Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Creamy Lime Pie

The original recipe for this was titled key lime pie, but I can not lie to you all. I did not use key limes. Are you kidding? Who wants to juice those tiny little things? Not me. And I didn't have the heart to use bottled key lime juice. Fresher is better when it comes to citrus juice. At least that's my opinion. You don't have to listen to me though. If you want to go key lime crazy here, let me give you a hint - key limes can be hard to find if you don't live in an area that grows them or has them in stock regularly. If you really want to use bottled juice, check out your local liquor store. I am almost certain they will have it there. Just trust me here. I know a thing or two about a thing or two.

Now, back to pie. This sweet, tangy, creamy pie is a great change up from my normal desserts. Which usually consist of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Can you tell I like chocolate? It's always nice to change things up and make something different. This creamy lime pie couldn't be easier to throw together and have ready for dessert in under 30 minutes. Of course you need to be patient while it cools, but getting it all ready is a piece of cake. Wait. A piece of pie. That make more sense.

This pie first starts off with a killer crumb crust. I am still learning to master the crumb crust (I am not sure why this still gets me from time to time), but I figure I will get it just right someday. Someday soon I hope. Once you have the crumb crust ready, you'll bake it for a few minutes to firm up and brown up. Just a bit though. Don't overdo it here. You don't want burnt crust. Now that's just gross. While the crumb crust is cooling, you'll want to make the filling. All you'll need is a handful of limes for zest and juice, a couple of egg yolks and one can of sweetened condensed milk. I could eat the latter straight from the can. I did not just tell you that. It's really good though. Just not good for my waistline. Here is a tip when zesting citrus- always zest before you squeeze. If you squeeze and then zest, you'll have a heck of a time zesting since the skins will be all wobbly. It's not a good thing. So, just remember, zest then squeeze! Once you have all the filling ingredients ready, mix together, pour into the cooled crust and bake for 15 minutes until the filling is firm.

Now, when the pie is all baked, you'll need to let it cool for at least at hour. Longer is better just so it can get nice and chilled. Of course you can serve the pie room temperature if you just can't wait (because it smells so darn good!), but cooled is my preferred way. That and with a huge heap of whipped cream. Now we are talking. This creamy lime pie will make you pucker with love and joy. It's that good.

Not pictured - eggs

butter + crumbs + sugar = love

zest before you squeeze

mmm, sweetened condensed milk


cooked, cooled and ready to enjoy!


Creamy Lime Pie (Pioneer Woman)


18 whole Graham Crackers (the 4-section Large Pieces)
1/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Butter, Melted
1 Tablespoon (heaping) Lime Zest
1/2 cup Lime Juice
2 whole Egg Yolks
1 can (14 Oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the crust:
Crush crackers in a food processor or Ziploc bag. Pour them into a bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter. Press into a pie pan and bake for 5 minutes or until golden and set. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.


For the filling:
Mix lime zest, lime juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add in condensed milk and mix on high until smooth and thick. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 15 minutes.


Remove from oven, allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour—more if possible. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and more grated lime zest. 


So creamy. So delicious. So refreshing!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cheesy Olive Bread

Remember that shrimp scampi I shared with you last week? Well, this cheesy olive bread would be the perfect accompaniment to that dish. Even if you don't like olives, you'll like this bread. Trust me. There is something about the olives that when they get mixed with all the other goodness, they mellow out and add a bit of saltiness to the cheesy deliciousness. Have I convinced you to make this bread yet? I hope so. If not, just promise me you'll try it, okay?

Let me first tell you that this bread is not for the faint of heart. It's definitely not low fat or low calorie, but let's be honest, it's all about moderation. Plus, if you eat this bread with a big salad (which I would totally do), you won't feel so guilty. At least that's what I tell myself. It works most of the time. Until I eat too much of this bread. Boy is it addicting. Like can't stop eating addicting. This bread starts of with your favorite bread of course. You can use french, sourdough or any kind of loaf bread you like. I used whole wheat french bread, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy. Then comes the goodness topping. You may want to sit down for this. Are you ready? You'll need olives (both black and green), mayo, butter, green onions and Monterey jack cheese You'll mix everything together and then slather (yes, I said slather) the bread with the mixture. Make sure you pile it nice and high too. The higher, the better.

At this point, you can throw the bread straight into the oven and bake or you can be like me and cook half now and freeze half later. If you want to save half (or more) for another time, place the uncooked bread in the freezer on a plate. Once the bread is frozen, wrap in plastic wrap and then place in a freezer bag. The quick freeze step before wrapping will prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to the olive and cheese mixture. When you are ready to enjoy, there is no need to defrost. Just pop the bread in the oven and bake until bubbly and brown. This bread is so addicting and a great change up from your go to garlic bread. Here's something you might not want me to tell you, but you can even use the topping as a dip for crackers. I am telling you, it's the best thing ever. Well, not as good as my mom's olive dip, but pretty darn close. Whether you eat it on bread, crackers or with a spoon, you will soon be addicted too.



warning - no low fat ingredients here

look at all those olives!

I could eat this with a spoon. No joke.

slather all that cheesy olive goodness on the bread

brown, bubbly and delicious.

Cheesy Olive Bread (Pioneer Woman)

1 loaf French Bread
6 ounces, weight Pimiento-stuffed Green Olives
6 ounces, weight Black Olives
2 stalks Green Onions (scallions)
1 stick Butter, Room Temperature
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
3/4 pounds Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated 



Roughly chop both black olives and pimiento-stuffed green olives. Slice green onions into thin pieces. Combine butter, mayonnaise, cheese, olives and green onions in a mixing bowl. Stir together until thoroughly combined. Spread mixture onto French bread that has been sliced lengthwise. Bake at 325ºF for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and browning. 



So good. So delicious. So addicting.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cashew Chocolate Energy Bites

When I get in to the groove of studying, I get into the groove. Does that even make sense? When I am studying, I often lose track of time and the next thing I know, my stomach is growling. Growling so loud that other people in the library can hear it. Now that's embarrassing. While a big meal doesn't always sound good when I am studying (because I am usually a nervous wreck), small snacks always seem to do the trick. As good as crackers may be, they don't really give me the energy I need nor do they keep me full for very long. Plus, I really should not be eating a whole bag of goldfish. And trust me, I could. I am not ashamed of that. Okay, a little bit. Those things are just so darn addicting!

Over the past few months, I have have been trying to find the perfect granola bar recipe. You know, one that is soft, yet crunchy at the same time. And also one that doesn't turn into granola when you try to cut it. I didn't think it would be this hard to find one that would be just right, but let me tell you, it has. I've tried many tried and true recipes that promise to be the best and they just have failed me. So, when I came across this recipe for energy balls, I knew I had to try them. They would be perfect for a quick pick me up when studying for that all important midterm and also a great snack to throw in your bag when you are on the go. There is no cutting of bars and you just throw everything together, mix and roll. Now that is my kind of granola bar and snack.

To make these super easy and totally yummy energy balls, you'll need just a handful of ingredients - oats, honey, cashew butter, chocolate chips, coconut and ground flax seeds. Now, if you don't have cashew butter, don't go running out to chase it down. Seriously. If you have another type of nut butter at home (peanut, almond, etc.), feel free to use that. If you are feeling extra wild and want to find the cashew butter, I got mine at Trader Joes. I bought it about a month ago and knew I shouldn't have because I could eat it straight from the jar with a spoon. It's so salty and so delicious! To be honest, I had to hide it from myself by placing it in the back of the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind. Regardless of what type of nut butter you use, I am sure that you will love them. You seriously just throw everything together, mix it up well and then pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so. This will allow everything to harden up just a bit so that you can roll them up into balls. Here is a quick tip -if your nut butter has been in the fridge and is too hard to mix or scoop out, place it in the microwave for a seconds to loosen it up. Just make sure there is not any foil on the lid like mine had. Oops. That makes for a fun spark in the microwave. Or scare.

Once the mixture has been in the fridge for at least half an hour, take it out and roll the mixture into balls. One recipe makes about 20-24 balls depending on how big or small you make them. I usually enjoy two as a snack or a quick energy boost before a workout. They are perfectly sweet, filling and curb your sweet cravings with those chocolate chips. These cashew chocolate energy balls may just be your new favorite snack!

ingredients

because who doesn't want to see cashew butter up close and personal

honey + cashew butter = love

mixing in all the dry ingredients

don't forget the chocolate chips!

pure energy. pure deliciousness.


Cashew Chocolate Energy Balls (slightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven)

1 cup dry oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
2/3 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup cashew butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chocolate chips 

 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour. Once chilled, roll into ball of whatever size you would like. Mine were about one tablespoon (give or take) in size. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to one week. Enjoy!



Delicious energy in bite size snacks!
 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shrimp Scampi

If you are anything like me and are busier than busy these days, you don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen after a long day. Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, but sometimes I am just too pooped. So, in comes a quick and easy 15 minute meal. Yes, you heard me right. 15 minutes. Now that is what I am talking about.

I will be the first to admit that I always forget about shrimp. I love it, but it usually doesn't cross my mind as my first protein option. I am not sure why. It's delicious and quick cooking, which makes it perfect for this 15 minute meal. To make this delicious and easy meal, you'll need the following (you probably already have most of it, minus the shrimp):

shrimp
lemon (lots of it!)
white wine (don't drink it all yet)
parsley
a little butter (I cut this down so it was a bit lighter - you'll never know though!)
onion
garlic (duh, got to have this!)
pasta

Before you start cooking the shrimp, make sure to start a pot of water boiling. This part takes the longest. Seriously. Just don't stare at the pot because a watched pot never boils. You've heard that, right? Now, I am not a big pasta eater (only because I could eat too much of it in one sitting), but I do enjoy it from time to time. For this recipe, I like to use angel hair pasta. It's not too heavy and cooks in just a few minutes. Which makes it even better for this quick meal. See where I am going with this? Now, while the water is boiling, you'll want to melt down the butter and cook up the onion and garlic. Just until it's soft. Don't go burning it. That's never a good thing. By this point, your water should be boiling. Add the pasta and let it do it's thing for a few minutes. Once the onion and garlic are softened, add your shrimp. These should only take 3-5 minutes to cook. You'll know when they are done when they are pink and have curled up. When the shrimp are ready to go, add the lemon, wine and if you are feeling spicy, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Mix everything together and then add your pasta.

If you want the dish to have a bit more of a saucy consistency, add some of the starchy pasta water. I know it sounds strange, but just go with me here. Throw in the parsley and you are ready to enjoy your dish. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can add in a bit of lemon zest and parmi cheese. I know the cheese part sounds odd, especially with shrimp, but it adds a little something something. If you have it, add it. If not, then that's okay too. No matter how you serve it, I am willing to bet that you will love it. And so will anyone you serve it to. No one will ever think this only took you 15 minutes to make. Serve with a big salad and a glass of white wine and you are good to go. Quick. Easy. Delicious.

how can you go wrong with those ingredients?

lemony lemons

nothing smells better than garlic and onions

add the shrimp (don't forget to salt and pepper them!)

then add the lemon juice and wine - two musts!

looks like it took longer than 15 minutes to make, right?


Shrimp Scampi (slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman)

2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
4 cloves Garlic Cloves, Chopped
1 pound Large Shrimp, Peeled And de-veined
1/2 cup White Wine
2 whole Lemons
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces, weight Angel Hair Pasta
Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, optional

Boil water for pasta before you start anything else. You want this ready to go!

Heat olive oil and melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for two or three minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add shrimp, then stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Squeeze in lemon juice. Add wine, butter, salt and pepper, and pepper flakes. Stir and reduce heat to low. 

Throw angel hair pasta into the boiling water. Cook until just about done. Drain pasta, reserving a cup or two of the pasta water (if needed). Remove skillet from heat and then add pasta and toss, adding a splash of pasta water if it needs to be thinned. Taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed. Top with grated parmi cheese, minced parsley and serve immediately. Enjoy!


Who knew shrimp could be so good!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lightened-Up Slow Cooker Creamy Mexican Chicken

You all already know how much I love my crock pot. Even more so now that fall is here because who doesn't love coming home to a warm, cooked meal after a long day of work. I am always looking for new recipes and ways to lighten them up, even just a little bit. I recently came across this creamy Mexican chicken recipe, but you probably think the same thing when I see the word, "creamy". Creamy = high calorie (but boy does it probably taste good!). It doesn't have to be though. You know I wouldn't lead you down the wrong path here. At least I hope you know that by now. 

The original creamy Mexican chicken recipe called for chicken thighs and cream cheese - these are the two highest fat and calorie items of them all. There's also some black beans, corn, and salsa in there (we'll get to all that in a minute), but let's step back to the chicken and creamy goodness. I never used to like chicken thighs (I am a white meat girl), but over the past year or so, I have grown to love them both in crock pot meals and on the grill. Don't ask me why I suddenly changed my mind. I just did. Nevertheless, I still love chicken breast. So, to lighten up this dish in anyway I could, I decided to use chicken breasts. Now, you can use thighs if you want, but chicken breasts in this recipe are just as good. It's up to you though. Now comes the cream cheese. Of course, this is what makes the dish so creamy and I thought, what other ways could I lighten it up. Light sour cream first came to mind, but sometimes that breaks up and doesn't blend well into hot dishes. Cream and half and half came to mind too, but those are even worse than cream cheese. No such luck there. Then it came to me - light cream cheese. Why have I never noticed this in the store before? Maybe it's because I try to stay away from it (I am a former bagel and cream cheese addict). The best part of it is that it has 33% less fat and you'd really never know the difference. If you put them side by side, you may notice that the regular cream cheese is just a bit richer. But honestly, you'd never know that unless I told you. 


This creamy Mexican chicken could not be easier to throw together and all you need is chicken breasts, a jar of salsa, a can of corn, a can of beans, a couple of tablespoons of ranch seasoning, a dash of garlic powder (optional) and a package of light cream cheese. You literally place the chicken on the bottom of the crock pot and dump everything else in - just don't add the cream cheese yet! Close the lid and let everything cook for about five hours or so. It may take longer or shorter depending on the size of your chicken breasts. Once the chicken is cooked and can shred easily, take the chicken out and shred it up. Place the chicken back in the crock pot and place the block of cream cheese right on top. Don't mix. Just leave it there. Close the lid and let it sit for about 30 minutes. After you've patiently waited for half an hour, stir the cream cheese around. It will be perfectly soft and gooey and will blend just wonderfully into the chicken and saucy goodness. 


Now it's up to you to choose how you want to enjoy this creamy Mexican chicken. You can enjoy it over rice, in burritos or tacos, make homemade baked taquitos or even in a big salad. No matter which way you choose to enjoy it, I am sure you and your family, friends or whoever you serve it to, will love it. 


PS. This also freezes well for a quick freezer meal for those nights when you have no idea what to cook!



just throw it all in...

...in just a few hours, add the cream cheese

enjoy!!

Lightened-Up Slow Cooker Creamy Mexican Chicken (adapted from Food.com)

4-5 chicken breasts

1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans (or any bean of your choice), drained
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained
1 (15 ounce) jar of your favorite salsa
3 tablespoons dry ranch seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder (optional)
1 (8oz) package of light cream cheese

Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray and place chicken breasts in the bottom. Then place all of the remaining ingredients (mins the cream cheese) into the crock pot and cover with the lid. Cook on slow for 5-6 hours or until your chicken breasts are cooked. 


Once the breasts are fully cooked, remove and shred the chicken. Then, place back into the crock pot and place the block of cream cheese on the top. Do not stir in. Place the lid back on the crock pot and cook for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the cream cheese will be softened and warm. Stir in to combine and enjoy!





Sunday, September 21, 2014

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I know what you are all thinking - cheese in cookies? She must be crazy. Trust me, I'm not. Okay, well, maybe a little, but not when it comes to these cookies. They are the perfect combination of lightness and lemony goodness. These cookies are something that you must add to your regular cookie rotation. A chocolate chip cookie is always my go to cookie (okay, maybe it's just the dough), but sometimes you just want a cookie that's a little different and something refreshing. This lemon ricotta cookie will do just the trick.

This cookie first starts out with something you may never have thought to put in your cookie dough - ricotta cheese. Now, if you are anything like me, you probably have a tub (or half a tub) of ricotta somewhere in the back of your fridge. Okay, you don't have that in the back of your fridge? I guess that's just me then. I'm always making lasagna, but I digress. If you don't have ricotta in your fridge, go get some now. These cookies are so simple and a must make the next time you need a new cookie. You'll need all the usual go to cookie ingredients (sugar, flour, butter, etc.) as well as a container of ricotta and some lemons. That's it. When you mix everything together, the batter will be a bit thinner than cookie dough, but thicker than cake batter. Does that make sense? You'll know what I am talking about when you see the batter. Don't be concerned when it's not too thick. You did everything right. I was a little worried too, but trust me, everything will turn out just fine. Promise!

Now, keep in mind that the cookies will grow a bit during the baking process so don't put them too close on the cookie sheet. Once all the cookies are baked, they will be golden on the bottom and soft and almost cake like in the middle. They are like little lemony pillows of goodness! When all the cookies are cooled, you will top them with this amazing lemony glaze that hardens slightly and gives the cookies and extra punch of lemon flavor. You can't forget the glaze. It makes the cookies pop and gives them an extra fancy touch you wouldn't expect. Don't forget though - fancy cookies do not have to be difficult cookies to make. And trust me, I've made some difficult cookies in my life. This cookie is definitely not that and I am almost willing to bet that it's soon become one of your favorites. Especially so if you are a lemon lover. And if you aren't, well, you might just become one. 

vodka not included

look at all that zest!

remember, don't put the batter too close

look at all that sticky glaze - yum!


Lemon Ricotta Cookies (Giada DeLaurentiis)

Cookies:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested


Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.


Whent the cookies have cooled, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Enjoy!





These cookies would be amazing as a gift or even as part of your holiday cookie rotation. They are fancy without being over complicated. Now that's the best type of cookie!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Slow Cooker Pesto Ranch Chicken

In sharing the homemade ranch seasoning mix with you all last night, I realized that I have yet to share one of my quickest, easiest and favorite slow cooker recipes with you - pesto ranch chicken! I could have sworn that I already shared this with you, but after pouring over all my posts, I just couldn't find it. I am already going crazy and the new school year has just started. That is scary. Nevertheless, this recipe is a must try and it could not be easier. Seriously. All you need is your favorite pesto (homemade or store bought), ranch seasoning mix, a bit of chicken broth and chicken thighs. Place all four ingredients in the crock pot and close the lid. No fancy mixing here - just dump everything in! You can cook these on high and have them ready in 3-4 hours, if you need a fast and quick meal or on low for 6-8 hours, if you have a bit more time. Whether you cook them fast or slow, it doesn't matter. They are amazing either way. There is something that happens when the pesto and ranch cook together. I can't explain it, but boy is it delish. I'll be the first to tell you that I was skeptical when I first saw this recipe, but I am now a believer that ranch seasoning + pesto = amazing.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!


yummy chicken!


Slow Cooker Pesto Ranch Chicken (Picky Palate)

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
6 ounce jar of pesto
1 package Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix (or three tablespoons homemade seasoning)
1/2 cup chicken broth

Turn crock pot to high setting. Place chicken thighs, pesto, ranch dressing and chicken broth into crock pot. Stir gently to combine all seasonings. Close with lid and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Enjoy!