Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken

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By the time I’m halfway through the work week, I need all the help I can get. Is anyone available to do my laundry, pick up my dry cleaning, clean my house and maybe just do my job for me, too? No takers? Darn. I don’t know how those of you with kids do it. I’m lucky if my shoes match by Wednesday. Luckily I have a few simple and tasty last minute dinner recipes up my sleeve to save me from the after work hangries (hunger + anger, for those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted.) This chicken, for example, is ready in a snap and checks enough delicious boxes to keep me going until Friday. Cheese? Check. Bacon? Check. A heaping pile of guacamole? Ohhhhhh, check. Served over a bed of greens dressed with olive oil and lime juice, this is a delicious, relatively healthy low carb dinner. Served with tortilla chips and margaritas… can I come over?

This recipe has a lot going for it even beyond deliciousness. It’s done in 30 minutes and leaves virtually no dirty dishes in its’ wake. Start by lining a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and bake the bacon in a hot oven. No greasy splatters and the bacon grease can be rolled up in the foil and thrown out once you’re done. While the bacon sizzles away in the oven, prepare the remaining ingredients. Chicken cutlets are a favorite of mine for a quick weeknight protein. They’re easy enough to make yourself with a chicken breast, a sharp knife and a steady hand, but if you’re really pressed for time they are also easy to find in the grocery store. While the bacon is cooking you’ll have plenty of time to season the chicken, shred some cheese and mix a quick guacamole. The chicken is baked on the same sheet you use for the bacon, then topped with shredded cheese and bacon and popped back in the oven until the cheese and bacon melt into the chicken in a gooey delicious mess. Top each chicken cutlet with as much guacamole as you please and you are DONE! You could also use shredded cheese and store bought guac to make this even more of a time saver. Enjoy this quick and easy mid-week dinner and keep your chin up. There’s light at the end of this tunnel.

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Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken 

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken cutlets (either purchased as cutlets or 4 chicken breasts cut in half to make cutlets)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 heaping cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450. Line rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack inside of sheet. Spray baking rack with cooking spray. Place bacon on rack and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from rack and chop when cool enough to handle.

While bacon is cooking, season chicken cutlets with chili powder, cumin, 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper. When bacon is done, wipe excess grease from sheet with paper towels and place chicken on baking rack. Cook chicken 3-4 minutes, then remove from oven. Divide bacon evenly over chicken cutlets and top with cheese. Place chicken back into the oven for 2-3 minutes.

While bacon and chicken are cooking, prepare guacamole. In medium bowl, mix avocados, tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, remaining 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper.

Once chicken is completely done, spoon guacamole on top and serve.

Serves 4, 2 cutlets per serving.

Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce

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Do you ever get stuck in a rut when it comes to an ingredient? When I was a kid my mom made (really excellent) pork chops dipped in an egg wash and tossed with breadcrumbs and topped with onions. For the longest time, that was the only place my mind would go when it came to pork chops. More recently I’ve come to appreciate the versatility of quick cooking pork chops on nights when I just can’t deal with the thought of one. more. chicken breast. Of course, pork chops and apples are old pals, a classic pairing. However, classic doesn’t always mean delicious. Too frequently, the pork winds up dry and flavorless and the apples turn to mush. This recipe remedies both of those problems and restores the classic duo to their rightful glory.

This dish is a delightful autumn dinner, fast enough to whip up on a weeknight but special enough for company on the weekend. Thin cut pork chops are quickly seared to form a flavorful crust while the interior stays moist and tender. Then sweet and tart apples and onions are sautéed in the same pan. Finally a savory, herby cream sauce comes together at the last minute in the pan, lightly coating the pork and apples with just a bit of richness. Serve this with mashed potatoes or polenta (hint hint, an awesome recipe is coming your way tomorrow) for a hearty supper or serve along side a mixed salad for a lighter, low carb option. Either way, you’ll have a cozy, tasty fall dinner on your table in no time.

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Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 (5-6 oz) thin cut bone-in pork chops
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Instructions:

Heat large skillet over medium high heat. With paper towels, dry pork chops. Season pork chops with ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Add oil and butter to skillet. Once oil and butter shimmer in pan, add pork chops and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove pork chops from pan to a plate. Reduce heat to medium.

While pork chops are browning, mix mustard and wine in small bowl. Once pork chops are removed from skillet, add wine and mustard, stirring to scrap up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add apples, onions and herbs. Cook apples and onions until softened and wine has reduced, about 3-4 minutes. If pan becomes too dry, add water or wine. Add pork chops back to pan and cook until cooked through, about another 3 minutes. Turn off heat. Add heavy cream and remaining ½ tsp each salt and pepper to pan, stirring until sauce is combined.

Serves 4.

Adapted from Cooking Light

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Ham, Gruyere and Apple Panini

ham-gruyere-and-apple-paniniWell hi there! Sorry for the silence in these parts the past few days. We unexpectedly adopted a kitten on Monday and the past two days have been full of vet appointments and crawling under the bed to socialize with our little Miss Elle. The inspiration for her name? That’s right, Stranger Things. We’re big fans of Eleven in this house. I’ll post a picture of the little lady as soon as she’s not curled up next to some old shoes shoved under my bed. No demogorgons allowed 😉

Anyway, on to the main event today- a fantastic ham, gruyere and apple panini, perfect for pairing with soup on a chilly fall evening. I love putting apples into grilled sandwiches. The fresh, sweet crunch of thinly sliced apple is a wonderful complement to warm, melty cheese. This panini pairs apple, dijon mustard and hearty bakery bread with the classic combo of ham and gruyere cheese. The real showstopper here is a sprinkle of crispy sage leaves on the inside of the sandwich. It’s such a small touch but makes an enormous difference and really elevates the standard ham and cheese sandwich to something special. Of course you can make the sandwich without the crispy sage, but please please please, if you have an extra 3 minutes and some sage around, do it. Just heat a little bit of butter in the skillet you’ll use to grill the sandwich and crisp up the sage while you assemble the rest of the sandwich. One other tip- it is worth the effort to shred the cheese rather than slice it. The shreds melt more quickly and evenly, meaning that your bread won’t burn before the cheese melts. The resulting panini is far superior to anything you’ll find at the local sandwich shop. Pair with a bowl of soup and a glass of wine and you’re on your way to an excellent evening.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a kitten to go cuddle!

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Ham, Gruyere and Apple Panini

Makes 1 sandwich. Double, triple, etc. until you’ve fed all the hungry people you need to feed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices hearty bakery bread, about 1/2 inch thick each
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (sharp cheddar can be substituted)
  • 2-3 thin slices ham (I used Citterio Rosmarino ham)
  • 3 thin slices of apple
  • 1 Tbsp chopped sage leaves
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Instructions

Heat 1 Tbsp butter in skillet over medium heat. When butter sizzles, add sage leaves and cook 3-4 minutes, until they are crisp but not burned. While sage cooks, prepare the rest of the sandwich.

Spread mustard on slices of bread. Sprinkle half the cheese over one slice of bread, then top with ham and apple. When sage leaves are crisp, remove from butter and sprinkle on top of apples. Top apples and sage with remaining cheese and close sandwich. Spread remaining 1 Tbsp butter on each side of the sandwich.

In the skillet used to crisp the sage, grill the sandwich over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve and enjoy!

 

Tortellini Rosa

Tortellini Rosa 1Well, hello from the other side of Labor Day weekend! I hope you were able to have some fun and relax. Are you all hot-dogged and hamburgered out? Summer is, unofficially at least, over and we’re back to school, schedules and busy weeknights. Quick and easy recipes are a necessity. This time of year, if you don’t have a plan for dinner, you’re looking at PB&J or Cheerios. Luckily you do not need a lot of time or energy to get this tasty and satisfying Tortellini Rosa on the table. Getting back into the swing of things can be a real drag, so cheese and carbs are here to help.

This dish is inspired by a former favorite at a neighborhood restaurant that’s since been taken off the menu. Fortunately it is easy to recreate and I think my version is even better than the original (though I may be biased.) Cheesy tortellini are combined with 1/2 cup each of Italian pantry staples: black olives, artichokes and roasted red peppers. Pancetta adds meaty richness and blue cheese adds a decadent tang. Add spinach for some healthy greens. Everything is mixed into a slightly spicy and super easy creamy tomato sauce. I use a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Between the cream and the cheesy tortellini, there is plenty of richness in the dish to balance it out. If you’re heat shy, you can scale back to 1/2 a teaspoon. Dinner will be on the table within 30 minutes and you’ll only have a skillet and stockpot to clean up afterwards. So you can move on to whatever else your evening has in store, whether it be soccer practice of a Netflix binge. I’ll cross my fingers that it’s the latter.

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Tortellini Rosa

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz dried tortellini (I used Barilla Collezione Cheese and Spinach Tortellini)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup black olives, chopped
  • 2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In large stock pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water and add tortellini. Cook tortellini 2 minutes short of cooking time on package. Drain.

While tortellini is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. When oil shimmers, add pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove pancetta from skillet and pour fat from skillet, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Return skillet to heat and add reserved fat. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 3o seconds, until fragrant. Add wine to skillet and reduce for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and water to skillet and cook until sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives and spinach. Cook until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes.

Add tortellini to skillet once it is ready. Cook tortellini in the sauce for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add  heavy cream, stirring to combine. Add pancetta and blue cheese to skillet. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to your preference. Sprinkle basil over skillet and serve.

Serves 4

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

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We’re friends, right? Good, because I need to share a secret. My famous brownies, the ones friends go wild for, the ones that are requested at parties, the ones that cause eyes to roll back in peoples’ heads…are from a mix. Can we still be friends? They’re just so perfect. I use a very specific mix- Ghiradelli Double Chocolate- and they are impeccable every. single. time. I just can’t see the point in spending the extra time and energy to make brownies from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I have tried many scratch-made brownie recipes and while some are really, really good, they’re still being measured against my (brownie) gold standard. And frankly, who among us can’t use a reliable shortcut?

The only shortcoming to my tried-and-true brownie solution is that there is not a whole lot of variation. And, for someone who loves to cook and bake, it can feel like kind of a cop-out to serve box-mix brownies with no further embellishment. At the same time, if I’m making box-mix brownies instead of a complicated dessert, I do not want to get out the mixer and I do NOT want to wash a thousand dishes. This recipe strikes a perfect balance. I get to take credit for a spectacular dessert and a doctored up brownie mix does all the work. Two bowls and a baking dish are all it takes. Yes, please.

When I started testing this recipe, I made a traditional peanut butter cookie dough and pressed it into the top of the prepared brownie mix. But by the time the brownies were cooked through the peanut butter cookie part was dry and crumbly. Plus, in order to cream together peanut butter, butter, sugar, flour, etc., I really needed to use my stand mixer. And at that point I’d may as well make something way more high maintenance. I almost gave up on the idea. But then I remembered my Ohio roots and thought…buckeyes! Not OSU, not the tree nut, but the cookie! The center of a buckeye cookie is nothing more than powdered sugar and peanut butter. Crazy delicious and totally low maintenance. I warmed the peanut butter in the microwave for a quick 30 seconds to make sure the powdered sugar would incorporate with no problems. Bingo! The brownies are chocolaty, chewy and decadent and the peanut butter cookie portion is soft, sweet and peanut buttery. Keep a box of brownie mix and jar of peanut butter in the pantry and you’ve always got a show stopping dessert on hand. #winning!

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Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies 

Ingredients:

  • Brownie mix sufficient to make a 9×13 pan of brownies (I use Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, which requires 2 boxes to fill a 9×13 pan. Some other brands will make a 9×13 pan with one box.)
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Instructions:

Prepare a 9×13 baking dish by spraying with baking spray. Preheat oven to temperature specified by directions on box. Prepare brownies per directions on box and transfer batter to pan.

Heat peanut butter in medium bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar to peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Using your hands, place dollops of peanut butter mixture throughout brownie batter, pressing slightly so that peanut butter sinks into brownie batter. Bake brownies per directions on box. Once done, allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Makes about 24 brownies

Crostini with Tomatoes and Burrata

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So I wouldn’t call today’s post a recipe so much as a PSA. As in: this weekend while the weather is still warm and tomatoes are still in season, you MUST make this simple and insanely delicious appetizer/meal/who cares what you call it. This is the definition of summer food. No precise measurements, no fussy preparation. Just a few uncomplicated ingredients at their very best. Juicy, ripe summer tomatoes, crusty baguette toasted with olive oil, luscious, creamy burrata cheese and a sprinkling of basil. YUM. I made this twice over the past weekend- on Friday night as an appetizer and on Sunday afternoon as an al fresco lunch. And I’m dreaming of making it again this weekend. This is the kind of effortless food that encourages us to slow down and enjoy the good things, and reminds us that the good things are so simple.

So grab a baguette, a container (or two) of burrata and a couple of huge tomatoes. If you prefer to prepare this outside, or just don’t feel like turning on the oven, the bread could totally be toasted on the grill. If you can’t find burrata, of course you can substitute fresh mozzarella. Burrata is an incredibly soft and creamy fresh cheese that resembles mozzarella on the exterior but is filled with cream inside. It definitely is worth a trip to the Italian grocer if your normal supermarket doesn’t carry it.

The measurements below are just guidelines. You can scale the recipe to suit your needs or preferences.

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Crostini with Tomatoes and Burrata

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, cut into thin slices
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut in half then into half moon slices
  • 8 oz. burrata cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400. Arrange bread slices on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bake bread slices for 1o minutes, then flip slices and bake for another 5 minutes on other side.

Place burrata in center of serving platter. Arrange tomatoes and crostini around burrata. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Drizzle remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil over tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle basil over entire platter. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

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