Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: The CREME BRULEE that almost wasn't

I had to move mountains to make this weeks TWD recipe. I was so excited to see that Creme Brulee was chosen because that meant I finally had a reason to buy a kitchen torch. Anyone who knows me knows that I am accident prone in the kitchen. I am constantly cutting myself or burning myself or a combination of the two. Hmmmm... culinary school should be interesting!

Anyway, like I said, I was excited! I immediately logged on the internet and ordered special creme brulee dishes and a kitchen torch. When Nathan called me later that week I told him all about how I finally was getting a torch. He chuckled and said, "Are you sure that's a good idea?". Yes, my husband has a sense of humor about my ability to hurt myself in the kitchen! I told him not to worry but he still had some reservations about me being alone with a blowtorch! Then he mentioned that he didn't think butane could be shipped APO. I shrugged it off.

Well... sure enough, it can't be shipped. No worries. I still had the dishes on the way and I was certain I could find a blowtorch on the economy. I asked a German friend where I could find one and she pointed in the right direction. Life got in the way, though, and I never made it out to look for one. Again, no big deal as Dorie says you can use the broiler.

Fast forward to Friday and there are no creme brulee dishes in the mail. Someone really didn't want me making this recipe! I decided I would just get some ramekins from the PX and work with those. Then more hope came my way! My friend Erica called me on Saturday and said she found a blowtorch and asked if I wanted her to get it. WOO HOO! So, the torch would be on the way to my house shortly. So I went ahead and got the ramekins from the PX and set out to make creme brulee.

Well... the store had the torch but no gas. :( At least now I know where I can get it from! (Thanks so much Erica for searching for me!) Now I had no torch and ramekins that said "NO BROILER". This really was getting frustrating!
Luckily, a wonderful TWDer (SweetCharity) suggested caramelizing sugar on the stove top and spooning it onto the custard. GENIUS! I was so excited that I had another option.

I made traditional creme brulee and orange/cardamom creme brulee. I had to cook them for almost 2 hours in order for them to set since the ramekins were deeper than the ones intended for creme brulee.
Even though I had so many issues the creme brulee was fantastic! Monica and I preferred the orange; Erica prefered the traditional. Either way, they were both gone! I am so glad I didn't give up and that I was able to make this. It was so incredibly delicious and I will be making it again... once I get everything here!

Thanks for a wonderful recipe choice, Mari. The recipe can be found at her blog (Mevrouw Cupcake). Don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Past Challenge: Red Velvet Cake

*NOTE* TWD post will be up this afternoon.

Is there anyone who doesn't think of "Steel Magnolias" when thinking of Red Velvet Cake? The whole time I was making this cake I kept thinking, "Man, I wish I knew how to shape this into an armadillo!"

Red Velvet Cake was the March 2007 Daring Bakers challenge. The group decided to let each member choose their own recipe for the cake as opposed to all making the same one.

I chose a recipe from Paula Deen. You can view the recipe here.

I cut the recipe in half and baked it in 3 6" rounds. It turned out wonderfully. Believe it or not, I have never had red velvet cake before and therefore I have nothing to compare it to. But, I have had cake before and this was definately good!

I omitted the nuts and coconut from the icing since I was sharing this cake with Monica who likes neither of those things! The cake was amazing without them, so no harm done. However, I think that if you are a nut and coconut fan that you should definately try the cake with them. It could only enhance it, right? Next time I may just have to do that!

Chicken Salad

A few weeks ago I went to a Polish Pottery party and this chicken salad was served for lunch. I fell in love with it and refused to leave without the recipe! Eat it with a spoon, on a sandwich, or with a nice buttery croissant. Either way, eat it because it is fantastic!

Holiday Chicken Salad
Recipe from Allrecipes

4 cups cubed, cooked chicken meat
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup chopped celery
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup minced green bell pepper
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise with paprika and seasoned salt. Blend in dried cranberries, celery, bell pepper, onion, and nuts. Add chopped chicken, and mix well. Season with black pepper to taste. Chill 1 hour.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Past Challenge - Croissants

Well... I did it. I made croissants! I have been telling myself to make them for over a year now and never got around to it. It was one of the first Daring Baker challenges and I figured now was the time to do it.

I wasn't too nervous about the dough since I have now worked with laminated dough twice (puff pastry and the danish braid). Besides being incredibly time consuming, making the dough wasn't difficult. I spent the better part of a day mixing, rising, rolling, chilling, rolling, chilling, rolling, chilling! I then popped the dough in the freezer and decided that I would wait a few days to make the croissants.

After about 5 days in the freezer I pulled out the dough and moved it to the fridge to thaw overnight. The next morning I started the process of rolling out the dough. Now that was difficult!!! Talk about an arm workout! I don't know if I should've let the dough warm a little, but I was too afraid of melting the butter. I finally rolled it out almost to the thickness required, but Eric was fussing in the bouncy seat and I decided it was time to shape the croissants and get him fed!

All shaped and ready to go

As a result of not rolling the dough enough, my croissants looked like they were on steroids. Oh well... no one is going to complain about a monsterous croissant! In addition to the plain croissants, I also made 4 Pain au Chocolat (chocolate encased in the croissant dough).

Mmmm... layers!

Chocolate anyone?

Now, I'm not one to toot my own horn but these croissants were AMAZING! So buttery and flaky! I realize that there is room for improvement, but I am so proud of myself for creating these. SO SO SO GOOD!!! I can't wait to share them with Nathan when he comes home for R&R! I will have the dough waiting in the freezer!

The recipe is freakishly long (about 5 pages) so I won't be typing it here. But, if you are really interested in making these (and I suggest you give it a shot!) let me know and I can get the recipe to you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Daring Bakers September Challenge - Lavash

Daring Bakers go vegan and/or gluten free this month! September's challenge was hosted by Shel of Musings From The Fishbowl and Natalie of Gluten A Go-Go. The challenge was to make lavash crackers. We had the freedom to make savory or sweet crackers and we also had to make a vegan AND gluten free dip to go with it. Ah... the possibilities are endless.

I have never made crackers nor even considered making crackers at home so I was excited to give it a go. The recipe was easy to make and wasn't all that time consuming (which gave me the time to complete 3 past DB challenges this month - posts coming in the next 2 days). I think I could've rolled the dough thinner to get a crisper cracker, but I liked how it was kind of pita-ish. Definately yummy!

I chose to make two different kinds of crackers; half topped with cinnamon-sugar and the other topped with sesame seeds. The cinnamon-sugar crackers were served by themselves and were AWESOME! I made a savory pumpkin dip to go with the sesame ones. I enjoyed the sesame crackers, but the dip wasn't my favorite. I don't think I am a savory pumpkin person.

So, I came up with a better idea... Sandwich the crackers together with peanut butter. Mmmmmmm!!!

Don't forget to check out the DB blogroll to see the other creations which are likely much more creative than mine! Oh, and the recipe can be found at the hosts' blogs!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Herbed Pork Tenderloin and Rainbow Peppers

Sorry for the lack of writing the last few days. This has been an incredibly exhausting week, both physically and emotionally. I had surgery (outpatient) the beginning of the week, lost a friend in Iraq the middle of the week, and am ending the week with 2 sick kids. :( Needless to say, I can't really think of anything to write. But, I have recipes galore waiting to be posted (I think I have enough ready to be posted to get me through the first week of October!), so I will be posting the pics and recipes still. Hopefully soon I will get a bit more energy to write more. Thanks for still checkin' in on the blog, though!

Herbed Pork Tenderloin
So delicious... my go-to recipe for pork tenderloin!

1 lb pork tenderloin
1 TBSP olive oil, divided
1/2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 TBSP ground cinnamon
1/2 TBSP ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine all rub ingredients. Rub 1 tsp olive oil onto tenderloin. Roll tenderloin in rub to coat. In a large skillet, heat remaining oil. Add tenderloin and cook for 2-3 minutes or until browned on all sides. Place in pan and bakeat 400  for 25-30 minutes or until thermometer reads 160. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Rainbow Peppers

From May issue of Taste of Home

1/2 each medium green, sweet red, yellow, and orange peppers
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
2 TBSP chopped black olives
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Cut each pepper half into 9 pieces. Place skin side down in an ungreased skillet or baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese, olives, and pepper flakes. Broil 3-4 inches from heat for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted and peppers are crisp-tender.

Coconut Cranberry Muffins

Beyond good. So incredibly delicious! A definate must make again muffin.

Coconut Cranberry Muffins
Recipe from The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2/3 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in cranberries; make a well in center of mixture. Combine coconut milk and next 4 ingredients (through egg), stirring well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place 12 muffin cup liners in muffin cups. Spoon batter into lined cups. Sprinkle evenly with 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apple Chowder

It's been a long day so this will be short and sweet. Here is an absolutely DELICIOUS breakfast. YUM YUM YUM! I had it two days in a row and would make it again tomorrow, but I am out of apples! I found the recipe at Veggie Terrain.

Apple Chowder

2 medium apples of your choice, diced
1/2 c. chopped pecans, chopped
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, chopped
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. cashew butter
dash of vanilla extract
dash of salt
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. mace
water for thinning

Place apples, pecans, walnuts, and raisins in a bowl. Blend cashew butter, vanilla, salt, and maple syrup. Add enough water until desired consistency is reached (you'll want it pretty thin). Pour on top of apple mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon and mace.

*Notes: I used peanut butter since the commissary doesn't carry cashew butter. They also don't carry mace, so I used nutmeg instead. The second time I made this I added some shredded coconut. YUM!

Monday, September 22, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum Cake

I seriously considered sitting this week out. This recipe just didn't sound good to me. I thought that there was no way I would like it. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe it was the word "Dimply" in the name. It just doesn't sound appetizing. But, I have issues and made it anyway!

I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a loaf pan. Man oh man! SO GOOD! This Dorie knows what she's doing! The combination of the cardamom and the orange zest is out of this world. Those are the two flavors that really stood out for me with the Danish Braid (Daring Bakers) and I loved them in this breakfast cake. YUM, YUM, YUM!!!

Head on over to Bake-en (thanks for a great choice, Michelle!) for the recipe and don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll to find out what everyone else thought!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

I am on an oatmeal kick and this one is out of this world delicious!!! I couldn't finish the whole serving because it was so filling, but I sure tried! Who knew oatmeal could be so wonderful?

The recipe came courtesy of Eat Me, Delicious.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup of grated carrot
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp chopped pecans
1 tbsp shredded coconut

Combine the rolled oats, milk, water, carrots and salt in a saucepan. Turn heat to medium and stir occasionally until mixture comes almost to a boil and most of the liquid is absorbed, which takes about 5-7 minutes. When oats are done, stir in vanilla and brown sugar.While oats are cooking make "icing" by blending 2 tbsp plain yogurt with 1 tsp maple syrup. Toast pecans in the oven for a few minutes (optional). Pour oats into a bowl and top with coconut, pecans and icing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

TWD Rewind: Gooey Chocolate Cakes

Who doesn't love a gooey chocolate cake? I have been wanting to make these at home for so long and just never got around to it. Whaddya know? Dorie has a recipe for these and they have already been made by TWD. The recipe was chosen by Leigh of Lemon Tartlet and the recipe can be found at her blog.

I baked mine in foil cupcake liners for easier removal and it worked like a charm. The only thing I would change in the future (and, yes, there will be a future for these in my house!) is the cooking time. They didn't turn out quite lava-ey enough. So next time I will cut off 2-3 minutes.

(I realize they look a little lava-ey (totally not a word!!!), but that is because I melted chocolate so I would have some lava! But, no fear, if you overcook these and they aren't gooey, they are still AMAZING!!!)

And I wanted to send a special thank you to Priscilla of Priscilla's Baking Adventures for this yummy blog award! I really appreciate it and you made my day!!!!

Southwestern Burgers and Corn Medley

So the picture doesn't do this meal justice. It was really good!!! I found the recipe for the burgers in the Aug/Sep issue of Taste of Home and the corn in the June/July issue. The corn was so good! I kept eating it right out of the pan. SO AMAZING! The burgers were great, too. There is a lot going on in them, so I didn't add any toppings to the burger. They were tasty and filling! Just make sure you refrigerate them long enough. I took them out a little early and noticed that they started to fall apart a bit, so make sure they are chilled properly.

I also made whole wheat hamburger buns that were delicious! The recipe is from Baking Bites.

Southwestern Burgers

1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
2 TBSP worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 lb ground beef (I just used 1 lb ground beef instead of beef and turkey)
1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup salsa
8 slices pepper jack cheese
Hamburger buns

In a large bowl, coarsely mash beans. Stir in the onion through pepper. Crumble beef and turkey over mixture and mix well. Shape into 8 patties (I only made 6). Refrigerate 1 hour.

Combine mayo and salsa; refrigerate until serving.

Grill burgers 5-7 minutes on each side or until meat thermometer reads 165.

Top with cheese and grill until melted. Serve on buns with mayo/salsa mix and toppings, if desired.

Fresh Corn Medley

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 TBSP butter
4 cups fresh corn
1/4 cup hot water
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos, drained
1 TBSP honey
1 tsp salt
Dash pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

In a large skillet, saute green pepper and onion in butter until tender. Add the corn, water, pimientos, honey, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes or until corn is tender. Sprinkle with cheese and bacon.

*I just sauteed the veggies in some of the bacon grease instead of getting out butter. I also used frozen corn.*

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

2 cups whole wheat flour, divided, plus more for kneading
1 cup water, warm (110F)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup wheat bran
2 tbsp brown sugar
scant 1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup water and the yeast in a large bowl and stir well. Let it stand, covered, for 1-3 hours (time is flexible here), until nice and bubbly. This “sponge” will probably puff up, too. This is fine.

Stir the remaining flour, wheat bran, brown sugar and salt into the sponge. Add extra flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding extra flour as necessary to prevent sticking, for 6-8 minutes or until elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 1/2-2 hours.

Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 equal portions. Shape into rounds and flatten (so they’re approx. 3/4 inch thick) onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover rolls with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 45-50 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.Bake rolls for 19-20 minutes, until browned. They will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.Makes 6 burger-sized buns.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Oatmeal & Vanilla Bean Oatmeal

Mmmm... oatmeal! It has been getting cold here and a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning has been so comforting. Of course, I get bored with the same old bowl of oatmeal with a little brown sugar sprinkled in. So, I turned to the wonderful world of food blogs and I wasn't disappointed. I found some great oatmeal recipes.

This week I have tried two; Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Oatmeal from Veggie Terrain and Vanilla Bean Oatmeal from Hot Off The Garlic Press. Both were amazing!

The raisin cookie oatmeal was out of this world! I loved how the walnuts provided some crunch and the cinnamon and nutmeg just highlighted the oatmeal. It really did taste like a cookie! So good!

The vanilla bean oatmeal was also great! It was more subdued, but not in a bad way. It had that classic vanilla flavor. If you think it is too expensive to use a vanilla bean for oatmeal, check out EBay! I didn't even think you could order vanilla beans on EBay, but you can and I did - for a heck of a lot cheaper than at the grocery store! Also, you could just use vanilla extract for the oatmeal, but I LOVE vanilla beans! I didn't take a picture of this oatmeal because it just looks like a plain bowl of oatmeal. But, I promise you, the flavor is anything but plain!!!

I will be trying another oatmeal recipe soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Oatmeal

1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup raisins
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or to taste)
1/4 cup walnuts
2 pinches ground cinnamon (or to taste)

Boil water and milk in medium saucepan. Stir in oatmeal & raisins, & reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 3 - 5mins.

After oatmeal has cooked, remove pan from heat & stir in vanilla & nutmeg. Next, stir brown sugar into oatmeal.

Place oatmeal in individual serving bowl & sprinkle with walnuts & cinnamon.

Vanilla Bean Oatmeal

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
Pinch of salt
Brown sugar, optional

Boil milk and water with vanilla bean. Add oatmeal and pinch of salt; cook until done. Pour into bowl, add brown sugar, if desired.

Hoisin Pork Noodles

Yum, yum, yum! This meal was so delicious! Not to mention EASY! Including cooking the noodles and slicing the pork, this meal was on the table in about 10 minutes. I don't know about you, but a meal that can be on the table in 10 minutes AND tastes great is going to be on my menu again and again!

I got the recipe from Konosur. It is for one serving, but I just increased everything to make enough for me and Anya.

Hoisin Pork Noodles

3 oz noodles
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 oz pork tenderloin, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp Hoi Sin sauce
Dash of white pepper

Boil water for cooking the noodles. Cook the noodles according to directions.

In a skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp of oil. Toss in garlic and pork. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Add in ginger to pork in skillet. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add in Hoisin sauce and white pepper. Add two tablespoons of water to pork, cover and set to medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

Drain cooked noodles. Add in peas to pork mixture. Cover and cook for another 2 minutes. Turn heat up. Toss in noodles to skillet. Quickly coat noodles with pork mixture and serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lemon Crumb Muffins

I think I may have breakfast issues. I LOVE baking in the morning. I actually debate about what to make for breakfast while I am falling asleep at night! The problem is that there are way too many recipes to make and I don't think I will ever have enough time. Unless I go Hobbit-style and have a second breakfast, too!

I found the recipe for these muffins in the April/May issue of Taste of Home. The recipe is for a ridiculous amount of muffins (40!!!!), so I quartered the recipe (used a full 1/4 tsp of the salt and baking soda, though) and it made exactly 10. They were really good and lemony. I love anything lemon (except just plain lemons!) and these muffins were great. I had one with the glaze and one without and they tasted pretty much the same to me. Because the glaze didn't make a huge difference to me, I will omit it in the future to cut back on the sugar.

Lemon Crumb Muffins

6 cups AP flour

4 cups sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

8 eggs

2 cups sour cream

2 cups butter, melted

3 TBSP lemon zest

2 TBSP lemon juice


3/4 cup AP flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter


1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, butter, lemon zest, and juice. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or papered muffin tins.

In a small bowl combine the flour and sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Mix together glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm muffins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beef with Ginger

There is no picture for this meal because I totally forgot!!! About halfway through the meal Monica says to me, "Hey... didn't you need to take a picture?" Oops. It smelled so good that I just dove right in! It's probably for the best. My pictures are only going to get worse. Baumholder is usually dreary, but fall/winter is worse than ever. I have ZERO natural light and I'm not that great of a photographer anyway!

This meal is quick and easy and incredibly delicious! Recipe, please....

Beef with Ginger

1 lb sirloin steak
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 TBSP grated fresh ginger
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tsp cornstarch
6 green onions, cut diagonally into 1" pieces
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

Cut steak diagonally across the grain into very thin strips. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute ginger in hot oil about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add beef; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in soy sauce. Mix beef broth with cornstarch. Drizzle over beef mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add green onions and red pepper. Cook 1 minute.

Serve immediately over hot rice.

Monday, September 15, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers

Dorie Greenspan... I love you! My waistline may eventually begin to dislike you, but me, I love you!

This cookie is going down as my favorite cookie EVER! I don't know if I am going to share them. I may keep them all to myself. Selfish, I know. But they are so good!

This is definately a chocolate lovers dream cookie. Very rich and almost brownie-like. The recipe calls for 5 different types of chocolate, nuts, and raisins. The idea of raisins in this cookie didn't appeal to me, so I subbed an additional chocolate for the raisins. So, this cookie has cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and toasted pecans. Oh.... my.... gosh! Amazing! I will make these again and again and again and again and again and... oh, you get the point!

Thank you Claudia of Fool for Food for choosing this superb recipe! Head over to her blog for the recipe and don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll to see what creative things these talented bakers did!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to me! (LONG POST!)

Well... I am officially 26. Closer to 30 than to 20. Really an adult. Halfway to 52. Okay, so it isn't bad and I realize I'm not old, but for some reason this birthday has got me thinking about getting older. I'm not nervous about turning 50, but 30 seems a little too close for comfort! At least my dear husband will hit that milestone before me! (Love you, babe!)

My wonderful friends Monica and Erica treated me to a wonderful early birthday on Saturday. We gorged ourselves so much, but it was totally worth it. We had a big lunch with two Chili's copycat recipes (Boneless Shanghai Wings and Southwestern Eggrolls) and a delicious Asian Chicken Salad (thanks, Erica, for granting my request for this salad!). Then we indulged in the best birthday cake EVER! Monica graciously made a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake for me and it was AMAZING!!!!!! I found the recipe at Vanilla Sugar and sent the link to Monica. I know, I'm a weirdo, but Monica indulges me!

After lunch, we took the kids to see Wall-E. It was cute, but Anya and Lexie didn't seem to care for it too much. Oh well... they still had fun!

We came back to my house for a quick dinner (Chicken Pitas and Fruit Salad), got the kids (two 3 year olds, a 6.5 month old, 5 month old, and 3.5 month old!) in bed and played Settlers, ate another cake (past DB challenge to be posted on 30 Sep) and got slap happy until about 1030. I know that isn't late for most, but for me, I was living on the edge!!!

My wonderful hubby got me the pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid and I am so stoked! Of course, him being here would've been the best present, but only 3 more months until R&R!!! I was also gifted with 2 cookbooks, a tart and tartlet pan, a year subscription to Everyday Food, and a cookie cutter set from my wonderful friends (Thanks Monica, Erica, and Kristl!!!). Can you tell kitchen stuff is exciting for me?

On to the wonderful recipes that I know you are going to want to make!!!

Boneless Shanghai Wings, Southwestern Egg Rolls, and Asian Chicken Salad

Boneless Shanghai Wings

1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 chicken breasts, chopped

Ginger Citrus Sauce:
1 1/4 cups water
1 TBSP cornstarch
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBSP fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 TBSP lime juice
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Wasabi Ranch Dressing:
1/2 cup ranch dressing
2 TBSP buttermilk
1 tsp prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp powdered wasabi
1 drop green food coloring

Combine flour, salt, pepeprs, and paprika in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together milk and egg. Dip chicken in egg, then dry mix; repeat process so that each piece is double coated. Arrange on a plate and chill 15 minutes.

As the chicken rests, prepare ginger sauce by dissolving cornstarch in water. Pour into saucepan with remaining ingredients and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Fry chicken in oil until done (5-6 minutes). Once chicken is done, place in sealed container with ginger sauce and shake well.

Whisk together all ingredients for dressing and serve with chicken.

Southwestern Eggrolls

1 chicken breast
1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP minced red bell pepper
2 TBSP minced green onion
1/3 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
2 TBSP frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 TBSP diced canned jalepeno peppers
1/2 TBSP minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
Dash cayenne pepper
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Five 7" tortillas

Avocado Ranch Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup smashed fresh avocado
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 TBSP buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp onion powder
Dash dried dill weed
Dash garlic powder
Dash pepper

Rub chicken with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook and set aside.

Saute red pepper through onion until tender. Dice cooked chicken and add to pan. Add corn through cayenne pepper. Stir well so spinach is incorporated. Remove from heat and add cheese; stir until melted.

Spoon 1/5 of mixture onto tortilla. Fold ends in, roll tightly; secrue with toothpick. Freeze 4 hours or overnight.

Deep fry eggrolls for 12-15 minutes. Mix all sauce ingredients and serve.

Note: I sometimes bake these instead of frying. No need to freeze; just pop in 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

Erica's Favorite Chicken Salad (Asian Chicken Salad)

4 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 cups slivered almonds
6 green onions, sliced thinly including tops
2 packages chicken flavored ramen noodles
6 cups boiled and chopped chicken breasts (chilled)
1 head finely shredded green cabbage

Keep all of the above separate until ready to serve.


4 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp white vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 seasoning packets from the Ramen

Heat sugar and vinegar until sugar is dissolved. Pour into pint sized container. Add vegetable oil and seasoning packets.
My delicious cake!

Yes, I ate that whole piece! Mmmmmm!!!!

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cake

1 box (18.25 ounces) devil's food cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Good pinch of salt
2 cups mini Reese peanut butter cups, chopped, plus 1 1/2 cups more for garnish (about 2 - 12oz. bags)


12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (used semi-sweet)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
4 TB of confectioners sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line with waxed paper; coat paper.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and salt on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high; beat for 2 minutes, scraping down side of the bowl after 1 minute. Fold in 2 cups of the chopped peanut butter cups.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 34 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let layers cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto wire racks and cool completely.

To make the PB ganache place chopped dark chocolate in a medium-size bowl. Bring cream just to a boil and pour over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts. Add peanut butter and confectioners sugar, whisking all till nice and smooth.

To frost the cake, put one cake layer on cooling rack and place on a baking sheet. Pour some ganache on top; spread evenly with a spatula. Then place remaining cake layer, and pour remaining frosting over the top, allowing it to spill over the sides. Smooth top and sides with spatula. Refrigerate 1 hour to set. Transfer cake to serving plate and garnish with the chopped Reese's PB Cups.

Homemade Pizza and a Smoothie

Mmmmm.... homemade pizza! It is so tasty! I found the crust recipe at Make & Takes. It was good, but a little too bready for me. It didn't ruin the pizza for me, but next time I will roll it a bit thinner to see if that helps. It was a very delicious!

Pizza Dough

1 T. Yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp. honey
2 T. Extra virgin olive oil
2-2 1/2 cups flour

Mix yeast, water, and honey in bowl. Let sit 5-10 minutes or until yeast is foamy. Add oil and flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in well oiled bowl; cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and roll out.

Bake at 400 for a couple minutes, then place toppings on and bake 10-12 minutes longer, or until cheese is bubbly.

And, yes, I realize pizza and smoothies aren't exactly synonymous, but I didn't want to do a whole new post for one little smoothie. Plus, I already have a blueberry smoothie posted, but this is different and delicious, so I wanted to post it, too. I found the recipe at Pioneer Woman.

Blueberry Yogurt Smoothie

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup blueberries

1 TBSP honey

Milk and ice

Blend yogurt, blueberries, and honey in blender. Add enough ice and milk to reach desired consisitency.

*I use frozen fruit instead of ice. You could sub any fruit you want for the blueberries, too.*

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sharing the Love (And my new gadget!)

Check out my new gadget!!! I don't know why I waited so long to buy this. It is the Sideswipe blade for KA mixers and it ROCKS! Look how clean the sides of that bowl are! No more stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides! If you couldn't tell by the millions of exclamation points in this paragraph, I am super excited!

And now to share the blog love! There are so many blogs that I love to read and I could go on and on about them all. I love that I can find just about anything I am looking for just by searching through the hundreds (or thousands!) of food blogs. What a great community and I am so glad to be a part of it!

The following blogs I find myself looking at all the time (it might be considered online stalking!) and I love the recipes, photos, and amazing posts! So, without further adieu, I love you all THIS MUCH!

Phe/Mom/enon; Picky Palate; Adventures in Gluttony; Cookies with Boys; Lori's Lipsmaking Goodness; How To Eat A Cupcake; and Del Sisters Kitchen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cookie Carnival: Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies

This month's cookie carnival recipe came from Martha Stewart. I had high hopes for this cookie. I figured, "It's Martha. It has to be good." Nope. Not good. They are actually sitting in my trash can as I type this.

The cookie itself has no flavor. It was completely bland. The only good thing about this cookie was the filling. It was absolutely delicious. I would spread it on a cake or a sugar cookie. Unfortuntately, it didn't help out the cookie. There was just no saving it.

On the bright side, Anya had a blast playing with the leftover dough!

If you want to try it out, the recipe can be found here. Also, check out the round up at The Clean Plate Club at the end of the month. Hopefully others had better luck than I did!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

TWD Rewind: Orange Berry Muffins

I am slowly but surely working my way through the recipes that have already been made by "Tuesday's with Dorie". 34 recipes were chosen prior to me joining and this is only my second "rewind", so I've got a lot of baking to do!

I chose this recipe for two reasons. One - it's a muffin, therefore pretty quick and easy. Two- I love breakfast and baking for breakfast makes me happy!

I really thought this would just be your run of the mill muffin and that there would be nothing special about it. Hmmm... don't doubt Dorie! These were amazing!!! I didn't have any oranges so I subbed lemon zest for the orange zest. I still used orange juice, but it was from the fridge, not fresh. Even so, these were one of the best blueberry muffins I have ever tasted! I loved them!!!

This recipe was chosen by Michelle of Brown Eyed Baker back in January and the recipe can be found at her blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Okay... let me go Racheal Ray on you for a minute and say YUM-O! These ice cream sandwiches are so delicious! I found the graham cookie recipe at Tender Crumb when Linda used the cookies to make sandwiches with the Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream from TWD. The pics looked so delicious that I bookmarked the site so that I would remember to make these soon!

Instead of the blueberry ice cream, I used Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Ice Cream from Salt and Chocolate. I figured cheesecake and graham crackers go great together. And let me tell you, this is no different! What an amazing ice cream sandwich!

Graham Cookies

3/4 C graham cracker crumbs
1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 C butter, softened
1/2 C shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Mix graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder in bowl. Add milk and butter. Fold in coconut. Dough will be sticky. Press into parchment lined 8x8 pan. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Ice Cream

8 oz of cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of half and half
2/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

Pinch of saltIn a blender or food processor add the sour cream, cream cheese, half and half, sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt. Blend until smooth and then chill in the refrigerator. Then freeze it your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.


To assemble cookies: Use round cookie cutter to cut cookies. Spread ice cream into baking pan; freeze solid. Use same cookie cutter to cut ice cream. Assemble cookies quickly and re-freeze. ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My First Blog Award!!!

WOW! What a wonderful thing to wake up to! And, yes, I mean "wake up"to! Eric only woke up to eat once last night! WOO HOO! But... that is a different subject!

This morning I woke up to a comment to check out Sherry Trifle and was overjoyed to see that she has given me this award! I feel so loved and I am so happy to know that others are not only reading my blog but enjoying it as well!

Thank you so much, Heather!!!

And I will pass this on to others soon. Promise. But Eric is now done eating and Anya needs breakfast! Busy, busy, busy!!!

Herbed Artichoke Cheese Tortellini

Yes, yes... I know that isn't tortellini. I didn't realize until I was making dinner that I grabbed ravioli instead of tortellini. No big deal, though. Everything still worked out!

I found this recipe in the July/August issue of Taste of Home "Simple & Delicious". It was easy to put together and it didn't take much longer than 15-20 minutes. Was it good? Yes. Will I make it again? Probably not. The reason... It didn't knock my socks off. It was good, but there are so many recipes that I want to try so making a meal again that wasn't spectacular the first time isn't something I want to do!

I am posting the recipe because it tasted good and who knows... it may knock your socks off!

Herbed Artichoke Tortellini

2 cans (14.5 oz each) Italian diced tomatoes
2 jars (6.5 oz each) marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
2 packages (9 oz each) refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
2-4 TBSP minced fresh basil OR 2-4 tsp dried basil
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 can (2.25 oz) sliced black olives, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Drain tomatoes, reserving 2/3 cup juice; set aside. Drain artichokes, reserving 3/4 cup liquid. Chop artichokes and set aside.
Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the onions, parsley, basil, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes in oil for 4-5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add the reserved tomatoes, tomato juice, and artichoke liquid.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes or until slightly thickened. Drain tortellini; add to tomato mixture. Stir in the olives, salt, and artichokes; heat through. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serves 8.

Monday, September 8, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops

This weeks selection was chosen by Rachel of "Confessions of a Tangerine Tart" and the recipe can be found on page 85 of "Baking: From My Home To Yours" or at Rachel's blog.

I was really excited about this recipe because not only do I love Whoppers, I actually had them in the house! The dough was super easy to throw together and it was very fudgy. I found myself eating it straight out of the bowl, although that is true of most cookie dough so I can't honestly say it was because of the cookies! :)

Truth be told, I liked the dough better than the final product. Don't get me wrong, these cookies are incredibly delicious, especially for all you chocoholics! My problem came from the Whoppers. That's right... the candy that I enjoy so much turns hard when cooked and becomes almost toffee-like. I don't like toffee... not in the least! So, I still ate the cookies (let's not get crazy!), but next time I make them (and there will be a next time!), I will sub white chocolate chips or peanut butter chips for the Whoppers. Sure, that changes the cookie and I wouldn't be able to call it by the proper name, but at least I won't have crunchies in my cookies!

Thanks, Rachel, for a great choice! Don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll to find out how everyone else fared.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Orange Glazed Blueberry Scones

I know, I know.... Another scone. But when I get obsessed with something, I can't help myself! I just ordered a scone cookbook from Amazon, too, so here is your warning. Many a scones will be appearing here! :)

This recipe comes from Tyler Florence. They were so tasty! The orange glaze reminded me of Froot Loops. That isn't a negative thing, though! I make these orange mini muffins just because they taste like Froot Loops! I don't buy sugar cereal (nor do I really eat cereal period), so I like that I now have two recipes that remind me of it!

I'd say the only negative thing about this recipe is that you are supposed to wait for the scones to cool before glazing and then wait for the glaze to harden. Um.... do they not know me??? I have to eat these right out of the oven! And to be honest, I didn't notice much of a difference between the one I ate right out of the oven and the half of one I ate 15 minutes later! So, eat them whenever you choose!

*Note: I used buttermilk and frozen blueberries. I cut them into triangles (this recipe only makes 1 disc, so no need to halve!) as opposed to dropping them in mounds. Maybe I'll try that next time! Also, I cut the glaze recipe in half and it was PLENTY!*

Orange Glazed Blueberry Scones

2 cups unbleached flour, plus more for rolling berries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut in chunks
3/4 cup buttermilk or cream
1 egg
1 pint fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar; mix thoroughly. Cut in butter using 2 forks or a pastry blender. The butter pieces should be coated with flour and resemble crumbs.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk and egg together, and then add to the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate, do no overwork the dough. Roll blueberries in flour to coat, this will help prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the scone when baked. Fold the blueberries into batter, being careful not to bruise. Drop large tablespoons of batter on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until brown. Cool before applying orange glaze.

Orange Glaze:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 oranges, juiced and zested

To prepare Orange Glaze: combine butter, sugar, orange zest, and juice over a double boiler. Cook until butter and sugar are melted and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and beat until smooth and slightly cool. Drizzle or brush on top of scones and let glaze get hazy and hardened.

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