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.

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