Friday, March 30, 2012

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

I am REALLY excited to share this recipe.

My other half's mother and her friend were visiting from Alaska last week and when they arrived, the weather was in the 70's and was perfect for grilling. Then, all of a sudden, it turned chilly, rainy, and cold. (Leave it to Minnesota for random weather, eh?) You can't grill on cold and rainy days! I suppose you could, but I don't think you should!  I had to change my menu. Had to.

I, being from "the iron range," go to hot-dish as rainy day comfort food. I thought long and hard about my usual hot-dishes and felt uninspired.  Once again, I hit the blogs in search of a new dish and then...

there it was...

Creamy Chicken Casserole, staring back at me from the The Pioneer Woman Cooks website.

I made it, I loved it, and so I am sharing it.

In true Kristen form, I spiced it up a bit, but that's all I did. This recipe was lovely as is, so feel free to skip the jalapeno.

Oh yeah... I shouldn't forget...
Make sure to serve this with a really crunchy garlic bread and a big glass of white wine

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole 
Serves: Six to Eight 

1 rotisserie chicken, pulled off the bone and set aside
1 Jalapeno, diced   
1/2 Cup Butter 
16 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Sliced 
1/4 cup Dry White Wine 
Kosher Salt And Pepper 
1/4 cup Flour 
2 cups Chicken Broth
1-1/2 cup Whole Milk 
1/4 cup (additional) Dry White Wine 
1 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese 
1 cup Whole Black Olives, Chopped 
Kosher Salt (to taste)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper 
Extra Cheese, For Sprinkling 
1 pound Vermicelli

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet or dutch oven. Put mushrooms, jalapenos, and a 1/4 cup white wine in pan. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until liquid has totally evaporated.  Set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Break Vermicelli into thirds and add to boiling water. Cook approximately 6 minutes or until noodles are al dente. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside

Return large skillet to medium-low heat. Add 6 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle flour over butter, whisking to combine. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in 2 cups chicken broth and whisk to combine. Pour in milk, additional 1/4 cup wine, and additional salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly cook and bubble until thick. Turn off heat, add Parmesan cheese, and stir.

Add mushrooms, jalapenos, shredded chicken, and chopped olives to the sauce. Stir to combine.

Fold into a lightly greased 9 x 13 casserole pan. Bake at 350 degrees or until golden brown and bubbly.

Source: A tiny bit modified from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grilled King Crab (In Two Easy Steps)

Being born and raised in Minnesota where seasons change often, I have really noticed that with the weather changes comes changes in how I cook. Have you ever notice that? In cold winters I am usually dreaming up hearty and comforting soups, stews, and casseroles but the minute the weather hits 60°F,  I am yearning for all things grilled with a margarita on the side! This year, we have been insanely blessed with summer-like weather in March! Yes, I said March!

Now, I know what you might be thinking... and it's along the lines of crab legs being really expensive, isn't it? I agree that they can be. When dining out, king crab legs are a "market price" item and let's face it... that is never worth it. There is, however, no reason you can't cook these puppies like the pros for a lot less.

There are just two super simple steps to making to making crab legs at home.

Grilled King Crab (In Two Easy Steps)

King Crab Legs
(The amount is solely dependent on how many people you are serving. I suggest a minimum of 1/2 Lb. per person.)

*King crab can be purchased from your local grocery or market. I buy mine at Sam's Club for typically $17.99 to 24.99 a pound, which is oodles cheaper than what you will pay in some fancy restaurant. (Note, you may purchase them frozen or not... it doesn't make a difference.)

Fill up your kitchen sink with water and throw in the crab legs. (Easy so far, right?)
Let them soak for a minimum of 3 hour; maximum of 6 hours.

After your crab legs have been soaked an adequate amount of time, remove from water and transfer to a pre-heated grill. Grill 3-4 minutes per side.

Todd and his hands... again!

That's it! (Don't you feel silly for ever paying "market price" right now? These are SO easy!
Now, get crackin into those things!  I usually dip in warm garlic lemon butter. (Recipe follows.)

Garlic Lemon Butter (for dipping)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened 
1 garlic clove, minced 
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/2 lemon; juiced
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until butter melts and mixture is thoroughly heated.

Source: Crab legs are a Toddy original.
Garlic Lemon Butter Recipe is slightly adapted from this one at My Recipes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Balsamic Vegetable Skewers

Today might mark the first day of spring, but the weather in Minnesota has proved to be more like summer lately. Highs in the 80's and "lows" in the 60's? If this is global warming I don't know that I can honestly complain. I love it!

This past week, with temperatures that felt as though we were on vacation,  Todd and I immediately pulled out the patio furniture and grill... then made the most of it.

There is just something lovely about grilled vegetables.

Balsamic Vegetable Skewers
Serves: Six (6)

10 (10-inch) metal or wooden skewer
2 Pkg. whole whole mushrooms (Approx 24 mushrooms)
1 Green pepper, cut into large chunks
2 small onions, (preferably Vidalia if in season,) cut into thick wedges
2 medium-sized yellow squash, cut into 20 chunks
2 medium-sized zucchini, cut into 20 chunks
1/4 Cup Gia Russa Balsamic Glaze*, (or a good Balsamic Vinegar; see note.)
1/4 Cup good extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

*Note: I prefer to use the glaze because it's dramatically thicker with more flavor and sticks to the skewer (in a good way!) I am in no way affiliated with the Gia Russa company but I really enjoy this glaze.

If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine balsamic glaze, olive oil, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and pepper; mix well.

Alternately thread 2 chunks each of yellow squash, onion, green pepper, and zucchini, and mushrooms onto each skewer. Place skewers on a 10- x 15-inch rimmed baking sheet and pour oil-and-vinegar marinade over vegetables. Marinate for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat and grill kebabs 8 to 10 minutes, or until fork-tender, basting occasionally with marinade.

Source: Myself

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I'm obsessed with PF Chang's Lettuce Wraps. Obsessed.

I also really like trying to make something similar at the home base so that I don't have to always spend a ton of money on dining out. This is my version of their dish.

That's it. No further explanation or story. Just the recipe. Enjoy.

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps 
Serves: Four (4) as a meal 

16 Boston, Bibb, or butter lettuce leaves (or a head of iceberg lettuce.)
1 Pound chicken breast (or pulled chicken from a rotisserie)
1 Teaspoon Olive oil
2 Large shallots; diced
3 Tablespoons fresh minced garlic 
1 Tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 Cup hoisin sauce 
2 Teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 Teaspoons fish sauce (*See Note)
1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 Teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 Can (8 oz)  sliced water chestnuts
1 Bunch green onions; diced 
2 Teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1 Small pkg crispy chow mein noodles (for topping)

Rinse lettuce leaves while keeping them whole. Set aside and pat dry.

In a large skillet, heat Olive oil in pan and slowly cook chicken breasts over medium heat until juices run clear. (If using rotisserie chicken, skip this step.)

Add onion, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar and fish sauce. Cook until meat is crumbling. Add water chestnuts and green onions. Cook until green onion begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Stir in sesame oil and remove from heat.

Spoon mixture of chicken into the lettuce leaves, top with crunchy chow mein noodles and eat like a taco.

Note: I found fish sauce at my local market in the ethnic aisle, but if you're close to an Asian market I suggest looking there first.

Happy cooking!
Kristen @ The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source:  A modified version of one I found at Group Recipes

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spanish Smoked Paprika Wings

Chicken wings. When I think about  them I immediately think of bar food and men sloppily eating them with one hand and slurping down a cold beer with the other. But why? Why do I think like that? After all, I like chicken wings too, (except when they are in sauce that tastes like fire.)

This recipe is spicy in a bold and flavorful kind of way and not in a "I am only eating this because I want my picture on the wall" kind of way.  This crispy, crunchy, dry-rubbed version of the classic bar food will surely make you think you're being bad... but you're not! The secret here is skipping the deep fryer and baking them at high heat. The end result is an extra crunchy wing that only tastes deep fried. Healthy never tasted so good.

Serve these up to a hungry crowd as a small plate or make them a meal... that's up to you!

Just typing about their deliciousness is making me hungry...

Spanish Smoked Paprika Wings
Serves: Four to six as an appetizer 

2 Teaspoons ground cumin
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon dried marjoram,
1 Teaspoon spanish smoked paprika*
1 Teaspoon kosher salt
3 Lbs pounds chicken wing pieces or drummettes
1 Tablespoon crushed red peppers
1 Teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 Tablespoons olive oil

* Regular paprika will work in this recipe but the smoked spanish paprika will make a bolder statement and can be found at a specialty food store or online. I highly suggest you try it. It's kind of a life changer.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry.

Mix together the cumin, garlic, marjoram, paprika, and salt in a small bowl.  Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken.

Pour the olive oil onto the baking sheet and spread it around. Roll the dry-rubbed chicken pieces in the oil until lightly coated on all sides, then arrange them neatly in a single layer without touching.

Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the pieces over and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. They should be slightly crisp and golden on the outside. Serve immediately with celery sticks, carrots, and blue cheese dressing.

Have a lovely weekend readers!

Source: A slightly modified version from: Best of the Best Vol. 11: The Best Recipes from the 25 Best Cookbooks of the Year. Buy it here... (Originally from: Great Bar Food at Home)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blueberry Crepes

I love breakfast. I could eat it for all three meals every day and probably never get sick of it. There is just something so comforting about breakfast food. 

Being that Todd is diabetic, I refuse to start our days off heavy with carbohydrates and although I love me a rich and filling waffle or bagel now and again, I just can't bring myself to make them without feeling guilty. I used to scoff at the idea of crepes and I quite honestly don't know why. They didn't "look" good to me, which I know is naive because you have to try something to make that judgment... but they just never took to my fancy until Todd and I were traveling in the Dominican. It was then that I fell in love with these thin little pancakes. We stayed at a resort where there was a crepe bar, yes a crepe "bar," where they made you crepes to order and you could fill them with various things like ham, cheese, eggs, spinach, bananas, peaches, etc. The combinations and filling options were endless!

Now I make them at home all the time. I think I love them so much because when you add in fruit and top with a little syrup it tastes like dessert... yet in no way is unhealthy! Anything goes with these... fill em with whatever filling you want. Here, I added blueberries because I had them in the freezer. Any fruit will work. Or change things up and stuff them with ham, mushrooms, and cheese for a more hearty meal.

Blueberry Crepes
Makes: Approx 10-15 crepes

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup mashed blueberries
Olive oil spray, for coating the pan

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick pan. Spray pan with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. 

After they have cooled you can stack them and store in plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.

*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.

Let me know how they turn out for you and what you chose for toppings!

Crepe Source: A wonderful basic by Alton Brown that can be found here at the Food Network

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ravioli with Shrimp and Arugula

I have been on a new found mission lately to find low calorie yet tasty dinners. I have gone on this mission before only to be sadly disappointed with the results. Last night, however, this restored my faith that good food can taste good...really good!

This dish is light yet profoundly flavorful. Arugula is typically bitter, but in this dish it really balances out the vinegar and nuttiness of the cheese, so whatever you do, don't skip it! I strongly suggest splurging and getting a good pecorino ramono for the utmost flavor, but in all honestly it would probably be just as good with a cheap parmesan. If you're looking for a vegetarian option of this dish, skip the shrimp!

I must admit, for not really having a "sauce" and it being pasta dish, I wasn't all that convinced I would love it but it was a wonderful surprise, (and I love good surprises!) Not only is it healthy but it was really easy to make. All in all, dinner was on the table in 20 minutes. You have to love that... right?


Ravioli with Shrimp and Arugula
Serves: Six (6)

1 pound fresh, thawed, and cleaned raw shrimp
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese ravioli (I used Rosetto from the freezer section)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3-4 cups fresh arugula
1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (See Tip)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook ravioli until tender, 7 to 9 minutes or according to package directions. Drain well and set aside in strainer.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Mash garlic into a paste with the side of a chef’s knife and add to pan. Next, add sliced the shallots and cook, stirring often, until just starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper and stir together until combined well. Add shrimp and cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are pink in color.

Place the ravioli and arugula in a large bowl and toss with the shrimp and pan dressing. Sprinkle with shaved pecorino and serve while hot.

Pretty easy, right? Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Have a great weekend!
Kristen @ The Little Bitchin Kitchen

Source: Slightly modified from Eating Well