September 30, 2011

Top Fives- Learn More About Me

Happy Friday friends! I'm so happy it's the weekend that I wanted to do something fun and different tonight- a survey. Yay! With some of my recent Top Fives.

Last Five Books I Read:
  1. The Secret Circle: The Power
  2. The Secret Circle: The Captive
  3. The Secret Circle: The Initiation
  4. Thirteen Reasons Why
  5. Sarah's Key

I re-read The Secret Circle series hurriedly in preparation for the new Tv show on the CW. I really liked the series, although there were some things I wasn't too keen about: the dialogue, the cheesy one-liners. It was funny reading it now as an adult (I read it back in the 6th grade), seeing all that has changed- style, character names, lack of cell phones, etc (the books were written in the early 90s).

Five Books I Want to Read:
  1.  The Kitchen Daughter
  2. The Hunger Games- what's all the fuss!
  3. The Soldier's Wife
  4. Blood Magic
  5. ?
I need some new book recommendations! Have you read anything new lately?

Last Things I Cooked/Baked:
  1. Spaghetti and Meatballs
  2. Baked Salmon with Brown Rice and Roasted Asparagus
  1. Biscoff Stuffed White Chocolate Cookies
  2. Chicken and Rice Bake
  3. Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Five Things Making Me Happy Right Now:
  1. Anything pumpkin!
  2. My new apple crumble candles from B&BW
  3. Comfy sweaters
  4. Biscoff spread
  5. My hubby having Saturday off!

Pick your top fives and tell me about it!

September 29, 2011

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ever have one of those weeks where you feel so behind no matter how much you try to catch up? Yeah, I'm having one of those weeks. I feel behind with my blogging, with my TV shows (you all know I'm a TV junkie), with reading (I haven't read a new book since school started), with my family, and with my hubby. It doesn't help that he has a new crazy schedule- working every day all day, with only one day off, if he's lucky. The life of a medical student. Sucks.

Moving on!

It's all good. Really. As long as I keep eating pasta, things will come together on their own. Right? Right. I thought so.

If there's one thing you can count on on my blog, it's pasta. I hope you never get sick of it. If you do, go check out these cookies, I guarantee you won't get sick of those. I can't get enough of them.

I found this pasta dish on another fellow blog. Her pictures were fabulous so I knew I had to make it. I'll be honest though; I wasn't all that impressed- at first. It was good, pretty tasty (it is pasta with lots of cheese, duh), but I wasn't blown away until I had the leftovers for lunch the next day. I don't know what happened in my fridge overnight but it was so good. Make it, save it, and devour it. I heard it freezes well too, so make extra for a night when you don't feel like cooking!

Source: adapted from Short Stop
Servings: 3-4

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 box of penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 heaping tablespoons flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup whole milk
5 ounces baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/3 cup white wine (more to taste)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 13X9 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta, and return to pot. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Turn off heat, gradually stir in Monterey Jack cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan.

Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper. Stir in white wine. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with leftover Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Are you a TV junkie? What are you watching?

September 27, 2011

Biscoff Stuffed White Chocolate Cookies

I'd like you to meet my new best friend.

Biscoff. Biscoff spread. Have you heard about this stuff? The food blog world was going bananas over this stuff a while back. I didn't know what all the fuss was about; I had never seen it before. Until Sunday. I'm cruising down the aisles of my grocery store with no menu plan (I felt so lost), no list, nada, grabbing and throwing things into my cart so I could get the heck out of there. I wasn't in the mood to shop. What's wrong with me?


Due to the fact that I had no list and was driving down the aisles all willy nilly, I found myself in the peanut butter aisle. A jar with a red lid caught my eye. Biscoff spread?! I said (not out loud, but you know). Ooo yes, I'ma buy you real quick.

Ladies and gentlemen, best purchase ever. You all weren't kidding. This stuff is the shiz niz. I'm obsessed. Obsessed! How did they make this stuff? It tastes like a million cookies that were crumbled together and blended into this perfect spreadable edible spread...

I'm out of words. Just buy this stuff. And make these cookies.

Source: Picky Palate
Servings: 24 large cookies
Note: I halved this recipe. Stupid mistake. This is the original. 

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
2 cups Biscoff Spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line a large baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

In a stand or electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla beating until well combined.

Place flour, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with white chips until just combined.

With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. With your thumb, press into each cookie making a little well for the Biscoff. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop about 1 tablespoon Biscoff into each pressed cookie. Place another scoop of cookie dough on top and press edges gently. Biscoff will not be completly enclosed and will be visible around edges. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

September 25, 2011

Weekend Bites

This weekend was filled with friends, driving, a wedding, and cookies.

I found biscoff spread!

These cookies are out of this world.

I only cooked once- Sunday night. Mexican Chicken Rice Bake. It was really good!

Bear with me until I am able to return to regularly scheduled programming. Hope you had a great weekend!

September 22, 2011

Pumpkin White Chocolate Muffins

I've got a lot of pumpkin recipes coming your way.

What can I say? The temperatures have cooled off in Michigan, right after Labor Day. I tried to wait. I really did. But I had three cans of pumpkin hanging out in the back of my pantry, just waiting to be used. I haven't looked to see if the stores in my area are carrying canned pumpkin yet- I hope they are, I'm down to one can!

I didn't hop on the pumpkin bandwagon until moving to Michigan. It's kinda silly getting excited for fall in Miami when the temperature is exactly the same as it was in July. I didn't decorate for fall (but I did for Halloween!) and I didn't go out to buy pumpkin lattes or hoard cans of pumpkin in my pantry for the next year (my Mom actually mailed me cans of pumpkin last fall when we had the shortage!).

But now...I understand the obsession. I crave it. Pumpkin is my new favorite ingredient and I don't think I'll be getting sick of it any time soon. I'll do my best to mix it up though, so hopefully you won't leave me hanging. :)

I loved these muffins. They're super moist, have an excellent amount of spice and sweet kick from the white chocolate chips. Fast and easy to make, can be stored in an air-tight container for two days and then freeze really well. I snacked on them and hubby took them to work. Win!

Source: Sugared Whisk
Servings: 12 muffins

1/2 cup of walnuts or pecans
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 oz white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, and unsalted butter. Add in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix.

Scoop batter into greased or paper cup lined muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until puffed and springy to the touch. Cool then remove from cups.

Are you crazy for pumpkin yet?

September 20, 2011

Hungarian Paprika Chicken

Recently, I picked up Eva Longoria's new cookbook. I bought it during the second wave of Borders closing sales for a great price. I love Eva's character on Desperate Housewives and found it ironic that in real life Eva actually loves to cook. 

Her cookbook is beautifully done with pictures of her food jumping off the pages. Most of her book is devoted to Spanish food, but there are many simple dishes too, like ants on a log, a cannellini bean dip, crock-pot ropa vieja, and garlic mashed potatoes.

At this point you must be wondering if I'm getting paid for this post. Ha! Nope. I just like buying and reviewing cookbooks- with you. Who else am I going to share this stuff with? Besides the hubby. But he just wants to eat the dish, not talk about it!

There are still a ton of recipes I want to try from her book. This was one of the first I tried, after reading her description- it's even better after a day or two, and the recipe card was given to her from a friend, written in Hungarian. How cool is that?

I apologize for the crappy pictures- this was taken during the week of no sun early September. And it doesn't actually look all that pretty...but it is really good. I would suggest adding some more spices, maybe some cumin, chili powder, or thyme. It was a little bland when I first tasted it, but with the addition of some spices it's a great warm-you-up meal. 

Source: Eva's Kitchen by Eva Longoria
Serves: 8 to 10

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 bell peppers, preferable 1 each. green, red, yellow and orange, cored and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 pound egg noodles
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 ounces sour cream
¼ cup all-purpose flour, or as needed

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken. Cook until slightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the paprika, salt, and pepper and stir to coat the meat. Stir in the peppers and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes; the vegetables and chicken will have exuded their liquid to create a fragrant, bubbling stew.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the egg noddles and cook according to package directions. Drain thoroughly, return to the pot or a bowl, and toss with the butter. Put aside and keep warm.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream and flour until smooth (for a thicker stew, add more flour). Stir this mixture into the simmering stew, one large spoonful at a time. Bring it all just to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve hot over the buttered noddles.

Have you purchased any cookbooks lately?

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

September 18, 2011

Weekend Bites + Menu Plan Monday 9/19

Wohooooo, I ended up feeling much better than I thought I would this weekend! Saturday morning I woke up feeling a little sickly, but as the day moved on I gradually improved. So weird. I don't get sick very often and when I do, I'm not sick for very long. Go me!

I laid around on the couch for most of the morning until I had the sudden urge for a pumpkin latte. I headed out to Target and ordered my first pumpkin latte of the season. It's the only form of coffee I'll drink. I hate coffee! With latte in hand I perused the Halloween section. Hubby, you should be very proud. I didn't buy anything. :)

Inspired, I went home and opened up my fall box.

I spent an hour decorating and re-introducing our home to fall scents.

Afterwards, high on my fall kick, I proceeded to the kitchen to make a pumpkin cream cheese loaf. Have you bought any pumpkin yet? I still have three cans from last season.

On Sunday I was feeling even better! Hubby was given the day off (yay!) so we went apple picking!

First we had to get some donuts. You can smell those babies from the parking lot.

Then we headed out to the orchards.

Empire, McIntosh, Jonathan, and Cortland were all available for picking. I whipped out my real camera for you.

Such a pretty day.

So ready for fall!

Afterwards hubby and I made a mad dash to the store to pick up what we need for dinner this week. It's going to be a busy week for me, so this is a tentative menu. Even still, I can't start the week off without some sort of plan. Here goes:

    I had such a great weekend I don't want it to end! What did you do this weekend? Or, what's on your menu plan? 

      September 17, 2011

      The Week Wrap Up 9/12-9/17

      I have had big plans this weekend.

      I was going to bake with as much pumpkin as I could. I was going to declare it fall (considering that it was 40 yesterday morning) and dig out my decor from my fall box. I was going to do some shopping, run errands, make my grocery list and menu plan, shop for said items, and buy things I don't really need from Target.

      Then last night happened. My throat was itchy. It hurt to swallow. I was sneezing four times in a row.
      Must be my first cold of the season.
      I work with small children. It's to be expected.

      So. How much will I get done?

      Here's what I shared this week with you:

      Here's what I bookmarked: 

      Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownies- Recipe Girl

      White Bean, Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Hummus- Budget Gourmet Mom

      Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Pesto- Food Snots

      Pumpkin Cream Oreo Tarts- Lauren's Latest

      True Bolognese- Not Rachael Ray

      Crockpot Southwestern Corn Soup- Stephanie Cooks

      If I accomplish one thing, it's going to be baking something pumpkin. What are your weekend plans?

      September 15, 2011

      Dijon Honey Chicken Tenders

      I'm a big believer in anything fresh. Fresh ingredients, fresh produce, fresh bread, fresh cookies, fresh air... I've come to tell myself if I've made it at home, that must make it better. No processed ingredients, right? So it's okay if I eat more than the usual 2 cookies I'd allow myself from a processed package. That also means it's okay if I eat more than 2 chicken tenders.

      Growing up, one of my favorite things to eat was chicken nuggets/tenders. Those light, airy chicken nuggets from McDonald's? I hang my head in shame, but yes, I'll confess- I was a Mickey D's chicken nuggeter. Grandma used to take my brother and I for a happy meal once a week. Once a week! Oh the horror.

      I'll tell you though, I had an awesome collection of those plastic Barbie dolls they used to hand out. Do you remember those?

      One of the very first blogs I started reading was The Comfort of Cooking. Georgia, the author, has many beautiful, simple recipes on her blog. Every time she posts I rush over to read what she has to say about her latest creation. These chicken tenders were no exception. They're definitely tastier, better, healthier than anything you can get at a fast food restaurant or out of a red Tyson bag. Very easy to make too- slice chicken breasts into strips, roll them into panko bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Then you get to make a nice little dipping sauce! Who wouldn't like that?

      Source: The Comfort of Cooking
      Serves 4

      1 cup panko breadcrumbs
      1 tsp. salt
      1/2 tsp. pepper
      1/4 tsp. garlic powder
      1/4 tsp. paprika
      3 tbsp. butter, melted
      heaping 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
      1 Tbsp. honey
      3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced vertically into strips

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large baking sheet and set aside.

      In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, Dijon mustard and honey; whisk until well combined.

      Place the chicken strips into the mustard-butter mixture, then into the breadcrumbs. Coat evenly. Place onto the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!

      We've all got one...share your favorite processed/fast food?

      September 13, 2011

      Raspberry Oat Bars

      I've got a new obsession.

      Anything that can be turned into a bar.

      I've pinned all sorts of bar treats lately (which is also a new obsession of mine- pinning. What can I say, I was late to the game). For example, I really want to make these blondies. And these smore's bars. And these brownies. I need helppp.

      But these bars...these bars, I had to make immediately. They had my name written all over them. I didn't think any other "granola" bar could come close to topping my favorite, but these come pretty darn close. I love how simplistic they are. They've got a crunchy, buttery crust and subtle sweetness from the jam. All you need is some butter, oats, brown sugar, and a fruity jam. It's a snack you can enjoy any time of the year.

      I had to stop myself from eating them in two days. Perfection in a bar.

      Source: Beloved Green
      Servings: 15-20 bars

      1 1/4 cups flour ( half whole wheat flour and half white flour)
      3/4 cup brown sugar
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon cinnamon
      3/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
      2 cups oats
      1 cup berry jam of your choice (I used raspberry)

      Start by pre-heating the oven to 375°F.  In a mixing bowl pour in the wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon and do a quick mix.  Cut the butter into thin slices and add into the bowl.  With a mixer on medium, mix until it starts to form a more solid dough.  Pour in the old-fashioned oats and kneed them in until all the oats have found a home in the dough.

      Take 1/3 cup of oats and set them to the side.  Grease a 13x9inch pan.  Place the remainder of the dough into the pan and smash it flat until it is even across the base.  Next layer in the jam.  Finally take the 1/3 cup of oats that were set aside and sprinkle them over top.

      Put the pan in the oven for about 25 minutes until the top of the oats start to turn a golden brown color.  Pull them out and allow them to cool.  Can be stored in a container out on the counter or in the refrigerator.

      September 11, 2011

      Menu Plan Monday 9/12 + Weekend Bites

      Hello friends! How was your weekend? Do anything fun? I had a pretty good one! Let's review.

      On Saturday I baked with pumpkin for the first time this season.

      Pumpkin white chocolate muffins. Recipe coming soon! Then I made my grocery list, menu plan, and shopped. Hubby came home early and we sat on the couch and watched Human Planet. Awesome show. You should watch it.

      On Sunday I went to a new yoga studio and took a class with a friend.

      I loved the instructor. I'm hoping to go at least once a week. Later on in the afternoon I went shopping with some friends. Winter's coming folks. I've gotta update my wardrobe. For dinner, I attempted to make hot pockets. 

      Meh. They were just okay. Too much bread and not enough filling. Needs to be modified.

      I didn't get much baking done as I would have liked. Hopefully next weekend. What did you do this weekend?

      If you're interested, here's what we'll be eating this week around these parts: 

      What did you do this weekend? 

      September 10, 2011

      The Week Wrap Up 9/5/-9/10

      Hello friends. Happy weekend! How was your week? Are you still suffering from sweltering temperatures or has Fall made it an appearance? We had rain. For three.straight.days. I can't even begin to tell you how much I miss the sun. I'm a sun girl! These dark, gray days are just not for me.

      I'm back at work and happy to be among the kiddies again. One thing I love about starting a new school year is meeting all the new students. We've got an awesome bunch with very interesting personalities. I'm definitely excited and can't wait to see how they interact with each other once the ball gets rolling.

      Here's what I shared with you this week:

      Here's what I bookmarked:

      White Chocolate Confetti Blondies- Bake Your Day

      Fudgy Peanut Butter Cup Brownies- The Baker Chick

      Brownie Pie- Steph's Bite by Bite

      That's a wrap! Enjoy your weekend!

      September 9, 2011

      Baked Caprese Cups

      I love breakfast on the weekends.

      I love sleeping in, waking up, and making a big breakfast in my pajamas. I don't have the chance on weekdays. Usually I'm getting ready for work and down a bowl of cereal. The hubbs, as you know, grabs one of the many treats I've baked and eats it on the road. On the weekends I indulge, making pancakes, muffins, waffles, or some good old fashioned scrambled eggs and toast.

      Mmm. I love weekends. Says the girl who has only been back at work for a week...

      What can I say. Summer already feels like a million years ago.

      When I saw this on my favorite blog in the whole wide world Jessica's blog I immediately made a little sticky note on my laptop to make it. Soon. It looks like something you would order at a fancy restaurant. Cute ramekins filled with eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and basil. Perfection in a little ramekin. I'm obsessed with them; any excuse to use my ramekins. I don't use them enough!

      Source: Caprese Baked Egg Cups

      makes 4 cups [2 x 3 1/2 in ramekins]
      4 or 8 eggs (depending on if you want 1 or 2)

      1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
      3-4 ounces mozzarella cheese, chopped (I used marinated mozz from Trader Joe’s, hence the seasoning)
      8-10 fresh basil leaves
      2 teaspoons cream or milk
      salt and pepper
      softened butter

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter each ramekin and fill with a few pieces of tomato, cheese and basil. Crack one or two eggs into each and season with salt and pepper, then add 1/2 teaspoon of cream to each egg to prevent them from drying. Add a few tomatoes, cheese and basil on top and set on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-8 minutes, then turn on the broiler and bake for about 5 minutes more (this resulted in slightly firm yolks for me, broil less if you them runny). Watch carefully to determine how runny/firm you want your yolks. Serve hot with toasted, crusty bread.

      What do you like to make on the weekends?

      September 7, 2011

      Tuscan Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce

      When I saw Kelly share this on The Food Mentalist, I knew I had to make it.

      For one, I'm never one to turn down a new pasta dish.

      For two, I've never cooked with sun-dried tomatoes. For three, this looked so good.

      So, why haven't I ever cooked with sun-dried tomatoes? I'm not sure! I've had them in dishes ordered at restaurants, yes, but their flavor and texture never stood out for me. Probably because there were so few of them in the dishes I seemed to order. I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Well. Now I do! Being as this recipe calls for 6 ounces of sundried tomatoes (I bought a jar of julienned tomatoes), I was finally able to enjoy them.

      The sauce smelled heavenly as it was bubbling on the stove. You probably already have most of the ingredients on hand: milk, chicken stock, flour, salt, pepper, garlic, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes (the only thing I didn't have in the pantry). I didn't make many changes, except for halving it for just the hubbs and I. I also didn't use skim milk as I don't purchase it so I used reduced fat. Lastly, I had a can of petite diced tomatoes on hand, so I used that instead of fresh. The whole dish is so easy and quick, perfect for a night when you're too tired to cook or are short on time.  

      Source: Eat Yourself Skinny, featured on The Food Mentalist
      Servings: 2
      1 (20 oz) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
       1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
      4 cloves of garlic, minced
      2 cups of skim milk
      1 cup of chicken broth
      4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
      1/2 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp. black pepper
      1 cup (6 oz) chopped or julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
      1/2 cup grated low-fat Parmesan cheese
      2 Tbsp white wine
      2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, chopped OR 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, full drained
      1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

      Prepare ravioli according to package directions.  In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté until golden brown.  

      In a small saucepan, stir together milk, chicken broth, 3 Tbsp flour (save 1 Tbsp of flour for later), salt and pepper over low heat until smooth and thick.  Stir into garlic and add sun-dried tomatoes.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick.  Add the Tbsp of flour (for additional thickness) and stir in with Parmesan cheese.

      Allow sauce to thicken up a bit then stir in wine, chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped basil.  Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Toss with ravioli and garnish with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.

      I'm back to work and looking for more easy, quick meals. What do you like to cook when you're short on time?