Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday August 10, 2012

This was a bit of an off week to try new recipes - the kids went away mid-week for their final trip of the summer.  So we didn't try that many new dishes, but managed to fit three, and all were voted keepers.  Hard to believe that it is August, with talk of back-to-school and the end of the summer approaching.  Even the weather has turned cooler the last few days, which has been a welcome relief.  I seem to recall the weatherman mentioning that we have had over 40 days in the 90's.  Needing a sweater tonight on the way home from a friend's house was refreshing!

We did find time to try a few new things: strawberry muffins, bacon-pepper mac and cheese with chicken, and lime cilantro chicken tacos.

I have been collecting Taste of Home recipes for years.  My grandmother-in-law gets the cooking magazine, and when I first met her she showed me it. There are a few different monthly titles by the same company (simple and delicious is another one), and for years I had a subscription and clipped the recipes that looked good.  One of the main reasons I started this blog was so that I would finally begin to test out the recipes I had been clipping for years and years.  Well, the strawberry muffin recipe is one of those recipes from Taste of Home.  We really enjoyed them, as did my friends, so perhaps they might earn a spot at your breakfast or brunch table.  as with all muffins, they are best served warm. 

When I go to the library I love to check out the cooking magazines and cook books.  I checked out a Betty Crocker cookbook in the spring when I had a long car ride (where I was the passenger, don't worry).  I marked down the recipes that looked good, and when I got home, I found them on the Betty Crocker website and saved them to one of my Pinterest boards.  This saved me from making a photocopy of the recipe, and of having to check the cookbook out again in the future.  This week, Hannah had a friend sleep over, and we decided to make a pasta recipe for dinner.  When she saw the ingredients for this mac and cheese, she decided we should make it. It was a hit at the dinner table.  Of course, there were more children than adults at the table, and how can you go wrong with bacon in your meal?

And where did I find the Lime Cilantro tacos?  I saw those on Pinterest, and they sounded fantastic.  They ended up being delicious, and the kids just loved these chicken tacos.  I would highly recommend the lime cilantro pesto recipe - different and very summery!  

Happy cooking!

New Recipes
Strawberry Muffins
Lime Cilantro Chicken Tacos
Bacon-Pepper Mac & Cheese with Chicken

Lime Cilantro Pesto for Chicken Tacos

Ingredients for Cilantro Lime Pesto
* 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (do not include stems)
* 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons sliced, toasted almonds
* 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh garlic
* 1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
* 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
* 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

* 1/4 cup chicken broth


Using a blender, mix together the cilantro, olive oil, almonds, garlic, lime juice, cheese, salt and chicken broth on low speed for 2 minutes.

Ingredients for Chicken Tacos
* cooking spray for sauteeing
* 2-3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite sized pieces
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/2 cup cilantro lime pesto
* flour tortillas
* preferred taco garnishes (salsa, sour cream, cheese, etc)

Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a skillet sprayed with cooking spray, saute chicken over medium high heat and cooked through. Toss cooked, seasoned chicken with the pesto. Fill tortillas with chicken and top with preferred garnishes.

The pesto recipe appealed to me because it used almonds instead of pine nuts, and cilantro instead of basil.  Ryan and I don't care for traditional pesto, but we love the ingredients in this pesto recipe.  And then using it for chicken taco - what a great idea!   I originally saw this recipe on Pinterest, but here is the direct link to the website with the recipe I used:  Cilantro Lime Tacos

Later in the week, I tossed the leftover chicken with pasta, and it was fantastic!  Next time I plan on making the pesto and using it with chicken and pasta so I don't have to wait for the leftovers.

Bacon-Pepper Mac & Cheese with Chicken

* 10 oz uncooked pasta
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
* 4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 2¼ cups milk
* 4 to 5 slices bacon , cooked until crispy and chopped up
* 3/4  cup chicken (cooked and diced)
* 6 oz shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
* 4 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
* 1/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray  a 9x11 casserole with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.
2.  Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the butter in small bowl. Stir bell pepper and onions into butter in saucepan. 
3. Increase heat to medium; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and mustard. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly. Increase heat to medium-high. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Gently stir in bacon, chicken and pasta.
4. Remove from heat; stir in cheeses until melted. Pour into casserole. 
5. Stir bread crumbs into melted butter in small bowl. Sprinkle over pasta mixture.
6. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are bubbly.

I used green and red peppers for color, which made the presentation a little nicer.  I also used about 12 oz of uncooked pasta – you definitely have enough cheese sauce to coat all of the ingredients. Hannah wanted me to use elbow macaroni, but you can use whatever pasta you like or have on hand in the pantry.  
I used a mixture of skim and 2% milk - I had both on hand. I added the ¾ cup of chicken because my goal was to make this more of a dinner.  Hannah was having a friend sleep over, and the kids just loved this mac and cheese! 

Strawberry Muffins

*  1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
*  3/4 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*  2 eggs, lightly beaten
*  1/2 cup strawberry yogurt
* 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1-1/4 cups coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
* cinnamon sugar to dust on top prior to baking

1. In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredients.
2.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, butter and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
3. Fold in strawberries.
4.  Fill 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray or lined with paper liners.
5. Bake at 375° for 18-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve war.

You can use frozen unsweetened strawberries in this recipe - don't thaw them first, just fold them in frozen after giving them a rough chop.  The original recipe called for plain yogurt, but I only had strawberry yogurt on hand, and it worked well.  I also sprinkled cinnamon sugar on the tops of the muffins before I put them in the oven to bake.  My muffins took 19 minutes to cook  - use a toothpick to check yours before removing them from the oven.