Chicken Mushroom Alfredo Bake

I was in the mood for some creamy comfort food yesterday, so I wandered around the grocery store throwing things in my basket with a general idea in mind. I came home and made this. It's a keeper for sure.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 bag Penne – cooked
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 – 2 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 jars Classico roasted garlic Alfredo sauce or similar
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 – 2 tbsp margarine or butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

Clean chicken, and pound out slightly between plastic wrap to make thinner. Season with salt and pepper and brown each side in hot olive oil over medium high heat. Remove to a small plate and set aside. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until slightly tender. Cube chicken and add it and whatever juices have rendered back to the pan.

Add sauce, cheese, and cooked pasta. Stir until all pasta is evenly coated. Pour into 9×13 baking dish.

Combine margarine, garlic and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over pasta mixture.

Bake in a preheated 400° oven for about 20 minutes, until breadcrumbs have browned nicely.

This is quick, easy, and great warmed up as leftovers too.

 

Baklava

This is a delicious, flaky, sweet pastry, full of honey, nuts and sweet goodness.  There are many claims about the origin, and many countries make various versions of it today, including Greece, Turkey, and variations in the Middle East as well.

This is a version of a recipe I found in a cookbook years ago, tweaked a bit here and there.  I’m sure that some purists will have opinions on whether this take is “correct” or not.  All I know is that when I make this recipe, there is rarely any left over.  This is really not hard to make.  The biggest thing is the time it takes.  From start to finish, including the time in the oven, plan on a couple of hours.  It’s a bit tedious, but delicious, and worth it.

 

Ingredients

Nut Mixture

2 cups walnuts

2 cups raw pistachios, shelled

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 large pinch cloves

Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 cup honey + more

dash lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

Pastry

1 cup unsalted butter

1 pkg Phyllo Pastry

Directions

Put walnuts and pistachios in the food processor separately, pulsing until coarsely ground.  Put into a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix to combine.  Set aside.

 Next, make the syrup.  In a medium sized saucepan and heat until dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Pour the honey in and stir to mix.  Boil without stirring until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage, 239 degrees on a candy thermometer, or about 25 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.  At this point I usually add another healthy dose of honey and the vanilla and lemon juice.

Next, melt the butter in the microwave and get your workspace ready for assembly.  Lay down a clean dishtowel, and spray it liberally with water.  Lay the sheets of Phyllo down on top and then add another damp dishtowel on top.  Keep the Phyllo covered when you’re not working with it, in between layers so that it doesn’t dry out and rip or crack.

Butter the bottom of a large Pyrex or French White dish. Place a sheet of Phyllo on top of the butter lining it up so that two sides are flush with the sides of the pan.  Butter this layer with a brush.  Fold over any extra neatly and brush the top of that.  Add another layer of dough, continuing to brush with butter in between, alternating sides on which you are folding so that it’s not lopsided.

When you have used about 1/3 of the stack of Phyllo, add half of the nut mixture evenly over the buttered dough.

Continue to layer sheets of Phyllo, buttering as you go, until you’ve used up another 1/3 of the dough.  Spread the remaining half of the nuts.  Finish with the last third of the dough, continuing to brush with butter each layer.  When I get to the last piece of Phyllo, I like to trim the extra off, to make it nice and neat looking.

When you’re done layering and buttering, cut lenghwise in even strips about 1/3 of the way down through the pastry.  Try not to press down as you cut.  Next, meeting up with the ends of the vertical cuts, cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern.  Pour any remaining butter on the top.

Bake on a low rack in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  It will start to really puff up, especially in the centre.  Keep a close eye on it through oven door and remove when it is golden brown and flaky all over.  The centre will have puffed up, just pierce it through one of the cuts with a sharp knife.

Immediately after removing from oven, pour the syrup evenly over the pastries.  It will bubble as it starts to soak in.  Take a knife and cut almost right to the bottom and let pastries cool before eating. Cut all the way to the bottom and lift out of the pan.  You could do this in a large metal pan as well, but you would have to keep an extra close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and perhaps drop the oven temp slightly.

 

If you like, you can reserve some of the nuts after chopping them up and sprinkle a few on the plate for garnish.  This is a very sweet dessert, and is wonderful served with a strong coffee or tea.

It keeps well out of the fridge overnight or for a day or so, though after that, I like to store in the fridge.  If it lasts that long that is. 😉  Best served at room temperature.

This is truly a wonderful dessert.  Don’t let the ingredients (if you’ve never worked with Phyllo) discourage you from trying to make it.  It takes a little while, but as with most things in life, a little extra effort reaps great rewards.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Easy – But Yummy – Pasta Salad

When I start making this pasta salad, I know that summer has arrived.  Everyone has their own variation, this is mine.

Summer in a bowl

Ingredients

1 bag – pasta of choice. Hardier pastas work best.  I’ve used Rotini, Fusilli, Farfale (bowtie), and Scoobi-Do is a favourite.  It’s a nice change from  the traditional elbow.

1 jar – Miracle Whip

2 cans – flakes of ham – some people like tuna, I prefer the taste and saltiness of ham

4 eggs – hard boiled

mustard – a healthy squirt

dried dill – a healthy shake

curry powder – to taste

salt and pepper – to taste

Directions

Cook the pasta in salted water to al dente.  Strain and run under cold water until completely cooled.

In a large bowl, break up flakes of ham and cut up hard boiled eggs.  Leave both in fairly large chunks as they will break down more when you stir it all together.

Dump the pasta on top, and add Miracle Whip and combine, to get desired creaminess.  Add mustard, dill and curry, along with salt and pepper, all to taste, testing along the way of course! 😉

That’s it.  It’s best served chilled, though if you plan on storing it in the fridge for a while, the pasta will absorb the dressing, so before serving add a bit more and give it a stir.

I prefer mine very simple, but there are literally hundreds of things you could add to this salad – bell peppers, green onions, spanish onion.  You could add fresh peas if you had some from the garden or market.  That’s what’s nice about it, add what you like to make it your own and suit your tastes.

Serve with a burger or hot dog or whatever summer treat you’ve got off the grill, and enjoy!

Super Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This one is super easy.  I was going to make something totally different for a potluck I was going to on the weekend, but due to a stovetop malfunction (long story) I had to change my plans and I was scrambling on a Sunday morning to find a recipe I could make with the grocery store closed using only what I had on hand.  Luckily I had some pineapple, and this turned out pretty good.  It’s very light and airy.  I found this recipe on the BigOven.com iPad app.

Ingredients

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup margarine, melted

pineapple, sliced in rings

maraschino cherries – I didn’t have these, but they would be a sweet, colourful addition

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pineapple juice – I didn’t have this either, so I substituted orange juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar with melted margarine until completely incorporated.  Spread into the bottom of a 9″ cake pan.  Arrange pineapple pieces and cherries in a decorative design in the brown sugar.  Set aside.

In another small bowl, whip the egg yolks with a mixer until light yellow and thickened.  Gradually add in the sugar and beat well.  Add flour, baking powder, salt and juice.  Mix completely together.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold gently into batter.

Pour batter and smooth over pineapples in pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes.  Top will be brown, tester inserted should come out clean.  Let it cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

Serve warm or cold.

This would be awesome with a scoop of ice cream, or some whipped cream, or even better, some rum enhanced whipped cream.  Yum!

Angel Lush Cupcakes

Beautiful, and delicious.

I found this recipe on the Kraft Canada website.  I made them for Easter and they were a hit.  They are light, airy, beautiful, and perfect for spring/summer.  To top it off, they’re super easy.

Ingredients

1 pkg Angel food cake mix

1 pkg Vanilla Instant pudding powder

2 cans crushed pineapple

1 cup cool whip topping

2 cups assorted berries.  I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare cake mix according to package directions.  Pour into pre-lined muffin tins, filling each cup to about 3/4 full.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.  They will puff up and the top will turn golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan.  Remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to let them cool completely.  Meanwhile, make the topping.

In a medium bowl, combine powdered pudding mix and pineapple, including juice.  Mix well – you will see the juice from the pineapple combine with the powder to make a pudding like texture.  Add cool whip and mix in gently.

Top cooled cupcakes with pineapple mixture, and arrange your favourite berries on top.  Store in the refrigerator.  These can be made the day before and will still be wonderful.

Enjoy! 🙂

Tomato Salad

This is a quick and easy one.  So simple, and it goes over great during the summer at barbecues and potlucks.  We tease my Mom because once we were having a conversation about what food we’ll be remembered for when we’re gone.  She was concerned that there wouldn’t be a “special dish” that would inspire us all to think about her when we ate it.  My husband said to her, “don’t worry Cathie, you’ll always be remembered for your tomato salad!”

Don’t blink or you’ll miss this one – it’s that quick to throw together.

Ingredients

2-3 tomatoes or more – depending on size

1/2 large or 1-2  small onions (red onions or really sweet onions are best)

1 bottle vinaigrette salad dressing (I most prefer Kraft Sundried Tomato and Oregano for this)

Directions

Slice tomatoes and onions.  Layer in a casserole (like French White) with a lid.

Pour entire bottle of dressing over the tomatoes and onions.

Cover and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours.

 

That’s it!  The longer this stuff sits, the better it is.  It’s even better the next day, so if you can make it the morning of, or even the night before, it’s best.

If you’re having burgers, some of us like to put this salad directly on our burgers for extra zing.

Enjoy!

Stuffed Burgers

Not quite “The Full Monty,” but pretty good nonetheless!

It’s my hubby’s birthday today, and he has requested for his dinner tonight, these stuffed burgers.  He will have to barbecue them, but he doesn’t mind at all, because the payoff is amazing.

Please keep in mind that these are just my version of these burgers, and you could change them up in hundreds of different ways.  Different meats, different stuffings, etc.  You’re only limited by your imagination!

Notes in blue I’ve added after making them last night.

Ingredients:

2 lbs lean ground beef I actually used one package, about a pound.

1 lb, or 4-6 links of your favourite sausages, removed from the casings – I actually used a little more than a pound, I found this in bulk in the meat section of the grocery store.  There was more sausage in these burgers than beef last night…and they were so good! 🙂

2 eggs – To be honest, once I got home I realized I had no eggs, so I took a chance and omitted them, as opposed to going back out to the store.  The burgers were fine without them.

a healthy shake of Worchestershire sauce

salt and pepper

1-2 onions, sliced finely

1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced – I forgot to add before that once the mushrooms are sauteed, I chopped them slightly so that they weren’t so big inside the burger, and were more the same size as the bacon and onion.

4-6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

1 cup or so cheddar or marble cheese, shredded.

Directions:

In a hot skillet, heat some vegetable oil.  Add  onions and cook slowly until caramelized.  Set aside.  In same skillet, saute mushrooms until tender.  Once cooled, add mushrooms, onions, bacon and the cheese and mix together in a medium sized bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine meats, eggs and Worchestershire sauce.  Combine together until well incorporated and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Divide meat into equal sized portions.  With this much meat you could probably make 8 or so burgers.  Take a portion and flatten it out on your hand.  Take a good bunch of the filling and set it in the center of the patty.  Then wrap the meat up around the filling, and roll like a large meatball in your hand.  Make sure there is no filling peeking out anywhere and it is sealed completely.  Carefully flatten the patty between your hands or using something flat, like a large can or plate.

The most important thing is that when the burgers go on the grill, that there is no sign of filling, almost like you wouldn’t know they’re stuffed.  The filling has to melt inside the burger and cook in there.  If there is any cracks or anything, the filling will leak out, and you’ll lose it.

Cook on barbecue until desired doneness.  Serve on large toasted Kaiser rolls with your favourite burger side.  Sweet potato fries would be good. What I did this time, was butter my buns and throw them in a frying pan for a few minutes so the inside looked kind of like what a grilled cheese looks like.  I find it easier this way, because buns can burn quickly on the grill, and buttering them adds just a tiny bit of crunch and so much flavour.

Change this up any way you want.  Use different cheeses, different veggies, sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers would be good.  Gorgonzola cheese would be awesome too.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for alternative stuffings, meats, etc.

Enjoy!