Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Tis the Season...for Cookies!

I love a good excuse to bake! And what better excuse than a holiday party at our complex. I made three different cookies: candycane cookies, chocolate chip Amish puff cookies, and chocolate swirls.
Trenton and I had so much fun baking the day away yesterday. The second and third cookies listed come from my favorite food blog, This Week for Dinner. (Since I do most of my recipe browsing online these days, you'll definitely be finding a lot of links on Erica's Pantry as I experiment with recipes I find on other food blogs.)

To the chocolate swirls, I added my own twist, a buttery icing that is to die for. To frost about a dozen cookies, start by melting a 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan. Once it has melted, remove from the heat and whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar. Then add powdered sugar little by little until it is just barely frost-able. (Don't make it too thick by adding too much powdered sugar. You want it to taste more buttery than sugary, if that makes sense.)

With the addition of the buttery deliciousness that was the icing, those cookies were the first to go at the party! Merry Christmas, everyone! Only one week from today...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Night of Firsts: Chili and Brownies

It's not that I've never made chili or brownies before; it's just that last night they actually turned out well. If you ask me, my chili tastes good, but Ryan's always measuring mine against his dad's. And his dad's always wins!

Last night I think his dad's chili probably still won, (I didn't ask) but Ryan did say that he really liked mine—for once! The title of this post comes from what he said after dinner while he was sampling a brownie: "This is a night of firsts—good chili and good brownies."

I never make good brownies. This stems from the fact that I always buy the cheapest brownie mix out there and then I occasionally try to skimp on the fat. (Don't try that, by the way.) But I'm determined to change. I finally bought a fancy Hershey's Triple Chunk mix (Ghiradelli's is next) and a Butterfinger candy bar.

I divided the mix in half, by the way, so that we couldn't eat a whole pan in one night. :) Then I spooned half of the batter into six lined muffin tins, sprinkled on broken up Butterfinger, spooned on another layer of brownie batter, and topped one more time with Butterfinger. DELICIOUS.

Anyway, here's the recipe I went off of for the chili, over at Allrecipes. I halved it for our family and also added about a quarter to a third of a fresh jalapeno, diced. As my sister Rachel says, we are part-Mexican. (AKA We grew up in AZ eating a whole lot of Mexican food.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Yesterday I really felt like trying something new in the kitchen. Ryan had to work (on a Saturday - bummer!), so Trenton and I just hung out all day, baking and playing. I found a recipe for roasted red pepper soup from Cooking Light. I actually really enjoyed broiling the red peppers until blackened and removing the skins once they had cooled. Then you add tomatoes and sauted onion and garlic and puree until smooth. It's a visually beautiful process. (Should have taken more pictures!)

If you're a fan of roasted red pepper soup, this is a basic for your recipe repertoire. Hop on over to Cooking Light for the recipe. By the way, I added a bay leaf when it was simmering at the end, as well as a splash of balsamic vinegar. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's December! Candy Cane Cookies

Can you believe it's December? Santa came early this year, meaning my grandparents just came to town bearing gifts! It was so cute, the two of them walking up with their arms full of gifts to go under our little tree. Aren't we spoiled?! Anyway, today I made this fabulous holiday cookie for a church event. I love signing up to bring goodies to events because it gives me an excuse to make them! And this is a holiday tradition in my family, so December just wouldn't be compete without it. Straight from my good friend Betty Crocker, here it is...

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 cup sugar (to sprinkle the cookies with)

Mix the first six ingredients, and stir in the flour and salt. (Dough will be thick, like sugar cookie dough.) Divide the dough in half, and add the red food coloring to one half. Roll out four-inch strands of each color, and twist together a red and white strand to form candy canes. Sprinkle with sugar (and crushed peppermints if you have them), and bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

**If the tops turn golden, that's fine, but my preference is to take them out once they're cooked but not yet golden. So keep a close eye on them to cook them to your preference.

Hope you and your family enjoy these festive treats!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This was our second Thanksgiving with no family near, but it was my first time making the much anticipated meal. (Notre Dame fed us last year.) I've got to say, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Of course, it was nothing like my best friend's undertaking, documented here. (She and her husband took on feeding 25 people for their first time making the Turkey-Day meal.) Instead of 25 people, we invited a couple from Ryan's work to come over with their three kids, making four kids and four adults altogether. I opted for a bone-in turkey breast instead of the whole bird—we'll save that adventure for another year. My part of the meal included the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and a pumpkin cheesecake with homemade whipped cream. I'll share the recipes soon, but for now, here are a few pictures to make my mom proud. :)

Note the traditional Williams/Wood family napkin fold.

I thought the sunflowers added a nice autumny touch.

(I took this photo well after dinner had settled in our bellies,
so the texture of the whipped cream isn't quite the same. You get the idea, though!)

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

1. Combine first three ingredients; then add eggs one at a time.
2. Spoon about half the mixture into your graham cracker crust.
3. Add the pumpkin puree and spices to the reserved mixture, and spoon over the white bottom layer.
4. Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes, or until the center has almost set. Cool completely, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream. (Homemade is out of this world!)

You may notice in the picture that mine was one layer instead of two. Oops! Oh well, I've done it both ways and it tastes the same. It's just prettier if you remember to separate the layers!

Turkey Breast & Gravy
I rubbed the turkey breast with 2 Tablespoons each of canola oil, poultry seasoning, dried sage, dried thyme, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. I threw carrot, celery, and onion into a Reynolds oven bag, set the turkey on top, and poured in one can of chicken broth. Our 5.5-pound turkey breast cooked for just shy of 2 hours.

The juices in the bag after it had cooked made for some fantastic gravy. I made a roux by melting 4 Tablespoons of butter with 4 Tablespoons flour over medium heat, whisking constantly. Then I added the roux gradually to the juices, and whisked while it bubbled. I seasoned with salt and pepper. In the end, it was the perfect thickness and had a great flavor.

Ryan also added some butter, salt and pepper, and sage to the potatoes when he was mashing them, and they were heavenly!! (Thanks, babe!)

Hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. I have so much to be grateful for this year, in particular my healthy, happy baby and loving husband.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cheesey Tomato Soup

Hello all! Here's our table for two...

If anything could make me actually look forward to winter, this is it. Tonight we came home and put dinner right on the table while the baby was still in his infant carrier snapped into the stroller, just to the left of the table in this photo. He decided to just hang out there, happy as could be, clear until we had finished dinner and cleanup. What a cooperative kid!

On to the recipe...

1 can tomatoes (diced or whole) in their juice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1 bay leaf
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup (or less) shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

In a blender, puree the tomatoes with the basil, oregano, and parsley. Combine tomato mixture with chicken broth, either in a saute pan (for faster results) or a slow cooker. Whisk in the tomato paste. Stir in the cheese, and add the bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until ready to eat. Garnish with extra shredded cheese

  • I've always done this in a saute pan, but today I just threw it in the crockpot on low at about 2pm; then we came home to a fantastic soup at about 6pm. Easy as pie.
  • I always use medium cheddar cheese because it packs a little more punch. I once read that stronger cheeses are a better choice because you don't have to eat as much of it to enjoy the taste. Who know, maybe it works!
  • As always, double this recipe if you're feeding more than two or three adults. I think it makes about 5-6 medium-sized bowls of soup.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Simple Side - Grilled Asparagus

I decided tonight that asparagus is my favorite vegetable. (Well, that and avocado.) And grilled asparagus makes it that much better. It's an oh-so-good, delightfully easy, must-try side dish. (If all those adjectives didn't convince you, I don't know what would!)

Toss asparagus with a generous drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, and let marinate in fridge for about half an hour. Place asparagus on grill on medium heat until the spears are fork tender and slightly charred.

(The above picture is the pre-grilled asparagus. I meant to take a pic after we grilled it, but we devoured it too quickly! Maybe later this week... I'm always up for an excuse to make it again!)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

My newest fave...

I can't claim that this is the healthiest recipe on here, but it is SO WORTH the indulgence! And another thing that's really nice about this recipe is that it can be entirely prepped the night before, if you're serving it for breakfast. Your overnight guests will be dazzled by how effortless you make breakfast look! And pretty much nothing could be better than the warm flavors of apples, cinnamon, and maple syrup on a chilly morning. (Not that it's chilly in California yet, because it isn't. I love this state!)

As always, you may want to double this so it feeds more people.

Preheat to 400.
Grease an 8x8 dish with cooking spray.
Slice French bread into 1-inch thick slices, and place in baking dish.

Mix together:
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pour mixture over bread slices, and turn the slices to coat.
Peel and slice two apples, and layer over the bread slices. (I like Fuji apples.)

Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples.
Using 1 Tablespoon of butter, cut into small pieces and place randomly over the apple/cinnamon mixture in baking dish. (See picture)

It's best if it sits in the fridge for a few hours, or even up to 8 hours. After you remove from the fridge, let it sit for 15-30 minutes before baking. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean.

You could sprinkle individual portions with powdered sugar to garnish, or give each serving a dollop of whipped cream. (Mmmmmm!) If you try it, let me know what you think!

I know I just made this last night, but I seriously want to make it again for dinner today! Someone stop me!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Last night was one of Ryan's favorites, Barbecue Chicken Pizza with oven roasted zucchini.

Lately I've been grilling up some Cajun seasoned chicken, shredding it, sticking it in a ziplock in the fridge, and finding all kinds of uses for it later. (I'm Robin Miller from Quick Fix Meals!) I use it for wraps, fajitas, BBQ pizza, tortilla soup—practically anything! I used it last night on the pizza, and it tasted great combined with the cilantro, red onion, and gooey mozzarella.

This is the pizza crust recipe I have memorized. I got it from the cooking class I took at BYU. It's a fantastic recipe because (a) it's hard to mess up, (b) it doesn't require much rising time, and (c) with a little alteration, it can also be used for breadsticks and focaccia breads.

Preheat the oven to 425, with pizza stone on lowest rack.

diced or shredded chicken
red onion
BBQ sauce (We like Sweet Baby Ray's)

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water.
2. Add sugar, salt, and 2 1/2 ups flour. Mix to form dough.
3. Add more flour (up to a 1/2 cup) if needed to pull together. Mix about 3 minutes.
4. Let rest for 10 minutes.

While the dough's resting in the bowl, I prep the toppings... Shred the mozarrella, rough chop a red onion, pull the cilantro off the stems, shred or dice the chicken. (As I said, my chicken is prepped days before this. So convenient!)

I can't say enough about the virtures of a pizza stone. It makes fabulous pizza with a firm or crispy crust that tastes like it came straight from the restaurant. (Of course, if you don't have one yet, you can always use a cookie sheet.)

Dust the stone with cornmeal before placing it in the oven to heat up as the oven preheats. (Or, after the stone has preheated, use a spatula or something to brush some flour onto the stone. Stone is HOT!) Slide or toss your rolled-out dough onto the stone, and cook for about 8 minutes. Remove stone from oven and slather with BBQ sauce and toppings. Return to oven until cheese has melted...and voila!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Low Fat Cornbread

I'm a little obsessed lately with substituting applesauce for the fat ingredient in baked goods. Gingersnaps, banana bread, oatmeal cookies, and now, cornbread. The great news is that it works! I never substitute all of the fat, just most of it. Like in this recipe, which called for 1/2 cup of oil, I used 6 tablespoons applesauce and 2 tablespoons canola oil. And the cornbread is fantastic!

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs (I used two egg whites and one egg, to lower the cholesterol.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

  1. Preheat to 400. Combine cornmeal and milk; let stand for five minutes. Grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
If you already have a favorite cornbread recipe, you're welcome to share it in the comments! And you could always use your tried-and-tested favorite but try switching out most of the oil for applesauce. I couldn't even tell a difference!

If you're looking for an easy meal idea, tonight we served the cornbread with barbecue chicken and mushrooms. I often throw a couple chicken breasts in the crockpot, salt and pepper them and slather them with barbecue sauce, some shots of hot sauce (I use Frank's) and a few shots of Worcestershire. Cook on low for a long time to get the chicken fall-apart tender. Toward the end, I throw in some sliced or halved mushrooms. The moisture in the crockpot cooks them nicely, and it saves me from cleaning another pot!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Finally...the Jalepeno Wraps

I can't get enough of these babies! They're packed with vegetables, and the sour cream/lime juice/jalapeno dressing keeps them moist and adds a little unexpected kick at the same time.

4 sandwich wraps (10-inch ones work the best, and we've tried tomato basil, chipotle pepper, and spinach wraps.)
3 cups spinach
3 cups shredded chicken (I seasoned two chicken breasts with Cajun seasoning and then grilled them. I would definitely recommend this!)
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
1 tomato, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro

3/4 cup sour cream (we used fat-free)
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons diced, canned jalapenos

Spread the dressing over the wrap, and layer the other ingredients.

Though I've adapted it slightly, the recipe is originally from Everyday Food magazine. Basically, just use whatever veggies you have in the fridge! We recently served this with grilled asparagus and a fruit salad. Yum - it doesn't get any more fresh than that!

I added the picture of my baby just because I'm so proud of him. Isn't he handsome?!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Penne Rustica

Time to switch things up with a pasta recipe. This is a pretty easy meal to prepare and the end product is not only tasty but beautiful. If you ask me, it's the roasted red peppers that make this dish! Hmm-mmm!

(Sorry about the photo quality in this one...I hate it when I have to take pictures once it's dark... Oh well, that's what you get when your husband's in public accounting--lots of late dinners!)

1 box penne (I used a 12 oz. box)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, cut into big pieces
3 roma tomatoes, halves
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (these come in a jar)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
dash of basil
dash of oregano
salt and pepper
a drizzle of olive oil

Preheat to 400 degrees. Put the zucchini, red onion, and tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and stir them around to coat evenly. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the pasta. Chop the roasted red peppers and basil; quarter the artichoke hearts.

When tomatoes are just cool enough to handle, slice into bite-sized pieces. Toss everything together with the parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.

Happy eating!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Almost Guilt-Free Gingersnaps

Goodness I love these cookies! I've been perfecting this fall favorite for weeks now, and I think I've finally got it where I like it. These cookies may be low in fat, but they sure don't taste like it!! Soft and chewy and delicious...

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg white
2 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar for decoration

Preheat to 350. Cream together the butter, applesauce, and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix in the egg white and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, soda, and salt, and mix it into the wet ingredients. Roll balls of dough in sugar for decoration.

Bake for about 10 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet. Let cool for five minutes on baking sheet, and then remove to a wire rack.

The dough is pretty sticky, so add a little more flour if needed, and try spraying your hands with cooking spray. The recipe only yields about 12 cookies, because if we have too many cookies in the house, we'll eat them! (surprise, surprise) If you try this, you have to tell me what you think!

...Now I've got to go get me a cookie!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chicken Enchilada Soup

With the cold seasons approaching, this will make a wonderful chilly-day meal. The heat in both temperature and taste will warm you right up! I really liked this recipe and will be adding it to my regulars. I've heard that it tastes just like the enchilada soup at Chili's, but I can't say for sure since I've never had that dish. (I'm definitely adding it to my "to-try" list, though!)

1 1/4 cups chicken broth
10 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 cup green enchilada sauce
1 (10 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I only used a half a teaspoon)
2 cooked, shredded boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 cup half-and-half
1 tomato, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  1. Combine chicken stock and tortilla strips in a large pot. Cook over medium heat until strips soften and broth thickens somewhat.
  2. Stir in enchilada sauces and cumin. Stir in chicken and half-and-half; heat through.
  3. Divide among four bowls and garnish with diced tomato, jalapeno pepper, and cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.
My version was a little different than the original because I'm limiting my dairy intake while I'm nursing the little guy. Sadly, I had to omit the half and half and the cheese. Luckily, it was still plenty yummy and considerably healthier. By the way, if you're fortunate enough to eat dairy, did you know you can get nonfat half and half? Give that a try to keep the fat content down.

I used the crockpot to make life easy. I dumped the chicken broth, enchilada sauces, and green chiles right into the crockpot and tossed in a frozen chicken breast. I kept the crockpot on low until the chicken was ready to be shredded. Then I added the shredded chicken, corn tortilla strips, cumin, salt and pepper and simmered without the lid for about half an hour.

Using a little bit of canola oil in a skillet, I fried up some corn tortilla strips to add a little crunch. Top with avacados (soooo good in this kind of a soup), tomatoes, cilantro, onion, sour cream, and whatever else you please!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Asian Spinach Salad

I tried this recipe for the first time tonight, and it was a hit. I was curious to see if my husband, Ryan, would like it (sometimes he's a little skeptical when it comes to pasta salads), but three big servings later, I'm pretty sure it passed the test. :)

I couldn't get over the great sesame flavor in this dish. And the slight crunch of the bean sprouts...Trust me, this is worth a shot.

I got this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, This Week for Dinner. Thanks, Jane, for sharing it!

Here are my variations:
  • Because we always like a little heat, I added a 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
  • I didn't end up adding the water chestnuts, mostly because I forgot...But it was still delicious.
  • And I didn't feel like buying sesame SEED oil for one recipe...(I usually try to wait to buy a new random ingredient like that until I have a couple recipes I can use it in.)
  • Green onions would be a fantastic in this, so next time, I'm going to add them
Well, that was simple. If you give this a try, let me know what you think!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lettuce Wraps

This is one of my very favorite recipes, given to me by my close friend Amy. (Thanks, Amy!) I love the lettuce wraps at PF Changs, and this recipe is reminiscent of them. If you like lettuce wraps too, seriously, don't let this recipe pass you by!!

3 tablespoons oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup water chestnuts
2/3 cup mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4-5 leaves iceberg lettuce

Special Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon hot mustard
2 teaspoons water

1-2 teaspoon garlic and red chile paste

Stir Fry Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  1. Make the special sauce by dissolving the sugar in water in a small bowl. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
  2. Combine the hot water with the hot mustard and set aside. Eventually you'll add your desired measurement of mustard and garlic chili sauce to the special sauce mixture to pour over the wraps.
  3. Bring oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan. Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until done. Remove chicken from the pan and let cool. Keep oil in the pan, and keep the pan hot.
  4. Mince water chestnuts and mushrooms to about the size of small peas.
  5. Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl. (I like to have lots of sauce, so I often double this part.)
  6. When chicken is cool, dice it into tiny pieces the size of the mushrooms and chestnuts.
  7. With the pan still on high heat, add another tablespoon of oil. Then add chicken, garlic, onions, water chestnuts, and mushrooms to the pan. Add the stir fry sauce to the pan and saute the mixture for a couple minutes.
  8. Serve on top of iceberg lettuce. Top with Special Sauce.
Sometimes I dice up the onions, chestnuts, mushrooms, and chicken and put them individual sandwich bags and stick them in the fridge. I'll also throw together the sauces (except the mustard sauce) and stick them in the fridge too. Then once dinner time rolls around, all I have to do is saute the chicken and vegetables in the stir fry sauce.

Almond Coffee Cake

Lately I've been on the lookout for a good pound cake/coffee cake recipe that isn't loaded with butter and eggs (as most are). This one is only has a 1/4 cup butter and 2 eggs--not bad! I liked it pretty well but felt it could be a touch sweeter for my taste. My husband loved it. Obviously we liked it enough that there was only one slice left for me to take a photo of...!

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 egg whites, slightly beater
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
powdered sugar for dusting
  1. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg yolks.
  2. In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually pour dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk.
  3. Fold in beaten egg whites.
  4. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Toasted almonds would be a great alternate topping to the powdered sugar. Definitely give this a try for your next brunch!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lime Fajitas

This is one of my go-to recipes. We eat it all the time because it is SO GOOD! The lime gives it such a fresh, live flavor. You'll want to increase the size of the recipe depending on how many you're serving, since the version here only serves my husband and me.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T. oil (I usually use canola)
1/2 packet Italian dressing seasoning
juice of 1 lime
half an onion, cut into rings (a red onion gives nice color)
half a bell pepper, cut into strips

Combine these six ingredients and marinate for about an hour. Cook on a George Foreman grill. (If you don't have one, you could always grill the chicken and saute the veggies. Or cut the raw chicken into slices and cook in a frying pan, followed by the veggies.)

Once chicken has been grilled, slice into strips. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm up refried beans and flour tortillas. Layer the tortillas with refried beans, sliced chicken, grilled onions and bell peppers, diced tomatoes, sliced avacado, grated cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and squeeze more lime juice onto each serving.

Baked Potato Chips

This is totally simple and many of you probably already make these or a similar version, but our family likes them so much that I thought I'd go ahead and post them.

All you do is cut a couple of russet potatoes really thin, just about as thin as your knife will allow! Toss the potato slices with about 1 T. of olive oil per medium sized potato.

Then grease your baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray (just to be absolutely certain they won't stick) and spread the potato slices out. Sprinkle lightly with Lowry's seasoning and pepper. (If you add too much Lowry's, your mouth will be stinging by the time you finish the chips!)

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes; then flip the potato slice and bake for another 10 minutes, or until they are turning brown.

The cooking time will vary depending on how many potatoes you cut, so watch them carefully. This time, I only did one medium sized potato, and the slices took about 20 minutes altogether to turn brown and crispy. So yummy! Dip them in ketchup or eat as is. They go great with grilled hamburgers or barbecued chicken. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

World's Easiest Cobbler

A friend of ours recently made this for a church dinner, and it was SO delicious I couldn't believe how easy it was! All you do is choose your fruit and cover it with yellow cake mix and melted butter. Here's how I did mine:

4 big yellow peaches
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon

Half of a yellow cake mix
6 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Combine the first three ingredients and spread in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Cover with cake mix and drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 30-40 minutes until topping is golden.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Grilled Vidalia and Steak Sandwiches

This recipe is a bit more involved than some but well worth the effort!

3/4 cup cola
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper (I didn't have this, so I just skipped it)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak, trimmed

6 slices Vidalia onion
6 Kaiser rolls (I used ciabotta)
12 slices tomato

3/4 cup minced arugula
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise

To prepare steak, combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add steak; seal and marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours, turning bag occasionally. Remove steak from bag, reserving marinade. Pour marinade into a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at high 2 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. Set aside.

To prepare dressing, combine arugula and mayonnaise; set aside. (We actually skipped the mayo altogether and just used arugula, although Romaine would probably be great too. If it's not moist enough for your taste, you can always add a little olive oil/red wine vinegar.)

Grill 8 minutes on each side or until steak is medium-rare or desired degree of doneness. Remove steak from grill; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Place onion slices on grill rack; grill 4 minutes on each side, basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Place rolls on grill rack, cut sides down; grill 2 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Spread 2 tablespoons dressing on bottom half of each roll. Divide steak, tomato, and onion evenly among bottom halves of rolls. Top with top halves of rolls.

I used a regular ol' red onion since that's what I had on hand. And we also added grilled (or your could do sauteed) mushrooms. I've got to make this again soon!

Three-Step Taco Salad

This dish is so simple but yummy and nutritious. Who doesn't love a good taco salad?? This is a pretty big recipe, so I halved it for our family.

1 pound ground beef
1 (1.25-ounce package) taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup fat-free sour cream
2/3 cup bottled salsa
8 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
4 cups bite-sized baked tortilla chips
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 (15-ounce) can kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sliced ripe black olives
  1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the taco seasoning and water. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Combine the salsa and sour cream. 
  3. Toss together the lettuce, tortialla chips, tomatoes, cheese, cilantro, and beef mixture, and then mix in the dressing. (I kept the dressing as a side and let people add as little or much as they wanted to their own servings.) 
Be sure not to toss everything together until right before you serve, especially the tortilla chips to avoid letting them get soggy. I added a dollop of homemade guacamole and a sprig of cilantro to each serving. I love this quick and easy, not to mention colorful, weeknight meal. 

Low Fat Banana Bread

After tasting this recipe, you'd never guess that it has almost no fat. Egg whites and applesauce take the place of a yolk and butter. It's such a great autumn snack. Enjoy!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 egg whites
1 cup banana, mashed
1/4 cup applesauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a loaf pan. (I use canola oil spray.) 
  2. Stir together the first five ingredients. Then add the eggs whites, banana, and applesauce. Stir just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 40 minutes. While bread is baking, make a streusel topping out of about a 1/4 c. sugar, 1 t. cinnamon, and 1 T. butter. (I use 1/3 less fat margarine for this.) Cut the butter in with a fork until the butter clumps are about the size of small peas. 
  4. Sprinkle streusel topping over the bread, and cook for 10 more minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 
I always add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves because I like mine to have a little more spice to it. 


Erica's Pantry!

I've been wanting to start this blog for ages, but until now, time hasn't allowed it. Hopefully now my little guy will give me just enough time to share my cooking adventures with anyone who's interested. I plan on posting a variety of dishes, many of which won't be quite so hard on the waistline! I'm always looking for ways to lower the fat content or boost the fiber in my recipes, so I look forward to sharing what I learn. My hope for this blog is that it will share a practical and health-conscious approach to cooking, with recipes that are just too yummy to pass up. Thanks for visiting!