Looking for the ultimate comfort food for your next dinner party? Try this recipe for Chicken Pot Pies in Puff Pastry Shells. Make the filling ahead of time and then bake the puff pastry shells right before your guest arrive! 

Chicken Pot Pies in Puff Pastry Shells from KatiesCucina.com

I’m so excited. Our third installment of our year-round seasonal progressive dinner party is here! Today we are talking all about comfort food. 14 of my favorite blog friends have joined forces to bring you one heck of a fall progressive dinner party. Well, ok… it’s more like a virtual progressive dinner party. But who’s judging here? Have you ever been to a progressive dinner party? The premise is that each home has a different course and you hop from home to home eating your way through multiple courses. Unfortunately we are all spread out throughout the United States and Canada and don’t have the luxury of have a progressive dinner party in real life together. So instead, we have created a virtual one!

Chicken Pot Pies in Puff Pastry Shells from KatiesCucina.com

Today, I’m sharing Chicken Pot Pies in Puff Pastry Shells. Growing up we did not eat chicken pot pie in my home. My husband on the other hand ate it religiously. Think prepackaged calorie loaded pot pies (he would eat them for snacks)! So when we moved in together it was my goal to make a healthier chicken pot pie that wasn’t loaded with as much fat and calories and of course all the preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce.


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Lighter Spaghetti Carbonara from KatiesCucina.com

Would you hate me if you knew that I ate my first bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara last year in Europe? Yep totally true. I think the whole egg thing has thrown me off all these years, and thus kept me far, far away from the egg based pasta. But while on vacation I tend to get a little more adventurous. I was craving creamy pasta and I gave it a try… and what do you know? I loved it, and then proceeded to gorge myself until I had a stomach ache (which by the way I don’t recommend that).

I was inspired to make a lighter version of spaghetti carbonara at home. I was craving comfort food. I had a busy day at the office and all I wanted to do was eat a quick comforting dinner and then veg on the couch (which lets get real I rarely ever veg on the couch. I typically get my second wind after dinner and start working on blog stuff until the wee-hours of the morning).

Lighter Spaghetti Carbonara from KatiesCucina.com

So on that sluggish evening (this happened be right after I made tons of homemade spaghetti) I knew I wanted to make pasta but I didn’t know what. I typically make my go-to Shrimp Scampi recipe, but on this particular night I did something I haven’t done in a while… I opened a cookbook! gasp! I find myself opening cookbooks less and less and going straight to the internet. And then, of course,  once I open the cookbook I tend to get lost in it for hours just as I would the internet. That’s when I flipped to this glorious recipe. This was also around Easter time when I had leftover Slow Cooker Ham. Might I add, that I never have ham in the refrigerator, so I felt that this recipe was destine to be cooked. I will tell you that Spaghetti Carbonara is not as scary as it might seem… even if you aren’t a fan of egg yolks–its creamy and comforting and brought me right back to Italy!

Adapted from Cooking Light Five Star Recipes

Spaghetti Carbonara

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4

1 cup

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fresh spaghetti
  • 1 cup chopped cooked ham
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1/4 cup chives, diced

Directions

  1. Cook fresh spaghetti for 3 minutes or until al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and set to the side.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the diced ham and cook for 2 minutes. Add the pasta to the pan and stir well.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the Parmigiano-Reginnao, sour cream, skim milk, salt, and lightly beaten eggs. Mix well, then add the reserved pasta water. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and stir until incorporated and cook for 5 minutes. You'll want the sauce to thicken--make sure it does not boil. Stir in ground black pepper and fresh chives and serve immediately.
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Crunchy-Baked Chicken Strips

I made these crunch-baked chicken strips on Sunday night for dinner. These plump and juicy chicken strips were so amazing that I had to blog about them this week. Seriously, I needed to share this amazing recipe stat with all my readers. I’m going to tell you a little secret here… typically I cook/bake a few months out from when my post actually go to publish. It is just how life is, and its nice because I always have a nice little stock-pile of recipes waiting to be debuted (they always just need the TLC aka photo editing and recipe writing to be completed). So, with all this being said. You must now realize how special these chicken strips are. If I go back for seconds on any meat of any kind I know its damn good!

Crunchy-Baked Chicken Strips

I rarely ever make a breaded chicken that is baked. It’s either baked naked with seasoning on it, grilled, or sauteed in a pan. As I “thumbed” through the pages of my online copy of Eating Light I stumbled across this recipe. (A big thanks to a twitter follower who informed me that I can download magazines for free from our public library right on to my iPad!) It looked homey and comforting and low-calorie; which we can all afford to cut a few calories from our diet since binging on cookies, gingerbread, and all things peppermint in December.

The photo in the magazine of the super-crunchy chicken reminded me of the Shake-n-Bake chicken my mom would make when I was a kid. (I recognize, I’m sure to get a phone call and/or text message/email from my mom about “outing” her once again.) Nothing wrong with Shake-n-Bake. Let’s just put that out there. The calories in such crispy chicken mixture isn’t so great for us. So why not recreate an old favorite and be able to control what is going into it? I can attest that this chicken is 100 times better the new and improved way. And are you wondering how we achieve the crunchiness to the chicken? Cornflakes! Which I could write a whole other post on how my mom use to make what we called cornflake chicken when I was a kid. By the way, my husband had no idea he was eating what he would call a “diet” recipe. So with that being said… run. Don’t walk, and go make this recipe.

I can’t end this post without wishing my parents a happy 30th wedding anniversary! Seriously, in this day-in-age its unheard of for two people to be together for so long. So congrats to them and heres to another 30 years together!

Adapted from Eating Light, January 2013

Crunchy-Baked Chicken Strips

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken strips
  • 3 cups cornflake-cereal
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, mix buttermilk egg white and hot pepper sauce in a deep bowl: mix well until incorporated. Rinse off chicken strips and add them to the buttermilk mixture. Let them sit while you prepare the crunchy mixture.
  3. In a large food processor add cornflake-cereal, paprika, fresh thyme, garlic powder, and salt. Pulse until you have crumbs and all the seasonings have been incorporated together. Carefully pour the bread crumb mixture into a shallow plate.
  4. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat (or tinfoil) then place a metal cookie cooling wire rack on top of the lined baking sheet. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Then, begin assembling the chicken. One-by-one place the buttermilk chicken into the shallow plate and coat with crumb mixture. Then place on to the wire rack. Repeat until all the chicken strips have been covered and are on the wire rack.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until crumb coating is crusty and browned and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
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I served the Crunchy-Baked Chicken Strips with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower. Recipe coming soon.


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Growing up, I remember eating these exact stuffed peppers at least once a month. Although back then, we only used green peppers.  I assume that the cost of red, orange, and yellow peppers were too expensive for our families budget that or this is the way my mom’s mom aka my grandma made it and my mom never steered from the recipe. I don’t think my mom started making the tri-color variety until I was in high school and much more knowledgeable about food.

This is one of those recipes that I make a few times each year. It’s a tried and true recipe that goes into my cooking rotation; although my cooking rotation is not like the average persons rotation since I practically cook a new recipe every night! That’s not a lie–even when I have company over I almost always try a new recipe. We do not get bored with dinner in our home!

On this particular evening that I cooked the stuffed peppers it was extra special. You see, the green peppers pictured were grown from our garden. I didn’t want to just dice them up and have them blended into another dish–I wanted them to be the star of our dish. So, I gave them the respect and attention that they deserved and stuffed them with lean ground beef, rice, zucchini, and tomato sauce and during the last few minutes of baking I topped them off with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Katie Original Recipe

Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef & Rice

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 6 bell peppers
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cups leftover white rice
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions

  1. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating begin cleaning and hollowing out the bell peppers. Once the water is to a boil carefully place each bell pepper in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. *You want your peppers to be firm not mushy. REmove the peppers from the boiling pot of water and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, In a large skillet begin browning the lean ground beef on medium heat. Half way through the browning process as your breaking up the bits of ground beef add the diced onion and zucchini to the skillet.*Because you are using lean ground beef you should have little to no oil created in the pan therefore you don't need to drain the fat from the meat. Once the ground beef is cooked through add the rice, and begin stirring until rice and beef are incorporated. Then add 3 cups of tomato sauce and mix well.
  4. Carefully begin spooning the rice/beef mixture into each of the bell peppers until the pepper is packed full. Using the remaining rice/beef mixture place it on the bottom of the baking dish. Then begin nestling the peppers in the dish. The remaining rice/beef mixture makes for a good base to hold the peppers up so they don't fall over, plus the crispy rice and beef is a nice addition to the already stuffed pepper.
  5. Tent a piece of tinfoil over the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of the baking, remove the peppers from the oven and top equally with the 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Notes

*Serving size will vary depending on the size of the bell pepper and how hungry the people are you are serving dinner too.

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I don’t cook pork often. In the past year I have tried cooking it more often for my husband… more often meaning once a month. Whether that be pork chops, a loin, or in this case a shoulder roast. I’ve never been a fan of pork (minus bacon) and to be a little too honest my body just can’t digest it well! I saw this recipe in the December issue of Every Day Food and the picture lured me in… I was sold, and I knew my husband would love it! The aroma that filled the house was unexplainable. Even I couldn’t wait to try this pork dish. Since this recipe made a lot of food and I was just cooking for my husband and I — I invited my neighbor over for an impromptu dinner. We all loved this meal! I served it with mashed potatoes (and not pictured steamed asparagus). You could taste the smokiness from the paprika throughout the dish. I will definitely be making this again, sometime soon!



Pork Roast with Tomatoes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 3lbs boneless pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 2-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season pork with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven (or in my case a French oven) or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add pork, fatty side down, and cook, turning each side until all sides are browned (about 10 minutes). Remove pork from the pot, drain excess fat if necessary, and add onion. Cook until fragrant about 5 minutes and then add garlic and cook until fragrant about30 seconds. Add tomatoes to the pot and season with more salt and pepper. Add broth and vinegar and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits. Return pork to pot (tomatoes and broth still in pot), sprinkle with paprika. Bring mixture to a boil over high on the stove top.
  3. Once the pork has come to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven; cooking for one hour. Remove the pot from the oven, and turn the pork. Return back to the oven and cook uncovered for an additional hour (basting pork every 15 minutes). Using a meat thermometer make sure the internal temperature of the pork reaches at the very minimum 145 degrees. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes. Slice pork and serve with sauce.

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I love cornbread. Growing up this was not something we ever had in my house. It was a novelty item that I would periodically get to have if we were on vacation eating at a Cracker Barrel. My parents are from up north and cornbread was just something they did not grow up eating–thus they didn’t pass on the cornbread loving genes to me! *I know I’m probably going to catch hell from my mom on this post just as I do almost any post I ever mention her in. 

As I’ve grown older I’ve been on the hunt for the most amazing and perfect cornbread recipe out their. This my friends… is it. This is my new go-to recipe. I love sweet cornbread and this recipe satisfies all my cornbread needs! 

Source: Food Network, The Neelys

Honey Cornbread Muffins

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
  2. Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.
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Oddly enough growing up as a kid I did not like macaroni and cheese. This was odd to most people since macaroni and cheese can be thought of as a childhood staple. I never cared for cheese therefore I did not like macaroni and cheese. As I approached my teenage years I began liking macaroni and cheese, but the boxed version, and it had to be watered down so there was only a faint taste of what I like to call “fake” cheese. 

Now that I’m an adult I have a full appreciation for macaroni and cheese. I’ve been searching for a basic go-to macaroni and cheese recipe for a while. My mother in-law makes a killer macaroni and cheese. She uses white cheddar and bakes it with a bread crumb topping. I could seriously eat the whole pan.  It is delicious (and I would imagine a very fattening meal). Back to this recipe… I found it odd that this recipe called for egg and was a little hesitant to add it, but I trusted Ree Drummond (I mean, come on the women can cook)! This mac & cheese was creamy, sinful, and best of all easy-to-make. Which by now you should know that I love easy-to-make meals! When you think of comfort food your mind should automatically picture this macaroni and cheese. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 



Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6


Ingredients: 
4 cups dried macaroni 
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp dry mustard
1 lb grated cheddar
1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, and seasoned salt
Dash of paprika


Directions:
1. Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

2. In a small bowl, beat one egg and place to the side.
3. Then in a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn. Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.
4. Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth. Then add in cheese and stir to melt, followed by salt and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! Make sure you do not under salt!
5. Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine. For creamy macaroni and cheese serve immediately OR pour macaroni and cheese into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.


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I love soups and I’ve learned to start loving stews. Some days it’s nice to have a hearty stew for dinner. What ultimately drew me to this recipe was the fact that it had beer in it. I knew my husband would approve of it even though the beer would eventually cook down and would only add an extra layer of flavor. I loved the ruggedness of this stew. The unpeeled carrots and potatoes intrigued me. This stew was delicious, and in the end I only had one serving left which I froze and will be consumed at a later date. *Thaw and reheat within 2 months of freezing. I served this stew with the amazing Buttermilk Cornbread

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients: 

  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 2 pounds Stew Meat
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 can Beer, 12 Ounce Can
  • 4 cups Beef Stock (or 4 Cups Water + 4 Beef Bouillon Cubes)
  • 2 cups Water (additional, If Needed)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • ½ tsp Paprika
  • ½ tsp Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1-½ tsp Sugar
  • 4 whole Carrots, Washed, Unpeeled, And Roughly Sliced
  • 4 whole New Potatoes, Quartered
  • Minced Parsley (optional)

Directions: 

1. Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown meat in two batches, setting aside on a plate when brown. Cut pieces in half. Set aside.

2. Add diced onions to the pot. Stir and cook for two or three minutes until softened, then add garlic for another minute. Pour in beer and beef stock, then add Worcestershire, tomato paste, paprika, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add beef back into the pot. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
*UPDATE: The liquid should cook down to a thicker state. If it gets too thick/reduces too much, add additional water as needed.
3. Add carrots and potatoes, then cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes. (If stew gets dry, just add a cup of hot water at a time to replenish the liquid.) Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
4. Serve in bowls next to crusty French bread. Sprinkle with minced parsley, if desired.



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Buttermilk Cornbread

Growing up I was never a big fan of cornbread. It probably wasn’t until a few years back when I started to really appreciate this amazing substitute for bread! I love sweet cornbread that has chunks of corn in it. In past cornbread making experiences I’ve always turned to the .65 cent jiffy cornbread mix, but knew I eventually wanted to make my own from scratch. 


When I found this recipe and read how easy it was I knew that the time had finally come to make my own! This recipe had a side note section with a variety of different variations of ingredients you could add in. For instance, you could add in some diced chorizo, grated cheddar cheese, pine nuts, scallions, leeks, jalapeno, crumbled bacon, or what I typically prefer; corn kernels! Because I enjoy a very sweet cornbread I would add easily 1/3 cup of sugar. I did double the tablespoons of sugar which would make that 1/4 cup added and it still wasn’t sweet enough for me. The beauty of this recipe is that this is the base recipe, and you can add in whatever your heart desires. I had quite a bit leftover, so I cut up the pieces of cornbread, placed them in freezer zip lock baggies and froze them. They should keep for at least 2 months in the freezer. When your ready to serve them just defrost and if you’d like put them in the oven for a few minutes to get them crispy again! 


Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients: 

  • 1-3/4 cups medium-grind stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar 
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into a few pieces
  • *1 cup corn (fresh or canned;drained)

Directions: 



1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and put a 9- to 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 9-inch heavy-duty square or round metal baking pan (not nonstick) on the rack. Heat the oven to 425°F.


2. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil over high heat. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the cornmeal and the boiling water. Stir to blend—the mixture should become a thick mush.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1-1/4 cups cornmeal with the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda to blend.

4. Add the buttermilk, sour cream, and eggs to the cornmeal mush and whisk to blend.

5. When the oven and pan are fully heated (after about 20 minutes), add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until just blended. Do not overmix.

6. Remove the hot pan from the oven and add the butter pieces, tilting the pan to swirl the butter around until it’s melted and the pan is well coated. (The butter may brown; that’s fine.) Immediately pour the melted butter over the mixed batter and stir to combine—a half-dozen strokes with a wooden spoon should be plenty. Scrape into the hot pan.

7. Bake until the cornbread pulls away from the sides of the pan and is golden on top, 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately turn the bread out onto a rack. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve hot.


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I’ve ate creamed spinach a few times before while out at restaurants but it’s never something I would think to make. For some reason I was craving it, and was ultimately ready to finally tackle this recipe. I’ll tell you, (if you didn’t know already) creamed spinach in general is not for someone who is calorie counting. The fattening ingredients is what makes this side dish! You can’t skimp! I’m so glad I tried this recipe because not only was it easy but it was so tasty, and the leftovers made for a great baked spinach artichoke dip (recipe to come)!!! 

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 Tbsp Flour
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 24 ounces baby spinach
Directions: 


1. Melt 1 stick of butter in a pot. Sprinkle in flour and whisk together. Cook over medium heat for five minutes or until light golden brown. Throw in onion and garlic and stir together, cooking for another minute. Pour in milk, whisking constantly, and cook for another five minutes while you cook the spinach.

2. To cook spinach, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a separate pot. Add spinach in increments until all incorporated, and cook until wilted but not soggy, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Season the cream sauce with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add spinach to the cream sauce, stirring gently to combine. Serve immediately.


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