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

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vegan Breakfast Cookies

The first time I had theses cookies I could not get enough of them! My friend Rachel created the recipe and shared them at a class she was giving and I couldn't wait to get the recipe. I love her recipes because she puts a lot of thought into them and adds things that pack a nutritional punch. For example, coconut, I've talked a little about how good it is for our bodies in previous posts, raw sesame seeds are packed with calcium, flax seed is a great source for essential fatty acids and dietary fiber, and oats are also a good source of fiber as well as protein.

These little breakfast cookies are so delicious and the perfect way to start your day. The dough makes a relatively small batch because they are best eaten fresh, preferably the same day they are made. However, they will keep for several days.

Vegan Breakfast cookies
1 banana, mashed
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup agave
1/4 cup sesame seeds (preferably raw)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins (you could also sub dried cherries or cranberries)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the banana and the coconut oil. Add agave and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and bake on parchment lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 12 -15 cookies.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chicken Milano

With the first bite of this meal, my husband said, "this is way better than Olive Garden."....and that is why we don't go out to eat! Ok, well, not really but I'm pretty choosy about where we go when we do go out.

This dinner is a real treat. It is so packed with flavor, it practically bursts in your mouth with every bite. The sauce is absolutely amazing, and although the original called for heavy cream, I wanted to use coconut milk to avoid dairy issues with my hubby and kids. The depth of flavor it created was wonderful. I couldn't believe how good it tasted, I thought for sure it wouldn't be up to par with heavy cream, but in this instance, I really think it surpassed it. The fresh basil at the end is a wonderful addition, but if you don't have any on hand you can use dried.

Chicken Milano
olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut into halves (4 pieces total)
Cajun seasoning, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1 cup (about half a can) full-fat coconut milk (or you can use heavy cream)
5 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp.chopped fresh basil
1/4 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) Fettucine pasta

Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and a bit of Cajun seasoning on both sides. In a large, deep skillet or grill pan, heat olive oil over medium and saute chicken until cooked through. (Alternately, you could grill the chicken on an outdoor grill.) Transfer cooked chicken to a cutting board and cover to keep warm. Drain the fat from the juices left in the pan.

Once water in stock pot is boiling, drop pasta and cook to al dente, according to package directions.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat; add a drizzle of olive oil with it. Add sliced mushrooms and saute until dark in color and tender. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet (or more olive oil if you prefer), as well as the garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and white wine; increase to medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Add the coconut milk/heavy cream and mushrooms and bring to a boil, stirring often. Simmer over medium heat just another minute or so; sauce will be thin. Stir in basil, Parmesan cheese and more salt, pepper and/or Cajun seasoning, if desired.

Drain pasta and pour into large casserole dish. Pour sauce over pasta and let sit about 5 minutes.

Slice chicken and serve on top of the pasta and sauce. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and more basil, if desired.

Tasty Kitchen

Linked to...
Recipe Swap Thursday @ Prairie Story
It's A Keeper Thursday @ It's A Keeper
Seasonal Sunday @ Real Sustenance

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 2011 Menu

Oops, I just typed in July menu in the title! I can't believe it's already August. The summer is flying by. Although it's been hot, I was thinking yesterday how enjoyable this summer has actually been, pregnant and all. We've spent lots of time at the park and at the pool, enjoying the outdoors as much as we can.

Last month we tried two new amazing recipes, Chicken Milano and Chicken Parmesan. If you haven't checked out chicken Parmesan, you've got to try it! The chicken Milano will be up tomorrow morning so you'll have to remember to stop by and check it out as well. AMAZING I tell you!

This month I think I have some pretty good meals lined up as well that I can't wait to try and some others that are old favorites. For those of you that are new, recipes that are linked are recipes already on the blog, that we've made before, and the rest I will post as I go.

Spaghetti, fresh green beans and Cheesy Garlic Rolls
Black Bean Burgers with Homemade Burger Buns, Jicama and Apple Slaw, steak fries
Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach & Feta Quinoa Salad, with fresh fruit
Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad, corn on the cob

Mini Lasagna Cups, veggie/salad, leftover Cheesy Garlic Rolls
Lemon Linguine with Grilled Chicken
Jambalaya, Spicy Cucumber Salad
Fire Roasted Panzanella, Sweet Potato Fries
Souvlaki Chicken Salad with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta, Greek Salad

Corn and Basil Cakes with fresh salsa, fresh fruit
Chicken Enchiladas, salad/veggie
Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto w/ Baby Spinach, fruit
Asian Turkey Meatballs w/ Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce, brown rice & Asian Slaw
Homemade Pizza

Shrimp, Feta & Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese, fresh fruit
Pork tacos w/ Chile Verde, corn on the cob
Lemon Zucchini Fettuccine w/ Corn, Asparagus and Basil, Grilled Caesar Salad
Asian Pork Salad, rice and beans, fresh fruit

Other Stuff
Oatmeal Pancake Mix
English Muffins
Coconut & White Chocolate Pancakes
Peach Pancakes w/ Ginger Syrup

Monday, August 1, 2011

Creamy Caprese Pasta

So, a couple of weeks ago I bought this nice basil plant to keep in my kitchen or window sill. Well, I left it outside a few days and all of a sudden I noticed it was being eaten alive!!! I brought it in to check it out and noticed that small beetles had taken residence in it. I wasn't too happy. Now my plant is dying. I covet my basil plants during the summer because they're so nice and convenient to have and a very inexpensive alternative to buying fresh herbs at the grocery store every time you need them. Luckily I was able to get some more fresh basil from my mom's garden that I kept in a plastic bag in the fridge. I guess I learned my lesson!

Now about this pasta. This is the perfect dish to showcase some of the wonderful fresh flavors of summer: fresh basil and tomatoes. Everything tastes better with fresh ingredients anyway. I love the tomato/basil/fresh mozzarella combo, just LOVE it. And there are so many ways to do it too; pizza, panini, get the picture. I like this way because my kids are pretty good pasta eaters and this dish in particular came together very quickly; always a plus in my book, especially after a long day. You'll love it too. It's nice and creamy and packed with flavor.

Creamy Caprese Pasta
1/2 pound whole wheat tube pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or ziti
1 cup of your favorite pasta/tomato sauce
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
1 pint of grape tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves; about 5-6 large leaves
Fresh grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Boil water and cook pasta according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat tomato sauce over low heat in a large saucepan. Once warm, stir in heavy cream and grated parmesan. Fold in mozzarella cubes (reserving some of them to top the pasta with), tomatoes and about 3-4 of the chopped fresh basil leaves.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and pour into a large casserole dish. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. Top with remaining fresh mozzarella, add more if you like. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Top with additional fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

How Sweet It Is
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