Monday, December 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajita Rice Bowls

This is super easy and very tasty.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into chunks
-1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
-3/4 cup white rice
-1 1/2 cups water
-1 cup chunky salsa (mild)
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp garlic powder
-2 tsp salt, divided
-2 tsp pepper, divided
-1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1 green bell pepper
-1 medium onion
-shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
-sour cream, for topping
Directions:
Coat your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Add the chicken chunks.  Top with beans, rice, water, salsa, bay leaf, cumin, garlic powder, 1 tsp of the salt and 1 tsp of the pepper.  Give it a good stir.  Cover and cook on low for 3.5 hours.
Heat the oil in large skillet.  Slice the bell pepper and onion.  Add to the hot skillet.  Season with remaining salt and pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes.
To serve,remove bay leaf from slow cooker and scoop some of the rice-chicken mixture into bowls.  Top with bell pepper and onions.  Garnish with some cheese and sour cream.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Greek Yogurt-Blue Cheese Dip

This is so good!  You can have it with tortilla chips or with your favorite veggies (radishes, cucumbers, etc).  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt
-1 Tbs lemon juice
-1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 green onion, finely chopped
-1 tsp dried parsley
-2 oz crumbled blue cheese
Directions:
Combine everything in a medium bowl.  Let it stand for about 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate with Nutella

Rich, creamy and chocolatey, this is perfect for a cold, winter day to warm you up.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 cup Nutella
-1 cup hot tap water
-5 cups milk (whole or 2%)
Directions:
Mix sugar, cocoa, Nutella and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, so that lumps are gone.
Pour mixture into slow cooker.  Add the milk and mix well.
Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours.
Ladle into mugs and top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, if desired, or enjoy as is.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Slow Cooker Southern Barbecue Chicken

This is finger licking good stuff!  The sauce is the key to this dish.  It is a perfect balance of flavors.  You could use boneless chicken thighs or some pork loin, shred the meat at the end and make sandwiches out of it.  Or you can eat it like we did, on top of rice.  However you want to enjoy it, go ahead and make it.  You'll LOVE it!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 (36 oz) bottle ketchup
-6 Tbs brown sugar
-2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
-2 Tbs soy sauce
-2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-3 garlic cloves, crushed
-6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
Directions:
Coat your slow cooker with cooking spray (up the sides too).
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, except for the chicken.  Mix well.  Pour a little on the bottom of slow cooker and spread (to cover all the bottom).  Layer the chicken on top of top.  Pour remaining sauce on top of chicken.
Cover and cook on low for 4-4.5 hours.
Serve on top of cooked rice.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sarmale (Romanian Stuffed Cabbage or Grape Leaves Rolls)

This dish takes a lot of time preparing it.  The results are absolutely amazing and well worth the work!  I usually make it at Christmas time.  It can be done with either cabbage or grape leaves.  I prefer the cabbage because cost wise is way more inexpensive than the grape leaves (unless you own a  vine and you can pick up the leaves for free ).  This dish can be done either in the crock pot (which I prefer) or over the stove.  If you do it over the stove, you have to cook the rolls at a low temperature, shaking the pot every 30 minutes or so, to prevent the rolls from sticking to the bottom.  Most Romanians eat this dish with a side of plain cornmeal mush and a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt on top.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 lb ground beef
-1 lb ground pork
-½ cup uncooked white rice
-1 onion, chopped
-salt and pepper to taste (about 1 Tbs each)
-grape leaves-I usually buy two of the tall narrow jars or 3 heads of cabbage
-4 Tbs tomato paste, divided
-2 quarts (8 cups) sauerkraut juice or 1-2 cups lemon juice, if using cabbage leaves
-2 cups chopped cabbage or sauerkraut, if using cabbage leaves 
Directions:
Fill a large bowl with boiled water and soak the grape leaves/cabbage in it until ready to use.  Soak the rice in water, also until ready to use.
In small  saute pan pour 1 tsp oil and cook the chopped onion until translucent.  Set it aside and let it cool
In a large bowl mix the ground meat, cooled onion, drained rice, and salt & pepper. Mix VERY well.
Prepare the pot (whether regular or crock pot) you're going to use to cook the sarmale.  Pour 1 tsp oil on the bottom.  Then mix two Tbs tomato paste with 1/2 a cup water.  Pour it over the oil and try to mix it a little bit, but not too much.  If using the cabbage, pour 1 cup of the chopped cabbage or sauerkraut on top of the oil mixture.
Drain the water from the grape leaves/cabbage.  Take one leaf (either grape or cabbage), cut the stem (the hard part), fill it with about 2-3 Tbs meat mixture, and wrap the leaf around the meat (just as you would wrap a spring roll).  Put the roll in the prepared pot and form circles with the rolls.  Repeat with the rest of the leaves and meat. 
When done, if using the cabbage, place remaining 1 cup of the chopped cabbage or sauerkraut on top of sarmale.  Make again the tomato paste mix and pour it on top.  If using grape leaves, fill the pot with water, so that the sarmale are covered.  If using cabbage, fill a quarter of the pot with warm water.  Pour the sauerkraut or lemon juice on top, so that the liquid covers all the sarmale.  Turn on the stove to low-medium heat and cook for 5-6 hours, until the meat is cooked through and the leaves are nice and soft enough to cut them with a fork.  Remember to shake the pot every 30 minutes or so, so that they don't stick to the bottom.  If using the crock pot, set it on low and cook for 8-9 hours.
Enjoy!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Easy Rich Chocolatey Brownies

Oh, what a treat this is!  I know that I have a ton of brownie recipes on this blog, but every single one makes such unique and delicious brownies!  This is an easy recipe, fairly quick to put together, which results in these amazing rich brownies.  Pure delight!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
-5 large eggs
-2 cups sugar
-1 Tbs vanilla extract
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 1/2 cups flour
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 9x13 inch pan with baking spray.  Set aside.
Melt chocolate chips and butter.  Remove from heat and let it cool for a little.
Meanwhile, cream eggs and sugar.  Add vanilla.  Add the chocolate mixture.  Stir in the baking powder and the flour, half of cup at a time.  Mix very well.
Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely before cutting.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dill Pickle Soup

Now before you discount this, let me tell you that you're in for quite a treat.  This soup is food for the soul!  For real!  The taste is absolutely amazing and not pickley like you would think.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
-5 1/2 cups chicken broth
-2 large carrots, peeled and diced
-1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
-3 large dill pickles, finely diced
-1 cup flour
-1 cup sour cream
-1 cup water
-2 cups pickle juice
-1 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp cayenne
Directions:
Place diced potatoes, broth, carrots and butter in large saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add the pickles and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the flour, sour cream and water until nice and smooth.  If needed, add some broth from the soup.  Pour mixture into pot and give it a good stir.  Add the pickle juice, seasoning, pepper and cayenne.  Simmer for 5 more minutes.
Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Blue Cheese and Pine Nut Puffs

Warning: these are seriously addictive!  You can't stop eating them!  If you like blue cheese, you are in for quite a treat.  The toasted pine nuts give these little gems quite a distinct flavor.  These are a wonderful appetizer or simply a snack.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup water
-1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1 cup flour
-4 large eggs
-5 oz crumbled gorgonzola cheese
-5 oz crumbled blue cheese
-4 oz shredded apple smoked gruyere cheese
-1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, thyme and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a ball forms.  Remove from heat.  Transfer to a bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Using the same wooden spoon, stir for a few seconds.  Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Add the cheeses and pine nuts.  Mix very well.
Transfer dough to pastry bag.  Pipe onto prepared sheets.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and firm.
Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cranberry-Orange-Almond Bread

Quick and delicious!  I absolutely love this bread made with fresh cranberries.  The flavors just burst in your mouth!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 cups flour
-1 cup sugar
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-3/4 cup orange juice (pulp free)
-2 Tbs vegetable oil
-1 tsp orange extract
-1 large egg
-2 cups fresh cranberries (frozen do just well)
-1/2 cup almond slices
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray (the one with flour and butter).  Set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Mix well.  Add the orange juice.  Stir in the oil, extract and egg.  Mix until well combined.  Stir in the cranberries.  Mix on medium until berries start to burst (they make such a nice sound!).  Stir in the almonds.
Pour mixture in prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.  Slice and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cranberry-Citrus Salad with Goat Cheese and Honey Roasted Walnuts

This is a beautiful and tasty salad that can be put together in a pinch.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
For salad:
-1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
-2 Tbs sugar
-2 Tbs water
-2 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn in bite sized pieces
-1 (15 oz) can  mandarin oranges, drained
-1 cup honey roasted walnuts
-1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
For dressing:
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
-5 cloves garlic
-4 Tbs honey
-zest of 1 orange
-juice from 1 orange
Directions:
Combine cranberries, sugar and water in small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until berries start to burst,  Remove from heat and let cool.
Combine all dressing ingredients in blender and process until well incorporated.
Assemble the salad by placing the torn lettuce, cooled cranberries and oranges in big bowl.  Give it a toss.  Add walnuts and cheese.  Stir gently.  Coat with dressing.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Slow Cooker Lasagna

This is comfort food for the soul.  It's absolutely delicious!  All the right flavors with the right texture, in one awesome combination.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 lb extra lean ground beef
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
-1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
-2 tsp salt
-2 tsp dried oregano
-1 tsp dried basil
-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-1 cup ricotta cheese
-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
-6 lasagna noodles
-1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions:
Place beef, onion and garlic in large skillet.  Cook until beef is nicely browned (make sure to break the clumps while cooking).
Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, oregano, basil and pepper flakes.  Give a good stir.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.
While that's simmering, mix the ricotta with 1 cup of the mozzarella.  Mix well.
Coat the bottom and sides of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
Spoon 1/3 of the beef mixture on the bottom of slow cooker.  Break 3 of the noodles in half and arrange on top of sauce.  Top noodles with half of the ricotta mixture.  Repeat layers: sauce, noodles, ricotta.  Top with remaining 1/3 of the sauce.
Cover and cook on low for 3-3:30 hours.
In a small bowl, combine remaining mozzarella with the Parmesan.
Once the lasagna is done cooking, turn off the slow cooker.  Uncover and sprinkle the Parmesan mixture on top.  Let it sit for 10-15 minutes so that the cheese on top can nicely melt and the lasagna to set.
Cut into serving sizes and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mushroom Soup

This is one of the best soups ever!  And that means a lot coming from me, since I'm quite a soup snob. :)  It is the perfect blend of flavors.  An absolute must try!  Enjoy!
Ingredients (this makes enough for 2 people):
-1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1 Tbs butter
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-8 oz button mushrooms (or any variety you like), finely chopped
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1 bay leaf
-1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 cup chicken stock
-1 Tbs flour
-2 Tbs water
-dash of nutmeg
-salt and pepper, to taste
-2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
-chopped chives, for garnish
Directions:
Heat oil in large sauce pan.  Add butter and let melt.  Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.  Add the mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the flour with the 2 Tbs water, until a smooth paste forms.  Add mixture to soup and stir constantly for a few minutes, until soup thickens.  
Season with nutmeg, salt and  pepper. Stir in the milk and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Remove bay leaf, ladle into bowl, garnish with chopped chives and enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Quick Shrimp Tortellini Toss

Quick and easy!  This is another tasty dish in under 30 minutes for one of those crazy busy nights.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-9 oz refrigerated cheese tortellini
-1 cup frozen peas
-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
-12 oz shrimp, peeled, deveined, with tails removed
-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-1/4 tsp dried thyme
Directions:
Cook tortellini pasta according to package directions.  Add the frozen peas during the last minutes of cooking.  Drain.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs of the oil in a large skillet.  Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes or until shrimp is cooked through.
Add the drained pasta and peas.  Season with the salt, pepper and thyme.  Drizzle remaining oil.  Give it a good stir.  Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Devil's Food Cake with the Best Chocolate Frosting

One of my kids had a birthday last week.  He wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and I knew just the cake I would make for him.  He LOVED it!  We all did and devoured it in less than two days!  Yes, we're that bad. :)  This cake is rich, moist and fluffy.  The frosting is seriously to die for!  There's also quite a bit of it, so be generous when you spread it between the cake layers.  Yum!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
For cake:
-1 cup buttermilk
-2 cups flour
-2 cups sugar
-2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 large eggs
-1 cup vegetable oil or sour cream (oil works better, but the sour cream makes a good substitute)
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 cup boiling water
-1 tsp baking soda
For frosting:
-1/2 cup butter
-2 Tbs vegetable shortening
-1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
-3 cups powdered sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat VERY well the bottom and sides of two round 9 inch pans.  I use the baking spray (the one with flour and oil).  Set aside.
In your mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, eggs, oil and vanilla.  Mix very well.
In a small bowl, mix the boiling water with baking soda.  Once nicely dissolved, pour into cake batter.  Mix well.  The batter should be very thin.  
Pour evenly into prepared pans.  Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let it cool in the pans for about 10 minutes.  After that, carefully flip it over onto wire racks and let cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.
Melt the butter and shortening.  Pour into mixing bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.  Let it cool for a couple of minutes.
Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth.  Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix very well.
Put one cake layer onto serving plate.  Top with a generous portion of frosting and spread it evenly.  Cover with second cake layer.  Frost remaining cake.
Cut into slices and enjoy!  Refrigerate leftovers, if any. :)  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Orange Chicken

This is quick and delicious!  Yet another awesome, easy meal for a busy week night.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 Tbs salted butter
-2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into bite-size pieces
-1 cup orange juice, pulp-free
-zest from 1 orange
-6 Tbs oyster sauce
-4 Tbs honey
-2 tsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Directions:
Melt butter in large skillet.  Add chicken and cook until nice and crisp (you might need to work in batches).  Remove chicken with slotted spoon and let it drain on paper towels.
While chicken is cooking, mix remaining ingredients into a bowl.  Mix very well.
Once chicken is done and onto paper towels, add the sauce to the skillet where you cooked the chicken.  Give it a good stir to include all the goodness left by the chicken. 
Simmer the sauce until slightly thickened.
Return the chicken, toss to coat and cook for a couple more minutes.  
Serve on top of rice.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Roasted Jalapeno Soup

What a delight this soup is!  True food for the soul!  Just a heads-up: this recipe only makes enough for two people.  So double or triple it, if you are going to serve more.   Otherwise, expect an amazing blend of flavors from the roasted jalapenos, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms and other goodies.  Oh, and it is NOT spicy, despite all the jalapenos.  It has an amazing flavor and texture.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-4 medium jalapenos, halved and seeded
-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
-1 small onion, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-3 Tbs salted butter
-1/4 cup flour
-2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
-1/2 cup milk (2% or whole)
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-1 Roma tomato, chopped
-3 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Place each prepared jalapeno face down on the sheet. Roast in preheated oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Chop and set aside.
Heat oil in saucepan.  Add the carrots, onion and garlic.  Cook for5 minutes.
Stir in the butter and cook until melted.  Sprinkle the flour and mix very well.
Add the chopped roasted jalapenos and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the milk and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to another boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until soup thickened.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches, process soup until smooth.
Add the chopped tomato and sliced mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Banana-Date-Walnut Cookies

These cookies don't look like much, but let me tell you that they are DELICIOUS!!!  I could not stop eating them!  It's such a perfect combination of flavors.  Absolutely delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 ripe bananas, mashed
-1 cup chopped dates
-2 cups quick rolled oats
-1/2 cup walnut chips
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line one cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
In a bowl, mix bananas, dates and oats.  Mix well.  Add the walnuts, salt and vanilla.  Mix.  Add the melted margarine and give it a good stir.
Using a spoon, scoop onto prepared sheet-you should have 12 cookies.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Let cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes.  Remove onto plate until cooled completely.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pasta Skillet with Pork and Zucchini

This dish is super fast to put together (under 30 minutes) and it's absolutely delicious!  The flavors combine beautifully and the zucchini adds the bit of extra needed.  Really nice!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 cups pasta (penne, rotini, etc)
-1 lb ground pork
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 (14.5 oz) can Italian style stewed tomatoes, do not drain
-1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
-2 tsp salt
-2 tsp pepper
-1 medium zucchini, cut into quarters, then sliced
Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet.  Add the pork and onion, and cook until pork is no longer pink.
Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt and pepper.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, the pasta should be ready now.  Drain and add to the skillet.  Stir in the zucchini.  Give it a good stir, cover and cook for 5 more minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Applesauce Spicy Barbecue Chicken

I love, love, love this simple, yet delicious dish!  It's quick to put together, simple and tastes very good.  I like to use Famous Dave's Devil's Spit bbq sauce, but any spicy one you like will do just fine.  Don't worry about too much spice as the applesauce and brown sugar tame it down nicely.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-4 chicken thighs. skin-on, bone-in
-1 tsp pepper
-2/3 original applesauce
-2/3 cup spicy (I recommend Famous Dave's Devil's Spit) bbq sauce
-2 Tbs packed brown sugar
-1 tsp chili powder
Directions:
Heat oil in large skillet.  Season chicken with pepper on both sides.  Add to hot oil and brown on both sides.
Meanwhile, stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over browned chicken.  Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes longer, or until chicken is cooked through.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lemon Poke Cake

This is very easy to put together and super delicious!  Not too sweet and with just the perfect balance of tartness from the lemon.  Delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 (16.5 oz) box white cake mix
-3 egg whites
-1 cup water
-1/4 cup original applesauce
-2 cups boiling water
-2 (3 oz each) packages lemon flavor gelatin
-1 (3.4 oz) package lemon flavored instant pudding and pie filling
-1 cup cold milk
-8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 9x13 baking pan with the baking cooking spray (the one with oil and flour).  Set aside.
Mix together the cake mix, egg whites, water and applesauce.  Mix well and pour into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let it cool completely in the pan.
Once cooled, poke the cake everywhere with a fork.
Mix the gelatin with the 2 cups of boiling water.  Pour over poked cake.  Refrigerate for 3 hours.
Whip the pudding mix with the cold milk.  Once nice and stiff, add the thawed whipped topping.  Mix very well.  Top the cake evenly with the pudding mixture.  Return to the fridge for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.
Slice and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Jalapeno Popper Chili

Oh, what a bowl of goodness this is!  I could eat tons of this!  So creamy, packed with flavor and with a little kick to it!  Awesome!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 lb dry white beans
-4 cups chicken broth
-1 onion, finely chopped or a handful of dehydrated onion
-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
-1 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 tsp oregano
-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
-1 cup frozen corn
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1.5 lbs chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, cut into chunks
-8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
-1/2 lb bacon, sliced and cooked until crisp (drained on paper towels)
Directions:
Soak the beans over night.  Drain and place in slow cooker.  To them, add broth, onion, jalapenos, garlic, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, tomatoes with juice and corn.  Season with salt and pepper.   Give a good stir, cover and cook on low for 4 hours.
Add the chicken, give it a stir and cook for 4 more hours on low.
Cut the cream cheese in pieces and add to chili.  Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes.  Add the bacon and stir really well, until the cream cheese is all melted.  Season with additional salt, if necessary.
Ladle into bowls and enjoy this goodness!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ham and Potato Casserole

This is nice comfort food.  It's simple and delicious.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-olive oil flavored cooking spray
-3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
-2 tsp salt, divided
-2 tsp pepper, divided
-2 tsp smoked paprika, divided
-1 lb cubed cooked ham
-1 bell pepper, diced
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-2 cups shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
-1 (2.25 oz) can sliced olives, drained
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Coat a 9x13 dish with olive oil flavored cooking spray.  On the bottom, layer half of the sliced potatoes.  Season with 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and 1 tsp smoked paprika.  Top with half the ham, half of the bell pepper and half of the chopped onion.  Top with 1 cup of the cheese.  Layer with remaining ham, bell pepper and onion.  Top with remaining potato slices.  Season with remaining salt, pepper and paprika.  
Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.
Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, for 5 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and top with the sliced olives. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake

I don't think this one needs any description as the title says it all. :)  It is simply delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-butter flavored cooking spray
-8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
-3/4 cup powdered sugar
-2 tsp milk
-1 (29 oz) can pumpkin puree
-1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
-3 large eggs
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
-1 (15.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
-2 Tbs cinnamon sugar mixture
-whipped cream, for topping
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 9x13 pan with the butter flavored cooking spray.  Set aside.
Cream the cheese, powdered sugar and milk.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, eggs, salt and spice.  Mix very well.  Add the cake mix and make sure it's well incorporated.  Pour into prepared pan.
Drop dollops of the cream cheese mixture and swirl into the pan. 
Sprinkle on top with the cinnamon sugar.  Coat the cinnamon sugar top with some butter flavored cooking spray.  
Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely, cut into pieces and serve with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cranberry-Banana Bread

Here's yet another nice little twist on your regular banana bread.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1/3 cup shortening
-2/3 cup sugar
-2 large eggs
-2 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups flour
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (both work just fine)
-1/2 cup dried cranberries
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Coat 9x5 loaf pan with baking cooking spray.  Set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, cream the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Stir in the bananas.  Add the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix well.  Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Stir in the walnuts and cranberries.  Mix well and pour in prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spicy Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

What a delight this soup is!  I could eat this all day, seriously!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 lbs sweet potatoes
-1/2 cup water
-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-1/2 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
-4 cups chicken broth
-1/4 tsp salt
-bacon, cooked and crumbled, for topping
-shredded Parmesan cheese, for topping
Directions:
Poke potatoes and place with water in large microwavable dish.  Cover and microwave on high for 15 minutes.  Flip on the other side, cover and microwave for 15 more minutes.  Remove carefully and let cool slightly.  Scoop the flesh out into a large bowl.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes or until it becomes translucent.  Add the cumin and red pepper.  Mix well and cook for 1 minute.  Add the broth and sweet potatoes.  Bring mixture to a boil.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a regular blender, process until nice and smooth.
Season with salt and give it a good stir.
Ladle into bowls and top with bacon crumbs and cheese.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Ice Cream Cupcakes

I know that the weather is changing and getting colder, but this treat is welcomed year round in my house!  You get a cookie and ice cream, topped with whipped cream.  SO, so, so good!  Simple and delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-favorite chocolate chip cookie dough-homemade or store-bought (both work just fine)
-favorite ice cream flavor (I used sea salt caramel and mint chocolate chip)
-whipped cream
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Get you ice cream out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter.
In your muffin pan, press 1 scoop of cookie dough into each cup.  Bake in preheated oven for 10-11 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Scoop some of the softened ice cream on top of the cooled cookies (still in the pan).  Place immediately in the freezer.  Freeze for about 2 hours or until ready to serve.
Scoop cupcakes out of the pan, top with some whipped cream and enjoy!  Delicious!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alabama White BBQ Sauce

I was browsing through some food blogs the other day and came across this recipe on this blog. My mouth started watering immediately!  It promised to be spicy and, if you know me, that's a big weakness of mine. :)  I immediately fit it into my meal calendar, of course!  Following the original recipe, the sauce itself was nice, but it tasted more like a really delicious ranch.  So I went to work and tweaked it to my liking.  This version sure has the kick I was looking for and it is simply delicious!  You can serve it with some delicious fried chicken, pork, steak, salads, etc.  It's quite versatile.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 cup mayonnaise
-2 Tbs spicy brown mustard
-2 Tbs horseradish sauce
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-1 tsp ground black pepper
-1/4 cup white vinegar
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp cayenne 
Directions:
Place all ingredients in blender.  Process until nice and smooth.  Pour into container, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.  Enjoy!
Recipe inspired from here

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Slow Cooker Santa Fe Chili

Simply delicious!  It also has the right kick for me. :)  I know you'll enjoy this yummy chili. This recipe makes a lot of chili.  If you can't eat all of it, simply portion it and freeze it.  I sometimes, portion mine into large ziplock bags and freeze it for up to 6 months.  It keeps very well, it thaws out nicely and the great flavors are still there.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 lbs extra lean or lean ground beef
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-2 (15 oz each) cans dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
-2 (15 oz each) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
-2 (15 oz each) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
-1 (29 oz) can corn, drained
-1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
-1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
-1 1/2 cups original V8 juice
-2 (1 oz each) envelopes ranch salad dressing mix
-2 (1.25 oz each) envelopes taco seasoning
-toppings such as shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, corn chips, etc
Directions:
In a large skillet, cook the ground beef and onion until meat is no longer pink.  Transfer mixture and all juices into your large slow cooker. 
Add remaining ingredients, except for toppings.  Give it a good stir.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
Ladle into bowls, tops with preferred toppings, if desired, and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Carrot-Banana Bread

This is a nice variation to the regular banana bread.  It's moist and delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
-2 large eggs
-1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-2 cups flour
-1 cup grated carrots
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (either one works just fine)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with baking cooking spray.  Set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, whisk the bananas, eggs and oil.  Mix until smooth.  Add the sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Mix well.  Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix until well incorporated.  Stir in the carrots and walnuts.
Pour into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.  Slice and enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Barbecue Chicken Burritos

This is another quick and delicious meal for a busy night.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 Tbs vegetable oil
-2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, cut into bite-size chunks
-1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into small strips
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce
-about 2 cups shredded fiesta cheese blend
-6 flour tortilla, burrito size
-cooking spray
-toppings such as: shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, etc
Directions:
Heat oil in large skillet.  Add the chicken, bell pepper and onion.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink.  Add the barbecue sauce.  Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes.  Remove from stove.
Sprinkle some cheese down the center of each tortilla.  Top with some chicken mixture.  Fold the sides and ends.
Coat a skillet with some cooking spray and heat up.  Add a wrapped burrito and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Place burrito on plate and top with desired toppings.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cheeseburger Pasta

This really tastes like a cheeseburger!  With all the fixings too!  Like, onions, ketchup, mustard, pickles...  Seriously, the whole thing is there.  Delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 1/2 cups round tube pasta
-1 lb extra lean or lean ground beef
-1/4 small onion, finely chopped (or 2 Tbs chopped frozen onion)
-1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
-2 Tbs dill pickle relish
-2 Tbs yellow mustard
-2 Tbs ketchup
-1 tsp steak seasoning
-1/4 tsp seasoned salt
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-2 green onions, chopped, for topping
Directions:
Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain.
Meanwhile, cook the beef and onion in a large skillet.  When beef is no longer pink, add the drained cooked pasta.  Mix well.
Stir in the tomatoes with the juice, relish, mustard, ketchup, seasoning and salt.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with the cheese.  Remove from the heat, cover and let is stand for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Scoop onto plates, garnish with some green onions and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Potato Kielbasa Skillet

Delicious, delicious, delicious!  I can't praise this one enough!  And it's quick too!  Under 30 minutes.  The potatoes are mixed with some delicious Polska Kielbasa, onions, bacon and spinach, and they are all tossed in an amazing mustardy sauce.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1 lb potatoes, peeled and cubed
-3 Tbs water
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-3/4 lb Polska Kielbasa, chopped
-1/2 onion, finely chopped
-4 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
-5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
For the sauce:
-2 Tbs brown sugar
-2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
-1 Tbs Dijon mustard
-1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed a little
-1/4 tsp pepper
Directions:
Place potatoes and water in microwave-safe dish.  Cover and microwave for 4 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet.  Add the Kielbasa and onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the drained potatoes.  Cook for 5 minutes or until potatoes and sausage are golden brown.
In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients.
Add to the skillet and give it a good stir.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 3 minutes.
Add the spinach and bacon.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Vegetable Chowder Topped with Bacon

This chowder is perfect for these cooler days.  The flavors combine wonderfully and the chowder itself is quite hearty.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
-4 cups chicken broth
-2 cups frozen corn
-1 medium onion, chopped
-8 oz baby bellas, sliced
-2 (14 3/4 oz each) cans cream-style corn
-3 cups milk
-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-salt and pepper, to taste
-bacon bits, for topping
Directions:
In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes, broth, frozen corn, onion and mushrooms.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add the creamed corn, milk, cheese, salt and pepper.  Give it a good stir.  Cook for about 10 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and top with bacon bits.
Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Easy Individual Apple Pies

What a treat!  And it's quick too!  Less than 30 minutes!  The filling is a perfect blend of apple, walnut, sugar and cinnamon.  Delicious!  Enjoy!
Ingredients (this recipe yields 20 mini pies):
-2 (7.5 oz each) tubes refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
-1 medium Granny Smith's apple, peeled and finely chopped
-3 Tbs sugar
-1/4 cup chopped walnuts
-1 tsp cinnamon
-butter flavored cooking spray
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Using a rolling pin, flatten each biscuit as much as you can.
In a bowl, mix the chopped apple, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon.  Fill each flattened biscuit evenly.  Spray each biscuit and apple mixture with a little butter flavored cooking spray.
Bring up all the sides of the biscuit to enclose the filling and pinch well to seal.
Place in ungreased muffin cups.
Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.  
Serve warm by itself or with a little whipped cream on top.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cheese Tortellini with Marinated Artichokes and Herbs

I cannot describe this dish enough!  It is absolutely delicious!  It seriously has the perfect blend of flavors.  This is a must try.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1 (7.5 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts
-1 large onion, finely chopped
-1 tsp dried parsley
-1 tsp dried basil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp dried oregano
-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-1 (14.5 oz) can Italian diced tomatoes
-1/2 tsp salt
-9 oz refrigerated cheese tortellini
-1 (2.25 oz) can sliced black olives, drained
-shredded Parmesan cheese
Directions:
Heat the oil in large skillet.
In a small bowl, drain the artichokes.  Set the bowl aside.
Give a rough chop to the artichokes.  Set aside.
To the hot oil, add the onion, parsley, basil, garlic, oregano and pepper flakes.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil.
To the onion mixture, add the tomatoes with the juice and the artichoke liquid.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 12 minutes.
While that is simmering, cook the tortellini according to the package directions.  Drain and add to the tomato mixture.  Season with the salt.  Stir in the olives and chopped artichokes.  Cook for a couple of minutes.
Spoon onto plates and sprinkle with cheese.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Romanian Fresh Tomato Soup with Noodles (Supa de Rosii Proaspete cu Taitei)

One of my neighbors had tons of very ripe tomatoes that she was just going to throw away!  Her garden produced so much this summer and she was just done with canning and preparing all the goods.  Luckily for me, she realized that some people might find some use in her tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapenos, so she decided to just offer them for free to everyone who would pass by her house.  I was one of the lucky ones.:)  My very first thought when I saw the tomatoes, was I will make my mom's tomato soup that I grew  up with.  It is packed with delicious fresh vegetables and the taste is out of this world!  So fresh and delicious!  I just can't get enough of this goodness!  Also, instead of peeling the tomatoes, you grate them on the bumpy side.  That way, all the goodness comes out, without the peel and yucky part.  Make sure you give this one a try.  You will definitely not regret it!  Enjoy!
Ingredients:
-5 lbs very ripe tomatoes
-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-1 small onion, finely chopped
-1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
-1 small carrot, peeled and finely grated
-4 cups water
-salt and pepper to taste (I add about 1 Tbs salt and 2 tsp pepper)
-4 oz fine egg noodles
Directions:
Grate the tomatoes in a large bowl, as shown below, until all the juice is out of them.
 Set all the fresh tomato juice aside.
Heat the oil in large saucepan.  Add the onion, bell pepper and carrot.  Cook until veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and water.  Stir well.
Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.  Add the noodles, stir and cook for about 10 minutes or until noodles are done.
Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  Ladle into bowls and serve.  Enjoy!

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