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Alice Springs Chicken

Outback Steakhouse is not a restaurant we visit very often; when we do go, it’s usually in a big group of people.  Every time I have dined at Outback, someone orders Alice Springs Chicken and raves about how wonderful it tastes.  When I bumped into this recipe on Kelly Jonson’s boards that she captured from The Finer Things in Life, I thought it might be worth my time in the future.  Right-o!

Recipe:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
seasoning salt
6 slices bacon, cut in half
¼ cup regular mustard
¼ to 1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups shredded Colby/Jack cheese

I do not own a meat tenderizer.  Never fear!  I got a kick watching my husband teach me the “improvising” way of flattening the filets.  Wrap the filet in parchment paper (I’m sure wax would work too) and place on a wooden cutting board.  Then, very quickly and with meaning, smash another cutting board over the chicken.  Voila!  Flattened chicken breasts!

I did not change any ingredients in the recipe and I followed the steps to a T.  The bacon was a pain because I couldn’t find my screen to keep it from splattered.  I will admit, placing the chicken into the grease sent quite the sizzle through the kitchen–a little unnerving for a bacon newbie.

Before it was cooked, it looked a little sloppy and slightly resembled a wet burrito:

The final product, however, right on!  Mike was afraid he’d suffer 3rd degree burns if I asked him to check the oven more than once–the smell permeates the entire house and it smells oh-so-good!

  Served with greenbeans for some variance in color.

Verdict:
Mike’s opinion:
Taste: 5/5
Presentation: 5/5

Jen’s opinion:
Taste: 5/5 (I think I would replace the French’s regular mustard with Dijon mustard to give it a slight boost)
Presentation: 5/5 (easy to serve)
Ease of preparation: 5/5
Availability of ingredients: 5/5
Ease of cleanup: 3/5 (the grease makes washing by hand a bit of a pain–I think a dishwasher would be no problem)

This recipe is phenomenal, filling, and fun!  Highly recommended for sharing with company.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Chicken

 

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Lasagna Soup

This is the first week for us to be back at school; we spend our days attending meetings, setting up classrooms, sifting through piles of data, and reconnecting with teams and departments.  It’s a good week (or not) to start a new menu routine.  On Sunday, Mike and I planned out our entire week of menus and used my handy-dandy new menu grocery list to shop.  So far, not bad.  This recipe was a fluke pin from Elizabeth Eyler (who found it on Deen Bros), as I never expected to make it; however, it somehow managed to make it on the menu on our rainy Tuesday, leaving me to plan a meal with the most ingredients I’ve ever used.  Surprisingly, it only took a total of 40 minutes…40 well-worth-the-wait minutes.

Recipe:
Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (32-ounce) container chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces broken whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 4 noodles)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

My alterations:  Turkey sausage had cheddar cheese in it, onion flakes instead of a chopped onion, no green peppers (we don’t eat them), regular lasagna noodles.

First, I combined the oil, the sausage, the onion flakes, and the garlic in a large nonstick saucepan and cooked over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sausage was slightly browned (12ish minutes).

Once the sausage looks done, add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt, and the crushed red pepper and bring to a boil; once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.  The boiling will look like rings of various colors appearing on the top of the soup:

Add the noodles (the smaller the breaks, the better.  Too big and they will stick together and make a sandwich that refuses to separate) and bring back to a boil until the noodles are done.  Remove from the heat; it says to stir in the mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil until well-blended, but I let those ingredients sit on top for a while and sink naturally–this allowed the cheeses to melt completely without wrapping the strands around the spoon.

Serve alone or with breadsticks.

Verdict:
Mike’s Opinion:
Taste: 5/5
Presentation: 5/5
Notes: Surprisingly filling (I was full on one bowl!).  I’m not a big soup person, but this is a recipe I would actually request.
Reheatability: 5/5

Jen’s Opinion:
Taste: 5/5
Presentation: 5/5
Ease of preparation: 5/5 (just add, stir, and heat)
Ease of cleanup: 5/5 (rinse the pot before washing so it doesn’t harden)
Availability of ingredients: 4/5 (we don’t usually keep turkey sausage and lasagna noodles in the house, but they are easily obtained in any grocery store)

We had enough left-overs to have a meal large enough to share with two of our friends tonight–it tastes even better after being reheated.  This recipe is fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone who may or may not like lasagna.  It’s filling, it’s easy, and it’s delicious 🙂

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Soup

 

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Boston Cream Cake

Mike’s favorite dessert is Boston Cream Pie.  I am not a Piemaker (where is Lee Pace when you need him?) and that leads me to seeking out alternatives to this favorite.  I was super excited when I found this recipe on The Gooseberry Patch pinned from The Country Cook.  The only complaint I have about this recipe is that this blog does not include an actual recipe-style write-up of the recipe–only an explanation.  Bit of a pain when it’s 4 printed pages long.  (First world problems….)

Recipe:
Ingredients:

1 box yellow cake mix
ingredients needed to make cake; eggs, oil and water
2 (3.4oz) boxes instant Vanilla or French Vanilla pudding
4 cups milk
1 tub Chocolate Frosting
The first step is to make the cake as instructed.  I prefer a hand-mixer when I mixing cakes, as opposed to my Oyster mixer when I’m making cookies or bread.  Something about a hand mixer with cake batter makes me feel more in control of the lumps and chunks in the mixture.  Weird, I get it.  Do as you will 🙂
Then, when the cake is done and still warm, poke holes in it.  I felt like I was slaughtering the pristine beauty of that crisp surface with the handle of my wooden spoon, but I think I made a good show of it:
Then, prepare the pudding and, while the cake is still warm, pour the pudding over the cake, taking care to pour directly into the holes.  It will not look pretty at this stage:
Here’s the tricky part: while the pudding is starting to set up, you need to carefully spread it around the cake to fill all the holes and make it even.  The trick is to do it without tearing the top of the cake.  After about 5 minutes, it will look like this:
Put the entire thing (warm and all) into the refrigerator for 2 hours.  Once the pudding has “firmed,” you can then microwave the frosting for about 15-17 seconds (warm enough to pour, but no boiling bubbles) and pour over the cake.  Using the same careful method of spreading, cover the entire cake with the frosting without disturbing the pudding (the idea here is layers):
Allow it to cool in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours at least, but overnight would be best if possible.  When removed from the fridge, it will have a soft shell from the frosting, but will cut very easily with a butter knife or cake spatula; the first piece will be the most difficult to remove as the pudding makes the cake mushy.
Serve with milk or coffee and enjoy the blending of flavors.
Verdict:
Mike’s Opinion:
Taste: 5/5
Presentation: 5/5
Notes: delicious!
Jen’s Opinion:
Taste: 3/5 the first night, 5/5 after a full 24-hour refrigeration period
Presentation: 4/5 (sloppy looking on the plate)
Ease of preparation: 3/5 (there are many steps, and the spreading can be a little taxing)
Ease of cleanup: 4/5
Availability of ingredients: 5/5
The first night we had this cake, I was not a big fan–too many flavors and textures.  However, after a night in the fridge where the pudding settled through the holes in the cake, the flavors were well-blended and the texture of the dessert completely changed.  Definitely give it time to settle before serving; you will not be disappointed 🙂
 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Dessert

 

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Fluffy French Toast

It’s Mike’s birthday, which in our house means he gets to pick his meals and I get to choose the dessert.  He asked for French Toast for brunch (last day to sleep in before school starts….) and Beef Tips and Noodles for dinner.  I already have a beef tips noodle recipe that I adore, so all I needed was one recipe for the day. I went on an epic search for a French Toast recipe; I found the winner at Allrecipes.com and it is definitely a keeper.

Recipe:
Ingredients:
(modified for a serving of 2–originally designed for 12 servings)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons milk
1/8 pinch salt1/2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
2 thick slices bread

Flour?  Oh yes!  It’s key to this recipe’s fluffiness.  Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk, making sure it gets that creamy consistency.

Soak the bread long enough to sop up the mixture, and then cook it on a preheated griddle. I set mine at medium heat to allow for a slower cook.

The recipe doesn’t call for it, but it’s a special occasion: sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the finished product and serve with maple syrup:

If you’ve done everything correctly, the plates should look like this:

Verdict:

Mike’s Opinion:
Taste: 5/5
Presentation: 5/5

Jen’s opinion:
Taste: 5/5 (I, by the way, do not like French Toast)
Presentation: 5/5
Ease of preparation: 5/5
Ease of cleanup: 5/5
Availability of ingredients: 5/5

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Breakfast

 

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Aside

I have 4 bananas quickly deteriorating in the heat which can only mean one thing: time for a smoothie!  This recipe was pinned by Amanda ZA from the Chiquita Banana website.  As a side note, I bought two 6oz tubs of Chibani yogurt this week, just to see what all the craze was about.  Last night we tried the Apple Cinnamon flavor, and neither Mike nor myself could get more than a mouthful down.  The texture is odd, the flavor is weak, and it left an overt sense of dryness in the mouth.  We left the  Honey and Vanilla flavor specifically to try in a smoothie.  (This is important in about 3 seconds)

Recipe:

2   whole Chiquita Bananas, frozen*, peeled and sliced
1   (6-oz.) carton non-fat Vanilla yogurt
1/3   cup creamy Peanut butter
1/2   cup non-fat Milk

Throw all these together and blend until smooth, serve immediately.  I used the Chobani Honey and Vanilla yogurt…

Verdict:

Mike’s Opinion:
Taste: 1/5
Presentation: 3/5
Notes: Very strange taste, and I think it comes from the yogurt.  It leaves your mouth feeling dry.  Did not like this at all.

Jen’s Opinion:
Taste: 1/5
Presentation: 3/5  (weird color)
Ease of preparation: 5/5
Ease of cleanup: 4/5
Availability of ingredients: 4/5

The flavor left a feeling of chalky dryness in my mouth, as well as an overwhelming flavor of the yogurt and peanut butter with no flavor of banana at all.  I took 3 drinks because I really wanted to like this smoothie, but I ended up dumping it down the drain for fear of my gag reflex…
I am not going to completely write this recipe off, as I have made smoothies with peanut butter and bananas before and loved them.  However, next time I will use vanilla yogurt as called for, and I will not use Chobani again.  (sorry Chobani fans…we are not a Chobani family)

Best Creamy Peanut Butter Chiquita Banana Smoothie

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2012 in Drinks, Smoothie

 

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Light Frappuccino Recipe

It’s hot today (we’re talking 89 degrees at 7:00 this morning); my normal cup of hot coffee was not sounding at all appealing.  A nice cold frappuccino from Starbucks sounded about right this morning, so I pulled this recipe from my coffee stash board.  Originally posted by Mallory Lott from LaaLoosh.  This recipe promised to be 2 minutes away from a delectable, guilt-free coffee experience.  Disappointment ensues.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

2 tbsp instant coffee granules (regular or decaf)
2 tbsp fat free vanilla flavored coffee creamer, powdered
1/2 cup fat free milk
8-10 ice cubes

Blend and enjoy.
I do not own powdered coffee creamer.  I find the whole idea of  powdered creamer insulting to true coffee-drinkers–who wants powdered “milk” floating around on the top of their delicious morning courage?  I replaced the powdered creamer with CoffeeMate low-fat French Vanilla creamer.  I also added two tsps of sugar (I like my coffee light and sweet–flavor to your taste, I assumed).  Luckily, I had instant coffee (Coffeehouse) lying around, thanks to my mother-in-law who bought some while Mike’s folks were visiting 🙂
Sorry it’s a little blurry–my iPhone has not been taking great pictures lately)
I added all the ingredients together in my blender, and got a sick looking mixture:
Mix, mix, and mixed again.  (seriously 4 minutes of blending.  Perhaps I’ll pull out my never-used Magic Bullet the next time I try a blended drink).  Eventually, I got this:
The color looked right and the consistency (finally) looked correct; pour into an 8oz glass and….what?!   If that’s a grande, my whole perception has changed.  I feel like the recipe is actually for a standard “tall” from Starbucks, but the blurb on the blog is a bit misleading.
Verdict:
Mike’s Opinion:
Taste: 2/5
Presentation: 4/5
Notes: It looks good, but the flavor is dodgy.  There’s a weird aftertaste that I am not a fan of, and I feel like the whole thing is off.  It doesn’t taste like anything I’ve ever had from Starbucks, so the  name, if nothing else, is not correct.
Jen’s Opinion:
Taste: 2/5
Presentation: 4/5
Ease of Preparation: 5/5
Ease of cleanup: 5/5
Availability of ingredients: 5/5
I agree with Mike that the flavor is off and the aftertaste is bizarre.  It might be that 2 tbs is too much coffee (**gasp**) or perhaps there isn’t enough sugar for my taste.  I can barely taste the vanilla and I can’t identify the flavor that’s left in my mouth as anything other than dreadful.  I’m less than pleased that my track record of trying “healthy” versions of foods is once again finding those foods tasting awful and making terrible substitutions for the real deal.
This recipe definitely calls for some tweaking before I’d recommend it to anyone.
 
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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Coffee, Drinks

 

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Asparagus Stuffed Chicken

Let me just start with the fact that my husband loathes asparagus, while I absolutely love asparagus.  Pinning this recipe was a bit of a daring maneuver, because I honestly didn’t know if he would eat any of it.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when, after the first bite, I heard the tell-tale “mmm” and saw the knife moving for another slice.  Score!  We have a winner.

This recipe was originally posted on the blog, Ally’s Sweet and Savory Eats, and was originally pinned to Mark Dulniak’s Board.

Recipe:

Ingredients:
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
asparagus
cheese of choice
salt, pepper, seasonings of choice
toothpicks (I didn’t need these)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

I used canned asparagus, which doesn’t have the strong bitter/tart flavor that my husband claims is the reason he hates it, and grated Parmesan cheese (mainly because I realized too late I had no other cheese in the house).

It says to cut the chicken breast in half, but I decided to cut it open so it would lie flat instead of completely in half (I didn’t like the sandwich idea).  I seasoned the chicken with Adobo all purpose seasoning, a dash of salt and pepper, garlic salt, onion flakes, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce.  I stuffed the chicken with the asparagus and then folded over the top “flap.”  Then, I seasoned the top of the chicken with the same seasoning I used on the inside minus the Worcestershire sauce.  The recipe calls for placing the chicken directly on the rack, but I had a heebee-jeebee moment when I thought of doing that, so I placed it on a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.

The recipe said 375 degrees for 40 minutes, but my chicken was done in 23 minutes.  I don’t know if it was the rack or the type of chicken breast I used, but I recommend watching the chicken closely and taking it out when the juices run clear.

When it’s done, it should look like this:

(minus all the cuts–I’m a little paranoid about cooking chicken, so mine is always sliced to bits to check for pink…sorry)

The original recipe was served over rice, but I wanted some more vegetables with our dinner so I served the remainder of the asparagus and carrots seasoned with honey.

Verdict:

Mike’s opinion
Taste: 4/5 stars
Presentation: 5/5 stars
Reheatability: 5/5 stars (tastes just as good, if not better, reheated at a later time)
Notes: The canned asparagus gives a nice flavor as it isn’t bitter/tart, but it has no texture and turns to mush in the oven.  Fresh asparagus might give it a bit of a crunch to offset the juiciness of the chicken for those who are looking for a dramatic flavor shift, but I like the canned personally.

Jen’s opinion
Taste: 4.5/5 stars
Presentation: 4/5 stars
Ease of preparation: 5/5 stars
Availability of ingredients: 5/5 stars
Ease of cleanup: 5/5 stars

Overall, this dish was a great success and definitely a keeper.  Thank you Ally’s Sweets and Savory Eats for a delicious dinner!

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Chicken

 

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