Sunday, July 31, 2011

Zucchini-Cranberry Bread

It's been a very long couple of weeks, and my time in the kitchen has been minimal to say the least. I've missed cooking and baking more than is probably considered sane or normal, but's kind of "my thing", ya know? :) So, this weekend I finally had a chance to re-familiarize myself with my lonely kitchen, and boy-oh-boy did I give it a good workout!! 

I've never made any type of bread-loaf before, so I decided to try my hand at a variation of zucchini bread that I found on the Food Network website. I was a little nervous because I wasn't even sure that I would like a bread that contained any vegetable - even though I do love zucchini. But alas, my worries were unnecessary - it turned out fantastic!! Sweet, but not too sweet and I really couldn't even taste the zucchini. 
Just look at the pretty loaf!

Zucchini-Cranberry Bread
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (I used cream cheese)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed dry
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or three 6-by-3-inch mini pans.
  2. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the dried cranberries and walnuts.
  3. Whisk the eggs, melted butter, yogurt, vanilla and orange zest (if using) in a medium bowl. Stir in the shredded zucchini. Fold the zucchini mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan(s). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes for a standard loaf or 35 to 40 minutes for mini loaves. Cool 30 minutes in the pan(s) on a rack, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Recipe Swap - Barbecue Pulled Chicken

This month's recipe swap was Chicken, and I received this recipe from Nichole at The Cookaholic Wife. I had to do a bit of planning ahead since this one needed to be in the crockpot for 6-8 hours, and I was on vacation for a week (including the weekend), but I managed to get it done just in time! I'm not sure if I picked up some super hot chiles or what, but the end result was SUPER spicy!! Not necessarily a bad thing, but I wasn't quite expecting that. I served them on Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, so the sweetness helped neutralize the spice a little bit.

Barbecue Pulled Chicken
Source: The Cookaholic Wife
2 lbs chicken thighs
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. tomato sauce
4 oz. green chiles
2 tbs. honey
3 tbs. cider vinegar
1 tbs. tomato paste
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs. paprika
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder

  1. Trim the chicken of all fat.
  2. In the crock pot, add all of the other ingredients and stir well.
  3. Add the chicken to the crock pot and spoon sauce over chicken.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the chicken falls apart.
  5. Serve on toasted rolls or hamburger buns.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sesame-Orange Shrimp

So, first I want to preface this post by apologizing for the less-than-adequate photo. I am without my good camera for a bit, and am trying to make do with my old digital for the time being. This dish was just too delicious for me not to share, and I only wish that the photo did it justice. I will make the dish again soon and update the picture, I promise!!

Now, about the dish itself...the flavors are delightful and while it was easy to prep, it was a bit time consuming since I had to cook the shrimp in several batches to ensure they did not stick together. That, and I somehow managed to give myself a second-degree steam burn on right pointer finger. *sigh*

Other than my blistering mishap, the meal came out delicious and I will definitely be making it again!! These little guys packed a flavorful punch!!

Sesame-Orange Shrimp
Source: Eating Well

  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds (white, black or a mix)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp 
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  1. Whisk sesame seeds, egg whites, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add half the shrimp and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the rest of the shrimp.
  3. Add orange juice, sherry, soy sauce and sugar to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced by half, 4 to 6 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce

I cooked dinner for my friend, T, the other night and it's a shame that K had to miss out on this one. It was delicious!! The tomatillo sauce for the chicken was the perfect complement to the cumin, and the accompanying chipotle rice completed the meal perfectly. I will definitely be making this again!! T loved it as well, and even took leftovers to work for lunch!

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce
Source: (originally from Cooking Light, May 2009 issue)

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 pound tomatillos
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Discard husks and stems from tomatillos. Combine tomatillos and broth in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cover and cook 8 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Combine tomatillos, cilantro, and next 6 ingredients (through jalapeño) in a food processor; process until smooth.
  4. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Serve with tomatillo sauce.
Chipotle rice:

  • I cup long-grain rice
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
  1. Combine rice and chicken broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.
  2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Stir in green onions minced chipotle chile and serve. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Recipe Swap: Blackberry-Peach Sorbet

The theme for this week's recipe swap was Dessert, and I LOVE dessert!! I received a recipe from Colleen at Does Not Cook Well With Others for Peach Blackberry Soup. The ingredients all looked and sounded good, but I just couldn't imagine myself or K eating any type of soup for dessert, so I decided to adapt the recipe into a sorbet instead!!

I'd never made sorbet (or ice cream) before, so I decided to search around the internet for sorbet recipes to see if there were any key ingredients that I would need to add to the recipe. Turns out there were only 3 - sugar, water, and white corn syrup. Easy enough! The only thing I would change for this recipe is to omit the honey. It was too much sweet combined with the sugar (if you can imagine that being possible) and the honey was a bit overpowering to the rest of the flavors. Other than that, the texture came out great, especially since I do not own an ice cream maker!!

Peach Blackberry Sorbet
Adapted from: Does Not Cook Well With Others


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup white grape juice
1 cinnamon stick

2 pounds fresh, under ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh blackberries
3 tbsp honey

2 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup white corn syrup


1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, without stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Combine the grape juice, peaches, blackberries and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick. Cool to room temperature.

3. Puree the peach mixture along with the syrup mixture, in batches if necessary, until smooth. Press the puree mixture through a strainer to remove the seeds.

4. Pour the strained, puree mixture into a large freezer-safe container (preferably one that has a lid). Stir in honey, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the corn syrup and stir well.

5. Put in freezer until soft frozen. Serve with mint sprigs and fresh blackberries.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's Baking: Roasted Raspberry & Chipotle Cheesecake with Lemon Glaze

This month's What's Baking theme, hosted by Lindsey at Our Share of the Harvest, was Something Local. I wasn't quite sure what that meant at first, but Lindsey was kind enough to explain that we just had to use some ingredient (or ingredients) that are produced or grown locally. Easy enough, right? Hmm...not so much for me. But I enlisted the help of a friend, who directed me towards Fischer and Weiser's Roasted Raspberry & Chipotle Sauce (produced in Fredericksburg, TX) - and what better way to incorporate that than in a cheesecake?!?!

I was a little cautious, as we have had some brownies with ancho chiles delivered to our office before and everyone hated them, so I didn't want to let the chipotle flavor overrun the rest. Somehow I was successful! The creaminess of the cheesecake combined with the lemon frosting were enough to offset the spiciness of the chipotle, and the flavors all meshed very well together! Everyone at work loved it, and I had fun experimenting with this new recipe!

Roasted Raspberry & Chipotle Cheesecake with Lemon Glaze
A Sweet Beginnings' Original Recipe



6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch fine salt


12 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces (1/2 cup) sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup raspberry chipotle sauce

Icing :

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp Lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1. Mix crust ingredients together and press evenly into the bottom of a 9 in spring-form pan. Refrigerate while preparing the filling.

2. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.

3. Pour the filling into the crust. With a spoon, drip raspberry chipotle sauce in circles all over the top of the cheesecake, then use a toothpick to swirl the sauce into the cheesecake (in a pretty design if you’d like.)

4. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the oven and let cool.

5. Mix icing ingredients together, and spread on top of the cheesecake once cooled.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spinach & Egg White Frittata

I have mentioned before that I'm not a big breakfast person, and when I do make breakfast it is usually pancakes and bacon for K. Well, I decided to try something a little more healthy for a change and this frittata from The Novice Chef seemed like the perfect place to start!

I am always a little hesitant to cook with only egg whites, because they can lack in flavor at times, but this dish turned out pretty tasty! I used goat cheese instead of feta and I'm not sure if that was my best substitution as the goat cheese is a little pungent, but it was still good!!

Spinach & Egg White Frittata

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 very full cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons fat free milk
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Heat olive oil in a non stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Then carefully stir in green onions, cherry tomatoes, and the spinach mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture into your pre-greased dish. Sprinkle goat cheese along the top and add a little sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until center is set . Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then serve.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Recipe Swap - Cheesy Enchilada Casserole

This week's recipe swap theme was Mexican, and I got this recipe for Cheese Enchilada Casserole from Alida of Alida's Kitchen. It was very easy to make, with only a few ingredients, and although I would definititely increase the amount of cheese (at least double), it tasted really good! I'm not usually a fan of cheese enchiladas, I prefer beef or chicken, but these were good enough to be put into rotation - you should try them!

Cheesy Enchilada Casserole
  • 1 cup (8 oz) fat free cottage cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup taco sauce
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 9 6" corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. Mix first 6 ingredients, through chili powder, in bowl.  [This step can be done in advance]
  3. Place 3 corn tortillas in baking dish.  Top tortillas with 1/2 of cheese mixture.  Repeat.  Top final layer with 3 corn tortillas. 
  4. Pour taco sauce over tortillas and top with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Bars

During the Spring, I took a Technical Writing course and we had to create an instruction manual. A "how-to" of sorts. I had to think for awhile about what I could possibly instruct someone else to do.

I hadn't yet started my blog, so I didn't have a lot of recipes or any pictures to use, but I decided that a how-to manual for making a cake would work perfectly for the project!! Now, keep in mind that this was also before I started making cakes from scratch, so the recipe calls for boxed cake mix and canned frosting - but those can easily be substituted for your favorite homemade variety!

They turned out super moist and quite delicious. My co-workers gobbled them up, and K & I had our fair share as well. And I got an "A" on the assignment, to boot! WIN!

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Bars
A Sweet Beginnings' Original Recipe

  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix (any variety)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 2 - 21oz cans of cherry pie filling
  • 1 container of cheesecake frosting
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray your baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Crack the eggs into the mixing bowl and whisk.
  3. Add the cake mix, 1 ½ cans of the cherry pie filling, and chocolate chips, if desired. Use the mixer to combine all ingredients.
  4. Spread the batter into the pan and put in the oven for 40 minutes (until toothpick inserted comes out clean).
  5. While the mix is baking, mix the remaining ½ can of cherry pie filling with the container of cheesecake icing.
  6. When the cake is done baking, remove it from the oven and allow to cool completely, approximately 1 hour. Once cooled, remove from the pan and lay on foil to apply the frosting. Apply frosting liberally, and then cut to your preferred bar size.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chicken Roll-ups

As I said yesterday, I wanted to keep this long weekend simple and relaxing...and me in the kitchen for minimal amounts of time so I could be with K before he leaves on a work trip. Saturday night was a UFC fight - and if you haven't heard already, K and I never miss a UFC fight. I made these chicken roll-ups back in April and we both really enjoyed them. I made a few changes from the last time, but that's just me making them more and more my own!

Chicken Roll-ups 
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup pineapple (or orange) juice
  • 1 Tbsp hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground comino
  • 1 tsp minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2/3 cup beer
  • 6 flour tortillas
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro leaves
  • red pepper sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella - whatever you like)
  • Guacamole or sour cream to dip in, if you'd like 
Creamy Red Pepper Sauce
  • 4 Tbs Cream Cheese
  • 3 Tbs Reduced-fat mayo or miracle whip
  • 3-4 roasted red peppers from 7 ½ oz jar, drained well
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in food processor until well-blended.


1.   Mix pineapple juice, pepper sauce, vinegar, garlic, oregano, cumin and onion together in a blender.
2.   Heat oil in a skillet or pan (that has a lid) over medium-high heat, add chicken and sear each side.
3.   Pour beer and juice mixture over chicken, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 20 -30 minutes.
4.   Remove chicken to a bowl and using two forks shred the chicken.
5.   In the meantime, turn the heat to medium-high and continuing cooking the sauce until it reduces and thickens enough to coat the chicken.
6.   Pour the sauce over the chicken and mix.
7.   Heat your tortillas until slightly crispy on each side. Spread red pepper sauce on each tortilla, then layer with chicken, shredded cheese, and cilantro. Cut in half and serve with dipping sauce of your choice.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


For this 4th of July weekend, I decided not to try anything fancy or new on the menu so that we could just have a relaxing weekend. K will be going out of town for work on the 5th for 4 days so I want to spend some time with him before he goes.

I don't have very many repeat recipes on my menu, not because I don't have ones that are worthy but rather because I am always looking for and trying new ones. This one however, I am still trying to perfect. If you've been following me for awhile, you may remember that I have tried to make this dish a couple of times, but I'm still trying to get the meat sliced thin enough. Well, this time I think we got pretty stinkin' close. Hallelujah. The broth tasted good, and the texture seemed right. I'm not sure I will ever be able to make it quite as good as Yoshinoya in Japan does, but I will try to get it as close as  possible!!

For some additional prep pictures see the original post here.


  • 4 cups cooked plain Japanese rice (long grain white rice works fine...just cook completely and let it sit to get sticky)
  • 1 lb thinly sliced beef
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 1/3 cu Dashi
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sake

  1. Cook rice
  2. Slice onion thinly
  3. Cut beef very thin, in bite-sized pieces
  4. Make Dashi (as directed on package)
  5. Put Dashi, soy sauce, sugar, mirin & sake in a pan
  6. Add onion slices and simmer for a few minutes
  7. Add beef and simmer for a couple of minutes - do not overcook!
  8. Serve beef mixture over hot rice 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crunchy Asiago Chicken Bites

Today is a good day. It's Friday, the start of the 4th of July weekend, and I got out of work at noon. Who could ask for a better start to a long holiday weekend? K is off on Fridays so I was excited to get home and spend some extra time with him. We don't get to have lunch together during the week ever, so I decided to whip us up a quick lunch as soon as I got home. I saw these chicken bites on How Sweet It Is awhile back, and thought they would make a great weekend lunch - and since we started the weekend early, what better lunch to have?? Chicken bites dipped in crunchy panko mixed with asiago cheese, baked to golden perfection, and then dipped in tangy honey-mustard sauce...yes please!! If I wasn't so full I would have already finished off the rest of the batch.

Crunchy Asiago Chicken Bites with Honey Mustard Sauce
Source: How Sweet It Is

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup seasoned regular bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup flour (any is fine, I used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated asiago cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. 2-24 hours before serving, cut chicken breasts into nugget-like chunks. Season with the salt and pepper then add to a bowl and pour buttermilk over top. Let soak for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to bake, heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then lay a wire rack on top and spray with non-stick spray. Add honey and mustard to a bowl and mix, then set aside. Add bread crumbs, flour, cheese, garlic powder and paprika to a bowl and mix thoroughly. Remove each nugget directly from the buttermilk to the bread crumb mixture and coat, then set on the wire rack. Repeat with the rest, then spritz each nugget with olive oil or non-stick spray. I usually just use Pam because I like the “spritz” it gives.
  3. Bake for 7 minutes, then remove pan from oven and gently flip each nugget with kitchen tongs and spritz again with oil or spray. Bake for 7 minutes more, then serve hot with honey mustard.

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