Sunday, October 17, 2010

chocolate pumpkin muffins

these might be the easiest muffins you'll ever make. well... let's be honest - they're a little more like a cupcake than just a muffin. so we will call them a "cupin" and just enjoy, ok? my sister jen shared this crazy recipe with me and i could hardly believe it'd work. but it does! the other magical thing about these is that you really cannot taste the pumpkin - they just taste like moist chocolate... cupins.

chocolate pumpkin muffins/cupcakes/cupins (you decide)
1 box devil's food cake mix (any brand)
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
3/4 c. water
1/2 c. chocolate chips and/or nuts (optional)
1/4 t. salt

combine cake mix, pumpkin, salt & water until moist (batter will be thick). mix well and stir in chips/nuts. put into muffin pan sprayed with oil - fill cups 2/3 full. bake at 350 for 25 minutes. makes 20

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

apple crisp

mmm... it's starting to get cooler out there. somewhere the leaves will start to slowly change colors (not here... bummer, southern california!). and apples are starting to get real cheap - heyo! time for an apple crisp recipe! i found this on the website, and only made a couple minor adjustments. so yummy and warm - and very easy. this is especially great with tart apples, like granny smiths. i love throwing in a few frozen raspberries (for color and deliciousness), but you can skip it if you don't have any. enjoy with a little vanilla ice cream... or not, you'll be happy either way!

update: this can be made gluten-free! i just put some oatmeal in the food processor and ground it up into a flour and substituted it in for the regular flour. worked like a charm!

apple crisp
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg (if you've got it)
1/8 t. salt
6 T. butter, cubed
1/3 c. old-fashioned oats
1/3 c. chopped walnuts

6 c. (about 4) granny smiths, peeled, cored, & cubed
< 1/4 c. frozen raspberries
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
1 t. lemon zest (if you have it)
3 T. sugar

preheat to 375. spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. mix topping ingredients with fingers & set aside. toss filling ingredients in another bowl & put into baking dish. sprinkle topping evenly on top and bake 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Friday, September 3, 2010

cream cheese frosting

sorry for the delay in posts; i think our cross-country road trip (and my energy being sucked up by a little tater tot - third trimester, baby!) put me back a few paces. but i'll make it up to you... right now. with this simple frosting. from heaven, via my buddy kristin. we had friends over for lunch the other day, so i defrosted a frozen zucchini bread, but wanted to make it... more desserty? dessertier? anywho, tried out this recipe and wham-o! we had a winner :) you can cut this recipe in half, but even more exciting: it freezes really well. dangerously handy, eh?

cream cheese frosting
1 c. butter
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese
~ 1 T. milk, as desired

blend first four ingredients well. slowly add splashes of milk to reach desired thickness (or don't add any - your call!).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

chicken devan

as we're in the midwest right now, i thought it would be appropriate to share a very midwestern recipe. it's a classic casserole (or "hotdish", if you're from minnesota) that's gooey and yummy - we love it served with rice. the name of this one is chicken devan, but for years my mom called it "chicken dawn" (not sure why). even better, she has it written on her old recipe card as "chicken dwan", which i think sounds great. now james has added a new name to the mix, calling it "chicken devine" since it's one of his favorites. i don't care what you call it, you'll enjoy! p.s. you can cut this recipe in half and bake it in an 8x8" if you're not that hungry.

chicken devan
2 (10 oz.) package frozen broccoli
2 c. sliced cooked chicken (i use mix of white & dark meat)
2 c. cream of chicken soup
1 c. mayo
1 t. lemon juice
1 t. curry powder
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. bread crumbs (or crushed crackers or potato chips)
1 t. butter melted

preheat oven to 350. in a large bowl, combine soup, mayo, lemon, curry, and cheese. add in chicken and broccoli - stir til combined. spoon mixture into a 9x13" baking dish. in a separate bowl, mix butter and bread crumbs and then sprinkle over the top of chicken mix. bake for an hour or until bubbly.
to freeze: mix all ingredients, put in pan, cover with foil, seal well & freeze. do not thaw, but cook an extra half hour (check it - may need more!).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

hot fuuuuuudge

oh my land. heavens to betsy. for pete's sake. you will say all of these things when you try this hot fudge recipe shared with me by dear katherine (whose mom has passed on some amazing cooking skills to her daugther!). this is simple to make, but drizzle it over even plain vanilla ice cream and your guests will be impressed. also, unless you're serving 10 or 12 people, cut this recipe in half.

hot fudge
4 oz. (4 cubes) unsweetened bakers chocolate
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. cream

melt bakers chocolate and butter in a pot over medium heat, stirring often. once melted add cocoa, sugar & vanilla and stir. mix in cream and stir until smooth. serve warm. (will keep well in refrigerator)

Monday, July 26, 2010

basil pesto

here's a simple recipe that's mighty handy. kristin shared this one with me a few years ago and i still use it pretty regularly. the nice thing about it is you can freeze the pesto for a fresh-tasting sauce year round. it's handy to freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray, and then transfer it to a ziploc bag once it's hardened. that way, you can thaw the portion size you need... woo hoo! great to make this if your basil plant is growing like crazy, or basil is pretty cheap at trader joe's. serve this over pasta or use it as sauce on a pizza - delish!

basil pesto
1 c. pine nuts or walnuts
8 c. lightly packed fresh basil leaves (4 oz.)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2/3 c. olive oil
s&p to taste

preheat oven to 350, spread nuts evenly on a pan & toast until golden, tossing once - about 8 minutes. cool. bring 4 c. salted water to boil, submerge basil & then immediately drain in a colander, rinse with cold water to stop cooking. pat dry with paper towels. combine nuts, basil, garlic, and a little s&p in a food processor. process until nuts are finely chopped. while machine is running, add oil and process until smooth. use immediately or freeze.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

pasta puttanesca

pasta puttanesca (or "whore's pasta"... i tried reading up on why it's called this, but still don't understand. fill me in if you're in the know) was one of the first real recipes i learned, shared by my friend and former roommate leslie. instead of just pasta with red sauce, this recipe kicks your meal up a few notches with a richer, heartier flavor. i would recommend using spaghetti or angel hair pasta with this one. and be ye not fearful of the anchovies! when you cook them with the garlic, they basically melt away, but they add a rich (not at all fishy) flavor - yum. last compliment i'll give this recipe: just about all of the ingredients can be on your shelves, waiting until you call on their service. how friendly... but not quite as friendly as the name suggests...

pasta puttanesca
1 lb. pasta
1 (24 oz.) jar marinara sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1/4 bottle of red wine
1 t. oregano
1 t. basil
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 can anchovies, drained
2 T. capers
1 can black olives, drained & halved

heat oil on medium heat in pot, add garlic and pepper flakes. add anchovies and break them apart as you cook them - less than 5 minutes. stir in sauce, capers & olives. pour in wine and herbs. simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. in another pot, cook pasta. drain and combine with sauce. serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

Monday, July 12, 2010

bulgur salad with grapes and feta

ok, i'm labeling this as a "side", but full disclosure - i have never eaten it as a side. why? because "side" means smaller portions, a food sharing plate space with other edibles to form a meal. and i am hardly ever willing to share plate space with my bulgur (i also find it difficult to share it with others, i like it that much). this is a meal to me - and a tasty, easy, and healthy one at that!
bulgur is a whole grain wheat and i've found it at my local grocery store, usually in the healthy food or natural food section. it's dry, so it's got a nice long shelf life, so i usually make this salad when grapes are on sale. this is another kristin recipe that i have memorized from making it so much - hope you enjoy!

bulgur salad with grapes and feta
1/2 c. fine-grain bulgur wheat
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. boiling water
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
2 T. minced scallions (if i'm lazy, i just substitute a sprinkling of onion powder)
3/4 c. halved seedless grapes
1/4 c. toasted chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1/4 c. crumbled feta
s&p to taste

in a medium bowl combine bulgur, salt and boiling water. cover and let stand until bulgur is tender - about 30 minutes. in a large bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. when bulgur is tender, drain off any excess water and add to grape mixture. serve at room temp or chilled.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

blackberry cobbler

extra fourth of july posting! as a special treat to celebrate our independence, i decided to use a simple recipe from (have you read her blog? get right on that). it's yummy, gooey and mighty easy. it calls for self-rising flour, but i have no interest or cabinet space to buy another bag of flour, so i've included a substitute recipe for that at the bottom of the post.

blackberry cobbler
1 stick butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. self-rising flour
1 c. milk
2 c. blackberries (frozen or fresh)

rinse and pat dry blackberries. butter a baking dish. melt butter in a microwavable dish. pour 1 cup of sugar and flour into a mixing bowl, whisking in milk. mix well. pour in melted butter and whisk it all well together. pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. sprinkle blackberries over the top of the batter, distributing evenly. sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the top. bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until golden and bubbly.

self-rising flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. baking powder


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

zucchini bread

oh, summer. the sunburns, the lemonade, the baseball, the out-of-control zucchini plants. got one of those plants? well, us city folk are jealous - send some zukes our way! and then we can happily make zucchini bread using this super recipe from kristin (whom i receive zucchinis from, as well). you can serve this as a dessert or enjoy it for breakfast (or whenever the heck you choose, frankly). the recipe calls for 2 cups shredded zucchini, and just to give you perspective, i grated (via food processor - ahhh) one foot-long zucchini and got 4 cups from it.
kristin taught me that you can freeze the extra grated goodness - let's hear it for not wasting! feel free to omit the ginger, clove, nuts, or chocolate chips... but why would you do that to yourself?!

zucchini bread
3 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
2 t. vanilla
3 c. flour (i mix whole wheat & a.p.)
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
3 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 c. nuts (i used walnuts)
1 t. ginger
1 t. clove
2 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. chocolate chips (i used a generous cup)

preheat oven to 350 & grease two small loaf pans. beat the eggs in a large bowl. add sugar, oil & vanilla & stir. add flour, powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, nuts, ginger, & clove and stir - mixture will be thick. add zucchini & chocolate chips, stir. divide into pans and bake for 35-40 minutes.

shredded bbq chicken sandwiches

on today's episode of "cooking with beer" we will be making delicious pulled chicken sandwiches. these are an adaptation of a rachael ray recipe, but with a few changes. first and foremost, i refuse to call something that i cooked with a can of beer a name so diminutive as "sammies", as she calls sandwiches. i made some other changes, but feel free to mess with this one - you can omit tabasco if you're a heat-wimp, omit the liquid smoke if you don't want to buy it (hey, it's cool), or crank up any other ingredient to your taste. they're forgiving sandwiches (but not so forgiving as to allow insulting nicknames)... just don't wear a white shirt when you eat them.

shredded bbq chicken sandwiches
1 c. chicken broth
1 bottle or can of beer (go cheap!)
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
2 T. olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 med. onion, chopped
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1 T. tabasco
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. black pepper
3 T. brown sugar
4 T. tomato paste
1 t. paprika
sliced pickles & burger buns to serve

bring liquids to a simmer in a medium pot and add meat. gently poach chicken for about 10 minutes, turning at 5 minutes. reserve the beer liquid in a bowl, remove chicken, slice and shred using two forks. use the same medium pot to sauté the garlic & onion in the oil for about 5 minutes (or until onions are tender). add chicken, about 1/2 c. beer liquid, and the remaining ingredients to the pot and simmer 5-10 minutes. use extra beer liquid as needed. top with pickles in a bun.

Monday, June 21, 2010


that's how i pronounced pancakes as a child "pan-a-cakes"... just fyi. a few months ago, james and i were in the mood for pancakes, so we brought out the pancake mix, whipped it up, took a bite, and were immediately disappointed. icky, dense, cardboard-like disks that no amount of syrup could perk-up. we swore that was the last time we would use the box. a couple weeks ago, james got the pancake hankerin' again, and found this great recipe from - what a winner! as the name suggests, they are fluffy and light. you actually somewhat-sour the milk, which saves you from buying buttermilk - yay, shortcuts. great plain, but amazing with blueberries in them, or as james prefers, chocolate chips. mmm...

fluffy pancakes
3/4 c. milk
2 T. white vinegar
1 c. flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
2 T. melted butter

combine milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour". combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. whisk egg and butter into milk mixture. combine the flour mixture & the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone. heat a large skillet or pan over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. flip and cook until browned on the other side.

Monday, June 14, 2010

chicken satay

i was looking for a delicious protein to accompany our coconut noodles and found this recipe on (but i made a couple changes). satay is one of my favorite thai flavors - peanutty goodness. this recipe is fun - you can marinade chicken in it; cut it into pieces, skewer and grill it; bake it; or like i did - sauté the chicken in a pan with about half of the sauce. mmm... peanutty...

chicken satay adapted from
4 T. creamy peanut butter (i used crunchy - also yummy)
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. lemon or lime juice
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. curry powder
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. thai sweet pepper sauce

mix & add more of any ingredients to taste. cook in sauce, but reserve some sauce to serve with chicken. chicken can be baked, skewered & grilled, marinaded, or sautéd. sautéd tofu can be substituted for chicken.

coconut noodles

here's a great dish kristin pointed out to me from "everyday food" magazine - my favorite food magazine, by the way. this is a delicious, soupy, fresh noodle dish with great thai flavors. i served this with chicken satay - yum!

coconut noodles adapted from everyday food
1 package (16 oz.) dry rice noodles
1 can (14 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
1 3/4 c. chicken broth (about one can)
1 c. cilantro
1/2 c. basil
4 garlic cloves
1 T. sugar
2 T. lime juice
2" ginger, peeled & cut into 1/8" rounds
1 jalapeño, halved, stems & seeds removed (more, if desired)
1 T. fish sauce (optional)

cook noodles, rinse with cool water - set aside. bring milk & broth to gentle simmer over medium-low. process cilantro, basil, ginger, garlic & jalapeño until coarsely chopped - about 5 seconds. add cilantro mix, fish sauce, sugar to broth; simmer 6 minutes. add lime juice, dish up noodle in bowls and ladle coconut milk sauce over noodles. enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

chicken pho, a.k.a. phở gà

if there were a food about which i could write a book, pho might be that food. pronounced "fuh", pho is a delicious vietnamese brothy noodle soup that kicks classic chicken noodle soup to the curb, in my opinion. i crave it. my husband and i fell in love over pho. the wonderful sauces and herbs you add to it make a heavenly aroma. and we've seen pho restaurants with some of the goofiest names, such as "9021pho", "pho that", and "what the pho?". i mean, come on!

it is typically served with sliced rare beef, tripe and tendon, and the broth is made in a slow cooking process involving oxtail. well, kids, this blogger isn't much for red meat or for all-day cooking affairs, so when dao, a vietnamese friend of ours, offered to teach me how to make a simpler, quicker chicken version i squealed at the opportunity. and it is delicious!

chicken pho (phở gà in vietnamese)
2 cans chicken broth
2" of fresh ginger (whole, but peeled)
1 quartered small onion
5 star anise
2 chicken breasts
1-2 T. fish sauce, if desired (you can substitute salt)
1 lb. rice stick noodles (damp or dry)

fresh basil
fresh cilantro
bean sprouts
sriracha sauce
hoisin sauce
hanh dam (thinly sliced onion soaked in vinegar - so good)

bring broth and 3-4 cans water to boil. add ginger, onion & anise and bring back to boil. once boiling, add chicken breasts, simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. remove chicken, cut into thin slices, set aside. (i taste the broth here and add fish sauce or salt to taste - you want it to be salty as adding the noodles later will lessen the salinity). bring water to boil in another pot and cook noodles til just done (don't overcook!). drain and place noodles in individual bowls, add some chicken, and cover in broth. rip up basil & cilantro leaves into soup & garnish as desired!
this broth can be frozen, too.

blueberry muffins

why hello there, long lost blogging friends! it has been quite some time since i updated with a recipe - please forgive. i only have three words as an excuse: morning sickness, lazy. ok, the last word isn't really an excuse, but those first two are. now that i'm back to feeling like cooking, time to share an all-time favorite! kristin shared this family recipe with me and almost every person that tries these muffins asks for the recipe. and with only two tablespoons of oil, they shouldn't make your guilt-ometer buzz off the charts! enjoy.

blueberry muffins
2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 c. orange juice
1 beaten egg
2 T. oil
~1 c. blueberries (you can use frozen, too - don't thaw them)

strusel topping (optional)
stir together:
1/8 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. flour
1 T. melted butter
1/2 t. cinnamon

spray muffin tin with oil. mix wet ingredients. mix dry ingredients - add wet ingredients and blueberries & stir minimally. top with strusel, if desired. bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. makes 1 dozen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

falafel-coated shrimp

falafel is one my favorite middle-eastern foods; a super flavorful ball of chopped-up chickpeas & spices. but, as i'm not into deep frying in my kitchen, falafels do not enter. but their flavor sure does with this awesome, easy recipe from everyday food. you'll need to buy a box of falafel mix, a dry powder mix (pictured) available at most grocery stores. and you can feel good about yourself with this one - it's healthy... and freaking yummy.

falafel-coated shrimp with yogurt dipping sauce
1 egg white
3/4 c. dry falafel mix
6 T. olive oil
1 lb. peeled/de-veined shrimp
(yogurt dipping sauce recipe below)

in bowl, whisk egg white. pour falafel mix onto large plate. heat 3 T. olive oil in pan over medium heat. dip shrimp into egg white, shake off any extra, & transfer to the falafel mix plate. coat with falafel mix and add shrimp to the pan. cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once. transfer to paper towel-lined plate. repeat with the remainder of the shrimp.

yogurt dipping sauce
stir together:
3/4 c. plain yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
1 crushed garlic clove
2 T. chopped parsley
s&p to taste

Saturday, April 3, 2010

avocado basil pasta

i guess i've been on an avocado kick recently. probably because they've been on sale - that's how i roll. this is a fresh, yummy, light pasta dish that would be great as a side, but we usually eat as a main dish - it's just so good. when we had it at kristin's, she made it with regular bacon, but i always use turkey bacon and it turns out fantastic. enjoy!

avocado basil pasta
8 oz. dried bowtie or wagon wheel pasta
2 med. avocados, coarsely chopped
6 slices bacon, crisp cooked, drained & crumbled
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. finely shredded parmesan cheese

cook pasta according to package, drain and let cool. in bowl, combine all other ingredients, then add pasta. mix and serve room temperature. (need help cutting avocados? try my how-to)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

how to cut an avocado

these yummy fruits (yup) are healthy and delicious, but can be slippery suckers to cut! i cannot remember who taught me this, but i always use this method to cut avocados.

first, cut the avocado in half lengthwise for two parts, one with the slippery pit challenging you to remove it from it's comfy home.

next comes the fun part, removing that pit. take your knife and hit that pit with the sharp part of the blade (not the tip, but about midway down the knife). the knife should stick in the pit - if it doesn't, try again. then, twist your knife so the pit almost unscrews from the avocado. to get the pit off of your knife, hit the handle of your knife on the side of the sink or garbage - the pit should fall off.

now, use your knife to cut slices or cubes into the meat of the avocado - try not to cut through the skin (of the fruit, or your hand for that matter). now use a spoon to scoop out the green goodness! oh, baby.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

caramel chip bars

warning: this is naughty. there, i said it. but what i'm also saying is: decadent. my sister amy shared this recipe and i figure that i need to put some recipes for bars on here. it's the midwestern thing to do.

caramel chip bars
1/2 c. butter
32 caramels (the little square individually-wrapped ones, obviously unwrap them)
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (18 oz.) package yellow cake mix
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 (1.5 oz.) heath bar, chopped

in a large saucepan, combine butter, caramel and milk; stir over medium-low heat until smooth. cool. in mixing bowl, combine cake mix, oil, eggs; mix well. stir in chips and heath (dough will be stiff). press 3/4 into greased 9x13". bake at 350 for 15 minutes. cool for 10 minutes.
pour caramel mix over crust. drop remaining dough by spoonfuls into caramel. bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. cool for 10 minutes; run knife around edge of pan. cool 40 minutes longer; cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or until serving. when you cut to serve, cut fairly small as these are rich!

salmon bake with pecan crunch

salmon has a lot going for it. first, it's a yummy firm fish, one could even call it "meaty". second, it's super healthy and full of delicious-sounding stuff like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin d. and third, it's fairly easy to find on sale. ooo-wee! that's my kind of fish.
this recipe is a great combo of tangy mustard and sweet honey flavors, and has great crunch from the pecans. i think it highlights the the flavor and meatiness of the salmon really well. just... trust me!

salmon bake with pecan crunch (from, i think)
2 T. dijon mustard
2 T. butter, melted
1 1/2 T. honey (don't measure that mess, eyeball it!)
4 (4 oz.) salmon fillets
1/3 c. bread crumbs
1/3 c. chopped pecans
2 t. chopped fresh parsley
s&p as needed

preheat to 400. mix together the mustard, butter & honey - refrigerate for 15 minutes. in another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, pecans & parsley. place fillets on a lightly greased baking sheet. brush with mustard mix and cover with crumb mix. bake for 10 minutes per inch of thickness at the fillet's thickest part.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

honey-grill marinade

thank you, joy, for one of our most-used recipes! i love this marinade: delicious, easy, and seems to go well with everything. fire up the grill because this is could be your dinner tonight!

honey-grill marinade
1 (3 lb.) boneless pork loin roast, or about 3 lbs. of boneless/skinless chicken (breasts &/or thighs)
2/3 c. soy sauce (or liquid aminos for gf)
1 t. ground ginger
3 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
1 1/2 T. sesame oil

for pork loin: trim fat, butterfly roast cutting lengthwise into 1/2" of other side; for chicken: trim fat. place in a large ziploc bag. combine soy, ginger & garlic and pour over meat. seal bag, place in bowl and refrigerate 3 or more hours, turning occasionally. remove roast, discard marinade. combine sugar, honey and sesame oil in saucepan. cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. heat grill to medium-hot (350-400), brush meat with honey mixture and cook for 20-30 minutes for pork, about 10 minutes for chicken, basting frequently.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

potato salad

potato salad has never been something i get excited about - it's just a way to make barbecues more filling, right? my mind was changed at our rehearsal dinner. vicki, a friend of ours, hosted and provided a potato salad - and pretty much everyone went back for seconds. this is mighty simple, and when i asked vicki for the recipe, she sent me the ingredients, but no amounts, because this is one you can eyeball. the fun (easy!) part - the dressing is marzetti coleslaw dressing (usually by the fancier chilled salad dressing at your supermarket). it's delish!

potato salad
8 large red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
4-5 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 c. onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
5 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
1-2 t. dill
~ 3/4 of a jar of marzetti coleslaw dressing

in a large pot, cover cut-up potatoes with water and bring to boil. reduce to simmer and cook until the potatoes are just fork-tender, let's not overcook. drain and cool. mix with remaining ingredients (any can be omitted if you don't like them), and serve or chill.

Monday, March 8, 2010

chicken tikka masala

i'm sorry, you've never tried tikka masala? never heard of tikka masala? honey, that's gotta be changed. this is, hands down, my favorite indian dish. i cannot help but order it at any indian restaurant we visit. tikka masala is a creamy, tomato-y, spicy (as much as you like) very flavorful dish that is best served with naan (indian flatbread - try trader joe's) or rice. i know this recipe isn't straight out of mumbai - more like - but it's super yummy and doesn't require building a tandoor oven in your home so, let's get cookin'.

chicken tikka masala (चिकन टिक्का मसाला in hindi)
1 c. plain yogurt
1 T. lemon juice
2 t. cumin
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cayenne (i add a touch more, you can take it out altogether if you don't like spice)
2 t. pepper
1 T. minced ginger (or 1 t. ground ginger)
3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
baking rack* (i use the kind you cool cookies on, but make sure your's is oven-safe!)

1 T. butter
1 minced garlic clove
1 finely chopped jalapeño (de-seed and de-vein it to cut down on heat)
2 t. cumin (not a repeat, you need it twice)
2 t. paprika
1 t. salt, or to taste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 c. cream
1 c. frozen peas (optional)

in a large bowl, combine all ingredients in first section (yogurt to chicken). cover & refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to a day. preheat oven to 475. spread chicken on baking rack place on cookie sheet (there will be lots of drippings, so lining the cookie sheet with foil will help) - discard extra yogurt mix. cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken chunks. melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. sauté garlic & jalapeño for 1 minute. season with 2 t. cumin, paprika & salt. stir in tomato sauce and cream. simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. add chicken & peas and simmer for 10 minutes. serve with rice or naan.

*you can use skewers and grill the chicken on high heat for about 5 minutes per side, if you're feeling outdoorsy.

oatmeal cookies

oooh doggie, these are some good cookies. and they have oatmeal in them, so surely they're healthy. right? anyone? these are good just with chocolate chips in them. or without, i suppose, if you're into that sort of thing (why on earth are you into that sort of thing?). i have two favorite ways to make this recipe. first, substituting half the chocolate chips for butterscotch chips - that's what's in the pictures. second, i love adding about 1/3 c. dried cranberries and 1 t. cinnamon (i think that makes these cookies even healthier, right? i mean, that's practically granola). below i'm just writing the basic, but add what you will!

oatmeal cookies
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. butter
2 eggs
2 c. flour
2 c. oatmeal (old-fashioned)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)

cream butter & sugar together. add eggs & beat well. add the rest of the ingredients & mix well. bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

baked penne

need to fix dinner and are a bit intimidated by the task? tired of serving spaghetti or sandwiches? stick your face in some baked penne! (well, don't... it comes out steamy and melty) this recipe came from claudia, the mother of catherine, one of the wonderful women with whom i meet. every time i've made this for groups it gets gobbled-up right quick - and it's easy as pie.

baked penne
1 (16 oz.) bag penne (or rigatoni)
2 (26 oz.) can marinara sauce
2 crushed garlic cloves (or 1/2 t. garlic powder)
1 c. grated parmesan
1 (8 oz.) container ricotta cheese

cook pasta according to package util al dente, drain. stir in sauce, garlic & ricotta. put in a 9x13" & sprinkle parmesan on top. bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.


best guacamole recipe i've had came from dear kristin... a white girl from small-town wisconsin. if you want to be the most authentic guac-er, i'm sure you can find fault in this recipe, but i'd suggest you just find some tortilla chips and start dippin'.

3 avocados, diced and mashed
1/4 c. finely diced onion
2 heaping T. chopped cilantro
1-2 chopped tomatoes
juice of a lime (to taste)
2 crushed garlic cloves
s&p (to taste)
1 de-seeded/de-veined jalapeno, finely chopped OR 1 T. tabasco (optional)

all ingredients are subject to your taste. hate tomatoes? skip 'em. just mix (with a fork to mash the avocados a bit) and enjoy. need help cutting avocados? try my how-to.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

cinnamon-sugar cookies

as james & his former roommates used to say, "it's sooo sim-po!". this is a very simple recipe with very simple, delicate flavors. i don't really understand how these are different than snickerdoodles (are they? help a sister out here), but whatever! again, so sim-po. and they got a stamp of approval from a friend who used to work at mrs. field's - surely that means something!

cinnamon-sugar cookies adapted from everyday food
2 3/4 c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 2/3 c. sugar, plus 1/4 c. for topping
1 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon

preheat oven to 350. mix flour, tartar, soda & salt, set aside. in mixer, cream butter & 1 2/3 c. sugar until light. add egg & vanilla and beat. add flour mixture and beat, until dough comes together when squeezed (it'll appear dry). make topping, i.e. sugar & cinnamon. shape dough (about 1 T. each rolled into a ball, rolled in topping & flattened). bake until bottoms are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

chicken tagine with lemons and olives

tagine is a moroccan slow-cooked stew full of complex, interesting and unique flavors. lemon and olives and... cinnamon? yessirree, and it totally works. this tagine recipe comes from dear kristin again... isn't she somethin'? super delicious and healthy, this recipe is awesome served over couscous. nummers!

chicken tagine with lemons & olives
2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (~1.5 lbs.)
2 boneless/skinless chicken thigh quarters (~1 lb.)
1 t. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
3 crushed garlic cloves
1 T. each chopped cilantro & parsley
3/4 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. pitted whole green olives (i substitute kalmata)
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. grated lemon rind
1/4 c. lemon juice

sprinkle chicken with s&p. heat oil in large pot over high heat. add chicken, cook 3 minutes each side. remove chicken from pot. add onion & garlic to pot, cook 30 sec., stirring constantly. add chicken, broth, olives, cinnamon & ginger and bring to boil. cover, reduce heat & simmer for 45 minutes, turning chicken over every 15 minutes. add rind, juice, cilantro and parsley, cook for 30 seconds, stirring. serve with sauce spooned over chicken.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

korean chicken thighs

this is a favorite in my sister jen's family. she told me that for years it has been a staple celebration meal in her house, and also a staple consolation meal when someone had a bad day. i really love the flavor of this one & it's fantastic over rice.
dark chinese vinegar can be replaced with rice vinegar, but the real thing is delicious and not biting, like some vinegars can be. here's a pic of the black vinegar i bought at an asian market - hope it helps you.

korean chicken thighs
6 boneless/skinless thighs
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. dark chinese vinegar (or rice vinegar)
4-6 minced cloves garlic
1/2 t. red pepper flakes (i use more)

preheat oven to 400. brown thighs in 1-2 T. oil in a pan til golden brown on each side - not cooked through. place in oven-safe pan (9x13" works great). mix all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over thighs (the chicken, not your's). cover pan with foil and bake for 1/2 hour, or until cooked through. serve with the sauce.

*updated* i substituted a large chicken breast cut in half for two of the thighs. i put the breast pieces in first for 15 minutes, then added the thighs and cooked them all for 30 more minutes. yum!

artichoke dip

family favorite alert. always a hit, yummy on crackers, easy as pie. i'm done sellin' it, just try it already!

artichoke dip
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chili peppers, drained
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. light mayo

combine ingredients in an oven-proof baking dish (8x8" works great). bake at 350 for about 20 minutes to until heated through.

freaking amazing salad

yup, that's its real name. learned this one from my former roommate leslie, who is a fantastic cook. i love it - i crave it. my mom loves it, others i've shared it with do, too, with one exception. my dear james doesn't like bleu cheese much, so it's not his fave. i'll forgive him... more for me! this is a recipe that, other than the dressing, came with no amounts, so this is my best estimate - reduce or increase ingredients to your liking. and there will be liking, trust me.

freaking amazing salad
a chopped up head of lettuce (butter, boston, or red/green leaf works best)
one sliced stem of green onion
about one granny smith apple, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 1/2 T. bleu cheese
2 T. crumbled pecans
2 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 T. olive oil (i prefer the lighter flavor o.o., but either works)
2 t. sugar
2 t. dijon mustard
s&p to taste

toast up your pecans for a few minutes in a skillet on medium heat - really ups the flavor. whisk together dressing, cut up apple, and toss everything together. enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

bread pudding

this is the first of many recipes that will inevitably be added to this blog that come from my dear friend kristin. kristin is probably the person from whom i've learned the most about cooking, other than my mother, and at least half of my recipes are from her, i think. this one is a winner, for sure! and such a great use of your stale bread. (even cheap stale bread, including aging hot dog buns, works well here) enjoy!

bread pudding
7 slices day-old bread
2 T. melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
2 c. milk, half & half, or any mixture of the two
3/4 c. sugar (white or brown)
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla

preheat to 350. rip bread into small pieces and put into an 8x8". drizzle butter over bread. in medium bowl combine remaining ingredients. beat until well mixed. pour over bread, lightly push down with a fork until it's covered and soaking. bake for 45 minutes, until top springs back when tapped.

** photo courtesy of kelsey ramos at **

a post of what is to come... hopefully

we bought our dwarf lemon tree about 3 months ago and have planted it in a pot in our backyard. we also put it on a wheeled plant stand to be able to move it around to the sunniest areas and make it happy. unfortunately, i threw the tag away, so at this point i don't know if it's a meyer or a eureka lemon tree. foolhardy girl! time will tell, i suppose.

in the last month, dear lemon tree has started to bud - hurrah! and today i noticed that three of the (many) buds have just started to crack open. soon we will have deliciously sweet-smelling lemon flowers in our yard... ahh. and then, hopefully, i will be able to share wonderful lemon-based recipes that i've whipped-up after stepping out into our tiny, urban, limited garden. maybe even recipes that also call for cilantro, basil, parsley, red bell peppers, and jalepenos, which we're also growing. maybe i'll make a recipe that only calls for ingredients i've grown... wait... too far.

a close-up of the bud just having burst... glory be!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

taco soup

this soup has a lot going for it. where do i start? first, it is so very easy. second, it's souper (ha... oh, i'm embarrassed) easy to make for large groups. third, it's my favorite meal to bring to others - it's very mobile. that's because you can cook the meat (flexible on which meat you use, another plus) ahead of time, bring it and your cans as passengers in your car, and mix everything together when you arrive at your lucky friend's home. let's hear it for taco soup! actually, let's just hear the recipe.

taco soup
1 lb. ground beef, turkey, or 2 chicken breasts
1/4 c. chopped onions
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes & liquid*
1 (15 oz.) can corn & liquid*
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans & liquid
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce*
1 packet taco seasoning*
water, to thin

in large pot, brown meat & onions; drain liquid. all ingredients: boil, reduce heat, simmer 15 minutes stirring occasionally. add water to thin to your preference. garnish with shredded cheddar, sour cream and corn chips.
*i use low-sodium options of these ingredients & i've never needed to add salt.
to freeze: pour cooled soup into gallon-sized ziptop bag and lay flat on cookie sheet or 9x13" pan in freezer. once frozen solid, remove pan & stack soups however you please!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

holy toledo cupcakes

when my friend joy (actually, my cousin-in-law joy) shared this with me, it was in a small pile of recipes she thought i might like. i don't think it had a real name, but she did mention that it was her husband joe's favorite. so i thought i'd give it a try. and that is why they are now named "holy toledo!" cupcakes - they're that good.

holy toledo cupcakes
mix & set aside:
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1 (6 oz.) package chocolate chips

in another bowl, mix:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1 c. water
1/2 c. oil
1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla

put liners in cupcake pan. fill halfway with batter (will be runny), top with heaping teaspoon of filling. bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

heya paella!

paella is a one-pot spanish rice dish whose name sounds like it should be yelled at parties. and it will be, after using this recipe. "paella!"
unfortunately, a basic ingredient in paella is saffron, the world's most expensive spice. but have no fear! this recipe replaces it with tumeric, which gives it a saffrony-yellow hue and a smokey taste. the other good news is that you can make this using only one pot, and everyone likes washing fewer dishes, right? one tip on this one: cut up and prepare everything ahead of time since you'll be adding ingredients pretty quickly.

easy paella (adapted from everyday food)
2 T olive oil
3/4 lb. peeled de-veined shrimp
1 (12 oz.) pkg. chicken sausage, sliced to half inch rounds
1 small onion, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 c. long-grain rice
1/4 t. paprika
1/4 t. tumeric
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 c. frozen peas, thawed

heat 1T. olive oil in pan at med-hi heat. cook shrimp until just pink ~ 4-5 minutes. transfer to plate.

add remaining oil and sausage; cook over med-hi heat until beginning to brown ~ 2 minutes. add onion, stir frequently ~ 3-4 minutes. add garlic & rice, stir until rice is translucent ~ 1-2 minutes. stir in paprika, tumeric, tomatoes, and broth, stir and season with s&p. bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. cover and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed almost all liquid ~ 20-25 minutes. stir in peas, cook 1 minute, stir in shrimp and serve.