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Friday, November 30, 2012

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese

Yes, it is Friday; however, I'll be taking a break during the month of December from the Seafood Frenzy Friday posts. I know how much you love them, so they will resume after the first of the year. :)

Instead, I thought I'd do something fun to get you all in the holiday spirit.  Starting this Monday, I will be doing a "12 Days of Holiday Baking" theme where I will share a new sweet treat Monday-Thursday over the course of the next three weeks; just in time for your holiday baking. And on Friday's, I will post a new savory recipe that I have created throughout the week.  

And now for today's post...

Today, is my daughter Rachael's 16th birthday...Yes, Sweet 16! And last month, we celebrated by having a Mardi Gras themed party for our immediate family and 100 of her closest friends. Well, she also shared the party with her friend so most of the friends were both of theirs. The kids had a blast, our immediate families were all there to celebrate and everyone danced the night away. (see pictures below). 

That brings me to the birthday girls dinner. As you know, when it's your birthday at my house, you get to choose whatever you want to have. So tonight, we will be dining on Italian Breaded Chicken Cutlets with Bruschetta (we put it on top of the cutlets and everyone loves it this way!), this Three Cheese Mac & Cheese (which was so good that when I made this the first time, she told me to make it again for her birthday), a Garden Salad and she wanted an Ice Cream Cake. 

We'll have to wait until she gets home because she's going for her permit, then driving lessons with an old high school friend who owns a local driving school (Focus Driving School). I just hope she passes the written test so keep your fingers crossed!!!! 

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese
1lb. Macaroni Pasta
2 tbsp. Butter
2 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 c. Milk (I used 2%)
½ c. 2% Velveeta Cheese, cubed
¼ c. Asiago Cheese, shredded
¼ c. Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded
1 c. Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. Melted Butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2.  Cook pasta according to package instructions, removing the pasta while it’s still al dente.
3. While the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large saucepan, then stir in the flour forming a roux.
4. Whisk in the milk, then add in the cheese. Stir until all of the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened slightly.
5. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and mix well, then place the pasta in a oven safe baking dish (I used a 9”x9” corning ware).
6. Mix together the breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp. melted butter, then sprinkle on top of the macaroni.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and the cheese is bubbling. Serves 6.

And now to thank a few people for helping us pull this party together...

The Venue: Portobello Banquets 

Flowers Galore for the beautiful Mardi Gras Centerpieces and Sweet 16 Candelabra

Barbara Arnott for the chocolate mask favors

DJ's Steve and Mark from SPS Productions 

Cupcake Tower from All in the Icing

Happy Sweet 16 Rachael, we love you! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Braised Chicken and Red Potatoes in a White Wine Rosemary Sauce

All-in-one dishes like this one are great for busy, weeknight meals. Just brown your meat and add in the remainder of your ingredients until it's all done. This is also a wonderful meal to prepare the night before or over the weekend as it reheats beautifully. 

Braised Chicken and Red Potatoes in a White Wine Rosemary Sauce
8 Chicken Thighs, bone-in, skin removed
2 c. White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
2 tbsp. Fresh Rosemary, chopped
3 Medium Red Potatoes, cut in chunks
4 Garlic Cloves, rough chop
1-2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven or large pot, then brown the chicken on both sides. You may need to do this in two batches(which is where you may need additional oil). Remove the chicken and set aside. 
2. Add the wine, rosemary, garlic and potatoes to the pot; scraping the bits off of the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil. 
3. Add back in the chicken, cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Serves 4-6. 

*Nutritional Information per Serving(based on four servings): Calories 462, Carbs 26.6g, Fat 15.8g, Protein 41.2g, Fiber 2.9g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into CalorieCount and may not be 100% accurate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baked Broccoli and Cheese Arancini (Rice Balls)

Arancini are technically fried rice balls that have been coated with breadcrumbs and were believed to originate from Sicily, Italy; Messina to be exact. I had the pleasure of visiting Messina this past summer and arancini were a common food item on the local menus. They are made many different ways, but the most popular kind are filled with a meat or tomato sauce and are stuffed with mozzarella and peas. I opted for a little healthier version by baking them instead of frying; however, I did fry one to taste the difference and even though these were good baked, frying gave them that added crunch and flavor. 

Baked Broccoli and Cheese Arancini (Rice Balls)
3 c. Prepared Broccoli and Cheese Risotto, refrigerated at least 24 hours
4 Eggs
1 1/4 c. Panko Breadcrumbs
Cooking Spray

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
2. Mix together the chilled risotto, 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of the breadcrumbs until well blended. 
3. In two separate bowls, whisk together the remaining 2 eggs in one, and add the remaining 1 cup of breadcrumbs to the other. 
4. Form eight round balls with the rice, then dredge them each first in the eggs then into the breadcrumbs. 
5. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place the breaded rice balls about 2 inches apart; then spray the tops of the breaded arancini. 
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they turn light brown and are heated through. Serves 8. 

Here are some pictures from my visit to Messina~Enjoy!

The fishing village

View the daily show at the clock tower

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicken in a Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

I might have mentioned that we recently started a new tradition with our nieces and nephews to celebrate their birthdays. You see, they're all older now (the youngest 17 the oldest 24) and there are no more family parties to celebrate. 

Being that was usually one of the few times we got to see them during the year (besides Christmas for some of them), we decided to have them come for dinner on their own and I will make whatever they would like to have. Since we just started this new tradition this past August, the two nieces in line both wanted Chicken Francaise for their invidual dinners. I had some chicken left over and decided to use up some ingredients I had in the refrigerator to clean it out

Now, I'm not usually one for cooking with a lot of cream sauces, but everything taste good in moderation, right?!  This chicken dish was so good, even though the picture doesn't do this recipe justice! Gabrielle is already thinking that this recipe was so good that it is in the running to be her birthday dinner (in December) as well. A far cry from two years ago when all she wanted was chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. 

I have to laugh because people ask me a lot about this blog and the book and it's hard to communicate just how easy these recipes really are to recreate at home. Now all I have to do is tell them that my 10 year old can go on my blog, type in the search box, print out the recipe and makes some things herself (with supervision of course, I don't want her burning down my new kitchen!). This puts a HUGE smile on my face as it's the reason I started all of this to begin with. A living, written legacy through food for my children, what could be better than that? :)

Chicken in a Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
10 Chicken Tenders, uncooked
1/2 c. All-Purpose Flour
2 tbsp. Canola Oil
1 tbsp. Butter

1. Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. 
2. Pound chicken flat using a meat mallet, then dredge in flour. 
3. Fry chicken in the oil and butter mixture until chicken is cooked through; approximately 3-5 minutes per side. 
4. Place chicken in a baking dish and pour the Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce over the top. 
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Serves 4. 

Sun Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
1/3 c. Sun Dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. Butter
1 tsp. All-Purpose Flour
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
1 Scallion, chopped
2 tbsp. Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
1 c. Heavy Cream
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Melt butter in a saucepan; then add in the tomatoes, basil and scallions and cook approximately 1-2 minutes. 
2. Add in the flour, cheese and heavy cream and bring to a boil; then let simmer for 5 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Bacon & Havarti Quiche

I know what you're thinking and you're right. I don't usually eat bacon because it gives me a headache, but the rest of my family does. And on Sunday's, we generally make what we call a "big breakfast"; which includes eggs, potatoes, bacon or sausage. We only eat this way once a week and sometimes only 1-2 times per month, and it's usually more of a brunch than a breakfast as we generally don't eat until about 10am. Last Sunday we happened to make bacon, and since I was going to be busy cooking for Thanksgiving the next week, I wanted to make a few things that my family could pick on for lunches and dinner during the week. 

This is another one of those recipes that I have had in my trusty recipe box that I got from my Mom many years ago, but have never made. The recipe was originally for Quiche Lorraine, which is made with Swiss cheese instead of the Havarti and I must have copied it down wrong, because the first time I tried to make this, it wound up too runny. I guess that would happen if you add heavy cream AND milk...oh well, try and try again!   

The second time was a success and the family loved it! It's a great dish for breakfast as well as lunch or dinner served with a side salad. Or, if you're really ambitious, make individual quiches in a mini muffin pan for appetizers.

Bacon & Havarti Quiche
1 Pie Crust (I used Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts)
½ c. Crumbled Cooked Bacon (approx. 4-6 strips)
½ c. Havarti Cheese, shredded
¼ c. Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
4 Eggs
1 ½ c. Heavy Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Roll out the dough so it thins out and fits in the tart pan; then line the tart pan with the pie crust and par bake for 5-7 minutes.
3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and heavy cream;  then stir in the cheeses and bacon.
4. Add the egg mixture to the pie crust, place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until the top starts to puff up and turn lightly brown. Serves 8.

*You can also make this in a pie dish. If you do, cut the eggs down to three, heavy cream down to 1 cup and then add an additional 10-15 minutes to the cooking time.


Shared at Thursday's Treasures 11/29/12

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seafood Frenzy Friday (Week 42)

Welcome to Seafood Frenzy Friday where each week I share seafood recipes I find from some of my foodie friends with you since I don't eat seafood myself.  I hope you all ate too much food and laughed too hard yesterday...I know I did! 

And since today is also Black Friday, I found this site to search for store specials too. I'm a Cyber Monday kind of girl myself. I guess I just don't like getting up any earlier than I already do. And the countdown to Christmas begins...Happy Shopping! :)

To get the recipe, click on the name underneath the picture to be taken to the author's original post. Enjoy the selections this week, thank you to this weeks' bloggers for allowing me to share and have a wonderful weekend! 

Katie's Cucina

Finger, Fork and Knife

The Black Peppercorn

Mia's Domain

Evil Shenanigans

Saucy Girls Kitchen

The Food Channel-Chat N' Dish
Roasted Salmon Stuffed with Mushroom Coconut Pears

A Spicy Perspective
Crab and Gnocchi Gratin

*Reminder: If you put out your Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, tonight's the night to put your Elf on a Shelf out too!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving holds many fond memories for me. I can still remember as a child spending the day with my mom, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from my mother's side of the family. There were 20 of us and sometimes more when my uncles side of the family came as well....the more the merrier!

The day would start out with my sister and I watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while my Mom made whatever side dishes she would be bringing to my aunts house. Then we would drive the hour long drive to my aunt and uncles home in NY where my Aunt Kay always hosted Thanksgiving. Everyone would always help out by bringing something whether it was an appetizer, side dish, or dessert, so that the burden wasn't all on her.  

Her kitchen was a small, galley style kitchen with few countertop spaces to work on,  so I was always amazed at how many of us we could fit in there. You never heard "Can I help?". It was always just assumed. As soon as you saw my aunt head towards the kitchen, all of the women and girls would follow and it would be like the perfect symphony. One mashing potatoes. Another making gravy. Another washing the pots. And yet another starting to get all of the food on the table all while chatting and laughing...sometimes hysterically! Each  one knowing what it was that had to get done so that the meal could get to the table at the same time. It was here that I learned the value of  respect and working together as a team and to my family, I'm eternally grateful. 

Me (in the front with the black and white shirt) by the
"kid" table with some of my cousins including my little
cousin Richie and my sister, Jill who are no longer with us. 
Because there were so many of us, we had the "adult" table and the "kid" table and I couldn't WAIT to get to go to the adult table. But once there, though it was also fun (and I learned how to play a mean game of penny poker!), I think in retrospect I enjoyed the kid table better! What wasn't to love with having 8 other cousins, half of them around the same age, to share it with! We were nutty, like most families I guess and it wasn't uncommon for my uncle or grandfather to throw a roll if someone asked for them to be passed. And my uncle ALWAYS pretended to trip while carrying the turkey to the table...every year. And you know what? Even though we knew it was coming, we'd all laugh anyway. 

As with most families, children grow up, marry and have families of their own and it makes it hard for everyone to get together like we all used to. I treasure the time and memories made with all of my family members and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to let them all know how much they mean to me. Families aren't perfect. They come in all shapes, sizes and personalities and don't necessarily have to even be bound by blood, but they shape who you are as a person and make lasting memories...good or bad. :)

This year, I'm thankful for a roof over my head, food on my table, mine and my families health (especially this week when we wound up at the ER getting a CAT Scan for Rachael who is now suffering from a concussion....yes, it's never a dull moment here folks!), all of my family, friends and for all of you. From those I see everyday to those I wish I could see more. Know I think of you often even though life seems to keep us apart. I've been blessed in life to go through some hard times and have been rewarded by good and for that I'm grateful. Tomorrow, I plan on preparing all I can ahead of time so that I can spend the morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade with my husband and two girls. Then enjoy a relaxing, fun filled eating-fest with my family and friends creating new memories for my children that will hopefully last a lifetime. 

From my family to yours....
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

There are still so many people in our area that have been displaced from their homes and lost everything from Hurricane Sandy in the tri-state area. If you would like to help, please consider donating to the American Red Cross.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Homemade Apple Pie

I think I've mentioned it before, but I haven't been able to make a decent pie crust. I tried years ago, but when Pillsbury came out with their refrigerated pie crusts, I just gave up because they were so good I just didn't bother anymore. One of these days I'll try it again...I promise. :) This recipe is so easy to make and is delicious every time. I prefer to use the McIntosh or Cortland variety of apples as they have a softer texture and soften nicely when baking. 

Homemade Apple Pie
8-10 McIntosh or Cortland Apples, cored and peeled and sliced
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
2 tbsp. Brown Sugar
2 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
1 tbsp. Butter
1 Egg, whisked
2 Pie Crusts (I used Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts)

1. Line the bottom of a pie plate with one crust. 
2. In a separate bowl, add the sliced apples, cinnamon, sugar and flour and mix well. 
3. Add the apple mixture to the pie crust, then add the butter pieces throughout the apples. 
4. Add the remaining pie crust to the top of the apples, seal the edges either by pinching them together or using the back tines of a fork and pushing down to seal the edges. 
5. Brush the egg on top of the pie crust then place in a 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until the apples have softened and the crust is lightly browned. Serves 8. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Rotini con Broccoli

This recipe sounds so formal doesn't it? But in actuality, it's one of the simplest, easiest recipes to create at home and is the perfect quick meal on those hectic weeknights. AND, as an added bonus, it has less than 5 ingredients (well, not including standard staples that you probably already have at home!). Like I've mentioned before, I like to keep packages of broccoli florets in the freezer for just these times. Especially this week, when I'm focused on planning and preparing recipes for our Thanksgiving feast. :) It is a delicious, garlicky meal that is packed with protein and fiber that the entire family will love. 

Rotini con Broccoli
1 lb. Rotini Pasta
1-10oz. Pkg. Frozen Broccoli Florets, defrosted and chopped
6 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 tbsp. Canola Oil
1/2 c. Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
3/4 c. Low Sodium Chicken Broth

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions; set aside. 
2. In a large non-stick saute pan, heat the oil and add in the garlic and broccoli and saute until the garlic starts to release its' smell. 
3. Add in the cooked pasta, cheese and chicken broth and mix well. Serves 4. 

*Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories 570, Carbs 88.3g, Fat 14g, Protein 21.2g, Fiber 5.8g
*Calculations based on ingredients entered into CalorieCount and may not be 100% accurate.