Friday, June 29, 2012

Pasta with Lemon Yogurt Sauce

Before I get into today's recipe, I've got a little something to say about onions and garlic. A few weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I noticed a couple funny things about my appetite. First, all I want to eat are carbohydrates and, specifically, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Second, when I eat onions and garlic, I am miserable. I will taste them all night long. Waking up thirty five times a night to go to the bathroom is one thing, but waking up to the taste of garlic is where I draw the line.

This is why you may have noticed onions and garlic have been missing here on Hot Dinner Happy Home. I felt like I needed to explain myself. Now, for today's hot dinner...

I made this recipe with my gal pals because the husband doesn't do tomatoes or zucchini. Let me tell you, it was delish. The girls were understanding of my food issues, so we cut back on the garlic. But if you're neither pregnant nor a vampire, feel free to add a couple cloves. 

Pasta with Lemon Yogurt Sauce
Serves: 4

8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti*
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons about 1/8" thick  
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt so it tastes like sea water and stir until salt is dissolved. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions until it's al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and set it aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and saute for about 4-5 minutes, until it's almost crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes, until tomatoes start to soften and zucchini is crisp-tender. Stir in garlic for 30 seconds, until it's fragrant, then remove the vegetables from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

In a large bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest. Stir in cooked pasta and vegetables. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water. Toss everything together again, and, if necessary, add the additional 1/4 cup of pasta water to make sure the sauce is smooth and evenly coats the pasta and veggies. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.

*Feel free to use a different shape of pasta. I think it would look really cute with that wagon wheel shaped pasta. I haven't had that in eons. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Asian Glazed Pork Tenderloin

This Asian Glazed Pork Tenderloin is a new favorite of mine because it's fast and easy. Butterflying the pork helps it cook quickly so dinner is on the table in no time. Make it a balanced meal with sticky rice and edamame. Delish.

Asian Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4
Adapted from Real Simple

1.5 pounds pork tenderloin
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Use a very sharp knife to butterfly the pork tenderloin. (How to butterfly pork tenderloin: Lay the pork on a cutting board, and use one hand to hold it still. With the other hand, very carefully cut the pork tenderloin lengthwise, stopping when you're about 1" from the edge. Then fold it open like a book.)

In a small bowl, stir together hoisin sauce and rice wine vinegar. Set about 1/3 cup aside for serving.

Preheat the broiler to high, making sure the rack is about 5" from the heat source. Place the pork tenderloin on a foil-lined, boilerproof (in other words, not glass) baking sheet. Use a spoon or basting brush to spread the hoisin mixture on both sides of the pork.

Place the pan under the broiler and cook, basting twice with hoisin mixture, until the pork tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees, about 12-15 minutes. Tent with foil and allow pork to rest for 5-10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with the reserved hoisin mixture.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Barbecued Beer Bratwurst

I do most of the cooking around here, but there are a few things that fall squarely in the husband's territory. During the summer months, I thank my lucky stars that I'm married to a grill master. Not to brag, but let me brag for just a second. The man I'm married to can grill a perfectly medium-rare steak, a juicy chicken breast, and never loses kabob cubes between the grates. And since we moved to Milwaukee, he picked up on a local specialty and learned to make Barbecued Beer Bratwurst (a.k.a. "Brats.")

Usually he makes traditional pork bratwurst, but sometimes it's nice to lighten things up a bit. When the good folks at Gold'n Plump asked if we wanted to try out their chicken bratwurst, I almost jumped out of my skin with excitement. I absolutely wanted to try them! So, in today's post the husband's grilling Gold'n Plump Parmesan Italian Chicken Sausages. They are absolutely delicious.*

Whether you're making chicken sausages or traditional bratwurst, you can use the same technique described below. Just make sure you're starting with raw meat. I imagine things would get pretty overdone if you used pre-cooked sausages. And no one wants that.

Now, go forth and get grillin'!

Barbecued Beer Bratwurst

2-3 bottles of beer (Whatever's languishing in the back of the fridge.)
2 tablespoons butter
Half an onion, sliced
Raw chicken sausages or bratwurst (We used five here, but the husband has used the same technique to make dozens of bratwurst at once. Just use more beer and a big enough pot to cook them all in.)
Buns (We like to use "brat buns." They might call them sausage buns in your neck of the woods.)
Toppings (grainy mustard, barbecue sauce, ketchup, etc.)

Pour the beer into a large saucepan or pot. Add butter, onion, and sausages. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. (The sausages will not be fully cooked at this point, so don't eat them yet!)

Meanwhile, preheat your grill to medium. Grill par-boiled sausages for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until they are cooked through and charred to your liking. Serve sausages on buns with your favorite toppings, including the onions from the cooking liquid if you're so inclined.

*While Gold'n Plump was kind enough to let us try their chicken sausages on the house, these opinions are all mine. And the husband's. And Kelly and Cristoph's, for that matter. We all agreed that these suckers are mighty tasty.

Also...if you're looking for more chicken sausage recipe, my pal, Stef, over at Haute Apple Pie made some fine lookin' Southwestern Chicken Brats a few weeks ago. Check them out here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken

It's been hot in Milwaukee. I'm talking 94 degrees with humidity like you're standing in the shower hot. Now I'm not complaining, I'll take this weather over snow any day, but I don't particularly want to turn on the oven. So I busted out my crock pot.

Most people relegate the crock pot to winter months, but it can be just as handy in the summer. Dinner is waiting for you when you get home from work, and you don't need to make your kitchen any hotter than it already is. So bring that sucker back out from the basement, and start using it.

You can start with this Barbecue Chicken...

Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken
Adapted from

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6), frozen or thawed
1 tablespoon chili powder
28 ounces barbecue sauce
8 ounces beer (I haven't tried it, but I bet it would be awesome if you substituted root beer. I'm totally trying this next time.)

Place chicken breasts (either frozen or thawed) in your slow cooker. Sprinkle with chili powder. Pour barbecue sauce and beer on top.

If your chicken is raw, it will probably only need 3-4 hours on low heat. If your chicken is frozen, you should cook it longer. I've found that frozen chicken breasts are usually cooked through in about 5-6 hours on low. That said, when I go to work, I'm out of the house for 8 hours. So, I leave my slow cooker for 8 hours on low heat, and the chicken is just fine.

There are a plethora of ways to serve Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken. Here are a few ideas:

Serve the chicken breasts whole, drizzled with extra sauce, with Simple Cheese Grits (like I did in the picture below) or Beer Bread.

Shred the chicken with two forks, then pour on enough barbecue cooking liquid to make the mixture saucy....

...and serve it on a fresh roll (or bread, if you're like me and too lazy to go to the grocery store to buy rolls) topped with coleslaw. Dreamy.

P.S. Did you notice the plastic bag lining my crock pot? It's a slow cooker liner. I use them because I hate scrubbing things. Reynolds makes the ones I have, and they work really well. They're not paying me to say this, but I just wanted to share a handy tip. You probably hate scrubbing, too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How To: Chiffonade

When I was in college, I took a year and a half of French. I loved it. I neglected my other studies so I could flip through vocabulary flash cards and conjugate verbs. I rented "Babar the Elephant" for an assignment and actually watched it, despite the heckling from my roommates. French was one of my favorite courses. (The others were Piano for Beginners and Table Tennis, but we won't go there.)

Unfortunately, my love of the French language didn't mean I was any good at speaking it. Although I do feel that my years of study give me a certain appreciation for macarons, soft cheeses, and champagne, I can't get much past "Bonjour!" But I do like to throw around a few French phrases in the kitchen for good measure. (No matter that I learned them from the Food Network or "Julie & Julia.") Who doesn't like a fancy-sounding word that means something easy? It's just classier in French.

Chiffonade simply means to cut something (usually greens or leafy herbs) into long, thin strips. And it looks as pretty as it sounds. Here's how you do it:

Stack the leaves you want to chiffonade. (Here I'm using basil.)

Roll up the leaves as tightly as you can until they look like a little cigar.

Using the sharpest knife you have, cut across the rolled leaves so you have thin strips.

Et voila! Chiffonade.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Herbed Goat Cheese

Do you think it's fair to say that herbs are to food as accessories are to fashion? Take a bracelet. On it's own you might think, "Well, that's a nice bangle." But when paired with the perfect cocktail dress, yowzers. It makes the outfit.

I think herbs are the same. I'm not gonna get all jazzed about a basil leaf just sitting alone on my plate. But when that basil is sprinkled on top of freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese? There might be some swooning then. And, really, what is a mojito without mint?

Now that I have herbs growing on my back porch, mere steps away from my kitchen, I plan on using them to add flair to my meals as often as possible. Just yesterday I used basil and dill to turn a boring old sandwich into something special. And it all started with herbed goat cheese...

Herbed Goat Cheese

3 ounces goat cheese, preferably at room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil*
1.5 teaspoons chopped fresh dill*
Salt and pepper

Stir basil and dill into softened goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Use Herbed Goat Cheese as a spread on sandwiches or wraps, to dip veggies, or schmear on crackers or pita chips. This recipe makes enough to spread generously on two sandwiches.

*Don't like basil or dill? Feel free to substitute your favorite herbs.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Roast Beef Sandwiches with Roasted Red Peppers
Serves: 2

4 slices bread
Herbed Goat Cheese
Roasted red peppers, to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons for the husband and practically the rest of the jar for myself.)
6 slices roast beef

Spread Herbed Goat Cheese onto one side of all four slices of bread. Top two slices of bread with roasted red peppers and roast beef. Close up sandwiches with remaining two slices of bread.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Colds

Someone who lives in my house has a nasty cold. That person is sniffling, snorting, coughing, watching Bravo, and whining. Mostly whining.

That person is me.

If I were to request a meal to be brought to my sickbed (besides frozen yogurt, which is a completely acceptable meal when you're sick), I would request one of the following. And I'd also request the latest issue of People so I could drown my misery in gossip. And I would also request that frozen yogurt, because you have to wash down dinner with something.

Husband, I hope you're reading this.


Mom's Cheesy Potatoes

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Berry Smoothie

Chicken Packets

To anyone else out there suffering the summer sniffles, get better soon!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Herbs of 2012

I don't have a green thumb. In fact, my thumb is more the crusty brown hue of the un-watered and withered. I lack the dedication and interest to keep my gardens alive past June. I don't weed. I don't prune. 

One summer I attempted to grow green beans, and I had a beautiful harvest...of about 10 beans. Note I said beautiful not bountiful

Several times I've planted tomatoes. I've heard so many comments about prolific tomato plants. "Oh, my tomatoes are just going crazy! I can't eat them fast enough! I canned all weekend and made 49 gallons of salsa!" I figured that it must be a cinch to grow tomato plants as tall as the garage that hang heavy with fruit. I figured wrong. My tomato crop was a big, fat nada. Zilch. Nothing. Zero. 

Every year, though, I manage to keep a bucket or two of herbs alive on my back porch. This is a testimony to the hardiness of these tasty plants and not at all to my skill level in the garden. Believe me, if I can keep them alive, anyone can. 

This year, I'm growing my favorite herbs in a few sunny yellow planters. Basil and mint live in one...

And parsley, dill, and rosemary are in the other.

Do you grow herbs in your garden? If you haven't given it a try, I'd encourage you to buy a little container of your favorite herb for your patio or stoop or sunny window. It feels so summery to snip a few leaves of basil from your own backyard to add pizzazz to Herbed Quinoa or Corn & Tomato Salad. It's just a tiny bit of effort, and, in my humble opinion, it's well worth it.     

Monday, June 11, 2012


When I should be accomplishing things—you know, unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry, generally bettering myself—I find myself drawn to the cozy couch in our basement to do important work. And by that I mean look at Pinterest while I watch The Food Network. Somehow I have convinced myself that I'm actually being productive (or double-relaxing) if I do both at the same time. At least I recognize the crazy.

Sometimes when I'm feeling guilty about my slovenly time in front of the boob tube, I have to remind myself that I really am accomplishing something...I'm getting inspired. Today I'm sharing the inspiration behind a few of my favorite recipes.

Pinterest was the inspiration behind Funfetti Cupcakes. Once I saw a picture of those sprinkle-laden beauties, I had to make them for myself. (By the way, feel free to follow me on Pinterest if you want to see exactly how much time I waste all the fabulous things I want to make someday.)

After a trip to the South, the husband and I re-lived our vacation memories while we scarfed down Baked Cheesy Grits.

Our Baked Potato Bar was designed after one of my favorite meals at the cafeteria at my office. If they could do it, why couldn't I?

My celebrity crush, Giada De Laurentiis, made a dish on the Food Network incredibly similar to Chicken with Cipollini Onions and Riesling.

Internet trolling also got my juices flowing about Overnight Oats. After reading about this simple and healthy breakfast on several blogs, I realized it was a bandwagon I needed to jump on.

My favorite sandwich spot in San Francisco introduced me to the Peanut Butter and Stuff Sandwich. Since I can't swing by the west coast for lunch on a regular basis, I had to try this at home.

Now it's your turn. What inspires you in the kitchen?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Easy Cheesy Pasta

As I mentioned, I haven't been in the mood to cook lately. What with the painting and the whole pregnant thing, I'd rather watch Teen Mom than slave away in the kitchen. (Although the husband did tell me that I shouldn't get all of my parenting advice from Teen Mom. Noted.)

Something I've been relying on heavily for super-speedy protein is rotisserie chicken. Whenever we go to Costco, the husband and I pick one up for a sweet deal. I use about half of the chicken to make sandwiches for the husband's lunch box during the week. Then I remove the skin from the leftovers and dice it into bite-sized pieces. I measure 1 cup portions into Ziploc freezer bags and pop them in the freezer until I need some. Believe you me, that stash of leftover rotisserie chicken has saved my hiney on a number of occasions.

Yesterday I whipped up a ridiculously simple pasta dish that incorporated some of my chicken. This is the kind of meal that begs for personalization. If you don't have rotini pasta, use elbow noodles or penne. If your freezer isn't stocked with peas, substitute broccoli or whatever veggie your kids will eat. Use this recipe as a base, and make it your own.

Easy Cheesy Pasta
Serves: 4

8 ounces rotini pasta
1 cup frozen peas
4 ounces cream cheese (I used reduced-fat.)
1-1.5 cups diced cooked chicken
Salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste*

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Stir in frozen peas for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Save about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the  to rest of the water. Return the pasta and peas to the pot that you cooked them in.

Stir in cream cheese, chicken, and enough pasta cooking water to help it melt into a smooth sauce. (I used about 1/2 cup of cooking water.) Season to taste with salt, pepper, and your favorite spices.

*Like I said, make this meal your own. Keep it simple with salt and pepper or stir in fresh herbs from your garden. Raid the spice cupboard and shake on a bit of dried basil or Italian seasoning. My personal favorite is Mural of Flavor spice blend by Penzeys Spices. I can't get enough of that stuff.    

Monday, June 4, 2012


The husband and I spent the weekend painting our kitchen. No new and exciting color, just a fresh coat of gleaming white paint. If you're a regular visitor to Hot Dinner Happy Home, you may have noticed our circa 1950 mint green counters. Not much matches mint green counters besides white.

Needless to say, I have no recipe for you today. But I do want to give major props to those of you who have remodeled your kitchens. Just painting was the biggest pain in my patootie...I can't imagine actual renovations. Ugh.

I'm off to recuperate.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Johnny's Eclair Cake

When we were kids, my brother was known for his skills in the kitchen. (I should also state for the record that he's an excellent cook to this day.) One of his most-requested items was Eclair Cake. And I think it really says something about the deliciousness of this dessert as well as my brother's talent that people actually requested a cake from a 10-year-old boy. I mean, seriously, how many pre-teens would you trust with your sweet tooth?

As I was thinking back fondly on Johnny's Eclair Cake, I realized how smart my mother was to cultivate this skill. She didn't have to make it herself, meaning her mile-long To-Do list could be completed that much more quickly. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Also, cooking taught my brother a plethora of useful things. He mastered reading comprehension as he followed a step-by-step recipe, improved his measuring and math skills as he poured the appropriate amount of milk, and learned patience when he waited 24 hours (TWENTY FOUR HOURS!!) for the cake to finish setting up in the fridge. Most importantly, although we've never discussed it, I'd say that cooking gave him confidence. Imagine how great he felt when his pals crowded around the pan of Eclair Cake, clamoring for seconds...and thirds. That's the kind of life skill that you can't pick up in a classroom.

So if you have little ones, consider handing over the reins on this recipe. I think you'll be pleased with the results.

Johnny's Eclair Cake

Softened butter for the pan
About 2 "sleeves" of graham crackers (My standard-sized box had three sleeves in it.)
3.5 cups milk
2 (3.4-ounces each) packages of instant French vanilla pudding
8 ounces Cool Whip

2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1.5 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk

Butter the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Line the bottom of the pan with graham crackers. You'll probably need to break up the graham crackers to fit.

Combine milk and pudding mix in a large bowl. Using a wire whisk or your mixer, beat for 2 minutes. Gently fold in Cool Whip.

Pour half of the pudding mixture over the graham crackers in the pan, then cover with a second layer of graham crackers. Top with the rest of the pudding mixture. Refrigerate for at least two hours before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat together melted chocolate, corn syrup, vanilla extract, butter, powdered sugar, and milk until smooth. Frost the cake right after you make the frosting, as it gets a bit harder to spread as it sets.

Refrigerate the cake for 24 hours before serving. (As tempting as it may be to cut yourself a hefty slice earlier, teach yourself a lesson in patience and wait the full 24 hours! It's just not the same if you eat it too soon. And, yes, I learned this lesson the hard way.)