Chocolate Dipped and Toffee Topped Sugar Cookies

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

The name pretty much sums it up. This is absolutely the easiest recipe ever and it always pleases people. I've been making this since I was in high school and I often include it in dessert buffets because of it's simplicity. While easy, these cookies look beautiful and taste delicious! Everyone needs a few recipes like this in your recipe box!

Chocolate Dipped and Toffee Topped Sugar Cookies
a Baking and Eggs original

1 (16.5-oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
4-5 oz melting chocolate
2/3 c toffee chips

Bake sugar cookies according to package directions. Let cool.

Melt chocolate according to package directions. Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate and sprinkle generously with toffee bits. Place cookies on wax paper to allow for the chocolate to cool and harden.

Serve and enjoy!


Kielbasa with Pierogies and Caramelized Onions

>> Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I made this recipe on Saturday night and I really liked it. A lot. I think I might even make it again for dinner tonight! It struck me as a new take on a meat and potatoes kind of dinner. The original recipe (from the Food Network Magazine) calls for everything to be cooked on the grill, but in my neck of the woods, it's been over a 100 degrees everyday - except for a few days last week when we had a "cold front" come in and the temperature only got up to 97 - so I really didn't feel like standing in the heat to man the grill. I changed the recipe up just a little and cooked everything in one large saute pan. Easy peasy and it was delish!

In case you've never had a pierogie before, they are Polish dumplings that are traditionally stuffed with a potato filling. They can usually be found in the frozen food section of your grocery store near the potatoes/french fries.

Kielbasa with Pierogies and Caramelized Onions
adapted from the Food Network Magazine

3 T olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 pkg potato and cheese pierogies
1 lb kielbasa sausage, sliced
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T coarse or whole grain mustard
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally, until they turn a golden color, about 15-20 minutes. Spread pierogies on top of onions in a single layer. Lower heat to medium, cover pan and let cook another 5 minutes, stirring every other minute. Add sausage slices and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until pierogies and sausage are cooked through and starting to turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together vinegar, mustard and remaining 1 T olive oil.

Add dressing to pan with the sausages, pierogies and onions and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Place on a serving platter and garnish with parsley.


Fancy Three Cheese Pizza

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I love just about all kinds of pizza - mostly because I absolutely adore cheese. But sometimes I get bored of the red sauce, so I set out to create a different kind of pizza - no sauce, lots of cheese, arugula for a peppery bite and a little prosciutto so I could tell my husband the pizza had meat on it.

I didn't want to skip the sauce altogether since the sauce adds a nice moisture to pizza, but I definitely wanted to forego a traditional tomato sauce. Instead I made an herbed olive oil early in the day so that flavors had time to marry, and combined that with a ricotta cheese to create a ooey-gooey, creamy cheesy sauce layer. It was reminiscent of an alfredo sauce pizza but a lot healthier - no cream or butter, and I actually used low-fat ricotta too.

A slice (or two of this pizza) and a glass of wine = heaven!

{the pizza}

{Finley approves! Please pardon her post-nap hair and I'm not sure why she's making a kissy face - but it's pretty darn cute!}

Fancy Three Cheese Pizza
a Baking and Eggs original

for the herb oil
4 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
a pinch of red pepper flakes (or more if you want it spicier)
2 T assorted fresh herbs, chopped (I used rosemary, basil, parsley and lemon thyme)

for the pizza
fresh pizza dough
2/3 c ricotta cheese (I used low-fat)
7-8 oz good quality mozzarella cheese
1/2 c grated or shredded parmesan cheese
4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
2 c arugula
1/2 lemon
sea salt

Early in the day or even the night before, make the herb oil. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and assorted fresh herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the herbs are fragrant, about 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Let cool and keep covered in the refrigerator. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to using it.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a greased pizza sheet, stretch dough out. Brush dough with about 1 T of the herb oil. Bake until crust just starts to turn a light golden color, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl reserve 1 t of the herb oil. Combine the remaining herb oil and ricotta cheese in another bowl and stir well. Spread ricotta mixture over crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheeses over ricotta and bake another 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and starts to brown in spots.

Remove pizza from oven and sprinkle with prosciutto. Cut into slices. In a bowl, toss arugula with remaining 1 t herb oil, juice from 1/2 a lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt. Scatter dressed arugula over pizza and serve.


Sesame Chicken

Have you heard the phrase Take-Out Fake Out? Because this recipe definitely falls into that category. In a blind taste test I really don't think I would have been able to tell which dish came from my kitchen and which one came from my favorite Chinese restaurant. Seriously.

I loved the breading recipe for the chicken and the chicken came out so tender. The sauce was great - in fact, I just took a quick break from writing this post so I could go eat some of the left-overs :-) So next time you don't want to get take-out, make it at home!

Sesame Chicken
adapted from

for the chicken
2 T flour
2 T cornstarch
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
2 T low-sodium soy sauce
1 T dry sherry
2 T water
1 t vegetable oil
1 dash sesame oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks

for the sauce
1 c chicken broth
1/4-1/2 c brown sugar (depending how sweet you like your sauce)
1 T rice wine vinegar
2 T dark soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
1/4-1 t garlic chile paste (depending how spicy you like it)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T cornstarch
1/4 c water
1 quart oil for frying
2 T toasted sesame seeds, divided
2 green onions, sliced

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder. Add soy sauce, sherry, water, vegetable oil, and sesame oil and stir until smooth. Stir in chicken to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring chicken broth, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic chile paste, and garlic to a boil in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water. Lower heat on the sauce and add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce. Stir well and let simmer to thicken the sauce. Stir in 1 T sesame seeds. Keep warm.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Drop in the battered chicken pieces, a few at a time. Cook each batch 2-4 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken pieces) or until they float to the top and turn golden brown. Let drain on paper towels. Just before serving, toss chicken pieces with sauce and garnish with remaining sesame seeds and green onions.


Meal Plan - June 26th thru July 2nd

>> Sunday, June 26, 2011

Finally our house renovations are finished and everything is pretty much back in order - and I'm back in the kitchen and catching up on the blog. Whew! I must say it was pretty nice to stay with my parents though - they cooked us meals, took care of Finley and planned fun things for us to do. So thanks Mom & Dad for putting us up and for putting up with us!

Though much of the work is already done, we're still trying to organize some areas of the house, so I've planned some pretty easy/simple/few ingredient meals for this week. Here's what is on the menu:

3.) Three Cheese Pizza Topped with Prosciutto and Arugula

4.) Austin Mac N Cheese Suiza, Sliced Avocado and Tomato Salad

5.) Sesame Chicken, Rice, Roasted Broccoli

For a snack/dessert: Citrus-Glazed Pound Cake


Middle Eastern Pizza

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm sure I'm not the only one watching The Next Food Network Star, right? Two weeks ago Penny (the Middle Eastern mama) made this pizza for one of their challenges. Now while I don't really agree with Penny's aggressive tactics on the show, I still wanted to give her recipe a try. You see my parents spent nine years living in the Middle East and as a consequence, we ate a lot of Middle Eastern food growing up. We ate hummus, couscous, tabbouleh, pita bread, falafel, and baba ghanoush way before it was cool/trendy to do so. I remember in high school wanting to hang out at my friend Jennie's house because her pantry was always stocked with normal things - goldfish, cookies, chips, etc. and she always wanted to come eat dinner at my house because we usually offered more unique fare.

Anyway, back to the pizza. I made this while we were staying with my parents. I must say, this pizza was a little more labor intensive than I usually like my pizza recipes to be, but it was a killer pizza. Definitely not your usual hum-drum pizza, that's for sure! And I almost felt healthy eating it since it had lots of veggies on it.

The recipe makes a lot of sauce and toppings - enough for two pizzas, even though the recipe only says it makes one pizza. I ended up using the leftover sauce and toppings over pasta for lunch and that was great too.

Middle Eastern Pizza

for the sauce
2 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested
1/4 t ground coriander
2 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2-3 T tomato paste
salt and pepper

for the pizza
1 lb prepared pizza dough
5 T olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 t roasted cumin
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
8 oz fresh buffalo mozzarella
1/4 c kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
3/4 c feta cheese, crumbled
fresh mint, torn, for garnish

For the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, lemon zest, ground coriander and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes and cook about 20 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook another 5 minutes, or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

For the pizza: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle a little olive oil on a baking sheet and stretch dough to roughly fit the pan. Brush dough with a little more olive oil and bake until just barely golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cumin, season with salt and pepper, and cook until eggplant is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

In another skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Top the crust with 1 c of sauce, the mozzarella, eggplant, caramelized onion, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta. Return to oven and cook until the cheese melts and the crust is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Generously top pizza with mint, slice into pieces and serve.


Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops

>> Monday, June 20, 2011

{oops - I forgot to take a picture before I started eating!}

While I've always loved pork tenderloin, I've never had much luck with pork chops. The few times I've had them, they've always been tough and chewy. I remember one meal that I made for Andrew just a few months after we were married (pan-fried pork chops with onions and apples) that was so bad we didn't even eat it. After one bite, he looked at me and asked if we could go out to eat. After my first bite, I agreed and we headed to Houston's for a nice, tasty dinner.

As I've gotten more comfortable in the kitchen, I realized that brining the chops is an essential step to ensure tender, moist meat. I also realized that part of the problem was that I was buying the thinly sliced, boneless pork chops. A week or two ago, I was watching Paula Deen on the Food Network and she made these pork chops and served them with the Stuffed Tomatoes. The whole meal looked delicious so I decided it was time to jump back in the saddle again and try to conquer pork chops! These were the first pork chops I've made that I actually want to make again. The meat was juicy and had a great natural flavor that was enhanced by the basting sauce. I actually used boneless pork chops but they were good and thick - about an inch or more. Paula's recipe didn't include brining but I didn't want to take any chances and fail again at cooking pork chops!

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops
adapted from Paula Deen

for the brine
2 T kosher salt
1 T sugar
freshly ground black pepper

for the meat
6 thick center-cut pork chops (you can choose between bone-in or boneless)
4 T dijon mustard
2 t brown sugar
1 t molasses
2 T bourbon
salt and pepper

Fill a very large bowl with warm water. Add salt, sugar and pepper and stir well until salt and sugar have mostly dissolved. Add pork chops, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.

In a small bowl, combine mustard, brown sugar, molasses, and bourbon. Stir well. Divide sauce into two bowls, one for use on raw meat and one for use on cooked meat.

Prepare a medium-hot grill.

Remove pork chops from their brining liquid and rinse under running water. Pat dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Brush both sides liberally with the basting sauce. Place pork chops on grill and grill until chops are slightly charred and cooked, about 15-20 minutes depending on their thickness.

Brush pork chops with remaining sauce and serve.


Stuffed Tomatoes

OMG, these were soooo good! While the pork chops were mighty tasty, the tomatoes stole the show. The bacon, the cheese, the crushed crackers, the green onions and the tomatoes united to become one of the greatest side dishes of all time. We all loved it and everyone had seconds! I will definitely make these again. And soon!

Stuffed Tomatoes
adapted from Paula Dean

5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled with bacon fat reserved
3 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
2 T butter, melted
4 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
salt & pepper, to taste

In a bowl, mix together the bacon, cheese, green onions, and cracker crumbs. Stir in the melted butter and 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat.

Salt and pepper the tomato halves. Top each tomato half with 1/8th of the cracker mixture. Broil about 7 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown.

serves 4


Meal Plan - June 20th - June 26th

Currently chaos rains at our house, so we packed up and headed to my parents house to stay for a few days until the new floors are installed. I haven't been cooking too much this weekend since my lovely mom has been doing most of the meals. While I can't wait to be back in my own home, it's always nice to be with family. Anyway, here's a quick run-down of the meals that I hope (!!!) to make this week. Enjoy!

1.) Spaghetti Carbonara; Grilled Romaine Salad; Garlic Bread

2.) Middle Eastern Pizza

3.) Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops; Stuffed Tomatoes; Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4.) Spaghetti with Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce; Roasted Lemon Broccoli

5.) Chicken Enchiladas; Avocado Salad


East & West Crab Cakes

>> Friday, June 17, 2011

For an early Father's Day celebratory dinner, I made Mussels with White Wine and between my dad and my husband, they ate four pounds of mussels! Suffice to say, they love them some mussels! For my mom and me (the non-mussel lovers in the family), I prepared crab cakes and made two sauces to accompany them. One sauce was a basic East coast remoulade and the other sauce was based on a West coast citrus butter sauce, both of which were from my Neiman Marcus cookbook. Both sauces were delicious, but I think I preferred the light, buttery taste from the West coast sauce. I love sauces and condiments, so I had fun trying both!

East & West Coast Crab Cakes
adapted from the Neiman Marcus Cookbook by Kevin Garvin

for the crab cakes
1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c mayo
1 1/2 t Dijon mustard
1/3 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c green onions, minced
2 T parsley, minced
1 T Old Bay seasoning
1 t worcestershire sauce
dash of Tabasco sauce

for the remoulade
1 red bell pepper, roasted, seeded and chopped
1 c mayo
1 T parsley, roughly chopped
1 T fresh tarragon
1 T capers, drained
2 T cornichons (or sour dill pickle), roughly chopped
1 small shallot, roughly chopped

for the citrus-butter sauce
1/2 c white wine
2 shallots, sliced
1 fresh thyme sprig
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 orange, juiced
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c chilled butter, diced
1 t salt (or salt to taste)
dash of Tabasco

To prepare the remoulade, place bell pepper, mayo, parsley, tarragon, capers, cornichons and shallots in a food processor. Pulse several times until sauce is well combined. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator until ready to eat. (Make it early in the day, or even the night before, so the flavors have plenty of time to marry.)

To prepare the crab cakes, place egg, mayo, mustard, panko, green onions, parsley, Old Bay, worcestershire and Tabasco in a large bowl. Mix well. Add crab and gently mix together, being careful not to break up the lumps of crab meat. Mold into 8 to 12 patties and place on cookie sheet. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 7-10 minutes, flip and continue baking another 7-10 minutes.

While the crab cakes are baking, prepare the citrus-butter sauce. Pour the wine into a small saucepan and add shallots and thyme. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer until liquid is reduced by two-thirds. Add the cream and simmer 5 more minutes. Add orange, lime and lemon juices. Turn down heat to low and add butter, a little at a time, whisking constantly, until all the butter is incorporated. Do not let sauce boil or the sauce will become oily. Season with salt and Tabasco. Strain the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.


Taco Pasta

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Even though the Taco Lettuce Wraps were fantastic, we still had lots of leftovers that I wanted to use up. Knowing Andrew and I aren't fans of leftovers, I decided to re-use the ingredients in a pasta dish to make them seem less like leftovers. While this recipe isn't going to win any gourmet recipe contests, we really liked it and it was a quick meal to put together because there wasn't any prep work. Two meals for the effort of one - we all need at least a couple of these kinds of dishes in our recipe arsenals!

Taco Pasta
adapted from Annie's Eats

8 oz macaroni pasta (or other short pasta)
4 oz cream cheese
6 oz sour cream
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese (plus more for garnish)
1/2 lb seasoned taco meat (leftover from yesterday's Taco Lettuce Wraps)

In a large pot, cook pasta according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and return pasta to hot pot. Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese has melted. Add sour cream, cheddar cheese, taco meat and salad. Stir well to combine. Garnish with extra cheese.


Taco Lettuce Wraps

>> Monday, June 13, 2011

I made the Taco Lettuce Wraps for dinner tonight. I have just one word - genius! These were so good! I loved the crunch from the lettuce and without the tortilla or taco shell, I could truly taste the taco filling. Yum-o! I honestly feel like I could never eat another real taco again and be happy just eating these taco lettuce wraps.

I made a quick cheater's version of the original recipe since I used a taco seasoning packet, but when you're in a hurry, it's an easy - and inexpensive - way to speed things up. To make it a little healthier, I made sure to buy the low sodium taco seasoning pack and I threw in some veggies. If you want to make it from scratch, then make sure you look at the original recipe because I'm sure her version is fantastic. Even if you follow my cheater version, make sure you peep out the Pink Parsley blog because she has great recipes. Definitely one of my favorite food blogs! Plus her photographs put mine to shame :-)

I served it with the Black Bean and Corn Salad, which I ended up putting inside my taco wraps, and I thought they were great altogether!

Taco Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Pink Parsley

1 t olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning (I used the low sodium kind)
1 head of iceburg lettuce, leaves separated
Assorted toppings: shredded cheese, Black Bean & Corn Salad, avocado chunks, salsa, etc.

In a large saucepan over medium, heat oil and add bell pepper and onion. Saute until vegetables are softened. Stir in beef, gently breaking up meat with a spoon. Continue cooking until the beef is no longer pink. Add taco seasoning packet and the amount of water specified on the packet. Stir well to combine and coat the meat. Let simmer 10-15 minutes or until thickened.

Spoon taco meat into lettuce shells and serve with desired toppings.


Dinner Menu - June 13th thru 19th

>> Sunday, June 12, 2011

This week's menu will be a little harder for me to plan. Andrew and I have been slowly renovating our kitchen over the last month, and we've reached the point where we need professional help. Ah, the joys of owning an old house! Our contractor is coming on Tuesday to cover a window, create a new doorway, patch some drywall, and lay the wood floors. With all that going on, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to use the kitchen, so I'm not going to plan for a full week of meals. Also, if the recipe I'm using is available online, I provided a link to it just in case it sounds good to anyone else!

Dinner Plans:

4.) French Country Ham Sandwiches; Chips; Fresh Fruit

5.) Roasted Shrimp Cocktail; Steamed Artichokes


Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Cucumber Salad

>> Friday, June 10, 2011

{the finished product}

{the spicy cucumber salad}

{parental hint #3,591 - if you want your kid to eat something, just put it on a skewer!}

I love it when I rediscover a cookbook! When I'm seeking inspiration for the kitchen, I almost always turn to the internet. Cooking blogs are such wonderful sources for new recipes, but every now and then (i.e. when Finley takes a longer than average nap), I'll curl up on the couch with a cookbook. This week I grabbed the Neiman Marcus Cookbook because I remembered being really excited when I received it for Christmas last year. I found several great recipes that I can't wait to try out soon - hopefully they'll make an appearance on the blog soon!

Now for the first recipes I tried - Chicken Satay with Spicy Cucumber Salad, which I served with a simple side of peanut noodles. The whole family loved this meal! The chicken was flavorful and moist and paired wonderfully with the salad. The meat had a good curry flavor, which I really liked, but if you aren't partial to curry you may want to scale back on the amount. To me the true stand out of the meal was the salad. It only had a few ingredients so it was truly simple to make but it tasted divine with the chicken and the peanut noodles. This recipe has a couple of unusual ingredients but don't let that stop you. I was able to find them all on the international food aisle of my local grocery store. And they weren't expensive either. This was an excellent meal that I can't wait to make again soon.

Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Cucumber & Carrot Salad
adapted from the Neiman Marcus Cookbook by Kevin Garvin

for the marinade & the chicken
1 c unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 c smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 T mild curry powder
1/2 T Thai red curry paste
2 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
4 chicken breasts
skewers (if using wooden ones, soak in water for at least 1 hour prior to grilling)

for the salad
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 c carrots, finely diced
1/4 c dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
3 T sweet chili sauce
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 c cilantro, chopped

For the marinade, add coconut milk, peanut butter, curry powder, curry paste, sesame oil, soy sauce and lime juice in a bowl and whisk to combine. Cut each chicken breasts lengthwise into six or seven thin strips. Add chicken to marinade and toss to completely cover chicken. Wrap bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare and preheat the grill. Remove chicken from marinade and let drain in a colander so that no excess marinade remains. Thread chicken strips on skewers. Place skewers on hot grill and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until chicken is no longer pink.

For the salad, prepare it just before serving. Place cucumbers, carrots, sweet chili sauce, peanuts, shallot and cilantro in a bowl. Toss to combine. Keep refrigerated. Serve with satay.


Chicken Tikka Masala

>> Thursday, June 9, 2011

My parents have led an interesting life and lived in, and travelled to, some pretty exotic places - Virgin Island, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and all over Europe. As a result, they exposed us to a wide array of food from an early age. The first time we went to an Indian restaurant I think I was in elementary school and I fell in love with the warm, soft naan and Chicken Tikka Masala. I was hooked, and I always ordered the same thing. It wasn't until I was out of college that I branched out and started ordering other dishes, but every now and then, I come back to my old stand-by.

If you've never had Indian food before, Chicken Tikka Masala is a good place to start. The flavors are wonderful, but still fairly mild, so I think most people would like it. I didn't put much heat in my dish because I knew Finley would be eating it too. If you like your food spicier, add a diced jalapeno or some ground cayenne pepper to the sauce. Marinating the chicken in the yogurt mixture is imperative - it adds some flavor, but mostly it keeps the chicken really moist and tender.

Chicken Tikka Masala

for the marinade
1 c plain yogurt
2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1 t paprika
salt and pepper
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

for the sauce
1 T butter
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t ground coriander
2 t paprika
1 t garam masala
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t salt
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
3/4 c heavy cream
3 T tomato paste
chopped cilantro, for garnish
cooked white rice, for serving (recommended: basmati)

In a glass bowl, stir together yogurt, cumin, red pepper, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, salt and pepper. Add chicken. Stir to coat chicken. Marinate (in the fridge) for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Place chicken in colander to drain off marinade.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft. Add spices, tomato sauce and chicken. Stir to combine. Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream and tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.


Naan (Indian bread)

{homemade naan}

{my little kitchen helper}

As I was prepping for dinner this morning, I realized that I forgot to buy naan at the grocery store. Any Indian food fan knows that naan is essential for a great Indian meal. I found a recipe online, checked to see if we had all the ingredients in the house (we did!), and then Finley and I went to work making homemade naan! I'm not a breadmaker - not a fan of kneading - but with the dough hook and my trusty Kitchen Aid stand maker, preparing the naan was surprisingly easy. If I can do it, then you certainly can too! I think next time I'll have to try a stuffed naan...


4 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c milk
1 T sugar
1 egg
4 T oil
water, as needed

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

In a separate bowl, stir together milk, sugar, egg and 2 T oil. Pour wet ingredients into the well. Using the dough hook and a stand mixer, knead ingredients together, adding water as necessary to form a soft dough. (I think I used about 3/4 c of water.) Add remaining 2 T oil and knead again.

Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead one last time. Cover with damp cloth and let sit 2-3 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

Divide dough into 8 balls and let rest 3-4 minutes. Shape and stretch each ball into a long oval shape. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheets for 8-10 minutes, or until puffed and golden.


Mini Apple Cream Tarts

>> Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Over the past few weeks, I have started making a lot more desserts. Probably because I've been trying to eat healthier meals...which leads me to eating/craving desserts at night. There's only so much I can do!

I must say that I usually try to give away some of the desserts so I don't eat them all myself. I brought these to this week's 'board meeting' and they were enjoyed by all. There's just something about bite-sized desserts that no one can pass up! The next time you're craving an apple pie, try these instead. You won't be disappointed! I love the combo of the crunchy, sweet cookie crust, the creamy layer and the traditional apple pie flavors. Fab!

Mini Apple Cream Tarts
an Erin original

1 pkg sugar cookie dough
3 T granulated sugar, divided
2 T butter
2 granny smith apples, peeled and finely diced
1 t cinnamon
1 (8-oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
4-5 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
caramel or butterscotch ice cream sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease/spray mini muffin pans well. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and roll each slice into a ball. Place each ball in a muffin cup, gently pressing it in. Bake 15-20 minutes or until cookies are slightly golden.

Place a tablespoon of sugar into a small bowl. Dip the end of a spoon handle into the sugar and press into the center of the cookies to make an inch-wide indention. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook until apples are softened but still slightly crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth and it reaches the desired consistency. (You may need to add a little more powdered sugar and/or milk to achieve your desired consistency - I wanted it pretty thick, but you can thin it out if you prefer.)

To assemble, place a dollop of cream sauce (about 1-2 t) into the bottom of each cookie tart. Top with another dollop of the apple mixture. Just before serving, drizzle a little caramel (or butterscotch) ice cream sauce over each tart.

*Cook's note: these don't keep well past 24 hours because the cookie crust loses its crispness. Refrigerate any leftovers.


Not Audrey's Crab Casserole

>> Monday, June 6, 2011

{Audrey, Finley & Andrew, Christmas 2009}

My husband's beloved grandmother, Audrey, passed away last April. She was one of the kindest, most loving, humble and humorous women I ever met and I feel like I am a better person for having known her. Auj made it seem as though her husband was in charge, but anyone who knew her well, knew that she truly was the backbone, and the matriarch, of the entire family. I never saw her happier than when she was holding one of her great grandchildren, and boy, did the babies love her right back! We have so many sweet and treasured pictures of Audrey and Finley!

When I first met Auj she was already in her late eighties and didn't cook much anymore. But the one dish she would cook for every family gathering was her famed crab casserole. Andrew mentioned yesterday that he'd been craving it lately. The only problem was that I didn't have a copy of her recipe and wasn't able to track one down on short notice. At first I set out to try and recreate Audrey's recipe as best I could from memory, but I quickly realized that my imitation would never live up to the real thing. So since I didn't her actual recipe in hand, I decided to make my own, totally different version of a crab casserole, aptly named Not Audrey's Crab Casserole. It was a really warm, comforting dish that we all enjoyed. After my husband took his first bite, he said, "oh my gosh, this is so good...but it's not Audrey's crab casserole." I had big shoes to fill and I tried my best! At least I knew I picked the right name for this dish :-) And it may not have been Auj's crab casserole, but he did go back for seconds...

{Not Audrey's Crab Casserole}

Not Audrey's Crab Casserole

4 T butter
4 green onions, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
1/2 t Creole seasoning
1/3 c white wine
8 oz cream cheese
4 oz Colby-Jack cheese, shredded
1 lb. lump crab meat
2/3 c seasoned croutons, crushed
salt & pepper, to taste
parsley, for garnish
mashed potatoes, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add green onions, bell pepper, celery, mushrooms and garlic. Saute until vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add Old Bay and Creole seasonings and white wine. Allow vegetables to simmer until liquid is reduced by half.

Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese until it has fully melted. Stir in colby-jack cheese. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, if needed. Gently fold in crab, being careful not to break up the lumps. Pour mixture into a greased casserole pan. Top with seasoned crouton crumbs.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbly. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve over mashed potatoes.


Watermelon-Mint Granita

>> Sunday, June 5, 2011

This has to be the easiest, and most refreshing, dessert in the history of the world! I'm serious. Totally serious. Nothing tastes better on a hot day and after a big meal than watermelon-mint granita. With only three ingredients and hardly any work at all, you have no excuse not to try this recipe.

One of my friend's husband is a wonderful cook. He's so adventurous in the kitchen and I always look forward to his food. He made this dessert for us over a year ago and everyone loved it. It's light, it's sweet, it's icy and it's just delicious. And so much healthier than just about any other dessert. Next time you're going to a bbq or a picnic, forego taking sliced watermelon and whip up this little treat. Everyone will thank you for it, I promise!

Just one piece of advice: make sure you buy seedless watermelon so you don't have to spend an hour picking out all the seeds! Not a fun way to spend the afternoon - I learned this the hard way!

Watermelon-Mint Granita
recipe courtesy of Robert

6 cups watermelon chunks
1/2 c packed mint leaves
2 T sugar

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and puree. Pour into a dish and place into the freezer. Every hour for the first three to four hours, take a fork and scrape the granita to keep it slushy. Serve and enjoy!

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!


Dinner Menu - June 6th thru June 12th

If you read my post from last week, then you may notice some repetitions from that menu on this week's menu. Life just got crazy/busy and I didn't end up cooking a real meal several nights last week. But this week will be different...fingers crossed that it's at least a little less hectic!

1.) Crab Casserole; Mashed Potatoes; Green Salad

2.) Neely's BBQ Spaghetti; Grilled Romaine Salad; Baguette

3.) Chicken Tikka Masala; Jasmine Rice; Veggie Side Dish TBD

4.) Cajun Rice with Sausage (one dish meal - yay!)

5.) Thai Chicken Satay; Spicy Cucumber & Carrot Salad; Peanut Noodles

6.) Sloppy Joes; Sweet Potato Fries; Fresh Fruit

7.) Creamy Pasta with Fennel & Artichokes; Roasted Lemon Broccoli

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!Erin


Chicken Club Salad

>> Saturday, June 4, 2011

I love making something pretty simple for meals on the weekends because we're usually too busy (or too lazy!) to do a lot of heavy lifting in the kitchen. This recipe was great because it made enough for two meals, a dinner and a lunch. Score - two for one! Andrew and I both really liked it when we ate it for dinner as a salad and I found myself looking forward to eating lunch the following day. I'm not usually a leftover lover so that's says a lot! To make it a little different, we ate it as chicken salad sandwiches for lunch.

Chicken Club Salad

4 chicken breasts, cooked, cooled and diced
4 slices regular or turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used turkey bacon)
1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
3 celery ribs, sliced and their leaves, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1/2 c olive oil mayonnaise
1 t coarse mustard
2 t white wine vinegar
1/2 t celery salt
1/2 t celery seed
Freshly ground black pepper
Romaine lettuce and/or bread, for serving

In a large bowl, combine chicken, bacon, shallots, tomatoes, celery and celery leaves.

In a smaller bowl, combine mayo, mustard, vinegar, celery salt, celery seed and pepper. Mix well. Pour over chicken mixture and gently fold together. Refrigerate for several hours for flavors to marry.

Right before serving, gently toss in avocado. Serve over lettuce as a salad or make into sandwiches.

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!


Cajun Potluck - June

>> Friday, June 3, 2011

We have a rotating monthly potluck dinner with our friends and when it's your turn to host, you get to pick the theme. We've been doing this for about three years and it's amazing to think how much everyone's lives have changed during that time - weddings, pregnancies, babies, new homes, new jobs, etc. We decided that we're going to start taking pictures every month so that we can have them as a reminder of all the fun times we always have at potluck. That idea got me thinking that it would be fun to start doing a monthly post with pictures and recipes for all the dishes we bring each month. So this will be the first of many potluck posts, I hope!

This month Candace and Craig chose to do a Cajun theme. They made a magnificent Shrimp Creole for the main course, which I ate (and thoroughly enjoyed) over Hunter's dirty rice. I've never eaten a lot of Cajun/Creole food, so I had no idea what to bring. After giving it some thought, I decided grilled corn on the cob would work just fine. In order to make it fit with our theme, I decided to serve it with a compound butter full of Cajun flavors. Easy-peasy, a lot more fun than plain ole butter, and it really gave the corn a great flavor; however, the butter was far from attractive. Because I made the unfortunate decision to roll into a log shape, there were quite a few comments about it looking phallic or poop-like. I think next time, I'll just put it in a ramekin! Also, grilling the corn with the beer in the foil packets really added a great dimension to the flavor that I highly recommend!

Recipes will either have a link under the picture or the full recipe will be found at the bottom of the page. I hope you enjoy the recipes as much as we did!

These were so good, and boy, did they go fast! I'm not sure everyone even got to try one before the entire platter was devoured!

{Candace's shrimp creole}

{Hunter's dirty rice}

I've never had a corn pudding with bacon before, and it added such a great smoky flavor that everyone loved. I know at least one person went back for seconds but I'm not saying who!
{my creole compound butter}
See what I mean about it looking dirty?!? Even extra herbs and tabasco sauce couldn't help it at all - may have even made it look worse!

{my corn on the cob}

{Candace's tres leches cake - not cajun but it was Jennie's birthday and it's her favorite}
I'm not a fan of tres leches cake because I find that so many of them are verging on completely mushy and way too sweet! But I loved this one though - it was moist without being soggy!
This was sooo good! The bourbon added a really nice flavor without being overpowering. Plus I thought it was really cute spin on the cajun theme - a bourbon cake for Bourbon Street!
{banana pudding}

{my dessert plate - why choose just 1 when you can have all 3?!}

Shrimp Creole
adapted by Candace from Southern Living

2 (14 1/2-oz) cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c chopped celery (about 2 ribs)
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 t hot sauce - depending on how spicy you like it
1-2 t Creole seasoning
1 lb peeled large fresh shrimp
white rice, for serving (I prefer to use long grain rice, but you can easily use Minute Rice to speed things up)

Prepare rice according to package directions; keep warm.

Pulse stewed tomatoes in a food processor 3 or 4 times or until chopped.

Saute green pepper, onion and celery in hot oil in a large nonstick skillet for 8 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Stir in chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes, hot sauce and Creole seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in shrimp, cover, and simmer 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Dirty Rice
recipe from

1 lb. sausage
1/2 lb ground beef
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
4 c cooked white rice
2-3 green onions, chopped

Cook sausage and beef in large skillet until almost browned. Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons drippings. Add celery, pepper, onion, garlic and spices. Cook until meat is browned and veggies are softened, about 5 minutes. Drain any excess grease. Combine veggie mixture with rice and mix well. Stir in parsley and garnish with green onions.

Grilled Corn with Creole Compound Butter

12 ears of corn, husked
1 bottle dark beer (I used Shiner Bock)
1 stick butter, softened
1 garlic clove, grated
1 lime, zested
2 t chili powder
1/2 t celery salt
1/2 t onion powder
5 - 10 dashes Tabasco sauce, depending on how spicy you want it
2 t fresh chives, snipped

To make the butter, in a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, lime zest, chili powder, celery salt, onion powder, Tabasco and chives. Place softened butter mixture into small ramekin and smooth top. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Wrap each ear of corn in foil and add 2 T beer to each foil packet. Wrap it up carefully so the beer doesn't leak out. Grill for 10-15 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before eating. Serve with compound butter.

Candace's Tres Leches Cake
a Candace original!

for the cake
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist yellow cake mix
1 1/4 c water
1 T vegetable oil
2 t vanilla
4 eggs
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 c whole milk or evaporated milk
1 c whipping cream

for the frosting
3/4 c whipping cream
1/3 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for dark or nonstick pans). Grease and flour or spray bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.

Bake 29 to 35 minutes or until edges are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes. Poke top of hot cake every 1/2 inch with long-tined fork, wiping fork occasionally to reduce sticking. (Don't hold back on the holes - the more, the better :-)

In a large bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and whipping cream. Carefully pour evenly over top of cake. Cover; refrigerate about 1 hour or until mixture is absorbed into cake. Frost with frosting and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the frosting, place the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using whisk attachment, whisk together on medium/high speed until stiff peaks are formed.

Banana Pudding
recipe from the Jell-O box

2 pkg (3.4-oz) Banana Cream flavor instant pudding
2 1/2 c cold milk
1 box mini Nilla Wafers
3 bananas, sliced
1 tub (8-oz) Cool Whip Lite, thawed

Beat pudding mix and milk for 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

Arrange layer of wafers on bottom and up sides of a 2-quart bowl; top with layers of half each banana, wafers and pudding. Repeat layers; cover with Cool Whip. Refrigerate 3 hours.


Mini Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

>> Wednesday, June 1, 2011

{the perfect little bite-sized snack!}

Yesterday was another "board meeting" with my mom's friends (and now my friends too) and I showed up with these ridiculously cute Mini Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. I was pretty popular! These are ridiculously cute, aren't they?!? And they only have a total of 8 ingredients...okay, 9 if you count water.

I can't wait to make them again because they would be a great addition to any party or get-together. While there are three parts to this recipe, it wasn't difficult at all. The assembly took a little time, but not too much longer than most standard cupcake recipes. I loved the super simple ganache. It ended up with the perfect consistency, looked beautifully glossy, and it wasn't too sweet, which was a perfect pairing with the sugary custard layer. I have to admit, when I read that you make the ganache by microwaving baker's chocolate with Cool Whip, I was really skeptical. When I first pulled it out of the microwave my skepticism was raised to new levels. It looked like a watery/chocolatey mess, but with a little stirring it smoothed right out. A-maz-ing!

It's important to note that the cupcakes need a little time (minimum of 15 minutes) to set up before serving. And the leftovers are still really good the next day too. Especially when served for breakfast with a steaming mug of coffee. Just throwing that out there.

The only thing I'll probably fiddle around with a little next time is the custard. It didn't have quite enough pizzazz for me. Maybe I'll substitute a French Vanilla pudding or something insanely difficult like that :-)

Mini Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes
adapted only slightly from a KRAFT recipe via

1 pkg (2 layer size) yellow cake mix (plus ingredients needed to make cake - mine called for
water, eggs and vegetable oil)
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c cold milk
1 pkg (6 serving size) vanilla flavor instant pudding
1 3/4 c thawed whipped topping, divided
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake batter according to package instructions and the vanilla. Bake in mini-muffin tins for 10-14 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks and allow to cool completely.

Beat milk and pudding mix with whisk for about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, use serrated knife to cut cupcakes in half horizontally. Gently fold in 3/4 c whipped topping. Spoon about 1 T of the pudding mixture onto the bottom half of each cupcake; cover with the top half.

Microwave remaining 1 c whipped topping and baker's chocolate in a small bowl for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Let stand 10-15 minutes to thicken. Spread onto the top of each cupcake. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Thanks for visiting! Please leave questions or comments - I always love to hear from you!


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