Monday, November 30, 2009

Lamb Meatballs Take 2!

We had a LOT of lamb meatballs left over from Sunday so I decided to make some Gyros for a quick and easy dinner. (I also had more mint to use up so it was perfect!) All I did was toast up some pita bread and stuffed 4 meatballs inside each. Then I made a very simple yogurt sauce using Greek yogurt, S&P, lemon juice and mint. I'm not sure how authentic these were but they were yummy!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Have WAY Too Much Dill!

It seems like every time I turn around, my dill has shot up an inch! I really hate to waste my fresh herbs so I went online to see what I could make with them. I found this Cheddar Dill Biscuits recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Baking Bites, and decided to give them a try. They were super easy and quick to make and I love the fact that I only ended up with 4 biscuits instead of a dozen! I also used my mini food processor instead of dirtying up my big one. These biscuits tasted very similar to the Cheddar Dill Scones I made before but a lot softer. You don't really NEED to butter them but you really should! They taste AMAZING with a good smear of Land O Lakes!

When Life Gives You Mint...

...You make Minty Lamb Meatballs! (Ok ok so when your AeroGarden gives you mint!) I noticed this morning that my mint was getting pretty high so I decided to make this Minty Lamb Meatballs recipe I found a while ago. I always have some stuffing mix in my pantry so all I had to do was pick up some ground lamb. I realized only AFTER I got home from the store that I had only picked up 1 lb of meat and this recipe asked for 2. SO, being the creative chef that I am, I substituted a couple of Johnsonville Italian Sausage Links instead. You know what? The flavor was PERFECT with the lamb, especially simmered in this tomato-flavored sauce. I served the meatballs over some Israeli Couscous from Trader Joe's and it was the PERFECT Sunday night dinner! We also have a LOT of meatballs left over, which I'm totally happy about! Hum, maybe I'll freeze some for a rainy day... :)

Back from Another FUN Turkey Day!

I can't believe another Thanksgiving has come and gone but we had a great time (as usual)! We arrived Wednesday afternoon (no delays on Southwest...SHOCKING!) and stayed until Saturday night. Greg and I were in charge of dinner Wednesday night and we decided to make Chilean Seabass with Hollandaise Sauce (blender style!). It was a total hit with the parents! His dad even said that the meal was "restaurant quality"! And of course, we had my Jalapeño Corn Muffins on the side. (Yes I brought them onto the plane!)

Turkey Day preparation started early the next morning with 2 turkeys, 1 in the oven and another on the rotisserie! (Yes, there are 6 of us and we absolutely NEED 2 turkeys!) We also had all the usual goodies on the side like mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing (2 kinds as well, 1 regular and 1 cornbread), cranberry sauce (also 2, 1 jelly and 1 more saucy) and roasted veggies. AND to top it all off? 2 pumpkin pies, of course! Needless to say, everyone was happy and stuffed afterwards. The next couple of days included a LOT of turkey sandwich-making and of course Black Friday SHOPPING! I confess that I bought WAY more stuff for myself than presents but hey, I got good deals! I've got a whole month left to find gifts. :)

We also had 2 birthdays to celebrate since Kanika's was last week and Greg's is next week. His mom baked 2 really cute cakes for them! A Red Velvet for Kanika and Carrot Cake for Greg (his favorite)! How thoughtful is that, right?

We had such a good time and I was sad to leave. BUT we're getting together again for Christmas and they'll finally get to meet my mom! I'm REALLY excited!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Since I Can't Physically be There, I Guess I'll be There in Spirit

Even though my mom says she doesn't mind that I'm not there for Thanksgiving, I always feel incredibly guilty about leaving her alone. So I always try to do something special for her to let her know that I care and that I'm there in spirit! This year, I thought I'd recreate one of her favorite restaurant dishes, which is Shrimp and Angel Hair in a Tomato Sauce. (Seriously, she'll order it EVERY time if it's on the menu!) I found this recipe from Taste of Home and thought it would be PERFECT! I halved the ingredients to make 2 good-sized portions so that my mom could have it for lunch on Thanksgiving (she's going to a group dinner at her complex) and dinner another night. I also added some sautéed mushrooms and LOTS of fresh basil for color and brightness. I love you mom!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yes, I Watch Cooking Shows During My Workouts

A lotta people can't grasp the concept of watching cooking shows while working out, but I find that it's the perfect thing to watch. You don't need to really listen so you can have your Ipod on. AND it totally motivates you to work out harder so you can EAT the yummy food you're seeing! During my lunch workouts, I usually watch Lidia's Italy on PBS. It's not my favorite cooking show, but it's on at the right time and Lidia does grow on you after a while. She's like the perfect Italian mother who's just so HAPPY making big pots of pasta and stews! She also travels around Italy and since I won't be going there anytime soon, I feel like I'm getting "cultured" in some way. I'll admit that I probably won't make most of Lidia's recipes cuz she does everything the traditional Italian way, meaning pasta dough from SCRATCH! BUT sometimes she dows inspire me to go out of my comfort zone. One particular episode that caught my eye invovled Crêpes. Lidia's version was a bit complicated, but I thought I'd do some research and see what I could find. WOW, there was a LOT of info on Crêpes out there! Apprently, there were French versions, American versions, sweet or savory, rolled up like a burrito or stuffed and baked in the oven. I even watched a few videos on YouTube! After MUCH research, I finally settled on this simple recipe that uses a blender for easy mixing. The key is to let the batter sit for at least an hour before cooking the Crêpes. I also found that you really have to let your pan heat up before brushing it (VERY well) with melted butter and adding the batter or else it will tend to stick, making them not so pretty. (It's kinda like making pancakes, where the first one is never as nice as the rest of them!) I decided to make mine savory by stuffing them with a ham, Ricotta and mushroom mixture. Overall, I would say that Crêpes are pretty easy to make as long as you have the patience and time for them. They're definitely gonna make it on my brunch menu again soon!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Left-over Cranberries Make Another Appearance

I found a recipe for Cranberry Tea Loaf that I've been wanting to make, but somehow I clicked on the bookmarked link and it no longer exists! I was totally bummed but thought I could probably recreate it with some research. I'm not sure how close I got to the actual recipe but the bread turned out yummy and that's all that matters!


1-1/4 c water
1/4 c cranberry juice cocktail
4 green tea bags
2 c whole wheat flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c butter or margarine, softened
2 large eggs
1 c chopped fresh cranberries
1 c chopped walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, bring water and cranberry juice to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags; cover and brew 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and squeeze; cool.

3. In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

4. In a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand-mixer), beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in cooled tea mixture.

5. Gradually beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in cranberries and walnuts. Turn into prepared pan.

6. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pre-Turkey Day Treat: Cranberry Walnut Bars!

Cranberries are everywhere these days with Turkey Day coming up, so I picked up a bag at the store. Not really having much experience with fresh cranberries (I've only used dried ones), I went online for some recipe searching. I found this recipe from the Ocean Spray website and thought they'd be perfect for my Cookie Friday. They were really easy to make and I love any recipe with only 6 ingredients! The cranberries burst open while they're baked and made these bars really moist with a lil bit of tartness. The walnuts also added some great crunch and texture. I think these bars are the perfect treats to welcome Turkey Day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Glad I Have Frozen Pesto Cubes!

I was bored one night while Greg was traveling and decided to make some Pesto to freeze in an ice cube tray. It was a method I learned a while ago and always wanted to try. Well, I'm glad I did cuz now I have Pesto on hand to spread on sandwiches or use as pasta sauce like I did tonight! I took out 8 cubes (which is about a cup of Pesto since every cute is about 2 tablespoons) and let them thaw on the counter for about 30 minutes. Pasta sauce DONE! I cooked up a package of Trader Joe's Pesto Tortellini, drained them. Then in the same pot, I browned up some mushrooms in butter, stirred in 2 cups of cooked chicken (I used Tyson's Grilled Chicken Strips) and the Pesto until everything was heated through. (I had to thin it out with some milk cuz it was really thick.) Then added fresh basil and LOTS of Parmesan cheese. Dinner was served in less than 15 minutes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Finally Made Pizza Dough by HAND!

Greg's absolute FAVORITE food in the world has got to be PIZZA so I figured it was time for me to master pizza dough by hand. I know Boboli is good but we don't always have it on hand and when the pizza craving hits, I don't wanna have to wait for delivery. (Although Pizza Orgasmica is pretty quick!) I found this recipe from the Fleischmann's website, which are the yeast packets that I have at home, and they even had a video on how to make pizza dough. It looked pretty easy so I decided to give it a shot. I'm SO glad I did cuz the dough turned out perfectly and you really can't beat home-made pizza on a weeknight! I also added some dried Italian seasoning to the mix for more flavor and then topped it with sliced Provolone cheese, Trader Joe's Pizza Sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms and LOTS of Mozzarella cheese. And of course, I had to sprinkle some fresh basil and oregano at the end too!

Turkey + Avocado = A Match Made in Panini Heaven!

One of Greg's favorite sandwich combinations is turkey and avocado so I thought I'd recreate it in Panini form! I debated whether to just slice the avocado or make a sauce out of it and decided, why not both? So half of it got mashed up with some Ranch dressing and the other half was sliced and added to the sandwich. I also added tomatoes (a must in Greg's book!) and Swiss Cheese (cuz what a Panino without cheese right?) and the flavors were amazing together! I read somewhere that Pesto would be a good addition too and will definitely have to give that a try since I have quite a few frozen Pesto cubes in my freezer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Crunchy Pear Muffins for Fall

It's really starting to feel like fall here with the chilly winds and rain. To me, pears really represent the season (along with Pumpkin Pie and turkey, of course!) and what can I do with them? Bake muffins, of course! I used a Red Bartlett Pear cuz I love the pretty color but you can use any type of pear you like. These muffins turned out really good and are super healthy too with the whole wheat flour and oatmeal. They make a great on-the-go breakfast or snack!

Ingredients: (12 muffins)

1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c quick-cooking oats
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c sour cream
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 c diced pear (1 medium pear)
1/3 c pecan, finely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350°F, line 12 muffin cups.

2. Sift the flours, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the oats and brown sugar and stir to combine.

3. Whisk together the eggs, sour cream and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the pear and pecans, being careful not to overmix.

4. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Sugar-Free Pumpkin Bread by Accident!

I had about half a can of pumpkin left from making my Mini Pumpkin Pies and decided to make some bread to bring to my mom. I found this recipe and used whole wheat flour and milk instead of the water. I also added a ton of walnuts and raisins cuz my mom loves her baked goods that way! Well, guess what? I realized AFTER the bread had come out of the oven that I forgot to add the sugar! I was pretty disappointed since I put in all this work only to have no bread to show for it. Well, anyway, I decided to have a bite and you know what? Since I added so many raisins, the bread was actually sweet enough! I mean, it probably could've been sweeter, but I was trying to make it healthier with the whole wheat flour and all, so omitting the sugar wasn't such a bad idea. My mom had a slice on Sunday and actually said she was glad I didn't add any sugar! What a relief! I'm always so sad when I botch up a recipe so I'm SO happy that my "accident" had a nice ending!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crabby Lasagna Rolls!

Lasagna Rolls pretty much make an appearance at our house at least every other week. I try to switch it up a bit though, so this time, I used a can of crab instead of the usual ground beef or sausage. The verdict? AWESOME! I guess crabmeat makes them a bit more gourmet and trust me, opening up a can takes even less time than browning up some meat! And on a Sunday night when I'm doing laundry, vacuuming and trying to watch football at the same time, SIMPLICITY is EVERYTHING when it comes to dinner!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Biscuits and Gravy but this time, from SCRATCH!

Greg requested Biscuits and Gravy again and this time, I wanted to make everything from scratch! (Last time I cheated and used Pillsbury Biscuits in a tube.) I followed this recipe from The Cooking Photographer and it couldn't have been easier, thanks to my food processor! I also used her buttermilk substitution with milk and cream of tartar cuz I forgot to get buttermilk. The biscuits came out so flakey and perfect that I really couldn't believe I made them myself! The Sausage Gravy recipe was from Bob Evans (even though I used left-over Johnsonville Sausage) and besides the fact that the sausage chunks pretty much took over the gravy, it was yummy on the biscuits! Will I make Biscuits and Gravy from scratch again? Hell yea! Maybe next time I'll actually serve them for breakfast instead of Friday night dinner. :)

Using More Dill in a VERY Gourmet Way

Dill and salmon may be a great combination but dill and SMOKED salmon on Eggs Benedict is even better! I used this Hollandaise Sauce recipe using a blender and added about 1 tsp of fresh dill. It was SO good and way better than any brunch you could get at a restaurant! (Well, maybe not WAY better but definitely WAY cheaper!) What a yummy way to start the weekend huh?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Miniature Things are just BETTER!

It's almost Thanksgiving and that means I'm seriously craving Pumpkin Pie! So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it for my Cookie Friday. These Pumpkin Pie Bites were super easy to make and tastes EXACTLY like the real thing! I used half a can of Libby's Pumpkin Puree and 1 tsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of all the different spices that Kate used. Aren't they cute or what?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sausage-Stuffed Shells...Need I say more?

Stuffed shells has become one of our favorite pasta dishes and this one did not disappoint either. I like making small batches of these (8 to 10 shells) so we don't end up with left-overs for a week. These babies were stuffed with a mixture of Johnsonville Original Brats (casings removed, of course!), Italian seasoning, Ricotta and Mozzarella cheese. I used 3 Brats and half of them went into the mixture and the other half went into the Alfredo Sauce. I think stuffing the shells is my favorite part! Don't they look so cute all nestled against each other?

Not as cute on a plate but sure taste good!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Luna Park with the BOYS

We've heard good things about Luna Park and decided to meet up with a bunch of our friends for dinner last weekend. I usually try not to bust out my camera at restaurants in fear of other diners getting mad at me. BUT on this particular occasion, I just so happened to have my camera and there weren't too many people close by so I got to document our yummy meal! (These weren't the only items we ordered, just the ones close enough for me to take a picture of.) We pretty much shared everything and EVERYTHING was good!

We started out with the Goat Cheese Fondue, which was SO rich and good! Can you believe this is the first time I've EVER had Fondue? I'm actually considering getting my own now!

We also ordered the Cobb Salad for some greens. I LOVED the huge chunks of grilled chicken!

Then came the REAL food! Short Ribs, which came with mashed potatoes but we sub'ed for French fries instead. The Horseradish Sauce that came on the side was AMAZING!

And of course, a meal is not complete (for Greg anyway!) withouth a BURGER! This was called the "Tasty Burger" and yes, it was mighty tasty!

We also ordered the Carnival Dogs, which were little balls of corn dogs that came with 3 different types of dipping sauces. The Mac and Cheese somehow didn't make it to the camera either but was REALLY good!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Yummy Panini

Whenever those beautiful tomatoes on the vine go on sale, I feel the need to make Panini. This one featured oven-roasted turkey and Provolone cheese on Sourdough (I like the round loaves from Trader Joe's). I also spread a thin layer of honey mustard and mayo and the flavors were amazing! You really can't beat a yummy dinner that took less than 10 minutes to make!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another Wedding Reception

It must be Wedding Year for our family and friends cuz we attended another wedding last night. This was for our friends Garrett and Jessica. It was held at the De Young Museum in the Golden Gate Park. I've never been there and it looked really cool inside! Greg took his parents there the last time they visited to see the King Tut Exhibit but was bummed that King Tut's tomb wasn't actually there. I'm hoping to go and see the Van Gogh artwork before they're gone.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mesa Grill's Corn Muffins (& Its Asparagus Cousin)

I can't believe Thanksgiving is only 3 weeks away! We're going down to Greg's parents house again (of course!) and I always like to bring some type of food-related gift cuz...well, Thanksgiving is all about FOOD! Last year, I brought a Pumpkin Loaf Pan from William Sonoma with a freshly baked loaf inside and everyone loved it. This year, I thought I'd bake some Mesa Grill's Corn Muffins that we all like so much every time we eat there. The ones at the restaurant are made with Blue Corn but finding that around here is pretty much impossible so I stuck with regular Yellow Corn (which Bobby Flay said was ok in his book). I also substituted fresh basil instead of cilantro cuz Greg doesn't like cilantro at all. They turned out SO good and tasted just like the ones from Mesa Grill (minus the blue color, of course)! This was my "practice batch" to make sure they turn out perfect for the furture In-laws! :)

Mesa Grill Blue Corn Muffins

Ingredients: (6 muffins)

2 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 c red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 c milk
2 large eggs
1/4 c red bell pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeno peppers, finely diced
1/4 c fresh or frozen corn, thawed
1 Tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped (I used basil)
3/4 c blue cornmeal (I used yellow)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey


1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Grease or line a 6-cup muffin pan with non-stick vegetable spray.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, bell pepper, jalapeno, corn and basil. Whisk in the butter mixture.

4. In a separate bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, soda, salt and honey. Mix into the liquid mixture.

5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffins slots and bake for 16 minutes or until set, turning the pan once for even baking.

While I was at it, I decided to make a different version for my mom (who does NOT like spicy food!) with finely chopped asparagus. She ate 2 with a bowl of soup for lunch today and really liked them. I love being creative with my muffins!

Friday, November 6, 2009

What to do with all that Fresh Mint?

Make Minty Chocolate Chip Cookies, of course! I found this recipe on the Eatpress Blog and thought I'd give it a try. I know that most recipes call for Peppermint Extract but the fresh mint gave these cookies such a subtle and fresh minty flavor. I did end up with more than 2 dozen cookies instead of the 12 to 15 that the recipe said I'd get. I'm not sure if my cookies were just smaller or what but more cookies are always welcomed! Happy Cookie Friday! :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Night Supper...ENCHILADAS!

I pulled some left-over slow-cooked beef from the freezer cuz our freezer is starting to get pretty full! (I guess the recipes I make usually end up with way more servings than we can finish so I just keep dumping everything in the freezer!) Anyway, remembering how yummy my last batch of Enchiladas were, I knew what I was making for Sunday Night Dinner. There's just something about slow-cooked meat that just has SO much flavor no matter what you make with it. I just mixed the beef with some shredded Mexican-style cheese, fried up 10 small tortillas in oil, then rolled them up. I topped everything off with some La Victoria Enchilada Sauce then more cheese (of course) and baked them in the oven at 400°F for about 20 minutes. So simple and quick! The most difficult part was waiting for the dish to cool before making myself a plate! We now have about 2 nights worth of Enchiladas left but I doubt they'll last that long!

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