Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Strawberry Shortcakes - Made with Vanilla Cupcakes

My girls and I really enjoy delicious, sweet strawberries in the summer.  Strawberries can be bought year round, but they are never as sweet as they are in the summertime.  I wanted to make my favorite dessert one last time.  I proudly admit that I normally buy those little shortcakes they always put next to the strawberries in the grocery store.  I like how they absorb all the strawberry juice like a sponge.  I found an easy recipe in my daughter's new cookbook for strawberry shortcakes made using sweet biscuits.  I looked all over the house this afternoon for the cookbook until I remembered she took it to school as part of a homework project.  I thought about it and decided I would rather have more of a cake with the strawberries instead of a biscuit.  I searched the internet for a new vanilla cupcake recipe that is more light and fluffy than my other recipe.  I found it over at Katies Sweet Solutions (which is now a private blog). 

Strawberry Goodness:

1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cupcakes are cooked and cooled.

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl to thoroughly combine all the ingredients together.

Sift the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add to the cream mixture, along with the milk, and mix until a smooth batter is formed. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.  Use a large ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly into the 12 cupcake lines.  Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and the cakes spring back to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Take the time to whip up some fresh whipped cream.  That canned spray stuff just doesn't taste very good!  Pour some heavy cream in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form.  Sweeten with powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Whip until combined and fluffy.

When the cupcakes have cooled, it's time to build your strawberry shortcake tower.  Use a serrated knife to cut the top off a cupcake.  Set the top aside.  Use the knife to cut a circular well out of the center of the cupcake.  This will create a place for all those strawberries and juice to hang out.  Eat the cupcake circle you remove to make sure it tastes good!  Fill the cupcake with strawberry juice and strawberries.  Top with fresh whipped cream.  Replace the cupcake top.  Add more whip cream and strawberries.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I know you probably think all we ever eat is Italian food around here.  Sunday dinners normally do consist of some sort of pasta covered in sauce.  I finally got my husband out of his steak and potato rut.  We grilled almost every weekend the entire summer.  That's not much fun for me since I don't know anything about grilling.  I usually marinade the meat, but that's about it.  I love smelling a good red sauce simmering on the stove early Sunday afternoon.  Smells like home!

My husband LOVES meatballs.  I LOVE meat sauce.  This is the first time in our 12 year marriage that I have made him meatballs.  He normally has to order them from our favorite Italian restaurant for delivery.  He said they were really good and now probably expects them on his plate everytime I make meat sauce.  They were easy enough to make and didn't dirty many dishes, which is always a good thing.  My girls aren't old enough to wash dishes yet.  Boy are they ever in for a surprise later in life.  I always cleaned the kitchen for my sweet Mom. 

Meat Sauce

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground Italian sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 14 oz cans tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste + 2 cans water
2 T Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

In a large stock pot, brown the ground beef and Italian sausage until cooked through.  Add olive oil, onion, mushrooms, salt, and pepper.  Cook until onions are transluscent.  Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.  Bring sauce to a boil, lower heat all the way, and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Don't forget to stir often or it will stick to the bottom and ruin the flavor.  I usually try to simmer mine for 2 hours so it thickens and the flavors have plenty of time to marry.  You can make the meatballs while the sauce is cooking.  This is fun for the kiddos to help with too!


1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb ground Italian sausage
1 egg
1/2 cup yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  With damp hands, take about 2 teaspoons of meat between your hands and roll into balls.  Place meatballs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and put in refrigerator until sauce is ready.  When your sauce has finished simmering, it's time to cook the meatballs.  Use a long handled spoon to slowly drop each meatball into the simmering sauce.  Continue to simmer for 10 minutes before stirring.  When the meatballs rise to the top, it's time to stir.  Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare your spaghetti.  Cook the spaghetti in salted water until al dente.  Strain and toss with olive oil and set aside until meatballs are cooked through.  

In a large serving bowl, add spaghetti and enough meat sauce to cover.  Toss to combine.  Place meatballs on the top and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Serve more meat sauce on the side.  Now it's time for a nap! 

Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes (Tastes like sugar cookies)!

After years and years of ordering cupcakes from bakeries around town every time a birthday rolled around, I finally decided to try making some homemade cupcakes for my daughter's 9th birthday.  Seriously, how hard could it be?!?  They were very simple to make and tasted scrumptious.  They are moist and dense and remind me of a good sugar cookie.  I got this recipe from Forty Cakes.  

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into sections
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper liners.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl.  Add butter, sour cream, egg yolks, and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. At this point, the batter will be fairly thick.

Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin using ice cream scoop . Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 to 24 minutes for regular sized cupcakes or about 15 minutes for the mini-cupcakes. Transfer to wire rack to cool cupcakes to room temperature.  You can make the icing while patiently waiting on the cupcakes to cool.  Don't they smell good?

Buttercream Frosting:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 milk (don't add all at once)

In a large mixing bowl, add butter and beat until creamy.  Add powdered sugar and continue to beat until smooth.  Add vanilla and slowly add the milk until the right consistency.  It will need to be thicker if you are piping onto cupcakes.  As you can see from my picture, my icing was not quite thick enough because I ran out of powdered sugar.  It probably didn't help that it was a very HOT and humid day in Texas!  No biggie...they still look cute and everybody loved them!

When the cupcakes have completely cooled, pipe or spread frosting and decorate for the occasion.  My girls love helping with this part.  Sprinkles are always on the kitchen floor all the way to the living room floor on cupcake days!  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Rolls

I've been dreaming of some homemade cinnamon rolls since I watched Ina Garten make sticky buns on her show recently.  I was out of powdered sugar and forgot to buy some more until this week.  Now that we are past the first week of school and it's finally the weekend, I had time to make my dream come true!  This recipe uses puff pastry.  It's delicious with layers upon layers of cinnamon and sugar with a drizzle of vanilla icing.  I'll be right back...I'm going to get the last cinnamon roll sitting on the table that's calling my name...


1 sheet thawed puff pastry (thaw in fridge overnight or thaw at room temp for 30 minutes)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon (or more)
4 T unsalted butter, melted, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Unroll puff pastry onto lightly floured work surface.  Roll out an additional 2 inches lengthwise.  This will give you more layers of gooey goodness!  Brush 3 T of the melted butter over top of pastry.  Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Roll tightly from small edge to opposite small edge (like a jelly roll).  Cut into 8 equal pieces.  Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.  Place each roll in tin with the layers upright.  Brush the remaining 1 T butter over top of rolls.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top and puffed up slightly.

While rolls are baking, you can make the vanilla icing.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine powdered sugar and vanilla extract in bowl.  Stir to see how much milk you will need to make a slightly thick icing.  Add enough milk and stir, add more milk or powdered sugar until perfect consistency.  Set aside and wait on the rolls to bake.

Remove rolls from oven.  Use a fork to remove from muffin tin and place on a large plate.  Drizzle generously with vanilla icing.  This makes a lot of icing so use as much or as little as you like.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mexican Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Casserole

Mexican is my favorite comfort food.  I got this recipe from For The Love of Cooking.  I made this for dinner and it was really good.  I added extra tomato sauce, more spices,  and corn.  It made so much that I put half in a casserole dish to freeze for a night when I'm too busy or tired to cook.  You should see my girls' playroom when I spend an hour or more in the kitchen.  It takes another couple of hours to get our house back in order, kitchen included.  But I LOVE to cook and the cleaning comes with the territory.


1 1/2 cups cooked white rice (I use Minute 5 minute premium rice)
1 T olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef (93% lean)
1/2 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Mexican oregano dried
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can low sodium corn, drained
2 cans tomato sauce
1 T cilantro, chopped
3 roma tomatoes, sliced into large rings
1 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

Sour cream
Hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare the rice per instructions.  While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Add ground beef and break up with a spoon.  Dice onion and add to pan.  Add all spices and cook until onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, black beans, corn, cooked rice, and cilantro.  Stir to combine and taste for seasonings.  Add more if you like.  I would have made it spicier if my kiddos weren't eating it too!

Spray a large casserole dish (very large if you are cooking the entire batch) with non-stick cooking spray and transfer the mixture in an even layer.  Top with sliced tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese.  Cover dish with non-stick foil (what a great invention) and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.  Top with your favorites, like sour cream, hot sauce, guacamole, cilantro, etc.  Enjoy! 

Chocolate Truffles

I was browsing through the tables of books at Garden Ridge the other day. I found some great cookbooks, including a kid's cookbook. It's the Williams-Sonoma "Sweet Treats" cookbook. My oldest picked out the chocolate truffles to make this weekend, so this is what we tackled yesterday after school. I thought they would be simple since there are very few ingredients. Was I ever wrong! They are difficult to form into perfect little round balls like you see in the gourmet chocolate stores. And our hands were a gooey, chocolately mess! They still taste good and my girls had fun making them. I made an extra batch for my husband to take to his guys at work. Tomorrow, we are making Strawberry Shortcakes from this cookbook, which happens to be my favorite!


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 ozs. semisweet chocolate bars (2 Ghiradelli bars)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Sprinkles or jimmies
Melted milk chocolate
Melted white chocolate
Toasted, crushed nuts

Cut the butter into cubes and break the chocolate into small pieces. Place butter cubes in a saucepan and melt over medium heat. Warm through until tiny bubbles appear in the cream around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat. Add the chocolate pieces and stir to combine until smooth and creamy. Let sit for 5 minutes, then add in the vanilla and stir. Pour mixture into small glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator. Using a melon baller, scoop the chocolate mixture to make rough balls. Place each truffle on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Put them back in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Remove and roll into round balls. If your hands get the mixture too warm and they are melting, either wash your hands in cold water or use a ice water bath to cool them off. Roll truffles in desired toppings.

Note: If you are planning on rolling them in melted chocolate, you will need to refrigerate until really cold and firm again. When you are ready, work quickly to roll them in the melted chocolate and remove with a fork so the excess can drip back into the bowl. 

Place on the lined cookie sheet and refrigerate so chocolate can firm up. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. You can freeze truffles for up to 3 months. Enjoy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Grilled Lobster Tail

My husband's boss gave him several of these huge lobster tails and told him how to grill them. This is my understanding of how he does it. Thaw lobster tail.

Using sharp kitchen shears, cut 3/4 way up the middle of shell. Butterfly tail meat side up.

Season with lemon pepper, salt, and Old Bay. Grill lobster on outdoor grill meat side up until cooked through. This huge tail cooked for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Melt 4 T butter with 1 tsp garlic powder. Pour over cooked lobster and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Remove from shell and enjoy!

Creamy Shrimp Manicotti

I made this special meal for my daughters' last day of summer dinner. Their tummies were full and they slept well for the first day of school.


1 box Barilla manicotti pasta
1 lb cooked shrimp, cut into small bite size pieces
1 container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray large lasagna casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Cook manicotti in salted, boiling water with a drizzle of olive oil until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine cooked shrimp, cheeses, garlic, and seasonings. It's time to cook the bechamel sauce.

Bechamel Sauce:

5 T unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
4 cups warm milk
salt to taste
pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the warm milk, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 8 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Stuff each manicotti with shrimp and cheese mixture. Arrange in prepared casserole dish side by side in a single layer. Cover with bechamel sauce. Top with additional mozzarella cheese if you want. 

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes until cheese is heated through and bubbly. Let cool for at least 5 minutes so manicotti can set. Serve with a light salad.

This is a very rich dish and can be lightened up by using part-skim cheeses. It's also good to use fresh herbs such as basil or Italian parsley in the filling.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kickin' Buffalo Chicken Wraps

This is a very flavorful and quick wrap sandwich perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon or busy weeknight.


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
black pepper
garlic powder
Weber Kick 'N Chicken seasoning
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Wings buffalo sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
shredded lettuce
grape tomatoes, halved
Jalapeno Cheddar wrap tortillas

Season chicken on both sides with pepper, garlic powder, and Kick 'N Chicken seasoning. Grill on outdoor grill until cooked through, about 20 minutes depending on size. Remove to cutting board and slice into either long strips or bite size pieces. Place chicken in large bowl, add buffalo sauce, and toss to coat.

To make blue cheese sauce, combine sour cream, blue cheese crumbles, and pepper in small bowl. Mix to combine.

Heat tortillas in microwave for 20 seconds. On tortilla, layer buffalo chicken, blue cheese sauce, shredded lettuce, and tomatoes. Fold in the left and right side, then roll bottom to top to form the wrap so nothing falls out.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Penne Pasta with Meat Sauce


1 lb. ground beef
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 onion, diced
2-lg cans crushed tomatoes
1 can diced Italian style tomatoes, with juice
1 T Italian seasoning
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
1 box Barilla penne pasta, cooked al dente

Brown ground beef in large stock pot. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until flavors combine and sauce reduces slightly.

Cook penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and add to meat sauce. Toss to combine and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic cheese bread. Yummy!!! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I was craving a cheesy Mexican meal last night, but did not want to go grocery shopping. I figured I could come up with some sort of a casserole with ingredients from my fridge and pantry. I decided on a creamy, cheesy chicken enchilada casserole. My family loved it and so did I. It definitely hit the spot and I had an extra helping with my husband later that evening!

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 yellow or white onion, diced
1 can rotel tomatoes with green chilis
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 slices American cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5-6 flour or corn tortillas (whichever you prefer or have in your pantry)
1 chicken boullion cube
Mexican oregano
8 oz. shredded Cheddar/Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Fill a large pot with hot water. Add chicken, cumin, salt, pepper, Mexican oregano, and chicken bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, lower heat slightly, and cook for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken to cutting board and either shred or dice into bite size pieces. Set aside. Reserve chicken broth for other mixture.

Saute onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add rotel tomatoes, cream of chicken soup, 1 cup reserved chicken broth, salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Cook until heated through. Add chicken and American cheese slices, and stir to melt cheese. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Turn off heat.

Cut tortillas into quarters.  Add 1/2 cup reserved chicken broth to coat bottom of casserole dish. Add layer of tortillas, then chicken mixture, tortillas, chicken mixture. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes until bubbly. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and salsa. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Horseradish Garlic Prime Rib ~ Individual Cuts

Prime rib is our absolute favorite cut of beef. I usually cook a huge 5-rib roast for our family's Christmas dinner. We were in the mood for prime rib a few weeks ago and didn't' want to wait several hours for it to cook, so I decided to cook each cut individually. We have since made it 3 times and love the results.


Individual cut bone in Prime Rib Roast (about 1 inch thick), 1 per person
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic cloves, smashed and finely diced
Prepared horseradish
Kosher salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Fresh thyme, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse beef and dry well with paper towel (this will give you a good sear). Season top side with salt and pepper. Heat large skillet over high heat, add olive oil, and place beef seasoned side down. Sear for 1-2 minutes. 

Transfer to foil lined baking sheet seared side down. Rub top side with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and horseradish. Place in oven and cook until meat thermometer registers 125 degrees for medium rare, 15-20 minutes depending on size. 

Remove beef to plate and let rest for 10 minutes. The internal temperature will continue to rise by about 10 degrees, so be careful not to overcook. I like to make a simple Au Jus for dipping.

Beef Au Jus:

2 cans beef broth
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp thyme, chopped

Add all ingredients to pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer while prime rib is cooking. Serve is small ramekins along side prime rib.

I hope you enjoy this delicious prime rib as much as we do!

Tomato Cucumber Salad

I made this fresh salad to go with our prime rib last night. It was really good.


1 container Cherub or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
2 T red onion, finely diced
3 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to medium sized bowl. Slowly steam in olive oil while whisking to combine. Add tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, stir in grated parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vanilla Ice Cream

This is a simple ice cream with just a few ingredients that can be made quickly. You can add any mix-ins you like at the end of the freezing process. Some of our favorites are strawberries, peaches, chocolate chip cookie dough, broken oreos, and chocolate chips. You will need a 2 quart ice cream machine for this size recipe. 


2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 T pure vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar dissolves. Pour into the frozen bowl of the ice cream machine. Freeze according to machine instructions. I use a Krups machine and it usually takes 30 minutes until soft set. You can add your mix-ins at this point and let the machine stir another 5 minutes. Ice cream will be soft at this point. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Creole Shrimp Vol-Au-Vent

This is one of Emeril Lagasse's recipes that I adapted.  These can be served as a main course with a side dish or as a fancy appetizer that will impress your guests.


2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed to room temperature
1 egg, beaten
1 lb. medium size raw shrimp (40-50 count), peeled and deveined
2 T olive oil
1 T creole seasoning
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T Louisiana hot sauce
Kosher Salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sliced green onions, green tops only

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll one sheet of pastry dough on floured work surface. Lay a large coffee cup upside down on one corner edge of the pastry sheet and trace around rim using a sharp paring knife. Do this in all 4 corners. Throw away scrap dough. With the tip of your knife, make a smaller circle scoring only the top layer of the pastry dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Repeat this on all pastry rounds. This will allow you to cut out the top after baked so the stuffing can fit inside. Repeat this process on the other sheet of pastry dough, for a total of 8 rounds. Put them on the prepared baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Bake until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Using a sharp knife, run it around the scored circle and remove the top. Save the lid to place back on top after stuffing mixture inside.

Rinse and season shrimp with creole seasoning. Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat and cook shrimp through, about 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add butter and flour. Whisk and cook 3 minutes to make a blonde roux. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, dash of salt and pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk occasionally and cook until sauce thickens and reduces, about 25 minutes. Add the heavy cream and hot sauce. Add the shrimp and green onions. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning, and adjust if needed. Add more hot sauce if you like it spicy.

Spoon equal amounts of the shrimp mixture into each puff pastry and top with the lids.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

This recipe is from Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook. It's moist and delicious!  And it's also my new  favorite cake for anytime of the year.

Cake Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
dash salt
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp lemon zest (2 large lemons)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bread loaf pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure to incorporate well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45-48 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Lemon Simple Sugar:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from 2 lemons)
1/3 cup sugar

In a small sauce pan, add the 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Cook until the sugar dissolves completely. Turn off heat and set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer cake to wire baking rack on top of a sheet pan. Pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Let cake cool.

Lemon Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Pour over the cooled cake and let it run down the sides. Slice and enjoy!

Chicken Fajita Nachos

Every Sunday after church, my family and I went to a casual restaurant for lunch. I ALWAYS ordered bean and cheese nachos. I know these are very simple to make and you probably don't need a recipe, but I still wanted to share. I make them at home all of the time for a quick meal. This is a great way to eat your chicken and steak fajita meat leftovers. I usually top them with a slice of avacado and jalapeno, but we used them all last night on our chicken fajitas. My girls love them too and we always share, as you can see!

10 tortilla chips
shredded colby/jack cheese
grilled chicken or steak fajita meat
refried beans
homemade salsa

Lay chips in a SINGLE layer (very important to me!) on microwavable glass plate. Top with a layer of refried beans, shredded cheese, and meat. Microwave for 35-45 seconds until cheese is melted. Top with avacado slice, salsa, jalapenos, salt and pepper. Delicious!!!

Grilled Chicken Fajitas


1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ onion – chopped
½ bunch cilantro – chopped
4 cloves garlic – crushed and minced
1 lime zested and juiced
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
1 T liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper

Rinse chicken and set aside in gallon ziplock bag. In a bowl, add all marinade ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour marinade over chicken and seal bag tightly. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and drain off marinade. Grill chicken until cooked through. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, squeeze some fresh lime juice over, and slice into long strips. Serve on either flour or corn tortillas with all the good side stuff you like. Homemade salsa, sliced avocados, sour cream, and shredded Colby jack cheese is how my family likes their grilled chicken fajitas

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Italian Style Chicken Tenders - Baked


1 lb. chicken tenders (or boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into strips)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Butter or olive oil Pam spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken and put in gallon size ziplock bag with buttermilk. Seal and refrigerate for an hour. It's not absolutely necessary to marinade chicken but it keeps it moist and gives it a little tang from the buttermilk. 

In a shallow plate or bowl, mix together all bread crumbs and seasoning. Remove chicken from buttermilk and dip to coat in breading mixture. Place chicken on baking rack on top of baking sheet. Spray chicken with Pam spray which helps it brown.

Cook for 18 minutes or longer depending on size of chicken until cooked through. Switch the oven to broil and cook another 3-5 minutes until the top is brown and crispy. Remove and serve with your favorite dipping sauce or marinara.

Chicken in Lemon Cream with Penne

This dish originally came from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta cookbook. I made a few minor adjustments and it's very easy to prepare on a busy weeknight. This dish is also really good made with shrimp instead of chicken.


1 pound Barilla penne pasta
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 small yellow onion or shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 pint heavy cream
1 lemon – zested and juiced
Pinch cayenne pepper
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Boil pasta in salted boiling water for 10 minutes until al dente. Drain.
Season the cubed chicken with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the chicken in 2 T olive oil until cooked through. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Add 1 T olive oil to the skillet and cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add the chicken broth, cream, lemon zest, and cayenne pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce and thicken sauce. Add the pasta and chicken back to the skillet with the lemon juice, parsley, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Toss well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Pour into large serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers – Baked

Here's another appetizer my husband and I enjoy eating at home. I found the recipe on my favorite cooking blog For the Love of Cooking. I just added some cheddar cheese and seasonings.


10 jalapenos, sliced in half lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese,
softened 4 oz finely shredded cheddar cheese
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Garlic powder
Cumin Plain
Panko bread crumbs
1 T butter, melted

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cook bacon and set aside. Cut jalapenos lengthwise and remove the ribs and seeds. In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. Use a small spoon to stuff each jalapeno with the cheese mixture. Combine panko bread crumbs and butter and pour on a small plate. Dip each stuffed jalapeno in the crumb mixture to cover the cheese. Bake jalapenos for about 20 minutes. They are ready to eat!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

My girls love banana bread and I love chocolate, so I decided to bring our worlds together. These muffins are moist and delicious right out of the oven. We enjoy making them together on Saturday mornings after sleeping late.


1 ¾ cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
Dash salt
½ tsp cinnamon
3-4 mashed bananas
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, cream together the bananas, sugar, brown sugar, and butter. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to combine. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture and mix to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into lined muffin tins. Bake for 22 minutes, or until toothpick comes out slightly sticky. Makes about 12 muffins.

Note: To make the chocolate chocolate chip muffins, simply add 1/4 cup cocoa powder and reduce flour to 1 1/2 cups.

Carne Asada Tacos ~ Beef Fajitas

This is another one of my husband's favorites...he loves some carne!


2 lbs flank steak
½ onion – chopped
½ bunch cilantro – chopped
4 cloves garlic – crushed and minced
1 lime zested and juiced
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
1 T liquid smoke
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper

Rinse flank steak and set aside in glass casserole dish. In a bowl, add all marinade ingredients and whisk to combine. 

Pour marinade over flank steak making sure to soak both sides.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the steak from the refrigerator and let meat come to room temperature while you heat your grill. Cook on a very hot grill 4-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness and how you like it cooked. Let the meat rest, squeeze some fresh lime juice over, and slice against the grain into strips. 

Serve on either flour or corn tortillas with your favorite toppings.  Homemade salsa, sliced avocados, sour cream, and shredded Colby jack cheese is how my family likes their carne asada tacos.  Hope you enjoy as much as my husband and girls!

Country Style Mac 'n Cheese

This is my husband's favorite dish of all time and is admittedly one of the reasons he married me. My grandmother always made this for all of our family gatherings, and I always looked forward to it. My mom carried on this tradition and has now passed the torch to me. Everybody who tries this mac 'n cheese asks me if I will be making it or bringing it.  Leave your diet at home as this is definitely an indulgence!


2 pkgs. Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 pkg. Cracker Barrel sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1 pint container half 'n half (16 ozs.)
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 lb box Barilla elbows noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray large casserole dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta and season with salt and pepper. Taste to make sure it is seasoned well.

Grate all cheese and mix together. Layer the noodles, cheese, noodles, and cheese in prepared casserole dish. Pour half 'n half over top. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until slightly brown on top and bubbly in the middle. It is cooked through when the half 'n half has thickened and becomes part of the pasta. If the half 'n half is still liquid, bake longer. Enjoy!

Party Pasta Salad

I have to say this is one of my signature dishes. It's very simple to make and tastes even better the next day. I always make a double batch so I can send leftovers home with family and save some for us too.  We have a lot of BBQ family dinners, and you will always find this pasta salad on the table.  This recipe is for a single batch.


1 box Barilla tri-color rotini
1/2 pint Cherub or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pit removed and halved
2 T Salad Supreme seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 - 16 oz. bottle Wishbone Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Cook pasta in salted boiling water for 9 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add pasta to large bowl. Add only 3/4 bottle of salad dressing and save the rest for later. Add the tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, olives, seasonings, and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When ready to serve, add remaining salad dressing and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Stir and taste for seasoning.  Enjoy! 

Dallas Cowboys Fruit Dip

You can make this easy and flavorful fruit dip any color you prefer. We always enjoy snacking on this during a Dallas Cowboy's game!  

1 - 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 small jar marshmallow cream
1 tsp almond extract
5 drops blue food coloring

In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to beat softened cream cheese until fluffy. Add marshmallow cream and mix until smooth. Add almond extract and food coloring. Beat until combined. Pour into a small serving bowl and place in the middle of a fruit platter surrounded by your family's favorite fruit.  Enjoy!

Tex-Mex Salsa

This salsa is the reason I purchased my food processor.  I love homemade salsa!  I always fill up on chips and salsa when we eat out at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants.  I created this recipe after experimenting a bit and now it's just perfect.  I make it often and it keeps well in the refrigerator for a week. 


1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 T yellow onion
1 can rotel tomatoes with green chilis, drained
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed

In a food processor, add diced jalapeno and onions and pulse a few times. Add both cans of drained tomatoes and process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process again until combined, leaving cilantro with some texture. Taste and adjust seasoning. If the salsa is too spicy, add a little honey. Pour into bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours so the flavors can marry.  Serve with chips, tortillas, or with your favorite Tex-Mex meals.  Enjoy!

Homemade Marinara

I make this marinara sauce for spaghetti, rigatoni, manicotti, lasagna, and pizza.  It's simple and smells so wonderful simmering on the stove. 


2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 - medium white or yellow onion, diced
3 - cloves garlic, minced
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano (with juice)
1 - 29 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 - 29 oz. can tomato sauce
2 T Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 bay leaves
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
pinch of sugar (optional)

Saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Sauce will reduce and thicken. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with any pasta or use on pizza.

Note: This photo is my meat sauce. You can easily make this a meat sauce by browning 1 lb. lean ground beef first before adding onion.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Three Cheese Italian Sausage Manicotti with Homemade Marinara

Photo Lost

This is my daughter Madison's favorite meal.  It does take time to make and dirties a lot of dishes, but it's so worth it.  I made this for Madison's 4th grade graduation suprise dinner.  She will be going to Intermediate school next year and this was my way to show her how proud I am of how well she did in Elementary school.  I made an amazing honeybun cake for dessert that I found over at The Country Cook.  Madison really enjoyed her meal and was pleasantly surprised.


1 pkg Barilla manicotti noodles (12 noodles)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 T dried Italian seasoning
1 lb ground Italian sausage
Homemade Marinara

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a large casserole or lasagna baking dish with cooking spray.
Cook manicotti according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and coat with olive oil so they don’t stick together.  Brown sausage in skillet until cooked through. Add minced garlic to pan and cook 2 more minutes. Turn off heat and let cool.

Mix 3 cups mozzarella cheese, 2 cups ricotta cheese, 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, egg, and Italian seasoning in large bowl. Add cooled sausage and stir to combine.  Spread 1 cup marinara over the bottom of the baking dish.  Stuff each manicotti with the cheese/sausage mixture and arrange the manicotti side by side in the dish. Cover with more marinara sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbly. Enjoy!

Nestle Toll House Swirled Chip Cookies


2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Dash salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
10 oz. pkg Nestle Toll House swirled semi-sweet chocolate & premier white morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract with hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and beat to combine well. Add ½ flour mixture and beat just until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Add 9 ozs. of the swirl chips and stir with a large spoon. Drop by large rounded tablespoon onto non-stick baking sheets. Top the cookies with 4-5 more swirled chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Use spatula to transfer cookies to wire cooling rack.
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