Monday, April 29, 2013

Rosie Earns Steps with Balance Rewards Points!

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®  and Walgreens #cbias #SocialFabric All opinions are my own.

We always are looking out for new ways to stay healthy. So, we were more than happy to add an extra check to our exercise program: Balance Rewards. A store that we shop at that gives us rewards for being healthy? Sounds like a steal to me! Do they know they're giving us gifts for being healthy? It almost seems like someone forgot to tell Walgreens they were giving away free products!! All we have to do is walk! Something we do best with Rosie.

Of course, we needed to sign up for the #BalanceRewards card. Even though there was someone behind us in line it only took about thirty seconds! Our name, phone number and address and we were basically done! Talk about easy we didn't even have any guilt over making the other customers behind us wait. You can check out the rest of our shopping trip on Google+.

So, we picked out a few things to help us keep on track. Some coconut water which Susie loves.  

Some raw almonds which are a wonderful snack after exercising.  

Some multi-vitamins the gummy kind because they don't have soy. Plus who can resist eating princesses for breakfast?  

The last items in our cart were neosporin and bandaids because Susie tends to get into play battles with our cat. She always needs neosporin for his swift retaliations against belly pets. He's feisty with a set of sharp claws.  

We earned 3000 points with one purchase!

The best part is that Walgreens has a Steps Up To Win Sweepstakes which allows you to win prizes! Every day there are prizes to be won and with just a click of your mouse. All the prizes are geared to help you stay fit. This week you can win things like a Fitbit Zip which will gain you more points! With a grand prize as a trip to The Biggest Loser resort of your choice! Not a bad prize for walking to a better you!

Check out more awesome fun blog articles on Aisle Share FUN.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Shredded Beef Mole Pasilla with Guacamole for Cinco De Mayo

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®  and Mariano’s #cbias #SocialFabric All opinions are my own.

Once again it is time to share another one of my favorite foods with you.  I absolutely love mole sauces.  They are fantastic on just about every kind of meat.  Mole is the perfect combination of spicy and chocolate on your dinner plate.  Mole (pronounced mol-lay) is a Mexican sauce typically poured over chicken breasts.  Mole is incredibly addictive.  Since Cinco De Mayo is right around the corner I thought it was the perfect time to head to #MyMarianos for all the fresh and exotic ingredients needed to make this dish.

I am so lucky to have a Mariano's practically in my backyard.  They almost always have every exotic or odd ingredient I'm searching for.  From this exotic wall of spices to purple potatoes or even being able to pick up small amounts of nuts and grains, they literally have everything.  The staff is also so incredibly helpful.  They go out of their way to help you find something.  They'll also make suggestions if you can't find what you're looking for.  With me this happens more often than not.  I just chalk it up to being creative.

There are a few things that come to mind when we think of Mexican foods.  Mostly it's a little bit of heat and rich spices with a topping of fresh ingredients.  We combined one of our favorite foods.  Well, at least Susie's favorite guacamole with a new recipe for tacos.  Some slowly cooked beef with a mole pasilla sauce and fresh guacamole to finish it off.  While guacamole can and often is enjoyed by itself it really tied the dish together.  The raw vegetables added a contrasting sweetness and tartness.  The mole sauce is smokey and savory with a hint of chocolate.  So, the guacamole added some fresh flavor and a little texture.   Using corn tortillas instead of flour not only saves some unnecessary calories but provides a little extra flavor and adds extra protein.  The bonus of course is that our corn tortillas were slightly larger and cooked faster meaning more room for the delicious taco fillings.

Where did we go to pick up these ingredients?  Mariano's!  Their produce section allowed us a one stop shopping trip.  They even had already ripe avocados which meant that we could make our guacamole the same day!  Instead of waiting for them to ripen on our counter as we sadly pined over the lost time between delicious tacos.  Plus with our rewards card we got a deal on some of our ingredients!  Always good to know when you scan your card you are saving money on the best produce in town!  A quick and easy way to save at our favorite store.  You can check out the rest of our shopping trip on Google+.

My recipe is a little different from other moles in that it uses dried pasilla chilies, lots of chocolate and some sugar to bring out the flavor.  This recipe is best made a day ahead.  Do not be intimidated by the huge ingredient list.  While this recipe does take a while to make, it truly is worth it.  Mole pasilla tastes even better on the second day.  Instead of making a typical meal of chicken breast smothered in mole, I went with something much tastier.  Yummy corn tortillas filled with fresh guacamole and slow cooked shredded beef drizzled with mole pasilla.  Chocolate for dinner is always a win.

Mole Pasilla

5 dried pasilla chilies, stems and seeds removed
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon majorjam
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sliced almonds
2 tablespoons raw peanuts
1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds
2 tomatoes, halved, seeded and roasted
2 tomatillos, halved and roasted
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
salt and pepper, to taste
3-4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup lard
1 corn tortilla, sliced into 8
3 slices stale baguette
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 pounds Black Angus Chuck Roast

Trim large pieces of fat from roast.  Grease crock pot and add trimmed roast.  Add 1/2 cup water and cook on high 4-6 hours until fork tender.  Remove from crock pot and cool.

Remove broiler pan from oven, grease and turn on broiler to high.  Slice tomatoes in half and remove the seeds.  Remove outer papery wrapper from tomatillos and slice in half.  Place cut side down on broiling pan.  Roast veggies on high for 8 minutes, remove from oven and flip.  Roast for 5 more minutes.  Veggie skins should be charred and peel easily away from the rest of the veggie.  Remove skins and place rest of veggies in a bowl to cool.

Stem and seed dried chilies.  To seed chilies, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut down one side to easily remove seeds.  In a dutch oven, set over medium heat add 1/4 cup lard.  When lard is hot and melted add the chilies and saute 2-3 minutes.  Remove from dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.

In the same oil, add the onion and garlic, saute 3-4 minutes or until they start to soften.  Stir in almonds, peanuts, raisins and pumpkin seeds.  Cook stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes

Stir in spices, let cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Make room in the middle and add bread, tortilla and roasted veggies.  Let cook for a few minutes.  Add chilies, 1 cup water and 2 cups chicken broth, bring to a simmer.  Let simmer 12-15 minutes and then allow everything to sit for 30 minutes.

Before pureeing, melt chocolate in saucepan with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.  Add melted chocolate and sugar to dutch oven.  Puree everything in dutch oven in batches until smooth.  Serve immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to use.  When reheating, add chicken broth to mole pasilla to liquefy sauce.

Our guacamole recipe is adapted from a restaurant in the area.  They made their guacamole fresh to order and right at the table!  Of course, as you can see from our photograph the amounts aren't exactly precise.  Especially since we added more of some ingredients to suit our own tastes.  Even though according to some people we still didn't add enough cilantro.  The hard part is figuring out just how much jalapeno you need.  You never know exactly how much of a kick you are going to get until you try it!  So, we definitely had to add a little bit more.  Plus some extra tomato because what we had prepared got lost in the mix.


2 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium tomato, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
3-4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
1-2 teaspoon salt
1 lime
1/4 small onion, diced

First place the garlic and salt in your mortar.  Grind into a paste adding some lime juice about a tsp full. Continue to grind until you have a smooth paste.

Then begin adding your avocado.  Smashing with the pestle so there are no large chunks left.  Transfer avocado mixture into larger bowl.  Add in the rest of your ingredients.  Mix together and taste.  Adjust to your own taste preferences!  Eat when you're satisfied with the mixture!

To serve, heat mole pasilla with some chicken broth on the stove.  Heat shredded beef in the microwave.  Heat corn tortillas in a frying pan on the stove.  Layer on corn tortillas like in photo, fold over tortilla and serve.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

From Scratch Purple Gnocchi

By now you should know that I love to work with odd ingredients.  So it should come as no surprise that when I saw purple potatoes on sale at Mariano's that I instantly thought gnocchi.  I absolutely adore gnocchi when they're made right.  Typically I make mine from ricotta.  The cheesy goodness adds a little extra boost to just about any dish they're in.

But purple gnocchi?  What an awesome way to add extra color to a dish!  How often does anyone get to eat purple foods?  I mean besides eggplants or grapes or now purple cauliflower.  :)  It's not that often.  If you've never made gnocchi, don't fret.  It truly couldn't be easier.  You'll need one special tool that not everyone has in their kitchen.  That special tool is a potato ricer.  It sort of looks like a metal drum with tiny holes halfway up the sides and bottom.  Using a ricer on the baked potatoes makes them consistent in size and easier to work with.

The only other ingredients in gnocchi are flour and some salt.  That's it!  Three simple ingredients to make these gorgeous potato pastas.  One extra note, I actually started with an entire two pounds of potatoes.  I baked and riced them, then removed one cup to make a different kind of gnocchi.  What I had left was exactly a pound.  So you may want to start with a pound and a half.  Just FYI.

Purple Gnocchi

1 lb purple potatoes, baked peeled and riced
2/3+ cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub potatoes clean and pierce all over with a fork.  Place potatoes on oven rack and bake until soft.  This will take 40-50 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes.  Remove from oven.

While potatoes are still warm, carefully peel them.  Once peeled, rice potatoes into a large bowl.  Allow potatoes to cool for about 15 minutes.  Then add flour and salt.  Work potatoes with hands to incorporate flour.  Now this is where my directions will differ from all other gnocchi recipes.  I've found you can't ruin gnocchi by overworking it.  Mine always turn out better when I've kneaded the heck out of them.

Turn dough out onto a floured counter.  Knead gnocchi, adding flour as needed (I added close to another cup), until the dough is soft, pliable and barely sticky.  Split into 4 portions.  Roll each portion into a thin log, if dough doesn't roll easily it means you don't have enough flour in it.  Cut gnocchi into 1/2" and 1" pieces.  Set on a floured baking sheet or one lined with a silpat.  Repeat with remaining portions.

Once you've cut all the gnocchi, you can run them down the back of a fork to get those cute lines you see on store bought gnocchi.  I rarely bother as they taste the same with or without the lines.  :)

You can either freeze the gnocchi at this point for later use or cook them.  To cook, bring a pot of water to boil and add gnocchi.  As soon as the rise to the surface they're done.  You can then serve them or pan fry them with a little butter.

I also add them to soups and a variety of other dishes when I don't want to use pasta or add crust to something.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Great American Cooking Expo at Arlington Park April 20-21st, 2013

This weekend, April 20-21st from 11 am - 5 pm, the Great American Cooking Expo is coming back to Arlington Park.  Which is right in my backyard (well practically) so it's a no-brainer that I'd want to attend.  They were nice enough to give me a pair of tickets so I can check it out.

If you're at all interested in food there will definitely be something there to catch your attention.  There will be chefs giving cooking demonstrations throughout the day both Saturday and Sunday.  You can sample all kinds of food and alcohol.  :)  There will also be a variety of new kitchen stuff on hand, gadgets and what not.

There will also be several large ticket raffle giveaways.

  • (2) 32" Toshiba LCD 720p HDTV's
  • (2) $100.00 Mariano's Fresh Market Gift Cards
  • (4) $100.00 Cookie Lee Jewelry Gift Bags
  • (1) Girl's Night Out Kit - Chocolate Martini Mix, Cocktail Shaker and 4 Martini Glasses
  • (1) $100 Gift Certificate for Dove Chocolate Discoveries
Phew, what a list!  All of these are awesome prizes and another great reason to attend this weekend.  You can purchase tickets early for $30 each or $45 at the door.  I also over the weekend saw a Groupon for $45 for a pair of tickets to the show.  Now that's an amazing deal you might want to check out!

You can check out all the details about The Great American Cooking Expo on their website.  There you'll find a list of exhibitors and chefs who will be giving demonstrations.

It's Just a Taste provided me with tickets for this show.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pecan Cream Pie - National Pecan Day

The other day I was on the lookout for a quick and easy pie recipe.  It was a day we needed a sweet treat.  You probably think we always have treats lying about, but the reality is we rarely do.  If I'm working on a recipe for the blog I typically end up passing the treats on to someone else to get it out of the house.  Especially if it makes a large amount.  :)

But I'm getting off topic.  I was looking for a recipe that I could easily throw together.  Something that I could make without having to run to the store.  Enter this Pecan Cream Pie recipe from the old Martha Meade Modern Meal Maker.  This is the neatest cookbook I have ever come across.  It was put out by the Sperry Flour Company which used to be a division of General Mills in Tacoma, Washington in the 1930's.  I picked it up at an estate sale for a dollar.

It's not the same as a pecan pie, but its not a pudding pie either.  It's more like a pecan custard pie.  It was a big hit right out of the pan.  When I make it again, I plan on adding a chocolate ganache layer on top of the crust.  I think this recipe will only improve with chocolate.  :)

Pecan Cream Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup whole milk or half and half, scalded
1 baked 9-inch pie shell

Blend the first five ingredients until smooth.  Add pecans and add to scalded cream.  Cook over hot water, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Pour into baked pie shell and let stand until cool.  Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

The only thing I'd be careful about with this recipe is adding the scalded milk in its entirety to the egg mixture without tempering it first.  I recommend you whisk in a small amount of scalded milk into the egg mixture, to temper it, before adding the rest.  This way your eggs won't cook when you add the scalded milk.

Go To Pie Crust Recipe

1 cup flour
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons ice cold water

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, shortening and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, cut shortening into flour until it resembles coarse meal.  Using a fork, stir in enough cold water to form a dough.  Shape dough into a flat disk and roll out on floured counter top until dough is large enough to fit pie plate.  Drape and fit dough to pie plate and crimp edges.  Blind bake 8-10 minutes until slightly golden at 425 degrees.  Remove from oven and cool.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bites

Another great recipe from my Bigelow Tea Life of Pi Oscars Party.  This one I actually came across on pinterest from Have Recipes-Will Cook.  They looked like a tasty island like food.  I could see roasting these over an open fire on a beach.  :)  Sweet and spicy chicken bites were a huge hit at the party.  There were no leftovers.  I think I only got one myself.  The combo of the cayenne with the dark brown sugar was absolutely perfect!

This was also one of the easiest recipes!  Cube the chicken, wrap it in bacon and roll in the sugar mixture.  Easy peasy!  I bet you could even do everything but coat it in the sugar mixture to prep it.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bites

1 1/4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pound thick cut bacon
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease.  Set aside.

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  Cut bacon strips into thirds.  Wrap chicken cubes in bacon and secre with a toothpick.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together brown sugar, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Roll wrapped chicken in mixture until coated on all sides.  Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.  Serve with ranch dip.

Monday, April 8, 2013

New York-Style Crumb Cake

Yesterday was National Coffee Cake day and what an awesome reason to bake!  I'd recently come across this recipe from Chloe's Vegan Desserts that looked awesome, except it was vegan.  Vegan isn't really something we do at my house as I'm horrifically allergic to soy flour and soy protein.  This recipe looked just so moist and yummy that I decided to change it from vegan to regular.

This is an incredibly moist, dense coffeecake.  Only thing I'd change if I were to make it again  would be to cut down the flour in the crumb top, add some nutmeg and nuts.  That's it.  The cake is the moistest I've ever had in a coffeecake.

New York Style Crumb Cake

Crumb Topping:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crumb Topping:

In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine.  Add cold butter and cut in with a pastry cutter. Crumbs should be size of peas.

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Lightly grease an 8 inch square pan.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.  Pour wet into dry and whisk until combined.  Do not over mix.

Fill prepared pan with batter and evenly sprinkle with crumb topping.  Bake for 35 minutes.

Make ahead up to baking step.  Cover with plastic wrap to refrigerate overnight.  Bake in the morning.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sipping Bigelow Tea with my Sister

Let me be honest for a minute, my sister and I do this blog together.  While, we love each other dearly, there are times when we fight and disagree.  As all loving sisters do, we disagree about which foods are best and which flavors of tea are better.  =)  Good thing Bigelow Tea has a large variety to choose from so our arguments can continue long into the future.

However, through all of our fights and all of our laughter there is one thing we both enjoy.  A cup of tea!  Warm or cold or mixed in a drink.  We are always welcoming this handy and delicious beverage which combines a simple glass of water and some tea leaves into a taste sensation!  While I love Wild Blueberry with Acai she prefers Constant Comment.

Luckily, our electric water heater makes enough hot water so we can both have tea at the same time.  There is nothing worse than wandering into the kitchen and finding someone making hot water for their tea, only to find out that they didn't leave you enough for that perfect cup!

You have to watch their contented smiles as they dunk that tea bag.  You stare forlornly down into your dry mug and wait.  The seconds crawl as you try to hide your disappointment.  Only to realize that your last tea bag is gone!  That person enjoying their tea took it! This happens a lot when every member of the family knows were you tea stash is!

Black and green teas are as different as the two of us, but there remains one thing in common we always receive a boost from each other just as the antioxidants boost our immune systems.  Bigelow tea has enough variety to please any palate.  We can pick a new flavor of tea for every day of the week and mix it up into one of our fabulous tea-tinis for when we really want to have a good time over a cup of tea!  Like these fabulous Tea-tinis we made for our Oscar Party.

This post was written as part of a Bigelow Tea contest.  All opinions are our own.

Possibly $1.06 for Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter!

I was just at the Rolling Meadows Meijer and they were marking down packages of Land O Lakes unsalted  butter to $1.64!  That's an awesome price, but there are also coupons for $.50 off in the 3/10 SS and there have been tearpads for $.50 off too, so check your stash before you head over. Which would make it $1.14 a pound.  But if you head over today you can also load 5% off grocery to your mperks to save a little bit more.  With the 5% off the butter that brings it down to $1.06 a pound an absolute not to be missed price.  :)  They were just putting it out and several cases when I was there.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Purple Yam Swiss Roll Cake

Shh....I have a secret....there are people in my family who don't eat chocolate at all!  Total shocker!  I seriously thought everyone liked chocolate.  I mean I'd rather have caramel over chocolate, but I still like it.  But to not eat it at all?!?!  That's just unheard of.

Let me tell you its hard to find a dessert recipe that's somewhat healthy and doesn't include chocolate.  I know because I'm always on the lookout for one.  Well last Saturday, we had dinner with said family members and I scoured the internet to find something suitable.  See, I tend to use my family gatherings as testing grounds.  I rarely make them a tried and true recipe.  What's the fun in that?  This way I get an unbiased, or at least I hope, opinion on something I wouldn't normally make.  Hence this awesome recipe I found from Within the Kitchen.

The minute I saw this gorgeous sliced roll cake I knew it was the perfect thing to make.  I only had to find purple yams.  Purple yams are hard to find.  Whole Foods doesn't carry them.  The local grocery stores don't carry them.  Asian markets carry them.  Lucky for me that Mitsuwa, a huge Asian market, is right down the road here in Arlington Heights.

If you haven't made a Swiss roll cake before, don't be intimidated.  It's incredibly easy!  So easy that I think you'll be seeing more of them on here in the future.

I'm not going to re-post the recipe for the cake here.  I followed it to the letter and it came out gorgeous!  Only thing I changed was the filling recipe.  I had about a pound of purple yams and decided to use all of them.  I had to add more sugar due to that.

Purple Yam Mixture

1 pound purple yams, peeled cut and steamed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream

Place yams in vegetable steamer basket over boiling water in a large pot.  Boil yams until you are able to easily pierce them with a fork, 7-13 minutes.  Remove from steamer basket and place in food processor with rest of ingredients.  Pulse all ingredients until smooth.  Check for lumps.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes at least.