Saturday, March 10, 2012

Taco Soup and new directions

Many of you know that I’ve been making a big effort to lose weight and get healthy and the biggest thing that I’ve been doing to work on that is watching what I eat.  I’ve been doing really well at it and I’ve actually learned to enjoy being more conscious about what I’m putting into my mouth and my body.  So while I’m sure I’ll still post delicious and bad for you food, the norm will be healthier food that still is delicious!

One of my favorite healthier meals is, of course, from Our Best Bites.  They don’t go out of their way to make super health meals, but always do sweets/naughty stuffs in moderation and  try and keep their meals on the healthier side, which is exactly how I want to be.  Their Taco Soup is one of their healthier meals and man is it good.  You really can’t go wrong with ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato, beans, corn and cilantro. Which is basically what this is.  Honest. 

My pictures aren’t so great and I got a little excited while making this and didn’t take pictures of some…Well, a lot of the steps, but you can always go to their post, which I’ll link to later on.

Start by sautéing some onion and garlic. Yummmmm…


Throw in your ground beef (as lean as you can get it!) and cook til it’s done.


Then throw in some taco seasoning, a couple cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce, corn, and beans – or fresh beans if your boyfriend’s mom is awesome and almost always has homemade beans on hand. 


Let it simmer for a bit, then dish it up and garnish with whatever your little heart desires! Be aware though…garnishes can take a healthy meal and make it super unhealthy in just  few bites.  Cheese and sour cream, I’m looking at you guys!!


Yes, I succumbed to the cheese.  It’s just so tasty!!


Taco Soup
Recipe by Our Best Bites

1 tb Olive Oil
1 lb. extra lean ground beef (The leaner the better!)
1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (I always at least triple garlic.)
1 1.25-oz. packet taco seasoning (about 1/4 c.)
3 c. water, divided
2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained

Heat olive oil in a deep pot.  Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant, then add ground beef.  When it’s all browned add the taco seasoning and 1 cup of water.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Top with cilantro, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, whatever you would like!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Candy Cane Truffles

So if you’re on Pinterest ever, you’ve probably seen the cute truffles that have been circling around that you just drop into hot milk, stir and you have delicious hot chocolate. Super cute, right? Well Cindy over at Hungry Girl Por Vida (Yes, I’m copying her, again.)  upped the ante by putting peppermint in the chocolate and THEN SPRINKLING CANDY CANES ON TOP.  Oh, yes.  So when my sister in law told me she was doing hot chocolate at her annual Christmas party I had to tell her about this idea. After a trial run she gave it a thumbs up so I made a quadruple batch today!

This moves pretty fast once the cream is hot, so I did all of my prep work before hand.

I dumped 32 ounces of dark chocolate chips into a bowl.


Then crushed up 7 or 8 candy canes. There HAS to be a better way to crush candy canes than smashing them in a Ziploc bag. Anyone have the solution??


So now that I had everything set out, including the pans I was pouring the chocolate into, I heated up 16 ounces (1 pint) of heavy cream to scald – just under boiling.


There will be little bubbles all around the edge of the pot like this.


Dump the cream onto the chocolate chips, cover, and let it sit for 5 minutes.


Once 5 minutes have passed, start stirring it up.  I went over my math four or five times in my head while I was stirring ‘cuz I was SURE I had put way too much cream in, but keep stirring….


And you’ll end up with this! Swoon! Add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla and peppermint extract.


Then pour it into your pans! My sister in law wanted to use these pretty pans, but you can always dump it into a 9x13 then cut and remove them.  We’re going to cut them and let people take them out themselves.


Smooth it out…


Top it with crushed candy canes and there you are! Chill for 30-60 minutes, then cut into squares. I’m just chilling them until I take them over to my sister in law’s tomorrow.


Heat up 6-8 ounces of milk and then drop one of these bad boys in.  Or two. I won’t judge.

Candy Cane Truffles
Adapted slightly from Hungry Girl Por Vida

32 ounces dark chocolate chips
1 pint heavy cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
crushed candy canes
6-8 ounces hot milk. 

Heat cream to scald, pour over chocolate chips. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes, heating more if there are still lumps.  Pour into pan and top with crushed candy canes.  Refrigerate 30-60 minutes then cut into squares. Drop into hot milk, stir and enjoy. Or just eat. Again, judgment free zone.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It’s never too late for pumpkin!

I know it’s a past the “traditional” time for pumpkin desserts, but they don’t have to stop at Thanksgiving, do they?? I for one love them, and being the only sweets loving girl in my boyfriend’s family I took it on myself to make the Thanksgiving dessert for the second year in a row. I think I feel a delicious tradition coming on.  :)

My challenge this year was that I was oven-less which I thought was going to be a huge problem but as soon as I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Semifreddo I knew I had to make it, if only for the Sea Salt Caramel Sauce!

Considering that I started making this at 11 PM my photos leave a lot to desire and I left out a lot of stops, so I apologize!


As far as ingredients go, this recipe is pretty simple. I was lazy and didn’t make gingersnaps, but Stater Bros gingersnaps are delicious so I don’t fit the least bit bad. I also went with Libby’s pumpkin pie MIX instead of just plain pumpkin because I wanted to make sure I got a pumpkin pie-ish flavor and I’m glad that I did.

I had a crowd to feed so my pictures will all be doubled, but I’m going to give you the recipe as I had it, but know that doubling it worked perfectly for me.


Despite the fact that the caramel sauce is pretty easy to make, I almost managed to ruin it. I’m still not sure what I did wrong, since it was only my second time making caramel, but it turned out fine and it was amazing. Just boil 3/4 sugar along with 1/4 water until it gets dark brown, but be keep your eyes glued to it because it’s caramel goes from dark brown to burnt thisdangquick.


See how pretty? How well on it’s way to “dark golden brown” like the recipe says? Yeah after this picture all the liquid evaporated and I panicked a little bit so I threw in half of the cream, so then it was way too wet so I boiled it down a bit, then figured it was ok to put the rest of the cream in, but then had to boil it again….And somehow it worked out. I don’t know.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work. Once your sugar and water gets dark brown, take it off the heat and stir in half of the cream and butter. When those are nice and incorporated, stir in the rest of the cream; you may need to heat it through to help any lumps dissolve. Then stir in salt and vanilla. Taste and swoon like you’re a mid-Victorian lady.

Set your caramel aside and prep for the semifreddo. Stir the pumpkin pie mix, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon together in one bowl.


Then separate 3 eggs, setting aside the whites and holding onto the yolks.


And here’s where I’m missing my first picture! Whip up the heavy cream into soft peaks and stick into the refrigerator.

In a sauce pan combine molasses, honey, sugar and water. Heat over medium heat until it reaches 238 degrees.


Missing picture #2 – give the yolks a quick stir to break them up, then beat the syrup in a slow, steady stream with your hand mixer set on medium. Once all the syrup is incorporated, beat the mixture until it’s airy and cool. Grab the whipped cream and fold half off it into the egg yolk mixture, then half of the pumpkin mixture in as well. Repeat until everything is folded in.


Yeah. YUM. Give that a try or 5, because it is delicious!

Since I doubled mine, I used a 9 x 13, but if you stick with the original recipe, you’ll be putting this into a loaf pan.  Oh, and yet another picture I’m missing – those gingersnaps? Toss a couple handfuls into the blender and let it rip til you they’re crumbs. Sprinkle an even layer on the bottom of your pan, and spread half of the semifreddo over it.


Sprinkle another even layer of the gingersnap crumbs and top with some of that glorious salted caramel sauce. Smooth the rest of the semifreddo on top and if you have any crumbs left, toss them on top for good measure.


Cover with plastic wrap and tinfoil and slide in the freezer for at least 3 hours.


Slice up and serve with extra caramel sauce if you want, which you do!

Pumpkin Semifreddo
barely adapted from Hungry Girl Por Vida

1 cup  heavy cream

3 tablespoons mild honey

1 tablespoon molasses

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

3 large egg yolks

3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup gingersnap crumbs

1/4 cup salted caramel sauce

Using a whisk and those guns of steel, or an electric mixer, beat cream in a bowl until it holds soft peaks. Refrigerate.

Separate eggs and place yolks in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Save whites for another use.

Stir together pumpkin and spices in a small bowl, set aside.

In a small sauce pan mix together honey, molasses, sugar, and water. Bring syrup to a boil over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 238F.

Whip egg yolks to break up and slowly add hot syrup while mixer is running on medium. Whip fast enough to make sure the eggs do not scramble, but try not to go so fast that the syrup does not incorporate. Once syrup is completely incorporated into yolks, whip on high until yolks are cool and airy.

Add 1/3 of the cold, whipped cream to the egg yolk mixture to lighten. Fold in pumpkin and spices, plus remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle the bottom of a prepared loaf pan with gingersnap crumbs (line with plastic wrap if you want to turn it out, if simply scooping you can skip that step), scrape half of the semifreddo base into the pan, and smooth the top. Sprinkle with more cookie crumbs and drizzle in about 1/4 cup salted caramel sauce, top with remaining semifreddo base and smooth, sprinkle with more crumbs. Cover the top of the semifreddo with plastic and then a layer of foil and place in freezer for at least 3 hours to set. Scoop or turn out and slice. Serve cold.

Salted Caramel Sauce
From Hungry Girl Por Vida

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

In a measuring cup measure out cream and add vanilla, set aside.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat sugar and water over medium-high until sugar is melted and turns dark golden brown in color (the darkest you can get it before burning is best). Remove from heat and quickly whisk in butter and half of cream until combined and smooth. The mixture will steam and bubble furiously, use a oven mitt or towel to wrap your stirring hand. If there are still lumps, heat gently until smooth. Add remaining cream and salt and stir until smooth.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Directions

This poor little blog has been sadly neglected and I think that it’s time to change that. I haven’t been spending much time in the kitchen these days but I have been fortunate to get the chance to spend the day crafting with my boyfriend’s sister Ali. We made the easiest, prettiest infinity scarves and flower pins that one of my favorite bloggers posted on her super awesome website That's What WE Said that she runs with her BFF Shelly. Seriously, go check it out because they are awesome.

I got a little too caught up in having fun making these flowers that I didn’t take the best “how-to” pictures, so if you need any help, go to Kristan's post about how she did it and her pictures will probably help.

What you need for the flower pins is:


  • Synthetic satin – we used polyester satin like Kristan did and it worked fabulously! You really don’t need a whole lot, you really shouldn’t need more than 1/8 a yard of each color you want.


  • Buttons – for the center of the flower. They’ll be up front and on display so choose cute ones!
  • Hair clip OR sweater pins – we bought hair clips, but we both unhappy with the kind we got. I wish we had just bought pins to put on back of them, but oh well!
  • Needle and thread
  • Straight pins
  • Glue gun
  • Candle

First things first. Just embrace it and put Christmas on your Pandora. Do it, and you’ll be happy. :)


Now that you got your music set, figure out what size you want your flowers to be. Ali has a Sizzix which made our lives SO easy. We used a die set of circles to cut out our fabric. The biggest was about 4 inches and the smallest was maybe an inch-ish.

Once you have all of your circles cut out, light up your candle. Carefully hold the edges of your circles close to the flame until they start to curl up a bit. This is why you want to make sure you get synthetic satin, the real stuff won’t do it quite as well. Do me a solid, and don’t set your circle, hand,or anything else on fire.



When they’re done, they should look like this. When all of your circles are to your liking, stack them up, pin them with the straight pin if you need, and sew the button on to them. This might be fairly obvious, but I felt like it was much easier to do one stitch through all of the petals, then sew on the button than to try and do both at the same time.

What you end up with, is absolute adorableness.



Ali made this one, and I love the button she used so much!


This is another one that she made; I love that she used more than 2 colors!

So then for the infinity scarves you need… adult XL or XXL T-shirt. And a pair of scissors. That’s it!

If you have a rotary cutter, this would be the place for it. I don’t so I folded up the shirt twice and cut right underneath the armpits, then right above the bottom hem.


Then open up your loop, stick one end under your feet, and pull up for all you’re worth!


The shirts we bought were 50/50 cotton and polyester and they were a little hard to stretch. I’m curious of a softer shirt would stretch better, I’m going to find a cheap one and test it out.

I totally spaced getting a picture of the final product, but I will do that tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Check it out!

I was asked to guest post over at my friend Mila’s blog Free Bird Train on how I balance work and school with being a single mom. Go over to her blog and check it out!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What to do when...

When you have a hungry child...

And access to the most perfect kitchen ever

And these two beauties?

Why, you pull out your cookbooks and YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE!

I've always wanted to make cinnamon rolls, but was intimidated by how long they take and just them in general. I saw Ree's recipe in her The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook and wanted to try those until I saw that it made a gazillion (give or take a few thousand) so I decided to try one of the few that Our Best Bites had posted on their site. I specifically wanted a recipe with a cream cheese frosting, which Our Best Bites didn't actually use, so I snagged the icing recipe from The Farm Chicks In the Kitchen, which is an awesome cookbook!

It all starts with some ingredients...

Apparently cars are very important in the making of cinnamon rolls.

First you microwave the butter and milk together for about a minute and set aside.

Put 2 cups of flour, yeast, white sugar and salt into the bowl of your mixer or a mixing bowl. Since I was using my Mom's kitchen I got to use her awesome Bosch. If it ever goes missing...It wasn't me. It might have been my sister.

Once the milk and butter mixture has cooled from hot to warm, pour it in and add the egg.

After that's well combined add the rest of the flour just until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. (If you're using a stand mixer, now would be the time to switch to a dough hook.) If you're using a stand mixer, let knead for 5 minutes, or turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes by hand.

Once the kneading is done, let it rest for 10 minutes on a floured surface.

Now the amazing filling. Soften the 1/2 cup of butter, then mix in cinnamon and brown sugar. Gosh, that was hard!

Roll the dough out into rectangle that's 12x14 inches. If you're me, you'll have spent the 10 minute resting time mildly panicking when you can't find your mom's rolling pin and have started considering using a glass bottle as a rolling pin (Name that book!!) when you remember where it is. Also, you will learn that 12 inches is not nearly as big as you think it is, and will have to attempt to make your rectangle smaller. No biggie.

Spread with the filling and roll the long side up.

Here's where I differed from Our Best Bites, and I wish I hadn't. They recommend that you score the roll with a knife to make sure you get even rolls and the correct number. They also swear by using floss to cut the rolls. I did neither and while I didn't have a problem cutting them, I ended up with 13 vs 12. Yup. I didn't hear anyone complain though.

Let rest for in a warm place for about 30 minutes. This is where I took a tip from The Farm Chicks - They recommend that you turn on your oven to the lowest setting it till go, let it warm up, wait 2 minutes. Turn it off, and slide your cinnamon rolls in for 30 minutes then take them out and let the oven warm up to the baking temp. My mom's oven will only go as low as 250, so I only let them rise in there for 15-ish minutes but it really worked!

You then bake them for only 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and you have beautiful cinnamon rolls!

The cream cheese frosting is super simple, but I wasn't sure if it'd make enough so I doubled the recipe and I'm glad I did!

Pure beauty! This pan didn't last a whole 24 hours and even got the stamp of approval from my non-sweet toothed boyfriend. The whole tablespoon and a half of cinnamon in the filling is what does it for me, along with the fact that these aren't very bready rolls. I wish I had a pan of them right now!

Everyday Cinnamon Rolls
Our Best Bites

1 cup milk
4 Tbs butter, cut into chunks
3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 (.25 ounce) package instant or ‘rapid rise’ yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened

Cream Cheese Frosting
The Farm Chicks
4 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. softened cream cheese
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract