Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pasta Ponza

Oh my! I think I have just found my new favorite quick & easy pasta dish! It's definitely in the top 3 anyway! This recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis of Food Network. Tomatoes, capers and cheese...that's really about it...what more do ya need? My 16 month old polished off an entire plate, my husband had seconds and my 10 year old had three helpings! That's enough to make me want to make this dish pretty often. I couldn't find yellow tomatoes so I used all red, I used rotini instead of ziti and I used fresh basil instead of parsley. Next time, I'll half the recipe because a pound of pasta is way too much for my family. It would be the perfect amount for a dinner party though.
What You'll Need:
Butter for greasing
2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

What You'll Do:
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Torte

If you like cheesecake and peanut butter, you will love this dessert! The crust is really just refrigerated cookie dough which makes it super yummy and fairly easy. This is a very rich only need a very small piece to satisfy your sweet tooth. It's also really pretty once you slice it! I got this recipe from

What You'll Need:
1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated choc. chip cookie dough
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup semisweet mini choc chips
1 cup chopped honey roasted peanuts
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

What You'll Do:
Heat oven to 350. In ungreased 9 or 10 inch springform pan, break up cookie dough. Press dough evenly into bottom of pan to form crust. Bake 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes.

Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and egg until well blended. Stir in 1/2 cup of choc chips and 1/2 cup of peanuts. Poor over cooled crust, spread evenly.

Microwave butterscotch chips on high for 1 minute, stirring twice, until melted and smooth. Stir in peanut butter until smooth. Drizzle over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with remaining choc chips and peanuts.

Bake 30-40 minutes longer until edge is set but center is still slightly jiggly. Cool on cooling rack 10 minutes. Run knife around side of pan to loosen torte. Carefully remove side of pan. Cool 1 hour and then refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

To serve, cut torte into wedges. Store in refrigerator.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

French Chicken Breasts with Orange Tarragon Sauce

Okay, so this is one of the more fancy dishes on my blog. I usually make things that are quick and easy...especially for weeknight meals...but, I had bone-in breasts and tarragon so I needed to do something with them. I'm glad I did! I found this recipe on The sauce is amazing! My husband liked this as much as I did and I'm sure I'll be making it again. I wouldn't say this is a complicated recipe, really, just a little more involved than most of my others. I actually messed up the sauce on my first attempt and had to re-do it. I let it reduce too long and it pretty much dissipated in the pan. Good thing it only requires 4 ingredients! Also, this recipe states that the chicken only needs to be in the over for about 15 minutes...mine actually took about 30 minutes. Stick a meat thermometer in it and take it out when it reaches 165 degrees. I made this recipe for just the two of us using only two breasts. I cut all the other ingredients in half and actually wished I hadn't of because I would have loved more of that yummy sauce to pour over rice.
What you'll Need:
8 chicken breasts, skin on and wing bone attached
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs tarragon
4 TBS unsalted butter, cut into bits
What You'll Do:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet and place it over high heat for 2 minutes.
Season the chicken breasts with a sprinkling of salt and pepper and place 4 of the breasts in the pan skin side down. Sear for 1 minute or until the skin is crispy and a golden brown. Turn the breasts and sear 1 more minute.
Remove to a baking dish and repeat the process with the rest of the butter, oil and breasts. Place the baking dish into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add orange juice, chicken broth, and tarragon to the hot skillet. Cook until reduced by about 3/4 (sauce should coat the back of a spoon). Right before serving, whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over the top.

Chicken Salad w/Grapes, Pecans & Tarragon

The BEST chicken salad I have ever had...period! I am super picky about chicken salad. Honestly, I just don't usually like most people's chicken salad. This is Ina Garten's recipe, back from when she used to cater and I just don't think it gets much better than this. Roasting the chicken with the bone and skin keeps it super moist and the fruit and pecans add just the right amount of sweetness and crunch. I omitted the walnuts and doubled the pecans. Make sure you toast them first...makes a big difference! I like to eat this chicken salad with a side of honeydew, but it would be fantastic inside a soft croissant, nestled inside some fresh butter lettuce, wrapped in a tortilla or stuffed in some pita bread. Just be careful...this stuff is addictive. I ate it every day for three days straight for lunch!

What You'll Need:
2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (1 1/2 pounds)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup walnuts halves
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves, divided
1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2
Lettuce leaves, for serving

What You'll Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.
When the chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice.
Meanwhile, place the pecans and walnuts on a separate sheet pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.
For the dressing, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in half the chopped tarragon leaves.
Place the diced chicken in a bowl, add the pecans, walnuts and grapes. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well. Sprinkle the remaining chopped tarragon leaves on top, and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.

Dill Potato Salad

I saw Ina Garten make this on the Food Network and craved it every day until I finally made it myself. It is so yummy and creamy and easy to make. I made a few changes: I used regular milk instead of buttermilk, I omitted the celery and I used regular mustard instead of whole grain. It was still delish!

What You'll Need:
3 pounds small red potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk, milk, or white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion

What You'll Do:
Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.)

Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

My friend, Deana, made this for girls night once and I fell in love with it. It's so simple to throw together. I've made it several times since. It's a great summer salad! I'm not including amounts for the ingredients because you can just use as much or as little as you like depending on your taste and how much salad you need. Oh, and you can buy resealable packs of bacon pieces which means you don't even have to get out a frying pan. Yes!

What You'll Need:
Baby Spinach
Feta Cheese, crumbled
Bacon, crumbled
Strawberries, sliced or quartered
Pecan Halves or Pieces
Mandarin Oranges
Newman's Own Raspberry Walnut Vinagrette

What You'll Do:
Throw it all together, of course, and then just toss in dressing!