Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

This Giada recipe is one of those famous ones in my circle of friends, everyone loves it. I haven't made it in ages, but when my friend Leslie mentioned she was making it for dinner, I knew it had to go on my agenda. Here is the original recipe, I've made a couple changes, noted below.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

1 cup pastina pasta
(or any small pasta, I used small shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup cubed chicken breast, 1-inch cubes
(I don't think this is nearly enough chicken, I cut up an entire package of chicken tenders)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
(I use 1 package of frozen
spinach instead and add it into the chicken mixture)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the
pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5
minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat.
Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic,
stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the
chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken
mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes,
mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place
the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small
bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle
over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of
butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes

Chicken, onion and garlic cooking
Right out of the oven

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dilled Shrimp for Christmas Day

This recipe is my go to "fancy" appetizer. It is always a hit. Funny thing is that I am allergic to shellfish, so I have never actually tried it.

My Aunt Dawn, who passed away almost 6 years ago, used to make this. She gave me the recipe at my Bridal Shower, and there is something so special about taking out her hand written recipe page from my book and following her instructions. It always makes me feel good.

Dilled Shrimp


3/4 cup mayo
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 tbs dill
1/4 tsp salt
2 lbs frozen cooked shrimp, defrosted

Combine all ingredients (I use a zip lock bag) and let set over night.

And here are some pictures from Christmas Day.

Cecily all dressed up

Me :)

Zach and I by the tree

Monkey Bread

Monkey bread is one of our Christmas morning traditions. This year I made it first thing so we could snack on it while opening presents. It is easy to make and so good!

Monkey Bread

3 pkgs Pillsbury biscuits
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar

Cut each biscuit into quarters. Mix sugar and cinnamon, shake in a zip lock bag. Add cut biscuits and shake until coated. Pile into well greased bundt pan. Combine butter and brown sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour over biscuits.

Bake 35 minutes at 350

My Christmas morning table all set

Santa came!!!

I think she is excited :)

Opening a special gift with Mommy

Baked French Toast Casserole for Christmas Breakfast

It's Christmas morning!! Santa came and after opening all our gifts we sit down for a big Christmas breakfast with Mom, Dad, Cecily, Mimi, Ganky, Grammie, Papa and Jilly.

I made Paula Deen's French Toast Casserole (It's Paula Deen, how could it be bad?!). I made it last night and had to just add the praline topping and bake. Papa made his Breakfast Casserole that was delicious as always. We also had some fruit and bread. Amazingly enough, we still had an appetite after munching on Monkey Bread earlier in the morning!

Paula Deen's Baked French Toast Casserole

It was really good, but be warned, its very rich!! Here is Papa's breakfast casserole. Delicious and on the lighter side, made with egg beaters and turkey sausage.

Breakfast is served!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Garlic Pecan Cheddar Cheese Ring

Tonight we attended a fun dinner party with the Luciano and Maizel families. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite holiday traditions. We had a wonderful time and I cannot thank Allison and Nick enough for hosting. Dinner was delicious and we had a blast!

I decided to make my mother's go-to party appetizer, a Garlic Pecan Cheddar Cheese Ring. It is very tasty and everyone raves about it.


6 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup Mayo
6-8 fresh minced garlic
Large onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped pecans
few dashes of Tabasco

Mix all ingredients except for the nuts and mayo. Then add the mayo. If it isn't wet enough, add a little at a time until it is the right consistency. Mix in nuts. Mold into a ring with food gloves and refrigerate overnight. Serve with raspberry seeded preserves in the middle.

It was very easy to make, although I will admit Zach needed to help me with the mayo since I have "issues" with this particular condiment! :)

Here are a few more pictures from our fun evening!

The big kids!

Santa came!!

The girls

The Guys

Big T

Baby Rebecca (and her Mommy)

The Desserts! YUM!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No-Bake Protein Bars

First of all, I must apologize for being MIA! This Christmas season has been SO busy, that I have barely cooked at all, let alone anything interesting enough to blog about!

So yesterday, in honor of my first night teaching fitness classes, I made No-Bake Protein Bars, a recipe I saw in Oxygen Magazine

No-Bake Protein Bars

2 c. quick cooking oats
1/2 c. A Naturally More Than Peanut Butter
4 scoops muscle milk cookies n' cream light (I used a banana flavored protein powder)
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/2 c. water
I also added 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips, which wasn't in the original recipe


1. Knead all ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Line square baking pan with wax paper. Spread dough into pan using a spatula.
Optional - spread a thin layer of peanut butter on top before freezing
3. Freeze for 30 minutes.
4. Remove from freezer. Cut into 8 bars.
Number of Servings: 8

They were really easy and great for a pre or post workout snack! I ate one before heading to the YMCA for my Pilates and Boot Camp classes. I was really nervous to teach for the first time but felt good once I got started! I am excited to be actually starting such a fun new career!
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

This meal is so easy, I cant even call it a recipe. But on those days where you just want something that can be thrown together in 5 minutes and will cook all day, this is perfect.

I use boneless, skinless (I hate how skin on chicken comes out in the crockpot) chicken thighs and a bottle of lite BBQ sauce.
Spray the crockpot with cooking spray. Place thighs in the crockpot and pour the bottle BBQ sauce over the chicken. That's it!

Cook on low for 6 hours and the chicken is perfect. It just melts in your mouth. I served it with rice (pour the BBQ juice on top, yum!) and some steamed broccoli.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chicken Cutlets and Baked Rice Pilaf

Tonight I made my favorite dish growing up, good old Chicken cutlets. My sister and I would BEG my mom to make these. It was the first thing I learned how to cook on my own and while they are never quite as good as moms, they come out almost as tasty!!!

It really couldn't get any easier. Just dip thin cut chicken breasts in egg and coat with Italian flavored breadcrumbs (I mix in a handful of parm cheese as well). Cook in about a 1/2 inch of olive oil that has been heated on medium high. I like them pretty dark so I flip them when they look right, maybe 4 minutes or so on each side.

I served it tonight with steamed broccoli and Baked Rice Pilaf. I have blogged about it before and can't say enough about this recipe. Thanks again to Maria (Chef Mommy) for putting it in her blog! Its my new fav!

Baked Rice Pilaf


2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup long-grain white rice
2½ cups chicken broth, divided
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Have ready a covered casserole dish. In a saucepan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and rice to the pan and cook until both are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth,salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1½ cups chicken broth and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes. About 15 minutes before it is finished baking, stir in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Note: This recipe can be doubled without increasing the baking time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Crockpot Lime Chicken Tacos

Our friends Leslie and Ryan came over last night for dinner (and so Ryan could graciously rescue our computer from crazy viruses) so I decided to make Lime Chicken Tacos to go with the White Bean Chicken Chili Leslie brought over.

I am sure I got this recipe from the NJ Nestie board, but I couldn't for the life of me find the link. I've changed it around a bit the few times that I've made it and its always delicious.

I spray my crockpot with cooking spray and add in 2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts. Then I mix about a 1/3 cup lime juice with a generous tbs of chili powder and pour it over the chicken. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Once the chicken is cooked, I shred it in the crockpot, I mix in a little more chili powder and some cumin. Then I add a sliced green pepper, sliced onion and a cup of frozen corn. Let it cook for 1-2 more hours and its done!

I served it with flour tortillas, some shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa and chopped tomatoes.

Here's our whole Southwestern Spread!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Trot and Pumpkin Cheesecake - Thanksgiving 2009!

We started a new Thanksgiving tradition this year by running the Turkey Trot 5k in Morristown. Zach and I woke up early, dropped Cecily off at my mom's house and headed to Guinty Field (a 5k course we've run 2 other times) to run. We met up with Kathy and her two daughters and joined almost 1500 others in this fun Thanksgiving race. My time was 33:15, definitely not my fastest 5k, but since it was 4 days after a half marathon, I'll take it!

Our Thanksgiving consists of two stops, my Aunt's house for my family and my in law's house. Fortunately they are only 10 minutes apart, but we do a lot of eating on this day!! Good thing we ran in the morning!

My contribution to Thanksgiving was a Pumpkin Cheesecake. I decided to try Paula Deen's Recipe after watching her make it on her Fall Harvest show.

I couldn't get a great picture of it, but it was delicious. Very easy to make and really tasty.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, 2007


1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick melted salted butter

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

I have to include some other pictures from Turkey Day. Here is my mom's turkey. My sister and I attacked the stuffing with forks before it could even make it over to my Aunt's house. SOOO good!
Cecily all dressed up for the Holiday

Can't get over how cute this coat is

Zach and I

Monday, November 23, 2009

Philadelphia Half Marathon Race Report

We did it!!!! Zach and I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon yesterday morning. It was an awesome race! Zach's first half (SO proud!!) and my 3rd.

We headed down to Philly late morning on Saturday and went to the expo to pick up our race packet. We did a little shopping too. Zach picked up a great Philadelphia Half Marathon hat. I *gasp* managed not to buy anything.

The sun didn't want to cooperate but here are Zach and I at the expo

Then we met up with Carolyn who graciously put us up for the weekend. Love you Car!

Sunday morning, Zach and I woke up at 5am and got ready for the race. We walked to the start line after grabbing some Starbucks. We coordinated with Kathy to meet by the Rocky statue (porta potty meet up turned out to be a bad idea, there are tons of those!!) and had enough time to make a last minute bathroom stop before heading to our corral.

There were several different start times since there were 20,000 + runners, so we had to wait until about 7:30 to get started. It was chilly at the start but the sun was up and looked like we were going to have a gorgeous, cool run. By mile 2 I had warmed up enough to tie my jacket around my waist and run in only a tank top. I love fall racing!

The first several miles seemed to fly by, we were all running strong and having a great time. It is so neat to see a city that way and the crowd support was amazing. We had our names printed on our bibs so people could cheer us personally. It was very cool.

By mile 8 I needed a porta potty stop so Kathy and Zach walked while I waited in line and then caught up. It stinks losing 4 minutes in a line for the bathroom but you gotta do what you gotta do. The last 5 miles had some decent hills but nothing we couldn't handle. We passed some super energetic spectators who performed for us.

I knew we were in good shape to beat my goal of under 2:40 (my previous PR for a half marathon was 2:44) so I kicked into high gear for the last mile. We headed down for the last .1 to the finish with crowds on either side cheering us in. It was really exciting!! Kathy, Zach and I crossed the finish line and all felt like a million bucks. Our official time was 2:38:53.

Zach and I after the finish
Kathy, Zach and I

The medal

All cleaned up, showing off my hardware
I would highly recommend this race to anyone. Really nice course, great crowd support and well organized. Id love to run the full marathon here one day.

Here are our splits, if anyone is interested :)

Mile 1 - 11:29
Mile 2 - 11:00
Mile 3 - 11:00
Mile 4 - 11:39
Mile 5 - 11:38
Mile 6 - 11:20
Mile 7 - 11:34
Mile 8 - 16:08 (bathroom stop)
Mile 9 - 11:30
Mile 10 - 12:30
Mile 11 - 11:48
Mile 12 - 12:30
Mile 13 - 11:55
.1 - 11:20 pace
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