3.29.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: French Breakfast Puffs

. Easter is JUST around the corner (i.e., a month away...but so what!) and if you're like [crazy] me, you've already begun to plan what you'll be having for that weekend.  There's a great possibility that my family will be visiting from Minnesota and we all know how their last holiday visit went (cough, my dad claims he lost weight due to the lack of food in my house, cough).  So I'm sure as ever not going to let that happen again!

As I mentioned, my mind has already begun reeling about all of the goodies I [hopefully] would like to bake, mainly covering breakfast and dessert.  I guess they'll have to fend for themselves when it comes to the other meals.  Sorry dad, I can only do so much ☺  But I definitely want to have things around the house my family can snack on [instead of apparently starving], which brought me to one of my favorite recipes that was given to me by my lovely mother, French Breakfast Puffs.  I truthfully can't even tell you where she got this recipe, but all I know is that I fell in love with these the very first time she ever made them!

These little creations are oh, so simple yet crazily slightly addictive.  They're basically a small puff [obviously] of doughnutty-textured-delicately-spiced cake with a kiss of butter on top and rolled in a delicious mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  See.  Simple, huh?!  I just imagine these sitting on the counter throughout the weekend, their numbers slowly dwindling as the hours days pass by.  Perfect as a morning breakfast goodie with a steaming hot cup of coffee.  Mm, Mm, Mm!

So here I give you my first of many Easter goodies for you to try out that special weekend...or any other day for that matter!  Bon appetit! .

French Breakfast Puffs


Ingredients:
Muffins:
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. butter
2 eggs
3 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. milk

Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture:
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease regular-sized muffin cups.  
  2. In large bowl, cream sugar and butter together (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs and beat to combine.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. With a few minutes left before the muffins are done baking, melt the butter.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.  
  6. Remove muffins from oven and immediately dip tops in melted butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Repeat with the remaining muffins.
Yield: 24 muffins

3.27.2011

Sunday Special: Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice Casserole


. I've slowly made my way through worldy cuisines, some American fare, Mediterranean (okay, I guess only two...) and last weekend I decided to try my hand at some Mexican influences (from the title, it was obviously Americanized a tad.  But work with me!).

Okay, so I do have to let you in on a little tid bit about me.  I LOVE [x10] Mexican food.  More than I can explain.  I'm half-Japanese but my parents always joked that I'm Mexican at heart.  I love burritos [especially], quesadillas, refried beans (oo yum!!), and pretty much any other item that classifies as Mexican food.  I don't know what it is but I can't get enough of it.  Ever.  For example?  Every one of our birthday dinners growing up, my mom let us decide what we wanted to have.  My choice?  Yep, you guessed it.  The majority of the time my mom didn't even need to ask, she knew we'd be having tacos and burritos the first week of every March.  Oh, those were the days ☺

So back to this casserole.  FAB!  Truthfully, as I started making this dish I wasn't too optimistic on how it would turn out.  I didn't realize this until I was doing my grocery shopping, but the recipe calls for boxed rice.  Now, I'm not opposed to boxes of any sort [except that I shy away from them heavily when I'm baking] but I seem to always find that non-boxed (?) ingredients are a little better.  However, since I'm a pre-beginner chef, boxes help out A LOT!  So I went with it.


And the end result supremely passed my expectations!  I'll admit, Mexican food can get a little heavy with all the cheese (but who actually minds that), sauces, you know the deal-io.  But this dish was actually very light and not grease-laden in the least.  It calls for only a small amount of cheese across the top to add a great creamy texture that you MUST have with any Mexican dish but the rest of the flavor all comes from the herbs and spices and of course, some peppers are thrown in there.  I also served the casserole with a loaf of rye bread (bread with my dinners seems to be a recurring theme...) that went very well with everything.  My boyfriend and I both found ourselves taking slices of bread and laying atop the casserole for a little more hearty dinner (see, I told you it was pretty light).  And what do you know, we ate almost the entire thing.  Crazy!

All in all, last weekends dinner was another fun success.  If you're a lover of Mexican food [like myself] but just don't feel like anything too heavy, this is your dish!  I won't even tell you to try to restrain yourself from eating too much...because we didn't.  Sorry ☺ .

Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice Casserole
Better Homes and Gardens


Ingredients:

1/2 c. chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 (6.9 oz.) package chicken-flavored rice and vermicelli mix
1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth
2 c. water
2 c. cooked chicken or turkey, chopped
1 c. seeded tomatoes (about 2 medium), chopped
3 tbsp. canned diced green chile peppers, drained
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1-1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
  1. In medium saucepan, cook onion in hot oil over medium heat until tender.  Stir in rice and vermicelli mix, including seasoning mix.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in broth and water.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes (liquid will not be fully absorbed).
  2. Heat oven to 425°F.  Transfer rice mixture to large bowl.  Stir in chicken, tomatoes, chili peppers, basil, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper.  Transfer to 2-quart casserole.
  3. Bake, covered, for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 280 ; Fat: 10g ; Cholesterol: 52mg ; Sodium: 931mg ; Carbohydrates: 28g ; Sugar: 3g ; Protein: 20g

Happy to get some savory food once in a while!

*My Notes:
  • I made this casserole with the ground turkey I also used for the Sloppy Joe's.  It was very, very good but I wouldn't be opposed trying chicken the next time around.  Either way, both choices are very healthy and yummy!

3.24.2011

Fallen Souffle Chocolate Torte

. I have never had a souffle.  In fact, I've never actually seen one in person and I couldn't have told you the first thing about what it tasted like, the texture...anything!  So I guess we can say that taking on this particular baking feat was entirely random.  But was I pleasantly surprised?  Oh, more than!

At first I was extremely skeptical how this would turn out since the base of the souffle consists entirely of eggs.  Eggs?!  Yep, weird.  I also didn't know if there was going to be much flavor.  But somehow it all comes together into a light, but chocolatey circle of deliciousness!  The exterior of the souffle is slightly more firm (but very, very slightly) and as you make your way to the center, it turns to an oh-so-yummy, soft and gooey, fudge-like texture [I think I just used all of the possible descriptors I could think of...].  Gosh, I need some.  Now.

To be honest, I have a slight obsession with this dessert.  I know I haven't thought about a single treat more than this one.  I made this last Friday and by Sunday (when of course my boyfriend and I had eaten almost all of it), I thoroughly contemplated whipping together ANOTHER souffle.  However, I knew my waistline would not agree with me later in the week after eating not one, but two chocolate souffles in one weekend.  Darn you, conscience.

Anywho, the Fallen Souffle Chocolate Torte comes from Marcy Goldman's A Passion for Baking {shockerrr, it seems like I go back to her every other recipe!).  And no, she did not fail me. Not in the least.

So just in time for your weekend get-togethers [or just yourself, no problem in that!], wow your guests with this simple, yet elegant dessert.  Actually, make two just in case! .

Fallen Souffle Chocolate Torte


Ingredients:
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 c. unsalted butter
8 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
6 egg yolks
Cocoa powder

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 325°F.  Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and generously spray parchment and inner sides of pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  Melt chocolate and butter.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In mixer bowl, using whisk attachment on low speed, whisk egg whites with salt until they foam a bit.  Increase speed to high and dust in 1/4 cup sugar until fluffy and stiff.  Transfer to large bowl.











4.  In mixer bowl, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until very pale.  Stir in melted chocolate-butter mixture.  Fold in some egg whites to lighten chocolate and whisk very thoroughly.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites in batches, showing more restraint and calmness so as to have a light, chocolatey batter.


5.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Bake 35 to 45 minutes until barely set and still a bit wobbly (if you test the cake, the toothpick will come out with bits of batter on it).  Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before unmolding.

As the souffle begins to cool, the center will begin to fall.  Don't worry, it's supposed to!

6.  When cool, dust generously with cocoa.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

*My Notes:
  • The longer this cake is able to sit and set up, the better!  If you just can't resist, the middle will be more gooey but still fabulous.  If you are able to control yourself (we definitely didn't), the center will firm up a bit but will still be much softer than the outside edges.
  • The original recipe also mentioned garnishing the souffle with raspberry puree or a semisweet chocolate drizzle.  Either would be great, but I chose to wait on the raspberries until they're in season.  Can't wait for that time to roll around!

3.22.2011

Stylish Blogger Award


. I have an announcement to make (that actually occurred quite a while ago, sorry!): Audrey, from A Day with a Domestic Engineer, has passed along the Stylish Blogger Award to me and Life's Simple Measures!  I, of course, don't feel that I deserve it but hey, I'll take it!  And I'd like to add in a few more !!!!!!!!! just to let you know how excited I am about it!

Once a blogger receives this award, there are several 'duties' that they (as in me) are entitled to complete:
  • Thank and link back to the person who honored you with the award (see above ☺)
  • Share 7 things about yourself (see below!)
  • Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers (that won't be hard since I seem to be in awe of everyone's blogging abilities)
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

So, let's get to this list of 7 things about me.  Eek, 7...?!

1.  I was born in St. Charles, MO, moved to Puyallup, WA for 8 years, and officialy grew up in Woodbury, MN where my family has been ever since.  Side note: my boyfriend was ALSO born in St. Charles, MO in the SAME hospital!  Crazy and small world, huh?? 


2.  My family are the most important people in my life, no question.  I am so extrememly fortunate and thankful to have the parents I do, who have supported me unconditionally, and a brother who I very much admire.  Truthfully, I don't know what I would do without them!

Left: Daddio, Mom and Brother (and Miso, the tiny runt in my mom's hands)

3.  I went to Creighton University in Omaha, NE to play softball.  I had the most wonderful teammates and made some life-long friends, I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.  Oh, and I also met my boyfriend there who was a part of the baesball team (and another side note: we both played centerfield ☺)

That's us!

4.  I double majored in Entrepreneurship and Marketing, with the hopes that I'll be able to have my own restaurant/bakery like Wheatfield's.  Maybe one day...

Wheatfield's entryway, I'll be blogging about this place.  Favorite bakery in Omaha!

5.  I have three dogs, yes, three!  I've mentioned them in previous posts but in case you DON'T know, they are the absolute loves of my life.  Ollie (Oliver), Graham, and Tilly (or Tiwwy as we call her many a time), are the perfect trio and we really couldn't have asked for anything more.  If you ever meet them, you'll know why.

Left: Graham, Ollie and Tilly

6.  My boyfriend and I have been dating for just about 4-1/2 years now  (wow, wrting that out is wierd).  Many people joke that we met over the outfield fence at Creighton (ha, ha) but I like to believe that many other things brought us together.  I really don't know how he deals with me sometimes, but thankfully he does.  We've been through the good, the bad, and the ugly, but at the end of the day, I know I'm blessed to have him in my life!

During a random stop through the Wisconsin Dells.  Kodak moment!

7.  And for my last and final "fun fact", to round out all of the most important aspects of my life, I am so incredibly pleased to announce that...

My best friend is getting married!!

WoOooooOOOooo!

My beloved friend, who I spent every day in high school with, was proposed to on March 21, 2011, and I couldn't be HAPPIER for them!! 

Congratulations you two, you know who you are!

The happy couple and their beautiful baby, Nora.

So there you have it, 7 things for you to get to know the real me a little better!

And now to pass the Stylish Blogger Award on to some of those I find inspiration from...


Please check out these blogs, each and every one of them has fantastic things to offer and you will thoroughly enjoy reading their posts.  Have fun and thanks again Audrey! .

Tried & True Tuesday: Carrot Tea Cake

. St. Patty's Day has finally passed, which means no more green desserts, corned beef, potatoes, or soda bread.  So what next?!  There really is nothing in season as of now (at least in good ol' Nebraska) but this lull we are experiencing before the fresh produce begins to pop up [literally] can only be filled with one thing: carrots!

What?  A veggie?  You betcha!  Easter is just around the corner and in order to get in that dyed egg-bunny hopping-chocolate candies mood, I think a few carrot desserts are the perfect solution.  And quite honestly, I've been dying for the St. Patrick's Day festivities to subside so I could officially begin testing out a number of carrots desserts that I've been collecting.  And yes, I'm a seasonal person so I did have to wait until after the green holiday to begin my Easter baking ☺

For today's Tried & True Tuesday, I'm giving you a wonderfully moist, spiced carrot cake [loaf] topped with a rich cream cheese frosting that no one can resist.  I actually brought this little loaf of goodness into the office last spring for Treat Day and from the tiny crumbs sitting on the plate at the end of the gathering, I would say it was fairly liked...

This Carrot Tea Cake recipe comes from my good friend [wink, wink] Martha Stewart.  I've tried several of her recipes and even though I've stumbled across a dud or two, this is NOT one of them.  Another plus?  The cake itself is made in a loaf pan, making the process that much easier.  Stir a few ingredients here and there, place in pan, bake, frost, and voila!  A luscious frosting-topped cake [loaf, I can't decide what to call it...] that's sure to please!  Let the Easter season begin! .

Carrot Tea Cake


Ingredients:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. packed grated carrots (about 2 carrots)
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. powdered sugar

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 9x5-inch loaf pan.  In bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  2. Using mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Beat in carrots.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Transfer batter to pan; bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Turn out to wire rack to cool completely.
  3. For frosting, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, until fluffy.  Frost top of cooled cake.
Yield: 1 loaf

*My Notes:
  • Make sure the cake is completely cooled before frosting, otherwise the cream cheese will begin to melt.  Not very pretty...

3.20.2011

Sunday Special: Mediterranean Shrimp and Linguine

. Let me just get right to it: BEST dish I have made thus far.  And yes, 'BEST' deserved to be in larger font just so I would get my point across ☺

This Mediterranean Shrimp and Linguine dish [from my Taste of Home Cookbook] is so incredibly yummy, bursting with flavor from several types of herbs yet has a satisfying heartiness from the linguine and shrimp.  The mushrooms, artichoke hearts and olives are also wonderfully tasty elements that add a great saltiness.  I served this dish with slices of Tuscan bread [from the grocery store], which was basically plain white bread with a thick, crisp crust.  We both agreed that this was the best complement to the dish because it served as a great basic bread to dip in the herby sauce.  Mm! Mm! Mm!

This is one of those dishes (if it can make it that long without being consumed) that gets better as the days go on, giving the veggies a chance to blend with all of the herbs.  Serve it for dinner and look forward to an extra special lunch the next day!

I posted this recipe earlier in the day on purpose: to give you a chance to collect the ingredients and get cookin'!  If you do try this out, please let me know how you like it or if you tweaked a couple things to make it that much better (not quite sure if that's possible though...).  Oh, and this is a super quick make!  It really takes no time at all so don't worry about having to cook all day long, who wants to do that?! .    

Mediterranean Shrimp and Linguine


Ingredients:
9 oz. uncooked linguine
1 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 c. fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and halved
1 (6 oz.) can pitted ripe olives, drained and halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Directions:
  1. Cook linguine according to package directions.
  2. In large nonstick skillet, saute shrimp and mushrooms in oil for 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, cloves, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until shrimp turns pink and sauce is heated through.
  3. Drain linguine; serve with shrimp mixture.
Nutrition Facts (1 cup shrimp mixture with 3/4 cup linguine): 328 calories; 9g fat (1g saturated fat); 112mg cholesterol; 748mg sodium; 41g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 21g protein

*My Notes:
  • Okay, the ONE error I made in this dish was actually kind of funny and I have to say that it wasn't my fault.  We all know I'm not a cook and I have definitely never handled shrimp before.  But while I was at the grocery store, I asked an employee about the shrimp and he kindly told me that I didn't need to do any kind of prep with it before throwing the shrimp into my dish.  So all in all, I never peeled the shrimp.  Uh, who knew?!  Because I for sure did not!  So the lesson here is that you DO need to take that little shell thing off of the shrimp before putting it in (and thank goodness they were already deveined).  Otherwise you'll have to do it before you dig in and that just wasn't very fun.

3.19.2011

Robbie's "Redless" Velvet Cake ... for Me!

. My birthday was, oh, forever ago, but I've been anxiously awaiting when I would have enough time to document the surprise that came from my one and only.  For my birthday, my boyfriend graciously offered to bake ME a birthday cake.  Me?!  What?!  Okay!

For this beyond epic event, I had to do something to make sure that I would be able to share with everyone what he was about to do for me (I know his family would thoroughly enjoy being a part of this!).  So I whipped out our FlipVideo and taped EVERY moment of the process I could [without being a nuisance, of course].

As you can probably tell, this post will be quite different from any others I have personally created.  No pictures.  No captions.  Only the recipe itself and a number of videos of my boyfriend baking his very first cake.  Hopefully you enjoy every second of this as much as we [more like 'I', I think my boyfriend stressed a little] did!

P.S. - I just want to let you know that my boyfriend did everything for this cake, including picking out the recipe!  He originally chose a Red Velvet Cake, but we opted to leave out the food coloring because for his first time, it could have gotten a little messy.  I really thought he chose a more difficult cake, but I was proven extremely wrong.  Here's how it all went! .

video

Redless Velvet Cake    
Adapted from Food Network's Grandmother Paula's Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients:
Cake:
2 c. sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
2-1/2 c. cake flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. vinegar

Frosting:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. marshmallows, melted
1 (1 lb.) box powdered sugar
1 c. shredded coconut

Directions:
1.  Heat oven 350°F.  Grease and flour 3 8-inch round pans; set aside.

video

2.  In mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well after each addition.  Add cocoa and mix well.  

video

3.  Sift together flour and salt.  Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.  Blend in vanilla extract.  In small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.  

video

4.  Pour batter into pans.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted of center of cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool completely.

video

5.  For frosting, blend cream cheese and butter together in bowl.  Add marshmallows and powdered sugar and blend.  Fold in coconut.

video

6.  Set one cake on serving platter.  Spread frosting on top of cake and top with second cake.  Repeat with remaining cake layer.  Frost top and sides of cake.

video

video

Yield: 16 servings

*Robbie's (My) Notes:
  • This cake turned out fantastic!  I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with his baking ability.  I had personally never used cake flour before, but it made this cake so incredibly light and fluffy and was complemented with a rich cream cheese frosting.  I will definitely be using cake flour in the future, I LOVE it!
  • The original recipe called for pecans, but neither of us were really feeling that so we decided to leave them out.  But of course, feel free to add in the 1 cup of chopped pecans called for, it would give the dessert a nice little crunch.

3.15.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Sprinkles Cupcakes


. It's been QUITE a while since I've posted anything, all because this last week has been an absolute blur.  First off, let me start by telling you that my boyfriend and I are currently in Phoenix, Arizona, for the baseball spring training games and to watch a friend who is in the minor leagues for the Cincinnati Reds.  We've been here since Friday night and are actually leaving tomorrow, but it's been a couple busy, fun-filled days of gorgeous weather and baseball watching.  We decided to make this random trip just last weekend but it has all been well worth it!

Anywho, aside from watching some studly athletes at the baseball field, we've had the chance to thoroughly explore the Phoenix area.  During one of our little travels, we decided to stop in Scottsdale to see what the city had to offer.  And boy, oh boy, did it have a lot to offer!  As we were driving down the street, I noticed a familiar looking store name and that signature dot design known most everywhere (if you're even somewhat of a foodie).  After basically climbing over the driver's seat to get a closer peak at the infamous store, I realized that what I was seeing was truly real.  Simple cursive letters read 'Sprinkles Cupcakes,' and the trip immediately took a turn for the sweet.  My boyfriend had vaguely remembered hearing of the name but he had NO IDEA what he was about to experience.  I actually had the chance to taste these little wonderful creations a few years ago when my cousin brought a couple dozen back from California, so I told him to brace his self.


After glancing over the numerous flavors they had for the day, we decided to go with the Red Velvet Cupcake.  It's one of my boyfriends favorite flavors and since this was the one I had the chance to inhale try out, I knew it would be a winner with him...


...And I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it was.  It might have taken no more than 45 seconds for that piece of heavenly cake to disappear into the hollows of his stomach.  And his reaction?  Pretty much what I expected.  "That was the best cupcake I've ever eaten."  Well, duh!  I also snagged a box of six different cupcakes (including Carrot Cake, Vanilla Milk Chocolate, Banana, Black and White, Red Velvet, and Dark Chocolate) for our Reds' friend.


Sprinkles Cupcakes' aren't located everywhere, but if you're ever in the vicinity of one, you have to make the effort to get to it.  I realize that this Tried & True Tuesday isn't featuring a recipe, but Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson doesn't get asked to judge Food Network's show Cupcake Wars because she doesn't know how to make the most absolutely delightful cupcakes [known to man].  No, I would say she knows how to slap together a pretty decent treat.  But only pretty decent ☺ .

3.08.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Mudslide Cookies

. Happy Fat Tuesday everyone!

Bah, who am I kidding?  I didn't even know it was Fat Tuesday until I got to work and there were Mardi Gras decorations all over the cafeteria.  I've also noticed an abundance of King Cake (never even heard of that until recently) posts but I guess it all never really made a connection.

So as not to feel completely out of the loop, I did a little research about Fat Tuesday and the reason behind all of the fuss.  Google don't fail me now!

Mardi Gras literally means "Fat Tuesday" and is supposed to signify the last celebration before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (okay, I do actually know what Lent is!).  So in order to do this right, what  better way to 'go out' then with a truly decadent treat?  I racked my brain for some of the most indulgent and delicious goodies I've made in the past, which brought me to Mudslide Cookies from my Chocolate Bar recipe book (the actual recipe is by Chef Jacque Torres [the chocolate man himself], so that alone already makes these perfect).  By the name you can probably guess that this is a nothing-but-chocolate cookie, something you probably should swear off before you're able to gobble down pounds of chocolatey delightfulness.  This cookie is truly very unique, I have yet to make another cookie even somewhat similar.  The cookie has a slight crispness to the exterior but when you crack these babies open is when the real magic happens.  The center is basically a chocolate pillow, studded with pockets of ooey-gooey chocolate.  Even when the cookies are cooled, the chocolate bits somehow stay melted...I really don't know how this happens.

But what I do know is that you MUST try these puffy chocolate pieces of heaven.  Hurry!  You still have a few hours before Lent begins! .

Mudslide Cookies

This picture is oh, so bad and was taken a very long time ago.  It doesn't do these cookies justice, but trust me on this one and don't miss out!
Ingredients:
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3/8 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c. sugar
5 eggs
1/2 c. all purpose flour
2-3/4 tsp. baking powder
1-1/4 tsp. salt
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate chunks
1-1/4 c. walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 400°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Melt unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate together.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, blending until mixed.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together; add to butter mixture.  Mix in melted chocolate until combined.
  3. Stir in the bittersweet chocolate chunks and nuts.  Pour mixture out onto baking sheet.  Place in refrigerator 5 to 10 minutes (should be slightly but not completely hardened).
  4. Lay parchment paper on work surface and reverse chocolate batter onto it.  Using knife, divide mixture into 20 squares.  With hands, roll each square into ball and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving room to allow them to spread.
  5. Bake 15 to 25 minutes or until crusty on the outside.  Place on cooling racks and allow to cool at least 20 minutes.
Yield: 20 cookies

*My Notes:
  • Yep, the ingredient measurements and directions are a little out of the ordinary.  But do not fret, Jacque Torres knows what he's doing and these cookies don't come out so utterly perfect because they're made like any other cookie!
  • Dividing the batter into 20 cookies makes VERY large cookies.  I'm not arguing with a large cookie (who would!), but when I made these, I divided the batter into slightly smaller portions.  You'll see how big they really are when you get to that point, but cookie size is completely up to the baker.

3.06.2011

Sunday Special: Sloppy Joes and Baked Yukon Gold Potato Fries

.  It was my birthday weekend (yay!), so you can bet a lot of baked goodies were made, which means that I have quite a number of posts to catch up on!  But for today, we're back to Sunday Specials, posts detailing the [rare] occurrences when I venture into the kitchen not armed with sugar, but with things like chicken, pepper, and onions.

So we're going to reminisce about last weekends' dinner when I felt like something a little more hearty.  I decided to go with a classic, a dish that [I would assume if you're normal] many of you grew up on.  Specifically, a sandwich that you couldn't get in trouble for because it was all over your hands and face.  I mean really, sloppy is in the name!  However, I would also assume that many of you were used to the good ol' Manwich Sloppy Joe's.  And those are very good, don't get me wrong (they wouldn't still be around if they weren't)! But I felt like something with a little more homemade touch, so I chose a from-scratch recipe in my Taste of Home Cookbook.  And of course, you HAVE to have a side to go with those joe's, and I honestly couldn't think of anything better than golden-delicious fries.  Searching through my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, I decided on Baked Sweet Potato Fries.  Hmm, can we say yum?!  (One note, our [lame] grocery store didn't have sweet potatoes, so I opted for Yukon Gold Potatoes.  The recipe was still outstanding, but if you're looking for something a little different, go with the sweet potatoes!)

This whole dish turned out so incredibly well and it was exactly what I had been looking for.  Satisfying, filled with flavor, yet I didn't feel like I had a grease pot in the pit of my stomach.  Always a good thing in my book ☺  The Sloppy Joe's themselves are filled with herbs, onions, and green peppers, which offers up an abundance of flavor.  And the fries?  Don't even get me started.  So how good were they, you're wondering?  Well let me just say there wasn't ONE left at the end of the meal.  And they were SO ridiculously easy that I'm still kind of astounded.

And so here's a complete meal for you: Sloppy Joe's and Baked Yukon Gold Potato Fries  .



Sloppy Joe's

Ingredients:
1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
8 hamburger buns, split

Directions:
  1. In large skillet, cook beef, green pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
  2. Stir in sugar, flour, Italian seasoning, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Spoon 1/2 cup onto each bun.
Yield: 8 Sloppy Joe's

Nutrition Facts (1 sandwich): 268 calories; 8g fat (3g saturated fat); 42 mg cholesterol; 478mg sodium; 26g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 21g protein

*My Notes: 
  • I used 1-1/2 lbs. of ground turkey in replacement of the ground beef.  We personally prefer the ground turkey but this is only our own preference.  You could also try using 3/4 lb. each of ground turkey and ground beef, which will still cut down on the calories and fat content.
  • For the buns, I bought two different kinds: bakery buns for my boyfriend and light hamburger buns (80 calories each) for myself.  Even though I really like the light buns, I can't  force ALL of my reduced-fat-calorie-no-taste (this is what my dad would describe them as) items on my boyfriend, he needs the calories anyway ☺  But, do keep in mind that picking lighter versions of bread is an easy way to cut calories.
Baked Yukon Gold Potato Fries

Ingredients:
2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled if desired
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 400°F.  If desired, line two baking sheets with foil.  Lightly coat foil with nonstick spray; set aside.
  2. Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick strips.  Place potatoes in large bowl. In small bowl, combine oil, salt and pepper.  Drizzle oil mixture over potatoes, tossing to coat.  Arrange potatoes in single layer on baking sheets.
  3. Bake 15 minutes.  Turn potatoes over.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes more or until golden brown.
Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts: 178 calories; 9g total fat (1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat); 0mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium; 23g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 2g protein

*My Notes:
  • The fries that we had were a little softer than some might prefer.  I'm assuming this is because of the potatoes I used, so they didn't crisp up as the sweet potatoes would have.  However, we both obviously still loved them since there wasn't one left...whoops!

    3.05.2011

    Bake or Breaks' Hummingbird Cupcakes



    .  So yesterday was my birthday.  Milestone #24.  Whew, I can't believe that I'm almost at the quarter century mark.  I've already predetermined that this year should be the best year of my life though because my favorite number is 24, so it just makes sense.  Subconsciously I think I've waited for this age because in my mind, it's the best age to be!  It all started when I was just a youngster, literally.  Here's my [short] list:
    • My mom was 24 when she had me.
    • I was born at 6:24 A.M.
    • Ken Griffey was #24 when he played for the Seattle Mariners (and up until age 8, we lived in Seattle, so there's that connection) and he is one of my ALL TIME favorite players.
    I know, it's only three bullet points, but they've stuck with me my ENTIRE life.  It's basically verbatim what I tell anyone who asks why my favorite number is 24 (and yes, I actually list these off).

    But let's get back on track.  For my birthday at the office, I obviously needed to bring in some baked goodies.  I've had a little chocolate overload lately though, so I was thinking of something 'lighter' in flavor.  Lemon?  We all know my feelings on that.  And then I came across a cupcake recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Bake or Break.  Remember them?  I tried out their Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake recipe and the world has never quite been the same. 

    Hummingbird Cupcakes.  The main response I got from people was "What's Hummingbird?!"  And seeing as I didn't actually know where the Hummingbird Cake originated, I described this wonderful treat as "banana bread, but WAY better."  Seriously, I probably repeated this line 18 to 20 times to anyone that asked.  It was the only and (and in my opinion) best way to describe the perfectness that is Hummingbird Cupcakes.

    The cake itself is fabulously moist, with a slight tropical twist, made with the help of ripe bananas and juicy chunks of pineapple.  Pecans are also included, which gives it a hint of fantastic nuttiness (that's actually a word).  For the final touch, the cupcake is topped with a simple (yet ever so delicious) cream cheese frosting.  Honestly, the cake could go without the frosting, making it an absolutely delightful breakfast item.  But morally, I could never recommend to leave out a cream. cheese. frosting.

    So thank you yet again, Bake or Break, for your outstanding recipes.  As my Director said to me with cupcake still in his mouth, "These are the best damn cupcakes I've ever had!"

    P.S. - Aside from the beautiful presents my boyfriend gave to me, he also offered to bake ME a birthday cake last night!  As I was drafting this very post, he was in the other room preparing a cake.  Good [or bad], there will be a post about this experience!  Eek,  I can't wait!  .

    Hummingbird Cupcakes


    Ingredients:
    Cake:
    3 c. all purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    2 c. sugar
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    3 eggs, beaten
    1 c. vegetable or canola oil
    1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple
    1 c. chopped pecans
    2 c. mashed bananas
    Whole or chopped pecans (garnish)

    Frosting:
    8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    1/2 c. butter, softened
    16 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
    1 tsp. vanilla extract

    Directions:

    1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour regular-sized muffin cups or line with muffin liners; set aside.

    2.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon in large bowl.  Add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in vanilla extract, pineapple, pecans, and bananas.



    3.  Pour batter into muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean.


    4.  Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.


    5.  For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy.  Gradually add in powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Stir in vanilla extract.

    6.  Frost cupcakes and top with whole or chopped pecans.


    Yield: 36 cupcakes

    Here we are!  The baker and the ultimate taste tester ☺

    3.02.2011

    Tried & True Tuesday: Creme Brulee French Toast

    .  Another week gone by, and Tuesday flew right past me!  I have a fairly good excuse though, so let me explain myself.

    Yesterday (the actual Tuesday), I was informed that we were having a 'Treat Day' on Thursday for one of our co-workers who got a job in another department.  First of all, this basically brightened my whole day because I now had a valid reason to bake.  But when I got back from lunch, I found out that 'Treat Day' had now been moved to Wednesday because of some schedule conflicts.  "Uhhhh, okay!"  In reality, this really isn't a big deal if you're a normal person.  But with me, I seem to take my sweet ol' time when picking out a recipe.  I always filter through every book, every folder, every magazine, and every bookmarked on-line recipe, that I have.  Which obviously takes a little time.  Fortunately, my bacon-loving co-worker (the one I made the Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies for) had given me a recipe a while back and she insisted kindly suggested that I bring them in.  Those are definitely blog worthy though, so we'll get to those later this week.  But back to my explanation, I was busy baking last night and just didn't have the time to post a Tuesday recipe.  But now I do!

    So for Tried & True Tuesday (well, Wednesday now, but work with me!), I chose an overnight dish given to me by none other than my dear mom: Creme Brulee French Toast.  Since you can prepare this the night before, it's perfect for those busy weekdays.  Just pop it in the oven when you wake up in the morning and by the time you're ready for breakfast, a wonderfully filling, sweet morning surprise will be waiting for you!

    So what is it exactly?  It's basically an organized [best ever!] bread pudding.  Aside from the deliciously flavorful bread mixture, this goodie is finished (actually more like begins with) a caramely layer on the bottom of the pan.  When you're ready to serve, you simply flip the piece of french toast up-side down to reveal a wonderfully luscious caramelized syrup.  I, of course, always take some extra caramel from the pan and sneakily top it over my own piece.  But I'm the baker so no one can get mad at me for it.

    So before we make it to Thursday, let me get you this recipe.  Enjoy, enjoy, and enjoy!  .

    Creme Brulee French Toast


    Ingredients:
    1/2 c. unsalted butter
    1 c. packed light brown sugar
    2 tbsp. corn syrup
    2 round loaves Cinnamon Chip Bread
    12 eggs
    3 c. half & half
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp. salt

    Directions:
    1. In small heavy saucepan, melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat, stirring until smooth and glossy.  Pour into 13x9-inch pan.
    2. Cut bread into 1-inch slices.  Arrange 10 bread slices on top of sugar mixture, squeezing tightly to fit.
    3. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined.  Pour half of mixture over first layer of bread slices.  Place second layer of bread slices over the first layer.  Pour the remaining egg mixture over top layer of bread, letting mixture soak into the entire surface of each slice of bread.  Chill, covered, at least 8 hours or up to one day.
    4. Remove bread mixture from refrigerator 1 hour before baking.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Bake 45 minutes or until puffed and edges are golden.
    Yield: 8 large pieces

    *My Notes:
    • Okay, I must warn you: this dish puffs like NONE OTHER.  It's actually quite comical because it looks like the bread is going to explode in the oven.  But don't worry, that definitely didn't happen (to me at least...).
    • The original recipe simply said 'Bread,' so the amount of bread I specified here is what I ended up using.  I personally am head-over-heels for the Cinnamon Chip Bread from the Great Harvest Bread Company, so that's what I chose.  They only sell it in round loaves so I sliced and trimmed the bread to fit it in the pan.  You can of course use basically any type of bread you like, but I think the cinnamon adds another [tasty] element to the dish.  So what I'm trying to say is don't pass it up!
    • The recipe says to cut 1-inch thick bread slices and I would follow this recommendation.  I sliced the bread a tad bit thicker than that and I found that it was a little harder to get the egg mixture soaked into the top layer.  It was do-able, but if you keep to the directions then you'll be just fine. 
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