31 August 2011

I love it when I come across a recipe that combines ingredients or flavors that I would have never thought to combine.  This recipe combines roasted sweet potatoes with sweet caramelized onions and creamy, salty cheese.  I would have never thought to put these flavors together, but it totally works! This was our meatless meal of the week.  It's a slight adaptation of one I saw at Food For Thought.

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas

2 sweet potatoes, sliced into ¼” thick rounds
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
½ tsp salt
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 (8”) flour tortillas
1 (6 oz.) package Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb Cheese
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato rounds, 1 tbsp of the olive oil, and salt until potatoes are well coated.  Arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake the potato rounds in the oven for 25 minutes, flipping after 15 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet.  Sautee the sliced onion strips for 5 minutes on medium high heat, stirring often.  Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium, stirring every 2 minutes until onions are golden (about 10 minutes).

Coat a large baking pan with cooking spray.  Arrange the tortillas on the baking pan and evenly divide the cheese among the four tortillas.  Spread the cheese to ½” from the edge of each tortilla.  Layer the sweet potatoes on one half of each tortilla.  Divide the onions and layer on top of the sweet potato layer.

Fold the tortillas in half to cover the potatoes and onions.  Lightly spray the outside of the tortillas with cooking spray.  Bake the quesadillas for 5 minutes.  Flip and bake for 5 more minutes, or until golden brown on both sides.  Remove the quesadillas from the oven and let cool at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.  Serve with your choice of garnish.

Makes 4 servings.

I absolutely love caramelized onions.  I am always so surprised to discover how incredibly sweet they become after being cooked this way.  I have to admit, though, that this was my first time making them myself. I had a little trouble with them, and they took way longer than what the original recipe said (6-8 minutes), but I think it's because I forgot to put the lid on the pan.

I didn't think my husband would be very excited about this dish because he doesn't really like onions.  He'll put up with a few here or there, as long as they're cooked, but overall he just doesn't really care for them.  I was surprised when I told him what we were having for dinner and he told me that it sounded awesome and that he couldn't wait to try it.  When building the quesadillas, I did go easy on the onions on his, but there was still a good amount on there.  He loved the quesadillas.  Raved about them.  Yay!

The original recipe didn't specify what size of tortillas to use, and while I had all three sizes in my pantry, the large ones were the only ones I had enough of, so I used those.  I was only able to make three quesadillas out  of the large tortillas, so I think the medium is the right choice for this recipe.

The combination of the sweet potato, the sweet onions, and the garlic and herb cheese is so good!  I really like Laughing Cow cheese, but would never have thought to put it in quesadillas.  These quesadillas don't stick together as well as ones made with some kind of shredded cheese, but they stay together well enough.

I served these with roasted asparagus, mostly because I just needed to use it up before it went bad.  Nobody missed the meat in this meal and I know I'll be making it again.

30 August 2011

I bought way too much broccoli at Sam's the last time I went.  In my defense, I thought it was only 2 lbs., and was surprised when I got it home and realized it was 3 lbs.  After having roasted broccoli with our dinners twice in one week, I still had a good amount left to use in a very short amount of time.  So I was trying to think of some recipe that uses a lot of broccoli.  I remembered seeing a chicken broccoli casserole on Pinterest, one that didn't call for cream of something soup.  I hadn't repinned it, but found it easily (Pinterest has a handy search function).  The original recipe came from the blog Just Get Off Your Butt And Bake.  It looked really good so I made it last night for dinner.  I ended up changing several things, customizing it to my own tastes and actually making it quite a bit healthier too.  Here's my version.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

6 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed
3 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 stick butter, divided
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups skim milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, divided
1½ cups Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a 9x13” baking dish, layer the broccoli, chicken, and brown rice.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt ⅓ cup butter.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the chicken broth and add to the melted butter. Stir well and add the milk.  Bring to a boil and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat down to low, and add ½ cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken, broccoli, and rice. Top with remaining 1½ cups grated cheddar cheese.

Melt the remainder of the stick of butter and stir it into the Panko breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the grated cheese.

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges.  Turn on broiler and broil 3-5 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Here's a list of things I changed:
  • Added brown rice to make it a complete meal.
  • Reduced cheese by a whole cup.
  • Changed whole milk to skim milk.
  • Reduced butter by 1/3 cup.
  • Used Panko breadcrumbs instead of 2 whole sleeves of Ritz crackers.

This recipe piqued my interest because it didn't call for cream of something soup.  I don't necessarily think that canned cream soups are completely evil, like some do.  But I do think it's best not to use them very often.  I keep a can in my pantry for emergency situations, but I don't cook with it on a regular basis.  Using cream soup in place of the cream sauce in this recipe would certainly be easier, but I think it's well worth it to make the sauce yourself.  Not only did it taste better, way better!, but I did the math and this sauce has about 1190 mg of sodium, compared to 2175 mg in one can of cream of chicken soup!  So you're saving yourself a whole 1,000 mg of sodium and sacrificing absolutely no taste.  Quite the opposite, actually!

To be honest, I liked this casserole much more than I thought I would.  I thought it would be kind of run-of-the-mill broccoli casserole, but wow, it's really tasty!  My three year old actually had THREE servings of it.  She's always a good eater, but I don't remember the last time she ate three servings of anything (except maybe fruit snacks!).

This casserole is perfect for using up leftovers.  Leftover chicken and rice, that is.  If you're like me, you always make too much rice when making Asian dishes, so instead of throwing it out, keep it and make this casserole.  I used brown rice, but white would work too.  If you don't have leftover rice, click the link in the recipe for my method of making perfect brown rice.

This is a great thing to make the day after you roast a chicken.  If you don't roast chickens, you can pick up one of those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store to make this.  I don't buy rotisserie chickens, so if I don't have any leftover chicken, I simply cook some up.  My preferred method of cooking chicken breasts is poaching.  Put some chicken breasts into a pot, add enough water just to cover, throw in some salt, and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  How long it takes will depend on the thickness of the breasts.  I use my handy dandy thermometer to tell me when it's done.  Cooking chicken breasts this way is super easy and doesn't take much time.  

Golden brown and delicious!

This was such a hit with my family that I might "accidentally" end up with too much broccoli again in the future!

This recipe was included in the chicken recipe blog hop at Savannah's Savory Bites and in the Comfort Foods Recipe Round-Up.

Pin It

29 August 2011

Last week was totally crazy.  There was a death in our congregation, a death in our family, the computer at church crashed, got a new one and it's not compatible with the printer, and to cap it all off, on Sunday morning at 2:30 am we awoke to find a bat trapped in our bedroom.  Yep, it was one of those weeks!  

I didn't do a lot of cooking last week, but I did manage to try out this new meatless main dish over the weekend.  It's a veggie lasagna packed with onion, garlic, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, mushroom, and spinach!  That's a lot of veggies for one dish!  And they're packed into layers of tender lasagna noodles with a creamy lemon garlic sauce and lots of mozzarella cheese.  Yum!  This is an adaptation of a recipe I saw on Kokocooks.

Lemon Garlic Vegetable Lasagna

¼ cup butter
5 cloves garlic, grated
¼ cup flour
4 cups milk
⅔ cup fresh Parmesan, grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, diced
½ cup matchstick carrots
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
4 cups baby spinach
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375°.

For the sauce: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute garlic in melted butter for 1 minute, stirring frequently to keep garlic from burning. Stir in the flour with a whisk and cook for another minute. Whisk in the milk, stirring vigorously to prevent lumps. Heat sauce until bubbling and thickened. Reduce heat to low, add Parmesan and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the vegetable filling: Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot and cook until soft. Add zucchini, squash, and mushrooms. Sauté another 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble the lasagna:Pour a little sauce in the bottom of a 9x13” deep dish baking pan. (Alternately, I use two 5x7x2” baking dishes and freeze one for later.) Spread sauce so the entire bottom is covered with a thin layer. Place 3 noodles on top of the sauce. Layer some of the vegetable filling, more sauce, then some mozzarella. Place another layer of 3 noodles on top. Layer vegetable filling, sauce, and mozzarella. For the final layer, use 3 noodles, sauce, and mozzarella. 

Bake 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 20 minutes. 

Makes 8 servings.

Let me tell you, this tastes as good as it sounds.  The lemon garlic sauce is so creamy and has just the right combination of lemon and garlic.  I didn't tell my husband about the sauce before we ate (I just called the dish "veggie lasagna"), so I wasn't sure he would even notice the lemon.  But after the first bite, he said, "I really like the little hint of lemon in here."  Awesome.

The original recipe called for additional layers of ricotta cheese, but I don't like ricotta, and it seemed like there was enough going on already that I just left it out without substituting anything.  As I made it, it didn't seem like it was missing anything at all.

The original recipe also called for half parmesan, half pecorino in the sauce, but I simplified it by using all parmesan.  It also called for traditional lasagna noodles, but I much prefer the no-boil kind.  Not only does it completely eliminate a step (and the space that step takes up on your stovetop), but I really like the consistency of them better than traditional.  When they cook up, they are thinner and more delicate than the traditional ones.  I really like that.  I think the traditional ones are thick and kind of cumbersome.  The no-boils don't have the ruffly edges, but they kind of get over-all wavy instead (as you can see in the pic above).  If you haven't tried them yet, I highly recommend you do.  You can use them in any recipe that calls for the traditional.

If you can't find matchstick carrots, peel and shred two carrots instead.  I usually have matchsticks on hand, so it's just easier for me.

 Fresh out of the oven.  You can see it's still bubbling around the edges.  Yum!

We couldn't wait the full 20 minutes before cutting into it, so our servings were a little sloppy.  No one seemed to mind!

This was really good, but I would definitely consider it a weekend meal, as opposed to a weeknight meal.  Any recipe that has multiple steps and requires multiple pots and pans on the stovetop is a weekend meal in my book.  But it was well worth the work!

This recipe was linked up at Jane Deere's Fusion Fridays. And at Church Supper #7 at Everyday Mom's Meals.

Pin It

24 August 2011

Have you ever seen these little bitty potatoes at Trader Joe's?  They're actually called Teeny Tiny Potatoes and they are adorable!  I don't have a Trader Joe's anywhere near me, but I make a point to stop by one whenever I travel.  We were in the Chicago area earlier this month, so I had to go to TJ's of course!  One thing that I always get when I am there are the teeny tiny potatoes.  Not only are they cute as they can be, they are so tasty!  The skin is so thin and delicate that it kind of "pops" in your mouth when bite into one.  And the flesh is so creamy.  The other thing I like about them is that, since they are so small, they cook up in no time.  Here is my favorite way to prepare them.

Smoked Paprika Teeny Tiny Potatoes

1 lb. teeny tiny potatoes
1 tbsp butter
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp smoked paprika

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Season water with salt. Cover and bring to a boil.  Boil 5 to 8 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain.

Return potatoes to warm pan and add butter.  Shake potoates inside pan to melt the butter and evenly coat the potatoes.  Combine onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl.  When butter is melted, sprinkle spices over the potatoes and shake to evenly coat seasonings.  

Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Couldn't be easier.  The spice coating is so good.  If you don't have smoked paprika, you can use sweet, but I love the smoky flavor the smoked paprika imparts.

It's probably a good thing I don't live near a Trader Joe's; I would be eating these little cuties everyday!

I won't be posting anymore this week, as we are going out of town to attend my husband's grandfather's funeral. When we get back, we will be preparing for a funeral at our own church as well. Have a great rest of your week and a wonderful weekend and I'll be back next week!

Pin It

23 August 2011

This is a recipe I have been making for about 10 years now.  I started with a recipe I saw in Cooking Light magazine, but I have changed little bits about almost every time I make it.  I think I am finally done making changes and have settled on a recipe.

Spaghetti Pie

1 tbsp olive oil
¼ large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
15 oz. tomato sauce
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (Tuscan Sunset)
1½ cups  low-fat sour cream
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup green onions, sliced
6 oz. spaghetti (I use vermicelli)
Cooking spray
1½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute until onions begin to soften.  Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well, and return meat to pan. Stir in tomato sauce and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, boil spaghetti according to package directions.  Combine the sour cream, cream cheese, and green onions in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Place the spaghetti noodles in a 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Spread the sour cream mixture over spaghetti noodles. Top with meat mixture. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Makes 8 servings.

Here are a few pics of the layering process:

 First layer: cooked spaghetti.  I decreased the amount of spaghetti from the original recipe because I couldn't fit it all in the pan.  And it just seemed too dense.

 Second layer: sour cream/cream cheese/green onion mixture.  This is what separates this dish from regular spaghetti.

 Third layer: meat sauce.  

 Fourth layer:  shredded cheese.  The recipe calls for cheddar, but you can use whatever you have on hand.  Here I used a cheddar/Monterey Jack blend.

 Fresh out of the oven.  Gotta love all the melty cheesy goodness.

You won't be able to cut squares (like the first pic above) out of it when it's hot out of the oven.  When it's hot, you just have to dish it out with a large spoon and pile it up on your plate.  After the leftovers have been refrigerated, you can cut neat little squares out of it and warm them up.

Edit 03.15.12:


One of my fellow Crazy Cooking Challenge participants chose to make this recipe as her entry in the spaghetti with red sauce challenge.  And guess what?  She won the challenge by getting the most clicks!  Check it out:

Cheese Curd in Paradise's Crazy Cooking Challenge: Spaghetti Pie

Congrats, Ashley!

22 August 2011

I recently joined the website Pinterest.  If you're not familiar with it, it's a website where you can create virtual bulletin boards and "pin" ideas to them.  It's a place to collect all the cute ideas for things you see while surfing the internet.  Things you would like to save for future reference.  I had been hearing a lot about it and once I figured out what it was, I thought it sounded like a good way to organize all of the recipes I see that I want to try.  I had been bookmarking them in my browser and I had hundreds of them.  I love having them on Pinterest for multiple reasons: 1. I won't lose all of my bookmarks if something happens to my computer. 2. I love being able to see pictures of all the recipes in one glance, as opposed to looking at a list of recipe names. Pictures are very important when looking at recipes online. 3. It's a good way to see what recipes might be big hits with my blog readers. Other people on Pinterest can "repin" your pins.  That means that if they like something that you pinned, they can repin it to one of their boards.  As I have been pinning recipes, I get emails telling me which of those recipes have been repinned by others.  This tells me which of the recipes I have saved will be most interesting to my readers.  Neat!

Last week I pinned all of the muffin recipes I would like to try.  There were 27 of them!  One of them had 9 repins in a short amount of time.  And a "like".  So ten other Pinterest users thought this muffin recipe looked really good.  So I decided that it would be the next muffin I make.

I'm glad, because it was one I really wanted to make soon.  Spiced Peach Muffins.  I saw this recipe on Babble. These muffins combine the warm flavors of allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon with ripe, juicy peaches.  It was a match made in heaven!

Spiced Peach Muffins

2 eggs
½ cup canola oil
1 cup milk
1½ cups brown sugar
3 ⅓ cups flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 peaches, peeled and diced
Sugar in the raw

Preheat oven to 400º. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, set aside.

In a large bowl combine eggs, oil, milk, and brown sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined, being careful not to overstir.  Gently fold in peaches.

Pour the batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with raw sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins.

Your eyes do not deceive you, those are indeed square muffins you see in the pic above.  My sister gave me a square muffin tin as a Sister's Day gift last month and I chose this recipe for its inaugural use.  It's really neat!  Hilary thought it would be hard to clean, since the muffin cups have corners, but it wasn't at all.  It's very non-stick, and since I also use Pam for Baking, the muffins came out like a dream, with not much left behind to clean.  I did have to do 2 batches because the square muffin cups are smaller than my traditional round ones.  So I actually got 18 square muffins from this recipe, but I think it would only make 12 in a traditional tin.

These muffins are very moist, due to the juicy peach bits and so flavorful due to the spices.  Both of my girls love these; I used soymilk so that my dairy allergic younger daughter could eat them.

Thank you, Pinterest users, for helping me decide which muffin to make next, and for choosing so well!  If you are on Pinterest, find me on there to see what else is on my "to make" list.

Pin It

20 August 2011

Well, summer is nearly over, but I've got a recipe that you might want to try before it completely hits the road.  Have you ever been tempted to buy a bag of those key limes you see in the produce section this time of year just because they are so darn little and cute?  Well, go ahead!  Buy that bag of key limes and make these creamy and delicious key lime cheesecake bars.   I was going to make a lime version of my mom's Lemon Bars, but then I thought, why not change it up a bit and do a cheesecake twist on it?  This recipe is an adaptation of one I saw at Modern Comfort Food.

Key Lime Cheesecake Bars

¾ cup graham cracker crumbs (approx. 6 graham crackers)
½ cup sliced almonds
1 tbsp sugar
Dash of ground cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, melted
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp key lime zest, finely grated
½ cup fresh key lime juice (juice of 1 lb. key limes)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a square 8” baking dish with parchment paper cut to fit.

In the container of a food processor, pulse the graham cracker crumbs, sliced almonds, sugar, and cinnamon until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly until fully blended. Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, whip the condensed milk, cheese, egg yolks, key lime zest, and key lime juice until smooth. Pour this filling over the crumb crust. 

Bake for 25 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Chill for at least 3 hours before serving. 

Makes 9 servings.

These are so good.  Creamy and decadent, they are the perfect halfway point between sweet and tart.

So this recipe is really pretty easy except for one step.  Juicing the key limes.  If you found key lime juice at the store, I wouldn't blame you one bit for buying that instead of the actual key limes.  To be honest, it is kind of labor intensive to juice all of those limes!  They are too small to use a reamer or any other juicing implement, so you just have to use your fingers.  They are quite firm so you really have to put some elbow grease into it.  And of course, I had a hangnail that tore off earlier that day, which was quite uncomfortable when paired with lime juice!  (I got halfway through the juicing process before I remembered that I had a box of plastic food service gloves in the kitchen.  If you have those, I recommend using them even if you don't have a hangnail, because if you don't, the skin on your fingers will be all pruney from the juice.)  So, if you can find key lime juice in a bottle, by all means, use that.  You can still buy the key limes for the zest and garnish, but the bars would be just fine without those two things if you decide not to.

The zest was my addition to the recipe.  Lime juice isn't green, so I thought it would be nice to have some kind of green element in there.  I think it's really pretty with all the little green flecks running throughout.

I don't have a regular sized food processor, just a small 3-cup one, so I had to adjust how I made the crust.  First I ground up the graham crackers, measured out the crumbs, and placed them in a bowl.  Then I ground up the almonds and added them to the graham cracker crumbs.  Then I sprinkled in the cinnamon and sugar and poured in the melted butter.  Then I stirred it all up to thoroughly combine it.  This works just as well as doing it all in the food processor at once.  I really liked the addition of the almonds with the graham cracker.  I wouldn't have thought to do that, but it's really good.

I also didn't do the parchment paper thing.  I didn't feel like messing with it, so I just sprayed the pan with the cooking spray that has flour in it (Pam for Baking).  They came out just fine for me.  If you are making these for a special occasion you might want to use the parchment paper to get perfect little squares.  Obviously the serving size will depend on how you cut them.  Cutting them into 9 bars makes them a fairly good size, similar to a size you would see at a restaurant, I think.  If you are making these for a party (I think they would be food for a baby shower brunch), I would suggest making them a bit smaller than that.  You could probably get 16 little bars out of it.  Just make sure they have been refrigerated for a good while before you cut them.  If you are put off by the crumbly-looking edges in my pic above, don't worry.  I cut them before I refrigerated them because I wanted to get a decent pic before it got dark.  They will have much smoother edges if they are well chilled before cutting.

We enjoyed this little taste of summer here at the end.  It won't be long until you start seeing lots of fall recipes!

Katrina at Baking and Boys chose to make this recipe (along with my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies) when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in December 2011.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

I linked this recipe up at Sweets for A Saturday at Sweet As Sugar Cookies and at the Country Potluck over at Country Cooks Across America.

19 August 2011

This is a recipe for those of you with kids.  Although my grown-up husband loved it just as much (if not more) than my daughter did.  It's all the flavors of pepperoni pizza in a fun quesadilla form.  I like to think of it as "weekend" fun, but "weeknight" easy.  I did a humongous grocery shopping trip yesterday and was totally beat by the time we got home, so this was the perfect thing to have for dinner.  In fact, it was so easy that I was honestly surprised when I realized dinner was ready!  It's an adaptation of one I saw on MyRecipes.

Pepperoni Pizzadillas

4 (8”) flour tortillas
2 cups (8 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded
40 slices pepperoni, about 2.5 oz.
Cooking spray
1 cup pizza or marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lay tortillas on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle ¼ cup cheese over each tortilla, and divide the pepperoni among tortillas. Top each with another ¼ cup cheese. Bake for 5 minutes. 

Remove from oven, and carefully fold each tortilla in half, pressing down to make sure the cheese “seals”. Spray top side lightly with cooking spray.  Bake an additional 5 minutes or until browned, flip over, spray other side, and bake a final 5 minutes. 

Cut each quesadilla into halves or thirds.  Serve with pizza sauce to dip.

Makes 4 servings.

The original recipe called for fat-free tortillas, less cheese, and turkey pepperoni.  I would have loved to have used turkey pepperoni, but while shopping, I realized that it was literally twice the price of regular pepperoni.  As a single income household, we simply don't have room in our budget for expensive upgrades like that.

I think that in the future I will "adultify" my own quesadilla with chopped onion and mushrooms.

 I served these with a simple salad.

This is how I laid out the pepperoni, about 10 slices per tortilla.

This recipe was included in Jane Deere's Fusion Fridays and at

17 August 2011

Here's another one of my unique burger recipes.  I see tons of recipes for barbecue pulled pork in the summertime, so the idea hit me to make a burger version of that.  Instead of cooking pork, shredding it, and putting barbecue sauce on it, I thought it would be fun to add barbecue sauce to ground pork and shape it into burgers.  Kind of like a simpler, easier version of pulled pork made on the grill.

Now, I have to tell you that it took me no less than three attempts to get this right.  I started off putting all of the barbecue sauce inside the burgers with the pork.  That made them taste awesome, but they were so loose that they fell apart on the grill.  We were still able to eat them, but they were more like barbecued loose meat sandwiches.  So I figured we needed more binders.  For the next attempt, I added an egg and some bread crumbs to the pork and barbecue sauce.  They did hold together much better, but I had to add so much bread crumbs to achieve that, that the burgers ended up tasting really kind of bland and "bready".  Not really what I was going for.  I was about to give up when an idea hit me while I was making my Teriyaki Turkey Burgers.  I put a small amount of the sauce inside the mixture, then brushed the rest of it on the outside of the burgers as they cooked.  It worked out perfectly for the teriyaki burgers, so I thought it was worth a shot on the barbecue burgers.  Finally, success!  They turned out great with this method.  My poor husband was not happy when I told him we were trying these burgers for the third time, but he was very glad we did after he tasted them.

Barbecue Pork Burgers

1 lb. ground pork
⅔ cup plus 2 tbsp barbecue sauce, divided
4 hamburger buns
Cole slaw

Place pork in a bowl and add 2 tbsp barbecue sauce.  Mix well.  Form into 4 patties.  

Grill burgers over high heat.  Grill for 5 minutes; flip over and brush cooked side with some of the remaining ⅔ cup barbecue sauce.  Grill another 5 minutes and flip again, brushing the second side with barbecue sauce.  Continue to cook burgers until they are completely cooked through and register 160°.

Place burgers on buns and top with cole slaw.

Makes 4 servings.

Jim loves cole slaw with anything barbecue, so that's why I topped them that way, but they would be good topped any way you like.  I actually really like the combination of barbecue sauce and ranch dressing, so I think that would make a good condiment.  

This is a really easy way to have the great taste of pulled pork without having to spend all day cooking it!

This recipe was linked up at Everyday Mom's Meal's Church Supper.

16 August 2011

This is a really simple dish that looks fancier than it really is.  Everyone knows that lemon is really good on seafood, and this recipe takes full advantage of that.  It's an adaptation of a recipe I saw in the cookbook The Six O'Clock Scramble.

Dill Salmon with Slivered Lemon

4 salmon filets (about 4 oz. each)
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 tsp dried dill
1 large lemon

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

Wash the salmon, pat it dry, and place them on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the filets with olive oil, and sprinkle them with the salt and the dill.  

Cut the lemon in half.  Squeeze the juice from one half over the salmon filets.  Cut the other half into very thin slices and then cut those slices in half crosswise, so they are now semicircles.  Lay the slices on top of the filets so that they cover it evenly.

Put the salmon in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until it is light pink and flakes easily.  

After salmon is served, press down on each lemon slice with a fork to release the juices inside.

Makes 4 servings.

So easy, so good, and so pretty!  I think this makes a nice presentation and would be absolutely perfect for dinner parties because it looks fancy but is really easy and fast to prepare.

The tip about pressing on the lemons with a fork was Jim's idea.  Jim and I removed our lemons, but Lena ate hers (minus the peel), making sour faces all through dinner.  

I actually didn't use regular dried dill.  I have a bottle of The Pampered Chef's All-Purpose Dill Mix that I won as a door prize and I used that.  It's a combination of mostly dried dill, some dried onions and garlic, and some unspecified "herbs and spices".  Like I said, it's mostly dill, so using dried dill will have the same effect.

The only trouble I had with this recipe was slicing the lemons thinly.  I assumed it would work best to use my best, sharpest knife, my Pampered Chef Santoku, but that didn't work at all.  The smooth blade didn't cut through the lemon peel and just squished it instead.  You have to use a knife with fine serration, something that will easily break through the skin.  You might want to have an extra lemon on hand in case you have problems with the slicing.  I actually used two lemons because of the problem I had.

Other than that, this dish is super easy to make.  And the combination of lemon and dill is so good on salmon. This is definitely going into my regular salmon rotation.

This recipe is linked up on Recipe Sharing Monday over at Jam Hands

15 August 2011

I have recently joined the website, Secret Recipe Club.  It's a group of food bloggers who each get assigned someone else's food blog and have to make one of their recipes.  It's a really neat concept and a great way to explore the food blog world.  This was my first month doing it and I was assigned the blog Every Little Thing. I was very interested to learn that the blogger, Stacy, is local to St. Louis, a city I lived in for about 3 years myself while I attended grad school and my husband attended seminary.  I have fond memories of our time in St. Louis and consider it our home-away-from-home-away-from-home, even though we haven't been able to visit for over three years now. 

While perusing Stacy's collection of recipes, I found several that I would like to try.  Some of them were dishes that I was somewhat familiar with making (like her Mexican Chicken Dip), but in the end I decided to go with a type of dish I have never made before: wings.  I like wings, although I don't really eat them very often.  But I had been thinking recently about how I would like to try my hand at making them.  Stacy's recipe for Asian Zing Wings gave me great inspiration.  

Stacy's wings looked great, but she did admit in her post that she would have done one thing different.  She sauced the wings before baking, and later realized it would be better to sauce them after baking.  So I took that suggestion and ran with it.  I decided that instead of just baking the wings plain, I would coat them in flour so that they got all crispy before being sauced.  

I also used a different sauce recipe than Stacy used.  I had some wings at a restaurant in Milwaukee earlier this summer called "orange teriyaki wings."  They were so good.  I wouldn't have thought to combine orange with teriyaki, but it really worked.  So I created an orange teriyaki sauce for my wings.

Here is the recipe I came up with.

Crispy Baked Orange Teriyaki Wings

2 lbs. chicken wingettes
¾ cup flour
½ tsp salt
¾ cup reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce
3 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1½ tsp honey
1½ tsp cornstarch

Make sure wings are very dry; pat them with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.  Place wings, flour, and salt in a large bag or bowl and seal or cover.  Shake to coat.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top.  Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray.  Remove wings from flour, shaking off excess, and lay out on the cooling rack.  Place baking sheet in the fridge and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 425°.  Place baking sheet in oven and bake wings for 40-50 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165° and wings are golden brown, turning once halfway through.

About ten minutes before wings are done, combine teriyaki sauce, orange juice concentrate, and honey in a small saucepan.  Combine cornstarch with a small amount of cold water and stir well.  Pour into teriyaki sauce.  Turn heat to high and let sauce come up to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until it thickens to desired consistency.  

Place wings in a large bowl with a lid.  Pour sauce over wings,  put lid on bowl, and toss to coat.

Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

I have to say, these turned out really well.  The combination of the super crispy skin and the tangy sweet and salty sauce is amazing.  Make sure you use reduced-sodium teriyaki sauce for this, or it will end up too salty.  

A note about the wingettes:  I had never bought wings before, so I didn't really know what I was doing when I went shopping for them.  I found "wings", and then I found "wingettes."  It was my understanding that the wings would have to be separated before cooking, while the wingettes were already separated.  I don't know if that's right or not, but I bought the wingettes.  I bought two 2 lb. packages and assumed they contained about the same number of wingettes.  Wrong.  The first package contained 14 wingettes while the second package contained 21.  That's a big difference!  I'm assuming that the 14 wingettes were much larger than the 21 since they weighed the same.  So you will have to take that into consideration when deciding your cooking time.  My wingettes were large, so they took about 50 minutes to cook through.  If yours are smaller, they will cook more quickly.

Also, when saucing the wings, you might want to reserve some of the sauce, in case you don't need the full batch to cover your wings.  It also depends on how saucy you like them.

My husband said these wings were way better than anything at Buffalo Wild Wings.  I'll take that as a pretty good compliment!

The wings right before going into the oven.  Refrigerating them for an hour after flouring them ensures a nice crispy exterior.

Golden brown and delicious!  Right before being sauced.

I definitely know what I will be taking to the next Superbowl party I am invited to!  I think it would work well to make them as written, and then throw them into a warm slow cooker for parties.

Stacy, thank you so much for inspiring this wing recipe!  You have a great blog and I really enjoyed going through it and reading your posts.  Oh, and one more thing: GO CARDS!! :)

Be sure to check out all of the other Secret Recipe Club posts by clicking on the thumbnails below.  This is so much fun and I'm really glad I get to participate!

13 August 2011

I have never really been a wine drinker.  I just never cared for the taste of it.  I much preferred fruity mixed drinks.  But it turned out that I just hadn't found the right wine.  A year or so ago I discovered Moscato.  Moscato is a really sweet white dessert wine with lovely effervescence.  It's so tasty.  I'm really glad that I finally discovered a wine that I actually like!

Last fall I ran across a recipe for sangria made with Moscato.  I squirreled it away because, as you know, I have to make certain foods in certain seasons.  And this was definitely a summer recipe.  A couple of weeks ago my sister was in town, so after we put all the kiddos to bed, I whipped up some of this delightful stuff.  I ended up changing the original recipe, (go figure!), so here's my version.

White Summer Sangria

1 (750 ml) bottle moscato
½ cup triple sec or other fruity liqueur
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
1 tbsp sugar
6 oz. fresh raspberries
1 peach, sliced
2 cups ginger ale

Pour moscato and triple sec into a pitcher.  Take both the lemon and lime wedges and squeeze the juice into the pitcher.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add raspberries and peaches and stir.  Chill in refrigerator for at least half an hour.

When ready to serve, add ginger ale and stir to combine everything.  Pour into glasses with ice and garnish with lemon and lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Please excuse the poor quality of the photos.  Since I made this at night, the lighting was bad and these pics were the best I could get!

I had never made sangria before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I knew it contained wine and fruit, but that was about it.  Sangria is traditionally made with red wine, but this super sweet white wine version rocks!  And it seems "lighter" somehow, and more fitting for summer.

You can use frozen fruit if you get the unavoidable urge to make this out of season, just let the fruit thaw before adding it to the drink.

I made this again last night, but used Sloe Berry Liqueur instead of the Triple Sec.  That was really good too! You can really use anything you like, as long as it's sweet and fruity.

So pretty in the pitcher.

I hope you get a chance to make this before summer leaves us for good!

12 August 2011

Of all the muffin recipes I have tried over the last few months, this is definitely my family's favorite.  It's a coffee flavored muffin with chocolate chips.  Yum!  It's an adaptation of a recipe I saw on the Tasty Kitchen website.  They were originally called "Via Cappucino Muffins" but I think "mocha" better describes them because a cappuccino doesn't have any chocolate in it (this is the Starbucks barista in me talking!).  I also had to adjust the recipe because as written it only made 8 muffins.

Mocha Muffins

3 packages Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
¾ cup warm milk
½ cup canola oil
1 egg
1½ tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
2¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, dissolve instant coffee in warm milk. Stir until instant coffee is completely dissolved. Next, add oil, egg, and vanilla and whisk until combined.

In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour wet ingredients into a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir well to incorporate completely. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.

Fill muffin tins ⅔ full and bake for 17-20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

If you like coffee and you like chocolate, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with these muffins.  The  Via gives it a really powerful coffee punch.  I recommend making these with decaf Via if you are making them for someone else or if there is a chance you will eat any of them late in the day.  I read comments from people saying they had one after dinner and were up half the night!  I don't do caffeine at all (for health reasons), so the decaf was a no-brainer for me.  But if you want to have these as a little morning pick-me-up, then the regular will probably do just fine!

Now, I feel the need to divulge the fact that there was something else included in the original recipe.  Something that takes these from breakfast to dessert.  A frosting.  Now, I am a muffin purist, so I will give you the frosting recipe on one condition: if you put frosting on them, you must refer to them as mocha cupcakes, not mocha muffins.  Understood?  Okay, here it is.

Coffee Frosting

½ cups butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, or more as needed
½ tsp vanilla
2 packages Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
1 tbsp boiling water

Beat together the butter, sifted powdered sugar (which you can use more than two cups of to attain the right consistency) and vanilla. In a small bowl, mix the Via Instant Coffee together with the boiling water until coffee is dissolved. Add it to the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated. 

I have never made the frosting, so I cannot comment on it.  But I can say that these muffins are heavenly without it.  They are very moist and cakey and the chocolate chips pair perfectly with the robust coffee flavor.  

I really wish I was eating one of these right now instead of this boring old piece of toast!

I linked this recipe up on Jane Deere's Fusion Friday. Head over there to vote for it!

10 August 2011

I love pairing fruit with savory dishes in the summertime.  The other day I made this dish, which pairs chicken with orange, honey, and cinnamon.  It's a combination that works really well and makes a really tasty dish.  This is an adaptation of an Eating Well recipe.

Orange Honey Chicken

½ cup flour
¾ tsp salt, divided
4 chicken breast cutlets
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup white wine
1½ tsp cornstarch
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup orange juice
2 tbsp honey
Pinch ground cinnamon
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 navel orange, thinly sliced (optional garnish)

Combine flour and ½ tsp salt in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add wine to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Combine the cornstarch and broth; add to pan.  Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add orange juice, honey, cinnamon, and the remaining ¼ tsp salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan and cook, turning the chicken once or twice, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165° and the sauce has thickened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the almonds and orange slices.

Makes 4 servings.

This is really good and really pretty easy to make.  I had to increase the amount of flour to dredge the chicken in; it only called for 2 tbsp for 4 chicken breasts.  And then you were supposed to use the "leftover" flour to thicken the sauce.  I certainly didn't have any leftover and could barely cover the 2 chicken breasts I was using.  I tried using flour to thicken the sauce, but was left with a bunch of clumps and it wasn't thickening properly, so I broke out the cornstarch.  I think cornstarch works much better for thickening sauces than flour does.  

It also called for the zest and juice of a navel orange.  I used that, and wasn't really satisfied with the flavor.  The orange I was using was really sweet and the finished sauce was missing some tartness, in my opinion.  I have found that bottled orange juice is more tart and has better flavor than freshly squeezed navel oranges.  Maybe I'm not buying quality oranges or something.  I don't know.  But next time I will use bottled orange juice.

The other change I made was that it called for a cinnamon stick instead of a pinch of cinnamon.  You can do it either way; I just thought the pinch was easier.  Oh, it also called for raisins, but I thought that sounded weird so I left them out.

I served this over couscous with green beans on the side.  It went over very well at my house.

Shared at