Monday, January 21, 2013

Freezable Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

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I found this recipe on Pinterest a couple of months ago. It was love at first sight. Enchiladas packed with chicken, onion, peppers and cheese covered in a creamy avocado sauce... Who wouldn't swoon? I did, and I made this within a few days of finding the recipe.

I'll tell you this, these are some of the most unique and delicious enchiladas I've ever had. They are packed full of flavor, and don't take very long to prepare. We enjoyed these with homemade re-fried beans and Spanish rice.

The recipe made 12 enchiladas, so I split them into two 8X8 dishes and froze one. You'll definitely want to give these a try, and don't be afraid to double the recipe so you can freeze some yourself.

Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

Enchilada Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled diced
2 poblano peppers, stemmed and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
12 taco sized flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie works best) (I used leftover pulled pork)
2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese
optional garnish: fresh cilantro, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese

Avocado Cream Sauce Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime

First make the avocado cream sauce: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk the broth into the flour mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, cumin, salt, garlic powder and pepper, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Add avocados, cilantro and lime juice, and pulse until smooth and well-blended. (Be very careful blending hot liquids — the heat will expand! So be sure to remove the lid occasionally so that the heat can escape.) Season with additional salt or pepper if needed.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, poblano and jalapeno, and saute for 5-6 minutes until the onions are cooked and translucent. Remove from heat.

To assemble the enchiladas, place a tortilla on a flat surface. Spread a tablespoon or two of the avocado sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Then layer on some of the vegetable mixture, shredded chicken and cheese. Carefully roll the tortilla and place it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Drizzle the top with about half of the remaining avocado cream sauce, then cover the dish with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through and begin to harden.

Remove from the oven, then serve individual enchiladas drizzled with the remainder of the avocado cream sauce. You can also garnish with additional cilantro, cheese, and/or sour cream.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Homemade Wonton Cups

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Don't you love wontons? I do! You can make egg rolls, pot stickers, gyoza, raviolis, the list goes on! This recipe turns them into crisp little cups that become a vessel for any filling of your choice! In the picture you see, I stuffed mine with a baby lettuce salad tossed in a mango vinaigrette. But really, there are countless ways you can fill these little guys up. Caesar salad, chicken salad, crab salad, tuna salad, cream cheese and chutney, salsa and guacamole, bean dip, taco fillings, whipped cream and berries, smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumbers, spinach and artichoke dip, so on and so forth...  

You can make these a day or so ahead of time, just make sure you keep them stored in an air tight container away from moisture. I like to salt my wonton cups, but if you want to stuff them with something sweet you may want to nix the salt. These are great for a party, especially for a football game! Imagine the possibilities for fillings! These are super fun to serve, and everyone loves them. You're sure to be the hostess with the mostess when you make them! 

Wonton Cups

12 wonton wrappers
Cooking spray
Filling of your choice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Spray the wonton wrappers with oil, and place each wrapper into a section of a muffin tin. Gently press each wrapper into the tin and arrange so that it forms a cup shape. The wrapper will overlap itself and stick up out of the cup. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove from the tin and allow wrappers to cool.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vanilla Coconut Granola

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I've been making this granola since Summer time and it's now my husband's favorite breakfast cereal. I found this recipe on 100 Days of Real Food a few months ago, and the combination of ingredients sounded delicious! She uses cashews, sliced almonds, raw sunflower seeds and raw pumpkin seeds, oats, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, butter and honey (I've used agave and real maple syrup instead of honey). There's a lot of things I love about this recipe, but one great thing is that a relatively small serving is more than satisfying! Also, there isn't an overload of sugar in it. Do you know how much sugar is in normal store-bought cereal? I'd say 90% of the time it's one of the first three ingredients, and since ingredients are listed in order of greatest amount to least, that means there's more sugar than you probably realized in your morning bowl. This next factoid might not surprise you, but this is also cheaper to make than it would be to buy. Especially if you buy your nuts, seeds and spices in the bulk section of your grocery store. I encourage you to find a grocery store that has a bulk section, especially for recipes like this where you only need 1/2-1c of nuts, or a small amount of a spice you may not normally use. You'll pay pennies for spices, and maybe a dollar or so for the nuts.

One thing I started doing to stretch the granola, was adding flax flakes or puffed brown rice (like rice crispies). There's some things you can do to customize this (according to 100 Days of Real Food). You can use all cashews or almonds, or an entirely different nut altogether. Same with the seeds. If you want to make granola bars, she suggests making it with steel cut oats instead of rolled oats. Also, adding dried fruit bits before baking granola bars is quite nice. For the cereal, she adds dried fruit after it's baked and completely cooled.

This one batch of granola (with our flakes or puffed rice added) usually lasts us at least two weeks. It has taken us longer to eat a batch, and we've not seen any ill effects from it. I would imagine that you'd want to be close to eating a whole batch within two weeks. If you're not sure you could eat a batch that quickly, just cut the recipe in half. I definitely recommend trying this out, especially if your family consists of cereal or granola eaters like mine!

Granola Bars/Cereal from 100 Days of Real Food

3 1/2 cups rolled oats (if you want bars use steel cut oats so it will stick together better)
1 cup raw sliced almonds (or walnuts or pecans)
1 cup raw cashew pieces (use bits and pieces if you can find them, they're cheaper!)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I had sweetened on hand, so I used that)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (I've used coconut oil instead)
1/2 cup honey (I've used agave and real maple syrup instead)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Also need – parchment paper (I usually just grease my baking sheet)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cover a rectangular baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the dry oats, almonds, cashews, coconut, seeds and spices together in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the butter and honey together in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the butter melts stir in the vanilla.

Pour the hot liquids over the dry ingredients and stir together with a rubber spatula until evenly coated.

Spread mixture onto prepared pan in one even layer. Bake for 75 minutes.

The granola will become crisp as it cools at which point you can break into pieces (if making bars) or break it up into small chunks by pounding it in a zip lock bag (if making cereal). Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meatless Monday: Freezable Ribollita (Vegetable, Bean and Stale Bread Soup)

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Oh this soup... I made this a few months ago now, and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to write the post for it because it's amazing! I saw it on Rachael Ray's show where she cooks an entire week's worth of meals in one day. I've seen Ribollita (stale bread soup) made a few times, but for some reason this one struck me as different and delicious. Plus I had most of the vegetables it needed already in my fridge, which is always a bonus. 

Let me just tell you, this soup is cozy, comforting, warming and oh so perfect for these cold winter nights. It's been in the 20's around here lately, and I'd like nothing more than to curl up with a bowl of this perfect soup. It's packed full of veggies, and the broth is made up of chicken stock with tomato puree and a bit of white wine, which makes everything a little more special. I would also recommend not skipping finishing the soup with the raw onion, olive oil and cheese. Unless you don't like raw onion, then obviously leave the onion out of the finishing touches. But these three components balance and compliment the soup making it even more perfect. 

I would definitely say this is a complete meal all by itself since it has lots of veggies, and the bread is already in there. I hope you'll give this recipe a try, it's truly a new favorite around here!

Ribollita (Vegetable, Bean and Stale Bread Soup) from Rachael Ray

1 cup borlotti beans or other small dried bean of choice, soaked for 4 hours (I used canellini beans)
8 cups chicken stock
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 onions, 1/2 peeled, 1 1/2 chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 to 6 slices 1-inch thick peasant style bread, cut into coarse cubes or torn into pieces
About 1/4 cup EVOO, plus some for drizzling at the table
2 carrots, chopped
2 small ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/3 palmful
1 fresh bay leaf
Herb bundle of fresh parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as lacinato or dinosaur) or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, (about 12 ounces trimmed greens)
1/2 small savoy cabbage, cored and chopped, about 2 to 3 cups (I used regular green cabbage)
A few grates of nutmeg
2 cups tomato puree or passata
Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus freshly grated to pass at table
1 small white or red onion, finely chopped

Variations: For a sweeter soup, add chopped fennel to your mix. For autumn, add zucchini or butternut squash to your blend.

Drain the beans and place in a pot with 4 cups chicken stock, 1 clove garlic, half an onion and some salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread until deeply golden and toasted. Store in foil.

Heat 1/4 cup EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, remaining 3 cloves garlic, chile flakes, bay leaf and herb bundle. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, kale, cabbage and a little nutmeg. Stir. Wilt the greens, partially covered, 5 to 6 minutes more. Add the beans and their liquids and the tomato puree. Stir. Add 2 cups more stock (reserve 2 cups for the night you serve). Add the cheese rind to the soup. Simmer to combine flavors, 15 minutes. Remove 3 cups of the beans and vegetables, about half the soup, to food processor and puree. Then add back to pot. Cool and store the soup for a make-ahead meal.

To serve, heat the soup over medium heat, add the bread to the soup and let it absorb the liquid. Thin the soup with the remaining 2 cups of stock. Taste to adjust seasoning. Remove the herb bundle, rind and bay leaf. The ribollita is done when a wooden spoon can stand straight up in the soup. Ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with a generous drizzle of EVOO, finely chopped raw onion and cheese. Leftover soup can be fried in olive oil in a skillet like potato pancakes or hash, and topped with over easy or fried eggs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

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Ah, my Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms... Hands down one of my most favorite things she makes. I request these babies all of the time. Birthdays, my bridal shower and my baby shower just to name a few. I remember having these at family get-togethers growing up, and they were always the first thing to go. I'll tell you something else, when it comes to stuffed mushrooms, you've never had anything like these ones. I've tried googling the recipe before, it's nowhere to be found. That secretly makes me smile because it's still my secret... Until now, because this recipe is too good to keep to myself. It deserves to be shared. 

The one thing that separates this recipe from the pack, is a special secret ingredient. One packet of Lawry's Spaghetti Seasoning. There's something about the flavor from this mix that is incomparable. Thinking about it now, a few of my Mom's secret recipes involve spice packets. Her famous tortellini recipe also includes Lawry's, and her "Special Mayonnaise" has a packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing. I'll have to share those recipes with you too, they make me happy.

Anyway, these stuffed mushrooms make a great appetizer, but could also serve as a main course if you make enough of them. You can also stuff larger Portobello mushrooms instead of a bunch of button mushrooms. A few years ago, my parent's got the idea to use the stuffing inside of a stuffed zucchini. I shared that recipe with you at the end of last Summer. I suppose you could stuff any veggie with this mixture! 

My Mom's Stuffed Mushrooms

1 LB ground beef
1 onion, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely diced
4 mushrooms, minced
1 package Lawrey's spaghetti mix
1/2 cup Colby jack, shredded
1 T Parmesan
Large mushrooms hollowed out with a spoon, reserve stems and chop them finely

Heat a pan over medium heat, cook ground beef, mushroom stems and onion until beef is cooked through. In a large bowl, mix the ground beef and onion with the tomatoes, mushrooms spaghetti mix, and both cheeses.

Put beef mixture into hollowed out mushrooms. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes, or until heated though.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

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Pumpkin pie and salted caramel. Doesn't that sound like a match made in heaven? Let me tell you, it is! I made these babies for a holiday party I catered last Christmas. Not only are these cute, they're delicious and not complicated! The Salted Caramel Butter-cream is divine, good luck not eating it out of the mixing bowl. 

I made my cupcakes in a mini muffin tin, but the recipe is for regular sized cupcakes, so don't let the picture confuse you :) I wanted to share these with you before Christmas because they're a wonderful little dessert that is quite festive. Give these a try at your holiday table!

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 can (15 oz) Libby's Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with paper lines; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown sugar, sugar, butter, and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add dry ingredients, and mix on low until smooth.  Fold in the pumpkin puree.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway.  Bake until tops string back when touched, about 17 minutes, rotating pans once if needed.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Recipe I followed said it makes 18 cupcakes... Mine were just the right size and I got 27!  Recipe also said to bake for 20-25 minutes, but at 17 I smelled something burning and pulled them right out.  One cupcake in the back had a black bottom, but the rest were just fine... I didn't rotate the pan.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
adapted from via {on Pinterest}

I just added an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar... here's the recipe with my little changes {because I was serving them to adults and kiddos, thought it might be a bit too salty for the littles}.

1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, 1 salted & 1 unsalted
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a small saucepan, bring the white sugar and water to a boil over medium heat.  Without stirring, let it boil until it reaches a deep amber color.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla & heavy cream.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool until easy to pour, but not hot {I put mine in the fridge for about 10 minutes}.  Meanwhile, beat the butter and sea salt in a stand mixer until lightened and fluffy.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl and mixing until combined.  Turn off the mixer and slowly pour in the caramel mixture.  Mix on low until combined, t hen mix on medium-high for about 2 minutes, until fluffy and well combined.  If you pour your caramel in while it's still too warm, your frosting will be runny.  If that happens, refrigerate until firm enough to pipe on your cupcakes.

Made exactly the right amount {plus two small spoonfuls for my helpers} to pipe onto 24 cupcakes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Freezer-Friendly Ham & Cheese Pockets

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A couple of months ago I found myself in a rut when it came to my daughter's lunches. It was usually a grilled cheese, quesadilla or yogurt and crackers with fruit and veggies. I set out to find a few other options to add into the rotation, and found this recipe on Pinterest. They're little Ham and Cheese Pockets, and I loved that you can make a larger batch, freeze them and pop them in the microwave when you want them. One of my favorite parts of the recipe, is that it gives you bread machine instructions to make the dough! Fret not if you don't have a bread machine, there's directions to make the dough by hand. It's not complicated doing it by hand, I just love letting my bread machine do the work for me. These came together very quickly after the dough was done rising. You cut the dough into 10-14 balls (I made 12), then roll the balls out, add your ham and cheese, seal and bake.

I did change up the recipe to make these half whole wheat flour, and you'll see my changes in the recipe. If you would prefer using all AP flour, go ahead and use a total of three cups. So how did they taste? Oh, they were AMAZING! I had to try one for quality control, obviously. I used uncured black forest ham (without nitrates and nitrites) from Trader Joes, and Monterey Jack cheese, and let me just tell you... These weren't your run of the mill sandwiches. They tasted sophisticated and delicious, so do not try to compare these to a Hot Pocket, they're in a completely different league. My daughter loved these too, so we have a hit all the way around! These are great for anyone, not just the kiddos. You could play up the fillings a million different ways too, so experiment and try these out!

Freezer-Friendly Ham & Cheese Pockets adapted from Money Saving Mom

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I also added 2t Vital Wheat Gluten to help keep the dough lite)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons dry milk
3 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons yeast
1 cup warm water

Sliced ham
Shredded or sliced cheese

To make dough in bread machine: Add ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed and run on the dough cycle. Check about halfway through to see if you need to add a little extra water or flour to make a soft dough.

To make dough by hand: Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in salt, sugar, and dry milk. Add flour and stir until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes, until a soft dough forms. Add a little more flour, if needed.

To make Ham & Cheese Pockets: Divide dough into 10-14 balls. Roll each ball into a rectangle. Put ham and cheese on half of the rectangle. Fold dough over and pinch sides to seal tightly.

Bake Pockets on a greased cookie sheet at 350-degrees for 15-18 minutes, until lightly browned.

To freeze: Let cool completely. Freeze in airtight ziptop freezer bags for up to 2-3 months.

To serve: Remove desired number of pizza pockets from the freezer and warm them individually in the microwave for about two minutes or until heated through. Or, warm on a cookie sheet in a 350-degrees oven for 20 minutes, or until heated through.