Saturday, December 29, 2012

Zucchini Jacked Soup

I was so excited to make this spicy zucchini soup! I checked out my fridge and noticed I had three zucchini already, so, I picked up another three at the grocery store (a total of six zucchini are called for) along with the rest of the ingredients needed.  As I laid everything out on the counter and got ready to chop, I realized what I thought were three zucchinis, were actually three cucumbers! DOH! Okay, cucumbers are NOT a substitute for zucchini....I had to think fast...I was so happy to discover I had a whole head of broccoli in the crisper! So......I actually used three zucchini and a head of broccoli. It was quite yummy!!! Sometimes mistakes do yield pleasant results! Still, the next time I make this (and there will be many more times to come) I am going to make it the proper way- with six full zucchinis! :)
Thank you, Gina, for yet another delicious soup recipe! Check my hilarious friend out at

6 Tbl butter
6 zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream*
8 oz Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
4 to 6 dashes of Tabasco sauce
Crumbled cooked bacon as garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a large soup pan over medium-low heat. Add the zucchini, onions, salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add broth. Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender. Return blended soup to the soup pan. Stir in milk and cream. Add shredded cheese into the soup. Cook over medium heat until the cheese melts and soup is heated through. Stir in the Tabasco sauce. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with crumbled bacon if desired.

*This recipe calls for 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cream....I used 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup cream still tasted great and saved a few calories.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Healthy Granola Muffins

These granola muffins are butter-free, oil-free AND egg-free! But, please don't think they are "taste-free" because they are surprisingly full of flavor! These yummy muffins make a great snack or quick healthy breakfast! Enjoy!

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup premade granola (homemade or store bought)
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F

Mix all dry ingredients (flours, sugars, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and granola) with a whisk in a large bowl. Add applesauce, vanilla and buttermilk to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine (don't over mix). 

Either grease a muffin tin or fill it with liners. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, nearly to the top. If you like, you can sprinkle a little granola on top! Bake muffins for 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Polar Express Hot Cocoa

This hot cocoa recipe is to die for! It has been floating around Pinterest for weeks and I just had to try it! It is truly the most decadent mug of cocoa I've ever tasted! Very delicious and very simple to make! I served it in a crock pot at our neighborhood Christmas party. I set up a little "Hot Cocoa" bar with candy cane dust, cookies, marshmallows and peppermint marshmallows. It was a big hit with the kids! A few of the adults added a little Bailey's to theirs also! This is a must-make during the holidays! Enjoy!

6 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk (I used only 1/2 a can, FYI)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

In a large pot over low heat, combine all of the above ingredients.  Stir regularly for 30-40 minutes until chocolate is fully melted and incorporated with other ingredients.  
If you're making this for a large group of people you can cook it in the crock pot on low for a couple hours. Remember to stir often during the melting process. This recipe is easily doubled.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

I'm going to confess something right now: I am COMPLETELY addicted to popcorn. It's got to be my most favorite snack. I love it plain, salty, buttery, sweet, doesn't matter how it's prepared, I can eat bowls and bowls of it at any given time!! So, when I saw this recipe for Cinnamon Bun Popcorn floating around Pinterest, I had to make it!

A couple of Christmases ago, my mother gave my family a good old fashioned Orville Redenbacher hot air popcorn popper. This totally changed our lives! I literally threw out every package of microwave popcorn I had (microwave popcorn is full of chemicals) and went online to find some super yummy, gourmet kernels! The website is amazing! This recommendation is 100% is just me, sharing with you, my love of the most delicious popcorn I have ever eaten! They sell about 10 varieties of kernels (as well as a million other snack foods).....I have tried every single kind! My family's favorite kernel are by far the mushroom kernels! They produce the largest, fluffiest popcorn I have ever tasted. I am NOT exaggerating when I tell you that we eat through a 5 lb bag of kernels every three months.

Okay, so, why am I telling you all this? Just get to the recipe already, you say! I figured now would be a good time to share my love of my air popper with you, since this is a popcorn recipe after all, ! And to also say that of course, I used fresh kernels to make this delicious cinnamon bun popcorn. Okay, so on to the recipe......

WOW is this decadently sweet popcorn beyond delicious! I just made it for a party I'm hosting tonight and I can't stop munching on it! It was very easy to make, too! The recipe comes from straight from the blog Make Yourself Right at Home. (I'm stepping off my popcorn platform now....) Enjoy!

12 C popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels)
1 C pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 C brown sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C karo syrup (or honey makes a good substitution)
1 stick real butter (1/2 C)
1t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda

3 squares almond bark (about 4 oz)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a 2 liter capacity microwave safe bowl. Mix well. Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over the top of everything. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine. Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes. Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 minutes more.

Remove from microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine. Mixture will foam and rise. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pecans and stir very well so everything is well coated.

Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread out on a large piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil.

Melt almond bark according to package instructions. Drizzle over popcorn mixture. When almond bark is hardened and popcorn is cool, break into chunks.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Super Quick Banana Bread

It is always wonderful to put something homemade in front of your family, but, with busy schedules and lives, it isn't always possible! If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am constantly baking banana bread and trying out all kinds of new ways to make it!  This recipe was created with busy moms in mind. It is very tasty and only took me six minutes from empty bowl to loaf in the oven (I'm not kidding, I timed it!). The ingredients are few (hurray!), but the end result is a moist bread that the kids will love for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Enjoy!

2 ultra ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F

Mash bananas in a bowl. Add eggs and oil; stir well. Add cake mix and cinnamon (if using); stir well. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 38-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let bread cool completely before removing from pan and slicing. Having a cold glass of milk on hand is recommended!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Tree Waffles

I was feeling extra festive this morning, so, I thought I'd whip up some Christmas tree waffles for the kids (Bisquick with 5 drops of green food coloring).....decorate them however you like! The kids thought they were super fun and of course, they were more than simple to put together! Woohoo chocolate chips, fruit loops and a banana star!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thai Butternut Coconut Curry Soup

Okay, it's official: I am completely obsessed with the Cafe Sucre Farine blog! This woman is a culinary genius! Everything I have made from this blog is A-MA-ZING! Her recipes are 100% restaurant quality - which means I know whatever I set out to make is going to yield a yummy, homemade meal! And this soup is no exception! In fact, it may be THE very best thing I have made from her blog to date! The flavors are rich and complex; this soup is decadently delicious!

The CSF blogger gives lots of options for topping the soup. I topped mine with cilantro, pepitas, avocados and jasmine rice. The rice REALLY put this soup over the top! I highly recommend it! I also recommend roasting pre-cut butternut squash.....this really saves a step!

Here is the recipe from Cafe Sucre Farine's:
Ingredients for roasted squash:
1 large butternut squash (I used a 20 oz carton of pre-cut butternut squash)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for the soup:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium large onions
2 stalks celery
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seed
1 tablespoon mild curry powder, (I really like Madras curry)
2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped in 2-inch pieces
1 large butternut squash, roasted as directed
1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce (available in the Asian section of most larger markets)
2 teaspoons sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
20 ounces coconut milk, about 1½ cans
additional chicken broth as needed, for thinning
Suggested toppings:
cooked jasmine rice*
cilantro leaves* or other fresh herbs
creme fraiche
greek yogurt
basil oil
curry oil
sautéed shrimp
toasted butternut squash seeds 
toasted pepitas*
avocado slices*
(*These are the toppings I used to garnish my soup)

Instructions for roasting the squash
1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚F. Line a sheet pan with foil and rub with one tablespoon olive oil.

2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise*, and scoop out seeds and flesh. (Save seeds if you want to roast them and use as a garnish.) Place squash halves, cut side down on prepared sheet pan. Roast in oven for 25-30 minutes or until it feels super tender with a fork. Remove from oven and let sit on pan until cool enough to handle. (*Again, I roasted pre-cut butternut squash- SO much easier!)

Instructions for the soup:
1. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large soup or stock pot. Heat on medium high until hot. Add onions and celery and sauté until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, coriander and curry powder and cook for two minutes. Add broth and next 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes or until all veggies are very tender.

2. Add coconut milk and cook for another two minutes.

3. Puree with a stick blender, food processor or regular blender until smooth and silky. If using a food processor or regular blender allow soup to cool a bit before blending and blend in batches. Taste and season as needed with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. If soup is too thick add a bit more chicken broth. Serve hot with toppings as desired.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Creamy Lemon Oat Bars

Here is a fab recipe I found on Pinterest for creamy lemon oat bars! Yum!!! Try these as an alternative to all the chocolate chocolate treats passed around during the holidays! Enjoy!
P.S. Consider doubling the recipe and using a 9X13 inch pan.

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest 
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
1 1/4 cups flour 
1 cup old fashioned oats (NOT quick oats) 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375F.

Coat 8x8 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest and lemon juice in medium bowl until thickened; set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in medium bowl until crumbly (I took off my ring and just used my hands to mix in the butter with the dry ingredients. Sometimes getting messy is just easier).

Press half of the crumbly mixture in pan; bake about 10 minutes or until set.

Spread lemon milk mixture over baked crust. Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture over the lemon milk mixture, press down gently.

Bake about 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is set but soft. Cool completely (I put mine in the fridge for an hour after the pan cooled off). Cut 4 rows by 4 rows. I stored the extras in the fridge.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sausage Tortellini Soup

On a difficulty scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate this soup a zero. But, please don't think that is in any way indicative of the taste! Oh what a soup! Delicious, yummy, flavorful, filling! Easy BEYOND easy to make....a mom's dream dinner, right!? My friend, Gina, over at Hyphenista, shared her wonderful recipe with me....and now, I am sharing it with you! Make this soon, make it often and serve it with a good crusty bread! Enjoy!
1 Tbl olive oil
1 lb mild Italian sausage (you can also use chicken sausage)
5 cups beef broth
1 jar good quality marinara sauce (I used a 24oz jar of Rao's Marinara)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 - 3/4 cup red wine
Spinach (I used 1/2 of a 9 oz bag; I chopped it before adding it to the soup. You can also use frozen spinach)
1 9oz package of fresh tortellini
Good quality Parmesan cheese, shredded
The cast of characters
Coat the bottom of a large soup pot with olive oil.  Remove the sausage from it's casings (or save yourself this step and buy bulk sausage) and crumble into the pot.  Saute the sausage over medium heat, continuing to break it apart into small crumbles with a wooden spoon.

Once the sausage is cooked, add the beef broth, marinara, tomatoes, wine, and spinach.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer.  Stir in tortellinis, continue to simmer until they are cooked through.  

Serve with shredded Parmesan. Is that simple or what!?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Ultimate Brownies

This recipe (also known "crack brownies") has been floating around Pinterest for weeks! I finally decided to give it a shot! These decadent brownies were simple AND fun to make; very yummy and yes, it was hard to stop at just one (and I didn't!). I think it was the peanuts that really put them over the edge! In fact, the next time I make these, I think I'll add another 1/2 cup! I just love that crunch!! Enjoy!

1 box brownie mix (AND all the ingredients needed to bake them)
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (you can also use semi-sweet for a deeper chocolatey taste)
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (you know I used crunchy- FYI, I don't believe in creamy PB)
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9X13 inch pan very well (or whatever size pan your brownie mix calls for).

Make brownies according to the directions on the package and pour into prepared pan. Bake the least amount that the brownie box recommends minus 5 minutes. For example, if your brownie mix says to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, bake these for 25 minutes. I say to do this because once you add the next layer of goodies, you will return the brownies to the oven for an additional 6 minutes of baking. You definitely do not want to overcook the brownies!! Slightly undercooked brownies are always best!

Remove the brownies from the oven and immediately sprinkle the peanuts, marshmallows and peanut butter cups on top. Return to the oven for an additional 6 minutes of baking.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a large bowl in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between each interval (approximately 1 1/2 minutes should do the trick). Stir in cereal.  Spread the cereal mixture evenly over the top.

Refrigerate for 2 hours to let the top layer "set". Once I removed the brownies from the fridge I ran a butter knife along the sides of the pan a few times on each side. I didn't think it was going to work- but, I flipped the whole thing onto a clean cutting board, gave the pan a hard thunk and to my delight, the whole thing came out in one glorious piece!!! It is always SO much easier to cut bar cookies when they are out of the pan- these were no exception! So, if you greased your pan well enough and are feeling lucky, give this final step before cutting a try!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Caprese Bites

Who wants to hear a recipe that requires zero culinary skill,  presents itself like a work of art and tastes absolutely divine!? "I do, I do," I hear you say! Well, here it is! Serve this at your next party! Your friends will think you are amazing! Enjoy!

Cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella, cut into bite sized pieces (or use Bocconcini - mini mozzarella balls)
Fresh basil
Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

Here is an example of balsamic glaze- any kind you find will do!
Skewer a cherry tomato, folded basil leaf and a piece of mozzarella onto a toothpick. Arrange in a beautiful pattern on a serving tray. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar glaze. Voila! Appetizer finished, you look like a genius!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Zingy Lasagna

Okay, this “Mexican” lasagna has got to the be the easiest lasagna I have ever made! The noodles did not need to pre-boil, there is no cheese filling, no saute-ing onions, nor endless layering upon layering. And actually, my kitchen didn’t get too thrashed during the cooking process- you know what I mean, tons of pots, pans and dishes scattered throughout.....Nope, it was easy-peasy! Please don’t confuse easy, however, with bland or simple, no, no!! This was full of flavor, very hearty and satisfying! A great alternative to your run-of-the-mill lasagna!! Please make note that it requires at good 90 minutes to cook and 10 - 15 minutes to set, plan accordingly!!

Thank you to my friend, Gina, who recently gave me a copy of the cookbook, A Thyme to Celebrate, from whence this recipe comes! I can’t wait to try more dishes from this book!

3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound lean ground beef
2  15oz cans of refried beans
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp garlic powder
12 uncooked lasagna noodles (do NOT use the “no boil” kind)
2 1/2 cups salsa
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 6 oz can of sliced black olives
2 cups sour cream
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350F

Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef, cook for 5 minutes or until brown, stirring until crumbly (I really work the meat so it’s very finely crumbled). Drain fat, if any. Add the beans, oregano, cumin and garlic powder. Mix well. Simply soak the lasagna noodles in room temperature water in a large soup pot for 5 minutes.

Coat a 9X13 inch baking dish with 1 Tbl olive oil. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread one half of the ground beef mixture over the noodles. Add another 1/3 of the noodles, then add remaining half of the ground beef mixture. Top with the remaining noodles.

Combine salsa and water. Pour over the top of the layers. Okay, one thing to mention- the lasagna is going to look like watery soup at this point!!! Don’t panic! I admit it, I did a little. But, don’t fret because the water will cook all those uncooked noodles while it bakes. When you take the foil off after it’s finished, I promise you will be happy with what you see!! Okay, back to the recipe.....bake, COVERED with foil, for 90 minutes.

Mix the green onions, olives, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack in a bowl. When the lasagna has finished cooking, remove it from the oven and carefully uncover. Evenly spread the sour cream mixture on top. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Let the lasagna set-up for AT LEAST 10 minutes before cutting into it! I like to let it sit for 15 minutes- this gives me a nice clean slice of lasagna and not a sloppy floppy mess of noodles and meat on a plate!  Serve with additional salsa, chips and guacamole! Enjoy

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shannon's Pumpkin Spice Dip

This pumpkin dip recipe comes from my neighbor, Shannon. It is so delicious and completely irresistible! She has made it for me twice now and both times I have sneaked into the fridge when no one was around and devoured it.  Of course, I shared a little of it, too. My kids absolutely love it! The ginger snaps served with the dip are THE perfect accompaniment....although, you could easily use graham cracker cookies or even apples if you do not like ginger snaps. The dip is simple to make and is the perfect appetizer or dessert to serve during the holiday season! Enjoy!

1 8oz block cream cheese, softened
1 15oz can of pumpkin
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tub cool whip, thawed
1/4 tsp cinnamon  
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Ginger Snap cookies (or graham cookies or apples)

Combine softened cream cheese and confectioners sugar. Add pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold in tub of cool whip.

Serve as a dip with spiced wafer cookies.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Avalanche Bars

I just whipped up these tasty Rice Krispie Treat take-offs this afternoon! The recipe was super easy, no baking required and they are really quite yummy! My three year old even helped out (lately she has taken a huge interest in helping me bake and cook- hence the little apron she's wearing in the photo below....I have to admit, I'm more than excited about this and I foresee many baking/bonding experiences in our future!!!). The recipe comes from the blog Cookies & Cups. Enjoy!

12 oz bag of White Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (as always, I only had extra crunchy in my cabinet...worked great!)
3 cups Rice Krispies
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips + 2 Tbsp for garnish.
Lightly grease a 9x9 pan (I only had an 8X8 pan and it worked fine!)

In microwave-safe bowl pour in white chips and heat on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir and continue in 30 second increments until chips are melted. Please make sure that you stir after every 30 seconds. I have had issues with white chips before- if they get too hot, they can clump and get hard. No bueno!

Combine the peanut butter with the melted chips and stir well. Add the Krispies.

Let cool approx 15 – 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so to help cool.

Add the marshmallows and the mini chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly, pressing lightly with the back of your spoon or a piece of parchment paper. Do not compact too much, otherwise they will get hard.

Press the remaining chocolate chips into the top for garnish. I put mine in the fridge for a 1/2 hour to help them cool and set.

When the bars are completely cooled cut into squares.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Apple & Cheddar Penne Pie

Apple & Cheddar Penne Pie?! Yeah, that's just a really fancy way of saying saying mac & cheese on steroids.  This is good, friends! This is very very good! Like you-could-serve-this-at-your-Thanksgiving-meal good......and maybe you should! I'm actually considering it! The apples in this "pie" give it a subtle sweetness that pairs so well with the savory cheddar and thyme. This Better Homes and Gardens dish will be made again and again in my house! I hope it will in yours, too!! Enjoy!

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs (I used plain bread crumbs)
3 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme
12 ounces dried penne pasta (3 1/2 cups)
2 cups chopped apples (2 to 3 medium)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup apple cider
6 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut up
1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with 1 tablespoon of the softened butter. Sprinkle sides of pan with 1/3 cup of the panko to coat; set aside. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon softened butter. Stir the remaining 1/3 cup panko and 1 teaspoon of the thyme into melted butter; set aside.

2. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than directed by package directions; drain. Return pasta to pan; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan cook apples and onion in the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until tender. Add flour, salt, and pepper to saucepan. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in milk and apple cider. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat to low. Add cheeses and the remaining 2 teaspoons of thyme; stir until cheese melts.

4. Add sauce mixture to pasta; stir to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with reserved panko mixture.

5. Bake, uncovered about 40 minutes or until edges are bubbly. Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Using a serrated knife, cut pie into eight wedges. If desired, top with fresh thyme sprigs. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Greek Salad - THE Best Recipe EVER!

I recently came across the most wonderful blog called The Cafe Sucre Farine. This lady's recipes are marvelous!! Truly truly! I blogged her Sweet Balsamic Salad Dressing last week. You must try it! And now I am blogging yet another one of her salads. Please believe me when I tell you this: the recipes below are the very best Greek salad & salad dressing I have ever had- hands down! This could be served in ANY restaurant in the country and I guarantee you will would proclaim, "This is the best Greek salad I've ever had!" My husband and I feasted in pure bliss on this delectable dish earlier this week...and I have been craving it ever since! I think I'll always put cooked potatoes in my salads from now on! HA! Please give it a try! And please check out her yummy blog!

*Note: My husband doesn't like raw red onion nor does he like olives. I put everything in my salad and simply omitted his dislikes. Feel free to add and omit what you do and don't like. 

**Note: I only made half the dressing & salad for the two of us...and I STILL had dressing to spare.

For the Salad Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
For the Salad
8 cups romaine lettuce
3 plum tomatoes, cut in wedges (I used cherry tomatoes)
1 English cucumber, sliced or 1 regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow or red bell pepper (seeded and cut into rings or sliced) 
3/4 cup cannellini beans 
3/4 cup tiny potatoes cooked till tender and cooled (if you don't have tiny potatoes just diced up a large potato and boil till tender- this took about 12 minutes for the potatoes to be fork tender)
3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled (or to taste)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, halved
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (this was my own addition)
1. Place all salad dressing ingredient in a glass jar. Cover and shake well. 
3. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours before using to blend flavors.
3. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over to coat lightly; toss to combine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Monster Cookies

Oh Boy! These are EVERY bit at good as they good as they look- and maybe even better!!! A big thank you to the blog Lemon Sugar for this super yummy PB cookie recipe that I copied verbatim!! If you are a peanut butter lover, make these stat!
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Reese's Pieces mini candies, 1 bag (I couldn't find mini Reese', I used regular...but, I ran, if you can only find regular, you might need a bag and a half)
Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) cream together butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla, and beat to combine.

Slowly add dry ingredients, and beat just until combined.  Don't over beat at this stage.  Stir in oats, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.  Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.

Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Pour Reese's Pieces candies onto a plate or into a flat bowl.

Using a large cookie scoop (about 3 Tablespoons) drop cookie dough into the bowl of candies. Gently use your hand to press the dough down into the cookies and flatten the dough into a disc, then transfer to cookie sheet.  Bake, six at a time, for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to darken. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes.  If you skip this step, the cookies might break when you transfer them to a cooling rack.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving. Makes 16 - 18 cookies.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sweet Balsamic Salad Dressing

Oh merciful heavens, I think I just found my new go-to salad dressing! This recipe comes from the blog Cafe Sucre Farine. It was so amazingly yummy I wanted to lick the plate! This recipe makes a large amount. You could easily 1/2 it or even 1/4 it. But, I'm glad I made the whole thing because now I will be finding any excuse I can in the coming week to make myself a salad!!

In case you are wondering what's in the salad pictured, it's romaine, avocado, cranberries and sugared sliced almonds. But, really, in my opinion,  this dressing will compliment any salad combo! Enjoy!

⅓ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 ½ tablespoons sesame seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried mustard
1 tablespoon minced sweet onion
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup vegetable oii
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Put all ingredients in a medium sized tupperware container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Shake each time before using.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Andes Mint Chocolate Chunk Cookies

What do you do when school has been cancelled for two days and you're pacing around the house, hoping the power doesn't go out, terribly bored, waiting for hurricane Sandy to show up? Well, if you are me, you bake cookies, of course! And I have been wanting to try this recipe for a couple of weeks now!

I am a serious lover of all things mint and Andes Chocolate Mints are at the top of my yum list. So when I discovered that Andes now come in a bag and are all broken up into little pieces just like a bag of chocolate chips, I got very excited!!! This recipe is found on the back of the bag. Enjoy!!

1/2 cup salted butter, softened 
3/4 cup dark brown sugar 
1/2 cup white granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
2 eggs 
1 package (10 oz) Andes® Creme de Menthe Baking Chips or Andes® After Dinner Mints, coarsely chopped 
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour 

Preheat oven to 350F

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed.
Stir in baking chips or chopped candy and then flour. Chill at least one hour in refrigerator. 

Drop 1 Tbl of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Roll the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly with your hand. 

Raise oven rack one level above middle and baking on non-stick cookie sheets. Bake at 350-degrees for approximately 8-10 minutes. Cool on pans for two minutes before removing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Monterey Chicken

"Really flavorful" and "definitely blog-worthy," is how my husband described this chicken! And I agree! When you read the list of ingredients, how can you go wrong!? This recipe was inspired by the All Things Simple blog. I changed her recipe a bit by adding jalapenos and real bacon. This chicken was very simple to make, but looked like a million bucks coming out of the oven! I served it with a side of brown rice and roasted broccoli. Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. bar-b-que sauce
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. colby and jack cheese, shredded
1 14 oz. can Rotel tomatoes & green chilies, drained
jarred sliced jalapenos (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pound out chicken breasts to flatten. Season with salt and pepper. Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Turn burner on to medium heat and let skillet get hot. Add the breasts to the hot skillet and cook for four minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and place in a glass casserole dish.

Top each chicken breast with one tablespoon bar-b-que sauce, 1/4 c. cheese, bacon (divided evenly among breasts), 1/4 c. tomatoes, and jalapenos (if using).  Lightly tent a piece of foil over chicken. Cook in oven for 12 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 6 minutes until the chicken has cooked through and cheese has melted.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Boo S'mores Treat Bags

Okay, I know this isn't a recipe, but these S'mores Treat Bags are WAY too cute not to blog! Make these adorable treat bags for your children's friends, your kid's Halloween party at school or the children in your neighborhood! An instant s'mores treat that will make any child smile!!

All you need to assemble:
Graham crackers (break one cracker into two squares)
Ghost (or pumpkin) Peeps
Mini Hershey's Candy Bars
Goodie Bags

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bacon, Olive & Cheddar Bread

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and it just looked so amazingly yummy, I had to make it! I changed a couple things here and there and fiddled with some measurements, but, the end result was a hearty, savory bread with so much flavor it could almost stand alone as a meal! The bread "dough" was really more like was quite wet and "sticky"....please don't let that scare you! The end result was perfection! Enjoy!

1 tsp butter
5 green onions, finely chopped
2/3 c white wine
1/3 c. olive oil
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 c. ham, diced
2/3 c. sliced olives (black, green or a combo of the two)
2 Tbl fresh parsley OR 1 Tbl dried parsley
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350F

Melt 1 tsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in chopped green onions and saute for 3 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the wine, oil, eggs and salt. In a separate bowl mix the flour and baking powder together. Stir the wine mixture into the flour mixture.
Add the sauteed green onions, cooked & crumbled bacon, ham, olives and parsley to the bread mixture. Stir well to combine. Add the cheese. Stir. 

Pour into a greased loaf pan and cook for 60 to 63 minutes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oreo Pudding Cookies

Believe it or not, it's not uncommon for my husband and kids to pass on homemade cookies and baked goods that I make. I think I just bake so often, they just don't get excited by much anymore. There have been many a time I tried out a new cookie or bar and everyone says "no thank you" and asks if they can have ice cream instead. SIGH. So, I was ecstatic and surprised to see how all of them ate two, three, four of these Oreo Pudding Cookies each! They were a huge hit! I passed them out to my neighbors, as well, and got rave reviews! But seriously, folks, how could they NOT be fantastic?! Oreo pudding AND Hershey's Cookies & Cream bars in one solitary cookie?! YES PLEASE! Thanks again to the Girl Who Ate Everything blog for this yummy recipe! Enjoy!

1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (4.2 ounce) package instant Oreo Pudding mix (see Note)
2 1/4 cups flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Hershey's Cookies N Cream Candy Bars cut into small pieces (I used 2.6 ounce King Sized bars)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugars. Beat in pudding mix until blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Stir in cookies n' cream pieces and chocolate chips. Batter will be thick.

Using a cookie dough scooper, place golf ball sized dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 9 minutes. You do not want to overbake these! Let cookies cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a cooking rack. Store in air-tight container. Makes two dozen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baked Portabello with Parmesan

This healthy, meatless recipe was a big hit with my husband. This dinner was very satisfying and tasted delcious - it tasted like pizza! The recipe comes from One Perfect Bite. Serve with a side salad and a good crusty bread. Enjoy!

1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 cup (3-oz.) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley, divided use (I used fresh basil instead of parsley)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided use
3/4 cup egg substitute (I used two eggs)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano leaves (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
4 large (5 to 6-inches wide) stemmed portobello mushrooms, brushed clean
1-1/2 cups (6-oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup commercially prepared "light" tomato sauce
Cooking spray

1) Position a baking rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 17-1/2 x 11-3/4 baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a 16-1/2 x 11-1/2-inch wire cooling rack inside the baking sheet. Mist rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

2) Combine bread crumbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons parsley, paprika and 1 teaspoon salt in a shallow pan. Mix well. Set aside.

3) In a separate bowl, combine eggs, remaining 1 teaspoon salt. pepper, marjoram, garlic powder and oregano. Mix well.

4) Dip both sides of mushrooms into egg mixture. Dredge in crumb mixture until both sides are completely coated. Transfer, stem side down, to prepared wire rack. Spray tops with cooking spray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove pan from oven.

5) Reset oven thermostat to 450 degrees F. Meanwhile, carefully turn mushrooms stem side up. Cover each mushroom with 2 tablespoons of remaining Parmesan cheese, 1/4 of mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup tomato sauce. Spray tops lightly. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts and mushrooms are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Use a wide spatula to transfer mushrooms to a serving platter. Sprinkle with reserved 1 tablespoon parsley.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Scarecrow Treats

These yummy treats are the perfect bar cookie for fall! They were fun to make, too! Just remember when working with the corn syrup/peanut butter mixture you have to work quickly!! If you don't, the mixture will harden and will be all but impossible to get out of the saucepan! These treats are an "active" baking project....just be aware of that before you set out to make them. The recipe comes from the Land O' Lakes website. Enjoy!

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (18.25-ounce) package pudding in the mix yellow cake mix
1 egg
3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups crisp rice cereal
2 cups salted peanuts
1 cup candy corn
Preheat oven to 350F 
Combine butter and cake mix in a large bowl. Beat on low speed until well mixed. Add egg; continue beating until well mixed. (You really must use a hand mixer for this step)

Press onto bottom of a greased 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven.

Immediately sprinkle marshmallows over hot, partially baked crust. Return to oven; continue baking for 1 to 2 minutes or until marshmallows puff.

Meanwhile, combine corn syrup, sugar and brown sugar in LARGE saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture comes to a boil (2 to 4 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Stir in cereal, peanuts and candy corn. Immediately spoon over marshmallows; spread to cover (I used a piece of parchment paper to spread mixture evenly over the marshmallows- this is a great trick when making any type of Rice Krispie treat- the hot mixture will not stick to the parchment paper and you can smooth it out perfectly). Cool completely. Cut into bars. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cheesey Mushroom Pull Apart Bread

Oh boy was this good! And it looked beautiful, too! It has several of my favorite foods combined- bread, cheese, butter, mushrooms, I mean, seriously, how could this ever go wrong!!!? The following recipe is verbatim from the Beantown Baker blog. I suggest you make this for your next get together, bring it to a holiday party, serve it on Superbowl Sunday.....or do what I did, just serve it for dinner one night. I'm not kidding, my husband and I sat in front of the tv and picked this thing apart on a Monday was delicious! Enjoy!

12 oz sliced mushrooms (buttons or baby bellas)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1 unsliced loaf sourdough bread (please get good sourdough from the bakery)
12 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup finely diced green onion
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 350F
Heat a medium skillet on medium. Add the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the mushrooms. Cook 4-5 minutes until they start to sweat. Add the thyme and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes. Set mushrooms aside and allow to cool.

Cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting through the bottom crust. This can be a little tricky going the second way but the bread is very forgiving.

Place loaf on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Insert cheese slices between cuts. Pour the mushrooms between the cuts. Use your fingers to push the mushrooms down into the loaf.
Combine butter, onion, and poppy seeds. Drizzle over bread. 

Wrap in foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Unwrap the bread and bake 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted. Yum!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween Rice Krispie Treat Cake

This fun little cake was a snap to make and looked adorable! The kids loved it (and so did I)! Perfect treat to make for Halloween! And please don't worry if your measurements aren't exact, Rice Krispie treats aren't rocket science......they always taste good no matter what! Enjoy!

1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 bags of mini marshmallows
9 c. Rice Krispies
1 c. candy corn
1 c. Reece's Pieces

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Once butter has melted add mini marshmallows to the pot. Stand over that pot like a mama bird guarding her nest and stir, stir, stir....don't let those marshmallows burn! Once the marshmallows have melted completely, remove the pot from heat and add 1/2 the Rice Krispies. Stir to incorporate. Add the rest of the Rice Krispies, as well as the candy corn and Reece's Pieces. Stir till everything is covered with the melted marshmallows.

Scoop mixture into a well greased bundt pan (don't have a bundt pan? You really should, but, that's besides the point. You can use a 9X13" glass dish, although it won't look as pretty). Use a piece of wax or parchment paper to evenly push the Rice Krispie treats down so they are level. Let the "cake" cool for awhile then invert onto a cake stand. Voila!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

As you probably know if you follow my blog, I am a sucker for quick breads, especially ones that are sweet! So when I saw this recipe on Lovin' From the Oven (which btw, is a great blog- especially for baking fanatics like myself) I knew I had to make it! Yummy!!!! Blog worthy indeed! And just the type of comfort food needed at this time of year when the temperatures are dropping! Please give it a try!

3 over-ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
dash of salt
1 1/2 cups flour

For the swirl:
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbl cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Mix bananas, melted butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla together. Sprinkle baking soda and salt around on top of the banana mixture. Then gently stir in flour. Be careful not to over-mix!

In a small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup sugar and 1 Tbl cinnamon.

Add 1/2 of the batter to the prepared loaf pan and then sprinkle 3 to 4 Tbl of the cinnamon-sugar mixture all over the batter in the pan. Add the rest of the batter, and then sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon-sugar on top. You can use the tip of a knife to gently swirl the cinnamon sugar mixture into the batter a bit.

Bake for 50-55 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poppy Seed Chicken

Another simple, no-brainer recipe for my busy mom friends!!! Thank you to The Girl Who Ate Everything blog for letting me swipe this recipe! Serve over brown rice with a side of roasted broccoli! Enjoy!

5 cups chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (you can cook your own or use the white meat from TWO rotisserie chickens)
1 cup sour cream
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups crushed Ritz crackers (about 1 1/2 rolls of crackers)
1/2 cup melted butter (I only used 1/4 cup of butter)
1 T poppy seeds
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp minced garlic
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 350F
Place cooked cubed chicken in a 9X13 casserole dish.
Stir together the condensed soup and sour cream. Stir in the Worchestershire sauce, celery salt, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper to the soup and sour cream mixture. Carefully pour over chicken being careful not to upset the chicken at the bottom.
In a separate bowl, stir together the crushed crackers, poppy seeds and melted butter. Evenly sprinkle over the chicken and sauce. 
Bake for 30 minutes, until the top of the casserole is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Serve over brown rice with a side of broccoli.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mummy Pizza

A simple, yummy pizza the kids loved eating! And it's just in time for Halloween! You can use whatever you have on hand for the base of the pizza- English muffins, I used crumpets, or you could even use a pack of Pillsbury biscuits! Just keep it simple and fun!

4 English muffin halves
Pizza sauce
4 pieces of string cheese for the "wrap"
4 black olives, cut into 8 slices for the "eyes"

Preheat oven to 400F

Lay English muffins on a foil lined baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Evenly add pizza sauce. Strip the string cheese into lots of "strings" and arrange them any which way on top of the pizza sauce. I like to have the olive "eyes" peeking out under the "wrap" really can't go wrong here....just be creative! Cook for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted a bit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Green Bean Bundles

I don't even find it necessary to write an intro to this insanely yummy way to eat your green beans! I already know you are going to make them...I had you at bacon....I had you at bacon....

1 pound fresh green beans (I really prefer haricot verts- this is the French word for green beans- they are really thin. Use what you can find, though).
Package of bacon
2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl brown sugar
1 - 2 cloves of minced garlic
5 dashes of Worchestershire sauce
Dash of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

Fit a foil lined roasting pan with a wire rack.  Spray the rack with cooking spray. This step is really important. Cooking the bundles on a wire rack allows for the bacon grease to drip into the foiled lined pan (easy clean up, crispier bacon and less grease, ie. calories/fat consumption- a three part win).

Wash and thoroughly dry green beans. Season with salt and pepper. Bundle together about 6-8 green beans. Using a slice of bacon, wrap it around the center of the beans to hold it together. Lay the bundle bacon seam side down in the baking dish to hold it together. Repeat with remaining beans.

Heat a small saucepan over low heat. Add butter, brown sugar, garlic and Worchestershire sauce with a whisk until melted and combined. Use a pastry brush to brush mixture over the top of each green bean bundle. Cover the bundles with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15-20 minutes more,  until the bacon gets crispy.

Try not to burn yourself while sneaking a bundle before it has cooled off! Enjoy!