November 19, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Covered Pretzel Nachos

So I may have gone a little "nacho" crazy with these and now these pretzel nachos. I came up with the idea and just couldn't help myself.

I've always been obsessed with chocolate/caramel covered pretzel rods sold at specialty candy shops, but the price is definitely something I'm not obsessed with. So enter homemade pretzel nachos.

What's better than chocolate and pretzels people? Not much if you ask me.
Chocolate Caramel Covered Pretzel Nachos
60-80 pretzel twists (only a small part of a bag of pretzels)
10 Kraft caramels, unwrapped
1/2 tsp. water
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/8 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

1. Spread pretzel twists evenly onto a large plate and make a second layer on top.
2. Place caramels in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/2 tsp. water and microwave for 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds. Stir and drizzle over pretzels.
3. *Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 50% power for 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds. Stir until smooth and drizzle over pretzels.
4. Repeat step 3 with the white chocolate chips. Be careful not to overcook.
5. Let sit until chocolate has hardened and enjoy!

*A double broiler works best to melt chocolate, but the microwave will also work if done correctly.

November 16, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

For way too long, Jordan and I ate those nasty frozen Banquet chicken pot pies thinking they were a filling, quick and cheap dinner. What was I expecting out of a 50 cent convenience food really? Anyway, once I started cooking more, I realized how horrible those are for you and how terrible they actually taste.
This was my first ever homemade chicken pot pie and I loved it! The filling was very creamy and I loved the addition of shredded chicken instead of the classic cubed. I'm a little sassy when it comes to how my chicken is prepared for some reason.
Anyway, this will be a major hit at your house because it is pure comfort food. Mega yum!

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from AllRecipes
1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup sliced celery
1 cup frozen green peas
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. onion powder
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 (9-inch) unbaked pie crusts

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. In a saucepan, combine carrots, peas and celery. Add enough water to cover vegetables and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, stir in chicken and set aside.
3. Melt butter in a saucepan and stir in flour, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Form one pie crust into the bottom of a pie pan or dish and place the chicken/veggie mixture on top of it. Pour hot liquid mixture over, being careful not to overfill. Cover with top crust, seal edges and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
5. Place on a baking sheet in case of spills and bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

November 14, 2012

Sweet 'n' Salty Peanut Butter Bites

I don't even know where to start with these babies. I seriously could have ate the entire batch myself, but I decided to be nice and share with my husband. They are the perfect little snack and taste like a chocolate chip peanut butter cookie with a kick of honey. SO good.

The best part is they are a no-bake treat and are a great energy food. You've seriously got to try these!

Sweet ‘n’ Salty Peanut Butter Bites
Slightly Adapted from: Smashed Peas and Carrots
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey

1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup wheat or oat bran (found in the bulk health foods)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy! Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week.

November 13, 2012

Tips & Tricks: How to Prepare, Freeze and Organize Your Own Chicken Breasts

I don't know if you're like me, but I went through the whole prefrozen/storebought chicken fiasco just like any other newlywed thinking it was cheaper and better than buying a package of fresh chicken.

Well let me tell you, I've learned a thing or to in the past few years and freezing your own fresh chicken is SO much better. 

I'll take you through this in some easy steps, highlighting the most important parts. 

Yes, this process does take a little time, but you'll be so glad you did it the next time you're in a hurry and need some chicken for dinner.
1. Purchase a package of fresh chicken from your local grocery store. Chicken breasts are "on sale" at $1.99/lb. or less. This is the best time to buy or stock up. A few weeks ago they were only $1.69/lb. at Smith's. Total steal!
2. Use chicken breasts in the first week or so after purchasing or you'll need to freeze or toss them out.
3. Tools you need: sharp knife, large cutting board, quart-sized plastic zip-lock freezer bags for each chicken breast and a Sharpie.
4. Write the date on each freezer bag and set aside.
5. Take each individual chicken breast and cut all of the excess fat(white nasty) and any other undesirable parts of it off with a sharp knife on your cutting board. (This will save you time when you actually use the chicken.)
6. Place each chicken breast in ziplock bag and squeeze all of the excess air out. Zip shut.
7. Once you're done, organize the chicken by date in a container in your freezer for easy access. (I may or may not store mine in a shoebox...) A plastic container would work great, too.
8. To Thaw: I usually do the cold water method by filling up a bowl of water and placing the bag of chicken in it to thaw. It's fast and convenient since these safe in a plastic bag, but here are a whole slew of other options on how to thaw chicken.

Hope this will work for you as well as it does for me!

November 12, 2012

Homemade Pretzel Bites

I don't know how many of you were as obsessed as I was with Pretzelmaker when you were younger, but I LOVED their pretzels. Well, I still do actually.

I came across this recipe ages ago on Pinterest and finally tried it. Super easy and they totally taste like legit pretzel bites. We practically fought over them!

Make sure you use kosher salt though because it's what makes all the difference.

Homemade Pretzel Bites
Slightly Adapted from Get Off Your Butt and Bake
Makes 30
15 regular Rhodes rolls, thawed
melted butter, about 2-4 Tbsp.
kosher salt*

1. Cut each roll into 2 sections. Roll each section into a ball-shape and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Let rise until doubled in size.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Bring about 2-3 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Drop about 10 bites into the boiling water and stir gently so all sides are shocked with water. Boil for about 45 seconds.
4. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel that has been set on top of a dish towel.
5. Repeat with the rest of the rolls. Remove them carefully off of the paper towel onto a greased baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
7. Brush or roll each bite with melted butter. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

*For a variation, butter and dip into Parmesan cheese or a cinnamon/sugar mixture.

November 9, 2012

Food Link Friday: Soup Season

Copycat Zupa's Wisconsin Cauliflower Soup
This is one of my favorite soups at Zupa's! If it's anything like the real deal, I might be gaining a few pounds real soon!
Caprese Soup
Pesto and mozzarella topped baguettes in a creamy, tomato soup? PURE genius.
Tuscan Sausage Soup
Is anyone else drooling over this soup?! Making this right away!
Southern Style Chicken and Dumplings
This looks like the perfect "soup" to have on a cold night.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Capers and Chive Oil
Holy decadent! I love how cauliflower is making its presence known in the food world these days!

November 7, 2012

Cheesy Lemon Spinach Pasta Bake

The original recipe I went off of was a little too calorie heavy for me so I decided to lighten it up a bit.

This pasta has the best lemon flavor and is so creamy and well, cheesy. It was a definite hit at our place.
You can't say it isn't cheesy looking at this picture.

Cheesy Lemon Spinach Pasta Bake
Adapted from Our Best Bites: Savoring the Seasons
3 cups pasta, such as Rotini
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 medium lemon
2 cups roughly chopped, loosely packed fresh spinach
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
2. Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic to pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour to pan and whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and continue to whisk until smooth. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and bring sauce to a simmer.
3. While sauce is heating, use a microplane grater or a fine-holed cheese grater to zest the lemon. After zesting the lemon, cut it in half and juice it. Add 2 teaspoons zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to sauce. Continue to stir until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Drain pasta and return to stockpot. Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add sauce and gently stir to combine. Place pasta mixture in a 9x9-inch baking dish and top with remaining cheeses.
5. Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes before serving.

November 5, 2012

Copycat Chick-fil-a Bites with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

I made these little nuggets about a month ago and this picture still has me drooling. I don't know if it's the powdered sugar in the unusual marinade on this chicken or what, but these were phenomenal.

And the honey mustard sauce? To die for.

We all know how good Chick-fil-a's chicken is, but if you want to try something equally as awesome at home, this is your recipe. Seriously try it.

Chick-Fil-A Bites
Slightly Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces and seasoned with salt & pepper
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vinegar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup oil, divided
For the Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
 2 Tbsp. honey
1. Whisk together egg, milk and vinegar and pour into a large ziplock bag or bowl. Add chicken pieces and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
2. Combine flour, powdered sugar, salt and pepper in a large ziplock bag. Shake to combine. Remove chicken from the marinade and add into the bag. Shake to coat the chicken completely.
3. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (6 or 7 out of 10.) Test the oil by dropping in a bit of the flour mixture. If it sizzles, the oil is ready, if it pops, lower the temperature a bit.
4. Gently place chicken pieces into the oil with tongs. Do this in 2 batches, as you don’t want to overcrowd the pan. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown on one side. Turn the chicken over and allow to cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate. Heat the remaining oil and continue with the other half of the chicken pieces.
5. Stir together the honey mustard dipping sauce ingredients, and serve with the hot chicken bites.

November 3, 2012

Featured Post: Apple Pie Apple Nachos

Zach and Sarah over at High Heels and Grills featured my Apple Pie Apple Nachos on their Work It Wednesday segment of their blog this past week so make sure you check it out!

November 2, 2012

Mushroom Lasagna with Creamy White Sauce

First of all, if you're not a fan of mushrooms you'll probably hate this lasagna because well, it's LOADED with them.

I however, LOVE them. Especially cooked in a little butter and browned to perfection. Yum.

This was a major hit at my house with all the creamy layers of alfredo, parmesan and browned mushrooms. And while I'm not usually a fan of nutmeg, it was amazing paired with the mushrooms. Who knew?

Please give this a try if you even sorta like mushrooms even just a little bit because it is so tasty!

Mushroom Lasagna with Creamy White Sauce
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 tsp. garlic, minced
4 cups milk
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan

*Note: If you don’t care to use no-boil noodles or don’t have them on hand, substitute regular lasagna noodles, boiling and draining them prior to assembling the lasagna.

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. For the white sauce, bring the milk and garlic to a simmer in a medium saucepan, or heat it in your microwave in a glass liquid measure, and set it aside.
3. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) butter. Add the flour and cook for one minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon.
4. Pour in the hot milk, a little at a time at first and whisking until combined. Once you’ve added half of it, you can add the second half all at once, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Cook the white sauce over medium-low heat, stirring or whisking frequently, anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes, or until thick. Set aside.
5. To prepare the mushrooms, slice the mushrooms 1/4-inch thick, trimming stems if desired (I left them on). In a large 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms with a couple pinches of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are tender and release some of their juices. Stir occasionally to make sure they cook evenly.
6. To assemble the lasagna, lightly coat with cooking spray the bottom and sides of a 9X13-inch baking dish. Spread 1/4 cup or so of the white sauce in the bottom of the dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top (about 3 no-boil noodles for each layer without overlapping them – just laying them next to each other), then more sauce (about 1/4 of what remains), 1/3 of the mushrooms and 1/3 or so cup of the grated cheese. Repeat two more times then top with a final layer of noodles, your remaining sauce and last 1/4 cup of cheese.
7. Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit, lightly covered for 10-15 minutes before serving.