Archives for September 2011

Friday Link Love: Back to School Recipes!!!

Sloppy Goodness!

Move over Quaker Oats, there’s a new granola bar in town!

Mini-Mac n’ Cheese? And gluten-free, you say? No way! Pure genius!

Just too cute!

My fave!

So prettay!

I want s’more of these!

Grilled cheesy goodness, Italian-style!

Cinnamon and sugar coated lovelies…with an espresso please!

Classic waffles, pass the syrup please!

Happy Friday!
It has been a loooooong week for me. I think it was Labor Day that completely threw me off balance. Anyhoo, I know that most of the U.S. population went back to school last week. I only know this because of all those yellow school buses taking up the center lane on Mopac (that’s code for Tx 1 freeway if you are a foreigner) and because I live across the street from the sweetest middle school. I really enjoy driving home from work late in the day and seeing all the kiddos out on the football field getting ready for the season…reminds me of my middle school days…I was a cheerleader (rah,rah, sis-boom-bah). I absolutely loved it, my mom was our coach, I was one of the captains of the squad, and our football team was pretty awesome…I think we went undefeated for my 8th grade year…pretty swell for a small private school where every boy in your class was on the football team. I have great back-to-school memories even though as a child I was less than thrilled to go back to school after an awesome summer spent at the pool completing my summer reading list. The upside to going to private school is that I had a uniform, so I didn’t have to stress about my wardrobe every day. My sister was the one who was usually psyched about going back to school, she was a book worm and actually enjoyed taking those accelerated reading tests…smh overachiever! All in all, I had a pretty awesome private school upbringing if you ask me…school lunches probably made up about 50% of those memories. In elementary and middle school we had the same lunch ladies and believe it or not, they both came and worked at the cafeteria when I was in high school. We were great friends, especially when I forgot my lunch and needed a freebie. My mom would almost always pack my lunch in elementary, usually a turkey and cheese or pb & j sandwich with some sort of Little Debbie treat. I would like to take this moment to talk about my friendship with Little Debbie as a child Nutty bars were and still are my fave! I also found these friends in my lunch box: Honey Buns, Donut Sticks, Pecan Spinwheels, Zebra Cakes, Fancy Cakes, Oatmeal Creme Pies, and Star Crunch. Then, when fall rolled around I could always count on my fall favorite, Pumpkin Delights…I still get depressed that they don’t carry that gem year round’. My mom would also pack other essentials from time to time, maybe a fruit roll-up, a piece of fruit, and of course, what was a lunch without Capri Sun! Also, you can bet your bottom dollar that I grew up on these little babies. That’s right I was living the American Dream at the lunch table, all my friends wanted to trade me but of course, I wasn’t about to trade some baked Lay’s for a Hostess Cupcake…chocolaty + creamy goodness + cute swirl on top= can’t go wrong! I would always beg my friends for a loan for a Bluebell Bombstick (btw I can’t find these anywhere in the grocery store today) from the cafeteria ice cream stand. I still owe them all 100’s of dollars in ice cream money today! Sorry about that guys! Today I would like to share with you my Top Ten Back to School Recipes! Most of them made my childhood complete…just remember that when your kids are growing up, it’s important to get into the kitchen with them and cook! It creates memories and it’s a barrel of fun! Lastly, big shout out to my Mom for always packing “da bomb” school lunches, I love you!
Top Ten Back to School Recipes:
1. Ditas Spiced Mice Butter Cookies from Whipped: I had to post these cookies, they are just too cute! Soooo creative! I suggest letting your kids help you out with these in the kitchen as an after-school treat. Awesome after-school project!
2. Cinnamon-Sugar Biscotti from Joy the Baker: O MY Lanta! I got super excited when I saw this recipe. Are you serious? A twice-baked cookie dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Sign me up! For all you mothers, I doubt these will make it to your kids lunch box! The cookie is crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and blanketed in a sea of sweetness.
3. Sloppy Joe’s by Ezra Pound Cake: I seriously have never met a kid who didn’t like a good ole’ fashioned homemade sloppy Joe. I grew up eating these for dinner once a week. I remember coming home to my mom making the sloppy Joe’s. I would always have mine with a slice of melted cheddar cheese. I always enjoyed the assembly line that my mom would create…the bun, the sloppy Joe, and then the cheese! Because there are so many kids on my dad’s side of the family, you can always count on someone bringing homemade sloppy Joe’s to any gathering! On a side note: sloppy Joe’s always make me think of the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie It Takes Two…you know, the scene in the mess hall when one of the girls takes her first bite of a sloppy Joe and dives right in? If you don’t know what I am talking about, rent this movie and watch it with your kids, a.s.a.p.!
4. Rich Buttermilk Waffles from Smitten Kitchen: Normally, homemade waffles were a Sunday morning treat in my household. As a teenager I remember having family brunches and making buttermilk waffle batter. The smell of homemade waffles is enough to make my heart sink into my stomach. Not to mention, the torture of waiting for the waffles to finish cooking in the waffle maker is utter insanity! As a kid Eggo waffles were my go to school breakfast, especially when we were running late. I would toast two Eggo waffles and spread them with homemade apple butter. I would suggest making a batch of these waffles for the entire week so your kids have a breakfast they can take on the go to school. These pair great with fruit preserves or serve with a smear of peanut butter and a few slices of banana. For a richer treat, smear with nutella! Out of this world!
5. Mini Mac-and-Cheese Cakes with Corn Chex Crust from Silvana’s Kitchen: Kraft Mac and Cheese was a household staple for me growing up. I used to dream about that big blue box. It was often served along side of those sloppy Joe’s above. That was a fantastic idea! Thanks Mom! Anyway, this recipe takes mac-and-cheese to a whole notha’ level. This momma food blogger has a child with celiac disease so she has gotten pretty creative! She reinvents the classic take on macaroni and cheese by forming little “cups” made of corn chex and filling the cups with gluten-free elbow macaroni combined with a homemade cheddar cheese sauce. The cakes are baked off until melty, cheesy, goodness! You’re kids will never want the Kraft stuff again! Guaranteed!
6. Cashew-Panko Chicken Tenders with Polynesian Sauce by My Life as a Mrs.: Now, I didn’t really grow up in a drive-thru household…however, I cannot say that I did not love me some Mickey D’s chicken nuggets growing up! I can remember reverting to this type of fast food after a school night basketball game. It was usually so late afterwards, that fast food was the only option. Thank you Ronald, I think I enjoyed the honey-mustard dipping sauce more than the actual chicken-nugget itself. Only years later would I discover the ingredients that actually make up a chicken nugget. I haven’t touched a chicken nugget in years! This recipe takes chicken nuggets to a whole notha’ level + they are a healthier, preservative free might I add, alternative for your chitlin’s The chicken is crusted with a nutty, crunchy, cashew mixture, baked to moist perfection, and served with a semi-homemade dipping sauce that uses three ingredients! Super simple, super healthy, super tasty! Serve these for a quick dinner idea with a side of vegetables, or pack for lunch leftovers!
7. King Ranch Chicken from Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour: Okay, so we all know that I absolutely love King Ranch Chicken. It is by far my favorite comfort food meal, and favorite casserol-ish dish on the face of the planet. Everyone has their version here in Texas but my grandma Margie makes the best! This is the basic recipe from a friend of mine, Cara Hagerty Carroll. The only change that she makes is that she uses flour instead of corn tortillas. I prefer corn, but you can use either. Cara is the mother of two of the cutest boys I have ever seen. With the two boys, her and and husband are like the fairy-tale story book family that we all know and love. Anyway, she definitely knows how to cook up some awesome meals for her family. I like to think of her as a Paula-Deen minnie-me. The woman does not skim on the butter or cheese! We grew up living on the same street and she actually babysat my sister and I when we were little. I don’t recall that she had any cooking skills then, but she was the greatest babysitter in the world, especially because she took us to a two-story Mickey D’s. Today, I would say she has polished her cooking skills and is a culinary queen!
8. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars by Two Peas and their Pod: For school lunches my mom would always pack me a Quaker Oats Chewy Granola bar, usually in peanut butter flavor… my favorite! This homemade version of a granola bar is a clever spin on what you might find in the grocery store. The pumpkin makes the granola bars super moist and chewy, while the chocolate chips and honey add that hint of sweetness. Not to mention, these babies are packed with energy so your kids will be revved up through after-school activities.
9. The Special (Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich) by Simply Scratch: This was my parents’ quick dinner idea on the busy nights of the school week…you know, the night of the week that one kid has soccer practice, the other has drill team, and each has three subjects of homework to finish before the next day! O lawd…I just had a flashback to me sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad trying to figure out my Algebra homework for three hours…we got nothing! Anyhoo, I loved it when we had grilled cheese for dinner because I could request my grilled cheese the way I wanted it. My dad taught me to throw whatever I wanted into a grilled cheese to make it my own creation. Mine would almost always have fresh sliced Roma tomatoes, a few bread and butter pickle rounds, and on occasion fresh shaved ham. So freaking good! The cheddar cheese would get all melty and coat the fresh tomatoes, while the pickles would add that hint of sweetness and crunch, and the ham that bite of saltiness that was the icing on the cake. I always made sure my sandwich was extra crisp with slightly burnt edges…just the way I like it! This recipe for grilled cheese just got a total makeover, Italian style. You start with two slices of bread, then butter both slices. Instead of cheddar cheese, Laura from Simply Scratch uses mozzarella! OMG! Then to top it off, she spreads store-bought basil pesto over the mozzarella, grills, and inserts into mouth! Holy goodness, that is my kind of grilled cheese! I can’t wait to whip this up. This is a perfect dinner recipe for your kids on busy school nights. Not to mention, extremely time saving and affordable!
10. Indoor Nutella S’Mores + Homemade Graham Crackers by Perry’s Plate: As a child S’Mores were our weekend treat, especially during the winter. I remember having bag yard camp outs with my cousins and close friends. We had a huge backyard so we would all set up our tents in November when it was 40 degrees outside! We would order Taco Bell for dinner and then my mom would bring out the fixins’ for the s’mores. We would all gather around a barrel that my dad would light on fire. The blaze from the fire was always amazing and it really made us feel like we were out camping in the woods. On other nights, we had a fireplace so if the weather was too severe, we would roast up the s’mores in the living room with our sleeping bags. Now, this recipe doesn’t use the usual Hershey’s chocolate bar, but instead, substitutes Nutella. Yes, I said it, Nutella S’mores! (Attention: This is a test of the movie quote alert system, stand by!). “You are killing me smalls! These are s’mores stuff. Now pay attention. First you take the graham. You stick the chocolate (in this case Nutella) on the graham. Then, you roast the mallow. When the mallow’s flaming, you stick it on the chocolate. Then you cover it with the other end. Then you stuff. Kind of messy, but good!” I would suggest making these an end of the school week treat for the kids, maybe for Friday family movie night…might I suggest The Sandlot. Can you tell it’s one of my fave movies of all time?

Prayers for the Central Texas Wildfires and Paleo Dinner!!!

Assembly Line

Cherry Tomato Dipping Sauce

Happy Tuesday everyone!
As I was leaving my apartment this morning, I stepped outside my door and ran back inside to grab a light sweater. Where did this awesome cool weather come from? Bam, it’s like it happened overnight…68 degrees! I smell Fall weather upon us! Driving in my car to the coffee shop this morning, I watched the sunrise over the beautiful Texas hill country. All the while, I couldn’t help but think about the Central Texas wildfires. On Saturday night I was watching a movie on television, when my show was interrupted by breaking news of wildfires spreading across Central Texas and areas of evacuation. We have had wildfires repeatedly because of this horrible drought in Austin, so I assumed that the wildfires weren’t a big deal and that they would remain small and contained. Then, I saw this picture flash on my screen:

A picture of Highway 71, a highway that I frequent when traveling from Austin to Houston and back. My heart sunk into my chest…I felt helpless, yet eager to help those affected by the wildfires. At current, there have been 500 homes destroyed by these wildfires and every day is full of continuous prayers from those in Texas and across the nation. What I am asking of you today is that you make a small donation (even if it’s $1) to the American Red Cross of Central Texas to help the victims of the Central Texas wildfires. If you can’t make a donation, I ask that you pray, pray for rain (and lots of it), and pray for the families and friends who have lost everything they own to the blazes.

On another note, today’s food focus is all about Paleo. A couple of months ago, my sister who has celiac disease, began following the Paleo Diet. What is the Paleo Diet you might ask? Here is a list of Paleo Diet faq’s. Basically, this diet follows the type of eating habits that date back to the Paleolithic Era, prior to the Agricultural Revolution…o about, 500 years ago. These foods (fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, and seafood) are high in the beneficial nutrients (soluble fiber, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrates) that promote good health. The Paleo Diet cuts out refined sugars and grains, dairy, trans fats, salt, high-glycemic carbs, and all processed foods that are known to cause weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and an array of other various health problems.

Anyway, my sister decided to follow the plan not to lose weight, but because of her food allergies. She obviously can’t have any gluten, but she is also lactose intolerant. Her only source of dairy product would usually come from non-fat Greek yogurt and on occasion, cottage cheese. Yet, she began to realize that she would still get sick after eating these. So, she decided to try Paleo and her tummy troubles have been solved, plus she has gained lots of lean muscle to go along with it (of course she doesn’t sit in front of the t.v. all day, walks to and from classes, runs at least 8-9 miles every other day b/c she is training for a 1/2 marathon, bikes, and weight trains). So, naturally she would look like a bad ass! Haha! I have been having some tummy troubles lately and I know it’s because of the amount of yogurt I take in on a daily basis. I am addicted to Greek yogurt and I know that while I have a slight dairy intolerance, I am stubborn and continue to eat it. So, I am trying to cut back and see how my tummy fares. I am sure it will go well…but what will I do without my yogurt? Sigh*

Not only has my sister gone Paleo, but everyone that I work with has seem to gone Paleo crazy…some ladies even brought in Paleo “donuts” and “cookies” to work. These foods are similar to something I might bake with almond flour (which is paleo!). So, I thought I would go out on a whim here and make myself a little Paleo dinner last night. I whipped up Baked Italian-Style Chicken Tenders with a Cherry Tomato Dipping sauce! I like to think of this recipe as my version of Mickey D’s chicken nuggets with honey-mustard dipping sauce, only Italian-style, super healthy, allergy-free, and not a deep fryer in sight! I hope you all enjoy this recipe and if you are looking to try a new eating plan or want to find a remedy for your food allergies, give the Paleo Diet a shot!

Baked Italian-Style Chicken Tenders:

1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. almond flour
3 Tbs. dried Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. sea salt

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Combine the almond flour, Italian seasoning, and salt on a small plate to form the flour mixture.
3. Beat the egg in a small bowl and dip each chicken tender into the egg mixture.
4. Coat each chicken tender with the flour mixture.
5. Place each chicken tender onto a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray.

Cherry Tomato Dipping Sauce:

3/4 c. basil leaves
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 c. walnuts
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
basil for garnish

1. Combine basil, oil, walnuts, tomatoes garlic, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor.
2. Pulse until the sauce is smooth, about two minutes.
3. Serve alongside the chicken tenders.