Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Turkey Enchilada Pie

I struggle whether I should call this a pie or a casserole, but in any case... in the New Mexico region, enchiladas are often made 'lasagna style' where tortillas are layered and the resulting dish is cut into pieces rather than the rolled up enchiladas many of us are used to seeing. This is a great recipe in which to use leftover meat. I made the enchiladas with the roasted turkey I had cooked for the pretzel sandwiches, though I have used leftover grilled chicken before and it was equally as tasty.
I forgot to take a picture of the dish, so I'll have to take a look in the fridge and see if these are still presentable. Here's the recipe in the meantime:

Turkey Enchilada Casserole - Pie
3 cups shredded or chopped, cooked turkey (i.e leftovers!)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (19 oz.) red enchilada sauce
salt & pepper, to taste
6 flour tortillas (soft taco size)
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican blend cheese (8 oz.)
1 can refried beans (i used fat free)
1 tsp olive oil
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a skillet over high heat, saute onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin in olive oil until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup enchilada sauce and chopped turkey. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

Cut tortillas in half and arrange enough tortillas to cover bottom of 9x14 inch baking dish, overlapping to fit. Spread a thin layer of refried beans over the tortillas. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the tortillas, then top with half of the turkey mixture. Drizzle enchilada sauce evenly over turkey. Repeat to make another layer of tortillas, beans, cheese, turkey mixture, and sauce; top with another layer of tortillas and cover with remaining sauce, then cheese.

Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and casserole is hot in the center. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Easy Dessert Fix

Sunday was clearly a baking frenzy! I made the pretzel rolls mentioned in the post below, roasted a turkey for our favorite turkey & swiss pretzel sandwiches. Finally, we had a dessert craving (...well, really I did). I'll post tomorrow about how we used the turkey leftovers.

I use this cookie recipe when I need something fast, easy and delicious. It's certainly nothing fancy, but its foolproof and great for when you need a little somethin' sweet last minute. And best of all, they taste exactly like chocolate chip cookie cake. If you prefer, you can get creative and substitute any type of chips or cake mix for your own creation. I've also done spice cake & raisins when I'm trying to pretend to be healthy. This is our personal favorite.

Polka Dot Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 egg
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer. Mix in water and egg, then cake mix. Finally, stir in vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread mixture into pan. Cookie dough will be thin but will puff up when baking. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Love Affair with Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzel Rolls Soft, buttery pretzels make me salivate. I must shut my eyes when passing by soft pretzel stands to avoid purchasing one, so I’ve had my fair share of the good, the bad, and the well, just terrible (i.e. pretzel stand in Phoenix airport – stay away). According to, pretzels have a long and storied history: “Somewhere straddling the border of northern Italy or southern France, pretzels were invented by an ambitious monk baking unleavened bread for the Christian Lent. Possibly out of boredom, he made some little shapes with leftover bread dough. Because Christians in those days prayed with their hands crossed over their chests, he tried shaping the dough to mimic that action. They were baked to a soft bread consistency and given as a treat to children that memorized their prayers. The monk named his new treat 'pretiola' - a Latin word meaning 'little reward'.

Pretzels have their characteristic dark color, and their unique ‘pretzel’ taste from a lye bath. Professional (or ambitious) bakers use a bath combining
sodium hydroxides (NaOH), sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), or sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). Sounds like a chemical experiment, huh? Pretzel recipes calling for a lye bath also strongly suggest using goggles and rubber gloves as the resulting alkaline is so caustic it can burn skin and ruin clothing. Once the pretzels begin baking, a Maillard reaction then gives the pretzel its characteristic brown color and distinctive flavor.

I’m ambitious, but I didn’t feel like purchasing any of my baking ingredients at the local hardware store -- lye is the main ingredient in drain cleaners like Drano and Red Devil. So, I've tweaked a recipe using a much milder alternative – a baking soda bath. I usually fail at attempts at making the cute prayer shaped pretzels, so I’ve come to make pretzel rolls instead, which make the most AMAZING turkey swiss sandwiches. If you’re not a fan of salt, experiment with adding raisins and cinnamon sugar during the kneading. I hope you enjoy as much as I enjoy cooking and eating these. A whole batch never lasts for more than a day and a half between the Mr. and myself.

Soft & Buttery Pretzels
*adapted from
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups water
1/4 cup kosher or pretzel salt, for topping

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (I use the oven) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 415 degrees F. In a medium sized pot, combine the baking soda and water and bring to a simmer over low heat.
When the dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Lightly knead dough to remove air bubbles and shape into a roll. Using a serrated knife, cut a small incision to allow bread to split. I experimented below with both a cross and one vertical cut (the cross came out better).

Soft Pretzel doughOnce all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution using a spatula to flip and remove.
Pretzel Lye BathPlace pretzel on a kitchen towel to allow water to drain. Place all dipped pretzel rolls on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until browned. After removing from the oven, brush the rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with kosher or pretzel salt, to taste. Yum!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

An Old Fashioned Favorite

{Photo Courtesy of Food Network}

If anyone else out there is a Food Network junkie like me, you probably know of Paula Deen's odd, but amusing obsession with butter. The sweet southern momma gets a maniacal look in her eyes when she talks about, smells or sees butter. I believe she's even had a show or two dedicated to the yellow sticks. Nonetheless, it turns me off a bit from trying her recipes. I'm no health freak, but that sheer amount of butter can be a little excessive. Uh, unless you're making desserts, of course :)

Well, I came across a quick and easy Paula Deen recipe for chicken pot pie and instantly thought it'd be a great meal for a cold winter night. Since it is a Paula recipe, I got to work and slimmed down the butter and fat content. I will say what I ended up with was still quite divine and simply delicious. Hubby agreed and we just finished the cold leftovers for a lazy Saturday lunch. Though the original recipe calls for a stick of melted butter, I reduced that to 3 tbsp and still ended up with a crunchy and golden top that's almost pastry-like. I've renamed my version:

Chicken & Biscuit Pot Pie
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup carrots, peeled & thinly sliced
1/2 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
3 cups chicken broth*
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups reduced fat instant biscuit mix
1 cup skim milk
3 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Over medium-high heat, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add dash of thyme, salt and pepper. Add chicken and reduce heat to low to bring broth to a simmer. Cook chicken for approximately 10 minutes. Do not overcook chicken as it will become tough and will also cook additionally in the oven. Remove chicken and place on plate to cool for several mintues. With your hands, shred chicken along the grain into small bite-size pieces and place aside. Reserve the broth.

In a medium sized skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Saute onions, carrots until onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to saute for an additional 4 minutes. Once heated through, stir in peas and chicken and remove from heat.

Place chicken mixture in a greased 2-quart casserole. Mix the cream of mushroom soup and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, and season with dash of salt & pepper and 1/2 tsp thyme. Pour soup over the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp garlic powder.

Stir together the biscuit mix and milk, and pour this over the casserole. Drizzle butter over the topping. Bake until the topping is golden brown, 40-45 minutes.
*The chicken broth is used to flavor the chicken while its cooking. Since only 1/2 cup is used for the sauce, reserve the other 2 1/2 cups for another recipe.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jazz Up The Kitchen!

Check out these cool new gadgets for the kitchen and entertaining:

Saint & Sinner Wine Stoppers from How cute are these? I must say, the stopper with the cork has a slight resemblence to a pig. Cute hostess gift in any case.

Ice Kebobs would be an absolutely delightful treat on a hot summer day with a cool cocktail. Ahh, summer. If you dream, does it make it come sooner?

Last, but not least...Todd Oldham has designer ziploc bags now. Love it.


I absoutely love cupcakes...and not just because they're trendy. There's something nostalgic about not being able to eat them daintily. Or, maybe that's just me that gets the frosting all over my face. I've included one of my favorite recipes below for a cinnamon spice cupcake that I've modified to make more figure friendly. Enjoy!

Low(ish) Fat Cinnamon Spice Cupcakes
1 package (18.25) spice cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package sugar free, fat free instant vanilla pudding mix
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/4 cup raisins
1 16oz container whipped cream cheese frosting (optional but delicious)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, cinnamon, eggs, applesauce, water, and oil in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in raisins.
3. Fill paper-lined muffin tins three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overcook. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
4. If desired, allow cupcakes to cool before frosting with cream cheese icing.
Kitchen Note:Since these are lower fat, they don't have the shelf life that a normal, full fat cupcake would have. Be sure to share with friends so you don't eat the whole batch (like my husband and I have been known to do).