Saturday, December 31, 2011

(Oh My Darling) Clementine Smoothies

I've talked before about my grandparents' incredible green thumbs.  From cucumbers, squash, and potatoes to lemons bigger than grapefruits (literally!), they  grow anything and everything.  Each time I visit, my grandpa is sure to send me home with a sack full of something delicious.  As we left our Christmas gathering, he gave us a mess of the sweetest, juiciest Clementines I've ever eaten.  We enjoyed most of them straight from the fridge, and the rest in the form of these creamsicle-inspired smoothies.  Yum!

Don't have Clementines?  Substitute 2 small, seedless oranges instead.

An Ommy Noms Original

3 Clementines, peeled
1 banana
1/2 cup yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup milk
6-7 ice cubes

1.  Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth and well-incorporated.  Pour into glasses and enjoy!
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

28 by 28

My cooking ability has come a long way since I first started this blog over three years ago. The first year of our marriage, the Mister and I survived solely on frozen tamales and corn dogs. My uncle's jabs that the only things I could make were toast and boiled water weren't terribly far from the truth. Although the learning curve has been steep at times (see exhibits A and B), I am now more comfortable in the kitchen than I ever thought possible.

In about 15 months, I will be turning 28. In anticipation of the occasion, I've put together a list of 28 foods I'd like to tackle in the coming months. I hope you enjoy this journey with me!

1. Croissants
2. Sandwich bread
3. Focaccia
4. Custard bread

Appetizers & Sides
5. Hummus
6. Stuffed artichokes
7. Panzanella

8. Roasted chicken that actually tastes good
9. Homemade pasta, preferably a filled one
10. Gumbo from scratch
11. Mo Mo's chicken stew
12. Pad Thai
13. Enchiladas verdes
14. Spring rolls (or egg rolls- haven't decided yet!)
15. Bolognese sauce


16. Chocolate flan
17. Something piped
18. Baklava
19. Panna cotta
20. Gelato
21. Linzer cookies
22. Luby's cheesecake

You made what from scratch?
23. Butter
24. Ketchup
25. Sour cream
26. Peanut butter
27. Chocolate milk mix
28. Ricotta

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

World's Best Sugar Cookies

You know how we tend to associate certain tastes and smells with special times in our lives?  Well readers, this is what Christmas tastes like to me.  As a child, I looked forward to helping Mom roll out these sugar cookies each winter.  I always had my own assortment of cookie cutters and decorating sugar to choose from, and I relished each crumb of my creations.  When rolled-out, these cookies are thin and slightly crisp- perfect for decorating with royal icing.  These days, I usually make them with a cookie press, which yields a thicker, softer cookie.

From Mom

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well-blended. Stir in flour.

2. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350.

4. For cut-out cookies, Roll out dough on lightly floured board or pastry cloth to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters.  (To use with a cookie press, stuff dough into press and form cookies according to package directions.)

5. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 10-12 min or until light golden brown. Cool and decorate as desired.

Yields about 6 dozen

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Banana Bread Foster

Awhile back, I told you how much I love Gaido's, a historic seafood restaurant in Galveston, Texas.  A few weeks ago, Mr. Ommy Noms and I took a day trip to Galveston and made a beeline straight for the restaurant.  After stuffing ourselves full of shrimp and oysters, the Mister handed me a dessert menu and told me to pick one.  The winner was Banana Bread Foster, and we certainly did not regret the decision.  In fact, we loved it so much that I went to the gift shop and bought the cookbook!

To make this impressive dessert, a thick slice of moist banana bread is griddled in a brown sugar and rum butter until it develops a crisp candy-like coating.  It is then finished with homemade creme anglaise and ice cream. 

You can use any dense banana bread as a base for the dish.  (I used this one.)  Do be aware that this is not the most beginner-friendly recipe.  As written, the recipe calls to burn the alcohol off of the rum over high heat.  I wasn't comfortable with that technique, so I simmered it over medium-high for a few minutes instead.  In addition, there is a fine line between a perfectly caramelized coating and a burnt one.  Keep a close eye on the bread, checking after 1-2 minutes per side.

Adapted from Gaido's Famous Seafood Restaurant Cookbook
Serves 3 (Recipe has been scaled down)

4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tbsp rum
3 1/2-inch thick slices of dense banana bread
Ice cream and creme anglaise (recipe following)

1.  Burn off the alcohol from the rum in a saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium when the alcohol has burned off.  Add the butter to the saucepan and stir to melt.  Add the brown sugar and mix well.

2.  Cook the banana bread slices in the butter mixture until a caramelized coating forms.  Turn to cook the other side.

3.  Remove to a plate and drizzle with creme anglaise.  Top with ice cream and enjoy!


Creme Anglaise Ingredients

2/3 cup half-and-half
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, split)
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar

Creme Anglaise Directions
1.  Bring the half-and-half and vanilla just to a boil in a heavy saucepan.

2.  Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Add one third of the hot mixture to the egg mixture; stir well.  Stir the egg mixture into the half-and half mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce coats a spoon.  Do not boil.

3.  Strain through a fine strainer in to a bowl and chill over an ice bath.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! (And 'nanner bread!)

First of all, I would like to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas!  I've had an incredible two days with family and friends and I hope you've enjoyed the same.

Today, I am sharing an incredibly moist banana bread, complete with butter and heavy cream.  (Oh yeah!) Tomorrow, I'll be sharing an incredible way to take this banana bread from bake sale to upscale- so stay tuned!

From Gourmeted, originally from Maria H's Sphere


5 tbsp butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas 
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
optional: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts


1.  Preheat oven to 350F. Use a non-stick or greased 9×5×3-inch loaf pan.

2.  Beat butter in large bowl with an electric mixer set at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add both sugar and beat well. Add eggs, egg whites and vanilla and beat until well-blended. Add mashed banana, beat for 30 seconds on high speed.

3.  Add all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add this mixture to the banana mixture, alternatively with cream. Add walnuts, mix well.

4.  Pour batter evenly unto the prepared loaf pan. Baked until browned and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour to 1 hour & 15 minutes.

5.  Cool completely and serve. To store, cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Bread becomes more moist after resting overnight.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Today was Polar Express Day at work- one of my favorite days of the school year.  After a morning full of reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, my students and I spent the afternoon watching Polar Express while sipping hot cocoa in our jammies.

It was also the afternoon of my teaching team's annual Christmas gift exchange.  I was planning to make homemade hot chocolate mixes for them, but I saw these little guys on Dainty Chef over the weekend and just couldn't resist the adorable presentation.  If you are in need of any last-minute homemade gift ideas, look no further.  They were quick to whip up and taste delicious.  (I kept one for myself, of course!)

Be sure to visit the Make and Takes link to find printable directions for your lucky hot chocolate recipients.

From Make and Takes, originally from King Arthur Flour, via Dainty Chef
Yields 36 squares

* For gluten-free recipients, use Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk and Kraft marshmallows.

1/2 cup heavy cream
One 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups semisweet chocolate
One 4-oz bar unsweetened chocolate (broken or chopped into smaller pieces)

For assembly:
Wooden or cookie/lollipop sticks
Cellophane bags
Pretty ribbon

1.  Prepare an 8x8 pan by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside. Heat the cream and sweetened condensed milk over medium-low heat until it starts steaming, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, put the chocolate mixture back on medium-low heat and stir with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted and shiny. Pour chocolate into prepared pan and spread chocolate as level as you possibly can. Let sit overnight (12 hours or so).

2.  Remove chocolate from pan and cut, top side face down, into squares. Divide the block into sixths each direction, so your squares will be a bit larger than 1″ x 1″. Use a long, thin knife. Heat the knife under hot water, wipe dry with a towel or paper towel, make a few cuts, then repeat the knife-heating procedure.

When ready to use, stir into 3/4 cup of piping hot milk until melted and well-combined.
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Baked Oatmeal- Healthy and Delicious!

Awhile back, I told you guys that I was really not a breakfast food person.  I'd like to go ahead and take that back now.

A couple of years ago, my parents built a vacation cabin out in the country.  Its kitchen has over four times as many cabinets and drawers as mine.  Nope, I'm not bitter at all!  Aside from being a wonderful place to slow down and relax for a few days, the cabin is synonymous with a good old fashioned spoiling.  While we're there, I wake up most mornings to the smell of a delicious breakfast on the stove or in the oven.  On our last trip, my mom cooked up this tasty baked oatmeal and I recreated it at home this morning.  I love everything about this dish from the bursting-with-flavor blueberries to the crunchy pecans.  I'm looking forward to having leftovers for breakfast tomorrow. 

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, via Annie's Eats

* For gluten-free diners, use 100% pure maple syrup and vanilla extract along with gluten-free oats, such as those from Bob's Red Mill.

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted, divided
½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 ripe bananas, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries, divided

1.  Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.  

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the rolled oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Stir with a fork to combine.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the maple syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.  

3.  Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with half of the berries.  Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries over the top.  

4.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Three-Ingredient Grape Sherbet

Okay, so I'm about as attention-deficit (deficient?) as they come.  When I was a kid, I'd go to my room to make up my bed, but then I'd notice my closet door was open.  So I'd walk over to close it and spot that Bop-it I hadn't played in a couple of months.  By the time I got through playing a few rounds of that, I'd set it down only to glimpse the sleeve of my missing favorite t-shirt hiding behind a pile of yearbooks.  So I'd try it on and prance my preteen self in front of the mirror before sprawling out on the floor to flip through the yearbooks.  But then I'd stumble across a picture of dear friend Betty-Sue ("Wonder how she's doing these days?") and go BACK to the closet for stationery and my gel pen set.

By the end of my bed-making expedition, I'd walk out of my room wearing different clothes with a sealed envelope in hand, the contents of my closet scattered hither and yonder, and my bed as unmade as the day it was purchased.

True story.  My mother can attest to this.  (Mom?  You out there?)

So that should explain, at least in part, how I went to to buy a bathrobe last weekend and wound up on a Google results page for "Why in the world have I never seen grape ice cream?"  (As it turns out, the majority of the grape flavor is contained within the skin, which does not good ice cream make.  Thanks, Google.)

Anyway, I came across this recipe for grape sherbet and had to try it right away.  This stuff was a dream come true, let me tell you.  I used a tart not-from-concentrate grape juice that shined in the final product.  It had light and fluffy texture, which surprised me given the short ingredient list.  This is a must-try if you're a sucker for grapes like me.  :-)

Adapted from Taste of Home 

 * For gluten-free diners, use 100% grape juice or Welch's juice.

1 3/4 cups grape juice (preferably the fancy-pants no-sugar-added kind)
1 3/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar

1.  Combine all ingredients.  Pour into the cylinder of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer directions.  For soft-set sherbet, serve immediately.  For firmer sherbet, transfer to a container and freeze for at least four hours.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cake Batter Truffles

Oh my whoa, these things are so moist and sinfully delicious.  I snuck a taste of the batter before parsing it out and had to restrain myself from stuffing my face like it was going out of style.


Quality control, you know.

They went over very well at my Bunco night, although next time I think I'll cut back the sugar by at least a quarter cup to counteract the sweetness of the coating.

From The Girl Who Ate Everything


1 ½ cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sprinkles
Truffle Coating:
16 ounces (8 squares) almond bark (or white candy melts)
4 Tablespoons yellow cake mix

Beat together butter and sugar using an electric mixer until combined. Add cake mix, flour, salt, and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add 3 Tablespoons of milk or more if needed to make a dough consistency. Mix in sprinkles by hand. Roll dough into one inch balls and place on a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet. Chill balls in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up.

While dough balls are chilling, melt almond bark in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir between intervals. Once melted, quickly stir in cake mix until incorporated completely. Using a fork, dip truffles into almond bark and shake of excess bark by tapping the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl. Place truffle back on the cookie sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat with remaining balls until finished.
Chill cake batter truffles in the refrigerator until serving. Makes around 24-30 truffles.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

First of all, I apologize again for neglecting my dear blog.  I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, as I just turned in a paper/project that are worth 40% of my grade in one of my masters classes.  (EEK!)  Suffice it to say that take-out and frozen pizza have graced our table a lot more frequently than home-cooked goodness in the past few weeks.

Now, onto this delicious butternut squash pasta... 

I wouldn't exactly call Mr. Ommy Noms a "meat and potatoes" guy, but it's safe to say that vegetarian dishes usually aren't his bag.  So when I set a plate of butternut squash pasta in front of him, I expected a lukewarm reception at best.  Oh, but I was surprised!  My husband RAVED about this dish, going back for seconds and insisting we reserve some for leftovers.  It paired beautifully with a fresh green salad.  Despite its fancy taste, this was a very low-effort dish.  Shredding the cheese and squash ahead of time would make this a great after-work meal.

Serves 4-6
Adapted from A Little Bit of Everything

9 oz spaghetti or fettuccine
1 butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
10 oz blend of hard cheeses (I took the easy way out and used a bag of shredded Italian)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups cream (I used light cream)

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Boil the pasta until al dente.  Drain and set aside to cool.
2.  Shred the squash flesh using a cheese grater.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the pasta, shredded squash, half the cheese, garlic, and parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Transfer pasta mixture to a buttered baking dish.  Pour cream over pasta.  Top with remaining cheese.
5.  Bake until cream is absorbed and squash is cooked, about 30 minutes.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Overnight Praline French Toast

Hey guys!  I guest-posted about this Overnight Praline French Toast on Dainty Chef yesterday.  Check it out!
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hot Ham and Brie(z!)

First of all, I apologize for my extended absence.  I have been so busy lately that I haven't known what to do with myself.  I guess time flies when you're not having fun. 

For the past few years, my husband and I have vacationed in Hot Springs, Arkansas over spring break.  We are always sure to take a ride out to Cafe 1217 for a delicious light lunch.  The neat thing about this restaurant is that the menu changes on a monthly basis, so there's always something new and exciting to try.  Last year, my husband's pick was a hot ham and brie sandwich.  He let me try a bite and I was hooked.  I recreated the sandwich at home for a quick supper and it was just as delicious as I remembered.

Inspired by Cafe 1217

Sandwich buns
Brie cheese
Sliced deli ham
Jam of your choice (I used strawberry)

1.  Layer ham and brie slices on bottom half of the bun.  Place in toaster oven at 350 and cook until ham is heated and cheese is beginning to melt.  Put the top halves of the bun in the toaster oven until lightly toasted.

2.  Remove.  Slather the top half of the bun with jam of your choice.  Enjoy!
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Monday, October 3, 2011


I happened upon these tiny Brazilian treats sometime last week and filed the recipe away in my "to make in the future" folder.  Well, "the future" happened to be yesterday.  (Read:  Making dessert is a lot more fun than writing papers.)

I've gotta tell you, these little dudes are delicious.  They're basically bite-sized chocolate caramels, with bonus points for being coated in sprinkles.  (YES, I'm 26 and still go goofy over anything with sprinkles!)  You'll know the condensed milk mixture is ready to come off the heat when it thickens up.  You'll be able to see the bottom of the pan briefly as you stir and scrape the bottom.  It took mine right at ten minutes to reach that point. 

Oh, and save yourself the headache and grease your hands when it's time to roll these into balls.  You won't regret it.  I tried to be lazy at first and ended up with gooey choco-Frankenhands.

* For gluten-free diners, use Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk and gluten-free sprinkles.  According to the GF Foodlist, Guittard semi-sweet chocolate sprinkles, Betty Crocker candy sprinkles, and Betty Crocker Decor Selects sprinkles are all gluten-free.

Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes approximately 20 brigadeiros

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp white sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to return to room temperature. (You may also refrigerate the mixture for ease of handling.)

2.  Grease your hands with butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Form mixture into small balls and rolled in sprinkles to coat.  Truffles may be eaten at once or chilled until serving.
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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Black Bean Salad

This black bean salad, aka "Texas Caviar" is great on tortilla chips or on its own as a quick and easy side dish.  Be sure to rinse the beans well if you want to keep it looking pretty.

 From Allrecipes

* For gluten-free diners, double check your cans of black beans and corn for gluten sources.   Trader Joe's and Amy's black beans are gluten-free for sure, as are Del Monte cans of whole-kernel corn.  For the dressing, you can opt to make your own vinaigrette or purchase a bottle of gluten-free dressing.  Annie's Naturals, Ken's Steakhouse, Newman's Own, and Wishbone all make gluten-free Italian dressings.


1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 (15 ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
8 green onions, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado - peeled, pitted, and diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing (more or less to suit your tastes)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, green onions, jalapeno peppers, bell pepper, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and Italian dressing. Season with garlic powder. Toss, and chill until serving.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are amazing. They're better than having a day off of work. They're better than finding $20 in a pocket of old jeans. They're better than going on a Hobby Lobby shopping spree with a gift card and a coupon. They're better than fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot summer's day.  They're better than a shiny new car.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn't go THAT far, but these cookies are freakin' GOOD.  They have a light, buttery flavor with a hint of vanilla.  And the perfect proportion of chocolate chips. 

As seen on Baking Sheet; originally from The Frog Commissary Cookbook


1 cup butter, room temperature (ehhh, I nuked it for about 15 seconds on power level 3)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups oats (rolled or "quick," but not "instant")
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a little less)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until mixture is light in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk and the vanilla extract.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Either by hand or with the mixer on low speed, gradually beat the flour in to the sugar mixture until just incorporated.

4. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips by hand. Refrigerate dough for 20-30 minutes.

5. Drop 1-inch balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, placing about 1 1/2 inches apart so they have room to spread.

6. Bake at 350F for 10-13 minutes, until golden brown at the edges and light golden at the center.

7. Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 4 dozen.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Creamy Jalapeno Ranch

This year, we've been blessed with an overabundance of jalapenos from our potted plants.  (Read:  This year, I've remembered to water said jalapeno plants on a semi-regular basis.)

I recently harvested more jalapenos than I knew what to do with, so I consulted the Oracle Google.  This spicy ranch dressing was among the first results to pop up, and it was definitely love at first bite.  We ate salads everyday for a week while this was in the fridge.

True story.

From Confections of a Foodie Bride
Serves 12-16

* Gluten-free diners should double-check the sour cream and mayonnaise labels for gluten sources.  My favorite sour cream, Daisy brand, is gluten-free.  Hellman's and Kraft produce gluten-free mayonnaise.

3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 small bunch of chives (equal to ~2 Tbsp chopped)
Small handful cilantro
1-2 jalapenos, seeds and stem removed
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (optional)

1.  Place all ingredients in a blender.
2.  Blend for 10 seconds. Check consistency and blend in buttermilk if desired. (Use less buttermilk for dipping, more for dressing).
3.  Store in an air-tight jar in the fridge.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Roasted Okra

I get a little "Bubba Gump" when I talk about my okra- fried okra, boiled okra, stewed okra, okra gumbo, I love it it all!  Until today, though, I was lacking one glorious method of preparation in my repertoire- roasted okra!  I don't know why I'd never thought to roast it before.  Roasting veggies almost always results in awesomeness, and this was no different.  The roasted okra had less of the "slimy mouthfeel" that my husband loves so much.  (Not!)

Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 3

* Gluten-free diners should double-check the seasoned salt label for gluten sources.

18 fresh okra pods, stems removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Seasoned salt to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 425.

2.  Place okra and olive oil in a gallon-sized Ziploc and shake to coat.  Place okra on a nonstick baking sheet in a single layer.  Place in preheated oven and roast until tender, about 10-15 minutes.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mexican Sour Cream Rice

 Authentic?  Not a chance.  Delicious?  Ohhh yeah!

This is the wonderful rice dish I promised you a couple of weeks ago, and believe me when I say it's worth the wait!  This rice concoction was creamy and spicy- the perfect complement to salsa chicken.  I'm usually not a leftovers type of girl, but I took it to work for lunch three days in a row!

Adapted from Allrecipes

* Gluten-free diners should check their chicken broth for sources of gluten.  This website has a list of gluten-free broths.  In addition, diners should check the sour cream and corn labels for sources of gluten.  Daisy produces gluten-free sour cream and Del Monte's whole kernel corn is gluten-free as well.

1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 jalapenos, finely diced
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 green onion, sliced

1.  In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. 

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. 

3.  In the pot with the cooked rice, mix the sour cream, jalapenos, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining cheese. 

4.  Bake uncovered 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.  Top with green onion slices and serve.
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lard-Free Flour Tortillas

Once upon a time, I told y'all that I'm not real big on breakfast foods.  I guess I'm coming around, though, because I now wake up itching to cook up a big breakfast at least one day a week.  This morning, I got up and immediately began pouting about the paper I need to rewrite because I failed to click the save button caught a craving for breakfast tacos.  But not your standard fast food fare- no, I wanted the kind that would bring me back to the Saturday morning afternoon Taco Taco trips of my college days.

But first, I needed tortillas.

I'll admit that the idea of making tortillas has always scared the everliving daylights out of me.  But now that I've done it, I don't know why I waited so long.  Homemade tortillas are WAY tastier than the bagged grocery store variety, and they take zero extra skill at all.  If you can operate a rolling pin, you can make a tortilla!  I filled them with scrambled eggs and salsa and they really hit the spot.  Now, I just need to figure out how to use the rest of them!

Adapted from Allrecipes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter (original recipe called for lard, but I didn't have any)
3/4 cups water


1.  Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Mix in the lard with your fingers until the flour resembles cornmeal. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together; place on a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. 

2.  Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll a dough ball into a thin, round tortilla. Place into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side. Set aside and repeat until all tortillas have been cooked.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Crockpot Salsa Chicken

This dish is so easy that I'm hesitant to call it a recipe at all.  I like to make a big batch of salsa chicken and freeze it in portions to use in other recipes- tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, you name it. If you decide to give it a go, do pick a spicy salsa because the level of heat will decrease with the long cook time.

Oh, and that rice concoction sitting beside it?  Heaven. 

Looking for a quick and easy crockpot taco recipe but tired of chicken?  Check out my crockpot carnitas!

As seen on Trainer Momma 

* Gluten-free diners should double-check their salsa for sources of gluten.

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 oz of your favorite salsa

Combine in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  (I put it on to cook before I left for work today, so mine cooked for about 10 hours and it was fine.)
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Banana Choco-Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Mr. Ommy Noms and I have a sweet, sweet little fox terrier mix who's pretty much the light of our lives.  But, as my grandma would say, "He's spoiled so rotten that he stinks."  Yes, it seems that our little darling has learned that barking his head off when we're not in the room will make one of "his people" appear as if by magic.  He pulled that trick at an inhumanely early hour 9:30 this morning.

I couldn't go back to sleep, so I headed into the kitchen to forage.  We had several overly ripe bananas, and not much else.  (We're definitely past due for a grocery store trip!)  I wasn't in the mood for banana bread, but Google led me to this nifty banana cookie recipe and I started mixing.

Let me tell you, these cookies will rock your world.  They are moist with a delicious banana flavor.  Do keep an eye on them, as my first batch got too brown at the recommended 18 minute mark.  I baked the next pan for 16 minutes and they were perfect.

As seen on Erin Cooks, originally from The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup oatmeal (not quick-cooking)
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 bananas, cut into 1/4 to1/3 inch pieces

1.  Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease two baking sheets or line them with buttered parchment paper.
2.  In a small bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together, set aside.
3.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until blended, about 1 minute. The mixture may look slightly curdled.
4.  On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Mix in the oatmeal. Mix in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Use a large spoon to mix in the banana pieces, mixing just until they are evenly distributed and some of the pieces are mashed but most are still visible, about 20 seconds.
5.  Use a tablespoon to drop heaping spoonfuls of dough (about 3 level tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 3 inches apart. (I just eyeballed it.)
6.  Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are lightly browned and the tops look dry, about 16-18 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, than use a wide spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
7.  The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container, layered between sheets of wax paper, at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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Chocolate Crinkles

You know, sometimes a girl just needs a chocolate fix.  Chocolate crinkles are my go-to give-me-chocolate-NOW treat.  The sugared outside gets slightly crisp, while the inside is soft and fudgy.

I usually don't think far enough ahead to chill the dough for 4 hours, so I just pop the bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.  I return the bowl to the freezer between batches to make sure the dough doesn't get too soft.

Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1. In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.
(I have stuck the dough in the freezer before and cooled it for a shorter amount of time.)

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into one inch balls. I like to use a number 50 size scoop. Coat each ball in confectioners' sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Fannie Farmer Macaroni and Cheese

I've been feeling under the weather the past few days, and Mr. Ommy Noms has been taking great care of me.  He's been requesting homemade macaroni & cheese for awhile, and I made it tonight as a "thank you" for all the medicine- and blanket-fetching he's done.  I found this recipe on Mocha Me, but it actually hails from a 1946 Fannie Farmer cookbook.  I enjoy trying old recipes, so I decided to give it a go.  It turned out so good!  I'm looking forward to having it again tomorrow night with some seared tilapia!

I didn't really know what "buttered breadcrumbs" was supposed to mean, so I just double-toasted a couple slices of bread and crunched them into crumbs.

As seen on Mocha Me; originally from the Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, 1946 edition

1 (8 ounce) package macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream (I used half & half)
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese (buy the block and shred it yourself)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, buttered

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended.

Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly).

Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) 10 minutes.

Add shredded cheese little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Turn off flame. Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Skillet Chicken with Peppers and Peanuts

This was a throw-together meal that turned out so tasty I cooked it again the following week.  The marinade gives the dish a nice Asian-inspired flavor.  The first time I made it, I marinated the chicken for a full 24 hours and thought the meat tasted a little too salty.  If you're going to marinate it for that long, I'd recommend using low-sodium soy sauce.

This would make a great after-work dish because the bulk of the cook time is hands-off.

From How Sweet It Is
Serves 3

*  Gluten-free diners should ensure that their soy sauce is gluten-free.  Kikkoman now produces a gluten-free soy sauce that is clearly labeled.  Additionally, double-check your peanuts for gluten sources.  Diamond Nuts brand peanuts are gluten-free.  You may opt to substitute plain peanuts for the dry roasted ones.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used large ones)
1 each: red, green, yellow pepper, sliced into thin rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

For the marinade:
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sherry wine (I just used a couple tbsp of vermouth)
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced

2-24 hours beforehand, combined marinade ingredients in a baking dish. Add chicken to the marinade and let marinate for 2-24 hours, turning occasionally to coat.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Heat an oven-safe skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet and add pepper slices with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Remove peppers to a plate and turn heat up to medium high. Add chicken breasts and sear on each side until well browned, about 5 minutes. After the second side has seared, top the chicken with the pepper slices and add the entire skillet to the oven uncovered.

3.  Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with peanuts. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  Serve over rice.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oreo Cheesecake Bars


Sorry for going MIA on y'all- I went back to work on Monday and I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Even though I've been getting to school early and staying late, it's SO hard to get everything done!  I'm probably not going to be doing a lot of cooking in the next couple weeks, but I've got a backlog of summer recipes all queued up and ready to share!  This is one of my recent favorites.

I get together with a group of coworkers to play Bunco about once a month, and we take turns bringing an entree or dessert to share with the group.  When I saw these Oreo cheesecake bars on Annie's Eats, I knew I couldn't go wrong.  (After all, the law of women states that chocolate + cheesecake = happiness!)  They tasted amazing and were gone in a snap.  I think next time, I will break up a few more Oreos to put in the cheesecake portion to get even more of that delicious Oreo-ness in every bite.

As seen on Annie's Eats; originally from You Made That Dessert? by Beth Lipton 

For the crust:
23 Oreo cookies
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. sour cream, at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped


1.  Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with foil.  To make the crust, place the Oreos in the bowl of a food processor.  Process, pulsing, until the cookies are finely ground.  Add in the melted butter and pulse until the cookie crumbs are moistened.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan.  Press the crumbs into an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside and prepare the filling while maintaining the oven temperature.

2.  To make the filling, add the cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the sugar until well combined.  Blend in the sour cream, vanilla and salt.  Beat in the egg and egg yolk on medium-high speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Stir in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula.

3.  Pour the cheesecake batter over the prepared crust, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly wobbly in the center.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool about 1 hour to room temperature.  Cover the pan and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours.

4.  To cut the bars, pull the cake from the pan by lifting the foil up out of the pan.  Place on a cutting board, peel away the foil, and slice into bars.  Clean the knife blade between each slice to keep the edges neat.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chop Steak & Gravy

First of all, let me just say you can't judge this meal by its picture.

This chop steak and gravy was a country girl's dream.  It was super flavorful and tasted great with a heaping helping of mashed potatoes from a box.  My gravy didn't get as brown as I expected it to, although I think that may have something to do with the fact that I used mega-super-lean-endorsed-by-the-American-Heart-Association ground beef.  (I'd like to say I used it to cut down on fat and calories, but the real reason is that it was the only thing left in the store at 10:00 last night.)

Next time, I plan to use my standard ground sirloin to allow for a browner (Is that a word?) gravy.  I also plan to cook the steaks and veggies in separate batches.  My pan was pretty crowded with the onions, mushrooms, and meat cooking at the same time.

Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 4

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
6 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef broth

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, pepper, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Form into 4 balls, and flatten into patties. 

2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the patties and cook until well-browned, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the beef patties to a plate, and cover with foil to keep warm.  

3.  Saute the onion and mushroom slices in the drippings until onions are translucent, adding more oil if necessary.  Sprinkle flour over the vegetable mixture. Stir well, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  

4.  Gradually add the beef broth, stirring well after each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the gravy thickens. 

5.  Turn heat to low and return patties to the gravy.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Adjust seasonings to taste and serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rice Pudding

My Mom will tell you, I've always been a pretty adventurous eater.  As a kid, I'd eat pretty much anything as long as it didn't involve:

A)  Sweet pickles
B)  Olives
or C)  School cafeteria pig-in-the-blanket (Sausage should *NOT* be slimy.  Blech.)

But rice pudding was one of those things that never sounded appealing to me.  Rice + pudding just didn't seem to jive.  I ordered it for the first time a couple years ago at a local South American restaurant.  (They were out of my beloved coconut sorbet, and I don't do cappuccino.)  One very cautious bite later, I was hooked.  Since then, I've eaten it at several different restaurants and loved it every time.

As you can see, I finally got around to making it at home a few days ago.  It was SO good!  This recipe doesn't take a lot of time or effort, and it won't totally trash your diet.  The original recipe doesn't specify which type of rice to use, but pudding is best with a short grain white rice.  I used Arborio, and the finished product was wonderfully creamy.

Adapted from
Serves 4

3/4 cup Arborio rice
2 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
Cinnamon, to taste

1.  In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. 

2.  In another saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk and beaten egg. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Garnish with cinnamon.  May be served warm or chilled.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011


I'm on the hunt for a low-fat, high-fiber breakfast cookie.  I've tried two different recipes- one resulted in a kitchen full of smoke and the other had a great flavor, but the texture was like that of warm Play-doh.  (Yuck.)  If you've got a tried-and-true recipe, PLEASE pass it on!
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Cajun Chicken Pasta

After a long day of studying, this was the perfect 20-minute entree.  It was so rich and spicy- we loved it!  In the future, I would probably stir a teaspoon of cornstarch into the half-and-half to thicken the sauce up a bit.

Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 2

4 ounces linguine pasta
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 large button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Additional Cajun seasoning to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

2.  Meanwhile, dry chicken with paper towel and season with Cajun seasoning. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the chicken in butter or margarine until almost done (5 to 7 minutes).

3.  Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, mushrooms and onion. Saute and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat.


4.  Add the half-and-half and basil. Heat through. Add the cooked linguine, toss and heat through. Add additional Cajun seasoning to taste.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream

What's even better than homemade brownies?
Homemade red velvet brownies!

What's even better than homemade red velvet brownies?
Red velvet brownies topped with a decadent white chocolate buttercream.  Delicioso!

I went to a birthday party today and was charged with finding the perfect dessert to bring.  When I came across these brownies on Smells Like Home, I knew my search was over.  They were the hit of the party- moist and sinfully chocolatey.  I was worried that the frosting would be too sweet based on Tara's review, so I used an alternate buttercream recipe.  I was glad I did- the simple combination of butter, melted white chocolate, and a touch of powdered sugar was pure perfection.

Red Velvet Brownies, as seen on Smells Like Home, originally from How Sweet It Is
White Chocolate Buttercream, adapted from Grace Parisi

For the brownies:
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz red food coloring (I used 1 oz)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

For the white chocolate buttercream:
5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
4 oz good white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Splash of vanilla extract, optional

For the brownies:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.
2.  In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and 1 tsp vanilla into a thick paste until not lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in the remaining 1 tsp of vanilla.  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color.  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.

4.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored (red) batter.

5.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30* minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.  Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.

*Note- My brownies took about 45 minutes.

For the frosting:
1.  In a medium bowl, use a handheld electric mixer to beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the melted white chocolate. Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat at low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Sizzling Hot Shrimp

I tell you, I have been one busy lady lately.  I wrote eight essays last week, I've got seven due this week, and I'm taking my ESL certification exam on Saturday.  (Aaaah!)  I've been reaching for fix-it-fast favorites like pan-seared tilapia and Mongolian beef, but was longing to try something new.  Oishii came through again with this Shrimp Pil-Pil, more aptly described as Sizzling Hot Shrimp.

This dish was ready in a snap and went well over savory polenta.  It definitely had a kick to it, so it isn't for the faint of heart.  Next time, I plan to cook it in a nonstick skillet with only a tablespoon or two of oil so that I don't have to deal with any spattering.

Adapted from Oishii, originally from Liz Pearson
Serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or 1-2 tbsp in a nonstick skillet)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
1 teaspoon paprika 
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, sliced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley 
1 loaf crusty bread, sliced

1.  In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, paprika, and chipotle and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook until opaque, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.

2.  Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl and serve with the bread.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Savory Polenta

The Mister and I are not complicated folks.  We're way more likely to eat at a greasy elbows-on-the-table joint than anything with "Chez" in the name.

But we all have to step out of our comfort zones every now and then.

Last summer, we had dinner at Central Park Fusion, a fancy-pants restaurant in Hot Springs.  I chose the filet over creamy truffled polenta.  Now, I'm going to level with you here and admit that I didn't have a blessed clue what polenta would taste like, and wasn't sure that the yellowy mush was really something I wanted to put in my mouth.  I'm so glad I did, though, because it was amazing.  A-maz-ing- rich and savory, with a hint of corn flavor.

Aiming to recreate that dish, I tried a few different polenta recipes at home and have officially found the winner.  With an ingredient list this simple, it's hard to go wrong.  It has a very simple flavor that can be tweaked with additions like roasted poblano peppers or corn on- off-the-cob.

Adapted from Alton Brown
Serves 4

* Gluten-free diners should double-check the chicken broth for sources of gluten.  This website has a list of gluten-free broths.

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until they begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
3.  Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while whisking continuously. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every
10 minutes to prevent lumps.
4.  Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pimiento Cheese

Back in junior high, my best friend brought pre-packaged pimiento cheese for lunch every single day.  To put it nicely, that stuff looked like your neighbor's cat grabbed a mid-afternoon snack of carrot sticks, lemon Skittles, and rancid tomato sauce and then...

I guess I'll spare you.

Suffice it to say that it did NOT look appetizing, and I told her as much.  Almost a decade and a half later, I can still remember my visceral reaction when she tore off a corner of her sandwich and offered it to me.  "Try it, it's delicious," she protested, her mouth full of the offensive goop.

No, thank you.

Now that I'm old(er) and wise(r), I know that pimiento cheese isn't meant to be some tri-colored glop manufactured on heavy machinery and stuffed into vacuum-sealed packaging.  Last weekend, Mom and I whipped up a batch of this delicious homemade pimiento cheese.  The freshly shredded cheeses and chunks of red pepper were hard to resist.  It was a delicious topping for Bagel Thins, a great dip for kettle-cooked potato chips, and a wonderful sandwich filling.  (But I think my favorite way to eat it was straight out of the bowl!)

We opted for the suggested combination of cheeses, although you can mix and match to suit your preferences.  I hope you enjoy this pimiento cheese as much as I did.

Serves 20-25
Recipe adapted from

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 oz jar of pimientos, with juice
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Add cream cheese, mayonnaise, and pimientos to a large bowl and stir to combine.
2.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Adjust seasonings to taste.
3.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Corn-Fettuccine Salad

Souper Salad is definitely my favorite lunch spot.  I always enjoy nomming down on their crunchy chow mein noodles, gingerbread cake, blueberry bread, and complimentary soft-serve ice cream - uh... lettuce.  But my absolute MOST favorite thing to pile on my plate at Souper Salad is definitely the fettuccine pasta salad.  It's got sweet corn and parmesan, all wrapped up in tasty pasta goodness.

I came across a copycat recipe for that glorious salad awhile back and had to try it out.  Copycat recipes often miss the mark, but this one is a definite keeper.  It went well with leftover blackened chicken.

Adapted from

8 oz. Fettuccine
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prepare fettuccine according to package directions.  Drain.
2.  In a large bowl, combine the pasta, mayonnaise, corn, parmesan, and garlic powder.  Stir well, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve chilled.
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Hey, good lookin', look what I've been cookin'!

I'm going to take a momentary detour away from foodage to show you what I've been cooking up all week!  I changed classrooms this year and have finally got everything *mostly* set up.  Enjoy!

This is the right side of my classroom, just inside the door.  The short tables will be our writing center, and I got mini mailboxes from Goodwill so the kids can write letters to one another.

This is my classroom library!  I rescued that bookcase from the trash last year and painted it.  I've still got lots of books in the cabinets, but this will get the kids started on learning how to put them in the correct baskets.  To your left is the listening/Leappad center and a colorful student work display.

The little bookshelf will be used to house students' independent browsing boxes.  I made the curtains for my horseshoe table and teacher desk last year and draped some extra fabric over the bulletin board to cover its yellowy ugliness.  My time-out table (aka the Chill Chair) is to the left of the bookcase.

This will be our word wall.  Mom helped me out early this week by hanging LOTS of border for me.  (Thanks Mom!)

This is the front of the room.  My calendar stuff will all be set up off to the right, but I don't have everything checked out to me yet.

This will be the gallery for all those wonderful masterpieces the kids bring for me!

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Blackening Mix

Summertime during childhood usually meant day trips to Galveston.  After a stroll down Seawall Boulevard, we always made a beeline straight for Gaido's Seafood.  Now, Gaido's is kind of a fancy-pants restaurant to a kid, but I certainly didn't mind.   I'm still convinced that foodie heaven lies somewhere amidst the skewers of blackened shrimp and the thick slices of parmesan-crusted green tomatoes.

I haven't been to Gaido's in years, but I caught a craving for blackened-anything last week.  I whipped up a batch of blackened chicken using this flavorful homemade rub.  It was delicious, and I can't wait to try it with shrimp!

Blackening mix adapted from

1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar

1.  Combine spices in a small bowl and mix well.  Store in an airtight container.


Blackened chicken adapted from Allrecipes

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 tbsp blackening mix
1 tbsp olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness.  Pat dry and sprinkle with blackening mix on both sides.

2.  Pour olive oil in a nonstick, oven-safe skillet.  Heat over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking.  Add chicken breasts and sear, about 3 minutes per side.

3.  Place skillet in the preheated oven and bake until internal temperature is 165 degrees, 15-20 minutes.
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I've got lots of good stuff to share with y'all in the coming days, but here's a little something to tide you over.  A couple of months ago, I bought a lovely little poblano plant at Lowe's.  It's now about four feet tall and has yet to produce a single pepper.  I walked outside this morning and saw that it's officially covered with blooms- wahoo!

But I also met this little guy.

Now, if you knew me in real life, you'd know that I'm terrified of spiders, and pretty much any other creepy-crawly thing.  I'm talking scream-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-break-out-into-hives-and-burst-into-tears scared.  But this little guy was neat.  His body was translucent, and he was waving his front legs all around.  I decided to get a little closer so that I could take an awesome macro picture of his eyes.  Are you ready to see the shot?

Are you sure?

Here goes nothing...


..."Why Lauren," you might say, "those spider eyes look an awful lot like a tree and the roof of your house!"

Yeah.  That's because the little turd decided to JUMP ON ME.  I screamed like a little girl and ran into the house.  But there were no tears this time.  

Okay, maybe just one. 
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