Monthly Archives: March 2011

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Mexican food: I could eat it all day every day.  Tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, guacamole and anything with cilantro. By the way, what’s with the people who think cilantro tastes like soap?  Have they ever eaten guacamole without cilantro?  It’s like peanut butter without chocolate; spaghetti without meatballs; gin without tonic.  All good, but the addition of that second component makes it worlds better.  I plan to grow a cilantro plant this summer so I can have fresh deliciousness at my fingertips.  I have a bit of a black thumb though so we’ll see how that turns out.

I found this enchilada casserole in Cooking Light Magazine and had to make it immediately.  I put on the menu for the week and made sure I had all the ingredients.  It seemed like it might be time intensive so I prepared most of the dish the night before and it took less than half an hour the next night.  Time intensive was an under-statement for this dish.  Holy time-suck.  Mostly it was because I was simultaneously making some delicious chocolate-walnut-banana bread so I was in the kitchen for roughly 3 hours preparing this dish and the bread.  A mighty productive night if you ask me!

I used 2 things in this recipe that I don’t usually use, but since they called for it I figured I would follow the recipe.  I used corn tortillas and chicken thighs, where I would usually use flour tortillas and chicken breasts.  Since the corn tortillas absorbed the liquid in the dish, they weren’t as hard as I usually find them to be so I would definitely use them again.  I’m not sold on the chicken thighs though, I’m much more of a white meat kinda gal.  Kevin loves dark meat, though so I promised I would incorporate it more in our dishes.  This is a good place to use the dark meat because there are so many other flavors and textures going on you doesn’t focus on the slimy chicken (blech).

This dish is a little spicy, so cut down on the cayenne if you cant handle the heat.  I kind of wished I cut back because my lips were uber-chapped so they felt like they were on fire while eating it.  But believe me, that didn’t stop me from shoveling bite after bite into my mouth.

This dish is very good and it will definitely be in our rotation.  If you have some already cooked chicken that will definitely save some time in this dish and even make it possible to prepare it the same night as eating it.  So yummy.  It’s already in my Tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch.



Here is the recipe, adaped from Cooking Light:


  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup canned corn
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 9 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add chicken to pan; saute 4 minutes on each side.  Place skillet in oven; bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until done.  Remove chicken from pan and let stand for 15 minutes.   Chop or shred the chicken, and put it in a medium bowl.  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken and toss to combine.
  3. Return pan to medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 cup onion; saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 3 garlic cloves and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add onion mixture to chicken mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 cloves garlic, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeno in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of cilantro and blend in the pan using an immersion hand blender.  Alternatively, transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side.  Remove tortillas from pan and repeat procedure with remaining tortillas.  Cut tortillas into quarters.
  6. Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated in cooking spray.  Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture.  Spoon hald of chicken mixture over tortillas.  Repeat layers, ending with tortillas.  Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubble and lightly browned.  Top with remaining cilantro.

Note: In order to make this a week-night meal, cook chicken and prepare salsa mixture and chicken mixture the night before or on the weekend.  Then, on the night of, heat the tortillas in the skillet, assemble casserole, and bake.  I wouldn’t recommend preparing the entire casserole the night before, because the tortillas will get way too soggy.

Don’t let the long directions discourage you from trying this meal.  It’s super tasty, and totally worth the time.  It’s even better the next day, and I was sorry when we ran out.



Homemade Thin-Crust Pizza

This pizza is so good.  And not as difficult as home-made pizza seems.  It’s definitely the most delicious and fool-proof pizza dough recipe I have tried and I will continue to use this recipe.  I even botched the steps a bit and used different yeast but it still turned out great.  If a recipe is stamped with the approval of Cook’s Illustrated/ America’s Test Kitchen, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be good.  That being said, they have a lot more practice than you so yours might not turn out as pretty as theirs….

What it’s supposed to look like:

Ummm yeah….not quite.

But I promise!  It’s still delicious, no matter how deformed.
I let the dough sit for an hour, like it said, but it was still quite cold.  Once I started working with it, it quickly warmed up and was not very cooperative.  Then I made the mistake of thinking I could simply lift the pizza off the cutting board onto the baking sheet in the oven…yeah, not going to happen.  So after a lot of struggling I jammed some parchment paper under the pizza until most of it was on there so I could slide it onto the baking sheet.  Hence, the hideous appearance.  With the next pie I was smart enough to start on parchment paper for easy transport.  I also left that dough thicker, so you don’t have to keep it thin like the name suggests.  The recipe for sauce is also super easy and delicious, and it makes extra so you can save it for your next pizza adventure or use it on pasta.  Use any toppings you like, but their combination of mozzarella and parmesan was delicious.  Try it soon! You wont be disappointed.

Here is the recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine:



  • 3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour , plus more for work surface (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast (I used 3/4 tsp of regular yeast)
  • 1 1/3 cups ice water (about 10 1/2 ounces) (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil , plus more for work surface
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt


  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes , drained and liquid discarded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • 1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 8 ounces whole milk mozzarella , shredded (about 2 cups)


1. FOR THE DOUGH: In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flour, sugar, and yeast until combined, about 2 seconds. With machine running, slowly add water through feed tube; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 minutes.

2. Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on lightly oiled countertop until smooth, about 1 minute. Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

3. FOR THE SAUCE: Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. TO BAKE THE PIZZA: One hour before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to second highest position (rack should be about 4 to 5 inches below broiler), set pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into smooth, tight ball. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray; let stand for 1 hour.

5. Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on well-floured countertop. Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8-inch disk, leaving 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center. Using hands, gently stretch disk into 12-inch round, working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch. Transfer dough to well-floured peel and stretch into 13-inch round. Using back of spoon or ladle, spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in thin layer over surface of dough, leaving 1/4-inch border around edge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan evenly over sauce, followed by 1 cup mozzarella. Slide pizza carefully onto stone and bake until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pizza halfway through. Remove pizza and place on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat step 5 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

My note: I have neither a pizza peel or pizza stone, so I used parchment paper to take the dough from counter to oven, and a pre-heated upside-down baking sheet as a stone.  It worked just fine, you just have to be careful because 500 degrees is a little hot for parchment paper and it can burn and get very brittle.

Tuscan Style Chicken Sandwiches

I wonder why it is that every time a recipe is supposed to be quick, it always takes me twice as long as it should.  If you’re good at multi-tasking, this meal will take you 15 minutes.  Me, on the other hand, took 45 minutes to get this meal on the table.  Sometimes I do one step of the recipe, then just kind of stand and stare at the recipe, or into space, thinking random thoughts.

The pesto mayonnaise is an essential flavor in this recipe so don’t skip it!  I used store-bought but obviously home-made would be ideal.  So if you have some leftover or if you’re an over-achiever, use home-made.

Artichokes: gross-looking, kind of looks like guts or ears or squid.  Very tasty though.  Tart and tangy and deelish.

I used focaccia bread but I don’t think I would use it again.  It was hard to take a bite since it was thick and didn’t squish down very good.  Next time, I would just use a regular bun and probably toast it so the cheese would get melty and gooey and the whole sandwich would be heated through.

I used spinach instead of mixed greens because I had it in the fridge and what are mixed greens anyway?

Try it, its super easy and quick.  Seen on Epicurious


•    1/4 cup mayonnaise
•    4 teaspoons prepared pesto
•    2 4×4-inch squares focaccia or ciabatta
•    2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
•    Olive oil
•    4 thin slices fresh mozzarella (I used shredded, because that’s what I had but next time I would use fresh)
•    2 canned artichoke hearts, drained, thinly sliced
•    1 plum tomato, thinly sliced
•    1 cup mixed baby greens/ spinach


1. Prepare grill (medium-high heat). Combine mayonnaise and pesto in small bowl; whisk to blend.

2. Brush chicken lightly with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to cutting board; cool slightly. Cut chicken on sharp diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices (I kept them whole instead of slicing them to keep the juices in)

3. Spread pesto mayonnaise onto cut surfaces of bread. Layer chicken, mozzarella, artichokes, greens, and tomato onto bottom halves. Top with bread tops. Yum!