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Friday, April 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

Peanut butter and chocolate is a well-loved combination, no surprise there. Throw that mix into some gooey blondies and it's practically irresistible! Ryan kindly picked up a couple of bags of mini Reese's peanut butter cups after Easter for baking purposes and adding them to a blondie was my first idea. Surprisingly, there are few recipes online that add chopped peanut butter cups to a non-peanut butter based dough, and even fewer that make a 9 x 13 pan of them. Finally, I found exactly what I was looking for on Baking and Boys. No surprise there--her blog is full of tempting sweets!

A few notes about this recipe...the batter was extremely thick and relatively difficult to spread into the pan. It took a little bit of patience and work with my spatula, but I was eventually able to spread the batter evenly throughout the pan. These bars also took a LONG time to bake...they were browning on top but not setting up in the middle. I finally took them out because I was worried about charring the tops and they ended up setting as they cooled. I don't know if it was the temperature of my oven or what, thankfully they turned out just fine. Don't let either of these things deter you from making these, I just want you to be aware. The initial worries I had about these not cooking evenly and turning out funky were completely dispelled as soon as I bit into one!

Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup peanut butter chips
-1 bag mini Reese's peanut butter cups, chopped
-1 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet)

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating one minute after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed ingredients, mixing until just combined.
4. Stir in chips and candy until combined.
5. Using a spatula, evenly spread in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine took close to an hour!).
6. Lift foil-lined bars out of pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares & serve.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baked Eggs in Potato Skins

As soon as I saw a picture of these on the Glamour website, I was eager to try them. I'm not even a big baked potato fan...I'll always choose sweet potatoes over baked and I think the only time I get one is if I'm dragged to Wendy's and want something other than a frosty :) Even so, the concept of an egg baked into a potato was too interesting for me to pass up!

These were easy to prepare, especially since I "baked" my potatoes in the microwave (pre-egg). For Ryan, I sliced his potato in two and placed an egg in each half. For mine, I halfway sliced my potato and dug out some of the filling and just cracked one egg. Each way worked fine...there was a little spillover of egg whites but they just landed on the cookie sheet and cooked along with everything else!

We only had pepperjack cheese on hand, but I enjoyed the little kick it gave these. Next time I plan to use some crumbled bacon in there as well! These are a fast and fun breakfast or dinner and they taste as good as they look!

Baked Eggs in Potato Skins
as seen on & adapted from Glamour.com

-2 baked potatoes
-2-4 eggs (depending on how you're dishing them up)
-shredded cheese (I used pepperjack)
-sliced green onions & fresh parsley, for garnish
-salt & pepper

1. Place baked potatoes on a baking sheet. If serving one egg in one potato, slice into baked potato, careful not to cut all the way through, and remove some of the potato filling. If serving one egg per each potato half, cut the baked potato into two halves and remove some of the potato innards from each half.
2. Crack an egg into each potato or potato halve.
3. Top with parsley (or desired herbs), cheese, and green onions.
4. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, until egg whites have set.
5. Season with salt & pepper before serving.

This is linked to Eat at Home.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strawberry Banana Bread

I was inspired to make some strawberry bread when I saw the Strawberry Sour Cream loaf on Natalie's Killer Cuisine (yummy blog!...and not just because of the name ;)). However, when I started pulling out the ingredients to make it, my eye was drawn to the bunch of browning bananas on my windowsill. I've noticed that as the temperature increases, my bananas brown faster. As a lover of mushy bananas for oatmeal, not to mention banana bread, I'm not one to complain about this! And thus I began my quest to find a strawberry banana bread recipe. Google, as always, found me what I wanted and I set out making this bread.

I was amazed by the amount of batter this made and contemplated saving back some for muffins. However, I followed the recipe to a T (with the exception of including some whole wheat flour), and poured it all into my loaf pan. This bread baked up nice and tall, but still baked completely through. I somehow resisted snagging a piece the night I baked it and was pleasantly surprised by how moist it was when I tried it the next day. Both the banana and the strawberry flavors come through clearly and the bread continued to stay moist for the few days that it lasted around our house!

Strawberry Banana Bread

-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup whole-wheat flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup butter or margarine
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup sour cream (I used low-fat)
-1/2 tsp vanilla
-3 mashed bananas
-1 cup chopped strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Mix in eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and mashed bananas. Stir in chopped strawberries.
4. Add flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix to combine.
5. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing and cooling fully on a wire rack.

Looking for other banana bread recipes? Check out my zucchini banana bread and whole wheat banana bread (with chocolate chips & pecans!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oven-Baked Potato Chips

Oh baby, I've found my new favorite snack! I had tried making these once before, to eat with our tilapia sandwiches, but they turned out a little soggy. A reader suggested broiling them before removing from the oven and I had every intention of trying that this time...but ended up not needing to. This isn't so much a recipe as a method, but it's one that I'll be using again and again. These were reminiscent of the chips you'll find in many pubs around here, except significantly healthier. They were crunchy and tasty, thanks to the seasoned salt. I didn't even eat them with ketchup which is highly unusual for me (usually I'm using crispy potatoes as a means to get to ketchup ;))

Oven-Baked Potato Chips

-baking potatoes, peeled
-cooking spray
-seasoned salt

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Using a sharp knife or a food processor, thinly slice potatoes.
2. Cover baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
3. Dry sliced potatoes in sheets of paper towels to remove excessive moisture.
4. Place potatoes on greased sheets and spray with more cooking spray (or olive oil). Sprinkle with seasoned salt or desired seasonings.
5. Bake until crisped and browned, about 20 minutes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Caprese Sandwiches

While we would've had no problem finishing off the whole wheat baguettes on their own, I was eager to make sandwiches, specifically caprese sandwiches. Ever since I'd made the Panzanella Caprese Salad, I was craving more tomato, basil, mozzarella wonderfulness! These were simple to put together, but made for a satisfying dinner. There will be many more caprese sandwiches in our household in the months to come--yum!

Caprese Sandwiches
**use as many ingredients as needed for the number of sandwiches you're making

-Whole Wheat Baguette (store bought or homemade), cut in half
-Tomato Slices
-Sliced, Fresh Mozzarella
-Fresh basil leaves
-Balsamic Vinegar

1. To assemble sandwiches, cut bread in half.
2. Top with tomato slices, mozzarella, and basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
3. Add top half of bread and devour!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whole Wheat Baguettes

I offhandedly mentioned to Ryan that I was thinking about baking some homemade bread to accompany our pasta dish (posted yesterday) but then I kind of let the idea slide. However, Ryan mentioned it a few times leading up to that dinner and I knew he was wanting some homemade bread...and who am I to deny him that? I take a lot of pride in making bread from scratch. Yes, it's a lot more time consuming and the results aren't always perfect, but there's something satisfying about biting into a warm loaf that I kneaded (er, with the help of my kitchen aid mixer!), shaped, and patiently allowed to rise.

This was my first attempt at baguettes and I was pleased with the results. It was a little heavier than your standard bread, which I attribute mainly to the whole wheat flour. This yielded two medium sized loaves that, when all is said and done, weren't much more difficult to prepare than driving to the store and picking out my own. I can't wait to keep experimenting with different kinds of homemade bread!

Whole Wheat Baguettes

-1 pack active dry yeast
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-pinch ground ginger
-1 1/4 cup warm water
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups bread flour
-1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
-cornmeal (to dust baking sheet)

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast, brown sugar, and ginger in warm water. Allow to dissolve (about 5 minutes) until yeast foams.
2. Add salt and bread flour, beating well. Mix in whole wheat flour until a stiff dough forms.
3. Knead for 10 minutes (or use your kitchen aid mixer & dough hook to knead!) until dough is springy, smooth, and satiny.
4. Grease a large bowl and place dough in it. Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch dough down, divide in half, and shape into two loaves. Place on a greased and cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet.
5. Cut 4-5 slashes into each loaf with a knife. Allow to rise again for 45 minutes.
6. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, until browned and crisp. Serve immediately or allow to cool before wrapping and storing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pasta & Shrimp Primavera

I was drawn to this recipe because of the abundance of vegetables. The veggies, in fact, ended up being my favorite thing about this recipe. I bulked it up with more vegetables than the original recipe and enjoyed the colorful variety paired with the shrimp. This meal wasn't difficult to throw together, just lots of chopping! My only complaint was that the lack of sauce made it a little bit bland. I enjoyed the flavor from the veggies, but it could've used a little extra oomph...something to work on for next time!

A funny note about the basil in this recipe...I had the hardest time getting basil for this recipe...out at our local Schnucks AND out at the local farmer's market (is everyone making pesto or something?!), but I finally found a bunch at the local asian grocery store. It looked and smelled like normal basil, but WOW did it pack a punch! I don't know if it was a special variety or what, but it had 10x the flavor of your typical basil. So, while I found this recipe a little bland, I'm not referring to any of the bites with basil :)

Pasta & Shrimp Primavera
adapted from Lynda's Recipe Box

-16 oz. cooked pasta (I used half a box of whole wheat rotini)
-1 lb frozen shrimp, shelled and deveined
-2-4 tbsp olive oil
-5-6 garlic cloves, minced (I used jarred minced garlic)
-1 zucchini, diced
-1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 medium onion, diced
-3 cups fresh spinach
-1 cup sliced mushrooms
-1 can diced tomatoes
-3-4 tbsp chopped, fresh basil
-salt & pepper to taste
-feta cheese

1. Cook pasta and drain. While pasta is cooking, chop all vegetables.
2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat and add shrimp, cooking for 2-3 minutes until pink. Remove shrimp and set aside.
3. Add another tbsp olive oil and add squash, onion, and asparagus to the skillet. Saute 4-5 minutes. Add spinach and mushrooms and cook until spinach has wilted.
4. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add tomatoes and basil and heat through.
5. Mix in the shrimp and pasta. Toss until combined. Top with feta cheese before serving.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Twelve in Ten Challenge: Ranoush

Before April completely slipped away from us, Ryan and I realized we needed to fulfill something from our Twelve in Ten list. This time we settled on Ranoush, a nearby Syrian restaurant. I had been dying to try this place ever since it opened a year or so ago. Ironically enough, it wasn't the food that drew me to this place, but the location. Ranoush has great outdoor seating and I was most excited about the prospect of eating outdoors on the busy sidewalk outside their restaurant. People-watching is a hobby of mine...right up there with food :) When we saw that the weather forecast for last Saturday was sunny and warm, it was decided that this was the month for Ranoush!

Our last restaurant pick for this challenge, Ari's, was a bust, so I was a little wary about this experience. Thankfully, my fears were never realized; we had an excellent meal at Ranoush! The outdoor dining and people-watching was everything I hoped it would be, but even better was the food! Ryan and I decided to order two entrees and split them. We chose two specials of the day: the chicken schwarma sandwich and the vegetarian platter, which is the chef's combination of five hot and cold mezza (tapas or appetizers).

The meals arrived quickly and, starving, we dug in. While we intended to share the meals, Ryan ended up eating most of the chicken schwarma and I devoured the vegetarian platter. We snuck bites of each others meals and were delighted with everything. Ryan's chicken schwarma was incredible; the meat was intensely seasoned, though unfortunately I can't tell you with what (I asked the waitress for the secret but she wasn't willing to share!). His portion was huge--especially for lunch--but he had no problem finishing it off. Similarly, I wasn't about to let a bite of mine go to waste! My platter included the following: hummus, baba ganoush (a grilled eggplant dip similar to hummus), falafel, moutabal (grilled eggplant with garlic and peppers), and finally tabbouleh, all served with several pieces of warm pita bread. I loved it all, but the falafel was by far my favorite. Like the chicken, it was perfectly seasoned. The various spreads were great on the pita bread, which was thinner than the usual pita bread.

(Ryan's Chicken Schwarma Sandwich)

(My platter of food, pita bread unpictured)

All in all, we couldn't have asked for a better dining experience at Ranoush. The service was fast and incredibly friendly, the price was right (less than $25 after tax & tip!), and the food was better than we could have imagined. We will definitely be returning, as there are several other things on the menu we'd like to try, including a mint tea with sweet tea vodka that sounded awesome! Furthermore, I can't wait to try my own hand at falafel and perhaps some baba ganoush. Two thumbs up for Ranoush and another successful month of the Twelve in Ten Challenge!

Ranoush on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lemon Bulgur Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Goat Cheese

Here's what I can tell you about this recipe: it's said to serve four and in our case, it served two. I don't think I need to tell you much more than that! This recipe was inspired by Maria at Two Peas and Their Pod, who made it with orzo and feta. I obviously made some changes, based on what we had on hand, and the outcome was stellar! We actually finished off our bag of bulgur with this meal. When I originally bought that bulgur for tabbouleh, we found a lot of creative ways (like this, this, and this) to use it. Now that it's gone, I'm already planning to buy more. Bulgur is not only good for you (more fiber and few calories than brown rice), but it is also incredibly versatile! I can't wait to discover more future uses of this grain!

Lemon Bulgur Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Goat Cheese
inspired by Maria

-1 cup bulgur
-2 cups water
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-1 tsp olive oil
-1/2 lb. asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces
-4 cups packed fresh spinach
-juice of 1 large lemon
-1/8 cup sunflower kernels
-1/3 cup goat cheese
-salt & pepper, to taste

1. In a medium sauce pan, add bulgur and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until all liquid has evaporated.
2. In a sauce pan, saute garlic in olive oil. Add asparagus pieces and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until spinach shrinks and asparagus is tender.
3. Remove bulgur from heat and stir in the vegetables. Squeeze lemon juice over the bulgur. Mix in sunflower kernals and season with salt & pepper. Top with crumbled goat cheese.
**note--we ate this warm, but Maria said it was also good cold!

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Panzanella Caprese

Another successful girl's dinner! I really love my monthly dinners with Paige and Ashley and every month we seem to up the ante with our food selections (see a few previous dishes here, here, and here). This month, we went with an Italian theme and Paige (along with Ash and I as sous chefs!) made a delightful spring risotto that I'm still dreaming about. I contributed this panzanella caprese salad, and Ash treated us to gelato for dessert!

I halved the recipe below, which serves 6-8, and the three of us had no problem finishing it off. I'm normally not a big fan of croutons, but there's something about the homemade ones that I can't resist! This was a heartier version of your typical caprese salad, but it was so easy to throw together. Funnily enough, none of us had ever had capers before...and all three of us are now caper lovers!

Panzanella Caprese
from Gourmet, May 2009

-1 (18 in) piece of baguette, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
-1 garlic clove
-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-3 tbsp drained capers, chopped
-1 1/2 lb tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 small red onion, thinly sliced
-1 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch chunks
-1/2 cup chopped basil

1. Preheat oven to 375F with rack in middle. Toss bread with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp each of salt & pepper in a large 4-sided sheet pan, then spread out in 1 layer. Bake, stirring once, until golden, 12-15 minutes.
2. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in vinegar, capers, and remaining 1/3 cup oil.
3. Add croutons to dressing along with tomatoes, onion, mozzarella, and basil, then toss. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Broccoli Mushroom Almond Chicken

I have tons of recipes bookmarked in my google reader as "chinese" and frequently overlook them when meal planning each week. This week, I was determined to select one from that category and went with Broccoli Almond Chicken from Cate's World Kitchen because it was easy and required no crazy ingredients. I pretty much followed Cate's recipe, but added mushrooms that I had on hand and accidentally omitted the ginger. I'm pretty mad about that because I think I would've really enjoyed the flavor that added, so I'll be sure to include it next time.

This recipe called for broccoli but you could likely use any combination of vegetables. However, the broccoli and almonds were great together. I really liked the sauce, though next time I'll double it since I added a lot of extra veggies and some pieces were left only lightly coated. All in all, a lovely weeknight dinner that I enjoyed outside on our porch with my sister who stopped by for a visit!

Broccoli Mushroom Almond Chicken

For the sauce-
-Juice of 1 lemon
-1 tsp lemon zest
-2 tsp sugar
-1 tbsp soy sauce
-3 tbsp broth or water
-1 tsp cornstarch

For the stir fry-
-1 tbsp vegetable oil
-1/2 lb boneless-skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
-1/2 small onion, chopped
-2 tsp minced fresh ginger
-1 large head broccoli, cut into florets (I used 2)
-1/2 package button mushrooms, sliced
-1/3 cup almonds, cut in half lengthwise (I used slivered almonds)

1. Whisk together sauce ingredients and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, onion, and ginger, and cook, stirring until chicken is cooked through.
3. Add the broccoli florets and a few tablespoons of water. Cook until broccoli is crisp-tender.
4. Add the sauce and almonds and stir until sauce has thickened and coats the chicken and broccoli.
5. Serve over brown rice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pesto Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese

I fell in love with this sweet potato gnocchi last time I made it, but that first dinner does not even compare to this one! The gnocchi is good on its own, but cooked in pesto and combined with veggies and goat cheese made it to die for. I moaned my way through this meal, amazed at how well the flavor combination worked. In fact, I think I'm motivated enough to go through the somewhat time consuming process of making gnocchi again, simply so I can have this once more!

Pesto Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese
recipe by me

-enough sweet potato gnocchi for 2 people (a lot, if you're us!)
-2 tbsp pesto (I used store bought)
-salt & pepper
-4-6 cups spinach
-1 zucchini, sliced
-2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1. Cook sweet potato gnocchi through the boiling step (click the link above).
2. Heat an oiled skillet over medium heat and add boiled gnocchi to it. Add pesto to the pan and mix to coat gnocchi. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
3. Saute gnocchi 5-10 minutes.
4. In a separate skillet, saute zucchini 5-10 minutes, to desired doneness. Before finished, add spinach and allow to wilt.
5. Fill bowls with wilted spinach and sauteed zucchini. Top with gnocchi and crumbled goat cheese.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crispy Tilapia Sandwiches

The idea of a fish sandwich seemed a little weird to me. I'm all about tilapia on its own, but sticking it on a sandwich like its a piece of chicken didn't sound all that appealing. Boy was I wrong, and I'm glad I decided to give this recipe a try! This was a great weeknight dinner, taking all of 30 minutes to prepare. The fish itself is very mild tasting (fill free to add additional spices if you wish), but paired with the sour cream mustard spread and sandwich toppings, it made for a hearty, flavorful meal. We ate this with baked potato slices, which I'm not yet posting as they were good...but could stand to be improved. Any tips on how to get them nice and crispy?

Crispy Tilapia Sandwiches
adapted from Cooking Light
*for 2 sandwiches

-1 tbsp light sour cream
-1 tbsp dijon mustard
-8 saltine crackers
-1 tbsp all-purpose flour
-2 tilapia fillets
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 baguette, or other crispy loaf
-tomato slices
-red onion slices
-fresh spinach leaves

1. Process saltine crackers in a food processor (or blender) until fine. Spread on a plate. Spread flour on another plate.
2. Sprinkle fish with salt & pepper. Dredge fillet in flour. Dip in beaten egg. Dredge in saltine crumbs. Repeat with second fillet.
3. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Add fish to pan. Cook, flipping after 4 minutes, and cooking for 4 minutes on the other side.
4. Mix sour cream and mustard. Cut baguette in half length and widthwise to form 4 pieces. Spread sour cream mixture on two slices of bread.
5. Place tilapia on bottom half of bread. Top with tomato, red onion, spinach, and other half of bread.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lindsay's Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last time my mom visited, she brought along two large ziploc bags of these cookies that my grandma had made for us. Six cookies later, I was officially hooked. I immediately facebooked my grandma for the recipe (yes she has facebook, and yes she's the coolest grandma ever) which she quickly sent my way. I remember her telling me she got the recipe from some magazine, but I can't for the life of me remember which...so I'll update in the comments if I find out (updated below in the recipe!). I don't know who Lindsay is, but she has a darn good cookie recipe!

These are some of the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had, thanks to the two kinds of chocolate, the pecans, and the oatmeal. This recipe makes a TON of cookies (5-6 dozen!) so be prepared to share (though you may not want to after you try a few). Give these a try and let me know what you think!

Lindsay's Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies
Midwest Living April 2010 
-2 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
-2 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup butter
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup packed brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 (12 oz) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
-4 oz milk chocolate bar grated (I used my food processor, my Grandma used her blender)

1. Mix oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer and a large bowl), beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat until combined.
3. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.
4. Add flour mixer and beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts, and grated chocolate.
5. Drop tablespoons of dough onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes, until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Make Ahead Lasagna

Last week I was out of town for work again and wanted to make something before I left that Ryan could eat for a few days. He's perfectly capable of cooking, but I knew with his busy schedule he'd probably opt for cereal or sandwiches and I wasn't about to let that happen! This lasagna was a snap to throw together and I stuck it in the freezer a few days before I left. He let it thaw a day ahead of time and then cooked it the first night I was home. Ryan ended up eating it every day I was gone (sometimes twice a day!), so I was glad my efforts weren't in vain! He was even good enough to snap a picture of it! Though lasagna doesn't photograph well, he assured me that it was tasty. Normally I'd make my own tomato sauce, but I was short on time and this sauce seemed to work just fine. Because I was trying to quickly put this together, I just did it on a whim, which is why some of my measurements and directions are approximations. Thankfully, you can't really screw up lasagna. I love make ahead meals!

Make Ahead Lasagna

-No boil lasagna noodles (I believe I used about 12 total)
-1 lb ground turkey
-1 zucchini, sliced
-1 container ricotta cheese
-1 egg
-dried oregano, basil, & pepper, to taste
-1 cup (approximate) mozzarella cheese
-1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used a mushroom spaghetti sauce)

1. Brown turkey in a skillet over the stove.
2. In a small bowl, mix ricotta cheese, egg, herbs, and pepper, mixing well.
3. In a 9 x 9 pan, cover the bottom with lasagna noodles (may need to break in order to fit).
4. Layer with turkey, zucchini, and ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Spread a small amount of sauce over the layers.
5. Repeat sequence, beginning with the noodles and following with step #4. Continue to repeat until pan is full. Top last layer of noodles with remaining sauce.
6. Cover with plastic wrap & foil and freeze until ready to serve.
7. Thaw overnight before baking. Bake at 375F for 45-55 minutes, until cooked through.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Breakfast Bulgur

Still looking for ways to use up my bag of bulgur, I decided to switch things up and include the grain in our breakfast one Sunday morning. This breakfast didn't take more than 20 minutes to prepare and it was nice to switch it up from my hot breakfast of choice (oatmeal). I don't think it kept me as full as oatmeal does, but maybe next time I'll up the portion size. The orange juice provided some sweetness (I can handle oatmeal plain but I don't think bulgur plain would be as delish), and Ryan smartly added some pecans to his for some crunch (never mind the fact that those pecans were reserved for my spinach strawberry salad...whoops!).

Breakfast Bulgur
*serves 2

-1/2 cup bulgur
-1 cup cold water
-1/2 cup orange juice
-pecans & dried cranberries, for toppings

1. Place bulgur in a small saucepan.
2. Add cold water and heat over medium heat until brought to a boil.
3. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
4. Stir in orange juice and stir for 1-2 minutes.
5. Spoon into bowls and top with pecans and dried cranberries.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lucky Charms Treats

In need of another quick treat to bring to church, I decided to spice up an old favorite: rice krispy treats. Instead of rice krispies, however, I used some Lucky Charms cereal I had on hand. Marshmallows in the cereal and melted into the bars?! It doesn't get much better than that! These literally take less than 10 minutes to make and are always a crowd favorite.

Lucky Charms Treats

-3 tbsp butter
-4 cups mini marshmallows
-5 cups Lucky Charms cereal

1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and mini marshmallows, stirring constantly.
2. Once melted, pour in cereal and mix until well-coated.
3. Press cereal mixture into a greased 9 x 9 pan.
4. Cut into 16 squares and serve.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cranberry Orange Sour Cream Loaf

On Easter morning, I was asked to bring something to serve after church and I wanted to use up some ingredients I had in my fridge. Namely, the orange juice I knew we wouldn't drink and some leftover sour cream. I found a quick bread recipe for cranberry orange bread that included both sour cream and orange juice, but a glance through the recipe made me cringe. I'm all for indulging in baked goods, but I try to healthify them when possible and this bread recipe was pretty chock full of butter and sugar. So, I used the recipe as my base and made quite a few changes. In the end, the changes were without consequence. This bread was moist and the extra fat & sugar weren't missed. My only regret was not adding more chopped cranberries--next time I'd up it to 2 cups!

*note: this recipe makes 2 loaves of bread but could easily be halved

Cranberry Orange Bread
recipe adapted from here

-1 cup butter (I used 1 stick butter & 1 stick margarine because it was all I had on hand)
-3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling cranberries
-1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
-1 cup sour cream
-2 cups orange juice
-4 eggs
-2 cups whole wheat flour
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped (I suggest increasing if you really like cranberries!)

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. Sprinkle chopped cranberries with sugar and set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
5. Mix in eggs, one at a time.
6. Mix in sour cream and orange juice until well combined.
7. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing slowly until just combined.
8. Stir in cranberries.
9. Pour batter evenly into two loaf pans and bake for 60 minutes. Remove from oven, cool on wire rack, and slice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

For years and years this was my favorite salad. Each year on my birthday, I always requested this salad (usually with steak!). At the wedding shower my sister threw me the theme was "Natalie's Favorite Things", and this salad was on the menu. So I'm surprised that I hadn't asked my mom for this recipe and made this salad until now, more than a year and a half after being married. I brought this to the Easter dinner we attended with friends and everyone (even my salad-hating friend ;)) loved this!

*note: I doubled the below recipe to make for a crowd, but did not double the dressing and there was plenty!

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

-1 bag fresh spinach
-1 carton strawberries, sliced
-1/2 cup pecans, chopped (still kept in big pieces)
-2 tbsp butter

For the dressing:
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 cup oil
-1/3 cup raspberry wine vinegar
-1 tsp dry mustard
-1 1/2 tbsp poppyseeds

1. To prepare the pecans, place on a baking sheet and dot with butter. Toast at 350F for 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
2. To make the dressing, blend the sugar, oil, raspberry wine vinegar, and dry mustard in a blender for 2 minutes. Stir in the poppyseeds. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. When ready to serve, mix the pecans, spinach, and strawberries. Toss with dressing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I began seeing Sweet Potato Gnocchi around the blogosphere the last few months and have been dying to make it. My friend Paige beat me to it and warned me that it was a rather time consuming endeavor. With this in mind, I cooked my sweet potatoes a day ahead of time and then spent a leisurely Friday afternoon preparing the gnocchi. The great thing was that I made a TON and we have at least one, maybe two, meals worth in our freezer now. I admit, it is certainly a process to make these...but after eating them, I've decided it was worth it. Ryan and I realized when we sat down to eat that neither of us had ever actually tried gnocchi, so we had no idea what it was supposed to be like in terms of taste and texture. Even so, we both converted to gnocchi lovers after a few bites. If you have issues with weird textures in food, these might freak you out...but I personally loved the stiff exterior and the chewy insides.

While we sauteed these this time in some garlic and butter, I'm excited to experiment with the remaining gnocchi in the freezer and instead make an accompanying sauce. Stay tuned for that in the next few weeks!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
recipe from Iowa Girl Eats (Kristin has great step by step photos..my hands were too messy to attempt this!)

-1 lb sweet potatoes (I used 3 large potatoes, definitely more than a pound total)
-1 3/4 cups flour, may need more or less (I used at least 2-2 1/2 cups)
-1 medium egg
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-salt & pepper

1. Cook potatoes until tender (I baked at 400F until tender) and mash until smooth. (This is the step I did a day ahead of time. I just refrigerated my potatoes in a sealed container until ready to use).
2. Add a whisked egg to the potatoes and mix in cinnamon, salt, and pepper until just combined.
3. Begin adding flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading after each addition until the dough is barely sticky.
4. Flour a clean, dry surface and place your ball of sweet potato dough on it.
5. Cut ball into quarters and set aside 3 of them.
6. With your hands, begin to roll out the quarter of dough into a long rope the width of your index finger (you may need to split the rope in two to avoid breakage!).
7. Cut rope into 1-inch sections.
8. Repeat with remaining quarters of dough ball.
9. If freezing, place gnocchi on a cookie sheet and freeze for 20 minutes. Put frozen gnocchi into a large freezer bag and store in freezer until ready to serve. When ready to serve, continue with the next step.
10. If cooking immediately, or cooking from frozen, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add gnocchi, taking care not to overcrowd (may want to cook in batches).
11. When gnocchi float to the top, remove from the boiling pot with a slotted spoon.
12. Transfer to a skillet heated with butter and garlic. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and saute until golden brown (about 5-10 minutes).
13. Remove from skillet and serve immediately.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese

Today I'm actually in Nashville on a girlfriends trip. However, I wanted to share this beautiful burger with you...

This isn't so much a recipe as a celebration of Spring! Our first grilled meal of the season was last week when Ryan made turkey burgers (just a basic mixture of ground turkey, worcestershire sauce, dried parsley, dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt). We topped them with goat cheese, spring mix salad, and tomatoes. Paired with grilled zucchini and kale chips, it was a delightful dinner that we enjoyed outside on our porch.

Hooray for Winter being a memory of the past :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cornflake Scotcheroos

In the early days of this blog, I posted scotcheroos--an absolutely addictive dessert bar! Wanting a quick dessert when my family was in town a few weeks ago, I decided to make these once again. However, after two trips to the grocery store the day before, I was in no mood to return when I discovered I didn't have rice krispies. Instead, I made them with some cornflakes I had on hand.

The recipe was essentially the same...but I think I actually liked the cornflake version better. They're very similar and maybe it's just been too long since I've had them with rice krispies. Needless to say, these didn't last through the weekend at our house! These are chewy and sweet and full of butterscotch, chocolate, and peanut butter flavors. You can't go wrong, regardless of the cereal base! Has anyone ever made these with a different kind of cereal?

Cornflake Scotcheroos

-5 cups cornflakes
-1 cup light corn syrup
-1/2 cup white sugar (many recipes call for 1 cup but I find it's sweet enough with 1/2 cup)
-1 cup peanut butter
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup butterscotch chips
-1 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet chocolate with these)

1. Heat corn syrup and sugar over medium heat in a medium pot. When mixture begins to boil, immediately remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and peanut butter, mixing until melted and smooth.
2. Pour cereal into bowl and mix until completely coated.
3. Press cereal into a greased 9 x 13 pan.
4. Melt butterscotch and chocolate chips over low heat in a small pot, stirring until smooth.
5. Spread melted chips evenly over cereal. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mexican Salad

I remember the first time Ryan and I made this salad. We were living in Kirksville, MO where we attended college. He came to the house I lived in and we danced around each other in that tiny kitchen, chopping and mixing and finally sitting on benches at the two-person table, shoveling forkfuls of the salad into our mouths and falling in love with this dish! Since then, we’ve made the salad several times and talk about making it much more often than we actually do. It’s hearty enough that it can serve as a main dish with maybe some chips and guacamole on the side (my favorite!), but I chose to serve it alongside enchiladas and rice at book club. As I imagined, the ladies loved this salad and I had many requests for the recipe. This salad is bursting with flavor and color; try it, you won’t be disappointed!

*I have no idea where this recipe comes from…I had it written on a wrinkled piece of loose leaf paper…I know my mom got it somewhere and I copied it down

Mexican Salad


2-3 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped into small pieces

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained

2 medium tomatoes, seeded & chopped

¾ cup chopped jicama (I sometimes omit)

1 ½ cups corn

¾ cup chopped radish (I sometimes omit)

1 medium red pepper, chopped

½ cup reduced fat feta cheese (I just eyeball it)

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

Honey Lime Dressing:

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp chopped cilantro

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced


1. Mix all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until just before serving.

2. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine.

3. Add dressing and toss just before serving.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

White Chicken Enchiladas

Awhile ago I made sweet potato black bean enchiladas and some chicken enchiladas, but I wanted to try something different for book club. Some of the women in my book club are kind of picky eaters, so I opted for a fairly mild enchilada recipe (hence the lack of vegetables and whole wheat tortillas in this!). The recipe I found on Eat at Home almost seemed too mild, so I tried to spice it up a bit with Pepperjack cheese and some added spices. I only cooked 3 chicken breasts, but if I were making this much food next time, I’d make 4…the last few enchiladas were pretty skinny! Despite doubling the number of tortillas in the original recipe, I made the same amount of sauce and it turned out to be plenty! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of these after they were out of the oven (I had some hungry readers on my hands!), but picture some crispy enchiladas covered in gooey melted sauce :)

*Note—this made a LOT of food—I suggest halving unless you have lots of mouths to feed. We had leftovers for days!

White Chicken Enchiladas
Adapted from Eat at Home

-20 flour tortillas
-2 cups shredded Pepperjack Cheese
-3-4 large chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
-1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
-Cumin & Chili Pepper, to taste
-1 small onion, diced
-3 tbsp butter
-3 tbsp flour
-2 cups chicken broth
-1 cup sour cream (I used light)
-2 cans (4 oz) diced green chilis

1. Mix together the Pepperjack cheese, chopped onion, and chicken in a large bowl. Sprinkle with chili powder and cumin and mix to blend the spices.
2. Fill each tortilla with an equal amount of chicken mixture. Roll up tortilla and place seam side down in a 9 x 13 pan. Continue until you’ve used all of the chicken mixture and tortillas (I filled 2 9 x 13 pans).
3. In a skillet, melt the butter and add the flour, stirring for a minute. Add the chicken broth and continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Stir in the sour cream and green chilis.
4. Pour the mixture evenly over the 2 pans of enchiladas. Top with Monterrey Jack cheese.
5. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


It was my turn to host book club this month and I tried to stick to a theme I knew most of the ladies in our group would enjoy--Mexican! We had a Mexican-inspired meal (recipes forthcoming) and I of course chose to serve margarita pie for dessert. With margaritas for dessert, I decided serving margaritas to drink as well might be overkill. Instead, my mom suggested sangria.

There is a wealth of sangria recipes on the internet, but my mom remembered that her tried and true recipe include orange juice and sprite. I found an online recipe that sounded similar and followed it...or so I thought. A few hours after book club I realized that I had completely forgotten to add the sugar that was called for. However, it called for a whole cup of sugar which seems like a lot, and I actually think it tasted fine without. Sometimes mistakes turn out for the best! I suppose you could add some (a whole cup probably isn't necessary!) but you get a sweetness from the soda and orange juice anyways. The sangria was easy to prep-I mixed everything but the fruit together the morning of, then added the fruit about two hours before serving.

This is a great cocktail for this Spring or Summer and paired nicely with our Mexican meal!

Sangria Demasiado (Light)
adapted from here

-2 bottles of cheap red wine
-1 liter lemon/lime soda
-1 cup of orange juice
-1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
-1 orange, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

1. Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least a few hours ahead of time.
2. At least two hours ahead of time, add your chopped fruit.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

With a tupperware full of cream cheese frosting from the cinnamon rolls, I knew I had to find another use for it...aside from eating it straight from the container, which I had already done plenty of! My trusty friend Google led me to this recipe for carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. I liked that it was made in a loaf pan which is unusual for carrot cake. This carrot cake omits walnuts, pineapple, and coconut, all features of various carrot cake recipes. The simplicity of this worked, however, with the carrot and spices nicely supplementing the shining glory that is cream cheese frosting :) I doubled the recipe to make two loaves but pawned one off on my brother-in-law.

My only complaint was how much it dried out in the fridge. Fresh out of the oven it was amazing, and once it cooled I wrapped it up and stuck it in the fridge. Twenty-four hours later it had lost the majority of its moisture. Granted, it still tasted good (nothing a few extra spoonfuls of cream cheese frosting can't fix!), but compared to the first day it was a disappointment. Thus, I suggest making this and serving it all on the same day!

Carrot Cake Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting
from the Deelish Dish
*makes 2 9x5 loaves

-2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp ground nutmeg
-1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
-4 large eggs
-3 tsp vanilla extract
-2 cups packed grated carrots (about 4 carrots)
-your favorite cream cheese frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Beat in carrots.
4. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
5. Evenly divide batter between the two loaf pans. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Turn cakes onto a wire rack and let cool completely. When cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting if desired.