Thursday, November 8, 2007

There's a first time for everything!

For a while now, I've been wanting to try my hand at making risotto. I've heard it's pretty tasty, but can also be complicated. The husband hinted that he might like it, too, by purchasing a Risotto Cookbook for my birthday a few months ago. I decided to dive in last night and give it a shot. The recipe I used was not from the cookbook, but from the Kansas City Star! Not only that, but it's all done in the microwave!! Super easy and VERY delicious! The recipe is for the rice with veggies only, however, I added some cooked boneless chicken breasts (cut into small cubes) to make it a meal! We served it alongside some leftover garlic bread that needed to get eaten. (Picture Quality = Poor)

Risotto with Peas and Mushrooms

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups fat-free chicken broth
8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. In a 3-qt. baking dish, microwave butter and oil on high 45 seconds to 1 minute or until melted.
2. Mix in rice and onion. Microwave on high 4 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes.
3. Stir in chicken broth and microwave on high 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.
4. Add mushrooms and microwave on high 8 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes.
5. Stir in peas and microwave on high 2 minutes.
6. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and pepper. Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Boozin' Dessert

I cannot remember where I came across this recipe, but when I saw the title my interest instantly perked up - Margarita Cupcakes!?! a cupcake? Um...yes, please!

Margarita Cupcakes

9 oz. margarita mix
3 oz. tequila
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (used Triple Sec)
white cake mix
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. lime zest
1 recipe lime buttercream frosting (recipe below)

1. Mix together the margarita mix, tequila, and Grand Marnier in a large glass or spouted bowl. Reserve 1 1/4 cups of this for the cupcake batter and drink the rest as a treat while you're baking.
2. In a stand mixer, add the margarita mixture (1 1/4 cups), cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, and lime zest. Mix on low for about 30 seconds, then increase to medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan and fill cups 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Place the cupcakes on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
4. Once the cupcakes have cooled, make the frosting for the cupcakes.

Lime Buttercream Frosting

4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. lime juice (I added more to get a stronger lime taste)
green food coloring (optional)

1. Add all ingredients to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until combined.
2. Turn the speed to med-high until the icing is light and fluffy. Use water to thin the frosting if necessary (I used a few Tbsp.).
3. Add the icing to a pastry bag or use a spatula/knife to frost the cupcakes.

** To get the effect of salt with a margarita, I sprinkled some granulated sugar on top of each cupcake.

Tasty Side...or Meal!

Thought this would work nicely as a side with our leftover chicken and spinach lasagna, so I whipped up a loaf while waiting for Ryan to get home. I ate my share with my leftovers, however, Ryan decided to make his share a meal and finished off the loaf. Either way, we both agreed it was fabulous!!

Pepperoni and Cheese Bread
(Source: Amber's Delectable Delights)

1 roll refrigerated French bread dough
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese (I substituted Italian blend for both cheeses)
Egg wash (1 egg white, water)
Italian seasoning (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Roll out bread dough and sprinkle with cheeses, place pepperoni (as much as desired) on top of the cheese.
3. Carefully roll the bread dough into a cylinder shape. Pinch ends and top to seal.
4. Brush top and sides of loaf with egg wash.
5. If desired, top loaf with cheese, pepperoni, and/or Italian seasoning.
6. Make a few diagonal slices in top of loaf for air to escape while cooking.
7. Bake at 350 for ~20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

Another attempt at being healthy

With the husband trying to shed a few pounds and myself, well, I just enjoy good-tasting health food - I came across a WW core recipe for Chicken and Spinach Lasagna. Sounded harmless enough. I paired it up with some homemade garlic herb swirl bread for a very tasty dinner!

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

cooking spray
56 oz. (2 28 oz. cans) tomato sauce (I used 2 jars of spaghetti sauce)
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, divided
2 tsp. garlic powder, divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion
1 lb. uncooked ground chicken breast (used 3 boneless chicken breasts, cubed, instead)
30 oz. ricotta or cottage cheese
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
9 items dry whole-wheat lasagna noodles (didn't have on hand, so I used rigatoni)
20 oz. chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat a large, deep lasagna pan with cooking spray.
3. Combine tomato sauce, 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, and 1 tsp. garlic powder. Measure 2 cups of tomato sauce mixture; set aside.
4. Heat oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until almost tender (about 3-4 minutes). Add chicken; cook until no longer pink, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes.
5. Add remaining sauce to skillet and stir until well combined; set aside.
6. Mix together ricotta/cottage cheese, egg whites, and remaining Italian seasoning and garlic powder in a large bowl until well combined.
7. To assemble lasagna, place 2 cups of reserved sauce on bottom of dish. Layer with 3 noodles, 1/3 of ricotta/cottage cheese mixture, 1/3 of spinach, 1/3 of mozzarella cheese, and 1/3 of chicken-sauce mixture; repeat layers ending with chicken-sauce mixture. (Make sure to spread ingredients to the edge of the noodles.)
8. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly, about 30 minutes more.
9. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

- If your pan is not very deep, only use two layers of noodles and reduce the filling ingredients by 1/3.
- I usually like onions cooked into various dishes, but did not care for it too much in the lasagna. I may omit this next time.

Garlic Herb Swirl Bread

3 1/4 cups bread flour, divided
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast or quick-rise yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup very warm water (115-125 degrees F)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened or melted

4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I used Italian blend, pre-shredded in the bag)

1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, combine 2 cups bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add in water and butter/margarine and mix by hand or on low speed for 1 minute. Add in remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is moist, but not sticky.
2. Knead dough for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic (I love my KitchenAid!). Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over to coat with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75-85F) until doubled in bulk, 40-45 minutes.
3. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
4. Punch down the dough and place onto lightly floured work surface.
5. Roll the dough into a large rectangular no more than 9" wide.
6. Combine swirl ingredients and spread evenly over top of dough, leaving 1/2" at end to help seal loaf. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of butter mixture.
7. Tightly roll dough up into cylinder shape, pinching and tucking ends to form a tight seal and pinching seam to seal. Place seam side down into prepared pan.
8. Oil the surface of the loaf and cover loosely with a clean cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 20-45 minutes. (If desired, you can top the loaf with Parmesan cheese.)
9. Preheat the oven to 450. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes.
10. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake about 30 minutes longer. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
11. Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thanks to a friend

A while back, I purchased a bottle of balsamic vinegar, simply because I saw it used a lot on the Food Network. I had never cooked with it or have really eaten anything with it before. Basically, I wanted to try something new.

It wasn't much later that I saw a recipe posted by Julia on her blog titled, Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms. Perfect!! Uses balsamic vinegar and the husband and I love chicken and mushrooms. One final perk, it's a core recipe's healthy!

We tried it and loved it!! It will be a regular in our rotation, that's for sure! Thanks, Julia!

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms

2 tsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove (we are garlic lovers, so I used 4 smaller cloves)
1 lb. uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups small mushrooms, halved
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. dried thyme, crumbled

1. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a nonstick skillet.
2. In a medium bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. vinegar, the mustard, and the garlic.
3. Add the chicken - turn to coat.
4. Transfer the chicken and marinade to skillet. Saute until cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. Finish cooking in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
5. Heat remaining tsp. of oil in skillet. Saute the mushrooms for 1 minute or until slightly brown.
6. Add broth, thyme, and remaining Tbsp. of vinegar. Cook, stirring occassionally, until mushrooms are deep brown (about 2 minutes longer).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Milk, please!

This past weekend was a beautiful one. Well, Saturday at least - before the rain hit on Sunday. While the husband was outside, tinkering away on his new purchase - a large smoker - I was in the house craving chocolate. I figured the perfect solution was to make a small batch of chewy chocolate chip cookies. I managed to find a recipe that claims to be low-cal/low-fat, but I'm not a genius to figure out if this is true or not. Regardless, they were some of the best CC cookies I've ever tasted. Crispy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside! Yum!

I cut the recipe in half (made 9 cookies)...and we ate them all in a matter of minutes! ** Yes, we're OINKERS! **

Low-Cal Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup margarine, softened (I used butter)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (regular-sized chips work, too)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix sugars, margarine (butter), vanilla, and egg white in a large bowl.
3. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet(s).
6. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Cool slightly (5 minutes), remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm Baaaaaack!!

Did you miss me? Did you think I died? This is what happens when summer vacation comes to a sad end and school (aka. work) starts back up for me. I don't have time to plan out fun and yummy meals, let alone cook them!! However, now that I'm in the swing of things, I hope to have at least one update per week for a while.

Starting us off...Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde. I came across this recipe while searching through other blogs (although, I can't remember where exactly I found this) and it looked pretty tasty. I haven't eaten many meals that include a verde sauce, so this sounded appealing in the "try something new" sense. Plus, it's on the healthier end (adapted from Cooking Light) and I had some cilantro sitting in my fridge that needed to be used up ASAP. I served this alongside some mexican rice - both were fabulous!

As a tip: I prepared the chicken and chopped the veggies/garlic the night before to cut down on prep time tonight.

Sorry my pictures are a little on the craptastic side, but I promise you - they were so good!!

Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (7 oz.) bottle salsa verde
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1/3 cup (3 oz.) reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
1/2 tsp. chili powder
cilantro sprigs (optional)
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a blender/food processor; process until smooth.

3. Combine chicken and cream cheese in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup salsa mixture. Reserve remaining salsa mixture.
4. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium skillet. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, add tortilla to pan; cook 10-20 seconds or until moist, turning once. Remove tortilla; drain on paper towels.
5. Spoon about 1/4 cup chicken mixture down center of tortilla; roll up.
6. Place tortilla, seam-side down, in an 11x7-ince baking dish coated with cooking spray. Repear procedure with remaining tortillas, broth, and chicken mixture.
7. Pour remaining salsa mixture over enchiladas; sprinkle evenly with queso fresco and chili powder.
8. Bake at 425 degrees for 18 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Spinach Artichoke...squares!?!

This past Thursday, I went with some great friends and their other halves to "Girls Night Out at the K" to watch the KC Royals (beat the Yanks!!). Each couple was to bring a side dish for tailgating. Knowing there would already be some various salads and chips, I wanted something different. So I did a search and came across a recipe for Spinach Artichoke Squares. Spinach Artichoke dip (YUM!) in bite-size square form? Sounds good to me. And they were! Sorry, no picture, but the recipe is below.

Spinach Artichoke Squares

1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean cheese (I used the pre-shredded kind in the bag)
8 oz. room temperature cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
10 oz. thawed, frozen chopped spinach, squeezed until dry
14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and coarsley chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Unroll the crescent dough and place on the bottom of a 13x9" cake pan.
3. Gently press the dough evenly into the pan and 1/2" up the sides to form a crust, paying special attention to seal the roll perforations.
4. Sprinkle the dough with 3 Tbsp. of the parm. cheese.
5. Bake for 5 minutes, the remove from oven.
6. While the crust is baking, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the egg, sour cream, and remaining parm. cheese - mix until smooth.
7. Fold in the spinach and artichoke hearts.
8. Spread the mixture evenly over the crust. Bake an additional 13-15 minutes, or until the crust is a golden brown and the filling is set. Can be served hot or cold.

These were a big hit - gone before the game!

My husband, the cook.

Meet my husband, Ryan.

Despite the complaints that he doesn't know where the kitchen is in our house, or where the food is kept (his way of trying to get me to do everything for him...typical man), he can cook - and enjoys doing so. The other morning, I woke up to him telling me that he was going to make breakfast for me. What? A day off for me? I'll take it. He made some fabulous breakfast burritos for us. On the inside: eggs, bacon, salsa, and cheese. Wrapped in: tomato basil tortilla. On the outside: cheese, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Applebee's Tequila Lime Chicken

Originally, I had planned on making some Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken for dinner tonight, but when I mentioned it to hubby, he wanted something else. Picky men. So he suggested something with a peanut sauce, however, we had none of the ingredients needed. He then remembered a while back, making Applebee's' Tequila Lime Chicken (the recipe is posted online), and mentioned that sounded good. I agreed. It was then that dinner was born. Tequila Lime Chicken on a bed of rice. I mean, how can you NOT like a meal that uses alcohol?!? This recipe has a lot of ingredients, but don't let that scare you away. It's super easy to make.

Applebee's Tequila Lime Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
2 cups crumbled corn chips

1 cup water
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. mesquite liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. tequila (I took this up a notch - 1 Tbsp)

Mexi-Ranch Dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. minced tomato
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. minced canned/jarred jalapeno slices
1 tsp. minced onion
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce (any brand hot sauce will work)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. dried dill weed
1/8 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. chilli powder
dash garlic powder
dash ground black pepper

1. Prepare the marinade and let the chicken soak for 2-3 hours.
2. Make the mexi-ranch dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well until smooth, then cover and chill until needed.
3. When ready to prepare entree, preheat oven to high broil. Also preheat the grill to high heat.
4. When the grill is hot, cook the chicken for 3-5 minutes per side.
5. Arrange chicken in a baking pan. Spread a layer of the dressing over each piece, followed by 1/4 cup of cheese. Broil chicken for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Black and Tan

Thanks to Old Chicago, the husband and I have become huge fans of Black & Tan beers. Unfortunately, OC charges around $4/beer. No thanks! So we started experimenting on our own and discovered that they really are easy to make! Our favorite has been made with Guiness and Weach beer (Peach Wheat - - however, this is not always easy to find. Really, just about any light (as in color, not cals/carbs) will work. Others we have tried: Leinenkugals Honey Weiss (Rating: A) and Leinenkugals Berry Weiss (Rating: D).

How are they made? Half "light" Beer + Half Guiness = Black and Tan. To get the neat layered effect, make sure to slowly pour your beers with a tilted glass, pouring the light beer first.

Mexican, por favor!

While on our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, my husband and I were able to experience a few new tastes of the Caribbean. Our resort ( also offered daily cooking lessons on the beach. While hubby was playing some beach volleyball, I took part in the lesson: Steak Fajitas. I made this for dinner last night, topped with some homemade guac and sour cream, along with some bacon-wrapped stuffed Jalapeno peppers.

Steak Fajitas

Flank steak, cut into strips and marinated*
1 large onion, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2-3 cloves of galic, minced
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Shredded cheddar cheese (we hand colbyjack on hand, so I used that instead)
Flour tortillas

1. Heat your pan on med to med-high heat. Add the oil.
2. When the oil is hot, add the onion, peppers, and garlic.
3. Once the onions are starting to glaze, add the strips of beef. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add some chopped cilantro. Stir.
5. Right before serving, sprinkle some cheese on top.

*For the marinade, I used some lime juice, EVOO, minced garlic, cumin, and fresh cilantro. However, any beef marinade will do.


2 ripe avocados
1/2 onion (1/2 c.), minced
1 can of green chilies
2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
Dash of black pepper
1/2 ripe tomato, seeds & pulp removed, chopped

1. Mash the avocado in a medium bowl.
2. Add the onion, cilantro, juice, salt, and pepper - mash some more.
3. Add the chilies.
4. When ready to serve, add the tomatoes.

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos

6 Jalapeno peppers Shredded cheddar cheese
3 slices of bacon, cut in half
6 toothpicks

1. Cut the ends off eat pepper. Slice down the length of one side of the pepper. Gut the pepper (seeds & ribs).
2. Stuff with cheese.
3. Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each stuffed pepper. Seal with a toothpick.
4. Grill on a warm grill, then serve.

** After making the peppers, we have decided that this recipe was not a hit. The cheese oozed too much and left us with nearly empty peppers. Plus, the bacon did not fully cook on the grill, so a little zap in the microwave was needed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Leftovers made Better

After making the Chicken Marsala, we had some leftover prosciutto to use up. What's better when you're lacking ideas for dinner that PIZZA!?! Attempting to go original Italian-style, I chose to mimic the ingredients in a traditional Margareta pizza - fresh mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, and fresh basil. Of course, we then through on some cooked prosciutto for good measure.

Chicken Marsala...with a twist.

While searching through and reorganizing my kitchen cabinets, I came across some Marsala cooking wine that hubby had purchased a few months back. Almost immediately, I had the urge to make a nice dinner of Chicken Marsala. While searching for recipes, I came across one that seemed a little more unique and gave it a shot. I still think I need to perfect my cooking techniques some - I think the chicken burned some - but all things aside, we loved how it tasted and will be making this recipe again!

Chicken Marsala (1/2 recipe)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
all-purpose flour (for dredging)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. (2 slices roughly) prosciutto, thinly sliced
4 oz. mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (we did not have this, therefore it was omitted)

1. Put the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them; pound with a flat meat mallet until they are about 1/4" thick.

2. Put some flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly.

3. Heat the oil over med-high heat in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, dredge both sides of the chicken in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

4. Slip the cutlets into the pan and fry for 5 minutes on each side until golden, turning once - do this in batches if the pieces do not fit comfortably into the pan. Remove chicken to a large platter in a single layer to keep warm.

5. Lower the heat to medium and add the prosciutto to the drippings in the pan, saute for 1 minute to render out some of the fat. Add the mushrooms and saute until they are nicely browned and their moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Pour the Marsala in the pan and boil down for a few seconds to cook out the alcohol. Add the chicken stock and simmer for a minute to reduce the sauce slightly.

7. Stir in the butter and return the chicken to the pan; simmer gently for 1 minute to heat the chicken through. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

We paired this with some roasted garlic mashed potatoes

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Going Back to my Roots

After growing up near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you really gain a nitch for certain food preparations. One of these being: Beer Brats. Whether you were at a Packer game or Brewers game, a tailgate is not considered complete without beer brats. I got to thinking one day, how can I make these without the grill? I decided to combine a few favorites of my husband into one great meal - by making beer brats in a crock-pot! They turned out great and tasted phenomenal!

Amanda's Crockpot Beer Brats

1 pkg. brats (the flavor is your choice, we used original)
2-3 cans of beer
1 whole onion, halved, then sliced into large pieces
1 pkg. brat buns

Lightly brown the brats in a skillet before loosely placing them into the crockpot. Add the beer to fully submerge the brats. Spread the onion on top. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.