Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Week 7: Marcie's Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This chicken recipe isn't innovative in any way, but it was delicious.  It's adapted from Kraft Foods Recipes.  I had a hard time coming up with something innovative to do with savory cracker crumbs.  I don't think you could taste that I used the Vegetable Ritz instead of regular Ritz, but it was a definite improvement over using bread crumbs.  The Ritz got a little crispy in the oven, and there was a nice buttery flavor along with the cracker crunch.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts
serves 3

3 chicken breasts, butterflied

2 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Kraft Italian 5 Cheese blend shreds
1 cup frozen spinach leaves, thawed and squeezed
1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 egg, beaten

15 Vegetable Ritz crackers, crushed (not too fine)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the cream cheese, Italian cheese shreds, spinach and seasoning.  Spread generously on one half of each chicken breast.  Fold the other half of the chicken breast over, use a toothpick to hold shut if necessary.  Dip in egg mixture, then dip in cracker mixture, then place in Pam-sprayed 9x13" pan.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Week 6: Marcie's Goat Cheese & Beet Gnocchi

This is what my family thinks about beets:

So when we found out they were the secret ingredient of this week's cooking challenge, we were less than thrilled.  My goal was to figure out a way to disguise the beets so well that nobody would even know they were there, and I succeeded!  I found this great new food blog Always Order Dessert and modified her recipe slightly.  The beets gave the gnocchi a lovely rose color, but you couldn't taste them at all!  Mostly they tasted like goat cheese (yum) and butter (extra yum).  But if you don't like goat cheese, don't worry - even Ben liked these, and he hates goat cheese.  And beets.  But he does like butter.

I served them with a parmesan rosemary pork tenderloin, which is my very favorite way to cook pork tenderloin.  Super easy: cut three lengthwise slits in the pork tenderloin (the whole length of the loin).  Stuff with fresh rosemary needles and grated parmesan cheese.  Cover the pork tenderloin with more parmesan.  Cook until done (I think 400F for about 35 min?)

Goat Cheese & Beet Gnocchi
serves 4

For the gnocchi:
1/4 cup goat cheese

1/4 cup cream cheese (Neufchatel is okay)
1/2 cup roasted beat puree 

1 whole egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for flouring boards)
2 tsp salt (try less next time)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the sauce:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 bunch fresh basil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
salt & pepper

Make the gnocchi:
1) Stir the goat cheese and cream cheese together until smooth.
2) Add the beet puree, stir until smooth.
3) Add the egg, stir until smooth.
4) Combine the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Add in small batches to the beet mixture, stirring until combined.  The dough should be sticky, but not too sticky to work with.  Add more flour if needed.
5) Working on a floured surface with floured hands, roll a handful of dough into a rope.  Cut into 1" pieces (make them smaller next time).  Place on a floured cookie sheet, and press with a fork to indent.
6)  Add half the gnocchi to a large pot of boiling water.  Wait until all the gnocchi pop to the surface, then cook for 2 minutes longer.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi from the pot.

Make the sauce:
1) Melt the butter in a large skillet.
2) Dice the basil and rosemary.  Add to skillet.  Cook for a few minutes.
3) Gently drop the cooked gnocchi into the butter sauce.  Stir and cook for a few minutes until gnocchi are toasted.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Becky-Week 5: Cornmeal Pork Chops and Peach Salsa

I actually made a Moroccan chicken with peaches crock pot recipe first thinking it would be DEL-icious but alas it was flavorless!  I couldn't believe with 3 peaches, 2 tsps of ginger, 2 tsps of cumin and lots of other spices the dish could be flavorless but it was.  Sad day.  Plus I have tons of leftovers and I don't know what to do with it.

So I made another peach dish the following day.  This one was good!  I made a cornmeal crusted pork chops with a fresh peach salsa.  I actually used nectarines because that is what I had.  I found a couple peach salsa recipes on Betty Crocker's website as well as All Recipes.  I combined various ones to make my own salsa.

Corneal Pork Chop with Peach Salsa
Serves 4

Pork Chops
1/2 cup cornmeal
freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Peach Salsa
1 peach/nectarine peel and diced
1/4 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup black beans
chopped chives
chopped parsley or cilantro if you like cilantro
juice of half a lime

Combine all the ingredients of the salsa together.  Chill in the fridge for an hour (at least) before serving.

Heat oil in a frying pan.  Combine cornmeal and pepper.  Bread pork chops.  Cook in frying pan until pork is done.  Serve with salsa.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Week 5: Marcie's Peach Pizza

Now, you may think that peach pizza sounds very strange, but I wanted to try something out of the ordinary this week.  And it wasn't bad!  I found the idea on Two Peas and Their Pod; doesn't their pizza look delicious?   I added some diced rotisserie chicken so that it would feel more substantial and some prosciutto because I had some leftover.  I learned a few things making this pizza.  Most importantly, when you are making a small balsamic reduction on a stupid electric stovetop, DO NOT leave the heat on while you go outside to pick a few basil leaves.  Although you may not think it, the balsamic can completely burn on your pot and cause your whole house to be filled with smoke so that you have to run the pot outside so as not to catch it on fire.  Not that I know from personal experience.  (Christmas idea for Marcie: small nonstick dishwashable pot)  Anyway, moving on, I also realized that I need to get better at rolling out pizza dough because this dough ended up with lots of holes in it.  And, why don't I ever remember that I can use bacon, if I'm going to fry up my prosciutto to make it crispy?  It's what, 1/3 the price?

Ben and I both liked this pizza, but it wasn't fantastic.  You could taste the peaches, but the balsamic and the prosciutto kind of overwhelmed it.  I think next time I would leave out the prosciutto and use less balsamic.  Amelia liked it because she got to make her own pizza (topped with string cheese and a few peach slices) and she actually ate it!  Yay!

Peach Pizza
serves 2
 Sorry about the terrible picture, something went wrong with my camera and a bunch of my files got corrupted.

For the pizza dough:
1 1/8 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (about half a package)
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115F)
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Corn meal-for spreading on pizza stone

For the balsamic reduction:
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Pizza toppings:
6 ounces fresh mozzarella - sliced
1 peach - thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
1/2 cup cooked chicken breast - finely diced or shredded
2 ounces prosciutto, cooked until crispy

Add a pinch of sugar to the warm water, and stir in the yeast.  Let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.  Meanwhile, combine flours and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add the oil and yeast mixture.  Stir until combined, then switch to dough hook.  Beat for five minutes.  Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm area for an hour until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the balsamic reduction.  Cook the balsamic (on low heat!  watching constantly!) until it is about a quarter of the original volume.

When dough is ready, sprinkle corn meal on the pizza stone, and press pizza dough into an approximately circular shape.  Top with mozzarella slices, then chicken, then peaches, then basil and prosciutto.  Finally, drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Bake in 500F oven for 12 - 15 minutes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

MDSBWFC Week 5: Peaches in a Main Dish

Marcie chose the theme for week 5, and it is to use "peaches in something you could serve for dinner"

As always, if you have a suggestion for a theme or want to participate, just comment on this post.  Also, mom and dad's kitchen is progressing nicely, so we might have judges by the end of the month!

Week 4: Brie and NotPesto Toasted Cheese

I made a variety of toasted cheese sandwiches for MDSBWFC: Week 4, and while there was a clear winner, several other sandwiches deserve honorable mentions.  It is my opinion that the bread you use matters very little so long as the crust isn't too crunchy.

* Prosciutto, sundried tomatoes, and asiago
* Peaches and gruyere (don't knock it until you've tries it... also good with bacon)
* Chicken, bacon, and cheddar (ok, it's not exactly gourmet, but it is REALLY tasty)

Anyway, brie and pesto may not be an original idea, but at least the NotPesto (I don't have a name for it, but it is decidedly not pesto) is my own creation.

Brie and NotPesto Toasted Cheese

2 tsp melted butter
2 slices of bread
3 oz brie, crusty stuff removed and "sliced"
1/4 cup NotPesto

Use a brush of some sort to spread the butter on one slice of bread and place it down on your frying pan. Spread on half the NotPesto, followed by the brie.  Spread the rest of the NotPesto on the other slice of bread and put it on top of the brie.  Then spread the rest of the butter on top.  Brie melts really fast, and this is a pretty thin sandwich, so you will likely have to use more heat than normal to get the right crustiness on your bread.

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 or 2 oz walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts
3 red bell peppers, roasted
1 head of garlic, roasted
salt and pepper to taste