Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicken Ranch Pizza

DB and I were in the mood for pizza, but just wanted to vary the flavors a little. I love going to Annie's blog because she has amazing recipes with beautiful pictures. Of course, she had this pizza listed in her blog and I thought it was be a great and easy quick dinner. I altered it to what I had on hand and we loved the flavors. If you don't have the exact ingredients listed below, you can definitely substitute to what you do have on hand. For instance, you can definitely use mozzarella, monterey-jack, or pepper-jack cheeses, you can omit the bacon, or use rotisserie chicken if you're in a hurry.

While I am still a red sauce pizza gal, this is quickly my 2nd favorite way to have pizza! I would definitely recommend making your own homemade crust (a blog update will be coming soon...), but ready-made crust will work just fine in a pinch. You can usually pick up ready-made pizza crust at your local Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or your local grocery store.

Chicken Ranch Pizza

Pizza dough
¼ cup Ranch dressing
¾ cup shredded Pepper-Jack cheese (Mozzarella is fine here)
½-1 grilled chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces (Rotisserie chicken would work well)
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2-3 green onions, chopped
4-6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 500° F. Allow the stone to heat for at least 30 minutes. (Alternatively, follow your ready-made crust's instructions.)
2. In the mean time, cut a round of parchment paper the size of your pizza stone. (Alternatively, use a pizza peel.) Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal or semolina flour.
3. Gently roll out the pizza dough into a large circle, leaving a thicker ring around the edge for the crust.
4. Spread the Ranch dressing in a thin layer evenly over the unbaked crust.
5. Sprinkle with shredded Pepper-Jack cheese.
6. Top with grilled chicken, tomato, green onions, and chopped bacon.
7. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar.
8. Once assembled, carefully transfer the parchment round and pizza to the preheated baking stone and return to the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned.
9. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Source: Originally from AllRecipes, As seen on Annie's Eats

Monday, September 27, 2010

Very Moist, Healthy Banana Bread

True to its name, this banana bread is very moist- and it contains NO OIL! The moisture comes from the (reduced-fat) yogurt and very ripe bananas. You can make it your own by adding chocolate chips, dusting it with cinnamon sugar, or just keeping it plain and simple. I opted to make all 3 flavors using my mini-loaf pans. Enjoy!

Here is a close-up of the Banana Bread with chocolate chips:

Here is my trifecta of breads- Chocolate Chips, Cinnamon Sugar Chocolate Chips, Cinnamon Sugar-dusted:

Very Moist, Healthy Banana Bread

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 RIPE bananas, mashed
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (not sugar-free) (I used 6-oz Kroger brand CarbMaster reduced-fat yogurt)
2 eggs
6 Tbsp melted butter
Add-ins: Chocolate chips, Cinnamon sugar (optional)

1. Preheat to 350. Line muffin tin with liners.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients.
3. Beat together the bananas, yogurt, eggs, and melted butter in a large bowl.
4. Fold dry ingredients and any add-ins into wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
5. Bake in greased loaf pan for 55 minutes. (I baked mine in 3 mini-loaf pans for 35 minutes.)

Yield: 3 mini-loaf pans or 1 large loaf pan

Source: Seconds for Satisfaction

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ina's Easy Cheese Danish

* Photo courtesy of A Feast for the Eyes

I made this for a co-worker’s birthday, and while the flavors tasted light and sweet, I would make some edits next time around. I would make the filling the evening before- the refrigeration was necessary to “set” the consistency or else I felt it would’ve been too runny. I would also add some jam to each Danish, spreading it thinly inside the puff pastry before adding the cheese- while I liked the refreshing citrus flavor, adding some jam would have made it terrific. A fun and tasty addition would be to drizzle some melted chocolate on top of the baked danish. Very tasty, easy, and actually fun to do.

Easy Cheese Danish

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature (or 3 large egg yolks)
2 Tbsp ricotta cheese
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
8 Tbsp jam
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water, for egg wash

1. The evening before: Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!
2. The morning of: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square.
4. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife (a pizza roller works well here).
5. Spread 1 Tbsp of jam thinly inside the puff pastry square.
6. Place a heaping Tbsp of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Make sure to try to spread out the cheese mixture so when it folds, it is incorporated into all the crevices.
7. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together.
8. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash.
9. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry.
10. Bake the pastries for about 15-18 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 danishes

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

Photo courtesy of One Ordinary Day

I’ve been making homemade lemonade since I was a teen. Thus, from various attempts, I’ve determined the best-tasting lemonade starts with a simple syrup. However, this lemonade steps it up a notch by adding fresh strawberry puree- Genius! Then you top it off with some sparkling water, and what a delicious and refreshing summertime beverage. The drink can be pre-made; just make sure to add the sparkling water right before serving so it doesn’t lost its fizz. I would also recommend straining the puree- I didn’t care for the seeds in my drink, and it surely won’t look good caught in between your teeth at a party.

This drink will work well with any outdoor party, brunch, or shower. At my last outdoor party, I made a Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade Punch, but this would also top my list of favorite drinks. For an adult version, replace the sparkling water with some champagne. A perfect blend of tart and sweet.

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp grated lemon peel (2 lemons)
1 cup fresh lemon juice (6-8 lemons, depending on size)
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 cups cold sparkling water (or champagne, for adult version)
Rimming: Lemon juice, Sugar
Mint sprigs, garnish
Whole strawberries, garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
2. Add the lemon peel and lemon juice, stir, and remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then strain into a clean pitcher.
3. In a blender or food processor, puree the pint of strawberries. (This produces 1-3/4 cup strawberry puree.)
4. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the strawberry puree. Discard the seeds.
5. Add the strained puree to the pitcher with the lemon juice
6. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until well chilled.
7. Right before serving, add the sparkling water and stir well.
8. Dip the rim of the glass into lemon juice, and then sugar.
9. Pour over glasses filled with ice and serve, garnished with mint and strawberries.

Yield: 1.5 quarts

Source: Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Monday, September 20, 2010

Succulent Braised Pork in Red Wine sauce

I saw Melissa’s show on Food Network, and this dish looked fantastic. I went onto the website to grab the recipe, and there were 250+ positive reviews. I was sold… and it was an OMG good. I’ve never made pork so tender, and my DB loved this dish. The flavors in the sauce were rich, and the pork came out fork tender and flavorful. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to set aside some time as the braising takes 3 hours. However, the prep work is relatively simple and easy to prepare, and the majority of the cooking is “setting and forgetting” until the 3-hour braising time is up. This is perfect for a lazy weekend meal, but special and elegant enough to serve for guests. I paired this with Garlic Cheese Biscuits- it sopped up all the yummy broth perfectly.

Look how caramelized the pork got:

Succulent Braised Pork in Red Wine sauce

2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 6 large chunks, or pork loin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
1-1/2 cups beef stock or broth
1 bunch parsley stems, tied with string (I used 1 Tbsp dried parsley)
2 bay leaves
1 cup water

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a 5-qt dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and working in batches brown the meat on all sides until a golden crust forms. Transfer the pork to a plate.
3. To the pan add the onion, celery, and carrot and sweat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and sweat another 2 minutes.
5. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes to cook off the raw flavor and caramelize it.
6. Sprinkle with the flour and cook another 2 minutes to cook off its raw flavor.
7. Whisk in the wine and reduce it by half. (This only took me 3-4 minutes.)
8. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, then stir in the beef stock, parsley stems, and bay leaves. Add the water if liquid does not come up to the top of the pork. Do not cover the pork with liquid.
9. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise until the meat is fork tender, about 3 hours.
10. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Source: Melissa D’Arabian

Friday, September 17, 2010

Creamy Taco Mac

“This looks like Hamburger Helper!”
(My DB takes 1 bite.)
“… But this tastes SO much better!”

This definitely tastes much better, is healthier for you, and still just as quick to make- just a few additional steps are needed. While the multi-grain pasta is cooking, you can cook the turkey meat with the taco seasoning, throw in some chopped onions and fresh garlic, and then add some sour cream and cream cheese at the end to obtain its creamy texture. This makes enough for 4 servings (or in our case, a dinner and lunch the following day). We like food on the spicier side, so we added the cayenne pepper until our desired tastes. Quick, simple, and tasty!

Creamy Taco Mac
8 oz. dry pasta shapes (I like the rotini pasta since the sauce can get into the “twirls)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-1/4 lbs. ground turkey (preferably 93% lean)
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained (I used fire-roasted- loved the smokiness flavor)
4 Tbsp taco seasoning (My go-to is Lawry’s taco seasoning packet)
3 oz cream cheese, cubed
½ cup sour cream (fat-free works fine here)
Garlic salt and cayenne pepper
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Cilantro (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, add the olive oil. Once heated, add the tutkey and cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink.
3. A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet.
4. Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning, and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
6. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water (I forgot to reserve pasta water, so used beef stock), and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.
9. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese and cilantro, if desired.

Source: Originall from Delish, Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homemade Pizza Sauce

I have been so underwhelmed by not only the variety but also flavorless pizza sauces in our local grocery store. I’ve tried the brand and grocery-store private label pizza sauces, and all have been tossed aside in favor of SPAGHETTI sauce to top our homemade pizzas. Quite frankly, those pizza sauces are an insult to the homemade pizza dough. Due to this, I set out to find homemade pizza sauce recipes, and found a terrific one on Scraping the Skillet’s cooking blog. The ingredients are what I had on hand and easy- you essentially dump everything in a pot, and allow it simmer for ~30 minutes for the flavor to marry. This sauce is flavored with garlic, basil, and other herbs, and can be used not only for pizza sauce, but as a dipping sauce (think calzones, mozzarella sticks) as well. The original recipe has 1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes- I can only imagine how spicy that sauce could be! I reduced it to 2 tsp and it still had a little heat- So if you’re looking for something on the milder side, I would recommend using only 1 tsp of red pepper flakes. This does make a lot of sauce, so just keep the extras in the fridge for your next Italian night!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained (I like to use petite-diced cut canned tomatoes)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (somewhat spicy, halve this for a milder sauce)
¼ tsp. salt

1. Toss everything into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-30 minutes. (I let mine simmer for 45 minutes.)
2. Once you have simmered the sauce to meld the flavors, remove it from the heat and use a potato masher to break up any tomato chunks. Or, if you want something more rustic, leave the chunks.

One final tip: after what seems like zillions of pizzas we’ve determined that with sauce less is more. Don’t put too much on your crust or things won’t cook properly and the cheese is likely to slide off. This sauce gives you all the flavor you need so you don’t need to overload it.

Source: Adapted from Scraping the Skillet

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homemade Sloppy Joe's

I was in the mood today for Sloppy Joe’s, and had always heard how easy it was to make it homemade. Williams-Sonoma recipes rarely fail me, so I attempted to make this for a quick dinner and I was so pleased! I just loved the flavors- very reminiscent of the Manwich can, but oh so much better… quite possibly the best Sloppy Joe’s I’ve had. The name “Sloppy Joe’s” may have a bad reputation, but this recipe is a wonderfully delicious comfort food that also happens to be quick and easy to make homemade. I also liked this recipe since it welcomes additional veggies such as bell pepper and carrots. I chopped the veggies, sautéed them with the ground beef, and then added the remaining ingredients. Let it simmer for 20 minutes and voila! I used ground round in this recipe, but after making this, lean ground turkey would work just fine.

Homemade Sloppy Joe’s
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1-1/2 lb ground beef (I use ground round)
¼ cup water
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup-style chili sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 sesame-seed sandwich buns, split
Cheddar Cheese, sliced (optional)

1. In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the beef, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring and breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup water, the tomato sauce, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors.
4. Toast the buns. Place the bottom halves of the buns, cut side up, on warmed individual plates and top with the beef mixture, dividing it equally. Cover with the bun tops and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 sandwiches

Source: Williams-Sonoma

Friday, September 10, 2010

Martha Stewart's Macaroni & Cheese

OMG delicious.
This uses expensive cheeses, so while this may be one for special occasions, it was so good! I loved the pungent cheese flavors from the Gruyere and Sharp White Cheddar. While I’ve always sprinkled on Panko breadcrumbs on top, I may have just switched to fresh breadcrumbs- they were phenomenal, and I wished I had doubled the breadcrumb recipe.

To begin, you still need to make a white sauce. A generous amount of butter is melted in a large saucepan, and then flour is stirred into it to make a loose paste. After the flour has cooked in the hot butter, hot milk is whisked in. The starch from the cooked flour expands in the milk, creating a thick, creamy sauce. The starch binds the sauce, so that when the cheese is stirred in, the result is creamy and smooth, not stringy and curdled.

It is important to use pungent cheeses, such as sharp cheddar, mixed with a little Gruyere or pecorino Romano for extra bite, since the white sauce and pasta will absorb a lot of flavor. The type of cheese used will also affect the sauce's texture: Sharp white cheddar produces the smoothest result; yellow and extra sharp cheddars can become grainy.

A good Italian brand of dried elbow macaroni will have the best consistency. Undercook your pasta so that it is the slightest bit crunchy (very al dente) in the center, then rinse it under cold water. This stops the cooking and washes off the excess starch. You might think that starch would be useful in further thickening the casserole, but it isn't; as it bakes, that extra starch merely expands and lends a mealy texture to your sauce.

The pasta will finish cooking as it bakes. The sauce will bubble, seeping into the hollows of your macaroni. When the smell of butter and browning cheese makes your stomach growl, you'll know the dish is ready to eat.

You can easily divide this recipe in half; use a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish if you do.

6 slices good-quality white (or whole wheat) bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish, divided
5-1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4-1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar, divided
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1-1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano, divided
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.
2. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl.
3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
4. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk.
5. In a high-sided skillet over medium heat, melt remaining 6 Tbsp butter.
6. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
7. Make a roux: Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
8. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1-1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
9. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.
10. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
11. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1-1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top.
12. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Yields: 12 servings

Source: Martha Stewart

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It’s Game Time at the Snackadium

This is our first year participating in a fantasy football league. Quite honestly, I never understood the hoopla of doing this, but now that I’m being trained and understand how this goes, I’m really getting into it. The draft pick is such an important part of fantasy football, so I thought- why not mark this joyous day with a “Sack the Snack” Snack Day? Any significant event should be celebrated with food, I say. One of my co-workers introduced me to the Snackadium so I can’t take full credit for it, but I had it bookmarked since last Superbowl season and I was pumped to try it out for our Snack Day this year. I was nervous about estimating the amount of food to complete this, but my estimates were spot on (amounts/ingredients list is listed below)- and now you can make this for your next football or Superbowl game!

It's Game Time at the Snackadium

While there are variations of this piece, here is what I used to create this:
- The field: Spinach Dip (Guacamole is another good option, but more costly)
- End zones: Salsa and Queso
- Yardlines: Sour cream markers
- Goal posts: Slim Jims assembled with toothpicks, held up by a block of cream cheese
- Fan vs. field separation: “Pigskins” in a blanket
- “Fans”: Cheetos and Ranch Cheese-Its vs. Fritos Scoops and Tortilla Chips
- Outer stadium: Rice Krispie treats barricade joined with toothpicks

Here is a close-up of the Slim-Jim goal posts:

Here is an aerial view:

I used this picture as my inspiration, and I was determined to recreate this creative work of food porn. Elegant it is not, but it definitely had the “WOW” factor when I brought it to work. This feeds a lot of people, and I liked the variety of savory and sweet- best of both worlds.

Tips & Notes:
- I didn’t have enough time to create the sour cream yardlines, but I think this would’ve added a cute touch!
- You can use cherry tomatoes to make helmets, and use sour cream or cream cheese to design the helmets
- I’ve seen people use Vienna Sausages to create “players” in the field
- You definitely do not need to fill up the 13x9 to the brim with the salsa/spinach dip/queso. Just make sure to make the cardboard dividers/support are as tall as you’d like your food to be.

Here is how I achieved the "field":
I took a 13x9 pan, a cardboard box, and some foil. I cut off the sides of the cardboard box and used the foil to create an "upside-down T" with the foil. This way, it created more support between the food, and prevented the food from leaking into each other.

Listed below are the list of items and amounts I used to make the Snackadium. (I purchased most of these items at Sam’s Club and Walmart.)

- Large wooden board, to place the Snackadium on top (My DB made one for me, but not needed as long as you have a big table to work with to arrange and display your Snackadium)
- Disposable tablecloth (Used this to place on top of the wood board or large surface/table. Definitely would recommend disposable so you can just pick up any remaining food and throw it away- Easier clean-up!)
- Cardboard (I used this to help support/divide between the salsa, spinach dip, and queso in the 13x9 pan)
- Foil (I used this to help divide the salsa/spinach dip/queso in the 13x9 pan)
- 4 index cards or small pieces of paper (To help contain the 4 chips- Cheetos, Cneese-Its, Tortilla Chips, Fritos Scoops)
- Toothpicks (To assemble the Slim Jim goals posts, and to make the Rice Krispie treats stadium)
- Piping bag, coupler, and #3 or #4 tip (to pipe any wording), or just use a Ziploc bag with a corner snipped off

- 35-38 oz of salsa
- (2) 15-oz jars of Queso (I used this)
- 1 recipe of
Spinach Dip
- 8-oz sour cream (yardlines, any word piping)
- 2-oz cream cheese blocks, cut into (2) 1-oz blocks
- 8 Slim Jims (I cut down the Slim Jims to ¾ of its original size)
- “Pigskins in a blanket” (1 package of cocktail wieners and (2) cans of Crescent rolls)
- Cheetos (17-oz)
- 2 recipes of Ranch Cheese-Its
- Frito Scoops (18-oz)
- Tortilla Chips (20-oz)
- 1 recipe of Rice Krispie treats

In order to make it as mess-free as possible, here is how I assembled the Snackadium:
1. Rice Krispie “barricade”- I assembled this first as this is what holds all the snacks in. I just placed a toothpick on either side of the Rice Krispie treat and circled it around the 13x9 pan. How much chips/snacks you had you to buy will determine how large you make this barricade. (I used (22) Rice Krispie treats.)
2. Fan base (Cheetos, Ranch Cheese-Its, Tortilla Chips, Fritos Scoops)- Using your index cards, I placed each card between the 4 corners of the 13x9 pan and the Rice Krispie treat barricade. This helped to place “dividers” so I could place the chips in their own specific section. Once I filled up each section with their respective chips, I removed the index cards.
3. 13x9 pan- I placed the cardboard/foil dividers into the pan, and then filled in each area with salsa, spinach dip, and queso.
4. Sour cream yardlines
5. “Pigskins in a blanket”- Wrap these around the base of your 13x9 pan
6. Sour cream piping around the Snackadium

Homemade Rice Krispie Treats

This is a classic Rice Krispie treats dessert. So easy, and brings back memories of eating this as a child. Everyone has their own basic recipe, and this is mine. Most people think it is odd that I add milk to this recipe, but trust me- this will make your bars soft and achieve the perfect chewy texture. I never make it without adding the milk!

I made these specifically to make my Snackadium to celebrate Fantasy Football:

Rice Krispie Treats
• ½ cup (8 Tbsp) butter
• 8 cups mini marshmallows* (16-oz marshmallows)
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2-1/2 tsp milk
• 10 cups Rice Krispie cereal

1. Using a butter-flavored cooking spray, spray a 13x9 baking dish**.
2. Melt butter in LARGE saucepan or 5-qt dutch oven over low heat.
3. Add marshmallows and vanilla, and stir until melted and well-blended. Remove from heat. Melt marshmallows and butter very slowly; don’t let it brown or get too hot. Should NOT be bubbling. Stir constantly.
4. Add milk, and mix well.
5. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.
6. Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly and firmly in buttered 13 x 9 inch pan. (I used a buttered wax paper to press the cereal down, and it worked well.)
7. Cut into 2 x 2 inch squares when cool.

* Note: Don’t sub Marshmallow Crème or Fluff- your treats won’t set up.

** Note: For the Snackadium, I used a jelly roll pan so I would have enough treats to create a “barricade” around the stadium. If you want thinner treats, I would recommend you use (2) 13x9 pans.
Yield: 22 bars, or 15 THICK 1-3/4” bars

Monday, September 6, 2010

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

We were so excited to try our first zucchini from our veggie garden. Since growing our own vegetables is new to both of us, we accidentally let our zucchini overgrow (and it had seeds in them). No worries- they still tasted great (and now we know better). My DB’s co-worker Jen just brought in some homemade zucchini bread, and I only had a bite of it before he ate it all. In a matter of hours. So when we picked our hugely-overgrown zucchini, I wanted to make some zucchini bread of my own, but also wanted to add some fruit to it for some natural sweetness. This bread produced a moist bread, and I loved how I could sneak in the veggies. Next time, I will add a crumb topping. I made them into mini loaves, and brought them into work for friends. They raved about it, and it was demolished within the morning. I’d say- this is a keeper.

Blueberry Zucchini Bread
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups white sugar (or 2 cups white sugar + ¼ brown sugar)
2-3 cups shredded zucchini (no need to peel, or remove the water)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries (2 cups)
Optional: Crumb topping (1/4 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup flour, 3 Tbsp cubed, room temperature unsalted butter, and ½ tsp cinnamon)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar.
3. Fold in the zucchini.
4. In a separate medium bowl, beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries.
5. Add the blueberry/flour mixture to the liquid mixture, and stir just until combined.
6. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans. Sprinkle crumb topping (optional).
7. Bake 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. (If you’re using regular size loaf pans, bake an additional 20 minutes.)
8. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Yield: 4 mini loaves or 2 regular size loaves

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Giada's Orzo Salad

Although I’ve already discovered my favorite orzo salad , this is definitely a keeper (and more cost effective). This works well at outdoor gatherings, as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and not mayo-based. This salad has a great texture from the beans and chopped red onions. A combination of superb and refreshing flavors, it can be made as a meal alone. We paired it with Giada’s Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing, but any grilled chicken would work well with this salad. I was a little nervous about putting I fresh mint in this recipe, but it added a depth of flavor; however, if you don’t have use, I wouldn’t sweat it- Just substitute it with additional fresh basil. We added crumbled feta cheese, but this dish certainly doesn’t need it.

Giada's Orzo Salad
4 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups orzo pasta
15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 cups red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows (I use closer to 1-1.25 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Pour the broth into a heavy large saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7--9 minutes.
2. Drain the orzo through a strainer. Transfer the orzo to a large wide bowl and toss until the orzo cools slightly. Set aside to cool completely.
3. Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat.
4. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender.
2. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil.
3. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: 1-3/4 cups

Source: Giada’s Family Dinners

Giada's Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing

Another delicious, easy, and healthy dish from Giada. I’m always on the hunt for new and refreshing marinades for chicken- especially since this is prime time to grill out. As usual, I whipped out the marinade in the morning before work and allowed the chicken to marinate all day. I like to remove the marinated meat from the fridge to let it sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes while the grill heats up. The Basil Dressing is refreshingly delicious, so don’t skip that part of the recipe. The color of the dressing is a beautiful green that not only looks great drizzled over the grilled chicken, but tastes impressive and fresh. Since it was only the 2 of us, I halved the entire recipe (though the full recipe is listed below). I paired this with Giada’s Orzo Salad, which made it a complete meal.

Giada's Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing
For the Marinade
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed (I used dried oregano)
¾ tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterfiled(roughly 2 pounds)

For the Basil Dressing
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Dash of red pepper flakes
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. For the Marinade: Whisk oil, lemon juice, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper in a heavy-duty re-sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, make the Basil Dressing: Blend the basil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Gradually blend in the oil. Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to plates. Drizzle the basil sauce over and serve.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
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