Tuesday, December 28, 2010


One of the kids gifts this Christmas was a kitchen apron and a kid's cookbook.  They love to help in the kitchen and were thrilled.  This dish came from one of those cookbooks.  I changed up a couple things, and it was a great dish!  Very easy too.  And it's pronounced pah-STEET-see-oh.  Enjoy!

1 box elbow macaroni
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 jar tomato basil pasta sauce
a splash of red wine  ( I just go by taste)
a dash of sugar  (I go by taste here too)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 10 oz container fresh Alfredo sauce (I used Buitoni and liked it.  I don't like most jarred alfredo sauces)
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook macaroni accordin to package directions; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook ground beef, onion and salt over medium high heat, breaking up meat until it is no longer pink.  Drain well and return to skillet.  Stir in pasta sauce, wine, sugar and cinnamon.  Brig to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes.

Spoon half of macaroni into a 9x13 lightly greased dish.  top with meat mixture.  Spoon remaining macaroni over meat mixture.  Spread Alfredo sauce over macaroni, and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Makes about 8 servings.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Open House 2010

Our Christmas Eve Open House was another success.  Thanks to all those who joined us!!  It was truly a blessing to celebrate and fellowship with one another.  Here's a few pics from our menu:

I shared my menu with you last week, and this week I've got all the recipe's up on the blog.  I thought I'd put all the recipe's together in one post as well, just to make it easy.  So, here you go...

Texas Brisket
Bacon wrapped apricots
bacon wrapped jalepenos
Sweet Potato Pasties
Cranberry & Pistachio cheese roll
Fruit Jellies
Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Fruit Jellies

These are so pretty!  And of course they taste great too.  But I will warn you... keep them cold or they will melt.  Just speaking from experience.  :D

1 1/3 cups fruit juice (any flavor)
4 packets powdered gelatin (1 ounce total)
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups fruit preserves or jam

Place 2/3 cup juice in a small bowl or measuring cup and sprinkle with gelatin.   Let sit 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine remaining 2/3 cup juice and 1 1/2 cups sugar, bring to a boil over medium high and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, 5 minutes.  Add preserves and whisk to combine.   Return to a boil and cook until thick and syrupy, 2 minutes.  Add gelatin mixture and whisk until gelatin dissolves.  Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into an 8 inch square baking dish.  Refrigerate until set, 3 hours (or up to 2 weeks).

Place 1 cup sugar in a pie plate or shallow bowl.  Cut fruit jelly into 1 inch squares.  Toss in sugar to coat just before serving.

If you want to make them ahead, keep them uncoated, tightly covered in plastic wrap in the fridge.

I used Pomegranate-cherry juice with raspberry jam for one batch, and a Berry Blend juice with strawberry jam for the other batch.  Some other combination suggestions are:

  • apple juice and apricot preserves
  • grape juice and jam
  • strawberry apple juice and strawberry jam

Cranberry Pistachio cheese roll

This is a great festive appetizer.

shelled pistachio's
dried cranberries (craisins)
goat cheese

Roughly chop the pistachio's and cranberries.  Roll the log of goat cheese in the nuts/berries.  I had to kind of press them in a bit.  Serve with crackers.

I get my goat cheese from Costco because it comes in a long log form, and it's much more economically priced.

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

These are super yummy!  This comes from my friends over at fanksgiving.

1 cup butter softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup flour
6 Tbs baking cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

1 small jar marshmallow creme
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups crisp rice cereal

  • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs.
  • Stir in flour, cocoa, vanilla and salt. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in a pan on a wire rack.
  • Spread marshmallow cream over the cooled brownies.
  • In a small saucepan over low heart, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat: stir in cereal.
  • Spread over marshmallow layer.
  • Chill for 1 hour before cutting.


1 can of chickpeas, drained with 3 tablespoons of the liquid reserved
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini

Bread, crackers, pita chips, or veggies for serving.

Place the chickpeas, reserved liquid, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini in a food processor.  Blend until smooth and well combined.  I served this with Rosemary and Olive Oil bread, but any of the above suggestions work great.

Texas Brisket

One of my dear students from the ELS language center gave me a cookbook for my birthday.  This recipe comes from "Nigella Kitchen".  She's a food network star, maybe you're familiar.  Anyway, I served this brisket up as an appetizer during my Christmas Eve Open House.  It turned out very good and it was an easy one to make.  It serves about 12, so just half it if you're just making it for your family.

3 medium onions
approximately 5 1/2 lbs beef brisket (make sure you don't buy salted or corned beef...just fresh)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup steak sauce (such as A-1)
1/4 cup strong brewed black coffee

Preheat the oven to 300

Slice the onions, stripping away any skin that unwraps itself,  (It doesn't matter if the skin stays on) and arrange them in the center of the pan to create a platform the brisket will sit on.  I used an oval roasting pan, it worked great.

Place the brisket on top, fat-topped side up.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour them over the brisket, then cover the pan with aluminum foil, sealing it tightly.  Place it in the oven for 3 1/2 hours.

Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board.  Slice the brisket in diagonals across the grain.

Transfer the onions to a blender with a ladleful or two of the liquid from the pan and blend til smooth, then add back to the rest of the liquid in the pan and stir.

Put the brisket slices in the gravy in the pan and serve.

bacon wrapped jalepenos

These are easy to make and were a hit at my open house.  Thanks Pioneer Woman!!

jalepenos sliced in half
cream cheese

Scoop out the seeds/ribs from the jalepenos.  Fill with cream cheese.  Wrap 1/3 slice of bacon around it and secure with a toothpick.  They will come unwrapped while cooking if you don't secure it.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.  If they are not as brown as you like them at the end of the cooking time, place them under the broiler for a few minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Braised Beef with Cranberries

This is a great tasting, easy dinner!  Plus it sounds so fancy.  A couple of friends commented when I told them what I was making... "oh, you are so talented!"  Well, the compliment is appreciated, but this really doesn't take any talent.  It's also quite festive for this time of year.  Fresh Cranberries are seasonal at the grocery store, so buy extra and freeze them.  They freeze great.

3 pounds chuck roast (brisket works well too)
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 can beef broth
1 cup dry red wine (merlot or cabernet Sauvignon)
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs unsulfured molasses
2 cups water
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 bag (1 pound) frozen pearl onions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 with rack in lowest position.  Season beef with salt and pepper.  Heat a 5 quart dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high.  Add chuck roast, cook until browned, 8-10 minutes, rotating once.  Transfer beef to a plate

2. Add flour to pot and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.  Add broth, wine, bay leaf, molasses, half the cranberries, and 2 cups of water; bring to a boil.  Return beef to pot, and cover.  Transfer to oven; bake 3 hours.

3.  Stir in onions; cover, and return pot to oven.  Cook 30 minutes more.  Stir in remaining cranberries; return pot to oven.  Cook uncovered, until beef is fork-tender, 30 minutes more.  Discard bay leaf before serving.

Isn't it festive?  

I served it up with some baked potatoes, and a green salad.   

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Pasty

I just got a new cookbook from my dear friend Julie called "Just 5 Things".  This recipe comes from it and is one I'm serving at my Christmas Eve Open House

I wish I could be 100 percent precise, but I've adapted this a bit.  The cookbook has it served in a larger portion as a lunch, but I switched it up a bit in order to make it more of an appetizer.  So I had to double in a half my ingredients, and I still had filling left over.  But it's so good I'll just serve it as a side.

4 1/2 sweet potatoes
1 15 oz tub ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese (please, get the real stuff and grate it yourself)
4 Tbs basil pesto
6 sheets frozen puff pastry thawed

Bake the sweet potatoes in a 400 degree oven until done.  This can be about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of your potatoes.  Just make sure they are soft inside.  Then slice them in half lengthwise and let them cool.

Once they're cooled, scoop out the insides and put in a bowl.  Combine the ricotta, parmesean, and pesto with the potatoes and mix well.

Lay out your pastry dough and cut in equal squares.  A pizza cutter works great for this.  I got 9 squares for each piece of pastry.  There's 2 per box and I used 3 boxes.  Then spoon a little of your potato mixture in the center and form a triangle.  Use a little water to seal the edges.

I brushed the top with a little bit of milk and placed them in a 425 degree oven.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes.  Make sure you spray your pan or they will stick.  I've made these up ahead of time and will be baking them from frozen.  So, my time may vary.

Here's what they look like after they're baked...

These tasted GREAT!  They're a great appetizer, side dish or lunch.  Be sure to let me know what you think if you try them.  :D

Gingerbread houses

Hello bloggy friends!
Yes, a new post!!  It's a christmas miracle!  :D

Well, my life is full as most of you, and some things just need to be put on the back burner.  I enjoy posting and I don't want it to become a "task" I check off on my to do list.  So, my goal starting in January will be to post at least once a week.  If you subscribe, you'll get my posts right in your inbox.  That will save you from randomly checking the blog to see if there's a new post.  But, whatever you prefer.  I just am so grateful for you checking in, and my hearts desire to to be a blessing to you.

so, today I'm sharing Graham cracker gingerbread houses and my christmas eve menu.  I'll post the recipe's later, but at least you'll know what's cookin'.

Here's a link to instructions on how to do the gingerbread houses.  My kids had a great time!
Also included here is a recipe for royal icing.  If you want to be 'safe' from not eating raw egg whites you can actually buy them pasturized at your local grocery store.

After 'glueing' together, let them set for about 15 min.

Our decorations

Last year my husband and I decided to have a Christmas Eve open house.  His family is out of state so we don't see them at Christmas, and we see mine on Christmas day.  So we don't typically have plans on Christmas Eve.  We've been out of the habit of attending Christmas Eve services for a couple reasons... first, we were at a church for a long time that didn't have Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services unless it was actually a Sunday, in order to allow more time with family.  Second, our kids still go to bed pretty early, so it just hasn't worked all that well.  Anyway, we thought probably no one would come, but let's just try it.  And to our surprise many friends stopped by and it was such a delight!  Most came by on there way to or from a family gathering or something, but we were just so grateful to spend a little time with loved ones.  So, we are doing it again this year.  
Here is my menu:

Texas Beef Brisket

Bacon wrapped apricots
Bacon wrapped jalepenos 
Hummus with focaccia 
Cheese and sweet potato pasties 
Olive/pickle tray
Fruit jellies 
Cranberry/pistachio cheese roll w/crackers
Cheese/cracker tray
Chocolate crunch brownies

Sparkling punch w/cranberries and mint

I'll keep you posted on the recipe's.  What are you cooking this holiday season?  I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Is anyone overloaded with tomatoes from their garden?  I did not get the pleasure of having a garden this year.  There was just too many other projects going on and we never got around to it.  I was really quite sad, but God has really blessed me!  He really does care about the details.  I've had 2 people pour out their generosity on us.  I've been blessed with tomatoes among other garden veggies and I'm so very grateful!!  I am getting to enjoy fresh tomatoes as well as make sauce and even freeze some because of them.  There is nothing like a home grown tomato and I LOVE them, they are truly a favorite!  I'm thinking maybe I won't do a garden next year either, it's worked out quite well for me this year.  :-)  Only kidding, I will do another one, hopefully next year, and I will remember the generosity poured on me and will 'pay it forward'.  Feel free to keep me accountable to that!  Now, if you have lots of tomatoes and want another idea, here you go!
These are super delicious!

about 20 Roma tomatoes (really, you can use any, I used Roma this time)
1 Tbs Olive oil

Preheat oven to 200.  Cut the stem end off of the tomatos and slice them in half length wise.  In a bowl, toss with the olive oil.  Lay out on a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with Salt and Coriander.  A pinch of salt should cover about 4-6 tomatoes.  Place in the oven for 4-6 hours, or more if you wish.  The inside should still be juicy.  Serve at room temp.  Store in a container in the fridge.  They are great alone, or put them on your salads, serve it in pasta, put some fresh shaved parmesan on top with some basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, the possibilities are endless.  The flavor is oh so yummy!  I can't describe it, you'll just have to try it. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My new kitchen tool

I have a new kitchen tool!  I purchased a pressure cooker.  Now, this is probably not exciting for most people, but I'm thrilled!  My mom never used one, I've never used one, so this is a first experience.  So far it is going well.  I've made a chicken dish, a pot roast and black beans.  The chicken dish was very flavorful and super easy.  I just chopped up some potatoes, zucchini, summer squash and sweet potatoes, threw in a can of diced tomatoes, the chicken which I cut in pieces, some herbs/spices, and wa-lah!  dinner is done.  It was all of 30 minutes.  The cook time was actually 9 minutes, and I would go 7 next time.  The chicken was a tiny bit overdone. 

I also made a pot roast.  Now, I cook my pot roast all day in the oven at a low temp.  Low and slow for fork tender, so I was pretty leary when they said I could get fork tender in an hour.  I gave it a whirl, and it was pretty good!  I would have liked the meat to be a little more tender.  I'll need to play around with this a little, not sure if it needs a little more time, or a little less time.  The potatoes and carrots I put with it were wonderful, and the gravy was fabulous!  So, really, overall, a great meal.  Husband loved it, that's all that really matters isn't it? 

My most recent was my black beans and rice recipe which is already on here.  I use dried beans.  I soaked them from 10 this morning til 4 this afternoon.  Then I put them in the pressure cooker with the water.  Use 3 cups of water to every 1 cup of dried beans.  9  minutes later... perfect black beans!  I'm pretty sure this will be my future method for all my dried beans. 

So, I want to hear from YOU!  Do you have a pressure cooker?  Do you use it?  What's your favorite meal to use it for?  Please please share your recipe's!! 

I will share more specific's on the first 2 recipe's another time .  I can't wait to get your feedback, so please comment.  :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Here's a quick way to serve sweet potatoes as a side.

Preheat the oven to 450

Peel and slice the potatoes, making sure they are equal in thickness for even cooking.  Toss them in Olive Oil and spread them out evenly on a baking sheet.  Season with Chili pepper and salt.  These are not spicy at all, if you like more of a kick add a little cayenne.

Bake for 15 minutes, then toss the potatoes and bake for about 10 more. 

Baby Back Ribs

I have never made baby back ribs before, but today I did!  Thanks to my neighbor and friend Joy for passing along her tips, since she's done it a million times and is a fabulous cook!!

Season all Salt (or lawry's or something like it)
BBQ sauce  (use your favorite whether home made or store bought)

Generously season both sides of the ribs with the season all salt and rub it in well.  Then add a squirt or 2 of mustard the same way and rub it in.  Mustard will help to tenderize the meat plus add some tang to it.

Place on a jelly roll pan, or 9x13.  There will be liquid, so make sure your pan has a good lip on it.  Cover it well with foil and place in the oven until it is tender, at least a few hours. 

When the ribs are done, remove them from the oven, and remove the foil.  Get rid of the excess liquid, and place them back on the pan.  Turn on your broiler.  Spread the bbq sauce over the ribs and place under the broiler to carmelize it.  It will get nice and gooey and stick to your meat better.

Enjoy!  I like serving mine with rice and sweet potatoes.

Chocolate cupcakes with bittersweet glaze

These are not for the faint at heart!  Rich chocolatey yummy good deliciousness!  There just aren't words to describe.  I got this recipe from a book I read, and for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the book or the author!  I can picture the cover, but I just can't see the title!  I like to give credit where credit is due, and I'm so sorry I am not holding up to that.  But I promise that when it comes to me I will edit the post and add her name.

1 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tbs unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup well stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not lowfat or nonfat)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze
8 oz bittersweetchocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 300.  Line the wells of a standard-sized muffin tin with paper liners.

Put the semisweet chocolate in a medium bowl with the hot coffee.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and opaque.

Meanwhile, in anothermedium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the egg on medium speed until it is pale yellow, aobut 1 minute.  Add the oil, yogurt, and vanilla, beating well.  Gradually pour in the melted chocolate mixture, and beat to thoroughly combine.  Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed until the batter is just combined.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and briefly stir to make sure that all thedry ingredients are absorbed. 

Spoon the batter into the wells of the muffin tin, making sure that it is evenly distributed.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one  comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes before---carefully, they're tender!--removing the cupcakes.  Allow them to cool comletely before glazing.

To make the glaze, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water.  Stir frequently to preven scorching.  When the chocolate is comletely smooth, it's ready.  Working with one cupcake at a time, spoon a heaping teaspoonful of melted chocolate on top.  Tilt and rotate the cupcake to coax the chocolate out to the edge.  Alternatively, use a knife or icing spatula to spread the chocolate.  The top of the cupcake should be entirely covered with a thin layer ofchocolate.  Spoon on more chocolate as needed.

Set the cupcakes aside at room temperature until ready to serve, at least an hour.  The chocolateglaze will firm up a bit and become matte.   You can, of course serve them with the chocolate still warm and soft if you just can't possibly wait any longer!

store in anairtight container at room temperature, these cupcakes are even better thesecond day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Becker's Pasta

I'm doing a bible study with a couple friends this summer.  It's called "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter.  It is really good!  I'm only 2 weeks in and loving it.  My good friend Cindy over at She Sparkles recommended it a long time ago, and I'm finally doing it.  Upon receiving her book, my friend Kelli said to me "Now I know why you picked this study... because of the recipes".  To which I replied,"there's recipes??"  Of course I was pleasantly surprised because I love new recipes and it gives me inspiration.  So, that is not why I chose the book, but it was pure bonus.  The next couple posts were adapted by my bible study book.  I don't know why this is called Beckers Pasta, but I didn't feel like re-naming it.  Of course I don't want to take credit for something I didn't create, and I did change things up a bit. 

1/2 of rotissere chicken (breast, leg and thigh)
1 box of bowtie pasta (for color you can go for the tri-color pasta)
10-15 chopped sundried tomatoes.  I prefer the ones packed in oil.  They'll come whole
3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced finely
1 package of feta cheese (6 oz)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 can pitted black olives (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast 3-4 minutes.  They will continue to brown after being out of the oven.  Set aside to cool.

Boil water and add Pasta, cook according to instructions.

Meanwhile, slice chicken into bite size pieces.  Saute' the chicken with the sundried tomatoes and garlic until warmed through.

In a seperate bowl combine feta cheese, pine nuts and olives if using.  Add chicken mixture.  Drain pasta and add to the bowl. Toss to mix well. 

This dish goes FABULOUSwith Caprese Salad and Bread and dipping oil

This was a phenominal dish!  If you want to impress someone, serve this!  So many flavors.  It is meant to feed 4, but we could have easily fed 6.  It makes alot. You can use all chicken breasts that you cook yourself if you want to make it a bit more healthy.  If so, just saute' the chicken to cook it, then add your tomatoes and garlic.  I really like both dark and light meat in a dish like this, it just adds more flavor and the meat is very tender. 

Caprese Salad

4 vine-ripened tomatoes
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese (preferably the kind packagedin water)
basil leaves (definitely fresh!)
fresh cracked pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Slice tomatoes, you should get about 4 slices per tomato. I chose to slice mine in half again, but be creative in how you want to arrange them.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Then add your mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top.  Great summer salad!

If you want to, you can mix your olive oil and vinegar prior to drizzling.  You want about 3-4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar

Another tip if you like your basil leaves chopped smaller:  Stack the basil leaves all going in the same direction, gently roll them, then gently slice them crosswise.  You'll end up with little shreds of basil.  Just be careful because it bruises really easily, then it turns black and doesn't look quite as appetizing. 

Bread and Dipping Oil

Some time I'll put my favorite bread recipe up.  This was just an all natural, no preservative multi-grain loaf from the local store.  This post is more about the dipping oil.  This is a great, simple appetizer or side with dinner.  It's a little more exciting than just plain bread.

Garlic (often I use Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic for super quick and easy)
parmesean cheese
fresh cracked pepper
Olive oil

If you're using fresh garlic, put it through a garlic press or finely mince.  Warm Olive oil in a small pan and saute' garlic just until lightly browned and fragrant.  About 1 minute.  You don't want it too dark, but definitely want it golden.  Remove garlic to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.

Once garlic is cooled, put some on each dipping plate.  Add a tbs or 2 of parm. cheese, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle Olive Oil on top until covered.  Wah-lah... dipping oil!  This is great with some additional fresh herbs as well, rosemary, thyme, or whatever you are in the mood for.  Be creative.  You could also add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cooking for friends

There's a chef in my kitchen!

Actually, that's not true, and it's not my kitchen.  It all started one day when I posted black bean and corn salad.  My friend Cindy over at She Sparkles, saw it and commented on my fb page that it looked delicious but she would rather have me come and make it for her.  So, ask and receive!  I told Cindy I would love to come and make dinner for her!  Cindy is such an amazing person, and has been such a gift in my life, it was the least I could do to let her know how much I appreciate her.  Be sure to check out her blog, you will be blessed!  She thought the enchiladas verde sounded good, so we made that, the salad and blueberry crumble for dessert.  I know, the dessert was not so mexican, but hey, it's good sweet deliciousness, so who cares?

Here I am whippin' up some black beans

One of the things Cindy told me was she wanted to learn how to cut an Avacado, so this was the "instructional" part of our time together.  :-)  After showing her how to slice it...

And scoop it out...

I told her you can actually go to Bed Bath and Beyond an buy a nice kitchen gadget, called an Avacado slicer!  Yes, they actually make those.  I've never used one, but I'm sure their fabulous.  Speaking of kitchen gadgets, Cindy has some pretty nice stuff!  I think she may have been a pampered chef fan along the way.  Sometimes its not so easy or comfortable to cook in someone else's kitchen because your just not used to the same tools.  But it was actually very easy, and Cindy just has a way of making you feel right at home.

Here's the taste test on the salad.

Notice how Cindy really enjoys the moment while my fork is immediately back for more! 
Yep, I'm a pig!

What a great Day!  Thanks Cindy for making me feel so welcome, I hope you enjoyed the finished product!

Blueberry Crumble

This is great with any fresh or frozen fruit. 

3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 c sugar
3 tbs flour + 3/4 cups for topping
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c rolled oats
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Rinse and drain berries.  Put into and 8x8 baking dish.  Sprinkle wiht the white sugar and 3 tbs flour.  Mix and spread evenly.  

In a seperate bowl, combine 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar, oats and butter.  Mix with hands until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over berries.  Bake 30-35 minutes until fruit bubbles through topping.  Serve warm.  It's especially good with a dab of vanilla ice cream on top... yum!

Monday, June 28, 2010

chocolate covered strawberries

I absolutely LOVE summer.  The warm weather, the fresh fruits and veggies, it is just my time of year.  We are in the middle of a remodeling project which of course I thought we would be done with by now.  So, between that and picking fresh fruit, making jam, and playing at the pool, summer is kind of busy.  Yes, I know... playing at the pool?  I believe in balance, what can I say?  I'm blessed to have one, and blessed to be able to stay home with my kids.  It's my JOB to hang out by the pool... so awesome!  Anyway, I picked strawberries, made jam, and bought cherries to freeze all in the same week.  My son and I mad the jam together, he's 5.  It was so much fun and he just loved being apart of it.  Hopefully I'll have enough for the whole year.  I always forget to write down how many strawberries I start with.  Last year was perfect, I actually have 1 more jar from last year, plus some raspberry.  When I wa out of pectin, and I was craving some chocolate, I whipped up some of these...

So, if you haven't made them before, it is so easy.  Just melt some chocolate of your choice in a double broiler or a regular pan on very low heat.  I like bittersweet.  When I'm buying chocolate, I don't mess around, I buy the good kind!  I think this one was Ghiradelli.  Anway, poor the chips in the pan and add about 1-2 tsp of veg. oil.  This will help the chocolate go on easier.  Once it's all melted, just dip the strawberry in, and set it on wax paper on a baking tray.  Definitely use wax paper.  Even if you put them on a plate.  That way they won't stick.  Then let them cool.  you can put them in the fridge to speed up that process.

Black Beans and rice

I really haven't intentionally been eating no meat dishes, but lately I have been more drawn to them.  I recently watched "Food Inc".  Have you seen this?  Basically it traces your food to where it actually came from.  Now, I've always been an advocate for real food, not processed.  And I always thought that when I bought all natural chicken, I was buying something good.  you know, just your basic chicken breasts, fresh or frozen, Tyson was a good name brand.  Well, the movie is a real eye opening experience.  You may not want to know, so I won't tell.  But it really was very interesting.  It's a documentary.  If you have netflix you can watch it instantly. For many years now I've bought my beef from a local connection.  So I know that it is good and has been grass fed, which is what cows were designed to eat.  Anyway... I have not become a vegetarian by any means, but I do feel alot safer eating food when I know where it came from.  So, on with the recipe.  This is quite filling for a meatless dish.  But again, you can always add meat.  :-)  I use dried beans mostly because I have a friend whose dad is a bean farmer.  I get all my beans from them.  Kidney beans, cranberry beans, navy beans, pinto beans, black beans... etc. 

2 cups dried black beans (or 4 standard size canned black beans) 
1/2 yellow onion
6 garlic cloves
1 bunch cilantro
1 palmful cumin (about 1 tbs, or to taste)
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 c. whole grain brown rice
2 avacados
1 tomato
1 jar salsa
Sour cream
tortillla chips
flour tortillas

If you're using dried beans, you'll need to prepare them according to the pkg. instructions.  Since my dried beans are so fresh, I bring them to a boil and let them simmer for about 2 hours and they are ready.  The older the beans are the longer they take to soften.  So, if you get them from the grocery store, while they stay good forever, you just don't know how long they've been on the shelf.  Still, I think better than canned, just because the canned adds preservatives.  But either will taste great. 
Preheat the oven to 325
Heat black beans in a pot over medium-high heat, keeping a good amount of liquid.  Chop onion and cilantro, mince garlic and place all in a saucepan and saute'.  After the beans have heated for about 20 minutes, stir the sauteed ingredients into the black beans. Add cumin. In a separate pot, begin preparing brown rice.  I use a rice cooker, so just do whatever works best for you.
Pour black bean mixture into a 9x13 inch pan and add shredded cheese on top covering well.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Serve blac bean entree over teh brown rice, having a nice spread of chips, salsa, sour cream, extra cheese, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro and tortillas for toppings/sides.

Rice noodles with edamame

After making the pad thai, I had these wonderful noodles left over, since the package I bought contained more than enough.  So, I whipped up a side dish to complement pretty much anything.  If you've never tried edamame (ed-uh-mah-mee) they are wonderful.  I buy them at costco in the frozen section.  you just boil them in their pods, then drain and pinch the beans out.  These soy beans are packed with nutrition and protein.  My kids love them too.  Half the fun for them is getting the beans out.

1 pkg edamame
1 bell pepper (I used red and yellow, so 1/2 each) sliced
1 carrot sliced or julienned
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tbs sesame oil
2-3 tbs soy sauce

Prepare the edamame according to package instructions.
Saute' the peppers, carrots and onion in olive oil.
Prepare the noodles according to package instructions.
After the noodles are done, drain them and put them in a large bowl.  Add the sesame oil and soy sauce, vegetables and edamame.  Toss gently and enjoy!

Pad Thai

One of my favorite things to get at the local Thai restaurant is the famous pad thai.  I was so happy to find a recipe.  I never really thought about how to make it, but I really liked this recipe.  Maybe even better than the one I get at the restaurant.  But then again, food always tastes better when you didn't cook it yourself!  haha!
I made this with chicken, but to make it a vegetarian meal, just leave out the chicken and add veggies of your choice.  And of course, you could substitute another meat if you like too.  I tend to not make things real hot-spicy, but this is a great dish with heat (add the cayenne) if you like to kick it up.

2-3 bonless skinless chicken breasts very thinly sliced.
8 ounces dried, wide and flat rice noodles.  (you may find these in the Asian foods section at the grocery, I had to go to the Asian market to find mine)
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tbs soy sauce
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 scallions, white and green parts seperated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs (optional), lightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

1.  Soak noodles according to package instructions.  Drain.  In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce

2.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Cook chicken until done, set aside.  Add to the skillet, scallion whites and garlic and cook stirring constantly until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add eggs (if using) and cook, scraping skillet with a rubber spatula, until eggs are almost set, about 30 seconds.  Transfer egg mixture to a plate.  Ad noodles and soy-sauce mixture to skillet; cook, tossing contantly, until noodles are soft and coated with sauce, about 1 minute.  Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently.  Add chicken.  Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

No bake summer lasagna

Again, from Everyday food mag.  Yep, I've mentioned it before, I get so many recipes from it, definitely my favorite, and so seasonal. 

1/2 cup ricotta
3tbs grated parmesan cheese (a word about cheese here... you have GOT to use the REAL thing.  The package of Parmesean that you actually grate yourself.  It truly makes a difference in taste, trust me.  I will go without cheese rather than use that powdery stuff in the can.  Okay, off my soapbox...
coarse salt and ground pepper
8 lasagna noodles broken in half crosswise
1 small garlic clove minced
2 pints of grape tomatoes halved
2 zucchini (about 1 lb) halved if large and thinly sliced
1 tbs torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving  (today I didn't have any fresh basil, so I used dried)

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan and 2 tsp oil; season with salt and pepper.  IN a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions, drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbs oil over medium-high.  Add garlic and tomatoes; season w/salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes.  Transfer tomatoes to a bowl.  Add 1 tbs oil and zucchini to skillet; season w/salt and pepper, cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil.

Place some tomates on four plates; top with a noodle and small spoonfuls ricotta, zucchini, and more tomatoes.  Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes.  Garnish wiht basil. 

Great with garlic bread.

French twist

Here's a twist on french toast and stuffed french toast.  That may not make sense, but here's the recipe.  I just felt inspired one morning.  It's really quite simple, but it was just different enough.  Not too sweet either

Vegetable Oil
4 slices whole wheat or whole grain bread
3 eggs
2 tbs milk
dash of cinnamon
sliced strawberries
cream cheese

Preheat large skillet to med-high with a good amounts of vegetable oil.  It should more than just coat the pan, I don't usually measure, but I'd guess with about 1/4 cup.  Hey, I didn't say this was a non fat recipe... but did you notice the whole grain bread?  Whisk together the eggs, milk and cinnamon.  Once the skillet is ready, dip your bread in the egg mixture, coat it well and place in the skillet.  It should sizzle!  This makes a nice golden crunchy outside.  As far as I'm concerned, this is the secret to great french toast!  Once it is browned, flip it and brown the other side.  Then keep it in a warm oven until toast is done.  Spread cream cheese on and top with strawberries.  My daughter wanted a sandwhich, so she had a strawberry sandwhich and thougth that was pretty groovy.

Buttermilk Chicken

This is adapted from Everyday food mag. 

2 cups buttermilk
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 lbs) cut up, skin removed
Panko Bread crumbs (found by the regular breadcrumbs, these are japenese and are nice and crunchy)

In a bowl, mix buttermilk, 2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Ad 10 pieces from whole chicken; stir to coat.  Marinate 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 450.  Set a wire rack in a baking sheet.  Remove chicken from maridad, shaking off as  much liquid as possible and coat with breadcrumbs.  Place on rack and bake until chicken is cooked through and golden brown, 45-50 minutes.  Rotate sheet half way through, and tent with foil if chicken is overbrowning. 
Serve with cucumber-celery salad and scallion cornbread muffins

Scallion Cornbread Muffins

These were very good.  I wasn't sure I would like the scallions in them.  I have another corn bread recipe that I like pretty well and it actually has corn in it.  It's just the right blend of sweet and not sweet.  I was pleasantly surprised with these!

Vegetable oil
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbs sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs buttermilk
2 tbs oil (substitute unsweetened applesauce if you want to cut down on fat)
1 large egg whisked
1/4 cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 450.  Lightly grease 6 cups of a standard size muffin pan wiht vegetable oil.
combine dry ingredients and make a well.  combine wet ingredients and scallions and pour into well.  Stir until just blended.  Fill muffin cups 2/3rds full and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 10-13 minutes.

I actually got 6 muffins plus 6 mini muffins.  When I had more batter, I knew the kids would like small heart shaped muffins. Excellent with cucumber-celery salad and buttermilk chicken.  Sorry no picture of this one, everyone gobbled them up!

cucumber-celery salad

Another one from Everyday Food.  And a salad my 3 yr old can eat, yet still very satisfying for the grown ups!  I usually throw celery leaves out, I never thought of eating them before... I'm not sure why, they are quite tasty, and I've always liked celery seed (for soups) and celery salt. 

2 tbs Olive Oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced plus 1/4 cup celery leaves
1 english cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1 shallot (optional, this is good if you like some kick, but my little ones don't like raw onion flaver)

Combine the celery, leaves, and cucumber.  In a seperate bowl mix together the vinegar, oil, salt & pepper and mix well.  Then toss with the salad.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

pork chops with pinapple

4 pork chops
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small can of chopped green chilis, drained 
1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Salt and pepper porch chops to taste.  Preheat grill and oil grates.  Grill pork chops until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, heat a tsp of olive oil in a skillet to medium.  Add pineapple and green chilis.  Cook, stirring, until pineapple is tender, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in soy sauce. 

Top Pork with pineapple mixture.  Serve on a bed of rice. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I love kebabs!  There are so many ways to make them and it's all about preference.  Here's what we had tonight.

2 lbs stew meat 
red, yellow, orange bell peppers, cut up
1 vidalia onion, cut up
1 can pineapple chunks or fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup Teriyaki Marinade

Marinade the meat for 1 hour up to overnight.  The longer, the more flavorful.  Place the meat and vegetables and in this case fruit on the kebabs and grill.  I like to preheat my grill and spray the grates with a little vegetable oil to keep the meat from sticking.  Turn occasionally until your desired doneness.  Is that a word?  "done-ness"?  Oh well, you get it.  I like mine medium rare.  Yum!  Serve on a bed of rice.

I just thought the watermelon looked pretty...

Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce

1 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
2-3 tbs honey
a splash of pineapple juice
1 garlic clove crushed or minced
1 tsp freshly snipped chives

Blend all ingredients together in a bowl.  Add meat to marinade for 1 hour or up to overnight.

If you want a dipping sauce, after you drain the marinade and add 1/2 cup water.  Bring it to a boil for 5 minutes.  Excellent with beef, pork or chicken

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Corn Cakes

This is a great side dish from "Everyday Food", my favorite cooking magazine.  The kids loved it, even my daughter who is the pickiest eater I know.  Maybe just the name... the fact that it has the word 'cake' in it.  I really think that's why she even tried it, because if she would have mad the connection that its a vegetable she wouldn't have touched it.  These are to be served with crumbled goat cheese on top which would be delicious!  But, I didn't have any in the house and it was still great.

2 tbs plus 1 tsp olive oil
3 cups corn (from 3 ears or frozen)
1 small zucchini, diced small
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 scallions, very thinly sliced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup cornmeal (I just used all p;urpose flour)
2 ounces fresh goat cheese crumbled

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp oil over medium.  Add corn and zucchini and season with salt and pepper; cook until vegetables soften slightly, 3-5 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool, 5 minutes.  Add scallions, eggs and cornmeal to corn mixture and stir to combine.
Wipe skillet clean, then heat 2 tbs oil over medium.  In batches, cook 1/4 cupfuls corn mixture until set on bottom, about 3 minutes.  Flip and cook until cakes are cooked through, 2 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  Sprinkle with goat cheese.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mojito BBQ Chicken

This is not your ordinary BBQ.  A great citrus-y marinade.  This is a great one to double up on, throw the second batch of chicken in the marinade and put it in the freezer and it'll be ready for a quick and flavorful meal.

2 tbs grated lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbs chopped fresh mint
1 tbs honey
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 3 1/2 pound chicken cut into 6 pieces with skin removed from all but wings (or just by pick of the chick...much easier)
1 lime cut into wedges and fresh mint sprig for garnish

Mix all ingredients (except chicken) well.  Reserve 1/2 the marinade in a seperate bowl and refrigerate.  Put the remaining marindae in a bag with the chicken pieces and turn to coat.  Marinade for 2 hours up to overnight. 
Preheat grill and coat grill rack lightly with oil.  remove chicken from marinade and girll, turning occasionally until cooked through.  About 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the reseved marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Serve as a sauce over the chicken.
Enjoy!  Gotta love grillin' season!