Thursday, March 20, 2014


Product recommendation time!  As I've mentioned several times, I am lactose intolerant.  It usually makes me feel blue, but it's 2014 people.  They've got so many dairy friendly products now, we intolerants don't have much to complain about anymore.

Listen, I'll admit that there are certainly dairy-free products out there that are NOT DELICIOUS.  Fake stuff with dairy substitutes.  Lactaid products are different because they are legit milk and cream based, they just contain the lactase enzyme.  You can read about it here.  Basically, lactose intolerant people lack an enzyme called lactase, which is needed to break down lactose in your body.   If you don't have this enzyme, you can take a pill when you eat dairy foods, or eat lactase enriched foods.  It's like drinking orange juice that has added calcium.  You get the health benefit, but it doesn't taste any different.  All the other ingredients are the same.

The butter pecan ice cream is rich, creamy and flavorful.  It is addicting.  The strawberry flavor is so refreshing and bright.  It reminds me of a perfect strawberry milkshake.  Go to the store and buy these now!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Have you ever been in the middle of making a recipe, then decided to completely change it?  That's how this meal came to be.  The original recipe was for simple and delicious spinach artichoke chicken, which we've had several times.  You place chicken breasts or tenders in a baking dish, then mix together spinach, artichokes, parmesan cheese and mayo, then spread it over chicken and bake. Easy.

BUT, as I was spreading the mixture over the chicken it suddenly became very obvious that the spinach dominated the dish and the chicken was basically invisible.  It wasn't a lot of chicken, and who wants to eat just forkfuls of spinach for dinner?  Usually in cases like these, I turn to my best friend: pasta.  And what do all delicious pasta dishes need?  That's right, a creamy dreamy cheese sauce.  Mozzarella seemed like a perfect match for spinach, and there just so happened to be half a block sitting in the fridge.  You guys, it was like fate.  Word of warning: this completely filled a 13x9 baking dish, so if you're not feeding a crowd, halve the recipe.

Boil about 3/4 a pound of pasta with kosher salt, reserving a cup or so of starchy, salty pasta water.  Mozzarella is a sturdy cheese, and when it's melted it still manages to keep its consistency pretty well.  Adding pasta water really helps to smoothly mix the ingredients together.

Make an easy roux with butter and flour, add milk, remove from heat and whisk in cheese.  Throw in some salt, pepper and crushed red pepper for flavor.

When chicken is done baking with spinach mixture, cut it apart in the baking dish and mix it all up.  Pour cooked pasta on top, then cheese sauce, and finally the pasta water.  Stir until combined, then sprinkle on some parmesan before the final bake.


1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenders or breasts
2 bags frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained rinsed and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (or nonfat Greek yogurt)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup for topping
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound rotini pasta

Cheese sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella
freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray, then lay chicken flat without overlapping in dish.  Season with salt and pepper.  In large bowl, combine spinach, artichokes, mayonnaise, parmesan and garlic together.  Taste, add salt and pepper if needed.  Spread mixture over chicken.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until chicken is done.  Remove from oven, cut apart chicken and mix with spinach.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente (it will cook a little more in the oven) and scoop out a cup of pasta water before draining.
For the cheese sauce: melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in flour.  Keep whisking until thick and light brown/caramel colored, about 3-4 minutes.  Slowly pour in milk while whisking.  Keep stirring until it thickens and reaches a boil, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, then stir in cheese.  Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Pour pasta on top of chicken spinach mixture, then pour cheese sauce all over.  Pour in hot pasta water and mix well.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan on top, then bake for 10 minutes.  Switch oven to high broil, then keep a close eye on it until it's slightly browned, about 5 more minutes. 

Note:  This recipe is super versatile.  I used what I had on hand.  If you love chicken, use more than a pound.  If you're not obsessed with pasta, use less.  Switch up the cheese.  If you're not a mayo fan, sub nonfat Greek yogurt.  Go wild!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


You guys, I am so proud of myself.  I made salad dressing!  And it was so darn delicious.  I know, I know, people do it allllllll the time and I am no pioneer.  However, I think it deserves just a little bragging.  Okay, typing with one hand is too difficult.  Time to stop patting myself on the back and continue telling you about this meal!

There's just something about a cold, crunchy salad with slices of warm, juicy steak that makes people happy.  I've had my eye on this "homemade avocado ranch dressing" recipe ever since I spied it on Pinterest.  Not sure it officially qualifies as ranch, but then again what's the definition of ranch?  The dressing doesn't really have a ranchy flavor.  It tastes like avocados.  I know, mind blowing, right?

For the steak: season and grill.

For the dressing: avocados, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and hot sauce.  I used a handheld immersion blender (greatest invention ever), but a regular blender will work just as well.

Oh and since it's a STEAK salad, you should serve it with macaroni and cheese.  Right?  Doesn't everyone do it that way?  Seriously, it was the perfect accompaniment. 


1 lb flank steak, trimmed
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
a pinch or two of coarse kosher salt

Salad dressing:
1 large avocado
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (I squeezed about half the lemon in to avoid browning of avocado!)
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons hot sauce (I used red AND green Tabasco)

Rub steak all over with olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with steak seasoning and rub in.  Sprinkle on salt.  Repeat on other side.  Place in large ziploc bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or 8 hours if you've got a better memory than this blogger).  Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Cook on each side for about 5 minutes for medium rare.  Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes, then slice into strips.

Place all dressing ingredients in blender and blend until desired consistency.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve steak over romaine and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with blue cheese and drizzle with dressing.  Grind fresh salt and pepper all over salad. 

Perfectly mixed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I've been trying to use my cookbooks more often.  I find recipes online, but neglect my constantly growing collection of cookbooks.  Do you ever buy one, read it cover to cover and earmark recipes to make?  Then, do you NEVER OPEN THAT COOKBOOK EVER AGAIN?  Yeah, me neither.  Except I always do that.  Oops.  Message to loved ones reading this: please keep buying me cookbooks as gifts.  Please and thank you.

I have quite a few Cooking Light cookbooks and this one contains the easiest and most hassle free recipes.

This recipe immediately caught my eye because it uses my favorite cooking shortcut: store bought rotisserie chicken!  And it includes buffalo.  You can never, ever, EVER go wrong with buffalo flavored anything

Now, I may perhaps be nitpicking here, but whenever I see a "buffalo" recipe that only uses hot sauce, not buffalo sauce, I feel slightly annoyed.  Hot sauce does not equal buffalo flavor.  I substituted Frank's Buffalo Wing Sauce and it was perfect.  Other changes: I used the entire chicken, not just 2 cups.  I used more celery, less mayo, more buffalo.  I seasoned each sandwich and its lettuce and tomato with salt and pepper.  Oh, and I used ciabatta rolls instead of boring hamburger buns.


1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (I don't use reduced fat, I use Duke's regular!)
3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup buffalo sauce (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded and discarded of fat and skin
romaine lettuce
tomato slices
salt and pepper to taste
rolls for serving

Combine mayo, blue cheese, buffalo sauce, salt and pepper in large bowl.  Taste, then add additional buffalo sauce or salt and pepper if needed.  Add chicken and celery, gently combine with your hands.  Serve on toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and additional salt and pepper or buffalo sauce. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Do you ever rip recipe pages from magazines that don't belong to you?  I do it all the time, especially with my mom's magazines.  She knows this and forbids me from tearing out any of her pages.  "Because, Katie, what if I want to make that recipe some day?!"  How dare she!  So I have to take tiny little pictures with my phone of the recipes I like.  Poor me.

Anyway, I saw this recipe in her Family Circle magazine and it sounded scrumptious!  I've always wanted to cook with dry beans, and this sounded like an easy introduction.  The recipe calls for sirloin steak, which is fairly affordable.  I couldn't find any at the store, so I ended up purchasing some other Angus boneless steak.  It's going to be cooked for 8 hours in a crockpot, so whichever cut you choose, it'll be cooked to tender perfection.

Cut your meat into equal sized pieces to ensure even cooking.  Brown in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper.  This will give your soup a richer flavor.  If you're short on time you can just throw raw meat in the crockpot.  The only change I made to the recipe was to add a can of petite diced tomatoes, dried oregano and salt.  I also upped the amount of all the veggies to boost the nutrition!  You can serve as a soup, or make it a filling meal and serve over cooked egg noodles.  I am addicted to pasta, so I chose the latter.


1 lb boneless sirloin steak
4 cups beef broth
1 cup water
1 cup lentils, rinsed and drained (1/2 a lb)
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

Trim fat from meat and cut into equal sized pieces, about 3/4 an inch.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in nonstick skillet.  Add meat, season with salt and pepper then cook until browned.  Add meat to crockpot.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours.  Taste and add additional salt as needed.  Serve over egg noodles or as a soup.  *Note: you may notice fresh parsley in the pictures and the original recipe, but I don't think it belonged in this soup.  It was an unwelcome surprise to bite into, and I will omit it next time.