Oatmeal Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

15 Apr IMG_4569

Before I jump into this post about cookies that will knock your socks off…wanted to hint that we’re getting VERY close to another giveaway post. I’ll provide all of the details in my 60th post so everyone is aware of what’s IN said giveaway of treats and what level of excitement they should have (aka high excitement or HIGH EXCITEMENT). Being eligible to win the giveaway box o’ treats is super simple, you just need to be a follower of the blog. That means, you clicked the button in the upper right of the homepage to “follow”, confirmed you’re “following” via the email notification you received and now get lovely emails each time I post. I think it would be great fun to have two winners this time around, so your chances to win are even better than last time!

So if you’re not already a follower of the blog but you enjoy getting baked goods in the mail and enjoy the occasional blog post from me, now is time to make things official.

More details to come in my next post!

Enough with giveaways, let’s get to the baked goods…

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Ok, so I’m on this no-bake treats kick. Not sure where that came from but no complaints as I’ve discovered a plethora of tasty and SUPER easy recipes to share with you all that you can make in a snap. This particular awesome recipe is one that I think most everyone has had at some point. You may have had one at a past potluck, your 3rd grade classmate’s birthday treat, your coworker brought them in as they’re expecting a baby, I don’t know. (I had my first in Girl Scouts in Elementary School and they were called “monkey poop”…how appetizing)

Regardless, I bet some $ that you’ve had some form of this cookie before and now you shall know how to make it.

This recipe is from my soon-to-be Mother in Law (81 days to go until that’s official…not counting down or anything…) and I cannot articulate to you more clearly than to say that these are GOOD and SO addicting. I had coworkers who ate >5 because once they had their first, they couldn’t stop.

This is your forewarning. You can’t have just one. I don’t know if it’s physically possible. (Nor, do I think it’s that fun to have one and be done. C’mon!) What is it about oatmeal, chocolate and peanut butter that is so hard to resist?! As you recall with my other recent post on a very similar yet very different recipe (no coconut or additional nuts/dried fruit additions in these cookies) for no-bake bars, those are also hard to stop consuming. Ah well, we only live once right?!

So, hold on to your socks as we go through the super simple process of making one of the greatest cookies to grace our world.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 lb butter (aka 1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 – 2 1/2 cups of oats (you’ll need to eyeball it to see if it needs more or less oats…ready below to learn more)

How to Make:

This recipe starts off with the first four ingredients being combined in a medium saucepan over medium heat. So in goes the sugar…

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…cocoa powder (thought I’m sure you’re more neat than I was)…

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…butter…(I recommend slicing the butter into smaller chunks to aid in the melting process)…

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…and milk. Bring this mixture to a boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. You don’t want that sugar to burn!

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Once your 3 minutes are up, take off the heat and add in the peanut butter. Crunchy PB is the best as it gives the cookie not only a little crunch but also texture. Highly recommend, friends. (I failed to photography the PB going in…fail…but it’s in there!)

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After the PB comes the vanilla. Stir everything up to incorporate fully.

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Now, the oatmeal. Start off with 1 1/2 cups of oats and then add more, up to 2 cups, to reach the consistency you’re looking for. If the mixture seems too soupy, add more oats. Keep adding until the mixture doesn’t seem to be too soupy. Check out the pictures below if you’re uncertain what level of soupiness is okay and what means more oats.

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Mix everything really well before you begin scooping!

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I have found a new use for my ice cream scoop…perhaps I’m late the game everyone was already playing…but the ice cream scoop is perfect for grabbing cookie batter. PERFECT I tell you! However, before you begin your scooping, lay out wax paper on your counter-top.

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Now, scoop each cookie and plop on to the wax paper to harden. Be sure to leave space between each cookie! This will harden up really fast and are actually insanely delicious when they’re still somewhat moist and falling apart. So if you test one out too soon, it won’t be bad. I promise.

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Once these set (I checked mine after 30 minutes and they were all hard), you can store in Tupperware or feed to hungry humans nearby!

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Enjoy friends!!

And stay tuned for giveaway box details in the next post!!

Cake Batter Dip

7 Apr

Holy cake batter heaven Batman! This may be one of the best dips I’ve ever made and I cannot WAIT for you try it! I’ve already memorized the recipe and know that Luke and I will always have this one in our arsenal when we’re having people over.

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Why is this so good?

I don’t know folks, but it just IS:

  1. Do you sneak cookie dough from the bowl as you’re SUPPOSED to be putting the cookies on baking sheets (you know who you are)?
  2. Do you always order cake batter ice cream when it’s an option (guilty)?
  3. Do you love finding an excuse to still eat teddy grahams (I forgot how AMAZING chocolate teddy grahams are friends…a travesty I realize)?
  4. Do you still enjoy finding ways to add sprinkles into things, just because (c’mon, they make everything more fun)?

If you answered yes to ANY of these things…you…must…try…this…dip.

I found this on Pinterest and was challenged by a friend to give this a go, blog about it so she’d know if this was worthy. Friends, it so is. This is worthy.

Thanks so much to Cassie Craves blog for bringing this joyous concoction to our attention! I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, but the basic concoction was from the aforementioned blog. Can’t wait to check out more of her posts!

Enough with the rambling, let’s get right into the thick of it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix
  • 2 cups of Vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups Whipped Topping
  • 1-2 tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp of colorful Sprinkles (plus extra for sprinkling on the top)

For Dipping:

  • Chocolate Teddy Grahams
  • Nilla Wafers
  • Other ideas: flat cookies, fruit, graham crackers

How to Make:

Locate a bowl and your mixer of choice. Then, prepare for some ingredient blending.

First pour in the Funfetti cake mix…

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…the 2 cups of Greek yogurt…

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…the cup and a half of whipped topping…

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…splash in the vanilla…

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…throw in the sprinkles…

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…and blend baby blend! This whips up nice and quick and the sprinkles create a really fun and colorful look too. Use a spatula to help get the dip off the sides if it starts to creep up. Then, spoon into some Tupperware as you need to pop it in the fridge for about 2 hours (minimum) before you dig in. (You can refrigerate longer too, it just needs a few hours to firm up a bit.)

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That does not mean that you can’t lick the beaters…and the extra spoon you just happened to have used…and the bowl that you used…

Sigh. So delicious.

Before you serve, scoop into your serving bowl of choice and have some sweet crispy snacks on hand to use to  dip. We chose Nilla Wafers and Chocolate Teddy Grahams. But plain graham crackers or fruit would work too, just be sure it’s durable so it holds up  as you pile on the goodness, forewarning.

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Make sure to add some sprinkles on top for garnish before you serve it up to all those excitedly lined up with their dipping mechanisms.

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I loved this, those who consumed it also gave it a thumbs up and I really, deeply think you will too.

Let me know what you think when you give this a whirl!!

Oatmeal Chocolate No-Bake Bars

5 Apr

Okay my friends, are you looking for a sweet treat (for a Final Four party perhaps?) that doesn’t take you long to pull together and doesn’t completely throw you off of your “eating-healthy” plan? Something sweet enough to truly make you want to have two but won’t make you feel guilty about eating “bad”?

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You have found the perfect treat!! Plus, these are truly DELICIOUS! There’s a subtle coconut flavor (which can be replaced if you so choose…so sad for you if so) , peanut-buttery goodness and the typical amazing concoction of oatmeal and chocolate to contend with. You cannot NOT like these. I challenge you!

Found these bad boys on Pinterest and featured on the Money Saving Mom blog and wanted to give them a try. I’ve had something similar (which will be shared in a future blog post) from my future mother-in-law – she makes the BEST no-bake oatmeal chocolate cookies. These are similar but slightly different with a coconut spin and are in bar form. You can also customize these guys to be however you’d like with dried fruit and nuts. And if you’re not into coconut, you can leave that out!

And I don’t know why I keep referring to them as ‘guys’, apparently these bars are male?!? Ha anyways, I digress…

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil
  • 2 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1 c. shredded coconut (if you’re anti-coconut, I swear this consistency isn’t too weird…my anti-coconut fiance loved it!)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (insert in here any nut you choose OR dried fruit)
  • 1 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How to Make:

Prepare yourself for the easiest bar making on the planet! No need for an oven, you just need a stove top. That’s it!

First, you’re going to melt together the first three ingredients. The cup of peanut butter…

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…the 1/2 cup of honey…

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…the 1/2 cup of coconut oil (butter works too if you don’t have coconut oil on hand).

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Melt all of the ingredients together but stirring over medium to low heat. Once thoroughly warmed and mixed, turn down to low and grab another bowl for mixing the remaining ingredients.

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Measure out 2 cups of oats…

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…a cup of shredded coconut (or another dried fruit if you’re REALLY anti-coconut)…

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…the 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (or another chopped nut of choice)…

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…the 1 and 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips…a few may escape and end up consumed, it happens…

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…and the teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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Mix all of these dry ingredients up and then slowly pour in your melted warm ingredients on top. Stir, stir, stir! You need to thoroughly coat everything!

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Then, pour into a greased 9×13 baking pan (higher sides would be better) and spread as evenly as you can on the bottom.

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Then pop this into the fridge until it hardens! Ours was ready to go in about an hour or so, but just keep checking in on it to see if it’s ready to go! Then, slice these up with a sharp knife and serve ‘em up to your favorite people…or if you desire after having one, hoard them for yourself ;)

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Regardless, these are delicious, addicting and you really can’t feel too terribly bad about having a treat or two of these.

Enjoy!!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Cocktail

24 Feb IMG_4410

Now surprising to me, one of the most popular posts I’ve had on this blog to date was the first post that involved alcohol…this beautiful White Sangria that I posted back in the Spring of 2012. Beverages in general have been very popular on here in general. Not sure if you all were in need of fun beverages to serve up or the pictures grabbed you. Regardless, I’ve been on the hunt for some fun, new beverages to try and then share with you all as you enjoyed them so much thus far. I think I have a winner!

Before I dive into this…let me explain a bit. I’m not normally a true cocktail girl. Some have their usual drink, like a martini, or an Old Fashioned, etc. I never really knew what my signature ‘cocktail’ was. However, I knew some libations that I enjoyed and wondered what concoction could fuse them all together. What libations, you may ask?

Well rum would be the hard alcohol I would choose for a drink, if ever presented with all options. And, well, this may seem odd but I have a really love for butterscotch schnapps. If you have not had the latter, you have NOT. LIVED. It literally tastes like liquid butterscotch. Deliciousness. Pure deliciousness, my friends.

So back to the signature cocktail dilemma. I wondered what would mix well with rum and butterscotch schnapps. Was there such a thing?! There is, ladies and gentlemen! I present to you….

The Pineapple Upside Down Cake Cocktail! I saw this on a few various websites/blogs and each with their own slightly different spin. This cocktail is simple, it’s not overly boozy, it’s tasty and it’s not too sweet.

In other words, it’s perfect.

I’ve decided that this shall be MY signature cocktail! Perhaps yours too?! Or maybe just a fun drink to serve up at your next gathering. Regardless…here’s what you need:

Ingredients (for one drink):

  • 1 1/2 shots of rum (your choice of brand, any will do)
  • 1 1/2 shots of butterscotch schnapps (I do recommend Buttershots, my personal favorite)
  • 1 6 oz. can of pineapple juice
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish

How to Make:

As you may have anticipated, this cocktail doesn’t require a rocket scientist to mix up. Here’s the liquid cast of characters…

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…and the basic step by step goes something like this:

Grab yourself a festive glass…and throw in a few ice cubes…

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Pour in your rum (you can go more or less than the 1 1/2 shots depending on what type of strength you’re going for here)…

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…pour in your butterscotch schnapps…

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…then while you pour in the pineapple juice on top, stir it all up with a long spoon or stir stick.

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Grab a few Maraschino cherries and line ‘em up on a toothpick to be fancy or plop ‘em right in the glass if you’re anti-toothpick.

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Serve these up to friends and family as a delicious beverage they’ll for sure want a second round of! You can make these in bulk easily if you buy the large cans of pineapple juice vs. the small single size cans. Otherwise, each can of pineapple juice makes  one drink.

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I hope you enjoy this tasty libation as much as I did! If you all have other cocktail recommendations that I should try out, leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can mix up for a future blog post!

Cheers!!

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

22 Feb IMG_4335

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There’s been a plethora of fancy schmancy popcorn recipes floating around on Pinterest lately. I’ve definitely wanted to give some of them a try and finally had the chance over Super Bowl weekend. The Super Bowl and the need for Super Bowl type snacks was the perfect excuse.

Now, I knew if I ended up creating popcorn dripping in deliciousness, it would be tasty yes, but probably give a bit of gut rot as a result. Maybe it’s just me, but TOO much sweetness is overwhelming sometimes. I found a great-looking recipe called Sriracha Caramel Corn via pinterest over at I Am A Food Blog and then tweaked it a bit to go easy on the flavor:popcorn ratio. I’ve renamed this version just ‘Spicy Caramel Popcorn’ as we didn’t use Sriracha and I’ve changed up the amounts of ingredients a bit. But great base recipe, definitely go check out  I Am A Food Blog for more tasty recipes!

This popcorn turned out as a perfect compromise as each kernel definitely had spicy caramel on it but nothing was too saturated. I thought it was a true success (well, it took me two tries to get this right) and had to share it with you all. Here we go…

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 cups of plain popcorn (or roughly 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels)
  • 1 Tbsp of coconut oil
  • 6 Tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 Tbsp of hot sauce of your choosing

How to Make:

As with many recipes I post on here, this one is not difficult. It’s great to make in advance for a party (i.e. Super Bowl), make for a late night snack or pack into several Ziplocs to bring to work/school as a mini treat. Possibilities are endless!

Now how to make this stuff? Right, right, that’s why you’re reading this. First, you gotta pop the corn. However you choose to do this with the kitchen appliances available to you, is your choice. I made this at Luke’s parents house and they have this awesome popcorn maker (is there a fancier name for that?!) that heats up your butter or oil (as noted above we used Coconut Oil) and then helps keep your popcorn contained as it heats up and pops. I was in awe. I realize this is likely not exciting to many of you but I was significantly entertained for the few minutes it took to pop this corn. (I may add this to the wedding registry…that’s how cool I think this is).

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To get the ratio of caramel:popcorn that we were looking for, we did 1/2 cup or so of popcorn kernels. This made quite a lot of popcorn! Once your popcorn is all popped, set it aside while you dive into the caramel sauce.

Before we start caramel-ing, preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet (with sides, ideally) with parchment paper or spray it down with Pam or olive oil.

Now to caramel! Heat up the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

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Mix in the packed brown sugar and stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes until it comes to a boil. Forewarning – this can very quickly burn so watch closely! I burned my first batch and had to start all over. Key is to not bring the heat too high, stir constantly and remove immediately once it boils and gets that caramel looking color to it.

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Remove from the heat as soon as the sauce gets that caramel color and set aside to cool.

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In a small bowl, mix the vanilla, salt, baking soda and the hot sauce you selected. If you’re going for more spice – aim for closer to 2 Tbsp (if you’re a real spice lover, you could do a bit more…at your own risk!) if you want less spice and more of a little ‘zing’ mixed in the caramel, aim closer to 1 Tbsp.

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Once this mixture is all combined, add this to the butter/sugar saucepan and stir together. It will likely bubble up quite a bit but have no fear – just stir until all combined and has a nice, silky sheen to it. Taste test it too just to be sure you have the spice level where you wanted.

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Now to combine! Pour the popcorn into the pan you prepped and then slowly dribble in the caramel sauce, turning the popcorn with a spatula to coat everything as evenly as you can. It helps to continue to mix and stir with the spatula after all the caramel as been poured in to really get everything coated.

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Pop this into the oven for an hour, stopping at 15 minute increments to stir and break apart any clumps.

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Once it’s all done, it’s ready to consume!

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Pour out into a large bowl for hungry humans to devour or into individual bowls so no one steals your portion! Or, you can also store this in airtight Ziplocs or containers for about a week.

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Seriously addicting popcorn and not overly sweet. I can promise you’ll love it! (Bold statement I realize, but prove me wrong if you think it’s too bold.)

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With that, I shall end another post. HOWEVER fun news to share…to tempt you to stay tuned…there will likely be another blog giveaway coming soon! The rules shall be the same as last time, all who are official blog followers (meaning you get email notifications when I post and are included in that total number in the upper right on the Home Page) will be eligible to win a treat box from me in the mail, filled to the brim with goodies! More details to come in the next few posts. But if you’re not already a follower, now is the time so you can be eligible! I’m thinking that two lucky individuals will win this time around…

Let me know how the popcorn attempts go, I always love your comments. :)

Cheers!

Brownie Roll-out Cookies

26 Jan

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So being home for the weekend means more often than not, when bored and not sure what to do with myself…I end up in the kitchen trying something new. I wanted to do some true baking this weekend, as in recent weeks it’s been more about cooking than baking. What to try…what to try…

I opened up my Smitten Kitchen cookbook for inspiration, as I remembered many a glossy page with cookies and breads on them. I wasn’t disappointed when I turned to this page with these little guys.

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Brownie roll-out cookies is what she called them (here’s her original blog post with the recipe), but essentially they’re chewy chocolate sugar cookies.

I accept! Nothing about that description sounds bad to me! Bonus, I had everything needed in my kitchen. That’s usually what sells me on a recipe that I begin to tackle after 9:30 at night. Call me lazy but it’s crazy cold outside and I didn’t feel like a late night trip to Lunds.

So, this whole recipe is incredibly simple and doesn’t take a lot of time for mixing/cooking. However, do note that this requires the dough to chill for an hour before baking, so factor that into your baking plan of attack. I also didn’t switch up the recipe at all, loved it just the way she wrote it! However, I did add my own finishing touch at the end, which you’ll just have to read about to find out what that was…

Ready to make some VERY tasty and VERY pretty little cookies? I sure hope you said yes, because I’m planning to tell you anyway.

Ingredients (makes approximately 24 cookies):

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • powdered sugar for dusting the tops

How to Make:

Nothing to this recipe! First things first (after pre-heating the oven to 350), mix up the flour…

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…cocoa…

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…salt…

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…and baking powder.

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Whisk all of these items together and then set aside.

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Now, soften the butter (if you haven’t had it set out to soften in advance, which I never do) for a bit in the microwave and then mix the butter and sugar together using your mixer of choice.

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You’ll want it to be light yellow and fluffy. That’s the green light that you’re ready to add the eggs, one at a time.

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Mix that all in and then add in the vanilla. Use a spatula to scrap down the sides if the liquid starts to creep up the sides at all.

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Last, gradually add in the dry ingredients, a bit at a time. I was a bit aggressive and ended up breathing in puffs of chocolate flour dust quite a bit. I do not recommend that situation so be gentle when adding your dry ingredients. Trust me. And also…the dough will get very thick, forewarning.

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Grab some plastic wrap and lay the batter on the plastic wrap and then wrap up all of the dough, nice and tight. Then set that in the fridge for an hour to chill. Turn on some tunes, do the dishes…or turn on some Netflix, don’t the dishes..regardless do something to pass the hour!

Then, time to roll out the dough. This works best on a floured surface and with a floured-up rolling-pin. I use a cutting board for rolling out dough and as it’s small, I did this in batches. You’ll have to modify your method based on what amount of counter space/cutting board space you have. And no fear with the white flour speckles being on the dough, you can rub them off with your fingers and any smudges that remain should bake off in the oven.

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These cookies are best with some thickness – aim for between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Use whatever fun cookie cutter you’d like! I thought it’d be fun to make these look like wafer cookies, so I used a cookie cutter with a flowing edge. I loved the way they turned out! Reminded me of the cookies that are on either side of an ice cream sandwich (which then had me thinking THAT would be a good experiment. I shall report back on how that experiment goes!).


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But back to cookies. Place parchment paper on cookies sheets and give them a good spray with Pam. Then set your cut-out cookies on the parchment paper, nicely spaced out. These get baked for 8-11 minutes, the thinner cookies will be closer to 8 minutes and the thicker ones closer to 11 minutes.

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When they’re done you’ll have firm edges and a softer center. Perfect cookie!

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Set them out to cool, though you must sneak one just to be sure they’re done. It’s the job of the baker!

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Now, my addition to this original recipe of Smitten Kitchen’s is to dust the tops with powdered sugar. It gives the perfect amount of sweetness as I thought the cookies themselves needed just a little something extra. Powdered sugar does the trick!

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You’ll love these, chewy, delicious chocolate and the sweetness of the powdered sugar make these a cookie I’m definitely going to make them again.

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Hope you all enjoy these as much as I did! I’m bringing most of the batch down to the team in Texas this week, I hope you share your batch with a good group of folks too!

Rainbow Chicken Salad

24 Jan

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OH baby. I can’t begin to tell you how delectable this salad is. I literally am so excited about this salad that I made it a few hours ago and am writing the blog post now. And yes, that means I’m enjoying a wonderful Friday night in. Judge away, I’m fairly pleased about the situation.

But back to salad, delicious, wonderfully delicious salad.

So, what’s all in this salad, you may ask? You’ve got a mix of juicy fruits, tangy dressing, crunchy almonds, and a delicious feta cheese that cuts through it all. Oh yes, and the chicken! Juicy chicken to absorb all of the flavors.

If you can’t tell, I’m having a slight relationship with my chicken salad. Sigh.

Moving on!

I found this amazing little gem on Pinch of Yum, a great blog with so many recipes that I want to take a whack at. This will not be the last recipe of theirs that I try, I just know it. I’ve made a few tweaks to their original recipe in my list of ingredients below, but didn’t have to make too many changes. Love this recipe!

Prepare yourself….here we go…

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cups purple grapes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2-3 big handfuls of lettuce, chopped (I used a spring mix but you can do what you wish!)
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon stoneground mustard
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic

How to Make:

First up, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and the chili powder. Get both sides nice and covered with seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and sizzle up. Get the chicken nice and brown on the sides, flipping as needed to ensure the chicken is fully cooked.

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Once it’s done, remove to cool, then cut it up into chewable sized pieces. Yes, also known as bite-size pieces. But you knew what I meant.

Now, to prep the rest of the salad!

Slice the grapes in half…

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Measure the cup of blueberries…

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Measure the 1/2 cup of slivered almonds…

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Measure the 1/2 cup of feta…

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Wash, rinse and pat dry a few good hearty handfuls of lettuce…

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Then arrange as you desire in a large bowl. I went with the pretty route, taking a leaf out of the Pinch of Yum‘s book. Their picture on the blog looked similar which is what inspired me in the first place. This is also where the ‘rainbow’ in the title of the recipe comes from.

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Now as you make the dressing, you can refrigerate this beautiful bowl of salad. For the dressing, you’ll want to use a food processor to get things all creamy. You’ll add all of the dressing ingredients to the food processor and give a few seconds on full blast. I loved the taste as I stuck my finger into the bowl of the food processor (cord unplugged mind you) and basically swooned.

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Ok, ok, that’s dramatic. No swooning but i do believe there was a “yummmmmmmmm” noise that escaped. You will understand when you make this dressing.

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Now, all that’s left to do is grab the bowl of salad and drizzle on your dressing. Use a spatula to mix everything all up, get the dressing all coated over the chicken, the lettuce, all the other salad pieces.

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Then, serve up!

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Dig your fork in…and…

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Yes, you will see why I love this salad. You will love this salad too, friend. You will too.

Fruity Dark Chocolate Bark

19 Jan

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Happy Sunday! Although Sundays may not be my absolute favorite day of the week, there is usually an opportunity to do some baking/cooking to end the weekend. Hard to complain about that!

I was in the mood to try something new and different today, something not too dramatically unhealthy but yet, still sweet enough to satisfy a mini dessert craving.

I opened up my Pinterest board of Treats to see what leaped out at me. The cakes and pies I’ve posted in recent months were drool-worthy but not quite what I was looking for. Cookies weren’t really grabbing me. Then I saw this pin from “Love & Olive Oil” and was SOLD for the following reasons:

1) Dark chocolate gets an A+++ in my world (don’t A triple +’s exist in your world?!?!) and is by FAR my favorite type of chocolate.

2) Freeze dried fruit isn’t something I normally bake with so it would be a fun, new adventure.

3) The result wouldn’t be outrageous in unhealthiness.

4) This is VERY easy to make and doesn’t require a long list of ingredients.

Convinced this is a perfect Sunday night treat?! Good!

Thanks to Love & Olive Oil for the wonderful recipe! Looking forward to trying more on that blog…

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 11 oz of dark chocolate, using a good brand if you can (aim for 70-80%)
  • 1 cup of your choice of freeze-dried fruit (you can also do a mix like I did – raspberries, blueberries and cranberries)

*Note: I was completely unaware of where freeze-dried fruit would be in a grocery store. I asked a few perplexed folks at my local grocery store and was unsuccessful at that spot. However, I Googled and Trader Joe’s has LOTS of freeze-dried fruit! I recommend looking there if your usual grocery store doesn’t carry any freeze-dried fruit.

How to Make:

To get things started, you’ll need to melt down the chocolate. I went with Ghirardelli’s ‘Intense Dark’ chocolate bars for my bark. As they came in bars of 3.5 oz bars, I rounded up to get 3 bars for a total of 10.5 oz. The original recipe only calls for 8 oz, but I figured having more chocolate was the way to go. Obviously.

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You can finely chop this before melting if you so choose. I went with the broken chunks method over a double boiler. But mircowaving works just as well if you’re in a hurry. Regardless of method, be sure to stop regularly and stir.

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This also gives an excellent excuse to lick your spoon/spatula when it’s all said and done.

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Once all melted, pour the chocolate out on to parchment paper that’s been laid in a 9×13 pan. It will dry quicker if you evenly spread the chocolate out. I didn’t execute this as well as I hoped, but perhaps you’ll do better than I.

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Now, measure out your freeze-dried fruit. I bought 3 varieties so did 1/3 cup of each freeze-dried raspberries, blueberries and cranberries. But any freeze-dried fruit will work!

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Sprinkle your freeze-dried fruit of choice all over the chocolate. If you’re feeling extra bold, you could also try almonds or other nuts and perhaps sea salt? I may give both of those ingredients a go in my next batch of this!

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Gorgeous looking, right?!

Now, this needs 1-2 hours to dry at room temperature. However, I recommend popping the pan into the freezer if you’re noticing the bark is taking a bit long to dry. My apartment tends to be a little on the warm side so after 2 hours and still no hardened bark…into the freezer the pan went. 20 minutes later, it was all hardened up!

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Break into pieces and put out for consumption! I bet these will disappear quickly so perhaps make a double or triple batch if feeding a party of people. Or watch them fight it out…could be entertaining…

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I recommend keeping this stored in the fridge just so it doesn’t start to melt down. It’s supposed to last only about a week, but I truly doubt it will even last that long as it’s just so very tasty.

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Breakfast Casserole

12 Jan

Happy 2014! With the New Year starting, felt it would be a great time to get back into the blog. There hasn’t been a shortage of cooking/baking/crafting…there has only been a shortage of gumption to write another post. Shameful, I realize. But here I am, giving this a go with the full intention of keeping post-writing gumption intact. If I don’t post again until 2015, please don’t be furious. But feel free to give me the crap I deserve (a LOT).

So, the blog resurrection of 2014 is starting off with one of my new favorite breakfast recipes. The need for discovering a new breakfast recipe came about as Luke and I were hosting some good friends overnight at the end of December. Ideally we wanted to make a breakfast that we could prep the day before (so we could be sleepy and lazy in the morning with our friends and not have to be up at the crack of dawn) AND that would be fairly easy. We were making quite a bit of food for the weekend (including this Steakhouse Pizza and TBM Salad) and easy to make / prep in advance were our two key factors.

Luke and I are both big bagel fans, Everything bagels to be exact. How can you not love the flavorful goodness of an Everything bagel?! And Luke is a BIG breakfast person to begin with…so we were trying to think of something epic to make for breakfast and when we found this recipe in my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, well, we were smitten. Breakfast casserole with Everything bagels?!? Done!

We prepped it the night before, baked it in the morning,and four of us just about devoured the whole pan in one sitting. Luke and I were so excited about this recipe that we made it AGAIN only a few days later, for Luke’s family. It’s been getting rave reviews from all who’ve eaten it so I thought it was the perfect thing to blog about for you all.

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We added some of our own twists to the recipe to make this our own, but I can’t take credit for the original wonderful creation that Deb over on the Smitten Kitchen blog and author of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook crafted up. I highly encourage you to give this a whirl!

Ingredients (Serves 8-10…OR…4-5 very hungry people):

  • 8 cups (or so) of Everything or Sesame bagels, chopped into bite-size chunks (you can do a bit more than 8 cups if you’re using dense bagels…you just want enough to fill a 9×13 pan)
  • 8 oz. of cream cheese (you could go with a light cream cheese here if you want to make this a bit healthier)
  • 1/4 medium red onion, sliced in a half-moon shape
  •  1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/3 cups of milk (healthier version) or half and half (the not so healthy but delectable version)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic (we used a jar of pre-chopped garlic but about 2-3 cloves would work too)
  • 4-6 slices of bacon, torn into bite-size chunks
  • Ground pepper to taste

How to Make:

This recipe is really very easy to make and definitely goes fast with a co-chef in the kitchen or even a little helper if you have any of those at home who’d like to help!

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First, you’ll need to prep all of the ingredients: chop/tear your bagels…

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…halve your tomatoes…

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…slice your red onion…

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…measure out your garlic (which you can see we did after our other prep…but you should just do it now to save time)…

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…and fry up/microwave your bacon. We went the microwave route to save some time and grease splatter and DEFINITELY went with the 6 pieces of bacon. We are bacon-loving people. However…if you’re not into bacon you could always leave this out. This was one of our additions to the recipe that wasn’t in the original.

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Also, bring your cream cheese out of the fridge for it to soften as working with it later will be a bit easier. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees if you plan to make this right away.

Now it’s time to start to layer your casserole.

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You’re going to be creating three layers, so will need to divide your ingredients into approximate thirds. Lay about 1/3 of your bagel chunks in a large 9×13 pan. Scatter 1/3 of the halved tomatoes and sliced red onions on top. Sprinkle about 1/3 of your chopped garlic all over. Then, tear 1/3 of the cream cheese off and break it into small dollops. Place said dollops throughout the pan, doting the bagels evenly. Finally, throw 1-2 slices of bacon (which is torn into bite size pieces) on top, scattered evenly throughout the pan. When you’ve finished this part, you’re going to start back at the beginning with the bagel pieces and complete the layering two more times. Not too tough, right?

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Once your 3 layers are complete, whisk together in a medium-sized bowl the 8 eggs…

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…the milk or half and half…

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…and the salt and pepper. You’ll want to add as much pepper as you think needed to give your full casserole enough taste. As the Everything bagels are already seasoned, we didn’t go too crazy. But if you’re into lots of pepper, then pepper away. It is YOUR casserole after all!

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Once your egg mixture is all whisked, pour it over the entire casserole ensuring you get the egg in all of the crevices.

Done pouring? Excellent. Getting excited to bite into this later?! We sure were.

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Pop this guy in the fridge overnight if you’re prepping in advance (we covered it with aluminum foil overnight). If not, then pop this guy into your 350 degree oven for an hour to hour and 15 minutes. Ours was always done at the hour mark but your oven may take a bit longer. No need to cover this while baking.

You’ll know it’s ready when the top of the bagels starts to turn a little brown. And be prepared for a VERY pretty casserole. It’s definitely one of those times you’ll take a picture and want to share because it just looks so darn amazing. Those tomatoes and onions just add the right pop of color, I think. To double-check it’s ready to come out, insert a knife it the middle and check to see that if the knife is rotated a bit, no liquid comes out…meaning eggs are set).

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Now, this will smell so good that a bit of drool may start to go down you chin. But WAIT! Let the casserole set for about 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. That will ensure ALL of the egg is fully set.

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Use a big spatula to slice this up – big squares work well. You will be amazed at how delicious this is, I promise.

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Dang, I sure wish I had some of this right now. My stomach has started to growl remembering how GOOD this was. The cream cheese and the egg, mixed with the warm pop of tomatoes and the chewy, flavorful bagels…wow. Um, I’m hungry.

I hope you and whomever you serve this to find it as delectable as we did and mark it as a favorite to make for many breakfasts to come!

Enjoy!

Chocolate Muffins (with a Healthy Spin)

4 Aug

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A few facts to preface this post. Fact #1: I thoroughly enjoy chocolate. Fact #2: I thoroughly enjoy muffins, cakes, cookies etc. However, maybe like some of you, Fact #3, my metabolism no longer allows me to consume these items as much as I’d like without some consequences. Which…is unfortunate.

Thus – I was on Pinterest one day trying to find some healthier (note not healthy…health-IER) recipes and found this little gem. There’s no flour involved – there’s applesauce and plain greek yogurt that help to keep the muffins together AND keep them moist. I was intrigued enough to give these a try.

Also, Fact #4 – my boyfriend Luke has quite an affinity for baked goods that come from my kitchen. So like most treats I make, the plan was to make a big batch, have a few myself and then feed the rest to Luke. Muah hahaha.

(He has yet to complain so I think it’s a win-win situation for both of us.)

Thus, another episode of Thursday evening baking happened this last week and the resulting muffins were quite delicious. I highly recommend!

I will say I changed up the recipe a bit because of the ingredients I had available. I’ve linked to the recipe I based these off of (and the blog post about that recipe links to the original recipe too) above for those who want to try the full-on healthier version or you can follow what I used below. I trust both will work out nicely for you. And regardless, you end up with chocolate muffins. :)

Recipe makes about 24 small muffins or 12 larger muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup of oats
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (the recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa but I had cocoa powder on hand so that’s what I used)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (the recipe calls for unsweetened but I used normal applesauce and they still turned out wonderfully)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 1-1/2 Tbsp. vinegar)
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup sugar (the recipe calls for a healthy substitute like I cup of Splenda granular OR 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp stevia but I had none of these options so plain white sugar it was for me)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or whatever other type of chips you’d like!) and an extra 1/4 cup for the muffin tops

How to Make:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grab a blender (or a food processor) as you’ll need no mixer or beaters to clean in this recipe. I know, I know…I was puzzled by this too. But trust me – it works!

Now – if you want smaller muffins for a crowd, this makes 24 muffins (thus you’ll need 2 muffin pans). If you want larger muffins for a smaller crew (1 pan) this makes 12 muffins. I did line my muffin tins but this recipe has a tendency to stick a bit. If you’d these to appear aesthetically pleasing with wrappers off (for any reason) you may want to simply spray the pans with a little Pam. Otherwise, I’m sure those you feed these to will not mind a bit licking of crumbs from the wrapper. I doubt they’ll mind.

Now prepare for this next part…you’re going to mix…

…everything. Ok, not the chocolate chips quite yet, but everything else goes right into the blender.

Yup, you read that right. Everything. Into. The. Blender.

Here we go…

In go the oats…
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…then the egg whites…

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…and applesauce…(note my oat measuring was exceptionally neat and tidy)

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…and then the cocoa (I wasn’t worried that mine was a bit clumpy as the blender would be blending it all together anyway)…

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…and vanilla…

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…and the plain Greek yogurt…

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…and the cream of tartar…and baking powder…and baking soda…

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…and the salt (which I plain forgot to take a photo of, but believe me when I say…it’s in there!)…

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…and the cup of hot water (which causes this fun, little effect)…

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…and then finally, the sugar or your sugar substitute.

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Now blend that concoction until the mixture is smooth (not chunky on the bottom but the same consistency all the way through). I was a bit concerned as the batter seemed to be a bit thin at first. But keep blending until the oats, applesauce and yogurt are consistently blended and that will really help to thicken it up. Trust me!

Now pour into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips.

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Then, time to pour into the pans. (I was a wee bit messy at this part so if you have the same problem, just dab the batter spots off the pan with a paper towel. No biggie!)

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Now the muffins get baked for 10 minutes. Then, pull them out…

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…and drop a few of the chips on the top of each muffin. Add as many as you’d like! Most of mine had about 3-6 chips as dark chocolate chips are bit bigger than the normal chocolate chip.

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Now pop these guys back into the oven for an additional 3-6 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (I had to pop mine back in for about 8 additional minutes as they were still wet when I tested with a toothpick at 6 minutes. So watch these carefully and don’t worry if they take more than 3-6 minutes. It shouldn’t be TOO much more oven time.)

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Once the toothpick comes out clean from a the center of a few muffins, let them cool for a few minutes in the pan. Then place the muffins on a cooling rack or a cutting board to cool completely.

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I will share – these are delicious eaten while they’re still warm for the obvious melty-chocolate reason. But they’re also delectable eaten once fully cooled. I let them sit out to cool for a few hours and then kept them stored in Tupperware, separated into layers with some assistance from parchment paper.

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Feed these to your family, your friends, your significant other or spouse or maybe yourself for a snack. (I had a few snacks the night I made these…couldn’t…help…myself.) They’ll disappear REAL fast…

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Give these a try and let me know if they turn out as delicious for you as they did for me!

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Happy baking!

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