Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homemade Milano Cookies

Okay, I have been putting this post off for months now and I decided I finally have to write the reasons why I haven't been posting all summer and now into fall, and if I am going to continue to post in the future.

The reasons I have not been posting are the following: I am pregnant and for the first 3 months I was so nauseous I could not think about cooking or writing about food. I was also so tired with this pregnancy that any free time I had, I spent napping.

I am now in my second trimester and feeling much better. I am looking forward to sharing some new recipes. Hopefully I will find some time to experiment and post between mommy and me classes and potty training. Just while writing this post I had to stop twice to chase a little naked butt around to make sure there were no accidents on the carpet.

I am coming back to you now with a recipe worth sharing (or at least I am told its worth it) Unfortunately, I wasn't able to taste these cookies because the original recipe isn't gluten free. However, I am planning on trying this recipe soon using a GF flour blend. (I will post that recipe if they come out good) 

These are my husbands favorite store bought cookies and he asked me to try them homemade. I found the recipe from Gale Gand on and gave it a try. They are pretty easy to make. You just have to have a piping bag and get the hang of piping them onto the parchment paper. My husband and daughter really enjoyed these cookies and I am definitely going to make them for the upcoming holidays. Enjoy!!

Homemade Milano Cookies (recipe by Gale Gand on
Makes 25-30 cookie (sandwiches)

12 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups flour
Cookie filling, recipe follows
Cookie filling:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 orange, zested (I did not add this ingredient) 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter with a paddle attachment then mix in the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.

2. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. 

3. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 2-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. (I piped these in "Milano cookie" shapes but slightly thinner because they will spread) 

4.Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 9-10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan and transfer to baking rack. 

5. To make the filling:  In a small saucepan over medium heat, scald cream. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools). Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gluten Free Death By Chocolate

I haven't been posting much lately but I come back to you now with a recipe worth sharing for anyone who practices a gluten free diet. I have been making Death by Chocolate for years now, it is my go to dessert for parties and it is always a crowd pleaser. I decided to try a GF version and was really happy with the results. It is almost exactly the same the only difference is the GF chocolate cake mix is a bit more dense than the gluten cake mix. To balance it, I think adding a little more whipped cream to lighten it up works out great.

I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix, Glutino Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Oreo's) and Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding. The GF cake mix is half the size of the regular mixes in the store, so this recipe makes a smaller version. I would say it serves around 8 people.

1 box of chocolate gluten free cake mix, plus ingredients needed to prepare (the mix should make one 9" x 9" cake or 12 cupcakes)
1 package of chocolate pudding (you can use instant or cook and serve)
2 cups milk
1 pint of heavy cream (you may have a little extra whipped cream)
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
15 chocolate sandwich cookies-crushed
Strawberries, raspberries or blueberries-optional 

1. Bake cake according to instructions on box and cool completely. You can bake any size cake, its going to be crumbled once it is cooled. You can make the cake a day ahead of time and store at room temperature in air tight container.

2. Make chocolate pudding according to instructions on box. Place in refrigerator to cool and set.

3. When the pudding is ready and the cake has cooled make the whipped cream. In a mixer, add in heavy cream and whip on medium-high until it begins to thicken. Add in sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. (You may have some extra whipped cream)

4. To assemble Death by Chocolate use a trifle dish or large serving bowl and start to layer ingredients. Start by crumbling 1/3 of cake on the bottom of dish, spoon 1/3 of pudding on top of cake and spread evenly, add 1/3 of whipped, add a thin layer of crushed cookies cookies (add berries, if using) and continue to layer ending with whipped cream and cookies.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry, Yogurt, Honey and Balsamic Parfaits

Here is an easy recipe that gives you a great treat in no time at all. I made these the other day for dessert after getting some beautiful local strawberries at the farm stand.

Strawberry, Yogurt, Honey and Balsamic Parfaits  
Makes 2

10-12 ripe strawberries-sliced thin but keep 2-4 strawberries whole
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
Honey or Agave-to taste
Balsamic glaze-optional but delicious
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate (I always suggest Ghiradelli chocolate)

1. Mix together yogurt and enough honey or agave to sweeten to your taste.

2. In a ramekin or other small serving dish, layer the bottom of the dish with some sliced strawberries, top with about 2 tbsp of yogurt mixture and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Continue to layer, sliced strawberries, yogurt and balsamic until you reach the top of your dish. Set aside in the refrigerator.

3.  In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips for 1 minute. Stir and continue to heat in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. Do not over heat or it will get clumpy.

4. Dip 2-4 whole strawberries in chocolate and set aside on wax paper to dry. Once the chocolate is mostly hardened, place 1-2 chocolate covered strawberries on each parfait.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tomato Veggie Sauce with Pasta

Something happened to my little girl around age one, she became a picky eater.  Every green item that I put on her plate (except avocados) would end up on the floor for the dog. Of course the dog doesn't like green things either so I would end up cleaning vegetables off the floor all the time. Once she developed a taste for certain flavors, getting vegetables in that belly became more of a challenge. I am always looking for ways to sneak some in her diet and that is why I thought this recipe was perfect.

Adding roasted vegetables to basic tomato sauce is a great way of getting nutritious items into your child's diet. This is a great recipe for adults as well. You can have this on any type of pasta or where ever else you would normally use tomato sauce. I made Layla different shaped pasta to keep her interest and it was very easy for her to feed herself with a fork. 

For myself, I am not a big pasta eater so I turned the leftover sauce into a tomato-vegetable soup. I will include that recipe below. It was delicious! 

In previous posts, I have recommended the book The Baby and Toddler Cookbook by Karen Ansel, MS, RD and Charity Ferreira. The book is very easy to navigate through and gives you recipe ideas from ages 6 months to 3 years old. The recipes are fun, healthy and help develop your child's palate. Along with the recipes, the book offers get information on when to introduce certain foods, as well as, great snack ideas. I will also add, that the recipes are great for adults too. You don't have to cook separate meals to appeal to kids and adults using this book. I would HIGHLY recommend buying this book if you enjoy cooking for your baby or toddler. 

Tomato Veggie Sauce with Pasta (recipe from The Baby and Toddler Cookbook)
Makes 3 1/2 cups of sauce

1 small carrot-peeled in finely chopped
1 small zucchini- peeled in finely chopped
1/2 red pepper-seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 yellow onion-finely chopped
1 clove garlic-minced
1 large can of crushed tomatoes (28-32 oz)
1/4 vegetable stock or low-sodium chicken stock
Cooked dried pasta shapes, shells or penne for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small roasting pan combine, carrot, zucchini, and bell pepper. Drizzle with 1/2 the olive oil and stir to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are tender. 

2. While the veggies are roasting, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm remaining oil. Add in onion and garlic and saute until onion softens; about 5 mins. Add in tomatoes and broth, stir to mix well and simmer gently, uncovered, 15-20 minutes. Add in roasted veggies to the sauce. 

3. Let the sauce cool slightly, then transfer to food processor or blender and, working in batches if necessary, process until smooth or coarse puree, depending on the consistency you or your child prefers. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

4. To serve, toss the pasta with enough sauce to coat. Reserve remaining sauce for another use (such as vegetable soup below)
**Refrigerate the cooled sauce in air tight container for 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Round Two Recipe:
To make the roasted vegetable sauce into tomato vegetable soup, add the remaining sauce into a large sauce pan and add enough vegetable or chicken stock to a desired consistency for soup (between 2-3 cups) Add in chopped vegetables such as carrots, celery, green beans and simmer on low heat, partially covered, until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and add in chopped fresh basil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Lettuce Wrap Chicken Gyros with Green Tzatziki

I am writing this post minutes after finishing this meal. This was one of those nights when I tried a new recipe, it came out great and it was EXACTLY what I was in the mood to eat. This meal is not only very healthy for you, it is really easy! You can prepare everything ahead of time and just grill the chicken before you are ready to eat (you could even grill the chicken ahead of time too)

This recipe is a cross between a Greek salad and a chicken gyro. I thought this recipe came out so delicious that I would definitely make this for company or even a large quantity for a summer party. If you like the flavors of Greek food and want a healthy dinner...this is a great recipe to try. Enjoy!

**If you want to make this kid friendly, I would wrap the contents in a flour tortilla and maybe even add a little cheese.

** in most of the recipes I share, I like to omit raw garlic (which I did in this recipe) but I will add the full recipe below in case you would like to add it.

Chicken Gyro Lettuce Wraps with Tzatziki (Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine)
Serves 4

2 lemons-juiced
2 cloves garlic (grated)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp sumac or 1/2 tsp sweet paprika and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, combined
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin (1 tsp for marinade and 1/2 tsp for tzatziki)
4 pieces skinless, boneless chicken breast
Salt and pepper
1/2 seedless cucumber (shredded)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup fresh herb blend (parsely, dill, mint) **I used parsely, dill and basil
2 large romaine heads, separated into 4 portions
Garnishes: Chopped tomatoes and pepperoncini

1. Combine half the lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, 1/3 cup olive oil, sumac (or paprika combo), oregano, coriander and cumin. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in marinade for at least 15 minutes.

2. Salt the shredded cucumber and let rest in a colander for 10 minutes. Press out excess liquid. In a food processor, combine the cucumber, yogurt, remaining juice from lemon, 1 clove grated garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin and fresh herbs. Puree, then season the tzatziki. (This can be made in advance)

3. Heat a skillet, griddle or grill pan over medium-high heat. Shake excess marinade off the chicken and place in the skillet; cook, flipping once halfway through, for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Slice the chicken on an angle. (If you have time, let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before slicing)

4. Serve the chicken with lettuce for wrapping and top with tzatziki, chopped tomatoes and pepperoncini.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Good Health: Healthy seeds to add to your diet.

Whenever I come across an article that I find interesting or helpful I like to share it with you. The information below comes from Bon Appetit Magazine. It breaks down information on different healthy seeds available to you and why you may want to add them into your diet.

Personally, I have recently added Chia seeds into my everyday diet. I add about 3/4 tsp to 1 tbsp into my oatmeal every morning. It doesn't change the flavor but give my oatmeal a little texture, which I enjoy.

Flax: These seeds reduce inflammation and have cancer fighting powers of Omega-3 fatty acids. To get the most out of flaxseeds, eat them ground rather than whole, but because omega-3s are so perishable, it is best to grind the seeds just before using (use a spice or coffee grinder) Try these seeds in oatmeal or toast spread with nut butter.

Chia: If you add just one food to your diet, make it chia seeds. Suddenly trendy, they provide complete protein (great for vegetarians), omega-3s, fiber and calcium. They're flavorless, so it's easy to stir them into yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies. Be warned; these seeds take on a gelled consistency when added to liquids. Learn to love it.

Pumpkin: These seeds are a solid source of zinc which supports immune function. They are great toasted and tossed in with salads or soups.

Sesame: Rich in iron and calcium, these seeds are a nice finishing touch on rice dishes, roasted veggies and avocado on toast (best toasted in a dry skillet before adding to dishes) For the highest nutritional content, look for unhulled sesame seeds-think brown rice vs. white rice. You can find these are health food stores or middle eastern markets.

Hemp: Ideal for making delicious, creamy, and pleasently grassy flavored milk that pacts essential fats and amino acids. It is easy to do at home: blend one part hulled hemp seeds with four parts water and a touch of honey, then (if desired) strain. Pour it on cereal, coffee or anywhere else you would use milk.

Sunflower: These are great for baking. Use them to add antioxidents, which in sunflower seeds may help protect against cardiovascular disease. These also add wonderful texture to breads, granola, and cookies.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Worlds Most Dangerous Banana Bread

I was SO excited to see this recipe for banana bread in an issue of Bon Appetite Magazine. (see recipe below) Tom and I risked our lives to try this delicious bread on our honeymoon in Hawaii. We started off our vacation to Hawaii on the island of Kauai and ended in Maui.

While in Kauai, we met this nice couple who told us all about places to go when we visited Maui. One thing they mentioned was NEVER attempt to drive on the dangerous Kahekili Highway on the Northwest shore of Maui. Little did we know that on our exploration of the island that is exactly where we ended up.

We took a drive exploring the island and when we ended up on the beginning of this dangerous road we decided to give it a try. The road is VERY narrow with really steep drops. Only one car and fit by at a time on this highway, which allows cars to go both ways. If you ran into a car coming the opposite way, you would have to reverse into a small crevasse and let the other car pass before continuing on.

We continued down the road at about 5-10 MPH, experiencing the most beautiful views of untouched land. It took us hours but we came to a VERY small town called Kahakuloa. This town is home to about 100 native Hawaiians. It has no shops, except for one small road side stand called Julies Banana Bread. I remembered reading about this place in one of my guide books so we had to stop and give it a try.

You can only get a minimum of 2 loaves of bread so we bought them and headed back to the car for our long and dangerous drive back to the hotel. We each ate a slice of the moist and delicious banana bread and wanted to save the rest for later. We ended up finishing the first loaf before we started the car. The second loaf was devoured soon after. It was definitely an adventure worth risking our lives over. If we had ended up going over the edge, at least our last meal was Julie's famous banana bread. Thankfully, we made it back to the hotel just in time to enjoy the best pineapple we ever ate, which we picked up on the side of the very scary road. It was so ripe, you could cut it with a plastic knife or rip it open with your hands.....just like Tom.

Thanks to Bon Appetite Magazine for sharing this recipe so you can give this banana bread a try without the risk of falling off a cliff.

Kaheliki Highway 

Julie's Famous Banana Bread Stand
Recipe made at home: 3 mini loaves 

Best Pineapple in the world: Side of the road..Payment of honor system 

Layla enjoying Julie's homemade banana bread recipe 

Julie's Best Banana Bread
Makes One 9 x 5 x 3" loaf or Three 5 3/4 x 3 1/4" mini loaves

Non stick vegetable oil spray (or Crisco) for greasing pan
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat baking pan (One 9 x 5 x 3" loaf or Three 5 3/4 x 3 1/4" mini loaves) with non stick spray or Crisco. (I like to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper for easy release) 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 

3. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, mashed bananas and vegetable oil. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and stir until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. 

4. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes (or 40-50 minutes for mini loaves) Transfer to wire rack; let bread cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife along the inside of pan to release the bread. Turn out onto wire rack and let cool completely. 

5. This bread can be made 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Caramelized Onion Greek Yogurt Dip

I found this recipe online the other day when I was trying to find a quick dip to bring to my husbands birthday dinner that my sister-in-law Katie prepared. I really did not want to run to the store again that day so I found a recipe that included all the ingredients I already had on hand.

If there is one thing I always have in my refrigerator it is plain Greek yogurt. I decided to try a caramelized onion yogurt dip to go along with Katie's appetizers of roasted potatoes, spicy sausage and chips. Everyone really enjoyed this dip and I was really happy with how it came out.  I can see this being a new favorite recipe for parties and entertaining.. A major plus is that it is healthy and easy to make. This is definitely a recipe worth trying.

** A tip for this recipe: Make sure your onions are nicely caramelized and do not burn. My onions took less time than the 45 minutes the recipe call for. Use you judgement, they should be really soft, and golden brown and very sweet.

Caramelized Onion Greek Yogurt Dip (Original recipe from How Sweet It Is)
Makes 2 cups

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp salted butter
16 oz plain green yogurt (0% or 2% works)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley-optional

1. In a large pot, add olive oil and butter and melt over low heat. Once melted, add in chopped onions with 1/4 tsp salt, and stir until onions are all coated in oil. Cover pot and cook for approx. 45 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes (I found this step to go a little fasted than 45 minutes) After 45 minutes or when the onions are very soft and nicely golden brown, add in 1 tsp brown sugar and cook 5 minutes more. Remove onions from heat (as long as they are caramelized) and stir in remaining brown sugar. 
In a large bowl, mix together yogurt and onions, stirring in salt, pepper, fresh parsley and garlic powder. Taste and add more seasoning if desired. Serve with chips, pretzels or veggies. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ceasar Salad with Parmesan Crisps

A classic Ceasar Salad is always a great addition to any meal. Adding grilled chicken can easily make it a main dish any night of the week. In my version below, you will find the addition of Parmesan crisps, as well as, no garlic or egg Ceasar inspired dressing. My husband and I aren't the biggest fans of raw garlic, mainly because of the lingering after taste for the next 3 days, so I always omit raw garlic in dressings and keep it simple with oil, lemon, cheese, Dijon, salt and pepper.

Ceasar Salad and Parmesan Crisps
4 servings

1 head chopped Romaine Lettuce- washed and dried
1 head chopped green or red leaf lettuce-washed and dried
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes-sliced in half
6-8 oz Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Roman Cheese
1 baguette, preferably day old or store bought croutons (I left these out to make my salad GF)
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
1 lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Balsamic Glaze (you can make this by reducing balsamic vinegar into a syrup or you can find it at the grocery store)
8 thin sliced grilled chicken cutlets seasoned with salt and pepper (You can use an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan) -optional

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Dice day old bread into 1 inch cubes and place on baking sheet. Drizzle bread with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in the oven and bake 8-12 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. Leave oven at 400 degrees F to make Parmesan Crisps. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a sil-mat. Grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan Cheese. Pour a heaping tablespoon of the cheese onto lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. Repeat with remaining cheese, making 8-10 crisps. Space the spoonfuls 1/2 inch apart.. Bake 3-5 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. In a large serving bowl, combine the lettuces and tomatoes. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

4. To make the dressing combine 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper and 1 tsp Dijon mustard, slowly whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil until well blended.

5. To assemble the salad: add croutons into the lettuce and toss salad with dressing. Distribute salad among 4 plates and top with Parmesan crisps, sliced grilled chicken and drizzle with balsamic glaze. I also like to shave a few more slices of cheese using a vegetable peeler on top of salad. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chocolate Buttermilk Bread

This is my go to recipe when I have extra buttermilk in the refrigerator. I have been making this recipe for years as a quick and easy bread for breakfast or a snack. This bread comes out moist and the top is cracked, crunchy and glossy (my husbands favorite part) almost like the top of a brownie. Lately I have been replacing some of the fat in the recipe, in this case butter, with flax seed oil. In this particular bread, I replaced 3 tbsp of butter with equal amounts flax seed oil.

Chocolate Buttermilk Bread
Yields 1 loaf (12 slices) 220 calories per slice

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter-softened (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (or 1/4 cup of each)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8 x 4 or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. I like to line the bottom with parchment paper for easy release.

2. In a bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand held mixer, combine softened butter and sugar; blend well. Add in eggs; beat well. Stir in buttermilk.

3. Add in flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips. Pour into greased pan.

4. Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan and cool on wire rack for 1 hour or until completely cool. Wrap tightly and store in refrigerator.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables in MAY and JUNE

I haven't been posting as often as usual these days. Mostly because I don't have the time to experiment with new recipes right now, and the recipes I have tried recently haven't been good enough to post on the blog. I am hoping to catch up and try some new delicious and healthy meals soon.

In the meantime, take a look below at all the great fruits and vegetables available in the month of May and June. Visit your local farmers market, or farm stand for organic varieties of these springtime treats.

Here is a list of vegetables and fruits that are at their peak for the month of MAY:
Fava beans
Sweet Vidalia Onions
Edible pea pods
English Peas

Here is a list of vegetables and fruits that are at their peak for the month of JUNE:
Sweet Vidalia Onions
Zucchini blossoms

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Southwestern Sriracha Chicken Salad

My new favorite way to make grilled chicken is coating it in Sriracha Chili Sauce just before cooking. It gives the chicken SO much flavor with a hint of spiciness. You can use this sauce on a variety of different things such as: hot dogs, sauces, pastas, soups, chicken etc..

I made a large batch of grilled chicken with Sriracha this week and used it on a salad and nachos (as seen below) and we used the leftovers to make sandwiches for lunch.
**The recipe below calls for 1 package of chicken but you can double that if you would like leftover chicken for another use

Southwestern Sriracha Chicken Salad 
Makes 2 servings (plus extra chicken)

1 package of thin sliced chicken breasts (use high quality natural chicken such as Murray's or Harvestland, it makes a difference in taste and texture)
1/4 cup Sriracha Chili Sauce
1 large head of romaine lettuce
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes-halved
1/2 avocado- diced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn (boil fresh corn for 5-10 minutes and defrost frozen corn)
1/4 - 1/3 cup canned black beans-rinsed well
3 scallions-cut into 1/2 inch pieces-both light and dark green parts
1/2 cup shredded or cubed cheddar cheese

1. Brush all sides of the chicken breast with Sriracha sauce. Coat a large no stick skillet with canola oil and bring to med-high heat. Cook chicken about 2-3 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. (I like to place a lid or something heavy on top of chicken to ensure its browning evenly.) Remove chicken and set aside.

2. To prepare the salad: chop 1 large head of romaine lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Add cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, corn, scallions, black beans and cheese. (I like to roast my scallions in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until they start to turn slightly brown. Just make sure to coat them in a little olive oil before roasting. Allow to cool before adding to salad)

3. Slice chicken into strips and place on top of salad. Toss with dressing and serve.

For the dressing: I used the juice of 1 lime, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 3-4 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. You can use any dressing you like with this salad. A creamy avocado dressing would be great as well.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

I came up with this recipe the other day when I was trying to use my abundance of spinach. These mushrooms have a lot of flavor and work great as an appetizer or side dish. I love how the spinach and Parmesan cheese became crispy on top and the Greek Cream Cheese made the center nice and creamy. If the tops start to brown too much before the mushrooms are soft, tent loosely with tin foil and remove the last few minutes of cooking. This recipe would also be great stuffed inside a Portobello mushroom cap for a vegetarian entree. Enjoy!!!

Check out the Greek Cream Cheese Below:

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms 
Makes 12 Large Mushrooms 

12 large stuffing button mushrooms-stems removed
Olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese
2 handfuls of chopped fresh spinach
1 oz Greek Cream Cheese (or regular cream cheese)

1. In a non stick skillet over medium heat add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs (pulse day old bread in food processor to create fresh bread crumbs, I used frozen gluten free bread and it worked great). Cook bread crumbs, stirring frequently until golden brown; about 7 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, using the same skillet, coat pan with oil and saute 2 large handfuls of chopped spinach until wilted. Add to bread crumbs, along with Parmesan cheese, and cream cheese. Mix together well.

3. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray, arrange mushrooms stem side facing up. Brush mushrooms with olive oil and fill with stuffing.

Bake at 400 degrees F until mushrooms are soft and the topping is crispy; this can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on size of mushrooms and your oven. If they are browning too quickly, loosely tent with foil. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

D.I.Y Jewelry Hanger

Here is a D.I.Y. project to organize your jewelry in a appealing way. All you need is a frame, thick study board for the background, burlap or fabric of choice, decorative knobs (I found these at Anthropologie), hot glue or staple gun.

I was able to puncture the holes for the knobs using a sharp knife but you may need a drill. I also needed a special saw to cut the back of the screws to the correct size so they didn't protrude too much. Try to look for knobs with short screws.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pizza with Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Asparagus and Lemon

This pizza is the best I have ever made or eaten so far in my culinary adventures. I was inspired by a pizza my husband Tom and I use to eat in NYC at a little place called Waldy's on 26th street and 6th ave. Although I do not have the wood burning oven, this pizza still comes out amazing in my oven at home. I am really proud of the recipe and I hope you will enjoy this one. 

This pizza has a crispy thin crust, which is the perfect canvas for the rich and salty Italian Prosciutto. It is topped with mozzarella cheese, fresh asparagus spears  and slices of roasted lemons. I season it with cracked black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. The combination of all the fresh ingredients makes for a perfect thin crust pizza. 

Pizza with Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Asparagus and Lemon 
Serves 8 

For the Crust:  
1 package of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup of warm water
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting 

1. Prepare the pizza dough: In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand 5- 10 mins until it starts to foam. 

2. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 2 tbsps of olive oil. Add in the flour a little at a time, mixing on lowest speed, until flour is incorporated. Keep mixing on medium speed, if it feels really sticky add a little more flour, if it is dry and crumbly add a little more water.Keep mixing for 5 minutes until the dough comes to a ball and become elastic. 

3. Coat the dough with a little oil and place it back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for 1 hour. 

4. Once the dough has doubled in size, divide dough into 2 balls. Cover and let rest for 10 mins to make it easy to roll out. (If the dough is not rolling easily, let it rest a little while longer.)

5. At this point you can use the dough immediately, wrap the balls of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use, or you can freeze the dough for later use.

6. When you are ready to use the dough, preheat the oven to 500 degrees with baking sheet in the oven.

7. Roll each section out into a 16-20" circle or oval shape. Place the dough on parchment paper.

8.Place the toppings on the dough (all the way to the edge) and brush crust with a little olive oil

9. Once the baking sheets are preheated place the parchment paper on the sheet (one pizza per baking sheet) and bake for 10-15 mins. Check at 10 mins and make sure it is not burning on the bottom.  You can serve one pizza while the others are baking in the oven, or bake all the pizzas and reheat before serving.

For the toppings: (These are for two 16" size pizzas)
Olive oil  8 oz good quality Proscuitto-thinly sliced
1 head of asparagus: cut into 2 inch pieces,  blanched until barely cooked 
lemons: peeled and sliced into 12 slices
16 oz of whole milk mozzarella cheese- shredded or sliced thin
1 oz Pecorino Romano Cheese: shaved with a vegetable peeler
Fresh cracked pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes 

1. Once the dough has been rolled out thin brush edges with a little olive oil. Lay the slices of Prosciutto onto the dough. Add mozzarella cheese, slices of lemon (6 per pizza), scatter asparagus, and top with shaved Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. 

2. Continue with recipe above and bake are directed: about 10 minutes at 500 degrees F. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Egg Sandwich

There are a few things I really miss since having to go completely gluten free. One being, a egg sandwich from the deli. On the weekends my husband and I take our daughter out to breakfast and it is usually hard for me to find something I want to eat at a deli. That being said, we were at Se-port deli yesterday morning (I already ate breakfast at home) and my husband ordered a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich that looked SOOO good! Seeing the runny eggs and bread put me in the mood for one, so I made my own version for dinner. Now, this isn't a bacon, egg and cheese but in my opinion it is a perfect healthy sandwich for lunch or dinner. As a matter of fact, I am probably going to eat this again for dinner tonight.

This sandwich consists of a variety of roasted vegetables, egg and balsamic glaze (which you can find at the grocery store). You could also add cheese, maybe mozzarella or provolone would go well. The recipe below makes A LOT of vegetables, way more than one sandwich needs but they are great left over and you can use them on sandwiches the rest of the week or as a side dish to dinner. I used gluten free bread but any type of bread, English muffins or rolls will work. Enjoy!

Olive oil
1 head of asparagus: 2 inch dice
8 oz package of mushrooms- sliced
1 small zucchini-thinly sliced
1 bell pepper-red or green-sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 small onion-thinly sliced
2 sliced of bread or an English muffin
1 egg
Salt and pepper-to taste
Balsamic glaze

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. One a baking sheet, place diced asparagus, sliced mushrooms, sliced zucchini, sliced pepper and sliced onion. Coat all the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they start to turn brown in spots and are cooked though. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a small non-stick pan coated with cooking spray or oil, add egg and cook over easy or over medium.

3. While the egg is cooking toast the bread. When the bread is toasted, add as much vegetables as you would like and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Top with egg and season with salt, pepper and more glaze.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Greek Cream Cheese

This is a new product on the market. Greek Cream Cheese. It tastes almost exactly like regular cream cheese with slightly less "tang" but still just as creamy and delicious. This cream cheese has 2X more protein than regular cream cheese, 50% less fat, 25% less calories, 25% less sodium and live and active cultures. You can use Greek cream cheese as you would any regular cream cheese.

What I love most about this product is that it is a "lighter: version without any additives or ingredients to compromise the product. Both Layla and I love eating Greek cream cheese with jelly on toast or a bagel for lunch. 

Layla especially loves it when I cut her sandwich into her FAVORITE shape...a bunny! It is a great way to get toddlers excited about their food. See below a picture of Layla's Bunny French Toast. I use the same cutter for sandwiches. 

I would definitely recommend picking up this product next time you are at the store (I found it at Stop and Shop) enjoy!!!  For more info check out their website

Friday, April 5, 2013

40 Ways to Distract and Entertain a Toddler

Happy Friday Everyone! Here is a link a friend sent to me a while ago (before I had a toddler in the house) I saved the website knowing that I would be interested in checking it out once Layla got older. I am definitely going to have to give some of these a try. Especially the Zip-Lock bag painting...that looks like fun!

40 ways to distract and entertain a toddler

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Double Blueberry Muffins with Citrus Topping

Here is another muffin recipe from Better Homes and Garden's latest issue. The muffins are full of fresh blueberries with a hidden blueberry surprise in the center. The lemon and orange sugar topping gives these muffins bright flavor and a little crunch.

Double Blueberry Muffins with Citrus Topping
Makes 12 regular muffins and 6 large

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk or milk
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries **if using frozen blueberries, do not defrost ahead of time.
1/2 blueberry preserves
1 tsp finely shredded orange peel
1 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
1 Tbsp sugar (use raw turbinado sugar for more crunch)
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners. Set aside.

2. Stir together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and set aside.

3. Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, 6 Tbsp melted butter; add mixture all at once to dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy) Fold in 1 cup blueberries. Remove 1 cup of batter.

4. Spoon remaining batter into prepared muffins cups. Spoon 2 tsp. of blueberry preserves into the center of each muffin. Top with reserved 1 cup of batter to cover preserves, filling cups 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Meanwhile, stir together, grated orange and lemon peel with the 2 Tbsp of sugar. Remove muffins from the oven, brush with 2 Tbsp of melted butter and sprinkle the citrus sugar on top of each muffin. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lamb Burger with Arugula, Feta and Cucumber

There is not much to say about this other than these burgers are delicious. This recipe comes from one of my favorite chefs Michael Simon. If you are ever in Cleveland, you have to try his restaurants Lolita and Lola. The food is some of the best I have ever had. This recipe serves 10 but can easily be made in smaller amounts.

I served these burgers on English Muffins but any good hamburger bun will do. Oven baked french fries were the perfect compliment to this burger.

Lamb Burger with Arugula, Feta and Cucumber (Recipe from Carnivore by Michael Simon)
Serves 10

5 lbs of ground lamb (Michael recommends to ask your butcher for 2/3 shoulder meat and 1/3 belly meat)
1 tbsp coriander seeds-toasted and ground
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (I did a combination of mint and basil)
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta
10 hamburger buns
1 English cucumber, sliced
2 cups arugula

1. Mix the ground lamb with coriander, mint and lemon zest. Form the meat into 10 patties, making sure you don't compress them too tightly. Try to make the patties slightly larger than the buns, since they will shrink when they cook.

2. Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high.

3. Season the patties with salt and put on the grill. Cook 4-5 minutes per side, depending on your temperature preference. (We enjoyed these burgers medium-rare to medium) When they are almost done, put some feta on each patty to melt and toast the buns on the grill.

4. Put one burger on each of the bottom buns and top with cucumber, arugula and a squeeze of lemon juice.

**I cooked these burgers inside on a grill pan because of  bad weather and melted the feta quickly under the broiler.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Table: Carrot Napkins

I am really bad about keeping up with posts when there is a holiday coming up. This is probably the time I should be posting delicious recipes for Easter but I usually take on too much and have no time to cook and take pictures the week before.

My mother-in-law showed me this cute idea the other day and I decided it would be perfect for my Easter brunch. It is so easy to put together and looks really cute on the table. All you need is orange napkins, green utensils and ribbon. Have a great Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passover Coconut Macaroons

If you are celebrating Passover, bring these delicious and super easy coconut macaroons to your Seder. 

Sugar Dusted Coconut Macaroon (recipe from Martha Stewart Living)
Makes 18 cookies

2 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
5 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Confectioners sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine coconut, sugar, egg whites, vanilla and salt in a large bowl using your hands or a wooden spoon; mix together well.

3.  Form 2 tablespoons of the mixture into 2 inch tall trees with your hands, using fingertips to make pointed top. Place each tree on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Alternatively  place 2 rounded tablespoons of mixture onto parchment lined baking sheet. Space 1" apart. 

4. Bake until edges are golden brown and cookies are firm, 12-14 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Cookies can be make up to 1 day ahead, dust with confectioners sugar before serving. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Post from Attic Lace: D.I.Y Easter Egg Holders

Today we have a special guest post from my friend Sarah. Check out her blog Attic Lace where she shares beautiful D.I.Y projects, recipes and more... 

Today's post is all about Easter decor. I am so excited to try this project for my Easter brunch table. Thanks Sarah for the great idea! 

"I've really been enjoying seeing the ways that people have been reusing old plastic Easter eggs lately. I had a few laying around here also, so I decided it would be fun to reuse them to make some cute little egg holders for my real Easter eggs this year! I decided to make three of them, two of the same and one different. The two that are the same each use a top and a bottom of an egg, and the different one uses two tops (making it little taller). So I got together 4 plastic "tops" and 2 "bottoms". Then I gave them all two coats of white paint.  (I used craft acrylic paint, but you could spray paint them instead if you'd like)"

" After the paint dried, I used Krazy glue to attach the halves of the eggs together, end to end. Then I used a little more white paint to touch up any spots where the glue was visible."

"When everything was good and dry, I used some thin ribbons, trimmings, and tiny flowers to add a little sweetness to my new egg holders (I used a bit of hot glue here). This was the fun part:) I even used some gold paint to make a little scalloped pattern on my tall egg holder. The decorating possibilities are really endless here, you could even do family initials on each!"

"When I was all finished, I used a bit of Spanish moss to stuff the tops, to make little "nests" for my eggs! You could use Easter grass or crinkle-paper here too...."

"I had such a great time making these, and I hope you do too! It's nice to be able to give something old a new purpose once in a while! I'm so happy I got the chance to stop by today! Thanks Ali!