Friday, February 28, 2014

Broccoli Pasta Salad

Broccoli salad is one of my favorite side dishes.  I have a fantastic recipe for another type of Broccoli Salad, but when I saw this one from Damn Delicious, I had to give it a try!  

And it looks pretty, too!  Would be a great dish to take to a potluck or picnic.  I guarantee everyone will be clamoring for this recipe.  Everything just pairs so well together.  Broccoli, sweet grapes, crisp bacon, pecans and pasta all tossed together in an amazing tangy dressing.  

The dressing is light but so flavorful.  The combination of Greek yogurt, mayo and red wine vinegar give it that tanginess that I just love.  It just works so well with the broccoli and rest of the ingredients.  Can't forget to mention that it's overall a pretty healthy side dish! 

If not serving the entire recipe immediately, I recommend saving some of the dressing to toss in again after it's been sitting in the fridge.  I actually only made 1/2 of the recipe the way it's written because I knew I would be the only one eating it, and had plenty of dressing left over (even after halving that too).  The dressing dried out a bit after sitting in the fridge.  Still good!  Still ate it for 3 days at lunch!  But save some if you can.  

Serves 6

Broccoli Pasta Salad

8 oz farfalle pasta 
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets and chopped
6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups red grapes, halved
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped pecans

For the dressing
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Make dressing by combining all of the ingredients and whisking.  Set aside. 

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well.  In a large bowl, combine pasta, broccoli, bacon, grapes, red onion and pecans.  Add about 1/2 of the dressing and stir to coat well.  Add more as desired.  Serve immediately and store leftovers in the fridge.  Save extra dressing for tossing into the leftovers out of the fridge.    

(Source:  Adapted from Damn Delicious)

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce

Making homemade applesauce seems a bit daunting, right?  Wrong!  So easy!  And it will make your house smell absolutely heavenly. 

This recipe is adapted from the Pioneer Woman and I basically halved her recipe (it can be very easily doubled).  My husband loves Red Delicious apples, so that's what I usually buy and that's what I used.  We had 3 sitting around just waiting to go bad so that's all that I wrote the recipe for.  

The hardest (and most tedious) part is peeling and slicing the apples.  Then, everything goes into one pot, it stews for about 25 minutes and gets mashed up (or pureed).  Nothing to it!  

I used my potato masher, but at that point, the apples were so soft that a fork would have done the trick as well.  If you want a smoother consistency, just throw the cooked apples into your food processor and puree until you get the consistency you like.  Did I mention that while on the stove your house will smell so good??  Another added benefit to making this!

Serves 6

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce

3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes.  Use a potato masher or fork for a chunky consistency or a food processor to puree the applesauce.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

(Source:  Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

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Monday, February 24, 2014

One Pot Lemon and Garlic Pasta with Broccoli

I'm obsessed with this pasta!  It tastes amazing, but I LOVE the fact that it's a one pot meal!  So easy!

Cook the pasta and broccoli together, drain, add the rest of the ingredients and...DONE!  Tons of flavor and it takes no time at all.  Make it as spicy (or not spicy) as you like by adding more or less red pepper flakes.  If you salt your pasta water before hand, you may not need the garlic salt.  I usually do salt my boiling water because it's the only time you get to actually flavor the pasta.  I forgot this time, which is why I added garlic salt, so use according to your taste.  

I made garlic bread to serve with this - you can find the recipe for that here (also too easy not to make with this dish!).  

Serves 2-3

One Pot Lemon and Garlic Pasta with Broccoli

8 oz dried pasta
3 cups frozen broccoli florets
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, or to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring water to boil in a large pot.  Cook pasta, according to package, but about 6 minutes shy of al dente.  Add the broccoli florets and cook pasta and broccoli together until pasta is al dente.  Drain and return to post.  Add olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and red pepper flakes and stir.  Add Parmesan cheese and stir.  Serve topped with more red pepper flakes and Parmesan (optional).

(Source:  Adapted from Martha Stewart)

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Raisin Granola Bars

Granola bars are absolutely one of my favorite snacks to make for the kids.  Between these and my Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars, I will never buy them from the store again!  Once you make these, I think you'll agree.

 These remind me so much of the Quaker granola bars - chewy and not all dry.  My kids gobble these up!  They were stalking me as I was taking the two-year old right at my hip saying "want one" repeatedly.  Heck, I even scarfed down 2 or 3 of these after this shoot!  

I could have stopped at just adding the chocolate chips, but the raisins give it an extra chewiness that I just love.  This recipe is adapted from Averie Cooks and I'm sure you'll adapt it from my version to make these how you like (or maybe even depending on what's in your cupboard that day!).  You can use all honey or all corn syrup, use more crispy rice cereal and less oats, or even all oats and no cereal - so many possibilities. 

Makes about 15 bars

Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Raisin Granola Bars

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup 
1/3 cup honey  
1/4 brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Line a 9 x 9-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the peanut butter, corn syrup, honey and brown sugar and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Stir to combine everything.  Add the vanilla and salt and stir. 

Add the oats and cereal and carefully stir to coat.  Add the raisins and chocolate chips and stir again to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and using your hands or spatula, press down to spread and form an even layer.  Place in freezer for at least an hour to allow bars to set.  Cut to desired shape.  Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.   

(Source:  Adapted from Averie Cooks)

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sugar Cookies with Super Easy Glaze

This is an amazing sugar cookie recipe - you can roll them thin and they still turn out soft (just the way I like them!) or use a cookie scoop and make regular cookies.  I made these for Valentine's Day, so I used my heart shape cookie cutters and lots of pink, red and white sprinkles.  Too, too cute!  

The glaze is the easiest icing you will ever make in your life.  I found the best thing to do was to just dip the cookies into the bowl of the glaze.  Then, add sprinkles!  You can even add a couple of drops of food coloring to the glaze to make different colors.    

Makes 4 dozen

Sugar Cookies with Super Easy Glaze

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2-4 teaspoons milk

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Then, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disc.  Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously flour your work surface, remove dough from plastic wrap and place on flour.  Flour rolling pin and roll dough to about 1/4-inch thick.*  Cut to desired shape with cookie cutters and place them on a cookie sheet.  Re-roll leftover scrapes and refrigerate any unused dough until ready to bake again.

Bake for 9-11 minutes until pale golden, let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack (place a piece of foil under the rack for easy clean up later).  Let cool completely before frosting.  Repeat steps with the rest of the remaining dough.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioner's sugar and milk (start with 2 teaspoons).  Add more milk or sugar to make the glaze as thick or thin as desired.  Dip one side of the cooled cookies in the glaze and place back on rack (where the foil comes in handy!).  Immediately top with sprinkles.  Allow the glaze and sprinkles to set - the glaze will harden enough to stack the cookies when storing.

*Notes:  the original recipe called for the dough to be rolled out between two sheets of wax paper.  While this worked, after cutting out the shapes with the cookie cutters, the dough was sticking to the wax paper.  I found that working on a floured surface was much easier.

(Source:  Adapted from Just a Taste)

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Homemade Strawberry Fruit Strips

If you've scrolled down to the recipe already, you've probably noticed that these take like forever and a day to make.  I'm exaggerating, but truly, up to 16 hours in the oven for these bad boys.  Here's the thing though, they are pretty worth it.  And despite all that, so easy to make...despite the waiting!

 This was my first time making these and I did run into a couple of glitches.  Nothing major, but I'll share with you some of my suggestions to make these.  First of all, it really shrinks up as you bake them - you'll notice a drastic difference after the first 6-8 hours.     

I used my immersion blender to puree the fruit after it stewed with the lemon juice.  It has a cup and blade attachment that is like a mini food processor.  The mixture JUST fit, hence the spilling.  But, it worked!  You can use a blender, too or a regular food processor.

Transferring from one baking sheet to another was tricky.  Luckily, the only other pan I had was 11 x 18-inch, which helped because I was transferring from a smaller pan to a larger one.  I picked up the plastic wrap and then tried to turn it upside down onto the bigger pan.  Well, since the fruit wasn't quite set on the bottom side, it started to slide and I had to spread it out again in a few places.  Try quickly inverting the actual baking sheet onto the new one, then lift the pan up, then remove the top layer of plastic.  

I cut the strips into larger pieces to take the pictures, but then I only had like 8 pieces!  All I kept thinking was, all that waiting and this is all I get?  So, I cut them in 1/2 again and got 16...which made me feel better.  Next time I'll probably double the recipe so it yields a lot more.    

Makes 16 rectangle strips (1" x 2.5")

Homemade Strawberry Fruit Strips

2 cups of diced strawberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 150-175 degrees (on my oven, this is Warm).  In a sauce pan on medium, combine the strawberries and lemon juice and cover.  Stew until they are very soft and mushy, about 6-8 minutes.  Pour the stewed strawberries into a blender or food processor and puree.  

Cover a 9 x 13-inch baking sheet with plastic wrap and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour the puree onto the plastic wrap and spread evenly on the pan, to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Place in oven for 6-8 hours.  

Right before taking it out of the oven, cover another baking sheet with plastic wrap and invert the fruit leather onto this pan.  Remove the top layer of plastic wrap.  Place back in the oven for another 6-8 hours.  If it becomes too brittle at any point, use a pastry brush to apply water to rehydrate it.  

Cool the fruit before cutting into desired strips.  Place in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap and store in a cool place.  

(Source:  Adapted from Georgia Pellegrini)

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Cake Batter Blondies

Could these look any more scrumptious??  Trust me when I say, they are just as delicious as they look.  And too easy NOT to make.  One bowl, about 5 minutes and you have these amazing blondies.  And I don't know about you, but I LOVE cake batter flavored anything.  I kind of feel bad for the rest of my family - I practically ate the entire pan.  Well, maybe I don't feel that bad for them...these are sure to become a staple in our house.      

The sprinkles make these just too cute.  Depending on what you use, don't stir too much.  You don't want the colors to run through your batter.  Just when I started seeing the green color bleed a little, I stopped stirring.  

Makes 9 large bars

Cake Batter Blondies

1 box yellow cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 9-inch pan with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil, egg and milk and stir until everything comes together.  Stir in the sprinkles until just mixed through.  Spread batter in prepared pan, add more sprinkles on the top and bake for 25-30 minutes.  The edges will start to turn golden but the middle should still be pretty under done.  Allow to sit for another 20 minutes so the middle sets.  Cut into 9 large bars or 16 smaller ones. 

(Source:  Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Loaded Rice Krispie Treats

These are certainly "loaded", don't you think?  I made these as a special Valentine's Day treat, so obviously chose lots of pinks and reds for the sprinkles and candy.  So easy to make all year round and use other colors for different Holidays! 

I started out by having a plate of sprinkles, which I dipped the first bar I coated in chocolate in.  It just seemed too messy...the sprinkles got all chocolaty and it really didn't even look pretty!  So, for the rest, I just dipped in chocolate, then sprinkled the sprinkles on top - I also tried to get on the sides a little.  Then, I stuck the M&M's on, making sure they wouldn't fall off.  

I made just half the pan coated in chocolate, and left the other half with just the sprinkles mixed in.  I wrote the recipe so you'll have enough to dip all the bars in chocolate if you like! 

Makes 15 bars

Chocolate Dipped Loaded Rice Krispie Treats

1/4 cup butter
1 (10.5 oz) bag mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal
1/2 cup sprinkles, plus more for sprinkling
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
M&M's or other candy pieces

In a large saucepan, melt butter and marshmallows on low, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Add cereal and sprinkles and stir until both are coated in marshmallow mixture.

Spread in a greased 9 x 13- inch pan and cool completely.  Cut into bars.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat chocolate chips at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper and place next to bowl of chocolate.  Take one Rice Krispie treat and dip it halfway into the melted chocolate, shaking off the excess.  Place dipped bar on the baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Immediately top with more sprinkles and M&M's.  Let cool until chocolate sets.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

M&M Valentine's Day Treats

I adapted these for Valentine's Day from my Pretzel and M&M Holiday Treats.  And how precious?!  Such a pretty treat to give away to friends and family for Valentine's Day.   

Pretzels, topped with Hershey's Hugs and Valentine's Day pink, red and white M&M's.  You can use round pretzels or waffle pretzels - I'm not partial.  I use whatever is on sale!  In this case, the store brand mini twists suited me just fine.    

These are so fun if you have little helpers - and I have the best one!  My 4 year old loves to help in the kitchen and these are one of her favorite treats to make.  She practically does it all herself, my big girl.  So easy, fun and adorable!       

Serves 4

M&M Valentine's Day Treats

Mini pretzels (about 1/2 of a 15 oz bag)
1 (12 oz) bag Hershey's Hugs
Valentine's Day M&M's

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Pour the pretzels onto a 11 x 18-inch baking sheet and start unwrapping the Hugs.  Place one Hug on each pretzel and place pan in the oven.  Let the Hugs melt for 4-5 minutes.  Pull the pan out of the oven and top each Hug with an M&M (it should be melty enough that the M&M pushes the Hug all the way down and spreads it on the pretzel).  Let harden a little bit and store in the fridge for a couple of days.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas

This is one of our favorite weeknight dinners.  So easy and everyone in my family gobbles it up!  There's some spice to it, so if you're serving it to your kiddos as well, you may want to omit the jalapenos and customize it to their taste.

But, that's what's awesome about quesadillas - you can make them any way you like them!  I used McCormick's Montreal steak spicy grill seasoning to season the chicken - tons of flavor and I like the spice.  The cheese I used is a blend of Mexican cheeses and taco seasoning.  Use your go-to seasoning for chicken (even taco seasoning on the chicken would be great) and whatever cheese you love.

I make my own salsa a LOT.  My husband can't get enough of it!  You can get the recipe here, or just use your favorite store brand.  

I wrote this recipe for 2 quesadillas, but you'll probably have enough chicken to do another 1/2 (just use one tortilla and fold it over).  I don't like a ton of chicken on mine, so I use less than my portion, then make a smaller one for the kids!     

Serves 2-3 

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
olive oil
1 tablespoon Montreal steak spicy grill seasoning
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for drizzling
4 flour tortillas (soft taco size)
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 tablespoons diced jalapenos
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

In a skillet over medium, heat olive oil until it starts to ripple, then add chicken.  Sprinkle the grill seasoning over the chicken and cook until done throughout.  Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce.  Set aside.

Preheat quesadilla maker or a large skillet (if using a pan on the stove, you'll need to brush each side of the tortillas with olive oil or vegetable oil and spray the skillet with non-stick spray).  On one tortilla, sprinkle about 1/2 cup cheese.  Top with 1/2 of the chicken, 1 tablespoon of jalapenos and 1/2 tablespoon cilantro.  Top with another 1/2 cup of cheese and then drizzle more barbecue sauce (to taste).  Top with another flour tortilla.  Repeat to make the other quesadilla.

Place assembled quesadilla onto the quesadilla maker and close lid.  Cook until cheese is melted and top is golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.  If using the stove, cook for a couple minutes on one side, until the cheese starts to melt and the tortilla turns golden, then flip to heat the other side.

Serve with salsa and other favorite toppings.  

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cherry Cheesecake Squares

A truly heavenly dessert.  Talk about easy too!  I loved the way the bars turned out, but this could easily be made in a spring form pan, like a typical cheesecake.   

The crust is so buttery, the cheesecake mixture creamy, then topped with tart cherries - it's a perfect combination all around!  Neufchatel cheese is just a fancy word for 1/3 less fat cream cheese (it's what I always buy and use in any recipe).   

Doesn't it just look pretty?  I had fun taking these pictures.  I love the brightness of the red!  

I almost doubled the cheesecake part of this because I was afraid it wasn't going to be enough filling.  I'm glad I didn't because I wouldn't change a thing now!  Because I made this in bar form, I didn't spread the graham crackers up the side, I just pressed them down into the bottom of the pan.  So you get this nice thick graham cracker crust.  SO, So good!!  

9 large bars

Cherry Cheesecake Squares

For the crust
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

For the filling and topping
1 (8 oz) package of neufchatel cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 (21 oz) can cherry pie filling 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make the crust by combining the butter, graham cracker crumbs and sugar and mixing well.  Spread evenly over the bottom a 9 x 9-inch baking pan and press firmly.  Bake for 8 minutes and allow to cool while preparing the filling. 

With a hand mixer, blend neufchatel cheese and sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Pour over graham cracker crust and bake for 25 minutes. 

Cool and pour cherry pie filling over the top.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. 

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Bolognese Sauce with Ground Turkey

I actually don't eat ground beef so I tend to shy away from a bolognese sauce.  But, I'll replace any recipe that calls for ground beef with ground turkey and I almost always love the results!  We eat turkey burgers and more recently tried turkey meatballs which were awesome.    

This recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence's Ultimate Lasagna.  I made the lasagna too, which is incredible and I'll post soon, but I wanted to share this amazing sauce first.  Tyler uses ground pork and ground beef in his sauce, so I just substituted those for an 85% lean ground turkey.  When we were eating it, my husband said if I had told him I used ground beef he would've believed me.  Yeah!  

A true bolognese begins with a soffrito - which is onions, carrots, and celery.  This recipe combines those 3 with garlic and sage and then processes to a vegetable pulp.  An entire 750 milliliter bottle of dry red wine is added (yup!), along with 1 large can of crushed tomatoes and then cooked slowly for over an hour until it becomes thick.  

It is SO good!  It definitely has a tangier flavor than a true, red tomato sauce because there is so much more wine used than tomatoes.  It's best served with a wider pasta, something like a tagliatelle, but pappardelle and fettucine would be good too.  

Serves 8

Bolognese Sauce with Ground Turkey

1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
Olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons flour
1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place onion, garlic, carrots, celery and sage in a food processor and process on low until it becomes smooth vegetable pulp.  Coat a large pot with oil and set over medium heat.  Add the vegetable pulp and saute until fragrant and some of the moisture has evaporated, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Push the vegetables to one side of the pot.  Season the ground turkey with salt and pepper and add to the pot.  Stir and break up the meat until it is browned and mixed in with the vegetable pulp.

Dust the meat and vegetable mixture with the flour, then add the wine, tomatoes and milk.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, uncovered, until sauce is thick. Add Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh pasta or dried pasta, a wider noodle like tagliatelle, pappardelle or fettucine.

(Adapted from Tyler Florence's cookbook My Place for Dinner)

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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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