Monday, January 28, 2013

Chicken Bacon Ranch Macaroni and Cheese

 Here's another fabulous mac n cheese dish. I seem to be getting quite of collection of mac n cheese recipes, but seriously, is that a bad thing? I think not. As soon as I saw the name of this one, I knew it fell into the "how can this not be good" category. And ya know what? I was right!!! How can this not be good???? First of all, it had me at bacon. And then with the chicken and ranch, well, all I can say is bring it on! It's warm and comforting and the flavors blend perfectly. No, it's not too "ranchy". It's just perfect. You should probably make this. Like, TODAY!

16 ozs macaroni (elbow, or other cut pasta shape)
6 thick slices bacon
16 ozs boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1/2" pieces) 
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt 
2 tbs butter 
2 tbs flour 
3 cups milk 
1 10 oz can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup Ranch dressing 
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 
1 cup French fried onion rings

 Heat oven to 350F.
Boil pasta until al dente, omitting salt; drain. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Season chicken with onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Add chicken to drippings in pan; saute 5 or 6 minutes or until almost done. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; then gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Add ranch dressing and 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken. Spoon pasta mixture into a casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon, onion rings and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.

 The amounts are just guidelines. Well, the chicken and the pasta are probably the correct amounts to fit in the casserole dish, but if you want more bacon, or more cheese and onion rings on top, go for it!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pimento Cheese

Ok this one's a quick and easy one. I made it for Denny's birthday party and everyone loved it! It would also be great for a Super Bowl party, or just as an easy snack. It's my version of Paula Deen's recipe, and I hope you like it!

1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1 8 oz block sharp cheddar, shredded
1 8 oz block Monterey Jack, shredded
1 cup chopped pimentos or roasted red bell peppers
1/2 cup mayonnaise
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Mix everything together with a mixer.
Serve it on crackers, as a dip with veggies or pretzel rods, or as a sandwich spread.

Be sure to use a mixer for this one. Just like the Tuna Dip, it just won't come out right if you mix it by hand.
Vary this recipe however you'd like!
Use Pepper Jack cheese instead of regular Jack. Add some grated onion or onion powder. Add some hot sauce to give it a little kick!
Paula's recipe only had a couple tbs of chopped pimento, but I really wanted much more of the pepper flavor, so I added a full cup. Add as much as you like!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Papaya Chicken

This is an easy Indian dish that I saw Bal Arneson making on her show. It was so easy and quick and it looked so delicious, I knew I wanted to try it. I love adding fruit to savory spicy dishes, so this one was right up my alley. ok, now, I'm sure some people may be a little reluctant to try an Indian dish because they're worried it might be too spicy, but it's not spicy HOT, it's just spicy FLAVORFUL! And the yogurt and papaya balance everything out so it's just nice and warm and comforting. YUM! I made this dish a while back when Chris and Claire were coming over for Sunday dinners, and they LOVED it! We kind of pushed our weekly dinners to the back burner for the holidays, but I think it's time to get back to them! They're always up for it whenever I want to try a new Indian dish. You should try it too!

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
2 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup papaya chunks, either fresh or jarred

 Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger and saute until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, fenugreek seeds, and paprika and toast for 10 seconds and then add the chicken pieces and cook until it is nearly done, about 8 minutes. Add the yogurt and finish cooking the chicken, about 2 more minutes and then stir in the papaya chunks. Serve the chicken with rice or rotis.

 You don't have to use grapeseed oil. Any vegetable oil is fine.
I added kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste, just 'cause.
The key spice, in my humble opinion, is the cumin seeds. It seems to me you could substitute ground cumin if that's what you have on hand.
You can find fenugreek seeds in Indian or Asian markets, or you can order them online. Even if you can't find them, I think the dish is still worth making without them.
If your papaya is green and hard, just place it in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days. When it's ripe enough, the color will have changed slightly and it will give a little when pressed with your finger.
Oh, btw, just fyi, roti is Indian flatbread, in case you were wondering.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Spaghetti Pie


 Did you know that January 4th was National Spaghetti Day? I must admit that I was not so informed in advance, (otherwise I would have posted this recipe on the actual day!) but better late than never, right?
 Here's a really easy recipe that uses spaghetti in a non traditional way. Besides being delicious, it's really economical because you can make 2 pies out of only a pound of pasta. And you don't use as much marinara sauce, so it goes a lot further. And it's super easy!!! Make this one in advance and then just pop it in the oven for an quick mid-week dinner. Your family will love you for it!

8 oz cooked spaghetti
olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup marinara sauce, either purchased or home made
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Dried Italian seasoning (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.
Toss spaghetti with olive oil in large bowl. Stir in eggs and Parmesan cheese. Pour spaghetti mixture into greased pyrex deep dish pie plate. Press it down in the center and up the sides to form into a "crust". Spread ricotta cheese over pasta to within an inch of the edge. Spread the marinara over the ricotta. Top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and dried Italian seasoning. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting with a sharp knife.

 If you have more than one pie plate, it's easy to form the crust simply by pressing an empty pie plate into the one with the spaghetti. It shapes it into the perfect crust!
 The amounts are just guesses. I honestly didn't measure a thing. I just added everything until it was enough.
 For an easy variation, use a different kind of pasta sauce. How about alfredo sauce? or maybe a delicious and creamy tomato blush sauce? Use any pasta sauce you like!
 I used 8 oz of pasta because I wanted MORE pasta in each slice. It is a SPAGHETTI pie, after all. But if you'd prefer a greater cheese/sauce to pasta ratio, go ahead and use a little less spaghetti. You'll have a thinner "crust" which will give you more room for the cheese and sauce in the pie.