Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sugar Coma

I haven't felt much inclined to post anything here since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes just before Thanksgiving. To me, the holidays are all about baking, which I really can't do much of if I want to keep my blood sugar level steady. That whole "bake for other people idea"? Yeah, doesn't work for me. :) Can it be March yet? I need me some sugar!

My grandma's annual Christmas party, however, gave me an opportunity to bake! I was told to bring a dozen cupcakes for the cupcake exchange. Here are my little beauties:

And okay, yes, I cheated a little and ate a couple of these. I can't be good all the time! Wouldn't you have done the same?

We all ate cupcakes to our heart's content, and then everyone got to take home a box of whatever was left (I was good here...no leftover cupcakes for me!)

I got the recipe for mine from Kraft Kitchens, which is always kind of hit-and-miss for me. Some of their stuff becomes a household necessity, others tend to be a waste of ingredients. These fell into the former category, fortunately! I thought that putting some of the crushed candy canes into the batter itself was a weird idea, but it turned out to be genius! Instead of remaining crunchy, they melt and impart a slightly minty flavor to the cupcake itself. Yum! These were also super-moist, a must for me on any cupcake. I used chocolate chips instead of chocolate squares because that's what I had on hand. And real buttercream frosting instead of Cool Whip. Sorry, Cool Whip. You have your place, but it is not here.

Chocolate-Candy Cane Cupcakes

5 squares semi-sweet chocolate, divided
1 pkg. chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. water
6 small candy canes, crushed, divided
1 tub Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed

Heat oven to 350°F. Chop 4 chocolate squares; set aside. Beat cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, oil and water with mixer on low speed until moistened. Beat on medium speed 2 min. Stir in chopped chocolate and 2 Tbsp. candy. Spoon into 30 paper-lined 2-1/2-inch muffin cups.

Bake 20 to 23 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool completely.

Frost cupcakes with Cool Whip. Melt remaining chocolate; drizzle over cupcakes. Top with remaining candy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dinner Party

Recently I had a dinner party with two of my dear friends and their husbands. I was in charge of appetizers, drinks, and dessert, while my friend Erin cooked our main dish and side (chicken and asparagus alfredo pasta with acorn squash...oh so heavenly! I hope she'll post the recipe soon, hint hint Erin).

For the drink, we mixed equal parts cherry juice (actually cherry grape, since I couldn't find it pure) and ginger ale and popped in frozen cherries as a garnish. Quick, refreshing, and delicious!

For the appetizer, we had Prosciutto Pinwheels, which I found here after browsing my beloved foodgawker for ideas.

So easy! Puff pastry, dijon mustard, parmesan cheese, and prosciutto (or thinly sliced deli ham in my case, since there was no prosciutto to be found that day). I assembled them at home and took them to our Angie's (our hostess's) house to bake. And maybe it's just because I'm pregnant and weird, but I seriously had a hard time not shoving them in raw on the way over in the car. Even unbaked they smelled divine!

I followed the instructions exactly, except they took longer to bake than it said they would. And even with the 3 or 4 extra minutes I added, they still could've used a bit longer to crisp up even more; the pastry puff dough was slightly raw in places. Though no one complained. We were too busy gobbling them up! :)

Finally, for dessert we had the very simple but oh-so-yummy Blushing Apples, a long-time favorite of mine from Kraft Kitchens. We sliced the apples so they would be easier to cut into and take less time to cook, and used real whipped cream instead of cool whip. Mmmmm. Angie put the leftover jell-o in a dish in her fridge for her family to eat later, and she tells me her daughter especially loved it.

It was so fun to have a dinner with several courses and such good company. We'll have to do it again soon, girls!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Corn Dogs

If that doesn't establish my non-food-snobbery, nothing will. Corn dogs, people. I made homemade corn dogs. Well, I didn't make the dogs themselves, of course. But you know what I mean. And oh my, were they DEE-licious! Even if they were kind of misshapen.

And you see that little bit sticking off near the top? After I took the photo, I ate it! So there!

I love these little suckers anyway, but this variety have now captured my heart above any other kind of corn dog. They were so delightfully crispy on the outside and just a teeny bit soft (not soggy) on the inside.

Thanks to my friend Julie, who submitted this recipe to our ward cookbook a few years ago! I didn't have a fondue pot that would work for this purpose, so I just filled a deep saucepan with oil and turned the corn dogs halfway through cooking. Very easy! I also only made a third of the recipe, since only the hubs and I would be eating them (please don't ask me to explain how I thirded an egg. Thank you). :)

12 hot dogs
1/2 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 c. milk
1 egg

Mix all ingredients except hot dogs. Cut the hot dogs into half pieces if desired, and dry on paper towels. Heat oil in fondue pot to 350. Dip hot dogs in batter until covered. Fry until golden brown.

They look kinda like twinkies, don't they?

I didn't add the sticks (which were actually kabob skewers, all I had on hand) until the end, since they wouldn't fit in the frying pan that way. And frankly, if you don't mind getting a little grease on your fingers, you really don't need them.

If you are a lover of fried things, please make these for dinner sometime. And serve them with tots, so I won't be the only extremely gourmet one around here. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cheese Slicer

"A whole post dedicated to a cheese slicer?" you ask. Oh yes. Oh yes indeedy do. Firstly, for those who don't know, I recently moved and have not had a lot of time to photograph recipes and post them here. They will be coming soon. Our summer veggie meal is still (probably) in the works. Secondly, and most importantly, I think I'm in love with my cheese slicer. I'm afraid I may wax rhapsodic....and long-winded. :)

To fully appreciate my feelings, we have to go back several years to when I first moved out of my parents' home. They had a cheese slicer that worked wonderfully, but they wouldn't allow me to take it to college. Misers. :) Thus began my quest to find one of my own.

You'd think this would be a simple task. After all, cheese slicers abound in this world of ours. I tried several of the cheaper ones and kept being disappointed. They cut the cheese too thin, or they wouldn't stay in the cheese and sliced my fingers instead. It was incredibly frustrating. Why couldn't any of these stupid tools do what they were supposed to? It was so simple!

Finally, a couple of years ago, my mom took pity on me and bought me a more expensive fancy-shmancy adjustable-thickness cheese plane from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I was thrilled! This thing had a dial, and a soft handle, plus it was relatively pricey, so it had to work, right? WRONG. I encountered all of the same problems that I had before, plus the dial that adjusts the thickness broke on its third use.

I had given up, and resolved to cut my cheese with a paring knife until the end of my days. And then, something beautiful happened. They opened up an Ikea store a mere half hour from my home. I went to investigate the new store and loved it, of course. As we were walking through the kitchen section, I happened to notice a cheese slicer. There was nothing to mark it as impressive, but, more out of habit than anything, I grabbed it and tossed it in my cart. The name on it was "Smaka," which was about what I felt like doing to my head at this point in my cheese slicer quest, so I thought it fitting. :)

When we got home, I pulled out the cheese and tried out my new slicer. And...and...I couldn't believe it, but it worked! It had to be a fluke. I tried again. Another perfect slice! I was finally triumphant! And the thing had only been five bucks! Impossible!

I'm sure this story doesn't rock your world quite as much as it did mine, but I am a cheese person, okay? I would pick a chunk of cheddar over a cupcake any time. My cheese slicer gets used every single dang day. And that is probably why I have love handles. :)

Click here if you could use a few more perfect slices of cheese in your life.

I love you, cheese slicer. Never ever leave me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chicken Taco Pie

Okay, I know that's not the greatest photo, but it's all you're getting. Because when I made this dish, I was hungry. I couldn't take time to be bothered with details when I was busy shoving this in as quickly as possible! :)

Despite it's disguise as a boring cheese-topped casserole, this stuff is awesome! My mom made this for us all the time as kids. It goes over wonderfully with picky eaters (I'm sorry, mom. I've changed, I promise) and even normal people too! Tasty, easy, and pleasing. What more could you ask for?

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken (this was about 7-8 breast tenders for me)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. dried onion
2 t. taco seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 small corn tortillas
jack or cheddar cheese

Mix seasonings, soup, and sour cream in a small saucepan. Heat until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Add chicken. Spray 2-quart baking dish, then cover the bottom with torn-up pieces of tortilla. Spread the chicken mixture over this. Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350 until hot and bubbly (about 20 minutes). Sprinkle crushed corn chips on top of individual servings, or use whole corn chips to scoop it up.

My mom likes to serve it on a bed of shredded lettuce to add some veggies, but I will have my salad on the side, thank you. :) This recipe is also adapted to my small family. My mom will usually triple the recipe and put it in a 9x13, making several layers of torn tortillas and the chicken stuff. Great for a crowd!

Also, for those of you still waiting for the summer veggie meal, just know that it had to be postponed. I was out of town the Saturday before it was supposed to happen and didn't make it to the farmer's market. And now I'm moving to a new apartment, so it will be further postponed. But don't worry, we'll get it up here eventually!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wilda's English Trifle

Oh mercy. This is what I’ve waited all summer for.

I called Southridge Farms the other day and was delighted to learn that they have some early peaches in. My son and I made a quick trek down to Santaquin to pick up a bag. You can’t beat fresh, farm-grown peaches. Grocery store peaches just do not compare. They are peach sacrilege! (By the way, while at the barn, we sampled their fresh-squeezed apple juice, and it took every ounce of will I have within me to resist buying a huge jug. I just came for peaches this time. But I’ll be back!)

In our family, fresh peaches mean that it’s time to make this lovely dessert. The recipe comes straight from a sweet little cookbook that my grandma made for all of her granddaughters a few Christmases ago. It's one of my treasures. Not only does it feature many of her culinary masterpieces, but it's just such a reflection on her personality—done scrapbook style with little tidbits of advice and lots of family photos. Plus it gives me hope that someday I can cook like her!

Also, I just want to state, for the record, that I make no promises as to it’s British authenticity. All I know is, Grandma calls it English Trifle. So no uppity Englishmen out there are allowed to tell me that’s not how their grandmother makes trifle, okay? :)

1 angel food cake
2-3 bananas (I'm not a banana fan, so I leave these out)
about 1 c. each of raspberries and blueberries
3-4 peaches, sliced
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 small package vanilla pudding
1 package raspberry Danish Dessert

Prepare the Danish Dessert according to the "Fruit Sauce" instructions on the back (though half a package seems to be plenty for me). Fold in the raspberries and let it cool in the fridge. Whip the cream, adding a few tablespoons of sugar. Prepare the pudding as well.

Break 1/3 of the cake into small pieces and layer bottom of a trifle bowl (before I invested in one of these, I just used a regular large bowl. It's not as pretty, but it works). Cover with a layer of pudding, then a layer of the raspberry mixture. Slice bananas (if using) and place a layer of those, followed by peaches and blueberries. Lastly, put on a layer of whipped cream. Repeat layers.

Oh, and don't be too OCD about the layers. They don't have to cover the entire bowl; I mostly just do a glob here and a glob there. You really can't go wrong with this dessert. My grandma even uses frozen fruit sometimes, but in my opinion, the fresh peaches absolutely make this dish! Try it, you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zuppa Toscana

Okay, all you fellow Olive Garden fans, here it is! Zuppa Toscana, brought to you by our famous in-house Italian chef.

Okay, so he's short, making a cheesy face, and doesn't have a drop of Italian blood in him. But he is a good helper in the kitchen. He loves to stir and gets very upset if I try to take his spoon away from him. "Stay out of my cucina, mamma mia!" (And don't worry, I watch him like a hawk when he's anywhere near a hot surface).

There are lots of different versions of copycat recipes for this soup online, and mine is yet another—sort of a conglomeration of several. I can't guarantee that it is exactly like Olive Garden's original recipe, but it is close and definitely delicious.

Although many of the online recipes call for the more authentic Italian pork sausage in a casing, I prefer bulk sausage (which is more like ground beef instead of long links, if you don't know what I'm talking about). And from what I've seen of the few times I've had this soup at the restaurant, they use the bulk kind as well. I assume that Jimmy Dean Italian would work really well, but the first time I made this soup last fall, they didn't have any at the store. I ended up buying the hot kind instead, and we love it! The extra spice is great for our family, but if you don't necessarily want your sinuses fully cleared out, stick with the milder stuff. :)

Also, I think OG uses pieces of crumbled bacon in theirs, which I have not tried yet. I'm sure it would be wonderful; you can't really go wrong with bacon, right?

Here is the basic recipe to get you started, but feel free to mess around with it. That's one thing I love about cooking, you can kind of make it up as you go and still get delightful results!

1 lb. sausage
3 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 t. red pepper (flakes or ground)
1 large Russet potato
2-3 large pieces of kale

Cook sausage, breaking up into bite-size pieces, and drain off the grease. Meanwhile, combine broth, cream, salt, garlic, and red pepper in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage. Slice the potato (do not peel) and then quarter the slices and add them to the pot. Chop the kale (should be about 2 cups chopped) and add it as well. Reduce heat, and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Buón appetito!

One note: do not be afraid of the kale! I had never tried it before making this recipe, and I kept cringing as I added this strange lettuce-y looking plant, hoping it wouldn't taste too weird. The truth is, it has a very mild flavor and a texture that is barely noticeable. It does add color to the soup and is a tasty way to get your greens! So I repeat, do not be afraid of the kale!

I hope you enjoy the soup! Let me know how it turns out for you.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Broccoli Cheese Chowder

The first of the requested recipes! How funny that even though it's not quite "soup weather" yet, the only two soups I'm making this month are what you wanted! The Olive Garden Toscana Soup will be up later this week, but for now, let's make some chowder!

My recipe is based on the one from The Essential Mormon Cookbook by Julie Badger Jensen, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. I love that the foods in it are organized by season. It makes me feel like I'm making a "holiday" recipe no matter what time of year it is. :) The only things that I do different are halve it (because we're a small family), add more cheese, and use this faithful friend:

Don't hate me because I love dehydrated onion. It's just so easy! To be fair, I did try the recipe with real onions sautéed in butter once. And we really just didn't like it as much. The tiny pieces of chopped dried onion work better, because they don't interrupt the velvety texture of this dish. That's my humble opinion, at least.

On to the recipe!

1 bunch fresh broccoli, chopped
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1/2 c. chicken broth
3/4 t. salt
1 T dried onion
1 generous c. grated cheddar cheese

Cook broccoli until tender—I prefer to steam it. In a medium pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, and let the resulting roux cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. This will result in a less "floury" taste to the final product. Gradually stir in milk, chicken broth, salt, and dried onion. Stir frequently until it begins to boil and thicken. Whisk in the cheddar until fully incorporated. Don't skimp on the cheese; it's what makes this dish great! Finally, mix in the broccoli. Serve in bread bowls or with dinner rolls. (The roll recipe I use can be found here).

This is one of our family favorites. My husband especially loves it, surprisingly, since he's not generally a soup fanatic like me. But this is one of the few recipes that he's given a 10. He proclaims his undying love for me whenever I announce that I'm going to make it. Give it a try and see if you get the same result. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

August Meals

For those of you who may not know, I like to plan out my dinners a month in advance. That way, I don't have to shop as much, and when 5:00 rolls around I don't have to scramble to get something ready. Plus, I'm just an organizing nerd and like to create Excel spreadsheets whenever I can. :)

I'm putting my August menu here so that you guys can decide which recipes, if any, you would like to see posted here. I've got several new ones I'm trying, some old classics from my mom, and a few of my own. (Please don't ask me to put up the recipe for chili and baked potatoes, though. Because the post will say "Bake some potatoes. Dump a can of chili on top. Eat." I'm so gourmet).

So tell me! What would you like to see on my blog this next month?

Aug 1: Chicken Enchiladas
2: Broccoli Cheese Chowder
3: French Toast and Ham
4: Beef Tacos
5: Olive Garden's Toscana Soup
6: Chicken Broccoli Divan
7: Homemade Pizza
8: Hobo Dinners

Aug 9: Savory Pot Roast
10: Grandma's Biscuits with Sausage Gravy
11: Chicken Taco Pie
12: Chili and Baked Potatoes
13: Chicken Fingers and Fries
14: Calzones
15: With family, not cooking

Aug 16: Creamy Crockpot Chicken
17: Summer Veggie Meal
18: Creamy Chicken Tacos
19: Ham and Homemade Mac & Cheese
20: Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
21: Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo
22: Polish Dinner Party with my girlies (I'll definitely be posting about this one)

Aug 23: Easy Supper
24: Hash Browns, Eggs, and Sausage
25: Mexican Chicken Casserole
26: Sloppy Joes and Fries
27: Hawaiian Haystacks
28: Lasagna
29: Pepper Steak and Rice
30: Chicken Parmesan and Brown Rice
31: Breakfast Burritos

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chicken Enchilada Soup

If you've been a reader of my family blog since last fall, you've already seen this recipe. But have you tried it yet? If not, please do! Though I won't hold it against you if you wait until the weather cools down a bit. I understand that not everyone wants to eat soup on a hot summer day, though I could eat it anytime—probably even for breakfast. Don't tell.

This recipe has lots of "use this or that" in it. I've made it several times, and basically just use whatever I happen to have on hand, and it all works equally well. Though on the cream issue, I must admit I'm partial to sour cream for this recipe. It just gives it a bit of a tang. Plus, I use the fat-free kind and that helps me to pretend that it's really good for me. :)

2-3 chicken breasts
2 c. chicken broth
1 can enchilada sauce
1 t. chili powder
1 t. taco seasoning (or if you don't have this on hand, throw in a little cumin, garlic, oregano, and salt and call it good)
1 T dried minced onion or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 c. cheddar or jack cheese
1 c. sour cream or half-and-half or cream
1 can corn, drained
1 small can diced green chilies
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
tortilla chips

Cook chicken in medium saucepan and shred. Add broth, enchilada sauce, onions, chilies, and spices. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes until the onion rehydrates down. Stir in cheese and sour cream until melted and incorporated. Add corn and beans and warm through. Serve with tortilla chips. I usually like to crush them in the bottom of the bowl before putting in my soup, while my husband likes to use them to scoop it up. Whatever your preference. Delish!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homemade French Bread

I have always wanted to try making French Bread from scratch, and this recipe from La Fuji Mama looked so easy that I finally took on the challenge last night! (This recipe makes two loaves, but I halved it since we only needed one).

1 1/2 Tbsp. or 2 packets (1/4 oz./7 g each) dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
5 - 6 cups all-purpose flour

1. Dissolve yeast, warm water, and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine hot water, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, salt, and oil. Add 3 cups of flour to the mixture in the large bowl/mixer and mix well. Stir in yeast mixture.

3. Add 2 - 3 cups more flour and mix until well blended. (At this point your dough will still be quite sticky). Leave in bowl and let rise for 1 hour, mixing a few strokes a couple of times during the hour.

4. Divide dough into 2 (or 3 if you want smaller loaves) pieces. Roll out each piece on a floured surface into the length desired then roll up length wise like a jelly roll.

5. Put on a greased cookie sheet, sealed side down, and tuck the ends under. Slash the top diagonally across the top every couple of inches with a sharp knife. Brush with egg white. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let loaves rise 30 more minutes.

6. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes.

Mmmmm...this smelled so great, I couldn't wait to dig in. It wasn't like your typical store-bought loaf of French bread. They tend to be chewy on the outside and really fluffy and insubstantial on the inside. I've always liked that fine, but I didn't know what I was missing! This French bread was thicker while still being very soft, and the crust was just slightly crispy. Totally divine! I put some butter and garlic on a few slices and toasted them up to go with our pasta for dinner.

I'm usually scared of making any bread that doesn't involve the use of my bread machine, but this was so quick, easy, and yummy. It was a little bit sticky, but if you make sure your surface is amply floured you should be fine. No kneading, literally 10 minutes to put together, and that wonderful homemade bread smell permeating your home. Who could find fault with that? Now excuse me while I go eat the rest of the loaf for breakfast. :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I love this dish because it's relatively healthy and very easy to modify according to what you have on hand. Plus, it's so pretty! Just look at those colors!

This stir fry had chicken, yellow squash, carrots, red bell pepper, and broccoli. I'm also a big fan of sugar snap peas and baby corn, but I didn't get to plan ahead this time, so we used what we've got!

Start by placing raw chicken in a greased frying pan over medium heat. At this point, I brushed a little bit of sauce all over it.

If I'd had time to marinate the chicken, I probably would've done so. But this was a quick, whatever-we-have dinner, if you haven't gotten that point yet. :)

I love Kikkoman sauces. I've tried experimenting and making my own stir-fry sauces at home, and they usually turn out pretty well. But I keep coming back to my old reliable Kikkoman. It's tasty and it's simple. Can't complain! Although my dad makes a wonderful lemony stir-fry sauce that I need to steal from him sometime. If I can master it, maybe that will replace it.

Cover the chicken, and while it cooks, chop up your veggies. Once you can't see any more pink on the chicken, flip it over and cut it into small pieces with a fork. Then, add in a little bit of oil and your veggies. (I tossed in the carrots and broccoli a few minutes before the peppers and squash, just because they take longer to cook). Stir frequently. I like to go ahead and add a little bit more of the sauce at this point, just for the extra flavor boost.

By the way, see how shiny the food is? I used way too much oil this time, bringing that whole "healthy" thing down a notch and also making it a bit slimy.

It was still delicious, but definitely could've been better. I think I kept adding in oil because I was worried the vegetables wouldn't cook properly or something. Just keep in mind that you can always add more, but you can't take away what you put in. So easy on the oil!

Once the vegetables are cooked to your preference (I like them to still be a bit crisp), serve them on a bed of hot cooked rice.

Speaking of rice, I need some advice. Rice advice. Heh heh. :) Anyway, I just can't cook the stuff. It seems to turn out differently every time: too mushy, too firm, etc. What I usually do is this: heat 2 parts water to boiling, add 1 part rice, cover and reduce heat to low, cook 20 minutes. At our old apartment I got it right every once in a while, but now it never happens. Anyone care to share your method with me? Is it just my stupid stove? Do I need to invest in a rice cooker?

Friday, June 26, 2009


Well, I finally started my own food blog, mostly to feed (ha ha… no pun intended) my obsession with all things kitchen without having to use my family blog as an outlet. I always felt like I had to apologize for posting another soup recipe instead of more pictures of my little boy for his grandmas to see. No more!

I will most definitely be posting recipes, both tried-and-true as well as experimental. But I also plan on posting other things from time to time: reviews of cookware, questions I have (so that you can fill me in), and whatever other food-related tidbits happen to pop into my head! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!