Thursday, November 19, 2015

Skinny 30-Minute Orange Chicken

I discovered this quick 30 minute Skinny Orange Chicken on the Chew Out Loud web-site and it almost seemed too good to be true.  I love orange chicken and this skinny recipe did not disappoint.  You can adjust the Sriracha to meet your heat level comfort zones.  Anthony felt like the dish was a bit too spicy for him I however thought it was perfect.  I will definitely make this recipe again and will probably double the sauce so that I have more to coat the rice.  Fast, healthy, delicious and easy.

30-Minute Skinny Orange Chicken
By:  Chew Out Loud

2 tsp grated orange zest, plus ½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
2 TB Asian rice vinegar
3 TB soy sauce
2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp olive or canola oil
1½ lb chicken breasts or thighs, skinless and boneless
¼ tsp kosher salt

Optional: 2 stalks scallions, thinly sliced and toasted sesame seeds to garnish
Optional: Cooked rice for serving


In a bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, Sriracha, ginger, garlic powder, and cornstarch. Whisk until cornstarch is fully dissolved, with no white lumps left.

Towel dry the pieces of chicken. Cut into bite-size pieces. In a large nonstick pan, heat oil over high heat until hot. Add chicken and kosher salt. Cook and stir until chicken is just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

In now-empty pan, add the orange sauce mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, 30 seconds. Return the cooked chicken back to pan, along with any accumulated juices. Toss to coat chicken. Serve immediately over cooked rice. Sprinkle with scallions and/or toasted sesame seeds for garnish.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Spritz Sandwich Cookies with Biscoff Cookie Spread

Today I baked a traditional Spritz Cookie but these sandwich cookies have a special creamy European Cookie Spread in the middle.  Biscoff Cookie Spread is made from Biscoff Cookies.  They recommend enjoying Biscoff Spread on toast, with apples, as a secret ingredient in recipes or straight out of the jar.  Biscoff is a nut butter alternative so you should be able to locate it near the peanut butter and jelly in your favorite grocery store.  I found my jar of Biscoff at Albertson's.  It is available in creamy or chunky just like peanut butter is.

Biscoff Cookies made their initial appearance in the United States in the 1980s, but its history dates back much further.  On their web-site you can purchase Biscoff products (which is helpful if you cannot locate the spread locally) and they also have a "create" drop down menu with dessert recipes, drinks and meals.  I found this recipe in the Taste of Home - Ultimate Cookie Swap - 2015 Magazine.

Biscoff -

Sprtiz Sandwich Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Colored Sprinkles
2/3 cup Biscoff Creamy European Cookie Spread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg, milk and vanilla.  In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and cinnamon; gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Use a cookie press fitted with a disk, press dough 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with colored sprinkles.  Bake for 6-8 minutes or until set (do not brown).  Remove cookies from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Spread or pipe about 1 tsp. Biscoff on the bottom of half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies.

Freezer Option:  Transfer dough to a resealable plastic freezer bag; freeze.  To use, thaw dough in refrigerator overnight or until soft enough to press.  Perpare and bake cookies as directed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Red Velvet Spritz Cookies with Peppermint Extract

Spritz cookies are a traditional staple of holiday baking for many families.  The German verb spritzen means to squirt in English. As the name implies, these cookies are made by extruding, or "squirting," the dough with a press fitted with patterned holes (a cookie press) or with a cake decorator, or pastry bag, to which a variety of nozzles may be fitted. In the United States, the name Spritzgebäck is often shortened to Spritz becoming known as the Spritz Cookie.  Although I love the traditional Spritz Cookie recipe I have been itching to see what other flavor combinations can be made to elevate this simple pressed cookie into a more unique treat.

Tonight I dusted off my cookie press and baked up a batch of Red Velvet Spritz Cookies with a hint of Peppermint extract.  I discovered this recipe in the Taste of Home - Special Collectors Edition - Ultimate Cookie Swap magazine - 2015.  These cookies are as simple to make as the traditional Spritz Cookie recipe and the cocoa and peppermint add a subtle and delicious flavor.

Red Velvet Spritz Cookies 

1 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp. food paste coloring, optional
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract, optional
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking cocoa
Sprinkles or decorations

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla and if desires, food coloring and extract.  In another bowl, whisk the flour and cocoa; gradually beat into the creamed mixture.

Using a cookie press fitted with a disk of your choice, press dough 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets.  Decorate as desired wit sprinkles.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set.  Cool on pans2 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Freezer Option:  Transfer dough to a resealable plastic freezer bag; freeze.  To use, thaw dough in refrigerator overnight or ntil soft enough to press.  Prepare and bake cookies as directed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Day of the Dead Inspired Cards

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and acknowledged around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

These cards are inspired by the Day of the Dead and feature a stamp set by Inkadinkado.  I mounted the images on paper from Authentique and added blooms from Petaloo and Rock Candy accents by Queen and Company.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Baked Pasta with Sausage

On Halloween Alex and I got together to whip up a couple of pans of Baked Pasta with Sausage to use for dinner the next night (tonight).  This recipe is great to make ahead of time and then to pop into the oven the next day.  The original recipe is by Brown Eyed Baker but I added more cheese (and used a mixture of Romano and Parmesan vs. just Romano) and I also like to play with pasta shapes.  Her original recipe is made with Ziti but I found that any type of tubed pasta works great.  Also I made my own red sauce with meat.  I am traditionally a recipe following sort of gal but red sauce is one of those items that I really like to tinker with as it simmers over the stove.  I doubled my meat sauce recipe and will be able to use it in additional meals this week.  Since it takes me about 3 hours to make meat sauce it is a true labor of love.  Each batch of red sauce comes out a little differently so it is one recipe I cannot post as I do not do a lot of measuring with my spices while I play with the flavors as it cooks.

Baked Pasta with Sausage

1 pound of your favorite tube shaped pasta
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3 cups your favorite spaghetti sauce
2 cups grated Romano/Parmesan blended cheese, divided
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced small
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup) 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside.
2. Cook pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Drain and put into a large bowl.
3. While the pasta is boiling, cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through.
4. Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the pasta.
5. Toss the pasta and sausage with the sauce, sausage, 1 cup of the Romano/Parmesan cheese, and the diced mozzarella.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup Romano/Parmesan cheese and the shredded mozzarella.

Make-Ahead Note: At this point, you can tightly cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for up to one day or freeze for up to 2 months. If frozen, place in the refrigerator the day before you plan to bake and then bake according to the directions below.

7. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is melted. Uncover, increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until sauce and cheese are bubbling.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mummy Pumpkin Cookies

I discovered these wonderful little Mummy Pumpkin Cookies on the Oh My God Chocolate Desserts web-site and knew that they were just the sweet treat to make for Halloween.  They are a little labor intensive but the end result is worth the time.  And the bonus is that they are delicious.  I had one break in half so of course I had to eat him for quality control purposes.  This would be a fun project to bake up with kids.  I cheated and used refrigerated pie-crusts vs. making the crust from scratch per the options below.  The time savings of not making the pie crusts from scratch did not take away from the finished cookies in any way.  If making these with kids I would use the pre-made pie crusts in a heart beat.  Happy Halloween!

Mummy Pumpkin Cookies

For the Crust :
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into cubes-chilled
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup ice water
  • or you can use 1 package Refrigerated Pie Crust - 2 crusts
For Filling and Topping:
  • ¾ cup reduced pumpkin puree (place 1 cup pumpkin puree on several layers of paper towels, wrap and press to soak up excess moisture until you get ¾ cup pumpkin puree)
  • 2 oz cream cheese - slightly softened
  • 2 tablespoon packed light - brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white - lightly beaten
  • ½ tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Candy eyes
  1. To make the crust pulse together in a food processor flour, salt and sugar, then add butter and pulse until look like a coarse meal (don't over-process, just pulse until butter is no longer in large pieces). Add chilled water 1-2 tablespoon at the time and pulse several times( if it doesn't come together in clumps add remaining water). If you don’t have a food processor you can make the dough using two fork or pastry blender. Gather dough onto working surface, divide into two portions, shape each into 5-inch disk, cover with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  2. To make the pumpkin pie filling in a bowl stir together cream cheese, granulated sugar and brown sugar to blend. Add reduced pumpkin puree to cream cheese mixture along with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Mix in egg yolk and vanilla extract. Cover bowl and chill until ready to assemble the cookies.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F and line large baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  4. To assemble the mummies roll out first disk of the dough onto a floured surface to about 13 x 11-inch rectangle . If the edges start to crack a little when rolling, seal them and continue rolling. Trim edges to get straight edges, then cut into rectangles (I made nine 4x3 rectangles, but you can make them smaller or larger, what ever you prefer). Roll out second dough disc and cut into ½ inch stripes.
  5. Arrange the rectangles, spaced apart on prepared baking sheet and spread heaping 1 ½-2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie filling onto each rectangle, leaving rim on all sides uncoated. Brush uncoated edges with the mixture of lightly beaten egg white and 1 Tbsp water. Top with strips to create mummy look, then seal edges with your fingertips, and trim the excess of the stripes. Brush the stripes with egg whites and sprinkle with mixture of 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  6. Bake until golden brown about 20 minutes.
  7. Stick candy eyes onto cooled mummies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Slow Cooker Moroccan Beef Chili

Last night I made Slow Cooker Moroccan Beef Chili.  I found this recipe in the October 2015 issue of Family Circle Magazine.  The recipe was very simple with the exception of locating one ingredient.    The item I was unable to locate at my local grocery store was Harissa Paste.  Harissa Paste is is a North African hot chili pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and spices and herbs such as garlic paste, coriander seed, or caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil for preservation.  I discovered that for every tablespoon of this fiery flavor, you can substitute a tablespoon of berbere, chile paste, or tabil (Tunisian spice paste). For a little less heat, you can always use hot sauce.  I used Sambal Oelek Ground Fresh Chili Paste in my recipe.  You will want to add the chili paste to taste as you would with salt and pepper.

I served our Chili over Tri-Colored Pearl Couscous also known as Israeli Couscous.  Couscous pearls are small balls of toasted semolina flour.  You would use them as an alternative to pasta or rice.  This dish is also served with a dollop of hummus and you can sprinkle chopped parsley over the top if desired.

Moroccan Beef Chili
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste (see notes above)
  • 6 cups cooked pearl couscous
  • 1/2 cup plain hummus
  • Chopped parsley (optional)
  1. Toss beef with salt and allspice. Place in slow cooker with carrots, onion and garlic. In a bowl, whisk tomatoes and harissa. Pour over beef. Cook on HIGH for 5 hours or LOW for 7 hours. 
  2. To serve, scoop 3/4 cup couscous into each bowl. Spoon stew on top; garnish with 1 tbsp hummus and, if using, parsley.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

I picked up a couple cans of Libby's Pumpkin Puree yesterday at the grocery store to have on hand just in case the baking bug bit me late in the afternoon.  It was not until around 7:00 p.m. that it struck and thankfully the pumpkin was waiting for me in the pantry.  I discovered this very tasty delightful pumpkin flavored recipe via Yummly by Baked By Rachel.  It's a fall spin on a classic cookie that I have been baking for years and years.  The recipe yields approximately 3 to 4 dozen cookies.  I made mine a bit larger than it called for so I ended up with a little over 2 dozen.  I had to head to the airport so it was necessary for me to limit my actual baking time in the oven thus the larger cookies. I also rolled my cookies in orange Halloween sugar sprinkles to match the holiday season.  

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies
  • 1 Cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 Cups granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 Cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 3/4 Cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4C granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix until barely combined.

In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into the batter, continuing to mix until there are no streaks.

If your dough is overly sticky, dough may be chilled at this point for an hour or longer until ready to proceed. Chilled dough can often be much easier to work with.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Shape slightly larger than tablespoon sized balls of dough and roll in topping mixture. Space cookies 2" apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on pan for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Remaining dough can be chilled for up to a week or frozen for several months. Always remember to label remaining dough well with name and instructions.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Homemade Fleur de Sel - Gourmet Lavender Sea Salt

Kelly Reed and I also crafted a bit of Lavender magic in the culinary world last weekend.  We whipped together Homemade Fleur de Sel - Gourmet Lavender Sea Salt.  This combination is a blend of herbs used in southern France.  You would use this elegant salt seasoning with fish, poultry, vegetables or in your favorite salad dressing.  You can mix and match herbs until you have a blend that suits your taste buds.  I provided Kelly with French Finishing Sea Salt, a blend of Herb's de Provence and Culinary Lavender.  Kelly picked through the lavender (removing stems and other foreign items) and then blended the three ingredients together until she felt the flavors were balanced.

While Kelly blended herbs, lavender and salt I worked on tags and material for the jars.  Then once filled Kelly wrapped each jar and added the tag for the finishing touch.  With Gourmet salts and blends a little goes a long way thus the small jars to give as gifts.

  • Fleur de Del Finishing Sea Salt from France
  • Herbs de Provence (savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • Culinary Lavender (sort the buds from the stems)

Combine all ingredients until desired blend is achieved.  Package as desired.

Homemade Lavender Honey Lemon Soap

Kelly Reed and I spent a relaxing weekend in Stanley last week and it was wonderful to try our hands at projects that we have never attempted before.  We have both always wanted to make homemade soap and this was the perfect opportunity for us to try.  I found a lovely recipe for Lavender Honey Lemon Soap by Sarah Johnson in the Summer 2015 issue of Willow and Sage - Homemade Bath & Body by Stampington and Company.  Willow and Sage could easily become one of my new favorite magazines. 

With all of the fresh Lavender that Francine had provided to me over the summer I knew this was the perfect recipe to try.  I purchased all the items we needed from Amazon and a local grocery store.  Kelly and I both prepped the ingridents and then Kelly worked on the melting and pouring.  We discovered that there is a slight learning curve with the melting (how hot to get it) and pouring (how quickly you need to place it into the molds before it hardens) but overall it was a really fun project to try for our first soap making adventure.  The combination of the lemon and lavender is wonderfully fragrant which made it very pleasant to blend together.  We allowed our soap to firm up overnight as it had a rubbery feel to it as it was hardening.  In the morning the soap was perfect and it just popped right out of the silicone molds.  We dressed up our soap bars with ribbon, hand stamped mini tags and a sprig of artificial lavender.  We also tested some scraps in the shower and the soap lathers up nicely and has a fantastic feel and fragrance.  I would highly recommend this recipe as the ease of working with the "melt-and-pour" base made this a great first soap making experience.  Now that I have the molds I am looking forward to making more homemade soap in the future and trying new scent combinations.

  •  Measure your ingredients beforehand for easy adding once the soap is melted.
  • Goats milk melt-and-pour soap base, silicone molds, essential oils etc. can all be purchased on Amazon.
  • The glycerine in the goat's milk soap base acts as a preservative and keeps the lemon rind from molding.
  • This recipe yields about 6-8 bars in a 3.8 oz. bar mold.  We doubled the recipe but made each batch separately.

Lavender Honey Lemon Soap

2 lbs. goats milk melt & pour soap base
1 lemon rind, zested
3 tablespoons dried lavender buds
2 tablespoons honey
15 drops lavender essential oil
6 drops lemon essential oil
jar/bowl for melting soap base
silicone mild

Chop soap into smaller pieces so it melts faster.  Place in a bowl, and melt in microwave or a double boiler.  Watch the soap carefully so it doesn't burn.  If using a microwave, heat in 30 second intervals, stirring frequently.

Wrap the lemon zest in a paper towel and press out any excess fluid; this prevents it from clumping together in the soap.  Once soap is melted, add essential oils, and mix thoroughly.  Add lavender buds, lemon zest, and honey, and mix.

Before the soap cools too much, place the mold on a flat surface, mix the soap thoroughly one more time, and pour mixture into the mold.  While the soap is still warm sprinkle extra lavender buds on the tops for aesthetics.

Let the soap cool for three or more hours, until bars are completely solid.  You might want to let them sit overnight just to be sure.

Carefully pop out each bar from the mold.  Wrap or package the soap however you like. 


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