Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chicken With Rice

Last night I really wanted some comfort food. I also needed something pretty quick. So, I searched through my freezer and pantry and decided to try a little twist on my regular Chicken & Rice casserole recipe. It turned out pretty well.

*Note - this recipe calls for Cream of Chicken soup, so if you have an aversion, please stop reading*

Chicken with Wild Rice Casserole
12 oz uncooked wild rice (I used Uncle Ben's Fastcook - no seasonings)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup (I use the low-fat, low-sodium variety)
1 packet dry onion soup mix

Cook rice according to directions and place in the bottom of a greased 8x8 pan.

Place chicken breasts on top of the rice (For convenience and quickness, I grilled these first on the George Foreman grill).

Spoon cream of chicken soup over the top and sprinkle all with the onion soup mix.

If using fastcook rice, top with about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of water (It should form a very thinlayer at the top).

Bake for about 15 min.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka is one of my favorite Italian dishes. I’ve had a few different recipes and this is my all-time favorite. It’s hearty, it’s comforting, and it’s incredibly easy to make. I don’t understand why anyone would ever buy it jarred after making this.

Penne alla Vodka

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated, adapted slightly
*Serves 4*

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (or whatever the medium size is)
1 (7 oz) can diced tomatoes (or whatever the smallest size is)
2 TBSP olive oil
½ small onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 TBSP tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes
table salt
1/3 cup good vodka (I use Smirnoff or Absolut)
½ cup heavy cream (I usually use half & half and add a bit more than ½ cup)
1 lb penne pasta (I used rigatoni this time cause I was out of penne)
2 TBSP minced fresh basil leaves (or about 2 tsp dried)

Combine tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add some of the liquid from the diced tomatoes.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 min. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and ½ tsp salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, about 8-10 min (easy to tell by smelling). Stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, boil noodles to al dente. Drain and add to pasta and toss to coat. If sauce s too thick, add a bit more cream.

Stir in basil and adjust with salt if necessary.

Serve and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lasagna in a Bowl

I’m generally not a huge fan of Rachael Ray recipes, but this one looked too good to pass up. Since I’m usually pretty busy with work at don’t usually leave my office before 6, I like her idea of “a great meal is never more than 30 minutes away” but her recipes just usually don’t look that good to me, or they call for a lot of ingredients I don't usually have on hand. I modified this quite a bit to fit our tastes, and make it more lasagna-like, but it was excellent. It was really easy and didn’t take more than 30 minutes to whip up, too. I’ll definitely be making it again.

Not-sagna Pasta Toss

Recipe by Rachael Ray, adapted
*Serves 6-8*
Prep Time – 15 min
Cook Time – 20 min

10 oz mini lasagna
2 TBSP olive oil
1 lb ground beef
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Black pepper
½ cup dry red wine (I used Chianti)
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp parsley flakes
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp seasoning salt
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese (use whole milk ricotta – the lesser fat ones are gritty)
20 fresh basil leaves
½ cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese, for garnishing

Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Boil noodles to al dente and drain. *Note – reserve about 1 cup of the starchy water*

Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and brown with onions and garlic. Season with salt & pepper.

Once meat is browned add red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook off alcohol. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings. Bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 min.

Place ricotta cheese in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add shredded mozzarella and 1 ladle-full of starchy pasta water. Stir to combine.

Toss hot pasta with the cheeses. Add about ½ of the meat sauce to the pasta bowl and combine. Tear the basil and add to the meat and pasta and toss again. Adjust to taste with salt & pepper.

Serve in bowls and top with meat sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


One of my best friends is getting married in a couple weeks and I’m her Matron of Honor. My fellow bridesmaids and I threw her bachelorette party last weekend and had a little pre-party shower for her. I made oreo truffles and chocolate covered strawberries. Everyone went NUTS over the truffles. I didn't let on how easy they are to make. Below is a picture of our food table.

Oreo Truffles

Recipe from

1 package Oreo cookies (regular, mint, or peanut butter)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 pkg (8 oz each) semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

Crush 9 cookies (you only need about 3 cookies, so do 3 and save remaining 6 for eating) in food processor or in a big bag with a rolling pin. Set aside.

Crush remaining 36 cookies in similar fashion. Place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese and mix until well-blended. (this is best done with your hands).

Roll cookies into small balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Dip balls into chocolate; Place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Gnocchi, anyone?

I love gnocchi, so I was really excited to find pesto-cheese filled gnocchi at Trader Joe’s a while back. I finally decided to make them and pair it with a mornay sauce. I figured the mornay would be a good match and the creaminess would compliment the pesto/cheese filling well. Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the gnocchi (the taste, that is. The texture was excellent). The pesto was way too strong and over-powered everything. The mornay sauce was excellent, though.

My husband hadn’t had gnocchi before and I don’t think he liked it. His reaction was quite funny. He took one bite, looked at me, and said “what is this?? Is it dough? Is it potato? Is it noodle?”

Gnocchi with Mornay Sauce

Recipe by Michele Urvater, adapted
*Serves 4*
Prep Time – 5 min
Cook Time – 20 min

1 package frozen gnocchi (from Trader Joe’s)

Mornay Sauce
2 TBSP unsalted butter
2 TBSP flour
2-3/4 cups half & half, divided (original called for 2 cups milk and 3/4 cup cream)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus ¼ cup for topping

Heat butter. Add flour and stir in 2 cups half & half. Cook until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in 3/4 cup half & half to thin sauce and add 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to package. Drain. Toss cooked gnocchi with sauce and serve.

*The original recipe calls has you actually making your own gnocchi. I don't have the time or the patience for that, but if you do, I'm sure it would be great.*

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I've been tagged!

Brooke from ... and a cookie for dessert ( tagged me. So, now I have to list 8 facts about myself and then tag 8 people.

1. Before I met my husband, I didn't like cats. Kittens were a different story, but I didn't care for full-grown cats. Well, he had 2 cats when we started dating and I think they're the greatest. I really don't know what I did without them. My husband says I would be a lot more productive, and he's probably right. I think I spend way too much time just watching them and laughing at them.

2. I don't like Gorgonzola cheese but I love Gorgonzola sauces. No idea why.

3. I recently discovered Filet Mignon. I thought I hated all beef (except ground beef) until last night when we were at the Melting Pot and one of our meats was a Filet. Man, that was tasty. It's like a whole new food world opened up for me.

4. Sometimes I miss college and have considered taking a class here and there just for fun. Then I remember that would involve homework and think better of it.

5. I was a music major in college (vocal performance) and haven't seriously sung in the 4 years since graduation. I miss it like crazy but can't figure out how to make the time to join a community choir.

6. I love orange chicken from Panda Express and honestly believe I could eat it at least 3 times a week. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't like Chinese food, so I don't get to eat it as much as I would like to.

7. I'm a lawyer. I've been a lawyer for about 10 months now and it still sounds funny to me. Even when I'm in court, it seems weird to me that I'm actually a lawyer. I'm hoping that feeling ends soon.

8. I really want to buy a house. We're still under lease in our apartment for about another year, so one would think the urge would subside for about 5-6 months until it's realistic for us to buy, but it's just getting stronger. If anyone has any suggestions to cure this (other than actually buying a house), I'd be really appreciative.

There, so now the following people are tagged:
Carrie's Cooking Adventures (
Gillian's Goodies (
Creative Country Cookin' (
One Tiny Pink Kitchen (
Blonde Ambition in the Kitchen (
Annie's Eats (
Delish (

Hello, again

I've taken a brief hiatus from blogging (and any meaningful cooking, really). My late summer/early fall has been crazy! We've had something going on every single weekend since mid-August and it won't stop til mid-October. EEK! Anyway, I've made a few goodies since my last blog and finally downloaded the pictures off my camera, so I figured it was about time I start blogging about them. So, here goes:

We went to my husband's parents house for dinner a couple weeks ago and I decided to bring dessert. I let my husband pick out what he wanted to eat, and he picked out peanut butter fudge brownies. They were wonderful - I think my father-in-law ate about 5 of them and my mother-in-law wanted the recipe. ;)

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies
Original Recipe taken from, but I adapted it just a tiny bit.

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs and mix well with spoon.

Combine flour, cocoa and baking powder. Blend into egg mixture.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.

Meanwhile, melt the peanut butter over low heat. Drizzle over the top of the brownies and cut into the batter.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes until brownies begin to pull from edges.

* The original recipe called for 1 (18 oz) jar of creamy peanut butter, and said to frost the brownies with the peanut butter while still warm. Once the brownies cool, frost them with your favorite fudge frosting recipe. I'm sure that would've been good too, but I didn't want to bother. *