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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have some FUN

My kids school rented out the local roller rink and I hit the floor for the first time in over 27 years...I'm not that old??! I knew my kids would disappear the second we got there, so I brought Kristen along for support. We put on our icky rental skates and hit the floor. After a slow start, we remembered what we were doing and even managed to skate backwards for about 2 minutes;)

I guess the reason I'm telling all of you this is because it was a good reminder to not take myself so seriously. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone and just be a kid again. Let yourself forget that you are a Mom who has to make dinner, do laundry or check homework and just revisit a time when your biggest concern was what you were going to wear on Saturday night. My kids thanked me for taking them but more importantly, they thanked me for hanging out with them and having fun.

Find your inner kid and ENJOY the won't regret it...I promise:)!
Yeah BABY...Krit's still got it!

Cheesecake Factory Louisiana Chicken Pasta

You know when you eat at a restaurant and you have something that you crave? The dish that gets you to go back? Well, Cheesecake Factory's Louisiana Chicken Pasta is that dish for me. I LOVE it. I have been looking for a recipe for awhile and finally found one on recipezaar that appeared to be close. Only some minor tweaking was necessary.

So, I invited my Mom over for dinner since it's one of her favorite pastas too. I knew she'd be honest and tell me how I did and GOOD news..she said it was pretty close. Pretty close works for a pasta that is $15.95 per serving at the restaurant when I made the entire dinner for less (safe to say, you could serve 6 people)..WOO HOO! Did I mention that my son who doesn't care much for pasta, ate the chicken with some bread...DOUBLE WOO HOO!

I will admit that this recipe has a few steps, not "easy", but it really is, it's just a bit putsy. I'm sure I'll tighten it up the next time I make it and have included in my notes parts that would have made it easier for you.

4 T Olive Oil
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts halved
1 C Breadcrumbs
1/3 C Parmesan Cheese grated (not the green can please)
1 C Milk
2 T Flour

Cajun Sauce
1 T Butter
1 small Yellow Pepper chopped
1 small Red Pepper chopped
3/4 small Red Onion chopped
1 C Mushrooms sliced
3 Cloves Garlic minced
1 t Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 t Cajun Seasoning
1 pint 1/2 and 1/2
1 C Chicken Broth
4 T Fresh Basil thinly sliced (I only had dried, used 2 T~fresh would have been better)
1 C Fresh Parmesan shredded or grated
12 oz cooked Bow Tie Pasta

Wash and dry chicken breasts. Pound until very thin with a meat hammer~I did it between two pieces of saran wrap to lessen mess. The thinner the better. I would also cut the chicken into pieces about the size of your palm, easier to work with and it doesn't matter if they are strips or's all good. Whatever works best for you.

Mix breadcrumbs, flour and Parmesan Cheese together in a bowl you can dip the chicken into.

Put milk in another dish for dipping.

Dip chicken in dry mix, dip in milk and back into the dry. Put on plate.

Move to sauce...

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers, onions, mushrooms and 1 t Cajun Spice and cook until crisp tender..about 4 minutes

Add garlic and crushed red pepper to skillet and saute couple more minutes.

Add 1/2 and 1/2, chicken stock, 1 t Cajun Spice and Basil. Simmer until sauce re-heats and thickens, about 5 minutes. Add cheese to sauce, stir to incorporate.

Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer on low until sauce reduces and thickens.

Back to Chicken...

Heat Olive Oil in fry pan. Fry at medium heat until crisp and golden. Remove and put on plate, tent lightly with foil to keep warm. You don't want to cover tightly or it will get soggy.

Add oil as necessary and continue to cook chicken.

Add cooked pasta to sauce and give a toss.

Plate pasta, top with chicken and serve. Add additional parmesan if desired.
Your ingredients, don't be's SO worth it.
If I was doing this for a dinner party, I would do this step earlier in the day. It's a little messy. Start pounding in the middle of the breast, flatten from the middle to the sides.
This is how thin you want it.
Chop your peppers and onions, I threw in some green just because I had them. You could do this ahead too.
Wash, dry and slice the mushrooms, don't do this ahead, mushrooms are tempermental.
Saute your vegis with some cajun spice and crushed pepper flakes.
Add your cream, chicken broth, cajun seasoning and basil and simmer.
You can't really see the difference but it's thicker now;)
Here is your dry ingredients, mix it up with a couple of cranks from your pepper mill.
Dip your chicken, make sure it's well coated.
Sludge in the milk, dip again in the dry.
Keep going until all the chicken is coated.
Heat some oil, see you don't need much, just a light coating in the pan.
Couple minutes per side.
Dinner is SERVED!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Girls Cabin/Casino Weekend

I had to post a photo of the girls that I've grown up with. We've been friends for over 20 years, some longer and we've shared it all. We have a lot of fun when we're together and they get me through the rough times too. The girls that are a phone call away and the girls I can just be quiet with and it's all good. We had a great weekend with lots of laughs, learned to play Craps at the local casino and played some fun Wii games (Just Dance, Smarty Pants and Wii Sports).

The hats we're wearing were a gift from the cabin owner, Kristen. She bought them for our "tea party" weekend. Truth be told, it was so we could find the three that like to gamble longer than the rest of us, the ones we swear hide from us...we needed an easy way to spot them;) They were a HIT with us, the small town casino folks AND they brought us luck at the Craps table!

Thanks for a great weekend ladies...can't wait until the next time.

Raisin Bran Muffins

We have had a horrible hockey season. Crappy coaching, losing record, no equity with ice was all I could do to get through it. So, this Mom had to get out of town and have a little bit of "ME" time. Our season ended on Wednesday and I headed out of town on Thursday afternoon. Lucky for me, my BFF has a cabin in the middle of the woods, so nice and cozy and she let's me come whenever I want. Add 5 more of my favorite people and it was just what this girl needed to recharge her batteries. Thank you Krit!!

I volunteered to make lunch, two dinners and breakfast and I wanted a solid muffin recipe. I've got a few but my Mom sent a Raisin Bran muffin to me on Tuesday and declared them "the best muffin she has ever tasted". My Mom does not typically eat muffins because they aren't her thing. So, when she actually asked her friend for their recipe..well I had to taste them and I certainly had to taste them before I served them to my friends. Mom was right. The muffins were really good. My kids not only ate them but asked that more be packed in their lunch. I shared with 6 people from work and a few wanted the recipe. My friends all loved them. And, the truly amazing thing about this recipe is that it will keep in your fridge for up to 6 weeks!! I didn't get to test that theory, the first batch of batter is gone but I'll be making them again really soon.

Easy Bran Refrigerated Muffins
Preheat oven to 400 F
Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on size

15 oz box of Raisin Bran Cereal
5 cups flour
3 cups sugar
5 tsp soda
2 tsp salt
5 eggs
1 cup salad oil
1 qt buttermilk
1 cup chopped nuts(optional)~I didn't use them because my kids don't really enjoy them.

Mix all dry ingredients together (including nuts if used) in a very large mixing bowl.

Beat eggs thoroughly then add oil and butter milk to eggs. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix only until all ingredients are moistened.

Store batter in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Batter will keep up to six weeks.

To Bake:

Fill muffin cups half full, bake at 400 F for 15-20 minutes (depends on size).
Total recipe will make 6 dozen muffins.
Give the eggs a good whisk.
Add buttermilk and oil.
Mix your dry ingredients in another large bowl.
Dump the wet into the dry and mix until dry is moist.
Fill your muffin tins and tightly cover the rest and put in the fridge.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Here's another SUPER easy, no fail soup for you to enjoy after your cold day outside. You can make it in a crock pot or you can make it on the stove. Either way...YUMMY:)

1 can Black Beans rinsed
1 can Diced Tomatoes
10 oz Frozen Corn
1/2 small Onion chopped
1/2 Red Pepper diced
10 oz can Enchilada Sauce ~ I used Mild
1 C Salsa ~ I used Thick and Chunky Medium
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup ~ I used 98% fat free
1 1/2 C Milk ~ I use skim
2 Whole Boneless Breasts
1 C Pepper Jack Cheese shredded ~ optional for topping

Pour your Enchilada sauce, Chicken Soup and Milk in crock pot, give it a whisk. Add Chicken breasts and everything else. Give it a bit of a stir. Crock on low for 6-8 hours. Shred chicken, mix back in and serve. Top with cheese, sour cream, guacamole or chips if you want but it's good enough without.

If you want to make it on the stove. I typically have extra cooked chicken breast in the freezer. So, add the chicken and all your ingredients and cook on low for 1 hour.

I only took one photo of the finished product because to be honest, I was in a hurry and I don't think you need step by step to dump cans;)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Apple Turnovers

My daughter Claire (she's 9) wanted to make dessert. This is one that she can make by herself, although I did help with the peeling and coring of the apples because we had an incident at Thanksgiving with making an apple pie that she isn't quite over;)

At any rate..a friend of mine calls them Mountain Dew Apples. Pioneer Woman calls them Apple Dumplings. I just call them YUMMY and glad that Claire was in the mood for some baking.

Apple Dumplings
1 Granny Smith Apple ~ peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces
1 8 oz can Crescent Rolls
1 Stick Butter
3/4 C Sugar
1 t Vanilla
6 oz Mountain Dew ~ 3/4 C
Cinnamon to taste

Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in sprayed 8 inch square pan. Melt butter, add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla and stir again. Pour over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream and extra pan sauce over the top.
Here's what you'll need.
Peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces.
Break apart your crescent rolls so you can wrap them around the apples.
Wrap the crescent around the apple like this. Claire wanted to show you how to do this and she wanted to take the photo so I was her assistant;)
Put your apples in your sprayed pan.
Melt your butter.
Add your sugar and "just" mix together. Add vanilla and stir again quick.
Pour over the apples.
Sprinkle with cinnamon
Mountain Dew around the edges.
YUM...fresh out of the oven. Serve with ice cream.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Wanna impress your family and friends with a restaurant quality pasta dish?? This is your recipe to do that. My friend Alanna requests this pasta, she said it's the best one I make and I admit, I LOVE it too. It's so easy and Ohhh so good. I have to give Rachel Ray credit for this recipe because the base of it, is hers. I added the vegetables and make it with bacon but it's hers and I'm glad I found it.

You can leave out the vegetables and the Red Pepper Flakes but everything else is a MUST. And, no my kids would not eat this but we've established that my kids don't like things that are mixed together and honestly, if I wouldn't be selfish and left the vegetables and pepper flakes out, my daughter probably would eat a little bit but this is one night I don't accomodate...PB&J works;)

Spaghetti Carbonara

3/4 box Thin Spaghetti
1/2 lb of Bacon ~ chopped
3 cloves of garlic ~ minced
1/2 T Red Pepper Flakes
1 Pepper ~ chopped ~ I use a variation of colors to equal one just because I think it's prettier
1/2 lb fresh Asparagus ~ broken into pieces
2 Egg Yolks
1 C Chicken Broth
1 ladle pasta water
1/2 container Shredded Parmesan Cheese ~ I personally prefer Asiago but I had Parmesan handy and NO you canNOT use the grated green can stuff
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Fill a pasta pot with water and a LOT of salt. The water should taste salty, I'm guessing 3 T of salt~I've never measured, sorry.

In a pan, add your bacon, garlic and red pepper flakes. A few cranks of the pepper mill. Cook until bacon is good and crispy and nicely browned. Add peppers and stir around a couple of minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer a couple of minutes. You can turn off the heat and wait for the pasta to finish cooking at this point.

The water is boiling, add your pasta and give a stir. Throw your asparagus into the water and boil for about 2 minutes, should still have a little crunch left. Scoop the asparagus out and throw into pan with bacon and peppers, it stays floating on the top so it's not hard to get out with a slotted spoon. Turn the heat back on the bacon pan.

Your egg yolks are in a bowl, scoop out a ladle of water and pour into yolks. Quickly whisk because you don't want to the egg yolks to cook.

Your pasta should be done. Drain your pasta but don't rinse. Add pasta to the bacon, toss. Add egg yolks and toss again. Takes about 1/2-1 minute to thicken. Turn off the heat. Add the cheese. Toss again, taste to see if you need some more pepper and serve.
See all the salt in the bottom of the pan.
Here is your bacon, pepper flakes and garlic. I took this photo like this so you can see how much we're talking about. I also put a few cranks of fresh pepper on top of the bacon. It's about layering the flavors with this dish and I like the peppery taste.
Here's your vegetables ready to go.
The cheese, gotta have the cheese. Lots of cheese..yum!
See how crispy the bacon is, add the peppers and give it a stir.
Add your chicken broth and simmer for a minute or two. You don't want the peppers to get squishy. Remember you can turn off at this point and wait for the pasta to finish up.
See, told you the asparagus would float on top.
The egg yolks have been whisked with the pasta water and is waiting to finish the dish.
Throw your asparagus in.
Add the pasta, give it a toss. Add the egg yolks, give another toss and cook until thickened.
Add the cheese. Don't be cheap with the cheese. A couple more cranks of fresh cracked pepper.
Dig in!


I wanted to do something nice for my BFF because her and her boyfriend came to my rescue and not only fixed my snowblower but cleared my driveway. I could have kissed their feet when I came home after a long day at work and finding that I didn't have to shovel. I figured they'd enjoy dinner and dessert instead of their feet kissed, so I made a roast with garlic mashed potatoes and a cheesecake.

I was SO bummed that the top of my cheesecake came out looking burnt!! I'm always worried about cracking but that is NOT something I expected. Truly, it wasn' just got darker than it should have and I have no idea why. I'll be calling to have my oven checked out! But, being that cheesecake isn't something you make everyday (and I didn't have another 5 packages of cream cheese around) and it typically looks a whole lot prettier and the BFF, loves me...flaws and all so I sent it over. She said that is tasted, I thought I'd share it anyway.

AND, if I had been serving this myself, I would have decorated the top with fresh berries or hot fudge and no one would have been the wiser. That type of topping doesn't transport well, so I couldn't take a photo with it all dolled up and fool ya. Plus, sometimes you just have to admit that you aren't perfect;). But, for my sake...we'll pretend I did. Ok, have I convinced you that this is not normally how it looks and you should give it a try, lol??

This cheesecake is easy and it is really light and creamy but not too fluffy. It's just the right amount of firm. Yummy!!

1 1/4 C Graham Crackers crushed ~ that's one pack of crackers to save you measuring
1/4 C melted Butter
1/4 C Sugar

5 8 oz packages soft Cream Cheese~I use 1/3 fat
1 3/4 C Sugar
3 T Flour
1/2 t grated Orange Peel
1 t grated Lemon Peel
2 Egg Yolks
5 Eggs
1/4 C Heavy Cream ~ I used 1/2 and 1/2

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Blend crumbs, butter and sugar. Spread crumb mixture over bottom and up the sides of a sprayed springform pan. Combine cream cheese, sugar, flour, orange and lemon peel in large mixing bowl. It's best to add one cream cheese at a time. Add eggs and yolks..mixing well after each egg is added (I add one egg after each package of cream cheese). Add cream and beat at medium speed until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 250 and bake another hour. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. ONCE YOU PUT THAT CAKE INSIDE, YOU WILL NOT OPEN THE OVEN UNTIL IT'S TIME TO COME OUT. Turn the oven off and let the cake sit for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool at room temp. Top as desired.
Yep, this package of crackers will make 1 1/4 C of crushed graham cracker crumbs. Throw these babies in a ziploc and let's get the party started.
Roll a rolling pin over the crackers or pound out the days just need them crushed, doesn't matter how you do it.
Here is what a springform pan looks like. It has an outer ring that has a clamp. The clamp releases and the ring comes off leaving just the base. I have never made this cheesecake in anything but a springform pan so I can't tell you if it works in a cake pan. Sometimes, you just have to buy or borrow a piece of equipment to see if the recipe is worth it..I can tell you..this recipe is worth the cost of a springform pan.
Here's your crust evenly spread out and pressed into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Zest your orange and lemon with a cheese grater, the small side works great for zesting.
When you don't want to go to "deep" into the peel. Once you get the top layer off, turn your fruit and keep going.
I had my big mixer out so I decided to use it but you know what, I like my hand mixer better for this recipe. It just seems to mix up the cream cheese better and yes, I tried both attachments and the hand mixer wins. At any rate, this is the sugar, flour, peel, yolks and first package of cream cheese. Mix it up. Add another cream cheese and egg, keep going until it's all mixed in. Add the cream last and mix until just blended.
Pour batter into pan and this baby is ready for the oven. I rarely preheat and for this recipe it is a MUST. The oven needs to be 500 degrees, open quick, put your cake in and close until it's ready to come out. NO PEEKING!
Run a sharp knife around the top before you unlatch the ring or you could crack your cake.
In my disgust of the looks of it, I forgot to take a photo without the ring but you get the idea.

I know, I'll call this my creme brulee I feel's supposed to look like this;)