Date and Pecan Scones

Have you ever had a date?

I'm not talking about an outing with someone special and holding hands, hopefully laughing and cuddling a bit. I'm talking about the sweet fruit cultivated from a palm tree, that has been a staple in Middle Eastern diets for thousands of years. I don't know why, but I never thought of trying one, and for some reason always thought they sounded gross. I think I always associated dates and prunes to be similar, although they are far from it.

What sparked my interest was when I stumbled upon a new blog, Sprouted Kitchen, that I instantly fell in love with. The photography and recipes are stunning. I was immediately smitten and intrigued by this recipe for scones, and I made them almost instantly (the next morning, actually, but that's pretty impressive for me!).

These scones are beautiful. Simple to put together, and very subtle. They are not bold and in your face, but are perfect for quiet reflection. They make you want to sit very still, very quietly, and slowly savor each bite. They are not overly sweet, have a very delicate crumb, and just seem so sophisticated. Ladybug and I really enjoyed them with a bit of real butter melting on top, but I can imagine they would be phenomenal with a spot of clotted cream, too. If you haven't tried dates yet, or you haven't tried making your own scones yet, this would be a perfect opportunity to give both a try!

Date and Pecan Scones (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp  baking powder
1 tbsp wheat germ
1/3 cup chopped pecans
5 medjool dates, cut into small pieces
6 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 egg
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp orange zest
Turbinado sugar for garnish (or brown sugar)

Preaheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Mix your flour, oats, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and baking powders together.
Mix in the chopped pecans and dates.
Working quickly, mix your butter pieces into the flour mix with your fingers, pressing it all togeehr until you get small pebbles of butter mixed through the flour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, cream, and zest.
Add about 3/4 of this mixture to the flour and incorporate with as few stirs as possible.
Add more of the cream as needed until you get a shaggy dough that just holds itself together.
Pat it together and let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your counter, divide your dough in half, and make two disks that are about 1.5' thick.
Cut the disks into fourths and place them on the parchment paper.
Brush a bit of the remaining cream on the top of each one and sprinkle a few pinches of turbinado sugar on top.
Bake on the middle rack for 16-18 minutes, rotating the baking tray halfway through.
Remove to cool.

The Daring Bakers Make Truffles and Bonbons!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Shut the front door! Truffles and Bonbons?! How excited was I?!

I instantly had a bajillion ideas that I wanted to try! Unfortunately for me (or maybe fortunately, I can't decide) I just don't have that many people to share food with still, and I decided that having 3,000 homemade chocolates in my kitchen all to myself would be good for the soul, but not for my thighs. So I made myself choose TWO (it was so hard!) and stuck to that.

The first I made was not a tempered chocolate - I felt I needed to get my feet wet, first. It was a cut chocolate, kind of like a bar, and I went BOLD. I saw a recipe for Mayan Chocolate Truffles over at Nourished Kitchen and I knew instantly that I wanted to make these. Dark and bitter chocolate, sweet vanilla, zesty orange, smoky chipotle,  and hints of cinnamon and coconut. Whowza.

 I kind of freaked out at the instructions that said to roll the ganache into a log (um, yeah right!) and instead laid out my chocolates into a 9x13 casserole. Then I realized I should have used something smaller because my chocolates turned out really thin. But I actually really like them that way! I also recommend brushing off as much of the cocoa powder as you can, because otherwise it will try and kill you by coating your throat. Other than that, I really like these chocolates! I mean, utterly addicted! At first bite, they are harsh, bitter and spicy. Then slowly, the chocolate begins to melt in your mouth and you can taste the sweetness of the cinnamon, vanilla and coconut. And lastly, the orange zest and chipotle leave a warm tingling on your tongue. This is definitely grown up chocolate.

My second attempt was to recreate a childhood favorite of mine. In a quaint little corner of town (and later in the mall) was a place called Chocolaterie Stam, and they made a chocolate that I was gaga over. Milk chocolate in the shape of a maple leave, filled with a earl grey cream. I only occasionally got this little treat, and I haven't had one in years, so I thought it would be fun to try and make one myself! I couldn't find a recipe for what I wanted, so I totally winged it and made one myself!

It didn't out too bad, but I could have used waaaaay more earl grey flavor. I decided to try the seeding method of chocolate tempering, and it wasn't until I was halfway through that I realized that my candy thermometer doesn't register low enough temperatures! Ah! Sure, I can read temperatures up to 450 degrees, but try and read something that is 80 degrees and its a no-go! So I totally guessed at the temperatures, and of course I didn't temper it correctly and my chocolate bloomed. I'm going to blame it on the fact that I could not find any high quality chocolate here, so I used a bag I pulled off the shelf at Wal-Mart. That's probably why, right?

Also, after much cajoling and begging (ok, ok, she was actually excited) my best friend has JUST joined the Daring Bakers, and she has done a phenomenal job! Everyone head over to her blog, Modulating Up, and leave her some love! :)

Mayan Chocolate Truffles (Nourished Kitchen)

10 ounces 85% chocolate, chopped coursley
1 orange, zested
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 vanilla bean
dash of unrefined sea salt
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or butter)
cocoa powder, for dredging

In a large mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips, orange zest, cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, the contents of one vanilla bean and the salt.
Bring the coconut milk and coconut oil (or butter) to a slow simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.
Pour the warmed coconut milk and oil over the chopped chocolate and seasonings and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture becomes thick, uniform and glossy.
Transfer the mixture to a plate (or square baking pan) lined with parchment paper, molding it into a log as best you can, and allow it to harden in the fridge overnight.
After the chocolate has hardened in the refrigerator for at least 8-12 hours, remove, unmold, and carve into bite sized chunks.
Toss the chunks with cocoa powder, then brush off as much as you can, and serve.

Earl Grey Bon-Bons

6 ounces white chocolate
3 earl grey tea bags
1 cup cream
12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped finely

Prepare the filling:
Prepare a loaf pan by lining the inside with cling wrap.
In a small saute pan, add the cream and earl grey tea bags. Gently warm, without simmering, and let the tea infuse for a few minutes.
Add the white chocolate to the saucepan and stir with a rubber spatula until all the chocolate is melted and a smooth ganache has formed
Remove the tea bags.
Pour the ganache into the prepared loaf pan and let sit until hardened. (I added a few leaves of tea to the top of mine because I didn't think it had enough tea flavor).

Temper your chocolate:
Prep your double broiler - fill a small saucepan with a tad bit of water, and find a glass bowl that fits snugly on top. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the pan.
Bring the water up to a simmer, and add 2/3 of your chocolate into the bowl.
Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly.
Once the chocolate is melted, keep an eye on your thermometer. As soon as the temperature reaches 45C/113F, remove rom heat.
Add small amounts of the remaining 1/3 un-melted chocolate (seeds) and stir to melt.
Continue to add small amounts of the chocolate until you have brought the temperature down to 27C/80.6F.
Put the bowl back on the double burner and bring the temperature back up until it reaches its working temperature of 30C/86F. Be careful that it does not go above its working temperature or you will ruin the temper!

Remove the filling from the pan , pull away the cling wrap, and cut into squares.
Dip each square of filling into the tempered chocolate and shake off excess.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to harden.

Baked Ziti With Summer Squash

You may think that the dog days of August is a bad time for a baked pasta dish. But you would be wrong. Because this dish, while definitely heavy with marinara and melted cheese, is also a fantastic way to use those last few squash hanging out on your counter. And since this is another fabulous Weight Watchers recipe, this is also a good way to refuel (and feel full) after a day spent inspecting every rock you see, blowing bubbles, and exploring a great state park.

I will note that this dish did not stand up very well as leftovers. It could be due to the fact that they were zapped in the microwave instead of warmed in the oven, it could be due to the fact that my mother (who doesn't reheat leftovers often) almost killed it with a good 3 minutes in the microwave (silly Mom!), or it could be that they just suck as leftovers. Anyway you see it, just make enough for one meal and you will be happy.

Baked Ziti with Summer Squash (Weight Watchers)

4 ounces uncooked whole wheat pasta, zit or penne (about 2 cups)
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups fat free ricotta cheese
1 cu[ shredded fat free mozzarella cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spray an 8 inch square baking dish with non-stick spray
Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
Add the squash, zucchini, and garlic, and cook, stirring, for about 6 minutes.
Stir in the cooked pasta and marinara sauce.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and top evenly with the ricotta and mozzarella.
Bake until bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

Yields 5 servings, 1 1/2 cups each. 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus Points

Plum Torte

Lately I have found myself wanting to actually decorate my home. Before we have always had family photos displayed, a few candles here and there, some pottery that my brother made, but no real artwork. Looking through magazines, watching TV, and even online, you see homes that are beautifully decorated, they seem warm and cozy and reflective of their owners. Looking around my home you see mostly bare walls and what feel like empty spaces. Don't get me wrong, we have stuff. We actually have a lot of stuff, and the last thing we want to do is accumulate doodads and trinkets and 500 decorator pillows just to make our home seem "decorated". But I can't help feel that our home does not reflect who we are. If you took down our wedding pictures, people would probably have a hard time guessing that we lived there.

I've been trying to find some uniquely "us" art work to go over our headboard, and just can't seem to find it. What I really want is some sort of insanely biology/chemistry nerdy awesomeness, but all I have been able to find are cartoons (while cute and witty, not us), or photoelectron scans of diatoms, and while certainly nerdy, neon green and magenta aren't really us, either. My other issue has been attainability. I've found some awesome pieces of art out there, but I just can't shell out $1600 for something! Both physically and mentally. Thats a LOT of money to hang on the wall. I have this discussion with my brother all the time. Being an artist, he feels that the price of a piece of work should reflect its collectability, and while I agree, that means the less likely I am to buy it. See, while I want my house to look nice and inviting and reflect who my family is as individuals, I really can't justify spending anything more than pocket change on something that may look nice, but really is just a dust collector. And this is why my walls are bare.

So, the only thing left to do is to make my own art. I've been scrounging around the house trying to pull some DIY magic out of random things I find. I've gotten some fun ideas off of Etsy and Pinterest, and have been having a blast turning scraps into fun things. And while none of them are really art, I feel like they have added a little somethingsomething to our home, and I have thoroughly enjoyed making them!

This plum torte, on the other hand, is a work of art. I don't think I will ever be able to look at a plum again without my mouth watering for this tart. It's moist, its buttery, its juicy, its utterly believable. Ladybug and I ate the crap out of this thing, both as a breakfast, a mid-afternoon treat, and a before bed snack. It is beauty in its simplest form.

Plum Torte (The Naptime Chef)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour  (I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and added 2 tbsp of wheat germ )
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
12 plums, pitted and cut in half (italian or purple plums are best)
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy.
Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt.
When the flour is incorporated, increase to medium speed and mix well.
Spoon the batter into a 9" or 10" springform baking pan.
Arrange the plum halves skin side down in the batter.
Mix the cinnamon and 2 Tbsp sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the plums.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out lea.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing the springform pan.

Stove-top Cassoulet

This is seriously one of my favorite soups ever! I found it back this spring when I was doing Weight Watchers, and immediately fell in love with it. Even though its called a "cassoulet", it hardly resembles the hearty delicious artery clogging deliciousness I made before. This dish is bright and flavorful, light yet filling.
On another, completely different but slightly related topic - how the heck do you feed a toddler soup?! Ladybug can't quite work the spoon by herself, but heaven help you if you try and do it for her! I ended up just straining all the "soup" away and giving her the tidbits inside, but that totally defeats the purpose of having soup! This dilemma will have to be worked out soon, because fall is fast approaching (Can you believe its the middle of August already?!) and we will be having lots and lots of delicious hearty soups soon!

Stove-top Cassoulet (Weight Watchers) - 

2 tsp olive oil
1 lb skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
1/2 lb reduced fat turkey kielbasa, sliced into 1" coins
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium leek, cleaned and sliced thinly
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) canned diced tomatoes
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
2 cans (30 ounces) canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 bayleaf
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
3 tsp lemon zest

Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
Add the chicken and cook , turning occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the remaining 1 tsp of oil and the kielbasa to the dutch oven and cook over medium high heat until browned, about 4 minutes.
Add 2 of the minced garlic cloves, the leeks, the carrots, and the apple to the kielbasa in the dutch oven. 
Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.
Return the chicken to the dutch oven and add the tomatoes, broth, wine, beans, sugar, allspice, and bay leaf to the pot. 
Bring to a boil and then reduce - allow to simmer for 25 minutes, covered.
Combine the parlsey, lemon zest, and the remaining minced garlic together in a small bowl - set aside.
Discard the bay leaf from the cassoulet.
Sprinkle the parsley mixture onto each portion just before serving.

This makes 8 1-cup servings, and each serving is 7 Weight Watchers Points Plus Points! :) 

August Morning Muffins

I wasn't really sure how to title these muffins. These bad boys are so chock full of healthy deliciousness, every time I came up with a name I felt it left something out, and the whole name was a doozy. Low-Fat Zucchini, Carrot, Applesauce, Olive Oil, Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Muffins?! Whew, I need a muffin just to get my energy back from saying all that!

These muffins were awesome. They are utterly delicious, and so moist you don't even need to add any butter! In fact, the same day that we finished the first batch, I made a second batch. Breakfast has become a race because if Ladybug finishes her muffin before you do, it is absolute law that you share the rest of yours. And its hard not to, with her signing "more" with such a sweet smile on her face. Ignore her, though, and suddenly "more" is signed with attitude and determination.

August Morning Muffins  ( Adapted from Friends for Weight Loss) These are apparently worth 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points each, but that is without the chocolate chips. Those were my rebellious addition.

1 very ripe banana, mushed
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
3/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.
Prepare 18 muffin cups by your choice method - either grease or line with muffin cups.
In a large mixing bowl mix the mashed banana, oil, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, sour cream, applesauce, and brown sugar.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until just blended.
Fold in the shredded zucchini, carrots, walnuts and chocolate chips.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 25 minutes.

Coconut Quinoa Pancakes

Well, you know what they say. When Daddy is away, Mommy can play! Well, that's what they should say. And by play, I mean play in the kitchen. With pancakes. I just can't help myself! I really think I need to go to a Pancakes Anonymous group. Do they have those?

We tried quinoa for the first time the other day (we are way behind the times here, I know...) and loveloveloved it!! I didn't do anything fancy, just simmered it in chicken stock. I made a bit too much, though, and was looking for a creative way to use the leftovers when I found a recipe for coconut quinoa pancakes. Stop. The. Presses people! These HAD to be made!

I add just a bit more milk to my pancakes, I like them thin!

I really liked how these turned out! I might have to "accidentally" make too much quinoa again! They were super simple to whip up in the morning and I really liked how the coconut and cinnamon worked together.

Coconut Quinoa Pancakes (One Hungry Mama)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp canola oil, plus more for cooking
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, quinoa, coconut, brown sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon together.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla and eggs.
Add the wet to the dry and whisk until well combined. The batter will have texture, but should not have any lumps.
Heat a well oiled skillet or griddle over medium heat.
Add batter in 1/4 cup scoops and cook until bubbles are just beginning to form around the edges (this will not bubble as much as regular pancake batters).
Flip pancake and cook for another 2 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve immediately, with a drizzle of honey or warmed maple syrup.

The Daring Cooks Make Sri Lankan Beef Curry

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.


This month's challenge was a doozy for me. No one in my family (except for me) particularly likes Indian food, so I was really worried that no one was going to like it! I had a really hard time finding all the spices, too. Apparently, whole spices is completely foreign concept in this town, and the only thing I could find was a cinnamon stick - and I had to seriously hunt for that. So I wasn't able to roast the spices and get the full awesomeness that it was supposed to be. I also, surprise surprise, was not able to find tamarind paste/pulp, so I had to make my own, and you can find a recipe for that down below. And I don't think I have to even tell you that I couldn't find curry leaves. However, after some internet research I found that you can use bay leaves as a replacement, although its not quite the same, it can do. So...I had to substitute almost half of my flavorings. I was really worried that it was going to be too much flavor for my family, so I only used 1/2 the spice recipe. But then it was almost too bland, so I added another 1/4 of the spices, and it turned to be just the amount of spices that we needed.

We were also challenged to make Appam, which is a thin white bread made from fermented rice and coconut milk. I had, uh, a "bit" of trouble with this one. First off, I don't have a teflon pan, so it took a few tries to try and find the right pan for this recipe. It was a cast iron, of course. Secondly, I'm not sure if it was right or not, but there was a lot of grit left to my rice. I soaked my rice overnight, and it was still fairly crunchy when it was time to grind it up, so I am not sure if this affected the quality of my appam or not. I made a grand total of 3 appam before I threw in the towel. Hey, we were hungry! The first stuck horribly to the pan because I used the wrong pan. After the cast iron skillet was warmed up, we left the second one in a bit too long and it burned. The third one came out perfectly, we tried it, and decided it wasn't worth our time because we were hungry. I didn't include the recipe for this because I don't think it turned out well and we didn't like it. However, if you would like the recipe, just send me an email and I will gladly send it to you!

Overall, we got really mixed reviews about this. Ladybug wouldn't touch it, my Dad said it was "so-so", Joel gave it "a solid C+", my Mom, surprisingly, went back for seconds, and I really liked it. Haha. This recipe was fairly easy and straightforward to make, though, and that is always good in my book!

Sri Lankan Beef Curry
Servings: 4 (though 6 of us finished a double recipe!) Serve with rice (I suggest basmati!) 

1 pound (½ kg) boneless beef (such as round steak or roast), or about 1 ½ pounds (¾ kg) short ribs or cross ribs (or boneless lamb shoulder)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
10 fresh or frozen curry leaves
1 green cayenne chili, finely chopped
generous 1 cup (250ml/250 gm/9 oz) finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) turmeric
1 teaspoon (5 ml/6 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml/15 gm) tamarind pulp
¼ cup (60 ml) hot water
3 cups (720 ml) water
Dry Spice Mixture:
1 tablespoon (15 ml/13 gm) raw white rice
1 tablespoon (15 ml/10 gm) coriander seeds
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) cumin seeds
one 1-inch piece (2½ cm) cinnamon or cassia stick
seeds from 2 pods of green cardamom

1. Cut the beef into ½ inch (13 mm) cubes or separate the ribs. Set aside.
2. In a small heavy skillet, roast the dry spice mixture over medium to medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously, until it smells amazing! You will be able to see that the rice is a toasted color.
3. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind/pound to a powder. Set aside.
Chop the tamarind pulp and soak it in the hot water. Set aside
4. In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves, green chile, onion and turmeric and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the meat and salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so all surfaces of the meat get browned.
5. Add the reserved spice mixture and the coconut milk and stir to coat the meat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Press the soaked tamarind through a sieve placed over a bowl. Use a spoon to press all the liquid and pulp out. Discard the seeds and stringy bits. Add the tamarind liquid to the 3 cups of water.

7. Add the tamarind/water mixture to the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered at a strong simmer for about an hour, until the meat is tender and the flavors are well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

Tamarind Paste Substitute (Spark Recipes)
1 tbsp chopped dates
1 tbsp chopped prunes
1 tbsp chopped dried apricots
1 tbsp lemon juice

Place all the fruit in a small bowl and our enough boiling water over to cover.
Let stand 15 minutes and then drain.
Place the drained fruit and lemon juice into a food processor and blend to a thick paste. Use immediately.
Makes 2-3 tablespoons. 

Mexican Chicken Casserole with Charred Tomato Salsa

My parents came into town this week and Ladybug has been having so much fun playing with them that we are all exhausted. Ladybug actually took a 3 and a half hour nap today!! Can you believe it? I actually went in and made sure she was still breathing several times!! It's been a lot of fun having them here, and I have also really enjoyed cooking for them (and with them), too!

Both of my parents were a real inspiration to me while growing up and learning my way around the kitchen. My Mom taught me to bake, and my Dad taught me to cook. My Dad is the type of cook that opens a cabinet, takes stock of what you have, and whips up some amazing dish that can never be replicated because its been made with a dash of this, and "Oh, add some of that", and it always turns out amazing!

I really really like how this casserole turned out. It has amazing flavor, is chock full of veggies, and just utterly delicious! Don't worry about it being too spicy, Ladybug ate it all. And that salsa...oh man...a good chunk of that "might" have disappeared on some tortilla chips...

Mexican Chicken Casserole with Charred Tomato Salsa (Cooking Light, January 2011)

8 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 seeded jalapeno, quartered
cooking spray
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp black pepper

1 small onion, chopped
1 cup corn kernals
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can (10 ounces) green chili enchilada sauce
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Feta cheese

Preheat Broiler.

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and toss the tomatoes, onion, and garlic onto the sheet.
Broil for 20 minutes, stirring once.
Remove from oven and place in food processor with cilantro, lime juice, and pepper.
Process until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
Lightly coat the pan in cooking spray and toss in the zucchini, onion, corn, and red bell pepper.
Sautee 6 minutes, or until tender.
Add chicken, garlic, green enchilada sauce, chili powder, and cumin and saute for two minutes.

Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.
Spread 1/2 cup of salsa over the bottom of the dish.
Break half of the tortillas into pieces and layer the pieces over the top of the salsa.
Spoon 2 cups of the chicken mixture evenly over the tortillas.
Top with 3/4 cup of salsa.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of each cheese on top.
Repeat the layers - tortillas, salsa, chicken, salsa, cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until bubbly.
Serve with sour cream.

This recipe makes 8 servings, and each serving is 9 Weight Watchers Points Plus Points!

Apple Latkes

You know how I said I was trying to find vegetarian recipes that weren't pancakes? Well guess what I did...Latkes! Haha, those are totally different than pancakes...right?

I saw this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen awhile ago, and have been wanting to make them for just as long. And actually, I went out and bought green apples specifically for it, and it kept getting pushed back, and pushed back. Well, I noticed the other night that the apples were in a "Do or Die" stage, and since hubby wasn't going to be home for dinner, I went for it!! 

I really liked these!! They were simple to make, and tasted fantastic! Ladybug and I really enjoyed them. And actually, she scarfed hers down and then wanted mine! She even signed "more" for them, which is a big deal because even though we work on our signs everyday, she always just gives me that look that means "Come on Mom, you know what I want, just give it to me!!". 

Apple Latkes (Smitten Kitchen)

3 tart green apples
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 Tbsp flour ( I used 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 whole wheat, + a pinch of wheat germ, but you can use what you have)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp butter
Some good Sour Cream, Creme Fraiche, or rich plain yogurt 

Preheat your oven to 200 and place a baking sheet in to warm.
Peel and core your apples, then grate with a large hole grater.
Use a cheesecloth or tea towel to wring out as much moisture as you can, or, about a million paper towels.
Toss the apples with lemon juice so they don't brown.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon together.
Toss the apples into the dry ingredients.
Stir in the beaten eggs, and make sure all the apples are evenly coated.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt 1 Tbsp of butter.
When the butter is melted, spread it around so it evenly coats the bottom of the skillet.
Take a spoon (the kind you eat with) and get a large dollop of the batter and place on the skillet. Pat down with the back of the spoon. I could get about 4 latkes per skillet.
Cook 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side.
When each latke is cooked, you can place it on the cookie sheet in the oven while you finish - they will keep for about an hour this way.
Serve with sour cream, cream fraishe, or plain yogurt. We also drizzled a smudge of honey on ours! 

Sweet and Sour Kielbasa

This is a fun little recipe I found on a scrap of paper. I'm not sure where it came from, since the scrap of paper has neither title nor source, or even directions for that matter. All that is written on it is a list of ingredients. If it weren't so specific it might have been a grocery list!

Its a quick and easy meal for during the week, and makes great leftovers! I personally think there was a little too much sauce, so next time I might cut it down a 1/3, or even a 1/2, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Sweet and Sour Kielbasa (Random Scrap of Paper I found)

2 lbs Kielbasa, cut into 1" pieces
2 cups pineapple, chunked
1 onion, sliced
1 red and 1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large sautee pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
Add the onion slices and sear for a few minutes until they start to caramelize.
Add the pepper chunks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
Add in the garlic and the sliced kielbasa and cook until the kielbasa is warm and starting to turn brown on the sides.
In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, ketchup, and vinegar.
Add the sauce and the pineapple to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened.
Serve with rice.

Black Bean Burger with Mango Salsa

Before we moved here, I decided that we seriously needed to curtail our grocery spending. It was getting a little out of hand, and definitely needed reining in. Part of the way I decided to do this (besides cutting out Doritos, Coke, and other things that just happen to find their way into our cart) was to have at least two meals a week be vegetarian.

I'm not very good with vegetarian food. I never quite know what to make, and so I usually fall back on pancakes. I loooove pancakes, and so does Ladybug, but hubby doesn't (I know, its unbelievable, isn't it?!) so I've been trying to find other alternatives. We have also been really missing our grill since moving to apartment-ville, and this recipe just seemed too perfect to pass up.

It was really easy to throw together, but I was seriously questioning it while the patties were baking. I had NO idea if they were done or not, they still seemed kind of gooey to me. They were very interesting. Definitely not bad, but I'm not sure if I will make this particular recipe again. It was just a little too different for us, but maybe its because we aren't over our "burger = meat" thing. We will try again, but I just thought that I would post this recipe anyways, in case one of you just LOVES it! :)

Black Bean Burger with Mango Salsa (Cooking Light, April 2010)

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, divided
3 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded monterey jack cheese
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 medium jalapeno, finely chopped
2 large egg whites
cooking spray
1 mango, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 whole wheat hamburger buns
6 green leaf lettuce leaves

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large bowl, mash the black beans with a fork.
Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro, cheese, breadcrumbs, cumin, oregano, salt, jalapeno and egg whites.
Shape the mixture into 6 patties and arrange on a baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, carefully turning once.

Combine the remaining cilantro, mango, onion, lime juice, avocado, and garlic in a medium bowl.

Place a patty on the bottom of each hamburger bun, top with salsa and lettuce

What's your favorite veggie burger recipe?

I've Created A Monster

I think I have become a horrible Mother. I am ruining my child, setting her up for complete and utter snobbery.

What am I doing? Well, instead of feeding my child mac and cheese with little weenies for lunch, what do I do? I make Three Cheese Tortellini with peas, cauliflower, and a browned butter sage sauce.

It was frozen pasta and veggies, a quick five minute meal, but still. What have I done?!

Can you just imagine, when she goes over to eat at someone's house for the first time and turns up her nose at their boxed mashed potatoes or frozen meal?

I've created a monster. And I'm not sorry.

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