Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Bowl 2013!

Are you ready for some football?  My husband is.  I’m ready for some Super Bowl food!  I admit it…I’m not the world’s biggest football fan, but I am excited for this Super Bowl.  Because the Forty-Niners are playing!  As much as I love my adopted “home” state of Nevada, I can’t forget my Bay Area (CA) roots.  I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area so I think it’s a rule that I have to cheer for the ‘Niners.  And it makes it even better that Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback.  It’s like the best CA/NV combination.

I plan my Super Bowl menu way in advance.  Is that weird?  I think it’s because to me, this is a day all about food.  As I mentioned above, I’m not that into football.  But I can get on board with a day that is all about everyone coming together, watching TV and eating until we are stuffed.  Everyone else can watch football.  I’ll watch the food.

My menu this year is one of my best, I think.  I am planning a “Chili Bar”.  I will have a big pot of chili in my slow cooker as the “anchor” of my buffet.  I will have all the usual toppings, such as cheese, onions, sour cream, jalapenos, etc.  I will also have a big bowl of tortilla chips, a platter of French fries, tortillas and small, individual size bags of corn chips.  That way, people can put together whatever they want….chili fries, chili nachos, chili burritos, or even “walking tacos” with the corn chips.  How fun is that? 

The best part of this buffet o’ chili is the chili itself.  This is my favorite chili recipe, and I am so excited to share it with you!  It is my Pulled Pork Chili.  I start by slow cooking a pork shoulder overnight in my slow cooker.  I douse the pork shoulder in Gourmet Rooster Smokehouse Bacon BBQ sauce and let that baby cook all night…low and slow.

The rest of the chili is super simple.  I use onions, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans and a few packs of chili seasoning.  It is so easy to put together and so crazy good.  The pork gives it a rich flavor that is so different than most chilies you have had.

I start by browning the onions in some of the fat that I skimmed off of the pork shoulder.  Then, I add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and some of the cooking liquid from the slow cooker.  (Remember, the pork was cooked in BBQ sauce so the cooking liquid shouldn’t be wasted.)  I stir in the seasoning packs, some cinnamon, and some cayenne and let it boil.  Once it boils for a few minutes…I add back in the shredded pork and the beans and let that heat through.  Then it’s done! 


You have to try this chili.  If you love a good pulled pork sandwich, and really, who doesn’t?.....You will love this.  And just think…you can use it with nachos, chili fries, etc.!

I do have one more recipe to show you today…..Kaepcakes!  I thought I was so clever for coming up with this, but since I did….I have seen my little Kaepcakes in several other places.  But who cares?  I know all of us Reno-ites love Colin Kaepernick and what better way to celebrate him then cupcakes named after him?


I used a red velvet cake mix for my cupcakes.  I replace the water that the box calls for with milk, and I added an extra egg.  This will give the cupcakes a richer taste and they will taste less “box-like”.  I topped the cupcakes with my cream cheese frosting and then dipped the whole thing in gold sprinkles.  Red and Gold just like the ‘Niners!  I think Colin would eat one.  And I definitely think you should make some Kaepcakes for your Super Bowl celebration. 

If you are cheering for the Ravens….Lewiscakes didn’t quite have the same ring to it.  My apologies…..

Pulled Pork Chili

4 pound Pork Shoulder

10 ounces Gourmet Rooster BBQ Sauce (or your favorite sauce)

1 large white onion, diced

14.5 can diced tomatoes

29 ounces tomato sauce

3 1.25 ounce packages chili seasoning Mix

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

15 ounce can kidney beans, drained

15 ounce can pinto beans, drained

Place pork shoulder in slow cooker.  Cover pork with BBQ sauce.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  Remove from slow cooker, shred and set aside.  Skim 2 tablespoons fat off of cooking liquid and reserve.  Discard remaining fat, saving cooking liquid.

In a large pot, brown onion in reserved pork fat.  Cook over medium high heat until onions start to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and 1 ½ cups of reserved cooking liquid.  Add seasoning packs, cinnamon and cayenne.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer chili for 10 minutes.  Add shredded pork and beans and heat through.

Serves 12


Cream Cheese Frosting (For Kaepcakes!)

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, blend together with a hand mixer, softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly blend in vanilla. Finally, blend in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.


Makes enough for 24 “Kaepcakes”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chinese New Year!

One of my favorite things to do is step out of my comfort zone and try my hand at a cuisine that is not my norm.  I like to experiment a little.  You know, have some fun with it.  I like to try Japanese food, French food, Hawaiian food, etc.  I’ve dabbled in it all.  And by no means do I claim it is authentic….it is more like my “Courtney” spin on different dishes. 

 I also like to introduce my kids to different cultures by having them try different foods.  My eight year old’s favorite food is now Japanese food, and my little one loves Vietnamese food.  Go figure.  But, I do know it stems from my willingness to try new foods, and my attempts at cooking them.

Today I have a couple of recipes for you that are my attempt at Chinese food.  I’m reminding you now that I do not claim these as authentic recipes at all…more like my watered down attempt.  I thought it was fitting to cook a little Chinese food since Chinese New Year is coming up in a couple of weeks.  What better way to celebrate the Year of the Snake?

My first recipe is all about frying up some wontons.  I am going to show you how to make Ginger Chicken Wontons.  Are you intimidated by the thought of making wontons?  Don’t be.  They are one of the easiest things you could make.  And fun too! 

I start by sautéing chicken thighs in a little bit of oil.  I use thighs because I prefer the flavor.  You can use breasts if you want, or even ground chicken or turkey.  After the chicken is cooked, everything else gets thrown in the food processor with the chicken and the filling is done.  “Everything else” is Gourmet Rooster Ginger Pear spread, soy sauce, garlic, water chestnuts, and green onions.

 I “pulse” everything in the food processor until it is the right consistency.  I don’t want a paste, but I do need the pieces small enough to fit in wonton wrappers.  Easy enough so far, right?

Now it’s time to fill some wontons.  I use store bought wonton wrappers.  They are usually by the bagged salad and veggies in the grocery store.  Wonton wrappers need to stay moist, so leave them under a damp paper towel while you are filling….If they get too dry they will break.

I use about a teaspoon of filling in each wrapper.  I fold the wrapper in half diagonally, and the edges get sealed with water.  Once they are sealed…they get fried in about 3 inches of oil.  These are a quick fry, and before you know it…you have amazing wontons!


These wontons are filled with flavor.  They taste salty, sweet and a bit spicy from the ginger.  The ginger pear spread may sound like a surprising ingredient, but it works so well with Asian flavors.  You will love these.

My next recipe is kind of a takeoff on one of my favorite Chinese dishes…Orange Chicken.  Just like with the wontons, Orange Chicken is sweet and salty at the same time.  I love that combination.  But today, I am going to show you my recipe for Orange Beef.  You could use chicken if you want….but the beef works so well in this recipe….you won’t want to.

I start my recipe with a filet mignon.  Yes, I know this is a pricier cut of beef, but it is oh so good. You really could use any cut you want….I just prefer a filet.

The filet mignon gets cooked on the stovetop until it is brown on both sides.  I stick mine in the oven to finish cooking, and then the sauce gets cooked right in the pan that cooked the beef.

I sauté about a half a sliced onion and some garlic in a smidge more oil, over medium heat.  I cook the onion and garlic just until the onion is starting to brown.  Then, I add in orange marmalade, soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha hot sauce, and fresh ginger.  I let the sauce simmer for a few minutes until it is thick and delicious.  I serve the sauce poured over the beef, which I usually slice pretty thin.  All this gets served over a bed of rice.


Let me tell you right now…this sauce is nothing short of a miracle.  You will be amazed at how good this tastes.  And your house will smell phenomenal.  The orange marmalade is sweet, the hot sauce is spicy, and the filet is tender and perfect.  This is one of my favorite meals, and I bet you will love it too!  I hope you try it….maybe February 10th?

Ginger Chicken Wontons

Wonton wrappers, about 40

1 tablespoon oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¾ lb. chicken thighs, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup Gourmet Rooster Ginger Pear Spread

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1/3 cup water chestnuts, drained

1/3 cup green onion, chopped

Water for sealing

Oil for frying, (Vegetable or peanut)

In a large sauté pan, sauté chicken in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. 

Add cooked chicken to food processor.  Add Ginger Pear spread, garlic, water chestnuts, green onions and soy sauce.  Pulse until mixture is blended, but still chunky.

Fill wonton wrappers with about 1 teaspoon of filling each.  Seal edges with water.  Place wontons on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. 

Deep fry, in pre-heated oil, about 1 to 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels

Makes about 40.


Orange Beef

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 ½ lbs. Filet Mignon

½ a small onion, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup Orange Marmalade

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Sauce

1 tablespoon Sesame Oil

2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

Preheat a skillet over high heat.  Season Filet with salt and pepper.  Add oil and filet to skillet and sear on both sides, 5 minutes a side.  Take filet out of pan and set aside to rest.

To the same pan, add onion and garlic.  Sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are starting to brown.  Add marmalade, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil and ginger.  Cook sauce over medium heat for another five minutes.  Sauce will thicken slightly.

Slice filet thinly and serve over rice.  Pour sauce over filet.

Serves 4

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Soup's On!

One of the things that I like to do most when it is super cold out, is put on snuggly warm pajamas, and eat a big ‘ol bowl of warm soup.  And I’ve gotten to do a lot of that lately.  My warm California blood is having a hard time with these freezing temperatures.  Actually, I am just being a wimp.  I have been in Nevada for 3 years now, so I really can’t blame anything on “warm California blood”.  Regardless of why, I still love a good bowl of soup.

My husband, on the other hand…not a fan.  Every time I tell him we are having soup for dinner, he asks “and what else?”  Literally, every single time. Apparently he is a firm believer in soup only as a “starter”. So I decided to create a soup recipe that is a bit more filling then your typical soup.  You know, a real meal-in-a-bowl type soup.  And that will be the first recipe I show you today….my tortellini and beef soup.  It is hearty, filling and crazy delicious.  My second recipe I am going to show you is a favorite of mine since I was little, Creamy Potato Soup.  But mine sneaks in some extra veggies….

My Tortellini and Beef soup has ground beef, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, spices, beef broth, frozen tortellini and a surprising ingredient….spaghetti sauce.  Yep, this soup gets it tomato flavor, and texture, from a jar of spaghetti sauce.  I mean, why not?  Spaghetti sauce has tomatoes, garlic, onion, spices, etc.  What about that wouldn’t be amazing in soup?  Plus, this soup is pretty quick to make.  It is totally do-able on a busy weeknight.

I start by browning the ground beef in a big soup pot.  Once the ground beef is all crumbly and brown, I remove it from the pan, but I leave the some of the fat.  How much fat you have depends on what kind of ground beef you use, but no matter what kind you use, you will have some fat in the pan.  I throw the onion, carrot, celery and garlic into the beef fat and let the veggies get all soft and sweaty.  But not brown!  This takes about eight minutes.  Oh yeah, I also season with salt and pepper.

Once the veggies are softened, I pour in my beef broth and a whole jar of marinara (spaghetti) sauce.  I usually use a plain marinara sauce, but you can go crazy here.  I also add in a couple of bay leaves.  Once this comes to a boil, I add my bag of frozen tortellini and let ‘em go until they are cooked.  This goes pretty quickly. 

I use cheese tortellini, but you can use whatever you want.  I’m not the boss of you.

Once the tortellini has cooked, all that needs to be added is the cooked ground beef.  Once that is all heated through, it is ready to eat!  I top mine with parmesan cheese and shredded basil because I am super fancy.  Or because I happened to have some in the fridge.


This soup is meaty, cheesy, rich and delicious, but most importantly, my kids love it.  And my husband doesn’t go hungry after eating this.  I am pretty sure your family will love it too.

My next soup, like I said above, is one of my all-time favorites.  It’s Potato Soup.  I love potatoes, I love soup, and I love anything creamy.  This fits the bill on all accounts.  Plus, I use an amazing shortcut that makes this soup also a really do-able weeknighter.

I start with the exact same ingredients that I use in the Tortellini and Beef soup….onion, carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaves.  But before that can happen, I have to start with an ingredient that really everything should have in it….bacon.  I sauté about four or five slices of thick cut bacon.  Once that is cooked, I remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, and leave about one tablespoon of fat in the pan.  This will give the soup a really good smoky flavor.

The veggies get sautéed in the bacon fat, just until they are soft and translucent, about eight minutes.  I season the soup during this, but be careful….the bacon has already left a good bit of salty flavor.

Once the veggies are softened, I add chicken stock.  Then, my secret ingredient.  Instead of peeling and chopping potatoes, I use a bag of Ore-Ida Steam and Mash potatoes.  I cook them in the microwave, according to the package directions, and add them to the simmering soup.  I feel like these potatoes are my best secret weapon.  Essentially, they are potatoes that have been peeled and par-boiled, then frozen.  You could really use them in anything, and they are a perfect time saver. My hat’s off to you, Ore-Ida.

After I add the potatoes, I let the soup simmer a few more minutes, and then I blend it with my immersion blender.  You can also use a food processor or a blender.  I blend this soup until it is pretty smooth.  Once it is blended, I add some heavy cream and let that heat through.  Finally, the soup is ready to be served with cheese, green onions and the reserved bacon for topping.  Yum!  Doesn’t it sound amazing?  And it is so easy!

You don’t have to use cream if you are anti-cream.  You can use half and half, fat free half and half, cream cheese, or even Greek Yogurt.  But the extra creaminess really sends this soup over the top.


I hope you try on or both of these soups….They will keep you warm!

Tortellini and Beef Soup

1 pound ground beef

1 small onion, diced

½ cup celery, diced

½ cup carrots, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 jar marinara sauce (24 ounces)

4 cups beef broth

1 bag frozen cheese tortellini (19  ounces)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper


Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, shredded

In a large soup pot, cook ground beef until crumbly and brown, about 5-8 minutes over medium heat.  Remove ground beef from pot, leaving about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot.  Set beef aside.

Add diced onion, celery, carrots and garlic to pot.  Sauté until veggies are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper and bay leaf.  Add marinara sauce and beef broth.  Bring soup to a boil.  Once soup is boiling, add tortellini and boil an additional 6 minutes, or until tortellini is cooked.  Add ground beef back into the pot and heat through.  Remove bay leaves.

Serve topped with parmesan cheese and basil.

Serves 8


Short-cut Potato Soup

5 strips thick cut bacon

1 small onion, diced

½ cup celery, diced

½ cup carrots, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

4 cups chicken broth

1 package Ore-Ida Steam and Mash Potatoes (1 lb. 8 oz.)

½ cup heavy cream


Shredded cheddar cheese

Green onions

Sour cream (optional)

In a large soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat until browned, about 8 minutes.  Remove bacon from pot leaving about 1 tablespoon fat in the pot.  Set bacon aside.

Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaves to the bacon fat in the pot.  Sauté over medium heat until veggies are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add broth and bring to a boil.  Let soup simmer while potatoes cook (see below).

Cook potatoes in microwave according to package directions.  Add cooked potatoes to boiling broth.  Cook about 5 minutes, over medium heat. Puree soup with immersion blender until desired consistency is reached.  Add heavy cream and heat through.

Serve topped with reserved crumbled bacon, shredded cheese and green onions.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lightened Up taco Salad!

Happy 2013!  I’ve decided that this year is the year I am going to make some changes.  I say this every year, but this year….I’m serious.  Actually, I am pretty sure I say that every year too.  But, I’m not getting any younger.  Let’s just say that my birthday is in a couple of days, and I am on the downhill slide towards 40.  I have got to stop eating like I am 21.  And I definitely need to be more consistent with exercise.

I know you all don’t want to hear about my weight/aging woes, but I bet you do want to see my yummy recipe that I have for you today.  As you may have guessed, this recipe is going to be low in fat, low in calories and super high in taste.  I am going to show you how to make one of my favorite meals….a taco salad.  But this will be a lightened up taco salad.

There is a restuarnat that is close to where I grew up that makes the best taco salad.  I think it is the ultimate taco salad.  It is full of beef, cheese, salsa, chips, avocado and it is topped with a thousand island dressing that makes the whole thing even yummier, and even worse for me.  My taco salad is filled with lean chicken, salsa, baked chips and is topped with a light dressing that is made with sour cream (fat free!), avocado, garlic, limes and one more ingredient that I will show you later.

Let’s start with the chicken.  This chicken is perfect for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads, etc.  The best part, it is made in the slow cooker.  I use boneless skinless chicken breasts, V-8 juice, and a packet of taco seasoning.  That’s it.  It is just three ingredients, but this makes the juiciest, most flavorful chicken everytime.  Trust me, I’ve been making this chicken since college.

The chicken cooks on low all day, and when it is done, it shreds perfectly.  I like to shred my chicken and then return it to the cooking liquid so it stays nice and moist.  FYI-if you prefer chicken thighs, go for it.  Chicken thighs have a bit more fat though. And oh yeah, if you can’t find V-8 juice, any tomato/vegetable juice will work.

As for the salsa I use for this taco salad, yep….I make it too.  Salsa is, of course, always low in fat and calories, to there won’t be any surprises there, but I jam pack my salsa with tomatoes, onion, green chilis, black beans, corn and cilantro.  I use canned tomatoes so the taste is always consistent no matter what the season .  I add the corn and black beans to bulk up the salsa and add some extra fiber. 


This salsa isn’t just good on my taco salad.  It rocks on steak, hamburgers, fish, etc.  It is also great with just a bag of chips.  I love it because it is so full of pretty colors and amazing flavors!

I use green chilis in my salsa because I am feeding children that won’t eat spicy stuff.  If you want, feel free to use jalapenos in yours.

Are you wondering what I use for chips?  Well, I buy tortillas that are low in fat, and make my own.  I slice them into wedges and bake them until they are crunchy.  Before they get their trip to the oven, they get sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled with chili powder and garlic salt.  Yum!

Now for the best part, the dressing!  Like I said above, I blend together fat free sour cream, avocado, lime juice, salt, garlic and I also use a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the chicken.  If you are making this dressing, but not the chicken, you can sub in hot sauce here.

This dressing is creamy, fresh and absolutely delicious.  But really, what wouldn’t be good with avacados in it!  You can use this dressing on tacos and burritos to in place of sour cream or guacamole.  Same flavors, less fat and calories.

Now that I’ve shown you how to make the components of this salad, let’s layer this bad boy up.  I start with a bed of lettuce, then I layer on the shredded chicken, a healthy helping of salsa, baked chips, yummy dressing, and I top the whole thing off with a few squirts of lime.  This salad really could not get any better.  It has all the flavors of a perfect taco salad, but it really isn’t heavy and overly filling like a typical taco salad.  Don’t you think you want to try it?


Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

11.5 ounces V-8 Juice (one can)

1 pack taco seasoning (1.25 ounces)

Place all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cook on low 4-6 hours.  Remove cooked chicken from slow cooker and shred.  Return to the pot to sit in cooking juices.

Serves 4


Courtney’s Corn and Black Bean Salsa

14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained

4 ounces fire roasted green chilis, drained

1 cup canned corn, drained

1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup red onion, diced

3 tablespoons cilantro, minced

½ teaspoon salt

The juice of 2 limes, about 3 tablespoons

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix, gently.  Serve cold.

Makes about 4 cups.


Baked Tortilla Chips

4 flour tortillas, 96% fat free

Cooking spray

1 tablespoon garlic salt

2 teaspoons chili powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut tortillas into wedge shapes.  Spray both sides with cooking spray.  Sprinkle spices over the cops of chips.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Taco Salad Dressing

1 avacado, peeled and diced

1 cup fat free sour cream (Naturally Yours)

The juice of 2 limes, about 3 tablespoons

½ teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove

3 tablespoons cooking liquid from Mexican Chicken or hot sauce

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth.

Makes about 2 cups.