December 20, 2012

Kitchen Assistance?

Let's try something new. Communication.

I want to open up this blog for food-related questions. I'm not a chef or expert in the kitchen... even better, I'm a home cook like most of you. Most of us always come across something we don't know and are too embarrassed to ask others, so we Google it. Sometimes even that doesn't help or clarify what you need. Believe me, I STILL look up simple things that I feel I really should know but I have too many other non-essential things saved up in my brain that there is not much room for minor kitchen or food knowledge. There is nothing wrong with learning something new once in a while anyway.

I receive an occasional email or text for recipes or questions from friends. I've responded with quick recipes to them while they were in a pinch needing an appetizer or meal idea ASAP. I'm such a sweet friend.

Don't feel like cooking and want a restaurant recommendation? I'd love to help with that too.

I would love to hear from you!

December 15, 2012

Food Fondness and Memories

Happy 10 days before Christmas!!

Hey friends! After reading through some past posts I realize that I share a lot of memories associated with food. It's the same in most posts...I share a memory and then a picture and recipe. I think that is why I am so passionate about cooking or baking. It makes me feel good. It makes me think of the people I care about. It makes me smile. It makes me dance. Wait, pretend I didn't share that. Moving on.. quickly.

I have correlated my life with food so that certain smells and flavors associate to people or events in my life. I can probably rattle off a smell or food that reminds me or relates to a family member or close friend. And there is probably a story to share. It's crazy but true. I'm sure other foodies are the same way but I have yet to hear stories.

If you read my blog, you'll know some of mine. For instance, my husband LOVES peanut butter so I always think of him when I see something that has peanut butter in it, chicken adobo always makes me think of my precious grandma and childhood of her cooking delicious Filipino dishes, the smell of steamed rice also makes me think of grandma and sugar cookies remind me of Christmas decorating and baking with my beautiful mother.

I guess I can share one of my food memories that I haven't mentioned before. The smell of chocolate always reminds me of one of the best times of my life. It brings back fond memories of our honeymoon in Rome in September 2006. We were exploring one evening and walked by this little chocolate shop a few blocks from our hotel in the heart of Rome. It looked like they just sold various chocolates but then we saw a sign that mentioned cafe or snack bar so we ventured down a set of stairs to this tiny cafe with a small list of beverages and sweets available. I went for the milk chocolate and my husband loves dark chocolate. I was assuming it was more of a hot cocoa. I suppose I had not had the pleasure of tasting hot "drinking chocolate" before. We had no idea what we were in for. This stuff was the BEST chocolate I have ever had. They gave us a few little tea biscuits to enjoy with our drink. We both took our time to savor each drop of this liquid gold dessert in a mug.

Now I would love to hear from YOU! I want to know what dishes or even ingredient is attached to some of your memories. Please comment on this post and share so I know you care. It doesn't have to be long, just a snippet of what it is that makes you think of family or a special someone.

I'm anxiously awaiting to hear from you!

December 12, 2012

Christmas Treats and Memories

Happy 12-12-12!! I know it's been a while since I've posted but it took me a bit to get motivated and feel the spirit of the holidays. I finally started holiday baking this week while listening to Christmas music and it did the trick. It also brought back sweet memories of making Christmas Sugar Cookies with my mom when I was younger. It was a tradition while we were kids but slowly went away as we got older and weren't all home together as often for the holidays. That made me sad. So I concentrated on the good memories such as decorating the tree, baking and decorating cookies. Also, my two younger brothers and I each got an ornament for several years with our name and year engraved on a brass ornament each year. I remember how each year we'd all get excited to see the previous year's ornaments and hang our own on the tree and mom would smile. She has such a pretty smile. I love her!

My husband and I started our own tradition by collecting ornaments throughout the year when we travel. We pick out an ornament everywhere we visit and try to put the year and location if it doesn't already show it. It's fun to decorate the tree each year and reminisce about where we've been each year and add the new ornaments we've accumulated that year. We hope to pass on the tradition someday to our future children and share our stories and memories with them while we drink hot cocoa and decorate the tree.

Some of our favorite ornaments so far...

Japan 2012
Maui 2011

Prague 2007 (My husband's favorite)

Budapest 2007

Back to the goodies. I decided to make a variety of treats. I usually bake more cookies but decided to mix it up a bit by adding some snack mixes and bread.

I baked my first batch of Rosemary and Kalamata Olive mini breads. They turned out really tasty and will be a great addition to any snack tray or meal. I used the recipe from Baking Bites. Their recipe is for one loaf but I was able to make 4 mini loaves out of the recipe.

One of my husband's favorite Christmas treats is the snack mix I put together each year. It's super simple and great to giveaway or put out for your holiday party. I like the colors!! I don't even remember how I came up with it but I assume the colors had something to do with it.

Christmas Snack Mix

1/2 c pistachios (I remove shells to make it easier to eat)
1/2 c pecans (any of your favorite nuts would work)
1/2 c white chocolate chips
1/2 c craisins or dried cherries

Makes 2 cups of snack mix. Can easily be doubled.

I also made some easy Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels and drizzled with green colored white chocolate. Six Sisters has a great easy recipe that I used.

My latest treats were Shortbread Cookies. I love eating them with coffee or hot cocoa all winter long. This recipe makes a lot so whether you plan to gobble them up yourself or share, you'll have plenty. I used the recipe from my all-time favorite blogger and desperate housewife, The Pioneer Woman.

Now get baking and spreading the holiday joy in the form of homemade goodies!!

October 30, 2012

Halloween Treats

If you're anything like me, you procrastinate and you are STILL trying to decide what to make last minute for Halloween treats. Below are a couple of quick sweets that any boy or ghoul would enjoy!

Ghost Pops
Jumbo Marshmallows
White Melting Chocolate
Popsicle Sticks
Black Decorating Gel
Lollipop bags and twist ties
Wax Paper

Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl in 15 second increments, stirring after each 15 seconds until smooth. Insert Lollipop sticks in marshmallows. Holding stick, dip marshmallows in chocolate. If needed, use a spoon to scoop chocolate on top for better coverage. Place on wax paper to dry. Add eyes and a mouth with decorating gel.

Spider Cupcakes
Chocolate Cakemix (Baked as directed in cupcake liners)
Chocolate Frosting
Black Licorice
Red Hots
Brown Sprinkles (or as my husband calls them, "Jimmies")

Bake cupcakes as directed on cakemix package. Let cool and frost each cupcake. Sprinkle jimmies on top. Cut each licorice piece in half lengthwise and cut in half horizontally. (Adjust size as you prefer for length and width of legs) If you can find licorice rope, it would be much better in my opinion. Add 2 red hots for eyes.

What are some of your favorite treats to make for Halloween? Leave a comment and let me know.

October 29, 2012

Pumpkins Pumpkins

My husband and I both love the fall season.   It's that time of year for football, jackets, scarves, soups, apple cider and pumpkins.   I especially love carving pumpkins together for Halloween. We spend a lot of time debating on our own pumpkin carving design. It's funny how we each plan and carve differently. He draws his on freehand because he's so talented. And he carves it out so quickly. I take AT LEAST a half hour longer.  I print out a design, tape it on the pumpkin and poke the outline.

In the end, it's a great feeling to put the candles in and see what they look like from the sidewalk. We're officially ready for trick-or-treaters! (Well... aside from needing to get the candy. I'm trying to put that off as long as I can so I don't get tempted to eat it all before Halloween.) I get giddy as if I were a child. I think I get so excited because I don't remember carving pumpkins with my parents. I don't know why they neglected to make this awesome tradition a part of our family but I'm so glad that my husband and I do this fun seasonal activity together.

While we were visiting my husband's family in Seattle recently, we had the extreme pleasure of going to the pumpkin patch with our adorable niece. We all went to lunch then stopped to get coffees and she got to try hot cocoa for the first time and loved it. She just had to bring her hot cocoa into the pumpkin patch. At 2 1/2 she was easily entertained by everything from the rubber ducky racing pond and bowling to the live turkeys, roosters and rabbits that had funny names.

We were all too worn out afterwards to actually carve the pumpkins but we picked out a great variety. They had all different colors, shapes and sizes. Plus it was her naptime anyway and we didn't want her to miss out. Maybe we'll carve pumpkins with her next year. Happy Fall!

October 15, 2012

Welcome Fall with an Apple Braid

I try to take shortcuts as much as I can while in the kitchen to save time.  It's worth it to have more time to spend on another dish or to visit with friends and family.  I've learned over the years that the last thing I want to do while I have visitors is to slave away in the kitchen, sweating and stressing out while everyone else is relaxing and enjoying the meal.  I'll still slave away as needed but where I can cut it out, I go for it. 

For a shortcut, one of my favorite ingredients to use in a recipe is crescent roll dough. You can make a lot of things with this little tube of pre-made dough. Adding fruit to it to make a Danish-type dessert is so easy and the results are delicious. I used apples since fall is here and I love the homey smell of baking apples with cinnamon. The scent filling the house reminds me how much I’ve missed the cooler weather. It also makes me daydream about all the delectable treats I want to make for dinner, dessert and holidays. I love it!

Crescent Rolls are usually on sale or you can find coupons online to save money but they aren't ever that expensive.  You can find it in the refrigerated section with the pie crusts and pre-made cookie dough.  

1 tube of crescent roll dough
1 medium apple, sliced thin or diced (I used Granny Smith)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp for topping before baking
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add in apples and stir until coated with dry ingredients. 

Press out the rectangle of the crescent roll dough onto a cookie sheet.  Make sure to press all seams together.  Pour apple mix down the center of dough, leaving a half finger length on each side.   

With a small knife, make slits down each side of dough.  Braid or fold dough over the filling so it makes a braid.  For the ends, I try to fold up and pinch the sides together so the filling doesn't run out onto the pan.  You can use the photo as a reference to how mine looked.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar over top of dough.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  This is perfect served warm with a maple glaze.  Or you could serve with vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

October 11, 2012

Best Chili for Cool Weather

Hello 10-11-12!  Congrats to those getting married on this day or that have babies.  You're special day will be easy to remember.  Just a small shout out for all of you.

We welcomed the cooler weather with open arms last weekend!  Oh how I've missed the crisp, cool air of fall.  I love wearing my zip up hoodie because t's so big and comfy.  I wore it all weekend, even in the house with windows open.  We didn't bother to light the fire yet but if it gets any cooler we may have to.

I love to cook soups and stews and try to use the crockpot when I can to save time during this time of year.  If you've never made a soup, chili or stew you are definitely missing out on some homemade tastiness.  It's so easy and worth it to make a soul warming meal at home.  You'll find tons of easy and delicious recipes online for various soups or stews.   Also try out my awesome Beef Stew.

Football weekends are a perfect time for this chili.  My husband requests it often to eat while he watches football all day.  It's one of his favorite dishes for linner, as he calls it.  (Lunch and Dinner)  I don't know if that's a real thing or if it's something he just made up.  It's a word in our house.

2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground chuck beef
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes with juices
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp cocoa powder
2 bay leaves
1 12 oz bottle amber beer (I used Shiner Oktoberfest)
1 c beef broth salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, cook bacon to render fat.  When bacon is almost done, add onions and saute until onions are soft, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute.   Add in ground beef and cook until no longer pink, stirring occasionally.   Stir in kidney beans and diced tomatoes.  Then add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cocoa powder and bay leaves.  Stir in beer and beef broth.  Bring to a boil.  Then lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.   Add salt and pepper to taste  and serve.  We like to add shredded cheese, sour cream and chili cheese Fritos on top to make a supreme Frito chili pie.   It's delicious! Enjoy!!

October 6, 2012

Fall Snack Mix

My husband and I love to snack.  I can't keep chips or candy in the pantry or we'd polish them off on day one.  I only purchase snacks when I know we have company coming over or there's a good football game that I know my husband will be watching.  I like to stock him up on goodies for game days because I'm such a great wife. 

While wasting time creeping on Pinterest one day, I saw all kinds of fall snack mixes.  I decided to make a big batch and keep in a gallon ziplock baggie to keep fresh.  I put together a bunch of things we both like.  It's very easy and so festive this time of year!

Fall Snack Mix

1 bag of pretzels (I used the snaps - the square waffle looking ones)
1 lb of M & M's (I used peanut but the plain or peanut butter would be good too)
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
1 bag of caramel bits or nibs (I found them at Wal-Mart with the chocolate chips in the baking aisle)
1 bag of candy corn (I used a mix that had the pumpkin shapes, regular candy corn and caramel candy corn)

Mix all together in a big bowl and you have a tasty fall mix for snacking.   I felt it needed a little more saltiness so bugels or chex mix would be good to add.  I whipped up a batch of homemade chex mix using Pioneer Woman's Chex Party Mix Recipe.  Then I added most of it to the mix and kept some by itself separately to enjoy with the sweets mixed in.   Enjoy!

September 13, 2012

Tailgate with Garlic Parmesan Wings

The best time of year is right around the corner friends.  Fall/Autumn is amazing for a plethora of reasons.  It brings us crisp cool weather, delicious soups and stews to warm our souls, the smell of leaves and football.  I could go on and on, as it’s my favorite season.

These wings are the perfect snack for your crew while they cheer on their favorite team during football season.  They’re actually great for anytime but football is here and wings and football go together so well.  I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

I bought a big package of wings on sale and decided I’d make a first attempt to make a mouth-watering coating so we could have homemade wings.  This is a much more cost efficient option than eating out. My husband and I both love Garlic Parmesan so that is what I chose to try out.   They turned out better than I expected.  My husband usually likes his wings fried vs. baked and well done.
I took a chance by baking them and just left them in a little longer to get the crispiness to his liking.  I also cut up celery and carrots into sticks and served with an individual bowl of ranch dressing.  He loved them!

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 /2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds chicken wings
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I used Emeril’s Original Essence but Lawry’s would work)
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and salt. Lay the chicken wings on a baking sheet and season the chicken wings with this mixture.
  2. Bake the chicken wings for 30-40 minutes or until skin is golden brown. (I left them in for about 50 minutes for extra crispy.) I flipped them half way through so that both sides get crispy. While the chicken is baking, mix together the butter, dried basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and seasoning salt.
  3. When the chicken is cooked through, toss the wings with the garlic/cheese/butter sauce. Serve with the blue cheese or ranch dressing.

September 5, 2012

Easy Spaghetti

This dish is sure to be a household favorite as it is super simple and delicious for all ages! I remember when I was younger I craved creamy sauces on my pasta. One of my favorite dishes was Chicken Alfredo. As I got older and tasted different sauces and then started experimenting in the kitchen, I realized a heavy sauce is not necessary for pasta to be delicious and satisfying. Kids and even some adults may not understand that just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it lacks in flavor.

As I’ve found with a few dishes, lighter is better (and easier in most cases). I’m getting older and it’s harder to work off the calories, so stuffing my face with tons of pasta and fattening sauces isn’t something I do on a regular basis anymore. So I try to limit myself as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong; I still make pasta with alfredo sauce every now and then. That stuff is too good to remove completely from my life.
This light recipe came about when I didn’t want to deal with making a sauce one night and I decided just to add just a couple of ingredients I had on hand to give the spaghetti some flavor. The result was a light spaghetti with lots of flavor. This is my go-to recipe and I make a ton so I can have lunch and dinner the next day. It will feed a family of 4 easily.
You can really add anything you wish to this dish. If you dislike or don’t have capers on hand, switch out with ½ c or so of peas or any other favorite cooked vegetable. Broccoli florets would also be a great addition.

1 lb thin or regular spaghetti
1 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp capers
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for sprinkling
  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package.
  2. While spaghetti is draining, add butter, oil, broth and capers to the hot spaghetti pan and stir.
  3. Once butter is melted, toss in the spaghetti to the pan.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top and serve.

June 29, 2012

BLT Crostini

During the summertime there is no need to slave over the hot stove when you can make easy light meals without much cooking, if any at all.   I’m sure we all feel the same way about cooking and baking.  It’s a great accomplishment to create a delicious meal or dessert that takes a whole day and sometimes more. 
It is not only a rewarding feeling when the final product is so delectable which makes it worth our hard work, but also it’s nice to see the smile on the faces of those we share our treats with.  However, I’m sure we all agree that once in a while it’s nice to throw something together that is easy and simple without much work.   It frees us of distraction and worry so that we have more time to relax on the patio with an icy beverage while visiting with friends and family.
These bacon, lettuce and tomato bites are a great option for something light when you don’t feel like cooking a big meal.   You can make as little or as much as you need or even make bigger sandwich version.  This recipe made me dream of other things I can throw together in a similar manner with French bread, a spread and a fruit or vegetable.   For examples I think the kids would also love this quick idea: toast the slices of bread, spread on peanut butter and top with a slice of banana and drizzle of honey. 
1 loaf French bread
Bacon Slices, cooked or Bacon Jam (Store-bought or homemade. I used the Bacon Jam made by Skillet Street Food and it was really good.)
1 head green leaf lettuce
1 pkg. cherry tomatoes
Sea Salt
I made these delicious bite-sized morsels as snacks for a brunch I hosted.  I sliced the loaf of French bread about ¼ inch thick.  I placed all the sliced bread on a cookie sheet and drizzled with olive oil and broiled until toasted (about 2-4 minutes).   Then spread about a teaspoon of bacon jam on each toast.  Tear clean lettuce leaves into small pieces that fit on the toasts. Place on top of the jam.   Slice cherry tomatoes in half and place both halves on lettuce leaves.  Sprinkle sea salt over the top. 
**This recipe and article is also featured on

June 27, 2012

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce

Chocolate, caramel and salt go so well together. Anytime I see a treat with these ingredients featured, I must taste it. (And yes, I even got the glazed doughnut from 7/11 one day that was topped chocolate glaze, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt. It was so good and so bad for me! I couldn't resist) Forget I told you that. If I see a recipe I must make it. My husband and I both love this flavor combo and have been addicted to a Fleur de sel caramel ice cream we discovered one day at the grocery store. Fleur de sel is a potent and delicious sea salt.

I think the first experience I tried where I actually fell in love with this flavor combination was when my husband made these Espresso Caramel Bars for my birthday one year. His favorite chef is Giada De Laurentiis so most of his dishes are using her recipes. Wow, they were amazingly delectable and addictive. Beware and be prepared when you make them. Your friends and family will request them from you often.

This cake is easier to make in my opinion. If you haven't had the awesome experience to try the chocolate-caramel-salt combo, you're missing out. Take the leap and enjoy!

Chocolate Bundt Cake
1 c brewed coffee
1 c butter, unsalted
1/2 c Guinness Beer
1/2 c cocoa powder, plus some for dusting the pan
1 1/2 c sugar
2 c flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel Sauce
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
1/2 heavy cream, warm
2 tbsp butter, unsalted, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coarse sea salt to sprinkle over top of cake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Brew 1 cup of coffee. Set aside. Butter the bundt pan and sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder and shake around to coat the pan evenly to prevent sticking.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the coffee, Guinness and cocoa powder stirring with a whisk. After the butter is melted, incorporate the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Whisk the egg mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture.

Slowly add the flour to the chocolate mixture and whisk until all ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

When cake is done, let cool for one hour before attempting to remove from pan. Run a rubber spatula around the edges to loosen from pan and gently flip pan over onto a wire rack. It should remove easily.

While cake is cooling, make the caramel sauce. To a medium saucepan, add sugar and water over medium-high heat. Place cream in a separate small saucepan and heat until warm.

Stir the sugar and water until sugar has melted. Let the sugar it without being stirred. The caramel will start to boil and turn a golden brown color. When the coloring happens, remove from the heat. Stir in the warm cream and whisk. Add salt, vanilla and butter and continue to whisk until everything is combined. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes. Drizzle caramel sauce over the cake and sprinkle the sea salt. Enjoy!

June 24, 2012

Sausage and Carmelized Onion Bread Pudding

Most bread puddings I've had are sweet. They were either for breakfast or dessert. I was in the mood for something savory and it was lunch time but I still wanted bread pudding for some reason. I can't decipher the reasoning behind my stomach and tastebuds sometimes but I just go with it. So I decided to go for a savory bread pudding.

A friend was coming to visit and I wanted to surprise her with something different. I turned it into a brunch. I went with this Sausage and Carmelized Onion Bread Pudding as it was light, yet filling.

4 oz pork sausage
1/2 c water
1 1/3 c milk
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
8 slices french bread, day old, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and cook for about 10 minutes or until carmelized into a beautiful brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in water and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove onions from pan to a small bowl and set aside. Coat pan again with cooking spray. Crumble sausage into pan. Stir and cook until browned. Add onions back to pan and stir to combine. Once combined, pour onto a paper towel covered plate or bowl. This will help soak up any additional grease. Set aside.

Whisk together, milk, salt, eggs and egg white. Add bread and gently toss to coat all pieces.

Stir the sausage and onion mixture into the bread mixture. Spray a 8-9 inch baking dish. Add the combined mixture. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

April 6, 2012

Apple Monkey Bread

I'm sure I've mentioned it before but I absolutely love the smell of cinnamon and sugar!  Make a dessert using the heavenly ingredients as a main feature and put it in the oven and I'm done for!  Some of my favorites: Cinnamon Rolls, Snickerdoodle cookies, Coffee Cake.  I have been itching to try out a semi-homemade monkey bread for months now.  I had some energy and luckily the ingredients and decided it was time to give in to the temptation.  I made 4 individual servings which was really convenient.  I'll admit, if I made just one big one, I would have just eaten it all by myself in one sitting with no regrets.  None!

The caramel sauce that pools at the bottom of the dish is sinful but soooo good!  You can also make your own glaze or caramel sauce to add on top.

1 can biscuits (I used Grands flaky layers)
1 c sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 small green apple, cored, peeled and finely diced

Melt the butter in a small bowl.  In a separate small bowl, stir together the cinnamon and sugar.  Cut the biscuits in quarters so you'll have 4 pieces from each biscuit.  I set piles of 6 pieces aside for each ramekin.  I worked in batches and dipped biscuit pieces in butter, then rolled in the cinnamon and sugar.  Add to ramekins.  Then rolled the diced apple pieces in cinnamon and sugar and sprinkled about 1 tablespoon in each ramekin.   Bake for 16-18 minutes or until biscuits are cooked through.   Serves 4 individual ramekins.

April 5, 2012

Mexican Pasta Bake

Spring has definitely arrived!  The DFW area was hit by a couple of tornadoes yesterday.  The sirens started going off just after lunch while we were at work.  We took shelter in the bathrooms at least 3 times.  The boss finally decided we weren't going to get any work accomplished for the rest of the day and allowed us to go home if we wanted.  There tornadoes that touched down caused destruction in various places.  Luckily, no one I know was injured or had any damage.  My thoughts go out to those that lost their homes.  Check this out to see some crazy pictures. 

People were anxious to get home to their families so we were released from work when there was a break in the storm.  The storms in my area were finally calm to a light rain when I got home so I decided to take advantage of the extra time to make something new and hopefully delicious for dinner.  I used the same ingredients I usually throw in a crockpot and decided to make a casserole out of it.   My husband said this is better than the crockpot version.   Try it out either way.  **If you go the crockpot route, add everything to the crockpot except the pasta and cream cheese.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add pasta and cream cheese the last hour of cooking on turn on high.

1 lb pasta (Any tube or corkscrew pasta would work best, I used rigatoni)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (if you do crockpot method, you can put it in raw)
1 c chicken broth
1/2 block cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 c salsa
1 small can diced green chiles
1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c mixed veggies (I used the frozen peas, corn, green beans and carrot mix)
2 c cheddar jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook pasta according to package.   Drain and add to large bowl with veggies and stir.   Set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, mix together the chicken broth, cream cheese, cumin, salt and salsa.  Stir into pasta and veggies.  Add green chiles and veggies.   Pour half the pasta mix into a buttered 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with 1 cup of shredded cheese.   Add remaining pasta mix and top with remaining cheese.   Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and bubbly. 

February 24, 2012

Sublime Chocolate in Allen

I hosted my friend's Bachelorette Bash last weekend.   The fabulous weekend consisted of shopping, chick flicks, delicious drinks, disco dancing and much needed girl time!  Best of all, we stopped in at Sublime Chocolate in Allen, TX.  So I wanted to share our wonderful and memorable experience. 

We were shopping in the area and decided to enjoy a few treats and take a break in between stores.  I had recently read a great article on a foodie blog and knew it would be a great treat for the ladies.  I also noticed they were voted Best Chocolate in Dallas by the D Magazine!  It's a cozy chocolate shop in the Watters Creek shopping center off Bethany & 75. 

We were warmly greeted and welcomed with smiles from the 2 ladies behind the counter.  They offered us samples of the sipping chocolate in milk, white and dark flavors.  I had the pleasure of tasting the white chocolate which was perfectly creamy and very rich!  So good!

I purchased a sampler box so we could each pick a piece and share.  A small sampler includes 6 pieces of your choice.   It comes in a beautiful box with 2 layers of 3 openings for the delicate bites.  They told me if I bring my box back when I visit again, I receive a free piece of chocolate with a purchase of another sampler. Yay!!

We also decided that drinks were necessary to go with our treat so we tried everything from the Chai Tea, Frozen Hot Chocolate to Frozen Mocha.   All flavors were phenomenal!  If you haven't tried this place, it is a MUST!

We tried the following chocolates and passed them around to take bites of each.  The Soyokaze and Chile & Lime were definitely up there as far as favorites for most of us.  Although it was hard to decide because they were all delectable.   I'm pulling these descriptions from my memory so this is as close to the details as I could remember.
  • Milk Chocolate Truffle -  Milk chocolate shell filled with milk chocolate ganache
  • Caramel with Sea Salt - Creamy caramel covered in milk chocolate sprinkled with sea salt crystals
  • Golden Curry and Coconut - Milk chocolate shell filled with a chocolate curry ganache and flakes of coconut
  • The Caliente - Dark chocolate heart filled with a dark chocolate ganache infused with chile powder, cayenne pepper and cinnamon
  • Soyokaze - Mango, coconut filling in a dark chocolate shell
  • Chile and Lime - Dark chocolate infused with fresh lime and dried habanero chile

January 30, 2012

Beer and Gouda Risotto

I went through a big step in my adult life.  I had 2 of my wisdom teeth removed a few days ago. (It was actually suppose to be all 4 but don't get me started on that.  Apparently the oral surgeon needs to take over on those 2.  I'll be speaking with them tomorrow about details. I'm not very happy about having to go through it again.  Plus this has been a decent experience and I'm scared I won't get lucky again.)

Anyway,  I was very anxious about it for several reasons.  A couple of things that kept my tummy in knots were, 1: I had never had any teeth removed before,  2:  I have never had anesthesia.  I had read and heard all the horror stories.  Thankfully, I remember very little about that day as I blacked in and out.  And I'm very fortunate as I haven't felt any pain.  Mainly just an uncomfortable sensation in my jaw and the extraction areas when I laugh or talk too much. My first real smiles and laughs in days were over dinner with a good friend last night.  I put my hand over my mouth and told her to stop making me laugh or even smile.  I guess my mouth isn't ready yet. 

My only real issue has been the limited food options. I've tried them all over the last few days. (Jell-O, Pudding, Slim Fast, Applesauce, Mashed Potatoes) I must say that I've discovered that French Vanilla Slim Fast is really tasty so I may keep that as an option for breakfast for a while longer.  I am relieved I have at least one side of my mouth in working order so I can move to solid food more quickly.  However, I still have to take dainty bites and chew slowly as my jaw is still a little stiff.  I should probably eat like this anyway as it seems more ladylike.  Pfft!  Who am I kidding?  How would I ever take a big healthy bite of a cheeseburger again?  So yeah that won't work out.  

I finally started getting my energy back within 48 hours afterwards. Then after another day, I was ready to cook some real food.  I decided to attempt my first risotto.  It's soft and mushy enough to handle in my fragile state.  Plus it has beer and cheese so you can't go wrong there.   I was excited out it!   It was cheesy and creamy.  You can taste a hint of the beer and the gouda danced on my tastebuds!  Enjoy my friends!

Beer and Gouda Risotto
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cup Aborio rice
1 bottle Shiner Bock beer
4 c chicken broth
1 c Smoked Gouda, finely grated
¼ c Fontina cheese, finely grated
2 tsp fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven or large pot and saute the onion until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir for 30 seconds, then stir in the rice and let it absorb the butter and olive oil, then add the beer and stir while the rice soaks it all up.
Once the beer is absorbed, add one cup of broth. Stir until the rice absorbs it. Repeat with 1 cup at a time of the broth until rice is tender. Just make sure to stir regularly and be patient while each addition of broth absorbs.  After you’ve added all the broth, season with salt and pepper to taste.  This could take up to 30 minutes or so depending on when the rice is cooked through and no longer crunchy.
Turn the heat off and stir in the Gouda and Fontina cheese.  Chop chives and garnish each single dish with them.  Enjoy!

January 23, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

My friend, Nicole made a delicious dinner and invited me over to watch our Sunday shows together.  I don't usually like Chicken Tortilla soup because most people put things in it that I don't like.  I guess I admit that I am a bit picky.  She doesn't like cilantro either so she left that out.  I really enjoyed it!  She's made other tasty treats for me before but this has to be my top favorite so far.    It's very simple to make and versatile enough to personalize it to include ingredients you enjoy.    Try it out!

1 lb chicken breasts, cooked, shredded or cubed
1 15 oz can tomato soup
1 14.5 oz can beef broth
1 14.5 oz  can chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with juices
1 small can of hominy with juices (you can use corn if you prefer)
1 small diced yellow onion
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pkg (12) Count Tortillas
1 c cheddar jack cheese, shredded

Additional Garnish Options: 
sliced avocados

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle a liberal amount of cumin, paprika, a little salt and pepper on chicken. Bake for about 25-30 minutes depending on thickness of chicken.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, either shred or cube then set aside.

On medium heat, in a large dutch oven stir together first 6 ingredients.  Season with 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp paprika at first and then more if desired after you let it simmer. I always add more cumin. Salt and pepper if needed.

Add 3-4 tortillas, shredded and the chicken.

Lower heat, cover and simmer.

Over medium-high heat, in a large frying pan pour enough corn oil to cover bottom. Wait for oil to bubble/sizzle. Add sliced corn tortillas.  Flip when top starts to brown, about a minute. Remove from pan with fork or tongs and lay on plate covered with paper towels to soak up any oil.  Repeat until desired amount of tortilla strips are made.

Let soup simmer for 2-3 hours. Stirring every 30 minutes.

Serve in bowls. Garnish with tortilla strips, sliced avocados (optional), and shredded cheddar cheese.

January 14, 2012

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Another soup to keep you warm.  I doubt I’m the only one who loves to make soup for those brisk cool days. I can consume a lot of soup.  A LOT!  My favorite days are when it’s cold outside and we spend all day inside to cook and eat a tasty homemade soup.  My husband and I can easily go through the whole pot of delicious soup in one day.

When I was younger, I’d enjoy nothing more than a simple, undignified can of condensed cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup on cold wintery nights.  I would add just a little water and cook in the microwave.  I liked it a little thicker than most would probably eat it.  Even after I moved out on my own, my mom would keep some cans in the pantry for when I visited.  
I don’t recall the last time I even purchased or eaten a condensed soup from a can.   I’m not sure if I’d still enjoy it as much today as my tastebuds have become a little pickier.  But I am always open to taking a nostalgic trip down memory when it comes to food.   Forgive me fellow foodies but I’m being open and honest here.   I’m sure you have your own embarrassing snacks or foods that you hate to admit you have eaten either in the past or present time.   It’s okay to admit it, as we’re all friends here. 
My husband shared with me that he remembers his father eating cream of mushroom soup, straight from the can, cold.  I haven’t confirmed if this is a current or previous occurrence.  Either way, this does not surprise me and it adds just another to the long list of reasons why I love and adore my quirky father-in-law. I’ll be sure to share this recipe with the in-laws to try out or make it for them when we see them next.
2 c chicken, shredded (I used an already cooked rotisserie chicken from the store)
1 stick butter
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
¾ c flour
4 c chicken broth
2 c water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 package quick cooking long grain wild rice with seasoning packet (I used Rice A Roni Wild Rice)
2 c heavy cream (optional if you don’t prefer a creamy consistency)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt butter then add the celery, carrots and onion.  Sauté the vegetables for 6-8 minutes or until they are tender.   Add flour and stir to coat vegetables.  Whisk in broth and water until smooth and all the flour is combined.  Stir in cooked chicken and salt and pepper to taste.  Add rice and seasoning packet. Bring to a boil.  Lower heat, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.   Stir in heavy cream if you want a creamy soup. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.   Enjoy!

January 11, 2012

Cheeseburger Soup

It's been a little chilly in Dallas this past week and it looks like there is more to come.   It's definitely soup weather!  Here's a quick one for you that I put together after reviewing a few different recipes and combining my own ingredients.  If you're short on time, chop and prep all the veggies except the potatoes, the night before and store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I'll have another soup to share soon.
Enjoy!  Stay warm friends!

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced (Russet or Red work fine, I left skins on)
1 green bell pepper, diced
fresh thyme from 2 sprigs
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
4 tbsp butter, divided
4 c chicken broth
8 oz mild or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 c milk
1/3 c flour
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef in a large stockpot or dutch oven.   Add 1 tbsp butter, onions, carrots and celery and cook until butter melted and onions start to become translucent (5-7 minutes).  Add the potatoes, green bell pepper, thyme, parsley and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

In a separate small saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tbsp butter.  Whisk in the flour until smooth.  Then stir into the stockpot with other ingredients.  This will thicken and provide body to the soup.  Bring to a simmer.  Then stir in cheese until melted.  Slowly stir in the milk.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until heated through.  Serve with crusty bread.

January 1, 2012

Cheers to a New Year and Brunch

Cheers to all!  I hope everyone had a safe celebration while ringing in the new year of 2012! 

Here is a delicious breakfast/brunch recipe I wanted to share with you to kick off the new year on the right foot.   My husband introduced me to the Dutch Baby.  Honestly, I had never tasted or even heard of it before I met him.  His parents served this delectable eggy dish for breakfast the first time I met them about 9 years ago for Christmas.  A few wonderful firsts for me happened during that visit: First time meeting his parents, first trip to New York and first time to try Dutch Baby. 

I'll give my sweet man props for being the main reason my eyes and tastebuds are now open in the culinary world.  Unlike me, at an early age, he was fortunate to be encouraged to try interesting foods and is still open to anything.  {By the way, have you heard of Porcupine Meatballs? That was yet another dish I had not heard of or eaten until I met him.  That was another interesting first I when I met his parents that same visit.  I loved it!  He laughed at me because he said it was more of a nostalgic dish his mom wanted to make but not really something he enjoyed.  I'll have to make it with my spin on it and share with you.}

Back to the focus of the post.  He and his family like to serve Dutch Baby with apple sauce and sausage links over the top.  It's a very light and versatile dish so I wanted to make it a little different.  I had a pear on hand so thought I'd try to incorporate that into it.  We loved it! 

Pear Dutch Baby
1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1 tbsp brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, divided
4 eggs
1 c milk
2/3 c flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add the eggs, milk, flour, 4 tablespoons melted butter, sugar and vanilla to a medium bowl and whisk until combined.  You can also use a blender or food processor if you prefer.  The batter may have a few flour chunks in it and blending will break those up.  Blend or whisk until well mixed.  Set aside.

Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat in cast iron skillet.  Then add the pears and brown sugar. Stir to coat the pear slices in butter until the sugar is melted.  Then add the batter over the pears and immediately place the skillet in the oven.  No stirring necessary. Bake for about 30 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown and the middle is cooked through.  (Note: It will sink down once you take it out of the oven and cut into it.) Sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon and serve immediately. Enjoy!