Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The perfect cookie - Snickerdoodles

Soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, and with just the perfect amount of sweetness and cinnamon, Snickerdoodles are my absolute favorite Christmas cookie. Look how beautifully fluffy they are! 

My dad has been making snickerdoodles for years. A few years ago I told him I was going to try making them myself and he seem surprised. He knows I'm not a baker so he warned me that snickerdoodles are hard cookies to make. I took that as a challenge.

I knew that the key ingredient in snickerdoodles was cream of tartar. This special ingredient is what separates snickerdoodles from other sugar cookies. The cream of tartar is what gives them their tangy chew, everything I love about a good snickerdoodle.

I didn't find these cookies to be difficult at all, and my daughter had the best time coating the cookies with cinnamon sugar. These cookies will always be on my Christmas baking list!

Source: Real Simple

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.
  • With an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and 1 c of the granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  • Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.
  • In a shallow bowl, combine the cinnamon and remaining 1/4 c of granulated sugar.
  • Form cookie dough into balls (each equal to 1 level Tbsp). Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.
  • Bake until the edges are golden, 12-14 minutes.
  • Cool slightly on the baking sheets, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Cheese Tortellini Primavera in a Light Garlic Cream Sauce

Cheese Tortellini with Fresh Vegetables in a Light Garlic Cream Sauce - A quick and easy meal that comes together in 20 minutes! 

Yes, you read that correctly. 20 minutes! 

Tortellini is a great pasta to use when you need to cut down on cooking time. Where other pasta shapes can take 8-12 minutes to cook, you will have perfect tortellini in about 5 minutes. 

As far as timing, chop your veggies and get out your other ingredients while the water is coming to a boil. Once the water boils, toss your veggies in for one minute. Blanching the veggies will cut down on your sauteeing time. Then, you make the sauce when you drop the tortellini. The sauce and tortellini will be done at the same time, and then all you need to do is toss it all together. 

This is a great Meatless Monday meal, a perfect quick weeknight dinner, and makes great leftovers (if you have any!) for lunch the next day. 

print recipe

Cheese Tortellini Primavera in a Garlic Cream Sauce

  • 1 small head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 each red and green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 12oz bag of frozen tortellini
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Splash of white wine
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 c light cream
  • A few pinches each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning (like McCormick's Perfect Pinch)
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once it is at a full boil, toss in the broccoli and carrots. Cook for one minute and then remove with a slotted spoon into a colander and run under cold water. Drain well. Return the water to a boil and put in the tortellini.Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the tortellini pops to the top of the water.
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.
- Toss in the onions and garlic; saute 1 min.
- Add the broccoli, carrots, red and green pepper, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning; saute 1 min.
- Add the white wine, stir for 20 seconds before adding the broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and then add the cream and Parmesan cheese.
- Drain the tortellini and add to the veggie/sauce mixture. Toss and serve.

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 Servings

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Buffalo Chicken BLT Wraps

Restaurant-style wrap with crispy chicken tenders tossed in buffalo sauce, cold lettuce and tomatoes, and smoky bacon. 

When you go to your neighborhood restaurants - you know, like quick, casual places, nothing too fancy, good food, and big portions - do you have a favorite thing to order, or do you always try something new? I love trying new things, but at some restaurants, I have a favorite dish and order it every time we go.

A local bar and grill has a chicken wrap on their menu that I just LOVE. It's a pretty straight-forward wrap with buffalo chicken and veggies, so I decided to recreate it at home. I added bacon though because, well, bacon!!

I fried up the chicken while the bacon was cooking, and that's pretty much all the prep that goes into this dish. 

My key to crispy chicken tenders with breading that stays put instead of sliding off the chicken when you take a bite is simple. Cornstarch. Instead of using flour as your first breading step, use cornstarch. Your breading will stick to your chicken in a thick layer and won't go anywhere when you cut it or take a bite. 

Look at how beautifully crunchy and crispy that chicken looks!

Once the chicken and bacon are cooked, you simply layer your wrap with greens, bacon, tomatoes, and the chicken tossed in buffalo sauce. Drizzle on a little ranch dressing and wrap it all up.

For a pub style meal at home, give this chicken wrap a try!

print recipe

Buffalo Chicken BLT Wrap

  • 2 lbs, Boneless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
  • A few pinches each Salt and pepper
  • 1 c Cornstarch
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 c Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp each Spices (onion powder, garlic powder)
  • 1/4 c Vegetable oil
  • 8 slices Bacon, cooked
  • 2 cups Lettuce/greens of your choice
  • 1 large Tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 c Buffalo sauce
  • 4 Tortilla wraps, large
  • 1 Tbsp (per wrap)  Ranch dressing
- Set up your breading station: put cornstarch in the first bowl, beaten eggs in second, and breadcrumbs seasoned with onion and garlic powder in a third. Place paper towels on a large plate and top with a cooling rack. - Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat - Season chicken strips with salt and pepper. Roll in the cornstarch, shake off any excess. Coat with egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs, fully coating the chicken. - Place the chicken in the pan and fry for 4 minutes until one side is golden brown. Flip and brown the other side for 4 minutes. Check the temperature - chicken should reach 170 degrees. Cook until the chicken is at the correct temperature. Transfer to the cooling rack. - Toss the chicken with buffalo sauce - Assemble the wrap by layering greens, bacon, tomatoes, chicken, and some ranch dressing. Fold in the ends and roll, tucking the ends in as you go so you end up with a nice, tight burrito shaped roll. Slice in half and serve.
Yield: 4 wraps

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spinach-Artichoke Grilled Cheese

Crisp, buttery grilled bread stuffed with creamy melted cheese and a 
hot and bubbly spinach artichoke spread. It's like everybody's 
favorite party dip in a sandwich. 

My weekday lunches usually consist of a big salad, a bowl of homemade soup or a healthy, homemade wrap. On the weekends I'll splurge a bit, especially on lazy days with nowhere to be but home. 

I love a good grilled cheese sandwich, but wanted something more decadent, something cheesier and messier. My spinach-artichoke dip is so freaking delicious, and has inspired other recipes like these stuffed shells, so why not turn it into a sandwich? 

Thick sliced bread is a must for this. The outer layer gets buttery and crisp when grilled, while some of the bread stays fluffy and soft, soaking up all of that cheesy goodness. 

In addition to the creamy dip, I layered on sliced Fontina cheese, a cheese with a mild nutty flavor that melts fabulously. 

If you love spinach-artichoke dip, and you love grilled cheese, I promise you will love this sandwich.

print recipe
Spinach-Artichoke Grilled Cheese
Crisp, buttery grilled bread stuffed with creamy melted cheese and a
hot and bubbly spinach artichoke spread.
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 c Spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 14oz can Artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp Cream cheese, softened
  • Pinch each Salt and pepper
  • 4 Thick slices Crusty Italian bread
  • 2 TBSP Butter
  • 4 slices Fontina cheese
Heat olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the garlic and spinach, season with salt and pepper and saute until the spinach has wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the artichokes and cream cheese. Stir until completely mixed.Spread one side of each slice of bread generously with butter. Heat a large griddle/grill pan. Add 2 slices of the bread, butter side down. Top each slice of bread with half of the spinach-artichoke mixture followed by 2 slices of Fontina cheese, and then put the other slice of bread on top, butter side up. Grill until browned, about 3 minutes, and then flip and cook until browned. Slice and serve.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 Sandwiches

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Fried rice no rice! And no, you won't miss the rice.

Ricing cauliflower for fried rice is something that has been on my list to try for a while now, but I just haven't put it on the menu or taken the time to come up with a recipe. Last week I was doing some work around the house with The Chew on in the background when I heard Clinton Kelly start to talk about making fried rice with riced cauliflower. I had to stop to see if it would be a recipe I'd want to try and it was - simple flavors and not overwhelmed with other veggies, just carrots and baby bok choy.

A half of a head of cauliflower made so much fried rice - probably 5 servings. The cauliflower was a nice substitute for rice - not the same by any means, but it really held up and took on the flavors of everything I added. What a great, healthy alternative to traditional fried rice!

Cauliflower Fried Rice
Slightly adapted from: Clinton Kelly


  • 1/2 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, minced
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, thinly sliced 
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced on a bias
  • 1/2 c edamame 
  • 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • Optional: chopped mint leaves and chopped roasted peanuts
  • Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped; set aside.
  • Heat the sesame in a large skillet over high heat. 
  • Add 3/4 of the green onions and all of the garlic and ginger; stir until fragrant. 
  • Add the carrots and bok choy; cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add the cauliflower, edamame and soy sauce. Stir until everything is combined. 
  • Serve topped with the cilantro, lime wedges, chili garlic sauce and the rest of the green onions. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Shredded Flank Steak for Tacos (Slow Cooker)

The main thing I use my crock pot for is making shredded meat - pulled pork, shredded chicken, and shredded beef. And most of those things get used for tacos because tacos are awesome! I may have a slight taco obsession...

But in all seriousness, taco night is a great night in our house. The only thing we all need to agree on is the meat. After that, everyone can choose their own tortilla - I prefer corn, Jon prefers flour and the little one prefers crunchy. Same goes for the toppings - we all dress our tacos differently. My favorite toppings are pickled red onions, cilantro, queso fresco and some fresh lime juice - how about you?

On this taco night I chose to go with beef and picked up a nice flank steak. The preparation is easy - just rub it up with a nice spice mixture and put it in the slow cooker with a few more ingredients. Let it cook for several hours, shred with a fork and serve. 
When I make shredded meat I always make enough for at least 2 nights. One night we'll have tacos, and then we can have tostadas, nachos, sandwiches, or something completely different all together, like a pasta or rice bowl. 
I can check off so many boxes with this recipe - prep ahead, easy, weeknight meal, makes great leftovers, and makes everyone happy! 
Shredded Flank Steak for Tacos
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

  • One 2-lb flank steak
  • Spice mixture - 1 Tbsp each chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder; 1 tsp each oregano (or Mexican oregano), salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper. 
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes with juices
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 8 oz low sodium beef broth or cooking stock
  • Mix all of the spices and rub all over the beef
  • Put the beef in your slow cooker and add the tomatoes with juices, jalapeno, white onion, cilantro, lime juice and broth.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours and turn to low for 4 more. 1 hour before serving, shred the beef with 2 forks. Keep on warm until ready to serve. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Creamy Tomato-Garlic Pasta with Chicken and Bacon

Sometimes when I'm creating a new recipe I sit with a pen and paper and really think about what I'm going to do. I write it out a few times, add, delete, change, and then test it. I'll tweak a bit and then write a final recipe.

Other days I'll grab a few things I have in the fridge not knowing exactly what I'm going to do, and just wing it. After doing this for years and never remembering exactly how I created a recipe, I now keep a pad of paper and pencil on a nearby counter and write as I go!

I used the wing-it method to create this recipe. I was craving creamy pasta, had already defrosted chicken, and spotted some bacon that need to be used up. As I was mincing garlic, I saw 2 tomatoes and a jalapeno and decided to throw them in. I love when these recipes turn out so great!

I have such a weakness for creamy pasta dishes, but I try not to make them too often. So when I do, I might as well go all out, right? Bacon AND creamy, cheesy pasta? Yes, please.

The combination of creamy bacon with crisp, smoky bacon in this dish was so perfect. Make sure you follow the instructions to cook the chicken in some of the bacon grease to really take that bacon flavor through the dish. The jalapenos added just the tiniest bit of heat while the tomatoes were bright and a touch sweet. If you don't want the heat, you could easily keep the color by using peas or chopped spinach instead of jalapenos.

So when you need to satisfy a creamy pasta bacon craving, put this on your menu! It won't disappoint.

Creamy Tomato-Garlic Pasta with Chicken and Bacon
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (optional); seeded and minced
  • 1/2 c light cream
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb small/medium shape cooked pasta
  • Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Once cooled, crumble. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease from the pan. 
  • Season the cubed chicken with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Add chicken to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a dish and keep warm. 
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat. Add the garlic, tomatoes and jalapenos; saute 3 minutes. Very lightly smash some of the tomatoes with the back of your spoon/spatula. 
  • Lower the heat and add the cream. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low to maintain a simmer. 
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese. Once combined and creamy, return the pan to the heat over low and add in the chicken, and half of the bacon. Add the pasta slowly, stirring (you don't want to add more pasta than the sauce can handle). 
  • Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve topped with the rest of the bacon. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Healthy Apple-Walnut Muffins

Back to school time means needing to have a lot of grab-and-go snacks around in addition to needing a lot of snacks for the lunch box.

My little one started first grade last week and since her lunch is so early, she is coming home so hungry! I'm sure some of that has to do with the fact that she's too excited and distracted at lunch to eat. I see how long it takes her to eat dinner most nights - I can only imagine the level of craziness, noise and distraction in a cafeteria with 100 other 6 year olds.

I try to pack lunches and snacks that are healthy and filling, low in sugar, and easy to eat. Muffins make the perfect snack for all of those reasons.

These muffins were inspired by carrot muffins that I made several months ago. They start with whole wheat flour and don't use any sugar - pure maple syrup provides some sweetness. Since apple season is starting, I was inspired to create a fall muffin with grated apples. Walnuts and raisins provide some other textures and flavors.

These are very simple, straight forward muffins to make (this is coming from someone who doesn't enjoy baking all that much so you know they have to be easy!). I was able to make 12 full sized-muffins and 8 mini-muffins with the ingredients below.

I had one of these this morning at work and it held me over for a long time. I think I will be making these several times this fall - the perfect mid morning snack, lunch snack, or afternoon pick me up!

Healthy Apple-Walnut Muffins
Adapted from: Healthy Carrot Muffins with Raisins
  • 1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cups peeled and grated apples (note - don't grate your apples until you are ready to add them to the mixture as they will turn brown)
  • 1/2 c roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c raisins tossed in 1 tsp whole wheat flour (Optional)
  • 1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 c vanilla fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with papers 
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Add the grated apples, chopped walnuts, and floured raisins and stir to combine.
  • In a medium bowl combine the oil and maple syrup, beating together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, and then add the yogurt and vanilla and mix well. 
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a big spoon until just combined (a few lumps are ok). 
  • Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a pinch of sugar. 
  • Bake for 13 minutes, or until the muffins are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  • Place the muffin tins on a cooling rack to cool. Once completely cooled, store covered for 2 days or in the fridge for up to 4 days. 
Healthy and Delicious Apple Muffins with Walnuts. NO added sugar!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos

Cheesy and creamy with bacon. Need I say more? You will want to make these ASAP!

With so many jalapenos from my dad's garden I knew I'd have to make a fun appetizer. It was a holiday weekend, after all, and holiday weekends are made for good eats. Who cares that we already indulged at a Polish festival on Saturday and a German festival on Sunday... it was still a holiday so the rules go out the window!

These are jalapeno poppers with a twist, inspired by my love of creamy, cheesy dips, bacon, and summer tomatoes.

To prepare them, wash your jalapenos, halve them -

And then using a small paring knife, carefully cut away the ribs and seeds.

Mix up your ingredients for the filling and spoon into the jalapenos.

Bake for about 10 minutes, top with more cheese and then turn on the broiler for a minute.

Top with more bacon, green onions and tomatoes for serving.

These exceeded all expectations that we had for them. We devoured them, even though the peppers were so, so spicy. After sending pics to my dad and cousin, I already have requests to make them again. I can't wait :)

Cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 8 jalapenos, washed, halved, seeds removed
  • 4 slices raw bacon, diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese plus more for topping
  • Pinch of salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Cook your diced bacon in a skillet until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve the bacon grease.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, cheddar, and 1 TBSP of the bacon grease. 
  • Stir in most of the green onions, tomatoes and bacon - reserving some for topping
  • Generously spoon the mixture into the jalapenos 
  • Bake for 10 minutes; top with the remaining cheese and turn on the broiler for one minute. 
  • Transfer to a serving plate and top with the remaining green onions, tomatoes and bacon. Serve immediately.