Thursday, March 31, 2011

Orange-Vanilla "Half Pound" Cake

I'm calling this recipe a "Half-Pound" cake because it's about half the fat and calories of a normal pound cake.  Therefore, you'll only gain half a pound, not a whole pound if you eat it.  Hahaha! 

Seriously though, this cake has a light, refreshing citris flavor - much more appropriate for the warmer months coming ahead.  It won't weigh you down in flavor or pounds!  Give it a try.  I think you'll really enjoy it!

Orange-Vanilla "Half-Pound" Cake
(Makes 16 slices)

1 stick light butter, softened
1 cup Sugar (I used Stevia)

2 Eggs (or 3 egg whites)

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or use white if you like)

3/4 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Cinnamon

½  tsp Salt

2 Navel Oranges, Zested and Juiced (1 cup of juice)

1 container (6 oz), Vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp. of Vanilla Extract

Optional Glaze topping:

3 to 4 Tbsp. orange juice
3 to 4 Tbsp. sugar (Stevia)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a tube pan (or an 8x4 loaf pan) with cooking spray.
In a medium size bowl, cream together the butter and sugar (Stevia) until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs and orange zest.

I love my zester!  It's such a fun, handy tool!

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Add the orange juice, vanill extract and yogurt to the eggs-zest bowl.  Mix well.
Add the dry ingredients slowly to the wet ingredients.  Mix well until there are no more dry spots.
Pour (or spoon out) the batter into the greased tube pan (or loaf pan) and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife can be inserted cleanly into the cake.

Optional step: Make your glaze topping by mixing the orange juice and sugar (Stevia) together.  Add more if desired.  Pour over the warm cake evenly. 

Let the cake cool before slicing into 16 pieces. 

I kept my cake in the fridge because I thought it tasted better chilled.  It's up to you if you want to enjoy it at room temperature or with a little frost. 

Do you have a favorite pound cake recipe?  How often do you bake cakes?

I will be back on Sunday with my meal plan for the coming week.  So enjoy your day and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learn With Me: Stretching Barbecue Foods

Yesterday I shared with you my family's favorite barbecue chicken pizza recipe.  Let's keep with that barbecue theme and discuss ways you can use your grilled meats to help plan future meals! 

I know half of the U.S. is still in cold season and perhaps even dealing with snow on the ground.  Here in Florida though, we're in full-time spring weather.  So you know what that means?  Time to dust off the barbecue pit and grill!  I walk outside onto my back patio and smell the wonderous grill foods at least three times per week now amongst my neighbors.

When my husband barbecues (Well, what that means is that after I'm done marinating all the foods, doing the prepwork, making the side dishes, etc. while he just throws it on the grill last minute to cook it), I often have him double the meat amount for the pit.  In other words, I will often have him grill eight chicken breasts at a time, even if it's only our small family of three eating. 

Here are some leftovers we had from a recent barbecue!

Why you ask?  Because I use those leftovers for the remainder of the week and freeze some for later as well.  I love leftover grilled food!  Half of the work is already done since the meat is already marinated, seasoned and cooked!  Then just cut up the chicken, steak, sausage or pork to turn them into delicious pastas, salads, sandwiches, soups and more. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to use up our leftover BBQ:


Barbecue chicken pizza

Chicken salad sandwiches - recipe is from my cookbook

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti with butternut squash

Chicken and broccoli pasta bake 

Balsamic chicken wraps 

Slow cooked Italian Stew


Orange Chicken


Steak sandwiches - think Philly style!

Steak tacos or burritos - just add some cumin or taco seasoning

Steak and Potato Pizza

Steak salad - serve over a bed of lettuce with bleu cheese or your favorite dressing

Steak and eggs - make your own Cowboy-style omelette!

*Note that I don't have specific recipes for leftover steak.  The above list is to give you some simple ideas on how to use up what you have.  Don't ever throw out leftover steak! 


Sausage and Penne Pasta - recipe is from my cookbook

Sausage and Black Bean Soup

Meat and Veggie Chili

Sausage and Black Bean Cornbread Pie - recipe is from my cookbook

Sausage, mushroom and pumpkin pasta

Slow cooked Italian Stew


All of these recipe suggestions are going to be great because your meat is already cooked and they have a wonderful smoky flavor that will enhance the recipes you're adding them into.  Trust me, I speak from experience! 

So do yourself (and your family) a favor, the next time you grill or barbecue, throw on some extra meat that you can cut up and freeze for later!  I divide mine up in 1 cup portions and place them in plastic storage bags.  Also if you have leftover grilled veggies from your shish kabobs, then toss them in to your meals.  Or use them up right away for any pasta, salad or special recipes you have in mind.  You won't regret it! 

Do you love barbecue foods?  What kinds of ways do you use up leftover grilled items? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Barbecue Chicken Pizza - Another family favorite!

This is my family's favorite pizza.  My husband says I don't have to make any other type of pizza because this is it for him.  This is his slice of heaven. 

This pizza recipe is listed in my cookbook but I finally decided to share it here since I make it very often and talk about it a great deal.  That's how much I love you, what can I say!  :-)  Enjoy it.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza (with bacon, onions, and ranch)! 

(Makes 1 pizza - Serves 4)

1 ready made whole wheat pizza crust - I followed the recipe of my friend Briony but added 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp of oregano to the dough!

1 and 1/2 cups of cooked, chopped chicken - I usually use leftover bbq chicken from the grill

1 and 1/4 cups of barbecue sauce (whatever you like best—I like honey BBQ)
1 large onion, diced finely
1/3 cup of real bacon bits (I buy the all natural small bags of it in 3 oz. size)
1/4 cup of fat-free or light ranch dressing - don't skip this!  It gives it just the right tang and taste!
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 and 1/2 cups of 2% shredded cheese, cheddar or any variety

(Note: I sometimes use less chicken and add in some barbecue sausage from the grill.  You can mix and match the meats you use to whatever your family enjoys! )

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a pizza pan with cooking spray.  Bake your pizza crust for about ten minutes or until lightly brown. 

While crust is baking, grease a skillet with cooking spray.  Cook your diced onions.  Add in chopped chicken and ranch dressing.  Saute' for about 8-10 minutes.

Remove your pizza crust from oven and set aside to cool.  Transfer chicken and onions from skillet to a large mixing bowl.  Mix in barbecue sauce, bacon bits, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 of the shredded cheese.  (Note: If you have the time, let the chicken sit in the sauce for fifteen minutes or so, like it's marinating for a bit.  But if you're pressed for time, don't worry about it!)

Spoon the chicken mixture evenly over the pizza crust.  Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese over pizza.  

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown on top and sides.  Let cool for about ten minutes.  Cut into six or eight slices. 

Freeze leftovers in plastic containers.  At a later time, you can move the frozen slices of pizza into plastic storage bags.  Pizza will keep in the freezer for up to three months.  Reheat in microwave or in oven.

You can easily double this recipe and make 2 pizzas.  That is what I typically do - enjoy one now and freeze one for a later date!

What is your favorite type of pizza?  Do you make your own at home or do you order out? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Coffee-Chocolate Almost-Biscotti Bites

I call these little squares "biscotti" but they are technically not "twice baked."  They are not dry and are actually softer and chewier than traditional biscotti pieces.  But they're not cookie or brownie-textured either.  They are somewhere in the middle which was a refreshing change! 

I really liked these and brought them to a meeting I attended last week.  Those who tasted them seemed to enjoy them.  They definitely have a coffee flavor and leave a coffee taste in your mouth but it's not too overpowering.  Give these a try if they sound like something you'd like.  Or you can just leave out the coffee/espresso and see how they turn out! 

Coffee-Chocolate Almost-Biscotti Bites
(Makes 16 to 32 pieces, depending on how you cut them)

1 stick light butter, cut into pieces
2 cups of unbleached, unenriched flour (I used half white and half wheat)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T. instant coffee or espresso
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of sugar or sweetener (I used Stevia)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 large egg
1 cup of milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Lightly grease an 13x9 inch (or a 10x15 inch) baking pan. 

Melt the butter in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat.  Stir it occasionally until the color turns darker, about five minutes.  Remove from heat and add in the instant coffee/espresso.  Let the brown butter cool for about two minutes. 

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients - flour, baking soda and salt.  In a separate smaller bowl, combine the brown butter with wet ingredients - egg, sugars, vanilla extract and almond extract.  Mix well.  Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Be sure they are combined together.  Now gently stir in the chocolate chips.  Scoop out into a lightly greased baking pan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are brown.  Let it cool for 10 minutes before cutting into rectangles or squares.  I first cut them into 16 rectangles and then went back and cut them in half, making 32 squares.

Enjoy!  These would be great dipped into coffee or tea!   

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (Mar 28 - Apr 3, 2011)?

Where did the week go?  The days passed by so fast and I spent time away from my computer.  I visited a few preschools that I'm considering for the fall for my daughter Vivian.  We also spent a lot of time outside playing at the park and walking in our neighborhood.  I love, love all this spring weather we're having!   I'm also reading a ton of books lately too. I discovered the "Good Reads" site and I can track what I'm reading and review them in addition to seeing what my friends are readig too.  

As far as cooking - I had a few flops in the kitchen last week - two disappointments that aren't even worth sharing here.  Not total failures but not great tasting either!  I finally tried cooking with quinoa and I must be honest - I did NOT like it!  The texture was different than I expected and I didn't much care for it.  Perhaps it's an acquired taste?  I did make two great desserts though so I will post those recipes later this week along with my family's favorite pizza too.  I also have some tips for stretching barbecue foods too for your upcoming grilling this spring and summer.  Stay tuned for those! 

Here's what I have lined up for our meal plan this week - two comfortable stand-by favorites and a few new ones too:

Monday, Mar. 28 - Better for You Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs with green beans and bread - I'm going to make a double batch of this and freeze half for later.  I portion these out into small sizes for my daughter to eat for lunches and dinners too~!

Tuesday, Mar. 29 - White beans and turkey sausage over rice with side salad and bread - I use a can of Blue Runner beans for this.  We love this brand.  And since I'm taking a day trip to Alabama, this will be an easy meal I can throw together!

Wednesday, Mar. 30 - Vegetable Tamale Pies - a new vegetarian meal that I'm trying!

Thursday, Mar. 31 - Leftovers

Friday, Apr. 1 - Crustless Sausage and Spinach Quiche with grilled hashbrowns - Looks good!

Saturday, Apr. 2 - Glazed Balsamic Chicken with steamed veggies over rice - This sounds tasty

Sunday, Apr. 3 - Tangy Slow Cooked Pot Roast with carrots and potatoes - I will make several leftover meals out of this and freeze some for later too!

Here are the snacks and desserts that I may try this week:

(1)  Lemon Nut Cakes - These look easy and light!

(2) Power Muffins - recipe is listed in an old newspaper clipping I found

(3) Quick Fudge

(4) Easy Strawberry Pie - recipe is from my cookbook

What is on your meal plan this week?  What are you looking forward to making or sampling the most?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baked Granola AND Granola Bread

I love granola.  I love the taste of it.  I even love the way the word sounds rolling off my tongue.  "Gra-no-la," - Sounds fancy, doesn't it?! 

Granola bars, granola bits and now even granola bread.  I love them all. 

Below is a simple homemade granola recipe that I found in my Double Delicious cookbook.  It intrigued me because it used a bit of carrot puree in it and had less fat than many other granola recipes out there.  Then I found a wonderful granola bread recipe in my bread machine cookbook.  So now you can make granola and save some to make in fresh bread too.  It smells so wonderful baking in your kitchen, trust me!  I adapted both recipes slightly and changed a few measurements.  I hope you enjoy them!

Baked Granola Bits
(Makes 4 cups)

Adapted from the Double Delicious cookbook

1 cup of oats
1 cup of rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)
1 cup of puff cereal (such as Kashi)
1/2 cup of peanuts, dry roasted (or other variety like cashews, almonds, etc.)
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, dry roasted
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup of carrot puree (or carrots cut into fine pieces)
1/3 cup of honey
1/4 cup of ground flaxseed meal
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan lightly with cooking spray. 

Combine all above ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well.  Pour and press into the greased baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Check it about half way through and stir up the mix. 

Remove from the oven and let it cool for about five minute before sampling.  I divided mine up into 1/2 cup portions and placed them in individual plastic bags.   This is a lower-fat, great version of traditional granola.  You even get in a veggie too, thanks to the pureed carrots, which after baking you can't even see them there!

My favorite way to eat granola is mixed in with my Greek yogurt.  Good stuff!  A filling, delicious snack.  Or often I eat this for breakfast or lunch!

Be sure to save 1 and 1/2 cups of that baked granola to then try out this delicious homemade bread recipe! 

See below:

Granola Bread

(Makes one 2 lb. loaf)

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk (I use the dry powder kind and add water to it)
3 T. oil
4 T. honey
2 cups wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 and 1/2 cups of granola bits (see above recipe)
1 T. + 1 tsp. gluten
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2.5 tsp SAF yeast or 1 T. bread machine yeast

I used my bread machine for this so I haven't tested it in the oven.  But it came out wonderful!  I simply placed all the above ingredients in my bread machine, in the order they are listed.  I set the cycle to "basic".  The loaf size is 2 pounds and the crust is set to medium.

If you are doing this by hand, you'll want to follow the typical kneading and rising in three phases.  Then bake for 1 hour or longer, until done.

The flavor of this bread is a nutty, sweet taste but it's not overpowering.  It will make a great breakfast bread or it would be great in French toast (which I intend to make this weekend). 

My bread machine crushed and blended the nuts and raisins so well that you could barely even tell they are in there.   As my friend Jess would say, this is no "birdseed bread."  :-) 

Try it, I think you'd really enjoy it!

For another great granola recipe, check out my no-bake granola bars Go get your granola on!  It's good for you and it travels well too! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mexican Biscuit and Doritos Casserole

We love Mexican in my house!  The combination of meat, cheese and the fiesta-style seasonings always seem to satisfy my palette.  Still, sometimes you have to change up your old stand-by Mexican style dishes. 

My mom and several of my aunts used to make a "Doritos Casserole" for nearly every family gathering when I was a kid.  It involved using Doritos chips of course, along with ranch style beans, taco meat and other spices.  I generally took a big heaping of it during our reunions.  (Still do if I'm lucky enough to attend one these days).  

It seems my three year old girl loves Doritos (and all potato chips) just as much as I do!  As I was making this, her hands found their way into the bag as evidence in this below photo:

My silly Vivian! Here she is covered in orange chips, on her nose, her mouth and her fingers! 

Anyway, I took the inspiration from that family tradition dish (and my daughter's love of Doritos) to make a new dish.  I changed it up with the addition of biscuits.  I also snuck in a small amount of broccoli, which you can't even taste.    So here you go -  a new Doritos casserole "classic" for my loved ones:

Mexican Biscuit and Doritos Casserole
(Serves 6-8)

1 lb. ground turkey or beef
1 can of Grand biscuits, divided in half so they make 16 (I use the whole wheat, flaky can of 8)
1 can of refried beans
1/2 cup of pureed broccoli
1 packet of taco seasoning (minus two teaspoons to reserve later for guacamole dip)
3/4 cup of water
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of salsa
1 and 2/3 cup of shredded cheese, reduced fat
2 cups of crushed Doritos (I used the baked kind)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.  In a large skillet on the stove, brown your ground turkey or meat.  Add in the taco seasoning and water.  Cook on high for a few minutes.  Then lower heat and simmer for about five minutes.  Add in the refried beans, 1/2 cup of pureed (or chopped finely) broccoli, tomato sauce and salsa.  Cook for another five to seven minutes. 

While the meat is cooking, assemble the biscuits at the bottom of the baking pan.   Divide each biscuit in half and place it at the bottom of the greased dish.  (Note: It's important to divide the biscuits in half.  It makes it easier for them to cook and it makes more of a meal since you can spread them out and they rise)  Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese across the biscuits.  Then top with 1 cup (half) of the crushed Doritos chips. Then layer the meat-bean mixture over the chips.  Top with more of the cheese, about 1 cup.  Then add a layer of the sour cream.  Use the entire 1 cup.  Sprinkle the final 1/3 cup of cheese. Top with the remaining crushed Doritos chips. 

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let it cool for about five minutes.  Cut and serve.  This would be great with a side salad and corn or even guacamole dip.  Enjoy!

Do you ever use potato chips in any of your meals?  It's not something I do often.  But every now and then, it's kind of a treat for us! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slow Cooked, Easy Italian Stew

Since I'm cooking most of this week's meals in my slow cooker, it is only natural that I kick off this week's recipes with one too.  This is an incredibly easy Italian stew that I threw together over the weekend.  It came out really great.  The ingredients are those that most people have on hand so you can easily toss all the stuff in your slow cooker in the morning and have a great meal ready in several hours. 

I love my slow cooker!  I truly, truly do!  I plan to use it more in the upcoming summer months so I don't have to turn on my oven and heat up my kitchen as much.  All the heat stays within the pot.  No fuss, no thrills, just easy. 

Slow Cooked, Easy Italian Stew

(Serves 5 to 6)

2 cups of chopped meat of your choice (I used a combination of chicken and turkey sausage)
1 cup of chopped vegetables of your choice (I used 1/2 cup of pureed broccoli and 1/2 cup of shredded carrots)
2 envelopes of Italian herb dressing/seasoning (I used the Good Seasons all natural Italian dressing packets) OR you can make your own double batch of Italian seasoning blend
 2 cans (14.5 oz) of stewed Italian tomatoes
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Plug in your slow cooker and set the heat to low.  Place your 2 cups of chopped meat at the bottom of the slow cooker.  Put in the chopped veggies.  Sprinkle meat and veggies with the Italian seasoning.  Pour the two cans of Italian stewed tomatoes over the meat and vegetables.  Pour in the water.  Add onion powder and garlic powder.   Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours.  Serve over cooked pasta or rice (about two cups).

If you decide to use chicken like I did, be careful not to overcook it or dry it out.  Mine was ready in about five hours on low heat.  However, meats such as pork sausage or stew meat may take longer to cook. 

We served ours with about 2 cups of brown rice.  Actually I threw in the cooked rice during the last 30 minutes of cooking.  It came out perfectly!  We enjoyed our stew with homemade sour cream-wheat bread.  Yummy!

Note: All of my pictures are taken from my camera phone so I apologize that they aren't the best quality but my digital camera broke over the weekend!  :-( 

Do you have an easy stew recipe that you make?  How often do you use your slow cooker?

(Please note that I don't use the word "Crock pot" because I don't own a Crock pot brand slow cooker.  I have a Hamilton beach and I LOVE it.  I've owned one for over ten years and never had a problem with it!)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (Mar 21 - 27, 2011)?

Remember how I said that I spent a ton of time outside enjoying the beautiful weather last week?  Well I suppose it was good that I did that because I've had to spend this entire weekend indoors fighting with a sore throat, cough and nasal congestion.  Fun times! 

If it that wasn't bad enough, I also accidentally dropped my digital camera and broke it.  Yes, I broke it.  It no longer takes photos.  The camera was over five years old and is no longer under warranty so it's just going in the trash can.  We'll hopefully buy another one in a month or two.  Until then, I'll be posting less pictures or maybe no pictures.  I do have my camera phone but it can be a pain to use and upload decent photos.  I'll try though! 

So, I hate to start off the week like a negative nelly but that is what is happening here on my end.  Therefore, in honor of me wanting to take it easy this week, and in honor of Alison at The Crockpot Challenge (who was kind enough to submit a recipe for my Ugly Foods That Taste Fabulous theme last week), I'll mostly be using my slow cooker during the weekdays.  By the weekend, hopefully, I'll be feeling better and ready to cook some great things again for a friend who's coming to town to visit us.  

Anyway, let's hope the days get better from here!  This is what I have lined up for this week:

Monday, Mar 21 - Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes - I will cut this recipe in half because I know it's way too much food for my small family!  I will serve these on homemade bread and with a side of corn and salad.

Tuesday, Mar. 22 - Leftovers of Sloppy Joes - This time, I will serve them in whole wheat wraps along with guacamole dip and baked chips.

Wednesday, Mar. 23 - Slow Cooker Jambalaya - I will use chicken in place of shrimp (only b/c it's cheaper and I have it on hand!) and turkey sausage, serve with green beans and homemade bread.

Thursday, Mar. 24 - Slow Cooker Meat and Veggie Chili - my own homemade recipe!

Friday, Mar. 25 - Barbecue Chicken and Onion Ranch Pizza, recipe is from my cookbookThis is my husband's favorite so I try to make this often and keep an extra one in the freezer too!

Saturday, Mar. 26 - Breakfast will be Orange-Cinnamon Baked French Toast (recipe is in my cookbook), with a side of bacon
Lunch will be leftover pizza with side salad

Dinner will be our friend John's choice - Dinner out Or Take out with Beer Cheese Soup from freezer

Sunday, Mar. 27 - Breakfast will be Hashbrown casserole (recipe is in my cookbook) and scrambled eggs
Late lunch/Early Dinner will be barbecue chicken, shrimp and shiskabobs.  Will serve them with my low-fat potato salad and yummy feta-herb-white bean dip

And If I'm feeling up to it, I'll make the following snacks, side meals, salads and desserts this week as well:

(1) Brown Butter-Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies - these look like heaven and they claim to be healthier!  *

(2)  Orange Vanilla and Cinnamon Poundcake - a dream come true in a cake?!  This one sounds a lot lighter than traditional pound cakes! *

* Both of these above recipes are from a new blog I found recently called Healthy Delicious~  I'm loving it so far!  I adore finding new foodie blogs! 

(3) I want to experiment with a few salad dressings and quit buying them at the store.  I'm going to start with this basic recipe I saw and experiment further with it this week! 

(4) Quinoa and Fruit Salad - Boy does this one look yummy and healthy! 

What's on your meal plan this week?  What's cookin' in your neck of the woods? I have several simple recipes that I'll be posting this week.

Also, I'm scouting for new, lighter versions of salad dressings! So please share any good homemade yummy dressings that you make with me. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Black Bean Cakes (My Reader's Submission To Ugly Foods That Taste Fabulous)!

Welcome back to our last day (Example #5)  of Ugly Foods that Taste Fabulous Week! 


I hope you have enjoyed this week's recipes as much as I have enjoyed sharing them! 

I make a lot of ugly things; in fact they are FUGLY as you can tell from all my photos this week!  But it's nice to know that I'm not the only one.  So thank you, thank you to Alison at The Crockpot Challenge for submitting me your very own ugly food that tastes fabulous recipe - black bean cakes.   Alison didn't have a photo of the recipe but I found a dozen or more online to compliment the recipe she sent.  And yes, they are all UGLY! 

Alison told me that they looked like cow poop patties and she wasn't kidding!  I also think they look like smashed road kill on a plate!  Hahahah! 

Thanks so much for sharing this with me Alison.  I'm planning to make your recipe over the weekend so I'll update this post with a photo of my own in the coming days!  

Alison has a lovely blog called The Crockpot Challenge.  She is committing herself to create and share one slow cooked recipe per week, so 52 Crockpot recipes in one year for 52 weeks.  I love a challenge and can't wait to continue watching what she shares!   Here is her recipe:

Black Bean Cakes
(Makes about 6 patties)

Submitted by Alison at The Crockpot Challenge

1/2 c salsa
2 tea cumin
1 can (15 oz) Or 2 cups of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a baking pan. 

Combine first 3 ingredients in a blender.  Whirl around until smooth.  Stir in 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, onions, and salt. 

Shape into patties.  Cover patties with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 375 degrees for 14 minutes.  Turn halfway through baking.

Serve these on whole wheat buns with a green onion cream or avocado salsa (Recipes below). 

To make the Green Onion Cream- Combine 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup green onions.

To make the Avocado salsa- Combine 1/4 cup avocado, 1/4 cup tomatoes, 1 tea lime juice.

Even with the sauces on top and sitting among a bed of lettuce, these patties do NOT look appealing.  I know they taste amazing though since Alison told me so!  I love black beans and all beans so I can't wait to try this recipe and update this post with my comments! 

In honor of Alison, I will try THREE recipes with my slow cooker next week!  Look for these slow cooked inspired recipes and my complete meal plan on Sunday! 

The timing is perfect because I've been spending a ton of time outdoors enjoying the wonderful spring weather here in Florida.  So I've wanted to be in my kitchen cooking a lot less these days.  In fact next week's posts might be every other day instead of every weekday.  My daughter and I have been spending 2 to 4 hours each day at the park, walking around the neighborhood and taking a stroller ride to someplace new like a bird trail or other designated wildlife spot.  This is the time of year when I really LOVE where I live because you can get outdoors and enjoy it all day long without even breaking a sweat! 

Check out my Learn, Laugh, Cook Facebook page for a bonus ugly photo - brain bread - that my friend Jess submitted to me this week as well! 

If you make ugly food that you enjoy, please share the recipes and photos with me.  I'd love to repeat this theme again in the future, it's so much fun!  :-)  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Cream Cake Balls (And Happy St. Patrick's Day!)

I am adding this bonus recipe in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  I'm not Irish (to my knowledge) but I have friends who are and have a lot of pride in their heritage.  So I made this with them in mind.  

Ironically it doesn't look too beautiful or appealing.  Therefore it fits right in with my Ugly Foods that Taste Fabulous Week (making it example # 4 -)

The idea for this came to me as I was looking at dessert recipes online early this morning.  A "Cake ball" listing caught my eye.  It sounded simple - just combine a cake mix with icing, roll it into balls and dip it into chocolate.  I wanted to give it a festive twist though. I decided to take a chance by adding in Bailey's Irish Cream and some green food coloring for the holiday.  Then I realized I didn't have a cake box mix.  No problem though, I can make my own cake mix using the ingredients I have on hand.  And soon after, this green treat was born.

I hope you enjoy it!   And I hope the Irish give me their stamp of approval as well!

Irish Cream Cake Balls

(Makes over 3 dozen, about 40 balls)

1 box of yellow cake mix (Or make your own cake mix, recipe is posted below!)
8-10 oz of diet soda (I used Diet Coke instead of using oil and eggs)
2 oz of Bailey's Irish Cream liquor
1 can of vanilla cake frosting
10 to 12 drops of green food coloring
chocolate chips or bark for dipping (10 oz bag or more) - this is optional

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix  (if you need to make your own, like I did!)
2 and 1/2 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups of sugar (I used Stevia)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp of baking powder
1/4 cup of light butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Grease two mini muffin tins with cooking spray as well.

Combine the ingredients of your homemade yellow cake mix (recipe is listed above) together and blend well.  Or simply throw the contents of a yellow cake mix into a large bowl.  Pour in the 8 to 10 oz of diet soda and the 2 oz of Bailey's Irish cream.  Add in about 5-6 drops of the green food coloring. Stir with a spoon until all has been incorporated. 

(Note: If you are using a regular cake mix, you can follow the instructions to include oil and eggs.  I just prefer saving that for other meals since I know that Diet soda or regular soda works just fine.  Don't forget to use the Irish Bailey's Cream though!  :-)

(Or if you just want to make this special green dessert for kids, then I suppose you can leave out the Bailey's liquor.  But really it's what makes this treat extra delicious! )

Pour (or spoon out) batter into the greased 13x9 inch baking pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the oven.  Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for about a half-hour.  Don't worry about how it looks because you're going to break it up into crumbs anyway! 

After the cake is cool, crumble it into small pieces using a fork or just your hands.  Open your can of vanilla cake frosting.  Place about 4-6 drops of green food coloring into the icing.  Mix well.  Spoon out the vanilla cake frosting into the cake crumbles. 

Yes, that's a lot of green!  Just go with it! 

Mix with a spoon or your hands until it has blended together.  Now form the cake mixture into balls.  I placed mine in lightly greased mini muffin tins to help me keep them about the same size:

I made 40 balls with my cake batter.  Place them in the freezer to harden for at least 30 - 45 minutes.  Remove from the freezer. 

You can serve them as is without any dip.  Or if you want to give them that extra sugar and special touch, then you can dip them in chocolate.   

To make the chocolate dip: Take your bag of chocolate chips or bark (white, dark, milk chocolate - it doesn't matter!) and melt them until they are a complete liquid.  Use a double broiler or melt them in the microwave every 30 seconds and stir constantly.  Dip each ball in the chocolate then place them back in the mini muffin tin or a pan until they harden.  These are best placed in the fridge until you're ready to serve them! 

But if you don't want to go through all the trouble of dipping them in chocolate, they are just as good without the dip, in my opinion.  Plus, they're good conversation starters by keeping them solid green!  :-) 

And yes, I CAN DEFINITELY taste the Irish cream in them.  It's not an overpowering flavor but it's surely there! 

May the luck of the Irish be with you!  I'll enjoy a few of these cake balls tomorrow for breakfast and with my coffee, which will also have some Bailey's in it!  :-) 

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

I'll see you on Friday with another ugly food recipe and an ugly food photo submission! 

Bacon, Spinach and Parmesan Pasta (Ugly Foods That Taste Fabulous Example # 3)

Welcome back to Ugly Foods that Taste Fabulous Week! 

We are now half-way through the week, Woo-Hoo!

When I put this meal on the plate and placed it in front of my husband, he asked not so politely, "What the heck is that?"  Hahaha! 

"Just try it," I said.  "I know it looks ugly but I really think you're going to enjoy it." 

He made a face and was very skeptical but he did take a bite.  And another bite and another bite.  He licked his plate clean.  Even though the plate looked like this:

I think this pasta looks like someone sneezed and barfed all over spaghetti noodles.  What do you think?  It seems to be a perfect combination of both green and beefy chunks!  LOL~!   (Can you tell that I enjoy grossing people out?  Not much bothers me.  I have a thick stomach when it comes to most foods!) 

Well have your chunks and eat them too because this is seriously delicious.  Just close your eyes and taste it for yourself.   If need be, make a little fun game out of this with your family and kids.  See who can gross each other out the most with details and descriptive words for each bite you take!  :-)

Come on, I dare you to try it.  Then after that I dare you not to love it!

Bacon, Spinach and Parmesan Pasta
(Serves 6)

Adapted and lightened up from Recipe Shoebox

7 to 8 oz. pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti since I had that on hand)
3 oz bag of real bacon bits (Or about four slices of turkey bacon, cooked and broken into bits)

1 cup of chopped or pureed spinach
1 cup reduced fat milk (can use evaporated kind)
1/4 cup (2-ounces) cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

salt and pepper to taste
extra shredded mozzarella cheese for topping, optional

Cook the pasta according to package directions, with a pinch of salt until done.  Meanwhile in a large skillet, place milk and cream cheese.  Heat over low until cream cheese is melted, and whisk until smooth.  Add the chopped spinach, bacon bits, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper.  Stir until blended.  Cook for about ten minutes.

Drain pasta and add it to the skillet.  Toss and coat it around with the sauce.   Add in additional milk or water if needed to thin the sauce or a touch of cornstarch if you need to thicken it.

Serve and watch the family's faces as they go to bite into it!  :-)  Even my three year old picky daughter ate this meal!~

Freeze or refridgerate any leftovers.  Reheat in microwave with a touch of milk or water if needed.

I even tried to put other foods next to the main dish to see if it made it look prettier.  I served it with seasoned green beans and homemade garlic bread.  Nope, it's still ugly!

Tomorrow and Friday I will share your ugly photos and recipe submissions to finish off the week.  Thanks for sending them in and come back to see more! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mango and Avocado Salsa (Ugly Foods That Taste Fabulous Week, Example # 2)

Welcome back to Ugly Foods that Taste Fabulous Week! 

This is my second example of a food that just looks awful for the most part but is so wonderfully yummy and refreshing - SALSA!  

LOVE salsa with a passion!  Love, Love, Love it.   But let's be honest, it's not the most appetizing looking of foods! 

Depending on the combination, it can be downright revolting!  I wanted to mix the typical flavor up a bit by throwing in some fruit.  Two weeks ago I found some amazing, affordable mangoes at a farmers market nearby. 

No, not this mango - 

Although he's a bit fruity and was once a hilarious sketch on SNL.  Nope I'm talking about the mouth-watering fruit mango, like this:

 After biting into some scrumptious mango, this salsa recipe was born and made twice in one week.  It is so good even despite how it looks!

To me, this looks like a bunch of  random foods that were thrown together in the trash can; then you pulled it out to look for an important document and this is the end result.

What do you think this looks like?  Moldy fruit?  Pig slop with veggies mixed in?  Snotty something or other? 

Mango and Avocado Salsa

(Serves about 8-10)

1 to 2 mangoes (I used 1.5) that have been peeled, seeded and cut into small pieces
1 avocado, peeled pitted and chopped into small pieces
2-3 regular tomatoes (or 5-6 roma tomatoes), diced
1/2 cup of onion, chopped
2 tsp of diced jalapeno peppers (I used some from a jar)
1/3 cup of cilantro, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
a pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.  Stir and blend well so the flavors can incorporate into each other.   Serve with crackers, baked chips or pita bread. 

Store in the fridge and continue to eat on it for up to three days.  After that, I find the avocado and mangoes become soggy.  I usually eat mine in a day and a half because that's how good it is!  :-) 

Ugly looking, but fabulous tasting! 

Do you like salsa?  Do you like it spicy or mild, traditional or sweet tasting?  Frankly, I like them all!  The uglier the better too!  :-) 

Okay, today we had an appetizer, yesterday we had dessert.... tomorrow is the real deal - an ugly meal that you can make for dinner!  Come back and see how fugly it is!   You won't want to miss it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

No Bake Cookies (Ugly Foods That Taste Fabulous, Example # 1)

Alright, as promised welcome to Ugly Foods that Taste Fabulous Week! 

Sadly, it looks like I'm all by myself with posts.  No one submitted any recipes or photos to me.  Lazy, you're all lazy.   You must be scared too.... a chicken perhaps? ..... But I still love you! 

Anyway, here is the first recipe example of the week.  This is a cookie recipe that apparenly everyone has heard of except for me! 

Seriously, these "no bake cookies" are everywhere but I had never heard of them, tasted them or made them until just over a week ago when I found this inticing post by The Girl Who Ate Everything.  Suddenly I'm seeing them pop out as fast as the bees are buzzing around my backyard here in sunny Florida now that it is springtime weather. 

I don't know why I lived this sheltered life that has kept me from these amazing cookies.  But I've found them and that's all that matters! 

And I love that they look like cow poop too.  Honestly, you have to admit these cookies do NOT look appealing.  They taste wonderful though.  I used dark chocolate in mine and less butter so mine were really fudge-like.  Hahaha!  So that made them even more poopy or diarrhea looking.  Just close your eyes and let your tastebuds do the thinking for you though.....

Admit it, you think these look like little pieces of sh*t, don't you?? 

No-Bake Cookies 

(Makes over 3 dozen cookies, about 42)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup br sugar
½ cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
3 tsp agave nectar
4 Tablespoons cocoa (I used Hershey's dark chocolate)
3 cups quick cooking oats
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, sugars, milk, applesauce and cocoa to a boil.  Stir and blend for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add in the peanut butter, vanilla extract, and oats. Stir well and drop spoonfuls onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Let them cool and stick together.  I let mine sit out for about an hour then I placed them in the fridge and kept them there until I ate them and brought them to a friend's house.  Everyone loved them, even with my less-butter, applesauce alternative.  They mocked my fudgy diarrhea consistency though.  However, that didn't stop them for grabbing a second cookie! 

Is that a cookie or did a huge bird just take a dump on my plate?   You decide!

(Note: I also made a variation of this cookie using marshmallows in the place of peanut butter.  The cookie didn't stay together though.  I wonder what I did wrong!?  Oh well, I liked the peanut butter one much better!)

Stay tuned for more ugly foods that taste amazing!  More funny stuff is coming your way soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (Mar 14-20, 2011)?

I overdid things yesterday with "spring cleaning" and decluttering.  Gosh, I really have issues!  I am not a contestant for that hoarder show or anything but I definitely hold onto items for longer than I should.  In addtion, I have a bad habit of stacking up items into piles.  Then I don't get to those piles for months (maybe years?)  I'm hoping to change that though and get a bit more organized in the near future though.  In fact, I hired a one-time, one-day housekeeper to come over and deep clean for me.  I used proceeds from my cookbook sales to hire her.  I can't wait to come home to a spotless, sparkling house!  This will be the first time in my life that I've ever used a cleaning person!   So I had to clean before she could come over and clean and wow, I can't believe people do this for a living all the time!  I'd rather be cooking in my kitchen and making a mess any day of the week! 


Due to five hours of cleaning closets, throwing away toys and stuffed animals, clearing off dressers and counter tops and stowing away coupons and books, I intend to relax today and keep it simple for the next two days.  I will be using leftovers from today's barbecue to make my meals for Monday and Tuesday.   Also, I know Thursday is St. Patrick's Day and I will plan on making the traditional Irish Soda bread.  But other than drinking some Bailey's or having something green (like kiwi or grapes), I'm not much into Irish-style food.   It's just not for me. 

I will say a toast to my favorite Irish musician though- Cheers to Bono and U2!  I love you more than words can express! 

Here's what I have lined up for this week:

Monday, Mar. 14 - Grilled BBQ chicken and turkey-sausage wraps using leftover barbecue from Sunday's grilling, side of baked beans and salad 

Tuesday, Mar. 15 - Chicken and spinach gnocchi (use leftover chicken from barbecue), serve with homemade bread and steamed veggies

Wednesday, Mar. 16 - Macho Nacho Pie, serve with a side of corn and a small salad

Thursday, Mar. 17 - BLT's using  Irish Soda Mini Bread ~ I will also listen to a ton of U2 music and have some Bailey's Irish Cream in my coffee in honor of St. Patty's Day~!

Friday, Mar. 18 - Homemade pepperoni pizza

Saturday, Mar. 19 - Take out OR eat something from my freezer

Sunday, Mar. 20 - Cowboy Spaghetti - I will lighten this up and serve it with homemade dinner rolls and green beans

Here are the desserts and snacks that I hope to make in the coming days as well.  I know this looks like A LOT....BUT....My plan is to freeze half of these items and save them for later - such as for unexpected visitors (we had one over the weekend!) or just my own special treat at a later time!  :-)

(1) White and Dark Chocolate Tea Bread - the recipe for this is in my bread machine cookbook - I will share this one soon if it turns out as great as it sounds!

(2)  Graham Cracker Pudding Mini Cakes

(3) Southern Fruit Iced Tea 

(4) Light Lemon Bars - this recipe is listed in my cookbook

(5) Triple A Cake  (absolutely, amazing, apple cake) - I've made this before but I feel like making it again and freezing half for later.  It's soooo good!

(6) Cantaloupe Popsicles - I hope it puts the "mmm" in melon!   These would be great for the hot summer I think.  That's why I want to try them out and perfect them now!

What's on your meal plan this week?  Share your ideas or leave me a link to your blog's foods for the coming days....

I'm extending my contest to submit your ugly food recipes and photos by one more day!  So if you've been lazy about sending me something, you still have time!  Get it me by midnight tonight.  Come on' - don't make me be alone in my fugly cooking!