Sunday, February 28, 2010

Amaretto Baked Pears with Streusel Filling

Last week, I pulled out my 2007 Cooking Light Annual recipes cookbook and flagged several recipes I want to try.  I've been in a cooking rut lately and needed some inspiration.  Too often I'll buy a cookbook, and then never make anything from it, except for Ina's books,  oh how I love Ina's recipes!  Anyway, this Baked Pears recipe sounded easy enough and gives you the flavors of a pie without the heavy and fattening crust.  I left out the nuts from the original recipe because I didn't have any, and I used Amaretto, instead of Apple Brandy.  This smelled wonderful and tasted great with some frozen vanilla yogurt.  Enjoy!

Amaretto Baked Pears with Streusel Filling
adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007

For the Streusel:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted  (I use unsalted)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3 Anjou Pears, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1/3 cup apple juice  
1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare streusel by combining flour, and next 6 ingredients in a bowl.  

To prepare pears, use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the core from each pear half.  Evenly distribute the filling into each of the pear halves.  Place pears in 8x8 baking dish and pour apple juice and amaretto into bottom of the dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for another 10 minutes.  Serve warm, drizzled with the cooking liquid. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mini Penne with Chicken, Bacon and Spinach

 While browsing The Pioneer Woman's website the other day, I came across her recipe for Pasta with Bacon and Mushrooms.  These are some of my favorite ingredients, so I used her recipe to inspire last nights dinner, using what I already had on hand.  I picked up several boxes of Barilla's Piccolini pasta's this week, on sale a Meijer for only .88 cents a box.   The 3 huge split chicken breasts I used were from a 5.5lb package I got at Sam's club for only $11.00, which means this whole dish, which was a huge amount of food, probably only cost me around $10 to make.  It made enough for 8-10 servings, so you'll have enough for a crowd, or plenty of leftovers.  My husband had to work late last night, so after I finished cooking, I sent him the above picture, to tempt him to hurry his tail up and get home!  He took one bite and exclaimed "this is definitely blog worthy!"  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.   

Mini Penne with Chicken, Bacon and Spinach

5 tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
3 large split, bone-less chicken breast, cut into small bite-size pieces 
salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder
6 slices Louis Rich Turkey Bacon, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (4 oz) cans mushrooms
1 carrot, diced
5 oz (1/2 of a 10oz) box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/4 cups Half-and-half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 16oz box Barilla Mini Penne pasta


Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons Olive Oil over medium-high eat.  Add chicken to pan and season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder (to taste, I like lots of pepper!)  Cook until no longer pink inside.  Place chicken on a plate and cover to keep warm.  To same pan, over medium heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, bacon, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and carrots, along with extra salt and pepper, to taste.  Saute until veggies until tender.  Add spinach, and chicken broth.  Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits.  Cook over medium-high heat for several minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.  

Reduce heat to medium and pour in half and half.  Stir and allow sauce to simmer and thicken for several minutes.  Add parmesean and chicken, stir and heat through.  Note: At this point, if you want the sauce thicker, mix 1 tbls. soft butter with 1 Tbls. flour and stir into the sauce. This will thicken it very nicely.   Serve with extra parmesan on top if desired. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mexican Casserole- Using Leftover Taco Meat

 Taco night is pretty common in my house and we always have leftover taco meat in the fridge or freezer.  This casserole is a perfect way to use it up.  Sometimes I add frozen corn to the mix, but I forgot to do that today.  This is not a diet friendly meal, however it's inexpensive, uses up leftovers, and feeds 6-8 people!  These days, I'm lovin' meals like this!  Enjoy!

Mexican Casserole


1 (14-15 oz) bag of tortilla chips, crushed
1/2 cup shredded Jack cheese
2 cups leftover taco meat  
1 cup salsa
1 (14.5 oz) can of black beans 
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed sliced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
Cooking Spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray.   Spread half the crushed chips on the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle with the Jack cheese.

In a large skillet, heat the taco meat, salsa, black beans, and stewed tomatoes over medium until heated through.   Spread meat mixture over chips and jack cheese.  Spread sour cream over meat mixture, then top with Mexican shredded cheese.  Top with remaining crushed tortilla chips.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until heated through.   Serve over lettuce and tomato, with extra salsa on top, if desired. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Hearts

If you like Reese's Cups, then you'll love these!  White chocolate covered Reese's Cups are my husband's favorite candy.  I thought I would make him a special treat for Valentine's Day, since he is working hard in the basement installing new lighting.  I found the recipe for these over at All Home Cooking All Year Long.  Michelle used chocolate chips, but I used  Ghirardelli White Chocolate Candy Dipping Bar, which I picked up at Sam's Club over the holidays.  I love the taste of this product and it melts perfectly.  This only took minutes to prepare and my 6 year old helped make the heart shapes.  I had leftover dipping chocolate that I decided to tint pink and drizzle over the hearts for some color.  Fun to make and even more fun to eat.  Enjoy!

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Hearts
adapted from Michelle at All Home Cooking All The Time

1 cup creamy peanut butter
a dash of salt
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
a dash of vanilla extract
12 oz. white chocolate candy coating

Combine all ingredients (except white chocolate) in a bowl and mix until smooth, with no white specks.   Form into heart shapes and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper.  I used extra powdered sugar on my hands to keep the peanut butter from sticking.  Place pan into freezer to let shapes set for 1 hour.

Melt white chocolate in microwave save bowl according to package directions.   Using a skewer or fork, dip into chocolate, let excess drip off.  Place back on sheet pan and put into freezer for another 30 minutes. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Barbecue Meat Loaf

I think this is my new favorite meat loaf recipe.  We love barbecue sauce in my house.  I use it in Cheesy Barbecue Casserole, and make Barbecue Sloppy Joe's, instead of using a canned sauce.  Our favorite store bought barbecue sauce is Sweet Baby Ray's... because it's sweet!  The original recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of meat, but I had 2 lbs. in the fridge so I used all of it.  In addition to the 2 egg whites, I included a whole egg because I used the extra beef.  I added some shredded carrot and green pepper to the mix for extra flavor and fiber.  I loved the flavor of this meatloaf.  After I removed it from the oven, I let it rest for about 10-15 minutes.  It held together perfectly and was not dry at all.  Served with mashed potatoes and green beans... it's a classic home made blue-plate special and very comforting on a cold winter night.   Enjoy!

Barbecue Meat Loaf
adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007


2 lbs. lean ground beef  (I used ground round)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
3 tablespoons shredded carrot
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned, but plain would be fine)
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, plus extra for top of meat loaf
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg whites and 1 whole egg
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.  In a medium non-stick skillet, saute carrots, onion and green pepper in olive oil over med heat until soft, but not browned.  Let cool slightly.  In a large bowl, combine the beef, sauteed vegetables, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, and remaining ingredients (except cooking spray).

Shape meat mixture into a loaf on a sheet pan coated with cooking spray.  Spread remaining barbecue sauce over top of meat loaf.  Bake at 350° for 45-1 hour or until a thermometer registers 160° (amount of time depends on thickness of loaf).  Let stand at least 10 minutes before slicing. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pita Bread

Here is a delicious pita bread recipe I found over at .  I needed pita bread to serve with my Chicken Gyro's for dinner last night.  The process to make these is very much like making pizza dough.  I used my Kitchen Aid to do all the hard work (kneading).  The dough doubled in size in about an hour, but the recipe said 90 minutes, so I left it alone.  I doubled the recipe, so that I'd have enough left over to make pizzas for the kids the next day.  It took me a few tries to get the hang of rolling the dough to the correct thickness.  If it's too thick it will not puff up correctly, but it will still taste great.  My last one turned out perfectly!   Serve with Gyros or hot out of the oven with some honey.  Yum!

Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon honey
1 packet active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
2 tablespoons olive oil 
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the dough hook, mix the yeast, water, honey.  Allow to proof for 5-10 minutes (should become bubbly).  Add olive oil, flour and salt.  Mix at low speed for 10-15 minutes, adding a little more flour as needed to prevent sticking to side.  Dough should be tacky, but not overly sticky.  Remove from hook, and shape into a ball.  Place into a large bowl, greased with a little oil or spray.  Roll the ball around in the bowl to cover it with the oil.  Cover bowl with towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.   

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Punch dough down to release gases.  Divide dough into equal portions and shape into balls.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with damp towel and let rest for 20-30 minutes.  With a rolling pin, on a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a flat circle about 1/8 inch thick.  If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Place on a sheet pan, lined with parchment paper, baking 2 at a time, for approximately 3 minutes.  The pitas are done when they puff up in the oven.  

      Perfectly puffed, right out of the oven!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Dill Sauce

This is one of the best chicken recipes I've made in a long time... so easy and flavorful!  This is a great recipe for extending a little meat for a lot of people.  I used 4 boneless chicken breasts, to feed 5 of us for dinner.  My youngest didn't want to eat the chicken (he's quite picky and not feeling well), but the rest of us each had two Gyros, and we still have enough left over for two small lunches.  My oldest son actually requested these leftovers for lunch today.   I marinated the chicken for about two hours, then cooked it in batches in a non-stick skillet.  At dinner time, all I had to do was re-heat the meat in the microwave and serve!  Easy, delicious and healthy!    Don't forget to check back tomorrow to get the recipe for homemade pita bread.

Lisa's Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Dill Sauce
Serves 4-6

For the chicken/marinade:

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut in thin strips
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
6 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Fresh Pita Bread
red onion and tomato (optional)
Cucumber Dill Sauce- see recipe below


Place chicken pieces in ziploc bag with next 6 ingredients.  Mix well and marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.   Working in batches, saute chicken in a non-stick skillet over high heat.  You will not need to add any oil to the pan because the chicken is already coated with oil from the marinade.  Cook chicken until no pink remains.  Serve with pita bread, sliced red onion, tomato and cucumber sauce, if desired.  Enjoy!!

Cucumber Dill Sauce:

1 medium cucumber, seeded, and shredded (squeeze out excess water)
1 cup sour cream
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. dill weed
pinch of sugar

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Serve with Chicken Gyros.