Monday, December 10, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This Rachael Ray recipe is FANTASTIC and my whole family gobbled it up!  It is a bit on the spicy side, so cut down on the peppers if you can't handle the spice.  Enjoy :-)


  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh if available
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 4 slices thick, smoky center cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons sauce
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 4 cups lightly crushed corn tortilla chips
  • 2 cups shredded fresh smoked mozzarella or smoked sharp white Cheddar, 3/4 pound
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • Freshly chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish


Bring broth to a simmer and add chicken tenders, poach 6 to 7 minutes with a bay leaf.
While chicken poaches, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a medium soup pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp then remove with slotted spoon. Drain off excess fat, leaving 2 to 3 tablespoons in the pan. Add onions and garlic to the skillet and cook 5 minutes then stir in chipotles and tomatoes.
Remove chicken from stock, dice and then add to soup. Pass stock through a strainer then add to the soup.
Place a pile of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of each soup bowl. Cover liberally with smoked cheese then ladle the hot soup down over the top. Serve with lime, raw onions and cilantro at table to finish the soup.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mushroom Cream Pasta

This isn't exactly kid approved, my kids wouldn't touch it. It also isn't healthy. But it is wonderful! Mike and I loved this and it came together super quickly.

8 ounces sliced baby portabello mushrooms
1/2 cup marsala wine
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces of pasta (use gluten free pasta to make the dish gluten free)

1. Bring water to boil and start prepping pasta.
2. Combine musrooms and wine in a large skillet; bring to a boil over medium heat.
3. Cook until wine is reduced by half.
4. Add cream and tarragon to mushroom mixture. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
5. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper and remove from heat.
6. When pasta is ready pour into large serving bowl and mix with the mushroom sauce.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

I can't believe I have never posted this recipe!  I got it from Food Network Magazine a couple years ago and I LOVE it!  It was on the cover as one of their "lighter" options and it only takes 30-40 min to make!  I've updated the recipe a bit to fit my needs, and I always freeze half the meatballs for a quick meal any time.

1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. minced garlic
2 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 c. fresh basil leaves (or 2 T. dried)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 lb. 93% lean ground turkey
1/2 c. chopped parsley
2 slices stale whole wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
1/2 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 egg white, lightly beaten
12 oz.whole wheat spaghetti

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add 3 T. garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, 1 c. water, 1/2 c. basil (or 1 T. dried), and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened.

2. Chop the remaining basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, 1/2 t. salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl or food processor.  Form into 8 large or 24 small meatballs.  (Note: At this point, I freeze half of the meatballs on a tray, then move them to a freezer bag once frozen.  You can make the sauce again any time and add the frozen meatballs directly to the sauce to cook.)  Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through.  6 min. for small meatballs and 12 min for large (increase cooking time if using frozen meatballs).

3. Meanwhile, cook and drain the spaghetti.  Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls.  Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, the remaining sauce, and more parsley and parmesan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Antipasto Pasta Salad

The absolute BEST pasta salad in the world (at least of the ones I've tried)!

1 1/2 T. capers, drained
2 t. anchovy paste
2 t. minced garlic
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 t. dried oregano
6 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Puree all ingredients in a food processor except for oil.  Slowly drizzle in oil and blend until emulsified.

12 oz. tri-color rotini pasta, cooked and drained
2 c. seeded and half-moon sliced cucumbers
1 c. halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1 c. diced smoked mozzarella or gouda
1 c. diced hard salami
1 c. thinly sliced red onion
3/4 c. pitted and chopped kalamata olives
1/2 c. sliced roasted red peppers
1/2 c. marinated artichoke hearts, quartered

Combine all salad ingredients.  Toss with vinaigrette to coat.  Refrigerate salad overnight for best flavor.  (Note: I usually serve it immediately and then have leftovers for lunch the rest of the week.  The flavor does get better as it sits overnight.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Fave Mac-n-Cheese

I started making my roux a little different in my mac-n-cheese, just to give it a bit more flavor. It turned out GREAT and now it's my new fave! I've made this quite a few times this summer - it's perfect for a BBQ side dish. I also have thrown it in the oven with a bit more cheese on top, after doubling the recipe for a crowd. Yum!

1 lb elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
pinch pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1-1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar (or colby jack is also great)
dash Worcestershire
dash hot sauce

Cook the macaroni in boiling water according to package directions. Meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder, and ground mustard (I combine them all in a little bowl ahead of time, then add at once). Stir with a whisk and let the flour taste cook out but don't burn. Whisk in the milk until combined - let cook until thickened. Turn off the heat and add the cheese. Once the cheese melts in add the Worcestershire and hot sauce, and add cheese sauce to the cooked & drained noodles.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Cheese Grilled Potatoes

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and adapted it a bit (it's originally from Taste of Home). I grilled it ahead of some steaks and it was delicious! My husband raved about them. :)

4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp minced chives (I used dry, since that's what was on hand)
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper
sprinkling of kosher salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, diced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onion, parmesan, chives, 2 salts, pepper, and olive oil. Transfer to a criss-cross of aluminum foil, sprayed with non-stick spray. Dot the potatoes with the butter. Fold the foil around the potatoes and seal tightly.

Grill over med-low heat  for about 20 minutes. Open foil to stir potatoes. Top with both shredded cheeses, reseal foil, and grill for about 10 more minutes. (You can also add some cooked, chopped bacon with the cheese!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grilled Ratatouille and Goat Cheese Orzo

I've never had ratatouille before, so I don't know how this version compares.  This version, however, was INCREDIBLE!  Everything is grilled outside, so you don't need to heat up the oven at all.  The grilled tomatoes make such a fresh and delicious tomato sauce.

1 eggplant, halved lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
1 red onion, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
1 small tomato, halved and seeded
1 zucchini, cut lengthwise
1 yellow squash, cut lengthwise
2 T. olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Goat Cheese Orzo (recipe below)

1 T. olive oil
2 T. fresh basil
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 t. minced lemon zest

1. Toss vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium heat until tender.

2. Chop all vegetables except tomato and transfer to a bowl.

3. Puree tomato and the rest of the sauce ingredients in a food processor until smooth, then toss with vegetables in the bowl.

Goat Cheese Orzo:
4 oz. orzo pasta
1/2 c. milk
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook orzo according to pkg. directions; drain and set aside.

2. Whisk together milk and goat cheese in a saucepan over medium heat until combined.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until slightly thick, about 3 min.  Stir in orzo.

3. Off heat, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Spinach and Raisin Rice

This rice was so flavorful, and I loved the addition of the raisins and spinach.  My five year old ate three servings of this, when he usually shies away from ANYthing with spinach.

1 T. butter
1/3 c. minced shallots
1 c. basmati rice
2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 c. golden raisins
Minced zest of 1 lemon
1/2 t. kosher salt
Red pepper flakes to taste
4 c. chopped fresh spinach
2 T. fresh lemon juice

1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in rice and cook 1 min.  Stir in broth, raisins, zest, and salt, and season with pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook rice until tender, about 15 min.

3. Add spinach; toss until wilted.  Remove pan from heat and let stand 5 minutes, then stir in lemon juice.

Yogurt-Marinated Tandoori Chicken Thighs

These were FANTASTIC!  I think I might try it with chicken breasts next time just to be a little healthier.  The grilled mango was also surprisingly delicious!

1 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
2 T. minced garlic
1 T. paprika
1 T. curry powder
2 t. kosher salt
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
1 t. turmeric
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
8 chicken thighs, fat trimmed and skin removed
2 mangoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1. Whisk together yogurt, lime juice, garlic, paprika, curry powder, salt, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne in a large bowl.  Add thighs, toss to coat, and refrigerate for at least an hour (up to 24 hrs.).

2. Grill the chicken and mangoes over med-high heat.

3. Serve warm with Spinach and Raisin rice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quick Bean and Rice Tacos/Burritos

This is one of my go to quick meals when I don't have something else planned. I often fix it for lunch since it comes together so quickly. It has the added bonus of being very healthy.

‎1 Cup water or chicken broth
1 can drained black beans or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans if you use dried
1 bell pepper (whatever color you want)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 cup salsa
1 cup instant brown rice

Combine everything but rice in a medium sauce pan and bring to boil on medium-high heat. Once boiling, add rice and stir. Bring back to boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes or until moisture is mostly absorbed. Spoon into tortillas and top with standard burrito or taco fixings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This is delicious and makes a great freezer meal. I typically use a rotisserie chicken (Sam's Club or Costco rotisserie chickens are gluten free). I get enough meat to make 2 casseroles so I typically bake one for dinner and freeze the other for a simple meal at a later date.

1 rotisserie chicken shredded (use 1/2 the meat and save 1/2 for another purpose or make 2 casseroles)
10 corn tortillas
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, diced
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (Pacific Natural Foods sold in organic section for gluten free)
1 can of cream of chicken soup (Pacific Natural Foods sold in organic section for gluten free)
1 cup of chicken broth
1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine soups, broth, Ro-Tel tomatoes, spices and chicken in sautee pan and heat until well blended and warmed through. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray and spread thin layer of chicken mixture on bottom. Spread a layer of tortillas on top. Spread half of remaining chicken mixture. Top with 1/2 of cheese. Repeat the 3 layers using remaining chicken and cheese, ending with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until hot and bubbling.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Green Chili Chicken

This recipe is as easy as it gets. It also happens to be delicious. It's my favorite take on salsa chicken and has been a staple in our house since we were married. I serve it in corn tortillas or over tortilla chips to keep it gluten free, but you can make burritos out of it using flour tortillas if you don't need to keep it gluten free.

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (can be frozen)
1 small can salsa verde (I use Herdez)
1 small can diced green chilis
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano

Combine all ingredients except the chicken in your crockpot. Add the chicken breasts. Cook over low heat until easily shredded (about 6 hours in my crockpot). Shred shortly before serving and let it absorb the sauce. Serve as tacos, burritos, nachos, or in a bowl over rice and beans.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cafe Rio Chicken

This was a recipe I found on Pinterest and knew I had to try! It's super easy since you cook it in a crockpot, and it's so versatile - serve as tacos, over salads, on a bun... My entire family devoured this when I made it, and it's now something we make regularly. You can also freeze this, either before or after cooking. It's also easy to double the ingredients for a large crowd, or just for extra to freeze.

2 lbs chicken breasts
1/2 small bottle Italian dressing
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
packet ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp ground cumin

Mix all ingredients except chicken in a bowl and whisk together. Place chicken in crockpot and pour liquid over. Cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8 hours**. Shred with a fork and serve.

If freezing prior to cooking, simply put everything in a gallon freezer bag instead of the crockpot. Thaw (or mostly thaw) before cooking as instructed above.

If freezing after cooking, simply thaw and reheat for a delicious meal.

**All crockpots vary. I have an oval 6-qt crockpot and this will cook (with 2.5 lbs chicken) in 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low. If it gets done early, I simply shred and turn the crockpot to the warm setting until it's time to eat.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lentil Tacos

I discovered this recipe a few years ago and it's been a staple in our home since. Everyone loves tacos and these are even better than the traditional beef tacos made using the taco seasoning at the store. They're healthier and vegetarian too (assuming you use veggie broth rather than chicken broth). I was skeptical when I first tried it, but I've been a huge fan ever since.


1 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup salsa

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender (took only about 20 minutes for me).

Uncover; cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Mash lentils slightly. Stir in salsa.

Serve in corn tortillas with cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce and whatever other taco fixins you normally use.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fried Pickles

I'm addicted to fried pickles, especially during pregnancy, but it becomes an expensive eating habit when you have to go out for dinner to get them! This recipe gets my seal of approval, creating crispy dills with lots of flavor.

8 oz. sour cream
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch Dip dry mix
1 jar Clausen sandwich pickles
1/2 c. buttermilk ranch dressing
1 egg
1 c. flour
1/4 c. corn starch
1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

1. Combine half the dry dip mix with the sour cream and chill until ready to serve. Mix the remaining packet with the panko bread crumbs in a shallow dish (I use a pie plate).

2. Heat 1 in. oil in a large saute pan over med-high heat to 360 degrees.

3. Save 3/4 c. of the pickle juice, then drain and pat dry the pickles. Cut them in half if they are the long slices.

4. Whisk pickle juice, dressing, egg, flour, and cornstarch together until smooth.

5. Dip pickles into batter (letting excess drip off), then coat in panko mixture and drop into hot oil. Fry pickles in batches until golden, 2-3 min, then transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

6. Serve with ranch dip.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Garlic-Lemon Aioli

This works great as a spread or a dip. I used it on toasted french bread to make a killer BLT (thick cut bacon, tomatoes, fresh spinach, and avocado). It would also be great with french fries.

1 c. Mayo
1/3 c. Fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
4 T. Minced garlic
1/4 t. Black pepper
1/8 t. Cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Add salt to taste.

Lemon-Butter Chicken

This chicken is so flavorful and delicious, and pairs well with the Grilled Vegetable Couscous. Use the leftovers of both to stuff a pita for a quick and healthy lunch the next day!

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to an even thickness
Salt and black pepper
3 T. butter, melted
1 T. minced fresh lemon zest
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. minced fresh parsley

1. Preheat grill to med-high. Brush grill grate with oil.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper; grill, covered, about 5 min. per side.

3. Whisk together butter, zest, lemon juice, and parsley in a bowl. Season butter with salt and pepper. Brush on chicken just before serving. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

Grilled Vegetable Couscous

This is an awesome recipe which is delicious served warm for dinner or cold for lunch the next day. Enjoy!

3 c. sliced zucchini
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed (I omitted this)
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
2 T. olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cut in half with ribs and seeds removed
10 oz. instant couscous
1 T. minced lemon zest
3 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
2 c. halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped scallions
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grate with oil.

2. For the veggies, toss zucchini, asparagus, onion, and red pepper with 2 T. oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Grill vegetables until charred, 5-6 min. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

3. Cook couscous according to package directions with zest added; set aside.

4. Whisk lemon juice and 2 T. oil in a large bowl. Add couscous, grilled vegetables, tomatoes, parsley, and scallions; season with salt and black pepper. Top couscous with goat cheese.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Delicious White Bean & Sage Dip

This quick, easy dip has become a family favorite. My husband & sons love it just as much as I do! It was also well-received by the 3 & 4 year olds in E's class when I included it for snack time along with carrot sticks & pretzels.

1 (15oz) can of white kidney/cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 heaping T chopped fresh sage (~7-8 leaves)
1 small clove garlic
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth (about 30-45 seconds). Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quick Microwave Brownie

Sometimes I just need a little sweet treat - c'mon, who doesn't? ;) This is a quick brownie that you make in a large mug - IN THE MICROWAVE! Easy to make, yummy to eat, easy to clean up.

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch salt
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp water

Combine all the ingredients in a large coffee mug (or something equivalent). Microwave on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir. Microwave another 30-45 seconds. Enjoy!

Baked Portobello Parmesan

I'm constantly looking for new recipes to try, and knew this was one of them when I saw it. I love chicken parmesan, and was excited to sub large portobello mushroom caps in for the chicken. It was delicious served alongside some parmesan pasta and sauteed zucchini.

1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese, divided use
1 tsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp fresh minced parsley (or you can sub 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp kosher salt, divided use
2 eggs
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large stemmed portobello mushrooms, brushed clean & gills removed
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup tomato or spaghetti sauce
cooking spray

Position a baking rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and place a wire cooling rack in the baking sheet. Mist the rack with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine bread crumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan, parsley, paprika, and 1 tsp salt in a shallow pan. Mix well, set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, remaining 1 tsp salt, pepper, marjoram, garlic powder, and oregano. Mix well.

Dip both sides of mushrooms into egg mixture. Dredge in crumb mixture until both sides are completely coated. Transfer, stem-side down, to prepared wire rack. Spray tops with cooking spray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove pan from oven.

Change oven temperature to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, carefully turn mushrooms stem-side up. Cover each mushroom with 2 tbsp remaining parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts and mushrooms are warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

My family LOVES buffalo wings, buffalo chicken dip... basically anything of that sort. This recipe is a way we can get that taste without all the fat or frying (don't get me wrong... that's fine every once in a while!). For my younger two I left some chicken without the buffalo sauce & put some of each on their tacos to cut the spice (they like spice, but I didn't want to overdo it). The ranch dressing and avocado on top add some cooling as well. :)

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup Frank's hot sauce
1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp olive oil
10 6-inch yellow corn (or flour) tortillas

shredded butter lettuce
diced onions mixed with cilantro
avocado slices
ranch dressing
green onions, sliced thinly

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In a large bowl combine cornstarch, flour, cayenne, and garlic powder. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour mixture. Add the melted butter and hot sauce together (or you can buy Frank's buffalo wing sauce - we just always have the hot sauce on hand).

Add olive oil to the Dutch oven and once it gets hot add chicken and cook on both sides - about 3-4 minutes per side. Once the chicken is done, set it aside in a bowl and toss with the wing sauce. Serve with the other toppings to make tacos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

One of the best chocolate cheesecakes I've ever eaten... delicious, decadent, and decorative (not to mention EASY!). This recipe comes from my favorite magazine ever, which has never let me down, Cuisine at Home.

2 sleeves chocolate graham crackers, 18 crackers
1 T. sugar
Pinch of table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (8 T.)

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 T. unsalted butter
2 t. instant espresso powder
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 c.)

Preheat oven to 325.

For the crust, process graham crackers, sugar and salt in a food processor until fine. Drizzle in melted butter and process until combined. Press crumbs into bottom and up sides of a 9 in. springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes; set aside.

For the cheesecake, melt chocolate with 2 T. butter and espresso powder in a double boiler; set aside to cool slightly.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add melted chocolate mixture to batter and beat until combined.

Fold whipped cream and vanilla into batter, then pour into crust; bake until edges are set but center is still jiggly, 40-45 min. Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven with door closed 30 minutes.

Remove cheesecake from oven. Cool completely; cover and chill at least 4 hrs, or overnight.

For the ganache, heat 1/2 c. cream in a microwave safe bowl on high until boiling, 1-2 min. Add chocolate chips and let sit 2 min., then stir until smooth. Cool ganache, 5 minutes. Drizzle cheesecake with ganache (I piped it on using a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off), then top with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls.

To cut cheesecake, remove sides from the pan, then slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice.

Homemade Vanilla Yogurt

Making homemade yogurt is cheaper than buying it in the store, and you can control what goes into the yogurt (e.g. preservatives, sugar, etc.). There are lots of ways to make homemade yogurt, but this is the way that worked for me. If you are interested in making your own but don't want to invest in a yogurt maker, you can also incubate using your oven (if the temp stays low enough), a heating pad, or a crock pot. You will need to look online to find more specific instructions, but during my learning process I discovered quite a few excellent websites out there. Stonyfield is a great yogurt to use as a starter because it includes 6 live cultures, where as many other brands only include 2 or 3, but you can use any yogurt with live cultures, or a freeze-dried culture (after 2 unsuccessful attempts at this, I switched to the yogurt mix-in). Once you have a batch, you can save a 1/2 cup to use as your starter in the next batch (just be sure you don't do this more than once, as the quality of the cultures will decline). The amount of sugar and vanilla can also be adjusted, or different flavorings can be added. Like I said, this is the recipe I like best :-)

4 c. milk (I used 2%)
1 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. powdered nonfat milk
1/2 c. Stonyfield Plain Organic Yogurt (far from expiration date)

Whisk sugar, vanilla, and powdered milk into the milk in the top pan of a double boiler. Heat the milk, stirring frequently to 185 degrees.

Remove the pot from the boiler and put immediately into an ice bath. Cool to a temperature of 115, then remove in from the ice bath.

Once the temp drops to 110, whisk in the yogurt. Pour into jars and incubate for 7-8 hrs. in a yogurt maker.

Once yogurt is set, refrigerate at least 4 hrs or overnight.

Banana and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

This is, without a doubt, the best french toast I have ever eaten. Enjoy!

2 bananas, diced
1/2 c. cream cheese, softened
6 1.5" slices challah bread
1 c. hazelnut creamer
2 eggs, beaten
4 T. butter
1/2 c. Nutella

1. Combine bananas and cream cheese in a bowl, set aside.

2. Slice into 4 slices of bread horizontally without cutting all the way through to form a pocket for the filling. Pulse remaining 2 slices in a food processor to make fine crumbs.

3. Fill each slice with the banana filling.

4. Combine eggs and creamer. Soak each slice in the mixture, about a minute on each side, then dip in the fine bread crumbs.

5. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook each slice on the heated skillet until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side.

6. Heat Nutella in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute, stirring every 20 seconds. Serve on top of french toast.

Korean Chili Sauce

This might not be authentic, but it sure tastes good! It's a sweet and spicy combination that is easily made with items from a regular grocery store (no need to go to a specialty market). It's great served with the bulgogi and the bibimbap.

1/4 c. lemon lime soda
2 T. EACH white or red miso and Sriracha sauce
1 T. EACH light corn syrup, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, and brown sugar

Whisk together all ingredients.

Bulgogi (Korean "Barbecued" Beef)

This is my boys' favorite thing to order at the Korean restaurant in town, and I'm so happy to finally have a recipe! It could be served on its own, with stir-fried veggies, or on top of the bibimbap (see recipe). Just be sure to serve it with a side of rice!

3 T. EACH rice vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar
1 T. EACH fresh ginger and garlic (I used a half t. of powdered ginger instead of fresh)
1 T. toasted sesame oil
2 t. cornstarch
1 lb. thinly sliced beef (I purchased at Saraga, an Asian market in town. You could also purchase sirloin and slice your own VERY thin)
2 T. canola oil
Sesame seeds (I toasted first)

1. Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add steak and toss to coat; set aside 20 minutes, tossing often. (Note: I made mine early in the day and let it marinate for about 4 hours in the fridge)

2. Heat canola oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Remove steak from bowl and let excess marinade drip back into the bowl. Stir-fry steak in skillet in 2 or 3 batches, 2-3 minutes per batch, until all is browned. Transfer bulgogi to a large plate and garnish with sesame seeds.

Bibimbap (Korean Rice Bowl)

I have to say that Korean food definitely ranks high among my favorite ethnic foods. I found these recipes in Cuisine at Home for making bibimbap in my home... I was elated! I tried them within a week of receiving the magazine and we all devoured the food. The boys ate theirs without the spicy sauce, and my husband said it was the best Korean food he'd ever eaten (a HUGE compliment considering how much he loves Korean food!). Be sure to read through this recipe, as well as those of the bulgogi and chili sauce. I prepped the ingredients and started marinating the beef early in the day, so when dinner time came I could cook everything very quickly. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

2 t. toasted sesame oil
2 t. soy sauce
1 bag (6oz) baby spinach
4 t. minced garlic, divided
6 t. canola oil, divided
1 t. sesame seeds (I toasted mine first)
2 pkg. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (3.5 oz each)
3 med. carrots, cut into thin strips or julienned
1 med. zucchini, cut into thin strips or julienned
2 c. fresh mung bean sprouts (really cheap if you buy them at Saraga)
6 eggs
Bulgogi (see recipe)
Korean chili sauce (see recipe)
3 c. cooked rice, warmed

1. Combine sesame oil and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside.

2. Saute spinach and 1 t. garlic in 1 t. canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until wilted, 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to a bowl and toss with 1 t. sesame-soy mixture and sesame seeds, set aside.

3. Heat 1 t. oil in same skillet over medium; add 1 t. garlic and shiitakes, and cook until mushrooms soften, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1 t. sesame-soy mixture; set aside. Repeat cooking and tossing with carrot and zucchini together, then the bean sprouts.

4. Add remaining 2 t. oil to same skillet. Fry eggs until whites are set but yolks are still soft.

5. Divide rice among bowls, then top with Korean chili sauce (if desired). Arrange the vegetables and bulgogi (if using) on top of the rice. Top each bowl with an egg and serve with Korean chili sauce.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Swirled Pumpkin and Caramel Cheesecake

This is one of my go-to desserts for Thanksgiving, but it's great anytime of the year.

1-1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

4 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1-2/3 cups sugar
15 oz can pure pumpkin
9 tbsp whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
4 large eggs
4 tbsp caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Finely grind crushed cookies and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture onto bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Transfer 3/4 cup mixture to small bowl; cover tightly and refrigerate to use for topping. Add pumpkin, 4 tbsp whipping cream, ground cinnamon, and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns, and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about an hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Bring remaining 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture to room temperature. Add remaining 5 tbsp whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Press down firmly on edges of cheesecake to even thickness. Pour cream cheese mixture over cheesecake, spreading evenly. Spoon caramel sauce in lines over cream cheese mixture. Using tip of knife, swirl caramel sauce into cream cheese mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)