Archives for January 2012

Valentine Dunkin’ Sticks

Chocolate PB pretzels 1

So, I have sort of have a bone to pick…in all of the years I’ve been making chocolate-covered pretzels, no one has ever once suggested to me that you could add in peanut butter.

Yeah, I’m kind of slow on the uptake, but that’s really nothing new.

Also not new?  The fact that I don’t really care much for Valentine’s Day.  This sounds a little strange coming from a girl who doesn’t leave the house without makeup and sparkles.  I mean, if you want to picture a girlie-girl, I’m it.  Seriously, I fixed my hair and makeup I was on maternity leave.

I get to work from home on Mondays and Tuesdays, and you’d better believe I have on jewelry and makeup when I head downstairs to my at-home office.

It’s the way I am folks, and it’s not going to change.

But as girlie as I am, I’ve never really gotten excited about Valentine’s Day.  I mean, there were the many single years I spent with my other single girlfriends eating pizza and watching Ally McBeal, so my dislike for the “holiday” back then might seem obvious.  And now that I’m married, it just seems silly to wait an obscene amount of time waiting for a table at my favorite restaurant because the calendar says I’m supposed to.

Quite honestly, the fact that my husband fills my car up with gas for me on super cold days means a whole lot more to me than getting a dozen roses on February 14.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love Valentine-y foods, because hello, they are usually decadent and rich and can often be glammed up by the addition of a million sprinkles.  What girl doesn’t love that?

These dunkin’ sticks were quick and easy, and a nifty little treat to send with Doodle to school.

My advice, though?  Don’t get started “taste testing” them while you’re setting up a photo shoot.  You might not have enough left to photograph.

Chocolate PB pretzels 2

Valentine Dunkin’ Sticks
  • 1 7-ounce container Baker's dipping chocolate
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 bag honey-wheat pretzel twists (I used about 40 pretzels)
  • assorted sprinkles, as desired
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Microwave your chocolate as directed, then stir in peanut butter until smooth. Dip your pretzels to coat, and place on prepared sheet. Garnish with sprinkles.
  3. Refrigerate until set.


May be linked to Crazy Sweet Tuesdays and Mrs. Fox’s Sweets

Thai-Glazed Chicken Lettuce Wraps

chicken wraps

Look, I’m not gonna lie to you guys–my lovely, lovely, invisible internet friends.  I am sort of fascinated with Rachel Ray.  I know, I know, there are a lot of people out there who say she is not a “real chef.”  But guess what?  I’m not, either.

I’m just a girl who likes to cook, and am learning as I go.  And I appreciate all of you travelling down this path with me.

One of the first shows on Food Network I ever watched was 30 Minute Meals.  Now, this was back in my single days–the days when I was still eating macaroni and cheese directly out of the saucepan and claiming it as fine cuisine.  So attempting to prepare a meal that required more than a few ingredients or didn’t come pre-packaged seemed a little overwhelming time consuming.  I mean, really, I would rather have spent my evenings reading fashion magazines, talking on the phone with my girlfriends about guys and taking belly-dancing classes (mm-hmm, that’s a story for another day.  When I’ve had a glass or two of wine, perhaps.).

Anyway, when I saw this show, it was the first time cooking actually appealed to me, and looked like something I could actually do.  And while my cooking techniques have definitely improved over the years, it’s nice to have some quick and easy fall-back recipes to rely on when you’re too stressed out from the work-week to think about doing much more than throwing chicken into a pot.

This is one of mine.

Thai-Glazed Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Note - you'll need a lot of napkins when you eat this, but that's part of the fun! If you need to use up the rest of your bag of shredded cabbage mix, use it to make Fake-Out Fried Rice as a perfect side dish! Adapted from Rachel Ray
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • grill seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large bell pepper (I typically use green since it's less expensive, but red would work great)
  • 1 cup packaged shredded cabbage and carrot mix
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
  • ½ cup plum sauce (found in the Asian food aisle)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • iceberg lettuce
  • ½ seedless cucumber, chopped
  1. Thinly slice chicken into strips and sprinkle with seasoning.
  2. Heat a large skillet to high heat. Add vegetable oil and chicken; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, pepper, cabbage mix, green onions, and red pepper flakes (if using), and cook another 2 minutes.
  4. Add plum sauce to glaze the mixture; add soy sauce and turn to coat.
  5. Transfer chicken and veggies to a bowl. Place spoonfuls of chicken into a piece of lettuce with cucumber and eat like a taco.



How to Divide an Egg


Ever had a recipe that yields 30 cupcakes (cookies, muffins, etc.), but you only need 24 (or 12 or 18 or…)?

Yeah, me too.

I tend to make a lot of baked goodies for this blog, but I seriously don’t need massive amounts of sweets sitting around my house.  Trust me, I’ll eat them all.

And even when I need to make treats to send to Doodle’s preschool, I still only need about a dozen [insert goodie of choice].

The problem with many recipes is that these often call for an odd number of eggs–and since I never really knew a good way to measure a partial egg, I just went ahead and made the full recipe.  Then I finally got smart and Googled tips on dividing eggs.  Maybe you all already knew this nifty trick, but if I can save one person from sugar overload, my good deed for the day is done.

Of course, Google told me dividing an egg was actually very easy.

You just divide by volume.

Ummm. why didn’t I think of this before?

How to Divide an Egg

  1. Crack your egg into a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  2. Google suggested pouring the egg into a measuring cup, but for a more accurate measurement, I measured mine by individual tablespoons.
  3. My large egg measured approximately four tablespoons, so I measured out two of the tablespoons for the half egg I needed for my recipe.

See, easy-peasy!

What great kitchen tips do you have?


Cherry Heart Tarts – Guest Posting at Diva Entertains

Cherry Tarts 1


Hi guys!  I’m contributing today as part of a Valentine’s Day “party bites” series over at Diva Entertains.

Stop on over and say hi!

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Cheesecake Buttercream

Lemon Cupcakes 1

I’m so excited about this month’s Improv Challenge, hosted by the wonderful Kristan over at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.  Haven’t heard about the Improv Challenge?  Each month, participants are assigned two ingredients to pair together to create a fun, new recipe.  I was so relieved to find that this month’s ingredients included lemon and sour cream—after gorging myself on chocolate for the last month, I needed to bake something a little lighter.

The lemon cream cupcakes on their own are actually light enough to serve as a breakfast muffin–they’d pair nicely with some fresh fruit or a mug of steaming hot coffee.

Of course, I had to add frosting to these, because that’s just what I do.  I have a sugar addiction, what can I say?

This frosting is a total departure from my stand-by buttercream.  But holy cannoli guys, this stuff is amazing.  I almost ran out of frosting for the tops of my cupcakes because I’d “sampled” so much in between piping my cakes.  The pink color comes only from the fresh raspberries – you can’t beat that with artificial coloring.

Doodle declared these “out of this world” and I have to say–I agree.

Looking at these colors makes me ready for spring–what about you?


Lemon Cupcakes 2

Lemon Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract (or vanilla, if that's what you have on-hand)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 16 ounces sour cream
For the frosting:
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 - 4½ cups powdered sugar
  • 5 ounces raspberries
  • seeds from one vanilla bean
For the cupcakes:
  1. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon zest and lemon extract.
  2. Combine your dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Your batter will be thick!
  3. Fill muffin tins with approximately ¼ cup of batter, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 miinutes before removing cakes to wire rack.
For the frosting:
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add half of the raspberries and mix until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating until well incorporated.
  2. Add vanilla seeds and the rest of your raspberries. Beat well, until frosting is creamy. Depending on your preferred consistency, add additional powdered sugar if necessary.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes before piping onto your cupcakes.
Makes 30 cupcakes

cupcakes adapted from Taste of Home 2011

frosting from Good Life Eats

Be sure to check out the rest of this month’s participants!

Fake-Out Fried Rice

fried rice 1


We have the best Japanese take-out place just down the street from our house.

Seriously.  So good.  So good, in fact, that any time I tell the Tall Boy I’m too busy looking up stuff on Pinterest to cook dinner, he suggests picking this up instead.  Which was all fine and good, until I saw the copious amounts of butter they mixed in when sautéing the vegetables for my meal.  Hey, we all know I’m not opposed to butter, but I like to keep it under (semi) control when I can.

Most of the time, we do prepare our meals at home.  Not only is it more economical, but I like being able to control the ingredients that go into our meals–especially with a young child who I’m trying to raise to make good food choices.  Never mind the fact that I fed him a cupcake, a mini-cherry pie and hot chocolate over the weekend, okay (not all at the same time, promise)?

In my own defense, he took one bite of each, said, “Yum” and then, “I’m done.”  And next: “Mama, I think we should go do Zumba.”

How is this kid related to me?

The Tall Boy loves this version of take-out fried rice, and he is typically not much of a rice eater.  We always use brown rice for all of our meals, but if you’re not a brown rice fan, go ahead and sub for white.  Although you might be surprised–with all of the veggies and flavors in this dish, you may not miss the white rice at all!

Play around with your veggies, too.  The ones I listed below are the ones I typically use, but if I have other stuff on hand that I need to use up, I’ll throw that in as well.  I usually make this as a side dish, but you could easily turn this into your main course by adding some leftover chicken or beef, or by quickly sautéing some shrimp or adding scrambled egg.

What’s your favorite take-out?


fried rice 2


Fake-Out Fried Rice
  • 4 cups cooked rice (we always use brown)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ teaspoons mined garlic
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • ¼ cup chopped carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 8 ounces shredded cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon dehydrated onion
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  1. Over medium heat, saute vegetables in butter until tender. Add rice, soy sauce and seasonings.
  2. If desired, add scrambled eggs, or shrimp, chicken or beef.
adapted from Our Best Bites

Garlicky Marinated Shrimp with Jalepeno Cocktail Sauce

marinated shrimp 1

I’m not sure what to say about this dish, other than imploring you to make it right now.

The Tall Boy and I made this for New Year’s Eve, and inahled it all within 15 minutes liked it so much we knew we had to add it to the menu for last Friday’s Cotton Bowl.

Even though I was thrown into a deep depressive state and moped around the house the rest of the weekend slightly bummed about the game, this shrimp got rave reviews, which cheered me up some.

This is so quick and easy to prepare, but with enough flavor and color to convince your party guests into thinking you spent hours in the kitchen.  Don’t be scared to try the jalepenos in the dipping sauce.  You can reduce the heat by removing the seeds and membrane.  But if you like things a little spicer, by all means, include some of the seeds.

marinated shrimp 2


Garlicky Marinated Shrimp with Jalepeno Cocktail Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: appetizer
For the shrimp:
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, boiled and peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • ½ teaspoon salt
For the dipping sauce:
  • 1 12-ounce jar chili sauce
  • 2 jalepenos, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
For the shrmp:
  1. In a large ziploc bag, combine all ingredients. Seal bag, and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to two days.
For the sauce:
  1. In a small bowl, combine ingredients; cover and chill up to three days.


Homemade Flour Tortillas

homemade tortillas 2
I wish I was a good enough photographer to display to you just how wonderful these homemade tortillas are, but I’m not, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

While I may not be a great good decent photographer, I am a expert on Mexican foods.  Well, maybe just an expert on eating it, but that’s neither here nor there.  Just trust me when I say those tortillas you buy in the grocery store out of the little ziploc bags have nothing on making them yourself.

Even better?  They are so easy.

Really, all you do is combine flour, shortening, salt and warm water and mix with the dough attachment of your stand mixer.  Divide out your dough, and roll into 8-inch “rounds” (I use that term loosely, as my tortillas have a more “rustic” shape–as in, I can’t roll anything into a circle shape).  Cook the rounds in a skillet, over medium-high heat, until the dough begins to brown, turning once.

Serve with this or this.  Or filled with grilled steak, onions and peppers for fabulous fajitas:

homemade tortillas filled

Or just slathered with warm butter at midnight.  Not that I would know anything about that.

Homemade Flour Tortillas
Serves: makes 12 tortillas
  • 3½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup lard or solid vegetable shortening (I used shortening)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  1. In a large bowl, blend the flour and shortening until the mixture resembles fine meal.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the salt and the water. Using the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer, add water to the flour mixture, mixing until the liquid is incorporated. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth. If you don’t have a stand mixer, stir the liquid into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball.
  4. Roll the balls into 7 to 8 inch rounds, and cook on a griddle over medium-high heat until puffed and golden on both sides.
recipe from Mexican Made Easy

Guest Posting at Something Swanky: Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filled Snickerdoodles

snickerdoodle 1

Hey guys!  I’m guest posting today over at Something Swanky.  If you haven’t checked out Ashton’s site before, you need to do it asap–she makes some of the most amazing desserts I’ve ever seen.

Anyhoo, stop over and check out these cinnamon cream cheese filled snickerdoodles I made to share with her readers.  They’re worth postponing your diet for.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Soup 1

Okay, moment of truth time:

I’m not a huge fan of chicken noodle soup.

I guess it just reminds me of the meals I eat when I’m either (a) sick or (b) dieting, and doesn’t spark much culinary excitement.  Typically, if I’m going to make soup, I want it to be one that’s super fattening hearty, like meatball soup or chili.

That being said, I’m not one to back down from a challenge–so when I saw Tina’s featured food item this month was chicken noodle soup, I set out to find a recipe that was not only full of flavor, but would also keep me satisfied past mid-afternoon.

And I think I found it with this recipe, ya’ll (at Doodle’s request, I’ve been tasked with talking like the “ya’ll girl” (Paula Deen) when I cook).  I was a little hesitant about the ranch seasoning mix in this, but it gave the dish a very mild, but interesting flavor.  The original recipe calls for heavy cream, and while I’m not dieting per se, I’m also not out to intentionally sabotage any chance of wearing shorts this summer.  I used fat-free half and half, which was just creamy enough to keep me fuller longer than just plain old broth.

In a word: YUM.

Maybe the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had.  Served with some crusty bread, cheese and crackers, I had a warm happy, and very full tummy.


Chicken Soup 2

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • 32 ounce box chicken broth
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • small bag of egg noodles
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1 pint fat-free half-and-half
  • 1 packet dry Ranch seasoning mix
  1. Bring chicken broth, carrots, onions and celery to a boil. Add the egg noodles and cook in the broth until noodles are tender.
  2. Add the cream of chicken soup, chicken, half-and-half, and ranch seasoning. Stir to combine and cook until heated through.