Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chicken Nugget Parmesan

     A while back I bought some generic brand chicken nuggets that were on sale.  Bad idea.  They are not very good.  When I cooked them up the first time, my husband really didn't care for them.  That's an impressive feat since there are VERY few foods that would make my husband turn up his nose.  Alright, so we're chicken nugget snobs.  Deal with it.  Moral of the story:  I can't buy name brand chicken nuggets until I use up the huge bag of generic brand chicken nuggets in my freezer.  I googled ideas to use chicken nuggets in and thought this was a great idea.  It's fast.  It's good.  And it puts a smile on my husband's face rather than a frown. 

12 chicken nuggets
Jar of favorite spaghetti sauce
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese

1.  Prepare chicken nuggets, according to package directions.  
2.  Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan boil some water and then add desired amount of spaghetti.  (I HATE trying to measure out how much spaghetti to cook!  I hope you are better at this than I am!) While spaghetti and nuggets are cooking, in a small sauce pan heat your spaghetti sauce.  
3.  When the nuggets are done, your noodles are cooked and drained, and your sauce is heated through, you're ready to assemble.  Serve up the spaghetti noodles.  Divide the chicken nuggets and place on top of the noodles.  Spoon the sauce over the noodles and nuggets.  Top with parmesan and mozzarella cheese.  

Serve with a salad and lick your plate clean of that tasty spaghetti sauce. 

Chicken Panini

     Looking for a restaurant quality sandwich without all the work?  This is your sandwich!  I can't get over how deliciously flavorful this thing is.  I adapted the original recipe to suit my own tastes and to use up what I already had on hand.  So, before listing the ingredients, here's what you need to know:  Use whatever bread you want.  I used homemade french bread.  You could use regular sandwich bread but for the gourmet effect you really should upgrade to some sort of thicker bread.  But if not, that's fine too. I also used precooked frozen breaded chicken patties.  I just put them in the oven and cooked according to package directions so they would be nice and hot on my sandwich.  You could use any boneless chicken that you want though, the original recipe calls for grilled chicken strips.  I enjoy having a bag of precooked chicken in my freezer for quick meals such as these though! Okay, on to the ingredients: 

Sliced swiss cheese (or provolone if you prefer)
Tomato slices
Pesto sauce, prepared (I bought mine in a little jar in the pasta aisle)
Butter or margarine for spreading

1.  Prepare chicken.  Butter one side of each piece of bread, as if you're going to make a grilled cheese (For a healthier option, use olive oil).  On the other side of each piece of bread, spread on your pesto sauce.  I didn't measure, I just put a thin layer on, the same way I would spread mayonnaise on a different sandwich.  Place your chicken on top of one piece of bread, with the buttered side on the outside.  Place a slice of cheese on top of chicken, then a slice of tomato.  Place your 2nd piece of bread with on the sandwich, with the buttered side on the outside.  
2.  On a preheated pan on medium heat, grill your sandwich until golden brown.  Flip and remove when 2nd side is golden brown.  Just like a grilled cheese.  

Now serve it up with some potato chips and fresh fruit and go enjoy! I hope you're as satisfied as I was! 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yogurt Parfait

     I saw this idea on a cooking blog a few days ago and have been dying to have it since.  I don't know if it's a pregnancy craving or what, but I've thought about it constantly for the past 3 days and have been working towards getting the ingredients.  Monday I bought the yogurt.  I've never tried vanilla yogurt because I'm not a fan of vanilla ice cream but I went out on a limb knowing it just wouldn't be the same with any other flavor of yogurt.  I'm so glad I did.  I also bought strawberries Monday but we ate them all before I got the ingredients for granola.  Besides, they weren't very fresh to begin with.  So, today I went to the farmer's market, bought ingredients to make homemade granola (see previous post) and loaded up on fresh yummy looking strawberries.  Once home, I made the granola and then excitedly assembled this beauty.  
     I about died from happiness after my first bite.  Besides discovering I do in fact like vanilla yogurt, I couldn't get over how well it went with those fresh strawberries and the soft crunch of homemade granola.  I know, this isn't a novel idea.  And it's definitely not the first time I've put granola in my yogurt, but I've never combined all three.  My life has been changed.  Forever.  I can't wait to eat this every day for the next week.  Maybe longer.  Go on and make your own. Feel free to get hooked.  It's super healthy! 
INGREDIENTS (1 serving)
6 oz. vanilla yogurt
2-3 strawberries, sliced

1.  Layer half of the yogurt then half of the strawberries, as much granola as you want, and repeat once more.  Or, if you don't care about it looking really pretty and parfait like, just pile it all in a bowl and eat up! 

Homemade Granola

 I make homemade granola bars but it never occurred to me to make homemade granola.  I decided to give it a try.  I looked up a recipe on that sounded good and had a ton of great reviews, made my shopping list, and headed to my local Sprouts Farmer's Market (You could probably find the ingredients in Wal-Mart but I didn't want to take on the rows and rows of food searching, and plus, I wanted fresh not almost-rotten strawberries.  Hence, the Farmer's Market.  I think I fall in love with that place more every time I go.  Really, all it took was one sale on fresh asparagus at $1/lb. and I was hooked.  This time, the strawberries were on sale, so I loaded up for a day of making granola and strawberry jam.  But first, the granola: 


  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins or sweetened dried cranberries

NOTE:  Those are the ingredients for the original recipe.  However, I did not have walnuts and used 1/2 c. rice krispies cereal instead.  I also added 1/2 c. sweetened coconut because I like it.  Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly.  I found oat bran really easily at the farmer's market, it was in one of the many bins that are ready to be scooped from.  Mason jars work great to store your extra ingredients by the way.  And I don't know about your local store but the oat bran only came to 77 cents for about 2 cups so it's not going to break the bank.  


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
  2. Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, and walnuts in a large bowl. 
  1. 3.  Stir together the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. 
  1. 4.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.  HINT:  Don't turn on the heat until you have added all of your ingredients, you may end up burning the sugar by the time you add everything else! 

  1. 5.  Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 20-25 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then stir in the raisins or cranberries before storing in an airtight container.

The pan that was on the top rack of my oven turned out a bit more crispy than the one on bottom so you may want to switch the pans up when you stir that way one pan isn't over exposed to the heat.  I added raisins to one of my pans- the one I plan on using for snacking and left the raisins out of my 2nd pan - the one I plan on using on top of yogurt.  Personal preference.  Either way, this stuff smells AMAZING in the oven and it tastes SO GOOD!  So much better than store bought granola AND cheaper.  It's a bit of an investment to buy all of the ingredients if you don't have the nuts and stuff but it makes a ton.  Totally worth it.  Go make some granola, it's super fast, not sticky or hard to manage, and really flexible for you to add ingredients you think would make it perfect for you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sausage and Vegetable Alfredo with Noodles

 I FINALLY made up my own recipe!  Don't get too excited, it's not even close to gourmet.  BUT, it is tasty and simple.  If you can think of a better name for the dish, let me know.  Anyway, this week I am trying to make meals using what I already have in my cupboards and fridge, which is how this dinner came to be.  I had a half used box of noodles, half used sausage link, and a jar of alfredo sauce that's been sitting in my cupboard since I got married.  Out came this simple comfort food.  Enjoy!

8 oz. smoked sausage, sliced
1 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
8 oz. rotini noodles 
1 jar Alfredo sauce 
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables (corn, lima beans, green beans, peas) 
3/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
salt to taste 

1.  In a pot, bring water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions. 
2.  Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, heat 1 Tbl olive oil and cook sliced sausage until browned.  Add garlic for the last 2-3 minutes to bring out the flavor.  
3.  About 3 minutes before the noodles are done, add the frozen vegetables.  
4.  Drain the noodles and vegetables and return to pot.  Add the alfredo sauce ( I used Ragu, which I never liked very much in college but with the seasonings I added it tasted just fine).  Stir in the sausage and seasonings.  Heat over medium heat. 
5.  Taste test and adjust seasonings to taste.  Make sure to do this.  I estimated the seasoning measurements in the recipe since when I made this I just kept shaking in the spices and tasting.

Enjoy this simple and fast comfort food!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mussels Mariniere and Homemade French Bread

I was always skeptical of mussels until I lived in Spain and ate them in paella.  A few months later, I ate them often while living in Ecuador as they are popular in soups.  If you haven't ever given them a try, you should definitely go for it.  Cook them up with parsley and white wine and they get excellent flavor.  Here's a recipe that I made based on an original one with less ingredients.

  • 4 quarts fresh mussels (I used the frozen, cooked, debearded ones.  They are ready to be thrown in a pot)
  • 1 (16 ounce) package pasta (I used penne, feel free to try others)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tbl dried parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbl cornstarch


  1. Scrub mussels and pull off beards, cutting them at the base with a paring knife. Discard those that do not close when you handle them and any with broken shells. (Skip this step if using the frozen pre-cooked mussels) 
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and reserve.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet place 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, onion, mushrooms, and garlic.  Saute until onions and mushrooms begin to soften.  Add parsley, bay leaf, thyme, wine, and broth. Mix cornstarch with about 2 tsp. milk and mix into the pot.  Bring to a boil and lower heat; cook for 2 minutes. Add mussels; cover and cook just until they open, 3 to 4 minutes. Do not overcook..
  4. To the wine mixture, add remaining butter or margarine and heat until it melts. 
  5. Serve the mussels and sauce over pasta noodles. 

This was INCREDIBLE!  I couldn't get enough of it.  It is chalked full of flavor and goes great with french bread on the side.  Speaking of french bread, we need to talk about that... 

I told you this was a week of bread making.  I gave french bread a try and was NOT disappointed!  It was delicious!  I found the recipe on and for the first time I did not have to add any extra flour to the dough!  It was the perfect consistency and baked just as it should!  Check it out: 

INGREDIENTS (Makes 1 two pound loaf)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 - 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1/2 egg white, beaten


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with 1 cup water, 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar and vegetable oil; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.  (If you have a kitchen aid then save your arms and put all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl, use the dough hook and mix on low for 6 minutes.  After, brush the dough with oil and follow rising instructions).  
  3. Roll into a 9 x 12 rectangle and roll up jelly roll style, starting at long edge. Seal edges (brushing water on the edges helps to seal it) and place seam side down on a large baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.
  4. Use a sharp knife to slash each loaf diagonally 3 times. Brush with beaten egg white (this helps the bread bake to a golden brown). Cover and allow to rise 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. 

I had no idea that you roll french bread up jelly roll style.  But that is what gives it the pull apart texture.  Look at the effects after the bread bakes, I found it pretty cool.  :)  ENJOY!! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls!

    Is your mouth watering yet?  I LOVE cinnamon rolls.  Especially homemade cinnamon rolls.  They make me so happy.  Combine it with a tall glass of cold milk and you have yourself a fabulous breakfast and a sugar high to start your morning.  :)   Like I said in the previous post, I cut the dough for the sweet rolls in half.  With only 2 of us, I certainly didn't need 16 rolls and as much as I love dinner rolls, I love cinnamon rolls even more.  I prepared this the night before, after we ate the steak and dinner rolls.  Use the dough recipe found HERE.  Full recipe makes 16, half makes 8.  Actually we had 7, so it just depends on how you roll and cut the dough.  Here's what you need for the cinnamon filling: 

INGREDIENTS (for 8 rolls)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons butter, softened

  1. On a well floured surface, roll dough into a 12x9 inch rectangle. In a bowl, stir together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Spread dough with butter, and then the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough, using a little water to seal the seam.  (roll from the long side)
  2. Cut each roll into 8 slices using a very sharp knife or dental floss. Place rolls onto two 9x13 inch greased baking pans. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  [If you do this like I did, prepare the rolls on the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, take the rolls out of the fridge, place on the stovetop and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  The heat from the oven helps these rise in just 30 minutes.  Feel free to go back to bed for half an hour or shower or anything else.  After 30 minutes of rising, proceed with the directions]
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.


  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1.5 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

  1. To make frosting; combine confectioner's sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Add milk gradually until frosting reaches a spreading consistency. Spread over warm (but not hot) cinnamon rolls.

I have to tell you, that frosting recipe is the best homemade cinnamon roll frosting I have EVER made.  It turned out so delicious!  Feel free to add more vanilla, I may have used more like 1/4 tsp.  Either way, ENJOY these blessed cinnamon rolls and eat more than one.