Thursday, December 8, 2011

Molasses Sugar Cookies

 It's just not Christmas until we've made a batch or two of these delicious spiced cookies. They have a crunchy outside, chewy center, and the aroma of these cookies will fill your house with yummy! They are amazingly simple, keep well, make a wonderful addition to your kid's teacher gifts. That is, if you can hide enough of them from your family to give away. They're also a great cookie for kids to help make as they can help roll the dough into balls and dip them in the colored sugar.

Molasses Sugar Cookies
yield: 6 dozen

Ingredients:

A great gift for friends, neighbors, and teachers in these
cute bags I got from Hobby Lobby.
1 1/2 c. shortening
2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. molasses
2 eggs
4 c. flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 pinch of cardamom (optional)
Christmas colored sugars

Directions:

  • Melt shortening in a saucepan and cool. 
  • Add to mixer bowl and cream with sugar, eggs, and molasses.
  • Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add to wet mixture. Mix well.
  • Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Roll dough into walnut size balls and roll in colored sugar. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops appear to crackle (see picture).
  • Cool and store in an airtight container.
            


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peppermint Brownies

Decorating for Christmas got me in the mood to bake something special for dessert tonight. I got this crazy idea to whip up some peppermint flavored buttercream icing and spread it over a batch of brownies. Then I remembered the Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses that I had hiding in my cupboard. Voila! So simple and so fancy I think I might make these for Christmas.

Candy Cane Brownies
for the brownies:
1 box of your favorite brownie mix

for the frosting:
1/4 c. butter
2-21/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
3/4 tsp of peppermint extract
2-3 tbsp. of milk
15 unwrapped Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses

Directions:
Prepare brownies according to package directions. Cool completely.

In the meantime prepare the frosting. Cream butter in mixer until fluffy. Gradually add in powdered sugar, extracts, and milk and whip on medium speed until combined.

Spread frosting onto cooled brownies. Lightly chop the kisses and sprinkle over the top.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

You've got to try these! I decided I needed a "fall" themed cupcake and found this awesome Pumpkin Cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart. Because they were a "test batch" of sorts, I quartered the recipe and made these in my miniature cupcake pan, perfect for a bite size treat. I'm definitely going to whip these up again for Halloween. The remaining minis in my refrigerator are definitely going to work with the hubby tomorrow.The month of October is packed with enough sugar on it's own!


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 18 regular cupcakes, and approximately 4 dozen minis

2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat pan with non-stick spray or line with paper liners.
In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together both sugars, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.

Fill cups about halfway with batter. Bake 20-25 minutes (about 12-15 for miniatures) until tops spring back when touched. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz. tub cream cheese      
1/2 c (or 1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar

Whip cream cheese and butter until combined and creamy. Add in vanilla and powdered sugar and whip on low speed for 1 minute and on medium-high speed for an addition 3-4 minutes until creamy.

To Decorate:

Tint frosting desired color, I used yellow and red drops to create and orange tint. Pipe onto cupcakes with a frosting bag or a sturdy Ziploc bag with the corner cut off and top each cupcake with a candy corn, or three...:) .

Monday, September 26, 2011

What to do with a leftover veggie tray?

Over the weekend we celebrated Garrison's 2nd birthday with family and friends. It was so much fun. The birthday boy got spoiled rotten and managed through the evening with minimal 2 year old tantrums! The weather was perfect and the flies were horrible! We ate lots of delicious food and enjoyed some extra special cupcakes for dessert. Of course, I over estimated the amount of food we needed and had mounds of leftover's to use up. Tonight I set my sight on making a soup from all the leftover vegetables from the veggie tray. I had several cups of fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and baby carrots.  I channeled some inspiration from a Broccoli Cheese Soup that was hiding in the back of my memory from last fall and mixed that with some pantry (and refrigerator) staples. Voila! Rich & Creamy Vegetable Soup!

Creamy Mixed Vegetable Soup

2 c. each Broccoli & Cauliflower
1 1/2 c. carrots (or baby carrots)
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic
4 c. chicken broth (or 4 c. water with 4 tsp. granulated chicken bouillon)
1/2 c. fat free (or regular) half & half
1 c. milk
1 c. grated Colby Jack (or cheddar) cheese
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. grated black pepper
1/2 c. grated Colby Jack (optional, for garnish)
Fresh Croutons (optional, for garnish)


Add broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots to a large pot. Add broth and salt and bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. With a slotted spoon remove about 3/4 of the vegetables and place in a blender and puree with half & half. Set aside.

In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Stir in flour to make a roux and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and cheese, stiring well to combine. Mixture will be thick.

 Mix roux into the large pot of remaining vegetables and broth. Stir in the vegetable puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh croutons and additional cheese if desired.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Did you run to Starbucks as soon as the Pumpkin Spiced Latte became available a couple of weeks ago?  Are you remortgaging your house so that you can afford said "lattes." The hubby and I tested out this recipe tonight and I give it an A+ for being as close to Starbucks as possible. I was so glad to find canned pumpkin, albeit a small can, for less than $2.00 today at Walmart. I've had this recipe in my hands for over a week and I just couldn't find it in me to shell out 3 almost 4 dollars for a can of pumpkin at other stores. Before I share the recipe a few notes: Use 1% or 2% milk and real sugar. After you've tasted this the right way then you can try and lighten it up. Also, you may find the pumpkin puree to be a bit mealy. If it bothers you Torani does make a Pumpkin Spice Syrup. You can replace the puree with the syrup. Without further or do, here is a recipe for a copycat pumpkin spiced latte.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup 1 % milk
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger brewed espresso or double strength coffee  (I had no idea what a jigger was...but apparently it's the equivalent of a shot glass.)
Whipped cream, whipped topping, or whatever floats your boat :).

Brew your espresso and set aside.
 In a small saucepan over medium heat whisk pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, spice, and milk. Whisk continuously until hot. Do not bring to a boil or your milk will burn.
Place milk in a blender and whir a few minutes or until frothy. Pour into a mug and top with your jigger of espresso. Stir to combine and top with whipped cream. Enjoy!

At this rate you may still have money left over for Christmas shopping by the time fall is over.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crockpot Chile Verde

There's something comforting about coming home on a Sunday afternoon to the aroma of something hearty stewing in the slow cooker. The rich aroma  reminds me of going to my grandma's house as a little girl for  Sunday afternoon supper. I would love to go back in time and spend it with my grandma in the kitchen. We went for supper nearly every Sunday, and it's a tradition I miss dearly. I've never tasted another pot roast the way grandma made it. She always pulled out the best dishes and served us a big spread like it was a special occasion, even when it wasn't.
     Occasionally I take something out of the freezer and put it in the slow cooker on Sunday morning because even though we can't always eat together, its nice for my husband to have some leftovers to take to work on Sunday nights. Last weekend I made Slow Cooker Chili Verde. It's definitely not the traditional pot roast I was raised with, but this recipe has a nice balance of flavor and can be served with rice and beans. Leftovers can be transformed into dishes like tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, or tacos.
I'm sure that someday soon my boys will grow up and start eating real meat (instead of chicken nuggets and hot dogs), and appreciate the comforting smell of a Sunday Supper. I suppose that for now I will just keep practicing and wait for that day to arrive.

Slow Cooker Chile Verde
3 lbs of pork shoulder or lean pork roast cut into large cubes.
3 T. olive oil
1/2 c. onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
5 - 7 oz cans of salsa verde  (be sure to check that it's gluten free)
1 4 oz. can diced jalapeno pepper (or for milder taste use diced green chiles)
1 can of diced tomatoes

In a skillet heat olive oil and add onion, garlic, and cubed pork. Cook until pork is browned on the outside. Transfer mixture to a slow cooker and top with salsa verde, jalapeno peppers, diced tomatoes, and oregano.

Cover and cook on high for 3 hours and then turn to low heat setting and cook an additional 4-5 hours. Enjoy!

           


Friday, August 19, 2011

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bliss

Lately I've been thinking a lot about cupcakes. Maybe that's because Garrison's second birthday is just around the corner and I want to make something special. This week I experimented with chocolate and peanut butter. You can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter, especially when you swirl them on top of a pretty little peanut butter cupcake. The recipe comes from one of my favorite recipe blogs, "Our Best Bites." I added my own twist and decided made them miniature, which is how I prefer my cupcakes. The reason: when they're tiny they don't seem so terrible for you, and because I was taking them to a church dinner and I knew they would stretch a bit further this way.  I had to forgo putting a Reese's Miniatures  in the center since these were so small, but I quartered regular size Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and they made a perfect decoration for the top!

Peanut Butter Cup CupcakesRecipe adapted from Our Best Bites
1 white or yellow cake mix.
1 c. sour cream (full-fat or light, but not fat-free)
3 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/8 c. water
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 unwrapped mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (omit if making miniature cupcakes)

Chocolate Frosting:
1/4 cup  butter softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 pound powdered sugar
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons of evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the cupcake ingredients and beat with mixer on medium-low speed for 30 seconds and make sure to scrape the bowl. Adjust the speed to high and beat for another 3 minutes.
Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full with batter. Top with an unwrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (omit this step if you're making miniatures), then fill the muffin cups with the remaining batter. Make sure the Peanut Butter Cups are covered and the cups are about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes (for regular size) or 12-14 minutes for miniature,  or until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

In the mean time, prepare the frosting. For both flavors combine all the ingredients for each  and whip until light and fluffy. You can add extra milk, a little at a time, if needed. Frost the cupcakes with the *swirled frosting.

*Here's a tip on swirling the frosting, if like me, all you have are basic supplies such as a frosting bag and a star tip. If you don't have even these you can improvise with a large Zip Lock baggie and cut a hole in the bottom, but your swirl may not look as pretty.
- Cut off the tip of the bag (about 3/4 inches, depending on the size of the tip you are using) and put in your tip.
- Hang your frosting bag in the inside of a large glass or tumbler and fold over the sides, this will make it easier to fill.
- Spoon in Peanut Butter frosting, pushing it over to one side of the bag, don't sweat imperfection! Spoon in the Chocolate Frosting to the remaining side of the bag.
- Remove bag from cup and lay on its side, push down the frosting into the base and roll the edge down to close. If only one color is in the very base you can pipe out a bit of the frosting until you begin to see it swirl.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Grilled Pork Loin Chops

Chances are, if you are watching your grocery budget at all, you've bought some pork loin chops (a very lean cut with very little fat) and cooked them, only to have them come out pretty dry. A few months ago I found this recipe from Alton Brown for a Pork Chop Brine and the days of dry pork chops got left behind.

Last night I grilled up a few of these chops and shared with my neighbor Jen, whose husband  doesn't like pork chops. He loved them and I hope you will too!


2 Hour Pork Chop Brine
Alton Brown, Food Network
this is enough brine to cover about 5 chops
1 c. kosher or coarse sea salt (not iodized salt)
1 c. brown sugar
1 T. black peppercorns
1 T. dry mustard
2 c. cider vinegar
4 c. ice cubes
In a sealable container combine salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and mustard. Heat cider vinegar in a small pan until hot (not boiling).  Pour cider vinegar into container and stir to dissolve sugar/salt. Let mixture stand for about 20 minutes and then add ice cubes and dissolve.  Add pork chops, making sure they are completely covered with brine and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Remove from brine and season to your liking. I used a Stubs BBQ Dry Rub.
Preheat grill and cook until internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat reaches between 145 and 160 degrees. Don't overcook* or you'll be left with dry pork chops anyways!
 *The USDA lowered its recommended cooking temperature from 160 degrees to 145 degrees in May and added a 3 minute rest time.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Summer Grilled Chicken

My favorite summer inspired food consists of fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden stacked with slices of Mozzarella Cheese and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar...Hungry yet? It's delicious! When I thought up this recipe I couldn't think of a better name to give it than Summer Grilled Chicken. It's fresh, simple, and gorgeous on a plate. It was so delicious that The Hubby literally licked his entire plate clean. Not very attractive, but definitely taken as a compliment!
SUMMER GRILLED CHICKEN

4 Chicken Breasts
1/3 c. Lemon Juice
4 T. Olive Oil
2 cloves of Garlic, finely diced
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 slices of Mozzarella
1 large Tomato sliced or diced 
1 handful of fresh Basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry.
1/4 of a Red Onion, sliced into rings
 2-3 oz. Goat Cheese
1 c. Balsamic Vinegar
In a shallow dish or Ziploc bag combine lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic to combine. Add chicken and marinate at least 1 hour, turning over chicken half way through.

Pour Balsamic Vinegar into a small sauce pan over high heat. Whisk continuously (to avoid burning) and bring to a boil. Continue whisking until vinegar is reduced by half, it will by syrupy and coat your spoon. Congratulations! You've just created a Balsamic Reduction to top your chicken with.

Preheat Grill. Remove chicken from marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-low heat. Place Red Onion rings onto the grill as well, removing when they are starting to soften.

When chicken is just about done (internal temp should reach165 degrees), turn grill to low and  top with sliced Mozzarella (Work quickly, you don't want to overcook your chicken). Shut the grill for a few seconds and allow Mozzarella to melt onto the chicken.

Remove chicken breast from grill and place on a serving platter. Layer tomatoes, basil, red onion and crumbled Goat Cheese over chicken. Lightly drizzle with Balsamic Reduction. Serve with a crisp green salad and Voila! Enjoy licking your plate :).



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tequila Grilled Chicken with Jalapeno Cream Sauce

Last week I was at a baby shower and I had a very delicious stuffed Jalapeno Pepper. As I planned out this week's dinners I wondered what it would be like to combine those flavors with grilled chicken. The end result was this delicious concoction of zesty grilled chicken drizzled with lime and topped with a rich creamy Jalapeno Sauce.  Serve this with Mexican rice, refried beans, or a crisp green salad. Talk about Yum!

Tequila Grilled Chicken with Jalapeno Cream Sauce
Chicken only adapted from Foodnetwork.com

Chicken:
2 T olive oil
1/8 c. finely chopped red onion
1 1/2 T ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chopped garlic
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Juice from 1/2 of a lime, or about 1 Tablespoon
2 T. finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 oz. Tequila
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 breasts sliced in half to make 4 equal portions)

Sauce:
3/4 c. milk
4 oz of cream cheese
1/2 of a seeded and diced Jalapeno Pepper
1 1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese
a few shakes of granulated chicken bouillon (approx 1/2 tsp)

For the chicken:
Combine all ingredients except chicken and 1 tablespoon of the lime juice in a Ziploc bag to make a marinade. Add chicken and marinade for about 1 hour.
Grill Chicken on an outdoor grill over medium heat for about 5 minutes per side or until meat is no longer pink. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of additional lime juice.

For the sauce:
Add milk to a small saucepan over low heat. When milk is warm add cream cheese. Slowly bring heat to medium low and stir to combine, making sure all lumps are gone. Add Jalapeno, Bouillon, and Monterey Jack cheese, stirring until melted and smooth.

To serve, place chicken on a platter and top with sauce. Garnish with lime wedges, cilantro, and diced red onion (optional).

 




Friday, July 1, 2011

Raspberry Sorbet

I'll be the first in my family to admit that there wasn't much about our move to Southern California that was easy. There were unwelcome delays, rounds of illness, lots of homesickness, and weeks of loneliness. The only bright spot in the process of getting settled here has been the overwhelming blessing of being part of a very awesome church family. This week we packed up the picnic gear and spent our Wednesday evening in fellowship with some of those very awesome people. Someone (I'm embarrassed to say I don't even know who) pulled up in a truck with enough quickly ripening raspberries (and other produce) to bless each and every family with an entire flat! Wow! Obviously we've got to use up these berries quickly, so yesterday I set out to make some fresh raspberry sorbet.
Raspberry Sorbet
slightly adapted from Paula Deen for Food Network
2 c. white sugar
2 c. water
2 fresh mint leaves
2 quarts raspberries
1/4 c. lime juice
1/2 c. light corn syrup

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add mint leaves. Simmer for about 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove mint leaves and cool completely.

In a blender or food processor puree raspberries and lime juice. Press puree through a strainer to remove seeds. If you don't mind a few seeds just leave them in!

Combine cooled sugar sugar mixture, raspberry puree, and corn syrup. Stir well.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Sorbet will be soft after churning but will firm up after freezing.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Turkey Sliders with Cilantro Pesto

 Most people either love cilantro (like we do) or hate it. If you are a cilantro hater this recipe is not for you! This week I happened upon an extra bunch of cilantro. That, combined with the half used bunch already in my produce drawer needed to be used up quickly. Tonight I decided to make a cilantro pesto and then I mixed it into and smeared it onto some delicious mini turkey burgers.


Cilantro Pesto

2 c. packed cilantro leaves (cleaned and trimmed of long stems)
1 clove garlic
¼ c. chopped onion
¼ c. sliced almonds (optional)
¼ tsp. cayenne
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. honey
3-4 tbsp. olive oil

In a food processor combine cilantro, garlic, onion, almonds, cayenne, and salt and pulse to combine. Add vinegar, lime juice, and honey. Run food processor and stream in olive oil until combined. Refrigerate pesto and use within 1-2 days. *extra pesto can be frozen for later use*


Turkey Sliders with Cilantro Pesto
(serves 4-6)

1 lb ground turkey
salt & pepper
¼ c. finely diced red onion (optional)
4 T. prepared cilantro pesto plus additional for topping
1 package of 12 small dinner rolls (we like Kings Hawaiian)
Monterey or Pepper Jack Cheese
mayonnaise
lettuce
slices of tomato cut in halves.

Preheat grill.

Combine ground turkey with about 4 tablespoons of prepared pesto and diced onion. Add desired amount of salt and pepper.

Divide meat into 12 equal portions and shape into small patties. Place burgers on grill and cook until done (be careful, patties this small will cook quickly!)

Assemble sliders by topping each patty with cheese and about 1 teaspoon of pesto. Smear the top bun with mayonnaise. Top with lettuce and tomato. Avocado would also be delicious on these!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Red White & Blue Berries

I found this idea in the July edition of Family Fun magazine and couldn't resist trying it for a picnic we went to last night. They were a cinch to make and very fun! Colton, who doesn't even like strawberries (crazy I know!) couldn't resist helping me make these.

You'll need:
2-3 pints of fresh strawberries
1 bag of white chocolate chips
blue decorator sugar

Rinse off strawberries and let dry thoroughly on a clean towel. Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper and set aside. Place blue sugar into a small bowl and set aside. Place chocolate chips in another bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds at a time on medium power stirring until smooth. Working with 1 at a time, hold the stem of each strawberry and dip about 1/2 way into the chocolate. Shake off excess and dip the end into the sugar mixture so that the white chocolate layer is still visible, forming a stripe. Place on cookies sheet and chill once all berries are finished until chocolate is firm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

As Easy as Pie

   If you're looking for something simple (no measuring required!), refreshing, and delicious I've found your pie! And, have I mentioned that this is low-fat? Use it as an excuse and have some dessert!
    I stumbled upon this yummy recipe yesterday when I was trying to find something to pair with the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos we were having for dinner. I didn't even read over the recipe, I just put the few ingredients on my list and went to town.  As usual, I spent way to long shopping and was scrambling to make dinner before everyone got really cranky. I didn't even think about dessert again until dinner was completed and dishes were done...but I didn't really need to. It was that easy!

Low-Fat Key Lime Pie
adapted from Epicurious

1 graham cracker crust (store bought or homemade)
1 small box of Lime flavor sugar free gelatin
1/4 c. boiling water
1 8 oz container of fat free whipped topping
4 (6 oz.) key lime pie flavor yogurts
1 lime, zested
Additional whipped topping for garnish (optional)

Stir Lime Gelatin into boiling water until completely dissolved. Whisk in 4 containers of yogurt and whipped topping and mix well. Stir in most of the lime zest, reserving a bit for garnish (optional). Pour mixture into your prepared crust and chill for about 2 hours. Serve with additional whipped topping and garnish with a small lime wedges (optional). Enjoy!

 



Thursday, June 9, 2011

Some Sweet Appreciation

 
I absolutely love giving homemade gifts, especially when it comes to end of the year gifts for teachers! Yesterday I set out to make a cookie bouquet for Colton's 1st grade teacher.

 
For this project I used a flower pot I bought for $1.00 at Walmart. Shredded paper (for a filler), decorative ribbon, and floral foam (also all from Walmart.) I used Bamboo Skewers for my cookie sticks because my Walmart didn't have extra long sucker sticks. I also included a couple of packets of flower seeds.

I won't tell you that this was a cinch to throw together or that it was a quick project. That would be a lie! I will tell you that yesterday, I learned the hard way that when making a project such as this, peace and quiet is required. My prettiest cookies were decorated after the kids were in bed and I no longer had anyone running through my kitchen asking for juice or trying to taste the frosting. I will also admit that at some point yesterday afternoon while I was frantically trying to decorate these little buggers, the hubby rolled up his sleeves and gave me a hand. It was definitely a family affair! 

 

 
Colton included a homemade card. It said something like this..."thank you for teaching me how to write and draw. So now its time for you to rest. We made you some cookies. So Bye." All his idea! It was so adorable! Of course, I can't tell him that or he'd get mad at me.

 
 
I'll also give credit where credit is due and tell you that I found the instructions, tips, and the sugar cookie and frosting recipes on the blog Your Home Based Mom, which is my new favorite place. If you're going to try this out, make sure you go there first.  I also included in my bouquet some Chocolate Chip Cut Out Cookies because I wanted some variation, and because I think no treat is complete without a bit of chocolate. The recipe is below.

 
Here are a few of my own tips for putting together a cookie bouquet:

 
* Do not make big cookies, or cookies bigger than about 4 inches wide or tall. My biggest flowers fell off their sticks once they were upright because of their weight.
*Make more cookies than you need...better safe than sorry.
*Cut sticks to various sizes, within 1-3 inches. Try to keep your heaviest cookies on the shorter sticks to prevent then from falling off.
*If you don't plan on giving away your bouquet until the next day, hold off on putting your cookies in the arrangement...just in case. You don't want to wake up to a crumbled bouquet.
*Wrap your finished bouquet in a big piece of cellophane paper tied off with a decorative bow. It will look pretty, and keep your cookies fresh until they are delivered.


Chocolate Chip Cut Out Cookies
inspired by a recipe on cooks.com
 
1 c. softened butter or margarine
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. miniature chocolate chip

Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat in egg yolk.
 
 
In another bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add to butter mixture.
 
 
Stir in miniature chocolate chips. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

 
Roll dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. (insert skewers or long sucker sticks if using for a cookie bouquet.)

 
 
Chill for 10 minutes and bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tri-Tip and Gouda Mashed Potatoes

Wow, I can't believe it's already Friday...and almost a week since my last post. I need to share the best Tri-Tip recipe. It's a dry-rub seasoning as well as a garlic, red wine vinaigrette, and garlic mixture that gets basted onto the meat while it's cooking. Literally, the best tri-tip we've ever made. Unfortunately, it's not my recipe and I didn't tweak or adapt it at all, so I'm just going to share the link. Did you know that tri-tip was made popular on the California central coast?  It is our favorite thing to barbecue. I can remember wanting to make it when we lived in  Hawaii and it was no where to be found. I wonder if it's more popular now. What I will share with you is my side recipe for Gouda Smashed Potatoes. Smoky Gouda and Garlic mixed into Creamy Smashed Red Potatoes make a delicious side to anything BBQ.

Click the link for Tri-Tip Recipe

Gouda Smashed Potatoes
8 medium red potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 tsp of crushed garlic
1/3 c. of butter
1/3 c. sour cream
1/2 c. shredded Gouda cheese
1 tsp. of granulated chicken bouillon seasoning
salt and ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp of finely chopped chives

Peel and cube potatoes and place in a pot covered with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and add garlic, butter, sour cream, Gouda, and bouillon. Smash potatoes well with a potato masher and stir to make sure everything is well incorporated. Add chives and season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cobb Salad on a Pizza

Tonight while in search of something new to put on a pizza I stumbled upon something wonderful. Think Cobb Salad on a Pizza. Juicy Grilled Chicken, Crumbled Bacon (I used Turkey Bacon), Diced Apples, Gorgonzola Cheese, and Sweet Onions...is your mouth watering yet?  Top it off with some fresh lettuce, ripe tomatoes, hard boiled egg, and a drizzle of Ranch Dressing. Words can't even describe! Try it out for yourself and tell me what you think!

Cobb Salad on a Pizza
1 ball of your favorite pizza dough
4 tbsp. of ranch dressing
2 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 breast of grilled chicken, chopped
5 pieces of Bacon, or Turkey Bacon crumbled
1 large Fuji apple, sliced and diced
1/3-1/2 c. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 of a sweet onion, sliced into thin rings
2 c. lettuce (Romaine, Bib, or Red Leaf would work best)
1 Tomato, diced
1 hard boiled egg
more Ranch Dressing to drizzle

Directions:

Start out with your favorite pizza dough, work dough to desired thickness and place in a prepared pan, or if you prefer, you can bake pizza on your grill like I did. Basically you lay your dough right down onto a preheated grill brushed with olive oil. Normally you would flip when the bottom is lightly browned and quickly add toppings right on the grill, but because of the number of toppings I decided to grill both sides, top, and finish off in the broiler

Spread pizza with a thin layer (about 4 tbsp.) of Ranch. Top with Mozzarella, chicken, bacon, apples, crumbled Gorgonzola, and onion. Bake at 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or if dough has already been grilled place under your broiler for 2-4 minutes, or cheese is melty and edges are toasty.

Cool pizza slightly and top with lettuce, tomatoes, sliced hard boiled eggs and a drizzle of your favorite ranch dressing. Serve Immediately!



Monday, May 16, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

Sometimes, after a weekend of splurging at parties and BBQ, its nice to start Monday with something fresh. I've had this recipe for Black Bean Burgers from Gourmet sitting around and I decided to give it a try. It's comprised mostly of pantry staples and only takes about 10 minutes! Let me tell you that the hubby sounded a little bit disappointed when I told him there wouldn't be any meat in these burgers. I even promised him that if he ate the burger he could have what was left of the tri-tip in our refrigerator, which he did, but before that he also admitted that these were pretty tasty...even if they were made of beans.


Black Bean Burgers
adapted from Gourmet.com
 
2 cans of black beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
3 tbsp of mayonnaise
1/3 c of crushed Ritz crackers
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp of salt
1/4 c. finely diced red onion
1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices of reduced fat cheddar or jack cheese
4 soft hamburger buns

Preheat Grill.

Combine in a food processor 1 can of beans, mayonnaise, cracker crumbs, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and salt until pureed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cilantro, onion, and remaining can of beans. Mash lightly. Form mixture into 4 patties.

Brush top of patties with vegetable oil and flip oiled side onto grill, brushing the alternate side with remaining oil.  Cook about 3 minutes or until underside is crisp and lightly browned and flip, cooking an additional 3 minutes. Top with cheese and serve on buns with lettuce and tomato.

We topped ours with mayonnaise and BBQ sauce but you could also top these with salsa, sour cream, or some fresh sliced avocado.

Cream Pie with a Kick

A light chocolate cream pie? Honestly, that conjures up memories of store bought graham cracker crusts filled with sugar free instant pudding mix made by a newly married me almost 10 years ago. Sure they were made with love in our tiny little one bedroom apartment, a kitchen built for one (which didn't even have a dishwasher!), but they weren't very tasty. There are 16 recipes for "Healthy Cream Pie" over at  Cooking Light and I plan on testing out several...but this one is like nothing I've ever made before. Its rich and chocolaty with a hint of spice that doesn't over power its sweetness. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did :)

Mexican Chocolate Cream Pie
Adapted from Cooking Light

Total Time: about 4 hours
Servings: 8 slices.

Crust
10 graham cracker sheets
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp egg white
2 tbsp melted butter
cooking spray

Filling
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tbsp of coffee liquor 
1 3/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place graham cracker sheets into a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. Reserve 1 tablespoon of crumbs for topping.

Add to processor the sugar, cinnamon, salt, egg white, and butter and pulse until combined.

Press crumb mixture into a 9 inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes. Cool completely.

To prepare the filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, salt, cayenne, egg, and egg yolk in a small bowl and stir with a whisk.

Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until milk reaches 180 degrees. Tiny bubbles will form around the edge but do not boil. 

 Slowly add the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and add coffee liquor and chocolate. Stir until smooth.

Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When mixture is cooled spoon filling into crust.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 3 hours or until set. Remove plastic wrap, spread whipped topping over the filling and sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu Shells and Cheese

It's been awhile, but I finally have a new recipe to share. Chicken Cordon Bleu Shells & Cheese! We love Chicken Cordon Bleu...but this was just as savory and a lot more fun to make...and eat!  It's a scrumptious casserole full of  flavor and texture. It would also be a great meal to take to someone because it can be thrown together and kept in the refrigerator for a day or two until it can be baked off.

 
Ingredients
1/2 box or 7 oz of medium sized pasta shells. (I used the whole wheat variety)
1 lb of chicken breast
1 1/2 c. of  cubed ham
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
3 tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
6 oz (or 6 slices) of Swiss cheese cubed
3 oz (or 3 slices) of provolone cheese cubed
2 c. of 2% milk
1/4 c. of good white wine
1 slice of french bread, approx 1 1/2 inch thick
1 tbsp butter
1/4 c. Parmesan
1/4 tsp. parsley


Directions
Cube chicken breast, season with salt, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of parsley and garlic powder and cook in olive oil over medium heat until no longer pink. Stir in 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and set aside.

Prepare pasta, cooking until Al dente. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour until fully incorporated (mixture will appear clumpy, but will be broken up in the next step) Cook for a few moments, stirring constantly. Slowly add 2 cups of milk, whisking until all lumps are dissolved. Cook until mixture begins to bubble and is thickened. Remove from heat* and stir in Swiss and Provolone cheeses until incorporated, reserving a handful of Swiss (or about 2 oz) for the top of the casserole. 

 *Hint, if heat is still on while cheese is added it could break down the cheese, causing sauce to become grainy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta, chicken, ham, and cheese sauce. Add 1/4 cup of white wine and stir in the remaining Tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Place in a greased casserole dish. Top with remaining Swiss cheese.

Tear french bread into small chunks and place in a food processor with butter, Parmesan, and parsley. Pulse until small crumbs form. Crumble over pasta mixture.
Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until crumb topping is golden and cheese is bubbly.

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Favorite Salad

This is one of my favorite times of year...because Strawberries are in season! I love to use strawberries in salads, particularly in a Spring Mix Salad topped with crumbled goat cheese and my favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette. Have you tried Ken's Steakhouse Creamy Balsamic? It's awesome!

The ingredients are as follows: Spring Mix salad greens, thinly sliced ripe strawberries, crumbled chevre (goat cheese), and a drizzle of Balsamic Vinaigrette. You could also add sliced almonds, red onions, or homemade croutons.

On this particular day I didn't have any leftover bread for croutons, so I melted a bit of butter and olive oil in a pan and toasted some panko, seasoned with a sprinkle of parsley and oregano. It added a crunchy texture to the salad that we really enjoyed.

Bruchetta Beef Sandwiches

        A few nights ago I had a small (about 2 1/2 lb) chuck roast defrosted and I wanted to do something different with it. I stared into my pantry and found the over-used solution of a dry french onion soup packet. Blah. Then I found a can of italian diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, and basil. What to do?





Bruschetta Beef Sandwiches (Serves 4)
 *if using a larger roast double the recipe*

2 1/2 lb chuck or pot roast
1 c. water
1/2 c. red wine
1/2 of a dry french onion soup packet
1 can of Italian style diced tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tbsp dry oregano
Ground black pepper
1/3 c. basil, roughly chopped

For the Sandwiches
4 French Rolls
butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped in half.
Sliced Provolone Cheese
Shredded Parmesan
Balsamic Vinegar
1/3 c. chopped basil

Directions for Roast: Rub roast with french onion soup, oregano, and ground pepper. Place in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes, water, red wine, chopped garlic, and basil. Cook on low for 8 hours. When roast is done shred with a fork and place meat back into the liquid.

To assemble sandwiches: Spread french rolls with butter and toast under broiler. Once toasted, rub garlic half liberally on the inside of toasted rolls and set aside. With a slotted spoon, remove roasted from slow cooker (making sure to get some of those yummy tomatoes and garlic pieces in the mix) and place on rolls. Top with sliced provolone and Parmesan and place under the broiler a few more minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling. Top with fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Enjoy! 


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Miniature Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

After some chaos, more than I would have liked, my counter tops are installed and my kitchen faucet is finally fully functioning! Yay! Yesterday was the first day that everything got put back in its rightful place and I finally had room to maneuver around my newly beautified kitchen. So, of course, I was in the mood for a little bit of baking. Today Garrison and I had a Easter Egg Hunt to attend with a mommy group from our church. I wanted to make something extra special. I scanned my refrigerator looking for some inspiration and stumbled upon the jar of raspberry preserves I used in my Lemon & Poppy Seed Bread with Raspberry Swirl last week. Light bulb! I decided to try my hand at some Raspberry Buttercream Frosting. I couldn't think of anything more delicious and cute to frost than miniature chocolate cupcakes.

The Miniature Cupcakes were straight from a box of cake mix. Now and then I enjoy making a cake from scratch, but you'd be surprised that a box cake mix can be moist and delicious, as long as you follow the directions and are careful not to over bake. My mom and dad make the best wedding cake I've ever tasted...and people are always amazed when they tell them that it came from a box. 


Raspberry Buttercream

1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. Raspberry Preserves
4 -4 1/2  cups confectioners' sugar

Whip butter, shortening, and vanilla extract in a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. While it's mixing, place raspberry preserves in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on about 50% power for 15 second intervals until the preserves can easily be stirred and are liquid. Add confectioners' sugar and preserves to creamed mixture and whip at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. 

Pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes. I placed my frosting into a large Ziploc bag, squeezed out the air, cut off the tip, and swirled atop my cupcakes.



look at my pretty quartz countertops!