Monday, April 25, 2011

Strawberry & Cream Angel Cake




Juicy ripe strawberries and luscious creamy filling are layered between airy angel food cake :)

Strawberry & Cream Angel Cake 

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups  fresh strawberries, divided
  • 4 oz.   (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp.  sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp.  zest and 1 Tbsp. juice from 1 orange
  • 2 cups  thawed COOL WHIP LITE Whipped Topping
  • 1 prepared angel food cake (10 inch), cut horizontally in half


Instructions:

CHOP enough strawberries to measure 2 cups. Refrigerate remaining whole berries for later use.

BEAT Neufchatel, sugar, zest and juice in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add COOL WHIP; beat on low speed just until blended. Gently stir in chopped berries. Spread about 2/3 of the COOL WHIP mixture onto bottom half of cake. Cover with top of cake and remaining COOL WHIP mixture.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour. Arrange remaining berries on top of cake before serving. 


Tips:


How to Cut 
Use a serrated knife and gentle sawing motion to easily cut the cake.

Food Facts
You should get about 3 cups strawberries from a 1-lb. package.

Note
You may use either a homemade or store-bought angel food cake to prepare this luscious dessert. And even though the cakes can vary in size and shape, they all will work equally well when used to prepare this recipe.



Friday, April 22, 2011

Creamy White Chicken & Artichoke Lasagna



You may never make regular lasagna again after trying this one—with shredded chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes in a rich, creamy white sauce.. :)

Creamy White Chicken & Artichoke Lasagna

12 servings

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups  shredded cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 can  (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
  • 1 pkg.  (8 oz.) KRAFT Shredded Mozzarella Cheese with a TOUCH OF PHILADELPHIA, divided
  • 1/2 cup  KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup   chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 pkg.  (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese (12 oz.), softened
  • 1 cup  milk
  • 1/2 tsp.  garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup  tightly packed fresh basil, chopped, divided
  • 12  lasagna noodles, cooked


Directions:

HEAT oven to 350°F.

COMBINE chicken, artichokes, 1 cup mozzarella, Parmesan and tomatoes. Beat cream cheese, milk and garlic powder with mixer until blended; stir in 2 Tbsp. basil. Reserve half; mix remaining half with the chicken mixture.

SPREAD half of the remaining cream cheese mixture onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish; cover with 3 noodles and 1/3 of the chicken mixture. Repeat layers of noodles and chicken mixture twice. Top with remaining noodles, cream cheese mixture and mozzarella; cover.

BAKE 25 min. or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining basil. Let stand 5 min. before cutting to serve.



Tips:

Serving Suggestion
Serve with your favorite hot steamed vegetable.

Note
Spray the foil with cooking spray before using to cover the lasagna to help prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese on top of the lasagna. 

Shortcut
Purchasing a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken at the supermarket is a quick way to obtain cooked chicken for recipes. Check to make sure the chicken is hot, not just warm, when you purchase it. If you are not using the chicken immediately, cut it into pieces and store in tightly covered containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Salted Caramel Cheesecake




The idea is that it's a salty caramel dessert. But, everyone has a different level of salt tolerance. So, here's my suggestion--make the crust with just a little salt--a teaspoon or two. Then make the filling with just a teaspoon or two of salt. Then TASTE IT. People watch Food Network and see those people just scatter in some salt, take a small taste, and go, "Mmmm GOOD!" But that's just TV--they're supposed to say that so they don't spend precious air time adjusting the seasoning. You MUST TASTE as you go. Make the filling with everything but the eggs (raw eggs can be dangerous--I can't recommend eating anything with raw eggs in it) then TASTE it. The idea is that you taste some salt, but not that you go, "Ugh, salty." You're supposed to taste the contrast between sweet and salty. If you don't like things pretty salty, just leave the majority of the salt out and make a caramel cheesecake--caramel cheesecake is delicious too! If you taste it and it's not salty, and you want it salty, add a 1/2 teaspoon salt at a time until you get it to where you think it tastes OK. But I strongly recommend you taste as you go. 

Salted Caramel Cheesecake 

For the crust:

  • About 15 graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (note: I reduced this from 2 teaspoons. A number of folks in the comments said they found it was too salty. I made this recipe 4 times before posting this, and checked the measurements pretty carefully, I thought. However, I made it for Thanksgiving 2011 and realized that they WAY the crust is distributed in the pan can make it seem quite salty--if there's a significant slope between the bottom and the sides, that fairly dense piece of crust can be overpowering to the rest of the recipe. So I'm recommending the reduction to the salt to account for the possible variations in the way people make the crust.)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a food processor, grind graham crackers to crumbs. (If you’re using premade crumbs, you want about 8 oz or 2 cups, and you’ll want to do all these steps in a bowl.) Add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. With motor running, add butter through feed tube. Process for another few seconds until combined.
2. Transfer the mixture to a 9” or 10” (I have a 10” myself) springform pan sprayed with cooking spray. Pat crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan, and up the sides about 2”. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly even around the top; you just want to be sure it’s deep enough to hold all the cheesecake mixture.
3. Bake crust until slightly brown. You’ll just be able to smell it. This will take anywhere from 10-12 minutes. Remove crust from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.


For the cheesecake:
  • 3 8oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 13-14 oz. can dulce de leche
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature


1. In a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment beat cream cheese until smooth, add dulce de leche and beat to combine.
2. Add flour and salt, beat to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. There should be no lumps.
3. Add the sugar and beat to combine.
4. Add the vanilla, and then beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined, about 30 seconds each. Don’t overbeat once the eggs are added; the cheesecake will puff up too much while baking, and the top will crack.
5. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 55 – 65 minutes. The center will seem to be only slightly set, and will be wobbly if you nudge it. The sides will puff slightly.
7. Cool completely on a rack, then cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight (I have gotten away with a 5 hour cooling, but I was on edge that it wouldn’t turn out; overnight is really best). When I put it in the refrigerator to set up, I remove the ring from my springform, and put the cheesecake on a cake stand. You can leave it in the springform if you don't have a cake stand.


For the caramel:
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Swirl to combine. All those warnings about stirring caramel and brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystal formation? I avoid all that by just never stirring it at all. If I need to move it around the pan, I just swirl it.
2. Continue cooking until the sugar turns golden brown, swirling occasionally. You’re looking for something that’s about the color of dark honey. The problem with caramel is that it goes from perfect to burnt in the blink of an eye, so just when you find yourself thinking, “Any second now…” pull it off the heat. It should take 3-5 minutes.
3. Off the heat, carefully add the butter, then the cream. Don’t wait until the butter is melted; toss in the butter, give it a whisk, then pour in the cream. It will foam up, seize, and otherwise look like a total failure. Persevere! Add the vanilla extract and salt and continue whisking.
4. Return to medium low heat and whisk until smooth. (Added note: if your caramel is too thin, let it cook for awhile over a low heat. I've actually let it boil a bit--unintentionally--and just when I thought I'd ruined it, it turned out to be perfect.) Allow to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
5. Remove cheesecake from the refrigerator and pour caramel over the top. I try to encourage mine to pool in the middle, but if you’re more of a drip-down-the-sides type, you can go with that. I just think the drippy makes sort of a mess on my cake stand, but maybe that doesn’t bother you.
6. Return the cheesecake to the refrigerator to let the caramel set, about 30 minutes. To serve, cut in slices (it’s pretty rich) with a sharp knife, wiping the blade clean after every slice.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chocolate Dipped, Amaretto Soaked, Pound Cake Bars



I had this recipe kind of floating around in my head for awhile.  A few weeks back, I was sipping on a glass of amaretto and pondering how I could capture the taste in a dessert.  My mind wandered to rum cakes... yes... but something a little more indulgent... and of course the solution for that is, as always, chocolate!

This recipe came together perfectly on my first run, which is pretty rare.  The cake and amaretto combo is fantastic, and when it's enrobed in the chocolate, has almost the same taste and texture of a really rich fondant. 

There are three steps to this recipe, which makes it a little time-consuming, but not at all difficult.  And, doesn't deliciousness take time???

Chocolate Dipped, Amaretto Soaked, Pound Cake Bars 

makes approx. 32 pieces

Ingredients:

Pound Cake:
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbs butter, soft (no substitutes!)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup cake flour
  • 1 Tbs finely grated lemon zest


Liqueur Syrup:

While your cake is baking, you can go ahead and start the syrup. 

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs corn syrup
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1/2 cup Amaretto 



Instructions:

Pound Cake:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Butter a 7x7" cake pan. 

Cream together your butter and sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.  Add your eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  When eggs are completely mixed in, gradually mix in flour.  Finally, add your grated lemon. 

Pour your batter into your cake pan, spreading evenly into the corners.  Bake until lightly golden around the edges, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, approximately 15 minutes.  After removing your cake from the oven, gently run a butterknife around the edges to make sure it separates from the pan, but don't remove your cake from the pan. 

Take a toothpick and poke holes all over the top of the cake.  Everywhere.  Lots and lots of 'em.  


Liqueur Syrup:

In a small / medium saucepan, mix together the first three ingredients.  Stir over medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts simmering.  Increase heat slightly to bring to a boil, then stop stirring and cover with a lid.  Let boil, undisturbed, for 1 - 2 minutes.  Now remove your syrup from the heat, take off the lid, and let cool. 

When your syrup has cooled for about 10 minutes, stir in 1/2 cup of Amaretto.  (Don't add it when the syrup is really hot, or your alcohol will evaporate.  And I'm a big encourager of saving the alcohol, he he.)

Now go ahead and pour your syrup mixture over the top of your cake.  It will come up and flood the top of your cake, but don't worry, your cake will eventually drink all of that syrup right up. 

Let your cake sit to soak in all of that Amaretto-ey goodness.  At least 4 hours but preferably overnight.  When you are able to lift the corner of your cake and see no more syrup on the bottom of your pan, you're ready to do your dipping.  



Chocolate Dip

Turn your cake out onto a sheet of waxed paper or plastic cutting board (your cake should be about 1" thick).  Trim the edges off, and then cut your cake into small pieces.  I cut mine into 32 pieces, each about 3/4" x 1.5".



Melt some milk chocolate in the top of your double boiler, making sure it is deep enough to dip and coat your cake pieces.  You'll probably have to add more chocolate as you work your way through the batch.  As you dip each one, set them on a sheet of waxed paper to cool and set.  While your chocolate is still soft, you have the option of garnishing the tops of the bars with sprinkles, crushed/sliced almonds, or another garnish of your choice.  I didn't think of this until it was too late, oops!

Once the chocolate sets, ENJOY!  



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake




A couple of my friends brought this beautiful cake to my office. I was intrigued and asked them what type of cake it was. They told me it was a Japanese Cheesecake. It looked so delicate and mouth watering. I went home and tried a recipe I found online. I love cheesecake and wondered what made this one different. After baking it I discovered this is not your ordinary cheesecake. This is a very light, melt in your mouth cake. It is firm enough that you can treat it like an ordinary sponge cake, but far better than any sponge I have made. With a hint of cream cheese and lemon flavour I was sold. It is incredibly easy to make and it is perfect on it's own.

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake

Ingredients:
  • 40g/5 oz. fine granulated sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 50g/2 oz. butter
  • 250g/9 oz. cream cheese
  • 100 ml/3 fluid oz. fresh milk
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 60g/2 oz. cake flour /superfine flour
  • 20g/1 oz. cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


Instructions:

1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.

2. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.

3. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and mix well. Pour into a 8-inch round cake pan (Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper).

4. Bake cheesecake in a water bath for 1 hours 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).

Makes 1 (8-inch) cheesecake, 12 servings.   

Monday, April 18, 2011

Princess Pie



Try this dessert with any pudding flavor and omit the coconut and replace it with something complementary....like chopped nuts with chocolate pudding or bananas with vanilla pudding.  You might have a new potluck pleaser!

The name Princess Pie was something my mom, sister and I named this 'Cool Coconut Dessert' when we served it to our girls...all three girls are princess-bonkers right now...and they loved that!  My mom gave me this recipe

Princess Pie 

crust:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans - optional


Mix and pat in an 8x8 inch pan, bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden.  Do not over bake.

Layer two:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup whipped topping


Beat together sugar and cream cheese.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spread on cooled crust.

Layer three:
  • 1 small package coconut cream instant pudding
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk (any milk will do, but whole milk makes pudding so much tastier)


Mix until thickened.  Spread over cream cheese mixture.

Top with remaining tub of whipped topping.

Toast 1 cup coconut.  Sprinkle evenly on dessert.  Refrigerate.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taco Macaroni and Cheese



I must say, this mac and cheese was quite delicious, and definitely tastier than the made-from-a-box versions we ate so many years ago. It’s spicy and satisfying, and my husband was definitely a happy camper the night he had this for dinner. I’ll be making it for him whenever he requests it (which I’m sure will be often), because I loved it just as much as he did.

Taco Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound macaroni or shell pasta
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 serving of taco seasoning (or 1 packet of store-bought seasoning mix)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend


Instructions:
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, brown ground beef and sweat the onion together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the beef is completely cooked through, drain off excess fat, return to skillet, and add garlic. Cook and stir 30 seconds. Add taco seasoning and salsa and stir to combine; reduce heat to low.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add cream cheese, milk, and sour cream and stir to combine. Cook until cream cheese is melted and mixture is thick and bubbling. Stir in shredded cheese.
  4. Add cheese sauce and ground beef mixture to pasta and stir to combine. Top each serving with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Slowcooker Pork Chops




I found this recipe at Eat Cake for Dinner.  I love every recipe I have made from that blog! These were so easy and were very tasty! Can't ever have enough easy crock pot recipes!

Slowcooker Pork Chops

Ingredients:

  • 4 thick-cut pork chops, bone in or boneless
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • pepper


Instructions:

Combine soup, dressing mix, garlic, and broth.  Sprinkle chops with pepper (do not salt).  Place chops in slow cooker and pour soup mixture over top.  Cover and cook on high 4 hours or low 6-7 hours.  Serve over rice.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Nutty Caramel Bars





I love when desserts only have a few ingredients, take a few minutes to make and taste amazing!  These Nutty Caramel Bars fit that description perfectly!  These sweet, chocolaty bars are to die for!  I had to give them all away to stop myself from eating the whole pan.  They are that good!

Nutty Caramel Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 (19 ounce) jar caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flour and brown sugar.  Mix in butter until combined and crumbly.  Press mixture into an ungreased 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle on pecans and walnuts.  Drizzle caramel topping evenly over nuts.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until caramel is bubbly.  Remove from oven and sprinkle on chocolate chips.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Carefully spread chips over caramel layer.  Let cool at room temperature or until chocolate sets.  Cut into bars.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Candy Cheesecake




Peanut Butter Candy Cheesecake

Servings: Makes 1 (10-inch) cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted


Filling:
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 10 fun-size chocolate-covered crispy-crunchy peanut-buttery candy bars, chopped*
  • Garnish: chopped fun-size chocolate-covered crispy-crunchy peanut-buttery candy bars


Instructions:

To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 300°. In a small bowl, combine crushed graham crackers and sugar. Add melted butter, stirring to combine. Press mixture into bottom and 1 inch up sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes.

To prepare filling: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, and peanut butter at medium speed with a mixer until creamy. Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in cream and crushed candy. Spoon batter into prepared crust.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn oven off, and leave in oven with door closed for 1 hour. Remove from oven, and let cool completely. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours before serving. Garnish with chopped candy bars, if desired.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lemon Drop Cookies





These cookies have pretty much made me famous. OK, so not famous. I mean, it isn't even my recipe. But, they are by far the cookie that have gotten the most reaction from others. People simply love them. In college I discovered Lemon Drop cookies from a place called Cookies By Design, they were my obsession. My roomates served them at my bridal shower. I tried for years and years to find a recipe close but never did. Several years ago my mom bought a cookbook ("5 star recipes from well-known Latter Day Saints") and this recipe was in it. I have to make a plan to give these away before I even make them. I could honestly eat them all day and all night long. 

Lemon Drop Cookies

makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Finely chopped zest of one lemon
  • 1 (6-oz) package lemon drops (sometimes these are tricky to find, I usually keep two or three bags in my pantry)
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • juice of two lemons


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixing bowl, cream sugar, shortening, and eggs; add flavorings. Stir in dry ingredients, lemon zest, and crushed lemon drops (I crush them in my blender). Roll into balls, flatten slightly, and bake on parchment lined (if you don't use parchment, cookies will stick to pan) baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on pan for a couple of minutes. Make a glaze by mixing powdered sugar with lemon juice. Brush glaze over cookie tops. Let cookies cool completely.



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Orange Dressing with Orange Strawberry Salad




This dressing came to me from my sister, she got it from a friend. I have been hearing about this dressing for a while and was happy to be able to try it. It is so good! I didn't have a salad recipe to accompany it so I came up with this. It turned out so good. My husband liked it so much, he had three servings of it - which is rare for him when it comes to salad.

Orange Dressing with Orange Strawberry Salad

  • 1 package spring mix greens
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1 large orange, cut into small pieces
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup Sliced Almonds
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 4 TBS sugar


To make candied almonds:
Mix almonds, butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the the butter and sugar turn to a toffee color, stir constantly.

Orange Dressing

  • ½ tsp grated orange peel, or orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice ( 1 to 2 oranges )
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon “Good Seasons Dry Italian” dressing mix. It is about ½ a package


Put all ingredients in a container and shake- serve.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Mexican Chicken Casserole



This is an adaptation of a cooking light recipe found on pinterest. I didn’t change a lot of ingredients, but pared down the prep. I also prepared it ahead and cooked it later. Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • 1 can diced green chilis
  • 1.5 lb frozen, sliced, seasoned chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup green salsa
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack


Instructions:

In a large skillet, cook onions and green chilis until tender. Add the chicken and heat through. Add milk, chicken broth, green salsa, cream cheese and first helping of cheese. Stir and cook until slightly thickened and all cheese is melted, which is about 10 minutes. Turn off and let sit while you prepare the dish. In a 2 quart baking dish, sprayed with Pam, lay out 4 tortillas. After the mixture has sat for about 10 minutes, spoon half of the mixture in dish and layer with the other 4 tortillas. Pour remaining mixture on and top with the rest of the cheese. Cook at 350 until browned and bubbly. Enjoy!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Skinny Banana Cookies





I found these little babies on Pinterest and I was a little hesitant to make them. They only require 3 ingredients and they are much healthier than other cookies. They smelled amazing while they were cooking... and to tell you the truth - they turned out delicious! For being a healthy cookie... I rate them a 10!

Skinny Banana Cookies

Makes 12-16 cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup of uncooked Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix the mashed bananas and oats in a bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips. Using a spoon, scoop up the batter and place on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pineapple Coconut Bundt Cake





It may not be as good as a trip to Hawaii, but this cake is the next best thing!  It is so moist and flavorful you'll forget your just in your kitchen! :D

Pineapple Coconut Bundt Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1 (15 ounce) box yellow cake mix
  • 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes


Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry cake mix, pineapple and coconut flakes.  Pour batter into a bundt pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake according to directions on cake box for a bundt cake.  Let cool completely  in pan for about 90 minutes before inverting onto a plate.  If desired, drizzle orange glaze on top and sprinkle with extra coconut.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spicy Cilantro Garlic Shrimp





I love the idea of grilling shrimp, but on most days it can be a little tricky. This recipe is no mess, no skewers, all in a convenient foil pack cooked on the grill in like 5 minutes! This is a great recipe for the upcoming tailgating and football parties. I have to admit, I am not the biggest sports fan, but I do excited about the cooking part of it all,,

Spicy Cilantro Garlic Shrimp

4 servings as an appetizer

Ingredients:
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Habanero pepper, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails on (you could leave the shells on if you prefer)


Instructions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, minus the shrimp. Stir well to combine, taste for salt. Add in the shrimp and marinate in refrigerator for 45 minutes, no more than 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, about 325ºF. I have a charcoal grill. Remove shrimp from refrigerator 20 minutes before cooking.

Divide the shrimp, including the marinade into two foil packets, seal shut. Cook on grill  with lid closed for 5 to 7 minutes, checking after 5 minutes. Remove from grill and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Yields up to 4 servings as an appetizer.

Notes: Serve with sliced baguette for soaking up broth or warm tortillas and salsa.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cakey Lemon Bar “Brownies”





Lemon brownies? 

Yes. Thick, cakey lemon squares the density and texture of a chocolate brownie. I'm so serious. This is no lemon bar. This is a lemon brownie and it absolutely must be apart of your spring and summer/life if you're into citrus and sugary things.

Cakey Lemon Bar “Brownies”

Ingredients:

Brownies:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


Lemon Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. 

Zest and juice two small lemons; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachement, beat the flour, sugar, salt, and softened butter until combined. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice until combined. Pour into the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. 

Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before glazing.

When brownies are cooled completely, make the glaze by whisking together all three ingredients. Spread over the brownies with a rubber spatula, cut into bars, and serve!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This is a great, comfort dish. My sister gave me the recipe and I tweaked it to fit my family's taste. My friends also request this when we have pot-luck dinners. Garnish with freshly grated Paremesan cheese and serve with a salad and hot garlic bread. You'll be a hit with everyone.
This is a great, comfort dish. My sister gave me the recipe and I tweaked it to fit my family's taste. My friends also request this when we have pot-luck dinners. Garnish with freshly grated Paremesan cheese and serve with a salad and hot garlic bread. You'll be a hit with everyone.

Chicken Spaghetti




This is a great, comfort dish. My sister gave me the recipe and I tweaked it to fit my family's taste. My friends also request this when we have pot-luck dinners. Garnish with freshly grated Paremesan cheese and serve with a salad and hot garlic bread. You'll be a hit with everyone.

Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb velveeta cheese, regular or mexican
  • 1 can(s) rotel tomatoes, regular or hot
  • 1 lb spaghetti pasta
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 can(s) cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 can(s) cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, red or green, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


Instructions:
  1. Boil chicken breasts in a large pot adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper to water.
  2. Remove chicken when completely done, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Boil spaghetti pasta in remaining broth according to package directions. Drain pasta after done and discard water. Set aside the pasta...Do not rinse.
  4. Melt the butter in that same (empty) pot and saute the onion and bell pepper.
  5. Add tomatoes, soup, cooked chicken (cut into bite-size pieces) and spaghetti to the sauteed onion mixture, one at a time, and gently mix together.
  6. Add cheese and stir together, mixing well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Heat until cheese is melted thoroughly, stirring occasionally to keep from scorching.



SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Garnish with freshly grated Paremesan cheese and serve with a salad and hot garlic bread. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Make Ciabatta Rolls and Loaves at Home




Who doesn't love a good ciabatta roll? There's the crust that is first crisp, then chewy. And then that soft spongy crumb with all its beautiful holes, perfect for mopping up the last bits of sauce from the plate. Or if you prefer, smearing with jam and eating while still warm from the oven.

Ciabatta is a funny kind of bread. Far from the golden domed boules or slender baguettes, this Italian bread is lumpy, rather flat, and most definitely rustic. Baker's lore says that the loaves are meant to resemble comfy old house slippers.
The dough is unusual too. It's extremely wet, with a near equal amount of water and flour. This makes it impossible to knead in the traditional way and difficult to shape into loaves. Traditionally, the dough was kneaded by either slapping it repeatedly against the counter (like brioche) or giving it a series of folds during its long rising time.

It is much easier to knead this wet, sticky dough in a modern standing mixer. This dough requires you to bump the speed above the recommended level for kneading dough, but don't fret. The dough is so wet that it's almost more of a batter than a bread dough. Keep an eye on the mixer during kneading as it has a tendency to bobble itself along the counter. And if your mixer's motor does start to heat up, it's fine to give it rest for a few minutes before completing the kneading.

Once the dough is kneaded and has risen, the key to shaping the loaves from this very loose and sticky dough is lots of flour and handling the dough with velvet gloves. The flour will help prevent the dough from sticking to everything and a gentle touch will keep its network of bubbles from collapsing.
All this fussy work is well worth it when those loaves come out of the oven. The crust is crackling and deeply toasted. The interior is glossy and honeycombed with holes.

No two loaves or rolls of ciabatta ever turn out quite the same. This is something I love about this bread and that keeps me making it again and again. Whether I'm baking loaves for a dinner party or a batch of rolls for my own lunches during the week, ciabatta never fails to deliver.

Homemade Ciabatta

Makes 2 loaves or 16 rolls

Note: Weighing all the ingredients in this recipe is highly recommended. The biga, or pre-ferment, needs to be made the night before baking and allowed to sit for several hours. Don't skip this little step as it's the biga that helps give ciabatta its complex flavor, chewy crumb, and extra-crispy crust

Biga:

  • 4 ounce (1/2 cup) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon active-dry yeast
  • 5 ounce (1 cup) all-purpose flour


Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour and stir to form a thick, gloppy paste. Give it a good fifty or so brisk stirs to build up the gluten. Cover and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.

By the next day, the biga will look soupy with many big bubbles dotting the surface.

Ciabatta:
  • 17 ounces (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) water
  • 1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
  • Biga
  • 20 ounces (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


Dissolve the yeast in the water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Scrape the biga into the water and break it up with your spatula or squeeze it between your hands. You don't need to completely dissolve the biga; just loosen it up and break it into stringy blobs.

Add all of the flour and the salt. Stir to form a thick, very wet dough. Let this rest for 10-20 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.

Fit your standing mixer with a dough hook and knead at medium speed for 15-18 minutes (Level 5 or 6 on a KitchnAid). Keep a close eye on your mixer as it has a tendency to "walk" on the counter at this speed.

The dough will start off sticking to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Around the 7-minute mark, it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl, collect around the dough hook, and regularly slap the sides of the bowl. If it doesn't, nudge your mixer speed up a notch. Also, if the dough starts climbing the dough hook, stop the mixer and scrape it down again. By the end of kneading, the dough will look smooth and creamy with a glossy shine. It will puddle back into the bowl once you turn off the mixer, and this is fine.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at 70° - 75° for 2-3 hours, until tripled in bulk.

Dust your work surface heavily with flour. Set two sheets of parchment near your work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the flour, taking care not to deflate it too much. Dust the top of the dough with more flour. Using a pastry scraper or pizza wheel, cut the dough in two pieces for loaves or into 16 pieces for rolls.

Brush your hands with flour. Working gently but swiftly, scoop the the loaves (or the rolls) one at a time from the work surface to the parchment. Press your fingertips about halfway into the dough to dimple the surface and slightly flatten the loaves (or rolls). Let the loaves (or rolls) rise, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. When ready to bake, they should look pillowy with many big bubbles just beneath the surface.

Preheat the oven to 475°F while the loaves are rising. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven now.

When ready to bake, slide the loaves, still on the parchment, onto a pizza peel or baking sheet. Transfer them to the oven to cook, either on the baking stone or directly on the baking sheet if you don't have a stone. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Slip the parchment out from under the loaves and cool completely before eating.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken and Artichokes in Wine Sauce



This recipe is so deceptively simple, you would never guess it is so quick. The wine in the sauce binds the dish together and elevates it beyond the sum of its parts. You can use either frozen or canned artichoke hearts for this dish. I used canned this time through, and they were delicious. Cut the chicken in pieces a little smaller than the artichoke heart halves.

The final dish is velvety and creamy (without cream, of course), and fragrant with wine and the artichokes' tangy taste. The chicken is very tender. This is a company dish, a supper good enough for a dinner party, but easy and quick enough for a weeknight. It's mild and delicious in a subtle, tangy way.

Chicken and Artichokes in Wine Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups artichoke hearts, frozen and thawed, or canned and drained
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1 pound
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups dry yet mellow white wine, such as Chardonnay
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, to garnish (optional)


Instructions:

Cut the artichoke hearts in half lengthwise. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, about 1 inch to a side. In a medium bowl, mix the flour with about 1 teaspoon salt and a generous quantity of black pepper. Toss the chicken pieces in the flour.

Set a large skillet (at least 12 inches wide) over medium-high heat. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the artichokes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned on each side. Remove the artichokes from the skillet and transfer to a plate. Set aside.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Lift the chicken pieces out of the flour and arrange in the skillet. Sauté the chicken pieces for 5 to 7 minutes or until well-browned on both sides. (For best flavor, look for a golden crust to develop, and make sure both sides are browned.) Add the browned artichokes back to the pan.

Pour in the white wine and and stir and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer for 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat. The sauce will thicken. Stir well to coat everything with the wine sauce. Stir in a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

Serve with pasta or couscous. Garnish, if desired, with finely chopped parsley.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice

If you've ever attempted your favorite Mexican restaurant's rice at home and failed, raise your hand. Well you can put it down now, because this one is my all-time family favorite and I think it will become yours too. To be honest, I like it so much better than the rice usually served when I dine out.

Whenever I go to Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants, I always find myself dumping salsa and queso over my rice to make it more delicious. I've always thought it had potential, though, and over the years I've tested countless different recipes in my quest to master it at home.




The funny thing is that I'm actually not a rice lover at all, which probably explains why I like Mexican rice — because you're supposed to add a bunch of stuff to make it better! The best kind of Mexican rice, to me at least, is infused with a complex tomatoey flavor and each grain has just the right amount of bite; no mush, please! (Cheese dip optional but not required.)

A few years ago I finally found a recipe that came close to what I was looking for. It came from one of those generic crowd-sourced websites so you know it's gonna be a long shot, but despite my doubts it actually proved to be a keeper. Well, a keeper that needed some work. (Once a recipe developer, always a recipe developer.) But now that I had a solid base to play with, I could tweak and adapt it to my personal tastes, and eventually I came up with a streamlined version I think is pretty close to perfect.





The key to this recipe is to sauté the rice in sizzling oil until toasted and golden brown. This helps the grains keep some of their texture after they are cooked. Next, the rice simmers in a puree of tomatoes, onions, and chicken stock to really absorb all of those delicious additional flavors. A handful of cilantro, a few big squeezes of lime, and a light fluff with a fork guarantees the best rice ever, every single time.

Now I can't say if this recipe is anything close to authentic (probably not), but I do know that it's damn good. I suggest playing around with it to make it your own. I love the loaded tomato flavor, but you can reduce the amount of tomatoes and sub in more stock if you want a slightly mellower taste. If you like lots of heat go big on the fresh chiles, but whatever you do don't skip the cilantro — I think it's a must.

Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/3 cup neutral cooking oil, such as canola or safflower (or rendered lard)
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1-2 chile peppers, such as jalapeño or serrano, seeded and minced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Juice from 2 limes, plus additional wedges for serving 


Instructions:

Place the tomatoes and onion in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer 2 cups of the tomato mixture to a medium saucepan. Stir in the chicken stock, salt, and cumin and bring liquid to a boil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is sizzling, add the rice and sauté, stirring frequently until lightly toasted and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the jalapeño and cook until they have softened, about 2 minutes, lowering the heat if necessary. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Pour the boiling tomato mixture over the rice and stir to combine. Turn heat to low and cook, covered, until liquid has evaporated and rice is done, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and gently stir the rice. Return the cover and allow to rest undisturbed for an additional 10 minutes. Add cilantro and lime juice; fluff gently with a fork. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Serve with additional lime wedges. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tito's Spiked "Bloody Mary" Chipotle Shrimp




Savory, spicy, salty, sour, and with a hint of sweet from the honey, this shrimp dish hits all the right notes! Great as an appetizer or add some rice, vegetables and you have a complete meal or served it with some brown rice mixed with black beans, corn, and cactus... a light and tasty dish!

Tito's Spiked "Bloody Mary" Chipotle Shrimp

Yield: 7 servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails on
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoon "Tito's" vodka
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Tabasco original red hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • 14 10-inch wooden skewers


Instructions:

Combine the dry seasonings in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, add shrimp and season evenly with seasoning. Add the honey, vodka, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, and lime or lemon juice. Stir well to combine and marinate for 40 minutes to 1 hour in refrigerator.

After the shrimp has marinated, add four shrimp onto two skewers, side by side. Preheat a large stove top grill or griddle pan to medium/high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Brush pan with olive oil and cook the shrimp skewers for about 2 minutes per side or just until pink. Garnish with some lemon or lime slices. Yields up to 7 servings as an appetizer.

You can make this a complete meal by adding some rice and grilled vegetables or warm some tortillas for shrimp tacos. Just add your favorite salsa!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Basic Yellow Butter Cake



This one-bowl recipe can be mixed up in under 10 minutes, and it turns out a reliably light golden cake with a moist crumb. It's solid with flavor and the taste of butter, unlike the over-heightened, additive-ridden cake mix products, which usually taste overwhelmingly of sugar and not much else. It's a plain, fast cake, and ideal when slathered with thick fudgy frosting. I also like to layer it with warmed jam and powder the top with confectioners sugar.

The most time-consuming part is preparing the cake pans, and you are going to have to do that whether you use a boxed mix or not. It really does come together in a few minutes, and in spite of the quick one-bowl method it has always given me reliable and consistent results. Cakes have a reputation for trickiness, but this recipe simply doesn't support that.

The recipe is pretty much straight out of the old reliable Betty Crocker. I use whole milk, since I think it adds just a little more richness, and I do not make the original recipe's allowance for margarine in place of butter. For a cake, only real butter will do!

Quick Yellow Cake

makes one 9x13 or two 9-inch cakes

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Instructions:

Take the butter out of the fridge to soften and preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare one 9x13-inch pan or two 9-inch round pans by greasing them thoroughly with butter or baking spray. You can also flour them, if you want, although this isn't strictly necessary. Sprinkle a little flour over them, tilt and shake to distribute evenly, then tap out the excess over the sink.

Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the softened butter and sugar together until fluffy and light, then add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated and light. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, and finally the milk and vanilla. Beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, then high for 3 minutes.

Immediately pour into the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed.

Let cool on wire racks for at least 15 minutes, then flip each pan over onto the rack and tap gently all over. Lift the pan slightly. If the cake doesn't feel like it's falling out smoothly, lay a slightly damp kitchen towel over the pan and tap again. If necessary, let the cakes cool more. If they have been baked thoroughly, however, they should fall right out of the pans once they've cooled a little and the sides of the cake have shrunk back from the pan.

Cool completely then frost and eat!