Tortilla Soup

Whenever I have a busy week coming up, I always make a big batch of soup on Sunday evening. Soup re-heats really well and that way I have delicious, healthy meals all week without having to put much thought or time into it. One problem I have with a lot of broth based soups is they aren’t very filling, but this Tortilla Soup is full of beans and vegetables so that isn’t an issue here.

The first time I made this recipe I used the original variety of Ro-Tel which turned out too spicy for me, but I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to spice tolerance. The next time around I used the mild variety and that was the perfect amount of heat for me. Feel free to use the original, or even the hot variety if you’re brave! If your batch turns out spicier than you’d like, try mixing some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt into it, that’ll help cut down the heat.

Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (10 oz. each) Ro-Tel
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz.), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans (15 oz.), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn (15 oz.), drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 packet (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning
  • Tortilla chips
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheese
Directions
  1. Add the Ro-Tel, black beans, kidney beans, corn, onion, broth and taco seasoning to a crockpot and stir to combine. Cook over high heat for 5 hours, or low heat for 8 hours.
  2. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream and shredded cheese. Enjoy!
Makes: About 6 servings
Adapted from Miller Musings

Butterfinger Cookies

Sorry for vanishing for a week! I had my master’s defense this morning, and while I had good intentions to cook and bake last week to ensure I’d still have regular blog posts… it just didn’t happen. I got totally swamped trying to get ready for my defense and ended up living on a big pot of Baked Potato Soup for most of the week.

I’ll make it up to you though by sharing the recipe for these ridiculously peanut-buttery Butterfinger Cookies. For a long time Butterfingers reigned supreme as my favorite kind of candy bar. These days I’m more inclined to reach for some Reese’s, but I still love Butterfingers too. These cookies have lots of chopped up candy in them, plus some peanut butter in the dough which makes for a pretty extreme cookie. A glass of milk is highly recommended!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup  flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 10.5 oz. Butterfingers, coarsely chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly butter two baking sheets.
  2. Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the egg whites and vanilla then beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well. Stir in the Butterfingers until just combined.
  4. Scoop the dough into medium sized cookies (I used a 1 1/2 tablespoon sized cookie scoop) then bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, then move to a cooling rack.
Makes: About 3 dozen
Source: All Recipes

Red Berry Vinaigrette

As I mentioned before, I’ve started making more of my own salad dressings. So far I’ve tried a couple different recipes that have been really good, but this might be my favorite so far. The raspberries make it a little tangy, but the honey keeps it from being too tart. I served this over a salad with baby spinach, hard-boiled eggs, and candied almonds and it was delicious!

Red Berry Vinaigrette 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 3 strawberries
  • 1 tbl. champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbl. honey
  • 2 tbl. vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
Directions
  1. Use a food processor or blender to puree the berries. Add the vinegar, mustard, and honey and blend to combine. Pour in the oil and blend for several minutes until emulsified. Season with salt if desired.
  2. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge, it should keep for about a week. Enjoy!
Makes: About eight 2 tablespoon-sized servings
Adapted from Healthy Food for Living

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

I have the defense for my master’s degree coming up in just over a week (eek!). It’s scheduled kind of early in the morning and it’s on a Monday so I figured I better plan on bringing some sort of tasty snack for anyone that’s motivated enough to come. I decided right away to do a coffee cake and a batch of muffins, hopefully with two choices everyone will be able to find something they like.

I’m still debating over what kind of muffins to make, but as soon as I took the first bite of this coffee cake I knew it was the one. The thick crumb topping partially bakes into the moist, vanilla cake so there is a bit of crumb on top and some gooey, cinnamony deliciousness underneath. I may or may not be able to wow everyone with my brilliance, but I can at least make sure to serve them some tasty food!

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbl. + 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbl. vanilla bean paste
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 13 pan.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter to create the topping, then set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together then set aside. Use a mixer to cream the butter for several minutes until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the yogurt and vanilla bean paste. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, scraping the bowl between each addition. Mix until just combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to crumble the cinnamon topping evenly over the surface of the cake. The topping will look very thick, but some of it will bake into the cake.
  5. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for about 20 minutes before serving. Cake will last for 3 days if stored in an air-tight container.
Adapted from Sweet Treats and More & Fake Ginger

Spinach and Artichoke Baked Pasta

This is my last day of spring break before classes resume next week. I wish I could say I spent my break travelling to some warm and sunny location, but instead, I stayed home and worked frantically on my thesis and various papers that I need to finish up for school. Initially I had plans to cook and bake a ton this week but writing and researching sucked up most of my time and I wasn’t able to cook as much as I’d hoped. Ah, life as a grad student!

I threw together this pasta early in the week and it was great. It made enough that I had leftovers for a few nights and it was the perfect comfort food meal after a day of studying!

Spinach and Artichoke Baked Pasta

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. farfalle pasta (or other short pasta)
  • 1 tbl. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used reduced-fat)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (I used reduced-fat)
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 13.5 oz. artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and butter a 2.5-3 qt. casserole dish.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water when you drain the pasta.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet, when the oil is hot add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion has started to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. Mix together the sour cream, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic, spinach, artichokes, 1/4 cup of pasta water and 1/2 cup of mozzarella and stir to combine. Stir in the drained pasta then salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Pour into the greased dish and sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over the top.
  6. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown on top. Serve and enjoy!
Makes: About 6-8 servings
Adapted from Budget Savvy Diva

Butterscotch Nests

Butterscotch Haystacks have always been one of my favorite cookies but I don’t make them very often. For some reason I usually don’t like to bake things that are too ‘easy’. When I’m in the mood to spend time in the kitchen I usually want to try out a new recipe, or do something elaborate. But, you know, sometimes things that are easy to make still taste really, really good and that’s definitely the case with Butterscotch Haystacks.

Since it’s spring time, I decided to turn the haystacks into nests and found some cute little malted chocolate eggs to put in them. If you can’t find chocolate eggs, just leave the cookies as haystacks, they’ll still be great!

Butterscotch Nests

Ingredients

  • 11 oz. butterscotch chips
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 10 oz. chow mein noodles
  • Chocolate eggs (optional)
Directions
  1. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
  2. Place the butterscotch chips and peanut butter in a glass bowl. Microwave until melted, stirring every 30 seconds.  Stir the chow mein noodles into the melted peanut butter and butterscotch then drop by spoonfuls onto the wax paper. Use your fingers to shape the cookies into nests. Let the cookies sit on the counter, or refrigerate, until they firm up then place a few chocolate eggs in the middle of each nest.
Makes: About 2 dozen
Adapted from All Recipes

Spicy Thai Noodles

It has just been in the last few years that I’ve discovered my love for Thai food. So far I haven’t experimented with cooking it at home too much, but when I saw how easy this recipe looked I knew I had to give it a try. The peanut sauce is light and flavorful with just the right amount of spice. As an extra bonus, it goes together really quickly. I had my vegetables prepared and the sauce ready in the time it took to cook the pasta.

Thoughts about this recipe

  • You can adjust the amount of crushed red pepper you use based on how spicy you want the dish. I used 1 1/2 tsp. and that was just right for me.
  • Use whatever vegetables you like best. I bought a bag of pre-cut ‘stir-fry’ vegetables that had an assortment of broccoli, carrots and snap peas.
  • Be careful re-heating any leftovers, the sauce burns easily (voice of experience… opps!)

Spicy Thai Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbl. toasted sesame oil
  • 1-3 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 3 tbl. honey
  • 2 tbl. creamy peanut butter
  • 4 1/2 tbl. soy sauce
  • Assorted vegetables, steamed

Directions

  1. Boil water for the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, heat the oil and crushed red pepper in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until the garlic is light brown.
  3. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the oil into it to strain out the garlic and crushed red pepper. Add the honey and peanut butter and stir until combined. Stir in the soy sauce.
  4. Toss the noodles with the sauce and vegetables then serve. Enjoy!
Makes: 3-4
Adapted from A Small Snippet