Grilled Shrimp Tacos

>> Friday, December 30, 2011

My sweet mother-in-law bought me five (5!) new cookbooks for Christmas this year and I've had such fun pouring through them ogling all the wonderful new recipes I have at my fingertips. My sweet mother (and father) bought me the new Amazon Kindle Fire for Christmas and I have been downloading new books like crazy, but I know that I'll never trade in my cookbooks. When it comes to cookbooks, I want the tangible copy versus its online companion. Besides, I hate when I'm cooking from an online recipe and my computer (or Kindle) goes to sleep and I have to 'wake' it back up to see the next steps of the recipe. Nothing like raw meat juice sluiced across the keyboard...

Anyway, this next recipe is from one of my new cookbooks that Ruthie gave me - The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2012. This cookbook is excellent! If you're unfamiliar with ATK, the chefs set out to master a recipe, making it in a multitude of different ways until they find the very best recipe. I love that they're doing all the hard work for me! And I have to say that this recipe for shrimp tacos was awesome! After dining out so much and eating all the rich holiday food, Andrew and I were ready for some lighter and healthier fare. The grilled shrimp tacos, paired with chips and queso, made for great football munchies to eat while we watched the Holiday Bowl. Go Horns!

This recipe came together fairly quickly, but if you're looking for a shortcut, make sure to buy already peeled and deveined shrimp from the seafood counter to save time. Also, if you can't find jicama in your grocery store, I think you could substitute a peeled tart green apple. While it wouldn't have the same taste, it would give the salsa a nice crunch and compliment the sweetness of the pineapple.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pineapple-Jicama Salsa
adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2012

Good quality store-bought (or homemade) guacamole
3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)
10 oz jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cups pineapple, measured and then cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 lb. small to medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas

Combine 2 tablespoons more lime juice, jicama, pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno and shallot in a bowl. Season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heat oil in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium bowl and let cool to room temperature, then stir in remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add your shrimp to spice mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, covered for 15 minutes. Don't marinate shrimp for longer than 15 minutes because the citric acid will start to 'cook' the shrimp and turn them rubbery!

Meanwhile, heat an indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Place tortillas on grill pan, flipping once, to heat through. Remove them to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Place shrimp on grill pan and cook, flipping once, until they turn opaque, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm until all shrimp are cooked.

To serve, place 4-5 shrimp in each tortilla, top with a dollop of guacamole mixture and a dollop of pineapple salsa.


The Best Artichoke Dip

>> Thursday, December 29, 2011

I absolutely adore artichokes in all forms. I'm pretty sure I've never met an artichoke that I didn't immediately stuff into my mouth. Usually I steam my artichokes, but I saw this pretty picture of an artichoke dip on Pinterest and thought that the corresponding recipe for sounded pretty darn tasty. Plus I had all the ingredients (except for the canned artichokes) already in my kitchen. Sweet!

When I made this dip (and I've made it twice in the last two weeks), I use canned artichoke bottoms rather than artichoke hearts. I've found that the artichoke leaves that are attached to the hearts don't have nearly as good of flavor or texture as the bottom does - so why bring along excess baggage when you can just eat the good stuff?

Two quick notes: the recipe as written doesn't serve more than 8, so if you're serving a crowd, you'll want to double or triple the recipe. Also, you can prepare the dip ahead of time, refrigerate it and then bake it just before serving.

The Best Artichoke Dip
adapted from Picky Cook

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup mayonnaise (you can use low fat)
1/4 cup sour cream (you can use low fat)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika, divided
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1 14-oz can artichoke bottoms, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
crackers or baguette slices, for serving

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together parmesan cheese, mayo, sour cream, garlic powder, onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper. Add artichoke and gently stir to combine. Transfer to a 3-cup ramekin or other small baking dish. Sprinkle shredded Italian cheese over the artichoke mixture. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 teaspoon paprika.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes (35 minutes if it has been refrigerated). Turn on broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving with crackers and/or toasted baguette slices.


Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

>> Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I've seen this recipe floating around on Pinterest and decided to make it for dinner one night. Since it's supposed to be just like La Madeleine's soup, I served it with a Caesar salad - which is the classic combo I always order whenever I go to LM. Just for fun, I sprinkled grilled cheese croutons on top of the soup.

Usually when I make a meatless dinner, it's met with some resistance from the hubby and from the baby. (Seriously, the kid LOVES meat - she asks for meat as a snack!) But much to my surprise, I didn't hear one complaint and every plate was licked clean.

Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
adapted from GirlTalk

2 24-oz jars of tomato puree
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, measured and then finely minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup heavy cream (I think next time I will use less - maybe 1/2 cup)
1 stick unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

6 slices good quality bread
6 slices Muenster cheese
3 slices sharp cheddar cheese

For the soup, heat tomato puree, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper over medium-low heat. Add cream and butter and stir mixture until butter is melted. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Meanwhile, assemble sandwiches by placing 2 slices of Muenster and 1 slice of cheddar between 2 slices of bread. Repeat to make 3 sandwiches. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt a small pat of butter and cook sandwiches, flipping halfway through, until both sides are golden brown and cheese is melted. Remove sandwiches to a cutting board. Slice sandwiches into small squares.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a handful of grilled cheese croutons.


Barefoot Contessa's Steak Sandwich

>> Monday, December 19, 2011

All morning I delayed going to the grocery store because I didn't feel inspired to make our weekly menu. I think I spent so much time planning our Christmas menu that I hadn't given any thought to what we'd eat the rest of the week. I knew I had to go to the grocery store today (we were down to only 4 diapers!), so I turned on Food Network so see if anything sounded good. And oh boy, did it ever!

Barefoot Contessa made a steak sandwich that looked divine and I jotted down the ingredients I lacked. Because it can be thrown together pretty quickly, and because I couldn't get my mind off of it, I made it for dinner tonight. This sandwich was restaurant quality, in my opinion. Good, crusty bread married with tender steak, caramelized onions, peppery arugula and this wonderful mustard-mayo sauce. Delicious! The mustard-mayo sauce is really simple to make but it adds just the right creamy tang to the sandwich - so don't think of skipping it! Andrew gave it two thumbs up and asked for it to be added into the regular dinner rotation.

As with any steak recipe, you can cook your steak to your desired doneness. While Andrew is a fan of rare steak, I tend to like mine on the more well-done side, so I cooked it ours a happy medium (pun intended).

Barefoot Contessa's Steak Sandwich
recipe via Food Network

1 (12-oz) 1-inch think NY strip steak
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1-2 onions, sliced into rings
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 mini ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
1/2 cup arugula leaves

Mustard-Mayo Sauce
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sour cream
pinch of kosher salt

Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it's almost smoking, then sear the steak on each side for about 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook steak for about 7-14 minutes, turning once, until steak is cooked to desired doneness. Remove to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and saute for 10-15 minutes, until onions are browned and caramelized, stirring frequently. (I got distracted at this point so my onions were a little too brown. Oops!) After the onions are finished cooking, thinly slice steak into strips.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, the two mustards, sour cream and salt.

To assemble the sandwiches, liberally spread some of the Mustard-Mayo Sauce on the top half of each roll. Place a generous layer of the steak strips on the bottom half of the roll. Top steak with onions and arugula. Cover the sandwiches with the top half of the bun.


My Christmas Menu

Andrew, Finley and I are hosting our parents for Christmas again this year. I love to entertain and it's so convenient for us to host so that Finley can go down for her nap easily. So it works out well for us! I decided to post my (tentative) menu here because it is an easy way for me to keep track of my recipes...and hopefully maybe it will give you all some ideas too :-)

I'm planning on making the turnovers, scones, ham glaze, grits, haricot verts and salad dressing the day before and reheat before serving. Fun times ahead!

Breakfast/Snacking while we open presents:



Chicken Salsa Verde with Cornmeal-Cilantro Dumplings

>> Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This was a wonderful Southwestern spin on the classic chicken 'n dumplings. And it is the perfect kind of dinner to serve when it's cold and dreary outside. The recipe came together quickly, especially if you have your chicken, green onions and cilantro chopped ahead of time. While it baked, I was able to get the kitchen cleaned too. Nothing is more relaxing than sitting down to a hearty and delicious dinner with a glass of white wine and a clean kitchen to boot!

A quick word of warning: Depending on what brand of salsa you buy and it's level of spiciness, you may need/want to add more or less salsa to the chicken mixture. I used half of a jar of green salsa that was labeled 'medium heat' and it was still pretty spicy. Andrew and I liked it that way, but it was too spicy for Finley to eat.

Chicken Salsa Verde with Cornmeal-Cilantro Dumplings
as seen on Savory Sweet Life, recipe adapted from Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinners

for the chicken
4 tablespoon salted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (14.5-oz) can chicken broth
1/2 (15-oz) jar of salsa verge (about 1 cup)
1 (5-oz) can evaporated milk
1 large rotisserie chicken, meat picked off and left in large chunks
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)

for the dumplings
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons salted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/3 cup Monterey pepper jack cheese, shredded

For the chicken, heat butter over medium-heat in a large, deep oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven. Whisk in flour to make a paste. Mix broth, salsa verde and evaporated milk in a bowl. Add flour mixture to paste all at once. Whisk, vigorously at first, until mixture simmers and thickens to sauce consistency. Stir in chicken and corn and heat through. Lower heat to low and cover to keep warm. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the dumplings, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until steamy. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, scallions, cilantro and cheese in a medium bowl with a fork. Stir in milk mixture to form a firm, sticky dough. With your fingers, pinch off large ping-pong ball sized pieces of dough and drop onto chicken mixture. Return chicken to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover and transfer pan to oven and bake until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes.


Weekly Meal Plan - December 11th thru December 16th

>> Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chicken Salsa Verde with Cornmeal Dumplings, Green Salad

Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons, Caesar Salad

and just for fun - S'Mores Bars


S'mores Bars

>> Friday, December 9, 2011

I saw this idea on a friend's blog and I thought it sounded great. This recipe is really a rice-krispy-treats-meets-s'mores, and rice krispy treats and s'mores are two of my simple favorites!

Originally I made these to these to my friend, Lora, who was in the hospital after having her baby girl. Before I left for the hospital, I sampled one to make sure they were as tasty as I thought they should be and then sent all the other bars to Lora. Afterwards, I kept thinking about how good they were and wondering why I hadn't saved at least a couple for our house. So I did what anyone else would have done - I ran to the store and made another batch! And I'm not the only one who loved them. Another friend visited Lora in the hospital and emailed me for the recipe as soon as she got home! Yes, they are that good!

S'mores bars
as seen on Tiny Tidbits and recipe adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

4 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 (10.5-oz) bag of mini marshmallows, divided
8 cups Golden Grahams cereal
6 Hershey's chocolate bars

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter and add 2/3 bag of marshmallows. Stir frequently until marshmallows are melted. Take pot off heat and stir in cereal, coating cereal completely. Pour cereal into a greased 9-inch-x-13-inch pan and push down slightly on the cereal to compact it in the pan.

Preheat broiler. Place Hershey's bars on top of cereal. You may need to break them to get even coverage. Sprinkle the remaining marshmallows on top. Pop pan under the broiler, watching closely. Broil until the marshmallows are slightly charred on top.

Let cool completely and cut into bars.


Sloppy Cubano Sandwiches

>> Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm not sure why I am so enamored by Sloppy Joes, but I am! While I love the original, I also like to spice things up a bit. This recipe popped up on my blog feed this weekend, and I immediately knew I had to try it. I've already professed my love for Sloppy Joes, but I also love a good Cuban sandwich - pork, ham, cheese, mustard and pickles sandwiched between some good, crusty bread. Yum! This recipe is a happy marriage between two great sandwich staples and I could not have been happier with how this turned out. A delicious revision to the Sloppy Joe!

I altered the recipe to have the slow cooker do most of the work for me. With a two-year-old, I always try to do as much work ahead of time (usually while Finley is in preschool or taking her nap) so that I don't have to be slaving over dinner when she's awake and wanting to play. But if you'd like make the recipe on the stovetop, then be sure and look at the original recipes here and here.

Sloppy Cubano Sandwiches
adapted from Taste and Tell and Rachael Ray

6 oz chorizo, casings removed and finely chopped
1 lb ground pork
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup chicken broth
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 rolls or buns, split in half
4 slices Swiss cheese
dill pickle slices
yellow mustard

In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook chorizo until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the pork and onions and continue to cook another 4-6 minutes or until browned. If there is a lot of grease, drain the fat. (Mine didn't render much fat so I skipped this step.)

Meanwhile, in the pot of your slow cooker, stir together garlic, paprika, ground coriander, allspice, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, lime zest, chicken broth, tomato sauce and salt and pepper (to taste). Add the meat and onion mixture and stir to combine. Cook on low 3-4 hours. Stir in tomato paste just before serving.

When you're ready to eat, preheat your oven's broiler. Toast the split buns. Divide the meat mixture between the buns and place a slice of cheese on each. Broil until the cheese melts, about 30 seconds. Top with lots of pickles, spread a liberal dollop of mustard on the top half of the bun and enjoy!


Maple-Bacon Biscuit Bake

>> Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I absolutely love sweet and salty combinations, but alas the Hubby Bubby isn't the fan that I am. Usually I try to sneak them in at dinner time but I always feel guilty making dishes that Andrew may not like. But when I saw this recipe, I knew I had a winner. Andrew loves sweet breakfasts (cinnamon rolls are a fave around here) so I knew he'd be game for a glorified monkey bread with some bacon thrown in for good measure.

I fiddled with the recipe just a bit to make it easier for me. I substituted store-bought biscuit dough for homemade and I assembled the maple-bacon syrup the night before to cut down on my cooking time in the morning. This was a delicious treat to wake up to! But really what's not to love - maple syrup, bacon and biscuit dough baked into sticky, gooey, caramel-y perfection!

Maple-Bacon Biscuit Bake
adapted from Pink Parsley who adapted it from King Arthur Flour

8 oz hickory smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup maple syrup (don't use the fake stuff!)
3 tablespoons reserved bacon fat
1 tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough

The night before, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it is browned and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and discard the rest.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, syrup and bacon fat. Stir in the bacon. Liberally spray a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with nonstick spray. Pour the bacon mixture into the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut each biscuit into quarters. Nestle the biscuit pieces atop the maple-bacon mixture. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the pan in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.
Remove from oven and immediately invert the dish onto the serving plate. Lift off the pie plate and serve!


Smoky Sweet Potato Soup

>> Monday, December 5, 2011

This amazing soup made an appearance on our Thanksgiving table (courtesy of my mother!) and I think it earned a place on our annual menu. The soup has a wonderful depth of flavor from the apple, leeks and the chipotle pepper and I loved the little bit of crunch that the pepitas add. Another thing to love about this warm and hearty soup is that it gets it's creamy texture from the veggies - not heavy cream or whole milk! Overall, this is a great simple soup for the fall and perfect for a holiday menu!

Smoky Sweet Potato Soup
recipe from Martha Stewart

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed well
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups chicken broth
1 medium chipotle chile in adobo sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup salted pepitas

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook garlic and leek until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add apple, celery and ginger and cook another 3 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and stock and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add chipotle chile.

Using an immersion blender (or working in batches, use a blender*) to puree the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pepitas before serving.

*For your safety, if using a blender, remove cap from hole in lid and cover with a dish towel to prevent splattering.


Fauxstess Cupcakes

>> Sunday, December 4, 2011

I've been following Annie's Eats for a long while and I always love her recipes. Often she convinces me to branch out and attempt new recipes when I read her reviews and see her beautiful pictures. When I think of Annie's Eats, I always think of cupcakes. She has so many wonderful and fun cupcake recipes! Recently I made her Butterfinger Cupcakes and they were delicious - I remember being so surprised at how closely the frosting tasted like a Butterfinger! But I digress...

While I don't know Annie in reality, I feel like I do. She has invited me into her kitchen and her life just by reading her blog. Every morning, I look forward to drinking my cup of coffee and reading my cooking blogs, especially hers. But on Thanksgiving, Annie posted that her father died unexpectedly and that she would be taking a break from blogging to mourn and cope with the loss. She offered a gentle reminder to be extra thankful for the ones you love because you never know how long you'll have them. I can't tell you how many times since then that I have squeezed my daughter or my husband tight, consciously being thankful that they are here with me.

I didn't realize how much I would miss Annie's posts until there weren't any new ones popping up in my blogger feed each morning. To fulfill my needed dose of Annie's Eats, I combed through her archives, and of course found tons of great looking cupcake recipes. Inspired by an earlier blog movement, Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey, I decided to whip up a batch of cupcakes in honor of Annie's dad. I was stumped about which recipe to choose since I don't actually know Annie or her family, so I finally decided just to pick one that looked good to me. Hopefully her dad would have liked it too!

Fauxstess Cupcakes
recipe from Annie's Eats

for the cupcakes
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated and at room temp
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water

for the filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup marshmallow fluff (store-bought or homemade)
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

for the frosting
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat wells of a muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside..

In another bowl, beat together egg yolks, canola oil, 1/2 cup sugar and water until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until stiff and glossy. Add 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the batter and mix to combine. Add remaining egg white mixture and gently fold together until no streaks remain.

Evenly divide the mixture into 8 or 9 cupcake wells. Bake until the cupcakes spring back (i.e. do not leave an indention) when lightly touched in the center, about 13-16 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, marshmallow fluff and heavy cream. Reserve 1/2 cup of the filling and transfer the rest to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip.

Gently insert the tip of the pastry bag about 1/2-inch deep into the top of each cupcake and lightly squeeze in some filling.

For the frosting, heat cream over medium heat in a small saucepan until steaming (not boiling!), stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add butter and stir until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and dip the top of each cupcake in the frosting to thoroughly coat. Spoon reserved filling into a pastry bag fitted with a very small plain tip and pipe curlicues across the center of each cupcake. Refrigerate the cupcakes for 10 minutes to set the frosting.

And then share them with the ones you love!

Big Bite!


Weekly Meal Plan - December 4th thru December 10th

Here is the menu that I have planned for the week!

Creamy Lemon Tortellini Bake with Spinach, Roasted Broccoli, Garlic Bread

Chicken Enchilada Soup, Guacamole, Tortilla Chips

Sloppy Cubano Sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries, Fresh Fruit

Chicken Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Arugula, Artichoke Hearts & Lemon, Red Wine Spaghetti


Creamy Chicken Taquitos

>> Thursday, December 1, 2011

Originally I had planned to make these taquitos and make a few changes to the recipe. But the more I thought about it, I realized how ambivalent I was feeling about them. While I love bacon, I was a little on the fence about whether or not I wanted bacon in my taquitos...So I decided to use the taquito recipe that I've used several times in the past and always enjoyed. Why mess with a good thing, right?

These taquitos are nothing like the fried-minuscule-virtually-tasteless-things-that-more-closely-resemble-cardboard-than-food you can find in the frozen foods section of your grocery store. These are creamy, crunchy, tasty bites of deliciousness that everyone - including Finley - loves!

It's also important to note that unbaked these freeze really well!

Creamy Chicken Taquitos
adapted from Our Best Bites

3 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup chipotle salsa (feel free to substitute your favorite salsa)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
12 flour tortillas
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa, cilantro, green onions, garlic,cumin, onion powder, oregano and chili powder. Stir until well combined and then stir in chicken.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture on each tortilla and roll up as tightly as you can. Place seam side down on a cookie sheet and repeat with remaining tortillas. Lightly spray each tortilla with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the ends of the tortillas turn golden brown.

Serve with extra salsa, guacamole or this dipping sauce. (I made a simple sauce of equal parts guacamole and sour cream plus a squeeze of lime juice, a dash of chili powder, and a dash of cumin.)


Weekly Meal Plan - November 28th thru December 4th

>> Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oh my gosh, I cannot believe it will be December in just a few days. Where does the time go?!?

Lamb with Cous Cous, Caramelized Onions, Almonds and Raisins; Baba Ghanoush (AKA my mom's cooking for me!)

Chicken & Dumplings (in the slow cooker!)

And just for fun - Golden Grahams S'mores Bars


Southern Potluck - November 2011

So much for creating potluck posts every month! Sadly I haven't posted about another potluck since our Cajun potluck back in July (or was it June?). But this month I actually remembered to bring my camera to the dinner and managed to take pictures of most of the dishes. Also, I should mention that within my group of friends there is a healthy amount of competition, so we instituted an award that is given each month to the best dish. We even have a trophy that gets passed around! This month, Candace's peach cobbler won!

Here's the delicious fare that we served up:

{Peach Cobbler - recipe found below}

Candace's Award Winning Peach Cobbler
adapted from Southern Living

9 cups sliced peaches, fresh or frozen
1-2 cups sugar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter
pastry for double-pie crust, fresh or store-bought

Combine first 4 ingredients in a pan and set aside until syrup forms. Bring peach mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook about 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter, stirring until butter melts.

Roll out one of the pie crusts to fit a 9-inch-x-13-inch pan. Spoon half of the peach mixture into the pan and top with the pie crust. Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Spoon remaining peaches over the baked crust. Roll out second pie crust and cut into strips 1-inch wide. Arrange the strips in a lattice pattern over top of the peaches. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Serve with ice cream, if desired.


Cuban Beef with Bell Peppers

>> Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest ages ago, and with crazy busy-ness of Thanksgiving week, I decided it was time to bust out another slow cooker recipe. I was surprised at how flavorful the meat was, especially considering there aren't a ton of ingredients. But once I tasted the beef with the avocado, I was blown away. The avocado is a must with this recipe! This is a great, simple and healthy slow cooker meal that is perfect for the busy holiday season.

Cuban Beef with Bell Peppers
adapted from Real Simple

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 white onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon roasted cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup sherry
salt and pepper
1 1/5 lb flank steak, cut into two or three pieces
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
1 cup long grain, cooked
1-2 limes, cut into quarters
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 avocados, sliced

In the bowl of a slow cooker, combine tomatoes, onion, oregano, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and sherry. Stir to combine. Nestle flank steak amongst the vegetables. Let cook on low for at least 8 hours. The longer you cook it, the more tender the meat will be.

About 2 hours before you're ready to eat, add bell peppers. (You can add them at the beginning but they turn to mush. I don't like mush, so by adding them later, they were cooked through but still had a nice texture.)

To serve, place rice on serving plate. Top with meat and veggie mixture. Squeeze lime juice over top and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve sliced avocado on the side.


My (Current) Favorite Salad

>> Thursday, November 17, 2011

I based this salad on a salad I make for my father-in-law, and I've made it twice in the last week. I love the tangy sweet citrus with the crunchy fennel and creamy avocado. Yum! I love it so much that while Andrew was eating ice cream last night, I got the left over salad out of the fridge and ate the rest of it! If you're looking for a flavorful addition to your Thanksgiving meal, this salad would be perfect.

My (Current) Favorite Salad

for the salad
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1/2 can hearts of palm, sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
1 head butter lettuce, washed and torn into chunks
1 bunch arugula, washed and torn into chunks

for the dressing
1 small shallot, minced
juice from left over grapefruit membranes (or juice of 1 lemon)
juice from 1 left over orange membrane
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large bowl arrange butter lettuce leaves, arugula, orange segments, grapefruit segments, hearts of palm, fennel slices and avocado chunks.

For the salad dressing, in a blender combine all ingredients and puree. Pour desired amount over salad.


Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For dinner the other night, I prepared Pulled Pork with Homemade Peach BBQ Sauce served atop Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits. The Pulled Pork was great (just a word of warning to the Texas BBQ fans - the sauce is a vinegar BBQ sauce rather than a ketchup/tomato-based one), but the biscuits really stole the show. They were buttery, slightly cheesy with just a bit of beautiful rosemary flavor. Delicious on their own, but they also paired wonderfully with the vinegary, tender pork!

After the three of us devoured all of the biscuits, I decided to whip up another batch this morning to freeze for part of our Thanksgiving menu. I love things that can be made ahead of time for big holiday meals! To freeze the biscuits: prepare the dough, cut into biscuits, place the biscuits on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze completely. Once frozen, place the biscuits in an airtight ziploc bag. Bake them frozen at 425 degrees for 22-30 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits
adapted from Daily Cravings, who adapted the original recipe from Ina Garten

2 cups self-rising flour, plus more
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
12 tablespoons very cold butter, diced
1/2 buttermilk, shaken
2 extra large eggs, divided
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon milk or water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and continue to mix until the butter is the size of peas.

In a small bowl, beat buttermilk and 1 egg together. With the mixer still on low, add buttermilk mixture. Mix until just moistened. In a small bowl, mix cheddar with a small handful of flour. With mixer still on low, add cheese and mix until just combined.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead lightly a few times. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough out to a 10-inch x 5-inch rectangle. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place on a greased baking sheet.

In a small bowl, mix remaining egg with 1 tablespoon milk or water. Brush egg wash over tops of biscuits. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden.


Oven Baked Onion Rings with Dipping Sauce

>> Monday, November 14, 2011

While I love onion rings, I've never made them before. I try not to fry too many things for health reasons - and because I hate cleaning up the grease splatters all over my kitchen. When I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew I had to try it. I'm notorious for not completely, or carefully, reading through the recipe directions beforehand and I did it again. I had almost finished preparing the onion rings before I realized that the recipe was actually called Oven Fried Onion Rings and they were cooked in oil in the oven rather than stovetop. Hmmm...not quite as healthy as I wanted, so I fiddled with it and came up with something that actually is Oven Baked Onion Rings, no frying involved!

Every afternoon around 4 or 5, Finley has her "witching hour" complete with fussing, crying and needing lots of attention. Unfortunately this coincides perfectly with the time I am trying to get dinner going for the evening. I've learned that usually I can prepare Miss F a big snack/light supper and plop her in front of an episode of Special Agent Oso and that will keep her happy and occupied while I'm working in the kitchen. But this particular evening my go-to plan wasn't cutting it. While I was dredging the onions rings with eggs and cracker crumbs stuck to all my fingers, I had a very unhappy toddler clinging to my leg shrieking for me to read to her. Fin finally settled for holding the book herself and I read aloud while working on the onion rings. Multi-tasking at its best. In my head, I was cursing these stupid onion rings for taking so long to prepare and I swore that they had better be damn good since it was complete chaos in our house at the moment.

But when I sat down at dinner and took a bite, I knew they were worth it. All the crispy, crunchy goodness of an onion ring without any of the deep fried guilt! By this time, Finley's witching hour had passed and while she wasn't a big fan of eating the onion rings, she did enjoy using them for bracelets! A happy toddler + awesome onion rings = a happy, and very full, mama!

Oven Baked Onion Rings with Dipping Sauce
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

for the onion rings
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sleeve Saltine crackers
4 cups corn flakes
1-2 sweet onions
non-stick spray

for the sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon ketchup
1/2 - 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon paprika
a pinch or two of salt
a pinch or two of dried oregano
a pinch or two of pepper

For the onion rings, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a shallow bowl (I used pie plates), sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour. Set aside.

In another shallow bowl, beat eggs and buttermilk together. Add remaining 1/4 cup flour, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well.

In a a food processor, pulse crackers and corn flakes together until they are fairly finely ground. Pour the crumbs into a third shallow bowl.

Peel and slice onions into 1/2-inch wide slices, separating the rings. Discard any rings that are not at least 2-inches in diameter.

Dredge each ring in the flour, then dip into the egg mixture completely coating the surface. Allow any excess to drip off and then place onion into the crumb mixture, gently pressing crumbs onto the onion. Place onion ring onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining onion rings.

Spray each onion rings lightly with non-stick spray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned and onion is tender.

Serve with dipping sauce.

*Onion rings can be prepared and refrigerated for an hour. Let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking or else the cold onions will not get tender.

For the sauce, in a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Store sauce in refrigerator until ready to serve.


Weekly Meal Plan - November 14th thru November 20th

>> Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanks to Pinterest, I've found some fun new cooking blogs from which I've pulled most of this week's menu. I love it when I stumble upon a new blog - especially when Finley just went down for a nap, so that I actually have time to look at it!

I expect that the upcoming holiday season will be a busy one and I know there will be more nights where I don't feel like cooking. But with the usual holiday expenses, I know we won't want to eat out either, so I'm planning on making more meals in bulk and freezing half of them to combat those lazy night!

Lasagna Soup, Salad, Garlic Bread (freeze half - without noodles)

Pimento Cheese BLT Sandwiches, Oven-Fried Onion Rings (I'll eat the left-over pimento cheese for lunch this week)

Chicken Stir-Fry, Brown Rice, Steamed Edamame

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos, Black Beans, Avocado & Tomato Salad (freeze half of the chicken)


Breakfast Egg Muffins

>> Saturday, November 12, 2011

I love the idea of having a big family breakfast together on the weekends, but since I'm not a morning person, it rarely happens. Usually by the time I stumble out of bed, Andrew and Finley have been up and around long enough to have already eaten. But this weekend I really wanted to give it the old college try.

These are really more like individual sized breakfast casseroles than muffins, but you get the idea. I made them last night (like you would with a breakfast casserole) and then just popped them in the oven this morning. And then I got to sit down and enjoy my coffee knowing I was about to serve me family a great homemade breakfast - without any work to do in the morning! These would make a great addition to any breakfast or brunch buffet and I think they might make an appearance on our table Christmas morning!

Not only are they tasty and portable, they are a complete meal - protein from the sausage, eggs and cheese; vegetables from the onions, red bell pepper, spinach and potatoes (okay, that last one's a stretch since I used tater tots!); and dairy from the milk and cheese. Feel free to switch up the proteins, cheeses and veggies to create something that your family will love!

Breakfast Egg Muffins

27 tater tots
1/3 pound breakfast sausage (any kind or flavor you like)
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
6 extra large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
salt and pepper, to taste

Bake tater tots according to package directions. Set aside to cool completely

Meanwhile, cook breakfast sausage, onion and bell pepper in a saute pan over medium heat, breaking up any large clumps of meat, until sausage is cooked through and no longer pink. Drain any grease. Set aside to cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add cheese, salt and pepper.

Using non-stick spray, grease 9 cavities of a 12-muffin pan. Gently press three tater tots down into the bottom of each well to create a "crust". Spoon a large spoonful of the meat and vegetable mixture over the crushed tater tots. Pour just enough egg mixture over to cover the meat and vegetables. Make sure the tater tots and meat mixture are cooled before pouring the egg mixture over top.

Cover the muffin tin and refrigerate. The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake 15-20 minutes.

Makes 9 muffins.

* While the quality of the camera is much higher, sadly the quality of the photographer remains the same. Bare with me as I'm learning the ropes!


Mahogany Chicken

>> Tuesday, November 8, 2011

This is such a simple recipe with few ingredients, but it has such a wonderful depth of flavor. We loved it! Finley ate half of a chicken breast herself - and that is saying a lot since she usually eats minuscule amounts of food.

Mahogany Chicken
adapted from

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoon ketchup
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 chicken breasts

Combine soy sauce, honey, ketchup and garlic. Mix well. Place chicken breasts in ziploc bag and pour marinade over them. Marinate in fridge for 4-8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and discard marinade. Sprinkle breasts with fresh cracked pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. (If you're using really big or bone-in chicken breasts, the cooking time will be longer.)

* I cooked two breasts (but I would have cooked three had I known how much Fin loved this dish!) and froze the remaining two chicken breasts raw (uncooked). Hopefully they'll taste just as good the second time around! And since I also froze half of the hash brown casserole, I have almost an entire dinner in my freezer!


Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole

I saw this recipe on Pinterest last week and I've been thinking about it ever since. I finally gave into temptation this evening and made it to go with our dinner. It was soooo good - really rich and creamy! If you're thinking of branching out from mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, this could be a contender to forever take their place!

Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes
adapted from

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bag (about 2 lbs) frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cups corn flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-x-13-inch baking dish (or two smaller dishes) with nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a large (very large!) bowl, mix together the butter, soup, sour cream, cheese, green onions, salt and pepper until well combined. Stir in the hash brown potatoes and mix well. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Top with crushed corn flakes. Bake for 45 -60 minutes.

*This recipe makes a huge amount. I divided the mixture into two smaller dishes and froze one before baking it.


Chicken Pot Pie

>> Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Recently, my friends and I had a freezer meal swap and the meal we received from Erika was Chicken Pot Pie. It was such a warm and comforting meal and I loved having leftovers for lunch the next few days. On a whim (and totally ignoring my carefully made meal plan), I decided to make a CPP for dinner last night. Unfortunately I didn't have Erika's recipe so I just winged it and it came out great. And it was exactly what the doctor ordered - Andrew and I both had second helpings and sweet Finley had thirds! Hopefully your family will enjoy it as much as my family did. It also got me to thinking about when CPP first came into our family...

Growing up, my mom made Chicken and Dumplings, which I didn't like because I had an unfair aversion to soggy/mushy food, but I don't remember her ever making Pot Pie. In my mind Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken and Dumplings were similar enough to one another that I just assumed I wouldn't like either of them. But you know what they say when you assume...Anyway, fast forward to when I was newly married and I realized that Andrew would buy frozen pot pies whenever he went to the grocery store. Poor guy! I decided to remedy that and make him homemade CPP.

Andrew was so excited that he volunteered to head to the store for me. I made out the list and gave it to him. I've learned over the years that I have to be very specific on the grocery list or else I'll end up with something weird. I usually include notes, brand names and location within the store to ensure he comes home with the right ingredients. But this little trip was early into our marriage and I hadn't yet learned this trick. When I unpacked the grocery bags, I found that Andrew had bought a graham cracker pie crust! Bug-eyed, I queried him, and he admitted he thought it was weird but it was the only pie crust he knew of. Ah, funny memories!

Chicken Pot Pie
a Baking & Eggs original

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced small
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 cup frozen peas
2 pie crusts (homemade or store bought)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degree.s
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt butter and saute onion, carrots and celery, until veggies are softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add potatoes and egg to a small saucepan filled with water. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and set potatoes aside. Peel and chop egg. Set aside.

In the saute pan with the veggies, melt butter. Stir in flour. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in salt, pepper, celery seed, parsley, garlic, chicken, frozen peas, cooked potatoes and hardboiled egg. Take pan off heat.

Roll out pie crust in deep-dish pie plate. Carefully pour chicken mixture into dish. (You may have a little filling left-over. I ate it for lunch!) Top with second pie crust. Crimp edges and cut a few steam vents on the top. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is golden.

(I made my pot pie during Finley's nap time, refrigerated it and then baked it for about an hour. You can also double the recipe and freeze one since they freeze great.)


Weekly Meal Plan - September 5th through September 11th

>> Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm BACK! After eight days in beautiful Southern California (with lots of yummy, rich food), I am so ready for some home-cooked meals. And I can't wait to get back in the kitchen! Here's what I'm planning for this week:

Crockpot Ribs (I'm going to tweak the recipe a bit and if it's an improvement, I'll post it!), Revolutionary Mac & Cheese, Roasted Broccoli

Greek Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries


Roasted Vegetable Stromboli

>> Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This post marks an important day for Baking & Eggs - my sweet, wonderful, fantastically generous husband bought me a fancy SLR camera for my birthday, which means that this post will be the last one with horribly lit photos! Now if only I can figure out exactly how to use it...

Yesterday I baked three loaves of banana bread and a batch of peanut butter and nutella cookies (be still my heart!), so when dinner time rolled around, I was ready for something packed with healthy veggies. I used what we had on hand and it was delicious! I love a meal that tastes great and lets me clean out the fridge! Andrew wasn't happy when he found out it didn't have any meat, but once he tasted it, he admitted he didn't miss the meat at all.

Also, I think you could easily mix up the veggies and cheeses a bit to fit your tastes (or to clean out the random bits of this and that in your fridge). I'd like to try it again with asparagus, broccoli and grape tomatoes with some goat cheese thrown in. Yum!

Roasted Vegetable Stromboli
a Baking and Eggs original

1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 large white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
pizza or spaghetti sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, arrange zucchini, squash, bell pepper, mushrooms and onions on a baking sheet. Sprinkle seasoning, salt and pepper over top. Drizzle veggies in olive oil and mix with hands until all veggies are evenly coated. Roast in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Keep oven preheated to 400 degrees.

Spray a second baking sheet with nonstick spray and lay the pizza dough out flat. Spread the vegetable down the long center of the dough. Top with the three cheeses. Wrap one side over the vegetables and cheese, followed by the second side. Pinch the ends together to close. Brush 1 tablespoon on olive oil over the top of the stromboli. Using a sharp knife make a few slits on the top to allow steam to escape while cooking.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough is puffed and lightly browned. Serve with pizza sauce on the side for dipping.


Scooter's Spaghetti Pie

As a self-proclaimed lover of anything pasta, I knew I had to make this recipe when I first spotted it on Pinterest. It looks like a simple, classic spaghetti casserole with a fun layer of cream cheese and veggies thrown in to spice things up a bit. Oh, and it's topped with French Fried Onions!

While I'm sure the original recipe is to die for, I wanted to try to 'healthify' it a little bit. I substituted whole wheat pasta, low fat cream cheese, replaced butter with olive oil and added a shredded zucchini. Also, I've never cooked with Fried Onions before - I didn't even know where they were located in the store! I was pleasantly surprised that my grocery store sold an all natural French Fried Onion option, so I didn't have to feel guilty about serving my family something packed with tons of preservatives. Bonus! But of course, they are still fried...but every little bit helps, right?!

Also, this recipe made enough for two pies, one to eat for dinner and one to freeze for later. Double bonus!

Sccoter's Spaghetti Pie
adapted from Salad in a Jar

16 oz whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, shredded
1 8-oz package low fat cream cheese
1 lb ground turkey, bison, or beef
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 large jar (26.25 oz) of spaghetti sauce
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 6-oz can French Fried Onions

Cook pasta one or two minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Spray two deep dish 9-inch pie plates (or one 9-x-13-inch pan) with nonstick spray. Divide the pasta evenly between the two plates.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil. Add onions and bell peppers, stirring occasionally, and cook until softened and translucent. Add zucchini and cook 1 more minute. Lower heat and stir in cream cheese until just melted. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over the noodles.

In a large pan, cook meat over medium heat. Drain grease. Stir in Italian seasoning and cook 1 minute. Add spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese and let cook for a few minutes. Pour sauce evenly over the cream cheese mixture.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Remove pan and sprinkle with French Fried Onions. Return to oven and bake 5 more minutes, being careful not to let them burn.

* If you're freezing half, let the casserole cool completely (do not bake or top with Fried Onions), wrap tightly with foil and freeze. If the casserole is defrosted, bake at 350 for 60-75 minutes, or until heated through. If it is still frozen, bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. Sprinkle Fried Onions on top and cook 5 more minutes.


A Few New Appetizer Recipes

>> Monday, October 17, 2011

My dad has owned an antique persian rug shop for almost 30 years and he has finally decided that it's time to retire. For his retirement party, I volunteered to make a few appetizers to go along with the traditional cheeses and pates. Here's what I did:

Next time I'll make this when ruby red grapefruits and blood oranges are in season for a larger visual contrast between the different citruses - but it still tasted great as is!

Delicious and simple since the recipe uses store bought puff pastry! I used sweet orange and grape tomatoes.

I wasn't sure how the bourbon would taste with the grapes and goat cheese, so I opted to copy something a restaurant here in Austin does. I marinated the grapes in balsamic vinegar and it provided the perfect mix of tang and sweetness with the creamy richness of the cheese and the crunch of the nuts. They turned out fantastic and were the first to go at the party!

This recipe was good, not great, and it needs some tweaking. The only reason why I'm posting it is because I think it has potential to be great with a few switcharoos.


Paula Deen's Banana Pudding

My friend Molly made the best banana pudding for her daughters' birthday party. Living in the south, I've sampled many a banana pudding recipes, but this one was the winner by a mile. I made it myself within a week of gobbling up Molly's. I served it when we had friends over (in total there were 4 adults and 2 kids) and we ate the entire pan of it! I lost count after I had three servings! So beware, this is a deliciously addictive dessert that must be served to a really large group lest you eat the entire thing yourself!

I apologize for the lack of a photograph but I think I must have accidentally deleted it. Boo! But let's be honest, my photo-taking skills are lacking so it probably wasn't a good one anyway :-)

Paula Deen's Banana Pudding
recipe found here

1 12-oz container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
2 cups milk
1 5-oz box instant French Vanilla pudding
6-8 bananas, sliced
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies

Line the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

In a bowl, combine milk and pudding mix and blend well. Using another bowl, combine cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold whipped topping into cream cheese mixture. Add cream cheese mixture to pudding mixture and stir well until blended. Pour over cookies and bananas and cover with remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Pumpkin Spice Cake with Brown Butter and Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

>> Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Now that fall has finally made it's way to Texas (you know, highs in the 90s rather than the 100s), I've started busting out the pumpkin recipes. Yesterday afternoon I wanted to make a quick and easy dessert and I found this recipe for a pumpkin cake with only two ingredients - spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin. I'm not sure what my problem is but I am absolutely unable to follow a recipe as written; so I followed some reviewers modifications and came up with an awesome recipe that has a lot more than two ingredients!

Don't even think about skipping the frosting because it makes the cake! I'm not even a big frosting fan, but I could not stop myself from licking the bowl clean. Delicious! The bourbon adds a nice taste in the background without being overpowering or boozy.

On a side note, it makes more frosting than you'll need to frost a 9-x-13-inch cake. I took the easy route and made a sheet cake, but next time I think I'll make it as a layer cake.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Brown Butter and Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from - here and here

for the cake
1 18.25-oz spice cake mix
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

for the frosting
3/4 cup butter, divided
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons good quality bourbon
4 cups powdered sugar (you may need more or less sugar depending on the desired sweetness and consistency)
2 tablespoons whole milk, optional

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease your cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, add cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, applesauce, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Stir well to combine. Gently fold in nuts. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of your cake pan, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely.

For the frosting, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is caramel in color and giving off a nutty smell, about 10-15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Pour browned butter over and let sit for 2-3 minutes. The heat from the browned butter will soften the cream cheese and cold butter. Add the vanilla and bourbon and mix until smooth. (Mine looked a little curdled at this point, but after several minutes of mixing, it came together beautifully.)

Add sugar, a little at a time, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency. Add milk if it gets too thick.

When the cake has cooled, smooth the frosting over it and serve!


Three Healthy Lunch Ideas

>> Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Being a stay-at-home mom, I'm in and out of the kitchen all day long. But often times 3:00 will roll around and I will realize that I haven't had much (or anything!) to eat that day. In an effort to eat regularly - that's a good thing, right! - I'm trying to bookmark easy and fairly healthy lunch ideas. Here are a couple that I've made in the past few weeks that I enjoyed and thought I would pass along.

{White Bean and Guacamole Wrap}

White Bean and Guacamole Wrap
adapted from Eating Well - serves 4

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup prepared guacamole (or make your own)
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
4 whole wheat tortilla or sandwich wraps

In a food processor, pulse beans, chili powder, salt and pepper until mashed. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil.

Spread 1/4 of the bean puree, 1/4 of the guacamole, 1/4 of the shredded carrot and 1/4 of the cucumber slices on each tortilla. Roll up and slice in half.

{15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta}

15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta
adapted from Oh She Glows - serves 2

6 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted
1/2 lemon, juice and lemon zest, for garnish
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor, pulse avocado, garlic, lemon juice, salt, basil and olive oil. Process until smooth and creamy.

Toss sauce with hot pasta. Garnish with reserved lemon zest and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately.

{Mac N Cheese with Zucchini}

Mac N Cheese with Zucchini
a Baking and Eggs original

6 oz whole wheat short pasta (I used cavatappi)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz American cheese
1 zucchini, grated

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook mixture for about 1 minute. Whisk in milk, stirring often, until sauce begins to thicken. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in cheeses. Cook until cheeses have melted. Stir in zucchini and toss with pasta.


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