Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I love avocado. period. It is one thing that I could have on just about any type of dish. This recipe is easy ... mash the avocado, add the rest of the ingredients and serve with chips. It's the perfect afternoon snack.

  • 3 ripe avocados

  • 1 lime, juiced

  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped

  • 1 tomato, chopped

  • 1/2 clove of garlic, minced

  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (no seeds)

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Halve and pit the avocados. With a tablespoon, scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl. Lightly mash the avocados using a fork, leaving them still a bit chunky. Add the remaining ingredients, and fold everything together. Drizzle with a little olive oil, add additional seasoning of salt and pepper to taste.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap tight on the surface of the guacamole so it doesn't brown. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.


I think these are a great mid-week meal because you can do so much with them and they don't require a lot of constant attention. The other night I decided to make them into sandwiches with cheese melted over the top on a toasted bun. If you aren't into the sandwiches, you could also just throw them on top of some pasta or even eat them plain with a side dish or salad. Everyone makes their meatballs different and I probably make them slightly different each time, but here is the general recipe +/- a few pinches.

  • 1 lb ground beef (I use extra lean)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp black pepper

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (I like a little zip in my meatballs)

  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano

  • 1 tsp parsley

  • 1 tbsp ketchup

  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
Simmer a pot of your favorite or homemade tomato sauce with a lid on top (keeps it from getting everywhere).

Mix all above ingredients (except the meat) together in a large bowl until seasonings have blended together. Add meat in and mix well. (I usually just get my hands right in there). Roll meat into balls about the size of a ping pong or golf ball and carefully place them into the simmering sauce. Cover pot again with a lid and let simmer about 25 to 30 minutes.

If you want to make these as sandwiches, I lightly toast the bun then add the meatballs and some cheese and put in back in the oven for a minute or so to melt the cheese and get it nice and bubbly.

Note: If you want this meal to be gluten-free, just serve them on gluten-free bread or pasta, or have it in a bowl with sauce.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TWD: Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte

This is the perfect week to make this recipe since this is a birthday month for so many of my family and friends. This is my first post for Tuesday's with Dorie, I just received the cookbook in the mail last Friday and I don't think I put it down once this weekend. This is also the perfect one to start with because my mom can eat it too (she must eat gluten-free)! Thanks to Amy at Food, Family, and Fun for a great recipe choice!

For the ice cream layers in the torte I chose to go with Dorie's "playing around" options and chose a vanilla ice cream filled with fudge chunks and mini peanut butter cups because I figure if its going to be decadent I might as well go with chocolate all the way. Plus this needs to feed at least 10 people, so I figure they will be small slices anyway.

I promise to post the final picture all frozen and ready to be eaten later on this week when the celebrations begin. But for now, please settle on the layering process photos and pray that I can get the torte out of the pan in one piece :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cream Cheese Frosting

My cousin loves red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Since I didn't have a whole lot of time on my hands to make her that favorite dessert of hers for her birthday I opted for a boxed red velvet cake mix even though I have a recipe that I have made before. I figured that since I was taking the easy way out with the cake mix I should make the frosting from scratch. It was super easy ... I only use 4 ingredients and if you have a mixer it comes together in a flash.

  • 1 stick butter, softened

  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened

  • 1 1/4 lb. powdered sugar

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

After combining all the ingredients and letting it mix for a few minutes to incorporate and become light and fluffy, I put some plastic wrap over it and threw it in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill it a bit since I was going to be using this striping technique I learned to color the frosting.

I used a piping bag with the 1M tip and red, blue, and yellow food coloring gels from Wilton to create the striping.

I think she really ended up liking them and I think I will make them this Halloween with some orange food coloring and chocolate cupcakes (hopefully from scratch)!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pad Thai

I love making pasta-like dishes that my mom can eat with the rest of the family. This dish is light and satisfies your thai-food craving without a lot of oil and batter and can be served as a side dish or main course. (I wish I got another picture but by the time I checked my camera it was all gone)

  • 8 oz rice noodles

  • 1/4 cup chicken broth

  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

  • 2 tbsp sugar

  • 1/4 lb shrimp

  • 1/2 lb chicken, sliced thin

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

  • 3 tbsp peanut oil

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup bean sprouts

  • 1 cup green onions, chopped

  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

  • 1/8 cup minced fresh cilantro

  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a large bowl, combine the noodles with water to cover. Soak until just tender, about 45 minutes, then drain. In a small bowl, combine the chicken stock, vinegar, peanut butter and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. Season the shrimp and chicken with cayenne.

In a wok or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and chicken and cook until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm. Add the eggs and cook, stirring, until just set, about 45 seconds. Add the sprouts, onions, sauce mixture, and noodles, and cook, stirring, until warmed through.

Add the shrimp and chicken and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving platter and toss with the cilantro and lime juice. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Breakfast for Dinner

I used to love having breakfast for dinner when I was younger and I thought this would be the perfect night to curl up on the couch, watch the Olympics, and relax with a plate of warm pancakes. I love putting chocolate chips in my pancakes - I think I learned about this from a friend when I was camping in Elementary school and I have rarely eaten a pancake without them since. I also have some leftover blueberries from the muffins I recently made so I had to make some pancakes with those in there too. If you are not a fan of chocolate chips or blueberries, add your own favorite or just have the classic pancakes with maple syrup.

  • 1 1/4 cups flour

  • 2 tbsp sugar

  • 4 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 4 tbsp butter

In a small saucepan, combine the butter and milk. Place over low heat just until warm and the butter is melted. Let cool slightly. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix well. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the milk mixture. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until barely blended.

Heat a skillet on medium heat, ladle batter onto the skillet. If adding in blueberries, chocolate chips, or any other topping -- sprinkle on to batter and quickly pour a small amount of additional batter right over it to slightly cover topping. This helps keeps the toppings from burning.

Cook, until bubbles break the surface of the pancakes, and the undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional minute or so. Remove from heat and continue with the rest of the batter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


These are simple and go with just about everything. You can eat them plain, serve with ice cream, or glaze with icing -- anyway you slice it they are a perfect little treat. I also like it because its a smaller recipe so you don't end up with 2 dozen brownies and feel bad if you can't finish them all before they go bad. I add chocolate chips to give it that little extra chocolatety-ness but if you want to leave them out or substitute nuts or other chips they will turn out just as great.

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium pan over very low heat. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in the flour. Add chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 8-inch square pan.

Bake about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool before cutting.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tasting Session

Thus far, all posts I have made here have been about recipes that I have actually prepared and cooked myself. This is going to be the exception, well the first anyway. Since this is a blog about cooking to please, I thought it was fitting to include a post about cooking that pleased my palate.

My best friend works at a steak and seafood restaurant in Southern California and she invited me to a dinner that she won from a raffle among her fellow employees. She told me the chefs were going to make a few dishes and pair it with wine and we could hang out and chat, etc. I of course jumped at the chance – I love food, especially new ones I have never had and I love wine.

Nothing could have prepared me for that evening. It was seven courses! Everything ranging from chicken and waffles to a filet with fresh pasta and 99% pure cocoa for dessert (boy was that rich). I am not even going to try to describe each dish because I would screw it up and because I don’t have a single one of the recipes – instead I have included photos and hopefully in the future I will try to create some of these amazing dishes myself and include the wine of course!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Creme Brulee

For my mom’s birthday I wanted to make her a dessert that would be tasty but not super filling since we were dining out and would already be full. Instead of just ice cream I wanted to give her something she never gets to have and that’s when I thought of Crème Brulee!

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 cup sugar

  • Pinch of Salt

  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla

  • 6 egg yolks

  • Granulated Brown Sugar

In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of cream, sugar, and salt until almost boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining cream, vanilla, and egg yolks. Add to heated cream and sugar mixture. Pour through strainer to ensure a smooth mixture is poured into the cups.

Pour cream mixture into creme brulee dishes that are set in a towel-lined pan. This will keep dishes from moving around. Carefully pour hot water around the dishes. Do not drop water into cream mixture.

Bake in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes or until custard has just set. (Baking time depends on the depth of dishes).

Carefully remove dishes from pan and place on a wire rack. When cooled, place into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Remove and sprinkle sugar across top of each dish and using a torch heat sugar until golden brown. Place back in refrigerator for an additional 30-45 minutes to chill. Serve.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

These are actually really moist muffins and would taste great with blueberries (above) or you could even try chocolate chips. Since the berries are the last thing you add, you can even split the batter in half after its made and add different ingredients and then bake them all at once. These light and fluffy muffins are a great treat for any gluten-free eater or anyone for that matter!

  • 1 1/8 cups Gluten Free Baking Flour *

  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 4 tbsp butter

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup blueberries

Melt butter. Beat in sugar, eggs and milk. Add flour, spice, baking powder and blueberries, then mix to combine.

Line muffin tins with paper cups and fill 3/4 full.

Bake at 350F for about 18-20 minutes.

* I buy the Bob's Red Mill baking flour because it already has all the different gluten-free flours you need mixed together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shredded Chicken Tacos

This recipe is super quick. You can even shred the chicken the night before and then all you have to do for dinner is heat with the seasoning and serve. A perfect weekday meal and you only have 2 pots to clean!

  • 1 1/2 lbs shredded chicken breast

  • Hard shell corn tortillas

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika

  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika

  • 2 tbsp cumin

  • 2 tbsp dried oregano

  • 1 cup chicken broth or water

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To shred chicken:
I boil the entire chicken breast in water until its almost cooked through and then using two forks I pull the chicken breast apart into small pieces.

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add seasonings, chicken broth (or water), and shredded chicken.

Cook for 5-10 minutes or until completely heated through and flavors have had a chance to come together and the sauce has thickened a little. Serve in taco shells with your favorite taco toppings.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Squares

Over fifteen years ago my mom found this recipe in a magazine and decided to make it. Ever since my dad had taken that first bite its been one of his favorite desserts. Over the years my mom and I have made them for special occasions and shared the dessert with friends and family. Needless to say, after years of having ingredients spilled, accidently tearing it in half and then re-taping it, and it getting tossed around with hundred of other recipe cut-outs, we lost half of the ingredient list. So the original Kraft recipe is now just from memory and whether or not these are the exact measurements, you will still fall in love after just one bite.

  • 2 sticks margarine

  • 8 oz. Baker’s SemiSweet Chocolate Squares

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

  • ½ cup coconut

  • ½ cup crushed peanuts

  • 2 – 8 oz. packages of cream cheese

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Place 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) of margarine and 2 oz. of chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on medium-high about 2 minutes or until melted. Stir until smooth.

In a mixing bowl, combine crumbs, peanuts, and coconut. Add melted chocolate mixture and stir until well mixed. Press evenly into the bottom of a 13" x 9" pan (I line it with parchment paper -- makes clean-up a breeze). Chill for 30 minutes.

In a clean bowl, beat together sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over crust layer. Chill another 30 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat remaining chocolate and butter on medium-high about 2 1/2 minutes or until melted. Stir until smooth. Pour melted chocolate over cream cheese layer. Chill at least one hour or until chocolate has hardened. Cut into squares and serve. Keep refrigerated.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Orange Chicken

My dad subscribes to Cooks Magazine and I now know why he loves it so much. Often I get cookbooks that have a lot of great recipes, but also some things that I may only try once or sometimes not even at all. Cooks recipes are amazing. I'm not going to lie -- this isn't something you would normally make during the week unless you do have sometime on your hands mostly just because of the total time from start to finish and the fact that your kitchen is basically a disaster zone (or at least mine was) when you are finally finished. But in spite of all that, I love this recipe and even more because it is naturally Gluten-Free!

Marinade and Sauce

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth

  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. orange zest

  • 8 strips of orange rind

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce *
  • 6 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

  • 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch

  • 2 tbsp cold water


  • 3 eggs whites, beaten

  • 1 cup cornstarch

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken, cut into bit-size pieces

  • Oil for cooking

For the marinade, mix together the first set of ingredients (everything but the cornstarch and water) in saucepan on low heat until a lot of the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Cut chicken into chunks and place in a large ziplock bag. Pour about 3/4 cup of the marinade over the chicken and seal back, removing most of the air. Place into the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water. Heat the remaining sauce on medium heat until it begins to boil. Turn heat to a simmer and slowly whisk in the cornstarch/water mixture. Simmer for a few minutes or until sauce begins to slightly thicken. Remove from heat.

Heat oil in a deep skillet to 350F. Oil should be about 1 inch deep.

In two shallow bowls, place beatens egg whites in one and the cornstarch, baking soda, and cayenne pepper in the other. Drain marinade from chicken and slightly pat dry (this allows the batter to stick better). Dredge chicken in egg whites and then cornstarch. I then place them on a wire rack to get any excess cornstarch off before cooking.

Gently place chicken pieces into oil. Because the oil is so hot, caution must be taken around the stove because oil sputters can easily burn your skin. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning half way through. Drain chicken on paper towel when removed from oil to soak any excess.

Reheat sauce on a simmer about 5 minutes. In a clean bowl, toss sauce and chicken together. Serve immediately.

* Most soy sauce at the grocery store contains wheat as an ingredient. However, "Chun King" or the Gluten-Free soy sauce at P.F. Changs restaurant contains no wheat.

Original recipe courtesy of Cooks!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Swedish Pancakes

I am not a huge breakfast person at the crack of dawn when I get up in the morning. The thought of eating massive amounts of food when my stomach is also just waking up is just not very appealing. To me, breakfast before work is a granola bar or quick bowl of cereal prior to running out the door to make it in on time. But on the weekends, when I have ability to sleep in and take my time this recipe really hits the spot.

Growing up I would help my mom make breakfast-in-bed for my dad on special occassions. My dad really loved pancakes and since I was too young to use the stove, my mom would let me measure out and mix the ingredients for the batter. One thing that always stuck in my mind was that dad liked his pancakes thin ... really thin.

So when I found this recipe for swedish panacakes he was my first thought. No longer would I just water down the batter to make it thin, the recipe did that for me. Needless to say I'll probably be over making my dad pancakes whenever he wants.

  • 4 eggs

  • 4 cups milk

  • 2 1/2 cups flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup melted butter

  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl, and add the milk, flour, sugar, and salt while gently stirring until blended. Stir in the melted butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover the batter and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Heat griddle and pour a thin stream of batter in a circle onto the hot griddle to make a 6-inch pancake. Cook about 20 seconds, flip, and cook another 20 seconds until done.

Top with your favorite pancake condiments. Serve immediately.

Original recipe courtesy of FoodNetwork

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I have tasted garlic mashed potatoes at quite a few places and often they are just too garlicy. Many people may think differently, but I don't really like when my side dish completely over-powers everything else on my plate. So this is my roasted garlic mashed potato recipe. Its much more mild on the garlic flavor...don't get me wrong you can still taste it, its just nothing going to leave that after-taste in your mouth til next Tuesday.

  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes

  • 2 small bulbs or 1 large bulb of garlic

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese

  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425F. Cut the top quarter of the garlic bulbs so that the top of each clove is showing. Place into aluminum foil and drizzle with a little olive oil. Close up foil into a little pouch and place on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes. Carefully remove each clove from the bulb and place into a clean bowl. Using a fork, mash garlic into a paste. Set aside.

Peel potatoes and cut into cubes (they cook much quicker this way). Place them into boiling water and cook until they are fork-tender - somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes depending on heat, size of the cube, etc. Drain from water. Mash potatoes using a potato masher (a fork usually works just as well). Add in milk, butter, cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Blend well until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. If slightly too thick for your taste, add a little more milk until potatoes are just like to want them. Stir in roasted garlic. Serve immediately.

Note: The best way to remove cloves from the bulb after roasting is to take an oven mitt and either wrap with saran wrap or a plastic bag and then hold bulb in gloved hand and using a fork in the other pull cloves out. This way your hand does not get burned and the oven mitt stays clean.