Why this blog??

Why this blog?? I often find myself stressing over what to make for my family for dinner. We live a busy life and some meals need time to prep, cook and let's not forget shopping for everything you need. I love cookbooks and websites, but there are so many recipe's at times it is overwhelming. The recipe's I will be posting are things I actually made. I will tell you if they are easy or more time consuming. I will also tell you if they are good. Most of these are recipe's I have made for years and continue to make because they are easy or quick and my family loves them and i know yours will too! I will also try to at least once in a whlie try a new recipe I've found on line or in a book and honestly rate it. I always encourage others to send me their favorite recipe's as well! I am a mom... not a chef. But I am a mom who enjoys cooking for her family and making a somewhat healthy meal (some days more healthy than others:) ) In each recipe I will share how I recommend serving it, any substitutions I can think of that are also good, or ways to prepare ahead of time to make the cooking part seem quicker! I am not a photographer, as you can see... most of these pictures are taken from my phone camera, so may not be the best! I love to hear from others who have made these recipes and what they have done to change the recipe... please post comments! Thank you! To "like" me on facebook, go to this link... It's What's Cookin

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ice Cream Cake?

I'm not sure exactly what to call this dessert or where the recipe originated. My friend made it for us after we had our second child and we LOVE it!!! It's heavenly! 

*1 box of ice cream sandwiches (12 sandwiches)
*1 lg tub cool whip
*1 bag oreo cookies (or you can use Crushed up heath bars, butterfingers...) Pound the oreos, or candy bars, with a meat pounder in a plastic bag. 

1. Mix 3/4 of the crushed up cookies or candy in with the cool whip. 
2. Layer the pan with a layer of ice cream sandwiches tightly.  You may have to cut some in half to make it fit.
3. Then put a layer of the whipped cream mixture. 
4. Repeat these steps again an sprinkle remaining crumbles on top to finish it off. (or in my picture, I topped with whole oreos and I only crushed up 3/4 of the oreos and mixed all crushed with cool whip. 
5. Then put in freezer for at least a half hour to an hour to form up the whipped cream again.

Cut into squares and ENJOY!!
Put down your first layer of sandwiches, top with layer of the cool whip/cookie mixture

Here is the mixture of the cool whip and crushed oreos mixed together well

Fully cover sandwich layer with half of the coolwhip mixture

add your second layer of sandwiches... packed in tightly

Add the rest of your coolwhip/cookie mixture

Top with your crushed cookies (candies) or as I did, I topped with whole oreos!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars- By Pillsbury

My friend Lindsay and I take turns hosting dinner a few times a month. Who ever is hosting makes the meal and the other one brings a dessert.  She made these the other day and I LOVED them! I ended up making them to serve at a Christmas party too and they were a hit. They aren't too hard to make (take it from me... I am NOT a baker!!) She got the recipe from Pillsbury.

1/2 C butter, melted
2 C graham cracker crumbs (32 squares)
1 8 oz. bag toffee bits
1 roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
1 12oz. bag chocolate chips
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 T butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease 13x9 baking dish and heat oven to 350.

Have the roll of cookie dough sitting out for around 10 minutes to soften up.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and 3/4 cup of toffee bits. Pour mixture into the greased pan and press evenly until mixture covers bottom of pan. Refrigerate for around 15 minutes.

In a 2 qt saucepan, heat the milk, chocolate chips and the tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir frequently until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Spread the mixture over the graham cracker crumb mixture.

In another medium mixing bowl, break up the cookie dough and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs until blended. Crumble the mixture evenly over the chocolate layer and then sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup toffee bits on top.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes or until it's golden brown. Cool completely before cutting, probably around 2 or more hours.
After mixing melted butter, grahams and toffee chips, pat down in baking pan. Make sure to put in fridge for about 15 mins to harden 
While above is in fridge, melt chocolate chips, butter and condensed milk in a sauce pan over medium heat... stirring till smooth

Take cookie dough (that is room temp) and mix with remaining graham crumbs

spread melted chocolate mixture on top of crust 

crumble the cookie dough/graham crumbs mixture over top of chocolate

Top by sprinkling remaining toffee chips over the top

Bake till golden and let cool (about 2 hours in fridge)

cut into squares and serve. YUM

Great for breakfast as well with coffee:)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pancetta Roasted Chicken

This is a great dish I learned to make at the cooking class I attended (Whisked Away- Phoenix). Recipe by Alex Palermo. This dish is great for a dinner party... the fennel and sage smell amazing in this dish. I made this with my Scalloped Potato Gratin and Arugula Salad with Manchego and Caramelized Walnuts. Everyone loved the whole meal. It requires a bit of chopping, but over all it isn't too difficult a dish. I chopped the carrots and onions the night before to help with my prep time. This recipe yields 8 generous servings... You could probably cut recipe in half or just make if you are having a dinner party.

* 3-4 T butter (enough to completely coat skillet)
* 1 cup chopped onion (I used sweet onion)
* 3/4 cup small cubes peeled carrot (see below for the demo I learned in cooking class on how to cube a carrot. 3/4 cup came from one very large carrot)
* 2 large fresh sage leaves, minced (I used 4 because I really wanted that extra flavor from the sage)
* 1 large garlic clove- halved (I used 2 because I love garlic)
* 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
* 1 cup small cubes crustless country bread (I used a loaf of fresh french baguette bread)
* 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
* 1 large egg, beaten to blend
* 1 T grated fresh parmesan cheese
* 1/2 tsp salt (Kosher)
* 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (I used much more of this)
* 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* 8 thin pancetta slices
* 3 large fresh fennel bulbs, trimmed, each cut into 6 wedges

Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, sage and garlic. Saute until carrot is tender, about 10 minutes. Add wine; simmer until evaporated, scraping up browned bits. Remove from heat. Mix in bread, walnuts, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Taste to see if seasoned enough. If so, then add egg and mix together well. Remove garlic halves.

Make a slit in chicken breasts opening them up (not sure what correct term is... butterflying them?)  Spoon stuffing into cavitites of chickens; skewer cavities closed. You can add more butter and rub over each chicken breast if you wish... I didn't. Season each chicken generously with salt and pepper. Arrange in roasting pan. Lay 1 pancetta slice over the top of each chicken breast. Surround the chicken with the fennel wedges.

Roast chickens and fennel for aprox 30 mins, turn fennel over and keep roasting aprox another 15-20 mins, until chicken is golden and thermometer reads 165. Basting with pan juices. Once done, let rest about 10 minutes before serving.  Serve chicken with pan juices.


Cubing a carrot...

cut one side  
lay on flat side and cut each side

now both sides and bottom should be flat. 
Flip to cut last side

cut each square into 3rds...                  
Here it's cut into 3rds

lay each piece flat and you'll cut each into 3rds again
cut each into 3rds

once in 3rds again, cut into cubes.
3/4 cup

Ok, now that we have the carrot done... :) haha
saute carrot, onion, sage and garlic halves. 
cube bread

add parm cheese, walnuts and bread. Season and taste. Then add egg

Add wine and simmer till evaporated

Butterfly chicken breasts

Season outside generously

Stuff with the stuffing mixture

Top with pancetta and put wedged fennel all around

Roast in oven

Half is enough for most people, especially if serving with other sides. Don't mind my fancy purple plastic plates:) I cooked for 12 of us... after all that cooking, who wants to do dishes??!! NOT ME!!

Arugula Salad with Manchego and Caramelized Walnuts

I'm not kidding when I say this... this is by far the best salad I've EVER had... better than any restaurant I've ever been to as well!! The ingredients are a little more pricey than regular salads, but it is very worth every penny. I first learned to make this in a cooking class (Whisked Away- Phoenix), and I served it for a dinner party over the holidays. Everyone RAVED about it and wanted more salad... they didn't even care about what I was making for dinner!! The recipe came from Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar and yields 6-8 servings.

This salad is great on it's own as a lunch or part of a meal... or you can add chicken, steak or even salmon to make it a complete meal. I like it just the way it is though!!

I made the caramelized walnuts the night before and just stored them at room temp in tupperware.

* 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1/2 cup walnut oil (this smells amazing!)
* 3 T Champagne vinegar (This can be hard to find)
* 8-10 cups arugula
* 2 Fuji apples, unpeeled, cored, thinly sliced (can use any tart, hard apple... Red delicious...)
* 6 oz Spanish Manchego cheese or sharp white cheddar cheese, shaved (I LOVE manchego)
* 1 1/2 cups pitted dates, sliced
* 1 cup caramelized walnuts (recipe below)
* 2 medium shallots, minced

1. Whisk oil and champagne vinegar in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. (can be made 4 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature and rewhisk before using).

2. Boil Balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium-high heat until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup- about 4 minutes (until syrupy and thickened... not blackened) Remove from heat

3. Toss arugula, apples, half of cheese, dates, walnuts and shallots in large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat (you may not need it all). Season salad with salt and pepper.

4. Mound salad in center of a platter (or on each plate). Drizzle balsamic syrup around salad(s). Sprinkle remaining cheese atop the salad.

Caramelized Walnuts Recipe:

* Nonstick vegetable oil spray (pam)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 T balsamic vinegar
* 1 1/2 cups walnuts

Preheat oven to 325. line heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray foil with nonstick spray. Combine sugar and vinegar in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves into vinegar, about 3 minutes. Add nuts and coat. Transfer mixture to baking sheet.

Bake until nuts are deep brown and syrup thickens and coats nuts. Stir occasionally. Takes about 10 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet. Break nuts apart. (can be made up to 2 days ahead of time. Store airtight at room temp)


I got the dates and walnuts from Costco and the champagne vinegar and walnut oil from Safeway.
After roasting nuts 
Boiling down balsamic to reduce into a glaze 

chopped shallots, dates and apples

Toss in bowl

I placed salad on large platter

drizzle balsamic over top and top with rest of cheese (picture I took at cooking class)

A picture from when I made it the second time.