dinner needs to be easy-grilled greek chicken

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…because you are probably feeling a little crazy whether you are hosting or not. I am making a lot of fun things for Thanksgiving and every time I check PW’s cooking feed, I get more ambitious. I had to ask Mike to talk me down from making the pumpkin bread pudding she featured today. Oh man, that sounds good. Pumpkin pie is enough. Pumpkin pie is enough….give me a minute to repeat that to myself a few more times. Okay, back to reality. What was I saying? Easy dinners. Right. May I recommend making some Chili tomorrow. Then you can have Mexican haystacks (further down in the same chili post) on Wednesday–if you can wait. I love those haystacks so much, that is what I am thinking about when I make the chili. On Tuesday, you can make this yummy and easy Greek inspired chicken.

ingredients:

4 chicken breasts
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp. crushed garlic
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. black pepper
1/3 tsp. paprika

directions:

1.Cut a few small slits in each breast to allow marinade to penetrate.  Place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika in a gallon bag and shake until emulsified, about 30 seconds.
2. Add chicken and work in, then let marinate overnight.
3.Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil grate. Cook about 5 minutes per side or until juices run clear. You may need to watch for flare ups. It is good to have a spray bottle with water to keep the flames down.
4. Serve with roasted potatoes or (boxed of course) rice pilaf and a green salad (+10 points if you go Greek and use cucumbers, onion, tomato and kalamata olives and some feta. If you do want a Greek salad, just mix about 2 parts olive oil, 2 parts lemon juice and 1 part honey with salt and pepper to make an easy dressing.)

It’s easy, but this is one of my favorite dinners–and it even works great to serve to friends. It turns out pretty nice. Have fun this week!

key lime cake with white chocolate frosting

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When I got this request for a wedding cake a couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure  how good it would taste. After a lot of experimenting I ended up with recipes I really love and thought I’d share. If you want a stronger lime flavor, I think you could beat more powdered sugar into the filling recipe and make an excellent frosting out of it. I also used the white chocolate frosting on some chocolate cupcakes last weekend and received rave reviews. So, feel free to mix and match on this baby.

easy key lime cake

adapted from CakeCentral.com

ingredients:

lemon or yellow cake mix
3.5oz. instant lemon pudding mix (dry)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup key lime juice (you can use bottled key lime juice and regular limes for the zest.)
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (water will work, but provide a less dense cake)
zest from 3 limes

directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients and beat with electric mixer for 2-3 minutes

3. Pour into prepared pans (I like to just spray my pans with a baking spray) and and tap several times on top of the counter to release air bubbles. Slide a knife back and forth in the batter (not touching the bottom of the pan) to remove bubbles and even out the batter. This will help your cake bake up evenly and prevent “doming.”

4. Bake for 45 min. or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

5. Cool for 10 minutes and turn out from pans.

key lime filling

ingredients:

1 pkg. cream cheese, softened to room temp.
1 1/2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/3 c. key lime juice
zest from 4-6 limes (however zesty you like it. : D)

Mix all ingredients and beat for a few minutes. Adjust the sugar or juice as needed to get the desired consistency.

A little of everything: This cake was cut in half to make two 2 layer cakes. One chocolate with
raspberry filling and the other key lime. 🙂 Who says you can’t have everything you want?

white chocolate frosting

ingredients:

12 oz. white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. milk
1 c. shortening
1 c. butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
8 cups powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk

directions:

1. Microwave chocolate with 1/4 cup milk in microwavable bowl on Medium-high for 1-2 minutes; stir chocolate halfway through cooking time. Do not overheat, the chocolate will continue to melt as you stir.
2. Cream butter and shortening in a mixer until smooth and incorporated; then add vanilla and almond.
3. Add sugar, one cup at time, while beating on a lower speed. Once about half of the sugar has been added, stop and scrape sides and bottom and add milk. Then continue adding the rest of the sugar.
4. Once the frosting is smooth,  beat in chocolate. Continue to whip until it is light and fluffy.

Little clay birds nestled together. Ahh….

If I were making this cake for another occasion; I would do 3 layers and serve it like this. Garnishing with lime slices halved and arranged around the bottom would be very cute.

chicken tomatillo enchiladas with mango salsa

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I’ve been promising Russ this recipe for 2 weeks and holding out on him. Sorry about that. I thought you guys might enjoy it too. It really does taste best with rotisserie chicken. I recommend having the chicken for dinner the first night with PW’s amazing crash hot potatoes and some greens. After dinner, pull the remaining meat off of the chicken and drizzle with the lime juice. It will be super quick to make these the next day. Also, originally I roasted about 1 lb. of tomatilloes, an onion, and a few jalapenos then pureed them to make a salsa for this. However, I made it the other day with La Victoria tomatillo salsa and liked it better, so you decide what works best for you-smugness at having made it yourself or quick and tasty cheater style. Either way. I won’t judge.

ingredients:

~1/2 lb. rotisserie chicken

corn tortillas

3 limes

tomatillo puree or salsa

shredded monterrey jack cheese

directions:

1. Tear or cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in the juice from the limes and a little salt for at least an hour.

2. Spoon meat onto a tortilla and roll it up, placing it in a 2 qt. (approx. 6×12″) baking dish. Repeat until the pan is full.

3. Cover enchiladas with salsa and cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 min. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. Serve with mango salsa.

Mango Salsa

ingredients:

2 mangoes, peeled and diced

1-2 limes

~1/4 cup chopped red onion (to taste)

~1/4 cup chopped cilantro

salt to taste

directions:

1. After dicing ingredients, mix all in a bowl. This tastes great when it has had a little while to sit and marinade in the lime juice.

lemon chicken with roasted potatoes

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So, I’ve been trying to get a project post put together since Monday, but I am having technical difficulties–all user related, of course. Hold your breath. It’s coming. In the meantime, allow me to share my all-time favorite go-to potato recipe. It is from a trusted long time friend. Just kidding. It is from Lipton. It’s good though. Every time I make it, people ask for the recipe. Do me a favor and pretend it is really special when people ask you for the recipe.

ingredients:

chicken:

4 chicken breasts

1 lemon

paprika

garlic salt

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/4 cup sour cream

milk

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/4 tsp. lemon pepper

potatoes:

2 lbs. red or Yukon gold potatoes

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pkg. Lipton onion soup

salt and pepper to taste

directions:

1.Cut potatoes into 1″ chunks and place in a 9×13 baking dish. You want them to be in a single layer if possible.

2. Mix the dry Lipton soup mix with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. (Keep in mind that the soup is salty, so don’t over do it.)

3. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and toss to coat. Place in a 400 degree oven. (They need about 45 minutes total bake time.)

4. Spray another (smaller) baking dish with non-stick spray or pour a little chicken broth in the bottom of the dish. Then add chicken breasts.

5. Slice half of the lemon as thinly as possible. Squeeze the other half over the chicken and sprinkle with paprika and garlic salt. Then arrange lemon slices in a thin layer over the top and put in the oven alongside the potatoes. (The chicken needs about 25-30 minutes to bake.)

6. Mix the cream of chicken soup with the sour cream, lemon pepper and garlic in a small sauce pan. Add enough milk to give it a creamy sauce consistency and stir frequently until it bubbles.

7. After you have plated the chicken, drizzle the lemon sauce over the top and serve with potatoes and nice green (Salad, broccoli, peas, etc. If you don’t mind stinky kitchen, halve some Brussels sprouts and cook them with the potatoes–so good! So smelly.)

This looks nice, it’s a good company dish. I love the thin-sliced lemons and eat them with the meat. However Michael left his on the plate. Some of us are more adventurous than others. I’m not saying it’s wrong. Mostly because I’m not the judgy type.  Actually, I’m really thinking that it sounds good right now.  Um, too bad it’s bedtime, not dinnertime. Maybe tomorrow. Watch out honey, I might even pick up some Brussels sprouts. He’s a good sport.

mexican pizza

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I tried this for the first time last night and we all loved it; so I thought I’d share. It is loosely based on the Taco Bell version, and is super easy to throw together and quick. You could certainly spice it up a little more, but I kept it cool for the girlies. They thought it was so funny to have a pizza/taco combination. Feel free to be a better cook than me and make any of the canned ingredients from scratch. (I like it easy, don’t judge.)

ingredients:

small (fajita size) tortillas

ground beef

1 can enchilada sauce

1 1/2 Tbs. taco seasoning

1 can refried beans

olives, chopped

tomatoes, chopped

sour cream

salsa and/or hot sauce

directions:

1. Brown the beef in a skillet and drain. Then add enchilada sauce and taco seasoning and let simmer.

2. Place 2 tortillas per pizza in the oven and broil on low for a few minutes until just lightly toasted. Turn them and toast the other side as well.

3. Warm beans in the microwave (I never said this was gourmet) and spread over one tortilla, top with a bit of the beef mixture.

4. Place the second tortilla on top and add more beef, then top with olives and cheese. (You could also add green onions and the tomatoes if you like them warmed.)

5. Place back under the broiler to melt cheese; then cut into 4 slices. (I used my 7″ santoku for this, so I didn’t have to drag a knife through it. It worked well.)

5. Top with a little sour cream and salsa or hot sauce. (I would have liked some cilantro too–you know, if you’re into that.)

You can certainly tweak the seasonings and toppings. Black beans and green chilies would be good. I served these with corn and applesauce. A salad would have also been good; we just can’t have salad too often in a week–it makes the troops disgruntled. (And I want barbecue chicken and black bean salad for dinner tonight. The recipe will soon follow, I’m sure.)

cake decorating: butterfly garden cake

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Here is a little cake decorating tutorial for you. I have to warn you though, for all of my good intentions, this was a slightly quick and sloppy undertaking. If you know me, I am often pulling things off “by the seat of my pants.” (Good thing that seat is pretty big.) Hopefully you can get something out of it anyway.

To make the fondant flowers:

This should be done at least the day before. You can purchase ready to roll fondant, or try the marshmallow fondant recipe I use. (Which is found on the very helpful Peggy’s Baking Corner.)

Now use the flowers to put the cake together.

(…in my typical crazy-lady style. Hey, I am just keeping it real. Don’t worry; I will never pretend that I am professional and polished.)

key lime pie or tartlets

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I served these at bookclub this week and had a few requests for the recipe. It makes the right amount for a pie. (Which I like to serve with fresh whipped creme) However I usually make this in mini muffin cups to make tartlets which are not only cute, but can just be eaten whole. I am a huge fan of mini deserts because I like to try one (okay, or usually more) of everything. Either way, this is so fresh and light, (and ridiculously easy to make) that you will love it!

ingredients:

fillling

1/2 cup key lime juice (You must use KEY lime, regular lime juice won’t taste right.)

1 small tub of cool whip

1 can sweetened condensed milk

optional:

a drop of green food coloring-just a little, you don’t want it to look fake.

lime zest/slices for garnish

crust

~1 1/3 c. crushed gingersnap cookies

~2/3 c. crushed graham crackers

1/4 c. sugar

scant 1/3 c. melted butter

directions:

1. Use a food processor or rolling pin to finely crush the cookies and graham crackers. You can change the proportion of crackers to cookies to taste, but the gingersnaps really give the crust an excellent flavor–it’s worth it to use them!)

2. Mix with sugar, then add melted butter.

3. Press into muffin cups or pie plate and set aside. (Fill the mini muffin cups almost half way.)

4. Using a fork or small whisk, beat the lime juice into the condensed milk, then fold in the cool whip. Mix until there are no lumps.

5. Pour mix into shell and refrigerate for a couple of  hours.

*If you are making tartlets, the easiest way to fill the cups is to spoon the filling into a gallon bag and snip off one corner. Use this like a piping bag to fill each shell. I like to make a circle around the edge, then spiral into the center.

chicken & green bean casserole

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I have to say that this humble dish is definitely one of my top comfort foods. I wish I could eat it right now, right this minute I tell you! It is easy, fairly quick and just so creamy and warm. Use skim milk and low fat cream of chicken soup to shave off some calories.

ingredients:

2 1/2 c. prepared rice (I like to use Jasmine rice–it tastes so good and cooks in 15 minutes.)

2 chicken breasts

1 can green beans

1 can cream of chicken soup

scant 1/4  c. milk

1 clove garlic

salt and pepper to taste

shredded cheese to cover the top (Sprinkle however much you need. I am going to be honest, I use about a cup. We really like cheese)

directions:

1. Prepare rice according to package directions.

2. Grill, bake or broil chicken. I like to do chicken breast for dinner one night and just cook a few extra for later use. For example, we’ll have grilled chicken breast with baked potatoes and peas for dinner one night. I grill 2-6 extra breasts (I think there might be a joke in there.) Then dice them and throw them in the freezer. Then when I make this, I can just pull out a rounded cup of meat and throw it in.

3. Once the rice is finished, put it into a casserole dish with the chicken, beans, soup, milk, garlic and some salt and pepper. I also sometimes add a little lemon thyme if I have it. I LOVE fresh thyme–I use it in practically everything. Mix all together.

4. Top with cheese and cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes.

I like to serve this with one more vegetable or a salad and some fruit. It is so simple, but everyone in our family just loves it and it is perfect for a rainy day like today.

2 for 1: taco soup & tamale pie

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It seems that March lion weather has set in around here. When it is stormy outside, nothing tastes better than a steamy bowl of soup. This is one of my favorites because it makes a generous amount, which can be used to make tamale pie a day or two later.

taco soup

ingredients:

~1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef

1 small onion

1 (28 oz) can crushed or blended tomatoes

1 (15 oz) can kidney beans (undrained)

1 (17 oz) can corn (undrained)

2-3 Tbs. taco seasoning

2 cups water

tortilla chips

sour cream

olives

cheese

directions:

1.  Brown beef and onion and drain. Set aside half for use in the tamale pie.

2. Add canned ingredients and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 15 min.

3. Garnish soup with chips, cheese, sour cream and olives.

Okay, are you ready for this…another dinner that is super easy to throw together–heaven!

tamale pie

ingredients:

left-over soup

beef/onion mixture

1 pkg. corn bread mix, prepared according to directions

directions:

1. Prepare corn bread mix according to package directions.

2. Mix soup and beef in a smaller sized casserole dish. (If you are sparse on soup, you can add more beans. You could also add cheese if you like things extra gooey. I have to say, I like to keep this one pretty simple though.) Pour mix over the top and spread to cover evenly.

3. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until cornbread is set.

4. If desired, top with cheese, sour cream, and/or olives. I actually like this best just plain and simple….so good!

parmesan chicken melt

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I may not have been blogging lately, but I have been cooking. We have especially been eating a lot of paninis and grilled wraps since one of my favorite friends, Juli, gave us a panini press for Christmas. Mike has been very grateful! I’m loving how quickly I can turn out a crowd-pleasing meal. Somehow those little grill marks make sandwiches very dinner worthy. This one is gooey, warm, and comforting (and not partiularly low-fat, so not to be had too, too often–but hey! You’ve got to live, right?)

pchick

ingredients:

2 (smaller sized) chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1/2 c. mayonaise

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

~3 Tbs. minced onion (I keep a bag of the frozen chopped onion in the freezer for recipes like this.)

Dash of salt

Dash of Herbs de Provence (or other preferred herb blend)

Ciabatta rolls (or French bread or whatever)

directions:

1. Cook and shred chicken then blend in small mixing bowl with other ingredients.

2. Heap onto bread and grill in panini press. You could also lightly butter french bread and grill in a skillet (`a la grilled cheese) or broil open-faced.

3. Serve with salad and fruit.

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