Friday, January 20, 2012

Pinterest All Star - Chicken Parmesan Bake; No Frying, Just Baking

Ya'll, let me just start off by saying how desperately I wanted this to be awesome. I mean let's think of Chicken Parm for a minute. The egg bathing, the flouring, the egg bathing, the breading, the frying, the on and on and on...right? And then here we have a recipe that would not only eliminate all that, but taste just as good, if not "better!" It was a no brainer, I had to try it, and I did. And when I pulled it out of the oven the promise of awesome was there too, I mean look at my picture. It looks just like the picture on the recipe. Side note: don't you just love when something turns out just like the picture? You get  such an overpowering sense of accomplishment it's silly. You can literally feel the gold star being placed on your forehead. But I digress.

First the good. The casserole was a good, easy, weekday home cooked meal. The sauce is delicious, and the dish is very cheesy; something Ryan, our resident Cheese Fatty, loved! It also came together in a snap, so that in 30-45 minutes a hot meal was on the table, which is pretty awesome. Second, it was a hearty casserole, which means you get more bang for your buck. Ryan and I usually have a chicken breast a piece, but this dish is made so hearty with all the cheese and the addition of the croutons that half a breast is more than enough. Lastly, I love that there's a video for the recipe. The narrator is funny and relatable, which makes up for the "not so good" below. 

Now, the not so good. It does not really taste like Chicken Parmesan. It tastes like a good italian style chicken casserole, which is a good thing, it's just not Chicken Parmesan. Ryan and I felt the croutons were too crouton-ey. They simply over powered the dish, and you literally felt like you were eating chicken topped with croutons, which is not a good thing. Which begs the million dollar question: would I make this again? Yes. Maybe not often, but if I wanted to put a hot meal on table fast without resorting to take out or my freezer I'd definitely make this. And I'll do you one better, I would recommend this casserole to friends that are self described "bad cooks". Not because they wouldn't know any better, but because it's a great starter casserole. And doesn't everyone, especially a novice cook, deserve a gold star on their forehead? I think so. With that said, I'll let you be the ultimate judge on this Pinterest All Star. 

Pinterest All Star -  Chicken Parmesan Bake;
No Frying, Just Baking!

2 tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
hot red pepper flakes, to taste 
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups marinara sauce (I used Classico Red Pepper)
1/4 cup chopped basil 
8 oz mozzarella, shredded 
4 oz Parmesan, grated 
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons

How to

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pinterest All Star - Ham & Cheese Sliders

Cold ham and cheese sandwiches, borrrrrrrr-riiiiiiiiing. Warm ham and cheese sliders with a delicious onion mustard spread -A REV-A-LATION! First, excuse the picture this was before I placed them in the oven, and then I forgot to take a picture after I took them out. I know, a total FAIL on my part, but any picture is better than no picture. I've made these a couple of times and I really liked them. But seriously, with gooey cheese, tangy mustard, salty butter, and soft sweet onions, what's not to love about these?!?! And the best part is they come together pretty fast once the onion spread is done, which you can make ahead of time so it's ready when you are. My only complaint is they can be a little messy on the hands. Not from the cheese as you might suspect, but from the spread. Since you top the sandwiches with it, it gets all over your hands, which I didn't care for; however, they are worth getting messy over.

There are a couple of versions of this floating around Pinterest, but this is the version I like the best, mostly because it calls for mass assembly, meaning you construct all the sandwiches at once versus assembling each individually, which totally saves time.

A couple of words of advice:
  • Don't get overzealous with the cheese. It will take longer to melt and, dare I say, be in jeopardy of being too cheesy. I know, blasphemous. There can never be too much cheese; however, in this situation that just may be the case.
  • When cutting be very, very, very gentle, otherwise your little sliders will look like they got run over by a steam roller.
Other than that, these are worth a try. So go forth onto the world and try them!

Ham and Cheese Sliders

1 package of 12 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
1 small onion minced
1 stick of butter
3 Tbspns Dijon mustard
2 tspns Worcestershire sauce
3 tspns poppy seeds (I finally broke down and bought them)
1/2 lb shaved ham
8 slices Swiss cheese (I would just do one even layer and call it a day)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Melt butter in a small skillet and add onions. Combine mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and poppy seeds into onions and butter. Simmer for several minutes.
2. Slice rolls as a group length wise and place bottoms in an aluminum foil lined 13" x 9" pan.
3. Spread 3/4 of onion mixture on roll bottoms, followed by the ham and cheese slices.
4. Top with the roll tops. Spread the remaining onion mixture over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to bake.
5. Bake covered with foil for 20 minutes.
6. Cool slightly, then cut along the bun lines. Serve warm.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Hope everyone had a great weekend full of family, fun, and friends. I certainly did! I'll be back tomorrow with a new Pinterest All Star, hope to see you then!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Pinterest All Star - Strawberry Margarita Jello Shots

Yes, that is a jello shot in a strawberry. No you are not imagining things, nor have you just died and gone to heaven -although I'm pretty sure they serve these in heaven. I'm gonna be honest with you guys these are pretty freakin' fantastic. They are very tasty. Like a margarita they are sweet and salty, and a little bit sour from the lime. There is no pesky paper cup to go through to get to the good stuff. And because there is no cup it also eliminates the unattractive process of sucking the very last bit out of the cup -that alone deserves an A++. And above all, they are cute. Which makes them appear harmless, so you can tell your friend that hardly drinks, "Dude, it's just a little strawberry you can have one." And then sit back and enjoy the show.

So that's the positive, now for the negative. They are a labor of love. And by labor of love I mean if you've given birth to a child, that is the kind of labor these require. The kind of labor that makes you curse your husband, cry for no reason, swear you'll never do it again, and then as your creation is completed and you reap your rewards, you forget all about how you said you'd never do it again. You forget that you nearly stabbed yourself in the process. You forget that you ate 10 failed attempts because you got overzealous with the coring. You forget that your shirt is still sticky from jello, and that your hair looks like you've been hit with a shovel. You forget all that and you say, "Hell yeah! I'm making these again!" They are that awesome people. That's why they serve them in heaven.

The only thing I did differently was I did not use Cointreau. And yes, it was because I didn't want to go out and buy it. I did however have peach schnapps so I used that. Yet another example of a calculated budgeting decision I had to make. Anyway, it's what I had on hand so I used it. And it was DELICIOUS!

Strawberry Margarita Jello Shots

Strawberry Prep

1. Cut the bottoms of the strawberry flat to get them to stand upright. When you do so, make sure that you do not cut off so much that there is a hole in the bottom.
2. Use a huller, apple corer, or melon baller to empty out the strawberry (I used the latter).
3. Check each strawberry and make sure there is not a hole in the bottom before you start filling. You can do this by holding it up to the light.


Margarita Mix

1 - 3oz Box Strawberry Jell-O
8 oz. Tequila
6 oz Cointreau or Peach Schnapps
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup cold water
Salt for Garnish
Lime for garnish

1. Boil one cup of hot water in a saucepan, then add in Jell-O powder and whisk until powder is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
2. Combine tequila and Cointreau, in cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add liquor mixture to cold water and stir to combine. Then add cold liquor mixture to hot Jell-O mixture and stir to combine.
3. Pour final Jell-O mix into strawberries and chill overnight. Take a wedge of lime and use it to moisten the edge of the strawberries, then dip and rotate strawberries in salt to rim. Garnish with cut lime triangles to finish.

Helpful Notes and Tips

  • Use the Jell-O brand mix and not a store brand. The store brands tend to not set up as firmly.
  • Choose the freshest strawberries you can find.
  • Poor mixture into a measuring cup with a spout, it made filling the little strawberries much easier!
  • Fill your strawberries as high as possible, as the Jell-O will sink a bit in the middle.
  • This recipe makes a ton, so I would recommend you have some of those little cups on hand just in case you give up. I am not ashamed to say I did. So I ended up putting the rest of the jello in ramekins. The cups would have been better.
  • The lime is optional, but in my opinion a must. The way we took the shooter was like a tequila shot. We popped the strawberry into our mouth and then sucked on the little lime wedge. You need that little sourness from the lime after the saltiness from salt and the sweetness from the jell-o and the strawberry, so take a moment to include it. You won't be sorry.
  • How to stand up those little devils. I lined them up like soldiers against the walls of my jelly roll pan. Jelly roll pan is the proper name for a baking sheet with sides, for those of you who didn't know. This worked well for me, but be careful when putting them into the fridge they are wobbly.
UPDATE: Thanks to my friend Lisette for thinking outside the box and suggesting standing up the strawberries in ice cube trays. Not only will it make it easier to fill and place in the refrigerator, it will also eliminate having to cut the bottom off. Brilliant!

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pinterest All Stars

If you read my previous post you are now acquainted with Pinterest. If you haven't read my previous post, shame on you. Go read it now, I'll wait. Done? Good, welcome back. I am happy to introduce a new section on my blog called Pinterest All Stars. Where I will feature recipes that have gone viral on Pinterest. Don't let the title fool you. The "All Stars" refers to it's viral status not to its delicious status, and I warn you they are not all worthy of their Pinterest All Star status. These recipes are home tested by your very own humble amateur cook, me :)

The first Pinterest All Star recipe is all ready posted (Bloomin' Onion Bread). Tomorrow I will feature another Pinterest All Star, stay tuned...

Pinterest All Star - Blooming Onion Bread

I found this recipe on Pinterest. If you haven't heard about Pinterest, boy are you missing out. It's basically Google Image search without all the viruses and penis shots. It's not a search engine though, it's a social networking site. Members on Pinterest post and save images, including the links that tell you where to find those images. Sometimes they're links to recipes, clothes, decor, or DIY tutorials, it really varies. But you can always find something that agrees with you. Go and explore for yourself you'll absolutely love it! But enough about Pinterest and more about this cheese marvel.

I found the Blooming Onion Bread on Pinterest one day, sitting among pictures of cute pugs and trendy wardrobe options. It was one of those images that kept getting "pinned" so I did a quick glance at the ingredients and, at the risk of sounding like Ina Garten, thought bread, cheese, and butter, how bad can that be? So I decided to try it. And it was bad. Really bad. But not the bad you're thinking. It was bad like that bad boy your mother warned you about. That kind of bad. The good kind of bad. And like that bad boy no one can resist, no one can resist her Cheesemagesty. That's what I've dubbed this creation, by the way. Why her Cheesemagesty you ask? Well, when you pull her out of the oven and gaze upon her melted cheese glory you will know why all mortals bow before her Cheesemagesty. Seriously! I have made this several times and no one can resist her, nor stop singing her praises. She is that awesome!

The best part of this recipe is its versatile. You can use any type of bread and cheese that strikes your fancy. The more creative you get the better the results. Our favorite combination is La Brea Bakery Rosemary Bread with Pepper jack Cheese, yum! The only thing I do different from the original recipe is to add a clove of mince garlic and omit the poppy seeds. I have nothing against poppy seeds, but I wasn't about to purchase them if they weren't an integral part of the recipe. You can call me cheap if you'd like, but I prefer to view it as calculated budgeting decision. The recipe below is written as I make it, follow the link below to see the original recipe. And without further ado I give you her Cheesemagesty!

Bloomin' Onion Bread aka Her Cheesemagesty

1 small La Brea Bakery Rosemary round or sourdough round
12-16 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup finely diced green onion
1 large garlic clove minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting through the bottom crust. This can be a little tricky going the second way but the bread is very forgiving (this is very true).

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Insert cheese slices between cuts. Combine butter, onion, and garlic. Drizzle over bread. Wrap in foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Unwrap the bread and bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.
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