Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Treats: Gingerbread Men, Christmas Kisses Thumbprint cookies, Magic Bars, Peppermint Bark, No-Bake Chocolate Bon-Bons

What's in your Christmas cookie tin?  In previous years, I usually just do gingerbread mean, but this year I was really in the holiday spirit and baked gingerbread cookies, Christmas Kisses thumbprint cookies, magic bars, peppermint bark, and no-bake chocolate bon-bons.  I gifted these to the techs, receptions, and vets at my work and my family.  Each of these recipes are relatively easy and simple, and I even used a mix to cut down on work for the thumbprint cookies.  The peppermint bark especially, was very tasty to test-try.  The peppermint bark rivals the famous William-Sonoma ones. The gingerbread men are my favorite recipe for producing perfectly crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside gingerbread men.   The no-bake 5 ingredient bon-bons are great because they use almond butter instead of peanut butter which means my peanut-allergic-self can make them without fear that my fingers will swell up!

Gingerbread man recipe from Food Network Kitchen, Christmas Kisses Thrumbprint Cookie inspired from a Betty Crocker commercial, magic bars recipe that I've been making for a while, peppermint bark recipe from fellow AFBA blogger Serena Lissy, no-bake chocolate bon-bons from Food52

Perfect Gingerbread Cookies

  • 3&1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbs. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. all spice
  • 6 tbs. butter, melted
  • 1 tbs. vegetable shortening, melted
  • 2/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. molasses
  • 1 egg
  • royal icing (I buy pre-made, but you can see the original recipe for how to make your own)


  1. Sift together flour, slat, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice in a bowl.
  2. In a separate, large bowl, mix butter, shortening, brown sugar, molasses and beat in egg.
  3. Mix in flour in two additions.
  4. Divide dough in half, shape into discs, and refrigerate in plastic wrap for at least 2 hours.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out 1 disc of dough to 1/4", leaving the second disc in the refrigerator.  Cut out shapes using cookie cutter.  Collect scraps and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before re-rolling.  Do the same with second disc of dough.
  6. Bake on parchment lined cookies sheet at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on wire rack, then decorate with royal icing

Christmas Kisses Thumbprint cookies

  • 1 package Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • butter and egg according to package directions
  • green and red sugar sprinkles
  • Hershey's Kisses and Hugs (or Candy Cane Mint flavor), wrapper removed

  1. Mix Betty Crocker sugar cookies according to package directions.  Roll into 1" dough balls.  Roll each ball into red, green, or combo sugar sprinkles.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  2. Before cookies have cooled, push one Kiss or Hug into center of cookie.  Cool completely on a wire rack
Magic Bars

  • 2 sleeves of graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1 14 oz. can of condensed milk
  • 8 oz (or about half bag) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 8 oz (or about half bag) of butterscotch chips
  • half a bag of coconut flakes
  • 1 c. sliced almonds

  1. Line 13x9" brownie pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in bowl.  Spread evenly on bottom of pan, pressing down. 
  3. Evenly layer semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut flakes.  Pour over condensed milk.  Top with sliced almonds.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes.  Cool completely before removing foil and slicing into bars.
Peppermint Bark

  • 1 16 oz. bag of white chocolate chips
  • 1 16 oz. bag of dark chocolate chips (~64%)
  • 1/2 bag of crushed peppermints (or crush your own)
  • 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract, divided

  1. Place waxed paper on a baking sheet.  
  2. In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate chips; mix in 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract. 
  3. Spread dark chocolate in center of wax paper, in a rectangle about 12x9"
  4. Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  5. Melt white chocolate chips and mix in 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract in double boiler and spread on top of dark chocolate.  Sprinkle crushed peppermints over white chocolate and gently push down with the back of a fork.
  6. Refrigerate for 25 minutes.  Break up bark into pieces.
No-Bake Chocolate Bon-Bons

  • 6 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 1/2 c. smooth almond butter
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. In a bowl, melt almond butter and butter in the microwave for 1 minute, stirring once at 30 seconds.
  2. Add powdered sugar and graham crackers.  Form into 1" balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate or freeze until hardened 
  3. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Dunk balls into melted chocolate and place back on cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until hardened.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2 Step Homemade Dog Biscuits

As a veterinarian, I was really concerned about the tainted jerky treats that were coming from China a few years ago (although some deaths still being reported today).  There were a lot of dogs that got really sick, some going into kidney failure and dying, from chicken jerky products coming from China.  Since this has happened, PetCo and PetSmart have been trying to only stock American sourced treats, so it makes me sleep a little easier.  Of course most of the general public aren't reading the back of the treat backs to see where the sources come from, like me, so if you want to be extra careful, make your own treats!

I've seen loads of homemade dog treat recipes and yes, they are cute! But who has time to really make your dog biscuits from scratch? I can hardly convince most dog owners to brush their dog's teeth because most of them don't even have time to brush their own teeth!  You can also buy really cute, gourmet treats from boutique dog stores (like Woof Gang Bakery here in Austin), but those cute treats are mostly for our enjoyment.  A dog's going to eat a treat if it looks like a cute little bone or fire hydrant or if it looks like a lump of something unidentifiable.  Let's face it, they're not creatures to snub poor presentation.  Jake was jealous of all my Christmas cookie baking, so I made him some of his own.

So here's a dog treat process that I read about on a faded paper that was taped up on some wall at my vet school (Texas A&M Veterinary Hospital).  The original recipe said you could just microwave it, but I found that just made things soggy with the can of food I tried.  These are also easily customizable if your dog is on a special diet.  A lot of dogs have food allergies or food intolerances, so you can use whatever canned version of the diet your dog is on, as long as it is a pâté type, not the kind with the 'real chunks of food'/gravy.  Warning, this will make your kitchen smell like dog food! Use tools you can run through the dishwasher ;)  The treats come out a little softer than store-bought treats.

2 Step Homemade Dog Biscuits


  • 1 can dog food, pâté style


  1. Cut out the log of dog food from the can.  Cut into 1/4" slices.
  2. Bake in oven at 200*F for 40-60 minutes or until dried out, flipping once halfway through.

Mommy, when are you going to bake some treats for me?

homemade dog treats!
Jake sitting pretty for some treats.  Yes, I think there's some drool coming from his mouth

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Uncle Brent's Award Winning Chili

A while back, I posted my turkey quinoa "chili" and though it is absolutely delicious, and I've had several people tell me they make it all the time, the reason I couldn't call it chili without the quotations is because of this chili recipe.  Like I'd mention before, Reid is a chili purist.  There should not be beans in chili, or TURKEY, and especially not quinoa!  And that's because Reid had this chili growing up.

His uncle Brent and his father perfected this recipe years ago and used to enter it into (and win) chili competitions.  So, yea.  It's pretty stinkin' good.  Reid's version uses the fattiest meat (ground beef or cubed) that you can find, but I try to 'healthify' it up by using 1.5#'s ground sirloin (95% lean) and 1.5#'s ground beef for chili.  I found the ground beef for chili at HEB and it's a thicker grind and appears pretty fatty.  I've also made a few other tweaks to the recipe by decreasing the onions.  The original recipe calls for 3 onions, but I'm pretty sure there has been a difference in onion size since this recipe was made because 3 would be an insane amount now-a-days.  I've also added a chipotle in adobe (that I had leftover from making chipotle twice-baked sweet potatoes) the last time I made it, and it was really tasty.  I always make a box of Jiffy cornbread in a small cast iron skillet to serve with the chili.  It's so good for a cold, rainy day!

Uncle Brent's Award Winning Chili

  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 3 lbs. chili meat (see my above note)
  • 1-3 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 4 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 2 tbs. paprika
  • 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 chipotle from canned in adobe sauce, finely chopped

  1.  In a large pot over medium heat with 1 tbs. olive oil, cook chili meat until no longer pink, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, sugar, salt, paprika, tomato sauce, cayenne pepper, and chipotles and stir well.  Simmer until meat is tender and filled with flavor, about 2-4 hours.
  3. Optional: Serve with green onions, cheddar cheese, and cornbread!

Skillet Cornbread
Jake and Julius competing for window time

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fully Loaded Nachos

What kind of cheese doesn't belong to you? Nacho cheese!  Heehee, I love really bad jokes.  
Nachos, synonymous with football games and fairs, these guys have gotten a bad rap.  Those stale tortilla chips and processed cheese toppings from the concession stands are kinda gross.  But homemade nachos are delicious!  Nachos for dinner are one of Reids favorite dinners.  There are a few variations I've made, but the following is a more classic one.  Homemade nachos are also wayyyyy healthier than processed-cheese-squirted-out-of-a-squirt-bottle-nachos.  I also use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream which also cuts back on the calories a lot.  I also like to add a little taco seasoning to the Greek yogurt to add some additional flavor.  I got the taco seasoning substitute recipe from AllRecipes.  This is a really quick and easy weeknight meal, and I'm sure it would be a hit with kids (because my husband is basically I giant kid ;) )

Fully Loaded Nachos

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1.5 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder*
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder*
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder*
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes*
  • 1/8 tsp. dried oregano*
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika*
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin*
  • 1/4 tsp. salt*
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper*
  • Optional toppings: Greek yogurt, pickled jalepenos, and sliced green onions

*Can substitute 1 packet taco seasoning

  1. Preheat oven to 350*C.  Brown ground beef or turkey in large, oiled skillet over medium heat until cooked and no longer pick, about 3-5 minutes.  Drain fat.
  2. Add chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper OR taco seasoning mix and stir.  Add 1/2 c. water, stir, cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. On a baking sheet, layer nachoes, cheese, ground beef or turkey meat mixture, and black beans.  Bake for 5-10 minutes or until cheese melted.  Top with sliced jalapenos, green onions, and sour cream.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

BBQ Ramen

Nothing is better in the cold than a piping hot bowl of ramen!  There are a few really excellent places in town (Ramen Tatsu-ya, Daruma, Kome at lunch) and one of the places we frequent is called Michi Ramen.  There, they have a 'Texas' style ramen, which is served with Texas toast and has brisket in it.  Yesterday I made pulled pork sandwiches (2 lbs pork butt, salt and pepper, 1/2 sliced onion and 1 c. chicken broth in slow cooker on high for 4 hrs, then shredded with a fork and mixed with bbq sauce), had some left over pork and pork broth so I made this copy-cat ramen.  The bbq sauce in the pulled pork gave the ramen lots of flavor.

Homemade ramen is soooo much better than store bought.  It tastes better and it doesn't have all that awful sodium and MSG most of the packaged stuff has. That stuff is bad for you!  I remember when I was younger, my mom, sister and I would go to France to visit our grandparents.  My dad stayed back to keep his pharmacy open and he basically survived on packaged ramen noodles.  When we came back, his hair had started falling out! So yea, don't use those 'seasoning' packs that come with packaged ramen...or at least don't live on packaged ramen for a month. Hah!

One of my favorite things in ramen is ajitama, the soft boiled, sometimes marinated egg.  It's so delicious!  So, I finally figured out how to make it.  First, soft boil an egg.  I have a handy Egg-Perfect egg timers, which makes soft boiling an egg so much easier than guessing. You put it in the pot of water with your eggs, and it changes color to the done-ness of an egg.  My vet school roommate, Allegra, had one, and it was so handy I bought one when I moved out.  Really handy for when you're making deviled eggs.  No one wants to guess-boil a dozen eggs!

Anyway, to make ajitama, first soft boil your eggs.  Then marinate for 1-2 hours in a mixture of soy sauce and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine).  Ta-dah! Ajitama!  Word of advice, don't let it marinate too long, otherwise the egg will taste rubbery.

Hope you enjoy! Sorry the pictures are so awful! We were hungry that night!

BBQ Ramen
  • 1 package Ramen noodles
  • 4 c. pork or chicken broth (I used a combo of both)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbs. lemongrass
  • 1 tbs. minced ginger
  • 1/4 lbs. pulled pork
  • 2 links Andouille sausage, casings removed
  • 1/4 small bag of frozen peas
  • smoked salt and pepper or salt and pepper
  • optional garnishes: ajitama egg (see above), 3 tbs. chopped green onion, sliced radishes, Korean seaweed
  1. Add 1 tbs. olive oil to large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Saute onion, garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute or until onion softened.  Add lemongrass.
  2. Combine pulled pork and sausage to pot until browned, about 3-5 minutes.  
  3. Pour in broth and allow to simmer for 2-4 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, cook noodles in broth for 4 minutes.  Add frozen peas and cook for additional minute.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in bowls and add optional garnishes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

I think my immune system is broken.  I usually only get a little snuffle and headache during sick season, but I've been fighting cold after flu after stomach bug for the last few weeks.  So, it's been soup city here in my kitchen.  One really comforting soup I've been craving is pho ga, chicken pho.  Many people are familiar with pho, which is a beef noodle soup.  It's great, I love it, but sometimes I crave something a little lighter.  Pho bo (beef pho) also takes days to make a good broth, whereas I can cook some pho ga even while I'm fighting TheraFlu drug haze.  This is my sister's pho ga recipe, and it is really delicious!  As she has put it, the keys are 1)smashing the marrow 2)using fresh bouillon and 3)using good nuoc mam (fish sauce)

  • 1 yellow onion plus 1/4 more sliced for serving (can also use red onion for serving)
  • 4 inches of fresh ginger
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 cubes pho ga seasoning*
  • 2 tsp. of 'Better than Bouillon', or 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbs. nuoc mam (fish sauce), adjust according to taste and fish sauce brand used
  • 1 package rice noodles, banh pho*
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tbs. cilantro, chopped
  • slices of lime, fresh basil, and Thai bird chilies for serving
* available at Asian grocery stores

  1. Char onion and ginger on stove, about 1 minute per side.  Make sure you clean your stove coil before and after doing this.
  2. Add onion and ginger to large (I use an 8 qt) pot.  Fill with water.  Add whole chicken, bouillon, and pho ga seasoning.  Boil for 30 minutes.  Remove chicken and onion; skim and remove foam off top of the broth.
  3. When cool enough to handle, remove chicken meat from bones.  Slice chicken in 1" pieces and set aside.  Crush chicken bones to release marrow (I generally use a combination of smacking it with a meat mallet and a knife).  Return bones to broth and boil for 30 minutes to an hour.  Drain through fine mesh sieve.  Add fish sauce and salt and pepper.  Return to boil.
  4. When ready to serve, prepare rice noddles according to package directions.  Place noodles, chicken meat, sliced yellow onion, green onion, and cilantro in bowls.  Spoon boiling broth over noodles and serve immediately.
  5. Serve with lime, herbs, chilies, hoisin sauce and Sriracha. Enjoy!

Pho Ga seasoning

Before broth
Perfect for a cold on a cold night!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

La Madeleine Tomato Basil Soup

You know that classic tomato basil soup from La Madeline, the casual French dining chain? Well, it's the perfect meal (with Rustic Rosemary Bread) for when you're fighting the flu or cold, which Reid and I had the joy of doing all last week.  It was also a great way to use up some of by fresh basil, which I'm trying to trim down for the winter.  This a copy-cat recipe that I created by combing two tomato soup recipes I really enjoy.  One was found in a cook book my friend Laura's mom gave me in college, called Survival Cooking for Students.  It was a compilation of easy and tasty recipes that she and Laura's dad had printed.  The recipe for La Madeline's Tomato Basil Soup was from the Houston paper.  The second recipe that inspired this was the Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup from William Sonoma's Soup cookbook.  Both recipes have the option of buying fresh tomatoes, roasting or peeling, coring and chopping tomatoes or using canned.  I use canned because it's so much easier and just as good (and cheap!).  I have used fresh before, and I'm not convinced the flavor pay off is worth the work.

  • 4 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 4 c. tomato juice (or equal mixture tomato juice and vegetable or chicken stock)
  • fresh basil, about 1 cup, chopped plus additional for garnish
  • 3/4 c. whipping cream
  • 6 tbs. butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and garlic and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add canned tomatoes and tomato juice and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes broken down and mixture thickened.  Cool slightly.
  3. In a blender, puree tomato mixture and basil.
  4. Return to pan and stir in cream and butter over low heat.
  5. Add salt and pepper to tasty
  6. Serve garnished with basil and rustic bread.

Rustic Rosemary Bread

Oh man, there is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread wafting through your house.  So warm, comforting, and delicious!  I've been making a lot of soups lately, so needed to make a few loafs of bread to go with that.  This bread recipe is super simple and there's not much, as in no, kneading involved.  Hurrah!  Don't need a fancy bread machine, just an oven, roasting pan, and if you have one, a baking stone.  If you don't have a baking stone, you can easily just use an upside-down cookie sheet.  Make sure everything is pre-heated.  

I generally add rosemary to one half, and bake the other half as regular white bread.  You can also substitute the bread flour with all purpose flour or whole wheat flour.

Rustic Rosemary Bread
  • 6 1/2 c. bread flour
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 package instant yeast
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 2 tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  1. In large bowl, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees).
  2. Stir in flour, mixing until dough loose and no longer dry patches.  Cover lightly with kitchen towel and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours.
  3. Divide in half.  You can store the dough in a refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  I generally bake one half and store one half.
  4. If making rosemary bread: knead in rosemary until combined well into dough.  
  5. To bake: Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and lumpy bottom and let the dough rest on parchment paper for at least 1 1/2 hours.
  6. Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of oven.  Place baking stone (or upturned cookie sheet) on top rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Dust lightly with flour, slash top lightly with serrated knife three times.
  8. Slide the dough (and parchment paper) onto baking stone.  Pour one cup water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam.
  9. Bake until well browned about 20-25 minutes. 
  10. Cool completely on wire rack.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Banh Xeo: Vietnamese savory crepe

Banh Xeo, which literally translates to sizzling cake, is a savory Vietnamese crepe-like meal.  It's one of my favorite southern Vietnamese dishes.  It's made by using a batter of rice flour, tumeric, and water and stuffed with pretty much anything (shrimp, bean sprouts, pork belly).  There is also a similar dish, called banh khoai, which hails from the central region of Vietnam.  I actually prefer banh khoai, because it's cruchier and smaller but my mom is from the southern region so I'm a little more familiar with banh xeo.  

Like pretty much every Vietnamese dish, it's eaten by wrapping some banh xeo in lettuce and herbs (basil and/or mint) and dipping it in dipping fish sauce, nuac cham.  

This was my first attempt at making it, and I don't think it came out as I'd like.  The batter was way too watery, and I didn't get a good enough fry on it.  I did use a shortcut, and used a pre-made batter mixture from the Asian grocery store.  Live and learn and try again!

  • Banh xeo mix, see picture below
  • 1/2 lb peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 lb pork belly, cut in 1" thin strips
  • 2 c. bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • serve with: Boston or red leaf lettuce, mint, basil and nuoc cham
  1. Prepare the banh xeo batter per directions on bag.
  2. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 1 tbs vegetable oil.  Saute pork belly until done, about 5-10 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  
  3. Cook shrimp until no longer translucent, about 3 minutes; set aside.
  4. Steam or pan fry bean sprouts.  Combine bean sprouts, pork, shrimp and green onions in a bowl.
  5. Wipe pan clean and add 1 tbs vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  6. Layer thin coating of banh xeo batter.  Allow batter to get bubbly and crispy.  After 2-5 minutes, add in pork belly, shrimp and bean sprout mixture.  Fold in half and slide onto a plate. 
  7. Serve with lettuce, herbs, and nuoc cham.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Egg Fried Rice

I love making fried rice when I've got any leftovers I need to get rid of quickly.  You can sub pretty much any protein or meat and as long as you've got a few basics in the fridge and pantry, you've got dinner on the table in a few minutes.  I usually keep some lap cheong or peas in the freezer for this. Reid loves Americanized Chinese food, so this is a great compromise for both of us.  I like to make this in my wok, but any large pan would work as well.

Egg Fried Rice

  • 2 c. rice, cooked
  • 1 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 c. cha siu (Chinese barbeque pork), sliced or lap cheong (Chinese sausage), sliced on the bias*
  • 1/4c. frozen green peas
  • 2 tbs chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt**
  • optional: 1/2 tsp. garlic chili paste
* you can substitute any protein.  I've used leftover shrimp, chicken and/or pork before
**I use my Muoi Tieu Hue (smoked salt and pepper)


  1. In heated wok or pan over medium-low heat, add 1 tsp of oil and pour in egg.  Cook until scrambled.  Remove and set aside.
  2. Add remaining oil and stir-fry cha siu or lap cheong and scallion for about 2 minutes.  If using lap cheong, add a tsp of water and allow to steam for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Increase heat to high and add rice, soy sauce and salt, breaking up rice into grains and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  
  4. Stir in cooked egg and serve immediately.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's national veterinary technician week! So give all your pet nurses a hug, because they work hard to help make your dog/cat/horse/goat/cow/snake/guinea pig feel better!  Sometimes as vets, we get busy trying to diagnose crazy illnesses (I diagnosed my SECOND case of Addison's in the past 3 months, what?!) that we don't get to love on your pets.  That's why we have awesome staff who help us provide the TLC your pet needs to feel better, help restrain animals during exams, pull blood, run labwork, and take x-rays.  They work hard, often coming home bruised, bitten, scratched and smelling like who-knows-what, but still manage to come in the next day with a smile on their faces.  

I brought in cookies and pumpkin-ginger snap bites to the office as my little way of saying thanks to all our awesome vet techs.  A few of our vet techs are vegan or vegetarian, so I had a bit of a baking challenge.  Usually, I'd be all about adding 1/2 lb. of butter to make my chocolate chip cookies, but I had to do a little research on substitutes.  You can also make these gluten free by using gluten free flour (Ex, Bob Mill's).  I know most people, including myself, would skip over anything labeled vegan when it comes to desserts, but these came out perfectly chewy in the center and crispy on the edges. They do spread quite a bit, so make sure you space them out well on the baking sheet.  I found all these ingredients at HEB and didn't have to go to any specialty health stores.  Here's the recipe I came up with:

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 c. coconut oil at room temp
  • 1/3 c. applesauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 tbs. vanilla
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. plus 1 1/2 tsp. flax seed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. vegan chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life Mini chips)
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together coconut oil, applesauce, salt, sugar, and vanilla.   In a separate large bowl, combine flour, flax seed and baking soda.
  2. Using a rubber spatula, gradually add wet ingredients to dry until grainy dough formed.  Fold in chocolate chips.  
  3. Use a melon baller, scoop dough onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing 1" apart.  Use the back of a flat measuring cup or glass to gently press down each cookie to form a disc shape.  
  4. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight container for up to 2 days.

add some icing between two of these, and you've got a cookie sandwich!

Julius says thank you, vet techs!

Spaghetti and Vegetarian "Meat" Sauce

Meatless Monday is here! Reid and I occasionally do a meatless Monday since I like to decrease the amount of meat we eat in a week.  It's kind of insane how much meat we eat as Americans, compared to many other countries.  Since my parents are vegetarian, I'm used to not eating meat when I'm home, but things are a little harder when I'm on my own.  I don't have my moms amazing vegetarian Bun Bo Hue to eat, or any of the other countless creative dishes she makes.  I wanted to do something other than just fried (although the Sirachi Honey Glazed Fried Tofu recipe I made the other week was ah-mah-zing!) or broiled/sauteed tofu, so I picked up some vegetarian Italian sausage.  Definitely does not taste like meat, but it is tasty!
Pairs well with homemade garlic bread.  I made a loaf of the four-ingredient no knead bread yesterday and used some of that for the garlic bread, but any rustic type bread would work.  Just smeared it with some butter, Italian seasoning, and fresh garlic and toasted it up in the toaster oven.

Spaghetti and Vegetarian Meat Sauce

  • Vegetarian Italian sausage
  • 1 tbs fresh basil, sliced
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Cook spaghetti al dente according to directions and drain.
  2. Add 1 tbs. olive oil to large pan over medium-high heat.  Saute garlic until fragrant, about 1 min.
  3. Cook vegetarian sausage according to directions.
  4. Add tomato sauce, grated Parmesan, and basil.
  5. Combine spaghetti and sauce.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with basil and shredded Parmesan.
Purchased at regular grocery store in produce area
On top of spaghetti! All covered in cheese...

I lost my poor meat(ball)

Made great leftovers for lunch

Monday, October 13, 2014

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

There is something about the fall that makes me want to buy every vegetable I see in the grocery or farmer's market and stuff it with some kind of grain/meat/cheese combination.  Once that 70 degree cold-snap happens (yay! Texas!), I'm buying zucchinis, acorn squash, and bell peppers.  I've posted about my chorizo stuffed acorn squash  and my stuffed green peppers, but I keep forgetting to post this recipe I've been putting into rotation lately.  I came across it in Martha Stewart Living (thanks for the subscription, Amy!).  It's pretty tasty and easy for the week night.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini
  • 4 zucchinis, halved length-wise
  • 1 lb. mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 c. coarse chopped fresh breadcrumbs (or 3/4 c. dried breadcrumbs)

  1. Using a spoon, scrape seeds and soft flesh from each zucchini half, creating a boat.  Reserve 1/2 c. of flesh/seeds.  Place zucchini boats in a baking dish drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Heat 1 tbs. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and onions and brown for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, reserved zucchini flesh, salt, and red chili flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in rest of ingredients and divide mixture among zucchini.  Bake  in 350 degree oven until filling firm and zucchini tender, 35-40 min.  

Yay for fall!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Banana Muffins

Sometimes, it's hard being a morning person.  Like on weekends.  As much as I try, I have to get up at around 7 or 8am.  Every once in a while, I can go back to sleep after feeding the animals breakfast and letting them out but for those weekend days where I can't get back to sleep, making a big breakfast keeps me busy while Reid sleeps in.

This morning, I made banana muffins and a mango-strawberry-orange-banana smoothie.  This banana bread recipe came from my mom's recipe box.  It had been clipped out of the Houston Chronicle who knows how long ago.  I've tried a few other recipes (usually when I can't find this one), but always come back to this one.  It's the perfect balance of moist, sweet, and banana-y.  This morning I made them in a cupcake pan instead of a bread pan and I think I prefer it this way.  It doesn't seem to dry out as much, because I didn't have to bake them as long.  The bread would always get a little more crispy around the edges before the center was done.  The butter can be substituted with oil, and I think that's how my mom had made them.  The oil makes it moister, but the butter makes it more flavorful.

Banana Bread Muffins

  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 2 ripe bananas, mushed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  1. Preheat oven to 325*C.  In a large bowl, beat together baking soda and egg.
  2. Add butter and sugar and whip together.
  3. Stir in bananas, salt, and vanilla.
  4. Slowly add in flour until combined.  Do not over-beat.  Place ~2tbs batter in each cupcake lined muffin tin.
  5. Bake at 325*C for 25-30 minutes.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

"Wow! That doesn't taste like Mylanta!" -Reid

Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my favorite classic ice cream flavor, but my husband never shared my love of that Blue Bell mint chocolate chip with it's garish in-your-face-green color and a flavor he associated with heartburn/stomach medication.  I think I've converted him with this recipe.

That deserves making another pint.  And another. And another.  It's now a summertime staple, especially when our mint plant needs some pruning (you can only make so many Mojitos...).  The great thing about using fresh mint in any recipe, especially ice cream, is that it does what extracts can't do: provide that subtle, cool, refreshing feeling that is exactly what you want on a 100 degree Austin August summer day.

Adapted from David Lebowitz's recipe.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

  • 2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Bring 1 c. of the whipping cream, the whole milk, sugar and salt to a rolling boil in a 2 qt pot.
  2. Take off heat and add mint leaves.  Cover with a lid and allow to steep for at least 1 hr.
  3. After mixture has cooled, strain mint leaves from mixture using a fine mesh sieve.  Use a rubber spatula or clean hands to wring out any of that delicious mint flavor and color from mint leaves before discarding.  
  4. Heat milk mixture back to medium.
  5. Prepare an ice bath and pour remaining cup of cream in a separate glass bowl.
  6. Temper the egg yolks with a few tbs of the warm milk mixture, then pour the egg yolks into the milk mixture.  You don't want to scramble the egg yolks!  Once the mixture hits 170*F on instant-read thermometer, or it coats the back of a spatula, remove from heat.  
  7. Working quickly, mix mixture into cream and cool in ice bath.
  8. Cool in the fridge overnight.  Follow ice cream machine guidelines for churning ice cream.  
  9. My ice cream machine allows me to pour in mix-ins so to add chocolate: Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave 20 seconds at a time.  I pour my melted chocolate directly into my Cuisinart ice cream maker, which creates fine, wispy veins of chocolate.*
  10. Transfer to freezer for at least 2 hours to harden before enjoying.
*Note: I have also added chips directly in with the ice cream.  It's equally delicious.

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

It has been reaching the 100-110*F temperatures here in Austin.  And you know what that means...time for some frozen delights.  Oh, also, we got an awesome Cuisinart ice cream maker for our wedding so I had to bust that thing out.
Take a look at this bad momma jamba.  Pic courtesy of Google  Images

With fourth of July coming up (haha, oops, published this post a little late!), this would be the perfect dessert to bring to a backyard BBQ.  I found the recipe via a Pinterest post about all these different fun ice cream recipes.

The recipe can be found at this blog, which probably has the prettiest background and font ever.
I used canned blueberry pie filling, but if you have the time, you can use homemade too.  I thought about it for a while and had a pint of blueberries to make some, but then got lazy.  Since this was the first time I'd made homemade ice cream, I pretty much just followed the recipe exactly, so no point of re-posting the recipe.
I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Blueberry Pie Ice Cream!

Oh, and I also made ice cream sandwiches using leftover graham crackers.   Just spoon some ice cream between graham crackers, wrap in foil, and freeze until re-hardened. My favorite way of eating this, because the graham cracker crumbs are kinda subtle in the ice cream alone.

Reid likes the ice cream sammie's too!