Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hearty Tomato Soup with Parmesan-Crusted Croutons

I honestly cannot believe I'm posting yet ANOTHER tomato soup recipe on this blog. Or tomato anything for that matter. I don't even know who I am anymore. Apparently my tastebuds are growing up finally. It only took a few years...
So onto this soup. Isn't that the prettiest red you've ever seen?? I'm in love with how these pictures turned out. And the soup wasn't too bad either. Another new favorite of my husband and mine.
And the Parmesan-crusted croutons aren't too bad of an idea either. Actually they're an amazing idea and I'm trying to think of anyway I can incorporate them into every meal. SUPER easy to make, too.
This soup is hearty, but you can decide how thick or smooth you want it to be, and it has a great rich flavor. Make sure to have some bread, croutons or a grilled cheese on hand to use as a dipper to get the full effect.
You will not be disappointed.

Hearty Tomato Soup with Parmesan-Crusted Croutons
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Servings: 6
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 (14.5 oz.) cans whole tomatoes
16 oz. chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

Croutons
1/2 whole baguette, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat, then add onion, garlic, and carrots. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Add canned tomatoes with their juice, broth, and water. Stir together and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
2. Use an immersion blender to puree, still leaving some texture to the tomatoes. Add half and half, salt, pepper, and basil; simmer for another 5 minutes.
3. To make the croutons, drizzle baguette rounds lightly with olive oil. Place Tablespoon sized piles of Parmesan in a nonstick skillet. Place a baguette round on top of each pile. Turn on the heat to medium. Press with a spatula as you melt the cheese into each round. When set, flip to the other side to toast.
4. Serve soup with one or two croutons on top and a little bit of basil.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Spiced Carrot Applesauce Muffins {Healthy & Toddler Approved}

I'm always trying to think of ways to get my toddler to eat healthier/eat more vegetables. And what better way to get him to eat vegetables than sneak them into a healthy muffin?? Let's just say he loved these and kept asking for more. If you have a picky 2-year-old (or 40-year-old for that matter) in your home, not even they will be able to resist these. They are sweet and addicting with all the added health benefits.
I'm not going to lie and say that I actually used the 1/2 cup of honey that the recipe called for because does anyone really have/want to use that much honey in one recipe?? I don't. So I found a great substitute using good old sugar and water. You could also use other substitutes such as maple syrup, molasses, etc. but they would definitely change the flavor. Maybe for the better? Anyway, these muffins are great and we will definitely be making these again.

Spiced Carrot Applesauce Muffins
Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
1 1/2 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup honey or 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar mixed with 2 Tbsp. water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup finely shredded carrots (about 2-3 medium carrots)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners. (I love my silicone liners.)
2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the butter, honey, egg, vanilla, and applesauce.
3. Stir ingredients together until just combined and there are still some spots of flour remaining.
Fold in the shredded carrots just until combined (don't overmix or the muffins will be dense).
Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin liners.
4. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. These muffins freeze wonderfully and keep well if covered at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Grilled Chicken and Cranberry Feta Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

A couple of years ago I finally figured out what my favorite salads consist of. A dark green lettuce of some sort, cheese, fruit of some kind, a protein (usually chicken or bacon) and a light dressing. Now I love a good old house salad with ranch dressing as well, but when I have my favorite kind of salad I can't be stopped. And I don't think that's a bad thing.
While this Strawberry Spinach Salad and Poppy Seed Dressing is still one of my favorites, I think I have found it's runner-up. I couldn't believe how tasty yet healthy this salad was. And making your own salad dressing is SO much easier than you would think without all of the preservatives.
The combination of the grilled chicken, salty feta cheese, tart but sweet cranberries and light orange dressing is phenomenal. This would be perfect to take to your next get together and the possibility of toppings is endless. Three cheers for another successful salad recipe!

Grilled Chicken and Cranberry Feta Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing
Adapted from Cooking Classy
Grilled Chicken
1 large chicken breast
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp. orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Salad
1 lb. fresh spinach or romaine lettuce
1 cup crumbled feta
3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Combine paprika, pepper, salt, garlic and onion powder in a small bowl. Set aside. Brush chicken breast with 1 tsp. olive oil. Rub spices evenly on chicken breast. Grill over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes a side or until chicken is cooked through. Shred or slice chicken into strips and let cool.
2. Add olive oil, canola oil, orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard and salt into a blender to make the dressing. Pulse until well emulsified. Pour into a jar and stir in poppy seeds. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Combine chicken, spinach, feta and cranberries in a large bowl. Pour dressing over top and toss to evenly coat. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chicken Sandwiches with Roasted Red Pepper Mayo and Basil

Ohhhh these sandwiches. These sandwiches are really just too good to be true. They're the kind of sandwiches that make my mouth water just looking at these pictures.
 Because come on, how good does that sauce look?? We all know it's all about the sauce anyway.
And the combination of the roasted red pepper mayo, fresh basil, chicken and some melted cheese is honestly too perfect. These were deemed my husband's new favorite sandwich and I think I have to agree that it's mine, too.
Not only are they delicious, but they are incredibly easy to make. Like almost too easy really. Too easy for how good they are.
I love how versatile a jar of roasted red peppers can be. It's really a smart thing to keep in your kitchen at all times. Trust me. Especially to make some beloved Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo with Feta. A classic in our house. And for this recipe be sure to use FRESH basil. It makes all the difference.

Chicken Sandwiches with Roasted Red Pepper Mayo and Basil
Slightly Adapted from Our Best Bites
7 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry (about 3/4 cup)
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
kosher salt and black pepper
1 large french baguette or 4 large hoagie buns
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
fresh basil leaves

1. Place roasted red peppers, garlic, mayo and lemon juice in a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until smooth and then store in the fridge until ready to use. 

2. Slice bread in half to open it up. Lightly brush with olive oil or butter and place under a broiler until golden brown and toasted. (Be careful not to burn.) Remove from oven and spread red pepper sauce on the bottom half of the bread. Layer chicken on top of it and top with cheese.  Place bottom half of bread back in the broiler just until cheese is melted. Top with basil leaves.  Spread red pepper sauce on other side of bread and put sandwich together. Slice into 4 large hoagies or 8 smaller sandwiches.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Oh cinnamon rolls...I can't believe I've taken this long to post a cinnamon roll recipe. Oh wait, that's probably because I haven't made them from scratch since I was about ten. But oh how I love cinnamon rolls and have never dared to make them because I knew I could eat a whole batch by myself.
Enter these goodies that fit into one deep pie pan and are as easy as they are dreamy. Did I tell you how much I love cinnamon rolls??
These bad boys not only fit in a pie pan, but they only require one rise that makes them very doable. And the dough? It is perfectly sweet and works well with the cinnamon filling.
The glaze is a real winner, too. Not only because it's easy, but it tastes great, too. I used half and half, which I think made all the difference. 
I snapped this last picture right as my in-laws walked through the door for their specially ordered hot cinnamon rolls. ;) But really, the timing was too perfect for their visit.
Don't ever be intimidated by making these because you can totally do it! And it'll be so worth it, too.

Easy Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Slightly Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes 11 Cinnamon Rolls
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, more if needed
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 package instant yeast (1 packet = 2 and 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
2 and 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large egg

Filling
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

Glaze (You can easily double this if you would like your cinnamon rolls lathered in icing)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp. milk, half & half or cream

For the Dough:
1. In a large mixing bowl, toss flour, sugar, salt and yeast together until combined. Set aside.
2. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to touch. About 115-120F degrees. (I used my meat thermometer to check the temperature.) Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture.
3. Add the egg and more flour, a Tablespoon at a time, if needed until dough is no longer sticky. Dough will be ready when it gently pulls away from the side of the bowl and has an elastic consistency.
4. On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer, knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rest for about 10 minutes.

For the filling:
5. After letting the dough rest, roll it out in a 14x8-inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on top. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle it all over the dough. Starting with a long side, roll up the dough tightly with the seam side down. Cut into 11 even pieces and place in a lightly greased 9-inch round pan. (Dental floss works great for cutting cinnamon rolls. Simply place a piece of floss under the rolled dough where you need to make your cut and bring the floss up around the dough, crossing it over the top and cutting through the dough and filling.

6. Loosely cover the rolls with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes. Tip: Heat the oven to 200 degrees F. Turn oven off. Place rolls inside oven and allow to rise. (Mine only needed to rise for an hour.)
7. After the rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25-30 minutes covering with aluminum foil after 15 minutes left to avoid heavy browning.

For the Glaze:
8. Mix the powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 Tablespoons milk together until smooth and drizzle over rolls. If it seems too thick, add 1 more Tablespoon milk. Right before serving, top your cinnamon rolls with glaze. 


Serve warm and enjoy!