January 20, 2011

Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers

this recipe comes from: www.melskitchencafe.com, which is one of my favorite recipe sites...you may want to check it out. enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 average-sized chicken breasts (about 1 to 1 ½ pounds), cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch pieces
8 ounces white button mushrooms, quartered
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pound orzo pasta
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (can use 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1 cup reserved pasta water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions until tender. When the orzo is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (ladling it into a small bowl is my method) and then drain the orzo and set aside.

While the orzo cooks, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot oil and brown on all sides. When nicely browned (but not all the way cooked through), add the peppers, mushrooms and thyme. Stir and let cook for about 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms and peppers have softened and browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

In the skillet over medium heat, add the softened cream cheese (if you forgot to let the cream cheese soften at room temperature, no worries! Pop it in the microwave for one minute on 40% power) in bite sized chunks and stir so that the cream cheese melts and coats the chicken and vegetables. Add the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir. Add the orzo, Parmesan, lemon juice and fresh parsley. Stir to combine and heat through. Garnish with additional Parmesan and parsley.

Serve immediately for creamiest pasta.

January 14, 2011

bagels from scratch

bagels are one of those things i've shied away from making because i've always assumed they were just too hard or too time consuming to be worth it. i wish i would have tried them sooner! they are super easy to make and not any more time consuming than bread or rolls. they may not be perfectly symmetrical, but they are tasty. i stop buying bagels today.

i used the ingredients from allrecipes.com and the instructions for preparing and baking from cdkitchen.com

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm milk (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
*for whole wheat bagels, substitute some of the flour for 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup of oats and then you can substitute honey for the sugar.

optional toppings

Sesame seeds
Poppy seeds
Minced fresh garlic
Minced fresh onion
Caraway seeds
Coarse salt


In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add the butter, sugar, salt and egg yolk; mix well. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Shape into 8 balls. Roll into 6in logs, bring together and pinch. Cover and let rise 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Drop bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. When bagels float to the surface (about 30 seconds), remove with a slotted spoon and place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets generously sprinkled with cornmeal.

Bake bagels plain or sprinkle with a topping of your choice. Place in the hot oven, immediately reduce heat to 425 degrees F, and bake about 17 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

January 09, 2011

poppy seed chicken

my mother-in-law introduced me to this recipe. it's a crowd-pleaser and works well to make ahead. one special note--it's definitely better to crush the crackers some other way than in a food processor. you want them slightly more chunky, not a dusty powder. i usually serve this over baked potatoes and with broccoli. in fact, you could probably mix the broccoli in, although i haven't tried that yet....


3 C cooked chicken breast, cubed (you can saute some onions along with it if you want)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 C sour cream
a handful of cheddar cheese, shredded
1 package ritz crackers, crushed
1 cube butter (no one said it was healthy)
2 T poppy seeds (or just however much looks good to you--i use more)


mix the first four ingredients together and spread into a 8 x 8 pan. sprinkle the crackers on top and drizzle with the butter. poppy seeds next. bake @ 400 til golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.