Monthly Archives: April 2012

Party Time!

So this past weekend was spent celebrating my best friend’s last few weeks as a ‘single lady!’ The wedding is set for May 11, and is rapidly approaching! The bride and groom decided to do a combination bachelor/bachelorette party weekend and have events planned throughout the entire weekend. Friday night we all went out together to an Irish bar called Fado where there ended up being a very good one man band! Of course, we stayed out just a little bit longer than we should have, which made for a fun Saturday morning, lol! Saturday’s events were all split up, boys going golfing and the girls getting manis and pedis! We followed up our nails with a boozy Italian lunch at Maggiano’s…just the thing we needed to bring us right back to normal! Saturday night, the ladies were all meeting by my apartment for some food, booze and gift opening before heading out for the evening. I planned my menu so I wouldn’t have to spend majority of the get together in the kitchen, taking things in and out of the oven, etc! I tried to plan a booze themed evening, filled with drunken gummy bears (highly recommended), jelly bean vodka for jellybean martinis (which I forgot to serve, it’s fine), Arnold Palmer Jello shots, Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, and Kahlua laced puppy chow! For food, I went with macaroni and cheese cupcakes (delicious but difficult to eat), a savory basil cheesecake (was nervous about this one but it turned out great), a vegetable pizza and some cucumber tea sandwiches. The food was just light enough to not overfill us up but heavy enough to help soak up some of the alcohol we were over-indulging in!

Car Bomb Cupcakes:

Recipe adapted from of Annie’s Eat’s Blog

Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
Ganache:
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T butter
  • 3 t Kahlua (Annie’s Eats uses Baileys, which is thicker and creamier, so I just added more chocolate to thicken it up a little)!
Frosting:
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 T Kahlua (same as above, didn’t use Baileys, used Kahlua instead, went with the full 4 cups powdered sugar so it was thick enough)!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners. Combine the Guinness and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix together. In bowl of electric mixer, beat two eggs with creme fraiche, add in the Guinness butter mixture (this is why it’s important to let this cool or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs)! Slowly add in dry ingredients. Fill liners 3/4 full and bake 15-17 minutes.

For the ganache, heat heavy cream over low heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate. Wait 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Add in butter and Kahlua and mix until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool completely. To speed this along, you can throw it in the fridge for about an hour, but be sure to check on it and give it a stir every so often.

For the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar, mix until fluffy and combined. Mix in Kahlua. I think that next time I make these, I will add cocoa powder to make a chocolate version!

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, cut out a portion of the center of each cupcake (I used an apple corer, just didn’t go all of the way through the bottom). Fill hole with ganache and top with frosting! Enjoy!

Basil Cheesecake:

Recipe adapted from Giada.

  • 4 ounces ricotta
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and rosemary (any herbs of your choice really, and this may not even be necessary)!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, fold in chopped basil and bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees!

Macaroni & Cheese Cupcakes:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 t garlic salt
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • pepper to taste
  • dash of oregano and thyme
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 ounces Velveeta, cut into cubes
  • broccoli florets
  • mushrooms
  • pancetta, diced (I used the pre-diced package from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 egg
  • Bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta until al dente, adding broccoli for last few minutes of cooking…drain pasta and broccoli. In a small saucepan, cook pancetta with some olive oil until nice and crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, keeping juices in pan. Add butter to pan of drippings, once melted, sprinkle with flour, cook about 2 minutes. Add in cream and milk, whisking until smooth and begins to thicken, about 5 or so minutes. Add in seasonings. Turn off heat and add in cheeses, whisking until melted. Add in pasta, pancetta, mushrooms and broccoli. Beat in one egg. Pour into lined muffin pan, cop with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Bake 14-16 minutes or until golden on top and heated through. Next time  I make these, I will add in another egg so it binds better, these were kind of difficult to eat!

Veggie Pizza:

  • 2 packages crescent dough
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages Neuchâtel cheese, softened
  • 1/2 package ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1 t parsley
  • 1 t seasoning salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • chopped veggies
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Roll crescents onto greased baking sheet, pressing together all perforations, making one large rectangle. Bake as package directs and let cool completely (if you spread the Neuchâtel mixture onto warm crescents, it will become watery/runny). Mix together Neuchatel, ranch mix and seasonings until fluffy and combined. Spread over cooled crescent dough. Top with shredded cheese and any veggies you want. I went with broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, red, green and yellow peppers. Refrigerate until ready to serve!

Cucumber Tea Sammies:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • good, soft bread
  • cucumbers
  • carrots
  • sprouts

In food processor, combine avocados, peas, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse to smooth and combined. Remove crust from bread, spread each slice with a generous helping of avocado mixture, top with cucumbers, carrots, and/or sprouts (or any combination of these you like, I mixed and matched with all three)! Form sandwich and cut into fours.

Arnold Palmer Jello Shots:

  • 1 package lemon jello
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chilled sweet tea vodka
  • 10 lemons, halved, juiced and insides removed (this is way more difficult than it sounds, honestly took me an hour to accomplish this)!

Combine boiling water and jello until jello dissolves. Once dissolved, add in cold sweet tea vodka. Stir a minute or so to combine. Pour into halved lemons. Set in the fridge to harden. Before serving, cut halves in half (into fourths).


For the drunken gummy bears, I just combined gummy bears with vodka, pouring in enough vodka to cover the bears, and put it in the fridge. After the first day, I had to add move vodka since they little guys soaked it all up! I added enough to cover them again and let them sit in the fridge for another 4 days. They swelled up and not only looked super cute but were also very delicious! For the jellybean vodka, I separated out the jellybeans into colors, and put red, orange and pink each in 1 1/2 cups of vodka and let them sit in the fridge for 3 or so days. I then drained the vodka and it would have been ready to drink/serve, had I remembered! Oops! And lastly, for the puppy chow, I just added in a few tablespoons of Kahlua to the chocolate, butter, peanut butter mixture before coating the chex cereal!

 

All in all, the menu was a hit and the weekend was amazing! After our get together the ladies headed out to Whiskey Sky, on top of the W hotel for some martinis and an amazing view! We then headed to one of the bride’s favorite piano bars, Zebra Lounge; a cute little place with the same piano player every night! We then headed to Vertigo Sky in the Dana hotel to meet up with the boys, making this quite a brief stop for the debacle it was to get in! And then finally, ending our night at Local 22 for some karaoke! Sunday, we met at 25 Degrees for some brunch and bottomless mimosas (as if this was necessary after the weekend we had)! We all collectively stated that we will definitely be returning to 25 Degrees. The food was delicious, the mimosas were continuously flowing and the atmosphere and staff were very nice and accommodating! So to recap, I will be recovering until Wednesday! No seriously though, fantastic weekend, well worth it, even if I am dragging today!

Nuts for Coconut!

So the other day Josh and I got to talking about old banana bread recipes we used to eat as kids and they always had either chocolate chips, coconut or both in them. We then discussed how we love Almond Joy candies and coconut macaroons, leading to the critical realization that we both love coconut! It was kind of one of those things we knew we liked sometimes or with some things but didn’t really think too much about, turns out we pretty much like it in anything sweet! Due to my resistance towards anything non-chocolate, I didn’t even realize I liked macaroons until Christmas last year when I accidentally ate one out of the oven that had broken apart before realizing what I was doing…ended up being a very happy surprise! We kind of had a rough day at work yesterday so I decided to bake up a chocolate chip banana bread with our new favorite, coconut! I used the same basic banana bread recipe I have posted about before, and added in mini chocolate chips and a ton of coconut! (Banana Bread)

2012-04-24 13.52.18-1.jpg

Chocolatey, coconutty, moist deliciousness!

Recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil (or applesauce for a healthier version, texture will be a little different…more gummier and dense)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2-3 mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • bag of mini chocolate chips (amount desired)
  • bag of coconut (amount desired)

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. In small bowl, combine flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. Combine oil (or applesauce) and sugar, mix until sugar dissolves. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add in vanilla and mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with flour. Fold in chocolate chips and coconut. Bake for 45-50 minutes. (Use as little or as much as you’d like, I went with an entire bag of each and to be honest, that’s probably not necessary)!

Cravings…

So lately, as if this is anything new, I’ve been seriously craving peanut butter and chocolate….waaaay more than usual! But surprisingly I was craving them separately, not necessarily together…which is somewhat odd! So I decided to make some peanut butter bars for breakfast and then some rocky road brownies for dessert! The bars turned out to be pretty good, however could have used more crunch, as they were super soft and chewy. Soft and chewy is not necessarily a bad thing, but these were almost crumbly they were so soft…they were better after I put them in the fridge. And the rocky road brownies were fairly good, but the marshmallows on top ended up kind of crunchy and chewy as they cooled. All in all, I would make both again but making some minor changes!

Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars:

  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vanilla silk soy milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut or almond butter
  • Dash of salt, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together all ingredients. Pour into a greased 8X8 inch pan. Bake 18 -20 minutes. Let cool and top with Nutella or more peanut butter if desired! (At one point, I even covered a few slices with melted chocolate…I couldn’t resist! And it was quite tastier that way!

2012-04-20 16.12.14.jpg

Rocky Road Brownies (Brownie recipe adapted from my sister-in-law Mandy)!

  • 1¼ cups  flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 11 oz. chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1½ cups g sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 t vanilla
  • mini chocolate chips
  • For the topping:
  • mini marshmallows
  • mini chocolate chips
  • hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans (any nut of your choice), coarsely ground or chopped

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and butter/flour a baking pan, whatever size you prefer (I went with a 9X9 because I really like super thick brownies)…but the smaller the pan, the longer it takes for them to cook and cool! Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until smooth. Turn off the heat and add the sugars, whisk until smooth and  set aside, off of heat, to cool. Once cooled, add eggs one at a time, whisking just until incorporated each time. Sprinkle flour and a 1/2 cup or so of mini chocolate chips over chocolate mixture and fold with a spatula just until combined (some white specs of flour will still be visible), do not overmix! Pour into prepared pan and bake (the 9X9 took about 45 minutes so a 9X13 would probably take about 30-35 and an 8X8 closer to 50-55). During the last 10 minutes of baking, I covered the top with marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and a mixture of ground hazelnuts and almonds…push down slightly so the topping adheres to the brownies and put back in the oven until brownies are cooked through.

These were delicious right out of the oven…the marshmallows were super soft and melty, the nuts had a nice crunch and the chocolate chips melted in  your mouth. As they cooled, the marshmallows got hard and crunchy, the chocolate chips hardened and the nuts got kind of soggy! An easy fix was to throw them in the microwave for a few seconds to melt everything again but taking them with me for the day made that difficult! Didn’t stop Josh and I from finishing off the rest at lunch today though (yes, I made them last night), so I guess they couldn’t have been that bad!

Easter!

Yes, I realize this post is a bit late but still wanted to share about our Easter anyways! We all went over to my brother’s house since they just recently had the new baby and wouldn’t have been able to celebrate with us otherwise. My gram has a problem with overdoing everything (no surprise there) so she ended up catering an entire home-cooked Easter dinner over to their house. Crazy, yes, delicious, yes, unnecessary, probably! In an effort to help her out, we all made little things to bring along. I was given the task of side dish, appetizers and a dessert. I went with a pesto cream cheese dip with homemade pesto, a buffalo chicken ring, cheesy potatoes, and a caramel pie with a chocolate pretzel crust. So here they are:

Pesto Dip:

Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup salted almonds
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Add almonds, garlic and arugula to nut grinder, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to incorporate/chop a little, then stream in olive oil until all blended, chopped finely enough for your liking. Pour into bowl, mix in parm.

For the dip, spread 1 (8-ounce) package of room temperature/softened cream cheese on the bottom of a serving bowl/platter. Top with homemade pesto and then diced cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with more parmesan. Serve with crackers, chips, pretzels, anything your little heart desires will do!!

Buffalo Chicken Ring (aka, the one ring to rule them all):

I got this recipe from my best friend’s fiance Joe, he emailed it to all of us asking one of us to please make it for him! Here is the website he sent us: http://jayesel.net/2011/11/10/recipe-buffalo-chicken-ring/

  • 2 crescent roll packages
  • 1-2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/2 packet of ranch dressing mix
  • Frank’s to taste
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil chicken until cooked through, set aside to cool. Combine cream cheese and ranch packet, set aside. Mix shredded chicken, cream cheese mixture, and Frank’s to taste. Mix in celery and cheese. Open crescent packages and keep in two’s; on a pizza stone,  form a circle, overlapping the corners so it looks like this:

recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring

Fill the ring with the chicken mixture and fold over outer edges, seal to close, like so:

recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring   recipe: Buffalo Chicken Ring

Bake about 20-25 minutes, until crescent dough is cooked through. BE CAREFUL, you will want to eat this immediately out of the oven because it is so incredibly delicious but it will burn the shit out of your mouth, I promise! Let cool before indulging!!

Cheesy Potatoes:

This is a Hover family favorite, definitely all the credit for this recipe goes to them! I also cannot remember for the life of me if I have already shared this recipe in a previous blog, but it is  definitely worthy enough for another post if I have!

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup (or 1 large can)
  • 1 medium container of sour cream
  • 1 bag frozen potatoes or hash browns
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat, add onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, in a very large bowl, mix together the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and 2 cups of the cheese. Add in potatoes and butter/onion mixture. Pour into a 9X13 baking dish, top with remaining 2 cups of cheese and bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Caramel Pie:

Emily made this pie for me and our friend Sisen a while back and it was sooo tasty, I had to try it myself (and her version was salted, which upped the tasty factor in my book)! Instead of salting the caramel, I decided to add the salty element into the crust. Warning, this recipe did not turn out how it was supposed, I should definitely have practiced this one ahead of time! It was still delicious however presentation was seriously lacking!

  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups chopped pretzels
  • 6 ounces chocolate, melted
  • 5 T butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together melted chocolate, melted butter and pretzel crumbs. Press into bottom and up sides of a greased 9-inch pie plate. Pour sweetened condensed milk into crust, bake for 1 1/2 hours, COVERED WITH FOIL! This was my big mistake, I did not cover until half way through which caused a lovely burned topping of my pie. Luckily, this was easy to salvage by removing the burnt top and exposing the wonderfully cooked caramel underneath! I also disguised this by adding some crushed pretzel crumbs and drizzled chocolate on top.

Mia Rose!

I would like to announce the birth of my beautiful niece Mia Rose! She was born on April Fool’s Day (no joke) at 11:54 pm, weighing in at 7 lb 7 oz and she is just adorable, and with a full head of dark brown hair! We now have two beautiful, healthy, precious little girls in our family!

Here's proof!

I knew my brother and sister-in-law would be absolutely exhausted upon getting home and could use all of the rest they can get with a newborn so I decided to help them out and cook them a few dinners and save them some time/money! I even had my other niece, Arianna, ‘help me out’ in the kitchen! What a great little helper she is too!

I wanted to think of things that would be super easy for them that they could just throw in the oven or heat up so I settled on homemade mac & cheese with prosciutto and a chicken broccoli cheese casserole. The casserole is so amazingly simple yet delicious, it is a must have on our menu rotation! And of course, I baked them something as well, a zucchini bread.

Macaroni & Cheese with Prosciutto

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • Prosciutto, ham, bacon cooked and chopped
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 t mustard powder or 1 – 1 1/2 t mustard
  • 8 ounces american cheese, chopped up
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • parmesan cheese
  • bread crumbs or panko

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a casserole dish or 9X13 pan. Cook macaroni  in boiling salted water until al dente, drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan, add onion and saute until soft, 5-7 minutes. Once soft, add flour, whisk and let cook 1-2 minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking to incorporate flour. Add salt & pepper to taste and let come to a boil and begins to thicken. Lower heat and add in american cheese and 2 cups of cheddar, stir until melted. Combine sauce with macaroni and pour into baking dish. Top with other 2 cups of shredded cheddar. Mix bread crumbs or panko with parmesan cheese, sprinkle over top and bake 30 minutes. (I fried up some prosciutto in a little olive oil beforehand to get it somewhat crispy and mixed it in with the cheese sauce and macaroni before baking).  You can add any type of meat you like, or leave it out completely, whatever suits your fancy!

Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole

  • 1 package broccoli (I use eat smart veggie bags)
  • 1 bag cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 2-3 T lemon juice

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cream of mushroom soups, the lemon juice and half of the cheddar cheese. Add cooked chicken and broccoli. Pour into prepared pan and top with remaining half of cheddar cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through. See, I told you it was easy! We like to serve ours over white rice, but you can use whatever you like or just eat it plain! Also, you can add in any other veggies you like, we always add mushrooms with ours but since my brother is ‘allergic,’ I omitted them! I say ‘allergic’ because he really is not, he just doesn’t care for them so he tells restaurants that he is allergic so they don’t make the mistake of putting them in any of his food! Cracks me up! But I did get him to branch out a little and try, and even like, a blue cheese mushroom marsala sauce for steaks (http://wp.me/s1InCv-saucy)!

Last but not least:

Zucchini Bread

  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 t vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9X13 pan. Dissolve sugar in oil, add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon. Add wet to dry, mixing until just incorporated. Fold in zucchini. Pour into prepared pan, fill 2/3 of the way full (if there is extra batter, use for muffins or whatever you’d like…but I fit it all into one pan and it just made one very large super loaf)!