My Favorite Christmas Treat: Linzer Thumbprint Cookies


Thumbprint Linzer Cookies

We all have our favorite holiday treats, right? Mine, by far, are these linzer thumbprint cookies!

I love that they are made with old-fashioned ingredients and have a bit of spice to them, yet aren’t overly sugar-sweet like many cookies. My mom has been making these my entire life, so no Christmas in my mind is complete without them! I especially love them with a cup of tea.

We’ve started a tradition of baking some cookies together last year, and I hope we continue it as long as possible. With two crazy little ones, we decided to just do these this year, but we’re going to try to stretch it to one more kind with each passing year ;)

Baking Thumbprint Linzer Cookies

Here’s the super simple recipe. We always double the recipe because they will not last otherwise! {Recipe yields approximately a dozen cookies.}

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of finely ground pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Raspberry or strawberry jam

Thumbprint Linzer Cookies Recipe

DIRECTIONS

Cream butter and sugar together; add egg yolk and beat until light and fluffy. Mix together dry ingredients and add to the wet butter/sugar mixture. Refrigerate until firm {about 10-15 minutes}. Shape into balls and add a thumbprint in the middle, fill it with jam.

Thumbprint Linzer Cookies with Jam

Helpful baker with Thumbprint Linzer Cookies

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for approximately 12 minutes at 375 degrees. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Thumbprint Linzer Cookies with powdered sugar

Voila! Delicious cookies…perfect for leaving out for Santa to enjoy!

Thumbprint Linzer Cookies2

What are your favorite treats for the holidays?

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Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry #Recipe

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry

I’m incredibly picky when it comes to fish, so when I came across this recipe for spinach and pesto salmon in a puff pastry, I was curious to try it!

It’s seriously amazing and is the perfect food for entertaining because it seems fancy, but it’s SO easy! {Trust me…I don’t post recipes that aren’t simple!}

Adapted from this AllRecipes post.

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • Salmon fillet, fresh or frozen {long enough to almost fill the pastry}
  • Puff pastry sheets {near the pie crusts in the frozen section}, thawed
  • 1/3 cup pesto {cheapest brand is totally fine, or make your own!}
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons feta crumbles {optional}

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. If needed, slice the silver skin off of the salmon {for me, this is a hubby job…freaks me out!}.

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry1

Open up the puff pastry sheet and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry2

Place salmon inside. Season the salmon with the onion and garlic powder.

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry3

Then, add the pesto on top and spread it out {peanut butter on bread style!}.

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry4

Finally, add the fresh spinach leaves and feta, and close the puff pastry around the ingredients.

Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry5

 Spinach and Pesto Salmon in a Puff Pastry6

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is starting to turn a golden brown.

Slice and  serve with a side salad. A delicious main course! If your kids enjoy flavor {I’m lucky — mine do!}, they may enjoy it as well :D

What are your favorite recipes with salmon?

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Quick Family Meal: Chicken Bruschetta Pasta with #KraftRecipeMakers

Collective Bias

#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta

Is there any better fall comfort food than pasta? Yeah, I think not.

The #1 item my husband requests on the menu each week is pasta. We love trying new pasta dishes, so I was excited to try the new Kraft Recipe Makers for a quick family meal.

As a busy work-from-home mama, the last thing I want to do each night is cook dinner. Many times we end up with eggs, a crock pot meal or grilled cheese sandwiches. So having a “meal helper” from a box is definitely not above me. I liked that I could include my own fresh ingredients {easy to customize} and that it helped make a great meal for my family — quickly, on a budget, and without a ton of clean-up.

We made Kraft’s chicken bruschetta pasta and were pleased with the results! Lots of flavor and SO simple. The husband was ecstatic when I told him what was for dinner.

Here’s how I made this quick family meal:

#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • Kraft Recipe Makers – Chicken Brushchetta Pasta flavor {Found at my local Walmart in the pasta aisle}#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta -1
  • 1 lb of chicken {I used 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts}
  • 3 cups bowtie pasta
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • Optional: Fresh basil, chopped and croutons for toppings

DIRECTIONS

Set-up your ingredients and chop up your chicken if needed.

#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta -2

Cook pasta as directed. In the meantime, oil a skillet and cook the chicken until cooked through. Stir in half the simmer sauce.

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Drain the pasta and add to the skillet the remaining simmer sauce while mixing.

Top with finishing sauce and parmesan. Cover and cook until heated through for 2 to 3 minutes.

#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta-6

Add basil and croutons if you’d like.

BOOM. Dinner is served.

#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta-8

OK, well, if you’re like me, you probably have a veggie and bread as well too :D

#kraftrecipemakers - Chicken Bruschetta Pasta-9

This was totally a hit with the hubby and the kids too!

Follow Kraft on Facebook here.

Have you tried the new Kraft Recipe Makers? Which one would you like to try? The verde chicken enchiladas one is next on my list!

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Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars

Everyone deserves a sweet treat now and then, right?

One of my current favorite indulgent treats these days are these super simple chocolate coconut peanut butter no-bake bars. I mean, how can you go wrong with coconut, peanut butter AND chocolate together, right? Pure bliss, friends.

These are perfect for a quick treat to bring to share with friends, or to gobble up throughout the work week.

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars

INGREDIENTS

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup Agave {or 1/2 cup honey}
1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil {Costco has the best prices I’ve seen}
2 cups 100% whole grain dry oats {I use quick oats}
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Melt peanut butter, honey and coconut oil over medium heat.

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars 1

Once melted, remove from heat and add to the oats, shredded coconut, chocolate chips and vanilla mixture. Stir until chocolate is entirely melted.

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars2

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars3

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars4

Pour into an 8×8 pan and cool in the fridge for a few hours until hard. {You can also put them in a 9×13 pan if you don’t want them as thick, or drop them onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper for cookies for quicker eating.}

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars5

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars6

When they are set, cut them into squares and enjoy.

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars7

Store in the fridge.

So delicious!

What are your favorite simple sweet treats to make at home?

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Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup #Recipe

Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup

Today I am highlighting a soup I love for fall that was shared by a friend a few years ago. If you’re like me {a.k.a. a bottomless pit when it comes to food}, you may stay away from soup as a meal. I assure you, this one has enough heavier ingredients to stick to your ribs, but isn’t too indulgent in the calorie department. {If you want that, you must try my crock pot broccoli cheese soup…nom!}

I also enjoy how this soup can easily be made higher quality, or inexpensively if you are on a budget. Personally, I know I could get all these ingredients from Aldi for about $8-$10 for everything. Woohoo! With that said, if I bought fresh meat and REAL gnocchi, it could be made a little higher end. Love when recipes give my wallet some wiggle room. Since we’re approaching the end of the month here, we went the cheap route this time around ;)

Simply serve this with a French baguette slightly warm, and voila! The perfect quick and easy meal for fall.

Plus, I just love saying ‘gnocchi’ {pronounced knee-o-kie}. Isn’t that fun?!

Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup1

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 links turkey Italian sausage {hot is awesome! I just get the Jennie-O brand from Aldi}
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 16/17 oz package of gnocchi
  • 1 can of fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
  • 1 can chopped Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained {Or, if you only have plain tomatoes, add in 1/2 tsp of oregano}
  • Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage over medium-high heat until sausage is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain fat from the meat if needed.

Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup2

Add 2 cups water, soup, tomatoes and gnocchi; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 to 5 minutes or until gnocchi float to the top of the pan.

Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup3

Ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup4

Bonus points: My kids like it too! For my 14-month-old, I just serve the chunks without the broth so it’s easy for her to pick it up and feed herself.

Baby loving Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup

Victory for mommy!

Toddler loving Turkey Sausage Gnocchi Soup

Not sure what’s up with this kid and her love for soup, but I’ll take it! Even if she acts like a pirate while eating it…

What is your favorite soup recipe? I need to try some new ones this season!

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe!

chocolate zucchini cake recipe

I should just change this recipe to be called “OMG Cake with Zucchini” because LAWD. It’s sooooo good.

My mom made this cake awhile back and let me take a tiny taste of it {because she was hoarding it all for herself to freeze}. I instantly fell in love. So when my mother-in-law gave us one of the biggest zucchinis EVER from her garden, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it…Make this cake!

It’s heavenly. But once you see the ingredients, you’ll know why. It ain’t exactly healthy. But shoot, it sure beats the heck out of eating anything store-bought and processed, so I justified my many binges of eating it. Between sharing some with my neighbor and my girls, this baby was gone in a couple of days. And this is coming from a girl who really isn’t into chocolate cake generally!

So here’s the scoop on how to make chocolate zucchini cake.

INGREDIENTS
Chocolate Zucchini Cake Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk {I just made my own by combining a 1/2 cup of milk and adding 3 tablespoons of vinegar and letting it thicken}
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups grated zucchini, drained overnight so less watery {I just stuck it in the food processor for the perfect consistency}
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts {optional}
  • Powdered sugar {optional}
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven at 325 degrees.
Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately – then put together.
chocolate zucchini cake dry and wet ingredients
Fold in zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts if desired.
chocolate zucchini cake - adding z
Pour in greased and floured pan (9 x 13 or 4 smaller loaf pans) and bake at 325 for 45 to 60 minutes {45 was perfect for me, but my oven cooks pretty fast}.
chocolate zucchini cake cooking
Pull cake out when a toothpick comes out clean.
NO frosting is necessary — it’s plenty sweet and delicious.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled.
chocolate zucchini cake
What is your favorite thing to make with zucchini?
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Cooking Matters $10 Meal Challenge: Tofu Lettuce Wraps #NoKidHungry

Disclosure: For posting my recipe ideas, I will have a chance to win a restaurant gift card. 

When I hear about a good challenge, it’s hard for me to say no. So when the great folks behind Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ contacted me about creating a healthy, family friendly meal for $10, I knew I had to try it out!

About Cooking Matters: It’s a nutrition-education program that connects families with food by teaching them how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget. Professional chefs and nutritionists volunteer their time and expertise to lead hands-on courses that show adults, teens and kids how to purchase and prepare nutritious foods in healthful, safe and tasty ways. This knowledge can mean the difference between feeding families just for one night, and making sure they never again have to worry about when their next meal will come.

Here in Southeast Michigan, Cooking Matters works with Gleaner’s Community Food Bank. {If you’ve never volunteered with them, DO IT. I’ve done it several times and it’s fun and makes such a huge difference for our community! Learn more here.}

As a gal on a budget, I LOVE that this program exists to help families. So, what did I create for $10? Read on…

First, I headed to one of my favorite stores for low prices — Walmart. As a busy mama, I love that Walmart price matches other stores so I don’t have to run around town to find the best deals. All you have to do it bring in the ads to show them. I almost always get great deals this way {Tip: Aldi generally has the BEST price on milk – $1.99 or less!}. For example, I knew Aldi had bananas for 35 cents per pound this week, so I made bananas our dessert to help save on cost.

Here’s my check proving I spent $10. Well, OK it was $10.81, but that was because I got more bananas than I really needed for this meal.

$10 Meal Bill

For the main course, I’m sharing something that’s a tad different, but healthy and delicious: Tofu lettuce wraps.

I know what you’re thinking because I *used* to think the same thing — Tofu is gross. I assure you, it just takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with.

Other perks to tofu? It has a relatively long shelf life, is a healthy replacement for meat, it’s packed with protein, low in fat/calories and is inexpensive at approx $2 per container! I get it — the word ‘tofu’ is so pretentious, so instead just think of it as what it is — soybeans that have been ground up and boiled. YUM, right? ;)

Now for the scoop on how to use it…I’ve adapted this awesome recipe from rockin’ blogger The Pioneer Woman to make it even more budget-friendly.

INGREDIENTS

Tofu Lettuce Wraps - Ingredients

  • 1 – 14 oz. container of tofu {firm/extra firm}
  • Romaine lettuce {iceberg totally works as well, but doesn’t pack as much nutritional value}
  • 1½ cups frozen corn
  • 1/4 tsp. of chili powder
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce {I prefer low sodium when possible}

DIRECTIONS

Drain the water from the tofu container. Heat a large saucepan or non-stick skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil.

Place the tofu in the saucepan. Now, do what I call slicing and dicing the tofu a with a spoon to break it up into chunks. Cook it for approximately 10 minutes or until it starts to have a little color. You may feel like you are making scrambled eggs, which is good. Cooking tofu is a lot like making eggs! {That’s not scary, right?}

Cooking Tofu

As it starts to add color, drain it to get rid of excess water. Then, add the corn, chili powder and soy sauce.

Making Tofu Lettuce Wraps

After it cooks for a few minutes, drain again. The juices are yummy, but make the wraps a tad messier and not so kid-friendly if you don’t drain it.

Turn off the stove and allow it to cool a bit, then place it in the lettuce pieces. Wrap them up taco style and go to town. They are definitely kind of messy, but oh-so-delicious.

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

And ya’ll? Kinley LOVES these! I think it’s because they are just different…and she can eat them with her hands :)

Toddlers love Tofu Lettuce Wraps

She likes to eat the lettuce…then all the filling…

Karina loves them too, but she eats everything. It’s nice and easy for her to chew too…since she doesn’t have any teeth!

Delish Tofu Wraps

MEAL ADD-ONS:

I can eat 4-5 wraps and be full, however, I do like to add a little something to make it feel more meal-like. To save on time and get in our whole grains group, I served it with some Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice {SO convenient}, but plain brown rice works, too {and would be healthier!}.

$10 Meal

For dessert, I made banana “ice cream.” It’s in quotes because it is not ice cream but it fools my kids! All you do is chop and freeze two ripe bananas in a plastic bag, then throw them in a food processor right before serving. It makes for an amazing consistency and kids go crazy for it. Little do they know it’s just banana. If we’re feeling fancy, we’ll throw on some peanut butter, honey, cinnamon or sprinkles.

Frozen Banana Ice Cream

There you have it: A relatively healthy and delicious meal for only $10. The only food group I missed is dairy, so I highly suggest serving with a nice ice cold glass of milk ;)

What are your favorite inexpensive meals? I’m always looking for ways to eat healthy and save money!

P.S. Make sure you follow Cooking Matters Michigan on Facebook and Twitter and check out their sweet smartphone app too!

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Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe

When I was pregnant with Karina, I couldn’t get enough spicy food. Any time we ate out and there was something that had spice, I was all over it. If the menu description said the words “buffalo chicken” anywhere, I was immediately sold.

I am thinking maybe my taste buds knew something I didn’t….I had a spicy baby coming my way! Love her to death, but she definitely has a temper on her that clearly started in utero ;) It’s OK. She’s also incredibly happy, so that helps makes up for her feistiness!

I digress.

My spicy-loving taste buds have not yet died post-pregnancy, so I’m always on the hunt for recipes that have a little kick.

Today I am sharing a recipe I created to satisfy my craving for all things buffalo chicken-inspired. This is a great dish to bring to summer parties — just be sure to warn others because it has a little kick to it! {My girls have ate it a little, but they seem to also like spice. I wouldn’t feed it to my spicy baby if she didn’t grab everything out of my hands to eat! Of course, she liked it…}

BUFFALO CHICKEN PASTA SALAD

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad Ingredients

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 – 4.5 oz. can of premium white chicken {canned makes it easiest, but of course you can use leftover grilled chicken, etc.}
  • 12-14 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4-5 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 – 16 oz. box of pasta, cooked and cooled {I like whole grain rotini the best but didn’t have it on hand}
  • 1 cup of ranch {for half the calories, I use Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Ranch}
  • 1/2 cup Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles {these can be expensive. Aldi has it for $1.99!}

DIRECTIONS

Cook pasta. Once cooled, add in all ingredients and stir. Let chill in fridge for an hour before serving.

So yummy!

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

What are your favorite dishes to bring to summer parties?

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