Sunday, September 23, 2012

Poppy Seed Chicken

Now that school's back in full swing and the ensuing craziness of schedules has begun, I love having meals on the menu that are simple.  But sometimes simple tastes simple.  But this easy dish is not one of those.  The sour cream, plain yogurt, and cream of chicken create a delicious base for the chicken but the extra wow is the crushed Ritz and poppyseeds.  I think I may even double the Ritz the next time I make it as it adds a nice saltiness to it.  

You cook this in a 9x13 pan and then serve over rice.  I'll write the recipe as written and then give my tips of how I make it a little healhier.  

Poppy Seed Chicken from Michelle S.

4 chicken breasts
1 small container of plain yogurt (about 8 oz)
1/2 bag Ritz crackers (approx 15 crackers)
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 cube of butter
poppy seeds

Boil chicken with 3-4 chicken bouillon cubes.  Cube chicken and put in a 9x13 casserole dish.  Mix soup, yogurt, and sour cream together and season well with salt and pepper.  Add a little milk to make it thinner if desired (I always do).  Pour over chicken.  Crush Ritz crackers and mix with 1/2 cube butter (1/4 C). Put on top of soup mixture.  Sprinkle generously with poppy seeds.  Heat 30-40 minutes.   Serve over rice.  

Tips:  Save the chicken stock after cooking the chicken and then use that in place of water when cooking the rice. I use plain greek yogurt.  I also reduce the butter to 1/4 a cube of butter.  I think I may try using the whole package of Ritz crackers next time as we loved the flavor when  you got a bite of it.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moist, Delicious Zucchini Bread

If you're looking for ways to use up the last of your zucchini--look no further.  I don't actually grow a garden so hopefully I haven't missed the zucchini harvest by too far?!?  My sweet neighbor gave me a huge zucchini and I was so excited to use it for this recipe.  It could quite possibly be our favorite bread ever.  The zucchini makes it incredibly moist and the cinnamon makes for such a flavorful addition.  I like to healthy-it-up by using some wheat flour and applesauce in lieu of oil.  Whenever I make this it rarely makes it to the second day as everyone gobbles it up! But the directions say this freezes well and can refrigerate for days.

Zucchini Bread adapted from Allrecipes

3 cups all-purpose flour (I use 2 C wheat; 1 C white)
1 teaspoon salt
1 T baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 T ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (I use 1/2 C  applesauce; 1/2 C oil)
2 1/4 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (opt)

Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Homemade Buttery Soft Pretzels

My daughter is always begging to buy the frozen pretzels whenever they sample them at Costco.  I think they taste dry and bland so I never acquiesce.  But I told her we could make our own homemade pretzels as one of our activities this summer.  We have a calendar all made out where we assign one fun thing to do each day if they finish their chores before 10am.  I couldn't believe how excited she was when she saw pretzels on the calendar for the day.  

I was kind of indifferent about them--but OH BOY how wrong I was.  These are AMAZING!  Seriously.  I've always loved when we can grab a pretzel from Auntie Ann's at the mall.  But I'll never buy them again.  These taste exactly like they came from those yummy pretzels stands--but even better!  And SOOO much cheaper.  And my kiddos loved helping shape the pretzels--double bonus.  They are buttery and soft on the inside and so addicting.  We loved them hot and fresh out of the oven with the kosher salt and butter on them.  My kiddos preferred the cinnamon and sugar coating.  My husband usually prefers chocolate but even he gushed over these.  So much so that we made them again a couple of days later.  And on the second batch we both decided that we loved it with both toppings.  Make sure you don't skip the soda bath part--it's what makes the pretzel!  You won't be able to tell a difference between the pretzels you buy at the mall and this recipe.  Trust me!

Buttery Soft Pretzels from Allrecipes

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

Brush with butter after taking out of oven.  Dip in cinnamon & sugar if desired (but eliminate kosher salt step if doing this). 

Amount Per Serving  Calories: 237 | Total Fat: 1.7g | Cholesterol: 0mg

Friday, July 27, 2012

Barbecue Turkey Burgers

Looking for something new to throw on the barbecue? Here's a nice, lighter twist on a hamburger.  The ground turkey is combined with some flavorful spices like garlic powder, chili powder, and salt. It all pairs really well with the BBQ sauce spread on the bun that the recipe calls for.  My kiddos all gobbled this up--even my baby (well....not so baby at 18 months).  Sometimes I have a hard time eating a "healthy" version of something when you're comparing it to the original.  But that's what makes this recipe so great with the use of bbq sauce over ketchup as the condiment.  It was a unique, flavorful, yummy version of a hamburger.  

Barbecue Turkey Burgers from "The Best of Cooking Light: Everyday Favorites" 

1/4 C chopped onion
1/4 C barbecue sauce, divided
2 T dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp prepared mustard
3/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb ground turkey
Cooking spray

1. Combine onion, 2 T bbq sauce, breadcrumbs, and next 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Divide turkey mixture into 4 equal portions (I did 6).  Shape into hamburger patties.
2. Heat a grill pan (or barbecue) over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Place patties in pan; cook 7 minutes on each side or until done.
3. Place 1 lettuce leave, 1 tomato slice, and 1 patty on bottom half of hamburger bun.  Spread each patty with 1 1/2 teaspoon barbecue sauce.  Cover with top halves of bun. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

These are seriously so FANTASTIC!  My friend brought these over to share during a lunch date.  I could not get over the flavor!  So I had to immediately make them for my family.  The chicken is tender and moist as it's been sitting in the crockpot slow-cooking all day long.  And the salsa combined with the brown sugar is just the perfect amount of sweet to offset the tang of the salsa.  I took these to my parents to share on Monday and they agreed that they were amazingly delicious.  This will definitely be a staple on our menu!   I think they taste best paired with the uncooked tortillas (like you get at Costco) that you cook at home.  And the black beans are an amazingly compliment to the flavor of the meat.  Oh, and did I mention how easy it is??? You know that gets extra marks at our house!

Don't mind that crazy black bean that escaped just as I was taking the photo
Crockpot Chicken Tacos from Fantastic Family Favorites 

3 lbs. frozen chicken breasts
1 24oz jar salsa
2 cups brown sugar

1. Place the frozen chicken breasts into the slow cooker. Pour half the jar of salsa over the chicken. Sprinkle 1 cup brown sugar on top. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.
2. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and discard the liquid. Shred chicken and place back in slow cooker.
3. Cover chicken with remaining salsa and brown sugar. Cook on low 1 hour, then stir the chicken to coat the meat. Cook on low for 1 more hour.

Top with your favorite taco toppings--cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, etc.

Tips:  When my friend made hers she just used equal parts salsa and brown sugar on hers.  She didn't do the draining part and adding more salsa and brown sugar.  I, however, followed this recipe without draining it.  The meat seemed dry after I shred it so I added more brown sugar and salsa.  However, it was a little too juicy (dripping all over your hands) when eating the taco.  So.....the moral is---follow it exactly or just cook in 1 C salsa and 1 C brown sugar , shred, and return to former juices.  Are you thoroughly confused??? If so, leave me a comment :).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

You know when you have to fill out those "Get to Know You" questionnaires every so often?  And when it asks your favorite dessert? I can never think of one on the spot like that. My absolute favorite dessert?  The one that I could eat every day of the year if that was even possible.  With so many delicious front runners how's a girl to decide?  Well---after making this dessert I am reminded that Strawberry Shortcake is the answer.  Always.  And what a perfect, fresh summer dessert.  

I am a little unusual in that I don't like mine made with angel food cake.  I LOVE it made with a nice white or yellow cake.  And it must be topped with homemade whipped cream.  Must. (Sorry to all those Cool Whip lovers out there) 

So the other night I had a pint of strawberries that needed to be used and on a whim decided to whip up Strawberry shortcake.  I went in search and found a moist, decadent,flavorful white cake that I will use from here on out to make this dessert.  It complemented the strawberries and whip cream perfectly.  It was slightly dense with just the right amount of buttery richness.   My mouth is salivating just remembering it.  And it was super simple to throw together as it's one of those recipes for which you likely have all the ingredients on hand already. 

Strawberry Shortcake Cake from Allrecipes

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2.  In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
3.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.
4.  Top with fresh cut strawberries and whipped cream

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oh-So-Addicting No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

How's that for a name?  I just had to add "addicting" in the title because....well....they are.  I saw a recipe on Pinterest for some amazing no bake cornflake PB cookies.  It only had four ingredients--I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about (sugar, corn syrup, peanut butter, and cornflakes).  We liked it okay.  I felt like it was lacking some depth.  So I went on a hunt and found many variations on that recipe.  I combined a few to come up with my own version that wasn't quite so overwhelmingly peanut butter-y.  Don't get me wrong--peanut butter is still a strong player in this version.  It just doesn't taste like it's the only ingredient like the other recipe did.  And I think the added ingredients do add more depth to the flavors.  Let me know what you think if you've tried the other version.

And as sidenote--I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  I kind of have an addiction to mini Reeses PB cups.  But this was one recipe that I felt would be perfectly delicious without the chocolate.  My daughter doesn't love chocolate (gasp) and so I made a few chocolate-free for her and found myself drawn to those more than the chocolate covered ones.  But no one can deny the chocolate ones look prettier, right?
"No Bake Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies" adapted from

1 C white sugar
1 C corn syrup
1/4 C butter
2 C creamy peanut butter (much better than chunky)
6-7 C corn flakes
1 T vanilla
Dash of salt

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a pan on the stove top.  Bring to a boil stirring often.  Remove from heat and add vanilla, peanut butter, salt, and peanut butter.  Stir until smooth and pour over cornflakes.  Use a cookie scoop to form cookies and place on wax paper.  Can melt chocolate and drizzle over cookies or eat them plain.

Tips:  I read online that someone liked using frosted flakes instead of corn flakes.  They said it gave more crunch and that extra hint of sweetness against the peanut butter.  I'm thinking I'll try that next time.