Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sangria, baby!

This past Sunday I hosted a Brownie Swap inspired by the lovely Joelen (more to come about that in a later blog entry). There was a great turnout and some really wonderful brownies to be shared and a fun day had with my girlfriends.

But, what is a day of girl time without some fun drinks, right? I decided to make some sangria as the beverage du jour, and opted for these two, pretty darn easy, recipes. They were yummy and I served them in my cocktail glasses that I wish I got to use more. I will definitely make both of these recipes again!

Savignon-Blanc Peach Sangria

3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 lime, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 (750-ml) bottle Sauvignon Blanc

Put first 3 ingredients in a large pitcher, and add wine. Stir gently to dissolve sugar. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill 2 hours.

Stir mixture again. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a large bowl or another pitcher. Reserve 6 peach and 6 lime slices; discard the rest. Pour sangria into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with reserved peach and lime slices.

Shortcut Sangria

1 cup vanilla-flavor syrup
2 oranges (about 6 oz. each), thinly sliced
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 cup orange juice
2 bottles (750 ml. each) dry red wine
Ice cubes
In a pitcher (at least 3-qt. size), combine syrup, orange slices, lime slices, and orange juice.

Add wine to pitcher; mix, and pour into ice-filled glasses.

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's Back!

Recipe Remix is here for it's second installment!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I'm a Daring Baker!

Daring Bakers is a (very large) group of bakers who, monthly, are challenged to make the same recipe, without modifications to see what results that recipe will yield.

After some convincing from my friend Danielle, who had been urging me to join Daring Bakers, I decided to bite the bullet this month. I don't think I could have joined during a better month considering April's DB recipe was for cheesecake pops! Even the title sounds yummy!

This recipe was a lot of fun. We were given some creative freedom and we could use any kind of chocolate and any other toppings to roll the pops in which I used as an excuse to clean out my pantry a bit. I dipped my pops in dark chocolate first and then I rolled some in coconut, some in walnuts, some in crushed M&Ms (which I kind of over-crushed, oops!), and some in colored sprinkles. The result? A smorgasboard of pretty cheesecake pops, that were pretty tasty to boot!

This recipe for the cheesecake was the creamiest I've come across yet! Using my round cake pan, I found it took a little bit longer than the directions said, but all in all, this was a fabulous recipe and a really fun way to eat cheesecake!

Check out what other bakers did by checking out the DB blogroll. I'm sure there will be some wonderful variety this month. I can't wait to see what other DBs have come up with!

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set.

Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Potato, Sausage, and Apple Saute

You know how sometimes during the day at work you get hungry and start day dreaming about what's for dinner that night.

And then the next day you catch yourself day dreaming about it again because it was just that good?

This recipe is one of those meals - at least for my husband and I!

I have made this recipe numerous times since Diana (check out her beautiful photography blog!), from my local nest board, shared it with us. For some reason have never blogged about it and I don't know why.

The ingredients are a perfect blend of flavors - some sweet from the apple to counteract the saltiness of the sausage, etc. It's also easy to make! Can't go wrong with easy, right?

I've only made a few of my own personal modifications. I swear it is even better reheated (if you even have any leftovers). Unfortunately there is no picture for this one, as my husband and I were starved by the time I got home from running errands last night and couldn't eat fast enough. Alas, maybe I'll take a picture next time!

Potato, Sausage, and Apple Saute
(From Diana)

2 Tablespoon(s) olive oil
1 small diced yellow onion
1 Pound(s) bulk/links/casing removed/sweet Italian sausage
1 1/2 Pound(s) diced russet potato, diced and cooked
2 large diced apple
1 Dash(s) salt
1 Dash(s) black pepper
2 Tablespoon(s) ketchup
1 Tablespoon(s) Dijon mustard
1/2 Teaspoon(s) dried thyme
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoon(s) water

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over med-high heat in a large non-stick skillet. When oil is hot, add onion & sausage & cook, stirring to break up sausage, until sausage is golden brown & broken into 1/2" pieces. Place cooked sausage & onions into a colander to drain.

Add the remaining oil, the potatoes, & the apple to the skillet, season with salt & pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown.

Mix ketchup, mustard, thyme, garlic, & water in a small bowl. Return sausage & onions to the skillet & stir in the ketchup mixture.

Cook, stirring frequently until nicely browned (5 minutes). Season to taste with more salt & pepper before serving.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Bill's Big Carrot Cake

It's Tuesdays with Dorie time again, and time to make up for my absense the past 2 weeks!

When I saw that this week's recipe was for Billy's Big Carrot Cake, chosen by Amanda of Slow Like Honey, I was instantly excited! I used to hate, I mean hate carrot cake when I was younger. I honestly don't know why. I think it's probably because I hated vegetables and the thought of carrots in my cake did not sound appealing. On top of that, I didn't like cream cheese for awhile when I was younger either.

For some reason, in the past few years, I've found a new appreciation for carrot cake. While it wouldn't be my first choice off of a dessert menu at a restaurant, it might be my second choice and when it's available as a dessert if we are say, at a party, etc. I certainly don't pass on it. I love how moist carrot cake typically is without being so rich you feel your arteries clogging after your third bite. After all, those carrots count towards your daily veggie intake, right?

Long story short, our friend Matt asked us over for dinner on Sunday night and requested that we bring dessert. I didn't have to think twice of what dessert would be - the latest TWD recipe of course!

I made this in 2 pans instead of 3 as the recipe called for because I only had 2 round cake pans! It worked out fine, I obviously had to increase the cooking time, it took about 52 minutes total in my oven. I took Dorie's option of adding coconut to the middle frosting layers of the cake because one can never have too much coconut! My only complaint is that I realy didn't feel there was enough of frosting for the recipe. I know Dorie suggests just frosting the top and middle layers of the cake, but I just thought it looked too bare, plus, it gave me flashbacks to a birthday cake my Dad and I made my Mom when I was about 6 (that's a story for another day!). Next time, I would probably make at least 1.5 times the frosting recipe to get a little more coverage. In fact I would have done so, if I'd had another block of cream cheese at home, but I did. For the top I added toasted walnuts and coconut to "prettify" it.

This was fantastic, very moist and chock full of raisins, coconut and nuts! Our friends enjoyed it too! I will definitely make this again. Thanks, Dorie!

Bill's Big Carrot Cake
(Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

Yields 10 servings

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Recipe Remix Roundup is...well...up!

Danielle and I are truly pleased with the great response we received for our first food blog challenge. Not including ourselves we received 15 entries, including one from Australia and one from Germany! A great big thanks to all who participated!

Thanks to our initial success, look for a second round of Recipe Remix coming your way in the next couple of weeks. Danielle and I have been brainstorming already! Bet you can't wait to see what the theme is for that, huh????

Easy Cheese Danish

I go through phases with cookbooks, sometimes I am using them like mad, other times not so much. Sometimes I will buy a bunch all at once, and then go months and months without even opening another one at a bookstore or book fair or wherever.

Right now I'm in the former state on both accounts. I recently received my Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook by Ina Garten. She isn't the most exciting Food Network chef to watch by any account, but I find I always get great tips from her and her recipes do always sound delicious so I bought the book.

I just tried the first recipe out of it the other night for Easy Cheese Danish. This really was easy and they came out tasty. Next time though I think I would reduce the lemon zest since the filling came out a little more lemony tasting than I would normally expect from a cheese danish, all in all though, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Easy Cheese Danish
(from Barefoot Contessa at Home)

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese & sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and cream together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!

Unfold one sheet of pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10x10 inch square. Cut tthe sheet into quarters. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the puff pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monster Cookies for my cookie monsters...

I've mentioned in this blog previously how I started a trend when my husband works a weekend conversion - the trend of baking cookies for these days. It's a trend that has staying power so when my husband was going to be working again this past weekend I knew cookies were going to be part of the picture.

I asked my husband last week to check if the guys had any requests. The list I got varied from peanut butter cookies, to regular chocolate chip, to oatmeal raisin and oatmeal scotchies, to the sour cream cookies I made a couple months ago for them (which was close to a snickerdoodle) to M&M cookies.

After reading the list I was reminded of a recipe I'd seen on Paula Deen's show a couple months back. I searched the Food Network website and found them - they're called Monster Cookies - a peanut-butter-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-M&M-raisin type of cookie. That pretty much exhausted the list of requests I got so I decided this was the recipe.

Wow, were these good! At first glance, this recipe seems overwhelming with the amount of flavors it contains but I have to say, this was a great combination. I used Hershey's Kissables instead of M&M's but other than that I followed the recipe to a T. My husband said the plate was cleared promptly!

I am also submitting this as my entry to Tasty Tools, Joelen's monthly blogging event. Each month she chooses a new kitchen tool and challenges us to use them. Last month was about the mircoplane grater which I used to make Orange Cream Mimosas for Easter brunch. This month is all about scoops! I use my cookie scoop which I use for so many things besides the obvious but with a busy month ahead of me, I'm going for the obvious submission because I really want to participate and I'm not sure I'll otherwise have the chance to as the month wears on!

Monster Cookies
(from Food Network)

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup multi-colored chocolate candies
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

A Banana Bread Bakeoff!

Last week while browsing Is My Blog Burning? for new events. I stumbled upon one hosted by Not Quite Nigella. NQN is hosting Banana Bread Bakeoff! The timing was perfect - I had a few bananas getting overly ripe from consumption and was hoping to use them soon by baking a banana bread.

I've had a recipe bookmarked for awhile on for Chocolate-Marbled Banana Bread. It's from Cooking Light. I really love banana bread, I'll take any excuse to make it so it's really no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this.
Oh...and...and I really, really love chocolate. Does it get any better than that combination?

Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread
(from Cooking Light via

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add banana, egg substitute, and yogurt; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.

Place chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly. Add 1 cup batter to chocolate, stirring until well combined. Spoon chocolate batter alternately with plain batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Swirl batters together using a knife. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reminder - Recipe Remix

Just a reminder that Recipe Remix entries are due by tomorrow, April 16th!

We have gotten some great entries so far and hope to see even more. Thanks to everyone who's participated!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recipe Remix - who said I can't participate in my own blog event?

Yes, I'm participating in Recipe Remix too!

Out of the what I must say is an oustanding list developed by Danielle and I, I picked Franks and Beans.

Why Franks and Beans? Well, honestly, because it made me hungry when Danielle threw the idea out there when we discussing what meals to list for the event. I hadn't had Franks and Beans in quite some time.

After some thought, I decided I wanted to make Franks and Beans into something more portable and classy if I dare say. Yes, friends, even Franks & Beans can be thought of as semi-elegant when they are in a panini!

This can surely be made with any kind of bread, but I opted for some nice sliced round Italian bread fresh from my local bakery. Also, I diced some red onion on my half of this double decker panini, but took a picture of my husband's onion-less use your imagination...

"Franks & Beans Double-Decker Panini"

1 beef kielbasa link, split in half & cooked
1/2 - 3/4 cup baked beans
6 slices American cheese
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 large slices round Italian bread
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons spicey brown mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

To build panini:

Spread butter on one side of 2 slices of the bread.

With the buttered sides of bread facing down, add 3 slices of cheese to each slice of bread. Then spread beans evenly the 2 slices of bread topped with cheese (feel free to mush them up a little for spreadability). Then top these 2 slices of bread evenly with mustard and diced onion.

Cut kielbasa into pieces so that they can fit on each slice of bread. Cover one side with the 3rd slice of bread, then carefully flip second half of kielbasa-bean-cheese-bread onto this slide of bread to make the sandwich a "double decker."

Add olive oil to pan preheated to medium heat. Carefully place double decker panini into pan (warning, this sucker is heavy!). Cook on each side pressing down with panini press (or heavy pan in my case if you still haven't gotten yourself a panini press) until outsides are golden brown and cheese is melted.

Cut in half and enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

No Meat Baked Beans

I told you I was on a crockpot run....

You will soon see why I made baked beans. Hmmm...maybe it has something to do with Recipe Remix???

This came from my old, reliable, "Fix It and Forget It" cookbook. There are about 10 different baked bean recipes in that sucker, it was hard picking one. I finally settled on a recipe that didn't not call for bacon or salt pork, because I had neither! That's a good reason, right?

I made a few small changes to the original and was really happy with the result!

No Meat Baked Beans

1lb dried navy beans
6 cups water
1 small onion, chopped
Scant 3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 teaspoon salt

Soak beans in water overnight in large pot. Cook beans in water on stove until soft, about 90 minutes. Drain, discarding bean water.

Mix together all ingredients in slow cooker. Mix Well.

Cover. Cook on low 10-12 hours (I found that my beans were done within 9 hours)

It's not even 5am...

...and I'm blogging.


Well my husband, who typically isn't that bad, is snoring up a storm tonight. After tossing and turing for about 45 minutes I got up and came downstairs. On the bright side, this gives me time to catch up on my blogging.

I'm making one last go at my crockpot before I essentially put it away until the fall. I tried this recipe the other day from the recipe site, making a few minor edits, and it was pretty good. Not killer awesome in a I-will-drool-just-thinking-about-this-until-I-make-it-again kind of way, but it was a good, simple, no-fuss recipe.

Chicken Stroganoff


2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves and/or thighs
1 cup chopped onion
2 10 3/4-ounce cans condensed cream of mushroom soup (I used the reduced fat version)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
12 ounces dried wide egg noodles
1 8-ounce carton dairy sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. In a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker combine the chicken pieces and onion. In a medium bowl stir together the soup, garlic, pepper, salt, and water. Pour over chicken and onion.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3-1/2 hours.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. Just before serving, stir sour cream into mixture in cooker. To serve, spoon stroganoff mixture over hot cooked noodles. If desired, sprinkle with black pepper. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chicken & Sausage Tortellini Soup

Now that spring is upon us, I feel that "comfort food season" is coming to a close....

Wait. Let me rephrase that.

Now that spring is supposed to be upon us, I feel that "comfort food season" is coming to a close and now's the time to get our last jollies in.

I say that spring is supposed to be upon us because it sure doesn't feel like it here in New England. It's been chilly and rainy for weeks on end. Yuck! Where are you warm spring weather?

But I digress. The point being that I was really in the mood for some soup. I was in the grocery store trying to determine what kind of soup I should make and what I needed to buy to make that soup. Nothing like last minute meal planning. When I walked by the fresh pasta area, I remembered a post that Amber from Amber's Delectable Delights had for her Cleaning Out the Fridge Tortellini Soup.

My version is a bit different but thank you, Amber, for your inspiration! If it weren't for you I surely would have made some boring version of chicken noodle soup. My husband thanks you too since we both thoroughly enjoyed this! :-)

p.s. Don't forget about Recipe Remix!

Chicken & Sausage Tortellini Soup
(Inspired by: Amber's Delectable Delights)

4 cans chicken broth (I used low sodium, fat free)
1 can of water
3/4 cup baby carrots, diced into small pieces
1 cup celery, diced into small pieces
½ of a small onion, diced fine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
2 small cooked chicken breasts diced into 1/3 inch cubes
3 sweet cooked Italian sausages, diced into 1/3 inch cubes
9 oz fresh cheese tortellini boiled and cooked per package directions

Combine first 10 ingredients in large pot. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes.

In the meantime, cook tortellini al dente, according to package directions, drain, and rinse. Once simmering time is up, add tortellini, chicken, and sausage to pot. Cover again and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving. your waffle maker...I'm not kidding!

In a couple of weeks I am hosting a brownie swap among my friends, inspired by none other than Joelen of Joelen's Culinary Adventures. Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of searching for brownie recipes as of late.

I came upon this one from the Food Network and while I didn't think it was good for the swap, I thought it would still be fun to make. I thought this would be a twist on the typical waffle sundae!
These were definitely tasty, but despite them being made in a waffle iron, I think I expected them to be a little more dense and brownie-like. Instead they turned out fluffier, like a brownie flavored waffle. I think next time I will increase the chocolate to yield a fudgier result.

My expectations aside, there's no denying that this was a tasty treat! I am actually also tagging this as a breakfast dish as since it was not overly rich, you could easily serve it in the morning just as well as it can serve as a dessert!

Waffle-Iron Brownies
(from Food Network)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons milk
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
Powdered sugar for serving, if desired

Preheat a waffle iron. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and milk. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat. Add the unsweetened chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Place into a pan of cold water to cool the mixture to room temperature.
With an electric mixer, beat in the eggs. Gradually blend in the flour mixture until smooth.

Drop rounded spoonfuls of the brownie mixture into the preheated waffle iron. Close the iron and cook for about 2 minutes until the brownies are done. Remove and cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kitchen fun with Dani :-)

My friend Dani and I got together last weekend to have a fun dinner cooking session which we had been planning for some time. While our hubbies were armed with an XBox 360, we were armed with knives, whisks, pots, pans, a stand mixer, and a box of leaking pasta flour. I think we made a more intimidating pair, hands down.

Dani and I had some fun times in her kitchen and dinner was enjoyed by all. She has blogged about our adventures (and the recipes we used) here, which overall went very well, except for that seriously scary, goofy face I am making in one of the least I make a good hand model...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Can't go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie...

Recently I decided I really needed to make some counter space for my stand mixer. I have been taking it in and out of a closet when I need it and it was an inconvenience which meant I was only using it for larger batch recipes. After some re-organization in the kitchen, which was much needed, I found a nice little spot for the guy.

Of course made me want to make something immediately. I have learned one thing about myself - do not fight the urge to bake because it will only make me grumpy if I don't. After flipping through the little cookbook from KitchenAid that comes with the mixer I decided on chocolate chip cookies. I had not made choco chip cookies from scratch in quite some time and I'm always willing to try a new recipe for those since there are so many variations.

These were perfect - just how we like them - perfect! I'll definitely be making this particular recipe again, and again, and again!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from KitchenAid)

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup softened butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place sugars, butter, eggs, & vanilla in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to Speed 4 and beat about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl.

Turn to Stir Speed. Gradually add baking soda, salt, and flour to sugar mixture and mix about 2 minutes. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Add chocolate chips. Turn to Stir Speed and mix about 15 seconds.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from baking sheets immediately and cook on wire racks.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Steak and Pasta De-Lite

"Well, it really has been awhile since we've had red meat..."

That's what my husband said about a month ago when I was telling my parents how I find I am cooking healthier than ever, sticking mostly to chicken, pork, and fish and reaching for ground turkey before ground beef more often than not in recent months. I then pointed out how expensive red meat, even ground beef, seems to be these days. His statement, indeed, was a small cry out to me to bring back the red meat to our meals a little more often.

I am a lucky girl, my husband is not one to demand supper on the table by a certain time, or something fancy, he doesn't even put in special requests - ever. He is just as happy with a grilled cheese sandwich and can of soup as he would be with a meal I've spent all day preparing. He is always open-minded about my latest creations, he usually gives me his opinion on it - good or bad - in the most loving way possible, and even though he can be a little picky with certain foods I have to give him credit that he is always willing to try something before writing it off completely. So the fact that he had not said a peep about the apparent lack of red meat in our diets as of late did not surprise me. In fact I hadn't really realized how long it had been really. This conversation was his opportunity to subtly ask for more read meat.

I found a recipe on for Sirloin Steak and Pasta Salad recently that sounded great and I set out to make it. Then made a whole bunch of modifications to it, so I'll say that my dish which I call Steak and Pasta De-Lite (because it's on the healthier side) - was inspired by it. My hubby loved it and requested to have it again soon - even if he picked the peppers off and put them aside (more for me!).

And I almost forgot!

I am submitting this as hopefully the first of several entries to Presto Pasta Nights which is a great weekly event held by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast. She posts roundups every Friday so check it out all of the great pasta dishes up there, they are positively "drool-able" (there I go making up words again!)

And on a quick side note, don't forget about the blog event my friend Danielle and I are hosting - Recipe Remix! Check out details here for more info!

Steak & Pasta De-Lite

2 cups uncooked fusilli whole grain pasta (I used Ronzoni)
1 (3/4-pound) boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 diced scallions
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
2 diced celery stalks (leaves removed)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Drain and rinse pasta with water.

Mix garlic powder, pepper, and onion powder. Sprinkle on steak. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat 10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.

Combine scallions (reserving about a 1/4 cup of the diced green part of the scallion) and next 9 ingredients (onion through Italian Seasoning) in skillet. Saute ingredients until vegetables soften a bit on medium-low heat. Add mixture to drained pasta and toss lightly. Take sliced beef and lay atop pasta in a large plate. Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese and reserved scallions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

TWD: Gooey Chocolate Cakes

When this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was announced for Gooey Chocolate Cakes I was very excited. I made something quite similar a few months ago when we had my sister-in-law and her boyfriend over for dinner. I remembered my husband loving it and wanting more, but the recipe had only made 4.

He was in luck this time since Dorie's recipe makes 6 and company wasn't coming! These came out delicious. I added 2 tablespoons of cooled brewed coffee in the last mixing step to put a little different spin on the flavor. This may have been why my Gooey Chocolate Cakes puffed up and over the top of the muffin tin a bit - sort of to resemble a muffin, either that or I simply overfilled the muffin cups. Dorie suggests buying an aluminum disposable 6 cup muffin tin but I have a 6 cup muffin tin already so decided to just use that, but maybe it wasn't deep enough. Either way, it really doesn't matter a whole lot since once you flipped these over to serve it wasn't all that noticeable and they tasted great! I'm happy that this TWD go-around came out more successfully than the last i.e. my Caramel Topped Flan that...well...doesn't look like it's topped with caramel at all.

You win some, you lose some. Luckily I won this one!

Gooey Chocolate Cakes

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate:
4 ounces coarsely chopped,
1 ounce very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogenous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.