Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken and Egg Noodle Casserole

Comfort food at it's best!  Warm and inviting and perfect for feeding a crowd.  Veggies, egg noodles and cheese - what's not to love?  


Packed with flavor from chicken broth, white wine, carrots, onions and celery, then combined with half & half makes this dish so creamy and delicious.  You can make it easier on yourself by purchasing a rotisserie chicken, rather than cooking and shredding the meat yourself.  I used a very simple pan steam method to cook my chicken - about an inch of water in a deep skillet, bring to a boil, add 2 chicken breasts and cover for about 20 minutes (depending on how thick the chicken is).  Shred and add to recipe.   


As if the noodle, veggie and white wine mixture wasn't enough, the casserole then gets topped with shredded mozzarella.  Baked until bubbly and the edges get a crispy cheesy crust - remember what I was saying about comfort food?!  This is sure to be a hit with your whole family.

Serves 8

Chicken and Egg Noodle Casserole

4 tablespoons butter
12 ounces egg noodles
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup diced onion
1 medium carrot, diced
1 large stalk of celery, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup half & half
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 3-quart casserole dish (or a 9 x 13-inch baking pan) with non-stick cooking spray.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the egg noodles until al dente, about 4 minutes.  Strain.

While the noodles are cooking, heat the butter in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour to form a paste.  Stir in the onions, carrots and celery and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Cook 5 minutes to soften, then add the wine.  Whisk for 30 seconds, then add the chicken broth and heavy cream.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Fold in the noodles and chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to the greased casserole dish and top with the shredded mozzarella.  Bake until bubbly and brown on top, 40-45 minutes.

(Source:  Adapted from Food Network)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Favorite Banana Recipes

If you're like me, you always have a stash of frozen bananas in the freezer.  As they start to turn too brown to eat, I immediately throw what we have remaining into the freezer to use later for banana bread or muffins.  Here are my favorite ways to use those overripe bananas, just click the recipe to follow the link!











Happy banana baking!  I would love for you share some of your favorite banana recipes! 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Homemade ice cream is just the BEST.  This buttery, rich ice cream is way better than store bought!  It's creamy and icy, just the way I like it.  Yes, there are a lot of steps and you need a candy thermometer, but it's oh so worth it.


The base is more like a custard because it contains eggs.  I always use half & half and whole milk in my ice cream.  You can substitute heavy cream for the whole milk in this recipe, but I prefer the lighter, icier consistency the whole milk gives it.  Plus, I'm a firm believer in just using what I have on hand - there is never a shortage of milk in my house and we pretty much always have half & half for various reasons.  

The instructions may seem a little daunting, but it's really quite simple - and for such a decadent dessert! 

Serves 8

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small skillet, toast pecans in butter for 5-6 minutes.  Cool completely.

In a heavy saucepan, using a candy thermometer, heat half & half to 175 degrees and stir in the brown sugar until dissolved.  Whisk a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the eggs to temper them.  Return all to the pan and whisk constantly.  Cook and stir over low heat until mixture reaches at least 160 degrees and coats the back of a metal spoon.

Remove from heat and cool quickly by placing pan in a bowl of ice water; stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in the whole milk and vanilla.  Press plastic wrap on the surface of the custard and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Stir in the toasted pecans right before pouring into ice cream maker.  Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions (usually about 20 minutes).  Mixture will still be more like soft serve at this point.  Spoon into a freezer container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

(Source:  Adapted from Taste of Home) Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, March 21, 2014

Clementine Quick Bread

My family and I have been addicted to clementines lately and we always have them around for a quick snack.  But sometimes, after opening a new bag, I wonder why they give you so many?  Even if your family doesn't have a hard time finishing them all, you may be looking for a fun new way to use them.  And I have your answer!  


A simple and sweet light bread that is great for breakfast with a little butter (or plain) or as a after school snack.  My kiddos loved it!  I make banana bread so often that I think they were happy for the change.  


I love the bright orange flecks of zest throughout.  And the glaze makes the bread just a touch sweeter and keeps it very moist.  Sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner's sugar and your family or guests are sure to be wowed!  

 Makes 1 loaf

Clementine Quick Bread

8 clementines (zest from 4 and juice from all 8)
3/4 cup half & half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 5 x 9-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Zest 4 clementines to yield 1 tablespoon zest.  Juice the zested and unzested (8 total) clementines to yield 3/4 cup juice - separate into 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup measurements.

Combine 1/4 cup clementine juice, half & half and vanilla extract in a small bowl, set aside.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a another bowl and set aside.

Beat zest, butter and sugar with a mixer until combined, about 4 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in cream mixture, followed by flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Check at 40 minutes and tent with foil if top is browning too quickly.

Make the glaze by combining the remaining 1/2 cup of juice with the confectioner's sugar.  Remove pan from oven, poke holes in the top with a skewer and apply half the glaze.  Let cool for 15 minutes, then invert pan onto a wire cooling wrack, top side up.  Brush remaining glaze on top.

Store wrapped at room temperature overnight or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

(Source:  Adapted from Martha Stewart)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homemade Chex Mix

We love Chex Mix in our house.  And as much as we love it from the bag, we love this homemade version even more so.  It's incredibly addicting.  Salty and buttery and tangy from the Worcestershire sauce.  Just you wait...once you make it, you won't be able to stop eating it!   


I have always done mine in the oven.  Yes, it takes longer (a lot longer) than the 5 or so minutes in the microwave, but this recipe is from a good friend's mom and that's how she made hers.  I'm not knocking the quicker way, I've just never tried it! 


My favorite pieces are the ones that get extra coated in the seasoning and are a bit chewy.  I also usually make it with just the cereal, but we have a ton of the mini twists pretzels in the house so I tossed them in as well.  You can also throw in nuts or bagel chips.  Just so you have about 12 cups of the whole mixture. 

Serves 12 

Homemade Chex Mix

1 1/2 sticks butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
9 cups Chex cereal
3 cups pretzels

Preheat oven to 225 degrees and place the sticks of butter on an 11 x 18-inch baking sheet.  Place the pan into the oven until the butter melts.  Remove pan from oven and add Worcestershire sauce and seasoning salt to the melted butter.  Stir to combine.

Pour Chex cereal and pretzels on top of melted butter mixture and carefully stir to coat everything.  Put pan back into the oven for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Pour finished Chex mix onto paper towels to drain.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I've done a couple of posts with my Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and since I had some mint frosting leftover from the Mint Oreo Brownies I made last week, I thought I could make these cookies a bit more festive and turn them into a little St. Patty's day dessert.  And who doesn't love a frosting filled cookie sandwich?  
   

The cookies themselves are delightful...you can absolutely omit the frosting in the middle and eat them as is.  Double chocolate!  Cocoa powder and chocolate chips mixed in.  Very buttery and when left really underdone (as I always do with my cookies), they are super gooey in the middle even after cooling.  


This dough is a bit thicker and doesn't really spread out all that much while cooking.  I used a cookie scoop to place the dough on the baking sheet, then pressed it down slightly with my fingers.  That way I got a thinner, flatter cookie for my sandwiches.  

Makes 3 dozen cookies or 18 sandwiches

Double Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the mint buttercream filling
2 cups Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, or store bought
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
5-6 drops green food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, then add the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and beat until well blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.  

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough onto a cookie sheet (or if using a spoon, it's about 2 tablespoons).

Bake for 8-10 minutes and allow to cool for about 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, add the peppermint extract to the buttercream frosting, starting with 1 teaspoon.  Add more if desired depending on the strength of your extract.  Add drops of food coloring until a light green color is reached.  Spread frosting on the bottom of one of the cookies, then top with another cookie.  Repeat until there are no more cookies remaining. 

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Layered Chicken Taco Salad

I had been in the mood for tacos, but kept forgetting to buy hard taco shells at the store!  So I used some of my regular fix-ins' for tacos - cheese, lettuce and tomatoes and turned it into a layered salad...or dip?  This dinner came together in no time at all.   


We ate this by scooping it up with tortilla chips even though I had added seasoned tortilla strips to the top of the salad (you can usually find them in the aisle with the croutons).  Which is why I thought of it as a dip or a salad.  I used chicken because I don't eat ground beef, but you can very easily substitute it.  I also tossed in the black beans to cook a bit with the chicken when I added the taco seasoning.    


This is a great dish to customize to your family - choose a different meat or add other toppings such as black olives or chopped green pepper.  We also would have topped it with sour cream and salsa, but I didn't have either of those on hand - and now you can see how desperate I was to have tacos even though I didn't really have all of my usual suspects for the toppings!  I'll chalk that up to another pregnancy craving...  

Serves 4

Layered Chicken Taco Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 cup Santa Fe tortilla strips (optional)
sour cream and salsa (optional)

In a medium skillet over medium, heat the olive oil and add diced chicken.  Cook until browned, add the black beans, taco seasoning and water.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened.  Spoon chicken and black bean mixture onto the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan.  

Top chicken with lettuce, followed by tomatoes, cheese and tortilla strips.  Dish out to individual plates or bowls (or scoop right out of the pan with a tortilla chip!).  Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired. 

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oreo Brownies with Mint Buttercream Frosting

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner!  And that means mint flavored everything everywhere.  If you've never tried the mint Oreos before, you are missing out.  Ah-mazing!  And because I couldn't help myself at the store and bought two packages, I thought I could use some of them in baking.


I adapted this recipe from Averie Cooks, but used brownie mix from a box and my own very Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting - and changed the flavor to mint!  You can also use store bought frosting and add the peppermint extract and food coloring to that.  


The Oreos are not only sprinkled on the top, but they are also mixed into the brownie batter before baking.  These are heavenly!  And so rich.  I cut them into 9 large brownies, but ended up eating only 1/2 of one at a time.  You could always make them more bite size by cutting into 16 pieces.

Yields 9 large brownies

Oreo Brownies with Mint Buttercream Frosting

1 box of brownie mix, plus ingredients to make (eggs, oil, water)
6 Mint Oreo cookies, crushed

For the mint buttercream frosting 
1 cup Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, or store bought
1/2-1 teaspoon peppermint extract
5-6 drops green food coloring

For the topping
12 Mint Oreos, crushed

Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Preheat oven and prepare brownies according to package directions, adding the 6 crushed Oreos to the batter.  Bake until just done or a little underdone (do not over bake - if you check with a toothpick, it shouldn't come out completely clean).  Let cool completely and make the frosting.

Add peppermint extract to the buttercream frosting, starting with 1/2 teaspoon.  Add more if desired depending on the strength of your extract.  Add drops of food coloring until a light green color is reached.  Spread frosting over cooled brownies.  Top with the rest of the crushed Oreos, slightly pressing them into the frosting.  Serve chilled and store in fridge, covered.

(Source:  Adapted from Averie Cooks)

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

 So easy and fast, you'll use this as your go-to recipe from now on.  This is a basic vanilla buttercream and it is amazing.  There's no need to buy store bought anymore!  


If you have this recipe up your sleeve, then you can very easily add to it to make different flavors.  To make chocolate, just add 4 ounces of melted and cooled semi-sweet chocolate when you add the vanilla.  


So light and fluffy!  Spreads easily and you can control the consistency by adding more or less cream (or none at all!).  I should point out that I have used everything from whipping cream to milk (depending on what was in my fridge) and got pretty consistent results every time.  

Yields 2 cups

Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons cream or milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the butter and sugar on low until combined.  Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon cream and mix for 1 more minute.  Add more cream if desired.

Use immediately or store covered in fridge for up to 3 days.  Bring to room temperature before using.  

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Veggie Ranch Pizza

Pregnancy cravings are funny.  I haven't made this pizza in ages and it randomly popped in my head one day.  Of course, I had to have it!  It didn't disappoint, I was a happy girl.  


It also made me think of my best friend in high school - we would make this all the time then watch cheesy movies.  Like the cheesiest - Cry Baby?  With Johnny Depp?  It's absolutely terrible but still a favorite of mine to this day! 

Like regular pizza, you can add your own favorite toppings.  I was going to add cucumbers but the one I bought had gone bad in just a couple of days.  So a bit of a bummer there, but I really didn't miss it.  Green peppers, grape instead of Roma tomatoes, green onions...add anything you like. 


I wrote the recipe using reduced fat cream cheese and crescent rolls.  It's just what I always buy, but it's not necessary.  Use what you would normally buy, it won't affect the recipe.  By the way, this is kid approved!  My 4-year old loves it - just like eating broccoli and carrots dipped in ranch which is one of her favorite snacks.  

Serves 6 

Veggie Ranch Pizza

1 tube of reduced fat crescent rolls
1 (8 oz) bar neufchatel cheese
1/2 packet Ranch dressing seasoning mix
1 cup broccoli florets, diced
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 Roma tomato, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  Unroll the crescents onto the pan and use your fingers to spread over the entire pan and seal the seams.  Bake for 14-16 minutes until golden.  Let cool completely.

Mix the cream cheese and Ranch seasoning until combined.  Spread over cooled crescent crust.  Top with veggies (any order).  Chill in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving; cut into 12 squares.  Store leftovers covered in the fridge.    

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chocolate Pudding Sundae Cake

This recipe comes from my late stepmother, who made it frequently to bring to Holidays and parties because it's so easy and so good!  Brought back lots of good memories making this and thinking about her.  


The crust is buttery, oh so buttery - I mean, after all, it's just flour and butter mixed together with your choice of nuts (optional) and then baked.  Topped with a cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and cool whip mixture followed by chocolate pudding, then more cool whip.  Add more nuts and Maraschino cherries (again, both optional) to really make it like a sundae!  I opted to use pecans in the crust, but didn't use any on top.  The original recipe calls for walnuts, but I didn't have any nor do I like them!    


Certainly not the prettiest dessert to take pictures of.  Usually it doesn't come out of the pan this nice and neat, but I really worked at it.  The best part is, it doesn't matter because you want to taste all the layers together in one bite and if it gets all mixed up as you serve it, then all the better!

Serves 18-20

Chocolate Pudding Sundae Cake

Crust
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans

First layer
1 (8 oz) package of neufchatel cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (8 oz) tub light cool whip

Second layer
2 (3.4 oz) boxes instant chocolate pudding
3 cups milk

Third layer
1 (8 oz) tub light cool whip
Maraschino cherries
1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Make the crust by mixing the flour, butter and pecans, with a spatula or fork, until everything is combined and smooth.  Press into a 9 x 13-inch cake pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

Make the first layer by beating the cream cheese and butter with a hand held mixer until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients, beat well.  Spread on cooled crust.

Second layer - combine the pudding mix and milk, mix well with a whisk.  Layer over cream cheese mixture.

For the third layer, spread the tub of cool whip over the pudding mixture.  Top with more pecans and Maraschino cherries (optional).

Allow cake to sit in fridge for at least an hour to firm up.  Serve cold and store in fridge.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Brownies with the BEST Peanut Butter Frosting

So. Unbelievably. Good.  The brownies are straight goodness from a box and the icing is beater licking, bowl licking fantastic.  So not only good, but really, barely a recipe...so easy! 


If you have a favorite from-scratch brownie recipe, feel free to use that in place of the box.  I happen to love brownie mixes - that consistently fudgy result EVERY time.  
  

Look how creamy that icing is.  I could not stop eating it...off the beaters, the bowl, the spatula, the knife when I cut the brownies.  Ridiculously peanut buttery good.


This is now my go-to peanut butter icing.  Cupcakes and cakes, I'll even make some to swirl into ice cream.  I'm certain that you'll go back to it again and again too.  It's incredibly simple enough!

Makes 16 Brownies

Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
1 box of fudge brownie mix
Oil, eggs, water to make brownies- according to package directions
For the frosting
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 teaspoons milk
Make brownies according to package directions.  Cool completely.  Make the icing by combining the confectioner's sugar, peanut butter, butter and vanilla in a medium bowl and mixing with a hand mixer.  Add the milk a teaspoon at a time until it becomes light and fluffy and spreadable. 

Spread icing over entire pan of cooled brownies.  Cut into 16 small squares or 9 larger squares.
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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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