Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ‚̧ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. ūüôā

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ‚̧

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1¬†T coarse¬†salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400¬į, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Skillet

Somehow, we seem to always have a conflict with a having timely Cinco de Mayo feast. This year, my son has his Swim Club Dinner Dance (at an Italian restaurant, by the way), so, we had our feast early. This way, there is also time to have a second feast. Good planning, right?

This quick and easy, crowd-pleasing dish was perfect for our early Cinco de Mayo celebration. It would be perfect for a Mexican-inspired weeknight meal any other day of the year too. We enjoyed it with chips and guacamole, of course. ūüėČ

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I reduced the oven temperature, and increased the proportions as well as the pan size. Great.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola¬†oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 ¬†teaspoons kosher salt
  • 24 oz (1 1/2 jars) medium red salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic Chipotle Salsa)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 corn tortillas, torn into quarters
  • 6 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 to 2 cans (15.5-ounce each) black beans, drained, rinsed (I used 1 1/2 cans)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 425¬įF, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine salsa, sour cream, and 6 T water in a large bowl; stir to combine. Fold in tortillas, chicken, and beans until thoroughly coated.
  3. Heat oil in a 12″ ovenproof skillet over medium. (I used cast iron.)
  4. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer onion mixture to the chicken and bean mixture; reserve hot skillet. Fold to incorporate evenly.
  6. Return mixture to reserved skillet and transfer to preheated oven until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mixture should be bubbling on the edges.
  7. Remove skillet from the oven. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top.
  8. Return skillet to oven and bake until cheese is lightly browned, melted and bubbling, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  9. Top with cilantro, if desired.

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Roasted Chicken Thighs over Herbed Pea & Spinach Puree

Another green sauce! The last one, for now… ūüôā

This is a wonderful, quick and healthy dish. As a sauce fan, I loved the idea of serving the roasted chicken over a colorful and tasty vegetable purée.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, and reduced the oven temperature to accommodate roasting potatoes and asparagus simultaneously. I also incorporated pan drippings into the vegetable puree. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
  • coarse¬†salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, divided, and 1 T¬†fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 3 T freshly grated Pecorino Romano, divided
  • 3 T¬† extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup (packed)¬†baby spinach
  • 10 boneless, skinless¬†chicken thighs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, on convection roast.

  2. Cook peas in a small pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain; transfer to a food processor.

  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 tablespoon cheese, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper; process until texture is similar to hummus. Add cilantro and 1 packed cup spinach; puree.

  4. Pat chicken dry; season with salt and pepper.

  5. Stir together remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and 1/2 teaspoon zest.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add chicken; cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Spoon off fat and incorporate into puree, to taste. Discard excess fat left in the pan.

  7. Flip chicken and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Transfer to oven; roast until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

  8. Serve chicken over puree, with lemon wedges, if desired.

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Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Soda bread is an essential start of the celebration in our house.¬†ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I loved the muffin adaptation- and the coarse sugar topping. I weighed the dry ingredients, reduced the baking time, and used turbinado sugar for the topping. Yummy.

  • 6 1/4 oz (177 g, 1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz (85 g, , 3/4 cup) white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 227 g) buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz, 85 g)¬†butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • turbinado¬†sugar, for topping
  • butter and/or jam, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400¬įF, preferably on convection. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan with cooking oil spray; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
  5. Using a cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups.
  6. Top with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  7. Bake the muffins for 14-15 minutes on convection, or up to 20 minutes in a standard oven, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven.
  8. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

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Easy Churros

We plan our Super Bowl menu around our star appetizer, guacamole. This year, we ate our favorite Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano Tacos as our main dish. Of course, we needed a fitting dessert to end our meal.

I’ve wanted to try these churros since first seeing the recipe around Cinco de Mayo 2016.¬†:/ Truth be told, they are not actually “true” churros… ūüėČ Yet, they are certainly a festive end to any Mexican-inspired menu. Perfect for our Super Bowl feast too.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I cut the recipe in half and froze the prepared churros one day ahead prior to baking. We ate them dipped in warm dulce de leche- melted chocolate would also be delicious.

Yield: about 20 Churros

  • 8 ounces (1/2 box) all-butter puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • warm dulce de leche or melted chocolate, for serving, as desired
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle.
  3. Brush lightly with a beaten egg.
  4. Fold in half into a 6-by-16-inch rectangle; press out air bubbles, then cut crosswise into 1/2-by-6-inch strips.
  5. Twist into spirals, pressing ends to gently adhere.
  6. Place 1 inch apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets; freeze 30 minutes. (Can be made and frozen up to 1 day ahead.)
  7. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until puffed and golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Combine sugar and cinnamon. While still hot, toss half of churros with half of sugar. Repeat with remaining churros and sugar.
  9. Serve immediately with warm dulce de leche or melted chocolate, as desired.

I’m bringing this dessert to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #162, co-hosted by Sarah @Tales from the Kitchen Shed and Liz @Spades, Spatulas, & Spoons. Enjoy!

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Garlicky Spaghetti with Mixed Greens‚Ä©

Almost as a “rule,” I increase the amount of garlic in every dish. Not this one! It incorporated two huge heads of garlic. Just my style. Mmmmm. ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Kay Chun. I also loved that there were so many greens- two pounds!  I used a combination of kale and mixed baby greens. I also used whole wheat spaghetti. Quick, easy, healthy, and great!

I’m bringing this dish to share at my favorite blog party, Angie’s Fiesta Friday #161, co-hosted by Laura @Feast Wisely this week. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • coarse¬†salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced garlic (about 18 cloves or 2 large heads)
  • 2 pounds kale, mustard greens, or other mixed greens stemmed and leaves coarsely torn (24 cups)‚Ä© (I used 1 1/2 pounds kale & 1/2 pound mixed baby chard, kale, & spinach)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. In a small skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the panko and toast over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about ‚Ä®5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a paper towel‚Äďlined plate to drain; let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  3. In a large pot, combine 
the remaining 1/2 cup of oil with 
the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and 
light golden, 7 to 8 minutes.
  4. In batches, add the greens and cook, tossing, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the pasta, 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and the lemon juice; cook, stirring, until a sauce forms, 2 minutes.
  6. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with the panko.

Note: The toasted panko (without the parsley) can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature overnight. Stir in the parsley before serving.

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Flattened Chicken Thighs With Roasted Lemon Slices

My buddy is always teasing me because I never roast a whole chicken. She makes a beautiful roasted “lemon chicken” weekly for her family. Well, I don’t need to roast an entire chicken when there are dishes like this! Besides, we only want the thigh meat in my house. ūüôā

This recipe was described as an “easy, super fragrant weeknight version of classic chicken under a brick,” using chicken thighs instead of a butterflied whole bird. I took it a step further by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs (my favorite), reducing the cooking time even further. (and reducing the fat!)

This dish was truly flavor-packed from the loaded garlic-herb-lemon marinade. I marinated the chicken overnight. After pan-searing under a weight, the chicken is finished by oven roasting it over lemon slices- my kind of “lemon chicken!” ūüôā

This recipe was adapted from Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. We ate it with roasted potatoes, broccoli and acorn squash. Absolutely delicious.

I’m sharing my special chicken at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #159 co-hosted by Zeba @Food for the Soul and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 to 10 servings

For the Marinade:

  • 2 lemons, rinsed
  • ¬ľ cup fresh thyme or oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ¬Ĺ tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 10 to 12 medium or large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of the skillet
  • 2 lemons, rinsed (I used the lemons from the marinade)
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • fresh thyme or oregano sprigs and sage leaves, for garnish
  1. Make the marinade: Use a vegetable peeler to shave 9 large strips of peel from the lemons, taking care to cut into only the brightest yellow outer layer. Put strips in a large bowl or ziplock bag and add thyme or oregano, sage, parsley, garlic, red chile flakes and olive oil.
  2. Prepare the chicken: Put the thighs in the bag or bowl with the marinade. Turn the thighs gently to coat with the marinade. Seal the bag or cover bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. (I place the ziplock bag in a glass baking dish in case it leaks.)
  3. When ready to cook, remove thighs from marinade and place them on a baking sheet. (Reserve garlic cloves and lemon peel from the marinade; discard the liquid.)
  4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the chicken, then turn over and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
  5. Transfer the chicken thighs, “skin side” down, to a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Put it over medium-high heat, cover with parchment paper, and weigh down the chicken with the bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. (Or, use a lighter skillet weighed down with a large full can, a brick or another heavy object.)
  6. Once chicken is sizzling loudly, reduce heat to medium and cook without moving for about 5 minutes, until brown and crisp. To check for doneness, gently lift the corner of a chicken thigh with a metal spatula. The meat will come away cleanly from the bottom of the pan when it is done. If it is still stuck, do not pull but let it cook a little longer.
  7. When thighs are done, remove the weight and lift the chicken out of the pan. Transfer the thighs, browned side up, to a plate. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, if necessary.
  8. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  9. Cut lemons in half and squeeze gently to remove some of the juice. Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices and lay on paper towels to absorb more juice.
  10. Place a layer of lemon slices in the skillet. Return all the browned chicken to the skillet on top of the lemons, browned side up. Tuck reserved lemon peel and garlic cloves down between the pieces. Tuck the remaining fresh sage leaves between the pieces as well.
  11. Transfer skillet to oven for 7 to 10 minutes. To test, remove a thigh, pierce it on the flesh side with a knife, and check that the juices are clear, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  12. Remove pan from oven and let thighs rest in the pan 5 to 10 minutes.
  13. Garnish with thyme or oregano sprigs and fresh sage around the thighs and serve from the pan at the table, with roasted lemon slices and garlic cloves.

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