Sunday, June 29, 2008

Week 58 Menu

Monday - my version of rolled pizza, inspired by this recipe & Herb Green Beans
Tuesday - Unbelievable chicken & Balsamic Grilled Vegetables
Wednesday - undecided
Thursday - creamy rosemary chicken & pasta
Friday - Happy 4th of July! BBQ for dinner
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - fresh pasta w/ lemon cream sauce???

Monday, June 23, 2008

Chicken Piccata

This recipe for Chicken Piccata is inspired by a recipe from a friend of mine. I really wanted to use the McCormick Crusting Blends again, so I modified the original recipe a bit. If you don't want to use the Crusting Blends, then I recommend following Cynthia's recipe - found here, on her blog.

I served this wonderful chicken with some simple couscous. If you have never tried couscous, give it a shot! It's so quick and easy to prepare, you really have no excuse. Don't believe me? Here are the directions:
1. boil water (I used chicken broth instead)
2. stir in couscous; cover
3. remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes
4. fluff with fork & serve

See, I told you! My 6 year old even loved it. We called it "tiny rice" and he gobbled it up.

Chicken Piccata
serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup (or so) McCormick Crusting Blends (Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary flavor)
3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
2 lemons (slice one, juice the other to make 2 Tbsp juice)
1/2 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp drained capers (optional)
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place a chicken breast in a ziplock bag, or between two layers of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet (or other heavy object like a rolling pin) pound the chicken breast to thin it and flatten it. [click here to link to instructional video on pounding chicken] Repeat for each chicken breast.

Following the instructions on the McCormick Crusting Blends, brush each chicken breast with a bit of oil, coat with seasonings and bake in a 425 oven for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through and juices run clear. (The cooking time will vary depending on how thin you pound your chicken breasts.)

While chicken is baking, prepare the sauce:

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, saute minced garlic in 1/4 tsp olive oil for 15 seconds or so. Add 1 cup chicken broth and let simmer for 3-4 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water. Add to skillet, along with the lemon slices, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and capers. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes, until sauce thickens a bit. Add butter and remove pan from heat. Stir until butter melts.

Remove chicken from oven, arrange on a serving dish and top with yummy lemon sauce (including pretty lemon slices!) Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fuel-Up Fun Bars

I'm a fan of quick, kid-friendly treats. I noticed this recipe on the back of a package of Peanut Butter Cookie Mix. They're called Fuel-Up Fun Bars and they didn't last long at our house. We even shared two with the neighbor's kids and they came back the next day, not asking to play, but asking for more cookie bars.

At first I thought that the addition of crushed granola bars in this recipe was strange, but they add a wonderful crunchy dryness to the cookie part of the bar. Also, I wouldn't skip the mini M&Ms - I can't imagine these treats without them.

I couldn't find a link to this recipe on the Betty Crocker website, so I'll type it up here since I'm not sure how long they'll be printing it on the back of their Peanut Butter Cookie Mix Packages.

Fuel-Up Fun Bars

1 pouch Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg called for on cookie mix pouch
**6 Nature Valley pecan crunch or oats n' honey crunchy granola bars, finely crushed
1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/2 cup miniature candy-coated chocolate baking bits

Heat oven to 350. Spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, water, oil, egg and crushed granola bars until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.

Immedately sprinkle chocolate chips over bars. [I placed bars back in oven for 1 minute at this point.] Let stand 2 minutes to soften chocolate; spread chocolate over bars. Sprinkle with baking bits. Refrigerate about 30 minutes until chocoalte is set. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Makes 24 bars.

**6 granola bars = 3 packages from a 8.9-oz box, since there are two bars in each package. To crush granola bars, I placed two at a time in a ziplock bag and wacked it with my rolling pin. You'll get smaller bits if you're currently feeling any frustration or aggression. Go ahead and take it all out on the helpless little granola bars. Or - you could get your child to help you with this step.

Week 57 Menu

Monday - Chicken Parmesan & spaghetti
Tuesday - Caesar Club Sandwiches & fresh veggies w/ dip
Wednesday - Slow-Cooked Steak Fajitas
Thursday - grilled chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo
Friday - eat out
Saturday - grilled steaks & green salad
Sunday - Swedish Meatballs & green beans

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Orzo Salad

I saw this recipe on tv the other day and I thought it would be a great summer dish. I have never had a orzo recipe that I really liked and I had hope for this one. I did make a few changes from the original recipe, so here's my version. It's basically the same, but I used pork sausage instead of turkey, I used roasted red peppers from a jar, and substituted a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes for the fresh plum tomatoes (because of the salmonella scare here last week.) I do think the fresh tomatoes would be much better though. Oh, and I couldn't find ricotta salata cheese to crumble on top, but I had some crumbled feta that worked fine and added a nice saltiness to the finished dish.

If you've never tried orzo, it is a tiny pasta that is just bigger than rice. It cooks up fast, so if you like your pasta al dente, then keep your eye on it. It will get soft quickly.

We really did like this orzo dish, and next time I think I'll even try it without the sausage and with a few more veggies possibly. One of the appealing aspects of this dish, is how pretty it is when finished- with the red peppers, green parsley and lovely white crumbled cheese.

Orzo Salad
6 servings

1 jar roasted red peppers (packed in oil), chopped
1 lb orzo pasta
2 cans (14.5 oz) chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (or crumbled feta cheese)

In a large skillet, cook sausage. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped roasted red peppers, tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Cook until heated through, 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth, water and salt to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8-10 minutes. **stir it often so it doesn't stick.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the sausage mixture, 1 Tablespoon of the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine all ingredients, adding reserved cooking liquid, if needed to loosen the pasta. Top with the ricotta salata (or feta) and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve.

A Tasty New Find

Occasionally I enjoy stopping on the spice aisle of my favorite grocery store and taking a closer look. There are all sorts of spice mixes and interesting products to try out. On my last visit, I spotted these: McCormick Crusting Blends. There were 3 varieties on the shelf and I chose the Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary Blend. I loved that the (very simple) instructions for use were right on the lid of the container.

I used plain ol' boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and followed the instructions exactly as they are written and the chicken was delicious!

I think next time I'd like to try the Italian Herb & Cheese Blend and serve it either over fettuccine alfredo, or with a marinara sauce for an easy Chicken Parmesan. If you'd like more information, here's the link to the McCormick website. Also, here is a link to some recipes using the Crusting Blends.

Week 56 Menu

Monday - Grilled Chicken & Orzo w/Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes
Tuesday - Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta
Wednesday - Tater Tot Casserole
Thursday - Chicken Piccata
Friday - BBQ (burgers)
Saturday - eat out
Sunday -Baked French Toast

Monday, June 9, 2008

Week 55 Menu

Monday - Baked Creamy Spaghetti (new recipe)
Tuesday - Pizza
Wednesday - Sweet & Sour Meatballs (crockpot version)
Thursday - out??
Friday - Unbelievable chicken (grilled) & Orzo salad
Saturday - Bacon Wrapped hamburgers
Sunday - Tuscan Chicken (crockpot)