Monday, March 14, 2011

Chicken & Broccoli Braid

I like to think that I'm fairly smart. I graduated college with honors, have held down good jobs, and can hold a reasonably intelligent conversation when need be. However, this little recipe had me completely and utterly baffled.

I had several Pampered Chef shows scheduled for this past week, and the host of the show I was doing Friday requested that I make this Chicken and Broccoli Braid at her show. Being that I've never made it before, I figured that it would be a good idea to make it at home first so that I could put it together easily at the show. Boy, am I glad I did! I got started with the recipe. Mix up the feeling - easy! Roll out the crescent roll dough - easy! Braid the dough - um....what? I must have read the instructions 10 times and STILL couldn't figure out how to make the braid. I finally did what any truly "smart" person would do - I went to You Tube and watched this demo. *cue light bulb over head* Aaahhh! Once I saw the braid done, I realized how incredibly easy it really was. I braided my dough, stuck it in the oven, and was rewarded with cheesy, doughy goodness afterwards. Joe said that, if eaten fresh out of the oven, this may be his new favorite meal. And all the guests at my show on Friday went nuts for it! So don't be intimidated by the braiding - if I can do it, YOU can do it!

(The braid in the picture is a little different than the one in the recipe. Since I made this one at home for Joe, I used Chipotle mayo instead of regular and subbed chopped bacon for the broccoli. So feel free to be creative with your fillings as well!)

Chicken & Broccoli Braid

1 cup (250 mL) chopped broccoli florets
2 cups (500 mL) chopped cooked chicken breasts
1/2 cup (125 mL) diced red bell pepper
1 cup (250 mL) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (125 mL) mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 tsp (10 mL) dill
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
2 pkg (8 oz or 235 g) refrigerated crescent dough (the new Recipe Creations seamless dough would be even better!)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp (30 mL) slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Combine broccoli, chicken, bell pepper, cheese, mayonnaise, dill mix, pressed garlic and salt in Classic Batter Bowl; mix well.

Unroll one package of the crescent dough; do not separate. Arrange longest sides of dough across width of Rectangle Stone. Repeat with remaining package of dough. Using Baker's Roller®, roll dough to seal perforations. On longest sides of baking stone, cut dough into strips 1 1/2 in. (4 cm) apart, 3 in. (7.5 cm) deep. (There will be 6 in./15 cm in the center for the filling.)

Spread filling evenly over center of dough. To braid, lift dough strips across filling to meet in center, twisting each strip one turn. Continue alternating strips to form a braid. Tuck ends up to seal at end of braid. Brush egg white over dough. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake 25-28 minutes or until deep golden brown

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free Form Burgers

The original name for this recipe is Loose Meat Sandwiches. But when I was discussing this with my friends, none of them were able to get past the "loose meat" moniker - they thought it sounded gross. And since this recipe is totally NOT gross, I changed the name to avoid any further turn-offs. Because you really DO want to make these sandwiches - they are incredibly easy and incredibly delicious. The recipe comes from one of my favorite blogs, A Year of Slow Cooking. What really caught my eye about this recipe is the fact that you don't have to brown the meat before you put it in the crockpot. I've never come across a recipe that didn't require browning the meat, so I was intrigued. I hate the extra step of browning meat before putting it in the crockpot - I feel like if I have to cook it first, the whole point of using the crockpot is defeated.

So this recipe won points with me right off the bat, but it totally won me over once I tasted it. The meat is savory and full of flavor - you definitely can't tell it wasn't browned first. I served these sandwiches on toasted rolls topped with a drizzle of ketchup and mustard and a slice of pickle. Trust me and don't skip the pickle - it really made the sandwiches for me and Joe! And feel free to call it whatever you want ;)

Free Form Burgers

1 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey, thawed (make sure it's lean)
1 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups beef broth
8 hamburger buns
burger fixings of your choice

Crumble in the ground meat into slow cooker. Add onion, sugar, spices, mustard, and vinegar. Pour in the beef broth. Mix well until everything is fully incorporated. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Stir well before serving by scooping with a slotted spoons onto hamburger buns. Top with your desired fixings.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two (er, Three) Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies

The official pumpkin season may have passed, but I still have several cans in my pantry and am always in the mood for something pumpkiny. This past weekend I realized that my pantry also contained a spice cake mix that was about to expire so I figured that I would try to marry these two ingredients in some way. I knew that that it was possible to make a cake with just mix and a can of pumpkin, so I went looking in that direction on All Recipes and found these cookies instead.

Random side note: I get a lot of recipes from All Recipes and I always read the reviews before I make the recipe, but the reviews really tend to get on my nerves. People seem to make the recipes with all kinds of modifications and then complain how the recipe is terrible. This one is a perfect example - there are tons of reviews where people added eggs, oil, etc and then gave the recipe one star because the cookies didn't turn out right. They didn't turn out right because you made them wrong!!! (Okay, vent over.)

Anyhow, these cookies require just two ingredients - a spice cake mix and a 15 oz can of pumpkin. I added in chocolate chips because I love the combination of pumpkin and chocolate. I thought these cookies were great! They tasted almost identical to these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies I make, but were much quicker and easier. They're rich and cakey and perfectly sweet. I served these cookies to my former boss and her husband when they came over to visit on Sunday afternoon and they were gobbled up.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

1 (18.25 ounce) package spice cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, stir together the cake mix and pumpkin until well blended. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cranberry Applesauce Muffins

On Monday I had a meeting at my house regarding our local March of Dimes March for Babies walk. Being the mother of micro-preemies, it's needless to say that March of Dimes is an organization close to my heart. The meeting was at 11:00, so I wanted to provide something to munch on but thought it might be a little early for cookies or brownies. I scoured the Internet for a muffin recipe that used ingredients I already had on hand and decided on this recipe for Cranberry Applesauce Muffins. I thought they would be appealing to the adults but also something my kids would enjoy for a snack.

Like most muffins, these were simple to put together. The applesauce I had was sweetened, so I cut back the sugar to 1/4 cup to compensate for that. I also used dried cranberries instead of fresh and sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar on the muffin tops before baking.

I thought these were delicious. Light and sweet, but not too sweet, with a perfect tang from the cranberries. I'll definitely be keeping this in my recipe file.

Cranberry Applesauce Muffins

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a muffin pan, or use paper liners.
In a small bowl, mix together applesauce, oil and egg. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture. Stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries and pecans. Spoon into muffin cups, 2/3 full.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 2 minutes before removing.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

As I think I've mentioned before, when I became a stay-at-home mom last year I also became a Pampered Chef consultant. I needed a way to make some extra money without having to be outside the house too much, and Pampered Chef fit the bill. It's a super fun job to have - I get out, I meet new people, and I get to try awesome new recipes like this one.

I'm doing a show this weekend with a Valentine's Day theme, so I'm making a dessert and a wine-based drink. The host and I chose this recipe together, but I'd never actually made it so I figured it would be good to give it a whirl before the show. And I am SO glad I did. Wow - these are good!

They are sort of like a kicked-up rice krispie treat. The bottom layer is your standard rice krispie treat, but with pretzels mixed in for crunch and salt. Then it's topped with a peanut butter layer, and finally a coating of chocolate ganace garnished with peanuts and pretzels. The salty/sweet/chewy/crunchy combos are out of this world. I ate way more of these than I care to admit. Plus, they are quick and easy - no baking required. Any Valentine would be more than happy to receive these treats!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crunch Bars
Recipe from: The Pampered Chef

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry-roasted peanuts
3 cups (750 mL) mini pretzel twists (about 1 2/3 cups/400 mL coarsely crushed), divided
3 cups (750 mL) crisp rice cereal
3/4 cup (175 mL) butter (1½ sticks), divided
1 bag (10.5 oz or 250 g) miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup (125 mL) light corn syrup, divided
1 bag (10 oz or 300 g) peanut butter morsels
1 cup (250 mL) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Coarsely chop peanuts using Food Chopper; set aside. Place pretzels into large resealable plastic bag; coarsely crush using flat side of Meat Tenderizer. Set aside 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the pretzels. Place remaining pretzels and cereal in Stainless (4-qt./4-L) Mixing Bowl.

Place 6 tbsp (90 mL) of the butter in Classic Batter Bowl. Microwave on HIGH 60-90 seconds or until melted. Add marshmallows; microwave on HIGH 60-90 seconds. Stir until marshmallows are completely melted using Mix ‘N Scraper® (see Cook's Tip). Immediately add marshmallow mixture to mixing bowl; mix thoroughly. Spread crust evenly over Medium Sheet Pan; firmly press into pan using Baker's Roller®.

Combine 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the butter and half of the corn syrup in Small Micro-Cooker®. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 60-90 seconds or until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in peanut butter morsels; mix until melted (mixture will be stiff). Spread peanut butter mixture over crust using Small Spreader.

For ganache, place remaining butter and corn syrup in Small Batter Bowl. Microwave on HIGH 60-90 seconds or until melted. Stir in chocolate morsels; mix until smooth. Spread ganache evenly over peanut butter mixture. Sprinkle with peanuts and reserved pretzels. Place in freezer 5-10 minutes or until ganache is set. Cut into 24 squares; cut squares in half.

Yield: 24 servings

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oriental Beef and Noodles

This super easy recipe is courtesy of my good friend Colleen. When it comes to making dinner, there's nothing I love more than tossing a few things into the crockpot and leaving it at that. This recipe requires so little work that you can throw it together in even the tightest time crunch. I made a few minor changes to the recipe. I'd heard talk that the veggies tend to disintegrate in the crockpot, so I held off and added mine around lunchtime to see if that helped. And it did - somewhat. My carrots and water chestnuts held their shape, but I still lost my broccoli! I also could not find plain ramen noodles so I used Chinese rice noodles and they were fine.

This dinner smelled amazing as it cooked and tasted just as good - like an authentic stir fry. Joe and I both really enjoyed it.

Oriental Beef and Noodles

1 (16 ounce) package frozen stir fry vegetables
2 - 2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
1 (12 ounce) bottle stir-fry sauce, any flavor
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 (3 ounce) packages ramen noodles, broken
1/4 cup green onions, chopped (I omitted)

Coat a 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place frozen vegetables in the bottom and top with stew meat. In a medium bowl, stir together stir-fry sauce, water, and red pepper. Pour over stew meat and vegetables in cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours or on high for 4 1/2-5 hours (I recommend low, it will help to break the meat down more).

At the end of cooking time, discard spice packets from ramen noodles. Stir noodles and green onions into meat mixture. Cover and let stand 10 minutes more. Stir before serving. This can be kept on warm for 1-2 hours.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Still here!

And I miss my cooking blog! Sadly, I really haven't been making anything blog worthy recently. Joe requested that I get more back-to-basics with my dinners - in other words, stop trying so many new things and make more of the old recipes we know we like. And I guess he's right - so often I make something that we both love, but in my desire to keep trying new things I never make the favorites again. I have made a few new things here and there, but in the crazy pre-dinner rush to feed Charlie, Lily, Joe and I before the pre-bedtime meltdown, I often forget to take pictures anyway. So there's been a few new, un-blogged meals and a lot of repeats going on here, plus a lot of quick and easy meals that I can throw together at nap time or when Joe gets home from work. And meals like that often turn out great - like this pizza! I took a store-bought pizza crust and topped it with pre-made shredded barbecue chicken (Lloyd's), caramelized onions and cheddar cheese - it was awesome!

But I do have some new recipes planned for this week, so I hope to get them posted and maybe resurrect my little cooking blog. Here's hoping!