Tag Archives: Dinner

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!!

 

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.

PAN

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!!

ArepaFinish

IGCod

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!!

peppers3

Cheesy Jalapeno Bacon Brussels

Well, we’re under a tornado watch here in Texas.  Ah the beauty of Spring in the south, right?  That all being said, I’m not really keen on taking my boys and I outside to play this fine afternoon, so I figured it was time to update my other love.  My food blog.

This spin on one of my favorite recipes by Lisa Fain, aka The Homesick Texan, will even have your “I loathe Brussels sprouts” friend’s socks knocked right off!  I’m not kidding…I am a Libra and I do not lie, I am fair and loyal and tell no tales.  It’s damn good!

So next time you see those intimidating sprouts waiting for your approval and love in your local supermarket, please do your dinner party and that loathing friend a favor.  It’s easy, unique and impressive.  It’s Cheesy Jalapeno Bacon Brussels Sprouts!

*If you do not have a cast iron pan, pour the mix into a broiler proof baking dish prior to placing in the oven. 

**You can remove the seeds and pith from the jalapeno if desired…but I always ask, “why??” 😉

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved/quartered
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (1 Tbsp grease reserved)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, minced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 4oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • a  hefty pinch each of salt, pepper, cayenne and cumin

Brussels1

Begin this tasty side dish by crisping up your bacon, while also bringing a stock pot of salted water to a boil.

Once the water has begun to boil, add in the prepared Brussels sprouts (stems trimmed and halved or quartered) and let cook for 6-7 minutes.  Once tender, pour into a colander and run cold water over to stop the cooking.  *Also set aside the now cooked bacon.

Preheat your ovens broiler and place a rack about 6″ from the top.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet on low heat, melt the butter along with the reserved bacon grease.  Add in the minced jalapenos and let sweat down for 2 minutes, followed by the minced garlic for the last 30 seconds.  Next, add in the flour and whisk for about 1-2 minutes till browned and then pour in the whole milk while, again, continuously whisking.  Stir ever so often for the next 5-7 minutes as the mixture thickens.  Careful not to let it come to a boil.

Stir in 1/2 of the shredded cheese and the spices.  Keep stirring allowing for the cheese to turn into a real gooey cheese sauce.  Make sure to taste test here; I always add a bit more salt and cayenne than you may think needed.  Next fold in 3/4th of the cooked bacon and the par-cooked Brussels.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of shredded cheese all over top of the Brussels and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.  Careful to watch closely and do not let burn!  Every oven is so very different!

Once browned and bubbly, remove, sprinkle with the remaining bacon crumbles and allow to rest for a few minutes..it is hot!!

Serve warm and ENJOY folks!!

Brussels2

 

 

 

Bang Bang Popcorn Shrimp Tacos

Bang-Bang Sauce:  It is traditionally a spicy, creamy sauce that accompanies street vender chicken in the Szechwan region of China.  Here in the states though, myself and a few notable restaurants serve it with chicken OR shrimp and consume it in taco form.  Tacos make everything delicious right?  They sure make my world go ’round!  (Tip: on a low-carb mission??  Make lettuce wraps with these bad boys!)

Also, let me make this clear…frozen products can be your friend and make your life so, so much easier!  (Did you know that unless you’re buying your seafood from a real deal fish monger, it’s packaged frozen before being sent to your favorite grocer?  Is it fresh?  Of course..I hope..but it’s still like the frozen section, just now thawed.).

That PSA being said (public service announcement for those not in the know), just go with me on this recipe and it’s ingredients.  I for one may skip our traditional Mexican fare this next “Taco Tuesday” and once again tantalize my loved ones taste buds with this sweet-heat, crunchy version!
The Starting Lineup

  • 1 package frozen popcorn shrimp (I.e. Gorton’s)
  • Corn tortillas, warmed
  • Green onions, sliced

Slaw

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded red & green cabbage
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus zest
  • Pinch of salt

Bang Bang Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise 
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • Pinch of salt



Preheat the oven to package directions and line a baking sheet with foil.

In a medium size bowl, combine all of the slaw ingredients and toss to combine.  *Give a taste..does it need more salt?  Need more vinegar for tang?  You know your family’s taste buds.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside (place in the refrigerator if you’re making it in advance).


In a small bowl, whisk together all of the “Bang Bang Sauce” ingredients.  As I stated above, if you like more heat (like myself) add a bit more sriracha.  More sweet?  A tsp more honey.  Cover and set aside.


By now the oven should be hot and ready! Place the baking sheet of popcorn shrimp into the oven and bake according to package directions. While the shrimp is baking, heat the corn tortillas on a NON-oiled pan and keep warm.

Assembly time!!  On your warmed and slightly charred tortilla, place about 4-5 pieces of shrimp down the center and top with the slaw, a hefty drizzle of the Bang Bang Sauce and the chopped green onions.  *We like to serve ours alongside cilantro & lime coconut rice, a perfect compliment!

Mexican Street Corn & Chicken Chowder

It’s one of those weird weather times of year…Is it hot out?  Is it cold??  Will it be both of those in just one single day?  Yep!  Yep!  Yep!

So while in the daytime I am craving my favorite warm, grilled spicy Mexican corn on the cob, I’m not about to go stand out in the cool evening rain to attempt it.  What’s my solution?  This simple recipe of course!

As I stated just above, I’m all about Mexican street corn.  I’ll take it on the cob (elote) or in a cup (esquites) and now I’ll take it out of my slowcooker in chowder form!  The added shredded chicken in my recipe helps to hearty up this meal and the garnishment of queso fresco, lime, cilantro and chili powder make this legit!  You can’t eat just one bowl, promise!!

*Vegetarian?  Simply omit the chicken and prepare as written.

*The sautéing of the onions/garlic and roasting of the corn is optional, as you can add straight to the slowcooker.  However, you’ll REALLY enhance the flavors of the chowder by doing this one extra step.   The 5 minutes it takes is worth it friends!

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 cans sweet cream corn
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth (low-sodium)
  • 2 cups half & half (16oz)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I.e. Mexican, Colby, jack)
  • 1 can green chiles, undrained 
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning (low-sodium)
  • 1 tbsp evoo

Garnish

  • Crumbled queso fresco
  • Cilantro
  • Chili powder
  • Mexican crema (like a thinned sour cream)
  • Jalapeños 
  • Lime wedges
  • Mexican hot sauce (i.e. Tapatio)


If you read the opening paragraph to this recipe, you would have noticed the key words ‘simple‘ and ‘easy‘.   So follow along closely 😉 ….

Heat a the extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add in the onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes, till slightly soft and translucent.  Add in garlic and cook for 30-60 sceconds.  Pour the onion/garlic mix into your slow cooker sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray.

In that same pan, crank up the heat a bit and pour in the cup of frozen corn.  Toss and allow to blacken just slightly and then also add to the slow cooker.

Next, add all the remaining ingredients (except the garnishes) to the slow-cooker and stir to just combine.  Cover and set on low for 6-7 hours.  When finished cooking, remove the lid and shred the chicken with two forks.


Ladle into bowls and top with the crumbled cheese, cilantro, chili powder and a squeeze of lime.  Enjoy!!

Taco Tarts

To be honest with everyone, my family are just a bunch of addicts…and our addiction of choice…tacos.

We seriously eat this most amazing dish at least 2-3 times a week, breakfast tacos anyone??   Also, like most of the country, we love our “Taco Tuesday” and have the full on taco bar and cervezas on ice.  However, this past Tuesday I wanted to change things up just for the heck of it.  I was also thinking of what may be easier to eat for my 3 and 5 year old boys.  

Given I had a couple boxes of pre-made pie dough on hand and my 3-year-old was begging for pop tarts, a genius foodie light bulb hit me!  Combine the pop tart idea with the taco ingredients and you have yourself a Taco Tart!!  Besides the oh so cute name, it can be eaten hand-held, so the lil’s are no longer picking up broken shells and ground beef crumbs!  Easy after dinner cleanup for momma!

*Makes 12

*Feel free to tweak the ingredients to your liking, i.e. ground turkey, corn, braised beef or pork, enchilada sauce (yes please!), jack cheese, etc. etc.

*You can absolutely individually wrap these and freeze them for a quick fix and lunch later on!

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 boxes pie dough (i.e. Pillsbury, 4 sheets)
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 can beans, drained (pinto or black beans)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Jalapeños, sliced (optional)
  • 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water
  • Olive oil 

Garnish

  • Salsa (roja and/or verde)
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Pico de gallo


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line to baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.

In a large skillet heat 2 tbsps of olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes, till just translucent.

Next, add the ground beef to the onions and cook through.  Drain the grease from the beef and add in the beans of choice, taco seasoning (plus 1 cup of water according to seasoning directions), tomato, cilantro and the optional jalapeños.  Stir together, bring to a boil and then cover and simmer until combined, about 12 minutes.  Once done, remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.

Meanwhile unroll the pie dough (I lightly flour the surface and thin out just a bit with my rolling pin, but that is optional), and using a pizza cutter, cut into 6 pieces.

Spoon the cooled meat mixture into the middle of each pastry square and add a good helping of shredded cheddar cheese.  Top with another pastry square and crimp the edges with a fork, also pierce the top to allow steam to escape.  Finally, brush the egg wash all over the top and place in the oven to bake till golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Once golden brown, remove from the oven and serve immediately alongside a couple of delicious salsas, guac, sour cream and fresh pico de gallo…say hello to the new “Taco Tart Tuesday” ;))  Ole! 


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