Sunday, March 31, 2013

Peeps in a Nest

         !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAPPY EASTER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pretzel sticks
Candy melts
Mini eggs or jelly beans

Melt candy melts in the microwave; combine with pretzel sticks. Stir together to coat. Drop onto wax paper to make a "nest" for the Peeps. Place Peeps & mini eggs or jelly beans on top of "nest" while the candy melts are still "wet"; the Peeps and mini eggs will stick to the nest as the candy melts harden. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce

This Cooking Light recipe is TO DIE FOR!! I mean, really, it is delicious!!!! The bonus was it was crazy easy to prepare AND the second bonus was my whole family loved it- including the kiddos!!! I'm really excited to share it with you......I think after trying this meal you will definitely add it to your recipe rotation!!

I used only two large chicken breasts - I sliced them horizontally to get two pieces out of each breast giving me four pieces of chicken total.  I really like doing this because it stretches the meat (my husband only ate one piece and was full) and it also decreases cooking time (I often find it hard to gauge how long to cook a thick chicken breast). I served the chicken over angel hair pasta. Delish!

2 tsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts (sliced horizontally to give you four thin breasts)
1 tsp garlic, minced
16 slices pepperoni, coarsely chopped (I used 10 thickly sliced pieces of pepperoni from the deli counter)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2  to 2 cups good quality jarred marinara (I always use Rao's pasta sauces)
2 Tbl chopped fresh basil
1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

 Preheat broiler to high

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 4 minutes on each side (this, of course, is if you sliced your chicken breasts horizontally and they are thin......if you didn't, you will need to cook longer). Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.

Add garlic and pepperoni to the same skillet you just cooked the chicken in. Cook for two minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.

Return cooked chicken to the skillet. Nestle the chicken down into the sauce and spoon sauce over chicken. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve with fresh angel hair pasta on the side. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chicken Posole

Posole is a type of Mexican soup or stew that usually includes meat and hominy. I LOVE hominy- love love love it! It gives a beautiful texture and flavor to this savory soup. This recipe is quick, quick, quick to make! You can vary the spiciness of it with the verde salsa you use. If you like no heat, use mild salsa.....bring on the heat? Try a hot verde salsa! It's a simple as that! I served this soup with a side of fresh guacamole and chips. Enjoy!

1 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup celery, minced
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 1/2 cups verde salsa
3 to 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (start with 3 and if you want it thinner, add another cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1 15 oz can white or yellow hominy, rinsed and drained
1 to 2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken (I used 1 cup, but add more if you family likes it meaty)
Juice of one fresh lime
Ripe avocado, peeled and diced

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add oregano, cumin, chili powder, garlic, celery and onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add verde salsa, chicken broth and salt, scraping bits off the bottom of the pan. Add hominy; cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in chicken and cook till chicken has warmed through. Remove from heat and add lime juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with diced avocado on top.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Raspberry Chocolate Torte

This might be one of the very best desserts in my arsenal. It is a show stopper for sure. Every time I bake this torte people say, "Did you really make this?" It truly looks and tastes like it comes from an elegant bakery. My mother in law, Mary, gave me this recipe years ago. The recipe comes from a cooking class she took titled "Candlelight Dinner" in San Diego over a decade ago. I am very glad she shared it with me!! It is actually not that difficult, but, it does require time, patience and a spring form pan! So, make sure you have all of those before you begin!! It also requires high quality ingredients - no Hershey bars, please, folks! It's an expensive torte to make, but, I guarantee if you bought this at a high-end bakery you'd pay a high price to bring this home! Enjoy!!

6 oz high quality dark chocolate (I used 2 Lindt bars - go for 70% to 80% dark chocolate)
3/4 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts (I just use a knife)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbl SEEDLESS raspberry jam
fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350F

Grease a 10 inch spring-form pan

Melt 4 oz high quality dark chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and chopped hazelnuts until well blended. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until "dry" on the surface and set. DO NOT OVER-BAKE. Cool completely in pan (about 45 minutes). Spread 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam over the cooled torte.

Place remaining 2 oz dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat whipping cream in a small saucepan on low heat until simmering gently. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips. Let stand 1 minute. Add 3 Tbl seedless raspberry jam to cream and chocolate chips; stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Spread chocolate mixture over jam layer on torte.

Refrigerate until chocolate mixture is set, at least one hour (if you have time for longer, that is even better). Remove pan ring and bottom pan from torte (this takes some skill- I have used a large spatula to help me do this) and place on a cake stand. Decorate with fresh raspberries (make sure the raspberries are dry....plan to wash the raspberries long before you need to decorate the torte with them). Cut into wedges and serve!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cheesy Jalepeno Popper Stuffed Baked Chicken

This is another Skinny Taste recipe that I will definitely be making again! It did require a bit of prep, but the end results were worth it! It was full of flavor and the chicken was very moist! I love the blog Skinny Taste! If you haven't already, please check it out! Every recipe I have made off her blog has been delicious! And the fact that all her recipes are healthful is just a huge bonus in my book!

*Please note that I only used two large chicken breasts (and after I sliced them horizontally, it made four total). Even though I only used two chicken breasts, I still made the same amount of filling (except I used only one jalepeno). I didn't want my chicken to get a skimpy amount of filling!  Also, I added 2 Tbl of hot wing sauce to the cheesy mixture. I really liked this addition and I would do it again!

Here is the recipe taken from Skinny Taste:
  • 2 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 jalapeƱos, chopped (remove seeds for milder)
  • 3 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz reduced fat shredded cheddar jack (Sargento)
  • 2 tbsp chopped scallions
  • 4 skinless chicken breast cutlets, sliced in half horizontally to make them quite thin
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 juicy limes, juice of
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • olive oil non-stick spray 
Preheat oven to 450F

Wash and dry chicken cutlets, season with salt and pepper.  Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, scallions, jalapeƱo and bacon crumbles in a medium bowl.

Lay chicken breasts on a working surface and slice them in half horizontally. Spread 2 tbsp of cream cheese mixture on each cutlet. Loosely roll each one, secure the ends with toothpicks to prevent the cheese from oozing out.

Place breadcrumbs in a bowl; in a second bowl combine olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.

Dip chicken in lime-oil mixture, then in breadcrumbs and place seam side down on a baking dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken. When finished, lightly spray the top of the chicken with oil spray.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until cooked through. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Key Lime Dip

My friend, Dana, brought this key lime dip to a party the other night! It was a huge hit (and I love her presentation on this tray). She told me her 10 year old son actually made the dip - it was THAT easy! She served it with shortbread cookies and a variety of fruit. After trying the dip with each of the fruits she brought, we both agreed the strawberries and pineapple paired the best.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar of marshmallow fluff
2 Tbl lime juice

Mix all ingredients together! Serve with fruit and shortbread cookies. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Bites

Here is another great recipe from my friend, Gina, over at These were a HUGE hit!! Every last one was eaten! I served about 10 at a time and kept the others warming on a cookie sheet in an oven set at 200F (except for the blue cheese, which I added just before serving). Enjoy!

3 strips of bacon
1/2 c celery, minced
1/2 c onion, minced
1 cup finely chopped cooked chicken
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 c. hot wing sauce
2 boxes mini phyllo shells
crumbled blue cheese

Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove the bacon and crumble when cool. Add the celery and onion to the bacon grease. Saute until soft (about five minutes) and remove from heat. Add the cream cheese. Allow the cream cheese to melt, then mix in the cooked chicken, crumbled bacon and hot wing sauce. Mix well.

Spoon the chicken mixture into the shells. Sprinkle the tops with crumbled blue cheese. Serve warm.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Easy Chicken Tacos

Wednesdays are my super busy, all-day activity days with my three kids. It's the perfect day for me to try out new crock pot recipes! I saw this recipe for easy chicken tacos all over Pinterest and thought I'd give it a try. The easy-factor can simply not be beat; in fact, cooking this meat is embarrassingly easy! It yielded a tender, moist, flavorful taco meat that my whole family (kids included! YAY!) really enjoyed! I made tacos out of the shredded chicken, but, you could also use it for nachos, on a baked potato, in tostadas or to top a salad. I used only two large chicken breasts and still had a good amount of meat left over. I used the left over meat for quesadillas the following night. I think it would be great in my Chicken Enchilada soup, too! Endless options for the left-over meat makes these Easy Chicken Tacos even easier! Enjoy!

2-4 chicken breasts
1 jar of salsa
1 package of taco seasoning

Combine all in a crockpot and cook over low for 8 hours. Shred chicken meat with two forks.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Monkey Cake

I just love how this sheet cake turned out! It was super moist, full of flavor and the cream cheese frosting was truly the icing on the cake!! Enjoy!

Monkey Cake:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
2 eggs
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed completely
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup butter (1/2 a stick), softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar (this is your preference for how sweet you like it)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F

Grease and flour a 13 X 9 pan. Beat first four ingredients until creamy with a hand-mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Blend in mashed bananas and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and blend for one minute. Stir in nuts and spread in pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool slighty until warm and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Using a hand-mixer, blend softened butter and softened cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and blend. How much sugar you use depends on how sweet you like your frosting. I used 3 cups of powdered sugar. Add vanilla and blend well. Smooth frosting over the top of the monkey cake. Cut into squares and serve. Enjoy!