Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sausage and Peppers

After work last night, I was in the mood for something just a little different for dinner. I picked up some red pepper chicken sausage, some dry orecchiette pasta and some fresh veggies.

I sliced the chicken sausage and julienned some pepper strips, and sautéed them in a pan, while I cooked my pasta.

Meanwhile, I had the hubs clean some fresh asparagus, which I steamed in the microwave with a small amount of water. Truly the easiest way to steam asparagus is in the microwave.

When the pasta was done, I drained it and added it to my skillet of sausage and peppers. When it was heated through I slid it into a serving bowl, shredded some parmagiano over the top and it was ready to serve. In addition to the asparagus I served some fresh green grapes with my sausage and peppers supper. The main course was well received by the hubs, not so much by the kids. They thought the sausage was a little too spicy.

I still thought it was a really quick and easy dinner, and a little bit of a variety from our norm. I used a store brand of chicken sausage (from Target) and orecchiette pasta. You may like another type of sausage or pasta.

I will most likely make it again, with fewer peppers and a less spicy chicken sausage.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


Nutella Granola and Cheese Crackers

Yesterday was so busy I was meeting myself coming and going. It was another basketball Saturday, followed by dance camp for daughters number 2 and 4 (2 as part of the squad putting on the camp, and 4 as a participant), followed by winter formal. I had offered been volunteered to do makeup for some of the “other” girls going to winter formal, help with some hair-do’s, and chaperone the dance.

It was a very busy, very long day.

Today – was MY day. I had some baking that I wanted to do. Since I slept in quite a bit, I got a late start to the baking. I read up on different types of pasta and different flours. I chose to not make pasta.

Instead, in honor of upcoming Nutella Day, I made another Nutella recipe! I created Nutella Granola. I have not done the nutrient values yet, but will add those later! I did manage to create a very delicious, almost cookie-like, granola! The whole family loves it!

Nutella Granola

  •  3 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw whole almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons olive honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Nutella
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat honey, brown sugar, olive oil, and Nutella, until smooth.  Add in the oats, almonds, and coconut. Stir until well covered. Mix with your hands, if necessary. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Press firmly onto pan in an even layer. Bake for 45-60 minutes. Every 15 minute remove from oven to stir and re-press into pan. When the granola is starting to brown and clump nicely add peanut butter chips and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan. When granola is completely cool, remove from pan and store in an airtight container or airtight storage bag.

Nutella Granola

Nutella Granola

I also made a recipe that came with my cookie press. I had been aching to make it since I got the cookie press (see post on 1/17/2012). I made the cheddar crackers and they were so much better than the kind of cheese crackers that you buy at the store in the box! MMMMmmmmm! They were wonderful made according to directions, but the hubs and I think I should make them again with additions. He says add onion, I say add garlic. It looks like there will be more cookie press action in my future! I have only used it twice, but am already so glad I have it! It was an investment worth every penny!

I served the cheese crackers alongside a creamy tomato soup that I made for dinner. The crackers were definitely the highlight of the dinner!

I will be surprised if the granola makes it to Nutella Day (or even breakfast). Really a winner in the eyes and mouths of the family!

With as much as we did this weekend, I can hardly believe that tomorrow is Monday and it’s back to school and work for everyone! Maybe I’ll have some delicious granola to start the work week! Then again…maybe I’ll have some to end the weekend.

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


Sweet and Sour Chicken

Yesterday was a rather unremarkable day. Work for me and the hubs, school for the girls. The 9 year old had basketball practice at 6:30. The 16 year old had dance practice at 6. Those were the parameters for dinner; have it done so every could get where they needed to be by the times they needed to be there.

I had chicken breasts in the fridge, and a recipe that I had chosen to go with the Chinese New Year theme the prior day.

So, I made the Sweet and Sour Chicken, some rice, and steamed broccoli / cauliflower.

Let me go on record to say that 9.5 times out of 10 when I make a new recipe it is not well received by at least 1 person in my house. At least one. I was starting to feel a little rushed with the chicken (I pulled it out of the oven just a few minutes early)…so I was concerned that it hadn’t had time to bake all of the goodness into the or onto the chicken. I knew it was cooked through so that was not a concern.

I plated everyone’s chicken and veggies (based on preference of cauliflower v. broccoli). I was still waiting to plate mine and started hearing oohs and aahs (and the occasional ‘it’s hot’). It was a success. A hit. With EVERYONE! Yes; everyone! By the time I was ready for firsts, everyone else was ready for seconds!

Here is the recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken, adapted from

Sweet and Sour Chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup cornstarch
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, toss the chicken pieces in cornstarch and then coat with the egg. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and again in two batches, brown the chicken, turning it so that all sides are browned. Place the chicken in a single layer in a 9×13 baking dish. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and pour evenly over the chicken. Turn the chicken to ensure each piece is coated. Bake for 1 hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes.

This really is a great recipe that I will add to my line-up. I may try to make it slightly healthier. The nutritional value wasn’t too far out of my scope, but I think I might be able to improve upon it slightly. I hope you and yours enjoy it as much as we did! If so, there won’t be any need for leftovers or plate scraping! There were no little scraps or morsels…

Not only that – I was asked if I was making it for dinner tonight. I’m not.

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized


Chinese New Year

Who would have believed that (again) this morning my amazing sixteen year old daughter would remind me, through some rather interesting conversation that I had to provide 2 dozen cookies for a bake sale this afternoon. I had gotten my dates confused and thought it was for tomorrow. I (mark this down) was wrong. It is a good thing that I had written today on the calendar as a planning day for work. It turned into a planning and baking day.

I whipped out the cookies, and decided that I needed to finish some of the cooking projects that I had been putting off.

So, the banana cake that I had been promising daughter number four got made. Boy, did it make the house smell great! The hubs was quite sure he was going to sniff all of the flavor out of the cake. Oh, and cream cheese icing for the top was not overly sweet or thick! Mmmmm…we all really liked it. Now, if there was one downside to it, the cake was pretty dense. (oh, and one of the kittens said she is a fan of cream cheese icing)

As yesterday was Chinese New Year and the hubs was so into making pasta, he decided to try his hand at homemade egg roll wrappers. My part was to make the filling. Not being a huge fan of deep frying foods, I found a recipe for baked egg rolls.

The filling was phenomenal! The wrappers were a bit trickier (stickier) than the pastas we had made. They are definitely something we will work on, but it was a great first attempt! I really enjoyed them.

Here are the recipes for the cake and egg rolls. If I would have had the vegan egg substitute and cream cheese, the cake would have been vegan. As it is, it’s a lower fat version. The cake is dairy free so if you omit the frosting you can serve it to your non-dairy friends and family!

Low-fat Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup light vanilla soy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup light cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray inside of 9-inch cake round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Place brown sugar, egg in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Add oil, milk, mashed banana and vanilla extract and mix until well blended. Gradually mix in flour mixture until just moist. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When cooled, invert the cake onto a cake plate.

For the frosting, place powdered sugar, cream cheese and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread frosting on cooled cake.

 Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups of savoy cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots
  • 2 cups of bean sprouts
  • 1 can of water chestnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp green onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 14 egg roll wraps

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot add the cabbage, sprouts, carrots, chestnuts and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring frequently for 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables just begin to wilt but still remain a little bit crisp. Mix the corn starch with the water and mix thoroughly. Add the corn starch mixture and soy sauce to the pan along with the green onions. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place two tablespoons of the cooled mixture on the center of the egg roll wrap. Fold the bottom up over the filling. Next, fold the two sides over, making it look like an envelope, then roll it up like a burrito.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the rolled up egg rolls on a baking sheet. Once you have rolled them all, spray the top of each egg roll with cooking spray.

Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes then turn them over. Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Serve with your choice of dipping sauces.


恭 喜 发 财


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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


Nuts for Nutella, and pasta!

The weather yesterday was (AGAIN) unseasonably warm. The 2 little girls spent quite a bit of time outside playing. Yay!

Since World Nutella Day is fast approaching, and I LOVE Nutella, the hubs and I had talked about making some Nutella recipes. I have quite a few of them. However, the hubs challenged me to make something that I do not have a recipe for. Nutella Puppy Chow. Not much of a challenge, since my plan was to just substitute Nutella for the called for peanut butter. I enlisted the help of daughter number 2, since she had made puppy chow before. For anyone not familiar with the snack, it is melted chocolate chips and peanut butter that you coat square rice cereal with (Chex), then cover with powdered sugar.

We all liked the Nutella puppy chow, however, it did not have quite the hazelnut flavor I was hoping for. It was definitely chocolatier than the peanut butter kind.

The hubs and I were really not on the same page for dinner. I was feeling like eating something unhealthy and fattening and delicious, and he (this is such a reversal) wanted something a little lighter. After much discussion, I decided I would go to the store and get some pasta or something “light-ish”.

The hubs and I discovered before I left for the store that I had everything in the house to make cheese manicotti, and if we made our own pasta, we didn’t have to go to the store! Now, the teenager can’t eat cooked cheese, so we decided we would just make plain pasta for her; either fettuccine or angel hair.

I started making the dough for the pasta. It seemed a bit stiff (I will have to work on that). The hubs was able to knead it more and make it smooth. While he was doing that I started bread dough for some quick Italian bread, and made the manicotti filling. When he had the dough rolled out for the pasta, we cut the pasta for the manicotti, filled it, sealed it, and laid it in a 9×13 dish. When the dish was filled with our cheesy goodness, we still had quite a bit of dough, so we made both fettuccine and angel hair. WOW! The fresh noodles were beyond amazing. Daughter number 2 was quite impressed and satisfied with her dinner!

The manicotti turned out ok. The filling was divine. The pasta got a little tough in the oven, so next time I will cover it with foil or a nice sauce.

Of course, the bread was a HUGE hit, as always.

I am so lucky to have a husband who likes to spend time with me in the kitchen. Making pasta together may be our new favorite thing to do together!

Cheese Manicotti

Cheese Manicotti

Manicotti Filling

  • 1 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano)
  • 1 egg
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Sea Salt

Mix the ingredients in a bowl until smooth. This mixture is great to stuff manicotti, shells, or other fillable pastas!

There are so many holidays and events coming up that I am getting super excited for all of the great food creations that are waiting! I hope you are getting excited, too!

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Chicken Enchiladas

So, after a morning of watching my girls cheer for and play basketball, it was a pretty relaxing afternoon yesterday. We couldn’t watch our Jayhawks play on tv due to a problem with the local station, so we left the 3 girls at home and drove in to the grocery store. That way we could listen to our team on the radio! Clever…I know.

I had been really hungry for enchiladas for about a week. Not the peas and potatoes kind of enchiladas, but the chicken and creamy sauce kind. My mom used to make a recipe when we were growing up, and I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to make it a little healthier…but similar. I also had to keep my own families tastes in mind. So, with all of those restrictions I set out to make chicken enchiladas. Here is what I came up with!

Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; stewed or poached
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (lower fat and sodium)
  • ½ can diced green chilies
  • 4 ounces grated 2% cheddar cheese
  • 10 medium flour tortillas

 Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a small saucepan melt the butter. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Stir in the chicken broth and stir until it starts to reduce. Add n the sour cream. Continue to stir until slightly thickened. Set aside.

Shred the cooked chicken into a bowl. Add the chicken soup, green chilies, and ½ of the sour cream sauce.

Warm the tortillas, one at a time in the microwave, just until they are pliable. Place the warmed tortilla in a 9×13 pan. Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of a tortilla. Roll, enchilada style. Continue until all tortillas are filled. Cover tortillas with grated cheese and the remainder of the sauce. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.

Nutrition per enchilada: Calories 309, Fat 10.4g, Saturated Fat 4.9g, Cholesteral 59mg, Sodium 718 mg, Carbohydrates 28.6g, Protein 24.7g

 I served mine with rice and corn.

 This definitely came close to fitting my nutrition parameters, however the little girls weren’t overly fond of it, and neither was the hubs. So, I guess I won’t be making this part of the normal lineup!  I hope that YOU enjoy it, though! I did…



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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tuna noodle, for those days!

We all have “those days”. Well, I’m pretty sure I just had two of those days, rolled up into one!

I had an 8 am conference call, which I took mostly from home because of a 9 am Doctor appointment. Just a check-up; no need to feel bad – I’m not sick. Preventative. When I was called out of the waiting room to be measured and weighed the nurse told me there had been some computer issues and they were running behind. Daughter number 3 texted me around the same time and told me that she had forgotten to take money to school today for the out of town basketball game. So over an hour and a half later, I left the Doctors office. Healthy!

Rather than call the hubs to see if he could run some money to the school, I chose to stop at Starbucks, pick up 2 coffees (one for me and one for him), get some cash at the bank and drive 17 miles to the high school, and then the 5 minutes home. (FYI, the hubs works from home)

I was going to drink my coffee and head to work when I realized that slow little leak under the kitchen sink that I had been handling by letting the drips be caught in a gallon ice cream tub for me to dump, had gotten entirely out of control. I reluctantly mentioned this to the hubs. He reluctantly acknowledged that he heard me. We are neither one plumbing aficionados. Hence the ice cream bucket under the drip.

Not sure quite where to start the hubs went under the house to check the pipes. They looked fine. So, I mentioned that it might be easiest just to cut out the sheet rock under the sink and expose the pipes so we could get a better look. He did. We found the leak and had come up with a vague plan. We needed a pipe cutter. I went to my dad’s house to borrow one. He couldn’t find it (no surprises). I went back home and told the hubs that I would pick the 2 little ones up from school and then drive to a nearby town (5 miles away) to a store (small home improvement / lumber yard) where my younger brother works. I could buy a pipe cutter and we could take the cut pipe somewhere and they would tell us what to do. I was a bit worried about my plan, for some of the obvious reasons. We are NOT plumbers. Or even close. And we were working in a very tight space…

My brother showed me a pipe cutter that was more workable in my little space. I was thrilled! Then he talked to me about the kind of pipe I have (I did know that I have copper pipe) and showed me a new product that can take the place of soldering pipe connections, in certain circumstances. Mine seemed to fit the criteria. I headed home and gave the hubs the pipe cutter. He cut out the piece of pipe with the leak, and I drove the five miles back to show it to my brother. He had the pipe and two of the three connectors that I would need. He wasn’t sure if the hardware store in my town would have them or not. I might have to make the long drive (17 miles) into “town” (as the locals say). We were thrilled to discover the local hardware store had a comparable product! With a little bit of work and maneuvering and a couple of tries, the hubs and I got it all put together! I had to do the attaching at the wall, since it was such a small space and have smaller hands. It was cramped, even for my 5’1” and small hands…

When the water was turned back on and we were satisfied (overjoyed) with the results I quickly fed daughter number 3 her dinner, so the hubs could run her over to basketball practice.

I had managed to whip up a lightened up Tuna Noodle Casserole while we were working on the pipe repair. It’s a good thing we had put some water into containers before we shut it off to fix the pipe!

Right as the hubs was heading out the door our dog had a bit of a bathroom problem, and made quite a mess. I knew I couldn’t take care of it myself (he weighs about 100 pounds). I had to wait for the hubs to get back. I spent some time with daughter number 4; she read and we looked at some things on the computer. We talked about her day. In the back of my mind, I knew what was ahead.

When the hubs got home, the first order of business was to clean the dog. I don’t know if it’s being the mother of four, or just me being me, but I do not have a weak stomach. The hubs, on the other hand can get queasy just thinking about someone being queasy. He knew that he had to help me, but I knew that it was going to be mostly up to me. We got our German Shepherd into the tub. I always find it amazing how animals just know when you’re helping them. He was so calm while I cleaned him up. I’m sure he was also a bit confused about why we were BOTH in the shower…it just seemed easier at the time! After he was cleaned up, the hubs had to come back in and help me towel him off. Our boy was so happy to be clean!

So, I didn’t get all of the grand cooking or baking done that I had planned for today, nor did I get any real work done on the personal or professional front. I did, however, get my leaky pipe fixed (which needed done). I also got to work with my husband to solve that pesky problem. I know from my childhood how frustrating remodeling and fix-it projects can be. We made it through. I think we both have newfound respect for each other when it comes to plumbing. Oh, and for my little brother!

As for the tuna noodle casserole. I liked it. The hubs and daughter number 3 actually thought it was the best I’ve ever made. Daughter number 4 wasn’t too thrilled about any aspect of it. She didn’t like the shell-roni that I used. She didn’t like the crunchy stuff on top, and she couldn’t believe that I had put TUNA in it. I tried to make her understand that it wouldn’t be tuna noodle….oh, never mind!



Tuna Noodle Casserole (light)

  • 8 ounces shell macaroni
  • 2 cans tuna, light, in water; drained
  • 1 can healthy cream soup, or cream soup substitue
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon prepared mustard
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan cheese
  • Butter flavor nonstick cooking spray

 Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cook the noodles according to the directions. Mix soup, Worcestershire, mustard and milk in a small bowl. Place cooked noodles in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Flake and stir in drained tuna. Pour soup mix over the top of the noodles. Stir to combine. Sprinkle panko over the noodle mixture. Sprinkle grated cheese over panko. Spray with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melty and the casserole is hot throughout.

Peas may be added to the casserole, or served as a side dish.

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Uncategorized