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Food Holiday

Chocolate Fondue

January 31, 2017
valentines desserts

valentines day desserts

Fondue Valentines day

Chocolate valentines day dessert

 

fondue chocolate valentines dessert

fondue valentines day dessert

I tend to be a savory over sweet person, but I certainly have my moments. I LOVE chocolate, and I also love my little mini-me who seems to be all about dipping lately. He loves to dip food into sauces. Ketchup, hummus, honey — you name it and he’s got his sticky little fingers in it. If that makes him eat more, I’m happy to oblige. I also love creating little traditions for holidays and other special occasions. Making fondue just seemed like the perfect Valentine’s day treat to make at home this year now that Braden is 2.5. Last year, we had a special Valentine’s Day family breakfast on the weekend where we exchanged a small gift or two (lots of Vday books for B) and ate  heart shaped pancakes. This is something I hope to continue for years even when it probably becomes annoying and embarrassing for him!

We actually received this fondue pot as a wedding gift 11 years ago, but we’ve never used it. (Yes, I was a child bride.) I’m glad I kept it!  You actually don’t need a fondue pot for making fondue. I think it makes it easier for serving and dipping, but I actually made the fondue in a regular pot on the stove then poured  into the fondue pot.

What you need:

  • 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (10 oz. bag)  – I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate but dark chocolate or white chocolate chips would be work well, too. I just thought semi-sweet would be better for a toddler.
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream – I usually shy away from using heavy cream in any recipes but since this is a holiday indulgence I decided to go big.
  • 1/3 cup milk – I used organic 2% because that’s what B drinks, and I had it handy.
  • Dipping options:
    • I found these adorable heart-shaped marshmallows and festive sprinkles. The sprinkles make it fun for kiddos. Braden also loves to sprinkle things on food when we’re making meals. He loves being a part of the cooking/prep! I hope that sticks around for life. 🙂
    • Fruit cut up in bite-size pieces such as apples, kiwi, pineapple, strawberries and blueberries
    • Angel food cake or brownies, rice krispie treats, etc. – my husband asked me where the angel food cake was when I was making this. :/ He has  a major sweet tooth. You can dip whatever your heart desires into chocolate but I tried to stick to fruit this occasion.
    • Suggestion: I think you could add a tsp of vanilla or hazelnut liquor to change up the flavor slightly. I’ve previously used Mexican vanilla and it was great.

Although I think Valentine’s Day is a bit of a manufactured holiday, I do love that it reminds us to take a moment to do something extra special for those we love. I prefer spending it at home rather than getting suckered into an inflated pre fixe restaurant dinner menu. And, I tend to have some pretty good wine at my house so that’s always a plus, too. 🙂

Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions you love?

Food Holiday

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

November 20, 2016

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I’m always in charge of making the desserts for my family holiday celebrations. My husband is a really great baker and will often make an amazing apple pie. I think his love for baking is something  he inherited from his grandmother who had amazing recipes her grandchildren often talk about. He makes a few like her famous pepperoni rolls. Maybe I’ll share those in a few weeks since we’re smack in the middle of holiday binge season! We don’t shy away from carbs around here. Since he is a big fan of desserts, I’ve inherited that from him and started experimenting with a lot of baking over the years. We are pretty healthy eaters in my house, but I don’t like to skimp when it comes to desserts and holiday favorites!

One of my go-to recipes around the holiday that always goes over really well is this chocolate bourbon pecan pie I discovered a few years ago. It’s a recipe from Food and Wine magazine, and I’ve adapted a little over the years. My version is listed below but I’ve linked to the original version here.

If you’re out and about doing your Thanksgiving holiday shopping, definitely try this one. People will gobble it up! I think guys really like it, too, especially if they’re bourbon lovers like my husband. I think the hint of bourbon (and my other alterations to the recipe) make it the BEST pecan pie. The biggest changes I’ve made include using a Pillsbury ready-made pie crust. When you can cut corners like this without sacrificing quality and taste, then I’m all for it. My choice is chocolate chips is important, I’ve found so I really recommend the mix and brand I’ve noted below in the ingredient list. I typically serve pie with Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream because it’s Texas, y’all. Bluebell is definitely a favorite in my house.

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This beautiful pie pan is from William Sonoma, and I just love it. It was a gift we received a few years ago, and I actually went last week to the store to try to buy another one in white, but they were all sold out so I’ll have to buy one online.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Ingredient List

1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust

2 cups (about 7 ounces) pecans

3 large eggs

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons bourbon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips.

I use this total amount but I mix together Ghirardelli chocolate chips – ½ semisweet and ½ 60% cacao bittersweet chips. (I’ve found them at Kroger and World Market.)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the pecans for about 8 minutes, or until fragrant; coarsely chop.

Note: I only need to toast them in my oven for about 4 minutes, otherwise they burn really quickly and if you over toast them it definitely changes the flavor. I recommend monitoring this really closely and check after 3-4 minutes and add more time if necessary since ovens differ.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla, melted butter, bourbon and salt until blended. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 55 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set. Tent the crust with foil halfway through the baking time if the edge is browning too quickly. Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note: I cook my pie for about 45 minutes because my oven cooks fast. I tent the crust about halfway through, around 22 minutes to prevent it getting too brown and crusty.

Make Ahead

The pie can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day. Rewarm at 325° for 15 minutes.

Note: I make my pies either the night before I need them or in the early morning day-of to help free up my oven before I need it for all my other holiday cooking.

 

Food Healthy Living + Food

Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Zoodles

August 16, 2016

If you follow me on Instagram (reenlucas) or Snapchat (laureenlucas9) you may have seen me share my love of zoodles, aka zucchini noodles. Braden is pretty good about eating veggies if he’s in the mood (#toddlerproblems) but he won’t eat zucchini, which is something we roast or grill quite often. But, when we make zoodles, this kid wants to eat them up and will even eat them plain! When I discovered this, I felt like I hit the jackpot!  Braden is  a pretty good eater, but skeptical at first. However, he did not hesitate with the zoodles. He loves watching us make them, too and will often say, “Watch!” or “Braden help, Momma!” because he’s the best little kitchen helper in all the land and likes to be a part of the spiralizing process. Because of all of this, zoodles have been a weekly staple in my house since  I received the Spiralizer as a Christmas gift. I know there are other spiralizer gadgets out there, but I am a big fan of this version. My friend Paige says she has a manual version of it, and she doesn’t love it so I say go with this one because I love it. 🙂

A recipe we make quite a bit is Skinny Chicken Parmesan from the Skinnytaste cookbook. There are tons of Skinnytaste recipes on Pinterest, too. This is such a great cookbook filled with easy and healthy recipes that my whole family loves. I would highly recommend it. The recipe in the cookbook doesn’t have zoodles paired with it, but I really love how it goes together really well and gives a nice portion of protein and veggies all in one dish.

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laureenloves zoodes, skinny chicken parm

Skinny Chicken Parmesan

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

3 boneless , skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each)

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs

3 Tbsps grated parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons melted unsalted butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups Marinara sauce ( I used 1 28 ounce jar I had in my pantry.)

9 Tbsps part-skim mozzarella cheese

basil ( optional)

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with oil.

Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make 6 cutlets. Season both sides with salt.

In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan. In a small bowl, combine the butter and olive oil. Brush the butter and oil on both sides of the chicken, dredge the chicken in the bread crumb mixture, and put the chicken on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly spray oil on top of the chicken.

Bake until golden on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Turn the chicken over and bake until the center is cooked through and the bottom is golden, 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the the marinara sauce over medium heat until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

In separate skillet, saute your zoodles. See instructions below.

The recipe from Skinnytaste says to next place the baked chicken in the skillet and top each piece with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Cover the pan and cook until the cheese melts, 3 to 4 minutes.* Serve hot.

*I prefer  not to put the chicken in the pan with the marinara but rather just create plates with a layer of zoodles, chicken breast, then top that with marinara and cheese. I like to do it this way because there are typically leftovers, and I kind of like to keep things separated. I also add some chopped basil for garnish and added freshness/flavor.

Directions for Zoodles:

4 or 5 zucchini (Try to buy zucchini that are as straight as possible, as it makes it easier to spiralize.)

Cut off the bottom end of 4 or 5 zucchini. I used 4 medium zucchini for this batch. This is the perfect amount for this dish. Once spiralized, saute with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper in a large pan. I don’t think you can really mess this part up. I usually saute for less than 5 minutes but you just have to watch them.

***

What I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t really feel like a “skinny” dish. It’s flavorful and everyone in my family loves it. According to the Skinnytaste cookbook it’s only 174 calories per serving and 7 g of fat, too!

We make turkey meatballs with zoodles and even throw in yellow squash into the mix, too. You really can’t go wrong with zoodles or any veggie made with the Spiralizer. Do you have any zoodle recipes to share? Extra points if they’re kid-friendly! 😉

Enjoy!

skinny chicken parmesan laureenloves.com

 

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Food

Blueberry Banana Bread

July 5, 2016

We always try to eat and cook using seasonal ingredients. We eat a TON of blueberries in our house. My husband loves putting them in his cereal, and I usually eat daily for breakfast with my yogurt or snack on them plain. And, blueberries are the ultimate go-to toddler snack since they are perfectly bite-size.

I came across this Giada recipe two years ago and I’m so glad I did! It’s full of blueberries and makes a great breakfast or sweet treat.

It’s also an easy way to get some fruits into your kiddo’s diet, too. Braden loves it!

Similar to my banana bread muffin recipe I previously shared, I like to use my secret ingredient.

It seems like all I do is share carbs, but I actually cook pretty healthy most nights, but I have to give in to those cravings. I definitely believe in the all about moderation and with two bananas and one cup of blueberries in this recipe, I don’t’ feel too bad about eating this.

Enjoy!

LL

Ingredients:

Butter, for greasing the loaf pan

1 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus a little extra for dusting the loaf pan

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp fine salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 tsps vanilla extract (but I change it up and use this instead)

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until blended. Stir in the bananas and blueberries. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool for 15 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time 1 hour. It took about 55 minutes in my oven, so I would recommend watching it and checking with a toothpick starting at 50 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf or  6-8 servings. I think this is more than 8 servings in my house.

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis and can be found here.
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Blueberry Banana bread – Braden approved! My little kitchen helper is like my shadow in the kitchen these days.
Family Food

Stuffed Shells

May 11, 2016

I’m a fan of Italian food, but it’s a little heavy to eat more than once or twice a week in my opinion. I tend to cook a little lighter. Sorry, Giada. I do get in the mood for the cheesy goodness that many pasta dishes offer and this recipe for Stuffed Shells never disappoints.  My 21-month-old loves it, and so does my 416-month-old, making this recipe a family-friendly winner. 🙂

I really have been just trying to survive lately, prepping more food on the weekends to avoid making choices I know I’ll regret on weeknights. Or,   I often make super simple non-recipe meals on weeknights  –  i.e. salmon, sweet potato + salad – since I get home after work and I want to spend as much time with the kiddo versus getting stuck in the kitchen. That’s why recipes like this that can carry over for more than one weeknight meal are perfect for me. I usually pair it with a salad or another veggie I already have in my fridge. And, this since they are individual shells, it’s built-in portion control.

before

Before going into the oven

B loves to hang out in the kitchen while I cook.

B loves to hang out in the kitchen while I cook.

I think pasta often gets a bad wrap for the carbs, but when you eat it in moderation and you serve with something green, it can be a healthy meal. My motto is to live a little or you’ll end up binge eating later. I eat pretty healthy 80% of the time, but sometimes I just need something a little more hearty like this!

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Serves 6 to 8 (This is a perfect meal to give to friends, a new mom or for a potluck. You can freeze it, too!)

1 (12 ounce) box jumbo pasta shells

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 pound ground turkey ( I used 93 % lean)

1 ( 8- to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes (I used a whole 12-ounce package I found at Kroger)

1 (15-ounce) whole milk ricotta cheese ( I used part-skim ricotta)

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (I used 1 tbsp dried)

2 jars marinara sauce ( I used approx. 1.5 jars of organic marinara I had in my pantry. I opted for this since I wanted to make it toddler-friendly. The original recipe calls for Arriabiata and although it’s delish, it can be a little spicy.)

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 5 ounces; I just eyeball this and probably use less)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until the onion is soft and starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is lightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir to combine.

Cover the bottom of the a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish (I used 3 different baking dishes so I could give one to a friend) with 1 cup of marinara sauce. Hold a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full; you should have about 36 shells. Drizzle the remaining marinara sauce over the shells and top with the grated mozzarella. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

After

After

Plated

TIPS: I have adapted this recipe to make it easier on me, using some store bought items like jarred marinara, which I always have handy. I’ve made notes in the ingredient list. Do NOT use canned artichokes. I personally don’t like the taste of them, and I once used and it did not taste right. Lots of places sell frozen artichokes such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Kroger. I think I have used hot Italian turkey sausage before. You can  swap out the protein for others like sirloin, ground chicken, etc. and I’m sure it’ll turn out just as well.

IF FREEZING: Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month. To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Original recipe by Giada De Laurentis can be found here.

Enjoy!

Food

Bananas for Banana Nut Muffins

April 19, 2016

Y’all, these banana nut muffins are THE best. My husband always makes fun of me for saving my old bananas in the freezer, but they’re great for making muffins whenever you’re in the mood. I had two over ripe bananas on my counter, and I took two frozen bananas from my freezer stash to make this recipe.

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There are two amazing ingredients in this recipe that absolutely make it: cream cheese and Mexican vanilla.  The latter is my way of doctoring it up. I think Mexican vanilla has such a flavorful taste and we use it to punch up a lot of baked goods, homemade waffles, etc. We definitely aren’t paleo is my house! I just believe in eating a little of what you want or you’ll obsess over it.

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This is a recipe I found in Southern Living a few years ago and I’ve altered a little. My version is below, but you can find the original recipe here along with how to turn it into bread, too.  I prefer muffins since its kind of built-in portion control.

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They’re definitely a crowd-pleaser. I’ve brought these to work before and gifted them to neighbors and friends who recently brought home babies. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love these muffins! And, they’re kid-friendly, too. Braden LOVES them. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1.5 cup of sugar

2 large eggs

3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1.5 cups mashed bananas ( 4 medium bananas)

1.5 cups chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until just blended after each addition.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans and vanillas. Place liners into4 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (My oven takes about 23 minutes, so watch it and test with a toothpick.)

Cool in pans 10 minutes. remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Makes 24 muffins. (I always seem to have extra so I end up make one mini banana nut loaf, too.)

Prep time: 15 minutes. Bake time: approx. 25 minutes.