Monthly Archives: June 2011

7 Layer Bacon Bars

Yes, I know… bacon with chocolate, butterscotch, coconut, and graham crackers?  Yep.  Your tastebuds will love you if you make these bars.  I don’t know what it is about the sweet and salty combo, but it’s amazing; peanut butter and jelly, chocolate covered pretzels, the list goes on and on.  These 7 Layer Bacon Bars are no exception to that list.  I used my classic 7 Layer Bar recipe and added some diced bacon for good measure.  I made these bars to bring over to my sister and bro-in-law’s for dinner over the weekend.  I told my sister there was a secret ingredient and that I wouldn’t tell her what it was until after she tried them.  I thought I had her fooled, but she guessed right!  These bars have the slightest hint of bacon, and when you taste the salty with the sweet, fireworks will go off in your mouth.  Definitely give these tasty bars a try!


  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 6-7 full sheets)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Line slices of bacon on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 17-20 minutes.  Place bacon strips on top of paper towels to drain and set aside.
  3. Lower oven heat to 350.
  4. Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl and add graham cracker crumbs to butter and mix with a wooden spoon.
  5. Spray a 13×9″ pan with cooking spray and spread graham cracker crumbs on the bottom.
  6. Once bacon has cooled, break into small crumbles or pieces.  In a mixing bowl, toss the bacon, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut together and spread over graham crackers.
  7. Spread the condensed milk over the top.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until graham cracker crust is golden brown.  Allow bars to cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Watermelon Salad

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been loving the gigantic watermelons that have been all over the grocery stores lately!  I buy one of these monsters each week and have enough watermelon to bring for lunch everyday and to snack on at night.  Seasonal watermelon is so delicious and healthy.  Instead of just eating it as a snack, I decided to make a Watermelon Salad.  This watermelon salad is amazing and I’ll tell you something crazy… there’s cayenne pepper in this recipe!  You only add a pinch of cayenne pepper, but it gives the watermelon such an amazing flavor.  I can’t even describe what the cayenne pepper does to the salad, but trust me, you’ll love it.  When you try this salad you will be just as obsessed with it as I am.  Give it a try!

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon chunks
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
  • Pinch of Sea salt


  1. In a large bowl, toss the watermelon with the lime juice and cayenne pepper.
  2. Fold in the mint leaves, season with salt, and serve.

*Adapted from Food & Wine


Filed under Side Dishes, Soup & Salad

Homemade Dill Pickles

Here’s a fun fact for my readers out there… my first baby word (besides Mama and Dada) was pickle.  No joke!  What’s even more amazing is that my sister’s first “word” was Tom Brokaw, Roger Mudd.  Apparently, since I was not even conceptualized yet, my grandmother was sitting on the couch with my sister watching the nightly news and my sister busted out two of the news anchors’ names.  Ok, so pickle isn’t that great compared to my sister’s first 4 words, but it’s pretty cool right?  Anyways, I do love pickles and depending on what mood I’m in, will go for either dill spears, bread and butter chips, or baby gherkins.  After our trip to the farmer’s market last weekend, you may recall that the hubs and I did not end up buying the cheese bread, but bought some goat cheese and some pickle cucumbers instead.  I decided I was going to make some dill pickles.  It was my first time making pickles, so I looked at quite a few different recipes to get an idea of what I wanted.  I definitely love onions and garlic, so I knew I wanted to add some of those babies to the mix.  I also found some pickling spice at the grocery store which saved me time and money from having to buy all those spices separately.

What about you… do you like pickles?  If so, what kinds?  Have you ever made your own before?  Enjoy!


  • 3 quart-sized mason jars and lids
  • 8-10 pickle cucumbers (depending on the size)
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly in rings
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp pickling spice
  • 2 tsp dill seeds


  1. Boil mason jars and lids in water and allow to air dry.
  2. Clean and cut cucumbers into quarters and divide between mason jars.
  3. Scatter onion rings and garlic over cucumbers.
  4. In a large stock pot, combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar, pickling spice, and dill seed and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and fill each mason jar with vinegar mixture.
  5. Allow jars to cool for 15 minutes before placing tops on and sealing.
  6. If refrigerating, allow jars to cool completely before placing in refrigerator.  If canning jars for future use, boil jars in a hot water bath for at least 20 minutes until the top of the seal is pressed down securely.  Allow jars to cool completely before storing in a dark, cool place.


Filed under Misc., Side Dishes

Italian Cheese Bread

My hubby and I went to the Alexandria farmer’s market this past weekend and we stopped by one of the vendors selling delicious looking breads and baked goods.  One of the loaves that my hubby was eyeing was a savory cheese bread.  He was going to buy it, but then I decided that I would try baking it for him.  So I found a recipe from the Panera Baking Cookbook for Italian Cheese Bread.  This bread was actually very simple to make and didn’t require too much time to proof or raise.  I used a blend of Italian cheeses (Asiago, Parmesan, Fontina, and Romano).  This recipe baked two beautiful loaves that I simply could not resist slicing into right after they came out of the oven.  This bread is moist, super fluffy, and has the perfect crunchy crust.  It also has a wonderful cheese flavor that will make you want to eat the entire loaf.  I was good and used some restraint to resist eating one of the entire loaves before my husband got home.  But as soon as he walked in the door and smelled that my-wife-just-baked-fresh-bread-! smell, he proceeded to eat the loaf like there was no tomorrow.

 I am a staunch advocate of supporting your local farmers and vendors; in this case, it was fun to save the $6 and bake my own cheese bread.  But rest assured that my $6 went to another vendor’s awesome goat cheese.  In general, there are things we spend money on at our farmer’s market and some things we don’t; I can’t grow 30 pounds of tomatoes on my back porch, so I bought 30 pounds from a local farmer last summer so I could can some tomato sauce (you likka the sauce?).  The same goes for most veggies, fruits, and cheeses.  As much as I wish I could make my own brie, I can’t.  Herbs and baked goods we usually pass on because I grow my own herbs on the back porch and because baked goods I can usually take a stab at making if we see something we really want to try.

What are your favorite farmer’s market purchases?  Do you pass on things or generally try them all?



  • 1 cup warm water (95-105 degrees)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour


  • ¾ cup warm water (95-105 degrees)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 4 tsp (0.5 oz) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tsp vegetable shortening
  • 4 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian shredded cheese (I used a blend of Asiago, Parmesan, Fontina, and Romano)


  1. To create the starter, combine the water and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast fully.
  2. Add the flour to the bowl and stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Cover with a cloth and ferment the starter at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. For the dough, combine the water, honey and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir to dissolve the yeast fully.
  4. Add the shortening, flour, salt, cheeses and fermented starter. Mix on low speed until the dough is fully developed.
  5. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and divide into 2 pieces.  Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball and place in two separate bowls that have been lightly greased with vegetable oil.  Cover the bowls with warm cloths and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  6. Spray two baking loaf pans with cooking spray.  Form the dough into loaves, place into pans, cover with warm cloths and allow to proof at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  7. Score the loaves with a sharp knife, sprinkle lightly with water, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the crusts are a deep golden brown.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven and the loaf pans and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.  Makes 2 loaves

*Adapted from the Panera Bread Cookbook


Filed under Bread

Cinnamon & White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I’m a huge cinnamon fan; I love to eat it and I love candles that smell like it.  I’m quite frankly obsessed with cinnamon especially because it reminds me of my favorite season, autumn.  Well, it’s by no means autumn in the DC Metro area, but these cinnamon chips definitely get me in the mood.  This was my first time using cinnamon chips and I must say that I am a huge fan.  These chips pack so much flavor and they’re such a nice alternative to chocolate chips or butterscotch chips.  I have been holding on to this bag of cinnamon chips for a while now thinking of some elaborate dessert that I could use them with.  But then my hubby was craving some oatmeal cookies, so I thought why not use the cinnamon chips?  I made these Cinnamon & White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  I added some white chocolate chips for good measure.  I can’t tell you how amazing these cookies tasted with the cinnamon and oatmeal combo!  If you’ve never tried cinnamon chips before I definitely encourage you to try them out on these cookies.  You will thank me 🙂


  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips


  1. In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.  Remove the melted butter from the heat and with a wooden spoon, beat in the sugars until blended.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
  2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir until combined.  Add the cinnamon and white chocolate chips and mix with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line to baking sheets with parchment paper.  With a cookie scoop, drop 1 tbsp dough onto the baking sheets about 2″ apart.  With a metal spatula, flatten each cookie into a disk.
  5. Bake cookies for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Makes about 3 dozen cookies


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Baked Brie with Balsamic Strawberries & Basil

My mother-in-law first introduced me to brie baked inside a hollow loaf of bread, and it has since become one of my favorite appetizers.  There’s something about melted brie that is amazing.  It goes well with a lot of jams and spreads, but I wanted to try something new, so I made Baked Brie with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil.  Strawberries and balsamic vinegar complement each other very nicely.  It’s one of those weird combinations that people might think is totally disgusting if they’ve never tried it.  But trust me, just make this recipe.  You won’t be sorry!  The addition of the fresh basil and the cracked pepper rounds out all these flavors beautifully.  Also, did I mention the best part?  You get to use that giant hunk of bread from the inside of the loaf to dip the gooey cheese in.  I love this recipe.  Hope you do too!


  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 circular loaf of sour dough bread
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp minced basil leaves
  • Fresh cracked pepper


  1. Combine the  strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and let the strawberries macerate while preparing the bread bowl.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  3. With a serrated bread knife, cut out the middle of the loaf leaving about 1″ around the perimeter and 1″ on the bottom.
  4. Unwrap the brie and place in the middle of the loaf.
  5. Wrap the loaf of bread in aluminum foil and wrap the inside of the loaf that was cut out in aluminum foil.  Place both on a baking sheet and bake until brie starts to melt, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove baking sheet from oven and unwrap bread bowl and top of bread.  Place on a serving dish and break up top of bread with your fingers and arrange around the bread bowl.
  7. Spoon the strawberries over the brie and drizzle the balsamic vinegar on top.  Sprinkle basil leaves on top and season with fresh cracked pepper.
  8. Serve immediately.


Filed under Appetizers, Baked Goods

Grilled Salmon with Lime Butter

I love seafood and could eat it everyday day, and I would… if it weren’t so expensive.  Seafood is healthy for you and there’s such a huge variety that it would be hard for me to get sick of it.  I love lobster tails with butter, mussels with white wine sauce, calamari with or without the breading, mahi mahi, fried haddock (hello Doug’s Fish Fry!), sushi, and everything in between.  My hubby and I decided it was time to bring out the big guns and go grocery shopping at Wegmans in Fairfax.  While there, we meandered by the seafood section and ended up with two nice salmon fillets.  My hubby is the grill master, so I knew I wanted him to grill it, but I needed something to drench on top.  I saw the perfect recipe for a lime butter sauce which I brushed on top of the salmon.  Then I wrapped the fillets in aluminum foil and gave to my hubby to work his magic.  This Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce came out amazing and so delicious!  It was simple to make and the lime gave the salmon a great zesty flavor that lemon wouldn’t have.  Definitely try this recipe out for the perfect accompaniment to any seafood dish.  Enjoy!


  • 2 (6 oz) pieces salmon fillets
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted


  1. Purée the garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.
  2. Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).
  3. Brush lime butter all over salmon fillets and then wrap each fillet in aluminum foil.  Grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side.
  4. Unwrap salmon from aluminum foil, sprinkle each fillet with zest, and brush with more lime butter sauce.


Filed under Main Course

Ground Turkey Tostadas

I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  One of the reasons I love my cookbook Simply Suppers is, well, because the recipes are just that, simple.  Let’s face it, we’re all busy and sometimes after a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is make a big, elaborate dinner.  What happens to me a lot is that I find a great recipe I want to try and realize I don’t have half the ingredients.  I recommend this cookbook to anyone who loves to cook, but also loves to have a few extra dinner recipes that are simple and require few ingredients.  I adapted one of the recipes from this cookbook and made some Ground Turkey Tostadas.  These are simple to make and are versatile so you can use whatever kind of protein and toppings you want.

What is your favorite simple recipe to make when you don’t feel like cooking?


  • 1 tbsp canola oil, plus more for brushing tortillas
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 can refried beans (I love Trader Joe’s)
  • 8 small corn, flour, or whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely diced jalapenos


  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Add the ground beef and onion, stirring with a wooden spoon until meat is broken up and brown, about 5 minutes.  Season with cumin, sea salt, and pepper and cover to keep warm.
  3. In a small saucepan, warm the refried beans over low heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. Brush both sides of tortillas with oil and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake tortillas until crispy, about 12-15 minutes.
  5. Spread 2 tbsp of refried beans over each tortilla and then layer 1 tbsp of sour cream.  Add the ground turkey and garnish with salsa, lettuce, jalapenos, and cheese.

*Adapted from Simply Suppers


Filed under Main Course

Summer Orzo Salad

This past weekend, we celebrated my mom’s birthday by having a delicious BBQ. We grilled some Jamaican jerk-rubbed chicken and some Old Bay-seasoned shrimp. I also made this Summer Orzo Salad as a delicious side. I put a little bit of everything in this salad including some oranges. The oranges not only added a beautiful color to the salad, but they also added a fresh citrus flavor that complemented the fresh lime juice well. This salad is the perfect summer salad and you can add whatever ingredients you want to it. I love using orzo as well because even though the box looks small, it makes a ton of pasta. Enjoy!


  • 1 box orzo
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 2 oranges, peeled, divided into segments, and chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper for seasoning


  1. In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil and cook orzo until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain orzo and allow to cool while preparing vegetables.
  2. Place red onion, oranges, pepper, and avocado in a large bowl and combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lime juice, and cumin and pour over salad. Mix to combine.
  4. Sprinkle cilantro over salad and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Filed under Pasta, Side Dishes

Peanut Butter Oatmeal & Coconut Cookies

I was craving some cookies last week – peanut butter and oatmeal ones, so I decided why not combine the two?  I did and I added some shredded coconut for good measure.  Allow me to introduce you to my Peanut Butter Oatmeal & Coconut Cookies!  These cookies were perfect for subduing my double cookie cravings; they had the perfect combo of peanut butter and oats as well as the slightest hint of coconut.  What is your favorite cookie to make when you’re craving some?  Enjoy!


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat melted butter, sugars, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until combined.
  2. In another small bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.  Add the flour mix to the peanut butter mix and beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Add oats and coconut and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.  Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or longer.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  5. Using dampened hands, shape the dough into 1″ balls.  Place balls 2″ apart on cookie sheet and using a fork, lightly press the tines into the dough flattening the cookie.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.  Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

*Adapted from WS Cookies


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts