Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Yummy in My Tummy" Hot Cocoa

'Tis the season...
This homemade hot cocoa is simple but filled with the special feelings of the Holiday season. Perfect for those snowy days when there's nothing to do but snuggle.
3 cups of whole milk
1/3 cup of unbleached sugar
1 TBSP of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 dash of cinnamon
Heat the milk on low/medium heat whisking often to avoid scalding. Once you begin to see it start to steam, whisk in the sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.
Easy as that! Enjoy, We did! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Spiced Blondies with a Ginger Snap Crust


I came across a recipe for Chai Spiced Blondies and put them on my list of things to bake and bless my husband with. When I went for the ingredients, the Cardamom was a crazy price that I, a person with a tight grocery budget, was not going to pay. So, while standing in our little amish style corner store, I began to ponder. How can I make this work? I knew that at some point in time, I had a carton of Chai liquid concentrate in my pantry. Hopefully that was still there and could be added to flavor these and save the chai concept. Nope. Not there. Plan C came about and with it came a simple spiced blondie with, after I spotted the ginger snaps in the pantry where the chai drink was supposed to be, a ginger snap crust. That is the fun part about cooking and baking! The flavor possibilities are many and you can make things your own. I hope you try these and enjoy them as much as my husband and kids did!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients for the crust:
2 cups of ground gingersnap crumbs
1/2 stick of melted butter
Food process about half a bag of gingersnaps and combine with the melted butter. Press into a greased 9x12 glass baking dish. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Ingredients for the blondie:
2 sticks of softened butter
1/2 cups of packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cups plain yogurt
1 TBSP of vanilla
2 2/3 cups of unbleached flour

2 tsps of baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 coriander

Thoroughly whip up the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. While it mixes, combine the dry ingredients in a seperate bowl. Into the fluffy butter and sugar, add in eggs, yogurt and vanilla. With mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients until it's just incorporated. Scrape sides down with a spatula and stir to combine. Put dough out onto the cooled crust and press out evenly using warm water to keep your hands damp. This allows you to press out the dough without it sticking to your fingers. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Check with toothpick to make sure they're done.

Then you are obligated to enjoy them as much as she did with her milk! Haha!

This bar cookie made for some pretty pictures so I added them just for fun!  


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sweet Butternut Squash Bisque

Fall in a bowl!
This is a butternut squash.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2 butternut squash
4-5 cups of milk
1 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 cups of maple syrup
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

Slice the squash and take the seeds out. Place face down on a baking pan and roast for 1 hour.

Check all pieces for softness, removing those that are soft and continuing to bake those that are still a bit hard. Once cooled, scoop the squash out of skin and put a quarter of the squash in the blender at a time with 1 of the cup of milk. Continue to blend in parts until all is smooth and back into the pot. Add the additional ingredients as you warm the soup in a large pot. Taste for seasoning. If it's still too thick just add a bit more milk or syrup.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Garlic, Herb and Parmesan Crusted Bread

Making bread.
 It can be an intimidating thought but if you have a few key tips, you'll be a success at it every time! I'll fill you in. I find that most recipes say luke warm water and that seems to be where a lot of people get confused. Luke warm water means that when you touch the water it feels cool and hot at the same time. Yeah, like that clears it up! My motto is when you touch the water it's warm but on the hotter side of warm. Think of the temperature you would make the water for your little one to wash their hands and then use that.  Yeast is a touchy ingredient, if the water is too cold, the yeast doesn't wake up. If it is too hot, then the yeast dies. It's much easier to show you in person but alas, that is clearly not happening. Be encouraged, the temperature of the water is a step in breadmaking that will quickly become familiar.
1 TBSP yeast
1 1/2 cups of warm water
2 tsp sweetener- sugar, brown sugar, honey etc
4 cups of unbleached flour
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
For the crust rub
1 clove of garlic- zested into a paste
dried italian herbs
grated parmesan cheese
*My preference is to use my KitchenAid mixer to knead my bread. You can also do this in a bowl and knead with your hands or use a bread machine on the dough setting. All three ways will get the same end result*
With your dough hook attatchment, begin with the water, yeast and sweetener. (A sweetener of some sort is necessary. The yeast reacts with the sweetener to become active) Mix to combine. Add in the olive oil. Gradually add the flour in, adding the salt in with the last cup of flour. You will have to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides. Once a dough has formed, leave the mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn off the mixer and form into a ball in the mixing bowl. Cover the whole ball of dough with olive oil and set in a warm place, covered with a towel. Let rise for 15 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove and divide the dough into two equal parts. Form one part into a loaf shape. Set other dough ball aside.
Grate the clove of garlic onto a plate. Drizzle the top of the loaf with olive oil and spread the grated garlic evenly onto the top of the dough. Sprinkle with any italian herbs you have. Continue with a light sprinkle of salt and parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Until top is golden brown. (If you don't want to grate the garlic, you could substitute it with garlic powder and simply sprinkle it on followed with the salt, herbs and cheese)
*The extra dough ball can either be another loaf of bread, a pizza crust OR  my choice were these delicious cinnamon rolls. ENJOY!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with a Meat Marinara

The beginning of the fall harvest brings apples, pears, butternut squash and this intriguing variety of squash, the spaghetti squash. I may be easily entertained but it's quite exciting! You can bake a seemingly hard and dull squash and in turn scrape out "noodles". I'm surprised by the amount of people I mention this dish to and they are unaware of it's existence. I am a huge fan of the spaghetti squash because it gives me the freedom to eat a huge plate of "spaghetti" with meat marinara with the joy of knowing, at the same time, I'm getting calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber with only a few grams of carbs. And yes, after 2 big babies and 2 c-sections, I do care about my carb intake! I'm sure that I'm not alone in this! This is not a dish that I reccommend making when a spaghetti squash is not in season. They can get quite pricey any other time of the year but right now, rejoice, and go to your local farmer's market or grocery store and discover the awe-inspiring performance of the spaghetti squash!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
1 medium spaghetti squash- for 2 people. 1 large squash for a family.
olive oil
salt and pepper
meat marinara-sautee meat, or vegies, and add your favorite jarred marinara sauce
This is a spaghetti squash. Oval in shape and yellow.
Slice the squash lenth-wise with a very sharp knife. Scrape out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place face down on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven.
Turn over onto serving plate and top with the marinara and cheese. We eat ours right out of the shell, like a bowl. If you're preparing a large squash, bake for 1 hour and scrape the "noodles" out into a bowl for serving.
Quite the amazing vegetable!
 *Try any sauce or topping you would use for pasta. You could do pesto and feta, sausage and peppers... the possibilites are many.*


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parmesan and Thyme Roasted Chicken

Seems like it's one thing you just can't get away from. At our house, we eat a very little amount of meat and chicken is basically our meat of choice so I'm always trying to come up with new ways to prepare it. This version came to life out of  a desire to use the abundance of lemon thyme that I have taking over my porch window box. If you've never had lemon thyme, it's really a nice herb. Light, fresh and of course, lemony... if lemony is a word. Well it is today! Another great use for the herb is roasted potatoes. So, if you're like me and need ever-changing chicken recipes in hopes your family will continue to eat it while desperately try to provide your kiddos with the proper amount of protein in their limited diets, try this quick and delicious version.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
chicken breasts- I buy thinly sliced, already trimmed and use 5 of them
extra virgin olive oil
salt- the most important one. Don't be afraid of salt!
garlic powder
any chicken seasoning spice blend- chicken seasoning grinder at Aldi that I love
leaves of 2-3 sprigs of lemon thyme
parmesan cheese
Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and then add your desired amounts of seasoning to each one. Place it seasoned side down onto your baking dish, I used a pizza stone, and then season that side. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Until golden brown.

Whole grain/flax seed wrap with cucumber, feta, parmesan and thyme roasted chicken.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bread with a Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Crumb Topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 15oz can of pure pumpkin
1 cup of coconut oil or light olive oil
1 cup unbleached sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
3 TBSP cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Crumble ingredients:
1 cup of whole oats
1/3 cup of coconut oil or butter
1/4 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips
Combine the pumpkin, oil, eggs and vanilla until very well incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until smooth. Seperate into two small, greased, loaf pans. Top with the crumble mixture. The crumble will cause the baking time to vary. Bake for 1 hour then check with toothpick and continue baking until the toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Not Your Ordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies

In my family, cookies equal love. My husband and two little ones get so excited when they hear me getting my mixer ready. Little feet run in and little voices squeal their requests to help measure and stir. Now that I put this all into words I see why, in our hearts, love gets intertwined with baking. These cookies are soft and gooey yet chewy with a bit of crunch on the outside. So pretty much perfect!
I hope your home becomes filled with the feelings of love when you bake these whether you're baking with a house full of kids or just a pet sitting by your feet! Enjoy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 stick of softened salted butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of unbleached sugar
1 egg
1 TBSP plain greek yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP oat bran or wheat germ
1/2 bag of chocolate chips

Whip the butter and sugars on high for a minute until it becomes light and fluffy. With the mixer turned down add in the egg, yogurt and vanilla. Turn mixer off and add all the dry ingredients. Mix on low just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. I scooped with a small ice cream scoop and baked on my pizza stone. Bake for 13 minutes at 350 degrees.

I take my cookies out when they are just firm to the touch and starting to look a little golden. You may wonder if they are actually done. Keeps them softer while storing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Yogurt Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 stick of softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt
2 cups unbleached flour
3 TBSP poppy seeds
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Blend the wet ingredients until well combined. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Scoop into muffin tins greased or lined with papers. Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 big muffins.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Corn On The Cob With A Smoky Spice Rub

Summertime. Long hot days, suntanned feet, and fresh vegetables to the local farmers market. Our summertime Saturday mornings get the added bonus of a morning walk down our street to see what goodies the local farmers have brought to sell. Last Saturday, Alaina and I headed down just the two of us. A mommy-daughter morning. We were having friends over for dinner that night and I was hoping to come across something that would inspire a side dish to accompany my meal plan. After a stop in to our coffee shop for a cup of coffee and a chocolate milk, we made our way and found just the inspiration I was looking for.  Along with some organic bing cherries, I found beautiful fresh corn on the cob. I quickly added it to my mental meal plan which included Fajita burritos with seasoned shredded chicken and chips with salsa. Pleasantly inspired, the tex-mex theme took my thoughts towards some sort of spice rub for the corn. It would be an experiment but sometimes some of the greatest meals turn up that way. Well it worked! It made this fresh summertime side dish into the star of the meal!

2-3 tsp of Cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Alaina approved!!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Angel Food Cake with a Lemon Glaze

My mom, or Nana as we all call her, had her birthday today! About a year ago, she began some amazingly healthy eating habits, seriously the woman is a robot, and so I wanted to choose something that not only all of us would enjoy but also something she could feel less reluctant and more pleased with the thought of eating. I also knew that she adores angel food cake. Since never making one, I set out to look around at how the process went. I familiarized myself, came up with a plan and then tried out my own version which now may be the ONLY cake I may ever make again! With the availability of delicious fresh summertime fruit this is an all-around perfect "Nana approved" dessert!

Ingredients for the cake:
1 dozen egg whites~ at room temperature. Seperate into mixing bowl and let sit for 30 min.
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Ingredients for the glaze:
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/3 cup of lemon juice

In a sifter or mesh strainer, sift the flour and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Whisk the sifted dry mixture for a bit to sift it even further.

Once you have seperated the egg whites and allowed them to sit, sift into them the cream of tartar and salt.

Turn the mixer gradually up to high speed and whip. Gradually add the 1 cup of sugar to the mixture until stiff peaks form.

Remove from mixer stand and fold 1/3 of the dry ingredients at a time and the vanilla.
*To fold, you scoop under the whites and lift up until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not stir. Folding and stirring are two different methods. Stirring will deflate the air out of the whipped whites*

Add 1/4 cup to cupcake pans. This will be about 3/4 of the way up the side of the pan.

Bake at 345 degrees for 12 minutes and check with your finger. Continue baking another 3-5 minutes until cakes are just firm to the touch. They will not be very brown on top. Rest the pans for a minute and then remove the cupcakes onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

This made two dozen "cupcakes" and with the rest, I made a small loaf pan cake.

Now they should be completely cooled.
Stir the powdered sugar and the lemon juice together to make a thick glaze. If it's too thin simply add a bit more powdered sugar. If it's too thick just add a few more drops of lemon juice. Spread onto the cupcakes and loaf cake with a spoon. Top with berries and drizzle them with more glaze... and savor every last bite!

One last picture because it was just so so pretty! My sister, Marcy, helped me with the final touches and my brother, Evan, took this picture. It was a family affair! And we may or may not have topped this with freshed whipped cream....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fresh Broccoli Salad

Broccoli salad is a recent discovery of love in my life. It's fresh, sweet, tangy and perfect! If you can chop broccoli then you can make and believe me, once you do, you'll be wanting to make it everyday!

2 bunches of broccoli crowns ~ diced very small
1/2 cup of Veganaise (also Miracle Whip or Mayonaise could be used)
3 tsp of apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP of sugar
1/4 of an a sweet onion~ grated into a paste (or a diced red onion)
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper and garlic powder
1 tsp of olive oil
1/3 cup of raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1/3 cup of chopped bacon or real bacon bits
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Whisk the Veganaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Grate the onion into the sauce to give it it's flavor without the chunks of onion in the salad. (You can dice it up very small and toss it in if preferred) Taste to adjust seasoning to your liking. Pour over broccoli and add the final 3 ingredients. Stir to combine. Refigerate before serving. SO, so good!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a Lemon Cookie Crust

Three years ago, I was blessed with a daughter and my life has increasingly become filled with all things pink and girly! Because of my connection with my daughter, Alaina, I was inspired to host a Mother~Daughter brunch at our lovely Bella Cucina. It was a fun time with some of the mommies who are dear to my heart, their daughters and even some of their moms too! When planning it, I wanted to come up with something special to give all of the ladies coming but just couldn't pin point exactly what that would be. In the cookie aisle, while gazing at my favorite "Back To Nature" California Lemon cookie, it came to me! Wouldn't these make the best crust for a cheesecake! This cheesecake was a hit and made an already precious lunch with our little ladies even more of "girl's day out"!

Strawberry Sauce Ingredients:
3cups of strawberries
2/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of water
1/2 lemom
2 TBSPs of cornstarch

Add strawberries, sugar, water and the juice of half the lemon to a small saucepan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add cornstarch and boil for a few minutes. Smooth in a blender. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare a 9 inch springform pan
Lemon Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of ground lemon cookies
1/2 stick of butter
Zest of one lemon

Stir ingredients together and press pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees
Cheesecake Ingredients:
4~ 8oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature
1 3/4 cups of sugar
4 eggs
pinch of salt
2 TBSP of flour
1 pod of vanilla seeds (or just use 2 tsp of vanilla)

Whip cream cheese on high for 5 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides and whip for 5 more minutes. This is to make the cream cheese light and airy. Combine all other ingredients in. Scrape down sides and stir. Pour onto the crust. Top with half of strawberry sauce and swirl with a knife or toothpick. Bake at 325 degrees for 65 minutes. Open oven door, don't move the cheesecake, for 15 minutes. Refigerate overnight. Serve with the remaining strawberry sauce drizzled. Enjoy!

*When cutting cheesecake, wipe the knife with a warm wet towel between slices* 

Bruschetta Stuffed Chicken

Beautiful, fragrant and delicious! And this meal is one of my favorite ways to use fresh basil from my fun, new basil plant I found at Wegmans! This chicken is simple to put together but gives you a gourmet meal to present to your family, which in our house helps alot when there are red and green "things" mixed in with their food! It's a great way to start off this great summer season.

Chicken Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts
Marinade- olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, 2 torn basil leaves
Butterfly 3 chicken breasts and marinate in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and basil leaves. Refigerate for as long as you can.
(To butterfly a chicken breast, just filet it, slowly, across from side to side but stop before you slice clear through. You will be able to unfold it and have a wide flat piece.) 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Bruschetta Ingredients:
3 medium tomatoes
1/4 cup of mozzerella cheese
5-6 leaves of basil
dash of salt, pepper, garlic powder

Dice tomatoes and remove the wet seeds. Tear the basil into the tomatoes. Toss with remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Lay the chicken out, cut side up, and lay some of the bruschetta on one half of the breast. Fold the other side over and toothpick to secure. Repeat with other two chicken breasts. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Avacado Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

When I heard a mention, on a friend's facebook, about chocolate chip cookies being made with avacados, instead of butter, I quickly made it a point to try it. My mom and future sister-in-law beat me to it but I didn't mind. I got to try these delicious cookies without having to clean up the mess. I made them again on my own and they are so delicious, completely worth doing some dishes! Moist and chocolatey with all the health benefits of avacado but without the hint of avacado flavor. The addition of oats gives them fiber and great texture. Plus who doesn't need a fun way to use up overly ripened avacados! Try these... you will be very glad you did.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
1 cup avocado beat until smooth and creamy
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup agave
3/4 cup unbleached sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup chocolate chips

With a mixer, beat the avacado until very smooth. Add the molasses, agave, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Once well combined, add in the dry ingredients. Mix on low until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Bake @ 350* for 12-15 mins until firm but still soft.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"The Pioneer Woman" White Chicken Enchiladas


My husband took me to meet Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. I made my first recipe from her book. This is how it began... yum!

And this is how it ended... yummy!

I used whole grain tortillas and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Omitted the jalapeno and the sour cream and used only half of the heavy cream. I also added some salsa to the finished sauce. They were beyond delicious and beautiful too. I loved grilling the peppers and trying a new technique. Meeting Ree was an exciting day and she was as sweet and lovely as she seems when you watch her on her Food Network show. It was one homeschooling home cook mama to another. It was a great day!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maple Toasted Sesame Dressing

This dressing makes salad a delight to eat! I think that may be all that needs to be said.

1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar (depending on your preference)
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 TBSP Maple Syrup
pinch of salt, pepper and garlic powder
1 tsp of toasted sesame seeds
Shake ingredients in a small jar (or whisk in a bowl) until combined. Taste and adjust to your liking. Shake before serving.