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Monday, May 28, 2012

Salted Cinnamon Cream Cheese Brownies

I know that some people can't imagine chocolate and spice together, but oddly enough it's a really complimentary pairing. Quite awhile ago I had an idea and made some wonderful Mayan chili chocolate brownies. I remembered how much I enjoyed them and decided today to try to make a play on those again. I had to play around with the spices to get it just right, but in the end it really came together well. That will teach me not to write down the amounts I use as I make up the recipe ;)
I decided to add a fraction of a spicy flavor to these cream cheese brownies. I was really happy with the result. Trust me, these are not spicy. They just have a background of cinnamon flavor and a tiny background of spice to them. Be brave...try out spice and chocolate together. You just might like the result!
*Preheat oven to 350 °

12 Tbsp cocoa
4 Tbsp shortening
1/2 cup butter

Melt the first 3 ingredients over low heat. Stir to mix together.

1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Stir in the sugar and the vanilla. Let this mixture sit for about 20 minutes to cool down. 

3 eggs
 3/4 cup flour
 1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ancho chili powder
Mix in the eggs, flour, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Stir until thoroughly mixed together. This will be your chocolate brownie batter.

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
4 tsp flour
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a mixing bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar, 4 tsp flour, 1 egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla.This will be your cream cheese layer.

Spray a 8x8x2" baking dish with Pam. Spread 2/3 of the chocolate batter into the the pan. Spoon the cream cheese layer over the top of this. You shouldn't have to worry about spreading it. You should have enough to cover it by spooning it in small amounts over the top of the brownie batter. Dollop the remaining chocolate batter over the top of the cream cheese layer. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. 

3 Tbsp mini chocolate chips
Cinnamon for dusting the brownies
Sea Salt * For dusting VERY lightly across the top

As soon as you take it out of the oven after the 20 minutes, sprinkle the top with the 3 Tbsp mini chocolate chips, dust it lightly with cinnamon and dust VERY lightly with coarse sea salt. Place back in the oven for 12 more minutes. Cool completely and serve.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Zucchini and Basil Pasta

Another meal made with fresh zucchini and basil right out of my  backyard garden? Yep! There is just something to be said for walking into your own backyard and picking fresh, organic ingredients to use for dinner. After a day of pulling weeds and harvesting vegetables from my garden, with my hubby, I knew I would have to plan a fairly easy meal to make. I mean...come on, I'm no spring chicken anymore. A day pulling weeds can knock me out of commission for a few days ;)
Since I had just picked fresh zucchini and I  knew I had a ton of basil growing, this recipe just called out to me. I am so thankful we tried it tonight, because it was simply amazing. The hint of lemon went perfectly with the vegetables and of course fresh basil goes with almost anything!
 Thank you to the recipe developer over at the original site for the recipe:  Zucchini and Basil Pasta
I can't wait to head back over to her web site and try some more of her recipes. Here is a link to her site:

2 medium zucchini
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups packed fresh, roughly chopped basil leaves
1 pound of your favorite pasta
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Slice the zucchini lengthwise into quarters and chop into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place the zucchini on a plate and sprinkle the salt over the top of it. Let it sit for 15 minutes until the zucchini begins to sweat out it's liquid. Pat the zucchini dry with a paper towel.
Place enough water into a pot to boil your pasta. Bring the water to a boil and follow manufacturer directions on the pasta to cook it "al dente." Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. (You want the starchy water to use later in the recipe.) Drain the pasta in a colander.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over moderately high heat until it's hot. Saute the zucchini, stirring occasionally, until golden but still firm, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in the chopped basil. Stir in the pasta and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water and gently toss together. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Peanut Butter Candy

Candy is a year round easy thing to make. It normally doesn't require your oven to be turned on in the heat of summer and in winter it just warms your heart. does that any time of year. I love making candy and I love trying out new candy recipes. If you like the texture and taste of the inside of a Butterfinger Bar then you will positively like this candy. I found this recipe on Pinterest and it's super yummy! I think the next time I make it, I will try to dip the candy in dark or milk chocolate to see how that turns out.
The original recipe can be found here:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda

Grease a baking sheet with butter. In a medium sized pot, combine the water, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally until the sugar melts. Use a candy thermometer to bring the mixture to 305°, stirring frequently.Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and baking soda, and stir quickly to combine. Pour immediately onto your greased pan, and do your best to spread it out evenly. Allow the candy to cool completely, then break it into pieces.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Breakfast Quinoa

Quinoa is becoming more and more popular these days. The hubby and I have eaten it for a long time as an accompaniment to dinner. It's so good with tomatillo salsa over it! When I stumbled onto a Martha Stewart recipe for a breakfast quinoa, I knew I had to try it. I'm so glad I did. I changed the recipe a bit to add some different flavors and boy did I love it! It was quick to make while I was getting ready for work and I can't wait to make it again!

This makes quite a bit. Thankfully  the hubby helped me eat some. Next time I will cut it in half for sure! 

2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
 1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp Lillys brand coconut jam (I buy this at the local Asian market...but you could leave this out)
Fresh berries of your choice 

Bring milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Add the rinsed quinoa, and return to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg and jam. Cook, covered until almost all the milk is absorbed. (about another 6-8 minutes) Serve in a bowl with your favorite berries on top. You can stir in extra cinnamon, milk, and/or sugar.

Meat and Cheese Filled Biscuits

The web site where I found this recipe calls these "Meatball Bubble Biscuits". (The recipe can be found at
I decided to just title them "meat and cheese filled biscuits" because my grand daughter plays with bubbles so much and I've seen the face she makes when she eats the bubbles that are flying! That face reminds me that any food with the name bubbles in it might conjure up a soapy foul taste and a delightfully funny face. Thankfully these tasted great and it didn't matter what the name was. These are a snap to make and went great with our spaghetti dinner tonight. My grand daughter is trying to say "sketty betty" instead of spaghetti. It's adorable and I can't help but smile when I think of it. So next time you make "sketty betty" try these fun little biscuits on the side.

 *Makes 20 small biscuits

1 can refrigerated biscuit dough (slice or pull apart layers on each biscuit to make two sections)
10 Italian style meatballs, cut in half (just buy the frozen kind and thaw them first)
2 sticks string cheese (cut each stick into 10 equal pieces)
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (use fresh grated)
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
(Optional....marinara sauce for dipping)

Preheat oven to 375°
 Cut or separate biscuits into two layers. Place 1 meatball half and one piece of cheese into each biscuit. Wrap dough around it and seal all the edges. Place the filled biscuit, seam side down, into a greased, 9"round cake pan or a pie tin. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Bake for 18-20 min or until golden brown.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Green Bean Bundles

These green beans came directly out of my backyard garden. Yes you heard me right.....right out of my backyard! I am so excited about growing food this summer. I added a lot to the garden this year and I am slowly seeing all my hard work pay off.  As for the most definitely did NOT come straight out of my backyard. I am gardening a lot this year and I guess you could call me "Farmer Joni." but just because my husbands name is John and that would make him "Farmer John" me, the bacon came directly from the grocery store! ;)

Green beans that are bundled in a blanket of bacon that has been cooked with brown sugar? Yes please! For those of you that know me and read this blog, you know that I am not a big fan of bacon. I am a big fan of green beans though. I actually loved this dish and this just might be my new "go to" green bean recipe. The brown sugar gives the bacon just a little crunch and the sweetness blends well with the beans.

Green Beans
Bacon (strips cut in half)
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°
Cook the green beans in a pot of boiling water until the are soft. Set them aside. Cook the bacon in a skillet until it is "soft" but done. You do not want it crisp or it will not roll around the green beans. Cut each slice of bacon in half. Roll each half around a small bundle of green beans and place each bundle in a well greased dish. I used 5 in each bundle. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and cook for only a minute or two until the sugar  has been fully stirred into the butter. Use a pastry brush and brush this butter mixture all over the green bean bundles. Place the bundles into the oven for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mini Taco "bowls"

Have you ever found an idea online, tried it, then thought to yourself...."why didn't I think of that?" This was one of those ideas. It's so easy to make these taco bowls and it makes for a fun way to serve tacos. It also gives you the major benefit of a crunchy shell without any frying!! Yes it makes them a tad harder to eat, and a little bit messier, but what's a mess between family and friends, when it looks great?  Just make these little bowls and fill them with whatever taco fixin's you like!

The original idea came from this web site:

6 corn tortillas
Pam cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°.
Sprinkle a little bit of water on each corn tortilla. Stack them on a plate with another plate inverted over the top of them and microwave them for one minute. Take out two 12 cup muffin tins. Turn them upside down. Spray each side of each tortilla with Pam. Place the sprayed tortilla between four of the muffin cups (which are now upside down so they stick up) to form a small bowl. Do this with all the tortillas. Place in the oven for 9-10 minutes. Take out and fill with your favorite taco fixins!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa

I woke up this morning feeling a bit under the weather. At first I was hoping that I was only stuffed up from the ceiling fan running all night, but after all day with a sore throat and now a hacking cough, I have to face it....I'm getting sick! *sigh* I guess it's better to get sick now that the school year is almost over instead of waiting until it's my summer vacation and then deciding to get sick. So as I was roasting the jalapenos and garlic for this meal, I was praying that the spice or the garlic just might knock the sickness out of me. No such luck...but it was sure a great meal! Thanks to Tyler Florence over at Food Network for creating this dish. The hubby and I both agreed that this was a definite keeper!
Here is a link to the original recipe: Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa

For  the Sauce:

1 pound tomatillos,husked
1 white onion, peeled, and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 jalapenos, whole with stems cut off
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced

For the Enchiladas:

1 Tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth (canned)
Chopped cilantro
1 store bought rotisserie chicken, shredded
Salt/Pepper to taste
10 flour tortillas
1/2 pound jack cheese, shredded


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

For the salsa:
On a baking tray, roast tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapenos for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices on the bottom of the tray to a food processor. Add the cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and mix until well combined but still chunky.

Meanwhile heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized. This should take 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin, then cook for one more minute. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to ensure the flour doesn't burn. Then gradually add the chicken stock. Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid thickens. Turn off the heat, add half of the roasted tomatillo chile salsa, some additional fresh chopped cilantro and fold in the shredded chicken meat. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Decrease the temp of the oven to 350° and begin assembling the dish. Take a large baking dish, that has been sprayed with Pam,  and smear the bottom with some of the reserved tomatillo salsa. Pour the remaining tomatillo salsa into a shallow dish. Now take the flour tortillas and briefly flash them over the stove-top flame  Coat each hot tortilla lightly with the reserved salsa mix. Put a scoop of the shredded chicken-enchilada mix on top of the tortilla followed by a sprinkle of the shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over and roll it kind of like a burrito. Place the tortillas in the baking dish and continue to do the same with all the tortillas. Finally pour the rest of the tomatillo salsa on top and top with more jack cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Red Velvet Cheese Ball

There are only two words I can think of to describe this cheese ball. YUM! YUM! It's a bit like eating a gooey red velvet cake on a nilla wafer. Ok, so maybe that description doesn't truly do it justice, but honestly it's amazing! I'm sure my co-workers probably won't complain that I'm bringing it in. ;)
I'm glad it's already rolled in the chocolate chips, cause let me tell would be too tempting to get a spoon and eat my way through it.'s THAT good!!! Once I rolled it in the chips, I knew the temptation to eat it all would be gone, because I'm fairly sure that my co-workers would notice a huge chunk gone that was no longer coated in chips! So I guess I will have to wait for tomorrow to have more.
Recipe Source: (Check out this girls blog...she has some fantastic recipes on there)

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups red velvet cake mix, dry
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Nilla Wafers or graham crackers

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the red velvet cake mix, the brown sugar and the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and combined.Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap up into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.Put the chocolate chips on a plate or in a shallow dish. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator and unwrap. Roll in the chocolate chips. Serve with Nilla Wafers or graham crackers!

Tequila Lime Shrimp

As many of you know who read this blog, this has been a stressful week. If I was a drinker, this dinner might have just ended up being "lime shrimp" because I would have consumed the entire bottle of tequilla. I guess it's a good thing that I don't really drink, because the tequilla added quite an abundance of awesome flavor to this dish. The hubby also loved it and it's a good thing because when I'm stressed, I don't eat much and after tasting 3 of the shrimp and saying how much I loved them...I was done for the night. So he got to eat a lot, and I mean a lot of shrimp! I will definitely be making these again when I am up to eating more of them.
Recipe Source: Tequilla Lime Shrimp

1 tablespoon oil
1/2 small onion(chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 jalapeno (chopped)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
 1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup lime juice
zest of two limes
salt and pepper
1 handful cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno and cumin and saute about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and tequila and cook until the shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add the lime juice, zest, salt, pepper and cilantro. 

*If I had enough time I would have served this with cilantro lime rice. That would make a great accompaniment to this dish.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Strawberry Yogurt Bites

I was browsing through my Pinterest boards for something to make that would be a light kind of dessert. I had remembered pinning these awhile back. I had everything I needed to make it, except the strawberries for the top. I  only had blackberries, so that's what I used. These were amazingly yummy! If you like the taste of strawberry jello, then this is a recipe you will definitely want to make. I think that these would be great to serve at a party or a shower!

The original recipe is here: Strawberry Yogurt Bites

3 (6 oz) containers strawberry yogurt 
1 pkg (3 oz) Strawberry jello gelatin
Strawberries or any other fruit you would like for the top 

Mix the yogurt and the dry jello gelatin powder in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes until the gelatin is dissolved. Spoon the mixutre into 16 paper lined mini muffin cups. Refrigerate for about one hour or until completely set and firm. Remove from the paper liners and top with fresh fruit.

Chicken Chili Skillet Mac

Sometimes in life you just grow weary and emotionally drained. It's times like those that even my love of cooking is affected. I know when those times come and I don't feel like cooking, that my brain is on overload. Usually for me the joy of cooking outweighs the problems of life. Not so much this past week. But....I have a BIG God who can handle BIG issues! So today I picked myself up by the bootstraps and finally sat down to start blogging some recipes I have made the last few days. This chicken chili mac is super easy to make and it actually tasted quite good. I am not usually a big fan of things all mixed up in a skillet, but I will probably make this one again.
*I am  not much into photography as you can obviously tell haha....but this tastes better than this picture makes it look! 

Original recipe can be found at:

8 ounces wagon wheel pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell peppers
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 cups chicken breast, cooked and shredded
10 oz can Rotel tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup white beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp Hidden Valley Ranch powder (from dip or dressing packet)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and run under cool water to stop cooking. Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions and peppers, cook stirring until softened about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add chicken, tomatoes, broth, corn, beans, 1 cup wagon wheel pasta, chili powder, cumin, Ranch seasoning and cilantro. Stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to serve.