Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In The Garden of Beasts

In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

After reading this book, I want to read Larson's other books.  My only complaint about In The Garden of Beasts was that the pace was just a little too slow for me at times.  I was tempted to skim chapters and breeze through lengthy descriptions.  That being said, I feel as though I learned a lot and believe I could gleam more and more each time I read it again.  Very interesting read.

Book description from Amazon:

Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the bestselling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance--and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

“Larson is a marvelous writer...superb at creating characters with a few short strokes.”—New York Times Book Review

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

At Home in Mitford

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

This is a light read about the day-to-day life in the town of Mitford; the first book in a series called The Mitford Years. From the reviews I've gotten from friends of mine, it seems that after reading book 1, you will either abandon the series or continue to read each and every one.

Book description from Amazon:

A heartwarming portrait of the mysteries and miracles of everyday life in a small town introduces the charming North Carolina town of Mitford and its colorful inhabitants, including Tim, a bachelor rector, who is falling in love with his neighbor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

3 Christmas Cookie Favorites

3 Christmas Cookie Favorites

I love baking at Christmas.  Love.  And if you haven't gotten around to it yet, there is still time.  Try one of these three... they are some of my favorites.  And they are all very easy (although, be warned, cut-out cookies are always the most time-consuming...

Mimi's Butter Cookies

Chinese Almond Cookies

Peanut Blossom Cookies

Friday, December 16, 2011

Honey Glazed Ham

Honey Glazed Ham

Serves 15.

Who needs to pay for Honey Baked Ham when you can make it yourself? Plus, you can make this up to two days ahead of time and save yourself the fuss of preparing on Christmas day.  Leftovers are wonderful too.
Adapted from: AllRecipes

1 (8 pound) ready-to-eat ham, presliced
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. honey
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place ham in foil lined pan.

In the top half of a double boiler, heat the brown sugar, ground gloves, honey and butter. Keep glaze warm while baking ham.

Brush glaze over ham, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Baste ham every 10 to 15 minutes with the honey glaze. During the last 4 to 5 minutes of baking, turn on broiler to caramelize the glaze.

Remove from oven, and let sit a few minutes before serving.

A Note From The Little Lady: Double check baking times with suggested directions on your ham, and make adjustments as needed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Christmas List

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

Looking for a quick seasonal read?  Here you go. It's no award-winner, but it's an easy read and all about Christmastime.

Amazon book description:

Dear Reader,  
When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, gave our class the intriguing (if somewhat macabre) assignment of writing our own obituaries. Oddly, I don't remember much of what I wrote about my life, but I do remember how I died: in first place on the final lap of the Daytona 500. At the time, I hadn't considered writing as an occupation, a field with a remarkably low on-the-job casualty rate.
What intrigues me most about Mrs. Johnson's assignment is the opportunity she gave us to confront our own legacy. How do we want to be remembered? That question has motivated our species since the beginning of time: from building pyramids to putting our names on skyscrapers.
As I began to write this book, I had two objectives: First, I wanted to explore what could happen if someone read their obituary before they died and saw, firsthand, what the world really thought of them. Their legacy.
Second, I wanted to write a Christmas story of true redemption. One of my family's holiday traditions is to see a local production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I don't know how many times I've seen it (perhaps a dozen), but it still thrills me to see the change that comes over Ebenezer Scrooge as he transforms from a dull, tight-fisted miser into a penitent, "giddy-as-aschoolboy" man with love in his heart. I always leave the show with a smile on my face and a resolve to be a better person. That's what I wanted to share with you, my dear readers, this Christmas -- a holiday tale to warm your season, your homes, and your hearts.
Merry Christmas --Richard Paul Evans

Monday, December 12, 2011

Buttermilk Pancakes

Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes a ton... probably about 4-5 dozen?

Looking for something to make Christmas morning?  How about some deliciously traditional buttermilk pancakes?  Serve with butter and syrup, obviously, but also some powdered sugar... that's what I like.  :)
Source: AllRecipes

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, eggs and melted butter. Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. You can flick water across the surface and if it beads up and sizzles, it's ready!

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until it's just blended together. Do not over stir! Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/2 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

A Note From The Little Lady: You can easily add chocolate chips or blueberries to these pancakes; just drop into batter after you've poured it onto the skillet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Serves 8-10.

The reviews for this cake on All Recipes are great.  It went over well at The Mister's grandmother's birthday party.  I, personally, thought the cake part was a little too dry.  How to fix that?  I'm not sure.  Any ideas? 
Slightly adapted from: AllRecipes

1/2 stick butter
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
8 maraschino cherries
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain pineapple and reserve 1/2 cup of the juice.

Melt butter in a 9" round pan. Arrange cherries in the pan according to how many servings you want. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and then pineapple.

Cream together shortening and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with reserved pineapple syrup, beating after each addition.

Spread batter in pan over pineapple. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes in the pan, then invert onto plate. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pasta with Marinara, Veggies, and Chicken

Pasta with Marinara, Veggies, and Chicken

Serves 4-6.

Here's an easy meal for you.  It takes your grocery store's fast fixes (boxed pasta and jarred marinara), combines them with a few fresh favorites (chicken breasts and veggies), and wa-lah! dinner!

1 box penne pasta
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 jar your favorite marinara sauce
Olive oil
One small zucchini, chopped
One tomato, chopped
1/2 c. shredded carrots
One green bell pepper, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a saucepan, cook veggies in a few teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Add marinara sauce and heat through.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook chicken breasts in a few teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat until no longer pink in the middle, flipping halfway through.  Remove chicken breasts when fully cooked and set aside.

Transfer cooked and drained pasta to bowls, top with marinara/veggie mixture, and lastly top with sliced chicken breasts.  Serve with garlic bread.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen.

I must've been in a Thanksgiving coma last week.  Sorry for the lack of posts!

I was trying to find a cookie recipe that could be made dairy-free, hence the shortening.  I don't typically bake with shortening (besides these amazingly amazing cookies), but these turned out great!  The whole batch was devoured.
Source: AllRecipes

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 1/2 chocolate chips and 1/2 raisins, as shown in photo)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In a large bowl cream shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.
Combine the baking soda, salt and flour and stir into creamed mixture
Add oatmeal and chocolate chips and stir until well blended.
***If you want 1/2 half the batch to be oatmeal raisin, split dough before adding chocolate chips and add 1 cup raisins to one of the haves, decreasing chips to 1 cup as well.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Allergen-Free Cookies

Allergen-Free Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen.

These cookies are free of the top 8 allergens, and they taste great too!  The "Top 8" include milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanut, treenut, fish, and shellfish.  I should note that our doctor said that most allergists and dieticians agree that soybean oil and soy lecithin are not considered to be reaction-inducing allergens when it comes to a soy allergy, but some children do react to them.

Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Dreams Sugar Cookie Mix
1/2 c. Soy-free and dairy-free butter substitute -- We use Earth Balance Soy-Free in the tub
1/4 c. rice milk
2-1/2 t. vanilla
Canned frosting -- the Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Vanilla I used was free of allergens

Here's the mix:

Prepare cookie dough according to package directions:

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Blend margarine, rice milk, vanilla and cookie mix at medium speed.
3. Roll the cookies into 1 inch balls and place them onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
4. Bake 12-14 minutes or until they are a light golden brown. Cool 1 minute before removing from your cookie sheet. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
5. Enjoy!

Frost, if desired.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen.

Just when you think you have your go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, you find another one that's wonderfully delicious and gets rave reviews.  Enjoy some cookies, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.
Slightly adapted from: Betcha Can't Eat Just One blog

4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 c, unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 c. plus 3 T. all purpose flour
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and egg.

Sift together dry ingredients and then add them to the butter mixture.  Beat until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Place a large scoop (about 2 tbsp) on the prepared cookie sheet.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until edges are a light golden brown.

Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apple Cinnamon French Toast Bake

Apple Cinnamon French Toast Bake

Serves 4-6.

So you've got company in town for the holiday and you feel like you should prepare an actual breakfast for them on Thanksgiving.  You could set out cereal and milk, along with a hot pot of coffee, and let the troops fend for themselves.  And when YOU'RE the guest, you -- :::gasp!::: -- kind-of, almost (...dare I say it?) prefer that.  But you don't want to do that when you're hosting, because... because... you like to be hospitable and play Suzy Homemaker and put something extra on your already-long to-do list.  I mean, it's not like you have Thanksgiving dinner to prepare or anything.  So if you fall into the category I've just described, consider making this... for the following reasons:  1) You can make it the night before and pop it in the oven in the morning.  2) It's easy.  3) It's seasonal.  4) It's "light" compared to most French toast casseroles, which you'll appreciate when you're on your third helping of mashed potatoes and second slice of pie later in the day.  5) It'll help you feel satisfied as you scamper around the kitchen, knowing you've served your guests well.

2 large apples (I used Honey Crisp)
3 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 French baguette, sliced and chopped into bite-size pieces
1-1/2 c. Egg Beaters
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
2 T. honey
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
dash salt
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (which I forgot to do..)

Prepare an 8x8 baking dish by coating it with nonstick spray.

Peel, core, and chop apples.  In a bowl, toss apples with cinnamon and sugar to evenly coat.  Place mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Spread cubed bread evenly on top of apple mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Pour over bread.  Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until eggs are set and top is beginning to turn golden brown.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another Pumpkin Bread!

Super Moist Pumpkin Bread

Makes 2 loaves, or 8 mini loaves.

SUPER MOIST is an accurate name for this bread.  It's extremely dense, extremely moist, and all things fall.
Slightly adapted from: AllRecipes

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, white sugar, pumpkin puree, oil, coconut milk, baking soda, salt, ground nutmeg and ground cinnamon. Mix until all of the flour is gone. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cover loaves with foil tightly. Allow to steam for 10 minutes. Remove foil and turn out onto a cooling rack. Tent lightly with the foil and allow to cool completely.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread IV

Makes 3 loaves.

Rave reviews on  Classic bread for the autumn holiday season.  Enjoy this week.  I hope you have a lot to be thankful for.
Source: AllRecipes

3 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 9x5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (mine took 70 minutes). The top of the loaf should spring back when lightly pressed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dried Cherry Orzo Salad

Dried Cherry Orzo Salad

Serves 6.

A great side dish for almost any meal --- picnic, dinner party, weeknight at home.  Also a great vegetarian option.  My father-in-law gave me a sampler pack of Round Pond olive oils, and I used the blood orange olive oil in this recipe, as suggested.  Only have extra virgin olive oil?  That's okay... this salad would taste great with that as well!
Source: Round Pond Summer Picnic Men.

1 box orzo pasta
1 cup dried cherries
3 handfuls of baby arugula
½ -1 cup feta cheese
¾ cup almond slivers, toasted
Juice from one orange (If blood oranges, you will need 2-3)4-6 Tbsp Round Pond Blood Orange Olive OilSalt & Pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook orzo pasta according to directions on the box. Once pasta is cooked, drain and then pour in 2 Tbsp Blood Orange Olive Oil to help coat the pasta and prevent clumping. Spread orzo on a baking sheet to let cool.

While orzo is cooling, toast almond slivers until golden brown and fragrant. In a large bowl mix cool orzo, arugula, dried cherries, feta cheese, almonds, juice from orange & Blood Orange Olive Oil. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flat Iron Steak

Flat Iron Steak with Roasted Shallots

Serves 4-6.

Oops!  I forgot to take a picture with the roasted shallots.  I DID make them, and they were a great compliment to the steak, so don't skip them!
The original recipe called for hanger steak, which I was unable to find at my local grocery.  I substituted a flat iron steak, which worked really well.  Flank steak would be another option, but we have become so accostumed to our standard flank steak marinade, that I was afraid to change things up in the flank steak department.
Inspired by: Round Pond

2 c. prune juice
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. Balsamic vinegar
3 T. fresh thyme (stripped off the stems)
2 T. honey

1½ lbs Flat Iron or Hanger Steak
12 medium shallots
1 cup beef stock
`Salt and pepper as needed

Prepare marinade by combining ingredients in a bowl large enough to accommodate meat. Submerge trimmed steaks in marinade, preferably overnight. Remove meat and pat dry of excess marinade. Season generously with salt and pepper, then grill over an open flame on high heat, approximately 8 minutes per side. Remove and rest covered in a warm spot.

Peel and core shallots. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast on the top shelf of your grill, tossing occasionally (or in a 325°F oven uncovered). Moisten with a little beef stock and season to taste.

Slice steaks on the bias, plate and garnish with shallots and sauce.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Anytime Oatmeal Cookies

Anytime Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen.

I know it's the week before Thanksgiving and we should have turkey on the brain, but most foodies are probably distracted by thoughts of Christmas cookies.  So here's a classic to add to your to-bake list.  They're good.
Source: Martha Stewart

1 cup cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Beat butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla, then flour mixture. Mix in oats, then raisins.

Using a 1 1/4-inch ice cream scoop (or 1 tablespoon), drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing each scoop about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden, about 14 minutes. Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Trail Mix Cookie Cups

Trail Mix Cookie Cups

Makes 3-4 dozen.

Threw these together with ingredients I had around the kitchen.  And they turned out great!  Loved the consistency from baking them in a muffin tin.

2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 c. butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. trail mix -- I threw together peanuts, raisins, M&Ms, mini semisweet chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour, salt, and soda).  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until well combined.  Add vanilla and eggs; beat well.

Gradually mix in dry ingredients until combined.  Do not beat.  Stir in trail mix.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls into a mini muffin tin.  If you do not have a non-stick pan, be sure to grease and flour first. 

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown and just set.  Cool completely in pan, or at least until cups can be removed without breaking apart.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Steak and Potato Salad

Steak and Potato Salad

Serves 2.

I came up with this salad after having roasted potatoes on a salad at a favorite restaurant near my hometown.  It's different... but it's good.  :)  Next time you have a steak dinner, cook up an extra one to use the next day in this salad.

Mixed greens
Your favorite type of steak, cooked and chopped
3-4 small red potatoes
Olive oil
1/4 c. chopped red onion
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
Bleu cheese dressing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Quarter red potatoes, toss in olive oil, and roast in oven for 45-60 minutes until brown and beginning to crisp.

Meanwhile, cook steak (if needed) and fill two large salad bowls (I use my pasta bowls as salad bowls) with mixed greens.  Top with steak, warm potatoes, red onion, and green pepper.  Serve with bleu cheese dressing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore Sandwich

Chicken Cacciatore Sandwich

Makes 2.

A melty sandwich with all sorts of wonderful Italian flavor.
Inspired by: Rachael Ray

Olive oil
1/2 tomato, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1 t. minced garlic
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/4 c. salsa
4 slices Italian bread
2 T. butter
2 slices Muenster cheese
1 chicken breast, cooked and sliced

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add tomato, onion, garlic, and green pepper and cook until vegetables become fragrant and tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in salsa and heat through. 

Meanwhile, spread butter on bread slices and "toast" in oven for 3-5 minutes.  Add sliced chicken to bread, top with cheese slices and return to oven until cheese melts.  Top with tomato mixture, add second slice of bread, and serve.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken Salad

Teriyaki Chicken Salad

Serves 4.

Remember when you ate all that Halloween candy on Monday? 
You know how you've been eating Halloween candy all week?
So you know how you've been eating Halloween candy all month, ever since it was displayed in stores when it was still 90 degrees and sunny outside?  Feeling the effects on your waistline?  I know, I know, my cookie dough post on Monday was not helpful.  My apologies.
Clean up your act with this salad.  Plus, if you lose two pounds before Thanksgiving, you'll feel slightly better about yourself when you gain them back.

4 small chicken breasts
1 c. teriyaki marinade
1 c. green beans, ends removed
8-10 c. spinach
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
Chow mein noodles
Sesame ginger salad dressing

Marinate chicken breasts in teriyaki marinade for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Grill or pan-fry chicken breasts until cooked through.  Slice and set aside.
Meanwhile, steam green beans until cooked through.  Set aside.

In large salad bowls, arrange equal amounts of spinach.  Top with equal amounts of tomato, red onion, green beans, and chicken breasts.  Finish with chow mein noodles and serve with sesame ginger salad dressing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bacon & Rosemary Chicken

Bacon & Rosemary Chicken

Serves 4.

One of my new favorite recipes.  It's very versatile -- great as a weeknight meal or for entertaining.
Source: Taste of Home

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (5 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 bacon strips, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Flatten chicken breasts to an even thickness; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flour in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken breasts, one at a time, and shake to coat.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings. Cook chicken in butter and reserved drippings for 4-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 170°. Remove and keep warm.

Add the garlic, rosemary and pepper flakes to the skillet; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Return chicken and bacon to skillet; heat through.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cookie Dough for One

Cookie Dough for One

As if you needed MORE junk to eat on Halloween, feast on this.  It's a personal bad habit of mine.

3 T. flour
1 T. sugar
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. butter, softened or melted
2 t. milk
dash salt
dash vanilla
chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a small bowl.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Eat.  Enjoy.  Repeat, if desired.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Casserole

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Casserole

Serves 6.

This was fantastic and unlike anything I've ever had before.  I will definitely make it again.
Slightly adapted from: Oh She Glows

Oatmeal Ingredients:
1 cup regular oats
2 cups organic soy milk (or milk of choice)
2 small sweet potato, peeled, chopped
2 ripe large bananas
1-2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/8th tsp nutmeg + 1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Crunchy Pecan Topping:
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp Earth Balance (or butter)
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup brown sugar 

Preheat oven to 350F. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in the peeled and chopped sweet potato. Cook over medium heat, for about 5 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and set aside.

Give the pot a quick rinse and then add in the oats and milk. Whisk well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.

With a potato masher, mash in the cooked sweet potato and the banana into the pot. I left some chunks for texture. Now stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Cook on low for another few minutes.

Make the crunchy pecan topping by mixing together the pecans, flour, Earth Balance (or butter), and brown sugar with a fork. until very clumpy. Pour the oatmeal into a baker dish (I used a 4 cup/8 inch casserole dish) and spread out evenly. Now sprinkle on the pecan topping.

Transfer the oats to a casserole dish (8inch/4cup or whatever you have!) and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, at 350F. After 20 minutes, set oven to BROIL and broil on low for a couple minutes, watching very closely so you do not burn the topping. Remove from oven and serve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Serves 3.

The Skinny Taste blog says this recipe will yield 6 servings, but I found it only made enough for 3 when I served it to The Mister, my younger brother, and myself.  If you want the WW points to apply, make sure to use portion control.  If you're not concerned about points, enjoy it like any other meal.  This is a great recipe that we all loved!
Source: Skinny Taste blog

Light Peanut Sauce:
14.5 oz fat free chicken broth
5 tbsp better'n peanut butter (I used regular peanut butter)
1 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz chicken breast, cut into thin strips
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 tbsp Sriracha chili sauce (more or less to taste)
juice of 1/2 lime
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
8 oz rice noodles
3/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 1/4 cups shredded carrots
1 1/4 cups cup shredded broccoli slaw 
1 cup bean bean sprouts
2 tbsp chopped peanuts 
1 lime, sliced
cilantro for garnish (optional)

For the peanut sauce: Combine 1 cup chicken broth, peanut butter, sriracha, honey, 2 tbsp soy sauce, ginger, and 3 cloves crushed garlic in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat stirring occasionally until sauce becomes smooth and well blended, about 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
Boil water for the noodles cook pasta according to package instructions.
Season chicken with salt and pepper, sriracha, lime, garlic, ginger and soy sauce.
Heat a large skillet or wok until hot. Add oil and sauté chicken on high heat until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.
Add 2 cloves crushed garlic, scallions, carrots, broccoli slaw and/or bean sprouts and salt, sauté until tender crisp, about 1-2 minutes.
Drain noodles and toss with peanut sauce and additional chicken broth if needed to loosen the sauce. When chicken is cooked, toss with noodles.

Divide noodles and chicken between 6 bowls, top with sauteed vegetables, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts (or you can toss everything together to hide the vegetables so your family members don't push them aside!) and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Energy Bites

Energy Bites

Makes about 20.

A great on-the-go breakfast or snack.
Adapted from: Food Doodles blog

1/2 c. nut butter, such as almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower seed butter or any other nut or seed butter.  1/3 c. honey
1 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. shredded coconut
1/3 c. wheat germ
2 T. flax seeds
1-2 t. vanilla
pinch of sea salt if using a natural nut butter with no added salt
1-2 t. your favorite spices or spice combinations(optional)
1/2 c. other add-ins (any kind of whole or roughly chopped nuts or seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc)

In a large bowl add the nut butter, honey, and vanilla.  If your ingredients are room temperature you should be able to stir to combine.  If this is difficult you can warm in the microwave for a few seconds.  Once this is combined add the remaining ingredients.

Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  Then scoop out some dough and roll into a ball.  Place the balls in an airtight container and store in the fridge.  Also freeze well.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Recipe Revisited: Caramel Apple Dip

Caramel Apple Dip

This dip is so easy and always enjoyed at fall functions, so I had to post it again after it's first time in 2009.  It's a great way to get kids to eat a "healthy snack" and can be served as an after-school snack, with lunch, or at your next get-together with friends.

Makes about 2 cups.

1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Combine all three ingredients and mix well.  If you have time, let the flavors "mature" in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.  Serve with apple slices.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baby Clothes

Baby Clothes

As one might expect, I've been a little consumed with all things baby lately.  And along with the new responsibilities of actually taking care of our wee one, I've found myself drawn to the sewing machine to churn out some fun little things for her to wear too. 

The picture above is on the day we brought her home from the hospital, so I guess I should correct my statement above and say that I was first drawn to this new craft back when I was pregnant.

I've made some Christmas shirts...

A fun little elephant for one of Macey's boyfriends...

And a birthday shirt for Macey's boyfriend's older sister...  :)

Here's one that should fit her soon...

Go Bucks!

66 days until Christmas... but who's counting?
(Thank you to Mimi for the knit hat!  She's also into crafts...)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Puree with Browned-Butter Maple Syrup

Sweet Potato Puree with Browned-Butter Maple Syrup

Serves 8.

The natural sweetness in sweet potatoes makes this dish taste less-healthy than it actually is.  For a more orange-y color, use yams.
Source: Martha Stewart magazine, also shown here

4 pounds sweet potatoes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes a few times with a fork. Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet until tender, 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Scoop out flesh from sweet potatoes, and puree in a food processor with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until smooth (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Season with pepper.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add butter; cook, swirling, until deep brown with a nutty aroma. Remove from heat; swirl in syrup. Reheat puree; transfer to a bowl. Pour butter over top; sprinkle with pecans.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Italian Beef & Shells

Italian Beef & Shells

Serves 4.

A perfect weeknight meal!
Source: Taste of Home: Simple & Delicious, Oct/Nov 2010

1-1/2 cups uncooked medium pasta shells
1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jar (23 ounces) marinara sauce
1 small yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced
1 small zucchini, quartered and sliced
1/4 cup dry red wine or reduced-sodium beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook the beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the marinara sauce, squash, zucchini, wine and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until thickened. Drain pasta; stir into beef mixture and heat through.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Autumn Chicken Chopped Salad

Autumn Chopped Salad

Serves 4.

I have been on a huge salad kick lately.  I typically love salads at restaurants, but was never wild about making salads at home, until I realized buying the right (good!) ingredients makes all the difference.  This salad was fantastic.
Inspired by: Espresso and Cream blog

Baby greens or your favorite lettuce
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 medium apple, chopped (or pear)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 avocado, chopped
4 slices thick-cut bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
Poppy seed Salad Dressing
Balsamic Vinaigrette

On a large platter (or in 4 individual serving bowls), combine the lettuce, chicken, apple, cranberries, pecans, bacon and avocado. Drizzle generously with poppy seed dressing, followed by some of the balsamic vinaigrette.  (You could also premix them and serve that way.)  I used about 50% of each, but feel free to experiment with the combination.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Serves 4.

The focus seems to lie in the apple flavor, so don't be afraid of the butternut squash. At the same time, don't be expecting a strong butternut squash flavor, which I was, because you won't find it. This is a very light soup, and would be the perfect start to a autumn dinner party. Just be sure to offer something filling as an entree, especially if there are men in attendance!
Source: Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen cookbook

2 lbs. butternut squash (1 medium)
2 apples, such as Granny Smith, Northern Spy, or Rome Beauty
1 t. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 sprigs thyme
4 c. chicken stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Peel, core, and cut apples into quarters. Brush cut surfaces of squash and apples with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set apples aside.

Place squash on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Lift squash and tuck half of garlic and 1 spring thyme into cavity of each half. Bake 15 minutes.

Place apples on cookie sheet with squash and continue baking until squash and apples are completely soft and tender, 15-20 minutes more.

When squash is just cool enough to handle, scrape meat from skin and place in a medium pot along with apples and cooked garlic; discard thyme sprigs. Mash with a potato masher, or, if a smoother texture is desired, pass through a rice or food mill.

A Note From The Little Lady: I used an immersion blender to get my soup to the desired consistency.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Foodbuzz: Godiva Coffee

Foodbuzz: Godiva Coffee

As a member of Foodbuzz, I had the opportunity to test out Godiva's fall coffee flavors: Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Pecan Bark.  I was very excited about this one.  I love my morning coffee and I love all things fall (if you haven't gathered that already...), so this was RIGHT up my alley.

I drink my coffee black.  For whatever reason, I drink my iced coffee with flavored creamer.  I got into drinking my hot coffee with flavored creamer while pregnant, but then my tastebuds reverted back to pre-pregnancy once little Macey joined us outside the womb.  Anyway, I'm getting away from intended goal.  The coffee.  The Godiva coffee.

The fall flavors were fabulous, but I especially enjoyed the Pumpkin Spice flavor.  It had a smooth coffee flavor, but a strong pumpkin spice flavor, which I really enjoyed.  Paired with pumpkin bread (or pumpkin pound cake or pumpkin cookies or pumpkin delight!!!) and a good friend, it was the perfect way to start my day.

This is a coffee flavor that I will hate to say goodbye to come winter, and will welcome again next fall.  And in between?  I guess I will just have to test out some of Godiva's other flavors!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mmm-Mmm Better Brownies

Mmm-Mmm Better Brownies

Serves about 8, generously.

I'm usually a sucker for box mixes when it comes to cakes and brownies.  I just haven't been able to find a from-scratch recipe that I thought was better than the mix, but this brownie recipe is the closest I've come.  These had the dense, fudgey taste of box-mix brownies, and topped with a good frosting?  YUM.
Source: AllRecipes

1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. white sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; gradually stir into the egg mixture until well blended. Stir in walnuts, if desired. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the brownie begins to pull away from edges of pan, or if you're using a smaller, deeper pan similar to mine, your baking time will be increased, 45-50 minutes.

Monday, October 3, 2011