Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chicken Spectacular

Neither of my kids are napping today like they were supposed to, so this is going to be really short. Years ago when I was doing Weight Watchers I stumbled across a WW recipe website that had a ton of great recipes on it. This was one I printed off, and we've loved it ever since. It's one of my most favorite casserole recipes. Have I mentioned I'm on a casserole and crockpot kick lately? I don't know why, maybe because dinner time has been so crazy lately I want something easy in an effort to make things slightly calmer. Anyway, I had originally planned on roasting a chicken on Thursday night (the baby's birthday) and then using the leftover chicken meat to make this casserole tomorrow night. But, I got too excited at the idea of having this casserole because we haven't had it in forever, so I changed it around and just cooked up some chicken breasts to use for it.

Chicken Spectacular

By the way, it's 8 points per serving. I have a hard time sticking to just one serving though. ;)

Rick Bayless Salsa Mac and Cheese

The husband is obsessed with the NCAA 2010 college football game for the Xbox, so the other night while he was playing it I decided to dig around on the Rick Bayless website and see what I could find. There were some very tasty sounding recipes I came across and emailed to myself. This was one I wanted to try as soon as I possibly could. I had wanted to make Quick and Easy Mexican Chicken because we hadn't had it in a long time, and it's so tasty and easy. I figured since this would have some of the same flavors as the chicken, it would be a decent pairing.

Chef Rick Bayless' Salsa Mac and Cheese
Recipe from Season 7 of Mexico - One Plate at a Time

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa or your favorite salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 pound dried pasta (though elbow macaroni will do, I suggest you try cork-screw cavatappi or the spiral rotini or fusilli)

Pour 4 quarts of water into a large pot, cover and set over high heat.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes. (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.) Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Taste and season generously with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cover to keep warm until the pasta is done.

When the water has come to a boil, add the dried pasta. Stir well to keep the pasta from sticking together and boil until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and add the pasta to the sauce. Stir until all the pasta is covered in the salsa cheese sauce. You’re ready to dig in.


I've mentioned before the difficulties I have making a roux, but I have to say a butter roux versus an oil roux is so much easier! Or maybe I'm just getting better at them. Hard to say. I didn't want to mess with making my own salsa, so I bought some fire roasted tomato salsa instead. I also cut the recipe in half. This was tasty, but I used reduced fat cheese, which I think was a mistake. It would have been better with regular cheese I think, and I think mine had a bit too much salsa. We all really liked it--especially the baby! He'd literally scream when he didn't have any left on his tray. I'll definitely make this again. Oh, Rick Bayless, how I heart you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crockpot Deviled Chicken

Okay, if I'm going to follow this new format I decided on--to post after the fact instead of before--I need to either post right away the next day or at the very least keep my meal plan from the prior week so I can remember what exactly it was that we had. I checked my "Cooking Blog" photo folder, and this was the only new thing in there. I just uploaded pics, so I know there aren't any on the camera that I just forgot to upload. Well, that's not entirely true because I did take pics of last night's dinner that need to get uploaded. Anyway, I guess we had all repeat dinners last week and that's why I didn't take any pictures. I swear before I had kids I had a fantastic memory, but if you have kids you're familiar with both "pregnancy brain" and "mommy brain." I don't know how that woman with 19 kids does it...I'm pretty sure if I had that many kids I'd be walking around with my mouth hanging open and a dazed look on my face.

I don't even remember how I decided to make this. I think I had slated chicken of some sort but wasn't really excited about the recipe I had chosen, so I went to to find something different. Or maybe I just wanted something that could go in the crockpot. Regardless, I searched for crockpot recipes that had chicken. I had everything on hand for this one, and it sounded pretty good...and I had enough time for it to cook!

Crockpot Deviled Chicken
RecipeZaar Recipe #41882

3 lbs skinless chicken breasts or skinless chicken legs or skinless chicken thighs
2-4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup prepared mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon curry powder

Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine all remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook for 4 to 6 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low.


I didn't change it around a whole lot. I used chicken drumsticks because I had some in the freezer that needed to be used soon. I used dijon mustard instead of regular, and I went kind of easy on the curry powder because the husband doesn't like curry. So hopefully he doesn't read this and find out there was curry in it. I also went easy on the butter to make it slightly healthier.

This was really tasty, and it was so easy to throw together--especially since all the sauce ingredients are things I always have on hand. A lot of the comments on the recipe said they thickened the sauce and poured it over the chicken, but I didn't bother. They also served it over rice or noodles, but no one in my family is really a rice fan, so I skipped it. Plus I think I was out of rice anyway. I remember why I ended up making this. I was going to make a Rick Bayless dish with chicken, rice, and beans, but I didn't have enough rice. See? If I can get some kind of trigger I'm much better at remembering! We had some leftover roasted butternut squash and a frozen peas/carrots blend as side dishes.

This is definitely something I'd make again. We all really liked it, although I think I would maybe cut back on the honey. I didn't measure it so it's entirely possible my estimate of half a cup was actually more than that. It was just a little bit on the sweet side, so I think I'd cut back the honey (or measure it) and be a bit more generous with the curry powder.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hello? (tap, tap) Is this thing on?

Yeah, yeah, I'm still here. We had the baby's birthday party this past weekend, so most of my time last week was spent cleaning house and getting all ready for that. I think most of what I made were things I've posted already, so you really haven't missed out on anything. I did make a yummy last minute chicken drumstick recipe in the crockpot one night (so it really wasn't that last minute since I had time to do it in the crockpot), and I don't remember other than that right now what else we had. I'm pretty excited for what's coming this week, and I'll try to be better about posting the day after I make something.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pioneer Woman Comes to Phoenix!!

As you may know, I really, really, really, really, really heart The Pioneer Woman. She recently published a cookbook and is going on a book tour. My friend Jen B. and I were beyond excited to find out that Phoenix was one of her stops. The signing was at a local independent book store. I called a couple weeks ahead of time to order our books so we could be in one of the first groups and be assured a seat for the Q&A portion.

We had dinner at a restaurant connected to the book store and then headed over to get in our spot in line an hour before the event was to start...only to find out that our tickets really meant nothing because at the last minute they had changed to giving seats in order of people in line, not the letter group on our tickets (which, by the way, we were in the B group and pretty darn excited about it). We filed through the store and got to the seating area to find that pretty much every seat was taken. Thankfully Jen is pregnant with twins, and she loves to play the pregnancy card whenever given the chance (honestly, when I was pregnant, so did I). She's only around 21 weeks, but since it's twins she looks a lot further along. She quickly found a store employee and said, "Hey, I'm eight months pregnant, there is no way I can stand this whole time. I need two seats." Said employee immediately began looking for seats for us and found two--in the third row! Awesome. Way to go Jen!! We felt pretty good about the somewhat con she had pulled, but it was only a partial lie since she is pregnant, just not as far along as she said.

The event was PACKED. I couldn't believe how many people were there. At 7:00 PW came out and was just as funny in person as she is on her website. She joked about wearing Spanx and said that as a blogger she wasn't really comfortable talking in front of people, so why didn't we ask her questions. Some of them were kind of lame. Jen got one in and asked why she doesn't ever use a slow cooker. The best question, however, was from a little girl who was probably about the same age as the boy. She said really loudly, "Hey Ree?" and PW said, "Yes, honey?" and the girl asked if she had elephants. PW (and the entire audience) laughed, and said she never knew until that moment that her life was missing an elephant. It was so sweet.

Following the Q&A session was the book signing. Honestly I thought we were going to be there most of the night. The signing was done by letter group, but between A and B they had anyone with kids under the age of four go so that they could get home. Jen and I were almost wishing we had taken our little bobos so we could get in line we figured since our three year olds would probably be atrocious, everyone would have let us go to the front of the line. We did play Jen's pregnancy card one more time to get in at the back of the kids line as other preggos had been told they could join that group. It didn't make a whole lot of difference because the woman in line behind us was the start of B group.

PW was so nice in person. We obviously didn't get a whole lot of time to chat with her as there were so many people, but we did get our pictures taken with her. I also asked a question I didn't have a chance to during the Q&A. She's posted a few recipes from a binder of recipes she "borrowed" from her mom. They've been fantastic, so I asked if she still had the binder and would be posting more recipes from it. She said she had given it back but did keep some recipes from it.

It was such a fun night and so great to see that PW is really as fun and laidback in person as she comes across on her website.

PW at the podium

Jen chatting it up with PW about being pregnant with twins (or at least I think that's what they were talking about)

Jen and PW

Me and PW

Barefoot Contessa's Caramelized Butternut Squash

This past week Barefoot Bloggers had a Bonus Recipe Challenge (BRC) where five recipes were posted that were optional to try throughout the week. One of them I'd made before--Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars--and didn't have all the ingredients on hand to make them. There was a Potato Leek Soup I thought about making, but my friend Jen B. had made it before and wasn't impressed, so I figured it wasn't worth it. There was a chicken chili recipe that sounded good, but I already had minestrone slated for one night during the week and thought two soups might be overkill. We've been on a big butternut squash kick lately, so I thought this one sounded perfect!

Caramelized Butternut Squash
1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved

2 medium butternut squash (4 to 5 pounds total)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off and discard the ends of each butternut squash. Peel the squash, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. With clean hands, toss all the ingredients together and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to caramelize. While roasting, turn the squash a few times with a spatula, to be sure it browns evenly. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.


I only used one squash, and it was plenty for a side dish for my family. This was REALLY tasty!! The husband loved it, I think butternut squash is his new favorite food. The boy didn't really eat a whole lot of it, but the baby liked it too. This was such an easy way to make a tasty and pretty healthy side dish. I actually went to Trader Joe's again and bought two more squash. I think I may use one of them to make this again sometime this coming was that tasty!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vegetable Parmesan

I wanted to get some vegetarian recipes on the menu plan this week that we hadn't had in awhile or ones that were new to us. So, when I need ideas like that I go check my friend Jen B's blog. I used her vegetarian tag to come up with some ideas. This sounded yummy, and I had recently purchased the bag of grilled eggplant and zucchini from Trader Joe's. Perfect!

Jen B's Vegetable Parmesan

Cooking spray
2 large portobello mushroom caps, whole but stems and gills removed
1 bag of Trader Joe's marinaded grilled eggplant and zucchini (frozen)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of marinara sauce
6 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup of shredded Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean mushroom caps with damp paper towel, then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oiled grill pan over medium high heat. Grill mushrooms until tender, about 2-4 minutes per side. Grill marks should be present. Place mushrooms in a greased large 9 x 13 casserole dish, cup side up. Cook Trader Joe's eggplant/zucchini according to package directions. Once cooked, place in casserole dish with mushrooms. Sprinkle minced garlic over all the vegetables. Sprinkle all of Pecorino Romano cheese and half of the mozzarella over the vegetables. Spoon marinara sauce over veggies, making sure to spread evenly. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese melts and is golden and bubbly.


For whatever reason I really didn't feel like making this on Monday (oh yeah...I felt a cold coming on and the idea of cooking anything really didn't appeal to me), but I went with it anyway because I knew it would be easy. Man alive I was glad I did because this was awesome!!!!! I ended up slicing up my mushrooms after grilling them so they'd be a bit more spread out through the dish.

The husband, baby, and I absolutely loved this. The baby had three helpings!!! He was quite a sight by the time he was done...I thought I'd document it for you all. Sorry for the blur, I only had my phone with which to take a picture and the shutter speed on that camera is less than stellar.

(Actually this was only partway through dinner...his was face was even messier by the time he finished his thirds!)

This is definitely something I'll make again. It was so simple to throw together, and so incredibly tasty. I love those grilled TJ's veggies--I've been pleased with them everytime I've used them. And it's so much faster than grilling (and buying and slicing and seasoning) my own.