Saturday, July 24, 2010

Paula Dean's Cherry Cream Cheese Tarts

What can I say other than, who doesn't love mini cheesecakes?! This recipe is the perfect finger food for parties and pitch-ins and the dessert is just as yummy as it is attractive.

The only suggestions I have for this recipe are:
1. Make a day ahead and allow them to refridgerate for atleast 12 or so hours - the longer these sit in the fridge, the creamier and denser they get, mm!
2. Try doing these with a graham cracker crust instead of the vanilla wafers. I like it either way, but the homemade graham cracker crust puts this over the top and the extra ten minutes really pays off =)

Paula Dean's Cherry Cream Cheese Tarts


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 vanilla wafers
  • 1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling or other pie filling


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a paper cupcake liner in each cup of muffin pan. Beat cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs, 1at a time, beating well after each addition. Lay a vanilla wafer, flat side down, in each muffin cup. Spoon cream cheese mixture over wafers. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow tarts to cool completely. Serve with cherry filling on top, or pie filling of your choice.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Leftover Fajita Nachos

If you're like me, you always make too much... I hate to even admit there is such a thing... and whenever I make fajitas, I love them so much, I always make enough for the next day. Well this last time I made fajitas, I was staring at our leftovers and decided to try something new - Fajita Nachos! It was SUPER easy, and dinner only took 15 minutes to throw together. With just a few extra minutes - you have an equally delicious meal, but in a fourth of the time. Not only is this the perfect meal, but it also makes for a great snack or party appetizer. Next time you make fajitas, you've gotta try these!


6 soft flour tortillas (fajita size)
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
Left over marinated and grilled fajita beef or chicken (I used beef)
Pico de gallo (mixture of chopped tomato, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro & lime juice)
Sauteed green bell pepper & onions
Freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream


Light and Crispy Tortilla Chips:
In a small round saute pan, bring oil up to temperature over medium-low heat. You'll know the oil is ready if it sizzles when you flick a few drops of water on the surface of the oil. While the oil is heating, cut flour tortillas in half and then cut each half into thirds - each tortilla should yield 6 chips. Carefully place tortilla chips into the pan (I usually do 6 at a time) and watch them closely. These chips will brown very quickly. Allow them to cook for about 30 seconds - 1 minute and then flip them over in the hot oil once the underside is golden brown. Repeat for the other side and then place the hot chips onto a paper lined cookie sheet. Spread them out and sprinkle with salt. Continue this process until all your chips are cooked.

Assembling the Nachos:
Once all your ingredients are ready to go you can begin to assemble your nachos! (Because I pulled everything straight from the fridge, on a cookie sheet, I placed my left over fajita beef on one side and my peppers and onions on the other. I put them under the broiler for only about a minute and then pulled them out once they were warmed through.)

(Just before topping with pico and sour cream..... can you say, "yum?!")

On a clean cookie sheet, lay out tortilla chips and spread them out in a single even layer (this ensures each bite gets a little bit of goodness!) Next, layer warm beef evenly over chips. Repeat this same step with peppers and onions being sure to get a little on each chip. Top with a generous helping of shredded Jack cheese and place under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and bubbly! Remove the nachos from the oven and sprinkle with fresh pico and then dollop generously with sour cream. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

*TIP: I prefer as few dishes as possible, so whenever I use a cookie sheet, I line it with foil. This way you can re-use the same sheet for your chips, beef/pepper/onions & nachos - just replace with new foil in between each step ;)

Ina Garten's Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

I recently made these cupcakes for a cookout and the ganache put these cupcakes over the top! The cupcakes themselves are good, but just be aware, they're not like a typical box mix cupcake. This recipe makes for a more dense cupcake and it almost reminded me of a Texas sheet cake. If you like chocolate, you'll like these!


  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 11 fluid ounces Hershey's chocolate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

For the ganache:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and coffee granules and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the muffin pan.

For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. Do not refrigerate.

Makes about 18 cupcakes

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer Berry Crepes

I got this crepe batter recipe off of Alton Brown's "Good Eats" and have loved it ever since. There are so many fun fillings and flavors you can combine with the crepes which make this recipe great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert =) I will say, "practice makes perfect". I had to ruin a few crepes before I figured out how to make them just right, so don't give up if you don't get it your first try. The more I make them, the easier it gets.
Also, I would suggest using a large saucepan so you have plenty of area around the outside of the crepe to work with. When I first starting makes crepes, I was using a small 12" saucepan with high sides, and trying the get a spatula underneath the crepe, and then attempt flipping it without tearing it, was nearly impossible unless I had the batter cooked just right. So start off with a bigger pan - you'll thank yourself in the long run.

Summer Berry Crepes

*Crepe batter - Sweet Variation (recipe below)
Butter to coat pan
1 lb. strawberries, sliced
6 oz. blueberries
3 bananas, sliced
2 cups vanilla yogurt
2 cups granola
ground cinnamon

For an even more decadent crepe add:
2 cups chopped pecans
maple syrup (drizzled over top finished crepe just before serving)

Once you've made your fresh crepes, begin layering: 3-4 Tbsp of yogurt, fresh fruit, granola & then sprinkle cinnamon in the center of each crepe. Gently fold over each side so that they overlap in the middle. Top off Crepe with more fresh fruit or drizzle lightly with more whipped yogurt and granola.

Crepes - Alton Brown

2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter


In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Place the crepe batter in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep for up to 48 hours.

Heat a small non-stick pan (**I prefer a large one - Jamie) . Add butter to coat. Pour 1 ounce of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly. Cook for 30 seconds and flip. Cook for another 10 seconds and remove to the cutting board. Lay them out flat so they can cool. Continue until all batter is gone. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months. When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

*Savory Variation Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes to the egg mixture.

*Sweet Variation Add 21/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to the egg mixture.

Friday, May 28, 2010

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

Tonight, I have to say, this salad turned out to be the best salad I have ever made - the vote was unanimous! I originally got the idea for this salad when I had an almost identical salad at BJ's Brewhouse and it was de-lish!! I was hesitant to make it at first, afraid that it wouldn't compare, but much to my surprise, not only did this salad make the cut, but I would venture to say it was almost better!
I will say this, one small tip that will make a world of difference, is make sure everything is chopped to about the same size. May not sound like a big deal, but taking the extra few minutes to complete this step, will ensure that this salad is well balanced and that each bite has a little bit of every flavor!

Hope you enjoy this crisp, hearty, mouth watering BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad!

2 *Grilled Baja chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" pieces (recipe below)
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, rinsed & chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ears corn on the cob, steamed, salted & kernels removed
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
ranch dressing
head country BBQ sauce (or whatever your favorite is =)
1 cup *crispy tortilla strips (recipe to follow)
4 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro (optional for garnish)

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

On two large plates, layer ingredients in this order:
1. chopped lettuce, 2. black beans, 3. fresh corn off the cob, 4. chopped red onion, 5. diced tomatoes, 6. shredded mozzarella, 7. chopped chicken breast, 8. drizzled ranch in one direction, 9. drizzled BBQ sauce in the opposite direction, 10. crispy tortilla strips

Grilled Baja Chicken Breast
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 packet of Grill Mates "Baja Citrus Marinade" seasoning
1/4 cup of vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place chicken, seasoning, olive oil and vinegar in a sealable ziploc bag. Seal and carefully rub marinade over chicken, being sure to coat both pieces evenly. Lay the bag of marinated chicken in a shallow dish and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. The longer the better =)
Remove from the fridge and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before placing on the grill. Place chicken on a medium heat grill for 4-5 minutes per side or until just cooked through, only flipping once. If the chicken immediately bounces back when gently pressing on the thickest part of the breast, then it's done and ready to take off the heat. Allow the chicken breast to rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

Crispy Tortilla Strips
2 soft flour tortillas (fajita size)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
pinch of salt
pinch of chili powder

Cut soft tortillas into long thin strips, about 1/4" thick and about 2" long. Heat vegetable oil in a small, non-stick skillet on medium heat. Place all of the strips into the hot skillet, turning constantly. (Be sure to keep these strips moving because they will brown quickly). As soon as the strips are just golden, remove them immediately from the stove top and place them on a paper towel-lined plate, spreading them out so they can dry evenly. While they're still hot, immediately season with salt and chili powder.

Serves 2 X-large salads or 4 medium salads

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Adobo Chicken and Rice

This recipe is a nice change from your everyday chicken recipes. Not only is it a cinch to throw together, but it only takes 30 minutes in all to prepare. This is recipe is simple, rich and delicious. Once you try this Puerto Rican twist on chicken, you'll want to prepare it again and again!

Key ingredients you'll need:
*Sofrito (recipe to follow)
Sazón seasoning (made by Goya; found in the spices or ethnic section)
Adobo seasoning (can also be found with spices or ethnic section of grocery store)

Other Ingredients you'll need:
4 large boneless or bone-in chicken breasts, rinsed
2 bay leaves
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
4 cups water
2 cups long grain white rice
olive oil
salt and pepper

2 yellow onions, peeled
1 green bell pepper, seeded
1 bunch of cilantro
2 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled
olive oil
dusting of adobo or bijol seasoning

In a food processor or blender, coat the bottom of the blender with some olive oil. Add all of the above ingredients and blend until mixture becomes a puree. If the blades of the blender stick, add a bit more olive oil, stir and blend again. This will make a lot of sofrito, so set 1 cup aside for the recipe and then place the rest in a freezer container and reserve for later cooking =) (I divided mine out into an ice cube tray (thanks for the idea Ryan!), that way I can thaw out a little at a time as I'm ready to use it).

Adobo Chicken and Rice

In a large stock pot, combine chicken breasts, sofrito, adobo, sazón, bay leaves, potatoes, salt, pepper and water and bring to a boil. Once chicken comes to a boil, lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, cover and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. (In this recipe, the sole purpose of the potatoes is for the natural starch of the potatoes to thicken the chicken stock as they cook. If you don't have potatoes, once the chicken is finished cooking, you can thicken the stock by simply reserving 1/2 cup of hot stock - allow it to cool slightly. Whisk in 2 Tbsp. of corn starch and then pour the mixture back into the stock pot. Stir everything together, and chicken stock should thicken slightly.)
Meanwhile, in an aluminum nonstick pot, drizzle about 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Heat olive oil and add 2 cups of rice. Season with salt. Stir rice until it's evenly coated with olive oil and warmed through. Add water to pot and bring water to a boil. Once it's to a boil, lower it to a simmer and stir every few minutes. Once the water is completely absorbed, continue stirring until the rice is barely moist and begins to stick together. *If the rice isn't completely tender, gradually add more water (about 1/4 of a cup at a time) and stir continuously until water is fully absorbed and rice is sticky.
Plate a generous portion of rice and top it off with cooked chicken breast and spoon over sauce.

Enjoy this Puerto Rican dish - your taste buds will definitely thank you =)

Serves: 4-6

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Figure Friendly Berry Parfait

I was trying to think of a light and healthy breakfast dish, and for some reason quiche and french toast just didn't seem to fit the bill =) Then I remembered how much we used to love eating yogurt with granola, and with a few fruits and finishing touches thrown in, I ended up with a delicious dish that's just as appealing to look at as it is to eat, and you don't have to feel guilty afterward which only makes it that much better! Here's a dish you can make not only for breakfast, but you could make it in a large dish as I did, and have it as a quick snack or even as a light dessert. You can have fun with this dish and add your own favorite fruits=) The best part of all, this is a cinch to make, it only takes 5 minutes and it's great any time of year.

Figure Friendly Berry Parfait


3 lb. low-fat vanilla yogurt
2-3 cups low-fat granola of your choice
1 tsp. water
1 29oz. can sliced peaches (in their own 100% juice, drained)
1/2 lb. fresh strawberries, sliced
6 oz. fresh blackberries


In a large pyrex, layer about 1" of yogurt (keep about 1/2 cup of yogurt on reserve for garnish). Next layer granola, completely covering the yogurt, then layer peaches, strawberries, and then blackberries. Place reserved yogurt in a cup with a pouring spout and add to it no more than 1 tsp. of water. Whip it until it's thin and just runny. Lightly drizzle over the top of the dish and then dust it lightly with ground cinnamon.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Amy Deas' Sweet Potato Bake

My girlfriend, Amy, made this dish for our Thanksgiving get together, and these potatoes were definitely a highlight of the night. These smooth and creamy potatoes, topped off with a sweet and crispy topping, is sure to satisfy any home-cooking craving you might have. Try this recipe for a new take on veggie's with Amy's Sweet Potato Bake =)

Sweet Potato Bake

-4 c. sweet potatoes cubed (5 lrg potatoes baked @375 for 1 1/2 hours.
Boil or bake potatoes and scoop pulp out for a smooth creamy dish.)
-1/2 c. sugar
-2 eggs beaten
-1 tsp.vanilla
-1/2 c. milk
-4 tbs. butter softened
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 c. packed brown sugar
-1/3 c. all purpose flour
-3 tbs. butter chilled/slightly softened
-1/2 c. chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large bowl, mix sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, butter, and salt until smooth. Transfer to baking dish. (9x13)In medium bowl, mix brown sugar, and flour. Cut in the butter until the mix is course. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mix. Bake for 30 minutes or until topping is lightly brown.

Serves 8-10 as a side

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Wow, it has definitely been some time since my last blog post. Oh, how the holidays come and go and leave the winter months feeling like a blur =) Well, I have not forgotten one of my first loves, even in the midst of this crazy season. In fact, even though I have forgotten to write about it, I have been storing them up for when I finally have time to write to you again - and here we are =)

So here is a new addition to my recipe book, and it's actually an original. Well not an original thought =) just an original compilation of measurements, I guess you could say. That's right, I've finally come up with one all on my own. After watching the movie, "Julie & Julia", and seeing her eat a variation of this classic Italian antipasti, I could help but wonder if I could make it look just as good - and of coarse, make it taste as good as it looked. Well, I hate to toot my own horn, but this one came out pretty good ;)

Hope you enjoy this rich, rustic Italian side or appetizer: Tomato Bruschetta... Here's to you Julia =)

Tomato Bruschetta

3 Tbsp. Olive oil
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Can diced tomatoes
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
**Handful of fresh basil, chiffonade
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper
French baguette, sliced diagonally in 3/4" slices
Olive oil
**If you don't have fresh basil, then you can use an organic basil paste in it's place. I've used it before, and it packs a huge amount of flavor! I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND NOT using dried basil. For this recipe, because there are so few ingredients, it's imperative that what you do use is fresh for the best possible flavor.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add olive oil & butter to a medium saute pan & heat on medium heat until butter is melted. To it, add onions and saute until they become tender and translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two or until the garlic becomes aromatic and tender. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, pepper and season generously with salt. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Continue heating for about 10-15 minutes, allowing all of the flavors to marry and the sauce to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and allow to rest for at least 5-10 minutes (this will allow the sauce to thicken slightly as well.) Meanwhile, lay the slices of bread on a cookie sheet and using a brush, coat them evenly on both sides with olive oil. Bake them in the 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on both sides. The finished result should be a firm & crunchy toast, almost like a giant crouton, mmm! Top off each slice of bread with a generous helping of the tomato topping and serve as an antipasti or as the perfect side to any Italian dish.

Hope you enjoy this simple and super easy recipe..... oh, and "bon appetit"

Serves 4 as an appetizer or side

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fried Sweet Potato Chips

Six words: easy, yummy, crispy, kid friendly & delicious!! Looking for a fun side to serve alongside your favorite BBQ, burgers or brats? Well here's a simple solution =)

Fried Sweet Potato Chips


3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and washed
vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper


In a small bowl, combine dry spices. Set aside.

Using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, slice potatoes thinly creating thin round discs. (If you have a five sided grater, you may have a side for thinly slicing cheeses. I use this to slice my potatoes and it works out great! You can also use it for making au gratin potatoes. You gotta put a little elbow grease into it, but it's much cheaper than buying a mandolin =)

In a medium to large pot, fill it about 5" up the side with oil. Heat oil on medium high heat until it reaches about 360 degrees. Add potatoes to hot oil, working in small batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry potatoes for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain. (Spread them out evenly to ensure they get an even amount of seasoning). While they're still hot, immediately season generously with dry spice mixture - you should use up about 3/4 of your spices by the time you're finished. Continue this process until all of your potatoes are fried to crispy perfection and then munch away!! These are hard to stop eating once you start =) Enjoy!

Serves about 4 people as a side