Friday, January 30, 2009

No-bake Cheesecakes

Yesterday was Emma's 15th birthday! I woke up knowing I wanted to make her cheesecake, one of her faves. I also didn't want to go to the store. So I found this recipe from an old Martha Stewart Kids magazine- and I had all the ingredients in my fridge and pantry. After reading through the recipe, I knew I was going to love it even before I made it. It is a very rich, creamy texture, not light and fluffy like a baked cheesecake. Sweet but tart from the lemon juice. Rave reviews from the birthday girl, the birthday dinner attendees, and me.
*You can make this as individual servings or as one 9-inch cake as well.

No-bake Cheesecakes

2 packages (20 sheets) graham crackers
11 tablespoons (1 3/8 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 14-ounce can (1 1/4 cups) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In large plastic bag, crush all the graham crackers to fine crumbs. In large bowl, combine graham crackers, melted butter, and sugar. Press into individual muffin tins or pie tin and bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Let cool.

With electric mixer, combine cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Fill graham cracker crust with mixture and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Garnish with a single candy, a strawberry slice, chocolate shavings, or fruit sauce.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Broccoli

I wasn't sure how this dish would turn out because it calls for a lot of garlic and I'm not a huge garlic fan, but this was so good! It's light and healthy and has really good flavor. We had this with parmesan breadsticks that are super easy and delicious!

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Broccoli

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
3 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
grated parmesan cheese (for serving)

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot.
2. Cook 3 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoons of garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in 10-inch nonstick skillet over low heat, stirring often, until garlic is sticky, foamy, and straw-colored, about 10 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.
3. To skillet, add 1/2 cup water and broccoli. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until broccoli is tender but still crisp at center, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain.
4. Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain spaghetti and return to pot.
5. Stir parsley, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons oil, sauteed garlic, broccoli, and 2 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water into spaghetti. Season with salt and pepper. Add reserved pasta cooking water as needed to loosen sauce. Serve, passing the Parmesan separately.

Parmesan Bread Sticks

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out 1 pound pizza dough ( I used Fresh and Easy's whole wheat pizza dough) into 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Cut dough into 1-inch wide strips and lay on well-oiled baking sheet. Brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly on wire rack and serve warm.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Strawberry Spinach Salad

This is another family favorite. The dressing is what makes it! The recipe actually calls for pecans, but I usually use slivered almonds. I happened to have some pine nuts on hand when I made this last week and I really liked that combination too.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
10 cups spinach ( I just use 1 prepackaged bag)
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the first seven ingredients; shake well. Just before serving, combine spinach, strawberries, and nuts in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Pina Colada Cake

Friend Skyler turned six this last week, so for Sunday dinner I tested out my new giant cupcake pan from Mom (thanks Muth!). I've always thought this pina colada cake was so pretty with the toasted coconut on top- and it made a pretty giant cupcake as well. Thanks to Heathie for imparting her culinary wisdom and sharing this scrumptious cake with us!

Pina Colada Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (eggs and oil as needed per box directions)
1 can crushed pineapple
1 pkg. instant coconut pudding
1 1/2 C. milk
1 (8oz.) tub Cool Whip
Toasted coconut flakes

Mix cake batter according to box directions. (Can substitute pineapple juice for water in mix if you wanna.) Bake as directed. Let stand 5 minutes, then invert cake onto cooling rack. Poke holes on top of the cake with a large fork. Top cake with crushed pineapple. Mix together pudding and milk. Let pudding stand for 3 minutes, then fold in Cool Whip. Frost cupcakes with this mixture, then top with toasted coconut. (Toast sweetened coconut on cookie sheet in a 350 oven for 7-10 minutes, stirring once, 'til barely starting to brown.)
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu 1-25-09

I watched an epsiode of Martha this week, and she and the owner of a new bakery in NYC called "Sweet Revenge" made these gorgeous vanilla cupcakes. I was intrigued by two things that make them unique. Instead of the traditional cupcake liner, they used squares of unbleached parchment paper, as seen in the photo. I just think it is such a beautiful and special presentation. The second thing about them is, instead of the usual "1 teaspoon" or so of vanilla in the batter, the recipe calls for 3 Tablespoons of mexican vanilla. Plus the frosting calls for another couple tablespoons. I am so anxious to try them! You can watch the video clip and get the recipe right here.

Onto this week's menu(s): (Maren, I know you have a good one this week)

Sun: Cream cheese chicken over bow-tie pasta, strawberry spinach salad, wheat rolls, steamed veggies, and pina colada birthday cake.

M: Oven-baked orange chicken with orange spinach salad (recipes to come)

T: Broccoli calzones

W: Chicken salad with apples and grapes

Th: Bacon-topped chicken with glazed carrots and spicy potato skins

F: Spinach and prosciutto lasagna (recipe to come)

Sat: birthday brunch for Emma, menu still in the works
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Saturday, January 24, 2009


We dined at Charleston's tonight- Chris' favorite restaurant. Here are some not-to-be-missed selections from their menu:

*Croissants. Lighter than air, melt in your mouth, sweet as honey.
*The glazed carrots. Divine. All their steamed veggies are yummy, we always order them on the side.
*The ribs. You can eat them with a fork, with one hand. THE BEST.
*The warm pineapple upside down cake. Baked in a bowl and topped with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream. The hot pineapple cake and cold ice cream is a combination to die for.

Our bellies are happy tonight.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicken and Biscuit Kabobs

I wanna say I found this recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens whilst in a waiting room one time, and I ripped it out and brought it home with me. And it was worth it. Ideally you would assemble these on big wooden skewers (I was out) so you can leave a little more space between the biscuits so they don't get soggy. When we first sat down to this dinner Maya questioned, "Why aren't we having green pizza?". A minute or two later, she changed her tune. "This is SO yummy I want to have this every night. I don't ever want to have any other food ever again." Sweet music.

Chicken and Biscuit Kabobs

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 T. melted butter
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1 can Pillsbury biscuits
2 medium zucchini, sliced

4 T. melted butter
4 T. honey

Preheat oven to 375. Dip chicken into butter, then crackers. Cut each biscuit into quarters. Alternately thread chicken, biscuits, and zucchinis, leaving a little space between pieces. Place on baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes, til biscuits and chicken are browned. Meanwhile, whisk together melted butter and honey. Serve alongside kabobs for dipping.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Hot Spinach Dip

Forgot to take a picture of the spinach dip we made for Maren and Derek's New Years Eve party... but Martha's is prettier anyway. It is SO very good- it didn't last long. Fresh n Easy has mini-baguettes that are perfect for slicing and serving with this dip.

Hot Spinach Dip

Makes 3 cups

2 tsp olive oil, plus more for baking dish
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds spinach, cleaned, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1/2 C. milk
6 oz. cream cheese
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Baguette slices, breadsticks, or crackers, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat oil over medium.
Add spinach in two additions, letting the first batch wilt before adding the next; add garlic; cook until spinach is completely wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander; drain, pressing to release all excess liquid.
In the same pot, warm milk over high heat. Whisk in cream cheese until melted, about 3 minutes. Add spinach, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1/4 cup mozzarella; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a lightly oiled 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot with bread and crackers.
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Jan 18, 2009 menu

Sun- Mom's homemade lasagna, mandarin orange and craisin green salad, sourdough bread, green peas and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

M- chicken caesar salad

T- chicken, zucchini and biscuit kabobs with honey-butter (recipe to come)

W- shredded pork sandwiches

Th- pasta and chicken with pesto cream sauce

F- pizza of some kind

S- owt

Friday, January 16, 2009

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Asparagus and Lemon

This is a one-pot wonder (I am seriously in love with one-pot meals) and pulled it together last night even when I wasn't feeling up to cooking. All that needed to be done was chop the pototoes, asparagus and lemon and throw it all together. Quick. And delish. I squeezed the lemon over everything after it roasted... good and good for ya.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Asparagus and Lemon

1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved
3 T butter, cut into small pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 package cut-up whole chicken (about 3 pounds)
1 bunch asparagus (1 pound), trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
6 sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place potatoes and half the butter in a roasting pan; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until potatoes are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Place chicken, skin side up, on top of potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Roast until chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes.
Scatter asparagus, lemon, remaining butter, and thyme around chicken. Roast until asparagus is tender and chicken is opaque throughout, 5 to 15 minutes. Serve chicken, vegetables, and lemon drizzled with pan juices.

**I read in my new America's Test Kitchen Cookbook from Chris that these Wilton baking pans were their #1 choice... due to their great non-stick surface and generous handles (no more sticking your thumb into the muffins or cake!). I got myself this 9 by 13 baking pan ($7.99 at Ross), and a muffin tin of the same design. Today Maren got me a second baking pan and two round cake pans- LOVE them! Thank you Maresen!!
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grilled Honey Lime Chicken Sandwiches

Candice found this recipe from Rachael Ray and these sandwiches are yummy! They're a perfect dinner if you're short on time.

Grilled Honey Lime Chicken Sandwiches

1 lime, juiced
2 T. honey
1 tsp. cumin
1 T. finely chopped cilantro
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil (or EVOO as Rachael would say)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp. grill seasoning blend
Toppings: lettuce, tomato, avocado
4 crusty rolls, split

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with seasoning blend. Coat chicken in dressing and set aside for 10 minutes. Grill chicken on an indoor electric grill 6-7 minutes on each side or pan fry over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet uncovered 6 minutes per side. Slice chicken breasts on an angle and pile meat on roll. Top with lettuce, tomato, and sliced avocado.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Avocado Citrus Salad

This is one of our most favorite salads ever. And I love making it when citrus is in season because I can pick oranges and grapefruit straight from the backyard!

Avocado Citrus Salad
Serves 8-10

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
8-10 cups romaine lettuce
3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
1 cup green or red grapes

In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, sugar, and salt. In a large salad bowl, toss the remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Jan. 11, 2009 menu

Sun- Pasta and chicken in pesto cream sauce, avocado citrus salad, garlic bread, steamed veggies, and vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and bananas to wash it down
M- leftovers, and marble cookies (recipe to come)
T- bean tostadas
W- caprese pizza
Th- roast chicken with asparagus, new potatoes and lemon
F- chicken alfredo pizza- pizza is good, why not twice in a week?
Sat- out and about

Chris and I were playing with Derek's I-phone last night using the "urban spoon" feature to look for new restaurants. Got some fun ideas to try. Also, Derek has had a part in a new restaurant opening in the valley very soon. Will give more details as the time approaches. Hooray for fine dining in the valley of the sun!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

(My favorite) Tin Foil Dinner

Let's just acknowledge the elephant in the picture before anything else... I know sitting right on top of that otherwise tempting dinner is a big fat horrible slice of onion. But I've had a bunch sitting on my counter (I can't even remember why I bought them) and decided to put a slice on top of each foil dinner, for flavor and moisture. Unneccesary. Naturally, I forcefully disposed of it before consuming the meal, and I didn't notice that it even added anything. So, you make the call as to whether you will allow the onion into the packet or not, but as for me and my family, from here on out, we say NO to onions. That being said- these are very tasty... and the kids scarfed them.

Tin Foil Dinners
serves 4

lots of tin foil (you always need more than you think)
1 lb. ground beef
3 russet potatoes
4 large carrots
1 pkg. frozen corn
1 small can cream of mushroom soup

Tear a double layer of tin foil for each packet. Peel and chop the potatoes and carrots into approx. uniform size. Boil both in water for 10 minutes or so, til starting to get tender. Divide beef evenly among packets, shape into a patty, and place down first on the foil. Salt and pepper. Top with potatoes and carrots, then a dollop of soup, and finish with a sprinkling of corn (I love the corn in this... so mine has lots). Lightly salt and pepper again. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes-1 hour, or til meat is cooked through. Don't forget the s'mores for dessert!

*My childhood friend Amanda Martin shared this fun idea with me years ago: Mini S'mores. With a bowl of Golden Grahams cereal, a bowl of mini marshmallows, a bowl of chocolate chips, a few toothpicks and a votive candle, you can make mini s'mores around a mini campfire. Toast the marshmallow over the flame of the votive, and with a chocolate chip, sandwich between two golden grahams and pop in your mouth. Cute, no?
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lettuce Wraps

One time I tried a restaurant copy-cat recipe I found online for P.F. Changs lettuce wraps. I had to buy a bunch of odd ingredients like fish sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. They were so nasty- tasted nothing like the ones from the restaurant. I found this Rachael Ray recipe and although it doesn't claim to taste like P.F. Chang's, it is yummy all on it's own accord. I love the orange in it.
*instead of the Hoisin sauce (which I have used before and it is good too) I used Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chef's Sauce. Yum-O.

Lettuce Wraps

2 C. fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 pounds thin cut chicken breast
2 T. vegetable oil
Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger root, finely grated
1 orange, zested
1 red bell pepper, diced small
3 scallions, chopped
3 T. hoisin, Chinese barbecue sauce, available on Asian foods aisle of market
1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, core removed, head quartered
Wedges of navel orange

Remove tough stems from mushrooms and brush with damp towel to clean, Slice mushrooms. Chop chicken into small pieces. Preheat a large skillet to high. Add oil to hot pan. Add chicken to the pan and sear meat by stir frying a minute or 2. Add mushrooms and cook another minute or two. Add salt and pepper to season, then garlic and ginger. Cook a minute more. Grate zest into pan, add bell pepper and scallions. Cook another minute, continuing to stir fry mixture. Add hoisin sauce and toss to coat the mixture evenly. Transfer to serving platter and pile the quartered wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce along side. Add wedged oranges to platter to garnish. To eat, pile spoonfuls into lettuce leaves, wrapping lettuce around fillings and squeeze an orange wedge over.

*I like to cook a little rice and spoon some into the lettuce cup before adding chicken mixture. Chow Mein noodles are also a nice crunchy addition.
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Monday, January 5, 2009

Menu, week of Jan. 4, 2009!

Hooray for the Holidays!! The Christmas season, in many many ways, is the most wonderful time of the year. But I am more than ready to get back to meal-planning and get back that good feeling that comes from feeding your family wholesome, home-made food. I am on a mission to incorporate more veggies into our meals. We are starting off 2009 with a healthy (but tasty) dinner menu. No more cinnamon rolls, chocolate toffee, caramel corn and yule logs for dinner!

M- Lemon-y chicken over mixed greens, and steamed cauliflower
T- Lettuce wraps ...includes red bell pepper and shiitake mushrooms (recipe to come)
W- Grilled cheese sammies, tomato soup, and baked zucchini sticks
Th- Tin-foil dinners ...includes potatoes, carrots and corn (recipe to come)
F- Chicken casesar salad
S- to be determined

Happy New Year one and all!!
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Giant Ginger Cookies

Cross my heart, hope to die this is the last dessert recipe for a good long while (2 weeks). :) But these really are too good not to share. I almost didn't bake any goodies this year- because of the overload of sweets everywhere you turn all December long. But friend Chelsea reported that she had been thinking about these ever since I made them last Christmas. Well that made me so happy I had to make some for her ASAP. These are huge and so so soft and chewy- and they stay soft and chewy for 2-3 days. Mmmm-mmmmm.

Giant Ginger Cookies

Makes 12

2 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
3/4 C. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 C. packed light-brown sugar
1/2 C. granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for coating
6 T. molasses
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, allspice, and pepper.
With an electric mixer, cream butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 20 minutes.
Divide dough into twelve 2-inch balls. Place remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Roll balls in sugar to coat; place at least 4 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten into 3-inch rounds. Sprinkle with sugar remaining in bowl.
Bake until brown, rotating sheets halfway through, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
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