Saturday, October 10, 2009

Homemade Brownie Bliss

While out grocery shopping, I walked a little to slowly through the baking section, giving me the opportunity to spot some walnut brownies with cream cheese frosting. They miraculously jumped into my cart! They were just too addicting, and a few days later, I found myself craving them again. So instead of buying more, I decided to try a homemade version...and they were even better.

I combined a couple of recipes, and ended up with with a fudgy-textured brownie topped with a smooth cream cheese frosting. I prepared this for a tailgate at a friend's house, at which we enjoyed plenty of delicious food, including Broccoli Slaw. This was a unique & healthy side dish that is a wonderful alternative to the regular old potato or pasta salad. I'll definitely be making this dish around my house, and be sure to browse the rest of Erin's blog for more delicious dishes!

Cocoa Brownies
Food Network/Alton Brown

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 16 brownies


Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. My brownies were not even close being done at this point - they needed about 55-60 minutes. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Cooking Light

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, toasted

To prepare the frosting, beat the powdered sugar, chilled cream cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla at medium speed of a mixer just until blended (do not overbeat). Spread frosting over cupcakes, and sprinkle with toasted walnuts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Got Pumpkin?

For many across the country...the answer could very well be "no". There is an unfortunate pumpkin shortage in some took me three stores to find some...but it was worth it! I've made more than a couple of trips to Starbucks to enjoy a pumpkin latte & pumpkin loaf - but that can get a "little" costly. So I've improvised and made an awesome pumpkin bread and bought some pumpkin creamer...not the same, but it'll do :)

This recipe is not exactly healthy, but it is one of the better pumpkin baked goods that I've made. The recipe makes two loaves, which is perfect considering the hubby and I practically devoured the first one.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 5 Minutes
Servings: 24
"Spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, this bread improves with age, so plan to make it a day ahead if possible."

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.

2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cottage Cheese - It's Worth Another Look

I just love making baked pasta - it takes only a little effort and the oven does all the work. I often make these types of dishes for when we have company, it makes cooking for a small crowd much easier and less stressful. Even when it's just the hubby and I, we love the ease of cooking once and eating many times.

This particular recipe was delicious, rich and cheesy. I have been reluctant to try recipes with cottage cheese until now, as it is not one of my favorite foods - but it is a healthy addition to my diet while pregnant. So I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor, texture and added creaminess (and nutrition too!). I hope to continue to broaden my horizons and try new recipes with cottage cheese - if you have a favorite, leave me a comment on any suggestions!

Baked Ziti
Seen on Annie's Eats; adapted from Cook's Illustrated March & April 2009


1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups),divided
Table salt
1 lb. ziti
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
20 oz. turkey Italian sausage I used ground sirloin
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned. Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream. Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My AM Kickstart

Since becoming pregnant, I've been eating much more fruit, including dried fruit. I usually have dried cranberries on hand, as well as oranges, and I absolutely loved the flavor of the lemon accent in my Lemon-Blueberry Muffins. So after a brief search, I settled on these muffins - the cranberry & orange flavors were great together, and they were pretty light too - a lot of the sweetness comes from the cranberries - making them perfect for breakfast. I've also really limited my caffeine, so these muffins add a great burst to my mornings when coffee isn't an option :)

Cranberry- Orange Muffins


1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temp
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping muffins, if desired I left this out
2 large eggs, at room temp
1/2 cup milk


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan, bring just to a simmer over med. heat. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool and plump.

Line 12-muffin tin with paper liners or lightly brush with butter. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or with a hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream butter, orange zest, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tins and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in the pan on a rack.

Is This Really Light Mexican?

It sure didn't taste light...this was a creamy & cheesy casserole that tasted sinful, but really wasn't. I find casseroles are difficult to get a great photograph of, so excuse the less than flattering picture. But it was a delicious, easy weeknight meal that also tasted great the next day.

Mexican Chicken Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, divided I omitted the chiles and used 3 jalapenos, minced and divided - I have TONS from my garden!
1 3/4 pounds skinned, boned chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup evaporated skim milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces) tub-style light cream cheese
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 ounce tortilla chips, crushed (about 6 chips) I used Lime flavored tortilla chips
I rubbed a little salt, pepper, cumin & chili powder on the chicken and covered in the fridge for 20 minutes before cooking it, and added 2 cloves of smashed garlic to the cooking liquid
I added one can of drained & rinsed black beans when adding the enchilada sauce

Combine broth and 1 can of chiles in a large skillet; bring to a boil. Add chicken; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is done, turning chicken once. Remove chicken from cooking liquid, reserving cooking liquid; cool chicken. Shred meat with two forks, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 can of chiles and onion; sauté 3 minutes or until soft. Add reserved cooking liquid, milk, Monterey Jack, cream cheese, and enchilada sauce; stir well. Stir in shredded chicken; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place 4 tortillas in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Spoon 2 cups chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers twice, ending with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chips. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)CALORIES 369 (28% from fat); FAT 11.4g (sat 5g,mono 3.8g,poly 1.4g); IRON 2.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 79mg; CALCIUM 360mg; CARBOHYDRATE 31.3g; SODIUM 479mg; PROTEIN 35.6g; FIBER 3g

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Homemade Home Fries

A little tired of the same old Sunday morning scrambled eggs & toast that we always seem to make, I thought home fries would be a nice change of pace. I've only ever had them at restaurants, but after coming across this recipe, they looked easy enough - and they were. There are endless possibilities that you can experiment with to jazz up the basic recipe, we'll definitely be making these for future weekend breakfasts.

Home Fries
Seen & adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Loosely adapted from Cook's Country

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
I added 1/2 large green bell pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning of your choice: I added some salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika in the last 5-8 minutes of cooking

1. Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl, top with 1 tablespoon butter, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking bowl (without removing plastic) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in large regular or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add
potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Three Reasons For My Blogging Laziness...

....I am having triplets - 2 girls & a boy! Many of my readers already know....but I thought I'd share a couple of ultrasound pictures. I guess it's not really an excuse for being a slacker on my blog....and while my pregnancy has gone pretty well so far, my appetite has decreased (go figure!), making it more difficult to make and try new meals. I do have a few blog entries to catch up on, hopefully they'll be up in the next couple of days.