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Friday, February 26, 2010

Devil's Food Cake Cookies

This recipe is so simple it seems almost too evil to post.  ALMOST :)  Beware...these cookies are addictive.  Did I mention how easy these were to put together too?  Four ingredients, about 2 minutes to mix it all together...the hardest part about this recipe is trying not to eat every last cookie as it comes out of the oven!!  Oh how easy it would be to stock up on boxes of devil's food cake mix, too!!!!  But don't.. hold yourself back, I don't want any hate emails saying I ruined your girlish figures!  These cookies are so good, they were still fresh and soft and yummy 5 days later!

Let's talk about these cookies for a minute, shall we?  Let's say you only had a chocolate cake mix at home instead of devils food cake, go ahead and use it.  Let's say you had white chocolate chips on hand but no semi-sweet chocolate chips, go ahead and use them (personally I think peanut butter chips would be wonderful in these cookies!!).  Let's say you like walnuts in your cookies, go ahead and add them!  I think you see that the possibilities for these cookies are endless!  Just know.. they are soft, they are chewy, they are chocolaty.......enough talking, let's eat!!!

Devil's Food Cake Cookies
Adapted from Duncan Hines 
1 package (18.25 oz box) devil's food cake mix
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine cake mix, eggs, and oil in a large bowl.  Stir until thoroughly blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies will look moist, do not over bake.  Remove from oven and cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheets.  Remove to cooling rack and allow cookies to cool completely.  Store in airtight container (if you have any left over!!!)  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yogurt Marinated Chicken

I fell in love with this recipe last summer.  I know I've said this before, but last year when Chris and I moved in together, my parents gave us a grill.  I had always wanted a grill of my own, but always lived in apartments where they were not allowed.  So when I finally got my own, I grilled almost every night for 4 months straight!  This recipe, was ranked as one of our favorites.  It's simple, it's moist, it's delicious!

I served this with a simple sauce of ranch dressing mixed with a little sriracha hot chili sauce, but I'd recommend trying the Dijon-May dip that is posted with the original recipe, it compliments the chicken amazingly well!  (or use the sauce from my Honey Mustard Chicken recipe, it's killer too!!) 

Yogurt Marinated Chicken
Adapted from Bread + Butter 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
6 oz plain non-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry rosemary
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon paprika (I used Hungarian Sweet Paprika)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Place the chicken in a resealable bag, season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.  Pour sauce over chicken and marinate for 1 hour.

Preheat your grill.  When grill is ready, grill chicken until no longer pink in the middle, about 6-9 minutes each side depending on the thickness of the chicken.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Garlic Cheddar Fish

Some nights I sit in front of the computer and just stare.  The words don't seem to flow.  All my humor and charm leave me and I'm at a loss for words :)  Tonight is one of those nights.  I made this dish a week ago and I have tried to figure out what to write about every night since then!  It's driving me crazy.  I almost didn't post this, but the recipe is so good, I hated to hold off posting it any longer.  So, loyal readers, I will tell you this recipe is: garlicky, crunchy, cheddary, tasty...what more really needs to be said?

This is a Jenn's Food Journey original...something I threw together one night after I decided not to make whatever was scheduled to be made that night :)  The only thing I would change, (and should have changed this time, but thought about it too late) is the garlic.  I would add fresh garlic (4 cloves), minced, instead of using the garlic powder and mix it all in with the panko and cheddar. 

Garlic Cheddar Fish
4 Tilapia fillets
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Ms. Dash original seasoning (or 1/4 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon pepper)
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a baking dish with non stick cooking spray.

Arrange fish in baking dish and squeeze lemon juice over each fillet.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix the panko, cheese, Ms. Dash, and the remaining garlic powder.  Spread evenly over the top of the fillets.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hamburger Buddy

Chris describes this dish as "Hamburger Helper if you made it from scratch."  And I have to say, he's actually right.  BUT, don't let that stop you, this is like no Hamburger Helper I've ever made...this is purely delectable!  This is one of my all time favorite dishes.  I came across this recipe about two years ago and I make it at least once a month.  It's simple to put together, it's tasty, and it's not that bad for you either!  Probably not something you'd want to eat weekly, but it's definitely worth putting on your menu once in a while.  The recipe actually calls for whole wheat pasta, but as I have said before, I have not become a fan of whole wheat pasta yet, so I always make it with regular elbow macaroni.

Hamburger Buddy
Adapted from 
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
1/2 onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pound 90%-lean ground beef
2 teaspoons dried thyme (if you don't have thyme, try oregano or even basil)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups water
1 14oz can reduced sodium beef broth, divided
8 oz (2 cups) whole wheat elbow pasta (I didn't have so I used regular elbow pasta)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley or chives (I didn't have this time so I used 1/2 Tbls dried parsley)

In a food processor, process the carrot until roughly chopped.  Add the garlic and onion and process until onion is roughly chopped.  Add the jalapeno and finish processing until everything is finally chopped.

Cook beef in a large straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften, about 2 to 4 minutes. 

Stir in water, 1 1/2 cups broth, noodles and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Whisk flour with the remaining 1/4 cup broth in a small bowl until smooth; stir into the hamburger mixture. Stir in the sour cream. Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley (or chives), if desired. Enjoy! (and oh how you will enjoy it!!!)

(Nutritional Info per serving (1 1/2 cups):  326 calories; 10 g fat; 54 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 431 mg sodium)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

I have to giggle as I post this...I have made more stir fry recipes since I started this blog then I have in the past two years!  I actually love stir fry recipes because of their ease and quickness.  They are a perfect meal to throw together after a long day at work.  I haven't made them up until now because I thought Chris would not eat them!  Long story short, when we first started dating, Chris told me he very much disliked Asian food.  I immediately threw all the stir fry and/or Asian style recipes to the back of the recipe file and basically forgot about them.  A few months back I decided that I was going to make at least a simple stir fry and Chris would just have to deal with it.  Lucky for me it was good, he loved it, now I can try as many as I want!!!

This is another one of my creations.  The original recipe was a bit too sweet, so I changed a few things around and it should be fine now.  Hope you enjoy it as much as Chris and I did!

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Stir Fry
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2-3 large mushrooms, sliced
1 small jalapeno pepper, cut into thin strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 small zucchini squash, cut into strips
2 cloves of garlic, minced
For the Sauce:
2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
2 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce (recommended: Maggi)
1/2 Tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients together.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok, over medium high heat.  Add the chicken and quickly stir fry for 3 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium and add the jalapeno and orange peppers.  Stir fry for 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and stir fry another 2 minutes.  Add the zucchini and continue stir frying for another 2 minutes.  Add the sauce mixture to the pan and bring the sauce to a boil.  Stir to combine.  Let simmer for 1-2 minutes or until the veggies are cooked to the desired doneness.  Serve over rice.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010


I don't think I actually had a Snickerdoodle until I was a teenager.  I pretty much was a chocolate chip cookie girl.  If there was a choice, chocolate, in any form, won :)  But now, now I would have a hard time choosing.  There is something about the buttery moist texture and the wonderful cinnamon and sugar flavor of these cookies.  It's a bit unclear how the name for these cookies came about, but recipes for them started showing up in American cookbooks and newspapers in the early twentieth century.  I have had Snickerdoodles that are much thinner then the ones I have made, I don't know exactly why mine don't flatten more, but the taste, the taste is still the same, so I am happy with the outcome. If you have never had a Snickerdoodle, I highly recommend trying this recipe out.  You just may never go back to chocolate chip cookies.... hehehe..yea, right!!

From Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs.  Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.  (if you do not have a stand mixer you can do this all by hand, it will just take longer)

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl.  Shape dough into twenty 1 3/4-inch balls; roll in cinnamon sugar.  Space 3-inches apart on baking sheets.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 10-15 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lemon Pepper Tilapia with Creamy Dijon Sauce

I am a sauce girl.  I love the added flavor that they can give to a meal.  To me, sometimes, the sauce even MAKES the meal.  In this case, it's lending extra flavor AND it makes the meal :)  If you didn't have access to Lemon Pepper Seasoning, you can season the fish with any flavor herb you would like or you can use fresh lemon juice and cracked black pepper.  The sauce, though, is a must try!  The original recipe was actually for a Creamy Dijon Dressing for a macaroni salad (and oh how good would it be as that!!), but when I saw the ingredients, I got the idea to use it as a sauce instead.  And, once again, for all those not interested in fish,  this sauce would work great with chicken too.  (Chris likes to use the leftover sauce for his chicken nuggets!)

Lemon Pepper Tilapia with Creamy Dijon Sauce
Fish recipe by me, sauce recipe adapted from 
4 Tilapia Fillets (or any white fish fillets)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons Lemon Pepper Seasoning (or enough to coat each fillet)
Garlic powder and paprika (to taste)
For Creamy Dijon Sauce
1 Tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons sour cream
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients together and mix until smooth.  Cover and chill until ready to use.

Drizzle fish with olive oil and season both sides with lemon pepper seasoning, garlic powder, and paprika.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and place fish in single layer.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with sauce.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Baked Asian Style Pork Chops

My recipe library (that's right, it's not a box, it's a full on library!!) is packed full of pasta, fish, and chicken recipes.  I lack on the pork and beef, though. I'm picky about the recipes I choose, that's what it really comes down to :)  When I saw this recipe, I immediately knew I need to add it to my collection!  First, the picture (which looks SO much better then mine) on Life's Ambrosia made my mouth water (as do most of the pictures on Des' site).  Second, I've been on this big Asian flavor kick when I cook lately.  I love using sriracha and hoisin.  Those two things brought this recipe idea to my attention when I was planning meals last week.  So glad it did too, because it was fantastic!  The only thing I did differently, was I used rice vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar.  I don't know how much it changed the flavor, but it tasted delicious to us, so I'm going to say it didn't effect the flavor that much!

Baked Asian Style Pork Chops
Recipe created by Des, Life's Ambrosia 
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sriracha hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
4 boneless pork chops

In a bowl whisk together garlic, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, ground ginger and soy sauce.

Place pork chops in a baking dish or plastic bag. Pour marinade over the top. Turn pork chops to coat, or shake to coat if you are using a bag. Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place pork chops on the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pork chops are cooked through.  Remove from oven, allow to rest 5 minutes. Enjoy!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oven Roasted Potatoes with Peppers

Potatoes are one of my favorite side dishes.  I love them baked, fried, mashed, roasted, and even scalloped.  They are versatile, cheap, and depending on how you make them, they are even good for you.  There are quite a few different types of potatoes and they all have their purpose.  Russet potatoes are probably not the best for roasting, but it's what I normally have on hand.  You just have to be careful when you are parboiling them, you don't want to get them too soft because the next thing you know you have mashed potatoes.  Parboiling is just partially cooking the potatoes until they are just starting to soften, this helps speed up the roasting process.  A red, baby, or even Yukon potato would be better for this recipe if you would rather try using them, they will hold together better then a russet will. (the cook time may very, so keep an eye on them!)  Also, I use an Italian herb mix to season the potatoes, but you can use any herb you would like.  Or you could just season with salt and pepper, it's completely up to you!

Oven Roasted Potatoes with Peppers
2-3 large russet potatoes, washed and cut into bite size pieces (do not peel)
1 orange bell pepper, cut into bite sizes pieces
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon Italian Herb Mix (or herb of your choice)
1/2 Tablespoon sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them.  Parboil potatoes for 5 minutes.  Drain, quickly run under cold water, and return to pot.  Add the olive oil, garlic powder, pepper, Italian herb mix.  Stir to combine.  Gently mix in the sour cream and peppers.

Pour into a prepared baking dish.  Roast for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and golden brown.  (I rotate the pan half way through for even roasting).  Enjoy!

P.S...If you do not like peppers, it's ok to leave them out :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Honey Mustard Chicken

Before I get started, I'd like to direct your attention to a new blog that is up and running.  It is a blog by three young girls, Laensa (11), Tylan (12), and Erin (10).  As per their blog, they bake stuff (I love that line!).  I think this site is so cute.  I wish I had gotten my love for cooking/baking when I was there age.  I encourage you to check out their site Beautiful Baking Blunders.  Drop them a line too, let them know what you think.  My favorite part is that these girls are learning new things each time they bake and sharing it with the reader.  In one post they talk about tasting baking soda!  LOL  It's a great site and I hope they continue to create and experiment.  Happy Baking, Ladies!!

Now on to the Honey Mustard Chicken.

Last July, Chris's dad and stepmom were out here visiting.  We had them and a few other family members over for dinner one night.  Boy, was I nervous!  I so wanted to impress his parents.  We actually had to work that day, so I had no real time, once we got home, to throw a really extravagant meal together.  I sat thinking about what I could make almost the entire day!  I knew I had to do something on the grill:  It was July 28th, it was over 100 degrees.  There was no way I was going to heat up my tiny little kitchen! I knew it had to be simple, yet still on the wowing side...remember, I wanted to impress...  About 3pm I finally decided: Honey Mustard Chicken.  I threw the ingredients together once I got home, marinated the chicken for an hour and then threw everything on the grill.  SUCCESS!!  Funny that I have never made this dish again until now!  Great thing about this recipe is the three main ingredients are in most peoples pantries...well, refrigerators at least.  This is a good recipe to think about when you are scrambling for a last minute idea for dinner.  If you can't grill, just bake the chicken at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Honey Mustard Chicken 
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt & Pepper

In a small bowl, mix the first 4 ingredients together.  Pour half into another small bowl, cover, and refrigerator until ready to use.

Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in a resealable bag.  Pour the other half of the honey mustard mixture over the chicken.  Seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You could actually marinate them for up to 8 hours)

Preheat a grill (or oven).  When grill is ready, cook chicken until no longer pink in the middle, about 5-10 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the breast.  Serve with sauce drizzled over the chicken or on the side as a dipping sauce.  Enjoy!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Easy Baked Fish Fillets

I can hear both my Aunts' now...ANOTHER fish recipe?  Yes, yes..another fish recipe.  I told you in one of my first postings that Chris and I were big fish eaters...see, I don't lie :)

You know who else doesn't lie?  The creator of this recipe.  It really IS easy!  I mean SIMPLE EASY!  Prep time is like 2 minutes, I swear!  This is a perfect week night meal idea.  I used Tilapia in this recipe, but you can use any type of white fish you might have available.  Tilapia is big in our house because it's about the only fish that Chris will eat and is reasonably priced.  Most of the recipes you see on here can be adapted to another type of fish.  I'd try to keep it in the white fish family, though.  Sometimes what I season Tilapia with will not work with salmon...but experiment.  I basically find a fish recipe and adapt it to work with the Tilapia.  Tilapia is easy that way, though.  It doesn't have a lot of flavor on its own, so it tends to pick up whatever flavor you cook it with.  Probably the main reason Chris likes it over other types of fish :)

Easy Baked Fish Fillets
Adapted from Cooking Light/ 
4 Tilapia fillets or other white fish fillets
non-stick cooking spray
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped (optional)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 Tablespoons panko or regular breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place fish in a baking dish coated with non-stick spray.  Combine the lime juice, mayo, rosemary, onion powder, and pepper in a small bowl.  Spread over fillets.  Sprinkle 1 Tbls panko over each fillet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.  Enjoy!
(Nutritional Info: 223 calories, 7.5g fat, 5.3g carbohydrates, 84mg cholesterol, 33.6g protein, 223mg sodium)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mongolian Beef...My Way

I was not a big fan of Mongolian Beef when I was growing up.  There was just something about a meal that had that much onion in it that didn't appeal to me back then. Now, my tastes have changed a bit and I definitely enjoy it more.  Though, I still don't order it too often at restaurants because there is always a chicken dish I'd rather have.  After making this recipe, though, I may be more of a fan for least at home!  (most restaurants still serve it with far too much onion for my taste.)  Most recipes I have seen for Mongolian Beef instruct you to deep fry the beef.  Since I'm still trying to keep things more on the healthier side, I decided to do things a little different.  I decided to marinate the beef and then just stir fry it quickly.  I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  Though it wasn't "crispy" beef, it was amazingly tender and flavorful.

Before I give you the recipe, I want to talk about a few of the ingredients used.  I'm going to give you suggestions on what to substitute, if you need to, but know that the flavors will not be exactly the same.

First...Rice Vinegar.  Rice vinegar is NOT rice wine.  I found that you cannot substitute one for the other in recipes.  If you do not have rice vinegar you can use white wine vinegar.  You can use apple cider vinegar too, but I'd dilute it with a bit of water.

Second...Hoisin sauce.  This is a Chinese marinating/dipping sauce.  It's sort of like a thick, sweet molasses, soy sauce.  If you can't find this, you could use a barbeque sauce, or for the marinating part of this recipe, you could just use soy sauce.

Third...Sriracha hot chili sauce.   I LOVE this sauce.  I use it a lot and just wanted to introduce you to it.  It is a bit spicy, so make sure to taste as you add.  If you don't want spicy, I would suggest using a sweet chili sauce.  You should be able to find either one these in the Asian food isle at your local supermarket.

Mongolian Beef (My Way)
1 lbs. flank steak
2 Tbls. Hoisin Sauce
1 Tbls. Rice Vinegar
1 Tbls. Sriracha hot chili sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 Tbls. minced garlic
3 green onions, sliced
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
5 Tbls brown sugar
1 Tbls Hoisin
1 Tbls Rice Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes


In a small bowl, combine 2 T Hoisin, 1 T rice vinegar, and 1 T Sriracha.  Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4" slices.  Tilt the knife blade at a 45 degree angle to the top of the steak to get wider cuts.  Place steak slices and marinade into a Ziploc bag, seal, and rub the meat to make sure all pieces are coated.  Marinate for 1 hour.

In a bowl, combine the all the sauce ingredients; stir until cornstarch and sugar has dissolved.  Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add the beef and stir fry until the beef is almost cooked, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and quickly stir fry 1 minute.  Add the sauce.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add green onions.  Cook 1-2 more minutes.  Serve over rice.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Simple Stuffed Zucchini

Believe it or not, I really have noticed that I have only posted one side dish since I've started this blog!  So I thought it was high time to post some!  Chris and I are pretty picky about the vegetables we eat, so don't expect a lot of sides to be posted here, but I will do my best to get in a few!

This is my very simple stuffed zucchini recipe. The crunchiness of the stuffing makes me think of when my mom made fried zucchini when I was a kid.  There's a lot to say about my mom's fried zucchini...and I will get to it...but not this post.  Just know that my mom's fried zucchini recipe is coming up .... when?  I don't know, don't rush me!!  (by the way, Mom if you are reading this, I know I didn't ask, but I didn't think this one was a family secret..xoxo) The nice thing about this recipe is it can turn into so much more. This starts out simple, but add some ground beef or Italian sausage to it and all of a sudden it's more the main dish then just a side kick!  I made these in the oven, but I really love doing them on grill.  If you grill them though, it's best to toast the panko in a pan on the stove before you stuff just gives a better flavor to the stuffing.  (if you are interested in doing this and don't quite know how, email me and I'll send you the instructions)

Simple Stuffed Zucchini
1 medium zucchini squash
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian herb mix (or you can use a mix of basil, oregano, and parsley)
2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash the zucchini, split lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp with a spoon.
Mix the remaining ingredients, except cheddar cheese, together in a bowl.  Fill the zucchini with the panko mixture (I sprinkled some red pepper flakes on mine just for a bit of a kick) and place on baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish.  (you may drizzle lightly with olive oil at this point if you want)
Bake for 8 minutes, rotating the pan half way through.  Remove pan from oven, top with cheddar cheese, return to oven and bake until cheese has melted, another 1-2 minutes.  Enjoy! 

**Please note, the baking time may vary.  Keep on eye on the zucchini, you don't want it to be under cooked, but you definitely don't want it to be a soggy mess either.  You'll have to judge for yourself on how firm or soft you want it to be, it's definitely a personal taste!**

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Birthday Weekend Part Three: Spicy Mac & Cheese with Chorizo

I have a confession to make...Chris didn't actually request this dish for his birthday weekend feast.  I know it was suppose to be all about him, but, well, I was craving macaroni and cheese, and I am the cook, so my craving won out over my need to please the birthday boy!  I LOVE mac and cheese.  My all time favorite is my grandma's.  She actually gave me the recipe, but for some reason, I have never been able to duplicate it.  Oh, I can make mac & cheese, don't get me wrong, but my grandma's... well I think she used a secret ingredient that she did not inform me of.  Ask anyone in my family that has tried to make it and they will tell you the same :)  Anyway, my point is, I love mac & cheese and will give just about any recipe a shot.  That's the nice thing about mac & cheese, isn't it?  The fact that it can start off so basic and depending on what you add it can be down right gourmet!

This recipe calls for Chorizo.  Chorizo is a term encompassing several types of pork sausage originating from the Iberian Peninsula.  There are different types of Chorizo, the most common being Spanish, Portuguese, and Mexican.  I used Mexican Chorizo because it was what the grocery store had.  You can use any type of Chorizo is you choose.  If you can't find it, you can substitute regular pork sausage or even Italian sausage.  The flavors will not be the same, but it will still be scrumptious!!

Spicy Mac & Cheese with Chorizo
Adapted from The Neelys' 
10 oz. Penne pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper
2.5 links of chorizo, casings removed
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, warm
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 Tablespoon hot sauce (I used Arizona Gunslinger Habanero pepper sauce)
1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup panko
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Mix all the topping ingredients together in a small bowl.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside. 

In a skillet, over medium heat, add 1 tsp olive oil.  Saute the chorizo until browned.  Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray an 8x8-inch baking dish with non stick cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir for 1 minute.  Whisk in the warm milk and bring to a boil.  Lower the temperature to low and continue to whisk.  Whisk in the mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  Stir in the cheese (make sure to not let the mixture boil once the cheese is added); reserve 1/4 - 1/2 cup of the cheese for the topping.  Remove from heat.  Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and stir to combine.  Pour into baking dish, top with remaining cheese, chorizo, chopped tomatoes, and panko mixture.  Bake for 35 minutes or until heated through.  Enjoy!  (Can be made ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated.  Bring to room temperature before baking.)
(psst.. you don't even want to know the nutrititional information on this one.. it's bad bad bad, but so good good good!!!)