Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grilled Eggplant

One of my friends at work told me how great grilled eggplant was a while back but I had yet to make it.  I think I've only purchased eggplant once when I made this awesome eggplant parmesan last summer (which I need to make again!).  Grilling it made it taste really great.  It gave it this different texture where it was a little crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  And brushing it with olive oil & salt and pepper brought out the flavor even more.  Perfect side for anything you might make on the grill.

one eggplant
olive oil
S & P

Slice eggplant "hamburger" style about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.  Brush both sides w/ olive oil & sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill both sides.  I decided to skewer mine shown in the picture below because it wasn't very wide and it made it much easier to turn (and keep from falling into the grill!).  Drizzle again with olive oil & sprinkle w/ S&P after grilling if desired.

Chipotle Honey Chicken Skewers w/ Pineapple & Mango

We loved this Chipotle Honey Chicken so much that I wanted to make it again this week on skewers and decided to do them with red onion, pineapple, & mango.  I have never had grilled pineapple before, but let me tell you it was awesome.  It seemed to make the pineapple even more juicy and sweet.

7 oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 or 3 tablespoons diced cilantro
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
fresh pineapple
1 mango
red onion

Cut chicken into large chunks.  Mix marinade ingredients (peppers, honey & cilantro) and reserve about 1/4 cup for later.  Marinade chicken for 1 to 2 hours.  Dice fruit & onion in large pieces to fit on skewers.  Alternate chicken, fruit, & onion on skewers and grill.  Drizzle with reserved marinade after taking off the grill.

Farmers Market

The farmers market opened for the first weekend of the summer on Saturday and me and my mom went for fun to check it out.  There weren't a whole lot of fresh veggies & fruit yet but we had a blast.  There were a ton of fun little booths with homemade things.  I purchased some beautiful fresh peonies, a chive plant, & some tasty granola & apple butter.

Spring Vegetable Chicken Soup

I saw this recipe on How Sweet and wanted to try it out since we had been having such rainy weather lately!  Well this week things have changed and we're up to 90 degrees...but last week this soup was the perfect thing.  If you love spring veggies and want an easy healthy dinner this is the perfect thing.

2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups raw spinach
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
12 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/4 cups ditalini pasta (or another short/small pasta)
the zest of half a lime
1/3 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
for garnish: fresh cilantro, grated romano cheese, avocado, green onions, fresh baguette slices or croutons
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add chopped bacon. Cook under fat is rendered and bacon is crispy, then remove bacon with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel. Add onions and mushrooms to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in garlic, carrots and asparagus and cook for 5 minutes more. Add in salt, pepper and spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add in shredded chicken, beans, and chicken broth. Pour in pasta and bring soup to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in lime zest and cheese.
Serve hot with additional cheese, avocado, lots of cilantro and green onions. Add a toasted baguette on the side.
Note: feel free to add additional stock/water if desired. This recipe produces a soup with just a little broth; if you prefer more, add an additional 2 cups or so.

veggies ready to go

i actually just used two 32 ounce containers of chicken stock and it was plenty

and i served it with croissants

Grilled Chicken Salad w/ Honey Poppyseed Vinaigrette

This recipe came from Our Life in the Kitchen.  Honestly the dressing is what really interested me.  I love poppy seed dressing and I knew this one would be really tasty with the raspberry vinegar.  Plus, who can turn down avocado & blue cheese...oh and the bacon I just had to add (chopped salad anyone?). 


Arugula and/or Baby Spinach (I used spinach & romaine)
Dried Cherries or Craisins
Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese
2 slices crumbled bacon

Extra Light Olive Oil
Raspberry Vinegar

Boneless Chicken
Seasoned Salt
Creole Seasoning

Season chicken on both sides and grill.  Whisk dressing ingredients together.  Toss salad fixings together in a large bowl.  Serve with dressing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chipotle Honey Grilled Chicken

I loved the chipotle flavor of this pulled pork I made so when I saw this recipe on Our Life in the Kitchen for a sweet & spicy grilled chicken I knew it would be great.  Smokey chipotle peppers in adobo sauce & sweet honey mixed with a little cilantro sounded like the perfect combination.  Me and Corey love spicy so we loved this, but if you are not a huge spicy fan you might up the honey in this and also don't top the chicken after cooked with a lot of the reserved marinade.  That was the part that really added the heat I thought, especially the pieces of peppers.  This is going to be a go to marinade for me now.  I think I'm gonna skewers next week with this marinaded chicken, red onions, & maybe chunks of mango.

3 Chicken Breasts
7 oz can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
1/4 cup Honey
2 or 3 tablespoons diced Cilantro

Muddle marinade ingredients together to break up peppers (you can use a fork for this).  Reserve 1/4 of the marinade in the fridge.  Marinade the chicken for at least one hour.  Grill chicken until cooked through.  Serve chicken with reserved marinade.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parmesan Knots

Have you heard of Pintrest???  If not you need to check it out asap.  Its so fun!  I found these parmesan knots their, original recipe from Real Mom Kitchen.  These were super easy and so tasty!  Perfect side dish for italian night.

Easy Parmesan Knots

1 tube (12 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits ( I used Pillsbury Golden Layers Refrigerated Buttermilk Biscuits)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Roll each biscuit into a 12-in. rope and tie into a knot; tuck ends under. Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; brush the warm knots with the mixture.

before going in the oven

Creamy Caprese Ziti Pasta

YUM!  Another fantastic dinner.  This was actually easy enough for me to whip up on a Monday night.  And I made parmesan knots to go with it...recipe coming next!  Such a fun spin on the caprese salad made into a ziti.  I used pre-jarred pasta sauce for convenience and it tasted great!  Another recipe found on how sweet...can't hold myself back...she makes the best looking things!  Next time I might add a little balsamic syrup drizzle after cooking just to amp up the caprese!  Wish I would have thought of it before making this!

Creamy Caprese Pasta
serves 4-6
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1 1/2 cup of your pasta/tomato sauce
1/3 cup half and half
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + more for garnish
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, (4 cut in cubs & 2 sliced to top the pasta)
1 pint of grape tomatoes halved (I thought it looked like a lot but it was the perfect amount)
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Boil water and cook pasta until a little al dente (it will cook the rest of the way in the oven & will soak up some of the pasta sauce so its not too "watery" when finished cooking).
While pasta is cooking, heat tomato sauce over low heat in a large saucepan. Once warm, stir in cream and grated parmesan. Once pasta is done cooking, drain and dump into the sauce, mixing to coat and turning off heat. Fold in mozzarella cubes and tomatoes, then chop 3-4 fresh basil leaves and add them in too. Once combined, spray a baking dish with non-stick spray (I used a 9x13) and pour the entire pasta mixture into the dish. Top with fresh mozzarella rounds. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly (you can broil at the last second if desired, but make sure to watch).
Top with additional fresh basil and grated cheese. Serve with garlic bread (or parmesan knots!). You can also add in chicken for protein if you wish.

caprese salad time!

making the creamy sauce

i would suggest making the pasta in a larger pan than you would normally, once you add everything in it will be really full

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bites

One of Corey's favorite flavors for ice cream, etc. is cookies & cream.  He loves it!  So as soon as I saw these and showed him the pictures he wanted me to make them right away.  No problem with me!  These things were fabulous!  So creamy and delicious!  This is another one of those recipes that requires cooling for at least 3 hours or overnight, so keep that in mind when you make them!  I first saw this recipe on How Sweet, but the original recipe comes from Recipe Girl...looks like I found a new blog to peruse!  I halved this recipe and it turned out great.  Lets be honest, I don't think Corey & me need a whole 9x13 pan of these things sitting around for just the two of us!  In fact I'm taking these things to bible study tomorrow because I don't think we can handle them being in our house any longer....TOO irresistible.  In a good way.  I decided to make them into bites rather than bars because not everyone wants a large serving of something rich.  An 8x8 pan gave me 30 "bites".


1 (1 pound) package Oreo cookies
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (I used the 1/3 less fat)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides (I spray mine with cooking spray).
2. Make the crust: Place 28 Oreos in a food processor and process until finely ground. Pour into a large bowl, add the melted butter, and stir with a flexible spatula until all crumbs are moistened. Place the cookie-crumb mixture in the lined pan and, using your fingers, press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom. Bake 10 minutes, then remove to a wire cooling rack (leave the oven on) while you make the filling. Snap the remaining Oreos in half, put them in the food processor, and turn on and off quickly a few times, just until the cookies are roughly chopped.
3. Make the filling: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar until well blended, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a flexible spatula and beat again until uniform. Beat in sour cream, vanilla and salt. Scrape down the bowl and mix again. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. After beating in the last egg, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat one more time, to make sure the mixture is fully combined. Stir in chopped Oreos with the same spatula.
4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the baked cookie crust, smooth the top with the spatula, and bake for 40 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but still slightly wobbly in the center when you gently shake the pan. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. When cool, cover it with foil and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. (I chill mine overnight)
5. To cut, use the foil overhang to lift the cheesecake out of the pan and place on a large cutting board. Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the cheesecake into bars, rinsing off the knife with hot water and wiping it dry between each cut. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

p.s. we have a fox in our neighborhood running loose!

Avocado Tuna Salad

No, this is not this salad I previously posted.  This is an actual "tuna salad" made with avocado verses the typical mayo & mustard combo.  I saw this idea on How Sweet and had to try it.  Its a fun way to mix up the usual tuna salad and probably a little healthier as well.  Her version includes adding tomatoes & feta which of course I loved.  It was a pretty good change up we thought and a quick tasty weeknight dinner or weekend lunch.  Here is how I made it:

2 cans tuna in water
1 avocado
cherry tomatoes (maybe about 7 - 10 halved)
feta cheese (around a 1/4 cup roughly)
salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together and chill if time in the refrigerator.  We had ours rolled in flat bread.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

King Ranch Chicken

This is another one of Corey's mom's recipes from that special little cookbook she gave me!  And of course another one of his favorites!  Its awesome.  Below I will share her recipe the way she wrote it up, and the way I always cook it, but if you want you can saute the peppers & onions until tender beforehand.  If you make as below, they will still retain their crunch somewhat (which is what we like, but possibly not for everyone).

3-4 chicken breasts (boiled)
stock from chicken (or a little broth if you cook a different way)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
shredded cheese
corn tortillas

Combine diced chicken, soups, tomatoes, diced onion, diced pepper, & chili powder.  Wet sides & bottom of 9 x 12 dish with chicken stock & line w/ tortillas (just one layer).  Place 1/2 chicken mixture over tortillas then sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat tortillas & other two layers, finishing with cheese.  Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

yummy filling

Ricotta Blackberry Muffins

I sort of have an obsession with blackberries.  I don't know why, but in the last two summers they have become my favorite berry.  Even over strawberries & blueberries...which I LOVE!  When I saw this recipe on Two Peas & Their Pod I had to make it right away.  Their recipe was actually Lemon Ricotta Blackberry muffins, but unfortunately I didn't remember when I stopped by the grocery so I was without lemons.  I also had an afterthought that this might go great with orange zest as an alternate.  Either way, they are so tasty and made my house smell fabulous.  They are such dense, almost creamy, muffins with the ricotta and were perfect with the big pops of sweet and tart berries.  You could choose to fold in the blackberries if you would rather so they mixed in better, but we really liked them this way.  They are probably the best muffins I've made thus far, close second is definitely these.  I made some small modifications to make them a bit healthier by making them half wheat flour & using half the sugar, and you couldn't even taste the wheat and we thought they were perfectly sweet.

Lemon Ricotta Blackberry Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup ricotta cheese (low-fat if you can find it)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blackberries
Turbinado sugar-for sprinkling on muffin tops (didn't have this, but I used a touch of regular)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest. Rub the lemon zest and sugar together with your fingers. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar and lemon zest mixture together until light and fluffy, about two minutes.  Add the ricotta cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla extract.
3. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended, note your batter will be thick. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, fill each muffin cup half way with batter. Add three blackberries to each muffin cup. Top the muffins with remaining batter so blackberries are covered. Generously sprinkle turbinado sugar over each muffin top.
4. Bake muffins for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown. Let muffins cool for five minutes and serve.

three blackberries in each muffin

Monday, May 16, 2011

Toffee Crunch Apple Dip

This dip is definitely indulgent.  If you are looking for a more healthy apple dip, this isn't it, but boy is this good!  Just read the ingredient list and you'll see what I mean!  I also halved the sugars because I thought it sounded like a lot and I really didn't think it needed to be sweeter, so below is how I made it.  Recipe courtesy of For the Love of Cooking!

8 oz package cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 oz Heath toffee bits (I didn't realize and used the chocolate kind, but still turned out great!)

Mix all ingredients.  Serve with apple slices.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Confession: me and Corey have kind of had bbq chicken pizza the last 4 Friday nights straight.  We have this bar/restaurant, Castlers, right next to our house that we like to go grab a couple beers from every once in a while on a Friday (or lately it appears every Friday!)  We seem to always end up ordering a bbq chicken pizza, maybe even if we've already had dinner.  The crust is so thin and crispy and the bbq sauce is the best, its all in all really irresistible.  We finally decided this Friday we would try to recreate it ourselves.  We didn't do too shabby, but there are definitely some things we would improve on before next time.  I decided to make our own crust and a whole wheat one.  The crust was really good, but not thin enough.  If you go this route, don't over-estimate how thin its going to turn out like I did, just keep rolling it out thinner!  I would also have added a little more bbq sauce before the cheese.  My friend Lauren had a great idea I think here (we ended up making these pizzas simultaneously I think...great minds think alike).  She shredded her chicken and mixed it with bbq so the flavor was really through-out.  And on to the recipe!  Here is the way I made ours, but obviously feel free to mix it up!

small pizza doughs rolled out w/ bbq & a little olive oil & minced garlic

ready for the oven with diced chicken, tomatoes, red onions, green pepper, & mozzarella and parmesan

fresh out of the oven

two empty plates, out enjoying the warm weather and our patio!
back porch all lit up

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
courtesy of Jessica at How Sweet

2 cups flour (half all purpose + half whole wheat)
3/4 cup warm water
1 packet dry active yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine water, yeast, olive oil and honey and mix with a spoon. Let sit for about 15 minutes until yeast becomes foamy. Add in flour and salt and mix until a ball forms. Using your hands, need dough for 1-2 minutes until it is somewhat smooth. Place in an oiled bowl (in a warm spot) and let rise for 1-2 hours.
Roll out pizzas, add toppings, and bake 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees.


This is by far the easiest guacamole recipe you will probably ever find.  It comes from my friend Annie from Cleveland.  There are lots of things you could add to spruce it up if you so desired, like a little lime juice for example, but honestly it is so yummy and so simple...why mess with a good thing!  All of the ingredients are rough estimates, so please feel free to add more or less to taste, or leave out the cilantro if you don't care for it.

2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Slice avocados in half long ways & dispose of pit.  Scoop out both sides with a spoon.  Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Corn Spoon Bread

I had never heard of corn spoon bread until we were married.  The weekend of our wedding, Corey's mom gave me this little recipe book with a bunch of his favorite recipes in it (awesome gift).  Included was this corn spoon bread.  We looked through it together and he went on and on about how good this bread was.  Wow was I in for a surprise.  This stuff is awesome!  Its something I save for special occasions and am always reminded how yummy it is every time I make it.

1 package corn bread mix (I always use the jiffy brand blue box)
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup creamed corn (purchase in canned veggie isle w/ other corn)
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar)

Mix all ingredients except cheese.  Pour into 11 x 7 casserole dish and bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese (or forget like I did this time and just mix the cheese in at the beginning...same taste!).  Bake an additional 10 minutes.

consistency of bread (but smoother), worthy of a spoon!

Shish Kabobs

Mmmm.....  This year Corey's sis Laura had the awesome idea to grill out shish kabobs for their mom for Mother's day.  I decided to marinade them the same way I had previously made them and they turned out so tasty.  They don't really retain an overwhelmingly "asain" taste (soy sauce and teryaki) once cooked, but really have a lot of flavor!  The following recipe is just an estimate so please don't feel compelled to follow it perfectly...more of just rough guidelines or inspiration!  I chose the veggies I chose because I wanted them to be really bright and colorful, so be sure to modify based on your favorites!

before heading onto the grill

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup teryaki sauce
2 or 3 garlic cloves minced
2 green onions/scallions diced (green & white parts)
chives (I had some fresh in my fridge so I threw those in-completely optional)
Shish Kabobs:
3 or 4 small chicken breasts
grape tomatoes
bell peppers (I used green & orange for color)
red onion

Dice chicken and veggies into same size pieces that will fit on wooden kabobs.  Place into large resealable bag.  Pour marinade ingredients in bag & mix to coat chicken and veggies.  Marinade for at least an hour (I did for over 4 hours and the flavor was awesome.  String chicken and veggies on kabobs and discard remaining marinade.  Grill until cooked through.


Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This year I was trying to think up something nice to give me and Corey's moms for Mother's day (we really have the two best moms ever) other than the traditional flowers and card.  I heard a commercial on the radio for chocolate covered strawberries and I thought to myself I could make those!  I thought it would be a nice gift and who doesn't love those things?  They were SOOOO GOOD!!!  They were very easy to...I think they would make the perfect thing to make with kids.

What you'll need:
Chocolate - I used dark & semi sweet chocolate chips
Fresh Strawberries

Rinse strawberries and pat dry.  Melt chocolate in the microwave slowly.  Dip strawberries in chocolate allowing excess chocolate to drip off.  Set them on wax paper to dry.

Homemade Refried Beans

This is one of our favorite sides for mexican at home.  Its super easy and so much tastier homemade!  This recipe comes from Eat at Home.

3 tablespoons butter
2 cans kidney beans
1 small onion
1-2 garlic cloves
1 can chopped green chilis
about 1 cup tomato sauce (8 oz can)

Melt the butter in a skillet.  Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until soft.  Add the beans to the skillet and mash them with a fork.  Stir in the chopped green chilis and tomato sauce.  Heat until hot and bubbly.