Sunday, January 30, 2011

Monica's Fresh Salsa

I got this recipe from Monica and have made it a couple of times for parties that we were attending. Both times it got rave reviews. I figured Monica won't post it herself (I was going to say a mean jibe about how she won't post unless the recipe has her name in it, but then I saw that she put TWO recipes on today! Way to go Monica!) Here is a little tip that I learned after the first time making it: don't cook the beans or corn. It does make a difference (even with that mess-up it still got rave reviews).

Monica's Fresh Salsa
2 Roma tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can corn
3 limes
3 avocados
3 green onions
Dice the tomatoes, avocados and green onions and put them in a large bowl. Finely chop your cilantro and throw it in, too. Pour the beans and corn in as well. Squeeze your limes into the bowl and gently stir it all together. Add enough salt that you like the saltiness of it (novel idea). Actually, all of these ingredients are to taste. If you aren't a cilantro fan, go easy on that one. If you adore avocados, add another (how's that for alliteration?). You get the idea, right? And here is what we did with the leftovers:
Oh, it was double delicious on our hamburgers the next night! We used ranch instead of ketchup and mayo and it got two thumbs up (mine and Dustin's).

Coconut Curried Chicken

James and I have always been big fans of Curry and I have finally found a recipe that I absolutely love. I adapted it from


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed, diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Large Carrots, thickly sliced
  • 3 medium potatoes, chunked


  1. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil and curry powder in a large skillet over medium-high heat for two minutes. Stir in onions and garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear.
  3. Pour coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar into the pan, and stir to combine. Add potatoes and carrots, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Something that I have learned (that may be somewhat common knowledge but was news to me) is that you need to cook the curry in the oil on its own for several minutes to let the flavors come out.


Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Get ready everyone, this is a good one. Don't just walk, run to your local grocer and buy up all the sweet potatoes you can because you will want to make these over and over again (unless of course you don't like sweet potatoes, in which case you will probably just scroll over this post really quickly).

I got these from the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I didn't actually read the book, but we were supposed to for book group last month and so the host made these dandies for us all to try. Yum.

Here you are:


2 medium sweet potatoes

1/2 onion

1 clove garlic

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp basil

1 tsp cumin

chile powder to taste

olive oil for sauté

Cut sweet potatoes into chunks, cook in steamer basket or microwave until soft, then mash. Chop and sauté garlic and onion in a large skillet. Add spices and sweet potato, mix well, adding a little water if it’s too sticky. Turn burner very low to keep warm without burning.

4 flour tortillas

4 oz. Brie or other medium soft cheese

2-3 leaves Swiss Chard (or other greens) Preheat oven to 400. Oil a large baking sheet, spread tortillas on it to lightly oil one side, then spread filling on half of each. Top with slices of Brie and shredded chard, then fold tortillas to close (oiled side out). Bake until browned and crisp (about 15 min.), cut into wedges for serving.

I changed quite a few things and it was still divine.

First, I went a little easy on the spices. However, I thought it could have used more so next time I'm going to do it as the recipe states (what a concept!).

Next, I nixed the Swiss Chard and the Brie and just went with Mozzarella because that's what I had shredded in my fridge. I know that the host who made these from book group used spinach and I'm going to try that next time I make these.

I also didn't bake mine (because my oven is currently dead) and instead I just did them one at a time on our griddle.

Did I say "Yum" yet?


The original recipe came from here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lemon Cream Cheese Pancakes

While Nicole and I were together for Christmas, we decided to try something new and exciting for breakfast. I had a couple of lemons leftover from the lemon cake I had made and so we threw together a few ingredients and ended up with these. They tasted especially yummy with powdered sugar on top. All adults loved them. All children didn't (but I wouldn't let that deter you. They were my children, after all).

Lemon Cream Cheese Pancakes
by: Carolyn and Nicole
1 1/4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 Tbsp. oil
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
4 oz. cream cheese

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender, cut the cream cheese into the flour mixture until it is little chunks (as my cookbook would say, "pea sized" chunks). Add the milk, egg, oil, lemon juice and zest of lemon and stir to combine. Don't over mix this-it will be chunky from your cream cheese-and you want it to be so that when the pancakes are cooked there is a yummy cream cheese flavor going on in each bite.
Heat your skillet and cook them up (you know how to do this, folks) and serve with powdered sugar or syrup, or if you are feeling really crazy, both!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Michelle's Magic Bars

This is my sister-in-law, Michelle's, recipe, and the whole family loves this tasty dessert.

1 cube butter
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (1 pkg)
1 cup chocolate chip cookies
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Melt butter to a liquid and stir in the crushed graham crackers.  Press this into the bottom of a greased 9" x 13" baking pan.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips (and nuts if you like them) over the top.  Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the whole pan, sprinkle the coconut over that, and then gently press the coconut into the milk.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes

Allow to cool before serving.   They're magical!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Monica suggested Pumpkin Whoopie Pies for a Thanksgiving desert this year, and they were a big hit.  I combined a few recipes I found online because I really wanted the cream cheese in the filling.

Pumpkin Cookies:
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves

Cream Cheese Filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
6 Tbsp softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
First you need to make the cookies.  Combine the oil and brown sugar, then mix in the pumpkin and eggs.  Add the remainig dry ingredients and mix well.  The consistency will be somewhere between a cake mix and what you would expect for cookies.  Drop by heaping teaspoons onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Let the cookies cool.

Next make the filling.  Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy.  Mix in the powdered sugar until will blended.

When the cookies are cool, spoon the filling onto the flat half of a cookie, and top with the flat side of another cookie.  Store in a refrigerator.  Note: I made the mistake of stacking my cookies on top of each other, and since they are moist, they did stick a little.  But they still tasted delicious!

My Favorite Pasta Salad

1 16 oz bag of Rigatoni Pasta
1 red onion
1 cucumber
2 roma tomatoes (you can use any kind of tomatoe you like, that's just usually what I grab at the store)
1 bottle Zesty Italian Dressing (it has to be Zesty!)
McCormick Salad Seasoning (or Bam It! or whatever brand you like/can find)

This salad is delicious and you can make it in 10-15 minutes.  First get the water boiling and add the noodles.  While the noodles are cooking, peel your cucumber, and cut it into small pieces. Chop your onions and chop your tomatoes. I have come to love my Pampered Chef Chopper just for this salad.  You can cut your onion into 5 or 6 chunks and have them chopped and ready in a few seconds.  I think it would smash the tomatoes though, so try that at your own risk.  Feel free to add/remove any other vegetables you'd like, but I will say this - I did not have a red onion one day but was craving this salad, and it didn't taste anywhere near as good.

When the noodles are cooked, drain and rinse in cold water until they are cool.  Add the veggies, the dressing, and as much of the dry salad seasoning as you'd like (I like quite a bit but I've never measured it).  If I'm going to leave the salad in the fridge for a while before taking it somewhere, I like to keep about 1/4 of the bottle of Italian dressing in the fridge and add it just before serving.  It seems like the salad dressing is absorbed by the pasta so that gives it back its kick.

This is not the best picture, but here's the final product.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Strawberry Cake Pops

I was given the new Bakerella cookbook by my good friend from work. It was very sweet of her and since today was her birthday, I decided what better way to pay her back then to make her something yummy to sample from the book.

I decided that these delicious strawberries would be perfect.

These are somewhat time consuming, you definitely need to plan ahead, but they are so worth it! That's an understatement. It's the most amazing bite of cake you will ever eat! Promise.

Strawberry Patch Pops

Ingredients and materials needed:
this is a slightly adapted recipe than the one in the cookbook

1 cake mix, your choice of flavor
1 tub of frosting that pairs well with the cake flavor
1 bag of red candy melts
1 bag of green candy melts (or enough white chocolate with green food coloring to make the green tops)
2 microwave-safe bowls
48 paper lollipop sticks
White sugar pearls
Styrofoam block
Large squeeze bottle or plastic bag
Wax paper
Baking sheet
Green Sour Punch Straws (optional)

Preface: If you want to make less cake pops at a time, like I did, you can actually cut the cake into sections and freeze the leftover sections until ready to use. Just let thaw out before crumbling. Make sure to portion everything else appropriately. I used a quarter of the cake and made 13 cake pops.

Step 1: Choose 1 box of cake mix and 1 tub of frosting to your liking. I chose a Golden Butter cake mix paired with Funfetti frosting. Bake the cake as directed and let cool completely. With a fork, gently crumble entire cake into fine crumbs. Mix tub of frosting in with cake thoroughly until it can be easily molded.

Step 2: With your hands, mold cake balls into the shape of strawberries. Place on wax paper on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator until they are firm enough to dip.

Step 3: Melt green candy melts, or melt white chocolate and add green food coloring (do not add food coloring to candy melts! It does not work, I found out the hard way). Pour into a squeeze bottle or plastic bag. If you use a plastic bag, snip a very small portion of the corner to squeeze the chocolate through. Squeeze flower shapes onto wax paper and place in fridge until hardened.

Step 4: When you are ready to dip, melt red candy melts in a tall, skinny bowl. Get white sugar pearls ready to grab. Get a lollipop stick and dip about an inch of it into the candy melts, then stick it into the bottom of a cake ball. Remember to do this next part quickly. It took me one time to get it right, so I had one casualty, but it tasted delicious.

Back to the dipping. Dip the cake ball down into the candy melt and pull it back up quickly or the cake ball might fall off the stick. Very gently tap the wrist of the hand holding the stick to remove excess chocolate white turning the cake ball slowly. This way the chocolate will coat the cake ball evenly. Use your finger to wipe off the chocolate at the base of the cake ball as you spin it around.

Before it dries, stick the sugar pearls in the chocolate as you continue to slowly turn the cake ball to make it look like a strawberry. Stick the cake ball in a Styrofoam block to dry completely. Any excess chocolate can just drip off onto the block.

Step 5: Using a small dab of the red candy melt, stick the green tops onto the cake pops and let dry.

If you can help it, don't eat them all at once. Take time to savor the deliciousness!

If you want to give them away as gifts or store them for later, just wrap them in plastic wrap and tie with ribbon.

Thank you, thank you Brynne for my wonderful gift. It inspired me to make such delicious and exciting treats! I don't know if I can accurately describe how delectable these were!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken with Potatoes and Butternut Squash

I had half of my butternut squash left over the other night and tried to find a recipe that used it well (and truth be told, used it in a way that my husband might eat it). I found so many delicious-looking recipes that I now want to try, but this one seemed simple and yummy. I adapted it a little and we loved it! If you're a fan of butternut squash (or even if you aren't) this recipe is worth trying. It's easy enough to be a great weeknight recipe.

Chicken with Potatoes and Butternut Squash
adapted from myrecipes


  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
  • Cooking spray
  • 4-6 potatoes, cut into wedges
  • ½ butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine potatoes, squash, butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to coat evenly. Pour into a 9X13 baking dish, leaving space in the center for chicken. Bake uncovered at 400° for approximately 20 minutes before adding chicken to the center of the dish.

3. While vegetables are cooking, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic (or to your liking), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Add chicken and lime juice and stir to coat evenly. After 20 minutes, pull veggies out of oven and place chicken in the center of the dish. While adding chicken, lightly brush vegetables with olive oil. Cook an additional 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are soft.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Key Lime Cheesecake

and yes, it is as amazing as it sounds. This is, supposedly, a Cheesecake Factory recipe. It's good enough to be a $47 cheesecake (yes, I looked it up). This costs under $10 for sure, and it's perfect. Creamy, thick, rich, I can't stop eating it.

The Cheesecake Factory Key Lime Cheesecake

1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup sugar
3 x 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 tspn vanilla
½ cup fresh lime juice, about 5 limes worth (If using key limes or juice, use half as much)
3 eggs
whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine crumbs, butter and 1 tbsp sugar in a bowl. Stir well to coat all crumbs. Keep it crumbly.

When the crumb mixture seems ready, press the crumbs onto the bottom and half way up the sides of an 8" springform pan. Then, place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Do not turn off the oven.

In large bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla. Mix with electric mixer until smooth. Add the lime juice and eggs and continue to beat till smooth and creamy. Once ready, pour filling into crust.

Place the pie in the oven and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. If top is turning light brown, then the pie is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until room temperature. Then, put the pie into the refrigerator to chill.

Once chilled, remove the pan sides and cut. Serve with whipped cream.