Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cream Cheese Pie

This is cream cheese pie. It is a staple at our house. When my mom asked my brother what he would like for Thanksgiving, he said, "Cream Cheese Pie." When she asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he said, "Cream Cheese Pie." He didn't ask for turkey or ham or dressing or any of the other staples to Southern tables. He just wanted cream cheese pie. Yep, it is that good. It is so super simple, too. SO. SIMPLE.

When I made this pie, I made it incorrectly :). SO, today you will not only learn how to make cream cheese pie, you will also learn what to do when you make a boo-boo.
Step One: Beat cream cheese on medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Step Two: Add sweetened condensed milk. Continue to beat until smooth.
Step Three: Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.

If you mess up Steps One - Three by mixing the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla all in the mixer at the same time because you were in a hurry but then had pie filling like cottage cheese *deep breath*, there are two ways to fix it:

Way to fix it #1: If you have a Kitchenaid mixer (or something similar), use the whisk attachment and turn the mixer on its highest speed. Let it mix on high until the filling is completely smooth.

Way to fix it #2: In my pre-Kitchenaid mixer days when I got in a hurry and made a cottage cheese looking filling, I discovered that I could puree the filling in the blender until smooth. My blender is pitiful, so I had to puree that filling a little at a time, but it still worked!

Step Four: Pour the filling into a graham cracker crust (or a Nilla Wafer one if you can find it!), and then refrigerate for about 2 hours or until it has set.
...Or...If you are in my family, and patience is in short supply, just skip the refrigeration part. The filling will run out everywhere and it won't be quite as enjoyable, but it will still taste oh. so. good...
I thought I was going to have to beat off a family member to get this picture! I never had a chance to take a picture of a piece of pie!


Cream Cheese Pie
Click here for printable version
1 - 9 in. graham cracker crust
1 - 8 oz. pack cream cheese
1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 t. vanilla

Beat cream cheese on medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sweetened condensed milk. Continue to beat until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Pour the filling into the graham cracker crust. Refrigerate two hours or until set.
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pink Alfredo Chicken Penne

This is an ever so slightly altered version of Plain Chicken's Grilled Chicken over Tomato Alfredo Sauce. I just used a different amount of all of the ingredients, and I made my chicken in Perfect Chicken style. I love Steph's Plain Chicken blog. She always posts good, easy-to-make stuff, and she's an Alabama girl. Well, she lives in Alabama. I believe she cheers for Auburn. I overlook that point. Roll Tide Roll! I meant to post this recipe in October for breast cancer awareness since the sauce is pink, but a new job, family illnesses, and grad school got in the way. I hope to pick up the blogging pace again very soon! Here is the recipe card which is already incorrect. If you want to see what I really do, scroll down to the bottom for the printable recipe.

Step One: Make an oregano version of Perfect Chicken (Click the link for the recipe). The short version: Mix 1/2 t. each of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika, and oregano together. Rub all of the spice mix on both sides of 3-4 chicken breasts. Sear both sides in a dutch oven, and then cook 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting. This method makes perfectly cooked chicken for me every time.
What is the difference between regular Perfect Chicken and the oregano version? Well when you make the regular version you mix together 1/2 t. of each of the following: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.  

When you make the oregano version you mix exactly the same amount of each kind of those spices, but you add 1/2 t. of oregano, too. 
Complicated, huh?

Please say you caught the sarcasm.

Step Two: While the chicken cooks in the oven, make everything else. First, throw 2-3 chopped cloves of garlic into a tablespoon of oil. Cook on low to medium-low heat in a small pan until the garlic begins to sizzle.  

Step Three: Bring a pot of well salted water to a rolling boil...

...and add penne rigate pasta. Let it continue to cook.  

This is what the garlic will look like when it starts to sizzle. See the little bubbles? Remove it from heat for a minute or two.

This is the kind of alfredo sauce I recommend. There is another major brand of pasta sauces (whose spaghetti sauces I usually really like) that makes an alfredo sauce that just tastes...well, weird. Get this kind. :)  

Ok, so I know that this is weird, but the first time I made this recipe there was still a good bit of time before I had to take the chicken out of the oven or drain the pasta so I started loading the dishwasher. I had just enough room for the little pan that I had used to saute the garlic so I poured the oil and garlic into the alfredo sauce jar. Then I put my little pan (it wants to be a full-sized pan when it grows up) into the dishwasher, started the dishwasher, and felt very proud that I had accomplished something. I pour the oil and garlic into the jar every time. Why? I really don't know. You are welcome to do the same if you would like. 
Step Four: After the pasta rigate has cooked to your taste (I cook it past al dente. I like squishier pasta. I'm Southern. I'm not a pedigree pasta person. Cook the pasta the way you like :). ), drain the pasta. Then return the pasta to the hot pot to evaporate off any excess water (Water tends to hang out inside those little tubes).

Step Five: Add the alfredo sauce, tomato sauce, garlic and oil, and Italian seasoning to the pasta. Stir well.
(I just thought that I should point out that the reason you get penne rigate pasta rather than penne pasta is because the ridges in the rigate kind cling to the pasta sauce so very well. ...Yum!)
(I should also admit that I usually burn myself at this point because I feel that I must taste...and I rarely wait for a bite to cool before biting into it.)

This photo shows the reason that you should make Perfect Chicken. Look how perfectly cooked and juicy and pretty that chicken is. *Sigh*
Step Six: After the Perfect Chicken has cooked and rested, trim it of fat and tendons and then slice it to your preferred thickness. 

To serve: Top the pasta with slices of Perfect Chicken, parsley (for color), and grated real Parmesan cheese.  

Oh. My. Goodness. This is one of the easiest meals I make - cheesy, alfredo-y, slightly tomato-y goodness topped with perfectly cooked chicken and Parmesan cheese is all kinds of fantastic.

Pink Alfredo Chicken Penne
Oregano Perfect Chicken, sliced - recipe follows
1 - 15oz jar Classico Alfredo Sauce
1 - 8oz can tomato sauce
2-3 garlic cloves
, chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 t. Italian seasoning
1 - 8 oz. box penne rigate pasta
Parmesan cheese

chopped parsley, optional

Cook penne rigate pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, saute garlic in oil over low to medium-low heat just until it begins to sizzle. Set aside. When the pasta has been cooked to taste, drain well and then return to the hot pot. Add the garlic and oil mixture, alfredo sauce, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning.

To serve, top pasta with Oregano Perfect Chicken slices, parsley, and Parmesan cheese.

Oregano Perfect Chicken
Recipe available on printable version of Pink Alfredo Chicken Penne
2-4 boneless chicken breasts with or without rib meat
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. oregano
2-3 T. olive oil
Mix salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and oregano in a small bowl (I use my old 1/4 cup). Coat the chicken breasts in the seasoning, rubbing in to coat. Pour olive oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven, and heat to med-high. When nice and hot, add chicken to the pan (in batches if necessary). Cook 2-3 min per side. If any chicken has been removed, add it back to the Dutch oven. Place uncovered Dutch oven in a 350 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until juices run clear. Let sit on a plate 5-10 minutes before cutting, shredding, or eating.
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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lazy Ranch Cream Cheese Chicken Puff

So, I tried making these Chicken Puff Pastry Crowns not long ago. They were delicious. They were puffy. They were buttery. My family raved. My dad even liked them enough to say so. They were - a lot of work to make. So what do you do when something tastes oh so good, but you don't like all of the time it takes to make it? Make a lazy version. The recipe card below is the original, whole-bunch-of-work version.

Here's the easier way:

First things first: Make Perfect Chicken (Click the link for the recipe). The short version: Mix 1/2 t. each of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and paprika together. Rub all of the spice mix on both sides of 3-4 chicken breasts. Sear both sides in a dutch oven, and then cook 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting. This method makes perfectly cooked chicken for me every time.

Step Two: Shred chicken. Here's the easy way to do it. Note: If you do not have a mixer with a paddle attachment, you can do what I used to do - shred it in the food processor. Sometimes that turns out to be more like ground chicken than shredded chicken, though.
Step Three: Here are those cute little sweet peppers. You can use bell pepper instead if you want. Remove the tops, ribs, and seeds...

...and chop finely.

Step Four: Add the sweet pepper, cream cheese, and ranch mix to the chicken...

...and mix well. 

If you shredded the chicken in a Kitchenaid mixer, just leave it in the mixer, and mix in the rest of the stuff with the mixer. If not, just mix it all by hand in a bowl.

I just needed a time-out to say...yum.

Step Five: Unroll one of the puff pastry sheets into the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Step Six: Spread the chicken mixture on top.

Step Seven: Top with the remaining puff pastry sheet. Crimp the edges to seal.

Step Eight: Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.

Step Nine: Brush on the egg wash. 

The egg wash will make the puff pastry all golden and shiny and delicious-looking.

Ok, then, you are supposed to let this chill in the fridge for an hour. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while and know my impatience when it comes to getting to eat - please take a moment to laugh. Hahahahahaha. And might I add... ha. 

There are good reasons for chilling the puff pastry. The more you chill it, the puffier it will be. I don't really know why, but I know it has something to do with the cold butter releasing steam to make puffy layers or something. I will even say that I prefer this dish when it has been chilled an hour before baking it. 

However....when making this for this blog...I was really hungry....soo...I lasted about ten minutes before pulling it out of the fridge. 

Which brings me to Step Ten: Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

When you pull it out, it will look like this...maybe even puffier if you chilled it as long as you are supposed to.

Look at all the puffy goodness.

And then look at all the cream cheesy chicken filling ooozing out  of that puff pastry

That again...would be much puffier if I had chilled the dough properly. It still tastes fantastic this way, though. :)


Perfect meal. I serve this with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. In fact, I serve a lot of things with roasted sweet potatoes.


Lazy Ranch Cream Cheese Chicken Puff
Click for the printable version
1-8 oz. pack cream cheese
1-1 oz. packet Ranch dressing mix
1.75-2 lb. Perfect Chicken
, cooked and shredded
3 baby sweet red peppers, chopped finely
1 - 17.25 oz. package frozen puff pastry sheets
1 egg yolk beaten
with 1 T. water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine chicken, cream cheese, peppers, and dressing mix. Set aside. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Unroll one of the puff pastry sheets into the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread the chicken mixture on top, and then top with the remaining puff pastry sheet. Crimp the edges to seal. Brush with egg wash. Chill for 1 hour. Bake about 25 minutes.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Look at those beauties. Those are roasted sweet potatoes, and they are the result of what may be the easiest recipe I ever post. You peel sweet potatoes, cut them in one inch chunks, toss them with olive oil and salt, bake them for 30-35 minutes at 425 degrees, and you're done. I  make these all the time because (1) they are easy to make, (2) everyone loves them, and (3) sweet potatoes are super foods. I need some super in my life.
Even though I just told you pretty much everything you need to know about this recipe, here's the card that I sort of follow:

Step One: Peel four sweet potatoes.
Disclaimer - I'm sure you noticed, but these sweet potatoes are not exactly peeled yet. They are waiting their turn. They are gossiping next to the barber chair. 
Step Two: Cut the sweet potatoes into 1" chunks, and spread out onto a baking sheet. 
Step Three: Toss the potatoes with oil and salt (Use your hands...because it is the right thing to do. You should feel when the potatoes are coated in an olive oily salty coating.), and then spread them evenly in a single layer on the baking sheet. All of them should be in contact with the pan.
Step Four: Bake at 425 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes.
Here's the beauty of this recipe. Check out the bottoms of these sweet potatoes. No, they aren't burnt. They are caramelized. They are slightly crisp on one side with that delicious caramelized taste against a hint of salt... it's somewhere between down home and gourmet.
(Note: My camera flipped out at this moment. The lighting is a bit weird.) 
This is a picture of the roasted sweet potatoes next to another tasty recipe that I will be posting soon. I know that you can hardly wait!
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Click here for printable version
3-4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
Toss sweet potatoes, olive oil, and salt together on a baking sheet. Bake 30 - 35 minutes at 425 degrees.
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