Monday, February 28, 2011

Chicken Picatta

This is one meal that I have been making for many years, and it's a family favorite.  It's simple, perfect for a quick weeknight meal, and has flavors that are sure to please everyone.  Nothing fancy here, but it's delicious!

Chicken Picatta
Recipe by Giada de Laurentis, Everyday Italian, pg. 153

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved crosswise (I pound mine flat for quicker cooking)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
All purpose flour, for dredging
4 T unsalted butter
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 C reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 C fresh lemon juice (from about 2 months)
1/4 C drained capers, rinsed
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat lightly.  In a large saute pan, melt 2 T of the butter with the 2 T of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the broth, lemon juice, and capers to the same pan.  Bring the broth mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for extra flavor.  Return the chicken to the pan and simmer until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter.  Whisk the remaining 2 T of butter in to the sauce.  Pour the sauce over the chicken, garnish with the parsley, and serve.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oh Mama Mac n Cheese Pizza

When you ask my family what their favorite meal is, well - Miss Sunshine's favorite meal (other than Chicken, Cheese & Brocolli casserole) is macaroni and cheese, hands down.  Helloooo!  She's five years old, what do you expect?  Actually, that was my favorite dish into most of my adult life :-)  My 14 year old son will tell you pizza, chicken wings or steak.  My husband loves pizza.  So - I was faced with what to make for dinner last night.  I could have stuck to my meal plan, but I was headed out for a little last minute "girl's night out" and wanted to make something easy for the family. 

Collectively, based on what the family loves - I decided to try a Macaroni and Cheese Pizza.  I have ordered this once from a local pizza joint a couple of years ago, and thought "I could do this!". 

It was DEEE-LIC-IOUS!!  You could do a store bought crust, but I didn't make it to the store and I made one from scratch.  I had never made one before, and I was surprised at how easy it was!  I also used jarred pizza sauce from Green Mill.  I loooovve their 'za sauce. 

Chef Note: when I make Kraft macaroni and cheese, I always substitute the milk for sour cream.  It produces a much creamier mac n cheese. 

Oh Mama Mac n Cheese Pizza
Created by Kitchen Groovy

1 Basic Pizza Crust Dough (recipe to follow)
1 1/2 C your favorite pizza sauce
Pepporoni - enough for one layer
1 box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, prepared
1 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 C cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp. dried oregano
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spead out pizza dough to about 12-14".  Take a brush and gently rub olive oil over the entire surface. 

Spread pizza sauce to edge of pizza, then layer with pepperoni's.  (I got excited and added the mac n cheese before taking my picture!)

Layer on prepared macaroni and cheese on top of pepperoni's.

Spread mozzarella cheese, then spread cheddar cheese on top of mozzarella.  Sprinkle with dried oregano.

Bake at 450 degrees for 13-15 minutes.

Slice, get it on a plate and enjoy!  It was goooooodddd. 

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Basic Pizza Dough
Recipe from "How to Cook Everything", pg. 258
Makes: 1 large or 2 or more small pizzas
Time: At least 1 hour, largely unatttended

1 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 C (about 14oz.) all purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 tsp. coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for spinkling
1 - 1 1/4 C water
2 T plus 1 tsp. olive oil

1. Combine the yeast, flour and 2 tsp. salt in the container of a food processor.  Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube.
2. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to te touch.  If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds.  (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)
3. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball.  Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough in it.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. 

To freeze: wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Italian Beef Stew AND . . . A Stylish Blogger Award!

This winter has me feeling a bit confused.  I go back and forth between craving comfort food and craving food that remind me of spring.  To be honest, I think my mood swings coincide with that of Mother Nature's.  One day, it's 45 degrees and brilliantly sunny, the next day - we are blessed with 18" of snow. 

I found this recipe from last month's edition of Cooking Light - I was pleasantly surprised at how good this recipe is.  My daughter had a few friends over, and they liked it, too.

Italian Beef Stew
Original Recipe by Cooking Light, Jan/ Feb 2011 edition
Yield: 8 servings
Hands-on time: 40 min.; Total time: 2 hr. 40 min.

7 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 C chopped carrot
1 T minced garlic
1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 lb. boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 C dry red wine
3 3/4 C chopped seeded & peeled plum tomato (about 2 lbs.)
1 1/2 C fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
1/2 C water
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 (8 oz.) package of cremini mushrooms, quartered
3/4 C slices carrots (1/4" thick)
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 T chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tsp. oil to pan.  Add onion and chopped carrot; saute 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic, saute for 45 seconds, stirring constantly.  Remove from pan.

2. Add 1 T oil to pan.  Place 1/4 C flour in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle beef with 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper; dredge in flour.  Add half of beef to pan; saute 6 minutes, browning on all sides.  Remove from pan.  Repeat procedure.

3. Add wine to pan, and bring to a boil, scraping pan.  Cook until reduced to 1/3 C (about 5 minutes).  Return meat and the onion mixture to pan.  Add tomato and next 6 ingredients; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover, and stir in sliced carrot.  Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally.  Discard bay leaf.  Stir in remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, basil, and parsley. 

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

ALSO - I am very honored to announce that I have been chosen as the recipient of The Stylish Blogger Award.  Wow - this journey has been quite a ride and I am so honored to be recognized by a fellow blogger and to be a part of this new community! 


There are guidelines attached to an award like this and they are as follows:

1. List 7 things about myself
2. Pass this award to 10 other Stylish bloggers
3. Notify them that they have been recognized!

So - want to know 7 things about me?  Say Yes!  :-)
1. I cannot function without coffee, however, it MUST have vanilla creamer in it.  If it doesn't, I'll pass!
2. I have been on a train that has derailed.
3.  I do not like romance, scary, thrillers, or anything that makes me cry - books or movies.
4. I have an excellent sense of direction.
5. I feel as though I was born to be a mom, and I LOVE my job as a SAHM. 
6. I am an extreme extravert, but I am also a homebody.
7. Mornings, which require me to get out of my super comfy bed, are my nemesis.

So - I would love to recognize the following blogs.  I admit that I am new to blogging, but through my journey, I have stumbled across these blogs.  I follow them and enjoy seeing what they are cooking.  What I have found is that we all are in a different stage of life, a different part of the country (or the world for that matter), but we all share a love of cooking and baking.  I continue to be inspired by these truly, amazing individuals.

1. Roti n Rice
2. Flour Dusted
3. Sweet Veg-E
4. Mediterranean Inspired Food
5. Sandra's Easy Cooking
6. Ryan Bakes
7. The Mom Chef - Taking On Magazines One Recipe at a Time
8. Sweets by Sillianah
9. Squash Blossom Babies
10. Baking Junkie

Might I also give a very necessary shout out to Sabrina from Eat, Drink, Be Merry. She is the lovelie who gave me this award.  I love her blog as she posts recipes of meals that I would absolutely cook up in my own kitchen. 

Please check out all of these cooking blogs for great recipe ideas - they are tried and true and will tell you whether or not a recipe actually works and tastes great. 

As always, enjoy and live with gusto!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Spring Egg and Avocado Salad Sandwich

I made this over the past weekend, as we were getting dumped with another 18" of snow.  I could have made some comfort food and cozied up on the couch next to a warm fire sipping hot cocoa - but let's face it.  With the amount of snow that we have gotten this winter so far, I felt cozied and hot cocoa'd out.  I hate to be a sour puss, but I'm really ready for spring, aren't you?  So, I wanted to make something light and spring-y.  This hit the spot.  I picked up this recipe from Martha Stewart many years ago, and it makes a regular appearance at our house for lunch.  (I did make some adjustments and my recipe follows.)  I love it that it has avocadoes in it. Unfortunately, only the adults like it (I don't know any kid that will eat egg salad sandwiches - let me know if yours do!).  Sunshine settled for her good ol' PB&J. 

Egg and Avocado Salad Sandwiches
Original recipe by Martha Stewart
Adapted recipe by Kitchen Groovy

5 hard boiled eggs
1/2 avocado, chopped
2 T mayonaisse
1 T dijon mustard
1 T lightly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Using a pastry blender or fork, mash together eggs in a large bowl (or use an egg slicer).  Carefully fold in chopped avocado.  Stir in mayonaisse, mustard & lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Spread evenly on bread slices.

Makes roughly 3 sandwiches

It was absolutely P.E.R.F.E.C.T. for a wintery snowed in day.  It certainly had me dreaming of sitting on my deck with my favorite book, or watching my kids run through sprinklers on hot summer days. 

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sloppy, Sloppy Joes

Last night, we were supposed to have Pork Chops and Apples - but we had a change of plans and had sloppy joe's instead.  This recipe came from my husband's best friend - and it is probably the best sloppy joe recipe I've ever had.  I'm thankful, and so is my family, that he was willing to share the recipe with us.  Even better, it's easy.

I did adjust this recipe, as my kids - yes my kids - thought the original recipe was too sweet.  So, don't be afraid to play with the amount of ingredients to find the right balance that is satisfying to your palette.  But, here is what I put together, and it was a winner for this family of five :-)

Sloppy, Sloppy Joe's
Adapted recipe by Kitchen Groovy

2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 C ketchup
1 can tomato soup
2 T white vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
3 T light brown sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 C diced onion

Brown beef and onion.  Add remaining ingredients, simmer about 45 minutes.  Serve on buns with dill pickles, if desired.

I like to eat mine open faced, with a fork.

Everyone else likes to eat theirs like a real sandwich.  Either way, it's goooooddd.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Darth Chocolate Cupcakes + GIVEAWAY Winner Announced!!!

Today, my kids are off from school.  I am thrilled - am I such a bad mom that I love it when my kids are not off receiving an education?  I love it when they are home.  Even better, I love it when their friends are over and that our home is the hub of social networking. 

Last night, my oldest daughter had 2 friends over and they decided to make cupcakes.  Actually, a few more kids were supposed to come over and watch the Star Wars movies, but due to yet ANOTHER snow storm, most of them couldn't make it.  However, that didn't stop me from encouraging them to make Darth Chocolate Cupcakes.  I went to Williams Sonoma the other day and picked up a Star Wars cupcake kit, so there was no turning back!  This recipe is from my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook Cookbook (my go-to baking book) and it was so much fun to watch these up & coming young bakers experiment in the kitchen. 

While I did not have my oven mitts on helping them out, I thought I would post pictures and blog about it anyway - Mr. Groovy and I sampled their cupcakes, and they were nothing short of delicious!

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, pg. 168

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C Dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 C milk
1/2 C + 2 T vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 C warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.  Into the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; add the eggs and yolk, milk, oil, vanilla, and warm water.  Beat on low speed until smooth and combined, about 3 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool slightly.  Invert cupcakes on to the rack; then reinvert and let them cool completely, top sides up.  Frost cupcakes (recipe to follow).  Cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. package cream cheese, cold
5 T unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
4 C confectioner's sugar, sifted

Beat cream cheese, butter & vanilla in a medium bowl at a low speed just until blended.  Adding 1/3 at a time, the sugar and beat just until smooth and at desired consistency.

The Empire!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Now - for the big announcement!  The winner of my very first giveaway is . . . . Christine Lasley!!  Congratulations!!  Thank you to everyone who participated!  There will be another giveaway in April! 

**I used to generate who the winner would be.  There were 44 entries. . . generated #11.

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Penne with Five Cheeses

The other night, we had this dish.  All is can say is that - we couldn't say anything.  All we did was close our eyes, swoon and silently enjoy this dish for a couple of seconds before smiling in complete approval.  Can you tell that we thought it was delish?  Miss Sunshine LOVED it.  We had it for leftovers last night, and my son also loved it.  WHHAAATTT??  Yes, my son loved it too.  What can you expect?  It's cheese and pasta!  I added the brocolli after a lovely conversation with my mother in law who told me the best thing she ever ate was a pasta dish that had brocolli, mascarpone cheese and sundried tomatoes.  Okay, so this doesn't have mascarpone cheese or sundried tomatoes, but she got me thinking and I added the brocolli.  I'll have to experiment soon with the 3 ingredients she has planted with me.  I also changed the amount of cheeses and added more - a little more cheese never hurt anyone, right?

In the meantime, here is Penne with Five Cheeses!

Penne with Five Cheeses
Original recipe by Ina Garten, "Barefoot Contessa Family Style" cookbook, pg. 89
Recipe adapted by Kitchen Groovy

Kosher Salt
2 C heavy cream
1 C crushed tomatoes
3/4 C Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 C Italian Fontina cheese, freshly shredded
1/2 C Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 T ricotta cheese (heaping tablespoons!)
1/4 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 C brocolli florets, chopped small
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 lb. penne pasta (I used mini penne)
4 T unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Bring salted water to a boil in a stockpot.  Boil penne for about 6-7 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients except the penne and butter in a large mixing bowl - mix well. 

Drain pasta in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine. 

Place the mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes.

Can't wait to try it, can you?  I actually had enough leftover crushed tomatoes and cheeses, that I'll be using those ingredients to put together a pizza tonight :-)

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Don't forget to become a follower, or leave a comment so you can be entered in my giveaway!!!  Tell your friends!!  Winner to be announced on Monday!!!

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Penne on FoodistaPenne

Looking for other great Penne recipes?  Click on the above pictures for more :-)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEW Features and My First GIVEAWAY!!

Hello and Happy Thursday to all!  I don't know about you, but here in MN - it is amazing outside!  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the snow is finally completely disappeared from my roof!  It is a glorious day, indeed!!!

I have been making changes here and there to my website, and I appreciate your patience as I work through these changes.  Maybe you haven't even noticed them?  One big addition that I recently added is my "Monthly Meal Plan" page.  So many people have asked me to post my own meal plan so they can have some help in creating their own.  I know it's challenging so hopefully this will provide ideas, tips, guidance and most of all - inspiration.

I recently reached an important milestone - my 1 month mark of blogging!!  Is that called a blogiversary?  Well, what ever it is called, I thought we should celebrate!!  And what better way to celebrate YOU then by giving something away to a special lucky winner? 

This is a super heavy duty spatula - and you can't really have too many spatulas in the kitchen while cooking or baking, right? 

I would not still be blogging, if it weren't for you.  Really.  I know, cheesy.  But seriously, you all have been patient with me as I find my way and discover who the blogger is inside of me.  Who knew I’d be blogging?  But, if you know me and how much I love the idea of expressing ourselves – well, this blog is just an extension of . . . me.  Thank you for wanting to know what I cook and how I attempt to "love on" my kids through cooking - failures and all.  From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

So – back to bizness.
Here is how you can win your prize - and you will receive one entry for each of the following:
1.       Become a follower of my blog (for those of you already following, you are automatically entered!!!)
2.       Become a follower of my blog via Facebook Networked Blogs!
3.       Leave a comment anytime from now until Sunday! 
 I hate it when things get complicated with too many rules, so let’s avoid it!  That’s it!  Happy reading and thank you for all you do in encouraging me to keep on.
The winner will be chosen and announced on Monday, 2/21/11!!!
Good luck to all of you!
Enjoy and live with gusto!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chunky Chicken Chili

A dear friend of mine gave me this recipe a long time ago, and I'll admit - I haven't had a chance to make it until now.  There are so many great recipes out there, and so little time! 

I have never made a white chili before, and this one was a winner!  I modified it a bit, based on what was in my freezer and pantry, but the base with the same and delicious.  I used ground chicken instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and I omitted the jalepeno peppers as I just didn't have it on hand.  I love the color from the salsa and cilantro and it was DE.LIC.IOUS.  Of course, my super picky 14 year old didn't care for it, but he dislikes just about everything.  Everyone else loved it!  I think pigs will fly when the time comes that my son likes the majority of what is placed in front of him.  Bless his stubborn tastebuds, as he is missing out on a lot of great food!

I'll post the original recipe, but this is what I did.   

Chunky Chicken Chili
Recipe from Amy (let me give credit where credit is due!!)

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 T olive oil
2 C chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
2 fresh or canned jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 C homemade or prepared chicken broth
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 C frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 C shredded white cheddar cheese
Sour Cream, for serving
Tomato Salsa, for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash the chicken breasts, pat dry with paper towels, and trim any fat.  Cut crosswise into 1/2" strips.
3. Heat 3 T of the olive oil in a 3-4 quart Dutch oven.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring, over hight heat until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Remove to a dish.
4. Add the remaining 2 T oil to the pot and saute the onions, garlic, cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the oregano, salt, jalapeno peppers, chicken broth, beans, corn, and the partly cooked chicken.
5. Cover and bake for 30-45 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Stir in the cheese and serve with the sour cream, salsa, and chopped cilantro.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

Okay, before I even move on with this post - let me apologize.  This is my 2nd post of the day, and I really don't like giving you too much to look at in such a short time - so please forgive me.  In case you're wondering WHY I'm sending out a 2nd post - well, if you remember, I am participating in the "10 for 5" challenge, and today is the deadline to get all 10 in.  I have 9 down and 1 more to go!  I am also quite competitive, and I just can't let this go and give up now! 

So - thank you for bearing with me as I post at seemingly odd times or days, and for hanging with me as I experiment with new dishes.  I made this last week, and it was sweet, savory and deserves to be put on the regular dinner menu. 

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
Original recipe from Ina Garten, Back to Basics cookbook, pg. 158
Adapted recipe by Kitchen Groovy

1 large butternut squash
2 T olive oil
2 1/2 T pure maple syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
fresh sage, torn into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel and seed the butternut squash and then cut it into 3/4 - 1" cubes.  Place the squash on a sheet pan in one layer.  Toss with olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until squash begins to brown, turning once during baking. 
Sprinkle bacon and the sage leaves evenly over the butternut squash and continue to bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the squash is tender and caramelized.  Season to taste and serve hot.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

"I Love You" Pancakes

I was surfing the web trying to find something that I can make my kids for breakfast this Valentine's Day morning.  I'm not a morning person, so I can't afford to do anything fancy before the noon hour.  I found this simple recipe called Heavenly Heart Shaped Pancakes, but they called for mini-chocolate chip morsels.  Yum!  But, I wanted something Valentine's Day-inspired, so I came up with this recipe - which is just as good, if not better, if I say so myself!  Each pancake filled with white chocolate and craisins . . .  a perfect way to tell my family how much I love them on this special day.  I realize that Valentine's Day breakfast has passed for all of us, so why not make this breakfast for birthdays?  Or on Sundays?  How about for dinner?  Regardless, it's fun and doesn't have to be isolated to February 14th!

"I Love You" Pancakes
adapted from Heavenly Heart Shaped Pancakes
recipe by Kitchen Groovy

2 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C white chocolate chips, chopped
1/2 C dried craisins, chopped
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 C milk (skim is fine)
2 large eggs
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/3 C light brown sugar, packed
Heart Shaped Cookie Cutter
Powdered Sugar

Combine flour, chocolate, craisins, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  

Combine milk, eggs, oil and brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Add to flour mixture.  Stir until moistened - it may be lumpy.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat (I used a griddle and set the heat at 350 degrees).
Use cookie cutters to place on griddle/ skillet and pour pancake mixture into cookie cutters.  Wait a few minutes until it is mostly cooked through, then gently slide cookie cutter off the mixture.  Carefully flip the pancake. 

After pancake is fully cooked through, and you have it on a plate ready to serve, you may have to cut away and reshape a bit of the heart.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ham Cheese & Spinach Quesadillas

This week has been a super fun week - like I mentioned yesterday, I had the honor to speak and serve close to 150 women at my church.  It was such a wonderful experience!  To come down from all the adrenaline, I proclaimed yesterday to be a lay low and easy kind of Friday.  I must admit, for someone who is constantly on the go with kids, it felt good.  By accident, today is another one of those days.  Woot woot!!!

I thought I would share this easy recipe for quesadillas.  I love quesadillas because they are so easy to make, and they take virtually no time at all.  My kids prefer just plain cheese, and I like to jazz mine up a bit with some green - hey, if I can squeeze in a little more nutrients and vitamins, why not, right??

Here is Challenge #9:

Ham Cheese & Spinach Quesadillas
Recipe by Kitchen Groovy

2 tortillas
slices of cheddar cheese, enough to cover the entire tortilla
slices of deli ham, enough to cover the entire tortilla
fresh baby spinach leaves

Heat pan or griddle (if using a griddle, heat to 300 or 350 degrees)
Assemble the quesadillas:
one one tortilla, layer the cheese to cover the entire surface.  Repeat with the deli ham, then again with spinach and last with another layer of cheddar cheese.  Top with the 2nd tortilla.

Butter the top side of the quesadilla and place buttured side down on hot pan or griddle.  Wait a few minutes until browned (I usually butter the other side of the quesadilla at this point) and flip.  Wait until browned and cheese is melted.

Cut and serve!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Little Darlings": White Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

Good morning and Happy, Happy Friday to all of you!!!  Last night, I had the honor to speak at our church's "Mom's Night Out: Favorite Things" event.  It was so much fun and I think everyone had a great time of encouragement, ideas and let's face it - a night out with the gals.  Women listened to speakers on a range of topics from design to fashion to finding joy.  I was lucky enough to share my tips and thoughts on building relationships in the kitchen - a philosophy that I am incredibly passionate about!

I also had the honor to bake mini-cupcakes for all of these wonderful and amazing women - there were close to 150 of us gathered.  So many have asked for the recipe- so of course I would want to share how I created these delectable cupcakes that I lovingly refer to as my "little darlings".  Because there is a lot of love put into the baking process, they have been given this term of endearment.

For those of you looking for an "over the top" cupcake and are up for a challenge - I say "go, go, go for it!"  I have also included a couple of variations, so don't feel boxed in to only making cupcakes :-)

Little Darlings: White Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream
Recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, pg. 169

3 C cake flour (not self rising)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 C) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 C milk
8 large egg whites
Strawberry Meringue Buttercream (recipe to follow)
24 small fresh strawberries - washed for garnish

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.  Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 2 C sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the vanilla.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy.  With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 C sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes.  Do not overbeat.  Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined.  Gently fold in the remaining whites.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 C batter.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are a light, golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer pans to a wire rack.  Invert cupcakes onto the rack; then reinvert and let them cool completely, top sides up.  Frost the cupcakes with Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, swirling to cover.  Cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Garnish with strawberries just before serving.

Makes 2 dozen.

Mini cupcake variation: using a mini-cupcake pan, follow the same directions but bake for roughly 12 minutes.  Makes roughly 125 mini-cupcakes.

Layer Cake variation: Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside.  Follow same instructions, dividing batter between prepared pans and smoothing with an offset spatula.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes.  Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off parchment.  Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cake layers to make level.  Place one layer on a plate, and spread with 3/4 C buttercream.  Place other cake layer on top, cut side down.  Spead the entire cake with remaining frosting, swirling to cover.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
Makes 5 Cups

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 C sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2C) unsalted butter, room temperature but sliced into tablespoons
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 C (12 oz.) strawberry jam, pureed in a food processor

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees).

Attache the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks.  Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.  (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3-5 minutes more.)  Beat in vanilla.  Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Stir in strawberry jam with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.

Before going into the oven.

An army of "little darlings"!

My "little darling" up close and personal.

This is one of my favorite cupcakes to make.  It's light and reminds me that spring is right around the corner.  Of course, it's perfect for Valentine's Day, too!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Italian Breaded Tilapia

I am trying to find ways to bring more fish into our diet - but so far, I have only been brave enough to cook salmon at home.  I am starting to wo-"man" up, and am challenging myself to cook more fish.  But, I didn't want to cook another salmon dish.  So, I thought of tilapia - budget friendly, seemingly easy enough to make.  Then I had to find a recipe that seemed appealing and included ingredients I already have in my kitchen pantry.  So, here is what I found, but made a few adjustments to make it my own. 

This would pair well with my "Roasted Asparagus with Grated Parmesan Cheese" dish.

Italian Breaded Tilapia
Adapted from the Food Network Kitchen's "Tilapia Milanese"

4 - 5 oz. tilapia fillets
1 1/2 C milk
1 C all purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs
5 slices wheat bread, torn into pieces
2 T Italian Seasoning
Olive Oil

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Soak the fish in a bowl with the milk and 2 C ice, 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the flour with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Lightly beat the eggs in another dish.  Pulse the bread until crumbs form.  Transfer crumbs to another shallow dish - mix italian seasoning and kosher salt with crumbs.
2. One at a time, remove fillets from the milk and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess.  Dip in the eggs, then coat with the bread crumbs, gently pressing on both sides.  Transfer to a large plate.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Heat 2 T each of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medkum-high heat.  Add 2 fillets and cook until golden, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining 2 fillets, adding 2 more T each of olive oil and butter.  Transfer the fish to the oven and bake until cooked through, about 8 minutes. 

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Load 'em Up Smashed Potatoes

As I am in the midst of participating in this "10 for 5" Challenge, I tell ya - I have been challenged!  I must clarify that I love a good challenge.  I decided to participate in this event because I thought, as I do with so many things, "Why the heck not?". 

I've always been an advocate of making meals from already written recipes - why try to create something when you don't have to?? There are many, many cookbooks just dying to be used!  I am a big believer in this.

However, this "10 for 5" has opened up a Pandora's box that I didn't know existed within me.  I have started creating on my own - which I have not done in all of my 35-ish years on this Earth, or the 10+ years I have been cooking.  And when I say I have started creating, I am not creating anything extravagant or fancy.  I'm tossing simple ingredients together to come up with an every day dish, hoping that every day moms like myself, will enjoy making and serving them to their every day families, like mine. 

So, my following recipe is basic.  Maybe someone else already thought of it.  But, I had a great time tossing it together.  Mr. Groovy and the kids loved it.  I hope you will, too!

Load 'em Up Smashed Potatoes
created by Kitchen Groovy

4 yukon gold potatoes
5 slices of thick sliced bacon - cooked, crumbled or chopped
1 C of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C sour cream
Green Onions

Cut potatoes into cubes, boil until cooked.  Once cooked - mash potatoes with a fork.  If you like a creamier texture, take a hand held mixer and mix them until desired creaminess is acquired. 

Add in remaining ingredients and stir together.  Top with a dollop of sour cream, add green onions for garnish.

Want to see more recipes with just 5 ingredients?  Click here for all the bloggers participating. 

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Harvest Rice

I love rice.  I am half Filipino, so eating rice is like eating peanut butter sandwiches for some.  Or like candy for others.  It has been a part of my daily menu for my entire life.  Over the last several years, I have really tried to move our family menu away from processed foods and closer to whole grain foods.  We have been eating brown rice for many years, and I found a way to jazz it up a bit.  It turned out really good!  I may have mentioned yesterday my complete love for sweet potatoes, so why not add those little darlings to brown rice?  But, feel free to add whatever your little heart, and stomach, desires!

Here is Challenge #7:

Winter Harvest Rice
created by Kitchen Groovy

2 C uncooked brown rice
1 small sweet potato, uncooked, peeled and diced small
1/4 C Craisins
1/4 C sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 tsp. ground sage
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Cook brown rice according to package directions.  While rice cooks, peel sweet potato and dice.  Saute diced sweet potato until cooked.  Mix in small bowl sage, salt & pepper - add to sauteed sage in the skillet.  Saute for a few more minutes until spices are infused into the sweet potato. 

Transfer cooked brown rice to serving bowl - add sweet potatoes, craisins and sliced almonds to the rice.  Mix together and serve!! 

Enjoy and live with gusto!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wonderful Fry Failure

Last night, I attempted to make homemade sweet potato french fries.  Why did I take this on, when I have trouble baking frozen french fries??  This time was absolutely NO different.  They came out a soggy mess, no matter how long I baked them.  I turned them occasionally, to help crisp them up.  I felt like I did what I was supposed to - but still ended up with a total failure!!

However!  The spice mixture I topped them with worked beautifully - that was the one upside to this little cooking adventure.  Even though this is a relatively easy dish to make, I still could not pull it off.  Failure??  No!!!  I am proud of myself for trying to make something that I am not familiar with.  Am I going to try it again - Yes!!!!  Sweet Potato French Fries are my absolute favorite kind of fry to make (and french fries are my fave food ever), and I am determined to make it work so that I can serve it up any time my little ole' heart desires. 

Also - you might remember that I am also participating in a 10 for 5 Challenge, where I submit 10 recipes using only 5 ingredients.  I WILL be submitting this recipe, disaster and all!

So . . . I hesitantly, sheepishly, humbly share with you my Wonderful Fry Failure :-)  Maybe you'll have better luck!?!  Comments and ideas welcomed with big open arms! 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

2 sweet potatoes, cut
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1 T olive oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees. 

Place fry cut sweet potatoes in a 9x13 dish and pour 1 T olive oil over fries to coat.  Mix well so all fries are evenly coated. 

Mix spices together and sprinkle over fry mixture.  Mix well to evenly coat.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Or 40.  Or just until they are crisp.

Here is what my mess turned out to look like . . .

The moral of the story?  We have failures, but hopefully together, through this blog, we will experience more success than failures.  It is perfectly fine to have things not turn out the way we hope.  While I look forward to hearing your advice, criticism, laughter, I will also be doing my own research to learn how to perfect baking french fries - I really don't think I can live without them!!  Feel free to share any cooking disasters of your own - it is always a good reminder that we never experience anything alone!

Live with gusto!