Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cookies n Cream Cupcakes

Since my family lives far away from me, I knew if I didn't bake myself something delicious for my birthday, no one would!

I decided to make cookies n cream cupcakes...but I was worried they'd be no match for the Famous Strawberry Cupcakes I made last weekend...and I was so wrong!
These are deeeeeeeeeeeelicious!
Cookies n Cream Cupcakes
(Recipe from Natalie's Blog, originally from 'Cupcakes! By the Cake Mix Doctor')
30 Oreo (or Oreo-like) cookies
1 pkg plain white cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
-Preheat your over to 350 and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
-Count out 12 Oreos and separate the top and bottom wafers. Make sure each half has some icing on it.(If you twist slowly and press you'll get some icing on each side)
-Place one wafer, icing side up, in the bottom of each paper liner.
-Crush the remaining Oreos by any means you like. I put them in a Ziplock and beat the bejesus out of them with a mallet.

-Place the cake mix, oil, sour cream, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds.
-Scrape down the sides and beat again on medium about 1.5 minutes more.
-Measure out 1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos and fold these into the batter.
-Set the rest of the crumbs aside for garnish.

-Fill your liners 3/4 full with batter and place the pans in the oven.
-Bake the cupcakes for about 18-20 minutes until they are golden and spring back when lightly touched with your finger.
-Cool in the pan on wire racks for about 5 minutes and then remove cakes from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
**Nifty hint from the original blog: A little trick if you get fewer than 2 dozen cupcakes out of this, take the liners out of the empty cups and fill them about half way with water. This allows the cupcakes to bake evenly.

I used my standard buttercream, here...but if you wanted something quick you could always use store bought.

Regardless of which you use, when your icing is ready, fold in the remaining crushed oreos, then ice your cupcakes.

Standard Buttercream

1-1 lb. package Confectioners Sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3-4 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

- Combine the sugar, butter, milk and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer on low speed.
-Beat at medium speed 1-2 minutes until creamy.
-If you need to, add more milk until the frosting is the desired spreading consistency.

Makes enough to frost a 2-layer cake, one 13x9 sheet cake, or 24 cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Freezing February? Beef Stew is the answer!

What is better in blustery, cold February than a hearty stew? I wanted one that I could make in the crockpot, and the ladies at What's Cooking on TheNest served up this delicious recipe!
I'm posting the version I made, but I'll notate the changes I made to it.

Beef Stew
(Original recipe provided by veniceforever on 'What's Cooking')

1.5 lbs. beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes (*hint: freeze the meat for 10 minutes before makes cubing SO much easier!)
1 medium onion, chopped coarse
1 medium garlic cloves, minced (*I used already-minced garlic you can buy at the store because I had it on hand)
1.5 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 can beef broth
2 cans low-sodium chicken broth
2 beef bullion cubes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4 medium potatoes (red are best -- I had yukon gold on hand)
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch. thick rounds
1 c. frozen peas (I omitted these -- my poor DH hates peas)
1/4 cup minced parsley (optional -- I didn't have any so I left it out)


- dry beef thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.
- place all ingredients except for the peas and parsley in the crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or, on high for 4-6.
- add the peas and parsley and cook for another hour, or until peas are tender.

**This made enough for us to eat it (2 of us) twice, with some left over for lunch! I served it simply with crusty bread to dip in the juice...Yum!

Beef stew -- prior to cooking!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Famous Strawberry Cupcakes

These are the best homemade strawberry cupcakes you'll ever taste. They're simply amazing!

Advice Note: The recipe does not call for it, but I highly, highly, highly reccommend using baking cups. These cupcakes are delicate and very moist, and without the baking cups they tend to fall apart. Just FYI.

P.S. Katie also reccommends these cupcakes with a dark chocolate frosting, rather than the strawberry frosting given here. Yum!

Angie's* Famous Strawberry Cupcakes
(*I don't know Angie -- but Katie does)

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar (or a little less)
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups fresh, chopped strawberries

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two cupcake pans.
- Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of your mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time until combined.
- Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until just combined.
- Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Fold in chopped strawberries.
- Fill your cupcake pans 3/4 way full.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry Frosting
1/4 cup strawberries
1 tbsp. strawberry liquor** (I had no luck finding this -- I omitted it, added 1/2 tbsp of water, and it still tasted DELICIOUS)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

- Put the berries, liquor (or water), and lemon juice in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Let cool (about 20 minutes) and then blend until smooth.
- In the bowl of your mixer, mix cream cheese and butter until creamy.
- Add sugar, then vanlla.
- Add berry puree until smooth.
- Frost cupcakes.

**Katie gives no advice on this, but, I store these cupcakes in the fridge because of the cream cheese icing.

Stuffed Shells and Garlic Toast

DH and I celebrated Valentine's Day on Friday, when we knew we'd have more time to enjoy a good meal, and each other.

Our menu was simple, but hearty: Stuffed Shells with Garlic Toast, and Angie's Famous Strawberry Cupcakes for dessert. Everything was delicious!

This stuffed shell recipe is very "classic" Italian -- it will taste just like those amazing stuffed shells you buy at the Italian restaurant -- and they're quick to make as well! The recipe I use is base recipe -- you can add mushrooms, or spinach, or meat, or anything you please to the cheese mixture to stuff the shells.

Stuffed Shells
1 (12 oz) package jumbo pasta shells
2 eggs, beaten
1 (32 oz) container of ricotta cheese
1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
8 oz. greated parmesean cheese, divided
1 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 (28 oz) jars of pasta sauce (or your own homemade recipe)
1 lb. ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken -- your preference)

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get a 9x13 casserole dish to place your shells in for baking.
- Boil a large pot of lightly salted water. Add the pasta shells and cook them for 8-10 minutes; or until they are al dente. Drain the pasta, and rinse with cool water (so you can handle them to stuff).
- Brown the meat in a large skillet with sides (this way, you can add the sauce to this pan later to mix with the meat). Drain off any excess fat and return browned meat to the skillet. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, mix the two eggs, 32 oz. of ricotta, half the mozzarella, half the parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper until blended well.
- Add the pasta sauce, the rest of the mozzarella and the rest of the parmsean to your browned meat. Stir to incorporate.
- Stuff the pasta shells with the ricotta mixture and place them in the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish. I like to stuff my shells to the brim -- don't hold back!
- Once all shells are stuffed, gently spoon the pasta sauce/meat/cheese mixture over the tops of the shells, coating liberally. You may not use all the sauce, that's ok!
- Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until edges are bubbly and shells are slightly set.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops

These were tasty!
DH and I tend to forget about's like we completely overlook it! But I happened to catch Giada on food network the other day, making these.
They're quick, easy, and tasty. And I was able to make them with things I had on hand -- perfect!
Our side dishes were pretty plain -- a simple pasta and peas -- but DH said it would be FANTASTIC with German Potato Salad...maybe next time!
P.S. -- I only keep plain breadcrumbs on hand...I just make my own "italian" -- recipe is below if you're interested.

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops
(Originally a
Giada recipe, also seen at MrsSchoon's blog)

2 large eggs
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs ** my recipe below
3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
4 (1/2 to 3/4-inch thick) center-cut pork loin chops (each about 10 to 12 ounces) -- I used just under a pound of thin-sliced pork loin chops, and they worked perfectly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Whisk the eggs in a pie plate to blend.
Place the bread crumbs in another pie plate.
Place the cheese in a third pie plate.
Sprinkle the pork chops generously with salt and pepper.
Coat the chops completely with the cheese, patting to adhere.
Dip the chops into the eggs, then coat completely with the bread crumbs, patting to adhere. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a very large skillet over medium heat.
Add pork chops, in batches if necessary, and cook until golden brown and the center reaches 150 degrees, about 6 minutes per side. **If you use thin-sliced, I found it to be more like 4 minutes per side.
Transfer the chops to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Italian-Style Bread Crumbs
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; toss to mix
Store in an airtight container, or, use in a recipe calling for italian-style breadcrumbs.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Beef & Bean Chimichangas

Mmm...chimichangas! This was my first attempt at them, actually. But when DH took the time to email me the recipe and say "Let's have this" --- well, I was so impressed he found a recipe, I HAD to make it!

These were actually quite tasty. The first time I make a recipe, I generally follow it to a "T" -- and decide what I'll change next time.

I provide the original recipe here, as well as some things I think I'll change next time.

Beef and Bean Chimichangas
(Original recipe from

Serves 8

1 pound lean ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn
2 cups taco sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
8 (12 inch) flour tortillas
1 (16 ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
shredded lettuce
1 tomato, diced

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain excess grease, and add the onion, bell pepper, and corn. Cook for about 5 more minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the taco sauce, and season with chili powder, garlic salt and cumin, stirring until blended. - Cook until heated through, then remove from heat, and set aside.

- Open the can of beans, and spread a thin layer of beans onto each of the tortillas.
- Spoon the beef mixture down the center, and then top with as much shredded cheese as you like.
- Roll up the tortillas, and place them seam-side down onto a baking sheet.- Brush the tortillas with melted butter.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
- Serve with lettuce and tomato.

This is one of my chimichangas before I rolled it..

...and these are my chimi's, brushed with butter and ready to bake.

Voila! Finished chimichanga! With lettuce and tomato, as the original recipe said.

I also served a side of rice and black beans, per DH's request. This is just rice, black beans, salt, pepper, and a little cumin. Nothing fancy.
My Advice
First, you could totally make this recipe with ground turkey or chicken with no spice changes. The spices would be fine in any kind of ground meat.
Second, DH didn't like the corn in it...but I thought it was fantastic, so heck with it :-)
Third, I put these in a baking dish -- not on a baking sheet as the recipe requested...and there's totally a reason why you need a sheet. My chimi's didn't brown. So that was my mistake.
However -- here's what I'm thinking. If everything is mostly warm, why can't I bake for 15 minutes and pop it under the broiler for a minute to brown it?? So that's what I'll try next time.
Lastly -- buy sour cream. Even if it's the fat-free stuff. Trust'll love the creamy smoothness with the spice!

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Ahh..meatloaf. The comforting nature of this meal is just too much to resist, for me. This recipe is a solid, 1950's style, plain meatloaf. If you're looking for a fancy-pants version, this ain't it :)

I serve this with mashed potatoes (regular potatoes for DH, yams for me) and a green veggie -- peas, broccoli, etc.

Sorry for the bad picture....we were running late that night and I didn't get a pretty picture!


1 lb. ground meat (I use ground beef or turkey for this, with no problems)
1 cup bread crumbs (approx -- use whatever you need to hold the loaf together)
1 egg
1 small onion, finely diced
8 oz. tomato sauce

Mix all ingredients together and form a loaf (or two -- see Advice).
Drizzle ketchup over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

You can make one large loaf, or make two small ones, as I do (the image above is of ONE small loaf. I actually had two that size). I make two so we can eat one loaf one night and the leftover night has it's own loaf.

The above recipe is my grandma's. At some point my mom changed it to the following....both are tasty.

1 lb. ground meat
3/4 cup crushed saltines
1 egg
1 tbsp. of milk
1 small onion
1/2 can tomato soup
1/2 can BBQ sauce
Drizzle BBQ on top

Mix together and form a loaf, cook at 350 for 1 hour.

Imitation Oreo® Cookies (Chewey Chocolate-White Chocolate Chunk)

Before I begin, let me say that whenI saw this recipe on Chelley's and Shawnda's blogs, I knew I had to have it. But I am admitting, first and foremost, that they're not what I thought they'd be.

But perhaps I did something wrong, the chocolate I used wasn't as good as theirs -- something. Don't get me wrong -- these cookies are delicious. I just don't think they taste as much like Oreo's as I was hoping for.

Imitation Oreo® Cookies (Chewey Chocolate-White Chocolate Chunk)

(Adapted from Sugar & Spice and Confections of a Foodie Bride)


1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup dutch-process cocoa*

1/2 cup butter, cubed and room temp

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups chopped white chocolate (For me, this was about 6oz of white baker's chocolate. Chelley used a 4oz. Ghiardelli bar and that was enough as well)

*Don’t substitute with natural cocoa. The Oreo-like flavor comes from the richer dutch-processed cocoa. I took both Chelley and Shawnda's advice and used Hershey Special Dark dutch/natural blend in this recipe (because I couldn't find regular dutch-processed cocoa in my local stores). Shawnda did warn that it yields a lighter-colored and slightly less Oreo-like cookie.

Preheat oven to 325 and place oven racks in the upper and lower middle position.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa, and set aside. Beat the butter on medium-high until light and add sugars, creaming well. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternately with the milk in one batch, mixing well. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
Scoop the dough onto a parchment- or silpat-lined cookie sheet (however you bake your cookies) and bake. Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheet and store in an air-tight container.

Cookie Size: Both Shawnda and Chelley made their cookies bigger than me. I vastly prefer a smaller cookie, since I was to be sharing these with friends tomorrow. I made mine a medium-sized cookie scoop, which produced 36 cookies for me. They baked for 11 minutes in my oven.

3-Banana Banana Bread!

Ahhh...the beauty that is leftover bananas for banana bread. DH only likes them green, and I can only eat so many before they are too brown for my tastes.

I had only 3 leftover bananas, and the lovely ladies at the What's For Dinner? board on were kind enough to provide me with this recipe.
3-Banana Bread
(Original recipe is in Katie D's blog)

**Have all ingredients at room temperature**

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 c. sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. mashed very ripe bananas (I used 3 medium-sized bananas)
optional: 1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (I left these out -- simply because I didn't have any!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan.
Whisk together flour, salt, soda, and powder in a medium bowl and set asdie.
In large bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed until lightened in color (2-3 mins).
Beat in flour mixture just until blended and the consistency of brown sugar.(**this is katie's wording...I didn't think it looked like the consistency of brown sugar, so I just made sure it was all combined)
Slowly beat in eggs.
Fold bananas into mixture until just combined.
Spread mixture evenly into loaf pan.
Bake about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool in pan on rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on rack.

This is a deeeeeeeeeelicious banana bread recipe! (I made it last night, and DH has eaten over half of it already!)

The Divinity that is Lemon Chicken

This is, perhaps, my most favorite meal...on earth. And I don't know why -- it's incredibly simple, but I adore it!

There are tons of different "lemon chicken" recipes out there...this is just mine.

I'm giving you the "original" recipe, but I'll put my notes at the end.

Lemon Chicken
4(whole) chicken breasts - bone in
1 stick butter
2-3 cloves of garlic (or garlic powder/salt)
2-3 lemons (or "real lemon" lemon juice)
onion powder (or onion salt)
poultry seasoning (the kind with thyme, marjoram, etc in's kinda green)
black pepper


Boil chicken breasts and cut/shred into bite sized pieces.
Place in a glass oven dish.
Slice a stick of butter and place on top.
Put the garlic (or powder/salt) on top of the chicken/butter mix.
Sprinkle a heavy layer of poultry seasoning, a few shakes of onion powder, and pepper.

Top with the juice of the lemons

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.

Serve over rice (i like brown) and green beans (or corn).

'kay...that's my written down recipe...but here's what I actually do:
- I buy a bag of frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Boil the whole bag, shred it, and follow the instructoins above. I like LOTS of leftovers of this, and the 4 chicken breasts just don't make that. I also hate bone-in I don't use it.
- If you're on a "poor" week or you're in a hurry, garlic powder, onion powder, and "real lemon" lemon juice will totally do the same job as real garlic and real, fresh-squeezed lemon juice. The fresh lemon juice just makes it tangier.
- Oh...and if the stick of butter makes you feel can use a "healthy" margarine instead...but let's face it, nothing tastes quite like BUTTAH. :)