Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pizza Party


Hope everyone is enjoying the long holiday weekend!


So far, the weather has been glorious here. Sunshine, blue skies, and high 80 temps. My mom came down to visit for the weekend and we decided to take advantage of the summer season and head to the closest State Park. People were swimming, fishing, barbequing, and just hanging out.


CIMG2447 So most people BBQ and go all out on picnic foods and such for Memorial Day, so come Tuesday when the work week picks back up and things are back to the daily grind, you may want to base a meal on packaged foods to make dinner a little easier and faster. This is just as fast as ordering delivery, but much better!

Wingless Buffalo Chicken Pizza


  • 1 (6oz) bag Tyson Grilled Chicken Breast Strips


  • 1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot


  • 1/2 c tomato sauce
  • 1 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese,
  • 1/2 c blue cheese crumbles
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp grill seasoning


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Set pizza on pizza pan.
  • In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and stir in Worcestershire, hot sauce, and tomato sauce. Add chicken to sauce and coat. Cover the pizza dough with the saucy Buffalo chicken, cheeses, and scallions. Bake 18 minutes or until crisp.


And of course, breadsticks are a must!


These are a quick-fix, and comparable to Pizza Huts. Plus, you get sauce right in the package—perfect!


Speaking of Pizza Hut, have you heard of their new Eat Well menu? A little about it:

“To help its customers make healthy choices Pizza Hut has launched an "Eat Well" menu that includes items that fall under the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program.

The menu, which was developed in Canada, now includes pizzas made on multi-grain dough and oven-baked whole-grain pastas. A logo showing a red circle with a white check mark is guiding diners to healthy menu choices.”

The new choices include:

  • Grilled Chicken Arabbiatta Pizza
  • Grilled Chicken Rustico Pizza
  • Giardino Fresco Pizza
  • Margherita Pizza
  • Tuscani Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta
  • Tuscani Mediterranean con Polo Pasta

I think this concept is great! Have you tried their new menu?


Friday, May 28, 2010

Just in Time for Summer: Fabulous Fruit Pies

Thank you all for the well wishes will my new job—I am still on cloud 9. I made a trip to the library to get  a few books to do some culinary cramming. I know a lot, but there is SO much to learn in the culinary field, I’ve just scratched the surface. So in other words, I’ve gone from college textbooks to culinary books—I am definitely not complaining!


Also, I’ve been in the process of covering my pantry door with a variety of food magazine covers—I’m liking it!



So, lately, a lot of blogger’s have been focusing on summer produce from the grocery stores or farmer’s market, so it’s about time I jump on the bandwagon! And what better way than with some sweets right? And even better when they are a little on the lighter side of course!


Cherry Ricotta Cheesecake

Serves: 6


  • Fiber One piecrust (recipe here), or one store-bought graham crust
  • 4 oz fat-free cream cheese
  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp sugar, or Splenda
  • 1/2 c eggbeaters, or egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For serving—cherry pie filling (recipe below), and Cool Whip, if desired

Homemade cherry pie filling:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups fresh tart cherries, pitted
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 drops red food coloring, optional
    1. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the cherries, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in food coloring if desired. Yield: 4 cups.


    • Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray pie pan with nonstick cooking spray.
    • Prepare Fiber One or store-bought piecrust.
    • Add medium speed, beat cream cheese until fluffy, 1-2 min. Add ricotta and sugar, beat until smooth and creamy, 3 minutes. Beat in egg whites, flour, vanilla, and almond extract.
    • Pour batter into pan; bake 1 hour 15 minutes, until center slightly jiggles. Turn oven off; let cheesecake cool in over for 1 hour.
    • Chill at least 4 hours.
    • If desired, spread about 3 Tbsp cherry pie filling onto individual slices and top with a dollop of Cool Whip.



    Creamy Strawberry Rhubarb Pie 

    Serves: 6


    • Fiber One piecrust (recipe here) OR store-bought graham piecrust 
    • 2 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb
    • 1/4 cup sugar, I used Splenda
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

    • 1 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened—I used fat-free
    • 1/4 cup sugar, or Splenda
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 c + 2 Tbsp egg beaters or egg whites
    • 3/4 c fat-free or regular sour cream
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, or Splenda 
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 tsp strawberry Jell-O powder


  • Prepare Fiber One crust.
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Combine rhubarb, sugar and flour; spoon over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add egg whites, beat on low speed just until combined.
    • Pour over hot rhubarb layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, Jell-O powder, sugar and vanilla; spread over hot cheesecake. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour.
  • Refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate leftovers.

  • Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Simple Steamed Meals

    First off…

    Before my summer was kind of up in the air so to speak, and all of a sudden my dream job fell into my lap. I am now employed as an assistant chef for the Concordia Language Villages which is such an amazing program and I feel so blessed to have an opportunity to be a part of it. I will be starting mid-June and running until the beginning of August. I get to cook so many different cuisines from around the world, who needs culinary school when you get hands-on experience, right?! I am going to try to document my time as much as possible, because I am sure it will be worth sharing!


    The other day, I mentioned how once the weather gets warmer, I look for quick meals  to get me in and out of the kitchen before I break a sweat. Last week it was simple skillet meals, and this week the quick fix is attributed to Ziploc Steam Bags. Back when I first heard about these, I was a bit skeptical about microwaving my food in plastic after all the BPA chemical hype lately, but Ziploc ensures, “SC Johnson does not use BPA in its plastic products, Ziploc® Brand Bags and Containers.
    SC Johnson is a leader in providing high-quality products. All of its products are extensively evaluated for toxicity and safety and comply with—and often even exceed—applicable quality and safety regulations.”
      So after my initial concerns were addressed, these bags have become a staple in my pantry.



  • Ideal for steaming fresh or frozen vegetables, potatoes, fish, poultry and more.
  • Each bag holds 2–3 servings.
  • Microwaveable (use as directed).
  • No cleanup—simply toss the bag and mess away!
  • Microwave cooking means quicker, easier meals.
  • Each bag is printed with useful guidelines for cooking times.
  • I decided to try two of the recipes that came inside of the package (by the way, a .55 coupon comes inside each package too!), and surprisingly both were tasty for being microwave food—I wish I would have known about these in my dorm days! The second recipe containing chicken is by far my newest go-to chicken recipe whether I have a lot of time or not.


    Shrimp with Pepper Medley

    4 servings


  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (either thawed raw shrimp or frozen cooked shrimp)
  • CIMG2323

  • 1 1/4 cup chopped green pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped red pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped yellow pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed OR dried crushed rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a Medium Ziploc® Zip’n Steam® Bag.

  • CIMG2324

  • Seal bag and shake gently to combine ingredients. Stir ingredients with a spoon if necessary to ensure shrimp and peppers are evenly distributed.

  • Place bag in microwave. Cook on full power for 5 to 5 1/2 minutes or until all shrimp are fully cooked and opaque throughout. If needed, continue microwaving at 30-second intervals until shrimp are done.

  • Allow bag to stand 1 minute before handling. Carefully open bag. Pour shrimp and peppers from bag.

  • Garnish with lemon wedge if desired and serve.

  • CIMG2327

    I served mine with sliced butternut squash that I also popped in a Steam Bag.


    Greek Chicken with Potatoes & Feta

    Serves 4


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (6 - 8 ounces each), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 small potatoes, quartered and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Directions:

  • Combine the chicken, potatoes, feta cheese, olives, lemon juice, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and black pepper in a Medium Ziploc® Zip’n Steam® Bag.

  • Seal bag and shake gently to combine ingredients. Pat ingredients into single layer. Place bag in microwave.

  • Cook on full power 7 - 7 1/2 minutes (Medium bag) or 6 - 6 1/2 minutes (Large bag), until chicken is cooked through, with no trace of pink. If needed, continue microwaving at 30-second intervals until chicken is done.

  • Allow bag to stand 1 minute before handling. Gently shake bag to distribute seasonings. Carefully open bag.

  • Garnish with additional 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta and 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, if desired.

  • Some other recipes I want to try with my Steam Bags?

    Have you tried, or do you currently use Ziploc Steam Bags?

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Raisin’ The Bar

    What better way to start a Monday then with a joke, right?

    Q: Why did the raisin go out with the prune?
    A: Because he couldn't find a date.

    A raisin, for me at least, is a somewhat unattractive food. I mean, who like their food to be shriveled and an odd color? I was always told you eat with your eyes first, and raisins are one of those things I try not to. Raisins and myself also have somewhat of a come and go relationship. If I have a box in the pantry, no doubt I will use them. But if not, that’s ok too. But lately, things with Mr.Raisin and I have changed slightly. Our relationship has been taken to the next level because he decided to come over all covered in chocolate! And his brother, well he came dancing with cinnamon. So needless to say, the recipes featured today saved my shaky relationship, and now I am sure Mr.Raisin will be around for quite sometime!


    Best Bread Machine Cinnamon-Raisin Bread


    • 1 c water
    • 2 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
    • 3 cups bread flour
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast
    • 3/4 c raisins


    • Measure carefully, placing all ingredients except raisins in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Add raisins at the Raisin/Nut signal or 5 to 10 minutes before last kneading cycle ends.
    • Select Sweet or Basic/White cycle. Use Medium or Light crust color. Remove baked bread from pan and cool on wire rack.

    Nutrition Information:

    1 Slice: Calories 180 (Calories from Fat 20 ); Total Fat 2 g (Saturated Fat 1 g); Cholesterol 5 mg; Sodium 310 mg; Total Carbohydrate 38 g (Dietary Fiber 2 g); Protein 4 g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 0%; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 0%; Iron 10 % Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch

    This bread is truly the easiest and the best recipe I’ve found for cinnamon-raisin bread thus far!


    Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies


    • 1 package Betty Crocker oatmeal cookie mix + ingredients called for on package


    • 9 oz chocolate covered raisins



    • Mix according to package directions.
    • Once mixed, add in chocolate covered raisins and incorporate.
    • Make 1 Tbsp size balls and place on nonstick cookie sheet, or use my new favorite find below.
    • Bake according to package instructions.



    Looking for a way to make your cookie baking more fun?

    Like easy cleanup?

    Need a way to keep cookies from running together when baking?

    If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you will want to stick around for the debut of my new favorite kitchen helper.

    Bulls Eye Baking Parchment

    “Have a blast hitting the mark with your favorite cookie doughs and baked treats on our non-stick and food-safe baking parchment. Printed with a 'Bakers dozen' of bold bullseyes for easy placement, your recipes will hit the mark every time!

    Thanks to the ever-so-kind Richard over at We Bake it Fun, I was able to try these out, and what better way to try a new product and pair it with a new recipe!



    So easy to hit the bulls eye!




    Perfectly spaced and deliciously tasting cookies!

    Have you heard about the bulls eye baking sheets?

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Fizzy Fun

    Is anyone else going to the hyped about Healthy Living Summit in Chicago? I am thrilled to have a chance to not only learn more about ways to better my blog, but to meet all the fabulous bloggers out there! You can find out more here.
    Yesterday I was so relieved for it to be Friday. Taking that May-term class is a lot of cramming into a short period of time. (Think one whole semester in just two weeks!) Needless to say, the weekend is really needed!
    I’ve been doing a new thing—trying to “eat my way through town”. There’s so many restaurants that my town has to offer, but it always seems I get stuck on the same few. So branching out is the goal! I’ve always heard that our Country Kitchen has a wonderful salad bar, which not many places do, so I figured that’s a perfect reason to venture there.
    To me, a salad bar is either really good, or not up to par—there’s no in between. To be good, there has to be a big variety and numerous dressings to choose from. Who analyzes salad bars? Yes, that’d be me!
    All the recommendations were spot on—it was the best I’ve seen in town yet. It had everything I like to put on my salad.
    (Lettuce, spinach, red onions, cucumbers, pickles, banana peppers, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, and light Italian dressing.)
    country kitch
    Country Kitchen is comparable to a Perkin’s or Denny’s. They offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert all day. Ranging from comfort classics to lighter grilled fare, they do offer quite a variety which is always a plus. Yesterday, the steak and eggs combo caught my eye.
    As you probably know, there’s always a way to “healthify” a -dish, and if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you’ll know it’s something I tend to do often. In this case, you can lighten up a steak and eggs dish by having your eggs be replaced with eggbeaters and scrambled without the butter. Also, instead of hash browns or home fries which are usually laden in oil, you can get a baked potato, served plain.
    Overall, this meal was very filling—the steak was done exactly how I like it, the eggs were fluffy, and the good ol’ potato was tasty too!
    Now onto a little fun—fizzy fun that is. Ever heard of making soda at home in your own kitchen? If not, I highly suggesting popping over to SodaStream and watching my video below to get a heads up on it. Check out what the company generously sent me!
    Already intrigued? Watch this short video!
    What do you think of the SodaStream??

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Simple Skillet Meals

    First off—make sure you check out the side bar on the right side of my blog homepage. You can now easily access all of my product reviews , restaurant reviews , and order my contest winning cereal creation in one place!


    Is it just me, or when the weather starts to get really warm, there’s just a longing to be outside in the sunshine rather than in a hot kitchen preparing a lengthy meal? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’d just turn on the AC if I needed to whip up something strenuous, but lately I’ve been trying to come up with some short and sweet recipes that can get you in and out of the kitchen in a snap!

    Enter, simple skillet meals.

    I created these based on one of my favorite grocery store bargain buys—frozen vegetables. Wait, are you thinking, “Oh I prefer fresh produce due to the nutritional content?” Well get this, nutritionally speaking, frozen veggies are similar to -- and sometimes better than -- fresh ones. This makes sense, considering that these veggies are usually flash-frozen (which suspends their "aging" and nutrient losses) immediately after being harvested. Frozen veggies are often picked in the peak of their season, too.

    So what I’ll do is start in the frozen section, find a frozen veggie blend and then head to the meat section to find what would best pair with it to make a complete meal—easy, fun, fast, AND cheap! And if you don’t eat meat, you can always head to the tofu, canned beans, or meat substitutes, such as Boca.

    ((Each skillet serves one, but can be easily doubled or tripled))


    In a Snap Teriyaki Steak Skillet


    • 4 oz cubed top round steak


    • 1 (14 oz bag) PictSweet Dluxe Teriyaki Vegetables with Sweet Soy Glaze



    • Spray small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium.
    • Once skillet is hot, add in cubed steak and cook for 4-6  minutes until almost cooked through, stirring occasionally.
    • Add in 1 1/3 cups teriyaki vegetable mix + 1/3 c water and continue cooking on medium heat until steak has reached desired doneness, water has evaporated, and vegetables are cooked through.


    • Serving suggestions: sliced steam potato and steamed baby carrots.




    Minute Mexican Pork Skillet


    • 3 oz cubed pork chop


    • 1 (12 oz) bag of New Age All Naturals Southwest Fiesta Blend Frozen Vegetables


    • 1/2 c of frozen assorted bell pepper strips (I got these from Trader Joe’s)



  • Spray small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium.
  • Once skillet is hot, add in cubed pork and cook for 4-6  minutes until almost cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  • Add in bell pepper strips and 3/4 c frozen southwest vegetable blend.
  • Lower heat to low and cover skillet for about 5 minutes, or until pork is no longer pink and vegetables are cooked through.


    Serving suggestions: steamed butternut squash slices(sprinkled with chili powder) and steamed baby carrots.



    What are your favorite skillet meals?

  • Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Cream Cheese Please!

    Another year to the book, another candle to the cake..however you put it, I am a year older, and hopefully another year wiser.

    It’s been just about a week since my 19th birthday, and it gave me time to think about all the things I’ve done while being 18..

    Some exciting things that are on my agenda for this year:


    So now onto confession time: In the past 4 weeks I think I’ve eaten my weight in cake. Not just any cake though—my creation I’ve been tweaking and perfecting for the Real Women of Philadelphia Cream Cheese contest. I love Paula Deen, so I was extra excited to find out she is the main star of this contest—cooking in front of Paula Deen? Yes, please!

    **Check out my contest profile page here**

    Recipe entry description:

    “Inspired by Elvis's famous peanut butter banana sandwich, I took this to the next level by incorporating the flavors into a moist and simple cake. But who can have a cake without frosting? Not me! A creamy peanut butter cream cheese frosting tops this off and makes it my one-of-a-kind cake filled with four favorite flavors. I think Elvis would be proud!”

    Recipe entry video:

    Chocolate Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

    Serves: 8



  • 1 1/2 cup(s) of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup(s) of whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup(s) of granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup(s) of low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup(s) of unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup(s) of egg whites or eggbeaters
  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 8 ounce(s) of original Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup(s) of confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 1 Banana for topping if desired
  • Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 8 x 8 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Meanwhile, get 2 medium-sized bowls, one for the dry ingredients and one for the wet ingredients.
  • Starting with the dry ingredients, add in both flours, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  • In wet ingredients bowl, start by mashing bananas. Add in applesauce, buttermilk, egg, egg whites, vanilla stirring until well combined.
  • Slowly add in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir until just combined. Pour into baking dish and put into preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Meanwhile, prepare frosting by placing cream cheese(right out of the fridge temp), peanut butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar and beat with hand mixer until a creamy consistency is formed.
  • Once cake is cooled for at least 30 minutes, take a rubber spatula and run in around the cake. Spray a cookie sheet lightly and tip pan upside down onto sheet and tap lightly until cake comes out.
  • Take frosting and frost the bottom layer evenly. Then top with next layer and frost the top and sides until covered. Cut into 8 pieces.
  • Thinly slice up extra banana and top cake slices if desired.

    Whether you try this recipe or not, keep your fingers crossed for me!! =)