Cheesy Chicken and Corn Enchiladas

cheesy-chicken-and-corn-enchiladasThere are endless ways you can make (or order!) your enchiladas, from beef to bean to veggie, but the chicken enchilada is king! Chicken and corn, rolled up and topped with ooey-gooey cheese and a savory Red Enchilada Sauce is the ultimate comfort food.

This recipe is perfect to make with a store bought rotisserie chicken, which saves time and money. They are large enough to split among two recipes, one that calls for pulled or shredded chicken (like this one), and another that calls for soup or broth.  Making broth with a rotisserie chicken that has already been roasted adds tons of depth and flavor that you won’t get starting with raw chicken.   (See quick and easy broth recipe below.)  Use some of the chicken with these enchiladas, and make a BBQ Chicken Cast Iron Skillet Pizza or Chicken Tortilla Soup tomorrow.

Ingredients (makes 8 enchiladas, serves 4):
8 corn tortillas (approx. 6 inch diameter)
1 tsp. canola oil
½ thinly sliced onion
12 oz. cooked chicken, shredded
½ cup frozen corn, thawed
1 ½ cup Red Enchilada Sauce (see recipe), divided
6 oz. shredded cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
Green onion, to garnish

cheesy-chicken-and-corn-enchiladas-2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small skillet, heat canola oil on low and sauté onion until starting to soften, approximately 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine sautéed onion, shredded chicken, corn and ½ cup Red Enchilada Sauce.

In a large baking dish, pour ½ cup of enchilada sauce in bottom of dish, spreading to coat evenly. Divide chicken and corn filling among 8 tortillas, roll, and place in a baking dish, seam side down. Top with remaining Red Enchilada Sauce and shredded cheese and bake until bubbly, 15-20 minutes. Top with green onions and serve.

To make your own broth from a rotisserie chicken, remove chicken from bones and set aside.  Place bones and skin in a small stock pot and cover with water.  If you have any ends or leftover bits from other vegetables (like carrots, onions, celery), throw those in the pot too.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Remove large bone and skin pieces and strain broth through a sieve.  Broth can be stored in freezer or used in any recipe that calls for chicken broth.

Enjoy!

30 Minute Tomato Sauce

30 Minute Tomato Sauce 3After spending a week in New York visiting family, you would think I’ve had my fill of Italian food. And while I certainly did indulge in all of the delicious pasta and pizza, I can never really get enough. Since I made a big batch of Homemade Ricotta Cheese, I had more than enough after making a Hot Soppressata Pizza for other meals during the week.  It doesn’t get much better than tomato sauce with a big dollop of cool, creamy Homemade Ricotta!  Since the pizza recipe doesn’t call for any tomato sauce, I needed to make a batch of 30 Minute Tomato Sauce in a pinch.

 

Typically, I make a big batch of tomato sauce that simmers away for hours, and freeze several containers for use over the next couple of months. That is still my favorite way. But when dinner needs to be on the table in 30 minutes, this is my go to recipe.

30 Minute Tomato Sauce 2I use canned whole tomatoes rather than crushed or pureed for a couple of reasons. The primary reason is that I think the best tomatoes (freshest and best looking) are left intact for canning. I don’t know if this is really true, but it seems that way to me. The second reason is that the texture of the sauce can be changed based on what I’m making. Sometimes I want my sauce a little chunkier and using whole tomatoes lets me control the amount of the squish! That’s a technical cooking term by the way.

Ingredients:
2 28 oz. cans of whole plum tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 small shallots, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil (optional)

30 Minute Tomato Sauce 1Pour whole tomatoes with their liquids into a large bowl. Using your hands, squish tomatoes to desired consistency. If you like a really smooth tomato sauce, they can be pureed in a food processor.
Preheat a medium saucepan on medium-low heat and sauté minced shallots and garlic in olive oil until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sugar, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper and fresh basil. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce is a little watery, increase heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 minutes more. Enjoy!

Maryland Crab Cake Salad

Maryland Crab Cake SaladThere is a restaurant in Austin called The Grove that was designed with me in mind. Extensive wine list, great salads, pizzas and charcuterie; it’s a wine lover’s dream. They make a fantastic crab cake salad – mixed greens, lightly dressed with a citrusy vinaigrette, topped with a crab cake and drizzled with remoulade. It’s light and fresh, but the crab cake and creamy remoulade make it just a little sinful.  And at about $20, it’s also kind of expensive. Luckily for me, the Central Market by my new house has a great seafood selection; they even have ready-to-make crab cakes that rival most restaurants in town. If I were feeling adventurous, I might make my own, but this easy shortcut gets dinner on the table in about 15 minutes.  Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner and much easier on the wallet than eating out!

Maryland Crab Cake Salad 2Ingredients (serves 4):
5 oz. container spring mix
½ red onion, sliced thin
Red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced
Cucumber, peeled and seeds removed, sliced
4 tbsp. Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)
4 crab cakes
4 tbsp. remoulade

Preheat a non-stick skillet on medium-low heat, spray with cooking spray, and brown crab cakes until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, combine spring mix, red onion, bell pepper, cucumber and toss with Citrus Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Portion salad into 4 bowls, top each with a crab cake and drizzle 1 tbsp. remoulade over each. Enjoy!

Note: the easiest way to remove seeds from a cucumber is to cut off the ends, stick a butter knife in the seedy center, and turn in a circular motion to loosen the seeds. They should come right out.

Pistachio and Basil Pesto

Pistachio and Basil PestoWhew! The last few weeks have been hectic. Packing, moving, unpacking… but we are all settled in to our new home and ready to enjoy the summer. Basil is my all-time favorite summertime herb, so much so, that one basil plant just isn’t enough in my house. Of course when I make pesto, I think pasta, but it’s also great on pizza, in soups, and – my newest favorite – on sandwiches. Doesn’t a grilled cheese with mozzarella and prosciutto, topped with bright and aromatic pesto sound indulgent?  This pesto sauce also takes less than 5 minutes to make; all the ingredients are thrown in a food processor and blended until smooth.  Easy and delicious!

Pesto is traditionally made with toasted pine nuts, but the grocery store sells pistachios in the bulk section, where I can buy just what I need for a single recipe. Pistachios are also less expensive than pine nuts, so it’s a win-win to me.

Pistachio and Basil Pesto 2Ingredients (serves 4):
¼ cup unsalted pistachios, toasted (see below)
3-4 cups loosely packed basil leaves
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, quartered
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

To toast the pistachios, preheat a small skillet on medium heat. Add pistachios and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place toasted pistachios, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, garlic, crushed red pepper and olive oil to a food processor.  Pulse until ingredients are smooth, scraping the sides with a spatula as necessary. Season with salt and pepper and toss with your favorite pasta for an easy weeknight meal.

Enjoy!

Best Baby Back Ribs

Best Baby Back RibsLiving in Texas, good BBQ is everywhere. I love baby back ribs, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able to smoke ribs at home or pick some up at the local BBQ joint. This is the easiest way to make tender, juicy ribs, and takes no special equipment – just an oven.  You won’t get the same smoky flavor as traditional BBQ, but with the right spices and sauce, you won’t miss it.  Use your favorite store bought spice rub and BBQ sauce, or if you are feeling fancy, make your own!

 

 

Best Baby Back Ribs 3The key is to cook the ribs long enough that the meat is tender and juicy, but retaining enough structure that you can sink your teeth into the juicy meat to pull it cleanly off the bone. If the ribs are overcooked, they can dry out, or even worse, completely fall apart and become mushy.

Good ribs need to have good texture. These are words to live by.

 

 

Best Baby Back Ribs 2Ingredients:
3 lb. rack baby back ribs
¼ cup spice rub
1 cup BBQ sauce

 

 

 

Best Baby Back Ribs 4Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Rub spice mixture on rack and place ribs (curved rib side down) on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake 2.5 hours. Remove from oven and turn broiler to low. Discard foil, brush with BBQ sauce and finish under broiler until starting to caramelize, 5-10 minutes (depending on broiler flame and how close top rack is to flame). Let rest 5 minutes, slice and serve with extra BBQ sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Montgo Monastrell 2012
Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and FarfalleSpring is upon us, and that means fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Even if you don’t do any gardening at home, the quality of vegetables found in the grocery store has improved significantly over the past few weeks, and makes me want to ditch the red sauce and full bodied red wines with pasta in favor of fresh veggies and a lighter, crisp white wine.

Nothing tastes more like summer than fresh basil.  If you have no other vegetable or herb plants, get a potted basil plant. Dried basil loses so much flavor, and the little packets of basil cuttings are pretty expensive – $4.00 for a little packet!. I picked up a big beautiful potted basil plant at Trader Joe’s for $3.49. With a little TLC, it will last the whole summer long. Or even better, I’ll take enough cuttings from it to make 4 or 5 plants, and live happily in pesto-Calabrese-salad heaven all summer long!  (More on how to propagate basil from cuttings later.)

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch chunks
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 zucchini, grated, excess liquid squeezed out and discarded
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
8 oz. Farfalle, prepared according to package
½ cup reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper
8 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Note: the easiest way to chiffonade basil is to stack the leaves on top of each other, gently roll the stacked leaves and chop into ribbons using a sharp knife. It’s the perfect garnish for any summer dish.

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle 2

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle 3

 

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle 4Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes, and season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. In a heavy sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. Cook chicken for 4 minutes per side until golden. Meanwhile, grate zucchini into a bowl using the medium side of a grater, squeezing out and discarding the excess liquid. Remove chicken from pan and add additional tbsp. olive oil. Sauté zucchini, garlic and crushed red pepper for 10 minutes. Add chicken, cooked pasta and reserved pasta water, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with basil ribbons and parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

Chicken Scampi

Chicken Scampi 1Good food is very important to Austinites. There are trendy new restaurants opening nearly every week, and sometimes it seems like people work in Austin solely to frequent their favorite places. There are hardly any chain restaurants here, but we all have those certain dishes that take you back to being a teenager, and we will always love them.

I love the chicken scampi from the Olive Garden. There. I said it.

Most of the time, I like to make dinner at home. I like to control the quality of ingredients and it’s always less expensive to cook for a family than it is to eat out. Plus, I like to save our nights out to try some of the fabulous local eateries that Austin is so famous for. So, without further ado, here is my Chicken Scampi. The peppers, onions, garlic and white wine give this sauce a great flavor, and it would be easy to substitute chicken for shrimp or fish if you wanted to change it up. When cooking with wine, it’s best to use a wine that is drinkable, but won’t break the bank! If you wouldn’t want to drink it, why would you want that flavor in your food? At $6.99/bottle, Costco puts out some very commendable wines under their Kirkland brand that fit the bill perfectly. Their Pinot Grigio is dry, crisp, and since this recipe only calls for a cup, there is plenty left over for sipping. Drink up!

Ingredients (serves 4):

Chicken Scampi 2For the chicken tenders:
1 lb. chicken tenders
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp Italian seasoning

For the scampi sauce:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
½ red onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
10 oz. angel hair pasta, prepared al dente according to package

In a medium bowl, mix flour, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper and ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning. Dip chicken tenders in milk, then in flour mixture. Set aside.

Chicken Scampi 3Using a large skillet (I love my Le Creuset 5 Quart Covered Braiser) heat olive oil over medium heat and brown chicken tenders, 3 minutes a side. Remove chicken from pan, add peppers, onions and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes until beginning to soften, but not mushy. Remove from pan. Add white wine and let deglaze for 2 minutes. Add butter, crushed red pepper and remaining salt, pepper and Italian seasoning and stir until butter is melted. Turn to low, add heavy cream, stirring until heated. Fold in pepper mixture and cooked pasta until evenly coated. Top with chicken tenders and garnish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairings
Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 1Tacos are a way of life in Austin. You can get tacos for any meal, any time of day, with nearly anything on them. A stormy weekend followed by a cold front inspired a spicy mixture of chicken, onions and peppers simmering away in my slow cooker. The end result is tender chicken, loaded with flavor, and piled high with shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheese (like any good taco should be!) The mixture of spices could easily be substituted for a taco seasoning packet, but it’s cheaper to make your own (plus no mystery ingredients!).

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 3Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 2Ingredients:
2 bone in chicken breasts
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 4Place chicken in slow cooker. Top with diced tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, crush red pepper, salt and pepper and cook on low for 3 hours. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno to slow cooker for 1 hour more. Remove chicken and shred, discarding bones and skin, and return to slow cooker to heat thoroughly. Serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa and your favorite taco toppings. Enjoy!

Half Roasted Chicken

Half Roasted ChickenI was really excited when Whole Foods started carrying half chickens. Roasted chicken is so delicious, but it can be notoriously difficult to get the skin perfectly crispy, while getting the chicken evenly cooked and juicy. My Bundt Pan Roasted Chicken is a great way to get deliciously crispy skin while roasting a whole chicken, but making a half chicken is my favorite for a few reasons. 1- Since there is skin on only one side, roasting it skin side up gets beautifully browned skin all over; 2- It’s more uniform in size, so cooks more evenly and is less likely to dry out; and 3- a half chicken is the perfect size for a meal for 2, and since it’s already cut from the backbone, you aren’t paying for parts you don’t need. The backbone is great for making stock, but otherwise it is a fairly heavy part of the chicken that gets thrown away. When is the last time you got dinner for 2 people from Whole Foods for about $3.00? Since they don’t always carry them, I grabbed a few to stick in the freezer to cook at a later time. They come out Just. That. Good.

Half Roasted Chicken 2Ingredients:
Half chicken
1 tsp. olive oil
Seasonings of your choice, here are some favorites:
Lemon pepper seasoning, salt, pepper
Rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper
Garlic, paprika, salt pepper

 

Half Roasted Chicken 3Preheat oven to 425. Place chicken on a cookie sheet, skin side up and brush skin with olive oil. Add seasonings of your choice and bake for 40-45 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

That’s it! Couldn’t be any easier and pairs perfectly with some Roasted Broccoli or potatoes. Enjoy!

 

Wine Pairings:
Averaen Pinot Noir 2015

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi SoupThis comforting soup is so easy to make, thanks to the prepackaged gnocchi that cook directly in the soup. Gnocchi, small potato dumplings that cook in just a few minutes, can be found vacuum-packed in the pasta aisle (I got mine at Trader Joe’s). An added bonus – the starches from the gnocchi release into the soup while cooking, which thicken the hearty broth and guarantee to warm you up on a chilly evening. Add some spicy turkey sausage, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, shallots and zucchini, and you’ve got a healthy, flavorful, balanced meal that is ready in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. Italian turkey sausage links (hot or mild)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes (including liquids)
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 lb. potato gnocchi
2 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup 2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook sausage links in shallow baking pan until cooked throughout, about 15 minutes. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil on medium-low heat, until shallots and garlic sizzle when added. Sauté shallots and garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes, add diced tomatoes with liquid, chicken broth, sugar, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium and add gnocchi and zucchini. Bring back up to a light boil, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until both are cooked. While gnocchi and zucchini are simmering, slice sausage links into discs. Add cannellini beans and sausage and stir until heated, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately and top with grated cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairing:
Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010

(Make ahead tip: If you are planning to make this in advance, prepare gnocchi as directed on package, store separately from soup, and add gnocchi to soup as it’s reheating.  This will prevent the gnocchi from absorbing too much of the soup liquid while storing and becoming mushy.)