Monday, December 24, 2012

Chicky-Chicky Parm-Parm

Somehow amidst my crazy Christmas Cookie Baking Extravaganza I also managed to cook real food to take to work for lunch. Luckily Chicken Parmesan is super low-maintenance. You don't have to constantly mix things or babysit it on the stove. Just pop it in the oven.

I'm not as low-maintenance as Chicken Parmesan. I, of course, have to tailor it to my specifications. I don't like fried food and I really don't like breaded chicken. Typically, the chicken is dredged in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and then pan fried before being smothered in sauce and cheese and popped in the oven. In my version, I give chicken a light dusting of breadcrumbs seasoned with Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning and bake it before smothering it in sauce and cheese.


Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Tenders
Breadcrumbs (about 1 cup, depending on how much chicken you make!)
Parmesan Cheese (about 1/2 cup)
Italian Seasoning

Olive Oil
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 Large Onion, Diced
1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Can Tomato Sauce
Italian Seasoning

Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and place a baking rack in the pan.

Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, add salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste.

Lightly coat chicken with breadcrumb mixture and place on the rack in the baking pan. Cook at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Flip after 15 minutes and cook until juices run clear.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a deep skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions begin to soften. Add tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes and season to taste. Gently simmer.

Once chicken is cooked, remove rack and return chicken the baking pan (leave the foil for easy cleanup!) Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over chicken and cover with sauce. Add more mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and the edges are bubbly.

Serve over pasta.

Since I made my pasta for the entire week, I drizzled olive oil over it so it wouldn't clump in the fridge.

I've been eating a lot of Italian lately...maybe I should mix it up...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life!

I made Reinbeers for my brother and my roommate for Christmas. I saw it on Pinterest in like August and I said "oh I'm totally making those." And then I did. Whilst shopping for pipe cleaners, I saw sparkly ones right next to the brown ones. Obviously I chose the sparkly ones.

Brother Beer

Roomie Beer (and roomie's photo!)

This is as crafty as I get.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza

I like to give cookies as gifts because who doesn't love cookies?! I always get really excited about baking the cookies and then I remember that it's kind of a huge project. Somebody recently noted that my blog is light on the 'zerts. This is by design. For the past few months, every time I've had the urge to bake, I'd remind myself that I would be baking for 3 days straight in mid-December. Those 3 days are now behind me and I'm pleased to say I survived. 

I'm glad I saved up all of my baking energy, because it propelled me through my final baking day as I questioned my own sanity for making 8 types of cookies. Now that all the cookies are cooled and the dishes are cleaned, I can sit down and present to you Tracy's 2012 Christmas Cookie Line-up:

(We always called them snowballs growing up. I was shocked to learn that they 
go by much fancier names, like Russian Tea Cakes. So classy!)

Most of these are the same cookies I've made every Christmas since I was a little kid baking with my mom. I'm not sure if these are the exact recipes we used, but these are what I've been using. 

The Raspberry Pinwheels and the Almond Shortbread Cookies are my own additions, and the pinwheels are especially loved. I would have a mutiny on my hands if I didn't include them on my cookie plates. I sometimes get the urge to experiment with new types of cookies, but I can't part with my classics!

Happy Holidays Everyone! Make sure to eat lots of cookies!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Irish Meatballs, Mangia Mangia!

The only thing that makes these meatballs Irish is the fact that an Irish lass made them. They're your typical Italian meatball. Although a nice beef/lamb combo meatball with some cheddar, bacon, and onion might be delicious with colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage). Irish meatballs, Tracymarked. Stay tuned for that.

Anyway, back to Italy. I love meatballs. I'm not a big pizza person (unless I make it myself) so when I go out for pizza with people I usually get an order of garlic bread and an order of meatballs and I make myself a little meatball sub. Pure genius. Luckily, it's super easy to make meatballs and, double bonus, they make your whole house smell amazing. They're so versatile so you can serve them any way you like, plus you can freeze them (freezing directions below)! 

2 lbs ground beef (or 1 lb beef and 1 lb pork)
1 medium onion
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
Italian seasoning

1 can tomato sauce
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
Italian seasoning


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grate half of your onion directly into a large bowl. Mince the other half of the onion and add to bowl. Add garlic, meat, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning. Mix JUST until combined. The more you mess with the meat, the tougher it will be. If you want moist and tender meatballs, mix sparingly.

I use my hands to mix because it's the best way to thoroughly combine the ingredients without over-mixing the meat.

I was going to take a picture of the combined meat, but I didn't feel like washing my hands just to take a picture when they'd get all meaty again from rolling my meatballs. Please use your imaginations.

Roll your meatballs into about golf ball-sized balls and place in a foil-lined baking pan (Foil=easy clean-up!) and place into oven for about 20 minutes.

At this point, I started to get concerned that my sous-chef wasn't underfoot as per usual. He hadn't been feeling well so I went searching and found him cuddled up in my down comforter.

Back in the kitchen, increase your oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

If you want to freeze your meatballs, let them cool and place them in a freezer bag, then when you're ready to serve them, let them thaw and pick up from this point

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl to make your sauce.

Transfer meatballs to a high-sided pan and place in a single layer. Heat pan to medium-high.

Pour your sauce over the top and reduce heat; let simmer for 20 minutes

Turn meatballs in sauce to coat evenly

Serve alone with some mozzarella cheese, over pasta, or (my favorite) on garlic bread with provolone for the best meatball sub you'll ever eat.

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

CrockPot Honey Sesame Chicken

After a crazy busy Thanksgiving weekend, I was finally relaxing on Sunday when I realized that I needed to eat during the week. I was so worried about planning for the weekend that I didn't even think about lunches for work. I did a quick scan of ingredients and decided to make this recipe that I came across on Pinterest a few months ago. I intended to make it as written, but I didn't have enough honey so I started improvising. Here's what I came up with:

3 or 4 Large Chicken Breasts
Garlic Powder

1 Small Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup Honey
2-3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
2-3 Tbsp Ketchup
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil

Sesame seeds

Cooked Brown Rice

(Apparently I took no pictures of the process. Instead, I took pictures of my dog and Christmas decorations...I'm a distracted cook.)

Season both sides of the chicken salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Dredge lightly with cornstarch. Place into crockpot.

This is Roscoe sleeping on the couch.

Combine onion, garlic, oil, honey, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, and sesame oil. Taste sauce and adjust ingredients to your taste. Pour over chicken and flip chicken to coat in sauce.

This is Roscoe surfing the net.

Tip: measure your oil and pour into the measuring cup before you measure the honey. The honey will slide right out instead of being a sticky mess.

This is my feature wall.

Cook on low for 4.5 hours or just until chicken is cooked through.
Remove chicken from crock pot, cut into bite-sized pieces and return to slow cooker. Dredging the chicken in cornstarch should thicken your sauce. If you would like it thicker, dissolve 3 tbsp of cornstarch in water and stir into your sauce.

This is my Christmas tree and Village.

Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds
(note: these are pictures of actual food)

My honey bear had seen better days so I had to give him a hot bath to get things moving...

Once I replenish my supplies I plan on making the original recipe because it looks so delicious!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Tortellini

I managed not to cook for Thanksgiving this year, except for our annual day-after potluck. Our group of friends all get together to eat deep-fried turkey and a buffet of sides. In addition to making gravy and stuffing, I was tasked with bringing a pasta dish that was hot, meaty, and creamy. Like Top Chef, except instead of a basket of ingredients I got a basket of adjectives. I decided to make a creamy pasta primavera with tortellini and Italian sausage. Tortellini is a nice firm, starchy pasta that can hold up to a thick, creamy sauce without falling apart, and it has little nooks where the sauce and veggies can hide.

When I was at the grocery store I saw Italian sausage-stuffed tortellini, so I grabbed it, thinking I could cut out a step. Unfortunately, it was actually ravioli, not tortellini. Apparently I'm really bad at reading. I didn't realize I had ravioli until I was actually cooking the dish so I decided to just go with it. Ravioli is so fragile, it started tearing when I was mixing it into the sauce. My advice: read your packages carefully and make sure you buy tortellini. If you want to add meat, you can buy Italian sausage and remove it from the casing before cooking.

2 Packages Tortellini (in the Refrigerated Pasta Section)
1 Bag Frozen Spinach (16oz), Thawed and Squeezed Dry
1 Container Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
1 Container Sliced Mushrooms
2 Medium Onions, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Container Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Brick of Cream Cheese (8oz), Cut into Cubes
1 Tbsp Butter
1/4 Cup Half-and-Half
Italian Seasoning

Prepare pasta according to directions on the package.

Heat olive oil in a pan, melt butter and add mushrooms and onions. Cook until soft and add garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Take pan off of the heat and add cubed cream cheese, stirring well until melted. Add half and half to reach desired consistency.

Add spinach and tomatoes and mix well.

Add cooked pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

This is best served right away. I tried to make it as close to dinner time as possible, but the boyfriend and I were asked to run some errands on the way out so it was cold by the time we got there. To reheat, I put it in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours to make sure it heated evenly.

It still met rave reviews, despite all of my shortcomings!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sunday = Football and Chili

It looks like this outside today
 So I'm making chili. After I annoy the animals with pictures.

Okay, chili time. I used to be a huge wimp, so when my mom made chili she made 2 batches: 1 spicy and with beans (technically not chili, but we'll get to that soon) and 1 bland and without beans. It was basically meat sauce, now that I really think about it, but that's what I wanted. I've since graduated to spicy chili after realizing that I enjoy spicy foods (yay!) but I still refuse to add beans to chili. Traditional chili does not contain beans, which is a really convenient anecdote for bean haters such as myself. Add beans if you want, just don't call it chili.

1lb Ground Beef
2-3 Medium Onions
1-3 Cloves of Garlic
28oz Tomato Sauce
2 Cans Chili Tomatoes
28oz Diced Tomatoes
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Tortilla Chips, 
Oyster Crackers, Diced Onions to top


Combine beef, onions, and garlic and cook on medium-high heat until beef is mostly cooked through. Drain excess fat if necessary.

Add tomato sauce and chili tomatoes. Season to taste. I use about 2 tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp each salt and pepper, and almost a whole jar of chili powder. Be sure to taste as you season. You'll get a lot of saltiness from the meat and tomatoes, so don't over-season!

Add diced tomatoes and check seasonings. (I added more chili powder)

Let chili simmer until onions are soft.

Top with whatever you like. I add cheese and oyster crackers.

Change the ingredients depending on what kind of spiciness you like. For chili, I like all over heat that kind of sneaks up on you. Like you're halfway through your bowl before you realize your eyes are watering. That's what this recipe does; you feel it in your throat before you feel it on your tongue

If you like instant heat that you can feel on your tongue right away (think hot wings) add chili peppers to the beef, onions, and garlic. You can also add some hot sauce and more cayenne pepper to change the heat profile.

Stay warm!