Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Peanut Butter Bars (Fingers)

Always a Crowd Pleaser!

My mom has been making these bars for years. No matter where she brings them or who trys them, they are always a hit. And why not, they're made with chocolate and peanut butter, two great tastes that taste great together! The only people who can't enjoy them are those with peanut allergies and if your one of those people, I feel for you!

Mom's Famous Peanut Butter Fingers

1 stick butter or margerine, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
Around 4 T peanut butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup of flour
1 cup of quick oatmeal

Mix the sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, add peanut butter (I usually don’t measure. I use heaping tablespoons, around four, it could be close to 1/3 cup or more than a quarter I'm not sure. I should measure it someday).

Mix well, add baking soda, salt and vanilla. Add flour and oatmeal and mix until combined.

Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Grease a cookie sheet. (Mine is about 11 x 7). Push dough into cookie sheet with fingers (that's why they're called peanut butter fingers and also because of the way they are cut - into long thin strips). Bake around 18 to 20 minutes depending on your oven, until they are golden brown.

Cool completely and top with Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Frosting or try...

Mom's Version:
3 T Hershey's Cocoa
Confectioners sugar
a little milk (or for people with milk intolerance put water)
3 T butter (or for people with milk intolerance use Fleishman's unsalted margarine)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Put the cocoa and butter or margerine in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 20 seconds or more, just until butter is melted. Add the salt, vanilla. And milk or water (between 2 and 5 tsps.) alternately with the confectioners sugar (just eyeball it) until you get the right consistency. Mix well until it's smooth and creamy looking.

Spread evenly over the bars. For more fancy bars take a little pastry bag with the small point for writing and drip designs on the peanut butter fingers. Ciao.

Do You Have A Recipe Never Fails To Please A Crowd?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday Trivia

Did You Know

In the course of an average lifetime,
people eat 70 assorted insects and 10 spiders,
while sleeping!

Sorry if I ruined your lunch, but I just thought you should know.

For more fun facts visit: Bloop

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lady Finger Cake with Chocolate-Espresso Frosting

Lady Finger Cake For a True Lady

For my Mom's birthday I kept it pretty simple. Since everyone decided to do their own thing with Mom, there was no need for a big cake. I thought about making a flourless chocolate cake, because my Mom loves her chocolate. With so many things going on lately, it just did'nt happen.
It is however, definately on my to-bake list.

You are not going to believe this, but my Mom actually made part of her own cake. About a month ago she brought over a tightly wrapped single layer of cake and told me to put it in the freezer. I honestly did'nt pay much attention to this because she does stuff like that all the time. So I did as she said and forgot about it.

She is always baking something and has lots of extras. So many times, she'll give it to me and tell me to save it for an "Emergency". And believe me, in my family we take our desserts seriously and when there is no time for baking, the "Emergency" extras come out.
Since I have been too busy to bake lately, my Mom's birthday qualified as a real "Emergency".

The cake is made up of a single layer of German Chocolate cake cut horizontally to make two thin layers and filled with an adapted version of Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Frosting. A simple addition of 2 tablespoons of instant Espresso made it even more chocolately and decadent. The Espresso flavor really came through and perfectly complemented the chocolate.

I wanted to be creative with the decorating of the cake, but was stumped as to how. Until I remembered that I had Lady Fingers in my pantry closet. A thin layer of the Espresso-Chocolate frosting topped each cookie and was a fitting cake topper for a perfect lady on her birthday!

Do You Keep Foods or Desserts in the Freezer for Emergencies?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dark Chocolate M&M Cookies

Have a Cookie and a Smile!

I found this recipe over at Culinary in the Country. It is an adaptation of a chocolate chip cookie recipe from allrecipes. I made them for my sister because it was her birthday last week.

It was so much fun using the M&M's, since you can be as creative as you want with them. These cookies were especially good because they were made with the DARK CHOCOLATE M&M'S. And I love Dark Chocolate! So does my sis.

What is your favorite kind of Chocolate? Dark, Milk or White?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

White Sauce with Chicken, Mushrooms and Peas

Leftover chicken-TRANSFORMED! (again)

I've been on a leftover chicken frenzy lately. I don't really enjoy eating roasted leftover chicken as it is. I like to make new concoctions with it. Recently, a recipe caught my eye in Cook's Country Magazine, that had a white sauce with sausage and peas.

It sounded really yummy but I always hesitate when an everyday recipe calls for heavy cream. I reserve eating things like fettucini alfredo for special, once in a blue moon occasions. Not only that, but I don't usually buy heavy cream anyway. And I did'nt have any sausage, either. I did, however, have some Simply Smart Fat-Free Half and Half in the fridge, along with a cooked chicken breast and 3/4 of a box of sliced mushrooms. LIGHTBULB MOMENT. Why not try making it with the leftover chicken, mushrooms and half and half? So I did...

White Sauce with Chicken, Mushrooms and Peas

Adapted from Cindy Szerlip's Cream Sauce with Sausage and Peas in Cook's Country Magazine
Makes enough sauce for 1 lb. of pasta

2 T olive oil
1 T Smart Balace Spread, or butter
1 shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
(I was in a hurry, so I used 1 tsp. of the pre-chopped jarred garlic)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
(Use more if you like it hot)
Cooked chicken from 1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, pulled into bite size pieces
3/4 box of sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup Simply Smart Fat-Free Half and Half
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. white wine vinegar, or more to taste
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Chopped fresh parsely for garnish

Add 1T oil and SB Spread to large skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden brown on both sides, around 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add remaining oil to skillet and lower heat to medium-low. Add shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. (I like to heat my garlic slowly over low heat because I think it really flavors the oil and gives the overall dish a much deeper more intense flavor.)

Add the chicken and mix with the garlic and oil until incorportated. Add in the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Add the broth and 1 cup of Half and Half, simmer until sauce reaches consistency of light cream, 6-9 minutes. (If the sauce seems too thin you can mix a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch with a tiny bit of cold water and stir in.)

Stir in the peas and heat until all the flavors meld, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, taste and season again if neccessary. Stir in cheese.

Toss sauce with cooked pasta, garnish with parsley and serve. (I used Tubini pasta, it cooks quick!)

Final word. It was good! I really enjoyed this dish. The browned mushrooms really added a nice flavor to the cream sauce and just a tiny bit of red pepper flakes added a great kick to an otherwise bland leftover chicken night.

Have you ever had a lightbulb moment when it comes to creating a new dish?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Mom's Old-World Raspberry/Apricot Bars

Apricot Bars From Mom with Love

My mom makes these bars at least once a month and they are one of my favorites. Sometimes they are Apricot filled and other times Raspberry filled. I like them both, but the Apricot bars seem to have a slight edge.

She has been baking them for years and I have never asked for the recipe or made them myself. There's no need, since she always makes them for me! Somehow, I don't think I could even do them justice because there's one secret ingredient only Mom can add. LOVE!

I did, however, want to post the recipe for all of you to try. So I asked her to send me an email with the recipe. Here it is...

Mom's Old-World Raspberry/Apricot Bars

(Adapted from Land-O-Lakes)

2 cups flour
1/2 cup Quick-cook Oatmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margerine, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. either almond or vanilla extract
10 oz jar of your favorite preserves (I used Apricot, but often use Raspberry as well)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients, except the preserves. Beat at low speed until well mixed, 2 or 3 minutes. Reserve 1 1/2 cups and set aside.

Press the mixture on bottom of 8 inch baking pan. Spread preserves within 1/2 inch from edge. Crumble reserve mixture over preserves. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

Note: I usually make 1 and 1/2 recipe, which means I put an extra 1/2 recipe with it and use a larger baking pan (usually a cookie sheet). I don’t crumble the mixture on the top, instead, roll the reserved mixture the length of the cookie sheet between 2 sheets of wax paper. I remove the wax paper from one side and carefully place it on top of the preserves and then remove the other piece. Viola, it's covered.
Good luck, if you need more information let me know. Ciao, buona notte esogni d'oro. Ciao Bella. Love, Mom.

Does your Mom or anyone else make a recipe that's special to you?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fettucini with Pulled Chicken, Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Red Peppers

For my sister's birthday, I had the family over for dinner. Since I've been cleaning out my freezer, I decided to make good use of a large cooked chicken breast that's been hanging out in there. The recipe is an adaptation of Fresh Fettuccine with Pulled Rotissiere Chicken, Pesto and Roasted Peppers by Sara Moulton of Sara's Secrets on the Food Network.

Fettucini with Pulled Chicken, Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Red Roasted Peppers

Basil pesto (recipe below)
1 lb. package fettuccine rigati
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot
4 cups pulled cooked chicken meat
2 cups sliced roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted black olives, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup mansolillo olives, halved lengthwise
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for the table*

Put the pesto in a large bowl. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Whisk the pasta water into the pesto. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring until soft and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and olives and cook, stirring until hot, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta and cheese to the pesto and toss to combine. Add the chicken mixture and combine. Serve immediately. Pass Parmesan at the table.

Basil Pesto:
Recipe is from Giada DE Laurentiis

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup (about) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan* In a blender, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the blender still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of cheese*. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper, to taste. (The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Yield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
*Note: I left out the Parmigiano cheese from the basil pesto and the entire dish, since my brother-in-law is lactose intolerant. Freshly grated Parmigiano was at the table for everyone else to enjoy.

I actually made the pesto and prepared the chicken mixture the day before. The next day, I added the chicken broth to the chicken mixture while warming it up to prevent it from drying out. This made the day of the party very stress-free, just the way I like it.

This was a really tasty pasta dish. Even without the cheese, it was a hit. Everyone loved it. It was easy to make and enough to feed a group of six. Not to mention it makes great use of leftover chicken and pantry staples

Do you have a favorite easy-to-make recipe that makes good use leftover chicken and/or pantry staples?

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Sounds Strange, But Boy Is It Good!

It was my sister's birthday this weekend, so I decided to make her a cake. Chocolate is her favorite, as well as the rest of the family.

So I had a plan. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Only one problem. I could'nt use a cake mix because my brother-in-law is lactose intolerant and most of the cake mixes contain milk or milk derivatives.

I did find one store brand that did'nt have milk in it, but when I read the ingredients, I was horrified! There were the usual suspects, tons of preservatives and artificial ingredients. That was'nt what disturbed me. There was lard, which I know is used a lot in baking, but it grosses me out. I actually could have lived with this, but there's more. Animal byproducts and tarro. YUUUUUUUCKKKK! POOOOOOO! ICCCCCCCCK! So I immediently put down the $1.59 cake mix (if that's what you want to call it) and set out to make a cake from scratch!

I had heard about using mayonnaise as an ingredient for a moist cake, but had never tried it. Anyone who knows me would never imagine that I used mayonnaise in a cake. Healthy and low-fat are key words usually associated with recipes that I make. But if I was going to go through the trouble of making a cake from scratch, I wanted it to be moist. And considering my brother-in-law's plight (there is no milk in mayo), I figured why not? I found a bunch of recipes online and settled on one from Hellmann's® Mayonnaise. I love their mayo, so I thought the cake would probably be delicious too! I was right!!! It was moist, chocolately and surprisingly light!

Hellmann's® Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup
cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
1-2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup Hellmann's ® or Best Foods ® Real Mayonnaise
1-1/3 cups water

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans*; set aside.

2. In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.

3. In large bowl, with electric mixer at high speed, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in Hellmann's ® or Best Foods ® Real Mayonnaise at low speed until blended. Alternately beat in flour mixture with water, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour into prepared pans.

4. Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. On wire racks, cool 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Frost, if desired, or sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

For the filling in the center, I used a yummy moist coconut mixture.

Coconut Filling

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup coconut milk, or more if dry
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut (I used fine textured unsweetened)
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

In a saucepan, bring brown sugar and margarine to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, coconut and walnuts. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Let cool and spread evenly on bottom layer of cake. Cover with the top layer of cake and frost!

To top it off, I made Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Frosting.


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine (I used Fleishmann's unsalted margarine which is contains no milk derivatives)
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (I used coconut milk and a little water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

I kept the decorating simple. The top of the frosted cake was sprinkled with the same unsweetened coconut and shaved dark chocolate adorned the perimeter.

What is the strangest ingredient you have ever used in a common recipe?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Freezer Clog!

My freezer... at full capacity!

Wow, I don't know how this happened. It seems like all of a sudden, almost overnight, I created freezer overload. I'm trying to figure out what is in there. It's not like I have 20 lbs. of chicken, 15 lbs. steak, and 10 lbs of pork chops hanging out in there. Actually, I think the only piece of meat in there is a single center cut pork chop. The rest is stuff, either I made or my mom made and gave me. (Sometimes she makes too much for herself and gives me some of the leftovers, in case I don't have time to cook one night after work. She's sweet like that!)

In any case, I decided it was time to start eating some of the food in the freezer. Tonight I defrosted some leftover Caponata, that I made about a couple of months ago.

Caponata is a sicilian vegetable dish made with eggplant and is often eaten as a relish, accompaning pork roast or fish. It has a sweet and sour flavor and can be eaten hot, cold or even at room temperature as an anitpasto over crostini. There is a tangyness from vinegar and a sweetness from sugar that awakens your tastebuds.

I had frozen just enough for one meal. Once heated through, I tossed it with mini penne and garnished with fresh basil. It was a pleasant change from the usual weekday dinner. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The recipe is from Giada DE Laurentiis. In her cookbook, Everyday Italian, it is listed as Everyday Caponata and makes 6 side dish servings. On the Food Network website, she lists the same recipe (basically) with a few minor changes. It is shown as...

Caponata (Picnic Sandwiches)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1(14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
6 slices (1/3-inch-thick) drained fresh water-packed mozzarella

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and saute until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Add the red pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the bread pieces horizontally in half. Grill the bread cut-side down on a grill pan over medium-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Rub the whole garlic cloves over the toasted side of the bread. Add a slice of mozzarella to bread bottom, spoon the caponata on top, cover with the other bread half, and serve.

To take for a picnic: Wrap the sandwiches separately in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Chill until ready to serve, or keep at room temperature up to 1 hour.

What's in your freezer?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blueberry Morning Cereal Bars

More Leftover Cereal...More Bars!

I made another version of the cereal bars I posted a while back. This time I used Post Blueberry Morning Cereal. All the other ingredients, (including Smart Balance Spread), remained the same as in the original recipe.

Another difference is that I doubled the recipe because I wanted to use all of the cereal that I had left (about 3 cups). Since I used the same baking sheet as the last bars I made, where I did'nt double the recipe, these bars turned out a bit thicker. The thickness of the shortbread crust made a difference in texture and flavor. In this case, Smart Balance Spread did not do the recipe justice.

The shortbread crust was a little on the dry side and lacked that true buttery flavor shortbread is known for. I think in shortbread recipes, where butter is a key ingredient, you probably should'nt substitute with margarine. Even though I love Smart Balance Spread, and use it in most recipes, this is one time it failed me.

Don't get me wrong, the bars were still delicious, but they would have been even better with butter!

Do you have a favorite butter substitute that works in all recipes?

Banana Pudding Pie with Bananas Foster Topping

I know this looks strange, but looks can be deceiving!

Another Pudding Pie...and it's instant (shhhhh!) I know what you're thinking; instant pudding? Right? I thought the same thing, but I was in a rush one Sunday morning preparing for company coming over and I realized there was no dessert. I frantically looked through the cabinets and found vanilla instant pudding. I had a pre-made graham cracker crust and some ripe bananas, so I figured why not?

I was suprised to read on Sweetnicks blog that Bananas are one of the Top 10 Brain Foods. According to the Cate, Bananas contain trytophan, a protein that, once converted, helps put you in a good mood. And they also help ward off depression and dark moods. What better reason to eat more Banana Pie!!

I followed the pudding box instructions for pie and added in a 1/2 teaspoon of banana extract to the mixture. The bananas are placed on the bottom of the crust and the pudding is poured on top. This was just too simple for me, so I decided to make a quick Bananas Foster for the top.

Bananas Foster Topping

In a saute pan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter with 4 tablespoons brown sugar and bring to a boil. Add 2 ripe, sliced bananas and toss to coat in the sugar mixture. Continue to cook for a minute and remove from heat. Pour in a shot of rum (I used Amaretto), and return to heat for another minute. Serves 2. (I had enough for 4 servings) Source
Pour over each pie slice just before serving.

Obviously, the Bananas Foster topping made the pie a hit. It was so delicious, I could have eaten it alone. Actually, the recipe was listed in the food section of my newspaper as a sundae topping. Next time I make it, I'll try it over a nice bowl of vanilla, or better yet, maple walnut ice cream. I can't wait!

What is the quickest dessert you ever threw together?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Creamy Tarragon Chicken Salad

So many little time!

I finally had a chance to make this Easy and Delicious Chicken Salad. I found the recipe at Culinary in the Country. Joe is a wiz in the kitchen and I could'nt keep up with him no matter how hard I tried.

There are so many recipes I see everyday on other blogs that I want to make and never seem to get to them. The timing of this recipe worked out great though, because I seemed to have most of the ingredients needed. The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts (which are cooked in chicken broth in the oven), red grapes, walnuts, celery, mayonnaise, sour cream and tarragon.

There was no need for me to cook the chicken because I had leftover rotisserie chicken from Boston Market that I wanted to use. I usually have grapes on hand for snacking and celery and mayonnaise are always in my fridge. However, I did'nt have sour cream, so I substituted plain fat-free yogurt. I did have to buy the tarragon, but I've wanted to get some anyway. The walnuts would have been delicious, but I did'nt realize I was out of them, so they were omitted.

Fruit with savory dishes is usually not my thing, but in this case, the tangy grapes were a great accent to the chicken. I opted for mini whole wheat pitas which were stuffed full with the creamy chicken salad. Steamed fresh mixed veggies on the side, dressed with a simple vinegarette of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and parsley rounded out the meal nicely.

This recipe is a keeper in my book. Give it a try.

Do you like fruit as an ingredient in meals?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Silly Saturday!!! Volume 1


My last post was on Chai and I received a comment from wheresmymind saying...I hate to say that I've only had Starshmucks Chai . It reminded me of a cartoon I saw, so I thought I'd share.

I'm posting the link, but be forewarned it has some offensive language.


So if you are easily offended by foul mouthed squirrels DO NOT WATCH IT!


I never really got into the whole hip coffee thing anyway. I just like good coffee. Who cares what the brand name is??

Do you frequent hip coffee shops? What is your beverage of choice?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Product Review...the good, the bad and the ugly!

Honey Vanilla White Chai...It's Good!

I think this was the first time I have ever tried Chai. I don't know what took me so long. I like tea and I like spices, but somehow Chai scared me a little. I did'nt know what to expect. I guess I figured it would be a very spicy, overpowering taste. I figured wrong. I can't really compare the flavors of this Chai to the traditional, since this is my first tasting.

All I know is, that I have a coffee replacement. YES, it's that good. The aromatic spices, sweet honey flavor and soothing vanilla give me the same kind of lift that a cup of coffee would. And the good thing about it is that it has a very low caffeine content. For one 8 ounce cup, Honey Vanilla White Tea Chai has only 25 milligrams of caffeine, compared to regular drip Coffee which contains 90 milligrams. Plus white tea is good for you!

I've tried it both hot and iced. I like it both ways. The iced is very refreshing, especially now, with this oppressive heat we've been having!

I am definately not a tea expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I think Celestial Seasonings makes pretty good tea for a moderate price. I also drink the naturally decaffeinated Green Tea, which I read somewhere, has one of the highest amounts of antioxidents as compared to other green tea brands. Sleepytime is also pretty good for an herbal tea. Although, I don't like some of their fruity herbal teas. They just seem too strong and astringent. But, this Honey Vanilla White Tea Chai is the second "new to me" Celestial Seasonings Tea that I've tried and loved. The other one is Madagascar Vanilla Red Tea, known as ROOIBOS TEA.

Another reason I like drinking Celestial Seasoning Tea is that it has
inspirational poems and beautiful graphics on the box.

The poem reads:
Each Day
"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities crept in-forget them as soon as you can. Tommorrow is a new day. You shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old mistakes and nonsense."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Celestial Seasonings website describes this tea as follows: If traditional chai—black teas combined with exotic East Indian spices—has piqued your interest, this imaginative take on perfection may further expand your horizons. Honey Vanilla White Tea Chai balances the delicacy of white tea with full-bodied black tea, then sweetens the elixir with natural honey and a hint of vanilla. Imbued with antioxidants from both white and black teas, a steaming cup or a tall, icy glass may be your ticket to momentary enlightenment.

About the Tea

Scroll K Dairy

This product contains all-natural ingredients and flavors, and no artificial colors or preservatives.

Contains Caffeine-Gluten free

Ingredients: White tea, black tea, roasted chicory, cinnamon, natural honey and vanilla flavors with other natural flavors, ginger, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, and honey.

Do you like Chai? What is your favorite brand?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chocolate Pudding Pie

Dark n' Sweet and Simply Delicious!

Sometimes you just have to have chocolate; and fast. Well, at least I do. This chocolate pudding pie is a simple and easy way to get it. I used Royal® Dark 'N Sweet Cook & Serve Chocolate Pudding mix. It was as the box describes; DARK AND SWEET. Just the way I like my chocolate, when I need a fix. I made the pie a little different by adding in some peanutbutter and chocolate chips for extra goodness.

Easy Chocolate Pudding Pie

2 boxes of Royal® Dark 'N Sweet Chocolate pudding & pie filling
3 3/4 cups milk (I used Simply Smart® Fat Free Milk)
1 - 9 inch ready-made pastry or crumb crust (I used graham cracker and brushed it with egg wash, baked at 350º for 5 minutes and let it cool)
1/8 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 cup peanutbutter chips
Thawed Cool Whip® topping or Whipped Cream

Make pudding according to pie recipe on box. Pour 1/2 of pudding into crust, sprinkle chips evenly over top of pudding and top with remaining pudding*. Chill for at least 4 hours. Serve with dollops of cool whip or whipped cream.
*You will have a little extra pudding leftover. I put it into 2 small bowls for weekday snacks.

I don't usually like using mixes when I cook, because of all the artificial ingredients and preservatives, but pudding is just so easy and it tastes so good. I have made pudding from scratch in the past, but was'nt that impressed with the recipe. I will try it again, though. Practice makes (pudding) perfect!!

Are you concerned with artificial ingredients, preservatives and trans fats in boxed products?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

White Spinach Pizza

I love Pizza!!! And this one was a winner.

I recently acquired a breadmaker and have been experimenting with pizza dough. Granted it would be a whole lot easier to buy the dough from a bakery or even at the market, which I do when I want to make it quick, but I like the idea of making my own because I can decide what goes into it. I use some whole wheat flour and I feel better about eating it since I'm getting some whole grain into my system.
This pizza is very nutritious as well as delicious. With the heart healthy properties of olive oil and olives, nutrients from the mushrooms, the lycene packed and antioxidant rich sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, I thought it would be the perfect entry for Sweetnicks ARF/5-a-day
Tuesday evening round-up
. So go visit!!

The Dough: (Recipe from Gold Metal and Fleishmann's Bread Machine Yeast)
Makes 2 pizzas, 6 slices each

1 cup plus 2 T water
2 T olive or vegetable oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
3 cups Gold Metal Better for Bread Flour (I used 2 cups Better for Bread and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese, if desired (I did'nt desire)
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, if desired (I did desire)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. Fleischmann's Bread Machine Yeast

Measure carefully, placing all ingredients in bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
Select Dough/manual cycle.
Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 2 cookie sheets. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into 12-inch circle on cookie sheet with floured fingers. Add pizza topping.*
Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until crust is light brown.

*I bake the pizza shell for 8-10 minutes before I put the toppings on. I decided to do this after making several pizzas the way the recipe suggests, and not getting perfect results. The crust would not get as crispy as I like and the cheese would always end up getting too brown.
After the initial baking of the crust, I assemble pizza with the toppings and bake just until the cheese melts.

Pizza Topping:
Enough for one pizza**

1 1/2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 ounces shredded Scamorza cheese
1 package frozen Spinach (sauteed in garlic infused oil-recipe follows)
1/2 cup Sliced black and green olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced portobello mushrooms
6 Sun-dried tomato (cut into small pieces)

Brush the dough with about 1 T of the olive oil, add the Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. Add the scamorza cheese, spinach, olives, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top.

Garlic Infused Oil:

Add about a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and 4-5 crushed garlic cloves to a cold saucepan and heat slowly on low for around 20-25 minutes. Check on garlic every so often, to make sure it is not browning; a little little light brown color is o.k. Remove garlic from oil and set aside. The oil can be used immediately if desired or let cool and store in the refrigerator upto 1 week.

Sauteed Spinach:

Thaw spinach in microwave as directed on package. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop reserved garlic and add back into infused oil (if desired) in pan. Add spinach and saute on medium low heat for about 2-3 minutes.

**For the second pizza, I decided to make a focaccio.
-Pat the dough into a circle about 1/2 inch thick onto the prepared pan.
-Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs (I used Rosemary and Italian Seasoning), and Parmesan or Romano cheese.
- Push your fingertips into the pizza to make indentations.
- Let dough rise for 15-20 minutes. Bake in 400 degree oven until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes).
I let it cool, double wrapped it in foil and froze.

I hope this post was'nt to overwhelming. I know there is a lot here, but you don't have to make your own dough. Buy the dough or even a prepared pizza crust to save time. It's fun to make pizza and it is so versitile. If you don't like some the toppings I used, by all means use what you like. Try it!! Go ahead you can do it.

How often do you eat pizza?
Do you ever make your own?