Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

I know it's pretty un-American, but I think pumpkin pie is kinda gross. In fact, I don't think I've eaten any the last 4 or 5 Thanksgivings. A few weeks ago my mother-in-law made this pumpkiny dip and paired it with gingersnaps... I knew I had to make a cheesecake that incorporated those same flavors. Turns out there are others who like this combination as well, but I took the standard recipe I use for cheesecake and just tweaked it a bit to be Thanksgiving worthy.

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps (use a high-quality kind with lots of ginger!)

4 (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice {can google for recipes to create your own with correct ratios}
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. flour


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a water bath by placing a large baking dish with 1" of water in the oven. To make cheesecake, grease bottom and sides of a 9" spring form pan. Wrap outside of pan with two layers of foil.

2. To prepare the crust,  in a medium bowl combine butter, sugar, and gingersnap crumbs. Press onto greased spring-form pan.

3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar just until smooth. Be careful not to over beat. Switch to a wooden spoon and blend in eggs (one at a time), mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and flour til smooth. Pour over the crust.

4. Place pan in 1" water bath. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Turn oven off- allow cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1-6 hours with the door closed. Remove from oven and chill in fridge until serving.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thai Salad with Creamy Cilantro Peanut Dressing

Friends don't let friends eat crappy food. I'm so lucky to have some dear friends who appreciate recipes that don't involve cream-of-anything or massive amounts of heavy cream. I'll admit, there was a time when I thought it tasted good (okay, I still think some of those things taste good), but when I indulge I'd much rather it were on a baked good-like the cheesecake posted below. This recipe that my friend Courtney found is so fresh and delicious. We enjoyed it for dinner and I ate it for lunch as long as it would last- even when I was out of bell peppers and bean sprouts and only down to greens, carrots, and a bit of dressing. I can't wait to make it again and again.


1/4 lbs whole wheat angel hair pasta
3 cups finely shredded green cabbage
2 cups finely shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded carrot
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shelled edamame beans (find in the frozen foods section)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup chopped raw peanuts

Creamy Cilantro Peanut Dressing
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup all-natural smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2-3/4 cup canola oil
juice of 1 lime + lime zest
3 Tbsp. tamari, or soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp. fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. honey
1 teaspoon or small piece of dried chipotle pepper (a small piece of canned chipotle in adobe may be substituted) * I didn't have this on hand, but want to try it next time, I did a dash of chili powder
1 ½ cups fresh cilantro leaves (about 1/2 bunch)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
green onion, to taste

1.Cook the whole wheat angel hair pasta until al dente. Combine the pasta, cabbage, lettuce, carrot, red pepper, and edamame in a large bowl. Toss with Creamy Cilantro Peanut Dressing.

2. To prepare dressing, combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Make sure that it is smooth and creamy. Store in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. Makes 1 ¼ cups.
3. To serve, on a large platter or individual dishes, plate the salad and top with bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, and peanuts. Serves 4-6.

Note: Since I knew Siena wouldn't eat salad for dinner, I make a little extra angel hair pasta and then just topped it with some of the dressing. It was a great alternative that didn't requite any extra work to  make it part of a toddler-friendly dinner.

slightly adapted from My Green Diet  via Posh Ganache

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Frijoles Negros- Authentic Cuban Black Beans

       With a Cuban mamacita, I was eating black beans as soon as I could gum them. This was, however, the first time I've made them from dry beans. After a trip to California where I saw my Tia Nora make them I realized there was no reason to be timid. If time permits, this is certainly the way to make beans. Unfortunately, as with most good cooking, things aren't really measured- a lot is "to taste," but I think that is part of what makes something delcious-ly personal. I've given approximations below.


1 lb dry black beans, rinsed in cold water and picked over
enough cold water to cover the beans 1/2-1"
1 bay leaf

2-3 Tbps. olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2-3 tsp. ground cumin (to tate)
few dashes of oregano
2 Tbsp.white vinegar or cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
1 spicy sausage (I use turkey sausage)
*specialty spices- my aunt uses a Goya seasoning, but since it is not available everywhere you can add a bit more of the spices listed above, to taste.


1. Rinse beans in cold water, picking out anything odd. Place beans in a large pot and soak overnight in cold water- covering the beans by about 1 inch. Remove any beans that float to the top.
2. The next day, make sure that there is still water covering the beans, add water until it they are still covered by at least 1 inch. Add bay leaf, bring to a boil over a high heat, reduce heat to low and cook uncovered, until the beans are tender and have almost cracked open. Check the beans periodically and add more water as needed.
3. To make the sofrito, in a separate skillet heat the olive oil over low heat. Add garlic, onion, and bell peppers, cooking and stirring until the onion is transparent approx. 8-10 minutes. Add cumin, vinegar, oregano, vinegar, whole sausage and other optional specialty seasonings. Mix well. When the sofrito is ready, I remove the sausage due to personal taste- if not, break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the sofrito to the beans, mix well and continue to cook over low heat until the beans crack open. Season to taste and serve. {Since these beans are dried you will need to add more salt than you would with canned beans.} Be sure to remove the bay leaf!

To make it more soupy, add more water while cooking, to make it thicker, use less water-both ways are fantastic.
I doubled this recipe and froze portions. To reconstitute, I found it best to add a little chicken broth and warm on the stove.

Monday, November 14, 2011


  I love the versatility of hummus. Usually we just have it with veggies (carrots, broccoli, bell peppers) or some type of chip (pita chip, tortilla chip, crackers), but it is a great spread on a sandwich or pita etc. This is a really basic hummus that can be played with to your liking.


1 can garbanzo beans, drained*
2-3 Tbsp. tahini
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove
cumin, to taste
salt, to taste

     In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with cumin and salt.

*If you desire a thinner consistency, you an either use the juices from the garbanzo beans or some water to gradually thin it out. I like mine a littler thicker, so I usually don't do this.

-Can add additional flavors, to taste:  extra garlic, roasted red peppers, etc.

Christmas Guacamole

One fun thing about living in Arizona is that come fall and winter, pomegranate and all sorts of citrus trees are ready to share their bounty. We got free pomegranate passed to us and we enjoyed it in salads as well as this festive guacamole. I brought this and some hummus to our ward cooking club- they were a little out of place among the sweet dips, but I think it can be a welcomed taste during a time of so many sweets. I first tried this 3 or 4 years ago when Amber brought it to choir practice and I'm so glad Jessie had the recipe on the blog because it should surely become a Christmas tradition.


3 large avocados, peeled and pitted
1 lemon, juiced (or lime)
2 Tbsp. yellow or white onion, minced (next time I might use 1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. organic cane sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
1 small or 1/2 large pomegranate, seeded
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Place avocado in a medium sized bowl. Pour in lime juice and mash with a fork until smooth but chunky. Stir in onion, cilantro, sugar, and salt. Gently fold in pomegranate seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, in an airtight container, until ready to serve.

Serves 4.

 original recipe from Amber Sanovich, with adaptations from ahintofhoney

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

Is it too close to Halloween to post something like this? At the end of September my sister-in-law requested a peanut butter chocolate cheesecake for her bridal shower. This was incredibly rich, but it was just that- incredible. I did manage to cut a piece to save for Nick to eat the next day, and being the nice husband that he is he took a few bites and let me eat the rest. He tried to play it off like he was too full, but a few days later I got it out of him that he really just knew how much I wanted it so he let me finish it off. What a guy.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup crushed cream-filled cookies
6 Tbsp butter, melted
Reese's & Butterfingers, crushed (optional)
3/4-1 cup creamy peanut butter, slightly melted

cheesecake filling
3  (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2-3 Tbsp. flour

melted hot fudge
additional Reese's cups cut into pieces


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a water bath by placing a large baking dish with 1" of water in the oven. To make cheesecake, grease bottom and sides of a 9" spring form pan. Wrap outside of pan with two layers of foil.

2. To prepare the crust,  in a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, crushed cookies, and butter. Press onto greased spring-form pan. Add optional layer of Reese's and Butterfingers. Add layer of melted peanut butter.

3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar just until smooth. Be careful not to over beat. Switch to a wooden spoon and blend in milk and eggs (one at a time), mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, peanut butter, vanilla, and flour til smooth. Pour over the crust.

4. Place pan in 1" water bath. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Turn oven off- allow cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1-6 hours with the door closed. Remove from oven and chill in fridge until serving.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gnocchi with Ragu and Fresh Mozzarella

Gnocchi with Ragu and Fresh Mozzarella

Hatch original

When we were in Italy we got to try lots of different gnocchi (like little dumplings). My favorite way that we had it was in a delicious ragù sauce with fresh bits of mozzarella added while it is still hot so it melts just a bit. Oh Mamma mia. We enjoy making gnocchi, but if time is short then it is really easy to find at most grocery stores- dried, frozen, or fresh in vacuum sealed packs. We picked up a pack of whole wheat gnocchi from Trader Joe's and paired it with homemade sauce as well as fresh basil from the garden. Delizioso, for real.
I have yet to find a mozzarella that is quite as good as any that I tried in Italy, but since this is paired with so many other flavors it isn't quite as crucial as it might be in a Caprese salad. Nevertheless, try to find a good quality one.
If you are looking for lots of short cuts, you could have the store-bought gnocchi with store-bought sauce (wince) and just make it look fancy with the fresh mozzarella. It won't be quite the same, but still a good way to perk things up a bit.


Per il Ragu
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell peppers, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, diced
1-2 carrots, shredded (optional)
1 stalk of celery (optional)
1 lb. lean ground beef (I omitted this time)
12 oz. plain tomato sauce
dried or fresh basil, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1-2 packs of gnocchi, or homemade gnocchi!
quality fresh mozzarella
fresh basil


1. To prepare il ragu, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté yellow onion and bell peppers (and optional carrots or celery). When soft, add ground beef and brown. Drain grease. Add tomato sauce and season with basil, salt, pepper, red crushed pepper. Let simmer, up to six hours. (Can also simmer in a crock pot.)

2. Cook gnocchi by bringing water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi is floating, removed with a slotted spoon. Add ragu to gnocchi. Gently break up fresh mozzarella and add to gnocchi, stirring just until incorporated and slightly melted.


This is perfect paired with any pasta, layered in lasagna, and on and on. No added sugar like pretty much any kind you'll find at the store.  I just doubled this recipe for my sister who had a baby. We froze the sauce in smaller freezer bags- just enough for them to thaw per dinner.


1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 red/yellow bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 carrots, shredded (optional)
2 stalks celery, diced (optional)
1 lb. lean ground beef
36 oz. plain tomato sauce
dried or fresh basil, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste


To prepare il ragu, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté yellow onion and bell peppers (and optional carrots or celery). When soft, add ground beef and brown. Drain grease. Add tomato sauce and season with basil, salt, pepper, red crushed pepper. Let simmer, up to six hours. (Can also simmer in a crock pot.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blueberry Cheesecake

Nick requested this cheesecake- one that we enjoyed when he turned 26 and again when he turned 27. It is something great to make a day/night ahead.

  I found myself doing 'two-a-days' with this cheesecake. Not the 'two-a-days' from cross country in high school where we ran in the morning and the afternoon. No, no, this is way better- having a slice of cheesecake after lunch and another later in the evening. I much prefer twice the cheesecake to twice the running.

Blueberry Cheesecake
cheesecake from All Recipes
blueberry sauce from All Recipes

15 graham crackers, crushed (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar

4 (8oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup flour

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cold water
2-3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a water bath by placing a large baking dish with 1" of water in the oven. To make cheesecake, grease bottom and sides of a 9" spring form pan. Wrap outside of pan with two layers of foil.

2. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, spices, and sugar. Press onto bottom of the pan.

3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar just until smooth. Be careful not to over beat. Switch to a wooden spoon and blend in milk and eggs (one at a time), mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla, and flour til smooth. Pour over the crust.

4. Place pan in 1" water bath. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Turn oven off- allow cheesecake to cool in the oven for 2-6 hours with the door closed. Remove from oven and chill in fridge until serving.

5. To prepare sauce, in a saucepan over medium-high heat combine blueberries, water, orange juice, and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil. In a small cup or bowl, mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Gently stir cornstarch mix into blueberries. Simmer gently until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (3-4 min). Remove from heat and stir extract & cinnamon. Thin with water, if needed.

Serve cheesecake with blueberry topping. And eat twice a day.

{if you're not into blueberries, this cheesecake is completely lovely naked}

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lemon Chicken Breasts

    Sometimes I just can't bring myself to delay or interrupt dinner to sneak in a picture. Truth be told, I take most pictures of food the next day when I'm enjoying left overs for lunch. We enjoyed this super easy dinner quickly after returning home from church. We paired it with brown rice and steamed broccoli... but as you see pictured, I enjoyed the left overs with a little pasta the following day.

Lemon Chicken Breasts
from  Food Network


1/4 cup good olive oil
3 Tbsp. minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves (can use dried as well)
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don't allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish.

3.Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce (I used skinless). Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn't browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Monday, August 8, 2011


There was a good period of time where Sunday afternoons my brother Anthony, my sister Brittany and I would make snickerdoodles and then watch a Disney movie. A lot of recipes call for shortening, but really you can make it work well with butter.
  I recently got some Saigon cinnamon and wanted to try it out. It is more concentrated than normal cinnamon (more like the red-hot candy flavor), so I did a blend of the two.


1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour  (last time I used 1/2 cup wheat flour and 2 1/14 cups all-purpose)
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cream together butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat slowly til combined. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and blend. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.

2. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes (I bake right at 8 minutes). Remove immediately from baking sheets and transfer to wire rack to cool. {Better to almost underbake than over bake as they get hard pretty quick. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kabobs with Mint Quinoa

 Really the main thing I changed with this meal is halving the dipping sauce that goes along the side- it made way more than we used. I prepared the chicken earlier in the day and let it marinate bit longer. I kept it in the refrigerator and pulled it out 20 minutes before putting it on the grill. Once everything was skewered it was pretty quick from there.

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kabobs with Mint Quinoa
adapted from Simply Healthy Family


10-12 metal or wooden skewers
1 1/2 cups plain fat free yogurt, divided
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup crumbled low-fat feta
1-2 Tbsp. minced red onion
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp. chopped mint leaves, divided
1 cup quinoa, uncooked


1. If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine yogurt, garam masala, curry and garlic in a zip lock bag. Add chicken, seal bag, and shake to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine remaining yogurt, feta, onion, lemon zest, and 1 Tbsp. of chopped mint leaves. Set aside.

3. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a sieve. Bring quinoa to a boil, turn heat down to a simmer and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid, cook for about another 5 minutes. Cover when done and remove from heat.

4. Preheat grill to medium-high (spray before heating). Thread chicken, onion, and bell peppers onto skewers. Discard left over marinade. Grill kabobs, turning only once (pick them up with a large tong in the middle, instead of by the stick). Cook til juices run clear, 10-15 minutes.
 Serve kabobs with quinoa sprinkled with mint and a bit of the dipping sauce on the side.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Swiss Miss Veggie-filled Pasta Sauce

Okay, probably not the Swiss you're thinking. It's going to be a cool 112 today and this is certainly not about hot chocolate. Swiss as in Swiss chard. We tried out an awesome grocery store the other day that had amazing deals on produce. Like bananas for $0.10, key limes for $0.04 (we made key lime pie), peaches for $0.18, plums for $0.07, cumbers for $0.25, and on and on. I wanted to frame my receipt. We also picked up some beautiful Swiss chard. We've pureed it in a food processor and added it to omelets as well as made a veggie-filled pasta sauce. Looks like a winner. Pretty much anywhere you would use spinach you can try Swiss chard.

Veggie-filled Pasta Sauce

Ingredients (estimations-everything was eyeballed)

drizzle extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1-2 large carrots, shredded or finely chopped
2-3 large Swiss chard leaves, shredded or finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
8-12 oz tomato sauce
oregano, to taste
basil, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté yellow onion and carrots. When soft, add Swiss chard and garlic til just cooked.  Add tomato sauce and season with oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Let simmer, the longer the better. Serve with favorite pasta and freshly grated Parmesan, to taste.

Other options: bell peppers

Southwest Rolls

slightly adapted from A Hint of Honey 

My friend, Jessie made these for my baby shower 2 years ago and I've also enjoyed them at a church activity where I was in charge of serving/replacing food trays = shoving these in my mouth behind the scenes. They are so delicious and worth making a lot at atime. We ate some the same evening and froze the rest, super easy to reheat-great as an appetizer or paired with something as a main dish.

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and diced
2/3 cup green onion, sliced
2 large red bell peppers, minced
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (I used fresh corn cooked, then cut off the cob)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained- I used fresh spinach, closer to 3/4 cup or 1 cup
1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers, seeded and rinsed (1 medium sized)
3 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 5 cloves fresh minced garlic)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
3 cups shredded Monterrey Jack or Cheddar cheese
20-30 (6-8 inch) whole wheat flour tortillas (or your favorite tortilla- like the ones you cook yourself)

Avocado Dipping Sauce
1 fresh avocado, smashed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. buttermilk-- didn't have on hand, used a little fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 dash dried dill weed
1 dash pepper

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add green onions and bell pepper and saute 5 minutes until tender.

2. Add diced cooked chicken, corn, spinach, black beans, jalapeno, parsley, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, cilantro, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir 5 minutes until well blended and tender. Remove from heat and stir in cheese so it melts.

3. Place tortillas between two moist paper towels and microwave 30 seconds-1 minute until hot and pliable. {I was using the tortillas you cook yourself, so this was bit different}

4. Spoon even amounts of mixture onto each tortilla. Fold in ends of tortilla, then roll tightly around mixture. Arrange in a medium dish, cover, and store in the freezer or refrigerator. Chilling them for several hours before baking helps hold them together, but is not absolutely necessary. They keep well frozen, and can be placed directly in the oven.

5. Lightly butter a baking sheet and place rolls evenly on the pan.

6. Bake rolls at 375 F for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and the edges begin to crisp, rotating them every 10 minutes.

7. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for several minutes before slicing in half. Serve with Avocado Dipping Sauce and garnish with chopped onion and tomato.

8. To prepare sauce combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whip until creamy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pork Chop Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

adapted from allrecipes

I love that in summer I crave salads instead of much heavier foods. Unfortunately I also crave more ice cream, so it probably negates the simplicity of the salad. Regardless, this is perfect for a summer night and a great way to incorporate some seasonal favorites.


4 cooked pork chops, sliced {I took two pork chops and cut them in half width-wise)
marinade--salt and pepper, 1-2 cloves garlic, drizzle of olive oil
optional: bit of favorite BBQ sauce
greens of choice, romaine, spinach, mixed greens etc.
1-2 nectarines or peaches, cut into wedges
1-2 avocados, cut into wedges
cherry tomatoes {I used the tomatoes we had in the garden}
almonds, croutons, etc
sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4-3/8 cup salad oil, or extra-virgin olive oil

    1. Place pork chops in a container and drizzle olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic. Marinate, if desired by covering and placing in refrigerator, or proceed to grilling. When pork chops are done, remove from grill and allow to cool. Optional- while pork chops are cooling, brush on a thin layer of barbeque sauce to both sides. Once cooled, slice pork chops into bite-sized pieces.

    2. For the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients except oil in a blender. Blend at medium speed for one minute. Next, with blender at medium speed, pour oil very slowly into blender. Add salt and pepper.

    3. For each serving, toss greens with a little dressing, top with tomatoes, sliced pork chop, avocado wedges, and nectarine wedges. Drizzle with more dressing and sprinkle with toasted almonds or croutons. Serve immediately.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Peanut Butter Oatmeal: Afternoon Delight

    I got some steel cut oats last week (my first time trying them, loved them) and was playing around with different things to accompany them. As someone who adds peanut butter to lots of things (brownies, ice cream, granola bars, etc.), I am kinda surprised I hadn't considered adding peanut butter to oatmeal. Not exactly something to eat every morning, I'll still only let Siena eat it with applesauce mixed in, but certainly there are worse things you could eat. I enjoyed it this afternoon and it was delightful.


    1/2 cup steel cut oats
    1 1/2 cup water (if using regular oatmeal,  it is a 1:2 ratio instead of 1:3)
    1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter (or more!)
    a handful of chocolate chips, if desired

    Bring water to a boil. Add oatmeal and stir. Reduce heat to medium low and allow oatmeal to cook, stirring occasionally. Oatmeal is done with most of the water has evaporated. Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter and chocolate chips- adding a few on top, of course.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Lentil Burgers with Smoked Gouda

    from Simply Healthy Family

    The sound of this dish might not exactly make you drool like a double cheeseburger from Five Guys, but it give the arteries a nice break from all the summer cookouts. These are also a great meal for dining on a budget. We paired it with a this salad.


    2/3 cup dry lentils
    1 1/2 c water
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1/2-3/4 cup grated carrots
    3 slices bread, crumbled in food processor
    2 eggs, slightly beaten
    1/4 tsp. sea salt
    1/4 tsp. garlic powder
    1/2 tsp. leaf oregano, crumbled
    3 Tbsp. butter, ghee, or coconut oil
    smoked Gouda or smoked cheddar, sliced
    optional: roll or bun


    1. Wash lentils; add water and bring to boil. Lower heat & simmer 15 minutes covered. Add onion & carrots. Cook 15 minutes longer. Drain, reserving liquid, & cool.

    2. Stir crumbs, eggs, & seasonings into lentil mixture. Add some of the reserved liquid, if needed, to hold the burger together better.

    3. Melt butter in skillet. Drop lentil mixture by rounded one-third cupfuls into hot butter. Flatten & cook until brown on one side. Flip, top with slice of cheese, and continue cooking until brown on the other side. Place on cookie sheet & keep warm in low oven until all patties are cooked.

    makes approx. 6 burgers

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Grilled Peach Salad

       This is from a random cookbook that my mom got free at Costco. They had a few good recipes in there that we'll be trying out.


    2-3 peaches cut into wedges
    1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tsp. salt
    4-5 cups mixed greens
    chopped glazed pecans
    crumbled feta cheese

    3 Tbsp. rice or white wine vinegar
    1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
    1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 tsp. sugar
    1/2 tsp. sea salt


    1. Preheat grill to medium high. To prepare dressing, combine vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly pour oil into the bowl, stirring constantly to emulsify. Stir in sugar and salt.
    2. Place peaches in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Place on grill and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side.
    3. Place mixed greens in a bowl. Add pecans, feta, and grilled peaches. Drizzle salad with dressing and gently toss to coat.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Orzo-Stuffed Peppers

    adapted from Giada's Kitchen: New Italian favorites

    This was a treat to make. We had home-grown tomatoes, zucchini, mint, and basil to enjoy. The red bell peppers were on sale for $0.49 each, so the meal was planned before I knew it. We ate this with a Caprese salad on the side to make it a meat-less meal, but I do think these would pair nicely with a grilled little something on the side. Next time, I will try incorporating a stronger cheese within the bell pepper to give it a little more punch.


    1 (28 oz) can whole Italian tomatoes- I used 3 large fresh tomatoes
    2 medium zucchini, grated
    1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
    1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
    optional: stronger cheese like Gorgonzola or Feta
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    dash of Italian seasoning
    dash of oregano
    4 cups low-sodium chicken broth {can use vegetable broth to make it truly vegetarian}
    1 1/2 cups orzo
    6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)
    1/4 cup fresh basil, for garnish


    1. Pour tomatoes and their juices into a large blow and break them into pieces. Add zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

    2. Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes.  The orzo will only be partially cooked. Drain the orzo through a sieve, reserving the chicken broth and add the orzo to the large bowl with the vegetables. Stir to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.

    3. Slice the tops off the peppers and removed all ribs and seeds. Cut a very thing slice fro the base to help peppers stand up, if needed. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Place the peppers in the backing dish with the warm chicken broth. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 min. Remove the foil, sprinkle each peppers with cheese, and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the stuffed peppers to serving plates. Garnish with basil, if desired.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Chicken Salad Salad

    It sounds a little redundant, but I think that is the best name for it. Here is an easy way to take something delicious (but not exactly that healthy) and make it a little better and substantial.


    Chicken Salad
    4 cups cooked chicken (or make it easy with a rotisserie)
    2 cups cooked brown rice
    1-2 cups grapes
    1 1/2 cups diced celery
    2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces

    2 Tbsp. orange juice
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

    Base for salad
    crunchy greens- like romaine, torn or chopped
    lots of red bell pepper, diced or Julienne
    1 cup slivered almonds

    1. Prepare the chicken salad by combining chicken through pineapple in a large bowl. In a small bowl, prepare dressing and when combined add to large bowl.

    2. Just prior to serving, layer the green salad with the chicken salad- adding almonds on top for extra crunch. Garnish with green onion or parsley, if desired.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Sour Cream Coffee Cake

     Can you tell I've been eating my feelings lately? Don't worry, this was actually made for a get-together for Nick's work. It wasn't until Sunday morning that he realized we should probably bring something and the event was that afternoon. Luckily, this is made with things that are almost always on hand.
        I can be tricky to check the 'doneness' of a bunt cake unless you have super long toothpicks. Or uncooked spaghetti noodles. These work well...unless you accidentally let it snap inside and later your husband thinks he is eating a fingernail. Otherwise, it works really well. {This happened maybe 4 years ago, and I've since perfected the spaghetti technique.}
      Another cooking mishap happened a few years ago when I made this for a breakfast at work- only to find out that one of the cupboard corner cushions had somehow fallen into the batter and found it's way into the gym teacher's mouth. 

    In conclusion: delicious with or without hidden goodies inside.
    Lest you think I am completely careless, these are the worst things that have happened in the kitchen... that I'm aware of :)


    1 generous cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 generous cup finely chopped walnuts
    1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

    3 cups flour
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    3/4 tsp. salt
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    3 large eggs
    1 1/2 cup sour cream

    1 cup powdered sugar
    3-4 Tbsp. milk
    1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour bunt pan. In a medium bowl, use a pastry blender to combine filling ingredients until crumbly. Set aside.

    2. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Alternate adding flour mixture (approx. 1 cup) and sour cream (1/3 cup) to the sugar mixture- at a time, beating on low speed until combined. Repeat two additional times.

    3. Pour 1/3 of batter into the prepared pan and layer with 1/3 of filling. Repeat with additional layers. 

    4. Bake for 1 hour- until toothpick in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool an additional 20 minutes. Prepare glaze and drizzle over coffee cake. Serve warm or room temperature.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Crumb layer

     Since deciding to and then actually going to Italy, we haven't been doing much in the way of gifts. 
    Christmas? "Italy"
    Valentine's Day? "Italy"
    Easter? "Italy" 
    Mother's Day? "Italy" 
    Anniversary? "Italy" 
    So when it came to Father's Day the answer was easy.

    I did ask Nick what dessert he'd like and carrot cake was his choice. Good choice.
    I think probably a lot of people know how to properly frost a cake so it doesn't get crumbs all over. Judging by this, I clearly didn't.

    Here is a little something that seemed to be the ticket...
    make a 'crumb coat' or crumb layer: ensure cake is entirely cooled, brush off any crumbs, take a bit of the frosting (like a 1/3 or 1/4 of it) and dilute it with water or milk (I used milk), apply all over cake so it appears to be glazed, and allow to cool/harden a bit in the fridge (30 min or so)
    apply the remainder of frosting, lick remaining frosting from the dish.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Cheese Tortellini with Pepper and Almond Sauce

    adapted from Quick Food

    {re-post} This is a great meal that can be almost entirely made ahead of time. I made the 'pesto' earlier in the day, then when it was time to cook the pasta all I had to do was add the pesto. I bet the pesto would freeze well, too.


    1 red pepper
    1 yellow pepper
    2/3 cup sliced almonds
    8 scallions
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 lb. cheese tortellini
    1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
    1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese


    1. Cute the peppers into large pieces, removing the seeds and membrane. Place, skin-side up, under a preheated broiler until the skin blackens and blisters. Cool in a plastic bag, then peel away the skin.

    2. Spread the almonds on a cookie sheet and toast 1-2 minutes in oven, until lightly toasted.

    3. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, roughly chop the white part of the scallions and slice the green tops, setting the green tops aside for garnish. Put the peppers, almonds, garlic, and white part of scallions in a food processor or blender and pulse until chopped.

    4. When pasta is finished, drain and return to saucepan. Toss the pepper mixture through the pasta, then add olive oil and Pecorino. Season to taste. Serve garnished with green scallions.

    Serves 4.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011


    Yep. You've seen this beauty before. But I made it while I was in Denver and my mom & Greg loved it as much as we did. I even shared a little with Siena...and that's a big deal.

    Honey Lime Enchiladas

    adapted from many-a-cooking blog, originally from The Sisters Cafe

    Weird. I just noticed that I posted this June 25, 2010- almost exactly a year ago. Well, after a year of eating this many times I think I've found my favorite way to prepare it. Adding black beans and fresh chopped spinach as well as omitting the cream make these a little bit healthier and even more tasty.


    4-5 Tbsp. honey
    juice from 2 small or 1 large lime (approx 5 Tbsp.)
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    2 tsp. chili powder
    1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and shredded (approx. 2 large chicken breasts)
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    fresh baby spinach, to taste (I do maybe 3-4 oz?)
    12 8-inch whole wheat or flour tortillas
    Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (or Mexican blend)
    14 oz. green enchilada sauce (I'm partial to Hatch enchilada sauce)
    1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half (*can omit entirely)


    1. Mix the honey, lime juice, garlic powder, and chili powder in a small bowl. Add the shredded chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour, but up to several hours.

    2.  Take spinach leaves, stack several, roll up and chop. Repeat as needed until all spinach is chopped.

    3. Pour 1/2 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan. Fill tortillas with chicken & bean mixture, spinach, and shredded cheese (saving enough cheese to sprinkle on top) and roll tightly. Mix the remaining enchilada sauce with the cream and leftover marinade. Pour on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. *Last time I didn't use any cream and I didn't miss it at all. Promise.

    3. Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for 20-30 minutes, until brown and crispy on top.

    Serves 4-6.

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Salad Central

    After being in Italy for nearly 6 weeks {and thus eating meals primarily constructed of carbs for nearly 6 weeks} it was time for a little detox. We ate salads for a week straight featuring some of these... a great way to get in some greens and satisfy my craving for Asian & Mexican.

    {this time with ground beef}

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Asian Noodle Salad

    adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman

    The 'final product' picture was taken in extreme haste, but hopefully the bottom picture is enough encouragement to try this. Only changes I made were personal preferences- this dish serves a ton, and I thought it tasted better the 2nd day (only adding dressing just prior to serving). This is a fantastic way to get tons of veggies in at once.


    1 package whole wheat Linguine noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled
    1/2 head sliced Napa cabbage
    1/2 head sliced purple cabbage
    5-8 oz. baby spinach
    1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
    1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
    chopped cilantro (up to 1 bunch, to taste)
    3 whole scallions, sliced

    optional: cucumbers, peeled and sliced
                    mung bean sprouts
                    almonds or cashews, lightly toasted

    1 whole lime, juiced
    1 tsp. lime zest
    8 Tbsp. olive oil
    8 Tbsp. soy sauce
    2-3 Tbsp. sesame oil
    1/3 cup brown sugar
    3-5 Tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
    2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
    1-2 jalapenos, chopped
    additional chopped cilantro {dressing will keep up to 3 days w/o cilantro added}

    1. Prepare pasta. Chop veggies til your hands hurt. Mix salad ingredients together. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve on a platter.