Monday, March 31, 2014

delicious roasted sweet potatoes

We eat a lot of sweet potatoes, but I had been getting bored with our usual baked and mashed dishes. I decided to try toasting them, and they are now my new favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes.  This is an incredibly easy, yummy side dish. A little bit of oil and some salt is all it takes to enhance the flavor, and roasting really brings out their sweetness, giving them slightly crispy edges while keeping the interior really soft. They almost taste caramelized. I love this dish. It's super easy, tastes great and cooks pretty quickly.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I N G R E D I E N T S :

3-4 sweet potatoes
Salt (I use sea salt)

D I R E C T I O N S :
Preheat oven to 425
Rinse, peel and dice potatoes.
Place potatoes in a bowl and coat in a small amount of XVOO.
Spread potatoes in a baking pan (I line my pan with parchment paper-just check to make sure yours is okay for that high of a temperature if you decide to use it).
Sprinkle generously with salt.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are browned and insides are soft, tossing once during cooking.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Coconut oil chocolate chip cookies

Oh, these cookies are so good! I have been wanting to make chocolate chip cookies with coconut oil for months now, and I finally found a good recipe for them on Pinterest. These cookies had a great flavor and turned out perfectly. I love the subtle flavor that the coconut oil adds-that alone is worth using coconut oil over butter! The directions call for refrigerating the dough prior to baking, which is definitely a must when using coconut oil-I know, because I had a huge fail the first time I tried to make cookies with the oil and didn't refrigerate it! These were easy to make and my whole family loved them. 
The original recipe is linked below and has a wealth of information on baking with coconut oil, uses for  the oil, etc. 

Coconut oil chocolate chip cookies
Original recipe here

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract/powder (I used extract)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (plus more if needed)
2 Tbsp corn starch (original recipe says this is a key ingredient)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream together softened coconut oil (it should have a consistency of softened butter), sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract with your mixer until light and fluffy (5 minutes).

Add flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt and mix in until just combined. If the dough seems to be thin and oily, add 1-2 more Tbsp of flour (I did not have to do this). Fold in chocolate chips by hand.

Divide the dough into 16 equal parts and roll them into slightly flattened balls (chilled dough will be difficult to re-shape). Cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough balls for at least 2 hours, or overnight (I chilled them for 2 hours and it was plenty of time). 

Preheat oven to 350 F and place chilled dough balls 2 inches apart on a lined baking sheet (I used parchment paper. The original recipes says that when using coconut oil unlined sheets always resulted in too dark cookie bottoms for her). 

Bake for 9-11 minutes until the edges are just set. Centers can still look slightly uncooked.

Cool cookies on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Store airtight.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Homemade vegetable beef soup

I have wanted to find a favorite vegetable beef soup recipe for some time now, and I think I finally have. I had the best vegetable beef soup at a restaurant this past fall, and asked the waiter what all they put in it. After looking around online and including what they mentioned, I played around with a recipe that I've now made twice, and we all love it. It's just a traditional vegetable beef soup but I love the flavor. The combination of chicken and beef broth along with vegetable juice is one I love because it gives a great flavor but isn't too beefy or tomatoey. I also used a sweet potato instead of a white one, not knowing how it would turn out, and we loved it. It adds a subtle sweet yet savory flavor to the soup, but is not at all overwhelming- just a good, healthy addition that I'll use from now on. This soup is very quick and easy to make and it makes enough for the four of us to have for two meals.  Pasta could also be added to make it go further. I didn't measure out my spices but sprinkled them generously over the soup. We had this for dinner but it also makes great leftovers for lunch. I would love to double this next time and freeze half of it.

Vegetable beef soup

I N G R E D I E N T S :
2 Tbsp XVOO (could also use vegetable oil, I just use olive oil because it's healthy)
1 medium-large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb beef
28 ounces tomato (roughly chop up a can of whole tomatoes or buy diced), drained
15 oz chicken broth
15 oz beef broth
1 Tbsp. better than bouillon chicken base  (I know this stuff isn't nutritious but it gives great flavor!)
1/2 Tbsp. better than bouillon beef base
1 1/2 cups vegetable juice, like V-8
28 ounces frozen vegetables (I used a mix of corn, green beans, peas, carrots, etc)
1 cup frozen lima beans (you can also add more of other frozen vegetables, too)
1 sweet potato, diced
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper (add more if you like)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Oregano, dried
Basil, dried
Parsley, dried
Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top of soup
Ciabatta or any other good bread, or crackers for serving along with soup.

D I R E C T I O N S :
Heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent and garlic is turning a golden color. 
Add ground beef and brown until completely cooked. Drain all excess oil.
Add tomatoes, broth, chicken and beef bases, vegetable juice, vegetables, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to pot. Generously sprinkle remaining spices over the soup (going a little lighter on the garlic and onion powders). Bring back to a boil on medium heat, and then let simmer on medium-low for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. 
Adjust seasonings to taste.
I find it best to let the soup sit on low for a little while to continue to let the flavors combine, so I'll make this a couple of hours before dinner. 
Top individual bowls with a small amount of parmesan cheese, and serve with bread or crackers. I took a loaf of ciabatta, cut it in half to make two long slices, and brushed it with melted butter before sprinkling it with a very small amount of garlic powder and salt and topping with a little parmesan. I baked it on 350 for 10-15 minutes until the edges were just turning brown, and it was a great addition to the soup. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Homemade granola

I have been wanting to make some granola lately for breakfast because we are always buying the packaged kind, and the homemade version has to be healthier and is definitely less processed. I made this and it is delicious. I used coconut oil instead of butter and combined honey and maple syrup, and loved the flavor. The dried cranberries add a sweet and tart punch but dried cherries would be wonderful, too. You could also use other types of nuts and seeds to your liking.

Homemade granola

I N G R E D I E N T S :
3 cups oats
1/2-1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries (or raisins)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I found unsweetened at earth fare)
6 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Combine oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and coconut in a bowl and mix.
Add coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, vanilla and salt and mix until well combined.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place granola onto it in an even layer.
Bake on 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until granola is a golden brown, tossing once or twice during cooking to keep it from forming large chunks. You want to make sure to not overcook it or it will taste too done.
Let cool and store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Favorite roasted chicken

It has been so long since I have posted any recipes! I love keeping this little blog as a way to share recipes I like with my friends, and also because I often find myself referencing it at dinner time to look up a recipe I'm making, so it's a great way to keep record of them. I have several recipes I've been meaning to post, so hopefully they will all make their way onto here soon.
I made this roasted chicken recipe several weeks back, and absolutely loved it. I have made other chicken recipes that have been good, but I'm always wishing they had a little more flavor. So far, this is my favorite roasted chicken recipe because I love the amount of flavor in it. I have also started using sweet potatoes in addition to or even instead of regular potatoes, and they might be my favorite part of the entire dish. I love the sweet flavor of the potato combined with the savory flavors from the chicken and seasonings. I am so happy with this chicken that it will definitely be my go-to recipe from now on, so I wanted to share it. Roasted chicken is nice in that it is so adaptable to personal taste and doesn't require exact amounts of things. I tend to use a lot of seasoning so that it has flavor and I also try to get as much seasoning underneath the skin as I can.  My measurements are not exact, just approximate amounts. I made it again last night and had to share it, so here is the recipe!

Roasted chicken

I N G R E D I E N T S :

1 3 lb pound whole chicken, giblets removed
5 cloves garlic, 4 whole and one minced
Juice of one lemon plus 1 other whole lemon, cut in half
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces each (you can add more if you have room)
2-3 sweet potatoes and one regular potato if you wish, peeled and sliced into half-inch slices
Thyme (I use powder)
Parsley (I used dried)
White wine (or white cooking wine-what I used)

D I R E C T I O N S :

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut onion into several large chunks and place on the bottom of a 9x12 pan.
Melt butter and combine with olive oil and the juice of one lemon.
Remove any giblets and stuff cavity with 4 cloves of garlic and 1-2 halves of the other lemon, plus a small amount of the butter/oil/lemon combination.
Place the whole chicken on top of the onion. If you wish, tie legs with kitchen twine and tuck wings underneath the body of the chicken.
Make a spice rub with the salt, pepper, minced garlic, thyme, and parsley. I do not use exact amounts but if I had to guess, I would say I used around 1/2 Tbsp. each salt and pepper and then generously sprinkled in the thyme, parsley and minced garlic. Add a small amount of oil or butter to the rub to make a paste, and rub generously over entire chicken. I try to lift up as much skin as I can to rub it underneath so that the actual meat has flavor and not just the skin.
Place carrot and potato slices around chicken.
Drizzle oil/butter/lemon mixture and a little bit of cooking wine over chicken and vegetables.
Lightly season entire dish with a little more salt, pepper, parsley and some paprika before placing in the oven.
Cook on 375 for 1 1/2-2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure the skin isn't getting too brown.
If it is, tent it with foil. You might also want to turn the potatoes or spoon some of the liquid over them mid-way during the cooking so they don't get dried out on one side.
Cook until juices run clear and making sure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

simple baked squash

This recipe is almost embarrassingly simple but something I make several times a summer when we have lots of squash. It's a very basic recipe and a nice, easy vegetable dish that we always like. We like to do veggie nights and in the summer they are great-some squash, pinto beans, corn bread, sweet potatoes, and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers all make a great meal. Last night I served this with bbq chicken, mashed potatoes and cucumbers and tomatoes.

Baked Squash

I N G R E D I E N T S :
Several squash...4-5 big ones or 8 or so little ones
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

D I R E C T I O N S :
Preheat oven to 350.
In one dish place milk, and in another place mixed cornmeal and flour.
Wash and slice squash-I try to slice it very thin-less than 1/4".
Dip squash in milk, then coat in flour mixture.
Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes, then turn each slice over and bake another 30 minutes.
Squash should be soft and golden.

Friday, June 28, 2013

summer fresh peach pie

One of my favorite things about summer is all of the fresh, local produce. This past weekend, I took my girls to a local produce stand and bought a bunch of peaches. One of my daughters was especially excited about making a peach pie, so that is what we did on Saturday. I love peach pie. Love it. But, I don't think I had ever made one, and if I had, it's been so long that I don't even remember. After looking through some recipes, I came up with this version, and it was delicious. I was originally going to use a store bought crust, but realized I only had one and needed two, so decided to make my own. I used to make crusts from scratch often, but hadn't in a while (I tend to love shortcuts these days!). This one was worth it-it was so good. And my girls loved playing with the extra dough, rolling pin, and lattice cutter. Who needs play doh when you have all of that?

This pie is so good. Do yourself a favor and make one!

Because I didn't have enough peaches, I halved the recipe for the filling. It was plenty for a regular pie dish but for a deep dish, you would want to use the full amount. I had a deep dish pie plate and could have filled it with to the top had I had the full amount!

Peach pie
Adapted from this recipe at Two Peas and Their Pod
Crust adapted from one in my Better Homes and Garden Cookbook
(I'm sure the crust from the Two Peas site is good, I just didn't have all of the ingredients).

I N G R E D I E N  T S :

For the filling:
8 cups sliced peaches, skin removed
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I did not use)

3-4 tablespoons cornstarch, depending on how juicy your peaches are 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the crust:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
8-10 Tbsp. cold water
1 egg, whisked, plus 1 Tbsp water for egg wash
sugar for sprinkling on crust

D I R E C T I O N S :

Begin by assembling crust. I prepared my dough in advance and refrigerated it for a couple of hours.

In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea size.

Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of water over part of the flour mixture; toss with a fork. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 Tbsp of the water at a time, until flour mixture is moistened. Divide pastry in half; form halves into balls. 

On a lightly floured sufrace, use your hands to slightly flatten one pastry ball. Roll it from center to edges into a circle 12 inches in diameter. 

Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin. Unroll pastry into a 9-iunch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate without stretching it. Trim pastry even with rim of pie plate. Transfer desired filling to pastry-lined pie plate.

Peel and dice peaches into large chunks. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.

Roll remaining ball into a circle 12 inches in diameter. Cut slits in pastry. 

Place pastry on filling; trim to 1/2 inch beyond edge of plate. Fold top pastry under bottom pastry. Crimp edge as desired.

For a lattice-top pie: (You could google a video for this or at least a picture of how to do it if you aren't sure)  Prepare as at left, except trim bottom pastry to 1/2 inch begone edge of pie plate. Roll out remaining pastry and cut into 1/2" wide strips. Transfer desired filling to pastry-lined pie plate. Weave strips over filling in a lattice pattern. Press strip end into bottom pastry rim. Fold bottom pastry over strip ends. 

Brush egg wash over top pastry and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a 400 degrees F oven for 45 minutes or until the pie is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool completely on a wire cooling rack before cutting.

Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Breaded tilapia filets, AKA homemade fish sticks

I made these the other night, and they were so good! I wasn't sure what kind of tilapia we wanted to have, but something breaded sounded good so as I was looking up recipes, I found one for fish sticks from my friend Amber's blog and thought I would give them a try. These were so easy, and we loved the flavor. And, they are so much healthier than store bought fish sticks so no need to feel any guilt for having fish sticks for dinner (not that I  will judge...we had some from the store recently, too)! I adapted this recipe a little bit, so my version is below. I will definitely be making these again.

Breaded tilapa, AKA homemade fish sticks
Slightly adapted from this recipe at This Mommy Cooks

I N G R E D I E N T S :

2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 lb tilapia cut into 1/2-inch thick sticks (I took 3 tilapia filets and quartered them)
Salt and Pepper
lemon juice from half a lemon
3-4 Tbsp melted butter

D I R E C T I O N S :
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
Spray a baking pan with cooking spray. 
In a shallow dish, beat together the eggs and milk and set aside. 
Pour the bread crumbs and flour onto two separate plates. 
Season fish sticks with salt and pepper. 
Dredge fish sticks in flour, then dip in the egg mixture. 
Next, transfer fish sticks to bread crumbs, covering fish completely and pressing lightly to adhere. 
Place each fish stick on prepared baking sheet so they aren't touching. 
Season each fish stick with a little more salt and pepper, some paprika, and lemon juice.
Drizzle melted butter over fish sticks just before baking.
Bake until lightly browned, about 15 - 20 minutes, turning the fish sticks halfway through.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Easy Baked Tilapia with Vegetables

We've been eating fish more lately, and I recently tried this super simple tilapia recipe. It took two minutes to put together and had a good flavor. This is a great meal for a week night when you don't want to spend a long time in the kitchen. Serve with rice or potatoes and you have an easy meal!

Easy Baked Tilapia
From here at
Makes 4 servings

I N G R E D I E N T  S :
4 tilapia fillets
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning TM, or to taste (I just sprinkled it on)
1/2 tsp garlic salt, or to taste
1 lemon, sliced
1 (16 oz) package frozen cauliflower with broccoli and red pepper (I used cauliflower, broccoli, carrots)

D I R E C T I O N S : 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a 9x13" baking dish.
Place the tilapia fillets on the bottom of the baking dish and dot with butter. 
Season with Old Bay seasoning and garlic salt.
Top each one with a slice or two of lemon (I actually just squirted the lemon juice on).
Arrange the frozen mixed vegetables around the fish, and season lightly with salt and pepper (I do not recommend seasoning the vegetables with Old Bay because they get a little spicy).
Cover the dish and bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, until vegetables are tender and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Red leaf lettuce salad with apples, goat cheese, candied walnuts, & honey vinaigrette

My husband and I recently celebrated our 10 year anniversary by going to Charleston, SC. We had a wonderful time and had some of the best food we've ever eaten. The restaurants alone are worth the trip! There are so many we didn't even get to try...we'll just have to go back. Every meal I had included a delicious salad. One salad I had was served with honey vinaigrette, which was delicious and something I had never had but knew I wanted to make at home. This salad is inspired by some of the great salads I had on our trip. The apples, cranberries, candied walnuts and goat cheese are paired well with the honey vinaigrette. This really is a delicious salad! Goat cheese can be expensive but I find good deals at Trader Joe's and Costco. You can use feta if you don't have or like goat cheese, and I tried this as well, but I much prefer the goat cheese. The walnuts are very simple to make and totally worth the extra few minutes. This is a delicious salad-perfect for a casual weeknight meal or nice dinner party.

Red leaf lettuce salad with apples, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and honey vinaigrette
Recipe mine

S A L A D   I N G R E D I E N T S :
1 head red leaf lettuce
2 granny smith apples, sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or more
Candied walnuts (recipe follows)
Goat cheese

D R E S S I N G  I N G R E D I E N T S :
1/2 cup honey 
1/2 cup oil (I used a mix of EVOO and safflower-you can also use canola or vegetable)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

D I R E C T I O N S :
Combine ingredients in food processor or blender. Blend well.

Candied Walnuts
Adapted from this recipe

I N G R E D I E N T S : 
3 cups walnuts
3 Tbsp water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt

D I R E C T I O N S :
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a heavy large baking sheet. Combine sugar, water and salt in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil 2 minutes. Add walnuts and stir until walnuts are coated with mixture, about 1 minute. Transfer walnuts to prepared sheet, spreading evenly. Bake until walnuts are just beginning to brown, about 13 minutes. Transfer to a sheet of foil or waxed paper and quickly separate with a fork. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.