WannaBe Chef

Recipes and randomness from Amanda's kitchen.

Oh.Em.Gee, you guys… October 31, 2011

Filed under: Favorites,Sweets — WannaBe Chef @ 9:27 am

Have you ever had the English dessert called Sticky Toffee Pudding?  Have you ever heard of it?  I never had until I saw a competition on the Food Network, years ago, where Haagen Dazs was trying to find the next best flavor.  Well, the winner was a woman who created a Sticky Toffee Pudding ice cream.

According to Wikipedia:  Sticky toffee pudding is a British steamed dessert consisting of a very moist sponge cake, made with finely chopped dates or prunes, covered in a toffee sauce and often served with a vanilla custard or vanilla ice-cream [1].

I remember searching and searching for the elusive “limited edition” ice cream but never finding it.  I eventually gave up and forgot about it…. until…. I saw it again on the Food Network’s new show Sugar High (the dessert, that is… not the ice cream).  My obsession was renewed.  I had to find a recipe, and I had to make this.  As you may remember, I am not a baker, and after seeing such thigh-hugging ingredients as heavy cream, butter, and sugar, I put off making it for a couple weeks in hopes that my desire would fade.  It didn’t.  It was all I could think about.  Cake, made out of dates… toffee sauce… toffee sauce!  I caved, made it, and ate it.  It was everything I dreamed of and more.  It was quite possibly one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.  Do yourself a favor: pull out your inner Paula Deen, buy some heavy cream and butter, and get to baking!!

English Sticky Toffee Pudding

Click link above for recipe.  I followed it exactly, but I didn’t make the whipped cream.  Also, based on the reviews, I added a little salt to the toffee sauce and used salted butter for the cake and the sauce.  So I guess I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.  The recipe does have a few steps, but it’s pretty simple.  Just a note, the batter will look like a hot mess and you’ll think “OMG why is it so watery and lumpy?  Was I supposed to drain the dates first??” but really, it will be fine.  Somehow, the watery mess bakes up into a beautiful, spongy, dark, golden brown sheet of delicious.

Oh, and mine only took about 28 minutes to bake (not 35), so keep an eye on it.

Oh, and use Medjool dates, not the cheap, dry, pre-chopped ones in the package.  Medjool dates are big and sweet and sticky and delicious.  They have a pit inside.  They are a little expensive, and they can usually be found near the produce section of the store, sometimes refrigerated.  They’re also delicious stuffed with a little peanut butter or a couple almonds.  I digress.  They look like this:

ENJOY, and thank me later 🙂


Two recipes you must try April 15, 2011

Filed under: Beef,Chicken,Favorites — WannaBe Chef @ 8:27 am

Happy Friday!  Apparently we have reverted back to winter here in MN.  It’s windy, rainy, and barely breaking the 40 degree mark.  They’re even throwing that evil word “snow” around for this weekend.  Blaaahh.  Anywho, I have two delicious, winter-appropriate dinners to share. 

This was the first time I’ve ever made calzones, and they were easy and really tasty.  I used pre-made whole wheat pizza crust from Trader Joe’s, and they turned out crunchy and hearty.  We dipped them in light ranch dressing and had celery sticks on the side. 

Buffalo Chicken Calzones
Adapted slightly from this recipe


  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough, at room temp
  • 1 large chicken breast, diced small
  • olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce (I used Frank’s and probably more than 1 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste mixed with about 2-3 Tbsp water to thin down (I didn’t have any tomato sauce)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced
  • Garlic salt
  • Ranch dressing for dipping


  1. Saute chicken in small skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In same pan, melt butter, then stir in the tomato paste/water and hot sauce.  Mix to combine.  Remove from heat and return chicken to pan, coating chicken with sauce. 
  3. Roll out pizza dough according to package directions.  I made two calzones – one larger for Wayne, and one smaller for me, but you could definitely make four smaller ones. 
  4. Put a little cheese on the bottom, then distribute the chicken, then top with more cheese and green onions.  Fold dough over, pinching edges to seal. 
  5. Cut a few vents in the top of the dough.  Spray or brush olive oil on top of dough and season with a little garlic salt.
  6. Bake at 450 for about 10-12 minutes or until dough is set and slightly browned.
  7. Serve with ranch dressing and celery sticks if desired.   

Cheesy Hash Brown Chili
Recipe from Rachael Ray

I followed the recipe exactly, although I did add some hot sauce to the chili.  Honestly, this one surprised me because as I was making it, I was thinking it was going to be bland and boring.  It turned out really well, though.  I think the key is simmering the chili for at least 20 minutes to get all the flavors combined, then letting it bake until it’s really bubbling and browned on top.  Patience is key, as this is not a “30-Minute Meal!”  This recipe was super easy, cheap, and hearty.  I think it would probably freeze well too.  Rachael never disappoints!


Pregnancy update for anyone who’s interested!  Everything is going well, and I’m feeling good.  Wayne and I are about halfway through our 7-week birth/parenting class.  I’m not sure how useful it’s been so far, but all the practice breathing and relaxation techniques have been entertaining so far.  It’s kind of hard to pretend you’re having a contraction when you have no idea what a contraction feels like haha. 

Here’s my latest “bump pic.”  I’m just over 31 weeks pregnant already!  It’s getting scarily (is that a word?) close, and I can’t believe I’m going to be someone’s MOTHER in two months!! 


Happy ’11! January 3, 2011

Filed under: Appetizer,Favorites,Holiday — WannaBe Chef @ 8:16 pm

Hi, all!  I’m officially back in MN after a lovely 10 days back home in MI for the holidays.  I was a bad blogger and didn’t take any food pictures, but believe me when I say that plenty of good food was had.  I did take some pics from our fun New Year’s Eve with our friends Ryan, Amanda, and Bree.  We have spent the past 5 NYE’s with them, so we were determined to continue the tradition with our 6th year together.  Here’s what I made:

Caprese Skewers

Easy Peasy – simply skewer grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella (the little mozz balls are best, but the store didn’t have them, so I used some little “discs”) onto some fun toothpicks and drizzle with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.  Fresh, light, and soo, so good!

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Recipe from Annie’s Eats.  Seriously, you have to make this.  My picture does nothing to explain how good this was.  It’s the perfect thing to take to a party or get together, or else you might be tempted to eat the whole pan yourself.  I served it with baguette slices, celery, and Fritoes Scoops for dipping.  I liked them all, but of course the baguette slices were the best.  Click the link above for the recipe over on Annie’s Eats, you won’t be disappointed!   

Happy 2011, everyone!


Fruits and veggies galore June 2, 2010

Filed under: Favorites,Fruit,Meatless,Vegetable — WannaBe Chef @ 7:42 pm

Just another day of eats for you!  Breakfast was another oatmeal pancake, so I spared you yet another pic, even though this one had strawberries on it! 

Lunch was a big veggie plate.  The cucumber salad was seriously to die for.  Everything in it was super fresh and it really, really hit the spot.  I can’t wait to make more tomorrow!  Oh, and I also had some red peppers and hummus.   

Cucumber Salad

  • 1/3 of a big seedless cucumber
  • 1 medium prefectly ripe on-the-vine tomato
  • a few slices of sweet onion
  • 1/2 ounce crumbled feta
  • good drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • drizzle of agave nectar to cut the vinegar
  • salt and pepper

A little while later, I had an unpictured Archer Farm’s fruit bar and this bowl of fruit.  Fruit quota?  Done and done.  

Nectarines, strawberries and chia seeds, oh my!

Dinner was a baked sweet potato (1 hour 15 min at 375) topped with leftover Channa Masala, sour cream and cilantro.  On the side is literally half of one of those giant bags of spinach I bought yesterday, sauteed in 1 tsp olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, then topped with a squirt of lemon juice. 

Speaking of 2 bags of spinach, here’s a random question… do you guys know what BOGO means??  I used it a few times in my post yesterday, and someone mentioned to me that they didn’t know what it was.  It means “Buy One, Get One” if you don’t already know 🙂 

Wow, so I ate a lot of fruits and veggies today.  But that’s what happens when you have a fridge full of them and you’re the only one here to eat it all!  Alright, bloggies, gotta back to watching So You Think You Can Dance!


The Iceberg May 2, 2010

Filed under: Beef,Chicken,Favorites,One dish meal,Pizza,Vegetable — WannaBe Chef @ 7:41 pm

Tonight’s post contains two new recipes, both featuring something I haven’t bought in… years??  That would be iceberg lettuce.  I have nothing against it, I just prefer romaine, spinach, or other darker greens that have more nutrients and flavor.  I have to say, though, the crunchy, refreshing iceberg played a crucial role in these recipes… and I might just be buying it more often now.


Saturday’s Dinner was my own creation, inspired by the delicious bar version… Taco Pizza!  Hooooly crap, this was really, really good!! 

Taco Pizza
a WannaBe Chef creation

1 pre-made, whole wheat, thin pizza crust such as Boboli
1/2 cup fat-free refried beans
2 Tbsp salsa
6-7 ounces cooked taco meat (mine was lean ground beef, leftover in the freezer)
1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded Mexican or taco cheese 
2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 large handul cilantro, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp light sour cream
juice from half a lime

– From the bottom up, layer the beans, salsa, taco meat, half the cilantro and cheese evenly on the crust
– Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes until bubbly, broil for the last couple minutes if top appears too “wet” and to brown the cheese if desired
– While the pizza is cooking, mix the sour cream and lime juice in a small bowl.  You might need a bit of water to thin the “sauce” enough to make it drizzle. 
– Let pizza rest for about 3-4 minutes then top with remaining cilantro, lettuce, and tomatoes.  Drizzle the sour cream mixture over the top.  Slice and serve.

Sunday’s Dinner was something I’ve been meaning to make for awhile now… chicken lettuce wraps.  Using the lettuce as the wrap instead of a tortilla saves tonsss of calories, so that means you can eat a lotttt more!  Hehe, love that.  These were also sooo, sooo good!  Sweet, spicy, salty and super healthy 🙂  

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Modified from Joy Bauer’s Slimming Chicken Lettuce Wraps, recipe HERE

3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small package sliced mushrooms
1 bunch green onions, sliced, with most of green parts too
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated or very finely minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces chicken breast, cut into small cubes (about 2 med/large chicken breasts)
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp plum sauce
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp hot sauce (or to taste) such as Frank’s or siracha
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, cut in half (so you have 2 quarters of the whole head…)

– Saute all the veggies, ginger and garlic in a large skillet until they start to get tender
– Add the chicken to the pan and cook through, season with salt and pepper
– Mix the plum sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and cornstarch in a medium bowl.
– Pour mixture into skillet, stir to combine.  Bring to a boil then let simmer until thickened.
– Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro and cashews.
– Let cool slightly and serve in lettuce cups.

I have to say, these two dinners are highly recommended!  Both dishes are very easy to make, highly customizable, FULL of flavor, and pretty darn good in terms of calories (if anyone wants the cal counts, let me know!).  Toodles for now, peaches.


Life changing April 29, 2010

Filed under: Favorites,Vegetable — WannaBe Chef @ 6:12 pm

I’m talking about fries, folks.  Not your regular, deep-fried potato fries, though.  I’m talking about parsnip fries.  Have you ever had parsnips?  I hadn’t until I made these.  When Angela, over on Oh She Glows, said “These fries will change your life,”  I knew I had to try them.  I’ll be the first to admit, I was like… parsnips…?  coated in nut butter????  Hmm, was I really going to be this adventurous?  Yes, yes I was… and it was well beyond worth it!

Nut Butter Crusted Parsnip Fries
Recipe found at Oh She Glows… click link for original recipe source and Angela’s awesome pictures and step by step instructions!

3 medium parsnips (or 2 medium sweet potatoes) peeled and cut into thin, fry shapes
1 Tbsp almond butter (I used TJs raw, crunchy unsalted)
2 Tbsp chunky peanut butter (I used Naturally More, naturally! 😉 )
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

– Mix the nut butters, olive oil and salt in a medium bowl
– Add the fries and toss with your hands to coat evenly
– Line fries up on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (I used foil coated in cooking spray)
– Bake at 400 for 30-50 minutes until crisp.  I let mine go just shy of 30 minutes, then flipped them because they were getting a little dark on the bottom.  Then I moved them to the top shelf (while my salmon cooked) for another 10 minutes or so. 

The first word that came to mind when I ate these was rich.  I mean, that makes sense, right?  Peanut butter is a rich food.  However, while being rich and savory, though, there was still a very slight sweetness and beautiful texture from the parsnip.  And the crunch factor from the coating was simply amaaaazing.  The nut butter got all crumbly and crispy and roasty.  I really can’t say enough about these fries.  Like Angela said in her post, I never in my life would have imagined using nut butter on fries!!  Whoever came up with this one deserves an award or something.  Ok, I will stop gushing now so you can go make these!  


One year down April 18, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Favorites,Holiday,Life,Potato,Sweets — WannaBe Chef @ 7:55 pm

Today is our first anniversary!  I can hardly believe it’s been a whole year already… and what a crazy year it’s been.  If someone would have told me last year where I would be now, I would have told them they were delusional.  I hate to sound cheesy, but our wedding day was perfect.  The weather in MI in April can be 80/muggy or 30/blizzard… it’s highly unpredictable.  The weather on our wedding day was low 70’s and full sun with a slight breeze.  It literally could not have been better.  The next day, it was 40 and raining, for reals.  Everything went exactly how I meticulously scheduled and planned.  My only complaint?  It went by way too fast.  😦  Sometimes it’s hard not to be sad that it’s all over!!  Anyway, I thought I would share a couple pictures! 

My three favorite people! Mom, Wayne, and my sis Erin.

First moment after the recessional. (disregard the OFF color of my flowers - sore subject!!)

I had a picture of my dad and his wedding ring tied in my bouquet.

My gorgeous bridesmaids and I

Cake table, obviously 🙂

Ok, enough of that!  Here’s what Wayne got me… Passion Roses!  I’ve never seen roses like this… red on the inside and pinkish/white on the outside.  They almost look like paper, no? 

Yesterday, we went to the new Target Stadium to see the Twins play.  I’m really not a baseball fan, but I was down to go anyway.  It was nice to get out, get some fresh air (along with a one-sided sunburn…), and hang out with the hubs.  We we starving afterwards and of course ate at Buffalo Wild Wings.  I swear Wayne would eat there every night if he could. 

The Twins are alright, but we will always be Tigers fans!

For our actual anniversary day, I decided to re-create our wedding night dinner:  Chicken Marsala (We had prime rib too, but I’m not about to whip up one of those!), cheesy potatoes, green beans, champagne, and CAAAKE!!!  

For the Chicken Marsala, I used the recipe/video…. HERE
For the Cheesy Potatoes, I used the recipe… HERE… I halved it

If you want details on the changes I made to the recipes or anything, let me know!

The chicken and potatoes turned out AWESOME!  This was my first time cooking with wine, so I was a little apprehensive, but it was soooo, SOOO good!  The potatoes were crusty and cheesy and almost as good as the ones at our wedding.  As for the cake, I was expecting a dry, freezer-burned brick.  After a whole year of being in 3 different freezers/houses and surviving a 10.5 hour drive in a cooler, the cake tasted EXACTLY like it did on the wedding day!  I kid you not, it was super moist, fresh, and absolutely delicious!!  I was shocked but definitely pleased.  In case you wanna know our cake packing process, here’s what my mom did with our cake:  wrap cake in 2-3 layers of saran wrap, then place in zip-lock freezer bag, then wrap in 2-3 layers of heavy aluminum foil.  Worked like a charm!  And after this monster post, I’m OUT!