Saturday, August 22, 2015

Great Dinner Idea - Chicken Taco Pasta and Garlic Bread

This dinner couldn't of come together any better.  I planned on making the chicken dish last Friday night when it was just the three of us for dinner, hubby,our son and me.  But when we decided to drop our daughter off at work on Friday, we decided to stay for awhile and ended up at with dinner at Uno's.  We also had a nice surprise because we ran into our niece in the parking lot and invited her to join us.   So Friday's dinner got moved to Saturday night which allowed us the time to go to the store and try out this garlic bread with the already planned Chicken Taco Pasta dish.  

This also worked out time wise because our daughter was able to join us for dinner.  She worked late at Starbucks, so we didn't eat until 7;30 or so, but it was nice to all sit down together.  Not many more nights like this with her leaving for school again.  The pasta was very flavorful and the bread was delicious.  We even had enough for Sunday's dinner and just reheated it on the grill.  So, just add a green salad and you have a complete dinner.

Cheesy Garlic Bread


1 large loaf Ciabatta bread
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup room temperature butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Using a serrated knife cut your bread into thick slices leaving about ½- inch at the bottom uncut. Be careful not to cut the bread all the way through, as you need the bread to hold together to contain all the filling.

In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients with a fork. Stuff the filling into the crevices of the bread evenly. You might think you have too much filing, you don't. Use it all. 

Wrap the bread tightly in aluminum foil, place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover the bread and bake for an additional 5 minutes to crisp up the outside of the bread. Serve warm.

Chicken Taco Pasta


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope  taco seasoning
2 cups diced onion (about 1 whole onion)
2 cups diced red and green bell peppers (2-3 bell peppers)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
8 oz (about 3 cups) penne pasta
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh Cilantro

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with half of taco seasoning. In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot, carefully add the chicken in a single layer and cook without stirring until one side is seared and browned, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken to the other side and cook until browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet with the heat still on high. When the oil is very hot again, add the onions, bell peppers, and remaining taco seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are slightly blackened. Turn heat to low, add minced garlic, and stir until fragrant and well combined, about 30 seconds. Remove the veggies to the plate with the chicken.

In the same skillet, add the broth, cream, diced tomatoes, uncooked pasta, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes until pasta is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the chicken and veggies back into the skillet and stir to combine until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve with buttery garlic bread and enjoy!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Easy Chocolate Cake

Last Sunday morning we were having coffee and plotting out our day.  We knew that it was going to be a day spent at home around the house, doing laundry, taking care of our new landscaping, and just catching up on household chores and such.  One of the first questions my husband asked was "What do you want to do for dinner?".  Our day at home doing nothing big will generally revolve around what we can whip up in the kitchen, gathering a grocery list and making that daily stop to Wegmans. (Well, it seems like it is daily!) My usual response to that questions is "What are you thinking?".  He loves to cook and try out new recipes but this time I got back "you know, I really want that Chocolate Cake that you made from Penzey's Spice Catalog."  "That would taste good to me because the cake is rich and the frosting is so sweet."

So he goes looking for the Penzey's catalog in the cupboard , but I remembered it was already cut out and placed in our big blue binder of recipes.  I found it with the notation - Father's Day 2009.  What a memory he has.  I would take care of dessert that day and we both would fill in the rest of dinner together.

This cake is so moist and rich.  It really reminds me of a cake my mom would make for my dad called a "3 hole cake".  There was something about that cake that you mixed in the pan and in the dry ingredients you would create 3 holes and then pour the liquid ingredients in the holes.  It was made in a 13 X 9 pan just like this cake.  She made that for his birthdays and family dinners, I think anytime she needed a dessert.  Then she let me borrow her pan one time and I left it at a friends camp.  Never heard the end to that one.  I have tried to find her recipe but have not succeeded, but I believe this is pretty close.  

Chocolate Cake


2 Cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 Cup) butter
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups boiling water
2 eggs



Preheat the oven to 350°. Sift together the flour, COCOA, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together the VANILLA, butter and sugar. Add the boiling water, blend, then add the eggs and mix until well blended. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into an ungreased 9x13 pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350°. Either sprinkle with cake decorating sprinkles for a lower sugar version before baking, or when cool frost with Buttercream Frosting.

Buttercream Frosting

1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
1/3–1/2 Cup soft butter
1/8 tsp. salt (eliminate if using salted butter)
3–5 TB. milk
Beat together the sifted powdered sugar, butter, salt and VANILLA. Add enough milk to get the frosting to a good spreading consistency. For chocolate frosting, add 1/2 Cup COCOA POWDER.

Friday, August 14, 2015

2 New Salads to Try


This past weekend we had "Our" pool party at "Giada from across the street and her hubby Michael" house.  We invited all of the usual suspects and a few additions and planned on warm weather and swimming the afternoon away.  Well Mother Nature didn't want to cooperate with the warm weather, but the kids didn't mind.  So the afternoon and evening was spent eating  and watching the guys play Corn Hole.  

Our host said they would provide the main entrĂ©e and we would all bring dishes to pass.  I promised the famous Paula Deen Ooey Gooey's, Asian Cole Slaw, Beer, our Daughters Brownie Creation and Hubby's contribution  of 2 new salads.  He had seen Ina Garten make her Celery Salad and new that our foodie friends would love that one and then  night before the party we found the cucumber salad on Facebook that looked pretty easy and would be a refreshing change from typical Picnic Salads.

It seems that summer is rapidly coming to a close, but these salads will stay around through the fall and into the winter as a reminder of the 2015 Pool Party!

Sour Cream Cucumber Salad


1/2 cup sour cream
 3 tablespoons white vinegar
 1 tablespoon sugar
 Pepper to taste
 4 medium cucumbers, peeled if desired and thinly sliced
 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings

In a large bowl, whisk sour cream, vinegar, sugar and pepper until blended. Add cucumbers and onion; toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon. Yield: 8 servings.

Celery Parmesan Salad



½ cup good olive oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon anchovy paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups thinly sliced celery hearts, tender leaves included, sliced on an angle (about 12 stalks)
4-ounce chunk aged Parmesan cheese
²/³ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
At least 1 hour before you plan to serve the salad, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, ¼ cup of lemon juice, the shallots, celery seed, celery salt, anchovy paste, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Place the celery in a mixing bowl and toss it with the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of salt. (Even though these ingredients are in the dressing, believe me—this step makes a difference.) Add enough dressing to moisten well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the celery to crisp and the flavors to develop.

When ready to serve, arrange the celery on a platter, shave the Parmesan onto the celery with a vegetable peeler, then sprinkle with walnuts, parsley leaves, salt, and pepper and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Zucchini Crisp

It is that time of the summer when area gardens are cranking out fresh vegetables in large quantities.  This year with our landscaping plans around the house we didn't get to plant a garden but are making the most of the fresh produce at our local garden center.  Zucchini is one of my favorite summer vegetable and I am always looking for new ways to prepare it.  This dish got good reviews from 3 out of 4 members of my family.  Number 4 wouldn't even try.
I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  It is from Ellie Krieger when she was on Food Network.  Her show is no longer on.  It seems that they are dwindling down the number of cooking shows that featured great chefs with real recipes for ones that are now more competitive.  Sounds like what MTV did with music videos.  Are there any more music videos on MTV or VH1?  Soon there will probably not be any more real cooking shows on the Food Network and they will be doing something completely different - maybe music videos?   

Zucchini Crisp


Cooking spray
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (3/4-ounce)
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and a few turns of pepper. Dip each round into the Parmesan mixture, coating it evenly on both sides, pressing the coating on to stick, and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the zucchini rounds until browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove with spatula. Serve immediately

Simple, easy and tasty dip

This is a great and delicious dip to whip up for entertaining.   It makes plenty and comes together in just a manner of minutes.  Our favorite dipping utensil of choice is a big bag of Frito scoops.  There are a number of recipes out there, and what we have done is combine two separate recipes featuring the best of both!  So add this one to your quick and easy list!

Pimento Cheese Dip

1 (8 ounce) package of shredded Sharp Cheddar
1 (8 ounce) package of shredded white Cheddar
2 (4 ounce) jars pimentos, with juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper

Mix the shredded cheeses together with the pimentos.  Stir in the mayonnaise.  With a metal spoon because pimentos may stain wood or plastic, stir until mixture is well blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste and stir again.  Keep covered in fridge until ready.  Serve with a big bag of scoops!