30 January 2007

Cilantro-Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne

We've become big fans of pesto so I'm always on the look out for more recipes to try, and this one is a hit. I was a little leery of the ingredients at first, but after that first bite I was hooked. The hardest part of this recipe is grilling the chicken which is pretty easy, so you can only imagine how difficult it is - all in all its perfect for a weeknight or anytime you need a quick meal. We served it up with a nice mixed green salad and glass of wine.


1 1/2 C Fresh Cilantro
1/2 C Fresh mint
1/2 C Cotija Cheese
3 Tbl pecans
1 tsp kosher salt
3 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbl EVOO
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp black pepper
3/4 Lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
Cooking spray
6 C cooked penne
2 C sliced cherry tomatoes


Place cilantro and next 6 ingredients (through chiles) into a food processor and process until smooth. Slowly add EVOO until well blended. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in vinegar and black pepper.

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray and add to pan. Cook completely, about 5 minutes on each side. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Add chicken and penne to pesto, mix to coat. Top with tomato slices.

***NOTE: I was a little hesitant about the tomatoes, but they add great flavor and work well with the rest of the flavors. Sooo yummy!

28 January 2007

Double Chocolate Souffle w/ Fudge Sauce

In the past few years I have become more and more confident with my cooking skills, but I had to try a souffle. I remember hearing as a kid how tough souffles could be and how often they would "fall" so I had always avoided this particular dessert ... until tonight. I had spotted a recipe in my wonderful Cooking Light magazine a while back and made a note to buy the necessary items for it. For some reason, tonight seemed the time to attempt it - especially since my husband had come home form work this morning and stayed up for a while, which meant he would be sleeping for a majority of the day, giving me time alone in the kitchen. So, I gathered up the recipe and all the ingredients and went to work - and much to my suprise, these little pillows of chocolate came out wonderful! If you are like I was an afraid of the flat souffle, don't be! Give these a shot, you just might be amazed!


Cooking spray
1/2 C and 2 Tbl white sugar, divided
3 Tbl flour
3 Tbl unsweetened cocoa
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 C milk
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg yolk
6 large egg whites

1 Tbl butter
1/3 C white sugar
2 Tbl unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbl flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped


Position oven rack to lowest setting and remove middle rack. Preheat to 425.

Lightly coat 6 (8 oz) ramekins with cooking spray (I used shortening). Sprinkle even with sugar to give batter something to cling to when rising.

Combine remaining 1/2 C sugar, 3 Tbl flour, 3 Tbl cocoa, and salt in saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a whick. Gradually add 1 1/4 milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes until slightly thick, continuing to stir. Remove from heat and add 3 oz chocolate - stir until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature (~ 15 minutes or so). Stir in vanilla and egg yolk.

Place egg whites in large mixing bowl, beat on high until stiff peaks are formed - DO NOT OVERBEAT. Gently add 1/4 of egg whites to chocolate mixture, gently fold in. Continue with remaining mixture until all egg whites are mixed in. Gently spoon mixture into remakins, filling about 2/3 or the way. (I put all this in 4 remakins - they overfilled upon cooking) Lightly tap each about 2-3 times on a hard surface to level.

Place filled ramekins on baking sheet and place into oven at 425 - immediately reduce heat to 350, leaving souffle in oven. Bake 40 minutes.

Melt butter in sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 C sugar, 2 Tbl cocoa, and 1 Tbls flour; stir well with whisk. Gradually add 1/2 C milk, continuing to stir with whisk. Bring to a boilk and cook 1 minute to thicken. Remove from heat, add 1/2 oz chocolate and stir until smooth. Serve warm with souffles.

Divjak's Secret Chicken Parm

One of my good friends taught me this recipe not too long after moving to Texas, and I can't be more thankful. I know some of my measurements are slightly different and I've altered it a little, but the base recipe came from Mr. Divjak so I'll give him the credit here. This is always a hit but a little time consuming so we keep it for the weekends - and make enough to have leftovers for the rest of the week! We always make our own sauce to go with this dish and then have a bunch remaining for pasta and such at a later point. Its easy to divide into containers and freeze, then pull it out and heat it up for a quick dinner on another night. You can always use store bought sauce if needed - just don't tell anyone!



1-28 Oz Can Contandina Crushed tomatoes
2-15 Oz Can Contandina Tomato Sauce
2-8 Oz Can Contandina Tomato Paste
5-6 Large Italian Sausage links (mild / spicy to your liking)
Dried spices - oregano, parsley, basil, garlic powder, onion powder


2-3 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half (to make 2 thinner breasts)
2-3 Eggs
Bread crumbs
Grated parmesan



Broil sausage on both sides to cook thoroughly. Allow to cool ~10 minutes, then cut in half.

Meanwhile, combine all remaining sauce ingredients in a large pot and heat over low, add spices to taste. Add sausage after its been cut and continue to simmer. Be aware of spatter.


Pout milk in shallow dish, beat egg(s) in separate shallow dish, pour flour on large plate, and mix 2:1 bread crumbs to parmesan on another plate. Set up milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs near stove.

In large baking dish, put layer of sauce to cover the bottom, set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Take chicken breast, dredge it in milk, then in flour, then in eggs, then in breadcrumbs to ensure entire breast is coated. Move to heated oil and fry a few minutes on both sides. Do not over cook to burn (chicken does NOT need to be cooked thoroughly at this point). Transfer chicken from pan into baking dish. Repeat with each chicken breast, adding more of any ingredient as needed (if more oil is needed, make sure to allow it to fully heat before placing chicken in it).

Add desired amount of sauce and sausage pieces to baking dish, making sure to cover chicken breasts with sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and mozzerella if desired. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Make sure chicken is cooked thoroughly prior to eating. Serve chicken with sauce - Enjoy!
Allow sausage to cool before cutting, this prevents the juices from getting out and keeps the sausage moist.
Broiling time will depend on oven and placement of sausage in oven, keep an eye on the sausage to keep it from burning. You can omit the sausage of desired.

Mmmmm M&M Cookies!

These are traditional cookies and my weakness anytime passing a mall cookie shop, not only because their so tasty, but because they add a little color and fun to the moment. What's nice about these is being able to make them to fit a theme, and in this case it was a baby shower. We were doing everything in pinks and browns (since the bundle-to-be is a little girl) so I took the packages of Valentine M&M's and picked out all the red candies, then I separated all the brown one's from a normal package to get the pink and brown mix - yes, this was rather tedious and time consuming, but in the end I felt it was worth it. I know have a bag of red M&M's which I can use for Valentine's Day, so it works out perfectly!


1 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C butter, room temp
1/2 C shortening
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt
1 1/2 C M&M's


Cream together sugars, eggs, butter, shortening, and vanilla. Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Fold in 3/4 C of M&M's.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Slighty push a few candies into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and enjoy!

17 January 2007

Amazing Herbed Pretzels

I'm a huge snacker and sadly have to admit that snack foods are my weakness - potato chips, tortilla chips, salsa, queso, guacamole, crackers, cheese, chicken dip, hummus - you name it and at one point, I'm sure it's been in my hand. At times I attempt to fight this snacking urge, and reach for carrots and bell peppers rather than the salty goodness, but it's not often I am able to say no to such wonderful items. Luckily, I found this pretzel recipe, which may not be as great as veggies, but it HAS to be better than eating fried, greasy, salty potato chips dipped in fattening, creamy sides. Just one warning, we think some how this mixture of spices causes a reaction that leads to an addiction and quickly you'll realize that you ALWAYS want some of these bitesize munchies available.


3 Lbs Small Pretzels (waffles tend to work the best)
1 Tbls Garlic Powder (not salt)
1 Tbls Dried Dill
1 Pkg dry Ranch Seasoning (I think its 3 Tbls)
1 C Oil

Mix all but pretzels in a bowl.

Place pretzels in a large, oven safe dish. Pour seasoning over pretzels and stir to coat.

Bake at 250 for 15 minutes, stir, and bake another 15 minutes.


So simple. So totally simple. And so good. I hope you enjoy!


Who doesn't love the Snickerdoodle goodness? Cinnamon and sugar covering a soft, flavorful cookie? Yummmy! So far everyone who has tasted these thinks the are great, and what's even better is they are fairly simple (even more so now that I have my wonderful Kitchen Aid Mixer!). I tend to whip these up when I'm bored, so its a good thing my husband is a cookie monster and eats most of them before I can indulge too much. These are also part of my so-many-cookies-have-chocolate-I-need-some-no-chocolate-recipes group of cookies.

***Note: You can swap 2 tsp Cream of Tartar and 1 tsp Baking Soda for the 3 tsp baking powder if desired


1/2 C butter @ room temp
1/2 C shortening
1 1/2 C white sugar
2 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
2 3/4 C Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt (reduce if using salted butter)

2 Tbls sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon


Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 C sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt.

Shape into small dough balls; I use about a tablespoon of dough and make smaller cookies.

Roll dough in cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on cookie sheet. Slightly flatten with back of spoon.

Bake 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

***As always, make sure to store cookies in an air-tight container after cooling.

Penne and Vodka Sauce

On days when you want to splurge, when heavy cream is not against the diet, and bacon is for more than just breakfast, this is an AMAZING dish. Unfortunately, since these wonderful ingredients are involved, I don't make this very often for fear of needing to buy bigger clothes. Yes, this should be post at sometime OTHER than the beginning of the year when so many of us are focusing on eating healthy and avoiding foods high in fat and calories, but the cold weather just doesn't warrant a salad so, here it is.


3 Tbls Olive oil, divided
9 oz Bacon, diced
1 bunch green onions, diced
1 C Vodka
1 1/2 C Heavy cream
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 Tbl Italian Seasoning (or basil and oregano)
1/3 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 Tbls chopped parsley
1 Lb Penne


Heat 2 Tbls olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy; spooning out excess fat.

Add remaining Tbls olive oil and heat. Add green onions and cook until soft (about 3-5 minutes).

Add vodka, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by about half (important to reduce/remove alcohol taste in sauce).

Add cream and again cook until reduced by about half.

Add the tomato sauce and italian seasoning, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep sauce warm until pasta is cooked.

Serve sauce over penne and sprinkle with parsley and parmigiano-reggiano. Enjoy!

***CAUTION: Sauce may splatter, if this happens, reduce heat.

This sauce is great over cheese stuffed tortellini also.

16 January 2007

Lasagna on a cold, winter night

After a weekend of miserable winter storms in Texas, including freezing rain and icy bridges, I woke up this morning to the smell of burning heat. Turns out the motor in our heater needed to be replaced due, luckily my husband and his father will be fixing it tonight. Meanwhile, the heater is OFF and the weather is still in the freezing range, which of course means my house is getting colder and colder. So, since my in-laws are coming over to a cold house, its only fair that I make dinner, and prevent frostbite, I'll BAKE something to help add heat - so the consensus is lasagna. What a perfect cold weather food!!!

So here it is, one of the first recipes I ever discovered AND one of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much now. The one comment for the recipe is that I'm a big fan of sauce, and I think this one is a little shy on the sauce so I always add more, but never record how much - go figure. Hopefully I can remember to take some pictures to add here before we dive into the lasagna head first!


1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
12 dry lasagna noodles
2 eggs, beaten
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


In a skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, onion and garlic; drain fat. Mix in basil, oregano, brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until al dente; drain. Lay noodles flat on towels, and blot dry.

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, parsley and 1 teaspoon salt.
Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover noodles with 1/2 ricotta mixture, 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese and 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

***I always divide the left-overs into serving size pieces and put them in the freezer; they are PERFECT to take for work lunch. I do notice the sauce seems to reduce this way and they always seem slightly drier later on. I'll continue to play with the recipe to get the perfect amount of sauce and update it on here when I do.

15 January 2007

The Best, Most Divine Chocolate Pudding Cake in the World

My favorite, most treasured recipe - this is it. I remember the taste and texture and aroma of this dessert from my childhood and it's a recipe I stumbled on accidently a few years ago. I don't think I'll even find something as delightful as this. It is great fresh out of the oven, served cold a day later, or even re-heated in the microwave - all perfect. Serve it with vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream - or my favorite - all by itself. Once you've tried this, you'll be hooked. Welcome to heaven...


3/4 C Sugar
1 C Flour
1/4 C Cocoa Powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C milk
1/3 butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C Cocoa
1 1/4 Hot Water


Combine 3/4 C sugar, flour, 1/4 C cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk, butter, and vanilla - mix until smooth. Pour into ungreased 9x9 baking pan.

Mix together remaining 1/2 C sugar, brown sugar, and remaining 1/4 C cocoa. Sprinkle over batter in baking pan. Pour hot water over - DO NOT STIR.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes; pudding portion is EXTREMELY HOT! Enjoy!

Oatmeal Scotchies

These marvelous cookies remind me of one of my favorite people, my stepsister Melissa. She makes cookies every year around Christmas to give out to family, and this just happens to be one of the types she makes. What I love about them is the butterscotch chips ... and the cinnamon ... and the oatmeal ... well basically everything. What I also like is that while I love chocolate, these are one of the few cookies I make which is different BECAUSE there isn't any chocolate in it. Strange, I know, but true.


1 1/4 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 C Butter (room temp)
3/4 C Brown Sugar
3/4 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 C Oatmeal
1 pkg Butterschotch Chips


Cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add oats and chips. Bake 7-8 minutes at 375. Allow to cool slightly then transfer to cooling rack. Enjoy!