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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Raspberry Sauce

After seeing this cake here yesterday on the Novice Chef, I really wanted to make this cake. The recipe is originally from Ina Garden and like most of her recipes it doesnt disappoint. I love lemon in pretty much anything, it just gives such a light, fresh flavor. I only had fat-free vanilla yogurt at home instead of whole plain yogurt so I used that. I also used canola oil instead of vegetable oil and made a rasberry sauce instead of the glaze. Here's the recipe as I made it.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
(Makes 8 1" slices)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour an 8"x4"x2" loaf pan. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, yogurt, vanilla and lemon zest and juice, being careful to keep any lemon seeds out of the batter. Mix in dry ingredients. When combined, gently fold in vegetable oil. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes are then remove from pan. Slice and top with raspberry sauce.

Raspberry Lemon Sauce

1 cup raspberries
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to crush raspberries. As the sauce heats the berries will easily break down. Cook until berries sauce is a uniform consistency and remove from heat. Sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.

Peach Pork Chop Tacos

Pork was on sale at Kroger when I did my grocery shopping this week and Todd always likes pork chops so I bought a package. But I dont really like plain, old pork chops, so I needed a different way to use them. I had some peach-mango salsa in the fridge so I came up with this.

Peach Pork Chop Tacos
(Serves 2)

2 1" thick pork chops
1 cup peach-mango salsa
1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 red onion, diced
1 peach, diced
4 tortillas
Fresh cilantro, chopped, to taste

Put pork chops and salsa in a plastic bag to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pork chops on a baking pan and pour excess marinade over them. Bake for approximately 30 minutes until almost cooked through. Slice thinly and return to pan, sprinkle with cumin and chili powder and toss with marinade still on the pan, add more salsa if necessary. Return to oven for approximately 5 more minutes. Assemble tacos with 1/4 each of the pork and cheese and microwave to melt the cheese if desired. (Sorry I forgot to take another picture after this point.) Add 1/4 each of the onion and diced peaches and top with fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beef Noodles

A quick, simple meal when you want comfort food. My mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid and its one of my dad's favorite meals served with some warm garlic bread. You can make this with ground turkey or chicken as well.

Beef Noodles
(Serves 4)

1 pound ground beef (I used 93/7, but whatever you use just make sure to drain the grease off of it before adding the other ingredients)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pkg wide egg noodles (I used Healthy Harvest whole wheat)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I used Cambell's Healthy Request)
4 oz Velveeta cheese (I used 2%)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (my mom used to use 1 can of cheddar cheese soup in place of the velveeta, milk, and shredded cheese)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chives (I only had dried but fresh would be better)
1 tsp parsley (again only had dried)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Brown ground beef with garlic. Meanwhile heat water for egg noodles, salt the water and cook noodles approx 6 minutes until al dente. When beef is browned, turn heat to low and add cream of mushroom soup, velveeta, and milk. Add onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper and the drained egg noodles. Stir to combine. Add shredded cheese and stir until melted. Let it simmer a few minutes to thicken the sauce if necessary. Top with chives and parsley and serve.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Crock Pot Lasagna

This is a quick and easy way to get the fantastic flavors of lasagna without all the time and effort. Perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon or busy weeknights.

Crock Pot Lasagna
Recipe adapted from Kraft Foods
(Serves 6)

1 lb. ground beef or turkey (I used 93/7 ground turkey)
1 jar marinara sauce (I used Prego Traditional Heart Smart)
1/2 jar water
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (I used part-skim ricotta)
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
1 egg
3 T parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp caraway or fennel seeds
1/2 tsp basil
4-6 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese (I used 2% mozzerella)

Brown ground beef or turkey with minced garlic. When cooked through, add marinara sauce, water, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and caraway or fennel seeds. Simmer about 5 more minutes for flavors to combine and remove from heat.

Stir together ricotta cheese, egg, chopped spinach, parmesan and basil.

In a 5 qt. crockpot, ladle approximately 1-2 cups of meat sauce. Layer noodles, breaking to fit until covered. Spoon in half of the ricotta mixture. Add approximately 2 cups of meat sauce. Add another layer of noodles, breaking to fit. Add remaining ricotta mixture. Cover with remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzerella. Cook on low for approximately 4-5 hours.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are one of those things in life that just make everything seem ok. A warm, gooey cinnamon roll is comfort food to me. I haven't tried to make them from scratch for 14 years; the last time I did it, I was in home economics class my freshman year of high school. I don't know why I waited so long. I was pretty intimidated, remembering it to be a long, difficult process. However, I was pleasantly surprised; first, because the rolls were pretty easy to make, and second, because they tasted so much better than the ones I had in high school. The addition of cream cheese in the dough made them so moist. If you haven't made cinnamon rolls before, this is definitely a recipe worth trying.

Cream-cheese cinnamon rolls
(Adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker - original recipe here)

1 pkg. instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 tsp, divided
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
2 T light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature, plus 2 T, plus 2 T, divided
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature after dough has risen

Heat water to 115 degrees and add yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar. Mix and let sit about 10 minutes until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined in a stand mixer. Switch attachment to dough hook and add flour and salt. Mix the dough on medium-high speed for approximately 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue to knead about 6 more minutes. The dough will be sticky. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead about 1/4-1/3 cup more flour into the dough by hand. Grease a deep bowl and place ball of dough in the bowl, turning once to evenly coat the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size (1-2 hours).

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 T maple syrup

Shortly before the dough is finished rising, mix the filling. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until moistened and combined. Set aside until dough is ready.

Place cream cheese in a small bowl and mix until easily spreadable.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface again. Knead 1-2 minutes until dough is no longer sticky, adding more flour if necessary. Roll the dough with a floured rolling pin to a 10x10 square. Spread cream cheese gently and evenly over dough. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and then fold the resulting rectangle into thirds again. Turn seam-side down and re-roll dough into a 10x20 rectangle. Melt 2 T. butter and brush over dough. Pour filling onto dough and spread evenly, leaving a 1" border on side you will roll toward, so the roll can be sealed. (Roll from short sides for bigger rolls, recipe will yield about 8 rolls, or long sides for smaller rolls, yields about 15 rolls.) Roll tightly and place seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, trim off the uneven ends, and cut the roll into approximately 1 inch thick slices.
Grease a 9x13 baking pan and set rolls, cut side up in pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and either let rise for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, let rolls sit at room temperature if refrigerated for at least 15 minutes. Bake until tops are golden brown and filling is bubbly, approximately 30 minutes. Melt remaining 2 T butter. Cool approximately 5 minutes and brush tops melted butter.
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 T milk (I used skim)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl, adding additional milk or sugar as necessary to reach desired consistency. Drizzle onto rolls.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Not Yo Nachos

I made these quick and easy chicken nachos for Todd and I on Saturday while we were watching a football game. Ten minutes later the plate was empty.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Nachos
(Serves 2-4)
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
1/2 cup hot pepper cheese, grated
1/4 cup colby jack or Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 T Paul Newman Cilantro Lime Vinagrette
1 tsp garlic salt (I recommend Lawry's)
Tortilla Chips

Cut chicken into small chunks. Add to a small skillet and cook a couple minutes. Add vinagrette and garlic salt and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through (approximately 5 minutes). Put a layer of chips on a plate, cover with 1/2 of black bean salsa, chicken and cheese. Add another layer of chips, and cover with remaining ingredients. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce

Apple Crisp
(Serves 8)

Approx. 2 lbs apples (I used Jonagold), peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (adjust based on sweetness of your apples)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
6 T butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, lightly spray a deep dish pie plate or 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Toss sliced apples, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and granulated sugar in a bowl. Pour apple mixture into baking dish.

In a clean bowl, mix oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in butter with your fingers or pastry blender until mixture has the texture of coarse crumbs. Pour crumb mixture evenly over apples, patting lightly in place.

Bake at 375 degrees for first 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for approximately 30-40 minutes until apples are bubbly. Let cool for at least 15 minutes then serve. Top with caramel sauce, recipe below. Vanilla ice cream also makes an excellent topping. (Note: it is impossible to get it out of the pan in a neat, uniform "piece" - just go with it)

Caramel Sauce
(From Simply Recipes - I cut the recipe in half)

1/2 cup sugar
3 T butter
1/4 cup cream (I used half and half since that's what I had in the fridge)

Heat sugar in a heavy-bottomed 2 qt sauce pan over med-high heat. Stir constantly as sugar begins to melt. Once sugar begins to boil, stop stirring until all sugar is melted. Add butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat, wait a few seconds, and then slowly whisk in cream. Let stand to thicken.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Serves 2

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Baby spinach (about 20 peices)
2 T roasted red peppers, chopped
2 T herbed goat cheese
1/2 cup Kraft Parmesian-Asiago Vinagrette Dressing
1/4 box spaghetti or angel hair pasta (I used whole wheat)
3 T marinara sauce
1 T olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by covering with foil. Butterfly each chicken breast and pound to even thickness (about 1/4" - 1/2" thick). Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 1/2 the spinach, goat cheese, and red peppers on each of the chicken breasts. Roll up the meat and place seam side down onto pan. Brush a coating of dressing over tops of chicken and bake. Whenever the tops of the chicken begin to look dry, brush on another coating of dressing. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes or until juices run clear (Cooking time will depend on how thick your chicken is).

While chicken is cooking, boil water for pasta. Salt the water and add spaghetti. When cooked to al dente, drain the pasta and pour 1/4 cup of dressing, olive oil, marinara and garlic into hot pan. Stir to combine and let garlic cook for a couple of minutes, don't let it burn. Return pasta to pan and toss to combine. Add red pepper flakes. Serve chicken over pasta and sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mexican for a crowd

On Saturday, we had a few people over for the big Louisville vs. Kentucky football game. I decided a build your own taco bar would be an easy route for football food. I made a couple of salsas, a couple hot appetizers and a crockpot full of shredded chicken plus cake for dessert. It was all a big hit. Sorry for the lack of pictures.

Crockpot Taco Mix
(Serves 10 with plenty of leftovers)

5 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 green peppers
1 large white onion
1 1/2 cups chipotle marinade
1 T lime juice
2 T cumin
1 T garlic powder
1 cup water

Put chicken breasts, water and 1 cup marinade in crockpot. Cook on high for 3 hours. Do not open crock pot lid. Cut up peppers and onions and add remaining marinade to a plastic bag and refrigerate. Shred chicken with 2 forks and drain excess water from crockpot. Return chicken to crockpot, add peppers and onions, spices, and lime juice. Continue cooking on low for 1 additional hour. Serve on warm tortillas with desired toppings.

The leftovers made delicious quesadillas when we added 1/4 cup of cheese and some leftover black bean salsa.

Peach-Mango Salsa

3 peaches, peeled, pits removed
1 mango, peeled, core removed
1 jalapeno
1 plum tomato
Handful chopped cilantro

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until desired consistency. Serve with cinnamon chips or tortilla chips.

Enchilada Bites
(Serves 12, 2 per person)

8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded chicken, cooked
1 cup cream of chicken soup (I used Healthy Request)
1/2 cup enchilada sauce (I like Old El Paso Hot)
1/2 cup shredded colby jack or Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 2" circles out of tortilla shells (3 per shell). Warm tortilla rounds in the microwave for about 15-30 seconds and press each round into wells of a mini-muffin pan. Combine chicken, soup and enchilada sauce in a small pan and heat to bubbling. Spoon mixture equally into muffin cups. Top each with shredded cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Use a spoon to pop out bites.

Black Bean Baked Empenadas
(Serves 12, 2 per person)

1 pkg refrigerated pie crust
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes (I like the garlic and onion or zesty blend), drained
1/2 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 cup roasted corn, removed from cob
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 egg whites
Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out pie crust and cut into 3" rounds. Put rounds onto a greased cookie sheet. Mix vegetables and spices together for filling, lightly mash beans. Put approx 1 T of filling onto each round. Fold over and seal edges with a fork. Brush tops with egg whites. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Bake in the oven for approx 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pumpkin Nut Ice Cream

Todd and I had some delicious pumpkin ice cream at the apple orchard last weekend and I wanted to try making some. I found a recipe at Williams-Sonoma so I thought I would try it out. The original recipe can be found here.

Pumpkin Nut Ice Cream

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
5 egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 T bourbon
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Combine pumpkin and vanilla, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. In a heavy sauce pan, combine 1 1/2 cups of cream and 1/2 cup brown sugar over medium heat. Cook until bubbles form around the edges but do not boil (approx. 5 min.)

While cream mixture is heating, combine egg yolks, spices and remaining cream and brown sugar. Whisk until smooth. Remove cream mixture from heat and gradually whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot cream to temper the egg mixture. Pour egg mixture back into pan. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat, until thickened, about 4-6 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard mixture back into a bowl, placing the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice water. Allow the mixture to cool and whisk in the pumpkin mixture. Cover and refrigerate the custard mixture at least 3 hours (I refrigerated mine overnight).

Transfer custard mixture to an ice cream mixture and pour in half and half and freeze according to mixer instructions. During the last minute of freezing add 1 tablespoon of bourbon and 1/2 cup pecans. Freeze at least 3 hours before serving.

Tres Leches Cake

Todd and I had Tres Leches cake multiple times while we were on our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. Before that I hadn't had any since my brothers 8th birthday party when he insisted that his birthday cake be a "milk cake" - which my mother found at the local pasteleria. All I can remember is her saying how heavy the cake was. The cake is actually a really light, airy sponge cake but is soaked in 3 different milks to make a very moist and delicious cake. In the Dominican, the cake was always served with chocolate sauce or sliced strawberries but since I didnt have either on hand, I used cinnamon to garnish the top.

Recipe adapted from

Tres Leches Cake
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk

1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp dark rum

2 cups heavy cream
3 T sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Part 1:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking pan. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until creamy. Add milk and vanilla and beat until combined. Gently mix in flour mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add in remaining 1/4 cup sugar until egg whites are stiff and glossy. Fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into other mixture to add air. Gently fold remaining egg whites into batter. Pour batter into pan and smooth out batter. Bake approximately 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cake cool and turn out onto a rimmed platter.

Part 2:
Allow cake to cool completely, you can refrigerate overnight if desired. Poke cake with a fork many times. Mix together evaporated milk, condensed milk, 1/4 cup cream, and rum in a small pitcher or measuring cup. Slowly drizzle the mixture over the top of the cake. You will likely have about 1/2 - 1 cup of the mixture left at the end. Allow the cake to soak up the mixture at least 1 hour. The cake should soak up any mixture around the edges of the platter.

Part 3:
Mix 2 cups heavy cream with 1 tsp vanilla. Beat at high speed with a whisk. Slowly add up to 3 tablespoons sugar until cream is thick enough to spread. Frost cake with cream mixture. Lightly dust with cinnamon and serve. Store cake in refrigerator.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Baked Mac N'Cheese

The hubs is out of town for work this week, which means I'm making baked mac n'cheese. Unfortunately for me, my husband loves all types of cheese, yet the blue box is the only type of macaroni he will eat. I just dont get it, but it's what he was raised on so I'm not fighting it, I just make myself a nice batch when he's not here.

Baked Four Cheese Macaroni
(Serves 4)

1/2 box of pasta (I prefer whole wheat and used a combo of shells and fusilli today because its what I had in the cupboard)
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 T butter
1 T flour
1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup gouda, grated
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 cup monterrey jack, grated
2 T bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned)
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
a dash of cayenne pepper
a dash of chili powder

Cook pasta to al dente and drain. Preheat broiler on low. In the same sauce pan, melt butter and whisk in flour to form a paste. Slowly add milk, constantly whisking and cook until it thickens. Add cayenne, S&P. Add cheese a handful at a time, reserving 1/4 cup. Stir in pasta and pour the entire mixture into a greased baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and then bread crumbs and sprinkle with chili powder. Broil for about 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are toasted.

How do you like them apples?

We have apples everywhere... Todd and I went to the apple orchard Saturday morning and picked tons of apples. We came home with over 50 pounds and 3 different varieties. This is less than half of them. Although its so fun to pick your own, those bags get heavy!

Although there will be lots of apple recipes coming up the first thing I did was make some homemade apple sauce. I love good old-fashioned, chunky, cinnamon apple sauce. Warmed up with a spoonful of whip cream or vanilla ice cream, it's like heaven in a bowl. So good. So Saturday I used about 20 pounds of apples and cooked and canned 6 quarts plus about another half a jar that I stuck in the fridge. I made it in 2 batches because I didnt have a big enough pan, so below is the recipe for half that amount.

Homemade Apple Sauce

(Makes about 3 quarts)

20 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chunked

3 T lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 T cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 cup water

Put chunked apples into a large stock pot with water, lemon zest and lemon juice over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. After about 10 minutes when apples are starting to break down, add cinnamon and sugar (the entire 1/4 cup might not be necessary depending on the sweetness of the apples). Cook about another 10 minutes and add ginger and nutmeg. Continue cooking until apples are cooked to the desired chunkiness. If you want a smooth sauce, you can blend in a food processor or strain the apple sauce.

To can the apple sauce, boil the jars and lids separately to sterilize. Transfer apple sauce to jars using a funnel, leaving 1/2" head space in each jar. Put on the lids and transfer to another stock pot of boiling water or pressure cooker. Make sure the water level is about 1" over the top of the jars. Place the jars on a rack or folded dish towel, not directly on the bottom of the pan. Process for about 20 minutes after the water comes to a gentle boil. Make sure each of the lids "pops" and doesnt spring back when you press down to ensure they are sealed.

If anyone has suggestions for what I should do with the other 30+ pounds of apples, please leave a comment. I have a few ideas but we have a LOT of apples.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Homemade pizza is one of life's great things, you control the quality of ingredients, the thickness of the crust, the amount of cheese. A good homemade pizza is one of my all time favorite meals. On a normal basis, I use frozen bread dough to make homemade pizza because I've never really done much with yeast and it sort of intimidated me. However, I decided I would try to make a whole wheat crust to make my pizza a little healthier so I figured it was time to experiment. I had saved a recipe earlier but in the end just went with the recipe on the back of the flour bag.

Whole wheat pizza crust
(Makes 1 large pizza or 2 medium pizzas)

1 cup water, heated to 110 degrees
1 pkg rapid-rise yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbs olive oil

Mix together the yeast and water and let it dissolve for about 5 minutes. Put the wheat flour, sugar, oil and 1 cup of the AP flour in a mixing bowl. Add the yeast water mixture and begin to mix. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour slowly as needed until the dough comes together. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put a little oil in a deep bowl, put in the dough and turn once to cover the top with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise. (The recipe says 15 minutes but I left it for about an hour). I then wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight although it could be used right away.

The next night I rolled the dough out onto a floured surface to make 1 large pizza. Next time I think I will add a little garlic powder and herbs to the dough just to give it a little more flavor. I brushed the top with a little olive oil, added some garlic powder, dried oregano, and paprika and baked it at 450 degrees for a few minutes until it started to crisp up.


Zesty Pizza Sauce (I used Ragu but added oregano and crushed red pepper flakes)
Spicy Italian Sausage
Green Peppers

Put on all the toppings as desired and put the pizza back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese begins to brown.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Cheese was the focus of tonight's dinner because it was fast, easy, and (despite all the cheese) relatively healthy.

Tortellini with Cheese Sauce
(Serves 4 - according to the package, 2 with a little leftover if you want it as your meal)

1 pkg whole wheat 3-cheese tortellini (I used Buitoni)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used Prego HeartSmart Traditional)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups spinach (I used fresh baby spinach)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Cook tortellini acccording to package directions. Drain. In the now empty pan, add sauce, garlic, and cheese. Cook for a couple minutes until the cheese melts into the sauce. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Return tortellini to the pan and add seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir until evenly coated with sauce. Serve sprinkled with grated parmesiano cheese if desired.

Mexican Muffins?

Mexican Lasagna Bites? Layered Taco Cups? I have no idea what to call these things but they are very good. A quick and easy Mexican appetizer that's more substantial (and healthier - in the recipe below) than chips and queso or salsa, etc. Perfect for picky eaters because you can make each cup differently if you want. Plus they are just more fun than a taco.

Taco Bites
(Serves 6 - 2 per person)

5 8" tortillas (I used whole wheat flour tortillas)
2 cups shredded chicken (you could substitute ground beef or make them completely vegetarian)
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 cup shredded cheese (I used monterrey jack and cheddar)
1/2 cup salsa
Chili powder and cumin to sprinkle on the tops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan. Cut out 24 rounds out of the tortillas. I used a juice glass but any cookie cutter or circle shape that is approximately the right size will work. Place 1 tortilla round in each muffin cup. Mix shredded chicken with salsa, add a spoonful of chicken to each cup. Add a sprinkle of cheese to each and cover with another tortilla round. Add another spoonful of chicken mixture to each cup. Slightly mash black beans and mix corn, black beans, and red onion (feel free to add a diced jalapeno here too if you want to add heat.) Add a spoonful of this mixture to each cup. Cover tops with remaining cheese. Sprinkle each muffin with cumin and chili powder. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream, salsa, guacamole or whatever you like.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fall is in the air...

So I thought I would make a nice, fall dessert for a Labor Day weekend party we went to last night. I found a recipe for carrot cake in my Best-Loved Recipes cookbook that looked super easy and I had all the ingredients I needed. It was my first attempt at a layer cake and it turned out pretty well but I learned a couple things too. Namely make sure the bottom layer is flat to stack them so that there isnt a large gap to fill with frosting. I forgot to take the camera to the party so I don't have a picture but it did get rave reviews and was pretty much gone at the end of the night.

Carrot Layer Cake

For the cake:
1 pkg Yellow Cake Mix (I used Pillsbury Moist Deluxe)
4 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce (original recipe calls for vegetable oil)
3 cups grated carrots
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (I added this to the original)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 2 9-inch round baking pans. Combine all ingredients and mix on low until moistened. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

For the frosting:
1 pkg cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter, vanilla and cream cheese in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Add sugar gradually, beating until smooth. If frosting becomes too thick, add milk to thin as needed. (Mine worked just fine with these measurements).

Put a layer of frosting on the top of bottom layer. Stack the 2nd layer on top and put a thin layer of frosting around the sides and on top. Chill for frosting to set. Add more frosting as desired. (I had plenty left over).

Since Labor Day also marks the end of summer, I made another batch of homeade ice cream this week as well. I had leftover buttermilk from my scones I made last weekend so I found a vanilla buttermilk ice cream recipe on It was a very simple recipe with only 4 ingredients and no cooktime required so I figured I would try it. The ingredients were too much for my KA ice cream freezer so I had to cut back a little. Here's the original and below is my adaptation. I think its a little on the tangy side with all the buttermilk, so if I make it in the future, I'll reduce the buttermilk a little more. It is excellent with caramel sauce.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream
6 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in ice cream freezer and blend per machine directions.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Game Time

I love college football... best time of the year. Yesterday was a great day for a game. The weather was sunny and warm but cooled off for the game and it worked out perfectly.

I changed my tailgating menu a little bit after we decided to grill. Instead of the chicken, I made burgers at my husband's request. He named them "Todd's famous double stuffed bacon cheeseburgers" - not exactly a nickname and since it was the first time I've made them, I'm not sure they qualified as famous but they are now. They were a huge hit.

Todd's Famous Double Stuffed Bacon Cheeseburgers
(Serves 8)

2 pounds hamburger (I used 93/7)
1 pound ground turkey (again 93/7 - use any combination you like)
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Lawry's seasoning salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 oz sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices pepper jack cheese

Mix the meat, egg, bread crumbs and spices. Form into 16 equal size patties, making the middles slightly thinner then the edges. On half the patties, place crumbled bacon and cheddar in the center. Top with the remaining patties and pinch the edges closed. Grill approximately 5 minutes on each side. Add the pepper jack slices to the top and cook until melted with the grill closed (about 1 minute). Do not press down on the burgers with the spatula while cooking or cheese is likely to squeeze out. Serve on fresh hamburger buns/rolls.

I also made crab dip for the game. It was very simple and easy to throw together at the last minute.

Spicy Crab Dip

1 package lump crab meat, diced
1 package cream cheese (I use FF)
1 cup sour cream (I use FF)
1/2 jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalepeno, seeded and diced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, if necessary

Blend softened cream cheese and sour cream until mixed. Stir in remaining ingredients. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tailgating Menu

This weekend marks the beginning of college football season and I am so excited. I can't wait to cheer on my Hawkeyes and go to the Louisville games. My husband is a huge UofL Cardinals fan and since we live in town we have season tickets. I'm a diehard Hawks fan but live too far away to make it to many games and I dont think our schedule is going to allow for any visits this fall. But I'll be supporting via radio/television all season.

So this Saturday's UofL game is at 7:30 pm - perfect tailgating game time. Noon games make things difficult. So our plan is to tailgate all afternoon starting around 2 pm. Here's what I'm bringing to the party:

Crockpot BBQ chicken
(Serves 8)

3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs
1 8 oz bottle of BBQ sauce - I like to pick a hickory smoked sauce
3 T. Honey
2 oz. Bourbon (I use Makers Mark)
1/4 C. Brown Sugar
2 T. Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1 T. chili powder

Put the chicken in the crockpot, season with S&P, and add 1 C of water and cook on low for at 4 hours. Shred chicken with 2 forks and add the remaining ingredients, cook on low for at least 1 more hour.

Black Bean Salsa Dip

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans Ro-tel Original
1 can white shoepeg corn, drained
1 red onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup Italian dressing (I like the fat-free wishbone)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. It can be served immediately but its better if it sits in the fridge for a few hours first. Serve with tortilla chips or Frito's corn chips. This is also really good on salads or in tacos.

Guacamole - see recipe here

Dessert - I'm thinking about making these cookie dough truffles from Macaroni and Cheesecake but shaping them like little footballs but I haven't decided for sure yet - it sort of depends on the weather and how much of a pain it would be to keep the chocolate from melting. I might have to save them for a cooler weather game.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken Fajitas

(Serves 3-4)

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 green bell pepper
1/2 large red onion
1 can diced tomatoes (I usually use Ro-tel but use plain if you prefer a milder flavor)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Flour or corn tortillas
Shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat and spray with cooking spray or add a small amount of oil (might not be necessary in a non-stick pan but I used my cast-iron grill pan). Cut the chicken into small chunks, season with half of the spices, and transfer to hot pan. Cook about 5 minutes. Slice the bell pepper and onion into thin strips and add to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes more, add the tomatoes and the remaining spices. Saute about 5 minutes more until chicken is cooked through and onions are translucent. Warm tortillas in the microwave or a separate pan and serve with shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, etc.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Holy Guacamole!

When reading Brown Eyed Baker yesterday, her post about reasons to bake in September made me crave guacamole... seriously I think I just have to see the word guacamole to want Mexican food. Tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa could be my favorite snack. I think I could probably live on them. I had already started the prep for last night's dinner (see below) when I read the blog, so too late to take action on my craving. Tonight Todd's parents are taking us out to dinner in return for some plumbing work we helped them with this weekend and he chose Olive Garden as his restaurant of choice. (God help the guy, he loves chain restaurants - its the way he was raised but its hard to get him to go anywhere new.) Anyway, no Mexican satisfaction tonight either - and if I have it for lunch, I'll be falling asleep at my desk by 2 - so I thought I would share my simple guacamole and salsa recipes with you for now. Leave a comment with your recipe if you have one (and everybody always seems to.)

(Serves way more people if you go by what you're supposed to eat rather than what actually happens at my house)

3-4 ripe Haas avocados
Juice of 1 lime (you can use the bottled lime juice if that's all you have - about 1 T.)
Garlic salt seasoning to taste (I always use Lawry's and use about a 1/2 palm full)

1/4 red or white onion, finely chopped
1-2 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped

Remove the pits from the avocados and scrape the insides into a bowl. Gently mash with a fork, add lime juice, garlic salt, and any optional ingredients and stir/mash together. You don't need to make it smooth - some lumps are good. Serve with tortilla chips and cold beer or margaritas!

(Makes about 5 quarts)

2 large cans of Ro-tel original
1 can of diced tomato, garlic and onion
1 large white onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
2 small cans green chilies (find them in the Mexican food section at the grocery store)
3-5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T of ground cumin
2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
Cayenne pepper to taste (depending on how hot you want it and how hot the peppers are)
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro and cayenne in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmer for at least 1 hour - the longer you cook it, the hotter it gets. After an hour, test the flavor and add cayenne pepper if desired. Just before you remove from heat, add the cilantro. I usually bottle mine in quart sized Mason jars and share them with friends and family. If you plan to keep them for more than about a month, you should use a canning process or freeze.

Tip: I like to blend the tomatoes, 3/4 of the peppers, and 3/4 of the onion in batches in my food processor to make the salsa not as chunky before adding to the stock pot, the remaining peppers and onions I leave finely chopped for some chunkiness.

Dresser Re-model

My parents found me an old dresser at an auction when I moved into my first apartment after college. It was well-made but had definitely been used for many years. The top especially was pretty beat up - lots of nicks and scratches and a good size water stain. The finish was a dark, heavy varnish that obscured the wood grain and just looked dated. The pulls were a lovely ornate brass shape. This isnt my dresser, but the style is similar and the handles were the same - the color of mine was a little darker.

Todd and I decided to attempt to refinish the dresser and bought some paint and varnish stripper, lots of sand paper and steel wool, and got to work. After the first 2 days it looked like this... We discovered that the dresser was actually made of beautiful cherry wood and was in excellent condition after sanding away all the old finish. We wanted to try to match it to Todd's armoire that we have in our bedroom and really love, so we needed a dark stain with warm red undertones. We ended up choosing Minwax Satin Brown Mahogony stain with polyurethane already mixed in. After we put the first coat on the top, we decided it would probably take 2-3 coats.We ended up putting on 1 coat and rubbing it off with rags. The 2nd coat we brushed on and just left it alone. I put a 3rd coat on the top as it was lighter than the rest of the dresser appeared to be and touched up a few places. We sanded in between each coat with fine grit steel wool. We replaced all the old drawer pulls with modern brushed nickel hardware.

Sorry for the poor lighting - the dresser really turned out to be an exellent match for the armoire we already had. Also ignore the ugly TV - Todd won't let me get rid of it and there are too many clothes inside the armoire for it right now but when we move somewhere with more closet space, the TV will be going into the armoire. I'm so happy with how it turned out. I'm now in love with a piece of furniture I was ready to throw away and the total project only cost about $50 in supplies, including the new hardware.

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