Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chicken Casserole Alfredo

This recipe is a comforting and vegetable packed one-dish meal, and has an outstanding flavor profile.  It's filled with 2 1/2 lbs. of wonderful goodies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and  mushrooms and white meat chicken,  in a creamy and delicious homemade cream sauce reinforced with a little bought Parmesan Garlic Alfredo sauce and topped with  fresh toasted and buttery bread crumbs.  It is simplistic and satisfying and can be prepped ahead of time to be baked later.  Variations within the recipe can accommodate a version with less fat and fewer calories.  The family of tasters received the dish very well and I am looking forward to another overcast or rainy day with a chill, to use this dish as a soothing pick me up:)
1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 1/2 lb. fresh or frozen broccoli, chopped
1 lb. fresh or frozen California Blend (broccoli, cauliflower and carrot)
2 tbsp. butter, plus 2 tsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. AP flour
1 c. evaporated milk, regular or fat free
2 c. low sodium chicken stock
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. Garlic Parmesan Alfredo sauce
olive oil for drizzling
For Topping:
2 c. fresh bread crumbs
2 tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Steam veggies according to package directions until tender crisp, drain well.
Season chicken pieces.
In a large saute pan drizzled with olive oil over medium high heat , sear chicken pieces until slightly golden, about 5 minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook an additional 3 minutes.
Add butter and sprinkle in flour.
Cook together until chicken is coated with flour paste, about 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in milk and stock.
Reduce heat to medium and cook until thickened.
Add Parmesan cheese and Alfredo sauce.
Fold in veggies.
Transfer to greased baking vessel, about 11x2, and spread evenly.
In another pan, melt butter over medium high heat and drizzle in a little olive oil.
Fry bread crumbs in pan until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Spread atop casserole and cover tightly with foil.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and golden around edges.
Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
Let stand for several minutes before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Madame Shepherd's Pie

Shepard's Pie, traditionally minced beef with veggies ,baked with a mashed potato topping, is a popular dish hailing from Great Britain and likewise, here in America.  I first tried this on a trip to England with my  advanced and high school Science teacher , Shirley Cothran.  We spent 2 weeks traveling and touring the country and it's adorable  little towns, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway''s home, where we sat and swung in a cozy wooden swing,  in it's beautiful garden, Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, where we experienced some of the Medieval torture devices, Jack the Ripper's Ghost Walk, tracing the steps of the infamous forerunner for serial killers, to the unforgettable Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London,  which was absolutely amazing.
These memoirs are just a few of the many fantastical memories made when I was 15 years old.  The excursion was a most exciting and memorable one.  The rain was hit and miss and we were lucky that it was the driest period England had experienced in ten years! Whoohoo!  Ironically, a wedding party trashed one of the hotels in which we were scheduled to stay , bumping us up to a 5 star hotel at the last minute for 2 days!  Thanks Wedding Wrecking Crew!:)
The idea for this version of Shepard's Pie came about by happenstance.  I had prepared a birthday dinner the night prior for my nephew Justin, featuring  two of his favorite foods,  ribs and homemade mashed potatoes.There were some potatoes leftover, though not enough for reasonable side portions, and the wheels began to turn. I had approximately one pound of ground beef on hand as well as this huge boneless skinless chicken breast weighing about 3/4 lb., which I cut into bite sized pieces. I knew that singularly, one of the proteins would not accommodate dinner, but together, they could provide for a substantial and filling dish.  The recipe was a big hit and the name is derived from the marrying of the chicken to the beef in taste-bud matrimony, in a romantic one dish meal.
1 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 pkg. onion soup mix
2 c. water or beef stock
1 tbsp. corn starch
2 small carrots, sliced, about 1/2 c.
1/2 c. sweet corn kernels
1/2 c. frozen peas
2 c. prepared mashed potatoes
1/4 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, brown ground beef and remove with a slotted spoon.
 Set Aside.
In the same rendered fat, brown the chicken pieces in batches, adding it to the vessel with the beef .
After all the chicken has been browned, pour excess fat from pan and re-add meats.
Add garlic, onion soup mix , stock and corn starch and bring up to a boil.
Remove from heat and stir in all vegetables, except mashed potatoes.
Pour into an oven safe vessel at least 2 inches deep.
In a separate bowl, combine potatoes, evaporated milk, Parmesan and eggs.  Blend well.
Pour and spread potato mixture over meat filling and cover tightly with foil.
Bake until potatoes have set, about 30 minutes, and toothpick inserted comes out clean of potato topping.
 Remove foil and sprinkle with Cheddar and turn oven to  broil.
Broil until cheese melts and top browns slightly.
Garnish with Fresh cracked pepper, Parmesan, olive oil and fresh chopped parsley if desired.
Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8-10.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Loaded Broccoli and Cheese Beef Burgers

What better way to throw some veggies into your family's diet, than pairing it with a 1/3 pound Angus beef patty and smothering them with broccoli and sauteed mushrooms, swimming in cheese sauce?  Of course this burger isn't your everyday fare, but the menu and meal that day will be unforgettable and can reasonably fit into just about any  hectic schedule. The mushrooms are fresh and the cheese sauce is homemade, so you can definitely feel better about it and is may be prepared with 2 % milk, plus reduced fat Cheddar cheese!   Serve as is for a meal or with Doritos, fruit or salad for a hearty and fantastic burger without sacrificing too many calories or your integrity.  Additionally, you can substitute the beef for an extra lean beef, lean chicken or turkey burger to further shave down on fat and calories.  Whole grain buns will work well too and add a jolt of fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, thiamin and phosphorus.  Just remember to add a little olive oil to the leaner ground to help retain moisture and  maximum flavor!  What the heck, try them all especially for your next cookout and WOW your crew with these wonderful flavor profiles! Enjoy.
1 lb. fresh or fresh frozen broccoli florets, steamed until tender crisp
2 tbsp. butter, plus 1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. AP flour
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. sharp cheddar cheese
6 1/3 lb. Angus beef patties
6 slices American cheese
mayonnaise, optional
6 hamburger buns, toasted if desired
In a large saucepan, melt butter and add olive oil over medium high heat.
Add mushrooms and cook for several minutes until they show signs of browning.
Sprinkle in flour and cook for an additional minute.
Remove from heat and whisk in milk.
Reduce heat to medium and place pan back over heat.  Cook until milk starts to thicken and stir in cheese.
Continue to cook until cheese is melted and smooth. Fold in broccoli that has been drained thoroughly.  SPST.
Assemble cooked patties on bun slathered with mayo if desired and add cheese.  Smother with about 1/4 c. broccoli and cheese sauce and serve with desired side or sides.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chinese Bar BQ Grilled Pork Loin and Tangy Asian Slaw w/ Sweet Chili Bacon Ranch Sauce

Ever wondered how they get the skewered meats this color that you find in Chinese restaurants and buffets?  How many of us have said or have heard someone say " There is no meat that color and I'm not eating it"! Lol, I assured many friends and family that the color was from a marinade and not some mystery animal meat, familiar only to those eateries, but I knew that I needed some solid proof!   I had always enjoyed the meat on a stick variety from these restaurants and was determined to find that taste out here in the real world.
As you would imagine, the supermarket is one of my favorite places, especially the ones in areas with diverse cultures and traffic to accommodate the products they carry and I hit pay dirt.  About 1 1/2 years ago, I was in a Kroger in the Smith Mountain Lake area and while cruising the Ethnic Foods Aisle, found the brilliantly colored packet, harnessing the flavor I longed to create at home.  The marinade itself is chock full of amazing flavors like garlic and onion powder, sugar cane, spices and of course food coloring. It is actually a product of Hawaii!  The Marinating time varies depending on the time you have to dedicate to the dish and the intensity of the flavors you want to penetrate the meat.  Generally the time runs from 4 to 24 hours for maximum taste, overnight sometimes being the most practical. 
I have prepared boneless and bone in proteins, including ribs, chicken and pork cuts.  The exploration yielded many memorable and different dishes with fantastic results.  I reinforced the flavor profile by adding some fish sauce and seasoned rice vinegar, two items I LOVE cooking with which also cut out physically adding salt, the vinegar helping to develop the color. 
I paired an original recipe and sauce combining some of my favorite Asian ingredients .  They complement the marinade well and also other dishes you may enjoy at home.
Recipe for Tangy Asian Slaw:
8 cups julienned green cabbage
2 small carrots, grated
1/3 c. seasoned rice vinegar
1/3 c. fish sauce or to taste
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. sugar or to taste
2 tsp. sambal oelek or to taste
combine all the wet ingredients in the bottom of a large container with lid.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Add veggies, but DO NOT MIX, until ready to serve. This keeps the cabbage extra crisp and the flavors incredibly bright.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, then toss and shake until well coated.  Serves plenty!  Recipe may be halved for smaller families, however this slaw is fantastic up to several days later.
 Sweet Chili Bacon Ranch Sauce:
1/3 c. Sweet Chili Sauce
1/3 c. Bacon Ranch Dressing
1 tbsp. Sriracha or to taste
Whisk ingredients together and serve alongside your favorite protein or as a dipping sauce. Makes about 2/3 cup. 
Happy Birthday to my nephew Justin today, and my daughter Genesis yesterday!XOXO:)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chipotle Chicken and Caramelized Onion Wontons

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite appetizers, buffalo wings.  I love the zing of the hot sauce , muted only by the cooling creaminess of the Bleu Cheese or Ranch dressing, followed by the snapping crisp crunch of celery.  This recipe is easy to assemble and may easily be adjusted depending on crowd size.  Sweet Asian Chili Sauce really adds to the overall effect and packs a mean punch of heat to pair with the smoky hot of the chipotle and the sweet heat of the sriracha, but feel free to adjust the heat to your desired level.   This dish rivals any pub style wing fare, no bones about it!
1 lb. fresh cooked and shredded or canned chicken breast
1 large onion, thinly sliced, about 2 cups
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. brown sugar
2 green onions, trimmed and  thinly sliced
1/2  tbsp. Sriracha
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 chipotle chile, seeds removed, finely diced or minced, plus 1/2 tsp. sauce in can
Olive oil for drizzling
1 pkg. wonton wrappers
oil for frying
Heat Oil to 375*F
While oil heats, In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle in a little olive oil and add butter.
Add Onions , brown sugar and SPST.  Cook onions until caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes.  The onions will be reduced to about 1/2 cup.
 Combine all  filling ingredients in a folding fashion.  Prepare for assembly.
Assemble wontons according to package instructions using about 1 1/2 tsp. filling per wonton.
Cover prepared wontons with damp cloth while prepping the others.
Fry in batches, until golden, drain on paper towels.
Makes about 40.
Serve with Bleu Cheese and authentic Sweet Chili Sauce.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stuffed Mushrooms Tapenade

Two popular dishes rolled into with these little fungi and a store bought version of tapenade with chopped green and black olives flecked with sun dried tomatoes, herbs and spices like thyme and basil.  The bread crumbs for these is actually cubed garlic bread that is sauteed with the olives and tomatoes , then some wonderful Pamigiano Reggiano, or more budget friendly Parmesan is folded in, and the mixture is crammed into fresh mushrooms and broiled!  This recipe is perfect for quick entertaining on the fly, with little effort and maximum flavor, marrying spectacular Italian and French ideas into perfect Mediterranean bites!
1 8 oz. pkg. whole mushrooms
1 c. toasted and cubed garlic bread
1/2 c. store bought tapenade with black and green olives and sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp. grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for broiling and garnish
Turn on broiler.
Wipe and clean mushrooms with a dry clean cloth and pop out stems, save for another use.
In a medium saute pan over medium high heat, add tapenade and garlic bread cubes.
Saute together to allow bread to absorb moisture, about 2 minutes and turn off heat.
Fold in grated cheeses and remove from heat.
Stuff mushrooms equally with mixture and top with small pinch of cheese.
Broil on bottom rack until cheese is melted and slightly golden and mushrooms just begin to give up liquid, about 5 minutes.  Garnish with additional cheese if desired.  Makes about 12.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Veggie Confetti and Shrimp Summer Rolls

Easy and quite delicious, these summer rolls are loaded with veggies and easy on the waistline.  Flavors are intensified by seasoned rice vinegar, ginger and Sriracha.  The shrimp are a wonderful addition chipping in protein, calcium, magnesium and iron, but easily may be omitted .  Each summer roll packs in a full 1/2 cup of  vitamin B rich gems likes broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and carrots in this premixed package.  The only fat is contained within the less than 3 grams provided by the shrimp.  Once you get the hang of the rice paper, especially if it's a new ingredient, as it was for me, these rolls are a super light, but filling and fantastic dish for any season.  Throw in some chicken seasoned with Chinese BBQ marinade and roasted, and it 's a full meal made in heaven!  They may be converted into SPRING rolls, by deep frying, changing the dynamic,  and the outer skin, but also the fat and calories.  I like them both!!:)
1 12 oz. pkg. Rainbow Slaw
4 oz. salad shrimp, thawed and drained
1/4 c. julienne of red onion
1/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
1/4. tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. Sriracha or to taste
6 sheets rice paper, plus more if needed
Sweet Chili Sauce for serving
Combine veggies and spices with rice vinegar and toss well or fold to coat.  SPST
Let stand at room temperature for up to 15 minutes.  Drain.
Assemble rice paper one at a time by soaking in warm water for 5 seconds.
Transfer to large plate, leaving a portion of the rice paper hanging over the edge, for ease of rolling.
Starting from the overhang, add 1/2 cup veggie mixture to corner and roll, tucking firmly as you go.
After about 3 rotations, tuck ends and press filling inwards with your index fingers on both sides.
Continue to end of rice paper.
Repeat.  Makes 6 rolls.