Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash

WOW! It's almost 2012 and I still haven't seen any snow stick to the ground this winter. Today, on New Year's Eve, it's almost 50 degrees! Unbelievable!! Definitely still feels like fall...

With that mindset, I made this really fast and delicious Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash. It reminded me of fall with it's smooth and toasty flavors and was simple enough to be made for a quick lunch. Hurry! Make this before it starts feeling like winter again! :)

Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash

Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled and cut into 1/2-in. pieces
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp small fresh thyme sprigs
1 16-oz pkg cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen) - I prefer fresh goat-cheese ravioli
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the squash, season
with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, uncovered, tossing occasionally, until the squash is tender and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to package directions. Transfer the ravioli to plates, top with the squash mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fig and Ham Foccacianini

I LOVE sandwiches. I mean, who doesn't? Carbo-loading with delicious ingredients and the options are endless. Although, I will admit, sometimes I get stuck in a PB & J rut. Recently, I started watching "Next Food Network Star" and loving Jeff Mauro. He won last season ( I have to say "spoiler alert" if the info is a year old??) and his recipes are really creative and interesting when it comes to composing a yummy sandwich.

Here, I adapted one of his panini recipes and it turned out delicious. It combines the traditional flavors of ham and cheese with a unique twist - using sharp Italian cheese and fig spread to make it out of this world.

To make this recipe even faster and easier, feel free to use prepared (read: store bought) fig spread. IF you've got the time, I included the recipe for homemade fig spread.

Fig Spread:
2 cups dried figs, stems removed and halved
3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

4 squares focaccia bread
8 ounces Italian sharp cheese, such as Fontinella, or asiago, sliced
1 pound black forest ham, thinly sliced
Olive oil, for brushing

For the fig spread: Bring the figs, 1 cup water, balsamic and sugar to a simmer in a small pot. Simmer until the figs rehydrate and the liquid reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Once cool, place in a food processor and puree until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds.

For the sandwich: Preheat a griddle over medium-low heat or heat a panini press. Slice 1 focaccia square in half. Place a thin layer of the fig spread on the inside of both halves. Place a couple slices of cheese on the bottom, and then place 4 ounces ham on top. Close and lightly brush the bread with olive oil. Griddle the sandwich until golden and warm, about 4 minutes a side. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Recipe adapted from "The Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pan-fried Potatoes and Green Beens

This is one of those side dishes that always brings me back to summer barbeques in my parents' backyard. This is a really simple, easy side dish that goes well with all sorts of main dishes. It can be grilled in the summer or made indoors during cold winter months.

Pan-fried Potatoes and Green Beens
3-4 potatoes, sliced thinly (any will work, I really like Yukon golds)
1 red onion, sliced thinly
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into large pieces
4 Tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter. Add the potatoes and cook until just beginning to become tender (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste. Cook until the veggies are tender-crisp and the potatoes have a nice, brown crust on them. (To get this crust, move them as little as possible - allow that cast iron skillet to work its magic!) about 6-7 minutes more. Serve alongside your favorite main course!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

One-Minute Nutella Cake

Throughout the blogosphere, I've discovered the joys of "One-Minute" microwave cakes. My tastebuds danced in delight (as my waistline grew weary!). These cakes are truly amazing. They're little one-pot wonders that help curb even the most intense dessert craving.

This dessert combines one of my favorite ingredients - Nutella, with a moist and delicious cake. I could eat this every night of my life!

One-Minute Nutella Cake

4 tablespoons self-raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons nutella
3 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 egg
Nonstick Spray

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk lightly with a fork until combined and smooth. Pour into an oversized microwave safe mug or ramekin that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Microwave for a minute watching as the cake rises in the mug, stopping if it is about to overflow and continuing a couple of times for 10 second intervals till cooked. [Don't be tempted to overcook. The cake virtually finishes cooking in that first 1 minute rise]


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake

Not to be outdone by "One Minute Nutella Cake," this peanut butter cake screams decadence. It's rich, creamy, and oh-so-peanut-buttery. This is for the true peanut butter lover.

Go ahead. Indulge - you deserve it...and no one's watching! :)

One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake

1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (give or take)


In a small bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, baking powder, peanut butter and flour. Pour batter into a greased ramekin. Microwave for 30 seconds.

While the cake is microwaving, stir together milk and powdered sugar, adding more powdered sugar if necessary to thicken frosting. **This step is optional...I actually preferred the cake without the icing, but my husband like it with....totally up to you!

Remove cake from ramekin (or don’t), pour frosting over top.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Praline-Pecan Banana Bread

I often have to hide bananas into desserts - particularly breads, since my husband doesn't really like them. However, I'm slowly breaking his will by increasing the banana flavors in truly amazing dishes. This is definitely one of them.

The banana flavor is pronounced, but not overwhelming here. What really makes this dessert shine and brings them coming back for more, is the Praline-Pecan topping that's poured over the bread before it's baked. The flavor seeps into the bread and permeates throughout while creating a sweet crust on top.

You will never look at banana bread the same way again!

Praline-Pecan Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup Praline-Pecan Sauce
3 ripe large bananas, mashed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-cup loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, sour cream, 3/4 C of Praline sauce, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. Over mixing the batter will yield a tough, rubbery bread.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and pour the remaining 1/4 cup of Praline sauce over the top of the batter. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 - 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one - 9 inch loaf

*If you do not have or can't find Praline-Pecan sauce, you can substitute caramel sauce and add pecans.

Pecan-Praline Sauce

2 cups unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 pounds light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add the pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil. Cook until the pecans begin to change color. Be careful! This mixture will foam over, so use a large saucepan.

Add the remaining 1 cup butter and mix well. This will cool the pecan mixture and stop the cooking process. Remove from heat.

Combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon in a saucepan and mix well. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly; increase heat. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in pecan mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat.

**Just remember this makes a LOT of praline sauce - probably more like 12 cups. However, it freezes amazingly well and keeps that way for a long LONG time. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Don't feel like messing with dinner this weekend? Yeah, me neither. I feel like every cook needs a recipe like this in his/her repertoire. Some days, I really don't feel like cooking...or we have a lot going on....or I don't feel like it... :) No matter the reason, there can still be a warm, delicious meal waiting for you and your family.

This recipe is a Crockpot recipe, so it's not exactly fast, but it couldn't be any easier. You can even forget to start it until the afternoon and have a delicious and moist BBQ chicken dinner waiting for you. You can eat it any way you want- alone, on sandwiches, etc. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Crockpot BBQ chicken

4-6 pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts, fresh or frozen
1 bottle BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's and it was amazing!)
1/4 c vinegar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp. garlic powder

Mix BBQ sauce with all ingredients listed under it. Place chicken in Crockpot. Pour sauce over it and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. You pretty much don't even have to stir it... how easy is that!?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Seven Layer Magic Bars

These bars are truly MAGIC!! They are a classic pot-luck and party treat that combines layers of sweet, salty, creamy goodness. They are truly simple and always a crowd-pleaser. Chocolate chips, butterscotch, and coconut are all caramelized and melt together on a crispy graham crust.

Seven Layer Magic Bars
yield: about 24 bars

No-Stick Cooking Spray
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (chocolate grahams will also work here! YUM!)
1 cup butter, melted (2 sticks)
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup butterscotch-flavored chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

HEAT oven 350°F. Spray 13 x 9-inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.

COMBINE graham cracker crumbs and butter; mix well. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Pour 3/4 of the sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.

In a bowl, mix together all other ingredients, reserving 1/3 Cup of coconut. Spread evenly over the condensed milk and press down firmly. Top with remaining sweetened condensed milk. Top with 1/3 cup of coconut and press down firmly.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. Cut into bars or diamonds.

**For perfectly cut cookie bars, line entire pan with foil, extending foil over edge of pan. Coat lightly with no-stick cooking spray. After bars have baked and cooled, lift up by edges of foil to remove from pan. Cut into individual bars.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fruit-Filled Puff Pastry Donuts with Lemon Glaze

Are you looking for a simple, delicious way to elevate a donut? This recipe is it! It's called a donut but could also be called a popover. It also really reminded me of a toaster pastry only more fresh and flaky.

Using store-bought puff pastry, this breakfast treat comes together quickly and is definitely kid and adult friendly!

Fruit-Filled Puff Pastry Donuts with Lemon Glaze
Makes about 9 donuts

1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
1 package (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
Cut-up fruit, such as strawberries, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, etc. (I used strawberries and blackberries)

Lemon glaze:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup confectioners' sugar

To make the lemon glaze, combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. The consistency should be slightly thick but runny. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork; Set aside. Unfold 1 pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Using a round cutter, cut the pastry sheet into 9 (3-inch) circles. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheet. (Don’t waste the scraps – re-roll them and cut into as many circles as possible)

Place half of the pastry circles onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Top each with a small amount of cut-up fruit and top fruit with a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) sugar. Brush the edges of the pastry circles with the egg wash. Place the remaining pastry circles over the filling. Press the edges firmly to seal and crimp edges with a fork. Using a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears, cut two small slits in the top of each filled pastry.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown on the top and the bottoms. Let the pastries cool slightly and drizzle the lemon glaze, or simply shake confectioners sugar, over the tops.

Adapted slightly from The Comforts of Cooking

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake "Cake"

This traditional "ice box cake" couldn't be easier or more surprising! As I was searching through old food magazines, I came across this recipe that peaked my interested. It's visually impressive and no one would know that the "cake" in this is really chocolate graham crackers! Truly, it looks and tastes like cake that's been expertly and painstakingly sliced to perfection.

The original recipe serves 8-10, but I very easily doubled it for a party - the only change I made was to line up the two "cakes" and frost them together.

I highly recommend making your own whipped frostings here, as it gives the cake a more special flavor. If you're looking for something that's simple and just needs to be assembled and sit in the fridge until you're ready for it - here's your recipe!

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake "Cake"
serves about 8-10

2 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
12 whole chocolate graham crackers
optional garnish: chocolate jimmies

In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine 1/4 cup of the cream and the peanut butter chips, stirring just until melted and smooth: pour into a bowl. Repeat with the milk chocolate chips and another 1/4 cup of the cream; pour into another bowl. Refrigerate both about 15 minutes until cook, but not firm.

In a medium bowl, with mixer on high speed, beat remaining cream just until stiff. Gently fold half of the whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Fold remaining whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Refrigerate milk chocolate whipped cream.

Spread each of 10 whole chocolate graham crackers with about 2-1/2 tablespoons of the peanut butter whipped cream. Sandwich together coated crackers to form 2 stacks (5 cookies per stack). Top each stack with 1 plain graham cracker. Arrange stacks, side by side, on a serving plate, long edges touching. Frost with milk chocolate whipped cream.

Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight for cookies to soften into "cake". To serve, garnish with chocolate jimmies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

I came across this recipe years ago and I am still amazed at how simple, moist, and decadent this cake is. Even though it's not "from scratch" (hey, it's still homemade!) I think it's by far my favorite chocolate cake recipe.

The cake is incredibly moist and chocolatey while the extra chocolate chips add richness and even more fun! This time, I made cupcakes with the recipe, but you can also use this to make 2 9" cake rounds. It's amazing and so simple that you'd be crazy not to give it a try!

Double Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 small pkg Jello instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini chocolate chips, plus more for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, mix together everything except chocolate chips. Batter will be thick. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into cupcake tins with linters. For cooking time, I use the cooking times on the back of the devil’s food cake box as a guide and usually add 5-10 mins to whatever it says. Then I do the toothpick check, and if it’s not done, I check on it every 5 mins after that.

Allow to cool and then frost with Vanilla Buttercream frosting and sprinkle with extra mini chocolate chips.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slow Cooked Pork with Green Chilies and Tomatillos

This recipe is again from a cooking class hosted by Qdoba. This pork is used for traditional street tacos and is so flavorful and tender that it's unbelievable. It also happens to be insanely simple, which makes me happy.

If you are looking for a new twist on tacos and are tired of chicken or steak, look no further. This pork was definitely a crowd pleaser and any leftovers would be great in a variety of recipes that call for pulled pork.

Slow Cooked Pork with Green Chilies and Tomatillos

1 boneless pork shoulder roast
1 white onion, cut into thin strips
2 Poblano Chilies, cut into thin strips
2 Jalapeno Chilies, cut into thin strips
2 Anaheim or Hatch Green Chilies, cut into thin strips
2 C. Tomatillos, cut into large chunks
3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
1 T. Salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Top with half of the tomatillos. Place the pork roast into the slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Add remaining tomatillos. Top with all of the chilies.

Cook on low for a minimum of 6 hours. (The idea is to cook the pork slowly so that it is fork tender)

After 6 hours, the pork will be fork tender and ready to shred. If necessary, remove any fat prior to shredding.

Using tongs or your hands, shred the pork into taco sized pieces. Add pepper and additional salt to taste.

Serve with fresh, warm tortillas and your favorite taco toppings (I suggest the traditional topper of cilantro, red onion, and lime juice.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fresh Salsas with Toasted Dry Chilies

This post is more about learning a new method rather than a recipe. I recently attended a class given by Qdoba. Qdoba is a mexi-style restaurant that specializes in healthy, delicious Mexican food. I started going to Qdoba when I lived near St. Louis (Chipotle hadn't quite made it's way there yet!) and I was hooked. So, when given the opportunity to get "insider secrets" I was really excited.

One of the best parts of the class was learning how to make fresh, vibrant salsa. We used dried chilis that we toasted in order to create a deep, flavorful salsa. What's great about this recipe is that you can use whatever dried chili you like. They suggested finding one that smells good to you and go with it. Below I've listed a few that I use and really like along with their flavor profile to help you a bit.

Interestingly enough, the salsas listed below do not use tomatoes. They get their reddish color from the chilies that are used. You can always add tomato to your salsa if you'd like - anything goes here!

(from L to R: salsa verde, chipotle, ancho, and habanero)

Fresh Salsas with Toasted Dry Chilies
yield: about 1 cup

4-5 tomatillos, roasted
2 cloves of garlic, roasted
1/4 onion, roasted
1/4 lime, juiced
1-2 dry chilies of your choice (I really liked Casacabel, chipotle, ancho, and habenero)
salt, to taste

To prepare the tomatillos, onion, and garlic, rinse and roast or grill until blackened and soft. Allow to cool.

While the vegetables are cooling, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Place the dry chili in the skillet and toast. The chili will have wisps of steam/smoke and you will begin to smell the chili. Toast for 30-40 seconds, turning frequently, until the chili becomes pliable. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, onion, garlic, salt, and toasted chili. You may want to begin with 1/2 of the toasted chili and then taste...adding more as you want to intensify the flavors.

Chill and enjoy!

Salsa Verde
yield: about 1 cup

4-5 tomatillos, roasted
1 jalapeno, roasted
2 cloves of garlic, roasted
1/4 onion, roasted
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste

To prepare the tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, and garlic, rinse and roast or grill until blackened and soft. Allow to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients. You may want to remove the ribs and seeds of the jalapeno for a less hot salsa.

Chill and enjoy!

*This post is not sponsored by Qdoba in any way...I just wanted to share my love and experience with you guys! :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels

For Mother's Day, in addition to the Cinco De Mayo feast, I wanted to make a personal gift from my kitchen. I chose to do Salted Vanilla Bean caramels and they were a HUGE hit.

Easy to make, these are not only visually impressive, but chewy, creamy and interesting. The hint of salt is really amazing with the sweet caramel. Make them for someone you love of keep them all to yourself. You won't be disappointed with this recipe!

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels
Yield: 64 caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and scraped
1 1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, pods, and sea salt. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is a light golden caramel color.

Remove the vanilla bean pods from the cream mixture and carefully stir the cream mixture into the caramel – the mixture will bubble up, so pour slowly and stir constantly. Continue simmering the mixture until it registers 248˚ F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Let cool for 30 minutes, then sprinkle lightly with additional sea salt. Continue to let sit until completely set and cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter works well). Wrap the individual caramels in small pieces of wax paper, about 4-inch squares.

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cinnamon Leches Cake with Sugared Almonds

For Mother's Day this year, we decided to combine Cinco De Mayo and celebrating motherhood. I mean, seriously folks, what mother do you know couldn't use a little cerveza and fun in her life? I was definitely excited that they landed close together so we could combine the festivities!

This recipe is a twist on a more traditional Tres Leches cake. Tres Leches means "3 Milks" and since this recipe uses 5 milks, it is now "Muchas Leches," or many milks. :) In both versions, vanilla-cinnamon sponge cake is brushed with a milk mixture that soaks in and saturates the cake. It becomes rich, creamy, and incredibly moist.

I also really liked the addition of the sugared almonds in this recipe. It gives a really good crunch that pair nicely with the creaminess of the cake. Without them, I think the cake would be too soft on it's own. One suggestion for the almonds is to make sure that you keep a good eye on them (not letting them burn) and stir them throughout their cooking time to break them up and help them cook more evenly and quickly.

Cinnamon Leches Cake with Sugared Almonds
Yield: About 16 servings

For the cake:
2 cups (8 oz.) blanched almonds
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
7 large eggs, separated
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder

For the soaking liquid:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. dulce de leche **See Note/recipe below
1/4 cup cream of coconut (usually found in the liquor section although it contains no alcohol)
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the sugared almonds:
2 large egg whites
2 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar

For the whipped cream frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Splash of vanilla extract

Fresh berries, for garnish (optional)

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the edges of the pan. Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon. Process until finely ground. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a different bowl and set aside. Wipe out the mixer bowl. In the now-empty mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Fold in the flour and the baking powder with a spatula. Fold in the ground almond mixture. Mix in a third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Fold in the remainder of the egg whites until evenly incorporated and no streaks remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake approximately 26 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the soaking liquid, combine the whipping cream, dulce de leche, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Whisk together until smooth.

To make the sugared almonds, place the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and whip on high speed until frothy. Stir in the almonds and sugar until evenly incorporated. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake at 325˚ F until golden brown and crisp, approximately 20 minutes (let cool a minute or two before touching). Allow to cool and then break apart into small chunks.

To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Blend in the vanilla.

Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake into thirds width-wise so that you have three pieces of cake about 4 1/3 x 9 inches each. Place one of the segments of cake on a rectangular serving platter and brush with a third of the soaking liquid. (You may want to poke the cake with the tines of a fork to help it absorb the liquid.) Frost with a layer of the whipped cream. Top with another layer of cake, brush with half of the remaining soaking liquid, and frost again with whipped cream. Top with the final layer of cake and brush with the remaining liquid. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream. Press the sugared almonds into the top and sides of the cake to cover evenly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Before serving, dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and top with fresh berries, if desired.

Source: adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

**Note: I couldn't find dulce de leche at my grocery store. Rather than hunt it down, I decided to have fun making my own. If you're not feeling up to it or don't have time, just substitute an additional 2 Tbs. of sweetened condensed milk.

If you do want to try making your own, I have listed the recipe as well. This uses a whole (small) can of sweetened condensed milk, so you can definitely use the extra over ice cream, cupcakes, or other desserts!

Dulce de Leche

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Pour one can (14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in a few flecks of sea or kosher salt.

Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.

Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).

Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oven BBQ Chicken

After almost 3 days of nonstop rain, everyone at my house was getting a little stir crazy. I couldn't take the dreary weather and winter-y food anymore! I decided to find a recipe that reminded me of summer, but could be executed indoors. I came across this recipe for Oven BBQ Chicken and I knew I'd found a winner.

This recipe uses chicken legs, but a whole cut up chicken could also work - in fact, this is what I used because I had one in the freezer. One suggestion would be to use bone-in chicken rather than boneless, skinless chicken breasts (those tend to get dry in recipes like this one).

This quick BBQ sauce here is also delicious. It's sweet and slightly tangy. As is, it has a little heat in the background, but if you want to add more, you can just chop another chipotle and add it to the party. Enjoy!!

Oven BBQ Chicken

18 whole Chicken Legs
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1/4 whole Onion, Diced
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 cups Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons (additional) Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Distilled Vinegar (less To Taste)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup Molasses
1 Chipotle Chili, minced ***See Note Below
4 Tablespoons Chipotle Adobo Sauce (the Adobo Sauce Chipotle Peppers Are Packed In)
Dash Of Salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken legs on a broiler pan or any pan with a rack, then roast for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting, heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for five minutes, stirring, being careful not to burn them.

Reduce heat to low. Add all remaining ingredients and stir. Allow to simmer while the chicken roasts. Taste after simmering and add whatever ingredient it needs (more spice, more sugar, etc.)

After 20 minutes of roasting, crank on the broiler to get a little color on the legs. Broil for five minutes.

Remove chicken legs from oven. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. With tongs, dip each chicken leg into the sauce, submerging completely. Place back onto the pan. After all chicken is coated, return pan to oven for five minutes, or until hot and sizzling.

Remove from oven. Brush/dab generously with remaining sauce. Allow chicken to sit a few minutes before serving.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

***Note: In order to save the rest of the chipotles, find a spare ice cube tray. Put one chipotle and some adobo in each well. Freeze solid then pop them out into a freezer bag. This allows you to easier get one or two chipotles whenever you need them and not waste a whole can when a recipe calls for only one. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spicy Fish Tacos with Southwest Slaw

Are your knives sharpened and your avocados ready and waiting?! I think Cinco De Mayo may be one of my favorite food holidays. It's amazing how much it makes me feel like summer has started (or at least it's right around the corner).

Admittedly, the sound of "fish tacos" has never really appealed to me. However, I did come across this recipe which pairs mild, white fish with a crunchy/spicy slaw. I thought I would give it a go....and I am sure glad I did! I am now a fish-taco convert. These were truly inspiring. They were lean, spicy, and had a really satisfying crunch. Plus the avocado cream added a coolness that was delicious.

If you're looking for something a little lighter (hey, I did say summer was around the corner!) or just different for your Cinco De Mayo celebration, then this recipe is for you!

Spicy Fish Tacos with Southwest Slaw
yield: 6 - 8 servings

6 whole Talapia Fillets (or Other Mild Flaky White Fish)
2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (I Use Frank's Red Hot)
Canola Oil (I had olive oil and used that)
Lime Juice, To Drizzle On Grilled Fish
12 whole Corn Tortillas
1 cup Southwest Slaw
1/4 cup Cilantro, Chopped Medium-fine

1/3 cup Canola Oil
2 whole Limes, Juiced
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
2 Tablespoons Adobo Sauce (from A Can Of Chipotles In Adobo)

1 whole Large Hass Avocado, Peeled, Seeded And Diced
1 cup Sour Cream
1 whole Lime, Juiced
2 teaspoons Your Favorite Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt

Important: Make sure the fish is fresh! It should be firm, with good color, and a clean briny (not fishy) smell.

If you can’t find talapia, any mild white flaky fish would work. Mahi mahi, cod, red snapper, or halibut would be fine.

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the fish in a gallon zip-top bag and add the marinade.

Slosh the fish and the marinade gently in the bag to ensure that all of the fish is coated.

Seal the bag (removing the excess air) and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Combine all of the avocado cream ingredients in an medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine, then cover and refrigerate.

Tip: The marinade and/or avocado cream can be made up to a day in advance.

Start your grill and prepare for direct cooking over a hot fire (450-500ยบ).

Remove the fish from the marinade and drain well.

Pat each fillet dry with a paper towel.

Smear each side of each fillet with a teaspoon of hot sauce, applying it as evenly as you can.

Oil the grill grate and both sides of the fish lightly with the canola oil. The oil on the grate will smoke, so wait for it to dissipate.

Put the fish on the grill and cook for three minutes.

Flip the fish over and cook for another minute.

Move the fish to a warm platter, drizzle the fish with lime juice, and cover the platter with plastic wrap.

Quickly warm each tortilla on the grill.

To serve, offset two tortillas by half, smear the inside with avocado cream, add some fish chunks (separated with forks), then top with about two tablespoons of slaw and some cilantro.

Southwest Slaw

1/4 head Green Cabbage
1/8 heads Red Cabbage
1/4 whole Medium Red Onion, Sliced Very Thin (about 1/2 Cup)
1/8 cup Cilantro, Chopped Medium-fine

3 Tablespoons Mayonnaise (I actually used Mayo here - surprised?!)
2 whole Limes, Juiced
1 whole Chipotle Chile, In Adobo Sauce (canned)
1 Tablespoon Adobo Sauce (from the canned chipotle in adobo)
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt

Preparation Instructions

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl with tall sides, or a large tumbler cup/glass.

Blend the ingredients well with a stick blender, then set aside.

Slice the green cabbage thin (just under 1/4″) and put it in a large mixing bowl. You need about three cups.

Slice the red cabbage just like the green and add it to the mixing bowl. You need about 1 1/2 cups.

Add the sliced onion, cilantro, and the dressing to the bowl.

Stir all of the ingredients well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

(Makes about 4 cups)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I think you've noticed I've been on an ice cream kick lately. But with summer rapidly approaching (yippee!!) I really want to make sure I have an arsenal of ice cream. Buying ice cream from the store just seems so boring now!

With all of the fancy and exotic flavors jumping around my head, I kept coming back to one thought...Breyer's Vanilla Bean ice creams is really good. It's pretty well known that vanilla is the most popular flavor. After tasting this recipe, I can see why.

It's fresh, bright, and to-die-for delicious. I think it definitely give Breyer's a run for its money. After this recipe, be sure to check out the Pecan Praline Sauce I've included (from my Bread Pudding might just lose it after pairing these too. Have fun and happy churning!

Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan and add the pod to the pot. Warm over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining 2 cups cream (or cream and milk) and the vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Pecan-Praline Sauce

2 cups unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 pounds light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add the pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil. Cook until the pecans begin to change color. Be careful! This mixture will foam over, so use a large saucepan.

Add the remaining 1 cup butter and mix well. This will cool the pecan mixture and stop the cooking process. Remove from heat.

Combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon in a saucepan and mix well. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly; increase heat. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in pecan mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat.

**Just remember this makes a LOT of praline sauce - probably more like 12 cups. However, it freezes amazingly well and keeps that way for a long LONG time. :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Corned Beef Hash with Eggs

Growing up, my dad was always in the kitchen. After he took a job that allowed him to be home by 3pm, he became the primary cook in our house. Once he got his bearing, tried some new recipes, and gained some confidence, it was wonderful!

To this day, I am still amazed at my dad's ability to look in the pantry, have no real direction, and whip up a super-yummy dinner in no time. I cannot do this....I am a cookbook/ recipe cook. I like having the comfort of having the recipe with precise measurements right in front of me. Oh, I tend to do "off recipe" almost every time (adding a little this or a dash of that) but I always tend to stay true to the heart of the recipe. What kind of cook are you??

Here you'll find a recipe that will always, always remind me of my dad. I'd never made my own Corned Beef Hash (we typically got it out of a can!) but this was to-die-for. Surprisingly easy, I was able to whip this up Easter morning all while trying to entertain a 1 year old. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and maybe it will bring some fond memories your way.

Corned Beef Hash with Eggs

Yield: 4 large servings (or up to 6 smaller servings)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cups finely chopped, cooked corned beef
3 cups chopped, cooked potatoes
4 Eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Heat the butter in a large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until translucent.

Add the corned beef and potatoes, salt, and pepper and spread the mixture out evenly in the pan. Increase the heat to high or medium high and press down on the mixture with a metal spatula.

Do not stir the potatoes and corned beef mixture, but let them brown. If you hear them sizzling, this is good. Use a spatula to life up a corner to see if they are browning. Once nicely browned, use the spatula to flip sections over in the pan so that they brown on the other side. Press down again with the spatula. If there is too much sticking, you can add a little more butter to the pan.

Make 4 indentations in the corned beef hash so that there is only a thin layer of hash. Crack each egg into a well.

Continue to cook in this manner until the potatoes and the corned beef are nicely browned and the eggs are cooked to your preferred done-ness (I like over-easy so I only cook them about 2 minutes). Top with fresh parsley. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables

I received this recipe from a friend and coworker who had taken a cooking class recently. She said that it was the most delicious dish the class had made that I knew I had to see what it was all about.

This was my first time making quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) and I was interested to see if I liked what it was all about. According to Wikipedia (hey, I do my research for you guys because I care), quinoa is a grain that is known for it's high protein content. It's also a good source of dietary fiber. This means good things for you and me. As any dieter knows, you want foods that are high in fiber and protein (especially protein because it keeps you feeling full) but low in fat and calories. Well, it doesn't get much better than this grain.

In this dish, I've combined roasted vegetables with the quinoa, but you could definitely grill them. For me, it's been pretty cold and rainy, so I opted for the oven. It was delicious, very filling, and wonderful both warm and cold. I feel like this dish will be making many appearances at summer bbq's and get-togethers this year.

I hope you try it and find it to be as different and refreshing as I did!

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
For the quinoa:
1C quinoa
2C chicken (or vegetable) stock

For the vinaigrette:
1 shallot, minced
3 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C parmesan cheese, finely grated

For the vegetables:
Vegetables, cut into small uniform pieces (I used 8oz. portabella mushrooms, 1 small yellow squash, 1 small zucchini, 1 medium onion, 6 oz. cherry tomatoes)
extra virgin olive oil

finishing touches:
1/4 C Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 C pine nuts, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (for the veggies).

Heat the quinoa and stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by putting the shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Drizzle in oil while whisking constantly. Add cheese and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper - adjust to your tastes.

On a sheet pan scatter the cut vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until the veggies are tender and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

**Alternately, you can grill the veggies if the weather is cooperating with you!

To assemble the salad, combine the quinoa, veggies, vinaigrette, parsley, and pine nuts in a large bowl. Toss to combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Apple Stuffed Roast Pork

As much as I love to cook, with a toddler, sometimes that becomes nearly impossible. So for those days that we're incredibly busy or Mr. Man's being too cute to not play with, I try to find shortcuts that make my life easier.

Thay being said, I was at my local grocery store when I spotted apple stuffing mix. It's quick, easy, and usually a crowd pleaser. To my further excitement, there was a recipe for Apple Stuffed Roast Pork on the back of the box.

I tried that recipe and it was really delicious. While it wasn't that quick, it was easy, and made for a impressive and pretty dinner. I hope you like it as much as we did!

Apple Stuffed Roast Pork

1 pkg. Apple stuffing mix (mine happened to be Stove Top)
1 pork loin, butterflied
2 T. maple syrup
2 T. dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the stuffing as directed on the package. Let stand 5 minutes.

Place the meat, cut side up, on your work surface. Cover with stuffing, leaving 1/2 inch border. Roll up the meat, starting at the short end.

Place the meat, seam side down, on a greased pan. Bake 1 hour.

Meanwhile, mix the syrup, mustard, and rosemary. Spread over the meat. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until the meat is 160 degrees.

*This post is not sponsered by Stove Top in any way...I just happened to really like this recipe :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Every so often, my husband has what I call "psychic moments." I don't know if it's a product of living with me for a while now or just random coincidence, but sometimes it's pretty freaky! Case and point...last week I came across a recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms and thought they would be the perfect surprise for him since usually the only cookies he gets are the ones I deem too "ugly" to give to someone else.

That very same night, he comes home and says, "I've been thinking...can you make some peanut butter cookies? The ones with the Hershey kiss in it? That sounds good...."

WHAT?! I've never, EVER made these cookies. How could he have picked the exact cookie that I wanted to surprise him with?! I have no idea...therefore he must be psychic. Regardless, I made them and they were worth it! These are truly amazing and perfect for gifting (or hoarding them yourself!) Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 & 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Hershey's Kisses (I needed about 30)

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375.

Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter until blended. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg through vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the flour in 3 additions. Scrape the bottom and side of bowl as needed.

Place extra granulated sugar on a plate. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar.

Place coated dough balls on the parchment-lined sheets. Bake cookies until the are a very light golden color, about 10 minutes. (Meanwhile, unwrap the kisses.)

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place a kiss on top of each hot cookie, pressing down slightly. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Dark and White Chocolate Layer Cake with Strawberries

I was thinking of calling this "The Perfect Party Cake" because it was just that...PERFECT! Everyone at Mr. Man's first birthday party raved about how great this cake was. I wish I could take FULL credit, but I can't. This recipe is a mash-up of a few different components. Dark Chocolate cake, White Chocolate filling, Whipped cream icing - Delish!

Now, the pic below is of Mr. Man's cake. I also did a smash cake using this recipe, but left out the strawberries for the smaller version.

The recipe will reflect the cake, filling, and frosting. However, the icing/ decoration on the cake are vanilla buttercream and it was so easy to decorate with it! You could also do the entire cake in buttercream, but for some reason, my little guy doesn't like the overly sweetness of buttercream. Well...with him living in this house, I'm sure that will eventually change!

Dark and White Chocolate Layer Cake with Strawberries

For the dark chocolate cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the white chocolate whipped cream:
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

For the whipped cream frosting:
1 cup cold heavy cream
4 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries, for filling (I used about 1 pint)

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the sides of two 9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; mix at medium-low speed until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the boiling water (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake, remove the cakes from the pans, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When the cake has cooled, cut each in half horizontally to create four cake layers.

To make the white chocolate whipped cream, place the chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Melt, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is almost melted, bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil. Once the chocolate is fully melted, transfer the bowl to a counter, pour in the hot cream and let it sit for one minute. Then stir gently with a spatula until the chocolate is smooth. Let the chocolate sit until it reaches room temperature – the chocolate can’t be the least bit warm when it is added to the whipped cream.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 1 cup cream only until it holds the softest peaks. With the mixer on high speed, add the white chocolate all at once and continue to beat just until the mixture holds firm peaks. Transfer the cream to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To make the whipped cream frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the cream, sugar and vanilla together just until the cream starts to thicken. Start on a slower speed and increase the speed as the cream gains texture. Continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Be very careful not to overbeat.

To assemble the cake, transfer one of the cake layers to a 10-inch cardboard circle, cut surface up. Spread a thick layer of white chocolate whipped cream on top of the cake. Layer with fresh strawberry slices. Lay another cake layer on top of the cream and berries, and press down gently. Top as before with white chocolate whipped cream and berries. Repeat once more with another cake layer and topping. Place the final cake layer on top, cut side down, and press down gently. Frost the cake with whipped cream frosting and garnish with fresh berries or decorate as desired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Creamy Fruit Dip

Any time there's a party and there's a fresh fruit tray, I think this dip should be right next to it. Besides, we don't want things to be TOO healthy - that would ruin all of the fun of a party!

One key note/ funny story to add, however. If you do make this, please (for the sake of your guests), garnish it with some fresh fruit so everyone knows what it is. There's nothing worse than dipping a gleaming strawberry full-on into dip and shoveling it into your mouth, just to realize it's not fruit dip but onion dip...and meant for the pretzels next to it. Yup....happened to me this year, yuck. It was not pleasing to the palate.

But, had that dip been this dip, it would have been a completely different story. It's so easy but really makes fruit go down faster and it will disappear in a matter of minutes!

Creamy Fruit Dip

1 (8 oz.) pacakge cream cheese, softened
1 pint marshmallow fluff
2 Tbs. orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to a serving dish and cool until ready to use. Garnish with fresh fruit (so guests know exactly what it is!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cherry Berry Ice Cream

I am definitely on a homemade ice cream kick. After realizing how amazing the Strawberry Vanilla Bean ice cream was, I just couldn't wait to try another berry flavor. Since last summer, I've had an array of fruit in my freezer...cherries and blackberries from our aunt's farm in southern IL plus blueberries and peaches from Michigan. I decided that in order to jump-start the summer weather, I'd make a variation of the delicious dessert and go with a Cherry Berry Ice Cream.

For this recipe, I mixed strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries. It made the ice cream bright, fresh, and wonderfully fruity. Plus it's a really pretty pinky-purple color. I just love it!

Cherry Berry Ice Cream

1 1/2 lbs. fresh or frozen berries (I used cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries)
1 cup sugar (plus more depending on tartness)
2 tbsps. vodka (optional)
1 1/2 C. sour cream
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the berries in a medium bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a blender or food processor and add the sour cream, heavy cream and lemon juice. Pulse briefly until almost smooth but still slightly chunky. Taste the mixture (this is essentially what your ice cream will taste like - yum! Check the sugar level. If it still seems tart, add a little more until it has the perfect amount of sweetness.)

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken

As the weather has been getting warmer, I've been trying to find every excuse to grill outdoors. Last night, I didn't have much time to pull dinner together, so I went for my no-fail, mouth-watering, go-to dish of the summer.

This recipe comes together in under 20 minutes. Of course, the chicken can marinate much longer (up to overnight), but if you don't have that luxury, it still tastes great on the fly.

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (slightly pounded)
1 Tb. olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
4 Tbsp honey
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Heat grill to medium -high heat. In a ziplock bag, combine the chicken, oil, 1 Tb. vinegar, salt, and pepper. Marinate for about 15 minutes, but up to overnight. 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 atop the chicken.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mac and Cheese Cups

I first saw these at a 1st birthday party for one of Mr. Man's friends. They were so adorable and I loved the concept of a mess-free (well, sort of) mac and cheese. I decided to steal the idea and make them for Mr. Man's 1st birthday party.

The only change I made to the original recipe was to add a little garlic salt and pepper. I thought the mac and cheese plain needed a little more pizazz. The recipe states "to taste" which for me, came to about 1/2 tsp. or so of each.

They were great for the kids but the adults also loved them. I am not admitting to how many I consumed during the party...that would be too embarrassing.

Mac and Cheese Cups
yield: about 12 cups

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
garlic salt and pepper, to taste.
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, olive oil and salt; set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for about 8 minutes, it should still be a little bit firm. Remove from the heat, drain and return to the pan; stir in the butter and egg until pasta is evenly coated. Reserve 1/2 cup of sharp Cheddar cheese and stir the remaining Cheddar cheese, milk, garlic salt, pepper, and mozzarella cheese into the pasta. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Sprinkle the reserved cheese and the bread crumb mixture over the tops.

Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the topping is nicely browned. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. This will allow the cheese to set and they will hold their muffin shape.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

For my son's first birthday, I made him his very own smash cake and it was so much fun to see him dig into it (hmm...I think he gets that from his Mama...) When I made the little 5" cake, I found that I had some leftover batter. I can't bring myself to throw away cake, so I made cupcakes with the leftovers. I frosted them with a simple, but delicious buttercream frosting.

This buttercream is so easy, but really tastey. I also use this recipe for cake decorating and it's never failed me. Give it a try, it's truly amazing! This recipe will yeild enough frosting to pipe about 15 cupcakes (although I'm pretty heavy-handed). If you just smeared it on with a knife, I'm sure you could get 24 cupcakes covered.

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
20 tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Source: Cooks' Illustrated

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Homemade Waffles with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

On the weekends, I always try to make at least one of the mornings a little more special by making a tasty, homemade breakfast. This weekend, I thought I'd try my hand at homemade waffles. There are many, many, MANY recipes out there, but I chose this one because they'd been getting a lot of buzz around the internet, but most importantly, they can be made the same day they are started. Some other recipes called for prepping yeast the night before and I didn't have the pre-planning this weekend to pull that off!

These waffles are truly amazing. I always had the "just add water" kind and I can't believe I didn't try homemade sooner. They are really easy, require very little prep, and taste equally delicious with butter and syrup or the fresh blueberry sauce below. Dig in!

Homemade Waffles with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

For the waffles:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Fresh Blueberry Sauce:
2 Cups Fresh Blueberries (frozen could work too, in a pinch)
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 1 T. of water
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice, optional (if you have a lemon on hand, use it! It adds a nice, bright flavor to the sauce)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk together to blend. In another mixing bowl, beat together the whole milk, buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and few lumps remain. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

For the blueberry sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries and sugar. Add the cornstarch/ water mixture and the lemon juice. Slowly bring to a boil, stir until thickened.

Preheat a waffle iron. Fill waffle wells and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook until crisp and golden. Serve immediately topped with fresh blueberry sauce.

Yield: depends on the size/shape of your waffle iron

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Coffee Heath Ice Cream

I am officially obsessed with making my own ice cream. I don't know how I didn't realize the awesome-ness and utter fulfillment of it before! Now that I'm feeling much more confident in my ice cream maker (and myself!) I've been thinking about what flavors to make next.

One of the best Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavors is their Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. This is not my opionion, it's a fact- this stuff is incredible! So, in an effort to make some at home, I found a recipe by the renouned ice creamer David Lebovitz. The base recipe is his Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream and then I just mixed in some crushed Heath's so simple that it's stupid, but if you try this, you won't be able to deny it's magnificents. Even my coffee hating husband agrees that this ice cream is pretty great!

One note: the recipe calls for VERY STONG coffee...take this advice. The other ingredients really mellow it out so if you want your ice cream to actually taste like a delicious frozen coffee dessert, make sure your base coffee is really strong.

Coffee Heath Ice Cream

2 cans of sweetened condensed milk
2 C. VERY strong coffee
2/3 C. whole milk
pinch of coffee or espresso grounds (optional)
Heath bar pieces (10-15 mini's, roughly chopped), plus more for garnish

In a bowl, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, coffee, whole milk, and coffee grounds together. Taste it! (This is ultimately what your ice cream will taste like...if you need a stronger coffee flavor, add a bit more coffee grounds). Freeze according to your ice cream maker directions.

Once finished, transfer your soft ice cream to a storage container. Gently mix in the Heath pieces. Freeze until firm. Sprinkle your bowl of deliciousness with even more Heath pieces. Thank me later :)

Adapted slightly from David Lebovitz

Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Panini

This weekend I was looking for a delicious way to use our newly acquired Panini maker. My brother was crazy enough to not want it so his loss is our gain! This could easily be adapted by using leftover or rostisseire chicken. You can also load it up by using jarred spreads like the Red Pepper, Garlic, Onion one that I spied at Trader Joe's last week. YUM!

My firt attempt at Panini turned out great and was easier than I thought it would be. I could have gone little more simply and started with a grilled cheese sandwich, but that's not really my style....enjoy!

Grilled Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Panini
yield: 4 panini

2 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
8 whole Sundried Tomatoes, Packed In Oil
3 Tablespoons Prepared Basil Pesto
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 cups Mayonnaise
2 whole Red Bell Peppers
8 whole Slices Asiago (or other Italian cheese like Provolone Or Mozzarella)
8 slices Good Whole Grain Sandwich Bread
4 Tablespoons Butter, Softened


Slightly flatten chicken with a mallet (just until uniform thickness.)

In a blender or food processor, puree sundried tomatoes, pesto, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add half the mixture to a ziploc bag with the chicken breasts. Smush around to coat the chicken, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

After marinating, heat heavy skillet or grill to medium. Grill or cook chicken until done. Slice chicken into strips.


In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and 3 tablespoons of the sundried tomato mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.


If you have a gas cooktop, blacken red peppers directly over the flame. (If you do not have a gas cooktop, blacken them directly under the oven broiler.) Completely blacken/char on all sides, then immediately seal in a ziploc bag. Allow peppers to sit, sealed, in the bag for at least 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove from bag and use fingers to slip off the blackened skin. (Don’t be afraid to leave some black bits!) Lop off the top, cut in half, then seed and slice into strips. Set aside.


To make the panini, spread generous amounts of the sundried tomato/pesto spread on one side of all the pieces of bread. On four of the pieces, arrange 1/4 of the chicken slices, 1/4 of the pepper slices, and two pieces of cheese. To with the other four pieces of bread with the spread face down. Butter both sides of sandwich, then grill in panini maker or on a skillet over medium-low heat. (If you use a skillet, set a heavy pan or skillet on top of the sandwich as each side browns.)

Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Tuxedo Cake

This cake is perfect for a fancy party, or pretend fancy get baking!

If you make all three layers (as the recipe below suggests), you will end up with a very tall cake. For a dramatic effect, it's perfect. The slices look a bit funny because they are so tall, but trust me, no one complains! I don’t think that has stopped anyone from enjoying this. You can make the same amount of batter in two 10-inch round pans for a shorter cake. I like the tall cake as it's more visually impressive.

A friend and co-worker asked for a recipe that would be perfect for a shower she was hosting. She's also an avid baker and had adjusted and increased the amounts to create a stunning cake (pictured below). The original recipe is for a tall 3 layer cake and that is the recipe below.

Tuxedo Cake
yield: 1 tall 3-layer cake

For the cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups water
1 cup canola oil
4 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 lb. fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced - plus more whole berries for garnish
1/4 C. sugar
1 Tb. vodka (optional)

For the frosting:
4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the chocolate topping:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cake layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line three 9-inch round cake pans (or two 10-inch round cake pans) with parchment paper. Butter and flour the inside edges of the pan, shaking out the excess flour.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, water and canola oil; heat until the butter is melted. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and flour; whisk to blend. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the baking soda, salt and vanilla to the bowl and whisk just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake layer and invert onto a wire cooling rack. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before frosting, at least 2 hours.

While the cake cools, make the strawberry filling. To make the filling, mix the strawberries, sugar, and vodka in a bowl. Let the berries macerate at least 30 minutes.

To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until thoroughly combined and stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-beat!

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake platter and top with some strawberries. (The berries go first...they are juicy and all of that juicy goodness will ooze into your cake and not out of the frosting.) Spread a layer of the whipped cream frosting over the top of the berries. Top with a second cake layer, more strawberries, more frosting (and the third cake layer, if using). Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake. Refrigerate until the frosting has stabilized, at least 1 hour.

To make the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1-2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla. Pour the glaze into a pitcher or measuring cup and let cool for 10 minutes. (Do not let the glaze cool longer or it may become difficult to pour over the cake.) Slowly pour the glaze over the cake, ensuring that the top is covered and the glaze drips over the sides.

Refrigerate the cake until the glaze is set and the whipped cream frosting is firm, at least 1 hour. Garnish with extra strawberries. Slice with a long, sharp knife, wiping the blade clean between slices.

*Photo courtesy of H. Fitch. She truly did an amazing job! WOW!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Braised Short Ribs with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta

Were you getting tired of all of the sweet posts lately? Hmmm...I wasn't! But, I thought to change it up a bit, I'd share with you a recipe that I made for dinner last week. This was the first time that I'd tried beef short ribs and they were delicious! They were infused with flavor, fall-off-the-bone tender, and really satisfying to my "meat and potato" loving husband.

You might want to make this on a weekend because it really does take some time to get the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender, but the wait is so worth it. So, before grilling season really kicks off, make one last slow-cooked comfort meal. You'll be glad you did.

Braised Short Ribs
yeild: 4-6 servings

8 whole Beef Short Ribs (**see note below)
Kosher Salt and Pepper To Taste
1/4 cups All-purpose Flour
6 pieces Pancetta, Diced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
3 whole Carrots, Diced
2 cups Red Or White Wine
2 cups Beef Or Chicken Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
2 sprigs Thyme
2 sprigs Rosemary

Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until completely crispy and all fat is rendered. Remove pancetta and set aside. Do not discard grease.

Add olive oil to pan with the pancetta grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, until well browned and cripsy. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.

Add onions and carrots to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful bits. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.

Add broth, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged. Add thyme and rosemary sprigs (whole) to the liquid.

Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (You can also refrigerate the mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)

Serve 2 ribs on bed of creamy polenta, spooning a little juice over the top.

**Note: It is really important to get good quality short ribs. Make sure they are meaty and don't look too fatty. If your short ribs are too fatty, they will not be nearly as delicious as you and your dinner guests will be wasting time picking around fat pockets (yuck!) rather than savoring the beefy goodness!

Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta
yeild: 4-6 servings

1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 ounces, weight Goat Cheese

Bring 4 1/2 cups water to a boil.

Add cornmeal to the water in a thin stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.

Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, adding salt and extra tablespoons of water as needed.

When polenta is done, stir in butter and goat cheese. Check seasonings, and add salt to taste.

Serve with your favorite meat main course.

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

This recipe is really different than any other ice cream I have made so far because it has sour cream in it. But before you go running away or turn up your nose in disgust at the inclusion of sour cream in ice cream, hear me out. It really is the sour cream that gives it the creamy taste and texture. This ice cream is ripe with intense strawberry flavor and the sour cream makes it super creamy while keeping it from being overly sweet. I would bet that anyone tasting this would never guess it has sour cream in it. What I do know is that this is for sure the best strawberry ice cream I have had.

I also added one vanilla bean to pair nicely with the strawberries and because I'm a sucker for those little vanilla bean flecks in just about anything. If you don't have any, that's ok. They are completely optional. But if you do...I highly recommend using the vaniila bean. It really adds that "something extra" to make this an amazing ice cream.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Icea Cream

1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced*
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp. vodka (optional)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with the seeds scraped from inside
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the sliced strawberries in a medium bowl with the vanilla, sugar, and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a blender or food processor and add the sour cream, heavy cream and lemon juice. Pulse briefly until almost smooth but still slightly chunky. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

*Note: If you can find locally grown, farmstand strawberries, I really do recommend them for this recipe. The difference in flavor really is noticeable. You definitely get a stronger strawberry flavor than with typical supermarket berries. However, if your only option is the store-bought kind, that's ok...this recipe is still great!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

While I don't have a new post for you (too busy whipping up cookies for work, daycare, and The Husband!) I would like to redirect you to last year's posting of Corned Beef and Cabbage. It's definitely what I will be making this year too (and hopefully getting a better picture of it!)...although I think we're celebrating a few days late. I plan to make this Saturday :) What other delicious goodness do you have planned for this year? Green Beer anyone?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak

There’s nothing special about this dish, except that it’s a total southern miracle of fried beef smothered in gravy.

It’s Chicken Fried Steak, is what it is. I made it for my husband last night because he's pretty great and although I try to cook healthy foods throughout the week, sometimes the food that's not so great for you just tastes so darn good!!! Don't mind the bad lighting...we were enjoying this so much that we didn't get in a good picture until after it was dark and that's killer for food photography!!

Anyway, make this for someone you like, they'll probably like you back - but you might also want to plan a workout session afterwards ;)

Chicken Fried Steak
about 8 servings

3 pounds Cube Steak (tenderized Round Steak That's Been Extra Tenderized)
1-½ cup Whole Milk, Plus Up To 2 Cups For Gravy
2 whole Large Eggs
3 cups All-purpose Flour
Seasoned Salt
¼ teaspoons Cayenne
LOTS Of Black Pepper. Lots.
Canola Oil, For Frying
Salt And Pepper, For Both Meat And Gravy

Begin with an assembly line of dishes for the meat: milk mixed with egg in one; flour mixed with spices in one; meat in one; then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.

Work one piece of meat at a time. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then dip in the milk/egg mixture. Next, place the meat on the plate of seasoned flour. Turn to coat thoroughly. Place the meat back into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Place back in the flour and turn to coat.(So: wet mixture/dry mixture/wet mixture/dry mixture.) Place breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with remaining meat.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. Cook meat, three pieces at a time, until edges start to look golden brown; around 2 to 2 1/2 minutes each side.

Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm. Repeat until all meat is cooked.

After all meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup grease back to the pan. Allow grease to heat up.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix flour with grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden brown color. If paste seems more oily than pasty, sprinkle in another tablespoon of flour and whisk.
Whisking constantly, pour in milk. Cook to thicken the gravy. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Add salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until gravy is smooth and thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.
Serve meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over everything and enjoy!

Source: The Pioneer Woman