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!