chicken cordon bleu grilled cheese

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This was a huge hit with my son.  As you continue following me along, you’ll notice that he prefers the heavier, junkier foods while my daughter leans towards the veggie-heavy foods.  I swear, that boy was meant to grow up in the Midwest during the 80’s!  There are dishes I make that are huge family-pleasers and then there are those dishes where only one or two of us like the dish.  Unfortunately for my family, when I like a dish and they all hate it, I still catalog it for future use.  And If they all love it and I don’t, I usually end up deleting it.  But every once in a while, I will not like a dish but someone likes it so much that it’s worth keeping around (and perhaps even making it again).  That is the case with this dish.

As we were talking about it while we ate, my son was mmm-mmmm-ing all over the place. I mentioned that I’d probably not make it again and he was so surprised!  He asked if I would please keep the recipe and maybe he’d even pick it for his birthday meal (whoa!).  I guess it really hit a chord with him because he asked me again the following day, to save the recipe.  It has all the makings of a great sandwich – crispy chicken, melty cheese and salty ham. Unfortunately, I think I’m coming to realize that I’m not a huge swiss cheese fan. And while you’re preparing this, don’t make the novice mistake I made – season allllll the components of the breading station! That includes the flour, egg and panko because it really does makes a difference in flavor.  I sometimes skip this part, assuming that the other components will make up the difference in saltiness and flavor but nope- it doesn’t always work that way.

I’ve mentioned before that I follow national food holidays and so I made this for cordon bleu day a while back.  Sometimes it actually helps me decide what to make for dinner and it also helps me try new things that I normally would not try!  I remember cordon bleu from my college dining hall – the kind where you cut into it and oil would ooze out onto the whole plate.  Yuck and yum all at the same time.  I was happy to see a version of that dish that is a little lighter and weeknight friendly. So although it’s a strange interest of mine, national food days often bring a little innocent fun into my day!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Grilled Cheese

recipe from i am a food blog

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 chicken breast, pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • oil to fry chicken
  • 2 slices bread of choice
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 5-6 thin slices ham

Lightly beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Place the panko in a bowl and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sprinkle on the flour. Toss to coat. Dip into the egg and then the panko making sure it is evenly coated.

Heat up a generous of oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Fry the chicken until golden brown and crispy, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Wipe down the pan, leaving a bit of oil behind (not too much!). Lay down one slice of bread and top with half of the cheese. Place the chicken on top, then the ham slices, and the remaining cheese and slice of bread. Grill, over medium-low heat until golden brown and cheese start to melt. Flip carefully and grill until golden and everything is melty.

skillet pasta with chicken and broccoli

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I’m very wary of one-pot pasta dishes.  A lot of times, I don’t think they turn out very well.  Either the pasta is overcooked or it’s under-cooked and all the other ingredients get overcooked. I get anxious and realize – this is not worth it!  Even if I have to boil the noodles first, it’s what I know and am comfortable with. BUT it sure is nice when you don’t have to clean another pot.  Well, here you go…I got over my anxieties and tried out this one-pot skillet pasta dish.  I had a good feeling about it because it’s a Cook’s Country recipe and it’s the same company as Cook’s Illustrated.  Why is this important? Because they test their recipes and I know this because I used to be a home recipe tester for them! So I had little doubt that I’d run into problems putting this meal together.  Sure enough, it cooked beautifully and since my kids LOVE broccoli this was an easy win. I typically like to cook more complicated and time consuming recipes on the weekends but I made this on a Sunday night after spring break and I was ready to have a little break.  As I tell my kids, breaks are only “breaks” for kids as it usually means more work for the parents! 

 But we had a fun break because my cousin was visiting us and that was the highlight but…sometimes it’s a bummer that they give out report cards on the Friday before spring break. And there are times where it ends up being that there are issues that need to be addressed because of the report cards. Part of me thinks, “It’s spring break! We can get on track after the break is over.”  The other part of me thinks, “Nope, no one is going to be rewarded when we have issues that are going on.” 

In our family, the kids’ access to screens (tablets, phones, computers, tv) plays a role in what happens in these situations. Luckily, I was able to strike a balance. I didn’t want to punish anyone during their spring break but I also didn’t want to give in to letting them be on more screens when they have so much free time, especially given the report card “situation.”  So, thanks to the weather cooperating, I was able to say NO to screens and YES to playing outside with friends for most of the day. I think I’m happy with my decision.  Limiting screen time also meant NO to taking them to see Zootopia in the theater, but hey – I gotta stick to my guns.  There’s also the matter of punishing both if only one has an issue, but that’s for another day. My general philosophy is that no one is harmed by NOT being in front of a screen.  It’s exhausting having to be the executor of some of these hard decisions but in the end, I hope they’ll respect that I was doing my best by trying to create healthy boundaries. 

Now on to the truly one-pot recipe!

Skillet Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

recipe from Cook’s Country

    • 1 lb. Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed and sliced thin
    • Salt & Pepper
    • 1/4 C. Olive Oil
    • 1 Onion, Chopped fine
    • 6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
    • 1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
    • 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
    • 1/2 C. White Wine
    • 2 1/2 C. Water
    • 2 C. Chicken Broth
    • 8 oz. Pasta (Penne, Elbows, Etc.)
    • 8 oz. Broccoli florets, cut into 1″ pieces
    • Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Season the chicken with Salt & Pepper.  Heat 1 Tbs. Olive oil in skillet until very hot.

Add the chicken in a single layer and cook, without turning until chicken is beginning to brown, turn and continue cooking until almost done.  Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, do the chicken in batches so  that the chicken browns nicely.

Add 1 Tbs. Oil to the now empty skillet.  Add onion and 1/2 tsp. salt, cook until softened, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in Garlic, Pepper Flakes and Oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in wine and simmer until nearly evaporated.

Stir in water, chicken broth and pasta.  Increase heat and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often until pasta is nearly tender, about 12 minutes.

Stir in Broccoli and cook until oasta and broccoli are tender and sauce has thickened, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in chicken and cooked until warmed through.

Serve with the grated Parmesan Cheese.

baked chocolate mousse cake

 

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I’m scared to have too many sweets around the house because according to my kids, we have a secret monster in our house that eats all the snack food (especially sweets) in the middle of the night.  How else could someone explain how a half-a-dozen cookies or half of a cake could be gone between bedtime and morning?  Well, we joke about it but we’re only half joking because the snack monster is named “Dad.” It amazes me. The man typically eats 2 meals and a light breakfast. I never saw him snacking when we were dating or even early on in our marriage but recently, he’s started snacking late at night! Eeks! He’s basically asked me to stop buying any snack food or desserts. So, when I bake, one part of him is happy and excited and the other part groans (I’m sure).

This cake is another repeat offender in our house.  I made it in December and again this past weekend.  It’s very rich and a little goes a long way!  The funny thing is, last time I made it, I may have commented to the husband that if he ate too much, it could be diabetes-inducing. Let me be clear: I wasn’t saying it to be flip. It just kinda popped out of my mouth as a comment to another adult who knows what diabetes is but the kids overheard. Ever have that happen? So me and the kids ended up having a serious discussion about what diabetes is and the dangers of it. I didn’t want them to think sugar = diabetes.  But it kinda stuck in my son’s head and he told his friends at lunch that you can only eat a tiny bit of this cake or it could give you diabetes *face palm*.  No one in their secret lunch sharing group (more on this another time) wanted even a bite after that.  I don’t know if that’s a win or lose for son – he doesn’t have to share his chocolate cake but now his friends may wonder why I keep making this cake!  So if you do make this, make sure you share with others and eat in moderation.  It’s dense and decadent – a once in a while treat, not an everyday chocolate cake!

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake

recipe from Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • Cocoa to dust pan and over top of cake
  • 14 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 10 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa. Set pan on baking sheet.

  2. Place butter, chocolate, and salt in very large heatproof bowl. Heat over saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

  3. In mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until whites have turned opaque. While whites are beating, slowly add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat to stiff but not dry peak. Transfer beaten whites to a bowl.

  4. Using same unwashed mixing bowl and whip, beat yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light lemon color, 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Gently whisk yolks into chocolate mixture until combined (trying not to deflate yolks). Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in three batches, until just combined and no streaks of white remain.

  6. Pour batter into pan and bake until cake is puffed, edges feel set, center is jiggly set, and temperature in center reads 150°F, about 40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool 1 hour. Chill until set, about 3 hours. Run knife along inside edge of pan to release cake. Let cake come to almost room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes.

cheesy chicken breadstick tacos

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I’ll be totally honest.  I love eating together with my kids but I don’t necessarily love cooking with them.  Yup, you’ll see them here on this blog, cooking away and looking really happy…and they really are.  What you don’t see is me in the background, trying to be patient with them as I see them taking double (or triple) the time I would take and making all sorts of messes. So no, I don’t love cooking with them but I continue to do it because I know that they love it and because they’re interested in it and it truly does make them more open to trying things they might not love. It gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the meal we end up sharing together at the table and my hope is that maybe they’ll take some of those skills off to college (unlike me!). My entire life I watched my grandmother and mom cook but I had never really cooked a thing until I starting dating my husband. We were together all the time and over time, it just wasn’t practical to eat out every single meal.  It took me a long time to figure things out in the kitchen and of course I eventually did, but if my kids can get more of the basics down early on, I hope they’ll use those skills when they’re eventually off on their own.

It’s funny – my son, who is 9, tends to naturally want to cook and use the knife while my daughter, who is 6, really enjoys baking and has the necessary temperament to be detailed and patient.  I tell them both not to limit themselves but of course they naturally gravitate towards what they like.  This recipe was going to be something that I let my son do from start to finish but then he abandoned me to play outside with friends but the little one wanted to help and jumped right in!  It did take some more time but already, she’s getting so much more proficient doing these things on her own.  My heart literally swells with love and pride when I see her big smile and then, yes… it is all worth it.

Cheesy Chicken Breadstick Tacos

adapted just slightly from Picky Palate

Note: The only change I really  made was to not make the sour cream dipping sauce. My family tends to not like dips so I knew it’d be flavorful enough for them to eat without!  Visit Picky Palate if you’d be interested in the sour cream dipping sauce (link above)!

Prep time: 10 min | Cook time: 20 min | Total time: 30 min

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old El Paso Taco Seasoning, divided
  • 12 ounces prepared pizza dough
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place chicken and 1 teaspoon Old El Paso Taco Seasoning into a medium mixing bowl, stir to combine. Press your pizza dough into a rectangle filling most of the space on your baking sheet. Top half of dough with cheese then evenly place shredded chicken mixture over cheese. Top with additional cheese and fold dough over filled dough, pressing edges firmly to seal. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just mostly sealed. Sprinkle with an additional 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning and use a pizza cutter to cut 1 inch “breadstick” strips. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before separating into breadsticks.

pasta with cauliflower

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If you ask my kids what their favorite dishes are, they’d both say that this cauliflower pasta is in their top 5.  This particular dish is why they tend to tell people that they LOVE cauliflower and it’s been the gateway to them trying cauliflower soup and other cauliflower dishes (I have yet to try cauliflower rice, though!).  Even the husband, who is sometimes worse about eating his veggies than the kids, loves this dish.  The first time I made it, he had NO idea it was even cauliflower; he was totally confused! He said it tasted nutty and that’s the trick – once you get the cauliflower in the skillet, break it up into smaller pieces so that it really gets to caramelize and turns out having this really nutty, delicious flavor.  I prefer to use Romano cheese but I’ve totally done half Romano/Parmesan if I didn’t have enough Romano because it’s flexible. The cheese just gives it a little more salty goodness.  I sometimes add bacon or pancetta if I have it on hand, although I typically like serving this as a meatless meal.  I’ve made this dish SO many times and that is saying a lot because in my dinner journal (inspired by Dinner: A Love Story) I’ve found that of the few repeat dishes I make at home, I tend to cook them every 6 weeks.  That just ends up happening consistently over the years, even though it’s not planned!  Here are a few more tricks I have when making this dish, perfected over the last 9 years!

*While the cauliflower is cooking, I heat up a separate skillet with the oil in it. When one minute is left to go on the cauliflower, I add the garlic and red pepper to the hot skillet. That way the garlic doesn’t burn (ick) and it’s ready to go when the cauliflower is done!

*I dump the cheese into the dish once it’s all done and mix.  Usually I know how much cheese my family likes (not too much, sadly).  If you have a cheese-loving family, you can bring some more cheese to the table for people to add as they like but I prefer just plating the food with everything else ready to go, if needed!

 That’s basically it! It’s a straightforward recipe.  It takes minimal time and whenever I have a cauliflower sitting in the refrigerator, this is what I usually make.  The family fights over leftovers and because of this dish, I always have Romano cheese in my fridge.  It’s a staple of my family and my hope is that it will be a part of yours, too!

Pasta with Cauliflower

adapted slightly from the Boston Globe

Serves 4

1       large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
1/2     cup olive oil
5       large cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
1       pound dry rigatoni pasta ( I’ve made it with all kinds of pasta and the picture above is         penne!)
1       handful of parsley, leaves only, chopped
1       cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

2. While the water is heating, place the florets in a large bowl of
cold water to soak. When the water comes to a boil, transfer the
florets to the boiling water and for cook 6 to 7 minutes or until they
are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

3. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower from the
water. Do not discard the cooking water. Keep it at a low boil until
you are ready to cook the pasta.

4. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the
oil. Add the garlic and the red pepper and cook, stirring, about 1
minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the florets with salt. Stir
gently. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook, still stirring,
for about 10 to 15 minutes longer or until the cauliflower is tender.

5. Meanwhile, bring the cooking water back to a rapid boil. Add salt
and the rigatoni. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or
until the pasta is tender, but still firm to the bite.

6. Drain the pasta into a colander and add it to the pan with the
cauliflower. Stir well to combine. Add the parsley, taste for
seasoning, and add more salt and red pepper, if you like. Continue
cooking 2 to 3 minutes longer. Serve with Romano cheese.

chicken with chorizo salsa

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Remember the paella I made?  Well, I had like a tiny bit of chorizo and chicken breast left and was wondering what I should do with it. My default is to make something breakfast-y with it to wrap in a tortilla but I love when things come together and I can make another dinner with those same ingredients!  I have a pretty elaborate recipe collecting process/system and I often refer to it for inspiration when I have leftover ingredients. That’s how I came across this dish.  I was perusing the chicken breast recipes I had and saw “chorizo” and was thrilled that I could use the same paella ingredients to make a completely different dish so the family wouldn’t tire of the same flavors.  I really try hard to not waste the foods I buy on a weekly basis.  Part of it is environmental and part of it is budget.  I hate knowing that our landfills are nearly 40% food waste.  I’m really fortunate to live in an area that encourages composting by using our green bins.  It’s the bin that we collect your leaves, grass, etc. in.  We throw in our compost/food scraps and it is taken care of on the County level.  Our trash used to be so stuffed every week but after composting and recycling, we now barely fill half of the smallest size trash can.  I feel great knowing that I’m doing my little part in the world.

This chicken was super flavorful, thanks to the chorizo involved.  One more note… I am a recipe hoarder.  I rarely make my own creations.  I sometimes tweak things to the point that it ends up my own but typically I follow the recipes.  I will always share where I got the recipe from so you can also check out my resources!

Chicken with Chorizo Salsa
from Pink Parsley
serves 4

  • 2 oz (1 link) Mexican pork chorizo
  • 4 (6-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to even thickness
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped tomato (1 large)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped red onion
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the chorizo from its casing and crumble into the pan.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes.  Transfer the chorizo to a small bowl.
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, and the ground cumin.  Sprinkle the mixture over the chicken breasts.
Return the skillet to the stove top and add the oil to the drip pins in the pan, swirling to coat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook 5 minutes per side, or until it’s cooked through (reaching 165 degrees as the internal temperature).  Remove the chicken from the pan, and cover with foil.
Once again, return the pan to the stove top.  Add the tomato, cilantro, and onion, and cook, stirring constantly 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the chorizo, then stir in the lime juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer the salsa to a small bowl.
To serve, place 1 chicken breast on each plate and top with about 2 tablespoons of the salsa and 1 tablespoon of cheese.