Copycat Denny’s Super Birds

I grew up with many trips to the American diner, Denny’s. Their grilled turkey and bacon sandwich called the Super Bird was one of my favorite late night meals throughout high school. While I haven’t frequented a Denny’s in quite some time, I found an excellent copycat recipe for those nights I’m madly craving diner food.

These are especially good with oven fries. If you’re looking to achieve that very particular Denny’s taste, the order in which you stack the elements of this sandwich actually matters. Whenever I randomly throw this together, it doesn’t taste right, so follow the recipe: bread, cheese, turkey, bacon, tomato, bread.

These are sublime as a midnight snack, late at night or early morning, when you’re starving after a long day, right before you pass out in bed. For the best taste, indulge in the butter and salt. These are totally worth the extra squats the next morning.

Super Bird C

Copycat Denny’s Super Bird
(Original recipe: Food.com)

3 -4 slices deli turkey
2 slices bacon
2 slices swiss cheese
2-3 slices beefsteak tomatoes
2 slices sourdough bread
Butter, softened

Cook bacon and set aside.
Heat some butter in non-stick pan over medium heat. Grill the turkey breast in a stack until the meat is golden brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.
Butter bread lightly on one side of each slice, Place one piece in the hot pan, butter-side down.
Place a slice of Swiss cheese on unbuttered side, put turkey on Swiss cheese, sprinkle lightly with salt.
Place bacon strips on turkey. Stack tomato on top of bacon. Top off with remaining sourdough slice, unbuttered side toward tomatoes.
When golden brown, flip entire sandwich.
After 2 minutes, remove from heat. Serve sliced into 3 equal size pieces.

Super Bird B

The best Beef Stroganoff I’ve ever had

I’ve long searched for an exceptional Beef Stroganoff recipe that does not use canned soup. There are countless options floating around the internet, and I’ve tried most of them. They have all disappointed. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t good, either.

And then, I found Vikalinka. She’s Russian, so she knows what she’s talking about. I gave her traditional recipe a shot, and boy howdy, this stuff is good. I couldn’t even stop myself from licking the spoons and skillet while washing the dishes after dinner. Even my hard-to-impress husband asked how soon I could make this again.

The secret ingredient is brandy. If you know as little about brandy as I did before this endeavor, I’ll share the advice I was given: use a VS (very special) cognac (type of brandy), and invest in a decent brand. I went with Courvoisier VS Cognac; it costs about $20 USD at my local grocery store. It worked beautifully; the flavor of this sauce is phenomenal.

Interestingly, Russians don’t thicken their stroganoff and always serve the thin sauce over mashed potatoes. However, since I’m an American raised on Hamburger Helper, I thickened the sauce with cornstarch and served it over egg noodles. It was what I was craving, and it worked perfectly.

TIPS: Get your pan screaming hot before searing the steak; you want those dark brown bits! Don’t skimp on the salt; the dish needs it to balance the sour cream. Oh, and don’t skip the bay leaf or mustard. They make a difference!

Beef stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff
(Original recipe: Vikalinka)

2 TBSP butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb beef tenderloin, cut in strips
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 cup sour cream
1 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
a dash of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a heavy skillet; cook onions and mushrooms over medium-low heat until soft. Remove and set aside.
Turn heat up to high; add steak strips to the same skillet and quickly fry over high heat. Make sure the pan is screaming hot; you want to sear the steak.
Add brandy; deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits of flavor on the bottom. Simmer until alcohol burns off.
Add stock, mustard, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Return mushrooms and onions to the pan; cook until everything is heated through and bubbling.
Stir in sour cream, chives, and parsley.
(If you wish to thicken the sauce, add in a slurry of 1 TBSP cornstarch and 1 TBSP water at this point. Fold it into the boiling sauce, stirring as it thickens.)
Remove the bay leaf; serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Grilled Chicken and Avocado Street Tacos

I have several taco recipes on rotation, because, let’s face it: tacos. This particular recipe is especially good because it uses chicken thighs. They’re very moist and hold the marinade flavor especially well. It’s definitely been added to our list of usual suspects!

TIP: add a pinch of cayenne to the marinade to give your tacos a little kick!

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Grilled Chicken and Avocado Street Tacos
(Original recipe: Cooking Classy)

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

For serving
Corn tortillas
1 large avocado , cored and sliced
Pico de gallo
Cotija cheese

In a gallon size resealable bag, combine lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin chili powder, salt and pepper. Marinate chicken in bag for 3-6 hours. Season chicken lightly with salt and grill until chicken has cooked through, turning once halfway through grilling, about 4 – 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Dice grilled chicken into cubes. Build tacos with tortillas, fresh avocado, pico de gallo, Cotija, and any other taco fixing you prefer.

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad

Sometimes you just crave salads, especially as the summer temperatures warm up. This one is a great alternative to standard tossed salads, loaded with protein, healthy veggies, and tossed in a versatile Thai peanut dressing.

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad

Thai Peanut Sauce
(Original recipe: The Creative Bite)

3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground ginger
OPTIONAL: 1½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Store refrigerated for up to one week.

Thai Peanut Chicken Salad
(Original recipe: The Creative Bite)

2 cups coleslaw mix
2 cups broccoli slaw
1 cup grated carrot
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-1/2 cup cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 cucumber, seeded & chopped
1 cup Thai peanut sauce
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, unsalted

Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and serve immediately.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

I’ve been working on a fitness goal for a couple months now. When I started this endeavor, I told myself my celebration of completion would be this recipe. It’s easily one of my absolute favorite foods. The first time I made it, I was surprised at how easy homemade macaroni and cheese actually is, not to mention the depth of flavor compared to the boxed stuff. Next time you’re feeling gluttonous or want to celebrate, give this one a try; it never disappoints!

Grown up mac and cheese

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
(Original recipe: Ina Garten)

Ingredients
6 ounces bacon
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed (I use the microwave)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all­ purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra ­sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
A pinch of dry sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the bacon into chunks and fry until cooked. Drain and set aside.
Cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook over for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the warm milk. Continue whisking for 1-2 more minutes, until thickened and smooth.
Off the heat, add cheeses, sage, chives, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
Fold in the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon. Combine well.
Pour the mixture into a 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
Tip: don’t be afraid to let the corners get brown and crusty; that’s my favorite part!

Incredibly tasty Wild Rice Pilaf

This rice pilaf puts other rice pilafs to shame. Stuffed with bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and many more hidden goodies, this is not – I repeat not – a health food alternative. But to those who don’t really care about that, make this and eat it. You will not be sorry. I served it with roasted chicken, but I couldn’t help but notice it would make an excellent lower-carb alternative during the holidays. It tastes like Thanksgiving in a bowl.

Wild Rice Pilaf

 

Wild Rice Pilaf
(Original recipe: Iowa Girl Eats)

Ingredients
1 ­1/2 cups wild rice
2­ 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 dried bay leaf
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Add wild rice, chicken broth, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 40-­45 minutes or until rice is al dente. Let pan sit off the heat with the lid on for 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf, fluff rice with a fork, and set aside.
Meanwhile, brown bacon in a skillet; transfer to a bowl, reserving bacon fat in skillet. Melt butter in skillet and add shallots, mushrooms, and celery. Once mushrooms have
released their liquid and begin to brown, add dried thyme. Saute until mushrooms and vegetables are tender. Add garlic and fresh sage; saute until garlic is fragrant, about 2 more minutes.
Remove skillet from heat. Add cooked rice, cooked bacon, chopped almonds, and Parmesan cheese; stir well to combine. Add a splash of chicken broth if you need to loosen the stuffing up a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

 

Cheesy chicken and rice casserole

I had a wicked craving for chicken and rice casserole last week, but it is so difficult to find recipes for casseroles that don’t use canned soups or bouillon cubes. So when I found this one, I was eager to try it. It uses a homemade cheese sauce similar to that which you make for homemade mac and cheese. I opted to bump the flavor up a bit and crossed my fingers as it went into the oven. I was not disappointed; it was exactly what I’d been craving, and my husband ate half the 9×13 pan in one sitting. It’s certainly not health food, but it’s clean comfort food, and that’s precisely what I wanted. This recipe is shooting straight to the top of the regular rotation.

Cheesy chix casserole B

Cheesy chicken and rice casserole
(Original recipe: Brown Eyed Baker)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sage
1 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups cubed cooked chicken (I used 3 large chicken breasts)
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 pound), uncooked
2 cups cooked rice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked down and all of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the mushrooms to a separate bowl.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Once all flour and butter has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened, whisk in the cheddar cheese, adding a handful at a time and whisking until completely melted before adding the next handful. Turn off the heat. Add garlic, sage, and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently fold in the chicken, broccoli, rice, and cooked mushrooms. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

*also excellent with additional shredded cheese or bread crumbs sprinkled on top before baking.

Cheesy chix casserole