Wednesday, January 26, 2011

German Chocolate Cake, Round Two

Happy birthday Brian. Yesterday was my amazing husbands birthday. He's younger than me by about three months, so I like it when we're the same age again. Last year I made him a German Chocolate Cake that was a huge hit and had requests for round two. I think I had a bit of beginners luck last year when I made it, it went off without a hitch. This year, while the end result was great, I had a bit of a time getting there. Last year I made the frosting the day before, and I would strongly recommend doing that. It's a lot to do in two hours I had. The cake wasn't going to be ready in time so Brian sent out a text message to his friends that included the words, "cake emergency" to let them know we would be running a little late. I had a hard time getting the frosting to thicken this time, but just a note, it definitely thickens up once you add the pecans and coconut. And my cakes took much longer to cook than last time. And while I was making it I realized I was missing some of the ingredients, so the birthday boy went to the store not once, but twice for me. He even cleaned up the house, for the guests, while I was destroying the kitchen. All in all it turned out to be a fun birthday, with just enough cake left over for the birthday boy to eat for breakfast this morning. Click the link below to go to my original post and recipe on German Chocolate Cake.
German Chocolate Cake Post

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Margherita Pizza

I've been doing good on the cooking lately, not so good on the blogging. But here's a quick post on a meal from last week. Brian and I became a fan of making pizza at home once I got these handy little cast iron skillets from my mom for Christmas a few years back. Turns out they were a screaming deal at a Mervyn's going out of business sale, and she probably got them for about $5.00. They only came in a set of two, and I wanted at least four, so I did a search and found them online at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I bought an extra set, and we've enjoyed pizza night ever since. (Although, I just checked and they don't have them at Bed, Bath and Beyond any more, but I found them here, on Amazon.) These pans make the best pizza crust, and we've made a variety of kinds too. Some times it's clean out the fridge and use whatever toppings we have, and then sometimes we get fancy. 

Last week was a fancy pizza of sorts, but another Cooking Light inspired recipe. I found this recipe for margherita pizza and Brian agreed it sounded good. Our favorite pizza to go out and get is BJ's, half BBQ chicken, half sweet pig. On both of those pizzas they put stewed tomatoes, so good. So for our margherita pizza I substituted the plum tomatoes for Italian stewed tomatoes. I also put some of the tomato juice on the crust along with the olive oil and garlic.

For the crust, the recipe calls for any old refrigerator pizza dough, might I suggest Trader Joe's pizza dough. It's super cheap and really good. (I have a recipe for home made dough, but that can be another post.) I even store the dough in the freezer and just let it thaw out the day I'm going to use it. Works like a charm. These pizzas were really good. I liked them more than I thought I would since they don't call for any sauce. Pretty healthy too!
Cooking Light-Margherita Pizza

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

I came across this recipe on the Tasty Kitchen site, realized that I had just about everything I needed to make this, and so I did. I enjoy the Tasty Kitchen site, but there are so many recipes on there that not many of them have reviews. So other than the recipe itself, there isn't a lot of feedback. That being said, I was very pleased with these results!

A few of my changes, none really on purpose, just me not wanting to go to the store! I thought I had Cannellini beans, turns out I have about five cans of pinto beans in my cupboard. Who knew? My mom advised me against substituting pinto beans, so I went with out. After having tasted the pasta, I don't think I'd add the beans in next time. I also used frozen spinach instead of fresh, it's what I had on hand. I'm sure the fresh would have tasted a bit more, shall I say fresh? But the frozen sure was easy. Also, next time I think I would use red pepper flakes instead of cayenne pepper. I think the flavor of the red pepper flakes is a better compliment to the pasta than the cayenne pepper.  Lastly, I added a little more olive oil once I had the noodles in there and about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. I wanted to make sure every piece of penne was coated with flavor. The lemon flavor was a nice touch. The taste reminded me a little bit of my lemon chicken pasta recipe, one of my favorites.

Penne with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicken Tamale Casserole

In keeping with my cooking light theme this week, I made another recipe I found on (Never mind that I made chocolate cookies just for me tonight, and am eating them as I type this!) The site had a whole section on easy recipes using chicken breasts. I had to stop printing recipes after a while, there were so many I wanted to cook. This recipe caught my eye because of the corn muffin crust. It had green chilies and cream corn mixed in. I absolutely love those little corn cakes that you get at Mexican restaurants.

I decided to cut the recipe in half since it was just me and Brian eating it, but we definitely would have enjoyed the full pan for leftovers. The recipe cut in half nicely and fit into a 9x9 pan. I followed the recipe pretty closely except when it came to the chicken and the sauce. The recipe doesn't specify how to cook your chicken, so I roasted boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the oven. I seasoned them with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. They turned out so moist! For a short cut you could always use a precooked rotisserie chicken. (The Costco ones are such a deal!) Also, the recipe calls for two cups of shredded chicken for the full recipe, and I probably used that much in my half a recipe. I roasted three chicken breasts. For the sauce, I covered the corn muffin crust, as directed, but added more after I placed the chicken on top. To me, it seemed like it would be a little dry, so I poured additional sauce over the chicken until the sauce sat on top of the crust. It was just the right amount of sauce! I just used canned Old El Paso enchilada sauce. I think green sauce would be great variation too.

I will definitely be making this again. I still have the other half of my ingredients, so I'll be making it again soon. It is delicious topped with sour cream! Click the link for the entire recipe and nutritional information.

Chicken Tamale Casserole Recipe

Monday, January 10, 2011

Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast

As I have been checking in on all the blogs I follow this past week, it seems everyone is all about the new year, new resolutions, new diet, etc. I am about a week late with my happy new year post, but here it is. Getting back into my daily routine has been much harder than I anticipated. I can't, for the life of me, get out of bed in the morning. Brian has to kick me and remind me that I have to leave in ten minutes or I'll be late! I don't know what it is, I'm just so tired these days. And just to crush any rumors for those of you who think like my mother, no, I'm not pregnant! (She asks me that every time I mention I have a symptom that could be linked to pregnancy.) Last week was a busy one so I hardly cooked at all. We played host to three of Brian's friends visiting from out of town. I offered to cook, but we ended up going out to eat. So this week, I vowed to cook everyday! 

I did make a little resolution to eat a little healthier this year, and if I happen to lose weight in the process then so be it! As much as I love cooking with butter, I thought I'd search out some healthy, week night recipes. I came upon the Cooking Light website and found quite a few recipes that would be perfect. Their recipes list nutrition information for every recipe, I loved that. We tried out the first recipe tonight and it was a success. Not only was it on the healthy side, it was a slow cooker recipe! I love those, I put it together the night before, Brian turns it on in the morning, I turn it off when I get home, and we eat an hour or two later. Little clean up and super delicious meals. 

We love stir fry, and we usually do it with chicken, so I thought this pork would be a great way to change it up. The thing about this recipe is that it called for a few things I didn't have and didn't want to spend money on because I didn't know if I'd use them again, or enough to make it worth the purchase. So I googled how to substitute them and and used whatever I had on hand. I'm sure my version might be different from what the actual recipe should taste like, but we weren't complaining or missing any flavor. 

The first substitute I made was for hoisin sauce.  I actually meant to buy this, but kind of forgot, so google time. I found out that hoisin is an integral part of Chinese cooking and is the basis for a lot of their flavors. The flavor is combination of sweet, salty and spicy. This is the substitute I found: 
  • 5 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon hot chili sauce
  • 1½ teaspoon honey
  • 3 tablespoon peanut butter
Of course I didn't have all of these either, so I just mixed together what I did have and added it to the sauce. I didn't have light soy sauce, white pepper powder or hot chili sauce. I did substitute in chili powder for the hot chili sauce though, and I think it added the same amount of heat. Click on the link to find other substitutes. 

The second substitute I had to make was for 5 spice. I wasn't sure exactly what 5 spice was, turns out it's not named for five spices used in it, but for its five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. The recipe only calls for 1/2 tsp, so I figured it couldn't be that big of a deal to substitute. I used cayenne, salt, cinnamon & ground cloves, equal parts of all, and added it to the marinade. 

Now don't let all my substitutions, or new ingredients, throw you off, this really is easy peasy, and it turns out a very moist pork roast that just fell apart when I picked it up. I served it over rice with the extra sauce and a combination of vegetables I stir fried in the sauce. You can use any veggies you'd like, but I used red peppers, onions, snow peas, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and bean sprouts. I am linking to the original Cooking Light recipe, and also rewriting the recipe, below, with my substitutions. Here's to a year of mixing in the healthier fair with all my sweet treats, I think my waist line will thank me. 

Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast:
  • 1/4  cup  low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3  tablespoons  ketchup
  • 4  tablespoons  honey
  • 2  teaspoons  bottled minced garlic
  • 2  teaspoons  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2  teaspoon  dark sesame oil
  • 2  pounds  boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free, less-sodium vegetable  broth


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, EXCEPT vegetable broth, stirring well with a whisk. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally. (Or overnight) 
Place pork and marinade in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm.
Add broth to sauce in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Shred pork with 2 forks; serve with sauce.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Today is my dad's birthday. Happy Birthday Dad. I didn't get to see him today, as everyone went back home and got back to work today. But with my whole family here this weekend we got to celebrate on Saturday night with a homemade dinner of pasta and lasagna with cheesecake for dessert, Dad's favorite. My mom and I finally had a chance to get in the kitchen together this holiday, and had a great time preparing everything. This cheesecake recipe is not your traditional cheesecake, it's not baked. It has a softer, lighter texture than most, which I like, you can eat more! My mom has been making this for years.
It has a buttery, graham cracker crust. My mom has found that the easiest way to make the crust is to press it into the pan using the bottom of a measuring cup. She's got a big two cup measuring cup that works great. We usually just crush the graham crackers in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin, but a food processor works great too. This is a seriously delicious cheesecake. So delicious, in fact, that I couldn't get any pictures of the individual pieces because everyone ate them too fast!
{Happy Birthday Dad! Isn't he handsome?}
Debby's Cheesecake
2 packs of graham crackers (about 15 crackers) -crushed
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 sticks of butter-melted
mix together and press into 9 x 13 inch pan on all sides

2- 8oz packages of cream cheese
1 cup sugar

In separate bowl, mix:
2 packs of Dream Whip, as directed on box

Mix Dream Whip and cream cheese together and spread into crust.
Chill until set, (we like over night best!) Top with 1 can of cherries
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