Sweet and Sour Pork

Source: Coleen’s Recipes

I asked Nate what he thought about this dish and his exact comment was “It tastes like Chinese takeout…only better?” and then he told me to be sure to make it again.  And he was right, it did taste like Chinese take out only better.  Most of us who love Chinese takeout, love to not think about how it was prepared.  But, lets be honest people, Chinese takeout is NOT good for you.  You could argue that it is good for the soul and good for comfort, but eventually suffering a heart attack doesn’t comfort me at all!  Well, here is a great alternative!  Serve it on top of brown rice and again, you’re skipping the fried rice you may have opted for at the takeout counter.  I’m also thinking, this sauce would be great with chicken and/or shrimp.  Enjoy!

Sweet and Sour Pork - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

2-3 pound lean pork roast
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup
20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained


-Brown the pork roast on all sides and place in crock pot

-Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Then pour into the same crock pot.

-Cook on low for at least 4 hours or until tender (I went for 5!).  Spoon the sauce over the meat every so often, but not needed.

-At the last 30 minutes, add some corn starch to thicken the sauce (I added 3 tablespoons of corn starch mixed with 3 tablespoons of cold water)

-Brown the pork roast on all sides and put it in your slow cooker. Mix everything else and bring it to a boil, then pour it over the meat.
-Cook on low for 4 hours or until very tender (spoon the sauce over the meat every once in a while).
-Serve over rice.

Christmas Goodies

Instead of buying gifts for lots of people this year, I decided to do a bunch of baking and give out goodies.  It was so fun making all these treats and giving them to family and friends, I think I will do this from now on!  The trick is to make large batches of each goody and divvy them up into cookie tins all at once.  I found a TON of festive cookie tins from the dollar store, so I didn’t break the bank on the cookie tins.

Between the crazy baking spree, traveling, and gobbling these goodies up before I could say “have a holly jolly Christmas” there wasn’t time to take pictures.  So here are the recipes, links to originals, and pictures borrowed from the lovely bloggers with these yummy recipes!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls from Praying Twice 

These peanut butter balls were a HUGE hit.  The rice krispies add a fun crunch and texture that people couldn’t get enough of.  The powdered sugar also helps these peanut butter balls not be as heavy and dense as other peanut butter balls I’ve had in the past.  My only “complaint” is how messy you get while making these and they are somewhat labor intensive.  My hands were covered in chocolate which was so tempting to lick as I was making these…but I resisted until the end…I swear!!  But because the end result is so yummy, all the work was worth it!

2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 cups rice krispies
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter, melted
2-3 packages of milk chocolate chips, melted

-Mix the peanut butter, rice krispies, powdered sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl.  The mixture is quite thick and I found it easier just to use my hands! 

*The goal is to be able to roll the mixture into a ball that isn’t to dry or too sticky.  Just right.  If the balls are too dry and not rolling together, add more peanut butter.  If the balls are too wet and sticky, add more powdered sugar.

-Pre-roll all of the peanut butter balls and place on cookie sheets BEFORE dipping in chocolate, your hands will get messy.

-Dip each ball into the chocolate and place back on cookie sheet. 

-Let harden before packing up and you can put them in the fridge to speed up the process.

(Makes about 70 balls)

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies from Life as a Lofthouse

Are you a fan of soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies?  This is for you!  The great thing about these cookies is how soft they are without having to pop them in the microwave (but the extra warmth still makes them even better!).  The secret ingredient aka vanilla pudding mix is where the cookies get their chewy texture.  Also the added bump of vanilla flavor makes these cookies top all others if you ask me.  Does anyone else have trouble answering the question of vanilla or chocolate?  They go together so well!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 12 oz bag milk chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Add butter, both sugars, pudding mix, eggs and vanilla to a large bowl, and beat until creamy and fluffy
-Then slowly mix in flour and baking soda
-Stir in chocolate chips
-Drop by tablespoonfuls, onto an un-greased cookie sheet.
-Bake for ONLY 9-10 minutes.
-Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before eating. 

(Makes about 36 cookies)

Triple Chocolate Cherry Bars from Betty Crocker

I’ve recently discovered and become a fan of Betty Crocker.  Many of the recipes are super simple and quick to prepare and all remind me of comfort food.  And if you search through the website and cookbooks, you are bound to come across real gems like this recipe!  Chocolate with cherries is one of my favorite combos.  Nate’s aunt makes delicious chocolate covered cherries every Christmas and these are similar, just in a brownie form.  And the fact that these are so quick and easy to whip up, I’ll be making these year round and not just for the holidays.

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® chocolate fudge cake mix
1 21 oz can cherry pie filling
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 container Betty Crocker® Whipped chocolate frosting

-Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan)
-Spray a 15x10x1-inch or 13×9-inch pan with baking spray
-In large bowl, gently mix dry cake mix, pie filling, eggs and chocolate chips with rubber spatula; break up any undissolved cake mix by pressing with spatula
-Carefully spread in pan
-Bake 15x10x1-inch pan 23 to 27 minutes, 13×9-inch pan 29 to 34 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
-Cool completely, about 1 hour
-Frost with frosting
-Cut to desired size bars
-Store loosely covered 

Cherry Cream Cheese Pie with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust

Adapted from: AllRecipes
This pie is so easy, delicious, and looks amazing!  Besides baking the crust, this is almost a no-bake pie…how great is that?  The red cherries really pop on only dinner spread, and this cool pie would be refreshing on a hot summer day.  To make this recipe even easier, you could use a store bought graham cracker crust, but it is so worth it to make your own.  And making your own graham cracker crust is extremely easy, so why not?  And what a great way to get out some frustrations than to beat up some graham crackers? I also used Organic Valley’s Cream Cheese and Cultured Unsalted Butter.  These products combined with the lemon just gives this pie such an enjoyable fresh taste even though you are using a canned pie filling.  Hope you enjoy!
Cherry Cream Cheese Pie with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Cherry Cream Cheese Pie with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Cherry Cream Cheese Pie with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 21 oz can light cherry pie filling
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon.
Press mixture into a 9 inch pie dish.
Bake for 7 minutes and remove from oven to let cool.
Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk, and continue beating until smooth and combined.
Add lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla; mix well.
Fill graham cracker crust evenly.
Refrigerate until ready to serve (atleast 3 hours).
Before serving, spread the cherry pie filling over the top.

Cranberry Pomegranate Relish

I wanted to try something different than the usual cranberry sauce from a can.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff, but just wanted to change things up.  This was also my first time trying a recipe from Martha Stewart, and she did not disappoint!  This cranberry pomegranate relish was so easy and so worth it to make.  The only thing easier would’ve been to crack open a can of cranberry jelly!  What was fun for me was listening to Nate and his friend try to guess the ingredients, and it pretty much stumped them on everything except the actual cranberries…don’t tell them I told you.

Since our thanksgiving dinner was so late, I didn’t have time to let it cool down to room temperature, but it was still delicious served warm.  The relish was more savory than the usual cranberry sauce, but it still satisfied the need for sweetness.  Definitely give this a try if you’re looking for an extra special (and simple!) cranberry sauce alternative.

Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife
Cranberry Pomegranate Relish - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallot; stirring constantly, until softened (about 3 minutes).
Add cranberries, pomegranate juice, brown sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and stirring occasionally until cranberries have burst and sauce is slightly thickened (about 10 minutes).
Remove from heat.  Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Flatout Craving Pizza

Most cravings are random so some sound terrible, but every once in a while a random craving works out for everyone!  That was the case with this one (thank goodness).  We use flatout bread for lunch wraps because they are much more durable compared to other wrappers.  We’ve been using them for over a year and I finally noticed on the packaging, you can make pizza out of them!  So I gave it a whack.

Just a little bun in the oven update, Nate got to feel the baby kick last night!  It was just a thump, but he felt it!  We tried to poke, jiggle, and wake it up to do it again, but it was done showing off for the night. 

Flatout Craving Pizza - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Flatout Craving Pizza - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

nonstick cooking spray
2 flatouts (used healthy grain, but choose whichever!)
1 16 oz can of pizza sauce
1 4-6 oz tub of goat cheese
1 peach, diced
1 package cappicola, sliced into strips
1 bunch baby bok choy, washed, sliced, sauted with EVOO, salt and pepper
1 bottle of balsamic glaze (or reduce your own balsamic glaze)
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Lightly spray each side of the flatout bread with nonstick spray. Place the flatouts side by side on a cookie sheet.  Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes. (Directions said 7, I did 10)

Remove from oven and spoon pizza sauce on to eat flatout.  Use preferred amount of sauce and spread evenly over the bread/crust.

Add all the toppings, sprinkle dried oregano over the top, drizzle with balsamic glaze.  Put back in the oven for about 12 minutes.  (The cappicola should sizzle a bit and start to crisp up.)

Remove, slice, and enjoy!

Lemon Crackle Cookies

Source:  Tidy Mom
So I’ve mentioned before that I work at a plant nursery.  My co-workers and I could be certified as plant geeks.  Surprisingly, many of them are excellent cooks and bakers!  So when it was time for the annual volunteer potluck, I got super excited because a) would have yummy food to eat b) wouldn’t have to pack my lunch that day.  For a successful potluck, everyone has to bring a dish to contribute to the feast.  And even if you can’t cook, pick up a 2 liter of soda or some napkins, but you must help out in some way.  If you don’t and you never have, you are really lame, and I’ve got news for you, everyone knows who you are!! You’re not flying under the radar like you may have thought.

Anyhoo, I decided to bring a dessert this time.  I’d seen these cookies on pinterest and thought they looked cute, so I had to see if they were also tasty.  And they are, score!  What’s great about this recipe is that is uses cake mix, which if you’ve been following my blog, you know I love me some cake mixes.  You can trade out different flavors of cake mix based on the flavor you are craving.  This time I used lemon, but would also try orange, strawberry, pineapple, and chocolate mixes.  I’m starting to think these would be delicious with 2 sandwiched together with icing in the middle!

Lemon Crackle Cookies

Lemon Crackle Cookies

1 box Lemon Cake Mix
1 8 oz container Cool Whip
1 egg
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°

In medium bowl, beat cool whip, egg and cake mix until well blended. The dough will be thick and very sticky.  If you don’t like getting your hands dirty, just stop now 🙂

Drop by teaspoonfuls (I just eyeballed mine.  I grabbed whatever felt good!) into a bowl of powdered sugar and roll around to coat.  *I found if I dusted my fingers with some powdered sugar to begin with, less of the dough would stick to my fingers and it would drop into the bowl much easier!

Line the cookie dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 – 14 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes to harden up before moving to a cookie rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy! And get creative!

Mustard Chicken with Grapes

Millions of people love and watch Rachel Ray, and buy her line of kitchen gear.  And I’m sure those people are thinking “Who doesn’t like Rachel Ray?!” The answer is…chefs.  Being around Nate and his friends in culinary school, I’ve heard all the jokes and opinions about her.  But, being the smart cookie that she is, she came out with a set of orange pots and pans.  So guess what lives directly on top of our stainless, All-Clad, chef-approved pots and pans?  The most beautiful, in your face, non-stick, orange, Rachel Ray pans.  

My friends and family will tell you, I love to play pranks on people.  For Christmas when I was 6 I asked for a prank set which had a stick of gum that snapped your fingers when you took a slice (hurt like hell!) and fake barf.  The relief and satisfaction I get from playing a funny prank is indescribable.  This is the same feeling I get when I make a recipe of Rachel Ray’s and place the dish in front of Nate to try.  At first I do not tell him where the recipe came from.  But after he raves and raves and raves about how delicious the food is, I drop the bomb.  The look of disbelief on his face is priceless, every time!

Usually, after trying a recipe for the first time, I’ll make many changes to it.  Whether it be for my personal taste or something wrong with the original recipe, it’s almost inevitable. This recipe is one of the few that I’ve NEVER modified!  It is just perfect and yummy as is.

Mustard Chicken with Grapes

  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • Olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, removed from stem
  • Salt and peppet
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup white wine + 1 glass for you
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grainy, stone-ground mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups or 1/2 pound seedless red grapes, halved
  • 2 cups couscous
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Hold one piece of asparagus with each end in one hand and bend the spear until it snaps.  Then take that piece of asparagus, line it up next to the rest of the bunch, and slice the ends off the remaining asparagus.  This removes the woody part of the asparagus.

Line a baking sheet with foil and spread the asparagus out in an even layer.  Drizzle olive oil over the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and squeeze juice of one lemon over the top.  Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, the ends get nice an crispy.  Remove from the oven and drizzle more juice from the second lemon.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter to a large skillet over medium to medium-hight heat.
Place flour in a shallow dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper then dredge the tenders in flour and add it to the pan.  Cook the chicken until it’s golden brown on each side

Add wine and scrape up browned bits on the bottom of the pan and simmer for about 30 seconds.  Stir in1/2 cup chicken stock. Combine cream and mustard and add to the pan, stir to combine. Dump (sorry, first word that came to mind, but not appetizing!) Add the grapes to the pan and turn chicken and grapes to coat and mix with the sauceSimmer 5 minutes over low heat so the sauce thickens.
Bring remaining 2 1/2 cups chicken stock and fresh thyme to a boil in a small pot. Add couscous. Put a tight fitting lid on pot and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.  (You can follow the directions on the box of cous cous)
Serve as pictured.

*Feel free to serve over rice, noodles, orzo, whatever!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake…Cocktail

If you’ve seen me on FoodBuzz, you’ve read my quote.  And I’ve recently added it to “About Me” on the right side of this blog.  Well it just to happens, one of my favorite cocktails is a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Yep, you can drink a cake.

So it was only natural that I poured myself a stiff one of these for the baking of the Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes.  

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Cocktail

Vanilla Vodka
Pineapple Juice

-Pour equal parts of the vanilla vodka, amaretto, and pineapple juice into a glass with ice. (By equal parts I mean… 1 shot of vodka, 1 shot of amaretto, and 1 shot of pineapple juice.  Which ever measurement you use, use for all 3 liquid ingredients.  But if you refer to “equal parts” you’ll sound like a professional!)

-Stir the drink up, add a cherry (I prefer 3), and drink your socks off.

(some classier bartenders may tell you to use a shaker for this drink.  Fine.  Go ahead, do whatever you want, the ingredients are what’s important in this one 🙂 

Recipe Swap: Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

So, Christine and I decided it would be fun to do a “recipe swap.”  We each chose a recipe from each others blog that we thought looked simply delicious.  It was a lot harder to choose one than I thought it would be!  So many of her recipes sound delicious and you can tell she makes them with lots of love (and humor!).  If you haven’t already been to Christine’s blog, you should check her out now!  I guarantee you will laugh out loud at least 3 times.  She also has a facebook page which makes it super easy to see what she is whipping up next!

Like I said, choosing one recipe to feature from Christine’s blog was so difficult because they all looked SO yummy.  But I kept going back to this one and my mouth literally watered.  When i mentioned to my chef that I might make these, he got unusually excited, so of course, I was sold.

These mini cakes are so moist and down right cute.  And because you are simply using a cake mix, you can make these in no time at all.  Yet they look sophisticated enough to be the grand finale of a dinner party.  How great is that?  And if you need a testament to how good these fluffy bites of heaven are, Nate and I both ate 4 (each) straight out of the oven.  Like we hadn’t eaten anything for 2 weeks…we looked like the characters from Lost who just made it back to the main land haha! Anyway, you have to try these! Enjoy 🙂

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

(Makes 24 Mini Cakes)
1 box of pineapple cake mix
3 eggs
1 large can of pineapple chunks, quartered
1 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup water
2 sticks butter, cut each stick into 12 slices (24 total)
2 cups brown sugar
1 jar of red cherries in syrup (optional)
(You can pretty much just follow the directions on the cake mix. Instead of using water, use the pineapple juice of course!)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
In a large bowl blend together the cake mix, eggs, pineapple juice and water (hand mixer comes in handy!). Set aside.
Spray 2 muffin pans with non-stick baking spray. Place 1 slice of butter in the bottom of each muffin hole.  Add 1 ½ teaspoons of brown sugar over top each slice of butter.  Gently spread the brown sugar over the butter with your finger to create a rough layer.
Add a few pieces of pineapple to each muffin hole, enough to cover the bottom.  Then add about 2 tablespoons of batter on top of each (you will fill a bit more than ¾ of the muffin hole).  Bake for 18-21 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.  Run a sharp knife around the edges of each mini cake.  Then loosen the cakes from the sides of the muffin pan by giving the pan a little shake (I’ve found doing this with muffins, cupcakes, bread, and cake really helps!). Place a serving tray over top of the pan and flip those suckers out!
Place a cherry (or 2!) on top of each cake.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  The warm would go GREAT with some ice cream.

I can’t say enough great things about this recipe or Christine’s blog.  Head over to Food Thoughts of a Wannabe Chef or find her on Twitter! @FtofChefWannabe

Yogurt Parfaits – a la Nate

The great thing about yogurt parfaits is you can make a week’s worth ahead of time and just grab them on your way out the door.  So no busy bee has an excuse not to eat breakfast any longer!  You can also get creative with the types of toppings and layers you add, and with the presentation.  Nate simply put ours in clear solo cups, classy I know.  But even the solo cups look dressed up and scrumptious, don’t they?

And you might be asking yourself, orange liquor, for breakfast?  Nothing wakes you up like a nice kick in the face 🙂  Just kidding, it is barely enough to give the lightest-weight a buzz.  For this recipe, the liquor serves a purpose!  Read the recipe to find out.

Thank you chef!
Yogurt Parfaits - a la Nate

Yogurt Parfaits - a la Nate
½ lb of frozen mixed berries
4 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons of orange liquor
1 32 oz vanilla yogurt (we used low-fat!)
1 banana, sliced
1-2 cups of your favorite granola cereal
(feel free to add any kind of fruit and as many layers as you like!)
-Add the frozen berries to a medium–sized bowl
-Sprinkle the sugar over top the berries and toss the berries around to coat
-Add the orange liquor and toss again to coat the berries
-Leave the bowl out on the counter to soak and thaw.  This macerates the berries as it thaws.
Woah! New cooking term.  What does macerate mean?  To make soft by soaking or steeping in a liquid.
-Once the fruit is finished macerating and thawing, you will layer your parfait cups.  
-Add a couple spoonfuls of berries to each cup, then a couple spoonfuls of yogurt, then bananas, then more yogurt, then finish with the granola.
-If making a batch for later, cover each cup with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

**An alternative to using orange liquor would be… to use orange juice instead.  Also, adding a few fresh, ripped mint leaves would add a nice flavor.

More pictures for your reference:
Yogurt Parfaits - a la Nate

Yogurt Parfaits - a la Nate
macerated berries

Yogurt Parfaits - a la Nate

Yogurt Parfaits - a la Nate