Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pumpkin Bread

I'm squeezing in one last fall recipe!

A few weeks ago my daughter was learning about pumpkins in kindergarten, and she asked if we could make pumpkin bread. So we picked up a can of pumpkin and went in search of an easy recipe.

Easy is a must for me when it comes to baking. Too much measuring makes me crazy! So this recipe was perfect - easy ingredients and easy directions. The bread turned out perfectly moist and wasn't overly pumpkin-y or spicy like some pumpkin sweets can be. We enjoyed it for breakfast for a few days and I plan on making it again next year as soon as the leaves start to turn and pumpkin is available in the market!

Pumpkin Bread
Source: Cheese Curd in Paradise


  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c canned pumpkin
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick baking spray
  • Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine oil, applesauce, vanilla and sugar. Mix until smooth.
  • Add the eggs and pumpkin.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vegetable and Quinoa Soup

A few weeks ago my husband and I had a date night and chose to dine at a Peruvian restaurant near us. We had been there before when they first opened and were excited to try more things off the menu. 

My husband chose ceviche for his app, and I went with a Peruvian Vegetable and Quinoa Soup. After my first bite I knew I would be ordering this soup every time we go back. I also knew that I was going to need to recreate it at home. 

The next week I googled Peruvian soup recipes and while they all consistently had lots of vegetables and quinoa, I couldn't find any consistency in regards to seasoning and spices. So instead, I thought back to the soup I had at the restaurant - it was very simple, clean, and fresh. I decided to keep mine very simple with just a pinch of oregano and cumin as seasoning and guess what? It worked perfectly. 

I love the simplicity of this soup, both in preparation and flavor. And although it is a pretty light and healthy soup, it is definitely hearty enough to enjoy on its own. I ate it for lunch every day for 4 days in a row, and was disappointed when it was gone.

Vegetable and Quinoa Soup

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 sm onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 each of these veggies, chopped into the same sized pieces:russet potato, red pepper, green pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, carrot, celery.
  • 1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
  • 8 oz canned chopped tomatoes, with juices
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c rinsed quinoa
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot
  • Add the onions and saute 2-3 minutes, until softened
  • Add the garlic and saute 1 minute
  • Add all of the vegetables except the peas; saute 2 minutes.
  • Add the peas and tomatoes; stir to combine.
  • Add the broth, quinoa, cumin, and oregano.
  • Bring to a simmer and then cover, simmering for 20 minutes until the quinoa and potatoes are cooked through. 

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gorgonzola Truffles

With the holidays approaching I see a lot of requests for appetizer recipes. I LOVE appetizers and could easily make a meal out of them. To check out all of my appetizers, click here. I have a nice mix of dips, spreads, cold, hot, easy, and fancy.

Last spring I hosted our neighborhood's girls' night and served an array of apps - 

Caprese Bites
Artichoke and Sundried Tomato Pesto Dip with Toasted Baguettes
Hummus and Pita Chips
Loaded Baked Potato Phylo Bites
Ham and Cheese Pinwheels on Whole Wheat Tortillas
Veggie Crudite with Dip
Gorgonzola Truffles with Pecans
And for our game tables I put out bowls of bar snacks and chocolate covered pretzels 
Dessert was a Sundae Bar with ice cream, brownies, and bowls of toppings 

These Gorgonzola Truffles were super easy to make. The original recipe called for coating them in bacon - doesn't that sound heavenly? I am a strong believer that bacon makes everything better, but the ONLY reason I didn't not use bacon was because I already had bacon in another app. I thought pecans (or walnuts) would be a nice change. 

I made these a bit smaller than the recipe recommended, and the next time I'd make them even smaller. They are very rich and it would be nice if they were truly one-bite. What I loved about them is I could prep the mixture the day before and roll them into balls once the mixture was firm. Once I was ready to serve, all I had to do was roll them in the pecans. 

Gorgonzola Truffles
Source: The Way to His Heart

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 tsp finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 c pecans, roughly chopped or gently crushed (or for the original recipe, use bacon)
  • Apple slices, pear slices, grapes (optional), for plating and serving
  • Beat the first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Cover tightly and chill at least one hour until firm (or up to 3 days). 
  • Roll the cheese mixture into balls (I recommend 1/2 inch). Roll in the nuts and serve immediately. 

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Tostadas

I feel like it was just summer, but here we are nearing Thanksgiving and dealing with darkness at 5 PM. In some ways I like that it gets dark early because my nights feel longer (and my Kindergarten kid feels like she is staying up "really, really late!!!" although she catches on after a few days... ). I also tend to go to bed a bit earlier this time of year, which is always a good thing. But if I have to drive at night, forget it. I hate driving in the dark (part of that may be because I could probably use glasses for night driving but I just haven't gotten them yet. Getting old is tough!). 

I usually turn to comfort food this time of year - creamy dishes, casseroles, soups, and stews. But eating like that just isn't good for my waistline (another problem with this whole getting older thing). So I'm changing things up and sticking to lighter meals and less carbs and sugar. A big perk to this recipe is that it makes it feel like spring or summer. 

I stumbled across this recipe by Cooking Light when looking for ideas for grilled chicken. Yes, you can grill even if it is dark. Just put on an outside light or get one of those clip on lights made specifically for grilling at night. We will (I mean, my husband will) grill year round as long as it isn't the middle of a blizzard and we can't get to the grill. 

 I liked that the tortillas were crisped in the oven, and not fried. I used that as my inspiration for this dinner, and changed up the ingredients and directions, including marinating and grilling my chicken. We all loved these and were able to personalize them, using ingredients we all liked from the pile of veggies that we grilled. The tortillas were very crispy and we were able to pick them up to eat like a tostada or pizza. 

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Tostadas
Inspired by: Cooking Light

  • 1 lb of chicken (I used boneless breasts - use what you like)
  • Marinade: 1/2 c olive oil, 1/4 tsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp cumin and chili powder, 2 cloves crushed garlic, handful of cilantro, juice from 1/2 of a lime, zest from 1/2 of a lime. 
  • 1/2 of a red onion sliced into rings
  • 1/2 each green and red pepper sliced into large pieces (if there are 4 "sides" to your pepper, cut off 2 of them)
  • 1 sm zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 sm yellow squash, halved lengthwise
  • 8-10 grape or cherry tomatoes on a skewer
  • Olive oil spray, salt and pepper
  • 1 c Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 6 sm flour tortillas
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Optional: sour cream, for serving
  • Mix all of the marinade ingredients except the lime juice and zest. Pour over the chicken in a shallow bowl; cover and marinate in the fridge 8 hours to overnight. 1 hour before cooking, add the lime juice and zest. 
  • Spray all of your veggies with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper
  • Heat your grill and grill the chicken until it reaches 160 degrees; let rest 5-10 minutes and then chop into bite sized pieces. 
  • Grill your veggies for a few minutes until very lightly charred; chop them into bite sized pieces.
  • Turn on the broiler in your oven. Spray the tortillas with olive oil spray and place on a cookie sheet under the broiler for 2 minutes. Flip and broil another 1-2 minutes.
  • Remove the tortillas from the oven and top with the chicken, veggies, and then cheese.
  • Return them to the oven under the broiler until the cheese has melted.
  • Top with fresh cilantro. 

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Breakfast on the Go - Egg Muffins

There's nothing like a big breakfast at home, and I don't mean just the food. It's having the time to lounge around and enjoy a leisurely breakfast in your PJs while spending time with your family. However, even on the weekends it is rare to have the time for a lazy breakfast.

One of my favorite things to make when I cook a big breakfast is a fritatta, but who has time for that on a busy weekday morning? Just because you don't have the time for a fritatta doesn't mean you need to grab a bagel and run. Instead, turn your favorite omelette or fritatta into a muffin and you have breakfast that will travel easily and reheat well.

You can make these with any combination of ingredients that you like. There are just a few general steps -

  • Beat the eggs (4 extra large or 5 large eggs will make 6 muffins)
  • Saute your meat and veggies
  • Add meat and veggies to eggs
  • Pour into muffin tins
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes
For meat I often use ground breakfast sausage, but you can also use cooked, crumbled bacon or diced ham. My veggies are usually red onion, tomatoes and spinach, but you can really use anything you want - green onions, peppers, kale, arugula, broccoli, small pieces of cooked, diced potato, asparagus, etc. 

Once cooled I wrap them in packs of 2 and will reheat them for breakfast for up to 3 days. To reheat, just pop them in the microwave on medium for 15-20 seconds.


  • 4 Extra large or 5 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp light cream or milk
  • Optional: shredded cheese
  • 1/3 c ground breakfast sausage
  • Chopped veggies, about 1/2 c total
  • Olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Grease your muffin tins or use cupcake liners
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with salt, pepper, and cream. Stir in the cheese, if using.
  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan; add meat until browned. Add veggies and cook until tender. 
  • Add veggie/meat mixture to eggs and stir.
  • Ladle egg mixture into muffin tins, filling to 1/4 inch below the top.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the tops just start to lightly brown.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pork with a Lemon Dijon Pan Sauce

Pan sauces are such a great way to add some flavor to your meat, and to use up all the crispy little brown bits in the bottom of your pan. They are also usually quick dishes to make - perfect for a busy weeknight. Even better, this one had little prep involved.

Because of that I was able to make a creamy mushroom risotto to go along with the pork. Don't worry, we also had a veg. I snapped this pic while the green beans were steaming :)

I first tagged this recipe when I saw it on Kylee Cooks. I love using Dijon mustard in sauces, and I knew mixing it with lemon and Worcestershire would give it both brightness and depth.

We all loved this! The sauce was so amazing that I kept adding more to my pork as I was eating. I made a few minor changes, including adding chicken broth so we'd have more sauce. I also didn't have lemon pepper seasoning so I used freshly grated lemon zest, salt, and pepper.


Pork Chops with a Lemon Dijon Pan Sauce
Adapted from: Kylee Cooks

  • 4 thin sliced pork chops
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1.5 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth


  • Combine the lemon juice, Worcestershire and Dijon mustard in a small bowl; set aside
  • Rub the chops with the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper
  • In a large saute pan (I like to use my stainless pans for a good sear), heat butter and oil over medium heat
  • Add the chops and cook 4-5 minutes per side until a thermometer reads 140 degrees. Remove to a plate and let rest
  • Turn the heat to medium high and add the chicken broth to deglaze the pan - scrape up all of those brown bits!
  • Add the mustard/lemon/Worcestershire mixture and stir. Let simmer for a few minutes until slightly thickened.
  • Return the chops to the pan, lower heat, and let simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Serve the pork chops topped with some of the sauce. 

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pork Carnitas

I am slowly starting to use my crock pot a bit more often. So far I am loving it for shredded or pulled meat - beef, chicken, or pork. The crock pot makes it so tender that it just falls apart with 2 forks - barely any effort required!
Last week I made pork carnitas in the crock pot. 5 minutes to get it cooking? Yes, please! Even better, it only requires a few ingredients.

The most important step, in my opinion, was browning and crisping the pork after shredding it. I loved the added texture and crunch from the caramelized brown bits on the pork. Once I browned the pork I served it over rice with some fresh cilantro. Next time I will make some nice street style tacos with the meat, queso fresco, pickled red onions and cilantro.
Pork Carnitas
I cut the recipe in half and used a different cut of meat. The ingredients below are based on how I made the pork.
  • One 2.5-lb pork loin (I prefer using a loin over a shoulder - less fat to deal with when shredding)
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried cumin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (remove the ribs and seeds for less heat)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c orange juice
  • Season the pork with salt and pepper.
  • Mix the oil, oregano and cumin; rub all over the pork.
  • Place the pork in your crock pot, fat cap up.
  • Top with the onions, jalapenos and garlic, and then pour in the orange juice.
  • Cook on low 8-10 hours or high for 6 hours.
  • Skim off the fat and shred the meat using 2 forks. Keep warm.
  • When ready to eat - heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauté pan (stainless steel preferred). Add one serving of pork and cook until the bottom side is golden brown and crusty.
  • Serve over rice or in tacos. Use the extra juices if you'd like and top with cilantro.
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Mexican Grilled Corn Salad with Citrus Aioli

One of summer's stars is definitely fresh, sweet corn.

I have mentioned this in my blog before that every week or 2 in the summer, my dad drives across the river to a small farm stand in NJ. He always comes back with the best tomatoes, zucchini, and of course, corn.

I like corn on the cob, but my favorite way to enjoy this summer treat is off the cob. The other night I decided to take it out of the husks and grill it for a salad.

If you have corn to use, make this salad. I thought it was out of this world good! There are so many flavors going on that just WORK together - the sweet corn, the salty cheeses, the bright cilantro and the bright and creamy dressing - seriously, O.M.G. good!

I made a few minor changes by adding grilled red onion, omitting the melted butter, changing the quantities, serving it at room temp (not hot), and in general changing how it was all put together (I simplified it). I plan on making this for every gathering I have as well as every one I go to for the rest of the summer - it was THAT good! So please do yourself a favor and make this ASAP. You will thank me!
Mexican Grilled Corn Salad with Citrus Aioli
Adapted from: Food and Wine
(serves 4)
  • 5 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 1/4 of a large red onion, sliced into rings.
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lime zest plus 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest plus 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard (or more, if needed, after tasting)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (or less - depends on how much heat you want)
  • 1 oz crumbled queso fresco
  • 1 oz crumbled cotija cheese
  • handful each of fresh parsley and cilantro, chopped
  • Make the aioli: mix the mayo, lime zest, lime juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, Dijon, garlic, and cayenne. Season with salt. This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
  • Heat your grill to high. Brush the corn and red onion with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the corn 8-10 minutes until cooked and slightly charred. Let cool before cutting the kernels off the cob and chopping the onion.
  • Toss the corn kernels and chopped onion with the cilantro and parsley. Add in the dressing slowly (I didn't need to use all of mine) and then add in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Serve immediately.  
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Grilled Lemon-Oregano Chicken and Chopped Vegetable Salad

Lemons inspired part of this meal. I had a bunch to use, so I came up with a lemon, oregano and garlic marinade for chicken. And on a 90 degree day, grilled chicken over a crisp and cold salad is the perfect dinner for me.

My other inspiration came from 2 ciabatta rolls sitting on my counter. My favorite thing in a summer salad - grilled ciabatta bread. Cut a ciabatta loaf (or a roll for a smaller salad/less people), spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until charred to your liking and then slice into bite sized pieces.

Grilled Lemon Oregano Chicken and Chopped Vegetable Salad

The Marinade
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 c light olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
Combine all ingredients and pour over the chicken. Marinate, covered, in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours.  Heat grill to high and grill chicken until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving over the salad.

The Salad

You can use whatever you'd like. My salad consisted of:
  • Mixed greens
  • Sliced red, green, orange and yellow peppers
  • Chickpeas
  • Marinated artichokes
  • Cucumbers
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil
  • Grilled ciabatta bread.
  • Salt and pepper
I didn't need to add dressing - the marinated artichokes, basil, salt and pepper added enough flavor.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Grilled Vegetable Pasta in a Garlic Broth with Basil

You know how they say you shouldn't go to the supermarket hungry? Well you also shouldn't try to write a food blog post when you are hungry. I am sitting here staring at the picture of this pasta and the only thought I have in my head right now is how badly I'd love to eat it.
So after giving you one tip, I'm going to let the pictures do the talking in this post. The next time you grill veggies for dinner, make extra so you can chop them up for this pasta dish the next night. Not only will you save time and have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes, you'll get the great flavor of grilled veggies infused into a light and fresh pasta dish.

Grilled Vegetable Pasta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Leftover grilled veggies, chopped
  • A few cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken or vegetable broth OR 1/2 c pasta water
  • 8 oz pasta
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • Optional: fresh mozzarella, chopped
  • Cook pasta until done to your liking; drain, reserving 1/2 c of the pasta water (unless you are using broth)
  • Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat
  • Add the garlic and tomatoes; sauté 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic
  • Add the veggies and toss to warm
  • Add the broth or pasta water, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer.
  • Add the pasta and toss with the veggies.
  • Top with basil and mozzarella

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