Want to know a secret?

I hate salads.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
I hate healthy salads.

Give me a Greek salad covered in dressing and a ton of feta or a Caesar salad (oh yum) but never a green on with little to no dressing.

But then, my cousin clued me in. Think outside the box! Top your salad with sweet potato fries, she said. Dump chili on top of it, I said. Dump sweet potatoes AND chili on top, the voices in my head said.

Best. Idea. Ever!

So today, I thought I’d share the base recipe I use for chili so you can too your salads with it too!

I use the recipe on skinnytaste.com. Every time I make it, however, I’m out of something. I used crushed tomatoes instead of diced. Diced tomatoes with green chilies instead of tomato sauce and diced green chilies. I throw in three diced peppers in a tablespoon of abodo sauce in addition to the chili powder (or instead of it) for some extra heat. I’ve substituted faux meat crumbles for the meat and it was delicious. You could omit that completely and add an extra can of beans.

It’s very flexible.

Now make it and top your salads with it. No dressing necessary!

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

My uncle Craig’s birthday was yesterday. You may not know this about  my family, or maybe you do — I don’t remember mentioning it — but we have a weekly dinner for all the local extended family.

Since it was my uncle’s birthday on Thursday, I asked my mom, “What’s Craig’s favorite cake? Someone has to make him a cake!” Of course, because it’s one of the more difficult cakes to make, she said “Red velvet… (pause)… but he’ll love any cake you make!”

Challenge accepted. (Make a red velvet.)

I used a recipe from “Pinch My Salt.” I swapped out the cake flour for regular AP flour + corn starch (1 cup cake flour = 1 cup – 2 tablespoons AP flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch. The substitution worked out well for this particular cake.) Since I only had an hour and a half, I baked a 9×13 cake, rather than a layer cake. I had a ton of leftover icing because I didn’t have to use any between layers, so I snacked on it. It happens to taste phenomenal on brownie brittle.

My slightly altered Red Velvet Cake recipe:

2 1/2 cups minus 5 tbsp AP flour
5 tbsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz. red food coloring + 1 oz water
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup room temperature buttermilk (You can find dry, cultured buttermilk by your dried milk at the grocery store.)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350*F. Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix the cocoa powder, food coloring and water in a small bowl (until no lumps exist). Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and then add the eggs, vanilla extract and half the buttermilk — mix, mix, mix. Add half the flour — mix, mix, mix. Add the food coloring and the rest of the butter milk. Mix, mix, mix and add the rest of the flour. Mix, mix, mix.

There’s lots of mixing. I used my kitchen aid to save my arm.

At the very end, combine the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl, it will bubble, and add this to the batter.

That’s right, you get to mix the batter even more.

Pour it into a 9×13″ cake pan and bake for 25-35 minutes,  until a toothpick (or knife) stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing. (If you’re pressed for time — 25 minutes in the freezer will help!)

My (very slightly altered) Cream Cheese Icing recipe:

16 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Cream the cream cheese and butter. Add the vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Mix between each addition with an electric mixer (or a spoon if you hate yourself that much).

Spread on the cooled cake. DIG IN!

Original recipe can be found by following this link: http://pinchmysalt.com/red-velvet-cake-recipe/

Greek Yogurt.

Dear Everyone Who’s on the Fence about Substituting Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream,

Do it. It’s tangy and thick and creamy. It will make your tacos taste better and our waistline a little happier. And all that protein with no fat! Veggie taco salads will be just that much more filling.

You’re welcome,
Christina

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Chicken “cacciatore.”

This isn’t chicken cacciatore. It’s loosely based on The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Cacciatore.

Dinner is served.

I’m still broke as a joke and I decided to make dinner with what I had on hand. Maybe someday I’ll have money, but it’s not going to be any time soon. I have too many expensive things to do. (Therapy, yoga classes, zip lining, beer drinking, rent, bills, taxes, pre-wedding massages with my darling to-be-Mrs. sister, etc.)

Does anyone else agree that summer is more expensive than Christmas/the holiday season? I mean, I can get away with making cinnamon rolls as gifts for Christmas and everyone loves me. Summer has so many fun activities and they all seem to cost money.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 lbs thinly sliced chicken breast
  • salt & pepper
  • a healthy spray of olive oil Pam
  • 1 medium-large onion , halved and sliced
  • 2 roasted red peppers (from a jar)
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
  • 3/4 cups chicken broth (I made mine from “better than bouillon”
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • mozzarella or parmesan cheese for serving

I also had pepperoncini in my mix, but I didn’t like it. I think next time I’ll add olives (and mushrooms) because that would taste better. Much better.

Just…. don’t use pepperoncini. They taste bitter. Not a good bitter like an IPA.

Triple Mango IPA from Troegs. It packs a punch.
A delicious punch.

Just bitter, like the tears of the divorced or losing political candidates.

What I did:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375*F.
  2. Heat oil to medium-high in a large oven proof skillet. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Fry the chicken in the skillet in batches until all chicken is just cooked through. Remove to a plate.
  3. Add onion, red pepper and garlic (and olives and mushrooms, if you’re using them) to the skillet. Cook for about one minute. Add the thyme, smoked paprika and red pepper. Stir.
  4. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the skillet. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil for a minute.
  5. Add the chicken to the mix but do not submerge, you want some of the chicken peaking out. Cover the skillet with a lid or foil and move to the heated oven.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, removing the foil when you have 15-10 minutes left on the timer. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the noodles according to package directions.
  7. Drain the noodles and place  in a serving bowl. Remove the chicken mixture from the oven and place chicken on top of noodles. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomato mixture from skillet and place on top of chicken.
  8. Place the skillet back onto a burner and boil until juices are thickened, about 5-10 minutes, then pour this over everything.
  9. Serve with bread or a salad… and cheese.

Chipotle Bean Enchiladas

Howdy all!

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I decided to create my own enchilada recipe. Maybe enchiladas aren’t all that complicated or fancy, but I’ve been thinking about this recipe since I made the burritos. It didn’t hurt that I also bought a few Torchbearer Sauces to make cooking more fun and adventurous. I tasted the Chipotle BBQ and it was a little bit sweet with a nice spicy kick. Mmmm-mmmm.

So, without further ado:

The ingredients:

      A heavy spray of olive or canola oil
      1 small onion, roughly chopped
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      1 teaspoon chili powder
      1 teaspoon cumin
      2 15 ounce cans of beans, drained and rinsed (I used black and great northern white beans)
      1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
      3/4 cup chipotle BBQ sauce
      8 8″ corn tortillas
      2 tablespoons oil or butter
      2 tablespoons flour
      2 cups milk
      1 1/2 cup of cheese (use an assortment of cheese for the best sauce, I used mozzarella and feta, 2:1)

What you’ll do:

  1. Add the diced onion to the skillet and sauté in oil for 5 minutes, until becoming soft.
  2. Add the garlic and give that a stir for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the rinsed beans, tomato, chili powder and cumin the the skillet. Allow to cook over medium, at a low boil/simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce by melting butter or heating oil in a pot large enough to hold at least a quart.
  6. Add the flour to the fat to make a roux. Then add the milk and bring it to simmer, allowing the milk to thicken.
  7. Once it thickens, add the cheese.
  8. To assemble the enchiladas, spread about 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce and 1/8th of the filling on each tortilla. Roll them up and place them seam side down in a cake pan.
  9. Pour the cheese sauce over top and place the assembled pan in the oven at 325*F for 30 minutes.

Serve with rice, chips and/or a veggie.

Greek Dip

I was in Gettysburg on Saturday to see some good friends and get a secret VIP tour of Spangler Farm.

Let me just say, good friends, wine slushies and cupcakes can cure a world of ills. I needed that break after a not-so-fantastic Friday night.

Obviously, while I was in Gettysburg, we had to eat, so we got some pizza, beer and snacks. Snez made a fantastic Greek dip. It was so good and so easy that I’ve made it twice in a week. So here it is, I’m sharing it with you. Don’t like olives? Leave them out? Don’t like feta? You could probably substitute another sharp cheese. I haven’t tried it that way because I love olives and feta and hummus and Greek yogurt and kittens and rainbows and fireflies and cake.

Whoops. I got a little carried away.

I love pasta and mushrooms and garlic and pie too. And cookies. And lots of other things, but you want to know how to make this dip. I can tell.

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Ingredients:

    1 5 oz. container of plain Greek yogurt
    1 8 oz (or 1 cup) container of hummus — I love red pepper, that’s what Snez used and I don’t question that decision
    1/2 cup cucumber, diced
    1/2 cup red onion, diced
    1/2 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
    1/2 cup feta, crumbled

To make it:

Spread the yogurt evenly in the bottom of a serving bowl. Then add the layer of hummus, followed by the cucumber, followed by the onion, followed by the olives and finally top it off with feta.

Serve it with tortilla chips or crackers. Whatever your vehicle of choice may be.

Clearly there is a lot of wiggle room. You can add more or less of something to suit your taste.

It’s so yummy and easy. There’s no reason not to make it.

Spicy Bean Burritos

It’s another meat-free meal! I decided I need to be thrifty again. Moving is expensive, guys!

I had a recipe saved on my iPad’s camera roll from The Curvy Carrot for Bean Burritos.

My ingredient list is pretty similar to hers with a few tweaks to accommodate my pantry, my taste, and my wish to use coconut oil for everything.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup water
  • One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8  8″ wheat flour tortillas
  • Toppings:  I used spinach and cheese in some and spinach and raspberry chipotle mustard in others.

What you do:

  1. In a large pan over medium heat, heat the oil until it “shimmers.”
  2. Add the onion to the oil and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. (Stir it often so nothing burns.)
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper, and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Add the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Once it boils, decrease to medium-low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

I assembled half of the burritos by placing a piece of thinly sliced provolone in the bottom third of the tortilla, placing about 1/3-1/2 cup bean mixture on top of that and then a small handful of spinach on top of that. Then you fold the sides in very carefully, fold the bottom up and roll the burrito into a log. I wrapped them in foil and placed them in the freezer after I was done.

For the other half, instead of cheese, I spread about a teaspoon of raspberry chipotle mustard from Tait Farm Foods where I placed the cheese in the first 4 burritos and proceeded as usual to finish and freeze them.

The original recipe would have made 4 burritos IF you used actual burrito tortillas rather than the 8″ tortillas. You’d just increase your fillings accordingly. The 8″ tortillas made 8 small burritos. They’re cute and tasty, but I have a feeling I’ll be eating two for lunch most days. Unless I can convince myself that fruit is the answer and I can actually eat like a girl this week.

I don’t like eating like a girl. I’ve decided that I’ll only eat that way on week days, non-date nights, non-BYOB dinner nights and non-Wednesday-Night-Supper-Club nights.

Peanut Butter Pie!

This recipe is so easy. So so easy. I’m in love with the woman who originally made it. It would have been even easier if I could’ve found a crumb pie crust that didn’t include trans fats at the Wall of Mart.*

But, alas, Wall of Mart* only believes in trans fat.
(Well, I guess that’s not true. They do carry bruised, sad or half rotten fruit and vegetables too.)

I digress. I had to make my own Oreo pie crust. I smashed up half a pack of Oreos, melted two tablespoons of butter with a tablespoon of peanut butter, mixed that into the crumbs and pressed it into a pie pan. I think it would be just as tasty (or more tasty) using chocolate graham crackers or brownie brittle.

I’m terrible at making crumb crusts. Maybe I’m just terrible at pie crust in general. If you’re just as bad, just pretend you’ve made peanut butter dirt pudding!

The peanut butter pie filling as as follows:

  • 1 32 oz tub of vanilla Greek yogurt
  • half a 16 oz jar of peanut butter
  • a handful of chocolate chips

All you do is:

Mix the yogurt and peanut butter together until color is uniformly beigey. Pour into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and refrigerate overnight.

And then, after it “sets” overnight, you eat it. You try not to eat it allllll, but you’ll really, really want to.

I’d forgotten how delicious vanilla Greek yogurt is. I’ve been sweetening plain yogurt with peanut butter, cinnamon and honey, which is good but not nearly as sweet or delicious as the overly sweetened premade vanilla stuff. Mmmmmm.

I forgot to take a photo of the finished pie. It looks a little like a pudding pie. Nothing fancy, but definitely yummy.

* I don’t want to be sued. I have nothing, so they couldn’t get much, but still. No suing.

Doughnut Buttermilk Bread Pudding

I’ve moved! (And my internet finally works thanks to the handy work of my upstairs neighbor!) In the process of trying to clean out my fridge/freezer to make moving less embarrassing, I came across a bunch of doughnuts I had frozen from the Fractured Prune. My aunt was nice enough to bring me a TON of doughnuts back from their beach trip and, being one person, I could only eat a few and still maintain my dignity. These are GOOD doughnuts. I couldn’t let them go to waste, so I froze them.

And there they sat. I’d open the fridge, really want one and then remember that I’d already consumed NFL player-level calories that day. So I’d sadly close the door.

Well, they were taking up a lot of freezer space in the ginormous Tupperware container, so I made a decision.

Bread pudding.

I took to the internet and found a recipe that sounded simple enough, but then realized I had no good milk. However, I have powdered buttermilk in my fridge. (BEST IDEA EVER, by the way. It lasts ages and you make as much as you need, as you need it!)

So, this was my take.

  • 6 glazed doughnuts cut into cubes (enough to fill a 8×8 or 9×9 pan)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup of stevia (or sugar)
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • a heavy sprinkling of cinnamon (to taste — I like cinnamon)

Fill the (greased) pan with doughnut cubes. In a bowl, mix buttermilk, eggs, stevia (or sugar), vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour over doughnuts, poke the doughnut chunks around to coat. Allow mixture to absorb while you preheat the oven to 350*F.

Once the oven is preheated, bake for 40-50 minutes, until center is set/just a little jiggly. My got a little toasy after 40 minutes, but in a good way. Toasty, crunch topping!

Serve warm! (With ice cream, if that’s how you roll.)

Strawberry pie!

We made a lot of food for father’s day. A lot.

One of my contributions was a strawberry pie.

A local church has a “strawberry festival” in June. My aunt and uncle brought a strawberry pie to dinner a week or so ago and it was freaking awesome. This meant I was on a quest for a strawberry pie recipe. (And I couldn’t wait until Betty sent me her recipe.)

So I found a recipe and I made minimal alterations.

I’m not sharing my pie crust recipe because it wasn’t that good. It was an average crust with a very yummy filling. Next time I’ll probably make a shortbread cookie pie crust. It will be better with the strawberries.

The pie:

  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup stevia
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup water

The topping:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Some powdered sugar & vanilla.

Directions:

Cut the green off of a quart of strawberries (you have half or quarter the strawberries if they’re very large). (Get good strawberries because this isn’t a cooked pie. Better strawberries means a better pie.) Take about a third of the strawberries and mash them in the bottom of a small sauce pan. Add the sugar and stevia, stir and bring to a boil.

In a bowl, combine water and corn starch. Gradually stir this cornstarch mixture into the boiling strawberries. Reduce the heat so that the mixture simmers and stir it constantly for 10 minutes — until the mixture is thickened. After your 10 minutes are up, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the rest of the strawberries and toss to coat. Pour into the pie crust of your choice and refrigerate several hours (I let mine sit overnight), until set.

Serve with fresh whipped cream. (Beat heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form and maintain their shape.)

It’s fruit so it’s good for you!
Right?