Friday, February 26, 2010

Campfire S'mores Bread Pudding

Campfire S'mores Bread Pudding

Serves about 9.

A fun twist on bread pudding that will please the tastebuds of both children and adults.
Adapted From: Better Homes and Gardens

4 hot dog buns, cut into 1" pieces (or 10 white bread slices)
4 eggs
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 c. miniature marshmallows
1 c. semisweet chocolate pieces
8 whole graham crackers, crumbled

Cut bread into pieces and let sit out overnight in an uncovered bowl. If you don't have time, preheat oven to 325 and place bun pieces on a baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until dry and crisp; cool.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, if you haven't already.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, 3/4 c. milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Place bun pieces in a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. chocolate pieces, 1/2 c. marshmallows, and half of crumbled graham crackers. Lightly toss to mix in with bread pieces.

Evenly pour milk mixture over all. Let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate and graham crackers; do not use remaining marshmallows yet.

Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes. Sprinkle remaining marshmallows and bake 5 minutes more.

Let sit 20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cheesy Chicken Bites

Cheesy Chicken Bites

Serves 2.

This is what happens when you're already halfway through making chicken nuggets, and then realize you are out of breadcrumbs. An equally tasty, yet messier, version is born. Instead of using your fingers, spear these with a fork.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. creamy Italian dressing
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese (powdered style, freshly grated, or a mix of the two)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place dressing and cheese in two separate bowls.
Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces or "nuggets."
Dip in dressing and then cheese, fully coating with both.
Place on a baking sheet that has been coated with non-stick spray.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, and cheese has begun to turn golden.

A Note From The LL: The nuggets to the far left of the photo were marinated in regular Italian dressing and baked "naked." An even easier option and healthier too!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ranch Round-Ups

Ranch Round-Ups

Makes approximately three dozen pinwheels.

I like these for a more substantial appetizer offering. It's still got that addictive, appetizer taste, but satisfies you like bites of a deli sandwich. Feel free to use whatever deli meats you prefer (or have on hand).

5 flour tortillas
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 packet dry Ranch dressing mix
10-12 slices salami
20-25 slices ham
5 green onions, chopped

Mix together cream cheese and dry Ranch dressing mix.
Spread cream cheese mixture on one side of the tortillas. Top with chopped green onion, salami slices, and ham slices. Roll up tightly and cut into 1" slices. Chill until ready to serve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Granola Bars

Granola Bars

Makes 6 large granola bars.

Wait! Before you do anything else, check out my other granola bar recipe. It's a perfected version of this one. :)

These granola bars have become a new breakfast staple around our household. The Mr., who typically does not have a friendly relationship with breakfast, was excited to find something he actually enjoyed in the morning. And since I want him to be eating something fairly healthy, I made some changes -- okay, a lot of changes -- to this recipe I originally found on The first time I followed the recipe but it didn't come out like I wanted. So, a few trials later, and a complete overhaul of the original recipe, I think we finally have a winner.

1 heaping c. oats
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 t. salt
1/3 c. chocolate chips
1 egg
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking pan.

Combine oats, wheat germ, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Create a well in the center; add egg, peanut butter, honey, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Add chocolate chips; mix well, using your hands if necessary.

Transfer mixture to the baking pan; spread evenly.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Cool until safe to touch; cut into bars; cool completely on a wire rack.

A Note From The LL: Instead of chocolate chips, you could also use raisins, dried cranberries, or nuts... or a combination of whatever you come up with.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oreo Brownies

Oreo Brownies

Two people in particular love these brownies. Taylor, my brother, who was the very first taste-tester, and Patrick, a friend from college, who always requested these. The fun thing about baking, and then figuring out what people like best, is the satisfaction you get when you present preference-specific treats to your friends and family. They appreciate the fact that you know and act upon what they like, and you appreciate the fact that they applaud your creation. And when you love to cook and bake, you remember when someone raves about something you've made in the kitchen. Because it makes you feel good. And knowing it makes them feel good makes you want to make it for them again and again.

1 brownie mix, prepared to pkg. directions
egg(s), oil, and water, according to pkg. directions
1 can vanilla frosting (or one batch homemade frosting)
1 row of Oreos, from traditional packaging* (see note)

Prepare brownie mix in a 13x9 pan according to pkg. directions. Let cool completely.

Prepare Oreo topping by crushing cookies in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Use a flat meat tenderizer or the back of a skillet to help you.

Frost brownies with vanilla frosting and immediately sprinkle with Oreo chunks.

Cut and serve.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you are going to buy a package of Oreos specifically for this recipe, considering purchasing a bag of miniature Oreos instead. Although you're not left with any leftover cookies to enjoy, it is an easier, cleaner option because you can crush the cookies (which are smaller to begin with) in the bag you buy them in. The bag is thicker than a traditional Ziploc, as well, which offers more resistance against a tear in the bag while going at it with a meat mallet.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fireside Martini

Fireside Martini

Serves 2.

The Mr. and I aren't typically ones to boast, but we felt pretty proud after making this drink. It tasted like something that should've been served to us at a fancy restaurant or chic bar. But no, my friends, we made this all by ourselves. And so can you.
So grab your honey, snuggle up by the fire, and enjoy a fancy cocktail without the high price.

2 parts vodka
1/2 part marschino liquer (we didn't have this and used 1/4 part grenadine instead)
2 parts pomegranate liquer
1 part triple sec
1/2 part sweet vermouth
6 dashes Angostura Aromatic bitters

1 lime wedge
fine sugar, for rimming the glass
2 lime wedges, for garnish

Chill martini glasses in freezer.
Rub 1 lime wedge around the rim of both glasses and then roll in fine sugar.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add remaining ingredients. Shake well and strain into prepared martini glasses. Garnish with additional lime wedges.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Serves 16.

:::sigh::: This was so good. I had some problems getting it out of the springform pan, which was kind of depressing considering it didn't crack at all while baking, chilled perfectly, and then at the point I thought I was out of the woods, I ran into problems. The recipes I looked at said nothing of spraying the springform pan with non-stick spray, but after further investigation, I think I will do so in the future. Consequently, the photo op I was hoping for wasn't quite there. But trust me when I say it tasted fantastic.
Adapted From:

2 c. graham cracker crumbs (original recipe calls for 1 c. chocolate cookie crumbs, but I like a thick crust)
1/3 c. white sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted (1-1/2 sticks)
7 T. raspberry preserves, divided
2 c. white chocolate chips
1/3 c. half-and-half
3 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 c. sugar, and 3/4 c. melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" springform pan that has been coated with non-stick spray.

Wrap bottom of springform pan with foil (see pictures below for help, if needed), and place in the middle of a jelly roll pan (or any pan it will fit in that has sides).

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips with half-and-half, stirring frequently until smooth.

In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 c. sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate mixture. Mix well.

Pour half of mixture over prepared crust. Spoon 4 T. raspberry preserves into a microwavable dish. Microwave for 15 seconds. Stir until smooth, and then pour over first layer of cheesecake.
It should look something like this (this is my top layer, FYI):

Using the tip of a knife, swirl to create a marbled effect.

Pour remaining cheesecake into pan. Repeat raspberry swirl with an additional 3 T. raspberry preserves (don't forget to microwave!).

Fill jelly roll pan with about 2 c. hot water to create a water bath. This will help keep the cheesecake from cracking while baking.

Transfer (carefully!) to oven and bake for one hour. After one hour, turn off oven, slightly open oven door, and let cheesecake sit inside for another hour. Then, remove from oven, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Do not remove springform pan until cheesecake has chilled for at least 8 hours and has completely set.

My thick crust:

Smooth. Creamy. Utterly delicious.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Helpful Hints: Conversions

Helpful Hints: Conversions

Because I still ask myself about these.

1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons
1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons
3/4 cup = 12 tablespoons
1 cup = 16 tablespoons

1 ounce = 2 tablespoons = 6 teaspoons
1 cup = 8 ounces
1 pint = 2 cups = 16 ounces
1 quart = 2 pints = 4 cups = 32 ounces
1 liter = 4.22 cups = 33.81 ounces
1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints = 16 cups = 128 ounces

Metric to U.S.

1 militers = 1/5 teaspoon
5 ml = 1 teaspoon
15 ml = 1 tablespoon
34 ml = 1 fluid oz.
100 ml = 3.4 fluid oz.
240 ml = 1 cup
1 liter = 34 fluid oz.
1 liter = 4.2 cups
1 liter = 2.1 pints
1 liter = 1.06 quarts
1 liter = .26 gallon

1 gram = .035 ounce
100 grams = 3.5 ounces
500 grams = 1.10 pounds
1 kilogram = 2.205 pounds
1 kilogram = 35 oz.

Sources: and

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Flank Steak Teriyaki

Flank Steak Teriyaki

Serves 6.

We've received some exciting news recently -- we will be moving this summer! The Mr. (soon to be The Dr.) will be starting his medical residency in Emergency Medicine. Although I'll be sad to leave the family and friends we have here, I'm so proud that he acquired a spot at the hospital he wanted, and we are both looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead.

In celebration of his accomplishments, I wanted to make a special meal. You know, something that made him happy and was deserving of being served on the "You Are Special Today" red plate. Enter: Flank Steak Teriyaki. I almost hesitate to make this recipe public, because it has made my mother famous. She has been making it for birthday dinners, special occasions, holidays, and by request for as long as I can remember. She won over The Mr. very quickly by making this one of the first times I brought him home to meet the family.

2-lb. flank steak
1/2 c. soy sauce
2 T. honey
2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. ground ginger

Prepare flank steak by cutting criss-cross lines in the surface of the meat.
Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Place steak in a shallow bowl or gallon-size plastic bag, and cover with marinade.
Transfer to refrigerator and let marinate for several hours or overnight, turning over once to guarantee even distribution.

Grill, covered, over medium-high heat for approximately 6-10 minutes per side, or until meat has reached desired doneness. If you are using a thermometer, 140 degrees = rare; 160 = medium; 170 = well done. Slice on a diagonal.

Monday, February 15, 2010

All-In-One Bacon Cheeseburgers

All-In-One Bacon Cheeseburgers

Makes 3 burgers.

Yum - A delicious burger! I know it's easy to skimp on recipes when you're pressed for time or just feeling lazy, but don't pass on the scallion mayo. It adds wonderful flavor and offers something different than the average burger.
Adapted From: Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals

3/4 lb. ground beef
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. steak seasoning blend
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, cleaned and trimmed
1/4 c. mayo
1/4 t. ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
3 hamburger buns, split
3 leaves crisp lettuce
onion, tomato, and other toppings, if desired

Combine ground beef, bacon, 1 chopped scallion, Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning, and cheese. Mix well. Divide into 3 equal parts and form into burgers.

Make scallion mayonnaise: Brush other scallion with extra virgin olive oil and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat to cool.

Chopped cooled, grilled scallion and place in food processor. Add mayo and cumin; pulse grind to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle burgers with extra virgin olive oil and place on a hot grill pan. Cook 2 minutes on each side over high heat; reduce heat to medium-high and cook burger 7-8 minutes longer, turning occasionally. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Place burgers on buns and top with crisp lettuce leaves and a slather of scallion mayonnaise.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

BzzAgent Report: L’Oréal Lash Boosting Serum and Mascara

L’Oréal Paris® Concentrated Lash Boosting Serum and Double Extend Lash Boosting Mascara

I am a member - a BzzAgent, if you will -- of, a "word-of-mouth media network powered by 600,000 people." They supply products and digital tools to help promote products for over 600+ brands. This was my first assignment as a BzzAgent. I recieved the serum and mascara, free of charge, in the mail, and set out on the 4-week challenge to document results. The Mr. jokes that I love anything free, so when I'm lucky enough to get something free AND way cool, I'm pretty happy. :) Here are my findings...


This picture was taken before I starting using the serum or mascara. Yes, I'm pale. Yes, I'm sans make-up. And yes, it was early in the morning.
Moving on...

The serum is intended for use at night, and can also be applied in the morning before the mascara. Its job is to strengthen and condition. Because it's clear and has no immediate results, I was skeptical that it would make a difference. But, I used it. Because I was supposed to. And I like to follow directions.

Halfway Through (2 weeks):

Yep, still pale. Still sans make-up. And this one looks like it was even earlier in the morning!
At this point, I still wasn't sure if the serum was making a difference. But let me tell you about this mascara. I'm not sure if you can tell from the product picture above, but there are two ends to the mascara -- gold and blue. The gold end is a white base coat; the blue end, mascara. The base coat is very white; you wouldn't want to forget Step 2. But, wow, I was amazed at the difference it made. This base coat visibly extended my lashes -- they were longer and thicker instantly before my eyes.

When you apply the mascara, the white hue leaves, but the look remains. I found myself wanting to save the mascara for weekends and "special occasions," because I didn't want to go through it too fast. But, I continued to use it. Because I was supposed to. And I like to follow directions.

After (4 weeks):

I thought I'd cheat a little and put some eye shadow on. Isn't it kind of a rule when you take before and after pictures? I always get a chuckle when I come across ads for an extreme diet product. You know, the ones where the woman on the left is pale, scowling, and with a bulging belly; but the one on the right has a fresh-off-the-beach golden glow, a giddy smile, and a toned, flat stomach.

Now that the 4-week challenge is all said and done, I can say that I'm actually very impressed with the product. It really seemed to make a difference. I'm not sure if the pictures show much of a change, but I believe the serum, though it worked in quiet, mysterious ways, made my lashes stronger. And the mascara without a doubt made a difference. Now that the trial period is over, I find that I AM hoarding it for special occasions. I've gone back to my normal mascara, using my new "big girl" mascara when I want to look my best. Which, anything you save like that, in my opinion, means you really like it. Right?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Julie's Cut-Out Cookies with Royal Icing

Julie's Cut-Out Cookies

Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

I received this recipe from my friend, Michelle, when we were splitting up the task of making 8 dozen cookies for a weekly breakfast we do with 9th grade girls. This week, we decorated Valentine's Day cookies for a school downtown that gets its lunches donated each day. Since we only have an hour with the girls before we need to take them to school, Michelle and I baked the cookies ahead of time, leaving the decorating and packaging to be completed with the girls.

This recipe is unlike any other cut-out recipe I have. It creates a fluffier, more cake-like cookie, but holds its shape well. If you are looking for a denser, more buttery cookie, try these: Meme's Butter Cookies.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift Together:
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Cream Together:
1 c. butter - room temperature
1-1/2 c. sugar

Blend Into Butter Mixture:
4 large eggs - room temperature

Beat Into Butter Mixture:
2 t. vanilla
2 T. light cream

Add flour in three parts on slow. Divide dough into 4 flat cakes and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. When ready to begin, move dough to freezer for about 20-30 minutes and then roll out 1/4" thick with (A TON OF) flour, and use cookie cutters of your choice. Leave remaining dough in freezer until ready to use. Return dough scraps to freezer if dough warms too much while rolling and cutting.

Butter cookie sheet (if you have a nonstick baking sheet, this is not necessary). Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Optional: Brush cookie dough with egg whites (beaten) and add sprinkles before baking.

A Note From The Little Lady: This dough needs a lot of flour to keep it from sticking when rolling out. Don't be alarmed if you feel you need more flour than normal! If it's sticking to your rolling surface, you need more flour.

Royal Icing:
Combine 3 c. powdered sugar, 2 beaten egg whites, and food coloring in a bowl; mix well. Spoon into Ziploc bags (or, better yet, decorating bags with tips!), snip off a tiny section of one corner and start decorating!

Some of girls working on the cookies and valentines:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Artichoke & Chicken Casserole

Artichoke & Chicken Casserole

Serves 2.

This meal pulls from a lot of great flavors. It's very satisfying and really warms you up.
Inspired By: Best Comfort Food Magazine

1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into small pieces
1/2 c. cooked white or wild rice
1 slice bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and crumbled
1/4 c. chopped carrot
1/4 c. chopped red and/or green pepper
1/8 c. chopped green onion
1 c. prepared Parmesan and Artichoke dip
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine chicken, cooked rice, cooked and crumbled bacon, carrot, pepper, and green onion. Stir in Parmesan/Artichoke dip and toss to evenly coat.

Transfer to a baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes (50-60 if made-ahead and refrigerated).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

This book was a challenge for me in more ways than one. First, at close to 1,000 pages, it is a l-o-n-g book. Second, when a book doesn't grab me within the first 30 or so pages, I start to feel antsy. And impatient. And that leads me to feel frustrated and like I want to quit. But since this was a book club book, I didn't want to fail. I wanted to finish. 1,480 reviewers on Amazon had given this book 4.5 out of 5 stars! It had to be good!
But at page 300 I was still feeling dissatisfied. And, to be honest, bored.
By page 600, I was interested. Not loving on the book, persay, but I looked forward to opportunities I had to sit down and read. And since the month of January included two nights in the hospital, multiple procedures, recovery time, and sick days, I had my fair share of reading time. It's like January knew I had to get through 1,000 pages.

By the time I reached "The End," I had developed an appreciation for the book. I wouldn't call it one of my favorites, and it was awfully depressing throughout, but it contained witty writing; tough, probing situations; and a deep plot that makes you want to applaud any author that can compose such a story.

Is this a book for you? I'm not sure. Even though I'm not going to spend much time recommending it, 1,480 people from Amazon would say I should. review:

Oprah Book Club® Selection, June 1998: What if you were a 40-year-old housepainter, horrifically abused, emotionally unavailable, and your identical twin was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed in public self-mutilation? You'd either be a guest on the Jerry Springer Show or Dominick Birdsey, the antihero, narrator, and bad-juju magnet of I Know This Much Is True. Somewhere in the recesses of this hefty 912-page tome lurks an honest, moving account of one man's search, denial, and acceptance of self. This is no easy feat considering his grandfather seemed to take parenting tips from the SS and his grandmother was a possible teenage murderess, his stepfather a latent sadist, and his brother, Thomas, a politically motivated psychopath. Not one to break with tradition, Dominick continues the dysfunctional legacy with rape, a failed marriage, a nervous breakdown, SIDS, a car crash, and a racist conspiracy against a coworker--just to name a few.

A stretch, both literally and figuratively from his Oprah-christened bestseller, She's Come Undone, Lamb's book ventures outside the confines of the tightly bound beach read and marathons through a detailed, neatly cataloged account of every familial travesty and personal failure one can endure. At its heart lies Freud's "return of the repressed": the more we try to deny who we are, the more we become what we fear. Lamb takes Freud's psychological abstraction to the realm of everyday living, packing his novel with tender, believable dialogue and thoughtful observation. --Rebekah Warren

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rice Krispies Pops

Rice Krispies Pops

Makes one dozen pops.

I can't take credit for these cute little balls of sugary sweetness. But my good friend, Annie, can! The Mr. and I hosted a Superbowl party. Nothing too fancy -- just some good food and drink with close friends. When Annie arrived with these Rice Krispies Pops, appropriately decorated for the Colts and the Saints, I immediately fell in love with them. First off, they're cute. Secondly, they are festive. And lastly, let's be honest -- anything on a stick is much more fun to eat. She said she originally made these for a baby shower -- great idea!

3 Tbsp. margarine or butter
1 (10 oz.) pkg. regular marshmallows or 4 c. miniature marshmallows
6 to 7 c. Rice Krispies cereal
12 popsicle sticks
candy sprinkles

In a large sauce pan, melt margarine over low heat. Add marshmallows, stirring constantly until melted.
Remove from heat and stir in cereal until it is well coated.

Let mixture cool until it's warm, but comfortable to handle with your fingers. Lightly butter your hands, then shape the treats into 12 balls.
Push a popsicle stick into each one and dust with candy sprinkles.
Set treats on a tray lined with wax paper.

A Note From The Little Lady: Other ways to decorate these: dip halfway in 1-1/2 c. melted chocolate, and then add sprinkles; cover with a plastic bag and tie a ribbon around the stick

Monday, February 8, 2010

Easiest, Creamiest Cheese Grits

Easiest, Creamiest Cheese Grits

Serves 2.

We can also call these "Cheese Grits for the College Student," "Cheese Grits for the Family with Youngsters," or any other group that typically has a plethora of Kraft Singles in their fridge. Somehow we ended up with a plethora, though, and we don't fall into either of those categories. :::pause for contemplation::: We can also call these "Cheese Grits for Anyone Who Has Kraft Singles in Their Refrigerator."
They're quick to prepare, delicious to eat, and a nice change from the typical rut or rice or potatoes.

1/2 c. quick-cooking grits
2 c. milk
1/2 stick butter
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Kraft Singles, unwrapped
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

Bring the milk to a boil in a pot over medium high heat. Stir frequently, so that scalding does not occur. Melt the butter in the boiling milk. Gradually mix in the grits, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Place Kraft singles into saucepan and stir until completely melted and well combined. Return to low heat, if necessary. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese (if desired) and serve.

A Note From The LL: These can be served immediately after preparation is complete, but if you need to hold them for a while, simply place into an oven-safe serving dish, cover with foil, and place in the oven. (Temperature can vary from 200-400 degrees). This comes in handy if you are having company and want to get things ready ahead of time vs. spending the last moments before dinner frantically working in the kitchen. FYI: The higher the temperature and the longer the bake, the more firm they will become. The photo above shows grits that I prepared and then threw in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes

Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes.

A tasty twist on a classic bread.

1 yellow cake mix
1 box instant banana pudding
2 extra-ripe bananas, mashed
4 eggs
1/4 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 c. water
1 c. mini chocolate chips
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together cake mix, banana pudding mix, bananas, eggs, oil, and water. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
Spoon in muffin pans that have been prepared with liners.
Bake for 18-19 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

A Note From The LL: If baking in mini loaf pans, set baking time to 35-38 minutes. Mini muffin pan? 13-15 minutes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Parmesan Oven Fries

Parmesan Oven Fries

Serves 2.

Nothing compliments a burger, chicken fingers, or a cold beer better than french fries. But the traditional method of deep frying is messy and bad for you. This recipe allows you to experience the piping hot, salty seasoned fries you love without the hot oil mess or the deep-fried fat.
Source: Comfort Foods Magazine

2 small-medium Idaho potatoes
3 T. butter, melted (of 3 T. olive oil)
1/8 c. Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind)
1/4 t. minced garlic
dash of Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Scrub potatoes clean and cut into thin wedges.
In a large bowl, combine butter, cheese, garlic, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper. Toss potato wedges in mixture. Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Helpful Hints: Ingredient Substitutions

Helpful Hints: Ingredient Substitutions

What to use if you don't have what you need.


1 c. Whole Milk: 1 c. skim milk + 2 T. melted unsalted butter

1 c. Half-and-Half: 7/8 c. whole milk + 2 T. melted unsalted butter
1/2 c. skim milk + 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. whole milk + 1/2 c. light cream
1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream: 2/3 c. whole milk + 1/3 c. melted unsalted butter
1 c. Light Whipping Cream: 3/4 c. whole milk + 1/4 c. melted unsalted butter

1 c. Whipping Cream, Whipped = 2 c. thawed whipped topping

1 c. Sour Cream: 1 c. plain yogurt
1 T. lemon juice or vinegar + enough whole milk to make 1 c. (let stand 5-10

1 c. Mascarpone Cheese: 3/4 c. cream cheese beaten with 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream


1/2 t. Cream of Tartar: 1/2 t. white vinegar or lemon juice
1 t. Baking Powder: 1/4 t. baking soda + 1/2 t. cream of tartar + 1/4 t. cornstarch
1 t. Arrowroot Starch: 1 T. flour + 1-1/2 t. cornstarch
1 c. Dark Corn Syrup: 3/4 c. light corn syrup + 1/4 c. molasses

1 c. Cake Flour: 3/4 c. all-purpose flour + 2 T. cornstarch
2 c. Pastry Flour: 1-1/3 c. all-purpose flour + 2/3 c. cake flour
1 c. Rice Flour: 1 c. cake or pastry flour
1 c. Whole Wheat Flour: 7/8 c. all-purpose flour + 2 T. wheat germ
1 c. graham flour
1 c. Self-Rising Flour: 1 c. all-purpose flour + 1-1/2 t. baking powder + 1/4 t. salt

Spices & Extracts:

1 T. Fresh Herbs: 1/2-1 t. dried herbs
1 Small Garlic Clove: 1/8 t. garlic powder
1 t. Pumpkin Pie Spice: 1/4 t. nutmeg + 1/4 t. ginger + 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. Apple Pie Spice: 1/4 t. nutmeg + 1/4 t. cardamon + 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. Allspice: 1/2 t. cinnamon + 1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t. Dry Mustard: 1 T. prepared mustard


1/2 c. Dry Red Wine or White Wine: 2 T. sherry or port
1 c. Ketchup: 1 c. tomato sauce + 1/2 c. sugar + 2 T. vinegar (for use in cooking)
1 c. Chili Sauce: 1 c. tomato sauce + 1/4 c. brown sugar + 2 T. vinegar + 1/4 t. cinnamon + dash of ground cloves + dash of allspice

Sources: and and

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Remedy for Cookie Dough Craving

Remedy for Cookie Dough Craving

We've all been there. Well, I assume at least the majority of us have. We've all been tempted by cookie dough, or in my case, cookie dough, cake batter, muffin batter... heck, curiousity has even led me to taste pancake batter and pie crust dough! It usually strikes us when we're in the middle of preparing it to actually make cookies, and we sneak a spoonful. But sometimes it strikes when you're NOT making cookies. And, to be honest, you don't really want cookies. You just want cookie dough. So here's what you do: You make this recipe. It's a small batch. It's egg-free. And you'll be satisfied.
Adapted From: Small Batch Baking cookbook

3 T. plus 1 t. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 T. granulated sugar
3 T. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 T. milk
1/4 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Place the butter in a small mixing bowl. Make sure it is soft!
Add both sugars to the bowl and mix well. Mix in vanilla and milk. Gradually add flour and salt, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips.

A Note From The Little Lady: Are you interested in using this recipe to make a small batch (about 6) of cookies? Simply replace the milk with 1 T. + 1 t. well-beaten egg (or 1 T. + 1 t. egg substitute), and add 1/8 t. baking soda to the flour/salt mixture before mixing into the butter/sugar. Scoop 2-T. quantities of the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 14-15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rigatoni Surprise

Rigatoni Surprise

Serves 6-8.

This is right up The Mr.'s alley. And I like it because it's easy to make-ahead of time, freeze, and throw in the oven on a busy night.
Adapted From:

1 lb. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 (14-oz.) cans tomato sauce
2/3 c. chunky salsa
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 c. shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/3 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. sour cream

Bring to a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil; stir in rigatoni and cook at a boil according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, cook the ground beef, garlic, onion, and bell pepper in a large pot over medium-high heat until the ground beef has browned and the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce and salsa; season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking 15 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and cream; cook and stir 3 minutes, then stir in the sour cream until evenly blended. Add the drained pasta and stir until heated through.

A Note From The Little Lady: When preparing this ahead of time, I follow directions above and then place it in a baking dish, top with additional shredded cheese, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook. To complete, I bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. (If frozen, thaw in refrigerator overnight before baking.)