Friday, July 30, 2010

Simple Southwest Dressing

This dressing is spicy and sweet with the contrast of lime and chili powder. Simple to put together with ingredients you probably already have, and great on top of a salad topped with that shredded Mexican chicken! This dressing will make enough for about 3 salads, unless you're a heavy user of salad dressing!

Simple Southwest Dressing
from Real Simple

1/3 cup light sour cream
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk together all ingredients. Serve!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shredded Mexican Chicken

This recipe is great for filling tacos (or topping tostadas, like I recommend for a lot of things lately!), but also wonderful on top of a salad! I will post the salad dressing recipe later as a separate post so I can keep track of it :). Make up a big batch of this and you can use it in many ways throughout the week. It's full of flavor!

Shredded Mexican Chicken


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used about 8-10 chicken breast tenderloins)
1 (4 ounce) can tomato sauce
¼ cup salsa (**instead of using salsa, I used another 4 oz. of tomato sauce)
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 teaspoon chili powder
hot sauce (to taste)

In a medium sauce pan add chicken breasts and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; add salsa, taco seasoning, cumin, garlic and chili powder. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Start pulling chicken apart with 2 forks into strings. (I added about 1/2 cup water at this point as well.) Cover and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Add hot sauce. Cook until chicken is fully cooked. Remove from pan and finish shredding chicken using 2 forks.

(Makes 4 Servings)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Breakfast Turkey Sausage

I am officially broken of my "have to have cereal every day for breakfast" mindset. I ate baked oatmeal every morning for months, but have been trying to change it up a little this summer. Now that I'm back to work, I definitely need something that will keep me full through the morning, and these were pretty good at doing just that. You could have them on a breakfast sandwich, which I am planning on doing soon, or just on their own like I did with this breakfast. The original recipe source, Elly Says Opa!, shows a really good looking sandwich made from them! She used ground chicken, which you could also try!

Breakfast Turkey Sausage

from Elly Says Opa!

1 lb ground turkey or chicken
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
heaping 1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
~3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
2-3 tsp olive oil

Lightly mix all ingredients together until the herbs/spices are well incorporated – make sure you don’t over mix!
Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, and then make 4 (or 2, for 2-oz. patties) patties from each part. (I made about 14 patties. They are super sticky when you are forming them--spray your hands with cooking spray to prevent them from sticking to your hands and so you are able to make better shaped patties out of it.)
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1 tsp. of oil. Put 1/3 or 1/2 of the patties (depending how big your pan is and how much space your patties take up) into the pan and cook about 2 minutes per side or until browned and cooked through. Repeat with the next 1-2 batches, adding an additional teaspoon of olive oil per batch.

*Ground chicken breast will make a leaner patty, but dark (or a mixture of white and dark) meat will make a tastier patty. Nutritional information (also from Elly Says Opa):

Using all white meat (per 1 oz. patty, using 3 tsp. oil): Calories: 40.9 / Fat: 1.2g / Saturated Fat: 0.2g / Carbs: 0.6g / Fiber: 0.1g / Protein: 6.6g

Using dark meat (per 1 oz. patty, using 3 tsp. oil): Calories: 52 / Fat: 3.6g / Saturated Fat: 1.0g / Carbs: 0.6g / Fiber: 0.1g / Protein: 5.2g

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Before you look at this picture and wonder why I made green ice cubes, hear me out!
I love pesto and I loooove the smell of basil. It's so fresh and earthy and I love making things with it. My basil plants pretty much died when I was gone for a week and are just coming back, but Amber shared a bunch of hers with me and I was overly excited about it. Since my basil doesn't live all year round outside, I like to make cubes of it in ice trays. When you are ready for 1 cube (or the whole bunch), you can just thaw them out and have fresh pesto!
Pesto can be used in so many ways. I plan on making a grilled chicken with pasta, peas, and pesto soon. It's also great in place of mayonnaise/mustard on a sandwich. It's excellent as a spread on pizza or crusty bread, too! This recipe comes from Cooking Light, and if you click the link, they offer a bunch more suggestions for it. Any way you try it, I hope you enjoy it!

Classic Pesto
from Cooking Light

4 cups basil leaves
2 Tbsp pine nuts (or walnuts)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
~1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. It should be a runny paste consistency. (is that even a good descriptor??:) Add olive oil as needed. I don't like mine super thick, so I tend to add a little more olive oil. Don't add too much at one time or it will just taste like olive oil and you'll miss the other bright, fresh flavors! I like to add the lemon juice to brighten the flavor a little, but you don't have to! Taste it pre-lemon juice and add it if you feel it needs it.

I went to a demonstration at the farmer's market today and learned a different perspective. The chef said that he blanches his basil leaves (basically dip in boiling water then shock in ice cold water), cuts them up a little, puts them in ice cube trays, pours water over them, then freezes them. That way he has fresh basil that he can use whatever way he wants all year round. He also said he never freezes his pesto with the oil and parmesan cheese already in it, which is something I haven't heard before. I will try both ways and see which way works better!! Sounds like a good idea though, so the oil and cheese and fresh in the pesto when you are ready to use it!

Country road, take me home...
This is our "bored" activity--driving around in the country with the dogs in the back dreaming of living in the boondocks with our own pond. We see some pretty hilarious things, like the peacocks I have previously mentioned. Last night we saw a random really short bulldog standing on the side of the road staring at us. Missed the picture, but it made me laugh for a while!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garlic Lime Shrimp Tostadas

Yum!! I have been craving shrimp and looking at a ton of shrimp recipes that I can't wait to try. This one is actually from a McCormick's Recipe Inspirations. My aunt bought me a couple of these just to see what they were, and they're actually premeasured spices that come with the recipe. You add the protein, liquids, etc., but these would be great for a beginning cook or college student! I remember when I didn't have many spices and I would hate to buy a whole bottle of a spice just for the 1/2 tsp. and not even know whether I would like that spice! Now that I have a ton of them, I know I'll be able to recreate this from my own collection, but it's always fun to try new products! Thanks, DD! :)
Anyway, this package actually said Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas, but I had some corn tortillas and shrimp, so decided to do a baked tostada. I have mentioned this before, but rather than frying a corn tortilla to make my tostada base, I put it under the broiler and crisp up both sides. Works great every time! Tostadas are a quick go-to meal in my house and we both love them!
The flavor of this marinade was very good! It would also be excellent with chicken.
Garlic Lime Shrimp Tostadas

1 tsp minced dried garlic (can replace with fresh)
1 tsp dried onion
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup each of lime and orange juices (I used about 1/3 cup of lime only)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 to 1.5 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (they call for 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips)
any tostada fixings you like!

Mix all ingredients together in a zip top bag and marinate for at least 30 minutes or longer for more pronounced flavor. (I marinated for about 5 hours)
I cooked the shrimp and diced up red bell peppers together in some of the marinade while the tortilla was under the broiler. Then, spread on fat free refried beans, the shrimp mixture, and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar and popped it back under the broiler until the cheese was melted. Topped with salsa and sour good! The lime and garlic flavors pulled through even with all my other fixings, but were just the right amount of flavor.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baked Potato Dip

Before heading out to the lake for the weekend, I was looking for a dip to use as an appetizer for a hamburger/hot dog/grilled vegetable meal. This dip is great with wavy potato chips and with carrots, too!
There are a bunch of sources for this recipe. Here's one! And, how good would THIS one be for a party??

Baked Potato Dip
16 oz sour cream (I used a mix of light and fat free)
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
bacon crumbles (it recommends a POUND of bacon..I used about 2.5 oz of crumbled bacon)
cheddar cheese (again, it recommends THREE cups--I used about 1)
green onions or chives, chopped (optional, to taste)
Mix all together, refrigerate, and serve with dippers!
In other news...
My mom, sis, aunt, and I went to Toy Story 3D. I'd never been to a 3D movie before, and it was cool! Now I want to see one that has some more 3D effects in it! The movie was really cute though. Sweet glasses, D!
We took the dogs on a trip to the lake. The whole way there, they were panting in our faces. This is what they looked like about five minutes after getting in the car. Toddler puppies??

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Creamy Italian Dressing

This is a wonderful dressing! It is tangy with a bit of a kick and goes great with any veggies. i served it with a salad of romaine, carrot shreds, and cucumber chunks. It would be great with chicken as a main dish salad, also. You can use full fat versions of the mayonnaise and sour cream, but as I noted below, lighter options work just great. I went the easy way with the croutons and bought some Texas Toast Ceasar croutons from the store, which were really good for store bought croutons!! Our guests really enjoyed this meal also.
Creamy Italian Dressing

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup light or fat free sour cream
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on taste preferences

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, honey, garlic, Italian seasoning, and parsley. Stir in mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt, and cayenne pepper.

adapted from Bonnie

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fudgy Frosted Brownies

I have made homemade brownies before, but they would not have been able to handle this frosting. If you like fudge, you must try these brownies. I might recommend making half of the recipe unless you have a big gathering or a really large family, because this makes a lot!! (they are really rich so cut them really small) I gave away two plates, had them for dessert for four people, plus had leftovers.

Fudgy Frosted Brownies

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoons salt

Preheat ovent o 325. Cream butter and sugar together. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, cocoa, and salt (don't use your mixer for this part--just stir until blended). Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for 35 minutes. Cool completely, then frost.

Fudge Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa
6 tbsp milk
1 1-lb box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, cocoa, and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a simmer. Pour over the powdered sugar and beat will with an electric mixer. Stir in vanilla.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beef Marinade

If you're ever looking for a marinade for anything, Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations is a great resource. I have liked everything I have tried from her, and her and her husband come up with all sorts of great marinades.

I tried this Balsamic Garlic beef marinade, and it was wonderful! Best part is that you don't even have to remember to do it ahead of time--a short marinating time and then grill or oven for a short time and you have some great flavor added to your beef while still tasting the beef.

I used close to her amounts of the ingredients. The original recipe comes from Food and Wine.

Balsamic Garlic Beef Marinade

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1.5 lb skirt steak (she used flank, but it also gave great flavor to skirt)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (suggested to use a blender, but I just minced my garlic and whisked it together). Pour over meat and marinate for 5-10 minutes. Cook meat, allow 5-10 minutes rest time, and serve!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

I often find recipes I want to try while watching cooking shows from the treadmill or elliptical at the gym. Very counterproductive if I were to actually try all of them!!

Last week, I knew I was going to a family gathering where I could serve a new dessert without eating it all myself so I decided to try a recipe from Sandra Lee, who I have not had much success with in the past. I guess I just like to make most things rather than prepackaged stuff put together, but I get that it would be good for some people and she definitely has a different angle than the other shows! Anyway, she was making red velvet bars when I was flipping channels, and I had to stop and look because they looked goooood. I went to find the recipe online and it did NOT have good reviews at all. With some changes, I thought they were excellent! (as did many other partygoers:)

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
1 box of dark chocolate cake mix (sub whatever flavor you want here)
1 stick of butter, softened
2 eggs (she recommends one--look at what it looks like after only one egg and tell me that would actually work..powder??)
16 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 9x13 pan and line with foil--be sure to leave overhang on the ends to lift the bars out when they're done. Spray foil with cooking spray also.
Beat together the cake mix, butter, and eggs until well combined. (It looks like thick clay or mud here!!) Spread this mixture evenly in the pan.
Beat the sugar with the cream cheese until they reach a creamy consistency. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined. Pour this over the cake mix layer.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight. (I tried them out of the oven and then the next day after refrigerated--much better the next day!)
**You can tell I let mine bake about 3 min. too long--I would say it's probably about 32 minutes of bake time. I tried to sprinkle them with powdered sugar to cover it up, but it was just soaking into the cheesecake layer. I'm sure they would be great with a strawberry sauce of some sort on top, too!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Herb Vinaigrette and feta

The only way I can make sure to actually eat my servings of veggies and fruits every day is to have them already cut up--otherwise when I'm hungry for lunch, I'm already hungry and don't want to take the time! I assembled this soooo good salad yesterday for lunch--romaine with green peppers, broccoli, chicken chunks, a little scoop of roasted garlic hummus, and a topping of Israeli couscous salad, the recipe I am posting today. If the strawberries "accidentally" get mixed in, it makes the salad even better--chicken and strawberries are so good together! (which makes me crave this, something I need to make again soon!)

Israeli Couscous with feta and herb vinaigrette
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
dash of crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp salt
dash black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
feta to taste
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan and toast couscous for about 3 minutes. Add water, broth, and red pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 12 minutes, or according to package instructions. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over finished couscous. Combine with feta. Serve hot or cold.
*also great with roasted vegetables mixed in it!!
**I went searching for a recipe variation of this to see who else has made a similar recipe, and it is in a bunch of different places. Seems as though maybe Bobby Flay started it, although I see lots of variations!