Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sweet Sunday!

 Oh, yeah!  It's a Nutella kind of day.  Thomas was gone for 36 hours and I wanted to spoil him horribly upon his return.  PLUS, I just landed a new job here, and I was in the mood for a cooking celebration!
So, I started mixing up the recipe for the Chocolate Hazelnut Torte, when I realized I used a regular size devil's food mix instead of the half-size.  Whoops!  I guess that just means I had to make two instead of one.   Luckily, I had enough of the other ingredients to double up without causing too much of a scene in our household.  Oh, and I only used 1/4 of the prescribed hazelnuts from the single recipe for the cake because I'm not entirely nuts about nuts.

 Now, I didn't have any Cool Whip in the house, and I wasn't really in the mood for their prescribed frosting, so I did a little search and found a Nutella Cream Cheese frosting that sounded OUT OF THIS WORLD!  Real talk.  Be jealous.
Now, I had two cakes, so instead of making two whole cakes, I decided to be a piggy make a double layered torte.  If you're going to make a cream cheese frosting, why let any of it go to waste?!  Also?  I think I used almost twice as much Nutella in the frosting and about half as much powdered sugar.  It made more sense to me that way.

I couldn't let the rest of the nuts go to waste, so I used the other 1/4 cup to sprinkle across the top.  I didn't want to save them for another day, so I figured that it was now or never.  Finally, I made up some strawberries to cut the richness (ha!) or at least add the goodness of strawberries and whipped cream.  How could you go wrong with a dessert like that?!  Quick tip?  Use the egg slicer+ to slice your strawberries beautifully for a dessert!

Oh yeah...  it was that good!

Friday, July 29, 2011

I feel like chicken tonight! Like Chicken Tonight!!

Yes, chicken is a common theme in these parts, but when it's cheap and easy - who could blame me?  I'm continuing on my trend of using my deep covered baker because it makes things so stinking easily, I can't resist!  So, without any real further ado, I bring you the Grilled Chicken Penne al Fresco.

  I'm starting to use some of the tomatoes from my garden.

It's easy to tell the crazy looking homemade ones (with no fertilizer or pesticides) from the perfect ones from the store.  I have about 100 tomatoes that will be ripe in about a week, but for this recipe, I had to supplement.  I quickly diced them, threw them in the baker, and baked them with the garlic.

 Then I added the noodles and the other ingredients (except for the chicken and cheese) and threw the baker back into the microwave.

I ended up added the extra (extra large) chicken breast that was left over from my last baker round, and a whole cup of parmesan because we love our cheese!

Thomas loved it, but I would have loved to add some fresh garden zucchini, peppers, and maybe some more veggies!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and the DCB

I was fortunate enough to receive an e-cookbook for my Deep Covered Baker this week. I always kind of write off the baker, unless I have a really good recipe - like the Rocky Road brownies. However, I've decided to try more recipes in there, since it is considered the "magic" baker, and see how it goes.

Starting off, I was looking to do something with chicken.  I found this incredible deal last week on obviously hormone injected chicken breasts. They were around a half a pound a piece, and only two fit comfortably in my baker at a time...  So, I put some fajita seasoning on them, as well as some garlic powder, and popped them in the microwave (with the lid on) for 8 minutes.  I flipped them over, re-seasoned as necessary, and went for about 8 more minutes.  Usually, you can do a breast in about 8 minutes total, but these were horkers and needed a lot of time due to thickness.
While that was going on, I sauteed a small red onion (from my garden) in a pan.  Then, as the chicken was finished, I chopped it up in my food chopper (of course) and threw it into the pan as well. I also took all of the pre-made BBQ sauce I had and added it to the pan to let the chicken simmer.

I then started the other two chicken breasts on the same 8/8 minute rotation.  As they were finished, I also added them to the pot.
There are recipes for BBQ sauce that I've found, but I didn't want to bother when we had an exorbitant amount of sauce already in the house from our last BBQ meatball dish. 

Finally, we stacked the meat high on some sweet King's Hawaiian rolls, served with chips, and enjoyed on the patio.  All in all, I was done in about a half hour, and the clean up was only my baker (piece of cake), and the stir-fry pan.  Amazing...  and these are the reasons why I love summer!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Easy Chicken Fajitas!

It has come to pass, in my short decade or so of cooking, that if a recipe claims to be "easy," AKA, easy is part of the title, then I'm hooked.  I don't think I (necessarily) look for the easy way out of life, I just know that when it comes to my limitations, I don't want to spend my time making flop meals.  I'd rather make a meal that I'm almost guaranteed success in then to try one too difficult and fail spectacularly.

Hence, tonight's Easy Chicken Fajitas.  We make all sorts of wraps all the time, so I'm no stranger to the taco/fajita game.  I know what's going to tast great, and what I could probably skip on.  This recipe was easy enough, and it pretty much followed through on the way I normally make fajitas.  Since we had just about everything in the house, it was the winner winner chicken dinner of the night.  I can also say that I pretty much stuck to the recipe on this, although I also added some taco seasoning to the chicken for kick.

They say there's no wrong way to eat a Reese's.  I'd like to contend that there's no wrong way to build a wrap, just pile it on and enjoy!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A sneak peak dessert!

Shhh...  don't tell anyone this, but this recipe hasn't even been "released" yet!  Oh sure, it's out there, and it has been published, but it hasn't been officially published yet, so you're getting a sneak peak at a new Pampered Chef recipe from the new fall line up of goods!  Because of that, I'll actually post the recipe here.  I tried finding it elsewhere online, and it's not as easy as it looks. 

So... without further ado... Let me introduce to you, the...

Microwave Rocky Road Brownie Dessert!!!
1 cup walnut halves, toasted (I subbed 1/2 cup of chopped pecans)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
16 large marshmallows (cut in half)
20 milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped
Vanilla Bean ice cream (optional, but not really!)

(Yep.  It really is as great as it sounds.)

First, you coursely chop your nuts, if you didn't buy them already chopped. 
Next, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, set aside.
Cutter butter into pieces, and chop the unsweetened chocolate.  Place butter and chocolate in microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 - 2 minutes or until mostly melted, stirring every 30 seconds.

Add sugar and eggs to the chocolate mixture; whisk until smooth.  Fold in flour mixture and 1/2 of the nuts until incorporated.  Then, pour your batter into your Deep Covered Baker, spreading evenly.  Microwave, uncovered, on high for 5 - 7 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Use oven mitts to remove your baker from the microwave.

After that, top your brownies with your halved marshmallows, the chocolate kisses, and the last 1/2 of your nuts.  Microwave, covered this time, on high for 1 - 2 minutes, or until the marshmallows start to soften.  Remove baker from microwave.

Let dish stand for 5 minutes, covered.  Then, spoon onto plates and serve with ice cream.  It will be well worth the 15 minutes (tops) it took to make!!

I've gotten a great deal of compliments on this already, so if I were you, I'd get out there while the recipe was still young and impress your friends.


So good, even down to the last drop!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Cran-Raspberry Fizz

This drink is so ridiculously easy (and delicious), that I suggest you run to the store during lunch today and pick up the (short list of) ingredients!

I got to use my mandoline on this, which always makes me happy, but (more importantly), there's a raspberry sorbet in here, so it's crisp AND refreshing!  We also added some Malibu and some citrus rum, to make it more adult, but this would be great for a party of all ages as a punch.

Go get some fun cups while you're out, too.  These definitely deserve pretty glasses, or crazy straws.  Either way, this one's a winner!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Tuesday for Thomas

I always brag about Thomas' skills, but I never really showcase him.  Sorry about that, I just hardly ever catch him in the action.  He's on like Donkey Kong and then gone, baby, gone.  So, I snuck into the kitchen this past weekend to catch him making one of our favorites - asparagus!  There's hardly a week that goes by without asparagus in our household, so I thought I'd share one of Thomas' new recipes he's been trying from the Food Network Magazine

As you can see, Thomas is already a firm believer in a Pampered Chef kitchen...  Here, he's using the much abused Food Chopper (not a meal goes by where this one gets any rest), and one of our two cup prep bowls, with lid.  That way he can prep the drizzle and take it with him to our cook out and leave the rest of the mess at home!
For this asparagus, Thomas also pulled out the garlic press and our microplane adjustable grater/zester.  These are also staples in the kitchen.  He is not, however, using one of our flexible cutting mats, but I think that's because this one warped in the dishwasher and so it holds the lemon juice in!
As Thomas was peeling the asparagus, I noticed him putting them into iced water.  I know that asparagus grow well in sandy soil, so I know soaking them helps to get them clean, but the ice?  I had no idea.  Thomas, first of all, told me that he was cleaning them in salt water.  He added salt to the water to help kill of any other nasty that still might be on the asparagus.  As for the ice?  He said it seemed like a great way to keep them fresh and crisp.  Seeing as he makes asparagus all the time, I had to trust him on this one!

Finally, when we got to the cookout, he cooked them quite quickly, and then added his drizzle on top.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Ode to Summer

If I could encapsulate everything I hold dear about summer, it would be this:

That's right.  A whole bowl of strawberries (2 pints), cut neatly and sprinkled with some Splenda Blend for an extra oomph.  Straight out of the fridge, nicely chilled, after a long day out on the beach.

Ahhhhh...  Love the beach!
But, if you really want to make it taste like a dessert, then you have to add some whipped cream!

Or A LOT of cream, and then call it a day!  Happy Summer, everyone!!

Now THAT'S the ticket!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Hearty Side Conversation

She said, he said...

"What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing, it's wonderful."

"There's really a lot of chicken and filler in there."
"Apparently. It's great, really."

"Okay, so here's the deal.  It's a really hearty side dish, and would be great with a filling soup - "
"I served it with a big salad for us to share!"

"Yes, or a salad.  I just wouldn't want this to be my whole dinner."
"But it's not."
"It's just a great side dish, like something you bring for a braai, or for soup."
"It's summer.  I thought salad was better."

"I'm not saying it's not wonderful.  I'm just saying it's a perfect side dish."


"Hehehe...  you just had cornbread for your dinner..."
"Yes.  *sigh*  Yes, I did."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thai One On - Lettuce Wraps!

I've been off my blogging game a bit lately, sorry, Peeps!  It's been a laid back kind of week, and I've been doing much of nothing other than wasting time and catching up on sleep.  However, I think I'm almost back in the groove and should be cranking out some yummy food, and subsequent posts for you pretty soon.

However, the other day I managed to make an old book club favorite - Thai Basil Chicken Lettuce  Wraps.  Now, mind you, I didn't really follow the directions, since I've been making lettuce wraps for a couple of years now, but I did follow along with the general premise.

First off, the ingredients:
I used pre-marinated/cooked teriyaki chicken, some basil, romaine lettuce, bell pepper, and cucumber.  I just bought some Thai peanut sauce, instead of making it from scratch.  I bought the generic because they were out of my favorite: 
House of Tsang Bangkok Peanut Sauce. I also had some leftover rice (made in a pineapple juice/water/tomato bouillon stock) that I mixed the chopped basil into because it's filling and needed to be eaten.  Easy peasy.
For the first time, I got to use my julienne peeler.  I have always hated when a recipe calls for anything "julienned" because that means a lot of time trying to make teensy tiny little cuts.  This thing made quick work of my cucumber, and now I'm excited to find as many recipes with julienned ingredients as possible so I can get more work out of this beauty.  Who knew I'd be a kitchen gadget freak like mom?!  I think I'll need a second kitchen soon, too!!
The rest of the recipe was quite simple.  I used my food chopper for the meat and peanuts, and just quickly sliced the bell pepper with my handy dandy all-purpose knife.  It's was simple from then on out, just mix and put into bowls.
I love pre-prepped food, like the teriyaki pre-cooked chicken.  It was warm outside, but my kitchen stayed cool as I prepped up this meal.  A summer must!
You can see my pretty cucumbers on the left, up top is the basil rice, then the red bell peppers, and my chicken/peanut sauce/peanut mixture (as called for in the recipe).  I did warm the chicken up for about two minutes in the microwave to take the extra fridge-chill off.
Up top is the romain lettuce, which makes for easy loading and eating.  I chose this over a head of lettuce because you just have to cut off the base, wash, and eat.  Far easier than unraveling a head of lettuce, in my opinion.  You want something sturdy, but easy, on a dish like this.
Finally, I put out extra peanut sauce and chopped peanuts in little bowls to drizzle.  Then you just load up as much of whatever you'd like and dig in.  It's amazing!!
Don't be afraid to load up on your favorite ingredients.  It's like a room temperature burrito!
Thomas models his perfectly wrapped lettuce wrap!
Just add a little sunshine - we ate outside - and enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: Quick and Sleazy Edition

The Horny Goat!

This week is just as quick and sleazy as one could hope - a Horny Goat.  I don't name them, I just share them.  This is another recipe(*ish) from my (bloody) Aunt Mary.  See why we love when she comes to visit??  The information she departs is truly invaluable!

Today, we are taking equal parts of a "lemon lime" carbonated beverage (Sprite Zero) and cranberry juice (Diet Ocean Spray).  I filled half the glass with ice, then about two-thirds with this concoction, and then I topped it off with a citrus rum and Caribbean rum (equal parts).  The first time I made it, I did half alcohol and half non-alcohol and Thomas claimed it was too strong.  The original recipe also didn't ask for Malibu, just Limon, but when you have both, why not try it?!

Well, ladies and gents, it's five o'clock in the East Coast, so here's a cheers to you, and to the rest of you as you make your way home from work and on to the couch to kick off the mini-weekend.  For those of you on Summer Break (lucky ducks), start drinking now, and save a little for us to join in on the weekend!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mini S'more Cups!

Okay, what better way to celebrate summer than with S'mores, right?

Problem #1: The mess - although, yes, you can argue that's part of the fun.
Problem #2: The fire - unless you have a gas stove or a great lighter, it gets tiring to roast all of those marshmallows!
Problem #3: You might start to feel guilty once you've eaten 3, 4, or 8 depending on who you are.

All problems: solved with s'more cups!

First of all, I love that you start with the same basic ingredients.  The only things you're adding is a little powered sugar and some melted butter.  I do have to pause for an editorial note: see the marshmallows?  This new thing is that they're flat, and easier to stack.  I don't want flat marshmallows, and if I was actually roasting them on a stick, I'd like them even less!  However, the store was sold out of everything else (except the minis) over the Fourth of July weekend, so I was stuck with the stackers.  (yuck.)

It was super easy to ground up the graham crackers and mix in the powered sugar and butter.  I put about a half + teaspoon of the mixture in each of my mini muffin cups, and pressed them down with my mini tart shaper.  Then I toasted them to solidify/warm it up.  They didn't brown too much, but I wasn't really patient enough for them to brown, either, so it is what it is.  The nice thing about these warm cups, however, was it made the chocolate soft almost immediately when I added those squares to each cup.

Then, to make sure they were going to be gooey enough, when I placed the (halved) marshmallows on top, I pushed them down a bit, in order to make sure that chocolate goodness was spread around the entire cup!
Then you put them back in the oven, just a moment, to soften/puff up the marshmallows.  After two minutes, I tried to put on the boiler to crisp them a bit, but nothing really happened.  Maybe if they had been right underneath it they might have browned, but I didn't want to push it, or make it rubbery in my electric (double yuck) oven.  I'll take what I can get, especially if the food tastes great!

After these sat for about 10 minutes, I melted the rest of the chocolate and drizzled it on top.  You can put the chocolate on however you'd like, but I love drizzling chocolate whenever possible.  Two bars of chocolate is A LOT to drizzle, but I didn't want to skimp.  It's a little heavier than it decoratively should be, but when we're talking about chocolate, how could we go wrong?!

Let the chocolate set before serving, then enjoy.  The weather was too warm for the chocolate to set here (even after three hours), but darn was it good!!