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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tres Leches (Three Milk) Cake

I think that tres leches cake is seriously the best cake in the whole entire world. I recently made a tres leches cake for a neighborhood holiday party and I was shocked at how many people at the party had never heard of or tried this amazing cake.

So, what is tres leches cake? Tres leches means three milk in Spanish for those of you who are linguistically challenged (like me). A tres leches cake is sort of like an angel food cake, but once it is cooled it is pierced all over with a fork and then soaked with three different kinds of milks. But, it isn't soaked with skim milk, 1% milk and 2 % milk like I joked with my neighbor - it is soaked with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, AND heavy whipping cream. Um, yum. Then you let the "milks" absorb into the cake and then after that, the cake is topped with a sweet layer of whipped cream. Who wants some tres leches cake (everyone raises their hands now - unless you are lactose intolerant).

I was introduced to tres leches cake when I was growing up because my mom would make it from time to time (but not often enough). I had never made one before though. While returning from our trip to the British Virgin Islands, we had a layover in Miami. We had dinner at this authentic Cuban restaurant and for dessert we ordered the tres leches cake. Greg had said he had never tried it before, and he fell in love with it. That inspired me to make it for the holiday party - and then since it was pretty much devoured I decided to make it again to serve for dessert with our dinner guests. My friend's 5-year old daughter was saying goodbye to us and she said "thank you again for the yummiest most deliciousest cake in the whole entire world." Adorable. I made the tres leches cake today to have for dessert after dinner tonight at my parents' house - I am also making baked chicken taquitos and corn pudding for my birthday dinner! I think you will also love this cake as much as me and everyone else. Enjoy!

Recipe for Tres Leches (Three Milk) Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the cake
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/4 tsp. of salt
5 eggs (they will be separated into yolks and whites)
1 cup of granulated sugar (divided - you will use 3/4 cup with the yolks and then 1/4 cup for the whites)
1/3 cup of 2% milk or whole milk
1 1/4 tsp. of pure vanilla extract

For the three milks
1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 12.5 ounce can of evaporated milk
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

For the whipped cream topping
1 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. of almond extract (optional)

Maraschino cherries, strawberries, or raspberries for topping each piece

DIRECTIONS:
For the cake:
Butter a 9 x 13 inch cake pan with unsalted butter or spray it with cooking oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into  largish bowl and mix to incorporate.

Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into two separate medium-sized bowls. Add 3/4 cup of sugar to the egg yolks and mix with an electric hand mixer set on high speed for about 45 - 55 seconds, or until the yolks are pale yellow in color. Add in the milk and the vanilla extract and stir well. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently until it is well combined.

Use the electric hand mixer set on high speed to beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (about 35 - 45 seconds). Continue beating the whites on high speed and pour in the 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff (about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes). Add the egg white mixture to the batter and fold in very gently until it is just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spread evenly.

Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes or until you prick it with a toothpick or fork and it comes out clean.

Place cake pan on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.

Once cooled, pierce the surface of the cake ALL over with a fork, making sure you don't poke all the way through the cake.

For the three milk mixture
Combine the condensed milk, heavy whipping cram, and evaporated milk into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup and stir until smooth. Pour the mixture all over the cake, making sure to get a lot around the edges of the cake too.

Cover the cake and place in the fridge to allow it to absorb the milk mixture. I think it's best to allow it to absorb for at least 2 hours before adding on the whipped topping and serving.

Before serving, make the whipped topping.

For the whipped topping
Before making the whipped topping, place a metal bowl and the attachment for the electric hand mixer into the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes. Then put the heavy whipping cream, sugar, and almond extract into the chilled metal bowl. Use the chilled beater on the electric hand mixer set on high speed and beat until the cream turns thick, about 1 1/2  to 2 minutes. Use a spoon or spatula to evenly top the cake. Put cake back into the fridge until ready to serve. Then cut into squares and top each piece with a maraschino cherry, strawberry, or raspberry (or whatever else you desire). Enjoy!

Store cake covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Makes approximately 16 - 20 servings, depending on how big you make the slices!

Recipe adapted from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Peanut Butter and Pretzel Truffles



Are you still trying to think of little treats you can give out to friends during this holiday season? The other day I posted a really easy holiday baking idea, and that was the Pretzel Rolo Turtles. These peanut butter and pretzel truffles are also pretty easy to make and they are absolutely divine. If you like the sweet and salty combination or have friends that do, I suggest you make these truffles today (or tomorrow or the next day). I think that they are probably best with a dark chocolate coating, but you can try them with milk chocolate too. I topped the truffles with a little bit of coarse sea salt and coarse sugar, which added a super nice touch. I made a batch last Sunday when my friend came over for some holiday baking, but they went quickly, so I'm making some more today. I'm also making some more of the Pretzel Rolo Turtles and these yummy chocolate pretzel treats (that have a Hershey kiss and M & M). I hope you are enjoying the holidays as much as I am! I am super happy this holiday season because I just finished another two grad courses and I am off work for 12 days! Life can't get much better than that - but it gets even better when there is a peanut butter and pretzel truffle in my hand. Yum!

Recipe for Peanut Butter and Pretzel Truffles (Makes about 50)

INGREDIENTS:
1 16 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter
4 cups of crushed salted pretzels (about 6 - 7 cups of whole pretzels)
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 cups of confectioners (powdered) sugar
12 - 16 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate (I used Baker's brand)
Coarse sea salt and/or coarse sugar for sprinkling (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
To crush up the pretzels, place them into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until they are at the size you want. You can make the pretzel pieces chunky or fine, just don't turn them into a powder! Then measure out the crushed pretzels into four cups, if you need more, add more whole pretzels to the food processor and pulse.

Scoop the peanut butter into a large bowl. Add in the pretzels, unsalted butter, and powdered sugar. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium speed to briefly blend the ingredients, then use a large spoon to mix well until ingredients are combined and well incorporated. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up batter and form into 1-inch balls with your hands. Place each ball on the baking sheet. Then place the baking sheet in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Break the chocolate into small pieces (start with 12 ounces of chocolate - if you use it all, then you can melt the remaining 4 ounces) and place in the top pan of a double boiler. Prepare the bottom pan of the double boiler with water and set over medium high heat until steam starts to rise. Then place the pan with the chocolate on top and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted. Turn the heat off. Take the peanut butter pretzel balls out of the freezer. Drop one ball into the chocolate and use a spoon to coat. Place back on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the sea salt or sugar. Continue until all balls are coated with the chocolate. Place in the fridge to harden for about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Recipe source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pretzel Rolo Turtles (A pretzel, Rolo & toasted pecan)

Yum - I had forgotten how good these little treats are! I have had them at a couple parties here and there, but I had never made them myself. After posting some holiday baking ideas on Facebook, someone asked me about the Pretzel Rolo Turtles - and I thought it would be fun to make them. I got together with a friend this past weekend and we made a bunch - and then I made some more tonight! I've been giving them out as holiday treats, and I don't think that I am the only one who would say that they are rather addictive. They are super easy to make (and fun to make) too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pretzel Rolo Turtles

INGREDIENTS:
One bag of Rolo's candies (about 52 in a bag)
52 pretzels (mini regular, waffle, or circle)
52 toasted pecan halves

DIRECTIONS:
First toast the pecans. Preheat the oven to 310 degrees. Spread pecans out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes (if you like lightly toasted, do 10 minutes - if you like more toasty - do 15 minutes or more). Remove pecans from oven and allow to cool slightly. Turn off oven.

Unwrap the Rolo's and place into a bowl. Once pecans are cooled, transfer them to a plate or bowl. Arrange the pretzels in a single layer on the baking sheet you used to toast the pecans. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place a Rolo candy on top of each pretzel. Put the baking sheet in the oven and set a timer for 4 minutes. Take baking sheet out of the oven when timer goes off and place on cooling wrack. Immediately press a pecan down onto a Rolo, and continue until all Rolo's are covered with a pecan. Let cool slightly at room temperature and then transfer to the fridge to harden.

Once they are hardened, store in an airtight container (or eat them all). 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

There are not many vegetables that I don't like, but one vegetable that I have had an aversion to for most of my life is broccoli. My husband has always tried to get me to eat it because of all the health benefits, but I always refuse. For some reason now that I am pregnant I have been wanting to eat broccoli for the first time in my life. Over the summer, I made a broccoli salad a couple times and loved it. While in BVI, I ate all of the broccoli off of Greg's plate that was served with his Mahi Mahi. At the store the other day while grabbing produce, on an impulse I bought...you guessed it...broccoli! I also bought some brussels sprouts, which is crazy, because I have detested them since I was  child! So, with the broccoli I made this broccoli cheddar soup. Greg likes chunky soup so I left it chunky, but you can use an immersion blender to smooth it out if you want. This soup is pretty delicious and it is super easy to make. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

I also made a delicious dish with those brussels sprouts - recipe to come soon!

Recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup

INGREDIENTS:
For the soup
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 cup of diced yellow onion
1 cup of thinly sliced carrots (cut on the round) and then cut into halves
3 1/2 cups of small broccoli florets
3 cups of chicken broth OR vegetable broth (to make it vegetarian-friendly)
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
A pinch or two of ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

For the cheese sauce
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups of whole or 2% milk
1/4 cup of heavy cream
2 cups of medium or sharp cheddar cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS:
For the soup
Melt the 2 Tbsp. of butter in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add in the diced onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add in the carrots and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Add in the broccoli florets, broth, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low while you make the cheese sauce.

For the cheese sauce
Melt the 4 Tbsp. of butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly until the flour is golden brown in color. Whisk in the milk and cream and cook until it thickens and bubbles (about 5 minutes). Then whisk in the cheddar cheese and stir until it is fully melted. Remove the saucepan and add the cheese sauce into the soup. Stir well. Allow the soup to simmer until it is completely warmed through and the broccoli is tender. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with a little salt and pepper and a dollop of sour cream (if desired). Serve with a side of french bread.

*I left the soup chunky. If you prefer smoother, use an immersion blender to puree the soup.*

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

Makes about 6 servings

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Well, I'm back to the real world! It's time to face up to all my responsibilities - work, papers, getting ready for the holidays, preparing for the baby, and BLOGGING! My husband and I went to the British Virgin Islands for 10 days. We chartered a sailboat for 8 of those days with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephew. It was a good time - but it was harder than I thought it would be to be on boat for so long. It was definitely nice to get away and enjoy some tropical weather and sunshine. Thanksgiving fell while we were on vacation. We had the option of spending $40/person for a Thanksgiving buffet at a restaurant on Virgin Gorda, but considering that we had already spent so much money on food and water (bottled water is $3), we decided to pass. We ate dinner at the pub in the Bitter End. Greg and I shared a tropical pizza and a chickpea salad and for dessert we had a virgin Pina colada! Needless to say, I did kind of miss eating my favorites like stuffing and pumpkin pie. My parents picked us up from the airport at 12:30 AM Wednesday, and my mom brought us some leftover turkey, stuffing, red potatoes, and pumpkin loaf cakes. On Wednesday night, Greg and I ate turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes for dinner and had the pumpkin loaf cake for dessert. So we didn't totally miss out. But I was craving more pumpkin, so I decided to go ahead and make some pumpkin pie bars on Thursday morning. I made them before I left town and loved them so much, and because I love them so much I thought I would share the recipe with you. The pumpkin pie bars have a delicious sweet and buttery crust and they are filled with pumpkin and heavenly spices - then topped with some reserve crust mixture and coconut. Yummy!

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars 

INGREDIENTS:
For the crust
1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup of old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup of almonds
12 ounces of very cold unsalted butter chopped into small pieces (put in freezer for about 15 minutes before using)

For the filling
2 cups of canned pumpkin puree
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup of granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of ground ginger
1/4 tsp. of ground cloves
1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg

For topping
Reserved crust mixture
Sweetened shredded flake coconut

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9 x 9 square pan.

Put the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oats, and almonds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for a few seconds to incorporate. Scatter the butter pieces over the mixture. Pulse for several seconds until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour some of the crust mixture into the prepared pan. Use your hands to press down the crust evenly. You should have plenty of reserve crust mixture, but make sure you have at least 1 1/4 cups. Set aside reserved crust mixture. Place pan in oven and cook for about 15 minutes.

While crust is cooking, put the pumpkin, cream cheese, eggs, vanilla, and spices into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed to mix ingredients until smooth and well incorporated (about 3 - 5 minutes). Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust. Top with the reserved crust mixture and then top with coconut. Place back in the oven and cook for 25 - 30 minutes. Allow it to cool completely at room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate. Refrigerate for a couple hours before cutting and serving. Makes about 16 servings. Serve with homemade whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from: Joy the Baker, originally from Kraft recipes

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gender Reveal Cheesecake Truffle Pops

This recipe came about because I was asking my friends at work if they had ever heard of gender reveal parties. I had come across a friend of a friend on Facebook that went all out, and at first I thought it was totally cheesy. My coworkers said they had heard of them, and they decided that I should make gender reveal TRUFFLES when I found out what I was having. I laughed at them. But then I started thinking about it and the more I thought about it, I realized that it is not totally cheesy but it is totally cute and fun! I was brainstorming ideas, and I came up with the cheesecake filling - because it would be easy to turn the filling pink or blue. So I got all excited about making these truffles. I went out and got the ingredients and was ready to make them - but the baby wasn't ready. I went for my 20 week ultrasound two weeks ago and the tech was only 75% sure of what I was having. So...I had to make another appointment to come back. All through my pregnancy I've been determined that I know the gender already, and then realized if I was wrong that any confusion that my child may have later in life is all my fault!

Since I had gotten so excited about making the truffles I decided to make both fillings - pink and blue. I shared them with my family, friends, and coworkers and let them know that I was either having a boy or a girl - surprise! Well, I went back today and I found out what I am having.

So, is it pink or is it blue? Let's look at the recipe, then we'll find out!

Recipe for Gender Reveal Cheesecake Truffle Pops

INGREDIENTS:
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, at room temperature
9 - 10 ounces of your favorite kind of baking chocolate (I used dark chocolate)
Pink or blue food dye or gel
Lollipop sticks
Decorative sprinkles

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease the bottoms and sides of a spring form pan with butter. In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed. Mix for a few minutes until ingredients are well incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low after each addition. Then mix on medium-high for a few minutes or until the mixture is completely smooth. Add in the pink or blue food dye or gel. Add just a tiny amount at a time and mix until you reach a good color. Then pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes, watching closely so it does not burn on the top. It is done when the center is firm but it still jiggles a bit when you gently shake. Remove from oven. Let cool completely, then transfer to the fridge. Let cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Remove the cheesecake from fridge. Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up some of the cheesecake and then use your hands to roll into a 1-inch ball. Place each ball in a foil-lined container(s). Cover the container(s) and place in the freezer for a couple hours or more.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Set by the stovetop. Place sprinkles (and a spoon to sprinkle with) in a smallish bowl. Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a pan that will go on top of the double boiler. Prepare the  double boiler with water, place it over medium heat, and set the pot with the chocolate on top. Stir frequently (when chocolate is almost fully melted, remove cheesecake balls from freezer and uncover) until the chocolate is fully melted. Drop a ball into the chocolate and use a spoon to coat. Place on the parchment paper and top with sprinkles. Continue this process until all are dipped. Then carefully pick up one with your hands and insert the lollipop stick in until it holds. Lay sideways on the parchment paper and then continue with the other ones until you are finished. Place the pan with the truffle pops in the fridge and allow to harden before serving (about 20 minutes). Enjoy!

Recipe makes about 2 dozen truffle pops.

Recipe adapted from: Chocolate Moosey 

So what am I having? Let's just say that my mom totally loves and adores these two wild and crazy guys....






But she is excited to have a...

granddaughter! And I am tickled pink!
(And guess what - all along I thought it was a boy! I hope I have
better instincts as a parent)!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Easy Chicken Risotto with Caramelized Onions

Last weekend my husband very graciously volunteered me to make a meal for one of our neighbors. Wasn't that nice of him? Just kidding, I was happy to make a meal. Our neighbors have been our second Home Depot since we started these home renovations forever ago. If Greg needs anything, he just goes over to Don's house, because Don has almost everything! We are lucky to have such awesome and generous neighbors. Anyways, I chose to make this risotto dish for Don and Rita because it makes a lot, it is comforting, and it is delicious. They told me it was one of the best things they have ever had! I've made this risotto many times before, and I was actually shocked that I had never posted the recipe on the blog. In the past, I actually cooked the chicken - but I decided to cheat this time. When I stopped in the grocery store to pick up the lemon and parsley, I saw the cooked rotisserie chickens and they called my name. Let me tell you, it made things SO much easier when I made the meal, and I think I will always "cheat" when I make this risotto. This risotto is fairly easy to make and it is absolutely amazing. It is definitely one of my favorite winter time meals. If you have never made risotto at home but have always wanted to, I suggest you try this recipe. Enjoy!

Recipe for Easy Chicken Risotto with Caramelized Onions

INGREDIENTS:
For the caramelized onions:
2 1/2 tsp. of olive oil
1 yellow onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. of granulated sugar

For the risotto:
One fully cooked rotisserie chicken (make it easy - purchase at your grocery store)
6 cups of chicken broth
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, divided
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of dry white wine (I used cooking wine)
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. of chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Make the caramelized onions first. Put the olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium heat. Add in the onions and sugar to the skillet and toss to coat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown in color. It takes about 12 -15 minutes for the onions to caramelize. Transfer the onions to a bowl or plate and set aside.

Put the chicken broth into a fairly large saucepan and set over medium high heat. Allow it to come to a simmer while you start the risotto. Put the 2 Tbsp. of butter into a Dutch oven and set over medium heat. When the butter melts, add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the Arborio rice to the pot and stir to coat with the butter. Cook and stir until the grains are translucent around the edges, about 2 - 3 minutes.

Add in the wine to the pot and stir. Cook, stirring the entire time, until the wine is fully absorbed - about 2 minutes. Stir 5 cups of the simmering broth into the rice (save the remaining broth for later and keep it over medium low heat so it stays hot or turn off heat and then bring it to a simmer just before the risotto is finished cooking). Reduce the heat  on the rice to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Stir two times during the cooking. The risotto is done when almost all the liquid has been absorbed.

Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the risotto and gently stir until the risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Add in the Parmesan cheese and stir. Remove the Dutch oven from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

While the risotto is resting, shred the chicken into small pieces. If you had the chicken in the fridge, zap the shredded chicken on low in the microwave until it is warm. Then stir the chicken and the caramelized onions into the risotto. Set the pot back over low heat. Add in the rest of the butter, the lemon juice, and the parsley and stir well. Grind some freshly ground black pepper over the risotto, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats

*Recipe makes about 8 servings - the risotto is also great leftover (just zap for about a minute in the microwave). Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Super Easy Pad Thai

I had never attempted to make pad thai until just recently. It always seemed way too hard to me - I'm not sure why, it just did! Since I have been craving Thai food recently, I thought I'd try to make it since going out for Thai every week has started to get expensive. A friend of mine had said she pinned a recipe to her Pinterest board for vegetarian pad thai, and she told me she had made it and it was ready in less than 15 minutes. I checked out her Pinterest board, read the recipe, and thought - hey, I can make this! It is super easy to make and it is delicious. Greg and I have had pad thai three times in the past three weeks. Since there is no meat in this pad thai recipe, it is very simple. It is also a fairly cheap meal, which is always a good thing. If you love pad thai, you should try this recipe. Enjoy!

Recipe for Super Easy Pad Thai

INGREDIENTS:
One 8-ounce package of pad thai noodles or wide flat rice noodles
3 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tbsp. of soy sauce
2 - 3 Tbsp. of dark brown sugar
Sriracha sauce
1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil or canola oil
3 chives, chopped (white and green parts)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Honey-roasted peanuts
Lime wedges

DIRECTIONS:
Soak the pad thai noodles according to package directions. While noodles are soaking, make the sauce. Put the soy sauce, lime juice, a dash or two of the sriracha sauce and brown sugar into a bowl and mix well. Then chop the chives and the garlic, and crack and beat the eggs. Put the oil into a large skillet. Once the noodles are finished soaking, drain well in a colander. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the white part of the chives and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring gently until they are almost set - about 45 seconds. Transfer the eggs to a plate. Add in the rest of the chives, sauce, and the noodles to the skillet. Stir and toss the noodles with the sauce. After about a minute, add the eggs to the skillet. Cook for another minute, breaking up the egg gently and evenly throughout the noodles. Plate up the noodles. Top each serving with honey roasted peanuts. Add a wedge of lime, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from: Brownies for Dinner

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thai Butternut Squash Soup with Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

I've been wanting to post this recipe for a few weeks now. I absolutely love Thai foods and flavors, and I'm always trying to make Thai-inspired foods in my kitchen. However, I don't find myself having much success with it. If I were to say I am having any pregnancy cravings, it would definitely be for Thai foods! When I saw the recipe for this soup, I knew I wanted to try it. It has a good spice and kick to it and it has a nice Thai flavor. This soup is really healthy - you probably get your Vitamin A intake for several days in just one serving! The sweet & salty (and a little spicy) pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch and they are totally worth the extra 5 minutes or so of time and effort. Enjoy!

Recipe for Thai Butternut Squash Soup with Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds

INGREDIENTS:

For the sweet & salty pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. of coarse sea salt
A pinch or two of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp. of canola oil
1 cup of pumpkin seeds

For the soup
48 ounces of precut butternut squash pieces
1 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. of butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled & diced
1 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
3 cups of water
1 13.5 ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
1 - 2 Tbsp. of red curry paste
1/2 tsp. of salt
Cream, for drizzling (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
For the pumpkin seeds:
Use the cayenne pepper only if you want a little kick to the seeds - if you just want sweet and salty, leave it out!

Put the sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper (if using) into a medium sized bowl. Put canola oil into a skillet and set over high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds begin to brown and they pop quickly, about three minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer the cooked seeds to the bowl with the sugar. Use a spoon to coat the seeds in the sugar mixture. Place the coated seeds on a foil lined baking sheet and allow to cool. Use about a tablespoon of seeds per serving of soup. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container - and they are great for snacking!

For the soup:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the butternut squash pieces on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until you can insert a fork all the way into the squash. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Melt the butter in a large pot set over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add in the chopped onions and the ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until onions are softened. Add in the garlic powder, stir, and cook for another 30 seconds. Pour in the water and coconut milk. Stir in the curry paste and salt. Let the mixture come to a boil, then add in the cooked butternut squash pieces. Return to a boil, then lower heat to medium low and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Then remove pot from heat. Allow it to cool just slightly. Then use an immersion blender or regular blender (an immersion blender is much easier, if you don't have one, I suggest buying one) to puree the soup until it is smooth. Return the soup to the heat and cook on low for a couple minutes until heated through. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with a drizzle of cream and about a tablespoon of sweet and salty pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!

Soup Recipe Adapted from: Alexandra's Kitchen 
Pumpkin Seed Recipe Source: Alexandra's Kitchen 

*Does the sweet and salty pumpkin seed recipe look familiar? That's because I topped the pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting with them! These cupcakes are the BEST.*

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Wow, I can't believe October is over in less than a week! It really just flew by. I wanted to make sure I posted at least one more pumpkin recipe before the end of the month. This one is a great one! I made these pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting last Saturday during a baking break while working on papers. They are so delicious! I think it's my favorite pumpkin recipe I've made this season. The cupcakes are perfectly spiced & the texture is amazing. The frosting is also pretty incredible. I'm usually strictly a frosting person, but I actually might like the actual cake better in these cupcakes (don't tell the frosting). I topped some of the cupcakes with sweet and salty pumpkin seeds. This is totally optional. Greg thought he wouldn't like them, but he loved the combo and when given the choice of having one with or without seeds, he chose one with seeds. I also shared some cupcakes at work this week & my coworkers enjoyed them. One coworker said the seeds were good, but she thought that the cupcake alone with the cream cheese frosting was so good that she didn't really need the seeds. I had actually made the pumpkin seeds to top a butternut squash soup, and I used the leftovers for the cupcakes just for fun. I'll be sharing that soup recipe soon. But for now, here is the recipe for moist pumpkin cupcakes with yummy cream cheese frosting that is spiked with just a little bit of cinnamon. Enjoy (I think my baby really enjoyed the cream cheese frosting - so I think I am going to have to incorporate more cream cheese frosting into my diet)!

Recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (and sweet & salty pumpkin seeds)

INGREDIENTS:
2 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of baking soda
2 tsp. of baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. of ground cloves
3/4 tsp. of salt
15 ounce can of pumpkin puree
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
1 cup of canola oil
4 eggs

Frosting
8 ounce package of cream cheese
6 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. of vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon
2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup of pumpkin seeds
2 tsp. of canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.

Put the pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and canola oil into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed to blend. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and mix after adding each one. Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed, and then add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Use a cookie dough scoop to fill the liners three quarters full with the batter. Put in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Check to make sure cupcakes are done (insert a toothpick in the center & if it comes out clean, it's done). Then remove from oven and put pans on a wire rack. Let cool for about 10 minutes, remove cupcakes from the pans and allow to cool completely.

When cupcakes are cooled, make the frosting. Put the cream cheese and softened butter into a medium sized bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed to beat together for a couple minutes, or until mixture is smooth. Then add in the vanilla extract and mix. Mix in the ground cinnamon. Add in about 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar and blend until fully incorporated, then add in another 3/4 cup and blend. Check flavor and consistency, then add in another 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup depending on your preference and beat until completely smooth.

Frost the cupcakes.

For the pumpkin seeds: Put the sugar and salt into a largish sized bowl. Heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add in the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds begin to pop quickly (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and add seeds to the sugar and salt mixture. Stir to coat. Pour the seeds onto a foil-lined baking sheet and allow to cool. Then top cupcakes with desired amount of seeds (I added about 5 - 8 per cupcake).

Store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge. They stay fresh and delicious for about 5 days.

Recipe makes about 20 cupcakes. 

Pumpkin Cupcake Recipe Source: Annie's Eats
Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seed Recipe Source: Alexandra Cooks

Friday, October 18, 2013

Creamy Cajun-Style Pasta with Andouille Sausage

If you are looking for a way to jazz up your pasta, this is the recipe for you! I made this recipe a couple times quite awhile ago, and remembered it the other day when I looked at my Pinterest board for inspiration. I knew I had loved the dish, so I decided to make it again. This time I made it with sausage instead of chicken. If you are looking for something healthy, this recipe is probably not what you are looking for. The sauce is loaded with cream and butter - which makes it extra delicious. But, if the fat taste good, then they are good fats...right?

This creamy cajun-style pasta is fairly quick and easy to make. It is nice and filling and it is definitely a comfort food. I recommend that you try it today! Enjoy.

Recipe for Creamy Cajun-Style Pasta with Andouille Sausage

INGREDIENTS:
7 ounce link of Andouille sausage, sliced into smallish pieces (I use precooked sausage)
8 ounces of Farfalle pasta (bowtie)
1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
3/4 tsp. of Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
Several grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of 2% milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 Tbsp. of cornstarch
1 Tbsp. of water

DIRECTIONS:
Cook the sausage according to package directions, or until fully cooked, in a large skillet. Transfer sausage to a plate and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

In a small bowl, mix together the water and cornstarch. You will use this for the sauce. Set aside.

While pasta is cooking, put the butter and olive oil into the skillet you used to cook the sausage. Set over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the chopped peppers and onions to the skillet. Add in the salt, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Cook for about 6 - 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add in the milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Once it simmers, give the cornstarch and water mixture a stir and then add it to the sauce. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes or so.

Once pasta is finished cooking, drain in a colander. Add the cooked pasta to the thickened sauce and add in the cooked sausage. Stir well to coat in the sauce. Adjust heat to medium-low and cook until the sausage is warmed through. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 generous-sized servings. Good for leftovers. 

Recipe Adapted from: Annie's Eats 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Amazing Pumpkin Bread with Milk Chocolate AND Dark Chocolate Chips


I know, it's another pumpkin recipe. Last week I posted a recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and sea salt, and now today I'm posting this recipe for pumpkin bread! I'm crazy for pumpkin. I also made a pumpkin smoothie recently & it was healthy and delicious. That might be the next recipe that I post. But if you're tired of the pumpkin recipes, maybe I can post a recipe for lentil and sausage soup, creamy cajun pasta, or thai squash soup. Or we can do more pumpkin....as long as there are no objections!

About this bread...it's pretty incredible. It's super moist and flavorful and full of chocolatey goodness. If you can, use the Guittard brand of milk chocolate chips. There is something extra special about these chocolate chips and they are my choice for this bread. If you can't find them, the bread will still be amazing with another brand. This pumpkin bread seemed to be a hit at the latest staff breakfast that was hosted by my department...it disappeared rather quickly. I also made it again the other night for a homeowners meeting that we had at our house, and the neighbors seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. At first I thought they were just being nice, but when I offered for them to take some extra home, they took me up on the offer to share with their spouse (or save for themselves)! I have another 2 loaves cooking in the oven right now. I just put them in, so I can't smell the deliciousness of the bread yet, but it definitely does fill the home with a wonderful aroma.  This bread is super easy to make and it taste great for several days. So if you were wondering what to do this Saturday evening, go make some pumpkin bread and enjoy it tomorrow!

Recipe for Amazing Pumpkin Bread with Milk Chocolate AND Dark Chocolate Chips

INGREDIENTS:
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp. of ground cloves
1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg
2 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
4 large eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of granulated sugar
2/3 cup of water
1/8 tsp. of freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips (Guittard brand, if possible)
1 1/3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
Butter and flour 2 large loaf pans or 3 smallish loaf pans. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. In a very large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, and water and stir until well incorporated. Add in the ginger and vanilla extract and mix. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until ingredients are just incorporated. Pour in the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chips and fold into the batter.

Divide the batter among the loaf pans. Put the loaf pans into the oven and cook for about one hour, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Remove bread from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Gently remove bread from pan and cut into desired sized pieces. Enjoy!

*Bread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days.

Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes - Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts & Sea Salt

It's funny, it doesn't even feel like Fall here right now. We have been in the 70s and 80s for the past week or so, and even though it's hot, all I want is pumpkin. I've been trying to stick to a diet of four main food groups -  pumpkin soup, pumpkin soda, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cookies! I made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies a couple weeks ago and enjoyed them thoroughly. I brought a plate of 8 cookies over to a friend and she said she and her father-in-law finished the plate in less than 30 minutes. She has been asking for the recipe, and I'm finally getting around to posting it! This week I also made a delicious pumpkin bread with chocolate chips for a staff breakfast. I liked it so much and didn't save any to keep at home for myself, so I think I'll have to make another loaf today. It will be my first time baking in my new General Electric oven, which was just delivered to my home and installed within the last 45 minutes! So exciting. Our fridge went out three weeks ago, and we ended up buying the new GE one, and we added the oven and microwave to the purchase. They are cute appliances. I never thought that appliances were cute before, but these really are. And I'm just really happy to have a fridge again - the mini fridge just doesn't cut it in my kitchen! So, hopefully I will be able to post the pumpkin bread recipe very soon, but for now, enjoy these cookies!

*These cookies are not as cakey as most pumpkin cookies, but they kind of have the consistency of a muffin, but crispier....if that makes any sense at all. But they are delicious, and that is all that matters*

Recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts and Sea Salt 

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of canned pumpkin
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 egg (optional)*
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. of milk or cream
2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips (semisweet or milk chocolate)
1/2 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
Extra cinnamon, for sprinkling (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the canned pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg (if using). Whisk together until ingredients are well incorporated. In a smallish bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. In a very small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the milk or cream and then add to the flour mixture and stir. Add the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir well. Add in the vanilla extract, chocolate chips, and walnuts and fold in.

Use a cookie dough scoop to drop 1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp. of cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Press down each one with your hands a little to flatten.

Sprinkle each with a little bit of coarse sea salt and a little ground cinnamon (optional). Put baking sheet in the oven for 12 - 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to carefully transfer cookies to a cooling wrack.

You can store the cookies on a plate covered with foil at room temperature for several days, if they last that long.

*You don't need to use an egg for these cookies. The cookies will be a little less moist without the egg. I prefer the recipe with the egg, Greg prefers it without the egg!

Pumpkin Cookie Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes

Friday, September 27, 2013

Favorite Fall Recipes

Mmm - pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream. 
Who is excited about the Autumn season? I know I am! It is definitely my favorite season of the year. I love the cooler weather, the colorful leaves, and the beautiful skies of Autumn. I also love some of the foods that are associated with Fall, like comforting soups and everything pumpkin. This post is a collection of some of my favorite Fall recipes. Tonight I made the curried pumpkin mushroom soup, and it was so delicious! I had intended to make a kobucha squash soup, but I could not make a cut into the squash - so after 10 minutes of trying I decided to go with the pumpkin soup. It was my first soup of the season, and I am excited to make some on this list in the next couple months and to try new recipes too. What is your favorite Fall recipe?

Favorite Fall Recipes

Soups/Comfort Foods
Sweet Potato Tacos (recipe courtesy of Paladar Restaurant Annapolis)

Breakfast/Desserts
Perfect pumpkin ice cream.

So, there you have it! I can't wait to have a new fridge so I can start cooking up some of these amazing Fall recipes. Soon I'll have another dessert to add to the list - I made some yummy pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips, walnuts, and sea salt the other night. Recipe to come very soon! Happy Fall to everyone.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Walnuts, Raisins, Apples & Feta (with Maple Balsamic Dressing)

I went a really long time without a home-cooked meal, but I finally had one on Thursday evening! Thursday's meal was good - we had some almond-encrusted salmon, quinoa salad, and toasted rosemary and sea salt bread. Home-cooked meals always taste delicious, but I think this meal tasted even better because I had gone for so long without one. There are many things preventing me from wanting or being able to cook much these days. First, I haven't had much time to cook between work and classes. Also, our refrigerator went out, so we are using a mini fridge until further notice, so there isn't much room for food. And, I went through a period of time where I did not want to be in the kitchen at all because smells bothered me too much - because I'm pregnant (due March 28)! I started feeling better the past few days and I felt inspired to cook again. I bought some already prepared salmon and bread, and I made the quinoa salad. I came across the quinoa salad recipe on Clean Eating and I thought it sounded pretty good. I used raisins instead of dried cranberries and walnuts instead of pecans, and I added apples and feta to the salad. It made a great side to the salmon! For the dressing, I used a pecan praline balsamic vinegar that I bought that Cleo's in Annapolis. It added such an amazing flavor, but I'm sure regular balsamic would be amazing too. If you want to make it vegan, leave out the feta! This quinoa salad is easy to make and it is tasty & healthy! Enjoy.

Recipe for Quinoa Salad with Walnuts, Raisins, Apples & Feta (with Maple Balsamic Dressing)

INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cups of quinoa, rinsed well
3 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar (I used pecan praline)
3 Tbsp. of pure maple syrup
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1/8 tsp. of sea salt
6 - 12 Tbsp. of crumbled feta cheese (optional)
2 Ginger Gold or Golden Delicious Apples, diced

DIRECTIONS: 
Cook quinoa according to package directions. While quinoa is cooking, mix together the olive oil, maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar and whisk until incorporated.

Once quinoa is finished cooking, transfer it to a bowl and allow it to cool completely. Place the raisins and walnuts into a large bowl. Pour in the cooled quinoa and stir. Pour the maple balsamic dressing over the quinoa and stir until it is fully absorbed. Stir in the salt. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 1 - 2 hours.

Divide the quinoa amongst 6 dishes. Top each with the apples and feta. Sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Serve as a side or eat it for a light lunch!

Recipe Adapted from: Clean Eating

Other quinoa recipe ideas: Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Patties, Crustless Quiche with Quinoa, Kale & Peppers, CPK-Style Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Vegan Wraps with Quinoa & Chickpeas, Quinoa, Corn & Black Bean Wraps

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Banana Muffins with a Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Crumb Topping

This past Tuesday, the special education team at the elementary school I work at celebrated a couple team birthdays with a delicious breakfast. My contribution to the breakfast was these banana muffins. At first I had planned on making quiche, but then I realized that I would not have enough time to make it on Monday night. I started a class in Towson on Monday nights - 52 miles away from my house - and I got home past 8. I was not happy that I went all the way to class and we spent the first 1.5 hours of class (out of 1.75 hours) on introductions! Anyways, I decided on trying a new recipe that looked quick and easy. I just made them the morning of the breakfast, so they were still warm when they were served. They were quite yummy, and I have made 2 batches since then! Greg and I love the muffins. The best part of the muffin is - you guessed it - the crumb topping. Mmm! If you want a quick, easy, and delicious muffin recipe, try out these banana muffins. You won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

Recipe for Banana Muffins with a Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Crumb Topping

Makes 10 - 12 muffins
INGREDIENTS:
For the muffins
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
5 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
3 medium bananas, ripe to very ripe
For the crumb topping
4 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of each cup in a 12-cup muffin tin.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Put the sugar into a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze/mash the bananas into the bowl with the sugar. Add in the egg and melted butter. With an electric hand mixer set on medium-low speed, combine the banana and sugar mixture until very smooth (about 1 - 2 minutes). Pour in the flour mixture into the banana mixture and mix until dry ingredients are well incorporated. Use a spoon or cookie dough scoop to fill each muffin tin with the banana muffin batter.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add in the butter and use your hands to incorporate butter into the mixture, until the mixture becomes crumb-like. Sprinkle a generous amount of the crumb mixture over the tops of the batter in the muffin tin. Place in the oven and cook for 11 minutes, then rotate the muffin pan and cook for another 11 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan. Then use a knife to pop each muffin out. Store muffins in an airtight container.

Recipe Adapted from: All Recipes

Love banana? Try these healthy & gluten-free banana oatmeal cookies

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Best Zucchini Bread!

Ok, I have to be honest. I have not tried out tons of zucchini bread recipes and I can't honestly say that this recipe is the best ever. I tried this recipe a few years ago and I absolutely love it, so that is how it earned the title of "the best zucchini bread!" It is loved by all! In the beginning of the summer, I made 8 loaves of zucchini bread with all the zucchini from our garden. Then I decided that I better get more creative with the zucchini, and that is when I went on to make recipes such as the zucchini and mushroom quesadillas, summer pasta dish, baked zucchini cakes, and zucchini brownies. We had one lone zucchini grow in the past week - the first one that had grown in a while, and I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with the last zucchini of the season. Well, since there was just one, and since it wasn't too big, I decided on some delicious zucchini bread. I made it on Labor Day while my parents and Greg worked hard on our upstairs renovations (don't ask why they were working on Labor Day, because I really don't know). The recipe makes 2 loaves. We ate most of one loaf on Monday, and the other loaf has been enjoyed by me and Greg throughout this week. It makes a great breakfast, snack, and dessert! Enjoy.

Recipe for the Best Zucchini Bread
INGREDIENTS:
2 1/4 cups of grated zucchini (about 1 medium to large zucchini)
1 cup of vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of baking soda
3/4 tsp. of salt
1 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon
1 cup of raisins
2/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two bread pans (8 x 4 inches).

Use a box grater to grate zucchini (I used the largest grate setting on the box grater). Measure out 2 1/4 cups of grated zucchini and set aside.

Put the vegetable oil and sugar into a large bowl. Use a mixing spoon to mix well. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and stir until well combined.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Pour into the sugar mixture and mix until ingredients are well combined. Add in the grated zucchini and mix. Fold in the raisins and chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into the bread pans. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove bread from oven, put pans on a cooling rack, and let cool completely. Then remove the bread from the pans carefully and cut into desired sized pieces.

Store bread in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe Adapted from All Recipes

Friday, August 30, 2013

Peach Ice Cream (made with coconut milk & just a little dairy)!

It becomes more like a sweet peach frozen treat after several hours in the freezer! Eat it soon after making if you
prefer a smoother and creamier ice cream. It's wonderful either way! 
Well it is almost the end of August and summer is coming to a close. I had off for a couple months during the summer because I work for the school system, and I have been back to work for two weeks - although it seems like 2 months! The summer went by in a flash and I'm sure happy I only have a 3-day work week next week. One thing I always get sad about around this time of year (besides going back to work) is saying goodbye to delicious summer produce. Luckily our garden has still been producing tomatoes, but we have only picked one zucchini in the past weeks. Pretty soon we will stop being able to find as many tasty cherries, berries, peaches, figs, melons, and other summer favorites at the grocery stores and our local farmers markets will close for the season. I wish that I would have made more seasonal dishes this summer. I enjoyed eating the fresh produce but I definitely was not as creative and adventurous as I had planned to be in the kitchen this summer. The other night I decided to try out a peach ice cream recipe because I was craving ice cream & because a couple of my peaches were on the verge of going bad. I didn't have any whole milk or cream on hand, so I went with a coconut milk base. I made a banana coconut ice cream with coconut milk earlier this summer & loved it - so I gave it a try with the peaches.  I thought the ice cream was super yummy and it was the perfect treat to reward myself to at the end of a full work week. It is not too rich or sinful, because it is make with coconut milk and just a small amount of sugar. When it first comes out of the ice cream maker, it is smooth and creamy. However, it gets pretty solid after it is in the freezer for a while and it becomes more like a sweet peach frozen treat. I love it either way. Greg said he likes it better when it is smoother and creamier - so if you are like Greg, make sure to eat it before it gets too frozen! Enjoy.

Recipe for Peach Ice Cream with Coconut Milk

INGREDIENTS:
1 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
1/2 cup of half and half
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
 2 - 3 ripe to very ripe peaches
1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:
Put the coconut milk, half and half, sugar, 2 peaches, vanilla extract, and salt into a blender. Process until smooth. Taste, and add another peach to the mix if you want your ice cream to be peachier tasting. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cover with a lid. Place in the fridge for about an hour to chill.
Pour chilled mixture into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker and then make according to manufacturer directions. It should be ready within 20 - 25 minutes. Serve immediately, or scoop into an airtight container and store in the freezer. This ice cream gets pretty solid if it is in the freezer for over a few hours, so if you like a smoother ice cream, serve soon after making.

Looking for other recipes that use peaches? I also love Peach KuchenHealthy Peach Smoothies.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Baked Chicken Taquitos

Mmm, baked chicken taquitos! This is one of my go-to meals when I'm not sure what to make for dinner. I have been making them for a couple years and they never disappoint. Baking taquitos is so much better than frying them - it is much healthier and there is barely any mess to clean up! These taquitos are filled with a slightly spicy and creamy chicken mixture. They are absolutely amazing. I usually serve them with some chips, salsa, sour cream, and avocado (or guacamole) on the side. If you don't have time to make the homemade salsa, just use a good jarred salsa in its place. This meal is fairly quick and easy - and absolutely delicious! Enjoy.

Recipe for Baked Chicken Taquitos

INGREDIENTS:
3.5 ounces of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
3 Tbsp. of super salsa (or your favorite jarred salsa)
1/2 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. of chili powder
1/2 tsp. of cumin powder
A pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups of grated cheese (I usually use a blend of pepper jack & cheddar)
2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded
10 flour tortillas (6-inch)
Cooking spray or olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Avocado, salsa, sour cream (for serving)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, super salsa, lime juice, chili powder, cumin powder, cayenne pepper, garlic, cheese, and chicken. Mix until ingredients are well incorporated.

Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the tortillas in a microwave for several seconds to allow them to soften so they are easy to work with. Spread 3 Tbsp. of the mixture down the middle of one tortilla, then roll the tortilla tightly. Continue filling tortillas until you have used all of the mixture. Place each one on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly oil or spray the tops of the taquitos with oil or cooking spray. Then sprinkle the tops of each one with just a tiny amount of coarse sea salt. Place in the oven and cook for 15 - 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: Annie's Eats

Looking for a vegetarian taquito recipe? These baked creamy vegetarian taquitos are totally amazing! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fresh Fig Cheesecake

So, this isn't really made in a cheesecake pan and it does not use the typical oodles amounts of cream cheese (1 package compared to 4 packages) that is in cheesecake, but I'm not sure what else to call it. I know I can call it AMAZING! I found the recipe in a coupon catalogue for one of the grocery stores I shop at in Annapolis - the Fresh Market. I had been wanting to make it for quite some time, but I didn't have any figs. This past weekend we went to Costco with my parents, and my mom and I decided to split a container of fresh figs. Even with half the amount of figs, I still had close to 20! I ate a couple - and they were so good. I knew I wouldn't be able to eat them all before they went bad, so I made the recipe. Greg said the fresh fig cheesecake is a sophisticated and mature taste - and that it was really, really good. We served it for dessert the other night and our guests loved it. They said it was one of the most delicious and refreshing desserts they have ever had. This elegant dessert is super easy to make and it is the perfect late summer treat. Figs are in season right now (late summer through early Fall) & the dessert is also pretty light, since it doesn't have too much cream cheese or sugar.  Enjoy.

Recipe for Fresh Fig Cheesecake 

INGREDIENTS:
For the crust
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. of salt
8 Tbsp. of very cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 - 4 Tbsp. of ice cold water
For the filling
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, slightly softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of part-skim ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
8 - 10 fresh figs, sliced lengthwise
Honey (for topping each slice)

DIRECTIONS: 
For the crust
Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a couple times to combine. Scatter the very cold butter pieces over the mixture. Pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas. With the processor running, pour a tablespoon of the ice cold water through the feed tube. Let it run for a few seconds, then add another tablespoon of the water through the feed tube. The dough should form into a ball and leave the sides of the bowl. If it doesn't after about 10 seconds, add a little more of the water through the feed tube. Once it forms into a ball, turn off processor and gather the dough up with your hands and wrap it in plastic wrap or put it into a plastic bag and seal. Put into the fridge for 30 minutes. Wipe the food processor and blade clean, since you will be using again for the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge and use your hands to evenly press it onto the bottom and up on the sides of a 9-inch pie pan.  Prick the dough all over with a fork (don't go all the way through the dough). Place in the oven and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, checking frequently to make sure the dough is not rising up. If it is, prick it down with the fork. Remove from oven and allow it to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

For the filling
While the crust is cooling, make the filling. Put the sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times so that the sugar becomes a little finer, but not powdery. Add in the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and beaten eggs. Turn on food processor and run for several seconds, until mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into the cooled pie crust. If the pie crust is still warm, transfer the mixture to a container and store in the fridge until crust is cool enough. Then put pie with filling into the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Arrange the fig pieces on top. Place back in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the top is just starting to brown and just firm in the center. Remove from oven and allow it to cool completely. Then cover and place in the fridge for a couple hours before serving.

Slice the fresh fig cheesecake into 8 pieces. Top each serving with a couple drizzles of honey. Yum!

Recipe Adapted from: The Fresh Market Inspirations