Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

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After a pretty full day, I wanted to make the hubs and I something easy and enjoyable. I’ve seen this recipe from Campbell’s for quite some time and was hoping that it would be a great recipe. I will say it had some really great flavor, but this recipe had some issues that I will take note of for next time.

First off, some of the rice ended up extra soft and some was still crunchy. I’ll have to be sure to stir occassionally while it’s in the oven to ensure that the rice is evenly cooked for next time.

Also, the recipe states that it needs to be covered the whole time it’s in the oven. However, after 50 minutes, it was still very watery. I had to keep it in the oven uncovered for a while after to let it evaporate, but it was still slightly watery even after that. Next time, I’ll uncover it when it’s halfway done to make sure it evaporates enough to make a thicker sauce for the chicken and rice.

I ended up omitting the vegetables called for in the recipe, since the hubs isn’t a fan of mixed vegetables. So, as you can see, dinner was pretty carb-y with the addition of some yummy garlic bread!

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
Source: Campbell’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (we omitted this)
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast half  (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.  Stir the soup, water, rice, onion powder, black pepper and vegetables in a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
  2. Top with the chicken. Cover the baking dish.
  3. Bake for 50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender. Top with the cheese. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes. Stir the rice before serving.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 4

Calories 408.4
Fat 10 g
Fiber 0.7g

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

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I love Oatmeal Raisin cookies. It’s one of those things that makes me feel like I’m eating a healthy cookie, but I’m sure with all the butter, it’s not so healthy after all. I saw this recipe on Picky Palate’s blog, and I had to immediately star it in my Google Reader. I LOVE that Raisinets combines the idea of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin cookies. These were another cookie that I brought over for labor day and they were definitely enjoyed! This is such a yummy cookie, and I will definitely be making these again.

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
Source: Picky Palate

Ingredients

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup quick oats
  • (2) 3.5 oz boxes Raisinets

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place butter and sugars into a stand or electric mixer; beat until light and fluffy. With mixer on medium add egg and vanilla until well combined.
  2. Place flour, soda, salt and oats into a large bowl. Slowly add to wet ingredients until just combined. Add raisinets; stir to combine, being careful not to crush the raisinets.
  3. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

Sugar Cookies

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Happy Labor Day everyone!

While I do enjoy decorating sugar cookies, sometimes the hubs and I crave a chewy sugar cookie. I wanted to make these for the hubs and his family for Labor Day and thanks to a recommendation from Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles, I think this will be our go-to recipe for sugar cookies!

This was originally a recipe for Snickerdoodles, but all I needed to do was omit the cinnamon (another tip from Bridget) and we were set. I was a little skeptical about no vanilla extract, but I trusted the recipe and it still had a really good flavor.

Sugar Cookies
adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles (via Betty Crocker’s Big Red Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups (13.75 ounces) unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar minus 1 tablespoon (10.35 ounces total)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar (for rolling)

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars (except the ¼ cup granulated sugar for rolling) until creamy; add eggs and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  3. Mix ¼ cup sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out cookies and roll into a ball; roll ball in sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake until cookies are just set and turning golden brown at edges, 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes; then, using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

After baking 2 dozen of the cookies, I decided to stop baking and freeze the rest for another day. Yet another reason I love my FoodSaver. So easy to just bag and freeze!

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Mexican Potatoes

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My husband and I like to make our weeknight cooking as simple as possible. Just lately, we got into making tacos, but were shamefully using the kits for tacos and mexican rice.

After finding this recipe for Taco Seasoning on Allrecipes, I decided it was probably worth a shot to do this without the kit. Not only did we have all the spices on hand, but because it was a mix we made, it felt a little more homemade with not much extra effort!

For the side, I wanted to try something a little different, so I searched for ideas with mexican spiced potatoes and after looking at many ideas, I found a recipe for us to try.

These potatoes had a nice flavor, but I was hoping for more of a kick with them. So, next time, I’m going to probably adjust the spices a good bit or even try putting some of the Taco Seasoning in there with the recipe.

Mexican Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet

Ingredients

  • 5 medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to sprinkle on top)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
  • 1 lime, juiced (or more to taste)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients, except the potatoes and lime in a jar and shake to thoroughly mix ingredients (or whisk in a bowl).
  3. Pour your diced potatoes into a jelly roll pan, and toss with the oil mixture. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Roast for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are well cooked, and browning on the edges. Take out of the oven, and sprinkle the juice of one lime over it. Taste test, and add more lime juice or salt, if needed and serve.

The Skinny - per serving, serves 6

Calories 250.5
Fat 12.1 g
Fiber 4 g

The start of the Fall

I know Fall isn’t until nearly the end of September, but to me, Fall is when the weather changes to cooler mornings, football season starts and the cravings for everything pumpkin become imminent. Fall is here!

Another thing I associate with fall is darker, richer colors. So, this year, since I no longer have my blonde color to maintain for the wedding, I decided to darken up to my natural hair color. :)

Here’s a before, on my wedding day. It has since grown massive roots and lost a bit of its luster…standard with hair color though.

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After

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I think this is a good look for me. She didn’t even have to use harsh highlighting paste, so my hair won’t be as damaged this time around. :)

Here’s to pumpkin spice Starbucks, changing leaves and fresh new hair!

Chicken Scallopini

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I’ve always been curious about the taste of capers. I’ve never had them, but this recipe for Chicken Scallopini really caught my eye. My husband and I usually stick to the same old recipes, but I thought this would be a nice change from the usual.

I ended up putting the heat way too high on the skillet, partially burning the coating on the chicken without cooking it all the way through. So, I had to put the breasts in the oven for 10-15 minutes afterwards. I’m still learning how to cook, so these mistakes do happen for me. Sadly, putting them in the oven killed the crunch that I think the dish was supposed to have from the bread crumb coating.

The flavor of the chicken and sauce, however, was very good. Turns out, I love capers and I can’t wait to use them again! I served these with Creamy Parmesan Orzo (a must try!) and green beans.

Chicken Scallopini
Source: Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2  teaspoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1/3  cup  Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4  cup  dry white wine
  • 4  teaspoons  capers
  • 1  tablespoon  butter

Directions:

  1. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Brush chicken with juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in breadcrumbs.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Remove from pan; keep warm.
  3. Add broth and wine to pan, and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in capers and butter.

***
I thought it would be cute to call the nutritional information from now on, The Skinny. I’m sure it’s unoriginal, but I like it. :) I will also no longer calculate POINTS on here, since I’ve been reading that a few food bloggers are getting in trouble with Weight Watchers for calculating these. I am, however, including the information necessary for you to use online/paper POINTS calculators if need be. :)
***

The Skinny – Per serving, serves 4
Calories: 206
Fat: 4.6 g
Fiber: 0.6 g

New plan: I’m quitting…

I hate that word: quitting. It sounds like I’m giving up when essentially I’m doing the opposite (just saving a little $$).

I am quitting my membership with the YMCA. I haven’t been there in over a month, and it’s always crazy crowded that I feel worried about getting in my full work-outs. I also only went twice/week. I wasn’t at all getting my $40/month worth, so I’ll be working out using other means.

  1. Couch to 5K -I haven’t done this in about a year but I had great weight loss and training results from it!
  2. 30 Day Shred – Of course, who could exclude the ever-so-fabulous SHRED!
  3. Weight Loss Yoga – A new DVD for me, but I really need to work on flexibility and balance. I figure Bob could help me!

Since I could really use some dieting motivation (stupid ice cream/snowball season), I’m going to (temporarily) go back to Weight Watchers meetings. There is a buy one, get one month free promotion going on that I can’t pass up! :)

I’ll continue to use my Lose It! app for food logging as well, which I LOVE! It’s a free app for iPhones…seriously get this app folks! Food logging couldn’t be easier!

Chipotle-Honey Glazed Chicken

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The minute I saw this chicken on Smells Like Home, I starred it for a later date. Not only is it a Bobby Flay recipe, but it looked healthy too!

I have to say, this was the best chicken recipe I’ve ever made to date. It was so flavorful and the spice wasn’t too over-powering for me. It was also simple and basically like BBQ-ing on a grill. Since we were out of propane for our grill, I made this inside on the cast iron grill. :) I served it with Green Bean Casserole and some garlic bread. Perfection!

Chipotle-Honey Glazed Chicken
Source: Bobby Flay via Smells Like Home

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp pureed canned chipotle chilies in adobo
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp chopped chives

Directions:

Heat your grill to high.

Whisk together the honey, chipotle puree, mustard, 1 tbsp ancho powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp oil in a small bowl. I just threw it all in the food processor to blend it well.

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Stir together the remaining ancho powder with the coriander, cumin, and paprika in another medium bowl.  Add the chicken breasts, the remaining oil, and toss to coat.  Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Place the chicken on the grill and grill for 3-4 minutes.  Flip the chicken and brush the pieces with the honey-chipotle sauce.  Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.  Flip the chicken again and brush the other side with the sauce; cook for 1 more minute.    Flip once more and cook for another minute. Remove chicken from the grill and brush on more sauce as desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, cilantro, and chives before serving.

Those were the days…

I like to think back on my life from time to time. I remember my school days very fondly, actually.

I can remember in kindergarten trying to convince the teacher’s aid that animal crackers shouldn’t be glued to paper for the Noah’s Ark project we were doing, because we wouldn’t have snacks for the afternoon. The aid laughed at me and said, today’s snacks aren’t animal crackers, so don’t worry! My real reason for not wanting to glue animal crackers? They were the pretty iced kind and I wanted to eat them!

I remember in 3rd grade when my teeth were grown in all weird, and I was ashamed to make my parents a photo ornament for the Christmas tree. I knew I was getting braces the next year, so I told my mom to please throw the ornament away, and I’ll give her an ornament with a picture of me with pretty teeth later. Sigh…last Christmas, I found that dang ornament in a box. I didn’t throw it away though, since it’s now pretty sentimental and I never did give her an ornament with a pretty teeth photo of me. :)

I can remember my first after school detention in 8th grade. This girl approached me at recess, and proceeded to make fun of me (for my weight) and I defensively said “Your MOMMA!” Yeah, I was really original. The assistant principal heard me (and only me). I got detention with my math teacher who laughed at the fact that the “goodie two shoes” was in detention. My teacher decided to give me two worksheets full of algebra problems as punishment. Little did she know that she made that the best detention EVER, seriously! I love Algebra! I’m a dork, I know.

I remember in high school when I landed my first (and only) solo in band. It happened in such a weird way. See, I was second chair clarinet. I have to say, I had great tone quality and control (due to playing the clarinet since 5th grade), but as far as fast fingers to play fast music? Hells to the no! First chair had super fast fingers, so she was first chair. She was awesome. However, she had to miss an afternoon of practice once, and I played the solo in her place that day. The next day, I found out from my band director that I was to play the solo for festival. I was elated, but also felt bad. I know that solo meant a lot to the first chair, but heck, how could ANYONE turn down a solo? So, I played the solo. Looking back, that was kind of mean. I hope you don’t hate me too much, <insert first chair player’s name>.

Now, to the nitty gritty – college.

I miss college the most. There was so much that happened to me over those 5 years, that it makes me pretty darn sad now that it’s all over. I was one of those SUPER involved people on campus. I became an RA (resident assistant) in the dorms my second semester of college. I think that helped to kill the introvert in me. I got to know so many great people, and honed my leadership skills through them.

I also joined quite a few organizations, but none were as important to me as Silver Wings. Silver Wings was at first, a club I joined because I was jealous of my neighbors who had pretty poster stars on their dorm doors. I wanted one, so I joined. Ha! I fell head over heels in love with the organization. I love community service and made so many great friends to where I finally felt a complete sense of belonging at LSU. In my senior year, I became president of the organization, and helped my chapter to get the outstanding chapter in the nation award at the National Conclave.

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The great thing about being so involved was that I meant many important people at the university, including the chancellor.

I met him the first time my 4th year senior year during residence hall move-in day, where he visited all the halls to tell the freshmen and staff a friendly hello.

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The second time was my 5th year senior year. I was part of a group of student leaders invited to a party at his personal home! I was way cooled out that I was invited to go to a party where the student body president, sorority/fraternity presidents, and student ambassadors were invited. The cream of the crop in student leaders – I felt like that was the peak of my student career at that very moment.

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Well, now, I’m at the bottom of the professional totem pole again. It’s difficult going from the top to the bottom, but I hope to one day do as well as I did in my college career. :)

Gumbeaux

Now, if you are from New Orleans, you probably get the gist of what I’m saying…we like to end our words normally ending with an “o” with an “eaux” instead. Why? Because we are special…

Other weird things (at least that I know of) that we like to say….

Neutral ground = street median

If I’m going to a Mardi Gras parade, trying to find someone, you either stand on the neutral ground side or the shoulder side of the street.

Brake tag = inspection sticker
Every year, you get a sticker to check your brake lights, blinkers, etc. This, to people from the NOLA area, is a brake tag folks.

Sha = term for friend/child/whatever…people can call you sha (a pronounced like a in apple)
You’ll sometimes hear someone greet another person…whatcha doin’ der sha? Seriously..don’t judge us.

Geaux = Go
If you ever find yourself in the lucky 92,000 people who are able to squeeze into Tiger Stadium (LSU) on a Saturday night, we don’t scream “GO TIGERS!”, rather it’s “GEAUX TIGERS!” Pronounced just the same, but it feels special. :)

Now, don’t let our vocabulary deter you from trying a bowl of this amazingness. Gumbo (yes, I’ll be normal for the rest of this blog entry) isn’t too crazy. It’s basically a smokey stew of chicken/sausage or seafood on rice. If you want to be adventurous, you can add frog legs or alligator, but folks, I’ll keep this simple.

The base of most cajun dishes is a good, dark roux. I will admit, this being my first time, I was very intimidated of burning the roux. Burnt roux isn’t good in gumbo. So, after watching my favorite Food Network chef, Alton Brown, try to master gumbo, I decided to use some parts of his recipe to help me out.

His method? Oven baked roux….perfection, right? It worked out really really well for us. Oh yeah and my hubs gave a HUGE helping hand during this. There is a lot going on at once, and since I’m new to cooking, I don’t think I could have done it alone.

However, in the recipe, it only makes 5 qts. of gumbo.

I would like to say that in Louisiana, just making a 5 qt. pot of gumbo is not only shameful, it’s downright rude…hehe. :) When making gumbo, you invite people over and 5 qts. just won’t make the cajun appetite very happy at all. So, we doubled the recipe and made HEAVY changes to it.

I present to you – chicken, andouille, sausage and crab gumbo.

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Chicken, Andouille, Sausage and Crab Gumbo
Inspired by: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 lbs. of pre-boiled crabs, cleaned but meat still in shell (we split up the body and claws and just threw them in the pot)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1  diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced green peppers
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pound andouille sausage
  • 1 pound pork sausage
  • 2 lbs. chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon file powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours (or until dark brown/brick colored), whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.
  3. After the roux bakes for 30 minutes, cut up the chicken breasts into small chunks. Place the chicken in a pot (at least 12 qts.) with a gallon of water and the bouillon cubes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat a little to simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the salt, black pepper, thyme, basil, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine.  Place the mixture in the 12 qt. pot with the chicken, stirring to avoid clumps of roux in the gumbo. Add sausage and andouille. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 25-35 minutes, until the sausage looks done and the chicken shreds easily. Turn off the heat, add the crabs to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice.