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!

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!