Blackened Chicken Broccoli Tortellini

Here you have a family pleasing meal that can be made on a hectic weeknight, because…it take’s just 30 minutes!  Yep, a 30 minute meal that didn’t even use a jar of sauce to create a creamy yet more dreamy alfredo sauce!

To offset the richness of the cheese tortellini and sauce, the blackened chicken gives just the right amount of kick and since you basically are just blanching the broccoli, it keeps a great crisp texture!  Even my 5 year old had seconds AND leftovers for lunch the next day, score!!

*You can use any noodle of your choosing if not a tortellini fan; you can also use fresh broccoli if available.

The Starting Lineup

Chicken

  • 1-1/2 lbs chicken, I like the thin cut breasts
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic power
  • hefty pinch of kosher salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Pasta

  • 16oz  package frozen cheese tortellini
  • 10oz frozen broccoli
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 container parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

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In a small bowl, mix together all of the seasonings to create a blackening rub.  Pat some olive oil all over each chicken breast and then coat in the blackening seasoning.  *Often, if I am using thin cutlets of chicken, I will just coat one side.  If using larger chicken breasts, coat both sides..

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil and either bring your grill to medium high heat or a cast iron pan to screaming high heat.

Now, I used our grill, so once ready I made sure the grates were oiled and cooked each side of the thinly sliced chicken for about 2 minutes and then transferred to a plate tented with foil to let rest.  *If using a pan, do the same, just remember to turn your vent on as it WILL smoke a bit inside your kitchen.  Cook till the juices run clear.

Meanwhile, add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook to package directions.  The last 2 minutes of cooking, toss the frozen broccoli right in with the tortellini.  Drain in a large colander.

In a large pan, melt the butter and whisk in the heavy cream.  Add in the cooked tortellini and broccoli.  Sprinkle and fold in all of the parmesan cheese and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  *I like lots of pepper.

Hey, you’re DONE!!  Slice the blackened chicken and lay overtop the broccoli tortellini alfredo and you have yourself a tasty dinner!  Serve with garlic bread, a side salad and vino of course!!

 

Green Chile Tomato Pie

There are two kinds of tomato pie here in the United States.  One is the Italian version, aka pizza, the other is one of my summertime faves, the savory oh so Southern Tomato Pie!

This not too heavy pie is filled with fresh ripe tomatoes from your garden and bright herbs and onions.  Topped with a warm cheesy topping that gives you that comfort food feel pie always brings.  My only change up to the classic is I like to add a bit of that Tex-Mex flair with sliced jalapenos and green chiles.  I swear on a baby, they only enhance the flavors of the dish and do not overpower with heat..promise!

*You can drain and dry your tomatoes ahead of time and keep between paper towels on a plate or large Ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.  You can also make the cheesy topping ahead of time and keep in the fridge as well. 🙂

**Another great ingredient you can add in is bacon!!  Bacon is good in everything, right?

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 deep dish pie crust, frozen works great!
  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes, sliced and patted dry
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped/torn
  • 4oz can green chiles, I prefer ‘hot’
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to your pie crusts directions (mine was 375 degrees).  Once the oven has heated up, take a fork and prick the bottoms and sides of your pie dough shell a few times and place in the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove the par baked pie dough and set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse and slice your tomatoes.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and lay in a colander and let drain for 20-30 minutes.  Also pat dry with a towel or paper towel.  You really want to remove as much moisture as you can from the tomatoes so that the pie wont be soggy.  TomPie2.JPG

Once the tomatoes have drained, layer in the half-baked pie shell.  Sprinkle the green onions, sliced jalapeno and torn basil leaves overtop the tomatoes.

In a large bowl, simply combine the mayonnaise, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, drained green chiles and a pinch each of salt and pepper,  Fold together till mixed.  Top this mixture evenly overtop the fresh vegetables and place in your oven, now at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!!

 

 

Serve by itself for a light lunch, bring to a brunch or as a side dish along with grilled pork chops!  Just delish!!

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Slow Cooker Chicken Bahn Mi

Basically, I’m in love with any sort of meal that involves meat between two slices of crusty bread, aka the glorious “sandwich”!  This version is known as a Bahn Mi and is of Vietnamese roots…Now, I do not claim this to be truly authentic, like from those great Viet markets along the gulf coast of Texas.  I do, however, claim that this juicy pull-apart sweet heat sandwich WILL knock your socks off and be a keeper when at a loss for a dinner idea!

*Feel free to tweak the ‘spicy mayo’ to your liking.  I like mine pretty spicy, so I typically add more Sriracha to kick it up!

**I use my mandolin to cut the veggies for the pickled slaw; be careful as these are SHARP!  You can also cut with a knife or in round slices.

***Feel free to use pork or even shrimp (Just don’t put the shrimp in the slow-cooker please ;).  Also, you can make this into a rice bowl, a salad, tacos or even lettuce wraps!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 pckg chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth (or water)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, cayenne, smoked paprika, red pepper flake

Pickled Slaw

  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 jalapeno thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch of both salt and sugar

Spicy Mayo

  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lime juice

Garnish

  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Crusty French rolls

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Slow Cooker:  Spray the slow cooker with non-stick spray and place in the chicken.  Next whisk together all of the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4 hours.  *When finished, shred with two forks and keep in the pans juices.

In a small pan, bring the 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1/2 cup water and a pinch each of salt and sugar to a boil.  Place the thinly sliced carrots, cucumber and jalapenos into a bowl and pour the hot vinegar/water over top.  Cover and allow to “pickle” for at least 30 minutes.  *This can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator overnight as well.

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Spicy Mayo:  Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.  Feel free to tweak the ingredient amount to your liking.

To assemble:  Slice each crusty roll in half lengthwise (I like to give it a light toasting), then slather on a good amount of your spicy mayo on each side.

Lay down some of the sweet-heat, shredded chicken and top with the pickled vegetables.  Finally, garnish with the chopped, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime and the top of the toasted roll!  Enjoy!

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Spicy Cantaloupe Margarita

Hey guys! I’d say it has heated up a bit and we’re ready to venture into the cocktails that cool us down poolside!  So yeah, it’s Cocktails with Carly time!

I thought this up while (sweating) in the backyard and dreaming of an ice cold agua fresca from one of those delicious Mexican markets.  You know, where you get a couple pounds of carne asada to grill up later and a couple pound burrito for the now.  So remembering that I had a perfectly ripe cantaloupe on my counter I knew I could make this happen!

Now the only main difference to my homemade agua fresca is that well…. I made it into a margarita! 😉  That’s what happens when you find the tequila next to the blender…..

The Starting Lineup

Cantaloupe Puree

  • 1 cantaloupe, rind removed and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt

Garnish

  • Silver tequila
  • Jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • Limes, quartered
  • Unsweetened coconut

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Time for some easy, yet impressive cocktail hosting friends!  Simply add the ingredients of the cantaloupe puree (cantaloupe, water, sugar, honey, lime and salt) to your blender and blend till smooth, 1-2 minutes.

Now next is not completely necessary, but I like to do this for a ‘smoother’ drink…

Place a fine mesh sieve overtop a large bowl and pour in about 1/3 of the cantaloupe puree.  Using a rubber spatula, press the juices through the strainer leaving a bit of the pulp (scoop out into the trash).  Repeat with the remaining; pour the bowlful back into the blender or a pretty pitcher.  This should make a blender/pitcher full of juice.

Let’s serve them up, it was quick to make right??  Take your drinking glass and coat the rim with fresh lime juice and roll into the shredded coconut.  Fill with ice, 1-2 shots of silver tequila and top with the pureed cantaloupe.  Stir in a few of the fresh jalapeno slices (muddle in there if you’d like) and a lime wedge garnish!  Bottoms up!

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Creamy Mushroom Prosciutto Fettuccine

I was craving a hearty, but not heavy meal, which isn’t easy to do with Italian food.  Usually I end up with meatballs, parmigiana, cheesy manicotti…but not this time!  The fettucine is coated in a light, buttery cream sauce that isn’t too rich and the mushrooms really fool you into having a hearty meat-filled meal.   However, since I cannot fix my hubby’s brain into believing mushrooms can substitute as meat, the prosciutto had to happen!  Frankly, I’m ever grateful for it!  The thinly sliced Italian charcuterie and mushrooms make for such Umami flavor!!

*Umami:  delicious, savory taste.  One of my favorites of one’s five basic taste buds.*

**A nice addition in the Springtime is to add blanched sweet peas or even asparagus to this pasta dish!  Great flavor, freshness and vibrant color!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 slices thinly cut prosciutto, crisped
  • 1 lb mushrooms (mixed with any variety of mushrooms.  I used baby bella, portabella and rehydrated shitake)
  • 3 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup chicken stock (not broth, but stock)
  • 1 pckg fettuccine noodles
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Garnish

  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh thyme

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Begin by heating the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Place the thinly sliced prosciutto in a single layer into the hot oil and fry up (similar to bacon) until crisp.  I prefer mine super crispy, but cook to your liking!  Once crisped, transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

In that same pot, heat the now prosciutto flavored oil to high heat and add in the 1lb of assorted mushrooms, cooking for 7-8 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and add in the shallots, 1 tsp of fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté all together for a couple of minutes, till shallots soften.  Finally, reduce the heat to low and pour in the chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and allow to cook down for 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.  You want the fettuccine to be quite al dente, so boil about 3-4 minutes less than package directions.

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Transfer the very al dente pasta, using tongs, to the pot of mushroom mixture.  Ladle 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into the mix as well.   Crumble half of prosciutto into pot.

Increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is now perfectly al dente and liquid is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream, return to a simmer, and cook, tossing, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add the butter, and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt if needed.

Transfer to your serving bowl(s) and top with the remaining prosciutto, parmesan cheese and fresh thyme!  Enjoy!

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Del Mar Salt Cod Arepa

Good morning friends!!  So this past month I was asked to help CFE International in coming up with some new recipe ideas for their fantastic salt fish products!  For those not in the know…’Salt-Fish’ is traditionally known as Bacalao and is a way to preserve freshly caught fish popular in Puerto Rico, Spain, Portugal and much of the Caribbean.

So I decided to take a popular Baja-Mexican spin on it and toss the light and flakey fish with a spicy pico de gallo and serve it almost torta style with a quick soft and pillow like arepa!  We’re learning new cuisine all day in this one, huh? 😉

Now we had these as a fresh, light and healthy dinner but I think these would be great this coming summer as finger food appetizers at the pool or even serve the spicy cod filling along with tortilla chips are crackers as a dip with your cervezas!  Enjoy!

Here in Texas, you can find the Cristobal product in the frozen section at your local Brookshire Brothers, HEB, Fiesta, Food Town, H Mart, Kroger and Los Altos Ranch Market.  So I’d say it’s quite convenient!!

CFE International

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb salt cod, rinsed and soaked overnight
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1 habanero, minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Arepa’s

  • 2 cups pre-cooked P.A.N white cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp salt

Garnish

  • Avocado slices
  • Lime Mayo (1 cup mayonnaise, juice of 1 lime, 1/2 tsp cumin, pinch of salt)

arepaPrep

This meal begins the night before..is it hard?  No.  Is it a must?  Oh yes…

Start by rinsing your salt cod under running water and place into a large bowl.  Fill with water to cover and top with plastic wrap.  Place in your refrigerator roughly 24 hours prior to preparing the dish.  You will want to change the water about 3 times during these 24 hours to rid all of the excess salt.

Party time!  Ok, place the soaked cod and enough water to cover in a stockpot over med-high heat and bring to a simmer on the stovetop.  Change the water and bring to a simmer 3-4 more times or until desired saltiness is achieved.

Place the now de-salted and cooked cod into a large bowl, shred with two forks and allow to cool.

Next, simply chop and dice up the tomatoes, onion, cilantro and hot peppers.  Add these to the cooled fish along with the juice of two limes and a pinch of salt.  Toss together, cover and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to meld.

On to the Arepas!

In another large bowl (meanwhile heat a cast-iron skillet to medium heat), stir the water and salt together until the salt dissolves.  Next pour in the cornmeal a little at a time, working with your fingers, to form a pliable dough.

Divide into 8 dough-balls and then pat into “hockey-puck” shapes.

In your heated pan, add the arepa dough (about 2-3 at a time) and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side for a golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  *If not using a cast-iron or other non-stick pan, add about 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil to your hot pan and once cooked transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

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Slice in half (similar to an English muffin) and dollop a good amount of the lime-mayo on each side.  Spoon on a good amount of the tangy and spicy cod filling and top with a few slices of sliced avocado.  Bring that arepa together and chow down with a cold one my friends!!

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

A dinner of “stuffed peppers” often gets a bad rap.  My friends and family either love it…or hate it.  My guess on the nay-sayer’s is due to the peppers that I have devoured in my life have just been, well..bland.  Ground beef or turkey, rice, maybe some chopped veggies.  Did I mention they’re often dry too??  Well my Italian version is anything but!

The simple garlic, onion and tomato sauce (plus sneaking in that zucchini) keeps it from turning dry and I always choose the ‘hot’ Italian sausage for the slight extra kick!  Do you have kids?  Well still get the ‘hot’, trust me, it’s not that spicy, just flavor!  Last, but definitely not least, that layer of fresh mozzarella cheese puts the average pizza slice to shame!!

Now you can these eat on their own or perhaps with a side salad or even that dry rice, BUT..since we’re cooking with those Italian flavors, why not place your finished product atop perfectly al dente pasta!  Garlic bread too, perhaps?….

The Starting Lineup

  • 3-4 bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1 package Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 14oz Italian finely chopped tomatoes (I prefer Cirio Italian with basil)
  • Mozzarella cheese slices (Fresh)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper 

Garnish/Side (optional)

  • Pasta noodles, cooked al dente
  • Reserved leftover sauce from the meat mixture
  • Chopped basil
  • Shredded parmesan

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while bringing the olive oil in a large skillet to medium heat,  *Spray a 9×13 oven proof baking dish with nonstick spray.

In your hot skillet, add in the sausage (out of its casing) and cook completely through while chopping up with the back of your spoon.  Once cooked, remove the sausage and drain all but 1 tbsp of the oil/grease.

Now add in the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes, followed by the zucchini for 2 minutes and finally the garlic for 1 minute.  To the sautéed vegetables, pour in the finely chopped Italian tomatoes (careful for splatter!) and add the cooked sausage back in.

Your filling is done!  Spoon equal amounts into your halved and seeded bell peppers and place into the 9×13 baking dish.  Top each with a healthy amount of cheese.  PLEASE do not scrimp on this!  *If I purchased the larger package of mozzarella, I have been known to place a slice in the bottom of each pepper before I fill, followed by more on the top!  Yes!!

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Cover the baking dish and peppers with foil and pop in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.  Uncover and let the cheese bubble for another 5 minutes, remove from the oven and let rest.  *My husband loves his mozz topping to be on the browned side, so I will place our right under the broiler for mere 2-3 minutes.

If desired, while the peppers are in the oven, prepare the pasta noodle side and dress in any reserved sauce from the meat mixture.  *I make sure to keep those juices exactly for this reason!

Garnish your plate with a bit of extra chopped basil, perhaps grated parmesan, and you have certainly elevated those hum-drum stuffed peppers!!

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