Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nothin' Says Lovin' Like Muffins from the Oven!

Ah, muffins. Can we just all agree that muffins are basically the breakfast version of cupcakes? The excuse to eat a sweet treat no matter what time of day it is? And how about their versatility? What can't you put in a muffin?

Sure, you could buy some muffins from the bakery section of your supermarket, but then you would be depriving yourself of what I like to think is a bonus feature of homemade, freshly baked muffins: air freshener! You can't package a smell that delicious!

Today's post is going to be short and sweet, but I promise I have good things coming soon.

I'm in full experimentation mode, and I'll be more than happy to share the results with you all soon enough. Be on the look out next week for a meatless Monday recipe. In the meantime, I have a favor.

My friend's mom has the greenest thumb of anyone I've ever known, and she has graciously bestowed upon me a generous helping of veggies from her gorgeous, gigantic garden. Among her gifts: white squash. Whaaa?

While I have some ideas on what I would like to do with them, I was wondering if any of you have experience with these Scrubbing Bubble-looking cuties. Any suggestions or recipes you would be willing to share?

Now, back to business. Delicious business. These little bites taste like berry muffins and cheesecake made sweet, sweet love and gave us this. Better yet, I managed to eliminate oil entirely from these muffins and still produce a moist, fluffy final product! Delectable and healthy? Come to mama! Also, these muffins are a great way to show off in season berries at their finest.

Berry Cheesecake Muffins


1 cup granulated sugar
1-8 ounce package 1/3 fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar blend Splenda (or 1 cup brown sugar)
2 eggs
1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries


1. In a small bowl, combine the room temperature cream cheese, granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 12-muffin baking pan with cooking spray.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the applesauce, eggs, and vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. Use a fork to crumble and mash the chilled cream cheese mixture.

6. Add the cream cheese mixture crumbles, strawberries, and blueberries to the flour mixture and combine until all of the add ins are coated. Doing this will help keep the berries from sinking to the bottom of the muffins.

7. Add the flour mixture to the egg and applesauce mixture in batches, stirring until just combined.

8. Fill each muffin pan slot 3/4 full with batter.

9. Bake at 350˚F for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Couch Potato Confessions...

Hello, my name is Kelly, and I'm a lazyholic. No kidding. For weeks now, I've been letting my list of things I would like to do get longer and longer, but I've barely put a dent in actually accomplishing any of it. Writing. Visiting friends. Blogging.

However, I've been doing a wonderful job at being lazy. Spectacular, even, I dare say.

Today, I'm taking care of business. You know, during commercial breaks. First up, a new blog entry. I think what has disappointed me most of all is that I've had dishes ready for posting for over a week now, but I've been squandering my time. On today's entry: a quick and easy weeknight Asian dinner and another confession from a couch potato.

I. Love. Chinese. Buffets.

I am obsessed with Chinese buffets.

I am a self-proclaimed connoisseur of Chinese buffets.

And I have a problem.

For weeks now, I have had a never-ending craving for Chinese buffets. Trust me, I've satiated this craving several times now. Instantly, I want more. If I could afford it, I would eat at Chinese buffets every day of the week. But sadly, I cannot afford such fancies. My wallet cannot afford it, and my waistline cannot afford it.

I had to take drastic measures––cooking my own.

Last week, I made my own interpretation of General Tso's using shrimp and frozen veggies I had on hand. What I love––and you will love––about this recipe is its versatility. You can use chicken, shrimp, tofu, or whatever you have on hand. You can add in whatever veggies you like or happen to have on hand. You can make it as spicy or as mild as you like. You can even control the calories by skipping the pan frying and simply sauteing your protein.

Any delicious Asian dinner is not complete without a side of fried rice, and this one was no exception. To top it off, I baked up a frozen egg roll that my local grocery carries. They truly rival any restaurant egg roll.

If you are looking to bridge the gap between visits to your local Chinese restaurant, give this recipe a try.

I would also like to take a moment to extend my deepest gratitude to Poor Husband, who obediently accompanies me on my frequent Chinese buffet binges, and never with any eye rolling or scoffing. You're a peach, my love.

Future post sneak peek: I have a spiffed up Italian classic waiting in the wings, as well as plans for your leftovers, should there be any. Also, I'll be making a birthday meal for my amazing friend very soon, and I'll be sharing my results with you here. After much kicking and screaming (sure, it was an online conversation, but I know it was there), I finally got her to 'fess up on her ideal b-day meal, and nobody deserves it more than she does.

Until next time, enjoy these Amateur Noms!

General Tso's Shrimp


3/4 pound peeled, deveined medium sized shrimp
3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 egg white
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch
cooking oil
2 cups frozen vegetables (I used a broccoli/carrot mix)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cooking sherry
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-4 teaspoons Sriracha sauce


1. Combine the egg white, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and sesame oil in a bowl. Add the shrimp and toss until coated. Marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Heat your cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. You need about 1/4-inch of oil.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the remaining soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sherry, tomato paste, and Sriracha until well blended. Whisk in a tablespoon of cornstarch. Set aside.

4. Toss the shrimp in 1/2 cup cornstarch until they are lightly dusted, and pan fry in batches over medium heat for 1-2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crisp. Allow the shrimp to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

5. Put your frozen vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 3-5 minutes, or until warm. Drain any excess moisture.

6. Meanwhile, empty your skillet of any remaining oil, wipe it clean, and add the sauce mixture. Reduce the heat and cook over low heat until the mixture begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes.

7. Once the sauce has thickened, add the shrimp and vegetables and toss until coated. Serve immediately.

Optional toppings: Sliced green onions, chopped peanuts, sesame seeds

Fried Rice


1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup diced carrots
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 egg, scrambled
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups cooked rice (brown or white, your preference)
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce


1. Heat the cooking oils in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, mushrooms, and onions and sautee until soft, 2-3 minutes.

2. Move the vegetables to one side of the pan and add the egg. Cook the egg and scramble it together with the vegetables.

3. Add the rice and butter and cook until warmed through, 1-2 minutes.

4. Add the soy sauce and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.

And on the plate...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Feliz Cuatro de Mayo!

No, I'm not dense. Well, I'll leave that for you to decide after I show you the photo evidence of my little kitchen mishap. But I totally meant to say "cuatro." Why? Because I didn't celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year. I celebrated the day before. All because of my husband. My poor, poor husband. You see, tonight he is on his 12th hour at the restaurant where he works thanks to a party the owners booked. He deserves a medal for all that he does, really. Underpaid, under-appreciated, and overworked, to be sure. Since I didn't want him to miss out on la fiesta, I prepared a little Latin feast for the two of us last night, topped off with an evening of John Leguizamo's stand-up special. Latin food and latin stand-up? Eat your heart out, folks.

Before we jump into our night of good food, it's probably only right that I address my long, long, looooong absence. To put it simply, things got rough. My illnesses and hospitalizations and my husband's own hospitalization after his diabetes diagnosis were nothing compared to the hardships we were about to face, and we were so miserably unprepared. It was as though our lives were a snowball of bad luck and misfortune hurtling down the side of Mount Everest. Once the hits started, they just kept on coming. The one bright spot took place on Friday, March 11, 2011. That was the day my husband and I got married in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The snowball kept right on tumbling when we got back home, and a few weeks ago, we made it to a point that pushed me to some pretty hard decisions. Decisions that forced me to turn away from the life I have known for many years now, and I had to seriously analyze where I was going. I have to admit, I am worse off than I have ever been in my entire life. I truly have never faced such hardship. But when things got to the worst point we have seen so far, I was no longer able to cry. Instead, I laughed. And I've been laughing ever since. And in a strange way, it was freeing.

I'm now well on my way to finding a new way of life. I'm setting goals and considering my own well being a lot more now. That is not to say they are the most ambitious goals, but for someone who has lived for anything else but her for so long now, they are a pretty big deal for me. My goals, you ask? I'm starting small, for now. First, I plan on watching one classic film every week. I used to live and breathe for old movies, but I haven't been able to indulge this hobby for some time now. Another goal? To start reading books for pleasure again. The other day, I figured out the last time I read a book for pleasure was when last Harry Potter came out. That is just... sad. So very sad. My last goal is the reason you are seeing me now. I wanted to jump start my food blog. I'm sorry I was gone for so long, but I'll be the first to acknowledge I have not been ready to come back until now. And it is my intention for you to see a lot more of me.

Now, back to la fiesta. I could have gone a lot more traditional for our Cuatro de Mayo feast, but there is one recipe that I have been craving for weeks now, and there seemed like no better time to indulge my craving. The recipe is one that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. The first word that comes to mind when I think of this recipe is ugly. That's right. This is one of the ugliest recipes I have ever seen. But it's true what they say: it doesn't matter how it looks. It's all about the taste. And this tastes so yummy. You would never believe that it is a "light" recipe. From first bite to last, it is cheesy deliciousness.

My cooking buddy.

The original recipe called for just under two pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, and from the very beginning this seemed absurd to me. That is a lot of chicken for one little casserole! Aren't casseroles supposed to stretch your buck by stretching your protein? What happened to this recipe? I use around a pound of chicken, and then I fill out the casserole with rinsed canned beans. Corn would also be a fantastic addition, but I can't say this from experience because every time I make this recipe I am inexplicably out of corn.

We ended our meal with a new recipe that I adapted from one of Nestle's websites. I have never made a Margarita Pie before, but I was excited to try it knowing full well my husband's love of Key Lime Pie. I knew this pie wouldn't exactly be a leap for him. This pie is far lighter than other Margarita Pie recipes I've seen because it does not use sweetened condensed milk at all. Instead, unflavored gelatin and Cool Whip give this pie its texture. The end result was so tasty, I will freely admit my husband and I had two slices. Each.

I hope you say "Ole!" when you taste these recipes, and I'll be back very soon with plenty more posts.

Mexican Chicken Casserole


1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle in adobo, minced, with 1/2 teaspoon of the adobo
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
2 cups shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese
3 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese
1 can of black or kidney beans, rinsed
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce (Don't skimp--get a name brand. I don't know why, but store brand enchilada sauce just always tastes... off... no matter where you get it from.)
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 ounces tortilla chips, crushed (about 6 chips)


1. Combine one can of chiles, the chipotle and adobo, and the chicken broth in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add the chicken breasts and let simmer for 7-8 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken, reserve the remaining liquid and chiles, and set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautee the onions until softened, 3-5 minutes. Return the reserved chile mixture to the pan along with the other can of chiles and 1/4 cup water and sautee for a few minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

5. Add the evaporated milk to the skillet and mix thoroughly, followed by the cream cheese, a cup of the shredded cheese, the beans, and the chicken. Stir until the cheeses melt and all of the ingredients are combined.

6. Add the enchilada sauce and stir until combined.

7. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and spray a 2-quart casserole dish or a 9 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 4 corn tortillas on the bottom and top with 2 cups of the filling mixture, followed by 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese. Repeat with 4 more tortillas, 2 more cups of filling, and another 1/4 cup of cheese. For the final layer, start with 4 torillas, the last of the filling, the crushed tortilla chips, and a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

8. Bake the casserole at 350˚F for 30 minutes.

You'll see what I mean about this dish being ugly when you serve it, but just wait until you taste it!

Margarita Pie


1 cup crushed mini pretzels
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons water
1 cup + 1 tablespoon Splenda for baking or granulated sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 envelope (7 grams) unflavored gelatin
1-12 ounce can fat-free evaporated milk
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/2 cup lime juice (4 to 5 medium limes)
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon tequila (optional)
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
Coarse sanding sugar, fresh limes slices


1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Combine the pretzel crumbs, butter, water, and 1 tablespoon of Splenda and press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish.

2. Bake the crust for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, combine the water and the gelatin in a saucepan and let sit for 2 minutes. Then whisk in the remaining 1 cup of Splenda and the evaporated milk and heat over medium heat until the gelatin and Splenda dissolve. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until cool to the touch.

4. Once the mixture cools, add the lime zest, juice, orange extract, and tequila, if desired, and stir until combined.

5. Fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping and pour the filling into the crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the pie sets.

6. Top with a dollop of the remaining whipped topping to serve.

Oh yeah... about that little kitchen mishap?

This is what happens when you completely forget that the stove was just on and go for those few strands of shredded cheese inches away from the still hot burner.

Lesson learned: just say no to the cheese. Just say no, kids.