Archive for the ‘Perfect Bites in a Hurry’ Category

Dutch baby pancake–perfect breakfast, brunch, or dessert bite!

This recipe is one if the easiest recipes for a quick, tasty breakfast (or possibly dessert)!  When your husband, kids, or friends are in the mood for pancakes and you really don’t feel like laboring over a hot skillet to make single size pancakes for a crowd, this is a wonderful alternative–a Dutch baby pancake (also called a popover pancake, German pancake, Poffertje, or Bismarck).

There are a few notable differences from a traditional pancake. The Dutch baby pancake is a bit more egg’y (similar to a crepe) and makes one large pancake that you can slice up into single servings, or just put on a plate and let everyone gather ’round and tear off a portion family style. There are many ways to spice  up this recipe. You can add your favorite fruit, chocolate, cinnamon, etc.–your imagination is the only limit. This recipe is the basic version–not too sweet, a little chewy, and makes a perfect bite for breakfast, brunch, or sometimes dessert.

An additional bonus: you will get some good use out of your cast iron skillet and clean up is a cinch!

Basic Dutch baby Pancake


1/2 cup regular all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk (I used skim, but whole or 2% will work as well)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2-3 Tbsp butter

2-3 Tbsp powdered sugar

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice (or juice from 1/2 lemon)

To make:

Preheat oven to 425. Combine flour, milk, and eggs in a mixing bowl–beat lightly with a fork or whisk. There will be a few lumps, which is ok. Put bUtter in cast iron or other oven-proof frying pan and place in the pre-heated oven. When butter melts, carefully pour bAtter into heated pan. Return to oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes. The pancake is done when it is lightly browned at the edges and puffed. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and lemon juice. Serve immediately. Don’t worry if the pancake falls–it will still taste good 🙂

My new favorite “pancake” recipe


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Molasses Breakfast Roll

This is one of the easiest recipes for making a sweet breakfast treat. The star of this recipe is molasses. The molasses glaze spices up the mundane cinnamon roll and adds a wonderful layer of caramelized flavor with a hint of smokiness. I’d put this recipe in a “semi-homemade’ category. If you really want to be fancy feel free to make your own dough, but I cheat and use Pillsbury crescent roll dough. I love to cook but I also love using pre-made doughs when I want to feel like I’m making something special but not put in the extra time of dough prep. The homemade glaze is the highlight of these breakfast rolls…the dough serves merely as the vessel 🙂

Molasses Breakfast Rolls

  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter–for the glaze
  • 1 Tbsp butter–for the rolls
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp plain white sugar
  • 1-2 cans crescent roll dough (press together along seams)

To make:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a round baking pan with foil, spray lightly. In a small saucepan combine molasses, butter (for sauce), and brown sugar over medium heat–stir constantly to melt sugar and cook down until bubbly. I use a small whisk for this stirring to help break up clumps and make a smooth, caramel textured sauce. Pour sauce into prepared baking pan. Roll out crescent dough (you can do one at a time) and press seams together. Brush a light layer of melted butter onto the rolls, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar onto the dough. Gently roll lengthwise then slice into individual rolls and place into pan with sauce. Repeat until pan is filled–do not over stuff the pan as the rolls will rise and spread a bit. I used only one can of crescent rolls and this did not fill the pan completely–so feel free to use an additional can of dough if you prefer. If not…that’s just more sauce for the rolls 🙂

Bake for 10-13 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand 2 minutes then flip pan upside down onto a serving plate. Serve alongside a fresh cup of coffee and you’ll have the perfect sweet start to your day!

Let cool just a bit...then flip!

Sticky, sweet Goodness!

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Side dish envy: Balsamic Butternut Squash

As much as I like a perfect bite of roast beef, turkey, or ham, filling my plate with multiple side dishes is my favorite part of a big holiday meal. Side dishes are often unfortunately overlooked during the holidays–a time when meats and desserts really shine. This recipe is so easy and results in a bold, flavorful side dish that will certainly be noticed. Leftovers reheat well or can be used as a tasty base for soup the next day. You can multiply this recipe to feed as many people as needed.

Roasted Balsamic Butternut Squash


1 butternut squash

olive oil

salt and pepper

good Balsamic vinegar

To make:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If you buy whole squash, peel the squash with a sharp vegetable peeler then dice into approximately 1 inch cubes. To save some elbow grease you can buy the pre-cut butternut squash in most grocery stores in the produce aisle. I find the pre-cut are a bit dryer than cutting your own, but peeling and cutting the squash takes some effort. In a mixing bowl, toss the squash salt and pepper and olive oil until the squash are coated. Layer the squash onto a baking pan, lined with foil, in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until browned and softened to your likeness (you can check the tenderness with a fork). Turn the squash about halfway through the cooking to get a more even caramelization/browning of the squash. I actually don’t turn them and prefer one crispy side and one softer side 🙂 Remove from the oven and sprinkle with you favorite balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy…have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Perfect Butternut Squash bites!

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Making yeast-based bread is something that I have yet to master. I am continuing to attempt smaller versions such as pretzels or yeast rolls, but an actual loaf is beyond my bread-making skill set at the movement. In the meantime I found an alternate “bread” that has a nice yeasty flavor due to the beer and is a quick, simple bread to make when you are still working on your yeast bread skills. Quick breads are a go-to for a weeknight meal that needs a nice carbohydrate to sop up any soup, gravy, or sauce that your main meal has. I served this bread along a smokey, beer and beef chili and it led to many perfect bites!

Cheddar Beer Bread

Cheddar Beer Bread

Adapted from a sweet beer bread  recipe I found in Southern Living Sept. ’03.


  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Dough ready to bake @ 350 degrees F

  • 1 (12 oz. bottle of beer) –any beer will do here. I chose Trader Joes Amber/Dark Lager. I prefer cooking with darker ales or lager to give the food a little more richness in the beer flavor, but if all you have is a trusty PBR or Bud–go ahead and toss it in.
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

To bake:

Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and cheese. Pour in beer and gently mix until combined. Try not to over mix. Pour dough into lightly greased 9×5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes. Pour melted butter of the top then bake an additional 10 minutes.

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This is one of two recipes I am featuring in a “Cooking with Beer” series. The Fall is a great season to explore rich foods and pair along with your favorite Ale or Lager. When cooking with beer, I opt to go for cheaper versions of dark/amber-colored beer that I can find at my local grocer. Trader Joes sells decent budget friendly versions that are great to use for cooking–they are inexpensive enough that you don’t feel bad sparing a bit of brew for the food recipe 🙂

Cook with Beer!

A simple way to add some depth and flavor to a quick chili is to add a little beer during the simmering process. You don’t want to boil the beer but just heat enough so that all of the flavors combine and some of the alcohol content is lost (if that is a concern for you). Overall the amount of beer used is quite small when you consider all of the other ingredients, but it is enough to give your regular quick, chili a little extra zing.

Smokey Beer & Beef Chili

  • 1 Spanish white onion, chopped (if you only have yellow onions that is ok too, but consider keeping a few, more flavorful white onions on hand)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped (I love garlic so all of my recipes are heavy on the garlic, if you prefer using less 2 cloves is an acceptable lower limit)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (use ground turkey or chicken to lighten this recipe up a bit)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 6 oz can tomato paste (use almost entire can)
  • 2-3 chopped chipolte chilies in adobo sauce
  • 1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16-oz.) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup beef broth (or you can use chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup beer (I used an amber lager, but you can use whatever beer you prefer–just not a fruity lambic or some sort of highly flavored beer)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream for topping (optional)

To make:

Sauté chopped onion in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5-7  minutes or until tender; add garlic, and sauté another 1-2  minutes. Add ground beef, chili powder, and cumin, and cook, stirring often, until meat begins to  crumble. Do not cook meat all the way until there is no pink. Doing so will prevent the sauce flavors to integrate with the meat. Leaving the meat slightly underdone at this step will enhance the sauce flavors absorbed–there will be plenty of additional cooking time where the beef will finish cooking. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, beans, broth, beer, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and fresh sprig of cilantro for garnish.

This chili pairs perfectly with cheddar beer bread to round out your “Cooking with Beer” night!

Smokey Beer & Beef Chili

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For some reason sardines have acquired a bad reputation…but they shouldn’t have!  They actually taste good and are really good for you!

What to look for in the store...in water, oil, flavored oils--it's your choice!

Yummy....don't be afraid! This is what they'll look like inside the can 🙂

This may sound like an odd combination of foods, but for fish lovers…and sardine skeptics this recipe is worth a try. Eating canned sardines is something I have been enjoying since a little girl. I was first introduced to them by my father, who I am pretty sure is where I inherited my adventurous taste buds from. The classic snack was sardines on a saltine cracker with Parmesan cheese on top and a dash of Tabasco sauce. A quick bump in the microwave, and all of the flavors would meld together. Cheap, simple, and actually quite tasty!

The recipe provided here is somewhat of a fancier version that adds a couple of different ingredients. These sardine crostini are perfect little bites to get any meal started. They would also make a great party food for those who want to get their omega-3’s on a budget. Another plus to these little fishy bites–sardines are low in mercury, so no worries there either!

Sardine Crostini

1 baguette–sliced into 1/4-1/2 in slices on a bias

Olive oil

1 can sardines

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

dash of cayenne pepper

grated fresh Parmesan (optional)

whole grain spicy mustard (optional)

To make:

Coat one side of the bread with olive oil (use a pastry brush or light drizzle). Toast in oven at 425 degrees until crispy (approx 5 min). Place the sardines, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne in a bowl; roughly mix together with a fork.  A note on the sardines: There will be bones in the sardines that are actually edible, but if that gives you the creeps feel free to remove the bones prior to mashing).  Place the mixture on the toasts, top with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for another 5 min or so…just to heat slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Optional: to give an extra texture and kick, lightly spread spicy whole grain mustard on the toasts first.

Cheap, easy, delicious--sardine crostini

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Pimento cheese sandwiches are a classic Southern food that you often see a picnics, cookouts, and other casual dining venues. Pimento cheese itself is great spread on crackers (my favorite), celery, or a variety of breads to make an easy bit to eat with no cooking needed. There are several recipes that combine different cheeses, relishes, or spices. This recipe here is the basics: mayo, cheese, pimento, and pepper. I don’t add extra salt to my recipe because I find between the mayo and sharp cheddar there is enough salt. Another variation is smooth vs. chunky–I go for chunky. I like the texture of the cheese and it makes a better consistency if you want to make a grilled sandwich. Making the smoother texture just requires combining and mixing in a food processor rather than by hand, or using a finer grate level when shredding the cheese.

Pimento Cheese Spread

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (approx 8 oz.)

All the ingredients you need for the perfect bite!

3/4 cup light mayonnaise

1 tsp lemon juice

1 (4 oz) jar of pimento, chopped

dash of dry mustard

ground pepper to taste (I like using ground white pepper, which give a nice pepper taste without the black specks)

To make:

Mix mayo, lemon juice, and dash of dry mustard in a medium sized bowl. Add shredded cheese and pimento–mix together. Taste…add pepper to your liking (and salt if you’d like).  Cover spread and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (if you can wait). The flavors will meld together. Cover the cheese in an airtight container (I like to also place plastic wrap direction on the spread to keep air out) and it will keep refrigerated for up to a week–do not freeze.

The ultimate cheesy perfect bite!

Serving options: on crackers, on celery sticks, on a sandwich (try with raisin bread–this it really good) cold or toasted, or just grab a spoon and eat plain!

Enjoy 🙂

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