be less of a bum at home(my housekeeping skills are somewhat lacking), and I seem to respond well to bribery(HA!), so I made a whole list of tasks that I wanted to complete on a dry erase board entitled "The House Cup," along with the desired reward written at the bottom.

The list included things like getting laundry caught up weekly, cooking 3 nights a week, cleaning the bathroom, clearing off the dining table, tidying up the living room, cleaning up my pit of despair guest room, cleaning the fridge, making a donation to the thrift store, taking the cardboard recycling to the recycling center... Stuff like that. Minutiae for some, like ripping fingernails off for a slug like me.

All in all, I'd say the first run was a success. Some unexpectedly good things occurred alongside:
-I've started planning my dinners. It forces me to stick to a plan, to actually buy ingredients for a purpose rather than just chucking random stuff in the cart that eventually spoils. Plus, there's less eating out this way. :)
-I have less laundry sitting around.
-I'm not spending all my pocket money on random thrift store/Target trips! I'm home, taking care of business so I can get my bribe prize at the end of the month! Not like I have pocket money lately, anyway.

My prize this month? A massage and a pedicure. :) I'm so looking forward to this.

Once I get another month under my belt, I can have unexpected company without worrying about being embarrassed by the state of my crazy house.