Archives for August 2012

Biscoff Cheesecake Pretzel Bites

Ooooh, so the coolest thing finally happened here.

Okay, so maybe it’s not super cool to those of you who live in a big city and have fabulous shopping every which way.  I mean, I have to drive three hours to the closest Trader Joe’s, and my local markets only recently started carrying Biscoff (although now that I’ve tasted it and can’t stop myself from eating it straight out of the jar, I’m kind of wishing we didn’t have it here–my pants might fit a little better).

Anywhoo, that cool thing?  We got a Fresh Market.  Which is just about the coolest store ever and a food bloggers dream.  I could spend hours in there wandering around, checking out all of the amazing produce and fresh breads, cookies, pastries, and cheeses.  Also, I’m totally obsessed with the fact that you can “make” your own peanut butter, and now on my “must-have” kitchen items list?  A powerful enough blender/food processor to do just that.  And while I’m just a tad bit embarrassed to admit it, I told the Tall Boy I wanted to go stroll around in there sometime, sans Doodle, for a date night.  Yep folks, I’m wild and crazy like that.

But you know what I found on the shelves there?  Biscoff cookies.  It doesn’t take much to excite me.

And, because I’m relegated to making no-bake items since my oven is still out of commission,** I decided to grind up the cookies and add them to cream cheese, similar to my Biscoff Cheeseball.   Then I remembered the completely awesome Oreo Cheesecake Pretzel Bites that Sally made, and I knew the prayers to my no-bake dilemma were solved: just squoosh the mixture between two pretzels.

Then I dipped them in white chocolate, ’cause chocolate is pretty much a necessity when using pretzels in any way, shape or form.  Also, since I’m determined to at least get fall colors in, even if I can’t bake, I added some sprinkles.

Sprinkles make everything better, yes?

Biscoff Cheesecake Pretzel Bites
  • ½ package Biscoff cookies, approximately 16 cookies
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese (I used ⅓ fat)
  • 1½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 40 to 48 mini pretzel twists
  • approximately 4 ounces white chocolate
  • sprinkles
  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse your cookies to fine crumbs. Mix cookie crumbs with the softened cream cheese. Allow your cheesecake mixture to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove mixture from refridgerator, and roll into small balls, about 2 to 3 teaspoons each. Sandwich the mixture between two pretzel twists, pressing down just slightly so that the mixture spreads to the edge of your pretzels.
  3. Melt chocolate according to your package directions. Dip each pretzel bite into the melted chocolate and add sprinkles. Allow the chocolate to harden before serving. Store in the refrigerator.
inspired by Sally's Oreo Cheesecake Pretzel Bites

Have a wonderful Friday, and a fabulous long weekend! What do you have planned??

**As of late Thursday night, it appears the Tall Boy has the oven back in working order–proof that you can learn everything you ever wanted to know on YouTube.  Thanks, Tall Boy!  x0

Homemade Taco Seasoning

You guys, the worst thing happened that could happen to a food blogger: my oven conked out.

Well, that’s not exactly a technical term for it, and I suppose it didn’t really “conk out” since it still turns on. But when you attempt to bake a single crust pie, and two hours later the crust is still raw…there’s a problem.

Even worse? The Tall Boy wants to fix it himself.

Now, I know many of you probably have husbands or boyfriends or guy-like people in your life who are super-duper handy when it comes to repairing things (and who am I kidding, I know many women who are handier than most guys out there). But let’s get real: the Tall Boy is much better at breaking items than he is at fixing them. So I’ll give him mad-props if he gets my oven fixed…but seriously, right now I’m willing to shell out any price neccesary to get my oven back in working order.

At the rate I’m going, the fall rush of Pinterest-pinning is going to be over and done with before I even get a loaf of pumpkin bread baked, cider mulled or apples caramelized.

In the meantime, here’s a quick and easy recipe for homemade taco seasoning.  If you’ve been around my blog any time at all, you know we’re kind of insane about our Mexican food.  And really, this seasoning doesn’t take much more time to make than tearing open one of those single-serving packets, and tastes oodles better.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
This makes approximately ⅔ cup, and will keep for up to one year in an airtight container stored at room temperature. Play around with the amounts of your ingredients: if you want it a bit spicier, add more red pepper. Smokier? Add more cumin. You can totally adapt this to fit your family's tastes--and it's much less expensive than purchasing those single-serving packets of ominous looking orange powder!
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 3 teaspoons smoked sea salt (regular sea salt works fine, too)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh black pepper
  1. Add all ingredients to an airtight container and stir to combine.
  2. Use approximately 2 tablespoons for each pound of meat--but adjust to fit your own tastes.
adapted from All Recipes

If you’re going the Mexican-food route, why not try one of these:

Lightened Up Beef and Bean Enchiladas



smothered burritos 1

Smothered Burritos

homemade tortillas 2

Homemade Flour Tortillas



And a personal favorite…a Chocolate Margarita


Have a great day!

Lightened Up General Tso’s Chicken

We’re huge Chinese food fans in my house.

I loveitloveitloveit.  But if we ate the take-out from the restaurant down the street from our house, I’d weigh a bizillion pounds.

The great thing about making Chinese at home is that you can really tone down the salt, oil and/or butter content, and add a mad amount of veggies to make sure all the food groups are covered.  See?  Totally healthy.

This recipe is hands-down my favorite make at home Chinese dish.  We’ve made it a number of times, and it never disappoints.  It’s definitely one of our staple rotation meals, and I love that it has the “take-out” taste without the “take-out” calorie-count.  We usually serve this meal with brown rice, but if you really want to jazz it up a bit, serve it with my favorite version of fried rice.

Lightened Up General Tso’s Chicken
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • ½ cup sliced carrots
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
  • 6 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  1. Stir together 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1 cup cold water until smooth. Add veggies, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Remove chicken from the egg mixutre and add to skillet. Cook until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally.Transfer chicken to a plate; and set aside (reserve skillet).
  4. Add veggie mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with brown rice or fried rice.
adapted from Martha Stewart
Nutrition Information
Serving size: serves 4

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

Spiced Peach and Carrot Bread

Did I mention we just got a bushel of peaches?

Well, we did. So I’m putting ’em into everything.

One diced up in my oatmeal in the morning. In smoothies. In salsa, over fish and chicken.

And pie. Yeah, that’s coming, too.

Oh, and this bread?  With hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, along with some shredded carrot, I’m definitely getting into the fall baking mode.

I can’t wait.

Is it too early for me to start posting fall recipes?  Because I can hardly stand it.

Spiced Peach and Carrot Bread
Make this easy, one-bowl, spiced peach bread to get you in the mood for Fall baking!
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1½ cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches
  • ¾ cup grated carrots
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup white chocolate chips and/or pecans, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour and the next 6 ingredients. Add peaches, the next 4 ingredients, and the white chocolate chips/pecans, stirring until just moistened. Spoon batter into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  3. Bake for approximately 65 minutes, or unti a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove bread from pan and allow to cool completely.
from Southern Living, July 2011

P.S.–if you like this recipe, check out some of these (clearly, I have a fixation on breakfast breads!):

White Chocolate Blueberry Crunch Bread

banana bread 1

Coconut Banana Bread {with Coconut Lime Glaze}

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins {with blueberry glaze}

Have a wonderful, fabulous Thursday!

I’m linked up at these great parties this week: Crazy Sweet Tuesdays, Trick or Treat Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Cast Party Wednesday, Whip it Up Wednesdays, Watcha’ Whipped Up Wednesdays, Eat, Pray {Read}, Love, Sweet Treats Thursday, Mrs. Fox’s Sweets, Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons, Itsy Bitsy Paper, Crumbs and Chaos, I’m Lovin’ It Fridays, Weekend Potluck, and Six Sister’s Stuff!

Peach Pie Smoothie

Here’s the thing. I’m not a big fruit eater.

I try to be, I really, really, do.  But given the choice between an apple and a chocolate chip cookie…well, sorry, it’s cookie all the way.

Or pie.

Last week, we had a drop in temperature here, at least for the short-term.  We had one day in the mid 60’s…with some light rain.  It felt heavenly after the summer of insanely high temperatures we’ve had here over the past three months.   It was cool enough that I actually had to get out a pair of jeans…jeans that felt just a little bit snug when I buttoned them.

This is what happens when you spend the summer “sampling” things like Almond Joy Blondies and Biscoff Cheeseballs.


So, I decided it was time for action.  More fruit, less sugar.

My problem is that I can’t give up the sweet stuff.  It’s ugly when I try, folks.

This smoothie is the best of both worlds…a drink that tastes like pie, but with lots of fruit.


Peach Pie Smoothie
Make this smoothie for a peach pie in liquid form; makes about 16 ounces.
  • 1½ cups diced peaches, frozen
  • ½ banana, frozen
  • ½ cup peach yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 packets Sweet 'N Low
  • 1 graham cracker
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy. Garnish with additional peaches, graham cracker crumbs, and cinnamon.

P.S.–You might like some of these recipes, too!

Coconut Mango Smoothie {with Banana and Lime}

 Frozen Blueberry Lemonade


I’m linked up at these great parties this week: Crazy Sweet Tuesdays, Trick or Treat Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Cast Party Wednesday, Whip it Up Wednesdays, Watcha’ Whipped Up Wednesdays, Eat, Pray {Read}, Love, Sweet Treats Thursday, Mrs. Fox’s Sweets, Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons, Itsy Bitsy Paper, Crumbs and Chaos, I’m Lovin’ It Fridays, Weekend Potluck, and Six Sister’s Stuff!

Disclosure: This compensated post is part of a DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker program with Sweet’N Low. However, any thoughts and opinions I’ve shared here are my own.

Tropical {No Bake} Granola Bars and Nature Box Giveaway

Whew. We made it through our first week of kindergarten. And, since Doodle is attending all day school, he is supposed to take a snack for the afternoons. So when I received this box from NatureBox to review, I knew right away what I wanted to make.

Homemade granola bars. Holy awesomeness.

Do you know that the average American eats almost 25 percent of their calories from snacking? Yikes.  In fact, snacking is the leading cause of childhood obesity. NatureBox helps you get more out of your day without wasting calories on the bad stuff, by sourcing delicious, healthy snacks and sends them to you monthly.

NatureBox snacks are made from the most wholesome ingredients and will be minimally processed, if at all.  They contain no high-fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils, and no trans-fat, no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavorings.  Awesome, right?

In my July box, I received Zesta Fiesta Mix, Lemon Pucker Pistachios, Garden Tomato Crunchies, Southern BBQ Sunflower Kernels, and Sunny Trails fruit mix.  I used the Sunny Trails mix in my granola bars–this snack mix is packed with a medley of dried fruits that will keep your spirit and energy sky high. Raw almonds provide a nutty crunch to balance out the sweet, chewy fruits.

Doodle almost ate the entire bag before I could get the granola bars made!  It was definitely a hit.  And definitely something I felt good about feeding my kiddo.

Want a chance to win your own NatureBox?  Just enter the giveaway below using the Rafflecopter entry form!  And for even more chances to win, be sure to visit all of the other participating sites.

Tropical {No Bake} Granola Bars and Nature Box Giveaway
Make these bars in less than 15 minutes for a healthy, on-the-go snack!
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup agave nectar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 2 cups granola
  • 1 cup rice cereal
  • 5 ounces Sunny Trails dried fruit mix
  • ⅓ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, agave nectar, butter and orange peel. Bring to a boil, and then reduced heat to low, stirring until the sugar melts.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients to combine.
  3. Transfer to a greased 9x11 baking dish. Cover with wax paper and press into an even layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Nature Box was received in order to facilitate this review and giveaway, but all opinions are 100% my own.

eMeals Giveaway


School started yesterday, guys. I sent my little Doodlebug off to a school that houses kindergarten through second grade in a building that rivals the size of my old junior high.

I am so not ready for this.

Our schedule has totally and completely changed, and I’m not ready for that, either.  I’m trying to start my day job by 6:30 am so that I am able to leave the office in time for school pick-up by 4:00.  By the time we get home, make dinner, clean-up, pack lunches, school bags, et cetera, the evening leaves little time leftover for good, quality family time.

Believe me, right now I am looking for any shortcut I can get.

That is why I am so excited to tell you about eMeals.  If you haven’t heard of eMeals before, basically, it’s an online LIFESAVER.  It is a meal planning service that incorporates everything you need in order to take the stress out of dinnertime.

This online service provides over 30 meal plan options that include easy to follow recipes and shopping lists and where possible are tied to weekly grocery store sales. You can choose from stores including Aldi, Kroger, Publix, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods, and from a variety of meal plans–from Gluten-Free, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, Portion Control, Vegetarian, and Natural and Organic.

Since I’m trying to get my jeans to button by the time fall arrives, we’ve been trying out the Portion Control plan at my house.  Believe me when I tell you it is awesome.  As much as I love food blogging, it is so nice right now to have someone else doing my planning and list making.  Even better?  eMeals even gives you an estimated price breakdown per item, so that you can budget your expenses.

Here’s a sample of what we’ve been making.  Quick, no-fuss meals that are both kid and finicky husband approved!

Each week you will receive a brand new plan with a complete grocery list organized by sections. And each meal plan is as low as $5 per month!!

Want to learn more about eMeals or try it out for yourself?  Click my affiliate link below:

eMeals - Easy Meals for Busy People!

Or maybe you just want to enter my giveaway for three-month subscription to the meal plan of your choice.  Now, if I could just find a way to get someone else to do the actual shopping and food preparation…any takers?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great Wednesday!

This giveaway was sponsored by eMeals, but any thoughts or opinions I’ve shared here are totally my own.

Banana Bread Donuts with Nutella Glaze

I really, really love my donut pan.

I can make stuff like banana bread donuts with Nutella glaze in less than 30 minutes, and instantly transform myself into an ultra-cool mom.

While the “cool mom” status doesn’t last for long, I’ll take what I can get.

The really cool thing about these donuts?  They’re baked, and this recipe uses absolutely no oil or butter.

A mashed up banana replaces the oil in this recipe.  I promise, they are still super soft and full of flavor, with flecks of cinnamon and nutmeg throughout.

So not only am I semi-cool, but I’m practically a health nut.

Ooh, and as my awesome Facebook readers suggested, these donuts would be awesome with coconut on the top.

If you don’t have a donut pan, no worries–just make these into muffins.  Raise the oven temperature to 350 and bake for approximately 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Or, spend the $10 and just order one*–believe me, you won’t regret it.  I use mine all.the.time.

And I’m not the only one! Check out some of these other awesome donuts from around blog-world:

Cherry Coconut Donuts from Kitchen Meets Girl
Strawberry Frosted Donuts from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Vanilla Spice Donuts from The Domestic Rebel
Mango Coconut Donuts from Inside BruCrew Life
Nutella Swirl Donuts from Crumbs and Chaos
Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Donuts from Crazy for Crust

Banana Bread Donuts with Nutella Glaze
These donuts taste just like a slice of warm banana bread right from the oven! To make them into muffins, increase your oven temperature to 350 and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serves: 12 donuts
For the donuts:
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon banana extract (or vanilla)
  • ½ cup mashed banana (about 1 small banana)
For the glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons Nutella
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Spray a donut pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine your dry ingredients. In another large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, through the banana. Stir dry ingredients into your wet ingredients.
  3. Fill donut pan with batter, about ⅔ full.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the glaze:
  1. Whisk together all icing ingredients; dip the tops of the donuts into the icing and garnish with sprinkles.
adapted from my Cherry Coconut Donuts

By the way, make sure to stop back by tomorrow. I have a super fantabulous giveaway planned!

I’m linked up at these great parties this week: Crazy Sweet Tuesdays, Trick or Treat Tuesdays, Tasty Tuesdays, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Cast Party Wednesday, Whip it Up Wednesdays, Watcha’ Whipped Up Wednesdays, Eat, Pray {Read}, Love, Sweet Treats Thursday, Mrs. Fox’s Sweets, Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons, Itsy Bitsy Paper, Crumbs and Chaos, I’m Lovin’ It Fridays, Weekend Potluck, and Six Sister’s Stuff!

*In the interest of full-disclosure, this link is to my Amazon affiliate site.

Two-Ingredient Chicken Tacos

Is anyone else out there feeling end of summer stress? Or is that just me?

Doodle starts kindergarten next week, and I still have a million things left to do.

Including having a semi-nervous breakdown. How is my kiddo old enough to be in kindergarten?

We went to an open house at the school a few nights ago, and he refused to hold my hand or walk next to me.  What’s up with that?  I thought I still had a few more years before he was too embarrassed to be seen with me.

So, would it be weird if I stalked his classroom during the week?  You know, just to make sure he’s doing okay and hasn’t forgotten about the person who gave birth to him.

In the meantime, I’m on the look-out for quick and easy weeknight meals as we start our new schedule for the school year.  And it doesn’t get much easier than this recipe.  Chicken, a jar of salsa, a crock pot, and my pie-hole.

What’s your favorite easy weeknight meal?

Two-Ingredient Chicken Tacos
  • 2 to 3 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • 16 oz jar salsa
  1. Place chicken in the bottom of your crock pot and pour the salsa on top. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours, until chicken is tender.
  2. Shred, and serve in taco shells with your favorite toppings.

If you have leftovers, add shredded chiuhauha cheese (a Mexican melting cheese; smoked Gouda or Monterey Jack would also work well) to your chicken. Roll the mixutre up in corn tortillas, and place in a baking dish. Top with additional cheese, and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Serve with salsa verde and your favoite toppings!

Cumin-Lime Corn Salad

We have this constant issue around my house.

My husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I’m a “want to make sure my jeans button when I sit down” kinda girl.  These two eating personalities don’t always match up at my dinner table.

The good thing is that since I cook ninety-five percent of the meals around here, I usually get to choose the menu. Which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

Bad in the sense that some days I get reallllllllly tired of thinking up what to make for dinner, and good in the sense that I also get to decide what to make for dinner.

I’ve been making this cool summer salad for years, and it’s still one of my top favorites.  Even better, it passes muster with the meat and potatoes guy in my house.  In fact, there’s usually very little left over at the end of the meal.  The very light lime viniagrette is the perfect compliment to the crisp vegetables in this side dish, and the addition of cilantro and cumin give it just enough punch to keep things interesting.

If you’re like me, and have indulged in just a few too many tempting goodies over these hot summer months, make this salad as the perfect accompaniment to a light grilled fish or chicken main course.  You’ll be back in your skinny jeans in no time!

Cumin-Lime Corn Salad
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained (or fresh corn; about 3 ears)
  • 1 each: green, red, and yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 to 2 jalepenos, seeded and diced (optional)
  • ½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
For the viniagrette:
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • zest of one lime
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together viniagrette ingredients. Add vegetables and toss to coat.
  2. Refridgerate at least an hour prior to serving to allow flavors to meld. If needed, drizzle with additional lime juice before serving.

Have a super Tuesday!