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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dijon Potato Salad

It's (almost officially) summertime.  A time when you want to have different salad recipes to choose from for all of those parties, BBQs, picnics...if you're like me, it's all about variety!  

Don't get me wrong...I love my MIL's version, as well as my Mom's...but this one hits the spot, too.

This is a quick and easy potato salad that caters to the mustard lovers.  I whipped it up last week with stuff I had on hand for a delicious BBQ side at home.  Perfect for this weekend's get together!

Dijon Potato Salad
3 cups red potatoes, cut into big chunks
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/3 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
salt and pepper

Cook potatoes until slightly soft.  Meanwhile, add remaining ingredients all together in a large bowl.  Drain potatoes and let cool, and toss into large bowl with other ingredients.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Garlic-Roasted Chicken Breasts

As I mentioned yesterday, I was pretty sick over the weekend.  While Frank and Bella enjoyed the weather, going to BBQs and pool parties, I stayed home and made a big vat of chicken soup.

I had 2 breasts leftover and figured I could use something solid to eat as well, so I found this very quick and easy (and delicious) recipe.  It was perfect to pick on for a few days.  

The flavors are so good...of course I kicked up the garlic :)  I probably could have even used more, to be honest.  And as much as you shouldn't eat the skin...well...

The meat would be perfect on top of a salad or in pasta.  Yum!  Try it soon.

Garlic-Roasted Chicken Breasts
adapted from Epicurious

2 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
4 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place rack in upper third of oven.

Mash garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then place in a bowl.  Stir in oregano, crushed red pepper, oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

Cut a 2 inch long pocket (horizontally) in the meaty part of each breast, and place about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic mixture in each breast.  Coat chicken with remaining mixture.

Roast chicken, skin sides up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan for about 35 minutes.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry "Donut" Bundt Cake (What's Baking?)

Our What's Baking? challenge this month was hosted by Ammie from Adventures in my Kitchen.  She asked us to bake with a local, in-season ingredient.  The first thing that came to my mind was strawberries (although asparagus came in a close second) so off I went in search of a new and different recipe.

I spotted this great cake and thought it would be perfect to bring along to my cousin's for her kickoff party of the summer.  She and her husband are always hosting the ENTIRE family all summer long (and anyone who knows us is aware of how many people that is!), sharing the awesomeness that is their back yard, complete with a kick-ass pool, swingset, fire pit, trampoline, and more...and of course, always a ton of good eats.

Unfortunately, I spent most of Memorial Day Weekend home, fighting off a nasty sore throat and cough.  Frank and Bella went ahead and enjoyed the fun, with cake in tow.  From what I hear, it was a hit...

I love how whimsy this cake is.  So cute!  It really does look like a giant donut.

But be warned...it's low.  Not the usual height you get from a bundt cake.  If you're looking to feed a big crowd, this may not do the trick...unless, like in our case, you know there will be a million other desserts there :)

Thanks for hosting, Ammie!

Strawberry "Donut" Bundt Cake
from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

for the cake:
1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup sour cream (I used light)
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup AP flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

for the icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup strawberry jam (I used reduced sugar)
pinch of salt
sprinkles, for topping

Preheat oven to 320 degrees.  Butter and flour a bundt pan.  Stir strawberries and sour cream together and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until creamy.  Add egg, then vanilla.  Meanwhile, sift all remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl.

With mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture, followed by half the strawberry mixture, to the mixing bowl.  Repeat, then spoon batter into bundt pan.  Smooth top out.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until cake is golden.  Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.

to make the icing:
Beat confectioners' sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy.  Add jam and continue to beat until combined.  Ice cake with a spatula, then top with sprinkles.

Can be kept in an airtight container for a few days.

Linked to:  Tastetastic Thursday
                    Sweet Tooth Friday
                   Sweets for a Saturday

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Recipes!

So who's got big plans for Memorial Day weekend?  I think most people will be doing many of the same things...going to the beach or pool, relaxing, attending parties and BBQs...and of course, eating :)

Today I'm posting a round-up of recipes from some blogs that I enjoy, incase you're still deciding what to serve or bring along to parties you're attending.  I may be making a few of these myself...they all look so good!

Enjoy your three day weekend, whatever your plans may be!

Strawberry Lemonade from Mrs. Reguiero's Plate:

Grapefruit Margaritas from Sweet Beginnings:

Sweet & Spicy Jalapeno Poppers from Prevention RD:

Submarine Hero Hoagie Dip from The Keenan Cookbook:

Smashed Sliders from A Taste of Home Cooking:

Brie & Granny Smith Turkey Burgers on Homemade Pretzel Rolls from Eats Well With Others:

Grilled Potato Salad from Heat Oven to 350:

Light and Tangy Cole Slaw from For the Love of Cooking:

Grilled Corn with Garlic Butter, Lime and Parmesan from The Jey of Cooking:

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes from Dainty Chef:

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Pudding Pops from Good Thymes and Good Food:

Simple Summer Strawberry Bruschetta from bell'alimento:

I also want to give a shout out to my beautiful Nana, who turns 90 today!!  Here is a 4 generation picture that we took over the holidays.  Told you she was beautiful :)


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pepperoni Calzones

Can you name your top 10 favorite foods off the top of your head?  It's harder than you might think...at least it is for me. 

Go ahead, try it...matter of fact, I'd love to see it in the comments!

I can safely say that calzones rank pretty high on my list.  I don't eat them very often, but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy every bite.  And I love that I can put anything I want in them.  But this version is my absolute favorite.

So go ahead...give me your lists!  Then try this recipe.  I can guarantee you'll be doing some editing :)

Pepperoni Calzones
adapted from Real Simple

1 pound pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
1 cup ricotta
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup pepperoni, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup marinara, warmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Divide dough into 4 equal parts and roll and stretch on a lightly floured surface into rounds, about 8 inches wide.

Combine ricotta and pecorino romano cheeses and pepper in a bowl.  Layer mozzarella on one side of dough, then top with pepperoni, then ricotta mixture.  Fold dough over filling and pinch edges to seal.

Brush tops of calzones with oil.  Transfer to foil lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden.  Top with marinara or serve on side.

Linked to:  Pizza/Calzone Blog Hop

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Best Tuna Salad

There are plenty of people out there rolling their eyes, I know.  The sight of "the best" anything has that effect on some.  And that's fine.

So to all you eye rollers out there, just do me one favor.  Try this recipe.  THEN tell me what you think.

I mean it.  Leave me a comment.  Prove me wrong.

Until then, I agree with Cook's Country...this IS The Best Tuna Salad!

The Best Tuna Salad
from Cook's Country Magazine

3 cans solid white tuna packed in water (I've always preferred Bumblebee)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (CC recommends Hellmann's...that's all we EVER use in this house!)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped

Drain tuna and pat dry with a paper towel.  Microwave oil and onion for about 2 minutes, until onion begins to soften.  Mix with tuna, lemon juice, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Let marinate for 10 minutes.

Stir in mayo and serve (I like my tuna salad cold so I always refrigerate it for a while before eating).

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Bella loves taking a trip to what she calls the "muffin store".  It's really a local market that has anything you could possibly need, but their muffins are to die for (and they're actually shipped from a very well known bakery a little bit further away).

Her favorite variety, by far, is chocolate chip.  Smart girl.

This is a great recipe that satisfies our craving so we don't necessarily have to go to the muffin store.  Homemade is always the better way to go :)

Chocolate Chip Muffins
from Mehan's Kitchen

1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners.

Whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.  In another bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Make a well in center of dry mixture and add wet mixture.  Beat until smooth and well mixed, about 1-2 minutes.

Fold chocolate chips into batter until well distributed.  Do not overmix.  Spoon batter into each muffin cup, filling to rim.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool.

Linked to: Sweets for a Saturday

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Cuban Beef Empanadas (Picadillo)

Sometimes when the mood strikes, you just have to go with it.  Especially my mood for Cuban food.

There are a few great places to get Cuban food in my area, but it's always nice to be able to satisfy your cravings at home.  And with recipes as easy as this, there are no excuses.

Picadillo is amazing eaten on its own or with rice...or here, stuffed in crust to make empanadas.  I chose a healthier alternative and baked them instead of the traditional deep fry method (which is also delicious, of course!).

Triple this recipe and make a big batch, because these go FAST!!

Cuban Beef Empanadas (made with Picadillo)
adapted from Laylita's Recipes

1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
3 small potatoes, peeled and cut in small cubes
3/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup green olives (stuffed with pimento)
1/2 cup raisins
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
salt and pepper

In a pan, brown beef with a dash of cumin and pepper.  Drain grease and set aside.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium low heat and add onion.  Cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook until almost golden.  Mix in bell pepper, cumin, pepper and a pinch of salt.  Add potato and cook about 5 minutes.

Add ground beef and wine to mixture and let wine reduce.  Check potatoes with a knife and when about half cooked, add raisins and tomato sauce.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add olives.  

Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked.  Add a little wine or water if sauce thickens too much.  Taste and adjust other seasonings.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add a few spoonfuls of picadillo to each disc of dough (I like these), making sure not to overstuff.  Fold dough over and moisten edge with beaten egg or water.  Seal with a fork.  

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until slightly browned.  (you can also deep fry them on medium high until golden brown)

Linked to:  Tastetastic Thursday

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Lemonade Sugar Cookies

What are the first words that pop into your head when you think of summertime?  There are so many things to choose from...

Beach.  Pool.  Sun.  Hot.  Thirsty.


Cookies.  (a year-round word, but go with it)

Lemonade cookies?

Oh, yessss.

Lemonade Sugar Cookies
barely adapted from Just Baked

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 2 lemons
1 stick (8 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
turbinado sugar for topping

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Using the paddle attachment, put butter and zest in mixing bowl and beat until smooth.  Add oil and mix, then add sugar and blend in.  Add eggs, scraping sides occasionally, and mix, followed by vanilla and lemon juice.  

Add dry ingredients until just combined.  Batter will be very loose.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment.  Roll tablespoon sized scoops of dough into round balls, roll in turbinado sugar, and place on baking sheet.  Leave a good amount of space between them since they will spread.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are just firm.  Bottoms will be pale brown but tops will be light.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pesto Topped Tilapia

If this post doesn't hint at how rushed I've felt lately, I don't know what will.

2 things.  Tilapia.  Pesto.

Dinner in a flash.

Pesto Topped Tilapia
tilapia filets
pesto (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place fish on pan and top with pesto.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

{told you I was in a rush!  doesn't matter because it was still delicious :)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Polenta Sausage Bake

Lately I've been making two dinners on Monday nights.  One for Monday, one for Tuesday (since I'm in the office all day).  The Tuesday meal obviously has to be a make-ahead, so I've been getting creative some weeks for fear of boredom (we all know how much I love variety!).

This is another "Melissa special".  Another one of those meals where I check my fridge, freezer, pantry, whatever...and come up with something delicious and easy.  I actually used marinara AND vodka sauce in this dish because I had a little of both sitting in the fridge.  SO good.  Same rule applies for veggies...toss in whatever you have!

Polenta Sausage Bake
4 Italian sausage links (I used a combo of hot and sweet), cut into one inch chunks
extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper
marinara sauce (about 2 cups)
1 tube polenta
fresh mozzarella (half a ball or more, if you want), halved and sliced
grated pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place oil in a hot skillet, then add sausage.  Cook for a few minutes, then add onions and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add sauce and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add a little sauce to the bottom of a baking dish - enough to lightly cover the entire surface (I used a 9 inch round).  Slice polenta into 1 inch rounds and add a layer over the sauce.

Spoon the sausage mixture on top.  Top with remaining polenta, then mozzarella.  Finish with pecorino romano.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crash Hot Potatoes

There is a point to this post today.  

The point is, you don't have to follow a recipe exactly, nor does your food have to be pretty, in order for it to be delicious.  Case in point - crash hot potatoes.

I know this dish has made its way around the blogosphere many, many times in the past few years, but this was the first time I tried it.  The fact that I couldn't find my potato masher didn't scare me.

What I like about this method of preparation is how crispy the loose potato skin gets.  It's different than your typical roasted potato.  And it's GOOD.

Add whatever herbs and toppings you like.  We had a plain version this time around, but I'll definitely change it up, depending on what we're having with them.

Crash Hot Potatoes
from For the Love of Cooking

red potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
additional fresh or dried herbs of your choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes, or until fork tender.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and put potatoes on it.  Smash potatoes with a potato masher (or anything else you can find...hee hee).  Drizzle oil over them, then sprinkle with herbs and seasonings.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until crisp.  Add toppings if you like.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

Another week, another crockpot recipe...and another use for bottom round roast.

We love my pot roast but we like to change it up too.  I came across this recipe during a recent recipe swap and put it on my short list to make on one of my work days.  The ease of it was just one reason why I loved it.  The rest, well, is pretty obvious.

I didn't even bother sticking these under the broiler and they were still delicious.  The heat of the meat melts the cheese a bit and all the flavors join together really well.

A delicious sandwich that's hearty enough for dinner.  And easy enough to make while you're in the office.  Score!

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches
barely adapted from Kate's Recipe Box

2 pounds beef bottom round roast
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tablespoon herbs de provence
3 bay leaves, broken in half
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 cups water
Italian bread
sliced provolone cheese
italian seasoning

Place meat in crockpot.  Add garlic, herbs de provence and bay leaves.  Pour in soy sauce and water.  Cook on low for 6-10 hours until meat is fork tender.

To assemble sandwiches:  cut and split bread.  Add meat to bottom slice.  Spread mayo on top slice then sprinkle italian seasoning on top.  Place cheese on meat and either broil for a few minutes, or close sandwich and serve right away.  Spoon out some au jus and serve on the side, if desired.

Linked to: Tastetastic Thursday

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Chili Dog Nachos

Ever since the weather has warmed up and the grill has been back in use, I've had a craving for hot dogs.  I don't eat hot dogs very often so it's a little unusual for me.  Matter of fact, I didn't eat hot dogs for about 10 years after a few, um, unfortunate incidents.  But that's a thing of the past :)

We had a few hot dogs left in the fridge after my craving was satisfied, and they needed to be used.  On Cinco de Mayo I was looking for something easy to make that was in keeping with the Mexican theme, and came across this interesting recipe from Rachael Ray.

Any chili dog fan would be happy to indulge in some of these.

This would be a great game day dish...pure man food!  Try this - you won't be disappointed.

Chili Dog Nachos
slightly adapted from Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper
3 hot dogs, cut into bite size chunks
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 bag tortilla chips (or enough to cover a baking sheet generously)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
Olives, sour cream, scallions, avocado, salsa for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add oil.  Add beef and season with salt and pepper.  After a few minutes, add hot dogs and brown for another 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, Worcestershire, chili powder and cumin.  Cook another few minutes then add tomato sauce.

Arrange chips on foil lined baking sheet.  Top with chili dog topping.  Add cheese and bake for about 10-12 minutes until cheese melts.  Garnish with desired toppings.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Easy Cheese Grits

Recently my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and parents took a road trip down south.  It sounded like a really fun one - one that involved a lot of good eats, drinks and laughs.  What's better than that?

Well, I guess if I went along for the ride it would have been a LITTLE bit better.  Just a little :)

Instead of bringing me back a t-shirt, they brought me (among other things) this:

Straight from Tennessee, y'all.

Naturally, I went ahead and did this:

And the grand finale looked like this:

Southern perfection.

Next time I open that bag it'll be for breakfast.

Easy Cheese Grits
slightly adapted from the Falls Mill white corn grits bag

1 cup white corn grits
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup half & half (I used fat free)
2-4 ounces cheese of your choice

Place grits in bowl and cover with 2 cups water.  Stir so the light bran rises to top of water.  Set aside.

Bring 2 cups water, onion and butter to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Carefully pour off water and bran from bowl of grits, then add rinsed grits to boiling mixture.

Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until grits soften.  Add half & half and cheese and stir until cheese melts.  Serve hot.

Makes 4 half cup servings.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chipotle-Honey Pork Chops

I was a latecomer to the canned chipotle peppers in adobo party.  Up until a few weeks ago, I had never used them before.  I made these recently but it was with the leftovers from this dish that I'm blogging about today.  And now, I'll never turn back.

I was waiting for Frank's reaction after taking his first bite, since he isn't a fan of much heat.  He did pause for a second, but ended up surviving.  And really liking it.

And yeah, those are grits.  Straight from Tennessee!  Recipe to come tomorrow.

Chipotle-Honey Pork Chops
adapted from Epicurious

3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo (1/4 cup)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons honey
4 boneless pork chops

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place oven rack in middle of oven.

Puree chipotles in adobo, garlic and honey in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Pat pork dry and season with salt.

Line a baking sheet with foil and place pork on top.  Coat each chop generously with glaze.  Roast for about 20 minutes.  Serve.

Linked to:  Tastetastic Thursday

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Baked Mustard Lime Chicken

What do you do when you find yourself with a bunch of extra cilantro?  For me, I usually make something Mexican.  But what if you're not in the mood for that type of cuisine?

Well...you can make this.

Delicious, easy (definite weeknight dish!) and healthy, too.  Oh, and did I forget to mention make ahead...my latest obsession?  Yeah, that too.

I think this would be great on the grill too!

Baked Mustard Lime Chicken
from Elana's Pantry

1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a food processor.  Pulse until well combined.

Place chicken in a baking dish, pour marinade on top and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (can be several hours).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 20 minutes, uncovered.  Serve with extra sauce spooned on top.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Toffee (Secret Recipe Club)

My secret blog assignment for this month's Secret Recipe Club was The Yummy Life, and that it definitely is!  There were a lot of great recipes to choose from on Monica's blog.  I browsed through the recipe archives on and off for about a week.  Then, right before Administrative Professionals Day, I had a great idea that made it much easier to make a decision.

Most of you know that I recently went back to work for the first time since I was pregnant - I had been out of the game for close to 4 years.  I'm working for a firm that I was with from 1997-2003.  Most people from that time are long gone, but there are some who still remain, including the administrative assistant/office manager in the branch office I work out of.  Carolyn is a great person and a terrific admin, and for those reasons I thought she deserved a nice batch of this:

Toffee is one of my favorite candies ever, but I'd never made it myself.  Now that I know how easy it is, I might be in great danger...

There are no words.

Carolyn loved it, and I definitely did, too.

Thanks for a great recipe, Monica!

adapted from The Yummy Life

1 cup (skin on) whole almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans and Heath toffee bits

Spread almonds on a microwave-safe plate in a single layer.  Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring after each minute.  Arrange almonds in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet.

Combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in a saucepan.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until butter is melted.  Continue cooking for another 7-10 minutes, until candy turns light brown (it may start smoking slightly).  Immediately pour candy over almonds evenly.  Sprinkle chocolate chips all over the candy.  Wait one minute then spread chocolate until smooth.  Sprinkle with pecans and Heath bits.

Let cool then break into pieces.  Store in refrigerator in a tightly covered container.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Baked Chipotle Chicken Chimichangas

Our latest recipe swap theme was Blogger's Choice, where we were each assigned a blog and got to pick the recipe we wanted to prepare (think SRC).  The blog I was given, Kate's Recipe Box, had some great ones to choose from!  I came very close to making this but had a change of plans mid week, and ended up going with something different (I'm definitely making it soon though...like, probably next week!).

And coincidentally, it's a Mexican dish...perfect for tomorrow's Cinco de Mayo celebration!

I made some changes to Kate's recipe based on what I had on hand and our preferences.  My regular readers know Frank doesn't eat beans, so I omitted them...used smaller (and low carb) tortillas...and swapped out sauce from canned chipotle peppers for the enchilada sauce.  

I love that this recipe is a healthier alternative to its fried counterpart.  I also love that they were easy to prep the night before so we could eat them on a work night.  They were delicious!

Baked Chipotle Chicken Chimichangas
adapted from Kate's Recipe Box

1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 onion, chopped
8 whole wheat low carb flour tortillas (smaller size...can be found at Trader Joe's)
2 tablespoons (approximately...adjust based on your heat level preference) sauce from canned chipotles in adobo
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken breasts
3/4 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese
1/2 can black olives, chopped
low fat sour cream and cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook rice with onion according to package instructions and set aside.  

Lay tortilla flat and spread adobo sauce evenly on it.  If necessary, soften tortillas first in microwave or a pan to be able to roll them.  Add even amounts of rice mixture, chicken, cheese and olives and roll up.  Place seam side down on foil lined baking sheet.  Repeat with all tortillas.

Spray lightly with cooking spray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until tortillas start to crisp up.  Top with sour cream and cheese (and guacamole/avocado if you have it...I didn't).

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hangin' out with a few celeb chefs...

My uncle is an administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Paterson, and invited me to a great event that raises money for their children's services.  It was their fifth year running it and from what he said, it gets bigger and better every year.  My sister and I were honored to attend, knowing it was for a very good cause, and also excited that there would be representation from many good local restaurants.  Who can go wrong with good food and wine, all donated for a meaningful charity?

Everything was delicious - and there was SO much to choose from - I didn't even make it to half the tables!  The wine was flowing, the band was playing, and there were some great gifts being auctioned off.  Such a great night out.

Soooo, I was happy to find someone who I've talked about a lot here lately when we first arrived...

Yes, that is Lidia Bastianich...the person I was thrilled to spend some time with on the phone last month.  I introduced myself and she was very sweet, thanking me again for contributing my pasta e fagioli to her website.  I was so honored!

Now, I know I have a lot of readers who are Top Chef fans...anyone who watched Season 5 is well aware of who this lovely lady is...

Ariane Duarte (who in my opinion, got robbed on TC and should have gone all the way!), well known chef and owner of CulinAriane, was just as wonderful in person as I imagined she would be!  So friendly and warm...and her ricotta spring vegetable crostini was delicious.  We're looking forward to dining there soon...hopefully Ariane is reading this now (I gave her my card!) and will save us a great table :)

All in all, it was a fantastic evening...my uncle assured me this will become an annual thing, and I'm more than happy about that!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (and a Bloggers Bake for Hope reminder!)

FACT:  I have a love/hate relationship with ranch dressing.  Why, you ask?

I love it because, well, it's just delicious.  Rich, creamy, tasty...

I hate it because it's not exactly that great for you.

So, I can feel a bit less guilty about it if I make it myself...right?  RIGHT?

Yeah, I'd say that's right.

And remember, today is the last day to bid on tasty treats for a great cause!  Head over to Bloggers Bake for Hope now and check out all the goodies that are being auctioned off.  And please, spread the word!

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
slightly adapted from Simply Recipes

1 cup light buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Stir buttermilk and mayonnaise in a medium bowl until fully combined.  Add remaining ingredients and adjust for taste.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bloggers Bake for Hope

You may remember this event from last year - well, it's back!  This time, all proceeds will go to the Avon Foundation.  There are some delicious treats up for auction this year!


Please follow this link and consider bidding on an item or two.  And spread the word!  This is a cause that's very important to me and I'd love to see it be as successful (or even more!) than last year.

Bidding ends tomorrow so don't delay!