Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

This recipe has been in my family for years—I can't remember a year that my mom didn't make this black-eyed pea salad. Black-eyed peas are supposed to be eaten on New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. (Truth be told, I usually have my first bite a few days into January, because I forget about having a spoonful on January 1st.)

This salad is full of fiber, flavorful, and is perfect to keep in the fridge for a quick, filling snack. The flavor of the salad gets better with time, so don't be surprised if you find yourself eating a huge bowl days after you make it. Black-eyed peas, if you haven't had them before, remind me more of beans than a pea. They're tiny, a little grainy, and pair nicely with the ingredients below. 

When I was younger, my brother and I would do anything and everything we could possibly do to not have a single taste of this salad (I guess black-eyed peas sounded gross back then?), but now I love this and would consider making it any time of the year.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen black-eyed peas
¼  teaspoon salt
1 (14.5-ounce) can vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 jalapeno, rinsed but left whole
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
2 green onions

In a medium pot, combine frozen black-eyed peas, salt, vegetable broth, water, sugar, jalapeno pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn off heat and allow peas to cool in the cooking broth for two hours or overnight before finishing salad.

There should be about ¼ cup of cooking liquid left in the kettle. Discard the bay leaf and dice jalapeno (optional). Stir tin cider vinegar and olive oil into the cooking liquid. Add green pepper, tomato, green onion, and jalapeno (optional). Toss to mix; serve chilled or at room temperature.

*This is a guest post I wrote for Jolts & Jollies

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mexican Egg Rolls

A few years ago I was handed the job of making chile rellenos for Christmas Eve. After 1 year of "stuffing" chile with cheese and attempting to bread and fry it with the breading still on, I was done. I decided I wanted to reinvent the Chile Relleno. Not that the original aren't great, because they are, I'm just not the best at making them. And so the Mexican Egg roll was born.

Mexican Egg Rolls
1 pkg Egg Roll Wrappers
2 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Water
Whole Seeded Green Chile
Cheddar Cheese- sliced in 1/2'' pieces
Canola or peanut oil- for frying

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lay out one wrapper with the corner facing you. Place a 4'' strip or 2 Tbsp of chopped chile in the center of the wrapper. Lay a piece of cheese on top of the chile. Fold the corner up over the chile and fold in the left and right corners into the center and continue to roll up. Make a paste out of flour and water and brush onto the edges and corners to seal. Make sure all the edges are sealed so that the cheese doesn't squeeze out when you fry it . Place the rolls in heated oil turning occasionally until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

A few weeks ago I saw a call-out on Twitter for people interested in guest posting on Culinary Covers. Lori Lange, aka RecipeGirl (fantastic recipes, go check out her site!) created Culinary Covers as a way to see if those recipes gracing the covers of magazines actually deserve to be a cover photo.

The second I saw her request on Twitter I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to try: the Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake from the December issue of Cooking Light magazine. Part of the deal with guest posting meant that I had to make the recipe exactly according to the directions, take a picture mirroring the cover, and write about the experience. Seeing as how I've never made a cheesecake before, I was more than up for this challenge.

The result was better than I expected, but I'll let you check out my post on Culinary Covers for  more of my notes. I will say, though, that if you need an easy holiday dessert that not only tastes good, looks great, and is somewhat healthier than regular cheesecake, make this. You won't be dissapointed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eggnog Cranberry Muffins

Before I go on a trip I like to clean out the fridge and get rid of things so they don't go bad while I'm away. I noticed that I had an extra bag of cranberries and some eggnog, so I went on a mission to find something to make.

I came across two very similar recipes for Eggnog Cranberry Muffins and immediately made them. My house smelled delicious while they were cooking and I couldn't wait to take them out of the oven.

If I made these again I would probably increase the amount of cranberry and eggnog because I would have liked more cranberries in each bite (recipe below does not reflect my wishful changes). Other than that, I loved the recipe. A friend of mine, The Nifty Foodie, saw my tweets about making this recipe, so she made it into little mini bread loaves. This recipe, however you make it, is perfect for the holidays, and the streusel topping is just delicious.

Eggnog Cranberry Muffins 

For the muffins:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
¾ cup eggnog (would bump up to 1 cup next time)
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups coarsely chopped cranberries (would bump up to 2 cups next time)

For the topping:
½ cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, slightly softened
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Line 14-18 muffin cups with paper liners or grease muffin pan.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir to combine.  In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar, eggs, eggnog, melted butter and vanilla extract.  Stir until well combined.  Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Toss the chopped cranberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and fold into the batter.  Divide batter evenly between the prepared muffin liners or muffin pan, filling them about two thirds of the way full.

To make the streusel topping, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms.  Stir in the pecans if using. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on top of the muffin batter.

Bake for about 18-22 minutes, or a until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Egg Florentine

As a military wife, I have to learn to cook for one when my husband deploys or goes on business trips, which is much easier said than done. Lonilness usually kicks in around meal time and it's so simple and tempting to pick up a bag of chips or snack on cookies rather than eat a wholesome meal. After he leaves I try to make "bulk" meals like soup, spaghetti, or casseroles, basically anything I can keep in the fridge and easily reheat for later.

I saw Pioneer Woman's Eggs Floreninte Casserole and wanted to try it out, but I knew I'd get bored eating the whole thing day after day, so I cut the recipe in half and changed a few things here and there. The end result was tasty and substantial—I didn't get hungry again for several hours, which is always a good thing.

Consider the recipe below as a base to add other veggies or swapping out different meats—sausage would be fantastic with this, but I was concerned with keeping the WW points low. Next time I may add some mushrooms and green peppers to bulk it up even more. If you're making this for a larger group, just double the recipe or check out  PW's original version. And if making your own hash browns is too intimidating, skip the hassle and just use frozen hash browns!

Eggs Florentine Casserole
adapted from Pioneer Woman

1 russet potato, shredded (about 1-2 cups)
½ onion chopped
1 ounce diced green chile (or jalapenos)
6 strips bacon, crumbled
2 teaspoons oil
salt and pepper (to taste)
8 eggs (or two cups of egg beaters)
1 cup cheese
1 ½–2 cups of spinach

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees; lightly grease a small baking dish with cooking spray. Cook bacon until crisp; set aside on paper towel. Shred/julienne potatoes (you’re going for hash browns here, folks!) Heat butter and oil in skillet; add potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Leave in skillet for about five minutes or until crispy; flip. When both sides are cooked, add onion; mix until onions are translucent. Transfer potatoes mixture to baking dish; layer crumbled bacon and green chile or jalapenos. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs and ½ cup cheese; add spinach and mix together more. Pour egg and spinach mixture over casserole. Bake for 20 minutes or until eggs are set. Once eggs are cooked, sprinkle remaining cheese; bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Plum Upside Down Cake

Even though there is nothing truly magical about upside down cakes, I feel there is. Something about putting it in the oven and it looks like a regular cake with regular batter, then flipping it out and SURPRISE there's fruit and color all over the top of it! When it's baking I try to forget what I whipped together so that it really does surprise me when I remove the pan. It's a wonderful idea and I urge everyone to make one and use any kind of fruit you'd like. I really think anything sauteed in butter then made as a topping on cake has the power to be life changing. This recipe was adapted from Real Simple and I lowered the fat and used whole wheat flour. Happy Baking :)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus extra for the pan (or low fat butter substitute- I use Brummel and Brown)
4 ripe plums cut into 8 wedges
6 Tbsp agave
3 Tbsp Brandy (optional)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (can substitute Splenda for lower cal)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup low fat sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch cake pan. Melt 1 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the plums and agave cook, tossing, until the plums become syrupy and softened. About 3 minutes. Near the end pour in about 3 Tbsp brandy and toss. Arrange the plums in the cake pan in a circle pattern, completely covering the pan. Spoon any pan juices over the top. Whisk together the flour, flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl beat 1/2 cup butter and 2/3 cup of sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, sour cream, and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture until incorporated.Pour the batter over the plums and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool for 15-20 minutes. Place a large plate over the cake pan and invert the cake onto the plate. Once cooled top with powdered sugar.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tahini Cookie Bars

A couple weeks ago I was invited to my very first cookie exchange. I was excited about the possibility of trying a new recipe, and then one of my friends attending the exchange reminded me that she can't eat dairy. Cookies without milk or butter? Is that even possible? I set out to find a recipe (or two) that would be safe for her to eat and stumbled upon Tahini cookies.

When I saw the following recipe I knew I had to try it—not just because I had an unopened jar of tahini sitting in my pantry, but because I've been wanting to try making a granola-like cookie. Tahini can be found in the ethnic isle of your grocery store (usually in the Mediterranean section). It's commonly used in making hummus and is essentially ground sesames turned into a paste—the texture reminds me of peanut butter. (*Insider's tip: If you are military—or know someone in the military—I got my tahini at the commissary for half the cost of getting it at the store).

Personally, I think the tahini can be a bit overpowering, so I added some vanilla and more cinnamon to the recipe to counteract the taste of the tahini. I also threw in some cherry-flavored craisins to make it a little more like a granola bar, but feel free to add other dried fruit and/or nuts, too.

Tahini Cookie Bars
adapted from All Recipes

  • 6 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup craisins (or raisins) 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets (for cookies) OR grease a  baking dish (for bars).
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together tahini, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix in pecans, oats, and craisins until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 2 inches apart. OR spread mixture evenly into baking dish (for bars).
  3. Bake for 10 minutes in preheated oven, or until edges are golden brown and tops are slightly brown. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely OR if making bars, cool completely in dish. When completely cool, slice into bars with butter knife.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DIY Hot Cocoa Cones

*This was originally posted over here as a wedding favor, but it's so gosh-darn cute, cheap, and easy to make that it'd be perfect for a stocking stuffer or a little Christmas gift. This would also be perfect with a cider, tea, homemade hot chocolate mix, or even powdered lemonade in the summer.

We had a hard time justifying the cost of including favors at our wedding. Simply put, favors can be really, really expensive for something that typically gets thrown away. I wanted something that would fit with our wedding and that would actually be (hopefully) used after our guests went home.

After searching and searching, I finally found these Hot Cocoa Vials and fell in love.

Everything was perfect until I priced everything out for the above DIY favor and found they'd cost around $1 per favor, which would come out to around $150 and that's way more than we wanted to the search continued. 

Then I found Hot Cocoa Cones...

PERFECT! I found several different tutorials on how to make them, so I set out to make our own.

My mom and I made our favors for less than $.40 each and in under 10 steps:


Cast of Characters (to make 150 cones) *obviously, make some changes if you don't want make that many hot cocoa cones!

(3) 100, 12" Disposable Decorating Bags (bought these from Michaels using their 40 and 60% off coupons - regularly $19.99)
(2) Nesquick chocolate powder (we got ours from Costco for around $6)
(2) 75 teeny, tiny hair ties ($5)
(4) Marshmallows (from Walmart, $1 each)
Yarn (Michaels for $2.50)
Favor tags
Total spent: (around) $56. We made 150, so they came out to $.37 each!

  Step 1: Cut decorating bags to around 6.5"

Step 2: Fill bag with 2 tablespoons (or whatever your chocolate powder suggests) with chocolate*:

Step 3: Use the teeny, tiny hair tie to close off the chocolate. (You may need to cut the access bag after tying it off. The picture below, for example, should be cut so there's just about a 1/2 inch of bag showing after the hair tie.)

Step 4: Insert chocolate filled cone into another decorating bag; make sure seams line up.

Step 5: Scoop out a 1/4 cup of marshmallows and poor into decorating bag on top of the chocolate cone.

Step 6: Tie a piece of ribbon, yarn, or string above the marshmallows. You need to make this tight so the marshmallows don't dry out. I tied it into two knots:

Step 7: After string is secure around bag, add your favor tag and tie it into a pretty bow. (I simply created one in a Word document, but you could easily just add a gift tag!)

Step 8: Repeat as many times as necessary

And there you have it, a quick, easy, and cheap DIY favor or Christmas gift!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Puppy Chow

My best friend introduced me to this sweet snack over the summer, but I had yet to make it...until now. Yesterday I stopped by the grocery store and Chex was on sale, so I figured I'd make some for a get-together at my friend's house.

Puppy Chow (I've also heard it called Monkey Munch and Muddy Buddies) is not suitable as a dog treat, but is a very tasty treat! Crunchy Chex cereal mingles with creamy chocolate and peanut butter, a hint of cinnamon*, and powdered sugar. Try it once and you'll be back for more. Did I mention this is easy, too? I made made this and was out the door within 15 minutes. Now that's the kind of "cooking" I like!

Puppy Chow
adapted from Betty Crocker

9 cups Corn, Rice, Wheat, or Chocolate Chex cereal (or a combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup margarine
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In large bowl, measure and pour cereal; set aside. In small, microwavable bowl, heat chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave 30 more seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into two-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar and cinnamon. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in fridge.

*The original recipe doesn't call for cinnamon, but I'm a huge believer in adding cinnamon whenever possible, especially alongside something sweet with chocolate. Give it a try, it's a good addition! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

This dish is super easy and incredibly yummy. Honestly you could add whatever you want to this dish and it would be amazing. It's sturdy enough to stand alone with just the pasta and sauce or could easily transition into a giant casserole with meat and veggies. I originally started making Pioneer Woman's Baked Lemon Pasta but every time I opened the fridge I found something else I wanted to add. I truly can't remember a time I followed a recipe word for word- it's a problem I know. Her recipe is perfect left alone, I just have a tendency to make things my own and really enjoyed it. I hope you do too!!

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

1lb Spaghetti (or your favorite noodle)
1 large or 2 small Lemons
Zest of 1 Lemon
4 cloves of Garlic
3 Tbsp Butter
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup low fat Sour Cream
4 0z low fat Cream Cheese
Salt to taste
1 pkg Chicken Sausage (I used roasted garlic and herb)
2 cups Broccoli (steamed or blanched)
4 Green Onions- chopped
Parmesan- as desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and heat olive oil in a skillet over low heat. When the butter is melted add minced garlic and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the skillet. Stir in sour cream and cream cheese. Add zest and salt. Turn off heat. Add cooked pasta, steamed broccoli, and green onion to skillet and toss to coat. Add cooked sausage now or after baked. Transfer to an oven safe dish, cover with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 or so minutes- don't let the pasta dry out. Remove from the oven and top with parmesan cheese and more lemon juice.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Healthy Birthday Cake

I made this Castle Cake for a birthday party this past weekend. It was a very special cake. For one, it was for my niece, and two it was made of black beans!! I'll admit when I first heard black bean chocolate cake, I was nervous. My sister has an allergy to gluten and dairy. And also a sugar intolerance. It's hard living with food allergies and also makes it very hard to find any sweets worth having. With some research she found a fabulous gluten free, dairy free, very low sugar black bean chocolate cake recipe. We made a test cake and could not believe how good it tasted! You certainly couldn't tell it was made of beans! It was a completely healthy cake, and no one had to feel guilty eating it. Don't be afraid of the name or have an nervousness about this cake, it's so GOOD!

1-15 ounce can of unseasoned black beans
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons Coconut oil
3/4 cup Erythritol or (1/3 cup Honey + 1 tsp Stevia)
1/2 tsp Stevia (if using erythritol)
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tbsp water (omit if using honey)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease your cake pan with cooking spray or shortening. Since this is a no flour cake dust cocoa all over the cake, make sure to get it one the sides as well. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the pan.

Drain the beans and rinse the beans, you don't want any bean juice. Shake off excess water. Put beans, 3 of the eggs, vanilla, stevia, and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend until everything is liquefied. Make sure to get all the lumps out. Mix cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat coconut oil and erythritol or honey (I used honey) until fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each one. Combine bean and egg mixture. Mix in cocoa powder and beat the batter on high until smooth. Put the batter in a pan and tap the pan on the counter to pop air bubbles.

Bake for 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Or until the cake is firm. If the cake is over baked it will be really crumbly and not as moist. Let the cake cool and turn out and set on a cooling rack until room temperature. The cake can be wrapped and refrigerated for a few days. Ice with your frosting of choice and ENJOY! It's really good with cream cheese or chocolate frosting. I made a tofutti cream cheese frosting, it was delicious. I'll post the recipe later on.

Taco Soup

If you're looking for a quick, delicious, and healthy meal then look no further. This is one of my favorite go-to meals and it's perfect for cold nights or days when you really don't want to bother with dinner. Not to mention, it's extremely flavorful and filling. Its consistency is more like a chili, but it really doesn't matter—just enjoy it!

A few things: the recipe below is basically a starting point. I've interchanged the ingredients with whatever I have on hand, like black beans, pinto beans, ground turkey, etc. Also, it freezes really well.

Taco Soup
makes around 8 servings (around 7 WW points+)
adapted from All Recipes 

  • 1 pound ground beef (we use extra lean beef)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (16 ounce) can chili beans, with liquid
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans with liquid
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, with liquid
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water (I fill up the empty cans of beans with water to get anything left in there)
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced tomatoes (if you like things spicy, get tomatoes labeled "zesty," "chili," or with jalapenos mixed in)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup nacho jalapenos, finely chopped
  • 1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix (we use the "hot" variety) OR make your own!
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Green onion (optional)
  • Tortilla (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)
In a medium skillet, cook onions, ground beef, and taco seasoning until browned over medium heat. Drain, and set aside.

Place ground beef, onion, chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes, and jalapenos in a slow cooker. Mix to blend; cook on low for 8 hours. Top individual servings with cheese, green onions and/or sour cream; serve with tortilla or bread. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chewy Molasses Cookies

It's baking season, and this year I desire to bake more than ever! Be prepared to see ALOT of sugary sweets coming out of this kitchen! Starting with one of my favorite Martha Stewart holiday treats, chewy molasses cookies! These cookies are rich but not too sweet and delicously chewy!!


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses

  • Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, set aside. Put 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Beat butter and 1 cup of sugar until combined. Add egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low, slowly mix in dry ingredients, until a dough forms.
  • Roll dough into balls, about the size of a Tablespoon. Roll balls in sugar.
  • Place balls about 3 inches apart. Bake until edges of cookies are just firm, about 10 minutes. If their overbaked they get very crispy.

  • Happy Baking!

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Coconut Macaroons

    This past summer I tasted a coconut macaroon for the first time and my world got a little brighter. It was the first time I ever tasted something so perfectly sweet, crunchy, and soft at the same time—my taste buds rejoiced and I was hooked.

    Tasting the little snowball-like treat was simply amazing and I promptly asked my friend for her recipe. She passed it along and I was shocked by how simple they were to make. In fact, they're so simple that coconut fans may even gobble them up before you can take them off your cookie sheet (I'm looking at you mom and grandma!) But have no fear, they're so easy that you can easily make more in no time at all. 

    Coconut Macaroons 
    makes about 25

    2 1/2 cups of sweetened coconut (shaved)
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 large egg whites (or 1/4 cup if you use egg whites from a container)
    2 tsp vanilla
    pinch of salt

    Preheat oven to 325. Mix all ingredients together in small bowl. Use a regular table spoon to make small, one-inch mounds; place mounds on non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; promptly move macaroons to a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes...or eat them straight away.