Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homemade Salsa and Guacamole

You know what's ironic about my sharing this recipe?  Although I am a hispanic from South Texas, I got these recipes from a white lady in Arkansas!  I thought I'd share these just in time for the Super Bowl, if you need classic party food ideas. You'll need a food processor or blender for this.  This recipe makes around 36-48 ounces of salsa (I've never actually measured it)... but it keeps well in the fridge (it gets hotter the longer it sits), and I always make fresh guacamole with the salsa.  Enjoy!


purple onion (about 1/2), peeled and cut into quarters
garlic (fresh 1 clove diced or 1 tsp minced/jarred)
handful fresh cilantro - stems and all
1/2 lime (juice only)
1 tsp salt
small can (4 oz.) diced green chiles, undrained -- I use "mild"
large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 Tblsp. jalapeno (jarred) OR 1 fresh -- I use fresh, chopped, and I only put half the seeds in - the seeds are what gives it it's "hotness" - it makes it a notch above mild, which is how I like it.  You should put as many or as little seeds as you prefer.

In the order listed above, add each ingredient to the food processor and chop.  Voila!

4 avocadoes
Lawry's seasoning salt (or jalapeno salt, in Mexican spice section)
1/2 lime
salsa from previous recipe

Mash the avocadoes with a fork in a shallow bowl.  Put in several generous spoonfuls of the salsa and stir, until it "looks about right."  Squeeze in 1/2 lime, and season with salt.  Voila!

Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken with Sweet Onions

This is a scrumptious meal, perfect for company.  It's simple, unique, juicy and tasty.   I doubled the recipe and we served 8 (plus two children), with leftovers.  Our guests loved it (see the picture of Joe, smiling with his food?)

I got this meal from Whole Foods Recipes online ( )



1 1/2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 large sweet onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1 chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces* (* Note: If the chicken has been precut into eight pieces, simply cut each breast in half through the rib cage to ensure even cooking. Or, you can ask your butcher to cut a whole chicken into 10 pieces with breasts deboned). 
2 red or yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into chunks
1 lemon, sliced


Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil a large roasting pan and set aside. In a small bowl, combine paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar and oil to make a paste. Place onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the paste.  Rub chicken pieces with remaining paste and place in prepared pan, then cover with onions, peppers and lemon. Roast, basting occasionally with pan juices, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tortellini and Sausage Soup & Focaccia Bread

I love my Betty Crocker Cookbook. Growing up, my sisters and I loved making favorite recipes from my mom's Betty Crocker Cookbook. My mom's was very worn, beat up, and I think even made it through a fire. It was very well loved to say the least :) So when we each got married, my mom gave each of us our own new Betty Crocker Cookbook. It's such a must have in my kitchen. It is so informative and helpful with the pictures, great recipes, and great instructions! I know it's helped me become a better cook.

So what do you know, this meal is straight from Betty Crocker. :) Leah has an additional older edition Betty Crocker Cookbook that has the Tortellini & Sausage Soup, so I had to ask her for the recipe when she made it over Christmas - it's so good!

Tortellini & Sausage Soup:
(Betty Crocker)

1 lb bulk Italian Sausage
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 c.)
3 c. water
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried Basil
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, sliced
2 cans (10.75 oz) condensed tomato soup
8 oz. uncooked dried or 2 cups frozen tortellini
grated parmesan cheese (to top)

1.Cook and stir sausage, onion, and chopped carrots in 4 quart pot until sausage is browned, drain.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients, but cheese.
3. Heat to boiling; reduce heat
4. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables and tortellini are tender.
5. Serve with cheese and Focaccia bread (recipe below)

Focaccia Bread
(Betty Crocker)

Makes 2 Breads
2 1/2-3 cups flour
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package regular or quick active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup very warm water (120-130 degrees)
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

1. In large bowl, mix 1 cup of flour, the rosemary, sugar, salt and yeast. Add 3 tablespoons oil and the warm water. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl.

2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

3. Grease 2 cookie sheets or 12-inch pizza pans with small amount of oil or spray with cooking spray.

4. Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a flattened 10-inch round on cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or towel and let rise in warm place 30 minutes, or until dough doubles in size

5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. gently make 1/2-inch deep depressions about 2 inches apart in dough with fingers. Carefully brush with 2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or cool.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Garlic & Herb Chicken, White Wine Jasmine Rice, Sauteed Broccoli

This is what we had for dinner tonight - it was a big hit, and I always enjoy using wine in cooking.  This meal used wine twice - a white wine in the rice, and a red wine in the chicken dish.  First let's start with the Main Dish.  It's basically a chicken breast half, with a little "pocket" cut into it, filled with one of my favorite cheeses, Boursin (a soft, Gournay cheese) - see picture below.  Then the chicken is wrapped in prosciutto, and simmered in a red wine sauce.  It's creamy and full of flavor!  My regret is that the presentation is very lacking.  The photos I took of my chicken look terrible, so I apologize if it looks really gross.  It was really tasty, I promise!

Garlic & Herb Chicken
(from Quick and Easy by Steven Knowlden)

4 boneless chicken breast halves, skin removed
1/2 cup full-fat soft cheese, flavored with herbs and garlic (Boursin) -- see picture here.  (I used the whole pkg.)

8 slices prosciutto
2/3 cup red wine
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 tblsp. brown sugar

1) Using a sharp knife, make a horizontal slit along the length of each chicken breast half to form a pocket.
2) Beat the cheese with a wooden spoon to soften it.  Spoon the cheese into the pocket in the chicken pieces.
3) Wrap 2 slices of proscuitto around each chicken breast and secure firmly in place with a piece of string.
4) Pour the wine and chicken stock into a large skillet and bring to a boil.  When the mixture is just starting to boil, add the sugar, and stir well to dissolve.
5) Add the chicken breasts to the mixture in the skillet.  (Cover and) leave to simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat.
6) Remove the chicken from the pan; set aside and keep warm.
7) Reheat the sauce and boil until reduced and thickened.  Remove the string from the chicken and cut into slices.  Pour the sauce over the chicken to serve.


Gosh, I love Jasmine Rice so much!  Sometimes I prepare it very simply - boiled in water.  Often, I substitute Coconut Milk for a rich, creamy, unique taste.  This time, I used a mixture of half wine, half chicken broth, and tossed in a few chopped green onions.  Yumm-o!

White Wine Jasmine Rice

1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup Jasmine rice
1-2 green onions, chopped

Bring the wine and chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Once the water is boiling, stir in the rice and green onions, then bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover & simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork & serve.  To make the rice "stickier," use a little more liquid than the recipe calls for. 
Yields 2 cups cooked rice

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Hoagie Sandwich

I've been pretty sick with the flu all weekend, and therefore have been eating stuff out of my freezer and easy meals. Today was another "take it easy" day, but thought I'd post because we grew up on these broiled/toasted sandwiches and called them "Hoagies". As a kids, we would usually have different lunch meats & swiss cheese melted on top. For the version I made today here's what you need:

bolillo wheat rolls or any type of roll you prefer
lunch meat - use as little or as much as you want (I used 3 slices of turkey per sandwich)
cheddar cheese slices (or any cheese you like :)
sliced tomato

Set oven to Broil & place rack on top or 2nd to top shelf. Split rolls in half and layer ingredients on top of rolls.

Slide them into the oven for about 3-5 minutes (watch them to make sure they don't burn!) until cheese is melted and edges are toasty! I think broiling or toasting a sandwich makes it so much more yummy. :)

You can serve this with chips or fruit, whatever is in your pantry ;) Hope you all don't get what I've had, and hope your Sunday is filled with joy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Green Smoothie

I know once you read the ingredient list, you may be very skeptical that this is palatable...much less tasty... trust me, it is! My very picky 20 month old LOVES these, and I do too. This particular one isn't very "green" because of the frozen berries, but there's still spinach in there. I took a before and after pic for proof.

Here's the "foundation" recipe I use:
One banana
One cup of organic fresh, spinach
1/4-1/2 cup of yogurt or milk (My favorite yogurt is Stonyfield Farms Low-Fat French Vanilla)
1/2 cup ice cubes (I subbed frozen mixed berries for the ice cubes this time)
1/4 tsp Almond extract

Makes one large smoothie.

Mix in ideas:
1 T Almond Butter or Peanut Butter
1 T Flax Seeds
Orange Juice instead of milk/yogurt


adapted from:

Brown Sugar - Pecan Coffee Cake

I made this coffee cake for brunch at MOPS today. It was really easy and yummy. I subbed walnuts for pecans because I didn't have any pecans on hand...they were good, but I think pecans would be even better.

2 cups all-purpose Flour
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cubed
1 cup sour cream (I used light)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp baking soda
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

*Stir together flour and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender, 2 forks until crumbly. Press 2 3/4 cups cremb mixture evenly on the bottom of a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch pan.

* Stir together sour cream, egg, and baking soda; add to remaining crumb mixture stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour over crumb crust in pan.

*Stir together sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle over the cake.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutews or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Yield: 12 servings.

Recipe from: Southern Living Christmas Cookbook


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baking Powder Biscuits

This is an old family breakfast favorite.  We grew up eating biscuits similar to these (but not the same recipe).  I got this recipe from the back of the Clabber Girl Baking Powder.  I will share it not for personal credit, but simply because it makes the fluffiest, tastiest biscuits ever!  They are NOT healthy.  But they are sooo good!  My daughter LOVES to help me make these, especially when she gets to choose her own "animal shape" cookie cutter to use in lieu of a biscuit cutter.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 tblsp. Baking Powder
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (I put the stick still in the wrapper in the microwave on high for 15sec.)
2/3 cup milk

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, Baking Powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt.  Using a pastry blender (I use my bare clean hands), cut in shortening till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Make a well in the center; add milk all at once.  Using a fork, stir just till moistened.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for 10-12 strokes or till the dough is nearly smooth.  Pat or lightly roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut dough with a 2.5-inch biscuit cutter (we use animal shapes too!), dipping the cutter into flour between cuts. 

Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in a 450F oven for 10-12 minutes or till golden. Serve warm (with jelly!)

NOTE:  I notice flakier biscuits can be acheived by handling the dough as little as possible. This means do not over-stir the dough, do not over-knead the dough, do not roll it out perfectly smooth.  Just as long as it holds together fairly well - THEN the biscuits will be perfect. 

Oh, and HERE  is the original link for the recipe.  They also give some "variations" to try.

Homemade Pizza

What else is as versatile as homemade pizza?  I will give my recipe for pizza dough, as found in the little Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with my food processor, but then I will leave the toppings to YOU to decide, with a list of some of our favorites. 

My husband and I make regular "date nights" at home after our daughter is asleep, by heating up a pizza and watching a DVD at home.  Our favorite frozen pizza is DiGiorno's supreme, but it's also a guilty pleasure, and not too healthy.  When possible, I make a double batch of this pizza dough, and make about 6-7 pizzas, freezing them in vacuum-sealed bags (or just wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil).  That way, I can pop in a homemade-frozen pizza any night -- this way it is tastier AND a bit healthier too!
My daughter also enjoys decorating her own little pizzas.  This is a really fun kid recipe!


Pizza Dough


2 tsp. active dry yeast (should equal 1 pkg. - .25 oz)
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115 F)
3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  Let stand until foamy, about 3-5 minutes.  Insert dough blade in work bowl and add flour, salt and 2 tsp olive oil.

With machine running on dough speed, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour will absorb it.  Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball.  Then process for 30 seconds to knead dough.  Dough may be slightly sticky.  Coat dough evenly with 2 tsp. olive oil; transfer to a plastic food storage bag and seal the top.  Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.  While dough is rising, prepare any pizza toppings.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down.  Roll into desired crust sizes.  Arrange pizza crusts onto lightly oiled cookie sheets or pizza pans, and poke gentle holes all over with a fork.  Bake for about 5-10 minutes (partway cooked, just until it hardens a little bit.)  Remove from oven and spread toppings on top.  Bake again immediately for about 10-15 minutes until done, or freeze for later use.

We use Emeril's Spaghetti Sauce straight from the jar for our "red sauce."
Grated Mozzarella cheese
Red and Green Bell Peppers
Italian Sausage
Canadian Bacon
Fresh or canned pineapple
Crumbled Goat Cheese
Sliced tomatoes
Fresh Basil

Hearty Potato Soup

This recipe originally came from Betty Crocker, but I have added enough variations to merit some credit here.   This is a heart-warming meal for a winter day.  It is also very versatile, in that you may add vegetables or other ingredients.  You can also make this dairy free (although it definitely tastes better with cow's milk & cheddar cheese), and you can also make it gluten-free pretty easily too (by substituting gluten-free broth).
Enjoy!  ~Leah

3 cups water (with 3 chicken bouillon cubes added once it's boiling) or substitute chicken broth
10 medium potatoes (may peel if you'd like), cubed
2-3 medium celery stalks, chopped
3-4 carrots, sliced
1/2 onion, diced (or 4-5 green onions added just before serving)
another 1/2 cup water
2 cups milk (or milk substitute)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (white pepper looks nicer, but doesn't make much of a taste difference)
About 1/4 cup shredded fresh Basil (optional)
Grated cheddar cheese, for serving

1. Heat 3 cups of water (or broth) in a large pot over high heat.  Once it's boiling, add the (bouillon cubes,) potatoes, carrots, and onion (unless you're using green onion -- in which case you should wait to add it until the end).  Turn the heat down to medium, cover, and let cook for about 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

2. Using a food processor or blender, blend/puree about HALF the vegetables and put them back in the pot with the soup.  This will make the soup oh so creamy!

3. With the pureed vegetables, add the additional 1/2 cup water and milk, salt, pepper, and basil (also add the chopped green onions at this point).  Heat through and serve hot, sprinkled with grated cheddar cheese.

Serves about 6 hearty appetites :)  Yumm-o!

NOTE:  If you don't have access to a food processor or blender, you may omit step #2, but gosh if you can do it, it really takes the soup from good to outstanding!
Also, you may add broccoli florets with the rest of the vegetables, or be creative with additional vegetables.  Overall you can learn to make a really good "winter chowder"

Leah's (Wholesome) Pancakes

I think it's only fitting that our first recipe should be a pancake recipe; and although this isn't the same recipe that Mom made for us as little girls, this has become a good one for me.  Mom used to make them into "turtles," which is why I still make "turtle pancakes" for my daughter.

I could eat pancakes every morning for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. I love pancakes so much – I usually spread natural peanut butter on them and drizzle a bit of syrup or honey, but you can eat these however you like.

This recipe has morphed into my own thing.  For several years I tested many different pancake recipes, never finding one that I thought was perfect.  I wanted: fluffy, tasty, wholesome.  The wholesome recipes usually ended up too dense or bland.  The tasty & fluffy ones had too much butter and sugar.  I tested and tried different ingredients & amounts to eventually come up with this one...

Perhaps you'll do some tweaking of your own ;-)  It is still a very versatile recipe.


½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 to 4 teaspoons flax seed (ground or whole)
1 cup rice milk, or more for slightly thinner pancakes (I use rice milk because it makes the pancakes fluffier, but cow’s milk works fine as well. You may also use any other non-dairy milk to your preference.)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce or fat-free vanilla yogurt (may use canola oil or melted butter if you don’t have either of these on hand)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar, if you prefer)

1) Mix the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the flax seed and stir.
2) In a smaller bowl (or 2-cup measure), mix the milk, beaten egg, and vanilla. Stir gently.
3) Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients into it.
4) Add the honey and applesauce (or yogurt or oil),
5) Stir until moistened and mixed. It may still be a little lumpy, but that’s okay. Let it sit in the bowl for just a few minutes, if you have time. In the meantime, heat a griddle at medium heat.
6) Pour your pancakes onto the griddle one at a time, and let them cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until a deep golden brown color. They should be thick (½”) and fluffy. 

I have one tip, which may seem like a no-brainer for you, but it took me the hard way to figure this out:  Cook the pancakes on a low-medium heat.  Do not make the griddle too hot or they will burn on the outside but still be uncooked on the inside.  I think this is a valid secret to perfect pancakes - lower heat.

Yields: 6-7 pancakes (4”diameter). If you have extras, they keep well in the refrigerator for about a week. Just store them in a resealable bag and pop them in the toaster when you’re ready.

Good luck!