Baked Ziti

What’s better than some warm comfort food on a frigid day?  Also, this one provides for plenty of leftovers so you’ll get a few meals out of it.  A classic favorite.

Baked Ziti

Ingredients:
– 12 oz penne or ziti pasta [I used gluten free pasta for this, but regular wheat pasta would work]
– 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
– 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
– 2 tsp olive oil
– 4 medium garlic cloves, minced [I used the magical pre minced garlic]
– 1/4 cup yellow onions, finely chopped
– 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
– salt and pepper to taste

photo 1

This stuff is the BEST!  Definitely snag some for any Italian inspired meals you’re making.

photo 3

Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.  Chop your onion.

photo 2

2.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add onions, garlic, and 1 tsp Italian Seasoning and sauté 2 minutes.

photo 4

3.  Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

photo 5

4.  Stir sauce into pasta and mix well.

photo 2 (2)

5.  In a casserole dish, create a think layer of pasta on the bottom of the dish.  Next, sprinkle a layer of cheese.  Then the rest of the pasta.  Then the rest of the cheese.  Top off with a little Italian Seasoning for good measure.

photo 3 (2) photo 4 (2) photo 5 (2) photo 1 (3)

6.  Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

photo 2 (3)

7.  Scoop and enjoy!

photo 3 (3)

Thoughts:

Perfect for some ol’ fashioned warm up food.  This one is quick during the week if you get out of work on time!  Also, Jacob suggests that if you add salt and pepper while you’re simmering the sauce, it will bring out the flavor.  Add some Parmesan at the end for a little extra flavor!

General Chang’s Chicken

A holiday tradition is to have Chinese food and go to the movies on Christmas Day.  This year, I was inspired to take a crack at one of the most popular dishes, General Tso’s Chicken.  Since I’ve been doing the gluten free thing, I took to my trusty cookbook (Artisanal Gluten Free Cookbook by Peter and Kelli Bronski) to find an alternative to the (usually flour fried) delicious dish.  This is my attempt at their masterpiece.

General Chang’s Chicken

(Inspiration on page 193 of this marvelous cookbook)

Ingredients

Olive Oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
Cornstarch
3 garlic cloves, minced [I used some preminced garlic]
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup cranberry juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons GF soy sauce
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons ground chili paste (depending on heat preference)
2 tablespoons water
Snap peas
Chopped scallions for garnish
Rice (for serving)

photo 1a

Preparation

1.  Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over high heat.

2.  Coat the cubed chicken breasts with cornstarch.

photo 3a

3.  Add the chicken to the oil and cook, turning, until cooked through, lightly browned and crispy on all sides.

photo 4aphoto 5

4.  Transfer cooked chicken to a bowl lined with paper towels.

photo 1

5.  Add the garlic to the remaining olive oil in the skillet and cook until fragrant.

6.  Mix the orange juice, cranberry juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chili paste and stir to mix well.

photo 2a

7.  Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with the water and stir into the sauce and pour into the skillet.  Bring to a boil.

photo 3

8.  Return the chicken to the skillet and cook until the sauce thickens and the chicken is heated through.  Toss in the snap peas and coat in the sauce.

photo 4

9.  Garnish with scallions.  Serve and enjoy!

photo 2b

 

Results

This was a really interesting twist on a classic recipe.  It had a good balance of sweet and spicy that made for a wonderful Chinese food inspired home cooked meal.  It has a crisp in each bite without feeling heavy and too fried.  I included the snap peas because I always like to serve a vegetable in any meal like this and they add a little crunch.  Serve over rice for the full restaurant experience.

Maple Glazed Salmon

So, for Secret Santa this year, my great friend Katie selected my name and chose the most perfect book to gift me.  It is the Artisanal Gluten Free Cookbook by Peter and Kelli Bronski.  I’ve had a joyous time flipping through its pages and having my mouth water at all the beautiful pictures and ideas for recipes.  I started with an easy one to get the hang of things, but I am sure I will have plenty more from this book in the weeks to come.

Maple-Glazed Salmon

(Inspiration on page 179 of this fabulous cookbook)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons tamari wheat-free soy sauce (or GF soy sauce)
1 garlic clove, minced [I used preminced garlic]
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger [I used preminced ginger]
Salt and Pepper to taste
Salmon Filet

photo 1

Preparation:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Whisk together the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.

photo 2

3.  Place the salmon in a shallow dish and pour the maple glaze over the salmon.  Cover and marinate for 30 minutes.

photo 3

4.  Bake the salmon at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until it flakes easily.

photo 4

5.  Serve with some rice and some veggies, and enjoy!

photo 5

Results:

This was an excellent recipe!  The sweet and salty tastes blend together perfectly.  I would suggest marinating the salmon to ensure the tastes get infused.  It’s a great, healthy meal with the sauce giving it a little extra flavor.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

This recipe is one of my favorites when I don’t know what else to make.  There are a bunch of ingredients, but a little goes a long way, so even though you’re buying a lot of new things up front, they will last you a long while.

This one is a quick meal, but also super customizable.  In the recipe below, I used red and green peppers, but you can really throw in any fresh vegetables you have laying around (I sometimes use a cucumber or some green onions, but anything with a crunch will succeed here).   The original recipe is for shrimp, but I opt for some precooked chicken strips.  You could also forgo the meat all together and make this a vegetarian option.  Totally up to you!

Spicy Peanut Noodles

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

Peanut sauce:

1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons chile paste [Find this in the international foods aisle]

Noodles:

4 cups cooked spaghetti or linguine noodles(8 ounces uncooked)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green pepper cut into strips.

1 box pre-cooked chicken strips

photo 1

Preparation:

1.  Boil a pot of water and add noodles.  Boil until noodles are ready, about 10 minutes.  Drain noodles.

2.  To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients; stir until smooth (There will be chunks due to the peanuts, but the rest of the mix should be combined well)

photo 3

2.  To prepare the chicken, sauté in nonstick skillet coat ed with cooking spray over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side or until crispy on the edges.

photo 4

3.  Slice peppers into strips.  Set aside.

photo 2

4.  Combine chicken, noodles, and peppers in pasta pot.  Stir together.

photo 5

5.  Add peanut sauce and stir.

photo 1 (2)

6.  Serve and enjoy!

photo 2 (2)

Results:

The sauce is sweet and yummy and this one throws together in about 10-15 minutes.  It’s great when you don’t know what to prepare or you need to whip a lot of food up quickly.  This one is consistently in my meal rotation, especially on busy weeks.

Party Meatballs!

I had these meatballs at my friend Emily’s engagement party and I found myself so in love with them, I hovered over the serving dish and kept eating more when no one was looking.  I knew that I had to keep this recipe and use it to wow my own party guests someday.  The opportunity came at my annual holiday shindig last night, where (once again) these meatballs got the party started!

Party Meatballs

(Inspiration found here and also from Emily!)

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds ground beef

photo 1

SAUCE:
2 cups ketchup
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion

Preparation:

1.  In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.
photo 2

2.  Mix in ground beef to bowl and knead all ingredients together until well mixed.  Get your hands messy on this one!

photo 3

3.   Shape into 1-in. balls. Place in greased baking dishes.

photo 4

–At this point, I put them in the refrigerator over night.  I had the luxury of preparing them the day before.  If you don’t have the time, you can continue on directly.  However, the fridge step allows for the meatballs to solidify and stay together a bit more than just cooking them directly.–

4.  Combine the sauce ingredients; pour over meatballs. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 1 hour or until meat is no longer pink.  Serve and enjoy!

photo 2 (2)

Results:

A big hit!  The sauce caramelizes while baking, which allows for a great sweet taste.  There are more than enough servings to go around and also provide leftovers.  Yum!

Root Beer BBQ Chicken

As life gets busier, the crock pot becomes more and more essential to my well-being.  This one is quick, easy, and totally delicious.  It’s the combo of sweet and tangy that is the best about barbeque chicken and this recipe captures that balance perfectly.

Root Beer BBQ Chicken

(Inspiration courtesy of my friend Amber’s genius).

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breasts
1 16-oz bottle of barbeque sauce
1 16-oz bottle of root beer (Coke or other dark sodas work really well here too – just nothing diet!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
photo 1

Preparation:

1.  Mix barbeque sauce, soda, and brown sugar together in a bowl.  Consistency should be like a watered down version of the BBQ sauce itself.
photo 2

2.  Insert chicken breasts into crock pot and pour mixture over.

photo 3

3.  Cook on low heat for 8 hours.

photo 1 (2)

4.  Serve up and enjoy!

photo 2 (2)

Results:

Yum!  Perfect balance of sweet and tangy without being overwhelming.   Try not to shred the chicken on this one, though it’s basically impossible because it basically just falls apart.

I almost always use frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot.  This one is no exception.  I find that they are less likely to burn/overcook than non-frozen.  Frozen also store longer and allow you to throw together this meal at any time.

Grandma Sylvia’s Brisket

As we come upon the holiday season, what better way to celebrate than with comfort food?  My grandmother passed down the BEST brisket recipe and so here I pass it along to you.

Grandma Sylvia’s Brisket

(Inspiration from my grandmother!)

Ingredients:

2 to 2 ½ lb. flat cut beef brisket
1 c. catsup
1 envelope of Lipton Onion Soup
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water

photo 1

Preparations:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix  catsup, soup, brown sugar and water in a bowl.

photo 2

3.  Place brisket in a baking pan.

photo 3

4.  Pour mixture over.

photo 4

5.  Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours*. [See note below on cook time]

photo 5

6.  Uncover and bake ½ hour more.

photo 1 (2)

7.  The brisket will shrink (totally normal!).  Baste with pan juices and slice to serve.

photo 2 (2)

Results:

*As a general rule, consider cooking 3/4 of an hour per pound.  In this case, I had a 2.5 lb brisket, so I did 2 hours.   If you use a smaller piece of meat, you can cook it for less time (and vice versa).  However, definitely be sure to do the 30 minutes uncovered, regardless of the rest of your cook time.

This is another Sunday one, because it’s easy but it takes a few hours to cook.  It’s definitely a quality comfort food and leftovers are even better the next day.  Serve with mashed potatoes and a veggie (in this case, I used asparagus).   It will warm you up and make you smile 🙂