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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Zucchini Lasagna

As I mentioned on Sunday, I helped host my friend Jess' fiesta-themed bridal shower over the weekend.  I was so busy running around decorating, preparing food, organizing games, and helping the bride-to-be open her gifts, that I took zero pictures! I know there are pictures out there somewhere, so hopefully they trickle into my inbox soon.  Let me tell you though - the spread of food we had was amazing! Quesadillas, nachos, tacos, and fajitas with all the fixins one could imagine.  The dessert spread was equally impressive: homemade iced sugar cookies, mini cupcakes, and mini cheesecake bites from the maid of honor; s'mores brownies; and a watermelon cake made by the bride-to-be's stepfather.  Not only did her stepfather play an instrumental role in the food prep for this weekend, but he also made the favors (homemade pepper jellies)! Check out his Facebook page - Mars Honey House.

Ironically, I posted about spinach lasagna when I recapped Jess' New Orleans bachelorette weekend, and now I'm writing about zucchini lasagna! If you have one, use a mandolin to slice the zucchini.  Not only is it easier, but the mandolin also leaves you with evenly sliced vegetable strips.  Gina's post over at Skinny Taste warns several times about the amount of water zucchini retains.  It's really important to thoroughly blot the excess liquid from each zucchini strip to avoid ending up with a soupy mess! Since you're using salt to remove some of the excess liquid from the zucchini, think carefully before adding too much additional salt to the meat sauce.  Because I only have a small grill pan, grilling the zucchini took a long time so this would not be an appropriate weeknight meal.  At ~3 minutes/slice, 8 slices grilling at one time, and ~100 slices, it took about 40 minutes to grill the zucchini.  Yikes! But the effort was worth it because swapping traditional pasta noodles for veggies still resulted in a filling lasagna that didn't leave us feeling weighed down.  Plus, since the dish is loaded with veggies - no side salad required!


Zucchini Lasagna
Adapted from Skinny Taste
Time: 2 hours
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
1 lb. ground turkey
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
28-oz. crushed tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
Cooking spray
15 oz. part-skim ricotta
8 oz. Italian cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesean cheese
1 large egg

Directions
1.  Season turkey with salt and pepper, then brown in a medium sauce pan, about 5-10 minutes.  Once cooked, drain turkey in a colander to remove any fat; set aside.  Add olive oil to the saucepan and saute onion and garlic for 2 minutes.  Return meat to the pan, add crushed tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on medium-low for about 40 minutes, covered. Continue to simmer until sauce is thick; do not add extra water.

2. Meanwhile, using a mandolin if you have one, slice zucchini into 1/8" thick slices.  Lightly salt pieces and set aside for 10 minutes; the salt will take out a lot of the zucchini’s moisture.  After 10 minutes, firmly blot excess moisture with paper towels.

3. Using a grill pan or gas grill, grill zucchini 1-2 minutes per side.  Place grilled zucchini on paper towels to soak up any excess moisture.

4. Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

5. Mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and egg together in a medium bowl. Stir well.

6. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the prepared 9x13 dish, and layer 1/3 of the zucchini to cover.  Cover zucchini with 1/3 the ricotta cheese mixture, lightly sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and cover with 1/3 the remaining meat sauce   Repeat the process (zucchini, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce) two more times, and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top of the final sauce layer.

7. Cover dish with foil; bake 40-45 minutes covered, then uncovered 10-15 minutes.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pepperoni Chicken Parm

KK's original menu plan for last week included oven-baked chimichangas.  I think they're one of his favorites, but the last time I cooked them was in KK's tiny NYC apartment's kitchen, over a year ago! Sadly for him, I had dinner with a few friends at Charrito's on Tuesday, and I didn't want more Mexican food during the week because I was hosting a Fiesta-themed bridal shower on Saturday (more on that next time).  Now I owe KK chimichangas, so I'm sure they'll make their way into the menu rotation in the near future.  Struggling to come up with alternative dinner options for pre-chopped chicken, I suggested pasta/jar sauce/cooked chicken, but KK told me that was too boring and wouldn't be worth blogging about! He found this creative twist on plain pasta and sauce over at Sweet Treats & More; adding pepperoni to the standard dish really did make a difference! Not only was it more interesting than my original suggestion, but it also came together so easily.  And don't think KK's got me fooled... I realize this dish is closely related to another of his favorites - Pizza Spaghetti!


Pepperoni Chicken Parm
Adapted from Sweet Treats & More
Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-4

Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 clove garlic, minced
16-20 slices of pepperoni, quartered
½ tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried basil
½ cups jarred marinara sauce
2 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Italian cheese, shredded

Directions
1. Coat a medium saucepan with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and pepperoni pieces; stir frequently and cook for 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown.

2. Add oregano and basil to the saucepan and stir for 30 seconds, then add marinara sauce.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

3. As the sauce simmers, heat a large non-stick skillet (with a lid) over medium-high heat and coat with olive oil.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, place it in the skillet, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

4. Pour sauce over chicken, and stir to combine; top with Italian cheese.  Cover skillet with lid, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until cheese melts.  Uncover and serve, if desired, with pasta.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Honey Garlic Chicken

Kevin and I finally booked a vacation for 2013!! We tried to plan something in May, but failed to book anything before flight prices skyrocketed.  With a surplus of vacations days on hand and no time off to look forward to, I've been very anxious to lock in a proper vacation.  We booked October flights into Rome and out of Lisbon.  Italy is at the top of KK's travel wishlist (he's never been!!!) and, thanks to the flight prices/routes, an impromptu stopover in Portugal will be an exciting addition to the trip.   It will also be an early one-year wedding anniversary trip.  Now that the flights are booked - send over your Italy and Portugal recommendations so I can start planning trip specifics!

In an effort to make Sunday night's dinner a bit healthier, I opted against frying the chicken.  Instead, I used only a small amount of oil in the skillet as I cooked the chicken.  The end result was less crunchy than it would've been had I fried the chicken, but it was still packed with great flavor.  Be patient and give the sauce a few minutes to thicken up after removing it from the heat.  We didn't wait and the sauce was quite thin on our first serving, but it was nice and thick when we came around for seconds.  KK requested I serve this over rice, but it would also go nicely with noodles.

Honey Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Rock Recipes
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp ground sage
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 
4 eggs
8 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup honey
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

Directions
1. Cut each chicken breast in half, then butterfly each piece into an even thickness, about 1/2 inch each.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, 1 tsp. pepper, ginger, nutmeg, thyme, sage, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

3. Make egg wash by whisking eggs and water together in a separate bowl.

4. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, then into the egg wash, then again into the flour mixture.  Make sure to really press the chicken into the flour mixture so each piece is thoroughly coated.

5. Before cooking the chicken - prepare the honey garlic sauce.  Add 2 Tbsp olive oil and garlic to medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until garlic softens, but is not yet brown.  Add honey, soy sauce, 1/2 tsp black pepper to saucepan and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  If sauce bubbles and starts to rise, remove from heat source for a few minutes until bubbles recede.  Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken further.

6. To cook the chicken - heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Place chicken in heated skillet and cook, 4-5 minutes per side, until no longer pink inside.  If desired, serve over rice. Spoon sauce over chicken to serve.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pasta Pie

Finally - the heatwave is over! The "cooler" weather came just in time for Sunday's Color Me Rad run at Metlife Stadium.  The 5K wasn't a timed run, so it was all about fun and our group of 17 was able to stay together the entire time.  Decked out in white and neon, Team "Same Same Name Name" (named after our coordinators Lindsey and Lindsey) ran/skipped/pranced/rolled/walked through stations shooting plumes of colored corn starch.  Visibility was low at times, but we were all smiles at the finish line! We donned clean shirts afterwards, but still sported a somewhat tie-dyed look as we enjoyed a much-deserved breakfast at Coach House Diner.  Thankfully, the color came off easily in the shower - otherwise it would've made for some interesting Monday morning conversation with my coworkers!


In preparation for the run, KK and I found ourselves carb-loading again.  To mix things up, KK found this pasta pie recipe that I saved back in 2009.  Although pie assembly was a bit tedious, I promise you the effort pays off! The pasta stuck together perfectly in pie form, and the edges were nice and crispy.  At first, I forgot to toss the pasta in Parmesan cheese, and the pasta was very slippery and difficult to stand up.  Luckily, KK pointed out the missing ingredient, and then working with the pasta became much more manageable.  When it comes time to stuffing the upright pasta with meat sauce, you need to get the ground turkey into the pasta pieces, so really break the turkey into the smallest pieces possible when you cook it.  After stuffing the pasta, cover the top with a thin layer of sauce, but save the rest for serving.  This dinner will definitely be repeated, but next time I'll serve it with some extra marinara sauce on the side.


Pasta Pie
Adapted from Noble Pig
Time: 1 hour
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
1 lb. Rigatoni
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste
28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Cooking spray
1 cup shredded Italian cheese

Directions
1. Cook pasta until slightly underdone, about 2 minutes less than the recommended cook time.  Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water.  Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add ground turkey to skillet.  Cook, stirring occasionally until browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning; cook 2 additional minutes.

3. Add crushed tomatoes to the skillet; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

5. Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese. Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end.  Cover pasta with meat sauce, pushing the sauce into each piece of pasta.  Excess sauce can be used when serving.

6. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle cheese on top; bake another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the pie, then release the edges of the springform.  Cut into wedges and serve with the remaining meat sauce.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Penne With Spinach and Cream Sauce

Yesterday, we celebrated my friend Rach's birthday with a round of pub golf (more on that in a bit).  KK, my friend Jenn, and I wanted to ensure we had a hearty meal before the big outing.  Since we were short on time, I originally suggested pasta and plain jar sauce, but KK wasn't having it! The blog's been too quiet recently and he wasn't going to pass up an opportunity for me to cook! After inhaling two bowls each, the three of us donned our golf attire, grabbed a cab, and met the rest of our golfing crew at Pilsner Haus & Biergarten for hole # 1.  This is our third year golfing around Hoboken for Rach's birthday, and I'm starting to think we're getting a little old for such shenanigans, but we still had a great time! I should pause here to explain the rules of pub golf: 9 holes = 9 different drinks and 9 different bars.  All players must be in golf attire, otherwise penalty strokes are assigned.  For more on pub golf, check out the official Pub Golf Wikipedia page.

So here's where we ended up:

  1. Pilsner Haus & Biergarten: 0.5L of beer
  2. Willow Billiard Club: 1 shot *CLOSED* hole to be rescheduled
  3. McMahon's Brownstone Ale House: Half price bottle of beer.  We also enjoyed a little photo hunt which is my absolute favorite bar game.
  4. 10th & Willow: Mixed drink
  5. Turtle Club: Can of Tecate or PBR.  I struggled here.
  6. Rogo's: Touchdown or Jager bomb
  7. The Clinton Social: Mixed drink plus the shot from hole #2
  8. Three A's: We were supposed to have a pint of cider on tap, but they were closing up shop when we arrived.  After a little convincing, the bartender let us in for a quick shot!
  9. The Stewed Cow: Rach's choice - a surprisingly delicious bottle of Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear Cider.

True to the instructions, this meal took just about 30 minutes to prepare.  It was incredibly low-maintenance, and cooking the pasta was the longest part of the process.  I used a jar of Classico Creamy Spinach & Parmesan.  I'm just now noticing that the jar is a limited edition/ Seasonal Selection, so it looks like I'll have to wait until fall/winter to find it again! I learned yesterday that Jenn shares my love for red peppers! Why are they so much better (and regrettably more expensive) than green peppers? And why, Jenn asked, are yellow peppers hardly ever used? Good question! Regardless - the addition of pepper, onions, and spinach really knocked my jar sauce dinner idea out of the park.  As per usual, I topped my servings with crushed red pepper.  Enjoy!

Penne With Spinach and Cream Sauce

Adapted from The Other Side of Fifty
Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

8 oz. Penne pasta
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
4 cups fresh baby spinach
24 oz. jar tomato cream sauce
1 cup shredded Italian cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground turkey with the onions, red pepper and garlic, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the spinach and stir until it is wilted.


3. Add jar sauce to the skillet and stir until combined.  Cover skillet and simmer sauce 5 minutes.


4. Uncover skillet; add Italian cheese and Parmesan and stir until cheese melts. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tequila Lime Chicken

Finishing up my weekend recap (even though it’s already Thursday!) – KK and I went to our friends’ baby shower/BBQ/pool party on Saturday.  The weather looked spotty during our drive down to the Highlands, but it turned out to be a beautiful day! We spend the majority of the afternoon enjoying the panoramic views of the Navesink River and the Atlantic Ocean.  After zipping back to Hoboken, I joined 9 others for a Girls’ Night Out.  We had dinner at CafĂ© Michelina, stopped in S. Sullivans (or Stinkys, as we called it in college!), and then made our way to City Bistro.  We enjoyed the roof deck for a while, but eventually migrated our way downstairs where we danced until the bar closed at 3AM!

I woke up still tired on Sunday morning, but mustered up enough energy to marinate the chicken.  Using my hand blender (one of my favorite bridal shower gifts), the instructions were straightforward and cleanup was a breeze.  Several hours later, when it was time to prepare dinner, it took more time to prepare the Mexican Rice side dish than it did to cook the chicken.  I cannot recall cooking with liquor in the past – definitely wine, but not liquor – but I was pleasantly surprised with the result.  Combining lime, garlic, and tequila created a deliciously tangy flavor! The chicken and Mexican rice paired well with BirdsEye Lightly Seasoned Southwest Corn.  Thankfully, this entire meal is very low-maintenance.  It doesn’t require much hands-on time, there’s no oven work, and you’re only standing over the hot stove while the chicken cooks! The short cook time is especially perfect for this time of year when the last thing I want to do is stand in a hot kitchen for long! 




Tequila Lime Chicken

Adapted from Plain Chicken
Time: 15 minutes + several hours for marination
Serves: 2

Ingredients

6 Tbsp lime juice
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 tsp Kosher Salt
½ cups tequila
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb chicken breasts
Shredded Mexican cheese, for topping

Directions

1. Place lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, salt, and tequila in a food processor or blender; pulse until combined.  Turn off mixer, slowly pour olive oil into the mixer, and blend until combined.

2. Butterfly chicken breasts, flatten all pieces to an even thickness.  Place chicken in a quart- or gallon-size plastic bag and cover with marinade.  Marinate for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.


3. When ready to cook, heat a large nonstick skillet.  Remove chicken from bag and place it in the skillet.  Cook until done, about 5 minutes each side.  Plate cooked chicken and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Allow cheese to melt before serving.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mexican Rice

Our busy summer continues! I owed my friend Jenn a belated birthday dinner, so we went to Yama Sushi on Tuesday in Union Square.  We also went for my first 16 Handles frozen yogurt experience.  Using just two words to describe it, I'd say it is both "delicious" and "dangerous."  It's a self-serve place, so it's very easy to go overboard in terms of portion size.  I tried to exercise some level of self-control, but still ended up with a mixture of graham cracker and cookies 'n' cream frozen yogurt topped with cookie dough pieces, gummy bears, rainbow sprinkles, and a few animal crackers.  I dug in too quickly and forgot to take a picture.  Whoops!

KK and I took advantage of Hoboken's free summer events on Wednesday and Thursday.  First, we saw Silver Linings Playbook at Hoboken's Movie Under The Stars on Wednesday.  It was a little breezy on the pier, so the screen nearly blew over a few times, but the film was excellent, and it most certainly lived up to its 7.9 IMDB rating.  On Thursday, we went to Hoboken's Summer Bash at Sinatra Park.  The Summer Bash has live music all night, as well as free food, ice cream, and beer.  Because everything is free, the party attracts what my friend Rachael calls "Hoboken's finest."  Nevertheless, we still enjoyed the free entertainment and beer, the NYC skyline views, and cool breezes off the Hudson River with our friends.

I'll save the rest of my weekend update for another post because this week is going to be another hectic one!

This Mexican rice is quickly becoming an Apartment 3D favorite.  My May Foodie Penpal, Hayley, shared the recipe with me, but also included her expert cooking notes.  The first time KK and I tested this recipe, we used Rotel because we did not have a jalapeno.  This time around, we shopped in advance for the pepper, but also used chipotle-flavored diced tomatoes.  They were an excellent addition, and added a fantastic kick to the side dish.  Any suggestions for my next attempt?

Source: All Recipes

Mexican Rice
Adapted from All Recipes
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients
1 cup instant long grain white rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. In a medium skillet with a lid, cook rice in oil over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add chicken broth to the skillet.  Stir and bring to a boil.  

3. Stir in jalapeno, diced tomatoes, bouillon cube, onion powder, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Kabobs with Avocado Cream Sauce

After celebrating the 4th in Jersey, KK and I headed to Delaware to visit his brother, sister-in-law.  My sister-in-law's brother and his wife also drove in from DC.  My sister-in-law is 7 months pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl!), so the plan was to help out around the house on Friday and Sunday.  We assembled the cribs, painted the nursery, organized baby clothes, and moved furniture to make room for bassinets.

On Saturday, we had an action-packed day.  Our first stop was Dogfish Head Brewery, and we each selected four free samples to try.  My favorite was Sah'tea, while KK preferred Theobroma.  Lunch was a momentous occasion - I had my first-ever Taco Bell experience! I played it safe with a chicken quesadilla, and it was surprisingly better than I thought it would be.  Since it's KK's favorite fast food chain, I imagine we'll stop at a Taco Bell the next time we're on a road trip.  After lunch, we made a quick stop at the Tanger Outlets before heading to Rehoboth Beach.  The boys tossed around a Frisbee while the girls read and enjoyed the sun.  We finished the day with dinner and more beer at the Dogfish Head Restaurant.  If you're ever in the Rehoboth area, I strongly recommend ordering The Dogpile as an appetizer and pairing it with a sampler of five beers of your choice! Some of the beers offered in the restaurant are not even offered at the brewery.

Inspired by the kabobs (or is it kebabs? Wikipedia says they're the same!) we had at the 4th of July BBQ, KK put these Chipotle Chicken Kabobs on this week's menu.  KK marinated the chicken for me about 90 minutes before I started cooking.  Notes from the original recipe suggest marinating for an hour max to ensure the chicken is not over-tenderized by the citrus, but I had no complaints with the longer marination time.  If you're using a grill pan, make sure to measure the kabob sticks against the pan before soaking them and skewering the chicken.  I might have made that minor mistake - whoops!  The original recipe called for 2 lbs. of chicken, but we halved it (represented below) and made 7 small skewers.  We made the full amount of avocado cream sauce, and were able to use the sauce liberally and still have leftovers that KK will gladly enjoy with lunch tomorrow! The sauce was somewhat sweet and, in my opinion, lacked a little kick.  I added some extra pepper and a few dashes of chili powder, but would up the spices even more next time with additional chili powder, garlic, or even a chopped green chili.  I served the kabobs with Chicken Rice-A-Roni and a side salad.

Chipotle Chicken Kabobs with Avocado Cream Sauce
Adapted from Annie's Eats
Time: 1 hour for marination + 25 minutes
Serves: 2

Chicken Ingredients
1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 Tbsp lime juice
¼ cup canola oil
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
½ Tbsp brown sugar
½ chipotle in adobo, seeded and minced

Avocado Cream Sauce Ingredients
1 avocado, split and pitted
½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Place chicken in a Ziploc bag.  Add lime juice, oil, spices, garlic, brown sugar, and chipotle to the bag.  Squish bag to ensure all marinade ingredients combine thoroughly.  Refrigerate, and let marinate for 1 hour.  After 30 minutes, soak wooden skewers to prevent them from burning. 

2. Once chicken is marinated, oil the grates of a grill or grill pan and heat to medium-high.  Loosely thread chicken pieces onto skewers for grilling.  Dispose of the excess marinade.

3. Place the kabobs on the grill and cook, turning 2-3 times, until all sides are slightly browned.  The internal temperature should register 160˚ F on a meat thermometer.  Remove to a plate and let rest 5-10 minutes.

4. While the chicken is resting, make the sauce.  Combine avocado, yogurt, garlic and lime juice in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth; season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve alongside the kabobs for dipping.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Firecracker Cookies

Happy 4th of July! It's been another crazy week, with repeat recipes and dining at restaurants, so the blog's been a bit quiet.  After returning home from the beach, KK and I had back-to-back-to-back repeat recipes for dinner - Chicken Enchilada SkilletCheesy Chili Mac, and Creamy Italian Chicken Skillet.  These recipes set KK up for leftovers on Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Tuesday, I took my good friend Karen out to dinner for her (belated) birthday.  We opted for an old favorite - Dos Caminos.  Their guacamole, trio of salsas, prickly pear margaritas, and red sangria are all not to be missed!  Wednesday was action packed as well.  I left work a little early, met my friend Jess for a quick drink at Fig & Olive before her bridal gown fitting at Pronovias.  Jess and I bought our wedding dresses on the same day, despite the fact that her wedding is a year after mine, so it'd been awhile since she last saw her gown.  Luckily, she fell in love with the dress all over again and she looked stunning!! After the fitting, we went to Teak for another friend's birthday happy hour.

The fun-filled weekend did not stop last night.  Today we're BBQing and watching the Macy's Fireworks from Weehawken.  I debated between making a festive cake or cookies for the party, but ultimately decided on cookies because they're easier to manage at a BBQ.  Also, I made a variation of these cookies in December for New Year's Eve, so I already knew they'd be a hit! Make sure you use 18.25 ounces of cake mix.  I almost used a 15.25 ounce box, and then the measurements and consistency would've been all wrong.  I went a little light on the sprinkles this time because I did not have enough patriotic colored sprinkles.  If you use rainbow colored sprinkles or have an abundance of red, white, and blue sprinkles, don't hold back! My cookies baked for 9 minutes, but I mistakenly set my oven to 325 degrees.  Make sure to taste test a cookie because these treats are sure to disappear as soon as they're served!

Firecracker Cookies
Adapted from Cookin' Cowgirl
Makes 27-32 cookies

Ingredients
18.25 oz. box french vanilla cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup red sprinkles
1/2 cup blue sprinkles

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and baking powder.  In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla.  Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture; stir to combine.

3. Fold in the sprinkles.  Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet or silicone baking mat.

4. Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to wire cooling rack.  Allow cookies to cool completely before serving or storing.  Cookies will flatten as they cool.
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