Thursday, April 21, 2011

slow cooker fajitas

Oh. my. goodness.  These fajitas are so good!  And, they are made in the slow cooker.  Don't you just love foods that are both easy to make and delicious to eat?

Start with three bell peppers, and pick out different colors (makes it pretty)!  I made things easy this time around and cooked the peppers in the slow cooker with the meat.  Another option would be to leave them out and then saute them right before serving (we actually prefer this option - we like them a bit crisp-tender).

The peppers and some sliced onion go on the bottom of the slow cooker (or just sliced onion if you are cooking the peppers separately)...

followed by strips of sirloin steak (or chicken breast!) and a can of Rotel...

...and then all of the seasonings!

Cover and cook the whole bit on low for 8-9 hours, or until the meat is tender.  It will smell so good.

Serve in tortillas with a dollop of sour cream.  You'll love them!

Slow Cooker Fajitas
3 bell peppers, each a different color
1 onion, sliced
2 lbs. boneless beef sirloin steaks OR 2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into strips
1 can Rotel
few shakes of liquid smoke (optional)
2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. lime juice
1 t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Place peppers and onion in a slow cooker.  Top with the beef and the remaining ingredients.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours.  Serves 8.

Note: Another excellent option is to leave the peppers out and saute them separately right before serving.

Nutrition (beef): 264 calories, 11g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 82mg cholesterol, 363mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 34g protein, 5% vit. A, 85% vit. C, 4% calcium, 13% iron.

Nutrition (chicken): 150 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 367mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 27g protein, 5% vit. A, 87% vit. C, 2% calcium, 6% iron.

Monday, April 18, 2011

mini liqueur cheesecakes

These are definitely "adult" cheesecakes. :-)  Delicately laced with liqueur, these have a fabulous yet subtle flavor that is especially enhanced when drizzled with dark chocolate sauce.  They are the perfect individual desserts for your next gathering!

I can't take credit for the idea...I found a recipe for Baby Grand Marnier Cheesecakes over at Tasty Kitchen and just had to try them.  I modified the recipe a bit by halving it and using currant liqueur instead of grand marnier.  Here are my reflections on the process.

The recipe seems complicated, but it's not.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.  You start out by preheating the oven with a plain old empty cake pan on the bottom rack.

While the oven is preheating, you whip up the cheesecake filling.  I dumped all ingredients in my blender and just let 'er rip.  I was especially excited about the prospect of using my currant liqueur.  I've been thinking about what other flavors would taste good...maybe cherry cordial?  thick wine like Madeira?  Yum!

You also need to mix up the crust.  This is a great job for a child...or a husband. :-)

Press the crumb crust into the bottom of your muffin pan.  Silicone pans really work well here because the finished product just pops right out.

Then you fill up the muffin tins with your filling.  I admit that I actually filled too many!  I thought perhaps the filling would expand, but it didn't.  I'm wishing I had made fewer cheesecakes with more filling...just an afterthought.

When they are ready to go in the oven, pour a kettle of boiling water into that preheated pan.  Then, put the cheesecakes on the middle rack in the oven.  They only need to bake for about 15-20 minutes, and then they'll need to set in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.

I was a bit skeptical of the finished product, but after one taste I was hooked!  These are such a cute dessert, and they keep my portion size small (a major plus).  The addition of chocolate sauce and berries just put them over the top.  And did I mention that you can just freeze leftovers and bust them out when you have a special occasion? 

You should go check out the original recipe.  You can get a printable here on Tasty Kitchen, but go check out the original blog post as well.  This blogger makes cheesecakes professionally and provides lots of tricks of the trade.  She's also just got a beautiful blog!  Go there...get the recipe...make

Easter Cookies and Goodies

Link up your Easter dessert recipes here!  And don't forget to check out my co-hosts, Kristen at From My Tiny Kitchen and Tina at Mom's Crazy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

spinach mushroom enchiladas

I'm generally a meat-and-potatoes girl, but if anything were to convert me to vegetarianism, these enchiladas could do it.  Spinach and mushrooms are an absolutely perfect combo, and the sour cream sauce is to die for.  I haven't quite figured out how to make these low-fat yet...using skim milk doesn't work nearly as well as cream...but this is a delicious meal that uses only real ingredients (and I call that healthy!).

Begin by dicing two jalapenos...remember to wash your hands afterward!

 Saute the jalapenos with two cups of sliced mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter.  Cook and stir until mushrooms are tender.

Add a teaspoon of cumin and 10 ounces of fresh spinach, stirring until the spinach is wilted.

For the sauce, combine 1 cup of cream (recommended) and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a small saucepan and mix well.  You could try milk here, but the sauce won't be as thick.

Add 16 ounces of sour cream, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, a dash of red pepper, and cilantro to taste. Cook and stir on medium high heat until mixture comes to a boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring continually.  Remove from the heat and add 2 ounces (2 slices) of Monterrey Jack cheese.  Stir until melted.

 Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and put 1/2 cup of the milk mixture in the bottom.

Prepare 12 corn tortillas (microwave for 1 minute inside a paper towel).  Fill tortillas with about 1/3 cup of spinach/mushroom mixture and place seam side down in dish. 

Pour the rest of the sour cream sauce over the top of the enchiladas...yum!

Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and garnish with cilantro. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned.  Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

This recipe makes about 12 enchiladas (6 servings).  They go wonderfully with refried beans and Spanish rice.  Sometimes I like to make extra sour cream sauce to pour over the top just before serving.

Spinach Mushroom Enchiladas
2 jalapenos, diced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 T. butter
2 t. cumin, divided
10 oz. fresh spinach
1 cup cream (recommended) or milk
1 T. cornstarch
16 oz. sour cream
1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
dash red pepper
cilantro to taste
2 oz (or 2 slices) Monterrey Jack cheese
12 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded Mozzarella

Saute mushroom slices and jalapenos in butter until tender.  Add 1 teaspoon cumin and spinach; stir until wilted.

In a small saucepan, mix cream and cornstarch.  Add sour cream, 1 teaspoon cumin, chili powder, salt, red pepper, and cilantro.  Cook and stir on medium high heat until mixture comes to a boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring continually.  Remove from the heat and add Monterrey Jack cheese; stir until melted.

Prepare corn tortillas by microwaving for 1 minute inside a paper towel.  Spray a baking dish and put 1/2 cup of the milk mixture in the bottom.  Fill tortillas with spinach/mushroom mixture and place seam side down in dish.  Cover enchiladas with the rest of the sauce.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and garnish with cilantro.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serves 6.

Nutrition (1 enchilada, made with reduced-fat sour cream): 212 calories, 13g fat, 8g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 38mg cholesterol, 332mg sodium, 17g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g sugar, 8g protein, 52% vit. A, 14% vit. C, 21% calcium, 7% iron.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

s'mores crunch munch

How to Clean out Your Pantry

Step 1: Find the eight squares of chocolate almond bark that have been pushed to the back of your pantry now that Christmas baking is over.  Place them in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on defrost for 30 seconds at a time (stirring between each) until melted.

Step 2: Dig around in your baking box for the bag of marshmallows that you forgot about.  Pull out a cup of them.  Remember those three graham crackers that are still sitting all alone in the box?  Break them into pieces.

Step 3: Place the graham crackers and marshmallows in the bowl with the chocolate.  Dump in 1 1/2 cups of rice's about time that stuff got eaten.

Step 4: Stir really, really well and then drop into heaps onto parchment paper to let set.

Step 5: Pack the candy into a canister and send with your husband to work...after all, you are on a diet. :-)

Hope you enjoy these!  They are absolutely addicting...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the skinny on ice cream makers

Now that the weather is warming up, I've been dreaming of ice cream.  I just love the stuff, especially when it's homemade.  When you make ice cream yourself, you have control over the ingredients as well as it's nutritional qualities.  It's so satisfying to make ice cream that's nutritionally sound and not full of preservatives!  Non-dairy folk, this applies to you, too!  Ice cream makers can be used to make sorbets that are delicious and full of freshly picked fruits - what beats that?

I'm going to be experimenting with flavors over the next several months and sharing all of my favorites with you!  But first, I figured that we had better talk a minute about ice cream makers...

In my experience, there are basically two kinds of ice cream makers - the old-fashioned and new-fangled. :-) 

Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Makers:
Old-fashioned ice cream makers are those that require ice and rock salt.  Most are electric, although I'm sure you can still find hand-crank varieties around (I don't suggest these unless you really want to get an arm workout).  These ice cream makers come with a long barrel that you put your ice cream base in.  You place the barrel in a bucket, fill the bucket with layers of ice and rock salt, and then attach a paddle that's connected to a motor.  When you plug in the motor, the paddle churns the ice cream while the rock salt and ice interact to become super-cold super-fast.  Once the ice cream becomes too thick for the motor to continue spinning the paddle, the ice cream is done.

This Rival 6-quart ice cream maker is a good example of an old-fashioned ice cream maker, and it's the one that I currently own and love.

Old-fashioned pros:
  • Generally less expensive.
  • You don't need to prep the barrel in advance - you can make ice cream on a whim.
Old-fashioned cons:
  • Requires rock salt and ice.
  • Barrel is prone to dents because of the ice (although this generally doesn't hurt the product's performance).
  • Really, really loud.
New-fangled Ice Cream Makers:
The newer ice cream makers use a special barrel that actually has a gel pack inside it.  You put the barrel into your freezer about 24 hours in advance of when you want to make ice cream in order to get it cold.  When you are ready to make your ice cream, you pull the barrel out of the freezer, fill it with your ice cream base, attach the paddle, and let 'er rip.

One example of a new-fangled ice cream maker is the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment - it actually works as part of your KitchenAid mixer!  My mom has one of these, and I really enjoyed the fact (on the KitchenAid version, at least) that it was easy to add mix-ins because there was no cover. 

New-fangled pros:
  • Generally not as loud.
  • Easier, on some types, to add mix-ins.
  • No need for ice and rock salt.
New-fangled cons:
  • Often more expensive.
  • You have to freeze the barrel in advance - this means that you actually have to have room in your freezer, you can only make one batch of ice cream at a time, and you can't make ice cream on a whim.
When buying an ice cream maker, read reviews and carefully select the best purchase for you.  Pay attention most to reviews on durability and performance; ignore reviews that complain that the ice cream doesn't look enough like ice cream.  (Seriously, ignore those.  I saw several reviews that complained that their ice cream looked more like soft serve.  The thing these people don't realize is that your homemade ice cream is going to look like soft serve when it comes out of the ice cream machine...that's how they work!  Don't worry, it firms up after a few hours in the freezer.)

I ended up choosing the old-fashioned Rival variety because it was inexpensive, easy to use, and because I like being able to make ice cream on a whim.  I also really don't have room in my freezer to freeze the barrel in advance.  For my mom, the KitchenAid variety was the best bet because she already has a KitchenAid mixer (and a massive deep freeze).

If you have an ice cream maker and want to add your own thoughts or advice, leave a comment!  If you don't have one and have questions, leave a comment.  Basically...leave a comment!  We all scream for comment love around here. :-)

Disclaimer: Rival and KichenAid have no idea who I am, and this is not intended to be an endorsement of their products.  I just mention those two because those are the ones I have experience with.  Several of my facebook followers have also expressed satisfaction with the Cuisinart brand.  Basically, do your research before making a purchase, no matter what brand you are considering!  Product photos taken from and

Monday, April 4, 2011

saucy steak strips with twice-baked potatoes


Every once in a while, my husband gets the urge to cook.  This is a wonderful, wonderful thing because what he makes is always out-of-the-world fantastic.  Today, because This Week's Cravings is featuring husbands who cook, I'm letting mine take the reigns and show you how to make one of his most recent creations.  Believe's delicious!

I'm Kristin's husband, and I occasionally get the urge to cook something for her.  I have no clue why I cooked for my wife that night, but I did, and it was good.  I made some twice baked potatoes, Brussels sprouts with chopped bacon cooked in the bacon grease, and steak strips with mushrooms and a balsamic vinegar sauce.  I'm going to show you specifically how to make the twice baked potatoes and the steak strips.

Herbed Twice-Baked Potatoes
from Taste of Home's Light and Tasty 2006

Wash two medium potatoes, pierce, and bake at 375 degrees for one hour or until tender.  Let them cool for ten minutes, and then cut them in half lengthwise.  Spoon out the contents leaving just a thin shell.

Mash the potato pulp and mix with cream cheese, chives, salt, basil, cayenne, milk, and butter.

Spoon back into the potato shells.

Sprinkle with garlic powder and paprika, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Serve these alongside saucy steak strips.

Saucy Steak Strips

Mix two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and one tablespoon of a spicy barbecue sauce.

Rub sirloin steak (1.5-2 pounds) with ground pepper and broil about 4 inches from the heat source for seven minutes.

Then flip the steak, spoon roughly half of the sauce over the top, cover with sliced mushrooms, and broil another five to seven minutes.

Slice steaks into thin strips and mix with mushrooms and remaining sauce.

Our favorite sides?  Twice baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts with bacon!

Herbed Twice-Baked Potatoes
adapted from Taste of Home's Light and Tasty 2006
2 medium baking potatoes
1 1/2 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 T. snipped green onions
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. dried basil
dash cayenne pepper
3 T. milk
1 1/2 t. butter, melted
dash garlic powder and paprika

Scrub and pierce potatoes.  Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or until they are tender.  Cool for ten minutes, and then cut potatoes in half.  Scoop out the pulp, leaving a thin shell.  Mash the pulp with the cream cheese, onion, salt, basil, and cayenne.  Add milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter; mash.  Spoon back into potato shells.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and paprika and bake for another 15-20 minutes.  Serves 4.

Saucy Steak Strips
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. spicy barbecue sauce
1.5 to 2 lbs. sirloin steak
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
pepper to taste

Mix the balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and barbecue sauce.  Rub the steak with pepper and broil about 4 inches from the heat source for seven minutes. Then flip the steak, spoon roughly half of the sauce over the top, cover with sliced mushrooms, and broil another five to seven minutes. Slice steaks into thin strips and mix with mushrooms and remaining sauce.  Serves 6-8.

Hubby Cooks!

Calling all men!  We want to see the recipes that YOU like to cook.  If you have a specialty dish that you like to cook for your wife, we want to see it!  Link them up here!

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