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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asian Noodle Salad

How much do you like leftovers? Hopefully a LOT because you'll be eating this Asian Noodle Salad for days! That was actually my plan when I made it. I was set to leave town on business for a week and though Ryan never asks me to make anything for him, I knew his busy schedule meant he'd be subsisting on cereal and crackers if I didn't step in. Don't worry though, this salad is good enough that you won't mind eating it for a few days! My only complaint was that the flavor of the dressing wasn't strong enough when mixed into the salad. This may have been my fault, as I made it in the bowl of my food processor, which I rinsed out but didn't dry....so it might have been watered down. If you prefer a more heavily dressed salad, you may want to make 1.5x the dressing and add extra as needed.

This would also be great for a party, because it feeds SO many. I'm not exaggerating when I talk about the proportions here...it filled one large tupperware bowl plus one five-gallon ice cream container! I had to make a few adjustments, so I posted the original recipe below with my changes in parenthesis. If you worry people won't like the cabbage in there, I recommend shredding in a food processor. I did that and it cut the pieces so small that you couldn't really detect the flavor of them when mixed in with everything else!

Tell me, are you a leftovers fan or would you only make this if serving a crowd?

One Year Ago: Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

Asian Noodle Salad
from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients:
For the salad-
-1 package linguine noodles, cooked, rinsed, and cooled (I used Barilla Plus Spaghetti)
-1/2 head sliced Napa cabbage
-1/2 head sliced purple cabbage
-1/2 bag baby spinach
-1 whole red bell pepper, thinly sliced
-1 whole yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
-1 whole orange bell pepper, thinly sliced (I substituted a green pepper)
-1 bag bean sprouts (I bought but they went bad in the 2 days between buying and using--big bummer!)
-chopped cilantro, up to 1 bunch, to taste (I used 1 bunch)
-3 whole scallions, sliced
-3 whole cucumbers, peeled and sliced (I didn't peel and sliced in half before slicing pieces)
-1 can (10 oz.) whole cashews, lightly toasted in skillet (I used dry roasted peanuts and didn't toast)

For the dressing-
-1 lime, juices
-8 tbsp olive oil
-8 tbsp soy sauce
-2-3 tbsp sesame oil
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-3 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-2 whole jalapenos, chopped
-chopped cilantro

Directions:
1. Mix salad ingredients together (you will probably need to do this in two separate LARGE bowls).
2. Whisk dressing ingredients together (I did this in my food processor) and pour over salad. Mix with tongs and chill until ready to serve.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms

When my friend Maggie made these on Easter, all of us raved over the spicy kick that many stuffed mushroom recipes lack. Ryan deemed them the 'best stuffed mushrooms of his life'. Have you met my husband? He rarely makes such emphatic statements so when he uttered those words, I knew I needed to make them again. I took Maggie's adaptation of the recipe and made one more additional change: the addition of bacon, because you can't ever go wrong with bacon, right? To keep them vegetarian however, you could simply omit and you'll still find yourself with some great stuffed mushrooms. You can stuff your mushrooms a few hours ahead of time and then refrigerate until you're ready to bake.

Looking for another good stuffed mushroom recipe? Mexican Stuffed Mushrooms were another hit!

One Year Ago: Grilled Fattoush (GREAT summer recipe!)

Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms
adapted from allrecipes.com
*note: you will have extra filling--could probably stuff an additional dozen mushrooms

Ingredients:
-24 white button mushrooms
-1 tbsp vegetable oil
-1 tbsp minced garlic
-8 oz. cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat)
-2-3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
-1/2 cup Italian shredded cheese, divided
-1/4 tsp ground pepper
-1/2 tsp minced onion flakes
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Wash and dry mushrooms, removing stems and setting aside.
2. Finely chop mushroom stems and add to a skillet with oil and garlic, over medium heat. Saute, stirring occasionally, until all moisture has disappeared. Set aside to cool.
3. Once mushroom mixture is cooled, stir in cream cheese, crumbled bacon, 1/4 cup Italian cheese, pepper, onion flakes, and cayenne pepper.
4. Place mushrooms on a foil lined baking sheet. Using a spatula, stuff filling mixture into a ziploc bag and cut off a corner. Pipe filling into each mushroom. Sprinkle the tops of filled mushrooms with additional cheese.
5. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake mushrooms, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lemony Kale Pasta

Yes, I'm back with another kale recipe. Call me a rabbit, but I can't get enough of this leafy green. Thankfully, Ryan puts up with my affinity for the stuff (or has a secret love for it too--we fight over kale chips!). I've put kale in soups, salads, egg dishes, enchiladas, and now we can add pasta to the list! As always, spinach could be substituted for the kale. This is a very basic pasta dish that relies on the lemony dressing to bring flavor to the dish. Though we enjoyed it, I think next time I'd add some nuts (walnuts or pine nuts!) for some crunch and maybe some chickpeas as well! I loved the dressing, but the dish itself could've used a little more variety.

Do you have any lemony pasta dishes to share? I can't get enough of the flavor!

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

Lemony Kale Pasta
from Annie's Eats

Ingredients:
for the dressing-
-2 cloves garlic, peeled
-1/2 tsp salt, divided
-1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
-5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-juice from 2 lemons
-1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
-freshly ground pepper to taste

for the pasta-
-1 lb whole grain pasta
-1 large bunch kale, rinsed and dried, stems removed
-lemon slices, for garnish
-additional Parmesan, for serving

Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. While water is coming to a boil, make the dressing. Mince the garlic and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of salt before smashing garlic into a paste with a fork. Add the garlic paste to a small bowl. Mix in Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Whisk to combine.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Chop kale into 1/2-inch ribbons. Place kale in a large bowl and toss with dressing, coating well. Drain pasta, allow to cool slightly, and toss with kale and dressing, coating well. Serve with sliced lemon and additional Parmesan.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Warm Avocado Salad

Looking at the ingredients of this dish, it doesn't seem all that different from your standard salsa...that is, until you notice the word "warm" in the title. Cheese dips are usually warm, salsas are not. Ryan and I share a love for avocado so when I pointed out this recipe in The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook and suggested it as our second May recipe for our Best of 2011 challenge, he was all for it!

I don't have much to say about this except that we both really loved it and had no problem finishing off the whole batch! If you want to serve as an appetizer at a party, I suggest doubling...or it's great to eat for dinner with chips and cheese quesadillas, like we did. The entire jalapeño in there gave the salsa a very spicy kick, which we appreciated, especially in contrast to the creamy avocado. If you want to tone it down, use only half the jalapeño.

If you think cold salsa is the only way, you've got to try this version and see for yourself!

Tomatoes were the star ingredients, from The Twelve Best Foods. The book had the following to say about them:
Tomatoes...
-Source of Vitamins A&C, Potassium, and Lycopene
-An antioxidant carotenoid that helps protect against prostate cancer, heart disease, and possibly age-related macular degeneration
-Eat tomatoes with some fat to help absorb the lycopene


One Year Ago: Baked Pear and Gorgonzola Salad


Warm Avocado Salad
from The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook


Ingredients:
-4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
-2 scallions, chopped (white and green parts)
-1 small red onion, chopped
-1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
-1 ripe avocado, diced
-juice from 1 lime
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 grinds freshly ground black pepper
-1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Directions:
1. In a medium skillet coated with cooking spray, saute tomatoes over medium-high heat until they soften (2-3 minutes). Add scallions, onion, and jalapeno, stirring to combine.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add the avocado, lime juice, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Gently mix until the avocado is just warm. Stir in the cilantro.
3. Pour salsa into a bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Best of 2011: Broccoli Pesto Dip

I thought March and April flew by, with vacation and moving, but May passed equally quickly...we started the month with a Fundraising Trivia Night that I co-chaired, enjoyed a visit from my mom, entertained different groups of friends a few different times, and then I left town to spend a week in Newport, Rhode Island for a work conference. When I returned last weekend, I remembered that we had yet to fulfill our Best of 2011 challenge for the month of May. After April's trip to Bahn Mi So, it was once again time to break out The Twelve Best Foods cookbook. I flipped through the pages several times before selection my two recipes for this month, the first being Broccoli Pesto Dip.

We love pesto--I've made it from scratch and it's one of our favorite pizza toppings...so naturally I was intrigued by a recipe for broccoli pesto. Though technically I already made a recipe with broccoli, one of the twelve best foods (the tuna salad, in March), this recipe included walnuts, which are also found on the list of twelve foods.

The book lists a few of walnuts health benefits...
Walnuts:
-Good source of Vitamin E, folate, magnesium, and manganese
-The only nut to contain significant amounts of ellagic acid, a cancer-fighting antioxidant
-One of the few plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids & the highest of all nuts in polyunsaturated fats (the ones that reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol)


There were a few recommended uses of this broccoli pesto, from mixing it with warm pasta to topping a baked potato with it to using it as a dip, like we did. If you want to use it as a pasta sauce, I recommend additional olive oil as ours was still pretty thick when following the recipe. This was a great and healthy dip for vegetables, but would be equally good with pita chips or crackers...or as a sandwich spread! One word of warning--this was really salty. I'm pretty positive I followed the recipe correctly so if you are trying to reduce your sodium intake or don't prefer things very salty, I recommend starting with 1/4 tsp salt and adding more to taste.

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Focaccia with Olives and Tomatoes


Broccoli Pesto Dip
from The Twelve Best Foods Cookbook


Ingredients:
-2 cups raw broccoli florets (minimal amount of stem)
-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
-1/2 cup basil leaves, lightly packed
-1/4 cup walnuts
-1/2 tsp salt
-freshly ground black pepper
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:
1. Put the broccoli, garlic, basil, walnuts, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until broccoli is finely ground (mixture will be grainy).
2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula before drizzling the oil through the feeder tube of the food processor with the motor running. Pulse until well blended. Scrape down the sides again before pureeing an additional 15 seconds.
3. Pour the pesto into a bowl and stir in the cheese. Use immediately or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Pesto keeps up to 2 days in the fridge.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Spiked Lemonade

Memorial Day weekend is finally upon us....that signature 'entrance to summer'. Chances are, you've been invited to at least one cookout or outdoor party this weekend (fingers crossed for cooperative weather!!). Maybe you're hosting this weekend. Maybe you want nothing more than to sit at home and soak up your extra-long weekend. Whatever you end up doing for the next few days, you probably want to involve this drink somehow.

My first taste of this Summer Spiked Lemonade, as we've dubbed it, for lack of a better name, coincided with a big family kickball game one 4th of July weekend. Before heading out into the hot sun, I quickly (and unwisely) gulped down a few glasses of this. Let's put it this way...while some members of the family were getting fired up over a controversial run, my competitive side was completely pushed aside and the Summer Spiked Lemonade gave me a more apathetic view of the game!

Though I don't recommend mixing this drink with family kickball, I assure you it is the perfect drink to sit outside and sip in the company of friends. It's light, it's refreshing, and it remains one of my favorite summer beverages! Enjoy!

One Year Ago: Cereal Mix-In Cookies

Summer Spiked Lemonade


Ingredients:
-6 cups lemonade (we've used both lemonade concentrate or made it fresh squeezed and added sugar! Fresh is best, but much more time consuming--no one will notice if it's made with concentrate!)
-1 1/2 cups vodka
-3 lemons, sliced in wheels
-half a cucumber, sliced
-1/2 cup mint leaves

Directions:
1. In a large pitcher, mix lemonade and vodka. Stir in sliced lemons, cucumber, and mint.
2. Pour into individual glasses filled with ice. Garnish with additional lemon or mint if desired.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chocolate Truffle Bread

If you look at my recipe index, you'll find a whole list of quick breads, but none that are chocolate. It was about time I changed that! Rather than use the chocolate chips that the original recipe called for, I took some Lindor truffles we had hanging out in our pantry, cut them in half so that the liquid centers were exposed, and dumped the pieces into the batter. I had no idea how this would affect the bread, but it ended up forming gooey pockets within the bread, mostly in the center of each mini loaf. I of course loved this little touch, but I think using 2 cups of chocolate chips would yield a similarly yummy bread!

The crumb on this bread was perfect--tight but not at all dry. These sliced neatly and I noticed that the chocolate flavor developed over the few days they lasted wrapped up in the fridge. The original recipe yielded two regular sized loaves, but I couldn't resist the chance to use my mini loaf pans. If you use regular sized pans, you'll need to increase the baking time by at least 10-15 minutes, but check them frequently so you don't overbake!

As if the chocolate bread wasn't decadent enough in and of itself, I had some leftover peanut butter cream cheese frosting in my freezer (from the breakfast brownies!) that I thawed to spread on slices (thanks for the idea Karly).

One Year Ago: Italian Pasta Salad


Chocolate Truffle Bread
adapted from Food Network (Paula Deen)


Ingredients:
-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-2 cups sugar
-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups milk
-1 cup vegetable oil
-3 large eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 dozen Lindor chocolate truffles

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and flour 4 mini loaf pans.
2. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
3. Beat in milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla at medium-low speed, just until combined.
4. Cut truffles in half and add to batter, mixing to combine.
5. Divide batter evenly among the 4 prepared loaf pans (about 2/3 full for each). Bake 25-30 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Place loaf pans on a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of each loaf before removing from pans. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BLT Bread Salad

There isn't much I have to say about this salad. If you love BLTs, you'll be a fan of this slightly lighter version of the sandwich. I almost think it's more fun to eat than the sandwich version...does anyone else tend to scrape the roof of their mouth anytime they use toasted bread on a sandwich? Use whatever bread you have on hand for the croutons. I used small whole wheat rolls instead of a French baguette. The feta was a tasty addition to the salad and in re-reading the recipe now, I realized I completely forgot to add the green onions. Whoops! I also misread the dressing instructions and didn't save bacon drippings to include in the dressing. Even without, the dressing served its purpose of lightly coating the salad. The job of the dressing here isn't to steal the show anyway...it's all about the B, the L, and the T anyways!


One Year Ago: Caramel Brownies


BLT Bread Salad
from Cooking Light, June 2010
*serves 4


Ingredients:
-6 oz. French bread baguette, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I used 5 small rolls, cut into cubes)
-Cooking Spray
-4 slices smoked bacon
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/4 cup red wine vinegar
-1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
-1/8 tsp salt
-6 cups torn romaine lettuce
-1 1/2 lbs plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
-3 green onions, thinly sliced
-1/2 cup (2 oz.) feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place bread cubes on it. Spray with cooking spray and bake for 15-18 minutes, until toasted.
2. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Reserve 1 tbsp bacon drippings and add oil to the pan. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, pepper, and salt.
3. Crumble bacon and toss with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss with bread cubes. Top with cheese and serve immediately.

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines".

Monday, May 23, 2011

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Some of you might be thinking chicken fajitas aren't necessarily recipe worthy and I see what you mean. Fajitas were one of the few things I could handle early in my cooking career and they didn't really necessitate a recipe. However, there are two noteworthy reasons I wanted to share these chicken fajitas with you:

1. The marinade for this chicken is fantastic. Don't limit yourself to fajitas--you could marinate the chicken, grill it, and serve as is. We were all impressed by the taste and the juiciness of the chicken itself!

2. This was my first expedition into the grilling world. I rule the kitchen, but I've always let Ryan man the grill...to the point where I couldn't even tell you how to turn it on! That may still be true, but the day we made these, Ryan was cramming for a final between work and class and I had no choice but to try my hand at grilling. Julia and I tag-teamed it, taking turns checking on it and flipping as needed...and I have to say, I was pretty proud to take that chicken off the grill and slice it (never mind the fact that one piece had to spend a little extra time in the skillet after Ryan inspected...there's always room for improvement!).

Tell me, what's one challenge you'd love to tackle in the kitchen (or the grill!)?

One Year Ago: Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Shrimp, Mango, and Mint


Grilled Chicken Fajitas
slightly adapted from Annie's Eats


Ingredients
-1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
-6 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
-1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
-1 jalapeno, seeded, ribbed, and diced
-1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
-1 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp pepper
-2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied (6 halves total)--about 1 1/2 lbs
-1 large onion, sliced
-2-3 large bell peppers, sliced
-8-12 flour tortillas

Directions:
1. Whisk together the lime juice, 4 tbsp of oil, brown sugar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeno, cilantro, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade and pour the rest over the chicken, sitting in a separate bowl. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
2. While chicken is marinating, slice bell peppers and onions. Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent.
3. Heat grill as required. Place chicken on grill and cook, flipping halfway through, until chicken is no longer pink inside and center reads 160F.
4. When chicken is done, place on a cutting board and slice into strips. Place in a bowl or on a serving platter and top with remaining marinade.
5. Top tortillas with chicken, peppers, and onions. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, salsa, or guacamole.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mexican Salad with Pomegranate-Lime Dressing

Don't let the title of this salad fool you. I'm not sure where the "Mexican"part comes in...yes, there's avocado, cilantro, and lime, but this salad is much more versatile than the name suggests. We enjoyed it as part of a Mexican meal, with the Black Bean Coconut Rice and chicken fajitas (which I'll post tomorrow!), but it would be a great salad alongside many meals.

The other Mexican Salad on my blog is a bit more traditionally Mexican, and is heavier with the feta and black beans. My mom commented on how light this was and I have to agree! Arugula haters could substitute spring mix or spinach, but I thought the spicy greens were the perfect match for the other ingredients. We couldn't find pomegranate juice and instead my mom bought some Pomegranate Blueberry juice from Trader Joe's which worked just as well! I adjusted the ingredient quantities for the salad but made just one batch of dressing and the salad was plenty dressed. My version is posted below, and probably serves 6-8.

Mexican or not, this salad is a new favorite!

One Year Ago: Creamy Caper Sauce
Mexican Salad with Pomegranate-Lime Dressing
adapted from Cooking Light, November 2005


Ingredients:
-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
-2 tbsp fresh pomegranate juice
-1 tsp sugar
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp ground cumin
-1 small garlic clove, minced
-1 tsp olive oil
-1 package (5 oz.) arugula leaves
-2 cups (3-inch) julienne-cut peeled jicama
-3/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
-2 diced & peeled avocados
-4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
-1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
-4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Directions:
1. Mix together the lime juice, pomegranate juice, sugar, salt, cumin, garlic, and olive oil. Whisk to combine.
2. In a large bowl toss arugula, jicama, red onion, avocados, cilantro, pom seeds, and pine nuts. Toss with dressing and serve immediately.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Black Beans and Coconut Lime Rice

We have some dear family friends that used to live across the country in California, but have since relocated to St. Louis. It's been SO fun getting reacquainted with them and reminiscing over our past adventures (a trip to Disney World, a bloody incident on an Alpine Slide, the time we arrived in California but our luggage didn't for another 24 hours...). When my family comes to visit, we make it a point to get the two families together and the last few times my mom came sans the rest of the family, we've planned "Girl's Night" (plus any available boys) and joined forces to cook a fabulous meal.

 My mom and I selected a Mexican themed dinner for our group and decided to be brave and try three new recipes. We originally wanted to make some cilantro lime rice, reminiscent of our favorite Chipotle rice, but couldn't resist the sound of this Black Bean and Coconut Lime Rice. I am SO glad we opted to try this! It's one of the best things to come from my kitchen lately! Though it's a little putsy, especially if you're trying to make several other things at once, it is absolutely worth it (thank you Renita for your patience working through each of the steps!!).

I will warn you that this recipe makes a TON of rice--it will easily feed a crowd, especially as a side dish. However, it's filling enough that you could serve this as your main meal. Add chicken for extra protein if you'd like. You could eat it with chips or use it to fill a burrito. The different facets of the dish--black beans, coconut, cilantro, mango, all marry nicely and are so much more exciting than a standard Mexican rice dish!

Come back the next two days...I'll be sharing the rest of our Mexican feast...two more recipe winners!

One Year Ago: Poppyseed Bread (one of my all-time favorite sweet breakfast treats!)

Black Beans and Coconut Lime Rice
from Southern Living May 2010


Ingredients:
-1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
-1 1/2 cups chicken broth
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-3 tbsp butter, divided
-1 1/4 cups uncooked basmati rice
-1 small onion, chopped
-1 poblano pepper, diced
-2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
-2 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 lime
-2 green onions, thinly sliced
-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-1 mango, diced

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes, until toasted.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring broth, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp butter, and 1 cup water to a boil. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook 15-20 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice is tender.
3. While rice is cooking, melt remaining 1 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and poblano pepper, sauteing for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in black beans, chili powder, cumin, and 3/4 cup water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
4. Grate zest from lime and add to a bowl. Squeeze lime juice into bowl. Fluff rice with a fork and add to lime zest and juice. Stir in coconut, green onions, and cilantro. Top with bean mixture and chopped mango.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts

There's something about stuffed chicken that just gives off an aura of "fanciness". The funny thing is, stuffed chicken isn't terribly difficult, but its presentation is impressive enough that you can confidently serve it for your husband's boss. I didn't serve this for Ryan's boss, I'm just saying :)

Ryan was actually the workhorse behind this meal. I have to tell you guys, it's not easy living with a food blogger. Not only does Ryan put up with a impossibly dirty kitchen (don't even get him started on the constant state of my kitchen-aid mixer), but I'm often trying to tackle multiple cooking and baking projects at once, all while watching a tv show on my laptop, taking pictures of a meal, and packing my lunch for work...and he just wants to sit down and eat dinner, poor guy! On the night I had this on the menu plan, the scene was similar to that described above. Add to it the fact that it was a Thursday evening, work had worn me out, and I was not feeling up to preparing this meal, on top of the two other things I was making at the time. Enter: superstar husband.

I don't know if it was the fanciness of the dish or the fact that I didn't have to make it, but this could not have turned out more perfectly. Neither Ryan nor I could decide if we liked this better than the fig and blue cheese stuffed chicken, they're both so different! The woody pine nuts along with the bright lemon and salty feta were a perfect match for this moist chicken dish. Make it, you'll see what I mean!

One Year Ago: Carrot Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette


Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts
adapted from Cooking Light, September 2010
*serves 4


Ingredients:
-5 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
-1/2 cup (2 oz.) feta cheese, crumbled
-2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
-1 tsp fresh sage, minced (original recipe called for thyme)
-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-4 (6 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, heat spinach over medium high heat until wilted, tossing constantly. Transfer spinach to a colander and press until barely moist.
2. In a bowl, mix spinach, cheese, nuts, sage, lemon juice, and garlic. Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest part of each chicken breast to form a pocket. Stuff 3 tbsp of the spinach mixture into each pocket and seal with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side (which will require careful flipping and switching the toothpicks), or until brown. Add broth and cover pan. Place pan in oven (if you don't have an ovenproof skillet, transfer to a baking dish and cover). Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chocolate Almond Layered Cheesecake

When we were making the mini truffle tarts, Maggie unwrapped the Ghirardelli chocolate bar and noticed this recipe for Chocolate Almond Layered Cheesecake. We both decided the cheesecake was a must-make (our mutual love for amaretto weighing in on the decision) and I clipped the chocolate wrapper in the recipe stand that sits on my countertop. For a few weeks, the recipe glared at me each time I cooked, silently taunting me with promises of vanilla wafer crusts and two layers of cheesecake. When I knew I needed a Mother's Day dessert that could be made ahead of time and I realized this recipe contained my mom's only request--chocolate--I set out to make it.

With the recipe practically memorized after glancing at it so many times in my kitchen, it came together quite easily. There are a number of steps, but each is simple. While making it, I realized this was my first attempt at a full-sized cheesecake. I've made mini cheesecakes, cheesecake cookies, and the Reese's cheesecake bars (still dreaming about those!), but this was something new! I said a little prayer when I put it in the oven, hoping it wouldn't emerge an hour later with a giant crack down the middle...and my prayer was answered!

The almond flavor didn't come through nearly as strongly as I had anticipated (I did notice it more when I ate a piece later in the week), but the cheesecake was delicious nonetheless. I recommend high-quality chocolate, like Ghirardelli, for this recipe, because you will absolutely notice that! My favorite part was probably the almond vanilla wafer crust...I almost wish I had made 1 1/2 times the crust recipe so it had been a bit thicker. It was plenty thick, but if you're a crust lover, you may want a little extra. I plan to use that crust for other desserts!

With a full-sized cheesecake behind me, I'm ready to try some other variations. I'm looking for inspiration...what is your favorite cheesecake flavor?

One Year Ago: Babe Ruth Bars


Chocolate Almond Layered Cheesecake
from Ghirardelli

Ingredients:
-8 oz. 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
-2/3 cup almonds, finely chopped
-1 1/4 cups vanilla wafers, finely crushed
-1/3 cup butter, melted
-8 oz. cream cheese, softened
-1 cup sugar
-3 eggs
-1 cup sour cream
-1/4 cup almond-flavored liqueur
-1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Place almonds on a baking sheet and toast in preheated oven (3-4 minutes). Once almonds are cool, place in a food processor and process til finely ground.
2. Mix wafer crumbs, almonds, and butter in a small bowl, mixing well. Press into the bottom and up the sides (1 1/2 inches) of the prepared springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
3. Melt chocolate (broken into 1-inch pieces) in a double boiler over hot (not boiling) water. Stir occasionally until smooth and melted. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese on low until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, beating until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
4. With mixer on low, add sour cream, liqueur, and salt, beating just until smooth. Divide batter in half, adding the melted chocolate to one half. Pour the chocolate batter over the crust, spreading until even. Carefully spoon the plain batter over the chocolate batter.
5. Place pan in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325F. Bake 50-60 minutes, until center is just set. Turn off the oven and allow it to sit in the oven, with the door closed, for an additional 30 minutes. Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack and allow it to cool completely. Chill for at least 8 hours, or overnight, before serving. (Store covered in the refrigerator)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana French Toast Enchiladas

When Foodbuzz sent me a coupon for a dozen Eggland's Best Eggs and invited me to, as part of the Tastemaker program, create an original recipe with the eggs, my wheels immediately started turning. My favorite game on the way to work for a few mornings (Ryan and I carpool), was to quiz Ryan about different recipe ideas and then gauge his feedback....maybe not the ideal activity at 6:30 am, but he was a good sport and his reactions to my various schemes helped me to ultimately decide on these Peanut Butter Banana French Toast Enchiladas: peanut butter and banana rolled up in tortillas [enchilada-style], then covered in an egg-milk mixture and baked [french toast-style].

After picking up my eggs, I spend some time flipping through the information Foodbuzz sent and was surprised to find that Eggland's Best calls itself the best for a reason...their eggs have, when compared to 'ordinary' (other brands, I guess?) eggs, 25% less Saturated Fat, 10 times more Vitamin E, and double the amount of Omega 3s (for more related nutrition facts, click here). All eggs are nutritious, and one of my favorite foods lately, but it was nice to know Eggland's has a few extra things going for them!

I invited my friend Katie to join Ryan and I for this breakfast, partially because I'll use any excuse to see Katie, but also because if there's one word to describe our friendship, it's honest. I knew I could count on her to give me some genuine feedback about this creation I'd concocted in my head.

The verdict? An all-around thumbs up! These didn't take long to put together and they were much more exciting to eat then just peanut butter and banana rolled up in a tortilla. The bananas and peanut butter were warm and melty but the exterior of the tortilla remained sturdy, with a little crunch. Though the flavor of the egg was present, it wasn't overwhelmingly eggy, much like any good french toast dish! My untraditional spin on two pretty ordinary dishes--enchiladas and french toast--make for a fun breakfast. They're definitely worth a try if you want to spice up your morning meal!

One Year Ago: Open-Faced Veggie Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Banana French Toast Enchiladas


Ingredients:
-6 flour tortillas
-3 bananas, thinly sliced
-1/2 cup peanut butter (I used White Chocolate Peanut Butter, leftover from these cookies, but regular works too!)
-4 eggs
-1/4 cup skim milk
-pinch of cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread each tortilla with peanut butter and line the center of the tortilla with 2 rows of bananas (approximately 8-10 banana pieces per tortilla).
2. Roll up each tortilla and place it in a casserole dish.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with milk and add a large pinch of cinnamon. Pour egg mixture over the tortillas.
4. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes, until egg mixture is set and the outside of tortillas is firm and crisp. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strawberry, Mango, Avocado Salad

This fruit salad was a home run! I thought the combination of ingredients was interesting--strawberries with avocado?--and I added it to my Mother's Day menu (alongside the chicken and a few other dishes, still to be posted). My timing ended up being perfect, as I had the opportunity to attend the Mango Tasteoff sponsored by the National Mango Board the Friday before Mother's Day (Read about the Mango Tasteoff and Hometown Tour in the article I wrote for the Patch here!). I was already planning on making this salad and was thrilled to be sent home from the event with three ripe mangoes.

Though they spent some time demonstrating how to cut a mango, you never would've guessed it from the way I hacked at these. My mango cutting skills might have room for improvement but this salad is absolutely perfect as is. I tripled the below recipe to serve seven of us--adjust accordingly for your needs! We weren't left with any leftovers but I imagine this wouldn't keep well anyways.

The balsamic vinegar in the dressing gives the salad a unique flavor that we all loved. I can't wait to make this again...and take better pictures of it! (I was more intent on digging in than photographing!)


One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Banana Walnut Pancakes


Strawberry, Mango, Avocado Salad
from Pink Parsley
*makes 2-4 small side dish servings


Ingredients:
-1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch cubes
-1 cup strawberries, chopped
-1 tbsp honey
-1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
-2 tbsp orange juice
-juice from 1/2 lime
-pinch cayenne
-1 tbsp fresh cilantro, minced
-1 avocado, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
-salt

Directions:
1. Whisk honey, vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, cayenne, salt, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Toss with the chopped strawberries and mango and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.
2. Just before serving, mix in the avocado. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Flatbread Pizzas

When you think about the "classic" appetizers, Spinach Artichoke Dip is probably one that comes to mind. Though I've never made it (too busy making this spinach dip!), I'm never one to turn down a warm bowl of the gooey stuff. When I saw this recipe for Spinach Artichoke Pizza that was essentially the dip in meal form, I couldn't wait to try it!

This pizza met, even surpassed, all expectations. Though it tastes as sinful as the appetizer, you'll see from the ingredients that it isn't nearly as bad as you might expect...and there's built in portion control when it's already spread on a pizza! I halved the below recipe to make 2 flatbread pizzas and we finished every bite! I loved the punch from the red pepper flakes--I think this will be a necessary component whenever I end up making the dip.

Next time you're craving more of a bar food/appetizer dinner, give this a try! Craving other appetizer-type meals? I suggest Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls, Inside Out Buffalo Hot Wings, or Southwestern Potato Nachos...you can't go wrong with any of them!

One Year Ago: Spring Greens Dinner Salad

Spinach Artichoke Pizza
adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Ingredients:
-2 tbsp butter
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
-2 tbsp flour
-1 1/2 cups skim milk
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 cup parmesan
-7 ounces fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
-1 lb pizza dough or 4 flatbread pieces
-1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
-1 (14 oz) can artichokes, drained, rinsed, dried, and quartered

Directions:
1. Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 525F. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, add garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring constantly for 30-60 seconds. Add flour and stir for 1-2 minutes.
2. Gradually whisk in the milk before bringing the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt and parmesan.
3. While sauce is cooking, add spinach to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until wilted. Add wilted spinach to sauce, stirring to combine.
4. Roll out pizza dough (1 lb forms two pizzas) or lay out flatbread pieces. Divide sauce evenly among bases and top each with Italian cheese and artichokes.
5. Place on pizza stone and bake for 6-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned. Remove stone from oven and cool pizza slightly before slicing and serving.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

S'mores Ice Cream Pie

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I had an empty, baked graham cracker crust hanging out in my freezer for a few weeks while I pondered what to fill it with. I considered some sort of pudding pie, or just filling it with cake batter ice cream again, when my mind wandered to my favorite use for graham crackers: s'mores! At first I thought maybe I'd make a s'mores ice cream to fill the crust, but had no time to add "make homemade ice cream" to my to-do list. Instead, I took the components of s'mores and stuck them in this little ice cream pie.

The graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate chunks in between two layers of chocolate ice cream are a nice surprise when the pie is cut into. Topped with both marshmallow fluff and mini marshmallows, you get a double dose of the marshmallow flavor--my favorite part! This takes very little time to throw together and can be made a few days ahead of time...it's perfect for a summer party or cookout!

Do NOT skip the broiling/toasting of the top layer of marshmallows; it truly brings that s'more taste to the dessert. I loved this best right after I toasted it, with a little bit of warmth leaking from the toasted marshmallows and contrasting with the cold ice cream. Leftovers straight from the freezer were still pretty amazing though...I had to physically restrain myself from more than one piece at a time!

Looking for other s'mores desserts? Try the Giant S'mores Cake, S'mores Bars, S'mores Granola Bars or S'mores Brownies!

One Year Ago: Peach Amaretto Upside Down Cake


S'mores Ice Cream Pie


Ingredients:
-1 graham cracker crust
-1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened
-4 full size graham crackers, broken into pieces
-2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows, divided
-15 Hershey kisses, coarsely chopped (use Hershey's chocolate bars for authenticity! I didn't have any!)
-1/2 jar marshmallow fluff

Directions:
1. Spread softened ice cream into graham cracker crust until crust is completely filled with a thin layer of ice cream.
2. Sprinkle with graham cracker pieces, chopped chocolate, and 1/2 cup mini marshmallows, pressing down lightly to push toppings into ice cream.
3. Carefully spread another layer of ice cream on top of toppings. Cover and freeze for at least four hours.
4. Remove pie from freezer and spread a thin layer of marshmallow fluff over the top. Sprinkle with 2 cups of mini marshmallows, pressing down slightly to secure marshmallows. Cover and return to freezer at least one hour or until ready to serve.
5. When ready to serve, remove pie, uncover, and broil for 1-2 minutes until marshmallows are lightly browned. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

While we're on the topic of ice cream, I have to share with you a tidbit about these Magnum Ice Cream bars that I had the chance to try recently thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. Ryan selected the  Double Caramel flavor and they sat in our freezer until we finally finished off this S'mores Ice Cream Pie and found ourselves, once again, craving ice cream.

These bars are the perfect example of why I love food--so often it connects people to memories. To Ryan and I, these were pretty standard ice cream bars...definitely good, but nothing particularly extraordinary. But my friend Kacey happened to spy them in our freezer and was immediately brought back to her summer in Spain, when she would frequently buy them on the street. Kacey started telling me stories about the Magnum bars she would buy and how her favorite part was that the chocolate sauce inside was always a little melty once she bit in. These stories of course led to other fun stories from that summer, taking us both on a trip down memory lane. Like I said, a great example of a food's ability to evoke memories and emotions!

These Magnum bars are good, especially if you've had them before in Europe and want to recreate those memories here! But I have the feeling even if you've never tried one, you'd still enjoy it now! :) Thanks Foodbuzz and Magnum for the taste!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Honey Mint Glazed Chicken

My mom was set to arrive on Mother's Day and she had one request: that we be able to eat outdoors. Unfortunately my control over St. Louis' finicky Spring is minimal, so I did what I could: prayed for warm weather and planned a Mother's Day dinner perfect for al fresco dining.

My prayers answered, Mother's Day turned out to be a beautiful day--maximum sunshine, minimal clouds, and warm air. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing the weather had delivered...but would my Mother's Day menu?!

I can tell you with an emphatic yes! that this grilled chicken delivered. With a crispy mint and honey flavored skin and moist chicken within, this was the perfect main dish to enjoy outdoors. Next time I'm looking for a Spring/Summer grilling recipe, this is the marinade and glaze I'll turn to!


One Year Ago: Broccoli Spinach Strata


Honey Mint Glazed Chicken
from Simply Recipes

Ingredients:
-1/4 cup white vinegar
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 (4-5 lb) chicken, cut into parts
-salt & freshly ground pepper
-1/2 cup honey
-2-3 tbsp water
-1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions:
1. Place chicken pieces in a bowl. Mix vinegar and olive oil and pour over chicken. Toss chicken pieces so that they're coated and let marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
2. In a small bowl, combine honey, mint, and 2-3 tbsp water so that you have a good basting consistency. Set aside.
3. Prepare grill (medium high heat). Remove chicken from marinade, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place on the grill, skin side up. Cook for 30-40 minutes, covered, turning every 7-8 minutes. Baste with the honey mint mixture for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Cook chicken until juices run clear when a knife tip is inserted.

This post is linked to Eat at Home and “Get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France CheeseRösleEmile HenryRouxbe and ManPans.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Double White Chocolate and Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies with Sea Salt

When I won third place in the Great Peanut Butter Exhibition with my Thai Chicken Peanut Panini, Peanut Butter & Co was generous to send me 6 full-sized jars of their peanut butter. I entered a state of peanut butter bliss as I unwrapped the package. I've been working my way through the six jars...both the smooth operator (creamy) and cinnamon raisin are long gone, sadly. I'm actually on the hunt for more cinnamon raisin--I have no words for just how amazing that stuff is! I was trying to find a way to use the White Chocolate Wonderful (you know, aside from Ryan and I digging in with a spoon five times a day), when I remembered this recipe for Double White Chocolate and Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies I'd seen on Picky Palate. Though she used regular peanut butter (and you can too!), I couldn't resist using the White Chocolate variation.

These cookies have the sweet/salty thing going for them, though I didn't find the sprinkle of sea salt very noticeable. I wasn't very heavy-handed with the salt, as I'd never sprinkled cookies before, so next time I'll add a little more. I loved the texture of these--a few of my batches were a little crisp from a minute too long in the oven, but I liked how thick and chewy they were. If you love white chocolate and peanut butter, and really, who doesn't?!, you must try these!

One Year Ago: Peach Pie


Double White Chocolate and Pretzel Peanut Butter Cookies with Sea Salt
from Picky Palate
*makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
-1 stick butter, softened
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
-1 cup white chocolate chips (for melting)
-1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter (reserve 2 tbsp to add to melted white chips)
-1 large egg
-2 tsp vanilla
-1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp kosher salt
-1 cup broken pretzel pieces
-1 additional cup white chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt 1 cup white chocolate chips with 2 tbsp peanut butter in the microwave, stirring after every 30 seconds (mine melted after 1 1/2 minutes).
3. Add melted chips and remaining peanut butter to beaten butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla.
4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Stir in additional 1 cup white chocolate chips and pretzels.
5. Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets. Using your hand, press down on each cookie until approximately 1/2-inch in thickness. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit of sea salt. Bake for 11-15 minutes (mine were good after 11-12 minutes) or until edges become golden and slightly crisp. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Artichoke, Kale, and Ricotta Pie

This pie is suitable for any of the three meals; whether you serve it as a brunch entree or a light dinner is completely up to you! As you can probably tell from the picture, this dish is heavy on the kale. However, there was still enough of the custard to hold it all together. Kale remains much sturdier than spinach when cooked, but it loses its bitter raw taste. Substitute for spinach if you really hate the stuff (and if you haven't ever tried it, I recommend giving it a go!). Surprisingly, this didn't have any herbs or spices to flavor it, though I thought the cheeses and vegetables added enough on their own. I didn't garnish with avocado, as suggested, but I imagine that would be a tasty addition!


One Year Ago: Strawberry French Toast


Artichoke, Kale, and Ricotta Pie
from the kitchn
*serves 4-6 (if serving with sides. Ryan and I finished most of it off, but without sides)

Ingredients:
-1 cup canned artichokes, chopped
-1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
-8 oz. ricotta cheese
-4 oz. Parmesan
-4 eggs beaten
-avocado for garnish, if desired

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a cake pan with olive oil.
2. In a large bowl, mix eggs with cheese. Roughly chop vegetables and add to egg mixture, stirring until combined.
3. Pour egg mixture into prepared cake pan. Cook until set, 40-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before cutting into slices and serving. (Can garnish with sliced avocado if desired)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Bundt Cake



Sometimes you don't need a fancy breakfast treat. Cinnamon rolls are impressive, but considerably fancy. Same with Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with POM Syrup. Both are fabulous breakfast options, but sometimes you just want something simple. Don't get me wrong. Simple doesn't mean dull. Simple doesn't mean tasteless. Rather, simple means you don't need complex ingredients or preparation to make a tried and true breakfast cake...this cinnamon pecan coffee bundt cake proves it!

Ordinary ingredients transform to make a melt-in-your-mouth coffee cake with a sweet layer of sugary crunch to break up the moist sour cream cake. I brought this to work and came home with an empty plate--need I say more?

One Year Ago: Fresh Peach Salsa

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Bundt Cake
adapted from Stacey Snacks

Ingredients:
for the filling-
-1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
-1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
-1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

for the cake-
-1 cup sugar
-3/4 cup butter, softened
-3 eggs
-1/2 tsp almond extract
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/2 cups light sour cream
-1/2 cup half and half
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions:
1. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt or 10-inch tube pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients, mixing well. Set aside.
3. Beat sugar, butter, eggs, and almond extract in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Add remaining cake ingredients while beating on low continually. Mix well.
4. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle filling over batter and spoon remaining batter over the filling.
5. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and placing cake on a wire rack. If not serving immediately, cool completely before wrapping well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Moroccan Chicken Salad With Carrots

It's fitting that this recipe comes from Real Simple magazine, as it is indeed real simple! Lucky for me, because the day we had this for dinner I was absolutely starving and in no mood to putz around in the kitchen! My only disappointment in this meal came when I opened the crisper drawer in my fridge only to find a rather sad looking bunch of cilantro. We used what we could of the herb, but I don't feel like we got a true taste of what the cilantro does to the taste and flavor of this main-dish salad. I plan to try it again, fresh cilantro included, soon. But if you don't like cilantro or don't have much on hand, I can attest that this salad was a win without it.

The dressing has a nice little kick from the crushed red pepper, but it's such a small amount that the flavor doesn't overwhelm with every bite. I haven't put raisins on salad in a long time (typically my salads include craisins), but I welcomed the slightly less sweet dried fruit. The various elements of the salad worked well together and both my husband Ryan and I were pleased with the outcome. Eaten with some crackers or whole-grain bread, this makes for a healthy, wholesome lunch or dinner!


One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Bread


Moroccan Chicken Salad with Carrots
from Real Simple March 2010


Ingredients:
-5 tbsp olive oil
-8 small chicken cutlets
-1 tsp ground cumin
-kosher salt & pepper
-3 tbsp lime juice
-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
-5 oz. baby spinach
-2 cups cilantro leaves
-4 carrots, peeled into strips
-1/2 cup raisins

Directions:
1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with cumin, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook chicken in batches until golden brown and cooked through (approximately 2 minutes per side). Remove from skillet and cut into strips.
2. Whisk together lime juice, red pepper, 3 tbsp oil, and 1/2 tsp salt in a small bowl.
3. Toss chicken, spinach, cilantro, carrots, and raisins with the dressing in a large bowl. Divide amongst plates.

This content was originally posted on Honest Cooking in my featured column "Cooking the Magazines".

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

I've had a LOT of ice cream in my day, probably more than you think. Did you know my dad used to reward us with ice cream? Score a goal in soccer? ICE CREAM! All-time scoring high in basketball? ICE CREAM! To be honest, I didn't "earn" a whole lot of trips for ice cream. I'm athletic, but my sports skills were average and I would've been better off running cross-country if it were all about the ice cream. Thankfully, I have three incredibly talented siblings and I was frequently able to cash in on their sports feats!

After making this ice cream at home, I don't have to worry about earning ice cream anymore. I can make the good stuff right in my own kitchen! My friend Mike summed it up best when he asks me three times, "did you really make this ice cream?". This stuff tastes like it belongs in a little ice cream shop in Maine (where we discovered LOTS of good ice cream!). It's creamy, rich, and far too good to come from a Cuisinart ice cream maker...except it does!

If you don't have an ice cream maker at your disposal, now might be the time to get one! I have SO many ice creams I plan to try this summer...and yet it's going to be hard not to return to this one again and again!

One Year Ago: Asparagus Soup

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Ingredients:
-1 cup whole milk (I used skim!!)
-2 cups heavy whipping cream
-6 egg yolks
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tbsp vanilla extract
-15 Oreos, roughly chopped

Directions:
1. In a saucepan, bring milk and cream to just under a boil (bubbles will begin to form around the edges).
2. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and sugar on medium high. Reduce speed to low and slowly add milk to the egg mixture until well combined (do this step slowly so that the eggs don't cook!).
3. Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until slightly thickened. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla, cover, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Pour the liquid into the ice-cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. When ice cream is finished, stir in chopped Oreos. Freeze ice cream 3-4 additional hours until hardened.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Creamy Five-Cup Fruit Salad

First things first, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to my mom, too wonderful for words. I am truly blessed to have a mom as caring and loving as she--I have big shoes to fill when I have my own children some day! Though we live too far apart, I'm lucky enough to get to spend this Mother's Day with her...she arrives in a few hours and I can't wait to spend the next few days with her! It goes without saying that I'll be cooking up a feast in honor of her tonight...recipes to be posted in the next few week.

And Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!!

Back to today's post...

I've had plenty of creamy fruit salads, many at church potlucks and parties with relatives. However, I don't believe I've ever had this variation...or if I have, it was unknowingly. We ate this as part of our Easter brunch, which clearly called for a special fruit salad, especially if we weren't having jello (yes, I love jello salads, don't judge!). Ryan actually put this together on Easter morning (he was probably willing to do it to ensure I didn't sneak a handful of marshmallows into it ;)) and doubled it to serve a crowd (10-12).

This is good--coconut and sour cream work better together than I anticipated. The leftovers the next day were a little liquidy, which I poured off, so this is probably best served the day its made!

One Year Ago: 30 Minute Whole Wheat Pizza Dough


Creamy Five-Cup Fruit Salad
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe 

Ingredients:
-1 (10 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained (~1 cup)
-1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained (~1 cup)
-1 medium apple, cored and chopped (~1 cup)
-1 cup graves, halved
-1/2 cup sour cream (light)
-1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine all of the fruit, tossing well. Stir in the sour cream and coconut, gently tossing to coat.
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Serve chilled.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Greek Panzanella

The Panzanella Caprese I made last Spring remains one of my all-time favorite salads, so when I saw this recipe for Greek Panzanella, I couldn't wait to try it. As expected, it was just as fabulous as the Caprese version...chunks of bread combined with salad can never be a bad thing! This makes a great picnic or potluck dish because you can easily adjust the quantities to serve a crowd. There are no measurements below, just adjust accordingly.  Though this requires lots of chopping, it's simple to put together and you can chop the vegetables and toast the bread ahead of time, just don't combine and toss with the dressing until just before serving. Unless you like soggy bread (and I kind of do...) this is best eaten the day it's made. I liked it so much I ate it twice in one week...and will be making it many times to come!


Greek Panzanella
adapted from Aggie's Kitchen

Ingredients:
-cubed "day old" bread
-olive oil
-garlic, minced
-freshly ground pepper

-tomato
-cucumber
-bell pepper
-red onion
-kalamata olives
-crumbled feta
-oregano
-freshly ground pepper
-red wine vinegar
-olive oil

Directions:
1. Toss bread cubes, a drizzle of olive oil, garlic, and freshly ground pepper in a large bowl until combined. Toast bread in a hot non stick skillet, continuously tossing cubes to evenly toast.
2. When bread is toasted, add to a large salad bowl. After cooled slightly, add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, bell pepper, onion, and olives, tossing to combine.
3. Splash red wine vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil over salad, topping with fresh oregano. Add crumbled feta cheese and serve immediately.

Friday, May 6, 2011

White Chocolate Amaretto Cake

When I was in 5th and 6th grade, I was pulled out of regular classes once a week to attend Enrichment. Essentially, this was a class where they stuck the overachievers...us few students who apparently liked the idea of extra homework, usually in the form of creative projects. My memories of the class include dressing up like Saint Lucia, crafting a lamb out of popcorn, and planning and executing 6th Grade Olympics. My parents, on the other hand, probably have very different memories of the class. Sure, they likely remember the Popcorn Lamb (pretty sure my mom played a large part in that one) and helping me brainstorm project ideas...but more likely, they'd share memories of my outbursts of frustration, my temper tantrums, and my tears.

I mentioned this was a class for overachievers, right? Take an overachiever who puts an insane amount of pressure to succeed on herself and put her in an Enrichment class and watch the tantrums emerge! Sadly, I haven't quite been able to shake the overachiever in me...or found a way to put less pressure on myself. Though my tears and tantrums are far, far less frequent than my elementary school days, I still occasionally find myself getting caught up in my own desires for success. I was immediately brought back to the days of Enrichment when I made this cake for our Easter brunch with friends.

This cake has been on my "to make" list for years, literally. I love amaretto in baked goods and knew I'd love this cake. After success with my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, I wasn't intimidated by another layer cake. Once again, the layer cake proved to be fairly simple. It was the frosting that proved to be (nearly) tear-inducing. This was my first attempt at a frosting that required cooking and so with nothing to compare it to, I doubted myself each step of the process. Eventually I ended up with something that resembled frosting, but I wasn't crazy about the flavor of it...it was very buttery and not particularly sweet, and the consistency was different than what I was used to. With Easter brunch a few short hours away, there was nothing I could do (besides moan and groan and annoy Ryan!) but assemble the cake and hope for the best.

As it turned out, the majority of our friends loved this cake. The cake was moist, dense, and packed a good balance of white chocolate and amaretto flavor. I purposely went light on the frosting application, which ended up being how they all preferred it. Though the frosting wasn't super sweet (my biggest complaint about it), this was a selling point for them. No piece was left unfinished, so I suppose my worries and stresses, much like in the days of Enrichment, were all for naught. Sigh. One day I'll learn....

One Year Ago: Homemade Pesto


White Chocolate Amaretto Cream Cake
from Telly's Tasty Tidbits

Ingredients:
-1 1/2 cups milk (divided)
-3 oz. white chocolate, chopped
-2 3/4 cup cake flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
-1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
-4 eggs, separated
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-Amaretto Syrup (recipe below)
-Almond Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)

Directions:
1. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of three 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup milk with the 3 oz. white chocolate. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes and stir. (Microwave an additional 30 seconds if needed). Add remaining 1 cup of milk and set aside to cool slightly.
3. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, 1 cup sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Put mixer on low speed and alternately add dry ingredients and milk mixture.
5. In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar until shiny but not dry. Fold whites into cake batter in two additions.
6. Pour batter evenly into three prepared pans. Bake at 350F for 20-22 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and sides are pulling away from edges. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes.
7. Invert cakes onto wire racks and cool completely. Place 1 layer on a serving platter and brush with amaretto syrup. Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top of cake layer, top with second layer, and repeat. Top with final layer and syrup. Use remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Garnish as desired.
8. Store cake in fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.

for the amaretto syrup-
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/4 cup water
-1 tbsp Amaretto

Directions:
1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is reduced by half. Cool and stir in Amaretto.

for the almond buttercream frosting-
-8 egg whites
-1 cup sugar
-3 sticks butter, softened
-3 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
-3 tbsp Amaretto

Directions:
1. In a heavy saucepan, whisk egg whites and sugar until well blended. Place over medium -low heat, stirring constantly for 10-12 minutes (until mixture reaches 160F).
2. In a large bowl with a mixer on high speed, beat egg whites until stiff, shiny peaks form (5 minutes).
3. Reduce speed to medium, add butter, 2 tbsp at a time (may look curdled). Blend in Amaretto and white chocolate until mixture is smooth and creamy.