Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fresh Lemon Cake

There are a few things that I remember eating growing up that will I will always remember my mom making for our family.  One is homemade pizza on a cookie sheet, another is a plain old pot of ham beans.  So simple but some of my all time favorites.  My mom's lemonade cake probably made an appearance as dessert more times than I can remember.  My dad and I LOVE all things lemon so that's probably a huge factor in why we had her cake so much.  Another is that it's so quick and easy.

Fast forward many years.  I still like to make some old favorites; sometimes a little more healthy, sometimes with my own twist or sometimes just more home-made. That's where this cake comes in. I don't use mixes much anymore so I wanted to update my old recipe to use fresh ingredients, ones that I had on hand.  I loved the result.  The cake was so moist and tender and the lemon flavor was perfect. 

If you're looking for a spring dessert this is it! Perfect for any Easter gathering.  I've intentionally downsized the recipe, enough for an 8 or 9 inch round cake.  Feel free to double, if desired, to fit a 9x13 inch cake pan.

Fresh Lemonade Cake
for the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour (or 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, sifted) 
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup  + 2 Tbsp. milk at room temperature

for the glaze:
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour an 8 or 9-inch round baking pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest.  Cream until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add vanilla lemon juice and milk and mix until combined.

Add in sifted ingredients and gently mix until just incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-27 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and top is slightly browned.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

In the meantime, combine the juice of the 1 1/2 lemons with the powdered sugar and whisk until mixed well (some lumps are ok).

While cake is still warm, but not hot, take a fork and poke holes all over the cake.  Slowly spoon on glaze, one spoonful at a time, letting it soak in before the next spoonful, until all the glaze is gone.  Cool cake completely and serve.

SOURCE: Cake from Annie's Eats

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lemon Poppyseed and Blueberry Crepes

Although we have a lot of pancakes for breakfast and I pretty much make breakfast every morning,  crepes are still a delicious treat we very rarely enjoy around here.  I don't know what got me in the mood the other day, but I was craving some crepes in a bad way. I was going to do our most frequent flavor, sweet crepes with nutella, strawberries & bananas and whipped cream, but we didn't have any nutella, or strawberries for that matter.  So I went with the next best thing; fruity and citrus-y (if that's even a real word).  I figured they would be good and everyone would eat them but I couldn't believe just HOW good they were.  Blueberries and lemons were just meant to be.  My mouth was Mmmmmm-ing and Ahhhhh-ing and wanted MORE!

If you've never made crepes before they can be a little daunting at first.  While the batter takes just a few minutes to prepare, getting the hang of swirling it around the pan quick enough and thin enough takes a little practice.  Don't let that stop you, I still mess up the first couple of each batch I make anyway.

Lemon Poppyseed and Blueberry Crepes
makes about 12-14 crepes

for the crepe batter:
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of a lemon
2 tsp. poppy seeds


for the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh

For the crepe batter, put all the ingredients except the poppy seeds into a blender and blend until there are no lumps.  Add in poppy seeds and just barely blend to incorporate.

Heat crepe pan or frying pan over medium heat.  Have a stick of butter handy, leaving the wrapper on half of it.  This will make it easy to butter your pan between each crepe.

Whip the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in lemon juice and zest and vanilla and mix well.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Set aside.

When pan is sufficiently hot, quickly butter it with the stick of butter (just run it across the pan a few times real quick).  Hold the pan with one hand while you pour the batter with the other hand.  I use about 1/3 cup batter for each crepe.  Quickly rotate the pan in a circular motion until the batter has covered the bottom of the pan.  Set on the stove and cook about 30 seconds or until edges are set and you can run a spatula under them.  Flip and cook another 20-30 seconds or so.

Remove crepe from pan and place on a large plate.  Cover to keep warm, if desired, and continue cooking until all the batter is used up, buttering pan in between each.

To serve, spread filling over half of the crepe, then fold in half and fold in half again.  Alternately you can place the filling just off the center and roll it up burrito style.  Garnish with extra powdered sugar and blueberries, if desired.

SOURCE: Crepes from Our Best Bites, Filling from Say Yes

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zucchini Spinach and Basil Soup

I remember reading about this soup sometime last year, maybe end of summer or fall.  It's from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  She called it "life-changing soup" because it's luscious and creamy without the cream! I bookmarked it for later but didn't think of it again until I got a recommendation from my sister who had made it and who's whole family loved it. That's all the push I needed to finally make it myself.  I mean, anything that's "life-changing" good has got to be worth it right?

If you have a garden and grow zucchini, this soup recipe will be your best friend.  I mean, there's only so much you can do with zucchini before you get tired of eating it.  ZUCCHINI is the secret ingredient in this soup that makes it silky creamy without the cream. 

Now, I realize I'm posting this before most of you have even planted your gardens this year, but it's really a soup for any season.  It's delicious warm, but it is also yummy room temperature or even chilled, like a gazpacho. So make it now and eat it throughout the summer and fall.

Zucchini Spinach and Basil Soup
serves 4-5
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, tripped and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and saute about 5 minutes, until nice and tender.  Add the garlic and zucchini and sate another minute or two.  Add the broth and bring to a simmer.  Cover, reduce heat and cook until zucchini is very tender and falling apart; about 8-10 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat and add spinach.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Alternately you can work in batches pureeing the soup in a blender.  Check for seasoning and salt and pepper, to taste.  Stir in fresh basil.

Serve warm with baguette or homemade bread.

SOURCE: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, April 4, 2014

Raspberry Lemon Baked Oatmeal

Oats, in some form or another, make their way onto our breakfast table at least 2-3 times a week.  While everyone is perfectly happy with a simple version of a little brown sugar and cinnamon, it is nice to change it up a bit. 

My girls LOVE pretty much any berry they can get their hand on. Raspberries are probably my most favorite, but I enjoy them all as well. Fresh berries in season are such a treat.  Whenever we get a clamshell of blueberries or blackberries in our CSA basket, it doesn't even make it to the fridge before my girls have ripped it open and started shoving the berries in their face.  I don't mind though.  Any fresh produce my girls willingly eat is ok by me.

That said, it's no surprise that this Raspberry Lemon Baked Oatmeal is my favorite version so far.  I usually try to use a small amount of sugar when I make breakfast foods, but I did add a tiny bit more to balance out the tartness of the raspberries a bit.  If you're into mix-ins, my favorite with this flavor combination would be toasted coconut, chopped white chocolate and a splash of milk.  Enjoy!

Raspberry Lemon Baked Oatmeal
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of a lemon
1/4 cup  coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 8 or 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, egg, vanilla, lemon zest and juice, coconut oil and sugar.  Add baking powder, salt and rolled oats.  Stir to combine.  Gently fold in the raspberries.  Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 28-30 minutes, until slightly golden on top. 

Serve warm, with mix-ins as desired.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oven Baked Ravioli

So, sometimes I will make a meal just for my husband and I to enjoy, usually something that we don't have often, that the kids probably wouldn't eat or want. Take this ravioli for instance or this lobster risotto I made a few years ago for Valentine's Day.   Mmmm, I still think about that one.  Makes my mouth water. Anyway, so that's kind of where I was going with this dish. I totally thought they wouldn't go for it but it turns out our dinner for two turned into a dinner for 5!  I'm glad they enjoyed it though, 'cause sometimes it's hard to get them to try new things.  Maybe it was the fact that I made it just for my husband and I that got them curious...hmm, good tactic.

These were fun to make and changed it up from just a typical pasta and sauce dish.  Although pasta and sauce is a pretty quick meal to make, this doesn't take too much more effort (as long as you're willing to get your hands a little dirty) and it's FUN to eat!  I served it with my new favorite pizza sauce and we all loved it.

Oven Baked Ravioli
1 lb cheese ravioli, about 40 (or whatever you like)
2 eggs
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Pizza sauce or Marinara for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top.  Spray rack with non-stick cooking spray.  Whisk eggs in a small bowl and set aside.  In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese; mix well.

Dip ravioli in egg wash, allowing excess to drip off, then coat with breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere.  Place on wire rack and continue with remaining ravioli.

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until browned and crispy.  Serve warm with marinara for dipping.

SOURCE: Adapted from How Sweet It Is and Edible Life in YYC

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Make Coconut Milk

So, years ago on the blog I did a few "how to" posts.  There weren't very many and it didn't last long.  Teaching people how to do something, especially when it comes to cooking and food, is a real passion of mine.

We got a coconut in our CSA basket a few weeks ago and my girls would not stop asking me when we could open it and make coconut milk.  I was thrilled at their enthusiasm and couldn't wait either to have some fun with them.  

Making coconut milk is a relatively easy process, although some steps are more labor intensive than others.  However, you not only come away with fresh delicious coconut milk, you also have the coconut water and the coconut flesh that you can use in other things.  So you get a lot of bang for your buck here as far as I'm concerned.  

How To Make Coconut Milk
what you need:
1 or 2 coconuts (If you use young coconuts you can drink the water, it won't be bitter like from more mature coconuts)
corkscrew bottle opener
Light tea towel
vegetable peeler
warm water (below 115 degrees if you want it raw)
cheesecloth or nut milk bag

1.  First, grab your coconut and find the dark indentations on the top.  Use the corkscrew bottle opener in one of the indentations and drill a hole.  (Alternately you can pound a clean screwdriver with a hammer to make a hole.  Just make sure it's wide enough that the liquid doesn't stay trapped in.) Drain all the coconut water out of the hole into a bowl.  Feel free to save it for smoothies or even drink as electrolyte replacement after a workout. Fresh coconut water will last about a week in the fridge.

2.  Next, whack it a few times with the back of a knife or a hammer and get it to split enough to pry it open. Once it is open, you can either use a knife to get the flesh out or flip it over and tap it out with the hammer.


3. Next, you'll want to get your vegetable peeler out and peel the skin off the coconut flesh. Hopefully you won't have too many small pieces so it doesn't take too long. 

4. Give the coconut a rough chop and throw it into a blender with 2 cups warm water per coconut. Blend it up and let it run a few minutes until it makes a slurry.

5. Strain the slurry through a nut milk bag or over a few layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze out any extra liquid.  Fresh coconut milk will last 2-3 days in the fridge.  The fat will separate and rise to the top as it sits.  Just give it a shake before using it.

*The remaining pulp can be made into coconut flour. Place in a dehydrator at 115 degrees until dry, then put it in a blender to grind until fine. Keep in an airtight container in the pantry or store in a freezer for longer term storage.  Use in any recipe calling for coconut flour.

*If you don't want to dehydrate the pulp, place it in the fridge and use within 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to a few months.  You can use the pulp in homemade granola, cookies, muffins or other baked goods.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone

Now I realize that we have just entered into what is now officially spring and here I am posting about soup.  But spring in Utah is CRAZY!  You never know what you're going to get any given day.  And seriously the weather can change so quickly.  When I was living in Logan, many years ago, I remember it SNOWING on June 6th!!  That's practically summer.  We had a garden that year and I remember frantically going down to cover all the plants as quickly as we could so they wouldn't freeze and die.  We get it all this season, wind (and lots of it), rain, sun, snow and just about anything else. So, I'm not counting anything out just yet.

I'm a huge Ina Garten fan.  She is so classic and classy and she's got impeccable taste.  I trust any recipe of hers.  When I stumbled upon this recipe I immediately wanted to make it and knew I wouldn't have to tweak a thing to get the right taste.  And I was right.  Spot on.  If you think soup is boring or flavorless, you're going to be WOWed by this soup.  It has a very rich hearty taste and the fresh spinach and pesto at the end really finish it nicely.

Don't give up on soup just yet. We've still got plenty of chilly spring days that nothing but a warm bowl of soup can remedy.

Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone
serves 8-10 generously

good olive oil
4 oz pancetta (I had some diced ham in the freezer so I just used that)
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups  (1/2-inch) diced carrots (about 3)
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced celery (about 3 stalks)
2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) peeled diced butternut squash
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic, about 4 cloves
1 tsp. dried thyme
28-oz. diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup small pasta shapes, such as tubetti or ditalini
8-10 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. basil pesto

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add pancetta (or ham) and cook until slightly browned.  Remove to a plate.  Add another drizzle or two of olive oil (1-2 Tbsp.) then add onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic  and thyme  and cook about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  (I like to cook my onions about 8-10 minutes before the rest of the veggies so they are good and caramelized.)

Add tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, chicken stock 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain, rinse and set aside.

When soup is ready, remove from heat, remove bay leaf and add the pasta, beans and spinach leaves.  Toss like a salad to mix in spinach leaves and let it sit until they begin to wilt. Stir in pesto and taste for seasoning.  Add more salt and broth as necessary.

Ladle soup into large bowls and serve warm.

SOURCE: Ina Garten

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

It's officially spring!!  I can't even convey how incredibly excited I am that winter is FINALLY over!  After being sick and cooped up for like three months straight, I'm so excited to see the sun and just be outside. My girls are pretty stoked about the nicer weather too.  They were outside at the park for like 4 hours straight yesterday! Can't say I didn't enjoy the nice quiet afternoon, it was great.

This week's menu is full of quick and easy favorites.  I'm continuing to gather crock pot recipes for my Sunday dinners and this week's looks great.

Weekly Menu March 24-30
Easy Pad Thai with Chicken

Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce
Italian Salad

The Perfect Hamburger, Homemade Buns
leftover salad
steak fries

Chili-Lime Taquitos
Shredded Slaw
fresh fruit

Pizza with Blue Cheese, Balsamic and Cherry Tomatoes


Crockpot Pesto Ranch Chick Thighs
Mashed Potatoes
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kalua Pork

Out of all the kitchen tools and gadgets I have, my crockpot is one of the most severely underused that I have.  I don't know why I use it so little, most of the time it just doesn't even cross my mind.  But I know many people use it tons and and  love it.

In a few months time my crock pot is going to me by best friend on the weekends and I need to get reacquainted with it.  You see our church meetings on Sundays are soon going to be letting out at 6pm!!  So LATE! My kids go to bed early (most of the time) so having dinner just about ready when we get home is going to be key.  So between now and then I'm going to have to start gathering recipes that we can use for those late nights.  It's either that or eat pancakes....which isn't entirely all that bad either.

I've had this recipe in my notebook for probably 6 years and made it a time or two.  (As far as giving credit for the recipe, I'm not sure there is anyone in particular because the recipe is everywhere on the internet.)  We just love it.  Not only is it the easiest thing to throw together, with a whopping 3 ingredients, but the flavor is delicious!  My husband and kids like to call it kalua pig just to say they're eating pig.  Pork, pig, whatever. It's still yum.  We just throw the pork on slider buns, with or without the cabbage,  and serve it with some fresh fruit and veggies.  Quick and easy and super tasty.

Kalua Pork and Cabbage
3 lb.  pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded

Place roast in crockpot and rub it down with the liquid smoke and sea salt.  Turn it on low and let it cook a good 8-12 hours. For larger roasts, err on the longer cook time, even up to 14-16 hours. Overnight is great.  Don't add additional liquid, the fat from the pork will be enough.  When finished cooking, cool and shred with two forks.  Serve warm, on buns or over cooked rice.

To make the cabbage, take a few tablespoons of the liquid from the crockpot and add it to a frying pan.  Heat over medium high heat.  Add cabbage and saute until crisp-tender.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Marsala Chicken Mushroom and Barley Stew

Mmmmm....MAR.....SA.......LA......! Love that word.  Love the flavor even more.  I swoon at dishes that are infused with marsala.  Every time I see a recipe for Chicken Marsala, I think to myself, I'm going to make that "FOR REAL" this time. And then, of course, it gets put off until I completely forget about it...again.

I had Chicken Marsala once at the Olive Garden a very looooong time ago and I completely fell in love with it. Tried to make it at home a time or two and it didn't  really seem to fit the bill. But that was also a very long time ago.  My skills have much improved since then.  I haven't come back to it since but I still love to reminisce about how much I loved that dish back then. Granted if I went back today and ate there again, I doubt I would be as enamored with the dish as I once was (we've kind of sworn off OG).

Anyway, this stew is kind of a mix between one of my favorite dishes, Chicken Marsala, and one of my husband's favorite dishes, Mushroom Barley Soup.  It all came about on a cold and rainy day, perfect day for soup if you ask me.  I wasn't  exactly sure how the two dishes would come together but it turned out to be a winner. My girls even gobbled it up and that doesn't happen much.

Marsala Chicken Mushroom and Barley Stew
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 cup marsala cooking wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup quick cooking barley
fresh herbs for garnish, such as basil, or parsley

In a large pot, heat a couple drizzles of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add chicken thighs and brown on each side; about 2 minutes per side.  Work in batches if your pot is not big enough to hold all of the thighs at once.  Remove chicken to a platter.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add another drizzle of oil, if necessary, and add onions and mushrooms to the pot.  Cook until onions are translucent and tender.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add chicken back in, then add wine, broth, dried basil, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes.  Add barley and cook another 15 minutes.

Ladle warm soup into bowls, garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy No-Cook Pizza Sacue

I am eternally grateful to my friend Carrie for introducing me to this pizza sauce.  We have regular pizza nights around here so I want something that tastes GOOD if I'm going to be eating it over and over! I have used this easy sauce a TON and still do on occasion, but I just love this one a little more.  Plus it has fresh basil, need I say more?  I think not.  I love that this sauce has the ease of opening up a couple cans and tossing in some herbs but still has that fresh taste to it.  This is my favorite, it'll be yours too.

Easy No-Cook Pizza Sauce
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz- can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried)
8 large basil leaves (or 2 tsp. dried)

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  I like to divide mine up into small containers and freeze it for the next time we make pizza.

SOURCE: Carrie's Creative Kitchen

Monday, March 10, 2014

Grilled Citrus Chicken

What is your favorite thing to do on vacation?  Don't laugh but mine is to watch Food Network since we don't have cable.  We even sat and watched it on our honeymoon because back then we didn't even have TV! No Netflix, no HULU, nothing.  The last time we stayed in a hotel it wasn't really a vacation, it was actually a funeral, but we were in a hotel nonetheless and it had cable and a pool and we were all pretty thrilled to be out of our element for just a little bit.

While we didn't actually spend much time in the hotel I was able to catch a few glimpses of one of Guy Fieri's shows while I was getting ready. He was making citrus chicken and it looked so delicious with lots of fresh herbs and citrus juice and zest.  I couldn't wait to get home and make a go of it with my own twist. 

I thought of my dad and my husband while making this because they have the same complaint about eating a big piece of meat, particularly chicken; there's not much flavor.  So, I was bound and determined to make it right and get bursting flavor all throughout it.  I think I scored pretty well, hubby liked it!  The key is to use chicken thighs and give it enough time to marinate.  With spring just around the corner and grilling season upon us, you'll want to give this a try.

Grilled Citrus Chicken
for the marinade:
6 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed
juice and zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
few cracks of fresh ground black pepper

for the glaze:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated or minced
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup jalapeno jelly
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
reserved marinade

In a mixing bowl, combine all marinade ingredients, except chicken.  Whisk together.  Pour into a gallon ziploc bag, add chicken and refrigerate about 6-8 hours, up to overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade, reserving remaining marinade for glaze.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and ginger and saute about 2-3 minute.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer 5-10 minutes.  Depending on how thick your jelly is will help you determine cook time.  Mine was homemade and pretty thick so I didn't simmer it long.  If it is thinner, opt for the longer cook time.

Preheat outdoor grill.  Lay chicken on grill and baste with glaze.  Cook about 6 minutes.  Flip, baste other side and cook another 6-7 minutes.  Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

SOURCE: Adapted from Guy Fieri

Friday, March 7, 2014

Orange Ricotta Muffins

I'm always up for making something tasty for breakfast.  We haven't had cold cereal in so long when I actually do buy it my kids won't even eat it.  True story, when I was sick these past few months, I broke down and actually bought Lucky Charms because I had no energy for anything and I could really care less what everyone ate.  Well, it sat in my pantry unopened, uneaten.  My husband ended up eating it.

My husband is not really a breakfast eater, plus he leaves so early in the morning anyway, he probably doesn't care much that me misses out.  The rest of us like our warm muffins, pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, etc. and I enjoy making it. 

I had some leftover ricotta in the fridge and hated to let it go to waste so I thought these muffins would be perfect to make. Plus, I absolutely love orange and chocolate together.  The muffins were delicious and my kids inhaled them.  I think there was only one left the next day and my daughter took it to school in her lunchbox.

Chocolate Chip Orange Ricotta Muffins
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unrefined sugar (such as sucanat)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or butter), melted
1 egg
1 cup ricotta cheese, full fat
1 tsp. vanilla
zest and juice of an orange
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine sugar and orange zest.  Use a spatula to mix it together, smashing it up against the side of the bowl to work out the oil.  Add in egg, ricotta, vanilla, orange juice and stir.  Add coconut oil and whisk until well-incorporated.  Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Line muffin tin with paper liners and divide batter evenly between the wells.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Let cool a few minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack.

SOURCE: Slightly Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Veggie Frittata

I really hope Mother Nature isn't fooling us because it seems so hard to believe we've had such nice, warm weather the past week or so.  The end of February, c'mon, seems too good to be true.  I'm just waiting for it to turn again before it's here to stay.  Utah weather is kind of unpredictable, so I totally wouldn't be surprised.  However, I'll take any warm weather that comes our way!  I spent the last three months with a miserable sinus infection, which has finally cleared up, YAY!  I'm feeling like my old self again.

Savory breakfasts are my husband's favorite.  Too bad he's not home for breakfast more often because he doesn't have a chance to enjoy them much.  This morning I was actually craving something savory for breakfast and knew this would be right up his alley.  I usually just do eggs and toast, when I go that route. They are simple and quick, but I wanted a little more.  So, I decided to empty out my fridge of the last remaining veggies and fresh herbs before I went grocery shopping for the week.  I also tend to pick up random cuts of cheese at the deli so it was a good way to use that up as well. 

I loved everything about this frittata; the flavors, the brilliant colors and all that VEG! Frittatas are highly customizable so if you have different veggies on hand or different cheese, no prob!  Just throw it in there.  This makes for a nice weekend breakfast or Sunday brunch with family.

Veggie Frittata
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 large roma tomato, diced
1 heaping cup baby spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
6 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or cream
1 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2-3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Heat a large oven safe frying pan over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to medium to medium low, drizzle a good bit of olive oil and add sliced onion.  Let saute until they start to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes.  Add garlic, asparagus, and bell pepper.  Add a pinch of water if necessary if pan become too dry.  Saute 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, cheese salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk.

Make sure any added water has just about evaporated and add tomatoes and spinach and basil.  Then pour egg mixture over the top of everything.  You may need to jiggle some of the veggies back down.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 8-10 minutes, or until eggs are almost set. 

Turn on broiler.  Remove lid from frying pan.  Finely shred some Parmesan cheese over the top, if desired, and place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes.  Keep an eye on it!  Remove from oven-DON'T FORGET TO USE AN OVEN MITT TO GRAB THE HANDLE, IT WILL BE HOT! Loosen edges of frittata and slide it onto a serving platter.  Serve warm.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding

Here in Utah we have a local favorite place to eat called Kneaders.  It's kind of a bakery/cafe type that's real homemade.  A few years ago I stopped in to one of the locations and decided to try their German Chocolate Bread Pudding, because I have a hard time resisting things with chocolate and coconut, and I was in heaven!!  It was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.  I have only been back once to have it again and I have sorely missed it. 

When we moved to our current house I decided to give it a try at the one closer to us, but it was not the same.  Needless to say, I was disappointed but I set out, bound and determined, to make my own that was equally delicious.   I searched for a while but was never satisfied with what I found, until one day I was back in to Kneaders for lunch.  I got the girl behind the counter chatting about the bread pudding and she gave away some of the secrets about each of their flavors.  When she mentioned that the chocolate coconut one was made with croissants it was like a light went off in my head.  That was what I needed to finish my recipe that I had started.

So, without further delay, I give you this delicious dessert you are sure to crave as much as I have.

Chocolate Coconut Bread Pudding
4-5 large croissants, day old (*I always look for them first on the day-old bakery rack, you'll get them cheaper too!)
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk, plus more for drizzling
3/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
4 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (can add a drop or two of coconut extract if you want more coconut flavor)
1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
shaved coconut for garnish, if desired

Spray a 9-inch or similar baking dish with cooking spray (I happened to use an 8.5x11-inch baking dish). Cut croissants into chunks and place in prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup shredded coconut over the croissants.  Shake the pan a little so they can distribute a little.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Pour over the top of croissants, pushing them down into the milk mixture a little bit to get them soaking it up.  Let it stand about 10-30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven about 25-30 minutes.  *Optional: While bread pudding is baking, put a handful of shaved coconut in a skillet and toast until lightly golden.  Set aside.

When bread pudding is done cooking, remove from oven and sprinkle a small handful of chocolate chips over the top as well as the toasted coconut. Allow to cool.  Serve warm with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, if desired.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spinach, Tomato & Goat Cheese Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Quite a while back my mom brought me some garden spoils and I have to admit this squash sat in my pantry for longer than I'd like to admit!  I almost never cook spaghetti squash just because I never think about it and I'm pretty sure my girls would stick their noses up at it.  Luckily it's a hard winter squash and lasts just about forever.

As I have been cleaning out my pantry the past couple of months, I decided it was time to use up that squash.  It kept making me feel guilty every time I would open up the pantry door and see it there on the shelf. So I cooked it up with some of my favorite ingredients and it turned out fabulous.  The spaghetti squash seemed to cook a bit quicker than other winter squashes so this dish makes for a quick and healthy dinner that's pretty no-fuss.

Spinach, Tomato & Goat Cheese Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
serves 2-4

1 medium spaghetti squash
olive oil
about 2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, diced
few slices of red onion
2-3 oz. goat cheese
2 Tbsp. pepitas
4 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
smoked paprika
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Split squash length-wise, scrape out seeds and place, cut side down, on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until squash starts to shred when a fork is scraped across it's flesh.

Flip squash over so cut side is now facing up.  Scrape through most of the squash with a fork creating shreds of squash but leaving it in the peel.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika.  Over each half of squash crumble goat cheese, chopped spinach, tomatoes and some red onion.  Drizzle another  bit of olive oil over the top, sprinkle salt and pepper and more paprika, if desired.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes.

While squash is baking, toast pepitas with a pinch of salt in a small frying pan over medium heat until they start popping and turn golden brown in color. Set aside.

Once squash is done baking, remove from oven and top with fresh basil and toasted pepitas.  Serve warm.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from BS' In The Kitchen

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

I know menu planning is kind of hit and miss here on the blog, but that's how we roll these days.  There are some times I'm super organized early in the week and other times we just fly by the seat of our pants.  Hopefully this will be one of the weeks I'm more rather than less organized.  Everything just runs smoother when mom is organized.

As always, I've got some new recipes and some beloved oldie favorites.  I have to say, I'm really looking forward to Tuesday's dinner: Marsala Chicken and Barley Stew and biscuits.  Mmmm, my mouth is already watering!!  I've actually also made myself a lunch and breakfast menu so I can make sure to use up what I've got this week.  I'll list a few of those at the bottom.

Dinner Menu February 24- March 2
Broccoli in Garlic Sauce over rice
Nappa Cabbage Salad
steamed peas and fresh sweet peppers

Marsala Chicken, Mushroom and Barley Stew
Exploding Biscuits

The Perfect Hamburger
Steak Fries


Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza

Penne Gorgonzola with Roasted Chicken

Artisan Bread

Other things going on:
Orange Ricotta Muffins
Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oats
Lemon Raspberry Baked Oatmeal
Strawberry Basil and Goat Cheese Panini
Apple and Smoked Cheddar Quesadillas

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

First of all, I have news!!  I got a new camera.  Well, new to me anyway, and I'm so excited to learn how to use it.  Hopefully you will see an improvement in my shots and my food will look even more appealing!

Now on to this delicious sauce.  I love, love LOVE roasted red peppers.  I like them raw and cooked in stuff like stir-fry too, but I really love them roasted.  They just have this sweet, slightly tangy taste that is just beautiful. Slap them on wraps, sandwiches, burgers, pitas, pizzas, put them in hummus or other dips, or even in soup.

Roasted red peppers are obviously the star of this deliciously velvety pasta sauce.  The flavor is not too bold, a little creamy, a little crunchy with punches of flavor here and there from fresh basil.  If you're not a fan of goat cheese, you can switch it out for feta or even parmesan. 

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
3 red peppers
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped
2-3 oz. goat cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 lb. pasta

Roast red peppers either under the broiler or on your grill until charred, flipping halfway so you get both sides. Place in ziploc bag or container with a lid and allow to cool and sweat.  Peel charred skins off, remove seeds and set aside.

Lightly toast pine nuts in a frying pan over medium-high heat.

Place pine nuts and roasted peppers in a blender and blend until smooth.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop pasta.  Cook according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion.  Cook until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add pepper puree, broth and cream.  Stir to combine and salt and pepper to taste.  Crumble in goat cheese and stir to melt.  Remove from heat, add fresh basil, check for seasoning again and adjust as necessary.

Drain pasta and stir into sauce.  Top with more fresh basil, if desired or a couple scratches of parmesan.

SOURCE: Pioneer Woman

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thai Steak Salad

It is very seldom that we eat beef, even less that we eat steak.  I absolutely love this salad though and thought this weekend would be perfect for a little splurge.  I have had the original version of this recipe for probably almost 10 years.  It was in one of my most favorite Cooking Light Cookbooks.  What attracted me at first was the beautiful picture in the cookbook.  The bright purple cabbage and orange carrots contrasted against a bed of lovely greens. 

This salad also has three of my favorite fresh herbs: basil, cilantro and mint.  While I have eaten them and love them separately, they are amazing all together in this salad.  It is a HUGE burst of flavor going on in your mouth! The dressing uses a bit of Thai fish sauce which adds great flavor in small amounts.  If you're not a fan of fish sauce or can't find it, this Ginger Lime Dressing is a good substitute.  It is my all time favorite dressing and use it on my Asian Slaw whenever I make it.

Thai Steak Salad
for the marinade:
1 flank steak (or ribeye or sirloion)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. red cooking wine (can also use sherry or red wine vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil

for the salad:
1 small nappa cabbage, shredded
1/4 small red cabbage, shredded
2-3 cups baby spinach
2 large carrots, peeled and small-diced (julienned or shredded works too)
1/2 (or more) fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup (or more) fresh basil leaves
1/2 (or more) fresh mint leaves

for the dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 1-2 limes depending on how big and how juicy)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. fresh minced garlic
1 Tbsp. Sriracha (sweet chili sauce)

chopped peanuts

Combine marinade ingredients and place in a ziploc bag along with steak and marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours.

Combine salad dressing ingredients and set aside. 

In a large salad bowl, combine salad ingredients and set aside. 

When you are ready to cook the steak, drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large grill pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Cook steak about 4-5 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness.  Remove from heat and let rest at least 5 minutes.  Slice steak across the grain in thin slices.

When ready to serve, toss the salad with a little bit of the dressing.  Divide salad between plates and top with sliced steak and chopped peanuts.

SOURCE: Adapted from Cooking Light and Pioneer Woman

Friday, February 7, 2014

One Bowl Brownies (AKA: The Baked Brownie)

For years, my go-to treat, when I needed a chocolate fix or even just a sweet fix, was brownies, and not the scratch kind.  I used brownie box mixes forever, mostly because of convenience, but also, I was hard-pressed to find a homemade recipe that was as thick and fudgey and ooey-gooey as the box mix kind. By the way, if you're more of a cake-like brownie lover, this may not be the brownie for you. 

I was SOOOO excited when I found this recipe a few years.  Not only did they fit my high expectations for a homemade brownie, they were so easy and I only had to dirty ONE bowl.  SCORE! If you've never checked out the Baked Cookbook you should.  It has some amazing dessert recipes that are a little off the cuff.  Amazing.

So, if you're in the mood for a quick treat this weekend, whip these up in your favorite mixing bowl and just try and wait until they are cool enough to dig in...I dare ya.

The Baked Brownie
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
5.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped (I like to use Trader Joe's Pound Plus bars)
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
*3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 or 9 inch baking pan and set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, place butter and chopped dark chocolate.  Microwave on 50% power, 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

Add sugars, cocoa powder and vanilla and whisk to combine.  Make sure mixture isn't too hot, then add eggs and whisk to combine again.

Sift in flour and salt.  Stir until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake 28-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through baking time.  Brownies are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out just the tiniest bit sticky.

Place brownies on a wire rack until completely cooled.

*If doubling recipe for a 9x13-inch pan, only use 5 eggs.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Black Bean Soup

This has been a favorite of ours for a few years. I had actually kind of forgotten about it until my 5 year old started asking me about "that bean soup that you crush the tortilla chips in."  It took me a minute to remember which bean soup she was talking about, because I was kind of shocked she was actually asking for bean soup!

I LOVE this soup for a couple of reasons.  First, it comes together so quickly and second, my kids don't fuss about it because there's no chunky things in it they have to fish out haha! (Not because they're not there though, because it's pureed they just can't tell.)  So sneaky, I love it.

The day after I made this soup my 5 year old asked me if there were any leftovers she could have for dinner.  She was ecstatic when I told her there was and then she ate two bowls full.  This is my daughter who LOVES junk food and candy, who will snoop out and find ANY piece of candy in the house if there is one.  This soup is definitely a keeper!

Black Bean Soup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 3.5-oz can green chilies
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings: sour cream, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, diced avocado

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add carrots, celery and onion; saute about 5-6 minutes, or until onions are translucent and soft.  Add garlic and saute another 60 seconds.  Add green chilies, chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook about 1-2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.  Add beans, broth and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat. Remove bay leaf from the soup.  Using a stick blender, puree the soup to your liking (you can leave is as chunky or smooth as you'd like).  Alternately you can work in batches pureeing it in a blender.  Squeeze in fresh lime juice and add in salt and pepper to taste.  Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Ladle hot soup into bowls and add toppings as desired.

SOURCE: Our Best Bites

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Caprese Baked Egg Cups

Along with pancakes and oatmeal, eggs are another thing we make the most of for breakfast around here.  They are quick, easy and filling, especially along slide some nice crusty bread. While during the week I usually keep it to scrambled eggs, on the weekend I like to indulge a little. 

My first experience with baked eggs were these Fontina and Spinach Baked Eggs. Boy did they make my mouth water! I probably ate them every day for like a week.  Since then I have discovered and fallen in love with Trader Joe's smoked mozzarella and this new version of baked eggs.  Caprese anything and you have me drooling.  Although these eggs aren't quite as quick to make as scrambled, they don't take  more than a few minutes extra to prepare. And bonus, it'll make a party in your mouth with every bite!!

Caprese Baked Egg Cups
makes 4 small ramekins
4 eggs
1 pint grape tomatoes
3-4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese (I like to use smoked mozzarella from Trader Joe's)
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp. cream or milk
softened butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter the insides of 4 ramekins.  Crack an egg in each and add half teaspoon of cream to.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add some tomatoes, cheese and basil. 

Set ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for about 5-8 minutes.  Turn on broiler and bake another 5 minutes or so for firmer yolks, less time for more runny yolks.

Serve warm with crusty bread.

SOURCE: How Sweet It Is

Monday, January 27, 2014

Spinach, Artichoke and Pesto Pizza

We've had a long-standing tradition of having homemade pizza every Friday night and it's one of our family traditions that I absolutely LOVE!  When I was teaching school I always used to tell my students on Friday that it was party day because it was the weekend.  I couldn't wait to get home and celebrate, veg and make yummy food.  Although over the years our Friday nights have changed, we eventually settled into the Friday night pizza night, which I'm sure we'll keep for years to come.

On pizza night I usually make two pizzas.  My girls are still not adventurous when it comes to toppings, so I just stick with homemade sauce and mozzarella.  Thank goodness my hubby is a good sport because I always try to make something different for us to share.  MOST of the time, it works out great.  Tonight was no exception.  This pizza was fabulous!!  Maybe it's because it's slathered with pesto, I LOVE all things basil, or the combination of toppings, but it really hit the spot.  You'll love it!

Spinach, Artichoke and Pesto Pizza
1 recipe Perfect Pizza Crust
1 recipe Basil Pesto (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 14-oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Prepare pizza crust according to directions.

Preheat baking stone* and oven to 450 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes.

Once dough has risen and doubled in size, roll it out on a pizza peel generously dusted with corn meal.  You can also roll it out on parchment paper.  Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving about a 1-inch border.  Layer the spinach, artichokes, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  Slide dough onto pizza stone and bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.  Cool slightly before cutting into it.

*If you don't have a baking stone, you can use an inverted cookie sheet.

SOURCE: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

I don't know if I even dare make a menu for this week!  I've been living off of smoothies the past couple of days because I am sick yet again.  This is getting pretty old...being sick, not drinking smoothies.  I still love my smoothies!  This is one of the huge reasons I don't enjoy winter though.  I don't even mind the cold so much or the snow, but I haven't even been able to go out and play in it with my kids!!  I did finally break down and bundle up to take my 2 year old on a walk today. It was 19 degrees but we stayed warm and the sun was welcome!  I'll have to do that more this week.  Need that vitamin D.

Well, I'm still trying to clean out both my freezers and pantry.  It's going pretty well but I've still got a long way to go.  My shopping trips have been mostly produce, milk and eggs and I hope to stick to that in the coming weeks.  My hubby started grad school this month so he's gone two nights a week so I'm trying to keep most of the meals simple and kid-friendly.  We'll see.

Weekly Menu - January 27-February 1
Easy Sesame Peanut Noodles
Asian Slaw

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Tomato and Goat Cheese (probably homemade mac and cheese for the kids)

Broccoli and Ham Bread Pudding
fresh fruit

Baked potato bar
steamed veggies

Grilled Fontina and Arugula Pizza



BLT pasta
steamed veggies

Friday, January 24, 2014

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal

I usually keep a bunch of bananas on my counter, some not quite ripe, some ready to eat and the rest ready to use in smoothies or baked goods.  When I bake with bananas I like to make sure they are nice and almost black,  so I let them sit out a good long time.  I always say the blacker the better.

Lately we haven't been eating bananas as quickly as we usually do so my black ones were piling up.  I didn't really feel in the mood to make bread or muffins and was trying to keep the sweets at bay, so I was kind of at a loss as to what to make.  Then I thought about breakfast for the week and realized some mashed banana would go great mixed into our regular baked oatmeal.

I like to make breakfast fresh for my girls before school so I had to get up a little early the morning I made this, but it was so worth it!!  The smell that filled the house was amazing.  It really did smell like banana bread baking.  The end result was so delicious, nice and moist and a little crunchy on top.  I even thought about sprinkling a little coarse sugar on top for brulee but was short on time, so I'll have to save it for next time.

This oatmeal is easily doubled to fit a 9x13 pan.  I sometimes like to make a big pan and eat on it for the next few days.

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal
1 cup mashed banana (about 2 large)
1/2 milk
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
scant 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (or butter)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray an 8 or 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine banana, milk, egg, brown sugar, vanilla and coconut oil.  Whisk until well combined.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients and pour into prepared baking pan.  Bake 28-30 minutes or until slightly golden on top.

Serve warm.  Top with a splash of milk, extra pecans and sliced banana, if desired.  Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chili-Lime Chicken Taquitos

I seriously can't believe I have not posted about these taquitos until now.  They have become the number one thing requested for dinner lately.  I don't even know how I stumbled upon making them the first time around, but they were a HUGE hit from the get-go.  After that my oldest daughter has consistently asked to have them for dinner about once a week.  Thankfully they are so quick and easy to throw together and just take a few simple ingredients; you're sure to have most of them on hand.

Chili-Lime Chicken Taquitos
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 Tbsp. chili powder
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (mozzarella or Mexican blend  is good too)
salt and pepper 
uncooked flour tortillas

sour cream

Cook chicken using your preferred method.  For a quick and easy method, add uncooked chicken to a pot with 3 cups water, 1/4 tsp. salt, 8 black peppercorns, half an onion, quartered, and a bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Cook 20 minutes or until done.  Remove from pot, cool and shred.
Add shredded chicken,  chili powder,  lime juice and cilantro to a large skillet.  Gently warm over medium heat.  Stir and taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as necessary.  Stir in cheese and remove from heat.

Lay out one uncooked tortilla at a time.  Place 3-4 tablespoons of filling along one end, pushing it out to the edges.  Roll up and place seam side down on a baking sheet.  Continue with remaining filling and tortillas.  Make sure you leave a little space in between each taquito so they will be cooked all around.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush olive oil over the tops of each taquito (you could also use an olive oil spritzer).  Sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over each.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Bake taquitos about 15 minutes or until tops are lightly golden.  Serve warm, with your choice of guacamole, salsa or sour cream. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Crockpot Pork Posole

I seriously under-use my crockpot.   I don't even know why, but I just don't ever think of things to cook in it.  It really is  a wonderful way to cook up something warm and cozy, especially during the winter time when comfort food, warm and tasty are key words!

Anyway, I love soups and I love the flavors of Mexican-types foods; one of my favorites! So this posole is right up my alley.  It is nice and brothy with tender pork and veggies.  Also delightfully contrasted with a little bit of crunch from some freshly shredded cabbage and radishes.  Everything is topped with cilantro,  avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  What's not to love!!

Crock Pot Pork Posole
2-3 lb. pork shoulder roast
16-oz chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
1/2 head of garlic (no need to remove paper)
1-2 large jalapenos, cut in half and seeded
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 cups diced roma tomatoes
1 30-oz can hominy (yellow or white)
2 large carrots, diced
juice of a lime
salt and pepper

thinly sliced radishes
shredded green cabbage
diced avocado
lime wedges
chopped cilantro

Cut roast into 3-4 pieces and place in crock pot. Liberally season with salt and pepper.  Layer onion, garlic and jalapenos over it.  Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and oregano.  Cook on high until roast is tender and falls apart.

Remove roast from crock pot and cool long enough to shred it.  Remove jalapeno and garlic, taking off skins.  Finely dice both and return to crock along with carrots, tomatoes, hominy and shredded pork.  Cook another half hour or so, or until carrots are tender.

Add lime juice.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.

Ladle hot soup into bowls and garnish as desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from Foodie Crush

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Triple Berry Orange Smoothie

Wow,  it's been a while since I posted a new recipe.  The holidays are always a LONG and busy time around here since all three of my daughter's birthdays come in between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  By the time January rolls around, I just want to sleep for a month and not eat a bite of cake again....well until the next birthday rolls around anyway. 

Speaking of birthday cakes, I think I finally nailed a homemade version of box mix birthday cake (after three birthday parties, haha) that tastes phenomenal and is also light and fluffy.  Unfortunately I was not in the blogging mode when I made them and will have to wait until April for the next birthday to blog about it.  Super delish though!

Anyway, I digress.  I don't really make new years resolutions because they always seem to get broken.  I rather like to take every day and make the best of it as I can.  But, if you're the resolution-making type and have made a goal to eat better or even if you just like smoothies, this post is for you!

I whipped this up one afternoon for my kids' lunch, trying to keep it sweet and fruity enough, while still being healthy.  It was delicious!  I love the berry combination, and bananas always make things nice and smooth. I used half milk and half water since I was serving it to my kids, but you could certainly just use all milk or all water, depending on your tastes.  I also only used 1 handful of spinach when serving to my kids, but for me, I usually put in 2 big ones!  

Triple Berry Orange Smoothie
1/2 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 cup water
1 ripe banana
1 orange, peeled
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1-2 handfuls spinach
1 Tbsp. ground flax

Put all ingredients in blender in order listed and blend until smooth and creamy.  Adjust liquid as desired.

*NOTE: If you don't think your blender would blend up the whole orange, you can just use the fresh juice.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Menu Plan Monday Week 49 (2013)

Oh man it's been a while since I got a menu put together and actually posted it!! I've been flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to cooking dinner the past few months.  Mostly because I was tired of my kids not eating much of what I was making and I just didn't want the struggle.  Now, they seem to be coming around (kids do that every once in a while), at least for the time being, so I'm getting organized in the kitchen again.  Let's make this work!!

Dinner Menu Week 49 (2013)
Taquitos (my girls DIE over these and eat them for every meal until they are gone!!  I've got to get the recipe up soon.)
veggies and dip

Lentil Veggieballs with Lemon Pesto Dipping Sauce
Sweet Kale Salad

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Thai Coconut Rice
sauteed brussels sprouts

Caprese Grilled Chicken
baked steak fries

Christmas Party


Garlic Naan
Minted Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberry Egg Nog Scones with White Chocolate Glaze

I don't think it is possible for me to EVER get tired of making and eating scones.  After pancakes, it's my next passion.  They are my Saturday morning thing that I look forward to most of the week; that and sleeping in FINALLY!

I bought some egg nog on a whim since it was on sale and I usually can't get enough during the season, so I thought it would be perfect to throw into some scones.  My daughters totally agreed too.  They suggested I add white chocolate chips, I wanted fresh cranberries, so I did cranberries and a white chocolate chip glaze. (I did, however, make a batch for the girls with just white chocolate chips since I knew they wouldn't eat the ones with cranberries.)  The verdict: delish! It just doesn't get much better than this when eating things in season.

Cranberry Egg Nog Scones with White Chocolate Glaze
2 cups whole wheat flour (half whole wheat half white is ok too)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sucanat (or other sugar)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of allspice
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup egg nog
1/8 tsp. rum extract

for the glaze:
2 oz white chocolate chips
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl fitted with a blade attachment, add the flour, baking powder, salt, sucanat and spices.  Pulse a couple times to blend.  Add butter and whiz until mixture becomes a coarse meal.  Alternately you could use a pastry blender or two knives to cut butter in.

Pour flour mixture into a regular mixing bowl and add cranberries.  Toss to coat.  Add egg nog and rum extract and stir until mixture comes together.  It will be shaggy.  Turn dough onto floured surface.  Fold dough over about 3-4 times and pat out into about 3/4-1-inch thickness.  Use a biscuit cutter to cut out scones.  Place scones on silicone or parchment lined baking sheet.  Pat scraps together gently and cut out the rest of the dough.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.  While scones are cooling, make the glaze.

For the white chocolate glaze, melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for twenty second increments at 50% power or less, stirring in between.  Add the milk and gently whisk it with the melted chocolate.  Warm in microwave a few seconds, if necessary.  Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle on cooled scones.

Scones are best eaten fresh. You can freeze any cut out scones you do not want to bake by placing them on a plate or large tray and putting them in the freezer for a couple of hours. Transfer to an airtight container to store.  When ready to bake, place frozen scones on baking sheet, as above, adding about 5 minutes to bake time.
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