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Christmas Munching...

This pretty much explains the excitement we feel about eating on Christmas. For the past 11 years we have been enjoying Christmas up north with our families, namely Kurt's family. Christmas Eve his parents put on a surf 'n' turf dinner and Christmas day is filled with gorging on appetizers and desserts (all while we are in our pajamas of course, we need the expandable waistlines). Since we now have our own child, we want to start making Christmas as special for her as our parents have made it for us. This means we opted to stay home for Christmas this year and spend it as our own little family.

Christmas Eve we did a nice dinner of steak, baked potato, corn, and salad. It was delicious and traditional for a nice dinner. Now Christmas day is where it is at!! We also decided to stick with the appetizer theme and just did a whole lot of eating. Here is our Christmas 2010 menu:

More importantly, here is the food (recipes to come later)!

The spread

Crackers with brie and apricot jelly
Shrimp cocktail (what is Christmas without shrimp cocktail)
BBQ little wienies & sweet and sour meatballs
Veggies & dip

Velveeta sausage dip
Cream cheese & salsa dip

Christmas cookies provided by Kurt's mom

Strawberry swirl cheesecake

I made Kurt wait to eat until I took pictures, he was obviously too excited to listen!


Easy Tomato Baked Chicken

Since my wonderful daughter was born in July, I have hardly had a chance to cook real meals. My night consists of picking up Riglee after work, feeding her, changing her, playing with her, prepping a quick dinner or having Kurt whip something up, playing with Riglee, feeding her, bath time, and finally bedtime. When I am done with all of this it is usually around 8:00-8:15pm. I then spend the next hour cleaning the kitchen, getting my lunch and Riglee's bottles ready for the next day, packing the diaper bag, doing laundry, and trying to spend a few quick minutes with Kurt before I finally can close my eyes.

I've been itching to get back to cooking meals and now that Riglee doesn't demand as much of my time and can play by herself, I've been trying to cook some quick and easy meals. This is one that I found on and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was! Even Kurt said that it was really good and that I should make this again, and he'll tell me the truth.

1 small red onion (I used a yellow onion), thinly sliced
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1.25lbs)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, drained (I only partially drained mine and used italian diced)
1/4 cup Kraft light balsamic vinaigrette dressing (I made my own using balsamic vinegar and EVOO)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup Kraft grated parmesan cheese
1 package fresh mushrooms (my addition)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place onions in bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish and top with chicken (I used an 8x8 pan). Quarter or half mushrooms and sprinkle around chicken.

2. Combine tomatoes, dressing, and garlic powder and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cheese.

3. Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. I served this over spinach fettuchini noodles and used the extra sauce on the noodles. YUM!


"Thick" and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I told you I was on a cookie kick. Seriously, for delicious baked goods I always go to Brown Eyed Baker's blog because she never seems to let me down. Not to mention she has a recipe for just about anything I'm craving at the moment! After those delicious monster cookies I was in the mood for a classic chocolate chip cookie. My problem is that I never seem to bake them properly so they turn out too hard and not chewy. I am a BIG fan of a chewy cookie, maybe a little crunch on the outside is okay but I need it soft!

So I went in search of a perfect cookie and what do you know, I found it on Brown Eyed Baker's blog! The recipe had great reviews and I was ready to get cookin'! The cookie was great right out of the oven, however, a day later, not so much. I baked these cookies a minute or two too long so they turned out a bit flatter and crunchier than I thought they would (hence the "thick" due to baker error). I guess I thought it needed another couple minutes because it didn't look golden brown like I expected it too, even though I was warned not to bake these too long in the directions. So, here is my warning to you: DO NOT BAKE THESE TOO LONG! Anywho, they were still delicious and satisfied my craving.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Baking Illustrated, page 434)
Makes about 18 large cookies.

These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. Oversized baking sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you’re using smaller baking sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.


The BEST Monster Cookie

Now, if you know me, you know I love me some cupcakes. But lately all I have been wanting to eat are cookies, specifically chocolate chip cookies and monster cookies. And no, I am not pregnant again, I just have the worst sweet tooth. 

I am an avid food blog reader and I have been searching for the best sounding monster cookie recipe for quite some time. The cookie needed to be big (duh, it's got monster in the name), fluffy, chewy, and have the right cookie to add-in ratio (yes, I'm a nerd but those are my qualities). I found the winner on one of my favorite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker. She always has delicious looking food and it generally doesn't seem to daunting to make.

Now, you don't have to say this is the best monster cookie you've ever had, but it will be. I promise this cookie will not let you down. I even had my husband, Kurt, who grew up eating one of the best monster cookies I've ever had tell me that this was the best monster cookie ever. And as he finished his second cookie he spit out a crumbly "yep, definitely the best."

Monster Cookies
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 26 cookies

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp corn syrup
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (4oz or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup Reese's Pieces (I used peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips would also be tasty)
3/4 cup M&M's

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats (if you don't have 3 baking sheets, just be sure to cool the ones coming out of the oven before placing more cookie dough on them, you can always run them under cold water to cool them down).

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, both sugars, vanilla extract, corn syrup, baking soda, and salt. Then stir in the melted butter and peanut butter, followed by the oats and flour. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips, Reece's Pieces (or peanut butter chips), and the M&M's. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes (you'll need the break after stirring all of that!).

3. Drop the dough by the 1/4 cupfuls onto baking sheets. Use your fingers to flatten the dough slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden brown. Cool on a rack and then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Best enjoyed with an icy cold glass of milk!

(You can thank me for passing on this recipe later!)


Mama's Teriyaki Chicken Nuggets

That's right bitches, I'm back. It has been a long long long long long long time since I last posted and I apologize. You see, I was pregnant and usually ended up eating the food before I had a chance to take a picture of it. Not to mention I was sleeping as much as possible, working a lot, and pretty much spending all my free time thinking about, blogging about, and dreaming about my little baby.

So now that my baby girl has been with us for 3 months I hope to start getting some more pics and recipes up. We'll start with one of our favorite meals, Terriyaki Chicken Nuggets. I don't make this often because I hate to fry food inside because my house stinks for days but let me tell you, it is totally worth it! These are tender little chicken morsels that are deliciously coated in a yummy teriyaki sauce. I serve it with a veggie, rice, and the extra sauce for dipping! In the words of an annoying but good cook, YUM-O!

Terriyaki Chicken Nuggets
Source: My Mama
Makes 4 servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 eggs beaten
oil for frying
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger (fresh is best but powder is good too)

Cut chicken into 2 inch squares. Combine flour, salt, and pepper. Dip chicken pieces in eggs then coat with flour mixture, set aside. Slowly heat soy sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger in a sauce pan. Pour 1/2 inch oil in a frying pan. When hot, add some pieces of chicken (not too many at a time, I usually do 6 or so). Cook, turning as needed until golden brown. Lift chicken from oil and dip directly into honey glaze and coat completely. Lift chicken from glaze and place on a rack set in a baking pan. Repeat with all chicken. Once all chicken is on the rack, cook in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, brushing the chicken with more glaze after 10 minutes.

**I usually double the glaze recipe because I love to have lots of extra sauce for dipping and for pouring on my rice.


Baked Ziti

I have tons of recipes and pictures that I've taken recently but have been waiting until I got my blog setup to post them. So, this is one of those stick to your ribs, super tasty, keep you warm, comfort foods. I found this on one of my favorite food blogs, Annie's Eats. The food she cooks or bakes is decadent and her pictures are amazing. Definitely check out her blog! You should also see her picture of the ziti, it looks WAY better than mine!

We all know how much I love pasta and this baked ziti is a dish that you can serve when you are entertaining a crowd or just need a pick me up! Add some garlic bread, salad, and a nice glass of wine (or milk if you are pregnant like me) and this is what I call a meal!

Baked Ziti
1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
Table salt
1 lb. ziti
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
20 oz. turkey Italian sausage
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
Ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned. Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

3. In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream. Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

4. Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

So I registered with to get easy recipes and got a free calendar out of the deal too! It's great because every month has a new recipe to try. They've all looked good so far but this month's (April's) recipe was for Grands! Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread and it looked gooooooood! My husband loves this bread and since we are feeding 3 (well 5 if you include my and Sara's unborn babies) for the last weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to make something a little special for breakfast. Served this yummy bread with a side of fruit salad and some chocolate milk and I must say, it was de-lic-ous!

Grands! Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cans Grands! Homestyle refridgerated buttermilk biscuits
1 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. butter or margarine, melted

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan.
2. In large plastic food-storage bag, mix granulated sugar and cinnamon. Separate dough into a total of 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Shake in bag to coat. Arrange in pan. Mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces.
3. Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.


The Jucy Lucy

So my sister-in-law, Sara, and I are both currently pregnant. She is 35 week along and I am 25 weeks, she is also temporarily living with us. It all started on a Saturday morning, it was early and we'd just eaten breakfast. Since there is not much on tv on Saturday mornings we were watching this show on the Travel Channel. If you've never heard of Food Wars, don't worry, I hadn't either. However, on this particular Saturday morning they were having a "food war" over who had the best Jucy Lucy (or Juicy Lucy). Normally this would mean nothing to me but the day before my co-worker had told me about this burger and pretty much had my mouth watering at the thought of it (of course, it doesn't take much to get a pregnant woman all riled up over food). The war was between Matt's Bar and 5-8 Club in Minneapolis, MN. From the beginning the burger at Matt's Bar looked best, and after all was said and done and the war was over, Matt's Bar won! Next time I'm in Minneapolis I am making it a point to taste the REAL Jucy Lucy!

I tell Sara a little about this burger and convinced her to watch the show with me. Not even 10 minutes into the show and both Sara and I looked at eachother and silently decided that we would conquer and devour this burger. That was 10 days ago. Finally, tonight, the conditions were perfect for making this burger. We had a beautiful and sunny day, it was still nice outside, my husband Kurt agreed to grill it for us, and we had all the ingredients. I Googled the recipe for the Jucy Lucy (it's also permanantly saved to my DVR as well) and went to work.

The Jucy Lucy is an amazing wonder of hamburger and gooey, melty cheese. It is two separate thin burger patties with a piece of American cheese (the Kraft singles type) quartered and placed in between. The patties are then sealed on the edges and grilled. This burger is served on a soft bun with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and fried onions (I left the onions out thanks to some killer heartburn these days). Whatever you do, DO NOT cut the burger in half to eat, you will lose all the gooey cheese and miss out on the messy fun The Jucy Lucy will bring to your table.

**I did adapt this recipe a little. I didn't have Worchestershire so I used A-1. I used 2lbs. ground beef and it was 90/10, and we cooked the burgers about 7 minutes per side.

The Jucy Lucy
- makes 4 burgers -

You'll need an unlikely piece of equipment to prepare this burger, but you should have it on hand already—an ordinary standard-issue toothpick. You'll want to quickly prick the distended patty after flipping it to allow steam to escape.

And, hey, YOU! Yes, you with the cheddar. Put that down. You MUST use American cheese on this. According to Mr. Edge, "Only those orange squares of vaguely plastic texture will achieve proper fluidity."

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (AHT recommends no leaner than 80%)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 slices American cheese (NOT cheddar; see note above)
4 buns

Your favorite condiments and toppings

1. Place beef, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper in a bowl; mix well. Portion into eight even units. Shape each portion into a thin round patty that's slightly larger than the cheese slice.
2. Fold cheese slices in half twice so you have a little stack of quartered cheese slices. Place a folded cheese stack on 4 the patties, covering cheese with remaining 4 patties.
3. Tightly crimp the edges of the patties together to form a tight seal.
4. Did you make a tight seal? I hope so, because it needs to be TIGHT to avoid a blowout as the cheese melts, creates steam, and tries to find its way out of its meaty prison.
5. Preheat a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan to medium heat (or fire up a medium-hot bed of coals on your backyard grill), and cook burgers over heat 3 to 4 minutes on first side. Burger may puff up due to steam from melting cheese. This is normal. Do not be alarmed.
6. Flip, and using toothpick, prick top of burger to allow for steam escape. Allow burger to cook 3 to 4 minutes on this side.
7. Remove patties from pan or grill. Bun those suckers, slap some condiments on, and dig in.


New Year, New Blog!

Life is short...enjoy every bite! I really feel this way about the food I eat. Whether it is a gourmet dinner, a stop at a fast food restaurant, or eating dessert, every bite should be worth putting in your mouth!

I didn't realize that a "food blog" existed until this past year. As I thought more and more about it I decided that I was going to create a blog for myself, mainly as a way to keep track of all the delicious recipes I have and have tried. Believe me, this is a much more organized way of keeping track of my recipes than the 4x6 plastic photo album they've been tucked into since I left for college!

Foods I like (and basically live for) are pasta and cupcakes! But I also like to cook foods that are quick and easy and hopefully semi-healthy. Cooking and baking is a stress relief and a way to decompress after a long day. One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon is bake cupcakes! There is something about the smell of cupcakes that symbolizes happiness to me. You would be hard pressed to find me sad around a cupcake!

So, to start this off on a "sweet" is a recipe for a tasty trifle!

Triple Chocolate Brownie Trifle
2 packages brownie mix
8-10 pudding snack packs (in milk chocolate and dark chocolate)
1 large container whipped cream
1 bag Heath pieces

Cook brownies according to package directions in a 9x13 pan, cool. Tear brownie into pieces. Place one layer of brownies on the bottom of a trifle dish and press down slightly. Open 2-3  snack packs and spread over brownies. Layer whipped cream over chocolate pudding then sprinkle some Heath pieces over whipped cream. Make sure to spread brownies, pudding, and whipped cream to the edges so you can see all layers through trifle dish. Repeat layering so that there are 3-4 layers to the trifle. Serve immediately or chill then serve.

*This is also very easy to assemble if you are bringing a dish to pass at a party or potluck.*