Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gnocchi Chicken Minestrone Soup

It's soup season, I love it. Yesterday was a snowy, blustery day and it just felt like we needed to have soup for dinner. So I started running through my recipe files and nothing seemed quite right. Then I happened to check my email and the Taste of Home recipe of the day was this soup. It immediately sounded like what we needed to have for dinner. An added bonus was I'm not super familiar with gnocchi so it was a good opportunity to give it a shot. I wasn't crazy enough to make my own but I will probably give it a whirl at some point. Not this week however!

I really liked this recipe as did Jeff. Randy was positive but didn't absolutely LOVE it and Bri was once again not home so she didn't even try it. Overall it was a do again. It would also be good with regular pasta if gnocchi isn't your thing. Lots of chopping's a good thing I have some awesome knives!

Gnocchi Chicken Minestrone Soup
Serves 8
adapted from Taste of Home

1 1/4 lb chicken breast cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbs olive oil divided
1 each small red, yellow, and green peppers finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, finely chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/3 cup chopped proscuitto or deli ham
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chicken broth (14 1/2 oz each)
1 can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. frozen peas
4 Tbs tomato paste
1 pkg potato gnocchi (or pasta of your choice)
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (for garnish, totally opt)

1. Sprinkle chicken with oregano, salt, and pepper. In a Dutch oven , saute chicken in 1 Tbs oil until no longer pink. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. In the same pan, cook the peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and onion in remaining oil until tender. Add prosciutto and garlic; cook 1 min longer.
3. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, peas, tomato paste and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Meanwhile cook gnocchi or pasta according to pkg directions and drain. Stir into soup. Garnish each serving with cheese and basil.

1 1/3 c. servings Cal 324; Fat 8g.; 59 mg cholesterol; Carb 38 g.; Fiber 4 g.; Protein 27 g.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bacon Stuffed Burgers

Ok, the first order of business is to apologize for the garbage picture...I'm always in a hurry. I know that is a terrible excuse but that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

On Friday Jeff invited some friends over for dinner. Now because they are all growing boys I needed to figure out something that was fairly easy, not too much like chick food, and that was not extraordinarily expensive. Hamburgers seemed like a safe choice so off I headed to the store.

A few months ago I tried a cheese stuffed burger that wasn't hugely successful and I wanted to try it again. I mean come on, how hard can it be? The problem last time was the cheese melted and ran out of the burger so that there wasn't anything actually left in the middle when it was time to eat. So, to avoid that I decided to forgo the cheese altogether and stuff with something that wouldn't disintegrate. Bacon. Boys like bacon. Bacon is good. Mushrooms. I love sauted mushrooms and onions are only edible if they are cooked in my humble opinion so that was the plan.

When I got to the meat counter I was looking at the ground beef and decided to branch out and mix it with some pork sausage to up the flavor a bit. I love that combination in other things and meatloaf is always better with a combo of meats and isn't a burger just a mini meatloaf? :)

Here's the final result of my random musings. It was YUM! Everyone ate up and there wasn't anything left for leftovers. I used ranch rolls instead of hamburger buns, cheese and lettuce as the toppings. Definitely going to do this again. Especially using the pans! Woohoo!

Bacon Stuffed Burgers
8 servings

4-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 med onion diced small
4 oz mushrooms, diced small
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb bulk pork sausage
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbs A1 steak sauce
8 buns or rolls
Lettuce, cheese etc

1. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and discard all but 2 Tbs drippings. Saute onion and mushrooms in drippings until tender. Crumble bacon; add with mushrooms to skillet and set aside.
2. Meanwhile in a large bowl combine beef, pork, cheese, pepper, garlic powder and steak sauce. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
3. Shape into 16 patties. Divide bacon mixture and place on top of 8 patties. Place remaining patties on top and press edges together tightly to seal.
4. Grill over medium heat until well done (pork needs to be cooked all the way through) approx 10 min. Serve on buns with lettuce etc.

Cal. 408; Fat 24 g.; Carb 24 g.; Fiber 2 g.; Protein 21 g.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ranch Ham 'n' Cheese Pasta

Nothing like posting everything for the month in one day, right?

As it's January and the time of year when inevitably our thoughts turn to eating healthier I've been going through my stash of "light" cookbooks. This is from a Taste of Home cookbook that I really like. I can easily find something for dinner that doesn't have a bunch of wild ingredients and that  actually tastes like something my family would eat every time I crack it open.

I've had a ham sitting in my fridge for a couple of weeks and decided it was time to use part and freeze the rest. This is an easy recipe that is deceivingly rich tasting. Obviously you could use full fat cheese and make it super yummy but it was very tasty using the reduced fat cheese. I can't get my family to get on board the whole wheat pasta train so I just figured NI using regular pasta but you could up the fiber a bit if you went the WW route.

Jeff wasn't a fan of the Parmesan on the top. Bri doesn't really care for pasta as a general rule so she was neutral and Randy and I both thought it was pretty darned tasty so we'll be doing it again. I'm thinking you could probably swap a packet of dry Ranch seasoning for all the dried spices but it was kind of fun to throw them all in and have them come back out Ranch flavored. I felt pretty mad scientisty. :)

Ranch Ham 'n' Cheese Pasta
adapted from Taste of Home
10 1 cup servings

1 16 oz pasta (I would recommend penne, twists, or bow ties)
1 c. ham, chopped
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
1 c. fat free milk
2 t. dried parsley flakes
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. salt free lemon pepper seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
1/2 t. dried minced onion
1/2 t. dill weed
1/4 t. onion powder
1/8 t. black pepper
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 1/2 c. reduced fat shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese (opt)

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. in a Dutch oven, melt butter; whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk and seasonings. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 min or until thickened. Reduce heat; fold in sour cream until blended. Add ham and pasta; cook and stir until heated through. Remove from the heat; stir in mexican cheese blend until melted. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Cal: 306, Fat: 9 g., Carb: 38 g., Fiber: 2 g., Protein: 20 g.

Citrus Cream Cake

I was assigned birthday cake for the last family birthday party and as it was for Jeff I figured it should probably be something that he would actually eat. He doesn't do chocolate (I'm not sure how he's related to the Hansen's) so it needed to be something not chocolate but more exciting than just a white cake with vanilla frosting...although he likes that as well.

This is an adaptation of a recipe I found on Because I was in a hurry and using things I had in my storage I used Cool Whip for the topping but for sure the next time I will use real whipping cream and have written the recipe to indicate that. Call me a dairy snob but I really like real cream better. Other than that it was really good and a definite do again not to mention easy and quick.

The original recipe showed a layer cake; I did it in a jelly roll pan for more servings but the layers were prettier. Next time, right?

Citrus Cream Cake
adapted from

1 box yellow cake mix 
1 small pkg instant lemon pudding
1 1/3 cups sour cream, divided
3 eggs
1/4 c. oil
3/4 c. water
2 T. grated orange peel
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 small tub Cool Whip or small carton whipping cream whipped
1 lg can mandarin oranges, drained

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray pans with PAM and set aside. Place cake mix, pudding, 1 cup of the sour cream, eggs, oil, water and orange peel in a large bowl. Beat with mixer on low 1 min and on med for 2 min. Pour evenly into prepared pans. The batter is super thick so make sure you have leveled it out well. It doesn't really spread out in the oven.

2. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

3. Beat remaining 1/3 c sour cream and powdered sugar in large bowl with wire wisk until well blended. Gently stir in whipped topping or whipped cream. Set aside.

 4. If doing layers place first layer on serving plate, top with half the cream and half of the oranges. Repent with second layer. If doing it in one layer just spread the cream and top with oranges...try to keep your kids from eating them before they even hit the cake. :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pizza Rolls

I have an addiction to The Sister's Cafe. I love their blog in every way a blog can be adored. I think the fact that it's sister's working together on it makes me like it even more. Add to that the fact that nearly everything I have tried from their stash of recipes has been a hit and it's blog love.

Tonight I had to take dinner to a friend and decided that I was too lazy to do both pizza and breadsticks so pizza rolls was the choice of the day. I used my own pizza dough recipe, their pizza roll method and made up my own marinara sauce. Quite frankly the sauce made the meal and I can't wait to have more of it for lunch tomorrow. I think I'm going to have it over chicken like chicken Parmesan but that's another post.

Here we go.

White Pizza Dough
2 pizza crusts

2 c warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 Tb active dry yeast
6 Tbsp olive oil
5 c flour
2 tsp salt
Put warm water in bowl. Stir in sugar and yeast and let proof for 1o minutes. Stir in rest of ingredients. Mix until a ball, knead 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in mixer. Let rise for 1.5 hours. Roll out and arrange pizza toppings on top. Bake in 400 degree oven (on preheated pizza stone for best results).

Pizza Rolls

pizza dough

mozzarella cheese, shredded or cubed
pepperoni, cut into fourths
marinara or pizza sauce
1/2 green bell pepper, diced small
1/2 small onion, diced small
1/4 cup chopped olives

Roll pizza dough out into a large rectangle. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 pieces. Add 1 tsp sauce to each piece of dough.  Layer the toppings in the center of each square of dough; about 2-3 Tb total of toppings on each. Now stretch and fold the dough around the toppings, pinching to seal edges. This is the tricky part - the more toppings you use, the harder it gets to tuck them all within the dough!

Now place seam side down in a lightly greased casserole dish or glass baking dish. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle generously with garlic salt and Italian seasoning. (oregano, basil and thyme, etc) Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until rolls are light brown. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.

Marinara Sauce

2 small onions, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced fine or shredded
2 ribs celery, diced fine
1/3 c. olive oil
2 lg cans crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1½ tsp basil
1½ tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs sugar (if desired)

Heat oil over med high heat. Sauté onions and garlic until onions are translucent.

Add remaining vegetables and sauté until tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for approx an hour until sauce is thickened. Adjust spices to taste.

Candy Cane Kiss Blossoms

I had every intention of posting this recipe the week between Christmas and New Years but alas, life got in the way. It's funny how that happens.

These are pretty basic cookies. The cookie itself is the best chocolate cookie I've found. In fact, if I were to ever make cookie dough just to eat this would be the dough I made. Seriously, I'm lucky that cookies actually got baked. Holy cow I love this dough. I also like these with a combination of chocolate chips and vanilla chips. They would also be good with those cute little itty bitty Reese's peanut butter cups. I haven't seen those for a while so obviously chopped up miniatures would work well too. Pretty much anything you want to add to these is ok. I found the candy cane kisses and bought 2 bags not having any idea what I was going to do with them. Then I procrastinated my neighbor gifts until Christmas Eve and needed something that I already had all the ingredients for. Enter Candy Cane Kisses.

I didn't add any mint extract to the dough and I feel like the mint from the kisses was sufficient. If you like a stronger mint flavor like Andes mints give the dough a bit of mint extract.

Candy Cane Kiss Blossoms
Adapted from Our Best Bites

1/2 c. butter-flavored shortening
1/2 c. real butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
optional: 1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour, lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with a knife
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
48 Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses, unwrapped
Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together softened butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Meanwhile, combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, and cocoa powder. Add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the centers are set but still soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes. Top each cookie with an unwrapped Candy Cane Kiss. Allow to cool completely, long enough for the Kiss to harden. If necessary, after the cookies have cooled, they can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to re-solidify the Kiss