Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

I cook several nights a week, sometimes by myself and sometimes with Mike. For a while now though, we've gotten into a routine of me cooking for us on Monday and Wednesday nights, as Mike works late on those evenings. Some nights when I'm cooking for the two of us, I take more time to make an "elaborate" meal (although, nothing I make is ever that elaborate!!). Then there are other nights when I use the extra time I have when Mike's still working to take care of "stuff." There's always so much to do! Go to the gym, do errands, and you know, just take care of all those random things that pile up... So, on those nights when I'm being super productive and my focus on cooking dinner takes up much less of my time and effort, I put together an easy meal like these sweet potato and black bean burritos. Simple, quick, healthy, and delicious! Love it. I made these last week on a night Mike was working late. It was a win-win; I still had lots of time to be productive and take care of things, and I was also able to get dinner on the table to feed my hungry fiance at 9 pm! :)

This recipe is adapted from The Novice Chef. The ingredients I used are below.


-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1/4 to 1/2 tsp. chili powder
-1/2 tsp. pepper
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
-2 medium to large sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (without skins)
-tortillas or wraps of your choice (I used 8-inch whole wheat wraps)
-sour cream
-fresh cilantro


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare your sweet potatoes, you can do one of two things. You can bake them in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour (bake them with the skins on, but poke some holes in the potatoes with a fork first). Or, you can do what I did last week when I made these... I microwaved my potatoes! Remember how I wanted to make an easy dinner and save time? Well, you can very easily microwave sweet potatoes too. Pierce them with a fork, and microwave each one for 6 to 10 minutes (depends on your microwave) until tender. Voila! Works just as well as baking them, and it's an especially easy method when you're using the sweet potatoes for a dish like these burritos. More specific instructions for microwaving sweet potatoes can be found here.

Once your sweet potatoes are cooked, use a fork or spoon to remove the inside and discard the skins. Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash them with a fork.

To prepare the black bean filling, heat a teaspoon or so of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and minced garlic to pan, and saute until they become slightly brown and translucent, about 4 to 6 minutes. Mix in the chili powder, salt, and pepper, and cook for 1 more minute before removing from heat.

In a food processor, pulse the black beans and onion mixture until smooth. Fill each wrap with about 1/3 cup of the black bean mixture and 1/3 cup of the mashed sweet potatoes. Roll the wraps into burrito shapes (I honestly had no idea how to do this, so mine looked like the picture you see above!). Grease a cookie sheet or baking pan, and place burritos on the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until the inside of the burritos is nice and hot. 

Serve with sour cream, salsa, or any other toppings of your choice!

I chopped up some fresh cilantro and mixed it with sour cream for some added flavor. The outer edges of the burritos got slightly crispy as they baked in the oven. YUM!

These were extremely tasty! And they were light to eat, yet filling at the same time. Such a fun and easy weeknight meal. Even though they were meatless, Mike loved them too! But then again, he'd probably love any dinner I cooked him at 9:00 at night after a long day's work...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sour Cream Cookies

I think I hear you over there. You're saying to yourself "sour cream cookies?". Yes, sour cream cookies. It's true.

This recipe is a family recipe. Growing up, I remember my mom making sour cream cookies quite often. And she'd make them very similar to how I did here - with sprinkles. Everything's better with sprinkles, right? They just look so pretty and more fun that way. My decision to make sour cream cookies this past week was rather happenstance. I was going through some paperwork (we won't even get into how many piles and piles of paperwork I was going through...), and I came across some printed recipes my grandmother had given me. As I was looking through the recipes, the sour cream cookies caught my eye. I knew that I had some leftover sour cream in the fridge. And honestly, I really don't use sour cream for much; most of the time, if a recipe calls for some sour cream, I often don't end up using what's remaining unless I make a point to. Sour cream isn't really a favorite ingredient of mine, so I tend to forget about it. Oops. Anyway, I was thankful to stumble upon this cookie recipe AND have some sour cream with which to make them! So I almost immediately stopped (seriously, I stopped immediately) organizing my paperwork (who really wants to do that anyway??), and I started making these cookies.


-1 and 1/2 cups sugar
-1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
-2 eggs (lightly beaten)
-1 cup sour cream
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 and 3/4 cups flour
-1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt


Mix together the first five ingredients (sugar through vanilla) with an electric mixer. Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add to the wet ingredients and combine. You may add nuts or baking chips at this point, if you'd like.

Chill the dough for at least one hour in the fridge. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by spoonfuls (I probably did two to three teaspoons per scoop) on cookie sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees (the cookies really shouldn't brown at all - if anything, they will only be very lightly browned on the very outer edges like you see in some of my pictures). Remove, let sit for a couple minutes on cookie sheet, and then cool completely on rack.

I did not add any mix-ins (chocolate chips or anything) to this batch, but you certainly can if you'd like.

So soft, cakey, and fluffy.

I brought some of these cookies in to work to share with my coworkers, and to give you an idea of the unique flavor and texture of sour cream cookies, a few of their impressions were:

"They're like a cross between a cookie and cake."
"They remind me of sponge cake."
"They taste a little like angel food cake."
"They make me think of Madeleines." (a French sponge cake)

This recipes makes a lot of cookies. It made close to 40 for me!

I agree with the impressions my coworkers had of these cookies. I also like to think of them as a fluffier, cakier than usual sugar cookie ("cakier" is a word, right? :)).

No matter what these cookies remind you of, I'm going to guarantee that you'll find them super yummy. Trust me! Sour cream does belong in cookies. ;) 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hershey Kiss Pretzel Bites

Hello! Do I have an easy recipe for you. This recipe for Hershey Kiss Pretzel Bites is actually a variation on a "classic" - Rolo Pretzel Bites. I've seen the Rolo ones quite often, and I've made them too but that was quite some time ago. Thankfully I recently remembered them though! A few weeks ago I wanted to make a super simple and yummy sweet treat to enjoy with friends as we watched the Super Bowl. I didn't have Rolos on hand, but I did have Hershey Kisses! And so, the Hershey Kiss Pretzel Bites were born.

You can make these with the Snap pretzels like I have here, or you could just use regular mini pretzels.

Preheat your oven to about 300 degrees. Top each pretzel with one candy of your choice, a Hershey Kiss or a Rolo.

Bake in the oven for only 3 - 5 minutes, checking on them after 3 minutes. Basically you just want the candies to become slightly melty, like these kisses below.

While they're in the oven, make sure your "toppings" are all ready to go. A popular topping with Rolos is pecans, as you see here:

(photo source)

I decided to top mine with almonds and dark chocolate m&m's. I specifically picked out the red and blue ones from the bag since the Giants and Pats were playing in the Super Bowl! And on a side note, woohoo for the Giants winning!

Okay, back to business. Right when you take the pretzels out of the oven, immediately press one (or two) m&m's, or an almond, or whatever you're using, down in the center of the Hershey Kiss. And that's it! Let them cool completely, and store them in an airtight container. As you can see above, on some of these I put a pretzel m&m. :)

This would be a great recipe to involve the kids too! They could easily help with placing the kisses on the pretzels or the m&m's/nuts on top of the kisses once they're out of the oven. Be careful though as you eat these... You should know that it's really hard to eat just one.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Two Favorite Snacks: Apple Slices with Honey & Cinnamon and Ooey Gooey Banana & Peanut Butter

I love snacking. I typically eat a little bit every 2 to 3 hours during the day, so many of the times I'm eating I would consider what I'm eating to be a "snack" rather than a meal. My lunches are more meal-like, but they tend to be small, and during the week at work you can often find me having a snack about two hours after I've eaten lunch.... And then I also often have a snack when I get home from work...and in the mid-morning I have a snack. So, you see, I snack a lot. ;)

For fun, I thought I'd share with you a couple of my current, favorite snacks. I sometimes go in cycles; I have a particular snack that's my favorite for a few months, and then eventually I change it up and have another favorite go-to snack for a while. Well, currently my two favorites are apple slices with honey and cinnamon and a warmed, mashed banana mixed with peanut butter. Let me explain!

Perhaps some of you enjoy apples like this too. For my sliced apple snack, I simply cut up an apple, drizzle it with a bit of honey and then sprinkle a little cinnamon on top. Delish!! I also love apples plain, but every now and then I'm in a mood to eat them differently, so that's when this apple, honey, and cinnamon snack comes into play. Such a great combo.

And for the past few weeks, at least two or three times a week, I've been having an ooey gooey banana and peanut butter snack. If you love the flavor combo of banana and peanut butter (and let's be serious - who doesn't?!), you'll love this. Generally, I cut up either half a banana or a whole one, depending on how hungry I am, and I put the banana slices in a mug. You could also do this in a bowl but it's more fun in a mug for some reason. Then I add about two teaspoons or so of peanut butter to the mug and pop it in the microwave. The first amount of time I "nuke" it for is usually 30 seconds and depending on the ripeness of the banana, sometimes it needs another nuking of about 15 more seconds or so. Usually after a total of 45 seconds, the banana and peanut butter are plenty warm, and the banana has become mushy and soft. I stir everything together and eat it by the spoonful! Soooo good. I personally think this snack is better with bananas that are on the riper side (i.e., have some brown spots on them). One time last week when I needed a more substantial snack to last me a few hours until I would be eating dinner, I enjoyed the warmed, mashed peanut butter and banana on a toasted 100-calorie whole wheat sandwich thin. Also delicious!! This weekend I had a whole banana with some peanut butter (warmed up and mashed together, of course!) before I went to the gym to take a Turbo Kick class. It was the perfect fuel to get me through a tough workout!

It doesn't look all that appetizing, but trust me, it's delicious. And it's so fun to eat out of a mug!

This was when I spread the deliciousness on a toasted whole wheat sandwich thin.

What are some of your favorite snacks that are on the healthy side and don't take much time to prepare? I'd love to hear them. Perhaps you have an idea that will become my next go-to snack once these two are out of the rotation! :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cute, Punny Valentine's Day Gifts and "Big" News!

You may be able to gather from the title of this post that I'm not sharing a recipe with you today. Instead, I have other fun things to share!! Remember earlier in the week when I gave you some last minute gift ideas for Valentine's Day? If you remember, they were rather "punny" gifts that involved plays on words. If you don't know me, you may not know that I looove puns. All my friends and family know how much I love puns; it's kind of one of "my things." So, I have to warn you that what I'm about to share is incredibly punny. You may groan slightly or wince a bit at the extreme punny-ness, but you can't say I didn't warn you. ;) I put together several mini gifts for Mike to show him how much I love him (in a super dorky way). Check 'em out!


Fiber One bars.

Echinacea Complete Care tea.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.


SoBe Life Water fuji apple pear water.

Target brand (Up & Up) hand sanitizer.

Bananas, obviously.

I had so much fun putting these together!! I did put these together rather last minute, so the little signs weren't all that fancy or nice looking. But in the end that didn't really matter. What mattered was the messages I was sending! The dorky, punny love messages. :) I tried to keep most of the gifts on the healthier side too. There were plenty of candies I could have used to do this, but I opted for items that are a bit better for you. I honestly could have found so many more items for this fun little project! I basically just walked around Target looking at the names of various products and brainstorming possible phrases I could make with them!

Now I'll move on to the "big" news I referenced above. There are two things I did this week that are rather substantial.

1) I joined the gym! I haven't belonged to a gym in probably about 3 years... I've pretty much only been running for the past few years (with other activities like ultimate frisbee mixed in from time to time). That's not a lot of variety! Although these activities have kept me fit and healthy, there was something inside me telling me I needed a change. So, I took the plunge and joined the gym! And I got an excellent deal on my membership cost too. I am psyched about it!

Love this.

2) I bought a new CAR!!! Well, the car itself is used but it's new to me. Woohoo!!

My new wheels:

It's a 2008 Subaru Outback. I will be saying farewell to my current car, a 1998 Subaru Forester, next week when I go pick up the new car. My Forester has been great, but at 144,000 miles and 14 years old, it was time to move on... Sad but exciting!

So, that's my "big" news. :)

Happy Friday, friends! Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Chunk Toffee Bars

Last Tuesday night I panicked. At the last minute, I remembered that I had committed to baking some kind of homemade treat for an occasion the next day, but I had completely forgotten about it! Oops. Luckily, the occasion didn't require anything fancy. If it had, I definitely think I would have been less likely to forget. Thankfully I remembered my obligation to make something, and thankfully it only took about 30 seconds for me to decide what to make. My chocolate chip graham cracker blondies are one of the simplest and fasted desserts to make, and the ingredients are ones that I always have on hand. So, I got to work making them! This time around though, I changed the recipe slightly (which is so easy to do and a great feature of this recipe!) to add chocolate chunks and toffee bits instead of the original chocolate chips and crushed graham crackers that I added when I first made these. Below are the ingredients I used this time around. Feel free to add different mix-ins to match your own personal preference!


-2 sticks (16 Tbsp.) butter, melted
-2 cups brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
-2 large eggs
-2 tsp. vanilla
-pinch salt
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1 and 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks
-1 cup Heath English toffee bits


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter or spray a 13 x 9 pan. Mix the melted butter with brown sugar, and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs and then vanilla. Add the salt, and stir in the flour and baking powder. Mix in your additions (chocolate chunks, toffee bits). Pour into your prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting.

Now these first few pictures I took basically as soon as the bars were just cool enough to remove from the pan. So you can definitely tell how warm, ooey and gooey (i.e., slightly undercooked!!) these are. It's my own preference to undercook them a bit, but you can cook them a couple minutes longer if you'd like. The pictures toward the bottom (when the blondies are on the pink plate) are the next day. The gooey-ness goes away slightly, but they're still very soft and yummy. :)


The next time you need a dessert in a hurry, I hightly recommend you keep these in mind. ;) As I mentioned, they are incredibly easy and are made with normal ingredients that most of us have in our kitchens at any time!