Friday, March 30, 2007

Easy (and Cute) Mini-Bagel Sandwiches

I usually don't refer to food as "cute", but how can any sandwich made with a mini-bagel not be cute? I was looking for two things tonight when deciding what to make for dinner. First, I wanted to use up 4 oz. of cream cheese in my fridge. Second, I wanted something simple that didn't require any cooking or baking. This recipe for Roasted Red Pepper on Mini-Bagel Sandwiches fit the bill. These are really yummy. They aren't anything out of the ordinary, but they taste good and they're easy to make. And don't forget...they're cute.

This would be a good finger food to take to a picnic or serve at a party.

Roasted Red Pepper on Mini-Bagel Sandwiches

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

1 (8 oz.) pkg. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup minced green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves -- minced
12 mini bagels -- halved and toasted
1 (12-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers -- rinsed, drained, and chopped

Combine first 5 ingredients.

Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over cut sides of bagels. Arrange the chopped red bell peppers evenly over bottom halves of bagels; top with top halves of bagels. Cut each sandwich in half.

Notes: I halved the recipe. I still used the whole 1/8 tsp. of black pepper, though. I used a 7 oz. bottle of roasted red peppers, too.

I Heart

One can never have too many travel books or cookbooks, right?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Since I like to bake a lot of goodies, I tend to cook primarily from lower-fat/lower-calorie magazines such as Cooking Light to counterbalance the effects of being a baking addict. In my perfect world, eating laden-with-fat cookies and lower-fat entrees is the way of life.

I had a bottle of roasted red bell peppers in my pantry screaming, "Use me, please. I've been sitting here in the dark for over six months now." Well, that wish was granted this evening when I decided to make Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. This is so quick and easy to make, and it's a really tasty chicken dish. I halved the amount of chicken and spices in the original recipe below yet I still made the whole amount of roasted red pepper sauce. There was enough sauce for the two chicken breasts I cooked, but if you ask me, there definitely wouldn't be enough sauce for four. The sauce cooks down as it simmers. Cooking Light is rather notorious for its recipes almost always needing more sauce than written. If you make the full recipe using four chicken breast halves, definitely double the sauce.

I decided not to use any Parmesan cheese, but if you do, make sure to use real Parmesan cheese...freshly grated...not the yucky stuff in the green can. I served this with orzo and steamed broccoli. I forgot how much I love orzo, and it's perfect with this. Although I steamed some fresh broccoli since I had some I needed to use up in the fridge, I think this would be really good with green beans or zucchini, too.

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (6 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 (7 oz.) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained
1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Add chicken to pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side.

While chicken cooks, place broth, vinegar, and bell peppers in a food processor; process until smooth. Add bell pepper mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Uncover and simmer 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Sprinkle servings evenly with cheese.

Yield: 4 servings

Happy Birthday George!!!

My chocolate-loving Scottish pal George (also known as my friend Shareen's hubby) is celebrating his birthday today, so I want to send him all the warm wishes and birthday cheer he can handle from this side of the pond all the way to (suburban) London.

And because no birthday wish is fulfilled without a (tacky MySpace graphic) chocolate cake...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Chubby Hubby Cookies

I was contemplating what to do with the peanuts and pretzels I had leftover from last night's dinner. As I was looking though my electronic file of recipes, I came across these Chubby Hubby Cookies from last year's Christmas cookie contest in the St. Petersburg Times.

I admit pure skepticism about this recipe at first glance. I kept looking at it, more specifically at the last ingredient, and thinking, "This is too weird. Just how good can cookies with crushed pretzels in them taste?"

The answer? AWESOME!!! These cookies are fantastic. They are quite toothsome with a crunchy outside and a slightly chewy middle. When you first bite into them, the first thing you notice is the peanutty flavor. Then you notice a faint saltiness and crunch from both the peanuts and the crushed pretzels. The chocolate is noticeable but more as a background flavor to compliment the cookie instead of overpowering it.

For those of you who like Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream, I would be curious to know how these cookies taste in comparison. The thought of crunchy pretzels in frozen ice cream doesn't sound appealing to me, but since I now know not to judge a recipe by it's pretzels, maybe I should give it a try sometime.

Chubby Hubby Cookies

Source: Adapted from St. Petersburg Times

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1 cup crushed pretzels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Blend into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate and peanut butter chips, peanuts and pretzels.

(At this point, I wrapped the bowl of dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.)

Drop heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 13 minutes, or until edges are lightly brown and centers are still soft. Do not overbake. Cool one minute on cookie sheet, and cool completely on wire racks. Store in tightly covered container.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen.

Notes: I halved this recipe (halved all the ingredients except the egg and pinch of salt). I still used 1 whole egg and a small pinch of salt. I got exactly 21 cookies which is the correct yield for a halved batch of these cookies. I also mounded the cookie batter instead of dropping it by heaping tablespoons.

One week 'til Washington D.C.

...and I still haven't completely figured out my itinerary. The two main reasons for my visit are seeing my friend Kelly and seeing the cherry blossom trees, so anything else really is a bonus. The museum that I really, really wanted to see is under renovation until summer 2008. Go figure. Oh, well...what can you do?

All I know as of right now is that Kelly and I are having drinks one night at Hotel Washington (check out that view!) and I'm treating her to Easter brunch at Old Ebbitt Grill before I hop the next plane to Chicago to meet up with Mike. Sometime during the four days I will be in D.C., we plan to visit old town Alexandria, Arlington National Cemetery, and take either a bus tour or boat tour of all the monuments by moonlight, too. We're waiting to hear back from my congressman's office to see if we'll be able to take a tour of the White House and the Capitol, too. I'm really excited. We're going to figure out what days she can come see me out in Vancouver this summer, too. She has frequent flyer miles to use, and I'm glad she's using them to come see me in beautiful B.C. (In full disclosure, she has friends that live in the Vancouver suburb of Delta that she's coming out to visit, too.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pretzels, Peanuts and Chicken

Believe it or not, these ingredients combined make one fabulous chicken dish.

When I got this month's issue of Better Homes & Gardens and saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. (Why do I get BH&G when I neither have a home nor a garden? Well, I'm not quite sure.)


The chicken is easy to make with only five ingredients. It is a bit messy with the egg and crumb mixture, though, but that's half the fun of cooking...making the mess that results in the yummy final product.

The original recipe called for unsalted peanuts, but I used salted Planters cocktail peanuts and would do so again. The original recipe also called for an optional 1/4 tsp. - 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper. If you want more flavor and a bit of heat, definitely use 1/2 tsp. like I did. If you want to make this family-friendly, though, you will probably want to omit the crushed red pepper altogether. I used refrigerated egg product because I just happened to have it on hand, but if you don't, you can substitute 2 whole eggs or 4 egg whites in its place. I did not make the couscous, but I included it in the post below since it was part of the original recipe.

The dipping sauce it fantastic, and it's non-fat, too. I made steamed broccoli florets to go alongside the chicken tenderloins and would do so again. The dipping sauce is good with both the chicken and the broccoli. Next time, I may add some oven-roasted potatoes and/or a fruit salad to round out the meal, but the chicken and broccoli was all I wanted to make and eat tonight.

Chicken with Pretzels and Couscous

Source: Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, March 2007

1 cup pretzel sticks
2/3 cup salted peanuts
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed
1 lb. chicken breast tenderloins
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (16 oz.) pkg. frozen sweet peppers and onion stir-fry vegetables
1/2 cup uncooked couscous
2 T. seasoned rice vinegar
1 T. canola oil
1 recipe Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1-inch pan with foil; coat with nonstick cooking spray; set pan aside. Place pretzels, 1/2 cup peanuts, and crushed red pepper in food processor. Cover; process until coarsely ground; transfer to resealable plastic bag.

Place egg product in shallow dish. Dip chicken tenderloins into egg product. Allowing excess egg product to drip off, transfer tenderloins, half at a time, to bag with crumb mixture. Seal bag; turn to coat chicken pieces. Arrange chicken in prepared pan. Bake chicken for 10 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink (170 degrees F).

Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine broth and stir-fry vegetables. Bring to boiling. Stir in couscous; remove from heat. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Chop remaining peanuts. Stir peanuts, rice vinegar, and oil into couscous mixture. Serve couscous mixture with chicken and dipping sauce.

Makes 6 servings.

Dipping Sauce

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt, 2 T. yellow mustard, and 2 tsp. honey.

Notes: I needed the full 15 minutes cooking time for the chicken tenderloins.



Tuesday Tipsy Treat

Say that three times fast!!!

Oh, I had such high hopes for a chewy bar cookie with this recipe. My hopes were shattered, though, when a snack cake emerged from the oven instead. I had a feeling from the smooth, silky appearance of the batter that it was going to turn out more cake-like than a chewy bar cookie, though. Sadly, I was right. Sometimes I just hate being right.

The batter tastes wonderful (yes, I licked the spoon after I spread the batter in the pan) and the smell of these when they're baking is heavenly. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure that heaven smells like this. The glaze is like that of a glazed donut...a glazed donut spiked with bourbon, that it. I love the crackly, sugary glaze. It adds a nice boozy sweetness.

This "snack cake" tastes divine. It is delicious. I was only disappointed in the recipe because I thought it would have the chewy texture of a bar cookie. After all, it did come from a cookbook called "Bar Cookies A to Z". Oh, well. If you are looking for a great snack cake to take to a gathering or to an office meeting, this would be a great choice. If you're looking for a boozy bar cookie, you'll have to keep looking...this is NOT it.

Bourbon & Maple Bars

Source: Bar Cookies A to Z – Marie Simmons

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13-x-9-inch baking pan.

To make the batter:

Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light. Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla until blended. Combine the maple syrup and bourbon; add in a slow, steady stream, beating gently until blended.

Stir in the flour mixture until blended. Add the pecans or walnuts; stir to blend.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack, and glaze the bars while still warm.

To make the glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the maple syrup and bourbon. Add the liquids to the confectioners’ sugar, stirring until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the warm bar cookies, spreading it into a thin, even layer. Cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

Notes: Make sure to use pure maple syrup, not maple-flavored pancake syrup. I halved this recipe and baked it in an 8x8-inch pan. I also used pecans since I don’t like walnuts. My bars needed exactly 30 minutes to bake. I let them cool completely and then wrapped in plastic wrap to sit overnight for best flavor before cutting into bars.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Easy vegetarian dinner from leftover ingredients

In an effort to use up leftover ingredients from recent recipes I've made, I decided to make these Black Bean Rice Burgers tonight for dinner. Actually, I have wanted to make these for a while now, but I never seemed to have all of the ingredients on hand. Tonight I just happened to have everything I needed in my fridge, in my pantry and sitting on my counter. I had leftover hamburger buns from the Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches and leftover sour cream and salsa from the Fiesta Chicken Pasta, so I decided to use them up in this recipe.

The original recipe had no chili powder or ground cumin in it, but I added 1/4 teaspoon of each since I wanted these burgers to have a nice smoky flavor. I also used a medium salsa to add more flavor and heat than a mild salsa would.

Make sure you coat your nonstick skillet generously with cooking spray to avoid sticking. Also, use a thin spatula and make sure you get it all the way under each of the whole burgers before flipping over gently. They're somewhat fragile and may lose their shape a little bit when you flip them, but they are really forgiving, so it's easy to reshape them by flattening them and patting around the outer perimeter with the spatula.

The sour cream/salsa mixture that accompanies these burgers is fantastic. Not only does it add flavor, but it also adds moisture, too. I think the burgers alone would be a bit blah and dry without it.

Serve with Veggie Crisps and purple and green grapes.

Black Bean Rice Burgers

Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup salsa, divided
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
4 lettuce leaves
4 hamburger buns, split

In a large bowl, mash beans with a fork. Add the rice, onion, egg, 2 tablespoons salsa, chili powder and cumin; mix well. Drop by 1/2 cupfuls into a large nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Flatten to 1/2-in. thickness. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until firm and browned.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream and remaining salsa. Place a lettuce leaf, burger and sour cream mixture on bun.

Yield: 4 servings

They're Here!!! They're Here!!!

Two weeks until opening day at Wrigley Field, and Mike's and my tickets came today. Thank you, Mr. FedEx man for delivering them (and thank you for being so nice and cute, too).

Oh, yeah...Go CUBS!!!

I love Paris in the springtime...

Oh, who am I kidding...I love Paris any time of the year (except for the hot, touristy months of July and August). Less than a month and I'll be in France. Yippee!!!

The crocus flowers are blooming now as the weather is warmer in Paris sooner than usual.

Picture from

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Black and White Brownies for Kristen

My friend Kristen is gracing me with her presence later this evening, and since I know how much she loves brownies (and since I really had the urge to bake late last night), I knew just what recipe I wanted to make for her.

I love Lindt White Coconut White Chocolate bars. I have made other recipes in the past using them, and I figured this would be a perfect recipe to incorporate them into as well. In general, I am not a fan of white chocolate. I never understood how people simply ate it and swooned over it. Then, I tried Lindt which made me realize just how good "quality" white chocolate could be. (My friend Colleen introduced me to Milky Bars, a fantastic British white chocolate bar, which I love, too, but that's a whole different topic in itself. You can buy Milky Bars at Cost Plus World Market or you can order them here. I prefer to fly to London and buy them there. LOL.)

The original recipe below called for 1 cup of white chocolate chips. If you decide to use chips instead of chopped white chocolate like I did, look for white chocolate chips, not white baking chips. There is a big difference in taste and quality of the final product if you use white chocolate chips (although white baking chips would be fine, too).

These brownies baked up really fudgy (or is it "fudgey"?) in the middle with a shiny, crackly top. The sides of the brownies puffed up really high while baking and never came down to the same level as the rest of the pan (even after cooling completely and sitting overnight), so I did cut off about 1/2-inch around the perimeter before cutting the remaining pan of brownies into 9 squares. Of course, I had to sample the edges I cut off, and this is one fantastic brownie. The sides were chewier and cooked a little bit more than the middle of the pan. These brownies are way too gooey in the middle for me, but luckily, I know Kristen prefers them that way. I, myself, am a chewy-in-the-middle, shiny-and-crackly-on-the-top kind of girl.

Concensus: If you like fudgy (fudgey?), gooey brownies, then this is the recipe for you. If you like your brownies chewy or cakey, I wouldn't recommend this recipe, though. The chopped white coconut white chocolate adds a really nice subtle coconut flavor, so if you like coconut and can find these Lindt bars, I would recommend using them. I have found them at both Walgreen's and Bed, Bath & Beyond. If you're more of a traditionalist, you can leave the white chocolate out altogether.

Black and White Brownies

Source: Adapted from Sunset

1/3 cup salted butter
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 T. water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (6 oz.) chopped white chocolate bars*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 2- to 3-quart pan over low heat, frequently stir butter and semisweet chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, water and vanilla extract. Sift flour and baking soda together in a small bowl; add to chocolate mixture and mix just until blended. Cool about 15 minutes, then stir in the chopped white chocolate. (Adding the white chocolate any sooner will cause it to melt into the chocolate brownie batter.)

Spread batter evenly in a buttered and floured 8-inch square baking pan.

Bake until edges feel firm to the touch and begin to turn a shade darker, 25 to 30 minutes.

Run a knife between pan rim and brownie. Let cool in pan on a rack, about 1 hour. Cut into 9 large or 16 small squares.

Yield: Makes 9 or 16 brownies.

Notes: I used salted butter instead of the usual unsalted butter since the recipe didn't have any other added salt. If you use Lindt Excellence White Coconut White Chocolate bars, you will need to purchase two (3.5 oz.) bars to fulfill the amount needed for this recipe. (You will have some left over, so just eat it and enjoy.) I let the brownies cool completely and sit overnight wrapped in plastic wrap before cutting into bars.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Happy 4th Birthday, Tyler!!!

It's Big T's 4th birthday today and he's enjoying it riding on the train and zooming around high-in-the-sky on the flying Dumbo ride at Walt Disney World. [Tyler ("Big T") is my friend Luisa's firstborn son.]

Auntie Mindy loves you and hopes you have a wonderful birthday. (Remind your mommy to send me some pictures from your excellent Walt Disney World birthday adventure, too.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friend, Neighbor, Gift-Giver

My friend and neighbor Colleen and I had our last official "Girl's Veggie Pizza Night" tonight. She is moving all of her stuff to Huntsville tomorrow afternoon. Alas, she will be back next week to clean her apartment, leave her job and have dinner at Seasons 52 with me. YAY...I'm looking forward to it already.

We all know it's hard to find a good friend (and neighbor) these days, so I just wanted to let you know what kind of friend Colleen has been to me.

Colleen's the kind of friend and neighbor who...

Calls just to say hello and ask how your day was

Remembers your birthday

Sends thank you notes and sympathy cards

Picks you up at the MARTA station or drives you to the airport

Picks up your mail while you are on vacation

Get excited about going to Cost Plus World Market, Whole Foods and Ten Thousand Villages with you

I am so appreciative for all you have done for me and all you have meant to me. I'll miss you!!! Should I decide to move back to Atlanta after my time in Vancouver, you're always welcome to come stay with me (in an actual house yet to be purchased) for the weekend and we'll hit all the hot shopping spots and new, trendy restaurants around town.

Colleen surprised me tonight with a gift card from Ten Thousand Villages. It won't be the same going there without her in tow, but nonetheless I am looking forward to spending it.

Thanks again for EVERYTHING, Colleen!!!

Fiesta Chicken Pasta and Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

After a busy day yesterday, I was too tired to post what I made for dinner for me and Kurt (who had yet another townhouse showing) last night. I was not in the mood to make anything labor-intensive (then again, I never am), and I remembered this recipe for Fiesta Chicken Pasta that I have wanted to make for a while now. While by no means gourmet, it sure was yummy, in fact, that Kurt asked to take the leftovers home for lunch today. I didn't change a thing as the recipe below is perfect as written. Since I knew Kurt is a fan of "normal" food, I figured this would be decent enough to serve him. I didn't realize I would like it as much as he did, though. This is an easy-to-make meal that would be good for a weeknight dinner or even for somebody who doesn't like to cook who is looking for a tasty meal to make.

In an effort to use up the remaining Italian dressing, I served the pasta with a side salad of romaine, red onions and cucumber. I used the remaining shredded cheddar cheese to make Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits which are always a welcome addition to any meal.

Fiesta Chicken Pasta

Source: Kraft Food and Family Magazine

2 cups rotini pasta, uncooked

1 tablespoon oil

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

2 cups chopped red peppers (about 2 medium)

1/4 cup Italian dressing

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta as directed on package.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken. Cook and stir 6 minutes. Add peppers, dressing and chili powder; cook 3 minute or until chicken is cooked through, stirring frequently. Stir in salsa and sour cream.

Drain pasta. Toss with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

(Picture taken before being sprinkled with cheese.)

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Source: Adapted from Tampa Tribune recipe (CopyKat recipe creator)

2 1/2 cups Bisquick baking mix
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold salted butter
1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup cold milk (I used 1%)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Brush on Top:
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a large fork. You don't want to mix too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter in there that are about the size of peas. Add cheddar cheese, milk and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Mix by hand until combined, but don't overmix.

Drop approximately 1/4-cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.

When you take the biscuits out of the oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and parsley flakes. Use a pastry brush to spread the garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits.

Makes 12 biscuits.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Isn't she lovely?

Isn't she wonderful?

Isn't she precious?

(Paging Stevie Wonder.)

My friend Bridget gave birth to her third daughter on Monday, March 19th at 3:45 a.m. Caroline Rene weighed in at 7 lbs. 10 oz. and is 19 1/4 inches long. Mom and baby are healthy, and big sisters Maddy and Ellie are over-the-moon thrilled to have a new sister. No word yet on the condition of daddy Wes. It's time to pull the white flag out and're outnumbered 4 to 1. :)

Congratulations to Bridget and Wes!!!

Thanks again, Mr. Pyrex Loaf Pan!!!

Yet another success using my new best baking friend, Mr. Pyrex Loaf Pan. You've been hidden away in my kitchen cabinet abyss for way too long.

I found this recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Bread on the Bake or Break blog a few weeks ago, and since I have a stockpile of cinnamon to use up before I head out west, I decided to make it. It is so moist and delicious. (I can't believe I'm saying this, but this recipe is even better than the Vanilla Coconut Quick Bread I made a few days ago. But really, who can go wrong with two great quick bread recipes?)

Use the strongest cinnamon in your kitchen pantry for best flavor. (Every pantry should have high-quality, flavorful cinnamon in it, or you can buy it here.) I used Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon from Penzey's and Nielsen-Massey Mexican pure vanilla extract to both maximize and enhance the cinnamon taste of this bread. This bread is so good I had two pieces (a BIG no-no) for breakfast this morning. I gave the rest to my friend Kurt so I wouldn't eat it all. As usual, he was a very gracious recipient.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Source: Adapted from Bake or Break blog/BH&G Christmas Baking

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Mexican pure vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease/flour/spray the bottom and sides of a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Combine 1/3 cup of sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Combine 1 cup of sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat egg. Then, stir in milk, oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the egg mixture. Stir just until mixed. Do not overmix.

Pour half of the batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon mixture. Repeat. With a wide rubber scraper or spatula, swirl mixtures together with a down and up circular motion.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Then, cool completely on a wire rack.

My notes: It took my loaf 55 minutes to bake. I added Mexican vanilla extract to the recipe (the original recipe didn't have any vanilla extract in it). I baked this last night and let it sit overnight (wrapped in plastic wrap) before cutting into slices and eating it. All quick breads taste better if you bake them a day before and let the flavors come together overnight before serving.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Busy Day, Easy Dinner

After a day consisting of waking up early, volunteering, researching and making online hotel reservations for three hotels (for a trip overseas to the Christmas markets in December), running errands and exercising, I wanted a quick, easy dinner. Since it's gotten really warm here (the A/C is back on again) and I didn't feel like "cooking", I thought I would make Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches for dinner tonight. I made prep time even simpler by picking up a rotisserie chicken at Publix on my way home today. Serve with Veggie Crisps and a BIG glass of Simply Lemonade for a delicious, filling and easy dinner. I'm already looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

1/4 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breasts)
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted cashews
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
Salt and white pepper, to taste
2 (2-ounce) whole wheat hamburger buns

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Add chicken, celery, cashews, and green onions; stir well. Add salt and white pepper, to taste. Serve chicken salad on buns.

Yield: 2 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup chicken salad and 1 bun)

Notes: I used rotisserie chicken and Tandoori Seasoning from Penzey’s.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Vanilla Coconut Quick Bread

I had a package of unsweetened coconut and an unopened bottle of coconut extract in my pantry, and over the weekend I was trying to figure out what I could make to use up the coconut and put a dent in using up the coconut extract. After a quick internet search, I came across this recipe for Vanilla Coconut Quick Bread.


My poor loaf pan barely gets used, so after a 15-minute search through three different kitchen cabinets, I finally found it. I baked this recipe yesterday and let it sit overnight before cutting into it (with a serrated knife, of course) for breakfast this morning. It's perfect as written...don't change a thing. The coconut flavor is fantastic. It has a nice crunchy crust (thanks to a generous spray of cooking spray in the loaf pan) and the middle is perfect...not overly moist, but by no means dry. Make sure to use a finely shredded unsweetened coconut, not the stringy sweetened coconut (like Baker's) you find on the baker's aisle in your local grocery store. You can find the unsweetened coconut in either health stores or specialty grocers like Whole Foods. You may be able to find Bob's Red Mill brand in your regular grocery store's organic section, too.

Your kitchen and house will smell fantastic as this bread is baking, too.

Vanilla Coconut Quick Bread

Source: The Vanilla.COMpany

1 1/4 cups (about 2 1/2 ounces) shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons coconut extract
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet; toast, shaking the pan once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, coconut, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, combine the milk, oil, eggs, coconut extract, and vanilla. Beat hard with a whisk until frothy. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in. Stir well with a large spatula until evenly incorporated; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan. Bake in the center of the preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top surface will be crusty and firm to the touch, the sides deep brown. Let rest in the pan 10 minutes.

Turn the loaf out onto a rack, right side up, to cool completely before slicing. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.

Makes one 9x5-inch loaf.

Notes: Be sure to use unsweetened coconut rather than sweetened, as the sweetened is too moist for this recipe.

Happy Birthday, Kelly B.!!!

It's my friend Kelly B.'s (34th!!!) birthday today, so I'm sending lots of birthday cheer from Hotlanta to him 6 1/2 hours south in O-Town!!! Have a wonderful day, KJB!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Got chocolate?

If your name is Willy Wonka or you just happen to have a lot of chocolate in your pantry, have I got the ideal cookie recipe for you!!! There is 1-1/3 pounds of chocolate in this recipe. Yes, you heard me right...a whopping 1-1/3 pounds. I take no responsibility whatsoever for any cavities, break-outs or gained pounds should you decide to make these cookies.

I used quality ingedients...Ghirardelli chocolate, Plugra butter, King Arthur Flour espresso powder and Nielsen-Massey Mexican pure vanilla extract. These cookies are crackly on the outside and chewy on the inside just like a perfect brownie should be yet conveniently formed into individual cookies. The espresso powder brings out the depth of the chocolate flavor and the Mexican vanilla extract adds a creamy, spicy flavor. (FYI...Mexican vanilla extract is best used in recipes containing chocolate and/or cinnamon.) A little bit of chocolate goes a long way for me, as I am not a self-proclaimed chocoholic, but these are superb; however, one cookie was more than enough for me. They're rich but not overly sweet. Next time your sweet tooth can't decide between baking cookies or brownies, make these as they're sure to satisfy your craving for both.

Triple-Chocolate Cookies

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Country, June/July 2005

Makes 26 cookies

The key to the fudgy texture of these cookies is letting them cool directly on the baking sheets. Avoid using bittersweet bar chocolate – the cookies will be too rich and won’t hold their shape.

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups bittersweet chocolate chips
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Melt unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chips, and butter in heatproof bowl set over saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently, until completely smooth and glossy. Remove bowl from pan and set aside to cool slightly.

Stir coffee powder and vanilla extract together in small bowl until dissolved. Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla-coffee mixture and beat until incorporated, 20 seconds. Reduce speed to low, add chocolate mixture, and mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Using large rubber spatula, fold flour mixture and semisweet chips into batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes until batter firms up (it will more closely resemble thick brownie batter than cookie dough).

Meanwhile, adjust two oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 heaping tablespoon batter per cookie, place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are shiny and cracked on top, 11 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time. Transfer baking sheets to racks and cool cookies completely, on baking sheets, before serving.

Additional notes: I got 36 cookies from this recipe. The batter thickens the longer it sits. I actually think the second batch of cookies I made was better than the first batch because the batter was stiffer. You definitely need to use a cookie scoop for this recipe.

503 Goals

Mike Modano scored two goals, passing Joe Mullen to become the highest scoring American-born player with 503 career goals in Dallas' 3-2 loss to Nashville. Modano trails only Phil Housley for points scored by an American-born player. Housley had 1,232 points in his 1,495-game career. Modano has 1,217 points.

(Picture from Dallas Stars website. Statistical information from Dallas Stars website and

Happy Mothering Sunday, Shareen!!!

It's Mothering Sunday in Great Britain today, and I just wanted to say "Happy Mothering Sunday!!!" to my friend Shareen who lives outside of London. (I'll update this post with a picture of her precious daughter Laura when I get a newer picture of her. She's so cute it almost makes me want a child.)
Nah...just kidding.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Mothering Sunday, here is some additional information:

Mothering Sunday has been celebrated in Britain on the fourth Sunday in Lent since at least the 16th century. The custom possibly originated in the church festival of "Refreshment Sunday" when everyone was expected to revisit the church in which they were baptised, their "mother church." Many people worked away from home as servants in the homes of the wealthy so had to be given a day off to visit their home church and would naturally also be able to visit their families on this occasion; eventually this became the prime purpose of this annual visit and so "Mothering Sunday" was born.

Updated on Monday, March 19th:
I got a long, lovely email from Shareen this morning (wow, is she busy!), and she attached new pictures of Laura. Look at her fantastic red curls!!! She sure has grown since I last saw her, but I still swoon when I see her. Many (((hugs))) to Shareen, George and Laura "LuLu".

Here's LuLu the Beautiful:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The lovely Chicago River:

Friday, March 16, 2007

Baby, it's cold outside...

...and I'm not complaining one bit!!! I actually like cold weather. After having the A/C on for the past three days, I'll take what Mother Nature's giving us for the next few days. I can once again pull my Earl Grey Cream Tea out of the pantry and enjoy it. I love this tea. To surround yourself with ultimate warmth and comfort, add two Mini-Moo's and one packet of Stevia to one large mug of hot tea and put on your favorite pair of fuzzy socks and tattered flannel nightgown. Life doesn't get much better than this on a cold spring night. So, as I sip my yummy tea, I am going to sign off for the night and watch one of the many movies on my TiVo. I have narrowed it down to North Country, Match Point or The Constant Gardener. I'm off to flip my three-headed coin to decide. ;P

Spicy and Delicious

I came across a can of pickled jalapeños in my pantry that surely I bought for a reason, but I don't remember what exactly that reason is...of course it was for a recipe, but what recipe? (This getting older thing really stinks sometimes.) As I was browsing some old issues of Cook's Country the other night, I came across this recipe for Jalapeño Chicken Salad. It looked too good to pass up. Maybe this was the recipe for which I originally bought the pickled jalapenos??? Since I also had a lot of fresh cilantro and a half lime remaining from Wednesday night's appetizer-turned-dinner (see Salsa Guacamole recipe), it was a no-brainer to make it. I made it for dinner last night and ate it again for lunch today. It was delicious last night, but I thought it tasted even better this afternoon after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. This is the best chicken salad recipe I have made in a long time. Well, to be honest, the last time I made chicken salad was last summer, so suffice to say, this is the only chicken salad recipe I have made in a long time. It is easy to prepare and the pickled jalapeños add a nice kick of both heat and flavor. Even if you like your food on the seriously spicy side, I wouldn't use any more than the recipe suggests, though. If you like things more on the mild side, I would recommend using about half that amount (2 tablespoons). That would be enough to add flavor but not too much heat. If you're a real wussy, you could use even less or none at all. I think this would be a great basic chicken salad recipe without the jalapeños, too. Since I had a few flour tortillas sitting around from the chicken enchiladas recipe I decided not to make, I made a tortilla bowl, too. It's adds a nice presentation, and it's yummy to eat at the end of the meal after all of the chicken salad is gone.

Jalapeño Chicken Salad

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Country magazine, August/September 2005

2/3 cup light mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1/2 medium celery rib, chopped fine

1/2 small red onion, chopped fine

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeños, chopped fine

Salt and pepper

Mix mayonnaise and lime juice in a small bowl until combined. Toss chicken, celery, onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and jalapeños in large bowl. Add mayonnaise mixture and toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Note: To make tortilla bowl (see picture below), spray both sides of a large flour tortilla with nonstick cooking spray. Toast tortilla in nonstick skillet over medium heat until spotty brown on both sides but still soft, about 3-4 minutes. Using tongs, drape tortilla over small overturned bowl. Place second overturned bowl over tortilla and cool completely.


In an attempt to mention Vancouver and anything Vancouver-related as much as possible, I just wanted to let my blog readers who are Nickelback fans know that the sold-out (yes, I said sold-out) concert scheduled for tonight has been postponed.

I don't know what scares me more...the fact that Chad Kroeger's strained voice could actually sound worse than his regular voice or the fact that he and his band truly think they are going to rock this town. (See below.)

Get better soon, Chad. For some reason an estimated 13,100 fans now have a reason to look forward to next Thursday night. I'll be home watching The Office, but have a great show anyway.

From Nickelback's website:




Due to vocal strain, Nickelback has decided to postpone their sold out show originally scheduled for tonight at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. Last night at their sold out show in N. Charleston, singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger strained his voice and had to make a tough decision. “Atlanta is one of our favorite places to play. The fans are especially good to us here and we want to make sure they get the full Nickelback show. We will be back on Thursday ready to rock this town!”

All tickets for tonight’s sold out show will be honored for Thursday March 22nd show. At the time of this release Three Days Grace is able to make the rescheduled date. No word on if Breaking Benjamin will be able to make the new date.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Birthday, Raine!!!

My friend Deb's daughter Raine (pronounced "rainy") turns 6 today, so I want to send happy birthday wishes and a big hug out to her in Iowa.

Have a wonderful birthday, Raine!!! I'm looking forward to seeing you and the rest of your family in Washington state in July. (Remind your mom to let me know what dates you all will be there so I can buy a plane ticket from Vancouver to Spokane.)

Get happy birthday images for MySpace at Plasterize!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kurt and his townhouse

My friend Kurt has been through he!! recently in his quest to sell his townhouse. (The letter "l" has been replaced with "!" in case there are any internet-savvy toddlers surfing the web and reading my blog. Auntie Mindy only uses four-letter words in the presence of adults.) In the midst of conversation (and many laughs) tonight, Kurt and I both decided a short list of rules needed to be made, and he would like for you to keep the following in mind should you be looking to buy his townhouse:

If you cannot afford to buy a townhouse, do not waste the realtor's or Kurt's time. Heck, if you know you have a lot of debt and cannot be approved for a home loan, why are you wasting your time, too?

If you want three bedrooms and you know in advance that the townhouse you are looking at only has two bedrooms, do not expect another bedroom to magically appear just because you want a third bedroom. Again, do not waste the realtor's, Kurt's or your time.

And, last but not least...

If you think that a townhouse that is on the market for just below $200k is going to have every bell and whistle that you want your "dream home" to have, think again. Wanting a chandelier in the breakfast nook (yes, I said breakfast nook) or wanting a jacuzzi tub with a warming towel rack and a heated tile floor in the master bath is unreasonable to expect for that price. And simply not liking his furniture really doesn't matter. News flash: The furniture is going with him when he moves to Arizona.

Since Kurt's realtor had showings with two prospective buyers tonight, I decided to invite him over to hang out. We noshed on Salsa Guacamole while we talked and watched a travel show. I sent him home with a batch of Caramel-Butterscotch-Loaded Brownies to help ease the townhouse-selling blues.

Salsa Guacamole

Source: Muir Glen

1 can (14.5 oz.) Muir Glen organic fire roasted diced tomatoes, well drained
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small fresh jalapeño chile, seeded, finely chopped

3 ripe large avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

In medium bowl, stir together salsa ingredients.

In another medium bowl, place avocados; coarsely mash. Stir in remaining guacamole ingredients. Spoon guacamole into shallow serving bowl; top with salsa.

Serve with tortilla chips as desired.

Caramel-Butterscotch-Loaded Brownies

Source: Brownie Mix Bliss

1 19.5- to 19.8-ounce package brownie mix
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup water
2 large eggs
2 cups butterscotch-flavored baking chips, divided
24 caramels, unwrapped
2 T. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees F for dark-coated metal pan). Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Spray the bottom only of a 13x9-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray (or foil-line pan).

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the brownie mix, oil, water, and eggs with a wooden spoon until just blended and all dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in 1 cup butterscotch chips. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake 28-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out clean or almost clean (do not overbake). Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with remaining butterscotch chips. Return to oven for 1 minute to soften chips. Transfer to a wire rack and cool (do not spread melted chips).

In a medium saucepan set over low heat combine caramels and milk, stirring until melted and smooth; drizzle over brownies. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Cut into squares. Makes 24 large or 36 small brownies.