My Inspiration . . .

Ever since I was old enough to know how to operate an oven, I've always had a love for baking. (I'm totally convinced I was born with a mouth full of sweet teeth!) But it wasn't until I was in college, that I had a desire to learn how to cook. I've always enjoyed following cooking blogs and watching my favorite chefs on the Food Network, but it wasn't until 2009 that I decided to start my own cooking blog. I wanted a place where I could store all my favorite recipes, that was accessible from anywhere.

It was in the fall of that same year my mother decided she wanted to compile all of her favorite and most-loved recipes into a homemade cookbook to give our family members for Christmas. This was an idea she had been talking about for quite some time. She asked for my help, and I gladly obliged! (She was the idea behind the cookbook, and I was the creative one who helped put her ideas onto paper.) She typed up every.single.recipe, and found photographs & snippets from our childhood, and submitted them to an online publishing company. About a year later, the book was submitted..just in time for Christmas. This is a gift I will always cherish and hope to share with my children one day.

I love trying new recipes and finding ways to make them healthier & happier on the hips! I love everything about food: the taste, the smells, the presentation, the experimenting, etc. I love to entertain, so I figured this was a great way to bring people together. Hope you enjoy trying out some of the recipes. Happy cooking!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers


This recipe turned out as delicious as I was hoping it would! I've added it to my list of all-time favorite recipes because it's super easy to prepare, and it's a complete and wholesome meal. Not to mention, the leftover filing is tasty enough to be eaten alone as a side dish ~ Enjoy!
{ Prep Time: 20 mins / Cooking Time: 25 for quinoa + 30 for peppers / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 6 servings }

Ingredients:
6 bell peppers, stemmed & seeded (tops cut off, but reserved)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups organic chicken stock
1 (4 oz) can green chillies
1 cup corn (I used frozen corn, but canned works just as well)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 (10 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese (optional)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt 
pepper, to taste
olive oil cooking spray

Directions:
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions, or follow these instructions: Measure out 1 cup quinoa & 2 cups chicken stock in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then cover & reduce heat to low - simmer for 20-25 mins. 
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Add the cooked quinoa, and mix well. Spoon filling into the cavity of each pepper. Place on the prepared dish (see photo above), and bake until the peppers for 30 mins - or until tender and fully heated through.
4. Serve immediately. 

Recipe borrowed from Damn Delicious

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pioneer Woman's Infamous Texas Sheet Cake

{ Prep Time: 20 mins / Cook Time: 20 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 24 servings }

Ingredients:

FOR THE CAKE:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp (heaping) cocoa powder
2 sticks regular butter
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

FOR THE FROSTING:
1 3/4 stick regular butter
4 Tbsp (heaping) cocoa powder
6 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped (optional)

Directions:
1. Use an 18x13" sheet cake pan for this. (I sprayed mine with butter flavored cooking spray - although, I'm not sure if it's necessary or not in this recipe. When in doubt, I always spray/butter my pans!)
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt; set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan set to medium heat, melt the butter. Add the cocoa powder and stir together until combined.
4. Add boiling water, and allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.
5. In a measuring cup, add the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir to combine, then pour mixture into the butter/chocolate mixture. Pour onto the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 mins.
6. While the cake is baking, prepare the icing ~ on medium heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add cocoa powder - stir to combine - then turn off the heat. 
7. Add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Whisk together. Add pecans (optional), mix well, then pour over warm cake. *I only wanted nuts on half of my cake, so I just put them on the top after I poured the frosting on.
8. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Recipe borrowed from The Pioneer Woman

Friday, May 27, 2016

Salsa Italiana


{ Prep Time: 10 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 3 cups }
Ingredients:
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped (or 2 tsp dried oregano)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional ~ or add dash of cayenne pepper)
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
baked tortilla chips

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes until salt is dissolved. Using the whisk, slowly add the olive oil to the mixture.
2. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic to the bowl and gently toss to coat. Fold in the basil and oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and set aside for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.
3. Serve with chips or crostinis. Easy & delicious!
** This dip can be made up to 8 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from fridge about 45 mins before serving. **

Recipe borrowed from Diane Morgan's, Skinny Dips Cookbook

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fancy Caramel Corn


{ Prep Time: 15 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 16 cups }

Ingredients: 
12 cups popped popcorn (1 regular sized bag of popcorn yields about 9 cups popped, so you will need 1 1/2 bags)
2 1/2 cups gluten free mini pretzels (sticks or twists, broken into pieces)
1 cup lightly salted chopped almonds (or peanuts)
1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 sandwich ziplock baggies, for piping

Directions:
1. Cover a baking sheet (preferably one with sides) with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Pop popcorn, and pour into a very large bowl. Be sure to remove any unpopped kernels before doing so, so no one breaks a tooth! Measure out the pretzels and break into small pieces with your hands. Add to the bowl. Toss in almonds (or peanuts, whichever you decide to use) into the bowl and gently fold together. Set aside.
3. In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the butter (should only take about 45 seconds or less). Stir in brown sugar, light corn syrup and salt. Mix well. Microwave mixture for 2 minutes, stir; then immediately return to microwave and cook 2 more minutes. Remove from microwave, whisk in the vanilla and baking soda and stir until frothy (about 10-15 seconds). *Note: Even though you're going to do it anyway, try NOT to stick your finger in the caramel sauce to taste it - it's friggin HOT and it WILL burn you!
4. Pour hot caramel sauce over the popcorn mixture and gently stir until it's all evenly coated. Turn the mixture out onto your prepared baking sheet. Spread out in a thin layer.
5. Meanwhile, measure out the milk chocolate into a microwave safe bowl. Cook for 30 seconds, then stir. Repeat, cooking in 30 second intervals (you'd be surprised how easy it is to burn chocolate!) until chocolate is melted and of good spreading consistency. While it's still warm, pour the chocolate into a ziplock baggie, seal, and cut off the tip of the corner of the bag. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn. Repeat this step with the white chocolate.
6. Place the pan in the fridge for about an hour (or two), or until the chocolate hardens (the harder it is, the easier it will be to break into pieces). Store in an airtight container.

Recipe found on Cooking Classy

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Homemade Cajun Seasoning

{ Prep Time: 5 mins / Difficulty: Easy! }


This recipe looks almost identical to the taco seasoning recipe I posted, so I decided not to post the photograph . . . but it's definitely blog-worthy! It's pretty darn spicy - which is how it's supposed to be I believe. However, if you're a sissy like me, I'd ease up on the cayenne pepper just a bit. You can always add more if you want to spice it up.

Ingredients:

2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:
1. Mix all the spices together in a small bowl (with a lid, so you can shake it up and not cover your entire kitchen with cajun seasoning!) Sometimes, I double (or triple) the recipe and store the extra in a small baggie with the rest of my spices so it's handy. It all depends on how often you plan to use this seasoning.

Recipe found on All Recipes

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gluten Free French Toast

Another fabulous recipe from Against All Grain founder, Danielle Walker! Couldn't wait to share this one. Super easy to prepare - just make sure you find a decent gluten free bread!
{ Prep Time: 5 mins / Cooking Time: 7-10 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 2-4 servings }

Ingredients: 
1 loaf gluten free bread
3 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
coconut oil
maple syrup
powdered sugar (optional)
berries, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. In a shallow pan, whisk together the eggs, milk, spices & vanilla until completely combined. Set aside.
2. Heat 1/4-1/2 tsp of coconut oil in a large skillet, (just enough so the bread doesn't stick to the pan) and set the heat to medium-high.
3. Dip a slice of bread into the egg mixture, and let it soak on each side for 30 seconds. Place in the skillet and cook for a minute on each side (or until slightly browned). Press them down just a tad with your spatula, so they're not too soggy.
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until all the bread has been cooked. Sprinkle French toast with powdered sugar and top with berries, if desired. Serve with warm maple syrup -- a super tasty, satisfying treat!

*Note: You can store the cooked pieces in a tupperware container for 3-5 days. 

Recipe borrowed from the Against All Grain Cookbook. You can find the original recipe here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dark & Milk Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies


{ Prep Time: 10 mins / Cook Time: 8-10 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 36 cookies }

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup splenda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
3 cups old fashioned quaker oats, uncooked
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; stir with a whisk; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
4. With your mixer set on low speed, slowly beat in the flour mixture (this way you and you're kitchen won't be covered with it!) Then add oats; and mix well.
5. With a wooden spoon, fold in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
6. Bake 8-10 mins or until cookies are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Enjoy with a glass of organic skim milk! ;-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Homemade Taco Seasoning


Here's a super simple recipe to make your own taco seasoning. Most store-bought seasoning packets contain whey, potato starch and citric acid in them. This is a healthier recipe - and one that can be prepared in just a couple minutes!
{ Prep Time: 2 mins / Difficulty: Easy! / Yields: 4 ounces }

Ingredients:
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp + 1tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp black pepper

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, measure out all the ingredients, and stir until combined. Store in a ziplock baggie, or airtight container.

*Note: The seasoning packets you buy at the grocery store contain about 1 - 1 1/2 ounces, so the above recipe (which has been quadrupled) should get you through 3-4 large pots of chili or taco soup! I love making this seasoning because it's super easy, and most of the spices are staples in my kitchen. I buy all my bulk spices at Costco & Sam's Club.

Recipe found on All Recipes

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Dip


I'm always searching for healthy dips. My friend, Lindsey Brown, gave this to me several years ago ~ it's extremely easy to prepare and tastes delicious!
{ Prep Time: 5 mins / Cooking Time: 2o mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: about 2 cups }

Ingredients:
1 (12 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 (14-oz) can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, diced
1 (8-oz) bag of Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup light mayo
1/2 tsp garlic powder
tortilla chips or gluten free crackers

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a food processor, pulse the first 4 ingredients together. Add the cheese and garlic powder and pulse until completely combined.
3. Spoon mixture into a shallow glass baking dish and bake for 20 mins, until brown and bubbly.
4. Serve immediately with chips or crackers.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mama's Chicken Rolls


By far, one of my all-time favorite recipes from my mama! Easy to prepare and can be made ahead of time and frozen. Will keep in freezer for six months.
{ Prep Time: 10-12 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 4-6 servings }

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried parsley
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into halves, if thick)
butter flavored cooking spray

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a shallow oven-safe baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Rinse chicken breasts under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan on low heat. Then add garlic powder, mustard and worcestershire sauce; remove from heat and set aside. (Don't allow mixture to congeal.) In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs, cheese, salt and parsley.
3. Using tongs, dip chicken breast into butter mixture, then completely coat both sides in bread crumb mixture. Roll up tightly, open side down, then place in your prepared pan. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Pour leftover butter mixture over chicken breasts.
4. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hr and 15 mins.

Recipe borrowed from mama's cookbook, "From My Kitchen, With Love"

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Asian Coleslaw


{ Prep Time: 10 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 8-10 servings }

Ingredients:
2 packages coleslaw
6-8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 (3oz) packages chicken-flavored ramen noodles, crushed
1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 packages seasoning from ramen noodles

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Mix together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Mix well.
3. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

Recipe adapted from my mama's cookbook: From My Kitchen, With Love

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Banana Bread Muffins


I have posted this recipe once before, but I made a couple of adjustments that I just had to share! These are so yummy!!
{ Prep Time: 12-15 mins / Cooking Time: 18-20 mins / Yields: 18 muffins }

Ingredients:
For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt

2-3 medium ripe bananas (I wait till the 'nanas are completely brown - but NOT MOLDY)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce **
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
Baker's Joy Cooking Spray (or muffin liners)

For the scrumptious sugary topping:
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cinnamon

** I have been substituting unsweetened applesauce in place of oil every chance I get, and no one can ever tell the difference! Makes a HUGE difference in calories and fat content in the muffins. **

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin pans with Baker's Joy (or spray with butter flavored non-stick cooking spray, then lightly sprinkle all-purpose flour into cups. Make sure to dump out extra flour). Or, take the easiest route: use cupcake liners.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the first 6 ingredients; then set aside. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or a potato masher; then add the eggs, applesauce, honey and water; mix just until smooth.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir until just combined. Pour the batter into your prepared muffin tins. Since you will have 6 empty muffin cups, fill them with about 1/4" water. (This will evenly distribute the heat over the pan, ensuring that all muffins cook the same.)

For the topping:
In a small bowl (with a lid), add the 2 Tbsp sugar, the 2 1/2 Tbsp light brown sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Pop the top on, and shake it like a polaroid picture ;-) Using a small spoon, lightly sprinkle a thin sugary layer on each muffin. (The topping is optional, but strongly suggested as it gives the muffins a crispy, sugary finish!)

4. Bake the muffins for 18-20 mins, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Gently slide each muffin out of pan (be careful not to dislodge the sugary topping) and place on wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from a banana bread recipe found on www.vintagevictuals.com

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fried Okra


{ Prep Time: 10 mins / Cook Time: 8-12 mins per batch / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 4 servings }
Ingredients:
2 cups fresh okra
1 large egg
4-6 dashes tabasco sauce (optional)
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
1 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:
1. Wash & drain okra. Cut off both ends, then cut okra into 1/2" slices.
2. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, flour and salt and pepper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and hot sauce. Add okra and toss to coat. Pour cornmeal mixture over the okra and coat completely.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat (about an 8 on a scale of 1-10). Cook okra in small batches (so that oil remains hot), about 4-6 mins on each side. Cook until browned on both sides. Drain on a plate covered with paper towels.

Recipe adapted from several fried okra recipes found online

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Broccoli Salad


This is another side dish that aims to please! A yummy refreshing salad for the hot summer days. I love dishes that can be prepared the night before!
{ Prep time: 30 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 8-10 servings }

Ingredients:
2 large bunches of fresh broccoli florets (about 1.5 lbs.)
6-8 oz. bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled (can substitute turkey bacon, if desired)
1/4 small red onion, diced (optional ~ a little of this goes a long way!) 
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
1/3 cup purple grapes, halved, OR 1/4 cup craisins or raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds OR 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted 
1/8 tsp salt and pepper + more to taste

For dressing:
1 cup Hellman's light mayo
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste 
1/2 tsp pepper, plus more to taste

Directions:
1. Line a 9x13" baking sheet with foil, then place bacon side by side onto the baking sheet. Place pan in the center of the oven, and bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (Yes, you read that right! Put the bacon in the oven while it's preheating.) Cooking time may vary depending on thickness of bacon. Flip bacon, then cook 5 more minutes. Place cooked bacon on paper towels to drain excess grease, then set aside to cool. Then, chop into small bite-sized pieces. 
2. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Rinse the broccoli and cut into small bite-sized pieces. Add the bacon, grapes/craisins, onion, cheese, almonds and/or sunflower seeds. 
3. Add dressing to the salad mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. 
4. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours, or preferably overnight for best flavor.

Adapted from a recipe found in Mama's "From My Kitchen, With Love" Cookbook

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Black Bean, Jicama & Roasted Corn Salsa


{ Prep Time: 15 mins / Difficulty: Easy! / Yields: 3 cups }

Ingredients:
1 (8.5 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste, if desired
ground pepper, to taste
juice from 2 limes
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp packed brown sugar
3/4 cup *jicama, peeled & diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 serrano chili (or jalepeƱo), minced
2 green onions (w/ green tops), cut into thin slices
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Baked tortilla chips or pita chips for dunking

Directions:
1. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tsp olive oil. Heat pan for 1 minute until hot, then add the corn. Season the corn with 1/4 tsp salt, a pinch of black pepper and chili powder; and cook until the corn is golden brown and pops in the pan ~ about 10 mins or so. Now you know where the word "pop" corn came from! Stir occasionally, so corn doesn't burn.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together lime juice, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Remove the rib and seeds from the pepper (unless you like it spicy) and finely chop. Chop the red onion, green onions, and cilantro as well. 
3. In a large bowl (I always use a bigger bowl so I have enough room for mixing - you're going to have to wash a dish regardless, so why not go bigger??) combine corn, beans, jicama, red onion and serrano chili. Gently mix together, then pour the dressing over the mixture and combine.
4. Lastly, fold in the green onions and the fresh cilantro. Taste and add any additional seasonings. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl, cover and set aside for at least an hour so the flavors can blend together.
This was a HIT at our last get-together ~ completely gone by the end of the night! Serve at room temperature with baked tortilla or pita chips. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance. If making ahead, prepare dish, then cover and refrigerate. Then remove from fridge about 45 mins before serving.)

* A jicama is a mexican potato and can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store - in the same section where you can find garlic and shallots. It is similar in texture and taste to a water chestnut. I had to ask one of the produce guys to find one for me cuz I'm assuming they're not a popular vegetable. *

Adapted from Diane Morgan's Recipe: "Skinny Dips"

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Double Fudge Coca Cola Cake

A rich, moist yummy chocolatey dessert with a sweet chocolate frosting. [The frosting is great for cupcakes too.] Easy to prepare and always a hit at gatherings!
{ Prep Time: 15 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Cooking Time: 30 mins / Yields: 24 squares }

Ingredients:
For the Cake:
1 (18oz) box Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix
1 cup Coca Cola
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs
butter flavored cooking spray

For the Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x13" pan (glass or metal) with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Combine cake mix, Coca Cola, oil, water and eggs in a large mixing bowl. With hand mixer, beat at low speed until blended, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Pour batter into your prepared pan. Tap several times on countertop to release air bubbles (or run a knife or toothpick back and forth in all directions).
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake center comes out clean.
5. Meanwhile, prepare frosting. You can pour hot frosting over the cake right after you remove it from the oven, or you can frost the cake once it has cooled. (I actually prefer to wait until the cake is cooled before I frost it, but either way is delicious!)

For Chocolate Frosting:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, cocoa powder, and milk. Heat just until the butter melts.
2. With a whisk, beat in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 4 cups powdered sugar.
3. Spread over the hot cake. Cool completely. Then cut into squares.
*Note: If frosting becomes too thick, you can always add more milk to give it a better spreading consistency.

Recipe borrowed from my mama's cookbook: "From My Kitchen, With Love"

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Goat Cheese Spread


{Prep Time: 15 mins / Chill Time: 8 hrs / Difficulty: / Yields: 12-14 servings }

Ingredients:
2 (8oz) packages light cream cheese, softened
8 oz goat cheese, softened
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsps fresh oregano (or 1 1/4 tsp dried oregano)
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/4-1/2 cup pesto sauce
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
wheat thins, french bread slices, or crackers of your choice

Directions:
1. Line the bottom of a 8x4" loaf pan with plastic wrap.
2. Place the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture in bottom of prepared pan. Top with pesto sauce. Then, carefully spread 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the pesto layer.
3. Top cheese layer with sun dried tomatoes; then top with remaining cheese mixture. Cover and chill for 8 hours before serving.
4. When ready to serve, invert pan onto serving plate, then discard plastic wrap. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and sun dried tomatoes, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe borrowed from Southern Living Magazine

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Zucchini Lasagna

{ Prep Time: 20 mins / Cooking Time: 60 mins / Difficulty: Easy / Yields: 6 servings }

Ingredients: 
1 pound organic 93% lean ground beef
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
28 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried basil)
4-5 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8" inch thick slices
15 oz container of organic low-fat cottage cheese
16 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place zucchini in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Season with salt and roast for 15-20 mins. *This step will remove some of the moisture from the zucchini so your lasagna won't be runny.* Meanwhile, prep your sauce. Once your timer goes off, remove the zucchini from the oven and pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
2. Season the meat with salt. In a medium sauce pan or dutch oven, brown the meat. Once the meat is no longer pink, remove from pan and drain in a colander to remove the excess fat. Add olive oil to the pan and saute the garlic and onions for about 2 minutes. Return the meat to the pan with the onions & garlic; add the sauce, basil, and salt & pepper. Simmer on low for at least 30-40 mins, covered. (Do NOT add water - the sauce should be rather thick).
3. While sauce is doing it's thing, combine the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and egg in a medium bowl. Stir well. 
4. Once your sauce is ready, assemble in a 9x13" baking dish as follows: sauce, then zucchini, then the cheese mixture. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your dish. Then layer with zucchini strips (see photo above). Then top with a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture. Continue until all your ingredients have been used, finishing with sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top, then cover your dish tightly with foil.
5. Bake for 45 mins, covered. Then, remove the foil, and bake another 15 mins, uncovered. Remove from oven, and let stand about 5-10 mins before serving. 

Enjoy with a side salad and some yummy bread!

Recipe adapted from a recipe found on SkinnyTaste.com

For more recipes . . .

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