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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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Muffins

I woke up yesterday morning with Muffin-Mind muffins on my mind.  (Okay, I'm a dork- I get it!)  I've had a penchant for cooking with oatmeal lately, so I found a tasty-looking oatmeal muffin recipe and got to work.  These babies really hit the spot!  They had the slightest hint of brown sugar flavor and kept me full all morning long.

I sprung for a mix-in of dried blueberries and pecans, but you can choose anything your little heart desires.  Even chocolate.  (I won't tell!)

Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 12 muffins

Note about cook time:  I checked my muffins after 14 minutes, and they were done.  I've left the original cook time in the recipe (in case my oven was running too hot), but you may want to check them early.

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup mix-in of your choice, optional
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine oats, milk, and brown sugar.  Let stand for 15 minutes. Stir in egg, oil, and mix-in. 
2.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir into oat mixture until just moistened.  
3.  Fill a greased muffin tin or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. 
4.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 16-18 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. 
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Monday, July 4, 2011

Spicing things up!

Hey y'all!  I have some super exciting news to share with you, but first, I want to let you know about a couple changes I've made to the blog.  In the right side bar, I've put a link to Ommy Noms' very own RSS feed, along with a search box so you can easily find a new favorite.  (Bretzel rolls, anyone?)

And now, onto the news!

I am very happy to announce that I've been featured on one of my favorite foodie blogs as a guest blogger!  Many thanks to Jessica for being a wonderful hostess.  Visit The Novice Chef to find out how I made these delicious oven-fried poblano rings!
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