Friday, March 30, 2012

Spinach Salad w/ Roasted Garlic Quinoa, Sun dried Tomatoes, Feta, & Avocado

Quite the long name, but I couldn't leave anything out!  This was a little salad inspired by the Fittnessista.  I have been wanting to make a salad with quinoa over the top, just hadn't come across the right idea for what to include in it yet!  Once I saw her put sun dried tomatoes in it, I immediately went to roasted garlic and feta cheese too!  And of course the avocado just looked good in the grocery so I picked one up as well.  The salad was a great healthy dinner packed with veggies and protein!

Spinach Salad w/ Roasted Garlic Quinoa, Sun dried Tomatoes, Feta, & Avocado
serves 3

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 bulb garlic
salt & pepper
olive oil
about 10 - 15 sun dried tomatoes from a jar
Fresh Spinach (or other salad greens)
Feta cheese
1 Avocado
Red wine vinegar

Start by roasting your garlic, this can be done in advance as it takes about 45 minutes to an hour.  Slice the top off your bulb, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Wrap tightly in aluminum foil.  Bake in the oven at 375 under its golden and you can squeeze the cloves out.

Cook quinoa with water according to package directions.  Once finished, add in roasted garlic cloves and chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper mixing until you get your desired consistency and flavor.

Place spinach in a salad bowl (enough for a normal salad), top with warm quinoa, crumbled feta, and diced avocado.  Drizzle with red wine vinegar.  Serve!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I'm sorry to do this to you, but if you haven't already noticed you will soon, I have been baking a lot lately!!!  This is really not by choice, well it is actually, but there have just been so many things I've wanted to bake for lately.  These cookies are the only things I've baked just because I wanted to eat them, hehe (but still ended up bringing about a third into work).  I saw them on Jessica's blog, and after craving chocolate chip cookies for a few weeks, I immediately wanted them!  They were the richest chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.  I think it was due to the brown butter & cinnamon in the recipe which was so yummy, but I think next time I would definitely cut down the sugar to 2/3 cup, that's how I'll share below.  They were SO good warm with a glass of milk!

Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
yields about 18 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chunks (couldn't find so I used chips)
optional: 1- 2 tablespoons milk, if dough is crumbly

Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisking constantly, cook butter until bubbly and until small brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan – about 5-6 minutes. Watch closely and immediately remove the butter from the heat, whisking for an additional 30 seconds or so. Set aside and let cool COMPLETELY. Note: It does not need to solidify at all, but it should not be warm to the touch.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, oats and cinnamon, mixing, then set aside.

Once butter has cooled, add to a large bowl. Whisk in sugars, stirring until smooth. Add in egg and vanilla, whisking until smooth once again. Slowly begin to stir in dry ingredients, using your hands if necessary (I always do) to bring dough together. If you find that the dough still won’t come together, add in milk 1 tablespoon at a time (I rarely have to do this.) Fold in chocolate chips, distributing them evenly. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using an ice cream scoop or your hands, form dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on a nonstick baking sheet, then bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bottoms and edges are golden. Let cool before serving.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pesto, Ricotta, & Roma Tomato Pizza

Homemade pizzas keep getting better and better!  Corey and I both agreed this has to be the best one we've made so far.  The pesto gave it so much flavor!  You could add any other toppings you wanted really, but I loved how simple it was.  And the tomatoes tasted so fresh!  One word, Amazing!!!

Pesto, Ricotta, & Roma Tomato Pizza
via My Life as a Mrs.

1 pound pizza dough (I love Trader Joe's Garlic & Herb)
1/3 pesto
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded (I used fontina)
3-4 ounces ricotta cheese
3-4 roma tomatoes, sliced
Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Roll dough out onto pizza pan.  Spread pesto over entire crust in an even and thin layer.  Sprinkle with fontina.  Evenly spread the tomatoes on top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove pizza from oven.  Scoop ricotta evenly over pizza using a small spoon (use as much or as little as you like).  Bake for another 5 minutes or until pizza dough is cooked through.  Remove from oven and serve!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

My boss / good friend at works birthday was last week so I wanted to make her a special treat!  Her favorite thing ever is cake, so I knew it had to be a cupcake.  I went straight to who else but Jessica at How Sweet it is!  And then I immediately remembered these I had pinned from her about a month ago.  Please click on the link below to her site to see how beautiful hers turned out.  I snapped this picture quick after making these Thursday night, probably around 9:30 pm.  Sorry! 

I realized when I had already taken them out of the oven and was about to make the frosting that I only had 1/2 cup powdered sugar, when the recipe called for 1 3/4 cup...opps!  Time to improvise!  I used what I had and then added a tablespoon at a time of granulated sugar (2 total) to sweeten up the cream cheese.  The frosting actually turned out great.  It had a really rich cream cheese taste that went perfect with the cupcakes.  I've since learned that you can put regular sugar in the blender or food processor to make powdered sugar...good to know for next time!  Also I've found a easy little trick for frosting my cupcakes.  Put the frosting into a zip lock baggie and cut off one corner.  Perfect little disposable piping bag! 

These were absolutely the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever had.  They were very rich and chocolaty but so moist.  I did notice they sank in the middle so if anyone has any suggestions for that, let me know.  If I had one word to describe these cupcakes, it would be incredible!

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes
via How Sweet
makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup fat-free milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream (didn't have so I used milk)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons sour cream
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips or semi sweet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain.  Add milk, cream and vanilla, and mix until combined.  Stir in sour cream.

Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture.  Mix until batter is smooth.  Add in melted butter and stir until smooth.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Line a muffin tin with liners and using a 1/4 cup measure, add batter to each cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 8-ounce blocks of cold cream cheese
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar (I used 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled (or semi-sweet)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and add cocoa powder, increasing the speed to mix. Add in melted chocolate. If the frosting it a bit too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.  If it is too thin, add additional sugar gradually. Frost cupcakes once cooled.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Raspberry Chicken Salad w/ Candied Walnuts & Brie Croutons

I love that raspberries and other berries are soon coming into season!  I was out to lunch last week and saw a salad on the menu with a blackberry vinaigrette.  And while that is still in the back of my mind as something I want to try making soon, it reminded me of this salad I ran across a while ago.  Funny how my mind works isn't it! 

Raspberry vinaigrette, grilled chicken, candied walnuts, & brie...sign me up!!!    I grilled a couple extra chicken breasts while I was making bbq chicken on the grill the night before.  All I had to do was make the dressing, toast up the candied walnuts, melt the brie over a few small slices of bread, and assemble the salad.  This salad was so fresh and yummy.  Mainly due to the combination of the sweet raspberries & the savory brie.  Perfect!

Raspberry Chicken Salad w/ Candied Walnuts & Brie Croutons
adapted from Pink Parsley
serves 3 

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tbs unsalted butter

kosher salt
dried basil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/3 cups fresh raspberries, divided
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs honey, divided
1/4 cup olive oil

2 mini cibatta rolls (can use french bread)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast

6 oz salad greens (I used a spinach)

Toast the walnuts in a nonstick skillet until golden and fragrant, stirring often (happens quickly).  Add the sugar and butter, and stir until the sugar dissolves and coats the almonds.  Transfer to a plate to cool, then break up into pieces.

Whisk together the vinegar, 1/3 cup raspberries, 1 tablespoon of the honey, mustard, salt, pepper, & basil to taste.  Using the whisk, mash the raspberries to incorporate into the other ingredients.  Drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly.  Set aside 1/2 cup for the chicken marinade, and reserve the remaining dressing for the salad.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.  Marinate the chicken in the reserved marinade for 15 minutes, turning every few minutes to evenly coat.

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, and grill, covered, until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side (the internal temperature should be 165 degrees). 

Slice the rolls thinly to get about 4 per roll.  You can either grill the bread or broil it, I found broiling to be easier.  To grill:  1-2 minutes, until toasted.  Flip over and divide the cheese evenly among slices.  Continue grilling, uncovered, until the cheese melts, 2-3 more minutes.  To broil:  place under broiler in oven with cheese over the top until melted.

Toss the salad greens with the reserved vinaigrette.  Top with sliced grilled chicken, raspberries and walnuts, and serve the salad with brie croutons.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches

These were incredible!  I had pinned these a while back and always wanted to try making them, but they definitely exceeded my expectations.  The meat was so tender, the provolone was the perfect cheese melted over the top, and the sweet caramelized onions took it over the top.  I highly recommend using cibatta or a similar bun because they held up perfectly when dipping in the au jus, but were plenty soft enough.  I loved knowing this was cooking away in the crockpot all day and all I had to do was assemble the sandwhiches when I got home.  YUM!

French Dip Sandwiches
adapted from Our Best Bites
Serves approximately 6-8

1 2-3 lb. beef roast
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 1-ounce packages dry onion soup mix
2 c. water
2 cans beef broth
6-8 ciabatta buns
Swiss, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced.
1-2 large onions
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon sugar

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and rub roast with salt and pepper.

When very hot, carefully place roast in pan and sear on all sides. You're not cooking the meat, you're just browning it quickly on all sides to add flavor and seal in the juices.

Place in crockpot and sprinkle with onion soup mixes. Pour water and beef broth over roast.

Cook 8-10 hours on low or cook 4-5 hours on high and another 3-4 hours on low. It's hard to screw this part up; basically, the longer it cooks, the more tender it will be. But you know it's done when you pop a fork in it and the meat just falls apart. When meat is ready, shred with a fork.  (I cooked this on low from about 7 am to 5:30 pm and it was perfect.)

Add sliced onions to pan with butter and sugar.  Cook over medium low heat until caramelized.

Place meat in crusty rolls. Top with cheese and broil open-faced in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes, until bread is golden and cheese is melty.

Ladle juices into small cups for dipping and enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Banana Bread

Every week we typically have around 1-3 bananas left from the bunch that don't get eaten because they just get brown so fast!  We love to make fruit smoothies in our house so I always peel them, cut them in half, and stick them in a baggie in the freezer.  Frozen bananas make the creamiest smoothies!  This Sunday afternoon in particular though I was in the mood for some banana bread!  I used the remaining two bananas from that week along with one from the freezer that I just defrosted in the microwave.  I added a little bit of cinnamon crumble over the top just because but that part is completely unnecessary.  This banana bread is so so good all by itself.  I also added some chopped walnuts as well because I love them!


Banana Bread
via Simply Recipes
yields one loaf

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar (original called for 1 cup)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.

With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla.  Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. A dd the flour and walnuts, mix.

Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan.  Top with cinnamon crumble if desired. 

Bake for 1 hour.  Cool.  Remove from pan and slice to serve.

Cinnamon crumble
from my pear muffins

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cubed butter
~ 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Mix well, until crumbles form.  This is easiest to do with your hands!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

White Chicken Chili

This chili is super warm and creamy and the perfect amount of spicy!  Its thick, but not overpowering and heavy.  Its the perfect cool evening chili if you want to mix things up.

White Chicken Chili
makes one medium sized pot!
via Betty Crocker cookbook

2-3 chicken breasts, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cans chicken broth
2 cans diced green chilies
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 cup half & half

Heat oil in stock pot.  Saute chicken, onion, and garlic powder until chicken is cooked through and onions are tender.  Add beans, chicken broth, green chilies, and remaining seasonings and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sour cream and half & half.  Serve warm!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Strudel

This was seriously so so so good.  It was savory with the roasted garlic & veggies.  The sauce was absolutely perfect just poured right over the top.  And the combination of fresh mozzarella & parmesan with everything else was fantastic.  The puff pastry was so thin that it added enough sort of crunch, without being overpowering or too buttery.  This was so easy to throw together and tasted like something you might order at a restaurant!  And we didn't feel weighed down at all by dinner either.  Definite re-make!

roasted veggies

puff pastry, then pesto

parmesan & mozzarella

roasted veggies on top

rolled up and pull sides up over so they stay

sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic powder, & parmesan & baked

sliced! yummy!

with the sauce on top!

Roasted Vegetable Strudel
adapted from Proud Italian Cook
serves 2-3
*note: I had plenty of leftover veggies so feel free to use whatever sounds good to you, or use the leftover veggies in scrambled eggs, or a quesadilla!

1 sheet puff pastry, found in the frozen section, thawed
2 small zucchini, diced
1 baby eggplant, diced
1 red pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 one onion, sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz artichoke hearts
about 8-10 cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce of choice***
olive oil
salt, pepper, & garlic powder
about 2 tablespoons pesto
thinly sliced mozzarella or shredded mozzarella
fresh or grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 400.  Toss veggies with a small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast until tender...about 20 minutes. 

While veggies are roasting, roll out puff pastry on a baking sheet.  Spread pesto over puff pastry, leaving about a 1/2 inch on all sides.  Sprinkle/layer cheese as desired.  Add as many roasted veggies as will fit over cheese (retaining about 1/4 - 1/2 the red pepper for the sauce).  Roll sides up lengthwise so pastry looks like a log.  I pulled the sides up farther in certain areas so they would stick and not come unrolled. 

Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and rub over the top.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, & parmesan.  Bake at 400 for about 20-25 minutes until crust is golden and is cooked through.

While strudel is baking, make the sauce.  Add about 1/4 - 1/2 of the roasted red pepper to a food processor & about 3/4 cup tomato sauce and puree.  Keep this warm until strudel is done.

Allow strudel to cool enough to slice, and pour sauce over each serving with another sprinkle of fresh parmesan if desired!

***I will post my sauce recipe sometime soon, its nothing fancy and soooo easy to make!  I use one can tomato sauce, one can diced tomatoes, and one small can tomato paste.  Depending on thickness I add water if needed to thin.  Heat through, then I will add tons of seasonings to make it tasty, included sugar, salt, pepper, italian seasoning, basil, garlic, onion powder, and even a touch of butter at the end sometimes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Green Olive & Banana Pepper Cheese Spread

Sorry I couldn't come up with a more creative name for this one!  We first had this little "dip" years ago at a friend's house.  I've since made it for multiple get togethers as its so easy to throw together and always such a big hit.  If you don't like green olives, don't let them defer you from giving this dip a try!  I hate green olives, all olives honestly, but this dip doesn't taste like green olives.  They just sort of add a bite and a saltiness to the dip! 

Green Olive & Banana Pepper Cheese Spread
best served with Ritz crackers for serving in my opinion!

*This is really up to you how much banana peppers & olives you want in the dip.  Here is my rough estimate for about how much I use.  I would just add a little as you are chopping and mix, taste, then continue to add until you get the perfect combo!

One block light cream cheese, 8 oz
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced banana peppers
1/2 cup diced green olives

Mix all ingredients and add more peppers or olives if needed!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Whoo, these might give the pear muffins some competition when it comes to my favorite muffin!  They are so so good!  I've made these a few times but always forget to capture them for the blog.  When my friend Katie came to visit a few weekends ago I decided to make some muffins beforehand to have for breakfast that morning since I knew she was going to have to leave early in the morning and we probably wouldn't have time to make breakfast.  I basically just use the same pumpkin bread recipe I make, but add chocolate chips.  With half the sugar, half whole wheat flour, and a full cup of pumpkin I don't feel too guilty about these!  We like them best at room temperature when the chocolate chips are still whole, but soft.  Perfect with a glass of milk!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
adapted from Pumpkin Bread
yields 12 muffins

3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour (you can use all purpose if you want)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice (didn't have so I used pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1 Preheat oven to 350°F.  Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.
2 Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly.  Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
3 Pour into 12 lined muffin tins.  Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool muffins on a cooling rack.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chicken, Spinach, Pesto, & Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Quite the title I know!  This was just a quick easy dinner and spin off the original mexican quesadilla.  They were really good, and you could throw in whatever you have!  The goat cheese was so savory in the quesadilla.  Measurements are rough estimates as I of course didn't measure!

Chicken, Spinach, Pesto, & Goat Cheese Quesadillas
yields 2 quesadillas

4 wheat tortillas
1 chicken breast, poached and shredded
1 1/2 - 2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
2 ounces goat cheese
2 ounces light cream cheese
2 ounces pesto

Spread pesto on two tortillas.  Spread (or crumble) cream cheese and goat cheese over the other two tortillas.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Place one of the pesto tortillas with pesto face up.  Sprinkle half of the mozzarella evenly over the whole tortilla.  Spread half of the spinach & chicken.  Place one of the goat cheese tortillas with goat cheese down.  Heat until cheese starts to melt and tortilla starts to brown on the bottom, then flip and heat through other side.  Cook other quesadilla the same way.  Cut each into four slices and serve warm and crispy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cobb Salads

Oh man, these salads were incredible.  We love a good salad at our house and the combination of blue cheese, bacon, avocado, hard boiled eggs, you can't go wrong!  We also split a baked potato to make this meal a little more filling.  Perfect meal!  We just used a ranch dressing, but I think a vinaigrette would also be great.

Cobb Salad
serves 3-4
1 head lettuce
2 chicken breasts, poached & shredded
5 sliced bacon, cooked & crumbled
1 avocado, diced
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 hard boiled eggs, diced
blue cheese crumbles
dressing of choice!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Citrus Tilapia

This was a super easy marinade that you could use on any type of fish or even grilled chicken.  It would be great all through the summer.  It came together really quickly as the marinade only took 15 minutes and then it was all baked together in the oven.  I served it over rice, along side of some veggies.

Sweet & Spicy Citrus Tilapia
via My Recipes
serves 3-4

4 tilapia fillets
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Arrange fish in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Combine orange juice and next 9 ingredients (through garlic); pour over fish. Let stand 15 minutes.

Preheat broiler.

Sprinkle fish with paprika; broil 15 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Drizzle sauce over fish.