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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Almond Cinnamon Toffee

I hate having insomnia! The reason might not be why you think. Sure I walk around at work all day like a zombie ready to fall over, but that's actually not the reason I hate insomnia so much. The reason is that when I wake up too early in the morning, or the middle of the night, the ONLY thing there is to do is make something yummy in the kitchen. Sure, I could watch I love Lucy re-runs or some other show on TV, but really....doesn't cooking or baking sound like a lot more fun? I think so! The problem is that my insomnia is going to  lead to extra lbs on my already too fat thighs and belly. So off I go to work now sleepy and fat lol!
1 cup (2 cubes) butter
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almonds
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Line a baking sheet with Parchment paper and set aside. Use a food processor to coarsely chop half the almonds. Set aside. Use the food processor to finely chop the other half of the almonds. Set those aside also.
 2.Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar. Once the sugar is mixed in, add the water and corn syrup and stir until well-mixed together.
3. Place the pan back on the heat and insert a candy thermometer. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the candy reaches 290 degrees. 
4. Once the candy reaches 290 degrees, remove it from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon and all the coarsely chopped nuts, and immediately pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the sheet several times to spread the candy in a thin layer. Allow the toffee to sit at room temperature until it is completely cool.
5. Place the chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds to avoid burning it.
6. Spoon half of the melted chocolate on top of the toffee, and spread it in a thin, even layer over the top. Sprinkle half of the finely chopped nuts on the wet chocolate. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes (or the freezer for 5-10 min) to firm up the chocolate. 
7. Remove the toffee from the refrigerator (or freezer) and lift it from the parchment paper. Flip the toffee over so that the chocolate side is now resting on the parchment paper. Spoon the remaining melted chocolate over the top of the toffee and spread it evenly. (If necessary, re-warm the chocolate briefly so that it is spreadable). Sprinkle the remaining finely chopped nuts on the chocolate.Refrigerate (or freeze) the toffee again for just a few minutes to set the chocolate. 
9. Once set, break the candy into small pieces with your hands. Store the toffee in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ginger Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Do you sometimes want to make an entire batch of cookie dough, just to eat the dough? Or is it just me? Admit it, you like cookie dough too. I think almost everyone does. As I was making these cookies, I was finding it so hard to stay out of the dough. It was so yummy! My solution? Pop a piece of peppermint gum in your mouth and then you won't want to ruin that wonderful peppermint breath, by continually eating cookie dough. It worked for me.  Well ok...AFTER I had gotten into the dough, but trust me, if I hadn't have had gum, I'm fairly sure there would have been no dough left to make into cookies!
Thankfully there was some left and I could take this picture and type up the recipe for you. This one is easy, and truly tastes like Fall. 
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup (or 1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 bag Hershey's cinnamon chips (these are usually found in the Fall season only. I find mine at Wal Mart)
sugar for rolling the cookies

Heat oven to 350°

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

Using your mixer, cream together the butter and the brown sugar. . Add in the egg and molasses. Beat until mixed well.

Add in the dry ingredients and combine until mixed well together. (Don't overmix)

Pour in the bag of cinnamon chips and mix only until the chips are spread throughout the dough well.

Roll the dough into balls the size of a small golf ball. and then roll each ball in sugar.  Place the dough balls onto the parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12--14 minutes. (I baked mine the full 14 minutes because the hubby likes his cookies on the firm side.) If you like them chewier, take them out at 12 minutes. Let them sit for about 5 minutes on the hot cookie sheet and then remove them to cookie racks to cool completely.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lime Chicken Pesto Burritos with Spicy Slaw

Today was the first day in quite sometime that I have actually had a little bit of extra time to put some thought into dinner. It seems like lately, I feel like a  hamster on a wheel, going around and around endlessly for days. So today was a good day to try out something new. It felt so good to be feeling creative again and to be enjoying cooking. It's hard to enjoy cooking when life gets too busy and you don't have time to get super creative! The "cheesy" tortillas were scrumptious and all the flavors went together very well. I hope to have time to make these again very soon.

*Below is a picture of what the "cheesy" tortillas looked like before I filled them and rolled them
Recipes Adapted From:

Cilantro Lime Chicken with Pesto Sauce:
3 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
salt/pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup cilantro chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp toasted, sliced almonds
3 Tbsp fresh garlic chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chicken broth

1 large tomato, chopped, for garnish
4 green onions, chopped, for garnish

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and place chicken in the skillet. Cook the chicken until it is cooked through. Toss with the cilanto pesto (recipe below) and serve in a cheesy tortilla (recipe below) with spicy slaw (recipe below), diced tomatoes and green onions. Roll up burrito style or fold and serve as a taco.

Spicy Slaw:
1 1/2 cups cabbage, chopped finely
2 tsp juice from a jar of pepperoncini
4 Tbsp pepperoncini peppers, chopped
juice from 1/2 of a fresh lime
2 small hot chilis, chopped *use less if you don't care for spicy food*
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a medium/large bowl. Stir to mix thoroughly and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cheesy Tortillas:
4 med/large flour tortillas
slices of mozzarella cheese *or your favorite cheese*

Lay slices of mozzarella or your favorite cheese on half of a flour tortilla. Fold it closed over the cheese. In a large skillet, cook on both sides over medium heat until the cheese in the center is melted. When all the cheese is melted, open the tortilla (be careful it's hot) and place the open tortilla, cheesy side down into the skillet. Cook for just a few seconds to a minute (depending on how high you have your heat) until the cheese is golden brown. Use the tortillas to wrap your favorite burrito or taco.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Salad

Let me first apologize for this picture. I actually forgot to take a picture of our dinner before we started eating. So unfortunately you are seeing a half eaten shrimp salad haha! Obviously I couldn't wait to tear into this bad boy. Oh my goodness, this is the most light and refreshing salad I have had in a long time. If my mango had been a tad been riper, it would have been even better than it already was. The perfect combination of tart from the lime, hot from the chili, sweet from the mango and savory from the shrimp, make a perfect marriage of flavors! On top of that, this is a no cook recipe. So you can't use the excuse that you don't know how to cook. Do you know how to slice up things with a knife? Do you know how to squeeze a lime? If you answered yes to those, then I'm afraid you are out of excuses. Go chop and squeeze and make this salad so you can see for yourself how great it is!

Recipe Source:

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice 
2 Tbsp olive oil  
1 Tbsp sugar  
2 large ripe mangoes  
2 medium firm-ripe avocados 
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
2/3 cup chopped cilantro  
1 Tbsp chopped fresh hot red or green chile  
1 pound  peeled cooked shrimp, tails removed

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, and sugar until sugar dissolves.
In a large bowl, dice the mangoes and avocados into cubes. Add green onion, cilantro, chile, and shrimp.
Pour the lime mixture over the top and mix gently. Serve cold.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Fall is finally in the air! I love the smell of pumpkin goodies baking. I really think it's my favorite seasonal baking product. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin muffins, you name it...I LOVE it! I have to be honest though, that I have  never put pumpkin and chocolate together. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy the combination. I actually liked it. You could make these with or without the chocolate chips.Either way....just make them!
Makes 18 muffins

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 can ( 1 lb) solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Heat oven to 375°
Lightly grease and flour loaf pans. In a medium bowl, sift flour together with salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until well blended. Add the eggs and mix again until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in pumpkin. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again.
Place paper liners into the muffin tins. Pour the batter into each muffin cup until it's 2/3 full. Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Bean and Corn Salad

I wish all side dishes came together as quickly as this one. I guess if you bought a bag of pre-mixed salad at the store, it might be quicker, but I guarantee you, it wouldn't taste as good. This was so quick and easy to prepare. It's healthy, yummy and would be a perfect summertime accompaniment to a family BBQ. I know, I know, it's not summer. Well....put this on your "to do" list so you will be ready when summer comes around again. I myself will fix this in Fall, Winter and Spring also! :)
Recipe Adapted From:

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shelled edamame
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped (I used the kind in the jar)
1 cup corn, cooked and cut off the cob (you can substitute frozen that has been thawed)
1 avocado
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 2 limes
Salt/Pepper to taste

Mix everything together in a very large bowl. Stir lightly as to not "break up" the avocado and other veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold. (Make sure not to skip the lime juice, this is what prevents the avocado from turning brown)