#header-inner {background-position: center !important; width: 100% !important;}

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Bahn Mi So

And just like that, another month has passed. Transitioning from March to April proved to be insanely busy for us, even more so than usual. Despite returning from vacation feeling relaxed and rejuvenated just over a month ago, Ryan and I have once again been feeling the stress of trying to juggle too many balls in the air at once.

Before we knew it, April appeared to be slipping away and we hadn't yet completed our monthly Best of 2011 challenge. We literally had to set aside our to do lists one Sunday afternoon and force ourselves to go out and grab lunch at one of the places on the list.

It couldn't have been a better decision, as we ended up having one of the most enjoyable afternoons that we've had in awhile. Few of the restaurants from the "Best Of" list were open on a Sunday afternoon, but Bahn Mi So caught our eye and we strapped on our helmets and set out via bike. The weather was perfect and the hilly jaunt to the restaurant revved our appetites. We were surprised to find the restaurant smack down alongside busy Grand Ave in St. Louis, not in the restaurant-heavy South Grand area, but sitting amongst apartment buildings and storefronts.

I've embarrassed to say it, being a restaurant review and all, but neither of us even stepped foot inside the place. We immediately grabbed seats on the patio, choosing to soak up the sunshine and enjoy our meal outdoors. From what I could tell, the interior was small and casual, proving it was the edible experience that put this little restaurant on STL Magazine's list.

A flashing sign outside claimed their spring rolls were the best in St. Louis, a claim we had to test. Along with an order of shrimp spring rolls, we opted for a vegetable tofu noodle dish. Neither of us typically choose tofu in a restaurant, but this was the byproduct of some confused ordering and an exasperated server (don't ask).

Food was delivered within minutes and we hungrily dug in. Though I have nothing to compare the spring rolls to, they certainly exceeded our expectations, stuffed with vermicelli, loads of fresh mint, and shrimp. The tofu dish also pleasantly surprised us, both of us noting that when thinly sliced and seasoned well, tofu lacks that blah flavor we often associate with it.

We cleaned our plates and took some time to chat with our friendly (and no longer exasperated) server, who humbly talked about the boom in business they've had since being included on the list. After paying for our (ridiculously cheap, might I add) meal, we assured him we would again return before hopping on our bikes and tackling the hills toward home.

Perfect Sunday afternoon. :)

Banh Mi So on Urbanspoon

For other restaurant reviews (St. Louis and beyond!), check out my Restaurant Review page
One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Cup Blondies

Friday, April 29, 2011

Curried Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers

I love a good meaty hamburger from time to time, but we try to limit our red meat consumption. Enter: the veggie burger. Veggie burgers can be made from all sorts of non-meat ingredients. I've seen everything from chopped carrots to lentils to black beans to zucchini. For my own version of a veggie burger, I decided to use baked sweet potatoes and chickpeas as the bulk of the burger. Though I've never bought frozen veggie burger patties from the grocery store, I am quite certain that the taste and the texture of these are far superior. For starters, you can season them any way you fancy. I decided to go with curry powder, which provides enough flavor that little else is needed. 

Cooked over the stovetop, these firmed up and held together nicely...you don't have to cook anything in them so you just want to keep them on the skillet long enough to stay together. Ours probably took 5-7 minutes each side. We ate the leftovers the next day, which required only a 45 second reheat in the microwave. Placed on buns and eaten with your favorite toppings (in our case spinach and tomatoes), these were a good meatless alternative to burgers. Next time I'll make some sort of yogurt sauce to accompany them!

Do any of you have a favorite veggie burger recipe to share?

One Year Ago: Baked Eggs in Potato Skins

Curried Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers
A Sweets Life Original
*makes 6 burgers

-2 small sweet potatoes, baked and peeled
-1 can chickpeas (15 oz), drained
-1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
-1 tsp curry powder
-1 cup old-fashioned oats
-salt and pepper, to taste
-buns, tomatoes, and spinach, for serving

1. In the bowl of a food processor, add sweet potatoes and chickpeas. Pulse to combine. (Could also do this in a bowl and mash with your hands)
2. Stir in parsley, curry powder, oats, salt, and pepper, mixing well to evenly disperse ingredients.
3. Using your hands, form mixture into 6 equal patties, approximately 3-4 inches in diameter.
4. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook patties over medium high heat, until lightly browned. Flip and cook remaining side.
5. Remove from skillet and place on buns. Top with tomatoes and spinach.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chicken Paninis with Pineapple Black Bean Salsa

I have a major love for pineapple. If I'm not careful, I can eat an entire fruit in one day...and then suffer for the remainder of the day with "burnt" taste buds (does that happen to anyone else with pineapple?). Normally when I buy a pineapple, we just chop it up and eat it plain. This time, however, I decided to get a little creative with it, and these paninis were born.

If you don't have a panini press, don't immediately click away from this recipe. The mixture would be equally good eaten rolled up in a tortilla or stuffed into a pita pocket. You could also just scoop it up with tortilla chips! The salsa and chicken can be made ahead of time, making for an quick and easy meal...my favorite kind when the weather gets nice!

One Year Ago: Strawberry Banana Bread

Chicken Paninis with Black Bean Salsa
A Sweets Life original
*makes 4 paninis with extra salsa

for the salsa-
-1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1 1/2-2 cups pineapple, diced
-1/4 cup red onion, diced
-1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
-juice from 1 lime
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-salt, to taste

for the chicken
-1 lb chicken breast, sliced and cooked (I cooked chicken in a skillet, seasoned with chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper)

-bread, for serving

1. Prepare chicken breasts and set aside or refrigerate until serving.
2. In a large bowl, combine all salsa ingredients. Mix to combine and refrigerate if not using immediately.
3. Top 1 slice of bread with salsa and chicken, followed by another slice of bread. Cook in a panini press (or in a skillet, pressing down with a spatula) for a few minutes, until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining bread, chicken, and salsa (you will have salsa left over). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

(Almost) No-Bake Nutella Pie with Peanut Butter Crust

Recently, I've had a few different people open the door to my pantry and laugh at the two GIANT containers of Nutella sitting on the top shelf. Yes, it's safe to say we like Nutella. I haven't baked with it in awhile--not since these Nutella brownie bottom cheesecake bars--because a certain someone in our household (not me, for once!) has a major affinity for slathering Nutella all over croissants and toast and I didn't want him to be deprived of one of his favorite snacks!

Rather than let yet another person discover our abundance of Nutella hiding in the pantry, I decided I'd better use some of it up....perfect timing because I ran across this recipe for a No-Bake Nutter Butter Nutella Pie. I changed the recipe slightly, making a (baked) peanut butter graham cracker crust instead of using Nutter Butter cookies and topping with chocolate syrup.

The outcome? For starters, I've decided peanut butter graham cracker crusts win over regular graham cracker crusts. WHOA. Also, you can't go wrong with a filling primarily consisting of cream cheese and Nutella. Served cold from the fridge, this is a refreshing warm weather dessert! (Next time I want to try freezing it, as I remember that we loved the Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte frozen, even though it was intended to be refrigerated.)

One Year Ago: Oven Baked Potato Chips

(Almost) No-Bake Nutella Pie with Peanut Butter Crust
heavily adapted from Lauren's Latest
*serves 8-10

for the crust-
-1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
-1/4 cup butter, melted
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/3 cup peanut butter

for the filling-
-16 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used 1 regular and 1 1/3 less fat)
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup Nutella
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup whipping cream

for the topping-
-chocolate syrup

1. To make the crust, mix graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter, sugar, and butter in a large bowl, mixing until well combined (may need to use your hands to disperse the peanut butter). Press crust into a grease 9-inch pie plate, evenly distributing among the bottom and sides of the dish.
2. Bake crust at 375F for 8 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
3. While crust is cooling, beat cream cheese with sugar in a large mixing bowl until blended and creamy. Mix in Nutella and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add whipping cream, beating for 3 minutes or until mixture is thick.
4. Spread filling into prepared crust and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
5. Before serving, drizzle with chocolate syrup and cut into slices.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chili-Glazed Pork with Sweet Potato Hash

The magazine I probably look most forward to reading each month is Real Simple. Their combination of uplifting articles, practical decorating or organizing tips, and creative recipes have me anxiously awaiting each issue in the mail. I've had success with other Real Simple recipes including Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew with Couscous, Prosciutto Wrapped Pears with Blue Cheese, and Southwestern Chicken Salad. When I saw the recipe for Chili-Glazed Pork with Sweet Potato Hash, I immediately ripped out the page and set it aside for a future meal.

As per usual, I got busy cooking other things and the pork recipe fell off the radar...until I stumbled across the recipe again one day and set out to make it before I misplaced the paper again! As is to be expected from a magazine with the word simple in the title, this was indeed fairly simple to make. My pork took significantly longer to cook under the broiler than the recipe stated, but we can chalk that up to different oven temperatures. If you're uncomfortable with your broiler, you can always roast the pork at 350F for 25-35 minutes (you want the internal temperature at 160F).

The maple syrup and chile rub make for an excellent contrast on the pork, spicing up a sometimes dull meat. If you're really looking for heat, dip your meat in some hot sauce (we used Sriracha). I particularly loved the side dish. This sweet potato hash was different than the type I typically make, but I loved the texture of the skinny sweet potato strands mixed in with the sauteed spinach!

This was an all-around good meal, proving once again that Real Simple is full of solid, simple recipes!

One Year Ago: Caprese Sandwiches

Chili-Glazed Pork with Sweet Potato Hash
from Real Simple February 2011
*serves 4

-1 pork tenderloin (approximately 1 1/4 pounds)
-1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
-1 tsp chili powder
-salt & black pepper
-2 tbsp pure maple syrup
-2 medium sweet potatoes (approximately 1 pound), peeled
-2 large shallots, chopped (I substituted about 1/8 cup diced onion)
-1 (5 oz) package baby spinach, chopped
hot sauce (if desired)

1. Heat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the pork on it. Rub with 1 tsp oil, chili powder, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Broil, turning occasionally, and basting with the maple syrup twice. Broil until cooked through (160F), approximately 10-12 minutes (mine took almost twice this). Let pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
2. While pork is cooking, grate the sweet potatoes on a box grater or in a food processor. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots (or onions) and cook until beginning to brown (2-3 minutes). Add sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7-9 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook just until wilted (1-2 more minutes).
3. Divide pork and sweet potatoes among plates, serving with hot sauce if desired.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Breakfast Tortilla Strata

When I think of stratas, I think of bread-filled egg dishes almost reminiscent of a custard. This isn't your typical strata; it still has the egg mixture but instead of chunks of bread there are layers of corn tortillas. I came across this Cooking Light recipe when I was looking for a way to use up the corn tortillas I bought for Latin Nacho Bowls. Though stratas might typically be considered a brunch dish, I think the Mexican take on this dish makes it a good alternative for dinner as well, which is when we had it. (Bonus--this recipe takes only a few minutes to put together and must be made ahead of time...just come home and stick it in the oven!)

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I definitely want to recommend a few changes, should you give this a go. For starters, if you like things spicy, use a spicy salsa! I used a mild salsa and although it was good, the dish lacked the kick I would've liked. Also, feel free to customize this. Next time I think I'd add cilantro, spinach, or maybe other vegetables to the strata layers. Finally, be wary of how much liquid you use. My salsa was pretty liquidy so that coupled with the egg mixture made for a very runny strata that took much longer to cook than the suggested 35 minutes. If your salsa is fairly runny do, you're best off eliminating some of the milk and/or sour cream.

I'm posting the recipe below as I made it, but keep my suggestions in mind. Ryan and I both really liked this dinner, I just think a few simple things could turn it from good to great!

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Baguettes

Breakfast Tortilla Strata
from Cooking Light

-1 cup bottled salsa
-1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
-10 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
-cooking spray
-1 cup Mexican blend cheese, divided (I probably used a little more than this)
-1 cup low-fat sour cream
-1 cup skim milk
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 large eggs
-2 large egg whites (I just used 3 eggs total)
-1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1. Combine salsa and beans in a bowl. Lay 1/3 of the tortilla strips in an 11x7-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top with 1/3 cup cheese and approximately 1 cup salsa mixture.
2. Repeat step with another 1/3 tortilla strips, 1/3 cup cheese, and remaining salsa mixture. Top with remaining tortilla strips.
3. Combine sour cream, milk, salt, and eggs in a separate bowl, whisking to combine. Stir in onions. Pour liquid over tortilla strips and sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dish from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and firming up in the middle.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen Indeed!

No recipe I could post today, no matter how delicious, could compare to the thing I'm off celebrating today--the resurrection of Jesus! Without Him, I am nothing and so I want to take today to dwell on and rejoice in that. Back tomorrow with a recipe! Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mini Truffle Tarts

I still have a hard time thinking of myself as a true "cook" or "baker"....maybe it's because I still misread recipes, still have to ask Ryan if the chicken looks done, and still can't figure out how to pronounce brioche. Amazingly, other people have decided I'm at least somewhat capable in the kitchen. I was both humbled, surprised, and delighted when my friend Ashley asked me to make some desserts for a bridal shower that she was hosting. It's one thing to make treats for a shower you're attending where you know everyone...quite another (and much more nerve-wracking, might I add!) to make them for a party that you WON'T be present at. I may or may not have spent the afternoon of the shower crossing my fingers and praying everyone liked them!

After a little brainstorming with Ash, I decided to make a variation of my Raspberry Truffle Tarts. This time, however, I made two different miniature versions: dark chocolate with an Oreo crust and topped with a raspberry and then white chocolate with a graham cracker crust and topped with a blueberry.

They ended up looking pretty darn adorable, and I received nothing but positive feedback...so I can't help but think that maybe in spite of my many shortfalls in the kitchen, I've still made MAJOR strides from the days of boxed cake mix and grilled cheese! :) Thanks Ash & friends for trusting me to provide your treats! Thanks Maggie for assisting me in the kitchen and reassuring me during freakouts! Thanks Paige for your brilliant carrying case idea (egg cartons)!

One Year Ago: Twelve in Ten Challenge-Ranoush

Mini Raspberry Dark Chocolate Truffle Tarts
*makes 24 mini tarts

-1 cup Oreo crumbs
-4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, melted
-1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
-6 oz. high quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
-3/4 tsp vanilla extract
-1 tbsp sugar

1. Line 24 mini muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, mix Oreo crumbs with melted butter. Using a spoon, distribute crumb mixture evenly between the 24 cups, pressing down with fingers.
2. Bake crusts for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
3. In a small saucepan over LOW heat, bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream just to a simmer. In a separate bowl, place chopped chocolate. Once cream starts to simmer, remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before stirring with a spoon until chocolate is smooth and melted. Stir in vanilla extract.
4. Using a spoon, place a little bit of melted chocolate into each of the muffin cups, on top of the crust (mixture should be enough for 24 exactly). Place muffin tin in fridge until chocolate hardens (at least two hours) Note--these steps can be done up to 2 days ahead of time. Be sure to cover when storing in refrigerator.
5. Within 6 hours of serving, prepare whipped cream. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip 1/2 cup heavy cream with 1 tbsp sugar on high speed until whipped cream forms. Spread or pipe whipped cream onto each of the tarts and place 1 raspberry atop each. Return to fridge if not serving immediately. Allow tarts to stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving.

Mini Blueberry White Chocolate Truffle Tarts
*makes 24 mini tarts

-1 cup graham cracker crumbs
-4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, melted
-1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
-6 oz. high quality white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
-3/4 tsp almond extract
-1 tbsp sugar

1. Line 24 mini muffin cups with paper liners and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Using a spoon, distribute crumb mixture evenly between the 24 cups, pressing down with fingers. 
2. Bake crusts for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
3. In a small saucepan over LOW heat, bring 1/2 cup of heavy cream just to a simmer. In a separate bowl, place chopped chocolate. Once cream starts to simmer, remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before stirring with a spoon until chocolate is smooth and melted. Stir in almond extract.
4. Using a spoon, place a little bit of melted chocolate into each of the muffin cups, on top of the crust (mixture should be enough for 24 exactly). Place muffin tin in fridge until chocolate hardens (at least two hours) Note--these steps can be done up to 2 days ahead of time. Be sure to cover when storing in refrigerator.
5. Within 6 hours of serving, prepare whipped cream. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip 1/2 cup heavy cream with 1 tbsp sugar on high speed until whipped cream forms. Spread or pipe whipped cream onto each of the tarts and place 1 blueberry atop each. Return to fridge if not serving immediately. Allow tarts to stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Open-Faced Teriyaki Chicken Burgers

Look no further, I've got your weekend dinner right here! These burgers were the very first thing to come out of The Sweets Life's new and improved(!!) kitchen. When we moved into our new house two weeks ago, it was an unseasonably warm day and after many long hours of unloading the truck, unpacking furniture, and organizing our belongings, we were dying to break in our new patio.

Our new house is close to some of my very favorite people, making impromptu dinners like this one a much easier reality. Julia, Maggie, and I began brainstorming dinner ideas, combining the contents of each of our kitchens. What resulted turned out infinitely better than any of us anticipated; the guys even told us the burgers were restaurant-worthy! Why eat out when you can get that kind of a compliment in your own backyard?! :) For me, food is as much about the experience as it is the taste...this meal will forever be ingrained in my memory as our first night in the new place. We didn't just eat, we laughed, told stories, and set the stage for many future dinners just like it!

These burgers rivaled the Cheeseburgers with Red Onion Jam for my favorite burger of 2011...do you have any other contenders I must try this grilling season?

One Year Ago: Pasta and Shrimp Primavera

Open Faced Teriyaki Chicken Burgers

-1 lb ground chicken
-3/4 cup teriyaki sauce, divided
-1 egg
-1/2 tbsp onion powder
-1/2 tbsp garlic powder
-1 tsp dried parsley
-1 tsp red pepper
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
-1 pineapple, thinly sliced
-sourdough bread, sliced
-butter & garlic powder, for the bread
-4 or 5 slices of Swiss cheese

1. In a large bowl, mix chicken with 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce and egg through breadcrumbs until thoroughly combined. Form into 4 or 5 equal-sized patties. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.
2. Heat 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce with a few slices of pineapple over medium-high heat. Simmer sauce until it reduces and thickens slightly.
3. Grill burgers until done. While burgers are grilling, spread butter on each slice of bread and sprinkle with garlic powder. Stick slices of bread on grill for one or two minutes until slightly toasted. Remove bread from grill and immediately top with a slice of cheese.
4. Add cooked burger on top of cheese and generously brush burgers with teriyaki reduction. Top with sliced pineapple and serve open-faced.

And...in case you're still in need of some dessert for this weekend, don't forget these Almond M&M Easter Nest cookies or the Chocolate Bird's Nest Cookies!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Milky Way Blondie Cups

I wanted to do something nice for Ashley, my blog designer who tirelessly worked with me, patiently answering my dumb questions, changing tiny details according to my preferences, and being all-around awesome as she helped me re-invent the look of this space. Knowing she was a big fan of baked goods with peanut butter, I opted to make blondies in muffin tins, hoping they would ship better than cookies!

Shipping baked goods makes me nervous. I worry that they'll crumble to a million pieces or that by the time they arrive they'll be old-tasting and stale. Still, I felt baked goods were the best way to show a food blogger's appreciation, so I packaged these up and sent them on their way. A few days later I received an email from Ashley...not only had they arrived, but she assured me they still tasted fresh, fresh and yummy enough that she was forced to eat three! Success!

Though I didn't get to try any of the blondie cups, there was some extra batter, which I baked into a little dish and Ryan and I enjoyed. The peanut butter flavor was prominent, and the Milky Ways formed little pockets of chocolate caramel goodness. You could easily substitute your favorite candy bar for the Milky Ways; Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, or M&Ms would all be good!

I now feel a little better about mailing baked goods, and felt these blondie cups were especially easy to package. Help me out though, what are your tips on mailing perishable items, and what treats have you successfully shipped?

One Year Ago: Panzanella Caprese (A Spring/Summer FAVORITE!)

Peanut Butter Milky Way Blondie Cups
adapted from So Good and Tasty
-10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
-1 1/2 cups brown sugar
-1 cup peanut butter
-2 eggs
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 cup Milky Way fun-sized candy bars, coarsely chopped (I used about 10 fun-sized bars)

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
2. Add butter and sugar to a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until butter is melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter until melted and set aside for another 5 minutes to cool.
3. Whisk in the eggs and the vanilla extract with the peanut butter mixture. In a separate bowl, mix together salt, flour, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients, stirring just until incorporated. Mix in chopped candy.
4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full. (There's probably enough batter for 13-15 blondies, or you can bake the extra batter in a small baking pan) Bake for 25-30 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake--err on the side of underbaking. Remove blondie cups and cool completely on a wire rack.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mango Chicken

This recipe was courtesy of my mom, who emailed it the day after she made it for my sister and dad. With that kind of immediacy, I knew it had to be good and I couldn't wait to make it! This was a good dinner for a weeknight as it didn't take much time to come together.

We ate ours over couscous and I know my mom served hers over whole wheat soba noodles. I recommend something that will soak up the extra coconut sauce, as that was the best part! My mom's taste testers were glad she accidentally forgot to add the cilantro, so I didn't include it and Ryan wished I had. It's up to you if you want it or not. Don't omit the peanuts on top--that was my mom's addition and definitely a good suggestion!

In short, this recipe solidified what I already knew: obey your parents!

One Year Ago: Broccoli Mushroom Almond Chicken

Mango Chicken

-1 tsp vegetable oil
-1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cubed
-8 scallions, chopped
-2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
-2 ripe mangos, peeled and chopped
-3/4 tsp ground cumin
-3/4 tsp ground coriander
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1 cup fat free plain yogurt
-1 cup lite coconut milk
-1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
-pasta, rice, couscous, or another grain, for serving
-cilantro, for serving

1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and scallions, cooking for 5 minutes until chicken is browned. Add tomatoes, mangos, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add yogurt and coconut milk.
2. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes, until sauce thickens and chicken is fork tender.
3. Serve over pasta, rice, couscous or whatever you prefer. Top with chopped dry roasted peanuts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Bars

While we ate a lot of delicious things on our vacation in Asheville, the oatmeal raisin bars at our bed & breakfast were one of our all-time favorites. Ryan, especially, couldn't stop raving about the bars. On our first night there, we were absolutely stuffed from dinner, but he insisted on taking a few stuffed in a napkin back to our room, just in case they had disappeared by morning! When I saw a cookbook on display in the B&B with many of their recipes, I immediately started flipping through the pages, hunting for this recipe.

A few weeks after returning from vacation, we were reminiscing and wishing we were still on vacation. Since returning to Asheville anytime soon isn't an option, I instead decided to make these bars. I adjusted the Hill House recipe slightly, using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose to account for all the butter in these! :) I've made similar bars in the past and used applesauce to replace some of the fat, so I may try that next time...but this time I wanted to recreate the sinful originals!

This recipe is a great base for whatever mix-ins you fancy. Not a raisin fan? Chocolate chips or nuts would be good in these too! I would love a version with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips and will probably try that next. Much like at the Hill House, these didn't last long around us...but at least this time Ryan didn't have to sneak any into the bedroom!

One Year Ago: Pesto Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese

Oatmeal Raisin Bars
adapted from Hill House Inn in Asheville, SC

-1 1/2 sticks butter
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-2 cups old-fashioned oats
-1 cup raisins (1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup regular raisins)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil so that it overhangs on two sides and lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. Beat sugars, butter, egg, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Mix in oats, flour, and raisins, just until combined.
3. Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Allow bars to cool completely in the pan before using the foil overhangs to lift out of pan and cut into squares.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Breakfast Brownies

Brownies...for breakfast? This isn't your Monday morning "starting fresh after an unhealthy weekend" breakfast. No, this is more like your "got home at 3 am, craving some eats before I crash" breakfast. With cream cheese, peanut butter, and bacon, it has at least some elements of breakfast foods, legitimizing its name, or so I've decided.

Although I didn't serve this for breakfast, the friends I shared this decadent dessert with over the weekend had fun analyzing the components of the dish and dubbing it the breakfast brownie. These days, I'm more likely to be waking up closer to 3 am than going to bed at 3 am, but I wouldn't complain about eating this at breakfast, or anytime really!

This isn't the first time I put bacon in a baked good, but I was inspired to try it again when I receive a Foodbuzz email about a contest sponsored by Denny's. The only rule was to include bacon in a recipe but naturally, I found myself concocting dessert recipes in my head. This was the byproduct of my daydreaming: a rich brownie base topped with peanut butter cream cheese frosting, chopped peanuts, and candied bacon.

This "breakfast" dessert is not for the fainthearted...a small slice satisfies even the biggest sweet tooth (and I rarely think that). The contrasting sweet and salty elements provide the best of both worlds. I found the brownie was even better the second day!

Served with a tall glass of cold milk, this breakfast brownie is a grand slam!

One Year Ago: Crispy Tilapia Sandwiches

Breakfast Brownies
*serves 10-12

for the brownie-
-6 tbsp unsalted butter
-2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
-3 eggs
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 tbsp instant coffee
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp salt

for the frosting-
-5 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
-4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
-2 1/2 cups powdered (confectioners') sugar
-1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

for the candied bacon-
-2 slices smoked bacon
-brown sugar & turbinado sugar (approximately 1-2 tsp of each)

for topping-
-1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1. To prepare the brownie, grease and flour a 9-inch tart or pie pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Melt the butter in a bowl over simmering water. Add chocolate chips, remove from heat, and stir until smooth and melted. Set aside to cool.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Mix in cooled chocolate. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing just until combined.
3. Pour batter into the pan, baking for 35-40 minutes, until the middle puffs up (the top may crack). Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
4. While the brownie is baking, make the bacon by cooking it in a skillet over medium heat. Once bacon is lightly browned but still flexible, remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels. After pouring the fat off of the skillet, return bacon and sprinkle with brown and turbinado sugar. Cook bacon over low heat, turning occasionally until sugar is dissolved and looks to be caramelized on the bacon (8-10 minutes). Remove bacon from skillet and set aside.
5. To make the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in peanut butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until all is combined.
6. Once brownie has cooled, spread frosting atop brownie (there will be some extra frosting). Crumble bacon and sprinkle over the frosting. Top with chopped peanuts.
7. Refrigerate until serving, removing from the fridge approximately 10 minutes before serving.

**This post is my submission to the Foodbuzz and Denny's BACONALIA challenge.
This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Coconut Pomegranate Scones (Lite!)

These scones were the very last thing I baked in my kitchen before moving. They were made out of necessity as I was furiously trying to use any miscellaneous ingredients AND was in need of a snack. Enter coconut milk, buttermilk, and pomegranate seeds and thus these scones were invented.

I hesitate to call them scones, as they lacked that buttery crumb found in many varieties (like my lemon ginger scones!) and instead yielded more of a cake-like texture. Because of the absence of butter--hence the name "lite"-- they were a little on the dry side, making them a good accompaniment for coffee or tea. Coconut is one of my very favorite flavors, and I had no problem polishing off the majority of the batch (don't judge, moving is hard work!). Next time I'll try to be better about sharing!

One Year Ago: Lindsay's Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies

Coconut Pomegranate Scones (Lite!)

-1 cup whole wheat flour
-3/4 cup all purpose flour
-1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
-2 large eggs
-1/2 light coconut milk
-1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
-1/2 tsp coconut extract
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Mix together flours, coconut, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with coconut milk and buttermilk.
3. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in pomegranate seeds.
4. Place large spoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets (I got 12 scones). Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Is it just me, or are macadamia nuts like tasting a little piece of heaven? And maybe they are from above, gauging from their price tag! I'd been wanting to make white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, per Ryan's request, for a long time, but cringed every time I saw the price of the nuts at the grocery store. Were these little nuts filled with gold or something?!

I'm glad I didn't resist any longer because boy are these cookies good. Though Ryan's the one who asked for them, I'm pretty sure I ate double the amount of these that he did. I just couldn't stay away! The cookies were chewy and something about white chocolate paired with macadamia nuts is just fantastic. I adapted my recipe from the original, using fewer nuts and white chocolate, which was definitely a good call as they were plenty full of goodies. I also made my cookies fairly small, getting almost 4 dozen in 1 batch...a LOT of cookies to tackle but we shared with friends and they stayed soft for the 5 or 6 days we had them around.

Expensive or not, I'll be making these again...and lucky for me I still have half a can of macadamias waiting to be used. Any ideas on how to use them up?!

One Year Ago: Make Ahead Lasagna

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
from Crepes of Wrath

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 cup butter, melted
-1 cup packed brown sugar
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
-1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
-1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside for later.
2. In the bowl with a mixer, beat melted butter with sugars. Beat in the egg, followed by the egg yolk, followed by the vanilla.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the nuts and white chocolate chips by hand.
4. On greased or parchment lined baking sheets, drop spoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart (I used a cookie scoop).
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until edges are golden brown. Cookies will be soft upon removal but will firm up a bit as they cool on the baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
*I got 4 dozen 2-inch cookies

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

You know a meal is particularly good when you cannot wait to eat the leftovers. That's how I felt after eating this for dinner; I was seriously excited about eating it for dinner again! I even went so far as to tell Ryan that it's my favorite dinner we've had in a long time.

For those of you who love enchiladas but hate dealing with tearing tortillas and all the rolling, this is a much simpler option that gives you the exact same taste. We loved how bright and colorful this was--health experts are always recommending that you "eat the rainbow" and we certainly did with this dish! Though we stuck with a version close to the original, you could easily add chicken, beans, different salsa, or different vegetables to this dish.

A few notes about the recipe: my cilantro had gone bad and so we did without. Even though we are huge cilantro lovers, it was not missed. I'll definitely add it next time but cilantro-haters can easily omit! Also, after 30 minutes, mine was heated through but not hot...I think a few more minutes would've helped but we were too anxious to eat! Depending on how thick your layers are, you may want to keep it in a few extra minutes. Finally, I totally forgot to serve this with sour cream and scallions. Again, it was not missed, but it would be a tasty addition!

Make this, or some variation of it, soon!

One Year Ago: Breakfast Bulgur

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas
slightly adapted from Perrys' Plate

-1 poblano chile, cut into matchsticks
-2 bell peppers, cut into matchsticks (I used 1 red, 1 green; original called for 2 red)
-1/2 head broccoli, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (original called for cauliflower)
-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (original called for 1)
-1 medium onion, halved and slivered
-1 cup corn kernals, fresh or frozen
-3 tbsp olive oil
-1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-salt & pepper
-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I omitted--mine was spoiled!)
-2 cups homemade or store bought salsa (I used a mild sweet onion salsa)
-2 big handfuls of baby spinach
-9-10 corn tortillas, cut in half
-2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
-sour cream and thinly sliced scallions for garnish, if desired (totally forgot to add these!)

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly oil a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.
2. Place poblanos, bell peppers, broccoli, sweet potato, onion, and corn kernals on sheet. Drizzle oil and sprinkle with cumin and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before using your hands to mix the vegetables to evenly coat. Spread vegetables evenly in the pan and roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes (vegetables should be tender and beginning to brown).
3. Remove vegetables from oven and set aside. (I actually roasted the vegetables a day ahead of time and refrigerated overnight) Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Spray an 8 or 9 inch square pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir cilantro into salsa. Spread 1/4 cup salsa into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
4. Add a layer of tortilla pieces, covering salsa completely. Top with 1/3 of the vegetables, a large handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layer, beginning with tortillas, salsa, vegetables, spinach, and then cheese. Top with a final layer of tortillas, salsa, vegetables, and cheese. Cover with foil.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and dish is heated through.
6. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving with sour cream and green onions.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chocolate Bird's Nest Cookies

These little treats came about one night when I was scavenging the freezer for something sweet to eat. I spotted a bag of peanut butter egg M&Ms, tore it open, and started popping them in my mouth. Suddenly, I stopped. I knew if I wasn't careful, the entire bag would be gone in a few hours. (History has proven this) I knew the only way I'd be able to put them back is if I had a reason to use them. I'm willing to make sacrifices for baking!

Thankfully, I had a vision of how I could use these. I pictured little bird's nests, topped with the M&M eggs. Quickly, I closed the bag, stuck it back in the freezer, and immediately added pretzels and peanuts to my grocery list. The next day I picked up my missing ingredients and once again opened the freezer in search of the peanut butter M&Ms...but this time with a mission in mind!

These adorable bird's nest cookies are what resulted. With only four ingredients these are incredibly easy to make, and these were a big hit when I brought them to church one Sunday morning! Perfect for Easter or Springtime, these taste as good as they look...and peanut butter M&Ms are much more fun to eat amongst chocolate covered pretzels and peanuts ;)

One Year Ago: Lucky Charms Treats

Chocolate Bird's Nest Cookies
*makes approximately 3 dozen nests, depending on how big you make them

-1 bag of peanut butter Egg M&Ms (you won't use the whole bag, but I'm sure you can handle the extras!)
-2 1/2-3 1/2 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half
-1-1 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts
-1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips

1. Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave in a microwavable bowl. If using the microwave, stir every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
2. Once chocolate is melted and smooth, stir in pretzels and peanuts, mixing to fully coat the mix-ins with chocolate.
3. Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture onto wax paper-lined baking sheets, about 1 or 2 inches apart from each other. Top each "nest" with 1 or 2 M&M eggs. Place baking sheets in fridge for 1 hour, or until hard. Transfer to airtight containers and store in fridge until ready to serve. (**Can be made up to one week ahead of time!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Raisin and Pine Nut Asparagus

I have a bad habit of overlooking side dishes. More often than not, I load up on kale and make a batch of kale chips to accompany whatever our main dish is. Sometimes, I forget the side dish altogether. My mom, on the other hand, is a side dish master. Not only will she prepare an elaborate meal, but it'll almost always have several side dishes accompanying it. I remember a high school friend once telling me she loved coming to our house for meals because of the side dishes that were ever present at our dinner table.

Funny, then, that I first prepared this side dish with my mom. Last time she came to visit, we got together with some family friends and had a blast cooking dinner together. My mom and I had planned the menu on the phone the night prior and as I sat reading recipe titles from my Cooking Light magazine, this one jumped out to both of us.

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and I look forward to each Spring when I can enjoy copious amounts of it. This particular asparagus recipe was a win; it's versatile enough to pair with a number of dishes and easy enough to make even while you're worrying about a complicated main dish. Since making it that first time with my mom and our friends, I've since prepared it a few more times, simply because I cannot get enough of the flavor combination! Don't let this Spring slip by without giving this one a try!

Raisin and Pine Nut Asparagus
From Cooking Light, April 2011
-1 pound asparagus, trimmed
-2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
-1/3 cup sliced red onion
-2 tbsp  pine nuts
-2 1/2 tbsp orange juice
-3 tbsp raisins
-2 tsp honey
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp orange zest
-1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Cook asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pine nuts, cooking for approximately 4 minutes and stirring occasionally.
3. Add orange juice, raisins, and honey, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in salt and orange zest.
4. Place asparagus on a platter and top with onion mixture. Sprinkle with pepper.

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lemon Cranberry Coconut Bread

When my mom and grandma came to town a few weeks ago to help us paint our new house, I wanted to make a little something to snack on early in the morning when we were still trying to wake ourselves up and get ready for a long day of painting. Quick breads are ideal for this type of situation; they're easy to whip up (I didn't even need a mixer for this one) and while they take longer to bake than muffins, once you take 10 minutes to whip up the batter, the rest of the time is hands-off. 

I actually under-baked this bread a little bit. It was passing the "no crumbs on a toothpick" test and browning lightly on top, so I removed it after about 40 minutes and let it cool for awhile on the counter. I didn't slice it until the next morning, at which point I discovered that the center was pretty gooey--definitely baked, but maybe not as much as it was intended to be. I actually prefer my breads this way, so I wasn't the least bit disappointed...but if you're looking for a sturdier, drier bread, you may want to cook a bit longer. 

The primary flavors of this bread are the lemon and the cranberry, making it a little bit tart. The coconut is more of an undertone, but it does add a subtle sweetness that makes for an all-around yummy breakfast bread. The bread is bright, with its pops of cranberries. This would be a great addition to an Easter brunch spread!

One Year Ago: Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Lemon Cranberry Coconut Bread

-2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup all-purpose and you never would've known!)
-1 cup sugar
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
-zest from 1 lemon
-3 tbsp canola oil
-1 large egg
-1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen (unthawed) cranberries, whole
-1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in lemon juice, lemon zest, oil, and egg, whisking just until combined.
3. Fold in cranberries and coconut. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
4. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan and allowing to cool completely before slicing. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blue Cheese & Fig Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Pin It
Mondays don't have to be terrible. People love to moan and whine and  hate on Mondays. I understand why, I really do (and I fall into the Monday grumpiness just as much as the next person!). We had this chicken dish on one such grumpy Monday. I'd had a busy day at work. I was overwhelmed with the number of items on my to-do list. I hadn't quite recovered from our exhausting weekend. In short, I was tired and I was crabby.

And then this chicken changed that.

To be honest, I'd had another recipe planned for the evening, but had to switch things around based on availability of ingredients. Thank goodness, because this dinner turned my Monday right around! This chicken recipe is laughably easy, definitely doable on a weeknight. Yet the end result is tasty and impressive enough to serve at a dinner party. This recipe proves that sometimes simplicity is best. You just can't go wrong with basic ingredients whose flavors are dynamite when combined!

Make this chicken soon, maybe on one of "those" Mondays.

One Year Ago: Sweet Potato Gnocchi 

Blue Cheese and Fig Stuffed Chicken Breasts
inspired by Our Life in Food

Ingredients: (adjust quantities according to number of servings)
-boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-fig jam/preserves (available at Whole Foods if not your local grocery store)
-blue cheese, crumbled
-salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Make a slit in each chicken breast, cutting horizontally (but not all the way through) to create a "pocket".
2. Spread approximately 1 tbsp fig jam in the pocket of each chicken breast. Top with blue cheese. Close chicken breast and stick toothpicks in chicken to secure the two sides together.
3. Place in a greased baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through (do not overbake! Ours were good at 30 min, per my meat thermometer) 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cake Batter Blondies

It's funny how trends rise and fall in the food blog world. Lately, cake mix has claimed top honors in terms of trends. Clearly, I've gotten caught up in it: cake batter ice cream, cake batter ice cream cake, and cake batter pancakes! With nothing but resounding success in each of those recipes, I was excited to find a way to finish off the last of my rainbow chip cake mix. I came across a recipe for cookies that used cake mix, but I was short on time and didn't want to wait for dough to chill. Instead, I made blondies, or bar cookies, which turned out to be a very good decision!

If you don't have an ice cream maker and if cake batter pancakes aren't your idea of a nutritious breakfast, promise me you'll still pick up a boxed cake mix to make these blondies! Slightly warm from the oven, these were gooey and bursting with cake batter flavor. I was disappointed I didn't have ice cream on hand to pair with them. The next day they were equally good, tasting like the perfect combination of cake batter and cookie dough. If you prefer your baked goods soft and chewy, these won't disappoint you! I was worried when the center of the pan seemed to fall a bit, but I wasn't at all sorry when I tasted the dense gooey middle....and somehow I don't think you will be either!

One Year Ago: Turkey Burgers with Goat Cheese

Cake Batter Blondies
adapted from Stephanie's Perfect Party Cookies

-1 cup cake mix
-1 cup flour
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-3/4 cup butter, melted & cooled slightly
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk
-2 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 cup chocolate chips
-4 tbsp sprinkles of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl, beat together sugars, butter, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until creamy and smooth.
2. Stir in flour, cake mix, and baking soda until well combined.
3. Mix in chocolate chips and sprinkles.
4. Line an 8x8-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread dough evenly on foil, smoothing with a spatula.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes until top is lightly browned and middle still jiggles slightly. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before removing foil from pan and cutting into squares.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I told you that I returned home from vacation last month full of inspiration, at least in terms of food! In my Charleston Restaurant post, I raved about some sweet potato pancakes I had for breakfast one morning. Though mouth-watering, they were the equivalent of dessert for breakfast and I was eager to try a healthier version at home. Lo and behold, when I searched online for sweet potato pancake recipes, I came across one on Food Network's site that claimed to be the same recipe that Joseph's in Charleston, where I had my original taste of the pancakes, uses.

I'm not convinced this is actually their recipe...I modified it to make it slightly healthier, but even the recipe as posted didn't seem sinful enough. I'm pretty sure they bathed their pancakes in butter before plating them :) (don't worry, I skipped that step). I opted out of the honey pecan butter, as we were still coming down from our vacation sugar high the morning I made these (if you want to make it though, you can find the recipe here)! However, I couldn't resist sprinkling them with powdered sugar as they did at Joseph's.

Ryan and I both loved these. They were pretty fluffy pancakes, thanks to lots of baking powder. With only 2 tbsp of brown sugar they weren't overly sweet and I definitely wasn't left with that disgustingly full and heavy feeling like I was in Charleston!

P.S. Thanks for your sandwich help yesterday! Be sure to check yesterday's comments for some good sandwich ideas...and leave a comment if you haven't yet!

One Year Ago: Cornflake Scotcheroos

Sweet Potato Pancakes
adapted from Joseph's, as seen on Food Network
*makes approximately 16 3-inch pancakes

-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-4 tsp baking powder
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-1 tsp cinnamon
-pinch of nutmeg
-2 cups low-fat buttermilk
-2 eggs
-3 small sweet potatoes, cooked until tender, peeled and mashed
-maple syrup & powdered sugar for serving, if desired

1. In a mixing bowl, beat sweet potatoes until smooth. Add remaining ingredients (flour through eggs) and beat on low, just until combined and smooth.
2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and cook pancakes in batches, flipping when bubbles form on the surface. Serve immediately with maple syrup and powdered sugar.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good Bread & Sandwich Inspiration Needed!

Remember a few weeks ago, when I unveiled my new blog design and also told you guys we were moving? Well, the time has officially come. We've spent the last week or so furiously painting (HUGE shoutout to my mom & grandma who gave up a weekend to come paint our ENTIRE house!) and transporting boxes from one house to the next, little by little. Tomorrow's the BIG move. We'll finally take all of our furniture to the new place and start living in our new home full-time. We are so excited, but also a little overwhelmed, as there is still lots of UNpacking, organizing, and decorating to be done!

Things won't change too much on The Sweets Life front, as I've been diligently pre-writing posts for this period of time where things are a little crazy. However, I'll still be trying to cook healthy meals for us as much as possible and not rely on takeout or Ted Drewes too much ;) Lucky for us we are stocked, and I mean stocked, with good bread.

Not only did we receive several loaves of Companion Bakery's amazing bread a few weeks ago at a church fundraiser, but I was also sent some of Nature's Pride new Hearty Wheat Bread with Flax, as part of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program. All of this bread is perfect for sandwiches, which of course, are perfect for those of us short on time these days! Those of you in St. Louis---I can't say enough good things about Companion Bread. I've never met a carb of theirs I didn't love, from the kalamata olive bread to the challah to the pretzel rolls! And I'm digging the new Nature's Pride bread too--only 100 calories a slice and with 22 g of whole grains. Love that!

So here I am with lots of bread, and lots of sandwich recipes on the blog. Pictured above you see tuna and white bean saladcranberry turkey paninis, open faced veggie sandwiches, and crispy tilapia sandwiches. What can I say? We love sandwiches! While I recommend all of these, and the others found in my index, I'm now on a hunt for new sandwich recipes! Have a favorite combination? Something tried and true, or something a little daring? Send them my way, I want to try them! Leave a comment on this post with your ideas so I myself and other readers can find some new sandwich inspiration :) If we're going to be eating sandwiches for days through the unpacking process, we at least need some new fun ones to try!

One Year Ago: Mexican Salad (one of my favorites!)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cookies

Pin It

These cookies are just darling. I think they’d be wonderful as part of a dessert spread at a birthday party or a baby shower. They require a few different steps, but nothing is difficult and they are easily customizable. Use jelly beans instead of M&Ms (and suddenly they look like birds nests…perfect for Easter!), omit the marshmallows, drizzle with caramel, or whatever other creative ideas you fancy!

My only problem with these cookies was in trying to gauge their “doneness” factor. The original instructions said 13-15 minutes, but when I took my first batch out at 13 minutes, they were much browner than I would’ve liked. The finished product was still okay, I just prefer a softer cookie. I took my second batch out a few minutes too early, making for very soft cookies! Those were just as good, but a little more difficult to remove from the tin. Moral of the story: pay close attention while yours are baking and take them out when lightly browned but not done! Next time I’d also cook these in mini-muffin liners as a few of the Reese’s cups were on the verge of falling through the base of the cookie.
Difficulties aside, these were adorable AND well-received, a rather irresistible bite-sized treat! If you end up making these, let me know what creative twist you put on them!

One Year Ago: White Chicken Enchiladas

Peanut Butter Cup Surprise Cookies
adapted from Picky Palate

-1 cup creamy peanut butter
-1 cup sugar
-1 egg
-12 mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped
-1 cup chocolate chips
-36 marshmallows
-2-3 tbsp whole milk (or cream)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, beat peanut butter, sugar, and egg until combined.
2. Divide dough among muffin cups, rolling into balls and pressing slightly into the muffin tin. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
3. Remove pan from oven and press a peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. Top each with 3 mini marshmallows and return to oven for 2-3 minutes, until marshmallows are puffed. Remove from oven and allow pan to cool on wire rack. Once cookies are completely cooled, remove from pan and place on wax paper.
4. Microwave chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second intervals until smooth. Stir in milk or cream and microwave for 15 more seconds. Spoon chocolate into a ziploc bag. Cut the corner off and pipe chocolate onto cookies. Top each with an M&M.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kale, Potato, and Onion Frittata

Lately, it seems every magazine or newspaper article you read highlights kale and its benefit. Of course, it's with good reason, the leafy green is low in calories and chock full of nutrients. Ever since discovering kale chips, I haven't had to force myself to regularly eat the vegetable, but I'm always looking for new ways to prepare and serve it. When I saw this recipe for a frittata containing kale in Self Magazine, I was excited to give it a try.

Though this frittata has several pre-cooking steps (such as cooking the potatoes and blanching the kale), you can do many of them a day ahead of time to save you time when you're actually preparing the breakfast or dinner. I simply refrigerated my boiled and chopped potatoes along with my cooked kale overnight. I even pre-chopped my onions! When I got home from work it was simply a matter of throwing a few ingredients together; the whole thing took less than half an hour to make.

I like the versatility of frittatas--most vegetables can be thrown in and work alongside the egg base. In the case of this one, spinach could easily be substituted for the kale (though I recommend giving the kale a try--cooked kale is much easier to stomach for those of you who may have previously tried it raw!) or cheese could be added (feta would be especially good!). Feel free to get creative! I liked this frittata as is, though the overall flavor was relatively plain. Some salty feta or additional spices could easily solve that problem. Don't get me wrong, this version was good, and absolutely a healthy breakfast or dinner option...definitely a win from Self Magazine and another great way to use kale!

One Year Ago: Sangria

Kale, Potato, and Onion Frittata
adapted from Self Magazine, February 2011

-cooking spray
-1 onion, sliced
-3-4 cups kale, trimmed, blanched 3 minutes in boiling water, drained, squeezed, & chopped
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 cups boiled diced potatoes (I used red)
-4 eggs
-1/2 tsp paprika

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray and cook onion over medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add kale and garlic and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add potatoes.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with 2 tbsp water and paprika in a bowl. Add potato-kale mixture.
3. In a cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray, cook egg mixture over medium low heat for 1 minute. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, until eggs are slightly runny. (Alternately, as I did, you can continue through step 2, then mix the eggs with the kale-potato mixture and add to a greased baking dish. Bake at 400F until middle is set, mine took about 10-15 minutes, then broil for 1 minute on high to set).

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines".

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Butterscotch Pecan Sandies

Pin It
One weekend I piqued Ryan's interest when I mentioned these cookies. I then decided to make the mocha chocolate chip cookies instead and he was a little disappointed. With a promise to make them soon, I made good on my promise a few weeks ago. When making them, I started to get worried that they would lack that signature shortbread taste that pecan sandies are known for. Each batch that I removed from the oven came out looking very light-colored and fairly soft and fragile.

After letting the cookies cool, I sampled one and discovered they were exactly what they should be--rich, buttery, and with a subtle crunch. The butterscotch/pecan combination is fabulous; I already think butterscotch is an under-appreciated flavor and when paired with pecans...WHOA!

Butterscotch Pecan Sandies
from Baked Perfection
*Yields approximately 5 dozen cookies

-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 large egg
-3/4 cup chopped pecans
-2 cups butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (this wasn't included in the original recipe, but I love that parchment paper makes cookie-making so much easier!).
2. In a small bowl, mix flour and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until light and creamy. Beat in egg until fluffy. With mixer speed on low, add flour one cup at a time, mixing just until combined. Stir in pecans and butterscotch chips.
4. Using a small cookie scoop, drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets, with 2 inches between each cookie. With your hand or the bottom of a glass dipped in flour, flatten balls to approximately 1/4-inch height. Bake for 8-10 minutes until edges are lightly brown and middles are pale (my edges hardly got brown after 10 minutes).
5. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Store in air tight container.