Friday, December 4, 2015

Slow-Cooker Tomato Chicken Bake

This recipe has gone through some adjusting, but I was determined to find an easy way to use up some leftover pasta sauce that was in the fridge. 
  • 1 C rigatoni (no substitutions)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 oz total)
  • 1/4 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 C marinara sauce
  • 2 Tbsp water
1.  Spray the inside of a 1.5 quart slow-cooker with cooking spray.  Pour pasta into crock, spreading to cover bottom.  Place chicken on top of pasta and top with cheese.  Pour marinara sauce over chicken and pasta, add water to crock.  Cook on LOW for 5 hours.

Robyn's notes: the pasta will not be al dente, because of the long cook time, but part of the point was that I wanted a recipe that I could just toss together and not worry about until dinnertime.  A medium sized, good thick pasta is necessary to hold up without becoming mush, which is why the rigatoni.  I used Barilla brand because it's the best quality my market sells and therefore the most heavy-duty.  Even penne is not as thick as rigatoni, despite being a similar shape.  The end result is not hugely exciting, but it's hearty, filling, and tasty, and requires so little work that it's worth making.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cream Cheese Mints

  • 4oz room temperature cream cheese (not light or 1/3 less fat)
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint or spearmint extract
  • 3 C powdered sugar
1.  Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth (to get air into it), adding the extract at the same time. 
2.  Add powdered sugar 1/2 C to 1 C at a time and mix until well combined.
3.  As the dough is exposed to the air it will become less sticky.  Scoop up small amounts from the sections that aren't too sticky and roll into 1/2 inch balls, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Quickly press each ball flat with a fork, lifting fork fast before it can stick.  Refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Robyn's notes: the first Christmas that I made these, I batched the dough into 3 bowls, adding red food colouring to one, green to another, and leaving the third white.  I then combined half balls of multiple colours to get the effect shown above.  The following year I gently swirled red and green food colouring into the white dough, so each mint ended up lightly marbled with all three colours.  This was easier and I liked the look better.  Leaving the mints white is totally fine, too.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Monday, November 30, 2015

Cheesy Chicken Couscous Pie

This time of year it seems most people are looking to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.  While this recipe is a great use for stuff left in the fridge, it has no connection to turkey day.  Truth is, it's very cold outside (-12°F when I got up this morning), and I will basically do whatever is necessary to avoid a grocery store trip until it's a bit warmer. 
  • 1 C Parmesan couscous, cooked and chilled
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp beaten egg
  • 2 slices prosciutto, torn into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 C cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 oz chicken, cubed, cooked, and chilled
1.  Preheat oven to 375°F.  Mix together couscous and egg, then divide evenly between two mini pie pans, pressing into base and up sides.  Bake these shells for 15 minutes, then allow to cool for 3-5 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet, saute prosciutto in butter until crispy, drain on a paper towel. 
3.  Combine cream cheese and milk, stir in all but 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese.   Fold in chicken and all but about 1 Tbsp of cooked prosciutto. 
4.  Divide chicken mixture evenly, pouring into cooked couscous shells.  Sprinkle remaining Parmesan and prosciutto over tops of each, and bake at 375°F for 15-17 minutes.

Robyn's notes: I had leftover prosciutto, couscous, chicken, and a mix of cream cheese and Parmesan in my fridge, which is how this recipe came into being.  But it can obviously be made from scratch if those items aren't hanging around.  While I try not to write recipes that call for specialty equipment, this one does require mini pie pans.  Without them, mini tart pans might work, but otherwise I can't advise for adjustments.  Bacon could be used in place of the prosciutto, in which case it might be wise to add a bit of salt, prosciutto is very salty so doesn't need it.  If cooking the chicken for this recipe, a bit of garlic salt might be a nice addition.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often