Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baked Pizza Pasta

This is super easy to prepare and does well when prepped ahead of time. I made it two days ahead, stuck it in my fridge, then baked it the night we wanted it. I think it would also freeze really well. The recipe is really a no-brainer, but I wanted to be sure I have it as an idea for the future!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Apple Cider Baked Donut Holes

Fall in a bite! These are really great. We couldn't keep our hands out of them. If you run out of butter or don't want to use butter, you can roll them in cinnamon and sugar without it, but be warned you won't get as much coating. We also made a pumpkin version and they're amazing as well. They're baked, so they're healthy, right? :)
Link to recipe

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Panera" mac and cheese

I have a coworker who raves about Panera mac and cheese. I've still never tried it because I'm always swayed by the turkey sandwiches and fuji apple chicken salad, so I can't compare this to theirs, but it's awesome. I should be embarrassed to say how much of this we ate in one sitting, but it was goooooood. The only thing I changed was using yellow cheddar because the white cheddar wasn't in the grocery store I was in. I've seen it in a different store, but wasn't making two trips that day. It was amazing and the best homemade stovetop mac and cheese I have had. 

Panera Bread’s Signature Macaroni & Cheese

1 (16-ounce) package of rigati pasta (or other small pasta shells)
¼ cup butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups 2% reduced fat milk (or cream) --I used skim milk
6 slices white American cheese, chopped  (this is basically white Velveeta...processed cheese)
1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar (I used yellow cheddar)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
Gradually whisk in milk (or cream); cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).

Serves 4 to 6

from Panera's website

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cilantro Chicken Tacos

I have noticed lately that almost all of my grocery lists contain cilantro. If I could keep a plant alive, I'd grow it myself. That's why I like the "dormant" orchid Norris bought me. I can say it's still alive because it's "dormant". I don't actually know whether it is still alive...

I made these ahead of time and froze them, then served over garlic rice, so I guess I lie when I say they're tacos. I mixed the chicken and pesto in with garlic rice and topped it with jalapenos and salsa. This dish was amazing. I'm sure they'd be amazing tacos, too. Thanks to Joelen for a great make ahead recipe.

I followed her instructions, so you can check out the recipe at  What's Cookin' Chicago!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Garlic Rice

I'm finally back (for a post, anyway) and I'm posting such a no-brainer that I probably should just keep it in my head! I just started at a new school and am coaching tennis, so this past month has been pretty wild. I absolutely love my new school and have lots of great kids. Tennis is far more fun than I imagined it to be, too! Great way to meet more kids from the school, also. Love those connections that come with working with kids outside of the classroom. Speaking of the classroom, my classes are really great and they are totally on board with the ProStart program, since this is the first year to have it there. They are excited and engaged (for the most part....working for 100%!) and doing a great job. They're learning big and small lessons and learning to work with people they don't want to work with. One thing I really love about teaching culinary classes is that so many students who don't have success in a traditional paper/pencil (or ebook, whatever) classroom find success in my kitchens. They learn math, how to follow instructions, and how to get along with other people. They listen and watch closely so they can see what happens when you don't follow instructions or don't get your math right (rather than get the problem wrong, you can see the reaction....a recipe that doesn't turn out quite right!). Definitely not knocking the math teachers, because they taught them the foundation to it, but it's so fun to see math, science, and reading "come alive".
Anyway, this was supposed to be about rice. We are using this rice in class to serve under our beef kebabs with maple coriander ketchup. Yum!!

Garlic Rice

2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
1 cup brown or white long grain rice
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat butter over medium heat in small saucepan. Saute garlic until lightly browned, then add rice and stir until it absorbs the butter. Stir in the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fresh Corn and Blueberry Salad

I'm probably getting obnoxious with talking about how much I love summer produce and how everything tastes like summer, but this is another one of those. I loved this salad and you could really customize it however you want as far as veggies and grain. Don't change the dressing--it's so good and a great balance with all of the other flavors! Enjoy summer produce while it's here!!!

Fresh Corn and Blueberry Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well (I used millet)

2 cups chicken broth

3 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs
1 cup blueberries
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cucumber, chopped small (peeled if outside is thick and tough)
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped basil
1/2 jalapeno, minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 Tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons worth)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey

salt & pepper

Rinse quinoa or millet very well in a fine mesh sieve under cold running water. Add to a saucepan with the chicken broth then bring the broth to a boil. Place a lid on top, lower the heat to medium-low, then cook until quinoa is tender and broth is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely.
For the dressing: Combine lemon zest and juice, extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper in a jar or bowl. Shake or whisk to combine. Set aside.
Combine corn, blueberries, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, basil, jalapeno, and cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Pour dressing over and mix well to combine. Serve with grilled or sauteed shrimp, chicken, or fish.

from Iowa Girl Eats

Monday, August 6, 2012

tip: freezing chipotle peppers

I love the flavor "chilpotle":) peppers add to dishes, but I have never used the whole can at once or even within a week's time. I finally decided to try freezing them instead of wasting them, and it works great! I love freezing pesto and having just a cube of it ready to go, and it works just as well with the peppers. It makes it easy to thaw out one at a time and I didn't notice any difference in texture or taste.
Just spoon a pepper and some of the adobo sauce they come in into an ice cube tray and freeze them. Pop them out of the ice cube tray and store in a freezer ziploc bag or container until you need one. It helps if you remember the night before, or you can run the bag under water and thaw it out pretty quickly.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bangin' Good Shrimp

Lately, I've been making quite a few things Norris has absolutely loved (no, the baked zucchini wasn't one of them; that was all for me!:). When he finished this, he asked if we were having it for dessert, with the hopes that I had hidden some leftovers that he could have. It really was excellent and tasted like a restaurant dish, but was a lot cheaper and better for us. This came together quickly and would be a great weeknight dinner,especially if you already had the peels and tails off the shrimp. The texture combinations here are awesome. You can add, omit, or sub any of the pasta/veggies.We'll be having this again!

Bangin' Good Shrimp

1/3 cup light mayonnaise (thinking you may be able to sub at least half with Greek yogurt!)
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (or to your taste preferences)
~2 tsp Sriracha (or to your taste preferences)
1/4 cup chicken, shrimp, or vegetable stock

1 lb raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and patted dry
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 cups coleslaw mix or shredded purple and green cabbage
2 oz whole wheat angel hair pasta, cooked
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Combine the mayonnaise, chili sauce, and Sriracha in a medium bowl and set aside.
Coat the shrimp with cornstarch in a bowl.
Heat vegetable oil in wok over medium high heat. Once oil is heated, add shrimp and stir fry for about three minutes, or until pink and done. Stir shrimp into mayonnaise sauce.
Stir fry bell peppers in work for about two minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove from pan and set aside.
Remove pan from heat and add the stock to it. Add shrimp with sauce to the pan and stir, whisking away any clumps that form. Leave in pan until sauce is heated through.
To plate, put the pasta on, then the cabbage, then shrimp/sauce, then peppers, then peanuts, then onions. Serve with extra Sriracha if desired.

adapted from Skinny Taste


Smoker Saturdays

Just a typical load on the smoker! Norris is awesome with that thing!

Light Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

I spotted bags of key limes at my grocery store for $1 a piece, so I had to snag a bag. No idea what I was going to do with them, and didn't realize how much extra time it would take to juice that many little limes instead of a couple big ones, but I was determined to make something out of them. Same store sold blood oranges for super cheap in the spring. Just have to know where to look there!
I really liked this ice cream--tangy and tastes a lot like key lime pie. I think it definitely needs a little crushed graham cracker on top of each serving just to make it taste more like the pie. It was so easy and doesn't require the patience of cooking the mixture, then waiting for it to cool, THEN freezing it. Just mix and freeze, and you could even eat it as soft serve if you don't want to wait for the second freezing could have homemade soft serve key lime pie ice cream in less than thirty minutes! This is a perfect summer treat!

Light Key Lime Pie Ice Cream
serves 6

1 1/2 c 2% milk
1/2 c key lime juice (can use bottled)
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
dash of salt
14 oz fat free sweetened condensed milk
2/3 c crushed graham crackers, divided
lime wedges, optional

Combine milk, lime juice, cream, salt, and condensed milk with a whisk. Freeze in an ice cream maker, then stir in 1/3 cup graham crackers, then freeze until solid. Serve with remaining crushed graham crackers and lime wedges.

from Cooking Light

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

Why does my can of "chipotle" peppers say "chiLpotle"????

Made with chipotle or chilpotle peppers, this dressing is full of flavor and a great spicy balance with all of the other ingredients in this salad. As I was assembling it, I was thinking it would be really pretty in a glass bowl or trifle dish for a party or shower. You can adjust the ingredients to your liking. Norris and I both enjoyed this and it's really filling for a salad!

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad
Serves 4 entree salads
1/3 c chopped cilantro
6 oz sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
4 t lime juice
1/4 t salt

4 c shredded romaine
2 c cooked, cubed chicken breast
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 or 1 avocado, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
9 oz frozen corn, thawed (could also use no-salt-added canned corn)

Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor until well blended.
Assemble all other items and toss salad with dressing. Stores (dressed) well overnight in the fridge without getting soggy, which doesn't normally happen!!

from Cooking Light myrecipes

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake

I have to borrow Kalyn's line for this: "If you like zucchini, fresh basil, and cheese, you'll love this Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake." Girl is right--this stuff is so good. Like, I was eating it with my fingers when I should have been putting it in a container good. I know, again with the zucchini, but take advantage of what's good in the garden right now and make some of this! It would probably be close to free for some of you--zucchini and basil from the garden and I guess if you milk your own animals and make cheese, you can even save there:) I kept talking about this the whole time we were eating. I could have had just this for dinner. It was totally the star of my plate and took up the most space! It's light and filling and absolutely delicious!

Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake

makes 4 side servings (I only made half the original recipe, which said it made six, but those would be gigantic servings even for me, the lover of this stuff)

1 zucchini, cut into half-moons (rondelle)
1 yellow squash, cut into half-moons (rondelle)
2-4 T chopped fresh basil
2 T thinly sliced green onions
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup cheese, divided (suggested: pizza blend cheese, mozzarella, or grated Parmesan)
salt and pepper, to taste

Spray 8x8 pan or a small rectangular pan with cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine everything but cheese in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese and mix thoroughly.
Bake for 25 minutes uncovered, then add cheese and bake for another 15.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Norris' favorite chicken marinade

This title doesn't tell you much about the recipe except that it's chicken and Norris loved it. That's because the original recipe is called "Grilled 7up Chicken" and our propane tank was empty, so it was baked, and I used Sprite instead of 7up, so it's really "Baked Sprite Chicken"!
Anyway, Norris told me he would eat this every night of the week. At the end of the meal, he said "I really liked it. That means I'd like you to make it again. Like, soon....not in three months." :) He knows me too well...I like to try new things so often that our "regulars" aren't even that "regular" most of the time! I will be happy to oblige (if he's reading this, I wonder if he'll hold me to it...) because this was super easy and cheap, and I like cheap and easy!

Baked Sprite Chicken aka Norris' favorite :)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp horseradish
6 oz lemon lime soda (NOT diet. the sugars from the regular caramelize on the outside of the chicken when you grill it)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 large chicken breasts (or three regular sized)

Combine all ingredients and let marinate for at least thirty minutes and up to overnight. Grill or bake until chicken tests done.

adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff (yup, found on pinterest)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Shrimp Stuffed Squash

This is another great summer dinner (and one that makes me wish I had my own garden since I keep using things from other people's gardens...thanks, friends and family!). It was light, but filling, and bursting with flavor. I kept telling Norris how much I loved it. You could adapt the filling however you'd like...omit tomatoes, add more cheese, use garlic powder instead of fresh, use crab, go meatless, use shallot instead of onion...whatever you have and love will probably work! Enjoy!

Shrimp Stuffed Squash

Serves 1 entree or 2 sides

1 large zucchini or yellow squash, split in half longways and seeds/pulp scooped out
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
3 Tbsp chopped red onion
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
dried or fresh basil, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of cayenne

Preheat the broiler to high and adjust rack to about six inches below heating element.
Brush squash with 1 tsp of olive oil and broil, cut side down, for about 8 minutes, or until it is releasing moisture beads. Remove squash from oven.
Reduce heat to 450 F.
Heat remaining olive oil in small saute pan over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion for about two minutes, or until soft.
Combine garlic, onion, tomato, shrimp, 1 Tbsp of cheese  basil, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stuff into the squash halves and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is browned and filling is cooked and hot, about 20 minutes.

adapted from allrecipes

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Free "speakers" for your ipod---quick little trick!

I saw this on Pinterest and decided I needed to try it out. I can't believe how much the glass actually amplifies the sound (I don't know whether I'm using the word amplify and speakers correctly here..I know nothing about that stuff.). I kept pulling the ipod (you could use your iphone) out of the glass and putting it back in because it was such a difference. Fun little trick that takes no time or money!
If you have a cover, be sure you unblock the speaker area. I have one of those tough cover things where the bottom is also covered, so I took that cover out (the part where it charges) and that made it even louder.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Maple Bacon

I have a hard time deciding on menus for showers because I want to please every type of person/diet, have something available most people can eat, and have a nice variety while still balancing cost and prep time (especially since the last two showers I have helped host have been out of town and out of my own kitchen!). When we decided on a brunch for this shower, I needed to do some sort of meat, so bacon was pretty much the automatic choice. To jazz it up, we brushed the bacon with syrup in the last few minutes of baking and it was like candied bacon. Made me think I might like to try that bacon ice cream after all!!

Maple Bacon

16 slices thick cut bacon
16 skewers, soaked for five minutes in water
~4 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 F. Skewer bacon (you can skip this step if you want to; it was just for presentation!). Place on rack fitted to baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until it's close to how you like it done. Brush on maple syrup, then return to the oven for about three minutes. Be careful when removing it from the oven so you don't get burnt by the grease!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marshmallow Pops/Rattles

My mom has a good friend and coworker who tears it up at cake pops. Her creations remind me of Bakerella's site--all sorts of cute things. I made them once and I couldn't get the shape right and they were a ton of work and I gave up! I admire her patience and skill! Since I don't have that, I went with marshmallow "rattles" for the shower. These were a fun table centerpiece and really could take the place of flowers if you were trying to cut a cost. We (well, it was really my mom's idea!) bought a super cheap sand pail, put a can of green beans and some tissue paper in the bottom to weigh it down, then jammed a tissue-paper-covered styrofoam circle in the top to poke the sticks in. Right before putting the stick in the styrofoam, we put a little square of colored saran wrap for some extra pretty at the base.It worked out great! These are a rush of sugar, so don't plan on more than one per guest. They would make a great back-to-school night or birthday party treat. One suggestion I saw online was to dip them in chocolate, then coat with graham cracker crumbs. Like a s'more on a stick!  

Marshmallow Pops

enough lollipop sticks for your marshmallows
however many marshmallows you need
white almond bark (I needed about 2/3 of the regular sized package to do 30 "jumbo"--not throw pillow!--size mallows)
sprinkles (more than you think you'll need! we used about two containers of them)
waxed paper

Put mallows on sticks--don't put the stick all the way through, but as close to the top of the mallow as you can.
Melt almond bark according to package directions.
Dip and roll mallow on stick in melted almond bark. Shake off as much excess as possible. Roll in sprinkles, then place stick side up on waxed paper to cool.


Monday, July 23, 2012

French Toast Sticks

I really like French toast, but hate when it gets soggy or when all of the slightly crispy edge is gone. These French toast sticks remove both of those factors and taste great doing it. I love the crunchy outside and they're just the right amount of sweet when sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled in syrup.
The hardest part about this recipe is finding the Texas toast (because the best French toast is made with Texas toast...figures, right?). I found one brand at Dillon's/Kroger and my grandma said she finds it at the day-old bread store. Good thing, because you need this bread to be at least a day old anyway. I set it out on the counter overnight to let it get stale, which really helped during the soaking and coating process.
These are great because you can make them and just pull a couple out of the freezer to bake whenever the mood strikes you. Or, if you're making them for a party, they're completely make ahead besides the bake time! They'd probably be fun with other crushed cereals (we tried a pumpkin spice cereal that would be great on them) for a kid treat. The only thing I changed was to use more cornflakes, so I changed that in the recipe below.

I have no idea how I managed to do this, but I must have deleted some of my pictures from my camera. Half of the food/drink photos are missing. Oops!!
French Toast Sticks

6 servings

6 slices day-old Texas toast

4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups crushed cornflakes
Confectioners' sugar
Maple syrup

Cut each piece of bread into thirds; place in an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. dish. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over bread; soak for 2 minutes, turning once. Coat bread with cornflake crumbs on all sides if desired.
Place in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container or resealable freezer bag and store in the freezer.
To use frozen French toast sticks: Place desired number on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 8 minutes. Turn; bake 10-12 minutes longer or until golden brown. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar if desired. Serve with syrup. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.

slightly adapted from Taste of Home

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Princess Punch

A girly shower needed a girly punch! This pink punch has the right amount of sweet and tang. You could add raspberry sorbet or frozen raspberries for an extra color and flavor punch, too!

Princess Punch

48 oz pineapple juice
1 qt white grape juice
1 liter lemon lime soda (diet works)
2 cans frozen raspberry lemonade

Combine all ingredients. If it's too sweet for your tastes, add a little water or more soda.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mini Quiche

The thing I love about food presented as small bites is the same thing I love about self-serve froyo places: I don't have to commit to any one dish or flavor. I can have a little of each and try it all. These little quiche are not only cute, portable, and easy to eat, but the crust is flaky and puffy and the filling is excellent. The most time consuming part is pressing the crust into the tins, but even that doesn't take long. They're also great because, if you don't have a warming tray, these can be served at room temperature and still taste great. (the food safety person in me needs to tell you not to just leave these sitting out overnight or all afternoon, though!)

Mini Quiche
makes 40 mini quiche

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
6 oz cream cheese, softened

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream (can use fat free half and half or evaporated skim milk)
1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne pepper or ground black pepper
filling of your choice
          example: 1 large bell pepper, chopped and 2 tbsp chopped green onions was enough veggie for the whole recipe. You could choose sausage, mushrooms, onions, or even just keep it simple and don't add anything to the mixture!

In a mixing bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and flour until smooth. (I thought it made it easier that, at this point, I refrigerated the dough and then took it out about an hour before using it the next day to soften up some. It made it harder and not so sticky). Take one tablespoon of dough and flatten it into a circle. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of greased miniature muffin cups.

In a bowl, beat eggs, cream, salt and pepper. Stir in flavorings. Pour into shells. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until browned. Serve warm.

adapted from allrecipes

We also had fruit parfaits for the shower. Thank you to Gram, Granddad, and my parents for helping tie tiny little bows and dip marshmallows in chocolate and sprinkles!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake

One of my very favorite people is going to have a baby soon, so we recently had a baby shower to celebrate! I hosted with two other girls and it was a breeze to plan (all via email from different cities!) and so fun to have so many of her friends in the same place. We had it at 11 AM, so we went with brunch food and the theme was the colors--bright-ish coral, pink, yellow, orange, and green. I'll share some of the decor pictures, too--I hope I can figure out how to make the poms like she did!!
When I was looking for a muffin or bread to try for the shower, I had a few different recipes picked out. Heath bar coffee cake, cinnamon-sugar muffins....they all sounded good but weren't quite right and weren't sounding like something the mom-to-be would just love. We went to the lake for a weekend with the family and our cousin made this cake and I knew I had to make it and that mom-to-be would love it! Well, we all loved it and there was only a tiny bit left, and that was probably because we were all being too polite to eat the last. This stuff is excellent! It's also really pretty with the blueberries throughout and the sugar sprinkled on top. It's definitely not a healthy breakfast by any means, but it's a great indulgence that you'll probably pull back out for dessert the very same day!
Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake
Serves 6-8
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon sugar**
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup buttermilk (or 7 1/2 Tbsp milk + 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar..stir and let it sit for about five minutes before using)

* 7/8 cup = 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

from Alexandra Cooks

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Key West Grilled Chicken

Here is a simple, inexpensive summer dinner option. It requires very little active time and you can whip up a side while the chicken is marinating. You probably even have everything on hand already! If you don't have skewers (I have metal ones, you could use soaked wood skewers, too), you could just grill the breasts or even bake them or cook them on the stovetop. I served it with rice and chopped bell peppers. Squeezed some lime juice and sprinkled some crushed red pepper on top and called it a (very good) day!
my grill was a little hotter than I thought it was and I got a little charred right off the bat on accident!

Key West Grilled Chicken

3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil (I forgot this and they were fine)
juice of one lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (or 8 tenderloins)

Combine everything but the chicken in a small bowl. If you are going to skewer the chicken, cut it into cubes OR thread it on skewers. If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water for ten minutes before threading the chicken on them so they don't catch on fire on the grill.
Pour marinade over chicken, cover, and marinate for at least thirty minutes. If it's going to be longer than that, put it in the fridge to marinate. I turned my chicken over to get the other side good after half of my marinating time (which was thirty minutes).
Preheat grill to medium high. Grill chicken for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the meat. It should test done and juices should run clear before serving.
Sprinkle with lime juice and crushed red pepper before serving.

from Grocerybudget101 (and, yes, I saw it first on Pinterest:)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Handheld Watermelon "Margaritas"

Yep, saw it on Pinterest. I pinned it and my cousin commented that we needed to try them for July 4th. Done! This was a creative idea and people really enjoyed them. It says to soak the watermelon for at least 45 minutes. We found after about six hours, they were getting kind of mushy, so don't prep them the night before. You could make the spiked simple syrup the night before, then soak the watermelon the day of. These aren't strong in the booze area, which most people appreciate. Some reviewers said they added more liquor, but I don't think that's necessary. These were great, simple, and fun!

Handheld Watermelon "Margaritas"
1 inch-thick watermelon wedges (enough to lay flat in two 9x13-inch baking dishes)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup tequila
2 limes, halved or cut into wedges

sea salt

Arrange watermelon wedges in a single layer on dishes with a rim.
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Don't boil longer or it will get really thick. Remove from heat and stir in tequila. Set aside to cool.

Pour cooled syrup over watermelon and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes (longer if you wish).

Remove watermelon from syrup and arrange on a platter. Squeeze limes over the watermelon and sprinkle with sea salt.

from Martha Stewart

Friday, July 6, 2012

Monster Cookie Dough Dip

It's almost a joke now...."did you see that on Pinterest?" It seems like every time someone brings something new to a get together, it's from Pinterest! I have found lots of great things on there (and, as I was talking about with my cousins, plenty of totally wrong things that we hope people don't actually believe!). This was one of those great things. My parents hosted a great 4th of July party and they made all sorts of great food. My dad made this dip and it was really, really good. I have told my monster cookie memories before, so I'll just get straight to the recipe. Make this for a crowd because you won't want it all in your house...dangerous:)
I feel like you could pack some more oats into the recipe, too. The site I saw it on suggested forming half of it into a ball and freezing it if you don't need the whole recipe. Great idea!
It was great with graham cracker sticks, regular animal crackers, and chocolate animal crackers.

Monster Cookie Dough Dip

8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 Cup Butter, softened
1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Cup Oats (regular or quick)
1 Cup Miniature Plain M&Ms
1 Cup Miniature Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Mix cream cheese, butter, vanilla and peanut butter until smooth. Stir in brown sugar and powdered sugar, mixing well. Next fold in oats, m&ms and chocolate chips

as seen on Skip to my idea of the original source

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Creamy Radish Dip

After being gone for almost two weeks, I just went to the grocery store for the first time in quite a while! I was checking out summer's bounty in the produce department and got some juicy peaches and cherries. Love this time of year! I also spotted radishes on super sale, so I picked up a bag. I thought I'd just put them on salads, but that gets boring, so I found this dip and it's awesome. I made a dinner out of this with cucumbers and wheat crackers dipped in it. I think even non radish lovers would like this. You could use greek yogurt or sour cream or a mixture of the two, which is what I did. Wish I would have found this before we just went to all of the get togethers that are perfect to bring dips to! (although then I would have had to share....:)

Creamy Radish Dip

1 cup radishes, diced
1/2 cup low fat sour cream, 2% plain Greek yogurt, or a combo of the two
8 green onions, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
dried dill, to taste (optional...I liked it both ways)

Combine all ingredients and serve with crackers and/or cucumbers. On the site I found the recipe, she suggested putting it as a spread on wrap, which I also think would be really great!
Oh, and according to the source I got this from, the whole recipe has under 110 calories, so it's okay to eat up!:)

slightly adapted from Prevention RD and Taste of Home

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer Corn Salad

I recently got together with some girlfriends for a Pinterest party where everyone brought the ingredients to make something they found on Pinterest. Everyone picked a number to find out what course they got and then picked something from Pinterest (which could really be anything from the internet since you can "pin" from any site). We didn't put a theme to it and wound up with some really great dishes.

I got the side for the main dish and knew I wanted something summery. This salad tasted like summer to me (not like sand and suntan lotion, but the food of summer!) and we polished off a big bowl of it. I've made it a few times since then and some of the other girls have made it--it's a definite crowd pleaser!

Summer Corn Salad

6 ears of corn, shucked (I also supplemented with steamed frozen corn when I didn't have enough fresh and it turned out fine), cooked, cooled, and cut off the cob (I like some cook it I boil it for about 14 minutes)

1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chiffonade fresh basil leaves
Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add onions, corn, and tomatoes and toss in dressing. Stir in basil just before serving and adjust salt and pepper to your taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

This is how Bear makes sure he isn't left behind (he hasn't ever been left, but I think sometimes he just wants to be sure). Lay by my stuff and hook his leg in my purse!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chewy Fruit Smoothie

Now that the hottest days of summer are setting in, cold breakfasts taste even better than they have the rest of the year. As soon as spring hit, I started making these smoothies in my new Ninja, and if I go more than a day or two without one, I find myself craving it. They're perfect to throw together and bring to work and I can drink/eat it without rushing. I like them best with a straw, but you can eat them with a spoon like ice cream, too! The "chewy" part of the title comes from the addition of oats. I think it gives it an almost dough-like consistency that I just love. You can play with the flavors of your yogurt and fruit (or even your milk!) to get your best results. My favorite combo is Yoplait triple berry torte yogurt, Great Value frozen mixed fruit (pineapple, mango, strawberries, peaches), and skim milk. Use frozen fruit so you don't have to use ice--between not using ice and adding the oats, I don't think the smoothie is icy at all, which I appreciate. My smallest Ninja bowl filled to the top makes exactly enough for my insulated cups!

Chewy Fruit Smoothie

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup frozen fruit
6 oz yogurt
~1/4-1/3 cup milk

Put oats in bottom of Ninja, then add yogurt, then fruit, then milk. Process until well blended.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy 30th Anniversary to my parents (and buttercream icing recipe)

My parents celebrated 30 years of marriage on June 5, so we celebrated them with a family dinner. Norris smoked chicken breast, which was the best chicken I've ever eaten in my whole life (no was that good), my grandma brought a blueberry spinach salad with an excellent blueberry vinaigrette (will get the recipe from her!), my aunt brought macaroni and corn, and we rounded it out with garlic bread, soy glazed green beans, and wedding cake. I saw the idea for the cake decorating on Pinterest when searching for yellow cakes, and had to run with it. I think I got pretty close! (used Wilton #104 tip) We all loved the cake. We did the whole bit--the champagne toast and the cake feeding. Happy Anniversary to my lovely parents!

For the cake, I did three 8-inch layers with buttercream in between. I froze the layers, then leveled them, did a crumb coat, then a final coat, then used the tip and two slightly different shades of yellow for the decorating on the outside. It was my first time working with the #104 tip and it was fun to use!

Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter, room temperature
~4.5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (clear if you are making white icing)
1/2 tsp almond extract
~2-3 tbsp milk or cream

Mix butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add flavoring and cream until you reach your desired consistency (I use a little thinner for the icing of the cake, then a little thicker when using decorating tips).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

Swimsuit season doesn't seem like the ideal time of year to make cookies, but the way I look at it, it's like portion controlled dessert since they're packaged into portions already!! :)
These were great--both the guys and the girls loved them. Perfect combination of sweet and salty, especially when you add in the chocolate chips. As with most other cookies, underbake these just a touch, then let them cool about a minute on the baking sheet to set up, then cool on a wire rack and you'll not only have the perfect taste combination, but you'll also have the perfect texture combination--chewy on the inside with the crunchy pretzel on the outside!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips
~8 cups mini pretzels, chopped

Cream butter, sugar, and peanut butter for about five minutes, until smooth and fluffy.
Add in eggs and stir until combined. Add in flour mixture and stir until combined.
Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips.
Place dough in refrigerator to chill for at least thirty minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place chopped pretzels in a small bowl.
Make dough ball using small ice cream scoop. Place dough ball in pretzels and roll around, sticking the pretzels to the outside of the cookie. Place on lined/sprayed cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for about one minute, then finish cooling on cooling rack.

adapted from Rachael Ray