Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peppermint Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows... Where have they been all my life??  Oh my goodness, these things are incredible.  I saw them recently on someone's blog, and decided to make them a last minute addition to my Christmas gifts.  These are quite minty (which I love, but my husband's not a mint fan), but you could omit the peppermint extract and make a regular version.

These don't require any special equipment, and the only ingredient probably don't already have on hand is the unflavored gelatin.  The kids and I just devoured a couple marshmallows a piece in hot chocolate (them) and coffee (me).  Now that I know what marshmallows are supposed to taste like... the ones in the store seem even more pitiful than ever!

The blog where I found these (here) adapted the recipe from The America's Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook.  So that's the original source, I'm just here to tell you how yummy they are! :)  Oh, and one last thing- when I made these, I made a half batch in an 8x8 pan.  I ended up with 64 one-inch marshmallows.  That was plenty for what I needed, but feel free to make the whole batch if that's what you're looking for!

Peppermint Marshmallows
Printable version here

⅔ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 cup cold water, divided
2½ tablespoons unflavored gelatin
⅔ cup light corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, enough so that excess foil hangs over the sides of the pan. Spray with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and cornstarch; set aside.

3. Pour ½ cup of the cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand until the gelatin becomes very firm, about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining water and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, gently swirling the pan, until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, about 6 to 8 minutes.

5. Turn the mixer on low speed and carefully pour the hot syrup mixture into the gelatin mixture, avoiding the side of the bowl as much as possible. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture is very thick and stiff, 10 to 12 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed (my half batch was ready in 8 minutes). Add the vanilla and peppermint extract and mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds.

6. Working quickly, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan using a spatula that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Smooth the top into an even layer. (To get it smooth, I sprayed my hands with Pam & pressed on the mixture.) Sift 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar mixture over the pan. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.

7. The next day, turn the marshmallow slab out onto a cutting board and peel off the foil. Sift 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar mixture over the slab. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cut into 1-inch strips one way, and then across the other way for square marshmallows. You could also use round cutters to cut them out as well.

8. Place the remaining powdered sugar mixture in a large ziploc bag. Working with 3 or 4 marshmallows at a time, toss the marshmallows in the bag with the powdered sugar mixture, then toss in a fine-mesh strainer to remove any excess powder. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container or bag for up to 2 weeks.

Why I love it? They aren't that difficult (just a bit messy), are pretty cheap, make a neat gift, but most of all they are DELICIOUS!  Seriously, I was licking the spatula, it was so good!  The texture is unlike anything I've ever made- it's so light, smooth, creamy, and just exactly what a marshmallow should be!  It melted perfectly in our hot drinks, too!

Monday, December 3, 2012

DIY Mixing Bowl Covers

 A few days ago, a friend of mine shared this idea on Pinterest.  I knew instantly that I would have to make one!  Basically, it's a fabric mixing bowl cover with elastic around the bottom.  I LOVE this idea for covering a bowl when bread dough is rising!  Other methods all have their flaws- either they don't stay on, they create more trash, etc.  But this one stays on, keeps the bowl covered but not airtight (good for rising dough), and is washable!

Here is the website where I got most of the directions from:

I will try to explain how I made it.  Granted, I am not a very experienced seamstress, so take my directions for what they're worth! :)

  • 12-inch diameter piece of prewashed fabric*
  • Extra wide double fold bias tape
  • 1/4" wide elastic
(The cupcake fabric is waterproof on the back; I found it at JoAnn's in the cloth diaper fabric section. It doesn't need to be prewashed.)

  • Cut your fabric into the desired size.  (I traced the top of my mixing bowl, and added about 1 1/2 inches around all sides. For my KitchenAid bowl, this comes out to a 12 inch diameter circle.)
  • Pin the bias tape along the edges of your fabric.
  • Sew, trying to keep the stitches as close to the open edge (not the folded edge) of the bias tape.  This will ensure that the pocket is as big as possible for the elastic. Leave a 1 inch gap in your stitches so you can feed the elastic through.
  • Attach a safety pin to the elastic, about 1/4" from the end. Feed this through the pocket you just made. ((This was the part I struggled with the most. Both times, the safety pin fell off the elastic before I was done feeding it through.  If this happens, you can undo some of the stitches and retrieve the safety pin, re-pin it, and continue feeding it through.))
  • Sew the 2 ends of the elastic by hand, then sew with your machine.  You want them well attached!
  • Sew closed the opening(s) in the bias tape, and the place where the 2 ends of the bias tape overlap.

Last but not least, here's a picture of another one I made.  I made it just using scraps of fabric I had, not even realizing until I was done that it's the same colors as my kitchen.  I think I'll leave this one on my bowl all the time to keep dust out of it!  Also, do you notice the cutie who wanted to be in the picture, too? :) 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Computer problems

Just an FYI, I am having computer problems right now. I thought we got it fixed (by reformatting the computer), but now it's giving me an angry sounding message... I don't know where to go next.

Since I don't want to type out entire posts on my iPod, my blog is on hold while I figure this out. Sorry!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

I found this recipe several years ago on the back of a can of refried beans.  I no longer buy refried beans (since they're so easy to make!), but I remain grateful to Rosarita® for this recipe!  It's basically a creamy bean soup with chicken & tomatoes.  The original recipe also calls for corn (I just skip it since I'm not a fan!).

It's easy to make, and pretty adaptable.  This size recipe makes enough for my family of 2 adults, 1 medium-sized kid, and 2 kids with tiny/picky appetites.  I'm sure it could easily be doubled.  Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup
Printable version here

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes (with added green chilies if desired), undrained
2 cups (or 1-14.5 oz. can) chicken broth
1 (16 oz.) can refried beans (or 2 cups homemade beans)
1/2 cup corn (optional)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken

Topping suggestions:
Tortilla chips
Sour cream
Grated cheese

1. Combine half of tomatoes, plus broth and beans in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat for a couple minutes.  [If you want the soup smoother than it is now- remove from heat and puree with either an immersion blender or a regular blender, remembering to keep the center cap off your blender lid.] 

2. Resume heating the soup over medium heat.  Add remainder of the tomatoes and the corn; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add chicken; cook a few more minutes to heat through. 

3. Taste for seasoning- you can add a pinch of cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. for added flavor.  Divide into bowls and top as desired.

Why I love it? It is a very fast recipe to throw together!  It's also low in fat, and high in protein and fiber!  Last time I made this I skipped the tortilla chips and served it with quesadillas instead.  It was delicious!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banana Muffins

So... I have an addiction that I think many of you might understand!

That addiction is... searching for new recipes!  Not a big surprise, huh?  I already have enough recipes to probably make something different each day of the year, yet I still can't stop looking.  This recipe is one example of why!  I have so many muffin recipes, but when I saw this one recommended online, I had to give it a try.

We are hooked on it!  It uses no fancy ingredients or equipment, yet the muffins come out fabulous!!  They are so flavorful and so soft.  The author of the blog where I found this recipe says that they taste even better the next day- that is, assuming you have any left!

One tip I have for this recipe is about how I mash bananas.  Last year for my birthday I asked for a potato ricer (it makes great mashed potatoes), and I found it also works great for mashing bananas!  This is the one I have.

Before I got that though, I would mash bananas by putting them in a ziploc bag, closing it, and mushing them that way.  The ricer is just a little more fun though. :)

Recipe Source:

Banana Muffins
Printable version here

3 or 4 large bananas, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips and/or chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and butter together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour.  Mix wet and dry ingredients all together. Stir in chocolate chips and/or nuts. Pour into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. (I use a large cookie scoop for this.)

2. Bake at 350º for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Yield: 12 muffins

Why I love it? They are simple, use ingredients I almost always have, and are so light & delicious!!  I would much rather give the kids one of these as a snack than something packaged.  It's just so good knowing exactly what they're eating! :-)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Baked Egg Patties

I found this recipe on Pinterest recently.  Some things on that site seem too good to be true, but I was willing to spend $6 on a jumbo muffin tin to try it out.  Well, I am thoroughly impressed!!  Look how simple it is!

Bake for 20 minutes @ 325º, and you get this!

Presto!  It makes for the easiest breakfast sandwiches ever!  I also tried this recently with only egg whites, and I'm pleased to say it works just as well!  You use 2 egg whites per muffin cup. (I had leftover egg whites to use up after making this delicious homemade egg nog.)

Recipe source: 

Baked Egg Patties
Printable version here

6 large eggs*
Salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 325º.  Spray a jumbo muffin pan with nonstick spray.  Break one egg into each muffin well; poke yolk to crack it open.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

2. Bake for 20 minutes, or until desired doneness.  (At 20 minutes the yolks & whites are firm) Serve or refrigerate in a covered container.  Reheat in microwave for about 20 seconds.

*You can either use 6 whole eggs, or 12 egg whites.  If using only whites, whisk gently in a medium bowl, then pour 1/4 cup whites into each muffin cup (or break eggs open over muffin cups, using 2 eggs per cup). Baking time remains the same.

Why I love it? I have tried for YEARS to cook round egg patties like this.  Nothing has turned out anywhere near this well, or as easy!  This would be perfect for serving eggs to a crowd, or you could make a batch and keep them in the refrigerator for a week's worth of easy breakfasts.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Simple Yeast Rolls

These were the first homemade rolls I ever made.  I forget where I got the recipe, but it seemed easy enough- no kneading, and no special equipment.  Just this intimidating ingredient called... yeast!
Yeast is not hard to use, you just have to remember a few things about it.  There are two different kinds- regular (called active dry yeast) and instant, a.k.a. rapid rise.  I always use the rapid rise kind; it's less finicky.  It can be added directly to the rest of the ingredients, whereas regular/active dry yeast must first be "proofed" by adding it to warm water and letting it sit for a few minutes.  This is the kind I normally buy (it's a 1 pound package):

 The other thing to remember about yeast is that since it is an actual living organism, it will die if added to liquid that is too hot.  You want the liquid warm enough to help activate the yeast (if the water is cold, the dough will rise very slowly) but not too hot- around 120-130º is ideal.  If you don't have a thermometer, that temperature feels very warm but not hot.

Now I bake with yeast all the time.  I make bread, breadsticks, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, artisan-type bread, you name it!  If you have any yeast questions, just ask!  I'm pretty comfortable working with it.

After stirring the dough, it's a sticky mess, but that's okay!  Just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.


Cutting the dough into 12 pieces


The dough has been rolled into balls; now they are sitting on the parchment, ready for the 2nd rise


Simple Yeast Rolls
Printable version here

2/3 cup water
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 small package instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour (such as 1 c. each white & wheat)

1. In a medium mixing bowl, microwave water until it boils.  Add butter, sugar, and salt, and whisk to combine.  When butter has melted and mixture has cooled slightly (to around 120º), add yeast and egg; stir. 

2. Add flour to mixture and stir until combined.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place* (or on countertop) for 30 minutes.  Roll out dough in a circle on a floured surface.  Cut into 12 wedges, and roll into balls.  (If dough is too sticky to handle, sprinkle a little more flour on it.) Place on a greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and loosely cover the dough with it.  Let rise another 30 minutes.  While rising, preheat oven to 400º.

3. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  If desired, rub butter over the top of baked rolls.

* One way to make a warm rising spot is to turn on your oven for 1-2 minutes, then turn it off.  Let the dough rise in here.

Note- it takes about 1 hour 40 minutes to make these, start to finish.

Why I love it? It is a good way to practice working with yeast- it doesn't require the kneading that most yeast recipes require.  The ingredients are simple, and I like that there are no preservatives or any other strange ingredients in it.  We like having these with dinner, and the next day they're still good for things like making little sandwiches. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Snickerdoodle Bars

I love making bar cookies whenever I need to make dessert for a crowd.  I love to bake, but I also value my time!  Bar cookies/brownies are just easier and quicker than making individual desserts.  I have made these several times now for church functions, and each time people ask me for the recipe!  These are pretty rich (possibly because of the 2 sticks of butter and 2 cups of brown sugar...) so be sure to cut them in small pieces!

TIP- Whenever I bake a type of bar, I always line the pan with foil.  Not only does this make for easier clean-up, but it makes it SO much easier to remove the bars from the pan, and to cut them cleanly.  This is how I do it:

1. Turn the baking dish upside-down, tear off a piece of foil that's bigger than the dish, and mold the foil to the edges of the pan.

2. Turn the baking dish over, then place your molded piece of foil inside it.  It should be easy to press the foil into the pan now.  Lightly spray with nonstick spray before adding batter.

This is the cinnamon mixture that you sprinkle on top.  This cinnamon is from Costco, and it's delicious!

My little helper, Megan!  This is just before baking the bars.

Recipe source:

Snickerdoodle Bars
Printable version here

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg (optional)
2 cups packed brown sugar (14 oz.)
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.  Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil (or grease the pan); set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl; set aside.

3.  Beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Beat, scraping the bowl, until thoroughly combined.  On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.  Give the dough a final stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure the flour is incorporated.

4. Spread the dough evenly into the pan- using an offset spatula will help, as it's a thick batter.  Combine the granulated sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed.  Cool completely in pan before cutting.  Cut into small pieces.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature. (May also be frozen for 1-2 months.)

Why I love it?  I have always loved snickerdoodles, and this is an even faster way to make them!  They have a healthy dose of cinnamon in them, but not too much.  I like that they make a lot and they freeze well!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread

 Both last summer & this summer, I have been given gigantic zucchinis from friends' gardens.  This is my favorite thing to make with it!  It makes 2 loaves, so I get to stick one in the freezer for later.  I found this recipe on, and followed the changes suggested by many of the reviewers, plus threw in some mini chocolate chips for good measure. :) All of my kids love this, including my "I don't like bread" eater!

 This was my 3 cups of grated zucchini (I used a grating attachment on my KitchenAid to grate it).  My zucchini was so big, I still had 4 cups left over!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread
Printable version here

3 cups flour (I use half white & half wheat)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup oil (such as canola or vegetable)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini, loosely packed
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Grease and flour two 8x4-inch pans, set aside.  Combine dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a bowl and set aside.

2. Beat eggs, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and sugars in a large bowl until combined.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.  Pour evenly into the two loaf pans.

3. Bake at 325º for 65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry when poked in the middle of the loaf.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, remove from pans, then cool completely on the rack.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for a couple days, or freeze (wrapped in plastic wrap and foil) for longer storage.

Yield: Two loaves (Alternately, you could make this into 24 muffins, and cook those about 27 minutes)

Recipe source: Adapted from this recipe

Why I love it? I asked my kids, and they said: "It has chocolate chips, and the zucchini bread tastes good...  I like it because of the chocolate, and I might not have liked the zucchini by itself, but I couldn't even taste it!  It just tastes like chocolate chip bread, that's it!" There you have it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Peach Blueberry Cobbler


Last night we had friends over for dinner, which was a good excuse to make a yummy dessert!  I've made this once each of the last 3 summers- and each time I wonder why I don't make it more often!  It is a great use for all the good summer produce around here!  The original recipe calls for just blueberries, but I like to mix it up with a little bit of peaches, as well.  I like that it provides some contrast.

Parts of the recipe can be made ahead of time.  I made the fruit mixture and put it in a dish (below), and mixed up the wet and the dry ingredients in separate bowls.  All I had to do when our company was here was put the fruit in the oven, bake for a little bit, mix the wet & dry ingredients, top with the biscuits, and bake.  It took less than 5 minutes of my time.

Also, I have made a half-sized batch of this before.  Don't let the size of the recipe keep you from making it! :)


Peach Blueberry Cobbler

1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
4 cups (18 oz.) fresh blueberries, rinsed
2 peaches, peeled & cut into chunks
1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup flour
2 tbsp. cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cinnamon/sugar mixture for sprinkling on top

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375º. 

2. For the filling: Stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the berries, peaches, and lemon juice and mix gently with a rubber spatula until evenly coated. Transfer the fruit mixture to a 9-inch glass pie plate (or similar sized dish), place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges, about 25 minutes. 

3. For the biscuit topping: Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla together in a small bowl. One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined and no dry pockets remain. 

4. To assemble and bake the cobbler: Remove the fruit from the oven; increase the oven temperature to 425º. Pinch off 8-10 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart (they should not touch). Sprinkle each mound of dough with cinnamon sugar. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool the cobbler on a wire rack 20 minutes and serve.

Serves: 6-8

Adapted from: Baking Illustrated
(This website has the directions for how to make this using frozen blueberries.)

Why I love it? This recipe just screams SUMMER to me!  It's a great way to use up, and enjoy, all the fresh produce we're blessed with at this time of year.  As much as I love the fruit filling, the part of this recipe I find the most unique is the topping.  As usual, Cook's Illustrated has figured out how to make the perfect biscuit- it's completely cooked through, soft on the inside, and crisp on the outside.  Every recipe I have made from this book has been amazing!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Cornbread is a side dish I like to serve often- such as with chili, or this beef & bean casserole. However, I could never settle on which recipe to use.  I went through MANY recipes before finding this on, and adapting it a little bit.  This is exactly what I like in a cornbread!  It's quick to make, uses normal ingredients, and is light & fluffy.  It's not too dense or too cakey.  Someday I'll probably try making this a little healthier (like using some wheat flour), but for now, I'm happy to have a cornbread recipe that I can count on!!

After mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl, you make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients to that.

You want to mix the batter just until everything is incorporated.

Printable version here

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup white sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk*
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted

1. Mix dry ingredients, make a well, add buttermilk & eggs and stir until almost combined.  Add melted butter & mix until just combined.

2. Pour into a greased 9x9 inch metal baking dish.  Bake at 425º for 20 minutes.

*You may substitute 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice for the buttermilk. Combine and let sit for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.

Recipe source:

Why I love it? It has the perfect flavor & texture that I'm looking for in cornbread- soft (with slightly crisp edges), and just a little sweet.  It comes together quickly, too!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cranberry Oat Bread

This bread has turned into one of my family's favorites!  It's healthy (low sugar, low fat, and whole grain)- but it doesn't taste healthy, know what I mean?  It's flavorful, hearty, and moist.  We love it with dried cranberries and pecans, but you could certainly swap those out for other ingredients if you'd like. 

In other news, I've been enjoying this summer with my kids & husband.  Since we finished our homeschooling year last month, we have: celebrated my oldest son's 8th birthday, done a lot of yard work/projects, gone swimming several times, and celebrated mine & my husband's 10th wedding anniversary!  We left the kids with the grandparents for 2 days and took a weekend trip to Victoria, BC.  It was great to get time away!  This is us eating lunch at a nice little pub.  It was fun not having to worry about if they had a kid's meal! :)

Cranberry Oat Bread
Printable version here

3/4 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or other small dried fruit)
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

1. Combine the oats and buttermilk in a medium-sized bowl.  Stir to mix well, and set aside (only until it's needed in the next step- if you wait too long, too much of the liquid will have been absorbed).

2. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, and stir to mix well.  Add the buttermilk mixture and vanilla, and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in the fruit and nuts.

3. Coat an 8x4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Spread the batter in the pan, and bake at 325º for 40-42 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Alternately, you can turn this into 12 muffins, baked at 350º for 18 minutes.)

4. Remove the bread from the oven, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Turn the loaf onto a wire rack, and cool before slicing.  Serving suggestion- this bread is great toasted and spread with cream cheese.

Recipe source: adapted from "Secrets of Fat-Free Cooking"

Why I love it? It's lowfat, hearty (but not dense), and flavorful!  I just love this bread with cream cheese.  It keeps fairly well, and I have also frozen it for later.  Like most quick breads, it freezes and thaws wonderfully!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Creamy Poblano Enchiladas

Recently I saw a recipe floating around Pinterest for creamy chicken enchiladas.  It looked fairly good, but I knew I could make it better!  I made it a little healthier & more flavorful, and found a way to incorporate one of my new favorite foods- poblano peppers.  These large peppers are very tasty and not too spicy.  Did you know that the larger a pepper is, the less spicy it is?  So those tiny habanero & serrano peppers will burn your mouth, but these poblanos aren't bad at all.  They sometimes go by the name of pasilla peppers.  These are the star ingredient in this sauce!
For the salsa that I use in the sauce, I use this Easy Blender Salsa.  I always have a batch in my fridge!  I'm sure you could make adjustments to this recipe, based on what you have & what your preferences are, but this is the version that my family LOVES!  I hope you like it!

My first step was to make homemade tortillas.  This was the first time I made these, and we loved them!  It was this recipe, which I cut in half, used half
wheat/half white flour, and made into 8 tortillas.

Dice the poblano pepper & onions into medium-sized pieces; they don't need to be really small since you're pureeing them anyway.

I love these Pampered Chef Salad Choppers for shredding chicken!  I've never used them for salad, but I'm in love with using them to shred meat!

The finished dish!  This made the perfect amount for my family of 5.  I don't think they even need any more toppings, since there is already salsa and sour cream in them!

 Creamy Poblano Enchiladas
Printable version here

Sauce ingredients
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 of a large poblano pepper, seeded & diced
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup salsa
1/3 cup sour cream

Enchilada ingredients
1 lb. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
6-8 tortillas (depending on their size)
1 cup grated cheese, such as Monterrey Jack or cheddar

1. To make sauce: Melt butter in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Next add poblano pepper & onion, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add flour, stir, and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in chicken broth, stirring constantly until all the liquid is incorporated.  Add cumin, coriander (you may sub extra cumin if you don't have this ingredient), and salt.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to med-low and cook a few minutes until sauce starts to thicken.  Carefully pour sauce into a blender.  Add salsa and sour cream, then puree until smooth.  (Note- while pureeing the sauce, keep the small center cap off your blender to let steam escape, and instead cover that hole with a napkin)

2. Pour a little bit of the sauce in a glass 9x13 pan, and spread it around so the bottom is mostly covered.  Place the shredded chicken in a bowl and stir in some of the sauce (just enough to moisten the chicken).  Assemble enchiladas by adding a scoop of chicken and a sprinkle of cheese to each one, rolling it, and putting it in the dish.  Pour remaining sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

3. Bake in a preheated 375º oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.  Enjoy!

Why I love it?  The sauce is TO DIE FOR!  As it, I could just eat it straight off a spoon! It's creamy (but not too rich or unhealthy), not spicy, just so flavorful!  The poblano pepper & onion, plus the other seasonings, give so much depth to the sauce.  It is so fresh and unlike anything you can get from a can!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Trail Mix Muffins (Mix in a Jar)

Just like my last post, here is a "Mix in a Jar" recipe.  I made both these and the oatmeal chip cookie mixes to give away as gifts to my MOPS group.  I got to keep one of these jars for myself, and I so enjoyed making it this morning- I wasn't even fully awake yet, but this was so easy I could get these going for the kids!

These muffins are pretty much what the name sounds like- full of goodies like what you would find in trail mix. (The only thing missing, according to my 5 year old, is M&M's!)  They have dried fruit, coconut, nuts, and some good whole grains.  But even with all that, they're still pretty light & fluffy.

Trail Mix Muffins (Mix in a Jar)
Printable version: Recipe
Printable version: Sheet of 6 gift tag instructions

Jar ingredients
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned (or quick) oats
1/3 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup wheat germ*
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 cup all purpose & 1/2 cup wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Additional ingredients
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce (or you can substitute an additional 1/4 cup oil)
1/2 cup water
2 eggs

1. In a 1-quart glass jar, layer the sugar, oats, raisins, coconut, wheat germ, nuts, and brown sugar, packing well between each layer.  Then in a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, and add this to the jar.  Press down to fit. Cover and store in a cool dry place.  Yield: 12 muffins

2. To prepare muffins- Empty jar into a large mixing bowl, blend dry ingredients thoroughly.  Add oil, applesauce, water and eggs, and mix until just blended.  Fill 12 standard size muffin cups (use liners or nonstick spray).  Bake at 350º for 21 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

* I get wheat germ at any store with a bulk food section.  Here is an article that lists other substitutes for wheat germ, if you don't have (or can't find) it.

Why I love it? Well I like the fact that it fits in a jar, and it's a pretty tasty muffin.  It has a lot of different flavors & textures.  Plus, it's much healthier than muffins you can buy!  I actually feel good about feeding this to my kids for breakfast.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Oatmeal Chip Cookie (Mix in a Jar)

Recently I looked up recipes that would work to give as gifts in a canning jar, as I had several end-of-the-school-year gifts to give.  I tried two (this one and a trail mix muffin recipe), and really liked them both!  This one is a chewy oatmeal cookie, with coconut, white chocolate, and milk chocolate chips.

This fit perfectly in a quart canning jar (use wide mouth for easiest filling), and the batch makes 3 dozen cookies.  You could also put the dry mix in any container just to have on hand, or you could just make these cookies without making the mix.  It's a delicious cookie recipe, the fact that it fits in a jar is just a bonus! :)

Oatmeal Chip Cookie Mix
Printable version here: Recipe
Printable version here: Set of 6 gift tag instructions

Jar ingredients
1 1/4 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chips
1/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

Additional ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Place oats in a food processor (or blender); cover and pulse until fine; set aside.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a 1-quart glass jar, layer the oats, flour mixture, chips, coconut, brown sugar, then sugar, packing well between each layer.  Cover and store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.  Yield: 3 dozen cookies

2. To prepare cookies: In a large mixing bowl, cream butter.  Beat in egg and vanilla. (I mixed mine by hand, and the butter mixture wasn't evenly mixed, but it still worked fine) Add cookie mix and mix well (mixture will be dry- I found it best to mix it with my hands at the end).  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375º for 10 minutes, or until cookies are just starting to brown.  They will still be soft, so cool on the sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks.

Recipe source:

Why I love it? Not only does it work well as a gift idea, but the cookies are delicious!  They're soft & chewy, and with the coconut and 2 types of chips (white & chocolate), they have the perfect amount of taste and texture.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

This recipe is based on one I found on  I liked the idea of it, but it was way too unhealthy for an everyday dinner- it called for a stick of butter and 2 cups of heavy cream!  My version of it is much lighter, but still creamy & delicious.  I use whatever kind of milk I have on-hand, which is typically nonfat. 

I've only ever made it with this kind of rice mix, which I've been able to find in several grocery stores:

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Printable version here

1 6-oz. box long grain & wild rice mix (Uncle Ben's)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1. Cook rice as directed in 2 quart pan.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 3 quart saucepan on medium heat.  Whisk in flour and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until bubbly.  Slowly whisk in milk and broth.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened slightly. 

3. Add the cooked rice and chicken to the broth, and heat through.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Serves: 4-6

Why I love it?  It's relatively quick to throw together, and we all like it.  It's really healthy for being a creamy soup!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Roasted Honey/Balsamic Carrots

Last night I was making meatloaf & rosemary potato bread for dinner, and was trying to come up with a vegetable to serve with it.  I remembered a carrot recipe I found a few weeks ago on Pinterest, and I had all the ingredients for it.  So, the background here is that I normally HATE carrots.  I couldn't eat a raw carrot if you paid me. 

So I made these carrots (they were really easy to throw together)- and not only did I tolerate them, I actually liked them!  I was shocked!  I know that most vegetables tend to be tastier roasted, and these are no exception.  The honey & balsamic vinegar adds great flavor, too.  This is a recipe I KNOW I will make again!  Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Here

(I didn't bother taking a picture, because I was doubtful that I would like them- of course I was wrong, so next time I'll take one!  In the meantime, here's the picture from the original source)

Roasted Honey/Balsamic Carrots
Printable version here

1 pound baby carrots
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400º.  Put carrots in a baking dish (I used an 11x7 glass dish) and drizzle with olive oil; stir.  (You want enough oil so they're all covered, but not so they're soaked.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir one more time.

2. Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, drizzle with honey (about 1-2 tablespoons, but I didn't bother measuring) and add 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar.  Stir.  Bake for 5 more minutes, until softened but still a little crisp.

Why I love it? It's super easy to make, it's healthy, and it actually tastes good! :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Squares

(I'm sorry about the serious lack of posting lately- I've been so busy with various activities, and finishing up the year homeschooling.  I have been making a lot of new recipes lately & taking tons of pictures, so I'll have plenty to post about once I find the time!  Just 2 weeks left of school, then I'll be back.)

I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and right away it looked interesting.  I'm always up for an easy, yummy breakfast recipe!  The kids and I love these- even my picky eater who refuses to eat a bowl of oatmeal, he'll eat this because it's in bar form!  Silly boy.  These bars will last a few days at room temperature, and if you want you can reheat them before eating.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Squares
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large banana, mashed
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Mix together the oats, brown sugar (I used a little less than 1/4 cup), baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

2. Add in the vanilla, milk, and egg.  Mix the ingredients together.  Then add in the mashed banana and peanut butter and stir to combine.

3. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 8x8 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350º for 20 minutes.  Cool, cut into squares, and enjoy!

Recipe source:

Why I love it?  They are ingredients I almost always have (normally I just have to wait for a ripe banana), they have a good amount of nutrition in them (fiber, protein, and some good fats), they're easy, and they taste great! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Pie

I made this pie tonight for my husband's 30th birthday (and then realized that the last time I made it was his 29th birthday!).  He's a fan of chocolate & peanut butter.  This has a graham cracker crust and a creamy, peanut-buttery filling.  After plating the pie, I drizzled homemade chocolate syrup over each piece. Daniel (my almost-8 year old) asked me tonight if we could have this as his birthday dessert next month, too.  I told him that I promise I won't wait another year again to make it!

This is what I used to decorate the top of the pie- it's so easy to do, and makes your foods look that much better! Wilton Dessert Decorator (I got mine at JoAnn's with a 40% off coupon, or here it is on Amazon for $11)

I also love it for filling deviled eggs, it makes that go so fast!

Peanut Butter Pie
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (about 10 whole crackers)
3 tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (light cream cheese is okay)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped (or 2 cups whipped topping)

Optional toppings: more whipped cream, chocolate sauce, chopped peanuts

1. Combine crust ingredients; press into a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake at 350º for 9 minutes.  Cool.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Fold in whipped cream.  Gently spoon into crust.  Top with more whipped cream around edge and chopped peanuts, if desired.  Refrigerate until serving. Drizzle with chocolate sauce at time of serving.

Yield: 8 servings.

Why I love it? It's pretty quick to throw together, and I like that you can make it several hours before serving, and just keep it in the fridge.  The peanut butter filling is just so smooth and flavorful.  That combined with the crunchy peanuts on top, the chocolate drizzle, and the graham crackers & whipped cream- mmmm!  Plus, while it's not "healthy" by any means, I did lighten up the original recipe by about 50%.  So go ahead, have some pie!