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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Post of the Year...and Happy 101

Herding Cats tagged me as a blogger that brightens her day. Hey, hey I have a blog friend ;) As a result, I'm supposed to list 10 things that make me happy and tag 10 bloggers that brighten my day.

Because I'm busy driving home from Oklahoma today, I'm posting this instead of a recipe. Have no fear though, I'll be back in 2010 with lots of yummy eats!

So here goes...

10 Things that Make Me Happy
1. RUNNING--as I'm slowly returning from injury, every run is a blessing that I don't take for granted. Running is my sanity, seriously.
2. NOT having to set the alarm clock. Even if I wake up early on my own, its better than being awoken by the alarm!
3. McDonalds ice cream cones--heaven. You must try if you haven't ever!
4. Watching my siblings play basketball. They're better than I ever was and I tear up I'm so proud (lame, I know...just wait til I have my own kids!)
5. Warmth! As someone who is always always cold, I appreciate when I enter a house, store, restaurant, etc. and it is actually WARM (to my standards)
6. Sundays. I love Sundays because we rarely have plans beyond church and the hours always seem to pass slowly.
7. Family vacations. Ha, and vacations in general. Some of my fondest memories are of my family on vacation and our various adventures.
8. Curling up under a warm blanket (see no. 5), often on a Sunday afternoon (see no. 6), and reading a good book. In conjunction with that, going to the library and picking out library books makes me happy :)
9. Making a new recipe and finding out it's WAY better than anticipated (case in point)
10. Ryan. Last, but certainly not least! I am truly blessed to have such an awesome hubby. He puts up with a lot, I'm not always easy to live with! It's nice to have someone who is always on your side and always loving you, even in your less-than-finer moments!

And now, I tag the following 10 blogs...

Happy New Year's Eve!! :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gingerbread Pancakes

Because Ryan and I planned to be gone over Christmas (and are STILL gone as you read this), we tried to avoid grocery shopping and instead wanted to use up the food we had already. This proved to be a little challenging the last few days, when we were essentially out of fruit, vegetables, eggs, etc. I wanted to make a "special" breakfast our last morning at home, and discovered that we had mostly everything for these gingerbread pancakes! I modified the recipe a bit, based on what we had on hand, and these turned out delicious. Ryan topped his with candied pecans, maple syrup, and whipped cream...while I opted to top mine with Stoneyfield Oikos Greek Yogurt (and later whipped cream--YUM). FYI--I'll be posting a review of the Stoneyfield Greek Yogurt in the next few days.

These are a perfect holiday breakfast...and now that the holidays are passed, feel free to make them in memory of a great Christmas :) We will definitely be making these again soon--they rivaled some of our favorite pancakes ever!!

Gingerbread Pancakes
adapted from Closet Cooking

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tbsp ginger
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1 cup milk
-1/4 cup applesauce (we were out of eggs)
-2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
-1 tbsp white sugar (we were out of brown sugar)
-1 tbsp molasses
-about 2 tbsp water, to thin the batter if desired

1. Mix the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl.
2. Mix the milk, egg, butter, sugar, and molasses in another bowl.
3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Add a bit of water, if you prefer thinner pancakes.
4. Heat a skillet and pour batter onto the skillet. Flip pancakes when golden brown.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bay Scallops Gremolata

As soon as I saw this recipe on Kate's blog, I knew I'd be making it. We had some frozen bay scallops in our freezer (we used them to make this last time) and I wanted a new recipe to try them in. I was actually a little bit wary of the recipe as I was making it, unsure of whether or not we'd like it. However, both Ryan and I loved this dish and would definitely make it again. The fresh flavors from the parsley and lemon really stood out and it was a cinch to throw together after work.

Bay Scallops
*serves 2

-2 red skinned potatoes, cut into tiny dice
-5 tablespoons olive oil (I just guesstimated and probably used less)
-1/2 pound bay scallops
-1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-salt & pepper
-lemon wedges & parsley, for garnish

1. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add potatoes.Saute until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
2. Add remaining oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add scallops and cook, stirring constantly, until they are lightly seared, 2-3 minutes.
3. Add lemon zest and garlic and cook 1 minute more. Return potatoes to skillet with parsley and stir to blend. Add lemon juice and season with salt & pepper.
4. Serve immediately garnished with lemon wedges and parsley.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Black and White Bean Soup

Despite not having all of the required ingredients (thanks to me forgetting my list on the kitchen counter when I grocery shopped!), this soup still turned out just fine. It was filling and oh so spicy! If you don't like a ton of heat, I recommend scaling back on some of the spices. Eating this with tortilla chips helped to balance the flavors, as would some sour cream or avocado. I must say, winter's only (seriously, ONLY) redeeming factor, is the abundance of soups!

Black and White Bean Soup

-1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
-1 15 oz can white beans, rinsed
-1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with chilies, optional)
-3 cups chicken broth
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 medium red bell pepper, diced (omitted, thanks to my forgetfulness)
-1 medium onion, diced
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-1 tbsp chili powder
-2 tbsp cumin
-1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
-1 1/2-2 cups frozen yellow corn (omitted, thanks to my forgetfulness)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Season with chili powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin; cook for 3-5 minutes.
2. Add beans, tomatoes, and broth. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture begins to simmer, stirring frequently. About five minutes before removing from heat, add corn and stir to combine.
3. Place 2/3 of the soup in a blender and puree until soup reaches desired consistency. Combine pureed soup with the rest of the batch; served with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oven Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms

Do I sound like a nerd if I say I LOVE vegetables? I think the blog is a clear indication of my sweet tooth, but I also really really love vegetables. I guess they balance each other out, right? :)

Asparagus is one of my favorite veggies and this is a simple side that's great with just about anything. This time we ate it along with our butternut squash, black bean, and feta pita sandwiches....basically a heavenly meal!

This isn't even much of a recipe, it's so basic, but I wanted to post it in the hopes that it'll inspire some of you to eat your veggies ;)

Oven Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms

-1 bunch of asparagus (we used two bunches so we'd have leftovers!)
-1/2 package white mushrooms
-olive oil
-salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste

1. Wash and chop asparagus into one inch pieces. Slice mushrooms.
2. Add both vegetables to a baking dish. Lightly coat with olive oil, mixing to ensure that everything is evenly coated.
3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

4. Roast at 400F for approximately 30 minutes, to desired tenderness.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Butternut Squash, Black Bean, Feta Pita Sandwiches

I've had this recipe bookmarked ever since I first saw it on Kelsey's blog. Her version is adapted from Bon Appetit, which is actually for quesadillas. I slightly adapted the recipe to make it into pita sandwiches, since we had leftover pitas on hand from the chicken gyros. My version of the recipe is below--check out Kelsey's version if you want to see them in quesadilla form. I imagine they're equally awesome both ways, the combination of flavors is just awesome! I was pretty sure we would love these and had the foresight to make a big batch so that we could eat them two days in a row. That was definitely a good decision--one night of these would not have sufficed! :)

Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Feta Pita Sandwiches

-2 small butternut squash
-1 tbsp olive oil
-salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
-1 small container of low-fat plain yogurt
-zest of one lime
-juice of one lime
-pita bread
-1 can black beans, drained
-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
-1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut off the top of the squash and cut in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on salt, pepper, cumin, and nutmeg.
2. Roast squash in the oven until fork tender (mine took close to 50 minutes).
3. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and puree in a food processor or blender.
4. Heat drained black beans in a small saucepan over low heat.
5. Make the yogurt sauce by mixing the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, 1/2 tsp. cumin, and salt & pepper, to taste.
6. Scoop squash puree, black beans, feta cheese, and cilantro into pita. (We heated our pitas in the microwave beforehand). Drizzle on yogurt sauce & EAT!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

No posts today or tomorrow because I doubt anyone will be reading. Instead, I hope you're enjoying celebrating Jesus' birth with your families!

Back on the 26th with an AWESOME dinner recipe, don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chocolate Crunch Squares

These were another one of the desserts I made for work last week, but I probably wouldn't recommend you make these, at least not without some alterations. While they were good, they weren't great, and I have plenty of desserts I'd rather eat!

I actually made these because I was looking for a way to use up a few symphony candy bars that I had in my freezer (from a Walgreens candy sale, go figure). I searched for recipes that used milk chocolate bars and found this one. Like I said, it was pretty good, but it lacked something. The crust beneath the milk chocolate was a little bland for my liking. I'm posting the recipe for full disclosure (I feel like I'm always raving about recipes, ha), and in case they strike anyone's fancy. However, if you want a REALLY GOOD recipe, go make these ginger cookies! I've made them 3 times now and people go crazy for them every time!

Chocolate Crunch Squares
recipe found here

-1 cup butter, softened
-1 cup dark brown sugar (I used light which was all I had, maybe this was the problem?)
-1 egg yolk
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 cups flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-6 (1 1/2 oz) chocolate bars (I used 2 large milk chocolate Symphony bars)
-1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

1. Blend the butter and sugar.
2. Add egg, vanilla, flour, and salt. Mix well.
3. Spread batter in a greased pan (9 x 13). Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
4. When you remove from oven, immediately place chocolate bars on top of hot dough and spread evenly when they melt (This isn't as easy as it sounds. I broke the chocolate bars up into pieces but they weren't immediately melting so I put the pan back in the oven. After a few minutes, the chocolate melted and I was able to spread, although in a few parts it started to mess up the crust.)
5. Sprinkle top with nuts.
6. Allow to cool and cut into squares.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sugar Cookie Bites

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My mom's sugar cookies are my favorite kind of sugar cookies, but as soon as I saw this recipe on Steph's blog, I knew I had to try these. Not only are they super cute, but they gave me an excuse to use both my pastry bag for frosting AND some of the festive Christmas sprinkles my mom sent me in my St. Nick's package :) These take a little bit of time to fill the muffin tin, but they're still simpler to make than rolling out the dough and later frosting each cookie, as I usually do with sugar cookies. There are so many fun decorating options with these--I can't wait to make them again!

Sugar Cookie Bites

*for the cookies
-3 cups flour
-1.5 tsp baking powder
-1 cup butter
-1 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
3. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add a little at a time to the butter mixture, mixing until the dough comes together.
4. Grease a mini muffin tin. Fill each hole with dough to the top of the tin, smoothing out with the back of a spoon.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool in the pan for a few minutes. Remove cookies from the muffin tin carefully and allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

**for the frosting (very sugary and sweet, but yummy!)
-2 cups confectioners' sugar
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1 tbsp water
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, water, and vanilla.
2. Beat on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for a full 5 minutes, until it looks like frosting.
3. Pipe onto cooled, cooked sugar cookies & decorate with sprinkles!

Monday, December 21, 2009

S'mores Bark

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This wins for easiest Christmas treat! I was looking for something simple to add to the treat goody bags I made for my co-workers and this turned out to be perfect. It literally took 15 minutes to put together but was a perfect complement to the mint m&m cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, candy cane cookies, ginger cookies, and praline mix.

Note--picture updated in December 2011. Remaking this I was reminded just how easy this is and how much people love it! This time around I used dark chocolate for the base which I preferred...but my brother Quinn said he likes it best with milk or semi-sweet chocolate...to each his own!

S'mores Bark

-1 package chocolate chips (I used ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips-highly recommended!)
-1 cup coarsely chopped graham crackers
-1 cup mini marshmallows

1. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until chocolate is smooth.
2. Allow chocolate to cool slightly.
3. Stir in 1/2 cup graham crackers and 1/2 cup marshmallows, stirring to completely coat in chocolate.
4. Pour chocolate mixture onto a foil-lined cookie sheet, spreading evenly with a spatula.
5. Press remaining graham crackers and marshmallows into the chocolate.
6. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer, until hardened.
7. Peel bark off of the foil and break into pieces.
**can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Candy Cane Cookies

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I think these are my new favorite cookie. A friend from church made these to share with a group of us when we went caroling and before I knew it, one bite of Ryan's turned into three giant cookies. I love the flavor almond extract has, and I think that, coupled with the large amounts of butter in these make for very addictive cookies!

While these are a little time-consuming to make, with all of the rolling and the twisting, they're worth it. If you're still looking for a last minute Christmas cookie, make these!! I think I might start making these year round and just eliminate the food coloring and shape them into snakes or twists ;)

Candy Cane Cookies
recipe from my friend Anna
**makes about 30 cookies

-1 cup butter
-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 egg
-1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 1/2 cups flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-red food coloring

1. Mix the above ingredients with a stand or handheld mixer, except the red food coloring, until dough forms. Set dough aside.
2. Repeat step 1, adding red food coloring while mixing, until you have a pink dough.
3. Scoop an equal portion of dough from the plain and pink doughs. Roll each dough ball, separately, into logs until they are equal in height and length.
4. Press the two logs together and twist, forming into the shape of a candy cane.
5. Lay candy cane cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes at 375F.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies

I have a slight addiction. It's an addiction to the candy aisle at Walgreens. It doesn't matter how much of a rush I'm in or how many other things I need to buy, I always take at least a little bit of time to peruse the candy aisle. I don't quite understand this need, it's just a little quirk of mine that usually doesn't get me in any trouble...most of the time I leave the aisle empty-handed and continue on my merry way. However, there are days when I fall prey to the brightly colored packages and find myself walking away with one or two of my favorite candies.

When I was there last weekend, I skipped past the dots and swedish fish (my favorites) and instead picked up two bags of mint m&ms. I actually don't even really like mint m&ms, so I bought these with Ryan in mind. However, after filling one of my Christmas candy jars with the m&ms, I decided to use the other bag in some cookies. These were another one of the sweet treats Ryan and I brought into work last week. These were perfect--soft and chocolately with a hint of mint from the m&ms.

I searched for a general m&m cookie recipe on allrecipes.com and made a few changes, using butter instead of shortening and adding cocoa to the batter. Next time you're in Walgreens, pick up some of mint m&ms and make these cookies, you won't regret it!

Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies
**for more of a mint flavored cookie, consider adding peppermint extract
**this recipe made 6 dozen cookies
-1 cup packed brown sugar
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1 cup butter
-2 eggs
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup cocoa
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-1 bag mint m&ms

1. In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla.
2. Add flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda to creamed mixture. Blend well.
3. Stir in m&ms until well combined.
4. Drop dough by teaspoonful onto cookie sheets.
5. Bake at 350F for 9-11 minutes.
6. Cool cookies on a wire cooking rack and store in an airtight container.

**Keep reading the next few days as I'll be posting lots of holiday treats! I have some yummy meals to post too (think butternut squash & black bean pita sandwiches!), but these are going to have to wait until I get through all of my goodies :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Strip Steak with Rosemary Wine Sauce

Ryan and I have a bad habit of stocking our freezer with things and then forgetting about them. If you want evidence, just look at the two dozen bags of baking chips in my freezer! (I wish I were kidding!) We've had strip steaks in our freezer that my in-laws gave us last Christmas...we figured we'd better make them before Christmas '09 struck!

Since we had an open bottle of red wine, we decided to make some sort of a red wine sauce. A google search led me to this recipe from foodnetwork.com, which I slightly altered by adding mushrooms and adjusting the quantities for two steaks. We also opted to grill the steaks outside, rather than cook them on the stovetop. The combination recipe, with the original quantities and the addition of mushrooms is posted below.

We loved this sauce. Anything with rosemary is good in my book and this flavorful sauce was no different. Ryan cooked the steaks perfectly, first marinating them in Daddy Henckel's marinade and grilling them (yes, outside, in December, in a rain storm no less!). These steaks paired perfectly with sauteed spinach and baked sweet potato discs.

Strip Steak with Rosemary Wine Sauce

-4 boneless strip steaks
-desired marinade for steaks
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/4 cup chopped onion
-6-8 mushrooms, sliced
-2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-1 1/2 cups dry red wine
-1 cup canned condensed beef broth
-1/2 tsp brown sugar

1. Marinate steaks as desired and cook as desired (in our case, we marinated for 3 hours and then grilled)
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms to skillet. Cook until browned, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
3. Add half the rosemary and half the garlic and cook, stirring, 20 seconds.
4. Add wine. Increase heat to high and boil vigorously for 2 minutes.
5. Add broth and sugar. Boil 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half (about 1 cup).

6. Add in remaining rosemary and garlic. Pour over steaks and serve.

Perfect for a holiday dinner! So delish!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

(Ghirardelli) Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I had an abundance of work events to bake for this past week. I think between Ryan and I, we had four different things we needed to bring treats to! I decided to just bake a bunch of different things and we could take in a combination of whatever sweets we wanted for each of the various lunches or meetings. I'll be posting these over the next several days.

The first of these was chocolate covered pretzels, one of my all-time favorite holiday treats. I know you can eat chocolate covered pretzels at any time of year, but I always associate them with Christmas because they're one of my mom's holiday staples. She usually covers the pretzels rods, but I went with the mini pretzel twists instead.

These turned out outstanding, and I owe all of the credit to Ghirardelli! While chocolate covered pretzels are always good, these were over the top because I used such a high-quality chocolate. I loved the rich chocolate flavor of these and while it's a little tedious to stand and dip each pretzel, it's well worth the extra time and effort!

Ghirardelli Chocolate Covered Pretzels

-12 oz bag Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 tbsp shortening
-mini pretzel twists
-decorative sprinkles

**Note--I also did white chocolate covered pretzels, using 2 Ghirardelli White Chocolate baking bars, melted in the microwave with 1/2 tbsp shortening.

1. In a large glass bowl, microwave the chocolate chips & shortening, stirring every 30 seconds until chocolate is melted and smooth.
2. Individually dip pretzels into the chocolate mixture, fully coating with chocolate and removing with a fork.
3. Place dipped pretzels on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
4. Shake sprinkles onto pretzels.

5. Place filled cookie sheets in freezer until chocolate is hardened. Remove pretzels from wax paper and store in an air tight container in the fridge.

Thanks Ghirardelli for sending me the delicious chocolate chips to make these!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tortilla Black Bean Pie

I spent part of last week in Cleveland, visiting family and watching my sister graduate from nursing school (woo hoo Julia!). It was a fabulous couple of days, despite the BITTER COLD temperatures, filled with good eats, successful Christmas shopping, and fun family time. It's always nice to escape normal life for a few days, especially during the crazy holiday season!! My last night there, I offered/was asked to make dinner and decided to make this Tortilla Black Bean Pie. This is actually one of the few meals that I've made several times (usually I'm too eager to try new recipes) because it doesn't take long to make and both Ryan and I really like it. It went over well with everyone, including my supposedly picky cousins, so I'd call it a success :)

Tortilla Black Bean Pie
as seen on several blogs-I took from Annie's Eats

-4-5 medium-sized tortillas (I used 5 multi-grain tortillas)
-1 tbsp oil
-1 large onion, diced
-1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced (I omitted)
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp ground cumin
-sprinkle chili powder
-salt and pepper, to taste
-2 cans black beans
-12 oz beer (could substitute 1 1/2 cups water, but I swear the beer makes all the difference!)
-1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
-4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
-8 oz. shredded mexican cheese
-salsa and sour cream, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If necessary, trim tortillas to fit a 9 in springform pan.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, cumin, garlic, and chili powder; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened (5-7 minutes).

3. Add beans and beer and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmering until liquid is almost evaporated (8-10 minutes). Stir in corn and scallions; season with salt and pepper.

4. Place one tortilla in the bottom of the springform pan. Spoon and spread some of the mixture onto the tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese.

5. Repeat three or four times (depending on the amount of mixture you have remaining). Bake for 20-25 minutes until hot and cheese is melted.

6. Garnish with scallions. Cut into wedges, using a pizza cutter. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No-Bake Granola Bars

(the bars, pre-slicing...and yes, that piece missing was thanks to my need to sample ;))

I felt like it had been weeks since I'd made Ryan a "snack" to enjoy in his lunches. Yes, I've been cooking and baking quite a bit, but things have been hectic and I haven't been making Ryan-specific treats as often as I usually do (he's spoiled, huh? :)) I was anxious to make something and these fit the bill for a number of reasons--namely that they didn't require the use of an oven and they utilized honey, which Ryan's been a big fan of lately.

These were so good, and didn't last long in our house! In fact, I think I ate just as many of these (or more) as Ryan. I had to make a second batch a few days later! They had a yummy peanut butter/honey flavor and the coconut and raisins were good additions. I can't wait to experiment with variations of this recipe!

No-Bake Granola Bars
adapted from RecipeZaar

-2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
-1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
-1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
-1/2 cup honey
-1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cup raisins
-handful of sweetened coconut

1. In a large bowl, combine rice krispies, oats, raisins, and coconut.
2. Heat brown sugar and honey over stovetop until slightly boiling. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla, until melted.
3. Pour warm mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well coated.
4. Press mixture into a greased 9 x 9 pan, pressing firmly with wet hand.
5. Chill bars in refrigerator until firm. Slice and enjoy!

**Remember last time I made granola bars? Those were good too!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

(another pre-bake picture, because I forgot to take one afterwards!)

As mentioned, I brought two different kinds of enchiladas over to our friends' house in exchange for holding their baby! These chicken enchiladas were easy to throw together--I like making enchiladas because you can kind of throw whatever mexican ingredients you have on hand into them and you don't necessarily have to follow a recipe. The variation we went with this time is listed in the recipe below....Ryan actually took charge of these, but I'm on posting duty!

Chicken Enchiladas

-2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
-1 cup frozen corn
-1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
-garlic powder, cumin, & chili powder, to taste
-8 tortillas
-Mexican shredded cheese
-1 can green enchilada sauce

1. Heat chicken, corn, and diced tomatoes in a skillet over medium heat until warm, about 10 minutes.
2. Season mixture with garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder.
3. Spoon filling into each of the tortillas, adding desired amount of cheese, and rolling tortilla tightly.
4. Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Place rolled & filled tortillas inside the pan.
5. Top dish with more cheese and the remainder of the enchilada sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until cheese on top is melted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

(pre-oven...I forgot to snap a pic when I removed them!!)

I love babies and I haven't had the chance to hold one in WAY too long (nor am I ready for my own!!), so when my brother-in-law's good friends had a baby, I jumped at the chance to bring them dinner, clearly with an ulterior motive :) I made two different kinds of enchiladas--chicken (recipe to be posted tomorrow), for the traditional-folk, and these black bean and sweet potato enchiladas, for the adventurous.

I'd never made these before, but I love anything with sweet potatoes and when I googled "sweet potato enchiladas", I found a yummy-sounding recipe and went with it. These are a different spin on the typical cheese-oozing enchiladas, but they are so good! I already can't wait to eat them again.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas
recipe adapted from here

-2 large (I used 6 pretty small) sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 large garlic clove, minced
-1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 14.5 0z. can diced tomatoes, drained
-1 tbsp chili powder
-salt & pepper, to taste
-2 cups salsa
-8 large flour tortillas (did half white and half whole wheat)
-1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Put the sweet potatoes on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes, turning once, until they're tender. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. Turn oven down to 350F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add beans, tomatoes, chili powder, and salt & pepper to taste. Add cooked sweet potatoes and simmer mixture 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. Spread a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of a lightly oiled 9 x 13 baking dish.

4. Place a tortilla on a flat surface, spoon a portion of the sweet potato mixture down the center of it and roll it up. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Line the rolled tortillas up next to each other in the baking dish, seam side down. Top with remaining salsa and red onion.

5. Cover and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until casserole is hot and bubbly.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ghirardelli Brownies with Chocolate Ganache (aka BEST brownies ever)

Last year, a guy I worked with discovered I loved to bake. Immediately he sent me the recipe for these brownies, promising me that these were the best brownies I would ever taste. He literally emailed me the recipe daily, until I finally decided to appease him and make the brownies. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting anything outstanding. I've had a lot of brownies in my day and while they're typically good, none knocked my socks off. None until these, that is.

The key to these brownies, besides what I believe is a perfectly concocted recipe, is using high-quality chocolate, specifically Ghirardelli. My co-worker told me time and time again that these brownies would only be successful if I used Ghirardelli chocolate. I have yet to try another brand of chocolate because I'm convinced they won't be as good with anything else.

Fast forward a year, to this month. Linda, a Ghirardelli rep, sent me an amazing sample package of products for me to review on the blog, including bittersweet chocolate baking bars, white chocolate baking bars, bittersweet chocolate chips, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. I cannot wait to try some of the recipes on Ghirardelli's recipe site, but as soon as I got the package, I knew these brownies would be my first baked good! Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks as I continue to bake with the chocolate Ghirardelli sent me and post about it on the blog.

Until then, RUN to your nearest grocery store, pick up some Ghirardelli chocolate and make these! They're perfectly rich and gooey and chocolately. You'll definitely want to share these...your waistline will thank you!

Ghirardelli Brownies with Chocolate Ganache
recipe from ??? (all I have is a photocopy with no identifying information)

**Note that the recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate. I used bittersweet chocolate and less sugar to account for this change. However, the original recipe is below!
For the brownies-
-1 1/4 cups cake flour (don't substitute, this is key to the texture & density!)
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-6 oz unsweetened Ghirardelli chocolate, chopped fine
-12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
-2 1/4 cups sugar
-4 large eggs
-1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the ganache-
-1 cup heavy whipping cream
-1 bag of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 9 x 13 dish with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Melt chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth (I just melt over low heat in a saucepan, no double boiler)
4. When chocolate mixer is smooth, gradually whisk in sugar.
5. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla.
6. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth.
7. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
9. Allow to cool in a wire rack.
10. Heat chocolate chips & whipping cream over low heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted and mixture is thickened.
11. Pour ganache over brownies and spread evenly (this can be done 10 minutes after brownies are removed the oven).
12. Lift foil and brownies out of the pan. Cut into squares and serve. (these are kind of messy to cut because they're so gooey and dense...but I promise the taste makes up for the lack of perfectly cut brownies!)

Get ready to experience the BEST brownie of your life!

Thanks Ghirardelli for the chance to make these!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwiches

Along with the chicken sandwich I blogged the other day, I also made these hot ham and cheese sandwiches. These are another staple when my mom is hosting parties. I love making these because you can do all the work a day (or more) ahead of time and then heat just before serving. I love the ham/muenster cheese combination here, but you can always switch it up according to your tastes. I've used swiss cheese, turkey, etc etc and they've always turned out delicious! Unfortunately I was busy being a host when we took these out of the oven and I forgot to snap a picture of the finished product--I'll be sure to take a picture of them next time :)

Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwiches

Ingredients: (omitting quantities here, just adjust according to your needs)
-Sliced Deli Ham
-Sliced Muenster Cheese
-1 stick butter, softened
-1 tsp dried mustard
-1 tsp poppy seeds

1. Mix butter, dried mustard, and poppy seeds in a small bowl until soft, creamy, and well combined.
2. Slice rolls in half. Spread a layer of the butter mixture on half the roll.
3. Place ham and cheese on top of butter. Put the top half of the roll back on the sandwich.

4. Wrap sandwich in aluminum foil, making sure that the sandwich is not exposed on any side.

(my bag of foil sandwiches, ready for the oven...and no, I did not put the plastic bag in the oven!)

5. Bake sandwiches in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. (The foil sandwiches can be placed directly on the oven rack)
6. Remove sandwiches and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Unwrap from foil and dig in!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest Post on Booking Mama!

No food post for you today--instead, head over to Booking Mama's site, where I've guest-posted about book clubs. Believe it or not, I do have other interests besides food, books being a major one! I love reading Booking Mama & her book reviews, because it helps me determine what books to add to my ever-growing list of "books to read".

Come back tomorrow for another delicious warm sandwich recipe!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chicken Sandwiches with Mushrooms, Spinach and Cheese

When I was home over Thanksgiving, my mom made this for dinner one night and I knew I'd be making it again soon--not only because I wanted to eat it again, but because I wanted to post it so that you can make it! These taste like they belong in some little cafe, and it's a great meal to make ahead and then heat right before serving. I made this last Friday night when we hosted a group of friends for dinner before we all went to the Swell Season concert. I'll post a few other recipes from that night over the next couple of days. All in all it was an excellent meal :)

Chicken Sandwiches with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Cheese

-4 ciabatta rolls, halved horizontally (both my mom and I used 1 loaf of ciabatta and filled that instead)
-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
-whole grain mustard (I omitted this time around)
-8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded, divided (I couldn't find this at my grocery store, so I instead used a shredded Italian blend of cheese)
-12 oz sliced white mushrooms
-2 tbsp chopped shallots
-3 garlic cloves, pressed
-2 cups shredded roast chicken
-1 5 oz. bag baby spinach

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice ciabatta roll in half (horizontally) and pull some bread from the loaf to form a slightly hollow center.
3. Drizzle ciabatta bread with olive oil. Spread whole grain mustard on half the loaf. Sprinkle on half of the Fontina cheese.

4. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large skilled over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute for 4 minutes. Add chopped shallots and pressed garlic; saute for 3 minutes. Add chicken, saute minutes to heat through. Transfer to plate.
5. Add 1 tbsp oil to skillet. Add spinach, saute 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain.
6. Spoon chicken mixture, then spinach over loaf. Top with remaining cheese. Put loaf back together.

(yes, that's my computer in the background. I like to catch up on shows while I cook :))

7. Wrap sandwich tightly in foil. Bake sandwich until cheese melts, 20-30 minutes.

**The sandwich can be made 1 day ahead (chill the chicken and spinach before assembling)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pumpkin Blondies

Wow. Don't wait until next Fall to make these! These might be my new favorite pumpkin dessert (although I still love this and this and this and this). These pumpkin blondies are soft and gooey and bursting with flavor, thanks to the pumpkin, butterscotch chips, and white chocolate chips. It is a terrific blend of tastes and not a single person who tried one disagreed!

Pumpkin Blondies

-2 cups flour
-1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp baking soda
-3/4 tsp salt
-16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 1/4 cups granulated or brown sugar (I did half of each)
-1 large egg
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup pumpkin puree
-1 cup white chocolate chips
-1 cup butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Stir together and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
6. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips.
7. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from teh sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs (35-40 minutes).
8. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely before cutting.

Enough reading, GO MAKE THESE!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Citrus Cranberry Salad

I originally was making this salad to bring to my monthly "girls dinner" with my 2 besties from work, Paige & Ashley. However, at last minute, we had to cancel :( However, I'd already prepared the salad the night before, so Ryan and I chowed down on it! This was definitely an interesting salad--I used spinach instead of the arugula it called for and I wonder if that would have varied the taste at all. I liked this, but I didn't love it. Don't hesitate to try it if these flavors appeal to you, I'd be anxious to hear other people's opinions!

Citrus Cranberry Salad
from Better Homes & Gardens' Website
(I halved because the original served 8. The original is below)

-2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
-4 oranges
-2 stalks celery, thinly sliced (1 cup)
-1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
-1/4 cup sugar
-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
-1 tsp grated fresh ginger (I used dried)
-1 5 oz. package baby arugula (I used spinach)
-1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
-2 tbsp walnut or olive oil

1. Using a food processor (or by hand), coarsely chop cranberries. Transfer to bowl.
2. Peel oranges. Section oranges over bowl to catch juice. Add sections and juice to cranberries.
3. Stir in celery, onion, sugar, lemon juice, and ginger.
4. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days (I refrigerated for 24 hrs)
5. Toss arugula with mint and oil. Top with cranberry mixture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake Spice Bars

While Thanksgiving may have come and gone, I'm not ready to let go of pumpkin-flavored things. In fact, I'm down to one can and I think I better stock up before they go completely missing from the stores! I brought these particular pumpkin bars to work last week for my current manager's birthday. Her husband, whom I also work with, told me she likes pumpkin and cheesecake, so I thought this would be a good combination. While these bars were wonderful, the cheesecake flavored didn't come through as much as I would have liked. Even so, these had a great creamy texture and the nutty crust was amazing! These sort of reminded me of this pumpkin dessert and I'm not really sure which I like better....you definitely can't go wrong with either.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Spice Bars
from Cookie Madness (AMAZING dessert blog)

Crust & Topping:
-1 cup flour
-1/3 cup brown sugar, packed tightly
-1/8 tsp salt
-5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
-1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans

-8 oz. cream cheese, softened
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup canned pumpkin (I used slightly more because it was left from another pumpkin dessert I'll be posting!)
-1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp allspice
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 lightly beaten eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch square pan with non-stick aluminum foil.
2. In a mixing bowl or food processor, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add butter and cut or pulse until mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans.
3. Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture for topping. Press the remainder of the mixture into the pan.
4. Bake for 13-15 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla.
6. STIR, do not beat, in the eggs.
7. Pour the filling over the baked crust and sprinkle with reserved topping.
8. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until top is brown.
9. Cool completely on a wire rack. Lift foil out of pan and cut bars. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chobani Giveaway Winner!

My Chobani stash is dwindling, sadly. The other day I ate regular (non-Greek) yogurt and couldn't believe the difference. I really don't think I can go back to regular yogurt, I much prefer the thicker, creamier, tarter taste of Chobani!

Thank you Shari for sending me the samples!!!!

As for the winner of the Cho-pack giveaway....I used random number generator and ASHLEY L. is the winner! Send me your address and I'll pass it along to Shari! Enjoy your Chobani :)

And the rest of you should definitely just go buy some and try it out--you won't regret it!

Happy Saturday, I'm off for a run in the 23 degree weather...yikes...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Turkey and Squash Risotto

I've blogged about the quesadillas and the salad from last Saturday's family dinner, but I have yet to mention the star of our meal. This Turkey and Squash Risotto was amazing--reminiscent of Thanksgiving with its flavors but yet completely unique. I owe this recipe discovery to the blog Closet Cooking, which has a ton of creative recipes! However, I really can't take credit for anything other than the discovery of this recipe. Ryan and my mom were the ones who labored over this main dish (and we all know how time-consuming risotto is!). It was well worth the effort (easy for me to say, right ;)) and our family gobbled this up, all taking seconds and even thirds of this dish!

If you're out of leftover turkey, have no fear! This would be great with chicken as well, or it could be kept meatless. One thing I'd do next time is add some slivered almonds to the final product. I think a little crunch would have really put this dish over the top!

Turkey and Squash Risotto

-2+ chicken stock
-2 sage leaves (chopped)
-2 tbsp butter
-1 onion (chopped)
-1 cup butternut squash (cut into bite sized pieces)
-1 cup arborio rice
-1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/8 tsp ground ginger
-1/8 tsp ground allspice
-1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
-1/8 tsp paprika
-1/8 tsp cumin
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-1/2 pound turkey (cooked, cut into bite sized pieces)
-1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano (grated)
-1 tbsp butter

1. Heat the chicken stock and sage leaves in a saucepan and keep it warm.
2. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan.
3. Add the onions and squash and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add the rice and spices and coat with the butter.
5. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated.
6. Add 1/4 cup of stock at a time, stirring until it has evaporated. The rice is done when it is cooked to al dente.
7. Add the cranberries after 1 cup of stock has been added.
8. Add turkey, parmigiano reggiano, and butter. Stir until the turkey is heated.

**note: we doubled the recipe above to serve 9 of us. the only ingredient not doubled was the onion.

**DON'T FORGET---CHOBANI GIVEAWAY ENDS TONIGHT! I'll be picking a winner tomorrow morning!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pear and Arugula Salad

My mom made this salad as part of our first course on Thanksgiving. There was a lot of dressing leftover, so she made it again on Saturday as part of our dinner. There were no complaints--I think this salad is a new family favorite! I'll definitely be making this as a nice change of pace from our standard spinach salads.

Pear and Arugula Salad
from Better Homes and Gardens (November 2009 issue)

-1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, below
-2 red Bartlett pears
-12 cups arugula (8 0z.)
-1/3 cup dry roasted, salted sunflower kernels
-2 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved (1/4 cup)
-Shredded lemon peel (optional)

1. Prepare Lemon Vinaigrette. Transfer 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette dressing to large bowl. Quarter, core, and seed pears. Cut each quarter in thin slices; add to dressing in bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Add arugula to pears; toss lightly to coat. Transfer to serving platter. Top with sunflower kernels, Parmesan, and lemon peel. Serve with remaining dressing. Cover and refrigerate remaining vinaigrette up to 1 week.

Lemon Vinaigrette:
In a bowl combine 1 tablespoon lemon peel, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Gradually whisk in 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.

**Don't forget to enter my giveaway! Only a few more days!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chicken Gyros

Have I mentioned how much I love Chobani greek yogurt? Because I really do! In fact, I managed to eat it in TWO of my meals yesterday. For lunch I had the vanilla flavored with some granola mixed in, and then we used the 2 containers of plain (non-fat & low-fat) in last night's dinner.

Unfortunately, we were really rushed putting this dinner together and didn't have time to let the chicken marinate as long as it was supposed to. If I made these again, I would definitely marinate the chicken for several hours to achieve maximum flavor. Even with our super quick marination, these chicken gyros turned out awesome! Ryan and I love to go to this hole-in-the-wall Greek place near our house that serves huge, greasy gyros. However, I always finish that meal with a bit of a stomachache and an inability to eat for the rest of the day. That was not the case with these, which were significantly lighter than your typical gyro.

Chicken Gyros
(serves 4)
adapted from Annie's Eats

For the chicken-
-4 cloves garlic, smashed
-juice of 1 lemon (we just used some bottled lemon juice)
-2 tsp. red wine vinegar
-2 tbsp olive oil
-2 heaping tbsp plain greek yogurt (Chobani!)
-1 tbsp dried oregano
-salt & pepper
-3 chicken breasts

To assemble-
-1 batch of tzatziki sauce (recipe below)
-red onion, sliced thin
-fresh tomatoes, seeded & diced

1. Slice chicken into small pieces.
2. Combine above ingredients and mix well. Add chicken to the marinade and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. Cook chicken on a skillet until cooked through.
4. Add chicken to pitas, along with red onion, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. Eat immediately!

Tzatziki Sauce
adapted from Food Network

-16 oz. plain greek yogurt (I used 12 oz. and it was plenty!)
-1 medium cucumber, seeded, peeled, and finely chopped
-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
-pinch of kosher salt
-2 tsp red wine vinegar
-1 tbsp olive oil
-5-6 mint leaves, finely minced

1. Squeeze the cucumber in a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
2. Combine above ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
3. Serve on gyros and store in an airtight container.

If you haven't already, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win some free Chobani Greek Yogurt!