Friday, December 17, 2010

Frozen Banana Delight

As we enter the holiday season, filled with tempting treats loaded with fat and sugar, I thought I'd show you an easy alternative that might help curb your cravings for treats that don't fit a clean eating lifestyle. 


Otherwise known as “one ingredient ice cream” or “banana ice cream,” this super easy treat is a cool, creamy alternative to ice cream.  It can be enjoyed in it’s simplest form – with just bananas, or with a few key additions to punch up the flavor. My favorite additions are peanut butter and cocoa powder!


Frozen Banana Delight

1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (optional)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)

Slice banana into chunks and freeze in a single layer on a parchment lined plate or cookie sheet. Once frozen, place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until it is transformed into a creamy treat. You may need to intermittently stop the processor or blender to scrape down the ingredients.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mexican Shrimp Burgers

My husband was originally a little skeptical about the idea of shrimp burgers, but he was nice enough to wait and tell me that AFTER I made them. These burgers totally won him over. We both agree that they are fantastic, and definitely something different! I love that they are actually relatively easy to prepare and being able to use frozen shrimp, which thaw quickly, makes it even more attractive.

Mexican Shrimp Burgers
Source: slightly adapted from Everyday GourmetFN

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
2 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs, plus more as needed
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Avocado Aioli:
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 serrano chile, stemmed, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 whole wheat burger buns, split in half
2 medium tomatoes, or pico de gallo
6 lettuce leaves or a mixture of baby lettuce leaves


In a food processor, combine the shrimp, egg, cilantro, garlic, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, poblano chile, salt, and pepper. Process until the mixture is a coarse puree. (If the mixture is too wet, add additional bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture can be molded easily). Form the mixture into 4-6 patties and put on a plate and store in the fridge to firm up while you make your aioli.

Avocado Aioli:

Scoop the avocado pulp into the bowl of a food processor. Add the yogurt, lime juice, garlic cloves, serrano chile and cilantro. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat the oil over medium-medium high heat in a non stick skillet. (because the shrimp doesn’t have a lot of fat, the oil will help develop a nice crust). Add burgers to pan, gently sear until golden, about 3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Cover burgers while cooking to ensure that the shrimp will cook through. Do not over cook the burgers! Like anything using shrimp, it will taste best when the shrimp are just cooked through.

To assemble:

Serve the shrimp burgers on buns, topped with avocado aioli, sliced tomato or pico de gallo, and lettuce.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Fried Rice with Bok Choy

My favorite farmer's market vendor ended up with a surplus of bok choy that needed to be used up.  He generously offered me a second bag for free, so I came home and scoured through my recipe list to see what I could make.  This recipe caught my eye because it was simple to make, I had the remaining ingredients on hand, and it would use up most of the bok choy!


I honestly wasn't expecting much from this recipe, but it really turned out great! My husband insisted that this be made part of the regular rotation. I am happy to oblige, since it was so easy and delicious!

Chicken Fried Rice with Bok Choy
Source: Slightly adapted from Everyday Food, December 2008
Serves 4
(This recipe followed another recipe in the magazine, which had instructions for cooking the rice and chicken.  I have amended the chicken cooking instructions.)

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound 
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound bok choy, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray lightly with olive oil.  Place chicken breasts on foil, spray lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until no longer pink on the inside (inside temperature of 165 degrees F).  Set aside to cook, then chop into cubes.  This step can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add eggs; season with salt and pepper, and cook while stirring to break it up into pieces, until set, 1 to 3 minutes. Set cooked eggs aside (reserve skillet).

3. In skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add bok choy, onion, and garlic; season with salt and pepper (skillet will be very full). Cook, stirring frequently, until bok choy is crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes.

4. Add rice, chicken, eggs, ginger, vinegar, and soy sauce. Cook, tossing, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spicy Baked Chicken Tenders

A few weeks ago, my husbands schedule changed and his work days got longer.  As a result, he came home hungry and ready to eat... something.  Though his days are longer, he still gets home before me, so I started thinking of ideas that would be easy for him to make quickly.  I decided to try making chicken tenders from my crispy baked chicken recipe, but changing it up and making them spicy. 

My husband loved the idea, and has been making his own little snack wraps (chicken tenders in a tortilla with lettuce and cheese) every week after work.  It's taken me a few weeks to perfect the combination of ingredients, and maintain the level of spicy flavor after baking, but I think I finally got it right.

Spicy Baked Chicken Tenders
 Note: lately, I've been out of flax seed and breadcrumbs, so I made the substitutions below.  It's fun to experiment with different combinations!

3-4 chicken breasts, sliced into tenders
2 egg whites (I sometimes go with 1/4 cup egg whites from a carton)
1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs, or oat bran
1/4 cup ground flax seed, or cornmeal
2 tablespoons taco seasoning (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine egg whites, hot sauce, and cornstarch in a shallow dish or bowl.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.   Combine wheat germ, breadcrumbs/oat bran, flax seed/cornmeal and seasonings in a shallow dish.  Dip chicken in egg white mixture, then in breading mixture. Shake off excess breading and place on a baking sheet fitted with a rack (to keep chicken elevated when cooking).  Lining the baking sheet with foil is optional for easy cleanup.  Bake chicken at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Taco Seasoning
From: Allrecipes

~ 1 tablespoon chili powder
~ 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
~ 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
~ 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
~ 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
~ 1/2 teaspoon paprika
~ 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (we use coriander)
~ 1 teaspoon sea salt
~ 1 teaspoon black pepper

Monday, November 8, 2010

Double Apple Bundt Cake

I was cleaning out my wallet recently and discovered not one, but TWO Williams Sonoma gift cards. I'm never sure if gift cards in my wallet are used up, or still carry a balance, so I checked on these two and sure enough - they both had a balance! There are two things from W-S that I've had in the back of my mind for... quite some time now. One is their Gold Touch cake pans. I have the muffin tin and my cupcakes/muffins always come out flawless, so I've been wanting to slowly replace my current pans, as they age, with Gold Touch pans.

The other item is the Heritage bundt cake pan. Since I don't have a bundt cake pan, and Tuesdays with Dorie recently made a delectable apple bundt cake that caught my eye, I decided to get the bundt pan to use up my gift cards. Yay! I love new kitchen paraphernalia.


In a twist of fate, I looked up the recipe in the index in the back of the book, and it had one page number in italics to indicate that there was a photo of the cake. I always love seeing photos, so I flipped to that page and was so excited to see what looked like cranberries! However, then I realized that the cake looked a little... off... from what I was expecting. I'm pretty sure the picture on that page is actually of the Holiday Bundt cake, which calls for cranberries and pumpkin puree. That seemed more like the picture. Nevertheless, I was stuck on cranberries and had already decided they were going in my apple bundt cake. While looking over the Holiday Bundt Cake recipe, I happened to notice a slightly different icing recipe. I decided I like that one better for this cake, so I have included it in the recipe below.

This cake baked up beautifully in my new Heritage pan! It is dense, moist, and full of apple flavor with the occasional tart bite of cranberry (too occasional for my taste, in the future I might add more!). The maple glaze was a great pairing for these flavors. Overall, a great fall treat!

Double Apple Bundt Cake
Source: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

* 2 cups AP flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* ½ teaspoon baking soda
* ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
* ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* 1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1 ½ cups sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
* 1 cup store-bought apple butter
* 2 eggs
* 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
* 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
* ½ cup plump, moist raisins (dark or golden) (I used 1 cup fresh cranberries
* Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

For the Icing (optional)

* 6 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
* About 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Getting ready:  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. If your pan is not nonstick, dust the interior of the pan with flour, then tap out the excess. (If yo’ve got a silicone Bundt pan, there’s no need to butter or flour it.) Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet – you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl as needed, for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth, thick and pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition; you’ll have a light, fluffy batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the apple butter – don’t worry if it curdles the batter. Still on low, add the grated apples and mix to completely blend. Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and raisins/cranberries. Turn the batter into the Bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a think knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding and cooling the cake to room temperature. If possible, once the cake is completely cool, wrap well in plastic and let it stand overnight at room temperature to ripen the flavors.

If you’re not going to ice the cake, you can dust it with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

To make the optional icing:  Put the sugar in a small bowl and stir in maple syrup. Keep adding syrup a little at a time until you have an icing that falls easily from the tip of a spoon. Drizzle the icing over the top of the cake letting it slide down the curves of the cake in whatever pattern it makes. Let the cake stand until the icing dries, a matter of minutes, before slicing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chicken Breasts with a Mustard Caper Pan Sauce

We have become huge fans of the chicken-with-pan-sauce type of meal. I think it's a great way to add variation to otherwise plain old chicken, while still begin quick to prepare and very flavorful. Another great aspect of this category is that small changes to the sauce, which can often be done with items already in your pantry or fridge, can yield very different dishes.


I'd been wanting to make this recipe for quite a while, and when the time finally came, I saw it as an opportunity to use up some artichoke hearts that were in the fridge. They were a great addition to an already wonderful dish!

Chicken Breasts with a Mustard Caper Pan Sauce
Source: Slightly adapted from My Italian Grandmother

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • approx 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (skip the butter and stick with oil for a clean meal)
  • 1 -2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • 1 generous tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of capers
  • 4 artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste


Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and the butter in a saute pan (stainless steel will work best) over medium heat. Saute chicken on both sides then remove to a plate. If the pan is dry add a little more oil and the garlic. Do not let garlic burn or it will taste bitter (lower the heat if necessary). Cook the garlic for a minute and add flour. Allow flour to cook for 1 minute and stir. Turn heat up again if you lowered it an add stock while stirring with wooden spoon or whisk. Add mustard, capers, and artichokes and season with pepper. Taste it before you add salt and adjust salt and mustard accordingly. If you want your sauce to thicken reduce it further, or if you want more sauce add a little more stock and let it reduce. Add parsley. When your sauce is done add the chicken to the pan with and toss to coat. Cover and let it cook for another 5-10 mins (depending on the thickness of your chicken) so chicken is cooked through.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Candy Corn Ice Cream

I love the onset of autumn for a number of reasons. The chill in the air becomes a welcome reprieve from the summer's humidity, the leaves turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red, and stores stock the shelves with Halloween candy. I love candy corn, but rarely purchase it because it is so hard to not eat the whole bag in one sitting, which invariably leads to a stomach-ache (not to mention a giant leap off the Clean Eating wagon).

This year, I couldn't resist picking up a bag when I saw this recipe. How could candy corn ice cream be anything short of fantastic? Not surprisingly, this creamy dessert is super sweet, and is thankfully easier to portion control! The original recipe is even simpler than what I have posted here, but I had some egg yolks to use and decided to make a custard base, rather than a simple Philadelphia style ice cream.


Candy Corn Ice Cream
Yield: about 4 cups
Adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
I found that 11-ish ounces of candy corn was more than enough - next time I might reduce that a little because it is so sweet!

1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream or half and half
2 cups (16 oz) half and half or whole milk
4 egg yolks
11 ounces candy corn (give or take a few Smiley)

Add the cream/half and half/milk to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks to break them up.  Working two tablespoons at a time, add about 6 tablespoons of the heated cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.  Add tempered eggs to the saucepan with the heated cream mixture.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (approximately 160 degrees F).

Add candy corn to thickened custard, stirring until the candy corn is mostly dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Transfer to a container and chill mixture at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.  Freeze in your ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Think Pink! Cranberry Orange Cheesecake Bites

Hooray! It's October, and that means it's time, once again, for The Power of Pink Challenge. I am so glad Jen is hosting this event for another year, as I think it's a great (and fun!) way to remind yourself to stop and think about breast cancer. Do you have a loved one that has been affected by this disease? Maybe you have been affected? Are you doing your monthly self-exams?

I've been slacking a bit on creativity in the kitchen, so this was a very welcome exercise in cooking or baking. I desperately wanted something naturally pink (as opposed to using food coloring, etc), but my first thought when it comes to pink is strawberries. Not only did I use those last year, but October really isn't the height of strawberry season. Two aisles over from the pathetic looking strawberries at the grocery store - the answer was obvious: cranberries!

I absolutely love all things cranberry, and was so excited to come up with something new. Once again, I was stuck on cheesecake this year. I couldn't get it out of my head. I decided to go a different route from last year, and the ideas eventually evolved into these super cute mini cheesecake bites.


This cheesecake is not too dense, but rather has a light, almost whipped (heavenly!) texture. They are packed with cranberry and orange flavor, complimented by a rich oreo cookie crust (how can you go wrong with oreos?), and dipped in creamy white chocolate. The combination of flavors is incredible, and I can't wait to make these again!


Think Pink! Cranberry Orange Cheesecake Bites

Adapted from here and Christine Avanti
Yield: 36 bites

For the cranberry puree:
6 ounces fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from about 1/2 of a large orange)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and the cranberries start to pop. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a food processor to (carefully!) puree, or use a hand blender to puree in the pot. Stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl, covering with plastic wrap, pressed down on the surface to avoid forming a skin on top of the puree. Refrigerate to cool completely, at least 4 hours. Makes about 1 cup of puree.

For the crust:
1.5 cups crushed oreo cookies (from about 15 oreos)
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar

For the cheesecake filling:
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (regular or 1/3 less fat), at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon orange zest (from about 1/2 of a large orange)
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup cranberry puree

For dipping:
30 ounces good quality white chocolate bar, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare an 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan by lining with a sheet of foil matching the width of the pan, and extending out over two opposites sides of the pan. This will be used to lift the cheesecake out of the pan after it has cooled, for easy slicing. Spray foil and exposed inside edges of pan with baking spray.

To prepare the crust - combine all crust ingredients in a small bowl. Dump out into baking pan and press down into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 8-10 minutes, then remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cheesecake filling is ready.

Beat 8 ounces of cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese and sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in the orange zest and juice, then the sour cream just until it's completely blended. Stir in the cranberry puree until the batter is as uniform or marbled as you like.

Pour batter evenly over partially baked crust. Set pan inside a larger one (my 9x13 pan worked great for my 8x8 pan) and add water to the larger pan, about 1 inch deep. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake cheesecake for 35-40 minutes until set and slightly puffy, or until the center no longer jiggles when the pan is gently shaken. Remove the pan from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours. Cover the pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. At this point, you can remove the cheesecake, slice into bars as you see fit, and enjoy them that way. Otherwise - you can carry on and enrobe them in white chocolate!

Slice cheesecake into 36 squares. Place on a parchment lined sheet and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Over a double boiler, carefully melt white chocolate, taking care not to scorch it. Stir constantly and remove from the heat before all the chocolate is melted - continuing to stir will melt the rest.

Remove a few cheesecake squares at a time from the freezer. Have another parchment lined sheet ready. Working quickly, dip each side of the cheesecake square in white chocolate. I found that with frozen squares, I could hold it with my index finger on top and thumb on the bottom, and rotate all 4 sides through the white chocolate. The coating would harden in just a few seconds, then I could dip the top, and finally the bottom of the squares by holding the sides. The square could then be placed on the parchment lined sheet to finish hardening. If you want to adorn the tops of the squares with something like sanding sugar, have it ready and be prepared to work quickly if you want it to stick! Repeat with remaining squares, rewarming the white chocolate as necessary.

Store cheesecake bites in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a up to a week, or well wrapped in the freezer for up to a month.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Caramel Ice Cream

One of the things I love most about our new town is the Farmer's Market. There is one five days a week, each time in a different location in the surrounding area. It makes it so easy to get fresh local produce - if I can't make it on Saturday, I just go on Thursday or Monday.

Palazzi Orchard is a local farm that always has an abundance of apples in many varieties. I was so excited a few weeks ago to see that my favorite - McIntosh - were finally here! I've been snagging a bag of them each week, and I finally decided it was time to get creative and use up some caramel that was cluttering up my refrigerator.

I started with a base of cinnamon ice cream that I have made before, and added the apples and caramel, originally envisioning a beautiful swirl.  I didn't get quite the swirl effect that I wanted, but I promise myself someday I will get it figured out. In the meantime, beautifully swirled or not, this is some really fantastic fall inspired ice cream!

Apple Cinnamon Caramel Ice Cream
Yield: About 4-5 cups
*I find that I can still make decent ice cream without needing a ton of heavy cream. When making it for company, I'll always go the full fat route, but for just me and my husband, I usually cut it down a little. If you are unsure of what you will like, start with the cream and half and half, working your way down on subsequent batches to see how much of a change in texture you are willing to take.

8 ounces heavy cream or half and half*
14 ounces 2% milk, whole milk, or half and half*
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
about 3 cups chopped apple, preferably McIntosh (4 medium large apples or about 1.5 pounds)
2/3 cup honey (can also use sugar)
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup caramel

Heat cream, milk, cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until simmering, but not boiling. Turn off heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice apples. Add to a saucepan over medium-low heat, and cook down until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick from cream mixture. Return cream mixture to heat, bring back to a simmer, then add honey and whisk until dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons of heated cream mixture to beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Repeat 3 more times, then add tempered eggs to the saucepan with the heated cream mixture.

Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (approximately 160 degrees F). Strain mixture, if desired.

Puree half of the cooked apples and add to cream mixture. Add caramel to the remaining half of cooked apples and stir to combine. Cool both mixtures thoroughly, at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Add cream mixture to your ice cream maker and churn for about 25 minutes, or until it is about soft serve consistency. Add caramel apple mixture, then turn off ice cream maker, having let it just lightly swirl the caramel apple mixture into the ice cream. Alternatively, swirl in the caramel apple mixture by hand.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whole Chicken in a Crockpot

This is definitely not an earth shattering recipe, and it's barely a recipe at all! I thought I would just share a few tips that I've picked up that have made things easier for me when cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot.

It's really quite a marvelous thing - season a whole chicken, pop it in the crockpot, let it do it's thing for a few hours, and you have fall-off-the-bone chicken, ready to eat! I've been making this for a few weeks now and using the chicken for lunches during the week. One week I decided to roast the chicken in the oven, and decided I greatly prefer the crockpot. The meat truly does fall off the bone, which makes it really easy to separate out.

Whole Chicken in a Crockpot

One whole chicken
olive oil
seasoning of your choice
one lemon

Start by preparing the crockpot. I like to use crockpot liners for easier (and faster - don't have to wait for the crock to be cool enough to handle) clean up. Make 3 balls out of tin foil (about 2-3 inches in diameter) and place in triangular pattern in the crockpot. If available, place a rack on top of the foil balls. I have one that is just the perfect size, and I have found that it makes it easier to remove the chicken in one piece when it's done cooking. The chicken will release a lot of juice while cooking, so the foil balls will help keep it elevated, but the rack will help it come out of the pot without falling apart and dropping back into the liquid.


Prepare chicken by removing the giblets, rinsing well inside and out, and patting dry with paper towels. There are many ways to season the chicken - I keep it pretty simple with a little olive oil and some home-mixed Emeril's Essence. Fresh herbs + butter is another great way to go. Rub the oil and seasonings all over the chicken and under the skin to help flavor the breasts. Cut the lemon into quarters and stuff into the cavity.

Place chicken on rack in crockpot, and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4 hours. Remove chicken by lifting from the rack. I find it helpful to wedge a strong, metal spatula underneath the rack to help lift it up and out. Then just enjoy the chicken!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Garlic Mashed Cannellini Beans

We enjoy pureed black beans (our easy version of refried beans) whenever we have anything in the Mexican category, but I had never thought of mashing other types of beans. I was inspired by Elly to make mashed cannellini beans instead of mashed potatoes to go with the chicken croquettes. They were very easy to make and we loved them! I did make one change, though, as we like thyme better than rosemary, so I altered that one ingredient to suit us.


Garlic Mashed Cannellini Beans
Source: Slightly adapted from Elly Says Opa!
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp. fresh chopped thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice

Heat a skillet over medium heat and then add the oil until shimmering. Saute the garlic in the oil until fragrant and lightly browned, and then stir in the cannelini beans and thyme.

Add broth to the skillet and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice off the heat and mash the beans with a potato masher.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicken Croquettes

The first time I had the pleasure of enjoying chicken croquettes was on a study abroad trip to Spain back in 2000. I was totally in love, but since I don't fry anything at home, I never really considered making them. I was reminded of how awesome they are when I saw this recipe posted by Mary Ellen, so I figured I'd give them a try and then pan fry some and bake others to see if both methods produce good results. I also decided to replace the butter in the croquette portion of the recipe, with pureed cottage cheese. While I'm sure butter would take better, the cottage cheese actually worked really well.


Baking the croquettes also worked out really well, and makes this long recipe just a little easier. When we sat down to eat, it became clear my husband had never had these before, and he kept referring to them as "chicken balls." He loved them and we were definitely fighting over the leftovers!

Chicken Croquettes
Source: Slightly adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Croquette Ingredients

* 1 c milk
* 1 c chicken stock
* 1/4 tsp white pepper
* 2 tsp freshly chopped parsley leaves
* Salt
* 1/2 cup pureed cottage cheese
* 1 stalk celery, minced
* 1/2 onion, minced
* 1 c all purpose flour
* 1 1/4 lbs cooked chicken breast, ground in a food processor
* Olive oil for pan frying, or spraying on croquettes before baking

Breading Ingredients

* 2 eggs
* 2 c milk
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 3 c all purpose flour or cracker meal
* 3 c bread crumbs

Chicken Gravy Ingredients

* 3 tbsp butter
* 2 c chicken stock
* 3 tbsp all purpose flour
* 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
* Pinch white pepper and salt

* Making the croquettes (refer to the croquette ingredients): In a heavy pot, heat the milk and stock on the stove and add the white pepper, parsley, and salt. In a separate pot, warm the cottage cheese and add the celery and onions. Stir in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Pour in the hot milk/stock mixture and stir until thickened and smooth. Fold in the chicken and allow to cool.

* Breading the croquettes (refer to the breading ingredients): Shape 3 oz portions of the croquette batter into the shape of a cone and place on a tray lined with wax paper. Set out three bowls/breading dishes. In the first, make an egg wash with the egg, milk, and salt. The second bowl is flour, the third is breadcrumbs. Dip the croquettes into the egg wash, then flour, then egg wash again, then breadcrumbs.

* Cooking the croquettes: For pan frying the croquettes, heat oil in saute pan. Add croquettes, rotating to cook all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Drain well and blot on paper towels. For baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place croquettes on a rack over a baking sheet, spray croquettes lightly with olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes.

* Cooking the gravy: Melt the butter in a 1 or 2 qt saucepan. Stir in the flour. Pour in the stock and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add the parsley, white pepper, and salt to taste.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Turkey-Jack Burgers with Mango Salsa

This recipe combines a super simple turkey burger with a flavorful mango salsa. The magazine didn't give a recipe for mango salsa, but I knew where I could find a great one, so I wasn't deterred. As I noted in the recipe, I prefer to stuff the burgers with cheese rather than cook it on top of the burger. Whatever you like best will work!

Turkey-Jack Burgers with Mango Salsa
Source: Reworded from Clean Eating Magazine, July/August 2010
Serves: 4

1 lb extra lean ground turkey breast
1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 ounces reduced fat pepper jack cheese or Monterey jack cheese, sliced
4 Romaine lettuce leaves, stems removed
2/3 cup fresh mango salsa (recipe follows)
4 sprouted grain (or whole wheat) hamburger buns

Mist large skillet with cooking spray and preheat to medium (or prepare grill at medium heat).  In a large bowl, combine turkey, chile powder, and salt.  Shape mixture into 4 equal patties, each 1/2 inch thick*.  Add patties to grill or skillet and cook until undersides are deep golden brown, 4 to 5  minutes.  Flip and place 1/2 ounce of cheese on each burger.  Continue cooking until undersides are browned and patties are firm to the touch, 4 to 5 more minutes. 

To serve, sandwich one lettuce leaf, one burger, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of salsa between each bun. 

*Alternatively, divide ground turkey mixture into 4 equal portions.  Working with one portion, shape half into a round patty.  Top with 1/2 ounce of cheese, then with other half of portion.  Seal around the edges of the patty to hold in the cheese.  Repeat with remaining 3 portions of turkey mixture.  Cook as directed above, omitting cheese on top of burger.

Mango Salsa
Source: Good Things Catered
Yield: 3-4 cups

  • 2 large ripened mangoes, peeled and flesh cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced extra fine
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced fine
  • 1/2 large red pepper, seeded and diced small
  • juice of 1 lime
  • a teeny pinch of salt
In large bowl combine all ingredients and toss to combine.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lime Marinated Chicken

I know I have said this before, but we eat chicken so much that I try to keep some variety in our meals. This is yet another delicious marinade for grilling chicken. Very easy to throw together and doesn't need a really long marinating time.

Lime Marinated Chicken
Source: The Grilling Bible via Domestic Pursuits
produces enough marinade for 4 butterflied chicken breasts

1/2 cup lime (or lemon) juice
4 tablespoons honey mustard*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Pour over chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for two hours.

*don’t have honey mustard? use 2 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp mustard

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sausage and Grilled Vegetable Penne

After describing last week's grilled sausage and pasta dish to my husband, his reply was "and then you are going to add pasta sauce?" I explained that no, I wouldn't add pasta sauce, but that the lemon juice/pasta water would create a light sauce. He seemed disappointed by this prospect, although he ended up enjoying the dish.

This weekend we were having some guests for dinner, so when looking for inspiration, I found another sausage/pasta/vegetable dish that would take the addition of some red sauce quite well. The meal turned out great and I was happy to prepare my husband what he had really wanted!


Sausage and Grilled Vegetable Penne
Source: Slight adapted from Melissa d'Arabian
Serves: 4
  • 1 sweet onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/2 lengthwise and then into strips about 3/4" thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, cheeks and seeds removed, sliced into long strips about 3/4" thick
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced in half
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, washed, dried, sliced in half
  • 4 sweet or hot chicken Italian sausages, thinly sliced or casings removed
  • 12 ounces whole-grain penne
  • about 16-20 ounces pasta sauce 
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish

Preheat the grill and a grill pan to medium, about 400-450 degrees F. 

In a bowl, toss all the vegetables, except the tomatoes, with oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add vegetables to grill pan and cook until caramelized, turning vegetables halfway through the cooking time.  Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, and warm the pasta sauce. 

Add the sausage to the grill and cook until heated through, for fully cooked sausage.  Uncooked sausage will take longer, about 20 minutes.  Once the vegetables and sausage are cooked, cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Add vegetables, sausage, pasta and sauce to a large bowl and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve topped with Parmesan.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich

My husband was on his own for dinner one night, and rather than do the usual BBQ or Franks-doused grilled chicken, I was impressed to find that he branched out and tried something new. My first clue that this had happened was in the sink when I got home - dirty measuring cups. My heart nearly stopped at the sight of them, because my husband never, and I mean never, formally measures anything when cooking. His inspiration came from none other than the bottle of mustard in the fridge. Combining two things he loves - mustard and ranch dressing - he knew he would love it. I was surprised, yet again, to find that I liked it just as much! The next time he wanted to make it, I suggested we change up the recipe a little, and turn it into honey mustard chicken sandwiches. He loved the idea and we both loved the results.


Tangy Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwiches
Source: Adapted from French's mustard

2/3 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup classic yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey
4 medium boneless chicken breasts
rolls of your choice (we like Arnold sandwich thins)
sliced tomato

Mix dressing, mustard, and honey. Pour 2/3 cup of sauce over chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Grill chicken over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve chicken on rolls with lettuce, tomato, and reserved mustard sauce, as desired.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Grilled Sausage with Olives, Capers, and Summer Vegetables

I love keeping tabs on Cara's blog for great healthy recipe ideas, tips, and tricks. Last week this recipe came up, and seemed perfect for us since we had lots of basil, summer squash, and green beans to use up! I wanted to add a grain to the dish, and ended up going with our favorite pasta - Barilla Plus (that stuff is awesome). This result was a fantastic dinner - bright from the touch of lemon, with plenty of briney goodness from the olives and capers (I found that it didn't need any additional salt). As an added bonus - it was quick to throw together, with the pasta cooking in the same time as the sausages and vegetables.


Grilled Sausage with Olives, Capers, and Summer Vegetables
Slightly adapted from Cara's Cravings

1 pound summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
3/4 pound fresh romano beans or green beans, cut into 1 - 1 1/2" pieces
1 pound (4 links) Italian turkey or chicken sausage
about 1/3 cup chopped basil
4 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
1 tablespoon capers
juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces of your favorite pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine the sliced squash and beans on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Also spray the sausages with cooking spray.

Place the vegetables in a grill basket and the sausages right on the grill. If you are using pre-cooked sausages, you won't need to leave them on their very long. Just grill until they are hot throughout and have some nice grill marks. For uncooked sausages, cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until cooked through and browned. Stir the vegetables every so often, until crisp-tender and lightly charred and beginning to caramelize in spots.

Meanwhile, chop the basil and slice the olives and add both to a large bowl. Also, cook pasta according to the package directions, and reserve about 1 cup of pasta water before draining pasta.  When the sausage is done, let it rest for a few minutes and then slice into 1" chunks. Add the sausage pieces, vegetables, cheese, and pasta to the bowl with the basil and capers. Squeeze the lemon juice over everything, toss, and add pasta water a little at a time to achieve desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chewy, Chunky Blondies

I much prefer blondies to regular brownies. It's likely because I'm just not that big of a chocolate person. I had a craving for blondies and went straight to Dorie Greenspan for my fix. It has been a while since I've made anything from her book, since I left TWD in late 2008 (wow, was it that long ago?). I figured I was due for some quality time with Dorie. 
I was feeling pretty confident that there were a few ingredients I could change without screwing up the final results, and I was right! The Earth Balance butter, sucanat, evaporated cane juice and whole wheat pastry flour all played their parts flawlessly. These are a wonderful treat that I could feel a little less guilty about... until adding a scoop of ice cream, that is!


Chewy, Chunky Blondies
Source: Slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours p.109

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) Earth Balance butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sucanat
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips or Heath Toffee Bits
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a 9×13-inch baking pan with baking spray and put it on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, or until well incorporated. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chips and nuts. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and use the spatula to even the top as best you can.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean. The blondies should pull away from the sides of the pan a little and the top should be a nice honey brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes before turning the blondies out onto another rack. Invert onto a rack and cool the blondies to room temperature right side up.

Cut into 32 bars, each roughly 2-1/4 x 1-1/2 inches.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zucchini Muffins

I have always loved my mom's zucchini bread recipe, and looked forward to it every summer when there was a surplus of zucchini in the house. Now that I have my very own surplus, I can make it for myself!  Of course I wasn't about to let it go by unaltered, as I thought there were a few places that I could significantly clean up the recipe to make it more healthy.

After making a few batches, a friend mentioned how blueberries are fantastic in zucchini muffins/bread, so I picked some up to try. Seriously--they are awesome. I didn't grab a picture of the blueberry version, but it is SO worth making! I've been freezing the muffins and then taking one to work each day to enjoy with my morning cup of tea - it's perfectly defrosted by the time I'm ready for it.


Zucchini Muffins
Source: Adapted from a recipe received from my mom
Yield: 2 loaves or 16-20 muffins
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice (such as bob's red mill)  
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (not peeled, but gently squeezed to remove excess moisture)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup blueberries (optional but highly recommended!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare two loaf pans or two muffin pans with baking spray. 

Add applesauce, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract to a bowl and mix with hand or stand mixer until combined. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and whisk to evenly distribute ingredients. 

Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix on low speed with a stand mixer, or by hand until all the flour is incorporated. 

Gently fold zucchini, walnuts and blueberries into batter.  Pour batter evenly into loaf pans, or scoop about 1/3 cup batter into each muffin well in the muffin tins.  Bake loaf pans for 55 minutes, or muffin tins for 18-22 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. 

To freeze: wrap well with plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Vegetable Gratin

This recipe has been on my "to make" list for, well, two years now! I was finally inspired to make it by the abundance of zucchini from the garden. The original recipe calls for carmelized onions, but my husband isn't a huge fan of them. I decided that I'd swap them out for some bulgur, to add a little whole grain-y goodness to the dish.


We served this with lemon basil chicken. I loved the almost nutty flavor addition from the bulgur. This dish is a great way to use up those delicious garden vegetables!

Summer Vegetable Gratin
Source: Slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, July/August 2008
Serves: 6-8 as a side or 4 as a light main dish

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 pound summer squash (yellow), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup cooked bulgur
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

Toss zucchini and summer squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup bulgur evenly over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of bulgur. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

Combine remaining bulgur, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zucchini Pancakes

I am super excited and nervous to have our own garden growing this year. I wasn't sure if it would do well, but everything is growing like crazy! As a result, we have plenty of zucchini, so I went off in search of interesting things to make with it. I culled a couple of zucchini pancake recipes for inspiration: one from Ina Garten since I completely trust her, and one with such a raving review that I just had to incorporate it. The result, combined with fresh garden tomatoes, was an absolutely delicious breakfast that my husband wanted nothing to do with. I was quite ok with that - more for me!


Zucchini Pancakes
Source: Adapted from All Eyes on Jenny and Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated and squeezed to remove excess moisture
2 Tablespoons grated  red onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6-8 tablespoons flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons mayo
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1 tablespoon butter

Mix all ingredients, except butter, together in a large bowl.  Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add butter to pan and allow to melt, spreading over the surface of the pan.  Drop about 1/4 cup of batter into pan for each pancake, flatten and cook until golden on each side. Served topped with tomato slice and more cheese.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Barbecue Chicken Burgers

This summer we moved to a relatively rural area, and I was excited about that because I knew there would be great opportunities for a variety of fresh, locally grown produce. I couldn't wait for the Farmer's Market to start up in June, and I've been loving the things I find there.

One of my favorite stands is Wayne's Organic Garden. Attaining organic certification from the USDA is no small task, and on my first visit to the stand I let them know how much I appreciated the effort they put into maintaining their farm.

On one recent trip, they had gorgeous bunches of green onions that I couldn't pass up. I knew I wanted to make something with them as soon as I got home, to enjoy the fresh onion flavor. We already had planned on burgers that day, so I did a quick search and found this recipe for barbecue chicken burgers that sounded delicious. I liked that it incorporated another vegetable (carrots) right into the burger! A great way to get a few more vegetables in our diet.


We really enjoyed the contrasts in these burgers between the smokey, spicy cayenne and chili sauce against the sweet molasses. These are unique burgers that are worth a try!

Barbecue Chicken Burgers
Source: Good Housekeeping via The Daily Green

  • 1 pound ground chicken breasts
  • 1 medium carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with garlic press
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light (mild) molasses
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 hamburger buns, warmed
  • Sliced cucumber, lettuce leaves and green onion (optional)
1. In medium bowl, with hand, mix ground chicken, carrot, green onions and garlic until evenly combined.

2. On waxed paper, shape chicken mixture into four 3 1/2-inch round patties (mixture will be very soft and moist).

3. Place patties on grill over medium heat and cook about 12 minutes or until juices run clear when center of burger is pierced with tip of knife, turning over once. (If you have a grill with widely spaced grates, you may want to place burgers on a perforated grill topper to keep them intact.)

4. Place burgers on warmed buns. Serve with cucumber slices, lettuce leaves and green onions if you like.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding Pops

Fudgsicles have been a bit of an obsession for me this summer.  Perhaps it's the unusual heat we've had, but I have been drawn like a magnet to this frozen treat.  Well, my world came crashing down this past weekend when I went to the store and they were out of fudgsicles

I thought, hey, this is no big deal.  There is a store brand fudge pop, so I'll just get those.   BIG mistake.  The store brand fudge pops are inedible.  Completely disgusting.  They are almost... salty.  I was very upset by all of this.

Thankfully, I didn't have to be upset for long.  I was putting away some cookbooks, and among them was the small booklet that came with my ice cream maker.  A quick flip through the book presented a possible alternative - make my own fudgsicles!  I immediately went to the pantry in search of pudding mix.  I didn't even care that this was basically a semi-homemade/convenience recipe; I wanted my fudgsicles.  All I ended up having in the pantry was a package of butterscotch pudding, but I figured that butterscotch pudding pops sounded good, anyway.  I mix up the batter and churned away.  20 min later I filled my popsicle molds and put them in the freezer, hoping for the best.

My fears that they would come out rock hard or icy were unfounded.  They are perfect!  Cool, creamy, delicious.  Next up?  Skip the pudding mix and go straight to my favorite chocolate pudding recipe.  I hope it turns out just as well!

Any Flavor Pudding Pops
Source: Slightly adapted from Cuisinart ICE-20 Recipe booklet

2 packages (3.4-3.9 ounces each) of your favorite instant pudding flavor
3 cups cold 2% milk

Place ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.  Freeze according to manufacturer's ice cream maker instructions.  Transfer to popsicle molds, and freeze until firm.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chicken Caesar Burgers

We have finally upgraded our grilling equipment! We were chugging along with a lava rock grill, but it's small and cooks slowly (not necessarily a bad thing), and now that we have a home and are closer to family, we wanted something a little larger. We decided on the Weber Genesis E-320, and love it!
It's pricey, but built to last, so we are very happy with it (unlike the aforementioned lava rock grill, which after 1 year is spewing rust out the bottom every time we light it).  Of course, I think my favorite part is the side burner.  This means I now have a total of ONE gas burner at my disposal.  ::shoots evil side-eye at electric stove::

We couldn't wait to use it, and decided on these Chicken Caesar burgers for the inaugural run. We've made them before, so we already knew they were great.  These burgers fabulously present that classic combination of flavors, and I especially love the dressed greens on top. 


Of course, my husband generally takes things a step further, and implored me to post a photo of his version:


Chicken Caesar Burgers
Source: Rewritten from Rachael Ray
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken breast (the average weight of 1 package)
  • 3 garlic cloves, 2 finely chopped, 1 cracked from skin
  • 4 anchovies, finely chopped (optional, but recommended)
  • A handful of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and coarse black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped (I omitted)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest plus juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 crusty rolls, split in half

In a bowl, combine the chicken, finely chopped garlic, anchovies, a handful of cheese, a pinch of salt and a generous amount of pepper, Worcestershire sauce, parsley and lemon zest. Mix the meat and form four burger patties.

Heat a large nonstick skillet with one tablespoon of EVOO, a turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken patties and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Alternatively, grill burgers over medium high heat, 3-4 minutes on each side.

Pre-heat the broiler and toast the bread on a cookie sheet or broiler pan. Alternatively, toast bread on the grill.  Once lightly golden in color, remove from oven and rub the breads with cracked garlic. Drizzle bread with the EVOO. 

Combine Dijon, lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO with salt and pepper, and toss the greens with it.
Place the patties on the bun bottoms and top them with a pile of romaine, sliced tomatoes and bun tops.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mustard Grilled Potatoes

I was looking for a different way to prepare potatoes on the grill (we typically do rosemary potatoes). This recipe intrigued me with the suggestion to parboil the potatoes first.  The original recipe calls for rosemary to season the dish, but since I was trying to get away from rosemary, I switched out the seasoning with Mural of Flavor from Penzeys.

The first time I made these, I boiled them for too long and had sliced them too thin. The results, while delicious enough to try the recipe again, were less than photogenic. Second time around, I paid closer attention to the parboil, and made sure the coins were sliced correctly. The mustard/mayonnaise bath provides a lovely crisp coating around the finished potatoes. They are crisp on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. We love them! I think many different seasoning options would go well with this dish, so feel free to be creative!


Mustard Grilled Potatoes
Source: Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking

By par-cooking your potatoes before they go on the grill, they'll have a soft, almost cakey texture on the inside when they're done, but they'll still have that terrific grilled flavor. The mayonnaise not only adds flavor to the potatoes, but helps keep them from sticking to the grill. Serves four as a side dish.

1 lb. medium red- or yellow-skinned potatoes
Kosher salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. herb seasoning of your choice
freshly ground pepper

Wash the potatoes and cut them into 3/8-inch slices. Cover the potatoes with cold water and 1 Tbs. salt  in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer (you don't want them to break up), and cook until they're almost but not quite fully cooked, 4 to 6 minutes. The potatoes will still be a little hard in the center, but the outer edges will look opaque. Drain in a large colander and rinse with cold water until they're cool; handle them gently. Spread them out on clean dishtowels and let them sit at room temperature (for up to an hour) until you're ready to grill them.

Light a charcoal grill and allow the fire to reach a medium-hot temperature (the top of the coals should be 5 to 6 inches from the grill grate, and you'll be able to hold your hand over the fire for no more than 3 to 4 seconds when it's medium hot). Alternatively, heat the entire surface of a gas grill until it reaches medium hot.

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the potato slices with the mayonnaise mixture until the potatoes are well-coated. Put the potatoes on the grill grate in one layer, directly over the fire. Cook for 3 to 6 minutes or just until deep golden brown and crisp. With tongs, turn the pieces over to the other side. Cook until that side is deep golden brown and crisp, another 3 to 6 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Decadent Chocolate Trifle

This is a fantastic dessert that can be made the semi-homemade way, or dressed up with from scratch versions of chocolate cake, whipped cream, and caramel. Either way, it is delicious and sure to be a big hit at any party!


And yes, I changed the name. I've made this twice now, and with small children at both parties, the original name just didn't seem appropriate!

Decadent Chocolate Trifle
Source: Slightly adapted from Deborah's Culinary Concoctions

1 box chocolate cake mix
ingredients for completing cake mix, as directed by the box
1/4 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
7 oz caramel ice cream topping (plus additional for garnish if desired)
4 Skor or Heath candy bars, chopped
2 (8 oz) tubs Cool Whip Lite whipped topping.

Prepare cake mix according to box directions, and fold in semisweet chocolate chips before spreading batter into pan.  Bake as directed.  Set aside to cool.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Using a skewer or the handle of a spoon poke holes across the top of the cake every 1-2 inches. Slowly pour the warm caramel topping mixture over the top of the cake, letting it sink into the holes. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving (I have made the cake the night before, then completed the trifle the next day). 

Just before serving assemble dessert in a large glass trifle or serving bowl. Cut cake into chunks and layer evenly across the bottom of bowl, top with a layer of Cool Whip and a small amount of chopped candy bars (reserve some for garnish) - repeat layers, ending with Cool Whip topping. Top with reserved chopped candy bars and drizzle with caramel topping if desired.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Margherita Pizza

Alton Brown is one of my favorite chefs (TV personalities?), yet he often falls to the back of my mind. Then someone says those two magic words and I have to make whatever they are talking about, because I know it will be fantastic.


I've made margherita pizza before at home. While it was good, and hit the spot, I recently saw someone recommend Alton Brown's version. Naturally, the challenge was on. I had to make his recipe, and soon. Luckily, it's not too hard to convince my husband that I need to forgo any other plans and make pizza. He is always ready for pizza!


This recipe was no exception to the AB rule. Marinating and grilling the tomatoes is such a great way to add new depth to this pizza. My only complaint would be that the amount of mozzarella and tomato seems small for the size of the pizza dough. I'll admit to not measuring the size that I rolled the dough to, but I know I was in the vicinity of 16 inches and I felt the toppings were a bit sparse. It was easy to add more mozzarella and basil, but next time I will have to remember to add a bit more tomato as well. Either way, the flavor is fantastic, and is definitely my go-to way for making margherita pizza.


Margherita Pizza
Source: Slightly adapted from Alton Brown
  • Enough dough for one 16" pizza (see below for a whole wheat pizza dough recipe)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices
  • 5 to 7 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2-ounce grated Parmesan
  • 4 ounces part skim mozzarella, shredded or sliced thin into rounds
  • handful large basil leaves, shredded
Heat a gas grill to high and make sure the grill grates are clean and free of debris.

Toss the tomato with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the garlic, salt and red pepper flakes in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Lightly flour the countertop and flatten the dough ball. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 16-inch round, rotating and stretching the dough as you go. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza peel or baking sheet and stretch to re-shape if necessary.

Oil the grill grates and decrease the heat to medium. Brush the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil and flip onto 1 end of the hot grill, leaving room for the tomatoes on the grate. Put the prepared tomatoes on the grill, close the lid and cook until the bottom of the crust is golden brown and the tomatoes are softened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Brush the raw side of the dough with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil, then immediately flip using the peel. Top with the grilled tomatoes, smashing and spreading the tomatoes to create a sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, mozzarella and basil. Close the lid and cook until the bottom of crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted, another 1 to 2 minutes. Shift the pizza back onto the pizza peel or baking sheet (a large, flat spatula may help), and move the pizza to a cooling rack to let rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

I was in a pinch (you know, since this urge was sudden) for pizza dough as I didn't have any of my old standby... well, on standby in the freezer. I turned to an issue of Everyday Food for a semi-whole wheat pizza dough recipe that could be made in one day. I found it easy to work with and think it makes a very good crust. One recipe make enough dough for two 16" pizzas.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Source: Everyday Food Magazine, January 2009
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water
  • 2 packets ( ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for kneading
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)

Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.

In bowl with yeast, whisk sugar, oil, and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.

Shape one ball into desired size for pizza. Other ball can be wrapped in plastic wrap, stored in a ziploc bag, and frozen. Thaw completely in refrigerator before use.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stuffed Strawberries

This dessert has been a favorite of mine for years. I am glad to have the chance to finally share it. I made this for a recent summer party (finally took a picture of them!) and everyone loved them. The filling isn't overly sweet, but in combination with sweet, ripe strawberries, the balance is perfect.  As an added bonus, this dessert is easy to prepare. 


Stuffed Strawberries
Source: Slightly adapted from Amber's Delectable Delights /

1 pint fresh strawberries
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cut the tops off of the strawberries and stand upright on the cut side. Make a cut 3/4 of the way down from the tip of the strawberry towards the bottom. Rotate the strawberry 90 degrees and make another slice.

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and extract until smooth in a mixer or a food processor. Place into a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe into each strawberry and arrange on a serving platter.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tomato Basil Orzo Salad

I made this recipe once, years ago, and remember liking it very much.  We were invited to a summer party a few weeks ago, and I was pondering what to bring when my husband suggested this orzo salad.  I thought it was a great idea, and we got to use some fresh basil from our Aerogarden.  It was a huge hit with the party guests!  

Tomato Basil Orzo Salad
Source: Sunset Magazine
Yield: 4 to 6 light-entrée servings or 8 to 10 side-dish servings

  • 1 1/2  cups  dried orzo pasta (use whole wheat orzo to make this a clean eating dish)
  • 1 1/4  pounds  firm-ripe tomatoes, at room temperature
  • 3/4  cup  chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1  or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • About 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

1. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring 1 1/2 to 2 quarts water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until barely tender to bite, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, rinse and core tomatoes; chop and place in a large bowl. Add basil, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar; mix gently.

3. Drain pasta well and add to tomato mixture. Mix, adding parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 255 (32% from fat)
Protein: 7.8g
Fat: 9g (sat 1.8)
Carbohydrate: 37g
Fiber: 2.6g
Sodium: 74mg
Cholesterol: 2.6mg

Thursday, July 15, 2010

96 Candles

In case you were ever wondering what 96 candles would look like on a birthday cake (which is also known as the earthquake cake for the rift that went right through the "Happy Birthday" wording)... I give you...

96 candles (95 + 1 for good luck, for the beloved Grammy)


Let’s just look past those decorating “skills,” mmmmkay?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three Year Blogiversary!

I know things have been a little slow around here, but life has more or less gotten in the way, with selling our house, moving 1000 miles, crashing at my parent's house for a month, and setting up shop in a new home in the northeast. I promise there are plenty of recipes to come, and soon! 

Today, I am celebrating my three year (!) anniversary of writing this food blog with a list of my top 10 favorites from the past year.  As I reviewed my posts, I saw quite a few recipes that we loved and have made over and over again.  This was previously something that is quite rare for us, as I have a list of new recipes to try that is seemingly a mile long, and I like to try many new recipes each week.  Please enjoy a second look at some of these favorites of ours.

1. S'mores Cupcakes

I am starting off with the only dessert recipe on this list - quite a change for me!  I think part of the reason for the lack of sweets on the list this year is my switch over to clean eating.  I was baking up less and less of the decadent treats.  These cupcakes were wildly popular at a summer cookout last year, and are a really fun twist on a classic summer treat. 

2.  Whole Wheat Breads

I'm sort of cheating here, but I have loved everything that I have made so far from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book.  Reinhart really knows what he is talking about, and I return time and time again to this book for bagels, bread, burger buns, pizza dough, etc.  The time commitment may seem intimidating, but it's really not that bad if you plan ahead.

3. Southwestern Chicken Pizza

When it comes to homemade pizza, my husband and I have had a blast creating unique topping combinations at home.  I came across this pizza recipe one day while looking for a way to use up tomatillos, and it became an instant classic in our house.  It's our favorite pizza recipe, by far!

4.  Artichoke Stuffed Turkey Burgers

I don't think it gets much better than a burger stuffed with artichokes and fontina cheese.  Need I say more?

5. Pico de Gallo

I was dying to find a replacement for my husbands all-too-frequent snack of chili+salsa+velveeta.  One weekend, at his suggestion, we made an old favorite of his from back home.  I fell in love, too, and demanded we make it every weekend thereafter.  Though we have missed some here and there, this pico de gallo recipe is pretty much a given on the weekends in our house. 

6. Oat Bran Cranberry Pancakes

Bisquick used to be my standard pancake "recipe."  I slowly began to branch out and try various scratch pancake recipes, but after the turn to eating clean, still needed something more nutritionally sound.  The search was most definitely over after trying this recipe, and I now use it as a base for just about any kind of pancakes (though truthfully, apple cinnamon is almost always what we end up making).  The batter seems thin after preparing it, but puffs up nicely while cooking and ends up being a great texture.

7.  Lemon Thyme Roasted Turkey Breast

For the first time last year, I went with a turkey breast on Thanksgiving instead of a whole bird.  I knew I wanted to add some flavor to it, and Cook's Illustrated came through for me yet again.  This was absolutely phenomenal, and I plan to use it for a long time coming!

8.  Baked Oatmeal

Between whole wheat bagels and baked oatmeal, I was never short on healthy, filling breakfast ideas this year.  A warm bowl of this oatmeal was a perfect, and very quick, way to start those cold midwest winter mornings.

9.  Italian Chicken Patties

This unassuming dish packs great flavor and comes together relatively quickly without too much effort.  Perhaps it's the gravy talking, but I was instantly in love.

10.  Sesame chicken and noodles

This was yet another dish that had us fighting for the leftovers.  I think it's a must-try if you like sesame!