Hi, I'm Julia. Welcome to my blog!

This is a blog where I can share with my family and friends my enjoyment of baking and cooking simple and flavorful food with healthy ingredients. I would like to share new recipes, old favorites, and finds from my local grocers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ellie Krieger's Apple Muffins

These muffins are really yummy and healthy! The muffins are even better the next day!

Apple Muffins
Food Network chef and nutritionist--Ellie Krieger
Serves 12

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (I recommend King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.
  5. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.
One muffin=219 calories

Fettuccine Alfredo

I love Fettuccine Alfredo but only have it once in a while because it's high in calories, so I was excited when I came across this recipe for a lighter version of Fettuccine Alfredo! I found this recipe in Runner's World magazine, it's a recipe from celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito's latest cookbook, Now Eat This! Rocco transforms heart-stopping dishes such as this recipe, traditionally made with heavy cream, butter, and cheese and re-creates the sauce with Greek yogurt and chicken broth. I was surprised how much it tasted like the real thing! It was still just as flavorful minus all the fattening calories!

Rocco's Fettuccine Alfredo
Serves Four

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup 5 percent Greek Yogurt
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine; cook according to package directions. While pasta cooks, melt butter in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook two minutes. Combine cornstarch and nutmeg in a small bowl; whisk in chicken broth until smooth. Pour into saute pan, raise the heat, and bring sauce to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the cheese until melted. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in yogurt until smooth. Toss fettuccine with Alfredo sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Top Pasta with remaining cheese.
Calories Per Serving: 336 / Carbs: 47G / Protein: 18G Fat: 10G

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quinoa with Apricots and Pecans

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is my new favorite grain; it contains more protein than most other grains and it's a nice alternative to couscous or rice. It's great as a side dish paired with meat or added to a salad or just by itself! I found this fabulous recipe for Quinoa with Apricots and Pecans, it was really good, a lovely balance of sweet and nutty flavors. I served this recipe as a side dish with chicken, but since this dish is high in protein and iron, you could serve it as a main dish with a salad or part of a salad trio. This would be a great dish for vegetarians too!

Quinoa with Apricots and Pecans (Found on eatbetteramerica.com)
Makes 4 servings

  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (I added a little extra olive oil, about 1-2 tablespoons to moisten the dish more; you can eyeball the amount of olive oil to your preference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. In a small nonstick skillet, toast pecans over medium heat, stirring often, 3-4 minutes or until lightly toasted. Pour onto a plate; let cool.
  2. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer; rinse under cold running water 2 minutes. In medium saucepan, stir together quinoa, orange juice and water. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl. Add apricots, raisins, green onions, cilantro and toasted pecans. Stir in lemon juice, oil and salt.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pistachio Bundt Cake

This is such a yummy cake recipe and always a huge hit with everyone! It's always a dessert request at any party. Not only is it incredibly tasty but super quick and easy to make, it's like a semi-homemade dessert. I love sharing this recipe because it's soooo good and it's definitely worth the calories! :)

Pistachio Bundt Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix (I recommend Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix)
  • 1 small package Instant Pistachio Pudding (Jello brand--make sure it's INSTANT Pudding)
  • 1 cup Ginger Ale (I recommend Vernon's Ginger Soda)
  • 3/4 cups oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Angel Flake coconut
  1. Spray Bundt pan with oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients, except coconut, in mixing bowl and blend on medium speed for 4 minutes. During the last few seconds of mixing add the coconut.
  2. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. The top of the cake will get get very brown.
  3. Cool 10 minutes and invert cake onto serving dish.
  4. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with cool whip...may add crushed fresh pistachios to garnish.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Creme Fraiche Topping

Calling all chocolate lovers!! If you're craving a rich, decadent dessert, this recipe is for you! Not only is it delectable, but incredibly easy to make; the batter can be prepared and in the oven in less than 15 minutes! This cake is perfect for a luncheon with girl friends or a lovely, gourmet dessert after a dinner party. It satisfies any chocolate craving and perfect for anyone with flour or gluten allergies because it's flourless! I loved this recipe because it struck a perfect balance of being both light and rich. This cake will please any chocolate-lover!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Creme Fraiche Topping
Recipe found in the Sur La Table cookbook: The Art & Soul of Baking
(Pg. 335)

  • 10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (up to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. This cake is all about chocolate, so use the best you can!)
  • 1 1/4 sticks (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) container Creme Fraiche (this is a little tricky to find at your typical run of the mill chain grocery store. I found mine at Trader Joe's. I'm sure any gourmet, specialty store would carry it)
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon framboise (raspberry brandy) or Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) (optional)
  • Fresh strawberries or raspberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat a 9-inch Springform Pan with melted butter, oil, or canola-oil spray
  2. Make The Cake: Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler (If you don't own a double broiler, you can improvise by using a medium to large saucepan and place a medium sized glass heat-resistant bowl on top of the saucepan. When the water boils or simmers, it creates indirect heat that will melt the ingredients in the bowl. The water level in the pot should be just under the glass bowl, not actually touching the bottom of the bowl.) Place the chocolate and butter in the top portion (off heat). Reduce the heat to a simmer and set the chocolate mixture on top. Heat gently, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Set aside.
  3. Whip the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on high until the mixture holds a 3-second ribbon (The Ribbon Test: Whip the eggs on high for several minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer and lift the beater out of the foam. Holding it an inch or two above the surface, draw the beater across the bowl, letting a "ribbon" or trail of batter drop from it onto the surface of the foam. When the eggs are properly beaten, that ribbon will hold its shape on top of the foam practically indefinitely, in this case at least 3 seconds.) With the spatula, scrape the eggs on top of the chocolate mixture and gently but thoroughly fold in until no streaks of egg remain.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. It will fall in the center and look a bit uneven - this is normal.
  5. Run a thin, flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake and then pop off the side. Slide onto a serving plate.
  6. Make The Topping: Place the Creme Fraiche, cream, sugar, vanilla, and framboise in a clean mixer bowl and whip until firm peaks form. Be careful not to over whip or it will become grainy. If this happens, add 2 tablespoons of cream and stir - the mixture should smooth out.
  7. The topping can be spread across the top of the cake and piled with fresh berries for a beautiful presentation, or you can individually dollop the topping on each slice of the cake and garnish with berries; this way if you have leftovers, the cake without the topping can be wrapped in plastic and stored for a few days at room temperature. :)

Trader Joe's Crunchy Chicken Sandwich

Those of you who have been following my blog probably know by now that my favorite grocery store is Trader Joe's:) I recently checked out their website and found some recipes using all TJ's ingredients, love that! I tried out this recipe using their Chili Lime Chicken Burgers, which are really good and a great, healthy alternative to a hamburger. I made this recipe for Jim and I, definitely a new favorite, very flavorful. The best part of this meal is you can get all your ingredients at TJ's, one stop shopping!

Crunchy Chicken Sandwich
Recipe makes 4 servings
  • 2 Cups Trader Joe's Organic Broccoli Slaw (found in their refrigerated vegetable section, by the lettuce, carrots, celery, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp. Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette with Gorgonzola (found with the other refrigerated salad dressing)
  • 4 Trader Joe's Chili Lime Chicken Burgers (found in their frozen food section)
  • Multi-Grain or Honey Wheat Hamburger Buns
Mix Organic Broccoli Slaw, Cilantro, and Champagne Pear Vinaigrette with Gorgonzola. Heat Chili Lime Chicken Burgers according to package directions. I cooked my burgers on a skillet, but they would be great on the grill too. Place one burger on each bun bottom. Top burger with Organic Broccoli Slaw mixture and close bun. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken

I'm loving this new cooking website I recently found, eatbetteramerica.com (there's a link on my blog) this is the second recipe I've tested and both have been successful! There's a section on the website for "Healthfield" recipes where they've replaced ingredients with great-tasting alternatives to create better-for-you (healthy) recipes that are just as good as the originals. I'm always excited to find recipes with healthy alternative ingredients. So, if you're in the mood for sweet and sour chicken but don't want all the calories normally found in this dish, give this a try!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
(Courtesy of eatbetteramerica.com)
Makes 5 servings
  • 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (I recommend Swanson All Natural Chicken Broth)
  • 1 can (8oz) pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice, drained and liquid reserved
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Brown rice to serve with recipe (I recommend Brown Jasmine Rice from Trader Joe's)
  1. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt; cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Remove from skillet.
  2. In same skillet, cook bell peppers and onion over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Return chicken to skillet.
  3. In small bowl, mix broth, reserved pineapple liquid, vinegar, brown sugar, cornstarch and crushed red pepper flakes; stir into chicken mixture. Add pineapple; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Serve over rice.

Pina Colada Cake

I've been on a coconut kick lately and I wanted to make dessert for a little informal Academy Awards dinner Sunday night with my family. I found a great recipe from my new favorite cooking website, eatbetteramerica.com (there's a link on my blog to check out!) for a Pina Colada cake. It is so incredibly easy and quick to make and healthy too! It was a big hit with everyone, I will definitely be making this dessert again. The cake was light and airy with the angel food cake and pineapple and perfectly sweet. I've included the recipe below, however I did modify the canned pineapple from 8oz to 20oz, after reading the reviews for the recipe I noticed a majority of people suggested using more pineapple then the original recipe calls for. I highly recommend reading viewers comments or reviews on recipes found online because people often have helpful suggestions or modifications for a recipe after testing it. This cake turned out fabulous and the best part about it is 1 serving is only 140 calories!

Pina Colada Cake Recipe
(Courtesy of eatbetteramerica.com)

  • 1 package angel food cake mix (I used Betty Crocker 160z angel food cake just add water mixture)
  • 1 can (20 oz) unsweetened crushed pineapple
  • 8 oz frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut (I recommend Baker's Angel Flakes, and I toasted the coconut in a non-stick skillet and sprinkled on the cake after I frosted it)
  1. Heat oven to 350. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and crushed pineapple in its own juice. **NOTE: Look for angel food cake mix with water added only, but instead of adding water use the pineapple juice; it bakes perfectly)
  3. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely on a rack.
  4. Spread whipped topping over cake. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crunchy Parmesan Chicken Tenders

I found this great recipe for Parmesan Chicken Tenders by one of my favorite Food Network chefs, Giada De Laurentiis. I've made several of her recipes in the past and they always turn out good, especially this one! I like this recipe because you bake the chicken, which is healthier than frying, and you marinate the chicken in buttermilk making the chicken really moist and tender. It was a very easy recipe to follow and even made great left overs the next day for lunch! The best part of the dish was the balsamic vinaigrette you make for the dipping sauce, it gave the chicken a gourmet twist and very flavorful with the fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I served the chicken with a nice mixed greens salad, simple and pretty healthy!

(Courtesy Giada De Laurentiis,
found on the Food Network website)

  • 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders, about 18 pieces ( I only used 8 chicken tenders because it was just me and Jim, but I did follow all the other measurements for the recipe and it was perfect. So, depending on how many servings you need, you may need to modify the amount of tenders you use.)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (this is for the vinaigrette, if you like a lot of garlic stick with the 3 cloves, if you're not a big fan of garlic you might want to only use 1-2 cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan ( I use the fresh Parmesan in a tub from TJ's found in the cheese section, really good)
  • 3/4 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs ( I like the Progresso brand Italian bread crumbs)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Brush 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each of 1-2 baking sheets. Place the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the chicken tenders and stir to coat. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. I marinated the chicken for the full 30 minutes because I wanted them really tender and moist.

While chicken is marinating, mash the garlic with the salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and then the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with pepper. Transfer the vinaigrette to a small serving bowl.

Stir the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a pie dish. Remove the chicken tenders from the buttermilk and dredge them in the bread crumb mixture to coat completely, pressing to adhere. Arrange the coated chicken tenders on the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the chicken tenders and bake until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12 minutes. I cooked mine an additional 5-7 minutes to make them a little crispier.

Transfer the chicken tenders to a platter and serve the vinaigrette alongside for dipping.

Bon Appetitto!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pasta Primavera

I came up with my own version of pasta primavera the other night after scouring my pantry and refrigerator for ingredients to put together a dinner. I hadn't made it to the grocery store that day and didn't feel like doing take-out because it was cold and raining outside, so I was determined to put a meal together using ingredients I had left to work with. I had just enough pasta, a little whole wheat fusilli and bow-tie pasta, so I combined the two. I had just enough veggies and a can of diced tomatoes to make a primavera sauce. How I made the sauce: sauteed 2 small garlic cloves and pine nuts in some olive oil, added about 1 cup mushrooms, sauteed a few minutes, added 1 can of TJ's organic diced tomatoes(really good), 1 cup spinach, some kalamata olives and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. When I plated the pasta I sprinkled feta cheese and a little parmesan cheese, it was quite tasty! I LOVE pasta and I'm always coming up with my own pasta creations, I will definitely keep this newest creation in my cooking repertoire!

English Muffin Pizzas

I was on the Food Network website the other day looking for healthy, quick & easy meals or snacks to make and came across some fun and healthy ideas for english muffin pizzas. Instead of sourdough english muffins, try whole wheat or whole grain for extra fiber. The first topping combo is 1 tbsp pizza sauce or your favorite marinara sauce, diced bell pepper, artichoke hearts, black olives and top with 1 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese. Another yummy topping idea is 1 tbsp of your favorite BBQ sauce (I love TJ's Bold & Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce) diced chicken, chopped peanuts, top with mozzarella cheese and garnish with fresh cilantro. Bake pizzas on baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for about 13-16 minutes. These mini pizzas make a great appetizer or a light dinner paired with a salad!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thin and Crispy Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

I was in a baking mood and have been wanting to try out this recipe a friend shared with me for coconut-oatmeal cookies. I love oatmeal and anything coconut, so I was very excited to make cookies with two of my favorite ingredients! This recipe is not your typical chewy oatmeal cookie, but more thin and crispy, which make them so delectable! The cookies had a perfect balance of flavors with the coconut and oatmeal, reminded me of macaroon cookies:)

The recipe was very simple to follow. A good tip when making cookie dough is to refrigerate the dough at least 30 minutes before baking it, this gives the flour more time to absorb the liquid more fully. The dough becomes drier and firmer, which produces a better consistency in the finished cookie and better taste.

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookie Recipe
(found in Cook's Illustrated)
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (recipe recommends Quaker Oats brand, I used old-fashioned oats from Trader Joe's, turned out great. Just make sure oats are old-fashioned NOT instant or quick-cooking oats)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (I recommend Baker's brand of Angel Flake coconut, found at any major grocery store)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.

In standing mixer beat butter and sugars at medium-low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute longer. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low until fully combined. With mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated and smooth. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oats and coconut flakes and mix until combined, about 20 seconds. Give dough final stir with spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly combined.

Refrigerate dough at least 30 minutes before baking. Roll dough between palms into balls. Place cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (I highly recommend using parchment paper, you don't have to worry about cookies sticking to the pan and less mess to clean up!) Using fingertips, gently press each dough ball to 3/4-inch thickness. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are deep golden brown, edges are crisp, and centers yield to slight pressure when pressed, 13-16 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely on sheet.


Taco Night!

Trader Joe's is always adding great, new items to their shelves. During a recent grocery trip I noticed a new display with taco shells, taco seasoning, and fat free refried beans. I thought it would be fun to have taco night at our house and try out these new items! I usually buy Lawry's taco seasoning, so I was excited to know TJ's now has their own. I thought the TJ brand of taco seasoning was just as good as Lawry's, a bit more spicy though, so I would only use half of the packet unless you like spicy. I like to use lean ground turkey meat, a healthier alternative to ground beef, and tastes just as good. For some taco topping ideas - Light shredded 3 cheese blend from TJ's, avocado, tomatoes, olives, sour cream, romaine lettuce. I was really impressed with the taco shells, great corn flavor, light and crispy. I accompanied the tacos with mexican rice and the fat free refried beans. I was a little disappointed in the lack of flavor of the beans, so next time I'll use their cuban style black beans, which I've had before and definitely their best. I wanted to make mexican rice from scratch and my mom has a good, super quick and easy recipe she shared with me for Fiesta Rice--

Fiesta Rice:

2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup white rice
1 can chicken broth (14 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup Tostitos Salsa-mild or medium
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, add rice and saute until rice is lightly browned, stirring often. Add broth and salsa. Stir. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes-or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Sugar cookies!

I thought it would be fun to make sugar cookies for Valentine's Day, especially for my husband, Jim, who loves anything sweet! I have a great sugar cookie recipe that is super quick and easy; after you make sugar cookies from scratch you'll never want to buy store bought cookie dough again! I particularly like this recipe because the cookies taste a little like short bread cookies. The recipe is from the Sur La Table cookbook: The Art & Soul of Baking...

Recipe makes 40-50 cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low speed for 15 seconds, to blend the ingredients. Add the butter and mix on low until the butter is broken into tiny pieces, 2-3 minutes. Turn the mixer to medium-low and mix until the mixture forms small clumps about the size of peas, 2-3 minutes longer.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and blend on medium-low until the dough comes together to form several large clumps. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead several times, just to bring it together. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until cold but still pliable.

Roll each disk of dough between parchment or waxed paper or on a floured work surface. This dough rolls most easily when it is at cool room temperature. Note: if the dough becomes too warm while rolling it out, you can place it back in the refrigerator to chill a little longer. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into desired shapes and transfer to baking sheets. Note: It's best to bake one cookie sheet at a time. While I'm waiting for one batch to bake, I'll chill the other sheet of cut shapes until I'm ready to bake the next batch.

Preheat the oven to 375. Sprinkle the cookies on each baking sheet with some of the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar just before they go into the oven. Bake for 10-13 minutes, until light golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing and/or decorating.

I like to make homemade frosting for my cookies. A great and easy recipe is on the back of the Pure Cane Sugar Confectioners Powdered Sugar box, found at any major grocery store chain. I added food coloring to some of the frosting to create red and pink frosted heart cookies.

5 minute Buttercream frosting recipe...
  • 1 lb. box of C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 stick salted butter (softened)
Beat ingredients with electric mixer 2 minutes, scraping bowl often. For thinner consistency add milk a little at a time.

Enjoy! Your friends and family will LOVE these yummy treats!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mandarin Orange Chicken
Fresh asparagus and sugar snap peas
Coconut rice

My Trader Joe's pick of the week is their frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken, it is one of their best sellers and really tasty! It's found in the frozen food section. You can cook it a couple different ways such as baking or pan frying, I suggest baking for best results. I also garnished the chicken with toasted slivered almonds to add a little texture. I sauteed fresh sugar snap peas and asparagus with olive and a pinch of salt for a side dish. I made my favorite rice dish, coconut rice, a great accompaniment to any Asian dish!

Coconut Rice:
(Recipe from Relaxed cooking with Curtis Stone cookbook
pg. 220)

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Unsweetened grated coconut, lightly toasted for garnish
Combine the stock, coconut milk, and salt in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a near boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the rice and stir constantly for 1 minute. Then cover the pan and simmer over low heat, without stirring, for 15 minutes or until the rice is almost tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and let the rice stand, still covered, for 10 minutes. Lightly fluff up the rice with a fork. Transfer the rice to bowls. Garnish with the toasted coconut, and serve.

***I use Angel Flake coconut found at any grocery store usually in the baking section. I lightly toast the coconut flakes in a non-stick pan***

Poached Egg and Spinach Salad
(Recipe from: Peace Meals cookbook by The Junior League Houston, Inc.)
Serves 4

  • 1 scant tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces (about 6 thin slices) pancetta, chopped
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ounce pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 4 eggs, poached
  • Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until it begins to brown, stirring almost continuously. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and cook until just golden; add the raisins and cook until they swell. Remove the pan from heat. Divide the spinach among 4 individual salad plates and drizzle with the vinegar; top with the warm pancetta mixture. Top each serving with a poached egg and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately while the eggs are still warm.

Easy to make Banana Bread...

  • 1 3/4 cups flour-regular or whole wheat
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup mashed banana (2-3 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Sift flour, baking powder, soda and salt together. Set aside. Cream butter, gradually add honey and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients alternately with the mashed banana stirring enough to combine thoroughly - do this with a spoon or spatula not the mixer. Over mixing will make the bread tough. Stir nuts. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for about one hour.

Fire Roasted Tomato & Green Chile Pizza

Mediterranean Pizza


I love making my own pizza, it tastes so good and really easy to make! I get my pizza dough from Trader Joe's, I have used both the whole wheat and plain pizza dough and both are equally yummy. Here are a couple pizza recipe ideas I've made...

Mediterranean Pizza
  • Plain pizza dough
  • Roll out dough, brush dough with olive oil
  • Top with shredded cheese medley from TJ's, "Quatttro Formaggio" blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina & Mild Provolone Cheeses. Really great cheese blend, nice flavor and it's already shredded!
  • Slices of salami
  • Quartered marinated artichoke hearts
  • Slivered kalamata olives
***I decided to make a white pizza without tomatoes, but you could definitely add tomatoes or a pizza sauce.***

I found a great red wine from BevMo I paired with this pizza, a great compliment to the mediterranean flavors of the pizza. The wine was an '08 Tapiz Malbec from Argentina.

Fire Roasted Tomato Pizza
  • Plain pizza dough
  • Roll out pizza dough, brush with olive oil
  • 1 can of Fire Roasted Tomato with Green Chiles from TJ's, a little spicy but not too hot, gives the pizza a nice little kick!
  • Mixture of Quatttro Formaggio cheese blend and mozzarella cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Monday night dinner...

I had a craving for red meat, so I picked up some Top Sirloin fillets from Trader Joe's. Trader's meat is really good and fairly inexpensive, I got 3 medium sized fillets for $10. I cook my meat in a skillet with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. I wanted a more healthy side dish, so I made wheat couscous, also found at TJ's, with spinach and roasted sugar plum tomatoes. I cooked the spinach in a pan with a little olive oil and a clove of garlic; spinach takes but a couple minutes to cook. To roast the tomatoes I sprinkle them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a couple cloves of garlic, roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 6-8 min. The dish was flavorful and healthy!