Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lebanese Dinner (Shish Taouk, Lebanese Rice Pilaf, and Loubieh Bzeit)

I'm sad to say that until now I have never tried Lebanese cuisine. I have been missing out on some darn good food!! 
So. Much. Flavor.
I did a little research on some Lebanese dishes and was surprised how close they are to both Indian and Greek food. I definitely need to start cooking more Middle Eastern recipes. 
I went with a Lebanese Rice Pilaf - which was super easy and incredibly tasty, Shish Taouk - which is a spicy marinated chicken served with a spicy yogurt garlic sauce, and Loubieh Bzeit - which is green beans, tomato, onions, and garlic, and some pita bread. 
We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
First up - Shish Taouk

Shish Taouk (Tawook)
(Ever-so-slightly adapted from The Spice Kitchen)

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water

1 cup 0 fat Greek yogurt, plain
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika

Garlic Yogurt Sauce
1 cup 0 fat Greek yogurt, plain
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced (or grated)
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp salt

Prepare chicken - Chop each breast into 8 chunks. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients and mix well. Add in the chicken and toss well to coat.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, up to overnight. 
Prepare Garlic Yogurt Sauce - in a mixing bowl, stir together the "Garlic Yogurt Sauce" ingredients (as listed above). 

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 
When chicken has done marinating - Place 8 chunks of chicken on each of the 8 skewers. Place on wire rack on cookie tray lined with tinfoil or a Silpat.

Preheat oven to 425.
Bake chicken for 7 minutes, flip over then about 7 minutes more (until chicken is cooked). I then put it under the broiler for 2 minutes just to brown it up a bit. 
Remove from heat and serve with garlic yogurt sauce. (I put it on top put you can serve it on the side too.)

Lebanese Rice Pilaf
(Ever-So-Slightly adapted from The Lemon Bowl)

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup (heaping) vermicelli pasta broken into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, well rinsed
3 cups boiling water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
fresh parsley

In a large, deep frying pan heat the butter over medium heat. When melted, add in the broken vermicelli and stir frequently until well browned. (Don't walk away and leave the pan - you don't want to burn the noodles!) Add in the well rinsed rice and cook, stirring often for another 3 minutes. 

Carefully pour in the boiling water and stir once. Add salt and pepper and stir again. 
Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot. 

And. last but certainly not least, 

Loubieh Bzeit

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp canola oil
3 medium onions, finely diced
1 lb green beans (ends trimmed, beans halved)
10 garlic gloves, peeled & halved
5 medium tomatoes, seeded, finely diced
1 tsp salt
dash of cayenne pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil and let heat. Add in the onions and saute until transparent. Add in the green beans and cook and stir until green beans start to wilt - about 2 or 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and stir to combine. 
Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for 10 minutes - until beans appear almost cooked). Stir the vegetables every so often to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pot. 
Add in the tomatoes, salt, and pinch of cayenne.

Stir well. Cover pot, reduce to low heat, and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. 
Serve hot.

How I did the entire meal together:
1.) I made up the marinade and put the chicken in it in the morning then set in the fridge. I also made up the Garlic Yogurt Sauce and set it in the fridge. 
2.) At 3:45 I  prepped the rest of the ingredients - ie: chopped the onion and garlic, tomatoes, trimmed the beans, broke up the vermicelli, rinsed the rice. (This all took about 30 or so minutes) 
3.) At about 4:15 I preheated the oven and also started the Loubieh Bzeit in the pot. I made it to the stage where it simmers for 10 minutes.
4.) While veggies were simmering I melted the butter in another pan and started toasting the vermicelli. I then finished to the simmering stage for the rice. 
5.) I then added the tomatoes, etc... to the green beans and covered the pot to simmer again. 
6.) While the 2 pots were simmering, I then started the chicken to cook.
I believe everything was ready to eat by about 4:50 - 5:00 pm.
There you have it.
They are all finished at about the same time. If one finishes before the other simply turn the heat off and leave covered on the burner. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sugar Cookie Bars (for a crowd)

Everyone knows sugar cookies are awesome. They are all soft and squishy and just super cute. 
But.... the down side to making sugar cookie for a crowd is the time it takes to make a million cookies. One cookie sheet at a time, 10 minutes per sheet equals a million hours in the kitchen. 
Enter these soft and squishy and Oh-So-Cute sugar cookies in a bar. 
Make up the recipe, press it in a pan, one turn in the oven and *boom* - done. Just like that. 
P.S. - these freeze very well too.

Sugar Cookie Bars (for a crowd)

1 cup butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup butter, room temp
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar
pinch salt
3 Tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 375. Line a 10 X 15 jelly roll pan with parchment paper, set aside.
In a large bowl, Beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the 2 cups of sugar, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, until well combined.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. Beat in vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. 
Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Dough will be very stiff!
Crumble the dough into the prepared pan and press down firmly and evenly.

Bake at 375 until top looks dry and edges are lightly browned, about 15 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it - if you over bake it it will be dry.

Let cool to room temp and then very carefully use the edges of the parchment paper to lift the bar out of the pan. If the parchment paper is not long enough - you can invert the bar onto a wire rack and then invert back onto another rack or cutting board.. 

Prepare frosting - beat butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in icing sugar and pinch of salt. Beat in the milk until spreadable consistency. (You may need to add 1 more tablespoon)
Spread on the cooled bar.

Sprinkle generously with sprinkles. Cut into desired sizes.

Store in airtight container. Freezes very well.

These are kind of like a vanilla cake crossed with a sugar cookie. You could easily tint the frosting any color to match your event. (I've even made cream cheese frosting for these and it is really tasty!)
So many possibilities. 
So much faster than baking a million cookies. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Omelet Stuffed Pepper

The other day I must have lay in bed for an hour trying to decide on what I wanted for breakfast. 
I wanted something hot, something, easy, something filling, but it had to be healthy, low cal, and require like no effort on my part because I was feeling sooooo lazy. 
Most of the recipes I could find were for overnight casserole type dishes - which didn't do me any good because, of course, I did not plan ahead. 
Eventually I stumbled across a photo of an avocado baked with an egg in the middle. 
I thought, hey, if an avocado can hold an egg then so can a pepper. But then, I didn't want to just break the egg in and bake it because I didn't want it to be all runny AND I wanted bacon in there too. 
My compromise?  
Omelet in a pepper.

Omelet Stuffed Pepper

1 green pepper, halved and seeded
1 egg
1 Tbsp 1% milk
 salt & pepper to taste
2 button mushrooms, diced
1 slice onion, diced
1 slice bacon, diced
1 thin slice tomato, diced
1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. 
Place halved pepper in an oven safe dish (I used a pie tin). (NOTE - Don't de-stem the pepper. The egg will run out the top if you do!)

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk, salt & pepper, set aside.
In a small frying pan over medium heat, cook and stir the mushroom, onion, and bacon until bacon is cooked. Stir in the tomato and remove from heat.

Stir the onion mixture into the beaten egg mixture. 
Very carefully pour or spoon the filling into the pepper halves.

Bake at 375 until filling is set - about 30 to 45 minutes. 
Remove from heat and let sit 2 or 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with a tsp of Parmesan cheese and serve. 

So not only is this delicious and easy and inexpensive and healthy and customizable and just about the most perfect breakfast out there... you can make it for one or you can make it for a crowd. 
Nutritional counts according to Myfitness pal - 210 calories, 14 carbs, 11 fat, and 15 protein. (That's for the whole shebang!)
I whipped it up and popped it in the oven then went and had my shower and got dressed. It was ready just as I finished up. 
Great way to start the day on the right foot even if you are feeling super-de-duper lazy. 

Be sure to visit Carole's Chatter for tons of links to other great recipes! 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Red Velvet Crumb Cake

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
I know some people aren't fans of Valentine's Day but I love it. I mean.... a day dedicated to love. I'm on board. 
Also... heart shaped cake.
So... there's that...
Red velvet cake is perfect for Valentine's day for numerous reasons, most important of all - it's red and pretty. You could go with traditional chocolate but why not be a little more adventurous? You get a hint of chocolate in a red velvet so you're technically not straying too far. And the cream cheese frosting? Yes. It wins all the prizes. 
Your loved one will find you even more irresistible if you feed them this. Don't have anyone to share it with? Make it for yourself. It's Valentine's Day and you deserve delicious cake.  (Plus, it freezes very well too... if you have leftovers... I've heard that happens to some people!)

Red Velvet Crumb Cake

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp baking cocoa
2 Tbsp liquid red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 X 8oz bricks cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line 3 - 8 inch pans with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray, set aside. 
Prepare cake - In a small bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.
In a larger bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping sides as necessary. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Beat in baking cocoa and red food coloring until well combined, again scraping sides as necessary. 
Alternately beat in the flour with the buttermilk until batter is smooth.
In a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and vinegar. This will foam up. When mixed, quickly beat into the cake batter. 
Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake at 350 for approx 24 - 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. 

Let cool in pans for about 8 minutes then run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen, and invert cakes onto wire racks to cool completely. (I didn't have 3 matching pans so I traced out the smallest heart shaped pan on parchment paper and used that template to cut the same sized hearts out of the other two cakes.) 
To get crumbs - I used the pieces I cut off the cake in order to form the heart shapes. I think I had about 2 cups of crumbs or so. 

If you don't have to cut off any pieces because you have 3 pans the same shape - then simply cut a thin layer off the top of each cake and crumble that up. 
Prepare frosting - In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Beat in vanilla. Gradually beat in icing sugar until you reach a spreadable consistency. (If too thick add a little milk, a TBSP at a time. If too thin add a bit more icing sugar) 
Place in fridge for at least 15 minutes to solidify a little. 
Assemble cake - Place one heart on a serving platter. Frost with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting.
Top with second cake and more frosting.
Lastly, place the 3 cake on top and frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. 
Carefully press crumbs around the cake and sprinkle on top.

You may have a little of the white frosting peeking through, but that is okay. 

You can pick out any brownish pieces of cake so you have "pure red" only for crumbs but I don't think you need to. I love the little color variations. 
Note - once you mix the baking soda and vinegar it activates the baking soda so you want to get it into the batter and the batter into the oven fairly quickly otherwise your cake won't rise. 
Also - be prepared to have crumbs EVERYWHERE. I used a basting/pastry brush to get most of them off the serving tray. 
There you have it....
cake + cream cheese frosting + more cake = perfect dessert. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Breakfast Banana Split (and Oatbox Review)

Sue and I were excited to be chosen to review Oatbox breakfast cereals. According to their website (link HERE) "Oatbox cereals are made in Montreal from natural, healthy ingredients." Another fantabulous thing about this Canadian company - they have partnered with Breakfast Club of Canada and every time they ship a customer a box "a child will be given a full breakfast at school." 
How great is that? (You can read more about it on their website - HERE.) 
Oatbox ships their product in these adorable boxes...

And your first order comes with a free glass jar as shown in the photo below.

If you are interested in ordering you can click here - for a $5.00 discount off your first order. (P.S. - this is an affiliate program so we are compensated if you order via this link.)
You get 2 delicious flavors (we got Banana, Pecan & Walnut Granola AND Coconut, Kiwi & Almonds Granola for this month!) and a cute glass jar PLUS you are helping to provide a healthy breakfast to a child who may otherwise be going without PLUS, by clicking the link to order, you get $5.00 off!! 
But... "how does it taste?", you ask. 
It's pretty darn fantastic. 

FYI - While we did receive the product to sample at no cost and we are part of an affiliate program - the opinions expressed here are strictly our own. 
Sue enjoyed both. She can't wait to make pineapple muffins with the Coconut, Kiwi & Almonds Granola as streusel. As we know though... unless it contains bacon and/or garlic and/or cheese Sue isn't going to go crazy over anything.
Myself though.... I went a little crazy. I loved the Coconut, Kiwi & Almonds Granola mixed into my Greek yogurt for a snack. 
And then I tried the Banana, Pecan & Walnut Granola and had a brilliant idea. 
Breakfast Banana Split. The dried banana pieces really spoke to me in the granola. I wanted to share the recipe for that with you because..... well.... it's a healthy banana split you can eat for breakfast. Need I say more?

Breakfast Banana Split

1 banana
3/4 cup 0 fat Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla) - Frozen
1 Tbsp peanut butter
2 1/2 Tbsp Oatbox Banana, Pecan & Walnut Granola

Cut banana in half and place on plate. Top with scoops of frozen Greek yogurt. Warm peanut butter in the microwave briefly, about 10 - 15 seconds, then drizzle peanut butter over the bananas and Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with the granola.

As such, according to Myfitnesspal, this is - 390 calories, 55 carbs, 10 fat, 25 protein. 
So amazing for breakfast. So filling and tasty and crunchy and melty and ridiculous. 

So. What is our opinion of Oatbox granola?
Sue and I are definite fans. 
Me, more so than Sue, but that's just because Sue is so odd. 
Going hiking? Throw a bag in your backpack for a tasty and healthy snack. Or... you know... use it to make healthified banana splits for breakfast. 
Remember - click here for $5.00 off your first order: 
Or... click here to check out the Oatbox website -

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Overnight Banana Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

In my never ending quest to find new ways to eat oatmeal I have developed this overnight almost-like-cake version. It is a combination of several recipes from around the web and my cookbook collection of oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and cake. 
First impression.... I like it.
It's a little crumbly but I may have over baked it a touch. Next time I make it I will take it out a few minutes earlier just to be sure. 
If you are an oatmeal eater then I am pretty sure you will like this. It has no added sugar so is not sweet at all, is kind of like a cake in texture but drier and crumblier, and is overall a pretty healthy choice. You could definitely add in some sugar or honey or maple syrup if you want it sweeter BUT I find drizzling a little of the peanut butter syrup on top solves that problem. 
It is super-de-duper awesome that you whip it up the night before and just pop it in the oven in the morning. Perfect for when you have company or you have to get the kids off to school early. 

Overnight Banana Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal
With Peanut Butter Syrup

3 ripe bananas (large), mashed
5 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk
5 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup oat flour (or all purpose)
1 Tbsp baking powder

1 large banana, sliced

PB Syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter 
1/4 cup maple syrup (or corn syrup)

Spray a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, eggs, peanut butter, vanilla, and milk until well combined.
Add in oats, oat flour, and baking powder. Stir to combine.
Pour into prepared 9 X 13 pan. Place banana slices on top - if using. (FYI - you can also wait and put the banana slices on top just before baking, if you are using them.)
Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to overnight. 
**NOTE - FYI - you can also bake it now if you don't want to store it over night.**
In the morning - remove oatmeal from fridge and uncover. 

Preheat oven to 375. 
Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 and continue to bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and top appears brown and dry - about 20 - 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let sit while you prepare peanut butter syrup.
To prepare syrup - in a small bowl place peanut butter and maple syrup (or corn syrup). Microwave for about 20 - 30 seconds to melt peanut butter. Whisk together. (Can also do in a small saucepan over medium heat if you don't want to use a microwave.) 
Serve oatmeal hot/warm drizzled with peanut butter syrup.

If you don't want the bananas on top because of how they go brown then you can simply stir the chopped banana into the oatmeal instead of pressing them on top. Again - totally optional. You don't need to add the 4th banana at all if you don't want to. 
According to Myfitnesspal the nutritional counts are:
334 calories, 46 carbs, 12 fat, 12 protein.
With 1.5 Tbsp PB Syrup on top - 394 calories, 57 carbs, 14 fat, 13 protein. (Both figured out with 4 bananas in the recipe)
That is for 1/12 of the recipe. Recipe makes 12 LARGE servings. How large? Well, the photos above are half a serving. I brought it to the office for my coworkers and cut it into 24 pieces. 
1/12 of the recipe is VERY filling. 
NOTE - if you use gluten free oats then this is gluten free - if that is something you are concerned about. Also - this freezes very well! Cut into pieces and freeze to pop in the microwave OR you can pop the whole dish in the oven at 350 to thaw and reheat. (Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't over cook and get too dry in the oven.)