Alley's Recipe Book
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Asian Meatballs - total time 40 minutes

After I read Food Matters a couple summers ago, this was one of the first recipes I made from scratch.  Previously, every dinner I made came from a box or bag.  Velveeta shells and cheese, Bertolli frozen pasta meals, Tyson chicken patty sandwiches, french bread pizzas... they were really no-fail dinners for someone who never cooked before, but they were not even close to following Michael Pollen's Food Rules.  It's kind of crazy to think of how many new things we have tried since then.

Any way, for those nights that you really want some Chinese flavors, this is a great choice.  You can really taste the soy sauce throughout the meatball and the sesame oil is very fragrant while cooking.  The rice I used is called 'bamboo rice' (from the Whole Foods bulk section) and was kind of a sticky rice with a green tint.  I think it would make a good sushi rice if I decide to make sushi again (but we live so close to an excellent sushi place).

1 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
.25 panko
1.5 cups rice
salt and pepper 2 green onions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook rice according to packaging (usually two parts water to every one part rice).
2.  Combine ground turkey, chopped onion, minced garlic, egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil together in mixing bowl.  Add panko until mixture can form meatballs.
3.  Brown all sides of the meatballs in a pan over medium heat (about 1 minutes per side). Once all sides are browned, put pan into oven and bake for ten minutes.  Serve on top of rice with green onions and any additonal soy sauce.

Pesto Shrimp Bowties - total time 30 minutes

This meal is super easy!  I had some pesto left over from the Chicken Pesto Shells, so I threw this quick pasta together after getting home late from work.  It was done faster then going out to get something from a drive thru (certainly faster than the long lines at Chipotle).

2 cups bowtie pasta
.75 lb raw shrimp, pealed and deveined
.5 cup fresh mozzarella
.5 cup pesto
1 cup broccoli
.5 cup tomato sauce

1.  Boil pasta for five minutes.  Cover shrimp with pesto and cook in pan over medium low heat until shrimp turn pink.
2.  Add broccoli and pasta to pan.  Cook for three minutes.  Add tomato sauce and mozzarella and cook until cheese melt completely.

Meggy Moo's Buffalo Chicken Dip - total time 45 minutes

With the Super Bowl quickly approaching, many of us are looking for appetizers to serve or bring to Super Bowl parties.  Most people go the traditional route with the wings, chips, and dip.  I am planning to do a little bit traditional, a few less expected finger foods (Spinach Pinwheels and Baked Crab Ragoons), and some fresh fruit and vegetables.

The traditional part of the spread is a staple at our family gatherings.  My sister-in-law is known for her 'crack in a crockpot' which is so addicting.  We typically eat it with fritos, but we have used it in mashed potatoes, on sandwiches, dip for vegetables... basically we put it on everything.

1 lb shredded chicken
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat)
.5 cup ranch dressing
.5 cup Franks hot sauce
.5 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook chicken over medium heat, then shred with two forks.
2.  Combine shredded chicken, cream cheese, ranch, and Frank's in a mixing bowl.  Scoop dip into a small casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes.
3.  Remove dip from oven and top with shredded cheese.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes until bubbly.

Baked Crab Ragoons - total time 30 minutes

I love crab ragoons!  They are probably the only Chinese food (American Chinese food, really) that I crave.  That rich, creamy filling surrounded by crispy dough... so good, but so bad for you.  Now you can have all of that flavor with less guilt and you can make it easily and quickly!

1 can crab meat
4 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat)
1 garlic clove, minced
12 wonton wrappers
olive oil spray

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small mixing bowl combine cream cheese, garlic, and crab meat.
2.  Spray mini muffin pan with olive oil.  Scoop 1 tablespoon of mixture into each wonton, fold up each corner, and place into muffin pan.  
3.  Spray with a little more olive oil and then bake for 20 minutes or until wonton edges get toasted brown.  Let cool down for a few minutes before enjoying.

Spinach Pinwheels - total time 30 minutes

Looking for a twist on boring croissants?  I love croissants, probably more than the next person... but some times you want to change things up and this packs in more nutrients and flavor.  You can make these for appetizers or your bread basket for dinner.  Make sure you get one for yourself, they will disappear fast!

2 cups spinach
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat)
1 container of crescent (precut or sheet)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute spinach and garlic for a few minutes on low heat to wilt the spinach down a bit.
2.  Roll out the crescents on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Spread the spinach over the entire crescent and add small dollops of cream cheese on top. 
3.  Roll up the crescent and cut into eight slices.  Arrange slices on baking sheet so you can see the spinach swirl (pinwheel shape).  Bake for 15 minutes or until croissants are lightly browned on top.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole - total time 1.5 hours

Not sure what it is about boys, football, and buffalo chicken... but they always go together.  Maybe it is just my boy, but buffalo chicken is his favorite.  Make a meal that has buffalo chicken and is the quintessential meat and potatoes and you have a meal that finds the way to your man's heart through his stomach. 

1 lb chicken
3 cups potatoes, grated
1 onion, chopped
.5 cup cream cheese
.5 cup sour cream
.5 cup buffalo sauce
.5 cup shredded cheese (colby)
spash of milk
.25 cup panko
2 green onions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook chicken on medium heat.
2.  Grate potatoes, remove excess moisture with a towel.  Combine potatoes, onions, cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, splash of millk, and buffalo sauce in mixing bowl.  Shred chicken with forks and add to mixture.  Scoop out into casserole dish.  
3.  Top with panko bread crumbs and bake for 1 hour.  Turn to broil for one minute to get the bread crumbs crispy.  Sprinkle green onions on top and serve.

Pesto Chicken Shells - total time 1 hour

Basil is a great herb to grow because it it used so much in Italian cooking and has so much flavor.  Grow it in the summer and a little starter plant becomes a bush of delicious, fragrant flavor you can use daily.  At the end of the harvest season, grind up the remaining leaves with some olive oil and pine nuts to get pesto that you can freeze and use over the winter (bringing summer memories every time you open a container).  You can also grow it inside (I do!) and have that fresh flavor all year round (it doesn't grow quite as big).  This recipe can utilize some of that pesto you store away, similar to Chicken Pest Lasagna Rollups.

16-20 pasta shells
1 lb chicken
1 cup fresh mozzarella
12 oz ricotta
4 oz. pesto
1 egg
.25 cup shredded parm, divided
2 green onions, divided
tomato sauce (optional)
salt and pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook chicken in pan on medium heat.  Boil shells for seven minutes, drain, and let cool.
2.  While chicken is cooking, combine ricotta, mozzarella, pesto, half of the parm, half of the green onions, and egg in a mixing bowl.  Shred the cooked chicken with two forks and add to mixing bowl.
3.  Stuff each shell with about three tablespoons of mixture and place in casserole dish.  Top with tomato sauce (optional) and remaining parm.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Top with remaining green onions and serve.

Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna - total time 1.5 hours

So... we love spinach artichoke dip, it is the perfect appetizer.  I will pretty much try spinach and artichoke in every form possible.  Haven't made a bad one yet.  But usually I use artichokes from a can or jar, well, because I didn't know how to cook an artichoke.  It is hard to find canned artichokes that aren't marinated in some kind of oil or italian dressing of some sort... which can really change the flavor of what you were planning to make.  Well, now I can say I have officially cooked artichokes and will likely not spend the time to do that again any time soon (especially after I found out there are bag or artichoke hearts in the freezer section).

Since it took an hour to steam and peal the artichokes, I ended up using a jar of alfredo instead of making my own sauce like I planned.  This recipe would have been a lot faster if I had known about these frozen artichoke hearts...

9 lasagna noodles
1 cup fresh mozzarella, divided
16 oz ricotta
1 egg
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups spinach
1.5 cups artichoke hearts
3 cups alfredo sauce
.5 cup grated parm, divided

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute spinach in pan with garlic for four minutes, just enough to wilt down a little.  
2.  Combine ricotta, .75 cup mozzarella, egg, artichokes, cooked spinach, and .25 cup parm cheese.  Boil noodles for about one minute to get them warm.
3.  Spread some alfredo sauce over the bottom of a casserole dish.  Layer three noodles then the cheese mixture and some alfredo sauce.  Repeat.  Top with the last three noodles, cover with sauce, and finish with the remaining mozzarella and parm.
4.  Bake for 35 minutes.

How to make your own artichoke hearts...

1.  Chop off excess stem (should be an inch long).  Chop off the top of the artichoke (the prickly part).  You can cut about the top half off... you want what is in the core... or heart. 
2.  Steam artichokes for 10 minutes.  Let cool.
3.  Peal the artichoke petals and cut off the bottom, white, fleshy part.  Repeat until petals are gone.
4.  Cut out the fluffy part of the artichoke flower and scoop the rest of the artichoke flesh.  

Each artichoke results in about a half cup of artichoke heart.


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