Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 Birthday Cakes: Minecraft!

Today, we had a joint birthday party for our boys.  We took the kids to see Thor 2.  Movie parties are great because all the kids stay put and are quiet, LOL!  I missed the last 15  minutes of the movie as I had to slip out to set up the party room.  I may need to sneak into the theatre to see the ending and the Easter egg trailer in the credits! ;o). Instead of super hero cakes, the boys wanted a Minecraft theme.   Ry asked for a TNT cake and Colin wanted cupcakes with the animal figures from the game.

I started with 4 Duncan Hines boxed cakes.  My Wilton teacher recommended them and they have never let me down!  I made the cakes on Friday & Saturday. Ryan helped me make the animal figures on Saturday afternoon. He took stills of the game so I could see what the animals looked like.  We did, chickens, pigs, sheep and creepers!  We made them out of fondant.  He helped me make the sheep which look more like puppies to me, but he didn't care!  

This morning, I frosted everything and then put the fondant on the TNT cake.  I was rushing so it's not my best work. While I was fixing my blunders, I kept imaging Kerry Vincent from the Foodnetwork cake competitions tsk tsking behind me!!  

I made the TNT cake three layers.  After I put them together, I had to do a little trimming to get the cube which made my husband happy because there is now a baggy of un frosted cake in the pantry.  Before putting the fondant on, I iced the entire cake in buttercream.

The perfectionist in me was upset with the imperfections, but both boys loved their cakes which means more to me than anything else!  Happy Birthday, Ryan & Colin!  XOXO Mom

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Easy Asian: Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken!

Last night's dinner was of Asian influence.  It was a super simple crockpot meal that was done in 3 hours!  I started it after the boys got home from school and while it was cooking, I had time to bake a cake and 24 cupcakes :)

This was another recipe that I found on Pinterest from 

I made some modifications to the recipe.  Because our family of 4 really only eats about 3.5 servings, I cut down on the chicken and only used 1 package of chicken breasts which held 3 pieces.  This was plenty for us!  Also because I watch our sodium intake, I used a Worstershire sauce/water solution in place of the soy sauce.  The mixture was 6 tbsp Worstershire sauce and 3 tbsp water which equaled roughly 1/2 cup of soy sauce.

Lastly, I cooked the chicken on high for 2 hours, shredded it and then put it back into the crockpot after the cornstarch mixture.  I then cooked it for an additional 40 minutes as the chicken was still a bit pink when I shredded it.  You should always use your best judgement about cooking times because appliances do vary in temperature!  This is a recipe that everyone liked and I will definitely make again!– 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lesson in Patience: Seafood Enchiladas

The recipe I made tonight was from which I found through Pinterest.( This recipe is not one for a novice or someone in a hurry to get a meal completed.  It took about 99 minutes from start to finish.  The effort was worth it as the whole family gave it a thumbs up!  I tried to make it gluten free by using corn tortillas and GF flour.  I didn't have any milk, but did have cream so my version has a few more calories! If you are feeling adventuresome, I suggest giving this recipe a try!

Seafood Enchiladas:


  • 1 1/4 pounds  fresh or frozen medium shrimp
  • 8 ounces  fresh or frozen halibut, cod, tilapia, or sea bass
  • 5 cups  water
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 2 teaspoons  canola oil
  • 3/4 cup  chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 2 fresh poblano chile peppers, seeded and chopped*
  • 1/2 cup  chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 8 low-carb whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 4 ounces  reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 18  ounce carton  light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup  fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup  thinly sliced green onions


Thaw shrimp and halibut, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp. Rinse shrimp and halibut; pat dry with paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. In a large saucepan combine the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to boiling. Add shrimp; cook for 1 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally. Rinse with cold water; drain and chop. Set aside.

Measure  Place a steamer insert over the pot of hot water that cooked the shrimp.   Bring water to boiling. Place fish in the steamer insert. Cover and steam over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, adding more water as needed to maintain steam. Flake fish into bite-size pieces; set aside.
In   skil

In a large nonstick skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add sweet pepper, chile peppers, and onion; cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic; cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat. Stir in shrimp and fish.

Meanwhile, stack tortillas; wrap tightly in foil. Bake about 10 minutes or until heated through. For sauce, in a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in sour cream, flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper. Gradually beat in milk until smooth.

Add 1/2 cup of the sauce to the shrimp mixture. Divide shrimp mixture among tortillas, spooning the shrimp mixture near one side of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas. Place filled tortillas, seam sides down, in prepared dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.  Bake, covered, about 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Alternative Starches: Butternut Squash & Turnips

Today, I made a super simple and delicious crockpot turkey breast.  The recipe came from Heather Tallman (  

I used a 3 lb Butterball turkey roast as I don't have a large crockpot.  I cooked it on high for 4 hours and turned it at hour 3 per directions.  It came out moist and delicious!  I would highly encourage you to try this recipe.  Especially those out there who I know are on the look out for yummy crockpot recipes!

To go along with the turkey, I traded out the usual mashed potatoes for a butternut squash, turnips and bacon combo!  This recipe had a nice smoky sweet taste.  The vegetables cooked down to an almost creamy consistency.  It took about 15 minutes to prep.  I peeled, cubed and stored the turnips and squash earlier in the afternoon.  I also diced up the onions and garlic.  The cooking time was about 30 minutes because I used pre-cooked bacon that just needed crisping!  

Butternut Squash & Turnips with Bacon:

1/4 cup water
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil 
5 slices pre-cooked bacon, 
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 turnips, peeled and cubed
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley


In small bow, mix vinegar and sugar.  Set aside. Over medium heat sauté bacon until crisp in the oil.  Add onion and garlic to skillet, cook until tender which is 4-5 minutes. Add squash and turnips and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.  Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables and toss.  Turn heat back up to medium and continue cooking until browned and slightly crisp, about 8-10 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Green Beans Deconstructed

A couple of months ago, I read an article on a local food blogger, Heather Tallman (aka Basilmomma). I've been following her on Twitter where she recently posted a picture of some great looking green beans ( She was creating a recipe for a future appearance on Indy Style.  Her dish looked like a great dish for Thanksgiving! This is my attempt to replicate the picture.  I'll be interested to read her recipe when it is published in the future!  I did my dish on the stove top as oven space will be at a premium on Thanksgiving!  I also added mushrooms which weren't in Heather's picture, but I had them on hand and thought they would add a nice flavor.  I took the beans over to my parents as my mom made a wonderful meal to celebrate my oldest son's birthday!  The recipe was well received by the family so I think it had made the cut for Thanksgiving! 

Sesame Mushroom Green Beans:

2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp butter
2 lbs green beans, trimmed
5-6 baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thin
1 bunch green onions, sliced with some green tops
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
Salt & pepper to taste


Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter over low-med burner.  When butter is melted, add the green beans.  Toss and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the mushrooms.  Cook for 4-5 until the mushrooms start to soften. Stirring occasionally.  Salt and pepper to taste. Add the sesame seeds and green onions. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Shout out for international dessert ideas!

I need international dessert ideas for a contest at work.  What dessert would impress a global audience?  Let's see those recipes!

Pan Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

I've been trying to expand our vegetable selections. I've been in a serious mashed potato rut because they are easy and everyone likes them.   My husband is not a big fan of cheese sauces so that eliminates quite a few dishes.  There have been readers from around the World checking out my recipes and I would love to hear from you any and all suggestions for vegetable side dishes! Tonight's alternative veggie dish was pan roasted carrots and parsnips.  It was a really tasty dish and was a snp to prepare!  The carrots and parsnips were a nice complement to the beef and pork mix meatloaf.  I hope you try it too and send me your veggie recipes!!

Pan Roasted Carrots & Parsnips:


3 parsnips, peeled and cut
3 carrots, peeled and cut
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp red wine vinegar


Heat oil and butter over a medium burner.  When butter is melted, add carrots and parsnips.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sauté for 5-7 minutes,  

Add poppy seeds and sauté for another 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally to keep from over browning.  Add paprika and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes.  Lastly,  add the red wine vinegar and cook until vinegar is evaporated.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sausage & Mushroom Stromboli

Last night, I used the second sheet of puff pastry to make a Stromboli.  It was stuffed with sausage and mushrooms because that is what I had on hand, but you can stuff the Stromboli with just about anything!  My mom makes a killer pepperoni Stromboli at Christmas.  She makes her own crust which takes a little longer.  Using the puff pastry was super quick and simple!  You could do a veggie version with eggplant too!

 A few weeks ago I made a large batch of marinara and froze it in 4 cup portions which are perfect for recipes like this, calzones or pizza. You can use jarred sauce, I just make my own because it is cheaper and I know exactly what is in the sauce.  I paired the Stromboli with a simple green salad.  My oldest son said it was a very filling dinner.  Hope you try this recipe in your kitchen!!  If you do, let me know what you think!

Sausage & Mushroom Stromboli:

1 lb italian sausage
1 cup mushrooms, washed & sliced 
2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shredded
2 cups marinara
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
1 tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 425*F.  Brown and crumble sausage over medium heat.  About half way through the browning, add the mushrooms to the sausage and stir several times. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and the mushrooms are softened which should be 8-10 minutes.  Drain mixture on paper towel.  

On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about 9x13 in size.  Place the pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and spread the marinara on it.  Leave a 1-2 inch border.

Continue layering with the meat mixture, cheese and spices.  Pull one of the long sides towards the middle and baste a line of milk along the edge and gently pull the other side over and press down.

Roll the ends up similar to rolling a chip bag shut.  Pinch the ends down and brush with milk.  Using a couple of spatulas or another person's assistance, turn the Stomboli seam side down on the baking sheet.  Make four slits on the top to vent steam.  

Bake the Stromboli for 10 minutes at 425*F and the turn down the heat to 400*F.  Bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Let rest for 5 minutes on a board before cutting.  Serve with additional marinara for dipping.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Another Simple Sunday Supper: Chicken & Asparagus Tart

As always, Sunday was a busy day with Church, football and for me birthday shopping for my boys!  November is birthday month in our house!  My oldest kicks it off this Thursday followed by me on the 22nd, hubby on the 23rd & youngest son on the 24th!!!  My youngest was due on December 24th and I teased his birth mom that she needed to have him by November 30th so imagine my surprise when she called me at 6am on Thanksgiving Day 2005 to say she was headed to the hospital!  That was the best Thanksgiving of my life as I was fortunate enough to be in the room when my second on came into the world, but I digress!  I did shopping this afternoon and stopped at my parents to put gifts into hiding just as my mother was taking individual apple crisps out of the oven.  Perfect timing on my part as she sent some home with me!!  She used Ina Garten's Old Fashioned Apple Crisp (!)

It was heavenly!

For the savory portion of our dinner, I made a chicken & asparagus tart.  It was really simple, but a little time consuming as it took about an hour and ten minutes from start to finish.  It did make a bit of a mess due to the chicken and asparagus being cooked separately before the dish was brought all together.  

Chicken & Asparagus Tart:


1 puff pastry sheet
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 lb asparagus
2 cups mild cheese, shredded
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Lemon zest
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup scallions


Preheat oven to 450*F.  Thaw puff pastry per package instructions.  Cook the cubed chicken over medium low-med heat for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.  Heat a stock pot half filled with water.  Steam the asparagus for 6-8 minutes in the covered stock pot once the water is boiling.  Roll out the puff pastry into a 10x16 inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.

Mix the shredded cheese, egg, milk, nutmeg, lemon zest and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl to combine.

 Turn the oven down to 400*F.  Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Arrange the asparagus and chicken on the tart and then drizzle with olive oil.  Layer the parmesan and scallions on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 minutes. Let tart rest for 5 minutes before cutting it. Enjoy!