Peppermint Bark

I was in the mood for a festive treat and now that I'm trying to be better about not cheating on my gluten-free diet, I needed an alternative to cookies. I came across a bag of white chocolate chips and thought, "Peppermint Bark!" It was easy and turned out very pretty and tasty (if I do say so myself). I think it will be my new holiday trademark treat :-).

Ingredients:
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips
6-8 candy canes (I think I used about 7)

Directions:

-Enlist the help of some eager hammering hands to smash the candy canes. I unwrapped mine, placed them in a thick Ziploc bag and let the kiddos hammer away.
-Spread a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet (I didn't have any and used aluminum foil which I sprayed lightly with my canola oil spray)
-Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a double broiler (or if you do it the ghetto fabulous way like me, boil some water in a big pot and put the chips in a smaller pot inside the boiling water). Once melted smooth, spread into a thin layer on the cookie sheet (I put about 1/2 t oil in help make the chocolate more smooth). Place in freezer until it is cooled and hard.
-Melt the white chocolate chips the same way. When it is smooth pour in most of the crushed candy canes, saving some for the top. Spread this layer on top of the chocolate layer quickly, before the dark chocolate starts to melt again.
-Sprinkle the top with the remaining candy canes and push lightly into the soft white chocolate.
-Freeze again. Once cooled, break into pieces of the desired size and enjoy!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

I saw this recipe awhile back on Real Mom Kitchen and had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to make it. With our cold, rainy weather I was excited to try it out. It was good...like a creamier version of my tortilla soup. And of course, crock pot meals are always a nice way to make your day easier. The girls really liked it!

Ingredients:
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 10-ounce package frozen whole kernel corn (I'll use a can next time, I think the corn stays crunchier)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow, green, or red bell pepper (I used red)
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce (I used mild red)
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup (I used 98% FF)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 cup shredded Pepper jack cheese
2 chicken breasts (I used 1 can chicken and dumped broth in too)

Directions:
In a slow cooker, combine drained beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and bell pepper.
Place 2 chicken breasts on top of mixture.
In a large bowl, whisk together enchilada sauce and soup. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Pour sauce mixture over ingredients in cooker.
Cover; cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
Remove chicken and cut or shred into bite sized pieces. Add chicken back into soup.
Top with pepper jack cheese and serve. Can also be topped with avocado, sour cream, or crushed tortilla chips.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas #2

This is a recipe someone submitted to Taste of Home and they published awhile ago. I typically try to avoid enchilada recipes that use creamed soups, but this has been a long week and something creamy and not really healthy was just what I was in the mood for :-). The other bonus to this recipe is that it makes 2 pans of enchiladas, so now I have some in the freezer for later!

Ingredients:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (I used 1/3 fat)
2 T water
2 t onion powder
2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper (I used more)
5 c diced cooked chicken (I used 2 cans)
20 flour tortillas (I used 24 corn - if you use corn don't forget to put some sauce on the bottom of the pan first so they don't get crispy)
2 cans cream of chicken soup (I used 98% FF)
1 (16 oz) container sour cream (I used FF)
1 c milk (I used 1%)
2 cans chopped green chiles
2 c shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
-In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, water, onion powder, cumin, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in chicken.
-Place 1/4 c down the center of each tortilla, roll up and place seam side down in 2 greased 9x13 pans.
-In a bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, milk and green chiles. Pour over the enchiladas.
-Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5 more minutes. (I broil it a little at the end)

Almond Stuffed Chicken

This recipe is from an old issue of Cooking Light that I came across. Mine didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the one they pictured :-), but it still tasted great and that's really what counts, right?!

Ingredients:
-1/3 c. light garlic and herbs spreadable cheese, such as Boursin light (I used 1/3 less fat garlic and chives cream cheese)
-1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped, and divided
-3 T. chopped fresh parsley, divided
-4 chicken breast halves
-1/2 t. salt
-1/4 t. freshly ground pepper (I used much more)
-1 1/2 t. butter

Directions:
-Combine spreadable cheese, 3 T almonds, and 2 T parsley in a small bowl. Set aside.
-Cut horizontal slit through thickest portion of chicken to form a pocket. Stuff 1 1/2 T almond mixture into each pocket; secure each with a wooden pick. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
-Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over med heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes each side or until done. Remove from pan; cover and let stand 2 minutes. Top chicken with remaining almonds and parsley.

Pork Chops Primavera

I just found this recipe that I had ripped out of an old Better Homes and Garden magazine a long time ago. I was a little unsure about the meal as it cooked, but was instantly sold when I tasted it. I loved the subtly sweet flavor of the pork (and I'm not a big fan of sweet dinners) and the beans! I served it with some chicken flavored wild rice and thought it was a perfect pairing.

Ingredients:
4 slices peppered bacon, cut in 1-in. pieces
12 oz. trimmed fresh young green beans
1 T. soy sauce
4 pork chops, 1/2 in. thick
1/3 c. apple butter (I used an applesauce I had on hand instead, *see below*)
1/4 c. water
1 c. red or yellow cherry or grape tomatoes (I used red grape)

Directions:
-In 12-inch skillet cook bacon over med-high heat until crisp; remove. Reserve 1 T drippings in skillet. Drain bacon on paper towels.
-Meanwhile, in 2-qt. microwave safe dish cook beans in 2 T water, covered, on high 4 min; stir once. Drain, set aside.
-Brush chops with soy sauce. In skillet brown chops on both sides.
-Add apple butter and the 1/4 c. water; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5 min.
-Add beans, tomatoes, and bacon; cook, uncovered, 3-5 min, until sauce thickens.

**So, I didn't see apple butter at the store (probably because I assumed it was an actual butter and looked there for it) and went online to find a substitution for it before I made this tonight. From what I could tell apple butter isn't much different from applesauce. I always buy the Mott's healthy harvest apple sauces and happened to have this new pomegranate flavor in our fridge today, so that's what we used. I don't know how much that affected the outcome, but it was delish this way! If you try something different, let me know how it turns out!**

Cheesy Rice Fritters

These little guys were a surprise hit with everyone in the family! I knew I would like them, but Mike and the girls loved them almost as much as I did! I made a few with breadcrumbs and most of them without and the ones without stayed together and got even crispier on the outside than the ones with! I didn't have any bacon on hand and just sliced up some ham lunch meat and it seemed to work fine, but you could leave the meat out to keep it vegetarian too. The other change I made was adding some finely diced onion when cooking the ham and I thought it was a great addition! I subscribed to Rachael Ray's magazine during some Amazon deal last year and I'm so glad I did - I have come across lots of tasty recipes in them each month and it's much more fun to flip through a magazine than search her site!

Ingredients:
* 1 cup arborio rice (I used brown rice)
* 3 slices bacon, chopped (I used sliced ham lunch meat)
***1/2 c. finely chopped onion***
* 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
* 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* Salt and pepper
* 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (optional)
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* One 10-ounce bag spinach, coarsely chopped
* 1 pinch crushed red pepper

Directions:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the rice is still firm but cooked through and the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, add the bacon to the rice, reserving the skillet with the bacon fat. Stir the mozzarella, parmesan and egg into the rice mixture; season with salt and pepper.
3. Divide the rice mixture into 12 mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten into 3-inch patties. Sprinkle on both sides with the breadcrumbs.
4. Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the patties and cook, turning once, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning, until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with the crushed red pepper. Top with the fritters.

Pepper Jack Potato Soup

Chrissy told me about this yummy potato soup recipe and then actually remembered to email it to me too...thanks :-)! It was SO good...a great new Southwest twist on classic potato soup. It also was super creamy despite the pretty light ingredients I used.

Ingredients:
3 strips of bacon (plus extra for garnish, and added tastiness)
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cubed russet potatoes (about 4 or 5 medium sized)
1/4 cup butter (I used 3 T)
1/4 cup flour (I used 3 T cornstarch)
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (I used FF)
8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded (I used light pepper jack)
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground thyme

Directions:
1. fry the bacon, crumble and set aside
2. heat the oil in a soup pot on med heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots, and the bell peppers; cook and stir just until the onions are soft. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until carrots are cooked.
3. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a medium saucepan until they are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and add to the soup with bacon. Wipe out the pan if necessary and use if for the next step.
4. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and turn the heat up slightly and whisk until the mixture is bubbly. Add the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add to the soup.
5. Stir in the cheese and continue to cook until the cheese melts. Do not boil. Add the white pepper, salt, and thyme. Ladle into bowls!

Notes from Chrissy:
Mine ALWAYS comes out super thick. I don't know if that's how it is supposed to be, but we like it to be a little soupier... so I just add milk at the very end until its the consistency that I like, plus it cools it down so we can eat it sooner :-) And I always have it with fresh french bread to dip in it.

Sizzling Beef and Scallions

Oh, how I'm missing having some daylight to take pictures of my food in. I just don't have anywhere great to take them inside and my pictures are certainly not doing the food justice. About the recipe though...this one was in my last issue of Rachael Ray and I LOVED this one. I haven't made anything Asian inspired for awhile and this deluxe fried rice hit the spot! Easy, light, and flavorful.

Ingredients:
* 8 ounces London broil, sliced into short, thin strips
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 10 scallions, green parts thinly sliced, white parts cut into 1-inch pieces
* 2/3 cup chopped red bell pepper (I had an orange one on hand)
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
* 2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed (I used less)
* 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 4 cups cooked white rice, chilled
(I added some garlic salt and crushed red pepper)

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, toss the beef with 1 tablespoon soy sauce. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes; transfer to a bowl.
2. In the skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites, bell pepper and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes; stir in the peas. Push the vegetables to one side of the skillet, add 1 tablespoon oil and pour in the eggs. Stir the eggs until they begin to set, then stir in the vegetables. Add the egg-vegetable mixture to the beef; stir in the sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rice, breaking up any clumps, then cook, without stirring, until heated through, 2 minutes. Stir in the beef mixture and scallion greens.