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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pulled Chicken Chili

Ben and I were going to make dinner last night, but those plans got derailed due to a need to return some Christmas gifts. (Ben ended up with great stuff he would have never bought it was a very successful return.) So tonight I decided that we'd make something, invent a recipe based off of a few others and have a delicious dinner.

This pulled chicken chili is based off of a Chipotle-Black Bean Chili from Cooking Light. I knew that Ben would need some meat in this meal, beans and tomatoes may hold me over, but Ben would be hungry in 10 minutes. So I wanted to add chicken. I love that pulled chicken texture (in my Mom's chicken soup she chunks the chicken in to hearty pulled mouthfuls) and this was what I thought would put this Chili over the top, make it that extra something special. Mouthfuls of chili soaked chicken, juicy and yummy.

Pulled Chicken Chili

1/2 tsp olive oil
2/3 cup diced onions
1 diced bell pepper*
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 chicken breasts, boneless skinless
3 tbs chipotle salsa
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with the liquid
1/2 cup chicken broth OR water
1 15 oz can black beans, drained
1 4.5 oz can diced green chilies, drained
Cilantro, to taste

*We used a yellow bell pepper, any color you prefer will work.

In a medium sized pot, heat the oil and add in the diced onion. Let cook until translucent. Add the bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, salsa, and tomatoes. Bring this mixture to a boil (if you want your chili extra spicy like I do add the cayenne pepper in with the other spices.)

Meanwhile, salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Place the chicken in the pot with the tomato mixture and let simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. The liquid in the pot should cover the chicken. If it does not, you then need to add the chicken broth or water. This is so that the chicken cooks evenly in the liquid. The amount will depend on what size pot you use and how thick your chicken breasts are. We used about 1/2 a cup. Let simmer uncovered.

Remove the chicken from the pot and shred with two forks. Add the beans, green chiles and the chicken back in. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Right before serving, toss in a bit of chopped cilantro. Stir to combine and then ladle into bowls.

You can serve the chili on top of some white rice or sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top. Plain's good too!

Ben and I both went back for seconds. This is a must make. So good!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Almost every other day I search through all of my favorite blogs to read the new posts that everyone has put up. Last week I saw this post for Chocolate Peppermint Bark and really wanted to try it. I was not sure when I would fit it in, considering I have all my cookies for Christmas and Hanukkah ready to go. I love bringing something to the celebrations I go to, however I don't like overwhelming people, bring too much. I thought that it would be OK if I made a batch and spread it out. I gave some to my roommate to bring home to her family, and I'm bringing some over tonight to Christmas Eve at Ben's house, so I think everyone will appreciate it.

This recipe was very easy to make and tasted good. What could go wrong with white chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and peppermint? It's a nice little treat that any chocolate lover will enjoy.

The one thing that I would do next time I make this is either use a bigger tray to let the chocolate set or use less chocolate. Mine came out very thick and I think it would just be better a bit thinner. Other than that no complaints.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

3 12 oz packages white chocolate chips
3 12 oz packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
30 starlight peppermints

First unwrap the peppermints and place them in a zip lock bag. Crush with a rolling pin until they are small chunks.

The original recipe has you melting chocolate over a double boiler, I just popped both bowls in the microwave for about 2 minutes for this quantity of chocolate. I made sure to melt it just until the chips look gooey then I stirred the chocolates until they were smooth.

Blog on a wax paper lined cookie sheet mine was 11 x 15. Swirl with a knife until you get your desired look of the chocolate. Sprinkle the chocolate with the peppermint and let it cool at room temperature. Mine took about an hour and a half to harden. I cut the bark into pieces with a knife and placed it in cellophane bags to pass out.

Easy, good and pretty. Perfect holiday treat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa and Chicken

So I wanted to try Quinoa, and I've wanted to try it for a while, but I was told all the healthy benefits of eating it and decided it was time. I looked up a few different recipes online and figured out that roasting some vegetables and mixing it with the quinoa would be the best first try of the grain. (Technically it is not a grain and is from the spinach/swiss chard family.)


1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 onion
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 orange pepper
6 or 7 small tomatoes, cut in half

First you need to rinse the quinoa, just by soaking it in water for a little. Bring the water to a boil in a small sauce pan, add the quinoa and leave it uncovered for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. While the quinoa is cooking place the vegetables (skin side up) on a greased pan under the broiler. It will take 5-10 minutes until the vegetable start to brown, take them out and chop into about 1 inch pieces. Our tomatoes had to come out before the rest of the vegetables, but just watch them. Once the quinoa is cooked add the veggies, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir until combined and plate.

We ate this with just some sauteed chicken breasts with salt, pepper, chyanne pepper and oregano.

Quinoa is good. The texture was very interesting a little crunchy but creamy too, there was not a lot of taste to the quinoa, but the roasted vegetables and the chicken defiantly made it a good meal. Would I make it again, yes. Would I find a recipe to incorporate more flavors, yes. With all the health benefits it's kind of hard to argue with eating just have to bump up the flavors of the other things you are pairing this with.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Trays, Bags, Boxes & Tins

Finally it's that time of year. I can hand out my cookies to my co-workers and family. I spend the majority of Sunday stacking, packing and organizing cookies to be mail, dropped off and given away. It was a lot of hard work but everything came out great. These cookies have all had been made previously and frozen to keep them good.

The cookie "trees" as my co-workers call them were bagged and tied up with a bow and a card and left on their desks this morning. Each held 11 different kinds of cookies. Everyone loved them. If you want to try to do these on a smaller scale, pick 3 or 4 different kinds of cookies and make a lot of each. It's a great way to show your appreciation of the people you spend about 8 hours a day 5 days a week with.

Don't forget the other office. I packed up and shipped off a box of cookies to our St. Cloud office so they could participate in the holiday cheer.

The next thing that got packed up (and put back in the freezer for next week) was a tin of cookies for Ben's family on Christmas Eve and two trays of cookies.

Each tray will be going to each side of Ben's family, a Christmas tray for his mom's side and a Hanukkah tray for his dad's.

Everything came out great and I gave the extra cookies to my roommate and her boyfriend and a few were left over thankfully to give to the boys for Sunday football. It was hard work but I can't explain how good it makes me feel inside to do this, I can't wait until next year. I'll plan to do it bigger and better.

I love doing this every year, and hope someday that I start taking orders and have my own bakery so I can make cookies and make people smile all year round. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Spicy Chicken Soup

Ben and I made our first dinner at my new apartment. It was spicy, yummy and quick. A perfect mid-week dinner.

To figure out what we wanted Ben and I listed the things that we were craving. I said I wanted spicy, Ben said soup, I asked chicken? and Ben agreed. I then searched for something that would match our key words on Cooking Light's website. Low and behold we found Spicy Chicken Soup!

Spicy Chicken Soup

3 Tbsp chipotle salsa with adobo sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium to small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno without seeds, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cups cooked chicken breast strips
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, chicken broth
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 can whole-kernel corn with sweet peppers, drained

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, onions, jalapeno, and cumin; saute 4 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Stir in salsa, chicken, broth, tomatoes, and corn. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

We grated some reduced fat cheddar cheese over the top, with some crackers on the side it was a fabulous dinner. This recipe makes 4 servings of 2 cups.

So this dinner takes about 15 minutes to put together but tastes like it simmered all day, the flavors are so good and spicy. This soup warmed us up on a chilly fall night. (The cooking light nutrition facts are about 350 calories, 11 grams fat, and 40 grams protein.) Ben reheated the extra for lunch and it was just as good the second time around.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Ok, one last cookie for the co-workers. This is it because I will be putting together the bags tomorrow. I decided to go with the tried and true Snickerdoodle.

Most of the recipes for Snickerdoodles that I have ever made have cream of tartar as one of the leavening agents, having just moved into my new apartment I have not yet fully stocked my cabinets. I decided to do a little searching to see if a recipe existed without cream of tartar. I feel upon one from Food Network that seemed great. It used corn syrup, which I do have so it was perfect.

Warning with this recipe, it says that it makes 35 to 40, however I got over 50 cookies so I would next time half the recipe unless you need to feed a lot of people.



3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Stir together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a bowl with a paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add the sugar and continue to mix, then add the eggs one at a time, corn syrup, and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Chill dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll balls of dough about the size of a walnut then roll them in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Place on a sheet pan 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until puffed up and the surface is slightly cracked. Let cool on the sheet pan a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

I liked these better than regular snickerdoodles with cream of tartar, it was the addition of the corn syrup, I think. Everyone will love them!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ultimate Triple Chocolate Cookies

I found this recipe on a few different blogs, and thought that this would be the icing on the cake for my holiday cookie bags that I will be giving out to my co-workers. I did change it a but here is the original recipe from Ghirardelli.

Each new apartment and place that I live I have to get used to the oven and this new oven is hot! I've lightly burned some bottoms of a few different cookies, but just like the new noises, the heat system and the water pressure every oven is different and it takes trial and error. A few of these cookies went in the trash, but I think my oven is about 25 degrees hot. I will list all the recipes at the original temperature that is listed on the recipe and not what I'm personally baking these cookies at. The other huge issue I have is that growing up we had a gas cook tops and electric ovens, so that's obviously what I'm used to. I really hate electric cook tops and gas ovens but until I get to build my own kitchen I'm suck with whatever my landlord wants.

These (besides the oven temperature issue) came out great. They look wonderful, yummy and so chocolaty.

Ultimate Triple Chocolate Cookies

11 1/2 ounce Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
12 ounce Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup White Chocolate Chips

In double boiler over hot water, melt bittersweet chocolate chips and butter. In large bowl with electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until thick; stir into chocolate mixture.

In small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder; fold into the chocolate mixture. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chips and walnuts. Place bowl in the refigerator for an hour to harden the dough before baking. (The original recipe calls for forming it into logs and then slicing, however the dough was way too wet to roll into logs. I would suggest just cooling it down in the bowl and then dropping the cookies instead of slicing them.) Heat oven to 375°F.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until shiny crust forms on top but interior is still soft. Cool on baking sheet.

Everyone will love them, they are intensely chocolaty and rich but so good!

Monday, December 8, 2008

M&M Cookies

I'm coming up to an end of Holiday cookies (hopefully) I think I will be handing out my cookie bags to my co-workers next week and this is one of the last cookies that they will receive. Don't worry though I have Hannukah and Christmas cookie baskets that will need to be ready in the week after next, so don't worry there will be more recipes from me.

Last year I included an M&M cookie and I wanted to again this year, I think it's because when I was little I used to love getting these from the bakery. It was my favorite. I would eat the cookie around the M&M and save the M&M bites for last. The M&M cookies that I remember were more like sugar cookies, dense and a little hard. These did not come out that way, they were more like chocolate chip cookies but with M&Ms. They were good, just not exactly what I wanted, so I'm still on the look out for my perfect M&M cookie. I got the recipe from a fellow Blogger.

M&M Cookies

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups M&Ms

In a bowl with an electric mixer cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. Add in the vanilla and then the dry ingredients until smooth. Pour in 3/4 cup M&Ms.

Scoop onto cookie sheets and bake for 9 to 11 minutes at 350 degrees. Once scooped press a few M&Ms into the tops of the cookies. Bake and enjoy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I make cookie bags for my co-workers for the holidays, last year they loved them and this year I tried to find new recipes to impress them. I found this one, it was so simple to make and is a good basic cookie, nothing mind shattering, but good and simple and sometimes that is just perfect.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In an electric mixer mix the flour cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. While on a low speed add the butter and the egg, continue mixing until dough comes together in a ball.

Scoop (I used a large ice cream scoop) and place on the baking sheets about 2 inches a part, these will spread. With slightly moist hands flatten the tops of the dough. Bake for about 9-14 minutes (depending on size of cookies) your cookies should just start to be firming when you want to take them out.

Take off your baking sheet and place on a cooling rack.

This recipe is a great chocolate base cookie, would be fabulous as a ice cream sandwich cookie, or dusted with powdered sugar to make them sparkle. I can't wait to include these in the cookie trees this year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Fudge

Thanksgiving II is tomorrow, and I made candy. Thanksgiving II was created by Ben's roommate and his friends, it's the thanksgiving with your friends: laughing, eating and drinking. A pot luck of everything and anything, your ticket in is bringing something homemade.

I'm excited, and I know Ben is really excited about Thanksgiving II (Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday because of the good food) so a second day of gluttony I bet will be Ben's second favorite holiday.

I found this recipe all over the internet, different blogs had slightly different ingredients, however I went with this one from a blog that I frequently go to. The verdict so far is "amazing and really good" one even from someone who doesn't like pumpkin or sweets that much. So I'm excited to give these as part of the pot luck and share in the joy of Thanksgiving II.

Oh one more note, I moved and this is the first thing I made in my new kitchen. YAY!

Pumpkin Pie Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 generous cup canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
9 oz white chocolate, chopped
7 oz jar marshmallow cream (fluff)
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir together first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees. I did not have or own a candy thermometer so I looked at other recipes for similar fudge and it said that this stage should take 12-20 minutes. I went about 15 and the texture seemed correct.

Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining ingredients until well blended (stirring this is a work-out!). Pour into a greased aluminum foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Let stand 2 hours or until completely cool cut fudge into squares. Fudge will last a week or two in an air tight container, but I know this will not last past tomorrow night.

It's a keeper. :)