Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pesto Chicken Packets

This summer the boy and I went camping with a friend from college and his friends. These have to have been some of the nicest, most patient people. You see, and this is embarrassing, I hadn't been camping since girl scouts. Clearly I had no clue what to expect or what to do, but these wonderful people helped me survive, and even enjoy, my first camping trip as a person over the age of 10.
Don't worry, I'm not here just to tell you about my trip, but also the food. I knew going into it that there would be roasted marshmallows and s'mores. And there were indeed marshmallows and s'mores galore. Loved it!
So perhaps those marshmallows were a tad too toasty, but you get the point.

The way we did food is we had a different couple make dinner for everyone each night. After a REALLLLLY long drive, the boy and I were welcomed to camp by bratwurst and steaks. The next night was our turn to cook. By "our turn" I mean "my turn"- but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I had made a Caesar-pesto pasta salad and snickerdoodles before we left home, so I only needed to make the main meal on site. To go with the pasta salad (which I will post next time I make it), I made Pesto Chicken Packets from Rachael Ray. Chicken, zucchini (and in my version squash), tomatoes, green onion and pesto baked or grilled in individual serving aluminum foil packets.I apologize, as good as these were, I just could not for the life of me get a good picture. The lighting as well as my hunger did not support a great photo shoot! You will just have to trust me that everyone liked it, or check out the professional picture on Rachael Ray's website.
***UPDATE: I have since made these for a friend and was able to get slightly better pictures. The aluminum foil is still not a great photography medium, but at least this time I had light and more time. See the pictures below. ALSO I have added comments to the recipe where I adjusted stuff***Pesto Chicken Packets
4 servings
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (TIP- do not use; the pesto will give off a fair amount of oil during cooking)
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup pesto (don't use nearly this much)
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (or about a pint of grape tomatoes halved)
  • 8 scallions, trimmed (and cut into 1/2- 1" sections)


  1. Preheat a grill to medium or oven to 450. Cut four 12-inch-long sheets of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle 1 teaspoon (or no) olive oil into the center of each sheet.

  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1 piece of chicken in the center of each sheet and spread (from 2 teaspoons to) 1 tablespoon pesto on top.

  3. Mound one-quarter of the zucchini, tomatoes and scallions over each chicken breast. Dollop 2 tablespoons (no more than 1tsp) pesto over each mound. Fold the foil over the chicken and vegetables; pinch the edges to seal.

  4. Cover and grill over indirect heat or bake the packets for 25 minutes. Remove from the grill or oven and open carefully.

  5. Serve with rice or pasta to absorb the extra juices. (also GREAT with garlic bread-put the tomato bits on the garlic bread and it is DELICIOUS)

Hostess Cupcake Cake- The Success

This one is digging back in the archives. The "Sam" in question has a March birthday. Yes, a little late. But, well worth it. This is the (in)famous hostess cupcake cake- but this year it stood!!
This year, I made a 3 layer cake instead of a 4 layer cake. I was also REALLLLLLY careful in how I made sure the cakes exited their pans. I sprayed the pans with a lot of pam and then tried coating them in a LOT of either flour or cocoa powder. You can see the difference between the cakes covered in cocoa and the coke covered in flour. I far prefer the appearance of the chocolate cakes coated in cocoa, the flour would be better for a vanilla cake. I also made sure to cool the cakes a good bit before taking them out of the pan and to keep them on COMPLETELY flat surfaces (meaning no dinner plates, etc).

I only removed the center of the middle cake, and I had already chosen the sturdiest looking cake as the middle one.

And it stood. And it was good. And we rejoiced.

For the recipe, see here. Multiply the cake recipe by 1.5 to make 3 round cakes. Fill with the vanilla filling, but use frosting or filling in between the layers (I did one of each). Go heavy on the frosting in between layers (for flavor and making sure it stays together).


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Black Bottom Cupcakes

I've made 2 versions of the black bottom cupcake and these were by far my favorite. The other was not nearly dark enough or chocolatey enough to balance the cream cheese center. These were perfect- as most things by David Lebovitz and Smitten Kitchen are. They were a soft, rich, sweet chocolate cupcake, balanced by a firm, tart cheese cake filling. Phenomenal.
My more recent attempt was while I did not have internet access, but did have a Rachael Ray magazine which featured a similar cupcake. I used her version, but, as I previously mentioned, was not impressed. The people I baked for still loved it, but I did not. What can I say? I'm picky.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Yield: approx 12 full-size cupcakes

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces chocolate chips

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line the muffin tin with paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups- about 1/2 way full. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, but still leave some room to puff.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown.

Chicken Caesar Casserole

Much like my Harlequin Chicken, this is one of those recipes that I kept putting off making. I felt like I wasn't in the mood, or it took too much time, or something, but it kept being put off. Finally I made it and I am glad I did. It was delicious. Last night I even had a huge craving for it! It was so good!!

Caesar Chicken Casserole

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked, cut into 1/2" to 1" pieces
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup light creamy caesar dressing
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
1 12-oz package tubed pasta (such as penne), cooked and drained
1/2 cup croutons

Combine all ingredients but croutons. Pour into a 2 quart baking dish or about 5 small aluminum grill pans. Crush croutons and sprinkle on top. Allow to cool and freeze, or continue to next step.

From freezer: Thaw casserole. Bake in 350F preheated oven for 30 minutes or until topping is browned and casserole is bubbly

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

I am well aware that I fail as a regular blogger. I won't even dare to comment on how long it has been since my last post except to say that it has been too long. I hope that my next post comes far sooner. However can I make it up to you? How about some chocolate chocolate chip muffins?
I baked these during the school year when I somehow ended up with buttermilk in my fridge, and I needed a way to use some of it up. A google search revealed these little delights that satisfy a sweet tooth. But don't go claiming "they're muffins! They must be healthy and a great breakfast!" because, well, they are in no way healthy. But, when it comes to chocolate, healthy is not something I personally look for. I cared more about the fact that they were moist and soft with a slight crunch at the top and they fulfilled my chocolate craving perfectly.
I ended up bringing these to my classmates, and it seems my positive review was universal. One girl in my section declined a muffin for her diet's sake, then, after hearing the raves from the others sitting next to her, she retracted her refusal and gobbled down one of the scrumptious muffins. These are diet-breaking good.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 bag, chocolate chips, divided
1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with papers.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1/2 of the chocolate together with the butter. Let stand until cooled, about 10 minutes.
Lightly beat the egg. In a small bowl, stir together the chocolate-butter mixture with the buttermilk, sugar, egg, and vanilla, until blended well.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, soda, and salt. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the chocolate mixture, and stir until just combined. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove muffin tin from oven and let stand at least 5 minutes, before removing the muffins and letting them cool on a wire rack.

*Note- recipe says these can be frozen, though I have not yet tried it. They were all gone within a day!