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I have a major sweet tooth, and I always have. And as a kid, there was one thing my mom made that I loved more than anything in the whole world. Chocolate chip pound cake. When it came to special events, especially my birthday, she didn’t even have to ask what I wanted. She knew the answer. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite sweet indulgences. Move over cookies and milk, chocolate chip pound cake comin through!

A few years ago, I decided I would try making my mom’s famous cake on my own. I didn’t just ask for the recipe though…I made her show me how to make the cake. After all, I was learning an art, not just a recipe. Over the last few years, I have perfected my favorite cake, and it’s just as delicious as I remember it as a kid.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 3 cups flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
– 3 tsp vanilla extract
– 4 eggs
– 3/4 cup milk
– 2 cups (1 12 oz package) mini chocolate chips (yes, mini is important)
– powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a bunt pan by completely greasing and flouring the inside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer), beat together the sugar, butter and vanilla together on low speed until creamy. Crack one egg at a time into the sugar/butter mixture, and beat on medium speed until each one is thoroughly combined before adding the next.

After all the eggs have been added to the mix and everything is smooth, gradually begin adding the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. I usually add about a cup of flour and beat on medium speed until it’s combined, then add a quarter of the milk, then more flour and so on until all the flour and milk has been mixed in. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips until their evenly distributed throughout the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared bunt pan and bake in a 325 degree oven for 70 to 80 minutes, or until a a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Make sure not to take the cake out of the pan until it’s completely cooled because it’s very heavy and fragile while it’s still hot. Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar, if desired.

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

This cake is rich and delicious, it’s the perfect balance of chocolate and cake. The texture is like a mix between a regular cake and a typical pound cake — a little crumbly, but pretty dense. The only way to eat this cake is heated with a huge glass of ice cold milk. And believe me, after your first bite, you’ll be hooked for life. It’s worth the hour and a half it takes to bake, not to mention that your house will smell heavenly the rest of the day.

If there’s one recipe from this blog that you decide to try, it should be this one. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. And…if you decide to give it a try, please comment and let me know how it goes and how you enjoyed it!

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I know I’ve said on more than one occasion since I’ve started this blog that one thing or another is “one of my favorites,” and today I’m going to say it again. Since I moved out of my parents house, whenever my mom said that she was making or had made enchiladas, I always made sure to drop by to score some leftovers. Her not very traditional enchiladas (they’re stacked like lasagna, not rolled) are one of my favorite home cooked meals. They’re full of flavor, including way too hot green chili, and really creamy with crispy edges. On top of her awesome enchiladas, my mom makes a pretty mean green chili sauce for someone who doesn’t have an ounce of Mexican in her blood.

In the years since I moved out of my parents house (and more recently, since I’ve become obsessed with cooking), there are some meals I just haven’t attempted to recreate. Mom’s enchiladas were always one of them — until now. While putting our menu together this weekend, Billy and I got the urge to give them a shot. The results definitely weren’t my mom’s, but they were pretty awesome.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4 to 6
Green Chili Sauce
– olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 4 oz. fresh (roasted) green chili, diced (if you can’t find fresh, canned is fine, it just won’t be as spicy so maybe add more)
– 2 to 3 tbsp flour
– about 1/2 cup chicken stock
– splash milk
Enchiladas
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 oz. green chili
– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (any leftover chicken (or turkey or any other meat you like) will work, too)
– 1/2 cup Monterey Jack, shredded
– 1/2 cup Velveeta, cubed
– 1 can cream of mushroom soup
– cumin
– salt and pepper
– corn tortillas

My mom’s green chili sauce is killer and is good for so much more than just enchiladas. With that being said, it’s probably the tastiest component to these enchiladas. It’s also really simple. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to sweat out, then add the green chili and continue to saute for three to five minutes or until the onions are translucent and the green chili has cooked down a little. Add the flour to the pan and stir until it has completely cooked out, about one minute. Poor in the chicken stock (start with a 1/2 cup and add more if you prefer a thinner consistency — it’s all based on preference), stir to combine and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for a few minutes until the sauce begins to thicken, then smooth out using an immersion blender (or regular blender if you don’t have an immersion). Stir in a splash of milk and add more liquid if necessary. Set the sauce aside until you’re ready to assemble the enchiladas.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I said before that my mom’s enchiladas aren’t exactly traditional, and it’s probably going to become very apparent in the next steps so I’ll apologize now to any traditional Mexican-style cooks who may be reading this. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix together the onion, chopped green chili, shredded chicken, cheese, cream of mushroom soup and seasonings. Grease a large casserole dish, then begin layering the enchiladas.

Cover the bottom of the casserole dish with some of the green chili sauce, then completely cover with a layer of tortillas. Spoon over half of the chicken mixture and spread an even layer over the tortillas. Spoon over more green chili sauce, cover again with tortillas, and finally the rest of the chicken mixture. Add one more layer of tortillas and finish with plenty of green chili sauce. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until all the cheese has melted and the edges of the tortillas begin to brown.

Enchiladas with Accoutrements

Yum. Our version of my mom’s enchiladas were definitely not the same, but they were pretty dang close and for sure delicious. They really hit the spot, and the leftovers made a delicious lunch the next day. One of the best things about my mom’s enchiladas is how creamy they are (thanks in part to the cream of mushroom soup, but mostly because of the Velveeta), and in terms of creamyness, ours were spot on. The crunch of the onions and the crispy edges of the tortillas gave the enchiladas a little texture.

I know these may not be traditional or restaurant-style enchiladas, but they aren’t lacking anything in flavor. They may also sound a little weird (Velveeta? Cream of mushroom soup?), but I promise if you give them a shot you’ll see why they’re one of my favorites. :)

When it comes to Arabic food, there’s one main ingredient that’s pretty consistent in most dishes — rice. In the old days, it was probably (don’t quote me on this) used as a way to make a small amount of food go farther — just like pasta for Italians — but today it’s just an essential part of any Arabic dish. It’s a perfect vehicle to soak up all the delicious juices that the food cooks in, especially when it comes to ruz-al-loubi.

This dish of green beans and lamb is braised in a light tomato sauce and then served over rice. It’s packed full of flavor, and without the rice, you’d loose a huge amount of that flavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 4 to 6
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 to 2 lbs lamb, cut/chopped into small pieces
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 small can tomato paste
– about 5 cups water
– 2 lbs frozen green beans (Billy’s grandma always insisted on using frozen, so we’ve never tried using fresh)

In a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until translucent and soft, about five minutes. Add the chopped lamb to the pan and brown, stirring to insure all of the meat gets color. Next, add the garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then add the tomato paste and water, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any brown bits. Bring to a boil and add the green beans to the pot, stirring to combine. Finally, cover the pot, reduce to simmer and let cook for one hour.

While the lamb and green beans are cooking, cook one to two cups of rice and set aside. You will serve the lamb, green beans and plenty of sauce over the rice.

Ruz al-Loubi

I love the tomato sauce that the ruz al-loubi cooks in. It’s full of flavor and the rice soaks up every drop of it. The green beans always cook perfectly, as does the lamb. Everything in this dish is really juicy and flavorful, and I love the hint of cinnamon you get in every bite.

This makes a great side dish, but can easily be a full meal if there’s a lot of meat in it. Another great way to eat the green beans and lamb (can you say leftovers?) is to make a sandwich using Arabic (or Greek, because it’s way easier to find in the regular grocery store) pita bread.

Usually I believe that whatever family recipes we make at home are never as good as the original, but our baked “fried” chicken is a serious contender to my mom’s. I’ve always been amazed at how she could bake chicken and it ends up tasting — and crunching — like it was fried. Well…I think Billy and I have discovered the secret. Goodbye unhealthy, greasy fried chicken, hello delicious, juicy baked chicken.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 whole chicken, cut up
– 2 to 3 cups buttermilk, plus more for dredging
– 2 tsp garlic powder, plus more for dredging
– 2 tsp sweet paprika, plus more for dredging
– 2 tsp cayenne pepper, plus more for dredging
– salt and pepper
– flour for dredging
– bread crumbs for dredging (we used a mix of Panko and regular, and I think that’s the secret to getting it extra crispy)

When my mom bakes chicken, she never soaks it in buttermilk first. Billy and I decided to give this a try to see if it made a difference. So, the first thing you want to do is combine the buttermilk, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne and salt and pepper in a large Ziplock bag. Drop the chicken in the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To set up a dredging station for the chicken, you’ll need three bowls or deep plates: the first with flour, the second with buttermilk, and the last with the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure to season the flour and breadcrumb stations with the same seasonings you used in the marinade.

After the chicken has been marinading, remove it from the bag one piece at a time and send it through the line of dredges. Try to use one hand for the wet stuff and one for dry so you don’t end up with more breading on your fingers than is on the chicken. Place the breaded chicken pieces on a baking sheet, bone side down. After all the pieces have been breaded, toss the baking sheet into the oven for about 45 minutes, or until all the chicken pieces are cooked through.

Crispy Baked Chicken with Homemade Fries

Crispy. Juicy. Delicious. First off, you’d never know this wasn’t fried chicken…well, maybe the no grease thing would give it away. But really, it was so amazingly crispy (I attribute that to the mix of breadcrumbs), but juicy and tender on the inside. The chicken was so flavorful, probably due to the fact that it soaked in buttermilk (how can you go wrong there, right?!) and seasonings for an hour. Really, this beats any store or restaurant bought fried chicken — and it’s 10 times healthier. Oh, and did I mention that it’s crispy and juicy? Sorry mom, but I think you’ve met your baked chicken match!

While we were in Colorado over Christmas, Billy’s grandma invited everyone over for an Arabic feast. It was one of the highlights of our trip, but for me the best part was getting to taste the real version of all the things we’ve cooked at home. As much as I love Billy’s cooking, nothing will ever be as good as when his grandma makes it.

During our feast, I got to try some new things. From that day forward, I had a new favorite Arabic dish — chicken and rice (and cauliflower, but for some reason everyone always leaves that out…I haven’t quite figured out why yet). It’s the perfect blend of rice, fried cauliflower, chicken and spices. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups water
– 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
– 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and dried
– 1 onion, cut into strips and 1/2 onion, cubed
– 2 cups uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
– oil (enough to fry the cauliflower)
– cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste
– salt and pepper

Bring the water, the cubed 1/2 onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper to a boil in a large pot. Once the water starts to boil, add the chicken and boil until completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a high-sided frying pan, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Fry the cauliflower (in batches, if necessary) until golden brown. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a paper towel. In the same oil, fry the strips of onion until they just begin to turn brown. Remove from the pan and drain on a separate paper towel.

Once the chicken has cooked through, drain the water into a bowl and remove from the pot. Layer the ingredients, starting with the onion, then cauliflower and finally chicken, in the same pot. You should use all of the ingredients in one set of layers. Cover the chicken with the rice, then pour the water that was used to boil the chicken over everything. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

Chicken and Rice

While we were eating this, I told Billy that I’m always shocked at the way Arabic food is prepared. The meat is almost always boiled (sometimes twice, as is with this dish), but it never gets overcooked or dried out and it’s definitely never short on flavor. I think the flavor combination created with the different spices used in most dishes infuses each bite with the distinct flavors of Arabic food.

I know I’ve said this just about every time we’ve made Arabic food, but chicken and rice is by far my favorite dish (so far, of course). I had never had fried cauliflower before, but after eating this I might have to try it in other applications. The flavor of the cauliflower totally changes when it’s fried, and it’s delicious. It adds a great flavor and texture to this dish. Since I’ve already had the real version of this, I know what it’s supposed to taste like and I can actually say that Billy’s version is pretty dead on. The biggest different we noticed was that his grandma’s was much darker. I think she fries her cauliflower and onions until they are pretty dark and we stopped ours before they turned completely brown, so that may have been part of the reason.

You can serve the chicken and rice with yogurt, but this is actually one application where I don’t think it’s necessary. Using yogurt will make everything really creamy (which is delicious), but everything stands perfectly well on it’s own, too.

I love brussels sprouts. Even as a kid, they were one of my favorite veggies. When I once suggested to Billy that we make them as a side dish, I got the weirdest, most disgusted look. Apparently he wasn’t a fan. Somehow I got him to try them anyway, and now he can’t get away from them! Our favorite way to prepare them is to roast them in the oven. It’s simple, but oh-so-delicious.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1/2 lb fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
– 2 tsp butter, melted
– salt and pepper
– garlic powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the brussles sprouts on the baking sheet and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour the melted butter over the brussels, making sure to get a little butter on each one. Toss everything together (it’s easiest if you use your hands, they get coated better that way) and throw in the oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I really wasn’t joking when I said these were super simple (yikes, Sandra Lee). Roasting the brussles sprouts in butter gives them a delicious caramelized, sweet flavor. They become tender, a bit crispy on the outside and totally mouthwatering. We usually end up making these a few times a month because we just can’t get enough of them. They’re great when roasted with potatoes, as well.

I love a good alfredo (or any cream-based, really) sauce. Problem with that is, not all of them are good. Despite being Italian, my family doesn’t have a hand-me-down alfredo sauce recipe…so I had to create my own. A few years ago, Billy and I looked at multiple recipes and sort of combined the ones we thought looked good. Since then, we’ve moved away from the recipes and come up with a pretty fool-proof alfredo sauce. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easy as pie, either!

Here’s what you’ll need:
(these measurements are good for one pound of pasta)
– 4 tbsp butter
– about 5 garlic cloves, minced (you can adjust this, based on how much of a garlicy flavor you want)
– salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
– 1/2 cup basil, chiffonade (you can substitute dried basil, just use way less)

This sauce literally takes less time than it takes to cook pasta. Whenever we make this, we don’t even start the sauce until after we’ve dropped the pasta. Usually the timing works out well, but it all depends on the type of pasta you’re cooking.

In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and saute the garlic until it just begins to turn brown, two to three minutes. (If you’re using dry basil, add it to the pan at the same time as the garlic in order to release the flavors.) Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. When the garlic begins to turn, add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to the pan and let melt. Once it has melted, pour the heavy cream in. Still over medium-high heat, continue stirring until the mixture just begins to boil. Reduce to simmer and, keeping a close eye on the mixture, continue stirring until the cream begins to thicken.

When the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon, about five minutes, turn off the heat and whisk in the Parmesan and basil. Season with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Toss with freshly cooked pasta and serve with warm bread!

Bow Ties with Alfredo

I love, love, love this sauce. It’s not too heavy, but it’s got so much flavor. It’s garlic-y and basil-y and it really hits the spot when you’re craving something different than traditional pasta sauce. It’s so easy to make and really versatile — we add shrimp to it all the time, and it’s delicious. So…feel free to give this a shot and change it up to suit your tastes, it’s a perfect canvas for experimenting!

It’s been a while since I posed about Arabic food (actually, it’s been a while since we made Arabic food), so I thought I’d share something before we get rolling on all the Christmas goodies (yay!). Mugrabidi is a sort of soupy dish with tiny pasta, garbanzo beans and chicken. This is a perfect dish for a cold winter night — I promise it will hit the spot and warm you up instantly!

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 8 cups water
– 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
– 1/2 to 1 pound acini de pepe pasta (amount depends on what kind of pasta to bean/chicken/liquid ratio you want)
– salt and pepper to taste

This is a really simple recipe, but the end result is nothing but! First, add the cut chicken pieces to a pot of boiling water. Let the chicken begin to cook and when the water returns to a rolling boil, add the garbanzo beans. Meanwhile, saute the onion until it begins to turn brown then add it to the boiling water. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked through. Finally, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 15 more minutes. At this point the chicken and pasta should be done. Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to serve! (There will be quite a bit of liquid left, the consistency of the dish is supposed to be soupy.)

Mugrabidi

Of all the Arabic dishes I’ve had, I would say this is the least Arabic tasting…if that makes sense. It doesn’t have any of the flavorings and spices found in most Arabic dishes. Nevertheless, this is a great dish and it’s one of my favorites. I love the soupy consistency and the flavor the beans give to the liquid. I think the best way to eat mugrabidi is to get a little of everything in each bite — you really get a great flavor and texture combination that way.

Last year Billy and I hosted our first holiday. I was determined to find the perfect bread/roll recipe since it’s such an important part of every holiday table (especially with a bunch of hungry Italians). I can’t even remember where I found the recipe for these honey rolls, but we won’t ever go another holiday without them.

Here’s what you’ll need: (for three dozen rolls)
– 3 packages active dry yeast
– 2 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
– 1/4 cup honey
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 1 tbsp salt
– 2 eggs, plus 1 egg, separated
– about 8 cups bread flour
– 1/2 tsp cold water

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water. Once all the yeast has dissolved and the mixture has become frothy, about two minutes, add the honey, oil, salt, two eggs, the yolk of the separated egg, and five cups of the bread flour. Mix on low to medium speed until smooth. The dough will still be pretty sticky at this point, but you’re just trying to get everything combined. Begin adding the remainder of the flour, one half-cup at a time, until a stiff dough is formed. You may not end up using the entire eight cups of flour, but just base it on how the dough looks and feels. When you poke it, it should hold the form of your finger but shouldn’t be sticky enough to stick to your fingers.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about six to eight minutes. You’ll know when the dough is ready based on the way it looks and feels — you’ll also notice a difference from the time you took it out of the mixing bowl and the time you started kneading. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a large greased bowl, turning once to cover the entire surface of the dough with grease. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.

Punch the dough down (it’s perfectly normal to picture someone’s head while doing this :)) and begin dividing and forming the dough into desired sizes and shapes — we usually form 2-inch balls since the dough will rise again before baking. Place on a greased baking sheet, one to two inches apart, and cover. Let the divided pieces rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the white of the separated egg with the 1/2 teaspoon of cold water and brush over dough. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet immediately and let cool on a wire rack.

Honey Rolls

Sorry for the horrible picture…but it’s the best I could get in the midst of all the Thanksgiving madness. Regardless, I guarantee these will be some of the best rolls you’ve ever had. They’re perfectly fluffy (yet substantial) on the inside and have a nice firm crust. The hint of honey really makes these rolls stand out in comparison to a regular bread dough, but it definitely doesn’t give them an overwhelmingly sweetness. They’re full of flavor, with or without butter, and they make a great Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. This is most definitely our go-to recipe for rolls, any time of the year (and it should be yours, too!).

There are few things that I will say someone makes better than my mom, but this is one of them. The first time I had the famous chex mix was the Christmas of 2005. I arrived at Billy’s parents house a few days after Christmas, not knowing his family that well, but I quickly learned that my mother-in-law makes the best chex mix ever. She makes it for pretty much every event, and it always disappears (usually eaten by me and my father-in-law). So, when we decided we were having a Halloween party, I knew I had to make it.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 4 cups rice chex cereal
– 4 cups wheat chex cereal
– 2.5 to 3 cups Cheerios
– 1 can (16 oz.) peanuts
– pretzels
– 3 sticks butter, melted
– 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. You’ll want to use a large aluminum pan or a large turkey roasting type pan that will hold everything.

Combine the chex, Cheerios, peanuts and pretzels and mix together well. Next, add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt to the butter, stirring well to combine. Pour the butter mixture over the cereal mixture and stir to coat everything. Bake for one hour at 250 degrees, stirring well every 15 minutes.

"Mother-in-Law" Party Mix

For Halloween, we decided to replace the pretzels (our least favorite ingredient) with festive colored M&M’s — only we added them after the baking was done. I thought adding something sweet to the mix was pretty good, but definitely not the same. Billy didn’t like it. Either way…still the best party mix you’ll ever have. I’m not sure if it’s the butter, the Worcestershire sauce or the garlic salt, but something about this mix is amazing. Eating bagged chex mix isn’t even an option anymore…thanks Linda.