Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos

I have spent my last 8 years in Wyoming, and have probably only met a handful of people who eat vegetarian, and maybe a few extra that are willing to eat a vegetarian meal even though they aren't vegetarian.  I have recently been trying to convince my husband that we can eat vegetarian more than once every six months.  However, it takes something pretty amazing sounding to convince him to have a go at it.

I found these on Annie's Eats and figured it was a perfect trial meal for a vegetarian meal.  We both love Spinach and Artichoke dip, so what is there stopping us from loving it stuffed in portobellos...absolutely nothing.

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos
slightly adapted from Annie's Eats
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
4-5 medium-large portabello mushrooms, wiped clean and stems removed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1½ teaspoons dried Italian Seasoning
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 small jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
½ cup coarse Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Asiago cheese

1) Preheat the oven to 450˚ F.
2) In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with two thirds of the minced garlic.
3) Scrape the gills from the inside of the mushroom caps.  Set the mushroom caps on a baking pan, gill side up, and brush lightly with the garlic-oil mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 10 minutes.
4) Meanwhile, mix the filling.  Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, remaining garlic, ½ teaspoon of the Italian Seasoning, and the spinach in a medium bowl.  Stir together until evenly blended.  Gently stir in the artichokes.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon the filling mixture over the roasted mushroom caps.
5) In another small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, Asiago and remaining 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning.  Stir with a fork to blend.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the filling mixture on each mushroom.  Bake for 10 more minutes or until golden and warmed through.  Serve immediately.

The caps cooking in the oven let off this amazing smell.  It was so hard not to eat just the caps without the filling.  I thought the taste was great, and honestly was exactly what I was expecting it to taste like.  I loved the textures together and the portobello was a great vehicle to maneuver the filling into your mouth.  I will definitely make this dish again for another vegetarian night.

My husband liked the meal, but wasn't really sold on the mushroom texture after it was roasted in the oven.  I think it is just because it was one of the first times that we've eaten them as the main dish, so I'm going to try again and see if his feelings change.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes

I got so excited to see that the Recipe Swap theme this time was in the form of the Secret Recipe Club.  In the Secret Recipe Club, you swap blogs with someone and you get to make anything that you want. For this swap, I received Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations.

I perused Mary Ellen's blog for quite awhile, looking at all of her amazing food.  Something to know about my husband and I is that we eat side salads with about 90% of our meals.  They are easy to put together, especially after a long day at work.  After looking at her blog for awhile, I stumbled upon the side dishes.  They all sounded so good, and made it difficult to choose, but one of the comments on the Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes was: "OMG, these were THE BEST mashed potatoes I have ever tasted."  I love mashed potatoes, so because of that comment, I knew I had to make these potatoes.

Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes
slightly adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations
2 lbs red potatoes
2 jalapenos, roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped, then mixed with 1/4 c half and half and a few dashes salt to puree
3 tablespoons butter 

2 tablespoons reduced fat onion and chive cream cheese
1 tablespoon reduced fat sour cream
1/2 pint fat-free half and half
Salt to taste
Shredded Mexican blend cheese
Chopped chives

1)  Preheat oven to 375.
2) Wash potatoes, halve them, and put in a pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 12 minutes (this takes about 45-60 at high altitude). Drain.
3) In the meantime, transfer the jalapeno/cream/salt mixture to a blender and puree. 

4)Add jalapeno puree, butter, salt, and half and half to potatoes. Mash until creamy using a handheld masher adjust salt as needed, add more cream and butter if you want to get them lighter/creamier. 
5) Mix in the sour cream and cream cheese and transfer to a baking dish.
6) Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has completely melted into the potatoes. 

I do have to agree with the comment on Mary Ellen's blog.  I do think these are the most flavorful mashed potatoes that I have ever had.  I loved the flavor of the jalapeno in the potatoes, it was present, but not overpowering. I served it with Crockpot Ranch Pork Chops though, and the creaminess in the sauce made the mashed potatoes not seem as strong.  My husband loved these too, and we ate all the leftovers very quickly.  This was a great side dish.

To see all the other SRC style recipes that were swapped, visit A Taste of Home Cooking.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicken with Balsamic, Mushroom cream sauce

I'll be honest, I have never stepped out on a limb and come up with an original recipe.  I am strictly from the tried and true recipes, changing a few minor things as I go along.  When I received my latest recipe for the Recipe Swap, I have to admit that I didn't think it sounded like the ingredients went together in my mind.  I love balsamic vinegar, but adding that to cream just sounded like it wouldn't work.

I read Carrie's blog every time she has a new post though, so I figured if she described the dish as "A-M-A-Z-I-N-G", that I would have to trust that everything would work out.  Because being on a cooking journey, you learn that sometimes leaving your comfort zone pays off and you get to eat something great.

Chicken with a Balsamic, Mushroom Cream Sauce
slightly adapted from Carrie's Sweet Life
2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 chicken breasts
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 package baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups of cream

1) Warm large pan with olive oil. Salt and Pepper chicken breasts both sides, put into olive oil and brown on both sides until cooked through.
2) Once chicken is done set aside on a plate covering with foil to keep warm or in a very low temperature oven in an ovenproof dish.
3) Drain oil from the pan, but leaving what is “stuck” to the bottom, add butter and let melt.
4) Once melted add garlic, mushrooms, and green pepper. Salt and pepper to your liking, let simmer for a 2-3 minutes then add balsamic vinegar. Cook until desired tenderness.
5) Pour in heavy cream and bring to a boil, boil for 3-5. Add chicken breasts and coat in sauce cook until desired thickness. Serve over pasta of your choice.

I dipped my finger in the sauce while it was on the stove to taste it, and when I tasted it, I couldn't believe how well the balsamic vinegar went with the cream sauce.  The only problem I had with this dish is how long our chicken took to cook on the stovetop.  I would suggest pounding the chicken, or butterflying it like Carrie did, so that it will cook faster.

I put a pepper in with the mushrooms, just because I had an extra one, but the dish wouldn't be any less awesome without the pepper.  I don't think the macaroni noodles worked because they were sliding everywhere, but it was the pasta I had at my house.  I think we'll definitely make this again, without the hesitation of whether or not the ingredients go together. :)

To see all the other great pasta posts, visit A Taste of Home Cooking.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Steak Panini with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

There are just certain things that I swear seem to fancy for Wyomingites to buy in grocery stores.  My husband and I stand in certain aisles looking where I think things would be, and they aren't there.  I feel so bad that I make him scour the stores for specific items with me, especially since he comes so willingly to the grocery store to help out.  I can't imagine he likes dodging and ducking through the interesting people we encounter in grocery stores. 

Our latest endeavor was to find goat cheese.  I swore to him that I found it at a certain grocery store while picking up some miscellaneous items once.  We went there, and it wasn't there anymore.  He suggested we try Wal Mart, and I scoffed, since I swear I looked there before too.  Lo and behold, sitting in the front of the store was goat cheese.  I guess one store stopped carrying it and Wal Mart picked it up.  So hooray for another new ingredient to try.

Steak Panini with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
3 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 pounds flank steak (or any cut you'd like)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 sweet onion, cut into ½-inch slices
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar  
4 slices crusty bread, (we used focaccia) 
1)   Combine goat cheese, basil, and thyme in a medium-sized bowl. Stir together with a fork and set aside. 
2)   Season both sides of flank steak with salt and pepper. Preheat a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of canola oil. When oil starts to smoke, add the flank steak. Cook until well browned on one side, three to four minutes, and then flip. Cook until browned on that side, three to four minutes, and then transfer to a cutting board and let it rest.
3)  Reduce heat to medium and add the rest of the oil and the onions. Stir well until onions are coated in oil, about one minute. Then season with about ¼ teaspoon of salt and pour in the balsamic vinegar. Cook over medium heat until onions are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat, and transfer onions to a bowl.
4)  Thinly slice the flank steak against the grain. 
5)  Lay out the eight slices of bread. Smear a little goat cheese on one side of each. Divide the meat between four slices of bread, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon a tablespoon or two of the caramelized onions on the steak. Top each with the remaining four slices of bread, making sure the goat cheese spread faces down.
6)   Preheat a panini press to medium. Place the sandwich in and cook until sandwiches are well browned, about four minutes. Also, you could preheat a grill pan to medium. Places the sandwiches on top, and weigh them down with a heavy iron skillet. Cook them until well browned, about three minutes a side.
7)   Slice the sandwiches in half and serve. 
These sandwiches are very flavorful.  The balsamic vinegar and the goat cheese work very well together to create flavor without drowning out the steak on the sandwich.  This was a great weeknight meal that we both enjoyed.  Jacob was surprised at how much flavor the goat cheese actually added to the sandwich.  We both agree that without the goat cheese, this sandwich wouldn't have the same effect.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatballs

The Crazy Cooking Challenge group gets a theme every month and everyone makes the same item, just different variations of it. Last month, there were over seventy submissions for chocolate cake. If you're interested in the Crazy Cooking Challenge, visit Mom's Crazy Cooking to get more information. Tina, the author of Mom's Crazy Cooking, was voted as having the best looking chocolate cake, so visit her blog to see fantastic chocolate cakes as well.


I haven't had spaghetti since I was a little girl. I developed a food allergy when I was in sixth grade that made me really sick when I ate canned tomato products. Since then, I have pretty much steered clear of spaghetti. When this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge was announced: Spaghetti with Red Sauce, I went on the hunt for a recipe that didn't use any sauces, but used just tomatoes. I ran into No Recipes, which is written by Marc, who describes himself as loving food since he could see over the kitchen counter. I loved looking over the recipes in his blog and have pinned recipes such as his Crispy Zucchini Fritters and Strawberry Lemon Bars to make in the future. But I loved that his spaghetti recipe didn't call for any canned tomato ingredients.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
slightly adapted from No Recipes
for meatballs
1/2 medium onion, minced
3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and minced tomatoes (about 1 medium tomato)
12 ounces ground beef
6 ounces ground pork
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

for sauce
5 cloves of garlic minced
1 large onion minced
4 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (about 8 medium tomatoes)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried Italian spices
parsley, minced for garnish
whole wheat spaghetti (measured per individual)

1) Fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until tender and starting to brown. Add the tomatoes then continue frying until there is no liquid left in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
2) In a large bowl, add the beef, pork, ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, parmesan, thyme, parsley, soy sauce, salt and pepper along with the tomato and onion mixture. Put some gloves on and use your hands to knead the mixture together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
3) Use your hands to roll the meat into 1 1/2″ balls. The mixture will be pretty loose, so if you have trouble forming it into balls, put it in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.
4) Heat a frying pan up over medium high heat, then add 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the meatballs in batches, gently rolling them around to maintain their shape until browned on all sides.
5) Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil and set aside for the sauce.
1) Sauté the garlic and onions until translucent in the oil that was set aside from the meatballs.
2) Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and salt then bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3) Add the meatballs into the tomato sauce along with any collected juices. Turn the heat down to low and gently simmer for 1 hour. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of dried Italian spices.
1) Boil some spaghetti al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, then toss the pasta together with the sauce. Plate the spaghetti, then top each serving with meatballs, minced parsley and parmesan cheese.

I liked this spaghetti a lot.  We had plenty for leftovers, and I believe that the leftovers were much better than the original meal.  The flavors developed deeper as they sat in my fridge.  In the initial meal, you couldn't really taste the garlic, so I've changed the amount in the recipe to reflect what I believe would be a better amount.  The meatballs were great.  I thought that there were maybe too many ingredients and the flavors would be overpowering, but they all worked together.  I'll definitely make this recipe again, especially when tomatoes are in season.

Check out the links below to see additional Spaghetti with Red Sauce recipes:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crockpot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos

I have to refrain from making tacos almost every week.  They sound so good all the time, but I know that there are other things out there that I need to try making too.  When I came across this recipe for Crockpot Beer Chicken tacos, I knew that these had to go on the menu. 

In these tacos, we went a little more outside the box with the toppings than we normally do.  It was fun to try something different and delicious.

Crockpot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos
modified from How Sweet it Is
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-12 ounce bottles of favorite beer
3 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese + more for topping
taco shells
your favorite toppings: greek yogurt, avocado, cilantro, salsa, chopped onion, black beans, shredded lettuce, etc.

1) In a bowl, mix together spices. Whisk the beer into the seasonings.
2) Place chicken in the crockpot and dump in beer with seasonings. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4 hours.
3) When you first remove the lid, measure 1/4 cup of beer and dispose of the rest. Take two forks or kitchen tongs and shred the chicken, until it all comes together.
4) Taste and season with additional seasonings if desired, then let sit in the crockpot for another 15 minutes or so.
5) Turn the crockpot completely off, and right before serving toss in cheddar cheese. Once combined, immediately transfer the chicken to a large bowl so the cheese does not stick to the crockpot.

The result was amazing.  The only reason I used 2 beers was to cover the chicken in the crockpot.  You could use the 3/4 cup like the recipe originally calls for if you're okay with the chicken not being completely covered.  The chicken was very flavorful and moist.  I have never had red onion on tacos before, but they worked perfectly with the flavors of the chicken and the cheddar cheese.  These are great tacos and don't take up too much of your day in prep time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Southwest Turkey Meatball Subs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce

When we go to Subway, my husband usually gets the meatball sub.  I found this recipe for meatballs and thought that they would make a great sub sandwich instead of just an appetizer.  I had never tried tomatillos either, so was interested in trying this recipe. 

I have to say the only bad thing that I have to say about this recipe is that it is a little ingredient heavy.  But, it is all worth it in the end.

Southwest Turkey Meatball Subs with Creamy Cilantro Sauce
slightly adapted from Skinnytaste 
1-1/4 lbs 99% lean ground turkey
1 jalapeño, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions
1/4 cup panko
1 egg
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch oregano
salt and pepper
cooking spray
2 slices provolone
2 multi-grain deli rolls

1) Lightly spray baking pan with oil. Preheat oven to 400°.
2) Place jalapeño, garlic, cilantro, and scallions into a small food processor or chopper and pulse a few times until finely minced.
3) In a large bowl combine turkey, chopped herbs, panko, egg, cumin, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix well and measure into desired size.
4) Bake for 15-20 minutes.
5) Turn oven to broiler.
6)  Top bread with provolone and place under the broiler until browned.

Creamy Cilantro Sauce
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1 small jalapeño, seeds removed
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro
2 tomatillos, husks removed, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 green onion
juice of 1/2 lime
1/8 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt

1) Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until the consistency of salad dressing.
2) Pour sauce on top of meatballs to complete the sandwich.

The Creamy Cilantro Sauce is amazing.  It was a little on the runnier side, but it was so tasty, that I really didn't mind.  I ate it on salads the rest of the week, and it made each meal very tasty.  These meatballs and the sauce are meant for each other too, they are just so complementary.  I think that is mostly due to similar seasoning in both elements.  This is a great meal, and comes together pretty fast, with most of the work in the prep.