Monday, June 18, 2012

Coconut Brown Rice Pudding

I have been wanting to make rice pudding for a while.  I found a recipe a while back on that I really enjoyed.  I have no idea what that recipe was, nor can I find it again. And that doesn't much matter, because after weeks of complaining about allergies, it's been suggested I may have a lactose sensitivity, so I'm off dairy products for the next 2 weeks to figure it out.  (It's been 36 hours, and I miss cheese oh so much already!)

Yesterday afternoon I finally got around to using my new rice cooker and decided I should make enough extra to make some pudding.  Then I remembered: pudding's made with milk.  whomp whomp 

When I hit the grocery store today, I decided to dabble in alternative "milks."  I picked up some vanilla almond milk and some regular coconut milk.  I tasted both and decided the coconut would be nice for the pudding.  It has a very subtle coconut flavor, without being overbearing.  So I got to work and created this yummy Coconut Brown Rice Pudding.  Enjoy!

Coconut Brown Rice Pudding
A Passion & Zest Original
8 1/2 cup servings at 4 P+ or 4 1 cup servings at 8P+


2 cups coconut milk
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)


Combine coconut, milk, rice, sugar, and vanilla in sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

When bubbles form around edges, turn to low heat.  

Stir in cinnamon, raisins, and coconut.  Let simmer until pudding thickens.

Serve warm or cold.

Combine coconut milk, rice, sugar, and vanilla in sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When bubbles form around edges, turn to a low heat.  Stir in cinnamon, raisins, and coconut.  Let simmer for 5 minutes while pudding thickens.  Enjoy warm or cold.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Simple Slow Cooker Fish

I know what you're thinking.  You made what in the where?   Yes, that's right.  I made fish in the slow cooker.  It all started because I didn't activate my new gym membership over the weekend.  I didn't want to put it off another day, and since my usual Monday evening meeting was rescheduled for Tuesday this week, Monday seemed like the perfect time to hit the gym.

Except, I also had business calls to make when I got home from the day job.  And I wanted to go to Walmart for some cheap new workout clothes.  I said to myself "Okay, if I'm home at 7, I can make calls til 7:45, be at the gym by 8, be at Walmart around 9, and home by 10.  But when the heck am I going to eat dinner?"  I had to settle for a quick snack when I got home and eating dinner at 10.  I had already planned to have cod (which was previously frozen and in my fridge for 2 days and needed to be cooked) with some avocado salad and a baked potato.

All of a sudden it came to me!  I seemed to have remembered seeing on some blog somewhere someone making foil packets of fish in a slow cooker.  And most of my slow cooker ideas start from A Year of Slow Cooking, so that's where I went.  Lo and behold, Stephanie did not let me down.  I found this gem.

Well, I didn't follow her recipe because I had my own in mind, but I'm 100% grateful to have found this so I could follow her technique.  My fish was in the slow cooker by 7:12, calls done by 7:50. I was at the gym by 8:10, Walmart by 9:15, and home at precisely 10 on the dot.  I popped my potato in the microwave for "baking" and cut up some avocado and had myself a nice little late dinner.  Plus, I've got 3 packets left in my fridge to get me through the week! 

Simple Slow Cooker Fish
Technique inspired by A Year of Slow Cooking
Servings 4  WW P+ 4, as I made it, but may vary depending what type of fish you use


1 1/4 lb white fish, (I used cod because I got it on sale, but typically prefer flounder or tilapia)
3 Tbsp flour
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
4 tsp olive oil


1.  In large freezer bag (I used gallon sized), combine flour and spices.  Shake together in bag until well incorporate.

2.  Add fish to bag and continue to shake until fish is well-coated.

3. Lay out a piece of foil.  Brush 1/2 tsp olive oil onto foil.  Place 1/4 of fish on top of oil. Brush top of fish with another 1/2 tsp of oil.  Fold up foil to create a little pouch.  Creases should be tight enough that oil won't leak out.  Repeat so that you have 4 fish pouches.

4. Place pouches in slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours.  Check to make sure fish is flaky.  If not yet flaky, continue to cook, checking back every 30 minutes.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Citrus Rainbow Cake

Things I love: rainbows, baking, cake, making cakes that make my friends ooh and ahh.  I hate being the center of attention, but I love making food and dessert that gets to be the center of attention.

A few weeks ago, I saw a picture of a magnificent rainbow cake posted on's Facebook page.  I was completely drawn to it and new I must find an occasion to make the cake.  So when we were invited to a friend's house for a Memorial Day barbecue, I knew I had to make this cake.  Unfortunately, when I went back to find it on Facebook, I couldn't.  So I obviously consulted Google and searched for rainbow cakes.  I was delighted to find this gem at Pixelated Crumb.  My only concern was vanilla frosting on vanilla's just not my cup of tea.

So I set to polling my WW and Facebook friends on what a rainbow should taste like.  The common answer seemed to be Skittles.  I was more or less set on something like cherry or lemon or lime.  (This may or may not have something to do with my recent obsession with diet Cherry 7-up.)  I momentarily toyed with the idea of making each layer a different flavor: cherry, orange, lemon, lime, blueberry, grape - but I quickly decided that would be too overwhelming.  So, I proceeded with my Cherry 7-up idea.  I decide to make the primary colors lemon flavored, the secondary colors lime flavored, and add some cherry frosting in between each layer.  I kept the vanilla frosting for the sake of keeping a neutral component.

I kinda want to whip up some of this right... just for a snack.

The results: the cake basically tasted like key lime, and the cherry frosting may as well have been vanilla.  The recipe below is for both lemon and lime flavors, but only for the vanilla frosting.

But, Stacey, doesn't making 2 different flavors and 6 different colors take a lot of work?  Okay, I hear you.  Yes, it takes some time.  In fact, I made the cakes on Friday, froze them, and then made the frosting and frosted on Sunday.  Also, you might notice that my layers aren't completely even.  It's because my kitchen scale, which is in my Top 5 of kitchen appliances, completely failed me.  It couldn't weigh the bowl with the batter, so I had no idea how to split it up.  I tried, but I just didn't have enough big bowls or patience.  So in the end, I eyeballed it.  Resulting in about a 20-30 gram difference between the primary color layers and the secondary color layers.  Whoops!

The scale did work to weight out each of the six layers.   Just not the unflavored batter.
I mixed up almost all the batter ingredients.  Then I split the batter, added lemon zest and lemon juice to one half and lime zest and lime juice to the other half.  Then each one got split into 3 small bowls and colored appropriate rainbow colors.  I used those flimsy disposable baking pans from the grocery store, and they worked out quite well.  I let the cakes cool on a wire rack and then wrapped each individually and stuck them in the freezer for about 36 hours before making and frosting the cake.  Kristen at Pixelated Crumb recommends a crumb coat for this cake, but I thought I was soooo smart and since I had previously frozen the cakes that it wouldn't be necessary.  Silly me.  Just do a crumb coat.  Seriously.

I was quite pleased with the way the cake came out.  It got a good amount of oohs and ahhs.  It also got a couple comments from the guys about how it was a gay pride cake.  (Can't a girl just like rainbows?)  Of course, I guess the guys were spot on when I received this comment from a Facebook friend:
well you could totally bake it for a same sex couple! i honestly could see it as a 3 tier wedding cake! great job!
I guess if the Mary Kay thing doesn't work out, I've got a back up plan.

Citrus Rainbow Cake
Inspired by a random photo on, Adapted from Pixelated Crumb (who credits The Whisk Kid and America's Test Kitchen via Diamonds for Dessert)
Servings 12 for generous portions, or 32 "slivers", WW P+ you don't want to know


For Cake:
330 grams (~ 3 cups) all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
525 grams (~ 2 and 1/3 cups) sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
zest from 2 lemons
zest from 2 limes
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup lime juice
food coloring

For Frosting:
3 sticks butter, softened
6-8 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp milk
4 tsp pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray six 9" inch cake pans with non cook spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  (I have very littler counter space, so I use a handheld mixer.  Obviously, if you have a countertop mixer, I hate you you can use that.)  Slowly beat in egg whites until well combined.  Add vanilla and mix until it's well incorporated.  Add flour mixture until, a little at a time, until well-combined with butter mix.  Divide batter into 2 equal-as-possible halves.  To one half, mix in lemon zest and lemon juice.  To the other half, mix in lime zest and lime juice.

3.  Divide lemon batter into 3 bowls.  Color one bowl red, one yellow, and one blue.  Divide lime batter into 3 bowls.  Color these green, orange, and purple.  Pour each of the six batters into prepared cake pans.  Bake each at 350 until cake tester (I use a knife) comes out clean.  This was about 12-15 minutes for each layer.  I could only bake 2 at a time, so total baking time was roughly 45 minutes.  Transfer cakes to a wire rack and let cool.  (If you want to save frosting for another day, this is where you would wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze.)

4. To make the frosting, cream butter, milk, and vanilla extract together.  Mix in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until it thickens up.  After 6 cups, add 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency.

5. To assemble cake, lay down purple layer, smooth frosting on top.  Repeat with blue layer, followed by green, yellow, orange, and red.  Once topped with red layer, lay the frosting on thicker on top and frost the sides of the cake.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spaghetti Squash & Meatball Parmigiana

First, I am offering my sincerest apologies that there are no pictures of this dish.  You see, it was originally inspired by Spaghetti Squash Lasagna over at Skinny Taste.  I intended to follow Gina's recipe to a "t," and not even bother posting it on my blog, so why would I have taken pictures?  My other idea: I was going to make meatballs and serve on the side.  As I was putting it all together though, it took on a life of its own!  I ended up layering the squash with the meatballs, and obviously tons of mozzarella cheese.   It came out of my oven a bubbly, gooey, melty combination of deliciousness.  I've been pretty much obsessing over it all week.  It came out so good that I've even forgiven it for making my apartment a sweltering 80 zillion degrees.  (And have decided to finally buy an air conditioner so I don't have to wait until October to make this again.)  Next time I make it, I promise to update this post with drool-inducing pictures.  Pinky swear!

I'm not going to lie to you.  This is is an intensive dish.  It requires a little elbow grease, and a good amount of time.  (And a cold day or a well air-conditioned home.)  I'll include some short cuts at the end, but expect this to take at least a solid hour with short cuts.  Closer to 1.5-2 hours without.

One last note: I'm not usually one who will substitute spaghetti squash for actual pasta.  I might make it once in a while, but I never expect it to satisfy like real pasta will.  However, I didn't even miss the pasta in this dish.   The squash was still squashy, but completely delectable.

Spaghetti Squash & Meatball Parmigana
inspired by Skinny Taste, meatballs adapted from Cook Yourself Thin (from Skinny Spaghetti & Meatballs in the first cookbook)
Serves 8, 10 WW P+ serving


For Sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
28 oz crushed tomatoes
14 oz tomato sauce
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp basil
dash parsely

For Meatballs:
2 slices of favorite sandwich bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup water
1 lb ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 Tbsp parsely
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Remaining Ingredients:
1 medium to large spaghetti squash (I got 4 cups of "spaghetti" from mine)
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
6 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  When oven is preheated, insert spaghetti squash and roast for 1 hour.

2. While squash is roasting, prepare sauce and meatballs.  Place bread and water in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan. Once heated, add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and just starting to brown.  Add crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Allow to heat through on medium heat for a few minutes.  Then stir in spices, reduce to low heat, and allow to simmer while you prepare meatballs.  (Best to cover to avoid splatter.)

3. Go back to bread and water.  Squeeze out excess water and pour out of bowl.  To soggy bread, add remainder of meatball ingredients.  Mix together with your hands, making sure to keep a light touch, until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Then form balls (in this case, I made the more patties than balls for the sake of adding to the casserole without having to cut them) and add to sauce.  Allow to cook in the sauce about 20-30 minutes, until pork is cooked through - or longer if your squash is still cooking/cooling/being prepped for deliciousness.

4. When squash comes out of the oven, place aside to let it cool.  When it's cool enough to handle (I said I'd wait 20-30 minutes, but I doubt I waited more than 10), slice into it lengthwise with a big knife.  Remove the seeds and gook.  Then take a fork and start raking through the squash.  It will pull away from the skin and look like strands of spaghetti.

5. Now the fun part: Let's build this thing!  Take a couple spoonfuls of sauce from the pan and layer on the bottom of a 9x13 dish.  Add half the spaghetti.  Cover with half of remaining sauce and half of meatballs.  Top with ricotta (you can add just spoonfuls, no need to spread it evenly) and a thin layer of mozzarella.  Then add another layer of squash, topped with remainder of sauce and meatballs.  Cover with rest of mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melty and browned.

I know you're going to want to dive into this right away, but please don't burn yourself!  Give it a couple minutes to cool down.

1. Use pre-shredded or pre-grated cheeses.
2. Prepare spaghetti squash in microwave.
3. Prepare a double batch of sauce and meatballs when you have some time.  Eat half (perhaps over real spaghetti) and freeze remaining half.  When you want to make this dish, just thaw out frozen half.
4. Use jarred spaghetti sauce.
5. Use pre-made meatballs.

Updated 6/2/12 with additional shortcuts.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recipe Challenge: Beefy Polenta Bake

A few weeks ago, Jena, a fellow WW boardie, enlisted some boardie bloggers for a recipe challenge.  The challenge is similar to (or entirely based on, you pick) Food Network's Chopped.    On April 16th, Jena sent us a list of 4 ingredients and challenged us to create a recipe from those ingredients.  We had until May 1st to create and post the recipe.  Once all recipes were in, each of the "contestants," would check out each other's blogs and vote for the recipe we each think is the best.  The "judging" is supposed to be based on creativity, point-friendliness, and attractiveness.  (My best guess is that attractive means, would you make/eat this?)

As you can see, it's May 2nd, and I'm clearly late in posting.  Oops!  I was on vacation the week the list was sent out and completely forgot about it last week.  I remembered at the very last minute and yesterday was the only time I had to cook.  Luckily, I had an idea!

You know that Mexican dip that's served at almost any party? It's made by spreading cream cheese at the bottom of a pie pan, covering with a can of chili (Hormel's, no beans, duh!), and topping with Mexican blend cheese, then baking until it's all bubbly and melty and delicious.  It's pretty awesome.  Our ingredients for this challenge are kale, broth, cream cheese, and polenta.  The cream cheese immediately made me think of Mexican dip, but the polenta had an Italian feel.  I decided to make an Italian-inspired version of this dip on top of polenta.

(Of course, polenta is really just corn meal.  Corn meal is common in Mexican cuisine, so it's possible, I might try this with a Mexican flare soon.)

I gathered all my ingredients and set to cooking.  But by the time I started cooking it was after 8:30, and my dish wasn't out of the oven until 10:30.  I'd eaten dinner and was completely exhausted, so I wrapped it up, stuffed it in the fridge and decided I wouldn't have it until lunch today.

I was nervous.  I had to post this recipe as I had no time to try to doctor or re-create it.  I just hoped it would be good.  Well, I just had it for lunch and my only regret is that I didn't heat it up longer.  I was very happy with the flavor of the beef (or rather the gravy), especially mixed with the tanginess of the cream cheese.  I'm excited to have leftovers tomorrow, which I can reheat at home in the oven for extra cheese meltiness.  I will give credit where credit is due, and say that I was inspired to make the gravy based on 2 recent recipes I've made: Skinny Taste's Salisbury Steak and Martha Stewart's London Broil Marinade.

So, without further ado, I now present

Beefy Polenta Bake

8 Servings, 8P+ per serving

Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil

Add beef to skillet with veggies and cook until browned through.

Cook polenta.  Chop kale and add to cooked beef. Once kale cooks down, add sauce over beef.

Spray casserole dish with non stick spray.  Spread polenta in dish.  Top with cream cheese, saucy beef mixture, and cheese.  Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted and browned.

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 lb 93/7 lean ground beef
2 stalks kale (about 3 cups, chopped)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 lb instant polenta
4 cups water
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup Kraft 2% 3-cheese Italian blend


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Heat olive oil in a small pan.  Once hot, add garlic and onion.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, until aromatic.  Then add beef and cook until browned.  When beef is cooked, add kale an cover so that the kale steams and cooks down.
  3. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  Once water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and stir in polenta.  Mix constantly, until lumps and graininess disappear.  Polenta only needs to cook about 5 minutes.  Taste when done.  Polenta can be pretty bland, so feel free to season to your tastes.  
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and beef broth.  When flour is dissolved, add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce.  Mix together and pour over meat and kale mixture, allowing to simmer for a few minutes.
  5. While gravy is simmering, coat a casserole pan (I used 9x13) with non-stick spray.  Spread polenta over pan.  Now, this is the tricky part.  You're going to spread the cream cheese over the polenta.  Don't worry if it's not super soft yet, because the heat from the polenta will basically melt the cream cheese and help you spread it out.  Then top the cream cheese with the beef.  Finally, sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
  6. Put dish in oven and bake 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven, I took mine out at 25, but that's because I was falling asleep on the couch and forgot to check at 20).  The cheese should be browned and and the beef and cream cheese should be bubbly.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Childhood Favorite

I have fond memories of this dish.  It's so simple and delicious.  Bear with me when I suggest a pinch of this or a dash of that.  Here's what you should know: A pinch equals a pinch.  Pour a touch of salt in the palm of one hand.  Then with the other hand, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the salt.  That's a pinch!  And a little salt goes a looong way.

This dish is called Picadillo.  Say it with me now, peeka - dee - yo.  Just like that.  Well, kinda.  It's basically ground beef with seasonings.  And serve over rice.  I grew up on this and whenever I make it these days, it brings a smile to my face.  I remember being in a Spanish class in high school (or maybe middle school) and there was a section on foods.  It defined picadillo as a stew.  My picadillo is in no way, shape, or form a stew.  (I was pretty offended by that definition, in fact.)

Serves 6

1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small or 1/3-1/2 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef (I use 93/7 for pretty much anything)
pinch of salt
2-3 grinds black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1-2 Tbsp water
2-3 Tbsp Spanish olives with pimentos, sliced (optional)


1. Cook up a sofrito of green peppers, onions, and garlic, sauteed in olive oil.

 2. Add ground beef and spices.  Break up into small pieces and cook until completed browned.

3. Add olives, and stir until they are warmed.  Serve picadillo over rice.

1.  Heat pan over medium-high heat.  When pan is hot, add just enough olive oil to coat pan.  (Tip: If you heat the pan first, you'll get more bang for your buck from your oil.)  Let oil heat, about 1-2 minutes, and chopped bell pepper.  Let cook over medium-low heat until pepper starts to brown, then add onion and garlic.  Cook 1-2 minutes more, until veggies start to soften.  Be careful not to let garlic burn. 

2. Add beef to pan and use wooden spoon to break it up into little pieces.  Season it with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano.  Let cook 5-10 minutes, until call meat has turned dark brown.  Continue to break up into small pieces with spoon, as necessary.

3.  Add 1-2 Tbsp water and stir to get with meat.  This will create a bit of a sauce, but not so much that the dish is "saucy."  Add olives (if desired) and stir until olives are hot.  This should only take a few seconds.  Serve over rice and enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Day at the Zoo

And we were not the only childless adults there!

Oh.  And I'm blonde.