Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kicked-Up Cornbread Casserole

Kicked-Up Cornbread Casserole

My Aunt suggested I give this recipe a try & I’m glad I did. I’m not sure where it originated from, but it’s been passed on from friend-to-friend for a while & now I am passing it on to you :) I made a few slight changes, but the recipe is essentially the same. I love how it is not your everyday kind of cornbread. The sweetness of the cornbread really pairs nicely with the savory flavors of the onions and chilies. The sour cream is a nice touch too. And who doesn’t love cheddar cheese?? Yum.
XOXO….little j Y

Kicked-Up Cornbread Casserole
*Makes 12 servings

4 Tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
1 (7 oz) can diced green chilies, drained
1 (14 oz) can creamed corn
1 (14 oz) can kernel corn, drained
1 (15 oz) box cornbread mix (I used a Honey Cornbread)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk or whipping cream
1 cup sour cream
3 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt butter in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and green chiles. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until onions are lightly browned.

In a large bowl, combine creamed corn, kernel corn, eggs, milk and packaged cornbread mix. Pour mixture into pre-greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Layer the onion & chilies on top of the cornbread mixture. Spread sour cream over the onions. Top with grated cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cap 'N Crunch Crinkle Cookies

Cap 'N Crunch Crinkle Cookies
I thought it would be interesting to try a cookie recipe with Cap ‘N Crunch cereal, but I am not completely wowed by them. I guess it’s due to the fact that Cap ‘N Crunch really only adds some extra sugar in the mix, rather than some distinct flavor. The cookies still turned out with a nice consistency…a crunchy exterior with a chewy center. So I decided that enough could make this cookie blog worthy! Give them a try & let me know what you think!! XOXO....little j Y

Cap ‘N Crunch Crinkle Cookies
*Makes 21 cookies

1 stick butter (½ cup)
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 cups Cap ‘N Crunch cereal, crushed into small bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Start off by blending the butter and sugars together in your mixer, using the paddle attachment. Blend until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and blend until just mixed. Stir in Cap ‘N Crunch cereal.

Drop by tablespoons on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Made with Cap 'N Crunch cereal!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
For those of you who haven’t cooked with quinoa, now is the time to start! It serves as a great replacement to rice or couscous and provides an excellent source of protein, fiber & iron. Quinoa has a pleasant texture that is neither soft nor crunchy, but a combination of both. The flavor of quinoa is quite mild, but it also acts as an absorbent to any ingredients added.

The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad pairs nicely as a side dish to chicken, sprinkled on a salad {salad on salad!} to give it a little more substance, or can also be enjoyed by itself. It was designed with my vegetarian friends in mind :)

As you’ll notice, this recipe does make A LOT. Perfect for a party—not so perfect if there’s only one or two of you. Keep in mind that 1 cup quinoa plus 2 cups liquid equals 3 cups cooked quinoa. This recipe makes 6 cups cooked quinoa and all the additional ingredients make enough to feed an army! Feel free to cut the recipe in half or alter it dependent on how much you are looking to make. 
XOXO….little j Y

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
*Makes about 10 cups

2 cups Organic Quinoa, rinsed & drained
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
1 cucumber, peeled & diced {seeds removed with melon baller}
½ sweet onion, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
½ cup Calamata olives, pitted & sliced
1 cup feta, diced

Start by cooking the quinoa. If needed, rinse & drain quinoa before beginning. In a medium-sized pot, combine the quinoa and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine garbanzo beans, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, olives and quinoa. Add feta. Drizzle with vinaigrette dressing & stir. {I started by adding 1 cup of the dressing. However, you’ll find that the quinoa absorbs the dressing very quickly. Add more vinaigrette as desired. Use leftovers on a salad.}

Vinaigrette Dressing
*Makes 2 cups

½ cup lemon juice {about 3 small lemons}
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 ¼ extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 garlic clove, diced
2 packets Splenda {or about 1 tsp sugar}
salt & pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well with a hand blender. {If you do not have a hand blender, combine lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, garlic, Splenda and salt & pepper in a bowl. Whisk well. Slowly add in the oil while whisking and mix until combined.}

Monday, January 17, 2011

French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart

This past week I was busy testing some cookie recipes & encountered some major kitchen blunders. You would think that something as simple as a cookie could not possibly turn out horrible, but it DID. I actually made a cookie that turned out hollow. Most of us like to bite into a warm, chewy cookie…not air!!  I was fed up with the cookbooks I was using, so I set out to the bookstore to buy one I could rely on! I ended up getting Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten. I love the simplicity of her recipes and I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.

A few friends were visiting from out of town, so I wanted to surprise them with a freshly baked Apple Tart. The dough has a great buttery flavor and pairs nicely with the sweet apples. Perfect for any tart lover…like me :) XOXO...little j Y

French Apple Tart
Recipe from: Ina Garten
*Makes 12 servings

Pastry Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 ½ (12 Tbsp) sticks cold, unsalted butter, diced into cubes
½ cup ice water

*Tip: Omit sugar to make dough for quiché & other savory dishes.

Apple Topping:
4 Granny Smith apples
½ cup sugar
½ stick (4 Tbsp) cold, unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
½ cup apricot jelly or jam (see note below)
2 Tbsp water

*Tip: Don’t have Granny Smith Apples on hand? Don’t worry. It’s okay to use any type of apple that may be in your refrigerator. I tested a little portion of this tart using Fugi apples & found that they held their form a little better than the Granny Smith apples. The Fugi apples were also a bit sweeter. I always thought Granny Smith’s were supposed to be the best for baking, but I don’t think this is true anymore. Experiment with different types & see what you like best!

To prepare the pastry dough, place the flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add butter and pulse 12-15 times, or until the butter forms small bits. With the motor running, pour the water down the feed tube. Continue to pulse until the dough starts to come together. Quickly dump dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Dough can also be prepared 2 days in advance. (*Note: If you do not have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter to mix the butter in with the flour mixture. Then gradually add the ice water until the dough becomes formed.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14 inches. Use a ruler to be exact, and trim the edges if there is excess. Place dough on sheet pan and place back in refrigerator while you prepare the apples.

Peel apples and cut them in half through the stem. Use a melon baller to remove the core. Use a sharp paring knife to remove the stem. Slice the apples crosswise in ¼ inch-thick slices. If needed, use the melon baller to create a semi-circle at the bottom of sliced apple. This makes the apples a little more aesthetically appealing. Arrange the apples by overlapping them diagonal rows, starting with the middle row first. Continue with rows until the pastry is completely covered. Sprinkle sugar over pastry and dot with the butter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry has browned. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking to insure even browning.

While the tart is baking, melt the apricot jelly and water in a small saucepan. If you are using a jam or preserves rather than a jelly, sieve the mixture after it is heated. This will get rid of any apricot clumps and leave you with a nice glaze. When the tart is done, brush the apples and pastry with the jelly mixture. Loosen tart to make sure it doesn’t stick to the parchment paper while it cools. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in a ziploc bag or air tight container. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blueberry-Cucumber Smoothie

Blueberry-Cucumber Smoothie

If you’re like me, you may be a little weary about putting cucumber into your smoothie. I mean, who would think of doing that? I wasn’t sure it would turn out, but I was surprisingly pleased by the flavor & texture. Perhaps you will find this smoothie just as refreshing as I did :)

It’s the perfect drink for breakfast on those days when you’re in a rush. Toss in a few scoops of protein powder & it’ll make for a nice post-weight workout smoothie too! The chia seeds are optional, however, I suggest giving them a try.

Chia Seeds!! 
For those not familiar with chia seeds, they are a great source of fiber & have a lot of omega 3 fatty acids. When the chia seeds are mixed into water or any liquid it forms a gel. It is often used as a replacement for eggs in baking. I like using it in this smoothie because the fiber helps to keep me fuller longer & they help make the consistency of the smoothie thicker. It is also a versatile little seed! You can sprinkle into your oatmeal, over yogurt, & of course add it into your smoothies. Find it at your local health food store or make life a little easier & just order online. I found mine on Amazon for about $13 for 2 pounds.

Blueberry-Cucumber Smoothie
Inspired by: Nourishing Meals
*Makes 2 servings

½ cucumber, cut into chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries
½ cup-¾ cup apple juice or water
handful of ice cubes
1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Place all ingredients in blender & blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

One of my goals this year was to learn how to cook with meat. And I’m talking about well-seasoned, flavorful meat that’ll leave you wanting more. It’s no surprise this dish exceeded my expectations, and of course left me wanting more. You will feel the same way after you try it...I promise :)

The film Julie & Julia inspired me to make Julia Child’s famous Beef Bourguignon. I may not know how to pronounce it correctly, but the important part is that I know how it is made. I can now say with confidence that I've mastered a piece of French cuisine! This dish is a lot easier to make than you would think. Yes it is time consuming, but so are a lot of other things. And the time you put into it is soooo worth it in the end. It’s the perfect dish to enjoy on a cool winter day or when you’re looking to impress your family & friends. XOXO....little j Y

Beef Bourguignon
Adapted from: Ina Garten’s Beef Bourguignon
Makes about 8 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz (half bag) smoked bacon, diced
2 ½ lbs chuck beef, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
salt & pepper, to taste
5 big carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 onions, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups red wine
1 (14-16 oz) can beef broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp thyme
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp flour
1 lb (16 oz) fresh mushrooms, stems removed & caps thickly sliced

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron pot {also known as a Dutch Oven}. Add bacon & cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until bacon is browned. Once bacon is cooked, remove from pot & set aside on a plate for later. Save bacon grease for cooking the beef.

Cut chuck beef into 1-2 inch sized cubes, making sure to remove & discard any unnecessary fatty parts. Dry beef cubes with paper towels. This ensures that the meat will brown while being seared. Season meat with salt & pepper.

Reheat cast iron pot to medium-high heat. In batches, arrange the beef into the pot & sear in the bacon grease for 3-5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove cooked pieces & place on plate with bacon. Continue cooking until all beef cubes are browned. This should take 25-30 minutes. Set meat aside for later.

Next, add the onions & carrots in the pot. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are lightly browned. Stir in garlic & thyme. Add bacon & beef back into the pot. Pour in the wine and beef broth, with enough to almost cover the meat. Stir in tomato paste. Bring to a simmer. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid & place it in a pre-heated oven {250 degrees F} for 2 ½ hours. You will know it is ready when the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

While the pot is cooking in the oven, you’ll want to prepare a few other ingredients that will be added in at the end. First, sauté the mushrooms in 2 Tbsp of butter until they are lightly browned. Set aside to for later.

Next, combine the last 2 Tbsp of butter with the flour. Work together with a fork. Set aside for later.

After the pot has cooked for at least 2 ½ hours, remove from the oven. Add in cooked mushrooms & the butter/flour mixture. Bring stew to a boil on the stove & then let simmer over low for 15-20 more minutes {without the lid}. If needed, season with additional salt & pepper.

Serve with boiled potatoes or warm sourdough bread for dipping. I highly recommend the sourdough bread!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Easy Peasy Toffee-Nut Brownies

Easy Peasy Toffee-Nut Brownies
Of course of all things to crave yesterday afternoon, it had to be brownies!! I know it is the New Year and somewhere on everyone’s list of resolutions includes eating healthy & getting fit. I apologize for luring you away from your diet regimens by posting this quick & easy treat. I too want to eat better & look good in a bikini, but these days I’m learning more about becoming an intuitive eater rather than restricting myself from every food that contains fat. If you restrict yourself from foods you are craving, chances are there will be some major binge eating in your future! If you give in before the cravings become out of control, you will find that you will have more control over your eating. Trust me :)

I have to admit that these were actually the first batch of homemade brownies I’ve ever made….& I don’t think I’ll ever go for the box version again! These brownies were simple to make & very good considering they are made with cocoa powder rather than chocolate. I love the little toffee bits hidden inside each piece too! XOXO….little j Y

Easy Peasy Toffee-Nut Brownies
Adapted from: Mmm-Mmm Better Brownies @
Makes 16 servings

½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
15 Heath toffee bar miniatures, chopped {or use a Heath bar}

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl whisk together oil and sugar. Add in vanilla and eggs and mix. Next add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and stir with a whisk until combined. Using a spoon, stir in chopped nuts and toffee bits.

Pour batter into a greased 9 x 9 pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. {You may also bake in an 8 x 8 pan for 25 minutes or until the center comes out clean when checked with a toothpick}.

*Optional: For a thicker brownie, double the recipe & bake a little longer. {I will try this next time!}