Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta

The buffalo + chicken + cheese combination is a real winner in my house. Those three in combination with about anything else is almost guaranteed to be a hit with my husband. It's his own personal trifecta, if you will. When I asked if this buffalo chicken pasta sounded good for dinner, I'm pretty sure he responded with something along the lines of "Good God, yes."

There is a bit of prep for this dinner, but it could actually be broken down a bit or done in advance. I had some leftover chicken breast that I was able to use, and I cooked both my pasta and the cheese sauce at the same time. I believe everything was ready to be put in the oven about 25 minutes after I started. While it was baking into a spicy, cheese-laden pan of deliciousness, my lovely husband cleaned up the pre-dinner dishes. I think it was his little way of telling me he would support the making of this dish whenever I decided to make it. I {heart} teamwork. ;)

The finished product was delicious, but was lacking that little extra oomph that we were hoping to have from the buffalo sauce. It may have been that I was just short of the 1/3 c. needed, but next time, I'll go a little more heavy handed on it. We added some extra to the leftovers and it was delicious. The cilantro, green onions, and blue cheese really finished the dish beautifully. Even our youngest enjoyed eating the "spicy macaroni and cheese." Maybe she's just a girl after her daddy's heart.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta
Serves: 4-6 main dish portions
  • 1 lb. pasta (I used orecchiette)
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 4 oz. grated monterey jack cheese (I used half a brick) + more for topping
  • 1/3 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese + more for topping
  • 1/3 c. buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/3 c. panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For garnish: 3/4 cup chopped green onions, 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, additional buffalo wing sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare water for pasta and cook according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, and once it’s melted and bubbly add the flour. Whisk together to create a roux and cook for 1-2 minutes until mixture gets a bit golden in color. Add milk, stir and turn down heat to low. Continue stirring until milk thickens. Add in grated cheeses and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in buffalo wing sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Spray a baking dish (9 x 13 is fine) with non-stick spray. Add pasta and chicken, then pour cheese sauce over and mix throughly until everything is coated. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Remove from oven and serve with gorgonzola, green onions and cilantro. Drizzle with buffalo wing sauce.

Source: How Sweet Eats

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mini Meatball Sliders with Basil Pesto

There are a lot of things pesto goes well with: pizza; pasta; as a dressing for salad; on a turkey sandwich. But adding it in addition to a marinara sauce was new to me. If it's a new concept for you as well, let me tell you, it's delicious.

The marinara sauce alone is a great reason to make this sandwich. It's honestly one of the best homemade sauces I've ever had. Whether it's the blend of ingredients, the length of time it simmers, or the fact that the meatballs are actually cooked in the sauce that make it so good, I'm not sure. All I know is that I want to eat it by the spoonful, find bread to dip in it, and may have done a mini happy dance when I realized there would be leftovers for another meal.

On to the meatballs: I was a bit skeptical of cooking the meatballs in the sauce. Would they be cooked all the way through? Would I miss the browning on the outside? I should not have worried. They turned out delicious, and were cooked all the way through. The only change I would make to the meatballs would be a bit more seasoning. They were good, but a little crushed red pepper flakes, or a little more of the garlic/basil combo would not have been a bad thing.

The total cook time on this is a little daunting as the sauce simmers for just under two hours, but it's a lot of inactive, hands off time. And trust me, totally worth it.

Two of these sandwiches with some chips and a salad made a great dinner, but I could just as easily see making these to snack on while watching some football, or having friends over. You can easily freeze any leftover sauce to pull out for a quick spaghetti dinner. It's really something special.

Mini Meatball Sliders with Basil Pesto 
Yield: Approx. 20 sliders

For the sauce:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can tomato puree
  • 1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • Water (optional)

For the meatballs:
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs, divided (I like panko)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • ½ tsp. dried basil

For the pesto:
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the sliders:
  • About 2 dozen white dinner rolls
  • Spray olive oil
  • Sliced provolone cheese (about 12 slices, depending on size)

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion to the pot and sauté until tender, 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, stirring, about 1 minute.  Add the tomato puree, tomato sauce, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and sugar.  Add water to thin the sauce out to your desired consistency.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 2 hours.

To make the meatballs, combine ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs with the milk in a medium mixing bowl.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Add the remaining breadcrumbs, ground beef, egg, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and basil to the bowl.  Mix well until thoroughly combined.  Form into meatballs, about 1¼ inches in diameter.  Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce about 45 minutes before the sauce is finished. Cover and let simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 35-45 minutes.

To make the pesto, combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube until well incorporated.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the sliders, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Slice the dinner rolls in half and lay open on a baking sheet.  Spray the rolls lightly with olive oil.  Bake for 5 minutes, just until lightly toasted.  Slice a cooked meatball in half and place both halves on the bottom portion of a roll, flat side down.  Spoon a small amount of sauce over the meatball.  Top with sliced provolone.  Repeat with the remaining rolls.  Bake again, 5 minutes more, just until the cheese is melted.  Spoon a small amount of additional sauce over the provolone, and finish small spoonful of the pesto on top.  Serve immediately.

Source:  Annie's Eats

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Fall is my favorite season: leaves changing, OSU football (though that hasn't been much to celebrate as of late. Geesh!), cooler nights, and all the tasty pumpkin and apple treats. It seem as though my Google Reader is overflowing with sumptuous treats to try, but this one practically begged to be tried.

A perfectly spiced pumpkin cake-like cookie, sandwiched with a smooth and beautiful cream cheese filling screams fall to me like nothing else. My friend Jo said they tasted a lot like a little pumpkin roll and I completely agree. As it turns out, I really needed some fall goodness in my life and promptly inhaled more of these than I care to admit in such a public forum. They are addictive. You've been warned.

If you need a little extra fall goodness in your life too, these are a great place to start. I used both my mini scoop and my cookie dough scoop to make several different sizes and it worked out perfectly. The recipe yielded a ton of these tasty treats (something close to 38-40 mini sandwiches and 10 regular sized) and was pretty simple to put together. All the cookie ingredients are mixed with a whisk, and a mixer is only needed for the icing. The icing included maple syrup to give it that extra little something-something, but mine got lost in there somewhere. Next time I make these, I'm pulling out the Grade B maple syrup and using that instead.

They seemed to keep fine for about two days in the fridge. After eating our fair share and sharing with friends, family, and neighbors, we didn't have any that lasted past two days. :)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground fresh nutmeg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare to baking sheets lined with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk to sugars and oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping TBSP (or smaller) of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

Maple Syrup Cream Cheese Filling

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese an beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. Be careful no to over-beat the filling, or it will lose structure.

To assemble:
Turn half the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe filling (about a TBSP) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, who adapted it from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito