Friday, June 28, 2013

Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad

Welcome to summertime, folks! Summer has officially started. Do you know what this means? It means it's time to break out your skewers, steak knives, burger condiments, seafood tools, and potluck recipes. It's barbecue time! I always seem to struggle with barbecue sides. I have a few go-to recipes that always seem to make an appearance but I get nervous trying new sides. Family and friends look forward to the "Layered Pea Salad",  the "BBQ Baked Beans", and the "Make Ahead Macaroni Salad". Well I went out of my comfort zone yesterday and I'm glad that I did. I love fruit but wasn't so sure how everyone else would love fruit....WITH PASTA!

That's right! Pasta salad with fruit and veggies. Oh - and there may have been some bacon tossed in. (Who can say "no" to bacon???) This pasta salad was a hit. I cringed as the first serving was dished out but was pleasantly surprised when I saw seconds and thirds being passed around. I was even more surprised when my non-pasta-salad-eating-husband asked for a scoop.

This combination may sound strange but it's sure to please your palates. It's a nice change from the standard pasta salad and I have a funny feeling that it will be making a regular appearance on our tables this summer.

Here's what you do.

Broccoli, Grape, & Pasta Salad
Slightly adapted from

16 ounces farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
8 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems and separate florets into small pieces using the top of a paring knife. Peel away tough outer layer of stems, and finely chop stems.

Whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, diced red onion, vinegar, and salt in a large bowl. Add broccoli, hot cooked pasta, and grapes. Stir to coat. Cover and chill for 3 hours. Stir in bacon just before serving.

** NOTE: The original recipe called for some toasted pecans (but I omitted them because I decided to keep this "nut-free". The original recipe also called for only 8 ounces of pasta but I felt that there was a lot of dressing for this salad and it was much better balanced with more pasta. You can use your own judgement here and do what you prefer.

I hope you guys like this one. I'm adding it to my barbecue side rotation. It's definitely a keeper. Enjoy!

xo, Stephanie

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Top 5 Kitchen Must-Haves!

Hello All!

Today I'm coming at you with some kitchen gadgets. I actually have a little kitchen gadget "problem". I'm a "Gadget Girl". I sort of have more than I know what to do with but each one really serves a purpose (I promise!). I'm all about making life easier and these are items that I find extremely useful.

Hold on to your seats because here we go...

#1. My Rachael Ray "Spoonulas"

Is it a spoon? Is it a spatula? I don't think I'll ever know or really care because this is the most-used utensil in my kitchen. I use it in stir fries, in a pot of pasta, to mix things together, and to scrape bowl clean. I love that it's heat-resistant to 400 degrees and that it comes in my favorite kitchen color - RED!

#2. Zyliss Garlic Slicer

My Hubby LOVES garlic. I swear he's a vampire. The worst part about this for me is slicing it. My hands smell like garlic for days! Well - this nifty little garlic slicer (or mini mandolin) protects my fingers and hands from smelling like garlic. What else do I love about it? It's easy to clean, works very fast, and garlic slices are even!

#3. Nutri Bullet

Are you juicing yet? Well, I definitely recommend it. Juicing has become a morning ritual in our house. We purchased the Nutri Bullet and our mornings changed forever. We emulsify vegetables and fruit in the morning and feel better. My Hubby has lowered his blood pressure. I've dropped a few pounds. We love this thing and can't imagine not having one. Did I mention that you can even use this to make a quick fresh tomato sauce? The Nutri Bullet is so powerful and barely takes up any of our counter space. This is my newest kitchen gadget but one that's sure to stay around for a long time!

#4. Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer

Have you noticed the prices on pre-cut fruit at the market? It's crazy. I manage to spend a fortune just for convenience. I love my Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer. What I love about this model over the others is that this one comes with attachments in three different sizes. Different sized pineapples? No problem! This thing will core and slice your pineapple in no time. Instead of spending $6.99 on pre-cut pineapple at the market, you can save yourself a few dollars and buy a whole pineapple for around $2.99 to slice at home.

#5. Kuhn Rikon Can Opener

Have you ever cut your hand on a sharp can once you've opened it? This used to happen to me all of the time. Not anymore! My Kohn Rikon Can Opener reverses the canning process. No sharp edges. It's awesome! As a bonus, it even functions as an opener for jars, soda cans, and bottles. LOVE this thing!

So there you have it, folks! These are my "Top 5 Kitchen Must-Haves". Hope you enjoy these. Have a fabulous weekend!

xo, Stephanie

Monday, May 27, 2013

Breakfast Cookies!

We have a small problem in our house. My Hubby eats cookies for breakfast. He finds chocolate chip cookies completely acceptable as "breakfast". Our soon-to-be three year-old now thinks that he can have cookies for breakfast. I now have a quick solution to this little dilemma - BREAKFAST COOKIES!

I found this recipe in a Disney cookbook. Since we're big Disney fans, it took just a few seconds to convince our son that if Dory, Marlin, and Nemo eat these cool cookies for breakfast, then he can too!

These cookies are not overly sweet. They taste like a breakfast cookie should taste. The kids will like them and they are loaded with good stuff. I think adults will like them too. They go great with a cup of coffee or tea and are a quick breakfast when you are on the go.

Here's what you do.

Breakfast Cookies
Slightly adapted from The Disney Magic Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 12 cookies

Non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (such as King Arthur's Flour brand)
3 cups multigrain cereal flakes with blueberries (such as Kashi Heart to Heart Oat Flakes & Blueberry Clusters)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Using a hand mixer, beat butter until creamed (about 30 seconds). Add brown sugar and baking soda. Beat until mixed. Add eggs. Beat until mixed. Add flour and beat until the mixture no longer looks dry. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the cereal. (You may have to mix it a bit with your hands and the cereal flakes will break up - this is okay).
3. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the mixture on to the baking sheet. Press the mound of dough with your fingers to flatten slightly. Repeat with remaining ingredients, placing cookies about 3 inches apart on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Let cookies rest on baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.

Nutrition Facts per cookie: 227 calories, 9 g fat, 56 mg cholesterol, 229 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrate, 14 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.

Hope you enjoy these. They will keep fresh for about 5 days in an airtight container.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
xo, Stephanie

Monday, May 20, 2013

Farmers' Market Pasta

Did you know that I'm obsessed with Farmers' Markets? It's actually something special in my neck of the woods because it's not something that is held year-round. It's only available one day a week from Mother's Day to Thanksgiving. Needless to say, hitting up the Farmers' Market is a real treat. I love being able to walk around, survey fresh produce, and sample nifty new products. Our market includes a pickle company that makes your mouth water as you walk by, an old Italian man that shouts at you to try his fresh bread and olive oil, and a fresh ravioli company that can't be matched. Walking around there is one of my favorite things to do.

I've been guilty of buying a bunch of produce and not knowing what to do with it. Well, if you ever find yourself in the same boat, I have a pasta that will knock your socks off. It's a pasta dish that can be made with ingredients from your local supermarket as well. Don't feel pressured to make this only if you go to a Farmers' Market. This pasta dish is too good to pass up. It's full of freshness and is a nice spring/summer change to your standard tomato sauce.

Here's what you do.
Farmers' Market Pasta with Leeks, Spinach, & Summer Squash
Adapted from Cook's Country
Serves 4

1 pound penne
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, & washed thoroughly
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 yellow summer squash (about 8 oz each), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 oz (6 cups) baby spinach, chopped coarse
2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add penne and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup cooking water, then drain penne.

2. Heat oil in now empty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add leeks and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squash and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and cook, covered, until squash is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in penne, spinach, Pecorino, basil, remaining 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, and butter until combined. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Pecorino separately.

NOTE: If you'd like to change this up a bit, substitute arugula for the spinach. Also, have fun with this. You can do one zucchini and one summer squash if you'd prefer.

That's all folks. Hope you enjoy this one!

xo, Stephanie

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Churro Cheesecake

Happy Mother's Day to all of you! This is my second Mother's Day with TWO little munchkins and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way! I'm not going to get all sappy on you. I'm just going to leave it at the fact that Mother's Day is about honoring all of the strong women who play an important role in our lives. My sisters and I have an AMAZING mother - seriously beyond words could describe! We also have some honorary mom's too. Today we celebrate them all!

So how do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo (you all thought I forgot, didn't you?) and celebrate Mother's Day? You make a super-easy Churro Cheesecake. This "cheesecake" is good to make anytime. It's so good that you'll make it for potlucks, for holidays, and even as a "just because".

Here's what you do.

Churro Cheesecake
Adapted from The Recipe Critic
Serves 6

2 Cans Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough Sheets
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Egg, slightly beaten
1 cup Sugar, divided
2 tablespoons Ground Cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, partially beaten egg, and ½ cup sugar until smooth. (You can also use a stand mixer if you have one).

2. Mix together the rest of the sugar (½ cup) and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Set aside.

3. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and sprinkle ¼ cup (or half) of your cinnamon sugar mixture evenly into the bottom of the 9x13.

4. Set the dough in the bottom of your 9x13 baking dish on top of the cinnamon sugar.

5. Spread the cheesecake evenly on top of your dough and unroll the other can of crescent dough and place on top.

6. Sprinkle the top with the remaining ¼ cup of cinnamon sugar mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTE: If you can't find the Pillsbury Crescent Roll Dough Sheets, you can use two cans of regular crescent rolls and roll them out into a 9x13 square. Just make sure to press the seams together so the dough is completely sealed. 

That's all I have for you folks! Hope you enjoy your Mother's Day Weekend! 

xo, Stephanie

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Teriyaki Chicken Lo Mein

Have you seen the prices in the grocery store lately? I mean seriously - I can remember when milk cost under $2 a gallon. Now we're paying $4.59 for a half-gallon of organic milk. I'm starting to wonder if it would be cheaper to buy a cow.

I have a cheap dinner for you that can feed a crowd. It makes a lot of servings, it's delicious, and it's cheap to make. This would be great for an asian-themed dinner party, potluck, or just a quick dinner to put together on a weeknight.

Get ready folks - it's Teriyaki Chicken Lo Mein. Can I just tell you that I LOVE that this recipe calls for Instant Ramen Noodles and you get to throw away those gross, MSG-filled packets that come with them? You're making your own sauce, kids. No MSG - just some sauces, spices, and homemade goodness.

Here's what you do.

Teriyaki Chicken Lo Mein
Adapted from Cooks Country
Serves 6 (at least)

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 1/2 cups water
4 (3 ounce) packages Instant Ramen Noodles, broken into large pieces, seasoning packets discarded
1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Simmer soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar, and cornstarch in large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer half of soy sauce mixture to large bowl and reserve. Add water to saucepan with remaining soy sauce mixture and return to boil. Add ramen and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in coleslaw mix. Cover and keep warm.

2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 1 minute per side. Transfer chicken to bowl with reserved soy sauce mixture and toss to coat. Transfer noodles to platter and top with chicken. Serve.

This is a must-try. Next time I'm serving it with iced green tea and some fortune cookies for a light dessert.

Thanks for stopping by!
xo, Stephanie

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Grilled Sausage, Polenta & Arugula Salad

It was 80 degrees here the other April! It's not like we live in the south. This type of weather this time of year is strange but it's a welcome surprise after the winter we have had. Warm weather means open up the barbecue and grill something good.

I pulled out some cookbooks and began my search of a recipe for the grill. I love America's Test Kitchen and am so glad I turned to their Quick Family Cookbook because now I have an awesome recipe to share with you. It's a complete dinner and you and your family will love it. Don't be scared by the polenta like I was. It was so good!

Here's what you do.
Grilled Sausage, Polenta, and Arugula Salad
Adapted from "The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook"
Serves 4 - 6

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup) 
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary 
1 garlic clove, minced 
Salt and pepper 
1 (18-ounce) tube precooked polenta, sliced 1/2 inch thick 
1 1/2 pounds sweet or hot Italian sausage (6 to 8 links), pricked all over with fork 
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved if small or quartered if large 
5 ounces (5 cups) baby arugula 

1. Whisk Parmesan, oil, vinegar, rosemary, and garlic together in large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Brush 3 tablespoons of dressing over polenta; reserve remaining dressing for salad. 

FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high. 

2. Clean cooking grate, then repeatedly brush grate with well-oiled paper towels until grate is black and glossy, 5 to 10 times. Place sausages and polenta rounds on grill. Cook, turning as needed, until sausages and polenta are lightly charred on all sides and sausages are no longer pink in center, about 6 minutes. (Handle polenta gently to avoid breaking.) Transfer sausages and polenta to platter. 

3. Drizzle polenta with 2 tablespoons of remaining dressing. Add tomatoes and arugula to remaining dressing and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sausages and polenta with salad.

NOTE: I used a ring of thin sausage and cut it into pieces because it's just what I prefer but feel free to use whatever you prefer. The polenta turned out to be amazing. I'm not going to lie - I was a little afraid of using it but I'm glad that I did. Did you know that polenta is gluten-free and fat-free?

Hope you enjoy this one. It's a great way to celebrate the warmer weather and heat up your grill!

xo, Stephanie