Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Goodies!!

Here are the things I made for Christmas this year! Some are really simple and others are a little more time consuming (like the coconut cake!). Enjoy!!

Red Velvet Cookies (Betty Crocker Recipe)

1 pouch of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon red food color
1 egg
1 container Cream Cheese Frosting (or you can make some if desired)
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Mix cookie mix, cocoa, butter, sour cream, food color, and egg in a bowl until soft dough forms. Roll dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes. Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

Twix Cookies

2 packages Loorna Doone Shortbread Cookies
1/2 package chocolate flavored Almond Bark, melted

28 Kraft caramels
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Combine caramels and milk in a large saucepan. Cooke and stir over medium-low heat until caramels are melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, sugar, and pecans. Cool for 5 minutes. Spread 1 teaspoon over each cookie. Dip tops of cookies in melted Almond Bark and allow to dry.

Martha Washington Candy
(unless you are giving this away to a bunch of people, I recommend making 1/2 a batch)

2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
2 cups flaked coconut
1 stick butter, melted
3 cups chopped pecans
Dipping Chocolate:
1 cake paraffin wax
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together, shape into balls, then chill until hard. Dip chilled balls into dipping chocolate using a skewer and let cool. Using a spoon, drizzle additional chocolate over the balls to cover the skewer holes and to make candy look pretty and professional, if desired.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies (From Martha Stewart's Cookies)

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsweetend cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
7 oz semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar, to roll dough in before baking

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and fresh ginger on medium speed until lightened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Beat half of the flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate chunks; turn onto plastic wrap. Pat out into a 1-inch thickness; seal with wrap. Refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls; place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Chill 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until surfaces just begin to crack, 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cookies are best the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days. Can place 1/2 of a cut apple in the container to maintain softness of cookies.

Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Filling and Coconut Buttercream (Bobby Flay)

Toasted Coconut:
2 cups sweetened, flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring once (8-10 minutes). Turn off the oven and let the coconut sit in the oven until very dry and crunchy (be careful to not let it get too brown or it will taste burnt; should be lightly golden, not dark brown).

Coconut Simple Syrup:
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Coconut Custard:
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons coconut rum
1 tablspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the milks in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Coconut Filling
3/4 cup coconut custard (see recipe above)
3/4 cup cold heavy cream

Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

Coconut Buttercream
3 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup coconut custard (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon coconut rum
Pinch fine sea salt

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixture fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the coconut custard and salt and beat until combined and smooth.

Butter and flour for pans
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 equal pieces, slightly cold

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 (9 inch) round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time, and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixture on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of  bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divide the batter evenely between the cake pans and smooth tops using a rubber spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22-24 minutes. Cool in the pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the cooling rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely (about 45 minutes).

Assembly of Cake:
Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place a layer onto the cake plate and brush with coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of coconut filling onto the cake layer. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. Place the layer cut side down on top of the cake. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meals for Every Night: Chicken with Mushroom and Balsamic Cream Sauce and Stuffing-Topped Turkey Casserole

Here are a couple of easy meals that are a quick to put together. They take no time to prepare and using a few convenience items they don't involve a lot of prep work. For instance, with the chicken with mushrooms, using packages of pre-sliced/cleaned mushrooms saves a lot of prep time. For the turkey casserole, you can use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving chopped up OR you can buy some boneless turkey breasts and saute them and chop them up for the casserole. I think this recipe would be equally good with boneless skinless chicken breasts or chopped rotisserie chicken. These both will be crowd pleasers so give them a try!

Chicken with Mushroom and Balsamic Cream Sauce (adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe)

Who needs frozen dinners when you have good leftovers to take for lunch? Yum!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt, Pepper
2 tablespoons butter (I used light butter and it worked just fine)
2 packages sliced white mushrooms
1 package sliced baby portobello (cremini) mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons heavy cream or half and half (I used fat free half and half and it also worked fine)
3 tablespoons chopped parsely, if desired

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to hot skillet. Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the heat and add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the stock, balsamic vinegar, and cream. Turn the heat up to high and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice the chicken on an angle and add back to the skillet and cooke 1 minute to heat it back up. Garnish with parsley if desired. Serve on top of orzo pasta or rice. For the most flavorful orzo, cook in chicken broth instead of water.

Stuffing Topped Turkey Casserole

4-5 cups cubed cooked turkey (either leftover or about 4 sauteed turkey breasts)
4-6 slices of smoked Provolone cheese (Use enough to cover the dish)
1/2 cup milk
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 package Stove Top Cornbread Stuffing mix, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons melted butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.  Place chopped turkey in prepared pan, top with cheese slices. In a medium sized bowl and stir together soup, milk, and drained green chilies; spoon evenly over cheese. In a separate bowl, mix together stuffing mix, butter, sage and thyme; sprinkle over top of soup mixture. Bake for about 35 minutes until hot and bubbly and the top is golden brown.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fresh Apple Cake and Down East Main Pumpkin Bread

So these two recipes are fun for fall and are super easy. The pumpkin bread is usually made in loaf pans, but it can just as easily be made in a bundt pan for a fun presentation. Both of these recipes are good just like they are, but a glaze or frosting can be added if desired.

Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake (from Paula Deen on

3 cups diced Granny Smith apples (about 2 apples)
1 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a Bundt pan or tube pan. In a bowl, mix together the apples, walnuts, vanilla, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and beat until completely combined. Fold in the apple mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool fully in the pan (about 1 hour) and then turn out onto a cake plate. Top with frosting or glaze if desired.

Glaze (I did not use this, I used a little cream cheese icing, but it is Paula's suggestion):

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons milk

Add all the ingredients to a small bowl and stir until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Down East Main Pumpkin Bread (from

 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 (7x3 inch) loaf pans. If you choose to bake in a Bundt pan, use 2/3 of batter in the bundt pan and there will be enough additional batter for 1 7x3 inch loaf. I a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans. Bake for about 50 minutes in the the prepared pans. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated (may take longer in the bundt pan). Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*I have made this recipe several times in both loaves and the bundt pan and it is delicious either way*

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Country Style Ribs, Brown Rice Casserole

So I have made quite a few recipes lately, but keep putting off posting them!! Sunday I made dinner for my wonderful parents. Had to bake some cookies for my Daddy since they are his favorite and this one is a classic. It is literally found on the inside of the lid of Quaker rolled oats. I have made the "Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie" for ages. I took these to work and they said they were the best oatmeal cookies that they had ever had. It is no fail so give it a try...if you haven't already.

These other recipes are some go to recipes in my family. My grandmother likes to make these ribs which literally fall apart. It is important to slow bake them on a low temperature because they will otherwise be tough instead of melt in your mouth. The rice casserole recipe is actually a hybrid of two recipes that I have gotten from friends over the years. Don't let the name of it fool is really made with white rice but it is lightly browned in butter before baking...kinda zaps any hope you had for a healthy recipe huh? :)

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies (from the Quaker Oats Can)

2 stick butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker Oats, uncooked
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.  Stir in oats and raisins; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.

Slow Baked Country Style Ribs
Desired number of country style pork ribs (boneless) - figure about 2-3 per person
Seasoned salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Barbeque sauce

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs generously with seasoned salt. Brown ribs on all sides then place in a baking dish; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cook for 2 1/2-3 hours until fork tender. Cover ribs with barbeque sauce then recover and cook for 20-30 additional minutes.

Brown Rice Casserole
1 stick butter
1 cup white long grain rice, uncooked
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can beef consomme
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 small can diced pimentos, drained

Melt butter in a skillet. Add onion and rice. Cook until rice is lightly browned. Add both cans of soup and melt. Add mushrooms and pimentos. Put in a casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until rice is tender. I like to keep casserole covered with aluminum foil until about the last 15 minutes so the rice on top won't get overcooked. Can double the recipe for a crowd.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

And now to combine my husband's two favorite things: buffalo wings and pizza!! He loved it!! I used pizza dough from the Publix bakery department and it worked really well. Just remember to let it sit out and rest at room temperature for about an hour before baking to make it easier to work with.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

3/4 pound chicken breast cutlets
Olive oil, for drizzling
2 teaspoons grill seasoning, such as Montreal chicken seasoning
1 pizza store bought pizza dough
Cornmeal or flour, to handle dough
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce, medium to spicy heat
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 slices of Pepper-Jack cheese, diced
1 cup shredded Colby-Jack Cheese, a few generous handfuls

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken on a plate and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the chicken then season with grill seasoning. Grill on a grill pan or outdoor grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Stretch dough to form pizza using cornmeal  or flour to help you handle it. Place on pizza pan and set aside. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt butter and stir in Worchestershire, hot sauce, and tomato sauce. Take the cooked chicken and thinly slice it, add chicken to the sauce and coat. Cover the pizza dough with the sauced buffalo chicken and cheeses. Bake 18 minutes or until crisp. Can sprinkle with additional hot sauce if more heat is desired. This pizza is really good with a drizzle of ranch dressing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Best Lasagna and Minestrone Soup

Fall is my favorite time of year and the time for one of my favorite things to make: SOUP! When I was a child, I always asked my mom for some "minestone" soup in the can. She laughed at me and I never understood what was so funny about it until I got older and realized I was leaving out a few letters. This version is much better than the canned kind with bigger chunks of vegetables, a rich tomatoey (word?) broth, and two kinds of beans. You can use different kinds of beans if you choose, but I like kidney beans and garbanzos. Also, if you want to make this completely vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth and leave out the bacon (use olive oil instead to saute the veggies). The best way to serve this soup is with a few splashes of red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese in each bowl of soup.

Minestrone Soup

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 slices of bacon, diced
1 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 (15-oz) can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta shells
Red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, saute bacon in the olive oil until it is crispy and the fat is rendered, remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel. Add carrot, onion, celery, zucchini, and garlic to pot and cook for 5-6 minutes until the veggies begin to cook down. Add in herbs and stir. Add crushed tomatoes, broth, and both cans of beans. Salt and pepper to taste (add a little at a time during cooking process so it will not be over/underseasoned.) Allow soup to come up to a bubble and then cover and turn heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour on low (the longer it cooks the better, just don't cook too long so that the veggies turn to mush). When getting close to serving, add in the cooked pasta to the soup. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a splash of red wine vinger and parmesan cheese.

*If you are not going to serve all of the soup and are saving leftovers, I would recommend adding a small amount of the pasta to the serving bowls and ladeling soup over the noodles. You can store the rest of the cooked noodles tossed with a little olive oil in a tupperware container and add them to servings as you warm them up. This way, the noodles don't get mushy sitting in the soup in the fridge*

Lasagna was never something that we had a lot when I was growing up, we always just got the frozen kind if we ever ate it. A few years ago, someone asked my mom to make some for an event at church and she found this wonderful recipe that was literally titled "World's Best Lasagna". It is so worth the extra effort to make it from scratch. Also, another thing that can make this lasagna even better is to buy fresh mozzarella and slice it to put on top before baking.

World's Best Lasagna

1 pound sweet or hot italian sausage (my husband and I like the hot, but if you don't like a lot of spice go for the sweet)
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
12 lasagna noodles, cooked
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned, drain. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1/2 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce, top with 1/2 of ricotta mixture, then top with 1/3 of mozzarella slices and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Repeat layers 2 more times, but on the last set of layers instead of topping the ricotta mixture with the mozzarella, add an additional layer of meat sauce and then add the mozzarella and parmesan to the top of the lasagna. Cover the lasagna with foil (spray with cooking spray so cheese won't stick to it) and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weeknight Fare: Smoked Paprika Chicken with Egg Noodles, Orange-Cranberry Spinach Salad with Glazed Pecans, Peanut Butter Browines

So working the night shift has presented a fun new problem: what to cook that will still be good to eat once my husband gets home. I made spaghetti one night and then tried to be a little more creative for the next go. This recipe is really quick and easy, and if you use light sour cream, is pretty healthy. Be sure to use smoked paprika, not the regular sweet kind. It makes a world of difference in the flavor. Also, for my husband who loves spice, I added a few pinches of cayenne which was really good.

Smoked Paprika Chicken with Egg Noodles (From Rachael Ray Book of 10)
Salt and Pepper
8 oz extra wide egg noodles
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2-1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 pinches cayenne (if desired)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Boil egg noodles in salted water until tender (about 6 minutes). Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the chicken, lightly brown the meat on all sides for 3-4 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Season the chicken mixture with smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne, then stir in the chicken stock and reduce heat to low. Stir in the sour cream and drained egg noodles and let mixture simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Garnish with an additional sprinkle and paprika and parsley before serving.

Orange-Cranberry Spinach Salad with Glazed Pecans (from Me!)

Fresh Spinach
Dried Cranberries
Mandarin Oranges, drained
Glazed Pecans (I use Diamond Brand Glazed Pecans)
Raspberry Viniagrette (I use Newman's Own Raspberry Walnut Vinagrette)

Sprinkle spinach (or mixed greens would be great as well) with the toppings as desired. It would also be good with a balsamic viniagrette. You can add additional fruit if desired (apples and grapes would be good).
This is a fabulous combination of flavors that I love and I also add protein to it to make it a meal (deli turkey or diced grilled chicken.) Really good to carry to work for a light lunch!!

Baking fun for the week: peanut butter + cream cheese + brownies=need I say more? ;)

Peanut Butter Brownies (From Taste of Home Fall Baking Cookbook)

3 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to the egg mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside 1 cup of mixture for topping, then spread remaining batter into a greased 13x9 inch baking pan. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and milk on low just until combined. Carefully spread over batter. Drop reserved chocolate batter by tablespoonfuls over filling. Cut through the batter with a knife to swirl. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack. Chill until serving.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Baking Fun: Mississippi Mud Cake and Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

So my baking ventures for the week include and oldie, but goodie that I'm sure you all have made before and a twist on some classic baked goods. The Mississippi Mud Cake is always a crowd pleaser and is more like an incredibly gooey brownie than a cake. The second recipe is more of a combination of banana bread and chocolate chip cookies. Hope you enjoy!!!

Mississippi Mud Cake (From Southern Living)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter
1 (4 oz) semisweet chocolate bar, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 (10.5 oz) package miniature marshmallows
Chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until toasted. Microwave 1 cup butter and semisweet chocolate in a large microwave-safe glass bowl on high 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Whisk sugar and next 5 ingredients into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into a greased 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle evenly with marshmallows, bake 8-10 minutes more or until golden brown. Drizzle warm cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkle evenly toasted pecans.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 (16-oz) package powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until slightly thickend; remove from heat. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla at medium-high speed with an electric mixture until smooth.

Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies (From Martha Stewart's Cookies)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup mashed, ripe banana
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz semisweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together both flours, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Beat together butter and both sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts. Using a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop (I used a 1/2 tablespoon) drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating about halfway through, until golden-brown and just set, 12-13 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Easy Chicken Dishes: Chicken Piccata Pasta and Chicken Enchiladas

These recipes are easy enough to make any night of the week...even when you are moving into a new house and can't find half of your dishes ;)

Chicken Piccata Pasta (Taken from Pampered Chef Season's Best Cookbook)

1 1/4 lb boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper rub
3 cans reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 onion
12 oz uncooked angel hair pasta
1 lemon
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 can quartered artichokes hearts in water, drained
1/2 cup capers, drained and rinsed
Chopped fresh parsley and grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Combine 1 tablespoon of the oil and rub in mixing bowl and then add chicken, toss to coat. Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add chicken to skillet and cook for 10 minutes or until center is no longer pink. Remove chicken and set aside. Heat broth in a separate pot until boiling. Finely chop onion and add to the skillet. Cook 10-20 seconds until onion is fragrant. Carefully add the broth and pasta to the skillet; cook uncovered 7-8 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Zest lemon to measure 1 tablespoon, juice lemon to measure 2 tablespoons. Add zest, juice, and cream cheese to skillet. Stir until fully incorporated. Add chicken and artichokes to skillet. Cook uncovered 1-2 minutes until heated through. Remove skillet from heat and stir in capers. Garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese if desired and add salt/pepper to taste.

Chicken Enchiladas (From Rachael Ray)

1 (16 oz) jar tomatillo salsa, divided (used roasted winn-dixie salsa verde and it worked really well, not too hot)
1 package frozen corn, defrosted
2 cups shredded roasted chicken (used store bought rotisserie chicken)
8 flour tortillas
2 cups pepperjack cheese, divided
1 cup brown gravy (use prepared store bought brown gravy)
Chili powder (if desired)

Combine chicken, corn, half jar of salsa, and 1/2 cup of cheese. Combine gravy and remaining salsa. Spoon chicken mixture into the tortillas and roll up, then place them seam side down in a greased baking dish. Pour the gravy/salsa mixture over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese. Can sprinkle with a little chili powder if desired. Bake a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until warmed through and cheese is browned.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Easy Chilled Desserts: Banana-Caramel Pie with Toasted Pecans and Fresh Strawberry Cake

This banana pie is fabulous, and you might as well make two at a time and share with someone else since it is just as easy to make two. Everyone at mine and Al's work loved it. The strawberry cake is really easy and reminds me of one my grandma used to make with coconut (pina coloda cake).

Banana-Caramel Pie with Toasted Pecans

2 pkg (8 oz)  cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tub (8 oz) cool whip, divided
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping, divided
1 graham cracker pie crust (get the 2 extra servings crust if you can find it, there is plenty of filling for it)
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
2 bananas, sliced

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with mixer until blended. Stir in 2 cups cool whip with a whisk; set aside. Spread 1/4 cup caramel topping onto bottom of crust, then top with a layer of bananas, 1/4 cup of pecans, then the cream cheese mixture. Cover with remaining cool whip and pecans. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then drizzle with remaining caramel topping just before serving.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 packages strawberries, finely diced (equals about 4 cups) and combined with 1/4 cup sugar
1 container of cool whip

Prepare cake according to package directions in a 9x13 inch dish. Poke holes in hot cake all over (can use the handle of a wooden spoon), then pour condensed milk evenly over the top of the cake. Allow to cool completely (milk will soak into the cake). Spread strawberry mixture evenly over the cake, then top with cool whip. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least 3 hours before serving.

For Coconut Lovers!! Coco Loco Brownies and Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes

Sorry I have been a little negligent with my postings lately...I promise I have still been cooking!! Unfortunately, I have been a little negligent with my picture taking as well, but I hope to do better once we finally get moved into our house next week (Yay!!)

Here are some recipes for cocount lovers only. I get that it's a texture thing for most people, but I just don't see how you can't love it!! These cupcakes have a great moist texture and are not overly sweet. Ina uses extra large eggs in all of her baking recipes so I did for this one as well, but I think if you have large eggs you can add one additional egg with similar results. The brownies are very rich and dense with a macaroon-like topping and the flavors of an almond-joy. Enjoy!!

Coconut Cupcakes (From The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten)

3 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 oz sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With and electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of the coconut. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each cup to the top with batter. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with remaining coconut. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softenend
3 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted

With an electric mixer, blend together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extracts. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. (This makes a LOT, so using half of the recipe would probably be sufficient)

Coco Loco Brownies (From Every Day with Rachael Ray)

1 2/3 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups natural almonds, toasted and chopped
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish; line crossewise with a 14-inch piece of parchment paper, allowing the ends to hang over the sides. In a large saucepan, cook the sugar and butter over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk in the flour, then stir in 1 cup almonds. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly with a spatula. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup almonds and the chocolate chips. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spoon the coconut mixture in dollops over the surface of the batter. Bake until the coconut is golden brown and the brownie layer is just set in the center (about 35 minutes). Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Easy Beef Enchiladas

So this isn't much of a recipe...but it is just something I do all of the time that my husband loves. It definately isn't "gourmet", but again it is a quick weeknight meal. The main thing that makes this one good is the mixture of the sauces to go on top, it gives them a little kick. Sombrero sauce is "El Palacio Sauce" from Ozark, but I am able to find it in most grocery stores in this area. As for the salsa verde, be careful that you buy one that says mild or medium because there are some out there that don't specify their heat and they will burn you up!!

Easy Beef Enchiladas

1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded colby/jack cheese
1 package medium flour tortillas
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded colby/jack cheese
Chili Powder

For Sauce:
1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce
1 (7.76 oz) can salsa verde (I used La Costena brand)
1/2 cup Sombreo Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish. Brown beef and onions, drain. Add in 1/2 cup of cheese to beef and onion mixture. In a small bowl (liquid measuring cup works well), mix together ingredients for the sauce. Add enough sauce to beef mixture to make it "stick together". Pour enough sauce in the bottom of the baking dish to form a thin layer. Spoon a small amount of beef mixture onto a tortilla and roll up, place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until you have enough enchiladas to fill the baking dish (will vary depending on the size of your dish!). Next pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas, making sure to completely cover them. Sprinkle additional cheese to cover the enchiladas, then sprinkle a small amount of chili powder over the entire dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted and starting to brown slightly.

Baking Fun for the Week: Lemon Gooey Butter Bars and Peanut Butter Toffee Blondies

Made these for my husband to carry to work for a meeting they had. Unfortunately they were carried off before I got a picture :( Just use your imaginations!!

Lemon Gooey Butter Bars (Adapted from Paula Deen's Basic Gooey Butter Cake recipe)

1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg
1 stick of butter, melted

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (16 oz) box powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons

Combine cake mix, egg, and butter with a mixer. Press into a lightly greased 9x13 pan, set aside. Next, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Beat in powdered sugar, then add butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest and mix well. Pour onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. The center will still remain gooey, so don't overbake in an effort to get it firm. Cool completely and then cut into squares.

Peanut Butter Toffee Blondies (Adapted from Gina Neely's Gina's Toffee Blondies)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup toffee bits
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a glass 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil. Whisk flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together butter and both sugars until fluffy. Slowly add eggs, 1 at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add milk, vanilla, and peanut butter and continue to mix. Incorporate dry mixture into wet mixture in 3 separate additions. Using a spatula, fold in toffe bits and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cream-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes and Lemon Grilled Chicken

Both of the recipes that I used tonight are adapted from one of my favorite food blogs, Laura's Best Recipes.

So I suppose that I have started a "thing", baking for Al's co-workers every week. I swear that I can bake things other than cupcakes but I have just found so many good recipes for them lately. This one is cool because it is a filled cupcake and reminds me of a hostess cupcake, but with rich chocolate frosting on top instead of the little white swirl.

Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
8 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs beaten with 2 additional egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons strong coffee

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and coffee. Blend until there are only a few small lumps left. Scoop into lined cupcake tins and bake for 20 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed. Cool for three minutes in the pan before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Filling

2 teaspoons very hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Dissolve the salt in the hot water and allow to cool. Whip the marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it begins to get fluffy. Add the water and whip well. To fill the cupcakes, use a wide star tip (size 21) attached to a coupler on a piping bag. Cut an X in the top of the cupcake and then push the tip into the X and pipe about 1 tablespoon of filling into the cupcake. If you do not have a piping bag, you can remove a small bit of cake from the top of the cupcake then fill the center and replace the cake piece that you cut out.

Dutch Chocolate Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 tablespoons milk or half and half

Cream the butter and cocoa powder until smooth. Add the vanilla, powdered sugar, and milk. Mix until smooth. If the frosting is too loose, add more powdered sugar by the 1/4 cup until it reaches the desired consistency. Frost cupcakes as desired.

Spicy Lemon Grilled Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or bone in chicken)
Juice 4 lemons (then cut up juiced lemons into slices to add to the marinade)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a ziploc bag and allow to marinate for 4-6 hours. Remove chicken from marinade and grill until juices run clear. excited to finally have a Wolfgang Puck grill of my own!! My parents have one and it is 10 million times better than a George Foreman as an indoor grill!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Skillet Supper and Outrageous Brownies

This meal is a one-pot wonder that I learned in college from my friend Josh. It is really simple and hearty and makes a quick meal (good for when you get home from work and don't have much time!)

Skillet Supper

1 pound mild sausage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes (drain slightly)
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 bag egg noodles
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cook noodles until tender. Brown sausage and onions, drain and then add to noodles. Add tomatoes and spices, then simmer covered for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and add sour cream. Top with cheese and let melt.

Tried recipe number 2 from Ina Garten's cookbook, these rich and delicious brownies. I didn't have the coffee granules to add, but I have heard that they compliment the chocolate very well. Be sure to eat these with a big glass of milk...they are very chocolatey, and probably will be most loved by those who enjoy dark chocolate. I did read one comment from a reviewer of the recipe that if you are cooking these for someone who doesn't enjoy dark chocolate as much, substitute milk chocolate chips for the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Unfortunately they weren't cool enough to cut (you have to chill them in the fridge for awhile according to the recipe), so the picture isn't very pretty. But as you could tell, we couldn't resist sneaking one!  Hopefully Al's coworkers will enjoy these as much as the cupcakes!

Outrageous Brownies (from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa)

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet. Melt together butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water (I did this in the microwave on 50% power). Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 oz of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake!! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Dinner with the Parents: Green Bean Casserole, Chocolate Chess Pie

Every Sunday, we try to go and eat with my parents and we love us some country cooking. Today we had some great smoked and grilled meat that my Dad prepared and a favorite of ours, green bean casserole. Now we don't make the typical recipe that you see with the french fried onions and mushroom soup. Instead, this is made creamy with sour cream and seasonings and the topping is crushed corn flakes. I remember making this recipe for the first time for Thanksgiving dinner the year before my Papa passed away. I always will remember how much he loved this dish in particular that year. The second recipe that I included came from a "Teller Recipe". Now for those of you who aren't from Hartford, Alabama, you might not have ever received these recipes but these have always (since I can remember) been included in our monthly bank statement from the First National Bank of Hartford. There have been some recipe gems from the "Teller Recipes" over the years. Gotta love being from a small country town!!

Yummy ribs and pork loin roast that my Daddy cooked!

Green Bean Casserole
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated onion
1 cup sour cream
2 cans green beans
Grated cheddar cheese (enough to cover top of casserole)
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes (we didn't have these tonight, so we substituted ritz crackers which work well)
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Combine butter and flour; cook gently over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in seasonings and sour cream. Fold in cooked beans. Place in a 2-quart casserole dish. Cover with cheese, then with cornflake crumbs mixed with butter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Chocolate Chess Pie (a "Teller Recipe" from FNB of Hartford Bank Statements)

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 (1-oz) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell (can use store bought or make your own)

Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Combine sugars, eggs, flour, milk, and vanilla, beating well. Gradually add chocolate mixture, beating constantly. Pour into pastry shell; bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perfect Simple Chicken and Potatoes Meal

Wow...that is all I can say for this meal. I got a new cookbook today from one of my favorite Food Network personalities Ina Garten. She is all about simple, clean flavors and bringing out the best in ingredients. I actually only got one of these recipes from her cookbook, but I think they all echo her style. I really loved a good meal with chicken and potatoes (as does my husband), and this meal was simply perfect to me. I think the only thing that would have made it better is a good glass of wine! It is simple and elegant with great flavors!!

Quick Balsamic Chicken (from Rachael Ray's Book of 10)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grill seasoning (I used montreal chicken seasoning)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

In a shallow dish, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and grill seasoning. Coat the chicken breasts in the mixture and set aside to marinate (about 30 minutes would be best, but I only marinated mine about 10 minutes and they still had great flavor). In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken breasts about 5-6 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Put chicken aside on a plate and cover with foil and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving. Note: The chicken will get dark while cooking but it isn't burning, the balsamic vinegar will caramalize on the outside. It can make a lot of smoke, so turn on the exhaust fan!

Garlic-Rosemary Roasted Baby Potatoes (from Our Best Bites

1 1/2 lb baby potatoes or fingerling potatoes (I had regular red potatoes, left the skin on and cut them into big chunks and they worked great, but try these others if you can find them at the store)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons coarse-grain or dijon mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary (I used about a teaspoon and a half of dried rosemary)
4-5 garlic cloves pressed or minced
Coarse ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until a fork pierces them easily. In another bowl, combine olive oil, mustard, rosemary, garlic and pepper. Drain the potatoes and return them to their pot and pour olive oil mixture over them, tossing to coat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the potatoes out on the pan. Sprinkle the potatoes with kosher salt. Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until skins are sizzling and browned. You can prepare these ahead of time (about 6 hours) and place them on the baking sheet covered in the mustard mixture and cover with plastic wrap, and wait to roast them right before serving.

Roasted Carrots (from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

12 carrots, peeled (All I had were baby carrots, which are ok, but whole carrots are much sweeter)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley (I had neither of these, but I had fresh green onions and minced them and they were wonderful!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not leave them whole. Slice the carrots diagonally into 1 1/2 inch-thick slices (they will shrink when cooking, so make slices big). Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in one layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Toss the carrots with the minced herb of your choice and then season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I know, I know...cupcakes twice in one week!! But this was per request and Al is taking them to school tomorrow (you're welcome Brandon!!). These are awesome Red Velvet Cupcakes with the same Cream Cheese Frosting that I used with the cookies and cream cupcakes earlier this week. They are very light, fluffy, and delicious!!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz red food coloring (2 bottles)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder until all lumps are gone and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of the flour mixture, then the second half of the buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture and beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar and baking soda and then add this mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Fill cupcake cups 2/3 full (will end up with around 20 cupcakes). Bake for about 20 minutes or until tops spring back when touched. Cool cupcakes in tin for 10 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespooons heavy cream

Beat together cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer; add in vanilla extract. Beat in powdered sugar and then heavy cream and beat on medium-high speed for 4 minutes until light and fluffy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Indian Dinner! Chicken Tikka Masala, Melon Salad with Honey-Lime Yogurt Dressing

This past Christmas, my friend Kelli Hamm Tamvada invited some friends down to the beach for an Indian meal that she likes to cook for her husband Arvind (his family is from India, although he himself has never been he told us). We had chicken tikka masala and lamb curry for our first experience with Indian food and it was spicy and delicious. I was especially pleased when Al liked it so much, since he is not known for his adventurous taste buds. The recipe that I share with you tonight is the recipe for the chicken tikka masala that Kelli made for us that night and so graciously shared with me. The melon salad isn't Indian, but it is a way to 1) use up the left over non-fat yogurt from the first recipe and 2) it will be a cool, refreshing addition to the spicy main dish (sort of like an Indian raita).

Chicken Tikka Masala

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon minced, fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bit sized pieces
4 long skewers

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper (seeded), finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream (since we are being healthy, I substituted fat-free half-and-half)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in chicken pieces and refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat grill to high heat. Lightly oil grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear. Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoon cumin, paprika, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Stir in chicken and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. Serve over basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro. If you don't like it really spicy, cut back on the amount of cayenne and jalapeno.

Melon Salad with Honey-Lime Yogurt Dressing

1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
Splash of vanilla flavoring
Assorted melon (cantelope, honeydew, watermelon) cut into bit sized pieces

Combine yogurt, lime juice, honey, and vanilla and chill. Serve drizzled over melon (or any other assorted fruits that you might have lying around!). This would probably be good with fresh mint in it too, but I didn't have any. Just a thought!