Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beef and Broccoli

I have a serious thing for broccoli. This serious thing makes it tough for me to eat any type of Chinese or Asian or Japanese or Thai food that doesn't contain broccoli.

For a long time, we made a beef and broccoli recipe from the back of a soup can. The flavor was great, but the meat always turned out really tough - almost inedible.

Enter a beef and broccoli recipe from Steamy Kitchen.

Beef and Broccoli
Taken from Steamy Kitchen

Makes 3 generous servings (or 4 normal-sized servings)
Takes less than 30 minutes to make
3/4 lb flank steak, sliced thinly across the grain
3/4 lb broccoli florets, blanced
2 Tbsp high-heat cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
For the beef marinade
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 C chicken broth

Marinate the beef: Stir together the beef marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the beef slices and stir until coated. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Prepare the sauce: Stir together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and instantly evaporates upon contact. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef and immediately spread the beef out all over the surface of the wok or pan in a single layer (preferably not touching). Let the beef fry undisturbed for 1 minute. Flip the beef slices over, add the garlic to the pan and fry for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until no longer pink, Pour in the sauce, add the blanched broccoli, and bring to a boil. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, 30 seconds.

My Notes:
This is totally delicious - totally delicious. Resist the temptation to double to sauce. It is necessary.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Florentine Shells

This dish is a long-time favorite; I have been making it since I was in college. It's delicious, so easy, and makes great left-overs.

Spinach Stuffed Shells
Taken from Pampered Chef

Makes 6 servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

24 jumbo pasta shells
1 container (15 oz) part skim Ricotta
1 package frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry)
2 C shredded Italian cheese blend
3/4 C half and half (divided)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp salt
28 oz jar spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 350, cook pasta according to directions, drain, then drizzle with olive oil to keep shells from sticking together.

Mix ricotta, spinach, 1-1/2 cups of Italian cheese, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of half and half. Stir in garlic and seasonings. Mix well.

In another bowl whisk the rest of spaghetti sauce with remaining half and half. Pour some of sauce mix on bottom of cooking pan. Fill each shell with ricotta mixture (one scoop) I usually use my cookie dropper. Arrange filled shells in baking pan. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce.

Cover with foil, bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil, top dish with remaining 1/2 cup of Italian cheese. Bake uncovered an additional 5 min. Let cool for 10 min. before serving.

My Notes:
I have been making this since I was in college. I love it, and it's one of my favorite things to make when I have a vegetarian (or two) over for dinner.

      Wednesday, February 23, 2011

      Spicy Maple Popcorn

      Brad and I made this spicy caramel popcorn awhile ago. I still think about it. This recipe reminded me of its strangely delicious mix of sweet and spicy and salty.
      Taken from Cooking Light, December 2010 Available Online
      Prep time: 20 minutes
      Makes 6 servings (1 C each)

      1  Tbsp  canola oil
      1/4  C  unpopped popcorn kernels (about 6 cups popped)
      1/4  C  dry-roasted cashews
      1/3  C  sugar
      1/3  C  maple syrup
      1  Tbsp  butter
      1/2  tsp  salt
      1/4  tsp  ground red pepper

      Heat canola oil in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. While saucepan heats, line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper; set prepared pan aside.

      Add popcorn to oil in saucepan; cover and cook 2 minutes or until kernels begin to pop, shaking pan frequently. Continue cooking 2 minutes, shaking pan constantly. When popping slows down, remove pan from heat. Let stand 1 minute or until all popping stops. Stir in cashews.

      Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

      Pour hot syrup mixture over popcorn mixture; toss well to coat. Immediately spread popcorn mixture out onto prepared jelly-roll pan. Cool 3 minutes.

      My Notes:
      This was totally delicious. I at some right away and snacked on what was left the rest of the week. It actually kept really well in a plastic bag.

      Monday, February 21, 2011

      Greek-Style Shrimp

      Shrimp - yum. Feta - yum. Tomatoes - yum.

      from Cook's Illustrated, September / October 2010
      Makes 4 to 6 servings
      Prep and Cook Time: Less than 30 minutes

      1-1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
      4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
      3 Tbsp vodka
      3/8 tsp anise seed
      5 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 5 tsp)
      1 tsp grated lemon zest
      Salt and pepper, to taste
      3/4 C diced onion
      1/2 C chopped red bell pepper
      1/2 C chopped green bell pepper
      1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
      1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, drained, 1/3 C juice reserved
      1/4 C dry white wine
      2 Tbsp fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
      6 oz feta, crumbled (about 1-1/2 C)
      2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped

      Toss shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon ouzo, 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in small bowl until well combined. Set aside while preparing sauce.

      Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, red and green bell pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cover skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables release their moisture, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture cooks off and vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes longer. Add remaining 4 teaspoons garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and reserved juice, wine, and remaining 2 tablespoons ouzo; increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded and sauce is slightly thickened (sauce should not be completely dry), 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

      Reduce heat to medium-low and add shrimp along with any accumulated liquid to pan; stir to coat and distribute evenly. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 6 to 9 minutes for extra-large or 7 to 11 minutes for jumbo, adjusting heat as needed to maintain bare simmer. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle evenly with feta. Drizzle remaining tablespoon oil evenly over top and sprinkle with dill.

      Serve immediately.

      My Notes:
      This wasn't as delicious as I expected it to be. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't great. Maybe I will try it again, though.

      Sunday, January 23, 2011

      Salad Dressing: Greek

      Okay. Seven days of salad dressing is way too much salad - especially considering I'm a girl who doesn't even really like salad.

      I'm finishing this marathon of salad with a long-time favorite around our house: Greek Salad.

      taken from Healthy Cooking (formerly Light and Tasty), March 2001 (p. 21)
      Available online
      Makes 12 servings
      Prep time: about 20 minutes

      8 C torn romaine
      3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
      1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced
      1/2 C medium green pepper, thinly sliced
      1/2 medium red onion, cut into rings
      1/2 C sliced ripe olives
      1/2 C crumbled feta cheese

      1/4 C olive oil
      2 Tbsp lemon juice
      2 tsp Dijon mustard
      2 garlic cloves, minced
      1/2 tsp sugar
      1/2 tsp dried oregano
      1/4 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp dried thyme
      1/8 tsp pepper

      In a salad bowl, combine the first seven ingredients.

      Whisk the dressing ingredients.

      Pour over salad and toss to coat.

      Serve immediately. 

      My Notes:
      Like I said earlier, this has been a favorite around our house for a long time - almost 10 years judging from when the recipe was first published.

      Saturday, January 22, 2011

      Salad Dressing: Garden Cafe

      Another salad dressing recipe.

      Don't worry, though. I still don't love salad.

      Taken from emiller on Tasty Kitchen
      Prep time: Less than 10 minutes
      Chilling time: 1 or more hours
      Makes 12 servings

      2/3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
      1 C red wine vinegar
      1 1/4 tsp salt
      1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
      1 tsp Dijon mustard
      1 tsp ground black pepper
      1 tsp sugar
      1 clove garlic, minced
      3 C corn oil

      Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in the refrigerator.

      My Notes:
      This wasn't one of my favorite salad dressing experiments. It didn't have enough flavor for me, and it didn't stick to the lettuce very well. Maybe I will try it again with a different kind of oil and more wine vinegar.

      Friday, January 21, 2011

      Salad Dressing: Sun Dried Tomato

      Sun dried tomatoes are something I have only learned to love recently, and I had some left-over from making a risotto. That's why I picked this dressing - can't let good sun dried tomatoes go to waste.

      Taken from Kaitlin on Tasty Kitchen
      Makes 10 servings
      Prep time: 10 minutes
      Chilling time: 1 hour (or more)

      7 pieces sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
      2 cloves garlic, chopped
      1/2 tsp dried oregano
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp black pepper
      1 tsp sugar
      1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
      1/4 C red wine vinegar
      2/3 C sour cream
      1/4 C Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
        Process sun dried tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar in a food processor until combined. While running, add olive oil and red wine vinegar. Stop processor and add sour cream. Process until smooth and add Parmesan cheese. Process for 30 more seconds. Best if chilled overnight.

        Serve on a salad of romaine, artichoke hearts, black olives, roasted red pepper, red onion slices and grated Parmesan cheese.

        My Notes:
        This was really, really good! We will make it again.

        Thursday, January 20, 2011

        Salad Dressing: Creamy Garlic Dressing

        Another creamy salad dressing. Selected because I was looking for something that had the consistency of Ranch dressing with a unique flavor.

        Makes 2 1/2 C dressing
        Takes less than 5 minutes to make
        Taken from Allrecipes

        2 Tbsp tamari sauce
        1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
        1 Tbsp honey
        3 cloves garlic, minced
        1 C sour cream
        1 C mayonnaise
        2 Tbsp barbeque sauce
        1 tsp Dijon mustard
        2 Tbsp garlic powder
        Black pepper, to taste 

        Whisk together the tamari, vinegar, and honey until the honey has dissolved, then whisk in the garlic, sour cream, mayonnaise, barbeque sauce, mustard, garlic powder, and black pepper until smooth. 

        Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours before using. 

        Use within a few days. 

        My Notes:
        This was actually really good. It seemed strange to add barbecue sauce to salad dressing, but the end result was fun.

        Wednesday, January 19, 2011

        Salad Dressing: Green Goddess

        Another salad dressing. I picked this one because it seemed like a really flavorful alternative to Ranch (Brad's salad dressing of choice).

        Taken from Ina Garten
        Prep time: 10 minutes (plus overnight refrigeration)
        Makes 6 servings

        1 C mayonnaise
        1 C scallions (green and white parts), chopped
        1 C fresh basil leaves, chopped
        1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
        2 tsp chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
        2 tsp anchovy paste
        2 tsp salt
        1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
        1 C sour cream

        The recipe suggests that this is enough to cover three heads of Bibb lettuce.

        Place the mayonnaise, scallions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the sour cream and process just until blended.

        If not using immediately, refrigerate the dressing.

        My Notes:
        I really liked this. It had tons of flavor. It was, however, really thick. I think it would be perfect with fat free sour cream and low fat mayo.

        Tuesday, January 18, 2011

        Salad Dressing: Caesar

        Caesar Salad is something I have learned to love only recently. It's something about the saltiness of the dressing and the cheese and the texture of the croutons that I really love. I do always add tomatoes to mine, though. Just lettuce and croutons isn't enough for me.

        Taken from Cook's Illustrated, January 2011
        Serves 4 to 6

        Notes about ingredients:
        1/4 C Egg Beaters can be substituted for the egg yolks
        Grate garlic cloves on a rasp-style grater to create paste

        Ingredients for Croutons
        5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
        1/2 tsp garlic paste (made from 1 medium clove)
        1/2 – 3/4 loaf ciabatta, cut into 3/4” cubes (about 5 C)
        1/4 water
        1/4 tsp salt
        2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

        Ingredients for Salad
        3/4 tsp garlic paste (made from 1 large clove)
        2 – 3 Tbsp juice from 1 – 2 lemons
        1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
        1 Tbsp anchovy paste
        2 large egg yolks
        5 Tbsp canola oil
        5 tsp extra virgin olive oil
        1 1/2 oz finely grate Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 C)
        Ground black pepper, to taste
        2 – 3 romaine hearts (sliced, rinsed, and dried well), about 8 to 9 lightly pressed cups

        Directions for the Croutons
        Combine 1 tablespoon oil and garlic paste in small bowl; set aside.

        Place bread cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with water and salt. Toss, squeezing gently so bread absorbs water.

        Place remaining 4 tablespoons oil and soaked bread cubes in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes.

        Remove skillet from heat, push croutons to sides of skillet to clear center, add garlic/oil mixture to clearing and cook with residual heat of pan, 10 seconds. Sprinkle with Parmesan; toss until garlic and Parmesan are evenly distributed. Transfer croutons to bowl; set aside.

        Directions for the Salad
        Whisk garlic paste and 2 tablespoons lemon juice together in large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.

        Whisk Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, and egg yolks into garlic/lemon juice mixture. While whisking constantly, drizzle canola oil and extra virgin olive oil into bowl in slow, steady stream until fully emulsified. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pepper to taste; whisk until incorporated.

        Add romaine to dressing and toss to coat. Add croutons and mix gently until evenly distributed. Taste and season with up to additional 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Serve immediately, passing remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan separately. 

        My Notes:
        This was really great! We had it for dinner with some bread and big bowls of soup. It is something that I will definitely make again.

        Monday, January 17, 2011

        Salad Dressing: Orange Salad Dressing

        I have been all about making my own salad dressing lately. I just haven't been too crazy about the amount of stuff (preservations especially) that go into a bottle of salad dressing, and I'm not all that thrilled about paying lots of money for organic salad dressing. So, I have been making my own salad dressing.

        Don't get the wrong - I definitely did not make a New Years resolution to eat healthier.

        I have just been making my own salad dressing.

        And, I have been hoarding the posts with salad dressing in them. I will post them throughout this week starting today with a recipe from Pioneer Woman. I'm calling it "Orange Salad Dressing" not because there is actually anything orange flavored in it but because it is orange colored.

        Taken from Pioneer Woman
        Prep time: 5 minutes (plus refrigeration overnight)
        12 servings

        3/4 C olive oil
        Juice of 2 lemons
        4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
        1/4 tsp salt, more to taste
        Ground black pepper, to taste
        1/4 tsp sugar
        Paprika, a dash
        1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
          Place all ingredients into a jar. Shake it up and store in the fridge at least 24 hours before serving.
          Serve on a green salad. Also works well on pasta salad.

          My Notes:
          This was super easy to make and kept well in the refrigerator.  It was flavorful and not too oily. I will make this again.

          Friday, January 14, 2011

          Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper (Cacio E Pepe)

          Em and I had this dish at Davanti Enoteca way back in October. (It is pretty similar to the pasta with lemon I posted earlier in the week.) I never would have guessed that pasta, olive oil, cheese, and pepper could taste so good, and I have been trying to recreate it at home every since. The recipe below is the closest I have gotten.

          Taken from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2010
          Serves 4 to 6.

          4 oz finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2 C)
          2 oz coarsely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 C)
          1 lb spaghetti
          2 Tbsp heavy cream
          2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
          1 1/2 tsp finely grated black pepper

          Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add pasta and 1 1/2 tsp salt; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 C cooking water. Drain pasta.

          Slowly whisk 1 C reserved pasta cooking water into finely grated Pecorino until smooth. Whisk in cream, oil, and black pepper.

          Gradually pour cheese mixture over pasta, tossing to coat. Let pasta rest 1 to 2 minutes, tossing frequently, adjusting consistency with remaining 1/2 C reserved pasta water.

          Serve, passing coarsely grated Pecorino separately.

          My Notes:
          The quality of ingredients seems to make a difference with this dish (I have made it a few times). The best cheese, olive oil, and pasta are a must! And, about the cheese. . . it really is important that the portion that gets melted in the pasta water is finely grated. The sauce will not be smooth without finely grated cheese. You could substitute half-and-half for the cream if the dish is too rich for you; it wasn’t too rich for me. Finally, be careful with the salt. The cheese is really salty and the pasta water is really salty. I didn’t need any salt besides that.

          I tried another recipe for Cacio e Pepe. The recipe above had a lot more flavor and much better texture. I think it was because of the cooking water. Do not adjust the amount of water in the recipe; the thickness of the cooking water is essential to the taste of the sauce. Also, don’t forget to leave a few minutes for the pasta to rest. This was really important to the sauce, too.

          Wednesday, January 12, 2011

          Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)

          I ate at an incredible restaurant in Chicago way back on October. Em and I shared Cacio e Pepi. It was amazing. This recipe reminded me of that in many ways - simple ingredients to make a flavorful sauce. It takes less than 20 minutes to make and is an amazing side dish or a super-simple main course (if you have a husband who will just eat pasta and no meat for dinner).

          Taken from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2011
          Serves 2 to 3

          1 1/2 tsp salt
          1/2 lb pasta
          1/8 C extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
          1/2 medium shallot, minced (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)
          1/8 C heavy cream
          1 tsp finely grated zest and 1/8 C juice (from about 2 lemons)
          1/2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 C), plus more for serving
          Ground black pepper, to taste
          1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, shredded

          Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, unal al dente. Reserve 1 C cooking water, drain pasta and set aside.

          Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/4 tsp salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 3/4 C reserve pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.

          Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/4 tsp pepper.

          Cover and let pasta stand for 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistently with remaining 1/4 C reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

          Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.

          My Notes:
          This was so good! It was super simple to make and was a great side dish. We had it with chicken saltimbocca. My only complaint was that it was really salty. Next time, I would add far less salt to the cooking water and would not add any salt at other points in the recipe.

          We ate this with chicken saltimbocca. The flavors really complimented each other.

          Monday, January 10, 2011

          Chicken Saltimbocca

          I had chicken saltimbocca one time at my favorite local Italian restaurant. I thought of that meal when selecting and making this recipe. Their recipe includes some spinach, prosciutto, and a layer of melted fontina. Mine just had prosciutto. It was delicious, though.

          Taken from Cook’s Illustrated, March 2008
          Serves 4
          Prep and Cook Time: about 30 minutes

          1/2 C flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
          1 tsp ground black pepper
          8 thin-cut boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (about 2 pounds)
          1 Tbsp minced fresh safe leaves, plus 8 large leaves (optional)
          8 thin slices prosciutto, cut to match chicken (about 3 oz)
          4 Tbsp olive oil
          1 1/4 C dry vermouth or white wine
          2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
          4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
          1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
          Salt, to taste

          Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and set wire rack inside.

          Combine flour and pepper in shallow dish.

          Pat cutlets dry with paper towels. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off any excess. Sprinkle cutlets with minced sage. Place 1 prosciutto slice on top of each cutlets, pressing lightly to adhere; set aside.

          Heat 2 Tbsp oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to shimmer. Add sage leaves and cook until leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, about 15 to 20 seconds. Use slotted spoon to remove sage; place on paper towel; reserve.

          Add half of cutlets to pan, prosciutto-side down and cook until light golden brown; 2 to 3 minuts. Flip and cook on other side until light golden brown, about 2 minutes more.

          Transfer to wire rack set on baking sheet and keep warm in oven.

          Repeat with remaining 2 Tbsp oil and cutlets, then transfer to oven to keep warm while preparing sauce.

          Pour off any excess fat from skillet. Stir in vermouth or wine, scraping up any brown bits, and simmer until reduced to about 1/3 C, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Turn heat to low and whisk in butter, 1 Tbsp at a time. Off heat, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

          Remove chicken from oven and place on platter. Spoon sauce over cutlets and garnish with a sage leaf before serving.

          Chicken cutlets should be about 5 to 6 inches long. If the tip is too thin, trim the cutlet to make the thickness uniform. You can make your own cutlets by slicing and pounding an 8-ounce chicken breast.

          Whole sage leaves (fried as part of the initial steps in the recipe) are only part of the presentation. This step can easily be skipped.

          It is also important that the prosciutto is very thinly sliced, not shaved. Slices that are too thick will not stick to the chicken.

          This was a great dinner! Despite the many steps, it was actually a relatively easy dish to prepare. I would go a little lighter on the salt next time, though. The prosciutto seems to add more than enough. I might also experiment with adding a slice of cheese - maybe on top of the prosciutto. I could slap it on while the chicken is still in the pan and melt it in the oven.

          Saturday, January 8, 2011

          TX Chicken (A Favorite)

          This recipe is a Sunday favorite around our house. I will say that the amount of prep and long baking time do not make it a great weeknight meal.

          Prep time: about 20 minutes
          Cook time: about 60 minutes

          Adapted from

          Makes 4 servings

          4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, butterflied
          2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
          4 jalapeno peppers, chopped
          1 (1 oz) package dry Ranch-style dressing mix
          2 C shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
          1 can (4.25 oz) chopped black olives
          8 slices bacon

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

          Lay chicken breasts out flat and sprinkle with Ranch-style dressing mix. Sprinkle a bit of cheese onto each half of each breast. Place two tomato slices and a chopped jalapeno into each one, and spinkle more cheese over the tomoato and pepper. Fold each piece of chicken over, and wrap with two slices of bacon. Secure with toothpicks. Place wrapped chicken into a baking disha nd cover with aluminium foil.

          Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until he chicken is no longer pink, and the juices run clear.

          My Notes:
          I can never get the bacon to get crispy, and I don't like bacon that isn't crispy. So, I make Brad peel off the bacon and take out all the toothpicks before I eat this.

          Tuesday, January 4, 2011

          Beef and Vegetable Soup

          My mom makes amazing beef vegetable soup. It cooks for hours and hours and involves soup bones and dumplings and tons of work. I was looking for the same taste without the time commitment when I came across this recipe.

          Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

          Prep and Cook Time: about 60 minutes
          Makes 6 servings

          1 lb sirloin tip steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2" pieces
          2 Tbsp soy sauce
          1 tsp vegetable oil
          1 lb mushrooms, quartered
          1 lrg onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 C)
          2 Tbsp tomato paste
          1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
          1/2 C red wine
          4 C beef broth (low sodium)
          1 3/4 C chicken broth (low sodium)
          4 medium carrots, cut int 1/2" pieces (about 2 C)
          2 medium ribs celery, cut into 1/2" pices (about 3/4 C)
          1 C frozen peas, thawed
          1 C frozen corn, thawed
          about 1 C home style extra-wide egg noodles, uncooked
          3 bay leaves
          1 Tbsp unflavored gelatin (powdered)
          1/2 C cold water
          2 tsp dried parsley leaves

          Combine beef and soy sauce in medium bowl; set aside for 15 minutes.

          Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add mushrooms and onion; cook, stirring frequently, until onion pieces are brown and dark bits form on the pan bottom, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer vegetables to bowl.

          Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and meat starts to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add red wine, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, and cook until syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes.

          Add beef broth, chicken broth, carrots, celery, peas, corn, bay leaf, noodles, and browned mushrooms and onion; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables and meat are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. While soup is simmering, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand.

          When soup is finished, turn off heat. Remove bay leaves. Add gelatin mixture and stir until completely dissolved, Stir in parsley, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve.

          My Notes:
          This was delicious! We actually had it for dinner with a salad and some bread. It would also be great with potatoes in place of the noodles. The directions suggest 10 oz of red-skinned potatoes cut into 1/2" pieces (2 C) to be added during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Frozen green beans would also be a nice addition in place of the peas.