Sauteed Baby Spinach with Garlic

This wonderful side dish literally takes about 5 minutes to make & it's so healthy & delicious! In a chefs pan or a large pan with sides, saute 3 minced garlic cloves in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. (You don't want to brown the garlic.)
Add a pound of fresh baby spinach. It filled up this 10" chefs pan. I know it looks like a lot, but it cooks down to almost nothing!
Season the spinach with salt & pepper. Cook, over medium/ low heat, folding the spinach into the olive oil & garlic until all the spinach is wilted & tender.
Serve with a slotted spoon, the spinach renders out lots of liquid into the pan & you don't want to serve that. This is delicious as is, but some times I sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over it while it's warm too! YUM!!

Sunny Side Up Eggs & Bacon

Nothing gets my morning started better than the smell of bacon cooking (and freshly brewed cup of coffee)! These breakfast classics are a favorite in our house & they are so easy & quick to make!! My favorite way to cook bacon:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the strips of bacon on a sheet pan, try to not let them touch or they will stick together while cooking. Some people like to place the bacon over a slotted rack on the sheet pan so that the grease drips down. But I think it tastes much better & gets a better texture when you let the bacon cook in it & drain the excess at the end. Cook for 10-15 minutes, just under cooked. Then flip the pieces & return to the oven to cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until your desired crispiness.
Remove from the oven & drain the bacon strips on a plate lines with paper towels. I like to blot the excess grease of the tops with another paper towel.
Don't be afraid to make extra- it's great left over for sandwiches or as topping for salads!! You can make the bacon ahead of time too & reheat the bacon in a low oven or microwave before serving. Perfect for a brunch get together!

Sunny Side Up Eggs!
Melt 1 tbs of butter (for 2 eggs) in a non-stick skillet (I used an 10") over medium heat.
When the butter started to bubble, crack 1 egg into the pan being careful not to break the yolk. You can crack the egg into a small dish & then pour it into the skillet.
Rotate or roll the pan around with your wrist to shape the egg & baste it in the butter. When the eggs is set, crack the 2nd egg into the pan.
Using a small spoon, baste some of the hot butter around the sides of the yolk, on the white of the egg to cook the top. The butter will help cook the top of the egg white, ensuring that you don't get clear 'goo' around the yolk. When your egg is cooked, drain it with a slotted spatula & plate. Finish the 2nd egg, basting the top & plate. To cook more eggs, add a little more butter to the pan & repeat this process. And don't worry if they don't look "perfect", as you can see mine didn't! But I assure you, they tasted perfectly!! Serve immediately, before the eggs cool. (They will continue to cook some after you plate them, so keep that in mind!) Serve with your favorite sides. We did croissants & fruit this time but some times we go super traditional & make hash browns or grits & toast. Just make sure that you serve something to dip in that delicious runny yolk!!!

Panko & Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts

This is every one's favorite chicken! The Panko Bread Crumbs & Parmesan Cheese give it a crunchy, delicious texture & pan frying keeps it tender & incredibly light tasting. The thin chicken breasts cook up so quickly making this a great dish for any night of the week! Ingredients:
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Plain Panko Bread Crumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Paprika
Salt & Pepper
1 Egg
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Butter

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper & pound thin, about 1/4". As you can tell, these make huge servings. You could easily cut the breast in half & make 2 servings out of one! Set up your assembly line. Place the flour on one plate, lightly beat the egg with 1 tsp of water on another plate. Combine the Panko, Parmesan & seasonings on the third plate. You could substitute regular bread crumbs but I think the Panko gives it a much crispier & lighter texture. Dredge the thinned chicken breasts (one at a time) through the flour, then the egg, then coat in the Panko & Parmesan mixture.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil & 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium/ low heat. I used a 10" skillet & cooked 1 at a time, but I was only making 2 chicken breasts. If you are making more, use a larger skillet & add more olive oil & butter accordingly. Fry the chicken breasts, until the 1st side is golden & the chicken is partially cooked.
Gently flip & cook the other side until the chicken is fully cooked. This is such a quick cook, it cooks in about 3-5 minutes on each side.
Remove & place chicken on a sheet pan (I like to line the sheet pan with parchment paper first). Keep warm in the oven, heated to 200 degrees, while you cook the other chicken breasts & get the rest of your meal together. I usually wipe out the bread crumbs & excess oil from the pan with a paper towel in between cooking so the bits don't burn.
I sprinkled some extra Parmesan Cheese on top & served it with Panzanella Salad this evening.
This is my version of another Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) creation, Parmesan Chicken.

Panzanella Salad

This is a salad that even the pickiest eaters love! Chucks of crusty bread marinaded with summer veggies- delicious & super easy! It makes the perfect side for back yard barbecues or picnics since it doesn't require any refrigeration! Ingredients:
(For the Salad)
1 Italian or French loaf of Crusty Bread
1/2-3/4 lb Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium/ large Cucumber, cut in 1/2" cubes
1/4 medium Red Onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup Black Olives
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, cut into pieces
1 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
(for the Vinaigrette)
2 cloves of Garlic (minced)
1/4 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I used a mini french baguette, but I've also used Italian boules or Sourdough loaves in the past. Use any crusty bread that you like. Cut the bread into 1/2" cubes. Place on a sheet pan, drizzle lightly with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from oven & set aside to cool.
Chop your veggies. I used grape tomatoes because they looked the best to me at the grocery store. But you really can use any tomato that you want. I used regular hot house cucumbers but you can use English. I peeled it, in strips so you still got some of the peel & I left the seeds in. Switch up the veggies & add what your family likes. Colorful bell peppers would be great in this!
Mince the garlic cloves, add the garlic, vinegar & olive oil in a bowl & whisk to emulsify. Season with salt & pepper.
With the tip of your knife, 'chip' off chucks of parmesan cheese. You could use different cheese too; mozzarella or feta would be good!
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving the Parmesan for serving. Stir to incorporate the dressing. Cover & let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan chucks & serve.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie- It's thick, creamy, delicious, and I bet it's a lot easier to make than you think! This is a fun entertaining dish too. It's old fashioned & comforting, sure to make your guests feel right at home. Plus, it's easy to prepare ahead of time so you can focus on your guests instead of the food. I love to personalize them by cutting out the person's first initial in the pastry & placing it on top! Monogramming with food! I love it! Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 pkg Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
1 medium Yellow Onion
1 small Carrot, chopped
3 medium White Potatoes, peeled & chopped 1/4-1/2" cubes
1 cup frozen peas
4 cups Chicken Broth
8 tbsp Butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Flour
1 tsp Chicken Bouillon Granules (or 1 cube)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roast the chicken breasts (drizzled with olive oil & seasoned with salt & pepper) on a sheet pan for 30-35 minutes. Set aside to cool. Pull the puff pastry out of the freezer & allow to thaw on the counter. In a large pot or dutch oven (I used a 5.5 quart dutch oven) melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onions & carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent & carrots are tender. Lower the heat & add the flour. Cook until it's golden, about 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken broth & bouillon granules, salt & pepper; increase the heat to medium/high. Stir to combine well. Add the chopped potatoes. You don't want to have the potatoes any larger than 1/2" or they might not cook through. Cover the pan & reduce heat to low. When the chicken is out of the oven, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Chop (or shred) the chicken when it is cool enough to touch. Turn the heat off the pot & add the chicken, peas, & heavy cream. Stir well to incorporate. Check Seasoning & adjust to taste. Lay the thawed puff pasty on a lightly floured counter. Trace your bowls (empty) to see how they will fit, you may need to roll out the pastry some to stretch it. Cut your pastry for the topping. Divide the filling among 4 individual, oven proof dishes. Don't fill them to the top, your sauce will thicken while it bakes & it needs room to steam. Place them on a sheet pan.
Brush the egg wash on the rims of the baking dishes & place the puff pastry pieces on top. Pinch around the edges to seal it to the dish. (If there is excess pastry on the edges, tuck it into the filling.) Then brush the top with egg wash. Cut little slits into the top of the dough, like you would a pie, for steam to escape. I like to sprinkle some kosher salt & pepper on the tops for texture, and it looks good. (I'm not a huge pepper fan, so I only salt mine.) Be careful not to add a lot of salt though, it will easier make the whole thing too salty!!
Bake at 375 degrees, for 30-40 minutes or until the top is dark golden. Don't worry, some of the filling always bubbles out- that's what the sheet pan is for.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Serve this with a simple salad, but these are large portions so keep that in mind. Just look how thick the filling is!!
The best part about making homemade food is you can customize it to fit your family's preferences. Switch up the vegetables to your favorites, use green beans instead of peas, add corn. Use a mixture of white meat & dark meat chicken, or make turkey pot pies! This is a good recipe to keep in mind for Thanksgiving left overs too!
Note: This is another slight adapted version of Ina Garten's (the Barefoot Contessa) Chicken Pot Pie.

Homemade Soft Pretzels with Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

Big, buttery, soft, warm, homemade pretzels! I watched Bobby Flay makes these on a Throw Down & knew that I had to try them. I was not definitely not disappointed! This recipe makes a wonderful pretzel. It has the texture of a traditional big soft pretzel & the buttery flavor of those delicious Auntie Anne's creations. They make a wonderful snack or appetizer & just wait till you try making sandwiches with them! Yum! The Jalapeno Cheese Sauce is perfect with them & so easy to make! Ingredients:
(for the Pretzels)
4-4 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) Butter, melted
1 1/2 cups warm Water
2 1/2 tsp Active, Dry Yeast
2 tbsp Light Brown Sugar
2 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tbsp Vegetable or Canola Oil
3/4 cup Baking Soda
1 egg beaten with 1/2 tbsp of Water
More Kosher Salt for top
(for the Jalapeno Cheese Sauce)
1 tbsp Butter
1 tsp All Purpose Flour
1 cup cup milk
3/4 cup White American Cheese, shredded
Jalapeno Pepper, chopped

Making this dough is easy & very similar to making pizza dough. In a small sauce pan, melt the stick of butter over low heat. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, brown sugar, warm water, & melted butter. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then on low speed, add 4 cups of flour reserving the last 1/2 cup. When the flour is incorporated, increase the speed to medium & knead for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth & not sticking to the sides. If the dough is too wet, add the rest of the flour, a little at a time. Dump the dough out onto a counter & knead a few times with your hands. Lightly oil the mixing bowl, add the dough, flipping to coat. Cover with a clean kitchen towel & let rise until it doubles in size. I always, pour hot water in a large bowl, put it on the bottom rack of my oven (turned off) and put my dough on the top shelf to rise. It seems to be the perfect, warm place for dough. I let the dough rise for about an hour. Then dumped it out on to my counter (with no extra flour or oil). If yours is too sticky, I would lightly oil the counter, with cooking spray or with more vegetable or canola oil. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your dough in 8 even pieces. I made mine into a large circle & then sliced it into pie slices, like a pizza.
Roll & stretch each piece into a long rope, about 20" or so. We like our pretzels thick, especially if we want to use some of them for sandwiches. If you want to make thinner (more traditional) pretzels, roll it out longer then 20".
Then make a 'U' shape.
Criss-cross the top.
Criss- cross or twist it once more & then press the ends into the bottom of the 'U' to form a pretzel shape. You could also make them into pretzel sticks, if you prefer.
Place them on a sheet pan, that has been lined with parchment paper & sprayed with cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. (I used a 5.5 quart dutch oven, filled about 2/3 full of water.) Add 3/4 cup of baking soda. Boil the pretzels in the solution, 1 or 2 at a time for about 30-45 seconds, flipping them half way through. Using a spider or large slotted spoon remove & drain the pretzel dough & place on the greased & parchment lined sheet pan. I put 4 on each pan.
Slightly beat the egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush the tops of the pretzels with the egg wash & then sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until pretzel brown. While the pretzels are baking, I make the Jalapeno Cheese Dip. (See Directions below.) Let rest for about 5 minutes & serve warm.
To make the Jalapeno Cheese Sauce, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour to the melted butter & cook until golden.
Slowly stir in the milk until it's fully incorporated. Let it cook until it thickens enough to coat the spoon.
Turn off the heat & slowly stir in the shredded cheese. Once the cheese is all incorporated, add in the chopped Jalapeno. I actually used deli sliced American Cheese. I cut it into little pieces, instead of shredding it, only because it was already sliced for sandwiches. While I would prefer to have used fresh Jalapeno, I used jarred & sliced (see the garnish). Because that's what I had on hand. I chopped up before I put them in the sauce. You can add as much or as little as you'd like, I didn't measure it at all. If you don't like Jalapeno, the plain cheese sauce would be excellent too!
So yummy!!