Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stuffed French Toast

I don't know if I have ever met someone who doesn't like french toast.  I know that there has to be someone out there, but everyone I know does like french toast.  And everyone I know that knows about Stuffed French Toast, loves that even more.


Once again, it's about making the meal special and this takes what is already great about french toast and adds a decadence and elegance to it.  I didn't by any means create this dish, but I sure had fun making and eating it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Challenge - Week 2 - Mini Chocolate Pies

For the longest time I able to avoid Pinterest.  Partially because I didn't totally understand it right away and partially because I wasn't sure that I wanted to have access to one more thing that would consume some more of my time.  Well, about eight months ago I gave in, and I have to say, I've had some fun. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bolognese with Polenta

Here it comes ladies and gentleman...another time consuming, but absolutely delicious-I'm-going-back-for-seconds-and-maybe-thirds kind of dinner!  


Friday, December 7, 2012

The Holiday Challenge - Week 1 - Home Made Whiskey Caramels

The holiday season is upon all of us and like the last few years, our house already screams Christmas.  Both trees are up with lights on, but not fully decorated yet.  The Christmas Village is rockin' it's light house, fire pit, carolers, B&B, Wine Shop and more.  And the rest of the boxes and totes made it up from the garage and are ready to be dug through and placed out.  Half of the Christmas shopping is done and ready to be wrapped.

So, basically, I'm saying bring me on some holiday spirit!  I have given myself a little challenge for the blog this season to help me continue trying something new...and that challenge is to make a different kind of holiday cookie or treat each week leading up to Christmas.  And then, of course, blog about it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Day After Holiday Leftovers

After a big family holiday meal and making sure the family and guests are all fed, well, at least with this family, there is enough food for leftovers.  After all of the cooking, all of the laughter, all of the eating...this year, it seemed a little boring to just reheat the leftovers and eat.  Plus, I only had one container of leftovers and five people to feed a nice lunchtime snack.



Time to be creative!  And bite sized snacks sounded wonderful for the group.  The only thing that would have made this even better would have been a pureed cranberry sauce to dip this in.


It was an added bonus for me that I got to use my mini muffin pan to make this.  I love when I get to use that for baking anything, but can say that normally, it can seem a little tedious when I think of making mini cupcakes and all the mini frosting that needs to be done with that.



This is a fun creative way to use up the food that you spent all that time cooking for the first meal, without spending a lot of time re-creating.

The Day After Holiday Leftovers

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbls melted butter
  • Left overs
    • Turkey
    • Stuffing
    • Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

Preparation:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease the mini muffin tin with the melted butter and set aside.
  • Chop up the turkey into smaller pieces and place in a bowl.  
  • Using your hands, combine turkey with the stuffing until worked together.  
  • Fill the mini muffin cups with the mixture and top with mashed sweet potatoes.  
  • Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes until everything is warmed up and there is a nice baked top on the mashed sweet potatoes.

Happy Leftovers!!!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mosaic Apple Tart

The simplest ingredients come together in something quite extravagant with this dessert.  This tart will satisfy those who love desserts that aren't too sweet with just the right amount of freshness. 


 It is a bit of a labor of love to get the apples sliced the same size (thank god for the mandolin) and the proper arrangement on the tart.  Aside from that, the small amounts of butter, sugar and having a premade frozen pastry adds an element of ease to the dish.  


All that being said, this dessert needs your time and attention.  There will be time with peeling & slicing the apples, as well as the arranging, baking, caramel and baking again.  I'm not saying any of this to scare you off.  It is as easy as it gets, just time consuming.  For those of you who love to create something beautiful, as well as delicious, this is soooo worth that time.


The main tip with this dish is to have everything ready for your apples.  Pre-cut the butter & store in the fridge, roll out the pastry dough and place it on the sheet pan, preheat the oven and get your station ready.

This end result is worth every minute of time put into this dish!!!

Mosaic Apple Tart

Ingredients:
  • 14oz frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 3-4 apples, peeled and sliced thin and even
  • 2 Tbls sugar
  • 2 Tbls cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • Flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbls cold butter
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbls heavy cream

Preparation:
  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees and line your sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Sprinkle the flour on your work surface, unfold your puff pastry and roll out.  Roll it out gently until it fits the sheet pan.  Place in sheet pan.
  • Peal the apples, cut in half and remove the cores and stems. Using a mandolin (or just a knife), thinly slice the apples.
  • Begin arranging the apple slices around the pastry dough starting with the edges.  Over lap them so that about 1/2 - 1 inch of the prior apple is showing.
  • Sprinkle the sugar over the tart to cover all the apples and place the small, cold pieces of butter around the top of the apples.
  • Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes until the pastry browns and the apples start to color.
  • While the tart is almost done, begin the caramel sauce by heating the 1/4 cup sugar over medium high heat in a sauce pan.  Let the sugar cook over the heat until sugar turns a nice copper color.
  • Take off heat and add salt and butter until completely melted.  Return to head and slowly add the heavy cream.  Definitely add slowly because once the heavy cream hits the melted sugar, it will start to boil up.  
  • Cook for another few minutes until you reach a nice caramel color, then remove from the heat.
  • Pull the tart out of the oven and carefully brush the top of the apples with the caramel.  Try to time it so that the tart comes out close to when the caramel is finished.  The warmer the caramel, the easier to spread.
  • Place the tart back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the caramel sauce is bubbling.
  • Remove, let cool a little (hot caramel is really hot), cut anyway you would like and enjoy!

Happy Baking!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hasselback Potatoes

My opinion on Hasselback Potatoes is that they are simply baked potatoes made fancy.  In the theme of making every meal special one dish at a time, this is a great way to change things up.  Your family will experience the baked potatoes that they love in a whole new way.


I started this dish with four potatoes and I ended with two that were photograph-able at the end because I was a little heavy handed with the knife.  Two of the potatoes became four when I didn't stop and went through to the bottom.  Oops!  No worries...they were still edible, but not the best for the blog.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Home Made Apple Pie

This is home-made-to-the-finest apple pie!

   
Although, I'm fairly confident in the kitchen, when it comes to something like Apple Pie, where it is well known to everyone and evokes such fond memories, I get a little nervous to create something new.  You hear how everyone's grandma or aunt or mom makes the BEST apple pie.  So, why mess with that? 


Well, I was wanting to really just try something new and since I've never really made an apple pie, this seemed liked a fun fall dessert after a dinner of homemade Ruben sandwiches.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Simple Stove Top Chicken Dinner

An old saying that is thrown around, but not always heeded is: 'Some times less is more.' 

In this case, the less can be more appealing because it's simple to put together, easy to cook and leaves you with a quite tasty finished product.  I like dinners like this for those nights that you would rather cook at home, but being a 5 star chef is not a necessity.


 To get started, just grab a few things from your spice cabinet and your meat tenderizer.  I am a fan of the tenderizer when it comes to chicken breasts because making them all the same thickness allows for much more even cooking time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Roasted Garlic Hummus

Love This Recipe!!!
I have tried to make hummus before, but I have had issue with either the texture being a little gritty or it having a strong bite.  And by bite, I mean a Holy-Buckets-Get-Ready-For-Your-Socks-To-Get-Knocked-Off kind of finish that I do not want in my hummus.
Hummus is quite a staple in our house for all get togethers and for the occasional apps and wine night. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Roasted Garlic

It is amazing how scents can transform a mood, bring back a memory or excite a calm or frenzied mood in people.  I believe that garlic is one of those undeniable scents that would make even the most novice cook want to venture into the kitchen, thrown on an apron and hit the stove.
This easy technique of roasting can give you many options for dishes and will give the flavor just a touch more richness in flavor.  A simple three ingredients can lead to many food options.

Friday, June 1, 2012

AntiPasto Salad


AntiPasto's literal translation is 'Before the Meal' and is a traditional Italian starter course for meal time.  And I can't think of a better way to start a meal than with mouth watering cheeses, cured meats and the perfect vinaigrette dressing.  The dressing in this recipe truly makes the meal.  Just the right mix of Balsamic, Olive Oil and herbs send you on the right course for a great meal. 
Personally, I have a hard time remembering whether it is called AntiPastO or AntiPastA.  Primarily because it somewhat feels like a pasta salad without the pasta - aka, AntiPasta.  Either way you want to say it, this salad will be a big hit at your next gathering.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grilled Romaine Salad

I have always believed in hard work, especially when it comes to my career and definitely when it comes to my cooking.  Where I may have had a shortcoming is with my eating....I'm sure you're all aware at this point that I LOVE FOOD!  And, not just the actual food, but the concept, the presentation, the creamy, savory, mouth watering, delectable, chocolatey, salty, rich, doughy, can't wait till the next bite amazingness of a good meal and a perfect bite that puts a smile on your face and sometimes a little twinkle in your eye.
So...I love food and everything about it.  Where I can have an issue is putting the fork down sometimes.  It's so good, I always want more.  This isn't a struggle to me alone, I know.  That's why concepts, like The Biggest Loser, is born and ends up working it's way into my work life.  So, willingly I signed up to lose what I can.  Which means, the loveliness of some of the AMAZING desserts I have on here have not been made for a while and why recipes like this Grilled Romaine Salad will show up a little bit more over the summer.  While the contest is only going through June, I would like to switch some stuff up and grow my culinary knowledge by challenging myself to create more which will NOT give up taste, but may be on the healthier side.
Things I promise you (and myself):  1) I am not starving myself; 2) I will NEVER cut anything out of my diet entirely - MODERATION; & 3) I will never get rid of BUTTER - I love the stuff and the alternative (Marg) is not in my wheel house. 
Working with the grill to switch up a little of the usual salad is just one of the ways to make healthier choices a little more fun on a daily basis.  And if you are already grilling for the night, it's really easy to just throw these romaine halves right before everything else is done.  Grilling the romaine gives a crunch and adds a smokiness and some summer fun.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lemon Cut Out Cookies with Royal Icing

My mom starting something last fall which I believe/hope may become a tradition between the households.  When she came to visit, she brought treats in a large Tupperware container.  The next time she came to visit, I tried giving that container (emptied of goodies and washed) back to her, but she would not accept.  She said, next time you come to my house, you bring this back with something in it.  Now, if i was in a jokester kind of mood, I probably could have put something like golf balls or paper clips or anything that I would have wanted to rid my house of, but...since it was a combo Easter weekend/My Mom's Birthday, I honored the intend of the tradition by making lemon cut out cookies with royal icing.  

The icing in the recipe is a little crazy because it takes about 12 hours to fully set, but can harden quite quickly.  Once I made the icing, I divided into five 1 quart zip lock bags, and mixed in the different colors I wanted.  I love that you can turn zip lock bags into make-shift piping bags...especially, since I only have one piping bag.  The cut out cookies were great because unlike those that I am used to (ie - grandma's sugar cookies), they do not need chilling time before you roll them out.  You can if you want...but it's the do not have to part that is awesome.  

The best part about this whole thing is that I unloaded the Tupperware and am eagerly awaiting whatever treat comes back to see me. :) 



Friday, April 13, 2012

Grilled Cheese & Gazpacho Soup

A New Twist on An Old Classic...
Who doesn't remember Kraft singles melted between toasted bread and served with Campbell's Tomato Soup from their childhood?!  This standby helped kids through colds, was awesome - if you cut the grilled cheese right (triangles), and I'm sure helped parents out on those nights where almost nothing sounded good for their children, except a standby like grilled cheese and tomato soup.
Jump ahead 25 years to re-invent this dish by changing out the Kraft singles, white bread and Campbells' tomato soup for Havarti & Provolone Cheese on French Bread Panini'd and dipped in a cool Tomato Gazpacho Soup.  I'm kind of hungry and longing a little for my childhood while writing about this right now.  This was served at one of the bridal functions I have been assisting with, so it was prepared with the thought of appetizers in mind, but this dish would also be perfect finger food for after school snacks or a summer lunch. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Minestrone Soup

Some recipes still manage to astonish me as to how easy they are to make, how little time they take and how truly delish they are.  This Minestrone Soup recipe is one of those. 

I found the recipe out of a Better Homes & Gardens magazine from this spring.  And the thing that I like most about this recipe is the adaptability of it.  I didn't have exactly everything that the recipe called for, but I had most of it and the substitutions worked great.  Probably didn't hurt that I had made some home made french bread that week to accompany the soup. 


Minestrone Soup
Ingredients:
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs (I had stewed tomatoes, non-Italian herb flavor)
  • 14 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 1 Cup low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I used chicken)
  • 1 medium yellow sweet pepper, chopped (I used sweet red pepper)
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning or 1 tsp each dried basil and garlic powder
  • 1 Cup dry rigatoni or penne pasta (I used shell shaped noodles, because that is what I had on hand)
  • 2-3 Cups baby spinach
  • Optional - Shaved Parmesan and/or fresh basil
Preparation:
  • In a dutch oven combine the tomatoes, 2 cups water, beans, broth, sweet pepper, seasoning, and pasta.  Bring to boiling over high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until pasta is barely tender.
  • Stir in spinach.  ladle into individual bowls. 
  • Top with Parmesan cheese and/or fresh basil.
Makes four servings.
Happy Cooking!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Pineapple is always and sweet and healthy way to sweeten up any dish, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner....and this salsa could play a part of any one of those three meals.  


 Originally made for my birthday, it was later requested at further family functions because it combines just the right amount of heat and sweet to satisfy the pallet.




Meyer Lemon & Picholine Olive Tapenade

Sometimes some of the simplest constructions can end up making the biggest statement.  This dip was inspired when dreaming up ways to incorporate food items from my part-time job into dishes for serving at our gift registry events.  My first thought is to make sure it tastes good, second that it doesn't actually take too much time to prepare and finally, that it looks amazing in presentation.  In looking through the pictures, I say I achieved one, two and three with this quick dip.
Obviously, you can serve with just the dip in a bowl and crackers as well, but if you wish to impress, this is a great way to go.


Rock & Roll Chocolate Cake

If there ever is a time you are in search of a good Chocolate Cake Recipe, you can stop looking because this is it.  By far, the best chocolate cake/make it from scratch/stay moist for days cake I have ever had.  I think it is the addition of coffee and since you have heard of my love of coffee in the past, this probably does not surprise you.
 
This cake can be made in a 9 x 13 cake pan or 2 - 8 inch or 9 inch rounds and will all turn out awesome!  As I have been informed, it's so good, people will be licking the plate clean when all the cake is gone!  As for the shape, I found a print out online for a guitar and used it as a format for the shape that I wanted.  Easy as pie...I mean cake!
Rock & Roll Chocolate Cake




Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mini Lemon Cheese Cake Bites

 There a some things that upon first bite, you fall in love and you just know that there is a little piece of heaven going on right here on earth in the form of a Mini Lemon Cheese Cake Bite.  Now, if you are watching your waist line or dairy is not your friend, this recipe is probably not for you.  But maybe, just maybe, because this is a bite size piece of heaven, you can throw caution to that wind and let the rest of the world slip away as the creamy, sweet, citrusy cake begins to melt in your mouth.  


Assembled on a whim, this has been one of my favorite creations to date.  Combining the wonderful softness of cream cheese, marscarpone cheese and heavy cream with the crisp freshness of lemon juice & zest and the crunch of the wafer crust, makes me wish I would've made extras, so that I could have left overs right now.  This could be made into a full fledged cheese cake since this is a no-bake for the cheese portion, the crust could be any standard graham cracker or vanilla wafer crushed crust.  I definitely would consider this for one of my summer get togethers.  

Who wants to come over?





Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Asian Chicken Noodle Salad

A quick and easy way to through together a side dish is to buy dressing, cook up some noodles and add some fresh veggies.  That's the inspiration for this tasty side dish: Asian Chicken Noodle Salad.  There is not much to say about this dish, except for two things:  Make it your own by adding the veggies of your choice dressing/dipping sauce of your choice & it can be served cold, which is awesome when you want to prep this a head of time.







Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fondue for Fruit

Chocolate fondue is not just for dipping anymore!
 
Alright, that was just me trying to be cute.  But really, what could be easier than cutting up fruit, heating up some chocolate and combining the two in to a half healthy, sweet and creamy, undeniably chocolaty bite?!  The answer...not much.  
There isn't too much else that can be said about this super simple party staple.  You can serve it the traditional fondue dipping way, or pre-skewer the fruit and drizzle the chocolate on top, which can help it set and stop some of the chocolate mess that otherwise could happen with chocolate fondue.  As a friends mother once said, never have a chocolate fountain when there is a lot of wine around, you'll be cleaning it off of the ceiling later.

Camembert & Apple Panini's

There are some foods that for some reason make me feel European, or international, or really, just fancier than a Midwesterner who likes her cheese.  This is one of those dishes.  With the rich creaminess of the Camembert cheese, the crunch of a fresh apple slice and goldened bread and the sweet flavor or the mango, apple sandwich spread, it's not hard to imagine myself sitting on a cobblestone patio sipping on an espresso and enjoying my Camembert & Apple Panini.  ...Ok, part of this may be because I am really wishing for summer and some warmer weather right now, too.  It doesn't matter the time of year or whether your in your kitchen or in France...this sandwich is GOOD!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Caramelized Shallot & Goat Cheese Flatbread

Whether you're searching for an tasty appetizer to serve company or a quiet dinner for two.  This simple and very tasty combination of caramelized vegetable, dough and creamy goat cheese can transform themselves into bite size bits or a rolled out flat bread pizza.


This dish can be one that you can make your own.  Use your imagination and your taste buds to lead you to your perfect bite.  In this case, I used a box mix for the flat bread, which required time for the dough to rise; prepared caramelized shallot spread (you can obviously make your own as well); and Mediterranean Herbed Goat Cheese. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

BBQ Bellini Meatballs




Nothing could be easier than throwing a few ingredients into the slow cooker and coming back hours later to the perfect appetizer of BBQ Bellini Meatballs. You don't need to be an expert chef to create this crowd pleaser. This appetizer came about because there

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caprese Salad on a Stick

Caprese salad goes back century's as a staple appetizer for many Italian families, but it was not until the 1950's, when on the isle of Capri, it was served to an Egyptian king. Most of the time, the presentation includes layering large slices of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves around a platter and topping with olive oil. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spanish Style Shrimp

If you like garlic, butter, shrimp and a little kick...this recipe is for you. It is one of my favorite appetizers and is such a simple recipe! Thanks to my mom who gave me a fun cookbook centered all around appetizers and dips for parties.  

The first Christmas that I was in charge of cooking for my family after college I decided to mix it up a bit. After leaving in the turkey and stuffing, of course, what was left to mix up was everything else...and I was excited. We had a spinach & artichoke dip with pita, fruit salad (not from a can) with a hand whipped cream dip, ginger baked sweet potatoes, spinach salad with chopped walnuts, berries and balsamic dressing and.....the FAMOUS SPANISH STYLE SHRIMP! Don’t think I need to tell you that my family left the table very full that year!



Since then, it has been a requested favorite for almost all holidays and any trip home. The main tip when making this recipe is to have all the prep work done before throwing the shrimp in the pan because this one goes quick. Also, if you have someone picking up the groceries for you, make sure to specify that you want uncooked, PEELED shrimp. Otherwise, it will take twice as long to peel the shrimp as it will to cook them.  

Do not currently have pictures of this dish...so, posting this gives me reason to make this recipe again. Who wants to come to dinner?



Spanish Style Shrimp


Ingredients:
  • 4 Tbls butter
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 - 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbls fresh lime juice

Directions:
  • In 12-inch skillet (recipe called for non-stick, but my stainless skillet works just as well), melt 1 Tbls butter and cook shrimp with salt 2 minutes or until shrimp are almost pink, turning once. Remove shrimp and set aside.
  • In same skillet, melt remaining 3 Tbls butter and cook garlic and jalapeno, stirring occasionally. Return shrimp to skillet. Stir in cilantro and line juice and approx 30 seconds or until shrimp turn pink.
This dish is well served with french bread.

*Recipe from cookbook 'Favorite Brand Name Best Loved Appetizers'

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cream of Mango Soup

I am going to start off with....I know this sounds rather weird - Cream of Mango Soup??? Really???
The answer is yes! yes! yes! This is so refreshing and perfect for summer. It involves so little time to put together and pairs nicely with a refreshing salad. I will say that this soup alone does not a meal make. I learn a lot of things by experience and my experience has taught me that if you have just this for lunch, you will be rather hungry by the end of the work day.
Either way, I'm extremely happy that I came across this recipe. I was looking for stuff to put together a picnic style meal for my book club in July and this popped up in my search. Being that it sounded different, I had to test it out before serving it to a group. 

Here is some tips on what I learned:
  1. Pureed fruit with cream may be my go to this summer for light meals or side dishes.
  2. I will be trying variations on this - for book club, I will be adding some fresh ginger to add that something extra. Other variations - fresh herbs such as rosemary or basil.
  3. To save the time of peeling and cutting the mango's, most supermarket offer chopped mango's in their produce area.
  4. Left overs can last up to 4-5 days as long as it is refrigerated.
  5. I also saw a recipe for Mango Gaspatcho which I will probably be trying some time this summer. And yes, this also sounds weird, but it has received great reviews, so it's worth a shot.





Monday, January 9, 2012

Sauteed mushrooms in Collard Greens

It's Time to Try a New Side
 
This dish was made for the Thanksgiving meal featured this last fall. It is a nice side dish that adds that extra something special to your table. I know that there are thoses who are not big mushroom fans, so this may not be the side dish for you. But for the mushroom fans in your life, this will be a recipe to write down and remember.
 
For me, mushrooms add that something extra that finishes some dishes, whether it be beef stroganoff , sauteed mushrooms on a grilled steak or stuffed with

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Roasted Root Vegetables

It's time to get back to basics on this easy to prepare side dish.  Root vegetables get their name because they grow underground and are essentially, the root to the plants growing on the surface.  Some of the most well known root vegetables are potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, rutabaga and celery root.  Some root vegetables are used more for their flavor than just roasting to eat.  Examples of this are horseradish,  burdock root, salsify, black salsify, diakon and wasabi.



My absolute favorite memory of root vegetables would have to come from my childhood when my dad grew the largest garden known to mankind.  OK.  OK.  I know that is probably an exaggeration, but if you see it's footprint, it was nothing to shake a stick at.  It took up about  1/2 of our very large yard and all of us kids where grateful because that meant there was less grass to mow.  We were also grateful for it on those hot summer days when we were playing outside and just wanted a little snack.  How easy it was to grab a few carrots out of the ground or peas in a pod, rinse them off on the garden hose, and continue with whatever adventure we had planned for the day.  I really cannot wait until I have a place where I can have a garden of my own.

Well, on to the easy part...Roasting Root Vegetables..



















Roasted Root Vegetables