Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pear Honey Cranberry Sauce

If you want to try something a little different for your holiday meal, you must try this homemade cranberry sauce!  It doesn't take long to make and it is so much better than the stuff from the can!  You can even make it a day or two in advance! 

In the past I've used raspberries in my fresh cranberry sauce, but decided to try this recipe with the pears this year & was VERY pleased with the out come.  Give it a try, I think you'll agree.  Enjoy!

Pear Honey Cranberry Sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup +/- water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 (12 ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a medium saucepan, add together OJ, sugar, pears, cranberries and enough water to just come to the top of the fruit.  Cook over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes, add honey. Continue to cook until cranberries pop and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5-10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Cool to room temperature, then store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My House is Your House... or vice versa!

If you remember THIS post from about six months ago, then you already know all about the House Seasoning.  You may have even whipped up a batch for yourself.  Maybe you've noticed me mention in used in different recipes and wondered what the heck it was.  Maybe you have no clue what I'm talking about!  Whatever the case her is another post dedicated to one of my favorite things to have in the kitchen... the HOUSE SEASONING!  (This time with Holiday flair!)

While trying to figure out what I wanted to do for homemade gifts this year, my bestie shared with me her idea.  Everything I was coming up with would have had me slaving away in the kitchen for hours... days even!  She had a MUCH better idea!  We LOVE the House Seasoning, everyone else probably would too!  Lucky for me, she didn't mind too much that I totally copied her idea!

25 glass shakers, 7 larger canisters of Sea Salt and enough ground pepper & garlic powder to create an atomic bomb later... I had mixed up one deadly vat of house seasoning.  Beware!!!  If you mix a single batch it's no biggie, but when you mix it in large quantities there will be fumes in the air!

Bagged, tagged and bowed, I think they made for pretty cute gifts!  And who can't use a little extra spice in their life?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Quick, easy (well mostly easy... crushing candy canes is not as easy as crushing Oreos!), and oh so festive!  Did I mention delicious??

Just make your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and add 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract. (I add 1/2 bag of mini chocolate chips to mine!)

For your frosting, add in about 1 cup of finely crushed candy canes and then top them with the larger, more coarsely crushed ones.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pasta 1, 2, 3...

Many times I throw something together and it may be ok, but not really worth mentioning.  Or, it may have just been to random and complicated that I simply can not remember everything that went into creating it and therefore could in noway attempt to blog about it.  This dinner was one of those that at first I would have thought it to fall in the first category.  It is sooo simple, almost too simple.  But as we were eating it, I thought, "I've gotta blog about this... it's just too good."  The greatest part about it, is aside from the pasta ans seasoning it only requires 3 ingredients!  1, 2, 3!  An easy weeknight meal that you can literally have in the table in 15 minutes!  How great is that?? 

This is the basic version.  Serve it with a simple salad, add some chicken if you'd like, but you really don't need to do anything to it.  Enjoy!

2 cups pasta
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 tbls butter
2 oz cream cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Onion Powder (optional)
Garlic (Optional)

Boil pasta according to directions on box.

While pasta is cooking, pour tomatoes and juice in a bowl.  Pull out tomatoes and chop (reserving liquid) and add back to bowl.

Once pasta is done, drain and add back to pot over med heat.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until butter and cream cheese are melted and heated through, about 3 min. Enjoy!

Cookies & Cream Fudge

It's 8:00pm and you find out that your boyfriend has a holiday potluck at work the next day... what to do, what to do???  I mean you can't just send him with a veggie try or some store bought cookies when half of your blog readers work with him and will be at said pot luck!  You've got a reputation to hold up!

Not to worry... Luckily it's the time of year when all the lovely bloggers out there are sharing their favorite holiday recipes.  This Cookies & Cream Fudge had been popping up all over the place and it just so happened that my bestie sent me a link to this heavenly looking stuff yesterday afternoon so I had it fresh in my mind.

It took no time at all to make.  And let me tell you, it was FANTASTIC!  You must try this before it's time for those New Year's resolutions!  Enjoy!

Cookies and Cream Fudge
adapted from Nestle

2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2/3 cup Evaporated Milk
2 cups White Chocolate Chips
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow cream
1/2 cup finely crushed Oreos
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped Oreos

Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper.

Combine sugar, butter and evaporated milk in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in white chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, finely crushed Oreos and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle crumbled cookies on top. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into pieces. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quite Possibly The Best Ever Stuffed Mushrooms

If you are looking for an appetizer that will have everyone asking for more, this is it!  With the busy holiday season here, my favorite part about these little guys it the filling can be made a day ahead.  Then you just pipe it into the mushroom caps and stick them in the oven and ENJOY!

Quite Possibly The Best Ever Stuffed Mushrooms

2 packages whole fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for topping
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine (I use the food processor), discarding tough end of stems.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, chopped mushroom stems & green onion to the skillet. Add bread crumbs & fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn garlic. Set aside to cool.

Beat together cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. When mushroom mixture is no longer hot, add to cheese mixture. It should be very thick.

Spoon mixture into a large Ziploc bag. Snip off one corner and use as a pastry bag to fill mushrooms. Fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle tops with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under caps.

**NOTE** I lightly brush tops of caps with melted butter to avoid drying out in the oven.

Sometimes I get distracted...

I can't help it!  Sometimes during the day I get distracted and I just have to figure out something to cook for dinner tonight.  I just want to get in the kitchen and make something.  This is one of those times.  Something yummy, light, new, but at the same time since I have to be at the office until 5:00, it can't take too long to prepare... these are the thoughts that distract me.  I try to avoid the millions of cooking blogs, and recipe sites and cookbooks in order to have a more productive day.

So I ask, what's for dinner tonight?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


So I was given a small challenge for this month... not only to find a yummy holiday recipe or two to share, but maybe even a tasty beverage???  Oh that's a challenge I'm up for!  When I saw this while flipping through my Cooking Light Magazine I just knew I had to share!  You can garnish with fresh mint and cranberries to make it extra beautiful and festive!  Prepare the rosemary-infused juice mixture up to one day ahead, and chill.  Enjoy!

White Cranberry Spritzer
Cooking Light

2 3/4 cups white cranberry juice drink (such as Ocean Spray)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
12 mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 cups club soda, chilled
1 1/2 cups white rum
Crushed ice

1. Combine cranberry juice, sugar, rosemary, and 12 mint leaves in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Strain juice mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Stir in lime juice; cover and refrigerate.
2. Combine juice mixture, club soda, and rum in a large pitcher; stir well to combine. Serve mixture over crushed ice. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cranberry Walnut Tart

So I saw this beautiful tart recipe posted by the amazing Hungry Housewife (who we can also give a HUGE thank you to for the picture.  My tart was devoured before I got a chance to snap a photo!) and I knew right away that I had to try it.  Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!  The tart cranberries gave a great contrast to all that sweet filling and went really well with the walnuts.  I was in serious pie making mode this Thanksgiving and had some leftover pastry dough that I had made a couple of days before so I just used that.  You can make this one, or use whatever pastry dough you are most comfortable with.

I think this tart would be beautiful for Christmas or just about anytime you can get your hands on fresh cranberries!  Enjoy!

Cranberry Walnut Tart


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together yolk and water with a fork and stir into flour mixture until combined well.

Gently knead mixture in bowl with floured hands just until a dough forms. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 4 or 5 times more. Form dough into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

3 large eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries (7 oz; thawed if frozen)
1 cup chopped walnuts (1/4 pound)(TOASTED)
Make shell:

Roll out dough into a 13-inch round (1/8 inch thick) on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin and fit into tart pan. Trim edge of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang inward and press against side of pan to reinforce edge.
Make filling:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth, then stir in cranberries and walnuts.
Pour filling into shell and bake tart until filling is set and golden, 40 to 45 minutes. (If pastry edge darkens before tart is done, cover edge with a pie shield or foil.) Cool completely in pan on rack.

Can be made one day in advance and stored covered at room temperature.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cheesy Shell-Stuffed Shells w/ Vodka Cream Sauce

Where to start???  When I first saw the idea for jumbo shells stuffed with baby shells, I was pretty much mystified!  Once again, from my favorite, Noble Pig, I knew I had to give this one a try right away.  Holy moly, what a great recipe!  It's an impregnated shell smorgasbord!  I love how the baby shells break up the standard solid cheese filling you usually get with stuffed shells, yet you still get all the rich cheesy deliciousness!

Now I've never been too keen on the idea of vodka sauce.  Just the idea of VODKA on my pasta... it's always kinda turned me off.  But I decided to go with it this time and give it a try.  And let me tell you, if you haven't already tried it, it's fantastic!  You can't even taste the vodka, just GREAT flavor.  The recipe calls for a jar of sauce and she recommends the Emeril's brand.  But seeing as I was skeptical about the sauce to begin with, I decided to make it from scratch.  Based on a recommendation from my bestie, The Sassy Little Chef I went with a Rachel Ray recipe that was quick, easy, and oh so tasty!

So, if you are looking to try something that's takes classic flavors and puts a fun little spin on it, do try this one.  It's rich and wonderful without being to heavy.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Shell-Stuffed Shells
From Better Homes and Gardens

24 dried jumbo shell macaroni
8 oz. dried tiny shell macaroni (2 cups)
2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded (8 oz.)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/8 teaspoon white pepper or pepper
1 24 oz. jar vodka sauce (I hear Emeril's is great, but I made my own, see recipe below)
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
Fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook jumbo shells according to package directions. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer shells to a colander. Rinse with cold water; drain well and set aside. In same pan cook tiny shells according to package directions. Drain; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan combine Gruyere cheese, cheddar cheese, half-and-half and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat until cheese is melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Stir in tiny shells.
Spread 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Spoon cheese-shell mixture into drained jumbo shells; place stuffed shells in prepared baking dish. Top with remaining pasta sauce.
Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes more or until heated through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Top with fresh basil and serve.

You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Sauce
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
2 cans crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Crumb Coffee Cake

Raise your hand if you LOVE pumpkin as much as I do!!!  This was the perfect weekend for the sweet aroma a fall wafting through the house.  It was storming outside, so I got to baking inside!  I saw this recipe on one of very most favorite blogs, Noble Pig (check it out, you'll LOVE it!) and knew I had to give it a try.  It was certainly a winner.  And if you're lucky, you'll have all the ingredients on hand.  My dearest stated, "Wow babe, I think this might be the best baked good you've ever made for breakfast!"  That's a big, even if I haven't made that many baked goods for breakfast.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Crumb Coffee Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Cake:2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 15 ounce can pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
For the topping, in a bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add butter and combine with fingertips until mixture is crumbly. Refrigerate while making batter.
Preheat oven to 350o F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 cake pan. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, applesauce, pumpkin, vanilla and both sugars until well mixed. Whisk in eggs. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir until just combined; do not overmix. Pour batter into cake pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with reserved topping.
Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack at least 20 minutes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cheesy Chicken & Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Long Time No Blog!  I've been meaning to stop by and post something, anything for quite sometime now.  So here goes...

I threw together this Cheesy Chicken & Black Bean Enchilada Casserole in no time.  You can totally alter it to suit your tastes.  Be creative, have fun & enjoy!

Cheesy Chicken & Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Chicken (you can use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, or season & saute, shred, chop however you want it)
Enchilada Sauce (red or green - I used red)
Black beans, drained, and rinsed
Cheese (I uses a combo of jack, sharp cheddar, and crumbled cojita for the top)
Corn tortillas

Those are the basic ingredients, you can add more to spice it up if you so desire.

Mix together your chicken, corn, and black beans.

To assemble, pour a little of your enchilada sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish.  Then do a layer of tortillas (it's ok if they are overlapping a little.  I also like to cut them in half to make placing easier and coat them in the enchilada sauce), add some sauce, top with a layer of chicken, add a layer of cheese, then cover with more sauce and repeat.  Stop before you add the last layer of cheese.  You should end with chicken and then sauce.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 45min.  Then remove foil, add your final layer of cheese and bake for 15-20 more min.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Minty Milano Mousse Parfait

Looks decadent?  Sinful?  Naughty?  Well it's not, it's guilt free!  (the dessert, not the wine... pay no attention to that in the back ground.)  This crazy easy little number was too tasty to be less than 200 calories, but it factors in at right around 170 calories each!  The best part about it is you can make it in a snap!  Just make sure to make it pretty soon before you serve them.  I made the mistake of making them while I was making dinner and sticking them in the fridge.  Figured I'd take my blog picture before serving and got the outcome below.  They still tasted great, just a little wilted. Luckily I had an impressed guest who snapped this photo before they went in the fridge (hence the wine glass).

There are two key ingredients to this dessert... they are what make it light and oh so delicious!

This wonderfully light and delicious Jello Brand Mousse Temptations, Chocolate Mint Flavor and...

the oh so heavenly Mint Milano cookie

Simply chop up your cookies (I did 6 cookies for 5 servings) and layer them in parfait glasses, alternating with the mousse and some fat fee cool whip.  Top with a sprinkle of the cookie crumbs and serve. 

Just don't let them wait around in the fridge too long or they'll end up looking like this...

But don't worry, they'll still taste great!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Avalanche Bars

Ok, so again we're off the healthy cooking track, but I had to share.  One of the most wonderful things I've ever tasted was this sinfully delicious treat from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, you know the place so well known for the amazing and anything but ordinary carmel apples.  Well I stopped in one day on my way out of town, figuring I'd pick up a few goodies for my mom, sis, and the doggies (yep, the make adorable little doggie treats too).  while I was trying to decide which totally healthy apples I wanted, I happened to see something that slightly resembled a rice krispy treat only WAY better.  It was labeled "Avalanche Bark" not knowing what I was in for I decided to grab a piece...  I think that day changed my life forever.  When I got in the car I reached into my bag and tore of a piece of that little Avalanche and was blown away!  This was no ordinary rice krispy treat.  It was everything good and wonderful all rolled into one treat.  After A couple of bites I actually had to wrap it up and throw it into the the back seat out of arms reach so that it could make it to my destination.  No way it was going to survive a three hour car ride unless I couldn't get to it.

After that day I made it my mission to figure out how to recreate them myself.  And let me tell you I have created many an addict to these Avalanche Bars.  The greatest part is they are so easy to make.  I think they are easier to make than rice krispy treats because you don't have all that sticky marshmallow mess!  The best part is you can even change it up a bit.  I've added cut up oreos, holiday m&m, or fun sprinkles for color.  Try them for yourself if you dare... you will be hooked!

Avalanche Bars
1 (12 ounce) bag white chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup mini chocolate chip
1 1/2 -2 cups miniature marshmallows

Melt white chocolate chips with peanut butter over a double boiler. (A large bowl over a pot of simmering water works great.) Once completely melted (white chocolate is delicate, be careful not to cook it too hot or too long), remove from heat and add rice cereal.

Now for the hard part, WAIT until the mix has reached room temperature BUT don't put it in the fridge! It's worth the wait so don't rush this! Once it reaches room temperature add marshmallows. Mix well, but don’t over mix.

Dump mixture into a greased 9x9 square pan. Lightly press with greased spoon, but not too hard. Too compacted and you’ll be sorry (trust me... I've made this mistake before.  You'll need a chain saw to cut them apart). Sprinkle top with chocolate chips & place in fridge for another 30 minutes.
When hardened, cut like rice krispy treats & you will ENJOY!

Monday, August 30, 2010

When life hands you banana bread, make french toast!

Thursday night we went to the Farmers Market and tasted some amazing pumpkin cranberry bread that I just had to have.  I was so excited to have a slice of it when it got home.  I opened the pesky little plastic container, sliced off a piece and thought well this looks odd... wait!  That's not pumpkin!  That is banana bread.  Boo!  Not that I have anything against banana bread, usually... but I was a little angry at this banana bread.  See I had sampled it and it was OK, tasty but just OK in comparison to the amazing pumpkin cranberry bread.  So, instead of sitting around and being angry as a loaf of banana bread I decided to turn it into something lovely, french toast!  Who says you need to use boring ole bread for french toast??

Oh yes, weekend breakfast time, not really the time for a light and healthy meal in our house.  This one was sweet, decadent and oh so delicious!  Topped with a dash of powdered sugar, a dab of butter and some homemade syrup.  Don't forget to slice up some fresh fruit for the side so you feel like there's something healthy on the table.  Enjoy!

Fluffy French Toast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I also added 1/2 of a vanilla bean)
1 tablespoon white sugar
12 thick slices bread (I used 6 slices of banana bread)
Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk. Whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat.

Soak bread slices in mixture until saturated. Cook bread on each side until golden brown. Serve hot.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The best thing I've ever made...

Ok, well maybe not the best thing EVER, but this was an outstanding dish!  I saw a recipe in the Raley's Something Extra magazine from chef Rick Bayless and decided to put a few twists on it to make it my own and make to it more suitable to our household tastes.  We also had a little last minute dinner party and every plate on the table was cleaned.  I think we were all a bit surprised by how much we enjoyed this healthy twist on the chili relleno that ditched that greasy fried batter.  Was it the BEST thing I ever made?  hmmmm, that's a tough one, definitely the best thing I've made this week, and overall it's pretty high up there on the list!  I think it's safe to say that everyone at the table agreed this one was two thumbs up!  Enjoy!

Stuffed Chilies Grilled in Corn Husks
14 large dried corn husks
12 medium Anaheim chiles
1 medium red onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Vegetable oil & salt
2 cups diced rotisserie chicken
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
8 oz shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
1 tsp house seasoning or salt & pepper
Tomatillo Salsa, for serving

Soak the corn husks in hot water for one hour to soften; drain and set aside.

Roast the chiles on grill at medium-high until blackened and blistered, about 4 minutes. Collect in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Meanwhile, brush both sides of the onion slices with a little oil, sprinkle with salt, then lay in a single layer on the grill. Grill, turning at least once, until richly browned and soft, about 7 minutes. Scoop onto a cutting board and chop into small pieces.

When the chiles are cool enough to handle, peel off the blistered skin. Make a slit in the side of each chili and use your finger to scrape out the seeds. Rinse briefly to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl, mix together the chopped chicken, shredded cheese, chopped grilled onion, corn & seasonings.  Stuff each chile with a portion of the cheese mixture.

Pat corn husks dry and place on a flat surface.  Place two chiles lengthwise on a corn husk and roll up.  Lay each “chile relleno roll” on another corn husk, tapered end pointing the opposite direction. Tear six 1/4-inch strips from the remaining corn husks and use them to tie around the center of each roll. Lay the rolls on the grill.

Grill them for 10 to 12 minutes, turning them regularly, until the corn husks are slightly charred, the cheese has melted and the filling is warm warm. Slide them onto plates, cut off the ties, open the husk.  Top with tomatillo salsa.

What's the best thing that you've ever made? This inquiring mind would love to know!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Southwest Skillet Steaks

In case you haven't noticed... at our house, we eat chicken, chicken, chicken, some ground turkey, and more chicken.  That's mainly due to a particularly picky boyfriend.  He's not a big fan of red meat, he won't eat any fish or most cuts of pork.  Kinda limits what I can cook up.  And for you means the majority of what you will see here will fall into the poultry category.  Once in a while however, I get brave... like tonight.  My thought process was since I know my dearest enjoys a good ole hamburger, why not try something with a cubed steak.  It's pretty close to hamburger and it will break up the chicken routine.  Cubed steaks are already tenderized before you buy them.  And they cook quickly, which makes them a great choice for meals you need to make in a hurry.

Oh and in case you are wondering... he didn't care for it, but I did, so more leftovers for me!  Enjoy!

Southwest Skillet Steaks
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp onion salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
4 4-oz lean beef cubed steaks, lightly seasoned with salt & pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1 4 1/2 oz can diced green chili peppers, drained
1/3 cup tomato paste (1/2 of a 6 oz can)
1 Tbls fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

In a shallow dish stir together flour, garlic salt, cumin & ground red pepper.  Coat steaks with flour mixture, shaking off any excess.  Spray an unheated 12 inch skillet with nonstick cooking spray.  Preheat over medium-high heat.  Add steaks and cook for 8-12 minutes or until no pink remains.  (Reduce heat if necessary to prevent burning while steaks cook.)

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine tomatoes, chili peppers, tomato paste, oregano, sugar & salt.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered about 5 minutes or until of desired consistency.  Serve tomato mixture over meat.  If desired serve with hot cooked noodles and top with sweet bell pepper strips.  (I served with black beans and a fiesta salad.) Makes 4 servings.
Calories 241, Fat 7g

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Pancake Syrup

It's Sunday morning, what's for breakfast?  Well not much in the fridge since it's grocery day.  There's pretty much always ingredients to whip up some homemade pancakes in the cupboard, but what if there's no syrup?  No worries!  If you have these few things on hand you can turn out a batch of your own syrup that will have you wondering why you ever shelled out so much money for Mrs. Buttersworth and all her mystery chemicals!  Don't worry if you don't have any maple flavoring on hand, just double the amount of vanilla and Enjoy!

Homemade Pancake Syrup
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tbls butter

In a saucepan, combine the sugars, water and corn syrup; bring to a boil over medium heat. Broil for 7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in maple flavoring and vanilla. Stir in butter. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve over pancakes, waffles or French toast.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Southwest Stuffed Zucchini

I've been wanting to do something like these stuffed zucchinis forever but I cold never seem to find large enough zucchini at the grocery store.  I finally found these awesome ones at a fruit & veggie stand and I just knew would work out perfect.

I've used this filling recipe many times for stuffed bell peppers.  But seeing as I don't actually care for bell peppers, it wasn't quite an A+ meal.  Ditching the bell pepper and replacing it with the perfect summer ripe zucchini boat was just what it needed to take it to the top of the class!

Southwest Stuffed Zucchini
4 large zucchini
1 package ground turkey
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups prepared brown rice
1 jar pasta sauce
1 can black beans
1 1/2 cup corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 small can sliced black olives (optional)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Salt & Pepper
Hot sauce* optional

Pre heat over to 350 degrees.

Split your zucchini down the center and hollow them out with a melon baller or a spoon (save the insides & chop them up).  Drizzle with a little EVOO, Salt & Pepper & place in baking dish.  Set aside. 

In large saute pan add a bit of EVOO & saute your onion then add turkey and garlic, season with salt & pepper.  Cook until turkey is almost done.  Add in your chopped zucchini centers and mushrooms.  Cook about 2 more minutes.

Add in the rest of the filling ingredients; rice, sauce, corn, beans, olives, cumin, chili powder and hot sauce if desired.  Simmer for 5 min.  Salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

Generously fill your zucchini boats top with shredded cheese and bake for 20 min.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zucchini Time

No trip to the store, no recipe in hand, no clue what to make... no problem!  I threw this de-LITE-full little number together in no time with just what I had in the fridge.  I had some great fresh zucchini (who doesn't this time of year, right?) that I picked up at the corner fruit stand to started with, the rest just kinda happened from there.  Lucky for me it worked, so I thought I'd pass it on to you.

Pasta of your choice - I used whole wheat rotini
Chicken - grilled, rotisserie, or which ever method you prefer
3 Zucchini, halved lengthwise & sliced
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
Can of Diced Tomatoes
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbls EVOO
1/4 Cup White Wine, chicken broth or water
1 - 2 Tbls Balsamic Vinegar
House Seasoning or Salt & Pepper

Prepare chicken, set aside.  (If you'd like to know how I did and usually do my chicken, see Note* below.)

Prepare pasta according to directions while you do the following.

In a large saute pan heat EVOO, add onions & salt.  Cook about 2 min.  Add zucchini, garlic, seasoning, white wine & seasoning.  Cook until zucchini is tender.  Add tomatoes (do not drain) and balsamic vinegar.  Simmer about 1 min.

Place pasta on a platter, top with zucchini mixture, chicken & a generous amount of crumbled feta.  Enjoy!

*Note: How I always prep my boneless, skinless breasts.  I split them in half as if I'm going to butterfly them, but I go all the way through turning 2 servings into 4.  (This cuts down on portion size and calories, but we eat with our eyes & since the breast LOOKS about the same our tummies don't really miss the other half.)  Don't worry if you mess up, since you aren't actually butterflying them neatness doesn't really count. 

Another easy option, keep a bag of these babies in your freezer!  You can get one at Costco for around $16 & it seriously lasts a long time.  They are the little Breast Tenderloins so they defrost in no time.  I can pull a couple out of the freezer if I don't have any full breasts on hand, run them under a little cool water & they are ready to go by the time I have the rest of my prep done. 

You don't need to spit these if you don't feel comfortable with that. Just continue on to the next step.

I season them well on each side with my "House Seasoning" and pound them flat if need.  Into a hot pan, no oil – just a little Pam sprayed in and wiped out, for a quick sear on each side until done. This takes just a few minutes since your chicken is thinner and of uniform thickness.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An All Time Favorite!

Once upon a time, of my very first attempts at a low calorie dinner was this recipe from Food Networks Ellie Krieger.  I was a bit skeptical about how a dish with so few ingredients could taste good, but the user reviews assured me it was a winner.  We were won over instantly!  Chad took one bite & said, "Wow babe, this one is a keeper!"  It's quick, easy and impressive enough to serve to company.  I've made it many times since that first attempt and only made a few slight alterations.  Trust me with this one, you won't be disappointed!

Balsamic Chicken w/ Baby Spinach
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 shallot
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 2 bags of baby spinach
• 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth + 1/4 cup separate
• 2 cup low-sodium canned chopped tomatoes with juice (about one can)
• 2 cups whole wheat couscous, cooked
• Salt & Pepper

Butterfly or pound your chicken breasts thin & season as desired.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and heat.  Add the chicken and cook about 3 minutes per side, or until cooked through and juices run clear.  Remove the chicken, cover and set aside. Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth, the garlic & shallot to pan, (if you have it on hand, this is also a great time to add a splash of white wine) cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach, salt and pepper.  Cook just until wilted, less than 1 minute.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits.  Add the tomatoes, salt & pepper to taste bring to a simmer and cook 3 to 5 minutes until slightly reduced.

Place the couscous in a serving bowl. Top with the spinach, chicken and balsamic-tomato sauce.  Enjoy!
Calories 353, Fat 6g

Pineapple-Kiwi with Lime & Coconut

So the name may need a little work, but this dessert need be called nothing other than WOW!!!  I was trying to think of something to serve as dessert for a casual dinner party last night.  This popped in my head... it used to be my go to that I would make ALL of the time, but then I forgot about one day & haven't made in about 3 years.  My gosh, I'm not sure how I could forget about such a delightful little treat like this.  It's so simple and so refreshing!  It's summer in a bowl!  I am a HUGE fan of coconut.  But fear not those of you who are not fans, I served this to at least 2 coconut dislikers who could believe how much they liked it.    The secret is the "special" cocunut.  And for those who really hate coconut, just serve it on the side and let everyone just top it themselves.  Try this one you will enjoy!

Pineapple-Kiwi with Lime & Coconut
(Serves 4)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes  (I found it in the health food section at Raley's)
2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 inch ginger root, peeled
1 pineapple, fresh, cored - available in produce department
1-4 kiwi (I love lots of kiwi, some like less)
Vanilla Ice Cream or Tropical Sorbet

Combine coconut flakes with lime zest. Toast in a small skillet until coconut is golden brown remove from heat to a plate and reserve. 

Add lime juice, water, sugar and ginger to the pan or a small sauce pot. Bring to a bubble and dissolve the sugar. Remove syrup from heat and let stand.
Cut pineapple and kiwi into bite-size chunks.

To serve:  Place a scoop of ice cream into serving dish, top with fruit, drizzle with syrup and sprinkle with coconut.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cinnamon & Sugar Grilled Peaches

Warm grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream is a favorite of mine.  This is the perfect dessert for a summer night!  There are many variations to this simple treat, here's one we tried last night.  Enjoy!

4 large peaches - cut in half, pits removed
Canola oil
1/2 cube of butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix butter, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl, set aside.  Brush cut side of peaches lightly with oil.  Place face down on hot grill.  Cook about 3 min or until nice grill marks are achieved.  Turn over top with cinnamon butter mixture & cook another minute.  Remove from heat let cool.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.  Garnish with fresh mint & a dash of cinnamon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Green Beans with Feta

This wonderfully simple side dish was the star of our dinner last night!  It was based on a recipe found in one of my new Cooking Light cook books.  I'll tell you what I did to make it shine & what I would have done had I made the time to go to the grocery store to make it even better!

Green Beans w/ Feta
1 bag of frozen petite french green beans (you can regular green beans or fresh Green beans, this is what I had on had)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbls butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
Crumbled Feta

Boil green beans for approx 5 min (until tender), drain & set aside.  Preheat a saute pan, add butter, onion & garlic.  Add beans, salt & pepper.  Toss to coat.  Cook until onions are translucent.  (At this point is where I would have added a toasted nut such as walnuts, pine nuts, or slivered almonds.  I didn't have any, so I skipped that step.)  Transfer to serving dish & top with feta.  Enjoy!

Couscous Pilaf

We love couscous! I don’t usually do much to it when serving it as a side dish, but when I saw this recipe I decided it was worth a try.  I had everything on hand except for the pine nuts. It was great without, but I will definitely add them next time. I love toasted pine nuts in couscous. Enjoy!

Couscous Pilaf
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used red onion)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper (I used the roasted red bell peppers in the jar)
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup uncooked couscous
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (since I didn't have any I topped with a little feta)

1. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 7 minutes.
2. While vegetables cook, bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Stir in onion mixture, salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle with nuts.
Calories 225, Fat 5.5g

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Inspiration has arrived!

So can I just say how much I LOVE presents!  I mean who doesn't???  Big or small, expensive or clearance item, homemade or hand me down... it's not so much all of that, but rather the fact that someone was walking around in their own busy life and stopped for a moment, paused and though of ME.  That my friends, is an extremely flattering feeling!  If you are wondering what is prompting this let me share...

Last night I came home from work.  I was standing in the kitchen rambling about how I was going to go to the grocery store but I decided that I should come home and put together my weeks' worth of menu first... when I was distracted by a shipping box sitting on the counter.  "What's this babe?" I asked.  "Oh, it's just some gifts for you."  He answered nonchalantly.  I peeked in and noticed two items, each wrapped, tied with a ribbon & a cute little card.

What's in them you ask... well if you are at all familiar with my recent random musings, you too know I've been looking for some new reading material.  I was simply asking for some title suggestions,  but this far too generous friend & very observant reader went the extra mile and got me these!

I can't wait to dive into these recipes!  I was up pretty late last reading night the Annual Recipes 2010 book.  That over 750 recipes!  I'm not sure where to even start!  One thing's for sure... as I was reading through them, I had my eyes open for all the "Very Vegan" possibilities that can be served as thank you dinners!

Monday, July 26, 2010

More Cakes...

Two weekends ago I did this sweet little Tinkerbell cake.

This last weekend I had an order for cupcakes and a cake for a bridal shower.  The theme was Princess & the Frog...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oriental Surprise Salad

Well you know what they say, ask and you shall receive! Just as I was blogging that I needed a new recipe, my uncle just so happened to come into my office and ask if I by chance wanted a copy of this recipe! He had printed out an extra copy for someone over the weekend and they forgot to take it. Since I commented once on how much I enjoyed this salad so he thought I might like a copy of it. Now how’s that for timing! And what’s better on a hot summer day than a dinner that doesn’t require turning on the oven? Not much if you ask me! Plus the whole thing took hardly any time at all!

The recipe is called Oriental Surprise Salad. What’s the surprise? Well I’m not sure, if I had to guess I’d have to say the curry powder. Typically I can’t stand curry. Would never think to order anything with the word curry in it & would certainly never think to try a recipe that called for it. Lucky for us though, I had tasted this one before without knowing that it contained curry powder. Hence the surprise… for me anyways. I was sold. I loved it. I mean come on, it’s got frozen peas, cashews & those awesome little chow mien noodles! How could I not be won over?? Now just so you know, I added the shredded cabbage part since it was our main dish. I wanted to be more “salad like”. And boy oh boy it was a great addition! But you don’t have to add that. You also don’t have to add the chicken. The first time I had it, they had chosen to leave it meatless. I also think some green onion would be a fantastic addition. Enjoy!

Oriental Surprise Salad
1 ½ cups diced, cooked chicken or turkey
2 ½ cups celery
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbls fresh lemon
½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp garlic powder
1 (24 ounce) package frozen peas
1 cup cashews, broken
1 (5 ounce) can chow mien noodles
1 bag of shredded cabbage*

Combine meat, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic & curry in a large bowl. Toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to over night. When ready to serve, remove from fridge, add frozen peas and toss well. Place a bed of shredded cabbage on each dinner plate, spoon salad over cabbage and top with cashews & noodles. (You can mix the cashews and noodles in when you add the peas, but if you plan on having any leftovers, they will get soggy.)

Monday, July 19, 2010


OK, so I admit I've been seriously lagging on the blog posts lately!  Don't worry, I've been seriously lagging in the healthy cooking too!  Last nights dinner was fairly healthy, but it was so not blog worthy - read BORING.  I spent the entire day in the kitchen baking.  I did an adorable cake (which I'll blog about later) and then after I delivered it, I came home and out of boredom & to use up leftover frosting I suppose, felt the need to bake another cake and a dozen cupcakes!  Just because... My poor boyfriend he loves it and hates it at the same time.  I'm treading on thin ice here!  If I don't stop with this baking insanity he may kick me to the curb.  (that's a joke)  But in all seriousness, maybe I need some new inspiration.  Healthy cooking inspiration!  Anyone have any ideas?  I absolutely LOVE my Fresh Food Fast cookbook by Cooking Light.  It's what got this ball rolling.  I may need a new book to join it on my shelf.  Any suggestions?  I'm all ears!  Until then, it's back to the the ole standbys... I promise I'll pull out something totally blog worthy this week!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Saturday we packed up and headed over the hill to Reno.  Lots of great friends, family, good food, wine (too much wine!), and all around fun times squeezed into a two day trip.  I did a lot of eating, but I didn't really do much cooking... so, I'll dig through my archives of photos and give you a few cakes of my past.  Most of you have already seen these, but for those of you that haven't, enjoy!

Cheeseburger Cupcakes & Sugar Cookie French Fries


The Firetruck Cake

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My name is Kristen, and I am an addict...

OK, you got me!  It's official!  I am addicted to my panini maker!  I had one for dinner last night.  Am I ashamed?  NO!  It's the perfect sized mini sandwich!  It's thin, crispy and oh so ooey gooey!  It's just WAY too easy and WAY to fun to play with!

My dearest wasn't hungry last night due to a late lunch, and honestly, I wasn't really starving... I was however a bit bored.  As it turned out, I had some nicely marinated chicken in the fridge that was begging to be tossed on the grill.  That combined with a.) some left over french bread, b.) "Garlic Goop" (the most wonderful thing EVER!!!  Brought to us by my bestie The Sassy Little Chef, you must check it out... this stuff is to DIE for!!!), c.) plenty of cheese and tada!  Of course if I would have and more goodies in the fridge we could have cluttered up the kitchen a bit more... but this one was simple, delicious and to the point.  And the point being... I'm addicted!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

You say po-ta-toe...

I love potato salad.  I love many variations of it too.  This is an outstanding one that I turn to often.  It is a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I keep on hand because it never disappoints!  The great thing about it, is it doesn't have 10 million ingredients in it, yet it always gets rave reviews!  Thank you Ina!  From her kitchen, to mine, to yours... Enjoy!

Potato Salad
3 pounds small white potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion

Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Red, white & blueberry cupcakes...

Made these little gems for two different parties over the weekend.  Had a couple of great helpers too! (thanks mom & Kelli!)  They turned out pretty scrumptious.  These are the kind of left overs that we don't mind having in the fridge!  The blueberries on top totally make them healthy right??