Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ortega Taco Casserole

Another recipe I spotted in a blog I read, Milk & Honey. Anyways, this is a pretty classic taco casserole. It came off the back of the Ortega Taco Shell box. Its been awhile since I tried a recipe off the box like this. It was actually very good. We ended up having company when I served this and I was happy when everyone kept telling me it was really good. I added green bell peppers to the onions when I was browning the meat and instead of green chilies, I added sliced black olives. Then I served it with fresh tomatoes and green onions and sour cream. We had a nice big green salad with this too. It was good and there were no leftovers. A nice change from regular tacos.

Ortega Taco Casserole (original recipe)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup (1 small) chopped onion (I also added 1 cup diced bell pepper)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 cup Taco Sauce
1 4 oz can sliced black olives
1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
1 package (12) Ortega® Taco Shells or (12) Ortega® White Corn Taco Shells, broken, divided
2 cups Mild Cheddar Cheese, divided
Chopped tomatoes (optional)
Sliced green onions (optional)


Preheat your oven to 375ยบ F.

  1. Cook beef, onion (and bellpeppers) and garlic in a large saucepan until beef is browned.

  2. Stir in water, taco sauce, chilies, 1/4 cup olives and seasoning mix.

  3. Let this simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

  4. Lay out half of the broken shells on the bottom of a greased 12 x 8-inch baking dish.

  5. Cover with half of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese, then repeat with remaining taco shells, meat sauce and cheese to create layers of the different ingredients.

  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.

  7. Top the casserole with tomatoes and green onions and sour cream.

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Someone posted this recipe on the Nest and I just had to try it out. First I researched it a bit and found that it was posted in tons of discussion boards and lots of bloggers had tried it out already, but all the reviews I read were pretty mixed. So, I spent the 5 minutes it took to whip this baby up. Was it worth the 5 minutes? I have to say no it was not. It was very dense, not light like cake usually is. And it was pretty wet and rubbery, like a sponge that my fork had a hard time cutting. It was very bland and had almost no chocolate flavor at all. It was probably one of the most disgusting cakes Ive ever taken a bite of. And that is all I had, 1 bite and the rest of it went straight into the trash. So I would not recommend trying this one at home. LOL


4 tablespoons cake flour(that's plain flour, not self-rising)

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons chocolate chips(optional)

a small splash of vanilla essence
1 coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla essence, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon and Skewered Veggies

This was SOOOOOO Good! One of the best meals we've had at home in a long time! The salmon had a wonderful spicy flavor with the rub and a smoky flavor from the cedar. It was nice and tender, but well done. Carl even said its in his top 3 favorites! If you know Carl, you know that he is a terribly picky eater and that is a huge compliment coming from him. I just love when a recipe turns out perfect! Even better than expected! I honestly didnt have high hopes for this, but since I had these Cedar Planks that Carl's uncle bought him a couple years ago, I figured it was finally time to try them out. WOW. What a great way to grill fish. I served this with veggie skewers that I brushed with rosemary infused olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. I also served it with a 50/50 mixture of brown and white jasmine rice, seasoned with soy sauce and pepper.

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

1 cedar grilling plank, soaked in water for 2-24 hrs
1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets, with skin on one side
salt and pepper to taste
2-4 tsp. Potlatch Seasoning Salmon and Seafood Spice Rub

Soak the grill plank for as long as you can up to 24 hrs. Preheat a grill on Med Low heat to about 350 degrees. Put the plank on the grill and let sit there until it starts smoking, about 15 minutes.

While the plank is heating up, prepare the salmon. Salt and pepper each side, then rub 1-2 tsp seafood spice rub onto each piece of salmon. Lay the salmon on the grilling plank skin side down and close the grill. Cook at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until done to your liking. We like our salmon pretty well done, so it took about 15 minutes. Salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Summer Veggie Pancakes with Basil Chive Cream

Here is another great recipe I got from Eggs On Sunday. I love that blog. I swear, every single thing that woman makes, looks mouth watering! I followed her recipe exactly since I had squash, zucchini and carrots. Im sure you could sub any veggies based on what you have. I bet some green onion would be good in this, but I didnt have any. The Basil Chive Cream is really really good. It was my favorite part of this recipe. Just about anything would be good dipped in this sauce and its very easy to make. I will have to keep it in mind for my next veggie tray. I served these as a side with a salad.

For basil chive cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

For pancakes
3 cups coarsely grated summer squash - mixture of yellow summer squash and zucchini
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour [I've used white whole wheat flour successfully]
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
olive oil or canola oil
sea salt


Make basil chive cream:
In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, blend together the sour cream, basil, chives, and salt until smooth and pale green. Chill under you’re ready to serve.

Make pancakes:
Place a large colander in your sink. Put the zucchini and yellow squash shreds in the colander and toss with the 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Let the squash stand at room temperature 20 minutes in the colander, then take handfuls at a time and squeeze them firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible. (If you’d rather, you can put handfuls of it on a kitchen towel or paper towel and firmly blot it dry, but I find the hand method is most effective.) You really want to be sure you get as much water out as you can, otherwise they won’t cook properly. Transfer the drained squash to a large bowl and stir in the 1 cup of shredded carrots, flour, sugar, and pepper.

Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the vegetable mixture.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Work in batches of 3, and scoop about 1/4 cup batter per pancake into the skillet, flattening and smoothing each slightly with the back of a spoon. Cook the pancakes until golden brown on both sides, flipping halfway through. Transfer the cooked pancakes to paper towels while you cook the next batch. When you’re done, sprinkle all the warm pancakes with a little sea salt.

Serve drizzled with some basil chive cream.

Makes 6 medium pancakes, enough for a light dinner for 2 with a salad or other sides.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Honey Frosting

My mom bought me the neatest little cake pan yesterday. Its really deep and small, 7 inches across. I was excited to try it out. I think I can make dainty little cakes and desserts with that pan. Anyways, I was searching through blogs today and I found a recipe for banana cupcakes over at Milk & Honey. I decided to try to adapt this one to my cake pan and make us a dessert for tonight.

I wish I would have got a better photo. I actually frosted this cake before it was completely cool and then stuck it in the fridge so it didnt end up looking so great. This cake was really really good. Not as dense as banana bread, more light and fluffy. The frosting was amazing!! Ive never had a banana cake with anything but a caramel glaze on it, so this was a really great change.

Banana Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting
(original recipe from Martha Stewart)

For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas), plus 1 whole banana, for garnish (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Honey-Cinnamon Frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Spread tops with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting. Just before serving, peel and slice banana into rounds, and place one on each cupcake, if desired.

For the Frosting:
  • 1 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
n a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat confectioners' sugar, unsalted butter, honey, and ground cinnamon until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes

Potato Sausage and Red Onion Scramble

Ive been doing good with using up these fruits and veggies I got through the co-op. This morning I did not disappoint. This turned out so yummy! A lot of times when I'm making scrambled eggs, I tend to stir them too much and it becomes a scrambled mess! This time I was careful not to stir too much. I only stirred enough to get the raw eggs underneath so they could cook up too. I then flipped it over in 3 pieces.

Potato Sausage and Red Onion Scramble

2 T olive oil
1 small baking potato, diced
1/2 of a small red onion
1/2 cup breakfast sausage, cooked and drained and set aside
4 eggs
4 tsp milk or half & half

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the potato in one layer and cook covered for 4-5 minutes or until they are brown on one side. Then stir them, trying to flip them over so they all get browned on the other side. Once they are flipped, sprinkle the red onions on top. Cover again and cook 3 minutes, or until onions are softened. Sprinkle the sausage over the potatoes and onions. Whisk the eggs with the milk or half & half. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently pour over the potatoes and sausage in the pan, being careful not to disturb all the veggies. Cook on medium-low until most of the eggs are set and nicely browned on one side. Flip over and cook an additional minute or so. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bountiful Baskets Co-op

Today Carl went and picked up our first basket of organic foods from the co-op. I was very excited about getting involved in this. Well, this is a picture of all of the food we got, except 1 plum which I had to feed to Charlie. We paid $27 for all of these fruits and veggies, all organic. Does this seem like a good deal or not? Carl and I were both expecting to get a lot more than this. But I dont know if this is good for organic produce since we dont usually buy it.

I will say that all of the food is in very good shape and very ripe and smelling wonderful! The plums are really sweet and the strawberries are YUMMY. Im excited about using the lettuce and tomatos for salads. Im not quite sure what I will do with all the red onions or sweet potatos, or the kale. Time to set out on my internet recipe finding adventures! If anyone has any ideas on great ways to use up this stuff, let me know!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Today my sister and her husband came over with his parents and my grandma. We had a nice meal. They are on their way back to Spain now and we will miss them. We ate some good stuff though. I made Chili Lime Grilled Chicken, which I didn't get a picture of. Black Bean Confetti Salad, from a previous entry. My grandma brought a pasta salad. For appetizers, I had shrimp cocktail and Hummus. I decided that I needed to make the hummus.

This was my first time making hummus. I knew I wanted to use dried beans because Ive read that the taste is so much better. I set out to find a yummy, creamy recipe and found this one originally from Cooks Illustrated. I pretty much followed it to a tee, but I forgot to put the whole garbanzo beans on top for garnish. Oh well, it still looked and tasted great! And I made mine in a blender since my food processor is really tiny. Id say for a first attempt is was really good. And nice and healthy too! You cant beat that. I ate the leftovers late last night with celery! YUMMY!

Restaurant Style Hummus

(Cook's Illustrated)

1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
6 Tablespoons well stirred tahini
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 15 ounce can drained and rinsed chickpeas (I used dried beans, soaked overnight then cooked for 90 minutes)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne
about 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the water and lemon juice in one bowl, and the tahini and oil in another. Set aside about 12 of the whole chickpeas for a garnish.

Put the chickpeas, salt, garlic, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor and process for about 15 seconds. Scrap down the sides of the processor. Then add the lemon water mix through the feed tube with the processor running for about 1 minute. Scrap down the sides several times. Then add the oil and tahini, with the processor running, until the hummus is fluffy.

Put the hummus in a bowl, garnish with the cilantro and whole chickpeas, and drizzle with some olive oil if you want.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lox and Cucumber Bagel Sandwiches

When we were on our honeymoon in Maui, we stayed at the Outrigger Resort and they had an awesome breakfast buffet that was included with our room each morning. They had all kinds of food! This is what I got almost every single day. Its also great with thinly sliced red onions, or tomato. This is a breakfast dish that Carl and I really like. I also like it for lunch or a snack...anytime really.

2 Bagels, toasted
4 Tbsp cream cheese
2 tsp capers
4 ounces lox, or smoked salmon
1/4-1/2 of a cucumber sliced (I like about 6 slices per sandwich)

Toast the bagels. Spread 1 Tbsp cream cheese on each half. Sprinkle capers on each half and press into the cream cheese so they stay. Chop up the salmon and divide it among the halves. Top each half with 3 slices of cucumber. Enjoy.

Ciabatta Breakfast Pizzas

I saw this recipe posted last week to The Way The Cookie Crumbles and I knew I had to try it right away. Especially when I listed off the ingredients to Carl and he said that it really sounds good. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love all types of breakfast foods! Im always looking for something new to throw into my rotation. Well, this is a good one. Definitely rich and a heavier breakfast. Its probably best saved for the weekends. I did brown the sausage last night so it would be easy to throw these babies in the oven today, so it made for a quick weekday breakfast.

Adapted from this recipe.

Ciabatta Breakfast Pizzas

2 pieces of ciabatta bread, longways in half
1 cup browned breakfast sausage
1/2 cup or more of grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs fried over medium

Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and crisp in the oven under the broiler. Once crisp, take out and top with sausage then cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted. While the bread is in the oven, fry the eggs. Serve each pizza with an egg on top. YUM.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fish baked in Foil Packets and Asparagus with Balsamic Butter

This is a nice healthy flavorful dinner. Ive been making fish like this for years, it was something my mom always made and one of the first recipes I asked for after moving out on my own. You can use whatever veggies you like, just make sure they are julienned or chopped up small because the fish doesn't cook for long and you don't want the veggies to be too crispy.

The Asparagus is sooo good. The original recipe is from and I tweak it just a little bit by switching the amounts of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. I think this dish is already salty enough, I cant imagine having an entire Tablespoon for soy sauce.

Fish Baked in Foil Packets

3-4 white fish fillets (I like mahi mahi or halibut)
2 celery stalks, cut in 3 or 4 pieces, then julienned
2 carrot sticks, cut up and julienned
1/2 of a red bell pepper, julienned
1 lemon
a couple pats of butter
salt, pepper and dill to taste

For each piece of fish, use a large piece of tin foil. Place the fish in the middle of the foil. Season it really good with salt, pepper and dill. Then squeeze lemon juice over it (I used 1/2 lemon for 3 pieces of fish) Slice up the other half of the lemon and set aside. Now arrange equal amounts of veggies onto each piece of fish. Season with more salt and pepper. Throw on a pat of butter and a slice of lemon. Wrap the fish up really good, sealing the top and sides. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

Asparagus with Balsamic Butter

1 bunch of asparagus
salt and pepper
a drizzle of olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce

Lay asparagus into a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake 375 for 15 minutes. While asparagus is baking, microwave butter in a small dish to melt, then add balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, mix well, pour over asparagus and toss right before serving.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grilled Polenta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

This was such a great snack. Actually it was my lunch. Carl went out with Sam and Charlie is taking a nap so I decided to whip something up for myself that was really yummy and enjoy my lunch alone.
I sliced polenta 1/2 inch thick and brushed olive oil on both sides and grilled it for 5-7 minutes per side. Then I topped it with salt and pepper and cheese and fresh tomato sauce. The fresh tomato sauce is common in Spain. You just take a couple whole tomatoes and grate them on a cheese grater. All of the pulp and seeds and juices come out and you are left with the entire peel in your hands, which you toss. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil and you are ready to eat!

Grilled Polenta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

6 big slices of polenta, 1/2 inch thick.
olive oil
2 small tomatoes, grated to make a fresh sauce
Parmesan or feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Saturday, August 09, 2008


When cooking with small children, its always best to have all the ingredients ready ahead of time. When Sam knows that we are going to bake together, he gets excited and hounds me to help the entire time Im trying to get stuff set up for him! Today we were bored, so I let him pick out some cookies in a cookbook for us to bake together. After about 3 picks, we finally found one that I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.
So we are going through this process, getting everything mixed up and I get the dough chilled down and the oven heated up. Then I realized I only had maybe 1/2 tsp of cinnamon at the bottom of the jar. I couldnt just pick up and leave to go to the store because Charlie was still napping, so I decided to use pumpkin pie spice instead. They turned out great! Didnt miss the cinnamon at all! I think the pumpkin pie spice has a great combo of spices.

From Baking by Carol Clements


1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
5 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon (I used pumpkin pie spice)

With an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue until fluffy. Beat in eggs, then the milk.

Sift the flour and baking soda over the butter mixture and stir to blend. Stir in the nuts. Refridgerate for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease 2 baking sheets (I used parchment paper).

For the coating, mix the cinnamon with the sugar. Roll tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls, then roll into the cinnamon sugar, coating all sides.

Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets and flatten slightly. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Makes 30 cookies.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Hoisin Mahi Mahi with polenta fries and green beans

Tonight's meal was really good. I made up a sauce with hoisin and soy sauce and I was planning on grilling these babies, but then I didnt feel like standing outside in the 110 degree heat, so I heated up my kitchen with the oven instead! Anyways, the mahi mahi turned out so good. Just the right amout of sweet and salty and spicy! The sauce was yummy, but could probably be scaled way down. I wrote out the measurements I used, but I had least half of the sauce left over.

I made the polenta fries from some polenta that I made earlier today from scratch that I let set up, then sliced into 1/2 inch slices. I plan on doing a whole entry just on polenta, so I will have the entire recipe there. These polenta fries were just fried in olive oil until crisp, then seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper and topped with parmesan cheese. Yummy! And the green beans were just steamed and tossed in butter, salt and pepper. What a great meal. Even Sam at every single bite, so that means it was a good one.

Hoisin Mahi Mahi

4 mahi mahi fillets, 1/2 inch thick
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 T sugar

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

Whisk together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, sesame oil and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Lightly brush the sauce onto both sides of the fish. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.