Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love to try new recipes and to mix it up, but my husband would choose basic chocolate chip cookies every time! To satisfy my need to branch out, I tried {and loved} these soft cookies. The addition of sour cream lends a cake-like texture to an otherwise "typical" cookie. I doubled and adapted the original recipe, because making just 2 dozen cookies (and half bags of chocolate chips) is a waste of time, in my opinion. They also freeze very well. Makes 4 dozen cookies. Recipe from

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, or 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream 

2 cups chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. 

Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream, and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Cover, and freeze for 10 minutes.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake until centers are set and cookies are pale golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.

No-Cream Pasta Primavera

If you're looking for a healthy dinner that's full of fresh vegetables and bursting with the flavors of lemon, balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs, this is your dish! My kids loved it and it would be elegant enough to serve to company. Serves 6. Recipe very slightly adapted from

1 (12 ounce) package penne pasta ( I use Dreamfield's low-carb pasta)
1 yellow summer squash, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned (I used the whole pepper)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
5 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil*
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley*
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add penne pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In a bowl, toss squash, zucchini, carrot, red bell pepper, tomatoes, green beans, and asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. Arrange vegetables on the baking sheet, and roast 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender.

Heat remaining olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender. 

Mix in cooked pasta, lemon zest, basil, parsley, and balsamic vinegar. Gently toss and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with roasted vegetables and sprinkle with Romano cheese to serve.

*I LOVE fresh herbs, but if you want to substitute dried basil and parsley, use 1 1/2 Tablespoons of each.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Barley Corn Salad

We recently purchased a new grill and have been grilling up a storm. It's amazing the cooking possibilities it opens up. This, in my opinion, is the perfect summer dish: Fresh ingredients with lots of flavor; great dish for entertaining. I realize as I'm posting this that I should have posted it earlier. Hopefully it is still grilling weather wherever you are. If not, keep this on the back burner for next summer. 

4 chicken breasts
3/4 cup medium barley
2 cups fresh or frozen-then-thawed corn kernels
1-1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup minced red onion
4 slices cooked thick or center cut bacon, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
salt & pepper to taste 
Tomato Vinaigrette: 
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon red onion
salt & pepper to taste
1-Cook barley with a pinch of salt according to package directions. Drain when barley is tender to make sure all excess water is removed. Place into a large bowl to cool slightly.
2- Make the Tomato Vinaigrette: Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a food processor or blender, then process until smooth. Place 6 Tablespoons of the vinaigrette into a plastic bag and set the remaining aside. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt & pepper, then add it to the bag with the vinaigrette and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
3-Meanwhile stir corn, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and bacon into the cooled barley. Add enough of the reserved tomato vinaigrette to coat and stir well. Gently fold in avocado then season with salt & pepper to taste. Place into the refrigerator.
4-Heat a grill to high and grill chicken for 4-5 minutes a side, or until cooked through. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes off the grill, then divide salads onto plates and top with grilled chicken.

recipe from:  Iowa Girl Eats

Grilled Balsamic Glazed Chicken

This is our favorite recipe for grilled chicken.  I like it so much that I braved 95 degree heat with 70% humidity to grill this for dinner last week. We have been eating it pretty much once a week all summer. If you don't have a grill you could use a grill pan on your stove. Don't forget to serve a side of the warm balsamic sauce for dipping along side the chicken. So good! 


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. In a sauce pan, combine balsamic vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Stir then simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by about 1/3.
  2. Season chicken by lightly sprinkling it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Heat your grill or grill pan to medium heat and place the meat on the grill. Use a pastry brush to brush each piece of chicken with some of the balsamic bbq sauce.
  4. The chicken will need to cook until it reaches 160 degrees which was about 8 minutes on each side. As the chicken is cooking, brush each side with sauce every few minutes.
  5. Once the chicken is cooked through, allow to rest for a few minutes before serving. Be sure to serve the remaining warm balsamic bbq sauce for dipping.
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cookie Tutorial

I've always liked to cook, but I really love to bake! My Mom often made freshly baked cookies for us when we were growing up and now I equate the smell of warm cookies to comfort, home and smiling kids. The cookies that remind me of my Mom are her Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Good & Chewy Cookies or Oatmeal Chipper Cookies. She always jokes that she should have blue fur and googly eyes!
I love putting a homemade cookie in my kids' lunches for school and we almost always have cookies on hand for unexpected company, late-night homework sessions or an after-school snack. Making cookies as often as I do has helped me figure out what works best, so I thought I'd share some helpful tips to take your cookies to the next level of AMAZING:)
  1. Use a cookie scoop. This simple tool will make your cookies look uniform in size. I have medium and a small scoops that I love from Pampered Chef, but I've also seen good scoops at Wal-Mart, Target and some grocery stores. My medium cookie scoop is also my secret weapon when making muffins, as it measures the perfect amount of batter for the muffin tin.
  2. Use parchment paper, if using a metal cookie sheet. It keeps your cookie sheet clean, keeps cookies from sticking and eliminates the need for cooking spray. Costco sells a large roll that will last for years, but you can also find it at the grocery store. Parchment paper is magic as a pan liner when making brownies or bar cookies as well. Simply lift the paper with the baked brownies onto a cutting board and you can easily cut them into neat squares. I also use parchment paper when making a favorite recipe, Oven Omelet Roll.
  3. My first choice of cookie sheet is actually a baking stone like this one from Pampered Chef (I have nothing to do with the company, but I love several of their products). When I bake multiple batches of cookies, the cookies baked on the stone turn out more uniform, don't burn cookies on the bottom (as metal cookie sheets tend to) and stay softer even longer than cookies baked on a metal sheet. 
  4. Chill the cookie dough, if possible. Even if you stick the cookie dough in the fridge (or freezer!) while you heat up the oven, it will help. Chilled cookie dough holds its shape better and the cookies tend to bake up fluffier and won't go flat. 
  5. Bake cookies in the top half of your oven. In my ovens, I use the second spot from the top for the oven rack. This helps prevent the cookies from burning on the bottom, and speaking of that...
  6. Always set your oven timer for less time than the recipe says and don't over-bake the cookies. I like to take them out of the oven just before the cookies begin to brown and let them sit on the cookie sheet for 1-2 minutes before removing them with a metal spatula to cool on a cooling rack. 
  7. Let the cookies cool completely before storing them in an airtight container. I use a piece of parchment paper in between the layers of cookies so they don't stick together. 

Well, I hope that inspires you to make a hot batch of cookies:) We have 
so many good recipes here to try! Happy baking!!!

Bacon-Topped Petite Turkey Meatloaf

This meal thrilled my whole family for 2 reasons: First, this meatloaf is flavorful and not dry and second, it's topped with BACON! Winner! I've made this 4 times and it literally gets cheers from my kids & the hubby when I serve it. Recipe slightly adapted from

3/4 cup grated zucchini, all moisture squeezed dry with a paper towel
2 Tablespoons onion, minced
2 Tablespoons red pepper, diced 
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 large egg
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1.3 pounds 93% lean ground turkey
5 slices center-cut bacon, cut in half
2 1/2 Tablespoons barbecue sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a petite loaf pan with oil (If you don't have one, a muffin tin would work) and set aside.

In a large bowl (I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment), mix the zucchini, onion, red pepper, breadcrumbs, BBQ sauce, egg, paprika and salt. Add the turkey and combine just until mixed through. 

Divide meatloaf mixture evenly between 5 loaves and smooth tops with a spoon. Place 2 bacon halves over each loaf and top each with 1/2 Tablespoon additional BBQ sauce.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Serves 5. 

Nutritional information per loaf: *Calories: 259 *Fat: 10 g *Carbs: 17 g *Fiber: 1.2 g. *Protein: 25 g *Sodium: 940 mg.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Boston Brown Bread

If you've ever eaten at The Cheesecake Factory, you've probably tasted their DIVINE brown bread they serve as an appetizer. I was looking for a similar recipe and found this slightly sweet and definitely delicious bread that my whole family loves! Makes one (9 x 5") loaf. 
Recipe from

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan, knocking out excess flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, and brown sugar. Mix in molasses and buttermilk until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for one hour, or until done. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, and then remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Fresh Apple Cookies

I am shocked it's been so long since anyone has posted a recipe here! I use this blog for meal planning every week and I'm grateful for a collection of amazing recipes. THANK YOU readers for not losing hope! We still have about 150-300 readers each day. Now that school has started for my kids, I will be posting all the fun recipes I made over the summer. I'm starting with this one because it seems like a great cookie for FALL! They taste a lot like a Snickerdoodle cookie, but with fresh apples! Recipe from my friend Marlynn Avery.

1/2 cup shortening (I sub butter)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 apple, peeled and grated 

Roll cookies in: 
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream shortening and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add vanilla, flour, soda, salt and baking powder. Grate apple and mix in. Roll into 1 inch balls. Dough will be moist. Roll balls in cinnamon mixture and bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 25-30 cookies.
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