Monday, August 17, 2009

Eclair Cake

This no-bake recipe was the perfect addition to a family dinner last week (and perfectly delicious!). The Eclair Cake came in handy with no kitchen and a last minute party invitation. It comes together in a matter of minutes, but tastes like a freshly baked eclair recipe that took all day. This dessert will certainly be a crowd pleasure and satisfy a chocolate craving all at once!!

Eclair Cake

2 (3 oz) pkg. instant French Vanilla pudding
3 cups of cold milk
1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip
1 box graham crackers
1 container of chocolate cake frosting

Combine pudding with milk and mix well. Place in the fridge for 3-5 minutes or until slightly set. Fold in Cool Whip and beat 2 mins. Place a layer of whole graham crackers in 13X9 pan. Cover with 1/2 of pudding mix. Top with a second layer of graham crackers. Spread remaining pudding over crackers. Top with 3rd layer of graham crackers.

In the microwave heat container of chocolate frosting at 30 sec intervals until just melted enough to be able to easily spread or poured onto the top layer. Pour and spread evenly over the top of the cake.

Put in refridgerator for at least two hours before serving.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New House Kitchen Rennovation!

Hi Everyone!
I just wanted to let you know that my husband and I recently bought a new home. We've decided that one of the many projects in the new home will be a brand new kitchen! I am very excited to have a kitchen that we can design and love, but that also means that I won't be able to cook as much when the kitchen gets torn apart. I still plan on posting other helpful cooking information, but the recipes will be few a far between for a little bit. Once the new kitchen is up and running, you can expect the Gorgeous Gourmet to be back in action!! :D

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cucumber Summer Salad

This recipe comes from my sister-in-law. She made this using the vegetables she and my brother grew in their garden. When I tasted how bright and fresh this summer salad was, I knew I had to try it! It comes together in just a few minutes, requires very little cooking, and goes great with summer barbeques.

Cucumber Summer Salad

1 medium to large cucumber, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
2 cups green beans, ends cut off
4 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup Sweet Italian dressing
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the green beans until just tender, but still slightly crisp. When cooked slightly, immediately run under cold water to stop cooking. Cut the green beans into one inch pieces. In a medium bowl, add cucumber slices, cooled green beans, green onion, and basil. Pour 1/2 cup of Italian dressing into the bowl and mix well. Add more dressing if you like it to have more liquid. Add some salt and pepper and mix well. Chill before serving to allow all of the flavors to marry. Toss just before serving.

Lemon Dijon Pork Milanese

This dish is an adaptation of a family recipe for breaded meat. You can use this recipe on virtually any meat, but it's especially delicious on pork and chicken. I added the lemon zest and dijon mustard to give the meat a little kick and slight tang. For a real homey feel, I always eat the breaded meat with applesauce. The cool, sweetness of the applesauce against the warm, crispiness of the meat is Heaven!

The meat can also be baked if you do not want to fry it, but baking it will not give it the crispy, golden crust that is so delicious - so for this one, I recommend frying the meat in just a bit of oil, it's worth it!

Lemon Dijon Pork Milanese

4 pork loin chops or pork cutlets, pounded to 1/3 inch thickness
1 cup italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
5 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 lemon, zested
freshly ground pepper
ground red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Stir the breadcrumbs and cheese together in a large shallow dish. Lightly beat the egg in another shallow dish. Add the mustard and lemon zest to the egg, mix well. Sprinkle the pork with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Dip the pork, one at a time in the egg/mustard mixture. Allow the excess to drip off, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat the meat completely. Place on a small baking sheet or platter.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the pork to the skillet and pan fry until the pork is golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then place them on a clean baking dish and place in the oven to keep warm.

When ready to serve, lightly drizzle with lemon juice.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quick Calzones

This really isn't a recipe, but rather an idea for a quick weekday meal. Instead of boring old pizza, I decided to make yummy Calzones. They are just as easy as making a pizza, but I think everything is more fun in a pocket of flaky dough! This is a quick recipe because you can use store bought ingredients to have a hearty and delicious meal on the table in no time! Plus, you can control the amount of each ingredient. So, if you like more sauce (like me!) just add it - more meat (like my husband!) load it up!

I recommed getting your pizza dough from either your favorite pizza parlor, or an italian market. It's always fresh and ready to go. You can freeze the dough for up to 6 months and just defrost it in the fridge overnight before you use it.

Quick Calzones
1 package pre-made pizza dough
1 1/3 cups pizza sauce, plus more for dipping (or more if you like it extra saucy like me!)
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
Pizza toppings: pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions, chicken, whatever you like!
splash of water (for brushing on the edges to seal)
2 Tbs. olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Separate your pizza dough into 4 equal parts. Take each part and roll into a circle. Brush the outer edges with water to act as a glue for the Calzone. On only half of the circle, place about 1/3 cup of sauce. Top with your pizza toppings and 1/2 cup of Mozzarella cheese.

Carefully fold over the Calzone to make a pocket. Using a fork, seal the edges. Brush the outside with olive oil. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or pizza pan.

Continue making all of your Calzones. Once all are placed on the cookie sheet or pizza pan, bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve with extra pizza sauce for dipping!

Chicken in a Love Nest

I got this recipe when my new roofer and I got to talking about our mutual love for cooking. He gave me this recipe and promised that it was delicious - a personal favorite of his. Trust me, he was right! I thought it was amazing. It has a beautiful and stunning presentation and looks like a lot of effort went into it. In reality, it came together quickly and was surpsingly easy to make. The recipe is for two servings, but they are VERY generous servings. I would suggest taking the chickn breasts, cutting them in half, and making 4 servings. It will be more than husband and I only each at half anyway!

This dish has lemony chicken, brie cheese, and mushrooms all wrapped inside a puff pastry "love nest." The flavors really melt together and make an impressive date night dinner. The wine and dijon mustard really make the mushrooms exquisite and the flakiness of the puff pastry just melts in your mouth. I really hope you try this recipe out and enjoy it as much as we did!

Chicken in a Love Nest
(adapted from John's recipe!)
2 chicken breasts (cut in half if you decide to make 4 portions)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 lemon, zested
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (use any kind you like, I used baby portabellas)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A splash of white wine
1 puff pastry sheet
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
6 thin slices of brie cheese
Pre-heat oven to 375°F with the oven rack in the middle.
Pre-heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and lemon zest. Add the seasoned chicken breasts to the hot skillet to brown, about 2 minutes each side, until nice and golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and reserve.
To the same skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter and the mushrooms. Cook until slightly brown and tender, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the Dijon mustard and wine, and cook until there is almost no liquid left in the pan. Remove the mushrooms from heat and reserve.
While the mushrooms are cooking, place the pastry on a clean and flat work surface area. Cut the pastry in half (or fourths if making 4 smaller portions). Position them on an angle so they are facing you in the shape of diamonds.
In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg and water with a fork until well-combined. Brush the outer edge of each sheet of pastry with a bit of the egg wash to help to secure all the yummy-ness inside the love nest!
Place 2-3 slices of brie in the middle of each sheet of puff pastry and top with a chicken breast.
Spoon some mushrooms over the chicken, then fold it up into a neatly formed package: Fold two opposite points of the diamond shape in towards one another over the chicken breast, pinching lightly to secure. Repeat with the other two points of the diamond, pinching gently to make all that all the seams are sealed shut.
Brush the oustide of each packet with egg wash and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Brush each with the remaining egg wash and transfer to the oven on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is a beautiful golden brown.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pasta with Pesto, Shrimp, and Cherry Tomatoes

I also found this amazing recipe in my Bride and Groom cookbook. It's perfectly portioned for two generous servings. I recommend being adventurous and making your own pesto, but using the convenient premade jars of pesto will work just as well. This recipe comes together quickly for a tasty, elegant, but fast dinner. Served with a glass of white wine, it would make the perfect date night dinner!

Pasta with Pesto, Shrimp, and Cherry Tomatoes
(adapted from Bride & Groom: First and Forever Cookbook)

8 oz. angel hair pasta
1 Tbs. olive oil
freshly ground pepper
8 oz. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp. garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup Pesto, homemade or purchased (recipe below)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a large sauce pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until barely tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Heat the olive oil in the same pan, over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute. Turn the shrimp over and add the garlic. Continue to cook until the shrimp is opaque in the center, about 1 minute more. Add the reserved cooking water and pesto and stir until incorporated. Add the pasta and tomatoes and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve and enjoy!


Makes 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup pine nuts
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and cook until aromatic and golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir the nuts frequently to avoid burning. Remove and let cool.

Combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the ingredients are well incorporated, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the processor back on and slowly add the olive oil. Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture comes together and looks like a thick paste.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

I saw these cookies on the Food Network and thought they'd be great to use up the extra ricotta I had in the fridge. They are so easy to make and remain soft and tender for days after making them. The best part of this recipe is the tart, tangy glaze that tops these tender, lemony cookies. If you know someone who loves lemon, these cookies will be a hit!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze
(adapted from Everyday Italian)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

For the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

Beef and Cheese Manicotti

This recipe comes from the first Giada De Laurentiis book I ever received. It is a delicious Italian-American staple that requires some time to assemble, but is always worth the effort. This recipe is also great to make ahead and freeze for those nights when you want a hearty, comforting dinner, but don't feel like cooking!

Beef and Cheese Manicotti
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley , chopped
2 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
1 (8 oz) box Manicotti pasta
2 cups Marinara sauce

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and onion and saute until the meat is brown and the onions are tender. Drain any grease. Cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir in the meat and onion mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Brush 1 tsp. of the olive oil over a large baking sheet. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the Manicotti and cook until softened but still firm, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Manicotti rom the pot to the prepared baking dish and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the remaining 2 tsp. of oil over a 13X9 pan. Spoon 1/2 cup of Marinara on the bottom. Fill the Manicotti with the cheese-meat mixture.

**I use a gallon Ziplock bag, fill with mixture and cut the corner to make a piping bag. This allows me to neatly fill each of the Manicotti with a lot of filling with less mess!

Arrange the pasta in a single layer. Spoon the remaining marinara over the pasta. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Bake, uncovered, until it is heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 35 minutes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze and Savory Maple-Glazed Carrots

Recently I found a cookbook that my husband and I received as a wedding gift. I collect cookbooks and typically read through them many times, but with the hustle and bustle of the wedding, I never found the time. Now, almost a year later, I decided to check it out and test out a few recipes. I found a recipe for salmon that looked delicious and it didn't disappoint! Also, the subtle sweetness in the carrots combined with the spiciness of the glaze really made the carrots shine and seem anything but ordinary.

I also love how both recipes are perfectly portioned for two people to enjoy a relaxing Sunday dinner.

Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze
(adapted from Bride and Groom First and Forever cookbook)

2 salmon fillets (about 8 oz. each), skin removed
3 Tbs. Spicy Brown mustard
2 Tbs. sour cream
3 tsp. honey
1 tsp. dried dill weed
8 crackers, crushed

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Place the salmon on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine mustard, sour cream, honey, and dill weed. Spread over the salmon fillets. Top with crushed crackers just before baking.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked through and flaky.

Savory Maple Glazed Carrots
(adapted from Bride and Groom First and Forever cookbook)

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
¼ C. water
3 Tbs. butter
3 tsp. maple syrup
¾ tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 to ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (add more or less to desired level of heat)

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook on high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and continue to cook until the carrots are tender and the sauce is reduced to a glaze, about 7 minutes.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread

What happens when you attempt to make homemade cinnamon rolls and they completely fall apart on you? You make Monkey Bread! That’s exactly what happened when I came up with this recipe. I set out to make homemade cinnamon rolls but when I started rolling up the dough, it fell apart. Instead of scrapping the whole recipe and pulling out a box of cereal, I made it work for me. Traditionally, Monkey Bread is torn biscuits with a cinnamon sugar coating that pulls apart to eat. This cinnamon roll disaster turned into a really delicious breakfast item that would be great for a brunch or a Sunday morning treat. This recipe is proof that you don't have to give up on a recipe that doesn't turn out exactly how you expected!

Cinnamon Roll Monkey Bread with Buttermilk Frosting

6Tbs. butter, melted, divided (this is used to grease the pan, for the filling, dough, and brushing on top. Just less than one stick will be used for the entire recipe)

Cinnamon-Sugar mixture:
¾ C. packed brown sugar
¼ C. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. salt

2 ½ C. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ C. buttermilk

2 Tbs. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbs. buttermilk
1 C. powdered sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour 1 Tbs. of the melted butter into a 9-inch cake pan and brush to coat. Set aside.

For the Cinnamon-Sugar mixture: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. Add 1 Tbs. of the melted butter and mix with a fork until it resembles coarse, wet sand. Place in a Ziplock bag and set aside.

For the dough: Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and 2 Tbs. of melted butter in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon just until the liquid is absorbed.

Dust your work surface and hands with flour. Put dough on the work surface and knead about 30 seconds until the dough looks smooth.

Working in batches, take about 1 Tbs. of dough, roll into a ball and place into the ziplock with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Shake until the dough balls are coated. Drop the dough into the cake pan. Once all of the dough has been coated and put into the pan, pour any remaining cinnamon sugar mixture over the dough. Brush with 2 Tbs. melted butter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is cooked through. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

For the icing: While the Monkey Bread is cooling, begin making the icing. Whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, whisking as you add it. Whisk until the icing is smooth and there are no lumps. Pour over the bread and smooth evenly. Cut into wedges and serve.

The Monkey Bread goes great with a tall glass of ice-cold milk!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Honey Lime Chicken Burgers

Looking for a lighter summer burger, I thought I would try combining some of my favorite summer flavors. In this recipe, the lime, cilantro, and cumin are bold enough to prevent the burgers from being too bland. Also, the honey adds a subtle summer sweetness that really compliments the chicken. I love these dressed simply with sliced avocado and salsa but you can top with any condiments that you like. Serve these with ice cold Coronas and let summer begin!

Honey Lime Chicken Burgers

1 lime, juiced (save the lime rinds to rub on avocados to prevent browning)
2 tablespoons honey
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 rounded teaspoons cumin
A handful cilantro, finely chopped, about 1/2 tablespoons
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 Lb. ground chicken
1 teaspoon grill seasoning blend or coarse salt and pepper
Possible Toppings: lettuce, tomato, red onion, and sliced avocado (remember to rub the leftover limes on the avocado to prevent browning)
1 cup prepared fresh salsa
4 crusty rolls, split

Combine all burger ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together well. Form into 4 patties. The mixture will be loose, but firms up as it cooks.

Grill burgers chicken 6 to 7 minutes on each side or pan fry over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet uncovered 6 minutes per side. Slighty salt, to taste.

Place burgers on toasted roll bottoms. Top with desired condiments like lettuce, tomato, red onion and sliced avocado. Spread fresh salsa on roll tops.

Mini Kahlua Flan

I found this recipe from Emeril Lagasse and thought it looked amazing! What could be better than creamy flan and coffee liquer?! I was nervous to make my first homemade flan, but it was a lot easier than I thought. Also, I decided that my husband and I don't need an entire flan in the house (because we'd eat it up!), so I made individual flans using a muffin tin. Not only does this help with portion control, but you can share them with friends. Although flan has a bad reputation for not being diet friendly, I believe in enjoying everything in moderation.

And here's the good news: when divided into individual portions, each flan is only about 230 calories ~ I can live with that!

Mini Kahlua Flan
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
4 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur (recommended: Kahlua)
Cocoa powder, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 12 muffin tins with butter and set aside. In a small saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Lower the heat and cook until caramelized to a golden brown. If you need to stir, only use a wooden spoon. Cooking the sugar low and slow will make sure that it doesn't stay hard after baking. It will be a smooth caramel sauce when finished.

Pour into prepared muffin tins. (If you would like one large flan, simply use a metal flan mold or 9-inch cake pan.) Turn the dish and swirl to evenly coat the bottom. Let caramel cool and harden.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the condensed and evaporated milks and Kahlua and whisk well to blend. Pour into the prepared pan. Place the dish in a larger roasting pan and add hot water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until set and just firm in the center but still jiggles slightly 20-25 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure you do not overcook. Let cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

To serve, run a thin sharp knife around the rim of each flan. Place a platter or large plate on top of the flan and gently flip over so the plate is on the bottom. Lift away the mold. Garnish with powdered cocoa or chocolate shavings.

Tropical Fruit and Berry Smoothie

I found some really pretty and sweet smelling papaya at the Mexican Food Market near my house. Since I have never tasted, let alone cooked with papaya, I thought a smoothie would be a great way to introduce it into my kitchen! This smoothie is sweet and tangy and very refreshing! The best thing about smoothies is you can add any berries or fruit you have on hand and it will always be refreshing and satisfying.

Tropical Fruit and Berry Smoothie

1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup fat free yogurt, plain or vanilla
1/4 cup frozen roughly chopped papaya
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup frozen roughly chopped pineapple
1/4 cup frozen roughly chopped mango
1/2 to 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend, pulsing the machine if necessary, until smooth. Make sure the honey is dissolved. Top with fruit and serve immediately.

Spiced Yogurt Chicken

I was looking for a way to use up some of the fat free plain yogurt I had used to make smoothies. I decided that it would make the perfect base for a spicy marinade and sauce on some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It's important to note that there is a definite difference between "spicy" and "hot." A lot of people use these terms interchangeably, but they can mean very different things. "Spicy" means that various spiced are used and/or combined to create new and unique flavors. Something that is spicy, may also be hot, but not necessarily. I consider this dish to be spicy, and slightly hot. You can make this dish hotter by adding more chipotle peppers or cayenne pepper to the marinade.

Spiced Yogurt Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. plain lowfat or fat free yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tb. All-Purpose spice blend
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp. ground ginger
1tsp. onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1/4 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional

In extra large mixing bowl combine all ingredients but chicken and stir to combine. Reserve ¼ cup to top cooked chicken. Pound chicken breasts into even thickness across (about 1 or more in thickness) and add to marinate. Toss to combine and coat well, cover bowl tightly and place in fridge 4 hours and up to overnight. Turn heat of grill on high and preheat for 15 minutes. Turn down to medium low and place chicken on grill.

Cook until starting to brown and grill marks appear, about 5-8 minutes and flip. Cook breast side up until starting to brown and grill marks appear, about 10-12 minutes. Flip again to create alternating grill marks on breast side, until done (no more pink inside) about 10 more minutes. Remove from grill, place on platter. Top with reserved yogurt sauce.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Uncle-Niece Cooking Day!

It has finally arrived! My Uncle Tom and I have been talking for MONTHS about cooking together. We both love food and trying new recipes, so we thought this would be a great way to share ideas and have the family over to taste-test the recipes.

I had such a great time cooking with my uncle! I learned a few really clever tricks (like actually using the olive oil that the sun-dried tomatoes are packed in) and was so happy to share this time with him. He's a great man and a great cook that makes me proud to call him Uncle. I hope he had as much fun sharing recipes and stories as I did.

Below you will find the list of dishes and recipes that we decided to cook. There really wasn't any rhyme or reason, just dishes that we enjoy and wanted to share.

Uncle Tom's Dishes:
Blue Cheese and Carmelized Onion Galette
Fajita Enchiladas
BBQ Chicken Pizza with Carmelized Onion
Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

My Dishes:
Sweet 'N Spicy Asian Pulled Pork
Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Almonds
Honey Balsamic Chicken Satay

Blue Cheese and Carmelized Onion Galette

This was by far my favorite dish we made at our Uncle-Niece cooking day! I first had this dish at a family holiday party a few years ago. Ever since, I have been hounding my Uncle Tom to make it again. It is a great dish to make for a party because it's simple, yet makes a delicious and beautiful statement. Not only does this dish look fancy, it tastes amazing!

Blue Cheese and Onion Galette

1 pie crust (we used Pilsbury refrigerated crust to make
it easy on ourselves, but you can always make a homemade crust!)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 medium sweet Vidalia onions halved and thinly sliced
2 t. sugar
2 T. balsamic vinegar
3/4 C. blue cheese crumbled (here we used Gorganzola, and slightly less than 3/4 C.)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary finely chopped
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter together in a large skillet. Add onions and sugar, cook over medium heat until caramelized, stirring often, for about 25 minutes. Stir in vinegar and stir until it evaporates, about 2 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°F. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12 inch circle. Place on a ungreased cookie sheet. Roll the edges in about 1 inch and flute to create a border. Sprinkle cheese over dough. Spread onions over cheese. Sprinkle with rosemary and pepper.

Bake until crust is golden brown, about 25 - 30 minutes. Slice into wedges.

Sweet 'N Spicy Asian Pulled Pork

I first tasted this recipe at a work party this spring. I changed it slightly to make it a little spicier. This dish is an interesting and delicious twist on pulled pork. The flavors come together to create something that at first is sweet but with a nice bite at the end. When using the sweet chili sauce, use as little or as much as you like. With this dish, you really can't go wrong! It may take some patience, but everything goes into a crockpot and cooks together until you have a deliciously tender meat for pulled pork sandwiches. This recipe makes a lot, so be sure and invite some people over for a casual and tastey get-together! It was a hit at our Uncle-Niece cooking day!

Sweet 'N Spicy Asian Pulled Pork

7 lb. Pork loin, shoulder or butt (here I used pork loin, it's what was on sale that day)
1 head of garlic, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
2 C. Lemon-lime soda
2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice (a little goes a long way!)
1 large can pineapple juice
1 can coconut milk
1 large bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce (located in the Asian aisle of any supermarket)
2 bags French rolls, sliced

Remove as much fat as you can from the pork and place it in the crockpot. Add the garlic, onions, and Chinese Five Spice powder. Add the soda. Fill the rest of the crockpot with water until the pork is covered. Cook on low a long time, at least 8 hours. (I cooked mine overnight) The pork should pull apart very easily.

Once the pork can be easily pulled apart with a fork, strain through a colander. Throw away the garlic pieces and onion. Pull the pork apart with forks, discarding any remaining fat. Put shredded pork back into the crockpot.

Add the coconut milk, about 1 1/2 cups of pineapple juice, and half a bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce. Stir and continue to cook on low another 3-4 hours. Taste to see if you want to add more chili sauce. If it begins to look dry, add more pineapple juice.

Once hot and the flavors have married, serve on sliced French rolls.

Fajita Enchiladas

These enchiladas were a recipe of my Uncle Tom's that were a huge hit at our gathering! They are very simple and come together quickly, but are packed with fajita flavor. This recipe would be great for a larger gathering because it's very filling and is hearty enough to serve a crowd. It can, however, be easily divided and made as a delicious weekday dinner meal.

Fajita Enchiladas

1 Tb. olive oil
1 Lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked (we used most of a whole chicken roaster for added flavor and tenderness)
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles
3 C. shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese (we used both)
2 (10.5 oz) cans red enchilada sauce (or just use one large can)
1 package flour tortillas (12 tortillas, 6-inch round)
1/4 C. fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add peppers and onion. Cook until veggies are tender but still crisp, about 4 minutes. Stir in chiles, cooked chicken, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and 1/4 C. enchilada sauce.

In the bottom of a lightly greased 13X9 glass baking dish, evenly spread about 1/2 C. of the enchilada sauce.

Spoon about 1/2 C. of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas. Place each seam side down on the enchilada sauce, arranging them in 2 rows. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Cover tightly with foil.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and back, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving.

Honey Balsamic Chicken Satay

This dish is a quick way to have appetizers ready for a sudden dinner guest. The marinade is quick but packed with flavor. This can also be adapted using whole chicken breasts to serve as a main dish.
Honey Balsamic Chicken Satay

1 Lb. Chicken tenderloins, cut in half
1 Tb. olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
4 Tbsp honey
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
10-15 bamboo skewers (one for each piece of chicken)
Heat grill to medium heat. In a ziplock bag, combine the chicken, oil, 1 Tb. vinegar, salt, and pepper. Marinate for at least 15 minutes, but up to overnight. Once marinated, skewer each piece of chicken onto a bamboo skewer. Grill until chicken is golden, and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar and the honey. Cook, stirring often, until very thick. Coat the cooked chicken with the glaze. Serve the glaze alongside the chicken satay.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

This pizza was an afterthought during our Uncle-Niece cooking day. We used some of the ingredients from other dishes and made an amazing pizza. It comes together quickly but tastes like it took all day.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
(from my Uncle Tom)

1 pizza crust (we used Boboli)
1/2 C. (or so) BBQ sauce
1 C. chicken, shredded (we used chicken from a store-bought roaster)
1/2 C. Carmelized onions
Garlic salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 C. shredded cheese

Assemble the pizza crust with the BBQ sauce, chicken, onions, salt and pepper. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in a 500 degree oven until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This recipe was given to me by my Uncle Tom. It is a delicious and hearty pasta dish that could be a side dish or stand alone as a main course meal. I thought the technique of using the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes was genius! It really adds great flavor to the sausage and ties the rest of the dish together.

Pasta with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

3/4 C. Sun-Dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced
2 Tb. oil from sun-dried tomatoes
1 Lb. Italian sausage (hot or mild), casings removed
2 (8 oz.) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 Lg. garlic cloves, chopped
1 3/4 C. Chicken broth
1/2 C. Dry white wine
1/4 C. tomato paste
Sugar, to taste
12 Oz. pasta, such as penne, farfalle, or rigatoni
1/2 C. freshly shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/3 C. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 C. flat leaf parsley, chopped
8 Oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil from the tomatoes in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces. Transfer sausage to a bowl.

Add the artichokes and garlic to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, tomato paste, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces slightly. Add a small amount of sugar to the sauce only if the tomatoes are too tart.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, do not rinse. Add the pasta, sausage, and 1/2 C. of parmesan cheese, basil, and parsley to the atrichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella, if using. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan cheese on top.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Berry Yogurt Smoothie & Berry Banana Smoothie

I just got a new food processor that had a blender attachment and I have been dying to try it out. With the summer heat, I thought a berry smoothie would be the perfect treat. I have it as a snack or even sometimes as a breakfast on the go. It's a healthy alternative to a milkshake and it's so simple to put together!! Here are two similar smoothie recipes - one with and one without banana. :D

Berry Yogurt Smoothie
makes 2 generous servings

1 C. plain non-fat yogurt
1 C. frozen mixed berries (mine had blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
5-6 fresh strawberries, quartered
1/2 C. skim milk
1 -2 Tbs. sugar or Splenda, optional

Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until no lumps of ice remain and the drink is smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and serve cold.

Berry Banana Yogurt Smoothie
makes 2 generous servings

1 C. plain non-fat yogurt
1 C. frozen mixed berries (mine had blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
5-6 fresh strawberries, quartered
1 banana, slightly frozen
1/2 C. skim milk
1 -2 Tbs. sugar or Splenda, optional

Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until no lumps of ice remain and the drink is smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and serve cold.

Spice Rubs and Homemade BBQ Sauces

For Father's Day, I really wanted to do something special for my dad. He's a great guy who's always helping other people. He's also a great cook and I learned a lot of my recipes and cooking techniques (or lack-thereof!) from him. Whenever I am out of dinner ideas or want to test out a new pie recipe, I know I can always count on Dad. Plus, I love that he likes to experiment with food! So for Father's Day, I decided to make him some spice rubs and homemade bbq sauces that he can try. Spice Rubs

All-Purpose Spice Rub
makes 1 1/4 cups
(Adapted from Everyday Food)

1/3 C. coarse sea salt
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/4 C. paprika
2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. dried oregano
2 Tbs. dried thyme
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Use a fork or your fingers to break up any brown sugar lumps. Store in an air-tight container up to 6 months.

Lisa's Creole Seasoning
makes 2/3 cup
2 1/2 Tbs. smoked paprika
2 1/2 Tbs. coarse sea salt
2 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 Tbs. dried thyme

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an air-tight container up to 6 months

Sweet 'N Spicy Paprika Rub
(Adapted from Everyday Food)
4 tsp. paprika
3 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. packed brown sugar
3 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an air-tight container up to 6 months

Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce
1 C. ketchup
1/4 C. real maple syrup
1/4 C. packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1 to 3 chipotles in adobo, chopped
3 Tbs. adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers)

In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients. Summer, whisking occasionally until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Down Home BBQ Sauce
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
3/4 C. onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs. garlic, pressed or minced
4 C. ketchup
1/2 C. plus 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. cider vinegar
1/4 C. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs. hot sauce
2 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
2 Tbs. Creole Seasoning
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Rib Sauce
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 C. ketchup
1 C. beef broth
3/4 C. cider vinegar
1/4 C. plus 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 40 minutes.

BBQ Sauces

Stuffed Artichokes

This is a dish that I remember my grandma making as a kid. There's a little work required when eating them, but it's worth it! These artichokes are full of a delicious bread filling that fills your whole kitchen with beautiful smelling garlic and spices.

before cooking

after cooking

Stuffed Artichokes

4 fresh artichokes
3/4 C. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/4 C. Romano cheese, grated or shredded (can subsitute parmesan)
garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Cut the stem off the bottom of the artichokes and peel off the very bottom leaves. Cut the very top off the artichokes to create a flat top. Using kitchen shears, trim away the sharp points on the remaining leaves. Whack artichokes on the counter a few times to help them open up. Go on, get that agression out - whack 'em!

In a small bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together. Carefully separate/ spread the leaves of the artichokes. Fill with bread crumb mixture. Drizzle each artichoke with a little olive oil. In a large pan, place artichokes. Add enough water to the pan to just barely rise up the side of the artichoke, about 1/4 inch. Cover pot and simmer until the leaves in the middle pull out easily - about 40 minutes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Grilled Mahi Mahi

Now that summer has FINALLY decided to make an appearance, I was excited to make something lighter. My husband and I try to eat fish on days when it's hot and we want something delicious, but not too heavy. Mahi Mahi is a great fish to make because it's light, but also hearty without having that gross "fishy" taste. This recipe is so simple and perfect for a hot summer evening.

Grilled Mahi Mahi

4 Mahi Mahi fillets
(all measurements are approximate - just throw everything in a Ziplock bag with the fish, you can't go wrong!)

1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1 Dash crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped (plus some reserved for garnish)
1 tsp. garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed/minced

Marinate fillets at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better. Heat grill to medium-high. Cook the fish about 6 minutes per side until it is fully cooked, white, and flakey.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stuffed Sweet Peppers

Recently, my husband and I have been searching for a home and it really got me thinking about what it means for a house to become a home. For me, it was always great family and great food coming together. Whether it was dinner, a party, or a random Sunday BBQ, I was always surrounded by comfort food growing up. One of my favorite recipes comes from my mom who made stuffed green peppers. I don't care to eat the green peppers but when I adapted her recipe to include sweet red peppers and ground turkey (to make it a little lighter), I created a dinner recipe that suites my tastes but still brings back loving memories of home.

I always think of my mom when I make this dish and it makes me realize that what truly makes a house a home is the love and laughter that fills it.

Hard to photograph but oh, so good!

Cut in half to show meatball filling

Stuffed Sweet Peppers
(adapted from Mom's Stuffed Green Peppers)
Makes 4 large portions

2 Peppers (green, red, orange, etc. - whatever you like and have on hand!), cut in half, seeded
1 lb. meatball mixture (recipe below)
2 cans (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
water, if needed
2 Tbs. vegetable oil

Heat oil over medium heat. Generously fill pepper halves with meatball mixture. Any unused mixture can be rolled into extra meatballs. Place the peppers meat-side down in the oil and fry until meat has browned. Drain grease. Add tomato sauce and water (if needed) until the peppers are almost covered. Salt and pepper to taste (typically just a dash or two will do). Cover and simmer over low heat about 45 minutes or until meat is cooked through.

Serve over rice or egg noodles.

1 lb. ground turkey (use beef for traditional meatballs, but the turkey is a great substitute!)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 C. seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 C. Romano cheese (can substitute Parmesan if that's what you have)
1/2 tsp. basil
1 lg. clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
garlic salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs

My sister-in-law brought this amazing dish to our summer party last weekend. It was a huge hit! Couscous is something that I don't often cook with, but this is so easy and full of flavor. It's great for summer. The apples and cranberries blend with the herbs and light vinaigrette so well - you should definitely give this a try!

Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs
(by Giada De Laurentiis)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 medium green apple, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see Cook's Note

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.
For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

Peanut Butter Blondies

Tonight while I was in baking mode, I also decided to make Peanut Butter Blondies. My husband loves peanut butter so I figured it'd be a perfect treat for him. This dessert comes together quickly, so it's perfect for a last minute get-together, as a simple gift, or a night in. These blondies are great with a tall glass of cold milk and a good book!

Peanut Butter Blondies
(adapted slightly from Good Things Catered)

4 Tbsp butter, almost melted
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/8 c. milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. honey roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8 pan with foil and lightly grease. In a small microwave safe mixing bowl melt the butter for 20-30 seconds until melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

In bowl of stand mixer, add oil, peanut butter and butter and mix until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg and stir to combine thoroughly. Add milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the peanut butter mixture and stir just to combine (will be quite thick). Gently fold in chocolate chips and peanuts.

Place into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool completely and cut.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

I found this recipe over at Good Things Catered and thought they were adorable! I have an end of the year staff party tomorrow and thought they'd be the perfect festive treat after a hard year's work!

Pina Colada Cupcakes
(from Good Things Catered)

2 1/4 c. sifted cake flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 C. sugar
1/3 c. oil
2 large eggs
1/2 c. canned pineapple, diced and patted dry
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
Splash (or two!) of dark rum
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whipped vanilla frosting
1/2 bag of shredded coconut
Maraschino cherries, drained and dried

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pan with baking cups. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine rum and coconut milk in small bowl, mix to combine and set aside.

Place sugar and oil in mixer and mix until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and coconut milk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla and fold in pineapple. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap the pans once on counter top to remove air bubbles.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks. When cupcakes are completely cool, frost with whipped vanilla frosting and roll tops in shredded coconut. Top each with a cherry and a cut straw.

BBQ Shrimp Skewers

I was looking for something quick and light to round out the appetizers for my party. This were very last minute, but so simple. The recipe calls for any BBQ dry rub that you like. I highly recommend visiting to look for rubs, marinates, and spices. I visited their store when seeing my niece in Galena this spring. They have a ton of unique blends. Here I used the Coffee BBQ Blend. It's slightly spicey and the coffee adds a really different flavor that people don't expect. These were the first appetizer gone!

BBQ Shrimp Skewers
50 Large shrimp, peeled and deveined
10 kabob skewers
4-6 Tbs. BBQ dry rub of your choice (I used Coffee BBQ Blend from Galena Garlic Co.)
2 Tbs. Lime juice, plus some for garnish
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped, plus some for garnish
1 tsp. olive oil

Soak the wooden kabob skewers in water for about 20 minutes to make sure they do not burn on the grill. Skewer 5 shrimp on each kabob. (To make the appitizer go a little further, you can always cut each kabob in half and skewer 3 shrimp) Place all skewered shrimp in a 13X9 pan. In a small bowl whisk together the rub, lime juice, cilantro, and olive oil. Pour over the shrimp and let marinate 30 minutes or up to overnight.

Heat grill to medium high. Cook shrimp on one side until there are grill marks, about 3 minutes. Flip and finish cooking, about 4 minutes more. Remove from grill, sprinkle with fresh cilantro and lime juice.

Brie and Almond Tartlets with Fruit Preserves

I have always loved the combination of brie and fruit preserves in puff pastry. For our party, I wanted something easy to grab and take outside so I made a small, bite-sized version. These are really simple, but make a very classy impression. You can use any kind of preserves/jam that you like and it's sure to be a hit!

Brie and Almond Tartlets with Fruit Preserves

1 puff pastry sheet
3/4 lb. Brie cheese
1/3 C. sliced almonds
Fruit preserves/jam: I used blackberry, apricot, and raspberry

Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the sheet into a 14-inch square (doesn't have to be exact). Cut into 36 (2 1/4-inch) squares. Gently place each square into mini muffin tins.

Cut the Brie cheese into 36 pieces. Spoon about 1/4 tsp. of preserves into the bottom of each pastry square. Sprinkle with almonds, saving some for the tops of the appetizer. Top the preserves and almonds with one piece of cheese. Top with any remaining almonds.

Bake the tartlets for 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool on a wire rack, but serve warm.

Bacon Pastries

This recipe came from my uncle who served them over Memorial Day. They are really easy and remind me of BLT dip. Using the flaky biscuits as a little cup is a great idea and I am really excited to try this trick out with my Spiced Chicken Wonton filling - I'll let you know how that one turns out! In the meantime, I hope you try and enjoy this recipe!

Bacon Pastries
(adapted from Uncle Tom)

4.3 oz. package of REAL crumbled bacon (I suggest Hormel Real Crumbled Bacon)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium tomato, chopped
3/4 C. grated Gruyere cheese (you can substitute regular swiss, but the gruyere really makes it tasty!)
1/2 C. Miracle Whip (or mayo if you're not a Miracle Whip person like me!)
1 Tb. fresh basil, chopped
1 large can of refrigerated biscuits, flaky style

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine bacon, onion, tomato, cheese, mayo, and basil. Separate each biscuit into 2-3 layers. Flatten slightly with your hands and press each layer into one well of a mini muffin pan. Spoon the filling mixture into each muffin.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until hot and biscuits are lightly browned.

These are great hot but are also just as good at room temperature. :)

Green Olive Dip

For the party, I wanted to have a different spin on olive antipasto. I really like the salty bite of green olives and thought this dip would be great. It's so easy, everything goes into your food processor and it's done! This dip was great on chips but would also work nicely with crackers or melba toast.

Green Olive Dip
1 1/2 cups green olives (I used Spanish Manzinilla with pimento)
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In your food processor, combine the olives, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and pepper. Pulse to combine roughly. Add the olive oil and pulse, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The dip will be chunky, not smooth.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last school year I was working just outside of St. Louis. As a wedding present from the other teachers, they put together a book of their favorite recipes. In it, there was this recipe that I’d had at many luncheons and absolutely loved. I really does taste like buffalo chicken and has just the right amount of spice for people who like their food spicy (like me!). This recipe is so easy and is always a crowd pleaser!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(from Amy Haar and Abby Litteken)

3 chicken breasts (you can also use canned chicken here)
8 oz. cream cheese
2 C. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ small bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce
¾ small bottle Ranch dressing

*You can adjust the hot sauce and ranch to taste.

Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You can also put all ingredients into a small Crockpot and heat until warm.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I really like to eat bananas, but I am really picky about how yellow they have to be to eat by themselves. I only like them when they are nice and yellow without any spots. Needless to say, last week I couldn't get to them fast enough so they started to brown. Usually when that happens I will put the browning bananas in the freezer to save for baking. Today it was rainy and dreary, so I wanted my husband to have something sweet to come home to after work (besides his lovely wife, of course!). I found a similar recipe for banana muffins at and combined it with my vanilla chocolate chip bread recipe.

Let's just say this recipe is so good it's bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S :)

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. shortening
2 eggs
2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs vanilla extract
3 large extra ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare muffin tins. In medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine shortening and sugar. Beat on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Add milk and vanilla, then bananas to mixture and combine well.

With mixer on low, add flour mixture until just combined then fold in chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and place in oven to bake.

Bake muffins for 20-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chicken and Roasted Corn Taquitos

I first saw this recipe on another blog that I follow (My Kitchen Cafe) and thought it looked great. I used reduced fat cream cheese, tweaked the seasonings a little, and added the roasted corn. I also tested it out using flour tortillas. They were ok, but much better with the corn tortillas. The flour tortillas were a little too much tortilla for this dish. Also, the roasted corn adds so much flavor and turns what could be just an appetizer into a heartier main dish. They were fantastic dipped in sour cream and salsa!

Baked Chicken and Roasted Corn Taquitos
adapted from My Kitchen Cafe
Makes 12-14 taquitos

4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 C. salsa
1 Tb. lime juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
4 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1 ear corn on the cob, roasted or grilled (can substitute canned, but roasted it much better!)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
12-14 small tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.In a medium-sized bowl, mix softened cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder. Stir to combine and then add cilantro and corn. Add chicken and cheese and combine well.

Working with a few tortillas at a time, place 3-4 between two damp paper towels and microwave for 30-45 seconds, until tortillas are soft and pliable and don't crack while rolling. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture on the lower third of a soft tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges. Then roll it up as tight as you can.

Place filled taquitos seam side down on the baking sheet, making sure they don't touch each other. When ready to bake, spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown. Serve immediately. Taquitos are great dipped in salsa or sour cream!

Lattice - Top Cherry Pie

I have to admit, they're a pain sometimes, but I LOVE pie. There's just something about pie that feels so fun and summery. This pie is perfect for a Memorial Day barbeque or any summer party. I made this cherry pie using fresh, hand-picked cherries from my husband's Aunt Jan's house. They were fresh and a little tart - just perfect!! When the pie is finished, the filling is just a little tart, sweet, juicy, and screams summer sunshine. The almond extract gives a depth of flavor and uniqueness to the pie, but if you don't have any on hand, just use double the amount of vanilla (it will still taste great!).

Cherry Pie

(Adapted from America's Test Kitchen)
1 to 1 1/4 C. plus 1 Tb. sugar (more or less depending on the tartness of the cherries)
1/4 C. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 C. fresh or jarred sour cherries
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 recipe Lattice - Top Pie Dough (below)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix 1 cup of the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the cherries and almond extract. Add up to 4 more tablespoons of sugar if the cherries still taste tart. If using fresh cherries, let the mixture sit about 20 minutes. Then spread the cherry filling in the unbaked pie crust bottom.
Weave the lattice strips over the top of the pie. Seal and crimp the edges. Lightly brush the lattice top with egg wash. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Place the pie of the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature again to 375 degrees and continue to bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is a golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Lattice - Top Pie Dough
(America's Test Kitchen)
3 C. all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
2 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. salt
7 Tb. vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, chilled
10 Tb. butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, chilled
8 to 10 Tb. ice water

Process the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Scatter the shortening over the top and continue to process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Transfer to a bowl.

Sprinkle 8 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture. Stir and press the dough together, using a rubber spatula, until the dough sticks together. If the dough does not come together, add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two even pieces and flatten one piece into a 4-inch disk (for the crust bottom). Flatten the other into a 4 by 3-inch rectangle (or the lattice strips). Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Roll the bottom crust out and fit to a 9 inch pie plate. Roll the lattice strips to form a 10 ½ by 13 ½ - inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or knife and a ruler, cut lattice strips. Freeze the strips slightly to make them easier to weave on your pie.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

These sugar cookies are really butter cookies, but they are perfect for cookie cut-outs and hold up really well to decorating. These cookies are a softer cookie and don't get too crispy and thin like a lot of sugar cookies tend to do. I am still searching for an icing recipe that I love, but I've included the one below because it's very simple and tastes delicious. Just be sure you have plenty of time for this icing to dry before storing, otherwise the cookies will stick together. The cookie recipe, however, is from my Grandma and I still haven't found one I like better!

Valentine's Day cookies for Darren

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

Makes 3-5 doz
(depending on the size of the cookie cutter)

3 C. flour
1tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. butter
3/4 C. sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well. Blend in dry ingredients slowly. Chill mixture overnight or at least 1 hour. Roll out on a floured surface, 1/3 of the dough at a time to about 1/4 thickness (I like a thicker cookie, but you can definitely make these thinner by rolling out to 1/8 thickness. They will cook faster and be slightly crispier.). Cut out using your desired cookie cutter. Place on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Sugar Cookie Icing

1 C. confectioner's sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp lemon extract (you can use any flavored extract here - almond is also great!)
food coloring

In a small bowl, stir together confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and extract until icing is smooth and shiny. If it's too thick, add more corn syrup. Divide into bowls and add food coloring. Decorate as desired.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roasted Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Quiche

Before this year, I had never even tried quiche. My husband and I are not vegetarians and a lot of the quiche recipes I have seen did not look like they would be very substantial. I have been proven wrong! By adding a few simple ingredients, I now have a recipe that we both really love.

It’s a basic quiche recipe (from Everyday Food) that I tweaked to include some of my favorite flavors. The sun-dried tomatoes add a rich sweetness and roasted chicken makes it a more filling meal for my husband.

Roasted Chicken and Sun Dried Tomato Quiche

1 Tb. Olive Oil
2 roasted chicken breasts (from a store-bought roaster or leftover chicken)
1 large yellow onion, diced
¾ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
3-4 pieces of sun-dried tomato, chopped
4 eggs
¾ cup half and half
1 to 1½ cups Gruyere cheese, grated
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 pie crust (I use a premade, frozen crust when cooking on the fly!)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. of the pepper (you can also add other seasonings/spices here to change the flavor slightly. I have added Jamacain seasonings, red pepper flakes, etc.). Cook until the onions are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cooked chicken and parsley and cook for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and half and half. Stir in the cheese, nutmeg, remaining salt and pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, and onion-chicken mixture. Place the pie crust in a pie dish or tart pan. Scrape the mixture into the pie crust. Bake until filling is set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spring Menu Options

With my first dinner party/ summer bbq coming up in about 10 days, I am throwing around some ideas for food. There's going to be about 15 people in and out, so I want to have a variety, but I'm also feeling a little ambitious. Here are some items that I am considering:

- Baby Arugula Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing
- Taffy Apple Salad (Dad doesn't think this should be called a "salad" but it's SOO good!!)

- Mini baked brie in puff pastry with apricot or raspberry preserves and slivered almonds
- Bacon pastries or Spiced Chicken pastries
- green olive tapenade for bread
- Garlic Beer bread
- Buffalo Chicken Dip (you'd think this had CRACK in's so good!)
- Chips and corn salsa
- Mushroom asparagus tarts
- Carmelized onion and blue cheese tart

Main Dishes
- Baked Mostaccioli
- Honey Balsamic Chicken skewers

- Symphony Brownies
- Texas Sheet Cake
- Cupcakes (too many to choose from!)
- Summer berry pie (blackberry again?)
- Lemon Berry Tartlets
- Lemon or Raspberry squares

So I have a long way to go before I can narrow this down...and it's still feeling pretty random to me. I want food that will be somewhat easy to make but also keep for people to munch on throughout the night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Attempt at a blog....

With summer approaching and having some time off from teaching, I am hoping to start and maintain this baking/ cooking blog. I enjoy cooking but I truly LOVE all things baked. I hoping to use this as a way to test out all of the exciting recipes I have stumbled upon, dreamed up, and tasted. :)