Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Mess Tex Mex "Fajitas"

We are huge Biggest Loser fans and this recipe was featured on one of their episodes. I must admit my favorite part of the episode was their mini cooking competetion. It combined my favorite show and my favorite hobby, can't get much better than that! All of the dishes they made not only looked good but were good for you. Upon watching this episode, Jason immediately asked if we could have the fajitas for dinner. How could I say no? Below is our version of chicken fajitas with lettuce wraps instead of the usual flour tortillas. If you don't like spicey foods then scale the jalapeno and cayene down as it definitely has a kick.

No Mess Tex Mex Fajitas
Serves 2

Ingredients:6 ounces grilled boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon each: Southwest Chipotle Mrs. Dash seasoning, oregano and ground cayenne
1/2 red and orange bell peppers, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2  yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
6 cabbage leaves

Low fat shredded mexican cheese (optional)

Dressing (optional)
1 Tablespoon nonfat plain Greek style yogurt
1 Tablespoon pico de gallo
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice


Turn on the grill and stove top with skillet. Prep all of the vegetables and season chicken while you wait for it to heat up.

Place seasoned chicken breasts on the grill for 5 minutes then flip and grill for another 3 minutes or until it is no longer pink inside.

In a warm skillet add a teaspoon of olive oil. Add in the peppers and onion and cook until tender.

Place the cabbage leaves on a serving plate. Fill cabbage cups with pepper & onion mixture. Cut the chicken in thin strips. Place chicken on top of salad mixture. Drizzle dressing on top of chicken. Garnish "fajitas" with tortilla strips, cheese and avocado. Serve immediately.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Spicy Shrimp Orecchiette

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. We had a great time up north with my family for the holiday. We were really lucky and they were having "mild" weather so it wasn't as big of a shock but still required a sweater. I will even admit it was nice to have the crisp fall air and be able to go for a hike in the woods with my family. I absolutely love this holiday and all of the cooking and family time. Another part of traveling that I enjoy is getting a chance to read a bunch of magazines on the plane rides. I of course had a few food related ones in my mix and found a bunch of recipes to try upon our return home.

This recipe was delicious, with a little heat but not too much if you are worried about it being overwhelming. The shrimp provides a great source of low fat protein and was a nice change from all of the turkey we had over the weekend. You could even add in some diced zucchini, squash or spinach. I might add some in with the left overs tomorrow.

Spicy Shrimp Orecchiette
Serves 4

Kosher Salt
12 ounces orecchiette pasta
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small bulb of fennel, chopped, plus 1 Tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
1/2  cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, torn

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped fennel bulb and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Cook stirring 2 more minutes (add a splash of water if mixture is sticking). Stir in the tomato, shrimp, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup of reserved cooking water. Bring to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are saucy, about 8 more minutes.

4. Add the pasta and cheese to sauce and toss to coat. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper ( add more reserved pasta water to loosen if necessary). Stir in the basil leaves and fennel fronds (optional). Divide among plates.

Source: Food Network Magazine

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic-Cranberry Sauce

I keep reading about how pork tenderloin is a lean and healthier meat option. In our house we love it and are always looking for new recipes and flavor combinations. I came across this recipe that sounded delicious and lived up to the standards. The cranberry sauce is simple to make and makes it feel like fall. My family makes two different types of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and always have a bunch left over long after we have eaten the turkey. This would also be a good way to use up lsome of that eft over cranberry sauce with a different protein.

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic-Cranberry Sauce
Yields: 4 servings
Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 45 minutes


1 cup whole cranberries
1 cup water
2 Tbsp sugar (more to taste, if desired)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped shallot (or onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar


  1. Bring water, sugar, and cranberries to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the berries and most of the water cooks off, leaving a homemade whole-berry cranberry sauce.
  2. Preheat oven to 400. Add olive oil to an oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Pat pork loin with paper towels to dry. Season liberally with with salt and pepper and place in pan.
  4. Sear pork on all sides and place pan in the oven.
  5. Roast until thermometer inserted into center registers 155, about 20 minutes.
  6. Let meat rest in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a plate and tent with foil.
  7. Place pan over medium-high heat and add butter, shallot, and rosemary. Cook until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  8. Add broth and scrape up the bits from the bottom and sides of the pan.
  9. Add cranberry sauce and vinegar and bring to a boil, reducing heat to medium-low and simmering for ~15 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
  10. Slice tenderloin to desired thickness and serve with sauce.


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Sweet Potato Pie

Lately, every place I go has been promoting sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving. The grocery stores have out their holiday tastings and now they all have sweet potato pie. Until this year I had never tried one since we have pumpkin pie in our home for Thanksgiving. I am a fan of sweet potatoes with marshmallows and sweet potato fries or mashed so this had to be good too. What is not to love about pie?! I did enjoy the ones I tried, they have a milder flavor than the spices in pumpkin pie. Of course, now I had to try to make one on my own. I will admit I used a refrigerated pie crust since I didn't get my dad's skills at making pie crusts.

Sweet Potato Pie
Serves 8
Source: Real Simple

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1 large/ 1lb sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1/2 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
9-inch refrigerated pie crust


  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Peel and cut the sweet potato then place in boiling water until fork tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter and sugar for 3 minutes. Add the egg, orange juice, and honey and beat for 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato, evaporated milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and combine.
  4. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the crust. Bake until the filling is set, 50 to 60 minutes. If crust starts to get too well done cover edges with foil. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

There  is a "cold" front here and I say that lightly since down here that means high in the 70s and down to 50s/60s at night. I was excited to be able to wear jeans for once and not be swealtering. It also meant I sort of felt like fall was coming, but it didn't have that crispness in the air. Taking advantage of this I made my mom's pumpkin cranberry bread. This is a staple in our house in the fall and holiday season, something that she makes for all of the holiday cookie/dessert platters. Luckily, it is really simple and reminds me of home and the holidays. The pumpkin keeps it nice and moist, the cranberries a tiny tang so the bread is not very sweet. A big perk is that it freezes well so you can eat one loaf now and keep the other for a gift, company or just another day.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 slightly beaten eggs
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil (vegetable or canola)
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 cup fresh cranberries cut in half or quartered

1. Combine eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin, mix well.

2. Combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

3. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients. Pour pumpkin mixture into the well, stir just until dry ingredients are moist.

4. Stir in cranberries.

5. Spoon batter into 2 greased & floured 8x3 3/4x 2 1/2 inch aluminum loaf pans. The batter will be thick, I used a measuring cup to scoop and then smooth the batter into the pan with a spatula.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Cool on a wire rack then carefully flip the loaves out of the pans, slice and enjoy! 

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

M&M Cookie Bars

This was our first Halloween in our new house. Most of the places we lived in the past you didn't get any trick or treaters. Here, everyone seems to live in developments full of houses. The same holds true for us, our development has tons of kids and a lot of houses there were decked out with decorations and blow ups. We had no idea how many trick-or-treaters to expect so we stocked up on candy because we didn't want to be the newbies that ran out. Boy did we misjudge. We had about 75 kids and purchased close to 10 bags of candy! Needless to say we have a ton of candy left over.

I am trying REALLY hard not to eat all of the left overs. I figured the best way would be to use some of it up baking. I had read some other blogs that turned the candy into chocolate bark which looked delicious but too sweet for me. I decided on m&m bars. It helped but didn't make a huge dent in our left overs, but I was able to bring them to my book club so not only did I use up candy, but I got other people to help me eat it! And who doesn't love a little something snack on when discussing the book ;)

M&M Cookie Bars
Source: The Sweets Life

2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cups un-salted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups M&Ms (22 fun size bags)

1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan (easiest to line with foil and grease!) and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Heat butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
3. Cool slightly before mixing in eggs and vanilla, stirring to combine. Stir in flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
4. Mix in 1 ¼ cups M&Ms. Reserve ¼ cup to press into the top of the bars. Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spatula to spread evenly (note--batter is thick and is somewhat difficult to spread--use your fingers if necessary!). Press reserved M&Ms into the top of the batter.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and bars are golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

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