Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I did not have an official challenge tonight. But, as the end of the week nears, I usually have a few things in my refrigerator that I need to finish. This week, I took some of those leftover items and turned it into a simple, low carb, and relatively healthy casserole.

First, I sauteed one pound of chicken breast, a minced clove of garlic, half an onion, and 6 or 7 white mushrooms in olive oil. I added black pepper, cumin, and coriander (about a half teaspoon of each).


While the chicken was cooking, I chopped one bunch of broccoli. Broccoli has never been a favorite vegetable of mine, but if you chop it finely enough, you can barely taste it.


I stirred the ingredients together with one cup of cheddar cheese.


I looked for other options as the casserole topping, but most of them were things that either didn’t sound that healthy or that I didn’t have at home. So, I used another cup of cheddar cheese to top the casserole.


I baked it at 350 for 30 minutes. I was pleased with the dish!



Back to Cooking…Finally!

The past month has been a little hectic! I’ve been in the process of moving, so I’ve been transitioning in a lot of areas of my life…including the kitchen! Unfortunately, I was kitchenless for that time period, which also means that I was blog postless. Blog postless? Apparently, I don’t just cook, I make up words too…

Now, I have a kitchen, but I don’t have all of my supplies unpacked and put away. To squelch my cooking cravings I just worked with what I had to make something quick and easy.

First, I sauteed thinly sliced chicken breasts until slightly browned.


I shredded the chicken and added a can of black beans, 5 tablespoons of salsa, 1.5 tablespoons of lime juice, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder for a little kick. I let this simmer for about 15 minutes.


While the mixture simmered, I cut the top out of two large bell peppers.


I stuffed each pepper with the chicken mixture and topped it with shredded cheddar cheese.


I baked it for about 20 minutes wrapped in foil and another 5 minutes uncovered.


I liked that the filling was protein filled and tasty. It didn’t include carb loaded fillers like rice or bread crumbs. The addition of the lime juice prevented it for getting too dried out while baking. When I make these again I would like to make my own salsa using my recipe from a previous post called Mexican Monday.


I’m looking forward to getting back to my normal challenges next week!

Party Food Mashup

As I was brainstorming quick but yummy appetizers to make for New Year’s Eve, I thought about two of our favorites.

We love the grape jelly meatballs in the crockpot (as do most of our party guests). We also love buffalo chicken dip.

Although I love these party foods, I wanted to try to get creative. I made Buffalo Chicken Meatballs. I started with these ingredients.


I mixed it all together and made a few ingredient adjustments to get it to the right texture for making meatballs. The approximate ingredient amounts were:

1 lb of ground chicken

1 egg

1/2 packet of ranch dressing

1 tablespoon of garlic powder

1/2 container of blue cheese crumbles

1 and 1/2 cups of bread crumbs

1/2 onion

5 tablespoons of buffalo sauce

I mixed it by hand and shaped the meatballs. I dropped them onto a foil coated in non-stick spray.


I baked it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning them about half way through.


I taste tested them, but there wasn’t quite enough zip to them for my taste. To make up for this I topped each with a little more wing sauce and baked for about 2 more minutes. This made it perfect!


Not too Baaaa-ad

I love all cheeses, but especially love goat cheese. You’ve probably picked up on that in previous posts where I’ve used it including the endive and goat cheese stuffed mushrooms,in salads, eggplant parmesan, in pasta sauce, on bruschetta, and in many other tasty recipes.

I recently found a kit to make goat cheese and decided to try it as an appetizer with french bread for New Year’s Eve.

The kit includes this:


I just had to buy this:


The “Easy to Digest” statement on the carton made me curious. I googled it and found out that goat’s milk is better for multiple reasons. We typically drink and bake with almond milk in our house, which is also a healthy alternative to cow milk. Another note: the kit asks for raw or regular pasteurized milk. I could only find ultra pasteurized. The kit instructions said this was ok but that it would just make the cheese softer. Hoping to account for this, I followed the directions to make firm cheese.

I had time to look all of this up while the cheesecloth, molds, and utensils were sterilized in boiling water.


First, you cook the milk on medium heat, only stirring occassionally, until it reaches 190 degrees. Apparently it is really important NOT to use an aluminum pan in cheesemaking, as the acid will react with the aluminum and aluminum will leech into your cheese. This heating process took about 40 minutes.


While this was cooking, I mixed water with the citric acid and let it absorb. After the milk reaches the appropriate temperature, you turn it to low and add the acidic mixture. It started to curdle. You remove it from the heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes. It looks something like this:


Then, you pour it ont the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain.


After about 10 minutes of draining, you add cheese salt, stir it in, and let it drain some more unitl it resembles mashed potatoes.


You spoon the curds into the molds, where they will continue to drain.


Then refrigerate for a a few hours and it is ready to go! This was a nice addition to the appetizers we had at New Year’s Eve. This is only one of the two cheese molds.


As a side note, I discovered that you can clean and reuse cheesecloth. The kit comes with enough ingredients to make 10 batches. What you see above was only half a batch. Each kit should go a long way making it worth the money!


Chocolate Covered Shot of Energy

In a recent food challenge, I had to find a way to use whole coffee beans with trout and scallops. While it turned out surprisingly well, I had a ton of whole coffee beans left over. I don’t own a coffee grinder or a regular coffee pot for that matter (I LOVE my Keurig!), so I had to find another way to avoid wasting the coffee beans.


I decided that I would make chocolate covered coffee beans using chocolate leftover from my holiday candy marathon. I begain with this basic recipe. I don’t have shortening to smooth out the chocolate, but I found that you can substitute coconut oil for it and I do have that which is much healthier (as far as chocolate covered coffee beans go)!


I melted both white chocolate and milk chocolate with enough coconut oil to get it to the right consistency for dipping (about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil per cup of chocolate chips) in coffee mugs.


Then, I dipped the coffee beans in the chocolate and used a fork to fish them out and allow them to drain excess chocolate.

I placed the chocolate covered beans on wax paper and separated them a bit. I quickly decided that there wasn’t enough chocolate, and despite my painstaking dripping of chocolate, I drizzled more on top. Never enough chocolate.


Apparently never enough caffeine either…Only 3 beans has 36 milligrams of caffeine! It is recommended by the Mayo Clinic that we consume 200-300 milligrams per day (unless there are other health conditions present). So, we can’t just eat these like candy, even if it is tempting.

I did create one variation. I had more white chocolate so I added a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and dipped beans in the white chocolate cinnamon mixture. Yum!

They didn’t turn out in perfectly rounded bean shaped goodies. I haven’t quite mastered that yet… But they are good!


Venison and Pepper Chili

It is now officially cold outside. With snow in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, I wanted to share my own version of chili. This was also a request in the comment of a friend in my very first cooking post!

While home for the holidays, my dad helped to load me up with fresh venison – the first critical ingredient for my chili. I’ve made chili with beef and turkey, but none of it can compare to the venison. It is so flavorful and lean. You don’t have to drain any fat off of the meat because there isn’t any.  I begin with 2 lbs. of venison and brown it.


While the venison is browning, chop two bunches of tomatoes ripened on the vine. I like my chili to be chunky, so these are slightly larger than diced.


I combine the venison and tomatoes into a large pot. I use the same pan where I browned the venison to sautee 2 chili pepper, 2 jalapenos, 1 onion, and 1 green pepper in a little olive oil.


Next, I add 2 cans of hot chili beans. You can choose mild or original if you don’t like as much heat in your chili.


Then, I add 2 packets of original chili seasoning. Maybe one day I’ll try making my own. This is the one place where I don’t go “hot” so that I can balance out the other hot ingredients and multiple peppers.


When you mix this all together, it will look very thick. Too thick.


However, as it simmers, the tomatoes release enough water to reduce the thickness.


I let it simmer for 5-6 hours. Top it off with sour cream and shredded cheddar!


Never “Bean” There, Never Done That

I’ve been telling people about my food challenges since my first challenge including shrimp, kale, mushrooms, and endives back in August. People always think the idea is fun and start throwing out some really oddball ingredients. Joe must have been listening, because this week, I had an oddball ingredient. Below you can see turnips, baby scallops, whole trout, and whole coffee beans. He only gave me one rule – I had to use the coffee in the main meal.


I love coffee. I drink it every day, preferably multiple times a day. I like coffee ice cream, java flavored pastries, or just smelling it as a walk or drive by a coffee shop. I had coffee eclairs in France that were to die for. But….with fish?

Although coffee was the challenging ingredient, I can’t forget about the turnip. I started with the turnip first, slicing it Bloomin’ Onion Style. I drizzled it with olive oil, wrapped it in foil, and put it in the oven to roast. I let it roast for about 40 minutes before I began anything else.


Next, I threw a handful of the whole beans into a pot of water and let them boil. They smelled so good! But I still couldn’t fathom how that would fit with fish.After the beans had boiled a while, I added white rice to cook.


While the rice cooked, I rinsed the scallops and the trout. I sauteed the scallops in olive oil, but only until they were about half way done and just to get a bit of a sear on them. I planned to bake them and didn’t want them to be overcooked.


After the rice was done, I picked out all of the beans and stuffed the trout with the coffee flavored rice and scallops. I really struggled with what else to do. The colors seemed bland and there was no other seasoning. However, when I thought about coffee, I thought cinnamon would be complimentary. At this point I thought to myself, “Luckily we live close to a restaurant. Looks like we’ll be eating out for dinner tonight…”


I put of cup of water in the bottom of the fish pan, added another handful of coffee beans in the bottom, and put the remaining rice and scallops on top of the beans and around the fish. I baked it for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

About 15 minutes before the fish was ready to come out, I put a butter, italian seasoning, and garlic mixture over the turnip and allowed it to continue baking uncovered.


The final dish:


Here’s my honest assessment. The coffee flavored rice was not too bad! And it didn’t interfere with the fish or the scallops at all. Joe thought the cinnamon was a nice touch to bring the flavors and aromas together. Unfortunately, the turnip was a massive fail. We even tried turning it into a turnip mashed potato substitute and still no good. I’m not sure if this is because of my cooking or just because of it being a turnip though…

So, now I have leftover whole coffee beans (and no grinder) and leftover chocolates from holiday candies. I’m planning to make chocolate covered coffee beans! Stay tuned!