Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

This dish could have had any number of titles because there are so many great flavors combined: pesto, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, pine nuts, lemon.  I kind of kept adding what sounded good to me, and it came out great.  The whipping cream is definitely optional.  I happened to have some I was trying to use up, but I've made it without and it is great, too.  Last time I made it I also added crushed bacon.  I didn't have any ready this time, so I left it out.  Just be aware that bacon is such a strong taste that if you add it, it will probably over power many of the other flavors.  

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

1 package noodles (I used penne)
1/2 c. basil pesto (I used Classico brand, found with the spaghetti sauce at the grocery store)
1/2 c. water (reserved from the noodles)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. whipping cream
2 big handfuls of spinach
1/3 c. sun dried tomatoes
1/3 c. pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
1 chicken breast, cut into chunks
lemon pepper seasoning

Cook your noodles according to the package directions.  While the noodles are cooking, cook your chicken chunks in a little oil in a frying pan, sprinkled with lemon pepper (I sprinkled generously).  When the noodles are cooked, drain them and reserve 1/2 c. of the water.  Put the noodles back in the pan and add the water, basil pesto, lemon juice, whipping cream and salt and pepper.  Stir gently until it is all combined.  Gently stir in the chicken, sun dried tomatoes, spinach and pine nuts.  Serve it with Parmesan cheese. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quinoa Chili

Have you ever tried quinoa?  If you haven't, you really should.  And you should try out this recipe first.

Quinoa is like a grain, cooked the same way you would cook rice, but it is actually a relative of beets, spinach, and... tumbleweeds.  Yeah, I know tumbleweeds, I'm from Southern Utah.

Quinoa has a lot of health benefits, especially considering it's a complete protein, and has a fun texture and a sort of nutty flavor.  It is versatile and I'm excited to try it in all the new recipes I've picked out.

This one Matt actually picked out and it ended up being awesome!  This is definitely going to be one of our favorite go-to recipes from now on.  I changed it up a bit from the originial recipe to include one of my favorite foods ever, sweet potatoes!

Quinoa Chili 
Adapted from allrecipes


1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
1 ½ cups water
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 (19 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped 
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream


Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.  (I just used my rice cooker and it came out wonderful and fluffy.) The typical amount of water called for to make quinoa is 2 c. per 1 c. of quinoa.  I read, however, that if you rinse the quinoa thoroughly it will retain some of the water, then add 1 ½ c. water per 1 c. of quinoa and it will come out fluffier.  I would have thought it opposite (the more water the fluffier) but it came out perfectly fluffy when I tried it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in the ground turkey. Cook and stir until the turkey is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain if necessary and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with chili powder and cumin; cook 1 minute more to release the flavor of the spices. 

Prep tip: If you don’t have long to let the stew simmer, cut the sweet potatoes into smaller chunks for speedier cooking, or pre-cook them by placing them on a microwave safe dish with a very small amount of water and microwave for a few minutes until they are tender. 

Stir in the tomatoes (pour in one can of tomatoes and add the second at the end if it needs more liquid), black beans, green bell pepper, sweet potato, oregano, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Simmer until the bell peppers are tender, about 20 minutes.

Once the vegetables are tender, stir in the quinoa, ground turkey, corn kernels, and second can of tomatoes if needed. Return to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes to reheat. Stir in the cilantro and top with sour cream to serve.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Easy Orange Chicken

I loved this recipe!  I adapted it slightly from A Sweet Pea Chef, really just changing up the vegetables (she used all broccoli), but it was awesome the way it was!  I loved the sauce: a gentle kick of spiciness (I’m typically not into spicy but it was so perfect for this dish) and yummy orange sweetness.  Mmmm.   This makes me want to make it again already.

Easy Orange Chicken

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
kosher salt to coat
freshly ground black pepper, to coat

1-2 cups veggies of your choice (I used baby carrots, snap peas, and broccoli)
2 green onions, thinly sliced (if desired)
sesame seeds

For the Sauce:

1 1/2 cups water plus 2 tbsp, divided

2 tbsp. orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. grated orange zest
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. cornstarch


In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients for the sauce except for the cornstarch and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once the sauce has started boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, while chicken and vegetables are being prepared.

Steam vegetables until just tender. Test with a fork: if the fork easily pierces the veggies, they are done.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Generously sprinkle kosher salt and pepper over both sides of the chicken breasts. Lay chicken in pan and cook until browned on each side and cooked through, approximately 8-12 minutes (If chicken breasts are pounded or cut thin).
Once cooked through, allow to cool then cut into thin strips.

Turn the heat on the sauce to medium. In a small mixing bowl, mix the cornstarch with 2 tbsp. water in order to combine and avoid lumps. Add the cornstarch mixture to the rest of the sauce and stir to combine. You will notice the sauce begin to thicken quickly. Stir for a minute or two until well thickened. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the vegetables, chicken, and sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions, if desired. Serve with rice.  I used my brand new fancy rice cooker from brother that I got for Christmas!  Thanks ChadJ

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Coconut Crusted Tilapia with Apricot Dipping Sauce (and a Honey Mustard Sauce, just for fun!)

Have I mentioned that one of my New Year's Resolutions is to eat healthier?  I didn't get too specific because I didn't want to be disappointed if I failed, but basically I want to eat more fruits and veggies and less sweets.  I'm going for more heart healthy meals because my sweet hubby has cholesterol issues and is dieting (kind of).  Because I am the buyer and preparer of food, it is at least partly up to me to help him be successful.  I haven't been really excited about this, so I'm trying to change my attitude.  Even though it sounds so boring and tasteless to eat healthy, I'm trying to think of it as an exciting food challenge!  Tonight, I made a heart healthy fish dish, and you may too, if you wish :)  It was REALLY good.  Not at all boring and tasteless.  I made two different dipping sauces and they each gave the tilapia an entirely different taste.  So, I'm including them both in this recipe. (Our favorite was the apricot, FYI)

Coconut Crusted Tilapia
adapted from: allrecipes.com

1 c. shredded coconut, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. creole seasoning (I didn't have this, so I made my own from this recipe)
4 (4 oz.) tilapia fillets
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 egg
1/2 c. canola oil

Spray a 9X13 pan with cooking spray.  In a shallow dish, combine coconut, flour and creole seasoning and stir it well.  In another bowl, whisk together the egg and oil.  Put the cornstarch in another bowl, dip the tilapia in to coat it, and shake off the excess.  Then dip each fish piece in the egg mixture, then the coconut mixture until they are evenly coated.  Use tongs for this!  It is so much cleaner on your hands.  Place the prepared fish fillets in the baking dish and bake it at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork when tested.  I covered mine with tinfoil for half of the cooking time, and flipped the fish one time, halfway through, and it came out juicy on the inside and a little crispy on the outside.  Perfect!

Apricot Dipping Sauce
also adapted from allrecipes.com

1/2 c. apricot jam (or nectarine)
2 tsp. brown mustard (or dijon)
1 tsp. prepared horseradish (or omit this)

Stir it all together in a small bowl.  I thought I had apricot jam downstairs, and it ended up being nectarine.  I also used dijon mustard and no horseradish.  And it was delicious with the tilapia.  I put the recipe in the way it was stated on allrecipes because I'm guessing it would taste even better if you followed what they had.  Unless, of course, you hate horseradish and don't have brown mustard, or apricot jam.  Then follow my recipe.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
from allrecipes.com

1/2 c. mayonaise
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Stir all the ingredients together until they are well mixed.  Maren like this so much she was eating it plain.  I know that sounds terrible, but she loves mustard.  Go figure!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cinnamon Almond Granola

I got a very basic granola recipe from a friend of mine, (thanks Jen!), and I liked it because it was one that used only oats and wheat flour as its base.  When I looked at others they always called for flax, or bran or other grains, which I'm sure are really good for you and great to put in, but I never would have on hand.  I did doctor her recipe up a bit to make it a little more healthy and a little more to my taste.  I may post it at some point to be used as a starting point to play with, but for today, this is what I came up with:

Cinnamon Almond Granola

1 c. honey
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. oil
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 c. wheat flour
8 c. oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. almonds 

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  In a blender, blend together the honey, applesauce, oil, salt, vanilla, almond extract and cinnamon until well combined.  In a large bowl, stir together the wheat flour, oats, brown sugar and almonds.  Slowly pour the blended concoction over the oat mixture and stir it until it is all well coated.  Spread it evenly onto two cookie sheets and bake it at 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  I baked both of mine at the same time, one on the top rack and one on the bottom, and when I took them out to stir, I would switch them.  They both cooked evenly.  Let them cool completely before you store them in an airtight container.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Easy Slow Cooker Philly Cheese Steak

This is my sister Lynnette's recipe.  It is such an easy way to do a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich.  Plus, my house smelled great all day long as this cooked.  This is so easy, if it weren't for the slicing of the veggies later on, it would be ridiculously easy.  Initially, all it has is two ingredients: roast and A-1.  

I had the grocery store meat department man slice my roast for me, so all I had to do was put it in the slow cooker with the sauce and cook it.  Saute' some peppers, onions and mushrooms right before and you are ready to eat!   

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
by: Lynnette     

1 roast, thinly sliced against the grain (have your meat guy do this!!)
1 bottle of A-1 marinade, any variety
swiss cheese
hard rolls or subway sandwich buns
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 can of sliced mushrooms (or use fresh, if your disgusted by the sliminess of canned)
1 Tbsp. butter

In the morning, combine the roast and the A-1 marinade in your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  When your roast is cooked, saute' your thinly sliced veggies in the butter until they are tender.  Meanwhile, slice your buns (he he) and place them face up on a baking sheet.  Line one side with swiss cheese and broil them for a minute or so, until the cheese is melted and they are slightly toasted.  Layer the meat and then the veggies on the sandwich.  And enjoy!