Monday, November 24, 2014

Creamy Balsamic Chicken

Before I was a mom I had visions that I would be the mom who had a kid that was a great eater. Then I had Landon and the fist year and a half he was a great eater, so I assumed I rocked. I mean, I cook! A lot! All types of stuff! I assumed it was a given. I was even smug about it. "Oh...your kid eats XYZ?! No...not mine... He LOVES healthy foods..." (of course this occurred in my head... but it did occur).

Then Landon turned 18 months. Then two. Then 2.5. Now he's turning 3 this week. It seems like every six months the list of foods he likes gets smaller. By 3.5 I am sure he will live on air and crackers alone.

Anyway, why am I telling you this? Get to the point, right? So this chicken. Look, Landon LOVES chicken and will usually used to eat it any way I present it. Then I made this. I made a point to make sure it wasn't gloppy, mostly unsauced, but no. He told me it was gross, looked messy, and was "too yucky to even taste." ::sigh::

But let me tell you, my kid has no taste. This was so delicious that John and I swept the carefully cut pieces off of Landon's plate and back onto ours. It was too good to go to waste. The sauce had a nice balance of creamy and tart. The chicken was so tender... just an all around winner!

Source: Adapted from Lauren's Latest

1 pound chicken tenders
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Cracked black pepper
1 tbsp butter
1/2 15 oz jar light alfredo sauce (or more if you like it saucy)
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (depending on how tart you want it)

1- Season chicken with Lawry's and pepper. Set aside.
2- Add butter to a skillet over medium/high heat and melt. Add the chicken and allow to brown on one side, then flip. Once brown on both sides, remove.
3- Add the sauce and vinegar. Allow to heat together for 5 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the pan.
4- Add the chicken back to the pan. Top with dried parsley for color (if desired). Once hot, serve over pasta.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lemon Orzo Soup

It's so cold in the Northeast right now. I really can't complain because Buffalo is under 6 feet of snow with more coming, and I've yet to see a flake this year, but none the less we're all freezing here! When it's freezing one of my favorite things to eat is soup. If I'm being honest I really like to eat soup because I REALLY like to serve it with crusty warm bread. To me there is no substitute for a good loaf of bread with soup.

I made this recently and it was a total hit. John and I loved it and my mom ate the leftovers and also was singing its praises. The lemon flavor really came through which is important to me if I want a lemony soup. I've made lemon noodle soups before and they were ok, but this one nailed it. It was obvious but not overpowering. I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed this soup. I predict this will be a staple this fall/winter!

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original

2 tbsp butter (divided)
3/4 cup orzo
1 small onion, chopped small
1 cup carrots, cut into coins
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp dried parsley
Garlic Salt
1 lemon

1- In a large pot, melt one tbsp butter and add the orzo. Stir frequently until lightly browned. Then remove the orzo from the pot and set aside.
3- Melt the other tbsp of butter. Add the onion and carrots and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and stir well, about 2-3 minutes.
4- Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
5- Add the orzo and the juice of one lemon to the pot. Season with  parsley, garlic salt, and pepper to taste. Cook on medium/low until the orzo is cooked and the veggies are soft, about 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ranch Chicken Enchiladas

It wasn't too long ago when I had realized I had never had a "real enchilada"- meaning one from a Mexican restaurant. Sure, I've been making them at home for a few years, but I had never gotten them out. We went out a couple weeks ago and I ordered enchiladas and I can honestly say... I prefer my own. There. I said it. I just love the fun varieties and versions that you can make at home! There are many foods that I find are just as good if not better out, but not enchiladas.

This version in particular was deliciously easy. Mix some of this with some of that and TA-DA... you have a delicious and easy meal. I can't wait to have these again.

Source: Heavily adapted from The Recipe Critic

Yields 6 enchiladas

Tortillas (I like the half corn/half flour ones)
2 cups cooked, diced, chicken (rotisserie works great)
3/4 cup salsa
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
Green onions

1- Preheat the oven to 350.
2- In a bowl mix the salsa and ranch. Spread a little bit onto the bottom of a baking dish.
3- Take a tortilla. Spoon about 1 heaping tbsp of the sauce mixture onto the tortilla and spread. Top with chicken and cheese. Roll up and place seam down in the baking dish.
4- Repeat until all enchiladas are full.
5- Pour remaining sauce over top and top with additional shredded cheese.
6- Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until all cheese is melted and edges golden.
7- Top with green onions and lightly drizzle with additional ranch dressing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lemon Parmesan Tortellini

Once upon a time I didn't like cream sauces. I thought they were gross, globby, and too heavy. I still often feel that when it comes to cream sauces that you get at restaurants, but I have found the perfect balance for a homemade cream sauce: 1 part chicken broth:1 part cream. For me this prevents the "globby" texture but keeps the deliciously rich and velvety flavor. Once I discovered that I started making way more cream sauces at home, so perhaps this isn't the best thing I ever discovered, but it is one of the more delicious revelations.

This pasta was delicious. I lightly sauced it, as you can see from the picture, but the sauce had enough flavor that it didn't need to be heavily coated. This is one of the recipes I will make over and over again.

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original

1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup light cream
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated (not the white powder- fresh cheese only)
Basil leaves, torn
1 pound tortellini (fresh is best)

1- In a skillet heat the oil and garlic for about 3 minutes. Add the broth and heat over a high heat, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cream, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp lemon zest, Italian seasonings, and heat over medium heat 10 minutes.
2- Meanwhile, cook the tortellini per packaging directions.
3- Add the parmesan cheese to the sauce, stir well. Allow the cheese to melt into the sauce.
4- Add the cooked tortellini to the sauce. Toss.
5- Serve with basil leaves, if desired.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Brine

I started hosting Thanksgiving about five years ago. My first two years were big to-dos. I had sugar cookie name tags, or place settings with homemade caramel corncompound butters, and homemade rolls. Three years ago I hosted Thanksgiving at 9 months pregnant. In fact, my son was born just four days after! That year I took a lesson in "doing less and doing it better" and I am now a true convert. If you have good food, people will be happy!

Last year was the first time I brined my own turkey. In the past my dad did it for me, but I decided it was about time I learn to act like a "big girl" and handle the bird on my own! My dad always used apple juice in his brine so when I saw that this recipe did as well I went with it. The turkey was delicious. I wish I had better pictures of it, but honestly when you have a dozen or more hungry mouths to feed you can't really make everyone wait for you to set up your indoor lighting. This will be the brine I use again this year, as I will be once again hosting! I've held on to this recipe for a year now to share with you and I am so excited that the holidays are upon us once again and I can share this with you!

Source: Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman


3 cups apple juice
2 gallons cold water
2 tbsp dried rosemary
5 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cup Kosher Salt
2 cups brown sugar
1 tbsp cracked peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
Peel of 3 oranges

1-Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.
2- Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours. Leave breast side down first, and 2/3 of the way through flip the turkey over.
3- When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.
4- Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grilled Chicken and Vodka Pizza

Everyone has a go-to meal for when they need to make something fast but don't have time or energy to devote to a really fancy meal. For me that easy meal is pizza. All three people in the Stephanie Cook's household love homemade pizza so that makes it an even easier choice. I know it's almost taboo to admit this in food blogging world but I LOVE Boboli's thin crust pizza crust. When I cook it on my pizza stone at 450 (or even 500) it gets so crisp and light. I still love me some homemade dough, but when I'm in a pinch a thin crust Boboli is my go-to meal.

I recently spent a LOT on a jar of vodka sauce (well, I thought it was a lot... $8 for a jar of sauce is steep but I was dying to try it) and I didn't want to see any go to waste. After making pasta with vodka sauce one night I found myself with 1/2 a jar left. I decided to use it on pizza and it was delicious! John kept raving about it and even Landon was enjoying it. I still have quite a bit left so I think I'll be making this again this week!

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original

1 pizza crust
1 tsp olive oil
1 grilled chicken breast, sliced thin
1/2-3/4 cup vodka sauce
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tsp dried parsley

1- Preheat the oven with a pizza stone in it to 450.
2- Heat the oil on high in a nonstick skillet. Add the chicken and 2 tbsps vodka sauce. Allow it to brown around the chicken, stirring often.
3- Pour remaining sauce over the crust and spread evenly.
4- Top with grilled chicken.
5- Top with marinara sauce and parsley.
6- Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Oreo Cake

Confession: I don't enjoy making cakes. Cupcakes? Sure. Cookies? Oh yeah. Cake? Not so much.

You see, if I am bringing a dessert to a party I like to sample it first. What if it stinks? I need to know that in advance! The fact that a cake is essentially a mystery until it's sliced, making it impossible to prevent people from tasting it if it's gross, is a gamble that I don't like to take often! Over the summer (yes, I am still posting recipes I made over the summer...) I made this cake to celebrate my uncle's birthday. I figured with chocolate cake, Oreo cookies, and a delicious vanilla buttercream frosting it couldn't be too bad. When we sliced into it I quickly took a bite from my slice to ensure others wouldn't die from repulsion, and sure enough, it was deeeeeelicious. Thank goodness! Everyone who had it enjoyed it which is all you can ask for when baking for others!

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original

2 9" round chocolate cakes, any recipe you like (I used a box... shhhh!)
15 Double Stuffed Oreo cookies
1 batch vanilla buttercream frosting (I use this one here)

1- Place one of the chocolate cakes on a cake stand. Frost with buttercream frosting, creating a thick layer on top.
2- Take 10 of the Oreos and crush them into a fine crumb. Pour the crumbs over the frosting, gently patting into the frosting.
3- Top with the remaining chocolate cake. Frost until well covered.
4- Crush the remaining 5 Oreos and sprinkle the crumbs over the top/sides of the cake.
5- Transfer to the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the buttercream to set.
6- Bring to room temperature before serving.