Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stuffed Chicken Quesadillas

This week, as Zak & I were trying to decide what to make for dinner, ideas slowly formed in my head about this dish we made. I wanted something more than a cheese quesadilla, but wasn't thrilled about adding just peppers without chicken, etc. Once I realized we had enough ingredients to make 'fancy' quesadillas, I just went for it. And it was really good, with the exception of one thing: the really REALLY hot little pepper Zak cut up to add in. But overall, it was a success and we'll probably make these again this week!

I just thawed some chicken from the freezer, heated up a little butter and cooked the chicken (cut up, obviously) with some salt, pepper, a touch of minced garlic, and some chili powder. It turned out to be the perfect amount of spice!

While I was cooking the chicken, Zak diced red and green peppers, onion and a small little pepper we had (big mistake, it was beyond hot). I cooked those with a little bit of butter until they were tender.

Next, I heated up the tortilla, and added cheese. After a minute or two, I added some chicken and the veggies and let it cook evenly on both sides.

Then I transferred the quesadilla to the plate and added sour cream ('Mexican' kind, by Darigold--it has a bit more salt than normal sour cream--we really like it), corn and diced tomatoes on top.

I'm still really proud of this dish, because I am not one to just 'go with it' and make up recipes. But this was simple and fun enough, that I think I can handle it. We had a box of Spanish rice mix that I made to go along with, which was great. Next time, I might add the rice to the quesadilla when I add the cheese.

But in case you were wondering about the amounts, I'll list them below. This made three stuffed quesadillas, plus some extra veggies.

-one large chicken breast, cut into small cubes, tossed with a shake or two of: salt; pepper; minced garlic & chili powder
-half of a red pepper, diced
-half of a green pepper, diced
-half of an onion, diced
-half of a tomato, diced
-1/3 can of corn
-3 medium sized flour tortillas



I have always loved lasagna. My cousin Matt who is a year older than me, and I would always 'fight' over who would have lasagna for their birthday dinner as children. His birthday is in November, mine is a month later, so we figured we couldn't have lasagna twice in two months. That doesn't quite make sense now, but that's how I remember it. Tonight I decided to make lasagna for no reason at all, just felt like it would be delicious. My mom's recipe is simple and delicious and tonight I only halved the recipe, but I'll post the entire recipe for those who are cooking for more than two people.

1 lb. ground beef
3/4 c. chopped onion (opt.)
16 oz. small curd cottage cheese
1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 lb. box lasagna noodles
1 jar prepared spaghetti sauce (Prego) [I used Ragu tonight and added: minced garlic, salt, oregano and basil from my plant until it tasted great]

1. In a large skillet, brown beef & onion. When browned, add spaghetti sauce and simmer until noodles are mostly done cooking.
2. Add cooked noodles (following the directions on the box) to rapidly boiling water. Make sure to be careful so they don't break! Cook until soft but still firm - not too tender.
3. In a 9"x13" pan, spread about 1/2 c. of the sauce. Alternate layers as follows: lasagna, sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella and parmesan cheese; ending with sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly. Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares & serving.

about to start assembling
finished layering, about to go into the oven
delicious layers

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Most Delicious Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

So at Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of Cook's Illustrated and in this edition was a recipe for cream cheese coffee cake. I am a total sucker for cream cheese, especially in desserts. So for weeks I was lusting after this coffee cake, but with no justification to make it. A few weeks ago, I decided to just go for it because I was starting to drool each time I thought about it (yes, it was that bad). There is a whole article about why this recipe is the best, and all the tests they went through, but I'm not typing that up.

*Also, I never put two & two together until Zak did it for me last week--I've been watching America's Test Kitchen without realizing that was the t.v. show that accompanies Cooks Illustrated. Duh! I've watched a few episodes whenever I get the chance and just love the show. Someday I hope to get a magazine subscription or the cookbook or something...

Lemon Sugar-Almond Topping
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 c. sliced almonds

2 1/4 c. flour
1 1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
10 Tbl. (1 stick + 2 Tbl.) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 c. + 7 Tbl. sugar
1 Tbl. finely grated lemon zest
4 tsp. lemon juice
4 eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together sugar & lemon zest amounts for the topping until combined and then add almonds.
3. Spray 10-in. tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.
4. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in medium bowl, set aside.
5. In stand mixer, beat butter, 1 c. + 2 Tbl. sugar, and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy: about 3 minutes.
6. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Remember to scrap down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula!
7. Add 4 tsp. vanilla and mix to combine. Reduce speed to low and add a third of the flour mixture. Then add half of the sour cream, mixing after each addition.
8. Repeat, using half of the remaining flour and all of the remaining sour cream. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at low speed until batter is thoroughly combined.
8. Reserve 1 1/4 c. of batter and set aside; spoon remaining batter into tube pan and smooth top.
9. Return (now-empty) bowl to mixer and beat cream cheese, remaining 5 Tbl. sugar, lemon juice, remaining tsp. vanilla on medium speed until smooth.
10. Add 1/4 c. of reserved batter and mix until incorporated.
11. Spoon cream cheese filling mixture evenly over batter, keeping filling about 1" away from sides of pan; smooth top.
12. Spread remaining cup of batter over filling and smooth top.
13. With butter knife, gently swirl filling into batter using a figure-8 motion. Firmly tap pan on counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any bubbles.
14. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.
15. Bake until top is golden and just firm--about 45-50 minutes. Remove pan from oven & tap on counter 2 - 3 times. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 1 hour.
16. Carefully invert cake onto rimmed baking sheet, remove pan, place wire rack on top of cake and invert cake sugar-side up. Cool to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.

*Store leftovers in the fridge, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Allow cake to return to room temperature before serving again.

Ok, I am salivating again now that I've typed up the recipe. It's not as hard as the recipe in the book seems, the worst part is waiting once it's cooked. I used my bundt pan since I am tube pan-less, and it seemed to be just fine. I also didn't use almonds, but next time I might! It was so yummy that we ate it up pretty fast.


NEW & improved sesame chicken!

Ok, for the last few months I have been tweaking the recipe for sesame chicken, and I think I finally got it down! I made this last week and it was super yummy. The big change to this recipe and the one before is not mixing the chicken, sauce & rice together in the wok [we found it would get too clumpy and sticky]. So here we go:

4 - 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
vegetable oil, for frying
1 - 2 Tbl. sesame seeds

about 2 Tbl. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. chicken broth
3 Tbl. brown sugar
1/2 c. honey (it helps to microwave before and/or after)
1 Tbl. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 Tbl. onion salt [if you don't have this, use 1 Tbl. of the garlic salt]
1/2 Tbl. garlic salt
1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1. Whisk together sauce ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
2. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
3. Combine batter ingredients in a small bowl; coat chicken with batter.
4. Heat oil in large skillet or wok.
5. Add coated chicken and fry until golden brown and cooked all the way through. You may need to add oil once or twice.
6. Meanwhile, thicken sauce over a small saucepan on medium high until it thickens & bubbles.
7. Pour sauce over chicken and rice in serving plate or bowl
8. Sprinkle sesame seeds over and enjoy.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Apple Crisp

Last week we discovered our apples weren't so delicious eaten plain, they were a bit mealy. So on my day off, I decided to make apple crisp and ooh baby did it turn out perfect! It was the best apple crisp I've made (& I've made a fair amount, it is one of my favorite (& easiest) desserts) so far. The trick was...not burning the crumbles! This is my mom's recipe below.

4 medium apples (Gravenstein, Braeburn, Jonathan)
1/4 c. sugar
sprinkles of cinnamon
about 1/4 c. butter, cut up into small squares
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1. Grease square pan and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Peel and thinly slice apples, fill up pan. Cover apples with sugar and sprinkles of cinnamon, mix well. Add the butter throughout the pan.
3. Mix together the sugar, flour, egg, baking powder and salt in a small bowl until finely mixed. Sprinkle on top of the apples.
4. Bake until apples are cooked & the topping is slightly golden brown, probably about 25-35 minutes. The trick is to just keep checking & to pull it out when you think it looks done.

Mmm! We had ours with fresh homemade whipped cream. :)