Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes - The Best Pancakes of Your Life

If you're looking for an excuse to eat cookies for breakfast, now you have one. Today is Aaron's birthday! It's still snowing & icing, so I took another day off work and offered to make him breakfast. He asked for pancakes. I got online to find a recipe and came across these from Rachael Ray. Normally Aaron doesn't like it when I made "weird shit", so he wasn't thrilled when I told him I was making oatmeal cookie pancakes. He wanted plain, ordinary pancakes. What fun is that? Everyone's had those. Plus, I don't like them. But I do like oatmeal cookies! So, even though it's his birthday, I took a chance on these.

After just one bite, he was saying "OMG, have you tried these?!" He said I have to post these as "the best pancakes of your life" on my blog. They taste just like an oatmeal cookie. They are super soft with just the right amount of sweetness. Another bonus for me was that it used an over-ripe banana! Note that below I am listing the original recipe cut in half. This will make about 6-8 pancakes. I recommend making them on the small side because the batter is pretty thin and soft, so it was hard to flip them in one piece.

Rachael Ray

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ounces, 1/4 cup, chopped walnuts (I used about a handful)
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 really ripe bananas, mashed up
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 stick butter, plus additional 1-2 TBSP for buttering skillet
Maple syrup or honey, for drizzling

Here's a great tip: if you cannot find really ripe bananas, just nuke them in the microwave for about 15 seconds and they will become super soft for mashing.

Mix dry ingredients, the first 7, in a bowl. In a another bowl, mix the wet ingredients, the next 4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, then fold in the mashed up bananas and the raisins. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat a griddle over medium heat and brush with additional melted butter. Cook pancakes, each about 1/3 cup, until bubbles form on the top, then turn. Cakes will cook in about 2 minutes on each side. Keep pancakes tented with foil as they come off the griddle to keep them hot. Serve with drizzled honey or maple syrup over the top.

St. Tropez Chicken

At Christmas time, I received a gift full of different herbs and spices. It was great because I didn't have any of the spices in my cabinet already and had never tried any of them before. One of the bottles is herbs de provence. Herbs de provence is a mixture of different herbs including lavender flowers. When I saw this that this recipe for St. Tropez chicken (from Cooking Books blog) called for Herbs de Provence, I added it to our menu for the week.

I had planned on making this on Sunday, since I noticed the chicken will roast for about 2.5 hours. But, what I failed to see is that the roasting was to happen after 1-2 days of marinating. Not so great for a weeknight meal, but I went with it anyway because Aaron gets home a couple of hours before me and I figured I could persuade him into putting it in the oven early for me.

What I hadn't planned was the snow & ice storm we're getting now. I decided to take the day off work. I didn't want to go out on the roads and school was cancelled, so no work for Aaron, either. He had an afternoon dentist appointment, needed a haircut and wanted to stop at the gym on the way home. Tuesday is my longer night to teach at the Y, from 5-7pm. I couldn't believe they were still having classes, but I set off at 4:15 to give myself plenty of time to get there. As I was turning into the parking lot at 4:45, my phone rang and it was our coordinator cancelling classes. Great! I risked my life for nothing. But, Aaron was already at the gym, so I hopped on a treadmill and ran for 30 minutes and we went home together. Chicken started roasting at 6pm, allowing us to eat about 8:30.

I liked the mild citrus and herb flavor of the chicken, but as Aaron mentioned - the flavor seemed to be all on the outside of the chicken. It was good, but once you got past that, it was pretty plain, and my piece was even dry.

1 large chicken, cut up into serving pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup rosé or white wine
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon herbes de provence

In a large freezer bag, place the chicken pieces. Combine the lemon juice and the oil, then whisk in the honey to dissolve. Pour this mixture over the chicken, and add the garlic and herbs. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight or up to two days.

Preheat the oven to 325. Put the chicken into a roasting pan along with the marinade, skin side up. Cover with foil and cook for 2 hours. Remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 425. Continue to cook for an additional 15 - 25 minutes, until the chicken is nicely browned.

Remove the chicken to a warm plate and cover to keep warm. Transfer the roasting pan to the stove and spoon off any excess fat from the sauce. Add 1/2 cup water and deglaze the pan. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Seafood Lasagna Rolls

The only problem I have with making lasagna is that a pan of it is way too much for the two of us. Aaron will eat leftovers one, maybe two times. I hate having to throw something out so I end up eating it for days. and days. and days. Once it's finally gone, I'm so sick of it I don't want it for about a year. Yes, I could always freeze part of the pan, but I either don't think of it or for whatever reason, it doesn't happen. But now I don't have to! These rolls are fun to make and great since you can make as few or as many as you want.

The only advantage a regular lasagna has over these rolls is the no-boil noodle option. It's a great time saver when making a pan of lasagna. There's no way around that one here, but still worth the few extra minutes.

The only thing I would change would be to make these with beef or sausage next time, but that's just my personal preference. I'm not really a fan of crab, but used it anyway because Aaron likes it and we don't eat it that often.

Source: Jamie's Green Kitchen

6 lasagna noodles
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
¾ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can lump crab meat
15 oz. ricotta cheese
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
pinch of nutmeg
1 ¾ cups marinara sauce, divided
shredded mozzarella cheese, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the lasagna noodles and cook until partially tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp to the skillet; season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the pan as well and sauté until shrimp are cooked, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. Coarsely chop the cooled shrimp and place in a bowl with 1 cup of ricotta cheese, the Parmesan, crab, egg, basil, salt and pepper to taste, and the nutmeg. Stir to combine.

In another bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of marinara sauce with remaining ricotta, to taste. Stir until smooth.

In an 8×8” baking dish, spread the remaining ¼ cup of marinara sauce so it covers the bottom. Lay lasagna noodles out on a work surface. Divide the shrimp mixture evenly between the noodles and spread over the full length of each. Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Spoon the creamy marinara sauce over the top. Top with shredded mozzarella.

Bake until lasagna rolls are heated through and cheese begins to brown, about 25 minutes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Olive Garden Salad Dressing

If there's one thing I love about Olive Garden, it's the salad. Second best are their bread sticks and that's about where it ends for me anymore at that place. But, their salad dressing is so good! I found this recipe for the dressing on CopyKat.com and have made it several times. While this dressing is really good, it's still not like the Olive Garden's. You can see by my photo that it doesn't look the same. If you know of a closer recipe, let me know!

1/2 C. Mayonnaise
1/3 C. White Vinegar
1 tsp. Vegetable Oil
2 Tbsp. Corn Syrup
2 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp. Romano Cheese
1/4 tsp. Garlic Salt - or one clove garlic minced
1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Parsley Flakes
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

Mix all ingredients in a blender until well mixed. If this is a little too tart for your tastes, add a little extra sugar.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Greek Chicken

I have a new toy! It's an early birthday present - a Nikon D60. Aaron and I are sharing it since our birthdays are so close and it's something we both really wanted. It arrived on Wednesday. When I say sharing, I mean - I'll probably get to use it in a couple of months. That's how it goes when we get something new and cool. He takes over and I just wait my turn. It's easier that way. He even took the pictures of our dinner last night. I won't complain much - they did turn out pretty great! I usually do something to most of my photos in Photoshop. This one is untouched. - Just cropped and sized. I am looking forward to learning all of the features of the camera though and hoping I'll be able to get some half-way decent pictures of other things besides our food.

I'm a little off-topic. This is supposed to be about Geek Chicken as Aaron calls it. There really isn't anything geeky about this, though. Some might argue that taking pictures of our food and posting it online is geeky, but if that makes me geeky, so be it.

If you're not a huge fan of olives, like me, don't go to the store and spend $5-$10 on a jar of kalamata olives when you only need a few. If you're lucky enough to have a deli with an olive bar, go there. You can get just the right size scoop and not let any go to waste.

Pam's original recipe called for chicken thighs, but I used chicken breasts. I also didn't read ahead (bad habit of mine), so I started cooking in a skillet that was not oven safe. No big deal though, I just transferred the chicken to a baking dish and continued that way. We had wild rice and asparagus on the side.

The things I loved most about this chicken - it's healthy, it's easy to make, you probably have most of these ingredients already (ok, you don't have kalamata olives or feta? I didn't either, but it's always nice when you only have to add 1-2 small things to the grocery list for a meal.), and finally, it tastes as good as it looks.

Source: For the Love of Cooking

2 tsp olive oil, divided
1-2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, fat removed
Garlic powder, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste
Handful of grape tomatoes
Small handful of kalamata olives, sliced in half
1/2-1 lemon juiced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (divided)
2 tbsp low fat feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a an oven-safe skillet on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and heat for about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Place the chicken into the skillet, seasoned side down, and cook over med-high heat until brown. (3-4 minutes).

Flip the chicken over and add the olives, tomatoes, lemon juice, half of the parsley, and the shallots with garlic. Bake for 15 minutes or until done (I baked a little longer - the chicken breasts I used were on the thick side). Remove from the oven, sprinkle the remaining parsley on top with the feta cheese.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Knock You Naked Brownies

This weekend we had a game night at our house. Friends came over, we made quesadillas, enjoyed fiesta dip, spanish rice, chips & salsa, red & white sangrias for dinner, with cheesecake and knock you naked brownies for dessert. I love board games and had so much fun playing all night! Thanks for coming over guys. I can't wait to do it again!

I'm not sure where this recipe originated. I have had it written on an index card for a few years in my recipe box. After doing a little googling, it seems like this recipe is everywhere online. I did find a note on one website that supposedly this recipe originated at the Salt Creek Restaurant in Breckenridge, Colorado.

These are my new favorite brownie. I wasn't sure about brownies from a cake mix, but they were really easy to put together and didn't require many ingredients - always a plus to me. They are super sweet, chewy and caramelly. I loved the chocolate chips layered on top of the caramel. I'd say these brownies might be too rich for some, but to me, there is no such thing as too rich.

One tip I will give - as I was making these, I didn't think there was going to be enough of the cake mixture to spread on top of the caramel, but it didn't matter. Just drop spoonfuls on top and smooth it the best you can. It's not easy, but once they came out of the oven, I couldn't even tell it might have been a problem. Love these!

1 package German chocolate cake mix (18.5 oz)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup + 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup melted butter
60 vanilla caramels unwrapped (one 14 oz package)
1 cup chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix, nuts, 1/3 cup evaporated milk and melted butter. Press half of the batter into the bottom of a greased 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8 minutes. In the microwave or top of a double boiler melt caramels with remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When caramel mixture is well mixed, pour over baked layer. Cover with chocolate chips. Chill for about an hour or until the caramel is hard. Press the remaining batter on top of morsels. Return to oven and bake 18 minutes. Let cool before cutting.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Mini Meatballs and Pasta

Don't judge this soup by my ugly picture. I think this is probably the worst one on my whole blog! I've never been a fan of tomato soup. I surprised myself when I came across this recipe in Ally's blog, Culinary Infatuation, and immediately starred it. Ally's picture looked fantastic and the recipe sounded like something I would love. It wasn't the tomato soup I normally think of from the can (ew!). It was the meatballs and pasta that convinced me.

This was a nice dinner to have on a lazy, snowy day like today. The flavor was delicious. I'm probably not the best person to ask on a comparison to other tomato soups since I can't say I've really had any. Aaron had 2 bowls, so I know he meant it when he said it was good. Sometimes when I ask, he tries to be nice and lies. You have to ask the right questions when you want honest answers. Don't ask if they like it. Ask if they want you to make it again! The truth always comes out on that one.

(As I posted the recipe below, I'm just realizing I forgot the 8 oz can of tomato sauce. This is becoming a common thing - me forgetting an item. I need a re-do.)

1 lb ground sirloin (I used a meatball mix - beef, pork, veal)
2 slices wheat bread toasted and processed
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 C. grated parmesan cheese
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients well and roll into mini meatballs. Cover cookie sheet with foil and place a cooking rack on top. Put meatballs on the cooling rack and put in oven. cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Tomato Basil Soup
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic minced
2/3 cup fresh basil coarsly chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup orzo (raw) cooked according to package directions (I used tubetinni)
1 cup half and half
1 stick unsalted butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Combine tomatoes, tomato products, stock, and garlic in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add basil. With an immersion blender, blend until smooth and pureed (this can be done in a blender as well). Add butter and half and half and whisk until well blended. Add meat balls and orzo and serve with parmesan cheese.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

One of my favorite gifts we got for our wedding shower is our ice cream maker. We've tried several different flavors so far, and this is still my very favorite - peanut butter cup. This time, it's minus the "cup"- just plain peanut butter ice cream. I took half of it and mixed in mini chocolate chips, and left the other half plain to freeze.

After seeing the Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream post in Taste & See, I was really wanted to try this fun combination. I mixed just a spoonful of grape jelly into a big scoop of the ice cream. So here we are today, just 4 degrees outside, eating ice cream (inside of course).

When you make this, be sure you spend some extra time on the treadmill while it's freezing. That's all I'm going to say about the fat content.

This recipe came from the manual of my Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

1 1/8 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the peanut butter and sugar together until well mixed. Add in the milk and mix until the sugar has disolved. Add the whipping cream and vanilla. Pour into ice cream maker and mix for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Homemade Fish Sticks

Remember These?
I haven't had them in forever, but I used to eat them as a kid and they are great! I guess I forgot about them. But, thanks to Colleen (from Cooking This and That) for making a healthier, grown-up version. I saw this in her blog and immediately starred it to make for dinner this week.

Doesn't this look better?

This was only my second time using panko breadcrumbs and these fish sticks were the perfect use. The oil in the coating helps the sticks brown and crisp up. I did substitute milk for the egg, because I am out of eggs. Actually, the baked onion rings flour/milk mixture I just posted about...I used the leftover coating from that recipe, and added some oil and Old Bay Seasoning.

The dipping sauce for this was delicious, too. I had to buy horseradish, since I've never really eaten it or cooked with it. Next time I could only use about 1 tsp., but that can be adjusted to your taste.

Finished meal:

Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks with Herb Dipping Sauce
from Everyday Food

1 large egg
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups panko
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound tilapia fillets

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F, with racks in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil.

Cut tilapia filets in half lengthwise, and then again the other direction. You now have 4 sticks per filet.

Crack egg into shallow bowl, lightly beat with fork. Season with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, combine panko, Old Bay, and olive oil.

Dip each tilapia stick into egg, shaking off the excess; then into panko mixture, pressing mixture so that it sticks.

Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes, until panko is lightly browned and fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside fish sticks.

Baked Onion Rings

Sometimes I get bored coming up with side items for our dinners. Plain vegetables are the easiest thing, but I'm always looking for ways to serve them in a different way, but still be healthy. Aaron and I both like onion rings, but I've never made them at home, and didn't really want to fry our dinner. This healthier version turned out really well and slightly crispy. Not the same as the battered and fried, but knowing there are only about 3 grams of fat per serving makes up for that!

Another recipe from cookinglight.com, modified a bit.

3 TBSP flour
1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/3 c. milk (measurement is a quess. I just poured some in until it was thick enough to stay on the onions.)
2 Large Vidalia or sweet onions, cut into (1/4-inch-thick) slices. Using the larger outer rings, I saved the inner rings to chop for another meal.
1 1/2 cups dry breadcrumbs
Cooking spray


1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Combine everything except the breadcrumbs & onions in a large bowl. Dredge the onion rings in flour/milk mixture. Then coat with the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.

3. Place the onion rings in a single layer on a baking sheets (with a few small sprays of cooking spray). Lightly spray the onion rings with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes.

Banana Sour Cream Bread

Ever have rotting bananas sitting around? That's a pretty common thing in our house. After throwing them away forever, I started freezing them in a ziploc bag, peel and all. I can't believe I used to waste all those bananas before. This weekend I wanted to do a little baking, but use up some things from our freezer, which basically means it had to be blueberry or banana something. It's been a while since I've made bread, so I went browsing on allrecipes.com, like I usually do and decided on this highly rated recipe - using sour cream. It sounded different and good, so I gave it a shot.

The bread turned out just like the reviews listed - a little tangy from the sour cream, light, moist. I used 3 larger loaf pans instead of the 4 smaller pans called for. I really liked how the sides came out from coating the pans in cinnamon & sugar. However, it's not the type of banana bread I like. I like it to be really dense. This bread is more cake-like.

1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream (I used fat-free)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.
Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Weight Watchers Buffalo Style Green Beans

Finally, another healthy recipe added to my blog! I made these Weight Watchers Buffalo Style Green Beans last spring and loved them. I can't believe it has taken me this long to make them again. They are a little spicy (I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to spice), so adjust the Tabasco to your liking. If you are looking for something a little different than plain green beans, try this! I totally skipped the chilling part and we ate this hot.

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon orange juice or lemon juice
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
2 medium tomatoes, plum, diced (I used a can of diced tomatoes, drained)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound green snap beans, trimmed and cooked until crisp tender (I steamed them in the microwave using my tupperware steamer - I love that thing.)
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1/8 teaspoon table salt or to taste

Whisk together oil, Worcestershire sauce orange or lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Stir in vegetables, basil, salt and pepper; chill for 1 hour or overnight. Divide into 4 portions and serve.

Serves 4.
WW Points: 1

Lemon Orange Orange Roughy

On New years Day, I know you're supposed to eat pork, peas, cabbage, etc. and all that good stuff for luck and prosperity in the new year, but we had fish instead. I hope this isn't setting us up for a bad year!

I should have saved this meal for a day I had to work because it is so quick to make and can easily be made in less than 30 minutes (even with the buffalo green beans I made to go with it). I've made this one before blogging, so I already knew it was going to be good!

Source: Allrecipes.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (4 ounce) fillets orange roughy
1 orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange fillets in the skillet, and drizzle with orange juice and lemon juice. Sprinkle with lemon pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork.

Nutritional Information
Servings Per Recipe: 4

Amount Per Serving:
Calories: 133

Total Fat: 4.3g
Cholesterol: 22mg
Sodium: 129mg
Total Carbs: 7.9g
Dietary Fiber: 2.3g
Protein: 17.2g
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