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Spinach Garlic Quinoa

Quinoa is technically a seed but is commonly known as a grain.  Quinoa has immensely grown in popularity (like any super food) but for good reason it is packed full of protein and amino acids.   Not only that, but it is gluten free and cholesterol free.  For someone trying to reduce their pasta or white rice intake (like myself) it makes for a great side dish or even a main course to a meal.  I served this with grilled chicken and roasted broccoli, but I imagine it can hold its own for a lighter meal like lunch.

Even if you aren’t trying to eat healthier, quinoa still makes for a great dish.  I think quinoa by itself is quite bland, so I dressed this one up and can assure you it isn’t short of flavor!

Ingredients:
-2 Cups Quinoa
-4 Cups Vegetable Broth (or water)
-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
-2 Cups Baby Spinach
-3 Cloves Garlic
-1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
-1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

In a medium pot, bring broth and quinoa to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes, set aside.  (Or you can cook quinoa in  your rice cooker, just like you would with rice!)

Pour olive oil into a skillet on medium heat.  Toss in pine nuts and garlic.  Allow to turn a golden brown, keeping a close eye to make sure they do not burn.  Add in quinoa, toss or stir to coat.  Stir in spinach until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.  Drizzle in additional olive oil if desired.  Add half of the Parmesan cheese and stir in.  Garnish with remaining cheese on top and serve hot.

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

I’ve made many kinds of stuffed peppers over the years, but have never been fully satisfied with them.  I learned a couple of things along the way from various recipes and trial and error.  These Mexican Stuffed Peppers are by far my favorite!

I think the most important thing is to steam the peppers for a few minutes before stuffing them.  Otherwise, the peppers are way too crunchy (and I love my veggies crunchy!)

Another pet peeve of mine was having too much filling leftover.  It never seemed to be enough to fill another pepper or do anything useful with.  I found that excluding rice was the best because it kept the filling moist (it seemed like rice absorbed the juices) and it also gave me the perfect ratio of filling per pepper with no awkward amount of filling left over.  Of course, that will vary depending on the size of peppers.

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Last but not least, regular stuffed peppers always seem a little bland to me.  Kicking them up with a Mexican style filling really turned them into a fantastic meal!

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Ingredients:
-4 Bell Peppers, tops cut off and cleaned out
-1 Lb. Ground Beef
-8 oz. Can Tomato Sauce
-2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning
-1 Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
-1 Cup Frozen Corn (or 1 ear of fresh corn)
-Six Green Onions, light green parts diced thinly
-1 Cup Cheddar or Mexican cheese blend

Boil a large pot of water.  Place prepared peppers in the water.  Preheat oven to 350F.

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Put a lid on the pot and let steam the peppers for 4-5 minutes.

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Prepare a baking dish (I used a Pyrex 8×8 dish) by pouring in 4 ounces of the tomato sauce in the bottom.  Spread around on the bottom and up the sides of the dish.  This will prevent sticking.

Remove the peppers from the pot of water with tongs and place in a baking dish.

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Brown the beef in a skillet on medium heat.  Drain the fat off and add the taco seasoning.  Add in the rest (4 ounces) of tomato sauce.  Stir in the green onions, corn, and black beans.  Let cook for 4-5 minutes until the mixture isn’t runny and is heated through.

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Stuff the peppers with a spoon until full.  Gently pack them down with the back of the spoon.

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Cook in the oven for 15 minutes.  Top with cheese and return to oven for another 3-5 minutes.

IMG_3251Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

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NY Style Bagels

I’ve been daydreaming about making bagels at home for months and months.  I was under the impression that they were super difficult, filled with extra steps and requiring special bread-making finesse.  Over a long weekend, I decided to mentally prepare myself to tackle bagel-making.  I was delightfully surprised that they are just as easy as making yeast breads, but with one extra step!  I am amazed that I convinced myself that these would be so hard to make that it delayed my bagel bliss for months.

Living in Ohio, we don’t have access to quite the same bagels that NY/NJers do, and are often stuck with the ones that come six-in-a-bag (gasp!)  So as you can imagine, we are deprived human beings until we travel up to the Northeast.  You might be wondering, “can’t I just sit on my couch in my sweats and eat a delicious bagel?”

These bagels don’t require any overnight tricks, and can be made in the same day that you want to eat them!  I made these on a Saturday night (I know, wild, right?) and had them Sunday morning with a delicious breakfast.

Ingredients:
-2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
-1 ½ Tablespoons of Granulated Sugar
-1 ¼ Cups Warm Water (you may need ¼ cup more)
-3 ½ Cups (500g) Bread Flour
-1 ½ teaspoons Salt

Optional toppings:
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, minced garlic, minced onion, course salt, or whatever else you want!  Make an egg wash (1 egg, beat, with a splash of water) when it comes time to top them.

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Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water into a small bowl.  Gently stir in yeast and sugar.  Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes until yeast is activated and frothy.

In a separate large bowl, mix flour and salt together.  Form a small well in the bottom.  Pour in the yeast mixture.  Add in half of the remaining water and mix.  Slowly add the remaining water, if needed, until dough forms into a nice elastic-y consistency.  Dough should be moist but firm.  Knead for 10 minutes by hand, or 7-8 minutes with a mixer with the dough hook attachment.  Try working in as much flour as the dough will allow, to form a firm and stiff dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl and add the kneaded dough to it.  Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise for one hour.

When dough has risen and doubled in size, punch down the dough.  Divide the dough into eight equally-sized pieces.  (I used a kitchen scale, but I’m a nerd and wanted them to be as perfect as possible.)  Shape each piece into a smooth round.  Coat a finger in flour and press into the center of a dough ball.  Stretch the dough out around your finger until a bagel shape forms.  Try not to overwork the dough, the smoother it remains, the better the final product will look.  Complete with the remaining seven dough balls.  Place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and let rise for 20-30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and preheat your oven to 425F.  When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a rapid simmer.  Using a slotted spoon or spatula, drop in a bagel and let boil for one minute per side.  If you want a chewier exterior, boil for two minutes per side.  Use the slotted spoon to gently flip them over in the water.  I only boiled two bagels per batch, so I could be sure they didn’t stick together and I could stay on top of flipping them in time.  Using the slotted spoon, remove the bagel from the water.

If you are adding a topping, make your egg wash.  Lightly brush the boiled bagel with egg wash and sprinkle your topping on it.  Place back on the oiled baking sheet.  When all are completed, bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.  Store in a sealed container.  Delicious for 3-5 days.

Peach Vodka Lemonade

Summer is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy some peach drinks!  I had some peach vodka, peach lemonade, and peaches on hand and decided to mix them up to see how it would be.  I was just blown away with how delicious such a simple drink turned out!  I have also made this with regular lemonade and it is still very tasty.

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Ingredients:
-2 oz. shot of Vodka
-2 oz. shot of Peach Vodka
-1 Cup-2 Cups of Peach Lemonade (depending on how strong you want it)
-1/2 Fresh Sliced Peach
-Ice

Mix all ingredients in a short glass or stemless wine glass.  Serve immediately and share with friends.  :)

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Eggs in a Basket

Eggs in a basket became one of my favorite breakfasts thanks to Cracker Barrel.  As a traditional road trip stop, I only really had the excuse to order it a couple times a year.  It seemed way more complicated to make than it really is, so I outlined it below with step-by-step photos.  If you liked fried eggs and toast, this takes it to another level!

Ingredients:
-Bread, sliced
-Eggs
-Butter, softened

Spread butter over both sides of the bread and cut out holes.  Butter the hole pieces as well.

IMG_3071Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat.  You’ll have to play with the timing depending on your cook surface and stove temps, but I typically put the piece of bread down for about 20 seconds before cracking the egg into the hole.

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After 1-2 minutes, flip the bread/egg.  (Don’t judge my dirty looking pan, I fried some bacon in it first!)

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Cook the other side for a minute or so, until also golden.  Also be sure to fry the hole pieces (I do them separately, all at once) because they’re great for dipping!

Serve up!

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Yum!
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S’mores Bars

I wanted something quick and easy to put together before a cookout, and decided to go for these s’mores bars.  I wasn’t sure if we would have the fire pit going, but definitely wanted s’mores.  I saw this awesome recipe on fearless homemaker and decided to give them a try!

The graham cracker layers are buttery and sweet, with a layer melty chocolate and soft fluffy marshmallow in between.  They were gone so fast, I’m glad I got to try one first.  I will definitely be making these again and again, especially to take places to share!

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Ingredients:  

-1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
-1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
-1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
-1 Large Egg
-1 teaspoon Vanilla
-1 1/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
-3/4 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
-1 teaspoon Baking Powder
-1/4 teaspoon Salt
-3 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars
-1 1/2 Cups Marshmallow Creme/Marshmallow Fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.

Cream together butter and sugars in a large bowl.  Add egg and vanilla, mix until incorporated.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and graham cracker crumbs.  Slowly add into the butter/sugar mixture, mixing until well blended.

Divide the graham cracker dough in half.  It will be slightly dry and crumbly.  Press into the bottom of the baking sheet.  Break up the chocolate pieces and place chocolate over the graham cracker dough layer, with a little space between pieces so it fits evenly in the pan.  Spread marshmallow fluff over the chocolate layer carefully with the back of a spoon.  The top graham cracker layer will be tough- as the recipe suggested, I pressed it together in “shingles” and laid it over top of the marshmallow layer.  Don’t strive for perfection, it’s supposed to look gooey and imperfect!

Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.  Allow to fully cool before cutting into pieces.

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Tropical Banana Nut Bread

I’m celebrating the start of summer with some tropical flavors in my usual banana bread.  I am beyond thrilled it’s summer, not only because of the warmer weather, but also because of the longer days.  Anyone who takes food pictures, or is a food blogger, knows that photos are best in natural light.  If I ever refer back to a past post from my earlier blogging days (can you believe it has been 2.5 years?) my photos are usually atrocious because I was trying to take them in my dark kitchen late in the evening.  And I started blogging in the winter, when it got dark before I got out of work.  Winter is the biggest challenge because I try to cram all of my food blogging photos in on the weekends.  Now, I’m thrilled to say I just whipped up this banana bread and had time to take good pictures in daylight at 8:30pm!

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Back to what you’re here for, the food.  I highly suggest toasting your coconut and macadamia nuts in the preheating oven before you add them to the batter.  It adds an out-of-this-world toasted flavor that blends in fantastically with the coconut.

Ingredients:

-4 Large Ripe Bananas
-2 Large Eggs
-1/4 Cup Coconut Oil, heated until warm
-1/4 Cup Canola Oil
-1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
-2 Cups All Purpose Flour
-1 teaspoon Baking Soda
-3/4 teaspoon Jamaican Allspice
-1/2 teaspoon Salt
-1/3 cup Macadamia Nuts, lightly toasted, roughly chopped
1/3 cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut, lightly toasted

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Preheat oven to 350F.  You can toast the coconut and macadamia nuts for a few minutes while it is preheating, just keep an eye on it!

In a large bowl, mash four bananas.  Small lumps are ok!  Add eggs, brown sugar coconut oil, and canola oil.  Mix until just incorporated.  Sift in flour and baking soda.  Add allspice and salt and mix lightly.  Lastly, stir in the coconut and macadamia nuts.  The batter will be slightly lumpy, which is good.  Do not over mix.  Pour into a lightly greased 9×5 inch bread pan.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and top is a deep golden brown.  Let cool before serving.

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Sausage and Poblano Chili

I know it’s summertime, and chili isn’t typically a warm weather meal, but this chili is unique and worth trying out any time!  The flavor from the poblano chiles combined with spicy sausage adds an extra kick.  It’s full of colors, texture, and amazing flavor.   I made this on the stovetop, but you can totally turn it into a crockpot meal if you’re feeling like stepping out of the kitchen for awhile.  I provided instructions for both, below.

Ingredients:
-3/4 lb. Italian Sausage (I did half hot, half medium)
-1 Onion, diced
-2 Poblano Chiles, chopped, seeds removed
-1 Small Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
-1 Small Orange Bell Pepper, diced
-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
-1 Cup Corn (I used frozen)
-1 15 oz. Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
-1 15 oz. Can Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
-2 15 oz. Cans Diced Tomatoes
-1 teaspoon Chili Powder
-1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
-Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional:
-Green onions, for garnish
-Cheese and/or sour cream, if desired

In a dutch oven or large pot on medium high heat, sauté sausage and onions.  Drain fat.  Sauté peppers and garlic until just soft.   Add chiles, corn, beans, tomatoes, and seasoning.  Let simmer on medium-low heat for two hours, until thickened and hot.

If using a crock pot:  sauté sausage and onions, drain fat.  Pour into crock pot with remaining ingredients.  Cook on high for 4 hours or 8 hours on low.

Serve with fresh crusty bread, sour cream, or cheese.  Garnish with green onions.

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The Best Cheesecake

This cheesecake is so good, you’ll want to make it for yourself for your birthday.  Ok, maybe that’s just me.  But when I thought of any dessert I would ever want, I wanted this exact cheesecake.  This is the third time I’ve made it, and I made prior arrangements to give half to a friend since I will sit down and eat the whole thing.  It isn’t too sweet (which is most cheesecakes’ downfall) and is thick, creamy, and has a slight hint of vanilla bean.

Sure, cheesecake is intimidating.  Even mine isn’t perfect.  I’ve had it crack, sink in, and otherwise just plain make me feel like I don’t have any baking skills.  Do I care?  Not really, especially after I take a bite of it.  So, let go of whatever is stopping you, and make this freakin’ delicious cheesecake.

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Ingredients:

Crust:
-2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
-2 Tablespoons Sugar
-5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

Filling:
-2 Pounds of Cream Cheese (Four 8 ounce packages)
-1 1/3 Cups Sugar
-2 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Paste (or Vanilla Extract)
-4 Large Eggs
-2/3 Cup Sour Cream
-2/3 Cup Heavy Cream

Fruit Topping:
-3 Cups Blueberries
-2 Tablespoons of Sugar, heaping
-1 Tablespoon Water

Allow cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, and heavy cream come to room temperature before starting this recipe.

For the crust:  Place the oven rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar.  Add in melted butter, mix well, and press into the bottom of  a lightly greased  9 inch springform pan.  Press down gently with clean hands, slightly up the sides of the pan, until all pressed in.  Bake for 10 minutes, until golden.  Set aside while making the filling.

*At this point, I put an oven-proof pan full of water in the bottom of the oven.  This provides moisture and helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking and looking like the Grand Canyon.

For the filling:  Reduce oven heat to 325F.  Beat the cream cheese for three minutes, until creamy and fluffy.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat for another three minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute between each one.  Add sour cream, and beat for a minute.  Add the heavy cream and beat again for a minute.   Pour into the prepared  springform pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Turn the heat off and crack the oven door.  Let the cheesecake rest in the oven for an hour.  This gradual change in temperature will also help prevent cracking.  After an hour, put the cheesecake in the fridge overnight, or at minimum for four hours.

For the fruit topping:  Put blueberries and water in a pan on medium heat.  Add sugar and stir often.  After the blueberries have shed their skins and start to become liquid, reduce heat to low and let bubble for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and chill, until ready to serve.  Spoon over the cheesecake.

 

 

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Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

I am a major fan of coconut and chocolate.  They are dense, chewy, and delicious.  Not to mention, slightly healthier than your average cookie (but not enough to leave you feeling disappointed they are “healthy” cookies.)

With double chocolate, a hint of coconut, and a hearty texture, these cookies will disappear quickly!

Ingredients:
-1 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
-1/4 Cup (Heaping) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
-1 teaspoon Baking Soda
-1 teaspoon Baking Powder
-6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, room temperature
-3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil, melted
-1/2 Cup Sugar
-1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
-1 Large Egg
-1 teaspoon Vanilla
-1 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
-1 Cup Rolled Oats
-1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and coconut oil.  Add egg and vanilla, mix again.  Slowly add the dry ingredients, until mixed in.  Add the coconut, oats, and chocolate chips.  The dough will be thick.  Roll into balls the size of a Tablespoon and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven at 350F for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool for a couple minutes and transfer to a wire rack.

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