Monday, January 31, 2011

Oatmeal and Brown Sugar Cookies

So, I know I said that I was going to try and only put up recipes that are good for you, but I couldn't resist this one!  Sorry about that, I really am! BUT, they are so good and super easy.  ENJOY!
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 cup Gold Medal® whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups old-fashioned oats

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar and butter with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and eggs until well blended.
On low speed, beat in all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and baking powder, scraping bowl occasionally, until well combined. Stir in oats.
On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart. Flatten cookies to about 1/2-inch thickness.
Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

It's been a couple of days since my last post.  A lot has happened and I have to admit, that I really have not been cooking!  YIKES!  I do have a good excuse!  A broken foot! 
BUT, broken or not, I want to start cooking again and this is what's for dinner!  It is easy and really good.  Play around with the spices or things that you like in the soup.  Black bean soup generally has bacon or ham chunks in as well.  You can them cooked at the end of the process or you can put the cooked ham in with the soup as it cooks!  ENJOY!
2 cups dried black beans (1 pound), sorted and rinsed
10 cups water
8 cups vegetable broth
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped (1 cup)  
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
Sour cream, if desired
Chopped fresh cilantro, if desired

Heat beans and water to boiling in 4-quart Dutch oven; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour.
Drain beans. Place beans and remaining ingredients except sour cream and cilantro in 6-quart slow cooker.
Cover and cook on Low heat setting 10 to 12 hours.
Serve soup topped with sour cream and cilantro.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

While I was shopping at Costco the other day and saw some gorgeous mushrooms that were screaming, pick me pick me!  So I did and all I could think about, was a very good stuffed mushroom!  This is a great and VERY EASY recipe!  Enjoy!
12 whole fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine, discarding tough end of stems.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn garlic. Set aside to cool.
When garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture should be very thick. Using a little spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under caps.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwiches!

These are the cutest little ice cream sandwiches!  We used mint chocolate chip ice cream, but feel free to use whatever your heart desires.  ENJOY!
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened, or your favorite ice cream!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, egg, and vanilla; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; mix in 1 cup chocolate chips.
Using 1 rounded tablespoon per cookie, drop mounds of dough, about 1 1/2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. (You'll have 25 to 30 cookies.) Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Scatter remaining chocolate chips on a plate. Place about 2 tablespoons ice cream between 2 cookies, bottoms facing in; press gently. Roll the sides of each sandwich in chips. (If ice cream is melting, place sandwiches in freezer until firm enough to roll in chips.) Transfer sandwiches onto baking sheets. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours; then wrap individually in plastic. Freeze up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best Dang Grilled Ham and Cheese EVER

My ultimate comfort food....  Drum roll....  A really good grilled cheese sandwich on big thick bread and perhaps dipped in a wonderful Roasted Red Pepper Soup.  OMG!  My mouth is salivating as I write!  As I was at lunch awhile back with a very dear friend, I stumbled on the BEST grilled ham and cheese sandwich I have EVER had!  And guess what it had in it?!  Pears.  Yep, that's right!  Pears!  So, here is my version of this recipe.  AND, if you have ANY doubts about this recipe, do me favor and make it, then let me know!  ENJOY!
8 slices of your favorite bread
Butter for spreading 
16 oz. Gruyere cheese
2 pear, sliced thinly
deli ham, sliced thinly

Layer 8 slices of sandwich bread with 16 ounces Gruyere or other melting cheese, 2 thinly sliced pear, and 8 ounces thinly sliced deli ham; top each with bread.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spread outside of both bread slices with butter. Cook sandwiches in batches, if necessary, until golden and cheese is melted, flipping once, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cut sandwiches in half and serve hot and dip in soup! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Creamy Heart Fudge just in time for Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is upon us in a few short weeks.  I mean, wasn't it just Christmas?!  Anywho, I really enjoy Valenines Day and found this recipe.  These are the CUTEST Valentine fudge hearts ever!  It takes some time, but you will love the outcome!  They are perfect for your family, friends, teachers, mothers, love of your life or anyone that you can think of!  Have fun making them and ENJOY!
Canola oil for the pan and cutters
1 1/4 cups milk
3 1/2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Pink gel food coloring, (optional)

Lightly oil a 9-inch-square pan. (A smaller pan will make the fudge thicker and more difficult to cut.) Place milk in a heavy 12-quart saucepan. Stir in sugar; add butter. Over medium heat, stir constantly, until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Increase heat to medium high, bring to a boil, and cover with lid. Let boil for 2 minutes, and uncover. Do not stir; clip a candy thermometer on side of pan, and let mixture boil, over medium-low heat, until it reaches 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage), 15 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath.
Immediately remove pan from heat, and dip the base of the pan in the ice water for 5 seconds. Let the fudge sit at room temperature without stirring, with the thermometer attached, until the thermometer reads 122 degrees and mixture is lukewarm, about 40 minutes. If using food coloring, add 1 drop. Stir the fudge with a wooden spoon until it changes from glossy to opaque and is thick and creamy, 2 to 5 minutes. Quickly pour into prepared pan. Use piece of plastic wrap to smooth fudge into the pan, creating an even surface. Let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours, and cut with 1/2- to 1 1/2-inch heart cookie cutters. (Oil the cutters with the canola oil inside and out before using.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Perfect Parmesan Pork Roast

Sunday is the perfect day for a roast.  And who doesn't like a good roast?  It's easy, makes the house smell wonderful, you can take a nap while it's simmering, and it makes awesome leftovers.  What more could you want?! I have tried a lot of pork roasts in my time, and I really love the flavor of this one!  I hope you will too!  ENJOY!
1 boneless whole pork loin roast (4 pounds)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Cut roast in half. Transfer to a 3-qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, honey, soy sauce, basil, garlic, oil and salt; pour over pork. Cover and cook on low for 5-1/2 to 6 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 160° and meat is tender.

Remove meat to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice roast; serve with gravy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mom's Soft Caramel Popcorn

Whether she'll admit it or not, my mom is a Fantastic cook!  She not only made dinners that I now do for my family, but she had a way of making things her own.  One of my all time favorite snacks that she makes, is Soft Caramel Corn.  Oh. my. goodness.  I used to sneak into the kitchen when she wasn't looking a grab a whole handful of this yummy goodness.  I love making this for a good Saturday or Sunday afternoon snack! ENJOY!
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 can Eagle Brand Sweet and Condensed Milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1- 2 gallons of popped popcorn.  It's best if you DO NOT use microwave popcorn. 

Pop popcorn and remove and discard unpopped kernels.  Place in a large plastic bowl and set aside. 
Combine all ingredients above, minus the popcorn, in a large saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat.  Stir continuously until it reaches the soft ball stage in cold water or on a candy thermometer. DO NOT OVERCOOK!  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Quickly stir in the vanilla and pour over popcorn.   Spread it out on wax paper or a cookie sheet.  Serve and turn on a good movie!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oh my Goodness, Manicotti al Forno...

When I am looking for new recipes, I look to fill 2 needs.  It's better for me if they are simple and taste like they are not.  Thus, making me look better!  haha just teasing!  Ok, not really.  Well, this recipe fills both of those requirements and it has quickly become a favorite in our house!  My kids love manicotti or I guess noodles in general, so I am always looking for ways to spice things up!  The original recipe is great, but as always, I made some changes! ENJOY!
12 uncooked manicotti pasta shells
1 lb bulk Italian pork sausage or 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced or shreaded
1 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 jar (26 oz) tomato pasta sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with Italian-style herbs, drained
1 egg
1 container (15 oz) low or non fat cottage cheese
3 cups shredded Italian cheese blend or mozzarella cheese (12 oz)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips

Heat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta shells as directed on package. Drain; rinse with cold water to cool.
Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, cook sausage or chicken, garlic and oregano over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage is no longer pink; drain. Stir in pasta sauce and tomatoes. Spread 1 cup of the meat sauce in ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish.

In medium bowl, beat egg. Stir in ricotta cheese and 2 cups of the Italian cheese blend. Spoon cheese mixture into gallon-size food-storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut 1-inch hole in one bottom corner of bag. Squeeze bag to pipe about 1/4 cup cheese mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange stuffed shells over meat sauce in dish. Pour remaining meat sauce evenly over shells.

Cover dish with foil. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Top with remaining 1 cup Italian cheese blend. Bake uncovered 5 to 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle basil over top before serving.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On the Light side Chicken Pot Pie

Who doesn't like a really good Chicken Pot Pie?!  I know I do, but right now, I'm not crazy about the calories, but oh man the comfort it brings is almost worth it!  I said, almost!  Here is a great recipe that our family really enjoyed.  I did alter it, (sorry Martha!) with a rotisserie chicken, but I'm saving you time and energy!  You are welcome!   ENJOY!
1 store bought whole rotisserie chicken
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-fat (1%) milk or you can use almond milk as well
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 phyllo sheets (each 12 by 17 inches), thawed (you can find these at any grocery store)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Shred meat off of the rotisserie chicken and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add carrots, onion, and thyme; season with salt and pepper, and cook until carrots are crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer and thickens.  Remove from heat; stir in peas, lemon juice, and chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Pour filling into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Stack phyllo on a work surface. Using a paring knife, cut out an 11-inch circle from the stack; discard trimmings. Stack 2 circles on work surface, and brush gently with 1 teaspoon oil; repeat with remaining circles and oil. Place phyllo stack over filling, and press down about 1/2 inch from the edge so phyllo fits inside rim of pie plate. Bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let potpie cool 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Easy Pot Stickers

My kids LOVE potstickers.  They love dipping them in sauce and for some reason, they love the taste.  Kids are funny that way.  You can buy great pre made one's, but the homemade one's are not only better tasting, they are easy and fun to make! AND to make things even easier.... I finally bought one of these!  This may be a HUGE regret for my own personal reasons, aka.. my waistline, but I'll just have to deal!  CUZ, I am excited! ENJOY!
1/2 cup finely chopped Napa or Savoy cabbage
Coarse salt
6 ounces ground pork, not all lean
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

In a medium bowl, toss cabbage with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Wrap cabbage in a double layer of paper towels; firmly squeeze out excess liquid. Return cabbage to bowl; add pork, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix well with a fork. Refrigerate leftover filling up to 2 days.

24 rectangular (3 1/2-by-3-inch) or square wonton wrappers
1 recipe Wonton Filling
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 scallions, finely chopped (optional)
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce, for serving
Make wontons (through step 2).Transfer to an oiled plate, and cover with a damp towel to keep moist.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid, (or you can by a deep fryer and use that as well.) heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add half the wontons and cook, turning once, until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Carefully add 1/2 cup water (oil may sputter), cover, and steam until translucent and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and wontons. Sprinkle pot stickers with scallions, if using, and serve with soy sauce.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Easy Pita Pizza's

Another one of my favorite meals is good old fashion pizza. Boring, typical, all american pizza. But I do have to say that I am actually kind of a pizza snob. Yep!  It must be thin crust and done right.  Fresh mozzerella and homemade sauce are A MUST!  But let's face it, not everynight is a good night to cook, right?!  One ingredient that you will always find in our pantry is pita bread.  There is SOOOO much that you can do with pita bread and it is really cheap!  At Costco, you can get a bag of 10 pita breads for $2.39!  Can you say, AWESOME! (you have to say that with a pitched voice!)  hee hee
Here is a great weeknight dinner that can be thrown together quickly and the entire family will enjoy it, because they can have whatever they want!  I'll be the first to say, this is not a genious recipe, but it is easy and fun and can often be found in your cupboard.  ENJOY!
4-8 pita breads (1 per person or 1 can feed 3 kids)
1/2 cup of your favorite spaghetti or pizza sauce
grated mozzerella cheese
Feel free to use your favorite pizza toppings! 

This is one of our favorites!
substitute pizza sauce with pesto sauce
1/2 cup of artichoke hearts
1/4 cup of feta cheese
1/4 cup cooked, ground italian turkey sausage
fresh basil
1- 2 sliced roma tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On the pita breads, spread lightly with tomato sauce or basil pesto sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and your favorite toppings. Individualize each pita bread as you and your family would like!

Spread the pitas on a large baking sheet and place in the preheated oven 8 minutes, or until the pita bread has reached desired crispness. Serve whole, or cut into slices. ENJOY!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beef with Broccoli Stir Fry

If you were to ask me what my favorite type of food is, I would have to say that's it a cross between authentic Mexican or Chinese Food.  Which of course, neither one is very healthy or low fat!  HOWEVER, they can be if you just make a couple of alterations.  You can still enjoy that food that you love, by adding LOTS of herbs.  One of my hubby's favorite dishes when we go out is just plain old Beef with Broccoli.  SO, here is the low fat, healthy, BUT still incredibly yummy and easy (whew that's a mouth full) recipe!  ENJOY!
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp table salt
3/4 pound(s) lean sirloin beef, trimmed, thinly sliced against the grain
2 tsp canola oil
1 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
5 cup(s) broccoli, florets (about a 12 oz bag)
1 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, minced
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup(s) low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup(s) water

On a plate, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch and salt; add beef and toss to coat.
Heat oil in a large nonstick wok or large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 4 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Add 1/2 cup broth to same pan; stir to loosen any bits on food on bottom of pan. Add broccoli; cover and cook, tossing occasionally and sprinkling with a tablespoon water if needed, until broccoli is almost crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Uncover pan and add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes; stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
In a cup, stir together soy sauce, remaining 1/2 cup broth, remaining 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch and water until blended; stir into pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Return beef and accumulated juices to pan; toss to coat. Serve.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Biggest Loser... Herb Crusted Grilled Turkey

I don't know about you, but I have certainly enjoyed the holidays and my waistline is showing the love!  I love food!  But I also love to be inspired... 
Last night as my hubby was away for a much needed guys night out, I was settling in to watch for the first episode of the Bachelor with a big o'bowl of Peach Cobbler.  I know, I know, I know... yes I am a reality TV junkie at heart. I love the scandals and the cobbler!  But instead, I saw that the Biggest Loser, Where Are They Now show was on.... and thus bringing me to my 2 favorite things.  Eating and exercising. (oh ya and Bob is pretty cute too!) Everytime I watch this show, I cry, get inspired and want to do better.  These people are amazing! 
SO, for 2011, I will be posting healthy low fat, easy meals, in combination of the really good/ bad stuff that you just have to throw in there everyonce in awhile!  I will also be throwing in tips on how to stay fit and healthy for 2011.  Let's face it, we could all do just a little bit better.  Right?! I just know this is going to be a great year for everyone!
So, here is the recipe a Chef Curtis Stone served for dinner on the show.  It sounds wonderful!  Although, I always try a recipe before I post it, I'll be making this for dinner tonight! OH YA and Season 11 of Biggest Loser starts tonight!
1 - 4 1/2 lb turkey breast, skin off, trimmed of any excess fat
6-7 pieces butcher twine cut into 14 inch strips
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into large pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
1 head of garlic cut in half
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Arrange the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and thyme in a single layer in a roasting pan and set aside.
Lay 6 strands of kitchen twine horizontally across a large rimmed baking sheet spaced evenly apart, Place the turkey breast atop the twine, perpendicular to the twine.
Starting with the center twine and working toward the outer twines, tie the twine as tight as possible around the turkey ensuring it is uniform in width. to ensure even cooking.
Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil.
When oil is hot, add turkey and brown well on all sides.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the turkey breast to the roasting tray, on top of the bed of vegetables.
Roast in oven for 45 minutes, and then check temp after every 15 minutes, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey reads 165°F.
Remove from oven, let sit approx 20 minutes to allow juices to redistribute.
After resting, coat turkey with thin layer of mustard and generously sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Homemade Tootsie Rolls

Homemade is better than store bought ANYDAY in my opinion!  I came across this recipe a couple of years ago and I am so happy that I found it again!  As a matter of fact, I going to make them right now!  These little babies are amazing and a great way to spulurge without taking on a ton of calories and I guarntee the kids will like them too!  ENJOY!
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup instant powdered milk
1/2 cup white caro syrup

Mix all ingredients together. Knead like you would for bread. Roll into rope shapes and cut into desired lengths.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Celebrate by relaxing....Slow Cooker Italian Tortellini Stew

HAPPY 2011! 
I am really excited for a new year!  2010 was not very kind, so all I can is GOODBYE!  Now, as I write down my new years resolutions, I have discovered that all I really want is to make things easier and healthier for my family! AND, I LOVE my slow cooker!  This recipe is super easy, especially if you are like me today and don't want to cook. wink wink! 
ANYWHO, Happy New Year to all!  Let's make this a wonderful year!

2 medium zucchini, halved, cut into 1-inch slices
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans low sodium chicken broth
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15.5-oz.) can cannelli beans, drained, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 (8-oz.) pkg. uncooked dry cheese-filled tortellini

In 4 to 6-quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients except basil and tortellini; mix well.
Cover; cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, stir basil and tortellini into stew. Increase heat setting to high; cover and cook an additional 20 minutes or until tortellini are tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve!
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