I am a newlywed on a budget, just trying to make healthy and inexpensive meals for my husband and I to enjoy. He eats a lot, so cost is a big factor. Though I work 3 jobs, I manage to find time 6 nights a week to cook a full dinner for us both. I am constantly looking for new recipes that are moderately healthy, taste great, and won't break the bank.

On the side, I also own a brownie business called Gersheybars. My passion and love for cooking started when I was just a small child, baking with my mom and grandmother. The brownie recipe has been passed down through 5 generations and I am thrilled to finally have an outlet to share them with everybody else. Friends and family have helped spread the word and made my business as successful as it is today.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thai Pork Salad

It's been pretty hot and humid these past few weeks, so while I was at the library, I picked up a fantastic cookbook that's all about salads, called Simply Salads, by Jennifer Chandler. The beauty of the book is that each salad can be made with a package of mixed salad greens and just a few ingredients. Also, there are a ton of recipes for freshly made salad dressings. The first salad we made was a Thai Beef Salad, but I used pork loin instead of beef. The marinade was good, but I didn't like the dressing, so I made something different. The final product was very light, and full of flavor, perfect for a hot Summer night.

  • 1/2lb pork loin, trimmed, and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint (I really didn't taste much mint with all the other ingredients, and would probably omit it next time)
  • 1 bag Hearts of Romaine
  • 1/2 cup corasely chopped unsalted, roasted peanuts
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 T grated ginger (I used 1 tsp ginger paste)
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  1. Place the pork in a shallow dish. Pour 1/3 of the marinade over the pork and marinate 2-3 hours. Reserve the rest of the marinade for use later.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and cook pork 3 minutes. Add onions to pan and continue cooking until pork is no longer pink. Be careful not to overcook it!
  3. In a large bowl, combined sliced pork, cucumber, onions, cilantro, mint and lettuce. Add dressing to taste, and toss well. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve immediately.

Pasta with Kale & Peppers

Love love love kale. Really, I think it's one of the most underused vegetables out there! It's so tasty, and full of vitamins. More people need to realize just how delicious it can be! I bought a bunch of kale last week to use in a specific recipe, and we ended up with quite a bit leftover. So I found this recipe on Allrecipes, and decided to give it a shot. I added some canned, sliced black olives, and it was really good! Tons of flavor, super easy, especially when you use a bag of frozen mixed peppers instead of having to chop fresh ones. I added some fresh basil from our herb garden, and a little drizzle of garlic oil. Yum.

  • 1 (8 ounce) package uncooked farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (I bought a bag of frozen mixed peppers instead of chopping up individual ones)
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped kale (I tripled this!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pinch dried basil (used fresh instead of dried)
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I used 4oz and it was plenty. 8oz would be way too much)
  • 1 small can sliced black olives, drained
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in red pepper, yellow pepper, kale and garlic. Season with basil, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender.
  3. In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with skillet mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese to serve.

Monday, August 24, 2009

40 Clove Chicken

I've been meaning to try this recipe for a long time, and also, really just wanted to make a dish using my Le Creuset dutch oven! It doesn't get nearly as much use as it should.

I saw that chicken quarters were on sale this week for 47 cents a pound, so this dish came out to be very cost effective. Don't be scared off by the fact that there are "40 cloves of garlic" in the recipe, because after they cook for an hour and a half, they are sweet and delicious, not spicy like raw garlic. Definitely make this dish with a fresh loaf of bread so you can schmear all the roasted garlic goodness on the bread! We also made a side dish of potatoes and onions with fresh rosemary. So tasty. And so simple to make! I think this dish would be great to make when entertaining, because the whole house smells wonderful, it looks great, and there's little effort involved. Definitely no fuss, that's for sure.

  • 1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 40 peeled cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

  3. Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.

Browning the chicken on the stove.

Adding fresh thyme and garlic to the pot before putting it in the oven.

When it came out of the oven, the thyme was pretty dried up and the garlic was nice and roasted, with a wonderful caramel color.

mmm...garlic chicken...

Fish with Black Bean Sauce

This is definitely one of our favorite dishes from the local Chinese take-out restaurant, so Justin and I decided we'd try to make our own version. I found a lot of recipes online, and finally decided on one that sounded pretty good (recipe found here), and that incorporated ingredients that we had on hand. I made a few changes, nothing crazy, and it turned out perfectly. The sauce is just a bit sweet, but doesn't overpower the fish, and the onions end up with a nice caramel flavor.

  • 1/2 lb mahi-mahi fish fillet (cut into pieces and marinate with 1/2 tablespoon corn starch)
  • 2 tablespoon Lee Kam Kee black bean sauce
  • 1 small onion (quartered)
  • 6 dried chilies (deseeded) I didn't have any chilies, so I used Sriracha sauce instead.
  • 1 small green bell pepper (cut into small pieces)
  • 2 stalk scallions (cut into 1.5 inch length)
  • 5 slices fresh ginger, I used 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 tablespoon corn starch (mix with 3 tablespoons water)
  • I also added 1/4 cup canned black beans, drained
  1. Heat up the wok and add in some cooking oil.
  2. Add sliced ginger, onions, bell peppers, dried red chilies and stir fry them until aromatic.
  3. Add in the fish and do a quick stir.
  4. Add the black bean sauce, black beans, fish sauce, sugar, and sesame oil and stir fry until the fish is cooked.
  5. Add in the corn starch mix to thicken the sauce.
  6. Toss in the chopped scallion and do a quick stir, dish up and serve hot.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tilapia with Wine & Tomatoes

Tilapia was on sale at Harris Teeter this week: $3.99/lb. Normally it's about $6.99/lb so this was definitely a bargain. We also got a homegrown tomato this week so I wanted to find a recipe that would combine both ingredients. The original recipe is from Allrecipes, though I did make a few slight changes. It's quick and simple to make, and when paired with a bag of ready-to-steam veggies (which were also on sale this week, buy one get one free), you've got an effortless dinner that won't break the bank.

And Peggy, note that this recipe can be made on
the grill! Though I opted not to grill in the rain and just made it in the oven instead.

  • 2 (4 ounce) fillets tilapia
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 cloves garlic, pressed (I used 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped)
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, chopped (I doubled this and used 4)
  • 1/2 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 finely chopped onion (this was my addition and is not in the original recipe)
  1. Preheat a grill for medium-high heat. (I preheated the oven to 425 instead of using a grill)
  2. Place the tilapia fillets side by side on a large piece of aluminum foil. Season each one with salt and pepper. Place one tablespoon of butter on top of each piece of fish, and sprinkle garlic, basil and tomato. Pour the wine over everything. Fold foil up around fish, and seal into a packet. (I put all ingredients in a glass baking dish, covered with foil.) Place packet on a cookie sheet for ease in transportation to and from the grill.
  3. Place foil packet on the preheated grill, and cook for 15 minutes (I cooked it in the oven for 20 minutes), or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Open the packet carefully so as not to get burned from the steam, and serve.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cookies

I know, I know. They sound dreadful. But really, they're quite delicious! Very chocolatey, and the sauerkraut gives just a hint of bitterness. They end up being a very cake-like cookie. Dense, but still soft, if that makes sense. The flavor of the sauerkraut isn't overly pronounced, so you could probably frost these with just about anything, or eat them plain like we've been doing for the past half hour. I posted a mocha icing recipe below, which I think would be delicious, but I just realized I don't have chocolate chips, so I can't try it tonight. Bummer!

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sauerkraut (drained, and rinsed)
  1. Rinse the sauerkraut with cold water in a strainer. Make sure it's rinsed well! Let it sit in the strainer while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients.
  2. Beat the butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until creamy and well incorporated.
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder and baking soda. Beat on low speed until well mixed.
  4. Add half the buttermilk and half the flour, beating until smooth. Add remaining buttermilk and flour, beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the sauerkraut onto a cutting board. Spread out and blot dry with a paper towel (it will take several paper towels before kraut is dry). Then chop into small pieces. It's very important that the kraut is chopped finely.
  6. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Let cookies rest on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack. When cool, frost with mocha icing.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Mocha Icing

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2-3 tsp strongly brewed coffee
  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  1. Melt the chocolate chips with 2 tsp of the coffee in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute. Stir, and if the mixture is still lumpy, remove the spoon and microwave for an additional 20 seconds. If the mixture is still lumpy, microwave for an additional 20 seconds. When you are able to stir themixture smooth, set the bowl on the counter to cool to room temperature.
  2. Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the softened butter until smooth.
  3. Whisk in the powdered sugar and stir until the mixture is of spreading consistency. If it's too thick, add the remaining 1 tsp of coffee. If it's too thin, stir in a little more powdered sugar.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thai Pork Springrolls w/Peanut Sauce

This was sort of done on a whim, in order to use up a pork loin that had been in the fridge for a few days. Justin really wanted to make spring rolls, and we had some wrappers leftover from our last attempt a few months ago, so we gave it another shot. I also made a light peanut sauce to drizzle over them. They're not the prettiest things, but they were delicious!

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • hot sauce
  • 6 spring roll wrappers (the kind you soak in hot water before using)
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp sesame oil in large saute pan. Add pork and ginger, stir-frying just until cooked. Be careful not to overcook! Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In same pan, add cabbage and onions, cooking approximately 3 minutes until slightly wilted but still crunchy. You may need to add a smidge more oil to your pan to keep the cabbage from burning. Once cooked, remove cabbage/onion mixture and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, sesame oil and soy sauce until a thin sauce is formed. I used approximately 2T peanut butter, 2 T sesame oil and 1T soy sauce, but I kept adding a little of this and a little of that, so those amounts may not be entirely correct. Just keep adding those 3 ingredients until you have a sauce that's thin, but not watery. And add a few drops of hot sauce to kick it up a notch!
  4. Prepare springroll wrappers according to package directions. Mine said to soak in hot water for 15 seconds, then place on a damp cloth and blot dry. Then I added the cabbage/onion mixture, pork, drizzle of sauce, raw carrots, and basil. Wrap each roll like a burrito and slice in half before serving.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Scallops & Angel Hair Pasta

This recipe came from a friend of mine, who originally made it with langoustines. Since I am allergic, I substituted bay scallops, and it turned out just fine. You could also substitute shrimp for the langoustines. The overall dish is very light, and each ingredient can really be tasted on its own. The onions get nice and sweet, the pancetta has a fabulous crisp to it, and the white wine brings it all together.

  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta
  • salt
  • 3oz pancetta, chopped (you could also substitute bacon)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
  • 1T minced garlic (I used about 6 cloves, but we are huge garlic lovers)
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed from cob
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 12oz langoustines, scallops, shrimp, etc.
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
  1. In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Cover to keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. To the oil in the pan, add the onions and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds, then add the corn and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine, 3/4tsp salt, red pepper and langoustines and cook, stirring, until shellfish are full cooked (my scallops took about 3-4 minutes). Add the green onion and chopped tomato, stirring to combine. Serve over angel hair pasta.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

For my niece's first birthday, I made a bunch of cupcakes baked in ice cream cones. When they were done, they really did look like soft-serve cones. They were a huge hit! I did half the cones with chocolate cake, and half with Funfetti. The chocolate ones were frosted with either peanut butter frosting or chocolate ganache, while the Funfetti ones got vanilla buttercream or strawberry buttercream. I also used fondant to make cutouts that spelled out "Happy Birthday Jena!" The rest of the cakes just got sprinkles. And off to the side is Bubbles the obese monkey, compliments of my friend Alanna. So talented!

  • cake batter of your choice (enough batter for a standard 9" cake will make approximately 24 cones)
  • 24 flat-bottom ice cream cones
  1. Prepare your cake batter of choice. Use a cookie scoop to fill the cones to the first ridge (about 1" from the top). Place the cones in a mini cupcake pan and bake according to your cake instructions. Mine baked at 350 for about 20 minutes. When fully baked, remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
  2. Frost the cupcakes using a large star tip, making sure to go all the way to the edge of the cone. This way, they look like they're really ice cream cones! Decorate, and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A coworker frequently brings in various baked goods to share with us all, and this recipe has been brought in several times. I finally got the recipe and decided to give it a try. It yields a chewy cookie, that's sweet and a bit salty, and superbly delicious. I've tried making these in smaller sizes, but they just don't bake right. I'd recommend using an ice cream scoop for these, to make a nice giant sized cookie. I did make a few adjustments to the original recipe, which are noted below.

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
  • (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (I used 1/2 tsp salt and it was plenty)
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter (I use salted butter)
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (I use Ghiradelli's 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips)
  • Sea salt
  1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

  2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

  4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (I omit this, as they are plenty salty without this step) and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

    Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Spaghetti Squash

A friend came over last week and brought me a spaghetti squash, which she bought accidentally, instead of a butternut squash. I'd never cooked one before, so I headed to Allrecipes.com to find a good recipe. It came out very light, full of flavor, and perfect for a hot Summer night. In addition to the ingredients below, I also added about 1 cup of frozen mixed peppers.

The recipe made enough for 4, so scale accordingly.

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen mixed peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used 1 14oz can of Italian style diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sliced black olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add frozen peppers and saute 3 minutes until tender and warmed through. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.
  4. Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with the sauteed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm.