Thursday, November 20, 2014

PIlgrim Hats

All right, while there's still ONE WEEK before Thanksgiving, here is an easy Thanksgiving treat.  It involves no baking (which I was mildly disappointed in, since I love to bake) but some assembly.  Buy cookies that have fudge on one (or both) side (I used Keebler Fudge Stripes), some miniature Reese's peanut butter cups, and orange icing.  Place the cookie fudge side up, put a peanut butter cup upside down, and use orange icing to adhere the peanut butter cup to the fudge cookie.  Draw a little square buckle on the hat . . . and there you have it! Even me, craft-challenged Mama with a shaky hand and poor fine motor skills (note the not straight icing) managed to pull this one off for a party tomorrow.

I thank God for this day
For the sun in the sky
For my home on the ground
That keeps me warm and dry
For the love that we share
'Cause God listens to my prayers
And that's why we say thanks every day
For a grateful heart is a happy heart
I'm glad for what I have, 
(that's an easy place to start)
for my mom and my dad, 
I'm so very very glad
And that's why we say thanks every day!
--Veggie Tales

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Honey Mustard Glazed Chicken

This hands down the best dinner I've made in awhile.  The ingredients look pretty ordinary and you probably have most of them on hand (I have a mustard problem . . . I counted 5 different kinds in my refrigerator) but the end result is extraordinary.  I told my husband that I was going to make it again this week - I'd better watch out before I make my family sick of it.

The sauce is delicious so consider serving the chicken with something to soak up the sauce - we had couscous but rice, potatoes, or bread would work well too!

A few recipe notes:  The original recipe called for bone-in skin-on chicken thighs.  I used 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  The original recipe says that if you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, to skip the searing step and just put it in the oven and reduce the cooking time to 15-20 minutes.  If you did it this way, you could just use a regular baking dish and wouldn't need an oven proof skillet.  If you don't have an oven proof skillet and want to do the searing and baking steps, you could also use a Dutch Oven.

Honey Mustard Glazed Chicken (4 servings)
original recipe

3 T Dijon mustard
4 T Whole grain mustard (divided)
2 T olive oil (divided)
3 T honey
salt and pepper
2 T chicken stock (or more if needed)
3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
1.5 lbs chicken pieces (see note above)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of the whole grain mustard, and the honey.  Whisk until smooth.  Set aside.

Combine the remaining tablespoon of the whole grain mustard with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Add some salt and pepper to make a rub.  Using a brush or your fingers, work the rub into both sides of the chicken pieces.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in an ovenproof skillet.  Sear the chicken on each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Add the honey mustard mixture to the skillet (drizzle over the chicken pieces) and sprinkle the whole thing with the rosemary.

Place in the oven and roast until cooked through, about 25-30 minutes for bone-in, skin-on thighs.  If you're using boneless skinless chicken pieces, chop it into smaller pieces and stir the sauce to coat it all before serving it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Amaretti Cookies

I love almond flavored baked goods and if a pastry has almond paste, even better.  The bakery in Claremont makes some of the best almond croissants that I've ever had and I seriously have to avoid that place or else I'd eat way too much.  I've been intrigued by this Amaretti cookie recipe since it a) only has 3 ingredients, b) is basically almond paste, and c) is gluten free and dairy free.  I finally tried them out this past weekend.  Middle, my helper, was quite disappointed that there wasn't more to measure and mix but we finished this project pretty quickly and the results were great.  The almond flavor is strong as you would expect an amaretti cookie to be, but I filled some with raspberry jam (homemade by my friend Ellen) to create sandwich cookies and that helped balance the flavor a bit.  

My husband observed that these are a lot like macarons - chewy yet light - and he didn't love them as much as me but he still ate his fair share!  I'm imagining all kinds of other fillings . . . nutella, chocolate ganache, fig jam . . . these are definitely going into the rotation of gluten free Christmas cookies!  

A couple of baking notes:  the cookies spread a lot so make sure you use small dollops and leave space between them.  As always, check your almond paste to ensure it's gluten free if you need to avoid wheat.

Amaretti Cookies (4-6 dozen)
from Smitten Kitchen

1 (7oz) tube almond paste
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg whites, room temperature

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.

Pulse almond paste, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until broken up and mixed.  Add egg whites and mix at medium high speed until smooth.  Place dollops of batter (approximately 1 T) on cookie sheets, leaving plenty of space between them.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through) until puffed and golden brown, about 14-17 minutes.  Let cookies cool almost completely on the pan.  Once they've cooled off, they're easier to remove from the parchment paper.  Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two.  On Smitten Kitchen, it says they can be frozen for up to a month.

If desired, use your choice of filling and make sandwich cookies.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

Before I move on to today's recipe (for which I have no photo), here are my kiddos dressed for Halloween this year:

I can't believe it's almost a week into November.  This time of year flies by for me with all of our fall activities and a busy work schedule.  I have been pretty proud of my ability to still put a hot meal on the table on weeknights after work and soccer and other stuff but it's involved some shortcuts, like this recipe where a box of Stove Top stuffing features prominently.  I love stuffing and I haven't had Stove Top in years but it was delicious - perfect fall comfort food.

This was a crowd pleaser - my kids picked off the stuffing (how weird are they??  They also don't like potatoes which I don't get) but ate the cheesy chicken underneath.  My oven tends to cook fast (not hot, just quicker than most recipes), so next time I'd reduce the time and possibly lower the temperature to 350 or 375.

Bruschetta Chicken Bake (6 servings)
Recipe adapted from Kraft

1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes with Italian spices, undrained
1 (6oz) package Stove Top Stuffing (for chicken)
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small pieces
1 tsp. dried basil
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1/2 T fresh thyme

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the tomatoes, stuffing mix, water, and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened.

Spray a  9x13 or 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.  Spread the chicken in the bottom of the dish.  Top with basil and cheese.  Spread the stuffing over the top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan & thyme.

Bake for 30 minutes (uncovered) or until chicken is done.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkins - 2015 edition

For the first time in 5 years, I made the pumpkin bundt cake.  Both of the layers were spice cake and I used a vanilla whipped cream frosting (colored orange) to frost it.  This time, instead of using fruit roll up for the face, I used a black, sparkly gel frosting.  The frosting and face sort of dripped / sagged from the weight of it all but it turned out pretty good.  The girls loved the idea and "helped" me with the assembly.  Here are the full instructions if you want to try it for Halloween!

If you want to make another pumpkin dessert, there are SO many on the blog, but this is probably my favorite:  Pumpkin Crumb Cake.  Okay, one more (hard to choose!)  Pumpkin "Tiramisu."

Last year, I did a retrospective with photos of the kids with pumpkins in years past.  Here is the 2015 update:  last weekend, we carved pumpkins with our church group.  

Middle was super excited that she was allowed to use carving tools all by herself.

Big sketched her ideas before choosing what to carve on her pumpkin:

When the kids were tired of carving, the parents could be found still diligently working on pumpkins:

Some of the final Jack-O-Lanterns

Not Leftovers . . . a new meal!

Last week I made one of my favorite crock pot recipes here on the blog - the Green Enchilada Chicken Soup.  I made the full recipe even though I know my kids aren't the biggest soup eaters (Big only likes Chicken Noodle and Middle only likes Green Soup) because the leftovers are awesome.  This time, instead of thinning down the thick leftover soup, I warmed it and served it over hot biscuits.  My mom used to make creamed chicken over biscuits and it was so good.  This is a green enchilada twist on that idea.  It made the leftovers into a "new meal" and one I will make again.  

Green Enchilada Chicken Soup (I left out the corn this time)

A good biscuit recipe (or use a tube of Pillsbury ones)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken

Soup is one of those dishes where a few simple ingredients are transformed by combining them
together.  This recipe looks super simple (and it is) but it was nourishing and delicious.  We are
thankfully healthy but this would be the perfect dish if you're coming down with a cold or feeling
under the weather.  I love the queso fresco and avocado on top of the hot soup.  You can reduce the
jalapeño if you want - I only used a little more than half of one yesterday but it wasn't very spicy and
I wished I had put in the whole thing.  You could cook the chicken in the broth with the onion, garlic,
and jalapeño but I used chopped up rotisserie chicken to make it faster . . . dinner on the table within
a half hour of getting home from soccer practice - not an easy task these days!

Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken (2 servings)
(adapted from Williams Sonoma)

3 or 4 limes
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth  
1 1/2 tsp.  oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 Haas avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
2 oz. queso fresco or mild feta cheese, crumbled

Cut 1 lime into 4 to 6 wedges; set aside for serving. Juice as many of the remaining limes as needed to measure 1/4 cup.

Heat some olive oil in a pan.  Add the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, lime juice and oregano, and chopped chicken. Bring the heat up, but not to a full boil, and then adjust the heat so it barely simmers. Simmer for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Put the avocado, cheese and lime wedges in separate small bowls. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately. Pass the avocado, cheese and lime wedges alongside.  

Yields 2 large servings (or 4 first course servings)