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Friday, December 30, 2011

2011's Top 11 Recipes

As 2011 comes to a close (how is that possible?? Didn't it just start?) I'm going to share this year's most popular recipes.  There are a few repeats from last year as some of the "greatest hits" continue to pop up. 

The number one recipe is this White Cheddar Chicken Pasta.  This recipe has become a staple around here and is a quick and easy dinner to throw together.  It's also super versatile.  No wonder it remains a hit.

In the number two spot is this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Soup.  Perfect on a chilly fall or winter day, this soup can be made on the stovetop or in a crockpot. 

In third place is another all-time favorite still sticking with the spicy trend... Spicy Chicken Tortilla Roll-ups.  These are a perfect appetizer for a New Year's or Superbowl party.  They come together quickly and you can make them in advance too.

For fourth place, you moved on to dessert and like these S'mores Cupcakes as the top cupcake recipe I've posted over the last three years.  And I can understand why, they are quite impressive especially when you break out the kitchen torch to give them the marshmallow frosting that toasted look and taste.  If you haven't made these yet, you really should try them.

Coming in fifth is another easy weeknight pasta dish.  These lasagna roll-ups are the perfect solution to a classic Italian dish without all the work and without three days of leftovers in the fridge if you're not cooking for a crowd.  Plus these can be made with so many variations.  Try using chicken, beef or Italian sausage in place of the turkey, an alfredo sauce or pesto cream sauce in place of the marinara.  There are all kinds of options to keep these fun.

New to the list of favorites this year is another appetizer that I originally made for the Superbowl this year.  These classic soft pretzels with jalapeno cheese sauce are easier than you might think and make a fantastic weekend snack or party appetizer.  The cheese sauce can be used with the pretzels or use at a queso dip for chips or pour it over enchiladas for even more cheesy goodness.  If you want to experiment with some pretzels, compare this classic method which uses bread flour and boils the pretzels in a baking soda bath to this latest version of Cheese-Stuffed Everything Pretzels that I just tried which uses all-purpose flour and skips the baking soda bath with fantastic results.

In seventh place, a cookie recipe that mimics those super soft grocery store sugar cookies.  Made with a cake mix, this isn't your standard sugar cookie recipe but it does yield delicious cookies and it takes about five minutes to mix up.  You don't have to roll and cut anything and decorations are as easy as a few colored sprinkles if you want them.  I know it's past "cookie season" but these Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies are worth it.

The list is rounded out with cupcake recipes. 

In eigth place, Snickers Cupcakes, a rich chocolate cupcake, filled with caramel and topped with caramel buttercream and chopped Snickers bar pieces.  I've since decided I prefer to add a little chopped candy bar to the caramel filling in the center as well as it helps hold the cupcake together a little better. 

Next up is another chocolate favorite, Chocolate Cherry Coke Cupcakes.  Again these start out with a chocolate cupcake base but this time they get filled with a cherry filling, topped with a Coke glaze and frosted with whipped cream frosting.  A cute little cherry on top make these an adorable and nostalgic favorite.

Next on the list, is a cupcake that could be breakfast or dessert.  Apple Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes are a delicious, portable (although still sticky) cinnamon roll baked up in cupcake form.  The method is the same as a classic cinnamon roll but the cupcake presentation adds a cute touch for a brunch or other gathering.

Finally, the last favorite of the year is a cupcake I baked up for my husband for his birthday this year.  These Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes would definitely make my short list of favorites as well.  The cake is super moist and has a light orange flavor.  The combination of orange buttercream and marshmallow cream filling give the cupcake that creamsicle flavor that takes these over the top.

That wraps up the list of 2011 reader favorites.  All in all, 2011 was a great, although extremely busy, year for my family. 

Of course, my favorite thing I "baked" in 2011 was our daughter, Aubrey, who arrived in February.  I can't believe it's time to start planning her first birthday party now.


From there the year was a blur of selling our house, weddings, vacations, and buying and remodeling our new house that still hasn't really ended but as the year comes to a close, I'm trying to appreciate what we have and live more in the moment rather than rushing to get to the next big thing.  Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers, thanks for putting up with a lot more sporadic posting than I would have liked this year.  Although I don't see 2012 calming down any, I'm hoping I can squeeze in some recipes with a bit more regularity.  I've got some great ones to share with you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

White Chocolate Cinnamon Crunch Popcorn

Want some gourmet popcorn that you can make right at home?  It's easier than you might think.  But it probably involves more butter than you think so make this before your New Year's resolutions take effect.  This would actually be a perfect snack for a New Year's Eve party. 

However, if you make your popcorn in the microwave, I hope you'll reconsider.  It is so much better when you make it on the stove top.  You don't end up with all the chemicals and it's super easy.  All you need is a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, a little canola or vegetable oil, and some popcorn kernels.  Personally I've replaced my popcorn pan with a Whirleypop, a switch I made a few years ago when we upgraded our stove to a glass top instead of coil burners.  I didn't want to scratch the stove top shaking the pan so I bought the Whirleypop which has the same result but since it has a mechanism to stir the popcorn inside the pan, you don't have to shake it.  It was a worthwhile investment for us since I'm a popcorn lover and it was only about $30. 

Anyway, back to the recipe, you can make your popcorn on the stove or in an air popper, or if you must use the microwave, at least make sure you are using the natural popcorn without butter or other flavorings. 

White Chocolate Cinnamon Crunch Popcorn
Recipe adapted from Right at Home

2/3 cup popcorn kernels (about 16 cups popped)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 squares almond bark

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Pop popcorn and set aside in large bowls, make sure to leave yourself room to mix in the bowls or it will get very messy.

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and corn syrup in a large microwave safe bowl.  (If your butter is straight out of the refrigerator, cut it into chunks before adding it to the bowl to help it melt faster.)  Microwave on high for about 30 seconds and then stir to combine everything.  Microwave an additional two minutes and stir and return to microwave for two more minutes.  Add vanilla and baking soda and stir to combine, the mixture will foam and rise when you add the baking soda.  Divide hot caramel mixture evenly among the popcorn bowls and quickly stir to coat the popcorn.  Continue to gently mix until topping is well distributed. 

Pour popcorn mixture onto prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.  Lay out another large sheet of parchment paper on your counter.  Remove the popcorn from the oven and spread out on parchment paper.  Melt almond bark (I like to use a double boiler method as it scorches very easily in the microwave but you can use whatever method you prefer) and drizzle over popcorn.  Let popcorn cool and then break into chunks and serve or store in an airtight container. 

(Whirleypop has not sponsored this post in anyway, these are my own opinions.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family to yours...

Thanks for reading, I'll be back soon with some new recipes. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheese Stuffed Everything Pretzels

It only takes one word to describe these pretzels... awesome! 

Of course, I will continue to type because I can't actually just stop at the one word.  Soft pretzels are delicious on their own, this recipe adds cheese to the middle and then adds poppy seeds, garlic, and minced onion to the normal sea salt topping.  Takes them to a whole new level.  Just look at the oozy cheese, the crunchy toppings... yummm...

This is also a super easy recipe for those of you who are afraid of yeast... there is no rising, punching, etc.  This recipe also skips the normal soft pretzel step of boiling the dough in a baking soda bath before cooking as well.  This makes for an incredibly quick pretzel recipe.  I think I had these mixed, rolled, shaped, and baked in under an hour. 

Cheese Stuffed Everything Pretzels
Adapted from Guy Fieri, via the Food Network

1 1/2 cups warm water (approx. 110 degrees)
2 packets active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
3 cups shredded colby jack cheese

1 egg
2 T milk
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp sea salt

In a large measuring cup, heat water and sprinkle yeast over the water.  Stir to combine and let sit for about 10 minutes until frothy.  Meanwhile, in a food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine all dry ingredients and pulse to combine.  Add egg and yeast mixture and pulse in short bursts until the dough comes together.  Do not over mix, you just want the dough to come together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times with your hands.  If dough feels sticky, add a little more flour.  Form the dough into a ball and cut in half.

Roll out 1/2 of the dough into a large rectangle, approximately 12"x17", sprinkle about 3/4 cup of the colby jack cheese down the center 1/3 of the dough.  Fold one edge over the cheese, sprinkle with another 3/4 cup cheese, and fold over the remaining 1/3.  Pinch the edges of the dough to seal the cheese inside.  Roll out the dough again into a rectangle about 11"x15".  Cut the dough into six strips approximately 1 1/2" wide.  Roll each strip into a tube and form into a pretzel shape by looping and crossing the ends over each other, then tuck back onto the loop and pinch to seal.  Transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining half of dough. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine remaining egg and milk.  Whisk to combine and set aside.  In another small bowl, combine poppy seeds, garlic, onion, and salt.  Brush the pretzels liberally with the egg wash, then sprinkle with spice mixture.  Bake 18-20 minutes until light golden brown.  Transfer pretzels to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pizza Bread

The next time you need a simple appetizer for an event, let me recommend this one.  There are endless variations and it takes next to no time at all to throw together.  It works for football games, it works for kids, it works for girls' nights... why?  Because it's easy, delicious, and adaptable.

I originally spotted this idea on Pinterest... it's my latest internet obsession and I've pinned about 4,000 things and made about five of them.  In honor of the "Pinterest Challenge" (see the details here, here, here, or here and check out all the other Pinterest projects), I had to get this posted today so I could play along. 

There are several variations of this appetizer floating around, anything from a warm and gooey cinnamon roll version that I figure would be great for a brunch, to the "bloomin' onion" spin-off, to the bacon-loaded "crack bread" version.  I opted to go with a pizza version this time around.  Of course, I modified it a bit, I don't like pepperoni so I used Italian sausage.  It takes about five minutes of hands-on prep time and a little patience while it's in the oven.  You may need to adjust the quantities slightly depending on the size of the bread boule you buy.  (Did you know boule is a fancy way of saying round when referring to bread?)  You can also try several different types of bread but I used an Italian bread for this one.  Depending on the flavors you add to it, you may want to consider sourdough or other types.

Pizza Bread
Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 unsliced Italian bread boule (or whatever type you prefer)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
3 T butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 T Parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce for serving

In a medium skillet, brown sausage and crumble as it cooks.  Drain well and set aside.  Prepare a baking pan by lining it with aluminum foil.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Carefully slice the bread in long slices, taking care not go all the way through.  Turn the bread 90 degrees and cut slices the opposite direction, again leaving the bottom connected.  The second set of cuts will be a little more difficult to make.  If your bread is very soft, you may want to put it in the refrigerator for about thirty minutes before you try to cut it so it is a little easier.  The cuts don't have to be perfect though so don't worry if your lines aren't straight and such.

Next start tucking the crumbled sausage and the shredded cheese into the cuts in the bread, pack it in as much as possible.  In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese.  Pour butter mixture over the top of the bread.  Cover the bread with another piece of foil, molding it down around the bread, and bake about fifteen minutes, uncover and continue baking about ten more minutes until the top is golden and the cheese is all melted.  Serve warm with pizza sauce.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beer Cheese Macaroni

As I've mentioned a time or two in the past, macaroni and cheese is definitely up there on my list of favorite foods.  In my mind, it's pretty much the perfect comfort food.  While I definitely have a favorite traditional mac and cheese recipe, I also like to experiment with variations.  Check out these other macaroni recipes I've posted previously - Spicy Crab Macaroni and Cheese, Baked Mac and Cheese, Stovetop Mac and Cheese, and this chicken version - White Cheddar Chicken Pasta.

Well when I saw this beer cheese soup turned mac and cheese recipe on Pinterest, I couldn't pass it up.  I figured it would be perfect for our tailgating party for the upcoming game.  Let me tell you, don't wait to make this one.  This is some fantastic pasta.  The beer combines perfectly with the smoked and sharp cheddar cheeses and whole wheat pasta.  I used a Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer but any decent beer should work, I think I would avoid the light beers for this recipe, as you want something with a bit more flavor.

Feel free to adjust the cheeses but I think the blend of 1/3 smoked cheddar, 1/3 sharp white cheddar, and 1/3 mild cheddar, along with a little American cheese gives great flavor.  I added the American cheese slices because I like the creaminess that it adds.  I just used slices from the deli but you could shred it as well.  The recipe that I used baked the mac and cheese but I opted not too for this one since it was so creamy straight from the stovetop.  If you want to bake it, I recommend adding a bread crumb topping.

Beer Cheese Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from HowSweetEats

12 oz uncooked whole wheat elbow or shell pasta
2 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
1 cup milk
1 cup beer
4 oz smoked cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz mild cheddar cheese, grated
6 slices American cheese
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
10 basil leaves

Heat a large pot of water to boiling, add a liberal amount of salt when boiling and add pasta.  Cook to just al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and return to pan or crock pot if you want to keep it hot for a while (you don't want to cook it in the crock pot but it can stay on low for a short while, if you plan to leave it in the crock pot for an extended time, you'll want to cook your pasta just shy of al dente so it doesn't turn mushy.)

Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk to make a roux.  Continue whisking until the roux start to turn golden and bubbles, about two minutes.  Add milk and beer, stirring constantly.  Cook for about five minutes until the mixture begins to thicken slightly.  Reduce heat to low and add cheeses by the handful, stirring to melt and incorporate.  The sauce will thicken slightly but will not be as thick as regular mac and cheese at this point.  Add paprika, mustard, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour sauce over pasta and stir to distribute.  Chiffonade basil leaves by stacking and rolling tightly, then use a sharp knife to cut thin slices to form ribbons.  Stir basil into pasta and serve. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

It's football season!  Finally, it's time for Saturday's spent at the stadium, tailgating, cooler weather, sweatshirts... the list goes on and on, I love fall.  While summer is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, sunshine, and pool time, it also requires (at least in my world) air conditioning and bug spray.  While summer is great while it lasts, by August I'm always impatiently waiting for fall to make an appearance.

To kick off the home football season this year (sort of, technically I missed the first game - college football shouldn't happen on Thursday nights) I brought buffalo chicken burgers to our tailgate.  These burgers were pretty tasty - so much so in fact that I made them again just a couple nights later.  Full disclosure - the speediness was partially so I could take the picture that I forgot to take in the parking lot but it was also at the request of my husband.  For tailgating, I made these as sliders (aka mini burgers) but at home I made them full size.  Take your pick, although I prefer the sliders, just because they are more fun in my opinion.

In my mind there are two choices for condiments when it comes to buffalo chicken, ranch or blue cheese.  If you side with me on this one, top your burgers with a dollop of ranch dressing and a slice of cheddar cheese.  If you disagree, top them with some blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

1 lb ground chicken
3-4 green onions, diced
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce (plus more for serving)
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 slices day old bread or 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
Ranch and/or blue cheese salad dressing
Frank's Red Hot sauce
Cheddar cheese slices or crumbled blue cheese
8 small rolls or 4 hamburger buns

Prepare grill to medium heat or preheat a cast iron skillet if cooking indoors.  If you are using day old bread, quickly tear into chunks and pulse in a food processor to make crumbs.  In a large bowl, add all of the burger ingredients and gently mix until just incorporated.  (Don't skip the egg and breadcrumbs, they will really help the patties stay together.)  Form into four patties for full size burgers or eight small patties for sliders.  Make each patty slider larger than the bun and slightly thinner in the center (this is more important for full size burgers.)  Cook finished patties about five - seven (three to four for sliders) minutes per side (you want these cooked all the way through since it's poultry and not beef but don't overcook them or they will be dry), flip once and cook through.  Just before the finished, top with cheddar slices if desired.  Serve on hamburger buns topped with condiments of your choice.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mango Date Muffins

Knock, knock, knock... is anyone still here?  Anybody?  Good news... I'm alive and I have a kitchen again.  Oh wait, I didn't tell you about the fact that we didn't have kitchen for a while because we sold our house!  Oh yeah that was a couple of months ago, we sold our house at the end of May and started what may have been some of the busiest weeks ever. 

We went to Maryland (twice actually) for my friend Michelle's bridal shower and wedding.  I did make some cute personalized sugar cookies (see the recipe here), a bunch of cupcakes (Triple Lemon and Lemon Meringue - lemon's her favorite) and a devil's food chocolate cake with coconut cream filling and frosting - of course I don't have any good pictures.

The next week we packed up our whole house into a Pod container, closed on our house and left for Jamaica for a week for my cousin Blake's wedding - welcome to the family Summer! 

When we got home from Jamaica we were supposed to move into an Extended Stay America for two weeks but as luck would have it, Todd's cousins offered up their house in exchange for petsitting while they went on vacation so we moved there instead. 

Finally mid-June rolled around and we closed on our new house.  Of course the work didn't stop there as we've since been busy remodeling and modernizing our 40ish year old house that was a little bit stuck in the 70's. 

Painting paneling and beams, built-ins and trim, adding French doors, new sectional... it was so much work but worth it and I'm really glad we kept the panelling.

So far we've finished (is a room ever really finished?) the family room and Aubrey's room.

New beadboard and chair rail and soft yellow walls with the pink curtains from her nursery at our first house to make a cozy little girl's room.  We still need some pictures for those frames and to paint and move the chandelier from the dining room.

So the good news is that things are starting to calm down ever so slightly so I'm not making any promises at this point but hopefully I'll get back to blogging with a little bit more regularity.  I do have several recipes that I want to share that have been piling up even though it seems like I'm only cooking when we have guests these days.

For now, I'm going to share one of my favorites from the past couple of months. 

I baked these as jumbo muffins but they could be baked in regular size muffin tins as well.  They are reminiscent of a spice cake or carrot cake but with delicious chunks of mango.  Although the decision to make these muffins was an improvisation with leftover ingredients mostly because I had a couple of mangoes around because of plans to make mango peach salsa that didn't materialize, they turned out to be one of my favorite things I've made this summer.  I've definitely added the recipe to the list for repeat desserts.  And since they are muffins, I vote they even work for breakfast - just hold the ice cream.

Mango - Date Muffins
Inspired by Fresh Mango Bread from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yields 18 jumbo muffins

4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup canola oil
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 - 3 cups diced, peeled mango (about two mangoes)
1/3 cup diced dried dates
2 T dark rum
1 T orange zest

Soak chopped dates in dark rum in a small dish until softened.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray muffin tins with baking spray or butter and flour.  Whisk together eggs and oil in a small bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.  Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir just until combined, either by hand with a wooden spoon or on low speed in mixer.  The batter will be thick.  Drain dates and add along with mango and orange zest and stir to distribute.  Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way full. 

Bake the muffins about 25 minutes until golden brown.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool for about five minutes in the pan and then transfer muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.  These muffins are excellent served slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes

For my husband's birthday last month, Aubrey and I surprised him by visiting him at work with a dozen cupcakes to share with his office.  I wanted to do something different and I was inspired by a new drink that my sister and her husband introduced us to - a cocktail of orange Fanta and whipped vodka.  The cupcakes were a little more acceptable for the office, although I'm sure the vodka would have been appreciated!

The recipe is a combination of a few different sources - I adapted the recipe on I Heart Cuppycakes who adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes and Dulcedo.  The cake is really moist and don't skip the orange zest because it adds so much flavor and I love seeing the little bits of zest in the cake.  The marshmallow cream is a great addition to these cupcakes, it really gives it the creamsicle flavor instead of just an orange cupcake. 

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from I Heart Cuppycakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 T citrus olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 T vanilla
2 eggs
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pans with paper liners.  (This made 16 cupcakes for me.)

Combine butter, olive oil and sugar and mix on medium high speed about three minutes until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs and mix about one more minute until well incorporated.  Stir in orange zest.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Separately combine heavy cream and orange juice.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of the cream mixture and repeat, finishing with the flour.  Mix until just incorporated after each addition. 

Scoop batter into prepared liners, filling about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake about twenty minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans about five minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Marshmallow Cream Filling:
7 oz marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Cut butter into small pieces and add to fluff in a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Cut a small cone shape into the top of each cupcake and spoon marshmallow cream into wells allowing the cream to puddle on top of the cupcake slightly.  (Don't add too much, when you add the buttercream, it will cause the cream to move out toward the edges of the cupcakes.)

Orange Buttercream:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 - 1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add orange juice, zest, and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing until incorporated to reach desired consistency.  Whip on medium high speed about two minutes until smooth and creamy.  Transfer to a piping bag fitted with desired tip and pipe onto cupcakes. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Lately anything that can be made in five minutes or with one hand is what I'm making for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  These smoothies fit the bill - with a bonus that I only need one hand to drink it too.  Things involving forks and knives haven't been happening too often lately. 

This "recipe" is more of a method, you can change out the fruit to whatever you like best.  The yogurt is a must have for me - but feel free to use plain or vanilla or even another flavor if you prefer - but it really adds to the creamy smooth texture of the smoothie.  I also always combine fruit juice and milk instead of just milk to add some extra flavor.  Orange juice is my favorite but I also sometimes use cranberry juice - it's especially good with blueberries in your smoothie.  My final tip is frozen berries - using frozen berries means you don't have to add ice.  Your smoothie will have so much more flavor if you use frozen fruit instead of ice which dilutes the smoothie.  Occasionally I use frozen banana too - it's a great way to use up bananas that are almost past their prime, peel them, cut them into big chunks and freeze in a Ziploc bag and then use throw them in smoothies.

If you want to add some extra protein to your smoothie, mix in a scoop of protein powder and its a great post workout snack.  I prefer to mix the milk, OJ and powder by itself before adding the fruit because I think it gets rid of the grittiness that can sometimes result from adding protein powder to things.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

8-10 large frozen strawberries
1 banana
1/2 cup milk (I use skim)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about two minutes until smooth.  Pour and serve.  This makes 2-4 smoothies depending on the serving, for breakfast I usually split this between my husband and I, as a snack, it would serve four.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Little Leprechaun's Pot of Gold Cake

So having a new baby has been an excuse to celebrate all the little holidays, "it's her first..." has commonly been my rationale.  So making a St. Patrick's Day cake - for a 1 month old baby who can't eat it - didn't seem at all over the top in my mind.  Especially when I had a great idea for a cake to try.  Now if only I could celebrate with things like baby carrots and salad maybe I would be more prepared for Aubrey's first trip to the beach but we'll get there -- and let's be honest, cake is way more fun than carrots and salad. 

This cake was a spin off of this cookies and cream cake I made for my husband last year for his birthday.  I tried these Golden Oreos at my in-laws house a couple of months ago and thought they were delicious.  When I saw the spring Oreos in the store the other day, I thought they were cute with the green filling but my mind went back to these.  

This yellow cake recipe isnt the usual one I use, simply because I wanted something quick and this one didn't require beating the egg whites and folding them in separately and also used buttermilk and all purpose flour rather than cake flour.  The result - a quick easy yellow cake recipe, it works great in this instance because its not too soft to hold up to the filling.  

Pot of Gold Cake

Recipe from The Modern Baker
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray two 8" cake pans with baking spray or butter and flour and line with parchment paper and spray paper. 

Cream together butter and sugar in a mixing bowl on medium speed about 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing about 1 minute after each addition until well incorporated.  Add half of the flour, half of the baking powder and the salt.  Mix on low speed until just incorporated.  Add buttermilk and mix until incorporated and add remaining flour and baking powder.  Increase the speed to medium and beat an additional 2 minutes. 

Divide batter evenly between pans and bake about 25 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool about 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out on wire racks, flip them over so they are top side up.  Cool completely then slice each cake layer in half horizontally to make 4 thin layers and assemble.

Golden Oreo Cream Filling
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 package Golden Oreo cookies, crushed

Process cookies in a food processer until they are fine crumbs.  Add heavy cream to a cold mixing bowl (putting the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes prior to mixing will speed up the process) fitted with the whisk attachment and beat 2-3 minutes until cream forms stiff peaks.  Add vanilla extract and blend until mixed.  Gently fold in crushed cookies.  Add 1/3 of the cream mixture in between each layer of cake.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 T heavy cream
3 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add vanilla and cream and mix until well incorporated.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing on low speed until frosting reaches desired thickness.  Increase speed to medium and whip about 1 minute until smooth.  Tint with gel food coloring as desired and frost cake.  Cover and refrigerate cake if not serving within a couple of hours.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chipotle Chicken Sliders

Well here's an idea of how far behind I am on blogging -- I actually made these sliders for the Superbowl.  The fact that it's a month later and I'm just now getting around to posting them says nothing about the quality of these sliders but is really just an idea of how crazy my life has been.  Truthfully, I've got even more recipes to post that I made well before these. 

I love sliders -- they are the perfect size for a party so you don't have to commit to just eating a burger.  I quickly made these sliders because I had an open can of chipotles in adobo from my chipotle chicken pasta that I wanted to use some more of rather than freezing.  I used a nice sharp cheddar cheese to top these but I think a monterey jack or pepper jack cheese would also be delicious.  Get some nice fresh rolls from a bakery for these - I used some sourdough rolls that were great.  A little red onion and a cilantro lime mayo are the finishing touches for a great little sandwich.

Chipotle Chicken Sliders

2 T olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped + 1 T of the sauce
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg
8 rolls
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
8 thin slices of red onion


1/2 cup mayo
1 T lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro
Chop cilantro finely and stir into mayo with lime juice and set aside. 

Preheat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat and add oil.  Combine all remaining ingredients except rolls, cheese, and onion slices in a large bowl, gently mix until just combined.  Divide mix into eight equal portions and form into small patties, thinning just slightly in the center.  Transfer patties to hot pan, cooking about 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through. 

Meanwhile preheat broiler on low.  On a large sheet pan, cut rolls in half and lay out evenly.  Add burgers and cheese to bottom of rolls.  Broil until cheese is melted and rolls are golden brown.  Spread tops of rolls with mayo and top burgers with onion slices and serve.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

King Cake

First of all, I want to say thank you if you are still reading my blog - sorry for the three week interruption in posting but we've been a little busy.  Three weeks ago we welcomed our daughter, Aubrey to the world.  She was born at just over eight pounds the night before Valentine's Day.  Since then life has been an amazing mix of staring at our beautiful baby girl, family and friends visiting and a little sleep deprivation so I haven't spent much time in the kitchen.  I promise I won't turn this into a blog about Aubrey but I have to share a couple pictures to introduce my little girl. 
Photo by Dede Holman Photography

Photo by Dede Holman Photography

As for a recipe - I finally got around to making a king cake yesterday... something that's been on my list of things to make for at least two years.  I always seemed to run out of time during Mardi Gras "season" but got one made just in time this year.  We get a few king cakes delivered to the office every year at work which is where I originally discovered this treat.  It's essentially like a giant cinnamon roll but baked into a ring-shaped cake and decorated with bright purple, yellow and green sugars for festive Mardi Gras flavor.

The dough itself is an easy yeast recipe but it does take a little time.  The initial mixing is very simple but make sure to allow about three hours total for rising time.  The filling is a slightly modified cinnamon and sugar mixture spiked with a little bourbon and raisins.  The icing adds a tart lemon flavor which is a nice mix with the sweetness of the powdered sugar.

King Cake
Recipe adapted from All Recipes

1/2 cup half and half
2 T butter
1 package active dry yeast (.25 ounce)
1/3 cup warm water (approx 110 degrees F)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour plus more for rolling
Zest of 1 lemon

Scald half and half over medium heat, remove from heat and add butter.  While mixture cools, stir together warm water, yeast and 1 T of the sugar in bowl of a stand mixer and let stand until foamy.  When half and half mixture is cooled, add to yeast mixture.  Add remaining sugar and egg and beat until well incorporated.  Add salt, nutmeg and flour one cup at a time.  Stir in lemon zest and switch to dough hook attachment.  Knead with dough hook for about 5-7 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  It will still be fairly sticky.  Oil a deep bowl and transfer dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until doubled in size. 

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup melted butter
2 T bourbon
1/2 cup raisins

Combine bourbon and raisins in a small bowl and set aside.  Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and flour and then stir in melted butter. 

Punch down dough and turn out onto a heavily floured surface.  Roll dough out into a large rectangle about 12x16 inches.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread filling mixture over dough in a thin layer leaving about a one inch edge free around the whole rectangle.  Drain raisins and sprinkle over filling.  Begin rolling dough like a jelly roll from the wide edge.  Roll tightly and transfer to baking sheet.  Form dough into an oval, seam side down and pinch edges to seal.  Using a sharp knife or cooking scissors, cut slices into top of dough about every two inches approximately 1/3 of the way through dough.  Cover with a towel and let rise an additional 45 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake approximately 30 minutes until golden brown. 

2 cups powdered sugar
2 T lemon juice
2 T half and half
3/4 cup demerara sugar
Food coloring in green, yellow and purple

Whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice and half and half until smooth.  Pour over cooled king cake.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and a couple drops of yellow food coloring and stir together.  Transfer to a small bowl or plate.  Add 1/4 cup sugar and a couple drops of green food coloring and stir together.  Transfer to a small bowl or plate.  Add last cup of sugar and purple food coloring and stir to combine.  Sprinkle sugar over icing as desired.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Breakfast in Bed for Your Valentine

Take advantage of the weekend this year and make your sweetheart breakfast in bed.  But take a couple of shortcuts so you don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to get it done.  These recipes can be made in advance the night before and then just pop them in the oven when you're ready to make them. 

This first recipe is one that we make all the time in my family for holidays and I have to admit that we change up the add-ins pretty much every time we make it.  But the basics stay the same.  This makes a big 9x13 casserole so you may want to cut the recipe back for just a couple people or you'll be eating breakfast casserole for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  This is how we made it on Christmas morning this year.  The recipe was originally adapted from old cookbook that my mom has had for years that I believe was put together by local women as a fundraiser for the country club about 30 years ago. 

Ham and Swiss Breakfast Casserole
Family recipe

8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
8 slices sandwich bread
2 cups thawed frozen spinach
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz ham, cut into 1/2" chunks
8 oz Swiss cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (if you are going to bake right away).  Spray a 9x13 casserole pan with cooking spray or grease with butter.  In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk together.  Add salt and pepper and set aside. 

Cut or tear the bread into about one inch pieces and toss in the pan.  Add vegetables, make sure your frozen spinach is well drained - add it to a double layer of paper towels and wrap it up and squeeze out all the water.  Add garlic and ham and toss everything together in the pan.  Pour egg mixture over the top, pushing everything down if it floats up.  Top with grated cheese.  At this point, you can cover the casserole with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight if desired.

Bake covered for about 30 minutes, remove foil and continue baking an additional 15 to 30 minutes until casserole is set and golden brown.  Let stand about 10 minutes before cutting. 

Some other recipes to try or serve along with your casserole:

Enjoy -- Happy Valentine's Day!

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