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.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 15: Empanadas

We had some of that guacamole leftover, so I thought I'd make a dish to use it. (Not that it was in danger of going bad in my house, but putting it on a dinner was way better than late-night snacking on a whole bag of Tostitos all by myself when everyone else was sleeping 'cause I don't like sharing the awesome!)

The guacamole was too good for plain ol' tacos! I decided on empanadas!

Mom and Aunt Judy call these "pandas" but I'm not sure if they think that's the name or just what they call them. Either way, these are a nice change-up dish to the typical "Mexican night."

Plus, I needed a dish for my guacamole! Win-win!

These are simply biscuits flattened and wrapped around taco meat, covered in a cheesy meat sauce (and my guacamole). Then baked until golden brown and lovely!

Empanada press

Jay rolling out the biscuits

Mmmm, done baking!

We could have used the apples (seen in the biscuit rolling pic) to make a yummy dessert, but that is another post.


1 pound ground beef
6 Grands biscuits (not the flaky kind)
1 package taco seasoning (or make your own, I preferred time saver this time)
1/4 cup water
1 can diced tomatoes (or chop your own, about 14 1/2 oz.)
1 cup salsa con queso (can make your own here too, but I used jar stuff... shame)


1. Heat oven to 450 degrees (F).

2. Brown meat. Drain and return to skillet.

3. Flatten biscuits to 4 1/2 inch circles and 1/4 inch thickness. Place on ungreased baking sheet. (We used my rolling pin and my lovely pizza stone.)

4. Stir in taco seasoning and water to browned meat. Remove from heat.

5. Place about 2 tablespoons meat mix in center of each biscuit and fold dough over to form turnover and seal. (I used our empanada presses, but this can easily be done by hand.) Leave remaining meat mix in skillet.

6. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

7. While the biscuits are baking, add tomatoes with juice and salsa con queso to remaining meat mix and cook over low heat. Simmer until turnovers are done, stirring occasionally.

8. Top empanadas with cheesy meat sauce. Serve.

Day 14: Guacamole

Sorry about the container. I believe in easy leftover transition!

Part of Superbowl Sunday is the different dips. I've covered the Spinach and Artichoke dip and the Peanut Butter Cheese Ball already.

Tonight's dish is guacamole! I admit, I used to buy the pre-made stuff in a jar. It just never tasted like the stuff in authentic Mexican restaurants! I also used the mix and made my own. Better, but still lacking a certain something!

The first time I used the mix, I was all excited! I had just gotten my new food processor and it was the first time I was gonna get to use it. It was also the first time I had dealt with an avocado! (Non-picture tutorials on this subject DO NOT help!) I think I ended up using 3 bandaids and I only got maybe a total of one avocado in the mix. Needless to say, it tasted not so great! In fact, Jason politely asked me to just buy the jar stuff next time. That's a shot in the arm!

So, I kept watching cooking shows, and reading the internets, but for the next couple Mexican food nights, I bought the jar. All the while secretly longing for a recipe or tips about it to magically appear.

Then, when I thought I would never get the chance to make it correctly, Alton Brown's Good Eats did a dip episode that covered guacamole! The way he handled that avocado made my jaw hit the floor! I was inspired! I went right out and bought the stuff to make this again! Jason was skeptical! I did use the mix stuff, but the fruit/other ingredients mix was way better. Jason agreed that I could do it that way from then on.

Then, I found a recipe for the mix! I was ecstatic! Jason just didn't want me to mess it up for the big game!

The stuff in the picture above was by far the best guacamole I've ever had! The best part was it was basically 5 simple steps. Well, 6 if you count the avocado prep!


3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
1 lime, juiced (juice reserved)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced


1. In a large bowl, place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice. Drain and reserve the lime juice after all the avocados have been coated.

2. Using a potato masher, add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash.

3. Then fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic.

4. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice.

5. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 13: Lemon Pepper Porkchops

So, last night, because I married an awesome guy, Jason made dinner.

A few years back, he had to learn to cook, at least a little, while I recovered from a surgery. Otherwise, we'd have lived off pizza delivery and whatever fast food he could bring home. Blech!

My favorite meal he learned to cook was the lemon pepper pork chops. They're not too peppery, really buttery, and oh so tender! They also go really well with several different rice side dishes. It's also a really simple meal to cook that tastes like you slaved over a hot stove! (He had me fooled for a little while until the meds wore off and I watched him make it.)

My aunt who can't stand pork chops actually went back for seconds!


6 medium-sized boneless pork chops
8 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp lemon pepper seasoning


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees (F).

2. Melt butter in a small sauce pan then add olive oil, worcestershire and lemon pepper seasoning until thoroughly mixed.

3. Place pork chops in a casserole dish. Pour butter mixture over chops.

4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 12: Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach and artichoke dip has always intimidated me. Mostly, for the longest time I was unaware that I could buy just the artichoke hearts and not have to do all that work getting to them. (Artichokes are very scary when you don't know what you're doing culinarily.) (Apparently, culinarily is a word... well, it is now!) For another thing, most of my adult life was spent avoiding spinach like the plague! To my dissatisfaction, I married a guy who loves it unabashedly! I've been able to avoid it up until this past year. Then, due to us support raising for our Chi Alpha budget and meeting with students in restaurants, he got me to try the dip. I was pleasantly surprised, but I'm still not trying the sweet potatoes or beans!

He asked me to make this dip several times over the years, but like I said, really really intimidated! However, I decided if I could make fancy Disney recipes, I probably should at least try this one. He was overjoyed! He told all his family how awesome I was that I was gonna do this. I was floored by his confidence in my abilities. (See? I'm really not that conceited about my skills!)

I admit, I didn't mess this up! Although, when it first came out of the oven, I had a couple seconds of doubting it tasted anywhere near how it looked! I mean, scroll back up and click that picture to see it all large and stuff! It looked great! Jason was very happy with how it tasted, too! They ate it all! I'm even thinking about making this for the next women's event later this month! (Although, we are supposed to bring a chocolate dish, but maybe I'll just make chocolate-covered bacon, too!)


1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach (I used fresh baby spinach)
1 1/2 cups thawed, chopped artichoke hearts (I found hearts in the produce section already peeled)
6 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan (I put 1/3 cup more on top)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder


1. Boil spinach and artichoke hearts in 1 cup of water until tender and drain.

2. Discard liquid.

3. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute until hot and soft.

4. Stir in rest of ingredients.

5. Place in medium casserole dish and cover with 1/3 cup more Parmesan.

6. Bake at 350 degrees (F) until the cheese melts. About 5-10 minutes. (I didn't walk away at this point as I was worried I'd burn it!)

7. Serve hot.

Day 11: Ain't No Thing Like a Chicken Wing

So, the Superbowl was kinda boring this year. So were most of the commercials. (I said "most"!) The half-time show had me cringing. (That may be more from me not liking Madonna that much.) There were some commercials that had me literally scratching my head in confusion. Most of the game had the feel of a regular season game instead of, you know, the big deal it should have been.

That is, until the last 5 minutes! I gotta tell you, I'm quite pleased at the outcome. At heart, I am a Manning fan. I followed Peyton's career even through his rough years (like this last one). When Eli started playing professionally, I was excited to see the same things I saw in Peyton when he first started out.

What got me through most of the night was the food. I've tried to be humble about it, but, if I say so myself, I rocked it! I know, I really need to get that humility thing in check! Also, good company!

Anyway, this post is about just the chicken. I made two kinds, pineapple barbecue and mildly spicy. I borrowed bits from a couple different recipes for the spicy ones, but the pineapple barbecue, while I could have made it all myself (it would've tasted like the Polynesian pork chops), I cheated for time constraints and used Sweet Baby Ray's with a slight addition. The spicy ones were a mild buttery spicy, while the pineapple barbecue ones were sweet and tangy. I loved them both equally!

First, the spicy:


2 pounds wings
3 ounces (about 3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Then the pineapple barbecue:

2 pounds wings
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce (or follow your favorite recipe)
3 ounces pineapple juice


1. Bake wings in a 400 degree (F) oven for 35 to 45 minutes, turning wings over halfway through baking.

2. While wings are baking, heat butter, garlic, hot sauce and kosher salt in a sauce pan over medium heat until smooth and combined. Remove from heat and place in large bowl.

3. In a separate large bowl, mix the barbecue sauce and pineapple juice thoroughly.

4. When wings have finished baking, separate into the two bowls of sauce and toss until coated.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 10: Multigrain Bread

The ends totally are faces saying, "Slice us off and eat us!"
I don't know if you know this, but I love bread. However, making it isn't always the easiest thing to do. It's time consuming. It's a test in patience. It's excruciating to smell that baking bread and not be able to eat it!

I especially love multigrain bread. (Simple wheat bread is too simple for my delicate taste buds!) However, every recipe I could find for multigrain involved nothing short of milling my own mix of grains. (Either I need a better search engine, or a small, counter-top mill.)

Then, something miraculous happened! Someone on Pinterest (have you heard of this site?) linked a shortcut to making multigrain. A shortcut that astounded my mind and had me wondering, "Why didn't I think of that??"

I had to make this bread! I set out on a mission to attain all the necessary ingredients. I dreamt about this bread! I did have a little trouble finding the main ingredient, but only had to go to 2 stores to find it. Totally worth it just so I could have this bread in my oven!!

What is this ingredient, you ask? This magic shortcut that alleviates the need for out-dated kitchen appliances?? Well, it was 7-grain Hot Cereal mix! I know, right?!? So. Simple! Genius!

The biggest problem with this recipe is that it involves a LOT of waiting! Every other step is waiting. It is totally worth all the waiting!! As Alton Brown always says: "Your patience WILL be rewarded!"


1 1/4 cup (6 1/4 oz) 7-grain hot cereal mix
2 1/2 cups boiling water
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour (NOT bread flour)
1 1/2 cups (8 1/4 oz) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled (if you use salted butter, just decrease
       the additional salt by just a bit.)
2 1/2 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 Tbsp salt (unless you used salted butter)
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds (optional, I omitted)
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats


1. Place cereal mix in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees (F) and resembles thick porridge. (About 1 hour.) Whisk flours together in a separate bowl. *

2. Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, butter, and yeast and mix on low speed until combined. Add flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until a cohesive mass starts to form (about 1 1/2-2 minutes); cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 20 minutes.

3. Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears the sides of the bowl (about 3-4 minutes). If it doesn't, add 2-3 Tbsp additional all-purpose flour and knead until it does. Don't add any more than that!) Continue to knead dough for 5 more minutes.

4. Optional! Add the seeds and knead for another 15 seconds.

5. Transfer the dough to lightly floured surface and knead by hand until the dough forms a smooth, round ball.

6. Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl; cover tightly with plastic and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.

7. Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and divide in half.

8. Press 1 piece of dough into a 9x6 inch rectangle, with short side facing you. Roll dough toward you into a firm cylinder, keeping the roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch it closed. Repeat with other piece of dough.

9. Spray loaves lightly with water or oil spray. Roll each loaf in oats to coat evenly and place seam side down in prepared pans, pressing gently into corners.

10. Cover loaves loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough nearly doubles in size, about 30-40 minutes. Dough should barely spring back when poked gently with knuckle.

11. Thirty minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees (F).

12. Bake until loaves register 200 degrees (F), about 35-40 minutes.

13. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves and return to metal rack to let cool for 2 hours before slicing and serving.

Storage: Bread can be wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. (Like it's gonna last that long!) Or wrapped with an additional layer of foil, bread can be frozen for up to a month.

*For those without a stand mixer, stir wet and dry ingredients together with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together and looks shaggy. Transfer the dough to a clean counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, 15-25 minutes, adding additional flour if necessary. Proceed with recipe as directed.

I barely could wait until the bread was cooled properly to slice into it and enjoy!

Leftover Polynesian pork sandwich on my multigrain! Yum!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 9: Chicken Asiago Pasta

So, it all started with a healthy amount of baby spinach! That's healthy, right??

Mmm, healthy!

However, that alone could not be dinner! The spinach was attacked by olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic!

And, then almost 4 cups of Italian cheese blend creeped up beside, and I just knew it was gonna join in the fun!

So, I cooked up some chicken and some penne pasta and had a big party in my wok!

Mmm! See? I just couldn't leave it with health food! Much more fun and amazing with all that other stuff!


12 oz dry penne rigate pasta
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, pounded and cut into 2-in strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-in strips
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic (or to taste)
1 3/4 cup fresh baby spinach, lightly packed
2 cups grated Asiago cheese (I could only find it in the Sargento Italian blend)
1 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese


1. Pour 2 quarts of water into a 4 quart pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once water is boiling, add 1/2 tsp of salt and pasta. Stir to prevent sticking and bring it back to a boil. Lower heat and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. While pasta cooks, mix flour with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Dredge chicken.

3. Heat sauté pan over medium high heat and add 2 Tbsp olive oil. Once hot, carefully place chicken and cook 2-3 minutes or until chicken is golden on bottom. Reduce heat to medium and turn chicken strips over. Cook for another 5 minutes or until done.

4. While chicken is cooking, mix together sun-dried tomatoes, 3/4 cup olive oil, and the garlic. Add the spinach.

5. Once chicken is cooked, place both the chicken and hot pasta into spinach/tomato mix. Add cheeses and toss to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The heat from the chicken and pasta will melt the cheeses.

Day 8: Polynesian Pork Chops

The idea for this recipe comes from the Spirit of Aloha Luau at Disney's Polynesian resort. I say "idea" because it was meant for ribs and I had to alter it slightly to not kill ourselves with salt! You see, the original recipe for the ribs called for a full cup of Kosher salt and for some reason that didn't set off warning bells in my head. I thought since it was in the rub that everything would be OK once I baked the pork and put the pineapple sauce on. Boy was I wrong!!

The first time I made them, I ended up having to boil the chops twice to get the sodium content down to a human level; and even then, if you weren't a huge fan of salt, you'd still gag. I mean, I'm pretty sure animals were trying to get in to use these chops as a salt lick! Not bad, but I know if Jason had had his blood pressure checked, he would have been put on meds. And, the poor dear, not wanting to offend me, pretended he didn't notice the salt. He's sitting there, with pursed lips, saying, "No, these are awesome! I don't know what you're talking about with not being able to eat them!"

So, this time, I left out the salt! Only the teaspoon of celery salt made it in. I figured, if anybody really wanted salt, they could ruin their own. Turns out, the chef that gave out that recipe forgot to scale back that one ingredient to normal kitchen size. Makes sense. I did get a nice apology email from him. Disney is awesome like that!

Anywho, everyone enjoyed these! I had to guard the leftover chop with a knife or I wouldn't have lunch tomorrow! Those bits on the side? Those would be roasted garlic potatoes, peppers and onions. Perfect side dish for these ribs! It was either those or rice and after having pasta for lunch, I wanted to change it up a bit.


Dry rub:

1 tsp celery salt
2 Tbsp mesquite seasoning
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper


1 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup pineapple juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp caramel
1/4 tsp liquid smoke


1. Rub the pork with the dry rub on both sides and refrigerate for 12 hours.

2. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

3. Cook seasoned pork for 1 hour.

4. Cut, while hot, to desired sizes (if you're making ribs, just one bone per piece) and place in baking dish. (Since I was making chops, I just put them on a cookie sheet.)

5. Heat barbecue sauce to a simmer and pour over pork.

6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in 200 degree F oven for another 35-40 minutes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 7: Mini Chicken Pot Pies

I know. Pot pies are not everybody's favorite. The 15-year-old never cared for them that much. It was the one food he didn't eat as though we never fed him.

He was always "sick" and then I'd find bits of whatever he scrounged from the pantry when I wasn't looking. Candy wrappers in the couch or potato chip bags or whatever those rice cake thingies were! (Seriously, he found rice cake monstrosities more appetizing than pot pies!)

To be fair, serving the processed frozen things that they called pies is something I'm not really proud of. Tasteless and with enough sodium to send anybody's blood pressure sky high! Then I found the recipe for these quick yummy things:

This pic does NOT do justice!

They look all wonky, but that doesn't mean they taste bad, just that I need lessons in staging.

Who knew a simple can of flaky biscuits and leftover chicken from a few nights ago could turn into this? Not saying it's healthy (just better than the processed things.)

First, I gathered the ingredients:

4 Tbsp chopped onion
2 tsp olive oil
Garlic salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp white cooking wine (optional, I passed since I didn't have any)
2 Tbsp milk or cooking creme (optional, but I used cooking creme since I had)
     (this makes the filling smoother)
2 small cans of mixed vegetables, drained with liquid reserved (I guess a large     can would work)
1 peeled and seeded small tomato, chopped (As you can see in the pic, my tomato was large, but I only used the equivalent of a small one.)
2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
1 egg


1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan (I used my wok since I try to use less dishes), sauté onion until soft. Add spices and optional wine creme/milk.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix. If very dry, add some of the vegetable liquid.

3. Separate refrigerated flaked biscuits. (The kind I used came 8 to the can.) Divide each biscuit into 4 layers.

4. Coat large muffin tin with cooking spray. Line with 1-2 biscuit layers. (I used a regular size tin which meant I had smaller space to cover with the layers.)

5. Spoon in the filling mixture and top with the remaining 2 biscuit layers. Crimp edges to seal, but pierce the tops to vent.

6. Brush on egg white wash.

7. Cook in preheated 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

These had way more taste than the store bought frozen kind, and a ton less sodium! 

Day 6: Lemon Garlic Shrimp

I swear, one day, the pics will improve. I mean, they kinda have to, don't ya think?

Anywho! This recipe came from a friend who got it from a chef at Spoodles in Disney's Hollywood Studios. (I can't help but love the recipes from Disney!)

I've tried my hand at garlic shrimp in the past, even Red Lobster's, but this one turned out the best. Not too lemony or garlicy; just the right amount balanced in a succulent shrimp. Highly recommend!


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
36 large shrimp, deveined, butterflied
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped


1. Melt 1/2 the butter in sauté pan. Add 1/2 the garlic and sauté until just golden.

2. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cook about 1 to 2 minutes each side until shrimp is almost done - pink, firm and slightly opaque.

3. Add lemon juice and remaining garlic and butter, but do not allow it to boil.

4. Season with the salt, pepper and parsley. Serve.

Very simple. Very delicious and worth the small effort!