Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little R&R...

I apologize that I've been M.I.A. lately, but I have good reason - my family has been in town for almost 2 weeks now so I have been on somewhat of a mini-vacay! My kitchen has most desperately been deprived...our cupboards are bare and our fridge is damn near empty (other than a couple of containers filled with takeout leftovers)! It's really a sad, sad sight!

On top of it, the 3.5 pounds that I lost in the last month and a half, has come back in just a week. How does that happen?! How is it that we work so hard for weeks, months and even years to be healthy and lose weight and yet in just a few days' time, it comes back with a vengeance?! Ugh. So frustrating. Eh well...I'll get back to the grind again this week.

The fam actually leaves tomorrow morning so I'm already gearing up to get back on schedule and into my routine of weekly menu planning, grocery shopping and getting my fix of cooking and baking! That said, I've managed to take some time this morning and do a little house cleaning....I've cleaned up my Google Reader and am working on the blog. If you have a little time to spare, be sure to venture over to my "Blog Roll" and "Other Blogs I Love" sections - I've added some new fabulous sites that you should definitely take a peek at!

Happy Tuesday to you and I'll see you soon!!!
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweet & Salty Olive Oil Granola Clusters


Just reading the title, I'm sure you're probably thinking this: "Granola? With olive oil in it? Ewww. Gross!" But let me just say that it's the furthest thing from being gross! It's actually really, really good and while you only get a hint of the olive oil flavor, it's fruitiness pairs well with the rest of the ingredients!

The combination of both sweet and salty flavors hits your taste buds with an explosion and it's really, really addicting! I make homemade granola quite a bit and up until now, this was my favorite recipe. But I think I've converted and now I'm definitely sold on granola with olive oil in it!

The marriage of salty pistachios and almonds paired with the sweetness of dried berries and olive oil is enough to put you over the edge. But wait! There's more...Top it off with a sweet maple, brown sugar and cinnamon-y glaze and they'll be scooping you up off of the floor after taking a bite! We couldn't keep our hands off of the stuff and while my usual granola recipe doesn't last long around here, I think this one has it beat by a long slide!

Plus, I learned a new trick: how to make your granola cluster! Probably sounds silly, I'm sure, but sometimes I like reaching into the bag and pulling out a cluster to munch on rather than a handful of it loose. If you whip up an egg white and pour it into the mixture, it clusters it like a champ! But if you choose to not, that's fine too, because the loose version is wonderful in a bowl of milk, atop of yogurt or spilled over a heaping scoop of ice cream!

Sweet &Salty Olive Oil Granola Clusters

3 cups of Old-fashioned Oats
1 1/2 cups Pistachios, hulled
1 cup Almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes
1 cup Dried Fruit
3/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Egg White

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pistachios, almonds, coconut, and fruit; mix well until combined. Add in the maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon; toss until evenly combined.

In a small glass, whisk the egg white until it becomes frothy and foamy (about 2 minutes). Mix into the granola mixture.

On a baking pan covered with parchment paper, spread the mixture out in an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, to get evenly browned.

Remove from heat and let cool completely. As it cools, it will begin to harden and form into one large piece. Once it is cooled, using your hands, break up the granola into clusters of your desired size.

Store in an air-tight container or resealable plastic bag.

Yield: 6-8 Servings
Source: Adapted from The Kitchn (originally adapted from The New York Times)
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Salsa Chicken


A lot of you are always looking for and asking about good crock pot recipes and unfortunately, I don't have a lot here in my blog. Granted, I've only been at this for a short time but there may only be a couple (or one) that I know of! I'm working on that, so please bear with me!

I actually don't even use my crock pot that often and I have no valid reason as to why not! They're so convenient and easy to use and it takes a lot of the work of slaving over a stove, oven or grill out of the process!

Salsa Chicken is probably one of the easiest and best recipes you can make with a crock pot! I don't know what it is, but I have this "thing" with shredded meat - chicken, beef or pork - I love it! Kind of weird, huh? I know. What can I say? Nothing...I've got nothing.

This is a great go-to and no-fail recipe and it can be used in a variety of ways. I prefer it shredded and served over rice (as pictured) but you could also use it for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, taco salad, tostadas, burritos, taquitos.....shall I go on? I can if you like! You can also just take the chicken breasts out whole after they've cooked all day in the sauce and eat them that way; however if you do, I would warn you to not cook it as long because I find that it tends to fall apart on it's own, assisting with the shredding process. It's so super tender and literally just falls apart when you touch it!

Salsa Chicken

5 Lg. Chicken Breasts
1- 10 3/4oz. can Cheddar Cheese Soup
1- 24oz. jar Salsa
Taco Seasoning

Place the chicken in a large crock pot. Top with cheese soup, salsa and taco seasoning. Stir to combine.

Turn on low and cook for 8 hours. When done, begin shredding the chicken right in the pot until there are no large chunks left. Serve immediately.

Note: I use my own blend of Taco Seasoning; however, you can use whatever blend you like or buy a packet of seasoning from the store. Also, if you prefer to eat the chicken breasts whole as opposed to shredding, do not cook it as long (depending on the settings of your crock pot, I would suggest cooking them for 4-6 hours instead).

Yield: 4-6 Servings
Source: Adapted from Lemons & Love
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taco Seasoning


If you've been reading this blog even for a short amount of time, you'll know that I'm not a big fan of packaged foods. It's not that I don't ever buy them, use them or eat them, but there are some things that are just better when made from scratch. They taste better, they're better for your health and they're better on your wallet!

I realize that sometimes it's more convenient to go that route and trust me - been there, done that. But sometimes it's not. Taco seasoning is one of those things that can easily be duplicated at home and offer a more authentic flavor than what you get out of a little packet!

It's so easy to throw together and once again, you control the amount of ingredients that go in. You can omit certain seasonings, double up on others and my favorite: lower the amount of salt. A lot of those pre-packaged items at the store are filled with high levels of sodium and preservatives and personally, I find the flavors to be a bit over-powering.

Chances are you have most, if not all, of these ingredients in your spice cupboard and the best's okay if you don't! Don't worry about running out to pick one can play with the other ingredients and it'll still taste great!

Taco Seasoning

1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 1/2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp. Paprika
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/4 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 Tsp. Onion Powder
1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Combine all ingredients in a resealable container. Place the lid on and shake vigorously until well blended.

May be used immediately for cooking or stored in container for future use.

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Velvet Shamrock Whoopie Pies


Let's talk about whoopie! Get your mind out of the gutter people...I'm talking about the kind you eat! It seems that all the craze these days in baking is Whoopie Pies! Hmmm...I even made a rhyme (completely unintentionally, I promise)! There is something nostalgic about these Amish goodies and well, they're good!

Typically the traditional whoopie pie is a chocolate cake-like cookie with a creamy marshmallow filling inside. Think of an Oreo but softer and better. Well, maybe...Oreos are pretty damn good! But since these babies have been around, people all over the country have taken the dessert to another level using a variety and combination of flavors. What once used to be a hidden treasure throughout New England and Pennsylvania is now a national phenomenon.

This recipe varies from the norm in that it mimics the flavors of a Red Velvet Cake. Except it's green. Really green. And they're shamrocks!'s St. Patty's Day!!! The idea was actually inspired by Annie's version for Valentine's Day when she made these cute little hearts. The idea came to me to do something similar but with shamrocks to celebrate this festive green beer drinking day! Happy St. Patty's Day y'all!

Green Velvet Shamrock Whoopie Pies

Ingredients - Pie
2 cups Flour
2 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp. Salt
8 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 Egg
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Whipping Cream, at room temperature
1 oz. bottle Green Food Coloring

Ingredients - Cream Cheese Filling
4 oz. Cream Cheese
2 1/2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

Using this shamrock as a template, trace the figure onto drawing paper. Tear off 2 sheets of parchment paper to fit the length of baking sheets. Place the drawing under the parchment paper and trace the shamrock onto the parchment paper so they are evenly spaced. Set paper drawing side down on baking sheets and set aside. Note: I was able to get 9 shamrocks drawn out per sheet.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add in the egg and mix well. Add in the vanilla and mix well. Slowly begin blending in the flour mixture adding one-third in at a time. Alternate with half of the whipping cream and end with the last one-third of the flour mixture. Fold in the food coloring until completely incorporated into the batter.

Transfer the batter into a pastry big fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe the batter into shamrock shapes, using the drawings on the other side as a guide.

Bake for 8 minutes and allow to cool about 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. Continue baking off the rest of the batter.

While the pies are cooling, begin making the filling by creaming the butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Slowly mix in the vanilla until combined. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, mixing in between, until completely incorporated.

Once the pies are cooled, begin matching them up in pairs by shape and size. Note: You may have to play with them a bit to get them to fit together properly. Flip one of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.

Transfer the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Begin piping the filling onto the bottom piece of the pie, leaving some space around the edges. Place the top piece over the filling and gently press down to push the filling through the pie, making sure it reaches the edges.

Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 12 Servings
Source: Inspired by Annie's Eats, recipe from my Great Aunt Linda
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cumin Dusted Fish with Black Bean & Avocado Salad


Words cannot describe how elated I am about the beautiful weather we are having! I realize that I'm in the South now and that's to be expected, but this is my first Spring here and coming from Michigan, March is typically a yo-yo month. From year to year, you never know if it's going to be nice and sunny with Spring-like weather or really, really crappy with blustery winds and blizzard conditions. It's just one of those things that I don't miss!

But there is something about a 65 degree day with sun that really brings your spirits up and gets you in the mood for Summer, which is hopefully just around the corner. Thoughts of grilling out, sipping cocktails outside with friends, going to the beach, and laying in the sun gives me the warm and fuzzies! And this nice weather definitely tells me that it's time to put away those recipes for chili and casseroles and bring out the dishes filled with fresh veggies, fruit and meat!

With the beautiful weather we're having, light dishes come to mind, especially those of fish. Served with a fresh and rustic salad of tomatoes, avocados, cilantro and black beans, you can feel your waist shrinking and getting ready for bikini season! At least in my mind, I feel like I'm doing something good by eating this dish!

I used catfish as it was what we had on-hand; it's also a nice mild and tender fish to use and really absorbs the cumin flavor. But really, you could other types as well: salmon, mahi-mahi, tilapia, or white fish would be excellent substitutions. The marriage of flavors is a great combination and you can adjust the intensity of them however you please!

Cumin Dusted Fish with Black Bean Avocado Salad

Ingredients - Fish
1 lb. Fish Fillets (fresh or frozen)
4 Tbsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Ingredients - Salad
2 Avocados, chopped roughly
1 large Tomato, chopped roughly
1-15oz. can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 small Jalapeno, seeded and diced finely
1/4 small Red Onion, diced finely
1 Lime
2 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro, chopped roughly

In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, salt and pepper. Preheat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Generously season one side of the fish with cumin mixture and place in skillet (seasoned side down). Season the other side facing up and cook until no longer opaque (about 2-3 minutes per side). Remove fish from pan and let sit on a plate covered with paper towels to let any excessive oil leave.

In a medium bowl, combine avocado, tomato, black beans, jalapeno and red onion; stir to mix together. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add in cilantro and lightly stir to combine.

Spoon over fish and serve immediately.

Note: With the salad, you can add and/or omit any of the ingredients listed as well as adjust the amounts. These are the amounts we prefer for our taste, but they can easily be adapted to yours as well!

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Baked Oatmeal


Let me first preface this by saying: please don't judge this dish by the picture!  It takes an ugly one and I tried to make it pretty to no avail.  Okay, moving on....

I don't know why, but I'm not much of a fan of oatmeal.  Not the kind you get out of a packet filled cinnamon and apples or a fruit and cream variety (those are actually good), but the real kind.  I think it's mostly because it's always bland to me and while most prefer brown sugar on theirs, I turn my head the other way. 

I really wish it didn't have to be this way because it's really good for you and promotes healthy weight loss.  I just can't do it.  Until today.....

I have been running across various recipes for oatmeal add-ins which I've definitely marked to try.  Things like fresh fruit, vanilla, different flavorings, etc.  All things in which I think I may be able to work with and have the gumption to actually eat it!  But when I came across this particular recipe, I knew I had to try it and had a good feeling it would be a nice way to break me into the world of real oatmeal.

It's packed with flavor and is sweet, but not too sweet and you're getting a good, healthy dose of fresh fruit in the morning, which I really love!  I think I could actually get used to this stuff and the best part yet: it's super versatile in that you can ultimately use just about any combination of fruit you'd like!  Who knows, I may get to the point where I'll want to take an even bigger plunge and try steel cut oats....we'll see though.  I'm not promising anything!

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups Quick Cooking Oats
1/2 cup Applesauce
4 cups Milk
1 Egg
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Pears, cored and chopped roughly
1 1/2 cups Strawberries, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine oats, applesauce, milk, egg, syrup, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla; mix well.  Fold in pears and strawberries.

Pour into a large baking dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Store any leftovers in the fridge and microwave to heat up.

Note: Frozen fruit may be used in place of the fresh and this dish may also be made up to 1 day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Yield: 12 Servings
Source: Adapted from Proceed With Caution
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Beautiful Blogs...Part II


Today is finally the day that I announce my last 7 picks for the Beautiful Blogger Award. After much deliberation and consideration, I have chosen (in no particular order) these beautiful blogs:

9. Love & Olive Oil - The blogging duo of Lyndsay and Taylor are beyond dynamic! Not only are they a super cute couple, but their creativity shines both within and outside of their kitchen with their other creative business outlets: Purr Design and Pattern & Paw!

10. Pennies on a Platter - Nikki's blog is absolutely wonderful! I love everything about it - it's super easy to navigate, it's colorful and aesthetic and her recipes can certainly stand on their own; believe me, they are as scrumptious as they look! I follow several wonderful blogs and while they're all great, I have recently found that there are a select few that are right in tune with my style of cooking and taste...Nikki's is one of them! And you haven't made them yet, you must try this recipe of hers...they are to die for!

11. Sing For Your Supper - I LOVE Amy's blog and an award for cutest header should go to her because it is absolutely adorable and so creative! You should definitely check it out and the cute picture of her little Terrier, Izzy! She is an opera singer by profession and a cook/baker by heart....what a perfect title for a wonderful blog!

12. The Novice Chef - What can't I say about Jessica?! She is hilarious, feisty and a lot of fun (although I've never personally hung out with her, I do get a dose of her personality on What's Cooking, a food board we mutually participate on regularly. Her photos were what inspired me to become a better food photographer! She's not a professional photographer (like most of us) and until recently, used a regular point and shoot camera (like most of us), but her pictures always came out great, so I looked to her for guidance and pictures have gotten a bit better! Plus, her recipes are delish and definitely a "must-try" if you haven't yet!

13. The Way the Cookie Crumbles - If you have never stopped by Bridget's blog, you should. That's all I'm gonna say! Well, maybe a little more... They say you eat with your eyes first and if that's the case, then I'm super full from staring at Bridget's pictures! The way she captures her food and baked treats is is so vivid and clear and her recipes include some of the most savory ingredients a person could ask for! She is definitely one to follow if you aren't already...I promise, you won't be disappointed!

14. Confections of a Foodie Bride - Shawnda speaks to my heart (and my stomach) when she cooks and posts about them. She makes all the food the I really seem to enjoy, which is why I'm so drawn to her blog - I can be guaranteed that I'll find something to make that I know will not disappoint. I don't think there is any question as to my favorite dish of hers: Mongolian Beef! It's so good and is the only recipe I've found that comes even somewhat close to the Chinese version! I think if you hop on over to the nest and visit the What's Cooking board, you'll find that the consensus is the same....everyone loves this recipe!

15. Pink Parsley - I don't know how she does it, but Josie has a way of making even the most simple meals look decadent! Her recipes are filled with flavor and use unique combinations of ingredients that you don't normally think of on a daily basis. Some of my favorite things of hers include her Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas, Creamy Chicken Lasagna, and Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes! Mmmmm....I get hungry just thinking about them!

Okay, so you don't really think I could limit it to 15, do you?! NO WAY! There are definitely many more that I would love to talk about and I could go on, and on, and on. Instead, I'll give you just a few more to check out! Here they are....

16. Jenn Cuisine - Seriously? This girl can cook! Jenn has an extraordinary way of taking gourmet up a notch! While her dishes are "mostly gluten free" you would never guess by judging her recipes and "to die for" pictures! Her recent relocation to Switzerland has forced her to become even more creative in the kitchen and let me tell you, it has not stopped her one bit....she is a force to be reckoned with! Look at this dish and tell me it's not heavenly?! Do it. I dare you. I'll let you decide, but for now the jury is out and they're not coming back....Jenn is amazing!!!

17. Proceed With Caution - Yum, yum, yummy. TPOX features a lot of clean eating recipes in her blog and they're all recipes that look and taste delicious! I'm not "technically" a clean eater but I've certainly tossed around the idea of migrating that way just because it's better for you. For me, it's about taking baby steps and she certainly has some great ideas to get me started. But my favorite recipe of hers is her Baked Oatmeal. Wow. It is delicious and is such a versatile recipe that you can change up the fruits to what's in season and it's still so good! She also has a lot of other really inviting recipes - she even makes brussel sprouts look good! You should go and see for yourself!

18. Thrifty Decor Chick - If you're looking to revamp your home on the low (spending that is), Sarah is the girl to follow! Cooking and baking is my first love/hobby but decorating is my second. While we're financially comfortable, there are a lot of things we would like to do with our money and spending it on ridiculously priced items that aren't worth anything in quality is not my idea of fun! I love to be creative and use old items and good finds from elsewhere (CraigsList, garage sales, etc.) and completely give them a makeover to re-design our home! Sarah is brilliant when it comes to that and she shares simple, yet unique, ideas to transform or re-create items for less than $20 (most times). It's amazing what that girl thinks of and if this is something you enjoy as need to follow Sarah!

Okay folks, there you have it! If you'd like to see more beautiful and wonderful blogs, check out my blogroll and you'll get the full she-bang right there!
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Friday, March 5, 2010

Pasta Cordon Bleu


A while ago, Chris decided to take it upon himself to go out and buy some groceries! Now, I really don't have a problem with this except I normally plan out my menu for the week on Sundays. Included in that process is making out my grocery list with everything we need from meats to produce to canned goods to baking supplies. The problem is, however, when he goes, he tends to pick up random and unnecessary items like, for instance, a 3 pound Black Forest Ham! Now I don't completely blame him. Why? Because he's a man and they really don't know any better! But the problem remained that I didn't have ham on my weekly menu and it was a good sized ham. What do I do with that?! I'll tell you what I did. I froze the sucker until I could figure out what I wanted to use it for.

So every stinking time I opened up the freezer, I saw that ham staring me straight in the face. What do I do with ham other than bake it?! Easter is coming up and traditionally in my family, we have baked ham. So that was out. Plus, it's just kind of boring to me. I thought about Cuban Sandwiches (which I'm still thinking of since I have so much of it left over). I thought about Scalloped Potatoes & Ham but that just seemed blah to me. Then Chicken Cordon Bleu came to mind! I had the chicken and I had the ham, so all I needed were the other ingredients. BUT I really didn't want to fuss with pounding out chicken and rolling them with ham and cheese and then breading them and....well, you know the rest.

But I love the flavors of the dish, so I decided to put my own spin on it and make it with pasta because, well, pasta goes with everything. Doesn't it?! And it was much less of a hassle to make then the latter idea. So my wheels began to turn of how I was going to compose this dish. It started with a fun bow tie pasta (which I highly recommend for fun), chunks of ham and chicken and a creamy Swiss cheese sauce in between. To top it off, a nice crunchy Panko breading to give the effect of the breaded chicken. Now, I will tell you that I thought about actually breading the chicken and then mixing it in, but I didn't. The reason: I know that the chicken would get soggy sitting in that cheese sauce (especially for leftovers) and that just ruins the whole thing for me! Really this dish turned out to be very flavorful, very creamy and very much like Chicken Cordon Bleu!

Pasta Cordon Bleu

1 lb. Pasta (bow tie, cavatappi, orechiette, etc.)
1 cup Chicken Breasts, cooked and cubed
1 cup Ham, cooked and cubed
1 1/2 cups Milk
8 oz. Cream Cheese
2 Tbsp. Dried Minced Onion
2 cups Swiss Cheese, shredded
1 cup Panko Crumbs
1/2 cup Butter, melted

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over med-high heat. Salt it and add the pasta; cook until al dente (about 10 minutes). Drain and return to the pot. Add in the chicken and ham and toss to combine.

Preheat the broiler. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream cheese and minced onion over low-medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until it becomes a smooth texture (about 5 minutes). Stir into the pasta mixture. Stir in the Swiss cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer pasta to a baking dish and top with Panko crumbs. Pour melted butter over crumbs and broil until browned (about 3 minutes).

Note: I parboiled my chicken for about 20 minutes to cook it and I used Black Forest Ham in this recipe; however any type of cooked ham would do.

Yield: 4-6 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beautiful Blogs


Well, as you know, I was fortunate enough to have received an award for a Beautiful Blog. Thank you, again, Kate! But the stipulation to receiving that award was I had to hand out 15 additional awards to other bloggers who I felt had beautiful blogs as well. This is something I have definitely been putting off simply because there are too many too choose from and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. With that said, I have begun narrowing things down and am going to announce to you 8 (in no particular order) of the 15 awards that I am handing out. The remaining awards will be handed out next week.

It's obvious that most of the blogs I follow and love are cooking and baking blogs, so it's only natural that I would spend a majority of my time handing out Beautiful Blogger awards to other foodies! But don't be fooled, there are other things that I enjoy as well, which means there will be other bloggers receiving this award who fall into other categories other than food! Shall we begin?!

1. Annie's Eats - Oh my, where do I begin?! Annie is Super Woman! She is a devoted wife and mother, a resident physician and an absolutely amazing cook and baker! She seriously does it all and for many of us foodies, would be considered our hero! The best part: she's normal like you and I and she's humbling with her kindness and generosity. Need I say more?!

2. Beantown Baker - Definitely one of my favorites! I remember the first time I fell in love with Jen's blog - when she made the Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars. The picture alone said it all and the taste definitely put me over the edge! She, too, is a great cook and baker and I absolutely love seeing her ideas and dishes come to life! To top it off, she is my troop leader in Operation Baking doesn't get any better than that!

3. Big City Cooking - Nicole is a Chi-town foodie with a love for cooking and has built her career around it! She recently graduated from culinary school and has opened up her own catering business, Three Square, where she works throughout the city as a Personal Chef and small event caterer. Her food always looks delish and always makes me hungry after looking at it!

4. A Year in the Kitchen - Ashlee is probably one of the most adorable foodies! Just look at her...isn't she adorable?! And what an inspiration she is in the kitchen! She has opened her horizons to cooking food from over 30 countries and recently just launched her own cookbook, "A Year in the Kitchen." Congrats Ashlee on your new success!

5. Culinary Concoctions by Peabody - Well I am almost speechless when it comes to Peabody! She never ceases to amaze me with her delectable concoctions! Seriously, this girl can bake and she is so super creative when it comes to developing some tasty treats! Most of her work is dessert-esque and I'm not kidding when I say that every time I read a new post of hers, I literally want to eat my computer screen!

6. Delish - This is one of the first blogs I started following - I love the clean layout and simplicity of this blog; it really stands out amongst others and the bright, colorful pictures Ashley presents of her food definitely complements it. She has a lot of great recipes that I have made and enjoyed, including dog treats for the normal animal lover. And her blog shares the name with one of my favorite words: delish!

7. Frugal Home Ideas - Obviously this is not a cooking blog but it definitely covers one of my other loves and hobbies: home decorating! Stephanie is normal and like most people where she wants her home to look nice and inviting but she has to do it on a budget. The creativity behind her thinking process and the finished products she comes up with is incredible and very healthy on the pocketbook! A lot of her designs and ideas mimic those of Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Crate & Barrel to name a few. Her frugalness has taken her home from ordinary to extraordinary!

8. LeslieSarna - Oh my goodness...Leslie is absolutely A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E! I know I said Ashlee was (and she is) but so is Leslie! She's just one of those people that looks like she could light up a room with her personality and smile! And I think she would be fun to hang out kind of girl! Just too cute! Believe it or not, Leslie is a vegetarian but she is my kind of vegetarian in that she really doesn't do the whole tofu, soy, gross-eating kind of stuff! She uses real ingredients and beautiful, fresh veggies. I think if I were ever to make the switch from omnivore to herbivore I would pretty much follow Leslie's meals from day to day!

Okay, there you have it....your first 8 Beautiful Bloggers! If you haven't already, you should definitely take some time to check each and every one of them out! I guarantee, you won't be disappointed! Happy blogging y'all!
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Kickin' Chili


I'm not a big soup or stew person and I usually only prefer it during the Fall and Winter months. I don't really consider that weird because I think most people feel the same way; however I do know some who could eat soup everyday throughout the entire year! One thing that I probably could eat all year long is Chili. Call me weird, but I love it and it's so easy to make. Now I normally don't make it during the Spring/Summer months (unless it's a really cold day) but sometimes there is the unusual occasion.

Yesterday was the last day of February and while we had decent weather most of the weekend, it was still a little cool. Now I know that, technically speaking, Spring doesn't start until later in March but in my mind and in my world, yesterday marked the last day of Winter for me! So in honor of the cold season, what better way to give it a proper sendoff than to make a big pot of Chili?! Plus, Chris was sick all weekend and it was a personal request of his!

This recipe is one of my own and I must say, it's definitely a keeper! I'm not one for bragging much, but I am pretty particular about my Chili and this recipe hits all the right spots and has never let me down when I've made it for others. But if you've been following me long enough and have made some of my recipes, you know that I like a little heat in my dishes and Chili is no exception to that rule! Luckily for you, if you don't like spice or heat (or a lot of it for that matter), this recipe is easy to adapt to your taste buds! Either way, the combination of flavors that burst in your mouth every time you take a bite, will leave you yearning for more!

Kickin' Chili

2 lbs. Ground Beef
1 Tbsp. Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Garlic Salt
3 Tbsp. Cumin
1 Lg. Onion, chopped roughly
2 Jalapenos, seeded and diced
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 - 7oz. cans Diced Green Chiles
1 - 16oz. can Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained
1 - 16oz. can Light Red Kidney Beans, drained
2 - 14.5oz. cans Diced Tomatoes
1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
1 - 46 oz. bottle Spicy Hot V8 Juice

In a large pot, brown the beef over med-high heat until tender; drain grease and return pot back to the stove. Add in black pepper, garlic salt and cumin; mix well to combine. Add in onion, jalapenos and garlic; cook until onions and jalapenos become tender, stirring frequently to prevent burning of garlic. Stir in the green chiles followed by the beans. Add in the tomatoes (with their juice) and cilantro; stir until everything is combined together. Slowly begin pouring in V8 juice to desired consistency. Let simmer over low heat until heated through (approximately 30-60 minutes).

Serve hot with sour cream, shredded cheese and diced avocado.

Note: To alter dish to a less spicy version, reduce (or omit) the amount of jalapenos used and/or use regular V8 juice or tomato juice in place of the spicy hot version.

Yield: 6-8 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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