Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cheesy Broccoli, Chicken, and Rice Casserole

A quick Dinner
This was before baking

I love cooking magazines and cookbooks. LOVE THEM. I would almost rather read these than a regular book. I stumbled upon this recipe in the America's Test Kitchen 30-minute Suppers and decided to make it first thing.

Cheesy Broccoli, Chicken, and Rice Casserole

from America's Test Kitchen
Serves 4

4 cups of cooked rice (2 cups dry) OR (2 - 8.8 ounce packages of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice if in a hurry)
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenderloins (I used half of this amount because my part didn't have chicken)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 lbs broccoli, florets chopped, stem peeled and sliced thing crosswise
3 TBS dijon mustard
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

If using quick rice, adjust oven rack 5 inches from heating element and heat broiled. Cut slits in rice packets and microwave until hot, about 90 seconds. Remove rice from packets and spread evenly over bottom of broiler-safe baking dish. I don't use ready rice, so I just cooked my brown rice according to package directions and then spread on baking dish.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Melt 1 TBS of butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until light golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to baking dish, arranging in a single layer over the cooked rice.

Add remaining 1 Tbs butter plus 1 tbs olive oil and then add onion. Cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook until incorporated, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and cream and simmer until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

While this is simmering, combine broccoli and 1/4 cup water in microwave safe bowl. Cover with a wet paper towel and microwave until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain broccoli (PS-this is how I always steam broccoli)

Stir mustard, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, and broccoli into sauce in the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, then pour the broccoli-sauce mixture over chicken and rice in the casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and broil until cheese is browned, about 2-4 minutes.


Adjustments: Next time I will add garlic and red bell peppers. Mushrooms would also be a nice addition. Always trying to add more veggies!

Review: Loved how quick and easy to assemble was. As long as you have your rice cooked (or are using the ready rice) you can get this done in 30 minutes. The dijon mustard added a nice kick


I have decided to add a nice Christmas Gift Idea when I post this month. I love Christmas time and all the fun kitchen stuff that is out there. Today, after looking thru my new Williams-Sonoma catalog I am in love with....
Staub Oval Gratin Baking Dish, 9 1/2", Sapphire Blue

I love the color and I love the size. I use these little Oval Gratin Baking Dishes a lot, this one would be a nice addition to your kitchen or for that special someone on your Christmas list!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Around the House

We are FINALLY back home. Being gone for 5 days is a long time, especially without an internet where I can follow all the blogs that I love! Now on the to-do list is Christmas Decorating. I can't wait to get our tree, put up lights, and get all things Christmas. My Christmas list is also growing, lots of things that I want/need...

We had a great Thanksgiving meal and saw all of Ryan's family. We also made a trip to the IRON BOWL. Ryan was so happy that Auburn won (and of course I was cheering loud for them). Wish we were heading to the SEC championship, that is always my favorite game of the year and Florida has spoiled me in their appearance there, not this year though :(

Since I haven't cooked that much in the last few days, here are some other things that have been going on... I have taken up knitting again and love it!

Here is one present that I made (for my Niece, Ella):

And here is my first completed knitted scarf:

Ryan LOVES peppers so he decided to collect our huge harvest and turn them into canned pickled peppers! It was so great having him in the kitchen with me. Can't wait to give them a try.

Nothing was on the menu tonight, we didn't get home until around 4. I just ate a big old sweet potato and a side salad. I was craving VEGETABLES. When you start eating like 3-6 veggies a day and then you go without them for almost 5 days, you realize how much energy they give you and how much better they make you feel.... plus how easy it is to gain weight not eating right.... (thank you Thanksgiving meal!)

I will post some recipes this week, so be on the edge of your seats!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The Ingredients:

Homemade Pie Crust!


There are many things in our lives to be thankful for. I am thankful to God to have a wonderful family and great friends. And another thing I am definitely thankful for it a delicious and perfect homemade pie crust! My client, Judith, makes the BEST pie crust and always adds embellishments to put on top. She made about 7 leaf embellishments and I ate 3 before baking.... This is my favorite part of course, unbaked pie crust!

What to do with a pie crust? Once again I followed Pioneer Woman... It is always good to go for the tried and true pioneer woman, after all she did have a Throwdown with Bobby Flay and WIN! This is my first time making Pecan pie so I followed her recipe... but I did add a bit of whiskey for good measure. As for the second pie crust... you will have to wait and see but it is definitely going to have chocolate involved!

  • 1 whole unbaked pie crust
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cups melted butter (salted)
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 TBS bourbon/whiskey (I used Makers' Mark) - optional
  • 1 cup (heaping) chopped pecans

Get pie crust ready (I ask Judith to make mine! But in the link above to the Pioneer Woman she has a pie crust recipe on there that you can use).
Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, melted butter, beaten eggs, and vanilla in a bowl.
Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.
Then, pour the syrup mixture over the top. Cover top and crust lightly/gently with aluminum foil. Bake pie at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.

Note: Pie should not be too jiggly when you remove it from the oven. If it is shaking a lot, cover with foil and bake for additional 20 minutes or until set. I had to cook mine for the additional 20 minutes because it wasn't even browned and it was super jiggly....

Allow to cool for several hours or overnight. Then, tell others what you are thankful for and enjoy your pie!

Safe travels and wonderful food to everyone. Will miss you mom :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Creamy Pasta with Shrimp

I like thanksgiving but the week prior to thanksgiving I don't want sweet potatoes, beans, mashed potatoes, turkey, etc! I want a totally different cuisine, usually mexican or italian. I guess it is because I know that is what I will eat for one full day and then leftovers for the next couple of days. This meal will definitely provide your palate with a completely different taste than dressing or cranberries...

The Ingredients:

And the Finished Product! SO yummy

This recipe is delicious. I trust the Pioneer Woman and once again she does not fail! We made this last week and devoured it and I was actually thinking of making another batch, but that would be a bit obsessive! You need to serve it with a nice spinach salad to add some green to your life. I have had several friends make this and everyone raves over the ease of preparing this recipe and the yummy taste. And, for the BG's out there... I heard thru the grapevine that this might be your Christmas Dinner :)

Creamy Penne Pasta with Shrimp

From Pioneer Woman - Pasta a la Betsy

  • ¾ pounds Penne Pasta
  • 1 pound Shrimp
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole Onion (small), finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • ½ cups White Wine (or To Taste)
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce (8 Oz)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Parsley, to taste
  • Fresh Basil - To Taste
  • Salt To Taste
  • Pepper To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Cook the penne pasta until al dente.

Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) 1 pound of extra large shrimp (I bought the shrimp with a 26-31 count). Heat about 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil in a skillet. Add the shrimp and cook for a couple minutes until just opaque. Do NOT overcook them. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Now, put the cooked shrimp on the cutting board and pull off the tails. Chop the shrimp into bite –sized pieces and set aside.

Finely dice one small onion. Mince two cloves of garlic.
In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally. After the garlic and onions have cooked a bit add your white wine (then pour yourself a glass). Let the wine evaporate for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. If you would rather not use wine, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead (about ½ cup).

Now add an 8-ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Stir well until combined. Then add 1 cup of heavy cream. Continue stirring. Turn heat down to low and let simmer.

Now chop your herbs, about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about the same amount of chopped basil.

Add your chopped shrimp back into the tomato cream sauce. Give it a stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Throw in your herbs and stir until combined. Finally add your cooked penne pasta and give it a good stir. I also added a little bit of red pepper flakes cause I like things spicy!

This meal is delicious and everyone will love it! Just serve alongside something green!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tropical Granola Bars

Tropical Granola Bars

Tucher doesn't like the photo shoot, but he patiently waits to try the granola bar!

I was introduced to these delicious granola bars by Sharon at Pilates on Highland. Her friend makes them and she passed along the recipe. I love them! So delicious and healthy. Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients - you literally just dump everything in, mix, and then bake. There are a lot of variations you could do with this recipe. I am going to experiment and will pass along other great combinations as I do so. So moms, make these for your kids and you will know what you and your kids are eating!

So in the mix of all things pumpkin and fall for thanksgiving, here is a little taste of the tropics that will give your taste buds a happy surprise!

Rochelle's Tropical Granola Bars

3 c organic quick oats

½ c organic flour

¼ c wheat germ

¼ c ground flaxseed (if you buy it whole, just grind in a coffee grinder or food processor)

½ c pine nuts

½ c toasted walnuts, chopped fine

¾ c flaked organic unsweetened coconut

1 c dried pineapple and mango, chopped fine

1 egg, beaten

½ c vegetable oil

½ c honey

¼ c brown sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 tbsp candied ginger, chopped

Set oven at 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Spread and pack in greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 25 minutes at 325. As granola bars are cooling, press down with flat spatula. (Substitute pecans, sunflower seeds, berries and cherries for tropical nuts and fruits if desired.)

Tucher really wants a big bite! And after this picture he got one cause he is so stinking cute

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

The stuffed peppers before baking:

Right before the freezing weather came last week, Ryan picked the rest of the peppers that were still producing in our garden. We didn't want them to freeze. Those pepper plants in our garden really produced a ton of peppers this year.

Stuff peppers are a great way to get a lot of veggies in a meal as well as make something that tastes wonderful. Try out this recipe and feel free to adjust the mixture! Get creative and pass along your ideas

Stuffed Peppers

Recipe adapted from Today I Ate
Will make 4 servings (one half of pepper for each person)

  • 2 bell peppers (use what you have on hand, or mix the colors up) - peppers should be halved and cleaned of seeds
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 - 8 oz package of button mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 2 - 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 - 10 oz package of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh kale - stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup greek feta, crumbled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 3/4 lb italian spicy sausage - optional
Pre Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat olive oil at medium to medium-high heat and add onions. Once the onions begin to brown, add the garlic until it speaks (makes your house smell good!). Then add the mushrooms and saute for about 7 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, spinach, kale, salt, pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes and cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 of the feta. Place the pepper halves into a baking dish and stuff with the spinach mixture. Try to drain off the liquid before spooning the mixture into the peppers. Once the peppers are stuffed, top with the remaining feta (add more if you like it cheesier). Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. You want the cheese to be browned and the peppers tender.

If you are using sausage: cook the sausage in a separate pan until done. Drain off the excess fat and add to the mixture when you add the spinach, tomatoes, sauce, and all the seasonings. Stir in well. This will become your spinach/sausage mixture with what you stuff your peppers with.

We enjoyed this dinner alongside a spinach salad with a homemade balsamic dressing (see previous post). It was a delicious meal. You could also serve over rice, or to make it more exciting a nice risotto. Possibilities are endless. This meal is easy to make vegetarian (which was what I did for my pepper) or meaty (Ryan's pepper). I just kept the meat separate from the spinach mixture - spooned my mixture into the pepper, then added the sausage to the spinach mixture for Ryan's peppers! Pretty easy....

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Broccoli and Portobello Sandwich Bake

The perfect lunch:

I love being able to have lunch at home. There are only a few creative things you can come up with for taking lunch to work, especially if you are limited and don't have a microwave or oven. Ryan loves taking leftovers, which is great, but I don't care much for leftovers other than once. He will eat the same thing for a week (good for me)!

I made this lunch yesterday in about 20 minutes. I was starving when I got home from teaching Pilates and almost picked something up. But, I talked myself out of it and sooooo glad that I did. This was simple yet so delicious. I am actually having it for dinner tonight!

Broccoli and Portobello Sandwich Bake

Adapted Recipe From Annie's Eats

- 1 head organic broccoli, cut into small, bite-size florets
- 1 TBS olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- sprinkle of red pepper flakes
- 3-4 organic portobello mushrooms - stems removed, sliced thin
- 1 - 2 red bell peppers (I used green because that is what I picked from our garden) - seeded and sliced thin
- 4 thick slices of country bread (I used whole grain from Whole Foods)
- 2 oz (or more) provolone cheese, thinly sliced (I used deli slice)

for the sauce:
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle
- if you don't have Penzey's use a clove of garlic, minced very fine

On the side:
- 2 tbs pasta sauce

Preheat broiler on high. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the broccoli with olive oil and salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. Place on baking sheet and broil until the broccoli begins to brown, tossing once or twice, about 4-6 minutes.
Add the sliced mushroom and peppers to the pan with the broccoli and toss to combine. Broil until the veggies are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Make sure to toss once or twice in this time.

Combine the mayo with the penzey's spice or garlic. Take the country thick cut bread and spread the mayo mixture on top. Once the veggies are finished, top the bread with the veggies and add the cheese on top. Get a new piece of foil, lie the assembled sandwiches on, and put on baking sheet . Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 2 -3 minutes. DON'T BURN! I liked mine dipped in warmed pasta sauce. DELICIOUS!

On a side note - there are so many variations that I have thought of in my mind. First of all, for all you non-mayo people, pesto would be awesome smeared on the bread. Also, you don't have to have the mayo if using a pasta sauce on the side. I am going to experiment with other veggies and types of cheese. I think mozzarella would be just as yummy as provolone.

Try this out, get creative with other veggies/cheese/sauces and let me know what you like!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eat your Salad

After weekends where our lives revolve around Football, when Monday comes it is usually time to eat a bit more "green". From dips to nachos to pizza, the weekend usually fills you up with food that doesn't make you feel so good after you consume it! So, when planning the menu for the week I decided to find yummy recipes that were more healthy than what we ate this weekend!

To start off with we enjoyed a nice salad. I made this dressing on Sunday and it refrigerated over night and was so delicious. I highly recommend trying this dressing on your next Green Salad!

Delicious fall salad

All the Ingredients you need to make homemade dressing
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil pictured above was a gift from one of my awesome clients at pilates. She recently went to Italy and knew how much I would LOVE such a high quality olive oil. This one is for sure the best one that I have ever had. I will look up their website and see if we can get it shipped to the US! It is honestly that good.

Balsamic Salad Dressing

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, good quality
1.5 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
a Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp local honey
2 tsp dijon mustard

Place all ingredients together and wish until well blended.

For the salad:

Organic baby spinach
A healthy sprinkle of Greek Feta Cheese
Roasted Walnuts
Dried Cranberries (Craisins)

Everything went perfect together and the salad was very filling. I would love to add apples to this salad in small chunks, think that would be delicious.... There is nothing like a homemade dressing. It is so easy to just whip up and the flavor is right on target. You can serve the dressing immediately or it will keep in the fridge for a few days. Just wisk it again if it settles in the fridge.

We have been enjoying this nice weather that Alabama has been having. And in our house the heater only goes on when we see our breath in the house (ok, maybe not even then). I love a cold house so we are enjoying having no AC on and waking up to a house that is in the 60's! Ah, the energy bill is going to be soooooo cheap for the cold months!!!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Quick Breakfast Idea - Muffin Melts

English Muffin Melts

Breakfast is the one meal that is usually a constant for us. We usually eat eggs (either omelets or an egg english muffin) and when it gets colder we like Oatmeal (recipe for good oatmeal to follow soon). I don't change it up too much so when I do, I have a lot of expectation. I made these English Muffin Tops from Pioneer Woman and they were delicious! It made enough for 4 days worth of breakfast for Ryan and I. Can't beat that - a warm breakfast that takes only about 3 minutes to warm. Breakfast is my most favorite meal - I get to relax, watch some news, sip on coffee and just CHILL - have some "me" time.

Muffin Melts
Recipe from Pioneer Woman

  • Dozen Hard-boiled eggs - peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup organic grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 - 1 cup mayonnaise (experimenting with greek yogurt is a good idea also. The mayo is just a binder)
  • 6 - 12 slices of all natural bacon, cooked and roughly chopped into bite size pieces (if adding bacon to the whole recipe you will want 12, I only added the bacon to Ryan's portion so he only got 6 slices)
  • 1 Heaping TBS Dijon Mustard (good quality)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 dashes worcestershire sauce
  • 6 whole wheat English Muffins, split
Combine eggs with all other ingredients. Fold together gently. Cover and store overnight. Bright and early the next morning spread mixture on english muffin halves (one half is pretty filling FYI). Turn on your broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes until hot and bubbly. I will say that it was always closer to 3 minutes for me because I was only doing one english muffin at a time. I kept the mixture in the refrigerator for 4 days and it was still just as yummy on day 4!

Eat immediately and then enjoy your day knowing that you started off with a yummy breakfast. We enjoy eating them outside on our patio!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pecan Pumpkin Squares

Our First Halloween Pumpkin as the "Pearces"

The big pumpkin is the one we carved

And now for the Pumpkin Pecan Squares:

YOU NEED THIS! Order from Williams & Sonoma or from Muirhead

Take a look at all the recipes that use this fabulous product JUST on the Muirhead website! I use this pumpkin butter in my oatmeal and it really takes an ordinary oatmeal breakfast to something much greater! Next up - pumpkin butter pancakes.... I'll let you know how it goes of course!

Ingredients: Click on pic to make larger if needed

And the Final PRODUCT! YUMMY

This recipe has been one of my favorites since 2005 when I was shopping at Williams and Sonoma and came across Muirhead Pumpkin Butter. I have made these squares numerous times and they always get the highest compliments. I love them for Halloween and for Thanksgiving celebrations, and they make a great guilty snack!

Pecan Pumpkin Squares
from Williams and Sonoma

1 Box yellow cake mix, divided
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup softened butter (I started with 1/4 c. then had to add another 1/4 c.)
3 large eggs
1 jar Muirhead Pumpkin Pecan Butter
1/8 cup milk
1 TBS flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Reserve 1 cup of the cake mix. Mix remaining mix with 1/2 cup melted butter and then add 1 large egg. Stir completely and then press lightly into a 9 x 13 pan.

Mix pumpkin butter with 2 eggs and 1/8 cup of milk. Pour over cake mixture.

Mix 1 cup of reserved cake mix with flour, sugar, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup softened butter. It should resemble crumbs. Spread evenly over the top of the pumpkin layer and bake at 350 degree for 40 minutes or until golden (I baked for about 45 minutes because after just 40 it was still very gooey in the middle - oven cooking times will vary) Do the toothpick method to check for doneness and remember when the squares cool it will continue to cook in the pan!

When squares are completely cooled, cut into the size square you desire and ENJOY!

I hope that you love pumpkin butter as much as I do!