Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Not Your Mama's Rice Krispy Bars

Try my heart healthy version! They look...interesting hmm?

The photos was taken before they cooled and set.

So what's in 'em? I added 1/4 cup quinoa made with 1/2 cup coconut milk! I also mixed in 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds, and 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate chips (mini's would work, but I used the left over spring mix chocolate chips I had in the cupboard). Other than that, I followed the standard Rice Krispy Bar instructions on the marshmallow bag. Be sure you cook the quinoa first and let it cool. Mix quinoa with Rice Krispies, add Chia seeds & chocolate chips, then add the butter marshmallow mixture.

The end result? Less chewy, but still ooey gooey! Here's my Quinoa Crispies!

If you're thinking your littlest of eaters might be hesitant when they see those small black specks in their bar, note that I mistakenly poured more Chia seeds in than I had intended (more than the 2 tablespoons). So yours will have fewer visible seeds!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sour Cream Noodle Bake (sour being the key word)

Fail. This recipe is lacking in the flavor department. It was easy to prepare and didn't require a ton of ingredients (always a plus). And it was more than just edible, but really not worth making again. Too bland (as is).

Any ideas on what would really boost the flavor for this dish?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Skinny Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Yum. This is a pin worth repeating! Though, of course, I made a few enhancements that I think really made it enjoyable. Below are photos from the website the pin came from. 


And here are their ingredients:
1.5 lbs chicken (cooked & chopped or shredded)
1 can enchilada sauce
1/2 can corn
1/2 can black beans (rinsed)
1/2 cup chopped onions
4 low-carb tortillas
1.5 cups shredded cheese

They list a 1/2 can of corn...but I just used the small size can of corn. The style tortillas I had on hand were larger than the ones in the photo, so I only needed 3 (one and a half for each layer). The small amount of tortilla that sticks up on the side of the baking dish got a bit hard/crisp...and delicious! When placing the 1.5 cups of shredded cheese on the dish, it seemed like it might be a bit minimal, but it was actually just right. Their recipe called for beans and onions, which I omitted. I'm really not a fan of any sort of bean (unless you count vanilla bean & cocoa bean)! To make up for the lack of veggies, I topped the casserole with shredded lettuce and tons of juicy tomatoes. Maybe that helped keep the dish on the skinny side. But what I'm thinking really made the flavor of the dish was good enchilada sauce. I used, for the first time but not the last, the Chi-Chi's brand medium enchilada sauce.

The dish was great. Maybe it's because we didn't have a chance to eat dinner until 7:45 at night, or maybe it was just that good. Try it and you be the judge! And then let me know.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Take 2: Homemade Granola Bars

Well, did you try them yet? I'm definitely hooked. I tried them again (in less than a week)!

They tasted so great I figured I'd attempt to up the health factor. So this time 'round I added Chia seeds (which I forgot I had in the cupboard last time) to the Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars. The seeds are great for you and are basically tasteless (you wont even see them in the bar, they're so tiny). I also wanted to include Wheat Germ but that I did not have on hand (maybe next time).

When I was cutting the granola into bars, I reserved a small portion and chopped that up into bite size pieces.

Why? So I could top my morning yogurt (Vanilla Greek style) with it and/or to sprinkle on ice cream!

Speaking of sweet treats...I also made a special batch "for the kids". I figured that if mother nature wont bring us any signs of spring outside, I'll bring some spring inside with these colorful snacks:

For these Bunny Bars I added:

1 Cup Rice Crispies
1/2 Cup Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits (tiny marshmallows)

And topped them with the spring time semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Both the Rice Crispies & the mallow bits added a nice crunchiness.

Let me know what you add to yours!

Friday, March 14, 2014

One in the Hand is Worth...Another Shot

Not exactly a Pinterest fail, but definitely not as amazing as I had anticipated.

I made these as the recipe instructed and they turned out way cuter than their photos showed! They puffed up to be larger than I thought they would (which wasn't a bad thing), but they didn't hold as much of the "pie filling" as I'd hoped. I ended up with a lot of extra filling. The real issue though was that the taste was lacking. They were just bland. FYI - I used left-over rotisserie chicken.

If potpie is up your alley, I recommend trying them and adding your favorite seasoning/herbs...that's what I intend to do. I just have to figure out which seasoning/herbs to try...any ideas?

PS: The recipe made more than my family could eat, so I froze the rest and they heated up perfectly (slight thaw in the microwave, then in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes). My husband put a little butter on top, fresh out of the oven, to freshen up the biscuit crust.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Chocolate Style

How did you celebrate your second 29th birthday? Yes, you read that right. Well I threw myself a chocolate tasting party, following dinner out with friends! We started with strawberries, peanut butter filled pretzels and a chocolate fountain.

I love a good chocolate covered strawberry, but those peanut butter filled pretzels were drool worthy when dipped in chocolate!

After that "light snack" we moved into the dining room where it was all business.

A selection of 10 unique chocolates including some locally made, as well as domestic and foreign finds. Each started as a large bar and was broken into various bite sizes for sampling...and devouring (along with some wine). The best reviewed chocolate on the table that night was the BACON CHOCOLATE from Chicago. Chocolatey. Smokey. Bacony. Salty. Mmmmmy.

I have to say, having all those chocolate bars in the house, it was very hard not to pre-sample them in the days leading up to the party.

So anyway, when are you having a chocolate tasting and am I invited?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vintage Woodland Baby Shower

I'm not saying, I'm just saying...the photos don't do the event justice. I had a local florist create a flower arrangement accented with lace and twine, placed on a nice hardwood table with a lace burlap runner...but I forgot to take a photo!

Anyway, last month I put together a baby shower. And now the little bundle of love has arrived! Baby boy is a much loved young man. And so is his mother. And that is the point...don't overlook the mother when planning a baby shower! We greeted her with a custom handmade felt corsage (courtesy of Grandma-to-be) made to look like her favorite flower, Camellia.

Guests were welcomed with a walkway of "frozen balloons".


Believe it or not, I didn't go with blue simply because the baby was going to be a boy. I chose the blue color (which is a bit turquoise actually) because it is the mother's favorite color & it was going to be the paint color in the nursery.

Once inside everyone "signed the guest book" by placing a finger print (leaf) on the family tree (this was a family event) and signing their name on that leaf. The painting was also custom, done on canvas by another Grandmother-to-be. Aren't I a lucky gal to have such talented family?!


Guests were invited to partake in a mimosa bar (including a non-alcoholic version for the mother-to-be & anyone else who'd prefer it). They chose from OJ, Mango OJ, Pineapple OJ, and a California Sparkling White Wine as well as one from Spain, and sparkling cider. Garnished with a skewer of fresh blackberries & raspberries.

Part way through the day I noticed that not much of the juice was gone, and I thought that was odd being nearly everyone had a glass & some had more than one. Then it hit me, the champagne bottles were much less full!

My favorite decor item was the scrabble style baby blocks I had made on Etsy. They spelled out BABY BOY, but also when you turn them around they spell out the baby's last name! That way the baby can use them/have them up in his room as he gets older too.


Why scrabble? Scrabble is a bit of a family tradition, including being used creatively when the parents-to-be got engaged & when they announced they were pregnant!

We enjoyed a nice brunch including two types of mini quiche! And of course some sweets. I was lucky enough to have some experienced bakers in the family that helped make my ideas a reality!

The cookies are Sand Dollars, and that is relevant because the parents-to-be used to live in South Carolina and walk the beaches there collecting sand dollars. The balls are Buckeyes which is significant because the dad-to-be's family is from Ohio and that is the "Buckeye State". Plus they're simply delicious (peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate)! Like I stated earlier, make it about the mother-to-be. Special touches make it...special.

We played a couple silly games, but my favorites were the quiz style questionnaires. I did a little research by asking each parent-to-be a few questions like their favorite colors, ideal vacation, how many kids they wanted to have etc. I also asked the grandmothers-to-be to provide little known memories about the parents-to-be. Like things they were caught doing as toddlers, and at what age they reached milestones as babies etc. It was fun.

Then we hit up the mimosa bar & dessert tray before opening gifts. I happened to know that the parents-to-be were pretty much set as far as baby gear and clothes, so I thought books would be the next best thing for them to stock up on. On the invite I asked guests to consider purchasing a book instead of a greeting card, writing a neat note inside the book which would be seen each time the book was read as the child grew up.

Note the Darth Vader And Son book...I added a teeny bow tie as a gift to daddy-to-be who is a big Star Wars fan.

I also came across a cute print, done by a local illustrator, of animals marching along with books. I thought it could be hung in the nursery near the bookshelf.

-side note- The mother-to-be actually called me about a week before the shower and mentioned that they had most-everything they felt they needed and would love books if anyone was looking for gift ideas.

Now time for cake! I bet you're wondering where the woodland part of the theme is and perhaps why it's relevant. I didn't want to over do it with matchy-matchy store-bought cardboard garland with printed animals on it etc, so I took a more subtle approach with the stuffed owl next to the baby blocks, the family tree painting, the book print, and...the cake!

Is this not the most adorable baby shower cake? I like to call it a "Parents-to-be Cake". I was inspired by an image I saw on Pinterest of a similar cake that is called an Easter Cake. But instead that cake had one large nest hole in the middle and is filled with tons of tiny Robins Egg candies, and there are no birds on top.

No, I did not decorate nor bake this beauty. I'm more an idea gal. Once again, I'm lucky enough to have super talented people in my life. In this case, my neighbor. I told her what I wanted and showed her the birds & egg, and she knocked it out of the park! It was a delicious 3 layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. HOMEMADE cake & frosting! The mother-to-be is all about chocolate, and so were the guests (who isn't).

All in all, it was a good time had by all!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Homemade Granola Bars

I've never before considered making my own granola bars, but I'm so glad I did! They're easy to make, and can be as healthy as you'd like without having skimp on taste. After reviewing a few on Pinterest, I came up with two recipes for soft & chewy granola bars (one healthy-er, the other on the verge of sinful).

Let's start with the healthy-er version, which is also kid approved!

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars

2 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
1/3 Cup Whole Almonds (I chopped them into thirds)
1/3 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Pomegranate Craisins
1/4 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

Why did I pick these ingredients? Because I had them on hand, and that leads me to believe someone in the house will like whatever I make with them.

So, preheat your oven to 350. Add oats & nuts to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Stir then bake for an additional 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Place in a large mixing bowl.

Line a square pan with aluminum foil, lightly oil or spray to prevent sticking.

In a small saucepan, combine honey, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Cook & stir over medium-low heat until brown sugar dissolves and butter is melted. Add to bowl of oats, mix well. Stir in pomegranate & mini chocolate chips (they will melt into the oats helping to hold the bars together).

Pour mixture into lined square pan, press firmly with damp fingertips. Press, and dampen fingertips, repeatedly ensuring the bars stay together (and don't stick to your fingers). Cover pan and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. Remove from foil and cut into desired size bars.

And NOW for the more delectable version... PB Scotch Chip Granola Bars

I used the same process as above, but with a few different ingredients. Peanut butter (in the saucepan mixture) instead of almonds, and butterscotch chips instead of pomegranate. Be sure to reserve some of the butterscotch & mini chocolate chips to sprinkle on top! Don't forget to press firmly & repeatedly. Refrigerate for 3 hours (a bit longer than the other recipe).

You might want to hide these (from yourself). They'll go fast!

2 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
1/3 Cup Honey
1 Large Spoonful of Peanut Butter (I used the kind with Omega-3 in it)
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Butterscotch Chips (freeze & reserved 1/3 of them to sprinkle on top)
1/4 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips (freeze & reserved 1/3 of them to sprinkle on top)

PS: I hope to have better quality photos in my next post. These were taken with my "old" iPad.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mini Caramel Apples

Did you try this one? It was all over Pinterest this fall. It called for a melon baller, and had you soak the apple minis in lemon water so they didn't turn brown. Some had you remove all of the peel.

Here are my tried and tested results:


Cute right? For my version I used both Honey Crisp & Sweet Tango apples. I do not own a melon baller. I do own metal measuring spoons. So I chose the size spoon that fit the mini cupcake liners I had in a drawer. They cut into and scooped the apple perfectly. I didn't soak the apples because it's really not necessary (they're going to be covered in caramel and eaten within hours). I left the skin on because I simply think it looks nicer with that pop of natural apple color, and it might also help keep the stick in. Speaking of the stick...I had cake pop sticks, in that same drawer as the mini cupcake liners, and cut them in half AT AN ANGLE. Use that angled end to insert into the mini apple. BEFORE you even consider dipping in caramel, make sure you have patted the apple dry (maybe pat each one, then go back and do it again). This will help ensure the caramel doesn't run. Apply candies/toppings immediately after dipping each mini apple.

They were a big hit with all ages! I served them at my son's 1st birthday party (which was apple themed). I also did an appetizer tray of seasonal items:


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Bite and Switch

The famed Pinterest photo of something that looks delicious which turns out to be something else all together. Ever come across a Pin with a photo from a recipe that has been altered so many times (from the original recipe) you're not sure why they even included THAT photo? Here's my most recent find:

Mmm, right? Well it turns out THESE "chocolate chip balls" are actually, once you find the real source, "Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls" made with ingredients you don't often have on hand (raw cashews & agave). Many Pinners took this image and posted their own recipe (something that included chocolate chips & oats). Some were boasting cookie dough flavor without the raw eggs, others were promoting a healthy-er alternative to cookies.

HERE is what my version looks like, I call them "Monkey Bites", and the healthy-ish recipe:

I know, not so glamorous right? Well I had all the ingredients already in the cupboard, and it turns out the kids love them! I on the other hand thought they were just okay. You definitely taste the banana, and the butterscotch makes it worth eating. Here's the recipe...

-2 ripe bananas
-1 cup quick oats
-1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
-1/4 cup butterscotch chips
-2 large spoonfuls of peanut butter

Mix well with a mixer. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool. Store in freezer. Believe it or not, they are better out of the freezer verses fresh out of the oven.