Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

This is a great pasta dish that your family will be sure to love - I know mine did. The sauce is creamy, cheesy, and ranch dressing-y. Yum. I got the recipe from Half Hour Meals and changed it just slightly to suit my family's tastes (a splash of heavy cream makes everything better:)). For a faster meal you can use shredded rotisserie chicken. I served it with a spinach salad with dried cherries, almonds, and crumbled blue cheese.

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
1 lb mostaccioli or penne pasta
6 strips bacon
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
2 cups milk
heavy cream (a couple tablespoons)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels.  Rub a little olive oil on both sides of the chicken breasts and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (it should still be nice and moist - don't over cook). Shred chicken with 2 forks, place in a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

While chicken and pasta are cooking, start making sauce. In a large skillet fry 6 slices of bacon until crispy, turning half way through. Remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Chop up the bacon into small pieces and set aside.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter to the bacon fat in the skillet. Whisk in flour and ranch dressing powder. Whisk in milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add a splash of heavy cream and season with salt a pepper. Add shredded cheddar, stirring until all cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta, bacon pieces, and shredded chicken to the sauce. Add sliced green onions and stir until mixed in. Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Walking Tacos

Walking Tacos are super fun, especially for kids, and they are a great main dish for a picnic or family get together. I've seen Walking Tacos on Picky Palate and Pioneer Woman, but this is my take on it. You can serve this meal inside the Fritos bag (so you can walk around with it :)) or you can serve it like a taco salad. The meat mixture would also be great on scones/fry bread for Navajo tacos or served over a square of corn bread. So delicious and fun to eat.

Walking Tacos

1 lb ground beef
1, 15 oz can chili beans
1, 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 packet taco seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
small bags of Fritos

shredded cheese
shredded lettuce
sour cream
diced tomatoes
diced avocado or guacamole
sliced green onions

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Drain off fat. Add beans, petite diced tomatoes, taco seasoning, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve, open Fritos bags and add a scoop of the meat mixture, top with desired toppings, and enjoy. Or you can place Fritos in a pile on your plate, top with meat mixture and desired toppings. Either way is great!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baked Chocolate Donuts

I got a couple Wilton donut pans for Mother's day - which is a perfect mother's day gift for me. I love cooking/baking gadgets and these pans make donut making so easy! My children especially loved having these perfectly chocolaty donuts for our Family Home Evening treat earlier this week. Oh and the icing is to die for on these. SO yummy! I am excited to try lots of different baked donut recipes. There are so many on Pinterest, which is where I got this one.

Baked Chocolate Donuts

2 cups flour (plus 2 tablespoons for high altitude)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used dutch processes cocoa powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk (plus 2 tablespoons for high altitude, which equals 1 cup total)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon heavy cream (maybe more)
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

For Donuts:
Preheat oven to 325 degree and spray donut pans with cooking spray (so important!).

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. Mix for a minute or two, scrapping down sides, until a smooth batter forms. Fill each donut cup about 3/4 full. (I put the batter into a gallon size ziplock bag and snipped the corner to fill the pans evenly. The batter should fill at least 12 donut cups. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans for a few minutes, then turn donuts out onto a wire rack to cool.

For Icing:
While donuts cool you can make the icing. In a small saucepan combine cream, milk, butter, vanilla, and corn syrup. Heat over medium low heat until butter is completely melted. Turn heat to low and add chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar. If icing is too stiff add a little heavy cream (a tablespoon or so). Dip each donut into the icing, top with sprinkles if desired, and allow chocolate to set for about 10 minutes - if you can wait that long! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hibachi Restaurant Ham Fried Rice

I absolutely love the food at Japanese Steakhouse/Hibachi restaurants. It's my favorite food ever!! And how I love the fried rice at these places. I've been trying for a long time to come up with a recipe that is as close as possible to authentic Japanese fried rice, and so far this is my best version. I think the day old rice, garlic butter, and sesame seeds are key. I'm sure I'll keep tweeking this recipe, but "as is" I'm so happy with it and my family loved it. I served it with a green salad dressed with Asian sesame dressing. You can also leave out the ham and serve it as a side dish.

Hibachi Restaurant Ham Fried Rice

2 1/2 - 3 cups uncooked Calrose rice (cooked the day before)
3 tablespoons (or more) spreadable butter with canola oil (Land O' Lakes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (cooked)
1 onion, chopped (you can use green onions instead)
2 eggs, beaten
soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
diced ham (about 1 1/2 cups)
onion salt
onion powder

The Day Before:
Cook rice according to package directions. I cook rice in a rice cooker and it always comes out perfect - rice cookers are awesome. Place rice in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.

The Day of:
Combine spreadable butter and garlic. Set aside.

Cook frozen peas and carrots and set aside.

In a large skillet or electric skillet (I like to use my electric skillet for this) melt the garlic butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft. Push onion to the side and scramble the egg in the skillet. Add the rice, peas and carrot, and stir until combined and heated through. Add sesame seeds, ham, and season with soy sauce to taste. Add onion salt and onion powder to taste. If the mixture is too dry add another couple tablespoons of spreadable butter. Taste before serving adding more soy sauce as needed. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Patriotic Jello Parfaits

My kiddos love Jello. So for our 4th of July treat we had red, white, and blue Jello parfaits. All you have to do is make blue and red Jello jigglers, cut the jigglers into cubes, and layer them with marshmallows in a clear cup. Super easy and totally fun.

Patriotic Jello Parfaits

2 small boxes cherry jello (or strawberry)
2 small boxes berry blue jello
4 cups boiling water, divided

Combine 2 boxes of cherry jello with 2 cups of boiling water. Stir for 2 minutes or until jello is completely dissolved. Pour into a baking dish and refrigerate until set. Repeat with blue jello and 2 cups of boiling water. Once jello is set, cut into cubes with a knife and scoop out with a spatula. Layer red jello, marshmallows, and blue jello in a clear cup. Top with whipped cream or Cool Whip if desired.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beefy Macaroni

This is a very beefy pasta casserole, which made it a kid and husband pleasing meal. I think the kids loved the smothered in cheese aspect and my husband loved the beefiness. The sauce is slow simmered before you make the casserole, so you need to start this casserole about 2 hours before you want to have dinner. I think this would be a great freezer meal as well (instructions below). The recipe is from What's Cooking Chicago. I served it with broccoli and super cheesy garlic bread (another family favorite).

Beefy Macaroni

1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 oz tomato sauce
28 oz can whole tomatoes (next time I might try diced)
1/2 - 1 cup fresh grape tomatoes, halved (optional, but I like this for texture)
1 lb box elbow macaroni or rotini (any short pasta will work)
1 cup grated cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella

In a large stockpot saute onion in oil until onion softens. Add a big pinch of salt as onions cook. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up as it cooks. Add pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and sugar. Add in tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, and halved grape tomatoes. Bring to a  boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Set aside.

Stir pasta into simmered sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Spread pasta mixture into a non-stick sprayed 9.5x13.5 baking dish (the size just larger than 9x13). Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with cheddar and mozzarella. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

*Freezer Meal Instructions: After combining pasta with simmered sauce, pour into a non-stick sprayed foil pan. Cover, label with heating instructions, and freeze. When ready to reheat, thaw completely in fridge for about 2 days. Bake covered with foil for 1 hour or until hot and bubbly. Top with cheeses and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Soft 100% Whole Wheat Rolls

So what's the secret to soft 100% whole wheat rolls?? Fat! That's right, a stick of softened butter, plus more brushed on top is the key. And probably the buttermilk and 3 eggs as well. But wow, these are yummy whole wheat rolls. And the fact that they are 100% whole wheat cancels out the stick of butter, right? I say yes. My family loved these rolls, warm from the oven, spread with butter and jam. It doesn't get much better than that!

Soft 100% Whole Wheat Rolls

4 1/2 - 5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons instant yeast (SAF)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup hot tap water

In the bowl of a mixer combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons yeast, and salt. Mix to combine. Add butter, honey, eggs, and buttermilk and give it a quick mix. Add hot tap water and knead with dough hook for 1 minute. Add enough additional flour to make a firm dough that pulls away from sides of the bowl (for me it was just under 1 cup, for almost 5 cups total). Knead with dough hook on high speed for 5 minutes. Remove dough, knead into a ball, and place in a large greased bowl. Cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times. Let rest for 3 minutes. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces and shape each of these pieces into a ball. Place dough balls in a greased 9x13 pan or a greased jelly roll pan if you don't want them quite so squished together. Cover with non-stick sprayed plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 30-45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom. Take out of oven and brush with melted butter if desired.