Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Wrapping Things Up

My 2 escapees, ready to make a break for it!
Some days I wish I could run away with them.
My week is only halfway there and it has already been some kind of a whirlwind, even as I am heading into the weekend I am continuing with panic attacks!

Tonight we are hosting weekly dinner for the girls' volleyball team at our house. As we are also preparing for our house guests who arriving next week (and then other arrivals the week after that), this includes lots of organizing, cleaning, scheduling carpet shampoo company, volleyball games, menus, tourist planning, and putting the finishing touches on our new guest room makeover. I think at this point not only do I have my lists everywhere, I'm quite certain I now have lists for my lists.  Not to mention my roles in the school Booster Club and my new appointment as a City Commissioner for the Art in Public Places Program, which I am super excited about being a part of.

Needless to say, dinners these days need to be really fast and easy for us right now.  I have tried (and failed) these Chicken Lettuce Wraps on many experimental occasions, but I think this time I finally "crushed it" (as my teens would say).

P.F. Chang's by far is one of my top 5 restaurants.  We absolutely love going there for special nights when we get the chance and always the first order of business is their Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (which I will save to experiment on making, for a quieter time in my life).

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Inspired by P.F. Chang's

1 pound ground chicken
1 (8 ounce) container baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bottle, "Soy Vay" brand, Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce (see photo below)
1 head bibb lettuce, washed and dried well

In a large saute pan, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and set temperature to medium-high heat.  Add the ground chicken and cook until just starting to brown.  Lower temperature to medium and add the chopped mushrooms, water chestnuts, scallions and garlic cloves.  Saute for about 15 minutes.

Add about 1 cup of the Teriyaki Sauce to chicken/veggies, stir well, cover and let simmer on low for about 15 minutes. (You can add more sauce if you prefer).  Uncover and stir until you get the consistency of a thick sauce.

Spoon cooked chicken mixture on individual chilled lettuce leaves.

"Soy Vay" brand, Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce
My secret sauce!!

One Year Ago: Gorgonzola Grilled Chicken and Spinach Salad
Two Years Ago: Nutella Cookies and Neighbors

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pear Cake, Pinterest and Prayer

In my never ending effort to search out and find new innovating recipes, I have become an avid subscriber to Pinterest.  It's actually really more of a love-hate relationship.  I haven't decided if the site motivates me and inspires me to create and "think outside the box" or depresses me because there are so many talented people in this world and I am just in awe of them, their specialties and jealous of the time they have to create so many beautiful it foods, crafts, events, tabletops, etc...

My world has been quite busy as of late and I have been in need of anything new that can be created on a budget and in a time friendly manner.  I just have to keep reminding myself that "this too shall pass", take a deep breath and pray.

This cake is one of those gems that I recently stumbled on during one of my Pinterest binges.  It was incredibly easy, fast, amazingly delicious and fit my budget.  I think it would also make a great coffee cake (for those rare special days that I actually get to sit during a weekend morning and relax).

Pear Cake
Adapted from An Italian In My Kitchen

1-1/2 cups flour
5-1/2 Tbl. cornstarch
1 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup mascarpone
2-1/2 Tbl. canola oil
pinch of salt
2 pears
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour a 9" cake pan.  (I used a spring-form pan).

Clean and peel the pears.  One pear chop into medium sized cubes, and the other pear thin slices and set aside.

In a medium bowl, at medium speed beat eggs and sugar until creamy, add mascarpone and continue beating until smooth.

In another medium bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch and baking powder.

Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine, then add the oil and salt and stirring to combine.

Fold in the medium-sized cubed pear, spoon into the prepared cake pan.

Top with the sliced pears and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake approximately 45 minutes.  Let cool and dust with powdered sugar.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Eggplant, Green Olive and Provolone Pizza

It's Friday, which means Pizza, Flatbread or Pizzette for dinner.  I recently signed up with website and receive daily e-mails and recipes from them.  
This one came across my computer and I changed it up a little to fit our dinner and tastes.  

This pizza definitely did not disappoint.  So incredibly easy to make and really flavorful!  I recommend this for any night of the week for a delicious appetizer or dinner.  We paired it with a Castle Rock Pinot Noir to finish it off.

Eggplant, Green Olive and Provolone Pizza
Adapted from Epicurious

1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/4 pound eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch thick rounds
1 Stonefire Artisan pre-made pizza crust (original recipe calls for store-bought pizza dough)
5 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (original recipe calls for 5 ounces sliced Provolone cheese)
18 pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (1/3 cup)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
** I also added 1 (8 ounce) package button mushrooms, sliced (not in original recipe)

Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking over medium heat.

Stir together garlic and oil.  Brush some of the garlic oil on both sides of eggplant and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Grill, covered, turning once, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes total.  Cut into roughly 1 inch pieces.

(From original recipe), stretch dough into about a 12" x 10" rectangle on a large baking sheet and lightly brush with garlic oil.  Oil grill rack, then put dough, oiled side down, on grill.  Brush top with more garlic oil.  Grill covered, until underside is golden brown, 1-1/2 to 3 minutes.

Using tongs, return crust, grilled side up, to baking sheet.  (At this point, I just added my pre-made crust to the baking sheet and brushed some of the garlic oil on it).

Scatter eggplant, cheese, olives, parsley and mushrooms over crust.  Slide pizza from sheet onto grill and grill, covered until underside is golden brown and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.  Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Strawberry-Blueberry Crunch

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mushroom Marsala Ravioli

In my effort to prepare for our upcoming guests at the end of the month, I have been enjoying hitting all the vintage stores in our area.  We have some of the most unique boutiques I've ever seen.  I love taking an hour and just perusing through all their aisles and corners finding little treasures.

One of my latest finds that now hangs at our garage door,
to give us a little reminder as we leave and start our
day each morning.
If you follow this blog you know that my husband is a huge fan of Chicken Marsala and Chicken Piccata.  A few weeks ago he came home and mentioned that he tried out a new place for lunch with one of his friends and had the "most unbelievable ravioli dish".  Coming from him that says a lot!  He said it was a sausage and mushroom ravioli with Marsala sauce.   Well, that did sound quite good, so I thought "I can make that, how hard can it be", right?  I did some research and really couldn't find a complete recipe for, I have taken a little of this one and a little of that one and have now found yet another little treasure.  This dish was unbelievable!!!! Incredible complex flavors, but not a complex meal to make.

Mushroom Marsala Ravioli

9 ounce package, Buitoni Mushroom Agnolotti
9 ounce package, Buitoni Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli

(if you cannot find these Buitoni flavors in your area, you can substitute with another brand in the refrigerated deli case or you may find something similar in the frozen ravioli area also)

1-1/2 Tbl. butter
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 ounces shallots, diced
1 cup Marsala wine
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream

Cook both the ravioli according to package directions.

While ravioli is cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet.  Saute the mushrooms, then remove from pan and set aside.  Add more butter to the same skillet, if needed and turn the heat down to medium-low.  Add the shallots, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Marsala wine, thyme, parsley, and pepper.  Stir until the liquid is reduced to 2-3 tablespoons.  Add the cream and stir constantly until reduced by half.  Stir the mushrooms into the sauce, then spoon onto the cooked ravioli.  Finish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

One Year Ago: Garlic Chicken Skewers
Two Years Ago: The Flavornator

Monday, August 31, 2015

Surf and Turf Crostinis

"Steak?...Did someone say steak?"
Another puppy hour sighting!

Well we survived our first week of school (barely).  Friday came upon us and I wanted to do crostini night on the patio.  These were both new recipes (one I found and the other I just made up)...both were amazing and will definitely see another appearance of them soon with our upcoming guests. They went together very easy, both had incredible flavors and were the perfect end to a very long and much anticipated week.

Lemon-Rosemary Shrimp Crostini (Surf)

Lemon-Rosemary Shrimp Crostinis
Courtesy of The Nibble

Non-stick cooking spray
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 Tbl. fresh rosemary (1 Tbl optional for garnish), finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), finely chopped
1 long baguette, cut into 24 thin slices
stainless/metal skewers

Spray grill grate of either a gas grill or charcoal grill with non-stick cooking spray.  Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Place shrimp in resealable plastic bag.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 1 tablespoon rosemary and garlic.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour half of mixture over shrimp and gently toss to coat shrimp.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes.

Add to the remaining oil mixture, the cream cheese, 1/4 cup feta, pine nuts and tomato.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and set aside.

Spray both sides of baguette slices with non-stick cooking spray.  Place on grill for 1-2 minutes per side or until lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Drain excess liquid from shrimp and place on skewers.  Grill 1-2 minutes per side or until pink and cooked through.  To assemble, spread cheese mixture onto bread slices, then place about 2-3 shrimp on top.  Sprinkle remaining feta and rosemary on top.

Blue Cheese Beef Crostini (Turf)
Blue Cheese Beef Crostinis

1/2 pound london broil or prime rib, cooked and sliced thin
1 wedge Cambozola cheese, softened
1 pint yellow grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 baguette, cut into 24 thin slices
olive oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place baguette slices on sheet and brush with olive oil one side that is facing up.  Bake approximately 5 minutes, until just starting to become lightly toasted.

Remove baguette slices from oven and spread Cambozola cheese over each slice.  Add a small piece of sliced beef, avocado slice, then top with 2 slices of the tomato.

Two Years Ago: Flatbread Friday

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce...School's In Session

I'm happy to report that we are back in full swing of school, sports and chaos!  School started last week and the schedules have been non-stop.  Junior year is upon us and the girls are very excited about it and making Varsity team!  I see Letterman jackets in our future very soon.

I have been so busy with them, my new business, redecorating rooms, getting ready for family guest stays and taking on a role with the Booster Club Board, that my experimental cooking and baking (and blogging) on weekends has taken a sideline.

This is what happens when I stop making weekend treats and I go to the grocery store on the way home from work, after a bad day with an empty stomach and feeling hot flashes!!

Luckily, I was able to try out this treat and conquer my very first, made from scratch, cheesecake earlier this summer.  This cheesecake was unbelievable (easy and a little time consuming, but so worth it) and I cannot wait to make it again for our upcoming guests.

Cheesecake With Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Courtesy of Trisha Yearwood


Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted


32 ounces (Four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese
2 cups sour cream
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Sauce:

1 to 1 1/4 cups halved fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 lime, zested

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray; line the bottom with a round of parchment paper; and spray the paper with cooking spray. Place the pan on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and bring the foil up around the sides to enclose the seam between the bottom and the sides of the pan (this will prevent water from leaking in).

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are coated. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Set aside.

For the filling: In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese together with the sour cream. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla, and beat until smooth.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Set the foil-wrapped pan inside a larger pan, and carefully pour 1/2 inch of warm water into the larger pan to create a water bath. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the cheesecake stand in the opened oven for 1 hour. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 2 hours or overnight before removing it from the pan.

For the sauce: Process the strawberries, sugar and lime zest in a food processor or blender until smooth. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. (The sauce is best served cold from the refrigerator.)

One Year Ago:  Volleyball Cookies
Two Years Ago: Puttanesca Pasta

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Eat The Cookie...Buy The Shoes"

"Eat The Cookie...Buy The Shoes", a great summer read by Joyce Meyer that I have been enjoying.  It's a book for women about "giving yourself permission to lighten up".  It's a very spiritual and inspiring book that reminds us gals, "Fun and enjoyment are needs in our lives, and we can't be healthy without them".

I took Joyce's advice...I stumbled on these darling shoes (on sale of course).  They were the last pair in my size, so of course it was meant to be that they were waiting there for me...and I made a batch of these "oh my goodness - very naughty cookie bars".  I don't know what else to call them except naughty!  Pure bliss in one bite!

They were also the perfect dessert for my husband loves chocolate chip brownies, my oldest daughter prefers Oreos, my youngest daughter is partial to chocolate chip cookies...and let's face it, I'm addicted to all three of them and I'm not even going to try and deny it.

Naughty Cookie Bars
Inspired by Joyce Meyer
"Eat The Cookie...Buy The Shoes"

1 tub refrigerated pre-made cookie dough (or make your own)
1 package Double Stuff Oreo cookies
1 box, family size, brownie mix (plus ingredients needed to prepare)
1/2 bag mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with parchment paper.

Spread layer of cookie dough evenly over the parchment paper.

Place rows of Oreo cookies on top of the cookie dough.

Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions.
Spread the prepared brownie mix over the Oreo cookies.
Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over the brownie mix.

Bake at 350 degrees approximately 30- 45 minutes.
Depending on your oven, start checking it after 30 minutes
and brownies are baked through.

Two Years Ago: Snickerdoodles