Monday, July 26, 2010

Chicken Salad - Mexican Style

Another find from foodgawker - this delicious chicken salad is awesome with a bowl of tortilla chips. My kids decided they weren't fans of it, however, until I put it in between tortillas, added a bit more shredded cheese, and made quesadillas.....then they loved it! This combination would also be yummy made into taquitos.

I just love simple recipes that can be used in different ways.

Recipe: (adapted from One Lovely Life)

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or diced*
1 (14.5oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 (4oz) can green chiles (don't drain)
1 c shredded Colby Jack cheese
1/3 c low-fat sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt (I used sour cream)
1/3 c light mayonnaise
2 Tbsp (1/2 package) taco seasoning
juice of 1 lime
other: tortilla chips, lime wedges, olive slices to serve

In a large bowl combine cooked chicken, black beans, green chiles, and cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, taco seasoning and lime juice. Combine well.

Serve with tortilla chips and garnish with lime wedges and/or sliced olives.

*I roasted the chicken breasts brushed with olive oil & sprinkled with salt and pepper at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

Okay, so this is called Loaded Baked Potato Salad, but I didn't actually bake the potatoes. You CAN, of course, but I didn't have the time. I think the whole point is for the end result to taste similar to a loaded baked potato. I thought it really did...even with the boiled potatoes!

I made this for our Independence Day barbecue and absolutely loved it. Grant even enjoyed it, and he normally won't eat potato salad, or anything with mayo in it, for that matter. All of our guests thought it was delicious as well. I did make a few minor adjustments to how this is written, as my potatoes were small and I used a bunch of them, so I just increased the amount of mayo a bit (I ran out of sour cream) to get the proper consistency and I ended up using a whole pound of regular (not thick-cut) bacon. Adjust things as you see fit. Enjoy!

Recipe: (adapted from evil shenanigans)

4 large russet potatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/2 cup sour cream (again, light is fine)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped chives, divided
8 strips bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
salt and pepper

Peel and cube the potatoes. Cook in salted water until fork-tender. Drain and cool.

Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add 3/4 of the chives, salt, and pepper. Fold in cheese and bacon. Chill for 30 minutes (if you have the time....I didn't, and it worked out just fine).
Fold the cooked potatoes into the dressing and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with remaining chives and bacon, if desired.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ellia - 8 months old

Today my sweet baby is 8 months old.

She's learning how to clap, she's almost crawling, definitely scooting, still doesn't like solid foods a single bit.

She's 100% precious......

her slobbery kisses priceless....

her smile and laugh contagious.

♥ I love her beyond words. ♥

French Bread

I recently made this bread to go with the French Onion Salisbury Steak, but I have made it several times over the past few years for other meals as well. It is just a basic, simple dough, nothing complicated about it. It yields two nice loaves, with great flavor and texture that is versatile enough to accompany a variety of dishes. I had a few slices leftover that were delicious just broiled with some sharp cheddar cheese for a few minutes.

I forgot to take pictures until we had already nearly eaten the first loaf, which was the prettier one, but that's just the way it goes.

Recipe: (adapted from Allrecipes)

1-3/4 c. warm water (110-115°F)
1 dry yeast
1 T.sugar
1-1/2 t. salt
2 T. olive oil
5 c. all-purpose flour (I used part whole wheat, 3 cups)
1 T. milk (for brushing on top)
Sesame seeds (optional)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water in a large mixing bowl. Add salt and olive oil. Add flour slowly and mix until well combined. If using a dough hook, mix for 6-8 minutes.....if not, knead by hand for 6-8 minutes. Put in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel or greased wax paper and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Roll each portion into a 12-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal.
Sprinkle a greased baking sheet with cornmeal if desired (I left out the cornmeal); place loaves seam side down on prepared pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 minutes.
Brush milk over loaves. With a sharp knife, make four shallow slashes across the top of each loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Note: If you toss a few ice cubes in the oven while the bread is baking, the steam will help create a crisp crust while leaving the inside nice and tender. You can do this several times during the baking period if you want.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

French Onion Salisbury Steak

This was a remarkably popular dish at my house. When I found the recipe initially, I thought it sounded fabulous and couldn't wait to try it out, but I wasn't sure what the reactions from the peanut gallery would be. I modified it a bit from the original, just based on personal preference and what I had on hand.

My family ate the cheese toasts (made without the swiss cheese) on the side, as we don't really do soggy bread. You just do whatever suits your fancy.

I could hardly believe my kids clamoring for seconds on the meat. They avoided the onions for the most part, but they just couldn't get enough of those turkey patties. I guess I'll be making extras of those next time. And I don't mind eating their onions. They were delicious!

(Adapted from Nutmeg Nanny)

French Onion Salisbury Steak:
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (I used homemade whole wheat)
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley – minced
1 T. minced dried onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups onions – sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon garlic – minced
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 t. flour
2 cups beef broth
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Optional garnishes:
4 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
4 teaspoon Parmesan cheese – shredded

Cheese Toasts:
4 slices French bread or baguette – cut diagonally (1/2″ thick)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter – softened
1/2 teaspoon garlic – minced
Pinch of paprika
1/4 cup Swiss cheese – grated
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese – grated

Combine meat, breadcrumbs, egg, basil, minced onion, salt and pepper. Divide evenly into desired number of patties. I made 9 smallish ones. Place 2 tablespoons flour in a shallow dish; dredge each patty in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add patties and saute 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from pan.

Add onions and sugar to pan; saute 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and ketchup; saute 1 minute, or until paste begins to brown. Sprinkle onions with reserved flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth then add the salt and thyme.

Return meat to pan and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Serve steaks on Cheese Toasts with onion soup ladled over. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan if desired.

For the Cheese Toasts

Preheat oven to 400ยบ F.

Place bread on baking sheet.

Combine butter, garlic and paprika and spread on one side of each slice of bread. Combine cheeses and sprinkle evenly over butter. Bake until bread is crisp and cheese is bubbly, 10-15 minutes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mandarin Orange Pineapple Cake

If you're looking for a light and fresh, summery, delightfully cool and sweet dessert, this is a great option. I made it for our small group, and everyone except for Grant (my die-hard chocolate loving husband) thought it was great. It is so easy and quick, wonderful to make ahead (even better, perhaps, if made a day in advance), and just makes your mouth happy. I'm not kidding!

The original recipe called for a cup of oil and 4 eggs - you could make it that way, I suppose, but why? The applesauce is an outstanding substitute for the oil, making the cake so much lower in fat and still luciously moist. I can't imagine why you would need 4 turned out perfectly with 3.

Recipe: (adapted from Allrecipes)

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin orange segments, undrained
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
additional can of mandarin oranges for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 13 x 9" pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, applesauce, and oranges with juice. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean.

Cool completely.

To make the topping: Drain at least 1/4 cup of juice from pineapple. Mix dry pudding mix with the pineapple well and allow to sit for a few minutes. If you want to add some of the reserved juice, you can, just be careful not to add too much or the frosting will be too liquidy. Fold in whipped topping until incorporated. Spread on top of cake and chill until serving.

Excellent made a day ahead - the cake is best if cold. Toasted sweetened coconut would be an excellent addition for the topping, if desired.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy

My grandma used to make a delicious, fabulous, knock-your-socks-off chocolate syrup that we normally ate over homemade vanilla ice-cream, but occasionally we would really go wild and eat it over biscuits. Fresh, from scratch biscuits hot from the oven. Talk about a decadent breakfast! Except when you eat it over biscuits, it becomes Chocolate Gravy, not syrup, so you don't feel quite so bad eating it in the morning.

As if you need to feel bad eating chocolate at any time of the day. Ha!

Well, when I saw a different recipe for Chocolate Gravy on foodgawker not too long ago, I favorited it and determined to make it sometime.

That sometime came last Saturday.
We usually eat pancakes or waffles for breakfast on Saturday....but Grant had made a double batch the previous weekend and I had been eating leftovers for about four days during the week and I was simply pancaked out.

Aha! This was my chance! I could be a rebel against the tradition and serve my family chocolate for their morning fare!

Truth be told, I don't particularly like making biscuits. It's the cutting in of the butter. I do have a pastry blender, which I dutifully use, but I just am never satisfied with the job it (I) does and the biscuits never fail to be a bit of a disappointment. This time was no different. So I will not post the biscuit recipe. Canned biscuits would be fine anyways. :)

But on to the gravy, the real reason for this post.


I loved it....the family loved it. It was just a delightful way to start the day, and I'm sure it would be wonderful on ice-cream or pancakes or as a dipping sauce for strawberries.

I actually cooked it a bit too long (I let it boil for probably 3 minutes) to make sure it thickened up....and while it was hot, it was a very thick gravy for the biscuits, by the time it cooled, it was more like chocolate pudding. Not exactly the best for drizzling on stuff, but just great for eating straight out of the bowl! Hey, if it's pudding, you're "supposed" to eat it out of the bowl, right?

So next time I'm wanting gravy, I'll just bring it to a boil and then remove it from the heat. I think that will suffice.

Recipe - from Natalie's Killer Cuisine

1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 T butter
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt

In a heavy saucepan turn heat to high and combine sugar and milk. Sift in flour and cocoa and whisk until smooth.
Whisk constantly with mixture on medium high heat. It will boil and thicken like gravy, around 5 – 10 minutes.
When sauce is thick turn the heat off and add butter, cinnamon and salt. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately over biscuits.

This post is linked to Finding Joy in My Kitchen's Countdown to 2011: Breakfast.  Check it out for lots of yummy breakfast fare!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Burgers and Fries"

Little sliders with french fries? Cute, but not a very filling meal.

Look again.

It's not dinner, it's dessert!
When I saw these on Bakerella's site, I knew I HAD to make them. They are so irresistibly cute! Our guests for our cook-out loved them, but probably nobody loved them as much as Grant. He's totally a burger and fries type of you give it to him in dessert form, he's a happy man.

As far as the recipe goes, you can take the long route and make everything from scratch, including the cupcakes, brownies, frosting, and cookies, or you can use mixes to speed up the process a little.

Here's what I did.

Brownies - 1 family size (13 x 9" pan) mix, made as directed on box with 2 eggs. Line pan with foil and grease the foil. Bake as directed - do not overbake! Cool completely. Lift brownies out with foil and turn onto a cutting board. Use a 2" round cutter to cut out as many circles as you can.

Vanilla cupcakes - from a mix, bake as directed substituting milk for the water and making 22-24 cupcakes. Cool completely. Cut in half for buns. (Note: I made 21 cupcakes with my batter, and they turned out a little thicker than I needed. I ended up trimming a little out of the center of each one so the buns wouldn't look so thick)

Frosting - from scratch....blend the following together well: (You can also use 1 16 oz can of frosting if you don't want to make it)
2 sticks softened butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract
Divide into 3 bowls, with 1 section slightly more than the others. Tint that one green. Tint the other two yellow and red. I used Wilton colors....and added a touch of violet to the red to make it a deeper color.

Sugar cookies (fries) from this recipe (You could also use a mix to make these)

It's pretty easy.....after letting the dough chill an hour or so, roll it out and just cut strips with a knife or pizza cutter. Don't worry about making them all the same size....fries aren't all identical or symmetrical anyways.

Note 1: my longer fries tended to break in half when I removed them from the baking sheet or rolled them in sugar, so I learned to not make them more than finger-length to begin with.

Note 2: Don't be cheap like I was and not use parchment paper underneath the cookies. It would have made my life SO much easier.

After baking, if some of them seem too wide (like huge steak fries), just cut them in half lengthwise while still warm.

Roll each strip in a bowl of granulated sugar while still warm and it will stay on there really well.

Now for the packaging. Bakerella did a fantastic job in creating templates for all that you need, although it was originally for Father's Day. You can download the 4-page pdf (636 KB) here if you want it. I printed out the trays on cardstock and the blank outlines of the fries packages (page 4 of the pdf) just on regular paper, although she recommended vellum. Well, Wal-Mart doesn't carry vellum. I found that regular paper works just fine. Obviously, I didn't want the Father's Day tissue paper she used, so I just bought some blue tissue paper and called it a day.

Here are a couple of pictures showing how to cut out the tray outline. I was a bit confused by it at first so Grant figured it out for me. You will have to use tape to hold it together.

From start to finish.

Here is the set table, with a dessert tray at each seat.

A better look at dessert!

Obviously, you could make these for other occasions, like April Fool's Day, birthdays, Memorial Day, or pretty much whenever you want. They're tons of fun and delicious to boot. Just a bit time-consuming, since there are so many steps. But the smiles they bring make it all worth it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

I made these when my in-laws were visiting a few weeks ago and everyone just loved them, including the kids. They're delightfully crispy and slightly salty on the outside without a bit of grease, and the filling is mild, fresh and will fill you up without being too heavy.

The method of baking the taquitos is perfect, and you can adjust the filling to whatever you can imagine! There is a variation, which I think we might have even liked better, at the end of the post. I didn't take photos of that one. We were just too hungry!

Reheating leftovers in the oven is crucial....just stick them on a pan in the oven, turn it on to 350°, and by the time it's preheated, they'll be just about ready!

Recipe: (makes about 8 - I double this for my family to enjoy leftovers!)
adapted from Pennies on a Platter

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup green salsa
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half a lime)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro (or 1 T. dried)
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
small flour or corn tortillas (I used flour)
kosher salt
cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425˚F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, ground cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic. Once combined, stir in the cilantro and green onions. Add the chicken and cheese; mix thoroughly.
(If you decided to prep this in advance, refrigerate the mixture at this point until ready to continue.)
Working with a few tortillas at a time, heat them in the microwave between two paper towels until they are soft enough to roll (about 20 – 30 seconds).
Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla as tightly as you can.
Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas until the mixture is gone. Make sure the taquitos are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.


1 lb. ground turkey or beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package of taco seasoning or homemade variety
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed OR 1 can refried beans
shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese

Brown ground turkey with onion until done. Drain if desired. Add taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add beans and stir to heat through.
Fill tortillas with a few tablespoons of mixture and top with cheese before rolling and placing on pan as described above.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacomole, and sour cream if desired.

Linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap: Cheese

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nine Years and Counting....

Nine years ago today, on a sweltering, 100°+ and humid Sunday afternoon, Grant and I wed in a lovely chapel in Fort Campbell, KY. We actually married on the TN side of Fort Campbell....but that's really irrelevant, I suppose.

It was a day full of a wide range of emotions, from nervousness about details working out (oh, the little catastrophes we averted!) and delight at seeing friends and family who had travelled far to see our nuptials, to the sheer excitement of getting married, and also twinged with sadness over Grant's ill grandmother out in California (who passed away the next day).

Hmmm......thinking about those catastrophes......let's reminisce about some of them.

  • One of my bridesmaids, Gwen, had flown out to Nashville from Tulsa, late Friday night. The airline had put one of her pieces of luggage on the wrong plane, and she had forgotten the other piece, ironically, the one with her bridesmaid dress in it. Her friend had frantically driven it back to Tulsa after realizing she had left it and it was supposed to be coming on another plane. Since the airline had messed up her other luggage, they agreed to deliver both pieces once they arrived to Clarksville where we lived, 1 hour away. We were expecting the delivery on Saturday evening, (wedding on Sun. afternoon, mind you) and it didn't come until around 3:00 am on Sunday. Yeah, we were a bit on edge about that one! But it all ended up okay.

  • We had arranged to rent sabers for the soldiers to hold over us in an arch as we exited the church....apparently there was a wedding at the chapel on Saturday that also used the sabers and somehow they didn't return 2 of them, so we were 2 short. Grant had to make a last minute rush to a military supply store and purchase 2 sabers (spending over $150) to use for the wedding.....and then returned them the next day (the store manager was fine with us doing this).

  • I went to the florist on post to pick up the flowers for the top of the cake - some gorgeous star-gazer lilies. As I left the building, a gust of wind blew the top off the box and the flowers onto the ground before I could even react - and the crown flower was a heap of petals on the ground, about to blow away. I was so stunned, I couldn't even cry. I just gathered up the petals, took them to the reception hall, handed them to the caterer and told her to have the cake lady fix it somehow. She assured me it would be just fine. And it was.

There were other glitches here and there, but the point of the day was achieved....we were married! And blissfully happy.

I had no idea then how much we could grow in our love for one another. I honestly thought I had reached the max, full capacity for how much I could love someone. I just didn't know.

The journey is still young, we have many roads ahead of us and lots of life to live, if God so wills, and I am so grateful for the blessing of my husband, my Grant, each and every day.

Happy Anniversary, my Love!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I discovered this recipe in my local newspaper a few years ago and made them for my small group. They were a huge hit, but somehow I managed to forget all about them until yesterday. I was trying to think of a quick dessert to throw together for some friends and these popped into my head. I searched for the newspaper clipping and there was great rejoicing when I found it.

What I love about this recipe is that you make it in one bowl, you don't have to worry about softening the butter, it goes together in just a few minutes and best of all, they're delicious!

One little quirk about the recipe is that the eggs go in at the end, which is counterintuitive for experienced bakers. The author's reasoning for this is that by then the batter has cooled enough so as not to "cook" the eggs. Not scientific, by any means, but the end result is worth it!


2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 lb (2 cups firmly packed) light brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour (I use white whole wheat, you can also use all-purpose)
2 large eggs
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

To get the proper texture, don't use an electric mixer. You don't need to sift the flour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 13 x 9" pan well with butter. Set aside.

Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add the baking powder, salt, and vanilla, stirring until completely incorporated. Stir in the flour, again stirring until well-mixed. The batter will be very stiff.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them well with a fork or whisk. Add the eggs to the batter and stir with a spoon until they are completely incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips (and the nuts, if using).

Spread the batter in the greased pan. The batter will be stiff and sticky. Don't worry about getting it perfectly even; it will spread as it bakes.

Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until the top begins to get golden brown and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake!

Cool for at least 20 minutes and cut into small squares. Store in an airtight container or cover well with plastic wrap.

These bars freeze very well and improve in flavor after the first day.

Yield: Makes 2 dozen
Approximate values per blondie (if made with all-purpose flour): 216 calories, 10 g. fat, 38 mg. cholesterol, 2 g. protein, 31 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. fiber, 59 mg. sodium

Monday, July 5, 2010

Caramel Filled Cookies

Can I just say "YUM"! Caramel and chocolate are a timeless combination, and with a little crunch of added sugar on the outside of the cookie, these are just hard to beat.

Note: The dough requires chilling time! I forgot to check for that and ended up having to stick it in the freezer for 30 worked, but I would prefer the refrigeration method. So plan ahead!

Recipe: adapted from Open Mouth Insert Cookie

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
48 Rolos (or substitute peanut butter cups or plain caramels)
Additional sugar, for rolling (optional)

Sift together the flours, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the butter and sugars, beat until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating the first before adding the second. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Scrape dough into a plastic bag and chill for at least 2 hours.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Divide the dough into quarters, and work with one section at a time. Divide a quarter into 12 equal pieces of dough. Make sure you have unwrapped all the foil from your Rolos! Shape each piece of dough around a Rolo so that it is completely covered, and then roll between your palms back into a ball. Roll the cookie in additional granulated sugar, if desired, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, sugared side up. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until the tops are firm and cookies are set, approximately 12 minutes. If you feel like the cookies are a bit too puffy looking you can press them down a bit right after they come out of the oven, but don't push too hard! You don't want to squish the caramel out. Let sit on the pan for a few minutes, and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 48 delicious cookies!
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