Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chicken Apple Gouda Wraps

Yummy note: So I'm back in the kitchen playing again with some delicious apples, but this time I used in an entree!  Kitchen PLAY and The US Apple Association is hosting this wonderful contest, and if your recipe is selected, you can win $100! How exciting is that?! It is a win-win for everyone! Kate at Savour Fare had a big mouthwatering sub-like looking sandwich that called my name, I am a sucker for pulled meat, smothered in a sauce.  So I decided to take a stab and recreate a slightly modified version of her Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Apple SlawI have created a chicken apple gouda wrap in hopes I could create a lighter, not to mention quick entree using store prepared chicken. I made my entree using a healthier wheat tortilla shell, and went with a warm apple slaw instead of using a slaw with mayo. This was a pretty quick and no fuss recipe, that can easily be done for a mid-week meal.

Chicken Apple Gouda Wraps
adapted from


For the chicken:
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (such a timesaver, just pick up an already prepared chicken from the deli and remove meat from the bones and shred)
about 1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
salt and pepper to season
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce

For the apple slaw:
one bag of broccoli slaw (not a huge cabbage slaw fan, so I used this instead for a nice crunch)
small onion, sliced or diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 apples, thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider
Dash of Cider vinegar
Salt, to taste

Finishing touches:
1 apple thinly sliced
wheat tortillas
1/4 cup Gouda cheese

Start by pulling off the meat from the already prepared chicken. Set the shredded chicken aside. In a medium saucepan, add in apple cider, vinegar, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Stir all ingredients together and cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to bubble a little. Next add in your shredded chicken and seasonings to the saucepan and stir together. While this simmers together, start preparing your apple slaw. In a small saucepan, cook onion and butter together until onion becomes translucent. Then dump in the broccoli slaw mixture, sliced apples, and apple cider into the saucepan with your onions. Add in a dash of apple cider vinegar and add salt if desired, to taste. Cook slaw mixture just until it starts to get tender, then remove from the heat so that you still have some crunch left in the slaw. This really only takes just a few minutes for it all to pull together. Once your apple cider barbecue sauce is thoroughly mixed up with the chicken, get your ingredients ready to assemble the wraps!

Start with a slightly warmed wheat tortilla shell and begin layering on the goodness.. add some shredded chicken, then some of your warm apple slaw, and top with some chopped up gouda cheese, and finished with a few more crisp apple slices for additional crunch and flavor. And it's a wrap!! Cut in half and enjoy all of those wonderful flavors layered together.

Join the fun and enter this month's Kitchen Play Progressive Party by September 30 and blog about your favorite dish!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

apple bellini

Yummy note: I came across this cool website other day called Kitchen PLAY which is hosting a contest featuring apples! The US Apple Association is sponsoring a giveaway at Kitchen PLAY this month where you need to recreate a recipe from this month's Progressive Party and then blog about it. Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen showed off her Apple Mojito cocktail in which I took a turn at recreated my own apple bellini cocktail. If you want to join the fun, do so before September 30th, and you can enter the Kitchen Play Progressive Party for your very own chance to win!

Apple Bellini (or Sparkly Apple Drink)

about 2-3 apples to make an apple puree (or you may substitute using a prepared unsweetened applesauce)
1 bottle of sparkling wine, apple cranberry juice, cider, or champagne
couple of cinnamon sticks and thinly sliced apple slices for garnish

Create an apple puree by cooking some peeled, chopped apples with a few tablespoons of water in a saucepan until the apples are tender. Roughly about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until fully cooked. Remove from heat, cool, and puree apples. Yummy note: For some extra fun, I took some of the apple puree and froze it so that it could be used in the drink as ice cubes.

Next, prepare your apple bellini or using 1 part apple puree and about 2 parts champagne or sparkling wine. To make a non-alcoholic sparkly apple drink, just substitute the champagne with a sparkling apple-cranberry juice or cider! Stir together and top with apple wedge and cinnamon stick garnish. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lady Bug Pops

Yummy note: I wish I could take credit for these cute little lady bug frozen pop treats, but our Food Network foodie goddess Giada De Laurentiis beat us to the punch! Alicia has been wanting to make popsicles and when we saw this come on the tv the other day, she was thrilled and wanted to make them! They are pretty simple to make and are easy to put together even with lots of little hands around the house...

Lady Bug Pops
Original recipe here:

4 cups of frozen strawberries, chopped (Yummy note: You could use fresh strawberries, but we used the frozen ones for ease and quicker preparation)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup of blueberries

Puree all of the ingredients, except for the blueberries together until smooth. We used our baby bullet system for it, but a blender would work just fine. Next, pour the smoothie mixture into ice cube trays. Place the "lady bug spots" (blueberries) in each individual ice cube. We managed to stuff about 2-3 blueberries in each one. Freeze for 1 hour or until fruit mixture begins to thicken a bit. Then insert a stick into each cube and freeze another 3 to 5 hours until firm. Empty ice cube trays and enjoy your frozen lady bug pops!

"Mommy, these are cool..." 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Moroccan Sauce

Yummy note: I love this part of the month, what is it you ask... it's Secret Recipe Club time, when I read about all the fun that the other food bloggers are having. There are so many wonderful blogs out there where people are opening their kitchen windows and letting us peek in at their passion of food, writing, and photography. For September’s Secret Recipe Club recipe post, I am featuring Jenny's Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Moroccan Lamb Sauce from her blog called Savour the Senses. I began my search on Jenny's blog and realized this her first month to the Secret Recipe Club fun, so say make sure you welcome Jenny to the club!  So as I began this month's journey, it often requires some searching through my assigned blogger’s site for hours, then I get distracted and see several recipes I love, and then, it seems like days later, I find that just right recipe. I really enjoyed this blog post by Jenny as it totally sounded like something that would happen to me, as she mentioned, “Don’t get me wrong, the dish was delicious, I just had a few mishaps while trying to prepare it.” – Oh, that is totally me, I thought, as I always seem to hit bump in the road to steer me a bit off track no matter what I do. This gnocchi is so versatile that I used it in two different dishes already this month! Also the meat sauce I'm sure would be delicious on top of rice or any other pasta, as the seasonings are just wonderful. So don't be afraid of the heat or spices in this dish, as it is similar to the heat of a good bowl of chili. Jenny, thank you for inspiring me to take the challenge this month and make some wonderfully tasting homemade gnocchi with a Moroccan-inspired sauce.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Moroccan Sauce

Original recipe adapted slightly from Savour the Senses

For the Butternut Squash Gnocchi:
About a 2-2.5 lb butternut squash (need to yield about 1 ½ cups of squash flesh)
3 eggs
1 cup flour (plus a few tablespoons more if needed)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

For the Moroccan Meat Sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
small onion (diced)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 lb ground beef
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow summer squash
Salt/pepper to taste

For the Gnocchi – Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the butternut squash for roasting: Chop the top and bottom off of the squash, then cutting it in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Roast the squash by placing them cut side down on a baking pan, and bake for about an hour or until it is fork tender. At this point, I let my butternut squash cool before I started to mix the gnocchi dough. I’m not sure if you really need to let it cool before processing, but I did and it seemed to work fine. I did what fit into my schedule, and that was to let it chill for a bit and come back to it when I had more free time. Once you have your squash flesh cut out of the shell, measure out roughly 1 ½ cups of butternut squash.

In a food processor, (I used my dough hook), begin pulsing together the squash, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add in your flour and pulse the dough until combined, you may need to continue adding more flour if the gnocchi is too sticky. It should appear kind of smooth when all of the flour is incorporated. I wish I had better advice to offer on when the dough is “ready” but I am not sure, since this was my first time making gnocchi! :) So once you think the gnocchi dough is “ready,” bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a scooper, drop about a tablespoon of the gnocchi mixture into the boiling water. Scoop several gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the gnocchi starts to float. Once they begin to float, take them out of the pot to drain. Repeat until all of your gnocchi is done.

I really enjoyed this gnocchi, as I ended up using it in two different recipes! Besides making the meat sauce recipe from Savour the Senses, I also made a wonderful Chicken and Gnocchi soup with my cute little gnocchi, which I will save that recipe for another day.. :)

Also note, it was super easy to freeze too, just let them dry a bit before putting them into the freezer so that they don't stick together. Ok, as I wander thinking about other yummy food, back to the Moroccan Meat Sauce from Savour the Senses.

For the sauce- Heat the olive oil, onion and minced garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes, just until the onions start to get soft. Then add in your ground meat choice and brown the meat; I used beef, but in Jenny’s original recipe she used lamb, so use what you’d like. At the same time, add in your spices, and stir. Next, add in can of tomatoes and chopped squash and zucchini chunks.

Simmer the sauce, uncovered until it starts to thicken up, probably about 15-20 minutes. For the last few minutes, add your gnocchi back into the pan and let the flavors mingle together while the gnocchi reheats in the sauce. Season with additional salt and pepper to finish and enjoy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brown Bag Popcorn

Yummy note: First off, I'll start saying this is my first blog of this sorts only using my iPhone for picture taking cause it was late at night when I started this little experiment and honestly was skeptical that this would even work. So instead of recreating and using my real camera, I thought why not post these photos as is and even show my little popcorn popping video! It was a "Seriously...this works" type of moment!  Yes, you can make quick no fuss popcorn in the microwave with NO special poppers, bowls, etc.. as I tell myself as I hope my microwave doesn't turn into a  All you need is some regular popcorn kernels, a small-lunch sized brown paper bag, and your microwave! I really wish I had known about this when I was in college, as I was making microwaved popcorn all the time, and buying those expensive pre-packaged bags. Who knew I could have saved some cash! I came across it on this site here, while looking for other DIY stuff, seriously who knew all the stuff you can make from things in your house already.

Brown Bag Popcorn

about 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels

Place 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into a small brown paper bag.

Fold over top of brown paper bag with a few small folds to keep bag closed to ensure popcorn stays in your bag while popcorn kernels later are exploding into fluffy popcorn :)

Place brown bag upright in microwave and set to cook for a couple of minutes, about 3 or so, or until popping has slowly diminished, or just use the popcorn button on the microwave if you have one.

 Listen closely for the popcorn in popping action!

Once the popping has almost halted, open microwave, shake your bag of popcorn, open, and enjoy! :)

Yummy note: Since this first time of popping my popcorn, I also prepared batches with about a tablespoon of oil/melted butter coating the kernels before putting them in the bag and it also seemed to work fine. Only big thing about adding that before popping, it makes your bag very oily and kind of a mess and you won't be able to really reuse your bag. If you pop the kernels dry in your brown bag, you can reuse the brown bag for another batch of popcorn easily without a mess. 

The popcorn we used for this experiment was picked up from a local Chicagoland farmstand store, Goebbert's, which we love to take little trips to and visit, and of course, get some great produce. 
How cute is this, I had to share Alicia and her adorable little shopping cart to tote our goodies in while at Goebbert's

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Bake to Remember.. Big Apple Cake and Caramel Apple Muffins

9-11 Remembrance –

Photo I took the summer of 1996 while visiting New York

Yummy note: Marla of Family Fresh Cooking has asked the blogging community to join her and others in baking a remembrance cake to remember all those who lost their lives in the life changing events of 9/11/2001. So in a tribute, I made a Big Apple Cake and Caramel Apple Muffins in honor of all. 

Some days, I can't remember where I last placed my phone, and that literally was like ten minutes ago. But then again, there are some things we are meant to never forget. Ten years ago...I graduated from college, got engaged, and I moved away from home. Ten years ago, I recall exactly where I was that morning of September 11, at 7:46 a.m. I was in my normal work routine of the day, sitting in traffic on the expressway, listening to the radio, just within miles of the Chicago O'Hare Airport.. I am pretty sure I know where exactly on the expressway I was, as I think everyone else around me did too, when we heard the news a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. Working in a suburb close to O'Hare, it was typical busy with sounds of plane after after plane flying over, that day though, it was such an eerily silence. The only thing we seemed to hear that day was the sonic boom of one of the military fighter jets that shook the building we were in. Recalling that day, it was just crazy to think that our United States of America was being attacked... listening to the horrific events unfold on news radio and catching the events on the internet and later when I got home from work, all seemed unreal. No matter where you were that day in history, you were touched by these events...all I can do is look back and just thank God that everyone I personally knew was safe...and pray for and honor those who gave their life that day. 
/~ Please join us in remembering all of those who were lost on 9/11, and bake a remembrance cake, post about it and link your remembrance post here and check out the others on Marla's site.

Big Apple Cake and Caramel Apple Muffins

2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 eggs (beaten)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups peeled and chopped apples
optional: 1 cup chopped nuts or caramel bits

Beat eggs together and add in sugar and oil. In separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Then add dry mixture to liquid mixture. Next, add in vanilla, chopped apples, and optional nuts/caramel bits to dough. I split my dough in half, and added caramel bits to the one half for muffins, while I left the other half of the dough for a simple apple cake. Bake in two prepared loaf pans, or bake in muffin tins. Sprinkle top with sugar and bake in preheated 350 degree oven. If baking the cake, bake for about 1 hour. If baking the muffins, bake for about 25-30 minutes. 

Caramel Apple Muffins

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tomato Soup Sloppy Joes

Yummy note: This is one of those things I make, I'm constantly tinkering with. Sloppy Joes are just that. I always throw stuff together and never take time to measure it out or for that matter, even remember what I put into the pan the last time I made it. haha..I think every time I make it, my husband Drew is like, "this doesn't taste like your typical recipe again..." So again, I went back to the drawing board, or shall I say computer and kitchen cabinet... this time I found a poor lonely can of tomato soup I have had in the cabinet forever and an almost empty bag in the freezer of frozen veggies to toss in as well. These veggies are no ordinary veggies, as they are SUCH a timesaver for me to use. They are already pre-cut up onions, celery, and peppers, ready to toss into anything. So even if you can't find this thing called a "recipe helper" in your local store, I would suggest creating your own and tossing it in the freezer for quick add-ins with your meals to save time! 
So, back to the recipe, I saw on my can of tomato soup, the good ole Campbells website.  On the website, I saw a perfect "back to school" recipe, what great timing, since the fall season has started, thus it became my inspiration for this meal. 

This is an adaption of recipe called "Back to School Sloppy Joes" from Campbell's website here.

Tomato Soup Sloppy Joes
3/4 cup frozen recipe helper (basically an equal mix of chopped celery, onion, and peppers)
1 lb ground beef
1/4 tp garlic powder
2 tbps ketchup
2 tbps brown sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
small can of tomato soup
1 tbps water
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, begin to brown ground beef and add in the frozen celery, onion, and pepper mixture. Next, add in garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Once meat is thoroughly browned and vegetables are tender, drain any extra fat off your meat. Next, add in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, and add about 3/4 of the can of soup.

Stir until well combined and simmer for about 15 minutes until flavors are mingled together. I ended up using almost the whole can of soup, but it really depends on how thick or saucy you'd like your sloppy joes to be. I also added in a bit of water (about a tablespoon or so) towards the end to avoid the sloppy joes from sticking on the pan and to create a bit more "sauce" in the pan.

We serve it on a bun usually, but it is also fairly tasty the next day on top of a bed of salad greens or my daughter's favorite way to eat it, on top of tortilla chips or Fritos corn chips!