Friday, February 24, 2012

Scrambled Egg Soup (Stracciatella)

Want a lunch or dinner in literally the time it takes for water (or in this case broth) to boil?  Then this is your dish!  I grew up with my mom making it, never knowing that it wasn't something she just made up on the fly.  It's more commonly called Italian Egg Drop soup or Stracciatella, which comes from the Italian word stracciato, (torn apart) and stracciatelle (little shreds).  Both describe the way the eggs are added into the broth to produce the shreds of cooked egg.  The eggs in my soup always come out looking scrambled, which is why I call it Scrambled Egg Soup, plus it's easier to say than Stracciatella!  

We ate this soup a lot growing up and I definitely remember it not being one of my favorites.  I hadn't had it for years and out of the blue one day I got a huge craving for it; now I make it once or twice a month for my daughter and I for lunch.  Sometimes there are these random moments that really make me feel like a mom - making this for her is one of them.  Plus I feel like it's a wonderfully healthy dish, with a bonus that it tastes great - she absolutely loves it!  

4 Servings

Scrambled Egg Soup (Stracciatella)

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
a pinch of nutmeg
pepper to taste

Heat broth over medium-high heat.  Scramble eggs with cheese, nutmeg and pepper.  When broth comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and drizzle the eggs into the pot over a fork.  As the eggs cook, move them around slowly with the fork to form the shreds of eggs.  Serve with crackers or good bread.

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Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine, which I love.  Simple, easy recipes, and I end up referring to it a lot.  I keep a binder with the recipes I have collected from Everyday Food over the years and I really do end up making a lot of them over and over again. 

This dish has become a staple in our house.  Everyone loves it!  It feeds 4 and is perfect when you have company.  Even if it's just us, I'll make the full 4 serving portion so we have leftovers for the next day.  

Cheesy, baked goodness!  I love that the top gets a crispy crust from the Parmesan cheese and bread crumb topping.  Incredible.  

I added a little spice to this by cooking the chicken in McCormick's Spicy Grill Seasoning.  I can't tell you how often I use that spice to cook chicken.  So good to always have on hand.  Another couple of notes...I typically use 2% milk, but you could substitute it for other milks or even half & half.  I've used them all with similar results.  I also use sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil and always make sure to add some of the oil to the sauce for extra flavor.  

Serves 4

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes

1/2 pound Penne
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon Spicy Grill seasoning 
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour, plus 1 tablespoon
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups milk 
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, diced 
1 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 Italian seasoning bread crumbs 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Cook your Penne in a large pot of boiling salted water about 3 minutes short of al dente.  Drain and return to pot.  

Dice chicken into bite size pieces and toss with grill seasoning.  Cook until cooked throughout.  

In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium.  Add flour and garlic, whisk and cook for 1 minute.  Gradually add milk while whisking and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently until sauce thickens, about 6-8 minutes.  Add tomatoes, cook for 1 minute.  Take off heat and add mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan.  

Add chicken and pasta to sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Bake for about 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.  

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Chocolate Whoopie Pies

These Whoopie Pies are so rich and decadent that I make them about once a year.  But, it's such a treat to have them!  

The recipe yields 24 of these bad boys - so sometimes I even half the recipe to only get 12.  They are easy enough to make that it would be a great for a school's bake sale (and a way for you to not be tempted to eat them all yourself!). 

Sour milk is a substitution for buttermilk - to make it, measure out the 1 cup of milk and add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar.  Mix and let sit for 5 minutes.  I do this every time a recipe calls for buttermilk.  A little trick I learned from Paula Deen!

Makes 24 

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour milk
4 cup sifted flour
1 cup cocoa
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling
4 cup confectioner's sugar
4 tablespoon flour
4 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 cup butter, room temp
2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the vegetable oil and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add milk.  In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Add flour mixture to liquid ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spray a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray and drop by rounded spoonfuls on the sheet (or use a cookie scoop).  Bake for about 12 minutes until they are springy to the touch.  Let cool completely.

To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with an electric mixer.  Spread on one side of the cookies after they are completely cool, then top with another cookie.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Double Decker BLTs

So, don't laugh that I'm posting this as a recipe, it's just that this sandwich is...awesome!!  So great for a quick weeknight dinner, which is exactly what I ended up making it for.  I just recently started eating bacon (again, don't laugh, but I never was a big fan) and I love BLTs now.  And double decker??  Yum!!  The bacon has to be super duper crispy, I guess almost burnt for me to enjoy it and luckily my husband doesn't seem to mind too much.  :)

There's another reason I'm posting this...did you ever just draw a complete blank about what to make for dinner or are just so sick of your dinner rotations?  I feel like sometimes, even the simplest recipes can give you new ideas for dinner.  It's a "why didn't I think of that" moment...but now you did!  Enjoy! 

Makes 2 sandwiches

6 pieces of white or wheat bread, toasted
2 ripe tomatoes
About 1/2 pack bacon
Romaine lettuce

Place your bacon strips in a cold skillet on medium-high.  Cook until done to your taste.  Meanwhile, toast all 6 pieces of bread and slather each piece with mayonnaise.  Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and tear off a couple of good pieces of Romaine lettuce.  

Lay out 2 slices of your bread and place 2 slices of tomatoes on each, followed by 2 slices of bacon broken in half so you have 4 strips going across.  Top with Romaine.  Place another slice of bread on each and repeat!  Top with remaining slice of bread and cut in half.  
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Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

Ah, these are so good!!  Like a popover, light and airy with all the best flavor combinations; thank you Rachael Ray!  I made my version of these for Super Bowl Sunday and it was just us (my husband, daughter and I) who ate them, but I'm certain you could double this recipe for a party.  Maybe triple??  Believe me, they won't last long if you bring them somewhere.  We had one left from that night and I ate it cold the next day!  I figured, if you can do it with pizza...why not?  It was great.  Honestly, I wish I had made more.  But, they are so super simple, you can whip up a batch in minutes!! 

Makes 6 muffins

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried basil 
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped pepperoni

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 6 cup muffin pan.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes.  Whisk in the milk and egg.  Stir in the mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.  

Stir the batter and divide among the muffin pan.  Bake until puffed, 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve the puffs with marinara sauce for dipping.

(Adapted from Rachel Ray's recipe)
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick and Easy Stir Fry

Seriously, it is...the quickest and the easiest.  And the stir fry sauce is even homemade!!  This is for the nights when I already have the chicken defrosted and all I have to do is whip up the awesome sauce that goes with it.  We're pretty simple veggie eaters in my family and I always have a bag of frozen broccoli cuts in the freezer, but feel free to add whatever vegetables you love in a stir fry.  For a busy mom, this is just perfect.  I knew I had to share when one night, after the babies had been put to bed, I realized that my husband and I had not had our dinner...just one of those busy weekday nights.  I knew I wanted to make this, so I put a pot of water to boil for 5 minute rice, sliced the chicken, made the sauce and threw it all together.  When I dished it all out, my husband said, "Seriously?  You were in there for like 10 minutes."  And there you have it...
2 Servings

1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast*
1-2 tablespoon grill seasoning (spicy)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups stir fry veggies, frozen

1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat a wok or deep skillet with the vegetable oil on medium high until it starts to ripple and is very hot.  Meanwhile, dice your chicken and sprinkle with grill seasoning.  Toss your chicken into the pan and stir, almost constantly moving it around.  Cook until almost done.  Throw in your frozen veggies and your sauce.  Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened a little and your veggies are heated through (I don't let the sauce get too thick because I like to have it to coat the rice too).  Serve over rice.  

*I've also made it with shrimp and it's equally as delicious and fast.  
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Lemon Cake

I might be a little obsessed with the Barefoot Contessa (to put it mildly!)...there's something about her food that is so sophisticated and classic, yet simple somehow.  I feel like she's sort of the same way.  I mean her black and pure white kitchen is awesome!  And I love that she doesn't use a lot of specialized equipment - rarely do you see her using something other than her stand mixer or food processor...maybe a food mill, but that's about the extent of it.  So, I've modeled a lot in my own kitchen after hers...those big glass jars that she has for sugar and flour?  Got em'!  That white steel rack that she has in her pantry to store plates, bowls and equipment?  Yup!  Although mine is not nearly as big or as stocked as hers (I'm working on it).  And of course, I own most of her cookbooks.

I came across this recipe for her Lemon Cake and decided to try it.  It sounded too good and it meant that I was stepping out my usual realm of baking with chocolate.  Her recipe called for 2 loaf pans, but I wanted to use a bundt pan because I thought it would be just gorgeous - which it was!  I think I could have put all of the batter into the bundt pan but I didn't know how much it was going to rise.  I put the extra batter into a loaf pan and made a really short cake.  Up to you what you want to do, but either way it was delicious!  Seriously, not only is there a glaze, but there's also a lemon syrup which keeps the cake as moist as it can be.  

How bad can that be?  :) 

 The two cakes with the Lemon syrup, but without the glaze.  See how shiny?  

Makes 1 bundt cake or 2 in loaf pans

2 sticks butter, room temp
2 1/2 cups sugar (divided into 2 cups and 1/2 cup)
3 eggs, room temp
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water or milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 2 loaf pans or 1 bundt pan.  Cream the butter and 2 cups of sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, then the lemon zest.  

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixture to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.  Pour into desired baking pans and tap to release any air bubbles.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and place on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.    
For the lemon syrup:  Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Poor over the warm cakes. 

For the glaze:  Combine the confectioner's sugar with the lemon juice and water, whisking until smooth.  Poor over the tops of the cakes and allow to drizzle over the sides.  

(Recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Parties!)
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I'm a super busy mom of 3 and a Beachbody coach. Follow along as I try to find a balance between eating good food and keeping my family healthy and happy! We eat mostly clean with a few fun treats thrown in every once in awhile. Thanks for stopping by!

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