Friday, May 28, 2010

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Ice Cream


Simple question: What's your favorite dessert?  Are you a cake person?  Perhaps a sinful chocolate dessert person?  What about cheesecake?  Want to know what mine is?!  Take a guess....

ICE CREAM!  I love all the other stuff too but nothing compares to a good bowl (or cone) filled with ice cream!  It's one of those desserts where no matter how incredibly full I am, there is always room for ice cream!  I have this theory that when you eat ice cream on a full stomach, it melts in your body and sort of seeps through the cracks!  Pretty dumb, I know, but it's how I get by!

What about homemade ice cream?  Have you ever had it?  Made it?  That takes me back (waaayyy back) to my childhood years of making ice cream with my parents.  It seemed like it took forever and it was good, but still didn't compare to the stuff you'd buy in the store.  Ice cream makers have come a long way in twenty plus years - they're not big and bulky; in fact, they fit right onto your counter or even in a cupboard.  They only take 25 minutes to make the ice cream and the deliciousness that comes out is just that: delicious!  It's creamy and smooth and velvety...almost like a frozen mousse or custard.  It is SO good! 

How good is it?!  It's so good that I don't think I'll ever go out for ice cream again!  Well, that's probably not true, but if I have homemade ice cream at home, why would I go out?  This stuff puts the store-bought and the Dairy Queens, the Baskin Robbins' and whoever else out there to shame!  No joke.

So I made the chocolate and peanut butter ice cream from Annie's blog.  Both Chris and I were craving chocolate ice cream and with peanut butter mixed in?  Too good!  Annie actually got the recipe from David Lebovitz's book: The Perfect Scoop.  Apparently, in the blogging (and ice cream making community), he's the one to follow.  So, this book is definitely on my list to get!  The flavors were so good together; like a creamy, melted peanut butter cup!  The only thing I would change next time is using less peanut butter and more chocolate.  The peanut butter flavor, for me, was a little overpowering and I would've loved to have it toned down a bit and taste more of the chocolate.  All in all, it was still very good and super simple to make too!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Unsweetened Dutch-process Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Peanut Butter

In a medium saucepan, add together the cream, cocoa powder, sugar and salt.  Bring to rolling bowl over med-high heat, stirring frequently.  As the mixture begins to foam up, remove from heat.  Carefully stir in the peanut butter and mix until melted into the mixture.

Place the mixture into a resealable container and chill thoroughly, in the refrigerator.  When ready, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Yield: 2 Servings
Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats, originally adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Orzo Salad


So, I've been a little out of it lately as far as cooking and updating things around here and I apologize.  To be honest, I really haven't done too much cooking lately.  But, it was definitely well overdue and I decided to get out of my rut, concoct a weekly menu for this week and do a little grocery shopping to make it all happen! 

As you know, we recently made these Boneless Wings and they went over tremendously well with the online community!  I've had lots of emails and comments and views regarding this recipe and it has seemed to be quite the pleaser all over.  Why wouldn't it be?  Boneless wings are great and these are super simple and delicious, giving Buffalo Wild Wings a run for their money!  It's definitely one of Chris' favorite foods and now is definitely one of his favorite meals to make.  I like making them too because it's a team effort when these bad boys go down in our house and we work really well together in the kitchen when we're not getting in each other's way!

So Boneless Wings were on the menu, again, for this past weekend.  When we make them, I usually like to accompany them with lighter side dishes since the wings are typically a little more heavy and spicy in flavor (depending on the sauce you use...we like ours spicy).  Last time I made this Black Eyed Pea & Ham Salad to go with them and while it was really tasty, I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to do a summer pasta salad of some sort.  I came across this recipe a while ago, in Everyday with Rachael Ray.  It really inspired this dish, but I adapted it quite a bit that the changes really make it stand on it's own as an entree too.

While the original recipe calls for rotini, I substituted in orzo for a light and fun twist.  In addition, I added in fresh squash and panko bread crumbs for additional flavor and textures.  This is such a light and summer dish and is great served warm or cold.  It's versatility and combination of flavors really make it hearty but not heavy.  A little grilled chicken or shrimp mixed in could go a long way!  I don't recall his exact words, but Chris really enjoyed it (so much that I caught him sneaking a helping or two out of the container in the fridge)!  This is definitely a dish we'll be eating more often and it's also great for picnics, BBQ's and summer parties alike!

Summer Orzo Salad

1 lb. Orzo
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, minced
3/4 cup Panko Crumbs
3 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
2 cups Swiss Cheese, shredded
1 Med. Zucchini, sliced thinly
1 Med. Yellow Squash, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups Corn (fresh or frozen)

Add orzo to salted, boiling water and cook until al dente (about 10 minutes).  Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat olive oil over med-high heat.  Add in the garlic, zucchini and squash; sautee until tender (about 5 minutes).  In a small pan, toast panko crumbs over medium heat and let cool.

Drain orzo and return to pan.  Toss together the zucchini and squash mixture with the orzo.  Add in the corn; mix well.  Add in 1 1/2 cups of Swiss Cheese to the mixture and mix until cheese melts in.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To the panko crumbs, add the remaining cheese and basil; toss to combine.  Place orzo into a serving bowl and top with panko mixture.  Serve warm or cool.

Yields: 4-6 Servings
Source: Inspired by Everyday with Rachael Ray
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taco Mac 'n' Cheese


Seriously, who doesn't love a good bowl of mac 'n' cheese, especially the homemade kind?  Don't get me wrong, I've been known to treat myself to my fair share of Velveeta Shells and Cheese from time to time and even the stuff that comes in a blue box as well, but the homemade version is so good, so comforting and so easy to make!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to add-ins and mix-ins for mac 'n' cheese.  In college, I loved mixing it with a little tuna and frozen peas...kind of a semi-homemade version of tuna casserole (and on the cheap too)!  But one thing I've never done before is make a taco version.  And with my love for Mexican-inspired food, for the life of me, I can't think why!  Taco Mac has been all the buzz lately in the online foodie community; it's sort of a homage to Hamburger Helper.  Remember that stuff?!  I used to eat that a lot in college too and I'm not gonna's pretty darn tasty, but also pretty darn bad for you! 

So I had a few different versions of Taco Mac bookmarked to make, but in the shower the other day (yes, I think about food in the shower and everywhere else and at all times of the day), a few ingredients came to mind that would be perfect pairings with the mac 'n' cheese recipe to replicate the currently infamous Taco Mac.  While most everyone else used ground beef or turkey, I decided to spice it a bit and use chorizo!  Sauteed in some diced onions and poblano peppers, it flavored this dish in so many other ways than just using plain old taco seasoning.  I used a mixture of Mexican cheeses for the sauce and, of course, my homemade taco seasoning.  It was so creamy and so delicious, I am highly anticipating the leftovers for lunch today!

Taco Mac 'n' Cheese

1 lb. of Chorizo
1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
1 Sm. Poblano Pepper, diced
1 lb. Pasta (I used Rotini)
1 1/2 cups Milk
8 oz. Cream Cheese
3 Tbsp. Taco Seasoning
2 cups Mexican-blend Cheese, shredded (any kind of cheese would suffice, especially Monterey Jack)
2 Tbsp. Sour Cream

Cook pasta in large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente (about 10 minutes).  In a large skillet, begin browning the chorizo over med-high heat.  Drain the grease from the pan and mix in the onion and pepper; saute' until tender (about 5 minutes).  Drain the pasta and place back into the pot.

In a small saucepan, mix together the milk and cream cheese.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted and the sauce begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).  Stir in the taco seasoning; mix well.

Pour the chorizo mixture into the pasta and top with the sauce; mix together.  Add in the cheese and stir until it's melted in.  Mix in the sour cream until incorporated into the pasta.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chocolate Butterscotch Blondies


I'm not really into blondes....I prefer my guys with dark hair.  But when you're talking desserts, you can give me blondes  Blondies that is!  I mean, really, who doesn't love a good blondie every now and then?!  It's like a vanilla version of a brownie but usually more cookie-like and all dressed up with goodies inside.  This one, especially, is going out on the town with chocolate and butterscotch chips....YUM!

I just saw this recipe not all that long ago over on Leslie Sarna's blog, which by the way, if you've never ventured over there, you should check it out!  Not only is she absolutely charming and adorable, she's a vegetarian, but she's my kind of vegetarian!  If ever there is a day that I turn meatless, she is one that I will be following quite closely.  And if ever there is a time when I'd rather have a meatless meal, she is the one I turn to.  She's my kind of vegetarian because she uses, what I like to call, real food.  Not any of that soy/tofu crap.  I'm sure it's not bad but I just can't bring myself to do it.  Not yet at least!  She makes vegetarian meals look and sound great and uses regular, everday ingredients like me, but boosts up the lack of protein through veggies, beans, etc.

Anywho, back to the blondies.....she recently posted about these and I have not been able to get them out of my mind!  I don't know why because butterscotch is not one of my favorite things.  It's one of those flavors where I can usually take it or leave it - I usually leave it.  But seriously people, don't leave it!  Don't leave it at all.  These babies actually need it!  I didn't put as much in as she did but it's just enough for little bits of butterscotchy goodness.  And with the chocolate.....OH.MY.GOSH!!!

Chocolate Butterscotch Blondies

1 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups Flour
3/4 Tsp. Salt
3/4 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Butterscotch Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add in the eggs and vanilla; beat until blended.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Mix in the chocolate and butterscotch chips until combined and lightly coated with flour.  Pour half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix on low.  Add in the remaining flour mixture and continue mixing on low until blended together (about 2-3 minutes).
Pour batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Yield: 18 Servings
Source: Adapted from Leslie Sarna
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Coconut Thumprints


I'm definitely a seasonal girl.  And what I mean by that is I truly love all four seasons....Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.  Fall is by far my favorite; however Summer runs a close second.  Coming from Michigan, I truly got to experience all four seasons my whole life and I loved it.  I will say that I was a little nervous about moving to the South because while a lot of people hate it, I actually enjoy Winter (for a short time).  Nothing beats a white Christmas but come February, I'm ready for it to dissipate and to see nicer weather.  Unfortunately up there though, you never actually know when Spring has sprung officially.  For instance, they have had a pretty mild Winter this year and even hit record highs of 80 degrees last month.  But now, it's May and they're freezing and expecting a dusting of snow while we're down here in 94 degrees and sun!  Hmmm....I think I got the better end of the deal on this one!

Being a seasonal girl, I definitely have seasonal tastes; most people do.  Come September and October, I am SO ready for anything and everything pumpkin-flavored!  But now that it's Spring and Summer, I prefer charred food from the gill, juicy fresh fruit and coconut!  I get on these coconut kicks as soon as the weather turns warm and the sun is beating on my face.  I don't know what it is, but coconut looks, tastes and sounds like Summer and I have to have it in just about everything!

Any recipe I come across or think up in my head, often involves coconut.  Even if the original recipe doesn't call for it, if it's Summer, I'll find a way to incorporate it in!  So you can imagine that I was in heaven when I came across this recipe for Coconut Thumbprints!  I've never been much of a thumbprints person; I don't mind them but they tend to be a little "much" for me....too much buttery flavor and too much sweetness from the jam.  But I decided to try these out and found myself pleasantly surprised!  They definitely have that traditional buttery flavor like most tea cookies; however the coconut brings in a mild sweetness and really balances that flavor out.  I used strawberry jam because it's what I had on hand and it was a nice pairing to the coconut.  I'll confess, I can only eat one of these suckers at a time because they still can be a little "much" for me but hey, it's a good weight loss strategy, right?!  Make things you aren't obsessed over and you'll eat least, that's what I tell myself!

Coconut Thumbprints

2 1/2 cups Flour
3/4 cup Shredded Coconut
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
Strawberry Jam

In a food processor or blender, process the coconut with a few pulses to chop it up a bit.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add in the coconut and mix well.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).  Add in the egg yolk and vanilla; mix well.  Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating on low, until it is incorporated into the cream mixture.

Using hands, form the dough into a ball and place back in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 14 minutes.  Remove from the oven and using your thumb or the back of a melon baller, make a dent in each cookie. Fill each cookie with jam and place them back into the oven for 10 more minutes.
Remove cookies from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Note: I used Strawberry Jam to fill the cookies; however any jam you have on-hand or want to use can be substituted.

Yield: 32 Cookies
Source: Adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, originally adapted from
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Fiesta Black Beans


Rounding out this week's Cinco de Mayo meal is this easy-to-prepare, light and flavorful dish of Fiesta Black Beans!  As you may recall, these beans were also accompanied by these Creamy Chicken Enchiladas and this Mexican Fried Corn.  The three dishes, together, brought some substantial individuality to the meal but also provided a nice combination of textures and flavors together.

These black beans are so simple to whip up, especially on a whim, and require hardly any effort at all.  And the best part is the flavor that comes from it!  With little work and such wonderful reward, why wouldn't you make this dish?! 

Easily enough, they could stand on their own as a main dish.  You can also alter them to your liking, making it as hot as you want and as flavorful as you prefer.  Topped off with a dollop of sour cream and you, my friends, have perfection....

Fiesta Black Beans

1 - 15oz. can Black Beans, rinsed and patted dry
1 Lg. Tomato, diced
1/2 cup Red Onion, diced
1 Sm. Jalapeno, diced
1/2 Lime
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Sour Cream

Pour black beans into a small serving bowl.  Add in tomato, onion and jalapeno; mix gently to combine.  Squeeze the juice from half of a lime and stir to incorporate.  Add in cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste; mix until blended.  Serve cold with sour cream.

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: With a Cherry on Top
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mexican Fried Corn


In honor of Cinco de Mayo yesterday, as you may or may not recall, I made these delightful Creamy Chicken Enchiladas.  In addition to the enchiladas, I had both corn and black beans at my fingertips and decided to turn them into Fiesta Black Beans (which I'll post about tomorrow) and Mexican Fried Corn, another favorite of Chris'.

The last time I made this corn, was back when I made these Stuffed Poblano Peppers and I can't believe I haven't made it again since!  I knew I had corn to use and I wanted to do black beans.  I had contemplated making my "fall-back" side dish, Spanish Rice, but I felt like it would be too heavy with the enchiladas so I wanted something lighter and I wanted to someway incorporate a vegetable into the meal so both of these sides worked perfectly! 

My inspiration for this actually came quite a while back when I stumbled upon a recipe on delish for Fried Corn last year. While it's really not fried, it surely looked very appetizing and while my mind is constantly working on trying to adapt or re-invent recipes, the light went off - Mexican Fried Corn! I took her version of the dish and altered it to complement the flavors of the Mexican food we ate.

This corn is super easy to make and it's a nice alternative to the regular side dishes we normally eat.  The blend of sweetness from the corn, creaminess from the butter and milk and the savory flavor coming in from the cumin was a wonderful accompaniment to this meal and balanced it out just perfectly!

Mexican Fried Corn

2 Tbsp. Butter
1 small Onion, diced
3 cups Corn
3/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 Tsp. Cumin

In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over med-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Stir in corn, remaining butter and milk; cook until heated through and corn becomes creamy. Add cilantro, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 Servings
Source: Adapted from delish
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas


Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!  I don't know about you, but I love a good reason to celebrate any holiday (especially those that involve Mexican food)!  The last couple of years, I haven't gone out to celebrate and this year we're not either, but there's no reason we can't celebrate at home, right?!  Right.

Chris LOVES my Creamy Chicken Enchiladas!  LOVE might be exaggerating a bit, but he really, really likes them!   He's been hinting around the last month or so for me to make them again and I thought what better time than today in celebration of the 5th of May! 

Now there are a variety of ways to make enchiladas and typically they come with either a red sauce or a green tomatillo sauce.  I like both but I tend to prefer the red sauce with the creamy chicken and green chile filling I use; it's a nice combination of flavors, not too rich and not too spicy.  Actually, I tend to use more heat in my dishes but this one, while it uses jalapenos and chiles, is very mild.

I made my own red sauce but if you don't want to go to the trouble, it's just as easy to pick up a jar of enchilada sauce at the market.  As I've said before, I prefer to make my own sauces when I can - I find them to have better flavors, fresher ingredients and no preservatives.  Sometimes making things from scratch takes a little longer than usual but it's because you're making it with love!

Happy Cinco de Mayo y'all!

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients - Enchiladas
2 Lg. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cooked and shredded
4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Sour Cream
8 oz. Green Chiles, diced
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
8 - 10-inch Tortillas
Mexican Blend Cheese, shredded

Ingredients - Sauce
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Sm. Onion
2 Jalapenos
3 cloves Garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. Chili Powder
2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tsp. Sugar
10 oz. Tomato Sauce
1 cup Water
1 Lg. Tomato, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, green chiles, cream cheese and sour cream; mix well until blended.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by heating the olive oil in a medium skillet over med-high heat.  Add in the onions and peppers; saute until they become tender (about 5 minutes).  Add in the garlic and toss to combine.

Transfer the onion and pepper mixture into a medium saucepan.  Mix in the chili powder, cumin and sugar and heat for 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomato sauce, water and tomato.  Heat through until it begins to lightly boil; lower the heat and simmer until thickened (about 5 minutes).

Pour the sauce into a strainer set on top of a medium bowl, so just the sauce is strained from the mixture.  Use a wooden spoon to help push the sauce through; discard what's left of the mixture in the strainer.

To complete the enchiladas, pour a little of the sauce into a 9x13-inch baking dish.  Spoon the chicken mixture into a flour tortilla and roll it up carefully to secure the filling.  Place the filled tortilla in the baking dish seam-side down.  Repeat with the remaining chicken mixture and tortillas.  Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and bake for 15 minutes.  Pull the enchiladas out and top with a generous amount of cheese.  Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Top with cilantro and serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 Servings
Source: Enchiladas from With a Cherry on Top, Sauce adapted from Pink Parsley, originally from America's Test Kitchen
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