Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Minestrone Soup

Wow, it's been a long time! Last time I shared a recipe was back in February, when I was in the middle of midterms and getting ready for Valentines Day! Six months have passed, and I am finally back. Although I'm not making any promises. Whenever I do, I fail miserably. So right now, my blog posts will be random surprises ;). Since then, I have finished classes at SPU, began an online accounting class (which I am almost finished with!) and started a new job. The job is probably the main reason for my absence, as it is keeping me busy, making me tired and providing me with food... which means I have not been cooking as much as I should be. 

But I'm back. Still working, but a lot less than I was in the middle of summer. Which means more time to cook and eat at home. Yay! Lately, and sadly, I've been having a lot of heavier, more rich foods. I ate deeeelicious bbq pork ribs for about a week, last week. (I'll share that recipe someday). I wanted needed something light. So I decided to make some soup. And not just some soup. The best vegetarian vegetable soup ever. Minestrone soup.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

homemade chocolate peanut butter cups

Why hello blogging world, it's been a long time! As usual, my main excuse for neglecting my beautiful little blog is because of school. It's just hard when you have so much to do and so little time to do it (and when you want to spend your extra hours watching tv rather than cooking, washing dishes, taking pictures and then writing about it). I'm currently sitting at my school library, with a ton of things to do! But I just can't stop thinking about the yummy, melt-in-your-mouth treats I made last night and spent all morning photographing! (I got a new macro lens, but haven't figured out how to use it. I also found a new and improved place to take pictures... yay!) 

Last night my husband and I saw a commercial for Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups and instantly we both wanted them! oh the power of good marketing. However, the power was not strong enough, since we were too lazy to drive to the store to pick some up. Instead, we decided that we I would make them! They were really easy to make, only took about 15 minutes (plus an hour to cool down and harden up). I also decided to make them all pretty and cute with Valentine's Day sprinkles. Aren't they adorable?! 

These yummy peanut butter cups would make a great gift for Valentine's Day, whether it's for your valentine or your parents, or even a classroom full of snotty little elementary kids (just kidding...about the snotty part). You can make them a few days in advance, which is great if you're going to be busy prepping for V-Day and won't have time to bake or cook. 

Another fun thing about these is that you can totally personalize them :) you can use whatever types of sprinkles (or no sprinkles) and different colored wrappers. You can also chose which chocolate you want to use. I used a mix of both milk and dark chocolate, but you can do either or and they would still taste amazing. One more thing, if you can see in the picture below, the peanut butter filling looks a little funky. That's because I used a piping bag and piped it on melted chocolate, so some of it fell and looks funny (still tastes good). I thought using a piping bag would be easier, however you don't need to. You are very welcome to just use a teaspoon and your clean hands (just make sure you get an even amount into each cup). 

Before I let you go, I have two things to note. First, they need to be in the fridge until you're ready to serve them (or eat them). Because there is peanut butter mixed in with the chocolate, they get very melty very fast. And second, the recipe I used made slightly more chocolate than I could use. If you use large muffin cups, you won't have this problem. However, I used mini muffin cups and so I wasn't able to add as much chocolate and had some left over! It wasn't a problem though because I just used that chocolatey goodness to make chocolately oat balls. You literally just take uncooked oats (I used quick cooking/instant) and you add them to the melted chocolate/peanut butter and mix and roll into little balls. They are like a healthier version of peanut butter cups ;) 

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
Recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com

  • 1 cup natural* creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Sprinkles, optional 
  • In a small bowl, mix ½ cup peanut butter, butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt until smooth; set aside
  • Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Add in peanut butter and stir until smooth. Let cool for a few minutes.
  • Drop teaspoonfuls of chocolate mixture into paper-lined mini muffin cups. Top with a teaspoonful of peanut butter mixture**. Top with another teaspoon of chocolate mixture.
  • Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Refrigerate until set.
*I prefer natural because it has no sugar, making the PB cups slightly less sweet
**I used a piping bag

Yield: 2 dozen mini peanut butter cups (may be more, depending on how much chocolate and peanut butter you use)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

cranberry duff

Hello world! I'm just taking a quick (ok, not so quick) break from my studying (which I have been doing all day...on a saturday...) to bring you a delicious recipe that just can't wait till after my exams! Even though I have so many better things to do (like study), this dessert is my top priority. And because I have so many things to do, I'm going to keep this blog post short. So no essay from me today (YAY!) lol. However, I will post a ton of photos, because, well, why not?

Now that it's officially cranberry season, I have to take advantage of all the yumminess and make fresh cranberry treats! I bought a bag a few days ago, not knowing exactly what I was going to make. I looked for recipes, trying to find something that looks good and is unique. I was thinking of making scones, bread or a breakfast bake. But then I found this recipe from Martha Stewart and new I had to give it a try! All of the comments were positive (which is super important) and helpful. Many reviewers noted a few changes and so I followed their advice and the Cranberry Duff recipe turned out perfect! The cake is soft and buttery, with a crispy buttery crust. It is then topped with sugary tart cranberries and toasted pecans. Doesn't that sound amazing?! It sounds amazing and most importantly it is amazing. 

My husband and I skipped dinner to eat this dessert. I know, that's not exactly healthy. But whatever. We ate healthy all week, so we can treat ourselves on Saturday ;) As i've mentioned before, it's really lovely and heartwarming when someone else likes the things you bake or cook! Today it was my husband, who really enjoyed the Cranberry Duff. These were his exact words: "Mmm this is really good. I love the buttery crust! Mmmm I want more!" And though only two people have tasted the dessert (hubby and I), you can be assured that this cake is awesome and is worth making! I am definitely going to make this for family dinners and holidays in the upcoming months and years.

I hope you all give this yummy dessert a try this fall season. It would be perfect for Thanksgiving, even Christmas. But if you're like me, who can't wait that long to eat wonderful foods, make it on a random weekend when you have an hour of spare time :)

P.S. We finished the entire cake before the evening was over. That's crazy embarrassing, but oh well. The cranberry duff is just that good. Click "read more" for the recipe! :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

pumpkin scones

Hi world, how's it going? It's been a while, hasn't it! Well I've been doing great, if you're wondering (which you're probably not).  I've been incredibly busy with school. It's my senior year, so lots of advanced classes and all! Oh and I'm also trying to balance my new role as a wife! Hehe:) I haven't been doing too much special cooking in the past few weeks. Just lots of really simple, not blog-worthy recipes. It's really difficult to find the time to cook exquisite or even interesting meals when I get home at 7 or 8 and still have a load of homework to do. But sometimes I do find the time (or just feel like procrastinating). Like this week. I had a ton of homework, but I decided I was in the mood to make some scones. And not just any scones. Pumpkin scones! 

I've been really into pumpkin lately (pretty much like everyone else on the planet). In the last couple weeks, I've gone to the pumpkin patch, carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkin flesh, made pumpkin soup, made pumpkin chili, made pumpkin pie, made pumpkin scones, made pumpkin cupcakes, drank pumpkin spice lattes, bought pumpkin flavored coffee, ate pumpkin biscotti, ate pumpkin greek yogurt, ate pumpkin granola, burnt pumpkin candles and finally, put pumpkin decor allover the apartment. As you can see, I've become pumpkin crazy! I might as well turn into a pumpkin, lol.

In the last couple years, there has been a "Starbucks-copycat" pumpkin scones recipe going around. Pretty much every blogger has made the scones and blogged about the scones (look on Pinterest for proof). And I've decided to join the pumpkin-scones-bandwagon. I know it's not that original, but i don't care, to be honest. I think these scones are delicious and I want to share them with you. I made them a couple year ago and they were a hit then and still a hit now! Even my husband said "mmm, these are really good." It's always great to hear encouraging words from people you love :')

Because pretty much every blogger and all their viewers have made these scones, you can rest assure that they are ah-mazing! They are fluffy and crumbly and just perfect. The scone itself isn't too sweet. The glaze itself really sweetens it up! When I made these 2 years ago, I omitted the first glaze, using only the drizzle. If you're watching sugar or calories, that is a simple thing to do to make them a little more healthy. You can also omit the glaze all together! They would still taste great. But I really like the glaze, so I made them with both glazes. Another thing you can do to "better" your health and still enjoy a yummy treat is to make the scones smaller, such as I did. The original recipe makes 6 very large scones. I don't feel that it is an appropriate portion size, so I cut mine in half, to make 12 scones. You just gotta make sure that you do stick to just 1 scone though. Smaller scones are cuter and more classy anyway ;)

Anyway, I think that is it for now. I always write way more than I plan to, and I hope it's not a bore! Also,  I'll try really really hard to post more recipes on the blog! It's just a little difficult with school. Thanks for reading and let me know if you decide to make these bomb pumpkin scones! :) Click "read more" for the delicious recipe! Enjoy :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

pumpkin turkey chili

I've talked about the SPU Community Kitchen quite a few times on my blog. That's because A) I was involved with the organization for a year, and B) I got a WHOLE bunch of delicious recipes from it. We had a pretty extensive process choosing recipes. They had to be healthy and wholesome, inexpensive, and most importantly, easy to make. The volunteers (and I) searched for recipes, selected potential recipes and then tested the recipes, choosing the best ones. We then would scale them up for 25+ people and prepare them during our monthly kitchen nights. 

And the dishes we made during the kitchen were amazing! They were always a little different. Always had a twist to them. And that's what I liked the most. For example, we didn't just make simple cornbread, we made cornbread pudding (recipe here). One of our monthly kitchen theme's was chili cook off, and instead of traditional chili, we made all sorts of chilies, such as black bean espresso chili, cumin chili, and my favorite, pumpkin turkey chili. It was the definite favorite of most of the participants that night, especially mine. 

The pumpkin in this chili is what takes this dish to a whole other level. Though you can't really taste it, but the texture it gives the chili is superb. It becomes creamy and thick, and slightly sweet. It's also pretty cool knowing that there is pumpkin in the chili. It's high in vitamin A, potassium and other vitamins and minerals. It's also high in fiber. So along with the beans, the chili is a good source of dietary fiber! Pumpkin is also low in calories.

Using lean turkey instead of beef is another way to cut back on calories and fat. You can't even taste the difference because of all the spices. My husband even made a comment about it, saying that it tasted really good with turkey. Personally, I have never actually used beef in chili (so I don't really know how that tastes), because I am satisfied with the turkey. If you're a beef person, I encourage you to try replacing it with turkey. It can really make a difference in your health (a good one too!)

As you can see, pumpkin isn't only for desserts and lattes. It can easily be put into chilies and soups. Pumpkin also doesn't have to always be associated with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spices. This chili recipe actually doesn't have any of that stuff, though if you're courageous you can definitely add some  ;) You are the boss of your cooking, after all. Now that it's fall and pumpkins are everywhere, go and try this recipe! You will not be disappointed! Click "read more" for more pictures as well as the awesome recipe! Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

sweet cornbread pudding

Hi everyone! Today I have a really tasty (and pretty) recipe for you all, sweet cornbread pudding! Though its got "sweet" and "pudding" in the name, it's not a dessert. It's a savory side dish that goes perfectly with chili! I actually made pumpkin chili (recipe coming soon) to go along with it to celebrate the beginning of fall. Both were delicious together! 

 I usually make cornbread muffins (I'll post that recipe someday) but I was really craving this dish. It is actually an SPU Community Kitchen recipe. I tried it for the first about half a year ago and fell in love right away (along with the 20 other people who tried). Made in an iron skillet, this cornbread pudding has a beautiful rustic look to it. It tastes just as pretty as it looks too. It's rich, decadent, cheesy and sweet.

This side dish is a little more calorie-dense than other cornbreads, but a little goes a long way! You only really need a spoonful or two to be satisfied. It's very rich. Especially if eaten alongside another calorie dense food, such as chili. All in all, it's perfect comfort food for fall!

The recipe also calls for thyme and rosemary. If you're anything like me, who hates rosemary, you can definitely omit it. You can omit the thyme as well, if those herbs aren't your thing, and replace them with whatever you like. I think the herbs add a bit more flavor though that really compliments the flavors of the corn.

This sweet cornbread pudding is best served a few minutes after it comes out of the oven. It's good the next day too, but I wouldn't say it's a make-ahead type of food. Anything that's supposed to be a warm side dish is usually best eaten the day of ;) Anywho, I don't know what else to say (my mind is a little blank right now), so I'll let you go! I hope you guys give this recipe a try at your next chili dinner! Enjoy! :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

bread and butter pickles

Every summer, my mom's and aunt's garden is over flooding with cucumbers. Cucumbers (and tomatoes) are pretty much our main food source of the summer. We eat them a million different ways. Fresh, pickled, in salads, on sandwiches, etc. You get the point. WE LOVE CUCUMBERS!  My mom always makes Russian-styled pickles. They're a little different, salty, dilly, vinegary, yet not as tart as American-style pickles. Definitely not sweet! Though the Russian pickles are something I grew up with and something I enjoy every once in a while, my all-time favorite pickles are bread and butter pickles! 

To be honest, I didn't actually try bread and butter pickles till this last June. I know what you're thinking, how in the world did you live your entire life without eating these delicious things?! I ask myself that too. I had always just stuck to boring old dill pickles. But then my life changed. And now I don't want boring old dill pickles. Now I only want sweet and tangy, crunchy and crispy bread and butter pickles. These crunchy pickles just go so well with everything. I even eat them on their own as a snack! (i think i've gone pickle-crazy, lol). 

So when I saw Chef John's post about bread and butter pickles on my newsfeed, I got SO excited! I had never even considered making my own pickles (even though I grew up watching people around me pickling all. the. time.) Just for some reason, the thought of making pickles never entered my mind. Because my mom's garden was overflowing with cucumbers, I decided to give Chef John's recipe a try. I also tried Recipe Girl's recipe to see which one was better (since i had sooooo many cucumbers!). Out of the two I tried, Chef John's was the clear winner. The other one was too apple-cider-vinegary for my liking and it just wasn't as flavorful as Chef John's. I think his recipe is perfect.

Technically, I didn't actually can these. I didn't want to deal with that (maybe next summer). I just made refrigerator pickles. So I don't know exactly how long these will last in the refrigerator, but that's not even really a problem. My husband and I eat these like candy! So they'll be gone before the month ends. You could easily can these using the water bath method. I definitely will next year! 

I made these pickles twice. The first time out of curiosity and the second time because they are outrageously delicious. Yes. I just said outrageously delicious. I gave a couple jars to my inlaws, a couple jars to my family and a jar for my aunt and uncle. EVERYONE liked loved them (except for my dad--he just doesn't like sweet pickles). People were asking for the recipe. When that happens, you know you gotta blog about it! 

Although cucumber season has come to an end, you can still get successful pickles from store bought cucumbers! They would probably even be better from store bought (since you don't have to worry about bitter garden cucumbers). I hope everyone gives this recipe a try. They are really easy and  super fun to make! 

Click "read more" to see the recipe and step-by-step pictures of the process. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

tzatziki sauce

Hi guys! So a couple weeks ago, I made homemade whole wheat pita bread and tzatziki sauce, both which were incredibly yummy. I took pictures of the pita bread but decided against blogging it, since I wanted to practice a little more and get the recipe perfect. I mean they were good and all, but I really want to perfect the recipes I share with you :) 

The tzatziki sauce on the other hand was perfect. I've made it a few times before and each time it amazes me how delicious it is! And it is soooo easy. It really is just mixing a few ingredients. The only tricky part is squeezing the moisture out of the cucumbers. But that's not that difficult. This sauce is so delicious with so many things--warm pita bread, gyros, grilled meats, with veggies. You name it. It's the perfect dipping sauce (sorry for saying "perfect" a million times, I'm just liking that word at the moment). 

The sauce is also pretty healthy. Greek yogurt is high in protein, probiotics and vitamins and minerals. Because of its richness, I prefer to use low fat or 2%, to reduce total fat and calories. You won't even taste the difference because of all the different flavors. So go ahead, don't be scared to use low fat Greek yogurt here! The other ingredients are also high in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Best of all, there aren't any preservatives or other funky ingredients. Everything is fresh, natural and whole. 

Unfortunately, I don't remember where I found the recipe. I tried looking for the original recipe, but it's been a couple years. So if you're the writer of the recipe, please don't sue me. Just let me know and I'll give you credit :) Anywho, I will now let you go. I think I've said everything I've wanted to. I hope you give this recipe a try! It's really tasty and really easy. Enjoy!

Tzatziki Sauce
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Shred the cucumber or chop in a food processor. Using a cheesecloth or paper towels, squeeze the shredded cucumber to remove as much water as possible
  • In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients
  • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes