Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sausage Crescent Breakfast Squares

After all that holiday cooking and eating, I bet you are looking for something quick and easy to throw together. Am I right? Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, but after cooking for hours and hours, I want something that is going to be super yummy. And super quick and easy. Especially for breakfast. If I had to choose a meal of the day that I could always eat, it would be breakfast. It can be sweet. It can be savory. It can be eaten any time of the day. Perhaps I am the only one that feels this way, but breakfast is seriously universal and you can almost make something that everyone will love. Thus, here comes the sausage crescent breakfast squares. My mouth is already filling up with saliva!

My amazing co-worker and friend, Stephanie, has made these many times before. When she brings them to the office, I can never seem to just have one. I always find myself going back for more. And then more. And then more again. Before I know it, I've already eaten half the pan she brought to work. Oops. I know I should stop at just one square, but they are just that good. And they couldn't be easier to make. I often shy away from super easy recipes, but lately, they have been my jam. Just because they are simple, doesn't mean they aren't good. Plus, between work and school, easy recipes are exactly what I need these days. Last weekend I was struggling to figure out what to make for Saturday morning breakfast. I was pouring through all my cookbooks to find something new, but nothing was jumping out at me. I have my few go to things, but I wanted something different. Then it came to me- these breakfast squares! 

Let me tell you just how easy these breakfast squares are to make. All you need are two cans of your favorite crescent rolls, one pound of breakfast sausage and an eight ounce package of cream cheese. Three ingredients to total deliciousness. Stephanie says her favorite way is to use the store brand crescent rolls, but you can use whatever you like. I even saw that Trader Joes makes their own now too! I decided to try to cut down on the calories a bit (you know me) and used low fat breakfast sausage and light cream cheese. You don't have to do that, but I could not even tell a difference between how mine turned out and Stephanie's. To get started, lay out one can of rolls into a flat layer. Take a 9x13 pan and press the dough into the pan. It does not have to be perfect. Just make it fit as best as you can. You'll want to do the same with the other can of rolls, but don't place it in the pan just yet. Next, you'll want to cook up the sausage, drain the excess fat and then stir in the cream cheese. Once everything is all nice and melted, give it a good stir and then pour the mixture over the dough in the pan. Then, take the top layer of rolls and place on top. That's it! See, told you it was super easy. I wouldn't lie to you.

From this point, you can pop the pan in the fridge and cook later. If you want to enjoy this goodness right away, just pop the pan right into the oven and cook for about 13-15 minutes, or until the top is nice and golden brown. If you took the pan straight out of the fridge, it may need an extra five minutes or so in the oven. Just keep an eye on it. Once it's ready to go, you can enjoy right away. Just give them a couple of minutes to cool so you don't burn your tongue. Eat them hot. Eat them cold. Eat them on the way to work. No matter how you eat them, you are sure to love them as much as I do!


how good do those look?!


Sausage Crescent Breakfast Squares (the famous Stephanie!)

2 8oz cans of your favorite brand of Crescent rolls 
1 pound breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean is best!)
1 8oz package cream cheese (you can use light too!)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Take one of the cans of crescent rolls and pat out into a rectangle big enough to fit in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. It does not have to be perfect, just about that size. Place in the pan. Take the other can and do the same thing. Except, put this aside. This will be the top to the squares. Then, cook the breakfast sausage until cooked and brown. Drain excess fat and then return sausage back to the pan. Add in the cream cheese and stir until melted and combined. Once the cream cheese has melted, pour the mixture on top of the rolls in the bottom of your pan. Then, place the other rectangle of dough on top. Place in the oven and cook for about 13-15 minutes until golden brown and your kitchen smells amazing. Enjoy!



 Breakfast never tasted so good!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Lemon Pecan Pie

I know what you are thinking - lemon pecan pie? Why is she messing with a good thing. Can't she just leave it alone? Well, I know what you are saying, but you know me. I can't just do plain. Well, sometimes I can, but sometimes I can't. Remember last year when I tried a bourbon pecan pie? Let me just say, when I brought it to a holiday party last year, it was the first pie to go. That's saying something. Don't you think. I do. While I love a good traditional pecan pie, sometimes it's fun to switch things up. People will least expect it and there's nothing like a little something something to spice up the holidays.

I first saw this lemon pecan pie recipe the other weekend when I was watching some of my recorded Food Network programs. I am too busy during the week to catch up on my favorites, so I usually dedicate an hour or so to catch up on the ones I can. While I was cleaning up the kitchen, I turned on Trisha Yearwood's show. She makes some simple, yet great dishes that everyone can make. I wasn't really paying attention to the show while I was cleaning, but when she said "lemon pecan pie", I did a double take. At first I thought I would be part lemon bar and part pecan pie, but boy was I wrong. She doesn't do too much to change up the original and delicious pecan pie. But she does add a bit of lemon zest and juice. Not too much. Just enough to make you go, "hmm, what is that?" But in a good way of course.

This pie could not be easier to throw together. In five minutes, you can throw everything together and have it ready to pop in the oven. Seriously! Plus, if you are anti corn syrup, this pie is for you. No corn syrup here. Just butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, a bit of flour to thicken things up, lemon zest, lemon juice, a splash of milk and of course, pecans. First, you'll melt down the butter and then add in everything else. Just make sure the eggs are mixed in really well. I noticed some of the egg whites took a but more arm muscle to mix in. You don't want strands of egg whites through your pie, do you? I don't think so. That's kinda gross. Once everything is mixed really well, throw in the chopped pecans and pour everything into an unbaked pie crust. Then, before you pop the pie into the oven (at this point, try your hardest to not eat the filling by the spoonful), you'll want to add some halved pecans on the top making a pretty design. This part makes your pie look like you spent hours on it when you only spent 5 to 10 minutes prepping everything.

Bake the pie for about 55 minutes or so until everything is set and the center of the pie is no longer wiggly jiggly. I am clearly using technical terms here. You'll know when it's done. Just give the pie a little shimmy shake (another technical term) and if the middle doesn't wiggle, it's done. When the pie is ready to come out, let it cool to room temperature and then enjoy! I am almost willing to bet that your friends and family will love this subtle and new twist to pecan pie.


Lemon pecan pie. Enough said!

Lemon Pecan Pie (Trisha Yearwood)

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter (salted or unsalted)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup pecan halves
1 9inch pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Mix well. Then stir in butter, vanilla, lemon zest and juice, milk, flour and 1 cup of the chopped pecans. Mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust and then arrange the pecan halves on top in a circular pattern.

Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set and firm, about 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!



Lemon pecan pie never sounded so good!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roasted Parmesan Green Beans

I am always looking for ways to get more veggies into my diet. I will be the first to admit that although I love big salads, I may not always get as many veggies in as I would like. Veggies make great healthy and quick side dishes and I am always looking for new ways to spice them up. Figuratively, not literally. Steamed veggies are boring and there is only so much grilled zucchini and squash that this girl can eat. And I love zucchini. That tells you how much of it I am willing to eat. Nevertheless, when I came across this roasted green bean recipe, I knew I had to try it.

My usual go to green bean recipe is pretty simple - steamed green beans tossed in lemon juice and slivered almonds. Simple, fresh and delicious. There is something about the sound of roasted green beans though. Don't you think. You can't really get easier than tossing green beans in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and then popping in the oven for ten minutes or so. This recipe is really once of those toss and forget it kind of recipes. Although, don't really forget about it in the oven because then you'll end up with burnt green beans and not roasted. I've never had burnt green beans, but I can't imagine they are very good. Once the green beans have had about ten minutes to bake, give them a shimmy shake to turn them all around and give all the sides an opportunity to get brown and yummy. After another five minutes of baking, remove the beans from the oven and toss with a bit of fresh parmi so that all the beans are coated with a bit of the cheese. At this point, you can eat them straight from the pan as a snack or add them as a side dish to one of your favorite meals. Let me just say that these green beans are totally addicting and are so easy to make that you may want to consider adding this dish to your holiday menus. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and this would be a great way to change up your green bean dish from the traditional casserole (boy are those onion things on top totally addicting!). 



you may never go back to eating steamed green beans ever again!


Roasted Parmesan Green Beans (SkinnyTaste)

12 oz green beans, trimmed (make sure they are dry)
2 tsp olive oil
kosher salt + fresh cracked pepper to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp shredded parmesan


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum for easy clean-up.
Lay green beans out on the baking sheet and drizzle oil over them. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and toss to evenly coat. Spread them out on the sheet so that they all lay flat and place on the lower third section of your oven. Bake 10 minutes, shake the pan to turn; bake 5 additional minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated cheese


Green beans may never be the same again!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Caramel Twix Brownies

Are you looking for a way to use up all that left over Halloween candy? If so, boy do I have a recipe for you. Caramel Twix brownies. Now how good do those sound? There is nothing like a good 'ol brownie, but sometimes you just have to mix it up. Especially so when you toss in handfuls of Halloween candy. Without the wrappers of course. 

If your family is anything like mine, you always buy way too much Halloween candy and never get as many trick-or-treater's as you thought. Surprisingly, we got more than we thought this year, but we still have tons of candy left over. More than I hoped for, especially since it's staring at my right now saying, "Christina, eat me. EAAAATT MEEEE!". So far, I have been strong, but it's only a matter of time (let's say, while doing my homework tomorrow afternoon and stressing out because I am stuck on a stupid foreign exchange problem) that I reach into the bowl and take one. Or two. Or three. Hey now, they are small pieces! So, the sooner I get the candy out of sight and out of mind, the better. Thus, here is where the caramel Twix brownies come in. 

Now, this recipe will feature the candy Twix, but don't be afraid to use something else. The following would work just as well in this brownie, should you not have Twix - Milky Way, Snickers, Rolo's or Baby Ruth. Pretty much any candy with caramel should work just fine. Don't worry, if you have any peanut butter cups left (my all time favorite!), try out this killer peanut butter cup brownies). They are beyond delicious, totally addicting and a must make. But now back to the caramel Twix brownies. These brownies are super simple to whip up and can be made in one big pot with one spoon. Now that's what I'm talking about. Super easy and super delicious.

The batter starts off with two sticks of melted butter and a couple of cups of sugar. As if the candy we will add later isn't sweet enough already, right? Then you'll thrown in some eggs and vanilla. At this point, make sure everything is mixed in really well. Then comes the dry ingredients - cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and flour. Give everything a mix just until it's incorporated. The batter will be thick, so stir gently. It will all come together, I promise. Once the batter is all mixed and ready to go, you will throw in just about two cups of chopped Twix (or your candy of choice). Fold it all in just until it's combined and then pour into a prepared pan. You can prepare your pan with butter, but I always use a non-stick spray. Once the batter is in the pan, comes the last and most important step- the caramel! I would usually make my own, but this time, I didn't go that route and decided to use store bought. If you have homemade caramel in your fridge, feel free to use that or you can get whatever brand you like from the store. You can usually find the bottled caramel sauce located next to the ice cream. Drizzle the caramel sauce all over the top of the batter. Like all over in every direction. Make sure you get enough on there. Then, gently swirl it in the batter with a couple of toothpicks and bake for about 40 minutes or so until they are perfectly done and your house smells so good that you can barely stand it! 



so good, you could eat the batter with a spoon!


Caramel Twix Brownies (slightly adapted from Two Peas and their Pod)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped Twix candy bars (or other candies of your choice)
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping



Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place butter in medium saucepan on the stove. Heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined. Stir in Twix candy bar chunks. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Drizzle caramel evenly over the brownies. Using a toothpick, swirl caramel into brownies. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.
Candy + brownies = deliciously dangerous!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Apple Cheesecake Crumb Pie

With the holidays right around the corner (they always sneak up on me), I have started to test out some new pie recipes. Of course I always have my go to apple, pecan and pumpkin recipes, but this year, I want to switch it up. I want to honor the traditional flavors of each one of those pies, but add a little something, something to the mix. When I saw this apple cheesecake crumb pie from one of my all time favorite bloggers, I knew I had to make it. No questions asked. It had to be made. Let's be real here - apple pie and cheesecake?! You had me at apple pie.

Let me first tell you - there are several steps to this pie. They are not difficult, but you must be patient. It is well worth it though because this pie is nothing like you've ever had before. At least I don't think you have. This pie first starts off with preparing the crust. Now, you can make your own from scratch, but if you are in a rush or not in the mood to make your own, you can always use your favorite store brand crust. There is nothing wrong with that at all! Once the pie crust is ready to go, form it in the pan and bake it for just a few minutes. This is just to get the cooking process started, but not to fully bake it. Once the crust is par baked (that's what I like to call it), you'll then fill it with a silky smooth cheesecake like filling. It's creamy, rich and so good that you may want to eat it all before you put it in the crust. Then, you'll top the creamy filling with a layer of fresh chopped apples that have been tossed in cinnamon, flour and a bit of orange zest. If the pie was't amazing already, you then top everything off with a super amazing crumb topping. I love crumb toppings on almost anything. Especially pie and banana bread. I don't think those two things are complete without a crumb topping.

Once the pie has been filled and topped, it goes in the oven to bake for about 35-40 minutes until the top is nice and golden brown. If the topping and crust get too brown too soon, cover the whole pie with a piece of foil. This will keep the pie from getting too brown and overly crunchy. When the pie is fully cooked, you'll need to let it cool down to at least room temperature before you can enjoy. I know that it's painful to wait that long, but just trust me here. If you serve it too soon, it won't slice right and the filling may not have fully set just yet. So patience is key here. As soon as the pie is room temperature you can serve just as it is or top it with your favorite caramel sauce. Talk about amazing. This pie is even amazing served cold too. No matter how you enjoy it, this pie should definitely make it to your holiday table this season. You won't regret it!


how good does that pie look?


Apple Cheesecake Crumb Pie  (Christina Lane at Dessert for Two)

This makes one, six inch pie (which is smaller than normal pies - keep this in mind!)

Crust:
5 ounces (1 cup) flour
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3-4 tablespoons cold water

Crumb Topping:
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons butter

Pie Filling:
1 small apple of your choice (I like Granny Smith since the tartness plays off all the sweetness)
Pinch of orange zest (optional)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour
pinch of salt
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

First, make the crust: stir together in a small bowl with a fork the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and use your finger tips or a pastry cutter to blend it into the flour. Once all the butter pieces are about the size of small peas, add the vinegar and a small amount of water, stirring between each addition. Add enough water so that the dough comes together in a ball, but isn't overly
sticky. Form the dough into a disk, cover it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes. If you don't want to make your own crust, use your favorite store bought brand, but cut it to size so you don't have extra dough hanging out all over the sides of the pie pan (see steps below for further instructions on transferring the dough to the pie pan).

Once the crust is ready to go, make the crumb topping. Combine all ingredients except butter in a small bowl. Add the butter and rub it in until well incorporated. Set aside.

Now, peel and dice your apple into ¼” chunks. You should end up with about 1 cup of diced apple pieces. Add the apple to a medium bowl and toss with the cinnamon, flour, salt and orange zest (if using). Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, egg, sugar and cornstarch. Set aside while you prepare your pie crust.

Roll the pie dough disk (if using homemade) on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 8-9” in diameter. Carefully transfer this to a 7” pie tin and fit it in the bottom gently (do not ever stretch pie dough—it will shrink back in the oven). Fold the overhanging dough under the edges to form a double crust and make a pretty edge, either with a fork or your fingers. Do not prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Transfer the pie tin to a small baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven. If the crust has puffed up, gently push it back down before pouring the cream cheese mixture on top. Add the diced apples on top, followed by the crumb topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If the crumbs aren't brown enough, broil for a few minutes. This pie is great at room temperature, or even chilled. Serve with caramel sauce, if desired. Yum!





apple pie + cheesecake = true love

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Skinny Baked Chicken Parmigana

This skinny baked chicken parmigiana is pretty much the quickest, best tasting meal you'll ever make. I am not even joking here. Not one bit. My mom has raved about this recipe for as long as I can remember and although I always had it in the back of my mind, I never got around to making it. Maybe I thought it would be too much work (although I am not sure why I thought this because I will spend hours int he kitchen perfecting a huge cake). Maybe I thought it wouldn't turn out. Let's be honest, anytime my mom makes something super amazing, I go home to make the same thing and it never tastes as good. It's good, but it's not "mom" good. you know what I mean? I think it's the extra love she puts into it or something. Ya, that must be it.

Now let me tell you, my first assumption that this meal would be too much work was 100% incorrect. This recipe is quick and easy and can be thrown together in under 30 minutes. Really! You'll only need a few ingredients to get started - chicken breasts, seasoned bread crumbs, a bit of parmi cheese and a little bit of butter or olive oil. To start, you simply cut your chicken breasts in half lengthwise so that each breast is now two separate pieces. Be careful when cutting them so you don't cut yourself (remember my incident with a sharp kitchen knife?). If your store carries thin cut chicken breasts, you can always use those too, but they may just be a bit more expensive. You can use either though. Just be careful when slicing them, okay? Once you've cut the breasts in half, you'll want to coat each one in the olive oil or butter. You don't just much here, just a bit to get the crumb and cheese mixture to stick. This really makes this dish skinny instead of frying, as in the original dish. We all know that frying - high calorie. Unfortunately so. Additionally, instead of frying, this chicken is baked at high heat to get brown and super delicious. Plus, since the chicken is cut thin, it cooks fast too. Double win!

After a quick flip of the chicken and a bit extra time in the oven, you'll top it with sauce and cheese. If you have homemade sauce, great. If not, here is my mom's tip - use Classico pizza sauce. I just learned the latter and it makes it that much better. Not sure why, it just does. After you've topped the chicken, throw it all back in the oven again just enough to melt the cheese and warm up the sauce. Don't let it go too long or you'll over cook the chicken and burn the cheese. Nobody likes burnt cheese. Once everything is ooey gooey, it's ready to go. You can enjoy this chicken on it's own or you can serve it over a bit of pasta. That is my favorite way to enjoy it. One serving (sans noodles) comes in at just about 250 calories, under 10 grams of fat and 31 grams of protein. Can you believe all of that and it tastes just as good (if not better) than the original fried version? I am willing to bet that your family and friends will love this one. Plus, it's so fancy looking that they will think it took you hours to make. Little will they know that it's super easy to throw together and good for you! Now what are you waiting for? Get in your kitchen and make this tonight! You won't regret it. 




Now how good does that look?

Skinny Baked Chicken Parmigana (SkinnyTaste and My Mom)

Makes about 8 servings


4 (about 8 oz each) chicken breast, sliced in half to make 8
3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs 
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter, melted (or olive oil)
3/4 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1 cup marinara (homemade or store bought)
cooking spray

    Preheat oven to 450°. Spray a large baking sheet lightly with spray.


    Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Melt the butter in another bowl. Lightly brush the butter onto the chicken, then dip into breadcrumb mixture.  Place on baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken. Lightly spray a little more oil on top and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn chicken over, bake another 5 minutes.   Remove from oven, spoon 1 tbsp sauce over each piece of chicken and top each with 1 1/2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted and enjoy!


    Baked is the new fried!



    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!