Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Grilled Veggies


This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and it also means “Grilling Season” (although for those of us who love to grill I’m sure this started already!).

For those of you who have been following my blog and are more interested in some of my “healthier” posts, I just wanted to say that despite my lack of posting about my weight loss journey and Slimmed Down Sensations, I am still going strong (just not as quickly as I’d hoped)!  I’m still filling up with lots and lots of veggies and made this side the other night with dinner. It does have a higher Weight Watchers Points Plus value because of the oil, but I’ve played around with it a bit and found that this was the minimum amount of oil I could use to get that great flavor. Throughout the meal I couldn’t stop mentioning how awesome the veggies were! I completely cleaned my plate!!

 For me to rave about vegetables is MONUMENTAL!! This makes a really big portion and is very filling. I used a grill basket to put everything in. You could do this on foil, but you won’t get the same chargrilled taste. Also, if you are very particular about the texture of your veggies you may want to add the different veggies based on the length of time they’ll take to get done…for instance the carrots, broccoli and eggplant will take a little bit longer than the asparagus & onions. I put everything on at the same time and the asparagus, onions and even the broccoli were a little bit softer than they should have been, but this really didn’t bother me because the overall flavor was so good I didn’t even think about the texture. You could also par-boil the carrots to soften them up and they won’t need to be on the grill for so long.  You can pretty much add whatever veggies you want, but for me the veggies listed in the recipe have been the best combo I’ve tried so far.

 So without further ado…here is my grilled veggie recipe (modified from an Emeril recipe ).

Cheers to Grilling Season!!!!

Grilled Veggies (Makes 4 servings; 1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus)

(Source: Emeril Lagasse)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 small eggplant, cubed

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

6-8 asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces

1 small head of broccoli, chopped

1 small onion, sliced

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs.
  2. Prepare vegetables as stated above and add to a large Ziploc bag.
  3. Pour marinade over vegetables and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Preheat grill to medium heat and place vegetables in a grill basket over direct heat for about 10 minutes.
  5. After the first 10 minutes move grill basket to indirect heat for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
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Cookies for Inspiration


So I’ve been feeling very uninspired to blog this past week. I’ve been cooking up a storm and even have a list of foods I’ve made that I want to share….but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and share my thoughts.

However tonight I made these really good butter cookies appropriately called “Meltaways” because they literally MELT IN YOUR MOUTH!!!

One of my employees had asked if I would be so kind to make cupcakes or cookies for her classroom’s picnic tomorrow.  Since I had just made cupcakes for them I wanted to do something different, however I was met with a challenge since the Individuals we serve have various degrees of developmental and physical difficulties and quite a few of them cannot eat regular food such as a cookie. I was determined to come up with something so I set out on Google and searched for soft cookie recipes. I came across these Meltaways at a blog called Landee See, Landee Do.

I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, however my method of adding the ingredients was a little different based on some of the comments that I’d read from others who had tried to make these. I also doubled the recipe and I got almost 5 dozen cookies out of it (unfortunately I wasn’t really focused on making them all similar in size so some got a little bit on the larger side). They came out great and are the perfect texture for our Consumers with special food texture requirements.

These were really easy and quick to make and are a nice change of pace from the usual cookie recipes you come across.

Now…if I could just stop eating them!!!!  (Oh yeah….if you haven’t figured it out…these ARE NOT diet friendly :)!)

Meltaways (Source: Landee See, Landee Do)

1 lb. (4 sticks) salted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 C. cornstarch

1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
2 C. flour
Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
  1. Using a mixer beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. This will take a few minutes. Stop one time to scrape down the sides.
  2. Add the sugar and beat well until combined.
  3. Add the cornstarch a little bit at a time and beat until well blended.
  4. Mixing on low speed, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Dough should be thick and manageable. If it is too thin add up to the full 2 cups (I used just under 2 cups, about 1 3/4 c.) if it is starting to get crumbly you’ve added too much.
  5. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets and gently flatten with the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 2 more minutes, then remove cookies from cookie sheet to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Cool completely and add frosting. Be careful when handling these cookies as they are quite delicate!

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  2. Add food coloring, if desired.
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Grilled Polenta


This is a really yummy, easy and unique side dish! It is one of those things you should serve for company because they’ll think you worked really hard to make it and you’ll definitely impress them. It will just be our little secret that it is so simple!! Don’t have a grill? The polenta can be pan fried as well (but I prefer the grilled version 😉 !) You can also try switching it up with different cheeses.

USA Pans Mini Loaf Pan

Also, I’d like to mention that I had recently purchased this mini loaf pan made by USA Pans at Bed Bath & Beyond. I wanted to make mini pound cakes and typically I buy Wilton pans, but they didn’t have the one I needed so I came across this one. It was a little on the pricey side and that shiney silver made me a little skeptical that it actually was good quality and non-stick. However, I really didn’t have a choice because I needed the pound cakes for that same evening. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this pan is. It is really durable and I have had no problems in regards to sticking…everything pops out with no problem (this may be one of the best non-stick pans I’ve ever used). Plus, it feels good to actually purchase something that is made in the U.S.A.!

Grilled Polenta (Makes 8 servings)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2%)

1 cup instant polenta

1-2 tsp. salt (to taste)

1/2  tsp. pepper (or to taste)

2 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese crumbles

    1.  In a medium saucepan bring the milk and chicken stock to a boil.

    2. Reduce heat and add the polenta, pouring in a steady stream while whisking.

    3. Whisk continuously until thickened about 2-3 minutes.

    4. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, butter and cheese.

    5. Pour hot polenta into cake pan and allow to cool.

    6. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (can be made up to one day in advance).

    7. When ready to grill remove polenta from cake pan, if using a round pan cut into 8 slices.

    8. Brush each piece of polenta lighty with olive oil and place on a preheated grill for about 3 minutes per side until heated through.

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Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza


Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza

For those of you who read my posts regularly, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I love to grill!  I will attempt to grill everything! One of my favorite things to make on the grill is pizza and bread. Grilled pizza has become quite popular over the last few years and with good reason…it tastes great! So here is a really quick and easy meal that everyone will love. Typically this is one of the meals I throw together when I have leftover chicken, but you can always cook your chicken right before making the pizza. If you’ve read how to make grilled pizza you may have been told to oil your dough, but that is actually not necessary. I usually always oil my grill grates because it does help prevent foods from sticking but it also keeps the grates in better condition, however this is also not necessary for pizza. Once the dough firms up it will come right off the grate with no problems. I never measure my ingredients for this so although I’ve included measurements for each ingredient in the recipe ultimately you can just put the toppings on to your own preference.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizza

1 Pizza Dough (homemade or store bought is fine)

1 cup Barbecue Sauce

1 cup Mozzarella Cheese

1 cup Cheddar Cheese

2 slices of cooked bacon

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

 1/4 cup chopped red onions

  1. Preheat grill to medium heat.

  2. Divide dough into four and flatten using a rolling pin or your hands.

  3. Place each piece of dough on the grill for 3 minutes over direct heat.

  4. Remove the dough from the grill to add toppings. On the cooked side of the dough, place about 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce, 1 tbsp. onions, 2 tbsp. of shredded chicken over each piece of dough. Crumble the bacon over the pizzas and add the cheese (about 1/4 cup of Mozzarella & 1/4 cup of cheddar on each pizza).

  5. Return the dough to the grill uncooked side down and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes over direct heat. Then continue to cook the pizzas over indirect heat until the toppings are heated through and the cheese is melted.

  6. Cut into slices or squares and serve!

 

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Twix Ice Cream Cake


Twix Ice Cream Cake

Every year for Hubby’s birthday I get him an ice cream cake. Since I bake cakes all the time it is a  nice treat to have an ice cream cake. This year I decided to make my own ice cream cake for his birthday. I’ve made ice cream cakes before but never made them like the kind you get at the store or an ice cream shop with the crunchy middle. I always just used regular cake layered with ice cream.

My Very First Ice Cream Cake

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream Cake

I must have gotten bit by a creativity bug because suddenly I had this great idea to make this a Twix ice cream cake (since Hubby likes Twix candy bars).  So, I found this recipe on King Arthur Flour to make homemade Twix bars. I only made the shortbread layer for the crumbly inside of the ice cream cake and mixed it with some caramel. I had intended to make my own caramel, but due to time constraints just ended up buying a jar of Smucker’s Caramel Topping. If you decide to make this for an event make sure you do it the day before or at least 8-9 hours in advance so the cake can freeze up completely. Like I said, I was on a limited time frame so not only did I have to work twice as fast to get everything set, but we weren’t actually able to cut the cake right when I presented it, because it would have been completely destroyed (Which was not a big deal since we had reservations for an all you can eat meat buffet…better known as “Na’Brasa Brazilian Steak House“).

Despite being crunched for time, I actually remembered to grab the camera to take step-by-step photos! I only missed one or two pictures! Yay for me!

So without further ado, here is how I made this awesome birthday cake!

Prepare the shortbread layer.

Since I was ultimately going to end up crumbling this up, I didn’t bother putting it in the baking dish all nice and neat, as you can see. You can make the shortbread a few days in advance if you want. That way you won’t have to worry about even more time with cooling it down.

Whip the ice cream in a stand mixer.

For the cake you will need 1-1.5 Qt. vanilla ice cream and 1-1.5 Qt. chocolate ice cream. A trick that I’ve learned from experience is to soften your ice cream by letting it sit out for about 10 minutes and then putting it in your stand mixer to mix up. It is much easier to work with than letting it just soften on its own. The first layer is half of the vanilla, so only mix half in the mixer and return the rest to the freezer. A WORD OF CAUTION….I do not recommend mixing the ice cream in your mixer if you do not have a heavy duty mixer. Although I’ve only done this with my Kitchenaid, I know that my old $30 middle-of-the-road stand mixer would not have been able to handle mixing the ice cream!

Add the softened ice cream to the pan to make the first layer of the cake.

To make the cake, use a springform pan with the bottom removed and two 10″ round cardboard cake circles placed on the bottom (sold in craft stores or wherever cake supplies/decorations are sold). Glue or tape the two cardboard circles together. This cake will be very heavy when finished so one circle probably won’t hold it!

Prior to making the layers, place the Springform pan in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to make it cold. You will have to be very careful not to move the cardboard or the pan or the ice cream will get all over. If you want, you can use a little tape to keep the cardboard in place. Medical tape works best, as regular tape loses its stickiness after it gets cold.  It is very important to put the cake back in the freezer after each layer…do not skip this part of the recipe or your flavors will run together and you’ll have a big old mess (I won’t mention how I know this, but I’m sure you can figure it out). Put the pan back in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Basically what I did was put it back in…set a timer for 10 minutes, take out the next ice cream that I was going to use (in this case chocolate) and allowed it to soften up for 10 minutes…then whipped it in the mixer….took out the pan from the freezer and added the next layer, putting it back in the freezer for 20 more minutes.

Crush the shortbread.

After you’ve completed the first two layers (1/2 the vanilla and all the chocolate) and the pan is back in the freezer to harden, prepare the shortbread layer by putting it in a large ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin. Add the crumbles to a bowl and add the caramel sauce 1/4 cup at a time mixing well between each addition until the crumbles are just moist. You do not want to add too much caramel. The crumbles should not be sticky or too wet.

Add the shortbread/caramel crumble mixture to the pan.

Add the shortbread/caramel mixture to the pan spreading out evenly over the ice cream. I did not use all the crumbles (only about 3/4) but it is totally up to you how thick you want the layer to be. I basically stopped adding the crumbles when I could no longer see any ice cream. Return the pan to the freezer for another 20 minutes (after 10 minutes remove the remaining vanilla ice cream from the freezer to soften).

 You will need to crush or chop the mini Twix bars. I put them in a ziploc baggie and just pounded them with the rolling pin, however the caramel remained as one solid piece so I ended up having to cut it up with a knife. Next time, I’m thinking I’ll throw it in the food processor. Once you whip the remaining ice cream in the mixer, stir in the crushed Twix (forgot to photograph these last few steps!) Remove the pan from the freezer and add the final layer. Once completed, return to the freezer for a minimum of 4-5 hours or longer if you can. The longer you can freeze it the easier it will be to remove the pan and add the icing.

To remove, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan and then open the spring on the pan to release. Lift off carefully and you should have what’s pictured above!

The whipped cream frosting can be added either right before serving or after the cake has frozen completely. You can freeze the cake with the icing on it, but some people may not like it as much. I think it still tastes good so I just put it on right away. Finally finish the cake by drizzling caramel and chocolate over the top.

Twix Ice Cream Cake

Shortbread:

2 sticks salted butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13″ pan lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour. At first the mixture will seem dry, but will come together as you continue to beat at medium speed.
  3. Take the dough and press it evenly into the pan.
  4. Prick the crust all over with a fork to allow for more even baking.
  5. Bake the crust until it’s lightly golden brown on top and the edges are deeper golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, place in a large ziploc bag and crumble by gently hitting with a rolling pin or mallet. Keep aside until needed in recipe below.

Ice Cream Cake

1.5 quart vanilla ice cream

1.5 quart chocolate ice cream

1/4 – 1/2 cup of caramel ice cream topping (such as Smucker’s)

10 “fun sized” mini Twix Bars, chopped.

  1. Remove the bottom from a springform pan and attach two 10″ cardboard cake circles to the bottom with medical tape.  Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, soften vanilla ice cream by sitting out at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Place half the vanilla in a mixing bowl and using ONLY a Heavy Duty Mixer, mix the ice cream at medium speed until it is just a little bit harder than soft serve ice cream.
  3. Remove the prepared pan from the freezer and spread the ice cream in the bottom. Place back in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  4. Repeat Step #2 with the chocolate ice cream, however use the entire container for the second layer.
  5. Prepare the shortbread by crushing with a rolling pin. Place shortbread crumbles in a bowl and add caramel sauce 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition. You want the crumbles to be moist, but not sticky or wet.  Return to freezer for another 20 minutes.
  6. Chop the mini twix bars and set aside.
  7. Mix the remaining vanilla ice cream in a Heavy Duty Mixer to almost “soft serve” consistency. Stir in the Twix pieces and place this on top of the cake as the last layer.
  8. Return to freezer for at least 5 hours. More is better. Once cake is pretty much frozen solid, remove the pan by sliding a knife around the edges then opening the spring on the pan and pulling off gently.
  9. Top the cake with Whipped Cream Frosting (recipe follows) and decorate as desired.

Whipped Cream Frosting

 2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup powdered sugar (or more to taste)

  1. Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, combine all ingredients and mix on medium speed for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Taste the whipped cream and add more sugar, if desired. (I added about 1/2 cup +2 tbsp. because I wanted a sweeter frosting).

 

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Sharp as a Knife!!


So I really wanted to mention in my Mom’s Day post…but forgot (not sure how that occurred since I’m obsessed!) that even though I am not a mom myself, My Mom showed up at my house with a gift for me…a set of new knives. She claims it is an early birthday present…sure Mom!!! *Wink Wink*.

My new knife set! Quality knives at a semi-affordable price!

I am so thrilled to have these knives. They are awesome!! My mom has them herself and I’ve been coveting them for a while now. There is nothing like a good knife….even if you can’t afford the whole set at once it is important to have at least one good chef’s knife.

A few years ago I asked Mom to get me a knife set for Christmas. I chose a Kitchenaid set that again wasn’t top of the line but didn’t seem like a “cheap set” either. Plus, I figured since it was Kitchenaid, which is typically a good brand that I’d be ok. The first few weeks I was so excited because they worked great…but then they started to get dull really fast…I’m talking I’d have to sharpen not just before I started but in between chopping and cutting. I was careful to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and wash the knives by hand and dry them right away, but after only a few months they began to get rust spots both on the blades and the handles. So basically they turned out to be a pile of crap!!

Kitchen Aid Knife Set….this sucks!!!! Do not get these knives!

But Mom saved the day and got me the upgrade that I wanted!!

Thanks mom! (I promise not to cut myself the first time I use them like I did with the Mandolin Slicer!!) 🙂

So if you are just starting out with cooking and don’t have a good knife or set of knives…you should definitely add it to your wish list or save up for it. You will not believe how this will improve your cooking. My chopping, cutting, slicing skills have improved just from having good knives…of course I am getting more and more practice but with my old crappy knives, I couldn’t get a good technique down because I was too busy “sawing” away just trying to make a cut. Not to mention I can do it a lot quicker.

Here are few things to remember when you are ready to make a knife purchase:

  • Do your research…read online reviews!! Had I done this I would’ve probably saved myself the heartache of my first set of knives which were a huge disappointment. Also, look at all different brands and types of knives to see what will be the best to fit your own needs.
  • Stay away from cheap knives….Again, I tried to save mom some money and go for a cheaper set of knives (I believe they were around $80.00) but she ended up having to spend more only 2 years later. If you’re just an amateur at home cook you probably don’t need to spend $600 on  a set but don’t be afraid to go for the $200 or $300 one. Think of it as an investment!
  • Ask your friends/family…do you have friends or families who cook? Do you know any actual chefs or cooks? Get their opinion! Like I said, my mom already had the set she just got me and so I’ve had the opportunity to use them quite a few times. I’ve also been able to see that she’s had them for a few years and they’ve remained in good condition! So the next time you are at your neighbor’s for a dinner party…ask about their knives! Ask to try them out! Of course…do it tactifully…you don’t want them to think you’re some kind of serial killer in training! Yikes!
  • Start with at least a Chef’s Knife…the Chef’s Knife is the most used and versatile knife of all the knives in the set. After I gave up on my knife set I went out and purchased a good quality Chef’s Knife and this was enough to get me back on track.

And finally, once you do purchase your knife set make sure you know what each knife is best used for and use it for its intended purpose. Your set should come with a description of each knife and what the knife is meant to cut. This will help the longevity of your knives…as well as probably save you a few injuries! 🙂

Now get to chopping!!!

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Liebster Award!?!?


When I decided to start this blog, I had very minimal knowledge about blogs. I had never really read them or knew what they were exactly. It wasn’t until I started using Pinterest that I started checking them out and then I thought…”hey, I can do that!” What a great way to share your passion with others who like the same things that you do. I thought it would be a nice outlet for me to share my experiences with learning to cook…I had this number of “10” in my head…if I get “10” followers I’d be happy. If I get “10” views a day I’ll be happy.  I never even imagined that I would have people “liking” my posts (besides my Hubby and family) or leaving me nice comments..and I’m so happy to report that only a little over 2 months into my blog I already have over 60 followers. So as corny as it sounds I get SO excited when people tell me they liked my blog or enjoyed reading it or found it helpful.

So last Sunday, Terri from Terri’s Kitchen UK let me know that she nominated me for the “Liebster Award”.  Having never heard of this I immediately looked into it with not much luck on exactly what it is or where it started. It seems to have appeared suddenly from “Blog Outer Space”. But I really like the whole idea of it….whoever started it came up with a good idea to help spread the word about those of us who have “smaller blogs”.  Besides….I don’t need any bad blog karma!!

So the following is copied exactly from Terri’s blog in reference to how the Liebster Award works and I’ve nominated my Top 5 favorite blogs.

When you receive the Liebster award, you are supposed to do the following:

  • Choose five up and coming blogs to give the Liebster award to.  Blogs must have less than 200 followers.
  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • List the bloggers you gave the award to with links to their sites.  Leave a comment on their blogs to let them know they’ve received the award.
  • Share five random facts about yourself.

Here are my selections for the Liebster:

  1. Mostly Desserts…because I LOVE ME SOME GOOD Dessert!!http://mostlydesserts.wordpress.com/
  2. Fantastic Frugal Foods from Justa’s Kitchen…Justa shares yummy recipes that are inexpensive…and she keeps it real!  http://justafrugalfoodie.com/
  3. Sweet Pea 2200 shares a little bit of everything on her blog…from recipes to tips and tricks to how to make stuff! Who doesn’t love a well-rounded woman?  http://sweetpea2200.wordpress.com/
  4. The Skinny Pages…Sarah is a typical woman struggling with her weight…she shares delicious recipes and her journey to ‘cook herself thin.’ http://theskinnypages.wordpress.com/
  5. War and Yeast…a “self-taught” cook who shares some really awesome recipes!!  http://warandyeast.wordpress.com/

Ok…Five random facts about me…(which is kind of random in itself…what does this have to do with the concept of an award???)

  • I am a chocoholic
  • I am addicted to “Lucky Charms” cereal.
  • I had to stop watching “Dr. Oz” because everyday I thought I had the symptoms of a new disease!
  • I hate winter.
  • I love summer!

And again…a big thank you to Terri for nominating me. Make sure to check out her blog!!

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A Tribute to Mom


First of all, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there! I’m sure you’ve all been pampered and cooked for or taken out to dinner….it’s not a true “holiday” without food involved.

Strawberries & Cream Dream Dessert

 For my mom this Mother’s Day I made her a nice dinner, but most importantly a “fancy dessert” that she’s been saying she wants forever now!  This is one of my “secret recipes” that may appear to look like strawberry shortcake, but believe me it is not even close to that and tastes way better! Maybe one day I’ll decide to share… 😉

Anyway…

Earlier in the week I had been thinking about what I wanted to do for my Mom’s Day post…thinking about sharing one of the recipes I learned from Mom.

I had made “Mom’s Mac & Cheese” a few days ago, (took pics too but randomly they disappeared!!) which is one of my own, as well as Hubby’s favorite meals.  It’s taken me a few years, but I’ve finally perfected it to be just like Mom’s. It got me to thinking…that maybe some things are just not for sharing. I mean, I have my own “secret” recipes, like the dessert above, but more importantly are those recipes passed down to me that I want to keep between Mom & Me.

So what is it about your Mom’s cooking that makes it so good and nobody else can compare? I am not really sure…I just know that whether it’s some plain old chicken nuggets or mashed potatoes or spaghetti or cookies or cake…there is nothing like Mom’s food. Sometimes you just need Mom’s home cooking. Even as I’ve become a decent cook and continue to experiment with flavors and consider my food to be pretty tasty…sometimes I just crave something from Mom. I grew up in a typical “meat and potatoes” family with nothing fancy about it…but I love it (well, besides the things I just genuinely do not like and refused to eat! Thank goodness for PB&J!)!!

So I guess what I am trying to say is I hope all of you Mom’s out there are sharing with your kids what I learned from my mom. Food brings families together. Food makes memories.  Food brings back memories. Food keeps those who have passed on alive. There is no other Food like Mom’s.

Most importantly what I want to say is “Thanks” to my Mom for teaching me how to cook (even though you thought I wasn’t paying attention!!) and for passing on food and recipes that I’ll be able to always cherish!

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Slimmed Down Cakes!!


Well, as expected, this week’s weigh-in was not a pleasant one….gained 2 lbs. Although I am not surprised between feeling lousy (stupid allergies!) and eating badly (it had to be the all you can eat meat buffet I took Hubby to for his b-day or the ice cream cake I made him!) I’ve just had a rough week. I’m really hoping I can get my butt back in the saddle ASAP because summer is quickly approaching and I am nowhere near where I want to be. I just have zero motivation…even the things that normally motivate me are not…just feeling kind of blah.

So I’m wondering what those of you out there do when you feel this way? How do you keep up your motivation? I really could use some advice. It’s so disheartening when I was doing so well and I thought I was really changing for the better…here I am 2 lbs heavier…:(

Anyway, enough of that pity party nonsense. Let’s get to something more interesting…like CAKE!

So as I mentioned in Sunday’s post I wanted to share some “Slimmed Down” cake recipes. I do not actually have my own recipe that I’ve come up with but I can tell you what I’ve found to be the tastiest recipes from others. Hungry Girl offers this information for cake mix and I’ve tried the pumpkin, diet soda, and yogurt versions. I have to say that my favorite is the pumpkin. It is the truest to tasting like whatever flavor cake mix you are using and has a nice texture and remains moist. The yogurt is pretty good too and the diet soda version is just “ok.” It makes an unusual texture (but stays moist) and depending on what flavor combo you use (for example: vanilla cake mix with lemon lime soda) you can taste the flavor of the soda.

Cupcake Made from Yellow Cake Mix and Diet Lemon-Lime Soda

Then there’s microwave cakes…I’ve seen so many different ways to make microwave cakes either from scratch or with a cake mix & have tried most of them, that it’s hard to even keep track of which is better than which. However, I have to say my favorite at this point is a recipe I came across on the Taste of Home website Community Boards called 3-2-1 cake (If you do a google search for this you will find a gazillion bloggers have already blogged this so I’m not sure where the recipe originated). First and foremost it’s only 2 Weight Watchers Points Plus (most of the other individual microwave cakes are 3 or 4 WWPP) and second it is the easiest to make. Basically you combine a box of angel food cake with any flavor cake mix in a large Ziploc bag. Then when you want cake you simply measure 3 tbsp. of the angel food/cake mix mixture into a small microwaveable dish, then add 2 tbsp. of water stirring until all the lumps are gone and then microwave for 1 minute! Comes out perfect and tastes great!

Another one of my favorites is to make a pumpkin cake in the microwave using 2 tbsp. of yellow cake mix, 1 tbsp. of pumpkin, and ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice. This cake is great with a scoop of fat free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. The individual cake is also only 2 WWPP.

Last month when I made Hubby his Cadbury Cupcakes, I made a slimmed down version using devil’s food cake mix and pumpkin. Below is the recipe to make 4 cupcakes and a slimmed down frosting (will make enough for the four cupcakes). You will need a food scale to weigh the ingredients of the cupcakes. This is the best way to figure out the appropriate amount for a small batch of cupcakes. If you want to make the Cadbury cupcakes like the ones pictured, just add one mini Cadbury Crème Egg to the batter. This will make the WWPP go up to 4.

 

Slimmed Down Devil’s Food Cupcakes (Adapted from Hungry Girl)

Makes 4 cupcakes (WWPP = 3)

3 oz. devil’s food cake mix

2.5 oz. canned pumpkin

  1. Combine cake mix and pumpkin in a bowl and mix until well combined. Mixture will be thick, but do not add water!
  2. Divide batter into a muffin tin.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree F preheated oven for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Slimmed Down Vanilla Frosting(Makes enough for 4 cupcakes, approx. 1 tbsp per cupcake. WWPP = 1)

2 tbsp. fat free Cool Whip, thawed

1 tsp. Sugar Free Fat Free Instant Vanilla Pudding

1 tsp. fat free or skim milk

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined and smooth.
  2. Top each cupcake with approximately 1 tbsp. of frosting.
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Quick & Easy Marinara Sauce


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I’m not quite sure if this is an “authentic” marinara sauce, but it’s easy to make & it tastes great (and way better than the kind in a jar). I always let mine simmer for about an hour, but if you’re really crunched for time you could get away with 30 minutes. The best thing to do, however, is to make it the day before…the flavors are just so much more prominent letting it sit for a day. This is nothing too fancy so you can definitely substitute dried herbs for the fresh, just remember to use less of the dried. I’ve done this plenty of times and it still tastes good (fresh herbs are better though!). As for the wine you can use any red wine. Up until tonight I had always used chianti, but today I used a Cabernet that I’d opened but didn’t really like for drinking. It tasted good in the sauce and didn’t taste all that different from when I use the Chianti. Serve over pasta or with whatever your heart desires (used mine for steak strombolis tonight)!

Quick & Easy Marinara Sauce
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Red Wine
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
2. Add garlic & onion and cook for about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add wine to pan and allow to reduce by about half.
4. Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, parsley & oregano.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for an hour or more. 6. Stir in basil and serve.

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