Pumpkin Pie Squares

Ordinarily I don't like pumpkin pie.  I like pumpkin flavors, like muffins, cakes, coffee creamer, etc., but I have never liked pumpkin pie.  Now, as these squares are currently cooling on my stovetop as we speak, I can't tell you if they taste like pumpkin pie or not.  All I can tell you is that they smell amazing (and the lone swipe I took off the beater was pretty darn tasty).

The original recipe from food.com had a different topping...I substituted oatmeal for the pecans because, well, I don't have pecans.  You work with what you have, right?

1 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c oatmeal
1/2 c softened butter

2 c canned pumpkin
12 1/2 oz evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c sugar

2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 c chopped pecans (I used quick oats)
1/2 c brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the crust ingredients together and press into a lightly sprayed 9x13 pan.  Bake 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the filling ingredients.  Beat well with a mixer.

Pour the filling onto the hot crust, bake 20 more minutes.

Stir together the topping ingredients, sprinkle on top of the filling.

Bake 20 minutes more.

Let cool, cut into squares.  Bet they're good served topped with whipped cream, eh?

Cappuccino Yogurt Muffins

It's no secret that I love coffee.  Nor is it a secret that I love muffins.  Or it least it shouldn't be, I have enough recipes for them posted!  I came across this recipe in The Maxwell House Coffee Drinks & Desserts Cookbook.  Moist and yummy (plus your house will smell amazing).

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1 envelope instant cappuccino mix, any flavor
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c cold brewed strong coffee
1/2 c coffee or vanilla flavored yogurt
1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 c toasted chopped almonds
1/2 c chopped dried apricots, or other dried fruit

Heat oven to 375.  Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Stir the flour, sugar, cappuccino mix, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir the eggs, coffee, yogurt, and melted butter in a medium bowl until well blended.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.  Stir in the almonds and apricots.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Make 1 dozen muffins

Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake Square

This one is going to be short, sweet and to the point.  Taken from Zucchini, Pumpkins & Squash by Kathleen Desmond Stang.

Gingersnap crust:
About 20 gingersnaps, broken into large pieces
1/4 c granulated sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted

Cheesecake filling:
11 oz (8- and 3-oz pkgs) lowfat cream cheese, softened (I like Neufchatel)
1/3 c lowfat sour cream
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 lg egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Line bottom and sides of 9x9x2-inch square pan with foil.  Grease the foil on the bottom and 1 inch up the sized of the pan.

To make the crust: Process the gingersnaps in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped.  You should have about 1 c of crumbs.  Combine the gingersnap crumbs, sugar and butter in a small bowl.  Pat into an even layer in the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

To make the filling:  Beat the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated sugar and flour in the large bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Place 3/4 c of the cream cheese mixture in a bowl and stir in the pumpkin puree and brown sugar.

Spoon the plain cream cheese mixture evenly over the crumb layer in the pan.  Dollop the pumpkin on top and swirl with a fork to make a decorative design.  Bake for 25 minutes or until firm in the middle when gently shaken.  Cool in the pan 1 hour.  Chill thoroughly.

To serve, lift cheesecake and foil from the pan.  Cut into squares and remove from the foil to a serving plate.

Makes 16 pieces.

A Taste of Italy, The Aftermath

So our celebration of all Italian food has deliciously come and gone.  It was perfect fall weather for an outdoor party featuring all cozy and warm dishes.  We had a fire going outside and all the fun Italian music a person could dance to (if you don't know any of Louis Prima's songs, you need to!).  I am going to post all of the recipes I made, but here is what we had:

*White Bean Dip with Pita Chips
*Hot Sausage and Peppers
*Mushroom Stew
*Mussels in Wine Sauce
*Chicken Rigatoni with Butternut Squash Sauce
*Tomato Pie (not a traditional pie filled with tomatoes. Google it to see it's basically pizza without cheese)
*Chicken Eggplant Rolls with Ziti
*Anginetti (Iced Lemon Cookies)
*Zuppa Inglese (the Italian version of an English Trifle)
*Limoncello (liquer)
*Grappa (brandy)

Phew!  Just picturing the table makes my stomach growl.  I hope I didn't miss anything!  I hope we do it again, with a whole new table of dishes.  Next time I'll invite ya.

My daughter...Gabriella Mozzarella, whatsamattafayou?

White Bean Dip with Pita Chips

So I'll admit it...I'm a bit of a scatterbrain.  In my last post, I gushed about all the fabulous dishes that were going to be at our feast of the Italian foods, and how I was going to post the pictures of said deliciousness.  Wellllll.....I never took any pictures.  Not of the food, anyway.  Of everything else, yes.  But not the food.  I will, however, post the recipes I made anyway, because they were fantastic.  You'll just have to picture in your mind how great they will look.

I found this bean dip in one of Giada DeLaurentiis's cookbooks.  Full credit goes to her, as I followed the recipe exactly for a change.  And boy was it good!  For such an easy recipe with few ingredients, it's really a winner.  I did double the recipe, however, because singularly it only makes about a cup of dip.

A note...Giada gives the directions for making your own pita chips.  This is a no-brainer, and I'm not going to include it because I went the easier way and bought 2 bags of Stacy's pita chips (which are as close to homemade tasting as you'll find!)

2 (15 oz ea) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
2/3 c olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine beans, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  Pulse on and off until coarsely chopped.  With machine still running, gradually mix the olive oil until creamy.  Season if necessary with more salt and pepper.

It's that easy!  Serve cold or at room temperature with the pita chips.

A Taste of Italy

My family loves to get together.  Doesn't matter the time of year, we don't need a reason, we just enjoy each other's company.  Throw good food into the mix and it just doesn't get much better. 

A couple of years ago we had our own Oktoberfest, complete with goofy hats with feathers and decorations.  All we were missing was leiderhosen.  We all contributed different German dishes and ended up with enough food to feed an army.  Even our beer was German.  While we were stuffing our faces, we all agreed that we'd like to do it again another year, but this time with Italian food.  My father is full-blooded Italian, so we grew up eating a lot of it. 

That day has arrived, and we're gathering once again at my parents' place for our Taste of Italy.  I spent the day preparing for my contributions.  I will post the recipes once I have taken pictures at the party.

To start, I made White Bean Dip with Pita Chips, a recipe I found in a cookbook by Giada DeLaurentiis.  That chick knows her Italian food!  She did state that the pita chips are not authentically Italian (duh), but they go nicely with the dip.  She's right; my little taste-test proved it.

Next I made my meatballs.  Mom asked me to make them, and she's prepared the sauce to go with them.  We both had a lot to make, so we went in 50/50 on this one.  The meatballs in one word are....amazing.  Or as one girl says on this new show I've been watching, "ah-mahzing".

I knew I wanted to make a dessert or two, since no one else was.  I started simple with a cookie called Anginetti.  It's a lemon cookie with a lemon icing.  They look and smell glorious.  I cannot attest to their taste though...the recipe made less than 2 dozen cookies.

Finally, I decided a second dessert was in order.  After a lot of recipe searching, I found Zuppa Inglese.  The literal translation is "English Soup".  That just sounds nasty.  But several other dictionary-type websites kept referring to it as an English trifle.  I assume it's the addition of ladyfingers that makes it Italian.

Speaking of ladyfingers, I apparently live in an area where they just aren't available.  I tried every grocery store in our county AND a few in the next county over.  No luck.  So....I had to make my own.  I was very nervous about it.  It's an involved process involving making a meringue-like base, and I wasn't sure I could do it gently enough.  Psssh.  No problem.  They came out just perfect.  I am assembling the Zuppa Inglese tomorrow (the morning of the party) because I think doing so ahead of time will make everything soggy and soupy.  Hmm, maybe that's why it's called English Soup...

Anyway, once we laugh, drink, and stuff ourselves close to explosion, I will post my recipes and the pictures to go along with them.  Cheers!

Cookbook Giveaway!

Who wants a chance to win a cookbook?  Go here for all the details!

Pumpkin Spice Ring with Cinnamon Glaze

Fall means pumpkins and apples.  To me, at least.  We had a family barbeque to go to, and I didn't want to show up empty handed.  I decided a quick dessert would be my best option, as I tend to wait til the last minute for everything.  Not long after scouring the internet for ideas, I came up with this.  It was a huge hit.  I think every person there complimented me.  Can't complain about that!

1 (18.25 oz) box angel food cake mix
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Combine pumpkin and spices.  Mix well and set aside.

Mix cake as directed on box.  Fold in pumpkin.  Pour in ungreased tube pan (I used my Pampered Chef stoneware bundt pan).  Bake at 350 til lightly browned, using the box directions as a guide.  Remove from oven, cool completely before applying the glaze.

4 oz Neufchatal cheese (or any cream cheese)
2 Tbsp 2% milk (original recipe called for cream)
1 c confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c raisins

Using a mixer, blend together cheese, vanilla, and milk until light and fluffy.  Stir in the spices and sugar.  Drizzle over cooled cake.  Sprinkle with raisins.

Rox's Rockin' Chili

My mom is an amazing cook.  I learned about 95% of what I know about cooking from her, and it has become our shared hobby.  She's even published her own cookbook.  Her chili has been a family favorite since my childhood.  When I struck out on my own, she made me a little cookbook of her basic recipes and thankfully this little nugget was one of them.  We had this tonight for dinner, and everyone left the table full and happy.

Mom tends to make enough food to feed the county, so I have scaled this down to feed my family of little eaters.  Once the kids get bigger, I imagine I'll be using her full recipe.  But until then, this works for us.

1 (20 oz) can kidney beans
2 (28 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 lb lean hamburger (frozen)
1 onion, chopped
2 cans mushrooms
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sugar
Note:  do not use any garlic as it will taste too much like spaghetti sauce

In a large pot, bring the hamburger and about 2 an inch of water to a boil.  Keep scraping the hamburger off the frozen bulk as it cooks.  When the hamburger is all broken up, reduce the heat to medium-high.  Do not drain the water off of the hamburger!  Add the onion.  Cook until onions are soft.  Add the tomato sauce, kidney beans (plus their liquid), mushrooms and spices.  Turn burner to low and simmer for at least 2 hours.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Birthdays are a big deal in my family.  My mother's birthday was the other day, and yesterday we had a picnic at one of the local state parks.  It was a beautiful day for a picnic!  As the baker in the family, I felt it was my duty to make some rocking birthday dessert, and as we were doing a picnic I wanted to take something picnicky.  Enter Caramel Apple Cupcakes.

Once in a while I have to break out of my usual mold and use a prepackaged mix.  When it comes to cooking and baking, I like to make as much as I can using "real" ingredients.  But when I found this, I knew I had an easy winner on my hands. 

What we do to the poor person with a birthday

1 package (18 1/4 oz) spice cake mix
2 c chopped and peeled tart apples
20 caramels
3 Tbsp milk
1 c finely chopped pecans, toasted

Prepare cake batter according to package directions.  Fold in apples.  Fill paper lined muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a saucepan, cook the caramels and milk over low heat until smooth.  Spread over cupcakes.  Sprinkle with pecans.

Obviously I did not have the pecans, but I included them in the recipe because they would be so good.

Zucchini Cornbread Casserole

It has been over A MONTH since I've added a recipe.  Shame on me and slap my hand.  This little thing called life hasn't allowed me much time for what has become my favorite hobby.  Hopefully with school starting, things will settle down around here and I can get back to it.

I found this on allrecipes.com.  As usual, I modified it to suit our tastes.  Even my pickiest eater liked it.  It smelled awesome while baking!

4 c shredded zucchini
1 onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 (8.5 oz) package Jiffy cornbread mix
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
Beer Can Chicken BBQ seasoning (or any other BBQ seasoning you have)
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the zucchini, onion, eggs, Jiffy, and spices.

Stir in half of the cheese.  Spread into the dish, top with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 60 minutes or until golden brown.

Chocolate Zucchini Cookies

I love using zucchini in dessert-type recipes.  Sneaks in a little veggie for the kiddos....except my oldest is hip to it and insists she doesn't like zucchini, even though I insist to her that it's kind of tasteless.  She did, however, inhale one of these cookies like she was never going to eat again.  So I'd say it's kid-tested, kid-approved.  The zucchini is about the only thing good for you in these cookies, but hey, sometimes ya just gotta live a little.

1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c oil
2 1/4 c flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 c grated zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease two cookie sheets.

Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, vanilla and oil.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Gradually stir into the creamed mixture.  Fold in the zucchini.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the prepared sheets.

Bake one sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Makes 24 cookies.

Zucchini Egg Bake

I know, I know....more zucchini.  Get used to, every day I have one or two more to pick out of the garden!  But I will mix it up by giving you both sweet and savory ways to enjoy the ever abundant veg.  I made chocolate zucchini cookies the other night (I'm posting that one too) and had leftover shredded zucchini I had to use up.  My best recipes come when I just start throwing stuff together.  This was no exception.  SOOO good. 

I don't have any pictures of it, because my kitchen doesn't have the right lighting for nighttime pics.  Everything has an orange glow to it.  Stupid kitchen.  Have I mentioned how much I hate my kitchen?  It has, however, made me learn to do a lot in very little space.  That's my silver lining for the day.

6 eggs
splash of milk
2 c shredded zucchini
1 c croutons
1/2 c chopped pepperoni
1/4 c shredded cheese of your choice (I had mozzarella)
spices to taste:
   salt (go easy, remember both the pepperoni and croutons are already salty)
   garlic powder
   onion powder
   Beer Can Chicken BBQ seasoning (or any other BBQ seasoning you have)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a pie plate with nonstick spray.

Scramble the eggs with the milk.  Add the spices, mix well.  Stir in the zucchini, croutons, pepperoni and cheese.

Pour into the pie plate.  Bake for 20 minutes or until it is done in the center.

Zucchini Pasta Toss

Zucchini is something that I have a love/hate relationship with.  When I plant my garden, I mentally rub my hands gleefully together in anticipation of the promise of an abundant harvest.  By the end of the gardening season, I hope to never see another zucchini again.  Right now I'm in the middle stage of the relationship...I'm enjoying going out to the garden every day and picking one or two, but now they're starting to pile up on my counter.

Usually I am the zucchini bread queen of the world.  It has been so hot here the last few weeks, the last thing I wanted to do was start the oven.  I didn't know what to make for supper, and when that happens, creativity strikes.  This is what I came up with, and it was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  The fam agreed.

1 box pasta (I used radiatore)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 c shredded zucchini
3/4 c shredded cheese of your choice (I had mozzarella on hand)
1/2 c plain yogurt
Spices to taste:
onion powder

Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute garlic, being careful not to brown it too much.  Stir in zucchini, one handful at a time, stirring after each.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring ocassionally.  Spoon the yogurt into the zucchini, mix well.  Turn heat down to low and let rest while pasta is cooking, stirring ocassionally.

Once pasta is cooked and drained, return it to the pasta pot.  Stir in the zucchini.  Stir in the shredded cheese until melted.  Serve hot with crusty bread.

Berries and Cream Dessert Triangles

Happy post-4th of July!

We went to a barbeque at my parents' house, which has become tradition.  I was recruited, among other things, to make dessert.  This turned out to be such a lovely dessert.  It was easy, as the crust is pre-made sugar cookie dough.  I made these triangles on my Pampered Chef bar pan, which was the perfect size.  Most recipes I make rarely turn out looking like the picture, but these turned out so pretty, just like the picture.  This was a hit with even the pickiest of eaters.  My cousin's future stepson redefines "picky eater", and he loved these.  He said they tasted like a Toaster Streudel, and darned if he isn't right.  A cold Toaster Streudel, but still delicious.

Photo courtesy of pillsbury.com

2 rolls (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 cup white vanilla baking chips (6 oz)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 15x10x1-inch pan with cooking spray. Press cookie dough in bottom of pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.  (I did this step a day in advance).
In small microwaveable bowl, microwave baking chips uncovered on High 45 to 60 seconds or until chips are melted and can be stirred smooth. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in melted chips until blended. Spread mixture over crust. Refrigerate while making topping.
In 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Cool 10 minutes.
In medium bowl, gently stir strawberries and 1/4 cup cornstarch mixture together until well mixed. In another bowl, gently stir remaining 1/4 cup cornstarch mixture and blueberries together until well mixed. Spoon strawberry mixture lengthwise over half of cream cheese mixture and blueberries over remaining half of cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Cut bars in half lengthwise; cut each half into eight 3 1/2-inch triangles. Store in refrigerator.
You can find the original recipe here.

Frosted Rhubarb Cookies

Ah, rhubarb.  Pretty much a summer staple around here.  When most people think of rhubarb, they automatically think of strawberries.  Not me.  I like my rhubarb recipes sans strawberries.  Don't get me wrong; I like a good strawberry rhubarb pie, but it's not a necessity.

As I've mentioned before, once a month I make cookies for my father.  Well, they're specifically for him, but my mother enjoys the occasional cookie as well.  Good for me, because I get her feedback as well.  Most of the cookies I make for him are a "first time" recipe and I want to know if it's a keeper or not.

This cookie is a keeper.

I wish I would have taken a picture.  Alas, laziness prevailed and I have no photographic proof of these delightful cookies.

You're just going to have to make your own to see how yummy they look.  And smell.  And taste...

A side note:  I added about 1/4 cup of ground flax seed.  Gotta sneak the good stuff into Dad's monthly cookies for the folks whether they like it or not...I'm talkin' to you, MOM!

1 c butter
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
3 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c rhubarb, chopped
3/4 c coconut

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar.  Beat in the eggs.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to the creamed mixture.  Stir in rhubarb and coconut.  Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla.  Gradually add confectioners sugar until smooth.  Spread over cooled cookies.  Store cookies in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pretzel Bars

Not following a recipe finally bit me in the butt.  That's not to say these bars aren't fantastic, but they're not what I anticipated they'd be. If you aren't a dunce like I am, and don't leave out key ingredients, these will be just great.

I used all of my chocolate chips a few weeks ago, but I figured I could substitute.  Uh, hello?  Chocolate chip cookie pretzel bars?  What I did have was squares of white baker's chocolate that I had bought when I made the spaghetti and meatball cake for my dad's birthday.  I thought I'd shave some of the white chocolate into the batter and call it good.  At the end of the day, you'd never know it was even in there.  Before tossing it into the oven, I thought, "Ooh!  I'll stir in some of the chocolate peanut butter I have!  That'll make up for not having chocolate chips!"  It didn't.  Probably because I only had about a half of a cup left in the jar.

Please don't think this is something you should pass up.  I just left out a key ingredient.  Lesson learned.  You can find the original recipe with a picture of what it's supposed to look like here.

Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins

When I was a kid, my mom used to buy us corn dogs from the Schwans truck every summer.  Hot, crunchy, slightly greasy outside, soft inside, salty hot dog...I loved them.  And meat on a stick?  What kid doesn't think that's a good idea?  I haven't had a corn dog in many many years, so when I came across this recipe, I first thought of those Schwans corn dogs, then of how my kids would enjoy these.

As with every recipe I make, I do try to incorporate some healthier ingredients without changing the overall idea of the recipe.  So instead of regular hot dogs (which I avoid feeding the kids as much as I can), I used the venison hot dogs my father-in-law had made from one of the deer he shot this past hunting season.  They are really good, and really lean, as deer are not a highly fatty animal.

When these muffins came out of the oven, my 2-year-old son took one look at them and said, "Ooh...hot dog!" (which in his words came out "hot dawg")  He inhaled his once it was just barely cool enough to eat, and even my picky daughter gave it her approval.

They really do taste like a corn dog!

1 1/2 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
3 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 c cornmeal
2 eggs
1 c buttermilk*
1/4 c butter, melted
4 hot dogs, sliced in half lengthwise and cut small
1 c shredded cheese (I used colby jack)

Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly spray 12-muffin tin (or 24 mini muffin, which is what I used).

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Add cornmeal, mix well.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then stir in the buttermilk* and melted butter.  Stir liquid mixture into the dry mixture, stirring just until blended.  Add cheese and hot dogs.  Mix well.

Using a large ice cream scoop, evenly fill the cups.  They will expand!

Bake 18-20 minutes (or 15 minutes for minis) or until lightly browned.  Serve hot.

*If you do not have buttermilk, you can do this:  Place 1 Tbsp vinegar into a measuring cup.  Add just enough milk to reach the 1 cup mark.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Voila.  Buttermilk substitution.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter & Honey Bars

Today I was cleaning up all of the junk I have accumulated on my desk.  It was a lot.  A lot.  I'm a notorious pack rat (don't worry, you won't see me on an episode of "Hoarders").  When I came across a pile of recipes, I wasn't surprised.  Some were torn out of magazines, some were still in magazines, some were printed off the computer, and others were handwritten.  This recipe was one of the handwritten ones. Like most of my recipes, this is a no fuss, small mess, quick and easy bar recipe that uses mostly ingredients you'd have on hand.  I have tweeked it to my (and my family's) liking.  For example, I added the peanut butter and replaced the 1/2 cup of nuts with the seeds.

I just took it out of the oven and it's not yet cool enough to cut, but I'm dying to dive in.  I can't wait for my daughter to get home from school...I hope she loves them.  I'm no nutritionist, but I think as far as after-school-snacks/cookies/bars go, it's fairly healthful.  I can't see how she won't like them, they smell heavenly.  Keep your fingers crossed...

Ready to go into the oven!

Couldn't resist, had to take a bite.
I drizzled with honey for aesthetic purposes...then I had to eat it.  Darn!

2 c oats
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp apple pie spice
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c milk
1/4 c honey
1/2 c chunky applesauce
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c dried fruit (I used dried apple)
1 c raisins
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds
3 Tbsp natural peanut butter (I used Naturally More)

Preheat oven to 375.

Place first 6 ingredients in a bowl, mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the milk, applesauce, egg, honey and vanilla.

Combine the two mixtures.  Stir in the fruit and seeds.  Spread into a sprayed 11 x 7 baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and golden.  Cool completely before cutting.

Best French Fries Ever

Who doesn't love french fries?  Especially homemade ones.  Mine are so simple, so easy, so healthy, so tasty, you'll wonder why you ever bought a bag of them from the freezer section.  And you never will again! Two ingredients is all it takes.  I suppose since they aren't deep-fried, they are neither french nor fries, but what else am I going to call them?  "Roasted Potato Rectangles"?  Doesn't quite have the same ring.

5 russet potatoes (or whatever you have on hand)
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with nonstick spray.  Slice your potatoes in half lengthwise, then slice each half lengthwise (to resemble steak fries).  Place in one layer on the sheet, sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top of the slices has started to bubble and brown.

Rhubarb Squares

Rhubarb rocks.  One of the best things about it is the fact that it's an abundant vegetable...or is it a fruit?...which means there's a lot of it and a lot of different ways to use it up.  My husband brought some home from his parents' house and I'm still trying to use it up.  I found this recipe, which was so tasty it didn't last long enough to get a decent picture of it.  Unfortunately, the picture from the original recipe (on allrecipes.com) does it no justice, and in fact looks kinda gross. 

One thing about this recipe that I didn't care for is the thinness of it.  It calls for a 11x7 baking dish, which I think is too big, hence the thinness of it.  I'm absolutely going to make it again, but use a smaller baking dish to thicken it up a bit.  I'm also going to play with the crust a little bit, and if it turns out I will re-post it for you.  I made this recipe almost exactly the way it says...notice I said almost.  I added 2 tablespoons of flax seeds to the crust.  It gave it a little nutty crunch that worked nicely with the rhubarb.  But if you don't have them, don't stress.  I happen to have them on hand because a breakfast bar recipe I've been playing with calls for them.

Here it is...enjoy!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine


  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 cups finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

    1. In a bowl, combine the flour and confectioners; sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom of a greased 11-in. x 7-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.
    2. For filling, combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Stir in rhubarb; pour over warm crust. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm if desired. Store in the refrigerator.


    Turkey Meatballs with a Twist

    I love meatballs.

    I love their convenient size.  I love the taste, texture...and these days what I especially love about them is they are a great way to stretch a pound of ground meat just a little bit further by adding more and more ingredients to them.

    I haven't made them in a while, and my ground meat of choice is chicken.  Of course they were out of it when I was grocery shopping the other day, so I grabbed the turkey instead.  I like to change things up when it comes to my meatballs so we don't get sick of them, and I rarely make them to serve with spaghetti.  That just occurred to me.  I'm not sure why I don't.  This recipe is yet another variation of my evolving meatball.

    A note:  the taco sauce is not overpowering in it's flavor.  I made my husband guess the "mystery ingredient"...he couldn't.  Once I told him what it was, he said, "Oh, ok.  I taste it now." 

    I apologize in advance for not having any pictures...there was a minor mishap involving my husband and kids outside just as I was getting ready to call them in for dinner, and it was Mommy to the rescue.  Taking pictures of my food was the furthest thing from my mind!  But they looked delicious, I promise!

    Turkey Meatballs with a Twist

    1 lb ground turkey
    1 1/2 c whole wheat breadcrumbs
    1 c shredded cheese of your choice (I used a blend of monterey jack and mozzarella)
    1 egg
    splash of milk
    1/4 c mild taco sauce
    onion powder
    *all spices to taste

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick spray.

    In a large bowl, mix all ingredients.  Using a small scoop (or tablespoon) to measure, roll meat mixture into small balls.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes, serve hot.

    Crispy Honey Chicken

    I have recently found a new blog that I love.  This girl is after my own heart.  The first thing after the title of her blog is "Where Gluttony Meets Fitness".  Is this where I say, "You had me at hello"?  Her recipes are wholesome and (most) are fairly healthful.  She's extremely entertaining, and as much as I want you to read my blog, I think you should check her and her recipes out (see following link).

    This Crispy Honey Chicken is the first of hers I decided to try.  As usual, I have changed the recipe so much from it's original state that I can say what I made is based on her recipe, and is not actually what she has posted.  You can find her original recipe (along with her amusing anecdotes): here

    I will make this recipe again, as my family went wild over it.  The best part is that you can change it up with different vegetables each time so that you have a different meal every time you make it.  This is how I made mine.

    Carrots, meet Broccoli.

    Excess oil on the chicken is no match for my paper towels!

    Carrots and Broccoli meet Mushrooms.

    Slivered Almonds, ready for toasting!  Did you know you can toast nuts in the microwave?  Cool, right?

    Ready to go, without the toasted almonds.

    And with the toasted almonds (for me!)

    1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders, cut into thirds
    2 egg whites
    1/3 cup cornstarch (or flour – for dredging)
    1 cup broccoli florets
    1 1/2 c baby carrots, sliced lengthwise
    1 can mushrooms, drained
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1/4 cup honey
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 c slivered almonds, toasted, if desired*

    Prepare and slice all veggies. In 2 separate bowls, add the egg whites (lightly beaten) and the cornstarch or flour.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add veggies, including mushrooms, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add in soy sauce and garlic and stir so veggies are coated, about 60 seconds. Remove from skillet and set aside in a bowl.

    Cut chicken and season with salt and pepper. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat and add remaining olive oil. Dip chicken pieces in egg whites and then lightly dredge in cornstarch. Add to the skillet and let brown for 2-3 minutes, then flip (repeat if necessary, make sure your chicken is cooked through!) Continue with remaining chicken pieces, and do so in batches if needed.

    Once chicken is cooked, add veggies back in the skillet. Add honey and thoroughly mix to combine. Taste and season with salt, pepper, additional honey or soy sauce. Sprinkle toasted almonds over top.  Serve with orzo pasta or rice.

    *To toast nuts in the microwave:  Place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate.  Add nuts in a single layer.  Pop in microwave for 1 minute.  Remove and stir.  Return to microwave for an additional 1-2 minutes, depending on your microwave's power level, until lightly browned and fragrant.  Be careful, they're hot!

    Creamy Avocado Pasta

    In my quest for healthier eating, I've tried to embrace the avocado.  I think the health benefits outweigh the fact that they are high in fat (although it's the healthy kind of fat).  I never even tried avocado until I was an adult, and my first taste of it was less than stellar.  There was a man in my office that would bring one for lunch, slice it open, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and eat it out of the skin with a spoon.  How easy, I thought.  So I bought one and tried it that way.  It did not make the best first impression.

    My next attempt was to make a dip that my daughter might eat as an after-school snack.  I had read a recipe but forgot where I saw it, so I tried to wing it.  I used the avocado, great northern beans, a plum tomato minus the skin, and some spices.  I blended it up in the food processor...and was not impressed.

    My cousin is a vegetarian who studies nutrition and dietetics in college, and only eats organic foods.  I talked to her over Easter dinner, and she shared with me a bunch of her recipes.  She said this creamy avocado pasta is one of her favorites, so I thought the third time must be the charm.  It was!  I didn't necessarily use the organic ingredients the recipe called for, but I don't imagine it affected the flavor all that much. It is so tasty, and as the title claims, creamy.  And EASY!  Avocado skeptics of the world, unite!

    1 med. avocado, pitted
    juice of 1 lemon, plus the zest of half the lemon
    2-3 garlic cloves
    sea salt and pepper to taste
    2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    6 oz of your choice of pasta

    Boil your pasta according to the box directions.

    Make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice and olive oil into a food processor (or blender).  Process until smooth.  Add in the pitted avocado, salt and pepper.  Process until smooth and creamy.

    Pour over hot pasta and toss until fully combined.  Garnish with lemon zest.  Serve immediately.

    NOTE: This dish does not reheat well due to the avocado in the sauce.

    Original recipe found at http://www.ohsheglows.com/

    Iced Coffee

    I love iced coffee.  I drink a Dunkin Donuts toasted almond iced coffee all year round.  I don't care if it's snowing outside.  I love it.  Give me iced coffee over hot chocolate any day.  At home, though, I only make iced coffee when the weather starts to warm up.  Being that it's spring, it's time! 

    I make my iced coffee using the leftovers in the carafe from the morning pot.  Any recipe I've ever seen uses instant coffee granules, but I don't ever have any here and am not inclined to buy them.  My biggest problem is the coffee becoming too watery too quickly, even if the coffee I'm using is already cold.  Insert my genius moment...I bought ice cube trays and filled them up with coffee.  Voila!  Coffee ice cubes.  When they melt, you get more coffee.

    You'll notice there is a LOT of sugar in my recipe.  You don't have to use that much.  I'm one of those strange people that likes the crunch of the unmelted sugar.

    Here is my favorite at-home recipe (nothing will ever beat out my DD toasted almond).

    2 c cold coffee
    enough coffee ice cubes to fill the cup
    2-3 tsp sugar
    1 tsp Cinnabon coffee creamer (or whatever you have on hand)

    Put the ice cubes in your cup (preferably a large insulated cup).  Add the sugar.  Pour the coffee over the sugary ice.  Gently stir in the creamer.  Enjoy!

    Strawberry Rhubarb Apple Muffins

    It's spring, and that means rhubarb.  I had a bag of strawberries in the freezer to use up, so I bought two stalks of rhubarb.  I hate having to buy it, because my in-laws grow it, but I keep forgetting to ask them if theirs is ready.  So I bought it.  Shhh, it'll be our secret.  I did some internet searching for a different sort of strawberry rhubarb recipe.  I mean, we all love a good strawberry rhubarb pie, but, one) I didn't want to make a pie, and two) I'm out of brown sugar so any kind of bar recipe was out.  I found a recipe for strawberry rhubarb muffins, and changed it to make it my own (and in my opinion, tastier).  These are pee-your-pants good, and easy to make.  Enjoy!

    1 c whole wheat flour (can use white flour if you don't have wheat)
    1/2 c all purpose flour
    1 c sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 c chunky applesauce
    1 tsp canola oil
    1/2 c milk
    1 large egg
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 c strawberries, chopped
    1/2 c rhubarb, chopped
    Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling*

    Preheat oven to 375.  Spray 12 muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with papers.

    Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine the applesauce, oil, milk, egg and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined (overmixing will make the muffins chewy instead of soft).  Gently fold in the strawberries and rhubarb--you don't want pink batter from mushing the strawberries.

    Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.  Sprinkle tops generously with turbinado sugar.  Bake 18-21 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

    *Turbinado sugar is large grains of sugar, not granulated.  It is easily found in the baking aisle of your local grocery store.

    Toasted Coconut, Toffee and Chocolate Chip Cookies

    If you like chocolate chip cookies but are sick of the same ol' same ol', these are for you.  They are outstanding.  I wish my husband liked coconut so he could appreciate these as well.  Since he doesn't, I shared these with my parents (I don't need to inhale 2 dozen cookies, as much as I'd love to), who love coconut as much as I do.  Needless to say, they requested a second batch.

    My secret ingredient?  Use coconut rum instead of the coconut extract it calls for.  It makes such a huge difference!  The first time I made them I didn't have the extract and didn't think to use the rum that was in the cupboard.  They were still good, don't get me wrong, but using the coconut rum makes all the difference!

    You'll notice there's not a lot of rum left in the bottle.  This is not from baking, but because it is fantastic with pineapple juice.  But that's a story for another day.

    1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (try coconut rum if you don't have/can't find the extract)
    1 large egg
    1 cup Heath toffee bits
    3/4 cup chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange coconut in a single layer on the pan. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until coconut is lightly toasted, stirring once. Set coconut aside to cool.

    Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, add brown sugar and butter. Beat at medium speed until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Beat in vanilla extract, coconut extract, and egg. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in toasted coconut, toffee bits, and chocolate chips.

    Drop spoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until cookies start to brown around the edges. Remove from pan, and cool completely on wire racks.

    Lemon Cream Bars

    I've been on a lemon kick lately.  So when I saw this dessert, I knew I had to make it.  Especially since it was featured in one of my favorite recipe blogs, twopeasandtheirpod.com.  I made them twice on Good Friday, one batch for each Easter dinner I was attending.  They are simple to make, with a fresh lemony flavor.  Just what your tongue needs in time for spring!

    1 can sweetened condensed milk - 14-ounce can
    ½ cups lemon juice (fresh, if you can)
    1½ cup flour
    1 cup oatmeal
    1 cup brown sugar
    ⅔ cups butter, melted
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 pinch salt

    Preheat the oven to 350F.

    Combine milk and lemon juice. Mix well and set aside for a moment.

    Mix remaining ingredients until crumbly.

    Press half of the streusel (dry) mixture into a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish. Pour the lemon mixture over top. Finish by sprinkling remaining streusel over the top of the lemon filling. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely then store in the refrigerator.

    These are easiest to cut when they are cold.

    Spinach Artichoke Crab Dip

    Last weekend we had a family get-together, a kind of going-away party for my cousin, who is being deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines.  Get-togethers in my family always include food, and lots of it.  I made this up because I couldn't decide if I wanted to make a spinach artichoke dip or an artichoke crab dip.  Why not all three at once?  Seemed reasonable to me.  It was a huge hit with everyone.  There is no picture...I forgot to take one before we left for the party with it.

    1/2 package of Neufchatel cheese (or any cream cheese), softened
    1 c mayonnaise
    1 c low-fat sour cream
    1 can lump crab meat, drained
    1 (10 oz) bag chopped spinach, squeezed dry
    1 can artichoke hearts (NOT marinated), chopped
    1/2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray or grease a medium sized baking dish.

    Combine the Neufchatel, mayo and sour cream in a medium sized bowl.  Add the crab meat, stir well.  Stir in the spinach and artichoke, mixing well to combine.

    Spoon the dip into the baking dish, smooth out with back of wooden spoon.  Sprinkle top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is golden and bubbly.  Serve hot with tortilla chips or crackers.

    Mini Cheese Biscuits

    I always like to have something in the family of bread/rolls/biscuits when I serve anything with my tomato sauce.  Last night I planned to make tortellini, and mini biscuits sounded perfect.  I made this up with the ingredients I had on hand, and once they came out of the oven my taste-testers lined up.  After agreeing how good they were, my daughter said they taste "like the biscuits they give you at that restaurant...you know..."  After a second of thought, we both said, "Red Lobster!"  Yep, they are very much like the Cheddar Bay Biscuits, only much less greasy and less salty, and I would imagine much better for you.  Easy and delicious.

    2 c Bisquick
    1 - 1 1/2 c shredded mozzarella
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    sprinkle of sea salt
    2/3 c milk

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray or grease a mini muffin tin (or if you don't have one, use a regular cookie sheet).  In a bowl, combine the Bisquick, cheese, salt and garlic.  Stir in the milk just until moistened.

    Drop by rounded teaspoon into muffin cups (or onto sheet).  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm.

    Makes 36 mini biscuits.

    Lemon Ricotta Blackberry Muffins

    I found this amazing recipe and have been dying to try it.  I made them yesterday morning, and they are delicious.  So much so that I've already received requests to make them again.  They are quite easy.  Make sure you use fresh lemon juice...I don't know if they would be quite the same with bottled juice.  I used low-fat ricotta, so don't feel like you have to use the whole milk version. 

    The turbinado sugar that is sprinkled on the top of the muffins is easy to find in the baking aisle.  I bought the Sugar in the Raw brand, and as I won't use it much for anything other than baking, I got the box of individual packets rather than the box that will essentially be open until used again.  Bonus--it was a little cheaper that way.  In case you don't know, turbinado sugar is large grains of sugar along the lines of sea salt.  Perfect for topping muffins or sweet breads.

    If you don't have fresh blackberries, use frozen.  I did.  Also, if you're not a blackberry fan, these would be good with any other kind of fruit as well.


    Photo courtesy of http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/

    To view the recipe, go here:

    Reuben Casserole

    I am not the least bit Irish, but I thought I would jump on the St. Patrick's Day bandwagon and make something, well, St. Patricksy for the first time.  A couple of weeks ago I made my first corned beef (see recipe) and it turned out really well.  This time I thought I would take it a step further and make the corned beef into a reuben casserole.  I LOVE reubens.  I didn't know how my family would like it.  I figured my daughter wouldn't and my son would (I was right on both), but I wasn't sure about my husband.  He loved it. 

    I didn't spice this up like I did my last beef, because reuben sandwiches aren't spiced very much, if at all.  I only used the spice packet it came with.  Also, I used provolone cheese instead of swiss, because I asked my husband to pick up some swiss on the way home...and he brought provolone.  This couldn't be simpler to make.  Enjoy.

    1 lb. corned beef, plus spice packet
    1 package of baby carrots
    1 small cabbage, quartered
    1 can sauerkraut
    6 pre-sliced slices of provolone cheese
    1 bottle thousand islands dressing
    6 slices of good rye bread

    Heat olive oil in a deep pan or skillet.  Sprinkle seasoning packet onto both sides of the brisket.  Brown both sides.  Add enough water to almost cover the brisket.  Add your carrots and the cabbage.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 3 hours.

    Remove brisket from skillet.  Trim off any fat.  Cut the brisket into bite sized pieces, then shred.  Place shredded brisket into the bottom of a baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray.  Next top with a layer of sauerkraut.  Top that with the thousand islands, as much as you want.  Cut three of the cheese slices in half, spread over top of the dressing.  Rip up the bread slices and place on top of the dressing.  Cut the three remaining cheese slices in half, place on top of bread.

    Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, or until the bread is browned and the cheese is brown and bubbly.  Serve with the carrots and cabbage.

    Beer Bread (or Muffins)

    My mother found this recipe for Beer Muffins over the weekend.  She made hers by adding savory ingredients (spices and cheese) and omitting the raisins.  I ended up making mine according to the recipe, but into bread because the oven was busy with dinner, and I had to fit this into the toaster/convection oven.  This bread (or muffins, however you choose to go) has a distinctive beer taste to it, at least in my opinion.  So for those of you who think it should always be beer:30, this is not one to miss!

    3 cups buttermilk biscuit mix (such as Bisquick)
    2 Tbsp. white sugar
    1 can of beer
    1 c chopped raisins (I used Craisins)

    Mix all ingredients together to form a dough much like cookie dough.  Grease a muffin pan or 9x9" pan, pour into cups/pan.  Bake at 350 degrees -- 15 minutes for muffins, 25-30 for bread.  Serve warm with butter.

    Baked Breaded Shrimp

    My daughter loves popcorn shrimp...the kind that's deep-fried in a restaurant or from a box in the freezer section.  Shrimp is so good for you, but the rest of it...well, you know.  So I wanted to make it for her in the hopes that she could enjoy one of her favorites without all the fat and badness that comes from deep frying.  She didn't like it as well as the bad-for-you kind, but I thought they turned out fantastic.  If you like breaded shrimp, give this a try. 

    1 bag of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
    1 egg
    panko breadcrumbs
    Old Bay seasoning
    garlic powder

    Rinse your peeled shrimp.  Cut each shrimp in half to make two.  Put the raw shrimp in a ziplok bag.  Whisk the egg, add it to the bag of shrimp.  Work the egg through to make sure all of the shrimp are coated.

    Mix your breadcrumbs and seasonings in a shallow dish.  Add a handful of the shrimp, make sure each one is coated well with the breadcrumbs.  Place the shrimp on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and lightly browned.

    Corned Beef Brisket

    I've never made brisket before and spent a good portion of the morning scouring the internet for recipes.  I didn't find one that would work for me, so I took ideas from a few of them.  This is what I came up with.  It turned out amazing.  And the best part?  Excellent stock for soup.

    1 (2 lb) beef brisket
    1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    salt and pepper
    garlic powder
    onion powder
    a pinch of rosemary
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 c red wine
    2 bay leaves
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Worchestershire sauce

    Heat oil in a large, deep pan (or a large pot).  Cover both sides of the brisket with the above spices to your taste.  Brown both sides of the meat until just shy of being burned.  Remove from pan.
    Deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Add the onion, cooking until almost translucent.  Remove from pan.  Return the brisket to the pan and add enough water to almost cover the meat.  Return the onion to the water (put half of it directly on top of the meat) and add the bay leaves and garlic.  Add about 2 Tbsp of Worchestershire.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 4 hours.

    Remove from pan, slice thin and serve.  Remember to save the stock for soup!

    A Healthier Oatmeal Cookie

    I've been trying for the last 6 months to feed my family more healthy meals and treats.  My mother found this recipe in the January/February 2011 issue of Food Network magazine.  For once, I followed the recipe without adding anything (but, I did omit the walnuts as I didn't have any).  I think they have too much salt, so you may want to adjust the salt to a lesser amount. The cookies are slightly nutty in flavor, which is complimented by the raisins and chocolate.

    Makes 3 dozen cookies

    1 1/4 c brown sugar
    1 egg and 2 egg whites
    1/4 c vegetable oil
    1 1/2 c rolled oats
    1 c whole wheat flour
    1/2 c wheat germ
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 c chocolate chunks
    1/4 c raisins
    1/4 c walnuts

    Whisk the brown sugar, egg and egg whites in a large bowl.  Add in the vegetable oil.  Stir in the oats, flour, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well.  Add the chocolate chunks, raisins and walnuts.

    Drop large spoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet.  Gently flatten.  Bake at 350 degrees for 11-14 minutes or until lightly browned.

    Easiest Fudge EVER

    Actually, it's called Sugar Cookie-Chocolate Crunch Fudge, and it's from the Pillsbury.com website.  It was so easy to make.  It has crushed granola bars in it, making it different than your typical fudge.  I make my father something sweet once a month, and this was what I made him for February.  I had to practically beat my family back with a wooden spoon while I was cutting it into squares...they wanted the whole pan!


    photo courtesy pillsbury.com
    2 tablespoons light corn syrup
    2 tablespoons butter or margarine
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
    1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated sugar cookies, cut into small chunks (I used the pre-cut kind)
    2 bags (12 oz each) semisweet chocolate chips
    5 teaspoons vanilla
    6 Nature Valley® pecan crunch crunchy granola bars (3 pouches from 8.9-oz box), coarsely crushed (heaping 1 cup)* (I used the almond crunch as I couldn't find the pecan)
    In 3-quart heavy saucepan or deep 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook corn syrup, butter, salt and condensed milk over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until well blended. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in cookie dough chunks. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and candy thermometer reads 160°F. Remove from heat.

    Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Add crushed granola bars; stir until well blended. Cook over low heat 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is shiny. Spread in ungreased 12x8-inch or 13x9-inch pan.** Refrigerate uncovered at least 2 hours or until firm.

    Cut into 8 rows by 6 rows. Serve in decorative candy cups or mini paper baking cups on platter garnished with mint sprigs.

    *To easily crush granola bars, do not unwrap; use rolling pin to crush bars.
    ** To easily cut fudge, line pan with foil so foil extends over sides of pan. Lift candy from pan using foil.  Make sure you do this!  I didn't and it was a nightmare getting it out of the pan!

    Baked Pasta with Ricotta & Spinach

    This was enjoyed by the pickiest eater in the house, my 6-year-old daughter.  In fact, she gave it an A+.  Out of the mouths of babes...or should I say IN them...
    Don't be afraid to heavily season this dish as it can be on the bland side otherwise.  As always, don't be afraid to substitute if you don't have the exact ingredients I used.

    1 box pasta, your choice
    1 medium onion, chopped
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 bag frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed dry
    1/4 c flour
    1 1/2 c milk
    2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    1 c ricotta cheese
    1 tsp sugar
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp cumin
    salt to taste
    ground black pepper to taste
    crushed red pepper to taste, depending on how much heat you want
    a dash of nutmeg
    1 c seasoned panko breadcrumbs

    Cook pasta, drain, set aside.

    Heat butter over med-high heat.  Saute onion until just brown.  Add garlic, cook one minute more.  Reduce heat to med-low, add the greens.  Let cook for 5 or so minutes.

    Sprinkle the greens with the flour.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly (it will burn and stick otherwise).  Gradually add the milk, stirring well.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and smooth.

    Remove from heat, stir in the pasta, cheddar, ricotta, sugar, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder and cumin.  Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray.  Spoon into dish.  Sprinkle top with the panko breadcrumbs, then gently spray the breadcrumb topping with nonstick spray (so it will crisp while baking).

    Bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until it is heated through and the top is browned.  I put mine under the broiler for the last few minutes to really make the breadcrumbs crispy.

    Chicken Vegetable Tortellini

    I wasn't going to post this one, but there was some interest, so here it is.  My kids love tortellini, but I wasn't in the mood for sauce.  This turned out awesome.

    1 to 1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into bite size pieces
    extra virgin olive oil
    1 c chicken stock
    3/4 c white wine
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    soy sauce to taste
    Worchestershire sauce to taste
    ground black pepper to taste
    salt to taste
    onion powder to taste
    1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables (or whatever veggies you want)
    2 c fresh broccoli florets
    1 bag frozen tortellini

    Drizzle a large skillet with the olive oil, heat to med-high.  Add the garlic, cooking and stirring until it starts to brown.  Add the chicken, black pepper, salt, and onion powder, cooking for 4-5 minutes, until browned.  Remove chicken to a plate.

    Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add the chicken stock, soy sauce, and Worchestershire.  Again, season the liquid with the spices used previously.  Add the vegetables, stirring to coat with the liquid.  Return chicken to pan and stir.  Reduce heat and cook 20 minutes or until vegetables reach desired doneness.

    While that's cooking, boil the tortellini according to package directions.  Drain.  Once the vegetables are done to your liking, add the tortellini to the vegetables and chicken, stirring to mix.  Let simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to mix with the tortellini.

    Apricot Pork Tenderloin

    I've been trying to come up with different ways to make pork, as it seems to be all that's in my freezer.  I don't know if it's the only thing that's been on sale or what, but for some reason I have a freezer full.  This is my latest version of pork loin.

    2 lbs pork tenderloin
    Yukon Gold potatoes
    carrots, any way you like them

    1 1/2 c white wine
    1/4 c Gray Poupon (yeah yeah, giggle if you must)
    a splash of extra virgin olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
    1 small onion, grated
    1/4 c soy sauce (low sodium)
    1 c apricot preserves
    1/2 c brown sugar
    black pepper to taste
    cumin to taste
    ground ginger to taste

    Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, let cool.

    Place tenderloin in a Ziplok bag, pour marinade into bag over the meat.  Refrigerate overnight.

    The next day, brown the tenderloin in a skillet with a little olive oil, reserving the marinade.  Wash and halve potatoes, put in Crock Pot.  Peel and dice carrots, add to potaotes.  Place the tenderloin on top of potatoes and carrots; pour the reserved marinade over the meat.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours.

    Chicken Vegetable Tortellini

    Beef and Bean Soup

    Pot Roast