Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chicken Monterey

Pinterest strikes again.  I've seen a million recipes for this Chicken Monterey, and it sounded so good!

It was.

My husband LOVED this chicken!  The girls loved it, too.  It was a huge hit at our house.

So you just brown some chicken in a cast iron skillet...

Then you top with barbecue sauce,

some turkey bacon bits...

and cheese!

I mean, how bad can that be.

We certainly loved it.

And you could certainly grill the chicken as well.  And you could certainly use any kind of cheese you like.

Oh!  And we ate this with steamed broccoli (we only eat broccoli about 3 nights/week at our house) with lemon and sweet potato fries (the kind in a bag in the freezer section and baked them just like the package said.  I sprinkled them with salt, cinnamon and sugar....yeah, my husband and kids loved those, too.).

Chicken Monterey
Adapted from about a dozen recipes on the internet

1 T olive oil
4 T turkey bacon bits (optional)
4 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
Salt & pepper
6-8 T barbecue sauce
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
2 green onions, sliced thin

Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  Cook the chicken in the olive oil over medium heat until browned on both sides and just cooked through.

Spread 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce on the chicken.  Sprinkle with turkey bacon and lay the cheese on top.  Remove from the heat, cover the skillet and let it sit until the cheese is melty, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the green onions on top and serve!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Homemade Toaster Pastries

Growing up, my brother and I would occasionally convince my mom to buy toaster pastries.  You know, the ones that you toast and then squeeze the glaze on top.

We loved them.

But they never had enough glaze.

Problem solved!

I'm here to solve the injustices in the glaze/icing world.

You're welcome.

Homemade Toaster Pastries
Adapted from Claire Robinson

8 oz. can crescent roll sheet
6 T strawberry jam (not jelly - you want something thick with real fruit in it)
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 T lemon juice

Unroll the dough and cut it into 4 equal portions.  Place 1 1/2 T jam on each square and fold over to make a pocket.  Use a fork to crimp around the edges to keep the filling from oozing out.

Place pockets on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and bake in a 425 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes until golden.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice (add enough lemon juice that it's thick but pourable).  Drizzle the glaze over the pastries and serve!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lemon Butter Bars

Oh, people.

This is yet another variation of Chess Pie Squares (aka Ooey Gooey Buttercake).

I've made toffee butter bars.

Plain ones.

And now I'm making lemon ones.

I made lemon bars because it's almost spring...and I love spring because it means that summer is coming.

Oh, how I love warm weather.  I love cold weather, too, because it reminds me of how much I really appreciate warm weather.

So anyway. Lemon bars.  I love all types.

My mom says these are the best lemon bars she's had.

Make them.  Decide for yourself.

Not a bad way to spend your calories.

Note: I added a few drops of yellow food coloring to the filling.  I don't think it added much color and I won't do it again next time.  But feel free if you like food coloring.

Lemon Butter Bars
Adapted from Six Sisters Stuff

18.25 oz. lemon cake mix
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup lemon juice (1-2 lemons, depending on how big they are)
2 T butter, melted
2 eggs
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp lemon extract

2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 T lemon juice

Mix together the crust ingredients and press in the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Beat together the filling ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Pour on top of the crust and spread evenly with a knife.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes - you want them to be still jiggly when you take them out of the oven.  They will set as they cool and be nice and creamy and gooey!  Let the bars cool for about 30 minutes before you mix together the powdered sugar and lemon juice and spread it on top.  Cool completely before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I didn't know it was still winter!  Alas, it is.  It's snowing.  And so I'm still making soup!

Welcome to my world.

This is the first time I have made minestrone.  It's not something that I would normally order or crave.

BUT.  This minestrone is just delicious.  There are so many flavors!  I loved it.

So many veggies, so much flavor.  I made it thick like I like it and topped it with a sprinkle of parm.  Just like I like it.

Just sauté onions, celery, carrots and garlic in some butter.  Let the veggies go until they're tender.

Now add the thyme, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

Now stir in the cannellini beans, pasta, spinach and pesto.

I love wilting the spinach in this soup!  It is so much spinach that wilts down to nothing.  It adds a great texture and flavor, too.  I have never added spinach to a soup before but this will not be the last time I do it! I loved it!

And the pesto.  Can we just talk about the pesto for a minute.  SO GOOD, y'all.  So much flavor.  I used the pesto I made and froze while I was in labor with Baby Bear.  That was almost 7 months ago!  The pesto tasted just as delicious as ever.

Adapted from Barefoot

2 T butter
2 onions, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme (about 2 tsp leaves)
6-7 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, not drained
15 oz. cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (or use any short-cut pasta like orzo, elbow macaroni, etc.), cooked to al dente according to package directions (about 2 cups cooked)
3 T pesto (store-bought or homemade)
10 oz. package fresh baby spinach
Grated parmesan, for serving

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onions, celery, carrots and garlic in the fat for about 10 minutes, until they begin to soften.

Add the thyme, 6 cups of chicken stock, the bay leaf, salt, pepper and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf.  Add the beans, cooked pasta and pesto.  Stir well.  Add the spinach and use a spoon to push the leaves into the broth.  The leaves will quickly wilt down and incorporate into the soup.  Add the extra cup of chicken stock if you want a thinner soup.

Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan on top.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cheese Sticks

Have you ever had cheese sticks from Papa John's?

They are so very good.

These cheese sticks are close (maybe better!?!).

The cheese is melty...

The garlic is...well, garlicky...

And they're just warm and delicious!

Just writing about these makes me want to make them again!


Cheese Sticks
Adapted from Six Sisters Stuff

Roll of refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
3 T butter, melted
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Unroll the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Mix together the garlic and butter and spread evenly on the dough, leaving about a 1-inch border.

Sprinkle with cheese and oregano.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes until golden and bubbly.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Key Lime Cake

My baby girl asked for pink cake last year for her 2nd birthday.  So I made Very Strawberry Cupcakes.

Well, this year, my girl decided she wanted a green cake.

Perfect!  I had been wanting to make Trisha Yearwood's key lime cake, and I finally had an excuse.

It's green, you see.  And it's super moist.  Because here's the thing.  You make the cake, then you pour a lime juice syrup on top, then you ice it with cream cheese icing.

It's the most lime-y, tart, sweet, moist, delicious cake covered in cream cheese icing you'll ever put in your mouth.

I kept it in the fridge because I like cold cakes.  Is that weird?

The cake is super easy to mix up - you don't even need a mixer.

Just stir together the dry ingredients, add the wet ones, and then whisk until just combined.

I made this into a layer cake, but you could just as easily make it in a 9x13 dish.  Either way, you want to grease the pans, fit a piece of parchment paper in the bottom and then spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray.

Measuring my pans for parchment paper.
Bottom line: this is a sticky, moist cake and it will stick to the pans if you don't spray them well!

Measure the batter into the pans: it took about 2 cups of batter in each 9" cake pan.

Here we go!

Mix up the glaze while the cakes bake.  Just stir together some lime juice and powdered sugar.

You'll pour the glaze over the cakes when they come out of the oven.  Have I mentioned that this cake is moist?

And now we should definitely slather all three layers with cream cheese icing.

I used the seeds of a vanilla bean in my icing, because I just love the way little black seeds look in my white icing.  But you could also use vanilla bean paste and achieve the same effect.

Now just frost away!

I love how green this cake is...contrasted with the white's just perfect.

Especially when you serve it on a Mickey Mouse plate.

Note: Next time I will make this only a 2-layer cake.  I thought the layers were a bit thin and there was not quite enough icing to generously ice three layers.  Two layers will work better.  

Key Lime Cake
Adapted from Trisha Yearwood

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 oz. package lime jello
1 cup canola oil
1 cup orange juice
Juice from 1 lime
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup lime juice (from about 5-6 limes)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Cream cheese icing:
1/2 stick (4 T) butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
3 T milk (enough to make it an easy spreading consistency but not runny)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Add the sugar, jello, oil, orange juice, lime juice, eggs and vanilla extract.  Whisk until just combined.

Prepare three 9" cake pans - spray them with nonstick cooking spray, place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom, and spray the parchment with cooking spray.

Pour about 2 cups of batter in each cake pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with just a few crumbs sticking to it.

Cool the cakes for about 5 minutes in the pan.  Turn them out onto a cooling rack.  Whisk together the lime juice and powdered sugar and spoon the glaze evenly over the cakes.  Cool completely.

Use a mixer to beat together the icing ingredients.  Add the milk slowly until you reach the desired consistency - you want it to be thin enough to spread but not too thin that it's runny.

Place one cake layer on a cake plate and spread a layer of icing on top.  Continue layering and icing until the layers are iced and the sides are covered with icing.  Store in the fridge.