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Cranberry Squares

So, sorry for the handful of you that follow this blog. I stopped writing for several reasons, but I hope to be back for good. Having a full time job means I don’t leave work till the sun starts setting, so I have NO time to take photos unless it’s the weekend. And I’m not exactly always in the mood to cook a huge dinner for one.

My grandmother started making these delicious squares I think for Christmas years and years ago. I knew they were good, but I didn’t know how easy they were to make. I am no baker, but I haven’t messed them up. There’s still hope for you non bakers out there!

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It’s a pretty straightforward recipe. You’re simply beating and stirring in ingredients then baking them till they become one unified, cake like substance.

These used to be an after dinner treat, but I decided to start wrapping them up and taking a square or two for breakfast. They’re great alongside a glass of milk of cup of coffee.

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A few things before we get to baking:

  • This dough will be very thick. Some wet fingers to squish it to the sides with a little bit of elbow grease and the dough won’t stand a chance.
  • I added orange juice the first time I made these because I was so worried about the dough being so thick. Doesn’t really help that much but the flavor is spot on. Some orange zest would be great here, too.
  • I’ve actually never used fresh cranberries to make these, but I know my grandmother does. Frozen cranberries are perfectly fine.
  • I typically don’t use pecans because they’re so expensive. They add a nice crunch, but if you don’t have any, worry not. The almond flavor comes right through in each bite.

Cranberry Squares

  • Servings: 16-18 squares
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/8 cup fresh orange orange juice
  • 2/3 cup pecans (optional)

Directions

  1. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for five minutes.
  2. Add butter, almond flavoring, and orange juice. Beat another two minutes.
  3. Stir in cranberries and pecans.
  4. Spread in 13×9 inch greased and floured pan. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. When a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean, they’re done!

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

So I know I’ve been posting a ton of roasted recipes lately, but I can’t help what i’m in the mood to cook.

And I want to make this blog full of easy recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients. This isn’t to say I won’t post something that takes hours and 34534083 components, but you get it.

One of first times I cooked with rosemary was when I was in college. My roommate found had this recipe that used the fresh sprig mixed with cream cheese, spread onto buttery dough then baked. The rolls were delicious, but man did we use too much rosemary! Needless to say, we didn’t know what we were doing.

I do love the herb, though. It gives us an earthy, warm flavor you can’t get anywhere else. Once it’s added to a bowl of garlic, onions and potatoes to be roasted?? Say it with me: “Yes, please.”

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Like I said, we used too much rosemary for those rolls, so I stayed away from it for quite a while. I recently started tossing it into my cart at the store because it’s pretty and green and it’s fun to chop. (It doesn’t take much to make me happy.)

This is about as fancy as it gets for me when I roast potatoes. Really. I normally toss the spuds with whatever dry spices my eyes land on first when I open the cabinet. Sometimes it’s a mixture of Lawry’s and black pepper, and other nights call for onion powder and garlic salt. And I definitely slather them in barbecue sauce.

When I told Aaron we were having rosemary on our roasted potatoes one night, he said, “Ew that Christmas tree stuff?” He doesn’t even like rosemary and he ate these, guys. No barbecue sauce needed. 🙂

Let’s talk about the type of potato. I used yellow potatoes here. I absolutely cannot get passed their creamy, velvety texture. They also seem to keep their shape better than other potatoes, but a red or a russet would probably work just as well. It’s also up to you weather or not you peel the spud. I know some people have a ~thing~ when it comes to skins on their food. If you do decide to peel them, try not to move them around too much or they’ll turn into mashed potatoes..

You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup a snap. I rarely use foil anymore because they always seem to stick to that and watching someone spit a piece of foil out of their mouth after eating one of these is sooooo embarrassing.

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Strangely enough, these potatoes make a great side dish along side a few fried eggs. Any kind of potato roasted any kind of way with eggs is honestly one of my favorite weeknight dinners.

And who doesn’t love potatoes??

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 3-4 yellow potatoes, cut into one inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Make sure each cube is coated with oil.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning them around about half way through to brown all sides.
  4. Serve immediately.

30 Minute Alfredo with Sun Dried Tomatoes

No matter how much I try to come up with a unique or different recipe, I always end up coming back to pasta.DSC_0199

When I first started making my own Alfredo sauce, I was a kid, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. All I knew was that if Ina could make it, so could I. I started with butter and way too much flour in the pan then added milk and whatever processed cheese Mom had in the fridge. And it was SO GOOD.

Correction: It was not good.

I wanted so desperately for it to be creamy and delicious and not seize up the second it started to cool down. Being the kid I was, I pretended it was just that. I pretended that it was the best thing anyone had ever created in the kitchen. I looked past the chalky, grainy texture and I kept telling myself how awesome it was.

Seeing the congealed blob in the fridge the next day didn’t do much for my confidence in the kitchen, but it did make me more determined to create a better, more edible sauce, if we’re being honest here.

Join me in the future now, where my sauce is no longer grainy nor chalky. Its silky, rich and smooth texture is what I wanted to achieve all those years ago. Its creaminess is what makes me keep coming back for more.

I tried to make this recipe as easy as possible, while keeping the number of ingredients to a minimum. This isn’t a recipe you’ll need to make a grocery trip for, because most of the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen.

The only thing I don’t always have on hand is heavy cream, but it’s not a necessary component (especially if you’re watching your calorie intake). I’ve made this plenty of times without cream and it’s just as good.

I also use linguine for this. As much as I love pasta, fettuccine noodles have always been too thick for me. So any kind of pasta you have is fine.

Start by melting the butter in a skillet or saucepan. Add the flour and cook for just a few minutes. The only reason you’re adding flour is so the sauce thickens. So because we don’t want to actually taste the flour, it’s important that it cooks.

To keep the sauce as smooth as possible, I don’t chop the garlic. I crush a few cloves with the side of my knife and take them out before i’m ready to serve.

Carefully add the milk and cream while whisking out any lumps. Once the sauce thickens, you’ve made a Bechamel sauce (with some garlic). Congrats!

Go ahead and add salt and pepper at this point. Some people will say to wait until you’ve added your cheese, but we’re only adding one kind of cheese here, so it won’t be over salted.

And while we’re talking about cheese, you want a good quality kind. The cheese is the main flavor in the dish so you want it shine through. Grating it straight from the block or wedge is your best option.

The most important step is next. You have to take your pan off the heat before you add the cheese. Remember that grainy sauce from earlier? This is where that happens. You can always put it back on the heat after the cheese starts to melt.

Add those sweet, tangy sun dried tomatoes and you’re done!

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30 Minute Alfredo Sauce with Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes

Directions

  1. In a medium pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes.
  2. Slowly add in milk and cream. Whisk out any lumps of flour. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Take pan off the heat and add Parmesan. Once cheese is mostly melted, you can put it back on the heat to keep the sauce warm.
  4. Remove garlic cloves and stir in tomatoes.

Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

I feel like broccoli is one of those controversial foods where most people really really love it or they really really hate it.

Roasting broccoli seems to turn it a bit sweeter and it also offers a different kind of crispy crunch than when it’s raw or steamed. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that roasting vegetables adds a complexity that you don’t get when you eat them raw or fry them on the stove.

This is something that you can do with pretty much any vegetable you want, because you’re just adding some Parmesan.

It’s a super quick and easy side dish, too. It’s perfect with roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. It’s perfect with a steak and baked potato. I just really like broccoli, okay?

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It’s imperative, though, that the broccoli is served right out of the oven. It seems to cool down in no time so everyone better be sitting at the table, fork in hand, when the stuff is done.

When preparing the dish, it’s important to mix everything together before dumping it onto the baking sheet. If you don’t, none of the Parmesan will stick to the broccoli. That happened to me the first few times I made this.

I do plan on using this very basic recipe to roast more veggies, (hello butternut squash, red peppers, asparagus, potatoes, I mean the list goes on and on) so keep checking back if broccoli ain’t your thang!!!

Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • Broccoli florets cut up into bite size pieces. I used about 3-4 cups.
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons oil, or enough to evenly coat broccoli
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut broccoli into bite size pieces, cutting off most of the stem. I find the easiest way is to turn the large stem around as you cut the florets.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, oil, salt, pepper and cheese.
  4. Pour onto a sheet pan. You can line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easier cleaning.
  5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until broccoli stems are soft and florets are a bit crispy.
  6. Serve immediately.

Roasted Snackpeas

I’m always trying to come up with good snack ideas because I LOVE to snack. Do you guys follow Mario Batali on Insta? He has these short videos where his crew hands him a random ingredient and he comes up with a snack on the spot. Catchy, right?

I tried his like, ham and cheese roll up we’ll call it. It was sliced meat and cheese with a pickle and spicy mustard rolled up in there. Delicious. Okay where was I going with this?…

Oh yeah SNACKS.

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I love chickpeas. I add them on salads, I eat them plain, and I obviously roast them. I’ve been making these for so long I don’t really know where the idea or inspiration came from.

I do know that you can literally add ANY dry spice you want to these. Garlic salt, paprika, red pepper flakes. You can make them as simple or as complex as you want. A ginger and nutmeg mixture might be lovely, too.

To roast these, make sure the chickpeas are rinsed and dried. You can lay them out on paper towels or a kitchen towel. If they’re still wet, the spices won’t stick to them.

Roasting them at a high temperature is best because we want all that liquid out of the peas so they’ll have a nice crunch. If the oven is too low, they’ll dry out but they won’t be crispy.

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While the peas were in the oven a few days ago, I called my mom. I definitely lost track of time before I yelled into the phone, “OH NO MY CHICKPEAS.” I jumped off my couch so fast I almost tripped over my own feet trying to get to the oven.

“Mom I burned them,” I said. “I have to start paying attention when things are in the oven.” (Again, this is why I’m not much of a baker.)

She assured me that they are, indeed, just chickpeas, and that life will go on.

Turns out I didn’t burn them after all! I think the batch could’ve come out a few minutes earlier because they were a tad dry, but a drizzle of olive oil brought them right back to life.

These roasted peas are deliciously crunchy and will healthily satisfy a craving for something salty.

Roasted Snackpeas

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, or whatever oil you have

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Drain chickpeas then pat dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all spices, then add peas once they are dry.
  4. Pour onto a baking sheet (mine was lined with parchment paper for easier cleaning) and bake for 25-30 minutes. They should be a golden brown color.
  5. Remove from oven and coat peas with oil while they’re still warm.

 

Simple Buttercream Frosting

So I noticed I don’t have ANY sweet recipes on my blog. There’s a simple reason for that: I really am not the best baker.

It’s a damn good day when I decide to make the cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle bag and it doesn’t go awry. I over mix things, under bake cakes, and still can’t figure out what’s going wrong with my caramel sauce.

So this definitely isn’t to say I don’t try. There’s just a science to baking and I am no scientist.

Like I said earlier, burned caramel sauce after burned caramel sauce does not bode well for one’s self esteem, so I created a buttercream frosting. I knew I couldn’t burn that!

It’s pretty simple, buttercream frosting. It’s just a few ingredients and takes virtually no time at all.

Start by beating the butter with a hand mixer. In order to make the frosting fluffy, which is what we want, it’s important to fluff the butter up a bit before adding the sugar. Confectioners sugar is best here, given its powdery texture.

I added the sugar a cup at a time for two reasons: 1) You don’t want a lumpy frosting, so adding it in slowly gives the mixer time to catch up 2) I don’t like powdered sugar all over my kitchen walls and island.

About half way thorough adding the sugar is when I added the cream. You can use milk here, but I figured it’s already so full of fat and sugar, a few spoonfuls of cream won’t make a difference. If you want a thinner frosting, just add more cream or milk. Add a few drops of vanilla and you’re done.

This is a very basic recipe, so the flavors you choose to add are endless.

Simple Buttercream Frosting

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, beat softened butter for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Add sugar a cup at a time, incorporating well after each addition.
  3. Add in heavy cream or milk to desired consistency. Add vanilla and mix well.

Bacon Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken

In my previous blog post, I talk about how I rarely eat bacon because it’s so expensive at the store. Well, every now and then, Publix will have some brand of bacon on sale. So I bought a pack. After using most of it for my multiple dishes of 5 Ingredient Pasta, I had about 5 slices left. And I had chicken, and something inside me said to make my own honey mustard sauce, so here we are. Bacon Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken. Add to a pile of rice or a side salad and dinner is ready.

Over the past like, 10 Christmas’s or so, I’ve been steadily asking for kitchen appliances, gadgets, utensils, etc. You know, a Kitchen Aid Mixer to Food Network Spatulas. Anything that would help me make advanced dishes to simple ones is what I’d ask for. I’ve also collected several hand me downs from aunts and grandmas (HELLO copper bottom saucepans).

The reason I’m telling you this is because when I’m cooking in someone else’s kitchen, most of the time, they don’t have the arsenal of things I have in order to make cooking a breeze. The first time I made this, I was not in my kitchen. I was in a kitchen with not a sharp knife to be seen.

This recipe followed through, though, and gave us the most tangy, savory chicken pieces you could ever ask for.

For the honey mustard sauce, it really takes five minutes to make. You can use a store bought sauce if you want, but the components are probably already in your kitchen, so why not try it? I feel a sense of pride whenever I make something myself that could be bought in the store. Homemade is almost always better and you feel a bit fancy whisking all those ingredients into one happily fused sauce.

I also like to add spicy brown mustard, mostly because I just really like it. One of my favorite snacks is slices of turkey and cheese rolled up with some spicy brown squeezed in the middle.

As for the chicken, it’s incredibly crucial to ensure each piece is similar in size. Otherwise, you’ll have one piece that’s perfectly cooked and one that’s so dry it’s almost inedible (I’m not talking from experience or anything…). To avoid this, you can pound out each piece with a meat tenderizer (I’m not ashamed to say I used the bottom of a meatloaf pan) until they’re about the same size.

Bacon Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken breasts, each breast cut into 2 strips
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

For the honey mustard sauce:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients for honey mustard sauce. Whisk and set aside.
  3. Cut each chicken breast in half, then pound to ensure each piece is about the same size.
  4. Season with garlic salt and onion powder. Then drizzle about a tablespoon or so of honey mustard on chicken.
  5. Take one slice of bacon and wrap around each piece, then drizzle more honey mustard sauce onto chicken.
  6. Transfer chicken onto sheet pan and bake for about 20 minutes until juices run clear. You can also drizzle more sauce on the chicken about halfway through the cooking process, if desired.
  7. Serve immediately with leftover honey mustard for dipping.