May 8, 2012

Cherry-Nutella Brownies

Heaven... I'm in heaven... Every time I look at these pictures I just want to dive right in; go back in time and relish in this gooey deliciousness. 

But I have a small confession to make. I lied. Just a little. The title here is Cherry-Nutella Brownies... but there isn't any Nutella. I actually used Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread. Basically the same thing as Nutella, but made with almonds instead of hazelnuts. Both are super fantastic and taste almost the same. You can use either!

Also, this is more assembly instructions than a recipe... but so good! My husband is a lover of all things cherry/chocolate, so I threw this together for him and he loved it. It was gone by midday the following day. 

1 can cherry pie filling
1 jar Nutella (or Trader Joe's Cocoa Almond Spread)

Follow directions for Second Best Brownies:

Immediately after removing brownies from oven, gently spread with Nutella:

 Then spread with cherry pie filling. Let cool, cut, and serve.

May 4, 2012

Thai Chicken Enchiladas

These enchiladas are soooooo sooooo soooooooooo good. If I could reach through your computer screen to shake your shoulders while telling you this, I would. You must understand how amazing they are! 

I was really nervous about making them because my husband spent two years serving a mission in Thailand and came home with amazing Thai-food-cooking-skills. He doesn't really follow recipes (hence why there are no Thai food recipes on here), because he just remembers how the food is supposed to taste, and then adds a little of this, a little of that... I was so worried he'd take one bite and say something like, "This is NOT Thai food."

Well, it would be true if he did say that. Enchiladas are Mexican, not Thai. But he didn't say that. He didn't care that Thai enchiladas aren't really Thai food. He didn't care that these didn't resemble anything he's ever eaten in Thailand. He just wanted to eat them. And eat more. And then eat more. I'm not kidding. He even scraped the kids plates. 

I used whole wheat tortillas from Costco, which were delicious. Honestly, this dish wouldn't have been so amazing if it weren't for the delicious tortillas, so make sure you get some good quality yummy ones. 

10-12 tortillas
2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped/shredded carrots
1 cup chopped/shredded cabbage
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 green onions, sliced, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped peanuts, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 (12 oz) cans coconut milk
1 cup sweet chili sauce (divided in half)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Throw in onions, cabbage, carrots, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring to mix. Let cook until vegetables are soft, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in chicken, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, remaining salt and pepper, tossing to coat, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in 1 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, mixing thoroughly to combine. Turn off heat.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together remaining coconut milk and sweet chili sauce. Pour about 1/2 a cup or so on the bottom of the dish. Slightly warm tortillas if desired to make them more pliable, then place a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in each, rolling up tightly and placing in the dish. Cover with remaining coconut milk and chili sauce mix. I usually take a spoon and cover every inch of the tortilla with the sauce, just to make sure it’s coated.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and top with additional peanuts and cilantro. Since sauce is not as thick as traditional enchilada sauce, when you remove them from the oven, spoon sauce from the bottom of the dish all over the tortillas. Additionally this can be done halfway through cooking too.

recipe adapted from

May 3, 2012

Second Best Brownies

I know my title is probably not the best lead-in to get you to want to make these brownies. But think about how great second place can be in other areas... American Idol? Guaranteed record deal. Second place in a hot dog eating contest? Who really wants to be first in something like that? Third grade playground games? ("First the worst, second the best, third the nerd!") So, second best can be a good thing!  

Also, the only reason I say second best is because the Best Brownies have frosting. These don't have frosting, but are great because they're super chocolate-y, slightly fudgey without being soggy, and are very easy to whip up quickly. 

2 1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks of butter (3/4 cup), melted
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (first 5 ingredients). Add melted butter and eggs and mix thoroughly. Add chocolate chips; stir to combine. 

Bake brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until done to your desired liking. The toothpick test doesn't work so well for these brownies because the chocolate chips will stick to the toothpick, making it look like moist, under-cooked batter. I usually bake them until they don't jiggle anymore when I lightly jostle the pan. 

May 2, 2012

30 Minute Cheesy Ham Casserole (freezer meal!)

Years ago our church had a huge Christmas dinner party. Apparently we were the "poor starving students" of the bunch, because we were sent home with at least 30 huge baked potatoes and a few whole hams. At the time, I also was the Compassionate Service Leader for our church, which meant I was blessed with the responsibilities of making sure the needs of the members were being taken care of (meals/cleaning/etc for a family with a new baby or a death in the family, families moving in/out, illnesses, childcare, arranging food for funerals, etc.) I knew I could figure out a way to use all of that food to help fulfill those needs. 

I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, whipped up some cheese sauce, and voila! I had plenty of freezer meals ready to heat at a moment's notice! I even had to borrow friend's freezer space to help with the storage. 

Since then, we've used this recipe many times as a quick but yummy meal that the kids always love. 

Shown here with my Apple Spinach Salad
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups (about 8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese - separated 
4 cups milk
4-5 medium peeled, cooked potatoes (steamed, boiled al dente, baked, microwaved...)
2 cups ham, cut into bite size pieces

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.

Pour milk into pot, mixing quickly with a whisk. Return pot to stove and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Quickly add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, stirring until melted. 

Grease 9x13" baking pan. Place ham, potatoes, and cheese sauce in baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. At this point you can cover and freeze, cover and refrigerate to eat later, or bake in 375 degree oven about 15 minutes - until casserole is bubbly and cheese is very lightly browned. 

*some tips - if you bake your potatoes in the oven earlier in the day, they'll be cool to the touch and easy to hand-peel the skins off by the time you're ready to cook dinner. Also, ham lunch meat makes an easy substitution if you don't have a leftover holiday ham.

May 1, 2012

Apple Spinach Salad

This salad is one of my all time favorites. We eat it pretty regularly, especially as the weather begins to warm up and I want my kitchen to cool down. It's super versatile - we've substituted mandarin oranges and pears for the apples and added chicken to make it a meal. You can use candied nuts, raw nuts, roasted nuts, sliced almonds, or any other crunch (croutons, chow mein noodles). The main parts of it are: greens, fresh fruit, dried fruit, crunch, and my amazing Poppy Seed dressing


4 cups washed, dried baby spinach leaves
4 cups washed, dried, sliced romaine lettuce
2 Gala apples, cored and very thinly sliced
1 cup Craisins
1 cup candied walnuts (click here for recipe)
Poppy Seed dressing (click here for recipe)

Combine greens in a large bowl and mix. Add apples, Craisins, and nuts. Pour Poppy Seed dressing on everything, or leave it next to the bowl so each person can add their desired amount. Yum-O! 

Candied Walnuts

This is so super simple and is a fun way to add some crunch to your salads or just eat as a yummy snack.

1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup raw walnut halves (or pecans)

In a cool medium-large skillet, evenly pour sugar, coating the entire bottom of the pan. Place walnuts gently on top of sugar. Turn stove to medium-high heat. Now, leave the skillet alone, but watch carefully. In about 5-10 minutes the sugar will start to melt. As soon as most of the sugar has melted, but before it begins to burn, remove skillet from heat and quickly stir nuts to coat in melted sugar. Remove walnuts from skillet, and spread them out on a sheet of aluminum foil to cool.

Poppy Seed Dressing

1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated onion
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients in blender. Pour over your favorite salad.

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