Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baked Pasta with Chicken, Broccoli and Smoked Gouda

This was such a delicious dish!  I found myself eating it cold out of the fridge, that's how good it was.  Or  maybe that's how low-class I am.  Either way, this was such a treat - it's warm and saucy and has so many flavors and textures. My kids all snarfed it down and were disappointed when it was all gone.   Not only is this dish great because many kids will like it, but also because you can make it ahead of time and just leave it in the fridge until it's time to heat through.  

Now this dish wasn't one of the quickest meals I've made, though it wasn't difficult.  It does take a bit of chopping and prep work, but it really is worth it.  I find, with dishes like these, that getting all of the components ready to add to the dish before you start cooking, really helps things go smoothly.  And then you can pretend you're hosting your own cooking show!  Enjoy!

*Serves 6-8
*Note: See the asterisk below the recipe for make-ahead directions.

3/4 cup bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 bunch broccoli (about 1 ½ pounds), stalks cut off, florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces penne pasta (or bowties)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
3 ounces smoked mozzarella, shredded (I couldn't find this so I subbed smoked Gouda - it was delish)
8 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and set aside. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in one tablespoon salt and the broccoli. The broccoli cooks quickly so stay close! Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than how you would eat it normally (it will cook a bit more in the oven while baking). Drain the pasta in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Leave it in the colander and set it aside.

Wipe the pot dry. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream; bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella.

Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce; stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb topping. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

*The casserole can be prepared in advance with the following steps: after the broccoli is removed from the boiling water, plunge it into a bowl of ice water and cool completely. Assemble the casserole following the directions in the recipe. After the casserole is spread in the prepared baking pan, let it cool for 5-10 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for up to 8 hours. To bake, preheat the oven to 375 and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Source: www.melskitchencafe.com

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate Lover's Cheesecake

Recently I had a little get-together at my home. We were celebrating a couple friends' birthdays, so I had to pick something birthday-worthy to make. My husband always says to make tried-and-true recipes when a bunch of people are coming over, so that I'm not surprised by a failure. But I say the opposite. What other excuse do I have to make different and decadent treats than when there's a special occasion?

Well, we were both right. I made two recipes that evening that I had never made before. One was for cheese fondue, which was a major failure and won't be blogged about. Talk about a big clump of seized-up cheese! I almost gave it a name, it was such a monstrosity. Very disappointing. The other was this recipe for chocolate cheesecake, which was absolutely delicious. It was very creamy and, unlike other cheesecakes I've made, there was no hint of a crack down the middle. The kids had seen me making this and were not so happy that they couldn't try it out before the event, but had to go to bed and hope there was some left for them in the morning. There almost wasn't!

A couple of tips:
*After you melt the chocolate for the cheesecake, don't let it cool too much. It still needs to be very slightly warm to the touch so that it doesn't turn into little chunks in the batter.
*Scrape the bowl often.
*I like to use Trader Joe's 72% Pound Plus bar. It's economical and tastes very good.
*When putting the glaze on top, try not to mess with it too much. In fact, if you can pour it and not have to spread it, it will look prettier. I started spreading mine with an off-set spatula, and couldn't stop trying to smooth it! It still tasted great, but could have looked smoother.

Chocolate Lover's Cheesecake
Yield: at least 16 servings


For the crust:
1½ cups finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs*
3 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the glaze:
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

*Most recipes call for Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers but I can never find them. I generally use Oreos and scrape off the cream filling.

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper. In a medium bowl combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Stir with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened. Add the crumb mixture to the springform pan and gently press about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Press the rest of the crumbs into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚ F.

To make the filling, combine the sour cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Whisk to blend and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (in short intervals, stirring frequently) until completely smooth. Set aside and let cool slightly.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, cocoa powder, and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sugar and continue mixing about 2-3 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the cooled (but still slightly warm) chocolate to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed. Beat in the sour cream mixture just until evenly blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing each just until incorporated. (Don’t over-beat once the eggs are added or the cheesecake will puff too much.)

Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake until the center jiggles very slightly when nudged, about 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1-2 hours. Then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight. (This is a must!)

To make the glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Pour over the chocolate and let stand briefly, 1-2 minutes. Whisk just until a smooth ganache has formed. Whisk in the butter until completely incorporated. Pour the glaze in an even layer over the chilled cheesecake. Chill thoroughly.

To serve, carefully unmold the sides of the springform. Run a sharp knife under hot water to warm the blade, and wipe dry with a towel. Slice cleanly, wiping the blade between slices and reheating as necessary. Serve chilled.

Source: adapted slightly from annies-eats.com, who adapted it slightly from Fine Cooking

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

Submitted by Hannah

I love a good stir fry and as much as chinese take-out is a weakness of mine I've discovered I can make a pretty healthy and tasty version at home. This is an easy but flavorful recipe.


2 1/2 Tbsp Cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 pound lean sirloin thinly sliced
2 tsp canola oil
1 cup chicken broth, divided
5 cups Broccoli
1/2 Tbsp grated fresh Ginger (it calls for 1 Tbsp I lowered it a bit)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)
1/4 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
1/2 cup water


On a plate, combine 2 Tbsp cornstarch and salt; add beef and toss to coat.

Heat oil in a large nonstick wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 3 minutes; transfer to a bown with slotted spoon.

Add 1/2 cup broth to same pan; stir to loosen any bits on pan. Add broccoli; cover and cook, tossing occasionally and sprinkling with a Tbsp of water if needed, until broccoli is almost crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Uncover pan and add ginger, garlic and pepper flakes; stir-fry until fragrant about 1 minute.

In a cup, stir together soy sauce, remaining 1/2 cup broth, remaining 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch and water until blended; stir into pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Return beef and toss to coat.

Serves 4 - 1 1/4 cup servings 5 WW Plus points

I served this over Jasmine rice and I added extra vegetables since I had them on hand (carrots and yellow pepper strips)

Source: Weightwatchers.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Submitted by: Hannah

Okay first of all forgive me for the sad picture but the taste will make up for it! This is a yummy recipe that got my 3 year olds approval (which is hard to get some nights). It has also reassured me that we can stick with a healthy lifestyle for a long to come with recipes like this because it is still satisfying and comfort food without all of the fat. I recently stumbled onto a blog called Skinnytaste.com and since I am on weight watchers it was an exciting find. The blog is all about healthy recipes and it even breaks down the weight watchers points for you. Give this a try I think you and your family will love it. I normally would have served this with a salad full of veggies or maybe a crusty piece of bread but it was good all by itself too.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 9 • Serving Size: 1 cup Old Points: 3 pt Points+: 4 pts
Calories: 169.2 • Fat: 1.2 g Protein: 18.5 g Carb: 21.2 g Fiber: 2.3 g

Servings: 6 • Serving Size: 1 bowl (1-1/2 cups) • Old Points: 5 pt • Points+: 6 pts
Calories: 253.8 • Fat: 1.8 g • Protein: 27.7 g • Carb: 31.9 g • Fiber: 3.4 g

  • 1/4 cup flour (to make gluten-free use 2 tbsp cornstarch instead)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups fat free milk
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 medium chopped onion
  • 8 oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms
  • 2 chicken bouillons
  • fresh ground pepper
  • pinch of thyme
  • 10 oz frozen classic mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, corn)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed small
  • 16 oz cooked chicken breast, diced small
  • salt

Create a slurry by combining 1/2 cup of the cold water with flour in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.

Pour remaining water and milk into a large pot and slowly bring to a boil. Add celery, onion, mushrooms, chicken bullion, thyme, fresh pepper, frozen vegetables and return to a boil. Partially cover and simmer on low until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove lid, add potatoes and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chicken, and slowly whisk in slurry, stirring well as you add. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until soup thickens, adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

I found it needed a bit more salt and pepper at the end so make sure to taste along the way.

Source: skinnytaste.com

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beef and Bean taco style dip

 ( For some reason I forget to take the "final" pictures!  It will look
bubbly and delicious.  That is probably why I forget...too busy diving in!)

Submitted by Lisa

I got this recipe from my sister Heather.  Actually, she made it for us once and told us since there was meat in it, we could consider it a meal!  It was delicious.  I make it for the family and they really like it.  I don't actually have a recipe, I go from memory and this is what I use:

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef cooked
1 can re-fried beans
1 small can chopped green chili's
1 bottle mild taco sauce (you can use medium if you like spicier foods)
1 bunch of cilantro chopped fine
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp cumin

1 cup sour cream
1 tsp cumin
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes if you want

1. Brown the beef, mix in the chopped cilantro, cumin and the chilies
2. Spread the beans in the bottom of a 9x13 pan
3. Top the beans with the ground beef mixture
4. Pour one bottle of taco sauce over the mixture
5. Top with shredded and cheese and bake at 350 until bubbly and heated through

Serve with tortilla chips and the sour cream/ cumin mixture.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chicken Tostada

I love leftovers...re-purposed.  I just whipped these up for the kids for lunch and quote:  "There is good, and there is delicious.  These are delicious."  Jonny  
Always nice to hear that the kiddos 
like what you are feeding them!

I had 3 tortillas, some cooked shredded chicken in the fridge and 5 boys to feed.  Hhmmm...

2 cups shredded chicken, chopped up
1 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup black bean and corn salsa
1 green onion chopped fine
shredded cheddar cheese
3 flour tortillas

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Butter one side of the tortilla, place it butter side down in a frying pan.  Top with a thin layer of shredded cheese, then spoon on the chicken mixture.  I left it as an open faced tostada, but you could top it with anther tortilla if you want.  Grill until golden and crispy.  I did not serve it with sour cream because I was trying to keep the calories low, but you could top with a bit if you like.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

This is a recipe I got from my friend Jill, who got it from Emily, who got it from.... get the idea!  I  am not sure if anyone knows this recipe's origin anymore!  But we like it a lot!  

1/2 c butter softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c peanut butter
1 cup mashed banana
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c choc chips

Mix butter, eggs, peanut butter.  Add in sugar and mix well.  Stir in banana and add dry ingredients.  Mix well.  I suggest baking into muffins.  Grease or line muffin tins with wrappers.  Bake at 325 until done.

I baked it as a loaf and it took about 1 hour!  So, I am not sure on the muffin times, but probably around 20 min or so depending on your oven.  Just test the center and adjust time as needed.