Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicken pasta carbonara over kale

I'm in love.
Really.  I discovered kale a few weeks ago.
I made a kale smoothie, and after my normal 10 mile bike ride, I was feeling so good, I biked another 10.  All because of kale.
I was trying to find something my kids would like tonight and was looking around the Pioneer Woman blog, and saw her recipe for kale.  I hadn't tried it her way (with lots of garlic in the frying pan), and I LOVED it.
The following is a combination of a couple of her recipes, with a few twists of my own.  Yum.  I'll be making this one a lot.

12 ounces, weight
 Bowtie Pasta (farfalle)
4 Tablespoons Butter
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, chopped
 Salt And Pepper, to taste
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
3/4 cups Low sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Half-and-half
3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
 Low Sodium Chicken Broth, As Needed For Thinning
3/4 cups Parmesan Shavings Or Grated Parmesan
1 t. nutmeg
3-5 strips cooked Bacon
Olive oil
3 cups kale

Preparation Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until deep golden brown on both sides and done in the middle. Remove from the skillet, and set aside.
Add additional 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, followed by 2 minced garlic cloves. Stir the garlic around the pan to avoid burning, and cook for 1 minute. Pour in broth, then let it bubble up and reduce for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add half-and-half, cream, and extra salt and pepper and nutmeg, whisking constantly until it's all combined. Allow liquid to heat up and thicken for a few minutes. If it gets too thick, you may thin it with a little chicken broth.
When the sauce looks good, remove it from the heat. Add Parmesan to the pan, then throw the hot pasta right on top of it. Toss it a bit. Add the chicken and continue tossing until it's all combined. Again, if it gets too gloppy, splash in a little broth (you may return the pan to low heat if it needs it.)
Meanwhile, In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and add remaining 3 minced garlic cloves. Stir until fragrant, then add kale.  Move kale around pan until cooked - this should only take a couple of minutes.  Salt to taste. 
Place kale on plate, and chicken and pasta directly on top of kale.  Crumble bacon over pasta and serve immediately!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Superfood summer smoothie

I love smoothies.  And, while I've experimented with smoothies over the years (believe me, I've had to drink a lot of them on my own) - this is the smoothie that my kids get the most excited about.  
I love that it is made from simple ingredients.  Spinach, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and soy milk.  
The blueberries, spinach, and chia lend their "SUPERFOOD" powers to it,  and it is a great way to get some fruits and veggies into my family first thing in the morning.  

1.5 cups frozen blueberries
3/4 - 1 cup frozen spinach
6 fresh strawberries (frozen can be used)
 1 frozen banana
3-4 cups soy milk (or any other milk on hand)
1 T. agave nectar or sweetener of your choice
1 TBSP. chia seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine in blender and blend until smooth.  Add milk or ice as needed to adjust for desired consistency.  

A few tips:   
I love to use fresh spinach, but it always gets too slimy in my fridge.  To alleviate this, I buy large bags of spinach (Costco carries a very large inexpensive one) and sort  it into sandwich baggies and then freeze it. 
Bananas do two things at our house.  Get eaten immediately, or go brown. 
I have started freezing ripe bananas, and just grab one to throw into the smoothie.  
I use a knife to peel it (frozen) and it works great. 

I find that if I use frozen ingredients, I don't need to bother adding any ice to the smoothie.  If I don't use frozen ingredients - it needs approx. 2 cups of ice. 

I add cinnamon and nutmeg because of their amazing health properties - google them, you'll see!

Serves 4, and each serving has approx. 160 calories

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Easiest Corn on the Cob - Ever!

It's summertime, which means corn on the cob time~we love that stuff!
Growing up, I learned to prepare corn on the cob by shucking/husking it and boiling it.
Then - about ten years ago, I learned to shuck it, and then to add corn and 3 T. water to a ziplock, seal it all except for a corner (for steam release) and to cook for 6 minutes.  This is a really great way to cook corn.

However, a couple of years ago I discovered that you can cook an intact ear of corn over fire coals - so I figured it could be done in the microwave too.

Really - the  LAZIEST  EASIEST way to cook corn - and it comes out perfectly!

Step by step instructions
1.  Remove corn ears from shopping bag.
2. Place in microwave.
3. Cook for 8-10 minutes (4 ears)

Husk and serve.

The beauty of this is that the corn self insulates and steams itself, and it stays pretty warm until it is husked.  Sometimes I throw the corn into my oven (if the oven is warm already) to wait while I'm finishing everything else so that it is still hot when I serve everything.   

Monday, June 24, 2013

School Lunch Butter Finger Bars

While I posted a variation of this recipe several years ago, the frosting just wasn't quite right.  They were 98% there, and it bugged me.

Today however, I hit the holy grail!!   JUST like the lunch lady.  While the recipe is almost identical to what I'd been doing, the process changed a bit.  

Note the frosting that is fudge like, the light peanut butter layer, and the bar's crisp outer edges with a chewy moist bottom and center.  
Growing up, these bars were a commodity - secrets, and favors were exchanged for these babies.  EVERYONE wanted hot lunch on French Dip and Butter Finger Bars day.  I hope these take you back to second grade too!   

Cream together
3/4 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup peanut butter (smooth not chunky)
1/2 cup sugar

Mix in
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Mix in
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal/quick oats

Spread into greased 11x17 greased jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350* for 22-30 minutes - until light brown and puffy.

Peanut Butter Topping
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Whip 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter until it becomes light colored and fluffy.
Carefully spread the whipped peanut butter over the hot pan cookie.

1/2 cup butter
1 TBSP milk
3 TBSP cocoa baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add milk and cocoa, and cook on medium heat stirring constantly.  Heat just until boiling.  Remove from heat and add vanilla, and gradually add powdered sugar.  Stir until thickened and then pour over the whipped peanut butter and gently spread over entire cookie.

Cool completely, then slice into bar cookies.

Grandma Jeri's Sloppy Joe's

The quintessential sloppy Joe, or Barbeque as Grandma calls it

I grew up in a really big family, with lots of uncles & aunts, cousins, and relatives - all usually within a 8 mile radius.  That said, for most of my younger years, my memories of Sunday afternoons all include dinners at grandma's house.  During the hot summer months, grandma would make Sloppy Joe's since they didn't have to be cooked on the stove, but could be cooked in a mammoth electric roaster like this: 

Here's grandma's recipe - approximately 20 servings

3 lbs hamburger (or lean ground turkey, with 3 cubes beef bouillon)
1.5 chopped onions (Grandma uses 3 - that's too much for my family)
1-3 chopped green/red/yellow peppers (optional - to taste)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 TBS. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
1 can tomato soup
2 small cans tomato paste (Grandma uses 4 - my family likes 2)
1 can tomato sauce

Brown meat and drain (rinse if desired).  If using turkey, reserve juices for later.
Mix all other ingredients into meat and bring to a boil. Transfer to a crock pot and heat for at least 2 hours on low. Stir occasionally.
Alternately, this may be simmered on the stovetop for 1 hour, but stir often so that it doesn't stick and burn.

Use reserved turkey juices to add moisture and thin slightly if mixture seems too thick.
Serve on buns.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

For the record

Every now and then (or more often than that), I try a recipe that is awful.
For the record, tonight was the night.  It started with a can of red enchilada sauce.  It had a recipe for Enchilada soup on the back of the can.  We love tortilla soup, so why not try enchilada I thought...besides, if it is on the back of the can, it must be great!
Bleh, horrible.  For the record -stick with the tortilla.  While I love good food, food is food in my reasoning.  Enchilada soup is not food.  It got thrown out.

For the record though - my Pavlova (see previous post) turned out as light and fluffy as a ballerina.  Cosmic balance was made in my kitchen tonight.  

Pavlova, Red, White and Blue

My friend Judy in Colorado made this for our family several years ago.  Her husband's family is from Australia, and it is a traditional Aussie and New Zealander's dessert.  It has a crunchy, meringue like outer shell, and the inside is soft and almost marshmallowishly light.

I was headed to a book club tonight and wanted to take something elegant, yet light - and then I remembered the Pavlova. What could be lighter than meringue, whipping cream and fresh strawberries?
For the record, it disappeared, and several went back for seconds and thirds.

Preheat oven to 275
*Note - this takes an hour to bake, and almost another hour to cool in the oven, and may need to be planned ahead.  

1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 T. cornstarch
6 large egg whites (room temp - NOT cold)
pinch salt
fresh fruit

Combine dry ingredients - set aside

Beat egg whites for 2-3 minutes
Add wet ingredients and blend (vanilla & white vinegar)

Slowly introduce dry ingredients

Beat for 4-5 minutes

Spread on parchment paper, or pipe from decorators bag for a detailed edge.

Reduce oven to 250 and bake for 50-60 minutes

DO NOT OPEN OVEN.  Allow to cool in oven.  

Serve with whipped cream, and fresh fruit of choice. Strawberries, and Blueberries are perfect for a fourth of July celebration.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The crazy grocery store man's Pork Chops with Scalloped Potatoes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I ran into a stranger today at the grocery store who proceeded to verbally give me 3 of his favorite recipes.
Since I am attending a pot-luck event this evening, I thought I'd try his Pork Chops with Scalloped Potatoes recipe.  I doubled the recipe for my pot-luck.
Granted, I don't know if I've ever made pork chops in the past 8 years, and I've never made scalloped potatoes that weren't from scratch.  I was a little dubious, but it sounded simple and non-labor intensive (great for a busy day - more time to blog).

8-12 pork chops
1 box Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes
1 Tablespoon butter
Betty Crocker seasoning packet
1/2 c. milk
2 cups boiling water

Heat oven to 350*
In a skillet or frying pan with 2 t. oil, brown pork chops, on each side, but don't cook completely.
(If serving a large crowd, cut chops into smaller pieces).

Place in bottom of 9x13 baking dish.

Mix scalloped potatoes, butter, milk, seasoning packet, and boiling water, and pour mixture over pork chops.
Bake at 350* for one hour.

Texas Sheet Cake

Pork Chops & Scalloped Potatoes, Low Country Boil, and Pig Picking Cake

I was picking up some supplies for a community bike ride, a Memorial Day church activity, and a birthday party this morning, and as I was breezing through the produce aisle, an older gentleman stopped me by the oranges and carefully looked over my cart (which really - was loaded with water and paper products).  He then looked at me and asked, "Do you like to cook?"  Maybe he was wondering if I knew how!
I replied, "yes" and he went straight on to walk me through three of his favorite recipes.
Low Country Boil, a Pig Picking Cake, and Pork chops with scalloped potatoes.

I wondered what kind of crazy he was, but since I needed something for a cub scout potluck tonight, I wondered if he was heaven sent, and thought I'd try his pork chop recipe, as well as pick up some spice he mentioned for the Low Country Boil (why not?)

I came home and googled his recipes, and was surprised to see that they are pretty popular recipes - and his seemed to be spot on with some pretty well known chefs.

So, I'll be trying these out and posting about them in the very near future.  As soon as the chops are out of the oven in fact.  AND after I throw a Texas Sheet Cake into the oven.  I've yet to compare it to my original recipe, but a friend brought this to church for Mother's Day, and it was devoured.  I'll be posting it soon as well.

Happy cooking to me!  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

4 Layer Checkerboard Cake

It has been forever since I blogged.  I have been cooking - sort of.  My friend talked me into a healthy lifestyles challenge, so for most of this year so far, sugar has been cut down to once a week (yes, torture) and I'm enjoying lots and lots of raw fruits and vegetables - nothing very exciting to blog about. 

Here's my latest culinary experience:  

 (it got a little messy as everyone was clamoring for some - I will use a different vanilla cake recipe next time)

While there are special pans you can buy to do a checkerboard cake, I just made two cakes - my normal chocolate, and a vanilla - making 4 layers (uncut - this could easily be 8, but I wanted the larger definition - but now that I think of it - 8 could really blow your mind! time maybe).  
Now, while I could have bought a nifty special cake pan, I went the cheap route - I used the lid to a sour cream carton, and stuck it into the middle of the cake and cut around it with a knife.  
I used a small bowl for the next ring, and then my measuring spoon turned upside down for the final inner ring.  
Then I carefully took each layer apart and replaced the rings with an alternating color etc. etc. like this - and yes, each layer looks like the top, or like and inverted version of the top layer here.  
Afterwards, I just frosted the cake as normal.  
Here's the recipe I used for the chocolate cake as well as the frosting - my own adaptation from Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake and Frosting


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water


  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

    ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

    THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

    BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

    CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

    "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING - Double this recipe for four layers.

    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
    2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1/3 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
    Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cajun/Creole Chicken Pasta

It is Saturday afternoon.  I spent an hour cruising the web looking for something new and interesting that my family might enjoy for lunch.  I found the following recipe on the Pioneer Woman blog.  Here is her recipe with my adaptations (in bold), as I was missing a few ingredients, and as it didn't seem to want to thicken properly. 

As I haven't done much with the cajun or creole flavor, this recipe caught my eye, and it was quite an enjoyable new taste for us.  This really exceeded my expectations - even my most picky eater told her sister, "it isn't that bad," and then she forgot herself and said, "these noodles are way better than I expected" - me too.  

Cajun Chicken Pasta
Yield - 12 Servings

  • 6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes (I use Costco frozen, boneless, skinless - 2 minutes in the microwave to start the defrost, and it makes them easy to cut)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning or Cajun Spice Mix, +/- To Taste
  • 1 pound Fettuccine
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Orange Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • 1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • ½ whole Large Onion, Sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Diced (or 1 can of diced tomatoes - drained) 
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ cups White Wine or Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
  • Water
  • Cayenne Pepper To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • Salt To Taste
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente; do not overcook!  Set aside.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add half the chicken in a single layer; do not stir. Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip to the other side and cook an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate. Repeat with remaining chicken. Remove chicken, leaving pan on high heat.        (I used a 12 inch cast iron pan, and got it all in one try, but my chicken didn't cook quite so quickly, and didn't blacken - just make sure it is cooked through even though later on you'll be putting in back on the heat for a few minutes, later on).

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on remaining Cajun spice, and add salt if needed. Cook over very high heat for 1-3 minutes, stirring gently and trying to get the vegetables as dark/black as possible. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan.

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine/vinegar and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste. Sauce should be spicy!

(I could not get my sauce to thicken - it remained a watery consistency, so I added 2 T. corn starch to cold water (1/2 cup or so), and stirred until smooth, and then added the hot sauce to my corn starch mixture and stirred to create a thick paste, then added it all back into the sauce).

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.
Top with chopped fresh parsley and chow down! 

Approximately 319 calories per serving

Monday, January 14, 2013

Grilled Portabello Caprese and Tangy Coleslaw with a Kick

My friends roped me into an 8 week challenge of no sweets and lots of I've been finding some fun new recipes and experimenting with them. Here are two that my family and I really enjoyed - and they still tasted great as left overs as well.

Grilled Portabello Mushroom Caprese
4 large cap Portabello mushrooms
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 crushed clove
1 T. olive oil
Basil to taste (1.5 t. dried, or as much fresh as you like - chopped)

Olive oil for grilling. 
Using paper towel, remove any debris from mushroom, and lightly buff.  
Drizzle olive oil over both sides of mushroom cap and then place over medium grill for 4-6 minutes, then turn and repeat.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, cheese, garlic, basil and clove. Add just enough olive oil to lightly moisten ingredients.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

After removing Portabellos from the grill, fill the caps with tomato and mozzarella mixture.  Serve immediately as cheese will begin to melt, and the juices begin to flow.   

Tangy Coleslaw with a kick
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 bunch cilantro - chopped
1 onion - very thinly sliced
3 T. mayonnaise
1 T. olive oil

3 T. fresh key lime juice
3 garlic cloves

1 t. cumin
2-3 t. Frank's hot sauce
crushed red pepper seeds (optional)
pinch of sugar (optional)
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, cilantro and onion. 

Using a food processor or blender, combine remaining ingredients, and mix until mostly smooth.  

Pour over cabbage mixture and thoroughly mix. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

THE BEST FLAN EVER!! "El imposible"

Flan is a traditional Mexican custard - somewhat akin to a creme bruleĆ©.  In Mexico, it is called "el imposible" which translates as 'the impossible', because it is SO hard to get it right.  
My family, well, we REALLY like flan, and for years I've used a fussy and very elaborate recipe.  The draw back was that it used a ton of cream, and took a lot of time, and sometimes the texture was just a bit off.  Yesterday however, - New Year's day no less, I found THE FLAN recipe.  I'll never look back.  
It is the HOLY GRAIL of flan.  Flavor, creaminess, TEXTURE..., and ease, oh my - this is it. 

We invited some friends from Mexico join us for dinner (I'm always nervous serving my Mexican cooking to natives since I know so many great Mexican cooks), and served carne asada (marinated in mojo), black beans and rice, with pico de gallo, along with the tortilla land tortillas from Costco that you have to cook yourself (if you  haven't tried them yet, you really should).  

 One of our guests, Ben said this, "you know when you go to an opera and the whole thing is exquisite, but then there are those few super high notes that you savor and they take you to a whole new level, and you go home completely content - especially because of those few exceptionally amazing notes?  That's what the carne asada and flan were for me tonight".  High praise indeed.   
Really - the picture above was taken by one of our guests - he couldn't cut into it until he took a photo.   

I think my guests might be embarrassed if they knew that I told everyone that they each ate 3-4 servings of the flan.  So, I won't tell you - I'll just let you wonder how much they really did eat.  

Did I mention the ease of this recipe?  
If not - here it is.  This is a non-fussy very easy 5 ingredient flan recipe.  And I had everything on hand - and chances are, you do too. 

Here we go
1.5 c. white sugar
2 cans evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 eggs
2 t. vanilla

Heat oven to 325*
Place sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Begin to heat on low and allow sugar to melt. This is a slow process, and you must tilt and turn the pan swirling the sugar back and forth to help the melting process. Continue until syrup turns a deep amber. Quickly pour into an 8 x 8 glass pan or ramekins. Tilt and coat the bottom and sides before it hardens. 

Place the milks, eggs, and vanilla into a blender.  Blend until well mixed. 
Pour into prepared (with sugar coating) pan (or ramekins). 

Place 8x8 pan (or ramekins) into a 9x13 glass pyrex or similar type pan and place in oven.  Carefully  add approx. 3 cups of water to the 9x13 pan to create a water bath - water should surround and nearly reach the top of the sides of the 8x8 baking dish.  

Bake for 60 minutes. 

Remove from oven (carefully) and gently remove flan baking dish from water bath.  Flan may still seem jiggly.  Allow to cool on wire rack for approx. 30 minutes, then cover gently with plastic wrap (lightly sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking), and place on wire rack in refrigerator for an additional 2-3 hours or more so that it can completely set.  

To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Set in hot water for a few minutes, or gently heat bottom of baking dish on the stove for a few seconds to thin the syrup. Invert onto a serving dish, allowing syrup to run over flan.  Spoon syrup onto each serving.