Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Raspberry Almond Thumbprints


I got this recipe from this amazing blog, seriously check her out, talk about some serious inspiration. I keep telling myself that when we are in a house instead of an apartment, I am going to entertain just like her. She is something else. Anyways, I love the use of almonds instead of walnuts, which is how we always made them growing up. Mine spread a little much, so they aren't too beautiful, but they make up for it in taste! Enjoy!

Almond Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used 1/2 vanilla and 1/2 almond extract)
3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. almonds, ground coarsely
1 c. raspberry preserves

DIRECTIONS:
-In bowl of stand mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat on high until light and fluffy in color, about 3 minutes.
-Add eggs and beat to combine well.
-Add vanilla and combine.
-Scrape down sides of bowl, slow mixer to low and add flour and almonds.
-Beat to combine (mixture will be coarse), remove bowl from mixer and scrape down sides, making sure all mixture is thoroughly combined.
-Scoop dough out into tsp sized rounds, rolling into balls. Place on cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart.
-Place cookie sheet in fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets.
-Make an indentation into top of cookie with finger.
-Using a spoon, place a small amount of jam into indentation of each cookie.
-Place into oven and bake until starting to turn golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
-Remove from oven and let cool before serving

Friday, December 19, 2008

More soup from the crock pot

I LOVE this soup, and I love that it sits in my crock pot all day while I work and I come home to an awesome filling meal. This recipe makes a lot of soup, but I love to freeze it in individual tupperwares so I have lunch for work. This recipe is supposed to be like the Olive Garden's Pasta Fagioli, but mine is always thicker then theirs, even more like a chili I guess. So anyways, I prep everything at night and just put it in the fridge, so in the morning before work all I have to do is put it in the warmer and let it do its magic.


Pasta Fagioli

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb cooked ground beef
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup of chopped onion
3 stalks celery chopped
40 0z can of tomato juice
14 oz can of beef broth
2 cans of kidney beans with liquid
1 can of white kidney beans with liquid
26 0z can of tomato sauce
8 0z of cooked macaroni noodles
oregano, basil, paprika, and garlic to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Add all ingredients except for noodles to crock pot and let simmer on low all day. 1 hour before serving add cooked macaroni noodles.
Serve with Parmesan cheese and bread sticks for dipping.
And if your married to a husband like mine, he will need a sandwich to go with it, because soup is not enough to fill him up, or so he says.

Fall Food

Alright, I know it is winter now, but it is just starting to feel like fall here in California, and I am sooo behind in posting, that this fall favorite of mine is just now going up. Super easy, everyone has a version of this, but just in case they don't, I have to post this, everyone should enjoy this side dish. Michael had actually never had squash like this, and he was pleasantly surprised. He did give it a bit of the once over when I put it in front of him though. :)


Fall Squash

INGREDIENTS:
1 acorn or butternut squash, cut in half
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
2 heaping! tbsp brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Place squash cut side down in a glass baking dish with about1 inch of water, cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, until sides of squash are soft to the touch
Remove pan from oven, turn squash over and fill with the honey, butter, and brown sugar (1 tbsp of each per squash, but isn't that kind of obvious) Place back into oven uncovered and bake an additional 10 minuter. Now put it on the plate and enjoy.
These are also really good mashed, but why bother, I think the presentation is cute as is!



Serious comfort food...done lighter!

This recipe for alfredo sauce is all over the Weight Watcher's website for good reason. It is incredibly easy, and delicious. We added some sauteed scallops, shrimp, and sun dried tomatoes and served it over tomato flavored fettuccine. Something else that I also love about this recipe is that it is just for 2 servings, since alfredo sauce left overs are never great warmed up. Enjoy.


LAUGHING COW ALFREDO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:
3 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Garlic & Herb
3/4C skim milk
1 tbsp reduced fat Parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder


INSTRUCTIONS:
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all the ingredients over a low heat, until everything is melted and the sauce is velvety smooth, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately over hot cooked pasta of your choice

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas is coming!



Alright, I will admit to you that I do not actually feel that way. Christmas just doesn't seem to come in California. I really hope that on December 23, when I step off that plane in Washington, all the sudden the Christmas rush hits me. I am really missing it. No matter what I do, it just doesn't feel like Christmas here. The lights are up, the Christmas music is on, and I made these cookies from Katie's fantastic blog, to try and get in the spirit. I enjoyed them, but Michael requested a non-healthy version with regular white flour, so those are on the agenda this weekend. Merry Christmas, hope you are all getting in the spirit!


Fabulous Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. powdered sugar
4 eggs1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest
5 c. flour (I used whole wheat to Michael's dismay)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
-Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
-Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
-Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time.
-Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
-Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
-Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes.
-Wait until cookies are cooled before icing.



I frosted these with this cream cheese icing, then using cookie stencils and sprinkles decorated the tops. So easy, and so cute!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More pumpkin, I can't help it!




I am so in the holiday spirit right now, which means pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. I don't think I have baked anything in the last month that didn't include pumpkin. It is just one of those seasonal favorites, that will seem out of place once fall is over, so I have to get my fill now! These pumpkin bars are amazing! So moist, they get rave reviews everywhere I bring them. I tried to make them a bit more healthy, so below in black you will see the substitutions I made this time. Please don't let the banana freak you out, you really won't taste it in the bars, all the spices mask the banana flavor really well. I know that right now my mom is thinking I should just leave her recipe alone, but at the rate I bake, I have to make things a smidgen healthier, or else I would be severely overweight! So without further commentary, enjoy!

Wait until they are cool to frost, otherwise they look like this!


Company Pumpkin Bars

INGREDIENTS:
4 eggs ( I used 2 eggs and 2 bananas)
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup oil (I used applesauce)
I 15 oz can pumpkin
2 cups flour ( I used whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon (I use about 2 tbl)
I also added 1 tsp cloves and 1 tbl pumpkin pie spice I like the spicy flavor, and I wanted to make sure it covered the banana flavor

Frosting
1 8 oz pack of cream cheese, room temperature ( I used RF cream cheese)
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan.
Mix eggs and sugar until well blended, and oil and mix, then add pumpkin and mix. Meanwhile combine all dry ingredients, then slowly add to wet mixture. Stir together, but DO NOT over mix.
Pour into pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until top springs back when touched or toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Set aside to cool and make frosting.

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Add powdered sugar slowly. Spread over cooled pumpkin bars, sprinkle with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. ENJOY!


Hearty Chili



This is my go to chili recipe, which comes from my friend Cassy, back home in Washington. This was almost always my requested dinner when I went to her house, I loved all the veggies in it, and the nice spice that wasn't overpowering, but was certainly there. It was a big change from the chili I grew up on, which was honestly a can of chili beans, a can of kidney beans, a can of tomato sauce, some ground beef, and a chili seasoning packet. Sorry to out you mom, but that really isn't chili! Of course I took some liberties with it, as I do with almost all recipes, and my version didn't disappoint at all. If you are looking for another soup to add to your winter round-up, look no farther.


Chili

1 1/2lb ground turkey or beef (I used left over roast I had, shredded into tiny pieces, LOVED it!)
1 (15 ounce) can chili beans, not drained
1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can white kidney beans (cannelini), drained
2 (28 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cooked and crumbled bacon or bacon bits
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 dash cayenne pepper (or more if you want it spicy)
1 or 2 tablespoon brown sugar

Optional Toppings:
shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
sour cream
onions
taco chips

* Cook the meat first then add the diced veggies until tender. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker and let simmer for the day. That is it, really. That simple! This makes enough for a crowd so you may want to half the recipe or plan to freeze some. It does freeze well and tastes just as good thawed and re-heated. Works perfect to have small tupperware portions to take to work, just take it out of the freezer the day before. ENJOY!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

No pictures tonight, we were too hungry to bother to find the camera, but I though that I would share our meal with you anyhow. It fit the bill for easy and tasty, and sort of healthy. Prepare yourself for this please....it is a recipe off of the Campbell's soup can. Not gourmet, but gourmet isn't really me anyhow, now is it?

INGREDIENTS:
1 can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken ( I use the 98% fat free of course)
1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cups uncooked long grain white rice
pepper to taste
2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables ( I just used peas)
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Stir everything but chicken and cheese together in a 2 quart dish.
Top with chicken, seasoned as desired ( I used some rosemary and oregano).
Bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until rice and chicken are done.
Sprinkle with cheese and broil until cheese browns. Let sit for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Just a heads up, I actually made this the night before and left it in the fridge so it was ready to pop in the oven right when I got home from work. I did end up having to add a little extra rice to soak up some extra water/soup, which required about 15 more minutes in the oven.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Easy breakfast casserole


Please allow yourself a moment to picture this scene: My mom sitting on the couch at 9am with a bag of cheetos in one hand and a diet pepsi in the other. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Oh yea, of course not, only my mother finds cheetos and sugar water to be an appropriate breakfast. If only I had been home to make sure she had an appropriate meal. Unfortuantely I had to work, which left my mother and my husband alone to fend for themselves for breakfast. Mom, I promise I will always be prepared with this casserole for any future mornings with us. (please don't get me wrong though, my mother would rather eat cheetos and a diet pepsi for breakfast then real food, it just appaled my husband so much I made this for their future mornings together.) And just so you know that my mother didn't starve that morning, Michael took her to a sports bar for breakfast...please insert sigh here, if you knew my mother you would know she doesn't belong in a sports bar.


This recipe came about to prevent another morning like the above mentioned. My friend Lindsay had made a similar casserole, so this was my attempt to copy it without actually knowing what she put in it. The recipe below is with pretty basic, there are lots of ways to jazz it up. Think peppers and onions and bacon and/or sausage. Change it to suit your tastes.


Breakfast Casserole


INGREDIENTS:

cooking spray (PAM)

1 bag of cubed frozen hashbrowns

8 eggs (I used egg substitute)

1/2 cup milk

2 cans of diced green chiles

1/2 pound of thick sliced ham

1 cup of shredded cheese

1/2 cup diced onion (I saute them first)

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Spread frozen hashrowns in the bottow of a lightly sprayed 9x13 pan. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over hashbrows, layer the diced chile peppers and onions over the top, followed by the ham and finally the cheese. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, or until eggs are set and cheese is golden brown. Top off with a dallop of sour cream and enjoy.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The man sandwich!

This is not a healthy guilt free meal. It is also not a meal I should make again, but I will. Honestly, I have already made it again, this was round two. It is just that simple and good. Just a few ingredients and 30 minutes and dinner is on. If you are looking to please a red med meat eating man in your life, here is the ticket ladies, I nearly guarantee success. Michael liked it better last time with out the A-1 sauce, but I liked it better this time with the A-1, so you decide if you want it or not. I just learned he is not an A-1 kind of guy I guess. Please don't be shy with the butter, I have made it twice, and it was better with all of the butter instead of the scant amount I tried to get away with the first time. Just follow the recipe, you will be glad you did... until the next morning when you can't button your slacks for work!


Marlboro Man’s Favorite Sandwich
(Marlboro Man is Pioneer Woman's husband, in case you wondered)
Pioneer Woman

INGREDIENTS:
2 to 3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra-tenderized
1 large onion OR 2 small/medium onions
4 French/Deli rolls
Butter, man
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco
A-1 sauce

DIRECTIONS:
Slice onions and cook in 1/4 stick butter until soft and light brown. Remove and set aside.

Slice cube steak against the grain. Season with Lawry’s.
Heat 2 TBSP butter over high heat (in same skillet) until melted and beginning to brown.
Add meat in single layer. Cook one side until brown, then flip and cook until brown, about a minute on both sides.
Add 1/2 a bottle (at least) Worcestershire sauce, 5 to 6 shakes Tabasco, and 2 TBSP butter and a few healthy shakes of A-1. Add cooked onions. Stir to combine.
Butter halved French rolls and brown on skillet.
To assemble, lay bottom half of French roll on plate. Place meat mixture, followed by a spoonful of juice from the pan. Top with other half of roll, cut in half, and devour!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall is here!!!

Fake spider, I promise! I decorated for Halloween today, and I couldn't resist!

Okay not really. But we have cooled down to the seventies, and that is plenty of reason to bust out the pumpkin. I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats, who adapted the recipe from Bakespace, and knew that it would be my first pumping recipe of the year. They were amazing good, who doesn't love a little cream cheese filling when they bite into a cupcake! These were the perfect start to my fall baking, I can't wait to use the pumpkin left over in my fridge for something new. Or maybe I will just make these muffins again, they were that good. I brought them to my first day at my new job and made instant friends, so thanks Annie! Happy Fall baking friends!

Yummy cream cheese filling!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Yield: 24 muffins

INGREDIENTS:


For the muffins:
3 cups flour (I used white wholewheat flour)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil (I used 1/2 applesauce and 1/2 oil)
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree

For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

For the streusel topping:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup and 1 tsp. flour
4 tbsp. butter, cubed
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:
To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until smooth. Form into a log on plastic wrap or foil, making sure that the diameter is small enough to fit into the well of a muffin pan. Wrap the log up tightly and freeze until slightly hardened, 1-2 hours. (Alright, so you should know that I skipped this step, because I wanted to eat the muffins now, I didn't want to wait 2 hours, and it worked out perfectly. I just used my tiny cookie scoop to drop the filling into each muffin)

To make the muffins, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, sugar and pumpkin puree. Mix until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.

To make the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together with a pastry blender or two forks until crumbly.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two muffin pans with paper liners. To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well halfway with batter. Remove the cream cheese log from the freezer and slice into 24 equal slices. Place a slice in each muffin well. Divide the remaining muffin batter evenly among the muffin cups, on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Crockpot Potato Soup

This soup far exceeded my expectations. I have these two crock pot cookbooks that I have been trying recipes out of, and they have been pretty hit and miss. This one though, was wonderful. I prepped everything the night before so in the morning all I did was dump it in the crock pot and turn it on. The house smelled so good when we got home from work, and we so enjoyed the soup for dinner and lunches the next couple days. We served it topped off with some sour cream, cheese, and fresh chives from my newly cultivated herb garden. Oh, and the letters you see below, that was my husband asking if he could dice the potatoes. Next thing I know he had that spelled out instead in potatoes. He is not much help in the kitchen, but he sure is sweet! The recipe below contains some changes, but mostly it came from 101 More Things To Do With A Slow Cooker.





INGREDIENTS:
6 cups of potatoes peeled and diced
5 cups of water
2 cups chopped onion
4 cubes of chicken bullion or 4 tsp instant granules
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup of shredded cheese
1 tbsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Combine potatoes, water, onion, bullion, and pepper in greased slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat 6-8 hours or until potatoes are tender. Stir in crumbled bacon, cheese, and milk. Cover and cook an additional 20 minutes. Makes 10-12 servings.

One additional step that I took was to blend about 5 or 6 ladles of the soup before adding the bacon and cheese, just to give the soup a creamier thicker consistency.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Muffin Madness!

I know that I have said that my raspberry muffins are the most amazing muffins ever, but I may have lied...or at least their is a tie. Let me introduce the amazing delicious moist wonderfulness that is these banana coconut muffins. Let me pause for a moment of remembrance for these muffins, there were so good and gone too fast! Anyways, I found these from this blog of a friend from The Nest's What's Cooking board, and am so happy that I stumbled upon them. Go make them, and double it like I did, because 8 muffins will not be enough!!!
source: this blog, who got it from www.epicurious.com

sorry for the bad picture...I'm still learning how to use a camera!



Banana Coconut Muffins

Servings: Makes 8.
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (3/4 cup)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

DIRECTIONS:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin cups with liners.Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together bananas, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup coconut in a large bowl until combined well, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened.
Divide batter 8 lined muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffins to a rack and cool slightly. (I took mine out after 20 minutes and they were plenty done!)

Crockpot Cooking 101

This is hardly a recipe, but so much of crock pot cooking is just throwing stuff in a crock pot and ending up with something yummy that I thought that I may as well post it. I have been using my crock pot a lot lately now that I am working. I prepare everything at night so that all I have to do is plug my pot in in the morning. We served these burgers with TJ's sweet potato fries, (Michael's new found favorite side!) and some baked beans, nothing healthy, but everything tasted great. And actually I take that back, the buns were whole wheat!


Crock Pot BBQ Chicken

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 bottle BBQ (your favorite kind)
2 onions, cut into rings

Put everything in crock pot on low for 5 hours, shred chicken, spoon onto hamburger buns.

Like I said easy, the way it needs to be sometimes. We are going to use the leftovers for BBQ chicken pizza later this week. Easy again!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And on the eight day God created...

Bread Pudding! This bread pudding to be exact, with a Jack Daniels Cream sauce. Oh, you don't believe God would have used whiskey? Just taste this, they you won't question me. And if it really bothers you, you boil it, so the alcohol dissipates. Isn't that what they say anyhow? Once again this recipe comes from the Pioneer Woman herself, if you haven't been to her site will you just go there. You won't regret it. Well your stomach won't, but your thighs and your butts may begin to loathe her. One word from the wise (yes I am wise, I have made this multiple times already), DO NOT overfill the baking dish with bread. DO NOT stuff it in there, it will pop out of the sides and fall to the bottom of the oven and make gross burnt eggy sticky charred spots. Trust me, you don't want to learn this from example, okay!

See...don't stuff too much bread in, you will regret it!

Oh yeah, enjoy!


The Best Bread Pudding

INGREDIENTS:
2 eggs

2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 to 5 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (Iused French Bread, because I had it)
1/3 cup pecans, chopped finely (omitted but used raisins in its place)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together eggs, butter, vanilla, and milk. Add sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved. Arrange bread cubes tightly in a nine-inch baking dish, keeping the crust facing up around the edges in scattered within the dish. Pour liquid over the bread. Sprinkle pecans all over and bake for 55 to 70 minutes, or until crust is golden brown all over the top.

While the bread pudding is baking, make the Whiskey Cream Sauce:
1/2 cup sugar

1 stick butter
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup Jack Daniels
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until mixture reaches a low boil. Pour a small amount over the individual servings of bread pudding.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Exclamation Marks

I just realized that I use the exclamation mark a lot. Maybe even a little bit too much. I hope just translates to you readers as excitement about everything. I reread my entries and I punctuate nearly everything with them. My 5th grade teacher Ms. Stavig would be so ashamed. I hope that she never finds this blog. I have been a bit liberal with them, I promise, I will try to cut back!

Homemade pesto, the Weight Watchers way!

We love pesto in our house on sandwiches, in wraps, on pasta, you name it and we have probably tried it. But it is expensive to buy prepared and it is SO fattening, so I did some investigating and found this wonderful recipe that lightens it up quite a bit, yet it still tastes great! We made ours into a cream sauce (which was not Weight Watchers friendly) and served it over tortellini with chicken and broccoli. It was excellent! Pesto also freezes really well, my favorite method is to freeze it in ice cube trays, then you just pop out however many you need, instead of defrosting a whole batch. I actually intend to freeze some today if I ever get off the nest and my blog. Enjoy the lighter side of pesto!





Pesto

INGREDIENTS:
2 Tbsp pine nuts
2 cup basil, leaves, fresh
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium garlic clove(s), peeled
1/2 tsp table salt



DIRECTIONS:
Place pine nuts in a small skillet and set pan over medium heat. Cook until nuts are golden, shaking pan frequently to prevent burning, about 3 minutes. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool.
In a blender or food processor, combine nuts, basil, broth, cheese, oil, garlic and salt; process until smooth and thick. Yields about 1/4 cup per serving at a points value of 2. Makes 4 servings.


*If you want to make it into a cream sauce as we did, we mixed 2 cups of 2% milk with 1/2 cups of pesto and let simmer on stove top. I added a little cornstarch to help it thicken up.*

Something from my mother finally!

I am surprised that nothing I have posted so far has come from my mother, but this recipe comes from her big spacious kitchen at home in Washington(oh how I miss that big spacious kitchen with all its counter space and cupboards!). This recipe is always a hit, we make it at least 3x a month just for us, and almost every time we have company also. If you don't want to use the baking method which is detailed below, you can serve it all cold, which is easier for parties where your oven is already busy. To do so, just cube the mozzarella and add it in with the tomato mixture and serve with bread/crackers. And whatever you do, do not leave out the balsamic vinegar, it is what makes it sooo delicious! This mixture is also great over salad or mixed with pasta, but you won't have any leftovers because it is that good, you will just have to whip up another batch!


Bruschetta with Double Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS:
6 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil (I rinse mine to cut down on calories)
3 cloves minced garlic
2 TB olive oil + some for brushing bread

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 baguette/loaf of french bread/melba toast etc.
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, combine the roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. Allow the mixture to sit for half an hour or longer. It helps all the flavors blend together.

Turn on broiler. (If your oven doesn't have a broil function, no worries mine doesn't either, just turn it to the highest temperature and watch closely!)
Cut your bread of choice into 3/4-inch slices. On a baking sheet, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer, brush with olive oil, and broil just until brown about 1-2 minutes.

Divide the tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices. Top the slices with mozzarella cheese.
Broil for 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dinner Divas #3 YUMMO!

First off, you will never here me say yummo again, I promise! It is just that it is a Rachel Ray recipe, so I feel like it is necessary to say yummo, oops there is was again, and EVOO. Alright, I have them out of my system now, on to the review.
Honestly, we really liked this macaroni and cheese. It was simple and authentic tasting. I made a few changed, which are noted below, but we will revisit this recipe in my kitchen, it may even enter regular rotation!
Also, I must note that I got to pick 2 September recipes for my cooking group Dinner Divas, so this was one of my picks, and there will be an Emeril Apple Pie coming up in the near future. Both of these recipes were picked on behalf of Michael. He has been asking me to cook both, so he was my inspiration when looking for recipes this month.


Mac and Cheddar Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli
From Rachel Ray
Serves 4
INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound chicken breast tenders, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound macaroni elbows or cavatappi corkscrew shaped pasta twists (we used fussili)
2 1/2 cups raw broccoli florets, available packaged in produce department (no broccoli for Michael, but we added peas)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper ( didn't have any, added some tapatio)
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups whole milk (I used a mixture of whole and nonfat)
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups yellow sharp Cheddar (I also added some goat cheese)
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard (I used about 2 TB)
DIRECTIONS:
Place a pot of water on to boil for macaroni.
Heat a medium pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and chicken and season with salt and pepper. Saute a couple of minutes then add onion and cook another 5 to 7 minutes until onions are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn off heat and reserve.
To boiling pasta water, add pasta and salt to season the cooking water. Cook 5 minutes, then add broccoli and cook 3 minutes more or until pasta is cooked to al dente and florets are just tender.
While pasta cooks, heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour, cayenne and paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Whisk in milk and stock and raise heat to bring the sauce to a quick boil. Simmer until the sauce thickens about 5 minutes.
Drain macaroni or pasta and broccoli florets. Add back to the pot and add chicken to the pasta and broccoli.
Add cheese to milk sauce and stir to melt it in, a minute or so. Stir in mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and broccoli and cooked pasta and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings and transfer to a large serving platter and serve.

I hope they make these in Heaven!

Let me set the scene for you, it is early on a Saturday morning, and I have a lot to accomplish. First though, I decide to color my hair. So now imagine me in the kitchen, with a bag on my head, seeding and degutting (yeah, I know I made that word up) 100 grape tomatoes. Why would I do that you wonder? Because I want to bring the beauty of this recipe to a football party, and they would be so much easier to eat if they were bite-size, wouldn't they? Here I am an hour later, with 90 grape tomatoes (some were lost to the degutting process) trying to decide how to make them stand up in a pan, and how to stuff them. Oh yeah, and I really need to wash my hair before it turns black or falls out of my head. So after a shower and some inspiration I realize I will have to cut the ends off of these tomatoes so they can stand, and I will have to pipe in their stuffing. 2 hours later they finally go in the oven, and I emerge a brunette.

Alright, now that you see how my Saturday morning was, let me share the recipe! The following recipe from Pioneer Woman is my latest obsession. I want to make these and eat them every single day. No seriously, they are that good. I got a little giddy and Martha Stewart on this recipe one day and decided that they would make the cutest appetizer in little grape tomatoes...dumb idea. Cute-yes, labor intensive-YES! So I will stick to Roma tomatoes in the future, the tomato stands up better in the oven that way anyhow. Also, I have no pictures of my own, because they always get eaten before the camera ever makes it out, so the picture below is from . So without further ado, read this recipe, and then get in the kitchen and make them, everyone who eats one will thank you!!!
Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes



Picture from Pioneer Woman

Dinner Divas #2 FLOP!!!

Second Dinner Divas recipe is going up quite late, but better late then never, right! Michael had VERY high hopes for this recipe, I think that he was expecting Panda Express fried orange chicken though, so he was already set up for disaster. I am not sure if I messed up on the recipe somewhere or what, but we really did not like this dinner, and my orange chicken wasn't orange. I'll post the recipes and the pictures, because we all have flops sometimes, but that will not be made in my kitchen again!





Orange Mandarin Chicken
Source Cooking Light
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges in light syrup, undrained
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch



DIRECTIONS:
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned.
While chicken cooks, drain oranges in a colander over a bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Add oranges, 2 tablespoons liquid, onions, jalapeño, and garlic to pan. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes. Combine broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch; add to pan. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pioneer Woman, where have you been all of my life?

Alright, so I am counting my lucky stars that I stumbled upon Pioneer Woman's blog last weekend, we have eaten something off of her blog every night this week. She is FUNNY, and she has some awesome recipes on her blog. I haven't been disappointed yet! If you haven't been to her blog yet, I recommend you go here immediately, and have a pen and paper ready so that you can start a grocery list of all the things you need to start making some of her recipes. From now on PW will be used to talk about her, get used to it, you will see it a lot.

PW's Crispy Yogurt Chicken

I know, you are thinking crispy yogurt chicken, that sounds disgusting. But the yogurt marinade was delicious, and although the crispy part didn't quite work out, I will be trying this again in the future.

INGREDIENTS:
Chicken drumsticks (I used breasts, which may have contributed to the uncrunchy chicken)
2 cups plain yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Parsley
The juice of one lemon
Butter
2 cups of panko (I used regular bread crumbs, couldn't find panko. Also may have contributed to the uncrunchiness)

DIRECTIONS:
Combine lemon juice, yogurt, parsley, and minced garlic.
After thoroughly rinsing the chicken, pat it dry and sprinkle it with salt.
Put the panko in a bowl with a generous sprinkle of salt and butter the baking dish
Now dip the chicken in the yogurt marinade, and then the panko, and then place in the baking dish. Complete the process with all of the chicken and then top each piece of chicken with a pat of butter. (PW says this is the most important part, I forgot until half way through, but I did add it.)
Bake at 350 for 1hour - 1 1/4 hours.

An Ultimate Comfort Food

So everyone was talking about this recipe on the Nest's What's Cooking board the other day, so I decided we had to try it in our weekly rotation. I made a few changes that we were very happy with, and Michael enjoyed it so much he asked for the leftovers for lunch two days in a row! It will definitely be a regular in our rotations from now on. The original recipe came from Lindsay, but it was for a 9x13, which was way too much casserole for 2 of us, even when we do both like leftovers, I also saw some room for improvements, so the recipe below is what I ended up with. I hope that you all enjoy as much as we did!

TACO BAKE

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 TB minced garlic
1 packet taco seasoning
8 oz. tomato sauce
4 oz. seashell pasta (I used elbow macaroni, it was all they had at TJ's)
4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened in microwave (I used fat free)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
1 can of sliced olives
1 can of black beans, drained
6 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used cheese from 2% milk)

So far assembled: pasta, cream cheese spread, and the black beans

Finished off with the meat, cheese, and olives

DIRECTIONS:
Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain if necessary. Add taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, cook pasta according to directions. Drain.
Mix softened cream cheese and sour cream in separate bowl.
Spray bottom of 8x8 pan. Put pasta in bottom of pan. Spread cream cheese mixture over pasta. Sprinkle the can of black beans over the cream cheese mixture. Spoon ground meat mixture over this. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Finally sprinkle the olives on top pf the cheese.
Now you can pop it in the oven and bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
I served our taco bake with some sauteed green beans and some garlic cheddar sourdough. Yummy!
Dinner is served!

Easy dinner when you're short on time and craving big flavor

I finally caved and got Michael a panini press, and boy am I glad I did. It was the only thing that he officially registered for on our wedding registry, and he is so happy to now have it in our possession. Anyways, my favorite sandwich to grill is noted below, as well as the salad I served with it. Who can go wrong with all that melty cheese anyways?



Caprese Panini


INGREDIENTS:
Panini Rolls
mozzarella
Pesto (about 2TB per sandwich)
Balsamic cream (I just mixed balsamic into ff mayo) (2 TB per sandwich)
Fresh basil

DIRECTIONS:
Brush live oil on outside of roll and place bottom on grill. Brush pesto on roll, top with tomatoes and fresh basil. Place thick sliced (I like it about 1 inch) mozzarella on top of basil. On inner top of roll spread the balsamic cream and then place on top of sandwich. Close panini press and bake until cheese is melted. ENJOY!

Tortellini Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS:
I package of tortellini, cooked according to directions on package ( we like pesto or cheese filled)
2 Roma tomatoes
3 TB pesto
3 TB mayo
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 small can of sliced olives, drained

DIRECTIONS:
After you have cooked noodles allow to cool by gently running cold water over them. While they are cooling combine pesto and mayo to make a nice creamy sauce. Cut tomatoes into bite sized chunks, and toss all ingredients in a bowl. This is best when left to sit overnight, although you may need to add more sauce if the tortellinis soak it all up. Feel free to use more or less sauce depending on how "saucy" you like your salad"

Yeah...I realize it has been a while

Don't know how I got so far behind blogging. It is not like I haven't been cooking every night, I guess I have jest been to lazy to blog it. So here is an onslaught of new posts, as you can see my kitchen has been pretty busy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dinner Divas #1

As I become a little more familiar with the WC board on the nest, I felt it was time to join one of the many cooking groups that are available. The Dinner Divas sounded perfect for me, the only rule is there are no rules. Sounds perfect for they way I cook in my kitchen! The first recipe was from Bobby Flay for Chicken Cobb Burgers. I took many liberties with the burger, and ended up outstanding!! There were no complaints anywhere around the table. Well, I guess there was one complaint, no pictures. The camera's battery needed to charged, and while I had it plugged in all day anticipating needing pictures, I had it plugged in incorrectly. Yes, Michael got a good laugh out of that. I served it with fresh corn on the cob and a cold tortellini pasta salad. I have noted the changes I made below in black. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:
8 strips of bacon
1 1/2 pounds ground chicken, 90 percent lean (I used lean ground beef, Michael refused chicken)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
(2 TB balsalmic mixed in ground beef mixture gave some great tang)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
( I hate Blue cheese so I used goat cheese, loved it!)
4 burger buns, split
(I used whole wheat kaiser rolls, toasted)
1 large ripe beefsteak tomato, cut into 4 slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 8 slices (No avocado in our kitchen)


For the vinaigrette:2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used balsalmic)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (had no lemon)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely shredded romaine lettuce

DIRECTIONS:
For the burgers:
(First you should know we do not have a grill. Not a challenge though, we made them on out panini maker/open faced grill, it worked perfectly!)
Heat the grill to medium.Place the strips of bacon on the grill (lay them across the grate so they don't fall through) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Increase the heat of the grill to high. ) Form the meat into 4 (8-ounce) burgers, brush with the oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the burgers until golden brown on both sides and cooked completely through, about 5 minutes per side. Top the burgers with the blue cheese, close the cover, and continue cooking until the cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute longer.Place the burgers on the bottom half of each bun and top with a slice of tomato, 2 slices of avocado, 2 slices of bacon and some of the dressed romaine. Cover each burger with the bun tops and serve.

For the vinaigrette:Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to meld. Just before assembling the burgers, place the romaine in a medium bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Favorite Cookies of All Time!!!

These are the cookies that undo my greatest gumption and will power. I could resist the brownies and the chocolate chip cookies, but not these cookies. I can't stop eating these cookies until every last one is gone. They smell amazing, they are the perfect size, and I think they are cute cookies, if there is such a thing! I couldn't really get a good photograph of them, but don't judge, they will knock your socks off! The original recipe is from allrecipes, but I use a modified version (shown below), that someone else has posted in the comments, and I have never once had a problem with it. Every time it makes perfect little chocolaty pillows of decadence. I do cook on silicone mats (not necessary though), and I measure my cookies out with my cookies scoop, I just love the uniformity of them. Get cooking, these ones are worth it!!!


White Chip Chocolate Cookies
Submitted by KATCOLTER
Yields 5 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cups white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips


DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Fold in the white chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are set. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lasagna

This is another one of those foods that just says comfort food to me, and it did not let me down. Michael's boss came over for dinner, so I served this with sauteed green beans, a green salad, and some of my homemade bread that is posted below. All in all dinner was a success no complaints. And once again, the following is for an 8x8 pan, double it for a 9x13 or two 8x8's. It is always great when you have a good dinner like this already done up in the freezer!

Lasagna
Serves 6-9

INGREDIENTS:
Cooking spray
8 no boil lasagna noodles ( I use TJ's brand, they are the perfect size)
16 oz marinara sauce (mines from scratch, and includes a # of ground beef)
1 15oz tub of ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/ cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 cups grated mozzarella

Everything waiting to be assembled

Look at those yummy cheesy layers

Finished, just awaiting the oven so it can crisp up


DIRECTIONS:
Spray pan well with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350.
In a mixing bowl combine eggs, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, basil, and oregano.
Spread a thin layer of sauce over bottom of pan and then layer with 2 noodles.
On top of each noodle spread 1/6 of ricotta cheese mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cheese and a ladle full of sauce. Put 2 noodles over sauce and repeat layering, until you have filled the pan. (For my 8x8 pan in took 3 layers)
Finish the layering with 2 noodles over the top, the remainder of the sauce, and then the cheese.
Cover in foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes or until center is bubbling and cheese is melted and crispy.

Homemade bread in the crockpot?!?!?!

Yep, it is true. I found this little gem of a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, 101 More Things To Do With A Slow cooker, and it was so interesting that I had to try it. I was not disappointed, next I am going to try a honey wheat recipe that is in that cookbook with some cinnamon and diced apples. Again, so fall inspired! This bread gave the whole house that wonderful homemade bread smell, and it was so hard not to take the cover off of the crock pot and sneak a peek. But my patience prevailed and we ended up with a nice little loaf of white bread. My only problem,which is entirely my fault, is that it got a little brown on the bottom. That is because my slow cooker turns to warm when the time is up though, and I wasn't home, so I think it got direct heat just a little too long. Enjoy, and try this, you will love how easy it is to get homemade bread!

My yeast foaming

My dough in the crock pot just waiting to cook


My finished loaf




All sliced up

Classic White Bread
101 More Things To Do With A Slow cooker
Stephanie Ashcraft and Janet Eyring
10-15 servings

INGREDIENTS:
1 envelope (.25 ounce) of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm water
1tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour

DIRECTIONS:
In a bowl combine yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water. Allow yeast to foam, about 5 minutes.
Add egg, oil, lukewarm water, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 cups of flour. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on low.
With a wooden spoon, stir i remaining flour.
Place dough in greased 4-5 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours. Remove stoneware from cooker and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.