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Welcome 2013! And- Celebrating 2 Years of Blogging.

This now marks the second year for thedrivencook.com!  I simply can’t believe it.  2012 was another great year, foodblogging and in personal life.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from 2012:

Honey Vanilla Infused Custard
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Sweet and Tangy Grilled Chicken
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French Onion Soup
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Apple Bourbon Baked French Toast
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Strawberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
Darren's IPhone 060

Mango Avocado Margarita
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Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
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I hope you enjoy my favorite recipes from 2012.  I look forward to sharing more recipes with you throughout 2013!

My goals for 2013:

-Attempt to eat “clean” as often as possible.  I’m not striving for perfection and still fully intend to enjoy what I eat!  But I would like to reduce processed foods, etc.
-Try out feeding my dogs a raw food diet.
-Stress less and enjoy the little things!


Lindsey’s Lasanga

My friend Lindsey shared her family’s recipe with me and I knew I had to try it.  It sat in my email inbox for a couple months, and I’m not sure why I delayed for so long in trying it.  I’ve made it three times in the last couple of months!  It’s perfect for a chilly fall Sunday, or for feeding a crowd.  As she said “it makes an impression!”

I love the addition of spinach to the lasagna, but if you aren’t a fan, feel free to leave it out.  Also, the sauce is the “secret”- so set aside an extra thirty minutes to let it simmer!  Lindsey’s directions to me were very flexible- so feel free to make it your own, as I did!

Ingredients:

Sauce:
-1 Large Jar of Traditional Prego Sauce
-1/2 Cup of Dry White Wine
-2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
-Dash of Salt
-Dash of Italian Seasoning
-1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lasagna:
-Sauce from above recipe
-1 Box Lasagna Noodles (NOT precooked or no-boil type)
-1 15 ounce container of Ricotta Cheese
-1 15 ounce container of 2% Cottage Cheese
-2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella
-1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
-1 Pound of Ground Beef
-1/2 Cup Frozen Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

For the sauce:  Add ingredients to a medium saucepan and let simmer  on low-medium heat for at least 30 minutes before you start making the lasagna.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Boil water and cook 12-15 lasagna noodles per box directions.  Brown the ground beef and drain the fat.  Set aside.

If using spinach, run under warm water and thaw.  Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and dry again with paper towels.  Any remaining liquid will make the lasagna watery, so do your best.  In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese and cottage cheese.  Add the spinach and stir.  Set aside.

1) In a 9×12 inch casserole pan (I use Pyrex), spread a generous amount of sauce along bottom, in the corners, and up the sides.
2) Add three lasagna noodles, next to each other and not overlapping.  Add another layer of sauce to cover the noodles.
3) Add some of the ricotta/spinach mixture and gently spread with a spoon.
4) Add a layer of sauce, then noodles, followed by more sauce to cover the noodles.
5) Add the layer of beef now, and coat it in the sauce.
6) Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella cheese over the beef.
7) Add a layer of noodles, then sauce.
8) Add a layer of the rest of the ricotta/spinach mixture.
9) Add a layer of noodles, then sauce.
10) Finish with a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Put the lasagna in the oven for 20 minutes uncovered.  If it is starting to look too dark, then cover with foil.  Bake for another 20 minutes (totaling in 40 minutes.)  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-7 minutes.

Enjoy!

Crispy “Beer Can” Grilled Chicken

I’m pretty sure we will never put the grill away this year because of this glorious recipe.    I am picturing us preparing this chicken in the upcoming rain and snow.  It is just that good!  I know beer can chicken is a popular recipe, but I had no idea how delicious it was until we began making it.  We’ve probably made it ten times this summer, which is a ton for someone who refuses to repeat recipes often!  It has also given me the opportunity to refine it and make it exactly how I like it.  Even though Summer is coming to an end, do yourself a favor and give this a try!

Ingredients:
-1 Whole Chicken
-1/2 Can of Beer
-3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
-1-1.5 Tablespoons Chicken Seasonings of your choice (one of our favorites here)*

*Feel free to get creative with the seasonings but don’t over season it.  The chicken tastes so juicy and flavorful on its own with a flavorful crispy skin.  My suggestion is a simple blend or even just salt, pepper, onion/garlic powder, lemon, and thyme.

Preheat grill to medium indirect heat.  Remove giblets from chicken.  Rub the skin and under the skin with olive oil.  Sprinkle seasonings on top of the skin and under the skin, wherever possible.  Save 1/2 of the seasonings for the “can” of beer.  (I used a chicken stand, which you can find at any cooking supply store.  It’s well worth purchasing!)  Pour the beer into the stand and add seasonings.  Place the chicken over the opening of the stand/can.  Put on the grill and cook for approximately 45 minutes to one hour, or until temperature reads that it is done.

Let rest for five minutes before carving.

Enjoy!

The Best Meatloaf (Ever.)

I had never had meatloaf that I enjoyed.  My husband, however, is a meatloaf fanatic.  When he was in college, his mother would send him back with a meatloaf or two.  Never have I made it until now.  I scoured the internet for ones claiming to be the best meatloaf recipes.  I wasn’t convinced, and tweaked a few combinations of recipes to come up with this final shot at me liking meatloaf.  Guess what?  It was actually good. It was great.  Who knew meatloaf could be enjoyable?

P.s. can we please rename meatloaf?  It just sounds unappetizing.  It doesn’t give an actual good meatloaf any justice.

Ingredients:
-1 Onion, chopped
-2 Garlic Cloves, minced
-1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
-2 Eggs
-1/2 Cup Milk
-2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
-2 teaspoons Fresh Majoram (or 1 teaspoon dried)
-1 1/2 Pounds Veal, Pork, and Beef mixture*
-1 1/2 Cups Breadcrumbs

For the Glaze:
-1/2 Cup Ketchup
-4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
-3 Tablespoons White Vinegar

*A note about the meat.  It is essential that you use a mixture of at least pork and beef.  I used a mixture of beef, veal, and pork from Whole Foods.  If you just use ground beef it will taste like a giant baked burger.  (No thanks!)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Saute onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until cooked, about five minutes.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard and marjoram.  In a large bowl, gently mix together the meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, and onion mixture.  Pour in the milk mixture and gently mix until incorporated.  Bake in a loaf pan for an hour.

While baking, prepare the glaze.  Whisk together ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar.  After the meatloaf has cooked for an hour, remove from oven and pour glaze over it.  Bake for another 15 minutes or fully cooked.

Sesame Encrusted Chicken Tenders

I am always on the look out for new chicken breast recipes that are unique and tasty.  This one fits the bill!  They’re coated in a mixture of sesame, panko, and a little soy sauce, which forms a nice crispy exterior.  These are perfect for a busy weeknight meal and don’t take much time to throw together.  Just put some rice in the cooker, make a salad, and serve with these delicious chicken tenders!
I also want to try this with chicken thighs or salmon!

Ingredients:
-1 Pound Chicken Breast Tenders
-2 teaspoons Sesame Oil (or Olive Oil)
-2 teaspoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
-1/4 Cup Toasted Sesame Seeds
-6 Tablespoons Panko
-Black Pepper, to taste
-Olive Oil, for baking sheet

Preheat oven to 425F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet in olive oil, or use non-stick spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil and soy sauce.  In another bowl, combine panko, sesame seeds, and black pepper.  Dip chicken into the soy mixture, and then coat it in the panko mixture.  Place on the baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Take out of the oven, turn over, and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until done.

Baked Parmesan Tilapia

You don’t like fish?  I don’t really, either.  I’m allergic to shellfish and at some point growing up, I just grouped all seafood together in the “do not eat category.”  I’m not sure if that makes much logical sense, but at the time, it did!

In about the last year or so, I’ve decided to start trying fish.  Turns out, it isn’t so bad!  Tilapia seems to be the least “fishy” fish.  It’s white, flaky, and doesn’t smell icky.

This recipe is super simple!  It requires a few ingredients (most of which you should have on hand!) and can be DONE start to finish in 20 minutes!

Ingredients:
-3/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
-1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs (plain)
-2 teaspoons Chicken/Fish Seasoning or Paprika
-3-4 Tilapia Fillets (1 pound total)
-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

In a small bowl or shallow dish, combine cheese and breadcrumbs.

Coat the fish in olive oil and gently rub the seasonings on it.

Dip the fish into the cheese and breadcrumbs, carefully patting it onto the fillets.  Keep in mind it won’t stick too easily, so you may want to sprinkle additional on top of the fillets.

Bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and fish is white and flaky.

Enjoy!  I made this two weeks in a row- which says a lot for someone who rarely repeats a recipe in a year.

BLT Pasta

This is a quick meal that can be put together quickly in the skillet.  And it isn’t really BLT, but I liked how that sounded more.  I used bacon, spinach, olives, and sun dried tomatoes.  All things I had on hand!

Timing is important since I used the hot pasta to wilt the spinach, but you could always toss the spinach in the pan on low-medium heat if your timing is a little off.

Ingredients:
-1 Pound of Pasta
-4 Slices of Thick Cut Bacon
-2 Cloves Garlic, minced
-1/4 Cup Sun Dried Tomatoes
-1 Bunch of Fresh Spinach Leaves
-1 Handful of Olives, sliced

Fry the bacon in the skillet on medium heat.  While cooking, boil water and cook the pasta al dente according to package directions.

When bacon is done cooking, remove the bacon and drain off most of the fat out of the pan except for a few tablespoons.

Toss in the garlic and cook for a minute.  Add sun dried tomatoes and olives to warm up.    Crumble bacon into the skillet and reduce heat to low.

Place spinach in a collander.

Drain the hot pasta over the spinach.

Pour the pasta and spinach into the skillet and stir to coat and mix ingredients.
Serve immediately and enjoy!

Sweet & Tangy Grilled Chicken

I am on the constant search for great grilling recipes!  Sometimes, I just throw some things together for a marinade and it turns out fantastic.  I saw a recipe involving coconut milk and soy sauce and decided to jazz it up a little.  The coconut milk doesn’t create too strong of a coconut flavor, so don’t let it steer you away if you aren’t a fan.  It really adds juiciness to the chicken and is the perfect combination of flavors.

The marinade uses half of a can of light coconut milk.  I then made jasmine rice in the coconut milk and water- and it added a light sweet coconutty flavor.  I highly suggest serving it with rice cooked in the unused coconut milk!

Ingredients:

-2 Pounds of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
-1 cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
-1 Cup Water
-3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
-1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
-1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
-1/2 (14 Ounce) Can of Light Coconut Milk

Optional, for garnish:
-Green Onions, choppedWhisk together the marinade: soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic powder, sesame oil and coconut milk.

Add the chicken thighs and try to have them as well covered as possible.

Refrigerate and let marinade for at least 4 hours, or up to 12 hours.

Grill on direct medium heat for about 5 minutes per side.  When you place them on the grill, make sure they lay flat.

Serve with chopped green onions on top.

Enjoy over some coconut rice!

 

Royal Burger

Mmm, burgers.  We’ve been throwing together some recipes to mix things up with the regular-old-burger lately.  This burger was inspired by a local tavern’s, which involves cheese, bacon, and a fried egg on top.  It is the perfect combination on top of a juicy patty!

This recipe makes four burgers.  You must give this a try this Summer!
 Ingredients:

-1.5-2 Pounds Ground Beef
-4 Buns, sliced in half and buttered
-4 Slices of Havarti Cheese (Provolone works well, too)
-4 Fried Eggs
-4 Slices of Bacon, cooked cripsy
-Salt and Pepper

Fry bacon on medium heat until just crispy.  Drain most of the fat out of the pan, except for 1 Tablespoon or so.  Fry the eggs in the bacon grease until over-easy.  Set aside.

Form four equal-sized burger patties and season with salt and pepper.  Cook burgers on direct medium heat, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Toast the buns for the last minute.

Assemble the burger and enjoy!

Italian Burger

The grill has been working overtime with all of the nice weather we’re having!  With than being said, a regular burger doesn’t cut it!  We’ve come up with some unique ideas to share as the weather warms up.

This burger packs a lot of flavor with chopped sun dried tomatoes, Italian Seasonings, garlic, and marinara sauce on a toasted bun!

Ingredients:
-1-1.5 Pounds Ground Beef
-1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
-1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
-3 Tablespoons Chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes
-1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
-1/4 Cup Mozzarella Cheese
-Salt & Pepper
-Marinara Sauce
-4 Buns, sliced in half and buttered

Mix together ground beef, seasonings, sun dried tomatoes, red wine vinegar, mozzarella cheese, and salt and pepper.

Gently form into patties.

Grill on direct high heat (preheated).  Allow to cook for about 3-4 minutes per side.

Toast the buttered buns for the last minute.  Remove from grill and serve immediately.  Spread a light layer of marinara on the buns.
 Enjoy!