Archive | party RSS feed for this section

Day-Before Chicken Enchiladas

17 Jan

That, my friends, is the last lonely chicken enchilada from this weekend. Which is good for me–helllooooo, lunch!–but also speaks to the hit these were. We had 16 of them Saturday night, and they were all gone by yesterday. They’re fast and easy and healthy (really!!!) and everybody ate them, and this makes me happy. 🙂

You can make these all at once. Just skip the “cover and refrigerate overnight”. But done the way it’s written, this recipe is perfect for game day or a party day or some other time when you won’t have an hour to make dinner or you don’t want to miss an event in your own house. Prep the day before, refrigerate overnight, and pop them into the oven on the night you want to eat them. Simple, simple, simple.

These would be equally good with beef, beans, or just cheese inside. For those of you who aren’t that into chicken.

Not much else to say. Give these a shot and give an OLE! for a simple restaurant-style meal that’s easy on your wallet, your clock, and your waistline. You’ll need:

1.5 to 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 a large sweet onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

One 26 to 28-oz can of red enchilada sauce (yes, you can make your own. I was hurrying)

1 tsp ground cumin

About 2 cups lowfat Mexican blend cheese, divided

16 corn tortillas

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts and poach until cooked through, about 10 minutes or so. Remove them from the water, use two forks to shred them up, and place into a bowl.

While chicken is poaching, coat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions until they’re crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and then pour in the enchilada sauce. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 10 minutes.

To the chicken in the bowl, stir in the cumin and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Spray two 9 x 13″ baking dishes with nonstick spray. Wrap about six tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for about 40 seconds, until they’re hot and pliable (the hotter, the more flexible–they crumble if they’re not heated and damp). Roll a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of chicken mixture into each tortilla. Lay them seam-side down in the baking dishes. Repeat until all of the tortillas have been used.

Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over the rolled enchiladas. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or just keep going).

When you’re about ready for dinner, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the enchiladas with the remaining cheese, and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes. Let them sit about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy your dinner!

Crockpot (or not) Beef or Chicken Chili

12 Jan

SNOOOOOOOOWWWW DAAAAAAYYYY!

Not so much. We got a whopping inch. Enough to throw the TV weather guys and county schools directors into apoplexy but not quite enough to make us abandon our cars on major highways. But we came close! And between that and football playoffs this weekend (GO RAVENS! Was that out loud? Sorry.), it’s a great week for chili.

There’s a widely-held belief out there that chicken chili has to be white. White, my friends, makes for a lovely stew or soup or pot pie, but not chili. Chili is red and spicy and hearty and warms you for hours after the bowl is gone. And chicken, as we’ve discussed before, will take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. So there’s no reason to avoid red chicken chili–I’ve made it for years and lightening hasn’t struck me yet.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe. There’s no mystery here. And you can make this a dice-and-dump if you’re in a hurry–just chuck everything into the slow cooker and let ‘er rip. I like to brown my meat with the onions first to give it a little texture, but feel free to skip that if you’d rather. The final taste will be the same.

Chili is a great meal for the winter, and this one gets better as it sits–leftovers are divine. It freezes perfectly as well. I hope you enjoy it. You need:

1 pound chicken breast or beef/steak (I use stew meat), cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 sweet onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (or two frozen garlic cubes)

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with chilis (try Ro-Tel)

1 14.5 oz can of plain diced tomatoes

12 oz tomato paste

30-ish oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use one can of light and one can of dark)

2 bell peppers, chopped (I use one red and one green)

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 bay leaf

Chili flakes, to taste (more = way hotter)

In a pan over medium-high heat, brown the meat and onion until they’re golden on the outside (you’re not cooking; you’re just searing the outside). Stir in the garlic and cook another minute. Remove from heat and pour into large soup pot or slow cooker.

Add tomatoes (I drain them if I’m using the slow cooker, and just dump them in if I’m cooking this on the stove), tomato paste, beans, peppers, and spices. Stir well. In a slow cooker, cook on low 6-8 hours. On the stove, bring to a simmer and cook 1-4 hours (more cooking means a more developed flavor). Taste and add spices as needed–I usually add more chili powder and stir in some Smoked Chipotle Tabasco at the end). Serve alone or over rice or pasta.

King Cake

18 Nov

Let’s get a few things out of the way here.

First, I’m no photographer. This looked better in person than it does here.

Second, I’m aware it’s not Mardi Gras and that I probably violated some sort of natural law that applies only in New Orleans by making this recipe yesterday. It was for a baby shower (which explains the pink and blue sprinkles) for a friend of mine who’s from NOLA, and just seemed like a fun way to welcome her new little one. Because first, it’s totally New Orleans, and second, it’s got a BABY inside, y’all! Seriously–is that perfect or what?

This started out as an Emeril recipe. Which is fine, but he has two recipes for King Cake–one with cream cheese and sugar inside, and one with a nutty, cinnamon-y mixture. I, having sadly never set foot in Louisiana and only having had King Cake once before, emailed a high school friend of mine who lives there to ask which was more correct. She picked cream cheese, so off we went.

Emeril has a really funky way of proofing yeast. He combines the eggs and butter and milk and sugar, and then stirs the yeast in. I tried it. Disaster ensued. Maybe it works better down south. But it didn’t work for me, and I went back to the traditional way, which is to heat the milk, stir in the sugar, and drizzle the yeast on top. Let it sit until it’s foamy. Foolproof.

I used mostly cake flour in this. Cake flour has a much softer crumb than AP flour and made for a pastry-like texture in the final cake (which may or may not be correct but I liked it). You can use all AP flour if that’s what you have on hand. I would not use any wheat, though. It’ll be too heavy.

The other thing I did was to make my dough in the bread machine. If yours has a dough setting, that’s easiest. Dump and set and walk away. If not, follow the directions below.

Finally, I used a lot more sugar in the glaze than Emeril called for. His was really watery. Mine was thick. I’m an icing girl. 😉

The ladies seemed to like my cake. The husband said it was the best dessert I’d ever made. If that’s not a compliment, keep it to yourself and let me live in my little Make Believe Land for awhile longer, ‘K? Thanks. I’ll definitely make this again–likely as individual cakes next time, just to see if it’ll work that way.

If you want to give this a shot, you’ll need:

2 packages dry active yeast

1/2 cup sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

5 egg yolks

1 cup warm milk (just hotter than your body temperature)

2  cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Vegetable oil

8 ounces cream cheese

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons milk

Colored sugar sprinkles

Plastic baby toy

If you’re making this in a bread machine: Stir together milk and sugar, and then sprinkle yeast on top. Leave it until it bubbles up. Then, dump the flour, butter, egg yolks, yeast/milk mixture, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest into your bread machine, set it on the dough cycle, and walk away.

In a mixer, proof the yeast as outlined above. Using the mixer, stir together that mixture with the butter and egg yolks. Add the flour, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest to the wet stuff and beat on medium using a dough hook until it forms a ball and starts to climb up the mixer. Then turn it into a greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise about two hours.

While your dough rises, mix together your softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

After your dough cycle or rise in a bowl, turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and roll it into a rectangle, about 30 inches long by 6 inches wide. Spread the cream cheese mixture down the center of the rectangle. Then, fold the long ends over the cream cheese mixture, pinching them in the center to seal up the dough with the cream cheese inside.

Transfer your dough to a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (spray that with nonstick spray too, just to be safe). Grease a coffee or other can (I used a steel-cut oats can), and form the dough into a ring around that, with the seam side down. Gently press your baby into the underside of the dough and seal it up. Cover again and let rise 45 minutes.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, make slits across the top of the cake, every 4 inches or so. Bake the cake about 30 minutes, or until puffed and lightly golden brown. Remove the can as soon as you take the cake out of the oven. Let cool completely.

With a whisk, mix together the remaining powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk. Pour over the cake, letting the glaze drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle the cake with the colored sugar, alternating colors in wide stripes. Let set and enjoy!

Why I Whip Cream

1 Oct

See that?

That’s my driveway as the rain started yesterday–September 30.

My husband wrote “happy birthday” on the concrete on August 17, using canned whipped cream. And every time it’s rained ever since, the shadow reappears.

**gag**

I am not a food snob. We’re bottled dressing people, you know? My kids eat fish sticks and we stop for fast food on our way to and from vacation and I have a really hard time resisting the siren’s song of Little Debbie if she’s in the house. I’ve probably eaten my weight in canned whipped cream over the years. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it tastes good–what’s not to like, right?

Except that it stays on concrete, outside in the elements, for months. Perhaps longer–time will tell. And I’m sorry, but that’s utterly disgusting. If it’s doing that to my driveway, what on earth is it doing inside my body?

Whipped cream is the easiest thing on the planet to make. Dump some heavy cream into your mixer’s bowl, sprinkle in powdered sugar, and let ‘er rip on high until soft peaks form. Don’t go farther or you’ll end up with butter.

We had a party last year and someone came running up to me halfway through, with some little dessert topped with whipped cream. “Oh. My. God,” she said. “What did you put in this?”

She, for the record, was a certified foodie. And I smiled and told her. A drizzle of vanilla extract just as the cream started to come together in the mixer. Almond works too. Maple syrup (the real stuff) is delicious in cream you’re going to use with pumpkin pie or any kind of autumn dessert. Peppermint can go in there over the holidays (or anytime–I’m a peppermint addict), lemon…if there’s an extract or a syrup, a hint of it is delicious. That’s my big secret. Keep it between us. 😉

I’ll let you know if my driveway is still decorated for next year’s birthday when it rolls around. In the meantime, I’m going to take the extra three minutes to make my own whipped cream. All it’ll take is a glimpse of my concrete on a rainy day to remember why.

You can share this or any post on my blog–click on the post title to go to that post alone, and then scroll to the bottom. Press the Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Email or other buttons to share with your friends. And thanks!

Perfect Corn Chowder

27 Sep

It’s pouring down rain today. I’m wearing jeans and a cotton shirt, curled up on the couch with my laptop and work files, listening to the drops bounce off the roof and windows.

It’s a corn chowder day.

This recipe is one of my most requested. Every time I serve it or take it somewhere, someone wants to know how to make it. And they rarely believe how simple it is. It’s rich and creamy and comforting, and–surprise!!–really light, calorie-wise.

There are no potatoes in this chowder. I think that’s a good thing. I love me a good potato, but I want my corn chowder to taste like corn. Which this one does. I’ve written it using chicken because that’s usually how I make it, but you can do this with shrimp, crab, scallops, or just more corn instead of a bird. If you do use chicken, really anything you have is fine–leftover roasted or grilled chicken, pulled-apart rotisserie, or even cooked chicken strips from the grocery store’s deli department. Give it a rough chop and dump it in. It’s all good.

I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light, bumping up the veggies, playing with the spices, and adding some smoked Tabasco. You won’t believe how good that makes this.

This works great cooked early in the day and reheated, it’s a superstar of a leftover dish and gets better every day, and does really well kept hot in a slow cooker on the warm setting. I’ve set it out at parties that way–just crack the lid a bit or leave the top off so it doesn’t thin out too much.

I had a bowl for lunch today, and chances are good this will be my dinner later today. It’s that good. I hope you like it too.

To make this corn chowder, you’ll need:

Two tbsp butter (the real stuff…trust me)

Half a small or medium yellow onion, finely chopped

Two stalks of celery, finely chopped (or about 1/3 cup from the salad bar)

Two tbsp of flour (I suspect arrowroot would work if you want to go gluten-free)

3 cups lowfat milk (I use 1 percent)

1 – 2 cups cooked chicken, shrimp, crab…whatever, roughly chopped.

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 14-oz can cream-style corn

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried dill weed

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 to 1 tsp smoked chipotle Tabasco

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and celery and cook until soft (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute (to get rid of the raw flour taste). Stir in milk, cream-style corn, corn kernels, chicken (or shrimp or crab or whatever), spices, and Tabasco.  Bring to a boil and cook until thick, about five more minutes. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle some shredded Parmesan on top if you have it.  Makes about 6 servings.

You can share this or any post on my blog–click on the post title to go to that post alone, and then scroll to the bottom. Press the Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Email or other buttons to share with your friends. And thanks!

Birthday Shout-Out

17 Aug

I’m 40.

Today.

Today, I’m 40. How the hell did that happen?

I am not complaining by any stretch–my dear friend died this year at 37, so every year I get now feels like a bonus. I made it to 40! Yay me! DH took me to Central Michel Richard, which was wonderful and amazing and such fun! And my super sweet, , awesome group of close girlfriends threw me a wonderful surprise dinner last night, with delicious food and lots of wine (and a margarita–thanks Amy!) and a whole pile of amazing gifts that were perfect, just for me. I am still overwhelmed and feeling super blessed to be surrounded by such thoughtful, generous, heart-filling friends.

I’m giving myself a gift today. I’m cheating on you all. I mean, I’m not off sending recipes to my other blog buddies or anything, but I’m recycling an idea from an email exchange I had with a high school friend yesterday. She’s throwing a food-themed party for her daughter and asked if I had any ideas for desserts that might be fun and get the 10 year olds involved.

I thought about it and came up with an idea my friend said she liked (although maybe she was just being nice…I never know). It’s pasted below. I’m off to lunch downtown with my family, feeling very blessed. Even at 40.

The food party dessert idea:

Have you watched Chopped or Food Network Challenge or Iron Chef? You know how they get baskets with “mystery ingredients” that they have to use?

Give each girl a “mystery ingredient,” but make them different so they don’t all come back with the same thing. Somebody gets a banana, somebody gets peanut butter, somebody gets maraschino cherries, etc. Put them on teams of two or three if you have a lot, with each team having its own ingredient, but where each girl makes her own thing.

You start out with pre-mixed up brownie batter and some cupcake liners–the foil or silicone if you can get them. And then you have your “pantry” with other things–ice cream, whipped cream, crushed peppermint, crushed oreos, mini-marshmallows, M&Ms, etc. And it’s like Iron Chef. The girls each make a dessert that must use the mystery ingredient, in combination with anything else they want. So they could bake their ingredients into a brownie cupcake (which is what you’re making with the tins and the brownie batter) or they can bake a plain old brownie cupcake and top it, or crumble it into something, or whatever.

They can mix the brownies with whatever creations they want while the pizzas bake, and then you bake off the brownies while they eat, and then they come back to assemble their finished dessert at the end. Each girl talks about her dessert to the “judges” (you or the other girls) and then there are prizes, all that sort of thing.

Crockpot Lasagna

10 Aug

I had a girls-night-out date with friends last night, which meant whatever dinner I made at home was only for DH and the kids. And it was one of those days I felt like I was flying–this one has a doctor’s appointment, that one has a playdate, gotta register for ballet, grocery store run, and wow, gotta actually work a few hours–without a whole lot of spare time for playing with food.

My gang is an easy one to feed, generally speaking, and peanut butter sandwiches or cereal would have done them just fine. But I really did want them to have a hot meal, and so I gave them cow.

I’m not a red meat eater, but the rest of my crew loves beef from time to time. There’s no better time to indulge them than on a night I’ll be out, and there’s not an easier way than Crockpot lasagna.

This was a Weight Watchers recipe that was actually really good on its own. I’ve doctored it up to boost its heft a bit: I added an egg to the ricotta layers (and a bit more ricotta than the original recipe) to give them a little more substance, boosted the meat a little bit (you could also add mushrooms to this if you wanted even more oompf), and messed with the spices to simplify matters. The original recipe called for basil and oregano, and in my house, that translates to a shake or two of Italian Seasoning instead. I also used less onion than the recipe called for and upped the garlic.

A word on the meat: If you’re a beef eater, this is a great meal. My family gobbled it up. If you’re not, it works really well with ground chicken. I know. Turkey. Everybody uses ground turkey. But slow-cooking ground turkey results in a kind of odd chewy texture to the sauce. I love me a good turkey burger (we’ll talk about that soon), but turkey in spaghetti sauce doesn’t rock my world. Ground chicken holds up just like beef and since it absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with, is a great substitute in this recipe. My pathetic excuse of a Soviet-era supermarket carries ground chicken breast meat, but your butcher will grind a few breasts for you if you don’t see it pre-wrapped in the meat case at your store.

This recipe is super saucy when you put it in the crock. Fear not–you’re not cooking the noodles first, so they absorb a whole lot of the moisture. You’ll end up with a traditional lasagna texture here, not a soupy mess (as I feared the first time). I use the no-cook noodles, but I hear that regular noodles work just fine; if you’ve tried that, leave me a comment and let me know. 🙂 A friend of mine uses jarred spaghetti sauce instead of tomatoes and sauce and she says it comes out really nicely that way. This also freezes beautifully if you have leftovers and want to hold onto them.

Haul out the slow cooker and give this one a whirl. I hope your family likes it as much as mine does.

You’ll need:

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef (I use 7% fat) or ground chicken

1/2 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

15 oz can tomato sauce (I use the pre-seasoned)

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/4 cup part-skim Ricotta cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

6 no-cook lasagna noodles

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil. Add meat, onion, and garlic and saute until the meat browns (you don’t have to cook it all the way through). Add the tomatoes, sauce, and spices. Simmer about 5 or 10 minutes to let flavors meld together.

In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, egg, and 1 cup of the mozzarella.

Spoon 1/3 of the beef mixture into your Crockpot (at least 5 quart size). Break three of the lasagna sheets into pieces and arrange over meat mixture to cover. Top that with half the ricotta mixture. Repeat layers, ending with a layer of meat sauce.

Put the lid on your Crockpot and cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Turn cooker off. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and remaining mozzarella and put the lid back on for about 10 minutes to let the cheese melt. Uncover and let sit about 15 minutes to firm up the lasagna.

I get about eight servings from this recipe. Your mileage may vary…

%d bloggers like this: