Friday, December 25, 2015

Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark Ice Cream

Merry Christmas from Annapolis, Maryland, where the weather is 60 degrees and rainy! It really is strange having spring (almost summer) like weather during the holidays. A couple months ago I heard that the Maryland area was going to have a very snowy winter, but I am not so sure if I can believe it. If the cold does hit, it will be quite a shock to the system. Enough about the weather...let me tell you about this ice cream! I have been obsessed with Peppermint Bark the past few weeks. Amazon had a 21 ounce bag of both milk chocolate and dark chocolate Ghiradelli peppermint bark squares for 14 dollars, which is a great deal that I could not pass up. I have been snacking on the candies, giving some out in baggies with Christmas gifts, and using it for this peppermint bark ice cream. I love it. You can grind up the peppermint bark as finely as you want, or you can make it more chunky, all depending on how much crunchy texture you like in your ice cream. If you don't like chunky, I suggest you chop it up very finely and omit the mini chocolate chips from the recipe. I had been thinking of making pie for dessert after our Christmas dinner, but because the weather is so warm, I decided to go with this festive ice cream instead. Hope you and yours are having a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for 2016! Enjoy.

Recipe for Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark Ice Cream

1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of whole milk
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1 - 2 drops of pure peppermint extract (peppermint is VERY overpowering, so seriously just do a drop or two unless you want a strong peppermint flavor)
2 ounces - about 5 candies - of Ghirardelli peppermint bark squares (or your favorite brand)
1 - 2 Tbsp. of semisweet mini chocolate chips (optional - don't use if you don't like chunky texture in ice cream)

In a metal bowl, mix together the heavy whipping cream, whole milk, sugar, pure vanilla extract, and peppermint extract until smooth. Cover with a lid and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together, stirring occasionally. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and chill for 3 - 9 hours (I let it sit overnight and then made the ice cream the next morning).

Right before making the ice cream, place the peppermint bark candies into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the candies are chopped to desired consistency.

Make the ice cream. Give the mixture a stir and then pour into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker. When it resembles the consistency of a thick whipped cream, pour in the peppermint candies and chocolate chips. Continue to mix until ice cream is finished. Put into a freezer-safe container. Freeze for several hours. Serve each bowl with an extra peppermint bark candy.

Recipe Inspired by: Williams Sonoma Ice Cream - Crushed Peppermint Ice Cream
Recipe makes approximately 3 - 4 servings. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Chicken Enchilada Soup

A few weeks ago, I came across the recipe for this soup on Facebook. One of my friend's family members had posted the recipe to her page, and it intrigued me. I looked over the ingredients and at first did not think that the soup was something that I would want to try. I had remembered my friend saying that she had tried the recipe and that her family loved it, so I went back and looked at the recipe again because I usually like the meals that she suggests. After reading the second time, I realized that the vegetable ingredients are pureed, and that the chicken and beans are then added in to the pureed mixture. I tried to imagine how it might taste and decided I wanted to give it a go, especially because it sounded like a healthy recipe. I'm so glad I tried it! I made the recipe last Saturday. I was shocked by how easy it was to make. The soup was thoroughly enjoyed by me, Greg, Wendy, and my parents. Even my father liked the soup, which was surprising, because it has onion and red pepper (he usually refuses anything with those two ingredients). The recipe makes a TON of soup, so we ate leftovers all week and nobody complained. Wendy really likes the soup too, which is great, because it is full of vegetables and protein. I served the soup with corn pudding (tomalito), avocado, Greek yogurt, Goya-brand pico de gallo, queso fresco cheese, and crispy tortillas. I know I will definitely be making this soup again very soon. I am super appreciative to my friend's sister for posting this amazing recipe on Facebook! I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did.

Recipe for Chicken Enchilada Soup

8 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, chopped in half
1 small red bell pepper, with seeds and removed, chopped
4 cups of butternut squash, cubed (time saving tip - buy it from the store already chopped for you)
1 can of diced green chiles
3 cans of great northern beans
8 ounces of tomato sauce
1 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup of your favorite taco seasoning
Sliced avocado
Queso fresco cheese
Salsa/Pico de Gallo
Drizzle of olive oil
Full-fat Greek yogurt/Sour Cream
Baked tortillas (brush each side of a small flour tortilla with olive oil, sprinkle on salt on each side, bake at 375 in oven for about 4 minutes per side or until done to desired crispiness)
Corn pudding - can be served on the side or served as a topping

Put the broth, chicken breasts, russet potato, sweet potato, yellow onion, garlic, red bell pepper, butternut squash, diced green chiles in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it comes to a full boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the broth and set on a plate to cool. Turn the heat to the stove top off. Ladle soup about 2/3 full into a blender and puree each batch until smooth. Pour the pureed mixture into a large bowl. Once all of the soup from the pot is pureed, pour back into the pot. Stir in the Greek yogurt (or sour cream), tomato sauce, beans, and taco seasoning. Then use a fork to shred the chicken into smallish pieces. Add the chicken into the pot and stir. Put pot over stove top again and set on medium-low heat to warm through. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with desired toppings.

Recipe makes approximately 14 servings.

Recipe Adapted from: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, December 4, 2015

Outrageous Brownie Truffles

Have you ever heard of a "happy accident?" Years ago I worked with a woman who had so many of her own sayings, to the point where I labeled them *Meganisms, after her name. I would constantly laugh at the things she would say, but now I find myself repeating everything she did say in my old(er) age. One of her 'isms was "happy accidents." If a mistake was made and we turned it into something good, she would always say "now that is what you call a happy accident!" Last week I was preparing dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, and I was a bit distracted while cooking. My daughter, who almost always takes a nap during the day, decided to refuse a nap that afternoon so I wasn't able to focus on my dessert making. I was making a pumpkin pie, making brownies, and trying to entertain Wendy all at the same time, and I ended up making a pretty big mistake with the brownies. When I took them out of the oven, I could tell something seemed different about the texture, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then it hit me. I was halving a recipe and instead of putting a half pound (2 sticks) of butter in the brownie batter, I had only put in a quarter pound (1 stick). I had it in my head that one stick has 8 tablespoons of butter and translated that into 8 ounces, which is a half pound! I couldn't believe I did it, especially because I have made the brownies several times in the past few months. So, what did I do? At first I thought that the brownies tasted fine, just a little dry, and I was right. But I decided I didn't want dry brownies. So I turned those brownies into brownie truffles! And that, my friends, was a happy accident that occurred in my kitchen. The brownie truffles are even better than the brownies, which are pretty darn good. They are very rich, and you might just need one. My niece, however, exclaimed that she could only eat three (in a matter of five minutes or less) because they were so rich. Here is the recipe for outrageous brownie truffles. Enjoy!

*Note: Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of the individual but the story is true.

Recipe for Outrageous Brownie Truffles

For the brownies:
One 12 ounce bag of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips
One 10 ounce bag of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips (you will have a little leftover)
3 eggs
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. of instant coffee granules
1 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract (I like Nielsen Massey)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
For the truffle filling:
Cooked brownies
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the truffle coating:
One 9.7 ounce bar of SCHARRFEN BERGER bittersweet (70% cacao) baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan (mine is 2.75" deep).
Melt the butter, half the bag (6 ounces) of the semisweet chocolate chips and a little over half the bag of bittersweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces) in a medium saucepan over simmering water. Stir constantly until fully melted and smooth, then remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir the eggs, coffee granules, pure vanilla extract, and sugar. Then stir the chocolate mixture in and allow it to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in to the chocolate mixture. In a smallish bowl, toss the remaining flour and the rest of the bag of semisweet chocolate chips and about 2 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate chips together. Coat the chocolate chips as well as you can with the flour. Then fold into the chocolate batter. Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 20 minutes, and then after 20 minutes, rap the pan against the oven shelf to get air to escape between pan and dough. Then bake for an additional 8 - 12 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
Transfer the brownie pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool.
Once brownies are cooled to room temperature (or slightly warmer), scrape all the brownie into a large bowl. Add in the softened butter. Use your hands to work together. Then use an electric hand mixer set on medium low speed and beat until smooth. It should kind of resemble a batter again. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a couple hours.
Line a couple freezer safe containers with foil. Use a cookie dough scoop and your hands to form the mixture into 3/4-inch balls. Place each ball into the foil lined containers. Cover containers and place in freezer for several hours, or overnight.
Prepare a double boiler with water. Bring water to a simmer, and then place the bittersweet chocolate in top boiler and melt over the simmering water. Once chocolate is melted, turn off stove heat. Drop one ball at a time into the melted chocolate and use a spoon to coat. Place each coated ball onto a foil lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in fridge and allow coating to harden before serving. If not serving right away, store in the fridge in airtight containers. Brownie truffles can be served from fridge or at room temperature.

Brownie recipe adapted from: Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies Recipe
Brownie truffles - original recipe.

Recipe makes approximately 3 1/2 - 4 dozen truffles.