Saturday, January 29, 2011

Homemade Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

     It's Fajita time!  Delicious, fresh sweet onion, red and green bell pepper seasoned and stir-fried among Rotel tomatoes and sauteed chicken breast strips that have been drinking up a homemade Latin marinade that will have you eating the chicken out of the pan!  Add some freshly grated melting cheese and grill it all up in a beautiful whole wheat tortilla for some south of the border Heaven in your mouth! 

     We just love these fajita quesadillas and both agree that they are better than any authenic Mexican restaurant we've eaten at.  I used Queso Chihuahua cheese that is an authentic Mexican cheese similar to Manchego, which is one of my favorites.  You could use either one, or in a pinch colby jack would be great too. Seriously, the lime, garlic and cumin from the marinade make the chicken irresistable! The marinade is a must, and I think it would also be simply perfect for grilled chicken in the summer. Quality, fresh ingredients really take recipes to the next don't leave out the melting cheese (Manchego or Queso Chihuahua), fresh lime, or addition of red bell peppers if you want a perfectly Mexican cuisine experience!  We ate this with seasoned black beans & rice with salsa verde and sour cream for dipping.  Spice up your weekend with these homemade chicken fajita quesadillas!

Chicken Fajita Quesadillas  

2 chicken breasts

2 limes
Minced Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1/2 sweet onion
Manchego or Queso Chiahuahua Cheese,
shredded (3-4 cups)
1 can Rotel Tomatoes, drained
Whole Wheat Tortillas

For the marinade: in a small bowl, juice 1 1/2 limes, add cumin, garlic and salt and pepper.  While stirring, add enough olive oil to thin it out. Usually about double the oil to lime juice. (You can also add a little cayenne pepper for more heat.) Slice the raw chicken breast thinly and place in a heavy duty plasic bag.  Add marinade and smoosh with your hands to incorporate all around the chicken.  Place in refrigerator as little as 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Thinly slice onion and pepper.  In a large cast iron skillet (that's what I like to use:) add a couple swirls of olive oil on med-high heat.  Add the marinated chicken and sautee until golden brown.  When ready, spoon the chicken out and lay on paper towels to drain. Chop chicken into smaller pieces and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium, wipe out the pan and add more olive oil. Add the sliced peppers. After they start to soften, add the sliced onion. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Sautee until everything is very soft. Stir in the drained rotel tomatoes and chicken. Squeeze the other half of the remaining lime over the chicken filling and sit the pan aside.

Get out a clean pan and put it on the oven on med-low heat. Spray a little cooking spray if your need needs it. As you start to assemble the quesadilla's gather the tortillas, cheese, and chicken mixture.  Start by sprinkling cheese all over a tortilla leaving about 1 inch from the edge, add the chicken and pepper filling, and add more cheese and another tortilla on top.  (Kind of like a tortilla sandwich.) Put in the pan for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts and carefully turn over to brown the other side.  Take out of the pan and cut, like a pie, into 4 pieces.  You will probably have enough filling to do this a couple more times.  Garnish with salsa and sour cream. Serve 2-4 pieces per person.  This recipe will make enough for about 3-6 people.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Classic Gingerbread with Vanilla Bean Glaze

     I've been wanting to make gingerbread for a long time!  I've always absolutely loved gingerbread boy cookies (so much that my kitchen turns into a gingerbread house at Christmas!), and so naturally I knew I would love old fashioned gingerbread.  This recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Gooseberry Patch's Fall Family & Friends Cookbook!  I love these Gooseberry cookbooks for their simply delicious recipes, cute illustrations, and fun tips and suggestions. I usually get them as gifts from my Mom or sister...thank you!! This is a very easy recipe!  I've had friends tell me that they could never make bread, but "quick breads" like this one are fast and easy to make--only about 10-15 minutes to put together! All you do for this recipe is to combine everything in one bowl, mix well, pour in the pan and you're ready to bake! I added the vanilla bean glaze. It is only three simple ingredients, and you can even play with that if you like.  You can substitute the vanilla with maple syrup for a maple glaze that would be delicious with the gingerbread, or leave the glaze off for a healthier version.  Either way, this recipe is one you will love for breakfast or dessert!  

     Gingerbread has great flavors that are perfect for the long winter months.  With heartwarming ingredients like molasses, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon I can't help but smile while baking this bread!  You will look like Martha Stewart when you take this beautiful loaf out of the oven along with the wafting aroma of sugar and spice!  On the next snow day, surprise your family with a new treat when they wake up with this Classic Gingerbread!

Classic Gingerbread with Vanilla Bean Glaze

1/2 c. sugar
1 c. molasses
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 t. ginger
1 t. ground cloves 
1 t. cinnamon
2 t. baking soda
1 c. boiling water
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten

Mix all the ingredients together; pour into a greased and floured 9"x5" loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Poke holes in the bread using a toothpick or fork and pour glaze all over.  Makes one loaf.

Vanilla Bean Glaze

Mix powdered sugar with enough water or milk for a thick glaze consistency.  (Maybe about 1 Tbsp. liquid to 1 cup powdered sugar, or so.  I don't really measure but just mix till I get the right consistency.) Add about 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. Whisk all together, well.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walnut & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

   I'll admit it.  I'm a cookie monster.  No, really!  I love cookies and bake them more than anything else.  I think I get this from Papa (my dad).  He is a picture of health, but still knows how to enjoy a chewy cookie, from time to time, with vanilla ice cream.  One of his very favorite has always been oatmeal raisin.  YUM!  So in turn, I've always loved them too! 

   I'm calling these walnut, cranberry oatmeal cookie because whenever I baked them this time that's what I put in.  The original recipe calls for pecans and raisins...and they are super fabulous that way, too!    Honesty, I'm a little more of a pecan gal but didn't have any this time hence the walnuts.  You really can't go wrong here!  My husband prefers dried cranberries to raisins.  They do seem to be a little sweeter and I do love the ruby red bits scattered around.  White chocolate chips would be delicious with the cranberries.  It's really all up to you and your taste!  I have to give credit to Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa), because this recipe came from her Back to Basics cookbook which I love and highly recommend!

   I made these healthier by using mostly whole wheat flour.  You can easily find this at any grocery store.  In something as hearty as oatmeal cookies, it doesn't even change the texture!  So, whenever you think about the whole wheat flour, old fashioned oats, walnuts, and cranberries--we're talkin' about a pretty healthy cookie! 

   One of the more original things about this recipe is that it also calls for kosher salt.  This is something I keep in the kitchen. One box has lasted me forever!  Anyways, it gives this recipe a surprisingly good contrast from the sweet.  Every now and then you get a "salty" bite and it's wonderful.  Also, remember to toast your nuts before adding them in.  I can't emphasize enough how this really amplifies their taste and makes them taste fresher and somehow nuttier.  Just trust me on this one!

   Try these out and let me know what you think of them.  Healthy version or not, they are a really delicious cookie!  So frost your milk glasses and get ready to go back to your childhood!

Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 c. pecans or walnuts
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter,softened
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. raisins or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the nuts in a sheet pan and bake for about 5 minutes, until crisp.  Set aside to cool.  Chop very coursely.

In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on med-high speed until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together into a medium bowl.  With the mixer on low, slowly add ingredients to the butter mixture.  Add the oats, raisins (or cranberries) and nuts and mix until combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop two inch mounds onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  (I didn't use the parchment paper, but maybe should have!)  Flatten slightly with a damp hand.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.  Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.  Let cool on the pan for chewier cookies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Snowy Morning Country Frittata

I love breakfast and brunch--always have! Today is my day off, and it's a blustery, snowy morning! While still in my flannel pjs I was enjoying the last cup of my Christmas blend coffee, became inspired to make my favorite frittata for breakfast.  MmmMm!  Although, really you can add whatever you like, I decided to make mine pretty healthy by using turkey breakfast sausage instead of regular sausage or bacon (although tried that before and it's great!) and not adding any cheese.  I had a beautiful green bell pepper, sweet red onion and cute little red potatoes so that's what I used!

Basically, a frittata is somewhere between an omlet and a quiche.  It's baked in the oven unlike an omlet, and it has no crust, unlike a quiche.  It's fast, simple and quite delicious!  This is only about the third time for me to make one and every time the ingredients are slightly different but always very tasty!

If you are interested in using turkey sausage, make sure it is the breakfast kind.  It's quite good and doesn't really taste much different than pork.  I love sage in my sausage, and since it doesn't have any in the turkey sausage I add my own. Make note, that since there isn't much fat in it you will need to add extra olive oil to keep from sticking to the pan. You are welcome to use whatever meat sounds good, even canadian bacon would be another healthy option.  Cheese would be a very good add-in.  Something like sharp cheddar, or even parmesan could stand up to the bold flavors in this dish.

Try this simply delicious country frittata with Good Morning Blueberry Muffins or Perfectly Delicious Sticky Buns on your day off for an over-the-top yummy breakfast that's perfect for a snow day!

Country Frittata

Set oven to 350 degrees.

Chop about 1/2 bell pepper, 1/3 onion, and 2 potatoes into small pieces.  I like my onion a bit smaller.  In a 7-10 inch cast iron skillet, add about 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-low heat.  Once hot, add potatoes and pepper and saute until soft.  Add a little more olive oil and diced onion and about 1/2 tube of sausage, sage and salt and pepper.  Scramble the sausage and stir together.  Cook until sausage is browned and veggies tender. Scoop out of pan onto a plate and set aside.  Wipe the extra grease out of the skillet (you won't have much at all with turkey sausage, but much more with regular sausage or bacon). and set aside.

In a bowl, crack about 5 eggs and add milk, salt and pepper.  Whisk until combined and frothy.  Put the skillet back on low heat add butter to swirl all around the bottom and even up the sides a bit.  Pour in egg mixture and then sprinkle sausage and veg mixture and parsley.  Put in the oven for about 8 minutes. Enjoy!

Grocery List
Olive Oil
Breakfast Turkey Sausage
Green bell pepper
Red onion
Red or Yukon Gold Potato
Ground Sage
Salt & Pepper

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas

Mexican food is something that I crave! Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't posted about it yet.  These enchiladas are one of the best things I can make whenever I have a craving!!!  Spicy, flavor filled chicken tortillas that have been smothered in an ooey, gooey melted cheese and a creamy, zesty enchilada sauce and baked till bubbly-- Yeah, pretty much hits the spot!

This is a recipe that I came up with. It's everything I like in mexican food amped up a couple of notches!  I love to go to mexican restaurants, but their enchiladas seem to lack flavor. They're just puny little things covered in what taste like a bland tomato sauce. This is a "one pot" dish that delivers a flavor punch from things like smoky cumin, taco seasoning, sauteed red onion, Rotel tomatoes, (so yummy) Manchego cheese and so on.  I just like to cook according to what I like--the flavor and spice level of my taste.  You should, too!  As you know, when I cook I don't always have certain proportions...I just go by what looks right and tastes good.  (Taste along the way.)  But just as a little reference for you, mine made 5 large enchiladas using 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 1/2 of a large red onion, and 1/2 of packet of taco seasoning (more details in the recipe) for the filling. One can of Rotel tomatoes and 1 can of enchilada sauce for the sauce (and eye balled the rest of ingredients--more details in the recipe) and shredded most of the block of cheese.  Speaking of...

I have a new love, and his name is Manchego.  Cheese, that is!  This is a creamy, mild cheese that melts like a dream.  It's used in Spanish cuisine, therefore I knew it would be a perfect addition to the meal.  You can find it anywhere, even Wal-Mart.  It comes in a block so you will need to shred it on your box grater.  So worth the little effort.  I also added some taco seasoned cheese blend.  You can really use whatever good melting cheese combo you want.  The sauce for this recipe is tomato-y from the can of enchilada cauce, zesty from the Rotel tomatoes, and creamy from the sour cream.  It's seriously delicious and just melts into the tortillas.

 These Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas would be an amazing update to the usual Taco Tuesday meal! I like to serve this with mexican rice, black beans and homemade guacamole.  It's the perfect comforting meal to warm up with and welcome anyone home!

Grocery List
Olive oil
Chicken breasts
Red onion
Taco seasoning
Whole wheat tortillas
Manchego cheese
Taco blend cheese
1 can Rotel tomatoes
Sour cream ( I use low-fat)
1 can enchilada sauce
Salt & Pepper

Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub chicken breasts in olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and rub the taco seasoning generously,  all over the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, you can chop the onion and saute in olive oil until softened.  Add a little more of the taco seasoning and salt and pepper. Take off the heat and leave in the pan.  Next, asssemble the delicious sauce to pour over the enchiladas.  In a medium sized bowl, pour 1 whole can of enchilada sauce, about 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1 can of Rotel tomatoes, about 1 tsp. cumin and a little salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.

Now that your chicken is out of the oven and cool enough to handle, shred all of the chicken and put in the skillet with the cooked onions.  Add about 2 dollops of sour cream, salsa, and some of the shredded Manchego cheese.  Stir until blended and your filling is ready!

Pour a little of the sauce to coat the bottom of your 9x13in. baking pan.  This will keep the enchiladas moist and prevent sticking. You are now ready to start the "assemble line" of tortillas and filling.  So evenly distribute the filling in each tortilla and wrap up.  (Wrap as though you were making a burrito.  You know, where the ends are folded in like present.) Line them up in the pan as you go.  Once all of the filling is used up and they are all in the pan, evenly pour the sauce all over the tortillas.  You'll want to use all of the sauce.  Next, sprinkle the Manchego cheese and the taco blend.  You can't have enough cheese!

Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered in a 350 degree oven until the sauce is bubbly, cheese melted and enjoy!