Chicken Mediterranean (Cooking for Two)

Do you have leftover Sunday? We do. Our refrigerator ends up full of odd-sized containers with leftovers from almost every night’s meal and on Sunday we get them all out and have quite the Tupperware buffet. That’s not particularly a bad thing, but sometimes they get shoved into the back of the refrigerator and I discover them a few weeks later with strange little green stuff growing on them. I really do feel bad about wasting food when that happens.

I’ve been looking for more recipes for two and have come up with some winners – the first being this wonderful Chicken Mediterranean. It’s one of those dishes that I instantly said “hey, I would definitely order this if they offered it in a restaurant.” It’s delicious!

The ingredients look so simple, but when combined they create a wonderful tangy tomatoey dish full of herbs and different levels of flavor. I’m not usually a big fan of feta, but it completes this plate-full of goodness, adding a little saltiness to the sweet sauce. On top of tasting great, it’s really a fairly healthy meal.

I really love this Chicken Mediterranean and am so glad I found it in the Southern Living cookbook that’s been sitting on my shelf. I’ve made it twice in the last two weeks and it will be on the menu quite often in the Blades household!

Chicken Mediterranean
**** One of my new favorites. Great flavor combination and it makes a great hearty meal. Makes 2 big servings.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into cubes
1 (14.5 oz) can diced Italian tomatoes
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 C. sliced black olives
1/3 C. crumbled feta cheese
4 oz. penne pasta, cooked

In a skillet, saute garlic in oil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the cubed chicken and cook over medium-high for 6-7 minutes until chicken is done and lightly browned. Remove chicken and put aside. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, and black olives to the skillet and reduce heat. Simmer on low for about 7 minutes, stirring often.

Return the chicken to the skillet and stir. Sprinkle with feta cheese and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand about 5 minutes. Serve immediately over hot cooked pasta.  Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Tips and Stuff
I used 1 fairly large chicken breast, weighing around 1/2 lb.
I also used fresh basil because I grow it, but you can use dried.
I added about 2 tbsp. of the pasta water to the tomato mixture to add a little more moisture.

Double Chocolate Peanut Chip Cookies

We were ready for a good thick, chewy cookie and I found this Double Chocolate Peanut Chip Cookies recipe that fit the bill. That wasn’t the original name for the cookie, but I changed the name to fit the ingredients I put in them. They’re chocolate peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips and peanuts, so that’s the best name I could come up with!

I highly recommend these cookies, but a word of warning – only bake them 12 minutes. Since they’re chocolate cookies, it’s hard to tell when they’re done and the bottoms burn after 12 minutes. The recipe said to bake them 12-15 minutes and I tried 14, 13, and then finally 12 minutes, which was perfect. They’re extra large, chewy and thick with dry-roasted peanuts and chocolate chips in every bite. We really like them and would make them for any occasion or just for every day snacking.

Double Chocolate Peanut Chip Cookies
****Really good, but only bake for 12 minutes – no more – to get that wonderfully chewy texture. Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen large cookies.

1/2 C. butter, softened
1/2 C. shortening
1 C. smooth peanut butter
1 C. granulated sugar
1 C. firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. dry-roasted peanuts
1 (11.5 to 12 oz.) bag chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add peanut butter and sugars, beating well. Add eggs, beating until well combined.

Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 2″ balls (about 2 tbsp.) Flatten slightly, and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tips and Stuff
Original recipe called for chunky peanut butter, but I think smooth is better since you also add the dry-roasted peanuts.
They call for 2″ round dough balls and make fairly large cookies.
Again, only bake for 12 minutes or they’ll burn on the bottom.

Broccoli Cheese Bake

For dinner, I have a tendency to make a protein (chicken, steak, etc.) and slap one or two side vegetables with it, not really using a recipe for the side dishes. There are so many wonderful recipes for vegetables and side dishes that I’ve really started looking for simple and/or tasty ones to add to dinner. Sometimes we have just vegetables and no meat (translation of all-vegetable night – forgot to thaw out meat), and that’s where a good vegetable recipe comes in handy.

I found this Broccoli Cheese Bake in a Southern Living cookbook (recipe by Nancy Rumbaugh of the beautiful State of South Carolina) and, even though there was no photo with it, the ingredients looked great. It almost sounds like a breakfast recipe with the cottage cheese, bacon, and eggs, but it turned out to be a wonderful main dish for our vegetable night dinner.

The eggs (5 of those little gems) made it into kind of, sort of a frittata, but the cottage cheese, bacon, and broccoli really added a depth of flavor and texture. I thought it was wonderful and Bret even had two helpings – this coming from a definite anti-frittata man. Here’s a closeup photo of all of those wonderful ingredients put together and baked.

OK, I may have added a bit more shredded cheese on top than called for, but it ended up working well with it. The hardest part of the recipe was chopping up the broccoli! After taking the stalk off, I just chopped it all up instead of breaking off each broccoli floret. Worked great and we will definitely be having this Broccoli Cheese Bake again on all-vegetable night.

Broccoli Cheese Bake
****Loved it! Cheesy, frittata-like dish filled with bacon, cheese and broccoli goodness. Serves 6-8.

1 1/2 lb. broccoli, stemmed and chopped
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 C. cottage cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1/2 C. (2 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Throw broccoli into a pot with boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain broccoli and pat dry. Arrange broccoli evenly in a lightly greased 11 x 7″ baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, cottage cheese, flour, salt, pepper and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour egg mixture over the broccoli, gently moving the broccoli with a spoon so the mixture will sink down to the bottom a little.

Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese and bake another 5 minutes. Turn oven to broil and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese (watch carefully). Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Tips and Stuff
To lightly grease the dish, I dipped the edge of a paper towel in the bacon drippings and wiped it around the dish.
A little sauteed onion would be good in this, too.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting (Mary Berry)

The Great British Bake-Off and The Great American Baking Show are two of my favorite baking shows. I love that the judges don’t yell at or deride the contestants and the contestants don’t talk dirt about each other (ahem…Top Chef…). They’re mostly home bakers, vying for the title of greatest baker and seem to have a good time. Plus, they do some incredible baking and it inspires me to pull out the cookbooks and get going!

Mary Berry is the constant between the two shows. She’s the classy, gentle judge who has a special way of telling the contestant that their baking is maybe a wee bit dry or might need 5 more minutes in the oven, without making them cry. I finally bought one of her cookbooks (I think she has over 80 published) called “Baking with Mary Berry” and have tried a couple of recipes from it, including these Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting.

I’ve made many chocolate frostings/icings in my life, but this was different from any of them. It’s simple, but delicious and deeply chocolate. I liked the way it set up on the cupcakes and since it was very sweet, it complemented the barely sweet cupcakes.

I found the cupcake to be a touch dry, but it seems to me that the Brits prefer a drier baked good than we colonists do. Next time I would add a bit more butter or maybe a tablespoon of oil to make them more moist. If you get a bite of frosting along with the cupcake, though, they go very well together. Don’t forget the coffee or cold milk to go along with them!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
***by Mary Berry, from Baking with Mary Berry; good, but a little drier than I prefer; makes 1 dozen

1/2 C. cocoa powder
about 1/4 C. boiling water
3/4 C. margarine (I used butter)
3 large eggs
2/3 C. granulated sugar
1 C. self-rising flour

4 tbsp. butter
1/3 C. cocoa powder
3-4 tbsp. milk
1 3/4 C. confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Sift the cocoa powder into a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and mix into a thick paste. Add the remaining cake ingredients and mix with a hand-held mixer (or beat well with a wooden spoon).

Divide the mixture equally in the muffin pan, about 3/4 up the side of the liners. Bake for 12-14 minutes (don’t overbake!) until springy to the touch. Cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack before frosting (about 30 minutes).

To make the frosting, melt the butter, then pour into a bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and stir to mix. Stir in the milk and then sift in the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time to make a glossy, spreadable frosting. Spread the frosting thickly on the cupcakes and let set.

Tips and Stuff
I will add another tablespoon of butter or so to make the cupcakes more moist next time.
I added a little more milk to make the frosting a little thinner.
There’s a lot of frosting, so slather it thickly onto the cupcakes.

Bacon-Wrapped Meatballs

Well, I know the Cowboys aren’t in the Super Bowl and the Houston Texans didn’t make it, but the game will be down in Houston and that’s a good enough reason to watch the big game. Since I don’t really have a team to cheer for, I guess I’ll go with Atlanta.  Although….Tom Brady is the better looking quarterback.  My, my. Decisions, decisions.  I may not be able to choose a team easily, but I will be making these savory meatballs to munch on during the game.

These turned out to be two good bites, so next time I’ll make the meatballs a bit smaller – maybe 1 1/2″ instead of 2″. Also, I used thick bacon and I think it would cook a little better with thinner bacon. I liked the combination of beef with a touch of barbecue sauce along with the salty, smoky bacon and spicy jalapeno. I ended up plopping two jalapeno slices on top – one for each bite of meatball. If you don’t like spicy, leave the jalapeno off and put a dab of barbecue sauce on top after they’re finished cooking.

Don’t overwork the beef mixture when forming the meatballs, but make sure they’re compact enough to hold together. Baking them in the mini muffin pan was really nice and they were easy to scoop out to serve. They’re best when eaten warm!

Bacon-Wrapped Meatballs
***Good addition to the appetizer table! Makes about 16 appetizers.

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 C. bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. barbecue sauce
2 tbsp. onion, minced
1/2 tsp. garlic
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 C. shredded cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
8 slices bacon, halved
Sliced Pickled Jalapenos
Ranch Dressing (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Gently mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, barbecue sauce, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, egg and cheese until combined. Roll the mixture into 1 1/2″ meatballs and wrap 1/2 piece of bacon around each. Place each meatball into an ungreased mini muffin pan.

Bake meatballs for 12 minutes, then turn the pan around in the oven and bake for additional 15-18 minutes or until bacon is cooked and browned. Remove from the pan immediately and put one or two slices of jalapeno on top of each meatball along with a toothpick. OK cooled off a bit, but best warm. Serve with ranch dressing if desired.

Tips and Stuff
I didn’t use the onion (used onion powder), but I recommend it for better meatballs.
Use actual breadcrumbs – not the ground ones from the can. The meatballs will hold together better. Just finely chop up half a hamburger bun or hot dog bun until it’s crumbs and that will work.
Wouldn’t recommend honey barbecue sauce – it would make it too sweet.