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Monday, December 22, 2014

Dixie Salad

This salad is served every Thanksgiving in a lot of Southern Utah Homes. Rumor has it that it was served by the early pioneers because they had all these ingredients available in the fall. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know it’s tasty and I first tried it in St. George Utah.  Adapted from Rick Snow's mom and from Jan M. Olpin, Home of the Train – Dairy Keen.

1 Large Pomegranate
1-2 Jonathan, Gala or Jonagold Apples
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
¼ to ½ cup Roasted Pecans

]Cut Pomegranates in half as you would an orange. Over a large bowl turn pomegranate upside down and whack it with a large metal spoon until all the seeds are out.  It can be a little messy, but this method is much faster and simpler then picking out the seeds.

Cut the apple into bite sized pieces, no need to peel. Add apple to the pomegranates. 

Whip Cream until stiff, add sugar and vanilla. Fold cream into pomegranates and apples. Just before serving sprinkle with the pecans. 

You can also add pineapple tidbits or bananas or mandarin oranges or even mini-marshmallows, but traditionalist only use the 4 ingredients.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Brownie Bites

3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour 

Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray.

In a medium microwave proof bowl melt chocolate and butter together in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until only a couple unmelted bits remain.  Stir until smooth and fully melted. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.   Scoop batter into the muffin pan, filling them almost to the top (about 1 T per mini muffin).  Bake for 16 minutes or until toothpick comes out batter-free.  Let them sit 5 minutes on a cooling rack before removing them.  Sometimes I have to run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen them a bit.  Yields about 28-30 brownie bites.  Let cool.

Alternatively you can bake these in an 8x8 pan.  Line with parchment or foil extending up two sides.  Butter the parchment or foil.  Spread batter evenly in pan and for bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free. Using foil/parchment sleeve, remove brownies from pan, cool and cut into desired size.  Optional: dust with powdered sugar before serving.  

Also amazing with sea salt caramel!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shredded Chicken

A great recipe to make shredded chicken for when you need pre-cooked chicken.  I can do up to 6 breasts in my 12-inch skillet at a time.  Makes 3-4 cups cooked, shredded/chopped chicken.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (about 2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup water or low-sodium chicken broth

In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot and rippling. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chicken in the hot skillet and let the chicken cook for 5 minutes until golden brown on top. Flip the chicken, add the water or chicken broth, cover and simmer gently over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (it will register 160 degrees on a thermometer). Don't overcook or it might be dry. If needed, add additional water 1/4 cup at a time if the liquid evaporates too quickly. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Let it cool slightly before shredding/chopping. The cooked chicken will keep well-covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Recipe Source: from Mel's Kitchen cafe inspired by a method from America’s Test Kitchen

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cake Mix Cinnamon Rolls

This is a recipe that I often come back to.  The cake mix adds a nice lightness to the dough.  (update 2/17/2018--we make this cinnamon roll recipe the most often).


  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast 
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) 
  • 1 (9 ounce) package yellow cake mix or half of a regular cake mix
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour 


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened 
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (I prefer to use about 1/2 cup of brown)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 


  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar 
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk 


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.   (If using instant yeast, decrease amount of yeast by 25% and you can skip the proofing step).

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the cake mix, salt and vanilla; stir well to combine. Stir in the flour; beat well. Cover bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. 

Deflate dough and turn it out onto a well floured surface. Roll dough out into a rectangle and spread with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll up dough and cut into 3/4 inch thick rolls. Place rolls in two lightly greased 9x13 inch baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.   (Or cover and let rise in the the fridge overnight.  Bring to room temperature 30-60 minutes before baking the next morning).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Bake rolls in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. While rolls are baking, prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar, 1/3 cup butter, vanilla and milk. Let rolls cool slightly then spread with frosting.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shredded Beef Tacos

This was a super simple and delicious way to make shredded taco meat.

3-4 lb. chuck roast
2 T oil
garlic powder
fresh ground pepper
kosher salt

1/4 cup taco seasoning
2 T of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
1/2 cup water
1 small diced onion or 1/2 a large onion

Heat oil in large skillet over medium to medium high heat until glistening.  Sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper generously on both sides of roast.  Brown and sear all sides of the roast (a couple of minutes on each side).

Transfer roast to crockpot.  Sprinkle on onion, taco seasoning, 21 Seasoning Salute, and water.  Cover and cook on low 8-9 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

Shred apart, and remove any fat.  Serve with your favorite taco toppings.  We like black beans, guacamole, spinach, tomato, sour cream, and queso fresco.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cookie Cake

Super quick and delicious cookie cake.  Makes a great gift or perfect treat to share.  From Mel's Kitchen Cafe.


1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour (can sub up to half white whole wheat)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugars and butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips.
3. Line a large (11X17-inch) baking pan with foil and press the cookie into a circle. I press my cookie into a 9-inch circle, about 1/4 to 3/8-inch thick. (FYI: When it bakes, it spreads to about 11 inches, which fits perfectly onto a 12-inch round cardboard circle you can find at most craft stores).

4. If desired, top the cookie with M&M’s or any other garnishes. Bake for 13-16 minutes until the cookie is lightly golden brown. Let the cookie cool completely on the baking pan – this helps the cookie stabilize and set so it can be easily lifted off the pan. Once cool, gently use the foil to lift the cookie off the pan.

Bran Breadsticks

This recipe comes from MaryAnne Hunter and recipe swap.  It's the perfect bread to accompany a meal of soup or salad.  Delicious served with butter--it's already slightly sweet so no jam needed.

1 c All Bran or Raisin Bran Flakes
1 c of warm water
1 T yeast
1 t salt
1/2 c sugar
1 can fat free evaporated milk (12 oz)
4 1/4 c flour (I usually mix white and wheat)

In large mixing bowl, stir by hand bran flakes with warm water and let sit a few minutes to soften.  Add yeast, salt, sugar, and milk.  Mix.  Add flour 1 cup at a time using the dough hook (or by hand).  The dough will be fairly sticky but starting to pull from the sides of the bowl.  

Let rise until double for an hour or more. Stir down. Divide into 3 rolls.  I shape the dough into 3 large batard/baguette size loaves on a large cookie sheet (about 4x10 inches).  Let rise once more until double another 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours). Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes (usually closer to the 20 minute time - should be slightly brown on top.)  

Rocky Bread

This is my new go-to quick bread recipe. Requiring only one rising, it comes together super fast but still tastes DELICIOUS! From Abby Merkley at recipe swap.

1.5 Tbsp yeast
3 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp sugar
3 cups warm water
6-7 cups flour (you can do about half white whole wheat)

 Mix yeast, salt, sugar and warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

Add flour and mix well (*I add flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixer, then I let it mix 4-5 minutes).

 Let rise until double (40-60 min)

Place dough on oil/floured counter and shape into two loaves (LARGE).

 Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes--brush top with butter as it comes out of the oven.

 **Makes approx. 2 large loaves bread, w large peasant rounds, 4 bagettes, 3 pizza crusts or 2 large sheets of bread sticks)

Sour Cream Cinnamon Twists

Sour Cream Cinnamon Twists
Faster and lighter but still as tasty (or better!) than cinnamon rolls, these are fabulous breakfast treat.  From Katie Thomas at recipe swap who got it from the Allen Family Cookbook.

Prep 1 hr 40 mins
Cook 15 mins
Makes 2 dozen

1 cup lukewarm sour cream or plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sugar
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons soft shortening
3 cups sifted flour

For Filling:
2 T butter, softened
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon

For Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons warm milk or cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Warm sour cream or yogurt to 105°.  Stir in sugar, soda and salt.  Sprinkle dry yeast in let soften. Stir to dissolve. Beat in beaten egg, soft shortening, the flour. Mix well, pushing with hand if necessary.

Turn out onto floured surface and fold over several times until dough is smooth. Roll into a 24 x 6 oblong.

Spread with 2 tablespoons soft butter and sprinkle lengthwise half with a mixture of ⅓ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Fold other half over and cut into 24 strips, 1 inch wide. Hold strip at both ends and twist in opposite directions.

Place on greased baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Press both ends of twists to baking sheets. Cover; let rise until light, about 1 hour.  

While rising, make icing mixing together powdered sugar, milk or cream, and ½ teaspoon vanilla.  Set aside.

Bake in 375° oven for 12-15 minutes.

Life Skills Bread

This is a fabulous basic bread recipe.  Completely doable by hand and by novice bread makers.  But tasty enough to please bread affecianados.  This is the recipe I used to teach my daughters about bread making--temperature of yeast, feel of the dough, rising, shaping, etc.  Adapted slightly from this King Arthur recipe.

Makes: 2 loaves
Time: about 3 1/2 hours start to finish

2 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 t yeast (or one packet)
2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup White Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups All-Purpose Flour

 In a large bowl, combine warm water, sugar, yeast, and 2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour.   Cover mixture with a clean towel and let stand 10 minutes until bubbly.

Stir in salt and vegetable oil.

Stir in the rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time. When the dough holds together and most of the flour is mixed in, plop dough out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead the dough. Sprinkle your hands or the work surface with just enough flour to prevent sticking. Use your dough scraper, too. After 5 minutes, take a break and let the dough rest.

Scrape out the mixing bowl, and smear a little oil all around the inside. Knead the dough for a few more minutes. (When you lightly press the dough with your fingertips, it should bounce right back.  The dough should be tacky but not overly sticky).  

Put the dough into the oiled bowl, flip the dough once, and cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel. Put the dough in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and form into desired shapes. Grease a baking sheet; put your loaves on it. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a clean towel and let the dough rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Carefully remove plastic wrap and slash the tops of the loaves or baguettes with a sharp knife. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool the bread on a rack. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Oatmeal Wheat Bread

This is a favorite bread recipe.  From Lisa Sheffield and recipe swap.

1 c. oatmeal
2 c. boiling water
1/3 c. warm water
1-1 1/2 Tbs. instant yeast
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. honey
1 Tbs. salt
3 c. wheat flour
1 3/4 c. white flour (or more whole wheat for a slightly denser loaf)
1/4 c. gluten*

Pour 2 cups boiling water over oatmeal.  Let cool (this takes awhile, it needs to be down to at least 110 degrees before mixing in other ingredients).

In a large bowl mix flours and gluten.

In your mixer, mix 1/3 cup water, yeast, oatmeal, oil, honey, and salt.  Add 2 cups of flour mixture.  Mix until the flour is incorporated.  Continue adding flour 1/4-1/2 cup at a time until it pulls away from the sides and is tacky but not overly sticky.  Knead for 7-10 minutes in the mixer.  Transfer the dough to a clean, greased bowl.  Cover and let rise unit double about 60-90 minutes.  Punch down and divide into 2 pieces.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Form into 2 loaves and put into greased loaf pans.  Let rise until pans are full about another hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from pans, cool some before serving.

*I have made the recipe with and without the gluten and I cannot tell a difference, Lisa says the same thing.

Focaccia bread

This is a delicious buttery foccacia bread.  Recipe from Cyndi Nordfelt and recipe swap.

1 T yeast
1 T sugar 
1 C hot tap water
1 t salt
2 1/2 C flour

Mix yeast, sugar, and water and let sit until bubbly.
Add 1 salt, 2 1/2 cup flour.  Mix well, and then knead for 10 minutes. 

Place in oiled, covered bowl and sit in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down, let dough rest. 

Divide dough into 2 flat, rounded loaves. Place on a greased cookie sheet. 

Brush each loaf with 2 T melted butter. Sprinkle with good amounts of coarse salt and rosemary. Let rise 45 minutes or until double. Bake 9-10 minutes or until light brown in 425 F oven.

Great served with oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Maple Cinnamon Butter

This is amazing on warm rolls or bread.  Just the right amount of sweetness.  My girls say with each bite, "I just ate a cinnamon roll."  Slightly adapted from a recipe by Our Best Bites.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons 100% real maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or a dash of nutmeg and cloves)

Beat butter and powdered sugar in a stand mixer until combined and smooth.  Add maple syrup and spices. Mix on low until combined and then whip for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.   Serve at room temperature

If you’re making ahead of time, store in fridge, but allow time to bring to room temperature before serving.  For best results, stir or re-whip before serving. Lasts for about a week or so in the fridge, several months in the freezer.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Baked Blueberry Pecan French Toast (Overnight)

This is sooooooooo amazing.  I've made it again and again.  If I ever have leftover french bread, my first thought is I should make this for breakfast tomorrow!  I've also made it with almonds or no nuts.  Originally from Mel's Kitchen cafe.  I modified the recipe drawing from this amazing strata to help the overnight french toast have a more uniform texture and serve more easily.

1 loaf of French or Italian bread, cut in thick slices (2 inch) (I also like this with wheat or multigrain baguettes)
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
½  teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon butter, melted
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup of butter ( ½  a stick) , cut into pieces

Butter or spray with nonstick spray a 9×13 baking dish. Cut bread in thick slices (about 2 inches, or stack two pieces of thin bread) and cover the pan, pushing the pieces together snugly.   Whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a large bowl and pour evenly over the bread.  Cover the bread with saran wrap and then add some weights to help the eggs soak in evenly.  I like to put 2 small bags of rice or beans on top.  Refrigerate  at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

When you are ready to bake and serve, preheat oven to 350 F.  Toast the pecans in a skillet in one layer over medium heat, stirring often. Toss with 1 teaspoon melted butter. (I usually do this the night before to save time the morning of.)

Sprinkle pecans and blueberries evenly over bread mixture.  Melt ¼ cup butter and ¼ cup brown sugar in a small saucepan, stirring just until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Drizzle butter mixture over bread and bake mixture 30 – 40 minutes or until any liquid from blueberries is bubbling.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chocolate Muddies

These cookies are so amazing.  Rich and chocolaty and moist.

3 oz. cream cheese, softened (can use light)
3/4 cup stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
2/3 cup chocolate fudge ice-cream topping (warm if needed to pour-we used Mrs. Richardson's)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1+ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1.  Heat oven to 350.  Line cooking sheet with silpat or parchment.
2.  Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy.  (If using light cream cheese, take care not to over mix).  Add sugars, vanilla, almond extract, eggs, and chocolate fudge.  Beat about 3 minutes or until fluffy.
3.  In a separate bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk.  Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until evenly mixed.  Fold in chocolate.
4.  Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
5.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are set (centers will be very soft).  Cool 5 minutes, remove from cookie sheet.  Cool on wire rack.

You can vary the type of chip...we love the white chocolate chips with the bittersweet chocolate.  But you could also substitute peanut butter chips for the while chocolate for a peanut butter variation.

These cookies freeze well.  You can freeze the dough in dough balls.  Or you can freeze the cookies--just separate layers with a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper if you stack them.

One Hour Dinner Rolls

These have recently become a favorite around here.  So quick to make, but more flavorful then other quick breads. 

1 ½  cups non-fat milk or water
3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 ½ - 2 cups all purpose flour or bread flour, divided
1 tablespoon rapid rise/quick rise yeast (or if you  have packets, one packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) will work just fine))
1 ½  teaspoons table salt
1 egg at room temp (place in a bowl of warm water for at least 5 minutes)

Preheat oven to 170-200 degrees.  Then turn off immediately once it comes to temperature.  This will help creating a “proofing” box so your rolls can rise faster.

Place milk (water), butter, and sugar in a microwavable container and heat for about 2 minutes.  You want this mixture to be between 120-130 degrees, for best results use a digital instant read thermometer to gauge the temperature.  While the mixture is heating, combine 3 ½  cups of the flour, yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl.  When milk mixture is heated to about 125 degrees, add to the flour mixture and start to beat.  Add egg and continue to beat until everything is combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl and then add the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time.  You want the dough to be soft and sticky so don’t add too much flour.  I usually do about 4-4 ¼ cups.  

Place remaining flour on a cutting board and very gently scrape out the dough using a spatula.  Dust the top of your dough with flour and then using your hands, lightly pat the dough into a rectangle.  Score the dough into 24 sections for dinner rolls and gently form portions into balls.  I like to stretch and tuck the bottoms under making a nice smooth top.  Place in a 9×13 pan that has been sprayed with non stick spray.  

Let dough rest for 30 minutes until puffed and almost double in size.  To accelerate rising, you can place dough in a warm oven that has been turned off.  After 20 minutes, remove rolls, cover loosely with a towel, and let them finish rising on the counter.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites (I subbed half WW flour, use water and margarine sometimes to remove dairy for food allergy purposes, and modified some of the instructions).

Bright Green Smoothie

slightly adapted from  A favorite for Saint Patrick's Day!

3+ cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen mango
1 large banana
1 orange
1 cup orange juice, water, or other liquid

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.

Easy Banana Cream Pie

This is one of my husbands favorites.  He prefers this to a homemade pudding.  And it's so easy to make, my kids like to make it for Dad!  To make it "healthier" you can sub sugar free pudding and fat free cool whip and it still tastes great.  We like it best with regular pudding and light cool whip or real whipping cream.

2-3 ripe bananas, sliced
1 prebaked pie shell or graham cracker crust
2 1/2 cups cold milk
1 package (4oz) french vanilla or vanilla pudding
1 pacakge (4oz) banana pudding
2+ cups thawed cool whip or sweetened whipping cream

Position the banana slices on the bottom of the crust creating a uniform, even layer.  Set the other half of the banana slices aside.

Pour milk into a large bowl.  Add the dry pudding mixes.  Beat with a wire whisk about 2 minutes or until well blended and starting to thicken.  Gently stir/fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping or whipping cream.

Spoon half of the pudding mixture onto the crust.  Top with the remaining banana slices.  Cover with the remaining pudding mixture.

Refrigerate 3 hours or until set.  Serve with the additional whipped topping and garnish as desired.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Multigrain Pizza Dough

Makes two 14-inch pizzas.  From America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

1 3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup (5oz) seven-grain hot cereal mix
2-2 1/4 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Stir the boiling water and cereal mix together and let stand, covered loosely about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  It will turn into a thick porridge and be warm (about 110 degrees).

2.  Pulse2 cups of bread flour, whole wheat flour, yeast and salt until just combined.  Dollop the porridge over the top and drizzle on the olive oil.  Process for 30-40 seconds until a rough dough ball forms.

3.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and repeat 30 seconds longer.  If the dough is sticky and clings to the blade add a little flour 1 T at a time, pulsing to incoporate.

4.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured countered and knead into a smooth, round ball.  Place dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size 1-1.5 hours before using.  Or you can put the dough in the fridge for up to 16 hours ahead of time, letting it come to room temperature 30 minutes before using.*

5.  To bake, preheat oven to 475-500 degrees using a pizza stone is optimal.  Divide the dough in half.  Roll out dough into a 14-inch round.  Brush the edges of the dough with olive oil if desired.  Spread pizza sauce, top with cheese, toppings, etc.  Bake until the edges are brown and the cheese is golden in spots 8-13 minutes.

*You can also freeze the dough.  Wrap it very tightly in grease plastic wrap.  Then wrap it again with more plastic wrap and freeze.  Let the frozen dough thaw on the counter about 3 hours or 24 hours in the fridge before using.

Spinach Salad with Sweet-Spicy Nuts, Apples, Feta and Bacon

This salad is super yummy!  The bacon, cheese, apples, and sweet spicy nuts ,etc are a delicious combination.  Slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  Served with grilled chicken it's a great entree.


16 ounces baby spinach
½ small red onion, slivered
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled or chopped into small pieces
1 cup Feta cheese crumbles, more or less to taste
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, more or less to taste
1-2 crisp apples, cored and sliced thin

Sweet Spicy Nuts:

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of cayenne (more to taste if you want)
Pinch of salt

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

For the dressing, shake all the ingredients together in a mason jar until well combined or run them through a quick blender cycle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance.

For the nuts, lightly toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, checking often so they don't burn. While they toast, place the sugar, cayenne and salt in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the sugar mixture until it liquifies completely, adjusting the heat so it doesn't bubble and burn….this takes awhile but you have to watch it.  When it starts to liquefy it happens fast and can quickly burn.  Quickly toss in the toasted nuts and stir to coat the nuts with sugar.   Spread out on waxed paper and let the sugared nuts cool completely.

To assemble the salad, toss all the salad ingredients together along with the cooled nuts. Serve immediately with the vinaigrette on the side.

Baked Brown Rice

The main way I cook brown rice.  It does require longer, prep but the rice cooks up so nicely not like soggy brown rice. I always make a 9x13 pan size, and freeze half of it for a later meal.  Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

3 cups brown rice
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water (if using water, add 1 teaspoon salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9x13 glass* baking pan. Place the rice in the prepared pan and pour in the liquid. Stir to equally distribute the rice. Cover tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes.  I like to check it after 1 hour, peeking at the bottom to make sure it’s not burning.  Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before removing the aluminum foil and fluffing with a fork.

*If your rice still has a bit of liquid on the bottom or conversely, if it is dried out, adjust the baking time up or down to make changes.  I like to use a glass pan so I can check on it before fluffing it.  One hour and fifteen minutes is usually perfect in my oven.

M&M Rainbow Cookies

makes about 18 large cookies

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini M&M’s

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Take eggs out of the fridge if needed.  Melt butter and set aside.  

Using a whisk mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until they are combined.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed.

Gradually add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. Fold in the m&m’s.

Shape the dough into large 2T size dough balls.  I literally use my tablespoon measure to scoop the dough.  After shaping the dough balls try this baking tip:  tear the dough balls in half so you’re left with 2 pieces.  Each piece has a jagged side and a smooth side.  Squish the smooth sides of each half together and place the rough edges facing up and down to make what my girls call "bumpy snowmen". Place the dough with a rough-side up on a baking sheets leaving about about 2 inches in between each cookie.

Bake for 8minutes at 350 degrees.  Then turn the oven up to 375 and bake for 2-3 more minutes. or until the edges are slightly brown. The centers should be soft and puffy. Transfer to cooling rack after about a couple of minutes.

For smaller cookies, just use 1 tablespoon of dough and decrease baking time by about 2 minutes.
Slightly adapted from here (check out the site for some great photos of these amazing cookies!).  I modified the directions, upped the baking temperature, and subbed whole wheat flour.

Brown Rice

Different from conventional methods of cooking rice, this is more like cooking pasta--you bring the water to boil first, add the rice and boil with the lid off.  Drain, then return to the pot off the heat and let steam with the lid tightly on for 10-15 more minutes.  And voila!  no more soggy brown rice.  While I primarily make the baked brown rice since it's more hands-off, this is my fall back recipe when I don't have an hour and half of prep time.  From Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

1 cup brown rice (any kind basmati, jasmine, etc)
6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring water to a boil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. While the water is coming to a boil, rinse the rice under cold water for 30 seconds. When the water comes to a boil, stir in the rice and salt, stirring once.

Boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Pour the water off the rice into a colander in the sink. Let the rice drain quickly for just 10-15 seconds.  Then pour it back into the pot while still moist.  

Put the pot on the stove but off the heat.  Immediately cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. If your lid isn't really tight, place a kitchen towel over the pot before nesting the lid tightly into the pot. Let the rice steam for 10-15 minutes before uncovering the pot and fluffing the rice with a fork. Season with more salt, if desired.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Creamy Alfredo Sauce

Notes:  I use skim or 1% milk in this sauce and it works. Also, I use low-fat cream cheese. To make a richer creamier version you can use full-fat cream cheese and/or some whole milk.  Makes about 2 cups of sauce (enough for 1 box of pasta).

2 tablespoons butter
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 8 pieces
1 cup milk
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste, if needed


In a medium pot or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add the cream cheese,  whisking until smooth.  Note: It may look lump at first, but keep stirring for a couple of minutes and it will turn into a a smooth, creamy paste. Add the milk gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking quickly and constantly until each addition is incorporated fully into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt until cheese is melted and the sauce is your desired consistency. Cook for 2-3 minutes for a thicker sauce or remove right after the cheese is melted for a thinner sauce. Serve immediately over hot, cooked noodles.   We prefer whole wheat penne.  Tastes great with sautéed zucchini and chicken (either grilled chicken or leftover rostisserie chicken).

Slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I decreased the garlic and garlic cooking time and added a few other preferences like serve with whole wheat penne.