I have talked about leftovers in previous posts and how much I used to despise them. However, I think now is about time that I correct that statement…I never HAD to eat them so why would I prefer leftovers to a fresh meal? This outlook all changed when I started living on my own and cooking for myself. In the interest of saving money on groceries, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to afford just giving everything I make away to roommates and anyone else who is around, not to mention how different of schedules we all have that change on a nightly basis. So from these year of living on my own I have come to see leftovers in a whole new light, and with a much different approach…revamp the food, don’t simply eat it the same way you did when it was fresh. Of course the food will not taste as good the next day if you are expecting the freshness of when it was first made.
So one night I found myself with some leftover chicken that I had cooked as a whole chicken a couple nights previously (or if you have leftover rotisserie chicken from the grocery store) and happen to have looked through a recent issue of Cooking Light where there was an enchilada casserole and decided to use that chicken to mimic that enchilada casserole for dinner. Let me tell you, it turned out better than I could have imagined. I happen to have a can of fire roasted tomatoes on the shelf and that really took this dinner over the edge.
Leftover Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 3/4 cup shredded leftover chicken
- 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tbl chili powder
- 1/4 cup frozen corn kernles
- 3-4 corn tortillas cut into thin strips
- 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 individual serving dishes (or a small casserole dish)
- in a small bowl mix the chicken, corn, sour cream, and chili powder.
- preheat oven to 350 degrees
- pour a layer of the fire roasted tomatoes at the botton of each baking dish or in the bottom of the casserole dish
- place a spoonful of the chicken mixture on top of the the tomatoes, then top with tortilla strips
- continue layering until you reach the top of the dish, top with shredded cheese
- bake for about 15 minutes or until all the cheese is melted. ENJOY!
Who knows where cravings come from but somehow a simple thought about a certain food can distract you so much from your day that you simply can’t do anything until you satisfy that craving. Easy ones tend to fall into the simple categories of needing something sweet or salty, they aren’t specific enough to really throw you a for a loop. This is precisely what happened to me one day while I had to sit through another two hours of work when I was hit with this idea for a spicy chipotle cream sauce over penne pasta with sliced bell peppers. Let me just tell you those two hours dragged on and felt like two days. Which was precisely how long in real life that I had to wait to actually fulfill this craving and create this recipe.
I actually got the idea from a dinner I attended last summer where one of the options to order was a vegetarian penne pasta with a spicy cream sauce. I did not actually order this dish but I tried it and good god it was spicy. It lived up to the name for sure but something about the creamy sauce over pasta inspired me and paired with the wonderful slow burn of chipotle peppers I knew I had to try to recreate this dish…just with a little less spice to it.
This chipotle craving lasted a few recipes which was actually convenient because I didn’t use nearly the whole can of chipotle peppers and luckily it didn’t have to go to waste due to this craving. (see chipotle turkey meatball post)
Penne Pasta with Sauteed Chicken Breast Topped with Chipotle Cream Sauce
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 3/4 package of penne pasta (I personally like whole wheat)
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 4 or 5 sweet bell peppers (or 1 large bell pepper) sliced into thin slices
- 1 can chipotle chiles in adobo
- 8 oz heavy cream
- 4 tbl chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- olive oil
- 1 tbl chili powder
- 1 tbl paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium pot boil water for pasta and cook according to package
- season each chicken breast with salt and pepper, chili powder, and paprika
- in a nonstick pan add 2 tbl olive oil, when hot add chicken breast. Cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes on each side to brown then lower heat, add chicken broth and cover. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until done.
- While chicken is cooking chop about 3 chipotle peppers into small pieces. When chicken is done remove from pan. Add chopped chipotle peppers, heavy cream, 2 tbl adobo sauce, and sliced bell peppers. Simmer over low head until reduced until thickened to taste. (make sure you test spicyness, the more adobo the spicier it will be. if too spicy add chicken broth and simmer again, if not spicy enough add more adobo)
- Slice chicken into strips, arrange pasta into a bowl or on a plate. Top with sliced chicken, Chipotle sauce to taste, and chopped parsley. ENJOY!
I have one suggestion for all you cooks out there…sometimes the best times you will have are in the kitchen, but those times get exponentially better if you share them with friends who love to cook and appreciate food. This particular meal was created with a few friends where I know no matter how long it has been it will be nothing but laughs, good food, and fun. It happened to be right after christmas and luckily Shelly got a few new cookbooks to add to her collection that we couldn’t wait to break in.
The three of us met two summers ago when we worked together all summer long, and in due time, our love affair with food and with each others’ company could not be stopped. With nothing on our plate that summer but work, we were left with many hours to spend together and think about what we wanted to make that night. That summer, im sure they knew each of our names at Trader Joes, as we were there at least every other day im sure. But obsession with Trader Joes was a small price to pay for the delicious meals we created. We would create theme type nights where we would figure out a meal of a certain cuisine and carry that theme through from entree to side dish to dessert and of course drinks. Each meal upped the ante and we never ceased to amaze ourselves with what we created and the amount of laughs we shared together.
Although we sadly do not live is such close quarters and work so much together to this day, it is a given that when we do get to see each other a meal will be cooked and shared and devoured. So with that said, again it is probably my biggest suggestion to all that they find friends who appreciate food and appreciate friendship as much as they do, it will make each cooking adventure unforgettable.
Chicken Breast with Lemon Parsley Topping
Ingredients (Serves 4-5)
- 4 chicken breast halves
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 4 tbl olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1/2 c white wine
- 1/2 c chicken broth
- 1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- zest of 1 lemon
- Juice from 1 lemon
- salt and pepper each chicken breast to taste, place flour on a clean plate and dredge each side in the flour.
- heat oil in cast iron skillet (if you have one) over medium heat otherwise just a big pan of your choice. place chicken in pan and sear each side for about 4 minutes each. Remove from pan and place on plate
- Add garlic to pan and cook about 1 minute or until fragrant
- Add the chicken broth, white wine, and lemon juice to pan. Replace chicken into pan and cook an additional 10 minutes or so, (until done)
- While chicken is cooking, chop parsley and zest lemon. mix together and set aside.
- when chicken is done, place on a plate. turn up the heat of the pan and cook, scrapping the sides of the pan, until liquid has reduced by half. Pour liquid over the chicken.
- top the chicken with the parsley topping. ENJOY!
Oven Roasted Dijon, Rosemary Breadcrumb Crusted Potato Slices
- 4 medium sized potatoes
- 2 tbl dijon mustard
- 3/4 c plain breadcrumbs
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 tbl chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 tbl olive oil
- 2 egg whites
- preheat oven to 350 degrees
- boil salted water, enough to cover all potatoes
- add potatoes whole, cook about 20 minutes (until soft but not cooked through)
- place potatoes in fridge and cook for 2-3 hours, until cool all the way through
- once the potatoes are cooled, slice each potato lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick
- in a small pan, add oil, garlic, rosemary and saute until fragrant (about 2-3 minutes)
- add mustard to pan, lower heat and continue cooking until melted
- turn off heat and add breadcrumbs, mix well.
- whip egg white until just foamy. Brush one side of potatoes with egg wash, top with breadcrumb mixture and press onto slices.
- flip each potato slice and repeat with egg wash and breadcrumbs
- place in oven and cook for 12 minutes, flip each slice and continue cooking 8 minutes. ENJOY!
The finished project!
So long as you are not vegetarian most people cannot deny a good meat and potatoes kind of dinner. Now, this dinner did not include a hunk ok red meat, practically still bleeding when plopped down, and good ‘ol mashed po’s in the side. I have always loved mashed potatoes, especially ones that include a heart healthy amount of garlic, but recently I have become all too fond of scalloped potatoes. Somehow, they seem a little more elegant and just as delicious (and tend to look a little more impressive if I don’t say so myself).
I knew I was passionate about cooking the day I realized that when I daydreamed or “zoned out,” more often than not I was planning a recipe in my head or figuring out what I wanted to cook that night. This is how I created this chicken recipe, that is not a revolutionary recipe, but uses ingredients that I wanted to add instead of finding a recipe to accomodate them. As you may have noticed, I have a current infatuation with the white cheddar gruyere cheese blend from trader joes, it is just perfect for adding that kick of flavor but is never too overpowering. I have also made various stuffed chicken breast recipes with various spins of the ingredients, but usually I would create a pocket in the breast and stuff the filling. This time, I ventured instead to roll the chicken breast with the ingredients inside and let me say it worked quite well.
White Cheddar Gruyere and Sundried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breast
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (pounded thin to about 1/4″ thick)
- 1 cup shredded cheese (you can use the cheese of your choice)
- 1/4 cup canned sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
- toothpicks to fasten chicken until cooked
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil to sear chicken
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- Preheat oven to 350 Degrees
- pound each chicken breast in between sheets of wax paper (I don’t have a meat mallet so I usually just pound with a rolling pin), season with salt and pepper
- on each chicken breast, sprinkle a layer of shredded cheese and then top with sundried tomato pieces
- Roll each chicken breast and fasten with as many toothpicks as needed to allow the least amount of stuffing to fall out (I usually put a couple to fasten the middle of the chicken breast and a couple on each end)
- heat 2 tbl olive oil in a nonstick pan (that can also go in the oven, if you don’t have one that can go in the oven you will just have to transfer each chicken breast to a oven pan)
- add chicken to pan on stove and sear each side until just golden brown, turn off heat and add the wine to the pan. If browned in an oven proof pan put whole pan in the oven (if not, then transfer chicken and wine to an oven proof pan. Bake for about 20 minutes.
- 3-4 medium sized potatoes (washed and dry)
(** I always leave the skin on the potatoes, it gives great texture and is, after all, a major source of nutrients for potatoes)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 2.5 cups heavy cream
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- If you have a mandolin slicer it is ideal for slicing these potatoes on a very thin setting. if not, slice potatoes about 1/4″ thick
- in a small sauce pan add the heavy cream, 1 bay leaf, and paprika. Heat on low for about 15 minutes.
- in a 13×9″ baking dish, layer the potato slices in dish, when one layer is done sprinkle parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to top of dish or until out of potato slices.
- Remove bay leaf from cream and pour over potatoes.
- cover dish with tin foil and put in oven.
- Cook 40 minutes with foil on, and 20 minutes without foil (or until the top of the potatoes begin to brown and liquid has reduced)
Lets take a second and talk about comfort foods. Everyone has their favorite but mine, hands down, is a burger and fries. Growing up, my parents were not the kind to take my sister and I to Mickey D’s or Burger King every other day which is probably why the meal has such a soft spot in my heart. I always had my meal of choice at each fast food place whether it be Chicken nuggets, a chicken burger, or a regular burger…and then of course the toppings changed depending on the place. Don’t ask me why I developed this strange habit, lets just leave it at strange teenage years and picky food habits, that’ll pretty much sum it up.
As I got older and started tuning into the kinds of food that were healthier or not and it did not come as such a surprise that a regular, ground beef patty was not the healthiest of choices, not to mention that golden-y fried goodness better known as french fries. Soon after that news sunk in I started to explore the wonderful world of ground turkey. Some people have their preferences and can truly taste the difference between ground turkey and ground beef, but I am not one of them (or I just like the taste of ground turkey). I will gladly substitute ground turkey for ground beef whether it be for meatballs, meatloaf, chili, or burgers. With a little seasoning and other additions, the seemingly bland and boring ground turkey transforms into a mouthwatering source of protein with very little fat, always a plus around the holidays.
With one week left before my journey home for the holidays I am determined not to buy more groceries, looking around my kitchen and noticing a potato, frozen ground turkey and a block of cheese I knew my meal for the night would be the much awaited turkey burger and oven fries. Not only that but I knew I had impulsively purchased a wonderful blend of white cheddar and gorgonzola cheese during my last visit to Trader Joe’s and couldn’t wait to try it on this burger. Luckily I had gone to the farmers market earlier in the week and spontaneously purchased a green chili for only $1 which adds a wonderful dimension of flavor but not too much spice to this burger. Place it all under a whole wheat hamburger bun and even though I’ve already eaten it as I am writing this, my mouth is watering for another.
When it comes to making burgers (turkey or regular) myriad ingredients can be added depending on the spin you wish to take, I was craving a tex mex flavor so I added some frozen sweet corn to the patty and broiled the green chili to top it off. However, it is really up to you to personalize it to what you want which could just mean adding nothing or it could be as fancy as stuffed with ingredients (but that is a post for a different night).
Green Chili and Corn Stuffed Turkey Burger with Cheddar Gorgonzola Cheese and Oven Fries
Burger: ¼ lb ground turkey, 2 tbl frozen corn, 1 tbl worchestershire sauce, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tble balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
Toppings: ½ green chili, 3 slices cheese of your choice (I chose a cheddar gorgonzola mix), lettuce, bun.
Fries: 1 large potato, 1 tsp each of paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 450 Degrees, slice the chili in half (if using fresh) and place it skin side up in a baking dish. Cover with olive oil and roast about 5 minutes (or until skin begins to brown). **if using canned green chili skip this step.
** I decided to keep the skin on the chili but if you wish to skin it, place the hot chili in a zip lock bag for 5-10 minutes and then peel the skin off. Cut the chili into strips to top the burger
2. Lower oven heat to 400 degrees. Slice the potato into wedges and cover with 1 tbl olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Place on baking pan in one layer and cook 30-45 minutes, flipping once.
** If you want a toasted bun for the burger put it in with the fries for a couple minutes, making sure the watch it so it doesn’t burn!
3. Combine all the burger ingredients and form into a patty. Heat 2 tbl oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patty and sear on each side for 3 minutes. Lower heat and cover with lid, cook for another 10 minutes.
4. For the last 2 minutes of cooking, place cheese slices on patty and return lid to pan.
5. Assemble the burger to taste! ENJOY!
Alright, raise your hand if as a child, you told people your favorite food was pizza… guaranteed 3 out of 4 of you will smile to yourself in agreement (or actually raise your hand if you felt so inclined). Pizza is a kids best friend, greasy, cheesy, carb filled goodness is exactly what I always wanted as a kid for dinner. most likely this was because pizza was a rare dinner in my household so the mention of this coveted gem of a dinner was enough to elicit that well known pavlovian response.
Pizza was that easy response when asked what my favorite food was, I wasn’t old enough to appreciate food filled with great spices or with unique ingredients so therefore pizza was always the answer. So every now and then, now that I am older I get that wellknown craving for nothing but salty, cheesy, perfectness. However I will change it up, never in my childhood life would I ever imagine a pizza with goat cheese or butternut squash. Nope it had to be pepperoni. But with my love of food it brings me so much joy to discover and create unique pizza with combinations that generally would not go together.
For this meal, however, it was not a butternut squash, or arugula, or goat cheese combination that I craved most. It was the simple but always delicious BBQ chicken pizza. A combination that I never particularly enjoyed growing up, but one that I do appreciate on occasion…occasions such as intense pizza craving. Pizza is a great meal to make with friends or by yourself or even for fun dinner parties where everyone can just make their own combination, but for this dinner I made it for myself and thoroughly enjoyed every leftover piece for the next few days.
Ingredients: 1 premade package of pizza dough (I am personally obsessed with Trader Joes whole wheat, but any will do), 1/2 BBQ sauce (or more to taste), about 6oz shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 chicken breast cut into small pieces, 1/4 sliced yellow onion, 2 cloves smashed garlic, 2 tbl granulated sugar (for carmelizing), salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbl olive oil, parmesan cheese (optional).
1. Preheat oven according to pizza dough directions (usually about 350). Pull out the pizza dough and thin it out using your hands and possibly a rolling pin until it reaches desired thickness (The package may have instructions). **if you are using a precooked pizza dough this step is not necessary** roll the edges of the dough to form a crust around the edges.
2. in a medium pan add 1 tbl olive oil with the garlic and saute until the garlic is slightly brown. Remove from pan. Add the onions and saute for about 1 minute or until they start to wilt. Add the sugar and continue cooking and stirring until the onions are translucent and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from pan.
3. add another tbl olive oil. Add chopped chicken and saute until cooked through. Remove and add to garlic and onions.
4. Spread the BBQ sauce evenly over the pizza dough and top with mozsarella. Add the garlic, onion, and chicken mixture to the top of the cheese. Add any parmesan or remaining moszarella that you want to.
5. Bake according to pizza package directions (about 20 minutes). ENJOY!
* I have a knack for spicy food so I wanted to add a kick to this pizza so I added some red pepper flakes to the chicken as I was cooking it and it added the perfect heat to the pizza.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, it was sophomore year of college that I really saw my cooking passion evolve but I quickly learned that there is a little amount of pleasure in cooking for just one person (aka myself). Yes, I very much enjoy most of the food I make (so long as it is successful), and I enjoy being able to write about it here. But there is such a different feeling of accomplishment when you sit across from another person who you worked with in the kitchen and each read each others’ faces as you dive into the dish you each slaved over.
It wasn’t until I met Shelly and Maddy the summer after sophomore year that I found my foodie friends. We spend that entire summer together planning meals that we would all cook together that night and enjoy together. It was with their help that I started planning whole meals as opposed to a dish that I would cook that night. There is a well known and heard of statement that “we eat first with our eyes,” and that summer that phrase became our mantra. We wouldn’t just plan to make a specific pasta, no no no, we had to figure out what would go with that pasta that would make the meal that much more enjoyable and pretty to look at before diving in.
This mentality is specifically why, after deciding to cook dinner with Shelly tonight, that we planned two dishes and a dessert (although the dessert didn’t really involve cooking so it wont be included in this post). As we were planning what we wanted to cook for dinner Shelly made it particularly clear that she had been wanting to attempt stuffed tomatoes, so that was the first dish we agreed upon, so it was only natural that the other dish was more of a main dish. We settled on chicken piccata and set off to trader joes to gather supplies.
It has been a little while since I last posted a recipe so it was only appropriate that I did it big.
These dishes were extremely good, so good that we each ate too much to dive right into dessert so we called upon the thanksgiving day tradition and decided to take a walk to help with the digestion so we could enjoy dessert too. The spinach goat cheese mixture that fills the tomatoes really could serve on its own as a spinach dip, and in fact we ate the remaining mixture that didn’t fit in the tomatoes with tortilla chips and it was extremely satisfying! The stuffed tomato recipe had to be adapted while we walked around Trader Joes because sadly, they were out of ricotta cheese, but the Chicken dish is courtesy of Giada de Laurentis via foodnetwork.com. ENJOY!
- 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbl minced garlic
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 1 tbl minced garlic, then add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.
3. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.
4. Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.
Spinach goat cheese stuffed tomatoes
Ingredients:(makes 8 halves)
- 1/4 package of frozen chopped spinach
- 2 tbl butter
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- approx 3 tbl all purpose flour
- 1 tbl minced garlic
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- bread crumbs to top each tomato
- 4 large tomatoes
*preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. cook the frozen spinach according to package directions and sit in a collander to drain
2. in a medium sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the flour slowly while stirring to create a roux (or base to build the sauce on top of).
3. slowly add the heavy cream and mix until the mixture becomes more solid. then add the parmesan cheese, sour cream, and goat cheese. Stir until all is melted together to form a creamy cheese sauce. Then fold in the drained spinach and mix until all the spinach in encorporated into the cheese mixture evenly.
4. Cut each tomato in half and scrape out the insides, including the fleshy dividing parts of the tomato so that it is a hallow shell. then evenly distribute the spinach mixture into each half and top with breadcrumbs.
5. bake for about 15 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are starting to brown.