Friday, August 3, 2012

Day 45: Texas Sweet Tea

My guys LOVE sweet tea! See those empty pitchers behind the glasses?? They've been filled and emptied twice now with this tea. Both pitchers, twice, now empty! These are the last 2 glasses, and I assure you, the tea is gone now and I'm brewing yet another gallon.

When we go to any restaurant, Jason's first question is, "Do you have sweet tea?" You may be asking yourself, "Why is he asking for it if she can make it?" Well, I just learned how. I was using a recipe I have had for years, but it was missing something! It was OK, but he craved (to the point of driving however many hours to the nearest restaurant that had the type he craved)! When he found a restaurant within an hour's time had moved in, he was in heaven. He could satisfy his craving for a brief shiny split second until he got home and finished the cup he'd bought.

Until I had a friend in Texas give me the secret that all these Southern places had been keeping from all us Yankees!

Know what? I kinda feel a little stunned. When she first told me what it was, I really doubted it. In fact, I didn't even try this recipe for like 3 months. Until Jason found out I had it.... Then it was on!

Oh, the secret? Why 1/4 teaspoon baking soda! That's right!! Simple baking soda!

The order things get done is very important, too, but without the baking soda, it's no better than any of the stuff I'd been making up 'till now.

Who knew?

Here's the order:

1. Boil 4 cups of water.

2. While that is boiling, place 1/4 tsp baking soda in the bottom of a gallon pitcher and then 6-7 family-size or 12 regular-size tea bags.

3. When the water is boiling, pour over the tea bags and steep for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the tea bags (do with them what you will, I know some people keep them for beauty reasons or plant care, but that is another post) and pour in between 1 and 1/2 cups to 2 cups of whatever sugar you use. (I use either sugar in the raw or plain sugar) (Also, I use 1 and 1/2 cups 'cause I like mine exactly like you get in the diners.) Make sure all the sugar dissolves in the warm water.

5. Pour in 12 cups cool water. Stir it up. Refrigerate for however long you like. (I can barely get them to wait 30 minutes.)

6. Pour over tall glasses of ice. Drink. Swoon. Repeat.

Off to make yet more tea! I think Jason's love of sweet tea is gonna keep me busy for a long long long time!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 44: Dole Pineapple Whips

This delicious cream (which this picture really doesn't do justice) has, before now, only been found in one of three locations. Disney World, Disneyland, and the Dole plantation in Hawaii.

In it's natural habitat, (which is in the Magic Kingdom, or the Polynesian Resort, or Dole), its appearance is more like a soft serve and ferociously hunted by tourists. The craving for this delight, once you leave one of the three locations, can only be compared to that of an addict!

Tired after a day of hunting!
It doesn't have a lot of sugar, doesn't have a lot of dairy, and, unless you despise pineapple, offers a really refreshing way to enjoy pineapple without a lot of junk. It has mostly pineapple, lemon and lime juices.

I still have to play with the recipe a bit to get more of a soft serve consistency, but that's only because I don't own an ice cream maker. Maybe whip the cream a bit more before adding it, or reducing the pineapple juice. We'll see.

But even with it's non-set consistency it was so so good!

My mind is focused on finding ways to use this. So far, I've thought of blending it with vanilla ice cream and making a shake or sundae. Or perhaps, since the consistency is more like whipped cream instead of ice cream, using it on pie. Hmmm! Or cheesecake! I can't wait to try it all!

This recipe doesn't replace the original Disney creation, but it does help with the rabid cravings in between vacations. :^D

P.S. We used actual cut up pineapple that we pureed in the blender, but two cans of Dole crushed pineapple drained with 2 tablespoons juice reserved would do nicely!


2 cans (20 oz. each) Dole crushed pineapple
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped


1. Drain pineapple; reserve 2 tablespoons of the juice.

2. Blend the pineapple with the lemon juice, lime juice, reserved pineapple juice and sugar until it is smooth.

3. Place in freezer safe container and freeze for 1 to 2 hours, until it becomes a slushie consistency.

4. Stir whipped cream into the pineapple slush and combine well.

5. Freeze until it reaches your desired consistency. (We would prefer soft serve, but whatever floats your boat!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 43: Chicken Scarpariello

So, I happened to be channel surfing the other day, (the ONLY type of surfing I do), when I stumbled upon a show called "Best Thing I Ever Ate." It happened to be the Las Vegas edition. Chef Anne Burrell was talking about this chicken dish she had only seen at this place there and how good it was. I agreed with her that it looked amazing so I attempted to look up a recipe for it.

This happens to be one of those Italian dishes that everybody who has an Italian grandmother has their own family's version of it. So, I used the best food sense that I have (learnt from various food shows over the years) and pulled together what seems to me the best of all of them.

My family thanks me from the bottom of their stomachs! :^D

The chicken is so tender. The sausage adds a not-too-spicy kick as does the cherry peppers. There's not a bit about this dish that disappoints! It is a dish that I am not ashamed to call delicious!

Most of the recipes called for bone-in chicken, but we only had boneless skinless available. No idea if the bone-in stuff would add anything. Just FYI.

Simple too! Fry up the sausage, brown the chicken on both sides, sauté the onions and garlic, add white wine and chicken stock (can skip the wine and add more stock or water if desired), simmer for 20 minutes, enjoy!

We chose to serve it over a bed of rice pilaf which soaked up all the sauce. You could go with a side of roast potatoes (or no side at all) and it would just make it more soupy. Soupy is more traditional, just so ya know!


3 chicken breasts, cut in half (your choice of bone-in or not)
1 pound sausage (cut into bite-size pieces) (we used Hillshire Farms)
Extra virgin olive oil (for oiling the pan)
Salt (we used Kosher) (for seasoning the chicken)
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup white cooking wine (if opt out just add the same amount of more stock)
1 cup hot cherry peppers, cut into 1/4 slices
1 cup hot cherry pepper juice (from the jar)
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp oregano (3 sprigs if fresh)


1. Heat about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Cook the sausage until well browned and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.

3. Season the chicken well with salt and add it to the sausage fat in the skillet and brown on both sides and remove it from the pan to a plate.

4. If necessary, add more olive oil to the skillet and heat it back up over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Add the white wine and reduce it by half, making sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet.

6. Return the chicken and sausage back to the skillet and add the cherry peppers, pepper juice, chicken stock and oregano to the pan.

7. Bring to a boil then reduce it to a simmer. Continue to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Then remove the cover and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

8. Add more chicken stock if it has reduced too much. Taste and season according to your preferences.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 42: Chicken Piccata

Having chronic health issues means part of this blog's purpose is putting recipes out there that our 16-year-old (how can he be 16??) can follow. He's becoming quite the chef! He's even putting meal ideas out there to try. How awesome is that!?

One of those meals is chicken piccata. He saw it on Worst Cooks in America on Food Network, and just wanted to try making it.

Am I ever glad we tried it! It's really really good! Creamy-lemony with capers served over a bed of rice pilaf is perfection.

He learned how to filet chicken breasts in half as well as fine-tuned his chopping skills (veggies), and then learned about thickening sauce with butter. All in all, a very educational meal experience for him.

The amazing part of teaching him cooking skills is watching when he goes to restaurants (Disney restaurants were especially fun for me) and asks culinary questions of the wait staff. They are always amazed and that makes me proud! I know he can judge how a meal is cooked, and if need be, he can explain why he needs to send a dish back to be redone. And the recipes. He will always ask for the recipes of dishes he enjoys.

A side bonus of him learning this is his eating habits have greatly improved! He used to be a junk food snacker. Now he enjoys cutting fresh veggies or fruit!

Now if I can just teach him portion control.... Given that he's a healthy teenage boy? Yeah, I'm dreaming!


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied then cut in half
Kosher salt and black pepper, to season chicken
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped


1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess and rest on a baking sheet.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of the chicken and cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove it from the pan and transfer to a plate. Repeat, adding another 2 tablespoons of butter and oil, with the remaining 2 pieces of chicken. Place them onto the plate with the first 2 pieces of chicken.

3, Into the skillet, add the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers. Bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Taste for seasoning needs.

4. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a platter.

5. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 41: Sour Cream and Bacon Crockpot Chicken

So, as promised, this is what I did with the leftover soup yesterday.

I took it and made awesome out of it!

For years, I've been using canned soup to make this meal. Boy, was I missing out on so much flavor!!

I simply wrapped bacon around each breast half, placed it in the crockpot, covered it in soup, let it cook on low for 5 hours. That's it! Well, I mixed sour cream into the soup, but that is implied in the name of this dish.

I served it over rice, but you could easily use egg noodles or couscous.

I have been using the crockpot lately to cook dishes I normally bake. Anytime I can not heat up the house is good. (Except in winter when we're trying to do that.) Many of my staple recipes have been met with pretty good results, too.


8 bacon slices
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
20 oz cream of mushroom soup (2 10 oz cans is fine, I just prefer homemade)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-low heat until some of the fat is rendered. Be sure that the bacon is still pliable and not crisp. Drain on paper towels. (If you prefer, you can double the flour and not render the bacon.)

2.  Wrap one slice of bacon around each boneless chicken breast and place in a 4.5 quart crockpot.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, and flour and mix with a wire whisk to blend. Pour over the chicken.

4. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the chicken and bacon are thoroughly cooked. (For newer crockpots, you may want to check the chicken at 5 hours. Internal temperature should be 160-170 degrees F.)

5. Remove the chicken to a platter and whisk the sauce so it is very well blended and pour over the chicken.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 40: Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

So, our camera's casing somehow got cracked, meaning Best Buy has our camera for about 2 weeks. (Technically, they sent it to Nikon to be repaired, but still, no camera for 2 weeks.) Blah! So, the pics are gonna have to go back to our point-and-shoot and/or our phones. This picture happens to be taken on the new iPad 3! (Apparently, the iPad 2 has a mic problem, so mine got replaced! Woot for new toys!)

My family has been fighting sickness lately, so I've been trying to make soups. Given my decision to not buy canned/jarred items, I had to go looking for really good recipes for homemade. Less sodium, healthier ingredients, better tasting!

Plus, the rest of this soup was used for an awesome chicken recipe that I'll be posting soon!

This was basically a simple soup base of butter, onion, garlic, and flour mixed with heavy cream and chicken stock. I probably should have used vegetable stock, but this is what I had on hand, so I used it. As the title of this post suggests, I put mushrooms in there. They're not mandatory and if you leave them out, this makes a very nice cream of (whatever you wish) soup! Cream of chicken would work really well! Just replace mushrooms for the appropriate amount (I'm thinking roughly 2 cups) of chicken, or cauliflower, or potatoes, or celery. You get the picture.


3 Tbsp butter
6 oz sliced Portabella mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized pieces
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups half-n-half
2 Tbsp dry sherry (optional, I didn't use it)
14 3/4 oz (a little less than 2 cups) chicken broth
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp water
Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste (I didn't use the Tabasco)


1. In a 4 1/2 quart stock pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the Portabella pieces with the button mushroom slices. Cook about 4 minutes. Add the onions (and the sherry if using) and cook for another minute to soften the onions (and evaporate the alcohol, if using the sherry).

2. Add chicken broth, cover, and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat back to low and simmer for 3 minutes.

3. Combine the flour and water in a small bowl and whisk it with a fork until all the lumps disappear.

4. Raise the heat on the soup to medium and stir in the half-n-half. Give the cornstarch another whisk with the fork and add that to the pot as well, stirring constantly. Cook until thick.

5 Season with Tabasco (if using) salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Day 39: Cinnamon Roll Cake

Ever have a Cinnabon? Love them? Then do I have the cake for you! Seriously, like heaven on a plate! This lovely cake tastes just like them! And the scary part (or awesome depending on your perspective) is all the ingredients are everyday kitchen staples! I can whip this baby up whenever I want!

Well, as long as I have 40-ish minutes, that is! And, the necessary stuff, but as I mentioned, I almost always do! This is sinful!

I apologize for the calories you will intake, but only kinda sorry 'cause then I won't be the only one. :^D

Sorry I don't have a better pic of the glaze that is on this!
Also, the diabetic coma. It's worth it!

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp butter, melted
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cups nuts (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

2. Grease (or spray with non-stick spray) a 9x13 baking pan.

3. With an electric mixer or stand mixer, mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined well, slowly stir in 4 tablespoons melted butter. Pour batter into your prepared baking pan.

4. In a large bowl, mix the 2 sticks of softened butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nuts (if using) until well combined. Drop even spoonfuls over the cake batter and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out nearly clean from center.

6. Place powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake.

7. Serve warm or room temperature. (Straight out of the oven is devine!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 38: Parmesan Tilapia

It used to be that whenever I was under the weather (whether a simple flu/cold or a chronic condition), we'd have to order out, or worse, make something quick and easy like pre-packaged burritos or Banquet pot pies. The problems with any of those solutions are they get old really fast and they aren't really healthy, like, at all!

Then, I got the brilliant idea to teach Jay (he was 13 at the time) some simple meals that he could make when I was worthless. That idea blossomed into my own personal chef that can probably out cook me! He also is way more willing to try pretty much anything! Win-win!

Seriously, Jay (who is almost 16 now) made this meal! He also is able to make pretty much anything I've posted so far, and is scouring the cookbooks and internet for his own ideas so he can show me up.

I love that even when I am unable or unavailable to cook, my family doesn't have to resort to unhealthy choices! And that Jay is gonna make some girl REALLY happy some day! And not starve when he's in college!


6 Tilapia filets
3/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp basil
2 Tbsp thyme
2 Tbsp oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Either in a microwave or a small saucepan, melt the butter with the garlic. Allow to cool slightly.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, thyme, basil, oregano, salt and pepper thoroughly.

4. Dip a tilapia filet in the butter mixture then the bread crumb mixture. Place into a 9x13 baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the filets.

5. Bake until golden brown and flaky, about 15-20 minutes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 37: Irish Stew

We had a good friend from church bless us with something like 30 pounds of beef. (Not really sure, but it seemed like that much!) My freezer is stocked!! 

Some of that beef was stew meat, which was perfect for this recipe! (Also the stroganoff I made a few nights ago!) 

The beef was the best cut I've ever seen! It didn't take a lot of effort to cut, which is really saying something since all my knives need sharpened pretty badly! And after it was cooked, it simply melted in your mouth! If she wants to keep blessing us with this stuff, who am I to complain?! From the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs), we thank you, LeAnn!

And, look at the first thing we did with it:

Part of this recipe involved Guinness beer. I know some people frown on the use of it, but since the alcohol cooks off, I don't see the harm in it. (If you do have an issue with it, you can substitute non-alcoholic beer or even just water with no big problem.)

Guinness is a very... let's say flavorful beer. Definitely not a weak drink! I admit I did try some when I went to Ireland a few years back, and I gotta say, it was awful! So, I was kind of worried the stew would retain too much of the beer strength so I added potatoes to help soak it up a bit with their starch. And, really, what is an Irish dish without the potatoes??

Worked like a charm! And the Guinness made the celery (a veggie low on my likes list) so tasty! Seriously, folks! This stew brought tears to my eyes, tears of joy! So, so good!! Every hearty bite melts in your mouth!

I am totally adding this recipe to my list of all-time favorites!

This also gave me an excuse to use the cast iron dutch oven that used to be my Dad's bean pot! I love that pot!

(I think I need an exclamation point intervention!)


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 pounds beef (or lamb) stew meat (I cut mine into 1-inch chunks)
3 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) Guinness beer (we used draught in a can)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 celery stalks, sliced into 1/2-inch chunks
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup water


1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over high heat. Stir in stew meat and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until the meat is browned.

2. Stir in the broth, beer, garlic, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

3. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion; mix well, then cook for 1 hour, or until meat is tender.

4. In a small bowl, mix flour and the water; stir into the stew and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce is thickened.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 36: Nutella Filled Sugar Cookies

Saturday, I had a couple of friends over knowing these friends have a love for Nutella that equals my own. I'm always on the lookout for recipes involving Nutella! So when Karly over at Buns in My Oven posted this recipe, I had to invite my Nutella-lovin' friends over and make these!

My husband had a similar reaction to hers. In fact, I had to force him to get this picture before he ate them, and it about killed him!

It's a simple stuffed cookie recipe that absolutely will knock your socks off! So so good!!!


1/2 cup Nutella
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla


1. Using a teaspoon measure, scoop out Nutella and place in small drops on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add in the vanilla.

5. Turn the mixer to low and gradually beat in the flour mixture until just combined. Make sure to scrape the bowl to ensure everything is mixed in well.

6. Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Use 2 tablespoons cookie doug for each cookie. Split the piece of dough in half and slightly flatten the bottom half by pressing it together with the palms of your hands.

7. Use a small metal spatula to lift the mounds of Nutella from the baking sheet and lay on the bottom half of the flattened dough. (If the Nutella starts to soften, place it back in the freezer for a few minutes.) Cover the Nutella with the other piece of cookie dough and seal the edges with your fingers and roll the ball in the sugar to coat it. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

8. Repeat with the remaining dough and Nutella mounds, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart from each other.

9. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, rotating from front to back halfway through the baking. The edges will start to turn brown when they are finished, about 10 to 13 minutes. The centers should still be soft and puffy.

10. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then cool on a rack. They can be served warm.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 35: Beef Stroganoff

It's been an amazing March weather-wise! So warm, in fact, that I don't want to run my oven. (Which is a shame since I have a zillion recipes that call for baking!)

So, I scoured my list of dishes I want to blog about for something that didn't require the oven. Stroganoff jumped out of the box and into my hand, forced my feet into the kitchen and placed itself onto my microwave. (I magnet the recipes on the microwave since it's over the stove.)

The only place I've had "from scratch" stroganoff has been restaurants. I did make stroganoff from a Hamburger Helper box a lot before my skills improved, but that really does not count in the "from scratch" category! So, I was sufficiently intimidated by this meal.

I totally shouldn't have been intimidated! It was simple and the pre-packaged stuff just doesn't compare to this!

Plus, I got to use fresh mushrooms and onions, which I've been craving, so win!

Look at those lovely freshly chopped beauties!
This was simply sautéing the onions and mushrooms, adding the beef, then the other ingredients and simmering for 40 minutes. The sour cream gets added after you take it off the heat and then you pour the stroganoff mixture over the noodles and viola!

I'm loving the "no pre-packaged if I can make it myself" rule! It's revolutionized my meal plan!


1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
3 Tbsp flour
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small white onion, sliced
14 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups beef stock
3 Tbsp sour cream (additional for garnish may be necessary)
8 ounces egg noodles, cooked and drained


1. Toss beef in flour, salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Heat skillet on medium heat. Add 1/2 Tbsp oil. Sauté onions until almost transparent and add the mushrooms. Continue to sauté until the onions are transparent.

3. Add remaining oil and, once heated, add beef. Brown on all sides.

4. Add the tomato paste and cook to carmelize. Add the beef stock and deglaze the pan. Lower heat to a simmer.

5. Simmer for 40 minutes, until beef is tender.

6. Turn off heat and add sour cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Top cooked noodles with stroganoff mixture and garnish with additional sour cream, if desired.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 34: Irish Grilled Cheese

In honor of St Patrick's Day, I thought I'd dress my food up in green.

All you have to do is mash 4 tablespoons of softened butter with 2 tablespoons each chopped parsley, scallions, and chives. Spread the mixture on 4 slices of white bread. Top each slice with sliced cheddar cheese and bread-and-butter pickles. Cover with 4 more bread slices. Spread plain butter on the outside of the sandwiches and fry in a skillet until golden on both sides. Spread the remaining herb butter on the warm sandwiches; slice into quarters and press the cut sides in more cut herbs.

It was an easy way to pep up a simple everyday grilled cheese!  And it was so so tasty!

Idea courtesy of Food Network.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 33: Sausage and Peppers

This Saturday is St Patrick's Day and growing up, I was never really a fan of the traditional corned beef nor cabbage. (Although now, I love them!) My mom, having a large group of children who wouldn't eat the traditional Irish meal, fed us sausage! Usually, it was in the form of Lil' Smokies, you know, the tiny smoked sausages, and macaroni and cheese. Not very Irish, but we loved it, and since they weren't the cheapest item, it was a rarity! Also, when the house smelled of cabbage, we knew we were gonna get the little wienies.

I have a hard time eating the little things today, not to mention the way I find boxed mac n' cheese gritty. My taste buds have matured. (Or I'm a food snob, whatever!)

Now, at least once in the month of March, I make sausage and peppers! This meal is so simple, yet so flavorful and, well, just yummy! So tasty, yet so simple, too!

I have it pictured up there with mashed potatoes, but that was because we had leftovers. Usually, I'd serve these with roasted, however, we are having a very warm March and that means the least amount of time I can have my oven on the better.


1 pound Ekrich Smoked Sausage, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced julienne
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced julienne
1 medium yellow onion, sliced julienne
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste


1. In a large skillet, heat the oil.

2.  Add the garlic and cook until slightly browned.

3. Add in the bell peppers and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for two minutes.

4. Add in the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage and peppers are heated through.

5. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 32: Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Happy Pi Day!! (3-14)

To celebrate, I made frozen peanut butter pie! (I've mentioned before my love of peanut butter?) The recipe called for a normal 9 inch pie, but that wasn't enough for me. So, I doubled the recipe and made it in my 9x13 Pyrex.

Now that I've tasted this heaven, I wish I would have made two...

Sticking to my "if I can make it, I don't buy the pre-made" plan, I whipped the heavy cream myself. It was my first time doing that, and it really wasn't as hard as I was thinking it was. Which really is a scary thought cause I could have whipped cream all the time now!

I didn't make the peanut butter or the sandwich cookies, even though I do have recipes for them. I just really wanted to make sure this turned out first before I started playing with what I could or could not make happen.

Also, I topped it with a crushed king-size Snickers bar. Also have a recipe for that, but see the previous paragraph.

I used my Ninja blender that I got for Christmas (I've been using this for so many things and I LOVE it!) to crush the cookies for the crust, but you could simply use a quart-size Ziploc baggie and a rolling pin.

Then, I whipped up the cream, added the peanut butter and some condensed milk, crumbled the Snickers (also using the Ninja) on top. Voila!

Hardest part of this lovely was the four hour wait time as it froze. Why must all good things have a wait time?? Perhaps so we won't be tempted to make an excess of them?


3 cups finely crushed Oreo cookies (about 30 cookies)
6 Tbsp butter, melted
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 (3.29 oz.) king-sized Snickers candy bar, coarsely crushed


1. Either in a food processor, blender, or Ziploc baggie, crush the cookies until they are finely crushed.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and butter; mix well. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Add sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter, and beat until thoroughly mixed.

4. Spoon peanut better mixture evenly onto the cookie crust. Sprinkle chopped candy on top, cover and freeze at least 4 hours before serving.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 31: Worcestershire and Butter Steak

So, I recently celebrated my 38th birthday. When Jason asked what I wanted, I thought of three different meals that I truly consider my favorites. Two of them I would have to cook myself and I didn't want to do that on my birthday!

I went with the third option: steak! However, I didn't want just any steak. I wanted a steak that was well-planned and executed to perfection! I mean, I deserved that on my birthday, especially after all the other meals everyone gets to enjoy, right?

What better solution than mixing up some Worcestershire and butter to marinate it in all day before grilling it to awesome! It was so juicy! And, just what my anemic self needed!

The best part of this meal: two really good friends from Kentucky came up and surprised me! Thanks, guys, for making my birthday all the more special!

Also, the leftovers made an excellent salad!

Sun-dried tomatoes with grilled steak salad, yummy!


4 8-ounce sirloin steaks
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 stick butter, melted
Garlic salt to sprinkle on each side *optional*


1. Place the steaks into a quart-sized Ziploc baggie.

2. Melt butter either in a sauce pan or microwave and let cool. Mix in the Worcestershire thoroughly and pour into the baggie with the steaks.

3. Shake to coat the steaks with the marinade and place in a bowl or pan and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.

4. Heat your grill. (We use a charcoal grill, so I have no idea what to set a gas grill to. Sorry.) For a medium doneness, cook about 5-7 minutes per side. (Feel free to cook it to your preferences.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 30: Spaghetti

I've always been one to use time-savers. Spaghetti was no exception to this rule. If I could buy a jar of sauce, box of pre-made noodles, pre-shredded cheese, and pre-made bread, all the more time to surf mindless hours on the Internet!

When I decided to check into little dietary changes that could possibly improve our health, I started reading labels. Boy, was I shocked! Do you know how much sodium is in the average jar of spaghetti sauce?? And just what is that stuff coating the pre-shredded cheese to preserve it?? Not to mention what that stuff they call butter substitute on the garlic bread! I was appalled at what my culinary laziness was doing to us! I mean, it's not like I had a job that took up any time. I'm a stay-at-home mom!

Something had to give! Both Jason and I struggle with chronic diseases that, if left unchecked, could disable us! Jason has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and I've yet to be diagnosed (insurance pending). I've read all sorts of ideas about dietary changes that could improve our situations, and really, it's completely been worth it to make these little subtle differences.

The easiest has been to stop buying stuff in jars or boxes that somebody had to stuff with artificial crud like preservatives. Just this change helped take some of the weight off and that alone has helped with the feeling better!

I haven't learned quite a lot about making my own ingredients yet, but I'm in this for the long haul! While I can't make the noodles, yet, the sauce is completely in my realm of do-able, as is the bread.

Growing up, whenever we were tight on money, Mom would take the time to make her own spaghetti sauce. It was pretty good. She simply put in tomato paste and sauce and some spices. (I'm sure I'm simplifying what she put in, but these are the ingredients I remember!) Voila! Meal for our large brood relatively cheap!

I wasn't happy with the recipes I could track down, so I tweaked one from an old cookbook I've had forever. It's not totally healthy, but WAY better for you than the sauce you get in the jar and didn't really add too much to the cook/prep time of spaghetti!

Jason calls this stuff "Awesome Sauce" and swears I could market it under "Cindy's Awesome Sauce," so, coming from a guy who never wanted homemade sauce before, that's a pretty good review!

This sauce can be made ahead of time. It will keep for several days covered and refrigerated, which saves me time and gives me a meal I can whip up quickly on days I need something fast that won't compromise my new motto of "a little more healthy."


1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 large tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup water


1. Brown the beef in a heavy-bottomed pot. Drain off the fat.

2. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomatoes, seasonings, Worcestershire and water. Simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Serve with spaghetti or your favorite pasta.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day 29: Turkey Enchiladas

While trying to come up with ways to use the tons of leftover turkey we ended up with, my Aunt Nicky mentioned how easy enchiladas were. I had never made them, so it was worth a shot. We love Mexican food just as much as any other here, and since the best authentic place closed down recently, we've really been craving it.

I altered a couple recipes (all I could find were for chicken so I improvised) to match what we already had on hand, 'cept the tortillas which Jason had to run to the store for. These quite possibly are the best I've ever eaten. I'm not sure if it was the way the turkey was cooked or I'm getting better at figuring out what ingredients go with the others. Either way, these rocked!

I simply mixed the turkey, butter, cheddar, sour cream, and onion in a bowl; rolled 'em into tortillas; put them in a prepped baking dish, topped with homemade salsa, covered in aluminum foil and baked.

Then, I removed the foil topped with more cheddar and back into the oven to let that melt and the edges to get crisp.

Very simple but oh so good!!

I'm starting to find it difficult to buy pre-made meals anymore; and that's OK!


1 Tbsp butter, softened
4 cups cooked and shredded turkey
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
6 8-inch flour tortillas
2 cups salsa (I made my own, but store bought is fine)


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with the butter and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, 2 1/2 cups of the grated cheese, sour cream, onion, and some salt and pepper. Mix well.

4. Place the tortillas on a work surface and spoon about 1 cup of the chicken mixture onto the center of each one. Roll them up and place into the prepared baking dish, seam side down. (It will be a tight fit.)

5. Scatter the salsa over the top.

6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.

7. Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the whole top. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the edges of the tortillas are just beginning to get crisp, about 5 to 8 more minutes.

8. Serve hot.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 28: BLT

This week, Jason and I got in on a ginormous meat sale! Seriously, it was like Black Friday in there! So many people wanting meats! All together, I think we scored 20 pounds of chicken, beef, and steak each as well as 15 pounds of bacon for less than $80!

We're all set in the meat department! :^D

So, after we realized that we had to try and fit all 75 pounds of meat in our regular freezer (because our deep freezer seems to not want to work right now), I had to work my mad puzzle skills to squeeze it all in! Even then, I couldn't find space for 2 pounds of ground beef, 4 8-ounce sirloins, and 3 pounds of bacon! However, there was an unplanned cleaning out of the fridge and freezer. Science experiments were growing in there!

Anyway, I needed to use up some of that unfrozen meat. What better way to use bacon than BLTs? There isn't one, that's what!

Pshaw! You say BLTs are too tame for this blog adventure? Did you see that pic up there?? No? Go, scroll back up. I'll wait here. Did you see it? The bacon is woven into a perfect square! That's right! Now it fits on your bread and none of it falls off as you eat every delicious bacon-y bite!

The first time I saw it (on Pinterest) I was amazed! Also kind of skeptical. I mean, how does one fry that up? Well, one doesn't! One bakes it! Which makes the cooking a little less messy, to boot! A-maz-ing!

You simply take 3 pieces of bacon, cut them in half, weave them together, and bake on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 18-20 minutes depending on your bacon doneness preferences. It's simple!

This method is great for not easily burning the bacon, which sometimes happens when I cook it in a skillet. I prefer my bacon that way anyway, but neither Jason nor Jay do, so (I'll admit) I sometimes let it burn on purpose so I'd get a couple extra slices! (I know, for shame!) We're talking bacon here!

Make sure you let the extra grease drip into a pan or on some paper towels for a few minutes before you put it on your sandwich, though.

Simple as that! Just toast some bread and assemble the sandwich to your liking! Personally, I prefer mine toast, mayo, tomato, lettuce, bacon, mayo, toast. Oh, and a little bit of pepper sprinkled on the tomato. Delish!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day 27: Peanut Butter Pound Cake

Today is National Peanut Butter Lovers Day!!

I think I've established my love for peanut butter already. For those of you just tuning in: I LOVE PEANUT BUTTER!! Maybe it's my low-iron count. Maybe it's my nuttiness that draws me to the nutty. I don't know. I just love it!!

So, I scoured my recipes, but I already posted a couple of them, and the ones I haven't yet I didn't have the necessary ingredients to make. Boo! A thorough scouring of the internets was warranted! But then, I was saved by Mr. Food! His Facebook page was posting a peanut butter recipe for every 100 likes they got today! Yay! I just had to wait for one I had the stuff for!

I didn't have to wait for long. This pound cake was the first one they put up!

I did discover the peanuts I had on hand were stale. I didn't know that could happen! Lesson learned! Don't save the peanuts for anything; eat them right away! Got it!

Of the two loaves I made, one burned slightly on the bottom, but that was easily cut away. The other one, well:

Simply fantastic cake! Just enough peanut butter to satisfy even the biggest fan's cravings, yet subtle enough to not be overkill. You could even put some of your favorite jelly or jam and make it a PB & J cake! Fun times!


2 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9x5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the peanut butter and the flour.

3. Spread equal amounts of mixture into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 20 minutes.

4. Remove loaves from oven and sprinkle with equal amounts of chopped peanuts. Return to oven and bake 30-35 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pans and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 26: Sopapilla Cheesecake

I had never heard of a sopapilla. Then, I saw it pinned on Pinterest and the way everyone was raving over it, I just had to make it. Now I've made this twice and it brings tears to your eyes with every bite! It is amazing and ruining my diet!

What's a sopapilla? It's a South American pastry and it tastes like heaven!

It was deceivingly simple to make. Yeah, I could have made my own dough, and probably a few more things, but being able to use the pre-made Pillsbury dough made this recipe just 6 ingredients! Amazing!

You can easily change this recipe up a bit by adding any of a number of things. Like pie filling or Nutella. I've tried the Nutella one and it was just as good!

You can also substitute for the sugar (Splenda would be good) and use Neufchatel with little difference.

It's just a matter of spreading out your crescent dough in a 9x13 pan (or an 8x8 if you halve the recipe), then your cream cheese mix, then your other dough. Bake for 20-30 minutes and enjoy! Well, you do have to let this set up for a little, but I can't tell you how difficult that waiting is!

No way this recipe is healthy, but completely worth it!


2 cans Pillsbury crescent roll dough
2 8 oz packages cream cheese (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter (melted)
Cinnamon and sugar (to sprinkle on top)


1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Unroll one can of dough into the bottom of an un-greased 9x13 pan. Press it so it covers the entire bottom.

3. In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly.

4. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the crescent roll dough in the pan.

5. Unroll and spread the remaining can of dough over the cream cheese mix.

6. Brush the melted butter over the entire top of dough and sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar.

7. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

8. Let rest for 30 minutes. You don't technically have to wait, but it's easier to slice into because the filling stays put better.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 25: Roast Turkey and Roasted Garlic Potatoes

This post isn't the post I want to do today. What I'm really looking forward to is telling you what I've done with all the leftover turkey! However, I'm practicing my patience skills, and will try to contain my excitement for the future.

I basically just rubbed Perfect Pinch No-Sodium All-Purpose Seasoning all over it then roasted it in the oven for 3 hours under foil and 1 more without foil, basting it every hour with butter.

For the potatoes, I diced 5 medium potatoes and one medium yellow onion into a large bowl; covered them with olive oil and some of the same stuff I put on the turkey and baked them for 25 minutes.

Basting the turkey in butter was genius. It was the juiciest I've ever had!


1 5-6 pound turkey breast
3 Tbsp Perfect Pinch No-Sodium All-Purpose Seasoning (or enough to cover your bird)
5 medium Idaho potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
2 Tbsp olive oil


1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Place your turkey in a roasting pan and rub the Perfect Pinch seasoning all over then put a stick of butter in the pan and cover it in aluminum foil. Bake it for 3 hours, making sure to baste it once every hour. (Most poultry have baking directions on the packaging so it's best to follow that.)

3. Remove the foil and return to oven for another hour.

4. We have a double oven so we heated our other one up to 350 degrees F. If you don't have that luxury, after the turkey is removed, turn the heat up to 350.

5. Dice the potatoes and onion into a large bowl. Coat liberally with olive oil and a dash of the Perfect Pinch seasoning and spread evenly on a sided baking sheet.

6. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until they can be easily poked with a fork and are golden brown.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 24: Ginger Chicken

The first time I made this, we had just gotten back from Disney World and I was freshly missing the stuff we ate at the luau at the Polynesian. Somehow, I mixed up something in the ingredients and the marinade turned out really really pasty. Not a total loss, but definitely not what we had had at Disney! And, oh so very salty. I had to boil all the sauce off the chicken so we could eat it.

I was devastated! In almost 20 years of cooking, I have only ruined 2 dishes. That's roughly out of 7,300 (give or take), I've messed up twice! So, heartbreak!

OK, so it was mostly out of obsessive compulsion that just upset me. Whatever! I was a mess emotionally!

And, having a bit of OCD, I had to get this dish right and recreate what we had had! I had to make Disney proud! (Or myself, shut up!)

Anyway! The second time I made it, I was extra careful to measure out the precise ingredients! I changed nothing! And, somehow, it came out perfect! I have absolutely no idea what happened that first time, but this time it was spot on! The ginger marinade glazed amazingly, the chicken was juicy, and not at all salty! Go me! Persistence wins the day! Or OCD... Shhh!

Jason and Jay were glad I stuck it out and they actually fought over the leftovers.

The worst part of this recipe is the 12 hour marinade and then the 40 minutes bake time, but it is very much worth it!


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp granulated onion
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp ground ginger
To taste hot chili sauce (I used about 1 Tbsp)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Pinch black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp Five spice blend (cinnamon, fennel, anise seed, crushed pepper, ginger)
1/4 tsp salt


1. If using fresh ginger, wash peel and mince it. Peel and mince the garlic if using fresh, too.

2. In a food processor, or a blender, combine ginger, garlic, bay leaf, soy sauce, dijon mustard, chili sauce, granulated onion, black pepper, salt, five spices and cumin.

3. Blend at medium speed until smooth and pasty then slowly add the canola oil. Taste the marinade to make sure it isn't too salty. If needed add another tablespoon of the oil.

4. Add the marinade to the chicken in a Ziploc baggie, mix well and store in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) and place chicken in a roasting pan.

6. Bake for 40 minutes or until the chicken is a nice golden brown color and the internal temperature is 165 degrees (F).

7. Baste the chicken in the juice before serving.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 23: Pork Roast

Look at how juicy that is!

When I was younger, I refused to make roast! The one time I tried, it came out dry and kinda burnt. Definitely not anything I was proud of serving!

On top of that, it didn't matter what type of roast it was, I was raised to make roast with brown gravy. Yes, really!

Then, I watched a LOT of cooking shows! Almost 24/7 was Food Network on in my house! (Alton Brown will forever be my favorite!)

They taught me that I knew next to nothing culinarily! I was so naive in my cooking. I held so many misconceptions!

They taught me that the best way to keep a roast from drying out is pan searing it before you put it either in the oven or crock pot! (I wish I had a pic of that because fitting that 4 pound roast in the wok was fun!) So, I rubbed some spices and herbs (I used a pre-made blend) on it, seared it on every available side for a couple minutes each, and put it in the crock pot! So, so juicy!

After searing but before cooking
Also, they taught me that sometimes you really need to keep the brown gravy away! For this pork roast, I used chicken stock, a little white cooking wine, and some cornstarch. Oh, man, did that add to the flavor! And, I didn't have to make it into gravy afterwards, it did it while it cooked. Brilliant!

I'd probably make brown gravy for a beef roast though. Or maybe a red wine reduction. (Ha! That sounds all snooty and chef-like!)

After it had cooked for 4 hours, I added green pepper to the veggie mix. That was a pretty good idea! It added a little kick.

In all, I think it cooked 5 hours, and it was torture smelling it all day! But worth it!! So very worth it!

"Please sir, may I have some?"


1 4-5 pound pork roast
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp parsley
2 Tbsp basil
2 Tbsp oregano
2 Tbsp thyme
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp lemon peel
2 tsp celery salt
2 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp grated ginger
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup white cooking wine
3 Tbsp cornstarch
5-6 medium potatoes
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium green pepper, sliced


1. Mix together the onion powder, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, lemon peel, celery salt, paprika, and grated ginger in a bowl. Rub it on every side of the roast and let sit for five minutes.

2. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in your skillet and sear the roast on every side for a couple minutes each.

3. Place the roast in the crockpot.

4. In a medium saucepan (not on the heat) mix together the chicken stock and the cornstarch thoroughly. Add the cooking wine and heat. Do not let it boil. Pour it into the crockpot over the roast.

5. Turn the crockpot on low and cook for 4 hours.

6. Prepare your veggies and add them to the crockpot and let cook on high for another hour, or until the veggies are done to your taste. I put the bell peppers on top, not in the stock, to steam them.

7. Serve.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 22: Strawberry Fudge

I'm not really a sweets fan, but when I heard that you could make fudge with only 2 ingredients, I really had to try this!

It's so amazingly simple!

It's strawberry frosting and white chocolate chips!

It's ensured I will be experimenting with other frosting/chip combos!


1 can of strawberry frosting
1 12 oz bag of white chocolate chips


1. Prepare either a 9x9 or an 8x8 pan by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray.
Or you can line it with parchment or wax paper. Whichever way is best for you.

2. In a double boiler (or the microwave), melt the white chocolate chips. The directions are usually on the bag.

3. Stir in the frosting until completely smooth and well-blended.

4. Pour into the prepared pan and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Slice into bite-sized cubes and enjoy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 21: Peanut Butter Popcorn

The other day, I was craving peanut butter. This is not anything out of the ordinary for me. I love the peanut butter. Crunchier the better!

At the same time, (I can't always explain the track of the thought train that is my mind), I was thinking about how I really despise caramel popcorn! Like, can't even stand the smell of the stuff especially when it is cooked in a kettle, which is the only way according to my dad.

I had an epiphany! Why couldn't I make a creamy peanut butter sauce (similar to caramel, but NOTHING like it)?? I thought about it. A LOT! You could say it was all I could think about the moment the question popped into my head!

I know a couple of homemade caramel recipes so I dug those out. They didn't help.

I thought about what goes with peanut butter that could make it the right consistency.

I came up with corn syrup!

You can't tell it from the picture, but this stuff really is amazing! It had the exact consistency of caramel corn, but only AWESOME!

The worst part about this popcorn is it goes WAY too fast! Jay and I ate this pan in about 10 minutes and we were really hard pressed to not make more!

I'm thinking about adding roasted peanuts to the mix next time. Or making it into peanut butter popcorn balls!

So, so good!


6-8 cups popped popcorn (I made mine the old fashioned way on the stove using peanut oil)
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy, your choice)
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
*1 tsp vanilla (optional, I didn't use it)


1. Pop the popcorn. (Microwave, or stove, or whatever your favorite method is.) Place in a large bowl.

2. In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, mix the peanut butter, sugar and corn syrup until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

*If you're going to use the vanilla, put it into the peanut butter mix here.

3. Slowly pour the peanut butter mix over the popcorn in the bowl, mixing it as you pour. If you don't keep stirring, some of the popcorn gets mushy and other parts don't get covered.

4. Once thoroughly coated, spread the popcorn out on a baking sheet and let sit for at least five minutes to set. (This was the hardest step for me! Have I mentioned how much I love peanut butter?)

5. Enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 20: Spinach Artichoke Bread

So, I had a little of the spinach-artichoke dip left over from Superbowl.

I didn't want to waste it, but felt kinda uninspired thinking about eating it with more tortilla chips. Making my own chips would have been better than store bought, but I just wasn't feeling it.

Then, it hit me!

What if I used Italian bread and made a sort of bruschetta?

So, I grabbed some more Italian cheeses. (Because, clearly, there wasn't enough in the dip to start with!) Put the bread on a baking sheet, slathered on the dip, sprinkled more cheese on top, and tented with foil. Then baked for 20 minutes with the foil so the bread didn't over-cook, then 10 more without so the cheese would melt. (Your oven times may vary!)

Yummy!! Perfect appetizer! Or, in my case, lunch!

I'm including a smaller recipe for the dip just in case you don't have any pre-made laying around! Any leftover dip can be stored in the fridge for 2 weeks.


1 (14 oz) can artichoke heart, drained and chopped
8 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
2 green onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

2.  Mix the artichoke hearts, spinach, green onion, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, mozzarella and Parmesan in a large bowl. Reserve some of the cheeses for the topping.

3. Place bread on a baking sheet.

4. Spread the dip mixture over every piece and top with reserved cheese.

5. Tent with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

6. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 19: Tuscan Garlic Chicken

This dish is similar to the Asiago Chicken I posted about before, but slight differences make it just as amazing!

It's much more creamy and saucy, with bell peppers instead of sun dried tomatoes. Also, the spinach gets heated a bit more so it's less salad-like than the other.

Both Jason and Jay say they prefer the creaminess of this one. I prefer the fettuccine to the penne. I'm sure I could combine the best of both dishes and make an even better dish than both, but I wouldn't know what to call it.


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp finely minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips or chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
6 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup lowfat milk (I used 1%)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound fettuccine


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

2. In a shallow pie plate, or similar dish, combine the flour, salt, black pepper, basil and oregano. Dip each chicken piece in the flour mixture until both sides are well coated. (Don't toss the flour mix just yet, you'll need a tablespoon of it later.) Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes.

3. In a large 12-inch non-stick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Carefully place the chicken breasts in the pan, cooking them for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden and browned but not cooked all the way through (they'll finish up in the oven). Don't scoot the chicken around in the pan or the breading will fall off.

4. Gently remove the chicken to a foil-lined, lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside and tent with foil until ready to use.

5. While chicken is baking, heat a large pot of water to a boil and add the fettuccine, cooking until al dente.

6. Wipe out the skillet with a couple of paper towels and return it to medium heat, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the garlic and bell pepper, sautéing for 2-3 minutes.

7. Stir in one tablespoon of the flour mix and stir constantly while cooking for another minute.

8. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes.

9. In a small liquid measuring cup, whisk together the cornstarch and heavy cream. Add the spinach, milk, and cream mixture to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the spinach is wilted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.

10. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

11. When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and return it to the pot. Toss in half the cheese sauce.

12. Place some of the coated pasta on each plate. Top with a breaded chicken breast and spoon some of the sauce over the top of the chicken and pasta.

13. Serve immediately.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 18: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

I was a little leery of this recipe. I mean, the only flour-less cookies I'd had were not what I would call tasty. But my friend really thought I should try it. Why not? Snack food that is a tiny little bit better for you than regular snacks couldn't hurt right? The worst that could happen is they'd be flavorless and I'd never make them again. At best, I have a new cookie recipe and one that involves peanut butter! Win-win!

I admit they're not perfect and round but tasty!
They still have sugar, but I bet you could use your favorite substitute and knock them a little more to the healthy side.

What I love about this recipe is that without the flour, the peanut butter flavor really shines!

I happened to make mine look like buttons using a bottle cap and toothpick instead of the usual fork criss-cross pattern:

Also, after these cool, they are awesome with a dollop of your favorite jam or jelly! Or chocolate! Or just about any topping you like paired with peanut butter! (Sorry, no pics of that, you'll have to use your imagination!)

This recipe makes about 45 cookies at this size, but can easily be doubled to fit what you need.


1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling the cookies with after *optional*


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Place racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.

2. In medium bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined.

3. Scoop 1 tablespoon of mixture into balls and place about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheet(s). Flatten the balls (with 2 liter bottle cap) and poke holes in button-style with a toothpick. (I had to make the holes kinda larger than I thought because they closed up when I baked the first batch.)

*Optional* Sprinkle the sea salt on top of the cookies.

4. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes, switching the position of the pans halfway through baking. Transfer to racks to cool.

5. Repeat with remaining dough.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 17: Mongolian Beef

This recipe came from a magazine I was reading, can't remember the name, but it was a few months ago. It was written for pork, but I didn't happen to have any on hand, so I switched a couple things up and used the beef I did have.

I mistakenly didn't correct the liquid portions to compensate for the difference in meats, but it still worked out. To sop up some of the liquid, I mixed the rice in instead of leaving it on the side. Simple fix.

Still tasted pretty good! At least, our dinner guests approved...

Gus photo-bombing.
It's a very simple meal, especially with the little trick I learned from a chef at a local Chinese restaurant. (Let your meat, after it's been cut, rest in a light cornstarch coating for ten minutes. Totally makes the difference!)


1 pound flank steak, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (about 1/2 in piece)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic (about 2-3 large cloves)
1/4 cup diced  yellow onion *optional*
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce (I use low-sodium)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bag frozen vegetables (I used broccoli, cauliflower and carrots)
3 large green onions, diced (for garnish)


1. Place steak pieces and cornstarch in a large bowl and toss to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Just before the steak is finished resting, heat the canola oil in your pan. Heat your garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and yellow onion (if using) for a couple of minutes. (This starts to smell really good!) Add brown sugar, water and soy sauce. Stir until well blended and heated. (Do not let it boil.) Pour into a bowl and set aside.

3. Reheat more canola oil in pan. Add steak and cook until almost done. Pour in the sauce and simmer over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the steak is done.

4. Add in the frozen vegetables and heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through and the vegetables are tender.

5. Garnish with diced green onion.

Rice makes a good side dish for this meal, and if yours turns out with a little too much juice, you can stir the rice into the meat to thicken it up a bit.

Day 16: Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Off and on this week, I will be featuring desserts and goodies, gearing up for Valentine's Day. (Also, the ladies group at my church is having our annual chocolate extravaganza! So, gotta prep for that, too!)

Look how pretty that looks!

The best candy, to me, is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I love them. They are perfect!

I was thrilled to find a recipe to make them any time I wanted them. (Also a little scared because the ability to make them whenever is a dangerous thing!)

Anyway, you simply melt the chocolate, add the little something extra, and "paint" the sides and bottom of mini cupcake wrappers. (I have silicone ones, so I made giant cups.) Then you chill them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to set them.

Next you mix together the peanut butter center and make a bunch of small balls with the mix and place one in each chocolate cup. (You want them the size that will fill each cup about 3/4 full.)

(I wish I had pics of the whole process! I'll probably add those later when I make these again, and I WILL be making these again, SOON!)

Then you spoon more chocolate on top and around each cup. Back into the freezer for another 10 minutes to set up the rest of the way.

Turn out onto wax paper. Enjoy!

Make as many as you want and they can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks and freezer for up to a month. (No way this stuff would last more than a couple days around me. Dangerous!)


16 ounces milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy works best, but creamy tastes just as good)
1/4 cup more peanut butter for chocolate
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (add a little more if mixture isn't stiff enough)
3/4 stick butter (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Melt the chocolate, either in a double boiler or a bowl over a saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup of the peanut butter until the mixture is smooth.

2. Using the back of a spoon, "paint" the bottoms and sides of the wrappers.

3. Place in freezer for 10 minutes.

4. While chocolate cups are chilling, in another bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla thoroughly. Add in the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is stiff enough to form into balls.

*Optional* You could place the peanut butter balls into the freezer for 10 minutes to set them a little before moving on. Just makes the next step a little easier.

5. Place a peanut butter ball into each cup and slightly squish it down. Don't squish it completely, just flatten it a little.

6. Take a spoon and fill in the rest of each cup with chocolate.

7. Place back in freezer for another 20 minutes to finish setting.

8. Turn cups out onto waxed paper.