Strawberry Almond Tossed Salad

Oh my gosh, the other day was National Almond Day.  For those of you that don’t know, I am 100% ADDICTED to almonds.

As soon as I saw this recipe I knew that I had to try it because not only did it incorporate almonds, it also included one of my absolute favorite fruits: strawberries.

Didn’t it turn out beautifully?

The vinegar in the dressing gave it a big kick and next time I think I would use substantially less vinegar or maybe even try Italian dressing.

Don’t worry if you didn’t know that it was National Almond Day, I ate enough for everyone ;)

Strawberry Almond Tossed Salad

- 4 c salad greens

- 1/2 c almonds, toasted

- 1 c fresh strawberries, sliced

Dressing:

- 1/3 c cider vinegar

- 2 T sugar

- 1 t salt

- 2 T vegetable oil

- 1 T Dijon mustard

- 2 t poppy seeds

- 1/4 t pepper

Wash and dry salad greens.  Mix thoroughly all ingredients for dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Toss greens, almonds and sliced strawberries with dressing.  Serve immediately.

Chicken Stir Fry

I love stir-fry.  I just don’t like eating it at restaurants or getting the frozen kind, because I hate all of the preservatives used in it.  I was really excited when I found this recipe and it was really yummy.

There is something great about using fresh ingredients for a meal.  I don’t mind chopping up a bunch of ingredients.  It’s actually quite soothing.

It makes the rice taste so yummy when you let the juices mix with it for a bit.

Chicken Stir Fry

- 1 c sliced celery

- 1 c sliced carrots

- 1 c chopped onion

- 4 T oil, divided

- 3/4 c each julienned green, red, and yellow pepper

- 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces

- 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced

- 1 8-oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained

- 1 1/2 c chicken broth

- 2 T soy sauce

- 2 T vinegar

- 2 garlic cloves, minced

- 1/4 t ground ginger

- 1/8 t cayenne pepper

- 2 T cornstarch

- 1/4 c additional chicken broth

- 3 c hot cooked rice

In a large skillet, saute celery, carrots, and onion in 3 T of oil for 2 minutes.

Add peppers; cook for 2-4 minutes or until crisp tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels.  Add chicken, mushrooms and remaining oil; stir fry 4 minutes.

Stir in water chestnuts; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until heated through.  Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels.

Drain skillet; add the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne.

Combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup broth until smooth; stir into broth mixture.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened.

Reduce heat; return vegetables and chicken to pan.  Cook for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Serve over rice.

6 servings.

Baked Mashed Potatoes

In our house, we have a predicament.  I love mashed potatoes.  Zack doesn’t.  For this reason, I try to make them in as many different ways as possible in the hopes that I will find some that he loves.  So far, no luck.

However, I loved these.  It takes forever to make them, but totally worth it in my opinion.  They were so creamy and amazing!

Give them a try if you are tired of the same ole mashed potatoes!

Baked Mashed Potatoes

- 6 large potatoes, peeled, thickly sliced (about 2 3/4 lb)

- 1 medium onion, chopped

- 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

- 1/2 c butter, softened

- 1/2 c sour cream

- 1 large egg, beaten

- 1 3/4 t salt

- 1/2 t black pepper

- 1 t paprika

Combine potatoes, onion and enough water to cover in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer until potatoes are tender; about 20 minutes; drain well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 3-qt baking dish.

Combine potato mixture, cream cheese, butter, sour cream, egg, salt and black pepper in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer set at high speed until mixture is smooth.  Spoon potato mixture into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake until heated through, about 30-35 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Potatoes may be prepared up to 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated, covered, until ready to bake.

Valentine’s Day Heart-Shaped Brownies

I’ve never really cared about Valentine’s Day one way or the other. I like getting chocolate and flowers, so I won’t complain, but I’ve never been a girl to freak out about Valentine’s Day goodies.

More importantly, Valentine’s Day is mine and Zack’s anniversary! That’s so much more important that Valentine’s Day! I think everyone should celebrate our anniversary instead ;)

These brownies were actually quite fun to make. I made a TON of them. Oops. They all got eaten, though :)

Valentine’s Day Heart-Shaped Brownies

- 1 lb unsalted butter

- 1 lb semi-sweet chocolate

- 6 oz unsweetened chocolate

- 7 large eggs

- 2 T vanilla extract

- 2 1/4 c granulated white sugar

- 1 c AP flour, divided

- 1 T baking powder

1 t salt

- 1 bag melting candies (any color)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x8x1″ pan. Line with foil that hangs over the edge for ease in getting them out.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and add chocolate, mixing until smooth. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir the egg mixture into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt then add to batter. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let cool completely, then cover tightly and chill. (to expedite this process, I stuck mine straight from oven to freezer). Chilled brownies are easier to cut.

Put the whole slab of brownies on a large cutting board and start cutting out hearts. To make more hearts, cut one row right side up and the next row upside down.

Melt desired coating in a bowl, in the microwave, and stir until smooth. Brush crumbs off the top of the brownies and hold onto the sides toward the bottom. Dunk the tops into the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to dry.

Rosemary Focaccia

I love the smell of fresh baked bread.  Heck, I love the smell of the yeasty-ness from the time it is all mixed up until it comes out of the oven.

In fact, I love the smell almost as much as I love eating bread.

Zack and my favorite grocery store has shelf after shelf full of focaccia bread.  I really wanted to try some, but of course, I had to try making it myself.  It turned out beautifully.  I was so pleased.  It was really easy to make, too.  Plus, it has one of my all-time favorite ingredients in it – rosemary!

I wonder if it bothers people that I don’t take the time to take really artsy pictures of my food.  My mindset is, I just spent all the time making it, I don’t want to waste time setting up a photo session just for one picture…and allow the food to get cold.

I love to eat way too much for that!

Zack and I are leaving tomorrow for Pennsylvania Amish Country to celebrate our three year anniversary.  I am so excited for this trip!  I can’t believe we’ve been together three years.  Ah, I am so in love.

PS – remember that wreath I mentioned in my previous post, totally finished it and I love it!

Rosemary Focaccia

- 2 medium onions, chopped

- 1/4 c olive oil + 3 T, divided

- 1 1/2 t active dry yeast

- 1 1/2 c warm water, divided

- 1/2 t sugar

- 1/2 t salt

- 3-4 c AP flour

- 2 T fresh rosemary or 2 t dried, divided

- cornmeal

- coarse salt

In a large skillet, saute onions in 1/4 c oil until tender; cool.  In a large mixing bowl; dissolve in 1/4 cup warm water.  Add sugar and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add 2 T oil, salt and remaining water.  Add 2 c flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Add onions and half of the rosemary.  Knead 1 minute longer.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Punch dough down.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half.  Pat each piece flat.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Stretch each portion of dough into a 10-in circle on prepared pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.  Brush with remaining oil.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and remaining rosemary.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves.

Chicken Quesadilla Wraps

Today I spent the afternoon with my dad.  We are so much alike.  We have the same personality and same sense of humor.  I love spending time with him!

Also, I have been getting back into my love of crafting.  I started making a wreath today that I am in love with.  I will post pictures when it’s finished.

I made these chicken quesadilla wraps one night when my friend came over for dinner.  I really liked them and so did Zack.  She isn’t a big fan of spicy, so these weren’t really her cup of tea.

Try them, though, if you like things that have a little kick!

Chicken Quesadilla Wraps

Makes 2 quesadilla wraps

- 1 1/2 c shredded/chopped cooked chicken

- 1/2 c chopped cooked onion (sauteed until tender)

- 2 T chopped jalapeno peppers

- 6 T chopped lowfat cheddar or monterey jack cheese

- 2 9″ flour tortillas or wraps

- 1 T olive oil

Insert plates on griddler onto grill side (or preheat regular grill to high).  Preheat to high with unit closed.  In a small bowl, combine the chicken, onion, and jalapeno peppers.  Sprinkle half the cheese in the center of each tortilla.  Top with the chicken mixture, keeping the chicken mixture in a log and 1 1/2″ wide and 4-5″ long in the center of each tortilla.  Fold one side over the filling lengthwise to cover, fold top and bottom over short sides to cover, then fold last side over wraps to close.  Turn over so that the flap is on the bottom.  Lightly brush the tops and bottoms of the wraps with the olive oil.  Place quesadilla wraps on preheated grill or griddler.  Close, using medium-light pressure.  Grill for 3 1/2 – 4 minutes, until tortilla is warm with grill markings, filling is warm and cheese is melted.  Serve with salsa if desired.

Cajun Turkey Burger Skillet

Growing up, I loved Hamburger Helper.  I know, I know, it isn’t healthy and it is full of nasty processed stuff, but it is pretty darn good.

However, I don’t know if I have outgrown Hamburger Helper or it just isn’t that good when you try to dress it up, because this dish didn’t really do it for me.

Zack and I both agree that it was okay, but not good enough to have again.

Cajun Turkey Burger Skillet

- 1 lb lean ground turkey

- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped (1/2 cup)

- 2 t cajun seasoning

- 2 c hot water

- 1 c milk

- 1 box Hamburger Helper cheeseburger macaroni

- 1 c shredded cheese

In a 10-in nonstick skillet, cook turkey, bell pepper and Cajun seasoning over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until turkey is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in hot water, milk and contents of uncooked pasta and sauce mix pouches (from Hamburger Helper box).  Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 13-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender.  Sprinkle with cheese and allow to melt before serving.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip HEALTHIFIED Muffins

Tonight Zack went with some of his guy friends to a concert in Richmond.  He had to pick up his cousin to go, so after the concert they are driving back here and his cousin is just going to spend the night.

We had zero breakfast food in the house except for sparse bits of cereal.  I didn’t want them to starve in the morning, so I decided to make some muffins.

I wanted to attempt to make some that were still delicious, but had a hint of healthiness to them.  I definitely succeeded.

I get so excited when I make my own recipe and this is no exception.  I sent pictures of them to both my parents and to Zack and ate a whole muffin myself.  I usually just sample whatever baked goods that I make, but I was so proud of what I had concocted that I ate it all!

This was my first time baking with Splenda and I have to say, I am very pleased with the result.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about baking with Splenda, but my muffins turned out perfectly and were just as sweet as if I had used regular sugar.  Heck yeah!  It was also the first time I’ve tried substituting almond milk for regular milk and I couldn’t taste a difference with that either.  I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, just in case you were curious.  Less than half the calories of skim milk! I do believe we should all start educating ourselves when it comes to health. You can start by checking out Guide to Healthcare Schools or by using almond milk!

The only thing that went wrong was I should have baked them for a minute or two less time, but they didn’t taste over-baked, they just had browned tops.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip HEALTHIFIED Muffins

- 1 c AP flour

- 1 c whole wheat flour

- 3 t baking powder

- 1/2 c chocolate chips

- 1/2 c peanut butter chips

- 3/4 c almond milk

- 1/2 c splenda

- 1/2 t salt

- 1 egg, beaten

- 1/3 c oil

Topping:

- 1/2 c splenda

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line or grease 6 jumbo muffin cups.  In medium bowl, combine flours, 1/2 c splenda, baking powder, salt, and chips.  Stir in egg, milk and oil just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be lumpy.).  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.  Sprinkle the remaining splenda evenly over muffins.  Bake 20-23 minutes.  Loosen and remove immediately from pan.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken & Onions

As everyone can definitely tell, I’m always looking for new ways to try out chicken.  Chicken is so versatile and delicious almost any way it is prepared.

This was great.  The recipe definitely only serves two, but it could easily be doubled or even tripled if need be.

Zack hates ginger, so he is always apprehensive when a recipe calls for it, but you could not taste it in this dish.  It meshed so well with the rest of the flavors.

Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken & Onions

Serves 2.

- 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

- 1/2 an onion, sliced thinly

- 1 T cornstarch

- 1 T water

- 1/3 c soy sauce

- 1/3 c sugar

- 1/4 c cider vinegar

- 1/2 t garlic powder

- 1/2 t ground ginger

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 baking pan and add the cut up chicken and sliced onions.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and water until completely smooth.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until combined, bring to a simmer, and allow to cook until thickened, about 8 minutes.  Make sure you keep stirring everything so it doesn’t burn while it cooks.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and stir to make sure everything is well coated.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until everything is cooked through.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

I LOVE Hot Fudge Cakes!  It’s basically like a brownie with warm, gooey hot fudge oozing out of it.  It’s a delicious mess.

Zack shares my love for them, so I decided to give making one a try.  When it is still in the pan, it looks like regular brownies.  Then you cut into it and realize the whole underneath part is hot fudge.

I put a scoop of ice cream on top of Zack’s as you can see above, but I just ate mine place (thanks, lactose intolerance!).  Seriously, though, it was AMAZING plain.

It says nine servings, but good luck getting 9 servings out of it!  I think Zack and I ate the whole thing in about 2 days.  Oink.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

Prep: 20 minutes.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  9 servings.

- 1 c AP flour

- 3/4  granulated sugar

- 2 T baking cocoa

- 2 t baking powder

- 1/4 t salt

- 1/2 c milk

- 2 T vegetable oil

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 c chopped nuts, if desired

- 1 c packed brown sugar

- 1/4 c baking cocoa

- 1 3/4 c very hot water

- ice cream, if desired

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 T cocoa, the baking powder, and salt in ungreased square pan 8x8x2 inches.  Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with fork until smooth.  Stir in nuts.  Spread in pan.

Sprinkle brown sugar and 1/4 c cocoa over batter.  Pour water evenly over batter.  Bake at 40 minutes or until top is dry.  Cool 10 minutes.

Spoon warm cake into dessert dishes.  Top with ice cream.  Spoon sauce from pan onto each serving.