Thursday, March 25, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

I got this recipe out of the Food Network magazine. I actually haven't eaten it yet since I just made it this morning for us to eat for dinner tonight but I am posting it for those of you that have asked for it. This evening, I will sit down and post a comment about how yummy it is because I can already tell it will be. Let me say one thing about an ingredient in this mac and cheese...PANKO crumbs! I use panko crumbs on just about every casserole that I make. I love them! If you haven't tried them, then this is the time. Don't just settle for regular bread crumbs...go for the panko. You can get them fairly cheap at Wal-mart.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
Kosher salt
1 pound elbow macaroni (I use cavatappi or conchigilie)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank's)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. It depends on what kind of noodles you are using. I usually cook them 2-3 minutes under what the bag says to cook them for them to be al dente. They will continue to cook in the oven in the sauce. You want them to still have a bite to them. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add 1/2 cup hot sauce and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 more minute.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and mustard with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half, then add the remaining 1/4 cup hot sauce and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, then whisk in the sour cream until smooth.

Spread half of the macaroni in the prepared baking dish, then top with the chicken mixture and the remaining macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce evenly on top.

Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the panko, blue cheese and parsley. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: My Birthday Meal

Today's Thrifty Thursday recipe is the meal that my mom would make every year for my birthday. I LOVE it and it is SO easy! She normally made it in the it for a while on low heat. I put it in the crockpot because it gives the meat the same moist texture and flavor.

1 pound of chicken breasts
2 (16 oz) containers of sour cream
1 or 2 cans cream of mushroom soup (depending on your taste...I use one)
3 garlic cloves minced
1 small or large can dried beef (found in aisle with canned chicken/tuna)
8 oz fresh mushrooms (Optional...I don't use them just because I like to keep it just like my Mom made it.)
salt and pepper to taste

Arrange the dried beef in the bottom of the casserole pan or crock pot in a layer. Place the chicken on top of the dried beef. Mix the sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, garlic, and mushrooms (if using) together and pour over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. If in a crock pot, cook either on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Both lengths of time will make the chicken fall apart! You can also bake it in the oven for 3 hours on 250 degrees.

Serve it over rice or mashed potatoes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Alright everyone, here you go! This is the cheesecake recipe that I made for my husband's birthday that a few of you have requested. It is a combination of three different recipes also with an added touch of my own...Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patties. I'm giving you two crust options in case you don't have or want to find Girl Scout peanut butter patties. The peanut butter patty crust is awesome if you can get your hands on some. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Crust (option 1):
9 Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patties
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
12 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar

Crust (option 2):
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or chocolate cookie crumbs)
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar

Crust topping:
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

4 bars (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

2 cups dark or semisweet chocolate (I used dark)
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 or full bag mini Reese's peanut butter cups, cut into fourths

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Assemble a 9-inch spring form pan with the raised side of the bottom facing down. Spray lightly and evenly with baker's cooking spray or other cooking spray. Wrap a sheet of foil tightly around the bottom of the pan. I did 3 layers of foil. This is for the water bath later on. It will keep the water from leaking into the cheesecake.

If using cookies, pulse them in a food processor or crush in a plastic bag until finely ground. Add them to the graham crackers crumbs. Stir in melted butter and sugar until completely combined. Transfer to prepared pan, and press crumbs firmly and evenly into the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet (about 1-2 inch deep pan); bake 10 minutes and set aside.

Place peanut butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Pour evenly over the crust.

In a mixer, add cream cheese, sugar, and salt. Blend until smooth. With mixer running on low speed, add eggs, then sour cream, and finally chocolate; blend filling until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Don't over mix. Pour filling onto crust. Pour hot water into the rimmed baking sheet that the cheesecake is sitting on. The water should be about an inch or two up the side of the spring form pan. I also placed an additional 9x13 pan of hot water on the rack just under the cheesecake to make sure the cheesecake didn't crack. Bake cheesecake just until almost set, 1 hour. The 2-3 inches in diameter in the center of the cheesecake should still be jiggly. Turn oven off, and let cheesecake sit 1 hour in oven, without opening (this helps prevent cracking).

Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan (this helps prevent cracking, too); leave in pan, and cool completely on wire rack. Cover loosely and refrigerate, at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

For the ganache topping (don't make until right before you are going to use it), cut the butter into small squares and let cool to room temperature. If using a chocolate bar, chop into small pieces. If using chips, you can leave as is. Place chocolate in a medium size bowl. Heat cream over medium-high heat. Once it comes to gentle boil, pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until chocolate and cream are completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the soft butter.

Once the cheesecake has been refrigerated for at least 6 hours, spoon the chocolate ganache onto the cheesecake. Spread 1/2 to 3/4ths of the ganache into an even layer covering the top of the cheesecake and leaving about 1/2 inch all the way around. Top with Reese's peanut butter cups. Take remaining ganache and place into a ziploc bag. Cut a VERY SMALL hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle the ganache over the top of the peanut butter cups.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chicken Spinach Lasagna

This is a recipe that I adapted from a recipe that I got from my friend, Carlyn. It was passed around her freezer swap group so she passed it on to me. It works great as a freezer meal or as a meal to take to someone. It makes 2 9x13 pans of lasagna or you can split it into 3 8x8 pans. It is absolutely delicious! Now, I haven't actually made it like the original recipe so mine might not be as good as the original : ). If you try it both ways before I do, let me know if it makes any difference. The only differences in mine and the original is that I omitted the cream of mushroom soup (and made my own) and I sauteed the vegetables. The original would be much easier to make and has a lot less steps than the one I made. I just really like the taste of homemade cream of mushroom "soup". However, I will make it like the original next time just to compare.

18 no boil lasagna noodles
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed (Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as you can using your hand. The rest of the liquid will get cooked off in the skillet)
4 cups cooked, diced or shredded chicken (Season 3 split chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes on 350 degrees. Cover with foil and let cool. Shred or dice the chicken.)
4 cups shredded white cheddar (You can use any other cheese you like. I just love white cheddar.)
1 onion, diced
8-16 oz mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cream
1 cup chicken broth/stock
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce
16 oz sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat skillet with a few swirls around the pan of EVOO. Saute mushrooms until they start getting a golden color. Add the onions. Sprinkle with a tsp or so of salt to help release the liquid. Let the onions cook 3-4 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the spinach. Sprinkle with flour. Stir and let cook for a minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and then the cream. Let it cook for 6-7 minutes or until thickened. Add the chicken. Take off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, mix together sour cream, mayo, soy sauce, pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in the cooled cream chicken mixture.

In a greased 9x13 pan, place a layer of the cream mixture. Lay down 3 no boil lasagna noodles. Top with more cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Place 3 more noodles down. Top with cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Place the last 3 noodles down and top with more cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Top with pecan/Parmesan mixture.

Repeat in the other 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

You will just need to guess about how much cream mixture and cheese you put on each layer. Just keep in mind that they will be used for both pans. If you have never worked with "no boil" noodles, you will love them! You don't have to cook them at all. Just lay them down. Make sure that every corner has some of the sauce on them. The layer of sauce doesn't need to be thick for the noodles to soften, it just has to be covered. I think you could use the no boil noodles in the original. I will let you know when I try it.

Original Recipe:
24 lasagna noodles, cooked
1 (10 oz) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
4 cups diced chicken(i cooked mine first)
4 cups shredded cheddar
2/3 cup finely diced onion
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cans cream of mushroom
16 oz. sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 cups grated Parmesan
1 cups chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients in very large bowl. In a large and deep baking dish, layer chicken mixture, noodles, chicken, noodles, chicken. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

"Lemon Meringue" Bars

I made Ina Garten's Lemon Bars for our Dgroup the other night. They are so yummy! One of the girls in the group, Katie, said they reminded her of lemon meringue pie in a bar. She is totally right. There is something about the crust that forms on the top that is very similar. You should definitely try these. The shortbread crust gives them exactly the right thickness of crust and gives the lemon layer wonderful stability. You will love doubt! Tip: Make sure to grease your pan. Ina says not to since there is already so much butter in the crust. However, mine stuck to the pan in a few places. Also, if you don't want to buy extra large eggs just use 7 eggs instead of 6. You will want to make these in advance so they have time to cool and set. The real lemons and lemon zest is KEY to this recipe. Don't cheat and use imitation lemon juice. They will not be the same! I am guessing you could substitute lime juice and zest in this recipe as well and they would be wonderful. I love limes! I will try this one day and let you know how they turn out.

Ina Garten's Lemon Bars
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature (or 7 large eggs)
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (5-6 lemons)
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch (greased) baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour (I did this in my stand mixer with the whisk attachment so that there were no flour lumps. You can also use a hand mixer). Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles or squares and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taste Test Tuesday: Chocolate Chip Cookies...Real butter vs. Dairy free margarine

Yesterday, I made two batches of cookies. One batch with real butter and one batch with dairy free margarine sticks (I used blue bonnet light). I've made cookies with dairy free margarine sticks before but never actually taste tested them right along side cookies made with real butter. Let me tell you, if you follow the recipes exactly, there is a huge difference. My son, along with some of my friends children, have a dairy allergy. So, I did this just to compare the cookies.

I melt my real butter (and then let it cool to room temperature) before adding it to the sugar when I make cookies. This makes for a cookie that is really chewy. However, after brainstorming for a while about why the dairy free cookies didn't turn out as good, I realized that it has the opposite affect when using dairy free margarine. It actually makes the batter extremely runny, like soup.

All in all, you can definitely make cookies with dairy free margarine and they will taste good (as long as you just use room temperature butter that is not melted). However, cookies made with real butter are no contest the best way to make a scrumptious chocolate chip cookie!!

THE BEST (in my opinion) Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 cups All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt - can substitute with Fleur de Sel or grey sea salt (this is what I use)
1 cup chocolate chips (You can use up to 2 cups, if desired. I really like just one cup and I used to make all of my cookie recipes with 2 cups.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Melt the butter then allow to cool to room temperature (This is a very important step if you are using real butter. If you are using dairy free margarine then skip this step and just let your margarine come to room temperature). Then using a large bowl or in your upright mixer with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown and white sugar on high speed. Next add the vanilla extract, egg, egg yolk and beat until smooth (make sure to crack eggs into a separate bowl to make sure there are no shells pieces).

Sift the flour and baking soda together (if you don't have a sifter you can just use a whisk). Then stir in the salt and set aside. Now add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Using stoneware or a greased cookie sheet, form equal size rounds of dough (about 1/4cup of dough). Make sure to leave enough space between each cookie as they will spread out as they bake. Refrigerate for fifteen minutes before baking.

Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes or until the edges turn a light golden color. Once done, cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
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