Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mexican Quinoa Casserole

A large bag of quinoa called my name at Costco a few weeks ago. Probably because if I put it in my cart it would make me look like I was in Costco for the healthy food, and not for the food court frozen yogurt craving I was experiencing after my last OB appointment.  Plus, bringing it home would force me to make some healthier recipes for my family. There are a ton of interesting, and even delicious looking quinoa recipes on Pinterest lately, and I wanted to give some of them a try.

Yesterday at lunch I through together some chicken wraps with leftover BBQ chicken breasts and decided to incorporate some quinoa instead of rice. I toasted the quinoa, sauteed it with some onion and garlic and then added salsa before steaming it to perfection. The result was so flavorful that it inspired me to give it a try it as a casserole for my dinner tonight. The result was this yummy Mexican inspired concoction complete with bubbly Monterey jack cheese. I'm definitely going to make this again...and next time I'll even try to feed it to my kids.

Mexican Quinoa Casserole

1 1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. diced onion
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 c. of your favorite jarred salsa
2 c. water
2 eggs
1 c. skim milk
1 c. shredded Monterey or pepper jack cheese plus 1/2 c. more for sprinkling on top
1/2 c. crushed tortilla chips
1/4 c. diced green onions
1/4 c. roughly chopped cilantro
1 small lime
*optional toppings: sour cream, additional salsa, avocado, etc.

In a medium saute pan heat olive oil over medium/low heat. Add quinoa, garlic, and onion, lightly sauteing and taking care not to burn. Add salsa and water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook approximately 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Cool slightly. 

Grease a 9x13 casserole dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl beat eggs and milk, combine with cheese and stir into quinoa. Spoon into casserole dish. Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and casserole looks set. Top with crushed tortilla chips and cheese. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until cheese is bubbly and chips are careful not to burn the chips!

Serve warm, topped with scallions, cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and anything else you dream up.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Banana Caramel Coffee Bread with Caramel Glaze

I don't know how it happened since we tend to be Banana addicts in this family, but for the second week in a row I found several overripe bananas sitting on top of my counter. Last weeks bunch got chopped and frozen for smoothies, and this week's bunch seemed to be begging for some baking. I don't know how or why, but the thought of something caramel also popped into my head. As I started gathering my ingredients for the basic recipe I always use for banana bread I decided to substitute a shot of espresso for the apple juice in my recipe and voila...this sophisticated bread was created. I love the balance of's not too much of any one thing, just a delicious rich morning (or maybe afternoon and evening) treat that will pair well with a nice cup of coffee.

Banana Caramel Coffee Bread with Caramel Glaze

2 c.  flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c.  sugar
1/4 c. of butter or margarine softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large bananas)
1/4 c.  sour cream
1 shot of espresso or 3 tbsp. of really strong coffee
1 tsp. of caramel extract (vanilla could also be substituted)
1/8 tsp of finely ground espresso

Caramel Glaze:
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 tsp. heavy cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine butter and sugar until blended. Add eggs and beat to combine. Add banana, sour cream, espresso, ground espresso,  and caramel extract. Mix well.

Slowly add flour mixture and beat at a low speed until just combined. 

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until a knife or skewer inserted in center comes out clean.

For the Glaze:
Combine butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Let cool for 5 minutes and then whisk in cream and powdered sugar. If glaze is too thick add extra cream a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Let bread cool to warm and spread or pour glaze over top. I like to do this while bread is warm so that it melts down the side.

Now invite all your friends over for coffee and enjoy!

Monday, April 30, 2012

BBQ Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

Blogging is the last thing on my mind lately. In about 11 weeks I will be a mother of three and handling all that seems to consume all of my thoughts. The last few weeks have been full of nursery planning, pregnancy insomnia, lots of naps and oh wait...did we (mostly "the boys") really go through 4 gallons of milk already this week???Do I really need to go grocery shopping again??? Planning meals and thinking about recipes has been the least of my worries but somebody's got to do it!

This is one of those meals I've made several times and each time it's delicious and successful. Unfortunately, it never seems to make it to my blog because I either don't have time to take a picture or we've gobbled it all up before I even think about it! It's a delicious twist on Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo and a perfect dish for warm weather because it doesn't require you to turn on the oven. Try it once and you'll never want plain old Chicken Alfredo again.

PS: I've got my picky eating older son to eat noodles with Alfredo...another win in the dinnertime battle!

BBQ Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
*Alfredo Sauce Recipe from

1 package of Fettuccine Noodles
For the Chicken:2-4 chicken breasts (depending on how much your family can eat)
1/2 c. of your favorite BBQ Sauce *We love Jack Daniels Original Recipe*
1 clove of garlic, minced
For the Alfredo:
1/4 c. butter
1 c. heavy cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 c. fresh grated Parmesan
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
Additional Parmesan Cheese
Additional BBQ Sauce for drizzling

Slather chicken breasts with BBQ sauce and garlic. Marinate in refrigerator for approximately 1 hour.
Preheat grill and grill chicken, flipping once, until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Wrap in foil and set aside. Do not cut into chicken until your ready to serve in order to keep moist.

In the mean time bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan melt butter. Add cream and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cheese and whisk, heating through. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through.

Toss Alfredo Sauce with Fettuccine and transfer to a large serving platter. Cut chicken into thin strips and place on top of pasta. Garnish with cilantro, additional Parmesan cheese, and an even drizzle of barbecue sauce.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Herbed Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Cream

My 8 year old picky eating son has a love for rosemary...of all the crazy things. It all started with a batch of Foccacia bread last summer. It's funny because rosemary is prevalent in our neighborhood and every time he gets a whiff of it he asks me to make Foccacia bread. So tonight I looked at the rosemary in my refrigerator and decided to whip up something different. I pulled out some chicken, rubbed it with rosemary, garlic, and lemon juice and slow baked it in the oven. Then I started on some mashed potatoes. While I was peeling them I got this crazy idea to make a gravy/sauce that was infused with rosemary, shallots, and garlic. When I was done the house smelled amazingly aromatic and the taste was like no other mashed potatoes we've ever had. My son's verdict, "Mom, these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had!" Maybe you'll agree.

Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary Cream Gravy

For the Potatoes:
about 2 lbs of Russet Potatoes peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces (Yukon or Red would also work)
1 cube of chicken bouillon seasoning
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 c. lemon juice
1/2 -1 c. of milk
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
For the Sauce:
1 shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. of diced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
2 tbsp. cream cheese

In a large pot combine potatoes, enough water to cover, rosemary, garlic cloves (whole), bouillon, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and cover, simmering until potatoes are fork tender. Remove rosemary (some leaves can definitely be left behind), and drain water. Mash potatoes well. The boiled garlic will mash right into the mix. Add butter, lemon juice, Parmesan, and milk a little bit at a time until you get the desired fluffy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan melt butter over medium/low heat and toss in diced shallot and garlic. Cook until just fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic. Stir in flour to make a roux, cooking a minute or two to get rid of the flour taste. Slowly add milk, whisking until all the lumps are gone. Add rosemary and cream cheese, continuing to cook until thickened to the consistency of a gravy or white sauce.

Enjoy...and plant some rosemary in your yard if you already haven't done so :).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Black and Tan Cupcake

I don't know what it was...maybe the baby that I'm brewing...but after months of not wanting much to do with anything sweet or chocolaty, or coffee like I finally got the craving for a cupcake...and the hubby quickly agreed. I gathered the things in my pantry, quickly realizing I wouldn't be able to make anything that included vanilla extract. I'm fresh out, and there's no way I'm going to the grocery store in this crazy rainy weather we are having. I doctored up a German Chocolate Cake mix with some extra cocoa powder and some coffee flavors, and then I began mixing the frosting. Truthfully, I thought this was going to be a frosting disaster...all good frosting contains vanilla extract right?  But to my surprise my improvisations resulted in this rich decadent goodness. So much goodness that I couldn't bear to part with the leftovers. You could decorate these cupcakes with pretty chocolate curls or caramel drizzle...but I kind liked out simple they were to make...and to frost. No piping bag, just the back of a tablespoon and a big bowl of frosting.

Black and Tan Cupcakes
1 box of German chocolate or other chocolate cake mix
1/2 c. vegetable oil (or the amount called for in the cake mix)
3 eggs
2 tbsp espresso liquor
1/3 c. chilled coffee or espresso
*Remaining amount of water called for on your cake mix.
6 oz cream cheese softened
1 stick of butter
2 tbsp espresso liquor
2 tbsp of caramel topping
1 pinch of sea salt
2-3 c. of confectioner's sugar

For the Cake:
Dump the box of cake mix in your mixer bowl along with the eggs and oil. Get out your measuring cup and measure out 2 tbsp. of espresso liquor and 1/3 c. of coffee. Fill that same cup with enough water to measure out what your box of cake mix calls for. I hope that makes sense...basically your substituting some of the water for coffee and espresso liquor...not adding to that amount. Also add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Turn on your mixer and beat until smooth. Fill cupcake tins (or cake pans) with batter about 2/3 c. full and bake according to box directions.

For the Frosting:
Whip butter and cream cheese in the bowl of your mixer until it is smooth. Add espresso liquor, caramel, and salt. Beat until incorporated. On slow speed add confectioner's sugar, starting with 2 c. and adding additional sugar if it appears to be too thin. Frosting will have a thick creamy texture, it won't hold shape like a butter cream but should be able to be swirled with the back of a spoon on top of the cupcakes and hold some form.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Long-Awaited Lego Bookshelf

So this has nothing to do with food...or homemade gifts...but it's a fun idea that I wanted to share.

Ever since we moved into our house, which was well over a year ago, I have been looking for creative Lego decor for our now eight year old son's bedroom. Amazingly...there isn't a whole lot out there to buy other than Lego themed storage containers. Anything else was atrociously expensive...well more than I'd spend on my own bedroom and definitely too expensive to put in the hands of an 8 year old boy. We settled for grey walls, red accents, plaid bedding, and a framed Lego Batman poster.  Kinda boring.

Then I got this idea...but I kept it to myself for awhile because my husband, who happens to be excellent at "home improvement" projects already had a very long honey-do list...and the mere mention of another project would probably have been like hooking a hangnail on a bed sheet.

Finally the opportunity to redo our son's bedroom came around...and I pounced with my project idea. Granted, it's not like he raced down to the hardware store immediately for the paint and supplies. I offered to do all the sanding and painting and much to my own surprise I did the majority of it on my own. I say this because if you know're aware that patience is not my virtue.

So here's how it all went down....

This shelf was a plain birch veneer Wal-Mart bookshelf...probably not the best quality for sanding and painting...but we made it work.

1) We took off all the shelves and I sanded the finish off of the entire piece.

2) I dusted it off and wiped it down with a damp cloth to make sure it was squeaky clean.

3) I painted the shelf, using Behr Paint and Primer in One from The Home Depot. I used a Dove roller brush for a smooth finish and a paint brush to get in the nooks and crannies...I waited until it was dry and then gave it another coat.

4) Once the shelf was all painted my wonderful husband sanded the tops off of 3" PVC pipe caps with low grit sand paper. He attached the caps with liquid nail and generously painted the caps so tired pregnant me wouldn't have to do it.

5) ...the only troublesome spot on this project was the cheap cardboard backing for this bookshelf. The paint started peeling off of it, so at the advice of Home Depot we gave it 3 good coats of Varathane Spar Urethane (water based) to help seal it. Time will tell if it will peel with the wear and tear of an 8 year old boy. If that happens I'll probably just rip the whole back of the shelf off and leave it open against the wall.

Monday, February 13, 2012

No Bake Nutella Cheesecake

They warned me about Pinterest and I should have stayed away...but it's so addicting! This recipe caught my eye, or rather a delicious looking picture of this recipe caught my eye on Pinterest and I had to try it. Warning: It's about addicting as Pinterest itself! My pictures don't do this recipe justice...go to the blog My Baking Addiction to see something a bit more beautified :).

I piped melted white chocolate into the shape of hearts onto a
chilled cookie sheet to make these little hearts.

No Bake Nutella Cheesecake
*adapted from My Baking Addiction

12 Oreo cookies
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese, softened
2/3 c. Nutella
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of hazelnut liqueur (Armaretto is also good)
8 oz. of whipping cream, whipped and chilled
Optional garnish of: chocolate shavings, extra whipped cream, chopped hazelnuts, or in my case 1/2 of a chopped hazelnut milk chocolate bar and white chocolate hearts in honor of Valentine's Day.

Place Oreos in a Ziploc bag and crush. Add melted butter and shake to combine. Divide crumb mixture between serving dishes (I used wine glasses) and press to the bottom to make a crust.

In your mixer combine cream cheese, Nutella, & vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream until it is fully incorporated.

Pipe or spoon into serving dishes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish as desired.

It's so easy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Scream You Scream We All Scream for... Cookies?

 Looks can be deceiving. And oh so adorable. These little treats are sugar cookies made to look like ice cream. Today I was browsing around looking for Super Bowl recipe ideas when I found this recipe for ice cream scoop sugar cookies. Not very super-bowl oriented...I know, but I just couldn't resist rolling up my sleeves and making these. I experimented a bit with sizes and found that a 1/2 tablespoon rounded measuring spoon made a the perfect size scoop which fit perfectly atop miniature ice cream cones. These cute little creations would be perfect for an April Fool's treat or even a birthday party....or maybe just because you love your kids and you want to make them something fun.

Sugar Cookie Dough

6 c. white flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 c. margarine or butter
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
For Strawberry Ice Cream:
1 small box of strawberry flavored gelatin
freeze dried strawberries (optional)

For Chocolate Ice Cream:
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. melted semi sweet chocolate

*Before you begin: You're probably going to want to use a stand mixer for this recipe...the dough is pretty thick and a hand mixer probably won't cut it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in your mixer.
In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda, and salt and slowly add to the wet mixture. It will seem very dry, but let it whip a few minutes and it should come together. If it's still unworkable you can add a very small splash of milk (think teaspoon size) because you'll want this dough to be on the dry side or the cookies won't set up the way they're supposed to.

Divide your dough into thirds. Place 1/3 of the dough into your mixer and add cocoa powder and melted chocolate. The melted chocolate should add enough moisture to help the cocoa powder blend into the dough. Once that is mixed set it aside, clean your mixing bowl and add another third of the  dough. Add the strawberry gelatin and freeze dried strawberries (if using) and run your mixer until your dough is completely pink and gelatin is fully incorporated.  The remaining third of dough will be your vanilla ice cream.

Scoop out dough, (see note below)  making sure to overfill your scoop a bit so as to make an edge that resembles a scoop of ice-cream. Plop your scoops onto a baking sheet about 2 inches apart and press on some sprinkles. Bake 12-14 minutes (you don't want to have browned ice cream) and cool.

Melt chocolate chips in a small bowl on medium heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between to make sure it is melted. Dip the top of each cone in a bit of chocolate, and, using the back of a spoon smear some more chocolate onto the bottom of scoops to help them stick to your cones.

Once you've mastered the art of ice-cream scoop cookies why not experiment with other flavors...maybe chocolate or mint chip or peanut butter...the possibilities are endless! Have fun enjoying your sweet treats!
***For this recipe I used miniature ice cream cones and a round measuring 1/2 Tablespoon to make my scoops. You could also use a regular ice cream scoop if you planned on putting these on top of regular ice cream cones. I would suggest baking off 1 or 2 before you do a whole batch to see how large they will be after they've baked...that way you don't end up with ginormous scoops that don't fit on your cones.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mango Chicken Chopped Salad

Last week The Hubby and I were blessed to be able to get away on a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas. It was part 10th anniversary celebration, part babymoon as we're expecting our 3rd child in July. It was wonderful to get away for awhile, but after 4 days of eating cruise food we were ready for some home-cooked detox. Today is Sunday, and in our family, tradition holds that instead of eating whatever mom cooks the boys get to enjoy a giant bowl of cereal for dinner (sometime's it's nice to have a little break from my short order cook duties.) So I figured it was the perfect time to try out this new recipe for Mango Chicken Chopped Salad. The original recipe had a few dislikes like cucumber so I made a few changes from the Coastal Living version (July 2011) and it was thoroughly enjoyed. Said my meat and potato loving husband: "You can make this twice a week." as he finished off the rest of the bowl. We both agreed that this salad is best if very lightly dressed and I'm eager to try it again next week but this time dressed with my recipe for Cilantro Lime Dressing.

Mango Chicken Chopped Salad
adapted from Coastal Living

for the chicken
4 chicken breasts
1/4 c tequila
blackened seasoning
1/4 c. lime juice
for the dressing:
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. sour cream
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
for the salad:
4 c. chopped red leaf lettuce
2 mangos peeled, pitted, and chopped.
1 red bell pepper finely diced
1/2 c fresh cilantro chopped
1/4 c. chopped red onion

Place chicken in a shallow dish and sprinkle with blackened seasoning (like Zataran's brand) and salt on both sides. Drizzle with tequila and lime juice, tossing to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

Grill chicken until cooked through. In the mean time you can chop the ingredients for the salad and whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.

Let chicken cool and then chop into bite size pieces. Toss together with the mango,pepper, cilantro, lettuce, and onion. Toss with dressing, a little at a time until the desired flavor is reached. We opted for less dressing (about 4 tablespoons) because the ingredients alone are so flavorful.