Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hey, Look Who's Back

.. it's ME! Sorry I've been away so long. It's been hard to find time to blog while getting Emily on a schedule. I used to blog about her every week, and that's even dropped down to once a month, if I'm lucky. Now that she's going to bed around 9 every night, I may be able to get on here a little more often.

So, I've decided, to help supplement some income around here, I'm going to try to start some sort of cookie/brownie/cupcake/etc bakery kind of operation. Even if it just starts out with farmers' markets and baseball games, it'll be a little extra cash-ola laying around. On that note, there will be fewer cookie/brownie/cupcake recipes posted and more savory dishes, as I still thoroughly enjoy creating dinner each night. I've got a ton of recipes backed up that I have made and feel the deep desire to share, so let's start with those.

Tonight's recipe is going to be... dah duh daaaaaa

Brie Smothered Pork Chops

Now, this is a Guy Fieri recipe that I doctored a little bit and made my own. We had some Brie laying around. (now there's a statement you don't hear everyday)... we had bought it to make this dough wrapped Brie appetizer that we get at a local restaurant (shout out to Fuel and Fuddle!) here in Pittsburgh. We had purchased an 8oz wheel, and only used half, so we used the rest for chops. This recipe isn't all that complicated, but it is a little time consuming. The end results, however, are too scrumptious not to try this recipe.

Here goes:

For the brine:
1/2c light brown sugar
1/4c apple cider vinegar
2T kosher salt
1T granulated garlic
1T whole black peppercorns
1T dried thyme
1tsp mustard powder
pinch red pepper flake
2c ice cubes
2 pork chops, bone in, 1.5" thick

For the chops:
salt/pepper
olive oil
4oz brie, sliced

For the sauce:
Olive oil
1 green apple, peeled and rough sliced
1 sweet onion, rough sliced
1/4c Calvados
1/2c chicken broth
2T cold butter, cubed

Now, I used boneless pork chops. I don't see the point of spending money on bones you're going to throw away. It still came out gorgeously, but stick to the 1.5" thick point, or the times will be off and your pork will be dry.

Combine all ingredients from the sugar to the pepper flake in a medium pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Take it off the heat and add the ice cubes. Once the mixture has cooled to warm, pour it over the pork chops in a bowl or shallow dish. Let them brine in the fridge for about an hour.

Once your hour is up, pull those babies out of the fridge and remove them from the brine. You can discard the brine. *never, ever, ever save a brine or marinade for reuse!!* They'll look a little grey, but that's ok. The vinegar "cooked" them slightly, kind of like a ceviche, and they're supposed to be that way. You want to pat them dry with a paper towel and let them sit as you put your trusty cast iron pan over high heat. Also, preheat your oven to 350. Add a little bit of olive oil and wait for it to just reach its smoke point. Sprinkle your chops with salt and pepper and sear those chops in the pan. Brown each side for about 8 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Reduce the heat and cook on each side another 4 minutes or so. Check the temperature. You want them to be somewhere around 120. Place them on a sheet tray and top them with slices of brie, covering the tops completely. You want it to turn into an ooey gooey mess. Place the tray in the preheated oven.

Now, back to that cast iron skillet. You didn't put it in the sink, did you? Good.. bring it back up to temp over a medium  heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan and, again, when it's warm,  toss in the apples and onion and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add your Calvados** and cook off the alcohol. If you want to be fancy, you can light that pan on fire and do it in seconds, but I suggest you just let it cook for a bit. You'll see the liquid reduce. Add your stock and bring to a simmer. Let it reduce 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove it from the heat and swirl in the cubes of butter. This will thicken your sauce and make it very tasty. Pull your chops from the oven and top them with the sauce before serving.

**Calvados is a liquor distilled from apples. It can be pretty pricey, so you can substitute with an apple brandy, congac, Applejack, or other apple liquor. Try getting the small sampler bottles from behind the counter at your liquor store if you don't want to keep a bottle on hand. If you don't have any on hand or don't want to use alcohol, you can substitute apple cider, but the flavor will be slightly changed and a little sweeter.**

I've made this twice. I didn't look ahead the first time and we had no apple liquor of any kind. So I used apple cider. It was good, but we vowed to try the real recipe, and I do say, the liquor is better. It gives it more of a tart taste to compliment the apples and brie.

Overall, the meal is to die for. So, I thank sir Guy by giving you this link to his original recipe.

Enjoy!

Crock Pot Applesauce

There is nothing better than walking into your house after a day out in the cold to the warm, delicious smell of cinnamon and apples. Except maybe eating warm cinnamon and apples in the form of crock pot applesauce. This recipe is so simple that, when I found it, I kicked myself for not thinking it up myself. Pretty much anything you can do in a pot on the stove can be done in a crock pot, with minimal time and no need to watch it. Duh!

So, I set to work. I broke out my huge crock pot (I have two) and plugged the old bugger in. My neighbor across the street has a huge apple tree in his front yard and he invites the neighborhood every year to pick them at will, as to not have a ton of apples to clean up at the end of the season. So, I grabbed the 6' ladder from the basement (I'm not really a tree climber), and headed on over. Between Cal and I, we picked about 2 1/2 grocery bags full of apples. I made pies. I made bread. I made dumplings. I made sliced apples and plain applesauce for Emily. And then, I made this applesauce. Sadly, I still have apples sitting in my kitchen. So, more applesauce it is!

Here goes... it's so simple.. ready....

Step one: get out your crock pot
Step two: peel, core and quarter 8 apples, toss them in the pot
Step three: add 1 strip of lemon peel, 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon OR 1 cinnamon stick, 5 tsp light brown sugar
Step four: cover and turn on your crock pot.

No need to stir in the ingredients. No need to add water. Just cover and turn it on. Let it cook for about 4 hours.
*I did stir it halfway through, just to see how it was doing, but it's not necessary*

When it's done, you can puree it to make it super smooth if you want, but I like a couple of apple chunks in my sauce here and there. From here, you can jar it, container it, etc... store it how you will. I've canned 2 jars and had 2 in the fridge.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. It's applesauce and I didn't think about it. If you need a visual, go here to the original page I found through Pinterest.

Now go make yourself a healthy, delish treat and revel in the simplicity!

Enjoy

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tis the Season for Gnocchi

First and foremost, I know it's been quite a while since I've posted, and I kick myself for that, but when you have an infant, life never seems to go as planned. I keep telling myself that I will post after she goes to bed, but by the time everything is done, I just don't have the energy. Normally, I would be working out right now, but a pulled muscle and a pinched nerve are preventing that as well. So, I post when I can, and hope to get back into it as she gets into a decent sleeping schedule. So, if I have any avid readers, please bear with me as I work this out :D

Tuesday night, Cal decided to make some of the most delish chicken sandwiches I have had. It was a take on a Bahama Breeze-esque meal with a Caribbean style chicken breast (marinated in pineapple juice and spices) with a citrus mustard, smoked cheddar cheese and bacon. It was seriously melt in your mouth crazy. He paired it with Smoked Cheddar Mac n' Cheese. After the meal, he challenged me to outdo him the next night. *sigh*.. So, I hit my favorite place to find dinner ideas; Pinterest, Wednesday morning and found this wonderful idea, which I jotted down and, naturally, altered to make it my own. Luckily for me, he had Tuesday and Wednesday off this week, so he could watch Emily while I prepped dinner. My competing meal: 

Butternut Squash Gnocchi in a Sage Brown Butter with Bacon

can you say Yum!

I had tried my hand at making potato gnocchi before, so I had an idea as to what I was doing. I followed a basic recipe that I wound up having to go to the pinner's Facebook page for (so no link, sorry), making only a few, slight alterations. The original recipe reads something like this: 

2c butternut squash, pureed
1/2c Parmesan Cheese
1tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 eggs
2+c flour

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and pulp. Brush with oil and roast in a 375 degree oven until done (about 30min). Remove flesh from skin, puree. In a bowl, combine squash, cheese, salt, pepper and eggs. Gradually add flour. When dough reaches a smooth state and is no longer sticky, turn out onto floured surface. Cut into 4-6 pieces and roll out long, thin logs; about 1/2" in diameter and cut into 1" pieces. Put into a pot of boiling water, about 5 min. Gnocchi will float when done. Serve with desired sauce. 

Personally, 1tsp of salt and a little pepper wasn't cutting it for me. So, I brushed my squash with oil, added a little salt, pepper, and a touch of garlic and onion (just a touch). I then proceeded with the rest of the recipe. 

Now, before cooking your gnocchi, I suggest making your sauce. So, onward!

Brown Butter Sage Sauce ** amounts will depend on how much you want to make. This should make enough for 2.

1/4c (half stick) butter + 1T
2 T onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 fresh sage leaves OR about 1/2tsp rubbed sage OR 1/4tsp ground sage
2 strips bacon, raw, medium diced

Melt 1T butter in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until garlic begins to brown. Add bacon. Cook another 5 min or so (you want the bacon to stay slightly limp in the end, so don't crisp). Add remaining butter and turn up the heat. Brown butter, stirring occasionally so the onions/garlic/bacon don't stick. Once browned, reduce heat to low, add sage. Let sit on low.
Cook gnocchi. Remove gnocchi from pot with a slotted spoon, or drain pot and put gnocchi in the sauce. Turn up heat and cook about 5 min. Top with Parmesean if desired.

Unfortunately, folks, there's no picture with this one. I was so excited to eat it, I completely forgot to snap a pic! *hangs head in shame*. So, you'll just have to take my word for it. Besides, I'm not a good plater/photographer of food anyway. I'm much better at making it taste yummy!

I have to say, I was a little skeptical about serving this to Cal, since he doesn't eat any veggies (what a strange, strange man, but hey, w/e). I tried to avoid telling him what it was, but a friend wound up coming over for dinner and asked what I was making and I had to tell him. But, to my surprise, Cal liked it! Probably more for the brown butter, but hey, I got him to eat veggies! 

So, I hope to be back on a more consistent basis, as I have been in a cooking mood lately and have a stockpile of recipes to share! Hopefully Emily will allow me to get more done in the mornings so I can blog during naptime!

Until next time... 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tequila Lime Sugar Cookies


As tradition stands, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with tacos and margaritas. Well, we had quesadillas, but close enough. Naturally, I wanted to make some sort of baked item to finish our night off right. I chose these cookies, found on Pinterest, and was sadly disappointed. Luckily, I made them early enough to find out they were nothing like the name states, and had time to make some much more delectable Margarita Cupcakes (the recipe for which will be posted as well).

But, back to the dreaded Tequila Lime Sugar Cookie... I'll give the recipe this.. they do taste like lime, and they do contain Tequila.. but that's where they stop being truthful. When looking at the ingredient list, they sounded delish; and don't get me wrong, they were pretty darn good, but they just didn't live up to their name. They contain lime and orange zest, which pair well together and give them an awesome citrus-y vibe. The tequila is lacking, however. If you put it in the title, make sure it plays a key role in the flavor! I don't want to be punched in the face by the sting of the alcohol, but I would like to be able to taste that sweet agave nectar. Also, a sugar cookie, this was not. The texture, consistency and flavor played more to the tune of a shortbread cookie. Now, you were supposed to roll them, chill them, and cut them into quarter inch thick cookies, but I chose to teaspoon drop mine. That shouldn't change the texture, mind you, just the baking time because they're thicker. Now, if this is what you are looking for, excellent, but I was looking for a sugar cookie.

Here is the recipe, as followed:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks at room temp
pinch of salt
4 tsp tequila
grated zest of 2 limes
grated zest of half an orange
2 c flour
white sugar for garnishing

cream the butter and powdered sugar together. add 1 of the egg yolks, mix well. add salt, tequila and zests. mix well. slowly incorporate flour until dough forms. turn out dough onto table, roll into ball, cut in half. wrap and chill for 30 minutes. after chilling, roll into logs about 1 inch thick. Chill 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk remaining egg yolk in a small bowl until thin enough to brush onto cookies. spread white sugar on wax paper. brush dough with egg yolk and roll in sugar. cut logs into 1/4" cookies, bake 12-14 minutes.

Next time I think I'll up the tequila a bit. I didn't mind the shortbread taste, which I believe comes from the powdered sugar. Subsituting white sugar may change that issue. I will definitely play around with this recipe in hopes of getting it just right.

Find the original page here

I'll check back later after trying these again.. until next time

enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Honey Garlic Pork Chops


*note: this recipe can also be done with chicken*

I was rummaging through the freezer yesterday looking for something to make for dinner and I found the same old stuff; pork, chicken and ground beef. That's usually all of the meat our freezer consists of. We never (ok, very, very, rarely.. like when they're on super sale) freeze steaks, so they're usually a 'day of or after grocery shopping' meal. I found that we were running low on pork, but we had a couple of small loin roasts, some cubed and a package of medallions I had cut from our last bulk buy. We had just had chicken the night before, and ground beef not long ago, so pork it was. I pulled a roast out to thaw and set about ways to cook it. If you look up "pork roast recipes," you get a lot of the same stuff. Such as slow cook it and marinade it. I remembered finding this Honey Garlic Chicken recipe on Pinterset, and that it had mentioned  it had previously been done with pork. Perfect! We hadn't had anything Asian-y in a while and this sounded delicious. So, I copied down the recipe, pondered some side dishes, and got to work.

Well, I waited until Cal got home, and it was actually dinner time, but you get the picture ;)

I had decided to make coconut rice as the side dish, so I started with that, as it took longer to cook.

Easy Thai Coconut Rice -- Serves about 4

1 cup white rice, uncooked
1/2 cup milk
1 cup water
1-2 T sweetened coconut
1 T toasted coconut

Now, I do have to admit, that this is NOT an actual recipe for coconut rice. This is my modified, I don't have jasmine rice or coconut milk recipe. I think it still game out pretty darn delish. Also note that while 1 cup of rice does not seem like enough, it definitely makes plenty!

Add your milk, water and untoasted coconut to a medium sized pot. Heat to a slight simmer and keep there for about 5 minutes. Then add your rice. Stir occasionally until it comes to a boil, then simmer, covered for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed (like making any rice). Stir, then reduce the heat to low and let sit, covered, stirring occasionally until ready to serve.

*note, this will not get as sticky as when using jasmine rice and coconut milk, but it will still hold a bit of a shape if desired.

**note, simmering the coconut in milk first allows the flavor to be absorbed into the liquid, and, in turn, into the rice.

Ok, so your rice is cooking. Now, onto the meat!

Start with your glaze, as it can be kept warm on the stove. In a small pot, combine:

1 T oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced. -- cook until soft. Add:
1/2 c honey
1/8 c soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper

Simmer until heated, about 5-10 minutes. Leave on low, stirring occasionally until ready to serve.


Since I was using a roast, I sliced it in half as if I were going to butterfly it, then sliced it on the bias to create 4 reasonably sized portions. Two per person, mind you, for the size roast I had...

Then, I followed this recipe:

1 c flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 T ground ginger
1 T ground nutmeg
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
1 T paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

it also called for an egg wash of 2 eggs and 4 T water.

Combine all of the dry ingredients on a pie plate. Mix well. Prepare egg wash in a bowl. Dredge pork piece in flour, then egg, then flour again. Fry in about a 1/2 inch of oil for about 7-10 minutes, turning halfway. When pork reaches 165 deg, its done.

Top your pork with the Honey Garlic sauce. Serve with rice. We topped our coconut rice with a little sweet chili sauce and toasted coconut to give it a slightly spicy flavor and a little crunch for texture.

This was super crunchy and good. The only change I would make is to decrease the nutmeg a bit, maybe by half, as it was very prominent in the breading. But, that's a personal preference.

Another great solution for boring old pork or chicken.

Please feel free to visit the original sites: Coconut Rice    Honey Garlic Chicken

Enjoy!

Yes Please, I Would Like S'More....

Ok, I know that's a cheesy title, but I seriously just couldn't resist. Also, I know that my photo leaves much to be desired, but due to the fact that I a) use my phone to take most of my pictures, and b) don't really have the time to take some during the process (gotta work fast with a 2 month old around) please allow me to dazzle you with my words and less with my pictures.

Pregnancy made me a chocoholic. Now I know you're thinking, sure, use pregnancy as an excuse. Seriously, though. Before I got pregnant, despite the fact that I have always liked chocolate, I could barely eat one of those mini Hershey's bars or one Reese's cup without feeling ill. My stomach just couldn't handle the sugar. During my pregnancy, I never really craved much, and when I did, it was savory. I craved things like crab cakes and french fries. Shortly after giving birth, however, I developed this insatiable need for chocolate; and sunflower seeds, but that's another issue entirely. It has come back to bite me in the ass more than once, as I have bought a bag of chocolate chips just to eat them as they sit. Who needs the cookie dough. We all know that we eat a chocolate chip cookie for the chocolate, right? No? Oh, well at least I do. I also have a great affinity for marshmallows. Those, I also buy just to eat right out of the bag. Not as often as chocolate chips however. What better way to put them together than to throw in some Graham crackers and make me some S'mores.

*side note, did you know that Graham crackers are named that way because name of their inventor was Graham. All this time I thought it was some kind of special ingredient or something that went into making them, but then I came across this recipe (thank you Pinterest) and they're actually pretty simple to make. They may be my next adventure ;) *

Ok, getting back to S'mores. I didn't want to just pop some chocolate on a Graham cracker, top it with marshmallows and heat it. I couldn't just start a campfire on my kitchen floor or on my porch for that matter, as the city may not approve. So, I had to be creative. I searched my crowded, disorganize pantry for ideas and came upon a box of chocolate fudge pudding. Perfect! So I popped Emily in her car seat, placed her in her kitchen spot and got to work.

I smashed up some Graham crackers to make a crust like bottom. I added some butter to make it an 'official' crust, but I feel like it would be ok to leave out the extra fat and just use the crumbs. I made the pudding following the directions for pudding pie on the box. I then dug out my Sweet and Salty Guinness Pie recipe (another I need to get up here because it's sooooo good) for it's Marshmallow Meringue section to place on top.

I have to tell you, these were heavenly! The meringue crisped lightly on top and while the rest stayed slightly melted for that campfire marshmallow taste. The pudding was just thick enough to resemble that melted chocolate and the cracker crumbs on the bottom finished off that flavor that only a S'more can bring. It definitely hit that chocolate spot and took me to a time of sitting by the campfire as a child. *sigh*

And, now, without further delay, here awe your campfire memories all wrapped up into one 8oz cup.

S'More's Pudding Pie


Crust: 2 sheets of Graham Crackers, smashed into crumbs
           1 T butter, melted (optional)

Pudding: your favorite chocolate pudding (the small box) made following the pudding pie directions
                *the pie version uses less milk. Mine called for 1 3/4 cups.*

Topping: 1/2 cup white sugar
               1 egg white
               1 1/2 T water
                20 mini marshmallows (or 5 regulars cut into quarters)

Combine crust ingredients and place into two 8oz ramekins. Press down to firm. Pour about a 3/4 cup of pudding into each one. Over a double boiler, combine the sugar, egg white and water until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and drop in marshmallows. Let sit about 5 minutes for marshmallows to soften. Using a hand mixer, beat  until stiff peaks form. Top pudding. Let set at least one hour. Place under a broiler until marshmallow meringue turns to desired brown-ness (some people like their marshmallows darker) before serving.

Well, there ya have it folks. My baby monitor is calling, so I have to get going. I hope you can dig up some campfire memories with that first bite!

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Faux-reo... the Homemade Oreo



Who doesn't love an Oreo cookie? Seriously. It's a super chocolatey cookie with a sweet and fatty tasting cream in the center. There are plenty of ways to eat them; my favorite being to take it apart, eat the cookie half first, scrape off and eat the icing and then eat the other half of the cookie. However you choose to eat them, they're absolutely delicious, but also pretty expensive for a pack of cookies. So, when I came across this recipe on my Pinterest adventures, I knew that I had to try it!

I noticed that the recipe was in weights instead of measurements. I believe it was Alton Brown who said that baking is better done in weight, as it is more precise for the process. So I took this opportunity to go out and get the kitchen scale that I had been longing to buy, but putting off because it was unnecessary. (yes, cookies made it necessary). It was only $30 bucks, so it wasn't like I was spending an absurd amount of money on something I didn't need. And we've used it for other things as well, such as burgers and chicken.

Anywho... After purchasing my scale, I headed home and the next day, I put Emily in her carseat, propped her in the kitchen and we set off to make these cookies. I gave her a plastic "wooden" spoon to play with and she helped to keep me entertained while I worked. The dough came together rather quickly, even with the use of my hand mixer. (I'm still hoping for that stand mixer for Christmas.. hint hint ;)  )... It rolled out rather nicely, though did require a good bit of flour for anti-sticking issues. They bake up nicely, and don't spread as they cook, so I was able to make all of them in one shot! While they were baking, I started on the icing. They say you can use butter, but I wholeheartedly recommend shortening for that authentic mouth feel and for less melting when storing them at room temperature.

I know by now you're ready for the recipe, so here it is...

Cookies:
3oz butter, room temp
3.75oz white sugar
1.5oz brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4tsp + 1/8tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
1 1/2tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks
4oz flour
3oz cocoa powder
1tsp instant coffee powder

Cream Filling:
2oz shortening, room temp
5oz powdered sugar
1tsp vanilla
1/8tsp salt

Cookies: Cream together the butter and both sugars using a mixer. Add the baking powder, soda, vanilla and egg yolks. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Add the flour, cocoa and instant coffee all at once, mix. Dough will get very stiff! When this occurs, knead into a smooth ball. Roll out about 1/8" thick (they suggest using cocoa powder for color, but I used flour since cocoa is so much more expensive and the color didn't change). Cut into desired size. I used a small glass, and they came out rather large. I think a shot glass would be perfect and will try it next time I make these. You can also use cookie cutters or anything you want shape/size wise. If you want to decorate your cookies like the oreos, after you place them on their ungreased cookie sheets, take the scraps of dough that are leftover, add hot water gradually to form a paste, then pipe it onto your cookies in whatever squiggley pattern you want. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. Let them cool completely.

Meanwhile, cream the shortening and powdered sugar together for the cream filling. Add vanilla and salt. Whip this mixture for a good 5 minutes or more. The more you mix, the more it aerates, the smoother and less gritty it will be. Once cookies are cool, pipe or spoon filling onto half the cookies. Top cookie, pressing from the center outward to evenly spread the filling. Place in an air tight container and refrigerate for about an hour to set the filling. After the hour,  you can store them at room temperature.

A few hints/tips/warnings...
1) the measurements may seem small, but you'd be amazed how light flour and cocoa powder really are. I think the cocoa powder came out to be around a 1/2 cup, so make sure you have a good bit. I just had enough left in my container to make them!
2) if your dough gets too sticky, you can chill it for about a half an hour, then let it come back to room temp before rolling. If you want, you can also wrap and chill it for up to a week before using. Always let it come back to room temp before rolling though.
3) I was wary of getting a coffee flavor (one I absolutely hate) in the cookies, but there was none. It helps them to taste fairly authentic.

Overall, this was a wonderful recipe that I will be making again and again. For pictures and the original site (as I like to give credit where credit is due), click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Two Minute Brownie Mug

I was browsing through the food and drink section of the beloved Pinterest page when I came across something called the Two Minute Brownie Mug. I was quite intrigued, as I love brownies, but when I make a full pan, we either eat the entire thing in about two days, which is in no way good for my waistline or, I'm sure, my newborn's sugar intake. So, I copied down the recipe onto my handy dandy whiteboard that hangs in my kitchen for just this purpose, and I had at it. Now, I don't own any ramekins (yet.. i will eventually buy a set of these wonderful dishes, as they are very useful in cooking for just two people), so I did just what the title suggested, and use two coffee mugs. The thing that I found most impressive was that this particular recipe eliminated the use of egg by incorporating milk instead. Using one egg in a cup for one brownie would cause some issue, I do believe, so I was tempted to try this milk idea.

Here is the recipe, which I followed (almost) to a T...

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
2 T canola oil
2 T Milk, coffee or water

Combine all ingredients into the mug or ramekin that you will be cooking in, stirring until you have a thick paste. Microwave on high for 90 seconds, checking every 30 seconds as microwaves vary. You want a nice, spongy but gooey brownie.

I used the milk option, as I am not a big coffee fan, nor did I have any on hand, and I refuse to use water in baking unless absolutely necessary, as it adds no flavor, only liquid (yes, I'm that picky). The only change I made to the recipe was to add two caramels to the center of the brownie before cooking. I did make that stupid mistake of cooking both at the same time, which causes the time to vary. So I cooked them for about 2 and a half minutes, which caused them to be slightly overdone, but they tasted amazing. Just like a brownie, satisfying that chocolate craving perfectly.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this recipe and will be adding it to my recipe box for that "I need chocolate now!" craving time, or for a quick and simple dessert when you're in a dessert mood. I did not photograph the result, as it looked a bit messy and I was dying to eat it, but for a picture of the final brownie, and a photographic step by step recipe, please visit the original site here. Next time, I think I'll cook them one at at time and add chocolate chips or peanut butter for something different.


Enjoy <3

Homemade Mozzarella Balls

I know what you're thinking.

"This recipe is a no brainer. Everyone can make fried cheese." 

And I was one of you, I'm not going to lie. I found, however, that there really is a difference between frying cheese and frying cheese into an ooey gooey, melt in your mouth goodness. So I found a recipe called Fried Mozzarella Balls and Spicy Tomato Sauce. The sauce recipe sounded good, but we had already made marinara for our pasta, so we used it to dip instead of making an entirely different sauce. 

So, here is the recipe as described on the originalsite...

3-4 cups peanut oil, depending on type of pan you will be frying the cheese in
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 lb. mozzarella bocconcini (about 50 pieces)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups panko
Special equipment:  Deep-frying thermometer
Instructions
Drain the cheese from its liquid. Place the cheese on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry.
If your cheese balls seem pretty big, halve or quarter them into bite-size pieces.  Once they get the panko breading on them, they will be a lot bigger.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
Put the egg mixture and bread crumbs in separate wide, shallow bowls.  Combine the panko with the teaspoon of salt and Parmesan in another wide, shallow bowl.  (*If you only have one shallow bowl, use it for the panko.  It will help you immensely with the breading process.)
Roll the cheese in the flour, dip into the egg mixture and coat with the bread crumbs, shaking off the excess after each step.
Repeat the breading process one more time for each cheese piece.
In a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden, about 45 seconds (or until golden brown-watch them carefully as oven temperatures may vary). If you notice that your thermometer’s reading decreases, wait for a little while until the oil gets back up to the proper temperature.
Transfer the fried cheese to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and black pepper. Place the cheese on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining cheese.
Serve with the warm tomato sauce.
First, I did not make 2 pounds of Mozzarella balls. There are only two of us, so I bought one little container and eyeballed the flour, breadcrumb, and Parmesan amounts (If you calculated it out, I basically made 1/4 of the recipe). With breading, you have to keep your proportions accurate to each other, but not necessarily precise. As long you're close, the final product won't usually be affected. 

I also nixed the deep pan and broke out my handy dandy deep fryer. So much faster and easier than pan frying. I suggest using one if you have it. This also negates the need for the thermometer. Then, I fried them until they began to float and/or you began to see a little leaking cheese. 

So I followed the recipe as stated, and I have to admit, they came out pretty good. I think I would use seasoned breadcrumbs, or season them to taste. Add some basil, oregano, salt and pepper, marjoram, etc. or some Italian seasoning for a bit more "Italian" taste as the breading was slightly bland and the flavor was very dependent on the cheese alone. 

Here's my thing though... We recently tried ordering from a new pizza joint Downtown known as R&B's Pizza. There was nothing wrong with our "voted #1 in the 'Burgh so many times in a row" favorite, Giovannai's, but we felt like trying something new and their prices were slightly better on their non-pizza items. Cal eats hot wings like its his job, and I am absolutely in love with Mozzarella Sticks. Giovanni's were ok, but since we were ordering from somewhere new, I tried them out. Can you say Mozzarella Heaven?? These were no frozen cheese sticks dropped in the fryer to order. These HAD to be homemade. They have this super salty, cheesy goodness about them that is almost indescribable. The recipe above is almost as good. Here's the catch; it looks like R&B's uses a tempura batter instead of breadcrumbs. So, next time I try this, I'm definitely tempura battering the cheese balls!

Homemade Cheez-Its

My oven has been working super overtime lately! I was in a cooking mood, as I have been since about a week after giving birth because I had my desire to eat and my taste buds back. I made roasted chickpeas, granola and these delicious homemade Cheez-its! The only recipe appropriate for this blog, however, is the Cheez-its.  (I may post the chickpea recipe, but once it's perfected. I haven't gotten it just right yet.) Cooking this much with a one month old is a little taxing, I'm not gonna lie, but I popped her in her carrier and brought her into the kitchen. They say you should talk to babies because they recognize your voice and it relaxes them. Plus, it's supposed to be good for their cognitive development, and for Emily (who is beginning to track objects), it lets her follow me around the kitchen with her eyes. So, to entertain her and myself, I threw on some tunes and sang to her as I cooked. It's a good thing she's not objective to my being tone deaf!

So I taught my darling daughter how to make Cheez-its. I was very impressed by the low number of ingredients and the overall taste and texture of the final product.

As per the usual, here is the recipe as given by the original site:

1 1/2 c (6oz) grated extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese
4 T unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
3/4 c flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 tsp salt
1 T milk

Preheat your oven to 350.
Put everything except the milk into a food processor. Pulse your processor a few times until everything becomes coarse crumbs.
Add the milk
Process until dough gathers into a ball
Roll out the dough onto a floured board until it is about 1/8" thick
Cut into 1" squares with a floured knife or pizza cutter
Use a toothpick or skewer to poke a hole in the center
Place crackers 1/4" apart on a baking sheet
Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are brown.
Cool completely and eat, or store in an airtight bag (or container) to enjoy later.

Luckily, Cal bought me a food processor for Christmas. (I know, most people would be like, 'gee, thanks dear', but I was excited!). So this was a super easy process. If you don't have a food processor, this is still a workable recipe. You'll just have to chop your cheese and butter into fine, fine pieces (think, chopping parsley), and work it into a dough. It comes together pretty quickly, and you're rolling out your dough in no time, so be sure to actually preheat your oven when you start. (If you're anything like me, you know most things take longer than it takes to preheat so you wait a while to save money on that gas bill!) I found that rolling out the dough that thin was the hardest part for me. The edges were thin and the middle was a little thicker, so they baked a little unevenly. I used a plastic pizza cutter to make the squares. They still came out a little crooked, but it gives them that nice, homemade look ;). If you want to get really fancy, you can use a fork and mark the edges like a real Cheez-it, but I declined to do so. If I make these as a gift or for a special occasion, I may go ahead and get fancy, but today was just not the day. These were last on my list of items being made and Emily was getting fussy, so I needed to get them in the oven.

Fifteen minutes later, I had these delicious looking crackers. They weren't as orange as the store bought variety, though I didn't expect them to be. I'm sure they add some kind of food coloring to them. After they cooled, I tried one. It was pretty good! They didn't taste exactly like the store bought, but they weren't a bad knockoff. They definitely need to be sprinkled with salt before baking. I had only used sharp cheese, and the super cheap, below store brand kind at that, so they weren't quite as good as I expected. Now that I know the recipe is good, however, I'll buy some of the really good stuff next time I decide to make them. The recipe doesn't make many, however. I got two medium sized pans out of it (as you can see in the picture below). I'm not sure how long these will keep, but I would assume about a week (if they make it that long in the pantry). Since this dough rolls out nicely, perhaps I'll try different shapes or small cookie cutters for Emily once she's old enough to eat them :)

So there you have it, folks; Homemade cheese crackers for your delight. Now, perhaps one of these days I'll get some time to try a Pinterest project that is non food related. I guess that's all up to Emily ;)

Happy Snacking!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Granola

I've found that making your own foods is not only cheaper, but better in general because you can fit it to your tastes. Today, I made this granola, and I have to say, its so good! It fills you up with just a small amount and is good for energy in the morning (or any time of day, for that matter). I use it to snack on as well, because it's easy to just grab a handful and shove it in your mouth with a baby on one arm while you're busy during the day.

The recipe fills about half a gallon ziploc bag (as long as you don't burn it like I did the first time I made it ;) )

Granola


8 c Oats
1 c Sunflower Seeds (preferably unsalted, but whatever you can get)
1 c Sliced Almonds
1/2 c chopped Walnuts
1 tsp Salt
1/2 c Light Brown Sugar
1/4 c Maple Syrup
1 c Oil
1 T Cinnamon
1 T Vanilla
2 c Raisins

In a large bowl, combine the Oats and Nuts. In a medium pot, combine Salt, Brown Sugar, Syrup, Oil, Cinnamon and Vanilla. Bring to a boil and pour over Oat mixture. Mix, coating everything well. Spread evenly onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Once cool, add Raisins.

**NOTE** Do NOT add Raisins before baking! I was in a bit of a rush when making it today and threw everything in together. Miss Emily was being a bit fussy and I was just trying to get it done. When I went to stir, I realized I had these black, plump balls on my tray and cursed myself for adding them. Once cool, I tasted one, hoping they were ok. Needless to say, they tasted sweet, but very burned, so I had to pick them all out (that's a lot of raisins!), and then toss more in when bagging it up.

This is a pretty simple recipe that can be altered for your taste. Once, I made it without the raisins but added 2 mashed bananas to the pot of sugar, oil, etc and it came out delish! I made it today, and added some Honey to the mix instead of the Maple Syrup. You could add peanut butter (I'd say about 2T) It all depends on what  you're in the mood for. You can add some dried fruit, other nuts, nutmeg, allspice, flax seed, wheat germ, etc.; whatever you want. It's awesome with a little bit of milk, on top of some yogurt with some fruit, or as stated above, as a snack here and there. Don't be tricked into thinking this is unhealthy because of the sugary ingredients. When comparing the amount of liquid to the amount of dry ingredients, its simply enough to coat. Otherwise, you end up with a very dry breakfast.

Enjoy!



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Honeybee Cookies

Well, it's been a while, but I'm hoping to be able to post more now that Emily and I have settled into a routine and I'm doing more cooking since I'm home all day. Today's recipe is for a sweet treat that isn't too bad on the hips or the wallet. It's a pretty simple recipe as far as cookies go, and while the initial dough was very strong in honey flavor, the cookies came out with a mild, yet definitely present taste of honey and cinnamon. It came from my Allrecipes.come app and I made just a few changes. Here goes...

Honeybee Cookies -- Yields about 36 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light)
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Oven temp 375 degrees, bake for 7-9 minutes (edges will be browned, tops will be shiny)

** I used 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup white flour for a slightly healthier cookie.
** If  you want a nice sweet/salty flavor balance (which I love), add a little more salt to the batter, or sprinkle a small amount of kosher or sea salt over the cookies before baking. Yum!
** I added a pinch more cinnamon (like 3/4 of a tsp ish) for a more prominent cinnamon flavor

Combine the butter, brown sugar and honey in a medium bowl. Beat until smooth. Add the egg, beating again until smooth. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Slowly beat into the wet mixture until dough forms, scraping sides a few times to incorporate everything. Let the dough chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes to prevent cookies from being flat. I waited to preheat my oven and let them chill until the oven was ready.

Drop by teaspoonful onto greased baking sheets. Bake. Allow the cookies to sit on the sheet a good 3-5 minutes before removing to wax paper or a cooling rack (this allows them to firm up first).

I think these would also be great with raisins added, but Cal isn't a raisin fan, so next time maybe I'll do half and half.

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tuna Steaks... Oddly inexpensive and surprisingly Scrumptous

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a splendid New Year. Ours was so/so and a bit hectic, but we always persevere! Last night was the first night I was really able to take the time and 'cook' something, and we were tired of the same ol' same ol' so we decided on fish. Cal decided on tuna steaks at the grocery store, and since we had received the Good Housekeeping Cookbook 2012 for Christmas, I tried out their recipe. I followed the recipe exactly, but would change it in the future ever so slightly. Here it is...

Pan Seared Tuna Steaks (Serves 2)

Marinade:
2 large lemons
3 T olive oil (divided -- 1.5 T for marinade, 1.5T for skillet)
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

2 tuna steaks, approx 5 ounces each and 3/4 in thick

Grate about a 1/2 tsp of lemon peal into a bowl. Squeeze 1/3 cup of juice from your lemons. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk together. Place Tuna steaks into a vessel for marinating. I used a small plastic container, but a ziploc bag or a pan of some sort will work. Make sure it's small enough to actually cover the fish at least halfway if not all the way. Marinate your steaks for about an hour. Turn once if not fully covered. 

* the edges of your fish may start to turn opaque in the marinade. This is perfectly fine, its the lemon juice reacting to partially 'cook' the fish. 

If you have a cast iron skillet, use it. If not any other heavy skillet will work. Heat the remaining 1.5T olive oil in the pan until hot. (It needs to be hot enough to sizzle heavily when tuna is added. You can test this with a little bit of the marinade) Cook each steak about 3-5 minutes per side. This results in a medium cooked fish.. opaque on the outside, nice and pink in the middle. If you're worried about temperature, cook it to about 130 degrees in the center. 

I made a lemon herb butter sauce to go with the fish, but it was moist and tasty enough to hold its own and can be eaten sauce less. I would change the marinade to include more salt and pepper, maybe a 1/2 tsp each, as I added some of each to eat it. You can also add other herbs to the dish if you want it a little more flavorful. I recommend some thyme and maybe some oregano.

Overall, its a very simple dish to make. Serve it with rice, roasted potatoes, orzo, or any vegetable and side you would like.

Enjoy!