Thursday, October 29, 2015

Amazing Shrimp Chowder

I’ve been making this recipe all day in my head. I couldn’t wait to come home and put it all together and share it with you. I kinda want a big bowl of this EVERY night for at least the next week J

Amazing Shrimp Chowder
12oz. bag frozen shrimp, thawed (if you’re into cleaning and de-veining shrimp,
 then go ahead and buy it fresh)
3-4 slices bacon
½ yellow onion, small dice
1 stalk of celery, small dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 med. red potato, small dice
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
26oz. seafood stock
2 c. heavy cream
½ white wine
2-3 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning (to taste)
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. freshly chopped Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook bacon in large soup pot. Remove from pot and drain on paper towel. In bacon drippings, sauté onions and celery. Season with a little pepper. Add garlic and stir around to let it cook but don’t let the garlic brown.

Meanwhile, place diced potato in small sauce pot, cover with water and bring to boil. Cook until tender and drain. Set aside.

Add butter and flour to onions and celery. Whisk and cook for a few minutes. Add white wine and seafood stock and bring it to a boil whisking often. Add Old Bay Seasoning. Whisk in heavy cream and bring to just a boil. Add potatoes and add the bacon (crumbled). Combine well.

Add thyme leaves and Italian parsley and stir in shrimp last.

Serve it hot with crusty French bread.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chicken Divan Minis

Well, there’s really only one word to describe these little gems: DELICIOUS! And tonight, it’s dinner. This would also be great as an appetizer or serve it with a salad and it’s a meal!

I picked up a tube of prepared pizza dough, not really knowing which direction I was going to go with it, but knowing I wanted to use ingredients I already had. This is a spin-off of a Chicken Divan recipe I’ve been making for years – just made into smaller portions and with a crust. I love this recipe because you could do so many different variations with it. I truly feel that we should have fun with cooking. No be intimidated or afraid of it. Right? Well, I definitely had fun with this one. Check it out…

Chicken Divan Minis

6 chicken tenderloins (I just pulled them straight from the freezer and threw
them in the pan)
1 ½ c. broccoli, chopped small
1 ½ c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tube prepared refrigerated pizza dough
1 can cream of chicken soup
French fried onions
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Italian seasoning
Olive oil
Cooking spray

Preaheat oven to 400°.

In skillet over medium heat, pour 1 to 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Place chicken tenders in pan and season with garlic salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan and dice.

Open tube of pizza dough and roll out pretty thin. Using a 2-inch square cutter, cut out dough and place in muffin pan sprayed with cooking spray. Prebake for about 5-7 minutes or until the corners of the dough start to brown.

Cut broccoli into small pieces. Grate cheese.

In small saucepan, pour soup from can. Fill soup can ¾ full with milk. Whisk soup and milk until combined.

Return diced chicken and broccoli to skillet. Pour soup mixture over the top and stir. Scoop mixture into partially cooked dough cups. Top with cheese and French fried onions. Bake another 10 minutes or so or until cheese is completely melted and dough is golden brown.


(Note: I had some dough and filling left over, so I just patted out the dough in a small baking dish, piled the filling into it and topped with cheese).


Monday, October 26, 2015

Chocolate Chip Granola Cookies

So, I picked up a bag of granola the other day. It has dried cranberries and almonds in it and looked so good. I've been trying to come up with a way to use it, so I made these...

I think they're one of my new favorites :)

Chocolate Chip Granola Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ c. granulated sugar
¾ c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. Nature Valley Crunchy Granola (Cranberry Almond)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Cream butter and both sugars in large bowl. Add beaten egg and vanilla.
In separate bowl, combine flour with baking soda and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to butter and sugar mixture. Mix well. Add chocolate chips and granola and mix until combined. (NOTE: crush up any large pieces of granola before adding them to the mix. I poured mine into a freezer bag and hit it a few times with my rolling pin).

Turn dough out onto greased 9”x13” glass baking dish. Spread dough evenly across dish (I had to use the palm of my hand…and that’s ok). Bake 20 to 25 minutes. The edges will be slightly brown, but really…your nose will tell you when it’s done. Cool slightly before slicing into bars/squares.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Stenciled Cookie Attempt

You know…some days you just need to express yourself through cookie art. Right? I recently purchased a few cookie stencils and decided to give them a try. Not the easiest thing in the world to do, but here is my first attempt at both flood icing some shortbread cookies, letting them dry/harden and then trying my hand at stenciling with a little chocolate frosting. They're not perfect, by any stretch of the word, but at least I can scratch cookie stenciling off my bucket list. Been there. Done that. May try it again to perfect it and hopefully end up with cleaner edges...we'll see :)

Basic Shortbread Cookies
2 sticks of butter (at room temperature)
½ c. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour (more for dusting)
½ tsp. salt

Royal Icing
2 egg whites, beaten
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla extract. 

In separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Add flour mixture slowly to butter and sugar. Mix well until fully combined.

Turn dough out onto floured surface. Use rolling pin, roll dough out to between 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters of your preference and place each cut out onto a cookie sheet (I used a 2-inch round and a 2-inch square for mine).

Bake 30-40 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool on wire cooling rack.

Combine the 3 ingredients to prepare the royal icing in a medium-sized bowl. If the consistency is too thick, add just a little water to thin it out (if it's too thin, add a little more powdered sugar). It needs to be pourable but not too runny. Add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring to achieve desired color. Stir well. 

Very carefully pour your royal icing in a squirt bottle (use a funnel if necessary - it's so much easier than a piping bag. You can thank me later) and secure the applicator. Use immediately as the icing will harden if exposed to the air for very long.

On cooled cookie, begin with tip of squirt bottle to outline your cookie with the icing. I tried this two different ways: 1) I outlined several cookies first creating a barrier to keep the icing from dripping down the sides and I let it dry before filling/flooding with icing and 2) (because I have not been blessed with the "patience" gene) I just started on the outer rim and worked my way inside filling with the icing. I much prefer the 2nd method because I didn't like the way the outer line looked when it dried.

Once you've flooded the surface of your cookie with the royal icing, use a toothpick to spread icing evenly toward edges and to break up any air bubbles that have formed.

Allow icing to cool and harden before any further decorating (a couple hours or you could start this process, allow them to harden overnight and finish the next day).

Once icing is hardened, carefully place a cookie stencil over the cookie and hold down on one corner. Using a offset spatula, load very little frosting (I just used regular cake frosting in a can at room temperature) and spread over your stencil beginning with the corner closest to you and working your way out. Be sure to spread evenly with a very thin layer. Carefully remove stencil. Embellish as desired.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pasta 'n Chicken

Pasta ‘n Chicken

It’s another busy night around here. “Dinner” will be a quick grab-and-go kind of thing between activities and this no-fuss pasta dish is the perfect solution.

There’s no real science to this recipe. I’ll just tell you what I used.

6 chicken tenderloins
Thin spaghetti (a handful about the diameter of a quarter)
½ red bell pepper
1 c. broccoli, chopped
6-8 cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley
Juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. white wine
Olive oil
 ¼ c. + 1 Tbsp. Butter
Garlic salt
Italian seasoning
Black pepper
Water for pasta
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, optional

In large sauce pan, heat about 4-5 cups of water to boiling. Add a little salt. Boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. In same sauce pan, melt ¼ c. (1/2 stick butter) with 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and stir around for a minute or so. Add white wine. Bring to boil and let the mixture reduce a little. Reduce heat and add lemon juice and fresh parsley.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, brown chicken tenderloins. Season with garlic salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Remove chicken as they brown and dice into smaller pieces.

In same skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter. Saute bell pepper, broccoli and tomatoes for a few minutes. Add diced chicken to veggies. Toss drained pasta with chicken and veggies. Pour reduced wine mixture over pasta and chicken and toss. Serve hot. Top with a little Parmesan.



Friday, October 16, 2015

Easy Chili Verde

Easy Chile Verde


3 Anaheim Chilies, seeded
5 tomatillos
½ onion
½ jalapeno, seeded
2 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ c. water
1 Tbsp. cilantro (optional)


Preheat grill pan or large skillet. Place whole chilies, tomatillos and jalapeno on pan. Cook over medium heat allowing them to char a little on the outside turning them with tongs to brown evenly on all sides.

Remove from pan and allow to cool.

Cut tops off of chilies and jalapeno. Remove seeds. Cut Anaheim chilies in half and place in food processor. I used only half of the jalapeno because I’m not a fan of super spicy stuff. Add garlic cloves, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Squeeze juice of lime and pulse 3 to 4 times. Add just a little water at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add the cilantro last then pulse again.

This is great to use for chili verde, breakfast burritos or with chips.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Debbie's Bread Wreath

I fell in love with bread baking about 5 or 6 years ago. I found a simple recipe, learned the basics and then let my imagination go with different variations.

And today...even though our California temp is hovering somewhere around 300 degrees, I chose to crank up the oven to 400 and BAKE! :)

Debbie's Bread Wreath

1 1/2 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
3 1/2 c. bread flour
2 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil (plus more to coat bowl)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 egg white
about a tsp. of water
Sea salt

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, stir together warm water, yeast and sugar. Mix well, then let it sit about 10 minutes to let the yeast "bloom."

To this, add about 2 cups of flour, olive oil, salt and 1 tsp. of rosemary (reserve the rest for the top). Using bread dough attachment, mix well adding remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time.

Once combined and dough is pulling away from the sides, turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead about 10-15 times. Meanwhile, drizzle a little more olive oil in large bowl. Form kneaded dough into ball and place in bowl making sure to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place. Allow it to rise until doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead about 10 to 12 times. Divide dough into 3 equal amounts. Roll each one out to roughly 16-18 inches long and braid.

Once braided, bring ends around to form a circle. I placed a large biscuit cutter in the center (coated the edges of the biscuit cutter with a little olive oil first) to keep the center open as it bakes.

Allow to rise about 30 minutes or so. Meanwhile, prepare egg wash; 1 egg white beaten with a little water.

Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with sea salt and remaining rosemary. Bake at 400 approximately 20-22 minutes. (NOTE: I turned the pan about half-way through baking to sort of even out the color). Bread will be a gorgeous golden brown color. Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack. Carefully remove biscuit cutter (or whatever you use to keep the center open) with a pot holder or utensil.

Once cooled, you could serve with an assortment of fruits and cheeses - whatever you wish.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

White Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies

For brownies:
1 pkg Ghirardelli Brownie Mix
1 egg
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. water

White Chocolate Topping:
12 oz. pkg. white chocolate chips
8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 small container of frozen whipped dessert topping
2 to 3 drops of peppermint extract
1 Tbsp. butter
Candy canes (or peppermint candies), crushed
Cooking spray
(NOTE: I used 2 mini-muffin pans for this recipe and baked the remaining batter in my mini-loaf pan for this photo above).

Prepare brownie batter according to package instructions. Spoon batter into each well of ONE mini-muffin tin and fill half way. Generously apply cooking spray to UNDER-SIDE of the 2nd mini-muffin pan and place pan into the first making the brownie batter rise up the sides. Bake at 325° for 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and carefully remove top pan to reveal brownie cups.

Place white chocolate chips and butter in medium bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir then microwave 20 more seconds or until fully melted and smooth. Add peppermint extract and stir. Add cream cheese and mix well with electric mixer. Fold in dessert topping and mix well by hand until fully combined.

Once the brownie “cups” have had time to cool a little in the pan, leave them in the pan and fill each with the white chocolate mixture with a spoon. Crush candy (I put the candy in a freezer bag and crushed them with a rolling pin) and sprinkle over the top of each. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hearty Lentil Soup with Sausage

It doesn't take much of a temperature drop to get me thinking about soup. I made this a few nights ago as I reached for my sweater for the first time this season.

I had some Andouille sausage in the fridge that needed to get cooked, so I used it to give this little creation a big boost of flavor. As I mentioned, it's been a few days since I made this, so I may or may not have precise measurements to share here. Please forgive me (smiles).

Lentil Soup with Andouille Sausage

1/2 small bag of lentils, rinsed
2 lengths of Andouille sausage, diced small
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
ground black pepper to taste
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
Fresh Italian parsley

Drizzle olive oil in medium soup pot over medium-high heat. Add diced sausage and cook until brown. Remove sausage and drain. Add butter to pot and stir in onion, carrot and celery. Cook until nearly done. Add garlic and continue cooking for a minute more. Do not allow garlic to brown. Reduce heat and add lentils, Cajun seasoning, ground cumin and chicken broth. Mix well. Add a little water if you need more liquid. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for about an hour or until lentils are soft. Stir in a little Italian parsley if desired

I used an immersion blender to thicken mine once the lentils were cooked and tender.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Pumpkin Scones with Cranberry Butter

I found this recipe years ago in an old Taste of Home magazine and I’ve made it several times. This time, however, I changed it up a bit by brushing the tops with a little melted butter and sprinkling chopped pecans. I also used a square cutter outer instead of slicing the scones into wedges from a round shape like the original recipe instructs...because I could, LOL.

The berry butter??? Oh my gosh – it will forever change the way you think about scones! Seriously, this is wonderful and I want to use it on, like….EVERYthing!

Bring fall into your kitchen with these little treats. They go great with afternoon tea or coffee. I even like them for breakfast.


Pumpkin Scones with Cranberry Butter


Berry butter:
2 Tbsp. dried cranberries (actually, I used almost 3)
½ c. boiling water
½ c. butter, softened
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ c. cold butter
1 egg
½ c. canned pumpkin
1/3 c. milk

½ c. chopped pecans
3-4 Tbsp. melted butter


Place cranberries in a small bowl, add boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes, drain and chop. In a small mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and cranberries, mix well. Place in plastic wrap. Form into long cylinder and refrigerate at least an hour.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pie spice, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, pumpkin and milk, add to crumb mixture just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead 10 times. Pat out flat to about ¼ inch thickness. Use round or square cutter and place on baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Bake at 400° for approximately 15 minutes. Serve warm with berry butter.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Zucchini Noodle Salad

So, I couldn't stand it anymore. I knew when I saw this cool gadget for the first time that I just had to have it in my life. I went back to World Market a couple weeks later (because I'm always looking for any excuse to go there) and got myself a spiral slicer.

It's so fun to use and has greatly enhanced my relationship with vegetables. Besides, who could resist the fun little "leftovers" it creates??? LOL.

Dear husband is on a mission to cut out pretty much all the garbage from his diet (and I need to do the same), so I came up with this fun and tasty salad using my oh-so-entertaining kitchen gadget. You gotta try this - so fresh, simple and delicious :)

I started with a couple zucchinis. I sliced them in half because I learned right away that if I don't, I end up with one loooooonnnggg continuous noodle. Though it looks kinda fun, it makes it a little awkward to eat.

So, really. You gotta get yourself a spiral slicer and try this recipe. The sky really is the limit with this. I'm sharing a very simple salad recipe here, but there are so many variations. You could add chicken, black olives, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, corn, cherry tomatoes, etc. The possibilities are endless :)

Zucchini Noodle Salad

2 medium zucchini peeled and cut in half (in the middle, not lengthwise)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, diced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/2 c. turkey breast, chopped (3 oz.)
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
juice of 1 small lemon
Italian Seasoning
Olive oil (optional)

Using Spiral Slicer, slice 2 zucchinis and place the spirals into a medium bowl. Add bell pepper, green onions, carrot and turkey breast. Toss to combine. Squeeze lemon over top and toss again. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese. (I poured a little Creamy Italian dressing over mine, but my husband loved it without).

Remember to share your variation of this recipe!