Friday, March 30, 2012

Cranberry Chicken - from a crock pot!

 Four ingredients (plus sides) and dinner is ready.

Ready?  Let's Go!

The Cranberry Chicken recipe comes from here originally.

Here's what I did...

1 dry packet of onion soup
1 can of cranberry sauce
8 oz of Catalina ("sweet & tangy French") dressing
Mix them together, pour over 5-8 chicken thighs/breasts (depending on their size.  I had 5 large...)

Bake on high for 4 hours in the crock, or at 350 for 1.5-1.75 hours.

 It turns out super juicy and AMAZING!
served with (leftover) brown rice and steamed broccoli - YUM!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Spears

First off, here's the recipe. I followed it almost exactly (only doubled).  Asparagus is so cheap right now (.99 for a huge bundle), so we made three bundles, doubling the recipe in the mean time.

It's not quite asparagus season around here (at least not for another month or so), but any chance we get to make an asparagus dish on the cheap is good for me.  We used Progresso's Italian Panko, and I omitted the salt and pepper, leaving that to everyone's taste.  It really didn't need either, though.

 Look at how gorgeous those stems were!  My mouth is still watering just at the thought of them.
 One nice aspect of this recipe, in addition to how easy it is, is that you don't really come away with an overly breaded taste.  The breading is nice and crunchy (as panko usually is), but not over powering.

Thomas ate it reheated and said it was still wonderful, but I can't do second day breading.

It's a great side for entertaining or a nice weekend meal.  I, personally, wouldn't do it during the week because I have no patience with multi-stepped sides after work, but when I have the time for it, it is wonderful!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Another "cheater" dessert - HELLO, SUMMER!!

I really like doing as little work as possible in the kitchen.  We all know this by now, right?  Good, then I feel less guilty when talking about the dessert I served for a 9 adult (+1 child) party last week.  Thomas did the grilling, and some of the heftier cooking, but when I came up with dessert ideas, he shot them down repeatedly.  No cupcakes, cakes, pies, cookies, etc.

He wanted something "light."

 So, when he suggested fruit kebabs, I thought we could do one better - Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs!

Ingredients (for 9 bob kebabs):
27 Fresh Strawberries
2 Enteman's Butter Loaf (or any pound/angel food cake)
1 stick of butter
9 skewers
Assorted garnishes (we used fresh cream, mint, red gel, shaved dark chocolate and Tequila Rose)
 First, trim down your cake into easily cubed shapes.  We made four long rectangles from the two cakes.  Next, lightly brush melted butter over all sides of your cake.

Then, grill (in or outdoors) briefly to create your hatch marks on every side. On medium-high heat, it goes very quickly, so don't walk away!!

Then, clean your strawberries and remove the stems (should you so choose).  Cube your cakes.  Then, alternate strawberries and cakes on your kebab skewers

The most time consuming part of this entire process was plating it up to the boss' standard.  I actually let him do it for fear of messing it up.  He had originally wanted to serve our bottle of chocolate wine with it, but we also had Tequila Rose, and I thought that would be more fun.

Everyone enjoyed, and it looks like you worked hard, when really you're just assembling some one else's hard work!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Taste of Sweetness Saturday: Double Chocolate Banana Bread

 Thomas was able to spend five days at home this month (yay!!) and I really wanted to spoil him.  I made the chocolate peanut butter brownie/truffles, but also wanted to make something for breakfast.  Unfortunately, I ate most of it since he spent his time having breakfast with his relatives while I slaved away at work, but I doubled the batch so he could enjoy some in San Jose (which he forgot, and it's still in our freezer).

Here's the original recipe, which I adapted from.
 Double Chocolate Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/5 cup apple sauce (no oil)
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 3)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
 1. Heat oven to 350. Spray bottom of 8×4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
2. Beat sugar, eggs, and oil in large bowl at medium speed until combined. Beat in banana and vanilla at low speed. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; beat into banana mixture at low speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
3 Spoon batter into pan. Bake 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
 I don't really "mash" the bananas, I just kind of let the electric mixer do it's thing. I enjoy that more "rustic" banana appeal, but there's too many puns there, so I must walk away.

The bread was dense and filling.  I find most whole wheat breads similar, especially when using apple sauce over oil, but it was still great to have a slice (or two) every day for breakfast.

Thomas should come home more often!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Sarasota Lemonade

 With this drink, I can really only say one thing: BRING ON SUMMER!

2 bottles Moscato
1 pink lemonade concentrate
3 C of Sprite (more or less, depending on your taste)
Fresh raspberries

I emptied all of the liquid ingredients into a pitcher and stirred.  Then I mashed about half the raspberries and put them in.  Placed the rest of the raspberries in the glasses and served it up to most of my guests content.  We ranged about 60 years in age (those who were partaking), and the only complaint I received was after I had run out.  Crisp and refreshing all around!
sorry for the blur, I was running out the door to refill the glasses!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Brownie Truffle

 Here's a very simple, fake/home made recipe that will impress EVERYONE.

For Serious.

First off, make a box brownie mix of your choice.  If you want thick brownies with lots of peanut butter on top, make an 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  I was going to feed the masses, so I made a thin brownie layer in a 9x13.

The original pictures look more scrumptious because they're just plain bigger.

While that is baking, mix up your peanut butter mixture.   Butter, PB, milk, and powdered sugar. Very similar to making the PB cups/eggs, but this has a creamier overall consistency.  Much more spreadable.

Then, BEFORE you start the next step, put it in your fridge to harden up.

I didn't think about that step before I continued on.

It's an important step.  Trust me.
 The reason it should harden is that you have all of this peanut buttery goodness all over you pan.  See the picture?  It's like a soft frosting.

If you don't wait for it to harden, like some of us I know, the chocolate will just make a mess when layered on top.  It becomes more of a peanut butter and fudge swirl effect than a solid three layered one.

This isn't a bad thing, it's just, well, a thing.

And it makes for really bad photos.

However, the dessert is delicious, and I highly recommend it.  I used a double fudge brownie recipe with chocolate chips included. Well worth it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Southwest Chicken Wraps

 The original recipe can be found here.  I know, I know, I didn't really follow it, but before we start off on the wrong foot, I want you to know my inspiration!

My ingredients:
1 Bell Pepper, cut into strips
2 Celery stalks, thinly sliced (could have used more)
1 lb pre-cooked chicken, cut into strips
whole wheat tortillas
toppings: lettuce and shredded cheese

The biggest departure point on that ingredient list is the celery.  I've never tried celery in my fajitas before.  I stir fried the peppers and celery, then added the chicken to heat through.  The celery maintains its consistency so well, I think I'll add it to all future fajitas.

The other part that's different is the sauce.  I normally add salsa and guacamole to my fajitas, but I created this sauce instead.  It was 1/2 C light mayo and 3/4 C fat free ranch, with about 2 T of taco seasoning.  That might be two packets' worth, I'm not sure.  I always buy it in bulk.

 The original recipe calls for you to cook the chicken (if necessary) and to mix it up in the sauce.  Thomas loves sauces, and if he were home I might have done it as such.  However, I just drizzled about 2 teaspoons of the SW sauce over my meat as I was creating the fajita and it added the right amount of flavor for me.  This sauce was definitely easier than making guac and salsa, but if you have those on hand, it might be interesting to try it all together.

Super YUM!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Homemade Reese's Cups

 I absolutely adore chocolate and peanut butter.

I know, I know, you've heard that before.

However, when I had the chance to make a knock-off of a Reese's peanut butter egg, I jumped on it!

Especially since I already had all the ingredients on hand.

 You basically mix up the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and butter (then a little milk) until it becomes mold-able.

The original recipe said it'd be like Play Doh.  It seemed more crumbly than that, but the peanut butter did make it squish together easily.  I'm sure you could add more milk to make it easier, but I wanted a nice, thick consistency.
 Once you make your egg shapes - see my eggs?  Nope?

Me, neither.  I decided to do more of a cup instead of messing around with make them ovum shaped.  Sorry.

Once you've made your chosen shape, stick them in the freezer.

This only makes them super firm, and helps the chocolate harden more quickly, in my estimation.  It's not like they weren't holding their shape before hand.

Then you melt your chocolate - I did one bag of milk chocolate and one 60% cacao chips - with a little bit o' shortening.    Place your finished product on some waxed paper and wait about 10 minutes for the chocolate to harden.  Then dig in and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Whole Wheat Pretzels

I can't decide if this is more "nailed it" or "failed it".  Yes, I made delicious whole wheat pretzels that I will happily make again.  However, I'm not entirely sure that they came out the way they were supposed to.

Here's the recipe, with FAR better pictures than what I have (sorry about that).  My dough didn't rise but a centimeter, if that.  It was a dry dough, even though I added some extra water throughout the process.

I didn't mind the dry dough so much, except for when trying to roll out the pretzels.

It was a bit crumbly, and hard to make on a consistently even roll, but it worked out.

But, like I said, I baked them for about 9 minutes, took them out, and they won my heart over.  I was only supposed to get about 6 or 7 pretzels from the batch, and I got 6, so I wasn't that far off.

The pretzels were on the small side.

I rolled each one out to 15", but the finished product is only about palm sized.

That was a lot of time to spend on only six pretzels.

Thank goodness they were good!  The original recipe suggested a dip for them, but I loved them as is.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crock Pot's Finest

 Okay, Crock Pots hate me.

True story.

I'm the only person in this world that could mess up a crock pot recipe, unless it's for an apple butter or chutney.

However, I found this recipe for Cilantro Lime Chicken, and it looked so good I could resist.
 I also couldn't resist tweaking it a bit.

First off, instead of plain salsa, I used a generic brand of Peach Pineapple Chipotle Salsa, still 24 oz.

And instead of 2 jalapenos, I used 1 and 1 bell pepper.

And then it looked super chunky - like the picture to the right, so I added a can of Rotel Tomato and Chili sauce.
 Once the mixture looked more liquidy, I added the chicken.

Oh, but I used 8 chicken thigh tenders instead of 4-6 breast halves.  I just like dark meat more, okay?!

And then I put it on high, because I wanted it done in two hours.

HAHA!  Didn't happen.
 Our Crock Pot, well this one, rather (we have 4 or five of various sizes) has a timer function where it cooks for the time you set it for.

I set it on high for 4 hours, and by the time I had prepped everything and added it to the pot, it was at 3:47 remaining.  That's an easy prep, yes?

Ended up with that as the cooking time, too.

However I had eaten by then, so it made 6 hearty lunch/dinner portions when added to my cilantro brown rice.

Sorry, no pretty shots, just Tupperware.

But when I did eventually try it, it was completely worth the wait!  I can't wait to have this again, and maybe serve it with tortillas next time, too.  So juicy and tender, you should try this one ASAP!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Taste of Sweetness Saturday: Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

 Melt white chocolate.  Dip strawberries in it to create the shirt layer.

Melt dark/milk chocolate. Dip shoulders to create the jacket.

Get a black/chocolate icing or gel tip (pre-made) to create the buttons and bow ties.  For the ties I made an X in the size that I wanted for the tie, then filled in the opposite sides to create the bow.  People think they're adorable, and they're so delicious, too!
as always, my apologies for the blurry iPhone photos!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holla for Challah!!

I'm still on a bread machine kick, but I'm trying to space out the recipes while Thomas travels so that I'm not eating an entire loaf of bread for me every week.

One recipe that Thomas has wanted me to try, though, is for some Challah.  I found this recipe (via Pinterest, of course), and thought I'd give it a go.

Now, I know this is a cheater post, but I wanted to make sure that all of you bread machine junkies, like myself, had a chance to find this recipe.

I ran my machine on a 2lb, light crust, sweet loaf cycle and the bread was perfect.

Seriously.  My crock pot meal was taking too long, so it was a mostly Challah-tastic dinner.

Holy socks, it's wonderful!  Holla!!