If you get melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly. ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Perfect Chicken Seasoning

I ran across this very simple recipe a while back, and let me tell you, IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE...or my cooking at least. It has quickly become the best only way I will cook chicken anymore! Calling this chicken "perfect" is not an exaggeration, it really is perfect. While it will make amazing chicken as-is, it makes any chicken dish you make that much better.

So you know when you come across a recipe that tells you to take a pound of chicken, boil it, cook it over the stove (unseasoned usually), and then proceed with the recipe? Make this instead! All you need is a little extra prep time and you will turn any decent dinner into one that is worth making a second time.

I loved this recipe so much, that I made a spice jar specifically for this chicken seasoning blend to have on hand, so I don't need to dig all the seasonings out to use it. All I did was double or triple the recipe for what I needed for the size of container. 

Regardless how much chicken I am need of, I usually will make the full amount this way. Then whatever I didn't use (even if it is only 2 oz), I will freeze and use on a quesadilla, sandwich, or pizza.

         Perfect Chicken
adapted from The Recipe Crayon Box

 (recipe is enough to fill about half of a standard spice jar)

1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp.. paprika

Mix all the seasonings together in a small bowl, using a funnel, transfer into a clean and dry spice jar. Label and store.

So now that you have this amazing seasoning, what do you do with it? I prefer using thigh meat (juicier), but this works great with chicken breasts too. 

Coat chicken in olive oil, then generously sprinkle over with seasoning (generously, as in you want the chicken to turn a light red-ish color when you mix the spice into the chicken, maybe about 1/2 tbsp). Using your hands to rub the seasoning through out. 

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a cast-iron skillet on your stove top, heat a tbsp of olive oil over medium- high heat. Add chicken (can work in batches if you are making a lot). Cook about 2-3 minutes, flip. Cook 2-3 minutes more (if you had to work in batches, add all the chicken back to the skillet). Transfer to the oven, bake about 15 minutes (I found that 15 minutes is "perfect" for thigh meat, breasts might need to cook a few minutes less or more depending on how thick). Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes. Shred, chop, or keep it whole, whatever you need this for in your recipe.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

For those who fear the brussel sprout, fear not. This recipe is AMAZING whether you are a fan of the cute little mini cabbage or you loathe them. A reason to love these little cuties? They are packed with antioxidants and help lower your cholesterol! 

I can relate to you if you have decided you don't like them and are hesitant to try them in any recipe, even a recipe as promising as this. A while back, I use to add cilantro to my "dislike list", I finally bought the stuff and prepared something myself using it, and realized it made the dish. Now, I wouldn't go as far as exchanging my salad greens for it or nothing, but I am proud to say it is removed from my "dislike list" and now gets a fair trial when it comes to cooking!-- Brussel sprouts was never on my list, but it wasn't something I was ever thrilled about either...until now! This side dish takes you on  a little flavor journey with toasted walnuts, tart cranberries, sweet coconut, a little spice, and a hint of maple! I promise you, this recipe is worth the try, just try it, you will be pleasantly surprised!

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts
  Adapted by The Diva Dish

1-1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

20 medium brussel sprouts, trimmed & sliced
1 tsp coconut oil
1 large shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (or about 2 tsp)
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
 salt and fresh pepper, to taste
pinch nutmeg 
1/3 C Craisins/dried cranberries
1-1/2 tbsp sweetened coconut

Preheat broiler to low. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, toss chopped walnuts with 1 tbsp maple syrup. Spread mixture over baking sheet, and broil for about 3 min or until fragrant. Remove from oven, set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, heat coconut oil with shallots. Saute shallots until translucent, add garlic, stir frequently so garlic won't burn. Add brussel sprouts, remaining 3 tbsp syrup, and seasonings. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add coconut and cranberries. Fold walnuts in, heat about 2 minutes more or until heated through.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

So normally when it comes to dinner, I always make something exciting as the main dish and the veggie for the night does not equal up... I tend to go the convenient route of just picking up whatever I can find in the bag, in the frozen aisle. I don't think think we even buy a variety of different kinds either, always the same two types (usually peas or corn) and when I do get a variety, its the "mixed vegetable" kind that features peas, corn, and carrots. It's a miracle that my son actually loves vegetables at all since we have the same boring spread nearly every night. 

Well I decided to get out of this rut! I saw a display of fresh asparagus first thing upon walking into the store, and I remembered this simple recipe from a few months back (emphasis on simple). I have posted on this one a few months back, but it is so good and easy that I decided to give it a second go-around. You already probably own the ingredients, just need to go out and buy some asparagus! 

Oven-Roasted Asparagus
         adapted from marthastewart.com

1 lb fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
about 1 tbsp olive oil
fresh ground pepper, to taste
sea salt, to taste

  Preheat oven to 425º. Put asparagus in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss until coated.Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. 
 Sprinkle asparagus with desired amount of sea salt (I think I ended up using about 1/4-1/2 tsp). Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. 

Bake about 13-14 minutes until tender, but still a pretty bright green.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pizza Casserole w/ Ground Beef

Make-ahead dinners, I am all about them! Sure, my evenings are pretty free to be able to make a nice dinner every night, but sometimes it's nice to see that time where you need to stop what you are doing to prep for dinner, cook dinner, clean up from cooking dinner, then clean up after dinner...blah blah blah...come and go. It's nice to think to yourself, "dinner is already done, the clean up was done yesterday and all I need to do is pop it in the oven (and let my husband do the clean up after haha)"

This casserole was not intended as a make-ahead but it worked out that way as other plans came up instead, (like making that Triple Chocolate Cheesecake from yesterdays post late at night at my friends house!) 

Pizza Casserole w/ Ground Beef 
          adapted from unknown source

8oz ground beef
1 C chopped onion
14oz pizza sauce (I made Simple Pizza Sauce and weighed out the 14oz needed)--worth it over store bought 
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 oz dry rotini noodles
2oz pepperoni slices
1-1/4 C shredded Italian cheese blend
Italian seasoning, to taste/sprinkled over top

Preheat oven to 350º. Cook ground beef with onion until onions are tender and beef is cooked through over medium-high heat, 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions, drain.

Add pizza sauce to meat mixture, add salt and pepper. Fold in the pasta, transfer to a greased 9" round pan. Top with cheese and pepperoni (full 2 oz or just what you would on a pizza). Generously sprinkle with Italian seasoning ( I used basil, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder).

Cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge until ready to make, uncover before baking

Bake 30 minutes, if desired put under broiler for a few minutes to get the topping nice and golden brown--yum! Allow to cool about 5 minutes before cutting into.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

This week we celebrated my husbands birthday. Instead of the usual birthday cake, we decided to make something extra special....CHEESECAKE!!!! More than that, CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE.....Triple, that is!

I have only made five cheesecakes before (including this one), two of which were no-bakes. I find this one the best of the bunch. It is sweet, but the dark chocolate base certainly helps it from being over-bearing.  Unfortunately, I am not the best at taking pictures (working on it), but this recipe involves chocolate and cheesecake so I don't think you need much more convincing! 

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
    adapted from easybaked

Ingredients For Crust:
9oz Oreo cookie crumbs (I used a food processor)
1/4 C butter, melted

Ingredients For Cheesecake:
2 8oz pkgs cream cheese, softened 
1/2 C sugar
3 eggs
2 C dark chocolate chips, melted
1 C heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp vanilla

Ingredients For Topping:
1 C heavy whipping cream, divided
 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips
4 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp corn syrup, divided

In a small bowl, mix together Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Press into bottom of a 9" Springform pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add melted dark chocolate, 1 C heavy whipping cream, 2 tbsp melted butter, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour over crust, allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes. 

Heat oven to 325º. Place cheesecake pan over a cookie sheet, bake 60 minutes. Turn the heat off the oven, open door to the oven a little bit and allow to sit 30 minutes. Remove from oven, run a butter knife around the edges of cake, then carefully remove outside of pan. 

Cool cake until room temperature-30 minutes.  

Over a double boiler or small saucepan over simmering water, heat semi-sweet chips, 2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp corn syrup, 1/2 C heavy whipping cream. Stir until smooth and shiny. Remove from burner, allow to sit 10-15 minutes. Repeat for white chocolate chips. 

Spread a layer of white chocolate over cake (you do not need to use all of the chocolate). Allow to sit 5 min. Drizzle over with semi-sweet chocolate. Transfer cheesecake to fridge, chill over night before slicing into.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Simple Pizza Sauce

Lately my most recent "health kick" has been trying to get my family out of the habit of purchasing ingredients from the store (with all their mystery additives)that we could just as easily make at home. For instance, as previously posted, switching from instant oatmeal to the real deal (check out Pumpkin-Blueberry Chia Oatmeal). While I have yet to stumble across a go-to spaghetti sauce recipe, I have finally come across a pizza sauce recipe that is to our liking. It is simple in the sense that a young child will have no complaints, and ridiculously easy to prepare that it could be done in the amount of time for you to be ready to use it. In addition, you probably have all the ingredients on hand in your pantry!

 This batch makes about 26oz of sauce. Much more then what you will need for a pizza pie. I divide the leftovers to freeze, and after about 20 minutes of the tupperware used for the sauce thawing in warm water, it's ready to use. Another idea we most recently decided to use the extra sauce for, was to make homemade "pizza lunchables". My son loves the lunchables from the store, but I loathe the ingredients. So we store the sauce in these little containers to freeze, have some sandwich thins on hand, some pepperoni and cheese, and he has himself a "lunchable pizza". Mother kid approved!

 Simple Pizza Sauce
- source unknown-

2 6oz cans tomato paste
2 tbsp fresh parsley 
1 tsp basil 
1 tsp oregano 
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp fresh pepper 
1 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves) 
3 C water 

Whisk all ingredients together, put over stove on medium heat. Once simmering, lower heat to med-low and simmer 20 minutes. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Creamed Corn w/ Green Onion & Parsley

I've never really had creamed corn before, so this recipe, I kind of went about it blindly. Luckily it turned out great! If you are a creamed corn aficionado and I am very wrong to call this creamed corn, please tell me otherwise, until then, I am pretty satisfied with this sweet side dish! 

I used white corn for this, I am not sure of the difference in taste between yellow or white, so I guess use what you prefer. I do highly recommend using fresh over frozen here! If you are feeling lazy (like I was) put someone else to work on the shucking ;)

He was pretty happy about it

Creamed Corn w/ Fresh Green Onion & Parsley
serves about 4

 5 slices bacon
4 large ears white corn, husks and silk removed
seasoned salt (to taste, I used about 1/2 -3/4 tsp)
fresh cracked pepper ( about 1/8-1/4 tsp)
3-4 tbsp heavy cream (as needed)
1 tbsp sliced green onions
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

In a 10" skillet, cook bacon until crisp, set aside and reserve for another use. Do not rinse out your skillet. 

Cut the end of the corn off so you have a nice flat end to stand the corn up over a cutting board. Using a chefs knife, cut the corn off the cob. Transfer into a bowl. Using a potato masher, press into the corn to release some of it's juices.

Season generously with seasoned salt and fresh pepper. Transfer to the same skillet with your reserved bacon drippings. Cook over medium-low heat about 20 min, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low. Stir in heavy cream, heat another 20 min. Toss in green onions and parsley. 
This side dish went perfectly with Pesto & Red Pepper Chicken Sandwiches w/ Bacon

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pesto & Red Pepper Chicken Sandwich w/ Bacon

"Wow!" is the best way I can sum up this amazing sandwich. This was one of those dinners that raised both me and and my husbands eyebrows upon taking the first juicy bite. Gooey, melted fresh mozzarella holds everything together. Is it messy? Yes. Is it full of flavor? Hell yes! Is it easy to make? Absolutely!!!  What's more? It is topped with crispy bacon!

I adapted this recipe from Kraft's Chicken Pesto Manifesto original recipe found here. Here is my revised version, I have no doubt you will love!!!

(serving size for 3 sandwiches)

about 7oz chicken thigh meat
seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cheese-topped rolls, split
4 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp prepared basil pesto
about 1/3 C thinly sliced roasted red pepper
3 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
4-5 pieces cooked bacon

First prepare your chicken: 
Preheat oven to 350º. Place chicken in medium bowl. Drizzle over with olive oil and generously sprinkle with seasonings. Rub the seasonings and olive oil all over the chicken. 

Using a cast iron skillet on about med-high heat, cook chicken on each side, about 2 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer skillet to stove and bake an additional 15-20 min until cooked through. Allow chicken to rest about 10 min.

Transfer chicken onto a cutting board, slice chicken. Divide into three portions onto a plate. Place  cheese over-top of each portion of chicken. Microwave about 20-25 seconds until cheese is nicely melted. Set aside.
I'm excited to say this is my homemade mozzarella, melted beautifully!

In a small bowl, combine mayo and pesto. Over each roll half, spread a layer of the mixture. Top the bottom half with a portion of chicken/cheese, then top with a few strips of red pepper, and finally a layer of bacon. Add top of roll. Admire the beauty, and try your best to eat it gracefully ;)