Sunday, July 31, 2011

Catching up!

We have so much to catch up on... my July has been absolutely crazy. So let's review.

We drove up to NC with Cricket in mid-July to visit friends and celebrate three friends' engagements! Myself and Jim included. It was fabulous weather and we spent a majority of the time lounging by the pool or playing a grueling and competitive game of improvised water polo. I brought peach cobbler with me, made with real fresh Georgia peaches, which was delicious. I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of a slice of it, but here's the photos of the baking process:

Yes, all those peaches went into one cobbler. It was packed.

The cinnamon and sugar crumb dough on top was the best thing I've ever made, easily.

After that, we flew home to KC to do some wedding planning... here's a sneak preview of my planned wedding hair and makeup!

After that, we moved into our new house! Don't get too excited, we're just renting. Pictures of that will be forthcoming, but for lunch today, I cooked Szechuan shrimp and broccoli with noodles, one of Jim's most favorite, requested by name side dishes. I've talked about the shrimp before, so I'll show you the noodles! Delish!

Thankfully that's all I've got for now, phew!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

So I come to find out

There's not many things in this world that can completely and utterly stifle my drive to cook like moving into a new house in which the A/C is broken. That's right, broken, in the Georgia heat. Poor little Cricket, I didn't think she was going to make it. It was about 95 degrees inside our house and shelties are not the most heat-tolerant of dogs. At one point she went outside and dug a little fox hole in the dirt and slept in that for awhile. What a goofball.

Anyway, we got the A/C fixed after a helpful call to my dad which confirmed that it was an electrical problem and are now living in the nice cool 78 range again. Thank God! Plus, that means I can start cooking again. I have taken an extended extended leave of absence from my diet, but it's time to hop back onto the wagon now that I don't feel that I have to eat everything in my cabinets just to avoid moving it. So, with nothing to show you right now and no recipes to offer, I promise once again that I'll be back and cooking soon. I'm making a list right now!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Well Jim and I are in the midst of a move to a new place as well as having just returned from a super intense wedding planning trip to KC, so I am ashamed to say I haven't cooked in forever. Or at least not put any effort into talking about it on my blog. I just wanted to post and assure everyone that I have every intent to continue posting about my cookery, but, like everything else in my life it seems, it will just have to wait until after the move. At least for pictures it will.

I did whip up a quick and easy beer bread today for Jim's work potluck... you know how when you are moving you just try to use up everything you have in your house without going to the grocery store again? Well that's what we're doing and we had a bottle of beer just hanging out in the fridge begging to be baked. Is it weird that for me, beer begs to be baked and not drank? Nah....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

Jim and I are going to spend the weekend with friends, but Jane (of Jane's Famous Sweet Tea) is allergic to something big... I can never remember what. I'm pretty sure it's either gluten or dairy, but just to be safe, I decided to give this recipe a try.

I had to up the ante on my baking ingredients for this one, including a gluten free flour blend, I used King arthur brand. I also invested in some xantham gum, vegan butter, and rice milk!

Best part is, you just mix it all together in one bowl!

And just for good measure, I threw in a little almond extract in with the delicious whipped creamy frosting.

I tasted it, and you can't even tell it's made with alternative ingredients! A breakthrough in bakestravaganza!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yellow Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

Oh yes, I did.

Just because there's nothing more delicious than a buttery moist yellow cupcake, except when it's topped with a hefty smearing of Nutella.

If you don't know about Nutella, it's okay, I'll allow it, but I must insist that you run to the grocery store immediately and purchase a jar. Go home, try a spoonful, and your life will never be the same.

Can't take credit for this recipe, it came from one of my favorite food blogs, can you stay for dinner.

Also, Jim got me the fit bit! It's a super neat, tiny little device I can clip on my belt that tracks my steps taken, calories burned, miles walked, and monitors my sleep. It is, in a word, wonderful. As is he. Hurray!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Secret Sauce and Spinach and Turkey Lasagna

Tonight I made Spinach and Turkey Lasagna.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used 3 cups of spinach instead of 6, added an egg to the ricotta mixture, and halved the nutmeg. So good, and divided into 6 gigantic slices instead of 8, it weighs in at a reasonable (for pasta) 450 calories.

Also, I would like to share with you the following link. If you have never seen the show "Parks and Recreation", you are missing out. Here's all you need to know to become addicted to it the quick way.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dinner Alone...

It's not often that I end up eating my dinner alone. Jim is usually a great sport about eating something super heavy like salmon or lasagna when he immediately wakes up for the night shift. Today, however, he couldn't do it. So I ended up cooking for just me, and it still turned out great, although I didn't use any crazy recipes.

I made my go-to quinoa tabbouleh of course.

Pretty much because it uses up all my veggies before they go bad, and it makes lunch for me for like a week! Did I mention it's also super tasty? I make it all the's the recipe, adapted from allrecipes.

Quinoa Tabouli
(makes about 6 servings)


2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 pinch salt
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 dashes cumin
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
2 bunches green onions, diced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped


1. In a saucepan bring water to a boil. Add quinoa and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, cumin, lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, and parsley. Stir in cooled quinoa.

And simply because I didn't want to defrost any meat, I also made an omelette, no recipe for this one, just spinach, mozzerella and tomatoes!

Nothing exciting, just plain and simple. It is Monday after all. Meatless Monday if you will.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Southern Sweet Tea

The first time I ever tried iced tea I was seven years old. My whole family had made our way up from Kansas City (driving miserably) all the way to Minnesota for a family reunion in the sweltering heat of mid-July. I've never understood how a place that gets as cold as Minnesota does in the winter can be so devastatingly hot in the summer as well. It just doesn't seem fair to me.

Anyway, I was seven, playing in the blazing sun with some distant cousins, and decided to forage through the picnic area for something refreshing to drink. I saw a gigantic carafe full of what my seven year old brain decided was orange soda, which I loved. I poured myself a tall glass and took a long gulp only to be utterly disgusted by unsweetened tea. That was when I decided I didn't like iced tea.

Almost twenty years later, it took me living in the South through an even more blazing summer to give Sweet Tea a try. I haven't looked back since.

Here is a great recipe, from a friend, for the most delicious Southern Sweet Tea you'll ever taste.

Jane's Sweet Tea


10 regular sized tea bags
1 1/2 cup sugar
6 cups water


Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, add tea bags. Boil 1 minute, and remove from heat. Cover and steep 10 minutes.

Remove tea bags, squeezing gently. Add sugar, stir until dissolved.

Pour into 1 gallon pitcher and add water to make 1 gallon.

And that, my friends is all there is too it.

On another note, as promised, here is my Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Ganache experience.

I like to set up my ingredients before I start.

Butter and sugar...the groundwork for any good bakestravaganza.

Peanut butter, don't worry, at this point Jim is asleep.

Blending in the peanut butter.

Side note, my future in-laws (Jen, Bob, Eileen) not only have provided me with delicious authentic maple syrup (pictured here), but also delicious authentic vanilla, used only on the most special of occasions (thanks guys!).

This is where the batter starts getting really delicious.

Blend it up.

Add the flour.


And press it into the pan.

Baked until golden brown.


Iced and chilled.


I like to try to make peanut butter stuff while Jim is asleep so maybe he'll subconsciously get over his hatred of peanut butter. A girl can dream, right?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hazelnut Honey Salmon

I have been on a serious greek yogurt and honey kick. In case you don't know, greek yogurt is a creamy delicious, low fat, low cal, high protein treat that I've been eating for breakfast by the truckload. I love it because it really holds me over until lunchtime. And of course, who doesn't love honey?

Which brings me to tonight's dinner...something I actually invented myself! It contains just a few ingredients and is so unbelievably tasty...

Hazelnut Honey Salmon

This recipe is a nice little dinner for two but could easily be doubled.


2 x 4oz. salmon fillets
1/8 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
1/8 cup honey
3 pinches dried tarragon
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Line baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick baking spray. Arrange salmon on pan and salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a bowl, mix together chopped toasted hazelnuts, yogurt, honey, and tarragon, stir until mixed through. Spread equal parts yogurt mixture on both fillets.

3. Bake 15 minutes or until salmon flakes with a fork.

Here's what it looks like precooked.

I'll tell you all about the peanut butter blondies with chocolate ganache that I made for dessert as soon as I get home from a little girl's night celebration.

Friday, July 8, 2011


That, my friends is Creole + Indian and means that yes, I made my first Jamba-LAYA (I would be remiss to not mention that Jim pronounces it this way every time, a Seinfeld reference) as well as my first Indian food.

We'll start with the Jambalaya. This literally could not be easier. I absolutely love how the slow cooker magics any combinations of ingredients together into deliciousness and you don't even have to be there. I just chopped up the ingredients (after a ten hour graveyard shift, in the morning before bed) and threw them in the crock pot and went to bed. 8 hours later...beautiful jambalaya waiting for me.

I'm not sure what the fat content is for this little baby because it does include such decadent ingredients as andouille sausage, but the calories are fairly low and a giant pot makes 12 servings. Needless to say, I actually made this last week and just got around to talking about it today. It's lasted a long time. My only complaint is that it was too spicy for Jim. I love the spice and I think it made it taste authentically Cajun, but Jim still has a milder palate. It's probably my Cajun seasoning again, being a little too red pepper heavy. Every few months I mix together a batch of Emeril's Creole Seasoning, or his "essence" as he likes to call it. Here's a quick recipe for that:

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

It's a staple around our house. Great for those nights when I want something flavorful but I'm feeling uncreative and unmotivated, works great on salmon, chicken, and shrimp. I've never tried it on steak, but I should!

And tonight, we had a little late night Indian. I have been wanting to try this recipe forever but have scoured the earth looking for Garam Masala (an obscure Indian spice) and finally found it today. I really liked this recipe, it tasted very authentic to me. It could have maybe used a bit of coriander though, I did feel like it was missing....something. Most of all though, I wish I had made Naan as know, that delicious Indian flatbread necessary for soaking up every last delicious drop of the sauce? Oh yeah.

Surprisingly, it wasn't too spicy for ole Jimbo. Hurray! I know I've had this in Indian restaurants before...and if it's not called "chicken makhani" there, I believe I've seen it served as "butter chicken".

By the way, the cinnamon bread from yesterday is still around, although there is significantly less of it now...and it's still delicious. Holding strong!

Tomorrow I'll be going to a little ladies get-together and I'm thinking I'll bring peanut butter blondies with chocolate ganache for two reasons:

a)why not?


b)I have so few occasions to make and enjoy peanut butter creations since Jim is a peanut butter-hating Scrooge, or as my coworkers said upon learning of his aversion...a terrorist.

I wouldn't go that far, but take that as a lesson, Jim. You're being taste-profiled.

Calzones and Cinnamon Bread

That's why they call it bakestravaganza.

I have never in my life baked pizza crust or bread from I figured, why not do both? And of course, there is no time like the present.

First, we have calzones. Apparently "real" Italian calzones don't have any sauce on the inside...they just use it on the side to dip the calzone in. So that's what we did. I made the dough first, which by the way was the most perfect pizza/calzone dough I can imagine, and on the inside, we had ricotta, mozzerella, spinach, pepperoni, basil and oregano.

I brushed the edges with egg before sealing, which helped a lot, and then brushed egg on the outside of the dough, which turned it a great golden color. Here you go!

Next up, I've been challenging myself with my baking by letting Jim pull any crazy dessert he would like out of a hat and then making it. That resulted in the delicious Portuguese egg tarts, and now he chose this pull-apart cinnamon bread. Let me just say, I am consistently amazed with how the most minute variations in the same basic ingredients can yield such deliciously different results. This bread contains only butter, milk, yeast, sugar, flour, egg, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but somehow through the magic of the recipe and the science behind kitchen chemistry, it becomes something spectacularly more than the sum of its parts.

Ladies and gentlemen, cinnamon sugar pull apart bread.

Yes, I will unashamedly admit that it is ten times better (and tastes more like a cinnamon roll) than my much slaved upon creative endeavor of last week, maple pecan cinnamon rolls, and it achieves the effect without a drop of glaze, frosting, icing, nothing. And of course, the cherry on top is the utter fun that is eating pull-apart bread. Yes, it peels layer by gooey layer just like those peelable biscuits, but a thousand times better. Yes, you will consume probably half the loaf before you are able to control yourself. No, you will regret nothing.

This is comfort food night in our little household and oh, how comforted I am.

In other news, we signed a lease on the spectacular house that we were looking at. I absolutely cannot wait to get into my new kitchen!

And as I look at the clock I realize it's everyone's favorite day of the week. Perfection! Happy Friday all!

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Ingredient of the Week

Is real maple syrup. Let me say that again real maple syrup. None of the high fructose corn nonsense, no microwavable plastic jug, and no, Aunt Jemima is not home. I'm talking about real grade A 100% maple syrup, like the kind that Jen gave us for Christmas from Syracuse, New York, which I have subsequently been coveting zealously and parceling out only on the most special of occasions to make it last, although I'm losing that battle.

I started the week with Maple Pecan Cinnamon Rolls, which was a recipe that I modified from a bunch of others, and now I'd like to introduce Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins. I invented this one myself, and they taste somewhere between cupcake and muffin and my favorite Quaker oatmeal breakfast treat.

Here's the recipe.


1/4c butter, softened
1/8c white sugar
1/8c brown sugar
1 egg
1/2c applesauce
1/4c and 2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2c flour
1/4c wheat flour
1/2c quick oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cream together butter and sugars. Add egg, applesauce, syrup and vanilla, mix well. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet, stirring just until all ingredients are moistened. Fill muffin cups lined with paper to 2/3 full and bake about 15-18 minutes at 350. Allow to cool several minutes in pan before removing.

This recipe makes about 10 muffins, at about 177 calories each.

I had to bake something seeing as it's the fourth of July, it's pouring out, and I have to go to work in an hour...obviously it was an important day to bake. Happy Independence Day to everyone, hope yours is as delicious as mine!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Yesterday I made Yakisoba chicken which I thoroughly enjoyed. I've never made soba noodles before, they're good, a very different taste. The only thing I did differently was I left out the carrots and added peppers and broccoli instead, which were delicious!

And coming up tonight, we've got tried and true lime chicken tacos.

I love cooking ethnic get a lot of flavor for just a little fat.

Also, I've been utterly addicted to this blog lately. The writer's story is so amazing, and I love the way she writes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Insanity!

Well I did it. I made cinnamon rolls from scratch. They were intended to be cupcakes, but came out more like cinnamon rolls, but who can complain about that? I took parts of other recipes and kind of made some stuff up along the way as well and came up with this amazing late night/early morning baking adventure!

Here's the ingredients.

2 cups 2% milk
1 tablespoon (.5 oz) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans

½ cup butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons room temperature milk
3 cups powdered sugar

And here's the recipe, modified from this one.

Heat the milk in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for about one minute.

Add the yeast followed by the sugar, and stir to dissolve.

Now add two cups of flour and the salt and beat for a full two minutes.

Add the softened butter and eggs and beat until the mixture is well combined.

Add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, and beat thoroughly after each addition.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough for five minutes, until it has become soft and elastic.

Put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm area for 40 minutes. It will double in size. Now as I don't have a bread machine, what I did that worked really well was boil a large pot of water and put it in the oven beneath the dough that needs to rise. This kept it at a perfect temperature and was super easy!

Now turn the dough onto the counter and roll it out 1/4” thick into a rectangular shape. Use a pastry brush to spread half of the butter over the surface.

Now make the filling: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, pecans, and syrup in a large bowl.

Spread this mixture over the dough, leaving a 1” border all around.

Carefully tuck the dough over the filling and roll into a long log, starting on one of the long ends.

Cut the log into 24 pieces and place each inside one of the cups of a muffin tin lined with paper liners. I just sprayed the muffin pan with baking spray because I didn't have muffin papers.

Cover the cupcakes with a towel and let them rise in a warm place for an additional 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ยบ. Brush the remaining butter evenly on the tops of the cupcakes and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will be a light golden brown.

Make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir milk, butter, powdered sugar and maple syrup together until well blended. Drizzle this glaze over the cupcakes.

And enjoy!

They are pretty delicious, I must confess.

Another awesome achievement today, Jim and I found a house that we'll be renting at the end of July. It's wonderful, a three bedroom house really nearby the base, on a cul de sac, with a fenced back yard, deck, dog door, awesome kitchen, hardwood floors, and pretty much every single other thing that we ever wanted.

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