Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas presents for a little princess...

Merry Chirstmas everyone. I know I'm a day late, and that I haven't posted in a bit, but I've been very b usy making Christmas presents. I made a few different gifts, and a dress for myself, but most of my time was spent thinking up and sewing dress up clothes for my cousin and god-daughter. She is OBSESSED with dressing up and being a princess, so I used some pieces of fabrics my mom had laying around from the years of making me and my cousin Christmas dresses to make a few fun outfits for my adorable, soon-to-be three year old cousin. (Sorry, this post is pretty image heavy).

I started off making her and her older sister tutus. The pictures really don't do them justice, and they are really way prettier than they look here. I was in a rush to take pictures and get them wrapped, so I didn't have time to get any great ones, but hopefully, when they get back from their vacation, I can get a few pictures of the girls in them.

The tutus are made out of rolls of tulle, and were pretty quick to make. Everything else I made is out of fabric either my mom or I had in our stashes.

This dress was simple, made out of some muslin I had laying around, and a piece of lace from a shirt. I shirred the back so it wouldn't need a zipper or buttons, but apparently I didn't get a picture of it.
This dress was cut from a shirt, so I simply sewed in the sides and cut new straps. The fabric is really stretchy and glittery, so it should slip on easy and sparkle away.

This fabric was my favorite in the stash, but I didn't have much, so I could only make a skirt. It's difficult to tell in the picture, but there is a layer of tulle underneath that peeks out the bottom, and causes the skirt to have just a bit of poof. This is probably my favorite of the pieces I made, but only because it reminds me of the matching dresses my cousin and I had for Christmas when we were little, using this fabric.

Last but not least, I made this cute dress out of some jersey, tulle, and lace. I think I will post a tutorial for it tomorrow. It was pretty quick to throw together, once I figured out exactly what I was doing, but I think it will be worth sharing.

I also made a scarf for my aunt, and a wall decoration for my cousin, but, of course, I forgot to take pictures of them. If I can, I'll have them each snap a pic for me so I can share them.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mexican-insipred Chicken and Rice Casserole

When I was younger, I always thought I didn't like rice. My parents would make white rice in a variety of different forms, and I would never eat it. At one point, in the attempt to make me eat it, my dad started putting cinnamon sugar on my rice, hoping the sweetness would make me enjoy it. I never did.

As the years went on, I started to eat rice in small amounts, as long as it wasn't too mushy and had a lot of flavor. I'll eat rice in my chipotle burritos, and I love fried rice, but I never really made rice for myself. My husband loves rice in pretty much any form, and always wants me to make it, so when I saw this this recipe for creamy chicken and rice casserole over at Pinch of Yum, I figured I would try it, assuming he would love it. I was right, he loved it, and so did I. All I changed was halving the entire recipe, making 4 instead of 8 servings. The brown rice gives the casserole a lot of texture, while the homemade cream sauce has a much better flavor than your typical canned cream of chicken soup.

After making the recipe once, I decided to add my own twist to it, and give it a bit of Mexican flair. I added black beans, bell pepper, and corn, plus some hot sauce and changed up the spices a bit. Overall, the dish turned out great, and I would recommend it, either in its original state, or the way I made it with the Mexican flair. I'm sure it could be customized in many other ways too by simply switching the veggies and spices.

Mexican-inspired Chicken and Rice Casserole
Serves 4

For cream sauce: 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
3/8 cup flour
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Tapatio*

For casserole:
Cream sauce (see above)
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice, rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1 cup bell pepper, diced
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn (frozen or fresh)
2 slices pepper jack cheese*

To make the cream sauce:
1. Combine the chicken broth and 1/4 cup of the milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a low boil.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, seasonings, and hot sauce into the remaining 1/2 cup milk until a smooth, thick mixture forms.
3. Pour the flour/milk mixture into the saucepan over low heat and stir continuously until the mixture is smooth and thick, 5-10 minutes.

To make the casserole:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish well.
2. Combine the uncooked rice, cream sauce (from above), and water (I actually did this in the saucepan to save a dish). Pour into prepared baking dish.
3. Place boneless chicken breasts on top of the mixture, and sprinkle seasoning.
4. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
5. After 45 minutes, remove foil. Carefully remove chicken and set aside. Stir in beans, corn, and pepper. Reposition chicken on top of the mixture, and bake an additional 30 minutes or until rice and chicken are cooked through and top is slightly browned.
6. Remove from oven. Carefully shred chicken, mix together, and put cheese on top. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*Other hot sauces can be used in place of Tapatio. Shredded cheese would also work, if you do not have sliced pepper jack.

I know the recipe sounds like a lot of work, but it is really quite simple, just a few quick steps, then waiting for it to cook. This made my house smell AMAZING, and the 10 minutes waiting for it to cool were torturous.

Source: Adapted from A Pinch of Yum

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pumpkin Dinner Roll

As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, my sister-in-law is pregnant with her first baby. Since they were not finding out if baby is a boy or a girl, I needed a gender neutral theme for the shower, and decided to go with pumpkins, since I know she loves fall and pumpkins (her wedding was even a fall theme). These little rolls went perfectly with the shower, and it was quite simple to achieve, giving a cute, festive treat.

This isn't really a recipe, more just a way of preparing something. I didn't even make dinner rolls fresh (too many other things to make, especially after the cake fiasco), but instead used frozen rolls which you let defrost and rise for a few hours.

Once the rolls are risen and ready to be put in the oven, you simply press down on the dough ball a bit, and cut slits (about 8) in the rolls, leaving the center uncut. They will look a bit like flowers when they are uncooked. Bake the rolls (follow the directions for your roll recipe), and let them cool a bit. To make my rolls look a bit more orange, I melted some butter and added a bit or orange food coloring to it, and then brushed the rolls with the orange butter.

For stems, I decided to use small pieces of chocolate bars, though other food items would work well (pretzels, pecans, etc). After the rolls begin to cool (but are still slightly warm), you simply press the chocolate bar into the center, pressing down so it sticks (since the roll is still a little warm, the chocolate should melt a bit, allowing it to stay on.

That's it! With just a little extra work, you end up with cute pumpkin shaped rolls, prefect for a fall party or Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce

What do you do when you have some leftover sweet potatoes that really need to get eaten, but you really wanted pasta for dinner? Make sweet potato pasta sauce, of course. After seeing a few recipes where people used butternut squash to make a creamy sauce, I figured, why couldn't you do something similar with sweet potato? This recipe isn't an exact science, and can be adjusted to your liking. We ate it with potato gnocchi, and it was delicious with just a bit of parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Sweet potato pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 - 1 cup milk
1/2 Tablespoon butter
1/8 cup diced onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 - 1 cup pasta water*

1. In a blender, combine sweet potato and about 1/2 cup milk. Blend until smooth, adding more milk if needed to make a thick sauce consistency.
2. In a skillet, melt butter over medium-medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.
3. Add sweet potato mixture to skillet. Slowly add reserved pasta water until sauce if of the desired consistency.

*If you are not cooking pasta, you could just add more milk.

That’s it! An easy, different sauce to go with your pasta and add a few more nutrients(sweet potatoes contain lots of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium).

Monday, November 26, 2012

A big mess...

Later this week I will have a nice post about the pumpkin theme baby shower we held for my sister-in-law, but for today, I will just share one project from the day. I would like to start off by saying, I have never claimed to be a baker. I have made some basics, and am generally decent at following recipes, but for some reason, I always have a lot of trouble baking. Because of this, I enlisted the help of my cousin. We decided we wanted to make a pumpkin cake, and we saw on pinterest, you could do so by using a Bundt pan. Easy enough, right? Wow were we wrong.

To start off with, we enlisted more help, because high schoolers need to always be with other high schoolers (or my cousins just really like to hang out together). 4 people in a fairly tight kitchen make cake baking a bit tough. After getting our bearings, we got started, separating eggs, sifting flour, and all the other extremely messy parts of baking. 45 minutes later, cake number 1 is in the oven, and all seemed well. The cake came out, looking pretty normal, though a bit cracked, and we assume everything is fine, and move on to cake two.

Cake two was made much quicker, because now we know what we are doing. In the oven within 20 minutes, cooled and ready to put together in a bit over an hour. This is when we realized we had a problem. The cake was way too moist and fluffy, and was just falling to pieces. We made some frosting, and cooled the cake, hoping we could just frost it in place and all would be well. Moral number 1 of the story, frosting does not fix everything. The cake ended up being a huge mess, and just had to get tossed (after we each ate a few spoonfuls, of course).

After we cleaned up disaster, one high schooler left, and we decided to try to make a simple sheet cake, using the same delicious cake recipe. This is when we realized that our error before had not been impatience. As I measured out butter for the cake, a remembered that 3/4 cup of butter is 1 and 1/2 sticks. For the first two cakes, we had used 3 sticks of butter in each, twice the amount we were supposed to use. Moral number 2 of the story, make sure you are measuring your ingredients correctly.

In the end, we ended up with a super cute sheet cake, decorated by my super talented cousin, which I will share a picture of as soon as I upload the shower pictures from my camera. Not only that, but the four of us had tons of fun and have a great story to look back on, and we will never know who messed up in the beginning and said that 3/4 cup of butter was 3 sticks of butter.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Easy Homemade Veggie Broth

I hate wasting money. In fact, I hate spending money AND I hate wasting money. Because of this, I have starting making my own vegetable broth. This broth saves on money, uses things that are usually wasted, and cuts way down on the sodium going into most of my recipes. This isn't so much a recipe, though, but more like guidelines.

How to make vegetable broth on the cheap
1. Save scraps of vegetables from other recipes. I save the peels of onions, the stems of broccoli, the ends of carrots, celery leaves, and the tops of green and red peppers mostly. Put them in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer until you are ready to make your broth.

2. Before vegetables go bad, freeze batches you won't be able to use. I tend to buy bags of carrots and celery that I don't get all the way through, but the smaller bags are more expensive, so I always buy the big bag, and freeze what I won't get through.

3. I make my broth in the Crockpot because, 1. My Crockpot is bigger than any pots I have, and 2. I can leave it go all day and not worry about it. I simply pour my frozen vegetables in and cover them with water. Sometimes I sort through the vegetables a bit, to keep the ratios in check. For example, this last time I went to make broth, I had a lot of broccoli stems, so I left a few out. I think you can never have too many carrots or celery in your broth.

4. Add spices if you feel so inclined. I usually add a bay leaf or two, but nothing else. I like to leave the salt out, and just add salt into individual recipes instead, but you could add salt and pepper too.

5. If using the stove, simmer for 1-2 hours. In the Crockpot, cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cooking time isn't super important, you just want all the veggies to cook and be very soft, so you know you got all the flavors out of them.

6. Let the broth cool a bit before trying to pour it into containers. The way I found easiest (as you can see in the picture) is to place a colander on top of a small bowl and scoop using a measuring cup. I only do about a cup at a time, and press the veggies firmly against the bottom of the colander to get most of the liquid out. Then simply pour the broth into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

The batch I made this weekend made 10 cups of broth, which would cost $10+ from the store. My batch probably cost me less than $1, considering most of it is just scraps that normally get thrown away.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm not dead

I'm trying to get back on track, get back to blogging about, not only food, but other beautiful and fun things too. Lately things have been hectic and I haven't been getting posts up, but I have still been doing plenty. I don't have pictures for everything, but I have a few definate recipe recommendations.

1. Eggplant Focaccia(via the Curvy Carrot). This recipe was delicious and simple. The only thing I did differently from the recipe was using swiss instead of Emmentaler and rolling it round, rather than square. AMAZING. If you don't follow the curvy carrot, I suggest you do so immedinately.

2. Cheesy Spinach Soup(aka Witches' Brew, via Annie's Eats). Again, all I did differently was change the cheese to Cheddar(since that is what I had on hand). This soup was very tasty, and I felt so healthy eating it(since it really is mostly spinach anyway). I could not get it smooth enough using my immersion blender, so I used the regular blender, and it turned out great.

I've also been knitting a bunch recently, and even attempting to crochet a bit(though the project was very simple). I crocheted this simple single chain scarf, and I love it. The picture really doesn't do it justice, and I will try to take a better one later on(it is 80 here today, so not really scarf weather).

I also knitted a simple baby hat and mittens for my soon to be niece or nephew. I went with gray, hoping it could work for a boy or girl.

I'm still a very inexperienced knitter, so I try to do simple projects. Next I'm hoping to do a ridiculously adorable blanket I saw on raverly(I'll share the name once I get all my supplies).

So, I am not dead, and will hopefully be back to posting on a regular basis very soon. I should have lots of pretty things to share from the baby shower I am planning, which is coming up in just 4 short weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Layered "enchiladas"

After a week or two of trying to get into a routine, I think I am finally getting somewhere. This week, I have successfully made a few real meals, and, through planning ahead and shopping for just what is on my list, I have successfully cut down on a lot of wasted time, leaving me time to relax, get my studying done, and even clean the house a bit(on the one day I felt so inclined).

Two months ago, I decided to stop eating meat. To be honest, it was a rash decision and I had very little logic behind the decision, but thus far, I have been happy with it. No meat has, however, created some new challenges, trying to come up with new recipes, looking for ways to change recipes to not include meat, and convincing my husband that a meal doesn't need meat (possibly the biggest challenge of them all). When I am feeling less inspired, or just looking for something I know we will both love, I tend to lean toward Mexican fare. I find beans to be so filling, and that it is so easy to leave out meat when it is something you already love (and my husband DEFINATELY loves Mexican food). This recipe is one of those types, easy, Mexican-inspired, not at all lacking in flavor or texture, and great without needing meat. Since the dish is layered, rather than rolled like traditional enchiladas, it is quick to throw together, and much less fragile. I only made two (since there are only two of us), but definitely had enough filling for 2, or maybe even 3 more.
Layered Veggie Enchiladas
Ingredients :
1/2 cup diced onion
1 jalapeño pepper
1 bag (12 oz) frozen corn, thawed
1 pepper (I used a Hungarian pepper, but a bell pepper would work well too)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoon Chili powder, divided
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1-2 cups fresh baby spinach
Corn tortillas 1/2 - 1 cup shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and peppers and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onion is softened.
2. Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, tomatoes with liquid (reserve about 2 tablespoons of liquid), corn, and spinach and cook over medium heat until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 10 minutes.
3. In a medium sized bowl, mash beans with 2 tablespoons cilantro, remaining chili powder, and reserved liquid from tomatoes. 4. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread 1/4 of bean mixture evenly on a tortilla. Top with about 1/2 cup veggie mixture, a sprinkling of cheese, and another tortilla. Top with about another 1/4 cup or the veggie mixture and desired amount of cheese. Repeat with remaining tortillas until you run out of filling.
5. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Garnish with remaining cilantro, and any additional toppings desired (such as guacamole or sour cream).

Source: Adapted from Whole foods

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A new schedule and some pumpkin cookies

I haven't been getting much cooking done lately. Between and empty fridge, and a new class schedule that has me not getting home until 6, I haven't even made it to the store in over a week. This leaves me to be creative with meals, finding things to prepare in the back of the pantry and, though they have all been more than edible, none of the recipes have been refined enough to share. I am sorry for this.
Instead of cooking an awe-inspiring meal this weekend, my hubby and I went and experienced our first Korean meal. The restaurant was called Seoul Garden, and the food, though completely overwhelming to me, was delicious. I cannot tell you what a single thing I ate actually was called, but it was all great, and I would recommend it to anyone in the Cleveland area.
Though I have been lazy with meals lately, I did make one recipe worth sharing. The recipe comes from Annie's Eats, a blog I would suggest anyone going to, because any recipe of her's I have made has been AMAZING. This recipe was no different. The cookies were soft, with just enough spice and pumpkin flavor to be different, without being overpowering. I followed her recipe almost exactly, only adding some allspice to the dough, and was very happy with the outcome. The cookies will be a great fall dessert, maybe even as something different for Thanksgiving or other Holidays.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
For the dough:
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the coating: ½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
Dash of allspice

1. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
3. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Scoop the dough and roll into a ball. Coat each ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on baking sheet, keeping the balls 2-3 inches apart.
6. Dip the bottom of a flat, heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water, then in the sugar-spice mixture. Use glass to flatten dough balls slightly, recoating the glass as needed.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes, until set and baked through. Cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Black Bean Soup

Confession: I ate 3 Klondike bars on Sunday. Confession 2: I may have eaten 2 on Monday also. We are now out of Klondike bars.
After eating all of my delicious ice cream, the weather has cooled down and it has started to feel like fall. I love fall, so this is a welcome feeling to me. To welcome in the new fall weather, I decided to make soup, delicious, hearty, black bean soup. It was a quick meal, and went perfect with my leftover bread(in the form of a grilled cheese), and a nice pumpkin beer. I suggest making this immediately if you too are hoping to welcome in the fall weather.

Black Bean Soup

2 1/2 cups Black beans*
2 cups veggie broth
1 tablespoon oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt**

1: In a large stock pot, heat oil. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and spices to heated oil and cook about 5 minutes, until pepper and onion are softened.
2: Add beans and broth, mix well, and simmer for about 10 minutes, uncovered.
3: Stir and cover. Simmer about 10-15 more minutes, until beans are soft.
4: Using and immersion blender, or a regular blender, blend soup to preferred consistency. Serve, topped with cheese, sour cream, or other garnish.

*I cook dried beans, rather than using cans, but 2 1/2 cups would be about 1 1/2 cans, in general.
**If using canned beans, salt can be ommitted, since the canned beans will contain salt.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Potato and broccoli quiche

I had this recipe ready to share yesterday, but due to a killer headache, I never got around to posting it. I'm fighting through today, so forgive me if there are some errors, but computer screens are quite bright when you have light sensitivity issues.
I always thought quiche was delicious, but assumed it was super difficult and incredibly horrible for you. Well, though it may not be the healthiest option out there, a slice of this clocked in with less than 400 calories, and was incredibly filling. Overall, I was very happy with how this recipe turned out. My husband, who apparently had never eaten a quiche before, even complimented it and said he would like to have it again(and good thing, since there are still 6 slices in the fridge). I used a simple crust recipe that I found here, but I'm sure this could be made with any crust recipe, or even those refrigerated, premade crusts.

Potato and Broccoli Quiche

For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water

For the filling:
1/2 head broccoli, roasted with garlic and cut into bite-size pieces*
2 small russett potatoes, rinsed and cubed into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup white onion, diced 2 teaspooons olive oil
5 eggs
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup milk
1/4- 1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder

1: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the crust by mixing the flour, oil, salt, and water in a small bowl until well mixed. Press the mixture into a 9" pie pan.
2: Boil a large pot of water. Add potatoes to water and cook for about 4 minutes, until slightly softened.
3: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high until shimmering. Add cooked potatoes and onions and cook around 5 minutes, until potatoes begin to brown and onion is softened.
4: Mix eggs, milk, and half and half in a bowl. Add seasoning and mix until lightly beaten. Add broccoli and potatoes and mix until combined.
5: Pour egg mixture into crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

*I roasted the broccoli the same way as I did for the ravioli posted yesterday, but in case you missed it: Place broccoli in bowl with garlic and oil and mix to coat. Pour mixture onto baking sheet and bake 15-18 minutes at 400, until broccoli is soft. Remove from oven.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Roasted Broccoli Ravioli

I'm going to be honest here...I was quite on the fence about posting this recipe. Though I think it tasted good, as did my husband, I'm not sure everyone will love them. They had a much dryer center than your typical ravioli, which took getting used to, but were quite tasty none the less. Be prepared for these to take you some time to put together. I don't have alot of practice making ravoili, so I'm sure if you are more familiar with it, it won't take as long, but preparing them does take effort.

I'm sure these could be made with homemade pasta, but I took the easy route and used wonton wrappers to save a bit of rolling and cutting. These also would have been great deep fried or baked in the oven!I'm planning another recipe for tonight that, hopefully, I will be able to share tomorrow. Everyone cross your fingers!

Broccoli Ravioli
Makes 24 large ravioli

1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
1 Tablespoon olive oil 1 garlic clove, minced
1/4-1/2 shredded cheese(I used 1/4 cup, but think it would have been better with more)
1 package wonton wrappers
3 Tablespoons grated parmesean
1 egg alfredo sauce

1. Preheat oven to 425. Place broccoli in bowl with garlic and oil and mix to coat.
2. Pour mixture onto baking sheet and bake 15-18 minutes, until broccoli is soft. Remove from oven.
3. Pour cooked broccoli and garlic in food processor and process until finely chopped. Add cheese and mix.
4. Lightly beat the egg and add a bit of water to make an egg wash. To assemble the ravoili, place 1 wonton wrapper on the counter and brush the edges with the egg wash. Place a scoop of filling in the middle, and place another wonton wrapper on top. Press the sides together with a fork all the way around the edges.
5. Boil a large pot of salted water. After assembly, place finished ravioli in boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack to dry.
6. Top ravioli with warmed alfredo sauce and sprinkle with parmesean cheese. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sweet Chocolate Pockets

Sometimes a girl real needs a gooey, warm, yummy dessert. Last night was one of those nights for me. After an exhausting day, I really wanted something that would be warm, tasty, and super simple. I'm not sure calling this a recipe is even fair, but whatever it is, it was delicious and definitely worked to quench my sweet tooth for the night(I may have eaten 4 last night, that is how much I enjoyed them).

Sweet Chocolate Pockets

1 tube crescent rolls
1 bar Hershey's Chocolate
8 marshmallows

1: Grease a baking sheet and preheat oven to 375.
2: Separate dough into 8 triangles.
3: In each triangle, place 1 piece of chocolate and one marshmallow. Roll up, and fold open ends in (try to completely close the roll on all sides so nothing can leak out)
4: Bake 11-13 minutes

That's it! The marshmallows will melt and absorb into the dough, leaving it sticky and sweet in the center.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tasty Vegetarian Meatloaf

Even with the heat lately, I have been looking for a meal that is hearty, comforting, and classic. After seeing a few recipes for vegetarian meatloaf, I decided that that would be perfect. Meatloaf was always a comfort food for me, especially since in my house growing up, it was almost always served with mashed potatoes (a personal favorite). This recipe still has the comforting feeling, but without the meat (obviously) and without that overly greasy feeling that comes from ground beef. I decided to make my own twists on the recipe, mostly because I had foods in the fridge that needed to get eaten, but overall, I think they worked out great, and I will definitely be making this again when it cools down and having the oven on isn’t torture.

Vegetarian Meatloaf>

2-3 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
1 tsp oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/4- 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, diced
1/2 cup corn
1 cup oats
3/4 cup shredded cheese, divided (I used four cheese Mexican)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup enchilada sauce, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt

Directions: 1: Bring water to boil in a saucepan.
2: Add lentils to boiling water, cover, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
3: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
4: In a small skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and pepper to heated oil and cook about 5 minutes, until onion is slightly soft.
5: Add garlic, jalapeño, and corn and cook an additional 30 seconds.
6: In a large bowl, partially mash lentils. Add onion mixture, oats, and 1/2 cup cheese and stir until combined.
7: Stir in egg and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce and mix well.
8: Spoon mixture into a greased loaf pan. Smooth top with a spoon.
9: Bake for 30-40 minutes, until top of loaf is firm and golden brown. Remove from oven and pour remaining enchilada sauce and cheese on top. Cook and additional 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted.
10: Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before cutting or serving.

Recipe source: Adapted from

Monday, July 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Balls.

I love making desserts, but in the summer, when I don't feel like turning on the oven, I always have trouble coming up with ideas. Well, after finding this dessert, I will no longer have a problem! These peanut butter balls were quite simple to throw together, and only took a few minutes of active time, though it does require a bit of cooling time. I took these to a picnic this past weekend, and they were devoured almost instantly. As a group, we decided they taste a lot like Tagalongs (the Girl Scout cookie), except better, since of late, Tagalongs have been too much cookie and not enough peanut butter. If you have never made any sort of chocolate covered balls (buckeye balls, truffles, etc) it may take a bit of practice to get them coated smoothly, but overall the process is quite simple.

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Balls
aka Tagalong Truffles

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs(about 12 full sized graham crackers), plus extra for decoration
1 cup peanut butter
1 to 1 1/2 cups chocolate wafers(candy melts)*

1: Using a food processor, grind graham crackers into crumbs. Leave 1 1/2 cups of crumbs in the food processor, and set any remaining crumbs aside.
2: Add peanut butter to food processor, and mix until well combined. If the mixture seems too moist and sticky, add more crumbs.
3: Chill peanut butter mixture for about 30 minutes.
4: Cover a baking sheet with wax paper. Roll peanut butter mixture into 24-30 equal sized balls and place on the baking sheet. Place in freezer for at least an hour.
5: Using a double boiler, melt chocolate wafers(This can also be done in a glass bowl in the microwave, but make sure to only microwave 30 seconds at a time, so as not to burn the chocolate). Coat each peanut butter ball in chocolate, place back on wax paper, and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Repeat with remaining balls, and place the baking sheet in fridge or freezer until firm.

*I would recommend using Merckens milk chocolate, because it stays smooth and shiny and has given me the best results. I did not use Merckens because I had run out, but know the overall appearance of the dessert would have been better if I had.

Source: Baby Gizmo Blog

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eggplant Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Sometimes I make substitutions in recipes and assume they will be delicious. Other times, I dread that the final product will turn out horribly, and that I will be wasting a huge amount of food that no one will eat. That was my worry while making this recipe. As someone who doesn't like zucchini, I am constantly looking at zucchini recipes, trying to decide if I can sub in something else without ruining the dish. When I saw a recipe for veggie enchiladas, I decided I had to try it, but with one of the main ingredients being zucchini, I had to sub it out. I decided to try eggplant instead, changing the cooking method a bit, since eggplant needs to cook a bit longer, and I have to say, it worked out wonderfully. My husband, who loves his typical chicken and beef enchiladas from the Mexican restaurant up the street, said that these were some of the best enchiladas he has ever had. Thumbs up all around.

enchilada pan
Eggplant Enchiladas

For the sauce:
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sugar
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

For the filling:
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant, cut into bite sized cubes
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 can(15 oz) black beans
1/2 cup prepared enchilada sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheese

For assembly: 6-8 8 inch tortillas
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
2-3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine

For the sauce:
1: Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering.
2: Add onion and cook about 5 minutes, until softened.
3: Add garlic, sugar, and spices, and cook about 30 seconds.
4: Add tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and allow to cook about 5 minutes.

For the enchiladas
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in large skillet over medium heat until very hot. Add eggplant and cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
2. After removing eggplant from the skillet, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and red pepper and cook until slightly softened, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook about 30 seconds.
4. Add eggplant, black beans, and 1/2 cup enchilada sauce. Cook about 3-5 minutes until warmed through. Mix in 1/2 cup shredded cheese
5. To assemble, add about 1/3-1/2 cup filling to center of tortilla. Roll tightly and place in 9" x 13" baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining filling and tortillas.
6. Pour 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over rolled enchiladas. Sprinkle cheese and cilantro over the top. Cover with foil and bake 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Uncover and bake an additional 3-5 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Barley Salad

As much as I love macaroni salads and other salads smothered in a mayonnaise based sauce, sometimes, you need something less creamy and more refreshing. Enter this salad. It's light, with a hint of lime and a great zing from the cilantro. We eat this as a side dish generally, but sometimes we even eat it as a whole meal. It tastes even better as it sits, so try to plan ahead and make this at least a few hours in advance.

Barley Salad

1 1/3 cup uncooked barley
~2 cups(1 15 oz can) black beans
~3 1/3 cups (1 16 oz bag) frozen corn*
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
hot sauce

1: Cook barley by covering with 2 2/3 cup water and simmer 30-40 minutes.
2: In large bowl, mix beans, corn, and barley.
3: Add lime juice and oil to barley mixture. Stir to mix well. Add cilantro and stir.
4: Refrigerate at least 1 hour, until ready to serve. Top with hot sauce to taste.

Recipe adapted from *I like to leave the corn frozen so it helps to cool down the barley, but if you are eating it right away, you will want to thaw your corn.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Last week, I tried to make homemade tortillas. They turned out ok, and tasted pretty good, so I posted the recipe, and just assumed my problem was in rolling the dough, but when I tried the recipe again, I still had the same issues. I could not get the tortillas to stay thin and soft so, although they tasted good, they weren't really usable as tortillas.
This new recipe has completely changed that. Though it is not a low fat recipe like the other one, they are not horrible for you, and no worse nutrition wise than store bought tortillas. These tortillas turned out soft and pliable, and were delicious to use for everything from chocolate quesadillas to bean burritos, and so easy to make. These are so easy, in fact, that I actually made them while I was home sick, because I was hungry and low on food. Everyone should try making these; you will not be disappointed.

Flour Tortillas

Makes 12 8 inch tortillas

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
3/4 to 1 cup warm water

1: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in mixer bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, until mixture is crumbly.
2: Using mixer with dough hook*, slowly add water while mixing until dough becomes a cohesive ball.
3: Kneed for about 30 more seconds until dough is tacky, but not sticky. If dough is too sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
4: Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel and let rest for about 10 minutes.
5: Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working with one dough piece at a time, roll the dough into an 8 inch circle.
6: Carefully transfer the rolled dough to the heated skillet and heat for about 20 seconds on each side, until bubbles form and tortilla is lightly browned. Do not overcook.
7: Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Store finished tortillas in airtight container in fridge for about a week, or freeze for longer.

*This recipe can easily be done without a mixer and dough hook. Start slowly adding water while mixing by hand, then kneed until it becomes a smooth, cohesive ball.

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Parmesan Fried Eggplant

Until recently, I was convinced I did not like eggplant. I had only ever seen it coated in tomato sauce, and since I'm not really a fan of tomato sauce, I wouldn't even taste a bite. However, last week I decided to be adventurous, and bought an eggplant I saw at the grocery store. I'm glad I did, because it was delicious, and now I am hooked. This past weekend, after a few healthy meals, I decided I was craving something fried, and thought that fried eggplant might be the best of both worlds, something fried and delicious, yet still more healthy than fast food.

Fried Parmesan Eggplant

1 medium sized eggplant, cut into 1/4 thick rounds
2 eggs, lightly beaten*
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Oil for frying

1: Place eggs in small bowl. Mix bread crumbs and cheese in another small bowl.
2: Dip eggplant into egg mixture, then into bread crumbs and coat.
3: In deep, heavy skillet, heat about 1/2 inch vegetable oil to about 375 degrees F. Fry eggplant pieces, about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel to drain and cool before serving.

I ate mine with tomato slices on the side, but I'm sure they would also be great topped with tomato sauce.

*I used egg whites, rather than whole eggs, because I had some left over from a previous recipe, but either egg whites or whole eggs will work.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homemade liquid laundry detergent

Lately I've been really in to making things from scratch, so when I found out you could make your own laundry soap, I figured I would have to give it a go. I didn't want to have to buy any special equipment to make it, so I decided I would make a small enough batch that I could fit it in my empty detergent bottle from the store. This recipe makes about a gallon of detergent, so make sure you bottle has a capacity of more than 1 gallon(mine was 1.3 gallons). Overall, the process took me about 15 minutes, and should save a significant amount of money. I read many different recipes to come up with my ratios, and they were all about the same, though I did use this one as a starting point.

Liquid Laundry Detergent

1/6 bar Fels Naptha
1/4 cup Washing Soda(not baking soda)
1/4 cup Borax

1. Grate Fels Naptha into a sauce pan with 3 cups hot water. Heat and stir until grated soap is completely melted.
2. Add Washing Soda and Borax and stir until completely dissolved.
3. Using a funnel, pour soap mixture into empty detergent bottle. Add 13 cups hot water to the bottle.
4. Shake well, then let cool and thicken for about 24 hours.

Use 1/3 to 1/2 cup detergent per load. Shake bottle often(if possible, before each use).

Cost Breakdown
Fels Naptha: $0.99 per bar, or $0.17 per batch.
Washing Soda: $2.50 per box, or about $0.10 per batch
Borax:$3.00 per box, or about $0.07 per batch
Overall, a batch cost about $0.34, and should yield 32 to 48 loads, which makes it about a penny a load(a huge savings to store bought detergent, even if you buy it on sale with coupons)!

*Note: I used my regular sauce pan to make this, and just rinsed it VERY well afterwards, but I did buy a separate grater for grating the soap, since I find it so difficult to get the grater completely clean.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mexican Pizza

This week, my husband told me I wasn't allowed to go grocery shopping until we cleared out some food from the pantry and freezer. To some, this would be an annoyance, but to me, it was a challenge. After finding a can of refried beans and a bag of pizza dough, I knew exactly what I wanted, Mexican Pizza! I found a similar recipe here, but decided to change it up a bit to fit the ingredients I had.

Overall, I think the pizza turned out great. It had just enough spice, and was plenty filling without the addition of meat. The whole meal was pretty easy to put together, and was ready in under an hour, with even less active time(most of the time was for the oven and stone to preheat).


Pizza dough*
1 cup refried beans
1 small can diced tomatoes with green chilis(Rotel)
2 green onions (chopped)
1/4 large yellow onion(sliced)
1 cup shredded cheese

1: Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees.
2: Drain tomatoes and reserve the liquid.
3: In a small bowl, mix refried beans and about 1/4 cup of liquid from tomatoes. Heat in microwave about 25 seconds.
4: Roll out pizza dough to about a 12 inch circle(this may be different depending on your dough). Brush the perimeter with olive oil.
5: Spread bean mixture onto shaped crust.
6: Sprinkle tomatoes and yellow onion slices.
7: Sprinkle cheese evenly across the pizza. Top with green onions.
8: Move to preheated stone and bake 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

*I use Annie's Eats' pizza dough recipe, which can be found here.

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Homemade low fat tortillas

I love quesadillas. They are delicious and so easy, especially with my handy quesadilla maker. After yet another delicious quesadilla, I decided that I had to try my hand at making homemade tortillas. I had heard they were not too hard, but were much tastier than the kinds you can buy at the store.

After finding a recipe here , I decided to give it a go. Overall, I found the recipe delicious, but I had alot of trouble rolling the tortillas out thin enough, so they ended up being more like a gordita shell from Taco Bell(thicker and breadier than a normal tortilla, but still delicious). I tweeked the recipe a bit for my second attempt, and had a bit better luck(recipe below). I think I will try making these again, but let the dough rest even longer before rolling it out, and really work to roll them thin.

Homeade Low Fat Tortillas

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup warm water

1: In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir until combined.

2: Mix warm water and oil together. Slowly add water/oil mixture to the flour mixture until the dough comes together into one piece. Add extra water, 1 tsp at a time, as needed.

3: Knead the dough for about a minute. Shape dough into a ball and let rest, covered with a damp towel for about 10 minutes.

4: Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a ball. Let rest for another 30-60 minutes, covered.

5: On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 6 inch circle about the thickness of a piece of poster board. Stack the tortillas, dusted with flour, until they are all rolled out.

6: Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Cook tortillas, one at a time, in the hot skillet until blistered and slightly golden on each side. Stack and cover finished tortillas with a dry towel to keep warm until all are cooked.

Enjoy warm, or store tortillas, covered with plastic wrap or in a bag, in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from Budget Bytes

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Barley Stuffed Tomatoes

Last night, I made a delicious recipe that I felt I had to share. I love tomatoes, but cannot always find fun things to do with them, and my husabnd tends to complain if we just have sliced, raw tomatoes as a side(though I would happily eat this daily). This was a good solution for that problem. We both thoroughly enjoyed the dish, and it was a fun to way to eat some veggies.

1/2 uncooked barley
4 tomatoes on the vine
1/2 small white onion, chopped small
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper,chopped small
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
Shredded cheese(optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Cook barley. To do this, boil about 1 1/2 cups of water or broth. When boiling, add uncooked barley, lower heat, and simmer until soft(about 35 minutes).
3. While barley is cooking, slice off the very top of the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp and juice. Reserve pulp and liquid.
4. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes.
5. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
6. Add green pepper, spices, and about 1/4 cup of reserved juice from tomatoes. Lower heat and cook about 10 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary.
7. Add cilantro to pepper mixture, and cook about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
8. Mix pepper mixture with cooked barley.
9. Lightly spray a square baking dish with cooking spray. Place tomatoes in, open side up, and fill with the barley-pepper mixture. Poor about 1/4 cup reserved tomato liquid into the bottom of the baking dish, and cook for about 10 minutes.
10. If adding cheese, sprinkle it on top each tomato and place back in the oven 5 minutes(if not adding cheese, leave the dish in the oven for 5 more minutes)
11. Remove from oven and let stand at least 5 minutes before eating.

I'd have to say, I was concerned this recipe wasn't going to work, but overall, I think it turned out great. I served it with some spiced black beans on the side for protein, but I'm sure it would also go great with grilled chicken or other meats.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Weeknight fun with the Tribe

Last night, in the attempts to do something fun, the hubby and I went to the Indians game. Since the Entertainment book has coupons for buy on get one tickets that are only good Monday through Thursday, we figured yesterday was as good a day as any to go. Even with the 88 degree temperature at the atart of the game, the night was pretty good. Nick decided to get some ridiculous Grand Slam Nachoes(pulled pork, cheese, jalepenos, lettuce, tomato, and tortilla chips inside a tortilla bowl), which I had to snack on a bit, despite how horribly unhealthy they were. But just look how delicious they looked.
Of course, the game was great too, with free t-shirts, homeruns, and my first win of the season!! GO TRIBE!! We even almost caught a homerun ball, but instead I got elbowed in the head and have a bit of a bump today. Oh well, it was still fun. Going to the game did mean, however, that I got no workout in, and that I was up past my normal 10pm bedtime(yes, I know that is early, but I like sleeping!). On the plus side, I found a new way to get to Tower City Parking that doesn't involve any of the closed bridges(Welcome to Construction season, Cleveland!) Overall, it was a great night in Downtown Cleveland, and I'm so glad we go to see a win!