Wednesday, January 19, 2011

7-Layer Greek Dip

Okay, for all you sugar haters out there (just kidding - who could hate sugar?) here is a healthy and flavorful recipe. I'm borrowing it from, where else?, Our Best Bites. I made it for New Year's Eve and accidentally bought Kalamata olives that were marinated in something spicy (stupid Fry's deli needs to fix their labels) so it had a little kick to it but it was still really good. I made it again this weekend since I still had so many of the ingredients on hand.

You can use store-bought hummus (you'll most likely find it in the deli section as well as the Kalamata olives) or there is a great recipe to make your own here. I've bought Stacy's brand pita chips to serve with it, but crackers are great too.

from Our Best Bites

1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened (low fat is fine)
1 tsp. dill weed or Greek Seasoning (I actually use about 1/2 - 3/4 tsp. of both)
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups hummus
1 cup seeded, diced cucumbers
1 cup seeded, diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/8 - 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

With an electric mixer, combine cream cheese with dill and/or Greek seasoning, garlic, and lemon juice. Spread in the bottom of a pie plate or shallow serving dish. Then spread a layer of hummus. Then, in order, sprinkle evenly with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onions, Feta*, and parsley. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or fresh veggies.

*I also like to sprinkle some freshly cracked black pepper on top, before the parsley.

Striped Delight

I am in the middle of a move and am about to lose what's left of my mind, so I'm taking a break and posting this yummy recipe. I talked Caralie into making this her birthday dessert instead of the proverbial cake. I'm kinda caked out right now. Don't worry, we'll do a cake for her party.

I will probably never learn food staging and decent photography (at least not until I can afford a DSLR). I tried to get the photo off the KraftRecipes site, but it was part of a video so it didn't work. If you want to see a more attractive and appetizing (and ultimately unrealistic) photo go here.


35 Oreo cookies
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened (neufchatel or 1/3 less fat are fine)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cold milk
1 (12 oz) tub Cool Whip, divided
2 (3.9 oz) pkgs. Jell-o instant chocolate pudding
3 1/4 cups milk

Process cookies in food processor until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 dish and refrigerate until ready to use.

Whisk cream cheese, sugar, and 2 Tbsp. milk until well blended. Fold in 1 1/4 cups Cool Whip and spread over crust.

Beat pudding mixes and 3 1/4 cups milk with whisk or electric mixer for 2 minutes. Pour over cream cheese layer. Let stand 5 minutes then spread remaining whipped topping over pudding layer. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. If you place dessert in freezer about one hour before serving, it will be easier to cut into squares.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Confetti Chicken and Black Bean Soup

This is an adaptation of the Black Bean Soup that I posted back in 2009. With all of the colorful veggies, this soup made me think of confetti - hence the name. Doesn't it look pretty? And healthy, too.

When my husband came home he was like, "Aw, soup AGAIN?" I hadn't thought about it, but I've been making a lot of soup lately. I love soup! And here in Arizona it's super hot about 8 months out of the year, so I have to get my soup in somewhere. He added shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips to his. Not a bad idea!

A tip for getting the most juice out of your limes (or any citrus fruit for that matter): microwave them for about 10 seconds and then knead them on your counter top a couple of times before cutting.


1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3 medium carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
4 cups water
1 (15.25 oz) can corn
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
3 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
3 (15.5 oz) cans black beans
2 limes, juiced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and carrots; stirring occasionally, saute veggies until tender, about 12 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, coriander, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add water, corn, diced tomatoes with green chilies and chicken.

In a blender, puree chicken broth with one can of black beans; add to pot with remaining two cans of beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add lime juice and cilantro and serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Garlic Parmesan Orzo

Okay, so this photo is junk but that is because this pasta was devoured by everyone before I got a good shot. Something different if you are tired of potatoes or rice. I won't pretend that it's health food because it's not, but the flavor is great.

If you are wondering, "what the heck is orzo?" it's a small pasta that looks like grains of rice. You'll find it with the other pasta in your grocery:


2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley, or 2 tsp. dried
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. In a large skillet, saute garlic in butter over medium heat until tender and fragrant. Add the orzo, Parmesan cheese, milk, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until heated through.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

French Toast Casserole

An easy way to get the french toast taste without all the hassle. This got two thumbs up from the hubby and kid. It bakes up fluffy and has an almost custardy texture. It's great with maple syrup but you could also sprinkle it with powdered sugar. I also like the idea of adding fresh blueberries and maybe cubes of cream cheese before baking. This is easily doubled if you want to make enough to fill a 9x13 pan.

You can make the casserole ahead of time, refrigerating it overnight and then baking it in the morning. Let it stand at room temp at least 15 minutes before baking.

adapted from

5 cups bread cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
dash of cloves
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, 2 Tbsp. sugar, salt, vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Fold in bread cubes and press gently to help bread soak up egg mixture. Let stand 10 minutes then mix and press again. Pour into prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon; sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until top is golden and casserole is set. Serve with maple syrup or a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

I suspect that in the next few posts you will discover that I am on an Our Best Bites recipe kick. And who wouldn't be? They have great recipes and I haven't been disappointed yet. I saw this one the other day and couldn't get it out of my mind because I love french dip sandwiches. GOOD french dip sandwiches. And this didn't involve spending an arm and a leg on deli roast beef. You make it with the cheapest beef roast you can find! And it's delicious.

One note on provolone cheese. Most varieties have smoke flavor added. Personally, I don't care for it so I search for the "plain" slices. I found them at Safeway this time. But if you don't care one way or the other, no problem.

And when it comes to using the broiler, be prepared. I naively thought it would take a good two minutes to toast the sandwiches. Hah! After one minute I had to scrape the bread because it almost burned. I'd give it 30 seconds and then check it every 10 seconds after that until they're ready.

Crap, just writing about this is making me hungry for another.

from Our Best Bites

1 (2.5 - 3lb) beef roast
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
2 (1 oz) packets onion soup mix
2 cups water
2 cans beef broth
6-8 crusty sandwich rolls
slices of provolone cheese, as desired

Rub roast with salt and pepper. Heat oil in skillet over med-high heat. Once hot, add roast and sear on all sides. Place roast in slow cooker and sprinkle with onion soup mix. Add water and beef broth. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours and then reduce to low for another 3-4 hours.

Remove roast from slow cooker and shred the meat (you can add a little of the juices to the meat to keep it moist, if necessary). Divide meat between sandwich rolls, top with cheese, and broil open-faced until bread is golden and toasted and cheese is melted. Serve with remaining juices (au jus) for dipping.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Scones with Lemon Curd

I had a bunch of lemon curd left over from making the Luscious Lemon Cake and needed a way to use it up (besides just eating it with a spoon...*cough cough*). I found a recipe for scones with lemon curd on Simple Analogy and decided to give it a shot.

I've never had or made traditional scones before. They are similar to a biscuit, but are sweet. In all honesty I didn't much care for the scones by themselves, but once you add the lemon curd, holy moly I wished they weren't so darn filling so I could eat them all myself! I bet they'd also be great with strawberry freezer jam if you have it.

Heather also suggests adding chocolate or cinnamon chips to the scones and sprinkling the tops with cinnamon sugar just before baking for some variety. Seriously, you could add whatever you want. Just don't eat them plain.

from Simple Analogy

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup + 2-3 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In medium sized bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.* Pour in milk and mix until dough can be shaped into a ball. Press dough into a round disc (about 7-8 inches in diameter) on parchment lined cookie sheet. Cut into 8 wedges.

Pull wedges about 1-2 inches apart and bake for 14-17 minutes. Cool before serving.

*If adding chocolate or cinnamon chips, mix them in before the milk.


1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
8 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (10 Tbsp.), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together sugar, zest, and egg yolks; whisk in lemon juice and salt.

Add butter and place pan over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until butter has melted, mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and bubbles form around the edge of pan (about 5 minutes). Do not boil.

Remove pan from heat while continuing to whisk. Pour curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass bowl. Press plastic wrap against surface of curd and refrigerate until cool. (To store, refrigerate in an air-tight container up to 2 weeks.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Glass Block Jell-o Squares

Caralie saw this on Our Best Bites and insisted that we make it. I was hesitant because one of the ingredients seemed questionable to me and I was worried that they would be super sweet. I was pleasantly surprised! These are really good and are not icky-sweet at all. And they are super fun for kids (and adults too). Give them ample time to firm up, though.

from Our Best Bites

4 (3 oz) boxes assorted Jell-o flavors
2 packets unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Spray 4 small food storage containers (like Rubbermaid, Tupperware, or Ziploc) with cooking spray and set aside.

Bring 5+ cups of water to a boil. Combine 1 cup boiling water with one package of Jell-o until dissolved and pour into one of the containers. Repeat with remaining packages of Jell-o:

image via Our Best Bites

Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

When the Jell-o has set, bring another 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. While this water is heating, sprinkle the 2 packets of unflavored gelatin over 1/2 cup of cold water in a large bowl. Allow to stand about 4 minutes. Pour boiling water over dissolved gelatin and stir to combine. Add sweetened condensed milk and mix well. Allow to come to room temperature.

Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Cut the flavored Jell-o into small cubes and gently toss to combine in pan:

image via Our Best Bites

Pour the cooled milk mixture over the cubes and, if necessary, rearrange some of the colored Jell-o to make sure it is evenly distributed and not sticking out. Place pan in refrigerator and chill overnight. Cut into squares, rectangles, or various shapes with cookie cutters and serve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta

I had some fresh basil left over from making bruschetta for New Year's Eve (have I ever posted a recipe for that...?) and decided to rig up a yummy pasta sauce to finish it off. This makes enough sauce for an 8 oz box of spaghetti or a 12 oz box of rotini or penne. And it goes great with soft garlic breadsticks.


2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. basalmic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until tender. Stir in tomatoes, basalmic vinegar, and sugar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese, Parmesan, and basil until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper. Serve over your favorite pasta and sprinkle with additional Parmesan.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Luscious Lemon Cake

I've adapted this recipe from one I found in Good Housekeeping in March of 2006. It's from a restaurant in Belfast, Maine, called the Gothic Cafe. They make it into a bundt and don't include the lemon curd. They also use too little frosting (in my humble opinion) so I've increased it by one half. I will include the original instructions at the end if you want to make it that way. But I personally love my variation.

You can buy lemon curd pre-made at the grocery store. You'll find it either with the jams or with the pie fillings. I made mine with Martha Stewart's recipe. It makes a lot and you won't use it all, but it's dang delicious. I am going to seriously miss our lemon tree when we move!

adapted from Lemon Bundt Cake at Gothic Cafe

3 lemons
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup butter milk*
1/2 cup lemon curd

3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Trace bottom of pans on wax paper, cut out circles, and place in bottom of pans (this makes it easier to remove the cake from the pan).

From lemons, grate 2 Tbsp. peel and squeeze 3 Tbsp. juice (reserving another 3 Tbsp. juice for frosting). In a bowl, with mixer on low speed, blend sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Beat in flour, salt, and baking soda alternately with buttermilk. Fold in peel and juice; spoon evenly into pans. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and remove cake from pans.

Using a large serrated knife, cut off tops of cakes to make them level; discard. Spread lemon curd on bottom half and top with other cake.

To make frosting: In a bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until combined. Beat in vanilla and powdered sugar, one cup at at time. Beat in juice. Spread over cake. Keep refrigerated until serving.

For bundt variation: Grease and flour a 12-inch bundt pan. Pour batter into pan and bake for 60 - 70 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Frost.

*buttermilk substitute: pour 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or white vinegar into bottom of liquid measuring cup. Pour in milk until it measures 1 cup. Let stand for 10 minutes before using.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Green Chili Chicken Tortilla Soup

Someone made this at a church function last year and I loved it and she gave me the recipe but I've managed to misplace it. So I went searching online to find something similar and I found a great recipe on Group Recipes. It calls for fresh chilies from the garden, but the original recipe I received simply called for a tub of chilies you can buy in the freezer section of the grocery store:

Much simpler. Just make sure you buy the mild variety unless you like a lot of heat. The soup itself is very simple:

But the fun part is adding all the other fresh ingredients:

Clockwise from top left: tortilla strips, chopped fresh cilantro, chopped green onions, guacamole, diced tomatoes, and lime quarters. You can use fresh chopped avocado or you can do the easy thing and buy some pre-made guac. I like Wholly Guacamole:

adapted from Group Recipes

4 bone-in split chicken breasts with skin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
1 (13 oz) tub mild green chilies, thawed (or you can use 3 [4 oz] cans of diced green chilies)
8 cups (64 oz) low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

tortilla strips* or crushed tortilla chips
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 (7 oz) pkg. guacamole or 2 avocados, diced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 limes, cut into quarters

Heat oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Generously sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place, 2 at a time, in pot, skin side down. Brown for 5 minutes then turn and brown for 3 minutes more. Remove from pot and set aside and repeat with other two breasts; remove and set aside.

Add onion to oil and drippings in pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, and sweat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While onions cook, remove skin from chicken and discard.

Add green chilies to pot along with broth, cumin, oregano and chicken. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove chicken breasts, shred chicken, and return to pot, discarding bones. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer another 10 minutes.

Serve with tortilla strips, diced tomato, guacamole, green onions, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime as desired.

*To make tortilla strips:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Cut 12 white corn tortillas into thirds:

Then into strips:
Spread evenly on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10, or until lightly brown and crispy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Almonds

I found this recipe on a blog called Not Just Decorating. It makes me wish I liked nuts because while it's baking, your house smells divine. These were ultimately more popular than the smoked almonds I also made - probably because of the sugar. They would make a great gift at the holidays, or any time for that matter!

from Not Just Decorating

4 cups almonds
1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Beat egg white until foamy. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Add sugars and cinnamon and toss to coat. Spread evenly on cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally (2-3 times). Allow to cool then store in an air-tight container.