Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spinach stuffed chicken Breasts - SIX STARS

Okay, this is the best food I have ever made. Ever. Plus it looks really pretty. Be sure to read my notes at the bottom. This was seriously SO DELISH. I served it with fresh sliced strawberries and broccoli, and served it over rice.

1 (10 ounce) package fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded pepperjack cheese (I used slices)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
1 pinch ground black pepper
8 slices bacon


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Place spinach in a large glass bowl, and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so, or until wilted. Stir in sour cream, pepperjack cheese, and garlic.
  3. Lay the chicken breasts out on a clean surface, and spoon some of the spinach mixture onto each one. Roll up chicken to enclose the spinach, then wrap each chicken breast with two slices of bacon. Secure with toothpicks, and arrange in a shallow baking dish.
  4. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, then increase heat to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C), or use the oven's broiler to cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to brown the bacon.
VERY YUMMY! As always-marinate chicken in buttermilk for a few hours before preparing(1cup milk 1tbs white vinegar or lemon juice if no buttermilk on hand)-makes the chicken sooo moist.I cooked bacon half way in skillet and removed. Then I added the spinach and garlic to the same skillet and cooked down(thanks to a tip from another reviewer). When done I squeezed in paper towels to take out some of the grease. Then I mixed with sour cream, pepperjack cheese, pepper, salt, a little each of red pepper flakes and paprika for a little xtra zip and rolled into chicken and cooked as directed with the bacon on top. Worth making.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homemade Twix Bars

Picture from Cooking Books

My husband LOVES Twix, so I was super excited when I saw this recipe on Cooking Books.

Which is why it's so sad that he spit some of it out.

The recipe isn't bad, per se, it just needs a lot of tweaking to become good. In it's original state it doesn't seem worth the calories. But the seeds of greatness are there! Here's the original recipe, copied and pasted from Cooking Books, followed by the changes I'd make in order to make it worth the miles you'd have to run to work them off:

Homemade Twix Bars
From Sherry Yard's Desserts by the Yard

For the Shortbread

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons butter (5 1/2 ounces), softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons ground rice

With a rack in the lowest portion of the oven, preheat to 350. Spray a 9x13" baking pan with cooking spray, line with parchment paper, then spray the paper.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 2 minutes. It should be fluffy. Gradually add in the flour and the rice until the dough comes together.

Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to bake for another 8 minutes. The shortbread should be a deep golden brown. Cool on a rack to room temperature, still in the pan.

For the Caramel

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sweetened condensed milk

In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, syrup, water and lemon juice. Wet the sides of the pan with a little water if any of the ingredients have crept up. Cover the saucepan and cook it over medium heat for 4 minutes.

Remove the lid, increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Do not stir. The mixture will bubble, and if sugar appears on the sides of the pan, brush them back down with a wet pastry brush. The bubbles will continue to get larger.

In the meantime, bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Return to the sugar mixture, which will turn golden brown after 5 or 6 minutes. With a candy thermometer, make sure the mixture has reached 300, then remove the pan from the heat and let it rest for 1 minutes, until the bubbles subside. Whisk in the heavy cream off the heat and whisk in the condensed milk. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth

Return the saucepan to medium heat and stir constantly until the caramel reaches 240. Pour over the shortbread and allow to set.

For the Chocolate

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter

In a double boiler or in the microwave set on half strength, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth. Pour evenly over the caramel and let sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator until set.

*Changes: The biggest problem here is the caramel. It might be a matter of taste, but I MUCH prefer this fleur de sel caramel from Epicurious. This caramel was just too sweet and there was way too much of it in relationship to the amount of shortbread. I would double the shortbread in order to achieve a better caramel to shortbread ratio. This recipe didn't make enough shortbread to go all the way to the corners of a 9x13 pan, much less support the sheer amount of over-sweet caramel. And I'm not entirely sold on the shortbread either. It wasn't bad, but there was nothing special about it. Unfortunately, I have no other recipe to recommend since I never make shortbread, but I'm sure there are good options out there. Lastly, I'd definitely go with bittersweet chocolate. Cooking Books said semi-sweet was fine, but combined with the sickly sweet caramel it was just too much.

I really like the basic idea...I think with these changes these could be really awesome!

Banana Muffins, way good!

Janssen brought me these while I was in the hospital. They were so good that when I was awake at 2AM I was trying to open the wrapper to get into them and since my hands were so swollen I had to resort to biting open the wrapping with my bare teeth. That's right.

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
2 or 3 medium bananas, mashed (should be about 1 1/4 cup)
3 Tbsp buttermilk
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet is what I use)

Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl and wet ingredients in
another. Blend together until evenly combined and creamy. Add chocolate chips

Pour into a greased loaf pan and cook at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes
(I'm guessing on the time, since the recipe is actually for muffins
and it says 20-25 minutes, so I'm going to assume double. I cant'
remember how long it takes to cook . . . till a toothpick comes out
dry, I guess :)

Quick Cassoulet

Again, from Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Nutrition Action. It was a good issue! Anyway, this is what we're having tonight and I think it turned out pretty good. Even though it has leeks in it. I didn't think I liked leeks, but this dish was a-ok.

3 leeks, white and pale green parts
6 sprigs flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 oz. spicy sausage, diced (e.g. Wellshire Farms Turkey Andouille or Spanish chorizo)
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans no-salt-added navy beans, drained and rinsed*
2 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp salt (if desired)

Halve the leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces. Rinse well and spin or pat dry. Remove the leaves from the parsley stems and roughly chop the leaves. Set aside the leaves and stems separately.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the sausage and garlic until the sausage beings to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the sausage and garlic with a slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving the oil in the pot.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaf, parsley stems, tomatoes, beans, and water. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprigs, parsley stems, and bay leaf. Mash some of the beans in the pot with a potato masher or fork. Return the sausage and garlic to the pot. Season with pepper and up to ½ tsp of salt. Garnish with the parsley leaves. Serves 6.

Per Serving: 1 ½ cups

Calories: 290

Total Fat: 12 g

Protein: 12 g

Fiber: 10 g

* Instead of using canned beans, I used 1 lb dried navy beans, soaked overnight and then gently simmered in fresh water for ½ hour, until soft. Cheaper. Braver. Pioneery-er.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sheperd's Pie

This is another food storage dinner, and I thought it was delicious!, I used beef soup though and I think it would have been better with actual beef stew because there is a lot of juice in the soup and I just dumped it out, but either way it was a crowd pleaser, and very easy!

1 (40 oz) can beef stew
1 (12oz) can vegetables (peas, corn or green beans)
1 cup potato pearls (from your cannery materials)
1/2 cup grated cheese
2 cups very hot water

combine stew and vegi's then pour into an 9 x 9 baking dish.
Combine potato pearls with water, stir briefly, cover and let stand for 5-10 min (or if you are using another kind of instant potatoes just make it like it says on the package)
Spread potatoes over the stew, top with grated cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min or until hot and bubbly.

serving suggestion:
instead of using a casserole dish, try dividing the entree into individual ramekins.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Skillet Ziti with Broccoli, Chicken, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I made this last week for the first time. It takes about 40 minutes. End result: very good; I probably liked it most because of the sun-dried tomatoes.

(from: Nutrition Action, Jan/Feb 2009, p. 12)

For a vegetarian version, omit the chicken, use vegetable instead of chicken broth, and stir in a drained and rinsed 15 oz. can of no-salt-added white beans when you add the broccoli.

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

6 cloves garlic, minced

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (opt)

6 scallions, chopped

8 oz. whole wheat ziti or penne

3 ½ cups non-fat milk, divided

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 lb. broccoli, cut into small florets

½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

¾ tsp salt

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook without stirring until browned, 2-3 minutes. Stir the chicken and continue to cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside. (The chicken will not be fully cooked).

Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ziti, 2 ½ cups of the milk, and the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until a thick sauce forms, about 12 minutes.

Stir in the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and the remaining 1 cup of milk. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender, 3-5 minutes.

Uncover and stir in the Parmesan and chicken. Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Season with pepper and up to ¾ tsp. salt. Serves 6.

Per Serving (1 ½ cups)

Calories: 390

Total Fat: 11 g

Sat Fat: 2.5 g

Protein: 31 g

Sodium: 560 mg

Carbohydrates: 43 g

Cholesterol: 50 mg

Fiber: 6 g