Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salsa Chicken & Queso 7 Layer Dip

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Salsa Chicken and Queso 7 Layer Dip If I’m going through the work of making this dip, I decided, I want it to have some meat so it can be our main course. Yes, we had this for dinner and we loved it! I made up some easy salsa chicken in the crock pot during the day. Then when I was ready to assemble I layered refried beans, queso, warm salsa chicken, fresh pico, cheese, guac, and olives into a baking dish. We grabbed some tortilla chips and called it a meal. This would be a great dish for a Super Bowl party.


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 jar (32 oz.) salsa
  • 1 can refried beans (warmed)
  • 1 jar (12-16 oz. queso dip)
  • 2 large tomatoes, very ripe, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 c. cheddar or jack cheese, grated
  • 2 avocadoes
  • garlic salt
  • chili powder
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can black olives, diced
  • 1 bag tortilla chips

For chicken: place chicken in crock pot with entire jar of salsa. Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours until chicken shreds easily. Keep warm in crock pot until you’re ready to assemble the dip.

For pico: prepare pico before you are assembling the dip. Combine diced tomatoes, red onion, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Mix well and chill in the fridge.

For guacamole: mash both avocadoes in a bowl. Season to taste with garlic salt and chili powder.

To assemble dip, layer bottom of a 9x13 pan with warmed refried beans (or you can do them room temp if you prefer that!), on top add the jar of queso, then add the salsa chicken, then the pico, then the shredded cheese. Drop dollops of the guac onto the top of the cheese layer. Sprinkle olives on top, and add fresh cilantro for garnish. Serve warm with tortilla chips.Salsa Chicken and Queso 7 Layer Dip    Salsa Chicken and Queso 7 Layer Dip

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gluten/Dairy/Egg Free Banana Bread

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Gluten, Dairy, Egg Free Banana Bread

I think this is the 4th recipe for banana bread I’ve posted on this blog! I have a weakness for banana bread, clearly. And since I’ve been trying out healthier options of my favorite foods while trying to lose the last of my baby weight, it was only natural to experiment with some banana bread. It’s one of those comfort foods for me. And I was determined to find a healthier way to make it so I could indulge without all the guilt. I was so impressed with how light and clean this bread turned out, and how the consistency was still really great even with no eggs!


  • 1 c. coconut oil
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. applesauce
  • 1 1/2 c. brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer cream coconut oil and sugars. Let mix for 3-4 minutes until it’s light and fluffy. Add vanilla, applesauce, and mashed bananas and let mix again. Meanwhile in a separate bowl combine brown rice flour and additional dry ingredients. Slowly add to wet mixture. Pour batter into greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Gluten, Dairy, Egg Free Banana Bread Gluten, Dairy, Egg Free Banana Bread

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bacon & Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños

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Bacon, Pepper, and Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

Lately I have had such a hankering for spicy foods. We’ve gone through more hot sauce in a month than we did in years of being married. I’ve also been adding fresh diced jalapenos to pretty much everything I can. So one week when I was meal planning I thought—let’s just make these things the meal. And it was amazing. Like amazing you can’t stop eating them and think about them when you’re done. The filling is insane. Cream cheese, cream, peppers, bacon, cayenne, and cheese of course. The filling tasted good before I cooked it but after I cooked the peppers the filling melded together in a most wonderful cheesy, bacon-y way. Bacon really does just add some kind of depth to flavor I can’t explain. Also I added diced red peppers though no recipes I saw called for anything fresh. I must say it really needed it though because without the peppers to break up the creaminess it’s almost too rich.

Also, bonus, this meal is EASY. Well if you consider 4 of these with nothing else an acceptable meal. Which my husband and I did. Here’s how I made them:


  • Half block cream cheese
  • 10  jalapeños, sliced down the middle and de-seeded
  • 1/2 c. grated cheese (I used colby jack)
  • 4 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. mayo
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • six strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled or chopped small
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional, like I said I’m into spicy right now!) 
  • 1/2 sleeve Ritz crackers (or other cracker) crumbled for top

Combine all ingredients except jalapeños and crackers in mixer and whip until combined. Place filling in a Ziploc bag and put in freezer for 10 minutes or fridge for 20-30 minutes to chill. Place jalapeños on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil). Cut off corner of bag and pipe filling into jalapeños(I filled them pretty high—as full as I could). Cover with crumb topping and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!Bacon, Pepper, and Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

Bacon, Pepper, and Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos  Bacon, Pepper, and Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Perfect Pizza Dough

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Perfect Pizza Dough We love homemade pizza and I’ve tried a lot of methods over the years to get it right. It’s really hard in a home oven to get a crust to be crispy on the bottom without a brick oven like they use at restaurants. What I’ve found works best is rather than just heating up the pizza stone, I cook the crust before I put any toppings on, just to a light brown color. Then I put the toppings on and cook on a high heat for a couple minutes until the cheese melts. It turns out great every time!

We got a pizza stone for our wedding and I’ve used it for years—it makes the difference for me when making pizza. If you don’t have a pizza stone you can still make your crust crispy on the bottom by just pre-cooking the dough on a sheet pan!


  • 2 tablespoons dry active yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1 egg
  • 6 cups flour

This is the same recipe as my basic roll dough, but I don’t let it rise as long for pizza, because I don’t want it light and fluffy but thicker and chewier. Let it rise for about 15 minutes, knead it really well (which makes it chewy), then roll it out with a rolling pin as thin as you can. Put onto your pizza stone or pan, fold the edges over and roll to be your crust. Poke holes with a fork all over the crust and bake at 415 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until a very light golden brown. Take out, add toppings, and put back in for about 5-7 minutes or until all cheese is melted. We like our cheese a little golden!

Perfect Pizza DoughPerfect Pizza DoughPerfect Pizza DoughPerfect Pizza Dough

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lemon Zest Raspberry Pie

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Lemon Zest Raspberry Pie Berry pies are a favorite around our house! Mitch and I like pretty much all kind of berry pie. I loved this simple raspberry pie recipe adapted from the blackberry pie I made for Thanksgiving following Paula Deen’s recipe here. The lemon zest really brings out the flavor of the berries! I used the huge organic bag of Costco’s frozen raspberries. I thawed them for about 30 minutes before making the pie filling. They were delicious!

The Perfect Pie Crust (adapted from A Bountiful Kitchen’s pie crust and Jenny Evans’ pie crust) – my notes or changes in italics:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. butter (chilled, chopped into cubes)
  • 3/4 c. shortening (chilled. chopped into cubes)
  • 1/2 c. cold cold ice water
  • (egg wash for cooking (1 egg + 1 tbsp. water))

    Mix flour and salt. Cut in butter and shortening with pastry blender or knives. Add water. Stir with fork until flour is absorbed and ball forms. (*Here I formed it into a ball, put it in saran wrap and chilled it in the freezer for about 10 minutes (or you can chill it longer in the fridge if you want to make it a couple hours or a day beforehand.) Dough is much easier to roll and handle when chilled).

    Flour surface and rolling pin well. Flatten dough with hand to make round pancake shape. Roll out from center to about 1/8” thickness (I made mine a bit thicker—I love a thick pie crust). Fold in half, lift onto pie plate. Open and shape to pan. Crimp edges. Cut off excess dough. If baking for single crust pie needing baked shell, bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, lined with parchment paper and filled with dry beans so the crust retains its shape.

Raspberry Pie Filling (adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe here):

  • 6 7 cups raspberries (if you have a small pie tin then use 6 c. but if you have a larger pie pan like a Pyrex glass one, use 7 c.)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 batches homemade pie crust (above) or 2 disks of store-bought pie crust (the store-bought ones have a great consistency but they’re so thin. Try to make it if you can—it’s really easy!)
  • (As noted above—egg wash for top: 1 large egg + 1 tbsp. water)

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a baking sheet on the middle rack. In a large bowl, toss the raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and lemon zest. Let stand, mixing and coarsely mashing occasionally, 20 minutes.
    Fit one round of dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Refrigerate while you continue. Cut the remaining piece of dough into approximately eleven 11/4-inch-wide strips.
    Spoon the raspberry mixture into the pie shell. Arrange the dough strips in a lattice pattern on top of the filling and trim the strips close to the edge of the pan; roll up and crimp the edge. Lightly beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush on the top and edge of the pie.
    Place the pie on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling, 45 mins – 1 hr.

    I think pies are best about 4-5 hours after cooking.   Lemon Zest Raspberry Pie  Lemon Zest Raspberry Pie

Friday, January 10, 2014

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

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Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

We go through so much hot cocoa here in Minnesota that I’ve found it cost-prohibitive, to say the least, to purchase premade hot cocoa mixes. Even in bulk they’re too expensive when it’s –30 outside and you need hot chocolate every hour practically to just stay alive! After tinkering with a mixture that was easy, could be made from ingredients I had on hand, and was still really creamy, I found one I love! We’ve been drinking it almost every day for the past two weeks.

Powdered Mix (scale the ingredients to make as much or little as you’d like):

  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. powdered milk
  • 2 c. white sugar

Mix these ingredients together and store in an airtight container or canister in your pantry. Then when you’re ready to make the hot cocoa, simply add 3 heaping tablespoons of the dry mix to 8 oz of steamed/warmed milk. I put the milk in my mug, warm it in the microwave, then add the mix. Mixes right in with no lumps! And when it was freezing here I scaled the recipe and made a huge crock-pot full of it and kept it on warm all day so we could have it ready at all times. You just do what you have to do when you live in the arctic.

Homemade Hot Cocoa MixHomemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Best Steak Salad

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The Best Steak Salad Okay here it is. My favorite salad. Of all time. This steak salad was inspired by a steak salad I ate at one of my favorite restaurants (Redstone) and tried to recreate at home once they took it off their menu. It is delicious! If you sear the large flank of steak in hot hot oil on both side, then let it rest, then slice it your meat will be so juicy. It makes me salivate. Now every time I go to restaurants I look for a steak salad because they are just so satisfying.

  • 1 lb. sirloin/strip/flank steak, seared, topped with salt, sliced
  • 1 c. grapes, halved
  • 5-6 strips bacon, cooked, sliced (see my details about cooking bacon in the oven here)
  • 1/2 c. bleu cheese (or feta or gorgonzola)
  • 1 c. candied walnuts or pecans (see tutorial here)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced into tiny pieces
  • raspberry vinaigrette
  • 1 bag spinach

Mix all ingredients and dress to taste right before eating. You can thank me later. This salad is delicious and it’s so filling too. The sweet grapes and nuts paired with the salty steak and bacon, with the kick from the red onions and cheese is too good.

I try to prep my ingredients for this throughout the day so it’s not a rush at dinner time. The bacon and nuts can be done ahead of time and everything can be chopped and ready in the fridge until the steak is done. You must try it!

The Best Steak SaladThe Best Steak Salad

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Gluten Free Caramel Apple Crisp

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Gluten Free Caramel Apple Crisp  I’ve always been a lover of apple pies and apple crisps. My husband isn’t a huge fan, but I get strong cravings for baked apple goods! The cinnamon and sugar baked into a bubbly sauce around the apples is the best part. After Christmas I couldn’t shake my cravings for the amazing Costco apple pie we had, so I made some crisp with oatmeal and brown rice flour to keep it a tad on the healthier side.

I found a recipe in my Pioneer Woman cookbook for homemade caramel apple pie with a crisp topping, and altered it slightly to make it more of a crisp (no pie shell) and to keep it gluten free. See my adaptations below and the original recipe here:

Filling Ingredients:
  • 6 cups sliced apples (I used honey crisp, but any kind will work) – the recipe calls to peel them but I didn’t and it still turned out great! Too much time without a peeler.
  • 1/2 whole (juice Of) Lemon
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1-1/2 stick Butter
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 jar (or More) Caramel Topping

In a bowl mix peeled apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside. For crumb topping, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, then add in brown sugar, oats, and ¼ teaspoon salt.

Add apples to an empty pie shell sprayed with cooking spray, and top with crumb topping. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and pour ½ jar of caramel topping over the top.

Trust me, you want to add the caramel sauce!Gluten Free Caramel Apple CrispGluten Free Caramel Apple CrispGluten Free Caramel Apple Crisp

Monday, January 6, 2014

Best-Tasting Healthy Brown Rice

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Best Brown Rice

A couple years ago a friend taught me the secret to delicious brown rice that is still healthy—chicken stock. I have since always cooked my brown rice in chicken broth or stock and every time I think how flavorful it is. No added fats or salts or cheese. Just replace the water with broth. You won’t believe how good it tastes!

Best Brown Rice:

  • 2 1/4 c. chicken broth or stock
  • 1 c. brown rice

Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Cover and cook over high heat until boiling. Turn down heat and simmer on low for 35-45 minutes until done. Fluff with fork before serving.Best Brown Rice