Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baked Potato Chips with Gorgonzola Crumbles


See these? They look delicious don't they? Well let me be quite honest in saying that they are! One of my weaknesses includes snacks that are crunchy. You know, potato chips, crackers, pita chips, tortilla chips, etc. I love them all, but I don't love the fact that they're usually fried and really not the best thing for you. Now they have the baked potato chips out, which are really good (especially Lay's Baked! Cheddar & Sour Cream Crisps) but they're packaged and my whole philosophy behind packaged food is: It's Not Good For You! You know as well as I do, that we buy it (some of it) and eat it, but I really try to stay away from it because even though they're baked and supposedly "good for you" they're in a package and stuffed with preservatives and all sorts of other weird things that we cannot pronounce!

Lately, when I want a crunchy snack, I have been making my own! It's super duper easy and they actually taste a lot better than some of the crap you get in the store! Most people always have potatoes on hand and they go great with just about anything. And again, because you're making them, you control what goes on can make them as salty as you like or as plain as you like. And if you really want to go all out (like I did), dress them up with a little Gorgonzola sprinkled on top, pop 'em back into the oven until it melts a bit and voila...a tasty and healthy snack! If you don't like Gorgonzola, use something else...cheddar, Parmesan, mozzarella, etc. You can dress them up even more by topping them with chili, sour cream and scallions or doing an Italian version. And if you really want to get creative, try making some of your favorite flavors: salt and vinegar, salt and black pepper, dill pickle, southwestern ranch....whatever your heart desires!

Baked Potato Chips with Gorgonzola Crumbles

2 Lg. Idaho Baking Potatoes, sliced thinly
Olive Oil Cooking Spray
Gorgonzola Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Spread potatoes out evenly on the baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Season, to taste, with salt and bake for 30 minutes (or until crisp).

Lightly sprinkle Gorgonzola, to taste, over the chips and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes (or until cheese begins to melt and becomes bubbly). Carefully remove the pan and serve immediately.

Yield: 2 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Italian Beef Sandwiches


I may be little but boy do I love food! I especially love meat...there is absolutely NO WAY that I could ever become vegetarian. I have nothing against it; it's just not possible for me, especially given the fact that the cheeseburger is my all-time favorite thing to eat. Ever.

One of my other favorite things....Italian Beef. I drool just thinking about it! I'm a sucker for a good sandwich covered with beef, cheese and peppers....what's not to love?! One of my favorite places to get a good Italian Beef Sandwich is in Chicago: Portillo's. It's nothin' fancy and it's more like a fast-food type of service (I think they even have a drive-through), but I always sit down, inside, to enjoy my wonderful Italian treat! Seriously. It's not fancy, but it's oh, so good! If you're ever in the neighborhood, you have to go there and order the Italian Beef Sandwich with sweet peppers and cheese. You can also get it dipped, which is even better, but much more messy than the original version! For me, it's a must to go there when I head to Chi-town to visit my best friend, Sonya!

While I could probably never come close to re-creating Portillo's delightful sandwich, I can at least dream! And dream I did while stuffing my face with this scrumptious recipe I found from, Ree, The Pioneer Woman! I enjoy reading her recipes and drooling over the pictures on my computer. Some people I know can take her or leave her (like Rachael Ray) and some will tell you that there is more to be desired with her recipes, but I, on the other hand, can tell you that I have never been disappointed with her food. Normally, I like to adapt a recipe to suit my taste but this one...this one I didn't touch one bit and I'll tell you why. Because it was heaven! That's why!

The beef was cooked slowly all day long and it was tender and juicy and succulent. The juice from the peppers gave it a little tang and the melted cheese laid over the beef like a cozy blanket, keeping everything underneath warm and tasty! The Au Jus formed at the bottom of the dish was the perfect little accessory for this pretty little sandwich to be dipped in. It was glorious and I have a feeling it's going to be making appearances in our household on a regular (probably monthly) basis.

Italian Beef Sandwiches

1 Beef Chuck Roast, 2.5-4 lbs.
1 can Beef Consomme
3 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup Water
1 - 12oz. jar Pepperoncini Peppers
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Lg. Onion, sliced (optional)
Kaiser Rolls
Mozzarella Cheese, deli-sliced

In a large crock pot, place the whole chuck roast in and cover with beef consomme, Italian seasoning, water, peppers (including the juice), salt and onion.

Turn on Low and let cook for 5-6 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the rolls in half and spread out on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Place a little butter in a microwave-safe dish and heat on high until melted (how much butter you will need is dependent on how many rolls you use). Using a pastry brush, brush the butter on each roll and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly crisp. Remove when done and turn the broiler on.

Meanwhile, using 2 forks, begin shredding the beef in the crock pot until no large chunks are left. Using tongs, place a large amount of beef on the bottom portion of rolls and cover with a slice of cheese. Place under broiler to melt the cheese slightly (about 2 minutes). Serve immediately with juice from the crock pot as Au Jus to dip sandwich in. - Note: Any type of cheese would work such as Provolone, Gouda, Havarti, Swiss, Muenster, etc. Be careful and watch the sandwich under the broiler as they tend to cook up quickly!  You can also cook this in the oven, instead, at 275 degrees for 5-6 hours.

Yield: 10 Servings
Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
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Monday, February 22, 2010

S'Mores Brownies

This weekend was absolutely beautiful here!  Our temperature reached a high of 68 degrees and Mother Nature blessed us tremendously with the beautiful sun!  I had every intention of baking and cooking this weekend; however the early arrival of Spring-like weather certainly got the best of me and I found it hard to hold myself hostage in the kitchen when there were wonderful things awaiting me outside!

Needless to say, my plans of baking went out the window where the nice weather was!  But, our house was certainly lacking some sweetness.  Not the kind between Chris and I (there is plenty there), but the kind you eat!  Being that it was already Sunday evening, the last thing I wanted to do was get into the mess of baking and cleaning up.  Don't get me wrong, I love it, but when you mix me and baking together, it's never a clean outcome!  So, my plan for cookies went out the window (along with the baking) and I decided to fake it a bit!

I made brownies!  Not just any kind of brownies, but the kind out of the box!  WHAT?!  Can you believe it?!  I actually made brownies from a box!  Surely the world must be coming to an end!  Nope.  It's not.  I will admit that I do, once in a while, make things out of a box.  I love cooking and baking from scratch and you really can't beat the taste of a homemade dish, but I don't always love the time that goes into it and there are a lot of things that taste good coming from a box. 

I did, however, spruce them up a bit to make them semi-homemade.  But let me clear something up first:  THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH BROWNIES MADE FROM A BOX!  So the nice weather really put me in an extra good mood and while sitting outside enjoying our time, we talked about summer plans and camping came to mind.  With camping, comes S'mores and I had those on my mind all day.  So I decided what better way to make a brownie than to s'more it up!  Oh wow.  Can I just tell you how good these babies were?!  They were chewy and gooey on the inside and packed with little bits of graham cracker crunch and melted, sticky marshmallows.  My favorite part: the somewhat burnt consistency the marshmallows on top took on (I love a good, burnt-to-a-crisp marshmallow over the campfire).  Don't worry, you can't even tell they came from a box and if you want to go that extra mile, make them homemade instead, but regardless, these suckers will definitely leave you wanting s'more!!!

S'Mores Brownies

1 pkg. Brownie Mix (I use Ghiradelli)
1 Egg
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup Water
3/4-1 cup Graham Crackers, crushed
1 1/2 cups Mini-Marshmallows

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat the brownie mix, egg, oil and water on low speed until combined well.  Stir in graham crackers and 1 cup of marshmallows until mixed in.

In a lightly greased 9x13-inch baking dish, pour the brownie mixture in and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle remaining marshmallows on top and bake for 45 minutes.

Let cool before cutting into them and if needed, use a knife wet with hot water to prevent brownies from sticking.

Yield: 15 Servings
Source: Inspired by Joy the Baker
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Reporting to Duty....Operation Baking Gals!


In March, I will be participating in an extremely exciting project to support our troops! I have decided to join a group called Operation Baking Gals. They are a national baking organization that has come together to make the yummiest goodies to send over to our guys and gals overseas. There's nothing better than getting homemade baked goods when you're away from friends and family.

This is a wonderful way for all of us to come together and thank our troops the best way we know how: with food! The team I joined, Team Beantown Baker, is led by one of my favorite bloggers, Beantown Baker. The individual we will be sponsoring for this round is Jesse, stationed over in Afghanistan for a year. He is married and has a little baby boy awaiting for his arrival home, so I'm hoping that some of our goodies will continue to inspire him and push him to be strong, to keep fighting and to come home safely!

Operation Baking Gals is open to any and all baking enthusiasts alike. If this is something you're interested in and would like to find out more about it, you can visit their website at
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hoisin Glazed Shrimp with Crispy Noodles


I'm a sucker for some good Chinese food, which is why I like to make it a lot here at home! Granted, it's not nearly as good (or bad for you) as you what you would get in the restaurant, but I'm not Chinese and I don't have all of the fancy cooking tools and ingredients they use, which is probably why mine is a little more figure-friendly! Let me just say that I will never try to compete with the regular Chinese's just too good! But making fake-out take-out from home is definitely a nice substitution in many ways (especially for your budget and health)!

I pulled this recipe from Every Day with Rachael Ray. Now I know that a lot of people don't care for her and while I used to profess my undying cooking love for her once before, that love has fizzled out a bit. I don't watch her show anymore and I've never really had any luck with her cookbooks. That being said, however, I do enjoy picking up her magazine every month.

Enough of that....back to the recipe! So, I don't think that Rachael actually came up with this recipe. I think that it came from someone else as it seems a lot of the recipes in there do. But, I found it tucked in with an article about trying to re-create flavors you taste in restaurants (hence the idea of fake-out take-out)! That is one thing I love doing and what a lot of people commend me on...going to a restaurant and figuring out the flavors in a particular dish, sauce, dressing, etc. and then going home to try it out and keep trying it out until I've finally mastered that same flavor (or close enough to it).

This dish was good. But, it's definitely not at the top of my list as one of my favorites! This Mongolian Beef, however, was. But it really was good. There was a lot of sweetness going on with the pineapple and hoisin and the shrimp was a nice combination to throw in, but I think it needed more garlic. I always think something could use more garlic! You can never have enough garlic! I did, however, have some problems with the noodles. Basically, they're Ramen noodles cooked and fried. Now this recipe says to cook the brick of noodles whole and apparently it's supposed to stay in it's form, but not for me it didn't! It completely fell apart. But, I made do and fried them anyway and they eventually adhered together and worked out the same way. Problem resolved. My next problem was the texture! They were crispy and crunchy on the outside and soft and noodl-y on the inside, which was kind of weird when I first tried it. But the more I ate, the more I found I liked it and I ate it all! In fact, I'm planning to have leftovers today! So I guess it wasn't really a problem after all, but I bet it'd be really good over rice as well. This may be a recipe you like and it may not. I can tell you that I will probably make it again, I'm sure, and maybe with a few tweaks I'll like it even better, but it's certainly not worth 5 stars!

Hoisin Glazed Shrimp with Crispy Noodles

1 - 10oz. pkg. Ramen Noodles
1/2 cup Hoisin Sauce
1 - 20oz. can Pineapple Chunks
1/2 cup Pineapple Juice (reserved from chunks)
Vegetable Oil
1 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 - 10oz. bag Frozen Green Beans, thawed
1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves Garlic, minced

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the brick of noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and let sit to dry off a bit.

In a medium bowl, stir together the hoisin, pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons of oil and red pepper flakes; set aside.  - Note: the amount of red pepper flakes in this recipe adds quite a bit of heat, so you may want to reduce the amount you use or omit altogether if you don't like it.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over med-high heat. Slide the noodles into the pan and begin to fry until golden brown (approximately 5 minutes per side). Also use a spatula sprayed with non-stick cooking spray to help press noodles down into pan and also for flipping.

Meanwhile, in another large skilled, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over med-high heat. Add the pineapple chunks and green beans, sauteing until slightly browned (approximately 5 minutes). Transfer to a plate and let sit.

Add in shrimp and garlic to the same pan and cook until shrimp become pink (stir frequently to prevent the burning of garlic). Stir in the hoisin mixture and add pineapple and green beans back in; tossing to coat. Reduce heat to low and cook until heated through (about 2-3 minutes).

Cut off a large chunk of the crispy noodles and place on a plate. Spoon shrimp mixture and sauce over the noodles and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: Adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

And The Award Goes To...


I am pleasantly surprised (and quite flattered), to say the least, that I have recently been selected to receive a Beautiful Blogger Award! Katie from Whimsical, Whamsical, Whumsical felt that yours truly deserved this honor and what an honor it is! I am just so shocked - I mean, I didn't even have time to prepare a speech! Well here goes nothin'...Ahem, I would first of all, like to start off by thanking....Just kidding! I am really not going to bore you with all that mumble jumble nonsense! But, in all seriousness, thank you Katie! That was incredibly thoughtful and sweet of you to think of me!

So what are the duties of being Miss Beautiful Blogger?! It's simple, really.

1). Thank the individual who gave you the award and, of course, link to their beautiful blog.

2). Pass the award onto 15 other beautiful bloggers you feel are fantastic and deserving of this honor.

Seems easy enough, right?! Wrong. There are SO many blogs that I love to follow for so many different reasons! How could I possibly choose just 15?! I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I am going to do my best and honor those in which I believe are deserving recipients. Stay tuned for my selections...
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Cheese & Rice Fritters


You know when people say that bacon goes with everything? Well, some people may say they're crazy, but I say they're right! Nowadays, you don't just eat bacon with your usual morning breakfast or on your BLT. Bacon is becoming a popular ingredient across kitchens throughout the country. It's really becoming quite popular in dessert form too. Yes, bacon as dessert. You can find it in chocolate, on doughnuts, in cupcakes and even in candy form! I haven't tried it yet, but I can imagine the combination of sweet and salty is to die for. Possibly quite literally!

I didn't make desserts with bacon, but I did make a yummy side dish with it. Fritters! I love fritters but I don't eat them all that often because, well, they're not that good for you being fried and all. But we had a super healthy meal recently with grilled catfish and grilled veggies, so I thought that a little fried-ness couldn't hurt and would probably do us some good.

These fritters are packed full with bacon and rice and doesn't get much better than that, folks and why would you want it to?! They're bound together with egg and panko crumbs and fried in what you ask? Bacon grease!!! Ugh, they were super yummy and didn't last long around here. They added the perfect crunch and starchiness to the meal....they were really good. I think that next time, I will whip up some sort of aioli to dip them in because I think they would be extra scrumptious with a cool dipping sauce of some sort. These little hunnies would even fair well as an appetizer for a little get-together or gathering.

Cheese & Rice Fritters

1 cup Rice
6 slices Bacon, chopped roughly
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup Olive Oil

In a medium saucepan, cook the rice according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and add bread crumbs to a shallow dish or plate. Preheat a large skillet over med-high heat and cook the bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the rice, reserving the grease in the skillet.

Add cheese and egg to the rice mixture and combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, begin forming patties out of the mixture about 3" wide. Transfer the patties to the bread crumbs, gently pressing down to allow adherence to the bottom of the patties. Flip over and do the same thing until they are lightly coated. Transfer coated patties to the baking sheet with parchment paper while working on the others.

Add the olive oil to the skillet with the bacon grease and heat over med-high heat. Working in batches, add the patties to the skillet and cook until lightly browned on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Drain on paper towels and serve after slightly cooled.

Yield: 4-8 Servings
Source: Adapted from Every Day With Rachael Ray
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peanut Butter Popcorn Bars


Remember back in the day when you'd have parties at school and someone's mom would bring in popcorn balls? They were kind of challenging to eat with their shape and a little hard, but once you bit into them, they were sweet and chewy and stuck to your teeth! That's what these babies reminded me of!

The only difference is that they were peanut butter-y instead of having that sweetness of sugar and corn syrup. And with chocolate on top - I mean, you really can't go wrong with that combination. I bet if I took a vote right now of the general public, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate would rise to the top of (most) everyone's list!

I LOVE PEANUT BUTTER! So much that when I was a kid, I would come home from school and serve me up a big bowl of it to eat for a snack! That's it. Just peanut butter. My Mom would always say, "You're gonna get a belly ache from that," but I never listened and sure enough, I always got a belly ache! So I eventually learned and cut back on my peanut butter intake and now I just like it with apples or chocolate. Or in this case, popcorn bars!

Peanut Butter Popcorn Bars

10 cups Popcorn, popped
1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
6 oz. Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Heavy Cream

Place popcorn in a large bowl and set aside. In a large sauce pan, bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla; mix well. Pour over popcorn and mix until well coated.

In a baking pan, coated with non-stick spray, press popcorn mixture into the bottom and corners to tightly come together and dry.

In a small double boiler, melt chocolate and cream over low-medium heat, until melted. Pour into a piping bag or Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle over popcorn mixture. Let set for 30 minutes and cut into bars. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

Yield: 12 Servings

Source: With a Cherry on Top
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