Friday, February 26, 2010

Quinoa with Black Beans and Cilantro

With a stronger focus on cleaner eating, I've been challenging myself to try new foods- lentils, barley, and quinoa to start. This is my first recipe using quinoa.
You're probably thinking- "What is Quinoa?". (Believe me- I thought the same thing too.) Pronounced "KEEN-wah", quinoa is a grain that has a high protein content, is a good source of dietary fiber, and is gluten-free so it's considered easy to digest. When cooked, it has a light, fluffy texture (it resembles couscous) and a slightly mild nutty flavor. You can find this in the bulk bins at Whole Foods ($1.69/lb). I love that I can treat it like rice- but with all the nutritional value quinoa brings! One valuable tip: make sure to rinse the quinoa well, as it has a bitter taste if not rinsed. My DB, who doesn't like beans, loved this dish. I would definitely use a stock or broth to cook the quinoa- otherwise, I think it would have been too bland. We thought it had a lot of flavor, and we loved all the vegetables added to this. The flavors really reminded me of Chipotle. A fairly quick, healthy, tasty side dish that packs a protein punch. Don't skip the cilantro or cheese- it would be too bland without them, and really makes the dish.


Here is what quinoa looks like before being cooked...




Quinoa with Black Beans and Cilantro
Ingredients:
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups chopped red onions (Yellow onions are fine)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well, drained
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt (Omit salt if stock has salt in it)
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
Crumbled Cotija cheese or feta cheese
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 lime, juiced (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat oil in medium sautepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and red pepper; sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. While the vegetables are cooking, in a separate heavy saucepan, stir in next 5 ingredients (quinoa through stock). Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is almost tender, about 14 minutes.
3. Add the sauteed vegetables, beans and 1/4 cup cilantro; cook uncovered until heated through and liquid is fully absorbed, about 3 minutes.
4. Transfer to bowl; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, cheese, and chopped tomatoes.
5. Sprinkle with lime juice to top.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appetit

Crunchy, Oven Baked Chicken Tenders

I wanted a healthier version of "fried" chicken tenders, and my DB and I both loved this chicken! We've tried other baked "fried" chicken recipes, but they have turned out bland and not as crunchy as we had hoped. This is now my go-to recipe. We were both surprised by the sweetness of the product but ultimately loved the flavor. We also loved the combination of the crushed corn flakes and the Japanese panko breadcrumbs. It had the texture of deep-fried chicken but without all the guilt as it is low in fat, high in lean protein, and prepared in a healthy manner. I definitely recommend using panko breadcrumbs, which has a coarser texture than regular breadcrumbs and can be easily found at larger grocery stores and Asian supermarkets.
This is a Rachael Ray recipe specially to make with children, so invite your young loved one and have some fun in the kitchen!

Crunch, Oven Baked Chicken Tenders
Ingredients:
1 cup corn flakes
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup honey mustard (recommended: Gulden's)
1/4 cup barbecue sauce

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven on to 375 degrees F.
2. In a pie pan or other shallow, large dish, pour out the corn flakes. Crush the cereal up with your hands.
3. Mix in bread crumbs, sugar, salt, pepper, and allspice.
4. Drizzle about 3 Tbsp vegetable oil evenly over the breading, tossing and turning it to mix the oil all through the bread crumbs and crushed-up corn flakes.
5. Cut the chicken fingers into tenders, 2-inch pieces.
6. Turn the chicken in flour, eggs and then in the special crunchy breading.
7. Arrange the chicken tenders on a nonstick baking sheet. Place the chicken tenders in the oven and cook 20-22 minutes or until crisp and brown all over.
8. Mix together honey mustard and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Serve hot chicken toes with honey mustard and barbecue sauce for dipping.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chocolate Overdose Cake

A truly decadent cake- This cake is not your typical chocolate cake. It consists of a brownie base, light chocolate mousse filling, topped with a chocolate cake layer, and frosted in ganache. A fair warning though as this recipe has many steps and ingredients- make sure to have a solid few hours to prepare this cake, and prep your ingredients out before you start baking. Getting organized is key- I baked the brownie base and chocolate cake at the same time- this was a huge time-saver as it allowed me to clean up the (large) mess of pots and utensils while they baked. Once the brownie & cake layers are halfway into the cooling time, make the chocolate mousse. Assemble the cake, and place it in the refrigerator. While it chills, make the ganache (part of it needs to cool to room temperature, while the other needs to be chilled.) The only variation I did was to use Beantown Baker’s idea and decorate with chocolate-covered strawberries. I won’t lie- it definitely is a lot of work, but definitely worth the effort! It was worth every dirty bowl and utensil. Besides, can anyone really overdose on chocolate? A chocolate lover’s dream comes true. (The above picture doesn't showcase the beautiful layers within the cake- you can look at Jen's picture here.)

Some additional tips and tricks:
- I purchased parchment rounds here. It was way easier than cutting the rounds myself from a parchment roll, and I didn’t feel like I wasted a lot of paper. Make sure to order 1” smaller than your pan. (For example, if you’re using a 9” pan, order an 8” parchment round.)
- For unsweetened chocolate, I used Baker’s chocolate squares- they come in 1-oz squares so measuring was a cinch. For semi-sweet chocolate, I used chocolate chips.
- Dutch process cocoa- I use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, and have found them at Meijer’s.
- If you decorate with chocolate-covered strawberries, try to pick smaller-sized berries. I used medium-sized berries and I had to cut slices of cake that were huge.



Ingredients:
Brownie base
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1-1/8 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate cake
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/8 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 cup hot water
7/8 cups sugar, divided
7/8 cups (3/4 cup +1/8 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, room temperature

Chocolate mousse filling
6 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-ounce pieces (1 cup chocolate chips)
1-7/8 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Ganache
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
18 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-ounce pieces (2-2/3 cup chocolate chips)

Directions:
To make the brownie base
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom and line the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. (I bought parchment rounds Spray lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
3. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.)
4. When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan, add it into the bowl of a stand mixer, and gradually whisk in sugar.
5. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined.
6. Whisk in vanilla.
7. Add flour mixture in two additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
8. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using a small off-set spatula or bench scraper, spread batter evenly and smooth the surface. (The batter was thick- I ended up using my fingers to spread out the brownie and make the surface even.)
9. Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour (do not remove the springform ring or parchment collar).

To make the cake
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment and spray bottom and sides with baking spray.
2. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. (At this point, my mixture was very thick and I thought I had ruined it, but once I added the sugar (next step), it became smooth and liquidy again.)
3. Add 1/4 cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.
4. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.
5. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl and set aside.
6. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds.
7. Add remaining (1/2 cup + 1/8 cup) sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes.
8. Replace whisk with paddle attachment.
9. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
10. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition.
11. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds).
12. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.
13. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.
14. Pour into prepared pan; smooth batter to edges of pan with an offset spatula.
15. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack and cool completely.

To make the Chocolate mousse filling
1. Place stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer or fridge.
2. Heat 1-inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place the semisweet chocolate in the top half of the double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap and allow to heat for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Transfer the melted chocolate to a stainless steel bowl and set aside until needed.
4. Place heavy cream and sugar in the well-chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a well-chilled whisk attachment. Whisk on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
5. By hand, whisk to combine 1/4 of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate until smooth and completely incorporated.
6. Add the combined whipped cream and chocolate to the remaining whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to fold together.

To make the Ganache
1. Heat the heavy cream and the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.
2. Place the semisweet chocolate in a 3-quart stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.
3. Chill 1 cup of ganache for 1 hour. Remaining ganache should be brought to room temperature (about 40 minutes).

To assemble the dessert
1. Spread mousse over top of the brownie base evenly. Use an offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth the top.
2. Place cake round over mousse, pressing down lightly. Chill for 1 hour.
3. Remove springform ring and parchment collar. Use a spatula to smooth the room temperature ganache over the cake top and sides, covering evenly.
4. Place the chilled ganache into a piping bag fitted with a #18 tip and pipe a shell border around the base.
5. Replace with tip #1M and pipe 12-16 rosettes around the top of the cake to indicate servings.
6. Serve chilled and store leftovers in the fridge. Cut the cake with a hot, dry knife.

Yields 12-16 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride, As seen in Beantown Baker

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seven Layer Bars

One of my favorite snacks, and a nice change of pace to the cakes, bars, and cookies brought to potlucks.
I love the combination of chocolate, white chocolate, and butterscotch chips this recipe brings, and it is quick to prepare. A rich, gooey, and sweet dessert that will surely please everyone. Make sure to have a glass of milk nearby!

Ingredients:
¾ cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semi-sweet chocoolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1-1/3 cup shredded coconut

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line your dish with foil (with the edges overhanging) and grease with cooking spray.
2. Place butter in 13 x 9 inch pan and melt in oven. Swirl to coat bottom and sides with butter.
3. Spread graham cracker crumbs evenly over bottom of pan.
4. Layer chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, and crushed walnuts over crumbs.
5. Pour condensed milk over nuts.
6. Sprinkle coconut over condensed milk.
7. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil “overhang”. Cut into squares, and serve.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Chili Nachos

The original recipe calls for (2) hot dogs, but I decided to omit this and just move on with the recipe. My DB just raved about this dish! Of course, you can always use your own chili recipe, but I loved how quickly this chili came together, and how wonderful tasting this dish turned out. A perfect and easy snack, lunch, or party food. One thing to note: I would recommend shredding your own cheese (from a block) versus buying pre-shredded cheese. The taste is sharper and the pre-shredded cheese is (lightly) coated with flour/preservative (though I use it in a pinch). Using freshly shredded cheese will make your cheese remain “cheesey” longer (and won’t harden as hard or as quickly as pre-shredded). We munched on this while watching the Superbowl. Yum!

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 pound ground sirloin
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 sack yellow corn tortilla chips or Fritos Scoops
1 sack, 10 ounces, shredded yellow Cheddar
Sour cream, garnish
Salsa, garnish
2 scallions, chopped

Directions:
1. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add oil then beef, and begin to brown and crumble with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.
2. Season with salt and pepper, then add onions, Worcestershire, chili powder, and cumin. Cook another 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add tomato sauce and simmer 5 minutes more.
4. Preheat broiler.
5. Arrange corn chips on a platter or in a casserole dish. Top the chips with the cooked chili topping. Cover the chili dog sauce with cheese.
6. Melt cheese under hot broiler, 2 minutes, until melted and bubbly.
7. Garnish with sour cream, salsa and chopped scallions.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites with Jalapeno Mustard

Warm, homemade pretzel bites sprinkled with butter and sea salt, stuffed with diced ham and cheddar cheese with a spicy yet sweet dipping sauce? You’ve got my attention. I will admit that I was slightly intimidated by the specific temperature of the liquids and number of steps, but really- once the dough was rolled out, the steps came together rather quickly. The homemade pretzel bites were delicious, and makes your home smell heavenly of fresh baked bread. The jalapeno mustard was a great option, but it would taste just as good with honey mustard. I had a lot of jalapeno mustard leftover, and thus would halve this recipe next time. These pretzel bites would taste great unstuffed and served with a cheddar sauce as well. A perfect appetizer to serve to friends- guys and girls alike will love them!

Ingredients:
1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped ham (3 ounces)
1-2 cups finely chopped sharp Cheddar
6 cups water
4 tsp baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1-2 Tbsp coarse salt
Jalapeno Mustard
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped jalapenos
1/4 cup mild honey

Directions:
1. Stir together the yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes.
2. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.
3. Add 2-1/2 cups of the flour and the milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
4. Add the remaining flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.
5. Brush the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a draft free, warm room for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
6. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough and stretch into a 12-inch long rolls. Flatten and arrange so the long side is facing you. Use the rolling pin or your hands to form a 12x4 inch rectangle.
7. Gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheddar into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut into (12) 1-inch pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of dough.
8. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.
9. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.
10. Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. The cheese might ooze out, but that's okay.
11. Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt.
12. To make the jalapeno mustard, pulse the jalapenos in a food processor until finely ground. Add the honey and mustard, and process until evenly mixed. Serve pretzels warm or at room temperature.

Yield: ~4 dozen

Source: Adapted from Pink Parsley, originally seen on Gourmet

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Marinara Magnifica

This is my favorite marinara sauce, and thanks to Christine for blogging about it. This recipe yields a sauce that is fresh, rich, tangy, and a little bit sweet with the perfect blend of seasonings. While it does cook for a long time, the prep work is the easiest I've seen with ingredients most have on hand. The recipe makes alot, so I usually freeze batches to thaw and reheat for easy weeknight suppers. You'll never return to jarred sauce again. A real crowd favorite. Sorry- I completely forgot to take a picture for this dish!

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups chopped onion (about 3 medium)
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
2 tsp lemon juice

Yield: 9 cups

Direction:
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven (or a heavy pot) over medium heat; add onion and sugar. Cook 30 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute.
3. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 3 hours, stirring every 30-45 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light, as seen on Christine's Kitchen Chronicles

Classic Banana Mini-Bundt Cakes

Our friend David's Big 3-0 birthday was coming up and I wanted to make him something sweet to celebrate. Dorie's recipes haven't failed me yet, and this cake recipe fell nothing short of great. The texture was light and airy- just like cake- yet still dense and moist at the same time with lots of banana flavor. I made these into mini-bundt cakes, filled them with pralined pecans, and drizzled with a rum glaze. I felt that the rum glaze was a bit overpowering (next time, I will use a light rum), and for the next time, I will use a lemon glaze, as Dorie recommends. I let it sit overnight, and the flavors were richer and fuller the next day.

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp
2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temp
~4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1.5-1.75 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 9 to 10" (12-cup) Bundt pan. (I used a mini-bundt pan.)
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
4. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy.
5. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in.
6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas.
7. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture will curdle -- just keep mixing), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to de-bubble the batter and smooth the top. (For the mini-bundt pan, fill each well up to 2/3 full as the cake will rise.)
8. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes, if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. (I baked mine for 30 minutes.)
9. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack to cool to room temp.

Yields: (12) mini-bundt cakes

Source: Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Beef Tenderloin with Garlic Horseradish Cream

This beef tenderloin dish may have forever changed my mind about beef. The tenderloin turned out moist, juicy, and oh so flavorful. The combination of the peppercorn crust with the cream sauce was incredible! The sauce does take some time to reduce, but it is worth it. As for the prep work, it is easy, yet time consuming- you will need to roast the garlic, but you can make the cream sauce as you cook the tenderloin. This will definitely become a favorites among special occasion meals. We paired this with this risotto- this combination was out of this world.

For sauce
1 head garlic (1/4 pound; about 2 1/2 inches in diameter), left intact
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup drained bottled horseradish
1/8 tsp white pepper

For tenderloin
1 (3-pound) center-cut beef tenderloin roast, tied
1/4 cup black peppercorns, cracked
2 tsp granulated beef bouillon
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp paprika (not hot)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Make sauce:
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Cut off and discard top fourth of garlic head.
3. Drizzle exposed garlic with oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, then wrap head tightly in foil.
4. Roast garlic until tender, about 45 minutes, then open foil and cool.
5. While garlic roasts, simmer cream in a 1.5-2 quart heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 3/4 cup, 15-20 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.
6. Squeeze garlic into a small bowl, discarding skins, and mash together with horseradish, pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt using a fork.
7. Stir garlic mixture into cream, then chill until ready to use.

Roast tenderloin:
1. Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Pat tenderloin dry.
2. Stir together pepper, bouillon, salt, cornstarch, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl. Rub oil all over tenderloin, then sprinkle with spice mixture, rubbing it into meat.
4. Put tenderloin on rack in roasting pan and roast 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 425°F and cook until thermometer inserted diagonally into center of meat registers 130°F, 20 to 25 minutes for medium-rare.
5. Let beef stand on rack in pan 10 minutes before serving.
6. Cut beef into 1/4-inch-thick slices and serve with garlic horseradish cream.

Source: Adapted from Gourmet

Butternut Squash Risotto

O-M-G.
This was one of the best dishes I have ever made- quite possibly one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. I was skeptical on the combination of butternut squash and pancetta (or in my case, bacon), but it was more delicious than I ever imagined it could be. The wonderful flavors of the risotto paired nicely with the roasted butternut squash. We served this as a side dish to this beef tenderloin, and it was the perfect accompaniment. We also paired this dish with a baby spinach salad with praline pecans, Craisins, and diced pears. It was a beautiful and ever-so-delicious dish... though in honesty, I could have just eaten this dish alone and been completely satisfied. One of my favorite Ina dishes.

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced (Used 3 slices of bacon)
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp saffron threads (Omitted)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups.
3. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
5. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the bacon first. Once it is partially cooked, add shallots on medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned.
6. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter.
7. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.
8. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
9. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Source: Ina Garten

Chocolate Ganache-filled One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

What I loved about this recipe is that the cupcakes were moist and delicious, and it only uses 1 bowl- this is as easy as a boxed cake mix but so much better tasting! We were invited to a last-minute luncheon, and I whipped this recipe up in 45 minutes- and that included some down time while the cupcakes baked and cooled. These cupcakes are best eaten day of, as you want to keep the cupcakes somewhat cool (due to the whipped topping), but not cold (so the ganache filling doesn't harden). They looked beautiful, and tasted fantastic.



Ingredients:
For the cupcakes
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Ganache
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Ganache Whipped Cream Topping
2/3 cup COLD heavy cream

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.
2. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
3. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
4. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.
5. While the cupcakes are baking, make the ganache- Melt the chocolate chips with heavy cream in the microwave for 60 seconds. Stir until smooth, and then allow it to come to room temperature.
6. Once the cupcakes are done baking, transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
7. Using a piping bag with a round tip (I used Wilton tip #12), add half of the ganache, insert the tip into the cupcake, and squeeze into the cupcake. Repeat with remaining cupcake.

8. Beat 2/3 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
9. Fold the remaining cooled ganache with the whipped cream.
10. Decorate the cupcake tops. Enjoy!

Yield: 20 cupcakes

Source: Martha Stewart, as seen in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book

Chicken, Lemon and Dill with Orzo

Another easy to prepare, weeknight meal. You don't even need to cook the meat before placing it into your dish. Before I headed out for errands, I dumped everything into my casserole dish, and baked it when I returned home. The key here is to use fresh ingredients- notably the dill and lemon. It possesses a lovely combination of flavors- comfort food with a savory delightfulness. This recipe uses a 13x9 dish- perfect for company, but since it was just me and DB, we halved this recipe which was just the right amount for dinner and leftovers for lunch the following day. This dish was simple, easy, and delicious- this is what "everyday food" should be.



Ingredients:
1-1/4 lb. chicken tenderloins, cut into 1" pieces
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 lb. orzo
1 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
2 tsp lemon zest
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
2. In a sauce-pan bring broth, water, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a boil. Keep a close eye- you don't want to boil too long or you won't have enough liquid for your pasta.
3. In a 3-qt (13x9) baking dish, combine chicken, orzo, feta, dill, lemon zest and juice. Pour broth mixture over orzo and stir once to incorporate.
4. Bake until orzo is tender and cooking liquid is creamy, 40 minutes. (Since we halved the recipe, we baked it for 25-30 minutes.)
5. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Originally from Everyday Food, adapted from Lemons and Love

Blood Drip/Vampire Kiss Martini


Ever since I saw this, I knew I had to make it... some day. And a perfect opportunity couldn't have come quicker than for Maddie's Twilight-themed birthday party. The "blood rim" is actually hard candy colored with food coloring. Not only was the effect pretty cool, but the kids walked around the party holding their martini glasses, sucking the candy rim.

I was really nervous about making this. The instructions were fairly straight-forward and simple, but I had never made liquid candy before. I also loved that it only calls for 4 ingredients- most, if not all, you may already have in your home. I allowed myself 3-4 hours to complete this. In hindsight, I am laughing since it only took me 30-45 minutes total. These martinis were such a hit at the party, and the colors can easily adapt to your own color scheme. Reading through the reviews and doing this for the first time, I've gathered some "tips and tricks" to give you the most successful results (please see section below).


The BEST tip I received- Use an oven mitt




Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
Red food coloring (liquid, not gel)

Directions:
1. Combine sugar, syrup and water. On medium/medium-high heat, cook without stirring to hard crack stage – which is 300 degrees F (approximately 15-30 minutes). (I allowed it to go to 280 degrees, which was perfect for me. See notes below.)
2. Add food coloring. (I used 15 drops)
3. Turn down the heat to LOW. While the mixture is still hot, dunk the top of the cocktail glass into the mixture to create the red rim. You can go anywhere from just along the very tip of the rim to part way down the glass – whichever you prefer.
4. Flip the glass right side up to cool. The thick consistency of the mixture will cause “drips” as it hardens on the glass!

Yield: 1 batch rimmed 13 glasses

Tips and Tricks
1. A candy thermometer is necessary. You can find this at most grocery stores.
2. Do all the prep work before you start cooking the candy: Place wax paper out so when you flip over the glasses, the wax paper can catch the drips.
3. Use an oven mitt! I purchased a cheap oven mitt from the Dollar Store, and this was the best advice I received. When I flipped the glass over, hot candy dripped onto my oven mitt. I definitely would have sustained 3rd degree burns had I not had an oven mitt on.
4. I purchased glass martini glasses at the Dollar Store- $1.00 each, and I can use them over and over. Some reviewers used plastic martini glasses with success- they said the top rim did melt a little, so if you plan to go with plastic, make sure they are good quality/thick. Funny thing- my glass martini glasses cost just as much as the premium plastic martini glasses. This was a no-brainer.
5. Use a pot where the diameter is larger than the martini rim, but not too wide- you want to be able to "dunk" the rim into the liquid candy.
6. As you get closer to the 300 degree mark, your color will change from bright red to a deep red/brownish color in a matter of minutes. Therefore, depending on how high heat you are using, the temperature could go from 280 to 300 degrees quickly. Thus, I'd recommend you use a medium/medium-heat... it could take longer than 15 minutes, but you have better control of the liquid candy.
7. If you plan to make these the night before, lay an old sheet on top of the glasses to detract dust or small bugs. They won't melt at room temperature.
8. Take it slow and pay attention- it really IS that easy to do this.




Source: Hostess with the Mostess

Twilight Party (Happy Birthday Maddie!)

Maddie's birthday request was to have a Twilight and New Moon-themed party- her mother, Mackenzie, and I set off to work. We researched and planned for 3 weeks, and the party was pulled off incredibly well. We received many compliments, and all of our hard work and efforts had paid off. Maddie and her friends had a wonderful time, and a birthday she will always remember. A big thank you to Kristie who allowed us to host the party at her Clubhouse!





Color Scheme
The color scheme was based right off the book series: Red (Twilight/Vampires), Yellow/Gold (New Moon/Werewolf), and Black. We had a Red & Yellow balloon cluster at each table. The "inner" tables had red tablecloths (reserved for Maddie and her friends), while the "outer" tables (for adults) had black tablecloths.





Food & Beverages
Thank you to Hostess Blog who created custom Twilight water bottle labels. (Due to the Clubhouse's "no red drinks" rule, we weren't able to have red ("blood") drinks, but that could be an option for you.)





Our menu for the evening:
- Sloppy Joe's
- Nachos
- Cole slaw, Macaroni Salad, and Spinach Dip
- Soda, Water bottles

We placed Twilight quotes everywhere throughout the party- on each table and scattered throughout the buffet and cake tables.





For dessert, Mackenzie ordered (2) half-sheets with Maddie's photoshopped picture on the cakes.




As a surprise to Maddie, I followed Annie's instructions to create Werewolf cupcakes.




I also purchased some edible cupcake toppers (with Bella, Edward, and Jacob) and sprinkled the edges with red colored sugar.




I also made "Vampire Kiss" martinis for the children (another thank you to Hostess Blog). The "blood drip" is actually candy- you make liquid candy, dip the rim of the martini glass, and the sugar drips down as it hardens. Easy and such a fun effect.




Decor
1. Tables- Each table had a red & yellow balloon cluster with a red or black tablecloth. The centerpiece was a red apple (as shown on the Twilight book cover) with a red fork stuck inside (for Forks, WA), which held a quote from Twilight or New Moon- plated on a black dessert plate.




2. Place settings- Each place setting had a "How well do you know Maddie?" quiz- something fun guests could fill out- as well as a red napkin with a "vampire teeth" napkin ring, or a yellow napkin with a black satin ribbon. Here is a close-up of the "vampire teeth" napkin ring.




3. Life-size stand-up Edward and Jacob- Mackenzie ordered these from Amazon, and they turned out to be hit! Both Edward and Jacob "greeted" guests as they walked into the party. We set up a portable printer so guests could take a picture with their favorite Twilight character, Kristie printed the pictures at the party, and guests could take home their picture... these pictures served as our favors for the party.








4. Pictures- We had the movie posters, books, and magazines scattered throughout the party as decorations and items guests could view. Thanks to Season and Naomi who photoshopped Maddie's picture into a variety of Twilight/New Moon ads (to appear that Maddie was a part of the Twilight clan):




5. Additional decoration- To add some color and additional decor, we created this Twilight banner:




Activities
1. "Vampire Bite" body paint
These were a hit as well! One of Maddie's aunts brought in a few skin-safe paint (red, black) and a brush- she made "vampire bite" images on the kids' necks:




2. Games- We played Twilight Scavenger Hunt, Twilight Trivia (Family Feud-style), and Pin the tail on Jacob:




We had prizes for each game, but one of the prizes we awarded were these "blood bags" (clear cellophane bags filled with Twizzlers)




3. We also had a DJ, they did some karaoke, and danced.



4. We played the Twilight and New Moon soundtracks, as well as the movie.

The party was a success, and created many memories for all.








 
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