Easy Peasy Lasagna

I've been pretty lax about trying new recipes lately. I think it's because I am craving all the comforts of my tried and true dishes. Or maybe it's because I've become a bit lazy when it comes to creativity in the kitchen. Either way I came out of my funk for a bit to try this dish passed on by a friend.

The original recipe did not call for any pasta as it is meant to be a low-carb dish but if you know me... you know I LOVE carbs. So I couldn't help but add some pasta to the mix to add a bit more. And I think Joseph would have looked at me funny if I served him just the meat and cheese portion.

I want to play around with the spices a bit more on this dish and maybe add some pancetta. But other than a few changes I was really digging how it turned out. Next time I may add the noodles into the layers and bake it all together as well to let the flavors meld together in the oven.

Source: Kendra Maurer


Deconstructed Lasagna  
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 bag noodle of your choice (or go noodle-less for a low carb meal)

Brown the hamburger with the onion and garlic; drain off the fat. Mix in the spaghetti sauce; season with salt and pepper to taste and heat until bubbly.

Meanwhile, soften the cream cheese in a medium-size microwaveable bowl for about 40-60 seconds. Stir until creamy; beat in the egg and pepper with a spoon until well mixed. Blend in the spinach.

Spread half of the meat mixture evenly in the bottom of a greased, 8 x 8" glass baking pan. Spread the spinach mixture over the meat; top with the mozzarella, then the rest of the meat.

It may not completely cover the top, but that's ok. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Bake at 350º about 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Let stand 3 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Puree

While out on our weekly shopping trip at Trader Joe's two weeks ago my son noticed the pumpkins they had everywhere and begged me to get one. So I, being the nice mommy I am, said of course! I threw in a pie pumpkin and let him hold it all the way from shopping to check out to the car. He had to place it on the seat when it came time to get his stickers but happily held it all the way home enjoying the "heby" pumpkin.

When we went to Trader Joe's the next week he insisted we buy another one. So of course I obliged and told him that we'd have to bake them up soon so we could make things with the pumpkin. He said "I hep" and I said of course. So I had to let him help me roast these up and puree them. And I'll also let him help when I start baking and cooking with the puree!

This is the exact same thing I did when I pureed pumpkin for him last year when he was eating purees and he LOVED it. You may want to strain it a bit more to get a smoother texture if your feeding it to a younger baby but the consistency of this puree was pretty smooth. 

Enjoy!

Source: Ruth Yaron's Super Baby Food


Pumpkin Puree

  • 2 sugar or pie pumpkins
  • Lemon juice
  • Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut both top and bottom of pumpkins off. Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds and stringy guts. Place seeds aside if you want to bake them up for a healthy, yummy snack for later (or to use as a topping on many pumpkin goodies).

Place cut and cleaned pumpkins in a baking dish with the skin side down. Sprinkle the pumpkin flesh with a little lemon juice (or butter if you prefer). Bake for 30-45 minutes or until flesh is soft and a little golden brown on the tops (very little). I baked mine for 35 minutes.

Set aside and let cool. Once cool to the touch remove skin from flesh with either a peeler or a pairing knife. I find it easier to use a pairing knife. The cooked pumpkin's skin should come off easily. Dice flesh up into cubes.

Place cubed pumpkin into a food processor and pulse until smooth. You may have to add a little water to get things going. I added about 1/4-1/2 a cup depending on the batch and how many cubes were in the processor at once.

Once the pumpkin is very smooth place it in a mesh strainer over a bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes to an hour to remove excess water from the puree. Once this is done the puree is ready to use! You can use it to make pies, muffins, and other sweet or savory dishes.


My little helper making sure he was a part of the whole process...

Seeds of Love

After we gutted (or shall I say I gutted) our pie pumpkins we discarded the stringy mess and saved the yummy seeds. I knew this would be a great snack for me to munch on as we made our way to Halloween. You know, so I'd stay out of the candy :)

The seeds were yummy and just a little salt went a long way! I'm hoping to use some to top pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread if I get the chance to make it.

Source: Ruth Yaron's Super Baby Food


Pumpkin Seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds, cleaned and dried off
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 325. Lay out pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an un-greased rimmed cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool.

Make sure you watch you little one or else they may try to come up and steal some while you aren't looking :) I caught my little guy doing exactly that...


Pumpkin at its Best

I'm always in search of fun changes to my go to pumpkin muffin recipe. I just knew that this one would be a hit since it came from the Smitten Kitchen. I've loved most everything I've made from her website. Super delicious!

So I started in on making these and for some reason had it in my head that the recipe called for 4 eggs. Nope... just two! I wondered why I had so much batter and why it was thinner than most pumpkin batters I've worked with in the past. I already had the cupcakes in the oven before reading over the ingredients again and realizing my mistake. Oh well!

With just an hour of time left to finish and frost the cupcakes I had no choice but to suck it up and hope that they were good. I was lucky and had a few taste testers on hand to test out the cupcakes before I took them to the party I was going to. My BILs, SIL and nephew all loved them so I thought they were good enough to take. And boy was I right! These were delicious! And even better when left in the fridge overnight and eaten for breakfast the next morning with a hot cup of coffee ;)

Source: Smitten Kitchen (with a few adaptations)


Pumpkin Cupcakes With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans (unless using liners)
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs (I accidentally added 2 more!)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

Frosting
  • Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (I added)

 Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.

Cupcakes:
In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Frosting:
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy but firm. Frost the cupcakes using either a spatula or a pastry bag w/ a large tip. Refrigerate the cupcakes for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

Root Beer Alternatives

Joseph had a mini keg of Virgil's rootbeer left over from our son's 1st birthday party and he wanted it to get used up before it went bad. So he requested some pork. Last time I made pork with root beer I made pulled pork sandwiches so this time I wanted to do something a little differently.

I also made a yummy side of veggies and potatoes by boiling the potatoes and than sauteing them with olive oil, butter, green beans, baby carrots, rosemary and salt and pepper. YUM! Everything pulled together nicely. Sadly we started eating quickly after I made the food so I wasn't able to get a pretty shot of the sauce on top of the meat. It was tender and juicy... pure perfection!

Source: The Feast Within


Rootbeer Braised Pork Tenderloin

* 1 pork tenderloin, silver skin removed
* 1 Tablespoon crushed garlic (I used chopped garlic)
* 2 Tablespoons olive oil for marinating plus a little extra for searing the tenderloin
* 1 12ounce bottle of Virgil’s Rootbeer
* 1 white onion chopped (I used 2 small shallots)
* 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 2 Tablespoons Port Balsamic Vinegar

Remove the silver-skin from the tenderloin. Place in a shallow pan or a Ziploc bag and rub with the olive oil and garlic. Let marinate in the fridge for an hour or so. Remove from the fridge and let warm up a bit while you prepare the rootbeer sauce. Place the rootbeer and the onion in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until reduced by half.

Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan and then try to remove any garlic clinging to the tenderloin so it doesn’t burn and sear the tenderloin on all sides. Brush a little rootbeer from the sauce pan on the tenderloin and cover and place in a preheated 300 degrees oven for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the mustard and vinegar to the reduced rootbeer onion mixture.

After the 10 minutes remove the skillet from the oven and add the rootbeer to the pan, replace the cover and return to the oven for about 25 minutes or until the interior temperature of the pork tenderloin reaches about 155 degrees. It will reach the safe temperature of 160 degrees while it rests.

Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes. Slice into medallions and serve with the sauce from the pan.

Adventures in Toddler Food: Apple Carrot Sauce

About two weeks ago the family went up to pick apples at an apple orchard just east of us. We brought home about 6 pounds worth of apples and I knew I wanted to make two things: applesauce and apple pie. Well, I made the applesauce yesterday and the dough for the pie is in the fridge for today!

Instead of keeping the applesauce as just apples I added some carrots in as well to give it more nutrition. My son LOVES apple carrot crushers from Trader Joe's and I just knew he'd love this mix. And guess what? I was totally right!

Source: A Year of Slow Cooking













Apple Carrot Sauce
  • 8 small/medium or 4 large apples, skinned ,cored, and cut in quarters
  • 6 carrots, trimmed, cleaned & cut into coins
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
Skin, core, and cut your apples into quarters. Clean, trim and cut carrots. Add the pieces of apple and carrot into your crockpot. Add the juice from the lemon, and the water. Pour in the vanilla, and add the cinnamon and brown sugar.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. When the apples and carrots are super tender, mash with a potato masher or large fork. Place the mash into a food processor or blender to blend into a smooth consistency (you do not have to do this but I like the texture of the blended sauce).

Serve and enjoy!

My son trying to lick the bowl before asking for more...

Cheesy Chicken

As most of my readers know I'm always looking for an easy, quick meal to please my family. But I also want something a bit healthy as well. Sometimes I make an exception... While this meal isn't super bad for you it sure tastes like it is. The buttery flavor you get with the melted cheese is heavenly! I served it with a simple side of rice and carrots that I just threw into my rice cooker with a bit of chicken broth & spices. Definitely a meal I'll be making in the future!













Baked Cheddar Chicken
  • 16 buttery crackers (like Ritz) crushed (about 3/4 c.)
  • 6 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter-melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine crackers, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl.

Dip chicken in melted butter and then press gently into cracker mixture.

Place on foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle remain cracker mixture and butter on the chicken. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Adventures in Toddler Food: It's in the Pudding

So a few girls on a message board I frequent brought up the recipe book Deceptively Delicious and I was inspired to try and find a recipe to test out on my 18 month old tonight. I've had the book for quite some time and haven't opened it in a few months. But I figured it was time. I mean, hey, I am trying to get some toddler-friendly food on this blog anyway...

I had an almost over-ripe avocado on the counter so I decided to try the chocolate pudding. At first I was pretty skeptical. I mean... avocado... in pudding? But I followed through. And I'm glad I did. While this wasn't my favorite pudding it sure was tasty. And my toddler had no idea that there was a difference (partially because he's never had pudding). I also felt a bit better giving him some dessert when it had a healthy ingredient in the mix.

Maybe there's more to this book than a nice decoration on the cookbook shelf... next week I'm going to try the tofu nuggets :) For my son, of course!

Source: Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld



Chocolate Pudding
  • 1/4 cup soft margarine (I used spreadable butter w/ canola oil)
  • 1 cup pureed/mashed avocado
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
In a medium saucepan melt margarine on low. Add avocado, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla and stir well to incorporate. Use a spatula to mash avocado more so that everything is smooth. Cook for 3-4 minutes until thickened.

Take pudding off the heat and add corn starch. Stir well. Serve pudding warm and enjoy!


What is this, Mom?


Oh, it's pretty good!

Adventures in Toddler Food: Fruit/Veggie Muffins

As you're probably aware from the previous posts about toddler food I'm always trying to figure out new ways of getting vegetables into my child without him realizing it (and than spitting it out or throwing it on the ground). A great way to get these veggies in is by putting them in muffins & pancakes. I love muffins. What's not to love? The fluffiness, the flavor, the versatility. And the convenience.

I also love using natural sweeteners in place of pure sugar. In this recipe we do use a bit of brown sugar but only 1/2 a cup (for 15 muffins!). To sweeten it a bit more we add applesauce. The bananas also add their sweetness as well. You can also replace all of the oil with applesauce as well but I don't mind a little oil if my child is going to eat the whole muffin. Sometimes calories are needed on picky food days.

This muffin isn't super sweet but gives just enough flavor to entice little ones. It was good enough for this little man to devour almost a whole one! And he's only (almost) 8 months old! Mommas like them too so it's a win-win.

Source: Edible Ventures



Banana Zucchini Muffins
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded & moisture squeezed out
  • 2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with reusable (or not) muffin cups or grease and flour the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, applesauce, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Stir until just blended. Then stir in the grated zucchini and mashed banana.

Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups (an ice cream scoop works well). Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Let cool about 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan and eat!

Simple Suppers

I've been guilty of easy meals lately. I've been exhausted after either a full day with my toddler or a full day of work. And the last thing I want to do is make an elaborate meal. I used to love doing this but keeping it simple is the way to go if I don't want to end up with take out.

I had some chicken in the fridge and was trying to think of a good/different way to prepare it for our dinner. So I searched around and found that I was really wanting to either do a casserole or a one dish meal. I took a look in my pantry and saw that we had some cream of mushroom soup so I started to look specifically for cream of mushroom and chicken meals. This is one I found.

And I'm glad I found it. Super easy. And I can modify it as I go if I want something different. I'm thinking of adding broccoli or spinach in with the rice and maybe coating the whole thing with a sprinkle of cheese next time!

Source: Cambell's Kitchen



One Dish Chicken & Rice Bake
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound)
Stir the soup, water, rice, paprika and black pepper in a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Top with the chicken. Season with additional paprika and black pepper. Cover the baking dish.

Bake at 375°F. for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender.

Caramel Decadence

On one of the mommy message boards I frequent there is this recipe floating around that EVERYONE is talking about. So I set out to make it. And failed. Miserably :) I mistook 1 box of cake mix to mean one box of cake mix prepared using the instructions on the box.

But never fear... I continued with my mishap and ended up with a fabulously rich and decadent dessert. My 18 month old gives it two thumbs way up! Just make sure you have a huge glass of milk to go with it.

And if you're interested in the original recipe... I'll post that next week in my second attempt to make the brownies :)

Source: Lata's Grandma's Famous Chocolate Caramel Brownies



Chocolate Caramel Brownie Cake

  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix (prepared w/ ingredients on box*)
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 12oz caramels
  • 6oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix prepared cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and butter. Spread 1/2 of batter on greased 13 X 9 pan and bake for 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile melt caramels and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Top the baked layer with 6oz chocolate chips and pour the caramel mixture on top. Take the remaining 1/2 of batter and pour it on top of the caramel, lightly spread around so it's even.

Bake another 25 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Tips:

You have to let them cook completely before you cut them, they are a HUGE ooey gooey mess until they firm back up, when you take them out they will look like they aren't done but they are, just let them cool.

Adventures in Toddler Food: Veggie Bites

My son has been pretty bad at eating his veggies lately. With the vast fluctuation day by day of his appetite we have had very little luck getting the greens in him. He's much more interested in the colorful fruit we've been bringing home this summer. A little too interested...

So I went out in search of a good veggie bite recipe and found a lot online. I got bits and pieces from a lot of different recipes and kinda pieced them together to form this one. And I am quite happy to say that it was a recipe my child loved.

He ate 2 veggie bites for lunch today! I froze the rest of the bites for a quick re-heat later as needed. This will make lunch time a lot easier on those days I don't have time to cook/bake for him.

Source: My Head



Veggie Bites
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli & cauliflower, steamed & chopped
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix chopped veggies, bread crumbs, cheese & eggs together until moist and able to form. Using either a small cookie scoop, a spoon or your hands form about 20 small balls the shape of a chicken nugget. Place on a foil lined cookie tray and bake at 20-25 minutes. Turn over after 15 minutes and press down with a spatula to evenly brown.

Cool a bit and enjoy! If your toddler needs their bites cut up (like mine did) just cut into 4s before serving.


Veggie bites prepared into balls and placed on the tray to bake


All cut up and ready for lunch


I don't know about this, Mom...


Ok, maybe they're kinda good...


Mmmm... better than the chicken nuggets



After 2 minutes of eating he had eaten 1.5 veggie bites, 1 cut up piece of chicken nugget & 2 sweet potato fries. He polished off the rest of the veggie bite pieces and called it a day for lunch. Oh, the finicky toddler. One day he'd polish off a plate full of food and the next just bits and pieces.

Simplicity in Chocolate

We were craving something chocolaty. Something simple and good. We were craving cake.

So I went out in search of a simple chocolate cake recipe in hopes that I could find something where I didn't have to a. melt chocolate or b. deal with multiple bowls and multiple steps. Simple was the word. And than I remembered a post I had starred in my Google Reader. I quickly searched through the recently starred items and came upon this recipe.

Simple, check. One bowl, check. Have all the ingredients, double check! And I was on my way. The first time I tried to make it I left the butter on the counter to soften. Than we went to run errands and I forgot about it. And we forgot to put the dogs outside. So, yup, the dogs (I think it was Scout) got a stick of butter wrapper and all!

Than the second time I did the same thing... you'd think I'd learn. Or at least put the butter in the microwave or oven for storage.

Third time was a charm. I made sure the dogs were outside, let the butter soften and I was on my way. I even made the recipe simpler by putting all of the dry ingredients right into the sifter instead of mixing separately and than putting them into the sifter. Easy peasy! And the results were pretty good. I mean... it wasn't amazingly fluffy and light but it wasn't a mug cake either. This is something I'd whip up for friends coming over for dinner. I could probably even add chocolate chips, peanut butter or bananas to the mix to spice things up...

Source: Smitten Kitchen



Everyday Chocolate Cake


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (6 7/8 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (2 5/8 ounces) Dutch cocoa powder* (see below for a natural cocoa adjustment)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9×5x3-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a butter-flour spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well-blended but do not over mix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 to 15 minutes, at which point you can cool it the rest of the way out of the pan. Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries, if you’re feeling fancy.

*If you only have a natural or non-Dutched cocoa, you can still use it, but you’ll want to use 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and no baking powder.

Fabulous Fettuccine

After a long hiatus I think I'm back! This pregnancy has definitely been different than my last. I am still getting nauseous and sometimes I just don't have the energy to cook. When I do cook, it's tried and true recipes from this blog.

Last night we had taco salad and on Sunday we had meatloaf (with beef instead of turkey) and both dishes were fantastic but I don't want to repeat meals I've already made on the blog. So I've finally gotten some creative juices going (at 23 weeks pregnant... about time!) and came up with this fabulous yet simple creamy sauce for the basil oregano fettuccine I bought at Harry & David (on clearance).

This dish was a great summer pasta dish. Not too heavy and definitely bowl licking good :)

Source: My Head



White Cheese Sauce with Basil Oregano Fettuccine


  • 1 package Harry & David Basil Oregano Fettuccine (or your favorite pasta)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 cups parmesan, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups fontina, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of nutmeg

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling add salt, olive oil and pasta and cook as directed on pasta package.

Pour milk into a small pan and heat on low just to get it slightly above room temperature (so it doesn't curdle when added to the roux).

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Once melted and a little toasty (browned) add the flour. Cook until the flour doesn't have a raw flour taste (about 3-4 minutes). Add garlic and cook another minute stirring continuously. Put a little of this mixture in the milk and stir. Remove butter/flour mixture from the heat and add milk. Stir like crazy so lumps don't form.

Put sauce back on low heat until almost boiling. You'll know it's done when you put the back of a spoon in the sauce, run your finger through it and the sauce doesn't fill in the gap you just made. Take the pan off heat again and add cheeses while stirring. Add in the salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste.

Drain pasta and add to sauce. Toss in sauce thoroughly and serve. Enjoy!

Pampered Chef Party

I had a FABULOUS time on Saturday hosting a Pampered Chef party for the first time. I made a dish and our consultant made a dish. Both tasted fabulous. Sadly I forgot to take pictures! So I'm hoping that I can recreate the dish the consultant made once I get my deep covered baker.

I am posting the link to the show in case anyone else needs some fun kitchen tools:

Danielle's Pampered Chef Host Link


The show "ends" tomorrow :)

I'm seriously considering becoming a consultant myself but need to give my husband a bit of time to look it over... most likely this will happen sometime next year so keep a look out!

Savory Egg Bites

The first time I tried these cups my friend Rachel made them for our friend Amanda's baby shower. These cups were fabulous! So yummy and flavorful with every bite. I think I might have consumed 3-4! Well recently I had a playgroup get together at my house and I changed up the original recipe a bit to use the ingredients I already had at home. They were a hit! All the kids loved them and so did the mommies.

Last weekend at a baby shower for our friend, Alanna, Rachel made her version of these cups for everyone. So good. And since I didn't take a picture of them when I made my version I just snapped a photo of hers. I hope no one minds.

Source: Allrecipes



Egg Cups


* 2 chicken sausage links (I used sun dried tomato)
* 10 eggs, beaten
* 1 (16 ounce) container cottage cheese
* 1 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
* 1 onion, diced and sauteed
* 1 zucchini, diced and sauteed w/ onion

* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup butter, melted
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain and set aside. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cottage cheese, cheese, veggies and cooled meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove cheese mixture from refrigerator; stir in flour, butter, baking powder and salt. Spoon batter into 24 lightly greased muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until puffs are slightly golden on top.

Monkeying Around

I just recently stumbled across this recipe this past December. Sadly I don't know where I found it but I am so happy I did. I hadn't had a chance to blog about it because each time I make it everyone always pounces on it right away. Yeah, it's super good!

Well this past weekend I had a baby shower to go to for my friend Alanna and her one request for the day was to have Monkey Bread. So my friend Rachel asked if someone could bring it. I responded at once since I love the stuff and it's so easy. And I used up my extra points for the week on it... mmmmmm.

Source: Beantown Baker



Simple Monkey Bread

4 cans Pillsbury biscuit (get the kind that come in a 4 pack, the small ones, not the Grands)

Sugar coating:
  • 2/3 brown sugar - I was running low on brown sugar, so I used 1/3 cup white and 1/3 cup brown
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Syrup topping:
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Spray your angel food cake or bundt pan.

Mix the sugar coating in a ziplock bag (feel free to add more cinnamon and/or sugar if you run out during the coating process). Cut the biscuits into 4 (kitchen shears work great for this). Drop the biscuit pieces into the ziplock bag and shake to coat. Drop coated biscuit pieces into the prepared pan.

Bring syrup ingredients to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then pour over biscuit pieces. Bake for 35 minutes.

Turn over onto plate and serve while hot.

You don't want to know how many points this is per serving ;)

DeliciousTurkey Meatloaf {6 WW Points}

I had a pound of ground turkey in the fridge and wanted something lower in points but super delicious. I had been craving meatloaf for quite a while but just never got around to making it. So I searched on Weight Watcher's website for the ideal dish and came across this recipe. Let me tell you... this loaf was heaven! You have to make it :) No, seriously... go make it!

Source: WeightWatchers.com


Best Turkey Meatloaf EVER!

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup(s) onion(s), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup(s) green pepper(s), finely chopped
  • 2 medium garlic clove(s), minced
  • 1/4 cup(s) low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, sharp
  • 1/4 cup(s) seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large egg(s), lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 pound(s) uncooked ground turkey breast
  • 1 spray(s) cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup(s) ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp unpacked light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Cool.

Combine onion mixture, cheese and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl; toss to moisten bread. Crumble turkey over onion mixture; stir just until blended.

Pack meat mixture into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes. Combine 1⁄2 cup ketchup, brown sugar and mustard in a small bowl; stir well.

Spread ketchup mixture over meat loaf and bake an additional 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Remove meat loaf from pan. Cut into 10 slices.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 2 slices).

I just cut it into 5 thick slices :) This recipe was so moist and flavorful! I added the italian seasoning in with the onions, peppers & garlic when sauteing them and really liked the results. I also made the onion mixture a bit earlier in the day and put it in the fridge since my turkey hadn't fully thawed.

I think the extra time for the flavors to meld together really added to the taste. I than mixed everything together right before putting it in the oven and cooked for 45 minutes instead of 35. I than topped it with the ketchup mixture and cooked for another 10 minutes.

POINTS® Value: 6
Servings: 5
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 43 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy

The Perfect Party Cake



I just can't believe it. My baby is one! This past year has been the quickest year of my life. And I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful little man in my life. I knew that I wanted to make a special birthday cake for his first birthday and knew exactly where to go for quality and perfection... Dorie Greenspan.

I've made this cake once before and while it tasted awesome... I did not do a good job of decorating it so I didn't show it off on the blog. This time around I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I decorated the cake with some fondant characters I bought from Wilton's website to match the Jungle Animal theme of the party.

This cake was a bit of work but definitely rewarding. And I think most in attendance loved it so I consider it a success!

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan (p. 250)



Perfect Party Cake


For the Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk at room temperature (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans (I used larger pans, a 12 inch and a 14 inch, and doubled the recipe) and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.

Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream. Then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).

Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Serving
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Storing
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries.

You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Chili in Another Direction

After trying this recipe it will now be my go-to recipe when I'm craving chili. It definitely hit the spot and tasted WONDERFUL! I couldn't get over how great it tasted. It also kept me pretty full for quite a while. And the left overs taste even better. I had this for lunch almost every day of the week last week! And I hope to make a batch for the Superbowl.

If you're looking for a new/different chili recipe this one's for you!



Taco Soup
  • 9oz ground turkey
  • 3oz lean ground beef
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 3.5 cups tomato sauce
  • 1.5 cups water
Saute onions, zucchini & garlic until soft. Set aside mixture. Cook turkey & beef until browned. Drain all the canned goods really well. Mix all ingredients together in a large pot. Simmer over medium to medium low heat for 30 minutes.

Top with 1/4 cup light shredded cheese, 2 tablespoons light sour cream and 1-3 tablespoons salsa and serve with homemade tortilla chips for a low point meal.

Serves 12
2 points per serving of soup (toppings extra)

The Perfect Chicken Dish

A girlfriend of mine gave me a link to Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes blog and immediately I saw the recipe below. The picture was worth a thousand words and I was drooling from the start. I put it on the menu for the same week but life happened and it got pushed aside. I finally got around to making it.

I started to make it and was a bit worried that it wouldn't be as tasty as it looked since there were some pretty basic ingredients. Let me tell you... this was the best pulled chicken recipe I've had in a LONG time! It was fabulous. I served it with some pinto & black beans seasoned with onion powder, taco seasoning & salt and pepper as well as some rice and broccoli. I'm going to be using the left overs for chicken tacos at the end of the week.

You have to try this recipe!

Source: Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes



Chicken Ropa Vieja


* 3 chicken breast halves
* 1 small onion, quartered
* 1 tomato, quartered
* 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled

* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 small onion, thinly sliced
* 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
* 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
* 1/4 cup dry white wine
* 1/2 cup tomato sauce
* reserved broth
* 1 tsp cumin, or more to taste (I like a lot)
* garlic powder
* salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken, onion, tomato, carrot, and 2 cloves of garlic into crock pot. Add water to cover, and set to high for 4 hours until the chicken is tender. If cooking on the stove, cook on medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Place the chicken into a bowl and shred it into strips using a fork; set aside. Reserve the liquid.

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, green peppers, and red peppers. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, tomato sauce, white wine, and about 3/4 cup of the reserved broth to create a nice sauce. Season with cumin, garlic powder salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes more adding more broth and seasoning if needed. Makes 4 cups.

1 cup = 4 ww points

Cool and Refreshing

As soon as I saw this pop into my google reader over a year ago I knew it'd be good. I just never got the chance to fix it. Well I was searching for recipes to make this week and this one popped up again so I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.

This was an awesome dinner. I haven't really been cooking new meals lately so it's been a nice change to have something refreshing and different for dinner. The cool and spicy balance to this whole meal was great. Starting with the meat. The cumin spiced things up while the paprika sweetened/cooled things down. Than we had the heat from the pita/meat/cheese melt topped with the coolness of lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro cream. And who knew such a simple mix of cilantro and sour cream could make such a yummy drizzly dressing? YUM!

Source: Adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures



Mexican Steak "Pitzas" with Cilantro Cream

  • 1 lb beef flank steak, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon southwest seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon canola oil for cooking
  • 4 gyro pitas
  • 1/2 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
  • 1/2 finely diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a skillet over medium high heat, add the cooking oil, onions and garlic; saute until softened. Add the beef and seasonings and cook until browned.

Meanwhile, place your gyro pitas on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes to soften the pitas. Remove the pitas from the oven and set aside.

When the beef has cooked thoroughly, carefully spoon the beef over the warmed pitas to cover completely.

Top the beef with the shredded cheese and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese has melted.

While the pitas are baking, prepare the cilantro cream by combining the cilantro, sour cream and water. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

When the pitas are done baking, remove from the oven and top with the cilantro cream and chopped tomatoes & lettuce; serve.

WW - 7pts per pitza (serve with roasted zucchini and carrots and you will definitely be full!)

Sweet and Spicy

I loved this meal! I started up on Weight Watchers recently and really love when I come across a meal that is very filling and is great to eat the next day (or next two days). This recipe truly fits all of the above requirements PLUS it tastes awesome!

The next time I make it I think I'll use another brand of enchilada sauce or try my hand at making it from scratch. I also think I'll add some shredded carrots and zucchini in with the meat when I cook it to add more veggies. I also will most likely top with salsa as well.

I put the left overs on top of a cup of lettuce and ate it like a salad of sorts... Delicious!

Source: Mallory



Enchilada Lasagna
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 30 oz can enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 corn tortillas

In a pot over high, mix corn, beans, sauce, and chicken. While you wait for it to boil, mix corn starch in cold water. When the sauce is boiling, add corn starch mixture and reduce to simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Add some of the sauce mixture on the bottom of a 2.5qt casserole dish. Place 2 corn tortillas in the dish overlapping in the middle. Add 1/4 of sauce mixture on top. Repeat ending with the sauce mixture on top. Place covered in oven for 20 minutes.

Yields 8 servings
WW- 3 points per serving

Or if you're like me you can make it 4 servings and have a 6 point dinner.

Serve with chopped lettuce, light sour cream, and a tiny sprinkle of cheese.

Fluffy Rice

I needed a side to serve as both vegetable and starch since I was in a pinch for time. I already had some spinach & dijon stuffed chicken breasts in the oven when I threw some rice into my rice cooker. So I decided instead of dirtying one more pot I'd just throw my broccoli into the rice cooker as well.

With the addition of a few herbs and some garlic I ended up with a yummy smelling meal! I decided to make it even more delicious by adding some cheese into the mix. This rice was fabulous. Even my husband enjoyed it! And my son ate it up bite after bite.



Broccoli & Cheese Rice
  • 3/4 cup white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup light shredded cheese

Place rice, chicken stock, herbs, garlic and broccoli in a rice cooker and set to cook. When the rice is done cooking stir in cheese. Serve right away.

6 servings
4 WW points per serving (less if you use brown rice)

Happiness in a Bowl of Cheese

It was a bit rainy to say the least last week in Sunny So Cal so I added some soup to the mix that would be filling and warm us up. This recipe sure did both. With the heartiness of the potatoes and the fiber filled broccoli one bowl of this soup kept me full all night. Add that with the creaminess of cheese and you have yourself a bowl full of comfort perfect for a rainy night.

I served this with some rosemary garlic focaccia bread from Trader Joes that was super tasty. I toasted it up, rubbed it with garlic and dipped it right into the soup. It's great heated up the next day too!



Potato Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onions, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen chopped broccoli
  • 29 ounces canned chicken broth
  • 4 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes, or similar product
  • 1/2 cup fat-free skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 8 dutch potatoes (the small ones at Trader Joes), diced
  • 1/2 cup light shredded cheddar

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes, until soft. Add broccoli, potatoes and broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer 3 minutes, until broccoli is tender.

Reduce heat to low, add cheese and stir until cheese melts; stir in milk, garlic powder, oregano and onion powder.

Whisk together water and cornstarch. Add mixture to pan and simmer 2 minutes, until thick. Serve hot and top with shredded cheddar.

Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving, 4 servings.
7 WW points per serving, omit potatoes and extra cheese to make the soup 4 WW points per serving



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