Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

Some people adore the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, all the time. I’m not one of them. I only like it sometimes, when I’m in the right mood for it. But once I’m in the mood for chocolate peanut butter, I devour it!

When Amelia was a baby, I came across this recipe for chocolate peanut butter bites in a breastfeeding group; it should theoretically increase your breastmilk supply. Now, I can’t say whether or not it works for that, but it is about the healthiest chocolate peanut butter cookie/dessert/snack recipe you can find. It’s a simple combination of peanut butter, honey, chocolate chips, oatmeal, and flaxseed meal. I love that it’s no-bake and can be made using only the microwave, perfect for making during the hottest part of summer.

In the recipe as I originally found it, you combine the peanut butter and honey, add the remaining ingredients, then roll the sticky snacks in extra oats or slivered almonds or something. That sounded both messy and fussy, neither of which I like. I cut back on the honey to reduce the stickiness (and sweetness). I decided everything would mix together more easily if I heated the peanut butter and honey together first. When I mixed in the remaining ingredients, magic happened. The chocolate chips melted into the peanut butter, turning this into something like a healthier peanut butter cup. This recipe takes no more than 15 minutes to make – maybe a little longer if you don’t have a cookie scoop. The dough can be a little crumbly, but whenever mine is, I use my hands to finish rolling these into balls. I like to use a 1.5-teaspoon cookie scoop for these to make them bite-size.

I’ve been known to eat several of these instead of eating a meal when I’m busy, and I don’t feel guilty thanks to all the oatmeal and flax meal, which provide lots of fiber, and the peanut butter, which provides protein. Sometimes I find that I can taste the flax meal in these. That doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you, you can use more oatmeal and less flax meal. You can also try adding more honey or chocolate chips.

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Chickpeas with Spinach

This recipe, Chickpeas with Spinach, has been one of my favorite quick meals to make recently.

Originally an appetizer, I decided it looked substantial enough for a meal. I felt the same way about the version of it I made several years ago, too. That version had more liquid than this, and took more time to make. Smitten Kitchen’s version as well had a few extra steps that I didn’t feel like doing. So I simplified it so it’s a one-pot dish, that involves no cutting (unless you slice your bread), that takes no more than 20 minutes to make from the time you begin to measure your ingredients to the time you place it on the table. This adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s version omits the bread that you blend into it, uses tomato paste instead of sauce (which the bread used to soak up), and wilts the spinach in the pot at the end instead of cooking it first. (I tried frozen cooked spinach, but it wasn’t as good.) Oh, and this version uses much less olive oil.

The sauce is balanced with a dash of vinegar (I’ve used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar since that’s what I have), and there’s not so much sauce that it turns your toast to mush, which I can’t stand. It has negligible heat from the dash of red pepper, though you could boost that if you wanted to. You could probably omit the smoked paprika in a pinch, and the dish would come out fine. And you’re eating chickpeas and spinach, on toast – very healthy. This likely isn’t as rich as the tapas-version of Chickpeas with Spinach should be, but it’s very satisfying as a meal.

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I finally have a favorite recipe for fajitas. It’s delicious, fast, and incredibly easy to make. Previously, I made fajitas before using a recipe from a cookbook I’d had for years; they were always tasty, but I recall the recipe being a little involved, though I can’t remember how. But leave it to Smitten Kitchen to again give a delicious, streamlined recipe that I can count on.


What do I love about this recipe? Little things. You cook the vegetables before the meat, then add it back – I can’t recall ever seeing that in a recipe like this (which is essentially a stir-fry). The marinade for the meat has little liquid, so you don’t have to drain it. You just dump the meat into the skillet, and there’s no mess and no waste! I’ve made this with beef and with chicken, and they were equally delicious, but I favor using beef mainly because I can buy precut stir-fry beef.

The marinade was flavorful but not spicy. The meat and vegetables cooked perfectly in my cast iron skillet. It was quick for me to combine the spices and lime juice (I use bottled) to marinate the meat and to cut the vegetables (while Amelia had her afternoon snack), and that could easily be done the night before. The fajitas took very little time to cook, and were great as leftovers too.


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Irish Soda Scones

In the past for St. Patrick’s Day, I’d made Chocolate Stout Cake (as both a Bundt Cake and as cupcakes), which I’ll probably do again with the leftover Guinness in my fridge. Yesterday I simply didn’t have that kind of motivation for the holiday, didn’t feel like doing anything complicated. I still wanted my breakfast, though, so I decided to make Irish Soda Scones.

Irish Soda Scones, with raisins

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French Toast Peanut Butter and Jelly

I don’t make French Toast. I generally find it soggy, eggy, or both. I enjoy it occasionally if I go out for brunch, but it’s usually hit-or-miss as to whether I like it. I think I’ve attempted to cook it twice in my lifetime, neither of which impressed me.

That said, here I am blogging about how I made French Toast Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. There were two reasons I thought this might be worth trying. First, the egg-to-milk ratio was low – only 1 egg per 2/3 cup milk. Second, I had leftover Banana Sandwich Bread that needed using, and I know that drier (or stale) bread works best in French Toast.

The recipe concept is simple. Make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, dip in French toast batter, and cook 2 minutes per side over medium high heat until done. Yes, I actually measured the ingredients for the sandwich fillings, because I wanted to be sure to do the recipe justice – and I did use the strawberry jam, because that’s what I had in the house. The egg-milk dip took a little baking powder and vanilla. I used the egg I had left from the wash I used for the Pan de Muerto I made last weekend, so the dip was less eggy than called for.

French Toast PB&J

These sandwiches were warm and gooey – but not mushy. The dry bread helped soak up the liquid, and the fact that they were sandwiches kept the bread from being soggy or falling apart. The gooey filling complimented the French toasted bread. My cooking technique still needs work, because they browned a little too much. The mixture was not eggy at all. I’m not a fan of grape jelly, and I thought strawberry jam was a nice and juicy touch. These were delicious.

Alex also liked them, but didn’t think they were very French toast-y. He wondered why we couldn’t make it like a grilled cheese. My suspicion is that the sandwich wouldn’t become melty and cohesive if grilled – the bread would definitely be drier. I have to agree with him that it didn’t seem very French toast-like, but I do think that it was a nice variation on PBJ. This is a delicious way to make (economical) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches more exciting. It’s definitely a recipe worth a try.

Caramel Pork

Tonight for dinner I made Caramel Pork. This meal was quick, easy, and delicious, so I wanted to be sure to write about it while it was still fresh in my mind.

Before I roasted a pork loin yesterday, I cubed about a pound of it and set it aside for tonight’s dinner. I mention this specifically because it’s one thing I didn’t have to do tonight. I also think it’s a very efficient way to get cubed pork for dinner, as long as you don’t mind eating pork two nights in a row; you only get your hands dirty once this way. I also think it’s cheaper to buy the bigger roast and cut a pound or two off of it to cook later, rather than buy the meat specifically for the meal. I wish I’d started doing this year ago.

Before I started cooking the pork, I made a simple Asian broccoli slaw. I used the seasonings and proportions from the Radish-Squash Slaw (that was supposed to pair with the Caramel Pork, although the recipes aren’t linked online), but just tossed the dressing with a bag of broccoli slaw mix. I hate shredding vegetables, so this was money well spent. I didn’t have cilantro to add.

Once the slaw was made, I started on the pork. It’s made in three steps; first you cook the pork (about 5 minutes), then you add garlic and onion (about 2 minutes), and then you add the rest of the ingredients and cook for another 5 minutes while the liquid reduces. I had time to cut up the onion while the pork cooked, and just had time to grate ginger while the onion and garlic cooked with the pork.  I used half broth and half water, and full-sodium soy sauce. I omitted anchovies, and didn’t serve with lime. I didn’t make the rice as suggested, but just served the pork with a few green peas and a little Japanese rice I already had cooked.

Caramel Pork

This was a pretty good meal. The pork was sweet and a little spicy. The rice and slaw helped to balance the spiciness of the pork, which built up as you ate it. The sauce was good with the rice. I noticed the taste of the sesame oil most while I ate the slaw, but Alex mostly thought it seemed tart (from the vinegar). I don’t particularly like vinegar, personally, but it wasn’t overwhelming in this. It could have used the cilantro, and maybe a little ginger or red pepper if I was serving it on its own.

One of the best parts of making the pork was that the last 5 minutes of cooking time are hands-off; it builds in a little time to clean the kitchen before dinner! The entire meal was very quick to make (thanks to little cutting, using precooked rice, dicing the pork the day before, and using bagged slaw mix), and Alex and I both found it to be pretty satisfying. I’d definitely make this again.

Coriander-Crusted Tuna with Black Bean Salsa

It’s just the beginning of March, but tonight I had a taste of summer.

Last summer I made various salsas to go with chicken and fish. Sure, they were all kind of similar, but you can’t really go too wrong the combination of tomatoes, bell pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. I particularly like the combination of cilantro and lime.

When I was specifically looking for a recipe to cook tuna (the first one I made was a sesame-crusted tuna that I didn’t really cook properly), I came across the recipe for Coriander-Crusted Tuna with Black Bean Salsa. I wasn’t interested in it at all while the temperatures were freezing. Cold weather is hearty comfort food weather, not fresh, lively food weather. But now the weather’s warmed up slightly, and so I finally decided to give it a shot when some produce was on sale. I figured even if the tomatoes and peppers weren’t at their best, they’d still be worth trying. This also didn’t have too many carbs, which meant that I could make it for me and Alex.

I made the salsa before I cooked the fish because I didn’t want the fish to get cold. I used a can of regular, store-brand black beans, but I made sure to rinse them really well. I substituted about 2 cloves of garlic for the green onions, since I forgot to buy some, and I used an orange bell pepper. I dried off the tuna with paper towels before I seasoned and cooked it, and I think that helped me get a nice crust on the tuna. I cooked it in a nonstick skillet at medium-high heat, for closer to 3 minutes on each side than 2, since I wanted it a little more done. I served it with a little avocado on the side.

Coriander-Crusted Tuna with Black Bean Salsa

This dish cooked up pretty quickly – we were eating dinner within 30 minutes. Alex and I both really enjoyed this. The coriander and cumin were tasty on the fish, and it cooked really well in the skillet. The salsa tasted bright and fresh. It was a good combination of flavors, although it would have been better with the green onions instead of the garlic I added. Overall, this was a really good recipe, and I’d definitely make it again.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I realize it’s been 2 weeks (!) since my last update. I’ve been busy! We went to Las Vegas last weekend (awesome trip, by the way), and I spent the week before and afterward getting all of my reading and homework done for the meteorology class I decided to take this semester. I honestly don’t remember if I cooked at all before we went to Las Vegas, and I made a huge pot of chili on Tuesday that I’ve been eating ever since (and it’s still not gone).

I did make something before then that I thought was worth writing about. I’m not even a fan of sweet and sour chicken – I never order it – but the Cooking Light Sweet and Sour Chicken from their January 2011 issue looked very simple and potentially tasty. It wasn’t too high in carbs, which meant that Alex could eat it with me, and possibly eat my portion if I didn’t like it.

It was a pretty simple recipe to make. We cut chicken breasts into strips, sauteed them, and set them aside. Then I mixed water (instead of broth), apricot preserves, and soy sauce in the skillet and brought it to a boil. After a minute, I stirred in lime juice and chile paste. I poured it over the chicken.

It was over 2 weeks ago that I made this, and I have no pictures. It was pretty tasty. I’m not too big on sweet and sour meals, so it’s the first sweet and sour chicken that I’ve ever liked. I think that’s because it was a little spicy too. I wish that I had cooked the sauce with the chicken, instead of pouring it over, because I personally would have enjoyed this a little more if it had thickened up and cooked into the chicken. I was pleased enough with it that I might try it again sometime.

339: Curried Chicken Saute

I made Curried Chicken Saute for dinner. The recipe was easy. Season chicken breasts with curry powder, and cook in a skillet. This was actually the most frustrating thing, because it took much longer than 10 minutes to cook my chicken breasts on the stove; I don’t know where they find these tiny chicken breasts that cook in that amount of time. Remove chicken from heat and saute bell peppers and more curry powder briefly. Add coconut milk and cook 4 minutes until slightly thickened; add lime juice. Serve chicken with bell pepper mixture.

Curried Chicken Saute

This was okay. It was nothing particularly special. This may have been because I didn’t add salt to the sauce, thinking that the extra sodium from the (flavor-injected) chicken would take care of seasoning it for me. Overall, this was a decent, fast recipe, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it again.

245: Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

To go with all the naan I’d been baking, I made Quick Chicken Tikka Masala. I love Indian food, and so I was excited to try this. I have some reservations about making ethnic food from general food magazines; I’ve found that some popular general lifestyle magazines don’t use enough spices in their recipes, since their main audience is (often) middle-aged with pretty Western (and sometimes boring) tastes. I’ve had luck with a lot of the recipes from Eating Well, though, so I thought it was worth giving a shot.

I was out of garam masala, so I made some. [Garam masala is the most prominent spice in this recipe, so you want to be sure yours is a good mix; I made this recipe, but microwaved the spices rather than toasted them on the stove.] The recipe was simple to make. I have a tendency to try to prep as I go, but this isn’t a recipe you can do that with. In any case, chopping onion and mincing garlic was the only real prep work that was necessary before starting. First you season and brown the chicken; next you saute garlic, onion, and ginger separately. Add spices, and then flour; then add tomatoes and simmer. Add cream and chicken, and cook until the chicken is done. Garnish with cilantro.

Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

This was really pretty good. It had a good flavor, and was creamy even though I hadn’t added that much cream to it. I didn’t mince my ginger enough, so we had some rather gingery bites. There were lots of tomatoes. I didn’t want more chicken in this dish, but I wish I had cut it into bite-size pieces rather than leaving it as strips. I really enjoyed this recipe, and encourage you to make it. You could alter the seasonings to your taste if you don’t find it flavorful enough (or, if you think it’s got too much spice).