Monday, October 31, 2011

Spinach and Eggplant Lasagna

Lasagna was one of the first dishes I started making after getting married and meandering into the world of domestication. No, I did not jump into the deep end, I slowly walked into the shallow end, using precooked chicken in dishes such as pasta and enchiladas, opening cans for sauces and dousing everything in shredded cheese since that is what Hubby liked. You may be saying that lasagna isn't the easiest dish for a beginner cook (or maybe you are?), but with the invention of oven ready lasagna noodles and jarred marinara sauce, it really is!

So when I made lasagna I always made two versions, one with ground turkey meat for hubby and one with all the vegetables in my vegetable bin for me. Bambino gets a slice of both to consume. She loves pasta and when you add ricotta cheese to it, she really loves it!

So this past week I was in need of a vegetarian dish to make and realized I hadn't made lasagna in awhile and was in the mood for it. I knew Bambino would enjoy it and had a meal planned for Hubby so off to the store I was to purchase the ingredients for a veggie lasagna. Now, normally I throw in whatever vegetables I have around, but this time I went in with the plan to specifically use spinach and eggplant, two of my favorite vegetables to eat with pasta.

Thanks to the oven ready lasagna noodles, the dish was quick, easy and yummy! I started making the dish at 4 and it was cooled and out of the oven by 5, ready for Bambino's dinner!

No link to an original recipe, because I somewhat follow the format listed on the back of the pasta box.

28 oz marinara sauce (approximately 1 jar)
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced
1 1/2 cups spinach packed
1 package oven ready pasta (I use Skinner brand)
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I use fat free)
1 3/4  cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I use 2% milk cheese)

1. In a large pot saute Japanese eggplant with 2 tablespoons olive oil until softened. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer and cover for 10 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix rictotta cheese and 1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella together (Traditionally you also mix with egg, but I don't like the taste of egg so I do not add it. It makes it a bit more difficult to spread, but it's doable). Grease a square baking sheet. Spread marinara sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Place 2 lasagna sheets side by side in the pan. Spread cheese mixture. Spread marinara sauce on top. Then repeat again with pasta, cheese and sauce.

3. After three layers of pasta (or more if you prefer), spread remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle 1/4 cup shredded cheese.

4. Cover with foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

5. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
It may seem like there are a lot of steps, but it's really not very difficult at all. You can add any vegetable that you want to it. Also, you can make the sauce a day in advance and then put together the lasagna the next day.

This is a great dish you can make, freeze and have it ready for when you're in a pinch. Whenever I'm in an Italian mood but don't want the same old pasta, I always make lasagna. It's good and easy. Go make it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Banana Bread

Mmm. The bread of the banana. Banana bread is one of my favorite baked goods. My mother would always make it growing up and my brother and I would pick at the outside crust and leave the soft inside to stand alone in the cake dubba (container) on the counter for my poor father to consume with his tea. As I got older and moved out of the house I would often crave my mom's banana bread so once I had finished eating the banana bread my mother sent back to college with me in my cooler of Indian food, I had to learn to make it myself. Initially I didn't have my mother's recipe from her Betty Crocker cookbook so I would just wax nostalgically over the amazing goodness of the warm, nutty banana bread. Once I got older, and with the advent of the Internet (Thank you, Al Gore!) I was able to do a quick google search for banana bread and voila, there is the recipe!

So this is a recipe I found many moons ago and still access regularly to make banana bread. I often vary the recipe by adding walnuts, pecans, raisins, craisins and chocolate chips. Yes, I did say chocolate chips. I must say, that was a genius decision on my behalf.  I became known for my amazing chocolate banana bread and would make it for when friends came over and would take as a gift when visiting friends houses. At one point my chocolate bread was given the title of famous. It's title did not tarnish even after my brother had consumed it and asked ,"In what circles?" in regards the title it held. Mo' fame mo' problems.

So this past week we had no baked goods in the house and I was in the mood for some banana bread. I had tried some new sweets recently and I felt it was time to go back to one of my favorites. Hubby and Bambino have also taken a great liking to my banana bread, Hubby prefers the chocolate version, but I was in the mood for some classic banana bread. Sans the chocolate. Sans the nuts.  So I made the banana bread and two days later it's basically done. Go make this bread. It's easy, it's good, it will melt in  your mouth.

Click here for the original recipe (I doubled the recipe, but I'm going to stick with the single version with a few of the changes I make.)

3 or 4 ripe bananas (Either smash them or blend them, I've done both)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup pecan or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add vegetable oil to mashed bananas. Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt. Fold into banana mixture. Add nuts and/or chocolate chips if desired. Mix.

4. Pour into a greased loaved pan or a bundt pan. (Because I doubled the recipe I used a bundt pan) Bake one hour or until a knife is inserted and comes out dry.

5. Cool and serve!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
For baking, this one is pretty easy. There really isn't too much work to it. I have most of the ingredients in my kitchen at all times. So when my bananas go bad, I just make them into banana bread. (There's a Sid the Science Kid episode about this!) 

I make this often and will continue making it! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baked Italian Sausages with Potatoes and Rosemary

So here's a recipe I came across during my Food Network/Cooking Channel obsession last year. It was another morning where Bambino was napping in my arms during her mid-morning nap and I was on the couch watching the Cooking Channel. I was watching a show I had only seen on Saturdays called Bill's Food. It's an Australian show and the chef basically cooks cuisine from around the world. On this particular day Hubby was sitting next to me on the couch and we were watching the show together. (While there are few foods that we have in common, there are probably fewer television shows we have in common, so this was a rarity that we were both intrigued by the show.) So Bill was making this dish with sausages and potatoes and I was impressed with how simple it was to make and Hubby was intrigued with the the thought of sausages and potatoes together!

So I decided to make the dish and was happy with how facile the process was. Hubby really enjoyed the dish. Come on, spicy sausages with potatoes and bread, you can't go wrong in his book. Now, this isn't the healthiest of dishes. It's actually far from it. I normally don't cook Italian sausages because again, it is not healthy. Normally, when I make sausages I get organic apple chicken sausage or lean turkey sausage, but I thought this was a treat for Hubby. Like they say, anything in moderation.

I decided to make this dish Monday night because we had been out of town all weekend and I was desperate to cook a quick dinner, but had to make a vegetarian and non-vegetarian dish and was planning to make vegetarian lasagna for Bambino and I and needed something easy for Hubby, so this was the chosen one. Hubby was happy and I was happy with just how easy it was.

Click here for the original recipe.

6 Italian Sausages, uncooked (I bought HOT Italian sausages since Hubby prefers spicy food)
5 medium size red potatoes, washed and sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 stalk of rosemary, leaves chopped off
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and briefly chopped
salt and pepper
2 slices ciabatta bread
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 390 degrees.

2. Grease a roasting pan. Cut sausages into smaller pieces, place into roasting pan.

3. Add the potatoes, paprika, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.

4. Tear the ciabatta bread into bite size pieces. Place in roasting pan.

5. Drizzle olive oil on top and gently toss to combine.

6. Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through and sausages are browned.

7. Cool and Serve

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 2
This is another really easy one. It looks impressive to serve to guests and is easy to make. Like I said, not the  healthiest but you could probably replace with a healthier type of sausage. Great to be served along side a salad.

I've made this many times over the past year, it's not in heavy rotation because of the healthiness factor, but I make it every now and then when I'm in a pinch for a quick meal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tandoori Chicken Quesadillas

Now, normally I despise fusion food. If you're going to eat ethnic food, eat food from that specific country. There's no need to hybridize food by mixing cultures. Generally, I stay away from restaurants that have the word fusion written in their description. I just don't understand it. In my ignorance (or innocence?) I have gone to fusion restaurants in the past and in one they had naan on the menu for an appetizer and then I ate szchechuan eggplant for my meal! (And I had to pay extra for rice! But that's neither here or there.) Generally, I've found that when you have fusion restaurants you can't be authentic and when I eat ethnic food I prefer for it to be authentic. (Now, I will frequent Pei Wei only because it's right by the house and I like the Honey Ginger tofu and vegetables. Pei Wei boasts itself in being Asian fusion, basically serving foods from every East Asian country, but lets be real their food is far from authentic. They serve a chicken salad. Last I checked, I've never seen that in Asia, it's a good salad, but no so authentic. Thus proving my point that fusion food is not authentic. So basically I appreciate it for what it is and the fact that it's close to my house.)

So, after that rant why did I make tandoori chicken quesadillas? Well, I must admit that I make some good tandoori chicken that's pretty authentic. (Of course it is, it's my Mommy's recipe!) And my quesadillas, well, are quesadillas even authentic Mexican food? I think it's more Tex-Mex anyways. I found a recipe for making quesadillas in my kiddie Williams Sonoma cookbook that bakes it in the oven. I've been making quesadillas this way for quite some time and always put in chicken and vegetables. When I put in chicken I make a basic marinade from my indian spice dubba. Not quite tandoori chicken, but similar spices. I realized last week that I hadn't made tandoori chicken in quite some time and decided I wanted some. (This is chicken that I like!) I was trying to decide what to do with the chicken when I realized that I had a craving for quesadillas. So I merged the two ideas and tandoori chicken quesadillas it was!

The recipe came out really well! Basically it was grilled chicken quesadillas, and tasted oh so good. I also added some fresh corn off the cob and green peppers to make it a full meal. Yummy stuff! Great with a side of guacamole (or as I make it, simple mashed avocados.)

No original link for this one, all made on my own. Well, the tandoori chicken is my mom's recipe.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts slicked thinly
1/2 cup plain, fat free yogurt
2 teaspoons tandoori masala
1 teaspoon jeera powder (Or 1/2 teaspoon cumin + 1/2 teaspoon corriander)
1 teaspoon red masala (or chili powder)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 ears of corn, with kernels chopped off
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
12 tortillas
1/2 teaspoon olive oil per tortilla (1/4 teaspoon per side)

1. Marinade chicken over night in fat free yogurt, tandoori masala, jeera powder, red masala, garlic powder and salt.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take a cookie sheet and line the bottom with aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack on top of the foil and spray with cooking spray. Place chicken pieces on rack. Brush each piece of chicken with olive oil and place in oven for 15 minutes. Take out, flip over and brush with olive oil and cook for another 15 minutes. Take chicken out when cooked through. One chicken has cooled, dice.

 Before going into the oven.

After coming out of the oven.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease three cooking sheets with cooking spray. (If you don't have enough cookie sheets, whenever you finish making the first batch, put the next batch in.)

3. Brush each tortilla with olive oil on both sides. Lay two tortillas on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle generously with chicken, corn, bell pepper and shredded cheese. Place a tortilla on top. Place in oven and cook 10 minutes per side. (Be careful flipping, everything tends to fall out!)

4. Remove from oven and cut with a pizza cutter. Voila! Dinner is served! Makes 6 quesadillas.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 6 
This one does take some work because there are numerous steps, but it's so well worth it. The grilled chicken tastes so good in these quesadillas. This is great for a meal or for appetizers at a party.

I make these oven baked quesadillas a fair amount. I don't always use tandoori chicken, I often just use a basic chicken, but it came out so good this way that I'll have to try it again!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oven Baked Fries

You're probably wondering where I've been the last couple, or several, days. No, I did not give up on blogging, unfortunately I had a bad bout of the stomach flu. When I wasn't occupied with...stuff...I was too nauseas to get out of bed. Bambino took the opportunity of me laying down to jump on my stomach and play horsey, not good. As I started to feel a little better, the last thing I was interested in was food, so cooking and  food blogging were out of the question. I'm slowly gaining my strength back and decided to post something I had sitting around in my edits. Enjoy this until I'm back on track again. Thanks for checking in!

Who doesn't love french fries? Warm, crispy potatoes fried in oil? Come on. It's good stuff. Now, as much as I love high carbohydrate food,  I know it's not the healthiest to eat fried potatoes. I have no qualms about eating potatoes, I'm a big believer in eating in moderation, but if I'm going to eat a starchy food, I definitely don't need to fry it. If I'm going to have a few fries at a restaurant for a treat, that's fine, but at home I prefer not to fry foods.

So I was looking for something different to serve Bambino with her lunch. She often enjoys eating her grilled turkey, cheese and tomato sandwich (on other occasions she spits it right out of her mouth), but I wanted something else to add along with it. I had once baked sweet potatoes in the oven and they came out so, so good so I thought maybe I could bake potatoes and they would turn out similarly. What do you know, they do! And the best part is that you can control the seasonings of the fries.

Click here for the original recipe

1 large baking potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Cut potato into wedges. (Or any shape you prefer your fries to be) Place potato in bowl and add olive oil, salt, pepper and mix. (You can also add garlic powder, onion powder, paprika or any other seasonings you like. Since Bambino was eating it I didn't want to put too many spices)

3. Bake in preheated oven until baked to desired crispness. 40-45 minutes. (The recipe called to bake at 450 degrees, but I found that the outside was getting very dark but the inside wasn't cooking so I decreased the temp to 400. Increase temp if need be.)

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale:1
This was a very simple recipe to make, it just takes time to bake. It's great dish to add along with a sandwich or even for breakfast along with some eggs.

Bambino devoured the potatoes. She enjoyed them dipped in hummus! So I am sure I'll be making this again.

Would you try this healthy alternative to french fries? 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chocolate Cake

The first time I ever made homemade chocolate cake was for Bambino's first birthday party. It was double layered and I made the attempt of making homemade icing and it was a catastrophe of cakedom. (Ok, that alliteration didn't quite work. I'll admit) Good thing the first attempt was just a dry run and we still consumed the runny iciing. So when it was actually time to make the cake for the party,  I went with the store bought icing, homemade icing would be for another day.

When I was looking for recipes for Bambino's birthday cake this was the first recipe I came across and it seemed pretty easy, so I went with it. It was on the Hershey's website, so I figured it had to be good. And good it was! It was very moist, which I loved. I had never worked with cocoa when baking, and there were no problems and the cocoa wasn't too expensive! (Much to the dismay of Hershy's, I did not purchase their brand of cocoa, but rather the local grocery store brand. Hey, it was cheaper and tasted good to me!)

So this past week I was in need of something to bake and I was reminiscent of the cake from Bambino's birthday, so I decided to make some good ol' chocolate cake. Hubby loved the birthday cake and loves baked goods around the house, so I knew he would enjoy it as well. So I took the recipe and made it a little healthier (lessened the oil and used fat free milk) and it was still a success! When Bambino saw it on the counter, she screamed for it. Didn't want dinner, just had to have a slice of the cake. Hubby sure liked it, as seen by the fact that he ate three slices last night while we watched Up at Night. (I wish I had a PhD in Peek a Boo. Alas, an undergraduate class in Child Development is all I can boast about.)

Click here for the original recipe (When I made this recipe for the birthday party, I followed the ingredients exactly, so that is what I will list here. If you want to make it healthier, make changes as you wish.)

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. (I sifted the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and then threw in the sugar and cocoa.)

3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water with a spatula. (Not the electric mixer!) The batter will be thin and runny.

4 Pour batter into greased bundt pan. Or, you can use two circular pans if you want to layer and frost in between. (I did that for the party, but this time I just used a bundt pan.) Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out dry. (If you use two circular pans it should only take about 30 minutes.)

5. Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
For baking a cake, this is really easy. You can tell by the recipe that it is meant for beginners. This is great for a party or just for some chocolate cake to have around the house!

I'll probably end up using this recipe for Bambino's next birthday party, since it was a hit!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mini Penne with Pesto Chicken, Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I know, I know. Another pasta recipe, but it's what I love. When working with pasta you can really unleash your creative side. I think I've thrown just about everything into a pasta dish. We're talking tomato sauce, pesto, chick peas, goat cheese, feta cheese, pretty much every vegetable out there and the list goes on. Hubby loves any type of pasta that has chicken and some flavor. So I try to vary the types of dishes that I make.

I decided to concoct this recipe when my mother brought over a bunch of basil that was on sale for $.99! So cheap, and in mid October! I, of course, immediately made pesto out of the recipe and decided to marinade the chicken in the pesto and and whip it up into a pasta dish.

The dish was a success, but I had no qualms that it wouldn't be. Not only did Hubby actually lament how good it was, but Bambino ate a hearty helping and was ready to eat it as leftovers the next day! I made a vegetarian version for myself where I sauteed garlic, broccoli and sun dried tomatoes, then added in the pasta and 2 tablespoons of pesto in the end.

I know, there is a mixture of mini penne and fusili becasue I didn't have enough of either for my vegetarian version.

No link to an original because I created this myself.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts chopped 
3 tablespoons pesto (homemade or store bought, your choice)
1 cup dried mini penne
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped (reserve oil!)
salt and pepper

1. Mix chicken with pesto and marinade over night.

2. Boil pasta according to package. Drain and set to side.

3. While pasta is cooking. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and add chicken. (You don't need to add any oil to the pan because there is plenty of oil in the pesto) Saute until browned on all sides, 5-6 minutes.

4. Add in broccoli and sun dried tomatoes. Pour in oil from sun dried tomato jar, about a tablespoon or so. 
Continue cooking until broccoli is tender.

5. Add in pasta and mix well to coat pasta the sauce. Cool and serve!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3 
This is another easy one that I came up with. Because you are using pesto, you don't have to worry about oil, garlic, cheese or herbs, it's already in there!  

This is the first time I made it and I definitely will make it again. So sad that basil isn't in season, but if I find some on sale again, I'll definitely be making this dish again. (I prefer homemade pesto, I haven't had good experiences with the store bought kind.) I'm looking forward to next spring when I (or the lawn guy) plants an herb garden. At least that's the plan for now...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Snickers Cheesecake

This is what happens when people gobble up the cheesecake before you have a chance to take the photo!

This past weekend was another lunch at my parents house and so when my mom asked for ideas for desserts, I told her I would make a cheesecake. Last year for Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin cheesecake and it wasn't too difficult, but Hubby said it just tasted like pumpkin pie. Thanks. So I was anxious to try making a cheesecake again.  I like me some cheesecake, but in small doses. The cream cheese and heavy cream just gets to be a little unsettling in my stomach when I eat large quantities, so couple of bites is all I need. I also prefer a cheesecake that has some pizzazz to it. Just plain cheesecake doesn't do it, it needs some crunch to it, which is why I chose to make a Snicker's cheesecake.

The only place I have had Snicker's cheesecake is at Cheesecake Factory. That's really the only place I've consumed cheesecake and the only cheesecake I like. Now, you may say that if I tried the cheesecake elsewhere I may like it as much, but no. I reserve any cheesecake consumption for the Cheesecake Factory, I mean, isn't that their specialty? 

So when I was looking for recipes for Snicker's cheesecake recipes I looked up the Cheesecake Factory's recipe. Now I don't know how close this recipe is to the original, but I decided to at least conform to the knockout in  hopes of achieving the greatness that is that Snicker's Cheesecake. But I exaggerate. 

The recipe was a big hit. As seen by the photo, I didn't even get to take a picture before it was devoured! Bambino enjoyed it as well. My mother gave her a small piece of cheesecake and then some yogurt for the rest of her snack and when the yogurt came into her mouth  the look on her face was like that of a child forced to eat brussel sprouts wrapped in sardines, and she loves yogurt! 

My only problem was that I didn't have a springform pan and thus it ended up making 2 1/2 cheesecakes in pie pans. Next time I make this, I will take the plunge and buy the springform pan!

Click here for the original recipe. (I didn't change a thing for the recipe, except using pie pans. Big mistake)

1 package (9ounces) of chocolate wafer cookies
4 tablespoons butter melted
3 packages (8oz) of cream cheese softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 lbs snack-size Snicker's, cut into sixths

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a food processor, grind cookies into crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until blended.

3. Press cookie crumb mixture into bottom of springform pan coming up 1 inch up the sides.

4. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer about 1-2 minutes. 

5. Beat in eggs one at a time.

6. Beat in vanilla and 1 cup of cream, mix 3-4 minutes.

7. Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the chopped Snicker's.

8. Pour mixture into crumb lined pan. 

9. Bake 1 hour and 15-25 minutes until cheesecake is settled on the sides and jiggly in the center. Let cool to room temperature. If desired, sprinkle the rest of the Snicker's on top. (I did not do this.)

10. Refrigerate at least 4-5 hours. Before serving, run a knife around the edges and remove springform side of pan.

11. Whip remaining 1 cup of cream and serve atop cheesecake

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
I know there are many steps to this recipe, but it's truly not too difficult to do at all. From someone who does a lot of baking, it's not much harder than other baked goods.

This is a perfect dish to bring to holiday parties. While no it is not a healthy dish, it's one of those that just isn't worth making low fat and doesn't hurt to indulge in small doses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Capellini and Meat Sauce

It was one of those Sundays where I was planning out the menu for the week and was making my grocery list. I wasn't feeling too creative this last week, kind of in a funk. I recalled a conversation I had with a girlfriend where she asked me if Hubby likes tomato sauce with ground meat since she has seen on the blog a couple of different pasta recipes without tomato sauce. I remember telling her that yes he likes it, and I have made it in the past, but recently I have been trying out new ideas. Well, this was going to be a week for the easy oldies. Meat sauce is fairly simple to make and Hubby and Bambino like it, so on the menu it was.

My mother would often make this dish when we were very young. (I always say we when referring to childhood referencing my brother and I. Force of habit.) Basically taking a jarred spaghetti sauce and vamping it up with meat and vegetables and letting it simmer, then serving it over spaghetti. It's simple, tasty and always a hit. Funny thing, whenever my mother would make spaghetti and meatballs I always crushed the meatballs and turn it into meat sauce, but then I preferred meatballs over meat sauce. Such an odd child I was. Of course this is no longer an issue for me.

So the spaghetti and meat sauce was a hit again. I think it was just a nice change from the usual. I notice that both with Hubby and Bambino when I make something I haven't made in quite awhile it always goes over like something new.

No original recipe for this one, but I think it's a basic that most families make.

16 oz marinara sauce (Or one jar of your favorite tomato sauce)
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1.25 lbs ground lean turkey meat
1/2 package of capellini pasta (No, I'm not trying to be fancy with the capellini, it's all I had in the pantry! You can use any type of pasta.)

1. Cook capellini according to package. Drain and set to side.

1. In a skillet add turkey meat, bell pepper and carrots. Saute until browned. Drain meat mixture and return to pan.

2. Continue to saute until carrots and bell peppers are tender.

3. Add tomato sauce to mixture. Bring to a boil, cover and then simmer for 20-30 minutes

4. Mix with capellini and serve!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 2
This one is a very simple one. It's great for a quick weeknight meal. I like to make this when I'm not feeling creative but want to make a hearty meal. It's also the perfect meal for Hubby the night before he has a long run, plenty of carbs and protein!

I used to make this a lot and I had just forgotten about it! I'll have to bring it back for times when I'm not feeling adventurous.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Snickerdoodles. Heheheh, I've always snickered at the name snickerdoodle. I know, cheesy, but along with some cheddar is how my humor rolls.  I don't have much of a history with snickerdoodles. I haven't consumed it on too many occasions nor have I ever made them. Snickerdoodles were also not in my mother's repertoire, thus I've had it only on few occasions. When I think of the doodle of snicker it reminds me of Christmas time and consuming vast amount of cookies from a cookie basket a co-worker gives that is filled with glittery tissue paper and then you get specs of glitter on your cookie. The taste just kind of gets meshed in with all the flavors of the other cookies, so I didn't have any distinct taste for a what a snickerdoodle was. 

I was browsing through other blogs when I came across a recipe for snickerdoodles. Immediately I wanted to try it just becasue it was something new. When I read the recipe I saw that it needed corn syrup, and I had none in the house and didn't want to buy any because few recipes call for it. So off I was searching for some doodle recipes. I tried to look up healthier versions, but I landed on one that I had all the ingredients for and went with it.

The results were pretty good, except that I felt it called for way too much cream of tartar. I was hesitant when making it, but since I've never baked anything with cream of tartar I decided to stick to the recipe. The taste of the cookie is great, except for a bitter after taste, which would be the tartar. I think I'll make them again, but cut back on the tartar next time. Bambino really loved the cookie, I turned around and she had gobbled up the cookie and crumbs were sprinkled around her a la Cookie Monster.

1/2 cup vegetable oil (Recipe calls for 1 cup butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar (Next time I will reduce to 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar (topping)
4 teaspoons cinnamon (topping)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Mix oil, sugar and eggs.

3. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking soda and salt. Add in cream of tartar. Fold in flour mixture into oil, sugar, and egg mixture.

4. In another bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 4 teaspoons cinnamon.

5. Grease a baking sheet. Shape dough into balls. (Mine were about 1 inch across.)

6. Roll balls in sugar cinnamon mixture then place on baking sheet.

7. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. (Mine cooked for 10 minutes) Cool and consume!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
Becasue I lessened the amount of oil in the recipe, it made it difficult to shape into balls. I had read in other recipes that you should place the dough in the fridge to make it easier to shape, so I also had heat working against me.

I think I'll try this again, but I'll reduce the cream of tartar and place the dough in the fridge before forming into balls. Overall, pretty good, minus the bitter aftertaste!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

I know, it's one sad looking photo.

I initially came up with the idea to make Shepherd's Pie last year during the peak of my Food Network/Cooking Channel obsession. I was watching Sunny Anderson's show Cooking for Real while Bambino was asleep in my arms and watched her build up the meat and mashed potatoes tower I didn't know much about shepherd's pie before this. I related it with something British. In my mind it was no different than the mince meat pies made in Sweeny Todd (Ok, maybe not the same as Ms. Lovett's Worst Pies in London.) Regardless, instantly I knew Hubby would devour this. Meat and potatoes layered together in one concoction, he's going to love it!

And love it he did. You basically just make mashed potatoes in one pot and keema (An Indian meat dish) in another and layer the two together and maybe squeeze in some cheese in there and pop it into the oven. There you go, Shepherd's Pie! Any culinary expert, or Brit, would probably disagree with me. But this is how  I interpret the dish and I apologize to any who disagree.

When I made it this past week it was the second time for me to make it and I served it to both Hubby and Bambino and both loved it. It sure made a lot and I'm not sure about freezing the potatoes, so  Hubby will be eating a lot of Shepherd's Pie this week!

Click here for the original recipe (I did not make the accompanied mushroom onion gravy because Hubby likes neither. Mushrooms or onions that is. He's good with gravy.)

2 lbs Russet potatoes washed, peeled and cubed
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1.25 lbs lean ground turkey
1 small onion chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 ear of corn, kernels chopped off (or 1/4 cup frozen)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan boil potatoes in water until tender and falling apart. Drain water and return to pot. Smash potatoes with a smasher. Add butter, milk and salt. Mix together and set to side.

2. In a separate pot heat vegetable oil on medium high heat. Add in onion, bell pepper, carrots and ground turkey meat. Add in Worcestershire sauce. Continue to cook until brown. (Optional: drain oil from browned meat and return to pot.) Add paprika, frozen corn and peas and mix. Stir in tomato paste and cook for one minute. Add in chicken broth. Bring to a boil then simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Grease a casserole dish. Layer bottom of dish with ground turkey meat mixture. Sprinkle with all of cheese. Then top with mashed potatoes on top. Bake in oven for 30 minutes until edges are golden brown.

4. Cool and serve!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 4
There are a couple of different steps in this recipe so it is a tad bit time consuming, but not too overwhelming. It's a great meat and potatoes type of dish and you can vary the type of meat you use (I think traditionally it is  lamb meat) and the vegetables you use.

I've now made this twice and it's safe to say I shall make it again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika

This one is another recipe I found in the Martha Stewart quick cooking book I got from the library. I know I've said on numerous occasions that I've found that in these quick cooking recipes it's hard for flavors to build up, but with roasting vegetables as long as you have olive oil, salt and pepper you're good to go!

I chose to make this recipe after perusing through the book because it reminded me of a cauliflower dish my father gets from his favorite Middle Eastern eatery. (A place that no one in the family likes to frequent with him because it's very greasy, but he's always trying to convince us to go. Sorry, Dad.) It's very oily, but I remember it to be pretty good. I don't cook too much with cauliflower but I am a fan of it. I once made pureed cauliflower (Or faux mashed potatoes, if I may) and they were not a big hit with Hubby, but Bambino and I appreciated it. I don't often make side dishes since I tend to make one pot dishes, but I figured I would try something new.

The dish came out pretty good. I liked it and Bambino willingly ate a few bites and kept it in her mouth. I did not give any to Hubby (I don't think he even knows I made this dish) because I know of his distaste of the white vegetable. I did find it to be a bit oily (so Dad would probably love it since it's reminiscent of his favorite restaurant!) so if I make it again I'll cut back on the olive oil.

I could not find the link to this recipe, but it is from Everyday Food: From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living.

1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into small florets
2 tablespoons olive oil (This was waaay too much! I would cut by 1/2.)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cauliflower in a bowl and add olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix to coat.

2. Lay out cauliflower on greased baking dish.

3.Roast cauliflower until tender and brown, 20-25 minutes tossing halfway through.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 2
This is such a simple side dish to make. 1 head of cauliflower didn't make too much, so if you have many people you may want to make more.

I may make this again. I really enjoyed it and it didn't take much time to do at all. It's a great change to the usual vegetables I cook with.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings in the Slow Cooker

It's becoming a slow cooker week, isn't it? Actually, no. Two days of posting slow cooker recipes in one week does not a slow cooker week make. Anyways, chicken and dumplings is a dish that is in heavy rotation around here. I first made chicken and dumplings in a botched gnocchi incident years ago and technically it wasn't chicken and dumplings. And then last year I came across this intriguing blog that tempted me to try making chicken and dumplings the correct way. You see, I had just finished watching the movie Julie and Julia (Speaking of, check out this blog of someone who took on the quest of watching Julie and Julia for 365 days, hilarious. and set out to find out what other types of challenges did people take on and blog about. One interesting one I found was titled A Year of Slow Cooking. A stay at home mom decided to try a different recipe in her slow cooker everyday for a year, and she succeeded. (It truly is amazing what she made in that slow cooker. Including yogurt!)

I've made quite a few recipes from her blog, but I struggle with The Mushy Vegetable Syndrome so I've since curtailed my use of her blog, but chicken and dumplings is a dish that I still very much use in the SC. Well, partly use the slow cooker for. I make the sauce and steam the vegetables separately and then dump them in the pot.

Both Hubby and Bambino love this dish. Me, not so much, not a fan of the chicken in it. Like I said, I make it pretty awesome. (Freudian slip, I meant often.) It's not too hard to do and comes out pretty well. As for it being a true authentic dish, I don't know. Some would argue because vegetables are added it's technically considered chicken pot pie. So call it what you may, it has chicken, it has vegetables and it has dumplings. (Not gnocchi!)

Click here for the original recipe

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut to pieces (Optional: marinade overnight with two sprigs rosemary chopped, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper)
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 ear of corn, kernels chopped off (or 1/4 cup frozen)
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 carrots peeled and diced
1/2 green or red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup milk

1. In a saucepan combine 4 tablespoons olive oil, flour, milk, water, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil and let boil for a about a minute. Turn off heat.

2. Grease slow cooker and add chicken and sauce made above. Turn slow cooker to high heat and cook for two hours.

3. While chicken is cooking, mix together corn, peas, carrots, peppers, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper together and place in a steamer. Place on medium high heat and cook for 20 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through. (Do not boil! Boiling vegetables in water will remove more than 50% of the nutrients. Always steam, microwave or saute.)

4. To make dumpling dough, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, olive oil and milk.

5. After 1 1/2 hours the chicken should be cooked through. (If you are using more chicken than in the ingredients, it may need longer, just check.) Shred apart chicken and then add vegetables.

6. Drop dough by spoonful over the chicken and vegetable mixture. Cook for another 30 minutes until knife inserted in dumpling comes out clean.

7. Cool and serve.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 6
There are numerous steps in this recipe, but it's not too difficult. I prefer steaming the vegetables as opposed to putting them in the slow cooker because this way they have a bit of a crunch to them as opposed to being mushy.

Like I said, this one is in heavy rotation and I will continue to make it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

French Toast Bake

This past weekend we had a lot of family in town and had a brunch at my parents house. I decided I wanted to contribute something to the brunch, something new and different that I had never made before. Never mind if it wouldn't fit into the menu already planned by my mom, I wanted to make something. I know, so selfish of me, but here was a chance to try out my cooking on a new crowd and I know they would be  honest, come on, they're family! 

I looked at some different recipes and was originally going to go with some type of egg, sausage, potato breakfast casserole, but since my mom was already going to make a frittata, I figured I would go another route. (See, I did take into account her menu!) I searched breakfast recipes and came across this recipe on The images of the presentation looked impressive so I thought it would be perfect for a crowd. And, it was basically french toast in mass quantity. 

I do not like eggs, so I only tried a small corner of a piece of bread and thought it tasted so sweet! I wasn't sure how it would go over so I regularly went over to the buffet line to see if people were partaking in my dish (There was a lot of competition!) and what do you know, they were! By the end, there was only about a quarter of the dish left. My mother said the top was very sweet and the bottom just tasted like bread, wasn't too eggy at all. I asked my brother for a quote that I could post and he stated, It was good. There you go, ladies and gentlemen, grade A approval from The Tiffin Girl's eloquent brother, you obviously just can't go wrong.

I almost followed the dish to a tee because I didn't want to muck up something I was making for guests and couldn't fix. I read in the reviews of the recipe that it came out very soggy for many people, so I chose to add extra bread to keep the sogginess at bay, but I think I may have kept the egg taste at bay, just a bit. But it was a hit, so I think I'll stick to the same amount of bread next time.

1 1/2 loaves of 1-2 day old french bread
5 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup packed brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries, chopped

1. Slice bread thickly and arrange in a greased baking dish.

2. In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, 3/4 cup brown sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Pour over bread.Cover and refrigerate over night.

3. Remove mixture from fridge 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle pecans over bread mixture. Combine brown sugar and melted butter, drizzle over top. 

4. Bake for 25 minutes. Take out of oven and sprinkle with blueberries and strawberries. Bake an extra 10 minutes until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Cool and eat!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
 This is another easy one and another one you can impress guests with. The presentation is beautiful and apparently so good and sweet.

If I have another brunch, I'll definitely make this again. Mainly because it's easy and you can make it a day in advance so you don't have to stress the day of! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Caribbean Style Pork: A Slow Cooker Tale

Yes, I know there is a strand of rice stuck to the side of the bowl. Oops.

So I found this recipe from a Southern Living cookbook I got from the library. Yes, another library book, but not one of the library books that was speedy cooking at the expense of the flavor. Or so I hope. When I saw this recipe I was actually intrigued myself, mainly because it was a slow cooker meal. I love slow cooker meals for the convenience factor. You just can't go wrong with dumping a bunch of things in a pot and turning it on. Also what intrigued me was that while the recipe is titled Caribbean, it had all Asians flavors. I mean, I don't know much about Caribbean flavors, but doesn't the Caribbean consist of a vast amount of islands with numerous different cultures? So lets create a pork dish with a bunch of East Asian ingredients and smack the name Caribbean on it, it's a catch all, they must have some East Asian flavors on one of those islands?

Just the smell of putting all the ingredients together for the sauce was so, so good. It was nutty, it was a tad spicy and you could just smell the Orient....err Caribbean. The recipe stated to cook the pork in a skillet first and then cook it in the slow cooker. I didn't understand why it needed to cook in the slow cooker for so long if it cooks in the skillet. I assumed to blend the flavors? So I cooked it in the slow cooker and kept an eye on it and after about 2 hours it was beginning to burn on the edges so I took it out, 5 hours earlier.

The result was a success! Only Hubby ate the dish because it wasn't finished until after Bambino went to bed and it only made two servings. I tasted the sauce and really liked it, very peanuty!

Click here for the original recipe (Southern Living did not post it on their website, but someone else made the recipe and posted it on the Internet.)

2 lbs pork (I bought 1.35 pounds of pork chops and removed fat and cut into pieces)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 green or red bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice (I used the juice of 1 lime)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dry crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped

1. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Cook until pork is browned on all sides. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.

2. Grease slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine pork, bell pepper and green onions in slow cooker and mix.

3. Combine remaining ingredients in slow cooker and cook well.

4. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour and then move to low and cook for 1 hour. (Recipe states to cook for 5-6 hours on low, so if you use the entire 2 lbs pork and do not remove any excess fat, then cook for longer than I did.)

Amateur Difficulty Cooking Scale: 4
The score got moved up to a 4 because you have to cook the pork prior to placing in the slow cooker. If it was to be all dumped into the contraption, then it would probably be a 2 or a 3.

I'll most likely make this dish again. Hubby seemed to like it and I was not bothered by the smell of the sauce. Thumbs up all around.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Low-fat Brownies

I've been making brownies on a regular basis for as long as I can remember. I've always bought the Betty Crocker low-fat fudge brownies and added extra nuts to them. For some reason I always thought that brownies were extra hard to make, harder than your average cake or cookies. I don't know why, but I was convinced this was the case and thus while I was making other baked goods from scratch, I would always buy brownie mix.

Since I've been challenging myself with my cooking abilities, I thought that I'd look up recipes for brownies, but not just any brownie a low fat brownie, just to keep it healthy. I was prepared to have a difficult quest to conquer, but was ready to take on the challenge. I had my armor on and was ready to battle! On guard! When I found the recipe I was surprised just how easy it was. Wait, I don't have to use my armor and sword?  It was very similar to any making any cake or bread. I debunked my self-inflicted myth that making brownies are difficult and took on the easy task.

So the low fat brownies had applesauce in the recipe! It had less oil and instead applesauce. It had plenty of sugar so I am assuming they were to replace the oil. The brownies came out great. I felt it was lacking on the sugar, but it had plenty in there, but perhaps it was the cocoa/sugar ratio that made it not as sweet. So if you like chocolate, you'll like them. They were more of the chewy type as opposed to the cakey type, like Hubby likes. He liked the brownies, I liked the brownies and Bambino liked the brownies. I added in nuts to give it a little extra pizzazz. And because I love nuts.

Click here for the original recipe

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup of sugar(!)
2 egg whites
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optionals)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream oil and sugar with a hand mixer. Add in egg whites, applesauce and vanilla.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add in cocoa powder.

3. Fold in dry ingredients into oil mixture. Add in walnuts, if desired.

4.Spray an 8x8 baking dish with PAM and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 3
This one is pretty easy. No more difficult than baking a cake or a bread. Same formula.

It's good stuff. Like I said, a little light on the sweet side, but it will suffice for a low fat dessert!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach and Ricotta

It was another one of those days where it was 4:30 and Bambino's dinner time was creeping around the corner. We had just come home from having a play date at Barnes and Noble and it was time to focus on food. (Yes, we play and have dates at Barnes and Noble. If they didn't want us there they wouldn't have a train table and storytime to keep us busy! We also visit the toy store next door which has toys to test out.) I had some leftover homemade pizza in the fridge from the day before, but I wanted to give her something else that was a bit more substantial. I scoured the fridge and found tomatoes, spinach and ricotta cheese. Epiphany! Just mix it all with some pasta and voila, dinner is served! And so it was. Oh, and garlic! Can't forget the star of the show, garlic!

It was truly a simple, simple dish and oh so good! I had a plate of it myself! Bambino enjoyed eating it along  with a slice of veggie pizza. This wasn't a dish Hubby ate since it has tomatoes and he doesn't care for tomatoes, so good thing there were leftovers in the fridge for him! 

I don't have a link to this recipe because it was invented by me.

1 cup dried pasta (I used mini farfalle because that is what Bambino likes.)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook pasta according to directions on box.

2. Heat oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add garlic and saute until golden brown.

3. Add in tomatoes. Cook until juice starts to run. Add in spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted. Add juice of one lemon. Add salt and pepper according to taste.

4. Drain pasta and reserve liquid! Add pasta to vegetables. Add in ricotta cheese. Mix. If pasta appears dry, add reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and add more salt or pepper if desired

5. Cool and serve!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 2
Another super easy one. There aren't too many steps to this and the pasta cooking takes the most amount of time. 

I'll definitely be making this one again. It was quick. It was easy. And Bambino and I loved it! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Applesauce in the bare

Style director for this photo shoot would be Bambino. 

I know I've made a recipe for applesauce before, and raved at just how amazing it was and how patriotic it smelled and yada  yada yada, but little did I know that you could make applesauce out of apples only, and nothing else! When I was making baby food for Bambino I did discover the secret of how good many fruits and vegetables (ok, more fruits than vegetables) taste when purely steamed. There is something about cooking fruits that bring out the sweetness even more so than eating it in the raw. Specifically, I was highly impressed with steamed pears, I suppose that's where pouched pears come from? I also loved the taste of cooked mangoes. When I blended them I would often eat a bowlful along with Bambino.

So my secret wasn't so grand of a secret. I was reviewing the top 9 recipes on (In hopes that someday I'll make it on there!) and saw this recipe. I'll be honest, I was jealous that my applesauce didn't make it but this plain, no fuss no muss applesauce made it? So I clicked on the post and my mind went from the green eyed monster to Tara on Beverly Hills, 90210 (Kelly's roomate in rehab) who went all starlkerish on Kelly and copied her hair do' and clothes...ok, so maybe not quite that far.  (Wow, do people still reference that show? If anyone other than Adam from Big Brother 13 got that, I'm shocked.) So anyways, I had to make the applesauce.

No fuss, no muss it was! I didn't even have to peel or even cut the apples! I did have to put it through a food mill and pump my arm for awhile, but it came out so fresh and so clean clean! (Outkast? Another one thrown out to crickets.) It was great. I served it to Bambino both plain and over some plain, vanilla yogurt. Yum yum! 

Click here for the original recipe

5 apples (Of your choice. I used Gala because they were on sale.)

1. Wash apples and place in a large pot. Place a scant amount of water in the bottom. By scant, I mean scant.

2. Heat apples to medium-high and place a cover. Let cook for 15-20 minutes, until mushy.

3. Place apples in a food mill to allow all of the core and skin to separate. Crank the food mill.

Getting my food mill on...

4. And there you go. Applesauce sans anything!

Amateur Cooking Difficulty Scale: 1
The hardest part is working the food mill. Good stuff and super easy.

I've been making the other applesauce recipe quite regularly for Bambino, but now I'll definitely switch to this recipe since it has no sugar. I may add a little cinnamon to the bare bones applesauce for a hint of warmth.