Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fudgy Peanut Butter Bites

 This is such an easy "cheater" dessert.  If you love the chocolate and peanut butter combo, you might just be thanking me with this one (and it's feasibly done within 15 minutes!)  Of course, you could make it more from scratch, but half the fun is how easy this is.

My ingredient list:
1 pkg. peanut butter cookie dough (I could only find it with chocolate chips, but who hates those?!)
1 C sweetened condensed milk
1 C semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C of chopped peanuts (more or less, optional)
My cookies were pre-cut into 24 squares.  I chopped each in half and dropped the half into a Pam sprayed mini muffin pan.

Bake at 350 for 9 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and the cookie is firm.

The great thing is that in the oven, your squares become circles and puff.  Once you take them out, they cave to make the perfect little cups.

Cool for a minute or so before removing from the pan.
While they are cooling, this is the perfect opportunity to make your fudgy filling.

Fill a 2 C (or more) microwaveable measuring cup with 1 cup of sweetened, condensed milk and 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Microwave from about 1 minute, stopping halfway to stir.  Once the chips are completely melted, stir the mixture and place a dollop in each cookie cup.

Move quickly when filling the cookie cups because your fudge will set fairly firm as soon as it cools.  I would try to do the filling all in one setting so you don't have to reheat the fudge and compromise it's makeup.
I wasn't going to chop any peanuts to put on top, but the cookies seemed so plain, and I really wanted people to realize that there were peanuts in the cookies, so I quickly chopped some lightly salted peanuts and sprinkled them on top.  I lightly pressed some into the fudge so that they wouldn't just keep rolling off.

I had a hard time convincing people that I made them myself.  And I really {kind of} did, so I totally deserve the credit.  As does BHG for the original recipe that I only vaguely modified.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Caprese Salad Skewers

 There's not much to a Caprese salad, but I wasn't in the mood for finding forks.  Luckily, I found this idea at Terri's Table!

All you need is fresh mozzarella, grape (or cherry) tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves for the skewers.

If your basil leaves are large enough, you can skewers them on either side of your tomato and mozzarella cube.  If not, make due the best you can.  If you've grown your own basil, it's easy to pick the right size, but when shopping at the market, you need to just go with the flow.  No biggie.  Make it the best you can.

When you're done, just lightly drizzle the skewers with olive oil and then balsamic vinegar.  Instant hit and easy to eat.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Sherbet Punch

I think at one point, everyone has had a sherbet punch.

Or at least anyone from the Midwest.

Or anyone who went to bridal or baby showers in the 80's/90's that were located in a church hall or basement.

Or maybe it's just me...
Keeping this in mind, I did an old fashioned Google search.  Somewhere online, I found a recipe that included the following ingredients:

4 liters of ginger ale
1 qt. lime sherbet
1 lemonade concentrate
1 lime concentrate

There was more to it, but these were the ingredients I had on my shopping list.  I honestly don't remember the rest, and I forgot to pin it to my boards, but it's sherbet punch.  How hard could it be?
 So, I started by serving up the sherbet into the pitchers I was planning on using.  Then I threw them back into the freezer to stay fairly firm.

Then I just threw the two concentrates (thawed) and all of the ginger ale in a large bowl (pot).  When it came time to serve it, I just poured the liquid over the sherbet.

Simple as punch, and for those wanting an alcoholic based punch, I served the old standby, my Sarasota Lemonade with Moscato.

This punch would also be great with a rum.  Parrot Bay, perhaps?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fruit Fluff

I was making small fruit salad kabobs the other day at work, and discovered a hole in my platter.  I didn't have any garnish on hand, and I didn't want to find another platter that was more size appropriate for the amount of fruit I had.

So I turned to my go to girl, the Brown Eyed Baker, for an easy fruit dip recipe.  Turns out that was the right choice.

This is all you need:

1 Jar of Marshmallow Fluff (7oz)
1 Brick of Cream Cheese (8oz)

Blend and serve.  It's not too sweet or savory, but it's the perfect complement to your fruit.

You're welcome.  ;)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Monterrey Chicken

 Thomas has been in San Jose for over a month.  That kind of means that I don't cook too much.  It's not that I eat out more, necessarily, but my meals are more like grilled cheese sandwiches and simple pastas that aren't too worth blogging about.

However, I was in the mood to make something the other day.  Anything.

Luckily, there's always chicken in the house.  However, I never label it when I freeze it, so sometimes it's a surprise.
 Maybe not a big surprise, since I always get boneless and skinless, but it's more of a surprise about if it's thighs or breasts, since my freezer and zip lock bags never really let me know what I'm grabbing in the bleary eyed morning to defrost.  I always say I'll remember and don't need to grab that Sharpie.

 Regardless, I found a recipe for "Monterrey" Chicken, and it sounded great.  I found it at All Things Simple, which sounded right up my alley.

I quickly cooked the chicken on the stove top, although I was tempted to create it in the oven with the Rotel, much like my Salsa Verde Chicken.

My measurements weren't as precise as the original recipe, but it was straight forward.
 I cut my two large chicken breasts in half, then smeared BBQ sauce on top of each.  Then, I drained the Rotel (original recipe) and topped the BBQ chicken with the tomatoes and chiles.

From there, it was bacon pieces (from a bag, unfortunately), and then I sprinkled Mexican blend Colby Jack cheese shreds on top.
I also hate cleaning, so you'll note I lined my Pyrex with foil.

I popped the chicken in the oven at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese was nice and melted, but not so long that it dried out my chicken.

This dish also made me remember why I love Rotel...  It not only adds flavor, but the heat keeps my portion sizes smaller.  

For my sides, I made quickly sauteed some peppers in a light touch of olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste.

I placed it all on a bed of quinoa.  Usually, I would make the quinoa in tomato bouillon base with the water, but I couldn't find that, or any chicken broth in the house to flavor it up.  Luckily the peppers and Monterrey chicken did their parts to add lots of flavor to the dish.
I made four portions out of my meal, and this was one of my leftovers the next day.  Still yummy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Cherry Cupcake

More gluten free?  Don't mind if I do!

This time, there are no substitutions required.

The recipe is here, please enjoy.

I know I don't have much to say, but if you read the recipe, it's really spot on!

I also loved using maraschino cherries in this recipe.  Many people thought that I had used brandy, but it was just a simple cherry half baked inside.
I think I need to make more flourless chocolate cakes.  They're always so good.

The frosting also evened out the flavor.  If you're not a semi-sweet chocolate person, this is the part that will help round out the cupcake for you.  It goes from being decadent, to purely melt in your mouth joy.

Top with some cocoa powder, just make sure you realize how quickly it comes out before you douse your cakes!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mini Crab Cakes with Cilantro Lime Aioli

Some people might be amazed by this, but those who know me might not be too surprised.  However, today, I'll let you in on a little secret (or two)...

I often make food that I would never eat.  I also don't take a lot of samples of my food as I'm cooking it.  Sometimes I'll serve something without even having tried it, with the hopes that it will all turn out all right.  Usually it does.  Sometimes I'm not so lucky.  98% of the time, however, most people have no idea that I really have no idea.
Why the secret sharing?  Maybe it's because yesterday was my birthday and I'm feeling older and wiser.

Maybe it's because I'm not a great cook by any stretch of the imagination and I just like to follow recipes.  Maybe it's just because I made crab cakes and I hate ALL SEAFOOD.  Sure, I'll eat it, but there is nothing that I have discovered that comes from the ocean that I want to have to eat on a regular basis.  Or at all.
However, when I found this recipe for crab cakes, I was immediately drawn to it.  I could prepare it the day before and cook it day of.  It came with a great aioli.  It was gluten free. And, I had never attempted any sort of seafood dish.  This recipe had all the great wonders of a world I wanted to dip my toes into.

We mixed up the "crab" dip and put it in the muffin tins the day before.  Then I cling wrapped them and placed them in the fridge.

The next day, we baked them until golden brown.  (350, for 30 minutes)

Then I tried to pop them out of the pan.  MAY DAY!  We're going down fast!  The bottom 1/4 to 1/3 of each stayed in the pan.  And it was soft, barely baked.

I did the only thing I could think of (other than panic): I placed them bottoms up on a baking sheet, smooshed the bottoms back on, and finished baking them until firm, but not dried out.  About another 5 minutes under close supervision.  They turned out soft, but amazing, and everyone loved them.

I even tried one.  They really were good, and no one could tell that I had messed them up.  I'll try them again in the future, but I'll have to come up with a better game plan for making sure they're all baked (like the ones on the back of the plate), and more likely to come out in one piece!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart

 Here's another quick, yet tasty appetizer that doesn't take long, but looks and tastes amazing when you serve it.

Blackberry Goat Cheese Tarts.

I found the original recipe here, however I didn't want to work so hard as to make my own tart and everything.

Also, I wanted only "mini" appetizers, so I bought the pre-made mini phyllo shells to use as the tart base.
Goat Cheese Filling 

5 ounces goat cheese, softened
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey
In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese, sour cream, egg, and honey until absolutely smooth. Pour mixture into large tart shell or divide evenly between individual tart shells. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until filling is puffed and golden. Allow tarts to cool completely.
12 ounces fresh blackberries
2-3 tablespoons honey, warmed
Fresh basil leaves, shredded
Once tarts are cooled, top with blackberries and drizzle with warm honey. Garnish with shredded basil leaves, if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
So quick and simple, there's really no reason not to try them.  As an added bonus, the sour cream helps alleviate the "goat" flavor that some don't like. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cucumber Cups

 I can't believe I haven't tried these before.  So painfully simple, and yet they are elegant in their own way.

Cucumber cups start with some great cucumbers.  I worked with English "burpless" cucumbers since I could get them at Costco in bulk, for cheap.

Then, I chose not to peel the entire cucumber, since that would make them too slippery.  I left little grips around the edges.
I then cut each cucumber into 12 pieces.  Some could have been smaller, but I was more interested in the number 12. Ideally, you should aim for a size that could easily fit in your whole mouth at once, but I just wanted a number I could tabulate quickly.

Whatever, we already know how odd I am.

No apologies.

Next, use that handy dandy melon baller and scoop out the middle of the cucumber, creating the cup.  I used the smaller end of my baller, but you can use whatever size you think makes the best scoop.

For fillings, I found several different recipes.  Spinach dip, crab dip, cheese dip, etc., etc.  A quick Google search will give you a ton of ideas.  However, I was making enough other appetizers that I didn't want to overlap any of my other flavors presented.
So, as I was perusing the aisles of the Costco, I discovered some Mango Pico de Gallo, and some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  I picked up a tub of each.

The mango pico was great to just scoop in by the teaspoonful.  However, for the hummus, I piped it through a broad frosting tip to give it a little swirl.
 I think the hummus was my favorite.  Not because I eat it, but because it was fun to pipe on.

To top it off, I was going to sprinkle some paprika for color, but I didn't have any.  Instead, I used some Chipotle red pepper sprinkled over it instead. Same color, still spicy, but not so much to be over powering.

(And no, Mom, I didn't serve it on a red paper plate.  This was just my plate to refill from.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spinach Dip Bread Bowls

 Here's another mini appetizer that I worked on for a party this past week.  You can find the original recipe here.  I bought all pre-shredded cheese, and I made mini muffin size instead of full muffins.

Also, I used the plain Pillsbury French bread, because they didn't have any of the "rustic" version.  No worries, it's just as great.
 You can mix up your spinach dip the day before and store it in the fridge.  I did this to save time on the day of.

Spray down your muffin pan, and use just a pinch of the bread if you're going with the mini size.  I pinched off enough to fill the bottom half of the pan, then I used my fingers to smoosh it down in the middle, and slightly up the sides.

This is far easier said than done, so if it doesn't get there, don't worry.

Next, fill up the remaining portion of your muffin cup with the spinach dip.  You could probably even go with the store bought for this, but I wouldn't recommend it, especially since the recipe is quite easy to follow.
 Finally, you top it off with some shredded mozzarella and bake about 15 minutes at 350.

I kept going until the edges/cheese started to turn lightly golden.

Now, for my final trick, I used a spoon to pop them out.  Sometimes there was far more spinach dip on top than easily accessible dough, so I just placed in the spoon tip and popped them out one by one. I probably could have just tipped the pan, but I didn't want the tops to flatten.

PS: Tomorrow this blog turns One.  Thank you all for your continued support.  This has been a fun journey of pushing myself to try new things with new equipment and in new ways.  I won't get weepy, but I'm glad to keep this project moving forward.  Yay!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes - and Gluten Free!

 I'm not one for Gluten Free recipes.  I know some who need them to maintain health, and I completely respect that.  I am just a gluten junkie, and don't normally look for specifically GF recipes.

However, when I saw a Pink Lemonade Cupcake recipe, I knew I had to try it.  Even if it used rice flour instead of the stuff that's 30x cheaper.

I'm willing to give anything a try.  Maybe I'll try to work with alternative flours more as a personal goal.  Maybe I'm just over thinking it.

Okay, I am over thinking it, but for those of you who need or want to maintain a gluten free lifestyle, kudos to you!  Even with stores having their own GF sections, the choices are so minimal that it amazes me you can maintain a state of healthy living.  I am in awe.

Regardless, here is the original recipe that I found.  It was kind of a pain in the butt to have two bowls going off simultaneously, but it is TOTALLY worth it.  The egg whites make the cake so fluffy.  I was completely in awe.
 I made the cupcakes over a series of three days.  Primarily because I had lots of food to prep, but also because I couldn't wait to get started.  I made the cupcakes on Tuesday, the garnish on Wednesday, then the frosting and assembly happened on Thursday.

When the cupcakes came out on Tuesday, I had some residents around the neighborhood sample them as is.  And, I must admit, I tried one as well.

It was like eating a lemony marshmallow.
Completely amazing.  You couldn't even tell that I had used rice flour once it had baked.  You could in the raw batter, but since no one is supposed to eat that anyway, there's no way to know.

For the garnish, we followed the recipe and candied the lemons.  We boiled them in sugar water until the rinds started to become translucent, then we cooled them, dipped them in sugar, and then dipped them in sugar again right before assembling the cupcakes.
The only thing that left me iffy on these was the frosting.  It tastes fabulous, but it's really thin.  I noticed the next day that the grocery store sells some pink lemonade frosting in your baking aisle, but I'm not sure that's the answer either.  I'll have to ponder it, but the maraschino cherry juice really did give the frosting a nice pop of color.

And out of  78 mini cupcakes, I only had 10 left at the end of the night.  Completely wonderful, all around, especially for those looking for a gluten free recipe!