Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Recipes of 2011

These recipes are the BEST ones I made this year, I think.  Every single one was a giant success with me, my husband and family.  They are the recipes I will make again and again! :) Here they are in no particular order...

1. Lemon Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce
2. Veggie Quesadillas

Sorry there's no pictures...boring I know.  But if you click on the links then you can see my awesome photography :)  Happy New Year and see you in 2012!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Cookies

Well my favorite Christmas cookies are probably not what you would call... a "classic" Christmas cookie.  You know- snickerdoodle, sugar, macaroons, etc. etc.

Those are all great (actually I don't recall ever trying a macaroon, so I wouldn't be a fair judge...), but nope.  My favorite cookie was first made last year on my Mom, sister and I's annual "Holiday Baking Day."  Basically we get together and make about a bajillion cookies all day long.  And then sit around and complain about how our stomachs and feet hurt and we don't want to see another cookie for the rest of the year (although that's a lie).  It is one of my favorite days of the year!

Yesterday was our baking day and I was most looking forward to these cookies: Ginger-Lemon cookies.  More specifically, they are a soft, ginger cookie that is amazing on its own, with a lemon glaze/frosting.  The two flavors are amazing together!  The first time we made them, I definitely was not expecting them to be THAT good.  They are one of my very favorite cookies, ever! They are so soft and moist and the lemon frosting is the secret weapon!

Ginger Cookies with a Lemon Glaze
Yields: 24 cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 
Lemon Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
4 teaspoons lemon juice

Mix together and after cookies are cooled, frost cookies.  If using sprinkles or other topping, decorate right after you frost it (before it slightly hardens and the topping will not stick to the frosting).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cranberry-Orange Bread

This may well qualify as the WORST picture I have on this blog.  Oh my goodness I should just take it off.  You see, this bread gave me a little bit of trouble last week.  First time making this recipe of my grandmother's.  Instead of putting the bread in a large loaf pan, I poured it into two small loaf pans.  The batter was JUST about gone when the two pans were about full.  I knew I shouldn't pour any more batter into them, but it just didn't seem like I had enough to fill a third pan!!

Silly me.  They definitely over-flowed.  All over the oven racks and oven floor.  Luckily I noticed it before any real damage was done and put a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any remaining drippings.  Hence, the lack of this bread's beauty.  

BUT, it did not matter.  This is my new favorite bread.  Ever. It is SO good.  So incredibly moist and flavorful.  The orange juice and cranberries compliment each other so well! My family and hubby also raved about it.  Wow.  I want to make it again right now.  New. Favorite. Recipe.  Just make sure you don't over-fill the pans.  Yup.

Cranberry-Orange Bread
 recipe courtesy of my grandmother

2 cups flour
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup oil (I used vegetable)
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp. grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift or finely mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In separate bowl, combine beaten egg, orange juice and oil.  Add to dry ingredients, stirring until moistened.  Stir in cranberries, walnuts and orange peel.  Bake in greased 9x5x3 pan for 50 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Best Cheese Ball/Cracker Dip

Surely you've heard of  right?  Tell me it's true.  They have millions and billions of recipes (okay maybe not billions...) that are submitted by users and then rated and reviewed by lots and lots of people.  Basically, all the good recipes have thousands of ratings and you can tell it's gonna be a winner.

Well, last Thanksgiving I tried out this cheese ball recipe from and let me tell ya... it is SO a winner! I'm making it again this year and cannot wait! It is perfect with crackers (any kind) and is so addicting... not to mention a snap to put together!  Oh and it makes two cheese balls, which is perfect for me since I am going to my parents' house and my in-laws' house for two Thanksgivings.  One for each!

Cheddar Cheese Ball Dip

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (1 ounce) package Ranch-style dressing mix
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 4 pecan halves
In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, and dressing mix. Form into one large ball or two smaller balls. Roll in chopped pecans to coat surface. Decorate the top with pecan halves. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Warm Apple-Buttermilk Custard Pie

So guess what.  Yesterday was my 100th post! Took me long enough ;) but I thought that was a pretty cool accomplishment!

Well.  I have one last pie recipe for you before you finalize your Thanksgiving plans and before you stuff your face on Turkey Day in three days.  Wait that's not just me, is it?  This is really a goodie.  Everyone who tried it said they loved it and that it was better than normal apple pie.  How is it different, you ask?  It's got a creamy, buttermilk custard filling that surrounds the sweet, cinnamon-sugar apple filling and is topped with a crumbly, buttery and sugary topping.  Did that do it for you?  :)

Warm Apple-Buttermilk Custard Pie
from Cooking Light

  • 1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough or refrigerated pie crust (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray  
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour 
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces 
  • 5 cups sliced peeled Granny Smith apple (about 2 pounds) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 3/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Preheat oven to 325º.
  • To prepare crust, roll dough into a 14-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch deepdish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute. Place pie plate in refrigerator until ready to use.
  • To prepare streusel, lightly spoon 1/3 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 1/3 cup flour, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Place streusel in refrigerator.
  • To prepare the filling, heat a large nonstrick skillet coated with cookig spray over medium heat. Add sliced apple, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; cook 10 minutes or until the apple is tender, sitrring mixture occasionally. Spoon the apple mixture into prepared crust.
  • Combine remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, salt, and eggs, stirring with a whisk. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Pour over apple mixture. Bake at 325º for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300º (do not remove pie from oven); sprinkle streusel over pie. Bake at 300º for 40 minutes or until set. Let stand 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maple-Walnut Pumpkin Pie

With Thanksgiving just four days away, it's likely you already have your menu planned out. I don't blame you... I started planning for Thanksgiving about a month ago... and it's not like I'm having it at my house or anything.  Nope I'm just bringing some side dishes along to my parent's dinner AND my in-laws dinner.  Yup we're so lucky to have both of our families within 10 minutes of our home... it means Thanksgiving times two! My husband surprisingly considers this a bad thing, since he doesn't know how to eat small portions at the first dinner, ends up stuffing himself at both dinners and then regrets it.  Typical men.  I, on the other hand, am excited.  Hopefully I can eat small portions... but no promises, I mean it IS Thanksgiving! ;)

If you happen to be looking for a pumpkin pie recipe, this one really is special.  Not your average pumpkin pie, this recipe has a walnut streusel on top that is really delicious and adds to the wow-factor of this pie! I'd be making it again this Thursday if my mom wasn't already gonna make the pies.  

Maple-Walnut Pumpkin Pie

1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons real maple syrup or maple-flavored syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold butter or margarine
Topping: (I just used Cool Whip instead)
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Chopped walnuts, if desired
1. Heat oven to 425°F. Place pie crust in 9-inch glass pie plate as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie. In large bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Pour into crust-lined pan. Bake 10 minutes.  
2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix 1/4 cup brown sugar, the chopped walnuts and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside. 
3. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Sprinkle streusel over pie. Cover crust edge with 3-inch-wide strips of foil to prevent excessive browning.  
4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes longer or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Serve or refrigerate until serving time. 
.5 To serve, in medium bowl, beat whipping cream and 2 tablespoons brown sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Serve pie with whipped cream; garnish with chopped walnuts. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Thanksgiving Favorite: A Paula Deen Staple!

My mom and I started a new Thanksgiving side dish a couple years ago that is not completely traditional to your average Thanksgiving dinner.  We made macaroni and cheese. Yes, you heard me! Creamy, cheesy, and fat-laden, Paula Deen's macaroni and cheese is the BEST macaroni and cheese I've ever had.  Hand's down.  It wins in all categories: cheesiness, creaminess, easiness and (unfortunately) probably unhealthiest as well. :/  But we are talking Thanksgiving here.... I'm sorry but that is no day to diet.  If you are only making this ONE day a year, then I think it's perfectly and marvelously allowable!

I LOVE green bean casserole, sweet potatoes and pie, don't get me wrong. But this is the dish I'm looking forward to most this year! It's my all-time favorite!
The only alterations we made to the recipe were that we left out the eggs, based on the reviews.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese 
adapted from Food Network

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (an 8-ounce box isn't quite 2 cups)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stuck) butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sourdough Turkey Pesto Panini

I am SO excited that Thanksgiving is just around the corner! It really gets me through frustrating or stressful parts of my day! I even made my very first homemade pie today (okay so the crust was Pillsbury's but no one knew and it was SO easy that way!)- recipe to come soon- and it got me excited for the best pie day of the year.  Mmm!  
So anyways... this sandwich.  Is amazing! It's probably the best sandwich I've ever had.  Well I guess it's technically a panini, not a sandwich although it falls under the latter category.  The key to this recipe is the sourdough bread.  You have to use it.  No substitutions.  I know it just won't be the same.  It might taste alright.  But not amazing, knock-your-socks off good! My husband and I both raved over it.  And the best part- it is so dang easy and uses very few ingredients!  A winner recipe for sure.  I'm sure this would be great with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers also!

Sourdough Turkey Pesto Panini
from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise   
4 teaspoons basil pesto  
8 (1-ounce) thin slices sourdough bread   
8 ounces sliced cooked turkey breast   
2 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese   
8 (1/8-inch-thick) slices tomato   
Cooking spray  

Combine mayonnaise and pesto, stirring well. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise mixture on each of 4 bread slices; top each slice with 2 ounces turkey, 1/2 ounce cheese, and 2 tomato slices. Top with remaining bread slices. 

Preheat grill pan or large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add sandwiches to pan; top with another heavy skillet (or you can put in a panini press or indoor grill). Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Caramel-Apple Bread Pudding

Never did you see a treat so versatile (dessert, brunch, breakfast, snack...) yet so festive and appropriate (full-swing Fall and Thanksgiving preparations, anyone?)

Although it looks pretty with the ice cream, I think I preferred this sans a la mode and JUST with the dreamy, decadent BUTTERMILK SYRUP from Our Best Bites.  Oh my gosh it was caramel-apple heaven.  Just do it.  I think this would make a perfect Thanksgiving breakfast.  A "pre-gorge-yourself" kind of meal that, at the same time, sets the stage for a day that is only appropriate when it includes all-out, decadent, comfort foods.  Yes, this fits the bill.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

5-6 c. stale French bread cubes (about 1/2 of a standard loaf cut into 1″ cubes)
3 c. apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
4 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. pumpkin or apple pie seasoning
1 Tbsp. butter, chopped
*If possible, cut the bread into cubes and leave it out for several hours or overnight. If not, place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bread cubes are dried out but not toasted.
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease or spray a 9×13″ baking dish with shortening or non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes and the apple pieces. Transfer to the baking dish. In the same large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients except for the butter. When combined, continue to whisk while pouring over the bread/apple mixture (just to make sure the spices are evenly distributed). Gently combine the bread and egg mixture, making sure each piece of bread is soaking in part of the egg and milk mixture. Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes (longer, if you can; you could even do this the night before, cover it tightly, and then bake it in the morning).
When the egg/milk mixture has mostly soaked into the bread, dab the butter over the bread and place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the center is set but not dry or burned.
Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve with warm Buttermilk Syrup (and vanilla ice cream if you really want to walk on the wild side.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Candy Corn Cookie Bark

It is not even Halloween yet but let me tell you: I am already done with sweets! I feel like there is candy and treats everywhere you go this time of year! I mean don't get me wrong, I LOVE candy, cookies all everything else that has sugar in it (major sweet tooth here) but there occasionally comes a time when I realize that my consumption has probably, definitely exceeded what I should've consumed! I still don't regret making this Halloween-ish, candy bark.  It is so festive and cute and yummy! It is extremely rich and a little piece is pretty much all you need! The good thing is that this is super easy and quick so you can whip it up in 10 minutes tomorrow on Halloween and be good to go! So... make this first and THEN retire from sweets for a while! ;)

Halloween Candy Corn Cookie Bark
adapted from: YourHomeBasedMom

14 whole Oreos, broken up (use Halloween Oreos if you can find them)
1 1/2 cups pretzels - any shape, broken into pieces
16 ounces almond bark or white chocolate melts (I actually used around 24 oz. because I didn't think 16 was enough)
3/4 cup dry-roasted, salted peanuts
1 cup candy corn
black and orange colored sprinkles

Cover a large cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Spread broken cookies, pretzels, peanuts and about 3/4 cup of the candy corn onto the prepared cookie sheet in a 9x13 shape. Place almond bark in a container and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir and then microwave for another 30 seconds until melted and smooth.

Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookie mixture, spreading with spatula if needed to coat evenly. It may seem like it's not enough but just try to evenly spread it. The ratio of chocolate to toppings will be off if you add more almond bark/white chocolate. Sprinkle remaining candy corn and colored sprinkles over the almond bark/white chocolate while it is still wet. Do not let it harden. Place cookie tray into refrigerator until set and firm. Remove and gently break bark into small pieces - it's really rich. Makes around 20-24 pieces. Store in air tight container.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Low-fat Candy Corn Cupcakes

I LOVE Halloween and whenever it comes around I am always wanting to make fun, festive or spooky treats and food! This time of year can be so hard to eat healthy though. It seems like everywhere you go, you are tempted with candy, cookies, pie and treats galore! It's definitely not IMPOSSIBLE to eat healthy, though.

These cupcakes are actually Hungry Girl's recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes.  All I did to make them Halloween appropriate was divide the batter into two, dye one-half orange and other half yellow.  I layered each cupcake liner with half yellow batter, then orange.  You can't see it by this picture but it is really fun to bite into the cupcake and find a bright two-toned cupcake! And these may be guilt-free (164 calories and 3g fat per cupcake), but they are delicious!

HG's "Candy Corn" Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Hungry Girl


For Frosting
1 1/4 cups Cool Whip Free, thawed
1 1/2 tbsp. Jell-O Sugar Free Fat Free Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix

For Cupcakes
Half of an 18.25-oz. box (about 1 1/2 cups) moist-style yellow cake mix
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup Sprite Zero (or another diet lemon-lime soda), room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup liquid egg whites or (about 4) raw egg whites
yellow food color
red food color

For Topping
candy corn
Halloween/fall colored sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the frosting, combine Cool Whip with pudding mix in a bowl, and mix until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until cupcakes are ready to be frosted.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix with baking powder and stir until free of lumps. Add soda and vanilla extract, and stir or whisk until batter is smooth. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites with a handheld electric mixer set to medium speed until fluffy, about 1 - 2 minutes. Gently mix egg whites into the cake batter until thoroughly combined.

Divide batter into two equal parts.  In one half, add 3-4 drops of yellow food color (or more if it needs it) and mix well.  In the other half, add a 1:3 ratio of red to yellow food color until you get the orange color that you like. (I think I did 2 drops red, 6 drops yellow- yikes!)

Line 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups and/or spray with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the yellow batter into the cups, then evenly distribute the orange batter on top of that.

Bake for 15 - 17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out fairly clean. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

Once cupcakes have cooled, top each evenly with the frosting and decorate with candy corn and/or sprinkles.

Nutriton: 164 calories per serving, 3g fat

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Smoked Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese

 I don't know who first decided that mac 'n cheese was a "kids" food.  Of course almost all kids love it, but is there some rule that says that people must unlike the cheesy goodness of noodles drenched in a butter/cheese/milk sauce once they become adults?

Well I think that's crazy.  Pretty much, macaroni and cheese is one of my top 10 foods.  Ever. This recipe is not your traditional mac 'n cheese, but it is rich and extremely flavorful and definitely gives good ole' cheddar mac a run for its money.  I could not find 100% smoked cheddar, but found a blend of smoked shredded cheeses at Trader Joe's.  I think that was my favorite part about this recipe- the smoked cheese brings so much flavor and... smokiness!  This is a hot, hot recipe, my friends! (Hot as in amazing/hip/cool, not spicy. It's not spicy.) Definitely designed for a much older, maturer palate! ;)

Smoked Cheddar Mac 'n Cheese
from Betty Crocker

 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (12 oz)
1 1/2
cups whipping cream*
teaspoon Dijon mustard
teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
  teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  oz smoked Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  cans (14.5 oz each) Muir Glen® organic fire roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
  cup sliced green onions (4 medium)
cup grated Parmesan cheese
cup Progresso® plain bread crumbs
teaspoons olive oil

  1. Cook and drain macaroni as directed on box. Return to saucepan; cover to keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 375°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In 2-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream, mustard, salt and red pepper to boiling. Reduce heat; stir in Cheddar cheese with wire whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour sauce over macaroni. Stir in tomatoes and onions. Pour into baking dish. In small bowl, mix Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Stir in oil. Sprinkle over top of macaroni mixture.
  4. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and top is golden brown.
Makes 8 servings (1 1/4 cups each)
*Make sure to use whipping cream in this recipe.  Even though it is higher fat, if you use milk or half and half, they are more likely to curdle when added to the acidic ingredients- the tomatoes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Breakfast Burritos

Here's my picture:

Here's her picture:

Umm. Let's just pretend I took both, okay? But for real, this is PIONEER WOMAN we are talking about here.  The first here recipe of hers that I've tried and LOVED!

If you are unfamiliar with Pioneer Woman, just google her.  Or turn on the Food Network because she and her ranch family have made their debut on the small screen now, too.  She is known for her love affair with butter and more butter and/or cheese but her recipes just all seem like true comfort food at its finest.  And these were the very best breakfast burritos I have ever had.  My husband, who adores anything with eggs and/or burritos also agreed.

This recipe is in Pioneer Woman's, otherwise known as Ree Drummond's, cookbook that I got at my wedding.  When I am bored I will pull out that cookbook and just drool over the pictures and recipes.  If only food that food had zero calories, right?  Sigh...

Her recipe calls for her breakfast potatoes, which recipe I included.  However, I didn't have time to cook potatoes so I just used about 1 1/2 cups or so of frozen hash browns.  They were even shredded.  But it still turned out fabulous!

 Breakfast Burritos  

(can easily half this recipe- calls for making 12 servings but I halved and it made about 5 burritos,) from The Pioneer Woman


  • 1 whole Recipe Of Ree's Basic Breakfast Potatoes* or 1 1/2 cups frozen hashbrowns
  • 1 pound Breakfast Sausage
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 10 whole Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half (I used 2% milk)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Flour Tortillas
  • picante sauce

Preparation Instructions

1. Begin by browning the breakfast sausage over medium heat. Drain off grease and reduce the heat to low.  Next, add the Basic Breakfast Potatoes and red bell peppers and stir to combine.  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Crack the eggs into a bowl.  Add the seasoned salt, pepper, half-and-half and whisk to beat the eggs lightly.  
3. Add the chives and Monterey Jack and stir to combine.
4. With the heat still on low, pour the egg mixture over the sausage/potato mixture.
5. Now, with a spoon or spatula, very gently stir the mixture.  The potatoes will break apart if you stir too much, so go easy.
6. Continue lightly cooking over low heat until eggs are set.
7. Now taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more seasoned salt, pepper or cheese if desired.
8. To assemble, warm the stack of tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Place a heaping spoonful of egg mixture into the middle of a warm tortilla.  Add more cheese if desired.
9. Tuck in the sides, then roll the tortilla until closed.  
10.  Wrap in foil sheets and keep warm until ready to serve.  Serve with picante sauce.

Basic Breakfast Potatoes


  • 4 whole (to 5) Large Red Potatoes
  • 1 whole Onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Or Canola Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Bacon Fat (optional)
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • Red And Green Bell Peppers, Diced (optional)

Preparation Instructions

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover entirely with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender. (Or place potatoes on a baking sheet in a 375 degree F oven for 34 minutes or until fork tender.) When they are ready, place the potatoes on a cutting board and dice them into 1-inch pieces.
Next cut up an onion into a large, rough dice.
In a large skillet heat oil and bacon fat over medium-low heat. Put the onions in the skillet and sauté until they start to turn brown. (You can also use red and green bell peppers diced up. If you do, throw them in at this point).
Next, throw in the diced potatoes. Stir well and then slightly press/pack then. Now you will cook them without stirring for several minutes. You want the pan to be hot enough to crisp the potatoes but not hot enough to char them. (Optional step: sprinkle a bit of flour over potatoes as they cook). Cook for several minutes and then flip them with a spatula. Salt and Pepper them as they cook. Cook until desired brownness.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Streusel Pie Bars

Apple Streusel Pie Bars. What could be a better fall dessert? Probably nothing, because these are amazing! I like apple pie, I would never turn it down, but this apple dessert had me swooning! I'm not sure how many pieces I ate... definitely more than I should've... :/ haha but you too will see how good these are if you make them! Definite keeper recipe! And so easy!

Apple Streusel Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened (no substitutions!)
1 egg, beaten

1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 c. (about 3 medium) sliced, peeled baking apples (I've used Granny Smith in the past, although this time around I used Gala and they were fabulous)
2 c. powdered sugar
About 3 Tbsp. milk (whole milk is best)
1 tsp. almond extract
To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbles. Gently mix in beaten egg.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Preheat oven to 350 and set aside.
To prepare apple filling, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss with apples and spread apples out on prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. When finished, allow to cool completely.

To prepare glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Place glaze in a Ziploc bag and cut off a very small portion of one of the corners. Drizzle glaze over cooled pastry and allow to harden (you can place it in the freezer to hurry things along). Cut into bars and serve.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Yup it's THAAAT time again, finally! I'm so excited fall is here! (I know, this is about the 3rd or 4th post that I've said that.. but really, I'm so happy!) These babies (actually they were pretty ginormous) are fabulously fall-ish and so, so yummy! They definitely got me in the Autumn/Halloween mood.  I love baking with pumpkin, probably because you only can one time a year ;)

This recipe came from Brown-Eyed Bakers' blog and it is a keeper! I'd suggest making them smaller than you think is normal, as they will turn out perfect.  I made them a little too big. Definitely didn't hurt on the taste factor but they would've been cuter and a little less guilty if they were smaller!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Brown-Eyed Baker

Yield: About 4 dozen assembled whoopie pies (will vary depending on how large you make them)
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 10 to 12 minutes

For the Whoopie Pies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Maple-Cream Cheese Filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.
5. Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure that the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.
7. To make the filling, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth with no visible lumps, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, then add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth.
8. To assemble the whoopie pies: Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe or spoon the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving. (They are also good room-temperature, though, too.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Strawberry and Cheesecake Ice Cream Layered Dessert

I am just a little excited to share this recipe with you today for a couple of reasons.

1. It was my sweet husband's birthday "cake" on his birthday a few weeks ago, and
2. This recipe is my own creation!!! It is probably the first recipe that I invented completely on my own, with inspiration from several sources.  I even searched google but I did not find a recipe that was exactly like this.  So this is a ONE AND ONLY recipe! And it is SO, SO good!

So here's how I was inspired: My husband loves the strawberry "cheesequake" blizzards from Dairy Queen but always complains how there are not enough cheesecake bites in the ice cream.  So when I asked him a few weeks before his birthday what kind of cake or dessert he wanted me to make for him, he suggested "strawberry cheesequake blizzards." HA.  Well I got to thinking- what if I could have strawberry cheesecake ice cream, but add in chunks of real cheesecake, layer it with strawberry sauce on top of a graham cracker crust and then top with a layer of cool whip and garnish with crushed graham crackers? And that is how the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Layered Pie was born! Or at least in my head :)

So I originally intended on making homemade ice cream but I ran out of time.  I had some pretty good substitutes:

I made two batches: one with Blue Bell's Strawberries and Homemade Vanilla ice cream, and one with  Kroger's "Private Selection" New York Style Cherry Cheesecake ice cream that I got at Fry's.  I unfortunately could not find a strawberry cheesecake ice cream! But, these substitutes were AWESOME.

So, for the cheesecake bites, I did a couple of things.  I first bought a frozen Sara Lee's cheesecake, intending to cut it into chunks.  UNTIL a couple days later I saw these at Walmart! Sara Lee cheesecake BITES!!! I bought two containers, one Original and one flavored Strawberry Cheesecake! How perfect! And these little babies are delicious! They are so dang good.  When I make this again, I think I will only buy these.

So here is where I am making it, and I have just topped the ice cream layer with cheesecake bites, strawberry sauce and graham cracker crumbs. Mmm :)
Here is it finished.  Doesn't look too impressive from the top.... but when you cut a piece...

It's beautiful!!! And SO good! My husband loved, loved his birthday "cake." Both flavors were very, very good but overall I think we liked the cherry cheesecake kind better.  It tasted more "cheesecakey."  We had a TON of leftovers but it sure enough got eaten over the course of a week or two... :)
Strawberry and Cheesecake Ice Cream Layered Dessert
Yields: one 9x13 pan

1 half gallon strawberry (or cherry) cheesecake ice cream
2 containers of Sara Lee cheesecake bites in original or strawberry cheesecake flavor (or 1/2 frozen cheesecake cut into small, bite-sized pieces)
3 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 small container Cool Whip
Optional: Strawberry sauce (see recipe below)

Prepare oven to 375 degrees F.  Take ice cream out of freezer to soften. To make graham cracker crust, blend 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in large bowl.  Press mixture firmly into a 9x13 pan.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Let cool.  

When crust is cool, make sure ice cream is soft enough to spread.  If it's not, microwave for about 30 second intervals, stirring in-between to get it nice and smooth.  Once it's ready, let the layering begin!
Layer half of the cheesecake bites, strawberry sauce and one-third of graham cracker crumbs over the cooled crust.  Then, spread half of the ice cream over the top.  Repeat process, with cheesecake, graham crackers and sauce, then the rest of the ice cream. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze for about an hour.  After an hour, take out and spread Cool Whip over top. (This is done so that it is easier to spread the Cool Whip rather than spreading it while the ice cream is very melty).  Finish by sprinkling remaining graham cracker crumbs on the top.  Cover and freeze for 3-4 hours more, or until completely frozen.

When ready to serve, let it sit out for about 15 minutes, allowing it to soften a bit.  And enjoy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef-Tortellini Soup

I am seriously in love with my slow cooker/crock pot (whatever you want to call it- I use both names.  Just whatever I feel like, mostly).  It is absolutely PERFECT on the busiest of days when you have about .552 seconds to make dinner.  Well hopefully you have more time than that, but you won't need much more ;)

I kinda cheated on this recipe because I didn't have celery (that wasn't wilted) or a can of green beans.  But even without those key ingredients, this soup was awesome! Perfect for the cooling weather. (I know, it was only what like 99 degrees today! Woo-hoo!)

My husband said he "liked it a lot" which really does indeed say a lot because he is usually a man of few words when it comes to food.  Usually I'll ask him if he likes what I made, secretly trying to get as much description out of him as possible but realistically knowing that that will never ever happen, and I'll usually get "It's good." if he likes it, "it's really good" if he loves it (I think that's a word for love?) and "It's not my favorite thing you've made" if he doesn't love it.  But being the wonderful husband he is, he will still eat it all and usually even eat seconds.  Man I just love husbands and their non-picky appetites! (Usually!)

Slow-Cooker Beef Tortellini Soup
from Pillsbury

Prep Time: 20 Min
Total Time: 8 Hr 45 Min
Makes: 6 servings

1 lb beef stew meat
1 large onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 large carrot, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 medium stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (10 1/2 oz each) condensed beef consommé or beef broth
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 cups frozen cheese-filled tortellini (I used spinach-ricotta filled from Trader Joe's)
1 cup frozen cut green beans (I'm sure you could substitute a can of green beans just perfectly)
1. In 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker, add beef, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, sugar, tomatoes and beef consommé in order listed. 
2. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours. (I did not have this much time so I did the first two hours on low then the last 3 on high. You could probably do 4-5 hours on high instead, also)
3 About 25 minutes before serving, stir in basil, frozen tortellini and green beans. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook about 25 minutes or until beans are tender.
Nutritional Information: 1 Serving= 320 calories, 12g fat 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken & Veggie Stir-Fry

I am seriously head-over-heels for Fall! It makes me so happy and if I had all the time in the world, I would spend a lot more of it in the kitchen making yummy fall treats and delicious food.  Oh, and it would all be calorie-free in my perfect world! ;)

There are so many yummy treats that I have bookmarked to make this fall/October/Halloween and I have no idea how I will find the time to make them all! But alas... I will do it! I have already made a couple DELICIOUS fall treats that I will post soon.  Seriously amazing... one has to do with pumpkin and the other has to do with apple.... shhh!

Anyway,  I absolutely LOVE this chicken and veggie stir-fry recipe for many reasons.

1. It is incredibly easy.
2. It is incredibly versatile.  You can add pretty much any veggies that you want.
3. It is incredibly delicious! My husband and I really, really enjoy this.
4. It is healthy! Lean protein matched with a plethora of vegetables and served over rice (to make it even healthier, use whole grain, brown rice- that's what I did and it was awesome.)

Perfect family meal for a busy weeknight!

Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry
recipe and photo from

1 lb. chicken cut into strips
1/2 onion cut into strips
1-2 carrots cut into slices
1 red and yellow bell pepper
1 8 oz. can mushrooms
1 head broccoli
1-2 stalks celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce (iheartnaptime recommends Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce but I used Safeway brand teriyaki sauce and it was fine)
Any extra veggies you want to add
1 cup rice

Heat a little olive oil in large Wok or frying pan.  Place chicken and all prepared veggies pan and cook over medium heat.  After a couple of minutes, pour sauce in and cook for 10-15 minutes over medium heat until chicken is done.  Serve over rice.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn

Happy first day of Autumn! Fall is probably my favorite season, next to Christmas (yes I do call Christmas a season... :) ) I just love it when the air cools down and everyone seems to be so happy because the holidays are nearing! So fun!  Too bad I am now permanently in Arizona so I can't experience the pretty fall leaves like I was so privileged to see when I went to school in Utah. :( But it's okay... 

I am seriously SO happy that it is Halloween time and that I can start baking yummy treats! I have already busted out the canned pumpkin....I made delicious pumpkin whoopie pies... recipe to come soon!! SO I thought I had already posted this recipe but to my surprise, I have not!  Popcorn is such a yummy fall treat and even though this is peanut butter, not caramel popcorn, this is a WINNER recipe! And it could be made any time of the year! It is so decadent and rich and, of course, calorie free. :) This is an easy "transitional" recipe into fall baking- because let's face it: we still have three full months left of official fall/holiday baking. So excited!!

Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn
Recipe by Our Best Bites

2 bags of Simply Salted (or similar- try to choose butter-free) popcorn (or about 20 cups of popped popcorn)
2 c. honey roasted peanuts
3 c. peanut butter chips (I used Reese’s)*
2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips *
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening or oil

Place the peanuts and popped popcorn in a very large bowl. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut butter chips and vegetable oil or shortening and heat for 2-2 1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle the melted peanut butter chips over the popcorn and peanuts and toss to combine.
Spread the popcorn onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet. In a Ziploc bag, heat the semi-sweet chocolate chips until just melted and smooth (about 1-1 1/2 minutes, mashing the bag every 20-30 seconds). Cut a small corner in the Ziploc bag and drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn. Allow to stand long enough to become solid (you can transfer the pan to the fridge or freezer to hurry this step along). When done, break the popcorn into small pieces and enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chocolate Lover's Dream Cookies

If you're thinking what I'm thinking... then you're thinking that if you have some chocolate, why not have a lot of chocolate? Right? Or am I the only one who justifies this? These cute little plump cookies are anything but dainty and pack an intense, chocolatey, fudgey punch.  If you're anything like me, you will LOVE them!

The recipe calls for chocolate and white chocolate chips but since I did not have white chocolate chips, I used some peanut butter chips.  You can use whatever you have in your pantry, too!
15 15 30 Chocolate Lover's Dream Cookies
from Taste of Home cookbook
Yields: 42 servings

  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup white baking chips
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

  • In a large bowl, beat the oil, butter and sugars until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder; gradually add to oil mixture and mix well. Stir in chips.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool for 1 minute before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.

 Nutritional Information: 112 calories per cookie and 6g fat.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizzas

These grilled chicken Margherita pizzas are made using tortillas and they are awesome!!! There is so much flavor and both my husband and I thought they were so yummy and that these could go on our "list" of favorite meals.  Mm-mm!!

Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizzas
from Eat Better America

Prep Time: 35 min
Start to Finish: 35 min
makes: 4 pizzas
1/2  tablespoon olive oil
1clove garlic, finely chopped
2boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 8 oz) (or pre-cooked grilled chicken slices like Tyson's)
1/2teaspoon seasoned salt
4flour tortillas (8 inch) (recommend whole-wheat)
1/2cup finely shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 oz)
2plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced (about 10 oz)
1/4cup sliced fresh basil leaves 

Heat gas or charcoal grill. In small bowl, mix oil and garlic. Brush chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon of the oil mixture; sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place on grill over medium-high heat. Cover grill; cook 12 to 18 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F). Reduce heat to medium-low.

On ungreased cookie sheets, place tortillas. Brush with remaining oil mixture. Cut chicken into strips. Arrange chicken strips over tortillas. Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup of the cheese. Top evenly with tomato slices; sprinkle with remaining cheese and basil.

With wide spatula, carefully slide pizzas onto grill over medium-low heat. Cover grill; cook 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pizzas to avoid hot spots, until cheese is melted and crusts are crisp. Slide pizzas back onto cookie sheets.             

1 pizza= 300 calories
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