Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Ultimate Blog Swap - Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Bake Break! about Blackberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake, and I’m excited to welcome Liz from The Fresh Plate to From the Mind of Laura:

Hello everyone! I am Liz, and I blog over at The Fresh Plate . I am so excited to be guest posting for you here today. Laura has a great blog, and I  am honored to be a part of it ion any little way I can. 

First off, I racked my brain trying to figure out what recipe I was going to make for Laura.  I wanted to make something that was budget - friendly, kid- friendly and easy to put together. I finally ended up choosing Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta. I have four sons, ranging in ages from 18 to 6, and they all love buffalo flavored dishes. And pasta. And cheese. You get the picture. This dish is chock full of buffalo flavor and easy enough to put together in the morning and pop in the oven at dinnertime.  You could even add shredded carrots or chopped celery to give it a nice crunch. I would add those if I made it for adults, my my texture-phobic kids would pick them out and set them to the side, so I wouldn't waste my time or energy if I was making it just for us. And as you can see in the recipe, it calls for scallions and cilantro, which I did add to mine and two of the four kids. Two picky eaters and the hubs do not care for either, so I added hem when I plated them. Serve with a side salad and slices of garlic bread and you have a great meal. 

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta

1 box pasta of your choice
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenderloins, cooked and cut into cubes
1 T butter
1 T all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup grated monterey jack cheese , plus more for sprinkling on top
1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/3 cup buffalo sauce ( I use Frank's Red Hot)
1/2 cup Ritz cracker crumbs 
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped 

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2.Cook pasta according to  directions and set aside.
3.While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.Add the butter.
4.When the butter is melted and beginning to bubble slightly, add the flour. Whisk the butter and the flour constantly to create a thick sauce  for about a minute, until the sauce becomes  golden in color.
5.Add the milk to the sauce, turn down the heat to low and whisk until the milk thickens into a creamy sauce.
6.Add in the monterey jack and the cheddar cheeses and stir until the cheese melts into the sauce.Add the buffalo sauce. Taste to see if you need to add more sauce to your liking. I tend to stay at 1/3 cup.
7.Spray a 9x13" baking dish with non stick cooking spray. Mix the pasta and the cubed chicken together in the baking dish and pour the sauce over it.
Stir and combine the ingredients well. (you can add more cheese at this point if you are a cheese lover) 
8.Sprinkle the casserole with cracker crumb and a bit of salt and pepper. 
9.Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
10.Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.
* Add scallions and cilantro if desired.

So there you have it! Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta. Thank you again, wonderful readers, for allowing me to share a recipe with you. And thank you again to Laura, who was so gracious and accommodating throughout this whole process . I hope to see you guys over at Fresh Plate in the very near future. Leave a comment and let me know you saw me here! 


Visit Life Your Way to see all of the Ultimate Blog Swap participants!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Upside Down German Chocolate Cake

My sweet friend Tina's son came to me one day and told me about a cake that he loves to get from a little bakery he goes to.  He aked me if I would be able to made something like it.  After hearing about it I knew I had to do it.  Chocolate cake with gooey coconut pecans and globs of cream cheese frosting, definitely a winner!
There are many versions of this cake out there so I decided to go with what I like best.  I love a caramalized topping and a moist, so good you just want to want to lick your plate, cake.  I invited him over for a BBQ and had this cake ready for him to try.  He said it was a little different than what the bakery does but declared it a winner.  And as usual my family and friends also acted as guinea pigs and loved it, except for Nathan, he hates coconut so he scrapped off the topping and then agreed it was perfect.
This cake is is good when you may not have the time to put together a layer cake or need to travel with it and worry about it falling over.  I have to say, sitting here typing this makes me want to go to the kitchen and make it now.

Upside Down German Chocolate Cake

1/2 stick butter + 1/2 stick butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup coconut
1 German chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup sour cream, optional (makes cake even moister)
3 eggs (as directed on cake mix box)
Oil (as directed on cake mix box)
Water (as directed on cake mix box)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2-4 cups powdered sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with non stick oil spray.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter and pour into the bottom of the bakign pan.  Sprinkle melted butter with pecans and coconut. 
Mix the cake as directed on the box adding sour cream if you desire.  In a medium mixing bowl combine the softened cream cheese, softened butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Mix on medium speed until smooth, taste add vanilla and more powdered sugar to desired sweetness.  Pour cake batter into baking pan, spread evenly.  Drop small dallops of the cream cheese mixture all over the cake batter.

Bake 45- 50 minutes until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Allow to cool and serve by cutting out a piee and flipping it over on the place so that coconut pecan layer is on the top.
Note:  If you would like to be able to flip the whole cake out of the pan onto a platter to serve I recommend lining the pan with parchment paper before spraying with oil and pouring in the melted butter.  Allow to cool about 15 minutes before flipping it onto a platter.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

I was sitting in my office one afternoon wondering what I was going to make for dinner.  I remembered I had purchased a fresh pineapple a few days before and decided I really wanted to have something with chicken and pineapple.  I remembered that a certain Chinese fast food restaurant has a sweet hot chicken with pineapple and knew I would be trying to recreate that.  I love the combination of sweet and spicy with the crunch of the vegetables and the tang of the pineapple.  

As I was making dinner that night my daughter and her boyfriend came in and tried the sweet chili sauce I had made and declared it better than that certain restaurant.  I liked that the flavors are fresh, the chicken isn't battered and deep fried and I can add as many vegetables and as much pineapple as I desire.  

When making the sauce I used fish sauce which can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store or at most Asian markets.  It is usually only a few dollars for a 750 milliliter bottle.  If you can't find it locally you can order it here on Amazon.  It can also be used to make curry and many other Asian sauce and soups.

I chose to use a blend of juices because that is what I had on hand but mixing these juices in any combination or using only one or two of them will work fine also.  This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups worth of sauce so there is plenty to use as a dip for chicken fingers or spring rolls, coating chicken wings,  sauce for pork and shrimp or what ever else you would like.

Sweet and spicy chicken stir fry
Serves 4-6

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 1/ 2 - 2 bell peppers (red, yellow and/or red - your choice), cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion,chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cups pineapple chunks or 20 ounce pineapple chunks, drained (may reserve the juice to use in sauce)
Sweet Chili Sauce (recipe below)

Place chicken in a gallon size Ziploc bag with the cornstarch.  Seal bag and shake to coat chicken with the cornstarch.  Heat oil in in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1/2 the chicken to the skillet and cook until lightly browned and until juices run clear.  Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and repeat with remaining chicken. 

Raise heat to high and add onions to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes.  Add peppers and pineapple, cook until peppers soften slightly but are still crisp, about 2 - 3 minutes.  

Add chicken back into the skillet, stir to combine with onions, peppers and pineapple.  

Add 3/4 cup to 1 cup sweet chili sauce to taste. Stir quickly to coat. Remove from heat immediately and serve.

1/2 cup rice vinegar  
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 cup pineapple/orange/apple juice (I used a combination - “Lagers” brand)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried crushed chili  (may adjust to your own preference in heat)
3 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water

1.    In a small saucepan combine both vinegars, sugar, water, fish sauce, juice, garlic and dried chili.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat
2.    Reduce heat to medium and allow sauce to boil until reduced by half (about 10-15 minutes).  Just before it is done boiling combine the water and cornstarch in a jar and shake it up to combine and dissolve the cornstarch.
3.    Reduce heat to low and slowly add the cornstarch-water mixture. Stir to combine.  Cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring often (2-3 minutes).
4.    Remove from heat and adjust taste if needed.  You may add more chili if you like it spicier, more sugar if you want sweeter.  If adding more chili or sugar allow the sauce to set for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Typically you will initially taste sweet with a touch of sour following finishing with the spiciness.
5.    Use this sauce for spicy and sweet chicken stir fry or use to coat chicken wings for a “spicy Asian” wings.  It can also be used as a dip for chicken, pork chops, shrimp and spring rolls.