Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chicken Lasagna Roll Ups with Spinach and Artichokes

I love Lasagna... and when I ran across this recipe here I had to give it a try. I tweaked it a bit to suit my taste and craving I was having at the moment by adding chicken and using Alfredo sauce on the bottom instead of all Marinara sauce. YUM! The only thing was I had to use a bigger pan than a 9x13, or you could use 2 baking pans... just divide the sauce up between the two. I served mine with a green salad and crispy french bread...Enjoy!

Chicken Lasagna Roll Ups with Spinach and Artichokes
  • Ingredients:
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups low fat ricotta cheese, 
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and squeeze to remove water
  • 1 cup chopped canned or jarred artichoke hearts
  • 1 heaping cup chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups of your favorite Marinara sauce ( or use mine here
  • 2 cups of your favorite Alfredo Sauce (or use mine here)

  1. Directions:
  2. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and cook the lasagna noodles to al dente, according to package directions (about 12 minutes). Drain and carefully lay the lasagna noodles out flat on a large piece of parchment paper. Let sit to cool.
  3. 2. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, garlic, spinach, artichoke hearts, cooked chicken, Parmesan cheese, basil, crushed red pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. 3. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the Alfredo sauce on  the bottom  of the baking dish and spread to cover the bottom. Set aside.
  5. 4. Dived the Ricotta mixture evenly among the noodles by taking about 1/4 cup and spreading it  onto each lasagna noodle if there is some leftover add to each each noodle until it's gone. Top each noodle with 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce. Carefully roll the noodles up and place them in the prepared pan on top of the Alfredo sauce. Top the lasagna rolls with the  marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Spray a large sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover the pan.
  6. 5. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted on top. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve warm.
  7. Note: To prepare the lasagna rolls in advance, roll them up, add the sauce and cheese and cover with foil and place in the fridge until ready to bake. I've made them a day before baking and they were still great. To freeze, bake and let cool to room temperature. Place in a freezer container and freeze. Reheat in the microwave. You can place a whole pan in the freezer and heat back up in the oven, but I like to freeze the rolls in individual servings for easy lunches and dinners.


Friday, May 24, 2013

The "Ultimate" Chocolate Brownie

If you like chocolate you will like this brownie!! It's a really dark chocolaty brownie that will satisfy even the  strongest chocolate craving you may have at the moment! It's a slight variation of my favorite Saucepan brownie but with almost triple the chocolate, and pecans. It's so rich you don't even need frosting.... Me and my hubby enjoyed ours while still warm from the oven with a glass of milk... but if you're a coffee drinker, I hear it's divine with an espresso to wash them down with --I took my leftovers to work the next day after I made them. You could also add a teaspoon of instant coffee to the batter if you like mocha flavored brownies.... This is a good recipe to share for dessert after your BBQ on Memorial day! Enjoy!!

The "Ultimate" Chocolate Brownie
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
10- ounces (total) dark chocolate , broken into pieces (I used a 4-ounce dark chocolate (60% cocoa)  Ghirardelli  bar and then six (6) 1oz. squares unsweetened baker's chocolate)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon instant coffee or single serving envelope (if desired)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper (Have the piece big enough so it will hang over the sides, after they have cooled, you can remove the brownies from the pan by lifting them out with the extra parchment...that way it's easy to cut them into cute squares) or you can always spray the pan with a non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together, then set aside.
Place the chocolate, butter and instant coffee (if you are adding coffee) in the top of a double boiler. Heat the water in the bottom of the double boiler to simmering. Stir the chocolate and butter occasionally until it's melted and smooth. Turn off the heat and add the sugars to the chocolate, whisk to combine, then remove the top pan from the bottom pan of simmering water. (I move mine to a towel on the counter top).
Next whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture one at a time, whisking in between each addition until each is is almost all the way incorporated in the batter. Add the vanilla and stir until combined.
Sprinkle the flour mixture and the nuts over the chocolate mixture and instead of whisking them in, use a rubber spatula to fold the flour  and nuts into the chocolate mixture until it's mostly combined. (you don't want to over mix the batter or it will be more cakey then brownie like).
Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and gently smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Test after 25 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the center, if it comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it they are done. Re-move from oven and let cool. Then lift from the pan and cut into squares. Enjoy!!!
(And I bet you can't eat just one!!! unless you make them huge pieces!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Smokey White Chicken Chili

The weather turned colder this last week and has rained quite a bit. On damp, chilly days don't you just feel like curling up in a blanket and reading?? or watching a good chick flick? I do! But since I have to work all day, I like to come home and make something yummy and warm!! and damp chilly days call for soup! I ran across this recipe here and couldn't resist trying it out last weekend. I did tweak it just a bit, I had leftover smoked chicken that I needed to use up, and I LOVE smokey paprika so that is what I used. The broth for this isn't quite white with the paprika and other spices in it but who cares. We loved this Chili! I topped mine with grated cheese, a dollop of guacamole and crushed Blue Corn tortilla chips. YUM!

Smokey White Chicken Chili
Ingredients:
2 or 3 cooked chicken breasts, diced into 1/2-inch pieces (I had grilled mine and had leftovers, but a roasted chicken would be delish too)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 heaping teaspoon finely minced garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, finely minced)
1 (32 oz) carton chicken broth (or about 4 cups)
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon Smokey paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (8 oz) pkg Neufchatel cheese, cut into 12 slices (aka light cream cheese)
1 (15 oz) can corn, drained ( or 1-1/4 cups frozen works too)
2 (15 oz) cans Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, ( I like to use the Tubes of chopped Cilantro using 1 heaping Tablespoon. Love those tubes that you can find in the produce department)
shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, for topping
tortilla chips, for topping
Guacamole, for topping, if desired

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a 6 quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot add diced onion and saute until it starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Add  cooked chicken, green chilies, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander, cayenne and saute for a couple of minutes longer (just to get the spices fragrant--this smells wonderful!)
Next, add the chicken broth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture just to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
Stir in corn, and just over half of the Cannellini beans. Then in your food processor, add the remaining beans and the cream cheese with 1/4 cup water (or slightly more) and pulse until this mixture is smooth and pureed. Add this cream cheese and bean mixture to soup, stir and simmer about 15 minutes longer. Stir in the fresh lime juice and Cilantro and serve with Monterrey Jack cheese, guacamole and tortilla chips as toppings if desired. Enjoy!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chicken Salad

I am funny when it comes to chicken salad. I don't like it when you aren't sure what's in it....  and I really don't like grapes and nuts and all that in my Chicken salad. I will eat it if I'm served it like that but I like a more savory salad I guess. I ran across this recipe on Pinterest, but tweaked it a bit to suit my taste. It was delicious in my home made Pitas with lettuce! Enjoy!

Chicken Salad
3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 stalk celery
1/8 of a medium size onion
Salt and pepper
Place all the ingredients above in a large soup pot with a couple of dashes of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn heat down a bit and simmer the chicken for about 20 to 30 minutes until its cooked through and tender. Strain the chicken by dumping the broth into another container through a strainer. Remove chicken to cutting board and let cool. (I like to freeze my broth for use in soup or something at a later time). Throw away the cooked celery and onion, it's used to help flavor the broth and chicken. After the chicken cools, shred or chop it and set aside.

Next, in a large bowl mix the following:
1 to 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise (start with 1 cup and add more if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smokey paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix together then add the following:
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 small can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained, (then I roughly chop them)
the shredded  chicken
1/2 cup grated cheese
Toss everything until it's all combined.
Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Remember you can add more bell peppers if desired or onion or cheese according to your taste.
Serve in Pitas, or sliced croissants or dinner rolls. YUMMO!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Homemade Pita Bread

I love Pita bread.... you can have almost anything stuffed in them! My favorite thing  to put in them is chicken salad or  turkey and cheese for a light sandwich at lunch! I ran across this recipe on the Internet (maybe on Pinterest) but I tweaked it a bit by adding half white-whole wheat flour (I love that stuff). That way they're a little more healthy for you. These are easy to make and fun! They puff like magic in the oven and then after they cool a bit and you cut them in half there is a pocket --Magic! I was impressed that this recipe was so easy and turned out! I had one or two pita's that didn't have a 'complete' pocket so I just sliced it open the rest of the way with a sharp knife! Enjoy!

Homemade Pita Bread
 1 Tablespoon yeast (I like to use the rapid rise yeast)
1-1/4 cups luke warm water (not too hot or it will kill your yeast-should feel just warm on your wrist)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups White-whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all- purpose flour (might need just a bit more)

Place the warm water in a mixing bowl, add the yeast and sprinkle the sugar over the top. (Did you know the yeast likes the sugar and will bubble more with it in the bowl?) Let the yeast and water rest for 5 minutes or until the yeast becomes bubbly and foamy on the top.
Next add the 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour and the salt. Mix with a dough hook until this forms a batter. Add 1 cup of the all purpose flour and continue to mix and add a little more flour if needed until you have a rough, shaggy mass of dough. Knead for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed if it gets too sticky.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 pieces for large pitas for sandwiches or smaller for snack sizes. You can make all kinds of different sizes to suit different snacks or meals. Form the dough into balls, then flatten with a rolling pin into 1/4 inch thick discs. Try to keep an even thickness as this is what helps the pita to 'puff'.
Let rest on the floured surface for about 40 minutes until slightly puffed.
While your pitas are resting, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lightly spraying with a non-stick baking spray or line with parchment paper.
When the pitas have rested, carefully flip the rounds of dough upside down on the baking sheet with a large spatula. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until light golden brown. After about 8 minutes I turned mine over in the oven. (Be sure to watch the magic happen in the first five minutes--that's when they puff! )
Let cool and cut in half if you like or keep them whole depending on how you plan to use them. I cut mine in half.

These store for up to 2 days in a Zip-loc bag or 3 weeks in the freezer.
I like to warm the pitas up in the toaster for a minute before filling. Enjoy!! (I filled mine with chicken salad-- recipe for that will follow)


Friday, May 10, 2013

Refried Beans

This was my Cinco De Mayo dinner.... I know it's past but you can always make this when ever you feel like a Mexican dinner. I usually buy canned re-fried beans but I had a lot of energy? or time? this year and decided to make my  re fries from scratch. I found a good recipe in my old Mexican cookbook I got for a wedding gift, I think. This takes a bit of planning because you have to soak the beans first, but I didn't find it hard to do. You can find my Mexican Rice recipe here and my tamale recipe here. Also I made some fresh Pico de gallo, recipe here and served with some fresh steamed green beans, you gotta have your veggies you know. These re-fried beans were delicious!!! Enjoy!

Re-fried Beans
Serves 6 or 8

2 to 3 cups pinto beans
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter (or you can use lard, or bacon grease... I used butter-just call me Paula Dean)
Salt and Pepper
Ground Cumin, optional
Chile powder or chipotle powder, if desired
1/2 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese , if desired

Rinse beans and place in a large soup pot with 8 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Over medium high heat, bring the pot to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, and let beans soak for 2 hours.
Drain the beans.
Place the drained beans and diced onion back into a 3 quart pot and add enough water to cover the beans and onions by 1 inch. Bring this to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until beans are very tender and mash easily (about 2-1/2 hours or so).  Add water if needed as they are simmering.
Once the beans are tender, drain BUT save about 2 cups of the liquid. Also set aside about 1 cup of the whole beans. Then, with a potato masher or in a food processor, mash (or whirl) the rest of the beans until coarsely pureed adding about a cup of the reserved cooking liquid.
Melt butter and add to the pot with the mashed beans and the whole beans. Cook stirring constantly over medium-high heat until the butter is absorbed and beans are very hot (about 10 minutes) While this is cooking add a little more of the reserved cooking liquid until you get the right consistency. I think I added about 1- 1/2  cups all together. Turn the heat to low and season to taste with the salt and pepper, cumin and chili or chipotle pepper powder as desired.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and cover until ready to serve.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars

Spring is here! ( although you wouldn't know it by the weather we've been having lately) Lemon flavor makes me think of Spring and sunshine and I needed a bit of both the other day, so I made a batch of these. I have posted my sugar cookie recipe before and my Key Lime sugar cookie bars, but I tweaked it by adding lemon juice and flavoring, and these were sooooo good! I love making Sugar cookies into bars , less time consuming and you can cut them into nice squares after there baked and iced. There's no rolling and cutting out the dough with cookie cutters, and then icing them is easy! Then you have the cookie you were craving! These are my new go to when I want a cookie. Next to chocolate, Lemon is my favorite flavor!! Enjoy!

Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter (no substitutions), softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon with about 1/2 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in it. (this helps give it a little extra tartness)
3 cups all-purpose flour plus an extra Tablespoon if your dough is slightly sticky (because of the juice)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl add your sugar and lemon zest, rub the zest into the sugar until it becomes fragrant. Next,  add your butter and cream until light and fluffy--about 2 minutes.
Add egg, flavorings  and lemon juice mixture and mix to incorporate.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add slowly to the butter mixture and mix to combine.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Plop your cookie dough out onto your cookie sheet and press to the edges with fingers so the dough covers the bottom of the pan (if your pan is really big and you want thicker bars don't go all the way to the edges.)
Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes or longer until the middle is well set and the edges start to turn slightly brown. The baking time really depends on how you like them and how thick your dough is. If you like them more chewy bake less time, for more crispy bake a little longer.
Cool completely before icing.


For the Frosting:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli, do NOT use Nestles' Premium white chocolate chips, they do not melt well)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoon lemon juice (bottled or freshly squeezed) add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid  and dissolve in the lemon juice
2 or 3 drops yellow food coloring

Place the white chocolate chips in a small microwave safe bowl; microwave for about 1 minute, then stir. This should be enough time to melt the chips completely, but if not, microwave for 15 seconds more. Stir, and if melted set aside.

Next, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar until well combined. Add the salt, vanilla extract, lemon juice mixture, and yellow food coloring and mix until very smooth. Add more powdered sugar if too thin. You don't want the icing to run off the bars. Add the melted white chocolate and mix just until incorporated.
Frost the sugar cookie bars and add pink sprinkles or leave then plain. Then cut into squares and enjoy!  (I did)..........YUMMO!