Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Favorites

Looking back through all my posts from this year, I was surprised how many there were, considering how sick I was with my pregnancy and how delusional I was (and still am) from lack of sleep now that she's here.

It was fun to look back and reminisce on all the yummy food that was made and reminded me of some dishes I NEED to make again. So, I've made a line up of my favorite savory dishes and my favorite sweet treats. Here they are, in no particular order.

Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza-I fell in love with this pizza too and made it many, many times over the summer.

Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers-Well, you know I love coconut anything, but I wasn't the only one that loved these in our house; my kids gobbled them up as well.

Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken-Love, love, loved this chicken! After grilling, roasting chicken is my next favorite way of preparing it. Plus, when you roast a whole chicken, you have it all cooked for several meals ahead of time.

Chicken Milano-We so totally fell in love with this dish. It is the perfect combination of flavors.

Asian Wonton Salad- I'm a firm believer that when it comes to eating salads, variety is the key. This was so fun and different, I loved eating it.

Asian Wraps with Creamy Peanut Sauce-Maybe it's my love of peanut butter that I loved this dish so much because man that dipping sauce is something else! This is SUPER delicious!

Chicken Parmesan-This was easily one of the two best meals I made this year (Chicken Milano being the other one). It was absolutely perfect.

Sesame Noodles-Made this many times, even the kids eat it!

Lemon Garlic Shrimp with Orzo-Incredibly simple dish but packed with flavor.

Berry Chicken Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette-Another tasty and colorful salad.

Coconut Brownies with Creamy Coconut Frosting-Rich, creamy and delicious and totally unique!

Bananas Foster Bread-I love banana bread in general; this is my boozy bread version.

Cake Batter Pancakes-We totally love pancakes around here. I think I made these for every birthday this year. So fun!

Tres Leches Cake
-I don't make a whole lot of cake, except for birthdays and such, but this is absolutely to die for. I'll have to make it again for our 5 de mayo party.

Raspberry Almond Cookie Bars-Sometimes you just want something sweet and delicious and NOT chocolate..cue these rich cookie bars-YUM.

Sugar Cookies with Cherry Buttercream-I've made and eaten a lot of sugar cookies in my day and I can honestly say that this cookie and frosting recipe are so perfect. The subtleness of the cherry in the frosting is absolutely amazing.

S'mores Ice Cream-Love s'mores; love ice cream. Great combo!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies- I can't believe I ever waited so long to try these. One of my most favorite cookies ever.

Chocolate Coconut Fudge-Million dollar fudge right here folks...not joking!

Egg Nog Syrup-This is the perfect condiment for the holidays. You can use it on pancakes, ice cream, warm gingerbread or cake, the sky is the limit!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Egg Nog Gingerbread Trifle

I'm so glad I finally get to post this delicious trifle! I saw it last year and made my version of it, but it was gone before I could get a photo or hardly even a taste. I took it to a Christmas party this year and the same thing happened, so I was determined to make it again. I decided to make it a third time for our family dinner on Christmas day and I finally got a nice big helping, and leftovers to eat for breakfast the next day!!!

This is a beautiful and festive trifle with layers of yummy gingerbread, tart raspberries and delicious custard made with egg nog, topping it off with some whipping cream, fresh raspberries and ginger snap crumbs. This will definitely wow the socks off any guests you have over this holiday, or even your family

Egg Nog Gingerbreaed Trifle

For the gingerbread:
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark molasses
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the egg nog custard:
9 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 cups good egg nog

For the filling and garnish:
3 (12-ounce) packages frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed and drained
1 cup chilled heavy cream
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. confectioners' sugar
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
ginger snap cookies, crumbled (optional)

To make the gingerbread: Heat the oven to 350°. Generously grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the butter until it's soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the sugar and molasses and beat again until the mixture is well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and beat well. Reduce the mixer's speed to low and slowly add half the flour mixture to the bowl and beat until blended. Repeat with the other half.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap until ready to use. It can be stored in the pan at room temperature for up to two days.

To make the custard: Divide the egg yolks and whites. Set the egg whites aside for another use (they may be frozen). In a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour.

In a medium saucepan, bring the egg nog to a boil. Temper the eggs by very slowly (I do about a cup at a time) pouring half the egg nog into the egg mixture and beat until blended then pour the mixture into the remaining egg nog in the pan. Over medium heat, bring the ingredients to a boil while whisking constantly. Allow the custard to boil for 1 minute as you continue to whisk. Remove the pan from the heat.

Let the custard cool slightly, then cover its surface with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let the custard cool completely, then refrigerate it until ready to use (up to three days).

To assemble the trifle: In a medium bowl, toss the thawed raspberries and sugar. Remove the gingerbread from the pan and use a serrated knife to slice it into four equal wedges.

Take one of the gingerbread wedges and crumble it over the bottom of a trifle bowl or a 2 1/2-quart bowl. Spoon and spread about 3/4 - 1 cup of the raspberry mixture over the cake, then top the fruit with 1 cup of custard. Repeat the layering two more times with the remaining ingredients. (You can actually do three more layers, you will have an extra wedge of cake to do that. However, you will have to do a little less custard and raspberries on each layer, and I found that three layers filled my trifle bowl pretty much to the top. I just saved the fourth wedge of gingerbread.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours to let the flavors meld (the dessert can be stored overnight).

Before serving, make the whipped cream. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to spread the whipped cream on top of the trifle, and garnish it with the fresh raspberries and crumbled ginger snap cookies, if desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from Family Fun Magazine

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Fudge

Healthy fudge....what! I've mentioned before how much I love coconut and what great health benefits it has. It also has great flavor to boot and when paired with chocolate, it's like a match made in heaven.

I created this fudge using coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk instead of any kind of dairy milk or cream. I also used dark chocolate and about a fourth of the sugar used in regular fudge recipes. Don't you worry though, it's still plenty rich and sweet and incredibly creamy and smooth! My husband and I both agreed that this was the best fudge either of us had ever eaten (and believe me, I've had my fair share)....a million dollar recipe.....hmm, maybe!

Chocolate Coconut Fudge
16 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (or dark chips)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup canned coconut milk, full-fat
3 1/3 cups mini marshmallows
5 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with coconut oil, or lightly spray with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, if desired, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on each side for easy removal.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine coconut milk, marshmallows, oil, sugar and salt. Stir until everything is melted and completely smooth. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Stir again until completely melted and smooth. Add flaked coconut and stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking pan and spread evenly. Allow to cool.

Fudge will be soft at room temperature. To aid in cutting, place fudge in the fridge until slightly firm. Cut into 1-inch squares and store either at room temperature or in the fridge. You can also wrap it up in wax paper and put it into a freezer safe zip-top bag and store it in the freezer. Serve at room temperature.

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These Chicks Cooked @ This Chick Cooked

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Egg Nog Syrup

I'll just get to the point here. If you like egg nog, this syrup is going to knock your socks off!!! I couldn't wait to try it when I stumbled upon it a while ago and, believe me, I was NOT dissappointed. Not only is this a delicious and seasonal pancake topping, but you can also use it on ice cream or even a slice of warm gingerbread (yum!).

If you really like egg nog, you can serve this syrup with the egg nog pancakes I posted yesterday, even more delicious! But, good old buttermilk pancakes are great too.

Egg Nog Syrup
1 stick butter
3/4 cup good eggnog
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

In a large saucepan, bring to a boil the butter, eggnog, and sugar, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and whisk in rum extract and baking soda (it will foam when you put in the baking soda, so make sure you are using a large saucepan).

Allow to cool and either serve warm right away or refrigerate in an airtight container.

SOURCE: Adapted from Dine & Dish

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Egg Nog Pancakes

One thing I love about the holidays is that I get to indulge in yummy treats I don't usually get to, egg nog being one of them. Other than homemade fudge and caramel, a good egg nog hits right up there with one of my favorites and a must-have during the season. I love it so much, I've been known to drink it right out of the carton, forgetting about sharing it with anyone else or even using a proper cup. Thankfully I'm not the only egg nog-lover in my family; my dad and siblings are as well. In fact, last year my older brother went so far as to make his morning cream of wheat with egg nog-not sure about that one.

Well, another love of mine is anything breakfast, especially pancakes. So, when I bought an abundance of egg nog a couple of weeks ago, naturally my mind turned to egg nog pancakes, egg not syrup, egg nog breakfast get the picture. So, I created this recipe based on my basic pancakes recipe and it is absolutely delicious!

These pancakes are a little sweeter than your typical pancake because of the egg nog. I enjoyed eating them with just some melted butter and a dusting of powdered sugar. HOWEVER, I also made some crazy good egg nog syrup (which I will share tomorrow) and put it on top of the egg nog pancakes and it was complete bliss-to DIE for!!! So, you choose how you want to serve them; and the sooner the better.

Egg Nog Pancakes
3/4 cup good egg nog, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room terperature
1 egg
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. rum extract (optional)
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg nog, milk, egg, sugar, butter and rum extract, until well-incorporated. Then, stir in the rest of the ingredients until combined, taking care not to over-mix.

Let batter sit while griddle heats up. Ladle batter by the 1/4 cup onto griddle and cook until edges start to dry and bubbles start forming on top; about 2-3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Serve warm.

Makes about 8-10 pancakes

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These Chicks Cooked @ This Chick Cooks

Friday, December 16, 2011

Autumn Panzanella

I think now is a good time to stick a salad in here; mix it up with all those sweets and something healthy to stick under your belt before the onslaught of holiday goodies begins rolling in (if it hasn't already).

Panzanellas are one of my favorite kinds of salads, especially with the right kind of bread, toasted to perfection. I'm glad I stumbled upon this salad because sometimes it's easy to forget to eat your greens (and sometimes veggies too!) during the cold fall and winter months. Well, now there's no excuse. This fall-inspired panzanella gives you a mixture of delicious fall produce, good-for-you greens along with toasty bread and pumpkin seeds and a pop of both color and sweet-tart flavor from the dried cranberries.

Autumn Panzanella
olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 apples, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3-4 cups fresh greens
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4-1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds would work too)
4-5 thick slices multi-grain bread, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic powder in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, mix sweet potato and squash chunks, then generously drizzle olive oil on top and toss to coat. Add about 3/4 of the spice mixture, and toss again to coat. Lay on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring about half way through.

After 20 minutes, toss apple chunks with remaining spice mixture. Add apple to the baking sheet and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until everything is tender, tossing once or twice. Remove from oven and cool.

Toss pieces of bread in some olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, then spread on a separate baking sheet . Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add (green) pumpkin seeds and toast until lightly golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool in a separate dish.

In a large bowl, combine greens with roasted veggies and apple, toasted bread, seeds and cranberries. Toss with some of the vinaigrette and serve immediately. (You can serve the dressing separately if you don't plan on eating it all right away.)

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

SOURCE: Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gingerbread Play Dough

Here's another great holiday gift-giving idea; especially for the little ones. While looking for seasonal activities for my girls to do to keep them busy during the day, I remembered my friend gave me the recipe for this gingerbread play dough years ago. Playing with play dough is fun anyway, but it's even better when it makes everything smell like warm cinnamon and ginger.

Kids of all ages (and even the occasional adult) enjoy playing with play dough. Gift wrap some up and tie it with a small gingerbread cookie cutter for your kids to give as friend gifts, or just keep some on hand for those long quiet afternoon hours when the little ones get bored. This will keep them busy; and smelling great too!

Gingerbread Play Dough
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar (or alum)
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
6 Tbsp. oil
3 cups water

Heat mixture on low heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and knead. Let cool and keep in an airtight container or zip-top bag.

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These Chicks Cooked @ this Chick Cooks

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hot Chocolate Mix

If giving neighbor gifts around the holidays is your thing, than you might not want to let go of this recipe. Your neighbors will love you! Make sure you keep some for yourself though because it will knock your socks off how delicious it is. It is so rich and chocolaty and you can use whatever kind of milk you want. That's a bonus in our house since we drink two different kinds of milk around here.

...and can I just put in a little plug for my canning jars? I love them, they are so versatile! I use them for home canning but I also store anything and everything in them. They are also great for gift-giving things like soup mix, cookie mix and, of course, this hot chocolate mix.

Hot Chocolate Mix
4 cups granulated sugar
1½ lbs. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 oz. good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups cocoa powder

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the sugar, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate, and cocoa powder. Process in 4-second pulses until the chocolate is very finely ground and the mixture is well combined. Store the mix in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Serving Instructions:
Combine 2 tablespoons hot chocolate mix with 8 oz. of very warm milk and stir to combine until well blended.

SOURCE:Annie's Eats

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Sweet Indulgences Sunday @ A Well-Seasoned Life

Friday, December 2, 2011

Coconut Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Ok, last Thanksgiving leftover-ish post because it is now December and we want to move onto December things right?

Remember this post where I said I hardly ever had leftover sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving? Well, I've been lucky this year because I had lots of sweet potatoes. I did end up making those Ginger Sweet Potato Muffins I mentioned in the other post, as well as some Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting which, by the way, were to die for, but that's another post for another time.

Even after all that I still had some sweet potatoes left so I looked for another way to use them up. I love sweet potatoes just about any way I can get them, but I also like to try new things and change it up a bit once in a while. I found this slightly non-traditional recipe for mashed sweet potatoes and marshmallows that I really enjoyed. Coconut milk and warm spices with just a hint of brown sugar really make this dish. Then to top it off toast some marshmallows on top! You can either serve this dish in a 2-quart baking dish or or 4 1-cup ramekins.

Coconut Spiced Sweet Potatoes
2-2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large sweet potatoes)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°F. Scrub the sweet potatoes and boil or steam until very tender. Remove from heat and let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel the sweet potatoes. Alternately, you can peel and dice the sweet potatoes then boil them until tender.

Put the sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash with salt, brown sugar, butter, ginger, cinnamon and coconut milk until very smooth. Spoon sweet potatoes into baking dish or ramekins. Top with coconut and marshmallows. Bake until marshmallows and coconut are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

SOURCE:Slightly adapted from Whole Foods Market

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wild Rice and Quinoa with Turkey, Cranberries and Winter Squash

Here's another installment on using up those Thanksgiving leftovers. This casserole-type dish may not look like much, but let me tell you, it's some wonderful comfort food! It kind of tastes like a whole Thanksgiving meal wrapped up together. And since it's pretty much every course in one, I didn't have to make anything else to go with it (although you could), which made for a pretty easy weeknight meal. And my kids at it too, which is another bonus!

Wild Rice and Quinoa with Turkey, Cranberries and Winter Squash
1 cup wild rice blend, uncooked
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup diced onion
1 stalk celery, small diced
1 medium carrot, small diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 14-oz can chicken broth
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
fresh ground black pepper
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and shredded
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped mixed herbs (such as rosemary, sage, thyme or oregano); alternately you could use poultry seasoning, to taste

In a medium saucepot, bring to a boil 2 cups water, wild rice and bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. In a small saucepot, bring to a boil 1 cup water and quinoa. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a large, high-rimmed skillet, over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and saute about 6-8 minutes or until soft and onions are translucent. Add shredded squash about the last minute of cooking. Sprinkle with flour and let cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and let thicken; about a minute or two. Add turkey, cranberries and walnuts and cook until heated through; add cooked rice and quinoa and stir to combine. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the fresh herbs last, stirring to incorporate. Check again for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

SOURCE: Adapted from Whole Foods Market

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Orange Cranberry Scones with White Chips

Anyone still eating leftover Thanksgiving pie for breakfast? I think one of the best parts of a huge Thanksgiving meal is eating the leftovers for days in a row. I usually eat some of the leftovers straight up, but I like to save a little bit of turkey to make some good old comfort food; Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken Noodle Soup. IF there are any sweet potato leftovers (which their usually isn't), I like to make these Ginger Sweet Potato Muffins, practically my favorite muffin ever!

Leftover cranberry sauce probably gets overlooked most of the time. I know I haven't paid much attention to it in the past. I don't like to let things go to waste though, so I decided to incorporate what I had left into a scone. I think it worked out perfect. I had been dying to make scones anyway and the combination of the cranberries, orange and white chocolate chips couldn't have been better.

These scones are more moist than your typical scone, due to the cranberry sauce, but they still turn out wonderfully light and flaky. You may need to sprinkle your hands with flour when patting them out, and remember not to work them too much.

Orange Cranberry Scones with White Chips
For the dough:
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice (about half a small orange)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream, chilled

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice (about half a small orange)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. With either a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in white chips and set aside.

In a separate small mixing bowl, combine egg, cranberry sauce, orange juice and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and form the dough into a disk.

Gently and quickly pat the dough out, on a floured surface, into an 8-10 inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges and place onto baking pan. Brush tops with remaining 2 Tbsp. of heavy cream.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until scones are slightly brown on top.

For the glaze, mix powdered sugar and orange juice and drizzle over top of the warm scones. Serve warm or allow to cool completely.

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It's A Keeper Thursday @ It's A Keeper

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry Sour Cream Crumble

Not all the recipes that I share have a story or history behind them, but I love that this one does. My mom has had this recipe in her file box since probably before I was born; let's just say a LONG time. Back then my parents were young, finishing college, with three young children, and didn't have much extra money to splurge on things like REAL butter and sour cream. My mom, she has a good eye. She knows a good thing when she sees one. She tucked this recipe away until later in life when things were a little more established.

Now my mom has been making this for years and I've always enjoyed it but I have never actually made it myself until now. This crumble is perfect for serving at a breakfast or brunch, and especially perfect now that the holiday season is upon us.

Cranberry Sour Cream Crumble
1/4 cup chopped almonds

For the topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whole cranberry sauce

Heat oven to 350° F. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of almonds on the bottom of a greased 9-inch spring-form pan or 10-inch tube pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together all the topping ingredients until crumbly and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

In large mixer bowl, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then vanilla. Add in dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until incorporated.

Spoon half of batter into prepared pan, spreading to cover the bottom. Next, spoon cranberry sauce over the batter, spreading to the edges. Spoon remaining batter over cranberry sauce, spreading to cover. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake for 70-85 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack. Remove sides of spring-form pan and cool completely.

SOURCE:Land O' Lakes

Monday, November 14, 2011

Whole Grain Apple Cinnamon Chip Pancakes

You can tell by the sheer number of pancakes on this blog that we LOVE to eat them around here. I haven't posted a pancake recipe in a while but that sure doesn't mean we don't eat them often. In fact, my girls only eat a bowl of cereal once or twice a week, between pancakes, hot cereal, granola and the occasional eggs and toast.

We were lucky enough to score some fresh apples right from the orchard the other day. I love getting fresh fruit in season! I knew they would taste perfect shredded up in these pancakes. I don't usually throw "chips" in my pancakes, since I try to keep them pretty healthy, but this is about the only time of year you can find the cinnamon chips at the store and I thought I'd throw in a small bit.

My girls loved theses pancakes! My husband also went to work a few minutes late the morning I made these, just so he could have some. Delish!

Feel free to serve them with whatever syrup you would like, or top them with some warm applesauce or even apple butter.

Whole grain Apple Cinnamon Chip Pancakes
1 cup oats, quick or rolled
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
3 tbsp. oil
2 cups buttermilk
1 large apple, peeled and shredded
1/3 cup cinnamon chips

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Add in oats, flour, baking powder, soda and salt and whisk until just combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in the shredded apple and cinnamon chips. Let batter sit while griddle heats up.

Heat griddle to 250 degrees F, or about medium heat. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls and cook until edges start to look dry; about 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook on the other side until golden; about another 2 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach

Considering I don't like rice much, although I've grown to like it more over the years, I really enjoy risotto. Maybe it's the creamy, soft texture, or the magic that happens after you put the salty cheese in at the end. Hmm, I don't know, but it sure is good.

Risotto can pretty much be tailored to any season of the year by what ingredients you add to it. Fresh ingredients, in season, are the best. I love that it is so versatile and turns out wonderful each time.

This risotto is perfect for fall. I love the combination of the three mushrooms but if you can only find a couple of them, it is still sure to turn out for you. Finding dried mushrooms might be an option for those that are hard to find. I could only find dried shiitakes in the Asian section at my grocery store and just reconstituted them before adding them to the risotto.

Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach
4 cups chicken stock
6 bacon slices, cut into about 1-inch pieces
1 cup finely diced shallots
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped (dried is ok too)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
4 oz. oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice or other medium/short-grain rice
1/3 cup sherry cooking wine
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup (2 oz.) grated fresh Asiago cheese (can substitute Parmesan)
1/2 tsp.salt
1/4 tsp.freshly ground black pepper

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a small saucepan, without boiling; keep warm over low heat.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 8 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel lined plate. Add shallots, oil, thyme, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms to the onions and cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add rice and cook 1 minute until it turns slightly opaque; stir constantly. Stir in cooking wine and cook a minute or two, or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

Stir in 1 cup stock, cooking until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Taste for doneness of the rice near the end of cooking; it may be done before you've used all the stock. Do not add the rest or the rice will become too mushy.

Stir in spinach; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and bacon. Check for seasoning and then add salt and pepper to taste.

SOURCE: Adapted from Cooking Light

Monday, October 31, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White chocolate macadamia cookies were always my favorite growing up. Although nothing beats a homemade chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven, there was just something about these cookies that beckoned me. They were like a special treat. I would choose them over any other cookie if they were offered at a party or gathering. Sometimes I would even snag one at Mrs. Fields or Subway when I was at the mall hanging out.

That having been said, I never ONCE made them all that time! People don't really make white chocolate macadamia cookies do they? I mean, I know you can get them in large quantities at your local Costco and such, but really, I don't think I've ever eaten a homemade one! Do you even see many recipes for this wonderful cookie in many cookbooks? I'm sure the recipes are actually there, even if they are few and far between.

I don't know what prompted me to make these the other night, but I'm so glad I did! Well, actually, I have this love affair with the bulk foods section at WinCo every time I go there and the last time I was there I grabbed a small bags worth of macadamia nuts. I had great intentions to use them but never did. So, I figured there's no time like the present. Sunday nights my girls and I are almost always in the kitchen together making treats; usually brownies or cookies. So, as I opened my cupboard and saw all the little bags of bulk food goodness, I spied that little bag of nuts and naturally my mind went to cookies...and the rest is history.

So, long intro, I know, but I have to say these cookies are superb (and I'm pretty picky about my cookies)! They are a little crunchy around the outside edges but nice and chewy in the middle and they have that nice contrast between slightly salty and sweet. Stick this recipe in your cookie file, you're going to want to make them. (You can probably find good deals on nuts and chocolate chips now or soon with the upcoming holiday baking season, so stock up!)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cups chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the melted butter*, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the egg, then beat in the egg yolk, then beat in the vanilla. (*Do NOT skip cooling the butter down to room temperature, you may encounter problems with your dough if it is too hot.)

Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just moistened. Gently mix in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips either by hand with a rubber spatula, or with a few pulses of your mixer.

Using a small scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets. Slightly press down on the cookies with the palm of your hand a bit to flatten. but not too much. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges look golden brown and the middles don’t look quite set. Allow to finish cooling on the baking sheet. Remove cookies to a cooling rack and repeat with remaining dough, scooping dough out onto COOLED baking sheets (this will prevent them from spreading too quickly).

SOURCE:Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pepita Granola and Pumpkin Butter

If you like granola, you're in for a treat for today's post! I daresay that this has become my favorite granola...ever...I think. I first discovered it last fall, when I fell in love with it. Then I waited all the way until this fall to make it again, don't ask my why. Maybe because it seems strange to eat pumpkin other than during pumpkin season.

I usually eat my granola on top of some plain yogurt, but I couldn't resist mixing it together with some pumpkin butter to take it over the top. If you've never heard of or had pumpkin butter, it's pretty similar to apple butter in that you let it cook down with some sugar and spices. It's very easy to make and very tasty, but you only need a dollop because it packs a spice-packed punch.

If you have a hard time finding the nuts and dried fruit that you want, try shopping where they have a bulk foods section. I usually buy all my ingredients to make any kind of granola from the bulk section at my local WinCo. They are also less expensive there as well and you can just buy the quantity that you want.

You can also experiment with dried fruit by drying your own, especially if you have a dehydrator. I like to buy boxes of fruit, in season, to can and dry to use throughout the rest of the year. This year I got about 40 lbs. of delicious pears; you wouldn't believe how yummy they are dried! I'll hopefully be doing apples soon as well.

Pepita Granola
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1/4 cup ground flax seed (optional)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds (I used about 1/2 cup each of sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, and green (hulled) pumpkin seeds-not roasted)
2-3 cups mixed dried fruit (I used pears and cranberries; you could also use apricots, cherries, raisins, apples, figs, or whatever else you want.)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or other oil)
1/4 cup mild honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 - 1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch salt
splash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, flax meal, coconut and nuts. In a microwave safe bowl, gently melt the oil and honey; add the sugar, applesauce, cinnamon, salt and vanilla and stir until incorporated. Pour over the dry mixture and stir until it's evenly coated.

Spread granola over two cookie sheets and bake about 15-25 minutes, until lightly golden, stirring every 5 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Let granola cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Pumpkin Butter
1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin, or about 3 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of half a lemon

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.

Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge

SOURCE: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moroccan Fall Salad

I feel like the boy who cried wolf a little bit right now. Although it's been nice not having to worry about scheduling posts (while making preparations for baby instead), I still find myself wanting to share with you the yummy things I've been making!

I like food...a lot, and I love sharing it all with you. So, here I am again; I just can't stay away.

Baby is still due in 2 weeks. This will be girl #3-heaven help us! Some say #3 is the hardest, some say #2 was hardest. I guess we will see.

This is a truly unique salad! I had it for the first time about a year ago and tried to recreate it last fall but didn't do so hot. Recently I found myself with some root veggies that had been given to me and this salad came mind again. So, I went about trying to recreate the salad. Well, it made it on the blog, so this time was definitely a success!

I just love how loaded it is with different veggies; not to mention the dried fruit and nuts. When I ate this salad before, it was topped with Moroccan-spiced chicken. I didn't want to use chicken but still wanted those authentic flavors to pull the dish together. So, I created a vinaigrette that has some of those same spices, and I think it worked great! Here's some healthy eating inspiration to use up those fall veggies!

Moroccan Fall Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup butternut squash, diced (boiled or roasted*)
1/2 cup beets, diced (boiled, roasted* or canned)
1 avocado, diced
1-2 small carrots, peeled and sliced (or shredded)
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced or diced
1/2 large bell pepper, diced
1 hard-boiled egg, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dates, small-diced
1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds
Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

*You can roast the squash and beets at the same time if you wish. Just wash, peel and dice them. Throw them on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I kept them separated on the same cookie sheet so the beets wouldn't bleed onto the squash. Roast in a 425 F oven for about 15-20 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so and tossing them around a bit.

Prepare all the rest of the ingredients while the squash and beets are roasting, setting aside the eggs, avocado.

When beets and squash are finished cooking and cooled down, toss everything but the eggs and avocado together in a large salad bowl. Dish out salad onto individual plates and top with egg, avocado and feta cheese, if desired. Serve with Moroccan vinaigrette.

Moroccan Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, ginger (I actually used fresh)
1 garlic clove, minced

Put all ingredients into a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Easy Pizza Sauce

Just taking a second to throw this up here, especially since it goes with my last post for pizza. I love this pizza sauce. If you make pizza a lot, you should try it.

For over a year now I have been using an easy pizza sauce that you just add a powder mix to a can of tomato sauce. I liked it ok, but I realized it wasn't the freshest option, nor the healthiest (since most pre-packaged spice mixes have anti-caking agents in them for a long shelf life.) I don't know about you but I'd much rather have something fresh, plus the taste is always better. This sauce is pretty close to fresh and it's super quick and easy to boot! It also tastes loads better than the stuff you can get in a pre-packaged spice mix.

Easy Pizza Sauce
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
drizzle of olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

Add everything together in a small mixing bowl and mix well. Let sit for an hour or so before you're ready to make your pizza.

SOURCE: Adapted from Alli-n-Son

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza

This has been my new favorite pizza lately. I actually made it twice within a week once and didn't even get tired of it. The flavors of all the fresh veggies and two cheeses really go together well; I especially love the pop of the fresh basil. I know it's nearing the end of the season, when you can get all this produce cheap, but if you have a chance, squeeze this into your menu before it gets too cold!

Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza
Makes 1 large (about 16-inch)pizza
1 recipe Perfect Pizza Crust
your favorite pizza sauce
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup julienned red and yellow peppers
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn or chiffonade

Make pizza crust according to directions. Preheat oven (and pizza stone) to 450 degrees F. Roll pizza dough out onto either a pizza stone or the back of a cookie sheet that's been generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread sauce on top.

If you're using sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil, place them in a small saucepan and add water until they are just covered. Boil for about 5 minutes, until soft; drain and chop.

Layer Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and peppers on top of pizza dough. Top with feta, mozzarella and basil. Bake for about 7-10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown.

SOURCE:Adapted from the Costco Cookbook

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers

*I had a request over 2 weeks ago to post theses chicken fingers. Sorry it has taken me so long, hope you enjoy!

Mmmmm, crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, these chicken fingers were pretty perfect; aside from the fact that there was coconut involved-which I love! We couldn't get enough of these, they were a big hit at our house, kids and all! I loved dipping them in the sweet chili sauce; the contrast was a great combination. To use some of the leftover coconut milk, I served the chicken with this Thai Coconut Rice, as well as some sweet peas.

Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2)
1 large egg
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
sweet chili sauce

Trim off fat from chicken breasts and cut them into strips. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Set up your breading station on the counter, using either 3 plates or bowls, set in a row. At the end, place your baking sheet, either sprayed with cooking spray or lined with a silpat. In the first container, combine the flour, salt and pepper. In the second, whisk together the egg and coconut milk. In the last container, combine the panko with the shredded coconut.

Bring your chicken over; dredge each piece lightly in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next dip it in the egg/coconut mixture, then the coconut and bread crumbs, pressing lightly to make sure it sticks to the chicken. Lay each piece on the baking sheet. (When putting your chicken pieces through the breading station, it is helpful to use one hand for the wet and one hand for the dry. That way, your fingers don't get stuck with all the breading on them.)

Bake chicken strips for about 12-15 minutes or until no longer pink. Serve with sweet chili sauce (readily available on the Asian aisle of most markets).

SOURCE: Adapted from Budget Bytes

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce

*I thought this was another fitting post for the end of the summer. If you're like anyone else, tomatoes are busting out of your garden about now and you're running out of ideas to use them for. Try this sauce, you'll love it. And if you've canned all you can can, you can dry your tomatoes and call them sun-dried tomatoes; they're pretty posh in the store, but cheap and easy to make at home.

I've been canning my own pasta sauce for a few years now. I've experimented with different pouch mixes, where all you have to add is basically the tomatoes, as well as doing everything from scratch, chopping an dicing every last veggie and herb. I have two favorites that I really like now and they are completely different. The first is Mrs. Wages Pasta Sauce pouch mix; I believe it is readily available in most markets near the canning supplies. I love that all I have to is add the tomatoes to the mix (well after all the work of blanching, peeling and chopping in the food processor- which is really not that bad). I like the flavor of the pouch, but my husband wasn't as fond, so I started trying actual recipes from scratch.

I came across this Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce last summer and made a batch then. I really liked it and even got a thumbs up from my hubby; so, this has become my other favorite. Since it's a basic sauce, it's not really much more work than using a pouch; all you're really adding is herbs and spices to the tomatoes. I love the fresh, clean taste of this sauce. It's not overly seasoned, so apart from using it as-is for a light pasta dish, you can still dress it up with Italian sausage to make a more complex sauce.

The recipe only makes about 6 pints, which is probably a good-sized batch for beginners. However, if I'm going to can, I'm going to CAN! I like to can my pasta sauce in quarts and make about 12 quarts worth at a time. If you decide to multiply the batch and do more, make sure you check your measurements WELL and even then add the spices a little at a time to make sure it tastes to your liking. I made the mistake of adding WAY too much black pepper once and although the sauce tasted good, it gave you that kick in the back of the throat right after.

For more information on basic canning you can check out the Ball website or grab the Ball Blue Book of Canning at your local grocery store or Walmart. I love this book, I call it my canning bible. I've used it a ton and well-worth the $5 or $6 it costs to purchase.

Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce
Makes about 12 cups sauce (6 pints)

12 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 25 tomatoes), blanched and peeled
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp kosher salt or 4 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, parsley, or Italian (flat-leaf) parsley), chopped
6 Tbsp lemon juice

Cut peeled tomatoes into chunks and add some of the chunks to the food processor. Cover and process until chopped. Transfer chopped tomatoes to a 7- to 8-quart nonreactive heavy pot. Repeat chopping remaining tomatoes, in batches, in the food processor. Add all tomatoes to the pot.

Add brown sugar, salt, vinegar, and black pepper to the tomato mixture. Bring to boiling. Boil steadily, uncovered, for 70 to 80 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to about 12 cups (making sure you have enough to process 6 FULL pints) and is desired sauce consistency. Remove from heat; stir in herbs.

Spoon 1 tablespoon lemon juice into each of six hot, clean pint canning jars. Ladle sauce into jars with lemon juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims; adjust lids. Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 35 minutes (start time when water returns to a full boil). Remove jars; cool on wire racks.

SOURCE: Better Homes and Gardens

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cool Zucchini Slaw

*I know, I know, I just signed off the other day. I forgot I had this ready to post and I couldn't leave you at the end of the summer without it. I've made it a couple of time recently and just love it!

Since I don't have my own garden this year, I haven't had to deal with zucchini and summer squash coming out my ears like I have in the past. However, I was given a bunch of it all within a couple of days and needed a new idea of how to use it. My kids won't really eat it cooked and I'll just say it's not my husband's favorite vegetable. So, I thought about making a raw zucchini salad and thought a slaw would be perfect. I found this recipe right away, made my own little tweaks and came up with this wonderful, fresh, slightly crunchy and definitely tasty salad. So, if you're looking to use up what's left in your garden, look no further!

Cool Zucchini Slaw
For the slaw:
1 1/2 pounds zucchini and/or summer squash, (about 3 medium), grated
1/2 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, very thinly sliced (I just used a small amount of a red onion)
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and grated
1 large red or green bell pepper, julienned
2-4 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate
drizzle of olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Shred the zucchini/squash, as well as the onion and set it in a colander for about half an hour to drain out some of the liquid. Once drained, add the zucchini and onion to a salad bowl, and add the apple pepper and fresh basil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary. Pour over slaw and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


If you can't already tell (by the amount of salads I've posted lately), I love salads and I love to eat them in the summer when everything is so fresh. Last summer I discovered this Greek Panzanella which I absolutely love, but I recently re-discovered this more traditional panzanella (in my ever long list of bookmarked recipes) that is wonderful and just as delicious. If you are unfamiliar with the word panzanella, it's Italian, basically a leftover bread salad. Typically panzanellas don't sport lettuce but I like to throw it in because I'm all about getting your daily greens, and this seemed like a no-brainer to me.

This recipe comes from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, so you know it's gonna be good. I only expect the best from her and she ALWAYS delivers. I hope you enjoy this salad as much as I do.

For the salad:
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 tsp. salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp.freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion and basil. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

SOURCE: Ina Garten

Monday, September 5, 2011

Crunchy Asian Salad

This was a super fun salad to make and eat! It's not difficult in any way, nor are there complex flavors or ingredients. What makes this salad extra special and tasty is the crunchy topping. What fun texture and flavor to add to a simple salad.

I've used both romaine lettuce as well as green cabbage, for a little variety, although most any lettuce or cabbage will do. I've also kept the veggies simple, but feel free to add more.

Crunchy Asian Salad
For the topping:
1 pkg. ramen noodles (flavor packet discarded)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds

For the salad:
1/2 small head green cabbage, shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
2 red peppers, julienned
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
6 green onions, thinly sliced

To prepare the topping, crush ramen noodles and add to a small frying pan pan with butter, sesame seeds and almonds. Cook until golden brown, stirring often. Remove to a small plate or dish to cool.

Add all salad ingredients to a large salad bowl and toss to evenly distribute veggies. Serve salad on individual plates, adding salad dressing and topping as desired.

Notes: I used the vinaigrette from this salad because I had leftovers. You could easily just throw together equal parts of rice vinegar and canola oil, a splash of sesame oil, sugar and soy sauce for another quick and easy dressing.

SOURCE: Adapted from Your Homebased Mom

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Souvlaki Chicken Salad Sandwich w/ Roasted Red Peppers

I haven't made chicken salad for quite a long time. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I ate it! I like it ok, but I'm not a huge fan of anything, so I try to stray away from it. I came across this recipe a few weeks ago, I don't even know how, but it so intrigued me. Chicken salad with NO mayo and all the Greek flavors I absolutely love; I say WIN! And oh, was this a winner. My husband took it to work the next day for lunch and raved about how good it was too.

The chicken I used in the salad came from this chicken I roasted earlier the same day. I did use the pan drippings, as the recipe states, the first time I made the salad. The second time I made the salad, I pulled the leftover chicken from the freezer and just used olive oil instead and it was still yummy. Seriously, this is the best sandwich I've had in a long time. You've got to try it!

Souvlaki chicken Salad Sandwich w/ Roasted Red Peppers
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. drippings from roast chicken (optional), or a drizzle of olive oil
2 Tbsp. red onion, finely diced
1/3 cup feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
2 small roasted red peppers, sliced in fourths, lengthwise
baby spinach leaves
sandwich rolls or bread

In a small bowl, mix together chicken, oregano, garlic, drippings, onion, feta, salt and pepper. Check for seasonings and add more, if necessary.

To assemble, slice sandwich rolls and put about 1/4 cup of chicken salad on the bottom half of roll. Layer a few spinach leaves on to of the chicken, then top with a fourth of the roasted red pepper and the top half of the sandwich roll. Enjoy!

SOURCE:Adapted from Closet Cooking

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies

You're gonna want to unbutton your pants right now, or go slip on something with an elastic waistband. I'm telling you, these babies are RICH and slightly decadent! What a perfect combination though, chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels. It reminds me of one of my favorite Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream flavors: chubby hubby. My husband and I discovered it on our honeymoon and it became our guilty pleasure for a while.

I love the salty sweet combination and these brownies have layers of it. First, the pretzel layer on the bottom actually lends a little of both and adds a great crunchy texture. The brownie layer is obviously nice and sweet, and dense if you make your brownies like me. I love a good dense brownie. To top it off, the peanut butter frosting is OUT OF THIS WORLD! I've used it on brownies and cupcakes before and practically can't keep my fingers out of it. It's got the sweet and salty thing going on too. Just can't resist that!

You'll want to take these to a potluck or family party to keep you from eating half the pan. Maybe a few minutes on the treadmill wouldn't hurt either. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies

For the pretzel layer:
2 cups pretzel, crushed (but not to a powder)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar

For the brownie layer:
1 box of your favorite brownie mix (9x13 size), or your favorite brownie recipe

For the peanut butter frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. While oven is preheating, put the butter in a 9x13 cake pan to melt. Crush the pretzels. When butter is completely melted, stir in the sugar then add the pretzel pieces. Stir the pretzels around until they are completely coated in the butter/sugar mixture, then spread them evenly across the bottom of the pan. Put the pan back in the oven and bake 10 minutes. Remove and cool.

Prepare brownies (enough for a 9x13 pan) according to directions and pour over cooled pretzels. (I didn't wait quite long enough for the pretzels to cool, so they were still a little warm when I poured the brownies on, thus resulting in the pretzels sinking into the brownies a little more than I had wished.) Bake brownies according to directions, then cool completely!

To prepare the frosting, put the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth; a minute or two. Do not whip or the cream will start to separate.

Frost brownies and cover. Refrigerate for an hour two before serving.

SOURCE: Frosting from Ina Garten

Linked to...
Sweet Indulgences Sunday @ A Well-Seasoned Life
Sweets For A Saturday @ Sweet As Sugar Cookies

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Creamy Lemon-Herb Pasta

Let me just tell you, this is the perfect summer dish! It is easy, quick and uses what most people have in abundance this time of year: zucchini and fresh herbs from the garden. Really, it takes no longer to throw together than the time it takes you to boil your pasta, especially if your chicken is already cooked. I used the leftover chicken from the Lemon and Oregano Chicken I roasted earlier in the week so all I had to do was take it out of the fridge when it was time to throw it all together.

Feel free to use whatever chicken you have on hand, chopped or shredded. If you want a simple marinade, just throw a couple drizzles of olive oil, juice of a lemon and some salt and pepper in a zip-top bag with your uncooked chicken and let it sit for 30 minutes or so then throw it on the grill when you're ready to prepare the rest of the meal.

If I were Rachel Ray, this would be one of my 30-minute meals. And on a good day, I bet you could whip this dish up in 15 minutes; I'd say pretty perfect for a weeknight dinner.

Creamy Lemon-Herb Pasta
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, grilled and sliced or shredded
1/2 lb pasta
2 medium zucchini (I used one zucchini and one yellow squash)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic
Juice of 2 lemons
2 oz. cream cheese
1 C shredded parmesan cheese
about 8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp. oregano, dried (or a small handful of fresh, chopped)
salt and pepper

Season and cook/grill/roast your chicken as desired, or use leftovers from a rotisserie chicken. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Preheat grill or or indoor grill pan. Slice zucchini and/or squash, on the diagonal, about 1/8th-inch thick. Grill zucchini/squash and onion, just until lightly browned; about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from grill and set aside. Drop pasta into boiling water and cook according to package directions.

In a large skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil to heat up, over medium high heat. Add garlic and dried oregano and saute 1 minute. Add lemon juice and cream cheese. Once cream cheese starts melting, start whisking it together so the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and add the parmesan. Continue whisking until cheese is melted and sauce is once again smooth. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Add reserved chicken and grilled veggies. Toss to coat.

Drain pasta and pour into a large ceramic dish. Pour sauce mixture over pasta, gently folding in the chicken and veggies. Add fresh basil (if using fresh oregano, add it here as well) and toss one more time.

Serve warm.

SOURCE: Adapted from Our Best Bites

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken

I can't tell you how divinely my house smelled when I was roasting this chicken. It was all I could do to keep my hands out of it when it was cooled and out of the oven, while I was trying to separate it for the week's meals.

I had a few meals in mind when I decided to make this chicken and I had originally wanted to buy a whole chicken to roast, then almost fell back on buying an already cooked rotisserie chicken. But, I was out for a budget buy this time and saw a pack of 5 bone-in chicken breasts marked down to under $4 and decided that would get me the most bang for my buck. The chicken breasts cooked up just as well as a whole chicken would have, tasted out of this world and cooked in a lot less time than a whole chicken would.

This simple, easy to prepare chicken would be a great addition to any number of dishes, or you can simply enjoy it by itself, along side some crusty bread and steamed veggies. Check back soon to see the other dishes I used this chicken in!

Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken, or bone-in chicken breasts; about 3-4 lbs. (rinsed and patted dry)
1 lemon (quartered)
4 sprigs fresh oregano (optional)
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 lemon (zest and juice)
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

If you're using a whole chicken, place in a roasting pan and fill the cavity with the lemon quarters, oregano sprigs and garlic. If you're using bone-in chicken breasts, line a cookie sheet with foil and arrange the chicken breasts on top. Arrange the lemon quarters and whole garlic cloves around the chicken.

Mix together the lemon zest, juice, oregano, garlic, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gently loosen the skin on the chicken and, without tearing the skin, rub the mixture underneath it as much as possible.

Roast chicken in preheated oven until done and juices run clear; about 1 1/2 - 2 hours for a whole chicken and about 35-45 minutes for chicken breasts.

Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes

SOURCE:Closet Cooking

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa

One thing I love about dinner time during the summer is all the fresh ingredients that are available. Everything seems to POP with flavor and a lot of times will require little to no cooking. That's the case with this meal. We absolutely loved it. My favorite part was actually the mango salsa, I thought it really made the dish. This was the first time I had added mangoes to a fresh salsa and thought it worked beautifully. You still get that tomato-garlicky-cilantro taste with a bite of sweetness from the mango here and there. It went perfectly with the seasoned chicken and the creamy avocados on top.

I like to use corn tortillas when I make tacos, but they can be a bit finicky sometimes and break apart, which can be frustrating. Usually, I pour a shallow amount of oil in a small fry pan and fry them up for about 30 seconds a side, then drain on a paper towel. If you don't want to use corn tortillas, feel free to substitute flour tortillas.

Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa
For the marinade:
juice of 2 limes
2-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin
dash chili powder
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
dash of salt and pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips

For the tacos:
8 corn tortillas
oil, for frying (optional)
avocado, thinly sliced
shredded romaine lettuce

For the Mango Salsa:
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1-2 medium tomatoes, diced
3/4 cup jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (use a whole jalapeno if you like more spice)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 small red onion,very thinly sliced or finely diced
2 tablespoons honey
juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare marinade by adding all the ingredients, except the chicken, into a zip-top bag. Shake until well-combined. Add chicken and seal bag, then shake until chicken is well-coated. Place bag on a plate and let marinade on the counter for 30-60 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare salsa by chopping the mangoes, tomatoes, jicama and jalapeno. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the salsa. Gently fold until evenly mixed. Let sit at room temperature.

Prepare corn tortillas by frying them, if desired. Fry tortillas, one at a time, in a small frying pan with a little oil, about 30 seconds a side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Alternately you can use them un-fried or use flour tortillas.

To cook chicken, either preheat an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan. Cook chicken until no longer pink inside; about 5 minutes.

To assemble tacos, layer the shredded lettuce on the bottom of a tortilla, then add the chicken, mango salsa and top with thinly sliced avocado.

SOURCE:Adapted from

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

S'mores Cake in a Jar

I'm a just a little bit of a s'mores fan. Ok, really, I'm a HUGE fan. I love them just about any way I can get them. In fact, I should have a label over there on the side with all the s'mores goodies I've made; ice cream, pancakes, bars, cookies, get the picture.

Anyway, I made this little treat for a friend's birthday and had no idea what a huge hit they would be. They are super easy and taste just like a s'more! Plus, it's such a fun presentation, how can anyone resist eating them?

S'mores Cake in a Jar
8-10 half-pint canning jars

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 stick butter
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter and mix in graham crumbs and salt. Mix until moistened. Spray canning jars with non-stick spray and press about 1-2 tablespoons graham crust into jars.

For the cake:
1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk (I used 1/2 cup whole and 1/2 cup 1%)
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) butter, melted
2 tablespoons sour cream

For the topping:
1/2 bag of marshmallows; large or small (In some of my jars I used the minis and others I used the new marshmallow stackers, which are kind of fun.)

In a bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add milk, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Mix until batter is smooth. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, divide batter evenly between jars. Try not to fill them more than half way. Place the jars in a baking dish and add about 1 1/2 cups of water to the bottom. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cake is set.

Remove cakes from the oven and press marshmallows down on top, being careful not to burn yourself. Use your own discretion here as to how many marshmallows you want to stuff in the jars. Turn the oven to broil and put jars back in. DO NOT WALK AWAY OR TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE CAKES! Marshmallows should be puffed and browned in about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

My notes:
-I used half pint jars, which I think is a good individual-sized portion. However, I think I would have liked the graham cracker and cake layers to be just a little bit thinner. So, for me 9 half pints would have been perfect. You can try different sized canning jars, just don't pour the cake batter in more than half way.
-I did use one pint jar and the cake was cooked the same time as the half-pint jars.

SOURCE: Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Linked to...
Sweets For A Saturday @ Sweet As Sugar Cookies
Sweet Indulgences Sunday @ A Well-Seasoned Life

Friday, August 12, 2011

Asian Wonton Salad

This was a fun salad to make and eat! I absolutely loved it. If you look at the ingredients, it doesn't look much different than a lot of other salads. But, what sets it apart is the delicious sesame dressing and the crunchy won tons....oh, the crunchy won tons; talk about fun to eat. I'm all about color in my salads too, because I want it to be eye appealing as well as good tasting, and there was some definite color going on here.

If you like to eat salad a lot, then add this to your repertoire. I love to change up my salads so I don't get tired of eating the same thing all the time. I don't know about you, but I'm also more likely to eat them more often as well if it's not the same old, same old.

I ate this as a main dish without any meat, but if you feel like adding something more substantial, try some grilled or shredded chicken, or even toasted cashews if you want to keep it meatless.

Asian Wonton Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1 small head cabbage, shredded
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 cucumber, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1/2 package wonton wrappers (save the other half in the freezer to make for another time)
vegetable oil for frying

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a small or medium frying pan. Use pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut wontons into thirds (3 strips). The oil should be around 375 degrees. Place only 3-4 strips in the pan at once; fry for 10 seconds, flip and fry for another 10 seconds or so. They go quickly so watch closely. Remove fried wontons to a paper towel-lined plate or tray. (These can be made ahead of time and kept in an air tight container.)

Shred lettuce and cabbage and place in a large salad bowl. Top with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, carrots and red onion. If you are serving the salad immediately, pour only enough salad dressing to lightly coat everything and toss to combine; add wontons and gently toss again or just place them on top. Otherwise, dish out salad portions to each plate and top with dressing and wontons.

Sesame Dressing
2/3 cup rice vinegar
2/3 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbsp sesame seeds

Place all ingredients into a pint jar (or something equivalent) and shake vigorously. If desired, make ahead of time and store in the fridge.

SOURCE: Adapted from Our Best Bites

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cheesey Garlic Bread Swirls

My husband said these rolls were deceptively delicious when he tried them, because they don't look like much; according to him. Actually, they are much like the pizza rolls I make, just without the pizza sauce.

I made these to go with dinner the other night and everyone could barely keep their hands off of them before it was time to eat! That should say enough about them to make you want to try them right?

These rolls are super easy and quick to throw together. I actually didn't even plan on making them until I had already started making dinner and I was still able to get them done in time to eat. (But then again, bread raises relatively fast in my house too.)

I like to use Johnny's Garlic Bread seasoning but feel free to make or use your favorite kind.

Cheesey Garlic Bread Rolls
1 recipe Perfect Pizza Crust
2-3 Tbsp. butter, softened
garlic bread seasoning
mozzarella cheese

Make pizza dough according to directions. After it has risen, roll it out into a rectangle; about 15 inches by 6 inches. Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle garlic bread seasoning and mozzarella on top. Roll the dough up jelly-roll style.

With a piece of dental floss, slide it under the roll and pinch of pieces about 1-inch thick (for a visual, see photos on my orange roll recipe). Lay the rolls in a 13x9-inch baking pan, sprayed with cooking spray. Cover lightly and let raise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F when the rolls are just about done raising. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve warm.

SOURCE: Adapted from Our Best Bites
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