SRC: Pretzel Nutella Chunk Cookies

pretzel nutella chunk cookies

When I’m am thinking about recipes that will eventually make this way to the blog, I try to maintain a balance between meal recipes and desserts. Nonetheless, there is no hiding the fact that cookies are the first thing that brought me into the kitchen, so I was definitely excited find out that my blogger this month for SRC was Katrina from Baking and Boys.

I spent more than one day looking through all of Katrina’s recipes, but in the end, I could not get over one of the recipes right at the front of her blog. These pretzel Nutella chunk cookies. Really? I could have stopped right there on the name along. There was no way these wouldn’t be a hit at our house. Cookies are where it all started for me, and cookies are my final choice this month for SRC. That said, cookies weren’t the only recipe I saved when looking through Katrina’s recipes. Check out this wheat berry salad. I am hoping it will be lunch soon. As soon as I get a chance to make it

pretzel nutella chunk cookie dough

pretzel nutella chunk cookies with ice cream

The cookie dough came together really quickly, although my Nutella did not seem to freeze quite as hard as Katrina’s. I started trying to mix the chunks into the cookie dough like traditional chocolate chips, but the Nutella melted so quickly that it ended up being “swirled” throughout the batter. After that, I re-froze the Nutella and just stuck a few pieces in the top of the cookies just before putting them in the oven. So, in the end, half my Nutella ended up swirled into the cookies and half was in the more traditional “pieces.” I am sure there wasn’t a change in the final outcome of the cookies because we loved these! The hubbs has designated them the official a la mode cookies. Thanks for the great recipe Katrina. I am sure we’ll both be craving these again soon!

(Printable Recipe)

Pretzel Nutella Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Baking and Boys

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. cake flour
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. bread flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 stick + 2 Tbsp. (or 10 Tbsp) butter, softened
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup  + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup bite-sized pretzel pieces (broken up)
1/2 cup Nutella, divided

Line a pan or plate with waxed paper. Spread 1/4 cup of Nutella thinly over the paper. Place in the freezer until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, mix until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour. Stir until just incorporated. Add 1/4 cup of Nutella and stir until the batter appears marbled or swirled. Stir in the pretzel pieces.

Form the dough into tablespoon sized balls. Set on a baking sheet and press down on the balls of dough to flatten slightly. Remove the Nutella from the freezer. Working quickly, cut the Nutella into chucks. Place several chunks into the top of each ball of cookie dough. Return the Nutella to the freezer in between batches of cookies. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for approximately 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are just set. Let cool on the pan for several minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely (or enjoy slightly warm with ice cream).


SRC: Lightened-Up French Onion Dip

lightened up french onion dip with celery

It’s the beginning of a new month, so it’s time for our group to post our recipes for the Secret Recipe Club. My secret blogger this month was Isabelle from the blog Crumb. She has a great sense of humor that comes through in her posts (just read her about me), and a recipe archive full of recipes I’d love to make. I can honestly tell you I have several more recipes bookmarked!

This month, it was a little easier for me to pick out a recipe. We had some family in town this past weekend, so I actually had a reason for a Superbowl spread 🙂 Straight to the appetizer section and this recipe for lightened-up french onion dip.

lightened up french onion dip close

While it takes a little bit of preparation time, making the dip is pretty straight forward. The more time you can give to the onions, the better. You want them to get that great brown (but not burnt) color. I made the dip the same day that we ate it, although in the future, I would try to do it the day before to allow the flavors to blend just a bit longer. We enjoyed the dip along side some veggies as a lighter side to the Superbowl goodies, but I’m sure it would be good with chips too. 🙂 Thanks Isabelle!

(Printable Recipe)

Lightened-Up French Onion Dip
From Crumb

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-1/2 cups diced red onion
1-1/2 cups diced sweet onion
1-1/2 cups diced yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1-1/2 cups plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
dash Worcestershire sauce

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low-medium and continue to cook the onions until caramelized, about 20-25 minutes longer. Stir occasionally.  If the onions appear to dry out and start to burn, you can add a little water (about 1 tablespoon) at a time to keep them from burning. Cook until the onions have turned a nice brown color and are very soft. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. When the onion mixture has cooled, add and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed. Cover and chill the dip for at least 1 hour (or up to 48 hours) to allow the flavors to blend together. Serve with vegetables or potato chips.

SRC: Pork Carnitas

pork carnitas in shells

After a break to allow everyone to enjoy December with their families, The Secret Recipe Club is back! Being in Group A, it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve posted with the group. Bring on 2013!

My blogger this month was Anne from Authentic Simplicity. Anne has a lot of ideas for a wide variety of recipes. I have made things from her site before, so I was excited to scope out a new recipe for SRC. Truthfully, it didn’t take me long. I couldn’t get past this pork carnitas recipe. How can you pass up a recipe the author states she makes almost every time she buys a pork roast? There are only bonus points for the fact that it’s a dump and cook recipe for the crockpot!

pork carnitas close

I stayed pretty true to the recipe, although I bought a relatively lean pork roast at the store, trimming off any large sections of fat at home before I cooked it. The only other thing I added was a pinch or so of red pepper flakes for just a bit of heat. I can tell you that this smelled SO GOOD when it was cooking. My husband even came in and asked what I was up to in the kitchen. For me, what really makes this meat is the cinnamon. A spice that I never would have added into this mix on my own. It is so good on this meat. We enjoyed the meat layered in baked taco shells, and I can tell you we will be making this again. Thanks Anne for a keeper recipe at this house!

(Printable Recipe)

Pork Carnitas
Adapted slightly from Authentic Simplicity

3-4 lb. lean pork roast, large pieces of fat trimmed
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
2-4 bay leaves (I used 3)
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Place the roast in the slow cooker. Pour the broth over the meat. Add the onion, garlic, and spices. Mix a little to combine. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours depending on the size of the roast. When the meat is done, it will shred easily with a fork. Shred the whole roast adding just a little cooking liquid back into the meat to keep it moist. Serve as desired. The meat can be used for nachos, enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, etc.

SRC: Sweet Chili Lime Chicken with Cilantro Couscous

sweet chili lime chicken with cilantro lime couscous

My blog assignment this month for SRC was Shelby’s blog The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch. While I had heard of GHB (as she calls it) before, Shelby’s blog was still relatively new to me. I can honestly tell you that I loved it. She has a great list of recipes, and her stories in each post really can’t be beat. 

While I still really want to make this banana bread, the recipe I picked for SRC is her Sweet Chili Lime Chicken with Cilantro Couscous. The hubs and I love anything remotely “southwest” flavored, so I was confident it would be a hit. I did end up using the “puspus” as Shelby indicates Grumpy calls it. Rice would work great too, but you just can’t beat the 5 minute cook time of couscous!

sweet chili lime chicken couscous
sweet chili lime chicken
I followed her recipe pretty close, subbing only brown sugar for the white sugar and adding a little lime juice to the couscous as well. I also left my chicken breasts whole, mostly because I felt like it that day. If you leave them whole, be sure to pound them a bit with a meat tenderizer. Chicken just seems to cook so much more evenly that way! As for the dried pepper flakes, I added just 1/2 teaspoon, and there was a fair amount of heat in the dish. My only advice would be to add slowly. Once the spice is in, you won’t get it out (I have learned this the hard way in the past…).

Enjoy the dish and be sure to stop by GHB to say hello! 

(Printable Recipe)

Sweet Chili Lime Chicken with Cilantro Couscous
Adapted from The Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch

2 chicken breasts, pounded even with meat tenderizer
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lime
zest of 1 lime

Cilantro Couscous:
1-1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup whole wheat couscous
3-4 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Warm the oil in the skillet. Pound the chicken breasts until even. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in the pre-heated skillet until cooked through. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, lime juice, and lime zest in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. When the chicken is finished cooking, pour into the hot skillet and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the sauce is beginning to reduce. Return the chicken to the pan, cooking for 2-3 more minutes and turning the chicken breasts to coat.

For the couscous, bring the broth to a boil in medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the couscous, and place the lid on the pan. Let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve with the chicken.

SRC: Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup

tortellini and chicken sausage soup

Well, things have calmed down on the home front here a little bit. I am hoping to use the time to post a little more regularly around here. I have quite a few recipes lined up that I want to make, so it is time to get in the kitchen!

With that, it is once again time for Secret Recipe Club. My blog assignment this month was Melissa’s A Fit and Spicy Life. Melissa describes herself as a Midwestern girl who is a food loving, wine drinking, weight lifting, traveling, yogi blogger. Hailing from the Midwest myself, it sounds a little familiar. 

tortellini and chicken sausage soup close

My husband helped me look through Melissa’s recipes this time, and we finally settled on her recipe for Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup. We are not anywhere near her temperature of 40 degrees when she wrote the post, but we’ve both been starting to crave soup. I made her recipe largely as written, adding only a couple spices and changing the form of the sausage. 

I can assure you that this soup definitely hit the spot for us! It was a hearty soup, with the meat and the tortellini, so if you like your soup thinner, you may want to add extra liquid. It was great for us the first time through, but we added a bit extra liquid to the leftovers when we warmed them up. My husband declared it a make again recipe, so thank you Melissa for the recipe!

tortellini and chicken sausage soup cooking

(Printable Recipe)

Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup
From A Fit and Spicy Life

3 cups dried tortellini with cheese
2 spicy Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
1 can (14.5oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
28 oz. low-sodium beef broth (or more if you like more liquid)
2 cups water (or more)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 (9oz) pkg. frozen spinach
 Parmesan cheese, garnish

Heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Remove the sausage from the casing and cook, crumbling as it cooks, until cooked through. 

Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the tomatoes, broth, water, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and frozen spinach. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the tortellini, cover and cook for 15-17 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

SCR: Zucchini Fries

zucchini fries with hummus

September already? Certainly doesn’t feel like it here. Nonetheless, there are several good things that September brings with it mainly football and my birthday. With the change of the month, that means another thing. It is time for the Secret Recipe Club!

My blog assignment this month was Kim’s blog Everyday Mom. She describes herself as partial to sweets, but that she’s also trying to build her skills in other culinary areas. (Sounds a little familiar to how I would describe myself).

Kim has a fun selection of recipes, and as indicated by her about me, I was immediately sucked in by her baking. This Hungarian Coffee Cake anyone? Sign me up. Nonetheless, as you can tell from my picture, I ended up choosing a savory recipe for the SRC reveal. In fact, these zucchini fries worked perfectly to use up a zucchini that had been living in the crisper drawer for awhile…

zucchini fries

So how were they? Really good. The Panko makes them surprisingly crunchy (a word I thought I’d never use with zucchini?). As Kim indicates, they are great on their own, but my favorite was in a white bean and basil hummus. Yum! Definitely a recipe to keep in mind for zucchini season. Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Zucchini Fries
Adapted from Everyday Mom

1 lb. zucchini cut into medium-large strips
1/2 cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
1/2 Tbsp. (1-1/2 tsp) Italian seasoning 
lemon zest to taste
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If needed, grease a baking sheet.

In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Add flour and egg mixture to separate bowls (you will have 3 total).

Dredge each zucchini strip through the mixtures in this order – flour, egg, bread crumb mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bread crumbs start to look golden brown. 

SRC: Pork Fajitas with Cherry Salsa

pork fajitas with cherry salsa2

I bring you this break from the Olympics and (newly) studying for an additional board certification exam to bring you another SRC post! My blog this month was The Cookaholic Wife written by Nichole. Nichole has been inventing recipes since the first time she cooked, and I spent a lot of time reading through many of the posts on her blog. With a fun mix of meals and sweets, there are a lot of great recipes!

Truthfully, I was all set to make this Spicy Basil Chicken when Nicole posted these Pork Fajitas with Cherry Salsa late last week. Fajitas are my absolute favorite meal, and there was no way I was passing on this recipe.

pork fajitas cherry salsa (1)
pork fajitas cherry salsa (2)

Speaking of cherries, while they are one of the quintessential summer fruits, I usually am not that into them. It is not that I don’t like the flavor (love them), I just can’t handle eating them and then spitting out the seeds. Pitting cherries just to eat them seems a little drastic, so I usually just don’t do it (that and we don’t own a cherry pitter). A couple weeks ago, I ran across a tip to use a sturdy straw as a cherry pitter, so I tried it out with this recipe. I used a strong plastic straw from one of those reusable cups, and it worked pretty well, although I think using a sturdy (ex: thick) straw would be essential to this method.

pork fajitas with cherry salsa

Anyway, back to the fajitas. These definitely lived up to their expectations! I was not able to locate chipotle chili powder, so I just used traditional chili powder which worked fine here. My only other change was to swap out cheddar cheese for monterey jack. Thanks Nichole! I know these are going on my “make again” list!

(Printable Recipe)

Pork Fajitas with Cherry Salsa
Adapted from The Cookaholic Wife

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
zest of 1 lime
1 lb. pork tenderloin, visible fat trimmed, cut into thin strips
1/2-1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 green bell pepper, julienned 
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
8 tortilla shells

Cherry Salsa:
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
4 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder

In a small bowl, use a spoon to mash the salt and garlic together until a paste forms. Stir in the lime juice, lime zest, and chili powder. Add the pork strips, and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the salsa and toss until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a large skillet and oil over medium heat. When hot, add the pork strips and cook for 5-7 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the pork to a plate and keep warm. Add the red and green pepper and onion to the skillet. Cook until crisp-tender. Return the pork to the skillet and stir until heated through.

Place pork, peppers, and onion in each tortilla shell. Top with cherry salsa, monterey jack cheese, and cilantro. 

SRC: Sugar Cookie Bars

sugar cookie bars bite

Well… it’s been awhile since I’ve been on here. I am happy to report that I finished up my residency at the end of June, certificate and all. Hoping that means that I’ll be cooking a little more regularly (and I think I’m not the only one). I think the hubs is ready to hand the kitchen back over to me!

What better way to get back into the swing of things that with a SRC reveal day? My blogger for this month was Raina from Connor’s Cooking. Raina has a fun variety of recipes from stir-fries to baked oatmeal, and I still want to try many of these! In the end, I ended up listing to my sweet tooth and chose to make her sugar cookie bars

sugar cookie bars stacked

This recipe makes a sheet pan of cookies, and it turned out to be the perfect recipe because I have been receiving a few hints that I should bring some treats into work. Even in the sheet pan, the bars end up nice and thick, staying soft throughout. I needed to bake these for about 20-22 minutes, but I am just realizing now that I baked them at 350 rather than 375 degrees. Either way, it works well.

My only suggestion for the future would be to adjust the frosting recipe (possibly adding a little more powdered sugar) as mine tended to get a little bit too soft when kept at room temperature. Then again, it is July in Arizona and refrigerated cookie bars taste pretty good 🙂

sugar cookie bars close

Thanks for a great recipe Raina. I look forward to seeing your posts in the future! 

(Printable Recipe)

Sugar Cookie Bars
Adapted from Connor’s Cooking (Originally from

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-5 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk (I used almond milk)
food coloring, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing one at a time until well combined. Mix in vanilla. In a separate  bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture until just combined. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet (10×15-inch) with nonstick spray. Gently spread the dough over the sheet. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the edges of the bars are just beginning to brown. Place on a wire rack to cool.

While the bars are cooling, beat the butter in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, alternating with a little milk. Mix until smooth and spreadable, but sturdy. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. Spread over the cooled cookie bars (only after they are completely cool). Cut and enjoy!

SRC: Summer Vegetable Torta

summer vegetable torta

Just in case you don’t remember, there might be a special holiday coming up this Sunday. One that you might not want to forget. Sunday is Mother’s Day. I am not a mother myself (unless you count 4-leggged children), so I’d like to say a big thanks to both of our mothers!

My blog assignment this month for the Secret Recipe Club was Carolyn from All Day I Dream About Food. Carolyn’s site is a great reference for some delicious but healthy eats and many of her recipes are low-carbohydrate, gluten-free, or both. I have visited Carolyn’s site prior to this assignment, and it actually did not take me too long to pick out a recipe because I have had this egg bake saved to make for almost a year. Guess this group was the push I needed to (finally) make it! Does anyone else have the experience where they wait forever to make a recipe and then after they finally do, wonder why they waited so long! That was exactly what happened here. We loved this meal!

summer vegetable torta cooking veggies
summer vegetable torta after cooking

While it is not labor intensive, this torta does take awhile to make as it needs to bake for approximately 90 minutes. I adapted it a little bit to our tastes, and by swapping in some lower-fat dairy products. It turned out well, so they seem to have worked okay. My advice would be to pop this torta in the oven when you’ve got something else to do around the house. Your house will smell amazing and it will be done before you know it! Better yet, get up a little early on Sunday and surprise Mom with this for breakfast/brunch. It would certainly be a great way to say, “I love you!” 

(Printable Recipe)

Summer Vegetable Torta
Adapted from All Day I Dream About Food

Non-stick spray
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 medium zucchini, sliced about 1/4-inch thick (could swap some summer squash in too)
1 (12oz) jar roasted red peppers (or 2 fresh peppers), cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 pkg (8oz) 1/3-less fat cream cheese, cubed
6 large eggs
1/4 cup skim milk
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
8oz. Swiss cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray and saute zucchini and onions (and fresh peppers if using) until softened, about 10 minutes (my peppers are in this picture – that was an oops).

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk together with a whisk. Add the basil, garlic salt, pepper, and cubed cream cheese. Mix. The cream cheese will not completely incorporate. It will soften after you add the hot vegetables. Use a slotted spoon to drain off any extra fluid from the vegetable mixture and add to the eggs. Add roasted red peppers if necessary. Mix. Add shredded cheese. Mix well. 

Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for about 80-90 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the mixture no longer jiggles when you gently shake the pan. It make take more or less time in your oven (mine was in for 90 minutes and may have been just a little too long). Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes in the pan. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the egg bake, and gently remove the outer rim of the pan. Slice and serve.

SRC: Nutella Brownies

nutella brownie sundae

I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I am new to the Nutella camp. Like only a couple weeks new. I swear I had tried it before. My impression then was indifferent. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything I would go crazy over. Let’s fast-forward to the present – I bought a small jar a couple weeks ago for a baking group assignment. I am not sure what has changed, but man that stuff is addicting!

My new obsession played in perfectly to my blog assignment for this month’s Secret Recipe Club. Erin, of Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts seems to have a similar obsession. She’s even made homemade Nutella, and I can’t say I blame her! Erin has a great blog and must be a woman after my own heart with her list of desserts. I think I could have made each of them, but there was no getting past these Nutella brownies.

nutella brownies
nutella brownie

Similar to Erin, my brownies ended up on the longer side of the bake time. Despite taking what seemed like a long time to bake, the brownies emerged soft and gooey in the middle with the perfect crispy edges. Erin describes them as super fudgy with lots of Nutella flavor and I would have to say that I agree. My husband would tell you that they made great ice cream sundaes, but I can vouch for them being delectable on their own too. Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Nutella Brownies
Adapted from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Nutella
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Cream together butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and mix well. Add salt, cocoa powder, and Nutella and mix in slowly. Stir in flour and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake 25-35 minutes (mine took the 35 minutes). The brownies will cut better once cool, but they make great ice cream sundaes while warm.