Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Steak House Spinach Salad

Oh, this is such a good salad! This steak house style salad would make an excellent side to grilled steaks and twice-baked potatoes. Or, a great lunch salad--just toss your dressing at the last minute. We really enjoyed it with the lightened buttermilk dressing recipe from the previous post. Feel free to use beets or tomatoes interchangeably.


Makes 2 entree sized salads or 4 smaller side salads
  • 8 cups baby spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 1 cup shredded carrot (1-2 carrots-depending on size of carrot)
  • 1 cup (~8 oz) grape tomatoes, halved--or 1 cup diced regular tomatoes (~1 tomato) OR chopped beets (from a can is fine)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Dressing of your choice--we prefer the buttermilk ranch featured in previous post 
Gently toss all your salad ingredients together with the dressing of your choice.
Alternate Dressing--whisk all ingredients together and pour over salad: 
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (or less) olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Monday, March 28, 2011

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (Lightened)

I recently tried to make my own ranch dressing. It's better when you can control your own ingredients and punch up your favorite flavors. We love the results of this home-made experiment, Since my friend, Chelsea, asked for the recipe, I'm sharing it below.

Be aware that this dressing is more liquid-y, but we prefer that to more fat--in this case, a little fat goes a long way. Play around with it and see how you like it. This salad dressing is really, really good--less fattening-yet creamy, tangy, and full of flavor. PERFECT with BLT salads.

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is best--but my favorite is the Grapeseed Vegenaise version)
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk
  • Juice of 1 lemon (freshly squeezed)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (mince very finely if you don't have a garlic crusher)
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves (or 1 tsp. dried basil--but fresh is really better in this case)
  • ~1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ~1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • ~1/4 tsp. salt (taste--and add more if necessary)

Place all ingredients into a blender or a small food processer. Blend until incorporated.

Makes enough dressing to cover at least two family sized salads (sorry, I did not measure--but I assume the recipe is close to yielding 1 cup).

Keep dressing covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Salsa Sloppy Joes

Ok, so despite the not-so-appetizing picture, this dinner will please your family. I don't know how to make sloppy joes look good. But this is another recipe that is simple, healthy, fast.

I prefer to buy organic ground turkey breast (at Whole Foods)--as snobby as that sounds, it really seems to make a difference in the taste of some recipes. Since I only cook meat 2-3 times a month, the organic meat cost can be somewhat justified.

Normally, I make Martha Stewart's sloppy joe recipe, but this time I wanted to try something different--a deviation from the overwhelming ketcup flavor of typical sloppy joes. We really enjoyed it and it feels fantastic to get dinner out on the table within 30 minutes.


Serves 6-8 (depending on how meaty you like them) 
  • 1-1 1/4 lb. extra lean ground turkey, organic preferred
  • 2 cups salsa (~16 oz. jar)--we prefer the Herdez brand
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or minced finely
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped 
  • Salt (or Lawry's seasoned salt) & pepper, to taste
  • A dash of oregano and a dash of chili powder
For serving:
  • 6-8 hamburger buns-split, preferably whole grain
  • 6-8 slices of Cheddar cheese or Colby Jack cheese

In a large skillet (sprayed with Pam or other non-stick cooking spray), cook turkey over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until turkey is no longer pink--breaking it up with a spoon/spatula. If turkey starts to stick to the skillet, add some salsa and continue to stir.

When turkey has cooked through, stir in the rest of the salsa, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and green pepper. Add seasonings. Cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Add a piece of cheese to each bun (sometimes we add a piece to each side!) and fill or spoon the sloppy joe mixture on top of the buns. Serve warm. With a stack of napkins.

Friday, March 25, 2011

When Healthy Tastes Good: Brown Rice & Kale "Lasagna"

This recipe is simply marvelous! Earthy from the kale (which is INCREDIBLY good for us), chewy from the brown rice, tangy from the tomato sauce, and then there's the cheese...need I say more? It's a great way to sneak more vegetables into our meals without the groaning. This dish has the taste of lasagna, but it's less greasy and much healthier.

I was VERY skeptical of this recipe when I first saw it on, but, I'm clicking my heels for joy now that I've tried it. This 'lasagna' is getting put into my permanent rotation of meals. Here is the original post--it would be good to read it for more ideas. I have modified how the recipe is written (to make it easier to follow, in my opinion), and slightly adapted it based on my preferences (like the need for a bit more protein) and ingredient availability (didn't want to waste extra rice).

I really hope you all will try this for your families--it tastes absolutely delicious and would make a wonderful Sabbath meal (or Sunday dinner). Also, I do think that this dish could be made ahead and frozen. That is my plan for the next time it will be made at our house.


Serves ~8

For the rice layers:
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/4 cup tomato/pasta sauce (of your choice--I used a Target brand)
2 eggs
1 egg white
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper, to taste

For the vegetable layer:
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large carrot, shredded or diced (I rather preferred it shredded)
1 bunch kale, stemmed and ripped into smaller pieces
1 cup of jarred tomato/pasta sauce
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 egg
1 egg white

4-6 ounces, cheese--I used a mixture of Parmesan, Asiago, and Mozzarella
Chopped parsley, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together 1 1/4 cup of tomato sauce, all the brown rice, 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, the minced garlic clove, 2 of the eggs, and 1 egg white. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray a baking dish (somewhat smaller than a 9X13, but larger than an 8X8) with cooking spray (olive oil preferred). Spread HALF of the rice mixture in this dish (set aside the rest) and bake for 10 minutes to dry it out (somewhat). Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Then, add the onion, celery, and carrot. Saute until tender (about 5 minutes). Add the kale and continue to saute for another minute or two. Add the rest of the tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and the other 1/2 tsp. of the Italian seasoning. Let mixture cool (Confession: I did not & it did not seem to matter--just went ahead with the egg mixing). Mix in the other egg and egg white.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle about 1/3 of your cheese mixture over the rice. Spread all of your vegetable mixture over the cooked rice. Then, add the rest of your rice over the vegetables and smooth it out so that it covers the vegetables evenly. Sprinkle the rest of your cheese on top of this last rice layer.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the lasagna has started to brown.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve warm--preferably with a salad and garlic bread.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

White Chocolate-Apricot-Oatmeal Cookies

Spring is definitely here. And, house smelled like fresh baked cookies yesterday.....With the weather getting warmer, a new Bible study starting, my sweet friend having a's clearly a 'clean slate' kind of season. Here are some signs that spring is present around our house:

And also time to try out some new recipes. This particular cookie is milder from the white chocolate, a bit tart from the apricots, and chewy due to the oatmeal. I added the espresso powder for more flavor and enjoyed it, but you certainly don't have. Give these a go if you're tired of the same old classic oatmeal cookie and want to try a new twist.

Took these sweet treats to the girls. And since it was a new recipe, I was urged to share it by my wonderfully kind pest control guy who graciously accepted the 'taste tester' position. Thanks Kyle. And my sweet babysitter, Rachel, for taking them home :)

Adapted & changed from Martha Stewart
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 7 ounces dried apricots, chopped (~1 1/2 cups)--I used a 6 oz. package
  • 2 Tbsp. espresso powder, or chocolate-covered espresso beans (ground up)--OPTIONAL, but good addition since white chocolate has a milder flavor
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix flour, oatmeal, and baking soda in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, cream butter and sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add salt, vanilla, and eggs, and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.

Add flour mixture gradually, beating until just combined. Stir in chocolate and apricots. Cover, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets (or silpats), spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake until cookies are golden brown around the edges but still soft in the center, 14 to 16 minutes. (Mine took less time so watch your oven!)

Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 1 week. Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Simple Strawberry-Mint Sorbet

Ice-cream, eat your heart out and make room for something lighter: strawberry mint sorbet!!

Thanks to Brooke at for the inspiration on making sorbet. It's as if she was reading my mind...I have clipped about 5 sorbet recipes and when I saw her post on mango sorbet, I had to jump on the bandwagon. So, I threw away all my other versions with sugar and decided to try the sorbet with agave nectar--brillliant idea!

This dessert will make use of the strawberries that are almost in season. It's fat free, smooth, icy, and wonderfully delicious! The mint also adds a superb cooling element (VERY essential to us since our air conditioning went out and we are having 80+ degree weather in March--I know, can't really complain...yet...). I'll have to try Brooke's mango-lime version sometime--right after pineapple-mint. And maybe even try it in the ice-cream maker to compare texture.

Either way, try this sorbet--it's so EASY! You won't even feel guilty giving it to your kids...I think.

  • 4 cups strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and chopped (or 32 oz. frozen strawberries)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice (I used 1/3 cup lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 small handful of fresh mint, rinsed (about 1/4 cup)
If using frozen strawberries, let them thaw for a few minutes. If using fresh strawberries, freeze them for a couple hours.

In a blender, add the agave nectar, citrus juice, strawberries, and mint; puree until smooth. You can add more lemon/lime juice or water if you need to thin it down enough for the food processor to do its job.

Place the strawberry-mint puree in a shallow pan or bowl (I used an 11 X 8 inch glass pan).

Freeze for about 45-60 minutes and try to stir the strawberry mint puree every 15 minutes or until you are ready to serve it.

Makes about 5-6 portions (possibly 4, if you're restrained).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vegetable Ceviche

Sometimes eating vegetarian is just dreamy. Try this recipe and I think you you will agree. This dish is great for days when it's too hot outside to turn on your oven.

Last May, my husband and I vacationed in Cabo San Lucas. We had a great time and decided to celebrate our anniversary dinner a little early at a posh restaurant with NO menu. It was a 7 course meal and the chef was informed of any exclusions in our diet. So when the first course came out as sea bass ceviche, I was a deer in headlights--here was RAW fish. (By the way, here's the scoop on ceviche.) Even when I do eat meat, I don't want to see blood on the plate and I certainly didn't expect raw fish outside of a sushi roll. One would say, I am limited. But one would be wrong--because I ate that raw fish and it was fantastic! Needless to say, the rest of the meal was one of the most amazing culinary experiences we have ever had.

And now that spring is here again, I have been dreaming of that ceviche and wondering how to make a vegetarian option. The result below is very, very good. And incredibly healthy. I ate about half the recipe by myself. But, it would make a great starter option or even as a side dish to grilled fish.

Next time I make this, I will try it with bell pepper and serve it on a lettuce bed with pita chips. It's almost like salsa (is what you're thinking.....)


Makes approximately 4 cups (Can probably serve 4-6 as a small starter)
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 pound (about 6 ounces) of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, slightly drained or 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced (or 1/3 cup scallions, chopped)
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice (I juiced only half a lemon & it was enough)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients EXCEPT for the avocado. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When thoroughly chilled, stir in avocados. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve cold and with pita chips.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Super Duper Stromboli

What's for dinner? Well, if you're pizza lovers like ourselves, you will LOVE this easy stromboli recipe. A stromboli is a usually a baked turnover filled with vegetables or meat. It's also a small island (Strombuli) in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy.

I will admit that stromboli recipes call for pizza dough--but I read that bread dough can work too. However, you can buy pizza dough! This is such an adaptable recipe, you can add or replace any of the filling ingredients with your favorite pizza toppings. It's a lot less greasy than pizza and makes a great dinner when served with marinara sauce for dipping and with a salad.

Also, I imagine that you could prepare it the day or night before (up to the step of brushing it with egg) and wrap it in plastic wrap. When you come home, you can just pop it in the oven. I'm even thinking about trying to freeze one of these for an easy dinner on a crazy weeknight.

  • 1 (13.8 oz) can of pizza dough (Pillsbury is a good brand) OR 1 pizza dough recipe
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey or beef OR 8 oz. of Morningstar meal starters grillers crumbles OR 4-5 crumbled veggie sausage links
  • 1/4 cup of pizza sauce or tomato sauce
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4-1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped olives (green or black)
  • 4 oz. (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Marinara Sauce (for dipping/serving)
Other optional ingredients/options:
  • A diced tomato or two (you can skip the pizza sauce if using tomato)
  • Turkey pepperoni or veggie pepperoni
Heat oven to 400°F. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Brown ground beef in medium skillet over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Set aside. If using veggie meat, NO need to brown!!!!
Saute onions and mushrooms together until cooked through. Add bell pepper at the last minute, if preferred.
Unroll dough; place on sprayed cookie sheet. Starting at center, press out dough with hands to form 12x8-inch rectangle. Spread sauce over dough to within 2 inches of long sides and 1/2 inch of short sides. Place beef or veggie meat lengthwise down center, forming an approximate 3-inch-wide strip and to within 1/2 inch of short sides. Top with cheese, vegetables, olives, and Italian seasoning.

Fold long sides of dough over filling; press edges to seal. Then flip over (use another pan underneath & turn over). Brush the stromboli with egg and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake at 400°F. for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Slice and serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Serves about 4-6 people. It's absolutely delicious! (Sorry for the bad pictures--it was night again!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Arugula, Pear, and Parmesan Salad

It suddenly occurred to me to throw some pears in a salad last night. We were having a savory cheese pie (don't ask for the recipe--my mom brought it down from Chicago and it was hand made by some Polish bakers) and it just screamed for something crisp alongside. Inspired by the The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking recipe, the salad below was the result. It was simply divine--another one of those cases where a handful of simple, good-quality, ingredients is all you need for stand-out food.

The crispness of the pear and lemon flavors really balanced out the slight peppery taste of the arugula with the mellowness of the Parmesan. Using coarse salt seems to really make the flavors pop even more. The proportions in the original recipe were off to me, so I've adapted it. If you don't have the nut oils (which are wonderful!--but quite a bit more expensive & should be stored in the fridge as they can go rancid), feel free to use extra virgin olive oil. This would be a really impressive and easy bistro-style salad for a weekend lunch with soup or quiche. I hope you'll try it!


Serves 4
  • *5 oz. fresh arugula (washed & dried)
  • 2 pears, original recipe calls for Bartlett, I preferred Bosc (brown skin, slightly crisper & more tart)
  • 3 oz. FRESHLY grated Parmesan (if you can grate big long pieces off of a chunk, even better!)
  • Juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, slightly toasted
  • 2-3 Tbsp. hazelnut, almond, or walnut oil
  • Sea salt & freshly groun pepper, to taste
Microwave the walnuts for about a minute or so until they are JUST toasted. It really brings out their flavor. Or, you can toast them lightly in a frying pan (with no extra oil) over medium heat for a couple minutes--being careful not to burn them!

Core the pears and slice (thick is asked for in original--I prefer thinner slices)--no need to peel. Moisten with lemon juice to keep the flesh white.

Combine the nut oil and remaning lemon juice with the pears. Add the arugula leaves and Parmesan and toss. Season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and toss once again.

Turn the salad out onto four small plates with more shavings of Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serve this salad with good bread.

*You can find arugula at most grocery stores these days--it's prepackaged in a plastic container near the different kinds of salads or spinach that are also prepackaged (near refrigerated salad dressings).

(By the way, it is nearly impossible for me to get good food pictures if taken at night. Anyone have any tips on how to them better?)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rustic Romanian Sour Cherry Cake (Pandispan)

This rustic tart cherry cake was one of my most favorite desserts as a little girl. My Romanian grandmother made it, my Romanian mother made it, and now you and I can say that we can make it too. It's a traditional Romanian dessert with an Ottoman name--'Pandispan' which literally means 'Spanish bread' filled with sour cherries. I was so grateful to be able to bake with my mom for a bit on my parents' latest visit. I miss them already....

So, this is basically a sponge cake that traditionally calls upon tart cherries--but you can make it with regular sweet cherries too. With the exception of the cherries, it has basic ingredients that you would most likely have in your house: eggs, salt, sugar, flour, baking soda, some optional citrus zest, etc. It mades a terrific snack cake with tea in the afternoon or as a coffee cake served with a latte. My husband's eyebrows did a backflip when he finished his first bite. I love, love, love this simple, rustic, fruity, fluffy cake!

The beauty of this cake (and why I like to call it "Chameleon Cake") is that it works for so many different kinds of fruits! You can make this cake with blueberries, apricots, etc. And, if you get really creative, you can use nuts and/or essences such as almond, orange, etc. Also, the ratio is pretty much 1:1:1 on eggs, flour, sugar.


  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 6-7 Tbsp. sugar PLUS 2 Tbsp. more sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • Scant 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • Zest of one lemon OR orange (your preference--you can skip it, but the lemon is delightful!)
  • 2 Tbsp. oil (my mom uses olive oil, we tried almond oil this time--but canola or vegetable should work too)
  • ~4 cups tart cherries or regular cherries (fresh preferred, frozen fine to use too--no need to defrost)
  • Powdered sugar or vanilla sugar (for serving)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9X13 inch pan (or two 8X8 pans).

In a medium-large bowl, beat just the separated egg whites with the salt until frothy and foamy (maybe a minute or less)--you can use a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Add the 6-7 tablespoons of sugar by one at a time and continue to beat in between each addition. Add the baking powder and continue to beat until the eggs are completely whipped and you can see slight peaks.

Here's what it will look like:

Very gently fold in the oil with a spatula. Then fold in the egg yolks and flour--one egg yolk and one tablespoon of flour at a time until pretty much incorporated. Then add the citrus zest. Fold the mixture from the outside in (or basically mix the bottom and flip it over the top--sort of in a clockwise motion and work your way around the bowl) with a rubber spatula being careful not to stir in the opposite direction (which can 'deflate' the fluffy egg mixture). Folding in this way will help keep the cake light. (Folding-in my world- then, means 'gentle smooth overlapping mixing.')

Pour the, now pale yellow, mixture into the 9 X 13 inch pan. I like to use a glass dish so you can see all the pretty red cherries.

Meanwhile, mix the 1-2 Tbsp. of leftover sugar with the cherries. Drop the cherries into the batter by hand and evenly disperse. There isn't any need to push the cherries down into the batter--they will fall into the batter on their own, somewhat.

(In the picture above, we were experimenting with pan sizes, so our cherries didn't sink into the batter as much as usual-- since we used a pan that was too small and we overflowed it with batter and not enough cherries--hence the need for a 9 X 13 inch pan!--but as you can see, still a pretty rustic cake.)

Bake the pandispan cake for about 50-60 minutes--or until the cake center is not jiggling very much, a toothpick inserted comes out clean, and the top starts to get golden in color.

Let the cake cool. Cut into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or vanilla sugar before serving. Can also be served with ice cream.

Serves 6-8.

This is a WONDERFULLY simple cake. I took it to my  'Pleasantville' neighbors here in Memphis suburbia. So good!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mocha Cupcakes with Truffle Cream Cheese Frosting

How wonderful--another excuse to bake came my way--I was asked to bring dessert for two events this week. Don't recall where I got this recipe, but I've adapted it from a bundt cake to cupcakes and it worked well (surprisingly). By the end of my time in the kitchen, I was absolutely covered in chocolate. And in desperate need of a gym.

The frosting recipe is from, but I've adapted it somewhat as well. You can use a buttercream or ganache topping for the cupcakes if you like; but I prefer the tanginess from the cream cheese mixed with the sophistication of dark chocolate.

This is a more 'adult' cupcake recipe; however, cupcakes seem to bring out the kid in all of us!

 Please enjoy!!!

  • 1 box devil's food cake mix (pudding recipe preferred but not necessary)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup water (I prefer to use milk)
  • 3/4 cup strong, black coffee
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup Kahlua or coffee liqueur
  • 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients and beat for 4 minutes. Batter will be runny. Don't panic. Trust me, it will be fine.

Pour batter into liners inserted into a muffin pan. Bake for approximately 19-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean (a few crumbs sticking to toothpick is ok--just no liquid/stickiness).

Frost cupcakes and decorate however you would like. (I used candy flowers purchased at a baking supply store.)

YIELD: Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes (if you don't overfill them with batter like I did--huge mistake I always make!)

 Makes approximately 5 cups of frosting--just right to frost 2 dozen cupcakes. 
  • 1 1/2 pkgs (12 oz) cream cheese (I use reduced fat cream cheese with no problems)
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (or half & half or whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
In double boiler melt chips and add heavy cream, mix until smooth. Turn off the heat. OR, alternatively, melt the chocolate chips with the cream in the microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time--stopping to mix in order to prevent burning. (Some people find this method trickier, but I prefer it since it uses a few less dishes--lazy cook that I am....)

In mixing bowl cream together sugar and cream cheese until smooth, slowly add chocolate mixture. Mixture will thicken up as the chocolate cools. (You can also place frosting in the refrigerator for a few minutes before frosting your cupcakes if the frosting is too soft).

You should have 24 cupcakes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Product Reviews: Kitchen Pot/Pan Organizers

I'm guessing that we all have space issues in our kitchen. Some of us more than others. When we can't find what we're looking for, it makes it hard to want to cook or even know what to cook. If you find yourself wanting to pull your hair out from frustration when you dig for a pan in a cabinet only to be met with many other pans and/or lids crashing into each other or onto you, these products may be for you!!

On a recent jaunt to Walmart (yes, my first time since NOVEMBER!), I found a great pan organizer by Rubbermaid. It was $8.96. The chrome version below can be purchased on Amazon for $9.99.

It made such a huge difference in my cramped cabinet:

The lid organizer on the top left was a separate purchase last year, but also from Walmart and also by Rubbermaid. It was about $8. I think they still have it at the store. I realize the colors of my organizers do not match, but I'll live with it. If you are looking for something that you can purchase without leaving your home (and leave your sanity intact), you can organize lids with THIS product here from Amazon:
And if you're wanting to sort other pans, as well as lids, THIS rack is very handy.
There is a cabinet door lid rack as well that you can buy HERE on Amazon:

Lastly, if you're curious about the blue felt separators/protectors, my mother in law gave them to us girls last year to prevent our pans scratching each other when stacked. They are very handy and stay in place much better than my previous ghetto paper towel method that didn't even work. If you'd like to purchase something like that, HERE is where you can get them on Amazon.

Sadly, considering that we now have a toddler--this is the most organized place in the house at present. If anyone has any other great organizing finds, please let me know! I've got the itch to do more...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta & Cabbage Slaw

A wonderful thing happened to me. Because of Facebook, I got reacquainted with an old classmate--former pastry chef & friend extraordinaire, Julie. I have never forgotten my sweet friend and now we talk about motherhood and recipes instead of boys and Banana Republic. Anyway, long story short--she sent me this amazing recipe that she makes for her family--this should go in your 'what are we having for dinner?' file ASAP (Julie, please send me more-this recipe was UNBELIEVABLY GOOD!).

These black bean tacos with cabbage slaw & feta are relatively fast, cheap, and healthy. Plus, you won't miss the meat. Serve with Spanish rice if you want. Easily double or quadrulple the recipe for more people. Really, this is one of my most favorite meals--love, love, love it!
(By the way, I tried them with regular queso/Mexican cheese and feta and the feta won out in the taste department--it may sound strange, but it works beautifully!)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen & Une-Deux Senses

Yields: 6 tacos, 2 servings

For the black beans:
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or chopped however)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 For the cabbage slaw:
  • 2 tsp. olive oil (I skipped this & didn't miss it)
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • *2 cups coleslaw mix
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise or sour cream (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (try a smoked salt for a real punch of flavor!)
 For the tacos:
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 corn OR flour tortillas
  • ~1/3-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (reduced fat is fine!)
  • Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
 To make the bean mixture: In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the black beans, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Use a fork to slightly mash the beans and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

To make the cabbage slaw: Mix 2 tsp. of olive oil and lime juice in a medium bowl. Add the coleslaw, green onions, cilantro and toss to coat. If desired, you can also add the sour cream/mayonnaise for a creamier slaw. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For tortillas: Heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat (I used cooking spray--but keep your vent on). Add three tortillas in a single layer. Once golden brown, flip, then spoon 1/4 of the bean mixture onto each tortilla and cook for 1 minute or until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining tsp. of oil (or cooking spray) and tortillas.

To serve: Fill the tacos with feta and slaw. Serve with hot sauce, lime wedges and sour cream.

*To make your own cabbage slaw mix: combine equal parts of shredded green & purple cabbage--(adding shredded carrots or radishes is totally optional).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Roast Tomatillo Salsa

 Be brave. Be very brave. Try green salsa. It's really good!

WOWSA! I cannot believe that this week was the FIRST TIME I've ever bought a tomatillo. On our wild drive across the state this week (due to thunderstorms & tornadoes), we stopped to eat at Moe's. If any of you have ever gone to Moe's or a restaurant like it, you know that it's a good time. Well, I tried their delicious mild tomatillo salsa again and thought, 'I should try this at home'--even though I find uncommon ingredients such as tomatillos 'intimidating'. We are afraid of what we don't know--from the future, to tomatillos :)

Moe's tomatillo salsa was probably made with fresh tomatillos, but after reading about tomatillo salsa, I decided to roast mine. Inspired by a recipe from Gourmet magazine (November 1999), my first adventure was successful. This salsa is very different than your average salsa--sweeter, more tart. But perfect with really salty tortilla chips. I think next time, I might use this salsa to top enchiladas or to make chicken chili.
Here is the original recipe--mine below is changed significantly and I'm sticking with it.

By the way, tomatillos are NOT green tomatoes! They belong to the same family--the 'nightshade' family--which also includes the potato and eggplant. Tomatillos are a staple of the Hispanic diet and used in many sauces. Oh, and if you wonder where to get them outside of your regular grocery store, try a Hispanic market/grocery store--they should be plentiful there.


Makes about 3.5 cups.
  • 2 lbs. fresh tomatillos
  • *2-3 fresh jalapeno peppers (seeded or unseeded--your call--keeping in mind that's where most of the heat resides)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (I used half a red onion and half a white onion)
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
Preheat broiler. Set cilantro aside.

Remove tomatillo husks and rinse under warm water to remove stickiness. Cut them in quarters or halves. Place the peppers, garlic, and fresh tomatillos on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat, turning ingredients once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 7-10 minutes.

Pulse all ingredients (including the cilantro) in a food processor (you can do it in the blender, but I prefer to use the processor so as to retain some texture and not end up with a puree).

*You can always use serrano chili peppers as the original recipe calls for but I can only handle one new ingredient a week so I went with jalepenos. Plus, I think they may be less spicy...someone correct me if I'm wrong.

With limeade (or margaritas), it will make an amazing pre-dinner snack. We sat out on our porch enjoying this salsa and even the 22 month old liked it:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crusty White Peasant-Style Pot Bread

By now, if you've been reading my blog, you know my love affair with Kneadlessly Simple. I think I have made about 8 recipes so far. Every single one a hit. And I think it's because I let the dough sit for a long, long time--and I have minimal involvement.

This particular loaf is like the NYT bread....almost. Call it 2.0. It's a bit moister....I like them both equally well. So if you liked the first post on easy no-knead bread, you might want to try this one too and taste them side by side to see which you prefer. If you don't care to bake bread, just skip over this post :)

Tip: It's best to use a cast iron Dutch oven if you have it. The bread usually doesn't stick to seasoned plain or enameled cast iron, but if you aren't sure about your pot, spritz the interior with a little nonstick spray immediately before you turn out the dough into it.

Here is Nancy's original post on the bread--she links to a video to show how YOU can do it!

MY TITLE: Extraordinarily Ordinary Easy & Delicious Everyday White Bread
Adapted from Nancy Baggett's Kneadlessly Simple

Makes 1 large loaf, 12 to 14 slices.

4 cups (20 ounces) unbleached all-purpose white flour or white bread flour, plus more as needed
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. table salt
3/4 tsp. instant, fast-rising or bread-machine yeast
2 cups ice water, plus more if needed
Corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil or oil spray for coating dough (I used olive oil)

First Rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Vigorously stir the water into the bowl, scraping down the sides and mixing until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, stir in more water, a bit at a time, just enough to blend the ingredients. Don't over-moisten; the dough should be very stiff. If necessary, stir in enough more flour to yield a hard-to-stir dough. Brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, you can refrigerate the dough for three to 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. If convenient, vigorously stir the dough once about halfway through the rise.

Second Rise: Using an oiled rubber spatula, gently lift and fold the dough in toward the center, all the way around, until mostly deflated; don't stir. Brush or spray the surface with oil. Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap that has been coated with nonstick spray. Let rise using any of these methods: for a 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature; for a 1- to 2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water; or for an extended rise, refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Continue the rise until the dough doubles from the deflated size; remove the plastic if the dough nears it.

Baking Preliminaries: 20 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Heat a 3 1/2- to 4-quart (or larger) heavy metal pot or Dutch oven in the oven until sizzling hot (test with a few drops of water), then remove it, using heavy mitts. Taking care not to deflate the dough (or burn yourself), loosen it from the bowl sides with an oiled rubber spatula and gently invert it into the pot. Don't worry if it's lopsided and ragged-looking; it will even out during baking. Generously spritz or brush the top with water. Immediately top with the lid. Shake the pot back and forth to center the dough.

Baking: Bake on the lower rack for 55 minutes. Remove the lid. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until center registers 209 to 212 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). When it seems done, bake 5 minutes longer to ensure the center is baked through. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the loaf to the rack and cool thoroughly.

Serving And Storing: Cut or tear the loaf into portions; it tastes good warm but will cut much better when cool. Cool completely before storing. To maintain the crisp crust, store draped with a clean tea towel or in a heavy paper bag. Or store airtight in a plastic bag or wrapped in foil: The crust will soften, but can be crisped by heating the loaf, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. The bread will keep at room temperature for three days, and may be frozen, airtight, for up to two months.

(NOTE: If you store it (or seal) while bread is slightly warm, you will achieve a soft crust and not a crispy crust).

VARIATION: Crusty Rosemary And Olive Pot Bread — Stir 1 cup pitted, coarsely chopped kalamata olives (well drained) and 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh (not dried) rosemary needles (discard the stems) into the dough along with the water. Proceed exactly as directed.