Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baked Chicken Taquitos

Baked chicken taquitos--a quick and easy meal or appetizer for your next party! Start by mixing the chicken, cheese and other ingredients together and fill flour tortillas and bake until crispy. These would be great for a New Year's or Super Bowl party. They can be made ahead and baked right before serving. I prefer to use a rotisserie chicken or make my chicken ahead, refrigerate, and shred before throwing it together.

I omitted the onion powder and chopped, fresh cilantro from the original recipe. Neither Mark or I care for cilantro, so I leave it out and add fresh chopped parsley for some color. I also substitute Monterey Jack cheese for Pepper Jack cheese. Occasionally I'll do a mixture of the two, but I prefer Monterey Jack. Of course, substitute with whatever cheese you like!

Baked Chicken Taquitos
from Lynda's Recipe Box

  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup salsa verde  
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped, green onions
  • 2 tablespoons freshly, chopped parsley (optional)
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 10-12 fajita size flour tortillas
  • Kosher Salt
  • Cooking spray
1. Preheat Oven to 425 degrees. You will need a non-stick cookie sheet; or a regular cookie sheet lined with foil and lightly coated with cooking spray.

2. In a medium size bowl, mix together the chicken, cheeses, seasonings, green onions, lime juice and salsa. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture onto the center of a tortilla, keeping it a half inch from the edge. Roll the tortilla up tightly and line together on the cookie sheet. Make sure they are not touching so that they cook evenly. Spray the top of the taquitos with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

3. Bake for 15-20 until crisp and the edges lightly browned. Sprinkle with a little extra lime juice before serving. Serve with sour cream, salsa or guacamole, if desired.

Note: For making ahead, mix all the ingredients (minus tortillas) in a bowl and refrigerate. Once ready to bake, take ingredients out the fridge, assemble, and bake. The taquitos also reheat well in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Steak Subs

A hearty lunch that's sure to please!

My husband, Mark, isn't much of a sandwich guy but he loves this steak sandwich. It's easy to prepare and very satisfying.

I made enough for two sandwiches-- I used: two tenderized sirloin steaks and one half of a green bell pepper and about one-fourth of an onion (the onion was big, so you may want more). Saute the vegetables until cooked, but where they still have a crunch.

Season the steaks with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook them in a cast iron skillet, griddle or grill pan until well done. I grilled them on my cast iron grill pan (I love that thing...I can grill from the comfort of my own kitchen!).

Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes, then slice the steak into small strips. Layer the steak on a sandwich roll, topped with the bell pepper and onions and slices of mozzarella (I prefer provolone but mozzarella is what I had on hand).

Steak Subs


2 sirloin steaks, tenderized
Green bell pepper, thinly sliced
Yellow onion, thinly sliced
Garlic Powder
Provolone or Mozzarella slices
Deli Rolls


1. Slice green bell pepper and onion into thin strips. Saute in a little olive oil for 6-8 minutes until slightly softened.

2. Season steaks with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook in grill pan or skillet until well done. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes. Slice steak into strips.

3. Assemble sandwich by layering steak, peppers, onions, and cheese between a deli roll.

Yields: 2 servings

The Holiday Handbook by Philosophy

I have to share about a cute Christmas gift I received. My mother-in-law got me this "Holiday Handbook" gift set by Philosophy. It contains three hand creams that smell delectable:

Each of the hand creams that have their own unique scent

Gingerbread Cookie

Honey Buns

Cranberry Medley

The cream feels great on and doesn't leave that greasy feeling like some hand creams do. The scents are very rich and smell good enough to eat.

I trust you all had a Merry Christmas. We had a busy one with lots of family and friends; and more yet to come!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Photo Credit: Google

 "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." - Luke 2:8-14

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Baked Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

Baked chicken topped with Swiss cheese, homemade cream of chicken sauce and stuffing. A satisfying casserole for any night of the week!

I gave this popular, potluck recipe a makeover with a homemade sauce. Canned cream of chicken soup is typically used for the sauce. I opted to make a lower sodium, homemade cream of chicken. It's quick, easy and tastier than canned soup. 

Start by prepping your chicken: I used three boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them in to cutlets (six pieces total). Lay cutlets on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Lightly pound out the chicken until even in thickness. Lightly season with salt and pepper and arrange them into a 9x13 baking dish. Store the seasoned chicken in the fridge until ready to assemble. This allows the salt to tenderize and season the chicken, resulting a moister and flavorful chicken.

Prepare stuffing according to package directions [I prefer reduced-sodium chicken Stove Top]. Set aside. In a saucepan, saute onion in a little butter for 5 minutes. Stir in flour to form a roux, and let cook for 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth and milk and bring to a simmer. Sauce will thicken after 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

Top each piece of chicken with half a slice of Swiss cheese, pour sauce over the chicken and top with prepared stuffing. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and stuffing is golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side of green beans and a garden salad and you have a complete meal in 30-45 minutes!

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about one pound
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 Slices of Swiss cheese, cut in half

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of pepper 


1 box of Stove Top Reduced-Sodium Stuffing mix, prepared according to package directions


1. To prepare the chicken, slice each breast horizontally to create cutlets. Lay cutlets on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Lightly pound out the chicken until an even thickness. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Arrange in a 9x13 casserole dish. Set aside in refrigerator while preparing the rest of the recipe.

2. In a saucepan, melt butter and saute onions until softened; about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Whisk in chicken broth, milk, salt, and pepper. Simmer until thickened, about minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly (sauce will thicken as it stands). Stir in sour cream and adjust seasoning if needed.

3. Prepare Stuffing according to package directions. Fluff with a fork. Cover and set aside.

4. Top chicken with half a slice of Swiss cheese, pour sauce over chicken and top with prepared stuffing. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and stuffing is golden brown. Chicken breasts should register 165 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Yields: 4-6 servings

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is one of my favorite fall and winter recipes. It's a quick bread that's easy to mix together and is very moist--it gets better after each day!

I remember both my Grandmother and Mother making this quite often. They usually add chopped walnuts or pecans to their bread but I leave mine plain. I've had pumpkin bread with a variety of additions, including nuts and dried cranberries.

Those versions are good, but I prefer the Pumpkin bread in all it's pumpkin glory:

Sweet, baby Mufasa wanted to see what I had made...

*Don't worry, I didn't let him near it!

Anyway, this bread is super easy to make, easy to store, and easy to freeze. You really can't mess it up.

And it's great to make for homemade gifts!

Pumpkin Bread
from my Mom, Grandma and Lynda's Recipe Box

2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs, beaten
1 can of pumpkin puree or 1 3/4 cups fresh pumpkin puree


Sift dry ingredients; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk wet ingredients together and fold in dry ingredients. Grease and flour two loaf pans and distribute the batter evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool loaves for ten minutes. Run a knife along edges of bread to loosen, invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in a container or Ziploc bag. Bread stays fresh up to a week and freezes well.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Trees

Small, crisp, almond flavored press cookies. So simple and fun to make!

The dough can be tricky but there a few key elements to make the best dough. Use a good quality vegetable shortening and cream well with granulated sugar. Once it's light and fluffy, add the egg, almond extract (I use imitation because of food allergies) and food coloring. Blend for another minute or two, until the eggs are blended well and dough has a little bit of volume. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the wet ingredients. The dough needs to be slightly sticky in order to press properly.

Load your cookie press and press away!

My favorite Christmas memory is baking cookies with my mom. I loved making press cookies and sugar cookies. What is your favorite Christmas cookie to make?

Christmas Trees
from Mirro Cookie Press Recipes

1 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 salt
Green food coloring
Water, if needed

1. Sift dry ingredients together; set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream shortening till light and fluffy. About 5 minutes. Beat in egg, green food coloring (I used ten drops) and almond extract. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until dough comes together.

2. Fill cookie press and form cookies onto an non-stick, cookie sheet. Sprinkle with red or green sugar, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Let cool slightly on cookie sheet and transfer to cooling rack.

Yields: 6-7 dozen cookies.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Pesto

I often have trouble using boneless, skinless, chicken breasts because I run out of ways to fix them. Not only that, they can turn out dry and flavorless.
I have found that bacon and chicken compliment each other quite nicely. The bacon infuses some great flavor into the chicken and the fat from the bacon keeps the chicken tender. The bacon dresses up the chicken nicely so you could serve this for a special occasion; or fix for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

I sprinkle the chicken with little black pepper and use a simple pesto and Parmesan cheese to stuff the inside of the breast. Do not salt the chicken. The bacon contains salt that will season the chicken nicely. Bake the chicken on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. This allows for even cooking and excess fat to drip away from the chicken. Turn the breasts over halfway through for even browning of the bacon.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Pesto
from Tasteful Cuisine

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons pesto
3-4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
12-15 slices of hickory smoked bacon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare chicken by trimming away any excess fat or skin.  Using a chef's knife, slice through the chicken horizontally, but do not cut all the way through. Lay the chicken pieces out and lightly sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Spread pesto evenly on the inside of each breast. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Fold the chicken back over and wrap evenly with strips of bacon.

2. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and place chicken on rack. Bake chicken for 20 minutes; flip chicken and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until bacon is nicely browned and chicken registers 165 degrees. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow Day + Pet Pics

Our first winter storm came through the Midwest today. The cold front started yesterday and this morning we woke up to 4-5 inches of snow. The snowfall isn't bad but the temperatures have been frigid! Today, we had a high of 20 degrees with a low of 3 degrees tonight! Brrr!

I have been sick since yesterday so I've been lounging around all day. Snowy, cold day + stomach bug = one lazy day! No taking pictures of the snow for me, but I managed to snap of few of my pets.

Our sweet, dachshund Lady, snuggled with me today. She's our lap buddy, she always wants to be near you!

Roscoe also stayed near me. Roscoe is our half Bengal, half Tabby mix. She doesn't like to cuddle much but she is always a comfort when feeling under the weather.

This is our youngest, Mufasa. He was an anniversary gift for me (from my sweet husband) and will be six months old on my birthday later this month. We put up our Christmas tree last weekend and he has loved snuggling on the tree skirt.

I hope to feel back to normal tomorrow and get a recipe posted. I plan on doing some baking this weekend, one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season!

If you are in the midst of this storm, I hope you stay warm!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is always a traditional staple at our holiday dinners. This creamy, simple pie is delicious on it's own or with a mountain of whip cream (yes, we pile it on in our house!). It's hard to mess up pumpkin pie, but there are a few key steps that make it perfect:

Start by baking the crust before baking with the pie filling. Some people don't pre-bake; they bake the pie and crust all together. With a cream filling, the crust needs a head-start to cook thoroughly. It improves the overall texture of the pie if the crust is evenly crisp.

The filling can pose some challenges. It can be too wet and not set up properly, resulting in a mushy filling and soggy crust. I'm partial to Libby's recipe but I've tweaked it by using fresh pumpkin and simmering it with the spices(a trick learned from America's Test Kitchen). Simmering the pumpkin does two things: it allows the spices to bloom and "dries" the pumpkin--evaporating excess moisture and resulting in a better texture in the pie.

Overall, this is one the easiest pies to make, and it's so tasty!

Pumpkin Pie:
adapted from Libby's with some technique from America's Test Kitchen

1 single pie crust-recipe here
1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree-recipe here
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
Whipped cream for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Crust: On a floured surface, roll out crust to 1/8 inch thickness. Transfer dough to pie plate and press the dough evenly around sides of the plate. Using a pastry brush, brush off any excess flour. Trim pie crust to a 1-inch overhang around the edges. Using index finger and thumb, flute the edges of the crust. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking. Remove from refrigerator and line crust with a piece of parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, remove paper and pie weights, rotate crust for even browning and bake for additional 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.

Filling: In a small saucepan, bring pumpkin to a sputtering simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves and simmer for an additional 10 minutes until pumpkin is thick and spices are fragrant. Allow the pumpkin to cool slightly before proceeding. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and whisk in the pumpkin mixture, sugar, salt and milk. Pour into the pie plate and bake for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees; bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until pumpkin is set. Cool completely before serving and refrigerate leftovers.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pie Crust

Pie Crust: it's not everyone's favorite thing to make. Pies require a lot of effort and the crust can be the most frustrating part of making a pie. I personally feel that if my crust doesn't turn out good, the whole pie is a waste.

Well, that may be a bit drastic, but you understand my point.

When it comes to making a pie, I need a no-fail method. This is my tried and true crust recipe. It's simple and has always turned out perfect.

The first essential step is chilling ALL of your ingredients. I start by measuring the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, and then putting that bowl into the refrigerator. Yes, I even chill the bowl. Chill the shortening (and butter if you choose to use) as well. I also use ice water (or water that you've chilled in the fridge or freezer). Once everything is nice and cold, you are ready to begin.

Using a pastry cutter, cut the shortening into the flour and salt. The mixture should be crumbly like so:

Pea sized pieces and smaller

Slowly add water and mix. I'm sorry, but the best way to do it is to get your hands in it!

Clean hands of course...

Do not over mix! Over mixing causes the dough to be tough. Only mix till the dough comes together and is no longer crumbly. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and lightly knead and pat together like so:

Tightly wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. To save time, make the crust a day ahead. It will be chilled and ready to go!

Pie Crust:

Single-Crust Pie:

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (I recommend Crisco)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons ice water

Double-Crust Pie:

1 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Mix flour and salt together. Using a pastry blender, cut shortening into flour until crumbly. Slowly add cold water and mix until dough comes together. Turn dough onto a floured cutting board and lightly knead until dough comes together. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Refrigerate for one hour before assembling pie. The crust keeps indefinitely in the fridge or freezer.

Note: For a rich, buttery crust, substitute half of the shortening with unsalted butter.