Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spicy Chinese Chicken Tacos



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It seems that I am always on the never-ending quest to find a quick dinner that can be prepared and cooked in twenty minutes.  Even when purchasing a new cookbook I gravitate to books which have easy to prepare recipes and not too many ingredients.  The criteria in the recipes for a week night meal are these: 4-5 ingredients, inexpensive, not longer than 1 hour cook time and something that every one will like.  If it were up to me, we would be eating salads most of the time, but alas the members of my family are not big salad eaters, vegetable eaters for that matter.


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I love the cookbooks that can be purchased at the grocery checkout.  I find that I can’t stand still and patiently wait my turn, so when I am not perusing the latest issue of People magazine I am drooling over all of the monthly cookbooks.  I have made quite a few recipes from them and though they are not gourmet they still taste delicious.  Did I mention that I have a dozen of the cookbooks in my car so when I am in desperate need of a dinner idea, inspiration isn’t that far away?


Case in point.  Spicy Chinese Chicken Tacos.  Quick, easy and delicious.  I found it in the Easy Potlucks cookbook from Pillsbury (December 2004, issue #286).  There are quite a few recipes that I would like to try in this cookbook.  The Potato-topped Oven Swiss Steak recipe looks good as does the Southwest Lasagna.  MMMMmmmmm  stay tuned for those delicious ideas!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sweet Sundays: Peanut-Marshmallow-Chocolate Chip Bars

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Guess what guys?  You are in luck!  There is no silly story this week.  No long tale how this recipe appeared to me in a dream, or how I have been searching for it for years.  Just pure dessert.   Creamy, crunchy, salty and gooey dessert.

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I will tell you that I found this recipe in the Pillsbury addition of Potluck Reunions (volume 306, July 2006). It is one of the magazines you drool over while you are waiting with three items behind the lady who found a better deal at a different store but wants to purchase her items at this store for the same price.  You know who you are!!!  AGGHHH drive me crazy!  Anyway,  the kids pretty much made this recipe.  I just took the pictures.

Peanut-Marshmallow-Chocolate Chip Bars

Makes 24 servings 18 grams of carbohydrates per bar.

1 roll 18 ounces refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In an ungreased 13x9-inch pan, break up cookie dough.  With floured fingers, press dough evenly in bottom of the pan to form a crust.
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3.  Sprinkle with remaining ingredients.  I don’t think it matters the order you do it.  I just did it in order of the ingredients.

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4.  Bake 16 to 26 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes if you can wait that long.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sweet Sundays: Creamy Caramel Bars

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What a wonderful weekend.  Each day was sweeter than the last.  Friday was Gabriel’s sixth birthday.  How the years have flown by.  He is my youngest.  The one that still snuggles with his mother.  Saturday was his big birthday party and we had all of our family and friends to over the celebrate.  It poured buckets and buckets of rain, but that made it that much more fun and more cozy.  Today was spent with some family that I don’t get to see as much as I would like.  I miss them all very much and when we get together we always say “We can’t go this long” or “Look how big he has gotten since Christmas!”  But schedules change and life gets in the way.  Luckily Facebook has been there to fill in the gaps when time has lapsed.

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Salt and caramel.  Could there be a better match made in heaven.  I know all of you chocolate and peanut butter lovers are yelling at me right now.  I admit it chocolate and peanut butter are right up there with the best combinations, but sometimes you need something a little different.  Enter salt and caramel.  I fell so in love with this flavor amalgamation when Starbucks created the Salted Caramel latte.  YUMMM.  I soon started to try and recreate them at work and at home, adding a little bit of kosher salt to my drinks.  Shoot, now I really want one. 

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This Sunday’s recipe comes from 1001 cupcakes, cookies and other tempting treats. There are so many great recipes in this cookbook.  The recipes are not complicated, and you don’t need fifty ingredients to make something great.  Just a few extra special ones to make you recipe magnificent.  I love sweetened condensed milk and I have used in it a billion recipes, but I have never made caramel out of it.  What a cinch!  All you have to do is stir it in the pan over a low heat for a few minutes and SHAZZAM you have caramel.  These bars turn into a oozy, gooey caramel lovers dream and with just a pinch of salt, a salted caramel lovers dream.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blueberry-Sage Corn Muffins

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There are some recipes that seem to lie flat on the page.  Nothing interesting about them.  Nothing that stands them out from the crowd.  Nothing that screams EAT ME EAT ME.  Then there are some that practically jump off the page and into the oven, instantaneously.  I found this recipe, baked it, and took pictures of it, in less than 30 minutes.  Seriously that fast.

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Blueberry-sage corn muffins. Definitely a unique combination.  I wasn’t sure myself if I was going to like it.  I love blueberries.  I love corn muffins.  I like sage….at Thanksgiving.  Well, why not.  Try something new.  So I did.  It was amazing.

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The corn muffin itself is sweet and moist and the blueberries burst in your mouth.  The sage, when it hits your tongue, you think, “Hmmmm what is that flavor I am tasting”?  Is it savory? Is it sweet?  It is both, strangely enough.  The first bite into the muffin introduces the sage and it fades slowly when the blueberry and corn flavors kick in.  Then it comes back with a punch when another bite is taken.  I brought these to work and there were a few mixed reviews.   Some liked the sage flavor, some liked the blueberry mixture and all but one loved the corn muffin flavor,  (not a big fan of corn muffins to start with).

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I found the sage-blueberry corn muffins in the Gardeners’ Community Cookbook, complied and written by Victoria Wise.  I love, love, love this cookbook. I have used it for many delicious recipes.  Please see links at the bottom of this post.  There are no pictures in the cookbook, but the stories and the advice more than make up for that.  I highly recommend checking this book out of the library or purchasing it for your own collection.  It will be one of your most prized books.  If you are planning on checking it out of the library try not to get stains and flour all over the cookbook.  That will just lead to trouble and fines.  Smile

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sweet Sundays: Coconut Cranberry Cookies

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What better way to end the week, than with dessert, or you could be starting the week with dessert.  Either way you look at it dessert is the best!  Sundays will now be dubbed the sweetest day of the week.  In our household it is the one day we spend together.  The laundry day, the cleaning day, the underwear day (as Alex calls it).  If nobody is coming over and we are not going anywhere, why get dressed.  Well that day just got sweeter, even if you are just in your underpants. 

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So Sundays from now on will feature a simple dessert recipe.  It could be as simple as a cookie, cupcake or quick bread.  If the weekend doesn’t get too hectic I might attempt a more complex recipe, but none the less Sunday will always be sweet!

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I found Coconut Cranberry Cookies perusing my newest addition to the cookbook family, 1001 cupcakes, cookies and other tempting treats.  Really, the only reason I picked this recipe was the simple fact that I had all of the ingredients on hand.  I didn’t have to the run the grocery store for anything!  Spontaneous baking is the best, and what could possibly be better than coconut and cranberry!  Back to the cookbook, it is filled simple and complex recipes that are perfect for your sweet tooth. 

My mother has not stopped raving about this cookie.  It has the texture of the macaroon and the tartness of the dried cranberries.  She said it was by far her most favorite cookie.  I would rank that as two big thumbs up!  Please try this recipe.  They are perfect for sharing, (if you want to), or the school bake sales or a sweet Sunday.

Carb count per cookie is 16 grams.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Almond, Apricot, and Cream Cheese Crostata


So the grand finale to the summer feast was just that.  GRAND!  Almond, apricot, and cream cheese crostata tastes just like summer.  It is heavenly.  It is beautiful.  It is…..just delicious!

I just love the color of these apricots!


I found this recipe in the recent acquisition, bon appetit fast easy fresh, by Barbara Fairchild.  This cookbook is monstrous!  It has so many delicious sounding recipes.  I can’t wait to try them all.  The cookbook focuses on fresh simple ingredients that can be easily put together for a weeknight meal or a great weekend dessert.  The ingredient lists for the recipes range from two ingredients to maybe six or seven.  There are 703 pages in the cookbook and at least 2 recipes per page!  That adds up to a lot of tasty dishes!


This crostata couldn’t be easier.  We bought the sweetest, ripest apricots and they complimented the the almond filling fantastically.  Any fruit would be great in this as well.  You could use peaches, plums, cherries and nectarines.  I plan on making it with peaches next.  I still have one pie crust left and half a loaf of almond paste. Please give this a try!

Total carb count: 31.1 grams.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Mid-Summer Night’s Feast


Two absolutely perfect days.  Two warm, beautiful days spent with a dear friend and a brand new one.  One glorious Satuday morning spent shopping for local and fresh ingredients.  The other, a quiet Sunday spent preparing the delicious dishes to shine a spotlight on the delicious ingredients.  What a wonderful way to spend a weekend.  Fabulous food, wonderful family and friends and fantastic weather.  If only all weekends were like this.

We planned a menu.  We shopped for ingredients that were produce locally and in season.  Our menu included ingredients grown no more than 45 minutes away.  The cheese was produced 3 hours away.  The basil?  My deck!  We ate our harvest outside, under the warm August sun drinking local wine and dreaming about our next adventure.

The menu:
Peach, Prosciutto and Ricotta on grilled crostini


Harvest salad with greens, fresh yellow cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and toasted pecans


Summer Pasta with Mozzarella Cheese


Apricot, Almond and Cream Cheese Crostata

Summer Pasta with mozzarella cheese was found in the Smith and Hawken “Gardeners’ Community Cookbook.'’ I have used this cookbook before.  I love all the unique flavors that it combines along with the gardening tips on how to get the most of your vegetables and plants.  Please check out the post or to find other great recipes from this awesome cookbook.  The pages in the book are getting crinkly and that’s a good sign that the book is well loved. 

This is the easiest recipe for fresh tomato sauce ever. The key to the recipe is letting the tomato mixture sit for an hour so the flavors come together.  Do not use refrigerated tomatoes.  I know everyone is tempted to throw their produce in the refrigerator so it will last longer.  Not cool!  Tomatoes produce an flavor enzyme that dies the instant cold hits them.  A refrigerated tomato has no flavor compared to one that is left to sit on the counter.  There.  Now I am getting off my soap box.  This recipe is so easy and so wonderful!

Stay tuned for the next recipe later this week!  Apricot, almond, and cream cheese crostata!

Carb count! 56.6 grams per cup serving.

Summer Pasta with Mozzarella Cheese  Serves 6

6 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound thin pasta, such as angel hair or linguine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Place the tomatoes, garlic, basil, mozzarella, oil, broth, and salt in a large serving bowl.  Stir to mix and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour.


2.  Cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain briefly and add to the bowl with the tomato mixture.  Add the Parmesan cheese and pepper and toss to mix.


3.  Serve right away while the pasta is still warm.