Sunday, December 27, 2015

Perfect Pot Roast

 Nothing says Sunday dinner like pot roast! We don't eat much red meat, and roast maybe once or twice a year.  But boy do I love it!  And my girls are actually old enough that they are beginning to enjoy it as well. I hadn't had much experience with cooking roast, except in college when I threw it in a crock pot with a can of cream of mushroom soup.  Good, but I don't like using canned soups anymore.  Luckily many years ago Pioneer Woman came into my life.  If anyone knows how to cook beef it's her.  So when I first saw her recipe for pot roast I knew it would be good.  And she's right, it is perfect!!  I absolutely love it this way and don't think I'll change.

Perfect Pot Roast
1 whole chuck roast, 4-5 lbs.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, quartered
6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices then halved or quartered
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup red wine (or extra beef broth)
2 cups beef broth
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When hot but not smoking, add the onions, browning on each side.  Remove to a platter then do the same with the carrots.

Generously salt and pepper the roast.  Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pot, if necessary, then add the roast.  Sear on all sides, about a minute on each, until it's browned all over. Remove to a plate.  Deglaze the pan with about a cup of red wine (or red wine vinegar or beef broth), scraping bits off the bottom with a whisk.  Place roast back in the pan, arranging the onions around it.  (You can add carrots now but I usually add them the last hour.)  Add enough broth to cover the meat about half way.  Add rosemary and thyme.  Cover with lid and roast in the oven 3-4 hours, until fork tender and falling apart. This would be delicious served with mashed potatoes.  Use the juices from the roast to make gravy to go with the potatoes.

SOURCE: Pioneer Woman

Monday, December 21, 2015

Egg Nog Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust, Raspberry Sauce and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Looking for a fabulous dessert to take to a holiday party this week?  Look no further! This Egg Nog Pie will knock the socks off your guests and leave them wanting more.

In my family we take egg nog very seriously. In fact my older brother uses the smallest glass possible to drink his egg nog so that the least amount is lost on the sides of the cup.  Whatever, I just drink it from the carton, haha! NO really, I do.  When I first got married and went to family Christmas parties on my husband's side, they always added sprite to their egg nog.  Not this girl, not the watered down version. I like it straight up.

So, as you can guess by the number of pie recipes on the blog, I don't do pie much.  It's not my favorite dessert, especially the fruit kind.  BUT, my husband loves it.  I've had several opportunities to go beyond my comfort zone lately and make pie and I think I might be getting into it.

At our church Christmas party this year there was a pie bake-off, so I decided to stretch my wings again a little.  I usually take this Egg Nog Gingerbread Trifle every year, also amazing, but since it was pie this year, I decided to turn that dessert into THIS pie.  You guys, SERIOUSLY. SO. GOOD!  And it even won best overall pie.  So, don't wonder what dessert to make this week, I've got you covered.

Egg Nog Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust, Raspberry Sauce
 and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

for the gingersnap crust:
2 cups gingersnap crumbs
5 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar

for the egg nog custard:
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 cups good quality egg nog (not low fat)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. rum extract
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

for the raspberry sauce:
6 oz. frozen raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp, cornstarch

for the mascarpone whipped cream:
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine gingersap crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a small bowl.  Mix until well combined.  Firmly press into a 9-inch pie pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool on the counter.

In the mean time, prepare the custard filling.  In a medium saucepan, mix together sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Whisk in heavy cream, egg yolks and egg nog. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes thick and smooth. This may take 5-10 minutes to thicken.  The finished texture will be very thick but not gelatinous. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and rum extracts and butter.  Pour custard into pie shell.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down against the custard so it doesn't form a skin. Refrigerate pie until it is completely chilled.

While pie is chilling, make the raspberry sauce.  Combine raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat 5-10 minutes until is becomes sauce-like. Whisk in cornstarch, making sure there are no lumps, and bring to a boil.  Boil about a minute until thickened.  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.

Make whipped cream just before assembling the pie.  With electric beaters, beat together mascarpone and powdered sugar. Add whipping cream and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.

To assemble the pie, spread cooled raspberry sauce over the top.  Then, either pipe or spread on the whipped cream.  Serve immediately or continue to chill until ready to serve.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Secret Mashed Potato Cinnamon Rolls

I don't know what it is about a fresh cinnamon roll that just gets me! That smell has got to be one of the best smells ever. I have to restrain myself every time I walk into IKEA because the smell hits you the second you walk in...and I don't even like their cinnamon rolls!

So after the feast that is Thanksgiving, I had NO intentions of making more food, let alone anything sweet.  But we had a bunch of mashed potatoes leftover and we just don't eat that much of them. So I decided to make cinnamon rolls!  Wait what...mashed potatoes = cinnamon rolls?

Yes!!  Mashed potatoes is the secret ingredient that makes these super light and fluffy. Add lots of butter and eggs and you've got a deliciously rich brioche-type dough that will melt in your mouth. This recipe comes from a family cookbook, so you know if grandma made it, it's gotta be good.

Secret Mashed Potato Cinnamon Rolls
for the dough:
2 cups scalded milk (whole), cooled to lukewarm
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
5 eggs
7-8 cups flour

for the filling:
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2-4 Tbsp. cinnamon

for the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
5-6 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla
2-3 Tbsp. milk
Pour lukewarm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter, mashed potatoes, sugar, salt, yeast and eggs. Whisk well until incorporated. Switch to a paddle attachment or dough hook. Add about 4 cups of the flour and mix until incorporated then add 3 more (making 7) and mix again. If dough is extremely sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time until it looks right. Dough should be sticky but not so much that you can't handle it. Mix with dough hook for about 5 minutes. Remove dough and place in oiled bowl and let double in size.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll one half at a time into a long rectangle. Use your fingers to "SHMEAR" on half of the softened butter all over the top. Sprinkle on half of the brown sugar and gently pat down with your hand, then half of the cinnamon.  (I tend to be heavy handed with the cinnamon so go light at first if you'd like.)  Roll it away from you, stopping with about an inch left on top. Pull that part towards you, pinching it down. Use unflavored dental floss and pinch off rolls, about 1-1/2 inches thick. Place in greased cookie sheet or round cake or pie pans. Repeat with other half of ingredients. Let rise again until rolls fill out the pan. 

Once rolls have risen, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about 15-17 minutes or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool until just barely warm to the touch.  Glaze and cool completely.

For the glaze: Mix together softened butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until you've reached desired consistency. Whisk glaze until smooth. Spoon about a tablespoon on each roll and spread around covering any exposed surface.

**NOTES: This makes about 2 cookie sheets worth of rolls, a lot! I love to make these in those disposable foil tins, they are kind of like pie tins but they have straight sides instead of slanted. You can find them pretty much anywhere, they're super cheap. I also like to make them in the tins because I can just give a whole pan away and not worry about getting it back. Great for neighbor gifts. You can also freeze them after the first rise, when you cut them into rolls and put them in the pans. It'll just take longer to thaw and rise all the way.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Roasted Green Pozole with Chicken

Mmmm, fall is in the air.  I'm extatic!  Time to start baking everything with pumpkin, drinking hot chocolate every night and making gobs of soup! I LOVE soup.  My kids pretty much only like the homemade tomato or taco soup variety but we may have to do something about that soon.

Pozole, also spelled Posole, is right up there as one of my favorite soups. This is my third and definitely my favorite posole on the blog (see here and here for the others).  Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup using a rich brothy base with meat, usually pork or chicken, garnishes such as cabbage, salsa, lemon or lime, and it's staple: maize, or hominy.  There is also the red variety made with tomatoes and the green variety, made with tomatillos and peppers. If you can't tell by the color, this posole is verde!

This soup gets it's start by roasting the vegetables, giving it that little bit of smokiness.  Then while it's simmering away with the broth and chicken, you can prep your garnishes. The garnishes are almost my favorite part, they really brighten up the soup and give it a fresh element that is not only eye appealing but mouth appealing too!

Roasted Green Pozole with Chicken
1/2 cup roasted, salted pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), plus more for garnish
1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted
olive oil
3/4-1 lb. tomatillos, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, whole and peeled
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeño, halved and seeded
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
3-4 cups chicken broth (homemade preferred)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs*
1 24-oz can hominy, drained

roasted, salted pepitas
thinly sliced radish
thinly sliced cabbage
fresh lime
crumbled cojita cheese (or similar) 

*Note: I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, just removed the skin before cooking. Either way works fine.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Place tomatillos, garlic, onion and jalapeno on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss with your fingers.  Bake about 15 minutes or until veggies begin to char.

 While veggies are roasting, toast the cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium-high heat until they become fragrant; 2-3 minutes.  Grind pepitas and cumin seeds in a spice grinder until finely ground, set aside.

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a dutch oven and heat over medium high heat.  Add chicken and cook a minute or two on each side then remove and set aside on a plate. 

Once veggies are done roasting, cool slightly and slide everything into a blender jar. Add half the cilantro, the salt and blend until desired consistency.  Add another little drizzle of olive oil to the dutch oven then pour in the contents of the blender.  Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently and scraping off the brown bits from the bottom. Add chicken broth, ground pepitas and cumin, oregano and hominy.  Stir to combine.  Gently place the chicken thighs in the pot and simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

Serve warm with desired garnishes.

SOURCE: Adapted from Not Without Salt

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Salsa

It's that time of year.  Summer is winding down and the garden is bounteous. Most years I have a good tomato crop but this year seems to be a difficult year.  I have lots of plants but my tomatoes aren't turning green!! Fresh tomatoes are my favorite part of summer and having a garden.  I hope they start turning quickly before the weather does.  Typically around here, they're done the first week of October so that doesn't give us very long.  Lucky for me, there are several produce stands around here that sell local tomatoes by the box.  I usually hit them up once or twice a season so I have enough to put up for the winter and through next year. We love to can spaghetti sauce and tomatoes for soup and, of course salsa!!

It's been a few years since I canned salsa and we are sorely missing it!!  I found this Restaurant Style Salsa to hold us over in the mean time, but there's nothing like the taste of salsa made from home grown tomatoes. This roasted variety will blow your socks off (especially if you use a lot of chipotles!!). I love the smokiness of the roasted tomatoes and chipotles, it's seriously the best-tasting salsa that's come out of this kitchen in a LONG time!

Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Salsa
1 quart roasted Roma tomatoes
3/4 cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup Anaheim pepper, diced
1/3 cup jalapeño peppers, diced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 1/2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
chipotles in adobo, seeded
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup vinegar

Rinse tomatoes, slice off top and cut in half.  Place cut side down on a baking sheet and place under broiler.  Broil until tomatoes start to blacken.  Remove from oven and slightly cool.

Add all ingredients into a blender and enough chipotles to suit your taste. Blend to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Store in airtight container in the fridge or process in boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

**If you are not planning on canning the salsa you can omit the vinegar and reduce the lime juice to 1-2 tablespoons.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Waffles

Nevermind that I have salsa recipes from the summer to still post, let's move right along to fall with these waffles!!  I have been waiting to make these for a couple weeks.  I LOVE just about everything the fall brings, especially pumpkin chocolate chip.  One of my favorite combos.  These are pretty much my regular buttermilk waffles, with a little extra fall punch, so not a ton of work.  These are perfect for Sunday brunch with friends or family because they make a HUGE plateful.  But even if you don't have company, they keep really well.  I like to just throw them in the freezer and pull them out when we want them.  When you're ready to eat, just toss them in the toaster and they'll warm up nice and good.  I like to serve them with pumpkin maple syrup or cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. Sometimes I even sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top of the batter in the waffle iron.  (If you do this, make sure you spray it with cooking spray so it doesn't stick.)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Waffles
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs, separated
3 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp.  unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2-3/4 cup chocolate chips

Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly. Preheat waffle iron.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, pumpkin, vanilla, sugar and egg yolks. Slowly whisk in melted butter. In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining dry ingredients then gently stir them in with the wet ingredients until just incorporated.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. With a spatula, gently fold them into the batter until almost incorporated, add the chocolate chips then fold in a few more times.  NOTE: Egg whites do not have to be completely incorporated, just mostly.

Pour batter onto waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's directions.  Serve with choice of toppings: pumpkin maple syrup, syrup, cinnamon sugar, or powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Maple Syrup:
4 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
6 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
splash of vanilla
pinch of cinnamon

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer Egg Scramble

I know it's nearing the end of the summer but we have been enjoying this yummy breakfast for a couple months now so I wanted to share.  My friend made me something similar when the girls and I had a sleepover with her and her kids and I haven't been able to stop making it since.  Even my three-year-old loves it and asks me to make it for her frequently.  She even loves to run outside and pick some fresh basil and tomatoes for it. 

I love quick and easy breakfasts that are also healthy and fresh.  This egg scramble is easily customizable to suit your own tastes, what you have in your fridge or even your garden! Enjoy.

Summer Egg Scramble
serves 2

olive oil
4 slices Canadian bacon, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1-2 cloves garlic
4 large eggs
small handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, diced (or about 1/3-1/2 cup diced tomato)
3-4 large basil leaves, chopped
2-4 Tbsp. fresh mozzarella shredded or small-diced (try smoked mozzarella too!)

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk.  Set aside.  Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat in a frying pan, saute the ham until it just starts to brown.  Add the garlic for another 30 seconds.  Add eggs and tomatoes scramble about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat while they are sill a little glossy and toss in the basil and cheese.  Stir just to combine and allow to sit for a minute or so, so the cheese can melt.  Slide onto two plates and garnish with extra basil and tomatoes, if desired.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

School is right around the corner, in fact just one week away for us!  We are on A Track this year, meaning I need to get my kids up, ready and fed before 8am!!  Wow, considering they've been staying up until 10pm, waking up at 9am and not eating breakfast until 10am sometimes, this is going to be quite an undertaking.  I don't do cold cereal, mostly hot breakfasts and sometimes they take longer than 5 minutes. I'm going to have to make sure I plan ahead, which is why I LOVE baked oatmeal.

My girls and I enjoy oatmeal in it's many forms, but baked is our favorite.  It's so versatile too.  Sometimes I like to add berries or mashed bananas to change up the flavor, or even throw some chocolate chips on top while it's warm.  Adding peanut butter this time was genius though!!  To say we loved it is an understatement.  I baked this ahead in a big pan (doubling works wonders and keeps well too) and we ate it two days in a row.  Talk about a time saver!  This will definitely be a keeper  and something I can make ahead and pull out quickly on those early school mornings.

Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 or 9 inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl combine egg, brown sugar, applesauce and peanut butter and whisk until peanut butter is well incorporated and there are not lumps.  Add in vanilla, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and milk and whisk to combine.  Stir in the oats then pour into prepared baking pan.  Bake in preheated oven 35 minutes or until lightly golden on top.  Serve warm with a splash of milk, fresh fruit, nuts or even a few chocolate chips.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


I had no idea what Jambalaya was until my parents moved to Georgia when I went to college.  It's a southern dish that's typically a mash-up of rice, meat (chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp), veggies, spices and chicken stock.  It's kind of like a Spanish paella, only southern-style.

While living in Georgia my mom got this recipe from a friend for Quick Chicken Jambalaya.  It was my first and pretty much only experience with jambalaya and we made it and loved it for years.  It's super easy and yummy and not too spicy.  After getting into cooking more and wanting to branch out I started looking for jambalaya recipes that were a little more authentic.  My sister pointed me in the direction of this recipe and we have really loved it.  It's so full of flavor and just the right level of heat for my taste (although may be a little spicy for the kiddos). It's also great because once everything is chopped and ready to go, you can throw it together in a jiffy!

olive oil
1 rib of celery, small-diced
1/2 onion, small-diced
1/2 orange pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup uncooked rice
1 Tbsp. Creole or Cajun seasoning (Zeus or Tony Cachere's are good or a homemade blend)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (I omitted this and just added an extra chicken breast)

garnishes: chopped green onion, parsley or cilantro

Heat a drizzle of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion and peppers and sauté about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté another minute.  Add another drizzle of olive oil, of necessary, and add chicken to the pan.  Sauté a couple minutes until about half-cooked.  Add the sausage, tomatoes, rice, stock, Creole seasoning, bay leaf, thyme and cayenne.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until rice is cooked.

Once rice is tender stir in the shrimp to combine. Continue to simmer until shrimp is fully cooked.  Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf and check for seasoning.  Add more Creole seasoning, salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve warm with choice of garnish.

**Note: I halved the original recipe because I didn't think my kids would eat it and I didn't want to have tons of leftovers. To make original recipe, double everything except the chicken stock and tomatoes.  Still use 1 can of tomatoes and use 3 cups chicken stock.

SOURCE: Gimme Some Oven

Monday, July 6, 2015

Jalapeño Popper Pizza

Confession: I don't think I've ever even had a jalapeño popper!  I don't even know what they really taste like but I could not stop thinking about the idea of this pizza.  So mouth-watering, I had to make it.  Like over and over.  My husband's response to what kind of pizza we were having the other night when I made this was, "oh, that one again."  Yeah, that one again.  Don't get me wrong, he loved it too. The first two times I made it there was no chance of getting a picture so I had to make it again to make sure I got it just right and had a quick couple of seconds to snap some pics.

This pizza definitely isn't the hottest thing I've tasted, but just enough heat and smoke for my taste.  I used half pepper jack cheese and half smoked cheddar cheese (my fave).  Smoked cheddar (not the processed smoked cheese "product", but real cheese) might be hard to find in some areas, so using all pepper jack or using mozzarella or sharp cheddar would be a good substitute. Sometimes I like to add grilled chicken but it can get heavy. In that case, I would use parchment to roll the dough on and just slide that onto the pizza stone. I also brush the edges of the dough with some of the bacon fat and that's TOTALLY optional, but not really....just do it. 

Jalapeño Popper Pizza
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
a few thin slices of red onion

Prepare pizza dough as directed.  While dough is rising, cook bacon and set aside, reserving a couple tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees. Stretch out pizza dough onto pizza peel dusted with flour or cornmeal. Brush bacon grease around the outer edges. Using either your fingers or a spatula, spread softened cream cheese over the dough, leaving about a 1-inch border where you brushed the bacon grease. Layer both cheeses, crumbled bacon, red onion and jalapeños.  Slide pizza onto baking stone and bake 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden and cheese  is bubbly. 


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Smoky Black Bean Chili

I know it's summer time and hot, hot, hot! But my oldest daughter has fallen in love with chili since eating it at a friend's house recently.  I don't know about you, but I'm so over the dinner time struggle!!  I know I still have to deal with it for years to come, but hey, if I can find a few more healthy things my kids like that I can add in to the dinner rotation, I'm all over it.  My middle daughter already LOVES this black bean soup, as well as taco soup, so I didn't think it would be hard to get her to try this delicious chili!  Plus, you can totally eat it with chips.  That always gets their attention, haha! To my surprise both girls told me they didn't like the chili, they LOVED it!  I was so happy, I literally jumped up and down with them.  Dinner time was happy time that night.

This chili, like most soups, is open to a little interpretation.  I didn't add a ton of heat because I knew my three littles would be eating most of it.  I wanted to add a couple chipotles in adobo during cooking but I knew it would be too spicy, but feel free to do so.  Instead, I decided to just use the chipotle tabasco sauce on the side instead; my husband loves that stuff anyway and puts it on everything.  Whatever you do, don't leave out the smoked paprika, ginger ale and cocoa powder!! They lend such a unique element to the dish, I think that's why I loved it so much.

This chili would be lovely served with some cornbread, fresh tortillas or even hot cooked rice.

Smoky Black Bean Chili
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups ginger ale
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can RoTel
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes

sour cream
shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella or my personal favorite smoked cheddar)
diced avocado
chipotle tabasco sauce
tortilla chips

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onion and ground beef and cook until onions are translucent and beef is browned.  Drain off all but a tablespoon or two of the fat.  Add chopped red pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, oregano, smoked paprika, and brown sugar.  Sauté 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add ginger ale, tomato sauce, black beans, RoTel and tomatoes to the Dutch oven.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm, with desired garnishes.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

S'mores Layer Cake

Right before my birthday this year I posted on facebook a couple of times that I was getting ready to choose my birthday cake.  Usually it takes about a month (the time frame between my husband's birthday and mine) to decide but this year seemed busier than usual and my birthday was getting closer and I still didn't have a cake picked out.  SO, a week or two before my birthday hubby and I were out to a play and waiting for it to start so I whip out my phone and we scroll through alllllllll the cakes I have pinned (seriously there's a ton!).  When I saw this one, at the very end mind you, I knew it was the one.  I LOVE anything s'mores and this cake looked just absolutely delicious.  Plus, it's from Smitten Kitchen, so I knew I couldn't go wrong.

I was so, so happy with this cake!  Luckily I was able to share with a bunch of people, otherwise I would have been in BIG trouble.  I love how the cake tastes exactly like graham crackers and the ganache practically melts in your mouth, like it had been melted by the campfire.  I go for a classic s'more and to me that's only with milk chocolate, which it weird because otherwise I pretty much only like dark.  I really like the taste of Hershey's milk chocolate, that's what I always use when making s'mores.  Feel free to use something different but whichever chocolate you choose, make sure it's good quality.  Since the ganache is basically only cream and chocolate the flavor really counts.

S'mores Layer Cake
for the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups honey graham cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers processed until it's a powder)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken and at room temperature

for the milk chocolate ganache:
16 oz good quality milk chocolate
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

for the meringue frosting:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

mini marshmallows, for extra garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the top of the parchment. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugars until they are light and fluffy; about 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions. Scrape down the sides and mix until just combined.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans about 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.  Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes (I typically refrigerate overnight.) *NOTE: This cake is very soft and tender, especially when it's still a little warm. When lifting and wrapping the cake be very careful so it doesn't break.

To make the ganache place the heavy cream and salt in a sauce pan and barely bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the chocolate chips, cover and remove from heat.  Let sit 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, remove lid and whisk until chocolate is completely incorporated and mixture is smooth and sheen. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until firm enough to spread on the cake.

To make the meringue frosting, place the egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar in a heat proof bowl.  Place over a simmering pot of water and whisk constantly for about 3 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and it's warm to the touch.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or use electric beaters.  Beat until stiff glossy peaks form, 4-7 minutes then add vanilla and mix in.

To assemble the cake, remove from the fridge and unwrap.  Using a long serrated knife carefully slice each cake in half.  Place the bottom half of one cake on cake plate.  Spread with about 1/3 of the ganache.  Place top half on top of the ganache and then spread another 1/3 of the ganache over that.  Place the top half of the second cake top down over the second layer of ganache.  Spread with remaining ganache and place the bottom half of the second cake, bottom up, on the very top. Quickly do a crumb coat with the meringue and place in the fridge about 10-15 minutes to let it set a bit.  Bring it back out and generously frost the cake, with extra marshmallows for garnish, as desired.  Brown with a kitchen torch. Keep leftovers covered and refrigerated.

SOURCE: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Some of my other favorite birthday cakes:
Cherry Chocolate Cake (#1 FAVE made this so many times!)
Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake
Neapolitan Layer Cake
Snickerdoodle Cake
Sweet and Salty Cake

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling

Hello to the most amazing creation ever made!! No seriously this is NO joke.  When it comes to cookies I'm a die-hard chocolate chip cookie lover, homemade of course, and fresh out of the oven.  I like other cookies too, but I'm picky.  So, when I tried a cookie similar to this at a local restaurant I was seriously blown away.  I had never tried anything like it.  The flavor combination is out of this world!  And totally genius, if you ask me. The cinnamon-y and slightly salty cookie with the sweetness of the marshmallow buttercream.  OH. MY.

So, without further ado, I give you the Snickerdoodle Sandwich cookie with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling.

Snickerdoodle Sandwich Cookies with Marshmallow Buttercream Filling
for the cookies: 
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 yolk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

for the cinnamon sugar mixture:
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

 For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 7-oz jar marshmallow fluff
3 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. milk, if necessary

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in egg, yolk and  vanilla and beat for another minute, scraping down the sides as necessary.

In a separate bowl, sift together baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon and flour.  Gradually add it to the butter and sugar and beat until well incorporated.

Mix the cinnamon sugar in a small bowl.  Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, scoop out dough  and roll into a ball, about 1-inch.  Roll the tops of each dough ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture then place them on a cookie sheet, about 9 to a pan.  Do not over crowd.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, turning cookie sheet halfway through baking. Try not to underbake them, as you will need them to be sturdy while spreading the frosting.  Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.  You can even place them in the fridge so they are more firm.

To make frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whip until creamy. Add in marshmallow fluff and beat 2-3 minutes, then add in vanilla.  Add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat another 2-3 minutes.  If frosting is too thin, add a little more sugar, if it's too thick add a little milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. (You will most likely have extra frosting.  Nothing that another batch of cookies later won't remedy...or there's always a spoon or a graham cracker.)

To make sandwich cookies, frost the bottom of one cookie then top with another.  Continue until you've used all the cookies.  Store in an airtight container either on the counter or in the fridge (I actually like mine chilled so I keep them in the fridge.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Nutella Stuffed Croissant French Toast

It is a rare occasion that I make something like this for breakfast.  I almost can't stand to serve my kids something that's over the top sweet that early in the morning.  However, I think I can get away with this french toast because croissants aren't really sweet at all, and neither is the whipped cream (unless you buy it premade at the store), and I just serve it with fresh berries. So I'm totally good right!! 

I almost never buy croissants because they're kind of expensive.  But I love to shop the reduced bakery rack at a couple of my favorite grocery stores. Occasionally there will be a package or two of these babies, so I just grab them and throw them in the freezer for when I'm ready to use them. Day old bread is perfect for french toast since it's a little dry it'll soak up the egg mixture a little better.

This french toast is easier than it looks and SOOOO worth it!! It just takes a few minutes to pull everything together and you'll be on a roll flipping these babies on the griddle in no time.

Nutella Stuffed Croissant French Toast
1 package of croissants (either 5-6 large ones or about 12 small ones)
2 large eggs
2-3 Tbsp. whole milk, heavy cream or half and half
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. sugar

whipped cream (homemade or store bought)
fresh berries

Preheat pancake griddle to about 300 degrees F.  Alternately you can cook these in a large frying pan, heated to medium-low. Add a little butter to the pan when you're ready to cook the croissants.

In a small shallow dish whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

Slice each of the croissants in half and spread on nutella as desired.  Place the croissants in the egg mixture and let them hang out to soak it up.  Flip them to soak on the other side.

Place croissants on the griddle and let cook about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.  Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mexican Cabbage Slaw with Jalapeño Dressing

So, I really enjoy celebrating different holidays with food.  Heck, I enjoy celebrating anything with food!  And when I get my act together, I can actually make something and blog about it.

I love Mexican style food and I really LOVE salad.  My biggest beef when making a Mexican meal though is that I never had a good salad to go with it.  I would sometimes make a simple cabbage slaw like the one in this post, but for Cinco de Mayo this year, I wanted something a little more. So I started with my basic slaw and threw in some extra stuff, made a simple spicy dressing and it hit the spot for me.

Cabbage salads are one of my favorites, not only because of the flavor but because they have a lot to offer nutritionally as well.  If you love salad as much as I do, you need to try this one!

Mexican Cabbage Slaw with Jalapeño Dressing
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
5-6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 can black black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
diced avocado, for topping

Jalepeño Dressing:
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare all vegetables and toss together in a large salad bowl.  In a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid, add all dressing ingredients.  Shake well to combine.

To serve, toss individual salads with dressing, as desired, and top with fresh chopped avocado.  

SOURCE: Dressing from Bakers Royale

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Buttermilk Banana Bread

Growing up I learned to cook from my mom, mostly desserts, on Sunday afternoons.  As I grew older I branched out.  Once I got on my own, I still loved to make brownies and cookies but banana bread became an absolute favorite of mine!  Still dessert-y I guess if you add all that sugar.

Many years ago I found this recipe that I have stood by and loved. Then I fell upon this recipe a while back looking for ways to use my my extra buttermilk.  Not that we ever have much leftover due to all the pancakes and waffles we consume in this house...but sometimes.  And WOW, that one little extra ingredient makes good banana bread amazingly delicious banana bread. I have cut back the sugar and added in whole wheat flour to make it a bit healthier and it's still super moist and absolutely delicious!

We all go bananas for this bread.

Buttermilk Banana Bread
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and bananas.  Add eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and whisk together.  Add in dry ingredients and stir batter until moistened and just combined.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick  inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

SOURCE: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Steak and Blue Cheese Salad

You guyyyyyyys! I can't stop eating this salad. It is my new absolute favorite.  And because it only has like 5 ingredients, besides the dressing, you can blink twice and it's basically done.  Ok, maybe a few more times than that.  But, seriously, like 5 minutes tops.

When it comes to ANYTHING beef, I always turn to Pioneer Woman first, because her hubby is a cattle rancher and they like live and breathe beef. If you've never tried her Perfect Pot Roast, I strongly urge you to.  It is heaven on a plate; best roast I have ever had. Ever!

So, after you get everything prepped, throw the dressing together. It's a little tangy, a little sweet, a little gingery and goes perfectly with beef. You will use some to marinate the meat and the rest you'll just want to slurp up eat it on salad practically every day 'till it's gone. 

Steak and Blue Cheese Salad
2 steaks (Ree suggests rib-eye or strip steaks, I just get whatever looks good)

for the dressing/marinade:
3/4 cup light olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper

for the salad:
lettuce mix (whatever floats your boat, I like romaine and arugula or just arugula)
cherry tomatoes, halved
thinly sliced red onion
about 4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (or more if you want leftovers)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine all the dressing ingredients together in a mason jar. Twist on the lid and shake vigorously.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Place steak in a zip-loc bag and add about 1/3-1/2 of the marinade.  Seal and marinate in refrigerator for about 2 hours.

When you're ready, preheat grill and cook steak over medium-high heat about 2-4 minutes per side, depending on how pink you want it.  Remove from heat and let it rest 5 minutes.  Thinly slice steak across the grain.

To assemble salads, place a large handful (or more) of lettuce mix on each plate.  Top with a good handful of tomatoes, sliced onion and a couple tablespoons each of blue cheese and pecans.  Lay the sliced steak on top of everything and add dressing as desired.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pesto Chicken Bacon Ranch Taquitos

Man oh man, when I first started making taquitos, my kids could not get enough of them!  Especially my oldest daughter.  I make the same ones every time (these Chili-Lime Taquitos) because they don't like to branch out much.  Much to my chagrin, but kids will be kids right!  So, I thought it was high time to switch it out.

Adding bacon and ranch was a no-brainer, where the kids are concerned, and hey, us adults too.  I mean really, who doesn't love THAT? These are super simple, with just a few ingredients, to throw together and they whip up real quick. I can even make them on a busy weeknight!  I prefer to use the uncooked tortillas because you don't have to cook them beforehand and they taste MUCH better!

Pesto Chicken Bacon Ranch Taquitos
4 chicken breasts
1 ranch seasoning packet
4 Tbsp. basil pesto, divided
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
uncooked flour tortillas 

Place chicken, contents of the ranch seasoning packet, 2 tablespoons of the pesto and chicken broth into a crockpot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken easily shreds.  Remove chicken to a large tray or cookie sheet and cool enough to be able to handle it.  Shred chicken and return it to the crock pot.  Add the remaining pesto, mozzarella and bacon and stir until combined. 

*Note: Don't discard juices when initially taking chicken out of the crockpot.  Once chicken is shredded and added back in, it will soak up most of the juice.  If there is a lot of excess, remove some, leaving enough remaining to keep the chicken moist. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat.

Depending on size of tortilla, scoop a scant 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture onto the tortilla and spread it out close to one end of the tortilla.  Roll it up and place it seam side down on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat until all the filling is gone.

If you have an olive oil spritzer, spritz the tops of each of the tortillas with olive oil.  Otherwise you can use a pastry brush to brush with olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over the top of each one.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden. Serve warm with ranch dip or sour cream.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cranberry Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Granola

I used to be a granola making machine! I got a few in my recipe box that I loved and used all the time, then I sort of took a break.  You know how things happens.  After our last stash of Almond Joy Granola (my fave!) was gone I decided to try a new recipe.  Actually the base is pretty similar to most of the granola I make, but the add-ins are what make it unique and delicious.  I've never put pistachios in granola before but I was pleasantly surprised.  I love them by themselves and their delicious taste and saltiness gives a great contrast in flavors to the sweet cranberries and dark chocolate. This will definitely be up there in my top faves!

Cranberry Pistachio and Dark Chocolate Granola
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1- 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 cup salted pistachios
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, cereal and coconut.  In a smaller microwave-safe mixing bowl, add coconut oil, water, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.  Microwave about 30 seconds to melt coconut oil and whisk together until combined.  Pour over oat mixture and stir until oats are well-coated.

Spread granola out on 1 or 2 cookie sheets.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.  If you use only one cookie sheet, use the longer cook time but if using two sheets the granola will brown quicker so stir more frequently and use the shorter cook time.

Allow granola to slightly cool then add pistachios, cranberries and dark chocolate chips.  Mix in and let it sit a few minutes so chocolate melts a little. Stir just a few times so the chocolate spreads just a little but doesn't coat everything.  This will give you clusters perfect for popping in your mouth.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Crispy Parmesan and Basil Quinoa Patties

One of my most favorite things about making quinoa is these patties!  I don't particularly love rice, so any time I can swap it out for quinoa I do.  And when I do make it I ALWAYS make extra, then I have leftovers for these beauties.

Quinoa patties are really like a blank slate, kind of like pancakes if you ask me.  But I always start with quinoa cooked in chicken broth.  I think it just ups the flavor a little more and gives you a good base to work with. I love the tomato-basil variety but really you can customize these to your liking.  Change up the cheese, herbs, even the salsa on top.

Crispy Parmesan and Basil Quinoa Cakes
2 cups cooked quinoa (in chicken broth)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup (generous) whole wheat flour
olive oil
avocado, sliced
cherry tomatoes, halved

Cook quinoa ahead and cool completely.  You could even cook it a day a head and refrigerate it.

In a mixing bowl, combine cooked quinoa, eggs, onion, garlic, cheese, basil, salt, pepper and flour.  Stir well so mixture is wet and well-combined.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Using a large scoop, scoop out batter and drop into skillet.  Gently press down until it forms a pattie. Depending on size of skillet, cook about 3-4 at a time.  Cook until crispy and golden; 5-6 minutes per side. Remove patties and place them either on a paper towel or plate to cool.  Serve warm topped with tomatoes, avocado and fresh basil.

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love a warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven? Mmm, there's almost nothing better (except maybe the cookie dough). Just when I think I've got all the chocolate chip cookie recipes I'll ever need, I try a new one that goes in the recipe box.

I was craving chocolate chip cookies like MAD the other day and for some reason wanted to try a new recipe.  Although I absolutely love my current go-to Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (my hubby's favorite), there was just something about this recipe that drew me to it.  I had to try it!  The method is similar to the brown butter CCCs and hey, the recipe is from Joy the Baker, so I knew I couldn't go wrong there. 

I've learned a few things over the years from baking many, many, MANY batches of cookies. So if you find a recipe with similar methods, you're sure to have a winner.

1-Whip it, whip it real good!!!  When you cream the sugar and butter, don't just beat until it's combined, beat it for a good 3-4 minutes until it's light and fluffy.  It spreads out the sugar granules and incorporates air into the dough resulting in a more tender cookie.

2-Use a combination of both white and brown sugars.  I learned this a long time ago from Alton Brown on "Good Eats."  All white sugar will make a crispy cookie that spreads more, while adding brown sugar helps add a little moisture as well as chewiness.

3-Chill!  You don't have to chill the dough very long (20 minutes) but chilling the dough will help the cookies from spreading too quickly.

4-Low and slow.  Don't be tempted to turn up the heat! Use a gentle heat (350 degrees) and slightly underbake and you'll have a soft, moist and chewy cookie.

5-Use a chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips.  Chocolate chips have stabilizers that keep them from melting as easily as a chocolate bar.  Plus by chopping up a bar of chocolate, you not only get chunks of chocolate but little shards throughout the whole cookie, thus chocolate in every bite.

The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut, toasted

Place 1 of the sticks of butter in a small saucepan.  Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally.  Once it's melted, it'll start foaming then it'll start popping. Keep a close eye on it, continuing to swirl.  Once the butter starts smelling nutty and the brown bits on the bottom turn amber in color, remove it from the heat.  Allow to cool completely.

In the mean time spread the coconut out on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until just starting to brown.  Don't take your eye off it.  It can go from toasted to completely burned in a matter of seconds!  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the remaining stick of butter with the brown sugar about 3-4 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary.  Mix in the vanilla and molasses.

Add the cooled browned butter and the granulated sugar and cream another 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add egg and egg yolk one at a time and mix.  Add in flour, baking soda and salt and mix until mixture it uniform.  Gently fold in chopped chocolate, toasted coconut and pecans.

Scrape the dough out onto plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.  Refrigerate about 20-30 minutes.  Alternately, you can scoop out all the dough into balls ahead of time, then refrigerate the balls. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Once dough is chilled, scoop dough out onto cookie sheets, either using a small cookie scoop or making about 2-inch balls.  Place 9 balls per cookie sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until tops just start to get golden.  Remove from oven, cool a minute or two on the cookie sheet the cool completely on a wire rack.

SOURCE: Joy The Baker

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thai Ground Turkey Wraps

Life never seems to slow down and it seems the busier I get the less time I have to make the food I want sometimes (hence the long breaks between posts). I struggle, as I'm sure many of you do, with wanting to make healthy food me and my family enjoy, having the time to prepare it and the actual desire.  Let's face it, there's just those days when ramen or boxed mac and cheese will grace our table. But I believe dinner is a worthy fight! It's worth trying to get your kids to eat that green veggie just one more time, it's worth putting forth an effort to make something healthy when you may not want to.  So some of my go-to dinners lately are some of the most simple, quick and healthy that I can find.

These Thai wraps totally fit the bill.  They are my current favorite.  I already love Thai flavors, but something so quick to throw together that's satisfying and light on the calories, now that's a winner in my book.  I loved that most everything in this dish was fresh.  The herbs make a huge difference so don't skip them!  I used nappa cabbage for the shell but you could also use another lettuce, like butter lettuce, if you prefer. The only sauce in this dish is the sauce on the turkey, which is how I prefer it.  I like the contrast of the fresh herbs and cabbage to the warm saltiness of the meat.  But, if you feel like you need something more saucy on top, you could add a little hoisin, sweet chili sauce or even more sriracha.

Thai Ground Turkey Wraps
1 lb. ground turkey
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
pale section of lemongrass finely chopped (or 1 drop lemongrass essential oil)
1 jalapeno, finely diced
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Sriracha
1/3 cup chopped chilantro
1/3 chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 small head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
Nappa cabbage leaves, whole, for serving

Optional garnishes:
chopped peanuts
sweet chili sauce
hoisin sauce

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic, ginger,  and lemongrass and saute about 60 seconds, until fragrant. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink. If using lemongrass oil instead of lemongrass, add at this point, after turkey is cooked.  Be careful not to add too much or it will be overpowering.  You may want to dip a toothpick into the bottle then swirl it in the meat.

In a small bowl, stir together lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and Sriracha.  Pour over cooked ground turkey, toss in the chopped jalapeno, stir to evenly distribute sauce and let sit 5 minutes.

Remove meat from heat and toss in fresh herbs and red cabbage.  Scoop onto nappa cabbage leaves, top with green onions and other garnishes as desired.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

What's not to love about a muffin?  They're quick and easy to make and their flavor variations are pretty much limitless.  I love to make a big batch of muffins, eat some warm and fresh, save a few for the kids' lunches then throw the rest in the freezer.  They make for a quick breakfast when we're short on time or even for a snack.  I typically use half whole wheat and half white flour and about half of the sugar of traditional muffin recipes, so no guilt here serving them to my family.

My oldest daughter fell in love with these muffins last year and I've made them numerous times since.  We all love them!  But if you're not a fan of lemon or don't have it on hand, try adding a touch of almond extract and a small handful of sliced almonds.  Just not sweet enough for you? Sprinkle some coarse sugar on top of each muffin before baking, or add a simple glaze on top of a little powdered sugar and milk mixed together.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
2/3 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3-1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tin with liners and set aside.

In  mixing bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest.  Rub together with your fingers until very fragrant.  Add lemon juice,yogurt, buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla and whisk until well combined.  Sift the remaining dry ingredients, except the poppy seeds. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.  Gently fold in the poppy seeds.

Using a large scoop, divide batter evenly into the muffin tin.  Bake 15-17 minutes or until slightly golden on top.

Cool muffins on a wire rack and store in an airtight container on the counter about 4 days.

SOURCE: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
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