Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bake Sale: White Chocolate Chip Crasin Cookies

Bake Sale: White Chocolate Chip Crasin Cookies... I will start by saying that I rarely bake, but I recently volunteer to bake some homemade sweet treat for a charity bake sale at work. The first thing that came to mind was that I needed to make something that would be easy, mildly unique and of course Dahlicious. So I immediately called my mom for the greatest cookie recipe in the world. The credit is actually due here to my best friend Clara's mom, Marianne. This recipe for the perfect cookie (to which you may add any type of choc chips, nuts, dried fruits etc) is just one of a few recipe's Marianne was kind enough to share with my mom, including one for the greatest banana bread of your life. I will say that there is one secret ingredient that makes these treats moist and wonderful: butter flavored Crisco.

What You Need and how to Assemble:

1 Cup Butter Flavored Crisco (1 stick)
3/4 Cup White Sugar
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 1/4 Cups Flour (All Purpose Flour will do)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
(2 Eggs and 1 tsp vanilla to be whisked together and mixed with the above dry ingredients just before baking)

Add your nuts, chips, fruits etc (I used about half a bag of both the chips and the crasins, just eye ball it)
and crumble all of the above dry ingredients together in a large bowl (NOT the eggs and vanilla). Do this with your hands until it has turned into a dusty crumble. You can then put the dry mixture in a large ziplock bag and into the fridge until you are ready to bake. For instance, I did the dry mix on Sunday and am baking these bad boys today, Tuesday!

Once you are ready to bake just add the eggs and vanilla and give it a good mix with your hands or a fork. Make golf ball sized cookies and place 12 on a baking pan and pop in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Whisk the eggs & vanilla

Mix the wet and dry ingredients


The above recipe yields 3 dozen cookies.

These things are seriously the best cookies you'll ever have. They're the perfect combination of crunchy,  flakey, moist, and gooey. They're undeniably sweet but every bite lends itself to just a slight hint of salt which makes the flavor all that more amazing.

The only downside is that I've made 3 dozen and only need to bring 2 dozen to work - I guess that means someone else will have to finish them off at home!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Spinachy Monday

Spinachy Monday... Well folks, I am back to making a few home cooked meals before heading out of town again this upcoming weekend! Hopefully once I return I can get in a good groove of cookin at home! 

Last night was Sunday, and what is more perfect on a Sunday than a burger. I happened to have a block of white cheddar that I bought at TJ's last week and needed to use up, along with  one lovely tomato and a perfectly ripe avocado. I rounded the meal out with a baked sweet potato and steamed asparagus. YUM.

White Cheddar Burger

Tomato & Avocado

Now, on to tonight.

On the Menu:
Grilled Chicken Sausages, sauteed spinach, spinach tortellini with pesto.

The Chicken Sausages:
Growing up my mom wasn't one who usually substituted turkey or chicken as a lower cal option for red meat or pork, however these days as I am more conscious of my caloric intake (now that I'm a working gal sitting at a desk all day it's harder to burn off what I eat!). And I will say that I have been quite please with the selection of chicken and turkey options that TJ's provides. From chicken meatballs, to turkey bacon, to chicken sausages of all kind - I have become a major proponent of the white meat options! Not to mention, they're already cooked so it just a mater of grilling the sausages for a nice crispy sear or roasting the meatballs till they're warm and bubbly! In tonight's case I went for some chicken sausages. Alls I did was get the grill pan nice and hot with a touch of olive oil and crisped up those bad boys up. Done.

Chicken Sausages

Spinach Tortellini:
Where I save my calories in the chicken sausages, I couldn't help but waste on some carbs. My weakness. Tonight I used some mini spinach tortellini and tossed them in TJ's jarred pesto. I usually love making my own sauces, but let's face it there are some nights when that is just not going to happen. So luckily I've discovered that TJ's makes some very reliable sauces and dressings, they've definitely become my go-to on these types of lazy nights!

Sautéed Spinach:
Spinach, a touch of grape seed oil, and a big squeeze of lemon. Sauteed over medium heat. Voila.

TJ's Pesto

Dinner is served

Hope y'all had a Dahlicious Monday night meal too. Now time for dessert: "TJ's Gone Bananas" aka Dark Choc Covered Frozen Banana Slices. Yes please!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cape Cod: Lobster Fest 2012

Cape Cod: Lobster Fest 2012... In the summer of 1999 at the age of 10, I experienced my first of seven summers at Camp Wingate Kirkland. This rustic oasis is any kid's vision of heaven on earth, and became a pivotal part of my childhood. Over the years the phrase "Summers on the Cape" became quite synonymous with nostalgic camp memories and mouth watering recollections of seafood overloads.

Knowing this, you can imagine that when a trip to the Cape with my family was offered up I jumped at the chance to take a day off of work and head up to my summertime paradise for a 3 day weekend. (Side note, my last year at camp was as a counselor in 2005 and I had not been back to the Cape since).

Of course in my family most vacations are centered around the meals. We have been known to travel to our favorite town in Italy and stake out a spot on the beach near the restaurant we plan to eat at just to make sure we are perfectly situated to take a break from eating to lay out. Note: I did not say take a break from laying out to eat, but take a break from eating to lay out. That is the way my family operates. That being said, I knew going into this weekend, when a week prior I was receiving "Lobster Fest" texts from my dad, that this trip to Hyannis would be no exception.

We stayed for the weekend with our cousins who have a gorgeous house right on the water. It is the type of place that you are totally content to spend your entire vacation at, making it pretty easy to get right into relaxation mode. After an incredibly memorable but filling dinner in Boston at Rino's on Friday night, it was only fitting that Saturday on the Cape would continue the "large portion" trend with a GINORMOUS Lobster Roll. I am telling you this thing had at least two lobsters worth of meat in it and I only ate half... but perhaps I could also only eat half due to the bucket of steamers we finished off pretty quickly at the table before the Rolls came!

Epic Lobsta Roll
After an afternoon trip to Camp to see my little campers, who are now grown up counselors, and a kayak  ride out in front of the house, we were all ready to start back in on the eating! Dinner on Saturday was at home with a gathering of friends. The meal included BBQ'd chicken wings, a bucket of steamers, perfectly grilled salmon, a chilled green bean salad, and fresh sliced tomatoes in a balsamic reduction. So yummy and such a perfect summer meal!

BBQ'd Wings ala Cousin Mikey
On Sunday, after a lazy morning of indulging in a whole lot of laying around and breakfast at home, we took a big walk to a seafood bar on the water not far from the house. This late afternoon lunch included everything from a Dahlicious clam chowder to every fried seafood imaginable - clams, shrimp, scallops, & white fish. Yum!

Fried Clams

Post early evening food coma, we decided once again to venture down to the water for a Sunday Night boiled lobster special. On the Plate (after a bucket of steamers for the table): 1.5 lb steamed lobster, cole slaw, & buttered corn on the cob. The process is messy but the reward is sweet! Needless to say, I got my fix of a traditional lobster fest out of this meal!

Bucket of steamers!
Sunday Night Lobster Dinner
The weekend ended on a high note with a drive around some old Cape Cod stomping grounds and a visit to see one of our family friends in the city before heading back to Chi town. It was a great weekend of relaxing and indulging in foods I don't often eat when I'm out and even less frequently whip up at home. I will say though, since I've been back I've still felt as though I am in food overload and can't get myself to put together a proper dinner - scrambled eggs & grilled cheese it is!

Happy Wednesday Yall!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seared Tuna & Spinach Pasta

Seared Tuna & Spinach Pasta... With lots of fresh ingredients on hand and a trip out of town planned for the next few days, I couldn't help but feel anxious about creating a meal that would use up all of the perishables in my fridge. First thought, make a sauce. I knew tonight would include some sort of seared tuna, but the sides were a creation on the fly. Here's what I had in the fridge and knew that I wanted to use:

  • A bunch of baby heirloom tomatoes
  • Half a bag of fresh spinach
  • Garlic
  • Green Olive Tapenade
  • 3 baby red/yellow/orange bell peppers
  • One yellow onion
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Asparagus

On the Menu:
Seared Tuna, whole wheat fusili with a homemade spinach tomato sauce, and roasted asparagus.

The Tuna:
Marinated for 10 minutes in olive oil, lemon and pepper. Seared on the grill pan. Done.

The Spinach Tomato Sauce:
In a large sauce pan I sauteed chopped onion and garlic in plenty of oil over high/medium heat with a bit of salt, pepper, and crushed dried oregano. Once that had a nice glaze going, I added some diced baby bell peppers. After those had sauteed together for a bit I added one large spoonful of green olive tapenade. Once that was all nicely mixed I threw in the baby heirlooms. The large ones got a rough chop and the little ones went in whole (I ended up letting them get nice and hot and squished them open in the pan so that their warm tangy insides added a good bit of liquid to my sauce). Next went a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sugar. I really wanted to use some white wine in the sauce but sadly didn't have any on hand - but if you've got it, use it! The pinch of sugar helped to cut the acidity of the lemon and the olive tapenade, just a pinch though! I let that Dahlicious conglomerate marinate together for 45 minutes or so on low heat. Just before serving I brought the heat back up a bit, added the bag of fresh spinach and let it wilt into the sauce. Lastly I tossed in freshly cooked whole wheat fusilli and a sprinkle of the shaved parmesean. SOOO GOOD!! Tip: Let the pasta rest a few minutes and allow it to cool just a bit, this will greatly enhance the flavor, as opposed to eating it scorching hot.

Sautéing onions, garlic, & peppers
Adding the tomatoes
Letting the juices lightly simmer
Wilting the spinach into the sauce
Adding the pasta & parm

Roasted Asparagus:
Chop off the woody ends, spread them evenly across the bottom of a pyrex baking dish or even a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast on 400 degrees for 20 minutes. More or less time depending on how thick they are.

I was very happy to make such a hearty yet fresh meal on this beautiful Chicago summer evening, and most of all I was happy to be able to use so many things in my fridge that would have had to be thrown out otherwise! 

Hope everyone's Thursday night dinner was Dahlish as well!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Typical Tuesday: Lemon Pepper Salmon

Typical Tuesday: Lemon Pepper Salmon... It's a regular ol' Tuesday night and Salmon is what's for dinner. I usually plan out the week's meals on Sunday, before my TJ's grocery run, and so on the books for tonight I had planned salmon, brussels, quinoa, and a salad. I usually buy salmon for at least one meal a week, same goes for ahi tuna. They're filling and easy to cook, not to mention extremely healthy! They're also versatile - you can really do whatever you want with both these fishes, but they're excellently paired with citrus. Lemon is generally my citrus of choice, though I suppose I should branch out and try to use others in there (I now work for the Tropicana Chilled/Naked Juice business unit and am considering testing a few recipes that use our products - perhaps a marinade??). Anyhow, tonight is going to be simple and fresh and I am sticking to my lemon theme for the salmon filet.

On the Menu:
Grilled lemon pepper salmon, roasted brussels sprouts, TJ's quinoa, & spinach salad with baby heirloom tomatoes and avocado.

The Salmon:
I wish I could get fresh salmon every day the way I used to at Central Market in Dallas just a block from my apt... but I have come to rely on the TJ's selection of flash frozen fishes. They are quite Dahlish and great quality - again not a freezer section kind of girl but I will vouch for these guys. You just move them from the freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to make them (if you forget then do it the morning of, or if you REALLY forget, then just let the package soak in a bowl of luke warm water for 30-60 min before cooking). I simply drizzled the salmon with olive oil, a big squeeze of fresh lemon, and a liberal sprinkling of lemon pepper. If you don't have lemon pepper in your pantry, go buy it. Seriously it's simple but it's great I put it on roasted chicken and fish all the time. Has a tiny kick and punch of tanginess. I used my grill pan tonight and got it very hot for 5-8 minutes before placing the salmon skin side down on the sizzling surface. As soon as I put my salmon down I turn the temp to a medium heat and let the filet cook about 4 minutes on each side, more or less depending on the thickness. I have faith you'll know when it's done.

The Brussels:
Done these before. Set your oven on 400 degrees. Cut your brussels in halves or quarters, spread them in an even layer in a pyrex baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Pop them in the oven for 40 minutes and you'll get brussels that are tender on the inside and salty and crunchy on the outside. I personally love the little burnt pieces that fall off - they're like brussels sprouts chips!

Roasted Brussels
Tender in the middle crunchy on the outside

I served this meal with a spinach salad tossed with sliced up baby heirloom tomatoes and perfectly ripe avocado in a Dahlish vegan vinaigrette from TJ's. I also served the salmon with a bit of TJ's quinoa that I always have on hand for a starchy side packed with protein.

Salad pre vinaigrette 
Dinner is served!
Hope yall had a Dahlicious Tuesday!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Healthy Chicken Parm

Healthy Chicken Parm... One of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE dishes my mom made growing up was eggplant parm. I would almost say its last-meal-before-I-die status. Tonight though I started thinking about making a chicken parm - which my mom never made but just sounded like a good thing to try on this delightful Sunday evening. I ran to Trader Joe's to get all of the essentials, thinking that I already had bread crumbs at home. I grabbed a tomato sauce, whole milk mozzarella, eggs for an egg wash, and chicken breasts (also knowing I still had left over shaved parmesan from the pizza making fest last week).

Once home however I scoured my pantry and bread crumbs were no where to be found! After some deliberating I took it as a sign to be creative and healthy, and thus decided to forgo the breadcrumb crust altogether. So here is what I made

Healthy Chicken Parm:
Turn your oven to 350 degrees. Take your chicken breasts and sprinkle them with crushed dried oregano. Then over high heat add a liberal layer of olive oil or vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot place the chicken in the pan for a few minutes on each side, just long enough to get a little sear/crust. Then remove the chicken breasts and place them in a pyrex baking dish. Add a layer of the tomato sauce on the chicken, then a layer of sliced mozzarella, another layer of sauce, and a big sprinkle of parm. Finish it off by adding more of the sauce around the rest of the baking dish - this will help lock in the juicy moisture while the chicken finishes cooking in the oven. Place the pyrex dish in the oven on 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is slightly bubbling.

Sear the chicken breasts
Slice and layer the whole milk mozz
Add the tomato sauce & shaved parm 
Sauteed Kale:
Simple as can be. Crush some garlic, add it to a pan with olive oil and sautee your greens in there. Add a splash of water as the kale starts to cook down, turn the heat down to medium/low and place a lid on the pan. Voila.

Loving Kale right now
With dinner I served a bit of whole wheat spaghetti and a side salad with butter lettuce, baby heirloom tomatoes, and chopped cucumber in olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.

The dinner was quick and easy, it was extremely filling and satisfying and of course Dahlicious - but I finished still feeling oddly light without all of the bready fried crust. Not to mention each chicken breast was so ginormous that there was no way I could finish my portion - perhaps thats why I didn't feel so full. The good news is I definitely left room for my most favorite Trader Joe's dessert - dark chocolate covered frozen banana slices! 

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza... Well Home Assembled & Baked Pizza is more like it. The dough was admittedly store bought and of course so were the ingredients, but the flavor profiles, the prepping, the assembling,  the anxiously waiting for the cheese to bubble, and the devouring more than one person should be allowed to eat on your average Thursday - that was all me.

I have a short list of things I have never been tempted to make at home, and pizza has often been pretty high on that list. I always thought it was one of those things that isn't hard to go pick up and is usually best when cooked in a special oven or tossed by hand by a master tosser. But after hearing of some NY friends who used Trader Joe's dough for a pizza making dinner party, I decided to give it a whirl. So on my usual Sunday trip to TJ's I grabbed all of the necessities. Here is my list of pizza essentials:

  • Pizza Dough
    • I bought one of the regular and one of the garlic herb - both were Dahlish
  • Sauce
    • You can use canned crushed tomatoes and just add some oregano for seasoning, or you can buy a jar of pizza sauce or marinara sauce. I also bought a jar of pesto to use as the first layer of my non-tomato based pie
  • Cheese
    • I grabbed already shredded mozzarella as well as shaved parm/asiago combo
  • Protein
    • One package of prosciutto and one of this great TJ's Pinot Grigio White Wine Salami
  • Other Toppings
    • Fresh diced pineapple for a sweet kick
    • Fresh sliced tomato for the pesto pizza
I also made a side salad of blanched kale, chopped little bell peppers, and cucumber with olive oil and lemon. It was good and refreshing but totally a second thought with my first pizza creating experience on the line.

Kale salad

How to put this thing together:

Let the dough sit out in the bag that it comes in for about 20 minutes or until it's close to room temp. Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prep all your ingredients, chop/slice/dice etc.

Take a baking sheet and sprinkle it liberally with flour, I just used a regular silverware table spoon and scooped about one and half's worth onto the sheet. I dipped the room temp dough ball into the flour and worked it for a minute until it was the shape I wanted. Then I added the toppings and popped those bad boys in the oven for about 12-15 minutes. Just keep an eye on them and you'll know when they're ready!

Here are the pizzas that I made. The first was a snazzy Hawaiian subbing prosciutto for ham. The second was a pesto pizza, complete with pesto as the base, followed by a layer of thinly sliced fresh tomato, cheese, and a sprinkle of those salami hunks I chopped up. Both were topped with a quick drizzle of olive oil before bubbling and baking away.

Enjoy the pics!!

The Snazzy Hawaiian:
The plain dough
With sauce
With mozz & pineapple

Topped with prosciutto & shaved parm
Baked to golden goodness 
YUM - O!
The Pesto:

Garlic herb dough
Pesto base
Sliced tomato layer
Cheese & salami hunks 
Every bit as salty and gooey as your taste buds might be suspecting 
Excited to check pizza creator off my list!
Well the meal was Dahlicious as usual, and what I love most is that despite knowing that the dough and the cured meats and the pound of cheese I consumed were high in calories, at least I know exactly what went into this pizza (aka freshly prepped ingredients) and most importantly that it was made with love!! So for those of you out there who are, like the old me, intimidated or uninterested in making pizza at home - I challenge you to try it and you just might be impressed with what you can whip up!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Salmon Burger Sans Bun & Baked Feta

Salmon Burger Sans Bun & Baked Feta... Coming back to Chi town after a weekend at home in Southern California doing lots of eating with my family, I decided to go a little lighter on this hot midwestern summer eve and grill some salmon! I wasn't however completely in the mood for a salmon filet, so opted for TJ's salmon burgers instead. Of course when I am trying to be healthy I eat my burgers sans the bun, and so was the decision tonight as well. Hope you all think this dinner menu sounds as Dahlicious as it tasted!

On the Menu:
Grilled Salmon burgers, baked feta cheese & chopped brussels sprouts salad.

The Salad:
The salad consisted of tossed shaved TJ's brussels, chunks of a perfectly ripe avocado, diced juicy red tomato, with chopped crunchy cucumbers and baby bell peppers. I just threw it all in a big salad bowl, tossed it with a vegan vinaigrette from TJ's and voilla. Perfect chopped salad.

Chopped brussels salad
The Baked Feta:
This is one of those Dahlicious things my mom made growing up and when I get a craving for it I just have to make the bubbling salty side with whatever I'm serving up when the craving hits. This is super simple and everyone seems to love it. All you need to do is place slices of feta cheese (buy a block not crumbled feta) in a pyrex baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried oregano. Then pop it in the at 425 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes. Just until the edges turn brown and the inside is gooey and bubbling. YUM!! You can also chop up tomatoes or marinated artichokes or kalamata olives and surround the cheese in the pyrex dish with these tidbits for an additional roasted veggies aspect of the meal. This baked feta can be served atop a lamb burger, as an appetizer with crackers, or next to some grilled salmon for a delightfully indulgent side dish.

Pre Caption

Post Baking
The Salmon Burgers:
These things could not be easier. They can be found in the freezer section of TJ's (I have always shied away from the freezer sections in grocery stores before TJ's. We never froze much growing up nor did my mom buy frozen foods so I am quite choosey when it comes to these selections. These burgers however are totally Dahlicious, and super fresh tasting.. not to mention easy!). Simply season the patties with a grill seasoning or pepper, and place them frozen on a hot grill or grill pan. Let them sear on each side for 3-5 minutes depending on how well done you like your salmon and how hot your grill/grill pan is. I would suggest doing this on a fairly high temperature so that you get nice grill marks and a good sear.

Dinner is served
This meal was easy and healthful, yet indulgent with that savory warm feta. Hope y'all had a Dahlicious Monday!