Friday, June 28, 2013

Homemade Rainforest Crackers

I am crazy happy when Whole Foods has set out cheese tasters. Half because I am in love with cheese, and half because they usually have Rainforest Crackers out. These are amazing crackers in every way: they are crispy, fruity, tangy, herby, and more expensive than I can fit into the old food budget. So, I made my own! I'd been wanting to make these for at least 2 years, but only just gave it a whirl. I am so pleased with the results, and totally stoked to have found a way to have these crackers in my house more often. We ate these with a little goat cheese and a drizzle of honey. Scrumptious!

Rainforest-like Crackers
Preheat oven to 350
Makes about 4 dozen crackers

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar mixed with milk)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons chopped dried dates
2 tablespoons chopped apricots
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

Chop up pecans, apricots, dates and rosemary. Leave sunflower seeds whole. Set aside the fruit and nuts. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl mix together the sugar, molasses, and honey. Then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the nuts and fruits.

The batter will be very thin. Pour into 2 2x5 inch bread pans sprayed with cooking spray (I used coconut oil.) The batter will only fill these about half way. Bake for about 30 minutes.  

Let the loafs cool completely on wire racks and then freeze for about an hour (or a lot longer) and then slice very thinly. 

Arrange crackers on a parchment lined baking pan and cook for 10 minutes and then flip. Cook for 7 more minutes and let the crackers cool completely on wire racks. Eat!!

A few things about this recipe...
The add-ins could be SO many things!! Raisins, dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts. You could leave out the rosemary, or use thyme. Like biscotti, these could be a zillion flavors.

The batter was REALLY thin, but these cooked up very well. 

We sliced into the warm bread and it was DELICIOUS. The bread with a little butter would be a good treat in itself.

I only cooked up one of the loafs and it made 2 dozen crackers. The second loaf is wrapped in plastic and kicking it in my freezer until I need more crackers.

These stored well in a glass tuperware for 3 days. 

Made this time last year...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lemon and Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Betty Crocker has a recipe for a lemon and Parmesan crusted salmon that looks amazing.  However, in the spirit of being the “no pressure cooker” I decided to change it up, make it easier, and make it my own.  That’s what being a no pressure cooker is all about, right???  Whenever possible, I try and find the easiest and quickest way to make a delicious dish…then…I share it with all of you.

I made a number of changes to this recipe.  One of the main changes was not using fresh white bread crumbs.  I used panko.  Panko provides a fantastic crunch that I feel balances well with the soft and delicate texture of the salmon.  Also, I didn't feel like putting white bread in a food processor.  Here, I season the salmon first and then I brush with a mixture of margarine and lemon juice.  This helps keep the salmon moist and also gives it part of the lemony flavor that goes so well with seafood.  The salmon receives another citrus punch because the crust mixture is made with lemon zest.  The flavors come together so well that you may not ever make salmon another way again!

Lemon and Parmesan Crusted Salmon
*inspired by Betty Crocker
4 salmon fillets
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp pepper, divided

cooking spray
3 tbsp butter
juice from one lemon
¼ c panko breadcrumbs
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 tsp lemon zest (~1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Season both sides of salmon fillets with half of the salt and pepper.  Place seasoned fillets on a baking sheet lightly coated in cooking spray.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Add lemon juice and stir to combine.  Brush the top of fillets with about half of the butter mixture.  Set butter mixture aside.

Note: I lightly patted the salmon with the butter/juice mixture so that I wouldn’t brush the seasoning off.  I recommend you do the same :)

Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, herbs, zest, and remaining salt and pepper.  Add remaining butter mixture and stir well so that breadcrumbs are evenly wetted.

Fact: Herbs de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs and often includes lavender.  The brand I used combined thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage, and lavender.  This mixture is known to be traced to South France and has a multitude of uses but pairs really well with grilled meat and seafood.

Press breadcrumb mixture over top of salmon fillets.  Bake uncovered for ~15 minutes.  Turn oven on broil and cook until breadcrumbs are golden in color.  Serve immediately.

I served this dish with roasted red potatoes and steamed broccoli.  It made for a great weeknight meal that was balanced, healthy, and quick!  If you don’t have herbs de Provence at home, you can try tarragon, Italian seasoning, or oregano. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chocolate Mug Cake

This is a recipe I kind of wish I didn't know how to make. This is too fast, too easy and too yummy. I learned this recipe when I was a brand new mama, desperate for a treat and trying to get a shower, meal, laundry and my own nap into my tiny gentleman's sporadic nap time. A bit of googling, a few trials and errors and a few more successes, I have a tiny bite of cake ready in less than 2 minutes. Fabulous!

Chocolate Mug Cake - adapted from Budget Bytes
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt 
1 tablespoon chocolate chips
1 tablespoon full-fat yogurt (or sour cream)
2 tablespoons milk (I use whole milk)
Raspberries and powdered sugar if you're fancy

In your mug, mix together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips. Then mix in yogurt and milk. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down sides and microwave for 50 seconds. Eat. Marvel at the magic that you just made a tiny cake in 50 seconds. Relax.

A few things about this recipe...
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and a few raspberries if you want. Or top with frosting if you have any hanging around.
It's not too sweet. If you want it sweeter, add another teaspoon of sugar. 
This is only 185 calories. Awesome. 
An excellent twist is to put a dollop of peanut butter in the middle of the batter before microwaving. Awesome. 
You can swap in a tablespoon of coffee for one of the tablespoons of milk. Also awesome.
Since the investment of time and money in this recipe is close to zero, I feel great experimenting with this tiny bit of dessert.


Made this time last year... Lettuce Wrap Salad and Chicken with Balsamic Peppers

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Braised Beef Short Ribs over Penne

I’m somewhat of a short rib fiend.  No…seriously.  If I go to a restaurant and they have any form of short ribs on the menu, then I’m probably ordering it.  Obviously, it’s not something you can indulge in very often since red meat is loaded in saturated fat, but red meat also has iron, which is important for all of us.  AND…since I’m pregnant, I can use iron as an excuse to have just a few more beef short ribs than usual :)

As many times as I have had beef short ribs at restaurants, I have never actually made it myself.  So, I looked for a recipe online.  Lo and behold, I found Giada’s short ribs over penne.  The reviews were great, and the ingredients sounded intriguing, so I didn’t look any further.  Giada never lets me down!  I did make some slight modifications to her recipe, but overall, it doesn’t require any changes.  My version is just a little more simple to make, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate.

Braised Beef Short Ribs over Penne
*slightly modified from Giada de Laurentiis

4lbs beef short ribs
salt and pepper
¼ c olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 whole, peeled, canned San Marzano tomatoes
1c red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2c beef stock
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1lb penne pasta
¼ c grated Parmesan
¼ c chopped fresh parsley

Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Season ribs with salt and pepper.  In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  In batches, add ribs and brown on all sides (about 8-10 mins).  Remove ribs and set aside.  Add the tomatoes, onion, and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently for 2 mins.  Add the wine and mustard.  Bring mixture to a boil and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return ribs to pan.  Add stock, cover the pan and place in oven for 2 hrs and 15 mins or until meat is fork-tender and easily falls off the bone.

Tip: Make sure to use a plastic or wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits so you don’t scratch the bottom of your pan.

Remove ribs from the cooking liquid.  Remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones.  Using 2 forks, shred the meat to desired thickness.  Stir the shredded meat into the sauce.  Season with salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.

Modification: Here’s where I made a big change.  Giada’s recipe calls for a smooth sauce.  After removing the ribs, she puts the sauce in a food processor and then returns it to the pan.  I thought this was too much work and unnecessary.  I don’t mind some lovely chunks of tomatoes and onions in my sauce.  Once you stir back in the short ribs, it works perfectly.

In a large pot, cook pasta until al dente.  Fill serving bowls with pasta.  Top with shredded short ribs, grated Parmesan, and chopped parsley.

This was truly a restaurant-quality dish.  Save this one for a nice Sunday dinner or when you’re entertaining friends and you want to show off a bit.  It also is a little time consuming since braising is a slow-cooking method.  If you make extra, it warms up wonderfully so you can take portions to work for lunch throughout the week. 

Bon Appetite!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Baked Ziti

We've been watching a lot of Chef Ramsey TV in our house and it's amazing!! One guy has described himself as "the Flavor Elevator" and another woman just pulled off her own hair. I'm telling you, it's amazing. It's hilarious and it's incredible and it's inspiring. I am loving it.

Anyway - we had company over last weekend and I made a huge baked ziti. When I read the recipe and it said it would feed 8-10 with just one pound of pasta, I was skeptical, but in fact, this thing was huge! And even better, it was delicious! Rich, cheesy and amazing!

Baked Ziti - adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Really and truly serves 8-10

1 pound Italian sausage
16 ounce container whole milk cottage cheese (or ricotta)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach
1 pound ziti (or penne or other short tube pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic - minced
2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce 
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese - 1/2 of it shredded, 1/2 of it chopped into dice

Whisk cottage cheese (or ricotta) eggs, spinach and 1 cup of Parmesan in a large bowl and set aside. Boil water for noodles and cook until softened but cooked through - about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside. The noodles finish cooking while baking.

While noodles cook, heat oil in a large skillet. Take sausage out of the casings and cook with the minced garlic until browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano and simmer until thickened - about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil and sugar. Taste and add salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch into heavy cream. In a heavy bottomed pan, simmer the cream until thickened and bubbling at the edges, but not boiling, about 3 minutes over medium heat. 

Stir this hot cream into the cottage cheese and spinach mixture prepared earlier. Add 1 cup of the tomato and sausage sauce and the diced mozzarella and stir to combine.

Pour the noodle mixture into a very large baking dish - the dish I used was an oval 9x13 dish that's about 3 inches deep - top with the shredded mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

A few things about this recipe...

This makes a HUGE casserole - it was dinner for 4 adults, 2 kids, and 4 more adult lunches. 

The sauce cooked with this was really simple, but really great - I'll use this as a base for other pastas sauces in the future.

While the tomato sauce was delicious, if you wanted to speed up this recipe, you could use a jarred marinara that you already liked.

Made this time last year: Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes and Turkey Spaghetti

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Huevos Rancheros...AND A WINNER!

On Sunday, I woke up and wanted a good hearty breakfast.  BUT…I wanted something different than I normally make.  No muffins, no pancakes, no waffles.  I wanted something that challenged me in the kitchen and brought some versatility to our somewhat boring breakfast rotation.  The first thing I thought about was huevos rancheros.  It’s filling, it’s different, and it’s delicious.  I couldn’t wait to make it.  Now the challenge was…HOW?

I started scouring the web for various recipes.  It seemed like every recipe was different.  One called for you to make your own salsa (which I didn’t feel like making), most had barely cooked eggs (I like mine medium-well), and most importantly, all of them had no meat!  What the heck?  I needed some meat.  What better to go with a Mexican breakfast dish than chorizo?  I experimented and it was amazing.  Here’s my creation:

Huevos Rancheros

1 15oz can black beans
½ c water
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp pepper, divided
1 tsp hot Mexican chili powder (or regular chili powder), divided
1 tsp garlic powder, divided
1 tsp onion powder, divided
1 tsp cumin, divided
1 tsp olive oil
16oz ground chorizo
½ c diced onion
1 jalepeno, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6-7 canned whole peeled tomatoes, seeds removed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 corn tortillas
4 large eggs
¼ c crumbled queso fresco
chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Drain and rinse black beans.  Add black beans and ½ c water to a small pot at medium heat.  Add half of the salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Once heated, use a fork to mash some of the beans and reduce heat to low until ready to use.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown ground chorizo.  Add jalepeno, garlic, and onion about half way through cooking.  Once chorizo is browned, crush tomatoes into the chorizo mixture using your hands.  Add remaining salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until ready to use.

Note: I grabbed fresh chorizo from the grocery store packaged meat section.  Hopefully you can find it at a grocery store near you.  Remove the skin, add it to the pan, and brown it.

Coat a cast iron skillet in vegetable oil.  Heat 2 tortillas until browned on both sides.  Break one egg over each tortilla.  Carefully flip tortilla to cook egg to desired doneness.  Flip tortillas and eggs back over and cook a couple of minutes.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and eggs.

Tip: Cooking method for eggs may vary depending on how well you want your eggs cooked.  If you want them sunny-side up, then you can fry them in a separate pan and just place them on top of the tortillas.  Cooking them on top of the tortillas works well for medium or medium-well eggs.

Place tortillas and eggs on a plate, top with black beans, chorizo mixture, and queso fresco.  You can also garnish with green onion and/or chopped cilantro.

NOW…WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!  It’s time to announce the winner of our 1-year anniversary giveaway!  We want to thank those of you who commented on the blog and gave us feedback on Facebook.  It is always great to hear from those who have followed us from the beginning and those new fans who we want to keep wanting more.  This year is sure to bring more goodies, so be sure to stay tuned!  And don’t forget that you can always contact us with recommendations for improvements at

DRUMROLL PLEASE………………………………………………………………………………………………

AND THE WINNER IS…………………………………………….


Jody, thank you so much for your feedback!  We hope that you continue to follow us and please enjoy some of our favorite kitchen items as a token of our appreciation!

*Jody, please send your full name and home address to our email address and we'll ship the goodies out to you as soon as possible :)