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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

{The Best} Flan

    • A kitchen torch sounds like a dangerous investment to me.  Without one I can't properly make creme brulee.  So, I don't.  I make flan.  It's basically the same.  Right?  Ok, not really, but it's a custardy dessert drenched in the yummiest caramely goodness.  And it is delicious.  And easy.  So, if you haven't ever made it--give it a shot.  I have experimented a bit with some different recipes and this is the one.  

    A couple of tips for making flan (or any custard-like dessert):
    •  - For best results, bake in a water bath for more even heat distribution and to prevent cracking.
    •  - The melted sugar will solidify in the bottom of the pan when you initially pour it in, so don't freak out like I did the first time, as long as it is not overcooked it will melt again when baked.
    •  - The melted sugar will spread more evenly across the bottom of your pan before it solidifies if the pan is warm.   To warm the pan up, I just place it on my back burner (where my oven vent is) while the oven is preheating.  
    •  - It tastes much better after being refrigerated overnight, so plan ahead.  

    {The Best} Flan
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • Water
    • Lemon Juice

    Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place 9 or 10 inch round glass baking dish on stove top to warm it up while oven preheats.  In a blender combine eggs, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract and blend until well combined.  Set aside.  

    In a microwaveable bowl or glass measuring cup, wet 1 cup sugar with about 1/3 cup water until it has the consistency of 'wet sand'.  Add a few drops of lemon juice (this will prevent the sugar from recrystallizing).  Watching closely to prevent the sugar from burning, microwave it on high until the sugar melts and turns a nice caramel color (about 2 minutes).  Pour sugar mixture into warm pan spreading quickly and evenly before sugar solidifies.  Pour egg mixture over melted sugar.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a water bath for 1 hour.  Refrigerate overnight.  Invert onto rimmed platter or plate before serving.   

    Recipe Source: Adapted from Allrecipes

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Zucchini Bread {coconut oil variation included}

    I am a huge lover of zucchini! I love it fried, sauteed, in casseroles, cakes, brownies and of course in this tender and rich bread. I personally love zucchini bread with nuts, so I add chopped pecans or walnuts to my bread. This recipe has the perfect blend of spices. It is oh so tender and yummy.

    This last time I made it I substituted coconut oil in one batch. You can use coconut oil pretty much straight across in any dessert like recipe. Of course you have to melt the coconut oil down first, but it adds the faintest hint of coconut flavor to the bread....mmmm, dreamy!

    Zucchini is a hearty plant. If you haven't planted a garden yet, there is still time to plant some zucchini. Each year we shred and freeze zucchini in 2-3 cup increments so we can defrost it and have zucchini bread (browines or cake) all year long. If you've grown zucchini before you know that one plant is usually enough to keep up with, but if you had loads of extra zucchini, cause you got carried away in your planting - well just shred and freeze it. It makes for yummy treats throughout the year.

    Zucchini Bread
    Recipe From: Maureen G.

    Printable Version - text only
    Printable Version - with picture

    Makes 2 loaves

    Wet Ingredient Mixture:
    3 eggs
    2 cups sugar
    1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    1 cup vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
    2 cups zucchini, grated (small or large grate is fine, I've had success with both)

    In a large mixing bowl combine the above ingredients until incorporated.

    Dry Ingredient Mixture:
    3 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
    ½ tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 ½ tsp nutmeg
    ¼ tsp baking powder
    2-3 tsp cinnamon
    1 ½ tsp ground cloves
    1-2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

    In a small mixing bowl combine above dry ingredient mixture and mix well.

    Add dry ingredient mixture to wet ingredient mixture (along with chopped nuts if you want them). Mix just until combined, being careful not to over-mix the batter.

    Pour batter into two well greased and floured bread pans. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 1 hour. Places pans of baked bread on cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing the bread from the pan. Let the bread cool completely on the rack before wrapping in foil or plastic to store.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Introducing Leesh and Lu!

    My sister is joining my recipe blogging fun (the blog name has changed, so keep following)! Yahoo! We are both way excited to work on this blog together. Our goal is to have our families' favorite recipes all in one spot and to also share them with our family and friends.

    I asked Leesh to write up a intro about herself. And since I never really formally introduced myself, I'll do that too!

    Leesh & Lu

    About Leesh:
    I am a Utah girl at heart, but currently living in Oklahoma and adjusting to life without mountains. I have a sweet hubby, who is my guinea pig in the kitchen, and the sweetest blue-eyed little boy. I love to eat. If I am not eating, I am most likely thinking about what I will eat next. I don't understand people who can forget to eat a meal. It doesn't make sense. I love pickles. Dill pickles. I am persnickety about the temperature of certain foods I eat, e.g. raisins taste better cold, olives are not to be eaten warm, etc. My favorite restaurant is Red Robin. I love trying new things--both in the kitchen and in life. If I had to pick a favorite food it would probably be bread...breadsticks, rolls, bagels, is delicious in all its forms. Lu is definitely at the top of my favorite people list and I am excited to help her with this blog to have a collection of our families' favorite recipes.

    About Lu:
    My current job title as my husband likes to call it, is a Domestic Engineer (yes, I've even wrote it as my occupation on applications, etc.) I am a wife to the coolest and sweetest husband there is around, who I might add, is an excellent cook. I am also the mother of the two sweetest kiddos in the world. I love to cook, bake and dream about food. Food is what keeps us all alive. I love making it. I love tasting it. I love smelling it. And I love eating the best of it. I like most food. However, I absolutely despise watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, and tomatoes in certain forms (e.g. on a sandwich or plain). I love cilantro and add it to almost every latin-like dish I make. I also have a love for chocolate in pretty much any form, creamy milk or extra dark. Leesh and I are excited to share what we're all about when it comes to food!

    We hope you enjoy our food as much as we do!

    Dutch Oven-Style Potatoes {in the Conventional Oven}

     We LOVE dutch oven potatoes, meat, cobbler, etc! Dutch oven food is kind of a summer time thing that we look forward to all year long. However, the weather doesn't always cooperate for us when we plan to do a dutch oven night. So in our anticipation for dutch oven potatoes a few weeks ago I had to resort to other options due to rainy weather. I threw my usual dutch oven potato mixture (cheesy, bacony, garlicy, oniony, potatoy goodness) into a casserole dish and baked it in the oven. The results were great and almost identical to the dutch oven style of potatoes that we love. If you have pre-cooked bacon this really comes together in a flash (I'll be sharing soon how I like to cook bacon). Now that we have this back up method to making dutch oven potatoes we can make them all year long. YES!

    Serve these with your favorite BBQ meat and a side salad and you have the  perfect meal!

    Dutch Oven Style Potatoes {in a conventional oven}


    4-5 medium russet potatoes, washed, peels left on and thinly sliced
    6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces
    1/2 - 3/4 cup onion, chopped
    2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
    Garlic salt to taste
    1/2 cup water
    1 cup + cheddar cheese, grated
    Green onion slices for garnish (optional)


    If you don't have pre-cooked bacon on hand, cook bacon and set aside. Meanwhile, chop onion and saute in butter/olive oil in a medium-size skillet until soft and golden (about 5 minutes). Slice potatoes thinly (I like to use the slicing blade that goes with my food processor, that way I can have all the potatoes sliced in a matter of seconds).

    Lightly grease a 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 glass casserole dish. In a large mixing bowl toss the following together: sliced potatoes, bacon bits, sauteed onion and garlic salt. Pour mixture into casserole dish, pour water over top and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

    Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 1 hour. When finished cooking, test potatoes for done-ness. Sprinkle with grated cheese, cover with foil and let it melt. Serve warm and enjoy. Garnish with green onion if desired.

    Recipe Source:

    By Lu - from Leesh and Lu’s Recipe Box
    Original post photo from 5/23/2011

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Succulent Steak Marinade {& How-To Grill the Perfect Steak}

    Now that grilling season is upon us, which I can't even tell you how excited I am about, I thought it would be fitting to post this mouthwatering steak marinade and a few tips I've learned about grilling meat.

    There are a lot of good steak marinade recipes out there, but I have to give this one a big shout-out because I thought it was the best that I've tried. It has all the right flavors and when grilled to perfection, it's, ah....perfect. Also, I have to give credit to my father-in-law, who is an expert "grill-master" and taught me all I know about grilling. Seriously, he knows it ALL, and cooks everything perfect-o on the grill. Without his tips I'd still be grilling those tough and charred steaks, chicken and burgers.

    Succulent Steak Marinade
    adapted from (by Steveskat)

    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    1/3 cup red wine vinegar
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    3 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
    1 Tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
    2 Tbsp dijon-style prepared mustard
    1/4 medium onion, thinly sliced in rings
    2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    Your choice of steak

    In a shallow tupperware (the one you want to do your marinating in), combine the above ingredients (except onion), mix well. Add onions. Add steak for marinade. (I have pictured New York Steak). Marinate overnight in the refrigerator or at least 5-6 hours before grilling.

    How-To Grill the Perfect Steak
    Tips from Bruce G.

    -Turn the grill to high and cover, let it heat up for about 8-10 minutes so it's nice and hot.
    -Place steaks on grill and cover again, sear meat for 1-2 minutes per side (still on high heat).
    -After you've seared on both sides, tun meat over again and turn heat to low, cover and cook 5-7 per side. Test with meat thermometer and get it to the temperature you like for doneness, I like mine well done. Check out this link for meat doneness temperatures
    -As you can tell from the pictures above, his tips are great! I had a well-done steak that was still, juicy, tender, and mouthwatering.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Creamy Peanut Butter Truffles

    I LOVE chocolate. I really love chocolate when it's accompanied with something else really yummy, like Peanut Butter (or fruit, pretzels, cookie dough, etc, etc). These truffles are SO easy to make and are the perfect size chocolate fix if you need ONE everyday. I say ONE because I feel like I need at least ONE treat everyday. With a small treat like this truffle, I feel like I can satisfy my chocolate craving and not be eating too much sugar (is that possible? Yes, probably so). These truffles are a great treat to gift for a birthday, holiday or just a simple "thank you" or "welcome to the neighborhood". I hope you LOVE them as much as I do.

    Creamy Peanut Butter Truffles
    By: Lulu

    1 cup peanut butter (I use Adam's All Natural, chunky style)
    4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
    1 cup powdered sugar
    1/4 tsp salt
    3 crushed graham cracker sheets
    1 cup chocolate chips (I used extra dark)
    1 Tbsp coconut oil or shortening
    Sprinkles, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, crushed oreos, etc for garnishing the truffles

    Scoop peanut butter into medium size mixing bowl and let it soften (this is if you use the Adam's - since it is refrigerated), add cream cheese and mix together with beaters. Add powdered sugar, salt and graham crackers. Mix until blended together. Form into balls, press firmly together, your mixture will be a bit crumbly looking, but it will hold together nice once you press it into a ball.

    I don't particularly like the "regular" peanut butter, meaning brands like Skippy, store brands etc, but would guess it would turn out about the same, if you think it's too sticky to form into balls, then add some more crushed graham crackers and maybe a little more powdered sugar.

    Melt chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl, only do about 30 seconds at a time and stir in between each 30 seconds. It will take about a minute and a half to melt it. I prefer using a 2 cup measuring cup because it's tall and it's easier to dip the peanut butter balls in a bowl that isn't really shallow. Add coconut oil or shortening towards the end of the melting and mix until smooth. (FYI: Adding the coconut oil/shortening gives the chocolate the desired consistency for dipping - smooth and slippery.)

    Dip the peanut butter balls into the melted chocolate with a fork in the 2 cup measuring cup you melted it in. Roll it around til it's covered in chocolatey goodness and then let the chocolate drip off the fork, give it a few pats, and place it on a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet. At this point you'll want to sprinkle it with whatever garnishment you've chosen.

    When the truffles are all dipped and on your baking sheet stick in the fridge until set, about 30 minutes. Store truffles in an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

    Note: I like using chunky style PB because it adds a little more to each bite!

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Perfect Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

    We won't talk about how many times I've made these cookies in the last few weeks. I think I've tried a good dozen or so Chocolate Chip Cookies recipes, these are up there for my top picks. Chocolate Chip Cookies are probably the first kind of cookie I think of when I am wanting to bake cookies. Some recipes I've tried don't nearly have enough chocolate chips in them. This recipe has the perfect chip to dough ratio. Chocolaty morsels are sure to be in each and every bite, and that to me is part of the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.

    One thing I love to do with cookie dough is freeze it. I make cookie dough balls and place on a cookie sheet and freeze, when they are frozen through 4-5 hours, scrape them off into a gallon-size zip lock bag and freeze. Doing this is great because then when I need my chocolate chip cookie fix - all I have to do is plop them on the pan and bake them. There is nothing like fresh baked cookies and a glass of cold milk.

    Cookies anyone?

    Perfect Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
    adapted from

    Printable Version - text only
    Printable Version - with picture

    Makes 4+ dozen cookies

    2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I like to use whole white wheat)
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened and slightly melted
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
    2 large eggs
    2 tsp vanilla
    2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips (I like 1/2 of each)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    In a medium sized bowl combine flour, salt and soda. Set aside.

    In a separate medium-sized bowl or Bosch mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together until combined well. Add eggs and vanilla, mix until it's lightened in color, approximately 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients and mix. Add chocolate chips and mix to incorporate.

    Scoop by the teaspoonful and place on a silicone lined or greased cookie sheet. If you want perfectly shaped cookies that don't run into each other make sure you don't do more than a teaspoonful of dough at at time. Also if you have a large 11 x 16 inch baking sheet you can place 12 cookies per sheet without them running into each other. My mom always had perfectly shaped and sized cookies - so now I have a complex about them being, well, perfect. This has been my trick to get them perfect.

    Bake for 9-11 minutes until edges are set and slightly brown. If you are baking frozen dough, you might add a minute or two to the baking time. Let cool on baking sheet for one minute and then place on cooling rack to cool completely.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Strawberry Spinach Salad

    Recently I posted a dressing that goes lovely this fresh green lettuce, spinach and strawberry salad. I also posted a {How-to} on Candied Almonds and Pecans. These three things go together so well that you'll want to eat the whole bowl of salad for dinner. I am a salad lover. Right after I had baby 2 salad was my favorite thing to eat. I'd eat just lettuce with shredded carrots and ranch, and I'd eat 3 plates full. This salad is perfect for any time of year, but especially now when the strawberries are so yummy in the stores (or will be in your garden soon).

    I've always loved a sweet and fruity green salad. However after making it so many times and having a few leftovers I decided that I needed to make a salad where you didn't have the nuts and dressing tossed into it (which is what I found most called for). I wanted to add the nuts and dressing right on my plate before eating. I mostly wanted this because the leftovers get too soggy - and I'm not a soggy salad fan! :) Doing the salad this way is awesome, because if you have leftovers you'll be able to keep them fresh tasting. I've been dreaming this salad up for a month, and after perfecting the dressing it's all here. Hope you love it too!

    Strawberry Spinach Salad
    By: Lulu

    1/2 bag baby spinach greens
    2-3 cups green leaf lettuce, cut into bite size pieces
    1 lb strawberries, cleaned, stems removed and sliced
    1 cup candied almond or pecans
    Creamy Lemon-Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

    Toss first three ingredients together. Serve topped with candied nuts and dressing.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Candied Almonds or Pecans

    I usually make candied nuts to go on a salad, but they are also a fun snack. They are really easy and add such a great touch to a salad. There's not much else to say, except YUMMM!

    Candied Almonds or Pecans

    1-2 cups almonds or pecans
    2-4 Tbsp white sugar

    Put desired amount of nuts in fine mesh colander, rinse with water just enough to get all of the nuts wet. Pour nuts into a medium size non-stick skillet and stir in 2-4 Tbsp of sugar. I usually do about 2 Tbsp sugar for 1 cup of nuts, you can do as much or as little as you like. Over medium-low to medium heat, cook nuts until they are no longer wet and they start to brown, stirring frequently. I kind of like my pecans a little more toasted than almonds, I get them slightly black. Cool and serve on salad or eat as a snack.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Creamy Lemon-Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

    I'm so excited to share this recipe! Mostly because I've been dreaming it up and experimenting to get it just right for a few weeks now. Seriously?!?!? Do you dream about salad dressing? I must be a little crazy. Crazy or not, I'm in love with the way it turned out. I will be sharing the perfect salad to serve it on shortly.

    P.S. It makes me so happy to open my fridge and see my cute pink bottle of dressing all snugly in the fridge door waiting for me to indulge.

    Creamy Lemon-Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing
    By: Lulu

    4 large strawberries, washed and tops cut off
    Zest of one lemon
    1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
    2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    ¼ + ⅛ cup white sugar
    ¾ cup mayo
    1 Tbsp poppy seeds

    In blender add strawberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar, blend until smooth (you don’t want the strawberries to be chunky). In a small mixing bowl mix sugar, mayo, poppy seeds and blender mixture. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Store covered in refrigerator.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011


    This is our go-to meal when we are in a rush or just simply want something quick and tasty. It can be ready in a flash and will not only satisfy your hunger but make your taste buds say 'Ummmmmmm Yummmmmmmmmmm!'

    We always have everything on hand to make this meal too, so I don't really have to shop special for making it. It goes together in a flash!

    from Maureen G.

    2 cups elbow noodles
    1 lb ground beef
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1 small can tomato sauce
    1-2 Tbsp spicy spaghetti seasoning (or Italian Seasoning)
    2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
    1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped (optional)

    Cheddar cheese, grated or in small cubes, as much as you like

    Cook elbow noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in large skillet brown ground beef along with onion and garlic (I don't add these if I'm in a real hurry) until fully cooked and onions are tender. When meat is cooked, drain off excess grease and return to pan. Add cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and spaghetti seasoning. Stir until mixed well, add cooked noodles and heat through.

    Serve on top of diced cheese cubes, or sprinkle with grated cheese in between two scoops of goulash, this way your cheese is nice and melted.

    I buy spicy spaghetti seasoning in a big bottle at Sam's club. I mostly use it for this dish (which we have often enough) but it's also a great seasoning for making your own spaghetti sauce.

    We like to serve this with a side salad and garlic bread.