Monday, November 28, 2011

BBQ Spinach Chicken Wraps

I don't know about you guys, but after last Thursday - aka, the great American eat-a-thon - I've been craving something a little lighter. My poor tummy needs a break from the heavy, eat-til-I'm-uncomfortable kind of dining... and so does my waistline. Truthfully, after the gratuitous amounts of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie I've consumed in the last few days, I should probably resign myself to eating naked lettuce and ice water for a month. But since we all know how likely that is to happen, I think a good wrap is in order instead.

I'll admit it... these wraps are another shameless rip off of a restaurant favorite. Way back when, in the summer right before my senior year of high school, when the only thing I had to worry about was creating an epic drum major salute for marching band and keeping gas in my crappy Volkswagon Jetta, I worked at Red Robin. It was a truly... interesting experience, and one I only cared to immerse myself in for one summer... but it had its perks. Not the least of which was getting half off of these amazing wraps on my lunch breaks.

Now, now... before you go freaking out, rest assured that I'm not divulging any top secret, inside restaurant information here. Red Robin will proudly tell you the ingredients in each of their dishes on their website, and besides, I have, of course, added my own little spin. I can never leave well enough alone after all.

But whether you've eaten the original or not, I think you guys are really going to love these wraps. They're super easy to throw together, and pretty darn irresistible. And they're pretty much the perfect lighter meal that people like us need after a weekend of binge eating. You might fall for the warm, juicy chicken, or maybe even the strangely intoxicating combination of BBQ sauce and ranch dressing. The crispy tortilla strips have always been the kicker for me though. It's like putting potato chips in your sandwich during a summer picnic... it feels so wrong, but tastes so right.

So if you need a little reprieve from your Thanksgiving food bender, give these a try. I promise you won't regret it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicken (or Turkey!) Croquettes

Happy Black Friday, everyone! I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving... we sure did! I had to work at the hospital last night, but fortunately I was able to sacrifice a little sleep to spend a few hours with my family over wonderful food and even better conversation.

We have so much to be thankful for this year, too. 2011 has been a huge year on so many levels... graduation with my AS in Respiratory Care in May, a full-time job for me, our amazing wedding and honeymoon in August, graduation with my BS in Respiratory Care coming up in a few weeks... and now a house! Dane and I will be closing on our first home next week and moving next weekend! We are ridiculously excited, as you can imagine, and immensely grateful for the opportunity to own our own home. Especially in today's economy, we are fully aware of what a great blessing this is, and we feel so lucky and very thankful. This has been a very blessed Thanksgiving indeed!

But enough mushy stuff. Who wants food?

I made these chicken croquettes a couple of weeks ago from some leftover roasted chicken, and the whole time I kept thinking, "These would be perfect black Friday food!" These irresistible little croquettes make perfect use of those Thanksgiving leftovers, and are way tastier than any day-after turkey sandwich I've ever eaten. They look - and taste! - like they take hours to prepare, but are really, really easy to throw together. And if you tend to hoard hard Italian cheeses like I do, you'll probably even have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now! And if not, well... they're totally worth the trip to the store to pick up a little Romano.

So here it is, guys... the answer to your day-after-Thanksgiving, what-do-I-do-with-all-these-leftovers-questions. Totally pop-able, completely irresistible, amazingly easy croquettes. Do it.

Or, if you prefer the more traditional leftovers answer, try my mom's turkey and homemade egg noodles!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dad's Baking Powder Biscuits

Growing up, it was a running joke that Dad made the best biscuits. For whatever reason, Dad's biscuits always rose until they nearly split in the middle, while Mom's were always flat and dense. (Dad used to call them hockey pucks, which is kind of rude but also kind of funny.) I don't know how much she played it up, but it always appeared that this drove Mom crazy, and Dad always joked that he'd never share his secret.

Well, years ago, Dad taught me the secret to epic-rising baking powder biscuits - folding. It's not enough just to roll out the dough and cut it out, you have to fold the dough over itself a few times, roll it out, and repeat at least three times. Folding creates little pockets of air to help with the rise - which you can often hear popping when you cut them out - and generates those nice flaky layers that we all love in a good biscuit. It works... just look at that rise!

These biscuits are perfect in every way. Flaky in the middle, with amazing buttery flavor that is even better than those silly biscuits in a can. They're the perfect accompaniment to warm beef stew, but they're also amazing smeared with a little berry jam or drizzled with honey. And, of course, they're a great base for biscuits and gravy!


Monday, November 21, 2011

And the winner is...

We have a winner for our birthday bakeware giveaway!

And the winner is...

...Jenn, at Baking Jenn's Blog!

Your bakeware is on it's way! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Classic Beef Stew

Stew... is a loose term. For some people, throwing a few extra chunks of potato into a soup turns it into stew. And then you have people who use that annoying term that Rachel Ray coined - "stoup." Seriously lady... it's bad enough that you can't be bothered to say the words "extra virgin olive oil" but c'mon... make a decision! It's either soup or it's stew... it can't be both. Amiright?

Me, I like my stew THICK. Like so thick it hardly has any broth left. So thick that it's basically meat and vegetables in super-thick, super-delicious gravy. That, to me, is stew.

And fewer flavors lend themselves better to a thick, hearty stew than beef. Beef stew is just... classic. Like apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, everyone needs a beef stew recipe! This one is about as classic as it gets... chunks of savory beef, generous pieces of potatoes and carrots, and thick beefy gravy. Serve it up with a buttery, flaky biscuit, and you've got the perfect cold weather meal.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perfect Pie Crust

Has everyone entered the bakeware giveaway yet? Don't forget to "Like" our facebook page for extra entries!

Now for a little food to get you by... guys may have noticed that when I posted that wonderful apple pie recipe last year, I left you hanging out using store-bought pie crust. 

How rude of me.

I have since learned the error of my ways, and I now have an epic pie crust recipe to share!

Trust me, pie crust is not as hard as everyone makes it sound. It really couldn't be easier... butter, flour, and water. That's it. (Some people like to use shortening, but that's just not my thing.) It's almost as easy as buying the pre-made stuff, but with a lot simpler ingredient list. Plus, like most things homemade, I think it tastes better!

So get bakin'! And don't forget to comment for the giveaway. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

TLC's 1st Year... and 1st Giveaway!

Happy birthday, Learning Curve!

Can you believe it's been one whole year since we started this thing? I know it sounds cliche, but it really does feel like only yesterday that I sat at my kitchen table, eating homemade apple pie and posting my first recipe here. For months I had religiously followed a few of my (now ever-growing list of) favorite blogs, drooling and dreaming and wondering if I had what it takes to write a successful blog myself. And here we are, 365 days and 82 recipes later, with an even deeper love of food and a new-found appreciation for the amazing food blogging community.

So, to commemorate this happy occasion, I have decided to host The Learning Curve's first-ever giveaway!

Today we are giving away Good Cook's Red 8-Piece Ceramic Bakeware Set!

I received this set as a wedding gift, and it has quickly become my favorite bakeware! It's sturdy and distributes heat evenly for perfect cooking... plus look how purdy it is in that red color! I've used the rectangular casserole for all kinds of things, from stuffed shells to brownies, and found that the size is perfect and that nothing - hear me, NOTHING - sticks to it. And somehow apple pie just tastes better coming out of a pretty red pan. :) Trust me, you guys are going to LOVE this set!

So here's how to enter...

1. First, leave a comment on this post telling me what you'd first plan to bake in your new shiny bakeware!
2. For an additional entry, "Like" The Learning Curve on Facebook, and leave another comment back here telling me that you did so!
3. For another entry, "share" the giveaway with your Facebook friends, and leave another comment back here telling me that you did!

And the details....

1. The giveaway will be open until 5pm on Sunday, November 20. Once the giveaway has closed, I will use one of those random number generator thingies to pick a random person from this page as our winner!
2. I will contact the winner via the email given to leave your comments, and I will get your shipping address at that time. I will also post the winner here.

So get commenting, and tell all your friends! 

And thanks, as always guys, for being such awesome readers. You rock. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pumpkin Waffles

Let's see a show of hands... how many of you are expecting a houseful of overnight guests this Thanksgiving? I'm not, but that's because I work Thanksgiving night and we live in a tiny, overly cramped apartment (which we are trying desperately to move out of!). But for those of you normal people who don't have to work on Thanksgiving and live in an inviting house that more than easily accommodates all of your things, I've got a wonderful breakfast for you, perfect for out-of-town company.

Now, if you're looking for a healthy breakfast, you should probably keep looking. These waffles are loaded with a lot of butter... and consequently, a whole lot of flavor. And I'm sure topping them with maple syrup doesn't help things either. But hey! The pumpkin is totally good for you, so that balances is out, right?

But what I'm really trying to tell you is that these waffles are DELICIOUS. Yes, totally worthy of all-caps on that one. They're a little more dense than your average waffle, and with wonderful spiced flavor they resemble slices of pumpkin bread with epic, maple-syrup-catching pockets. Topped with some toasted walnuts or pecans and served with a side of maple bacon, these waffles are sure to be crowd-pleasers. Make 'em for your super-special overnight guests... or keep 'em all to yourself. I won't judge. :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, friends, and chances are that your dip repertoire could use a little updating.

Oh come on, admit it... your family has eaten more of that sour cream + ranch packet dip that you serve at every single family function than anyone really cares to think about. Time for a change, friends.

This dip is too easy - and too tasty - not to share with you. Chances are that you already have everything you need to make this dip in your kitchen right now. (...especially if you're like me and have a mild obsession with cannelini beans.) The hardest part is going to be roasting the garlic, which is really a put-it-in-the-oven-and-forget-about-it-for-an-hour kind of thing anyway. Seriously... beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and a little rosemary. That's it. Almost as easy as that ranch dip. And waaay better for your heart.

And this dip is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It's creamy, it's slightly garlicy with that distinctive fruity olive oil flavor, and goes great with Stacy's Parmesan, garlic, and herb pita chips. Or you could make your own pita chips, if you're feeling like an overachiever, but I don't want you to stress yourself. Plus it's packed with protein, good, heart-healthy fats, and antioxidant-rich garlic, so you can't go wrong. Make this as part of your Thanksgiving appetizer spread or make it as an after school/work snack... just make it. Trust me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Herb Roasted Chicken

I've been on a roasted chicken kick lately.

Ever since I roasted my first chicken about a month ago, I've been a little obsessed.

But how can you blame me? A whole chicken costs about as much as 2 or 3 breasts by themselves usually, and goes easily twice as far. Plus the whole roasting process is kind of fun in some twisted way... sort of therapeutic, the way kneading bread can be. Or maybe I just love pulling a roasted bird out of the oven, seeing its skin all perfectly brown and crispy, its savory aroma filling my apartment.

Plus, I figure it's good practice for the Thanksgiving turkey I'll roast in a year or two. :)

When I stumbled upon this recipe while watching Food Network videos online one night, I knew I had to try it. My last roasted bird was a little more complicated than I wanted it to be, and I was on the hunt for a simpler recipe that still packed great flavor. This recipe definitely delivered on that one. Getting the seasonings up under the skin was a genius move, because the usually dry and flavorless breasts were moist and juicy and packed with so much flavor. And the process could not be simpler. With classic flavors, moist results, and an easy method, I think this might be my go-to poultry recipe for when I'm finally ready to tackle that Thanksgiving turkey!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Root Vegetables

I've said it before and I'll say it again... I love fall.

I love the changing colors of the leaves. I love the crisp, freshness of the air. I love apple picking and pumpkin carving. And I love that I can finally turn on my oven without sweating to death in my kitchen.

Most people go crazy for summer produce, but me... I love autumn's bounty most of all. Autumn produce transitions from light and crisp to something with more heart. Something more fulfilling, that satisfies the soul as well as the tastebuds. I love the way that everything autumn takes on a sweeter flavor and a softer texture, as if the veggies want in on this whole dessert business too.

Take these root veggies for example. Potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips... they're all just okay cooked other ways. But roast them at a high temperature for about 30 minutes, and they begin to resemble candy. Beets especially. Roasted beets are a revelation... if you haven't tried them yet, you're seriously missing out. And who cares if they stain your pretty potatoes and onions pink? Everything looks better with a hint of pink, anyway. Roasted with a little olive oil and plenty of dried herbs, these veggies embody the essence of fall flavor. Move over mashed potatoes... there's a new king-of-the-sides in town.

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