Monday, February 28, 2011

Banana Bread Larabar

I love Larabars, but they are super expensive.  I was motivated to make my own when one of the blogs that I follow posted a whole bunch of different homemade versions of Larabars.  I figured that I could save myself a few bucks in the end if I started making my own, and I love love love the banana bread bars so I whipped up this version first.  The ingredients?  3 simple ones that you might already have lying around in your kitchen.  Rating 8/10.

Substitute raisins for the dates if you have diabetes!  I think that Dole is the best brand of raisin for this job, as they are much more moist than many other raisin brands (it has also won the award for Best Taste from Chefs Best since 2005). 


1 cup of almonds
1 cup of dates- chopped and seeded (or Dole raisins)
1/2 - 1 cup of banana chips (I tried making my own, and after a few hours in the oven the bananas were still mushy but it turned out fine)

Grind the almonds in a food processor and set aside in a bowl.
Place the dates and banana chips in the food processor and give them a spin until well-blended.
Hand mix the almonds and date/banana mixture together.
Scoop out a desired portion size, place on saran wrap and mold into a bar.
Refrigerate and grab one when you are on the go!
Makes about 4-8 serving sizes (depending on how hungry you are!)

Ants on Turf

This is my brain child.  I'm so proud!  I was dunking some celery into a brand new vat of peanut butter, and simultaneously thinking about how my bland rice cakes could benefit from a thick coat of PB.  Then I thought about how combining all of that with some raisins would be pretty satisfying.  Ants on a log meets boring rice cakes!  It's pretty nummy, easy, and healthy.  I've lost my marbles and can't find the raisins that I JUST bought, but dried cranberries worked just well.  If you like ants on a log and don't want to eat too much celery in order to be satisfied, you'll probably liked this.

Necessary ingredients
Rice cakes
Peanut butter
Raisins or dried cranberries

The procedure is simple.
Slather peanut butter on the rice cake.
Thinly slice the celery and arrange it on top of the rice cake.
Sprinkle raisins or dried cranberries on top.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Orange Chicken

I love Chinese food.  I didn't know this until I actually went to China.  I then realized that the problem with the Chinese food that I had before was that it wasn't authentic.  Did you know that there aren't even fortune cookies in China?  No one really knows where fortune cookies originated, but they are based off of a Japanese cookie.  Anyway... I never actually pictured myself cooking Chinese food, but I saw this on a blog and it looked too good to pass up.  Is this dish authentic Chinese?  I am not sure, I've never had orange chicken before.  What I can say that it is GOOD, especially with brown rice. 7.5/10.

Recipe adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen
Originally from America's Test Kitchen

  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3-4 oranges)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest- I recommend doing this while the orange is still unpeeled
  • 6 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (I used light, and missed out on the rich and deep color)
  • 3 cloves garlic- minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger- grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts- cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoon cold water
  • 8 small whole dried red chiles- optional
  • 8 thin strips orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or canola)
  • Green onion- optional
Combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
Marinate the chicken with 3/4 cup of the prepared marinade for one hour.
After one hour heat the remaining marinade to a boil in a over high heat.
Stir the cornstarch and water together, and add to the the pan.
Reduce the heat and stir until thick (about one minute).  Add in the orange peel strips and the dried red chilis.  Set aside.
Heat up the oil over medium-high heat and add in the chicken and saute until cooked through.
Reheat the sauce and then toss the chicken in it.
Serve over rice.
Top with optional green onion garnish.

    Beef Bulgogi

    Don't ask me how to pronounce that.  I should probably ask my Korean tutee one of these days...  Romanization of foreign languages (and English too) makes me wish that we used the international phonetic alphabet, and then learning the IPA last semester would have been worth it.  Anyway, this is a lip-smacking version of one of the first meals that I made when I first inched my way into the world of recipes about a year ago.  I have the original recipe that I used posted in one of my early posts, but I added way too many veggies to that dish.  The addition of pear nectar was unexpected, and really made this dish stand out.  Try it when prime sirloin goes on sale!  Rating 8/10.


    • 1.5 lb prime sirloin, or another quality cut
    • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    • 2 cloves garlic- minced
    • .5 teaspoon white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup pear nectar (can be found in a can in the ethnic/hispanic aisle)
    • 1 carrot- julienned (I did this with a peeler)
    • 1 green onion- chopped 
    • 1 green pepper- sliced into thin wedges
    • 1/2 red onion- sliced into wedges
    • 1 tbsp canola oil
    • prepared rice

    Remove fat from the prime sirloin and discard.
    Combine all of the liquids with the spices/seasonings.
    Place the meat in a bag and marinate with the above marinade overnight (or for at least 3 hours).
    Start cooking your rice ahead of time.
    Prepare the veggies.
    Cut up the meat into thin bite-sized pieces.  Reserve about a cup of the marinade.
    Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat until shimmering.
    Add the meat to the wok and cook until browned.  
    Add the vegetables and reserved marinade and cook until tender.
    Serve over rice, spoon the sauce over rice if desired.
    Top with additional sesame seeds.
    Consume.  Give thanks for awesome flavors.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Hot Chocolate and a Giveaway

    One of those things that I never ever thought about making before was homemade hot chocolate.  It is so simple to just tear open a hot chocolate packet, dump it in a mug full of milk, and nuke it.  Buying Dutch-processed hot chocolate was one of those weak buy-everything-Penzey's-has-to-offer moment. Even though I can't stop thinking about fresh and spring-appropriate food, I have been drinking hot chocolate like my life depends on it.  This is a nummy, simple, and super quick recipe to get your hot chocolate on!  Rating 8/10.

    1 cup milk
    2 tbsp dutch-processed cocoa powder
    1 tbsp turbinado sugar
    A dash or two of vanilla extract

    Vigorously whisk together the milk, cocoa, and sugar in a pot until all of the ingredients are thoroughly blended.
    Heat over medium heat until the hot chocolate reaches desired temperature.

    Serves 1, multiply to get desired amount of servings

    Now, here's the good part of this post!

    $40 CSN Giveaway- Closed

    For those of you who are involved in the food blog world, you're probably already familiar with the CSN giveaways.  CSN has one main website where you can shop, but it also has separate online "stores" where you can shop for more specific things, such as flat panel TV stands.  There is something for everyone on CSN's collection of sites! 

    Giveaway rules
    To qualify for this giveaway you must
    • be a follower of my blog.  Just click that button up there on the right sidebar that says follow!  
    • Be a citizen of the US or Canada (CSN doesn't ship outside of North America)
    Once that is taken care of you have four chances to win, post a separate comment for each on this post.
    • Leave a comment telling me what springtime dish you are most looking forward to cooking
    • Let me know what you would buy from CSN if you win
    • Check out some flat panel TV stands from CSN's respective TV stand site and let me know which one suits your fancy
    • Link this promotion in a tweet 

    Giveaway ends on March 4th. 
    I will randomly select a comment using a random number generator. 
    Make sure that I have access to your email so I can notify you if you win! 

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    BBQ Pizza

    I think that my pizza preferences have definitely marked milestones in my maturation.  As a kid I would only eat cheese pizza (to be more specific I only truly loved Jack's frozen cheese pizza).  In my adolescence I learned to appreciate tomatoes, and eventually discovered how awesome Neapolitan pizza is.  Now that I'm the big 2-1 I feel like I can move on to even more mature pizza, hence the pesto pizza from not too long ago. 

    Last Wednesday was another big pizza maturation marker, I had BBQ pizza for the first time!  I was at a workshop for tutoring English to non-native speakers and we were provided with Glass Nickel pizza (num!).  I figured that we would be provided with the usual pepperoni and sausage snooze fest that I've come to expect at events like these, but NONE OF THE PIZZAS LOOKED SAFE.  Feta cheese on pizza?  Woah, I almost passed out from the excitement.  That one I didn't like too much (it had mushrooms- not my favorite!), but the BBQ pizza?  Oh man, I almost wished that I hadn't told Alex to make dinner that night so I could properly pig out on the awesomeness that is BBQ pizza.  I canceled my menu for Saturday night so I could introduce Alex to this bad boy.  I knew that this would be great on my newly-acquired pizza crust recipe and made a mental note of the ingredients.  I need to figure out what brand Glass Nickel uses, since neither of the sauces that I had seemed to fit the bill.  I used Sweet Baby Ray's, which does the trick but isn't quite as good as my inspiration.  Rating 9.5/10
    Do you like my square crust?  This was my attempt at a circle.  

    • Premade herbed dough
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)
    • 1/2 red onion- diced, sliced into half-rings, whatever
    • 1 red pepper- diced
    • 1 roma tomato- seeded and chopped
    • 1 pre-cooked chicken breast- cubed
    • cilantro to taste- rinsed and chopped
    • shredded cheese to taste (I used a pizza double cheese from Sargento)

    Preheat oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone inside
    Spread out dough into desired size/shape and bake on a cornmeal-smothered pizza stone for four minutes. 
    Depending on how thick you toss your dough you may need to cook for more or less time, you don't want to overcook this delicious crust.
    Remove dough from oven with a pizza peel.
    Brush on a layer of extra virgin olive oil over the entire surface.
    Spread BBQ sauce over the toppings region.
    Top with everything but cheese and cilantro.
    Reduce temperature to 400 degrees.
    Replace pizza in oven. 
    Bake for about 4-5 more minutes (or until veggie toppings are moderately cooked and the dough is almost cooked completely) and then add the cheese. If your cheese is finely shredded you can add the cheese after you take the pizza out, this way you won't overcook the cheese.
    Cook until the cheese has melted slightly and add the cilantro.  Bake until the cilantro has wilted a bit (about 1 minute).
    Add more cheese if needed, enjoy!

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Lemon Asparagus Pasta

    Today I stepped in mud for the first time this year.  Instead of my first thought being "ewwie yucky gross", I decided that it was a sign that heavy rib-sticking winter stews and roasts are no longer acceptable (watch as it snows five feet and I'm running to the store to get ingredients for a heavy duty stew).  One of the things that I miss the most about the sunny seasons is Noodles & Company's lemon asparagus pasta, so I decided to recreate it at home.  Rating 7/10.

    Ingredients (for the most part the measurements are estimates- adjust to your needs)

    8 oz whole wheat pasta (linguine, spaghetti, whatever)
    6 oz snap peas
    6 oz asparagus- sliced
    1-2 large garlic cloves- minced
    1-2 tsp lemon rind
    1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice- to taste
    A dash of salt
    Feta cheese- to taste
    Grated Parmesan cheese- to taste

    Prepare pasta according to instructions on package.
    Add the asparagus during the last three minutes of pasta cooking time.
    In the last minute of cooking time add the snap peas.
    When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and mix in the garlic, lemon rind, lemon juice, and salt.
    Top with Parmesan and Feta.

    You could probably add some spinach- but that was too much green for me to handle. 

    Makes about 4 servings.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Deconstructed Potsticker Quinoa Salad

    Let me first start out by saying that this dish is glorious.  Nom nom nom!  I'm pretty sure that it is best suited as a side dish, but I ate two meal-sized portions on one sitting.  I took advantage of Alex working tonight in order to make a meat-free dish.  I even made a bed of spinach to increase the veggie factor.  This would be great with bite-sized stir-fried chicken as well (I made Alex eat some leftovers, and sure enough he commented about how it needs meat)!  It is simple, prepared in less than 20 minutes (unless you're really taking your time to savor each slice into the cabbage), and easily packed with even more veggies!  Remember that quinoa quadruples in size when cooked, so 1 cup will easily produce enough for four sides.  Rating 9.9/10.

    Adapted from Naturally Ella
    2 cups water
    1 cup quinoa
    ~2 tsp canola oil
    2 cups of chopped cabbage (red or green)
    1 cup of carrots- diced
    3/4 cup green onion- diced
    1/2 cup zucchini- diced
    3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
    3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    2 tsp natural cane sugar
    2 tsp sesame oil
    Spinach (optional)

    Bring two cups of water to a boil.  Add quinoa and bring water back to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat and cook for 12 minutes.
    While the quinoa is getting its boil on heat a wok over medium heat.  Add the canola oil, carrots, green onion, and zucchini and cook until tender.
    Add the cabbage and continue to cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted.
    Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil to the vegetables and cook until most of the liquids have been cooked into the vegetables. 
    Stir the quinoa into the vegetables and serve on a bed of spinach.  If you like spinach that is.
    Top with green onion garnish.

    Turkey Picadillo

    Is Valentine's day over yet?  Ok, good!  Now I can move on with my life and forget that I ate 10 out of 12 cupcakes that I made on Sunday.  Usually Alex and I go out to a restaurant to celebrate, but we're poor!  So this year I decided to bring Valentine's day dinner to our own kitchen.  To make it extra special I actually made side dishes- plural!  Usually I'll just make rice or something simple that doesn't need to be timed so it comes out at the same time as the entree, but last night I made rice AND baked tostones.  Woah!  The recipe called for alcaparrado (no idea what that is), but some jalapeno would add the extra kick that makes this dish pop.  Rating 8/10.

    Recipe adapted from Gina's Skinny Recipes
    • 1 lb lean ground turkey
    • 1/2 onion-chopped
    • 1 clove of garlic- minced
    • 1 tomato, chopped
    • 1/2 bell pepper- finely chopped
    • 2 tbsp cilantro-chopped
    • 4 oz (1/2 can) sodium-free tomato sauce
    • kosher salt to taste
    • fresh ground pepper to taste
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1-2 bay leaf
    • 2 tbsp alcaparrado (capers or green olives would work too) OR diced jalapeno to taste
    • Romaine lettuce leaves for wraps (optional)
    Spray a large pan with pam and cook and break up the turkey through on medium heat.
    While the turkey is cooking prepare the garlic, tomato, pepper, and cilantro cilantro.  I just threw them all in my mini food-prep.
    Add the prepared veggies, tomato sauce, cumin, and bay leaf to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Add up to 1/4 cup of water to thin things out if desired.
    Cover and simmer for 15-25 minutes.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Brown Velvet Cupcakes

    I generally don't make unhealthy baked goods.  Ever.  After porking up for a while in college, and then going into a crazy health/pilates phase, I can finally fit back into my skinny high school jeans.  So, I can only justify baking chocolatey items when it is a special event.  Granted, we celebrated Valentines day yesterday.  But, I felt like I needed to add something a little special special to make the official holiday-day a little more special.  And I wanted to make it up to Alex for making him watch Maid in Manhattan last night (I needed to appease my inner-preteen).  I used whole wheat pastry flour to make myself feel better.  Rating 8/10.

    Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction

    1 whole wheat pastry flour (or cake flour)
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    2/3 cup vegetable oil
    3/4 cup turbinado sugar
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons red food coloring
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    3/4 teaspoon white vinegar

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl.
    In a stand mixer using the whisk combine the oil and sugar.  Add in an egg and combine.
    On the slowest setting add in the vanilla (this would be a good time to add in red food coloring if you want to do so).
    Mix in half of the flour mixture, mix in half of the buttermilk, repeat.  Don't overmix!
    In a small bowl combine the baking soda and vinegar.  Add to the batter and mix for ten seconds.
    Pour into lined cupcakes wells.
    Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
    Produces 12 cupcakes.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Lychee Smoothie

    One of my favorite things about China was being exposed to so many different kinds of food.  My favorite food there??  Definitely the fruit.  Oh, and bubble tea.  And I kind of liked the chicken dishes that had colored sprinkles all over them, but only for the aesthetics.  Anyway, I was delighted when I found some lychee juice at the grocery store the other day, and immediately grabbed it up.  Granted, the first ingredient listed is pear juice... so pear juice (or a few pears) would work just as well for this light drink.
    I made this up when I got home from school today because I accidentally bought a wrap that had olives in it (if you've read my about me page you'll know that I detest olives) and had rancid breath for hours.  I wanted something scrumptious and cleansing immediately, and voila- a smoothie!  I know that I've been posting non-stop about smoothies, which may seem ridiculous considering that all that you need for a good smoothie is some fruit or veggies.  However, even though this recipe is super duper simple I thought that it would be a nice way to remind people to throw in some unexpected ingredients into their smoothies once in a while.

    1 cup of lychee juice (there are variations on the spelling), pear juice, actual lychees, or chopped up pear
    1 cup of frozen strawberries
    1 frozen banana

    Give ingredients a whirl in the blender and serve immediately.

    Sweet tooth acting up?
    Put a whopping dollop of whipped cream in with the fruit.  Nummmm.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Carrot Cake Smoothie

    I'm going to be out of town this weekend at an international job fair in Iowa.  I'll be back in time to watch the Pack take the Superbowl (more like eat superbowl food, but I can pretend to care who wins)!  In the meantime here is a healthy smoothie for you to gulp down.

    Ever since I discovered that organic carrots actually taste good (unlike their unorganic counterparts- blah!), I've been trying to find interesting ways to incorporate them into our diet.  I never ever thought that I would be making a smoothie with carrots, but when I stumbled across this recipe on Oh She Glows, I knew that I had to try it.  This is definitely a great way to get in some veggie servings!  I found the flavor to be light and sweet, and a few extra pinches of cinnamon helped boost the flavor.  I've been meaning to make this with ice cream instead of almond milk (or half ice cream half almond milk), since I like to have a thicker consistency to my smoothies.  Rating 7.5/10.
    Recipe from Oh She Glows
    2 carrots
    2 cups almond milk (OR ICE CREAM!!)
    2 frozen bananas
    4 ice cubes
    2 tbsp ground flax seed
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    cinnamon to taste

    Combine everything in blender and serve.
    Makes 2-4 servings.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011


    Alex and I have a favorite restaurant that we only go to on special occasions because it is kind of expensive.  In order to get "our money's worth", we get one million refills on the naan bread.  I would usually stop after two refills, but Alex keeps the bread bowls coming (despite his paleo-diet).  So instead of going to a restaurant to practically make a meal out of the bread itself, I decided to make my own naan last night.  I had some extra dough so I refrigerated it and made dinner out of the leftovers tonight.  No actual meal ordering at our beloved restaurant to get our carb-fill necessary!  Anyway, this is a great base recipe that can be modified with any variety of spices or herbs.  It is delicious with a sprinkle of zatar (sold at specialty spice stores or online), but it can really stand on its own without any accessory flavors.  Not only is it delicious, but cheap!  I found this recipe on Budget Bytes and it supposedly only costs about $1.27 for the whole recipe.  That definitely will keep me from splurging on the frozen naan bread that Trader Joe's sells for much more money for much less bread!  Did I mention that this is ridiculously fun, simple, and quick to make??? Rating 9/10.
    Recipe from Budget Bytes
    2 tsp dry active yeast
    1 tsp sugar
    1/2 cup warm water
    ~3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1/3 cup greek yogurt
    1 egg
    Optional spices

    Combine the yeast, sugar, and water in a bowl and mix well.
    After the yeast mixture becomes frothy mix in the vegetable oil, yogurt, and egg.
    In a medium bowl (around 3 qt in size) mix 1 cup of flour with the salt.
    Pour the liquid mixture into the flour and combine thoroughly.
    Continue to add in more flour until all of the flour has been mixed into the dough.
    Shape the dough into a ball, cover it with saran wrap, and let rise until doubled (about an hour).
    The dough can be used immediately after the rise has completed or it can be refrigerated and used once it is brought back down to room temp.

    Once the dough has risen, separate it into individual balls.  The size of the balls depend entirely on how small or large you want your naan to be.  Your naan could be as large as the skillet itself, or it could be "dunk-size". 
    Heat a skillet over medium heat.
    Roll each ball 1/4" flat immediately before cooking.
    Spray the skillet with PAM and cook the flattened dough until bubbles have formed on the top.
    Flip the naan and cook until the surface of the bubbles becomes golden brown.
    Eat smothered in hummus, butter, anything!


    This past weekend I bought a pretty hefty bag of sesame seeds for no good reason.  It wasn't even on sale!  I didn't think that it would be a big deal until a few days later when I was rearranging my overflowing pantry and noticed that I seem to do this a lot with Bob's Red Mill products.  A reminder for my future self- buy a house with a huge pantry and that has space for a garbage can that is NOT in the pantry so that things don't topple into it and probably get thrown away.  Anyway, I decided that I need to make a dent on my excessive baking goods supply and noticed that on the back of the sesame seed bag there was a recipe for tahini- which is the vital component of hummus that I can never ever find in stores.  I decided to whip some up some tahini in order to throw together this hummus, and it is fabulous.  This recipe came up as one of the first hits on my google search for hummus, and IT IS GOOD.  It has 4.6/5 stars on, which shows that other people think so too!  Rating 8/10.

    1 can of drained garbanzo beans
    3 tbsp tahini
    2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    1 clove garlic- minced
    1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1 pinch of paprika

    Mix everything together in a food processor, or blender if necessary (it may be hard to get a good blend going since there isn't much liquid).
    Put in a sealed container and refrigerate.

    Makes 1 pint of hummus.

    Chicken Cordon bleu

    The first time that I had chicken cordon bleu was a couple of years ago at a family friend's wedding.  I was enchanted.  I have tried to recreate it multiple times, but haven't gotten it quite yet.  Oh well, this is a tasty contender!  I had a hard time keeping the breading stuck to the chicken, but the breading is optional anyway.  Rating 7/10.
    4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
    4 slices virginia ham
    4 slices of cheese- I used gouda
    3 basil leaves per breast
    6 tbsp melted butter
    1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
    2 tbsp water
    1 egg
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    Preheat oven to 350.
    Flatten each chicken breast between two pieces of saran wrap.  Don't flatten too thin or else the chicken will fall apart!
    Place a piece of ham and cheese on each  breast.
    Roll the chicken up tightly and secure with a tooth pick.
    In a small bowl mix together the egg and water.
    In a separate bowl combine the butter and bread crumbs.
    With a pastry brush apply the egg wash and press on the bread crumbs.
    Heat the oil up in an oven-proof pan over medium heat and brown the chicken breasts for one minute on each side- skinny sides too!
    Place the pan in the oven and bake for 12 minutes.

    Optional mustard sauce
    1 tbsp dijon mustard
    3 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 tbsp olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste