Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Chicken Ramen Stir Fry

Stir fry is so easy to make, it super flexible and is relatively quick to put together. You can use basically any vegetables, proteins, and/or noodle/rice of your choice to make this fit your tastes. We have stir fry of some variety at least weekly in our house because it is fast and everyone eats it. This particular night, I peeked in the semi-bare fridge, pulled out whatever looked good, and about 20 minutes later dinner was on the table.

Chicken Ramen Stir Fry

1 lb chicken breast
1 head of broccoli
1/2 red bell pepper
1 large carrot
1 zucchini
4 green onion/scallions
2 cloves garlic
9 oz ramen noodles
2 tbsp cornstarch, divided
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 brown sugar
1 cup chicken broth
pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
sesame seeds for garnish
Optional: Trader Joe's "Soyaki" marinade

First I sliced the chicken (2 small breasts) in to thin pieces and then cut those pieces in half to make long thin strips. I placed the chicken in a small bowl and tossed it with a few tablespoons of Trader Joe's "Soyaki" marinade and 1 tbsp of cornstarch. I don't usually use many premade sauces or marinades but I heard good things about this one, so we tried it and it is pretty good. If you don't have a soy or teriyaki type marinade on hand, I usually use a couple tbsp of soy sauce, a spoon of brown sugar, some garlic powder, ginger powder, and a little black pepper on the chicken. Let the chicken marinade while you chop the veggies.

For the vegetables this time, I thinly sliced the red pepper, chopped the zucchini into about 1/4" pieces, chopped the broccoli into bite size pieces, thinly sliced the white part of the green onion and saved the green part for garnish, and minced the garlic. For the carrot, I used a veggie peeler to make thin ribbons of carrot and then cut those ribbons into matchstick size pieces. 

For the stir fry sauce, I combined the soy sauce, brown sugar, chicken broth, 1 tbsp of cornstarch, and a few grinds of black pepper into a small bowl. If I had some sesame oil, I would have added a splash of that as well.  Stir this up and set it aside.

To cook the meal - bring a pot of water to boil so that is ready for the noodles to go in and also heat a large skillet over medium high heat with about 1 tbsp of olive oil in it.  When the skillet is hot, add the chicken and cook, stirring fairly frequently but not constantly, for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is cooked through completely. Remove the chicken from the skillet onto a clean plate or bowl and reserve. Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute until tender-crisp (not too crisp but not soggy or overly tender) another 5 or so minutes. If using ramen noodles from the packages (I used 3 pk), discard the seasoning packet and cook the noodles for about 3 minutes in the boiling water. Drain the noodles well. You can use any noodles that you like or rice is great too.  When the vegetables are almost done, add the sauce, bring to a boil and thicken slightly. Add the chicken back into the skillet and the noodles too and stir well.  Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced green onion, if desired.

If you try this "recipe", please leave me a comment telling me how you like to make it. I am always looking for new combinations to try! Enjoy!!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars

If you are a peanut butter lover and enjoy sticky, sweet, chewy bars - this is a must try treat! Layers of crumbly graham cracker crust, gooey sweetened condensed milk melted together with peanut butter chips and toffee bits, plus both chewy and crunchy textures from coconut flakes and chopped peanuts - so so delicious all together in one little bar. And by little, I really meant it. You definitely want to chop these bars up into little bites because each one is so rich and decadent.

Also, how easy is this recipe! All you have to do is mix together 3 ingredients, press it into a crust in the pan and then layer on each of the toppings. The recipe takes just about five minutes to put together, less than 30 minutes in the oven, and the hardest part is waiting for them to cool!  Something magic happens in the cooking and cooling process that turns these few layered ingredients into a solid, gooey, chewy bar cookie.

Oh and just a quick word to all the coconut haters out there - don't let that ingredient keep you from trying this recipe - you can't taste any coconut flavor at all, it just adds a lovely chewy texture especially if you use the unsweetened variety here.

As always, feel free to experiment with different combinations and create your own version of magic bars based on your tastes or what you have on hand in your kitchen. Next time I think I will try chocolate chips, caramel chips/bites, and pecans for a totally different flavor profile.  I would love to hear what you come up with so please leave me a comment with your ideas!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Magic Bars

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder 
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup chocolate covered toffee bits
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chocolate covered candies

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. 
2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and cocoa powder and mix together well. (You could also use chocolate graham crackers instead.) Press the graham cracker crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the 9x13 pan to form a crust. 
3. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk evenly all over the surface of the graham cracker crust. Try to do this slowly and evenly because it is difficult to spread with a spoon or spatula without disturbing the graham cracker crust. 
4. Sprinkle the peanut butter chips, toffee bits, coconut flakes (I used unsweetened), and peanuts evenly each in a layer on top of the crust.  
5. Top with chocolate covered candies and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are brown and the center is bubbling slightly. 
6. Let the bars cool completely before cutting and serving. I let mine cool at room temperature for about 1 hour and then put them in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before cutting. 
7. Store for up to 3 days in an air tight container.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Hey all- I hope you're year is off to a good start! I'm going to just start this out by being honest here - I am not really feeling my best about how this blog revival is going already and am feeling a little discouraged. I made several new recipes this past weekend - "crazy" cookies, this stomboli and cinnamon apple crunch muffins. They were all fantastic and delicious but I just didn't get to photograph/style the food in a way that makes me feel the food looks its' most appealing. But I'm not going to let this hold me back - I am going to post this stromboli recipe because it was amazing and I will just have to work up to finding the time to get the pictures right. Maybe I shouldn't make this a big deal and perhaps it is not as important as I am making it out to be, but it still remains my goal for the future.  I definitely will be making the cookies and muffins again in the future so there will be other times to try and capture those recipes to share. 

Anyways - on to more important things - this stromboli!! Before this, I don't think I have ever ordered/made/eaten stromboli but I wanted to try something new and thought this would be fun. We are big pizza fans in our house and I wanted to try changing things up a bit this time. The dough that I made is kind of an all-purpose dough that can be prepared ahead of time and then used for a number of different recipes. The creator of this dough, Gemma Stafford shows how to use it for pizza, focaccia, cheese bread, soft pretzels, or even cinnamon rolls on her blog. I have used it to make garlic knots and grilled pizza in the past and knew it would perfect to try this way as well. You can of course use a regular pizza dough recipe or buy a ball of pizza dough from the grocery store or a local pizza place.  I did a pepperoni, mushroom, bell pepper, and onion combo in this stromboli but you can use whatever filling suits you. If you are using vegetables, make sure to saute or steam them first so they are tender and if using meats like hamburger or chicken, be sure to cook through completely before filling the stromboli.  I was super impatient and hungry and cut into this without letting it cool enough so you can't quite see that there is a nice fluffy layer of the dough in the center of the stromboli - almost like a big pizza roll. We sliced this up and enjoyed it with a yummy Caesar salad. It had all the flavor components of pizza - tomato sauce, melty cheese, savory toppings, and a crunchy bottom crust. Next time, I think I would divide the dough in half and make two smaller strombolis, possibly with different fillings. This one was massive, definitely enough for several hungry adults. If you make this recipe, let me know how you decide to fill it and how it comes out. I would love to hear your ideas!  

P.S. I listened to Endless Beautiful Session 54: Toaster Oven while writing the content of this blog post. If you missed my post from last week - this is a weekly podcast that contains a 15 minute audio prompt to help inspire you to do something creative (writing, painting, drawing, composing music, etc). Head over to their website, check out a podcast and give it a try! 


1 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 egg

1. Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl, mix well and allow to rest for about five minutes. The mixture will start to lightly bubble and become frothy if your yeast is active. 
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well. The dough should be a bit sticky but not too wet/goopy or too dry/shaggy. Add a bit more flour or a bit more water depending on what you need to get the dough right. 
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few turns. This just helps make sure the dough is completely mixed and well combined.  
4. Wash out your bowl, grease with a few drops of oil or non-stick spray and add the dough ball back into the bowl.
5. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it proof in a warm spot.  The amount of time depends on when you plan on using the dough. I made this the day before so I just left mine out for about an hour and popped it into the fridge overnight. If you are using the dough right away, I would proof for two hours and then make your recipe.  

Notes: As I mentioned before, this dough can be used as sort of an all-purpose dough - make flatbreads, focaccia, pizza, cinnamon rolls, soft pretzels, you name it. Can be stored in the refrigerator for three days or frozen for a couple of months.  

1/2 cup pizza or tomato sauce
1 cup shredded mozzeralla cheese 
25-35 slices pepperoni 
1/2 cup mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Garlic powder
Salt & pepper
1 egg

1. If you made your dough ahead of time, let it sit at room temperature for one hour before beginning assembly.
2. To prepare your fillings, saute the vegetables in the olive oil over medium high heat for a few minutes until tender but still firm. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let cool for 10 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 500F. 
4. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and begin stretching your dough out into a rectangle, as evenly as possible. You can also do this on a floured surface with a rolling pin and then transfer to the parchment lined sheet pan. I used a half sheet pan and stretched my dough out to about 1" smaller than the pan on each side. 
5. Spread the sauce and then the cheese out evenly over the entire dough, leaving a 1/2" border. The amount listed in this recipe is an estimate - adjust these quantities up or down to your tastes 
6. Place a single layer of pepperoni all over the dough and then evenly spread your veggie toppings all over as well.  
7. On the two short sides, roll about 1" of dough in on top of itself to start forming a sealed edge on the sides. From the long side, starting at the top, fold the dough down 1/3 of the way, like you would fold a letter and then fold the bottom up to form a log. Press the dough seam together and then roll the dough so the seam is on the bottom, as best you can.  
8. Brush the dough with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a splash of water) and sprinkle the top with garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. 
9. Place the Stromboli into the oven for 10 minutes and then turn down the temperature to 375F and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
10. Let the Stromboli stand for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Chewy Gooey Salted Caramels

Hey friends -  Happy New Year! I have decided to revive the blog and try to give this another go around now that my two little ones aren't quite as little (although they are still pretty little- 16 months and 3 3/4 as he loves to tell me). My time is slightly more flexible and I have decided to focus more on creative efforts this year. My hopes are to try a new recipe on the weekend, photograph it and then write a blog post some time during the week. One of the things that I struggled with in the last few months of my more active blogging times was that I didn't have the quality photos that I really wanted to strive for here. I was either lacking in natural light or I didn't have the time to use my DSLR camera and properly upload and edit the way I intended for this blog to be. My original goal when I started this blog was for it to be a place for me to put my favorite recipes to look back on later, to be inspired to try new recipes, and to document the way food influenced my life.
Another part of the reason that my posting fell off.....and by that I mean went on complete hiatus for uhhh too many months to count, was that I was feeling very uninspired. I could always write down the recipes but I couldn't find the right words to fill the blog posts. So if my time allows me, I am going to try this part a new way and see how it goes. My sister and her partner host a creative podcast/workshop weekly called Endless Beautiful in which they provide a 15 minute audio prompt to help others find inspiration for creative activities (writing, drawing, composing, etc). I have tried listening and freestyle writing a few times now and although I have come up with some ideas I don't find that I am really a writer in the traditional sense of sitting down and just creating a story or poem or anything really. I mostly just ended up coming out with a mind dumb of garbage that floats around in my brain and I didn't really feel happy to share that with anyone.  Today though, I stumbled upon this old draft chewy, gooey caramel post that contained nothing but photos and decided maybe I could try their creativity session another way. Maybe it can inspire me to write more in this blog.  I am also contemplating doing some video style food journals and may share those here as well.  So we will see how this goes. Here's to a new year and a new effort to be creative.  Please head over to their website, pick one of their podcasts to listen to and try something creative!   

I make these caramels every year around the holidays and share them as gifts with everyone that I know. I have gone back and forth about sharing this recipe because I sort of selfishly enjoy the idea of having a secret recipe that I keep for myself, but I have decided that in the end that really is no fun. It seems to me that these caramels bring happiness to anyone who eats them and that is what food is really all about to me - providing enjoyment and deliciousness. What better way to celebrate the joy of these caramels than to share the recipe so that anyone and everyone can try it for themselves.  It might seem intimidating at first to make candy at home but if you are careful and follow the directions, it will be worth your while! Please make sure to invest in a candy thermometer before trying this recipe because it will provide accuracy and helps the caramels turn out perfectly. They are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most grocery or retail stores that sell kitchenware or online.

Chewy Gooey Salted Caramels

3 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
10 tbsp salted butter
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1/2 tsp large flake sea salt, divided

1. Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray or line with a piece of parchment paper and set it aside on a heat proof surface or cooling rack.

2. In a large, heavy bottom pot with tall sides, add the sugar, water and corn syrup and stir together. The corn syrup helps give the caramels a chewier texture but can be left out if desired.

3. Run a pastry brush that has been dipped in water around the sides of the pot to wash down any sugar granules that are stuck to the side of the pot. These rouge sugar granules can cause the caramel to become grainy later if not removed.

4. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and turn the heat to medium high. Let the sugar cook without stirring until it begins to turn amber in color and begins to smell like caramel. This is usually around 330F on the candy thermometer for me but be sure to watch your pot carefully. Do not walk away, answer the phone, stop to change a diaper, play a game of hide and seek.....etc.

5.Once the sugar has caramelized to your liking, add the heavy cream, butter, and vanilla paste or extract. The mixture will begin to steam and bubble like crazy and it will look like the whole batch has split or gone funky. Don't worry, when everything begins to melt and come back up to temperature it will all recombine.

6. Begin stirring with a whisk or silicone spatula and stir constantly until the caramel reaches 245F to 246F on your candy thermometer. This is just slightly below the hardball stage 248F which is where caramels are normally cooked to. I like to go just under that stage because the caramels set nicely but they are left really gooey and chewy - almost creamy in consistency.

7. Remove your candy thermometer and pour the caramel into your prepared pan. Do NOT scrape the pot out, just pour out what you can and leave the residue.  Scraping the pot could cause your caramel to set with a grainy or unpleasant texture.  Wait about 10 minutes and sprinkle the sea salt over the top of the caramels, to your tastes.

8. Let the caramels set for at least 3 hours. If your house is hot, they may need to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before cutting. Turn the set caramels out onto a cutting board, peel back the parchment paper or aluminum foil and use a large knife or pizza wheel to cut into approximately 1" squares

9. Cut 3" wax paper squares and wrap each piece of caramel individually. Place the caramel in the center of the paper at the top edge, fold the paper around the caramel until it is enclosed and then twist each side of the paper around to seal.

10. This makes a ton of caramels - put them in baggies and give them to everyone that you know!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Veggie Penne "Alfredo"

Hi friends! I've been trying out loads of new dinner recipes lately and as usual, I either forget to photograph them or when I do remember the photos are so blah I don't even bother to post them. Anybody have tips for DIY lighting or affordable ways to get good quality food photos without natural light?!? Please share! This pasta was so good though, I just couldn't let myself pass it by.  Really simple and quick to prepare for a weeknight too.  I would say this is sort of a take on a pasta primavera but a bit on the lighter side.  The quantities in the recipe are approximate because, as always the recipe should be made to your liking and tastes! Hope everyone is doing well and keeping themselves free of the mid-winter blues.  We sure are trying hard to keep the little ones (and ourselves) busy and make the most of the winter weather.  Little K absolutely loves the snow: sledding, building snowmen, smashing any bits of ice that he can find and baby A is already 5 months old.  She just started scooting her tiny self around all over the place.  What fun!


Veggie Penne "Alfredo"

1 small onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, large dice
1 head broccoli, chopped 1" pieces
1 handful fresh spinach
8 oz penne or other short-cut pasta, cooked al dente
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
splash of cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Combine the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Once the butter has melted, add the onion and red peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Stir in the garlic, broccoli, and zucchini.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 or so minutes and then stir in the flour.  Cook the flour for about a minute and add the stock.  Bring the mixture to a low bubble and simmer away for 7 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened and your broccoli and zucchini are tender.  Add the spinach and cook for one minute more, until wilted.  Add a splash of cream, if desired for a little extra richness and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the cooked noodles and parmesan cheese and serve immediately.