Saturday, June 19, 2010

Creamy Taco Pasta

This recipe has been hugely popular in the blogging world the last several weeks. It has been advertised as a homemade Hamburger Helper. When I saw that, I knew I would be making it, but also knew that I wouldn't be telling the husband about it being a Hamburger Helper sub! I love HH and usually make it for one of my meals if my husband is out of town for a week. I can't make it when he is home because he really, really dislikes the stuff. I think one of the reasons he doesn't like it is because ground beef is really heavy on its own, and then you add all sorts of processed, not-good-for-you stuff and it is just wrong! So I knew he would like this meal as long as I made it with ground turkey, since all the ingredients are identifiable and not as processed (though not necessarily good for you). I really enjoyed this fresh, and found that it tasted pretty good as leftovers as long as you added some additional liquid before microwaving.

Creamy Taco Pasta (as seen on Annie's Eats and LOTS of other places, original from Delish)
1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Packet Taco Seasoning (or use 4 Tbs homemade)
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional, I omitted)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, set aside. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake

I really like the flavor of pesto, but I'm kind of picky about it. It needs to be exactly the right combination of herb/oil/garlic or I am just not happy. I saw this post by Joelen for chicken pesto stuffed shells and I was intrigued. I didn't have any jumbo shells at my disposal, but decided to make this as a casserole by mixing with some medium sized pasta shells. This had a great flavor, but I think making this as a casserole dried out the pasta a little bit. I really liked how the cream cheese dilutes the heavy pesto flavor, though. I would say it "lightens it up" but it is cream cheese, so it isn't really lighter, just not as strong of a pesto flavor. Can't wait to try this again, but in the future, I'll stick with stuffed shells or maybe I'll throw this into a Calzone, as Joelen recommends. On a separate note, Joelen has recently posted a TON of freezer friendly meals, so if you are interested, check out her blog! This is one of those freezer friendly meals.

Pesto Chicken Casserole (Adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures)
1/2 lb short pasta (I used whole wheat med. shells)
1/4 cup prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used store rotisserie)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 Tbs light sour cream
4 oz light cream cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions, but stop cooking a few minutes early so that pasta is a little al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, add chicken, garlic, pesto, cream cheese and sour cream in a small saute pan and warm over medium heat until cheese is melted through and entire mixture is warm. Add parmigiano cheese and mix well to combine. Add drained pasta and mix well. Pour all into an 8" x 8" casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Top with mozzarella and bake in preheated. (Note: To reheat as leftovers, add 1-2 Tbs milk before microwaving)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

I've posted a couple different recipes for stuffed chicken, and it continues to be one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. This chicken was fantastic. I came up with it after my husband's many southwestern inspired dishes in Hawaii led me to realize how well oregano works in Mexican/southwestern dishes. The most important part of this dish was using really high quality pepper-jack cheese (I used Sonoma-Jack) and using panko bread crumbs to give the chicken that crunch that you would expect from a popper. I could see adding some crumbled cooked bacon to the stuffing on this, but I kept it simple here.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken (my original creation)
2 6 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 oz pepper-jack style cheese, sliced into sticks
1 jalapeno, seeds & ribs removed, julienned
1 tsp ancho chili powder (or plain chili powder)
1/4 tsp oregano (I used dried, but ground would work better)
1 egg, scrambled in shallow dish
1/2 cup panko style bread crumbs
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast by carefully inserting knife into the middle of the thin side of the breast and cutting gently until a good sized pocket is formed (do not cut through to the other side). Stuff about half of the jalapeno & cheese into each chicken breast. Pull chicken back into shape, sealing with toothpicks if required. Sprinkle each side of each breast with oregano and chili powder. Dip each side of each breast in the egg and then in the panko. Place in shallow baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Spray tops of the chicken breasts lightly with cooking spray or oil and continue to bake for 5-10 minutes more or until bread crumbs start to turn golden brown.

Fried Rice - that I like!

If you asked my sister and me what our most hated meal was when we were little, the answer would have been "Tuna" (also known as tuna casserole, a meal you will never see on this blog). In second place for me was "Fried Rice." My family's interpretation of fried rice consisted of leftover rice, scrambled egg, a bunch of soy sauce and a ham steak from the refrigerated section of the grocery store (you know, those thin, pressed into shape things?) diced up. Pretty much, this was all just mixed together in a wok and topped with chopped green onion. It still makes me a little sick to think of it. The difference between this gross childhood meal and icky tuna is that I knew all along that fried rice has potential of being quite tasty with the right treatment, and I've even had some at a local teppanyaki place that I really liked. So I recently decided to try out chicken fried rice at home. I used Joelen's recipe as inspiration, but as Joelen says in her blog entry about it, the best part about fried rice is that it is so adaptable. You can use whatever leftovers and veggies you have on hand, and measuring isn't something that is all that important. This turned out great - the ginger that I used brought a delicious brightness to the dish (although ginger is generally more known for Japanese cuisine than Chinese, it worked here). I also loved the fresh veggies and will probably use more veggies the next time I make this. I also used tamari style soy, which is a little richer than regular soy, and I thought it was great, since the soy flavor is so key to this dish. This definitely blew the childhood ham steak version out of the water!

Chicken Fried Rice (inspired by Joelen)
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1 inch pieces
4 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
2 cloves garlic
Marinate chicken in soy with garlic & ginger for about 20 minutes

1 1/2 cups leftover white rice (day old works best)
2 Tbs + 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup mixed vegetables, chopped (I used 2 diced carrots)
1 egg
1 clove garlic
2-3 Tbs Soy Sauce (this is where I used the Tamari)
1 green onion, chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces (green part only)
Heat 1 tsp oil in large wok or pan over medium high heat. Add chicken and stir fry until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan, add 1 Tbs of oil and add onion & clove garlic and stir fry until just soft, about 1-2 minutes. Push to the sides of the wok and add scrambled egg, cooking until thoroughly cooked through. Add vegetables and cook for about one minute. Add remaining Tbs oil and crumble rice into the wok, stirring to keep the rice "unclumped." Add chicken back in, then drizzle soy into the mixture, stirring constantly until desired color/flavor is achieved. Serve immediately and top with green onion pieces.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hawaii Day 7 - Traditional Maui (Aloha O'e)

For our last day in Maui, I knew I wanted to have a day filled with our favorite traditional Hawaii things. We spent a lot of time in the ocean (had to get more time in on our gorgeous boogie board investment!), visited Maui Tacos for lunch (no pictures, but everyone loves Maui Tacos!), and had shave ice for snack (I had "Root Beer Float" flavor while the husband had "Mounds" flavor). But the most important part of our traditional Maui day, so important that I had reservations made over a month in advance, was our last night dinner at Mama's Fish House. Mama's is not a well kept secret, and everyone we know who has visited Maui in the last few years has headed here. It is always busy, even though they are in a fairly remote location. This is the restaurant you are thinking of when you are wishing for a romantic beachfront location serving delicious food in a mellow atmosphere. They do it right here, and we just love it. It is completely worth the splurge - you will spend a lot here. We started with drinks - I ordered Plantation Punch (rum and juices) and the husband got his traditional Gin Martini. Then, we moved onto the dish I've been dreaming of for the last year and a half - the Ahi Poke. Just look at that picture. Those pieces that look like jello they are so deep pink and shiny? Those are perfectly seasoned pieces of the freshest ahi tuna ever. Served with surprisingly tasty taro chips, grape tomatoes, sprouts and maui onion, this is ahi at its finest purest form. We moved onto our fish entrees from here. This visit, I was able to order the signature mahi mahi dish that the husband got last year. He ordered the ono, which was also good, but we both agree that the mahi mahi is tops. Stuffed with crab, crusted with macadamia nuts, and topped with lobster, asparagus and a light sweet sauce, this is some serious delicious food. We finished the meal with their signature Black Pearl Chocolate Mousse and Liliko'i Cream served in a pastry seashell. Such beautiful presentation, and we devoured it like two people on their last night of a yummy vacation!
Can you believe this perfect rainbow?
So beautiful!

I always think of Gilligan's Island with this view! So tropical!
Walking into the bar area - lots of little decor touches

Our drinks!
Oh, this is heaven!
The husbands tasty ono dish
My delicious mahi mahi dish
The Polynesian Black Pearl dessert
Oh Maui, how we will miss you. But we will return to conquer your shores sometime soon (next year, perhaps?)!

Hawaii Day 6 - Lounging in Maui

My main goal of this Hawaii trip was to make sure that I did enough "nothing." This day, more than any other on our trip, really epitomized that philosophy. We started off with a nice stroll over to Kihei Caffe for breakfast. We both enjoyed our Banana Macadamia Pancakes and the husband was so happy to be able to go out to breakfast, as I had been forcing him to eat cereal at the condo & hotel the entire trip! Walking was a great idea (and that was my husband's call, not mine) as we were able to really enjoy the views that we wouldn't have noticed from the car. A new trend since our last Hawaii trip was paddleboarding. I have definitely heard of this sport back in Santa Barbara, but it is HUGE here in Hawaii, and they even have lessons for tourists. Maybe we'll try it next time - but I've heard it is harder than it looks! We also really enjoyed the flowers along our walk. Everything is so different than back in Santa Barbara (except the hibiscus, which my mom insisted my dad plant at every house we lived at, since it reminded her of home!).
Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes - Kihei Caffe
Paddleboarders at Cove Park

Pretty flowers - I love the yellow hibiscus

After breakfast and our walk, we spent some time in the water and sunning ourselves on the lawn outside our lanai. I think I overcooked it a little, because I was a little burned even while wearing SPF 70 sunscreen - I just LOVED reading outside in the sun and stayed out much longer than I should have. The burn wasn't too bad, but I got a little heat exhaustion that hit me later that night. We ate lunch at the condo and then headed out to buy more sunscreen (I went through an entire bottle of my Neutrogena spray sunscreen in 6 days!) and to finally purchase a boogie board! More on that later... After our errands, we drove down to the most Southern area of the island and stopped at the creatively named "Big Beach." While we love the Kama'ole Beaches that our condo is on, this was a beautiful humungous beach, and I'm glad we visited. It was a little too cloudy to swim here, so we headed back to the condo for our christening of the boogie board!
Big Beach is...BIG!

I have wanted the husband to try boogie boarding on every one of our last 4 trips to Hawaii, but I finally talked him into buying a cheap board on this trip. It was cheaper to just buy a cheap one at the grocery than renting, and we just left this beauty at the condo when we were done. Boogie boarding is so much fun, and I was pleased to find out that it is like riding a bike - I hadn't forgotten how after almost 20 years and was still pretty good at catching waves. Even more fun than riding myself was watching the husband learn how. He was so enthusiastic and we just had a blast riding around, calling out good waves to each other, and generally acting like children.
It takes a real man to ride around on this beauty! $11.99 at Foodland.
We had some difficulty choosing a restaurant for dinner, first visiting a recommended restaurant in our Maui Revealed book that ended up being closed, then heading to Ma'alaea Waterfront, a place with a great view and pretty good food. For the price, I think we would have rather gone back to Cuatro, but we were glad we were able to try someplace new. I had the Broiled Ahi with Hawaiian Salsa and the husband had another Mexican inspired dish - Onaga with Southwestern Flair. We both liked our fish and thought the preparations were inspired, but this restaurant was a little pretentious - they almost seemed offended when we didn't order their traditionally prepared Caesar Salad (at $11 each) and we were kind of laughing at how we really didn't fit in with the elite atmosphere (in Maui? Really?). We headed home where I promptly went to sleep at 8:00 (couldn't even stay awake for LOST!) because of my sun exhaustion.
Fish Dishes at Ma'alaea Waterfront