Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Red Velvet Cheesecake

I've had this recipe pinned on Pinterest from Recipe Girl for a while to make for today. I absolutely love anything that has to do with Red Velvet. And what's more festive than having a red dessert for Christmas? And a cheesecake at that. If you've ever eaten at the Cheesecake Factory and you love red velvet like I do, then I'm sure you know all about their Red Velvet Cheesecake. And so for this special day, I decided to make it for our families as one of our desserts.

This desert requires quite a few steps, and possibly 2 days to make because you have to freeze the cheesecake first, and do a crumb coat for the frosting. Then I used my own tried and true recipe for recipe for the red velvet cake part. Labor intensive, but the result was amazing. I first made this a few weeks ago to test out the recipe. Obviously, hubby and I couldn't finish the whole cake, so I sent half of the cake with hubby to work and it seemed to have gone over well with them. This is definitely going to be a repeat recipe for a special occasion like today.

Merry Christmas everyone. Have a blessed day full of love with family and loved ones.

2 (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Place a roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven. Heat 4-6 cups of water to a boil in the microwave or a kettle on the stove. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan and place parchment paper at the bottom of the pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of foil to prevent water from entering the pan. Set aside.

2) In a bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream the cream cheese until smooth. Mix in sugar and salt, and continue blending for about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Mix in sour cream, heavy cream and vanilla and blend well until smooth.

3) Pour batter into prepared pan and place in the roasting pan inside the oven. Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan enough so that it reaches about an inch on the side of the cheesecake pan. Bake for 45 minutes until the cheesecake is set and no longer jiggly.

4) Cool cheesecake on a cooling rack for at least an hour. Once cooled, place cheesecake in freezer until completely frozen, or overnight.

Red Velvet Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. (1 oz bottle) red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. white distilled vinegar

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch  round pans and set aside.

2) Sift together cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, red food color, vanilla extract and vinegar in a large bowl of an electric mixer until well combined.

3) Slowly add dry mixture into wet mixture and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick test comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then completely cool on a cooling rack.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese frosting 
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp. milk, depending on consistency

1) Cream the cream cheese with an electric mixer for about 1 minute. Add butter and beat for 1-2 minutes, until well incorporated.

2) Add brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated.

3) Slowly add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat well. Continue adding powdered sugar and alternating with the milk until desired consistency.

To assemble the Cheesecake
1) Unmold the frozen cheesecake from the spring form pan. Place in between the two layers of cake. Apply a thin layer of frosting to act as a crumb coat on the layered cake. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes for the frosting to set.

2) Complete frosting the cake with a thicker layer of frosting and decorate as needed. You can decorate with white chocolate shavings. Keep cake refrigerated until serving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpkin Dream Cake

I've noticed that I haven't done any new pumpkin recipes this fall. But I did stock up on some pureed pumpkin that I've roasted and pureed. Its sort of been my tradition every year ever since my older daughter was born - to buy loads of pumpkin around Halloween and then roast and puree them for later use. I use them to make my now famous Pumpkin Cake Roll that I make a ton of around the fall, as well as Pumpkin soup, and Pumpkin Spice Pancakes.

This year, I'm so excited to finally get a chance to make this Pumpkin Dream Cake from one of my favorite blogs, The Novice Chef. I've had this recipe saved up ever since I first saw it on her blog last year. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it then because I was in my first trimester of my 2nd pregnancy, suffering from a bad case of morning sickness. So no pumpkin puree or any pumpkin recipe in the fall of 2012. But I vowed that it would be my first pumpkin recipe to try out. And boy was it worth the wait.

I never used to like anything that had to do with pumpkin. But I discovered that it was the spices associated with pumpkin that I didn't like: nutmeg, ground ginger, all spice, cinnamon. Don't get me wrong. I love all those spices. Just not all together with pumpkin. I guess that's why I don't like pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte that's been all the rage lately. I'm pretty selective with the spices and flavorings I use with pumpkin in my recipes. This cake hardly has any of the traditional spices in the cake. Which is why I absolutely love this cake. And its so moist and fluffy. After testing this recipe out, hubby has asked me to make it for his family's Thanksgiving luncheon. And I was happy to oblige.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1- 15 oz can puree)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk

Cinnamon Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (optional, because I didn't have any)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 cups confectioner's sugar

1) Preheat oven to 300 deg F. Grease 3-8 inch pans. Set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, pumpkin and vegetable oil. Slowly beat in flour, alternating with the milk. Continue beating until well combined.

4) Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until toothpick test comes out clean. Remove pans from the oven and immediately place in the freezer to cool for 45 minutes. This will keep the cake moist by immediately stopping the baking so the cake does not continue to bake when you remove it from the oven.

5) For the frosting: In a large bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese over medium speed until smooth. Beat in maple syrup (if using), vanilla and cinnamon. Slowly add confectioner's sugar on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth.

6) Assemble the 3 layers with a thick layer of frosting in between each layer. Then apply a thin crumb coat on the top and the sides. Place in the freezer to harden the crumb coat for about 10 minutes.
Then apply one thick layer of frosting around the outside of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Hubby and I love, love, love my old Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe. I haven't made it in a while. So I was so excited to find this make-ahead casserole version on Pinterest from Tasty Kitchen to try out. I love making this in 2 smaller casserole dish - one to eat right away, and the other to freeze for later. Make-ahead-meals are my life savers nowadays, being so busy with my 2 kids. So this recipe has made several rounds in our household. And hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed this version. Probably more so than my original recipe.

1 rotisserie chicken (or 4 boiled chicken breasts), shredded
1/2 lb. deli sliced ham, rough chopped
1/4 lb. sliced Swiss cheese

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. flour
3 1/4 cups milk
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. white pepper (you can also use black pepper)

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley (or 2-3 tsp. fresh chopped parsley)

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Butter a 9x13 baking dish (or 2-8x8 baking dishes if you want to freeze half of the recipe). Set aside.

2) Even spread shredded chicken on the bottom of the baking dish. Top with the chopped ham. Layer the sliced cheese on top of ham. Set aside.

3) In the meantime, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Cook for about a minute. Do not allow it to brown. Slowly whisk in milk. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens.

4) Stir in lemon juice, mustard, salt, paprika, and pepper. Bring the sauce back up to a low boil and remove from heat. Pour sauce over the casserole, covering all the way to the edges.

5) In a medium bowl, melt butter in a microwave. Stir in breadcrumbs, salt and parsley. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.

6) Bake for 45 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: To serve after freezing, allow the frozen casserole to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight prior to baking.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I've had this Brown Sugar Pound Cake recipe pinned on Pinterest from Lady Behind the Curtain for quite some time. And I finally had a chance to make it. What really caught my eye was the caramel drizzle and using toffee chips in the batter. This came out to be a rich, dense cake. Perfect with a cup 'o Joe or hot chocolate.

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1 (8 oz) bag toffee bits
1 cup pecans, chopped

Caramel Drizzle
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 325 deg f. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3) In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Slowly add sugars and continue beating until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4) Gradually add flour mixture into butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Stir in toffee bits and pecans.

5) Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 75-85 minutes, until toothpick test comes out clean.

6) Allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

7) For the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla extract.

8) Drizzle hot caramel over cooled cake. (note: be sure that the caramel is hot, or else it will harden once cooled). Allow the caramel to harden on cake and serve.

Monday, October 7, 2013

S'mores Cookie Bars

My older daughter has been asking me to make something that uses marshmallows in the recipe. And what's a better use of marshmallows than s'mores? I love roasting marshmallows and sandwiching it between chocolate and graham crackers, then eating its ooey-gooey goodness. Something about it is just so comforting. 

I found this recipe for S'mores Cookie Bars on Pinterest from Lovin' in the Oven. It uses a graham cracker cookie crust and marshmallow fluff that accomplishes the gooey part of a traditional s'mores. This definitely satisfies my S'mores craving.

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff (not melted marshmallows)

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and continue beating on low speed until combined.

4) Press half of the dough in an even layer on the bottom of prepared pan. Place chocolate bars on top of dough. Spread marshmallow fluff over the chocolate bars. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the marshmallow fluff (the easiest way to do this is by flattening the dough into small shingles and then laying them together).

5) Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Catalan Paella

I know its been approximately 3 months since my last post. Its not that I haven't been in the kitchen much. Its just that I haven't had the time to sit down and blog about my musings in the kitchen. I still try out new recipes, but not as often as I used to. Before I had 2 kids, I would post at least 2 new recipes a week. Lately, however, I've just been making repeat recipes and many, many make-ahead meals. Make-ahead-meals are lifesavers for busy households such as ours. Maybe when the baby gets a little older and more independent, I'll be doing more blogging.

When I do try out new recipes, I always turn to my new found favorite, Pinterest. I have a go-to Paella recipe. However I came across this Paella recipe on Pinterest from Key Ingredient which uses saffron. I happen to have some saffron left over that I wanted to use up, so I gave it a try. This Paella was so much better than my old recipe. I guess it was the saffron that did it, but it had so much more flavor. Saffron is quite an expensive herb to use, so the recipe suggests turmeric as a substitute. But I don't know if it would be as good as using saffron though. I'll probably try this recipe out with turmeric since I've used up all the saffron.

4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast, cubed
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 tsp. saffron or turmeric
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 lb. large shrimp (either peeled/de-veined, or shell on)
4-6 small clams
4-6 mussels
*you can use any seafood you like

1) Heat oil in a large frying pan or saute pan over medium heat.

2) Add chicken and saute until no longer pink. Add garlic and onions and saute until soft. Stir in rice and saffron (or turmeric). Continue stirring to coat with the oil, about 1 minute.

3) Add tomatoes, wine and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add bell pepper and peas. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

4) Add all the seafood and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes or until rice is done. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving.

Monday, July 1, 2013


This recipe for Carmelitas from Lulu the Baker has made its rounds on Pinterest several times and so I figured I should give it a try. It looked easy enough and I had some caramels left over from when I made Samoa brownies. I was able to make this during another one of my baby girl's naps because it was pretty easy to make. And they came out ooey-goey delicious and so easy to make. I'll definitely be making these again.

9.5 ounces (about 32 squares) caramel
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

2) In a small microwave safe bowl, place caramel and cream and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and return to microwave in 30 second increments until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

1) In a large bowl, stir together melted butter, sugar, flour, oats and baking soda until well combined. Pat half of the mixture on the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

2) Remove pan from oven and top with chocolate chips. Pour caramel over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over chocolate chips. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Boston Cream Icebox Cake

Have you ever heard of an Icebox Cake or Refrigerator Cake or No-Bake Cake? They're different names, but are all the same. I've heard of them, but I can't say I've ever had them. One of my nieces had mentioned that she wanted to make a Refrigerator Cake one day and I finally asked her what it was. She described it as crackers layered with a filling or some sort of custard and then refrigerated overnight for the crackers to soak up the custard. I decided to pass it up because I'm not a big fan of soggy crackers. Its textural thing. But then I've been seeing different versions of them all over Pinterest and it piqued my attention. So I decided to give this recipe a shot for a No-Bake Boston Cream Pie Strata from The Kitchn.

I used my Vanilla Pudding as the filling for this Icebox Cake. This dessert came out quite good, to my surprise. And it was so easy to make. The graham crackers turned into to this moist cake. Who would've thought that I would end up loving soggy crackers??? I may try the other versions of no bake desserts. Stay tuned.....

2 sleeves of Graham Crackers
2 cups prepared vanilla pudding
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. milk
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Line the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan with graham crackers, breaking them in half if necessary to fit the pan. Pour 1 cup of prepared vanilla pudding on top of the graham crackers. Place another layer of graham crackers and pour the remaining vanilla pudding. Place a final layer of graham crackers on top and set aside.

2) In a small saucepan, melt butter with the cocoa powder over medium-low heat and bring to a light simmer, whisking occasionally for about 1 minute. Whisk in milk and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in confectioner's sugar until smooth. Add vanilla extract. While mixture is still warm, pour on top of graham crackers and smooth with a spatula or hot knife. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Creamy Jambalaya Pasta

This is another recipe I found on Pinterest. It seems as though Pinterest has taken up most of my free time. Whenever I have down time with the baby, I always pick up my handy-dandy iPhone and look at Pinterest to see what other new and interesting recipes I can find. And this recipe was just that.

I love Jambalaya and this recipe from Plain Chicken piqued my attention. I thought it resembled the Jambalaya pasta I sometimes order at restaurants. So I decided to give it a try. Its a really quick and easy recipe and it came out quite good. I lessened the salt a bit from the original recipe, because I thought it was a little too salty for my taste. I also decided to add chicken and shrimp to have a variety of textures in the dish. Its a little less milder than what they serve at the restaurants, but it was, all the same, delicious. Definitely a repeat dish I'll be making whenever I'm in a pinch to cook dinner.

1/2 lb. Farfalle pasta (or any other type of pasta)
1/4 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast
1/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 Tbsp. tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp. chopped parsley
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

1) Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) In a large skillet, cook chicken breast on medium heat with a little oil until no longer pink. Add sausage and cook until browned. Stir in onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3) Stir in white wine, making sure to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom. Add shrimp and continue cooking until wine has reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

4) Add Cajun seasoning, paprika, salt, pepper and tomato sauce. Stir in cream and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until cream is bubbly and has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

5) Add drained pasta and toss with parsley. Serve on a platter, garnished with grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Avalanche Bars

I absolutely love Pinterest. They have such great ideas, and most importantly, such great recipes. Which is where I found this recipe for my favorite Avalanche Bars from Cookies and Cups.

Avalanche bars are supped up versions of a Rice Krispies treat. I used to buy a lot of these whenever we go Outlet shopping, because that's where we always find the candy shop that sells them. Goes to show you how often I used to go outlet shopping. I don't outlet shop as often anymore, nor do I buy these sweet treats as often. But I sure do miss them. So I was so excited to find this recipe and made them immediately. They taste exactly as I remembered them. These were so easy to make that I was able to whip these up while the baby took her nap. The best part of it was that I spent the same amount of money to make them as it costs to buy one bar at the candy shop. So there was more for me eat. Yum yum!

1 (12 oz bag) white chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 mini chocolate chips

1) Lightly grease a 9x9 pan. Set aside.

2) In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir and continue to melt in 30 second increments until chocolate has melted and is smooth.

3) Stir in peanut butter until well incorporated. Add cereal and stir until well coated. Allow to slightly cool, about 15-20 minutes.

4) Add marshmallows and chocolate chips and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly, pressing lightly with the back of the spoon. Do not compact too much as it will become hard once the chocolate sets. Once cooled and the chocolate has set, cut into squares.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Samoa Brownies

So I've been holding out on you guys. I've been MIA for 2 months, partly because I had been on bed rest since the end of March and was put on a strict diabetic diet at the end of my pregnancy. So my menu consisted of boring, protein-filled meals that I didn't need to share on this blog. Not much going on in the kitchen. However, the main reason I have been away was because I had finally given birth to another beautiful baby girl at the end of April. We're all pretty much still adjusting to the new little person in our household, but we couldn't be happier. My eldest daughter is the most excited to finally have a little sister.

I was previously warned that having 2 kids was going to be a lot different than it was when I only had 1. They were right. Aside from my own recovery after giving birth and the sleepless nights, there is so much more to juggle. But because I was so restricted with my diet for the past 2 months, I couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen and eat normally again. And you best believe that I have been saving up a ton of new recipes to try out. I have recently got into Pinterest and found great ideas from there, including this new recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff. It was the first thing I wanted to try out and I'm so glad I did. I love the Girls Scout Samoa cookies. In fact, I tried another version of a Samoas Bar when I first started this blog. So when I saw a brownie version of a Samoa, I had to give it a shot.

I used the brownie recipe from my Salted Caramel Pecan Brownies and they came out so good. You can also use a boxed brownie mix, but you know me and making things from scratch. This recipe was quite easy and I'm definitely going to make these again.

prepared brownie
1 3/4 cups shredded coconut
1 (14 oz) package caramels, unwrapped
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. milk
1-2 oz semi sweet chocolate chips, melted

1) Prepare brownies according to instructions. Cool completely.

2) Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Place coconut on a baking pan. Bake for 2-3 minutes. Stir coconut. Bake for another 2-3 minutes until toasted. Watch closely to ensure it doesn't burn.

3) In a large, microwaveable bowl, add caramels, salt, and milk. Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, about 45-60 second increments. Continue heating until caramel is melted and smooth.

4) Stir in toasted coconut. Spread over cooled brownie. Drizzle melted chocolate chips over brownies and refrigerate for 4-5 hours or overnight. When you're ready to cut, allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour to soften the coconut topping.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ree Drummond's Meaty Lasagna

So I lied. I promised to post some of the make-ahead meals I've made last month to stock up for the upcoming arrival of my 2nd baby. Well, let's just say that it got quite busy around the house and I got quite lazy. I returned to work after being put on bed rest for 2 weeks and I've lost all my energy to do anything else. However, I still  managed to make a few dishes that I've stocked up in the freezer, including this new recipe from The Pioneer Woman, which she featured on the Food Network one day.

I've been on a search for a great lasagna recipe for quite some time. I really wanted a hearty and meaty lasagna. With this recipe, I think I found what I'm looking for. The recipe was quite easy to make. I doubled the recipe so that I can make multiple small trays to freeze. I baked one of the frozen trays today and it was just as yummy and comforting as when I originally made it last month. My search for a great lasagna has ended.

1 Tbsp. oil
2 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. breakfast sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
10 oz lasagna noodles
1 lb. shredded mozzarella
10-12 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten

1) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute ground beef, sausage, and garlic until brown. Drain off the excess fat. Add tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, salt, and black pepper to taste. Stir together well. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add half of the fresh basil and half of the chopped parsley. Stir well.

2) Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain noodles and lay them flat on aluminum foil to keep its shape.

3) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

4) In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, and the remaining basil and parsley.

5) To assemble the lasagna, spread about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture on the bottom of a deep, rectangular baking dish. Lay 4 lasagna noodles, slightly overlapping each other. Evenly spread about half of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese over the ricotta cheese. Spoon about 1/3 of the meat mixture over the mozzarella cheese. Repeat process ending with the meat sauce, then topped with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

6) Bake until hot and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

** To freeze, tightly seal the assembled, unbaked lasagna with plastic wrap. Cover with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake in a preheated 375 deg oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Red Velvet Puppy Chow

My family and I recently went on a trip to Disneyland this past weekend. Because I'm on bed rest, we decided to rent a room at the resort where I can stay while hubby and our daughter have fun at the park. Some have asked me why we even bothered going if I wasn't going to the park. I really wanted to treat our daughter to something special before the new baby arrives in a couple of months. Because it may be a while before we can go back to Disneyland. And she had such a great time. Which is all I could ever ask for.

Before heading out to Disneyland, I wanted to make some snacks to keep me busy while I'm alone in the hotel room. I remember coming across this Red Velvet Puppy Chow recipe from Your Cup of Cake. I love Chex cereal snacks such as Monkey Munch, Lemon Buddies, and the classic Chex Mix. So I was so excited to find a Red Velvet version of these beloved snacks. My batch didn't turn into the signature red color of red velvet as the original recipe did. I think the boxed cake mix I bought may have more cocoa in it. But it still tasted so good. Just be careful when you eat these. Aside it being addicting, they turn your fingers red.

5 cups Chex cereal (corn, rice, or both)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup prepared cream cheese frosting
1 cup Red Velvet cake mix
1/2 cup powdered sugar
festive sprinkles or M&M's for decoration

1) Place cereal in a large bowl. Place cake mix and powdered sugar in a large freezer bag or large airtight container.

2) Melt chocolates in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Be careful not to burn chocolate. Stir in cream cheese frosting. Pour mixture into the bowl of cereal and stir until coated.

3) Transfer cereal into the cake mix and powdered sugar mixture. Shake until well coated. Spread mixture onto a cookie sheet to cool and harden. Stir in decorations. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Baked Sweet & Spicy Buffalo Wings

I've finally found some more time to start updating this blog. Because, frankly, I have no choice nowadays but to work on the computer. You see, I've been put on a 2-week bed rest, which started yesterday. Doctor's orders. If I want me and this baby to be healthy, I have to follow those orders. So in preparation for these next 2 weeks, I was working my butt off in the kitchen, despite it being difficult, to prepare some more make-ahead meals to feed us while I'm incapacitated. I've already made a few dishes from old recipes on this blog, and found a couple of new recipes that I will feature here in the next couple of weeks. I figured blogging would help with the boredom of being on bed rest.

Anyway, before I blog about the make-ahead meals, I had a strange craving from some sweet and spicy buffalo wings in honor of Super Bowl Sunday the other day. Now, everyone knows I'm not much of a sports person. I'll occasionally follow basketball, sometimes baseball (if one of my nephews are playing). Not so much football. But I love the celebration of food that comes with the Super Bowl.

I was watching a show called Homemade in America with Sunny Anderson on the Food Network about a month ago. They were featuring buffalo wings by "Dirty Steve." He made his original wing sauce and also his Carolina Gold Wing sauce, which I gathered was a little more sweet. I like my buffalo wings to be more on the sweet side, rather than the spicy side. So this recipe caught my attention and figured now would be a perfect time to make some wings. The original recipe makes a huge batch of wing sauce, so I've somewhat cut the recipe to a quarter and modified it to what I had on hand and the result were these yummy, sweet and slightly spicy wings that were so finger-lickin' good. The best part of these wings is that they're baked rather than fried. So its a little lighter than your average buffalo wings. I will definitely be making these again.

24 pieces of chicken wings and drummettes 
salt & pepper to taste
garlic powder
onion powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Carolina-style BBQ sauce, or any favorite sweet BBQ sauce
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank's
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400 deg F.

2) Season chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Dredge in the flour. Place chicken pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.

3) While chicken is baking, combine BBQ sauce, butter, hot sauce, brown sugar and black pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.

4) Once chicken is done baking, place in the bowl of sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately with blue cheese dressing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Copy Cat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli

I cannot believe that it has taken me 2 months to post another entry on this blog. For those who follow me, I am deeply sorry that I have been missing for so long. I know a few of my co-workers have been wondering what happened to my posts. If you remember a couple of months ago, I was complaining about a serious bout of morning sickness that has prevented me from stepping foot in the kitchen. Nowadays, I just haven't had the energy to spend too much time in the kitchen. So most of our meals are take-outs or leftovers from the parentals. Being almost 7 months pregnant can do that to you. When I do cook, I cook some of my go-to Quick and Easy meals. Baking is still something I enjoy doing. So you'll often see me in the kitchen because I'm baking cookies or something. Not experimenting a new recipe.

However, because I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy, I thought about doing some make-ahead meals that I can freeze, which will feed us later once the baby arrives. Learning from my first pregnancy 5 years ago, I didn't have much time to cook our meals with a newborn around. So I thought  how much help it would be for me to have frozen meals that we can just pop in the microwave or oven.

I found a lot of make-ahead meal ideas online and from blogs I frequent. But it was a copy cat recipe from for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli that caught my eye. A crock pot recipe at that. Before I discovered my love for Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, I used to love starting my meal off with their Pasta e Fagioli. This recipe looked so easy and makes a huge batch. So I thought it was perfect to set some aside and freeze. You can also cut this recipe in half if you don't intend to freeze the leftovers. Unless you have an army of people to feed. My daughter and I came home to the house smelling so good. My daughter said " smells like spaghetti!" This is a delicious and hearty soup that is a meal in itself. I served this with some good french bread to sop up some of the soup. So good.....

2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16 oz) can white kidney beans, drained
3 (10 oz) cans beef broth
3 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
1 (20 oz) jar of your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce
salt to taste
8 ounces small pasta (like small macaroni or small shells), cooked
shredded or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

1) Brown meat in a skillet. Drain.

2) Place cooked meat and all the ingredients, except the pasta, in the crock pot. Season with salt to taste. Cook on low for 7-8 minutes, or on high for 4-6 hours.

3) Place cooked pasta in serving bowls. Top with desired amount of soup and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

*If you plan to freeze the soup, place the soup in a freezable container and freeze. Add the cooked pasta after you have re-heated the soup.