Monday, August 27, 2012

Baked Southwestern Flautas

I love Southwestern egg rolls - you know, the kind you can get at any number of restaurants like Chili's or Applebees.  I love the crispy outside and melty center, but they're not exactly the best things for you!  All in moderation, I suppose.  I decided to try baking these and making them more of like a flauta instead of an egg roll and they turned out great!  Skinny flautas, yay!  No more frying for me.    

Chicken and veggies, black beans and tons of flavor from the cumin and chili powder.  I know your whole family will love these.  They make a great party food dish too - very easy to multiply this recipe if you need to make more.

Serves 2-3 

Baked Southwestern Flautas

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1/2 tablespoon grill seasoning (I use Weber's Kick'N Chicken)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced bell pepper
1/3 frozen corn
1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons diced, canned jalapenos
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
five 7-inch flour tortillas
vegetable oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add chicken and grill seasoning.  Cook until chicken is almost done; add bell pepper and saute until tender, 2-3 more minutes.  Add corn, black beans, jalapenos, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne to pan and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese until melted.  

Place tortillas between 2 damp paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds until soft.  Spoon about one-fifth of the mixture down the center of the tortilla and wrap tightly, placing on baking sheet seam side down.  Repeat until all tortillas are filled.  

Lightly brush the top of the tortillas with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.  Serve topped with more shredded cheese, sour cream, ranch, etc.
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Apple Cinnamon Cake

If you have a couple of extra apples laying around, I insist you make this cake.  It is sweet and moist and great for a dessert or breakfast!  

Think of it like a coffee cake (although this is not dry AT ALL) and then you won't feel so guilty about eating cake for breakfast.  It is just heavenly with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee! 

Serves 8

Apple Cinnamon Cake

1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups, peeled, diced apples (about 2 apples)
1 tablespoon cinnamon

For the topping 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter, diced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together.  In a small bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and add baking soda to dissolve.  Add to butter/sugar mixture and mix well.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add salt, flour and vanilla.  Fold in apples and cinnamon.  

Pour batter in a greased round cake pan.  In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping and start mashing with a fork until it becomes crumbly.  Sprinkle topping over batter.  

Bake for 40-45 minutes.  

(Source:  Adapted from

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Spicy Chicken Nuggets with Copycat Zaxby's Sauce

Being from the Northeast, I never had the pleasure of eating at a Zaxby's until I moved down South.  And now let me go even further and say that I never tried a Zaxby's until, I think 4 months ago?  I am now officially addicted to their chicken fingers and well, my friends, if you are not familiar with the sauce that accompanies these chicken fingers, you are missing out.  But, miss out no more, because here is a copycat version that even amazed me how close it is to the real thing!  It's salty and peppery, sweet and spicy and just so flipping good!  I adapted a recipe that was posted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (because so many fans were looking for their recipe!).  I love Worcestershire Sauce so I added more than they called for and tons of pepper.  And let's not forget these chicken nuggets!  Spicy and crispy and bite size to just dip and pop in your mouth. This is just about the perfect meal or snack to make while watching football games (can't wait for fall!).    

Serves 2-4

Spicy Chicken Nuggets with Copycat Zaxby's Sauce

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into bite size pieces
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons grill seasoning (I used Weber's Kickin' Chicken)
2 tablespoons salt
Canola oil for frying

For the sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat a couple inches of oil in large pot to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, grill seasoning and salt.  Add the chicken pieces and stir until each piece is coated.  Remove chicken from the flour mixture, shaking off the excess and fry in batches (do like 3 or 4 batches).  Fry for 5-6 minutes (if your pieces are bigger than bite size it will take a little longer).  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.

To make the sauce: combine the first 4 ingredients and mix well.  Cover the surface of the sauce with black pepper until just coated.  Blend well and repeat again (do this process to taste.  I did it 3 times).  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to mingle.  

(Source:  Adapted from Jo Cooks and

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Incredibly Light and Quick Pasta Sauce with Garlic Bread

Looking for a super fast, super simple pasta dish for dinner tonight?  Well, look no further.  It's tasty, it's light and will be done in no time at all.  And I know there is cheese and half and half, so it doesn't sound light, but it is...believe me.  Not heavy like a typical cream sauce.  Try it with any type of pasta you like, but be sure to serve this garlic bread with it - which is just as fast and just about the perfect compliment to this dish!  

And sorry there are no measurements for the ingredients for the bread...I just do everything to taste, so if you prefer less salt, use a lighter sprinkle of the garlic salt or even just use garlic powder.  I use a LOT of salt in my dishes so my measurements might be a bit salty for other people's taste! 
Serves 6-8

Incredibly Light and Quick Pasta Sauce with Garlic Bread

1 pound of rotini (or the pasta of your choice)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
20 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the garlic bread 
1 loaf of french bread
softened butter or spreadable butter
garlic salt
grated Parmesan cheese 

In a large stockpot, bring water to boil to cook pasta.  Follow the directions for pasta to be al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and garlic in a deep saucepan over medium heat.  When the garlic becomes fragrant (2-3 minutes) add tomatoes and heat through.  Stir in basil leaves until they wilt.  Add the cream to your sauce and stir until it becomes a shade or two lighter.  Drain pasta and toss with sauce.  Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve with garlic bread (recipe follows)

To make the garlic bread:  preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice loaf of french bread in half lengthwise.  On the cut side of both slices, spread a thin layer of butter.  Generously sprinkle with garlic salt (depending on your taste), and lightly top with paprika and Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the bread toasts and becomes golden brown along the edges.  

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuscan Lemon Chicken with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

How good is grilled chicken?  I mean, really any kind.  I love a good, crispy, charred piece of chicken breast that is still juicy in the middle and the grill is just excellent for that.  I love summer!  We do tons of grilling.  You will love this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa for lemon chicken - it is just packed full of flavor.  And simple, too, especially if you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts like I did (in her original recipe, Ina used a whole bone in chicken and flattened it - also fantastic, I'm sure). 

I served this with romaine lettuce topped with a Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette adapted from the always fabulous Tyler Florence (it is apparent yet that I watch a lot of Food Network?).  This meal was light and refreshing and I know would be killer for your next grilling party! 

Serves 2-3 

Tuscan Lemon Chicken with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise (or 4 small chicken breasts)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced rosemary (I used dry, Ina used fresh)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon hot water
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon sour cream (Tyler used Creme Fraiche)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper

Sprinkle each side of the chicken breasts with salt and place in a large plastic storage bag.  Combine olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary and 2 teaspoons black pepper in a small measuring cup.  Pour the marinade into the storage bag over the chicken, seal and squeeze to work the marinade into the chicken. Place bag in a bowl to prevent spills and place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.  Squeeze the bag a couple of times to ensure every bit of chicken is getting some of the marinade.

Preheat your grill and pull chicken out of the marinade, gently shaking to remove excess.  Grill each piece for 5-6 minutes on each side or until the juices run clear.  Place the lemon halves on a cooler side of the grill when you put the chicken breasts on.  Serve the chicken with the grilled lemon halves and a nice green salad.

Combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette (salt and pepper will be to taste) in a mason jar, put cap on a shake vigorously to emulsify (or whisk everything together in a large measuring cup).  Drizzle over greens and toss well to coat.

(Source:  Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics and Tyler Florence) Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sugar Cookie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

I had so much fun making these!  Mainly because my 2 1/2 year old was able to help me decorate (she was so proud of herself).  Funny, but I only had Valentine's sprinkles (little red and pink hearts), which is why I chose to make the frosting pink for these.  I will definitely have to re-post this in February because how cute would these be to take to your kid's school for Valentine's Day?  I found this recipe for sugar cookie bars on  the blog Six Sisters' Stuff (which is so great, lots of family friendly recipes and projects) and immediately fell in love because of the simplicity!  Instead of making a ton of individual cookies, waiting for them all to cool after each set is baked, you are just making one big bar cookie and frosting only once!  And the cookie itself is so good, just about the perfect sugar cookie.  I left mine a little under baked (as I do with all of my cookies to get that sort of gooey middle) and they were fantastic.  I hope you enjoy making and eating these as much as my family and I did! 

 See?  So cute Miss Bean helping me with the sprinkles

And her tiny little fingers being sneaky...

Makes one huge pan of cookies!

Sugar Cookie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 11x18 baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg.  Add vanilla.  

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.  Add to wet mixture and mix until just combined.  Spread batter on greased baking sheet, using your hands to evenly spread over entire pan (spray your hands with non-stick cooking spray or dip in water to avoid sticking).  Bake for 10-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or almost clean - like I said, I like mine a little underdone).  Cool completely before frosting (recipe follows).

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner's sugar
2-3 teaspoons milk 
food coloring

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Add confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract and milk until it becomes the consistency of frosting (add more milk if it's too thick, more sugar if it's too thin).  Add a few drops of food coloring (any color you like) and mix well.  Spread on cooled sugar cookie bars and top with sprinkles!

(Source:  Adapted from Six Sister's Stuff)
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lemony Cream Cheese Cake

This cake is an absolute must try.  It truly is to die for.  And how cute are they?  I did these in mini spring form pans, rather than just one big cake, and I have to tell you all something...I ate a whole one and a half of these myself!!  The day I made them.  I'm not joking.  Probably not something I should admit, but it really is that good.  This recipe comes from Blackjack Bakehouse and I really only changed one thing...instead of lemon extract in the filling, I used lemon juice.  I just don't have lemon extract, but I had lemons!

You can see from this picture that my filling sank all the way to the bottom, forming a very distinct layer of cream cheese and cake.  This didn't really resemble the pictures from the original recipe, but I'm not convinced that it made much of a difference.  I don't think this cake could have tasted any better had it turned out differently!  So either way yours turns out, you will be sure to enjoy it.    

 Makes 1 cake or 3 mini cakes

2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest of two lemons

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease the springform pan(s) with cooking spray.

For the filling:  Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Add confectioner's sugar and beat another 2-3 minutes.  Add butter, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Set aside.

For the cake:  In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Whisk in the remaining ingredients until just combined, do not overmix.

Pour cake batter into the springform pan(s).  Carefully pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over the batter, to within about a 1/2 inch of the edge of the pan (so the cake batter is visible around the edges).

Bake for 35-40 minutes (start checking at 25 minutes if you are using the mini pans) until the cake has puffed up and a toothpick inserted near the edge comes out clean.

Allow pan to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove the springform pan.  Transfer to refrigerator and allow to chill completely before serving.  Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.

(Source:  Adapted from Blackjack Bakehouse)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are almost too easy to make.  And a lot better for you than regular cookies.  Minutes of your time and you have a fantastic after school snack.   

I adapted the recipe from Bethenny Frankel.   Some of the substitutions I made were using skim milk instead of soy and using white granulated sugar for raw sugar.  The banana and small amount of canola oil keep these moist and incredibly flavorful.  

Just 1/2 cup of sugar and no eggs or butter.  Which means, no guilt when giving these to your kiddos.  They will scarf these up - just you watch!  Every time I make these, which is often, my four year old says, "Mommy these are SO good!".  Love it. 

Makes 2 Dozen

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon skim milk
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix the oil, skim milk, banana and vanilla.   Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until everything is combined.  Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter onto a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown.  Let sit for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

(Source:  Recipe adapted from Bethenny Frankel)

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Chocolate Puff Pastry Treats

This recipe is so completely versatile...I just happen to love chocolate and bananas together, not to mention anything that tastes like S'mores!  So, that's how I chose my ingredients for these Puff Pastry treats.  Chocolate chips, bananas, and marshmallows...I am thinking a good dollop of Nutella or even candies like peanut butter cups or Rolos would be awesome!  Just follow the instructions and fill with whatever you're little heart desires.  

16 squares cut out and filled with goodies! 

Little puffs dusted with confectioner's sugar

 Ooey, gooey middles!

1 Puff Pastry sheet, thawed
1 banana, sliced
about 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
about 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, beat the egg with water and set aside.  Roll the Puff Pastry sheet to a 12 inch square on a lightly floured surface.  Cut into 16 even squares.  Fill each square with about a teaspoon of your mixture (bananas and chocolate chips and/or chocolate chips and marshmallows).  Lightly brush the edges of the squares with the egg mixture.  Pull up 2 opposite sides over the middle and pinch to seal the edges.  Place the filled pastries on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown.  Let cool and dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.  

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Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I am a fiend for anything tomato and basil together.  Coupled with the fact that we have a ton of basil growing in our backyard, pretty much means that we eat a lot of Caprese salads and other tomato/basil combinations.  The other night, I just was completely blank as far as what to make for dinner (it was just one of those days - my brain was pretty much fried).  Usually I have an idea, or better yet, dinner is done by the time my husband comes home, but not this night.  We were both exhausted and cooking anything just didn't sound like too much fun.  So, we made it a no-cook appetizer night.  I chopped some tomatoes, we cut some shards of Parmesan cheese and that was our dinner.  And it was completely wonderful and surprisingly filling, too (lots of bread!).  Just a tip - this is VERY garlicky - you can omit rubbing the garlic on the bread if you prefer to tone it done a bit.

As far as the Parmesan cheese goes, I ate it on the side, by itself, because I love it just like that!  My husband actually topped his bruschetta with a shard of Parmesan, which also looked very yummy!

Serves 3 as a meal, or 6 as an appetizer

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta 

6 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 basil leaves, chopped
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1 baguette French bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice the baguette in 1/2 inch slices and arrange on a 9 x 13-inch baking sheet.  Using a pastry brush, brush a small amount of olive oil on each slice.  Toast for 5-6 minutes until they start to turn a golden brown.

Chop and seed tomatoes while bread is toasting.  In a medium bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  

Once the bread is done, remove from oven and rub the garlic clove over each slice.  Serve in a bowl with a spoon for each person to scoop the tomato/basil mixture onto the bread (or top each one if you prefer and serve already made up).   
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Brownie Bottom Coconut Bars

I don't really cook with coconut all that's just not one of those ingredients that I always have on hand.  It's one of those things that I consciously have to buy at the grocery store, not one of those you pick up without thinking, like milk or butter.  But I love it!  And I wish I did have it around more often!  I think I've pinned about 20 different coconut recipes on Pinterest and will now definitely make sure I have it in my cupboard at all times.  This recipe is a simplified version of one from Martha Stewart (although her's is pretty easy peasy too).  These are basically a coconut macaroon sitting on top of a fudgy brownie - if that is wrong, then I don't want to be right!  So yum!  

Makes 24 bars

1 box of brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Low Fat - crazy, but they are so fudgy and dense!) and ingredients from the box (water, eggs, oil)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 package of sweetened shredded coconut (7 oz), 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare brownie mix according to package and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the sides.  Do not overbake, they will not be done yet! 

Meanwhile, prepare coconut topping:  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Gently mix in flour and coconut (reserving 1/2 cup).  Drop by mounds onto slightly cooled brownie base and with moistened fingers, spread mixture out to cover entire pan.  Sprinkle with reserved coconut.  

Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Let cool in pan and cut into 24 squares.  
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I'm a super busy mom of 3 and a Beachbody coach. Follow along as I try to find a balance between eating good food and keeping my family healthy and happy! We eat mostly clean with a few fun treats thrown in every once in awhile. Thanks for stopping by!

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