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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tomato Pomegranate Soup

I was having a craving for soup AND pasta, so I decided to rummage around my pantry and fridge and see what I could come up with.  The result was pretty good and passed the child taste test, which is a mark of a truly good recipe :)

I liked this soup because of the unique sour taste of the pomegranate molasses and pasta.  Best of all, prep time is only 5 minutes and it comes together very fast! Feel free to substitute another small pasta in place of the penne, in fact I think next time I make it I will use elbow macaroni because the penne was a bit long and I cut them in half in my bowl.

Serves 4

-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 small white onion, chopped into thin strips
-1 large Italian squash, diced into small cubes
-1 cup small pasta (penne or elbow)
-1 can tomato paste
-6 cups broth (or 1 bouillon cube and water)
-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
-salt to taste
-1/4 cup diced fresh cilantro

To make
-Heat olive oil on high heat in a pot and saute onions until semi soft, about 3-5 minutes.
-Add the water, pomegranate molasses, salt and tomato paste and stir until blended.
-When the mixture boils, add the pasta and squash. Cover and let soup simmer for 10-15 minutes or until pasta is cooked. If the pasta absorbs too much water, add a little more water and tomato paste.
-Stir in diced cilantro and enjoy :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cookies and Cream Brownies

I made these recently for a Eid party I attended, and it got rave reviews. In fact, my husband's nephew said these are "brownies from heaven" and "I'm abdicating my throne as brownie king." This was actually a problematic comment because he makes the BEST brownies but decided to hand over the torch to me, so his mother asked me to post this recipe so he can make it on his own.

These are rich and fudgy, with a smooth frosting and crispy cookies. Don't be surprised if the plate is licked clean :) Since the base is a brownie mix, it takes all of 5 minutes to whip these together and throw in the oven!

-1 brownie mix, prepared as directed on box (9x13 pan size)
-4 cups crushed oreos (about 1/2 of a package)
-1/2 tub vanilla frosting (about 1 cup)
-1/2 tub chocolate frosting (about 1 cup)

To make
-Prepare brownie mix as directed on package, and stir in 2 cups crushed oreos.  Bake as directed (minimum baking time) and remove from oven to cool.
-Spread chocolate frosting evenly over cooled brownies. Spread vanilla frosting and sprinkle remaining 2 cups crushed oreos.
-Cut into 24 squares and serve.
-Enjoy :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sticky Balsamic Chicken

This is one of Giada's recipes, but be warned: It tastes NOTHING like Italian. Having said that, it is "smack your lips and lick you fingers" GOOOOD! Everyone that tried it thought it was something Asian, and it does taste that way...

Giada makes this with chicken drummettes, but I'm not a fan of skin or bones so I replaced the drummettes with chicken thighs and it worked out so much better. I also added fresh basil on top, and it went great with the balsamic glaze.

 The final look is just beautiful with the glistening sauce and the sesame seeds, and the nice green from the basil.

Serves 6


-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
-1/2 cup honey
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-5 sprigs of rosemary
-5 garlic cloves, cut in half

-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
-1/2 cup fresh minced basil

To make
-Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large resealable bag. Shake until the honey and brown sugar are incorporated into the sauce. Add the chicken thighs, seal the bag and squeeze contents around until the chicken is well coated. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to marinade.
-Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet (13x18 inch) with foil. Remove chicken from the bag, lay on the foiled sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, until chicken the sauce has caramelized on the chicken.
-Meanwhile, pour the marinade from the resealable bag into a small saucepan and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
-Remove the cooked chicken from the oven and brush the sauce onto the chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and basil.
-Enjoy :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocoflan Cake

This looks very nice on a serving platter. I was a bit hesitant the whole time I was making it, because this method of baking was a bit new to me, but if you follow the directions (as you should in baking, because it is all about the precision of the method) then you will be just fine. And extremely impressed with the results. The cake is SO moist and the flan has a smooth consistency that almost makes it like a cheesecake.

This is one of those desserts that when you present to your guests they won't be able to help but exclaim "WOOOW!!!"  Feel free to soak up the praise as you smile to yourself because you know how simple it was to prepare :)

This cake is kind of like doing a science project because as the mixtures bake, the flan and cake mix will switch places...meaning, when you layer the cake in the pan, the cake mixture goes first and then the flan is laddled on top. After it finishes baking (because of the water bath pulling the denser mixture to the bottom) the flan and cake will switch and the flan will end up on the bottom and the cake will be on top.

Interestingly, this dessert is found both in Hispanic and Middle Eastern cultures, so take your pick for who you'd like to give credit for it!

Makes 16 servings

-1/2 cup of caramel sauce

-chocolate cake mix
-3 eggs
-1 cup water
-1/3 cup oil
-1/2 cup sour cream 

-1 can evaporated milk
-8 ounces cream cheese, softenend
-1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
-4 eggs

-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
-Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour the caramel sauce on the bottom of the pan.
--In a bowl, mix the cake mix, water, 3 eggs, oil and sour cream until well blended.
-In a blender, combine the cream cheese, 4 eggs, evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
-Pour the cake mix on top of the caramel sauce into the bundt pan. Carefully laddle the milk and egg mixture on top. Spray a piece of foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover the bundt pan. This is important to to do so the cake mix and flan do not stick to the foil as they bake.
-Fill a round cake pan with water and place the bundt pan into the water mixture. This creates a water bath to help the cake and flan bake properly. The water must come up about halfway to the bundt pan.
-Bake the cake in the water bath for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Remove when a fork comes out clean from the center.
-Cool the cake and then place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Remove from fridge and flip onto a serving dish.
-Enjoy :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mushroom Chicken and Rice

The unique blend of spices are what make this dish. It's a hearty rice mixture that comes together in one pot, so clean up is a breeze! The toasted nuts on top add a delightful crunch, they're my favorite part :)

-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1 white onion, diced into small cubes
-2 cups fresh mushrooms, diced
-2 cups cooked chicken (shredded or cubed chicken breast)
-1 1/2 cups calrose rice (soaked in water for 2 hours)
-2 cups chicken broth
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 heaping tablespoon ground cardamom
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 teaspoon ground coriander

-1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

To make
-Heat olive oil in a pot on high heat and cook onions until they are browned. Add mushrooms, ground cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and coriander and cook an additional few minutes.
-Drain rice in a colander and wash with cold water to remove the starches. Add to the pot and saute for several minutes until half cooked.  Add cooked chicken and chicken broth, reduce heat to low, place lid on pot and cook for 15-20 minutes (I usually cook for 18).
-Uncover and mix rice lightly, then cover and let sit for another 15 minutes.
-To serve, place rice on platter and sprinkle nuts on top. Serve with plain yogurt.
-Enjoy :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upside Down Pineapple Cakes

I've been wanting to make mini upside down pineapple cakes for a while, but I haven't been able to find the mini bundt pan anywhere! Luckily, a dear friend found and bought it for me as a gift, and this was the first recipe I wanted to try out.

Typical pineapple cakes don't have the poppy seed and coconut, but you guys know me...I can't stick to traditional recipes :)  I love the way this turned out because they're SO cute and pretty to serve, plus they're incredibly moist and flavorful.

If you don't have the 12 mini bundt pan, you can use a 9x13 inch cake pan or the 6 serving 1-cup bundt pan.

Makes 24 mini bundt cakes or 1 large cake.

-20 ounce can chopped pinapple (drain and reserve juice)
-2 tablespoons butter
-1/2 cup brown sugar

-18.25 ounce yellow cake mix
-1 1/4 cup pineapple juice (from the reserved juice)
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-3 eggs
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla)
-1/4 cup poppy seeds
-1/2 cup shredded coconut

To make:
-Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
-Puree the drained pineapple in a food processor until finely chopped. Combine with butter and brown sugar and cook on medium heat for about ten minutes until the mixture is slightly browned. Spread about 1 tablespoon of pineapple mixture into the bottom of each bundt pan.
-Combine the cake ingredients and blend with a mixer for 2 minutes. Divide evenly among the bundt pans.
-Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fork comes out clean. Allow to cool for 30 minutes then lay a piece of parchment paper on top of the pan and flip onto a large sheet pan. Leave the pan flipped over for 1 hour before removing to insure that the pineapple topping comes off the pan.
-Enjoy :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

I've been baking a lot of desserts lately, and these bars still reign up there as one of the best things I make. Consider yourselves lucky to get this recipe; its easy and delicious, which makes it super special :)

These cookie bars are LOADED with goodness. Caramel, coconut, chocolate chips, nuts......mmmmmmmm!  They are rich and gooey, and a little bit goes a long way, but since they have nuts they are semi-healthy ;) Customizing options are limitless, I like to vary the types of chocolate chips I add, frequently using peanut butter chips or toffee bits. Cover these well and they will stay fresh for about a week.

Makes 24 squares

-3 cups raw cookie dough (make your own or use store bought refrigerated)
-1 1/2 cups quick-cook oats
-dash of salt
-5 tablespoons flour
-2/3 cup caramel sauce
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-3/4 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
-1 1/2 cups TOTAL chocolate chips (I use a variety of milk chocolate, white chocolate and peanut butter chips)
-1 cup shredded coconut

To make:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, break up cookie dough. Add oats and salt, mixing until well blended. Reserve 1/2 cup of the mixture and press the rest into a 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake 10-12 minutes, until dough puffs up and appears dry.
-In a small bowl, combine flour, caramel sauce and vanilla. Stir until mixture is combined.
-Remove pan from oven and sprinkle walnuts, chocolate chips and shredded coconut.
-Drizzle caramel mixture evenly over the toppings, then crumble reserved cookie dough.
-Bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
-Remove from oven and cool completely.
-Cut into squares and enjoy :)

*Note: This will take its shape after cooling completely, otherwise it will appear to be too soft. Don't over bake otherwise it will harden.

I'd love to connect with you! Like SavvyChef on facebook and follow Savvy_Chef on instagram. Tag Savvychef in your creations  :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thai Shrimp Curry

Just thinking of this recipe makes me hungry! It's so satisfying because of the creamy coconut milk and the earthy flavor of the curry spices. If using shrimp, this only takes about 10-15 minutes to cook up!

I made this up just thinking of what would taste good and combining my version of several different curries from various Thai restaurants. I like to make this with chicken too. Leftovers taste REALLY yummy because the flavors set in the sauce longer.

Serves 4.

-1 tablespoon sesame oil
-1 pound medium shrimp (peeled and de-veined, you can use frozen but make sure to defrost)
-1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and pureed in food processor
-3 garlic cloves, peeled and pureed in food processor
-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 cup green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
-1 red pepper, julienned
-1 can coconut milk (I used the light version)
-1 tablespoon chunky peanut butter
-salt to taste
-8 ounce can bamboo shoots
-1/2 cup diced cilantro
-1/4 cup diced basil

-Heat sesame oil in large pot and add shrimp, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until shrimp is cooked (if using pre-cooked frozen shrimp, just stir for a minute). Remove shrimp from heat into a serving dish.
-Add green onions and red bell pepper to the pot and saute until cooked, stirring frequently.
-Stir in coconut milk, peanut butter and bamboo shoots. Simmer sauce for a few minutes, then add shrimp back into the pot. Season with salt to taste.
-Prior to serving, stir in cilantro and basil, then serve with white rice.
-Enjoy :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Banana Nut Bread

Sooo....some of you may remember when I claimed this was the BEST banana bread recipe ever and to not bother trying another one...well, I've changed my mind :) That one is definitely good, but THIS is in another league! I played around a bit with the old recipe and came up with an improved version. Less oil and sugar, all banana and more of the moistness and texture that I loved from the first recipe.

Makes 16 servings.

-2 eggs
-1/2 cup of sugar
-1/3 cup of oil
-4 medium sized bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
-2 teaspoons pumpkin butter (found in the jam section)
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

-1 2/3 cup flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice (or cinnamon)
-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 cup walnuts

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spread walnuts on a baking sheet. Toast for 8-10 minutes, then chop roughly.
-Whisk sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, for about 5 minutes. Drizzle in oil as you continue whisking. Add bananas, pumpkin butter and vanilla.
-In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, pumpkin spice and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Stir just until combined, do not overmix. 
-Spray a bundt pan OR 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and spread toasted walnuts onto the bottom of the bundt pan. Pour the batter over the walnuts. Bake for 44-50 minutes for bundt pan (baking time will be around 30-35 minutes for 2 loaf pans) or until center of cake is set.
-Slice and serve!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

I just finished making these and HAD to share them with you guys right away! They're that good...and simple! I spent the better half of the morning searching for oatmeal cookies, but everything called for 1 stick+ of butter, and thats just not my style. I finally found a low fat oatmeal cookie recipe and then discovered that I only had 1/2 cup of oats :-/

So to improvise and satisfy my oatmeal cookie craving, I came up with these :) Feel free to add your own mix-ins. Macadamia nuts would go great in these cookies...

Makes 26 cookies

-1 box yellow cake mix
-1/2-2/3 cup of oats
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup of vegetable oil
-1/2 cup of shredded coconut (go for the unsweetened)
-1/2 cup of white chocolate chips
-1/2 cup of dried cranberries (I used orange flavored)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
-Mix cake mix, oats, eggs and oil until combined. Add coconut, chocolate chips and cranberries.
-Scoop into balls using a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon. Arrange 13 cookies per sheet and bake 8-11 minutes.
-Cool and enjoy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Egg-less Tiramisu

I've got nothing against eggs (in fact, I love eating them), but something about using half a carton of raw eggs in a dessert is really grossing me out. Which was a big issue when I started craving tiramisu. My friend Lubna makes an AMAZING homemade tiramisu, so we colaborated on substitutions for the egg. After a lot of research we decided that replacing the eggs with vanilla pudding should achieve the same custard-like texture as the eggs. I gave it a try and was quite pleased with the results!

Just to clarify, this is not completely egg free, since the lady fingers have eggs. The recipe is free of RAW eggs.

Serves 6.

-1 package lady fingers (you will need 28 total)
-1 1/2 cups strongly brewed coffee, cooled and mixed with 2 tablespoons sugar (I used hazelnut flavored, and the subtle taste really added depth to the tiramisu).
-1 tablespoon coco powder (for garnish)

Mascarpone Cream Filling
--3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
-4 ounces mascarpone cheese (1/2 of the 8 ounce package, about 1/2 a cup)
-3/4 cup vanilla pudding
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-Place heavy whipping cream in a bowl and freeze for 5 minutes. Remove from freezer and whisk with an electric mixer for a few minutes until the cream forms stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, mix together mascarpone cheese, pudding and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the whipped cream.
-Soak each lady finger in coffee and place in an 8x8 inch baking dish. Place 7 lady finger side by side in two rows on the bottom layer of the baking dish. Spoon half of the mascarpone filling over the lady fingers. Repeat the soaking process of the remaining lady fingers and arrange a second layer over the mascarpone cream. Spread the  rest of the mascarpone cream and sprinkle with coco powder. 
-Cover and refrigerate over night. Because of the coffee and cream, the longer this soaks the better it will taste.
-Enjoy and leave a comment :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Caprese and Meatball Orecchiette Pasta

The name of this pasta is SO difficult to pronounce: "oh-reck-ee-et-tay." It means "little ears" in Italian, which I thought was cute :)  I was intrigued to make it because everything that goes into it is small and round, which sounded so adorable. I didn't realize that I would set out on a year long search in order to find this pasta. Funny how when I didn't have an interest in using it, I always saw it at the markets, but when I sought it out, suddenly it disappeared. If it is difficult to locate where you live, please be more mature than I was and replace it for pasta shells or bow-tie pasta :)

I love anything well seasoned and with plenty of sauce, two things this recipe does not include. However, it is --much to my surprise-- still very tasty because of the freshness of the ingredients and the enjoyable flavors of the fresh mozzarella and basil. It would have been a shame to disguise their flavor with a sauce. The meatballs provide a lot of flavor, so take care to season them well. The chicken broth is also well seasoned and adds a bit of salt, so be careful not to over salt this.

This is loosely based on a Giada recipe and it serves 4 adults.

-1 1/2cups boccini, halved (mini sized fresh mozzarella balls)
-I 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (I used half yellow and half red tomatoes)
-1 pound orecchiette pasta (or shell shaped pasta)
-1 pound meatballs (ready or homemade)
-2 cups chicken broth
-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
-3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
-1/2 cup fresh parmesan shavings

-Boil the pasta according to package instructions, al dente.
-Prepare the meatballs. A tip for cooking these is to bake them in the oven instead of in batches over the stove. Although I haven't included these ingredients above, I make my meatballs using 1 pound ground beef and throw random things in like marinara sauce, pesto and crushed red pepper.
-Simmer the cooked meatballs with the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and chicken broth for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to half.
-Toss the meatballs, tomatoes and sauce with the pasta, fresh mozzarella and basil. Serve hot with parmesan shavings on top.
-Enjoy and leave a comment :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Greek Pizza

This is a total copy-cat recipe from the California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) restaurant. It really wasn't too hard to copy because all the ingredients were layered in plain sight to be seen...and eaten. Using fresh vegetables and baking it to the right temperature (cooked crust but not soggy cooked cucumbers) is what makes this pizza fresh and crispy. Imagine eating a yummy Greek salad on a warm crust...and that's the pizza!

I've made this several times. In the pictures I'm posting, it was the first try and I made it (as the restaurant does, with chicken) and I layered the yogurt sauce like a traditional sauce for pizza: after the crust and before the pizza. When it cooked, I wasn't too happy with the warm yogurt, so the next time I made it I drizzled the sauce on top after the pizza was cooked and it tasted more like CPK's.  I also made it without chicken (you can add avocado instead) and I personally liked it more that way...

This is really easy to make because the crust is the refrigerated kind and all that its left is some chopping of veggies!

Easily serves 6.

-1 pizza crust
-1 cup mozerella cheese
-1 large tomato (or 2 medium ones) chopped
-3 Persian cucumbers, chopped
-1/2 red onion, finely chopped
-1 cup kalamata olives, chopped
-1/2 cup pepperchinis, rinsed
-1 cup feta cheese
-1 cup cooked and cubed chicken breast pieces (optional)
-1 cup diced avocado (optional)

-1 1/2 cups yogurt
-1 tablespoon dried oregano
-1 tablespoon dried dill
-salt to taste
-2 cups cilantro and chive yogurt dip from Trader Joes

*Optional: Drizzle buffalo sauce for a spicy kick

-Bake the pizza crust for 8-13 minutes.
-Remove from oven and spread half the sauce. Sprinkle with cheese, layer all other ingredients and return to oven for 5 minutes.
-Remove from oven and drizzle remaining sauce over the pizza and serve.  Drizzle buffalo sauceThis tastes good hot or cold.
-Enjoy and leave a comment :)

Monday, March 22, 2010


Holy mole, its time for some guacamole! :) There are a million and one ways to make an avocado dip, and most of them are good. I've found that there are a couple key ingredients that need to be part of the mix for a superb guacamole.

1. Ripe, GREEN avocados. If the avocado isn't ripe enough, it won't mash easily and you won't have a smooth consistency. Ripe avocados are soft to the touch.
2. Garlic or onions (red or green). These ingredients add a spice to the guacamole and make it so tasty.
3. The use of cilantro. If its in there, the dip is going to taste better. Guaranteed!

Serves 1 or 2.

-1 large avocado, peeled and mashed.
-1 green onion, finely chopped (green and white tips)
-2 tablespoons minced cilantro
-juice from 1/2 squeezed lemon
-salt and pepper to taste

-Mix all the ingredients together and serve with tortilla chips!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peanut Butter and Fig Jam Crackers

This is a really yummy snack. Its kind of a more presentable version of a pb&j sandwich. The fig jam is what adds the classy touch. I'm sure it will taste good with other jams, but seek out the real stuff!

It takes all of 30 seconds to make, with no heating or cooking required. My daughter LOVES when I make this and we enjoy it as a quick snack or dessert. Its also great to serve as an impromptu appetizer for guests.

Makes 2 crackers

-1 stick graham cracker (4 squares connected), broken in half
-1 teaspoon peanut butter (I like using the chunky kind for texture)
-1 teaspoon fig jam (any other flavor works)
-optional: top with flax or chia seeds for an added boost of protein and nutrition

-Spread peanut butter and then fig jam onto graham cracker.