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Monday, December 31, 2012

Pink Peppermint Lemonade


How are you ringing in 2013? I'm ringing it in with Greg, and we will be sipping on this pink peppermint lemonade when the clock strikes midnight (or, we will be fast asleep...). A few weekends ago when we had Tara over to celebrate her birthday, I made this lemonade. I had some lemons that were on the verge of going bad, and Greg had mentioned that it would be nice to drink some bubbly basil lemonade. Well, since it is winter and there isn't any fresh basil growing, I needed to think of something else to jazz up the lemonade. Peppermints were the answer! I popped Starlight mints into the mixture, which turned it a beautiful pink color, and then I topped it off with club soda. It was really good. I had a feeling I was going to love the flavor, because when I was young I would buy a lemon with a peppermint stick stuck in the middle at every swim meet - it was my favorite summer treat. If you are looking for a nonalcoholic beverage to celebrate the New Year with, consider this pink peppermint lemonade. Enjoy, and have a very happy new year! Here's to a fab 2013!

Recipe for Pink Peppermint Lemonade

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups of water
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
8 round peppermint candies
4 1/2 cups of chilled Club Soda
2 cups of chilled water
Crushed or Cubed Ice
Extra peppermint candies for garnish, if desired

DIRECTIONS:
Bring the lemon juice, water, and granulated sugar to a simmer over medium high heat Stir the mixture occasionally. Once the mixture is simmering and the sugar has fully dissolved, carefully drop in the peppermint candies, one at a time. Stir constantly, until the red on the peppermint disappears and the mixture turns pink (the peppermints will not dissolve completely). Pour the hot mixture into a heat-safe liquid measuring cup (one that holds 3 cups or more). Discard the mints from the mixture. Stir, and set aside to cool. Once mixture has cooled a bit, place it into the fridge until ready to serve. It should be fully chilled before serving, so it might be best to let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
When ready to serve, pour the lemon peppermint mixture into a serving pitcher. Top it off with the chilled Club Soda and 2 cups of chilled water. Stir, and serve in glasses over ice. Drop a peppermint into each glass to give it the added red color at the bottom, if desired. Cheers!

Recipe makes 8 - 10 servings.

***Original Recipe***

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese with Fontina


I used to think that boxed macaroni and cheese was really good. I actually really loved that packet of orange artificial cheese powder that was stirred into the noodles. I don't think I ever realized that you could eat macaroni and cheese from anything but a box! I tried out a classic mac and cheese recipe from a food blog, and although it was good, it wasn't mind blowing. Then I tried out this macaroni and cheese with fontina, and it was mind blowing! I also tried a gruyere mac and cheese recipe last night from Ina Garten, and it was also amazing. I have made this creamy macaroni and cheese recipe quite a few times, and Greg & I thoroughly enjoy it. I have to get my share of cheesy recipes in before the end of this year (4 more days), because Greg wants to try going lactose free at the start of the new year. Um, I am very worried about that, because I am a total cheese lover. I'll keep you posted on how long the lactose free thing lasts (wait a minute, does chocolate have lactose...), but for now, here is a delicious recipe full of all the dairy that I love! Enjoy.

Recipe for Creamy Macaroni & Cheese with Fontina 

INGREDIENTS:
1 16-oz box of medium-sized pasta shells
2 tsp. kosher salt
5 ounces of unsalted butter, divided
8 ounces of cream
A pinch of salt
A couple of dashes of ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces of grated Fontina cheese
1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
Add the 2 tsp. of salt to a large pot of boiling water and cook pasta shells according to package directions so they are cooked 1 minute shy of al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat until it is warmed. Remove cream from heat and cover until ready to use. Cut 4 Tbsp. of the butter into small pieces and put into a large bowl.

Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain it completely in a colander. Add the pasta into the bowl with the butter and toss well. Stir in the cream, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Then add in the cheese and stir until cheese is melted and creamy. Pour the pasta into a very lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a smallish bowl, melt the 1 Tbsp. of butter. Stir in the panko bread crumbs and finely grated parmesan, and mix so the bread crumbs and cheese are coated with the butter. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta.

Place the pasta into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Let cool for about a minute before serving. This dish goes well with a green salad or green vegetable. Enjoy!

Recipe Source: Annie's Eats 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Best Coconut Macaroons Ever X 2 (w/almonds & chocolate)



Well I am pretty much cookie'd out, but I wanted to post one more cookie recipe before Christmas. This week I participated in a cookie exchange at work and two potlucks, and I have had SO many sweets. I am sure you have too! I decided to take these coconut macaroons to the potluck yesterday. These macaroons are the new and improved version of the best coconut macaroons that I posted back in June. This recipe adds in almonds and dark chocolate to the mix - yum! Many friends have mentioned to me how much they like the macaroons and coconut truffles, so I thought combining the two recipes would be a great idea. And it was. Now it's time to go on a water and celery diet until Christmas (yeah right)! Enjoy.

Recipe for Best Coconut Macaroons Ever X 2 (w/almonds & chocolate)

INGREDIENTS:
1 14-oz bag of sweetened shredded flaked coconut
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. of almond extract
1 cup of finely chopped almonds
8 oz of semisweet baking chocolate squares, broken in half

DIRECTIONS:
Combine the coconut, condensed milk, flour, vanilla extract, almond extract, and finely chopped almonds in a large mixing bowl. Mix until it is well blended. Cover the bowl and put it into the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 330 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up the mixture. Use your hands to form into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each. Place in oven and cook for 20 - 23 minutes, or until tops are golden. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool completely.

Once macaroons have completely cooled, place the chocolate into a small saucepan and set it over low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate melts. Turn off the heat. Use a fork to drip chocolate over the cooled macaroons (using as much or as little chocolate as you like). Place macaroons in the fridge until the chocolate hardens, then remove from fridge and store in an airtight container.

*Recipe makes about 30 coconut macaroons*

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Potato, Chorizo & Goat Cheese Tacos with Smoky Aioli




Well, I finally got around to making the potato, chorizo, and goat cheese tacos again - and this time I made enough so I could create this posting! Last Saturday night we had our friends Tara and Marcus over for dinner to celebrate Tara's 29th (youngin') birthday. Before we sat down for dinner, Tara commented on the "interesting" things that were on the table for the tacos. As she was eating her tacos, she said "Wow Beth, I got to be honest, I was a little concerned when I saw everything out for the tacos. But it's like the weirdest things come together and make this totally delicious combination of flavors!" I took it as a compliment.

I got the idea for the "weird" tacos from Paladar Restaurant. I dined at Paladar with my husband, and I was eyeing the tacos on the menu. But Greg wanted to order other things, so I didn't get the chance to try them. I decided that I would attempt to make them at home. They are super, super yummy. I am not sure if I like the sweet potato tacos or potato, chorizo, and goat cheese tacos better. They are both so good. But as my friend Krista says, all tacos are good tacos. Serve the tacos with slow cooker refried beans and sweet corn pudding. Enjoy!

Recipe for Potato, Chorizo & Goat Cheese Tacos

INGREDIENTS:
3 lb of golden potatoes, peeled & cut into small cubes
3 Tbsp. of olive oil
salt and pepper
2 lb of chorizo sausage, casings removed
Shredded red cabbage
Cilantro leaves
Crumbled goat cheese
Smoky aioli (recipe below)
16 soft corn tortillas (taco size)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put the cubed potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the potatoes for 12 minutes, then use a spatula to loosen the potatoes and toss around. Put potatoes back in the oven for another 10 - 12 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown. Leave the potatoes on the pan and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 270 degrees. 
Cook the chorizo. Put into a large pan and use a spatula or spoon to crumble the sausage as it cooks. Cook until sausage is completely done and make sure it is crumbled small.
Once chorizo is fully cooked, put it onto the pan with the potatoes. Toss together. Put pan back into the oven while you prepare the fixings.
Put cabbage, cilantro, and goat cheese into small serving bowls. Make the smoky aioli (recipe below). Put tortillas on a plate and cover with a paper towel. Heat in the microwave on low for about 25 - 30 seconds. 
Once all the fixings are prepped, take the potatoes and sausage out of the oven and put into a serving dish. Put tortillas, cabbage, cilantro, goat cheese, potatoes & chorizo, and smoky aioli out and allow everyone to assemble their own tacos. 

Recipe for Smoky Aioli

INGREDIENTS:
1/3 cup real mayonnaise
Juice of one lime
1 garlic clove, pressed (or 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder)
1 1/4 tsp. of smoked paprika
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Potato Latkes (potato pancakes)


I love latkes! Potato latkes were one of my favorite meals that my mom would make for us during the holiday season. On Wednesday night, Greg and I went out to get our Christmas tree and then I made latkes for dinner. I have made them a few times before, but the recipe I used Wednesday was super yummy. I served them with homemade applesauce, sour cream, and ketchup (the ketchup is for Greg - he loves ketchup)! Latkes are a delicious and fun meal for everyone. Enjoy!

Recipe for Potato Latkes

INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 Tbsp. of finely chopped onion
1 small clove of garlic, minced
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1/8 tsp. of black pepper
3 Tbsp. of all purpose flour
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and grated (peel & grate right before you are ready to cook the latkes)
3 - 6 Tbsp. of peanut, vegetable, or canola oil (I used canola)

DIRECTIONS:
Put the chopped onion, minced garlic, eggs, salt, black pepper, and flour into a large mixing bowl. Peel and grate the potatoes, and add the grated potato into the mixture. Stir together to mix all of the ingredients. In an electric skillet set on medium heat, heat 2 tbsp. of oil. When the oil is hot, use a spatula to carefully place about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of the potato mixture onto the hot oil. Flatten with the spatula to make into a pancake. Repeat that step. Allow the pancakes to heat for a few minutes on each side, and then flip. Watch to make sure the heat is at a good temperature, and adjust as needed. When the pancakes are crispy and browned on each side, use the spatula to transfer them to a paper towel lined plate. Continue to make pancakes with the rest of the mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed. If desired, place the already cooked potato latkes onto a baking sheet and place in a warm oven (set at about 270 degrees) so they don't get too cold while the others are cooking. Before serving, sprinkle the potato latkes with a little bit of salt.

Serve with applesauce and sour cream. And ketchup...

*Recipe makes about 8 potato latkes.*

NOTE: If you plan on making this homemade applesauce to go along with your latkes, be sure to double the recipe!

And here is our Christmas tree!
We finally finished decorating it today. 
A menorah (Latkes are a traditional meal served during Hanukkah) made by my sister
and 3-year old nephew. Made with toilet paper rolls & artwork from school. How cute!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Peppermint Sugar Cookies


I had so much fun making the peppermint truffles the other day! I had leftover peppermints, so I wanted to make another fun treat. I came across a peppermint crunch ball cookie recipe, and I decided to try it out. The cookies did not turn out exactly how I thought they would (I thought they would be crunchier and I didn't think they would flatten - I guess names of recipes can be deceiving), but they were really yummy. The cookie is sweet, but not too sweet - with just the right amount of peppermint. The texture is nice & I love the slight crunch from the crushed mint and sugar. They are cute & festive and perfect for the holidays - enjoy!

Recipe for Peppermint Sugar Cookies

INGREDIENTS:
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup of confectioners sugar
1 egg
1/4 tsp. of vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. of peppermint extract
2 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. of salt
10 - 15 crushed mini candy canes or Starlight mints
2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
Decorative Sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the softened butter and confectioners sugar with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed. Mix for a few minutes, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add in the egg and mix to incorporate. Stir in the vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Slowly add the flour to the mixture, by pouring in 1/3 cup at a time. Use the hand mixer to beat on low for several seconds after each addition of flour. Mix in the salt. Make sure all ingredients are well blended together. Cover the bowl with a lid and put into the fridge for 1 - 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the crushed peppermints (I grind up the Starlight mints in my food processor) and granulated sugar. Take the mixture out of the fridge. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop the mixture up and roll into 1 1/2-inch balls. Coat the balls in the crushed mint and sugar mixture and place on baking sheet. Space each ball about 2-inches apart from each other. Place in oven and bake for 12 - 14 minutes.

Optional: About 3 minutes before the cookies are finished baking, sprinkle decorative sugar on top of each cookie and then put back into the oven.

Once cookies are finished baking, transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

*Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Recipe Adapted from: Mr. Food

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles



I was going to wait to post this recipe over the weekend, but I am just so excited about it that I had to share it now! I made peppermint truffles for the first time yesterday. The filling was made with a dark chocolate ganache with peppermint extract, and then I dipped them in dark chocolate and sprinkled on some crushed mints. They were pretty amazing. I took some by a friend's house this morning on my way to work, and she messaged me to let me know that they are the best truffles I have ever made (she has sampled the coconut truffles, sweet cream and walnut truffles, cookie dough truffles, and pumpkin truffles)! I think I might agree with her, but I need to go eat another one before I can know for sure. Greg loved them too, and so did my coworkers at the elementary school.

These truffles are the perfect holiday baking project - all of your friends, coworkers, and family would love to have some of these delicious festive treats! They would also be great to serve at a holiday party, or at a shower that is held during the holiday season. Enjoy.

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles 
INGREDIENTS:
For the filling
10 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, chopped very finely
8 ounces of whipping cream or heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. of peppermint extract (I used 2 tsp.)
For the coating
16 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped or broken in half
10 - 15 crushed mini candy canes or Starlight mints

DIRECTIONS:
For the filling
Chop the chocolate. It can be chopped by putting it into the bowl of a food processor and pulsing until chopped very finely. Put the chocolate into a heat-safe metal bowl. Put the cream into a small saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer (watch it closely). Once it simmers, pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 1 - 2 minutes. Gently stir the mixture for about a minute, making sure to fully incorporate the cream and chocolate together. Stir it until it is smooth and completely dark in color.  Stir in peppermint extract.  Let it rest on the countertop for about 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with a lid and place it into the refrigerator for several hours, to allow the mixture to harden.

Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up the mixture and then roll with your hands into 3/4-inch to 1-inch balls. Place the balls onto parchment lined containers. Cover the containers and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

For the coating
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the crushed mints on a corner on the baking sheet or in a small bowl. Use a small spoon to sprinkle the mints onto the truffles, when ready for that step.

Put the coarsely chopped chocolate into a small to medium saucepan. Put about 3/4 cup of water into the bottom pan of a double boiler. Set the double boiler over medium-high heat. When steam begins to come up, place the saucepan with the chocolate on top of the boiler. Stir the chocolate frequently until it is completely smooth and melted. Turn off the stovetop. Take one container of the filling out of the freezer. Drop one of the balls into the melted chocolate, and use a spoon to completely coat. Use the spoon to carefully place the truffle onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle the crushed mints on top, while the chocolate is still wet. Repeat until each truffle is coated with the chocolate. Repeat with the remaining containers of the filling in the freezer.

Place the baking pan with the truffles in the fridge, and allow the coating to harden before serving.

Recipe makes 25 - 30 truffles.

Recipe Adapted from: Food For My Family 
Dark chocolate peppermint truffles - possibly the best truffles I have ever made...

NOTE: Since there is cream in the filling, it is best to store the peppermint truffles in the fridge - don't let them sit out long. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Delicious & Easy Refried Beans in a Slow Cooker - no grease or frying!

Okay, these beans are not "refried," but they taste as good if not better than actual refried beans. I came across the recipe a couple weeks ago, and there were hundreds of great reviews, so I gave it a shot. The  beans cooked in the slow cooker all day, and they made our house smell amazing. And, the beans were as yummy as they smelled! The beans are great as a filling in tortillas, a side to quesadillas or tacos,  a dip with chips, or plain for a quick and easy lunch.

I love many things about this recipe. I love that the beans require very little (less than 5 minutes) hands-on preparation time. I love that there are no unhealthy ingredients in the recipe. And, I love that the beans taste so delicious - the texture is creamy & smooth, and the flavor is perfect.  Greg loves how inexpensive the beans were to make, and he loves how delicious they tasted. He pointed out to me that I should never buy canned beans again - because compared to dried beans, they are much more expensive. He is right on this one (don't tell him though)! I hope you are as excited about cheap, easy, healthy, and delicious un-fried refried beans as we are! Enjoy.

Recipe for Delicious & Easy Refried Beans - no grease or frying! 

INGREDIENTS:
3 1/2 cups of dried pinto beans, rinsed (place beans in colander and set under running water for a minute)
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped small (deveined and seeded - but I kept a few seeds to kick up the heat)
3 Tbsp. of dried onion flakes
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. of cumin powder
2 1/2 tsp. of salt
1 1/4 tsp. of black pepper
10 1/2 cups of water

DIRECTIONS:
Place the rinsed beans, chopped jalapeno, onion flakes, minced garlic, cumin powder, salt, and pepper into a slow cooker. Cover with the 10 1/2 cups of water. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook for 8 hours. Use a ladle or spoon to skim any excess water out of the beans. Use a potato masher to mash the beans to desired consistency. Serve & enjoy!

*Makes 12 - 16 servings of beans. Hands-on time is less than 5 minutes!*

Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies (chocolate Snickerdoodles)



Yesterday on my lunch break I stopped at Sweet Hearts Patisserie, a bakery in Annapolis. I have been there a couple times before, but I had never sampled any of their yummy-smelling and great-looking treats. I always order a hot chocolate and resist the urge to buy anything else. Well, it was a long week, and yesterday I could not resist the urge. I saw "Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies" right in front of me, and by the time my drink was ready, my mind was made up - I was not leaving the store without the cookie! The cookie was pretty big, so when I got back to work I asked my coworker if she would be willing to share it with me. If I hadn't asked her to share, I would have had no problem finishing the cookie myself. It was so super yummy. The cookie itself was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and the flavors of chocolate and cinnamon were intoxicating.

Today I decided to recreate the cookie in my own kitchen. I found a few different recipes online for the cookies, and I followed one with only a few minor changes. The batter is made with cocoa and just a little cinnamon, and then the dough is rolled in a delicious mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and ancho chile powder. These cookies are kind of like Snickerdoodles, but they are chocolate instead.  They smelled so good while baking, and they tasted amazing. Greg has already had several of the cookies since I pulled them out of the oven. I will definitely be making these again. I think I might take some to the neighborhood holiday party next week! Enjoy.

Recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies 

INGREDIENTS:
For the cookie dough
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
2 tsp. of cream of tartar
1 tsp. of baking soda
1/4 tsp. of sea salt
1/4 tsp. of cinnamon
For the cinnamon-sugar coating
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 tsp. of cinnamon
A dash or two of ancho chili powder (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add in the eggs, and incorporate well.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Pour the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Mix together the ingredients with the electric hand mixer set on the lowest speed, until the ingredients are well incorporated and a batter is formed.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and ancho chile powder - this is the cinnamon-sugar coating.

Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up about 1 tablespoon of the batter. Use your hands to form the dough into balls, and then roll each one into the cinnamon-sugar mixture, until fully coated. Place on a baking sheet, and leave about 2-inches of space between each (I put about 12 on a baking sheet, using 3 baking sheets). Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, and then cook another 5 or so minutes. The cookies are done when they begin to crack on the tops. After you remove the cookies from the oven, let them rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

***Makes about 3 dozen (36) cookies***

Recipe Source: A Pretty Life 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Corn Pudding (kind of like the one from Chevys)


Have you ever had a meal at Chevys restaurant? If so, you should know that one of the best parts of the meal is the corn stuff that comes on the side. It is officially called "sweet corn tomalito," but I like to just call it corn pudding or yummy corn stuff. I came across a recipe for it on Our Best Bites awhile back, and I made a mental note to make sure to try the recipe. Well, I tried it out this past weekend. It was SO yummy. I made it again on Monday. And I think I'm going to make it again tomorrow.

I made the corn pudding to go along with a great meal. We had our friend over for dinner, and I served potato & chorizo tacos with smoky aioli, refried (without the frying part) beans, and corn pudding. I was hoping to have enough tacos leftover to eat the next day and for a picture, but Greg and George ate too much - and a picture never happened. That is ok, I'll just have to make the tacos again this weekend! But for now, here is a recipe for yummy corn stuff. Or corn pudding. Or tomalito. Whatever it is, it's good!

Recipe for Corn Pudding 

INGREDIENTS:
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup of masa harina
2 1/2 Tbsp. of cream
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of cornmeal
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 1/4 cups of frozen corn
Hot water (for the water bath in the oven)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the butter, masa harina, cream, and water. Use an electric hand mixer to beat it on medium speed for a few minutes, until the mixture is smooth.
In a small bowl, mix together the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the wet mixture. Set the hand mixer on medium-low speed and beat the dry and wet ingredients together until well combined. Pour the corn (corn can be frozen or thawed) into the bowl and use a spoon to mix it in.
Spread the mixture evenly into an 8 x 8 square pan. Put the 8 x 8 pan into a 9 x 13 pan. Place the pans into the oven. Give the 9 x 13 pan a "water bath." Carefully pour the hot water into the 9 x 13 pan. Pour the water in until it comes up about one inch on the sides. Close the oven and cook for 50 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite mexican meal, serve it for dessert, or eat it for breakfast! Enjoy.

Recipe Source: Our Best Bites

NOTE: Are you wondering what masa harina is? I was when I first saw the recipe. Learn more about masa harina here. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

White Chicken Chili-Soup

I hope everyone had a very nice Thanksgiving holiday. I have really enjoyed my extra days off from work. I am sure that everyone probably ate way too much on Thanksgiving, and the foods that they ate were pretty gluttonous. That is why I am choosing to post this recipe for this chili-soup, because it is a healthy & delicious meal! I call this a chili-soup because it really is a cross between the two. It is not too chunky or too soupy, it is just right! My friend emailed me this recipe last year from All Recipes. I have made it a few times, and it never disappoints. It is packed full of delicious flavors - including cumin, cilantro, and lime. The recipe makes at least 10 servings, so it is really good for leftovers. Make sure to top it with your favorites - I chose to top mine with grated cheddar cheese, avocado slices, and tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Recipe for White Chicken Chili-Soup 

INGREDIENTS:
3 Tbsp. of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
5 (5 - 6 ounce) skinless & boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2 large yellow onions, chopped
6.5 cups of chicken broth
2 (4 ounce) cans of diced green chiles
2 tsp. of garlic powder
1 Tbsp. of ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. of dried oregano
1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper
A dash or two of salt
2/3 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
4 (15.5 ounce) cans of cannelini beans
Juice of 1/2 lime
Toppings: cheddar cheese, sliced avocados, tortilla chips, sour cream
DIRECTIONS:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Put in the chicken pieces and chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the chicken broth, green chiles, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and cilantro. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Add in the beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Make sure that the chicken is cooked all the way through (I usually take a piece out and cut into it with a knife to make sure the inside is not pink, that way I know it's done). Turn the heat off and then squeeze in the lime juice. Stir soup, and season to taste. Serve each bowl of soup with your favorite toppings.

Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Best Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream


Oh, pumpkin pie - how I love you. If you are still looking for the perfect recipe for pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, look no further, because you have come to the right place. This pumpkin pie is incredible. The secret is in the sweetened condensed milk - it makes for a really nice consistency, and it enhances the flavors of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

I first came across this recipe last winter. I will never try another recipe for pumpkin pie again, because this one really is the absolute best. This pie taste delicious when it is warm or cold, and it is great with or without whipped cream. But since whipped cream makes everything better, I usually opt for a piece topped with whipped cream. If you have never had homemade whipped cream, you are missing out. Once you have it, you probably will never buy store-bought whipped cream again.

I hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for, but today I'm especially thankful for pumpkin pie!

Recipe for the Best Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

For the pie crust
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1 stick of very cold butter, chopped into small chunks
3 - 4 Tbsp. of ice-cold water
DIRECTIONS:
Place the flour, salt, and sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to just combine. Add in the very cold pieces of butter. Pulse several times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (about the size of peas). With the food processor running, slowly pour a tablespoon of the water through the feed tube. Continue to pour in more water, a tablespoon at a time. After you have poured in 3 tablespoons of water, add in the fourth tablespoon if the dough has not yet left the sides of the bowl. Allow the food processor to keep running until the dough completely leaves the sides of the bowl and forms into a ball. Carefully remove the dough from the food processor and wrap in saran wrap or seal in a plastic bag. Put into the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
For the pumpkin pie filling
INGREDIENTS:
1 14-ounce can of pumpkin
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs, beaten with a fork
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
1/2 tsp. of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of ground cloves
1/8 tsp. of vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS:
Place all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Beat the ingredients together with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed for two minutes.
For assembly and cooking
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Take the dough out of the fridge. Place it into a 9 to 10-inch pie pan. Use your hands to firmly press and work the dough so it is evenly distributed onto the bottom and the sides of the pan. Pour the pumpkin pie filling mixture into the pan. Place the pie pan into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cook for another 45 - 50 minutes. Cool the pie on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. Makes 8 - 12 servings.

Pie Crust Recipe Source: Annie's Eats
Pumpkin Pie Recipe Source: Food.com


Recipe for Whipped Cream
INGREDIENTS: 
1 cup of heavy whipping cream (chilled)
1 Tbsp. of confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
DIRECTIONS:
Place a medium to large metal mixing bowl and the whisk attachment for an electric hand mixer into the freezer. Let chill for about 10 minutes. Once chilled, pour the cup of heavy whipping cream into the bowl. Attach the chilled whisk to the electric hand mixer. Beat the cream on high speed for about one to two minutes, then add in the powdered sugar. Continue to beat on high speed for several minutes, or until the cream starts to form soft peaks. This recipe makes enough whipped cream to serve on each piece of pie (or at least it should)! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chocolate Marshmallow MADNESS!


I thought I was making up a new truffle recipe when I made these, and the name of the truffles were going to be "chocolate marshmallow madness truffles." But then I realized they weren't really like truffles, because they turned out to be more like chocolate marshmallow yumminess and gooeyness - covered in chocolate. Yes, I really did make something chocolate and covered it with chocolate - and it was wonderful.

This recipe was inspired by the frosting on the ice cream cone cupcakes. I tried making these once before, but the butter did not work too well in the recipe. So I omitted the butter this time, added some mini chocolate chips to the mix, and it was a success. My coworkers approved, Greg approved, and I hope you will also approve of the madness! Make sure to enjoy the chocolate marshmallow madness with a glass of milk.

Recipe for Chocolate Marshmallow MADNESS! 

INGREDIENTS:
For the inside:
2 7-ounce jars of marshmallow creme
1 1/4 cups of chocolate chips (regular sized)
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 cups of mini chocolate chips (depending on your desired amount of chunkiness)
For the coating:
16-ounces of semisweet baking chocolate squares, broken in half

DIRECTIONS:
For the inside:
Melt the 1 1/4 cups of regular-sized chocolate chips in a smallish saucepan set over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the chocolate from heat once it is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Put the marshmallow creme, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl. Add in the slightly cooled melted chocolate and the mini chocolate chips. Using an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed, beat the mixture together for a couple minutes until it is smooth and all ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in more mini chocolate chips, if desired. Cover the bowl with a lid and put it in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight.
After mixture has been refrigerated, line a couple freezer-safe containers with parchment paper. Take the mixture out of the fridge and use a cookie dough scoop to form the marshmallow filling. Scoop a little out and roll into 1-inch (or larger) balls. Place each one onto the parchment lined containers. Cover the containers with foil and place in the freezer for a few hours (or more).
For the coating:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the broken squares of baking chocolate into a medium-sized saucepan. Prepare a double boiler with about 1/2 cup of water, and set the double boiler over medium heat. Once steam starts to come up through the boiler, set the saucepan of chocolate on top. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring frequently. Once the chocolate melts, turn off the heat. Take the chilled chocolate marshmallows out of the freezer. Drop each one into the melted chocolate one at a time and use a spoon to coat. Use the spoon to carefully place each one onto the prepared baking pan. Once you have coated each one, place baking sheet into the refrigerator. Allow the chocolate to harden. Once the chocolate has hardened, they are ready to eat. I found that they actually taste best at room temperature, so you can take them out of the fridge to sit until they are ready to be served.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spinach, Pear & Cacao Nib Salad


I love this salad! It was served at my wedding, and this was my first time having it since then. I borrowed the Scharffen Berger cookbook from my mother's house, and when I saw the recipe for the salad I knew that I had to make it. The salad is very tasty and pretty healthy. The crunch and flavor of the cacao nib in the salad is amazing. Chocolate works well in everything! Enjoy.

Recipe for Spinach, Pear & Cacao Nib Salad
INGREDIENTS:
Chocolate, in a salad? YES! 
For the salad
8 Cups of Baby Spinach Leaves
1 Ripe Red Bartlett Pear, sliced
1 Ripe Bosc Pear, sliced
1/3 cup of chopped toasted walnuts
1 Tablespoon of cacao nibs
Coarse Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper

For the Cacao Nib Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. of cacao nibs
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Put the vinegar into a small bowl and stir in the cacao nibs. Slowly pour in the olive oil and whisk.
Place the baby spinach leaves, sliced pears, toasted walnuts, and cacao nibs into a large salad bowl. Pour on the vinaigrette and toss well. Season the salad with a pinch of coarse salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Divide amongst bowls. Serves 3.

Recipe Source: The Essence of Chocolate, Recipes for Baking & Cooking with Fine Chocolate

NOTE: Do you love the crunchiness of cacao nibs? I think you'll love this recipe for fudge...!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Curried Pumpkin Mushroom Soup

Here is another delicious pumpkin soup recipe. It's totally different from the pumpkin-apple soup, but it is just as yummy. A coworker of mine sent me the recipe for this soup a few weeks ago. I have to be honest, when she told me it was a recipe for pumpkin soup with mushrooms, I kind of questioned how it would taste. However, she told me that a nice restaurant in Delaware is famous for the recipe, so that persuaded me to want to try it out. Also, she is the school psychologist, so I completely trust her judgment! The soup didn't disappoint. It's creamy, hearty, a tad spicy, and soulful. It's also fairly healthy, since pumpkin is packed full of Vitamin A and mushrooms are high in riboflavin, niacin, and selenium. Greg and I loved this soup, and I can't wait to make it again. I need to go stock up on some more pumpkin - I hope I can find some! Enjoy.

Recipe for Curried Pumpkin Mushroom Soup

INGREDIENTS:
5 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces of sliced mushrooms (baby bella or cremini)
2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. of curry powder
4 cups of chicken broth
1 16-ounce can of pumpkin
2 Tbsp. of honey
1 Tbsp. of dark brown sugar
A dash or two of nutmeg
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup of heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:
Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add in the onions and mushrooms and saute over medium heat until softened, about 4 - 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and curry powder. Stir constantly for about 45 seconds and make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so the flour doesn't stick to it. Slowly mix in the chicken broth. Add in the pumpkin, honey, brown sugar, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir together and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, then adjust the heat to medium-low. Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix in the heavy cream and cook soup for one more minute. Serve immediately - makes 6 - 8 servings.

Recipe Adapted from: Delaware Online

NOTE: Love pumpkin? Love truffles? Love CHOCOLATE? Check out the recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip truffles! 



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Easy Fudge with Cacao Nibs


Happy Election Day! I hope you voted or plan to vote. I vote this fudge for president - it will not disappoint you!

I love this fudge recipe. Not only is the fudge delicious, but it is SO easy to make. I like the fact that I can make the fudge without the use of a candy thermometer. Whenever I try to make something that requires a reading on a candy thermometer, I always lose patience and figure that 5 - 10 degrees lower should suffice. And it never does...

This fudge has a subtle coffee flavor with a hint of cinnamon. The texture is smooth and creamy, and you will love the slight crunch from the cacao nibs. I shared some of this fudge at work yesterday, and it was quite the hit. My coworkers also vote yes to this fudge, and I hope that you will too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Easy Fudge with Cacao Nibs

INGREDIENTS:
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 7-oz. jar of marshmallow cream
2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. of instant ground coffee
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of salt
12 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate (62% cocoa), very finely chopped
1 - 2 tsp. of SCHARFFEN BERGER cacao nibs

DIRECTIONS:
Carefully fit a piece of foil into the bottom and on all four sides of an 8 x 8 pan. Very lightly grease the foil in the pan with the end of a stick of butter.
Put the baking chocolate into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until the chocolate is chopped very finely. Set aside.
Place the butter, marshmallow cream, heavy cream, sugar, ground coffee, cinnamon, and salt into a medium sized saucepan. Set it over medium heat. Stir to combine the ingredients and allow it to come to a boil. Once it boils, stir it constantly for about 4 - 5 minutes. Then remove the saucepan from heat and immediately pour in the chocolate, and stir until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the cacao nibs on top of the fudge mixture. Cover the pan with foil and store in the fridge until it hardens, about 4 hours.
Carefully remove the foil from the fudge. Use a long sharp knife to cut it into desired size pieces. Store fudge in the fridge in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quiche with a Homemade Buttery Crust


I remember that my mom used to the best quiches for dinner. Nobody's quiche could ever compare to hers! When I threw Carrie's shower back in October, I did a brunch theme. I thought homemade quiche would be great to have on the menu. I had never made quiche, so I asked my mom to send me her favorite quiche recipe. I made a couple of quiches with bacon and one without bacon for the shower. The quiches were really good - the crust buttery, the filling creamy, and every bite melted in the mouth!

I had some eggs that needed to be used, so I decided to make another quiche for dinner last week. This time I just made the quiche without the bacon.  One nice thing about the quiches is that the crust can be made ahead of time. When I threw Carrie's shower, I made all of the crusts the night before and tightly covered them in foil and left at room temperature. It saved a lot of time! I'm glad I tried out the quiche recipe, and I know it will be a meal I make often. Enjoy!

Recipe for Quiche with a Homemade Buttery Crust

INGREDIENTS:
For the crust
1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
1 stick of well-chilled unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
2 - 3 Tbsp. of ice cold water
For the filling
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (I love this gadget to separate the yolk)
2/3 cup of heavy cream
2/3 cup of whole milk
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of ground black pepper
a pinch or two of ground nutmeg
1 cup of grated swiss cheese
4 ounces of cooked bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
For the crust
Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a couple times to combine. Add in the pieces of butter to the bowl. Pulse several times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the food processor running, slowly pour 1 tablespoon of the water through the feed tube. Add in 1 more tablespoon of water. If the dough does not leave the sides of the bowl after several seconds, add in the remaining tablespoon of water. Once dough leaves the sides of the bowl and forms into a ball, turn the processor off. Carefully remove the ball of dough, slightly flatten it into a disc, and cover it in saran wrap. Place in the fridge for at least an hour. 

Remove the dough from the fridge. Press the dough into the bottom and up onto the sides of a 9.5-inch pie plate. Place the dough back in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fit a piece of parchment paper into the pie plate to cover the dough on the bottom and the sides. Fill the pie plate with pie weights or dried beans. Place the pie plate into the preheated oven and cook for about 13 minutes. After 13 minutes, carefully remove the pie plate from the oven. Then carefully remove the parchment paper and pie weights/beans. Place the pie plate back into the oven and cook for another 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. While it is cooling, make the filling. 

For the filling
Place the eggs, egg yolks, cream, and milk into a medium-sized bowl. Use a fork or whisk to beat well. Add in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mix it in. Stir in the cheese. 

For assembling
If using the bacon, arrange it in a single layer on the bottom of the slightly cooled pie crust. Pour the egg, cream, and cheese mixture into the crust. (If not using bacon, just pour the egg mixture into the pie crust). Place back into the oven and cook for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until golden in color. The quiche will still wiggle a little in the middle - you can check doneness by inserting the edge of a butter knife into the middle of the quiche, if it comes out clean the quiche is done. Remove from oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Makes 8 one-piece servings. 



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Zuppa Toscana


First, my thoughts go out to all of those who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. I hope you and your families are all doing ok. Even though we were in the path of the storm, miraculously we got by unscathed. We always lose power, but this time we didn't. Our boat also stayed put and didn't float away, although we thought that it might.

Today's recipe is for a soup that is AMAZING. I made this soup for the first time about a year ago, and I have made it several times since then. I served it at a party last January and almost everyone asked me for the recipe. It is so flavorful - it's made with kale, potatoes, and sausage.  I made this soup last Friday evening and we ate it for lunch and dinner through Sunday. It is so delicious. There are barely any meals that Greg actually raves about, but he loves this zuppa toscana. I hope you will enjoy the soup as much as we do.

Recipe for Zuppa Toscana

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound of mild ground Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine or white cooking wine (to deglaze the pan)
1/2 - 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes
2 large or 4 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups of kale, chopped to your desired size
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of water
3/4 cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Place a large stockpot on the stovetop over medium heat. Put the sausage in the pan and cook until it is browned and fully cooked through. Remove the sausage from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer it to a bowl. Add the chopped onions to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for one minutes. Pour the wine into the pot and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits (when you pour the wine in, a lot of steam might come up). Add in the chicken broth, water, potatoes, and kale to the pot. Put the sausage back into the pot. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

NOTE: If you buy packaged kale for this soup and have leftover kale, try out this massaged kale salad with toasted almonds, red grapes, Parmesan & a lemon-honey dressing!  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Massaged Kale Salad


Have you ever tried kale? If not, you are missing out. Before I had tasted kale, I was under the impression that it was a boring and green leafy vegetable that was very bland in taste. Boy was I wrong! Kale is tasty & it can be used in many different dishes. Since discovering the many wonders of kale about a year ago, I have made pastas with kale, kale smoothies, soups with kale, and kale salads! I love the stuff.
If you don't know much about kale, you should know that kale is a super food. It is great for protecting your health and preventing cancer, because it has cancer-fighting compounds and it is full of vitamins and minerals. Kale can be found in most grocery stores. I like to buy kale in packaged bags in which the kale has already been cut and washed, especially if I will be serving it raw.
I have made this massaged kale salad several times. It is pictured here with red grapes, toasted almonds, and Parmesan cheese. I have also made the salad with caramelized onions, toasted almonds, and Parmesan. Mango, toasted pumpkin seeds, and coconut are also great toppings for this salad - it is versatile. The dressing is a delicious mix of lemon, honey, and olive oil. I think you will love this salad & you will love the way you feel after eating all of the healthy foods in the salad (kale, almonds, red grapes). Enjoy!

Recipe for Massaged Kale Salad

INGREDIENTS:
For the salad:
3 Cups of kale, stems removed & torn into smallish pieces
Juice of 1/2  lemon (you'll need the other half for the dressing)
A drizzle of Extra-Virgin olive oil
Dash of kosher salt
2/3 cup of seedless red grapes, whole or cut in half
1/4 cup of toasted almonds, whole or chopped
2 - 3 Tbsp. of finely grated Parmesan cheese
For the dressing:
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp. of honey
1/4 cup of Extra-Virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Put the kale into a large bowl. Pour the juice of 1/2 lemon over the kale and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Add in the dash of kosher salt. Massage the kale with your hands (make sure your hands are very clean)! Massage the kale until it begins to soften and wilt (this will take 1 - 2 minutes). Set the bowl aside while you prepare the salad dressing.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the rest of the lemon juice, honey, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Pour in the 1/4 cup of olive oil while whisking the mixture until a dressing forms. Taste the dressing & adjust to your desire.
Pour the dressing over the kale and mix well. Top the salad with the toasted almonds, red grapes, and Parmesan. Divide amongst salad bowls - serves 3 - 4.


Recipe Adapted from: The Food Network, courtesy of Aarti Sequeira 2010

NOTE:
This brand of packaged kale is very good for the kale salad. Other brands of packaged kale have been more bitter, and if I used it the overall taste of the salad was not as good. But the Glory brand always has been great!