Status Check: 28 by 28

Back in December I decided to start a ’28 by 28′ list, almost like a cooking bucket list of things I’d like to attempt before my 28th birthday. Since I’m less than 2 months from this date (yikes), I figured it was time from a quick status check to see my progress. In my defense, I did start this list 2 months late, so just keep that in mind.

Well, it looks like I’ve completed 12 of the 28 items. I can tell you right now this thing is not getting finished before I turn 28. So, I’m going to pick 4 items from this list that I’m really going to try and complete. These are: Banana Cream Pie, Spaghetti Sauce, Stuffed Peppers, and Ravioli. The rest will just be rolled over onto a “28 while 28” list.

1. Pierogi
2. PF Changs Copy Cat Lettuce Wraps Posted on 3/20
3. Lasagna
4. Macaroni Grill Copy Cat Penne Rustica Posted on 5/7
5. Fried Green Tomatoes Posted on 7/18
6. Banana Cream Pie
7. BBQ Pork Hushpuppies
8. Fettuccine Alfredo Posted on 4/23
9. Swedish Meatballs
10. Baked Macaroni and Cheese Posted on 1/5
11. Stuffed Cucumber Cups Posted on 4/26
12. Dijon Crusted Salmon Posted on 1/29
13. Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
14. Spaghetti Sauce
15. Cannolli
16. Apple Turnovers
17. Potato Souffle-Made on 8/8 (just “eh”, not blog-worthy)
18. Tuna Burger– Posted on 12/14
19. Stuffed Peppers
20. Lemon Squares
21. Ranch Dressing
22. Ravioli
23. Tiramisu
24. Crock pot French Dips
25. Watermelon Salad Posted on 6/28
26. Pasta Carbonara Posted on 8/1
27. Baklava
28. Fried Chicken Tenders with Dipping Sauce Posted on 1/9

Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies

There are several cooking terms that normally would send me running for the hills. Two of these words are: flourless and gluten free. Nothing seems overly scary about these words at first, but when using them in the same sentence as a baked good I begin picturing sad crumbly cookies. But when I came across this recipe for a flourless chocolate cookie, they looked anything but dry or crumbly. To be clear, I didn’t try this recipe because I wanted something gluten free. I tried this because I was looking for a fudgey and delicious chocolate cookie, the fact that they were flourless had nothing to do with my choice. So these delectable little cookies fall into this week’s edition of stepping out of the Cooking Comfort Zone. Normally, I would just pass right by this recipe and find one that fit into my cozy little zone of what I am comfortable doing.

The verdict? These are not for you if you’re looking for a rich, decadent chocolate flavor. The powdered sugar makes these really sweet, so if you like sweet chocolate cookies this is definitely for you. My husband really liked these, but I preferred them after warming them in the microwave for a few seconds to make them softer. The photo on the blog I got them from really made these look like they were fudgey and soft, however I found that they had a bit of a crunch to them, which is why I preferred to soften mine a bit. I think next time I make these I’m going to try dark chocolate instead of the semi-sweet chips. I think that would give me the flavor I was looking for in these.

-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
-3 large egg whites
-2 cups powdered sugar
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a cookie sheet. In a double boiler, melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy and until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Stir in the powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, and corn starch. Beat in melted chips, then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

3. Drop cookies onto cookie sheet and bake 9-10 minutes.

Source: Yammie’s Glutenfreedom

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

This is the second recipe swap I’ve participated in from the cooking forum I post in! The recipe also qualifies for this week’s recipe of stepping out of the cooking comfort zone! While I eaten many a roasted red pepper, I’ve never actually cooked with them yet. The blog I was assigned for this swap was Kickin it in the Kitch. I browsed through and eventually stumbled upon this scrumptious sounding pasta. At first I wondered if a sauce based on roasted red peppers would be too much, but the flavor of this sauce wasn’t over powering at all. Adding the half and half and a little mozzarella cheese helps soften the strong flavor of the roasted reds. I loved incorporating the spinach, and the flavor of this reminded me of a pasta primavera. It was fresh and light, but filling and flavorful at the same time. I could even eat this without the chicken next time it was that good!

-1 chicken breast, butterflied
-1/2 tablespoon EVOO
-2 cloves garlic
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
-1/4 teaspoon dried basil
-3/4 jar roasted red pepper, drained
-1/4 cup half and half
-1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 box frozen spinach
-1/2 box penne pasta

1. Cook pasta as directed, cook frozen spinach in microwave as directed.

2. Meanwhile, heat EVOO over medium heat and saute chicken about 5 minutes per side until no longer pink.

3. In a food processor, add the whole garlic cloves, garlic powder, thyme, basil, salt and pepper, and roasted red peppers. Pulse until pureed and smooth. Add mozzarella cheese and pulse a few more times. Pour into a sauce pot and heat.

4. To serve, top penne with chicken, the spinach, then sauce. Sprinkle with more cheese to garnish.

Source: Kickin it in the Kitch

Pancetta Parmesan Bake

Now that my husband as welcomed pasta back into his diet, I can now serve him a pasta dish! This is huge people. When I first met him and we moved in together, I couldn’t serve any noodles. No angel hair, no penne, nothing! So, for me to now be able to serve a dish where pasta is the main ingredient is Earth shattering.

When I first decided to make this, I saw the casserole dish in the photo and automatically assumed this equation: casserole = quick. This wasn’t exactly quick, but it was worth every minute! The original recipe did not call for pancetta, but I figured it would be a nice addition and help break up the heavy creaminess of all the cheese. It was the perfect balance of meat/cheese/noodle ratio and the husband loved it! It also reheated great for lunch the next day.

-6 tablespoons butter
-1 box penne pasta
-1 teaspoon EVOO
-2 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied
-1/4 pound pancetta, sliced thick and diced
-1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
-6 garlic cloves, minced
-6 cups whole milk
-1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish. Cook pasta as directed.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat EVOO over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season butterflied chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic powder cook until about 5 minutes per side, or until no longer pink inside. Remove from pan and shred. While the pan is still hot, add in the diced pancetta and cook 5-6 minutes.

3. In a large pot melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and garlic cloves. Cook and whisk for 1 minute. While whisking , gradually add milk and bring mixture to a simmer.  Thicken sauce for about 2-3 minutes, (don’t stop whisking!!) If your sauce has not thickened at this point, either add flour or cornstarch 1 tablespoon at a time. (Seriously, if your sauce isn’t thick at this point it needs to be or it will remain watery). Take the pan off the heat and and gradually stir in mozzarella and Parmesan.

4. Add chicken, pancetta, and pasta to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into casserole dish (it’s going to be VERY full) and bake 25 minutes. Broil 5 minutes to crisp cheese on top.

Source: Real Mom Kitchen

Easy BBQ Meatballs

You know what I love? A good cocktail meatball. You know what I hate? Being on hold with Comcast! I’m on hold with hem right now, and have been on hold for an hour! Yes, an hour! All I want to do is lower my damn bill, is that too mush to ask? I really want to hang up and call back during my lunch break tomorrow, but I feel like I’m just one minute away from being connected to a customer service rep. Giving up now would make this past hour a total waste, I’m not ready to bail just yet. Maybe in the time it takes me to finish this post I’ll be connected…if not, then I’ll hang up.

Onto the cocktail meatball. I’m not going to tag these as a ‘quick and easy’ recipe, but this was pretty easy to whip together. These are the perfect little crowd-pleaser meatballs, and you could easily keep these in a crock pot during a party with little toothpicks on the side. If making these for a party, you’ll definitely want to double or triple the recipe. I made mine a little larger since I was have them for dinner as my entree. This is a definite keeper!

Ok Comcast, I’m out. But I will be giving you a piece of my mind when I finally get through tomorrow!

Ingredients-Yielded 7-8 Meatballs
-1/2 pound ground beef
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 egg
-2-3 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/2 cup ketchup
-1/2 cup dark brown sugar
-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
-1 tablespoon BBQ sauce (I had some KC Masterpiece on hand)
-1/4 cup soy sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, combine the beef, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs and onion powder. If mixture is too loose, add more breadcrumbs 1 tablespoon at a time. Form into meatballs and place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and BBQ sauce. Bring to a simmer.

3. When meatballs have about 5 minutes left in the oven, remove and top each with 1 teaspoon of the sauce (or a little more, just enough to cover them slightly). Continue to bake the remaining time, serve immediatley with sauce spooned over top.

Source: Cooking With Us

Frogmore Dinner

A popular dish of the Lowcountry is called Frogmore Stew. Typically, this is a dish where red potatoes, shrimp, corn on the cob, and kielbasa are all boiled together and served family style. I wanted to take this concept and turn it into something a little different. I decided to make mashed potatoes, cut the corn from the cob, and saute the kielbasa and shrimp together and then serve them all together in a flavor bowl. I loved being able to mix all the flavors together, and the longest part of this recipe is cooking the mashed potatoes. You don’t have to cook the corn on the cob the microwave way, but it saved me another pot to clean! I’m glad I had leftovers of this, I can’t wait to eat more tomorrow night!

-1/2 Polska kielbasa link, cut into slices
-8-9 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, then cut in half
-1/2 tablespoon EVOO
-2 corn on the cob
-3 Russet potatoes
-2 tablespoons butter
-1/2 cup milk
-1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1. Peel and chunk potatoes, boil for 10-12 minutes. Drain and return to pot and add butter and milk, then mash. With an electric mix, beat until potatoes are smooth and whipped, adding more milk if needed.
2. To cook the corn, wet and wring out two paper towels. Wrap each cob in a wet paper towel and place on a plate. Microwave 5 minutes. Once cooled, cut corn from the cob.
3. In a sauce pan, heat the EVOO over medium heat, then add kielbasa. Saute 5 minutes, then add shrimp pieces, Old Bay, and garlic powder. Saute 6-7 minutes until shrimp are fully cooked.
4. To serve, place mashed potatoes in bowl, top with corn, then kielbasa and shrimp. Serve immediately.
A Seasoned Greeting Original

Molten Lava Cake

The molten lava cake is a dessert that has never ceased to impress me. Because of it’s delicate nature of a cooked outer cake shell with the inside being a warm river of chocolate deliciousness, I incorrectly assumed this must be an intricate dessert to make and I’ll only be able to partake in this lava-rush of chocolate at a restaurant. Boy was I wrong! I had this recipe for a lava cake “favorited” on my computer for several months now, and since my husband was home from Myrtle Beach I wanted to make him a special dessert.

Upon reading the recipe I was expecting an endless list of multi-part steps that would require my entire arsenal of mixing bowls, spoons, and whisks…yet I was surprised to see how incredibly simple and easy this was to make. Could it really be that easy? Surely I’ll screw something up and the cake won’t set, or it will set only to fall out of the ramekin in an avalanche of chocolate! Wrong again. These little guys slid right out of the ramekin with little effort and stayed completely intact!  “It can’t be that easy,” I think to myself. “I bet I overcooked it and there’s no lava inside, just a dry cake.” I cut into my pod with my fork and immediately the molten chocolate comes flowing out!

I think you’ll find these will become your new “go to” dessert. These are a great idea for a dinner party dessert, they look like they take way more time and effort than they really do! A word of warning, do not chill in the fridge. I made these once and stored them in the fridge until I needed to make them and the damn things never came out of the ramekins after baking them! I was so upset, these take no time to make anyway so it really isn’t that much of a time saver to make them ahead of time.

Ingredients- Yields 5-6
-10 tablespoons butter
-4 ounces dark chocolate chips
-2/3 cup sugar
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-4 eggs
-Parchment paper

1. Preheat oven to 400. Over a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes to cool.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs until thick and pale yellow. Beat in the flour. Then beat in the cooled chocolate mixture.

3. Grease ramekins with cooking spray and cut a circle of parchment paper and place in the bottom. Pour batter into ramekins.

4. To bake, place ramekins on a cookie sheet, and bake 13-15 minutes, just until the tops of the cakes have set. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Server with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Source: Lululu At Home

Sriracha Burger

In the course of starting this blog I’ve really enjoyed documenting recipes, learning new cooking techniques, and sharing/getting recipes from fellow bloggers. I can’t imagine going back to cooking without blogging! With the being said, I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen into a cooking comfort zone. It’s a cozy zone, where I stick with my trusted set of ingredients and rarely venture into uncharted culinary territories, at least, uncharted for myself. I’ve decided that a new feature of my blog is going to be geared strictly at me stepping outside of this comfort zone (sometimes leaping). One recipe a week must use a new ingredient that I’ve never cooked with before. Just to note, it doesn’t mean I’ve never eaten it before, just never actually cooked and blogged a meal with it. For example, I’ve never made anything in over a year and a half with carrots. So you see, it won’t always be obscure ingredients, sometimes it will be very ordinary things but have always been outside the realm of the CCZ (cooking comfort zone).

The Sriracha Burger is my first recipe for my emerging from my CCZ. I’ve never cooked with Sriracha before, but I’ve seen the Sriracha Burger circulate around the blogging world so I figured it was worth the try. I smelled the sauce, and didn’t think it smelled overly spicy, even though I knew it was a hot sauce.

I put a small dab on my finger and gave it a taste, and almost immediately my mouth ignited to the temperature of what I assume the 7th circle of hell must be like. I proceed to extinguishing the heat with a few healthy gulps of Chardonnay.

I should had been better prepared, given this depication from The Oatmeal:

The verdict on the burger? Amazing! The above picture is true, it’s a tasty firestorm! The heat is just enough, and the mild Swiss cheese and salty bacon are the perfect combinations. I added a Sriracha mayo sauce instead of bleu cheese as the orginal reciep calls for (I’m not a bleu cheese fan).
A note on the cooking instructions, I’m a loser and don’t use the grill. My instructions are for pan cooking burgers, but I’ve linked to the source recipe so you can get the grilling instructions if you choose to do it that way.

Ingredients- Yielded 2 burgers
-1/2 pound ground beef
-3 strips bacon
-1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, plus 2 teaspoons
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-1 tablespoon mayo
-2 slices Swiss cheese
-2 hamburger buns

1. Cook bacon in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until crispy, dice. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, 1 tablespoon Sriracha, onion powder, and pepper.

2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add patties and cook 6 minutes, covered. Squirt with a dash of Sriarach, flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. For grilling directions, go to Oishii Food.
3. Mix the mayo and 1-2 teaspoons of Sriracha (just depends on how how you want it!). To serve, spread Sriracha mayo on top bun, add crispy diced bacon pieces. Top burger patty with a slice of Swiss cheese.
Source: Oishii Food

Balsamic Maple Sliders

I love sliders. I think there’s just something about eating a mini version of an item that is so adorable. Not to mention, I feel like less of a pig by munching on a ‘dainty’ slider versus one humongous burger. I was really intrigued by the title of the recipe because I had never combined balsamic and maple and used them in a burger. When I read the recipe, I realized that they got a balsamic maple burger by using a very specific maple balsamic vinegar, which when I clicked the ‘order online’ link showed me it was about $15 a bottle. Well, that certainly isn’t happening. I decided to figure out how to make something similar by using balsamic vinegar and lite maple syrup. These little guys are so good! The maple adds a sweet component that helps make the balsamic vinegar not as tangy. Top that with a slice of provolone or mozzarella (I used a Sarrgento blend) and I can eat these like Tic Tacs!

Ingredients- Yields 6 sliders
-1/2 pound ground beef
-6 Kings Hawaiian dinner rolls
-2 tablespoons ketchup
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
-2 tablespoons lite maple syrup
-Salt & pepper
-1 egg, whisked
-Sliced mozzarella or provolone cheese
1. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup.
2. In a separate larger bowl, place the ground beef. Pour sauce over beef (reserve a teaspoon or two to spread on slider buns) and add minced garlic, stir to combine. Pour in half of the whisked egg. If too loose when you try and make a slider, add more egg to bind.
3. Heat a frying pan over medium heat, add sliders and cook 4 minutes. Dash each with a little balsamic vinegar, then flip and cook another 4 minutes. Spread a little sauce on one side of a bun and top with a square of provolone or mozzarella cheese. I added sauteed onions on mine as well.

Honey and Sesame Teriyaki Chicken

Since my husband is staying in a hotel for the duration of his training, he’s been missing out on some good home cookin’! There’s really only so much he can do with a microwave. To give him a little taste of home while he’s away, I made him a meal that he could easily reheat for dinners! I had this Rachael Ray recipe in my “recipeland” stockpile since 2010…yes, 2 years later I’m finally getting around to making it. I think I never got around to this one because it called for 2 ingredients I rarely have on hand: honey and sesame oil. I still have a ton of sesame oil leftover from making my P.F. Changs Lettuce Wraps and I had some honey leftover from my Chocolate Chip Granola Bars, so it seemed like the stars were aligned for me to make this. This is a really good deviation from just a standard teriyaki sauce, and the sesame oil really adds a new depth of flavor that you normally don’t get in teriyaki. My husband loved it and said the meat was still very tender even after microwaving to reheat!

-2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
-1/2 cup chicken broth
-1/4 cup honey
-1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
-1/4 teaspoon ginger
-1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
-1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Place chicken pieces into a 9×9 baking dish.

2. In a bowl, combine broth, teriyaki, honey, ginger, and sesame oil. Pour over chicken and bake 20 minutes.

3. When chicken is removed from oven, with a slatted spoon, spoon chicken onto a plate. Pour sauce from baking dish into a sauce pan and add the cornstarch. Bring to a boil and simmer to thicken, about 5-7 minutes. Add chicken and stir to coat. Serve immediately.

Source: Rachael Ray