Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Shout-Out: Water Wheel Crackers

As the bringer of hot dinner in my house, I obviously enjoy cooking and baking. But sometimes, I just don't want to do it.

Like when my two boys are completely over scheduled. We actually had a week with each of these activities: drama club, math club, school newspaper, baseball and basketball practices, basketball games for each kid, a math competition and a birthday party. Next week we add a second baseball practice for each boy (Ack!)

Phew. Needless to say, I get a little bit exhausted some nights. Enter the cheese-and-cracker-dinner. We do this pretty often, and sometimes add carrots, cucumbers and humus to the menu. But what really ramps up these quick and easy dinners are the lovely Water Wheel wafers and cheese twists.

The Australian makers of wafers and cheese twists asked me to test out their line of crackers and I have to say: We. Are. Addicted.

The airy and crisp wafers are mild in flavor and very thin, so that you can actually taste whatever you pair them with. The cheese twists (parmesan or cheddar) are a sour dough base with bits of cheese baked in, which is a nice spin on traditional orange cheddar twists. They are delicious with prosciutto wrapped around them or broken up and sprinkled on top of soup.

I also really like the corn wafers with a bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (above.)

Confession: I hid the crackers away so that my kids would not devour them, but once the crazy in our lives jumped into overdrive, they became a lifesaver, especially during rushed dinners like this one:

I paired Tuscan Style Water Wheel wafers and parmesan twists with a New Year's Eve antipasto platter. All the crackers were gone by midnight!

I took a tray of Original Wafers, cheese and mini salami to a neighborhood gathering and the plate was empty long before the party ended.

And I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing these crisps during our Super Bowl party, too.

Sam, my youngest, likes to fill a plate with any flavor wafer (Sesame & Poppy Seed anyone?) and eat them for a snack. He can finish a box by himself in two days. Luckily we have a Fresh Market in town, so I'm able to restock pretty easily. You can also order the wafers and twists online at or

If you decide to give Water Wheel wafers or cheese twists a try, let us know how you like them – and how you use them!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Easy Beef Stroganoff

As I mentioned last week, I try to limit my visits to the grocery store to once a week. I inevitably make an extra trip on Friday afternoon for drinkable yogurt, cheddar bunnies and ice cream because emergencies happen, amiright?

A weekly shopping trip requires meal planning, and I totally shop the grocery store circular to determine my weekly menu. Not only is it thrifty, but it also reins in my creative juices. If I could pick any old thing to make, there would simply be too many choices. I mean, we live in the age of Pinterest, people.

Maybe it's just my friendly Fred Meyer, but sirloin steak is always on sale. And beef is expensive, man! So sirloin steak it is. This quick and easy Beef Stroganoff was a total winner and a great way to use the sale-priced sirloin steak. If you have a different cut of steak on sale at your market, give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

How do you plan your meals every week? Do you stick to the circular?

Let's get cooking!

P.S. This post has me thinking about grocery stores. To our readers in western New York, Milwaukee, and the South—I can't tell you all how I miss Wegmans, Sendiks, and Publix, respectively. Please think of me next time you go grocery shopping. That is all.

Easy Beef Stroganoff
Gently adapted from

1 pound sirloin steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper
1 cup beef consomme or beef broth, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sour cream
Cooked egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes, for serving
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Cut steak in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4" thick strips. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add steak and cook until browned on both sides, about 4-5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add butter to skillet. Once it's melted, stir in onion, mushrooms, and paprika. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine 1/4 cup beef consomme and flour in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Add to skillet. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup beef consomme and 1/2 cup water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon to incorporate browned bits into the sauce. Return steak and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in sour cream. (Stirring in sour cream off the heat helps prevent it from curdling.)

Serve over egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes. Garnish with parsley.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pressure Cooker Potato Soup

I'm trying to perfect my mom's soupy potatoes -- that's what she calls this dish. It's a work in progress and a goal I don't think I will ever quite achieve. Some things just taste better when someone else prepares them for you. Like Mom's soup and tuna salad. Like my husband's vodka gimlet.

Anyhow, in this rendition of soupy potatoes, I use the pressure cooker, so I get to enjoy my soup right away. I also added pancetta for a little more flavor. It hit the spot. My husband and our two daughters enjoyed it with the girls asking for it in the next day's lunch -- and that's quite the achievement, let me tell you.


PS: This isn't the first of Mom's soups I've done in the pressure cooker. Check out my Midwestern Vegetable-Beef Soup.

Pressure Cooker Potato Soup

4 ounces pancetta
2 medium to large onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme (or oregano)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
5 pounds potatoes (russet, Yukon gold, red), peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee pancetta, onion, thyme and parsley inside pressure cooker for a couple minutes, until fragrant. Deglaze inside of pressure cooker with some of the broth, scraping pan of crunchy bits of onion and pancetta. Add potatoes and remaining broth. Cook under high pressure for six minutes and do a quick release when time is up.

Note: You could cut the ingredients in half. I like to make a lot so we can eat soup for days and share with our neighbors.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Yellow & French Lentils with Wilted Greens

Now that we're deep into the cold, gray winter months out here in Illinois, I've been trying to make meals that use what's in my pantry, as I did last week with pumpkin and pasta.

This week, lentils are on the menu. I have several bags – French, yellow and red. I thought of Amy's Soul-Soothing Red Lentil Stew. So pretty, hearty and healthy, lentils could be just the ticket for a cozy dinner.

My original meal plans for the week included sautéing some sausage with a bag of greens. Why not add some lentils into the mix, right? I looked around at various online lentil recipes to give me some ideas – and Yellow & French Lentils with Wilted Greens was born. I served this with a side of cajun sausage links to please my boys. If you have any leftovers, the lentils taste great cold, too.

Mangia! Mangia!

Yellow & French Lentils with Wilted Greens
Inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn.

1/2 cup French (green) lentils
1/2 cup yellow lentils
2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 large onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 13 ounce bag mixed greens (kale, spinach, collard, etc.)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Put lentils and chicken broth into a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook lentils for about 25 minutes, or until softened. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside. Do not drain.

In a large pan or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium-high heat until just crisp. Drain fat out of the pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon of grease. Add onions, garlic, rosemary, sage and ground pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened.

Lower heat to medium. Add lentils and any remaining stock into the bacon and onion mixture in the Dutch oven. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Add greens to Dutch oven and cover for 2 minutes. Remove cover and stir, incorporating greens into lentils. Continue to cook and stir until all greens are wilted. Remove from heat, partially cover and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard and balsamic vinegar to make a dressing.

Serve lentils and greens warm, topped with dressing and sliced green onions.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Crustless Quiche with Ham and Smokey Cheddar

Lately I've been trying to limit my trips to the grocery store to once a week. While I love my precious angels, I don't love schlepping them both to the store. So I shop when the husband can watch the kids on Sunday afternoon. I try to use fresh meat and produce at the beginning of the week, and by Friday I'm looking to clean out the fridge, freezer and pantry.

I always have eggs on hand and I had popped some leftover ham in the freezer a few weeks back. Crustless quiche seemed like the perfect end-of-the-week plan. I whisked everything together and popped it into the oven to bake. It was ridiculously easy, so I was dubious that it would be good. But it was. Tasty + easy? You guys know that's how I roll.

Let's get cooking!

Crustless Quiche with Ham and Smokey Cheddar
Serves: 4-6

8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1 cup diced ham
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" pie plate and set aside.

Whisk together eggs, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in ham and cheese. Pour mixture into prepared pie plate, making sure ham and cheese are evenly distributed. Bake for about 30 minutes, until filling is set and doesn't jiggle. Rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pasta with Sausage, Sage & Pumpkin

A bit before Thanksgiving, I vaguely remember hearing some news stories about a pumpkin shortage.

I live near a Libby's pumpkin packing plant and short of storming the castle, I stocked up at my local grocery store. I had visions of baking gorgeous loaves of pumpkin bread for everyone on my holiday list. Now that we've had our fill of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, my pantry still is full of canned pumpkin (10 cans, to be exact)  – and I'm looking for new ways to use it.

Pumpkin is especially good in savory dishes. It goes well with pork, and stands out in Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Bake and Pumpkin Black Bean Chili.

After staring at my pumpkin-filled pantry, hoping for a sign from the culinary Gods, I opened the freezer. A few packages of Italian sausage in there. A check of the fridge revealed a carton with a bit of remaining cream and a few bottles of white wine. Yay! So here we go.

Mangia! Mangia!

Pasta with Sausage, Sage & Pumpkin

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (use ground or thinly sliced links, or you can remove the meat from the casings)
4 cloves or 4 teaspoons of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons (about 6 sprigs) sage leaves, cut into thin strips
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente
Shredded or shaved parmesan cheese
Additional sage leaves, sliced

*Note: if you want to leave out the wine, replace it with chicken stock.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown. Remove sausage from skillet and let it drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Drain drippings from pan and return pan to heat.

Add 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and onion. Cook until onion is tender.  Add bay leaf, sage and wine to the skillet and cook until the wine is reduced by about half. Scrape up any browned bits in the pan while cooking. Add chicken stock and pumpkin and cook until bubbly.

Add sausage to the sauce, reduce the heat and add the cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Remove bay leaf.

Put pasta back into the pot you cooked it in and pour the pumpkin sauce on top. Gently stir to combine.

Place pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl. Generously stop with parmesan cheese and more sage leaves.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Coq Au Vin Style Oven Roasted Chicken Legs and Vegetables

On New Year's Eve Chez George, we like our final meal of the year to be festive and have a theme. We've done make-your-own pizzas, cheese fondue and Chinese food including homemade crab rangoon.

To ring in 2016, we had a French theme.

Our starter: Brie Cranberry Pizza.

Our main event was this spin on traditional coq au vin (a.k.a. chicken in  wine sauce). I have tried beaucoup recipes for coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy), for that matter, and have never gotten them right. But I can never get these dishes to cook down into a stew; they always turn out too soupy. That's why I was intrigued by the recipe for brochettes au coq au vin (coq au vin on skewers) found in Rachel Khoo's cookbook, The Little Paris Kitchen. (BTW, this cookbook was among my picks in our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide.)

Coq au vin in shish kebab form. Genius!

Still, on a rainy NYE I didn't want the hubby to have to tend the grill, so I decided to adapt Khoo's recipe for the oven -- making what I call Coq Au Vin Style Oven Roasted Chicken Legs and Vegetables. Magnifique! Thumbs up -- not that they put down their forks -- from my husband, daughters and our neighbor who dropped by to eat with us.


Coq Au Vin Style Oven Roasted Chicken Legs and Vegetables
Inspired by The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel  Khoo

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cups red wine
4 chicken leg quarters, bone in and skin on
Salt and pepper, to taste.
4 ounces of pancetta (cubes of smoked bacon)
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes or petite white potatoes, peel on and cut in half
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut roughly into 2-inch pieces
6 ounces of button onions, peeled and cut in half
4 ounces of button mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

First, make the marinade several hours or the night before you plan to serve this dish. Fry the garlic and onion in the butter until golden. Add four sprigs of thyme and bay leaves and cook for another minute and then add the wine. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Leave marinade to cool.

Season chicken legs with salt and pepper and place in large plastic container. Top chicken with pancetta and marinade and then cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and preferably longer or even overnight.

When you are ready to cook, remove chicken -- with some of the pancetta remaining on top -- from container and place in roasting pan. Roast in 425-degree oven for 20 minutes and then reduce heat to 375 degrees and cook or another 20-30 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is cut at thickest part.

Meanwhile, place all of the vegetables -- except the mushrooms -- on a lightly sprayed baking pan. Sprinkle salt, pepper and olive oil over vegetables and top generously with sprigs of thyme. Place in oven with chicken and remove when done -- should be done around same time as the chicken.

About 20 minutes before serving dinner, place the marinade in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil, then add the mushrooms and simmer until the food in the oven is done.

When plating, spoon mushrooms and wine sauce over the chicken.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Fried chicken is all the rage. But the New Year is still fresh. My resolve should last at least a few weeks before I need to start frying things.

So today, we're baking our chicken. Low-fat boneless, skinless chicken breasts are healthy, but—let's be honest—they can be a little boring. Not so when you bake them with a crisp crust of pecans and drizzle them with a flavorful honey mustard sauce.

Let's get cooking!

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Curried Honey Mustard Sauce
Adapted from Everyday Food Fresh Flavor Fast
Serves: 4

Pecan-Crusted Chicken:
3/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts

Curried Honey Mustard Sauce:
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons apricot preserves
1/8 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, just until they are very lightly toasted. Remove pecans from the oven and increase the temperature to 475 degrees. Finely chop pecans.

In a wide, shallow bowl combine chopped pecans and breadcrumbs. Beat eggs in a second shallow bowl. Season pecans and eggs generously with salt and pepper.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Grease foil with a light drizzle of olive oil or a mist of cooking spray.

Dip chicken breast in eggs and allow excess to drip off. Dredge in pecan mixture, pressing to help the pecans adhere. Place on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken. Drizzle chicken with olive oil. (Or if you have one of those handy olive oil misters, you could mist the chicken with oil.) Bake for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes.

While the chicken rests, stir together ingredients for Curried Honey Mustard Sauce. Serve chicken with sauce.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Halibut with Tomato, Orange & Olives

My husband has hit on an eating plan (thanks to a story he heard on NPR) that is working wonders for his weight maintenance. The program involves fasting twice a week and eating no more than 500 calories on those days.

With my DH back down to his fighting weight, I do my best to make light dinners that he can eat on his fasting days.

This halibut dish is one of my go-tos. The ingredient list is short, the prep time is quick and it is one of the most flavorful things I know how to make. I usually cook this in summer when tomatoes are plentiful – and available in a variety of colors – and I can grill the halibut outside, but my local market had some especially nice cherry tomatoes this week. And since I wish I were back to my own pre-holiday figure, eating healthfully is top of mind for me, too.

In the past I've used capers in the sauce, but my boys don't like them. This time I tried Kalamata olives. The vinegary zing of the olives added just the right contrast to the sweetness of the tomatoes. And let's be honest – this tomato sauce would be great on pasta (think Angel Hair) too!

Mangia! Mangia!

Halibut with Tomato, Orange & Olives
(Note: You can easily double the sauce recipe in the same size skillet)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes or 1 12 ounce container of "gourmet medley" tomatoes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
1 or 2 teaspoons brine/vinegar from the Kalamata olive jar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound halibut fillets, skin removed
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian leaf parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they begin to break down. This should take about 20 minutes.

Once most of the tomatoes have burst, add orange juice, olives and olive brine, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook until sauce thickens, between 5 and 8 minutes.

As the sauce thickens, heat remaining olive oil in a skillet or grill pan. Season halibut with salt and pepper to taste. Grill halibut filets about 3 or 4 minutes per side. You can also sear the halibut in the grill pan to get those pretty grill marks, and then finish cooking the fish in the oven at 375 degrees, which I sometimes do.

Top halibut with tomato sauce and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Amy's Mom's Egg Strata

Growing up, instead of a traditional Christmas dinner we had a standard breakfast -- my mom's egg strata, which she assembled overnight and put in the oven while we unwrapped our gifts. Now I make strata for my family on Christmas and on other special occasions when we have company.

I tweak my mom's version ever so slightly by cooking the onions with the sausage, because my family doesn't like raw onion and Mom layers uncooked onion into her strata. Also, I think Mom uses butter spread, whereas I use softened butter.

Whether the strata is made by Mom or me, it's a crowd pleaser.


Amy's  Mom's Egg Strata

1 (16 ounce) tube of breakfast sausage
1 medium onion, diced finely
10-12 slices white bread, lightly buttered on each side
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (or Colby Jack or Mexican blend)
5 eggs, beaten
1 2/3 cups milk

Fry sausage -- with diced onion if you don't want to add in raw onion. Cook sausage until no longer pink. Drain sausage and set aside.

Mix together milk and beaten eggs and set aside.

Make a layer of bread in the bottom of a 9"x 13" baking pan. If your pan is curved, you will likely have to cut the last two slices a bit so they fit in the pan.

Sprinkle sausage, onions and cheese over the bread slices. Top with another layer of bread slices. Pour egg and milk mixture over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bake the strata uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Place foil on top when the bread starts to get brown.

Serve immediately. Leftovers, should you have any, are tasty, too.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Taco Pie

The husband is the middle child of three boys. Needless to say, my mother-in-law spent a lot of time in the kitchen when they were growing up. (It's no surprise that she's a fantastic cook.) Taco Pie was one of the fast and easy meals she relied on to quell their endless appetites. The boys loved it. No...they love it. Present tense. And so do I.

Whenever the husband has had a particularly rough week, Taco Pie makes its way to the dinner table. If I'm going out of town for a few days, I'll leave a Taco Pie in the fridge for him to heat up. Whenever I need a fast, easy, delicious dinner, it's time for Taco Pie.

Let's get cooking!

Taco Pie

1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
1/3 cup chopped onion (optional)
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning (or make your own with Andrea's recipe)
1/3 cup sliced black olives (optional)
1 can refrigerator biscuits
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Crushed tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high. Saute beef and onion (if using) until the beef is cooked through. Drain excess fat. Stir in tomato sauce, taco seasoning, and olives (if using) and remove from heat.

Press biscuits into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate to form a crust. Add taco meat on top of biscuits. Spread sour cream on top of meat and sprinkle with cheese. Sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips. Bake for 20 minutes, until crust is browned and cheese is melted. Allow taco pie to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna

We love lasagna and Latin-inspired food at our house. This Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna is a fun vegetarian take on our usual tacos or Italian fare.

This recipe is a spin-off of the Layered Tortilla Tart from one of my favorite cookbooks, America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. When I went to make the meal, I realized I didn't have several of the ingredients, so I improvised with what I had on hand.

The results were quite yummy. I see lots of versatility in this recipe, such as using pinto beans instead of black beans, or subbing out a can of beans for a can of corn. I hope some of you will experiment and tell us how you finesse this dinner in your own happy kitchens.

Mangia! Mangia!

Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bell pepper (red, green, orange or yellow), chopped
2 15 ounce cans of low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (omnivores can sub chicken broth)
4 10-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
3 plum tomatoes, cored, chopped and divided
1 bunch green onions, sliced and divided
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped and divided
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Sliced black olives, guacamole for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until pepper is softened, stirring often. This will take about 6 to 8 minutes.

Add black beans, lime juice, cumin, chili powder and chicken broth to pan. Stir to combine and heat through. As the broth absorbs, mash some of the beans so that they break apart and form a paste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place tortillas in the oven two at a time, directly on a middle rack. Cook just 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly browned and crisp around the edges (The tortillas may puff up. This is OK as they will deflate.) Remove from oven and set aside.

Now you are ready for assembly. Place one tortilla in center of lined cookie sheet. Spread one-third of the bean mixture onto the tortilla. Top with one-fourth of the green onions, tomatoes, cilantro and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.

Repeat two more times, ending with the fourth tortilla. Sprinkle remaining tomato, cilantro, green onion and cheese on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes. Slice and serve garnished with black olives, guacamole and additional cilantro.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Brie Cranberry Pizza

I got this recipe more than 15 years ago from a coworker, Sally, at the Kentucky newspaper where I met my husband. The original recipe calls for canned whole berry cranberry sauce, but in recent years I have instead used my homemade Spiced Cranberry Sauce, leftover from Thanksgiving.

Brie Cranberry Pizza is the perfect holiday party or book club gathering nosh -- either as appetizer or dessert. I last made this on New Year's eve as a precursor to our main meal -- a twist on the French classic coq au vin, which you will read all about very soon.


Brie Cranberry Pizza

8 ounce tube of crescent rolls (I typically used the reduced fat kind.)
8 ounces of brie, rind removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce, canned  or Amy's Spiced Cranberry Sauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray bottom of 12-inch pizza pan or 9" X 13" glass baking dish. Unroll dough and press into pan or dish by tips. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Spoon cranberry sauce over dough and cheese. Top with pecans. Bake for 6-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Chicken with White Wine Mushroom Sauce

First of all, Happy New Year!! I hope 2016 is treating you well so far.

Now that the over-indulgence of the holidays is behind us, I think it's time to start eating a bit more healthfully. By that I mean my pants don't fit. Ugh.

Until I can zipper my skinny jeans again, my weekly menu plan will be featuring lean proteins like boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork tenderloin. And maybe I'll try to cut back my ice cream intake. Maybe...but no guarantee on that one.

Chicken with White Wine Mushroom Sauce is simple, but it feels special. And the recipe begs for customization depending on what you have on hand. No white wine in your fridge? Use chicken broth. Out of mushrooms? Skip them. Love garlic? Add a chopped clove in with the shallots.

Pop Roasted Green Beans in the oven while the chicken is cooking, and you'll have an easy, healthy meal on the table in no time. Your New Year's resolutions are totally attainable, folks.

Let's get cooking!

Chicken with White Wine Mushroom Sauce
Serves: 2

2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 shallot, peeled and chopped fine
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

If chicken is thicker on one end, pound it out so it's an even thickness. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add chicken and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 12-15 minutes (depending on how large your chicken breasts are), flipping halfway through. Remove chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add butter to now-empty skillet. Once it's melted, add mushrooms to skillet and cook until they're beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms and onions are tender.

Stir in wine and cook until it begins to reduce, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan so they're incorporated into the sauce. This takes about 2 minutes. Add chicken and any accumulated juices back into the skillet. Turn so that the chicken is coated with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.