Friday, November 28, 2014

Homemade Samoa Bars

We are always on the lookout for a new sweet treat. I am constantly baking with my boys to keep us all entertained during the day, especially in the winter. To top that, my hubby is constantly searching magazines and the internet for new food that he or I can whip up. He found these and I just had to make them. They are super impressive for company, so perfect for this season! I will tell you, I double the shortbread recipe, we LOVE to have a thick shortbread on the bottom of these decadent bars. Actually, we love double the crust on pretty much everything!

Homemade Samoa Bars

Shortbread (I DOUBLE this shortbread recipe, we prefer thick crusts)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

Coconut topping
4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
20 ounces store-bought
3 Tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 ounces dark chocolate

Make the shortbread cookie base:
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line a 13-by 9-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer to low, and then carefully add the flour mixture to the bowl, beating just until combined and scraping down the sides as needed. (Do not overmix the shortbread dough or it'll be too crumbly to cut once baked.) Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan and press it into an even, flat layer.
Bake the shortbread until barely golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely while you make the topping.

Make the coconut topping:
Turn the oven up to 350ºF. Spread the coconut flakes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the coconut for about 10 minutes until it's toasted, stirring frequently to ensure even browning and so that it does not burn. Alternatively, you can do this in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove the toasted coconut from the oven and set it aside.
Melt the caramels, milk and salt in a double-boiler by placing the ingredients in a medium saucepot set over a large saucepot of simmering water. Cook, stirring, until the caramels are fully melted. Remove the saucepot from the heat and combine the caramel mixture with the toasted coconut in a large bowl. Immediately spread the coconut mixture over the cooled shortbread, pressing it to adhere to the shortbread base. Work quickly, as the caramel mixture will begin to firm up and won't adhere if it cools too much. Let the bars sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Using the parchment paper overhangs, lift the shortbread out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice the shortbread into bars by spacing your cuts to make 3 columns down and 10 rows across to form 30 roughly 2-inch by 1-inch cookie bars.
Melt the dark chocolate in a double-boiler or in the microwave. Dip the bottoms of each of the cookie bars into the chocolate and place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to drizzle the tops with chocolate. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate hardens fully.

Recipe from
Makes About 30 cookie bars

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Butternut Squash Burritos

Yum Yum-these were amazing. I am absolutely addicted to butternut squash, as is my 1 year old. I cook 2-3 a week, and right when it pops out of the oven he runs over and starts hyperventilating until I get some in his mouth. The other day we just sat on the floor in the middle of the kitchen and ate every last bite of roasted squash-it was one of those moments that I will never forget as a mom. It was heaven. I love my boys, and I almost love butternut squash just as much:) Not really, but I do love it alot. Usually I just toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it for about 40 minutes at 400. From there you can do anything with this sugar-tasting veggie! My sweet, healthy friend told me that I had to try this dish, and after a day of thinking about it, I whipped it up. It’s great. I mean, really...a vegetarian, guilt-free version of a meal that is usually 1000 calories. I think yes. I couldn’t stop eating it, and I can’t wait to have it for lunch again tomorrow!

Butternut Squash Burritos

1 medium butternut squash
1/2 cup cooked rice or quinoa
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
2 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
One 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup monterrey jack cheese
4 tortilla wraps
Toppings of choice: (avocado, salsa, sour cream, spinach/lettuce, cilantro, etc)
Preheat oven to 400F and line a large glass dish with tinfoil. Peel and cube squash, then drizzle olive oil on squash and add salt and pepper. Coat with hands. Roast for 40 minutes or until tender.
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add oil, onion, and minced garlic. Sautee for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in salt and seasonings and stir well.
Add chopped red pepper, black beans, and cooked rice/quinoa and sauté for another 10 mins. on low.
When squash is tender remove from oven and cool slightly. Add 1.5 cups of the cooked butternut squash to the skillet and stir well. You can mash the squash with a fork if some pieces are too large. Add cheese and heat another couple minutes.
Add filling to tortilla along with desired toppings. Wrap and serve. Leftover filling can be reheated the next day for lunch in a wrap or as a salad topper.

Makes 4 burritos
Recipe adapted from

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chewy Pretzel Bites with Gruyere Cheese Dipping Sauce

In the mood for light snack that will have you going back for more, and more, and more?? These are it. I have made these multiple times, most recently for our superbowl party. Everyone was diving in and fighting for the last bites...okay so I was fighting for the last bites. Not to mention the cheesy, delicious flavor that the gruyere cheese sauce adds. I was basically drenching each and every bite in the creamy sauce right before it hit my tongue! I am 100% addicted to these salty, chewy morsels. I hope I can get you addicted, too!

Chewy Pretzel Bites with Gruyere Cheese Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water

1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until you get a really soft dough that isn’t overly sticky. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag (like a zip-top gallon size bag); close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or lightly greasing them.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into about four pieces of equal size, and roll into snakes about 1-1.5 inches thick. Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda in a liquid measuring cup (deep enough to dip the pretzel bites into). Lightly stir up the mixture right before adding each pretzel.
Cut each strip of dough into about 6-8 pieces, about 1 inch in width. Dip each pretzel bite in the baking soda solution (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Bake the pretzels for 7-8 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Bake one sheet at a time – it won’t hurt the other pretzels to chill out for a little longer.
Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave on low heat.

Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Makes about 40 bites

Gruyere Cheese Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk, cooking for one minute. Then, gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk.
Increase heat to high; bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is thickened, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add cheese, stir until melted.
Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from
Makes about 1 1/2 cups dipping sauce

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chocolate Coconut Protein Balls

I can’t believe I haven’t posted these little babies. They have been a staple in our home for months and months! My super-fit awesome friend Tennille made these for me on one of our early morning runs (drives) to the gym...and I pretty much begged her to make them for me again-daily, if possible! I quickly grabbed the recipe and I have a constant store of them in my freezer-well, unless my husband sneaks a few to many a day, then I open the freezer to an almost gone supply! Which is so, so sad. Make them for your protein-packed, cookie dough tasting, snack:)!

Chocolate Coconut Protein Balls

2 cups raw almonds
1/3 cup chocolate whey protein powder
3/4 cup almond or peanut butter
2 Tbs. honey, melted
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips

In a food processor, finely blend raw almonds. Add all remaining ingredients except chocolate chips to food processor and blend thoroughly. Stir in chocolate chips. Roll into 1" balls and freeze for at least 30 minutes. They can remain in the freezer in a ziplock bag for up to three months. Enjoy!

Recipe from Tennille
Makes 48 ping pong size balls

Monday, February 24, 2014

Arugula Parmesan Salad (our go to side dish)

Everyone, I mean everyone, I make this for asks for the recipe. Isn’t that just the best feeling when you know you made something that will soon appear on your friend’s table for dinner? Okay, it is the best feeling to me, anyway. This is so quick, delicious, and tastes like you spent forever making this special side dish. Best thing is, it whips up in about 45 seconds! Yee-haw! I looooove that.

Arugula Parmesan Salad (our go to side dish)

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
4 cups (packed) baby arugula
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes(if desired)

Mix first 4 ingredients vigorously with a whisk. Season dressing with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill up to 3 days. Combine arugula and tomatoes in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat.

Recipe from
Serves 4 as a side dish

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pan Fried Panko Lemon Chicken

You know those meals that you feel like you could eat every night for a week, and never get sick of them? Well, this is one of them. I related it to my Crispy Chicken with Orange Dipping Sauce, which is equally as divine in an entirely different way! This recipe is so fresh and light, yet completely filling! The touch of lemon zest in the breading as well as the squeeze of lemon juice over the top of the finished meal is to die for. My mouth is watering just thinking about this meal...we had it last night and I have a feeling it will be back on the menu again very, very soon!

Pan Fried Panko Lemon Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, halved horizontally*, and pounded to 1/2-inch thick
2 oz shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella cheese (1/2 cup)
2 oz shredded Provolone cheese (1/2 cup)
1 large egg
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 oz fresh shredded parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
Zest of 1 lemon (2 tsp)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Lemon slices or wedges for serving (you can just use the one that was zested)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle each side of the chicken cutlet lightly with salt and pepper. Combine Mozzarella and Provolone cheese in a bowl, set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk together flour and egg until smooth. (yes in the same dish...I had never done this before but it worked great!)  In a separate shallow dish, toss together Panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, oregano, lemon zest, garlic powder and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Working with 1 chicken cutlet at a time, dredge chicken in egg mixture coating both sides and allowing excess to run off, then immediately transfer to panko and parmesan mixture and coat both sides with mixture, while pressing gently to allow crumbs to adhere. Transfer chicken to a plate and repeat process with remaining chicken cutlets.

Pour olive oil nto a 10-inch non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add 2 coated chicken cutlets and fry without moving them until bottom is crispy and golden brown, about 2 minutes, then using metal tongs rotate to opposite side and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer fried chicken to a large plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat process with remaining 2 pieces of chicken.

Place cutlets on rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle tops with Mozzaralla cheese mixture and transfer to preheated oven to bake until internal temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometor, about 12 minutes (you can broil during the last 1 - 2 minutes if desired). Remove from oven and garnish with lemon slices or wedges, serve warm. Squeeze fresh lemon juice from lemon slices over chicken just before enjoying.

Recipe from Cooking Classy
Serves 2-4

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chicken Quinoa Chili

We are loving this chili. I have made it 3 times this month! It is delicious is so many ways. We are quinoa addicts in this house, that’s for sure. I always use it in place of rice, always. We honestly don’t even have rice in our house anymore! This chili is a perfect way to introduce your family to quinoa if they have never had it before. They can still get used to the texture, while the flavor is mixed with a well-known white chili. Make this tonight!

Chicken Quinoa Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
2 cans, drained + rinsed cannellini beans
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup half and half
4 ounces monterey jack cheese, freshly grated + more for topping
blue corn chips for crushing on top
lime wedges for serving

Heat a large pot over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add in the onion, peppers and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and stir. Add the in shredded chicken, beans and chicken stock. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Stir in the quinoa, half and half and grated cheese, stirring well until the cheese is melted. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and season additionally if desired. Serve with extra cheese, chips and lime wedges.

Recipe from
Serves 4

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pretzel Peanut Butter Treats

It’s Valentine’s day!!! I had the best intentions of decorating my house this year for this romantic holiday....but this month has come and gone so quick! I missed it. Oops. Better luck next year, I guess:). I did get around to making these amazing little morsels, however. If you want your valentine to gain about 5 pounds, make them an entire batch of these! (I’ll warn you though, you will end up helping them eat!) You know me, peanut butter and chocolate are my weakness. Make it white chocolate, and I melt. Literally! Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbs. butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-16 oz. bag Pretzels
6 squares chocolate (or white chocolate) almond bark

Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.
Mix peanut butter and butter together. Scrape down bowl, add sugars and beat until combined. You should be able to roll the mixture into balls without sticking to your hands. Add more powdered sugar until you reach this consistency.
Roll the mixture into small balls. Sandwich the balls between two pretzels and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Melt the chocolate according to package directions. Stir occasionally until smooth.
Dip each pretzel bite halfway into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet. Let sit until the chocolate is set.

Makes approx. 75 pretzel sandwiches
Recipe from

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Neiman Marcus $250 Chocolate Chip Cookies (Amanda Style)

I'm not one for cookies.

I’m one for cookie dough!! Really, I could eat an entire bowl of cookie dough. I also love cookies right when they come out of the oven, and are still pretty much raw. After that initial hot cookie, I can stay away from the sweets that are trying to lure me in. However, when my sister made these for me, I could not resist them! They have blended oatmeal and finely grated heavenly chocolate pieces throughout. I eat all the dough I can, sneak a few right from the oven, and then throw the rest in the freezer so i have a good stash for later....and I try to do it all without my husband knowing, so I don’t have to share!

Neiman Marcus $250 Chocolate Chip Cookies (Amanda Style)

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups blended oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
4 ounces milk chocolate, grated

Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda.
Add chocolate chips, grated Hershey Bar. Roll into 1 inch balls and place 2-inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375° or until golden.

Recipe from Amanda
Makes about 40 cookies

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Artisan Bread

Guess who’s back? Yep, I have been gone a long, much too long, time. We welcomed our new little guy, Meyers, into the world in November, and my life has been a whirlwind! The 20 month old twins have been running circles around me as I cuddle and care for Meyers, so my husband has been in the kitchen A LOT. Thank heavens for him. Honestly he comes home from a long day at work and just jumps right into wrestling the boys, cooking, and rocking the little man to sleep.
I’ve slipped a few meals in here and there, and I’m excited to share a ton of new recipes with you! Starting with this artisan bread. Holy. Easy. Now that what I like to hear at this stage of my life. The instruction may LOOK difficult, but really its just some tips and tricks. This bread literally requires mixing once, and forgetting about it! It looks so very impressive on the dinner table, and tastes even better. We dipped in soup, ate it as our bread for sandwiches, and snacked until every last morsel was gone. It’s on my menu again this week-and I should give both loaves away to prevent consuming all of it on my own:)

Artisan Bread

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough

In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water. Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. The dough will be kind of stickey-don’t worry! Cover lightly with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, cut in half with serrated knife to make 2 loaves. Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes for room temperature dough; if you have used the dough out of the refrigerator, let it rest for 1 1/2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven. (BROILER pan...this is important. I learned my lesson the hard way-hot glass pan+water (that will be added in a later step) = shattered glass. Everywhere. It was not fun...but my bread still turned out great!) Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.

After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.

Some Notes from the original recipe: If you don't have a baking stone, try turning a rimmed baking sheet upside down and heating it in the 450 degree oven for 10 minutes prior to baking. When ready to bake, slide the parchment paper with the dough on it directly onto the overturned baking sheet and bake according to the recipe. You can also stretch the rounded dough into an oval and place in a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for 40 minutes if fresh (add an extra hour if the dough has been refrigerated). Bake in the loaf pan in the 450 degree oven, watching the time carefully - check after 20-22 minutes.

Makes 2 large loaves of bread
Recipe from Mel at

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Easy Roasted Chicken

My sister has been trying to get me to make this roasted chicken for almost 2 years. It is her husband’s favorite meal, and for some reason I just thought it was too difficult to make. I am a big fan of rotisserie chicken, the ease of it is almost priceless. I figured that was always the best way to go...I was so wrong. So. Wrong. Really, this meal is some the of juiciest chicken I have ever had. Not to mention it is super impressive looking and extremely delicious. I can’t wait to serve it to guests and knock their socks off...without even having to worry a second about if dinner will turn out!

Easy Roasted Chicken

1 (4- to 5-pound) whole chicken, neck and giblets removed from the cavity
3 Tbs. butter, softened
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
(if desired, lemon and herbs such as rosemary or parsley)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into six pieces
2 cups carrots, cut into 1” pieces
4 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1” pieces

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Rinse chicken and place it on a work surface and pat it dry with paper towels.
Rub butter on the chicken all over the skin. Season generously on the outside with salt and pepper. If desired, place the lemon and herbs inside the cavity. Tie the legs together with a piece of yarn. Place the chicken breast-side up in a large cast-iron skillet or dutch oven.
Combine all prepared vegetables into a bowl. Toss in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter vegetables around the chicken in the dutch oven. Roast the chicken, uncovered, in the oven until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165°F, about 60-80 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a cutting board. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

Recipe from Amanda
Serves 1 person per pound