August Cookbook Challenge!

Great Easy Meals (Food Network Magazine) was my choice for the Cook Book Challenge in August, To see the Cook Book Challenge for other months click HERE.

The Recipes:

  1. Moo Shu Pork (pg 169)-I liked this recipe, didn’t love it. The.mr said it was “really good.” is it still considered Moo Shu Pork w/o the mushrooms? I left those out ‘cause mushrooms gross me out and taste like dirt. I couldn’t find Bibb lettuce at the grocery store… so I settled with a small head of Boston lettuce… I should’ve bought 2, because we only had enough leaves to wrap about ½ of our Moo Shu Pork. I also used about 1 lb of pork instead of ¾ lb.
  2. Mix & Match Stir Fry (pg 217)- I did Pork w/ carrots, peas, and onions in sweet & sour sauce. I’m not sure why it calls for marinating the meat in cornstarch, egg whites, and rice wine… the.mr and I liked this better than my usual stir fry recipe. I love all the options to mix & match. It makes it really simple to change up the ingredients.
  3. BLT Pasta Salad (pg 281)- LOOOOVE. I left the milk out of this recipe, and switched the amounts of sour cream and mayo. Because I left the milk out it was a little dry, but I added a little light ranch to it when I was eating. I really liked the way the cooked tomatoes tasted in this pasta salad. I should mention that I used 8 oz of cherry tomatoes instead of “regular” tomatoes. This recipe made enough for both of us to eat our fill, and I had the leftovers for lunch the next day!
  4. Mix & Match Mac N Cheese (pg 325)- I used medium shells, a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, bacon, spinach, and a panko and parmesan topping. The sauce was kind of gritty, I think it was because I used skim milk and fat-free cheese. Also, I remembered how much I don’t like the way spinach tastes. The.mr LOVED it. At least, I think he did… he finished ALL the leftovers in just a few days. Overall this was an easy recipe, and the mix & match feature is going to get used A LOT.

The Good:

  • Everything in this cook book was easy (just like the title suggests).
  • The recipes are easy to follow, and the ingredients easy to find.
  • The recipe index in the front has pictures!!
  • There’s a great Mix & Match page at the back of each section… it’s a really easy way to build your own recipes!

The Less Good:

  • Some of these recipes have a few too many steps (and pots to dirty). I ended up not even trying those.
  • mr and I have kind of simple tastes and some of these dishes made us raise an eyebrow. They sound a little fancy for us. I don’t think that’s really a deterrent for most people.

Other Recipes 2 Try:

  • Meaty Quesadillas (pg 80)
  • Chicken w/ Apple & Onion, in Cider Sauce (pg 101)
  • Pepper-Jack Chicken with Succotash (pg 125)
  • Rosemary-Mustard Pork w/ Peaches (pg 177)
  • Spaghetti Carbonara (pg 301)
  • Any/ all of the Side Dishes starting on pg 329

Overall:
I like it! I’m excited to try some of the other recipes I have bookmarked. There aren’t too many of the “tips” from the FN Stars, but I’m OK with it. I’d probably suggest buying this one, definitely would if it was on sale.

Happy Cooking!
-Holly

July Cookbook Challenge: Feed Your Athlete

Here’s the link to see the Feed Your Athlete Cookbook on Amazon!

Keep reading to see what recipes I made, and the “review” for the July post of my Cookbook Challenge series.

The Recipes

  1. Bran Raisin Cookies (pg 68): I really liked these! I added an extra cup of Raisin Bran. I also used parchment paper instead of greasing the cookie sheets. These cookies spread a LOT, I think the dough needed to be chilled. Either that or my butter was too soft. At any rate I liked these so much that I adapted them into THESE Raisin Bran Oatmeal Cookies!
  2. Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes (pg 86): The.mr and I both liked these pancakes. They’re waaaaaay better than box mix! I followed the directions, right until step 5. Instead of pouring out ¼ cup, I used a 2 inch cookie scoop to get the batter onto the hot skillet. I also left out the nutmeg, but that’s because I forgot it!
  3. Cranberry Limeade (pg 104): this was just OK. I wasn’t super impressed. It was REALLY tart. It’s supposed to be a pre-competition drink, but I don’t think I’d drink it before a long run or anything… mostly because I was actually thirstier after I finished drinking it! Hmph.
  4. Snack Mix Cereal Bars (pg 119): the.mr and I liked these so much I made them 2x. Actually, I made them 2x because I forgot the chocolate the first time! Tragedy! The second time I made them I played around with the recipe a little bit, so I’ll probably share that (eventually). No matter what, I suggest you make these. They kind of reminded me of Rice Krispie Treats, only better. What’s not to love about peanut butter, marshmallows, Chex, salty pretzels, and a liberal amount of chocolate sprinkled in?
  5. Quick Tortellini Salad (pg 136): This recipe was devoured! I made it twice in one week. The first time I used tortellini filled with chicken, and the 2nd time I used the cheese filled kind. The.mr liked the chicken the best, I preferred the cheese filled ones! It tasted as good cold as it did when the pasta was fresh out of the pot.
  6. Hamburger Casserole (pg 143): this recipe was just like Hamburger Helper!! It was awesome! I didn’t change a single thing! Wait, I used ground turkey instead of hamburger. So I guess I did change something. 😉 Don’t let the photos dissuade you from making this recipe… it’s not very photogenic, but it sure is yummy.
  7. Raspberry Lemonade (pg 151): This drink was soo good! It was kind of important to use the sweetest raspberries you can find or it’ll be too sour.

 

The Good

  • The first part of this cookbook is awesome. It’s broken down into sections like Nutrition Basics, and advice on how to feed GF or vegan athletes. Basically… I learned A TON from reading this part.
  • The recipes are broken down into Training, Competition, and Recovery sections, and then divided again by “type” (ex. portables, drinks, entrees). I love it!
  • Every recipe I tried was easy to read and had easy to find ingredients.
  • There are 5 icons that might appear next to each recipe indicating Low Fat, High Protein, High Carb, High Fiber, or Low Fiber.
  • Nothing felt or tasted like it was “healthy” and I liked it. I hate when I’m trying to be healthy and the food isn’t satisfying!

 

The Less Good

  • I liked (almost) EVERYTHING about this cookbook!
  • The portion sizes felt a little small… but that might be because the.mr and I really like to eat. 😉
  • I consider myself a “runner”, but I don’t fit the endurance category. I’m also not strength training… So it might’ve been cool to see it add blurbs or specific info for runners or other sports.

 

Other Recipes 2 Try

  • Blackberry Cooler (pg 54)
  • Sweet & Salty Peanut Bars (pg 62)
  • Greek Pasta Salad (pg 78)
  • Three Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Shells (pg 92)
  • Quickie Breakfast Burrito (124)
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars (pg 166)
  • Super Simple Couscous Salad (pg 177)
  • Zucchini Pizza Casserole (pg 186)

Overall
Worth it! Esp if you’re new to healthy eating, want to improve your eating habits, or are attempting to fuel better for your workouts!

 

Happy Making!
-Holly

(Slightly Healthy) Raisin Bran Oatmeal Cookies!!

I adapted this recipe from Feed Your Athlete. The first time I made it was for my Cookbook Challenge, and I thought it could use a little tweeking. That’s how this version of Raisin Bran Oatmeal Cookies was born!

I kept most of the original recipe together. Normally when I make oatmeal cookies I use regular oats. I used the quick outs this time because I wanted the cookies to be more mingled? Combined? What I mean is… with the Raisin Bran adding extra texture, I didn’t want the cookies to be too chewy/crunchy/gritty. I don’t even know how to explain it. 😉 I guess it’s a good thing I’m not a writer.

The original version of these cookies didn’t have enough raisins so I added an extra cup. I think some cranberries would’ve been good too. Maybe next time.

Adding Raisin Bran makes these cookies healthy. Right? Riiiiiiiight?! Also, I used the Raisin Bran that had Flax seeds… so it’s even healthier! Right?

I chilled the dough, because the original cookies flattened out a ton. I figured chilling the dough would help, and it did! #FTW!

I pretty much devoured these. Every time I walked by, I grabbed one. The.mr liked them as much as he liked any other oatmeal cookie. Meaning, he didn’t hate them, but he didn’t *need* to eat them.

These Raisin Bran Oatmeal Cookies are awesome. Go make them. Here’s the recipe!

Happy Baking!
-Holly

May & June Cookbook Challenge

America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
I cheated and used the same cookbook for May and June. The.mr and I had a busy couple of months so I didn’t do much cooking, never mind trying new recipes.

The Recipes

  • Toasted Corn Salsa (pg 46): I stuck to the recipe 100%. I had a heck of a time toasting my corn, I think I over crowded it in the pan. It tasted good, we ate all of it in 2 sittings. I don’t like cilantro, but the.mr does… so I might leave it out (or reduce the amount I use) next time.
  • Apricot Orange Chipotle Sauce (pg 239): Neither the.mr or I really liked this sauce. We both thought it was fine, but not good enough to make again. The orange chunks and the orange juice overpowered the other flavors. Except the cilantro… but we’ve already established how I feel about cilantro. 😉
  • Southwest Marinade (pg 349): I actually used this marinade as a sauce for a pork butt I cooked in the slow cooker. I used raspberry jam instead of apricot. It was too spicy for my tastes. The.mr liked it, tho. I think if I had used it as just a marinade it would’ve been OK, but the pork had A LOT of time sitting in all that spicy sauce.
  • Multigrain Pizza Dough (pg 381): I made this recipe in my stand mixer instead of the food processor. This obviously changes the directions a little, but I didn’t write anything down besides “Stand Mixer” so… sorry. If you’re only going to use one of these pizza doughs, put the other in the freezer. If you leave it in the fridge it will continue to grow. And grow. The.mr and I both really liked this dough. It made a great crust.
  • Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits (pg 422): I really liked these! I thought the addition of cream cheese was kind of weird, but it worked out well in the end. Instead of cutting these out into round biscuits, I rolled/patted the dough into a rectangle and cut the biscuits in to squares. Mostly because I was too lazy to dig out a round cookie cutter, and partly because I didn’t want to overwork the dough. I baked these at 425 degrees F for 7 minutes, and 400 degrees for 12 and they were slightly over baked. I would’ve baked them at 450 but my oven smells like it’s burning something every time I turn it above 425. *shrugs shoulders* Make these biscuits, you won’t regret it.
  • Raspberry Bars (pg 443): Errr… I’m not sure what happened when I baked these, but mine DO NOT look at all like the photo in the book. I must have messed up somewhere and not realized it. The.mr liked them anyway. I didn’t really care for them. I’m going to try baking them again soon.

The Good

  • I love that this cookbook is a binder! It’s so much easier than trying to hold book pages down… I know that sounds silly but… love!
  • This book is filled with great “Test Kitchen Tips” on things from the best kitchen tools to how to poach something in the oven
  • I found all the ingredients I needed at my regular grocery store.
  • The writers have included variations on quite a few recipes.
  • Each section has a separate index for quick reference.

The Less Good

  • The page formatting was a little irksome. Some of the recipes only have a line or 2 at the bottom of one page, then go on to the next (or even the back). I’d the space was just left blank, or maybe had another “tip” instead.

Other Thoughts

  • The recipes are made with healthier ingredients, but most of them couldn’t be considered “diet” food.
  • I mentioned in the last post how busy the.mr and I were in May/June… so I didn’t try as many recipes as I wanted too. Obviously, I’ll be tackling some of the ones below. They may or may not be posted.

Other Recipes 2 Try

  • Carmelized Onion Dip (pg 41)
  • Any of the salad dressings
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup (pg 111)
  • Scalloped Potatoes (pg 143)
  • Chicken w/ Zucchini & Tomatoes (pg 254)
  • Any of the Marinades/ BBQ Sauces/Spice Rubs in the Grilling chapter
  • Whole wheat Dinner Rolls (pg 397)
  • Cinnamon Raisin Bread (pg 402)
  • Sweet Potato Biscuits (pg 424)
  • Classic White Sheet Cake (pg 452)

Overall
I like it! I’ve picked thru it for a few recipes here and there. IMO it’s worth the money I spent.

Happy Cooking/Baking/Making!
-Holly

PS don’t forget to check out the other cookbooks I’ve tried so far!

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies!!

The recipe for these cookies is slightly adapted from Sweet Treats & More. This is the first time I’ve used coconut oil in my baking, and I’m thrilled w/ the results! My version does make a ton of “normal” cookies OR it can make 18 HUGE cookies. I’ve tried it both ways. The Huge version is my favorite.
Just use a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop the cookie dough on to a lined cookie sheet, flatten slightly and bake! It makes really big bakery style chocolate chip cookies that are slightly crunchy but still a little chewy in the middle.

The original recipe called for whole wheat flour. I used whole what PASTRY flour instead. I went w/ the pastry flour because it’s supposed to make cookies more tender. It has something to do with higher starch and lower gluten than in regular whole wheat flour… but it’s a little too sciencey for me. 😉 I also like that it’s finer textured than regular flour.

Overall these Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies are a winner. They’re going to be in my Go-To Cookies list. The only problem I had was that I thought they got stale pretty quick, but I think that’ll just be my excuse to eat more of them! 😉 And because we all need excuses to eat more cookies, the coconut oil & whole wheat flour make these healthy… riiiight?

Click here for my Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe!

Happy Baking!
-Holly

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies

Ermahgaaaawd! These brownies are… basically my happy place. In my every day real life I have a chocolate & peanut butter obsession. It’s bad. Well, no it’s not. It’s really good. I’ve probably done that combination to death by now, but I can’t help it.

These brownies started off as a recipe adapted from these PB Swirl Brownies from Love and Olive Oil. I liked it, it was good… but I wanted to make it my own!

So, I used a basic brownie recipe and kept the PB Swirl (which I doubled). I made my brownies in a 9×13 pan. The first time I tried to make my own version of PB Swirl Brownies I overbaked them because the middle didn’t seem like it was set. That made the edges too crispy. Whomp whomp.

I’m not a big fan of over crispy brownie edges so I had to try again. If you’re counting… this makes 3.

This time, I left the PB swirl out. I used it as a frosting instead! Yup. Frosting. I baked the brownies, and then as soon as they came out of the oven I poured the melty peanut butter mixture over the top. The PB layer on top sets up and gets a little firm, or at least I think it will. It did for me, but I also kept these in the fridge. Sometimes I like cold brownies. Don’t be judgey.

Unless you’re going to be judgey and tell me how awesome these brownies are. 😉

So, apparently the 3rd time is the charm. Find out for yourself and make these PB Frosted Brownies!

Happy Baking!
-Holly

PS. I think I might make some PB Frosted Brownies using my favorite BOOZY Brownies the next time I make these!

PPS. Here are some more PB & Chocolate recipes: PB Cookie Dough Brownies, PB Cookie Dough Stuffed Cupcakes, PB & Chocolate Scones, Peanut Butter (and Chocolate) Layer Cake, Chocolate PB Kettle Corn, PB Filled Chocolate Cookies… I’m obsessed!

Buttermilk Biscuit Pull-Apart Bread

I made this pull-apart bread last month when I was doing my Cookbook Challenge. The idea is from a few different places… let’s just blame Pintrest. 😉 The biscuit dough recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

I didn’t change any of the ingredients for the dough, the only thing I did differently (besides making actual biscuits) was using my food processor to combine the dry ingredients with the butter & shortening.  It goes a lot faster this way.

I know I put actually measurements in the recipe to cut the strips… but I really just “winged it.” I used 3 fingers to measure. One cool thing I did is using a pizza cutter instead of a knife to cut the strips & squares… it was easier, and I’m all about easier. 😉

This Buttermilk Biscuit Pull-Apart Bread took almost 40 minutes to bake in the loaf pan. By the time the middle was baked through the edges where a little more brown than I wanted them. I also made this in a bundt pan, and I think I liked that way better. It seemed to bake more evenly, and took less time.

This recipe tasted fantastic! The.mr and I devoured it, practically overnight. It’s def going to be happening again!

Check out the recipe HERE.

Click HERE for my March Cookbook Challenge Post to see what else I made from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Happy Baking!
-Holly

Baked Zucchini Chips!!

zucchini chips

This recipe happened by accident. When I bought these zucchini I planned on turning them into Turkey Taco Zucchini Boats. It turned out I didn’t have a few things I needed for the boats. My next thought was Zucchini Fries… but when I cut the ends off, I just kept slicing!  Ooops!

I actually used 1 cup of breadcrumbs, not ¾. Let me explain… toss the zucchini slices in the milk (in a bag or container), then add ¾ of the bread crumbs. Shake it, and lay the slices on the baking pan. Then sprinkle them with some more of the breadcrumbs. After you bake them for the first 20 minutes, flip the slices over and sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs…

There are tons of different recipe for Zucchini Chips on the web. Most of them use higher heat than I did. I baked these at 400 degrees because when I try to heat the oven higher than that it smells like I’m burning the house down. I’m not, I promise.

Why? Because the breadcrumbs didn’t stick perfectly the first time. So sprinkling helped! Get it?

You might want to bake these longer than 40 minutes, I noticed that not all of my slices weren’t as crispy as I would’ve liked. Live and learn. 😉

Other than that… you most def want these in your life. Go forth and bake these Zucchini Chips!

Happy Making!
-Holly

Peanutty Chocolate Coconut Bars!!

When I was younger I used to hate coconut. Now…  I just don’t like it.  I tried it for the first time since I was in high school when I was making these bars.

I actually made these for the.mr to take to work. The guy that originally hired him (at this company, and the entire reason we moved to PA) left for another job this past week. L

I told him I’d make him  a special going away present, all he had to do was pick the flavors. He picked peanut butter, chocolate, and coconut.  I have to admit that I was stumped when the.mr came home and told me. What am I supposed to do with those? I don’t even *like* coconut.

I ended up surfing the interwebs until I came across a Martha Stewart recipe Chocolate Coconut Bars. With a little modification these bars turned into Peanutty Chocolate Coconut Bars! They were a big hit!

It’s a fairly simple recipe that doesn’t take a lot of time to put together.

I used chocolate graham crackers instead of regular ones, because I wanted to make sure there was lots of chocolate flavor. You could probably crush them by hand or use a rolling pin, but I really like the small crumbs I got using a food processor.

I used plain peanuts that were broken into halves, instead of the pecans in the original recipe.

I added the ½ cup of peanut butter chips to make sure there was some sweet peanut flavor.

When it came time for the condensed milk I had a little trouble. I couldn’t get it to spread, and there was a lot in the middle of the crust. I eventually used an offset spatula to spread it around. I think it was difficult because I used more “dry” ingredients then in the original recipe. Make sure to keep the condensed milk from the edges of the pan, it’ll burn.

I wasn’t sure how long to cook these for. I’m not really sure what toasted coconut is supposed to taste like, or how brown it’s supposed to get. I took it out of the oven when the coconut pieces sticking up where browned.

These coconut bars kept their shape really well… except the corners and some of the edges. If I make them again I’ll def trim the edges before I share.

The.mr said these Peanutty Chocolate Coconut Bars (click on the link for my recipe) where a hit! AND I found out I no longer despise coconut. Now, I merely dislike it. 😉

Happy Baking!
-Holly

February Cookbook Challenge- SL Heirloom Recipe Cookbook

The Book
Southern Living Heirloom Recipe Cookbook. Cobbs, Katherine, & Strickland, Ashley. Oxmoor House, 2011.
I picked out the SL Heirloom Recipe CB while I was browsing thru the cooking section at Books A Million.  I lived in Southern Virginia for 8ish year and I never learned to cook while I was there, so I thought this might be a nice tribute to the area I love. I might have been born and raised a Yankee, but Southern VA is the place I really feel at home.

The Recipes
I have to confess… I didn’t start writing this post ‘til the end of MARCH. So, it’s been a while since we actually ate these recipes. I’m sorry it’s a little vague.

  • Vegetable Cheddar Chowder (pg 199): Step 1 in this recipe says to drain the veggies after cooking them. I drained about ½ the liquid off, because I thought we needed the broth as a base. I won’t drain any of the broth next time. It’d be really easy to make this recipe vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The.mr and I enjoyed this recipe, but we found that it didn’t reheat well. Everything got waaaay too mushy in the microwave.
  • Meatloaf (pgs 120 & 121): I originally set out to make the Turkey Meatloaf on page 121, but I couldn’t find turkey sausage in the grocery store! I just used regular pork sausage. I reduced the recipe by ½. Instead of cooking this in a “loaf” I cooked it in lightly greased LARGE muffin tins. I filled each spot w/ about ¾ cup of the mixture, and baked it for around 40 minutes. This recipe was greasy, I think it was because of the sausage. If I make this again, I’m going to try precooking the sausage.
  • King Ranch Chicken (pg 170): I reduced this recipe by ½ also. I also used all cheddar cheese, and substituted nacho cheese soup. Other than that I followed the directions! I wasn’t a fan of this one. I’m not sure why… but I just didn’t like it. The.mr really liked it, he said he’d even ask for it again. Go figure.
  • Sour Cream Crescent Rolls (pg 57): Of the 4 recipes I made for the challenge this month I loved these the best! Surprised, you shouldn’t be? I really love my carbs! I accidentally used ¾ cups (instead of ½ c) of butter when I made the dough. It was kind of sticky… Oops! It’s OK, they still worked out really well! Step 5 in the instructions said to let the dough rise for 45 minutes. I made 2 cookie sheets of rolls and let them rise in a warm oven (preheated to 200 degrees, then turned off). I let one sheet rise for the full 45 minutes, and the other I let rise for 30 minutes. The.mr and I like the ones I let rise for 30 minutes the best. They had the best texture, and kept their crescenty shape. I also made a rookie mistake by baking both cookie sheets at the same time, and forgetting to rate them on the racks! So some of them browned more than others.

The Good

  • Easy to follow recipes
  • (Mostly) easy to find ingredients

Other Thoughts

  • It’s neither good nor bad, but I’m kind of indifferent to the stories… I barely skimmed them.
  • I wish there were more pictures.
  • This *isn’t* a healthy cookbook. 😉 What I mean is, there are lots of delish fats & carbs!
  • The recipes are def family sized! I had A LOT of leftovers!

Other Recipes 2 Try

  • Orange Rolls
  • Chicken Kiev
  • Macaroni Au Gratin
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Jalapeno Jelly
  • All the desserts!

Overall
I like this cookbook, and there are a lot of other recipes I can’t wait to try. The.mr liked everything we tried, but I was indifferent to the meatloaf and didn’t like the KRC.
I’m not sure it’s worth the money I spent, but if I saw it at a used bookstore I’d grab it!

See all the 2015 Cookbook Challenge Recipes!!

Happy Cooking!
-Holly