Friday, February 25, 2011

Dulce de Leche

When we were at my sister's house a couple weekends ago, she pulled out this jar containing what looked like caramel sauce. One taste told me that this was even better than caramel was Dulce de Leche. Oh. My. Heavens. SO YUMMY!

Of course I asked for the recipe and the rest is history....(and not helping my trek to swimsuit season).

The possibilities of what you can do with Dulce de Leche are endless. My favorites are pouring it over vanilla ice cream or using it as a dip for pretzels, fruit, marshmallows, etc.

Oh, and did I mention that it is quite possibly the easiest dessert to make? It just takes a little patience.


Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk (like Eagle Brand)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoons light rum
Pinch kosher salt


1. Peel off the labels from the cans of sweetened condensed milk and open them, leaving the top resting on the milk.

2. Wrap heavy foil over the top of each can, pushing down on the center of the foil and running fingers around the inner and outer rim of the can, so the can is sealed as tightly as possible.

3. Place the cans in a three-quart sauce pan and fill the pan with hot tap water, leaving 1/2 inch of can above the waterline. Cover the sauce pan with a lid. Over high heat bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 3 hours. A little milk may spill into the water; don’t worry. What’s important is to maintain the water level by replacing it with hot tap water.

4. After 3 hours, the dulce de leche will look like a deep golden brown pudding thick enough for a fork to stand up in on its own. Carefully remove the cans from the pot.

5. When cool enough to handle, but still pretty warm, pour the dulce de leche into the bowl.

Add the vanilla, rum, and salt and stir until smooth.

6. Cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. (It re-thickens as it chills.) Keeps for 2 weeks.

7. Serve over ice cream...

as a dip...
with fruit...
or just eat it with a spoon!

Whatever you do...just don't look at the calories.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thai Laab

Recently, The Hubs and I paid a visit to my sister and her family in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas. The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time playing with my nephews & hunting.

While we were there, my sister made this super tasty Coconut Milk Soup. Even The Hubs really like it. (Side Note: My sister cooks just as much, if not more, than I do. However, she's a bit more adventurous with the fare that she prepares. It is AMAZING what her kids will eat. When my nephew was a toddler, he declared his favorite food to be Pad Thai). I asked her to share the soup recipe with me, along with several others she had talked about.

While I haven't made the soup yet, I did make the Thai Laab last week. If was fairly quick to make and turned out great. So, here is my recipe for Laab...adapted from my sister...who adapted it from


* 1 tablespoon toasted rice, ground
* 1/4 shallot, thinly slicked
* 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
* 1 or 2 limes
* 1/2 lbs stir fry beef
* 1/4 tsp ground chili pepper (cayenne)
* 3 tablespoons fish sauce
* hand full of cilantro, chopped
* 2 green onions, sliced
* 3 sprigs mint, sliced (optional)


1. Chop stir fry beef into small pieces until it resembles ground meat. Squeeze juice from 1/3 of the lime and 1 tbs of fish sauce on the beef. Mix well and let it marinade for 30 minutes until you are ready to cook it.

2. Heat a pan on high until it is very hot. Add two tablespoons of water and then immediately add your marinated meat and stir. The meat will stick to the pan at first, but then the juice will come out and the meat will loosen from the bottom. Keep stirring until the meat is well done.

3. Put the meat in a bowl that will hold all the ingredients. Add fish sauce, green onion, red onion, shallot, cilantro, the rest of the juice from the lime, ground chili pepper and toasted rice into the bowl. Mix well and taste.

It should be a little bit hot. You should be able to taste tartness from the lime juice and the fish sauce. If you need to add more fish sauce or lime juice, don't be afraid. Getting the flavor balance right is a trial and error process.

4. Garnish with mint and sprinkle the rest of toasted rice on top. Serve over rice or with vegetables like cabbage, green beans, lettuce and Thai basil.

My Tid-Bits:

* To make toasted rice, heat a pan or wok until very hot. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp uncooked rice and reduce heat to medium. Stir constantly to prevent burning. When it is golden brown, it is done.

Now grind up the rice using a mortar & pestle or food processor. (Or put it in a baggie and pound the crud out of it with the flat side of a meat tenderizer).

* Laab is commonly made with pork. Feel free to use ground pork or pork tenderloin chopped up very finely.

*The original recipe calls for 1/4 tbsp ground dried chili pepper. I subbed cayenne and only used 1/4 tsp because I don't like super spicy. Feel free to put as much or little spice to suite your taste.

* Later on this week I'll share with you one of the most addictive sweet treats. I'm cursing my sister for sending me the recipe because I can't stop eating it!!!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Chocolate Covered Cherry Ice Cream


  • It's gorgeous outside (at least here in Texas)

  • And it's one of my FAVORITE days of the year (Opening Day of Aggie Baseball)

  • And it's Friday (which just makes everything better)
I'm going to share with you all one of my all-time favorite treats my momma makes:


Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mom has given me 1 of 2 (or both) things for Valentine's Day:

Chocolate Covered Cherries OR Tagalong Girl Scout Cookies.

This year she bought my a box of chocolate covered cherries, which inspired my idea to turn them into Chocolate Covered Cherry Ice Cream for The Hubs & I for Valentine's Day. (Sadly, I left the cherries at my sister's house and had to go buy another box at HEB).


* 1 cup heavy cream
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup minus 1 Tbsp. sugar
* 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
* 1 tsp almond extract
* 1/2 & 1/2
* milk
* 1 box Queen Anne's chocolate covered cherries (10 cherries total)


1. Chop up the chocolate covered cherries into little pieces (trying not to eat any as you go).

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs & sugar until they are a lemony color. Add the cream, vanilla extract, almond extract and (depending on your ice cream maker - see below) the cherries.

3. Prepare ice cream according to your ice cream makers direction, using 1/2 & 1/2 and milk to fill to the "Fill Line".

4. Transfer ice cream to a air tight container & put in the freezer to "cure" (aka firm up).

5. Enjoy!

My Tid-Bits:

* If your ice cream maker is the type where you can put the paddle in BEFORE adding the ice cream mixture, then go ahead and put your chopped up cherries in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

* If you ice cream maker is the type where you put the paddle in AFTER you add the ice cream mixture, don't put your chopped up cherries in the mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Rather, dump the cherries directly into the ice cream maker AFTER you've put the paddle in place. Otherwise, the spot where your paddle should fit will be filled with chocolate covered cherries.

* My mom recommends mixing up the ingredients and letting them sit in the refrigerator for 3 or so hours before you make the ice cream. It helps to meld the flavor together.

* If your ice cream maker is like mine, your ice cream will still be on the thin side after the suggest amount of freezing time. Putting it in an airtight container and putting it in the freezer to cure for a bit will help firm it up before you serve.

* And "Note To Self"...if you're planning to make ice cream, it helps to put the ice cream freezer bowl in the freezer BEFORE you're ready to make it. I totally forgot and we ended up not getting to eat our treat until the next day. Oops!!

* And lastly, if I could be anywhere today, it would be here...

Olsen Field - Home of Aggie Baseball

If you were looking for me from Feb - May during any of my college years, there's a pretty good chance you would have found me here. I LOVE AGGIE BASEBALL. (Don't tell The Hubs I said this, but I'd much rather go to an Aggie baseball game than a football game any day). My college roommates & I even had a count down to Opening Day calendar on our wall every year. There's just something about the 'clink' of the aluminum bat, the LOUD student section & trying to guess the number of engines on the train before it passes by the ballpark that makes Olsen Field one of my favorite places on earth. I can't wait to catch a game in Aggieland this year. Maybe we'll even make it to Omaha...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fresh Vegetable Lasagna

Southern Living often features a "Lighten Up" section in their magazines with healthier versions of our favorite dishes. The February edition had a recipe for Fresh Vegetable Lasagna made with zucchini, mushrooms & peppers, rather than meat. I made it last week & it turned out to be quite tasty!


  • 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 5 cups Basic Marinara Sauce (or just over 1.5 jars of sauce)
  • 1 (8-oz.) package no-boil lasagna noodles


1. Preheat oven to 450°. Bake zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic in a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray 12 to 14 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring halfway through. Repeat procedure with bell peppers and onion. Toss together vegetables and salt in a bowl.

2. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

3. Stir together ricotta, egg, 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

4. Spread 1 cup Basic Marinara Sauce in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with 3 noodles...

1 cup sauce & one-third of ricotta mixture...

and one-third of vegetable mixture.

5. Repeat layers twice, beginning with 3 noodles. Top with remaining noodles and 1 cup sauce.

6. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.

7 . Bake, covered, at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

7. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces & serve with warm garlic bread.

My Tid-Bits:

* If you follow their recipe & use their homemade Basic Marinara Sauce, this lasagna yields 8 hearty serving with 282 calories and less than 10 grams of fat each.

* I, however, did not have time to make marinara AND lasagna, so I just used the jarred version.

* I also used 1 red & 1 green bell pepper due to the fact that a yellow bell pepper cost 3x the green. You'll probably notice from my picture, I used 2 zucchini. I wish I had used 3. I think 4 may have been excessive.

* The Hubs comment was, "This was actually pretty good, but it would have been even better with meat." In his mind, it's not dinner if there's not meat. So if you have a manly meat eater in your home, feel free to brown some Italian turkey sausage and toss that in.

* I will warn you, making this lasagna is a bit time consuming. With all the chopping, roasting & assembly, the prep probably took me almost an hour. It then takes another hour to bake & 10 minutes to rest. So be sure you start plenty early if you plan to make this for dinner and want to eat at a decent time.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chunky Lola Cookies

I think I've mentioned before that every year my mom gives me a new cook book for Christmas. She puts quite a bit of though & research into each one, flipping through the pages and reading the recipes to ensure that its a good one. The cook books have ranged from ones that she grew up with (Betty Crocker's Cooky Book circa 1963, which contains many of our family favorites) to the latest Southern Living.

This year, she gave me Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Cafe. It is FULL of tasty looking treats (that can't be good for ones figure) from bakery owner, Joanne Chang. I've bookmarked several recipes that are "must makes" including Brioche, Raspberry Crumb Bars, Milky Way Tart and Brown Sugar Popovers. The thing I love most about this book is that it contains recipes for classic baked goods with very detailed instructions. Joanne walks you through every recipe, step-by-step, paying great attention to detail. If you've never baked before, I would highly recommend this book.

I'd been dying to bake something all weekend, so on Sunday I flipped though the book to see if I had all of the ingredients on hand to make any of the cookie recipes. Sure enough, I had everything needed to make the Chunky Lola Cookies (with the exception of pecans, which I decided could be omitted this time around). Chunky Lola Cookies are a tasty combination of oatmeal, coconut & chocolate chips. What's not to love?? They turned out great and were actually even better the 2nd day.


* 1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp butter, room temperature
* 2/3 cup granulated sugar
* 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used double)
* 1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
* 2/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp kosher salt
* 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I just used 1 bag mini chocolate chips)
* 1 1/4 cups pecan halves, toasted & chopped
* 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


Note: I'm going to summarize the directions. If I went into as much detail as the cookbook, we'd be here all day.

1. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light & fluffy, scraping down sides as needed.

2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate, pecans and coconut and toss to combine.

4. With the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix just until the flour is totally incorporated.

5. For the best results, scrape dough into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight (or at least 3 hrs) before baking.

6. Preheat the oven to 350. Drop the dough in 1/4 cup balls onto a baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with your hand.

7. Bake 20 minutes or until cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center. Let the cookies cook on a baking sheet on a cooling rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then remove with a spatula.

My Tid-Bits:

* I baked one sheet of cookies using 1/4 cup per cookie and they came out HUGE. So for the next sheet, I pulled out my cookie scoop and used about a heaping Tbsp. per cookie. I reduced the bake time to 10-11 minutes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Greek Baked Chicken

I know I haven't shared any recipes in several days. This time it's not for lack of cooking, but rather a lack of recipes worth sharing. I've made two different soups within the past week that were duds. One was a tortellini soup & the other was a crab and potato. Both recipes were from "reputable sources" but turned out rather blah. They were edible, but not something I'd make again - therefore, they weren't worth sharing with you all.

Luckily, what I made tonight is definitely worth sharing. And it's another one that is quick & simple. This Greek Baked Chicken is adapted from a recipe I found in Rachel Ray's Everyday magazine.


* 2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
* 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
* 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
* One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
* Salt and pepper
* 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 cup breadcrumbs (the recipe calls for Panko, but I used regular)
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano (reduce to 1/4 tsp if you use flavored breadcrumbs)
* 4 pieces skinless, boneless chicken breast
* 1/2 cup crumbled greek feta cheese


1.Preheat the oven to 425°.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and two-thirds of the garlic and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Transfer onions to a bowl to cool, then add the spinach and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

4. Melt the butter in the same pan, turn off the heat and add the breadcrumbs, oregano and remaining garlic; toss.

5. Split each chicken breast across (but not all the way through) and open like a book. Stuff with the spinach and feta, letting the stuffing overflow at the edges.

6. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon EVOO. Place the chicken pieces in the baking dish and top with the breadcrumbs.

7. Bake until the juices run clear, about 25 -35 minutes.

My Tid-Bits:

* If you've never butterflied a chicken breast, click here for a quick tutorial. It's easy as long as you have a good knife.

* Be sure to squeeze all of the liquid out of the spinach. Otherwise your filling will be watery.

* If you are making only two servings, like I was, I would recommend using 2 chicken breasts, the full amount of filling, but only half the breadcrumbs.

* The weathermen keep saying its going to snow in Houston tonight. Some people are excited. I just wish the cold would go away! BRRRR!!! Hope you all stay warm.