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Friday, April 30, 2010

Tequila Lime Chicken

For as long as I can remember, I've always loved Mexican food. Good chips and salsa is definitely a weakness for me, no matter how much junk food I gave up, I don't think I could give up chips and salsa. When I don't know what to make for dinner and I need something fast, we inevitably have tacos. If I'm in a bad mood, my husband often suggests we go out for Mexican and I start to feel better. So it should come as no surprise that my experimenting often leads to Mexican-inspired flavors. I love adding spicy peppers, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, and other Mexican flavors to dishes.

I love ordering tequila lime fajitas when we go out to dinner so I thought I would make my own at home. Of course I decided this while inviting friends over for dinner when walking around the grocery store at 4:30 pm on a Saturday. So I picked up some chicken, some garlic, limes, and a couple of jalapeno peppers. We didn't end up making it into fajitas that night but ate it with a salad and some grilled potatoes but I turned the leftover chicken into fajitas a couple nights later and it was fantastic with a little avocado, grilled bell peppers and onions and warm tortillas. You're going to want to make extra so you have leftovers of this - grill out on Sunday, make double and you're 90% done with a weeknight dinner.

One more thing while I'm talking about chicken - I'm not sure about your grocery store, but whenever I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the pieces are always huge. I generally remove the tender and butterfly each breast, so I have 2-3 pieces from each one. They cook up much faster and more evenly on the grill, so you don't end up with dried out chicken waiting on the middle to be done. It also helps make it easier to gauge one serving which is 3-4 ounces rather than a whole chicken breast.

Tequila Lime Chicken

4-5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup honey
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ancho chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt

In a large ziploc freezer bag, combine all ingredients, except chicken. Shake to combine. Add chicken, making sure to distribute marinade over the chicken. Refrigerate about 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium heat. While grill heats, remove chicken from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature about 15 minutes. Spray grill with grilling spray or rub lightly with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Add chicken and grill about 5 minutes on first side. Turn chicken and grill about 5 minutes more until cooked through. If chicken is sticking when you try to turn it the first time, give it another minute or so, it probably just isnt ready. Once cooked through, remove to a plate, cover tightly with foil and let stand for about 10 minutes so juices re-distribute.

Serve as is or use for fajitas, in enchiladas, tacos, chicken rollups or for sandwiches or salads.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Well I'm finally getting around to posting the last of what I made for the Bake Sale a couple of weeks ago. The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook was a great resource for me in preparation for the bake sale. The multitude of simple and quick recipes were what I needed since I had so many different desserts to prepare in a short time. Since we were starting pretty early in the morning, I knew I wanted to do some things that could be breakfast or dessert. This lemon poppy seed bread fits into that category nicely. It works with a cup of coffee for breakfast or serve it as dessert, maybe fancied up a bit with a blueberry coulis or powdered sugar glaze.

As I've said before, quick breads are one of my favorite things. They come together in about 5 minutes and there are so many options. This could also be made into muffins very easily. Don't skip the glaze on this recipe as it really gives the bread a nice pop of lemon and adds some moisture as well. I had to tent my bread for about 10 minutes in the oven to prevent the top from over-cooking. If you use 2 smaller loaf pans instead of 1 large loaf pan to bake this, that probably wouldn't be necessary.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 T poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8" x 4" loaf pan with baking spray. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter and beat about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each until incorporated. Add flour, buttermilk, lemon zest, salt and baking soda, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in poppy seeds.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 40-45 minutes until a skewer or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. It may be necessary to tent with foil for the last 10-15 minutes of baking time if the top is becoming too brown. Cool in pan about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack covered in wax paper to cool completely. Glaze with lemon glaze below. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

3 T lemon juice
1 T sugar

Whisk together until sugar is dissolved. Use a large pastry brush to brush onto bread.

Strawberry Oatmeal Scones

Need a good breakfast or brunch recipe for Mother's Day? These scones come together incredibly quickly and they can even be made in advance and frozen so all you have to do is pop them in the oven the morning you want them. Freeze them and bake them a couple at a time for a small breakfast or make it easy for yourself when you're hosting brunch.

You can easily substitute raspberries, blueberries or blackberries for the strawberries and frozen berries will also work, so use whatever you prefer and whatever is in season. I couldn't resist the fresh strawberries that are everywhere in the grocery stores right now.

Strawberry Oatmeal Scones
Adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Whisk together the egg and buttermilk and set aside. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in a mixing bowl. Add the cold butter pieces and cut in with a pastry blender or your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir with a stiff wooden spoon until just incorporated. Gently mix in the chopped strawberries. The mixture will be very sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour surface and gently knead 8-10 times and press the dough into a disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. Portion the dough into about 12 wedges or balls and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead Note: If you want to make these ahead of time, prepare the dough, scoop into balls and transfer to the prepared pan. Freeze until solid and then wrap with plastic wrap or transfer to a freezer storage bag. Bake directly from freezer, increasing baking time to approximately 22 minutes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

From Invitations to Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Today, I want to introduce a new feature: From Invitations to Dessert. I’m pairing up with Nikki from Doodle Dog, a design shop out of the Dallas area, to bring you monthly blog posts featuring a dessert matched with an invitation. We’ll show you ways to carry your party theme from invitations to dessert, picking up design cues throughout, whether it’s a wedding, company party, a birthday extravaganza or a shower of some sort.

First, let me tell you a little about Nikki and her company. Nikki created Doodle Dog in 2008, and focused primarily on commercial advertising (logo design, web design, etc.) but after many requests to create invitations for parties and weddings, she decided to add that service to the mix. From there, the rest was history; now invitations, announcements and other fun party favors have become a part of her repertoire, and as she says, “I have the dream job, I work with expecting moms, excited brides and party planners on a daily basis and I get to make them smile.” Check out her blog here for more pictures.

We started with the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake. From there, Nikki created an adorable invitation, matching the cupcake colors and tying in the vintage charm that the dessert evokes. Cupcakes work perfectly for a casual wedding; either in place of the cake or packaged as a favor. Replacing cake with cupcakes is a great way to add a unique element to your wedding and save a little money. These particular cupcakes bring a classic flavor that everyone loves. Arrange them on a large cupcake tower or several vintage cake pedestals. Add a small round cake for the bride and groom to cut if you don’t want to forgo the tradition.

The invitation would be perfect for a casual, vintage outdoor wedding and reception. For the invitation, Nikki used a heavy ivory linen stock with a textured chocolate brown backer. The details really make this piece unique and give it a vintage-casual feel. From the playful font, to the unique printed belly band and Love emblem attached to each piece, the invitation is memorable and personal. The whole suite ties together perfectly and helps set the tone for what will be a night to remember with the soft ruffled ivory ribbon and the patterned envelope liner.

neckties: bride and groom: flowers in a bucket: car: barn:

Nikki put together this inspiration board to show you how to pull the look together. Little details are important to carry out the look and feel of a wedding reception. Brown and cream striped silk ties for the groomsmen with khaki suits bring in a more casual feeling than a traditional tux, the classic striped tie works perfectly with the vintage theme. The barn becomes casually elegant when draped ivory curtains and strung with white twinkle lights. Tie wheat sheaths with ivory ribbon or raffia and paint pumpkins ivory for centerpieces for a fall wedding; add cherry blossoms in ivory pails and pale pink or ivory peonies for a spring wedding. Add in the perfect classic car to make a grand exit instead of a limo and your theme is complete from invitation to exit.

Click here to see more pictures on Nikki's site.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
4 eggs
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with liners. Combine the butter and sugar in mixing bowl, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir together vanilla and milk in a measuring cup. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, mix at low speed. Alternate adding flour mixture in 3 parts with ½ of the milk; beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix each addition until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the batter evenly into prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 to ¾ of the way full. Bake about 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
3 T whole milk
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Extra chocolate chips for decoration if desired

Beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the powdered sugar, mixing on low speed, until smooth. Add in the flour and salt and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe frosting on to cooled cupcakes as desired. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top if desired.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cinnamon Crunch Coffee Cake

Mother's Day is coming up quickly... do you know what you are doing for your mom yet? Are you hosting a Mother's Day brunch for your family? Put together a mix of 3-4 savory and sweet breakfast items, brew some coffee and crack open a bottle of champagne for mimosas and brunch is ready to go. The best part about brunch is that most of the recipes can be made in advance. This low maintenance cinnamon crunch coffee cake can be baked the day before and makes a great display on a pretty cake stand.

The cake is baked in a bundt pan and has a ring of cinnamon streusel baked into the middle. It's iced with a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze just poured over the top.

This would be perfect served with an egg and bacon or ham strata, a light, fresh fruit salad (try this one with poppyseed dressing) and add some hashbrowns or home fries to finsh the meal.

I baked this in a bundt pan but if you don't have one, it can also be made in a 9x13 pan, just add all the batter at once and top with the streusel mix instead of adding it to the middle and reduce the baking time by about 10 minutes.

Cinnamon Crunch Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (or spray with baking spray) a bundt pan. Add pecans to a dry skillet and toast over medium-low heat, about 5-6 minutes, tossing frequently. Watch them carefully so you don't burn them, you'll be able to tell when they are done as they will become very fragrant. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and salt. Cut in butter, using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Scoop out 1/2 cup of mixture and set aside. Add baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to remaining mixture.

Beat eggs and add to buttermilk in a large measuring cup. Pour into flour mixture, stir until just mixed. Add half the batter to the bundt pan. Combine remaining flour mixture, toasted pecans and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle over batter. Top with remaining batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes on a wire rack. Cover with cake plate and invert carefully to transfer cake. Cool completely and top with glaze.

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, add powdered sugar, 1/2 the milk or cream, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Add remaining milk or cream as necessary to reach desired consistency. You want a syrup-like consistency that can be poured over the cake without running everywhere.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spicy Shrimp Mango Salad

Whenever the weather warms up, instead of craving pasta and chili, I want grilled chicken and salads and fruit. At least its a good change in my eating habits. As I've said before, frozen shrimp is a great choice for weeknight dinners. It can be thawed very quickly, doesn't require a lot of time to marinate, and cooks in just a few minutes.

Fruit and salads don't belong together in everyone's mind but if you haven't tried it, give it a chance. The sweet and spicy goes great together. This particular salad was one of my favorite seafood dishes, grilled mahi mahi topped with mango salsa. The Caribbean jerk marinade for the shrimp works great in this salad because it has a bit of heat but the marinade is also a little sweet. The marinade looks like a lot of ingredients, but its mostly pantry staples and comes together very quickly.

Spicy Shrimp Mango Salad

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
3 cups baby spinach
1 mango, diced
18-20 medium shrimp, marinaded (see below)
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to pan and cook about 3 minutes, turn over and cook on remaining side 1-2 minutes just until opaque. Remove shrimp to a plate and add reserved marinade, black beans and corn to pan. Cook about 3 minutes until hot and sauce is slightly thickened. Add to shrimp and mango and top with cilantro. Add lettuce and spinach to a large bowl or divide among plates. Top with shrimp mixture and serve. (Add dressing if desired, with the reduced marinade, I didn't need one but I'm not a big dressing person to begin with. A simple honey lime vinaigrette would be perfect.)

(Note: I would also have added some diced jicama to this but my husband is not a fan and I don't use enough of it to buy it just for me but it goes perfectly with this if you like it.)

1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T brown sugar
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 T fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
2 T olive oil
1 T dark rum
1 T orange juice

Mix all ingredients together in a plastic bag or shallow bowl, remove 2 T of marinade and set aside. Add thawed shrimp. For a milder marinade, remove ribs and seeds from jalapeno; to make it spicier, leave the seeds and ribs in. Toss to coat and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pecan Pie Bars

When I was thinking about what to make for the bake sale last weekend, I had a couple of qualifications. I needed to be able to make it in advance and it needed to be easy to transport. In general most bar cookies meet these requirements. I was originally going to make some blondies or brownies but I wanted something that didn't have chocolate in it since I had already made the chocolate-covered Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars and was also making Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. I had a big bag of chopped pecans in the pantry as well, so when I came across this recipe for pecan pie bars in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, I decided to try them.

As is true for most recipes in the BH&G cookbook, this one is easy to prepare and will be in the oven pretty quickly. One thing that will make it much easier is a pastry blender. If you don't already have one, mine looks like this...

A pastry blender is really helpful when making a pie crust or a crumble. You mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and then cut in the cold butter pieces. It allows you to mix the dough without your hands warming the butter so the little pieces remain, which is what helps make the pie crust nice and flaky.

Pecan Pie Bars
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 jellyroll pan with aluminum foil. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to flour mixture. Toss and use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles crumbs the size of peas. Pour mixture into prepared pan and press into a smooth crust. Poke several holes in the crust with tines of a fork. Bake about 18-20 minutes until light golden brown.

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 T unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, beat eggs and add sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pre-baked crust. Return to oven to bake for about 20 minutes until filling is set. Cool on a wire rack until completely cool. Use foil to lift bars out of pan and cut into squares.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Orange Creamsicle Cookies

Sure most people don't ever really get sick of chocolate chip cookies, but I like to experiment and find new things to make. So even though there is no reason to mess with a perfectly good cookie, I decided to add some orange zest to chocolate chip cookie dough.

Then as I was getting the ingredients together, I remembered a recipe I had found in the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. Instead of chocolate chips, it used vanilla chips or white chocolate chips (which are much easier to find around here at least) and combined with the orange zest, makes a cookie reminscent of an orange dreamsicle pop from an ice cream truck. They are just as easy as traditional cookies, but offer something unexpected.

Orange Creamsicle Cookies
Recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, soda, and salt. Stir together and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until well incorporated. Add orange zest and beat to distribute. Stir in chips.

Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon to drop in rounded spoonfuls on cookie sheets, leaving plenty of room between cookies to allow for some spreading. Bake for about 10 minutes until light golden brown. Cool about 1 minute on cookie sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

If you don't know what dulce de leche is, you need to find out... now. Its a dark, thick, creamy, caramel-y sauce made from sweetened condensed milk that takes these cheesecake bars from good to There are methods for making dulce de leche yourself; I've tried it before without success. I've heard about boiling, baking, and even crockpot methods, but it's much easier to do the "buy it in the grocery store" method. You might not be able to find it at every grocery store but most large stores carry it. Try either the baking aisle or the Mexican/International foods aisle (this is where it is at my store) and it comes in a small can like sweetened condensed milk. Make sure it actually says dulce de leche as I've seen the same brand of sweetened condensed milk in the baking aisle but it was just the ordinary stuff.

These cheesecake bars have a classic graham cracker crust, the dulce de leche filling and are topped with a chocolate glaze. They work perfectly baked in a 9x13 pan, a jellyroll or regular baking pan both work well. Make sure you also have a larger pan to put the 9x13 pan inside of so you can bake the cheesecake in a water bath. Baking the bars in a water bath prevents the cheesecake from cracking. Also make sure not to skip lining the pan with foil. This helps with almost any bar cookie; just lift out the whole pan of bars using the foil and it is so much easier to cut and serve.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

1 1/2 cups graham crackers (about 1 package in the Honeymaid box)
3 T sugar
5 T unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil, making sure there is at least an inch overhang on all sides, preferably a couple on both ends. In a food processor, process graham crackers to fine crumbs, add sugar and pulse several times to combine. With processor running, add melted butter and process for about 15-30 seconds more. Press crumbs onto the pan in an even layer. Bake for about 10 minutes and cool in pan on a wire rack.

1/3 cup whole milk (I used skim milk and just replaced a little bit with heavy cream)
12 oz cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 can dulce de leche

Beat softened cream cheese with mixer on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping the bowl after each egg. Add the milk and salt and beat on low until smooth. Add the dulce de leche and beat on low speed until smooth. Pour over the crust and smooth with a rubber spatula. Set pan inside a larger pan and add hot water to the larger pan until water is about half way up the sides of the cheesecake pan.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes until filling is just set. Cool on wire rack for about 2 hours and then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours more.

Chocolate Glaze:
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 T unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tsp light corn syrup

In a large measuring cup, add chocolate pieces, butter and corn syrup. Microwave on low powder for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 20-30 seconds until almost melted. Stir until smooth. Pour glaze over chilled cheesecake, tilt the pan or use an offset spatula to smooth the chocolate up to all the edges. Chill at least 30 minutes more.

Use excess foil to remove the bars from the pan, peel foil off the back, and transfer to a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut into squares and serve.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bake Sale

Tomorrow is the 1st Annual National Food Bloggers Bake Sale, part of the Great American Bake Sale organized by Gaby Dalkin of

Funds raised from the bake sale will benefit Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. All across the country, food bloggers have joined together to host bake sales in more than 25 locations on Saturday, April 17th. To find a location near you, click here to see the list of sites. Tomorrow, I'll be joining Melissa from My McDonald Meal to help with a bake sale in Georgetown, Kentucky at the Georgetown International Kite and Culture Festival at the Cardome Center so if you are in the area, stop by and get some delicious baked goods between 10 am and 2 pm.

For tomorrow's bake sale, I'm making:

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
Orange Creamsicle Cookies
Pecan Pie Bars
Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Cinnamon Crunch Coffee Cake
Homemade Granola
or here
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Check back over the next few days for all the recipes!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dijon Chicken Club Sandwiches

By the time I get home from work, I often don't feel like cooking a big meal. But if I've done some of the prep work in advance, it becomes really easy. This is pretty much my weekday plan. If I didn't do this, we would end up eating out a lot more often, or making frozen pizzas. When ever I grill chicken, I make a couple extra pieces so that I have leftovers for salads or sandwiches during the week. If I'm making a meat sauce for pasta, I like to double the meat and put half of it away to make a pizza or tacos later in the week.

This is really the only way I will eat leftovers. If its the exact same meal again, its probably not going to happen, but as long as I use the leftovers to make a different meal, I'm happy again. This is what saves me during the week because if I can't make it in less than 30 minutes of prep work, it's probably not going to happen. I just don't have the time or the patience.

What's your strategy for quick and easy weeknight cooking?

For these Dijon chicken club sandwiches, I grilled the chicken on Sunday afternoon and wrapped up a couple pieces for sandwiches on Tuesday night. On Sunday, I served the chicken breasts with pasta salad and fruit for a barbecue; on Tuesday when I handed this sandwich to my husband, he had no idea it was really leftovers.

Dijon Chicken Club Sandwiches

4 slices whole wheat bread
2 slices smoked mozzarella cheese
4 slices bacon
2 pieces of Dijon chicken (See below)
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Remove bacon grease and wipe out pan with a paper towel, return pan to stove and reduce heat to medium. Thinly slice chicken breasts against the grain. Lightly butter one side of bread slices, spread mustard on non-buttered side of one piece of bread. Add one slice of cheese, 2 slices of bacon, cut in half, and half the chicken to each. Top with remaining slice of bread and place buttered side down in the skillet. Cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown and flip. Cook about another 3 minutes until cheese is melted and sandwich is golden brown.

Dijon Chicken Marinade

1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T honey
1T lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Combine mustard, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Add spices and stir. Prepare chicken breasts and place in a large plastic storage bag. Pour marinade over the chicken, close bag and shake bag gently and squeeze to evenly coat chicken. Refrigerate one hour. Preheat grill, oil lightly and add chicken over medium heat. Cook 5-6 minutes and turn (if chicken sticks, give it another minute or so), cook about 5 minutes more until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil for about 10 minutes to allow juices to redistribute.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cucumber Tomato Bites

The hardest part of this recipe? Hands down, finding the phyllo cups. They seem to be something that not all grocery stores carry - in fact I had to go to three different stores. I found them at Meijer but I know that I have seen them before at Kroger, but of course not when I'm looking for them. You can find them in the freezer section, look in the area where the pre-made pie crusts, puff pastry, etc. can be found. Once you've found a couple of packages, you're only 10 minutes away from being done.

These would be a great appetizer for a bridal or baby shower, spring party or brunch since they are nice and light. I found this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, she created it as 1 part of a 3 course menu for Breakstone's Triple Churned Challenge. Go vote for her menu (but hurry as tomorrow is the last day) and you have a chance to win $300! Click here to vote!

Cucumber Tomato Bites
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker

1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced
1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
3 T cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat)
2 T lemon juice
2 T chives, finely chopped
2 T parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 packages phyllo cups

Let phyllo cups come to room temperature while you make the filling. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, and lemon juice to a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated to make a dressing. Add the cucumber, tomato and onion and toss with the dressing. Add chives, parsley, salt and pepper and toss to distribute evenly. Spoon the filling into the phyllo cups and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

A sandwich version of an Italian classic. This is perfect for summer when you don't want to heat up your kitchen using the oven or stove. Just put these on the grill and serve them up with a light Caesar salad. This requires very little prep time so it's perfect for a weeknight meal too.

Chicken Parmesan Burgers
Recipe adapted from Elly Says Opa

1 pound ground chicken
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4-6 slices mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup marinara sauce
4-6 hamburger buns
1 T butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Transfer ground chicken to a large bowl, add bread crumbs, egg, parsley, Parmesan and minced garlic. Work together until add-ins are distributed but do not over work. I find its easiest to mix with my hands. Divide the meat into 4 - 6 equal pieces, depending on how big you want the burgers to be. Form into patties, making a slight indentation in the centers so when they plump up the burgers will be even. Transfer to a plate and set in the freezer for about 15 minutes while the grill preheats. (If you are in a hurry, you can skip this step, but I think it helps the patties hold together better and not get misshapen when transferred to the grill.) Preheat the grill and grease lightly with oil (I like to use Pam for Grilling).

Grill burgers for about 6-8 minutes per side until cooked through. Add cheese slices for the last minute or so of cooking to melt. Meanwhile, spread buns with butter and sprinkle with garlic powder. Toast lightly on the grill. Assemble burgers and top each with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes.

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