Tuna Salad

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Do you have one of those meals or snacks that you've enjoyed since childhood? For as long as I can remember, my mom would always make tuna salad one specific way and serve it on toast. Once I got a little bit older I began to pair it with Cooler Ranch Doritos and to this day, I still prepare it the same way. It's almost like a comfort food for me.

I also enjoy tuna on toast with Doritos along with something else that makes most people crinkle up their nose and ask me to repeat what I just said. And that is cocktail onions but I prefer the huge ones you get from the deli. Yes, I really did just say cocktail onions, like the ones that are soaked in vinegar and are super sour. I've ate them my whole life and didn't have any idea until the 5th grade or so that I was considered incredibly strange for eating something so "gross" as others put it. Oh well!



Tuna Salad
Source: Mom
Servings: ~1 1/2 cups tuna salad
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Ingredients:
    • 1 5 oz. can tuna in water, drained
    • 1 stalk celery, minced
    • 1/4 small onion, minced
    • 1 tbsp. mayo
    • 1/4 tsp. mustard
    • pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Combine all of the ingredients together in a plastic bowl with a lid. Stir well, breaking up the tuna into smaller pieces and mixing the mayo and mustard throughout.
2. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving on bread, toast or crackers.

I always feel kind of silly when posting simple recipes like this but then I realized its the simple recipes like this that people enjoy and typically are the ones that food bloggers tend to forget because they're either so common or so simple, we just expect everyone to make them in a certain way.
 

Edamame Fried Rice

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You know yesterday when I said that I needed to start cooking and baking again because I only had recipes lined up on here until this Wednesday? Yeah. Well, I somehow forgot how to read while I was typing that because it wasn't correct at all. I only had recipes up until the previous Friday. So there was absolutely nothing ready to go for this week. Which, as someone who hopes her followers appreciate each recipe, was a serious UH-OH moment.

So after spending the day at my mom's pool I decided to come home and start blogging right away. I didn't even shower yet. Now that's dedication right? I hope you think so at least!

The first time I tried edamame was my 22nd birthday. Some friends and I went to dinner at a Japanese steak house and along with sushi, teppanyaki style food, sake and seaweed salad, I decided to try edamame and found it rather good but I never thought to make it myself. Then I came across this recipe and that changed!



Edamame Fried Rice
Adapted from: Skinny Taste
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 egg whites
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 3 green onions, chopped, green and white separated
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1/2 cup matchstick carrots
    • 1 cup shelled edamame
    • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 2 cups cooked brown rice
    • non-stick cooking spray
    • salt and pepper, to taste
Directions:
1. Whisk together the egg and egg whites and season with salt and pepper.
2. Spray a skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and cook, stirring frequently until they reach your desired done-ness. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
3. Add the butter to the skillet, and once melted, add the whites of the green onions, the onion, garlic, carrots and edamame. Stir frequently until the vegetables are just heated through.
4. Add the rice and the soy sauce and stir until combined. Return the egg to the pan and add the greens of the green onion. Stir frequently and cook for 3-4 minutes more.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yum! The flavors of this mixed together nicely but I don't think the edamame was really the star of the fried rice here. It did add a nice change in flavor and a slight crunch to your typical fried rice. Since I always feel like I prepare side dishes exactly the same, I definitely think I'll keep this in the rotation to make again.

Weekly Menu 5/28 - 6/1

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It's been a little over a week since we moved and I think I'm falling into a routine rather nicely. Last weekend was just absolutely exhausting. I'm still not ready to ever see a box again, but in happier news, I can now walk up and down the three flights of steps to and from the apartment without feeling like my legs are going to fall off.

We only have two or three things left to do, mostly because of my intense desire for organization. I will admit that it is completely driving me crazy that we still don't have the bookshelf/cabinet put together so I have boxes of things on the dining room floor and that I'm still waiting on another shelf for the pantry from maintenance which means my pantry is currently just stuff stacked on top of other things in a gigantic jumbled mess.

But I've had a very interesting thing happen over the past week. You know that relaxed no pressure to run errands or clean or constantly be doing something feeling that you have when you're on vacation? I have that. On Monday I had off work and had to leave for a doctor's appointment at 10. So at 9 I decided I'd run to the bank, dollar store and grocery store. Very unlike me. Another day during the week we randomly decided to go to Target and Ikea after work. Living in civilization is incredibly convenient!

I no longer feel any desire to rush around and clean or go to the grocery store instead of doing something fun. This is incredibly strange for me and I'm almost waiting for the feeling to go away, but I'd really prefer if it didn't. I'm also trying to figure out how having a larger apartment can take less time to clean. It's rather strange, but something that I definitely won't complain about!

I'm still getting used to the kitchen (and searching for things in the pantry) but confession: I don't have any more posts lined up after Wednesday, so I need to start making some new items!

Monday - Spicy Thai Noodles (they got bumped last week in favor of Chickfila)

Tuesday - Margarita Chicken Quesadillas

Wednesday - Caprese Burgers

Thursday - Pasta alla Erbe

Friday - Asian Flank Steak Skewers with Edamame Fried Rice 

We're going to my mom's to hang out by the pool today and hopefully will eat lunch late enough that I don't need to plan on a dinner for tonight.

I hope you're enjoying this holiday weekend!

Saturdays with Nichole: Favorite Summertime Foods

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Even though summer doesn't officially start until June 21st, I consider Memorial weekend the beginning of summer. There are cookouts and barbecues, grilled foods and cold salads, fresh fruit and alcoholic beverages galore. Bathing suits, beach towels, sun block and pool floats. What in the world could be better than that?

Summer is absolutely 100% my favorite time of the year. Aside from all of the things above, flip flops are my shoe of choice. Iced coffee is even more delicious when its 80+ degrees out. Summer dresses. Free highlights in my hair from the sun. Weekends at the beach. I'm getting giddy just typing all of this out.

So in honor of the start to my favorite season, I wanted to share with you my favorite summertime foods.

Small Bites
Chicken Satay Skewers
Soft Pretzel Bites

Burgers and Sandwiches
Chicken & Onion Flatbread
Chicken Burgers
Corn & Black Bean Burgers
Crab Cakes
Jalapeno Pepperjack Burgers
Mango Habanero Chicken Sandwiches
Reuben Burgers
Sriracha Burgers
Tailgate Sliders

Desserts
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Fruit Salsa
Fruit Trifle
Peach Blueberry Crisp
Raspberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Strawberry Pizza

Drinks and Frozen Treats
Cherry Sorbet
Lemon Ice in a Lemon Cup
Orange Smoothie
Strawberry Lemonade
White Wine Sangria

Salads and Side Dishes
Bread and Butter Pickles
Corn, Tomato and Onion Salad
Garlic Parmesan Potato Chips
Korean Cucumber Salad
Onion Rings (Baked or Fried)
Parmesan Asparagus
Roasted Summer Veggies
Sesame Green Beans
Sugared Asparagus
Of course there are other things that I definitely enjoy during the summer months that I haven't made. Ice cream, popsicles, snowballs, just about anything on a grill, fresh fruit...the list goes on and on.

I hope you have a happy and safe Memorial weekend and a great start to summer!

Mozzarella Baked Gnocchi

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Ever since I made gnocchi the first time, I've been kind of addicted to it. If I had known earlier how incredibly easy it is to make (pumpkin versions aside) I would have never waited as long as I did.

I had this recipe bookmarked forever but kept putting off making it because I wanted to try it with homemade gnocchi instead of packaged. Finally, one Sunday afternoon I had a little extra time so I decided to make a batch of home gnocchi so I could finally make this recipe the following week.

I have no idea what went wrong with that batch of gnocchi. They seemed okay while I was rolling them out and cutting them, but they didn't dry properly and completely fell apart into little balls of mush when I boiled them. I really should have stopped there but I continued on and completely this recipe. While it was great if you liked melted cheese, the gnocchi was completely lost. Since we had some busy weekends coming up I knew that I wouldn't have time to make another batch of gnocchi so I picked up the premade ones from the store.



Mozzarella Baked Gnocchi
Source: Cassie Craves, inspired by Food.com
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 packages frozen gnocchi 
    • 2 tbs. butter, divided
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
    • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
    • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
    • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
    • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Place paper towels or a clean kitchen towel over a wire rack.
3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches until they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the wire rack to drain.
4. Heat a large skillet with 1 tbs. butter. Cook the gnocchi in batches until pan-fried and lightly golden. Transfer the gnocchi to the prepared baking dish.
5. Add the remaining butter and olive oil to the skillet. Then add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-5 minutes more or until heated through.
6. Pour the tomato mixture over the gnocchi and toss to coat/combine. Place slices of the mozzarella on top of the gnocchi and place the baking dish in the oven.
7. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Increase the oven temperature to broil and cook until the cheese is browned. Serve immediately and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

I changed up this recipe a little bit by pan-frying the gnocchi before baking them. I wanted them to have a bit of texture since they were going to be combined with so many other soft ingredients. I think the pan searing added a nice slight crunch to go along with all that melty delicious cheese.

If you're ever craving some bubbly, crisp cheese I'd highly recommend this! 

Roasted Summer Veggies

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There is just something about the flavor of roasted vegetables that makes me insanely happy. Aside from the occasional burger at a cookout or party, I'd be completely content to eat nothing but vegetables and seafood for the entire summer. Meat is just to heavy when its 90 some degrees outside. The carnivore I live with tends to disagree. But that's another story for another day. :-)

So any chance I get to make something that is a "Nichole Only" meal, I typically go for something full of veggies. In this case, I just needed to use up all of these vegetables before they went bad. Tom was planning on frying some fish and while I could have easily broiled or roasted a portion of fish for myself, a pile of roasted veggies just sounded so much more entertaining.



Roasted Summer Veggies
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 2 oz. zucchini, sliced
    • 2 oz. squash, sliced
    • 4-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
    • non-stick cooking spray
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 475. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Arrange the vegetables onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Spray generously with the non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
3. Roast for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables have reached your desired softness. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roasting mushrooms is by far my absolute favorite way to make them. I'm not lying when I say I could easily eat an entire plate of mushrooms myself. And that delicious pop when you bite into a roasted tomato...

Sorry. No more descriptions here. I've successfully made myself hungry enough that I need to go roast some veggies. :-)

Kitchen Sink Frittata Bagel Sandwich

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I'm a compulsive list-maker. I'm also one of those people who wants to get everything crossed off the list before doing something else. It's a bad habit I have. My typical weekend would start on Friday night where I'd clean the entire apartment. Saturday I'd finish up any cleaning and we'd go to the grocery store. Depending on what I planned to make for breakfast and what was on the menu for Sunday's dinner, sometimes I'd spend at least 4 hours in the kitchen on Saturday followed by a few more on Sunday.

Then Sunday night I'd get annoyed with myself that I spent the entire weekend doing a million things and never got to relax. So when the realization hit me that I'd no longer have a 45 minute each way commute, I decided I was going to become lazy. But not lazy like most people expect. Just lazy enough for me to where I wouldn't make a list and I surely wouldn't follow one on the weekends.

As the move got closer, I decided to test it out and see what it would be like. One Sunday morning after the cats decided 6 am was the appropriate time to wake me up, I took advantage of the On Demand exercises, showered and then plopped down in front of the television around 9. There wasn't much on, but I stopped on Food Network and ended up watching it until the Sandwich King came on at 11.

We've watched the last three seasons of The Next Food Network Star but I rarely remembered to tune in once the star has their own show. Usually its at a time where I'm right in the middle of something. Luckily I wasn't this time, because I heard one word, Sriracha and I was immediately hooked. I knew I was going to make this recipe one way or another.

And it just so happened there was an incredible amount of eggs in the refrigerator. I took it as a sign the Sriracha Gods wanted me to make this. :-)



Kitchen Sink Frittata Bagel Sandwich
Source: The Sandwich King
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 2 tsp. Sriracha (or to taste)
    • 1 green onion, minced 
    • 4 Italian sausages, casing removed and crumbled
    • 8 slices bacon, chopped
    • 12 eggs
    • 3 tbsp. half and half 
    • 1 cup shredded Provolone cheese
    • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
    • 6 everything bagels, sliced
    • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, cream cheese, Sriracha and green onion until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Lower the oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to broil.
3. Cook the bacon over medium heat in an ovenproof skillet until crisp, stirring frequently. Remove the bacon from the skillet and add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is browned, stirring frequently and breaking it up.
4. Transfer the sausage to the plate with the bacon and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the half and half and eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook, tilting the pan to coat the sides with the egg, until the bottom is set and the top is wet.
6. Stir the bacon, sausage and cheeses into the egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 2-4 minutes or until the top has become lightly golden brown. Remove the frittata from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, place the sliced bagels on a baking sheet and broil for 2-3 minutes or until lightly golden. Spread the cream cheese/sriracha mixture onto each side of the bagel.
8. Use a large round cookie cutter to cut circles out of the frittata. Place the frittata round on one side of the bagel and top with remaining bagel slice.

I was kind of surprised that Tom didn't like this as much as I expected him to. He said it was mostly the everything bagel part he wasn't a fan of.  I liked it, but would prefer a much healthier version, maybe with veggies in the frittata instead of meats, or one made with mostly egg whites instead of whole eggs.  The cream cheese/sriracha mixture was delicious though! I could easily eat that on just about anything.

Weekly Menu 5/20 - 5/25

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Well, since you are reading this it means I survived the move. However, you know those Life Alert commercials where the elderly person falls and yells "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up?"

Yeah, that's me today. Moving from the second floor to a third floor apartment is no easy task and a constant reminder of just how out of shape I apparently am. But honestly, my legs are so stiff that if I sit or lay too long, I have to crawl to get up. I'm also sporting a nice variety of bruises up and down my arms and legs from carrying boxes and bumping into stuff. Needless to say, I'm a bit of mess over here.

However, practically everything is done. My mom is coming over today to hang pictures and curtains and then all will be complete. At least until I find something else that could be better organized. But if I don't see another box for the next 6 months, it will still be too soon.

I am rather impressed to admit that Friday amidst unpacking my car, hauling our crap up three flights of steps, organizing and unpacking it, waiting for Comcast, driving back to the old apartment, loading my car again to include two crying cats and coming back down to the new place to unload and unpack, I also made it to the grocery store. Which, believe me, come Saturday morning when I woke up in pain after only 5 hours of sleep, it was much appreciated to have food in the house.

I didn't get meats or anything we needed in bulk though so while you're reading this I'm probably limping into Costco to pick up those items. I honestly didn't think I'd be cooking too much this week, but I planned out a menu just in case and it seems like I'll be able pull it off. Getting used to my new kitchen is another story though.

Sunday - Maryland Crab Cakes, Corn on the Cob, French Fries, Salad

Monday - Chicken Enchiladas

Tuesday - Pierogi 

Wednesday - Spicy Thai Noodles

Thursday - Sriracha Burgers and Fries

Friday  - my Noodle Dish for the Recipe Swap 

The television is calling my name so I'm going to go crawl to the couch now. Happy Sunday!   

Happy Saturday

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Good morning! Saturday's with Nichole is taking a break this (and maybe next) week. I intended to have some posts lined up to get me through this transitional period of moving, but there just wasn't enough time to do so. 

I hope you're having a great weekend. I'll be back soon!


Recipe Swap: Chicken Satay Skewers

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The category for this recipe swap was BBQ/Warm Weather food. I was a bit hesitant to participate since the due date is the day I'm moving and I wouldn't have internet access but our lovely host Sarah said she'll post my recipe on the board for me. :) So while you're reading this I'm more than likely up to my eyeballs in boxes and totes and patiently waiting on the Comcast man to come give me television, internet and telephone. I think you have the better end of the deal.

My recipe comes from Kate's Recipe Box, which if you haven't checked out her blog yet, you really should because there's lot of tasty things on there. I had to make a few substitutions for this recipe because curry paste and fish sauce are just impossible to find around here. I also had to skip the skewers because I didn't realized they were packed away somewhere in a box until the minute I needed them. Oops.



Chicken Satay Skewers
Slightly Adapted from: Kate's Recipe Box from Carnival Creations
Servings: 6
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Marinade Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. chicken tenderloins
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
    • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 1/2 tsp. ginger, minced
Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
    • 3 tbsp. peanut butter
    • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 1 tbsp. sugar
    • 1 tsp. lime juice
    • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
    • 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
    • fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:
1. In a large bowl whisk together the garlic, soy sauce, peanut butter, vegetable oil and ginger. Add the chicken tenderloins and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
2. Preheat grill and soak skewers (if wooden).
3. In a small saucepan, whisk together the peanut butter, vegetable oil, sugar, lime juice, curry powder and Sriracha until smooth. Then add the coconut milk and cook until it has slightly reduced/thickened. Add the chicken stock and continue cooking until it has slightly reduced again.
4. Stir in the soy sauce and cilantro and keep warm.
5. Grill the chicken skewers until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.

I was incredibly impressed that I was actually able to find curry powder. I searched for it about a year ago for another recipe and it was no where to be found, even in the grocery stores near work, which count as "in civilization".

I'm not a huge peanut butter fan so I wasn't sure if I was going to like this or not, but I thought it was pretty good! It's definitely quick to make and really makes me long for the day when we'll have a space to own a grill. #first-world-problems-of-apartment-living


Improv Challenge: Strawberry Pizza

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The ingredients for May's Improv Challenge were strawberries and cream. Since strawberries are my favorite fruit and I eat them with breakfast from the minute they show up in the grocery stores right through when they're taken off the shelves, I was pretty bummed that I wouldn't be able to participate in this challenge. I usually make challenge recipes about two weeks ahead of time but I figured this was just too close to our moving date that I wouldn't have enough time and I didn't want to chance feeling rushed.

But then, this happened: I randomly opened up the fridge in search of something sweet. I moved the extra sliced strawberries and half a package of cream cheese out of my way to grab a bite-sized piece of chocolate. Biting into my chocolate, I headed back to the bedroom where i was going to finish reading Food Blogging For Dummies*. About halfway to the bedroom I stopped dead in my tracks. I had the two ingredients for the Improv Challenge! Like any good cookaholic, I immediately turned around and headed back to the kitchen to find something to make.

I opened the fridge again and realized, sitting next to the carton of eggs was an extra package of sugar cookies. I instantly thought of "Strawberry Pizza". I know there are recipes out there for dessert pizzas so I didn't think this would be too much of a stretch.



Strawberry Pizza
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 8
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Ingredients: 
    • 1 package sugar cookie dough
    • 8-10 large strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • fresh basil and other fruits, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Separate your dough into 8 equal parts. (If your dough comes in 24 pre-formed cookies, just combine 8 sets of 3 pre-formed dough pieces together). Shape dough into about a 3" in diameter circle and flatten slightly.
3. Place each round of dough 3 inches apart on the baking sheet and bake for 16-20 minutes, depending on the package directions. Cookies should be lightly golden brown.
4. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
5. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Whisk until smooth.
6. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto a cookie and top with sliced strawberries. Garnish with additional fruits or fresh basil if desired.



This is such a simple and quick dessert! You could easily whip this up when you find out company is coming over unexpected or I think it'd be a great recipe for kids to help out with.

I want to experiment with this recipe a bit more and see if the sweetness from the cream cheese and strawberries work just as well on a non-sugared dough or if adding something like balsamic vinegar to drizzle over the strawberries will take away from the sweetness when its on a cookie.

* If you're a food blogger, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Food Blogging for Dummies. I could not put the book down and learned a TON of tips and tricks. I can't wait to begin implementing them here!

Southwestern Turkey Chili

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I realize its kind of warm out (well, depending on where you live) to eat chili, but operation clean-out-the-freezer is winding down and I've been doing my best to use up as many ingredients in each recipe as I can.This chili recipe was a bit of an accident though.

While randomly staring into my pantry one day three ingredients caught my eye. A large jar of salsa, a can of kidney beans and the huge container of taco seasoning. For inspiration, I opened my almost empty freezer and found that I still had quite a few tablespoons of tomato paste and an almost empty bag of corn kernels. Salsa, beans, taco seasoning, corn, tomato paste...southwest flavors...I said to myself as I rummaged through some other items in the the freezer...ground turkey....Southwestern Turkey Chili! 

Don't you just love when recipe ideas come to you like that? Here I was able to use up quite a few things in the pantry and fridge just on one simple recipe! I added in some other ingredients and while the chili was simmering away, I decided to search and see if there were any other ingredients I had on hand that I could add to the chili.

Instead, I came across this Healthy Turkey Chili recipe and found my take to be eerily similar. Great cooking minds think alike, right? :-) So I decided list it as my inspiration for this recipe even though I found it after the fact.



Southwestern Turkey Chili
Inspired by: Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks adapted from Does Not Cook Well With Others
Servings: 10-12
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. lean ground turkey 
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 tbsp. taco seasoning
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes
    • 24 oz. medium salsa
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes, drained
    • 2 14.5 oz. cans, kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 2/3 cup corn kernels 
    • 4 tbs. tomato paste
    • sour cream, shredded cheese and cilantro for topping
Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, onion, green pepper, jalapeno, taco seasoning, chili powder, oregano, cumin and chili pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently until the turkey is browned.
2. Add the salsa, chicken stock, tomatoes, kidney beans and tomato paste. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes (but up to three hours). Then add the corn and cook for 3-5 minutes more or until heated through.
3. Ladle chili into bowls and top with sour cream, shredded cheese and cilantro for garnish.

This is SO good! The southwestern flavors come through nicely but don't take away from the standard 'chili taste' and the jalapeno pepper and chili pepper flakes add a nice slight hint of heat afterward. This made quite a bit of leftovers which I gladly portioned out into individual servings for my lunches.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter & Banana Muffins

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Muffins are definitely one of my favorite breakfast foods. They fall second in line to bagels. After that is oatmeal and then starts the more savory items like breakfast burritos, omelets, etc. Why do I love muffins? Well, because they're like dessert for breakfast. Think about it...how different is a cupcake from a muffin? Not much, right? So why not skip the frosting and eat it for breakfast? I can't comprehend how one would not see this as a win-win situation. :-)

When I found this recipe and saw how healthy these cute little muffins are I couldn't wait to make them. As you well know from the Reese's commercial, chocolate and peanut butter are one of the world's best combinations. It's not one I immediately go to when thinking of healthy muffins though which is just another reason why I couldn't wait to make them. Anytime you can use typically "unhealthy" ingredients to make a healthy recipe is a great day in my book!



Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter & Banana Muffins
Source: Dashing Dish
Yield: 36 mini muffins
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Ingredients:
    • 1 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
    • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 12-14 Stevia packets
    • 3 egg whites
    • 1 large banana, mashed
    • 1 cup hot water
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Place peanut butter in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 30-45 seconds, or until melted.
3. In a small bowl, combine the old fashioned oats, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Stevia packets.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the egg whites, banana, hot water and Greek yogurt. Add the melted peanut butter in the stand mixer and mix on low speed until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
5. Fill each mini muffin crevice to the top with the muffin mixture. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the muffins are cooked through and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Let cool for 1-2 minutes before removing from the muffin pan and transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling.

I don't have very much experience baking with sugar substitutes which is why I think these muffins came out slightly bitter. They weren't bad by any means, but if you're looking for a sweet muffin, I'd recommend increasing the amount of Stevia used (maybe 16-18 packets) or decreasing the amount of cocoa powder to 1/2 cup since 3/4 cup makes for some really dark muffins.

I was surprised on how strongly the banana flavor comes through on these. I thought they would be mainly chocolate and peanut butter. The best thing about them....they're only 58 calories each!

Note: these muffins only last a few days. I was expecting to eat them for breakfast through Friday (being made on a Sunday), but by Thursday they had grown mold. I honestly have no idea why. 
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Weekly Menu 5/13-16

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I wasn't planning on having a menu for this week because I assumed that there wouldn't be anything left in the freezer and we'd be living off cereal, ramen and take out. But due to a couple of days in the past few weeks where I didn't cook, we have just enough food for me to make dinner until Wednesday. Then the freezer will be completely empty. I'm definitely not looking forward to the grocery bill to restock it again!

I'm beginning to go crazy looking at boxes. I feel like they're multiplying while we sleep. If you've ever moved before you know just how insane it is to try to keep your house presentable while packing. It's making me twitchy that I can't vacuum an entire room because of the boxes. I just want everything all nice and organized in its new home!

So the bare bones menu consists of:

Sunday - shrimp bisque

Monday - sloppy joes

Tuesday - beer battered cod with chips

Wednesday - Italian sausages

I'm figuring that Thursday and Friday will be some form of take out. I don't want to see any dishes other than of the plastic/paper variety after Wednesday night.

Wish me luck this week as I pack up our remaining things, spend Friday morning unpacking whatever can be hauled there while patiently waiting for the Comcast man and organizing, organizing, organizing Friday straight through Sunday. Maybe Monday. We'll see.  

Saturday's with Nichole: Healthy Lunch Ideas - From Home (Week 7)

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I don't know about you, but bringing my lunch to work with me is somewhat of a challenge for a few reasons.
1. I don't like to eat the same thing every day. 
2. When I'm cold I always want to eat something hot. 
3. I'm easily convinced. 
4. I don't always make enough time to prepare my lunch in the morning. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Bringing my lunch to work isn't just about eating healthier, it's about saving money. Depending on where you live, you could easily spend $10 for a sandwich, chips and drink. Do that Monday through Friday and you've spent $50 on just lunch alone! Then add in a bagel and coffee for breakfast each morning and you could easily have spent $100 per week on food. Now think about how much more food $100 would get you at the grocery store...

Eating healthier and saving money are 50/50 on my reasons to bring my lunch to work each day. I'll be honest, there are days where I still end up going out to pick something up for lunch but I feel like as long as I'm making a decent effort to bring lunch to work every day, then I'm doing better than I could be.

Variety is the spice of life. Someone important said that right? When it comes to lunches, I have to say, I agree with them 100%! When I make my grocery list and menu for the week, I look to see which meals will have leftovers and if any of them can be incorporated into a lunch. I also go as far as to plan out snacks because if not, it's just another temptation to eat something unhealthy.

So this week I decided to cover a just a few simple lunches you can bring from home. Depending on the popularity of this (that means let me know!) I can continue it with more suggestions or maybe even make Saturday's the day for lunch recipes? You tell me.

And please keep in mind, what I consider healthy, you may not. But as a general definition I'm considering "healthy" foods to be ones without tons of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, carbs, etc. You should always check the labels to make sure that something "reduced" or "light" that you're buying is actually better than the full-fat versions.

Cold/Refrigerated Lunch Ideas
Chicken Taco Wrap: grilled chicken, reduced-fat shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, reduced-fat sour cream, salsa wrapped up in a whole-wheat tortilla
Turkey BLT Wrap: lunchmeat turkey, turkey bacon or reduced-sodium bacon, lettuce and sliced tomatoes in a whole-wheat tortilla with reduced-fat or light mayo
Veggie Wrap: bell peppers, mushrooms, red onion, lettuce, tomato...pretty much any veggie of your choice in a whole wheat wrap with a light Italian salad dressing 
Tuna on Crackers: solid white tuna (drained), mixed with diced celery and onions and light mayo served on crackers. 

Salad Combination Ideas
Strawberry and Spinach: sliced strawberries, spinach and any other veggies of your choice with a balsamic or fruity vinaigrette dressing 
Southwestern: grilled chicken with bell peppers, taco or fajita seasoning, corn, beans, lime juice, reduced-fat sour cream and salsa as a dressing 
Protein Packed: hard-boiled eggs, drained white tuna, and grilled chicken are all easy additions to "beef" up a salad
"Chef" Salad: lean lunch meats, reduced-fat shredded cheeses, lettuce, tomato and other veggies with a light Italian dressing 

Warm Lunch Ideas
"Mexican Pizza": shredded cheese melted on a whole-wheat tortilla topped with salsa.
Reuben Wrap:  corned beef, turkey or roast beef with reduced-fat Swiss cheese and sauerkraut warmed up in a whole-wheat tortilla
Fajita Wrap: cooked bell peppers and onions meatless or with chicken or flank steak warmed up in a whole-wheat tortilla
Pita Pizzas: shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, light pizza sauce (or homemade) melted on a whole wheat pita. 

Obviously these suggestions are based on the foods I like. If you dislike something, feel free to substitute it with something else. 

One thing that really helps me bring my lunch to work on a regular basis is to prepare as much of it as possible the night before when I'm cooking dinner. That way, I can't use any excuses of not having enough time in the morning when all I need to do is grab a few things and go. 

 I hope this gives you some ideas of other lunches you can bring to work!
 
Happy Saturday,   


Oven Baked Sriracha Chicken

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I'm pretty sure Sriracha sauce has become the next "it" thing with cooking. Kinda like the cake-pop rage, just you know, a sauce and spicy instead of leftover cake shaped into a ball and covered in frosting. I have a feeling that made sense to no one but me. Oh well. :-)

The original recipe calls for chicken thighs but I rarely ever use them. I always have chicken breasts in the freezer so I rarely see the point in buying chicken in a different form just for a recipe. Alida used chicken breasts in her recipe which I had planned to do until I realized I pulled chicken tenders out of the freezer instead. See this is why actually labeling the stuff in my freezer would be a good idea. I plan to work on that soon.



Oven-Baked Sriracha Chicken
Source: Alida's Kitchen via Eating Well
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. chicken tenders
    • juice of one lime 
    • 2 stalks green onions, green part thinly sliced, white part minced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
    • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
    • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
    • 2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
    • 1/2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice seasoning
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a bowl, whisk the lime juice, whites of green onions, garlic, Hoisin, ginger, Sriracha and Chinese Five Spice until combined.
3. Dip each chicken tender into the sauce and place in the prepared baking dish.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.
5. Serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and green onion slices for garnish.

Yum! When combined with the other ingredients and baked, the Sriracha doesn't have such a strong kick to it. If you're looking for that, I'd suggest increasing the amount of Sriracha in the recipe to a tablespoon or more. Tom, who is still sick of me cooking with Sriracha on such a regular basis, thought these chicken tenders were great!

I think they'd make a great appetizer if served skewer style. 

Dirty Brown Rice with Shrimp

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One of the first times I went grocery shopping after getting a job (and a paycheck), I spent a bunch of time wandering slowly through the aisles looking for food I could make for myself that was quick. The Zatarain's boxes of rice caught my eye and I purchased a box of the dirty rice. That box ended up sitting in the pantry for quite a long time before I finally made it. I loved the kick of heat from the spices and just how simple the meal was to make but how it had great flavor.

I've made dirty rice since then but never thought to add shrimp to it. I had half a bag of shrimp in the freezer that needed to be used up, so I quickly added this to the menu for the next week.



Dirty Brown Rice with Shrimp
Barely Adapted from: Skinny Taste
Servings: 5
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Rice Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
    • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. thyme
    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
    Mixture Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1 green pepper, diced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tsp. oil
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
    • 1/2 tsp. thyme
    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth, water, bay leaf, paprika, thyme and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil.
2. Add the rice and cook according to package directions.
3. About 20 minutes before the rice will be done, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery, green pepper, onion and garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
4. Add the ground beef, paprika, thyme and cayenne and cook until the ground beef is browned, 5-7 more minutes.
5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
6. Toss the rice into the mixture, top with green onions and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

This was great! For a "healthier" version, the flavors are still strong. If you're not a fan of heat, you can cut back on the cayenne pepper quite a bit.
 

Chicken with Spicy Peach Sauce

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Recently I've had a really hard time eating chicken breast unless its cut into pieces. I'm not sure why but something about a whole chicken breast is just not appealing to me. I wanted to see if I could overcome that so I came up with this recipe.



Chicken with Spicy Peach Sauce
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
    • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 3 ripe peaches
    • 1/4 cup peach preserves
    • 1/4 cup onion, minced
    • 2-3 tbs. sugar
    • 1 tbsp. hot mango chutney
    • 1 tbsp. honey
    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add ice cubes.
2. Score an X into the bottom of each peach. Remove any stems.
3. Lower each peach into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, make sure all sides of the peach are under water.
4. Scoop out the peaches with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath. Let cool for 2-3 minutes or until you're able to handle them.
5. Peel off the skin of each peach and cut it into bite sized pieces.
6. In a small saucepan, combine the peaches and following ingredients over low heat. Start with 1 tbs. of sugar and adjust as necessary as the sauce cooks down.
7. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. This may be done 2-3 days in advance and refrigerated. Sauce may also be mashed or pureed if desired.
8. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
9. In a large skillet over high heat, brown the chicken on all sides. Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet and continue cooking in the oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breast. 
10. Plate the chicken and spoon the spicy peach sauce on top.

Tom said that this was too sweet for him which surprised me because I thought the flavor of the apple cider vinegar would still come through and he doesn't like vinegar in any form. I did enjoy this and I think I'll make it again in August when there are tons and tons of ripe peaches!

 

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Zesty Dry Rub

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I've probably said it on here a million times, but I am always looking for new recipes for pork tenderloin. I think of it like chicken in a way, there are a ton of different ways to prepare it but for that reason alone I'm always left thinking "How should I make it this time?"

Luckily, Pinterest and my Google reader have come to the rescue. Recently quite a few different recipes for pork tenderloin have caught my eye. Ironically, I never seemed to remember to chose one of them when I planned out the menu. But since there were two tenderloins in the freezer and operation clean-out-the-freezer is well underway, I was finally able to choose one of those recipes.



Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Zesty Dry Rub
Source: Elly Says Opa! adapted from Food Network via Our Food in Life
Yield: 1 tenderloin
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. pork tenderloin
    • juice from 1 lime
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • pinch of cayenne powder

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425.
2. Trim any visible fat from the pork. Whisk together the lime juice and olive oil in a small bowl and rub all over the pork tenderloin.
3. In another small bowl, add the remaining ingredients for the dry rub and stir to combine. Rub all over the pork.
4. Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat and once hot, add the pork, searing for 2-3 minutes per side.
5. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes or until the pork is cooked through (160 degrees).
6. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

I have no idea why I don't use dry rubs on meats more often. They're incredibly easy to put together and the flavors always come through nicely. This recipe was no exception, the pork had a great flavor and (bonus!) the dry rub even remaining on the pork while I was slicing it!

I served this with Garlic Parmesan Kale chips and mashed potatoes.

SRC: Bread and Butter Pickles

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I was very excited when I saw that I was assigned Fake Ginger for my SRC blog. I'd heard other bloggers mention using recipes from Fake Ginger for quite some time, but it wasn't until I was in search of a mac and cheese recipe did I really take a look at her blog.

I was instantly hooked. Not only did I laugh at her hair dying hobby but I was immediately amused at her dislike for fresh ginger. I don't like it very much either. I think it smells funny and I just don't like grating it. I added Fake Ginger to my reader after finding the mac and cheese recipe and I pretty much star every recipe Amanda posts.

So when it came time to chose one for the SRC, I was stumped. I drooled over her recipe index for what felt like hours, debating on if my readers would enter sprinkle overload if I made her Cake Batter Pancakes, trying to calculate just how many calories I'd consume by licking the bowl clean after making her Chocolate Covered Strawberry Pie, if Tom would contemplate divorcing me for serving him Tofu Pad Thai or if it was worth unpacking my slow cooker to make Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork Sliders. Tough decisions, I tell ya.

I looked up at my clock and realized the farmers market had just opened. I headed over and while I was grabbing my usual items, a $2 box of small cucumbers caught my eye. She did have a pickle recipe on her blog. I've never made pickles before. If we don't eat them all before we move, I can easily share them with coworkers.  And so it was decided. Bread and Butter Pickles would be my recipe choice for this month's Secret Recipe Club



Bread and Butter Pickles
Source: Fake Ginger, via AllRecipes
Servings: ~ 3 pints
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Ingredients:
    • 5 cucumbers, thinly sliced
    • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 large clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 green pepper, diced
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. mustard seed
    • 1/2 tsp. ground tumeric
    • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
    • 1/4 tsp. whole cloves

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion, garlic and green pepper. Sprinkle with the salt and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least three hours.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, drain the liquid from the cucumbers and stir the cucumber mixture into the boiling saucepan. Before the liquid returns to a boil, remove from the heat.
4. Transfer into containers and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The original recipe calls for 25 cucumbers. I like pickles as much as the next person, but I knew even with giving them to coworkers, we'd be up to our ears in pickles for months so I decided to cut this recipe in half, using the measurements given by AllRecipes. While the bread and butter flavor was there, it wasn't as pronounced and I think that just came from the measurement adjustments.

Regardless, the pickles still tasted great and I plan to make them again once we move. Question for the readers out there: if I wanted to can the pickles and keep them in the pantry, is there anything I'd need to do differently? 

Weekly Menu 5/6 - 5/11

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Boxes, boxes and more boxes. If the way to save yourself from a Zombie Apocalypse was to surround yourself with boxes and more boxes full of your stuff, I'm proud to say Tom and I would definitely be survivors.

Moving day is quickly approaching and believe me, I am more than ready to get this show on the road. I don't want to look at any more boxes. I want everything unpacked and resting in its new home. I want an extra hour and 10 minutes a day of my life back that I've currently lost to commuting. I want to put gas in my car on payday and not need to refill it until the next payday! I want to say "yes!" when one of my friends calls and asks me to do something instead of determining if I can really afford the extra gas money and if I have an extra two hours to add into my visit just to cover my commute. I don't want a litter box in my bathroom or cat food in my bedroom anymore. I want to wake up at my current time (5:30 am) and be able to exercise, shower, pack my lunch and still make it into work before 8 am. (Doing that now would mean I'd need to get up around 4 am. The SUN isn't even up at 4 am most days!) I want to read a recipe that calls for a completely random ingredient and be in a 15 minute drive of 10 different groceries stores that all carry said completely random ingredient!

I will miss the crab cakes, pizza place and the gelato shop. I will miss that I'm 5 minutes away from a quaint little small town with neat stores. I will miss the 2 hour drive to the beach. I will miss the lack of people at the movie theater even for new releases. I will miss that I'm 15 minutes from PA and 15 minutes from DE in a cute little part of MD that MD forgot. I will miss that Black Friday shopping at the Walmart here is like a regular Saturday for most Walmart stores.

I do think we'll move back at some point. I do like it here and I hope we can get back here before it gets too expensive or changes too much, but we'll see.

This is the last real week of cooking anything. Next week, although we're not moving until Saturday is going to mostly consist of whatever is leftover in the fridge or whatever can be made with very limited ingredients and cooking utensils.

Sunday - Shrimp Bisque

Monday - Asiago Chicken Pasta

Tuesday - Out for Tom's Birthday!

Wednesday - Ham, Corn and Potato Hash

Thursday - Burgers and Fries 

Friday - to be determined


Saturday's with Nichole: Miscellaneous Food Tips (Week 6)

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Happy Saturday! Can you believe that this is already my 6th week? Time is going by rather quickly! Since I told you in the first post of Saturday's with Nichole that I would give you tips and tricks and I haven't really done so in detail yet, I figured this was a good a week as any to fill you in on all of the little tips and tricks I've learned while spending way too much time in the kitchen.

* Mold - fruit especially can tend to grow mold quickly. Nothing drives me more crazy than searching through containers of berries at the grocery store trying to find ones that aren't overripe, too bruised or already growing mold! To stop mold growth, spritz fruit with 1 part distilled white vinegar to 10 parts water. Rinse fruit thoroughly and pat dry before storing. 
* Save the Lettuce! Ever buy a prepackaged bag of lettuce with an expiration date 5-6 days in the future and find that its only a day or two before your lettuce goes bad? I blame this on the excess moisture in those plastic bags. Avoid this by rinsing the lettuce then running it through your salad spinner. Pat dry with a kitchen towel  or paper towels and then store in the crisper drawer in a ziplock bag. 

* Fruit not ripe enough? Store kiwi, bananas, peaches, plums, nectarines, etc. in a brown paper lunch bag. Fold over to close and check daily until fruit is as ripe as you need. 


* Mushrooms - I've never had mushrooms last more than 2 days in the refrigerator when they are kept in their original packaging. Like lettuce, I blame this on the moisture aspect. Transfer mushrooms to a brown paper lunch bag, fold over and store on the top shelf of your fridge. Mushrooms should last up to 7 days, depending on the condition they were in when purchased. 

* Never buy Green Onions/Scallions again! Please tell me I'm not the only one who always ends up with half of the green onions called for in a recipe? Trim the tops of the green onions (making them no more than 8" tall) and place in a glass with water. Change the water daily and watch the onions grow and grow! Just make sure you really do change the water each day. If not, it quickly gets cloudy and your green onions, while still growing, will become slimey inside. 

* Corn on the cob is best when eaten immediately, but if you need to hang onto it for a few days, leave the husks intact and store in a cool, dry place (preferably away from any windows). 

* Lemons and Limes. I'm telling you, its an evil kitchen conspiracy that almost every recipe that calls for lemon or lime zest doesn't also require the juice, or at least not all of it! After zesting, squeeze juice into a plastic container with a tightly sealed lid. Store in the refrigerator for at least a month! 
 
* Tired of trimming off the herbs you need before every meal? Fresh parsley/oregano/mint and rosemary can be cut, rinsed, wrapped in a damn paper towel, placed in a ziplock bag and stored on the top shelf of your refrigerator for about 7 days. 

* Ran out of parsley? Wash and dice the leaves from the stalks of celery. Use in place of parsley in just about any recipe.






* Need toasted sesame seeds? Place seeds in an even layer on a small piece of aluminum foil. Put inside your toaster oven and heat to 350. Watch closely because the seeds can burn very quickly.

* Why does tomato paste come in a 6 oz. can if most recipes only call for a tablespoon of it at a time? Place tablespoons of tomato paste on a paper plate (or in an empty ice cube tray) and freeze overnight. Remove from the plate and transfer to ziplock bags. Take out a tablespoon of tomato paste as you need it!



* Not going to use that full pound of bacon before it goes bad? Roll up each slice of bacon and place on a paper plate. Freeze overnight and then transfer to small ziplock bags or wrap each piece in plastic wrap and store together in a large ziplock bag.

* Oh no, you forgot to pick up buttermilk at the store! Make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let stand for 5 minutes, then used desired amount.

 * Replace vegetable or canola oil for unsweetened applesauce in just about any baking recipe. The applesauce keeps the baked good moist but takes off a ton of calories and fat! I keep individual (4 oz.) containers of unsweetened applesauce in my pantry just for this reason.

* Substitute plain Greek Yogurt for sour cream! The Greek yogurt is healthier but has the same texture and consistency as sour cream. I doubt you'll ever notice the difference!

* Realized you don't have enough cake flour in the middle of a recipe? Combine 3/4 cup of all purpose flour and 2 tbs. cornstarch for each cup of cake flour you need.

* 1 cup honey works just as well as 1 cup of molasses.

* Love to eat raw cookie dough but not interested in getting salmonella? Substitute 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk for eggs in most cookie dough recipes and eat until you get a stomachache!

* Want to make a recipe just a tiny bit healthier? In baked goods, for each cup of all purpose flour you can use a second cup of whole wheat flour without any or much change in taste.

Blogger's Choice Recipe Swap: Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza

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Ever have one of those days where you think oh boy, I should just get out of the kitchen? I had one of those days while making this recipe which made me really glad I didn't wait until the last minute to make it. After a frustrating day at work, I came home hungry and impatient to start on this pizza.

But first, I separated my three envelopes of yeast by cutting on the 'cut here' line. Then I shook the envelope I was going to use with the intent to get the yeast away from the corner I was going to cut open. Except the 'cut here' line was a liar. Instead, I flung yeast all over myself and the entire kitchen. I brushed yeast out of my hair. I found it in the camisole I was wearing under another shirt. I'm pretty sure I'm going to find yeast every day I clean the kitchen until we move. Oops. Although because I can never have just one fun thing happen when I'm cooking a new recipe, I also had a run in with the evil fridge faeries. You know those buggers that steal an ingredient you are 100% sure you purchased? Yeah, they stole my shredded mozzarella cheese. How can you make pizza without mozzarella cheese!? I decided I wasn't going to give up and I improvised instead.

See, this recipe is for a recipe swap and I knew I wouldn't have time to make it again, much less go to the store to purchase the ingredients. The category for this recipe swap is Blogger's Choice, where we get to choose any recipe off the blog we're assigned.

I was assigned Coffee and Cannolis which instantly made me want a cannoli. Maybe not the desired effect, but not a bad one either. I had a really hard time choosing my recipe. I mean, how can you pick just one when your options include things like Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bars with Pretzel Crust?!?! But then I found this pizza recipe and knew it was the one to make. Tom loves Chicken Cordon Bleu and pizza so I just knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to combine them.



Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza
Source: Coffee and Cannolis
Servings: 1 Pizza
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Ingredients:
    • 1 batch uncooked pizza dough
    • 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded or diced
    • 3/4 cup cooked ham, diced
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1 tbsp. flour
    • 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, broken into pieces
    • salt and pepper
    • 1- 1 1/2 cups shredded pizza cheese
    • Italian seasoning

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Prepare pizza dough if necessary.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
3. Pour in the milk while whisking constantly. Bring to a low boil then immediately reduce the heat to low.
4. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has slightly thickened. Add the Swiss cheese and stir until melted. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
5. Spread the cheese sauce over the prepared pizza dough. Top with the diced or shredded chicken, diced ham and shredded pizza cheese. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
6. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the dough recipe directions.

Since my evil fridge faeries stole my mozzarella cheese, I had to improvise with what we had left in the fridge, which consisted of three slices of provolone cheese and a half a bag of shredded cheddar.

Tom loved this pizza so I'm pretty sure it won't be long before I'm making it again. I also really enjoyed it, I think it hit all of the right flavors you come to expect with Chicken Cordon Bleu but they were mellow enough that it wasn't in-your-face which is how I find most Chicken Cordon Bleu recipes to be.

Garlic Parmesan Kale Chips

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The first time I tried kale was last month. For most of my childhood I honestly thought it wasn't edible and was only used as a garnish since that's the way I always saw it. Even once I realized it was edible and there were tons of different ways you could prepare it, I was still hesitant because I was told it was similar to broccoli. While I enjoy most vegetables, broccoli is definitely one of my least favorites. I can handle it in small amounts when raw, but cooked, I think its absolutely disgusting.

Then I started to see all of these recipes for kale chips. I just couldn't picture a leafy green as a chip. I also couldn't picture it being delicious like everyone claimed. I assumed these were the same people who used cauliflower instead of potatoes and claimed it was "just like the real thing!" Yes, you can get a similar texture but you may want to get your taste buds checked if you think mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower to resemble mashed potatoes taste anything alike.

I was feeling rather adventurous during my trip to the farmers market one week and I noticed he was selling large bags of kale for $1. I snatched one up right away figuring even if I didn't like it, $1 wasn't much money to waste and plus I'd have an easy garnish to use. 



Garlic Parmesan Kale Chips
Inspired by: Skinny Taste
Servings: 2-3
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Ingredients:
    • 1 small handful kale, washed and stems trimmed
    • 1 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • pinch of red pepper flakes
    • salt, to taste
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Place the kale in an even layer on the baking sheet and mist lightly with the non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and red pepper flakes over the kale.
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the kale is crispy and the Parmesan cheese is lightly browned.
4. Season with salt to taste and serve hot.

I was rather surprised with myself that I really liked this. While they taste nothing like potato chips (which I didn't expect) there wasn't a very strong vegetable flavor either. So for a healthy alternative to chips, I think they're quite worth it. Plus they're incredibly easy and fast to make!
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