Chicken Gyros

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This has been a very popular recipe on the What’s Cooking board that I frequent. I love greek food, and heck, my husband loves anything involving garlic, so I thought this would be a definite winner!

This recipe comes from Elly Says Opa!, whose blog I love to read for healthy inspiration and greek recipes!

This was some very flavorful chicken, and in combination with the tzatziki sauce on the homemade pita bread that I made, it was a really great dinner!

Chicken Gyros
Source: Elly Says Opa!

Ingredients:

1.25 lbs. chicken (I used boneless, skinless breasts)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar (all I had was white wine vinegar..worked fine!)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 batch of tzatziki (recipe to follow)
sliced tomatoes
sliced onions
4 (pocketless) pitas (I used homemade)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.chicken1
  2. Preheat the broiler (or grill, or pan on the stove).  Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, depending  what size/type chicken you are using. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
  3. Meanwhile, heat your pitas, a few seconds on each side on a skillet. Then, top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions. Roll up and eat!

The Skinny – per serving (just the chicken), Serves 4

Calories – 197.0
Fat – 8.3 g
Fiber – 0.2 g

Tzatziki Sauce
Source: Elly Says Opa!

This makes 1/4 of the batch that Elly has in her recipe. I knew I’d be eating it alone, since my husband isn’t a fan of greek yogurt.

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 oz. container of plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic (LOVE garlic!)
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • salt and a little pepper
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth over a bowl (if you don’t have that, a strainer lined with a coffee filter will work) for several hours or overnight to get out as much moisture as possible. (Since I had greek yogurt, I didn’t need to do this)
  2. Peel and seed the cucumber.  Shred the cucumbers and then squeeze the life out of them to get rid of as much excess moisture as possible. I use a towel to do this, and you will get a lot of liquid so don’t skip this step! Yes, there is a lot of straining and squeezing–and it’s all important! You don’t want a runny tzatziki!
  3. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, vinegar and lemon juice (if desired). Salt to taste. It’s best to refrigerate for 30 minutes or more before serving, so flavors can meld.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

For this sauce, I used Stonyfield Farms Oikos Greek yogurt. I won a giveaway from Jenny’s Cooking that included coupons for this yogurt. This was a very thick yogurt, and while I’m not a fan of plain yogurt, I will say that this provided a great base for the sauce. Thanks to the people at Stonyfield Farms and Jenny’s Cooking for the coupons!

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The Skinny – per 1 oz. serving, serves 8

Calories – 49.1
Fat – 3.4 g
Fiber – 0.1 g

Pita Bread

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I’ve always loved pita bread, mostly because it has pockets in it that holds sandwich fillings very well. I never thought you could make it in your own kitchen. I’m a fairly new cook, so you have to give me some credit here.

I first saw the recipe on Annie’s Eats, and I made sure to star it for whenever I was feeling ambitious in the baking department. I finally pushed myself to make it, because I wanted to try a very popular recipe for Chicken Gyros one night (which will be featured in the next post).

I will admit, it does need a lot of rising/resting time, but as far as your effort goes? Couldn’t be easier, in my opinion. Plus, it’s so much more flavorful than the bread you buy in stores and probably cheaper! I would say, if you’re new to bread, this is a great recipe for you to start with!

Pita Bread
Source: Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour, plus 1/2-3/4 cup more as needed (I used bread flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar or honey
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups water, roughly at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, vegetable oil, butter or shortening

Directions:

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar.  Add the olive oil and 1 ¼ cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon.  All of the ingredients should form a ball.  If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.  As the dough is mixing, continue to add flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky.  (I add a significant amount of flour, so don’t be afraid to keep adding more until you reach the right consistency.)

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the dough around so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

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When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it will be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while it is preheating. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between ¼ – 1/8” thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently, you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5-10 minutes before trying again.

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Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet or parchment paper and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

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Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy (When the recipe says puffy, it is completely puffy!  Wow!) after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.

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The Skinny – per serving, serves 8

Calories 240.6
Fat 4.0 g
Fiber 1.8 g

I’m thinking of incorporating some whole wheat flour for next time to lower the calories, and to increase the flour. I didn’t want to lighten the recipe for the first time that I made it, so that I could familiarize myself with the process and understand for next time, how it’s supposed to come out, just in case whole wheat doesn’t work out. I have a good feeling that subbing 1 cup of whole wheat for the regular flour would work, though. We’ll see!

My first tiered cake

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I must be losing my mind! I could have SWORN that I blogged about my first tiered cake. This was the final cake that I made for Wilton Course 3 (Fondant & Tiered Cakes). Our instructor was super awesome, and let our minds run wild for the final cake. Since my family reunion was the next day, I decided to make a funky LSU colored cake.

This cake was made using boxed white cake mix (gasp!), Wilton buttercream and homemade marshmallow fondant. The filling was a homemade pineapple filling. My husband and I absolutely love this filling. It’s so simple to make too!

To explain why this baker used cake mix, I had a pretty busy week, so I wanted the baking day, which was a Thursday night, to be as simple as possible. I know from scratch isn’t much harder, but hey, I did add some extracts to make it a little more flavorful. Give a girl some credit! :)

My family LOVED the cake. They wanted to make it part of the reunion raffle, but I was too embarrassed for them to make it into a prize. (I have a lot of trouble getting compliments on my cakes…I’d just rather people dig in and enjoy!)

So, I made my dad make the first cut into it, because my aunts and uncles refused since they wanted it in the raffle so badly. Thanks Dad!

A cool thing that came out of it was that my cousin, who just had a precious baby boy, asked me to make her little boy’s 1 year birthday party cake and smash cake! I’m so flattered, and I cannot WAIT to do this next Spring! :)

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

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Last year, my husband surprised me with a full canning set that he found for 75% off at our local Target. I have been curious about canning, but very afraid of messing up and getting someone sick.

However, after reading through the Blue Book of Preserving that was included in the kit, I felt much more confident about the safety of canning.

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I found this recipe for Jalapeno Pepper Jelly on Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen website. I instantly thought that I could FINALLY use all those jalapenos growing in my garden for this.

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This will also make a great, unique gift for family and friends come Christmas season. :)

I learned that canning jelly can be very sticky so have damp towels ready, and you also have to work pretty fast when canning the preserves. The preserves will gel up quickly and you want those in the jars before they do or they’ll be a pain to pour.

That being said, I do recommend canning to foodies. It’s pretty tedious but the result is super cool. You get to say you MADE that jelly! :)

I’m submitting this recipe to What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen’s “So You Grew a Garden” blogging event.

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
Source: Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Jalapeno, Seeds And Membranes Removed, Finely Diced
  • 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ cups Red Or Orange Bell Pepper, Seeds & Membranes Removed, Finely Diced
  • 6 cups Sugar
  • 2 envelopes Liquid Pectin, 3 Oz Each
  • ½ teaspoons Unsalted Butter

Directions

  1. Prepare canning jars and lids as directed by manufacturer’s directions. This recipe makes 6 8-oz 1/2 pint jars…so have at least 8 jars ready, just in case.jelly3
  2. Do not use seeds in your jelly (if you’d like it hotter then put seeds into a piece of cheesecloth or muslin packet and put into the sugar mixture, but remove before you put the pectin in!). You can mix up the peppers if you’d like…habaneros, jalapenos, bell peppers.
  3. In a large stainless-steel pan combine the vinegar, peppers and sugar. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. (add the unsalted butter here if you want to use it…it helps to keep the foam down to a minimum)jelly4
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a full boil, at this point stir constantly. Once a rolling boil has been reached, pour in the pectin. Return to a full boil and stir constantly for 1 full minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Immediately ladle the jelly into your jars leaving about 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims off and screw on bands.
  6. 4 to 8 oz jars need to be processed for 10 minutes. 1 pint jars for 15 minutes. Adjust for elevation. (I live at sea level, so 10 minutes was fine for me.)
  7. Remove from canner and place on paper or cloth towel.
  8. Wait about 15-30 minutes and then carefully twist or tilt jars to distribute the pepper pieces throughout the jelly while cooling. (I did not do this since the preserving book said NOT to move the jelly for 12-24 hours, thus interrupting the sealing process. The pepper pieces were dispersed well anyway.)

I wrote myself a little reminder so I’m not tempted to move these as I clean the kitchen.

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Sloppy Joes

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My husband and I are always trying to find new ideas for dinner, especially with ground meat. My husband has mentioned how much he loves sloppy joes, so I thought, let’s try this! Easy peasy dinner, right?

My husband told me he was going to make them while I went on an errand, and wow! My husband can totally cook! This was delicious!

Sloppy Joes
inspired from Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1.25 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 0.5 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup bbq sauce
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • cajun seasoning to taste (Tony Chachere’s is what we used)

Directions

  1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, onion, green pepper and garlic powder; drain off liquids.
  2. Stir in the mustard, ketchup, and brown sugar; mix thoroughly. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 6 (not including bread calories)

Calories 291.1
Fat 19.8g
Fiber 0.6g

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

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After a pretty full day, I wanted to make the hubs and I something easy and enjoyable. I’ve seen this recipe from Campbell’s for quite some time and was hoping that it would be a great recipe. I will say it had some really great flavor, but this recipe had some issues that I will take note of for next time.

First off, some of the rice ended up extra soft and some was still crunchy. I’ll have to be sure to stir occassionally while it’s in the oven to ensure that the rice is evenly cooked for next time.

Also, the recipe states that it needs to be covered the whole time it’s in the oven. However, after 50 minutes, it was still very watery. I had to keep it in the oven uncovered for a while after to let it evaporate, but it was still slightly watery even after that. Next time, I’ll uncover it when it’s halfway done to make sure it evaporates enough to make a thicker sauce for the chicken and rice.

I ended up omitting the vegetables called for in the recipe, since the hubs isn’t a fan of mixed vegetables. So, as you can see, dinner was pretty carb-y with the addition of some yummy garlic bread!

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
Source: Campbell’s Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (we omitted this)
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast half  (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 375°F.  Stir the soup, water, rice, onion powder, black pepper and vegetables in a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
  2. Top with the chicken. Cover the baking dish.
  3. Bake for 50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender. Top with the cheese. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes. Stir the rice before serving.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 4

Calories 408.4
Fat 10 g
Fiber 0.7g

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

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I love Oatmeal Raisin cookies. It’s one of those things that makes me feel like I’m eating a healthy cookie, but I’m sure with all the butter, it’s not so healthy after all. I saw this recipe on Picky Palate’s blog, and I had to immediately star it in my Google Reader. I LOVE that Raisinets combines the idea of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin cookies. These were another cookie that I brought over for labor day and they were definitely enjoyed! This is such a yummy cookie, and I will definitely be making these again.

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
Source: Picky Palate

Ingredients

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup quick oats
  • (2) 3.5 oz boxes Raisinets

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place butter and sugars into a stand or electric mixer; beat until light and fluffy. With mixer on medium add egg and vanilla until well combined.
  2. Place flour, soda, salt and oats into a large bowl. Slowly add to wet ingredients until just combined. Add raisinets; stir to combine, being careful not to crush the raisinets.
  3. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

Sugar Cookies

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Happy Labor Day everyone!

While I do enjoy decorating sugar cookies, sometimes the hubs and I crave a chewy sugar cookie. I wanted to make these for the hubs and his family for Labor Day and thanks to a recommendation from Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles, I think this will be our go-to recipe for sugar cookies!

This was originally a recipe for Snickerdoodles, but all I needed to do was omit the cinnamon (another tip from Bridget) and we were set. I was a little skeptical about no vanilla extract, but I trusted the recipe and it still had a really good flavor.

Sugar Cookies
adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles (via Betty Crocker’s Big Red Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups (13.75 ounces) unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar minus 1 tablespoon (10.35 ounces total)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar (for rolling)

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars (except the ¼ cup granulated sugar for rolling) until creamy; add eggs and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  3. Mix ¼ cup sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out cookies and roll into a ball; roll ball in sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake until cookies are just set and turning golden brown at edges, 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes; then, using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

After baking 2 dozen of the cookies, I decided to stop baking and freeze the rest for another day. Yet another reason I love my FoodSaver. So easy to just bag and freeze!

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Mexican Potatoes

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My husband and I like to make our weeknight cooking as simple as possible. Just lately, we got into making tacos, but were shamefully using the kits for tacos and mexican rice.

After finding this recipe for Taco Seasoning on Allrecipes, I decided it was probably worth a shot to do this without the kit. Not only did we have all the spices on hand, but because it was a mix we made, it felt a little more homemade with not much extra effort!

For the side, I wanted to try something a little different, so I searched for ideas with mexican spiced potatoes and after looking at many ideas, I found a recipe for us to try.

These potatoes had a nice flavor, but I was hoping for more of a kick with them. So, next time, I’m going to probably adjust the spices a good bit or even try putting some of the Taco Seasoning in there with the recipe.

Mexican Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet

Ingredients

  • 5 medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to sprinkle on top)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
  • 1 lime, juiced (or more to taste)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients, except the potatoes and lime in a jar and shake to thoroughly mix ingredients (or whisk in a bowl).
  3. Pour your diced potatoes into a jelly roll pan, and toss with the oil mixture. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Roast for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are well cooked, and browning on the edges. Take out of the oven, and sprinkle the juice of one lime over it. Taste test, and add more lime juice or salt, if needed and serve.

The Skinny - per serving, serves 6

Calories 250.5
Fat 12.1 g
Fiber 4 g

The start of the Fall

I know Fall isn’t until nearly the end of September, but to me, Fall is when the weather changes to cooler mornings, football season starts and the cravings for everything pumpkin become imminent. Fall is here!

Another thing I associate with fall is darker, richer colors. So, this year, since I no longer have my blonde color to maintain for the wedding, I decided to darken up to my natural hair color. :)

Here’s a before, on my wedding day. It has since grown massive roots and lost a bit of its luster…standard with hair color though.

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After

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I think this is a good look for me. She didn’t even have to use harsh highlighting paste, so my hair won’t be as damaged this time around. :)

Here’s to pumpkin spice Starbucks, changing leaves and fresh new hair!