Friday, May 28, 2010


I'm not sure if there's any better childhood memory than coming home from school to the aroma of freshly baked cookies. My mom practiced this trick a couple times in my youth and it was just the thing to make me fall in love with her over and over again. Now, I practice this trick on the hubs.


1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon


Soften butter. Add sugar and mix with beaters until creamy. Add eggs. Then add combined remaining ingredients. Mix until smooth and creamy. Put in refrigerator for one hour (or longer if needed).

After an hour, mix 2 Tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll batter into 1" balls and roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place on a cookie sheet 2" apart. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maple Dijon Grilled Chicken

Maple syrup will always remind me of my husband's first solo grocery shopping trip. Right after we got married, he had about a month before he started working and so, for that month, he played "errand boy" during the days and became really good at grocery shopping (as well as purchasing and returning wedding gifts). 

One of his proudest purchases on this memorable first grocery trip was 100% Pure Maple Syrup. He explained his walk down the syrup aisle, how he read the ingredient list in almost every syrup on the shelf, and how he found that most syrups on the grocery shelf contain high fructose corn syrup as their main ingredient, followed by things like cellulose gum, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, and sodium hexametaphosphate. Feeling discouraged, he finally found a glass bottle (with a tiny handle) that said, "100% Pure Maple Syrup." And listed under "Ingredients" on the packaging? One ingredient: "pure maple syrup." That's it! One ingredient!  

It was after this story and after he so proudly showed me the bottle with full Vanna White style and grace that I was automatically converted to maple syrup, despite the fact that I had always preferred the HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) version in the past. 

With that, I present Maple Dijon Grilled Chicken.

*Adapted from Closet Cooking 


2-3 chicken breasts

(for the marinade):
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

(for the glaze):
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste


Soak chicken in the marinade for at least 30 minutes. I like to use a large plastic bag for marinades--it's an easy way to mix all the ingredients together and simple to store in the fridge.

While chicken is marinating, make the glaze. Mix all ingredients together and transfer to a dish with a spout. Set aside. 

After 30 minutes, grill chicken until it is cooked, about 4-5 minutes each side. I used a George Foreman grill for this, but a frying pan would work as well, or, of course, an actual BBQ.

Serve cooked chicken on a bed of brown rice. Drizzle glaze over chicken and rice. Enjoy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

100% Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

When I graduated college and started working, I discovered this wonderful thing called Saturdays. Instead of worrying about an assignment I had due or, as more often was the case, my volleyball game prep schedule, I discovered that I could spend an entire Saturday relaxing, without a watch, without worrying where I had to be or what I had to do. For me, that meant time to cook or bake something delicious for breakfast. This weekend that came in the form of 100% whole wheat cinnamon rolls.

Which brings me to cinnamon rolls. I've had a love/hate relationship with them for the past few years. They are so amazingly tasty in my mouth, but then five minutes after I eat one, they are so amazingly heavy in my stomach. Enter whole wheat flour. This recipe creates a delicious taste in my mouth and has enough fiber to start breaking down the goodness in my stomach quicker than its average white flour counterpart. Yippee!

*Adapted from Heavenly Homemakers


1/2 cup water
1 Tablespoon (1 packet) yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons sea salt
4-4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

(for the "innerds"):
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

(for the frosting):
3-4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup very warm water, 1 Tablespoon yeast and 1 teaspoon honey.  Stir this together and let sit for a few minutes while you do the next step.

Melt a 1/2 stick of butter in a large saucepan. Add 1/4 cup honey, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/4 cups of milk. Heat this over medium heat for about three minutes (to 120 degrees).

Pour milk mixture into yeast mixture and stir. Stir in 4 cups of flour, two cups at a time. Add more flour if the consistency feels too soft.

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, either using your hands, or a kneading attachment on an electric mixer (yes!). Invert dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Once dough has risen to about double in size, punch down the dough and knead our all the bubbles. 

On a well floured surface, roll dough into a nice, big rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.

Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter over the rectangle. Then sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up the dough. Using a serrated knife, cut into slices, about 1 inch thick. Place rolls side by side in a baking pan. Let rise for another 1/2 hour.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Make frosting. Beat all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Frost generously on rolls.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Basic Marinara Sauce

There is something about a chunky, delicious, homemade marinara sauce. I can't decide what's better: the perfect way it complements spaghetti or the aroma that fills your kitchen while it simmers. This is a meatless sauce (aside from the chicken broth), but the texture and flavor and richness make this a hearty crowd-pleaser that turns the oh-so-common American-staple spaghetti dish into a memorable evening meal.


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium chopped yellow or white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh basil (if you have it... if not, replace with Italian seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 (28 oz.) can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes


Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until glossy and slightly browned, about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic and next six ingredients. Cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in balsamic vinegar. Cook about 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, on low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 55 minutes. Makes four cups. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Homemade Four Bean Chili

The situation: I arrive home at 6:40PM, Brad gives me a kiss and says, "How fast can you make dinner?" I look at him and, all of a sudden, remember that he has to leave the house at 7PM for his weekly church Young Men's activity. I'm up for the challenge. This surprising simple and delicious chili is the result.

As a side-note, I'm a "non-fan" of kidney beans and always believed I couldn't like chili because chili has kidney beans. Newsflash -- you can use any type of beans you like!!!


1/2 lb. ground turkey
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
dash of red cayenne pepper
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans beans, drained (your choice -- I used garbanzo beans and a three bean blend with black beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans. The variety was very nice.)


Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and sauté until browned. Add ground turkey, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Mince turkey in pan, and cook until browned.

(While waiting for the turkey to cook, I prepared the same toast that I mentioned at the end of the cherry tomatoes and goat cheese recipe yesterday.)

Once turkey is fully cooked, add crushed tomatoes and both cans of beans. Cook over medium heat until heated through. 

Serve in a bowl, with a dollop of sour cream if you like. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Sometimes Almost always, simple is better. The other day, I read something on CuisineNie about simple and whole foods that rings so true. I think this is one of the best bits of advice for anyone who wants to cook good food.

"It’s amazing how little one can do to screw up good foods in their whole form. For example it’s nice to behold each spoonful or forkful as it makes its way to my palate and be able to say, 'this is a beet because it looks just like it did when Jane plucked it out of the garden'."

With that, I give you a dish that is delicious because of the way these ingredients come out of the earth (or goat?). Read on.


1 pint cherry tomatoes 
2-3 oz. goat cheese
Olive oil to taste (very little)
Balsamic vinegar to taste (very little)


Slice cherry tomatoes in half with a serrated knife. Place in a bowl and crumble goat cheese over the top. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and an even tinier bit of balsamic vinegar. Mix gently and enjoy.


Lay 4-6 slices of sourdough bread on a baking sheet. Lightly butter the slices and sprinkle with garlic and parmesan cheese. Toast in a 350 degree until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Serve tomato and goat cheese mixture as a spread on the toast. Mmmmm.....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chocolate Soufflé Cupcakes with Mint Cream

I was asked to be in charge of dessert for my mom's Mother's Day dinner this year. My mother also kindly reminded me that every year between Mother's Day and her birthday (June 18), she swears off sweets. Understanding that mine would be the last sweet she eats in over a month, I laughed to myself, "Ok, no pressure." As soon as I found this recipe, I knew it was perfect for the one and only Dianne Parker: cupcakes, chocolate, and mint. I couldn't have been happier with the reaction on Mama Dianne's face when she took her first bite--it was like her whole body relaxed: her eyes lazily closed and her lips swooned. A little, "ohhh..." came out of her lips. 

My one-word description of this treat: Heavenly.

Thanks again, to Smitten Kitchen, for making gourmet cooking so easy.

*adapted (slightly) from Smitten Kitchen


For the cupcakes:

6 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (I used the Bakers brand squares
6 Tablespoons butter (3/4 stick), cut into pieces
3 large eggs, separated
6 Tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the white chocolate mint cream:

4 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz. whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract


Start by making the white chocolate mint cream. Place the white chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, then pour over white chocolate to melt. Let sit for one minute, then whisk well until smooth. Add peppermint extract and whisk again. Place saran wrap over the bowl and chill in the refrigerator until very cold, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. 

Stir chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over low heat until mostly melted, then remove from heat and whisk until fully melted and smooth. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 3 Tablespoons sugar on high speed in a medium bowl, until mixture is thick and pale, about two minutes. Briefly beat chocolate mixture, then vanilla extract into yolk mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl (on high speed) until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 3 Tablespoons sugar and all of the salt until medium-firm peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Using a 1/4 cup, divide batter among prepared cups, filling each 3/4 of the way. 

Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry to the touch and a tester inserted into the center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan, on a cooling rack. The centers will start to fall, which is where the mint cream comes in...

Beat mint white chocolate cream with electric beaters on high until soft peaks form. Remove cupcakes from pan, arrange on a platter, and fill each with a dollop of white chocolate mint cream. 

Enjoy heaven in your mouth.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lemon Tilapia with Spinach

I love being a newlywed. There are some nights that are just spontaneously romantic. I made this dish a couple nights ago and, I am not kidding, Bradford and I felt like we were dining at a fancy restaurant. This meal set the tone for a beautiful dining experience filled with meaningful, end-of-the-day conversation. This pasta is so freshly and simply seasoned with garlic and lemon, and the fish is so perfectly flaky and delicious, it surprises me. After devouring this perfect, all-in-one dish, we topped it off with the last piece of this divine chocolate creation that was sitting in our fridge. Food can be such a great mood-setter.


2 pieces tilapia
1 whole egg white
1/4 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon capers (optional)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/8 cup white wine (or substitute with chicken broth)
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
6 oz. angel hair pasta
Fresh parsley and parmesan for garnish (optional)


Put egg white in a bowl and flour on a plate. To flour, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasonings and stir to combine. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip tilapia into egg whites, then dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Add fish to the skillet and cook each side for about 3 minutes, until brown. Add garlic. 

Next, add lemon juice, remaining Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, capers (if using), chicken broth and white wine. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Remove fish to a plate and cover to keep warm. Add spinach to the lemon sauce, cover and steam for 3-4 minutes, until spinach is just wilted. 

To serve: place pasta on plate, then top with spinach and lemon sauce, and gently place fish on top. Sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese if desired.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mango, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese Enchiladas

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Mexican food and the Spanish language are two loves of mine. I'll never forget the moment that speaking Spanish finally felt natural for me. After seven years of studying the language, at the ripe age of 20, I found myself sitting on a folding chair in front of the Seville Cathedral in Sevilla, Spain, waiting for a performance about the life of Christopher Columbus to begin. Behind me sat a man from Puerto Rico who muttered a simple, "¡Hola!". We proceeded to speak for about 40 minutes and not once did I need to pause to think of a word or resort to 'Spanglish'. It was one of the greatest feelings and one I hope to repeat in a couple more languages (Arabic and French, please). Thanks to the deep Mexican heritage in Southern California, I am still able to be surrounded by Spanish speakers on a daily basis. I'm very grateful for that.

About the food, this California-ized Mexican dish is just delightful. The combination of sweet, juicy mangoes with rich, creamy goat cheese makes my mouth water.  

 I'm not gonna lie, this recipe took a little more effort than I anticipated, but that was because I actually made the sauce from scratch, instead of just buying green enchilada sauce. While the homemade sauce was delicious, I've revised this recipe to include an either/or option. 

*adapted from


1 15 oz. can black beans
1 cup diced mango
4 stalks scallions, thinly sliced
1 8 oz. can corn
4-6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
8-10 small corn tortillas or 4-5 larger flour tortillas - I used whole wheat flour tortillas
mozzarella cheese (optional)
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

(for the sauce):
8-10 tomatillos, husked, seeded and minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, minced


1 can green enchilada sauce


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

For the sauce (if making), cook tomatillos in chicken broth with garlic and onions over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer tomatillo mixture to a food processor or blender and blitz to get a smooth, creamy texture. Add salt as desired.

For enchilada filling, cook black beans, mango, scallions, and corn until heated through. Take out from heat and stir in goat cheese.

Over medium heat and using cooking spray, warm tortillas on both sides until lightly browned.

Spread half of the green sauce evenly at the bottom of a cooking dish. One by one, fill each tortilla with filling and roll into an enchilada shape, then place in cooking dish seam side down. Pour remaining green sauce over the enchiladas. Top with any remaining mango/goat cheese filling. If desired, top with mozzarella cheese as well. 

Cook in the oven for 10 minutes until tortillas are nicely charred and cheese is melted. Top with cilantro for garnish. 

Serve with rice and beans, put on your sombrero, and sing "Ayayayay!"

Monday, May 3, 2010

Simple Blueberry Muffins

I've mentioned before that we love blueberries in this house. In addition to the amazing antioxidant and vitamin C content, they taste delicious. I like to think of both blueberries and grapes as nature's Skittles. I made this recipe late one evening, brought a muffin to Bradford straight from the oven, and he reacted, "Mmmm, they melt in your mouth." (Success!)

*Adapted from Tasty Kitchen Blog


1-1/2 cup flour
2-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 cup blueberries (or other fruit... I think strawberries, raspberries, peaches or apples would all be de-lish)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins with butter or margarine (not cooking spray).

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients (egg, milk and oil). Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Mix only until flour is moistened. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon by heaping tablespoon into each muffin tin until about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Makes about 10 muffins.