Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and Honey


This appetizer blew my mind- It only contains 4 ingredients, requires minimal prepwork, and looks so elegant and sophisticated. I served this for a Mary Kay party I hosted and the guests raved about this appetizer. The flavors of the cheese and honey are a perfect combination. I was a little hesitant to try the Gorgonzola cheese (since it has a pungent flavor), but the combination with the honey was perfect, as the honey cuts the harshness of the cheese. Definitely don’t be stingy on the honey though! It was a nice contrast of salty (cheese) and sweet (honey), and resulted in a creamy warm appetizer.

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and Honey

Ingredients:

  • 36 slices (1/2-inch thick) baguette bread, about 1 loaf
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz Gorgonzola, sliced
  • 3-6 Tbsp honey

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil.
3. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 7-8 minutes.
4. Arrange the cheese on the toasts and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.
5. Drizzle the toasts with honey. (Don't be stingy with the honey...it really makes it)
6. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Monday, March 28, 2011

Turkey Pesto Sliders


Before Whole Foods market, there was an organic grocery store called Wild Oats market that had this splendid Panini sandwich which I couldn’t get enough of. This specific sandwich was made of rosemary focaccia bread stuffed with shaved turkey breast deli meat, provolone cheese, and a pesto mayo, and then grilled and warmed on a Panini press. Sounds simple and easy, but oh man- was it ever delicious. Ever since I’ve had that sandwich, I’ve been making my own turkey pesto sandwiches, but I loved how Annie made them into sliders. I served this at a brunch, and it was the hit of the party.

Turkey Pesto Sliders

Ingredients:

  • 6 slider buns
  • 12 slices of turkey deli meat
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese
  • 3 Tbsp pesto
  • 3 Tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat.
2. Split the slider buns and lay a folded slice of turkey on the bottom half of each bun.
3. Layer each with a slice of provolone.
4. In a small bowl, combine the pesto and mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix until blended.
5. Spread a thin layer of the pesto mayonnaise on the inner side of the top half of each bun.
6. Replace the top bun over the cheese to assemble the sandwiches.
7. Brush the tops of the buns lightly with melted butter.
8. Bake 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sandwiches are warmed through.

Yield: 3 servings (6 sandwiches total)

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hummus in a Cucumber Cup


I love this recipe to incorporate some vegetables without the normal crudités. The hummus tastes fantastic with the cucumbers, and it’s my favorite way to eat them. I would highly recommend a melon baller (here is a cheaper alternative)- they’re now easily located in the cooking/baking aisle of larger grocery stores, and it definitely helps making the “cups” go smoothly.

Hummus in a Cucumber Cup
Ingredients:
  • 2 English cucumbers (English cukes have a more dense center, an eatable skin, and won't fall apart)
  • 1 container of hummus (here is my recipe, but any store bought one is fine)
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (I used a jarred version)
Directions:
1. Cut the cucumber into approximately 1 inch pieces. You want them to be thick enough to hold enough hummus, but not too thick so they are bite-sized.

2. Using a melon baller scoop out the inside to make a little cup.

3. Next, fill up the cup with a teaspoon of hummus.
4. Top with the sliver of bell pepper.

Source: Leslie Sarna

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Island Pork Tenderloin


Yummy and incredible easy- Darin made this for me one evening, and it took him under 30 minutes to prep and cook this tenderloin. The pork tenderloin is rubbed with the seasonings, and a sweet & savory crust forms on top. The pork turned out amazing, and tasted absolutely delectable.

This delicious sugar crust took this dish from great to fantastic:

Island Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:
For Pork

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pork tenderloins (a little over 1 pound)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

For Glaze

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp hot sauce (Tabasco)


Directions:
For Pork
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon and coat pork with spice rub.
3. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until just beginning to smoke. Brown pork on all sides, about 4 minutes total. Remove from heat.

For the Glaze and to roast the Pork
1. While the pork is browning, stir together brown sugar, garlic and hot sauce.
2. Once you remove pork from heat, spread glaze onto top of each tenderloin.
3. Roast in oven until thermometer inserted in center of tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes.
4. Tent with foil and let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 150-155 while standing.) Slice and serve.

Yield: 2 servings

Source: Originally from The Gourmet Cookbook, As seen on Bakin’ And Eggs

Monday, March 21, 2011

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins, Coconut and Pecans


I’m always on the hunt for terrific cookie recipes, especially if they have a slight twist to them. One of the bloggers I follow won first place with her creation, and I knew I had to give it a try. This cookie is a combination of oatmeal scotchies with roasted chopped pecans and golden raisins. I upped the ante by soaking my golden raisins in some rum to hydrate them, and make them nice and plump. In other words, it was divine. This could quite possibly be one of my favorite cookies to date.

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins, Coconut and Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 – 1 cup (however much you want, really) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp half and half (I’ve used milk and/or heavy cream with fine results)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup golden raisins (I soaked my raisins in rum*)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine oats, coconut and pecans and spread on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the coconut becomes fragrant, stirring frequently. Let cool.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl. Set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, cream both sugars and butter until light, fluffy and smooth.
5. Add egg, half and half, and vanilla and blend until smooth.
6. Stir in the flour mixture, the toasted oat mixture, then the raisins.
7. Drop dough onto a cookie sheet (I used my large cookie scoop) lined with parchment paper in rounded spoonfuls (or you can use a cookie scoop) about 2 inches apart. (I compacted the cookie and then flattened mine down a little bit with my fingers. This made them have crispy edges and soft insides.)
8. Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

* In a shallow rimmed dish, place a layer of raisins. Add enough rum (you won’t need a lot) to coat the raisins. Cover and let stand at room temperature until plump and hydrated…. I’ve even let mine hydrate for 3 days.

Source: Sing For Your Supper

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes


This recipe is a comfort meal for me. The sauce is made up of quartered artichoke hearts and diced tomatoes in a creamy light Parmesan sauce. An easy recipe to make during the weeknight, and we paired it with marinated chicken breasts to add some protein for a well-rounded meal.

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14.5-oz can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3/4 pound thin spaghetti
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chives (or other herbs), chopped

Directions:
1. Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside.
4. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and chicken broth.
5. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste (do not undersalt!). Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat.
6. Place drained pasta in a large bowl.
7. Sprinkle with 1 cup Parmesan cheese.
8. Pour sauce over the top.
9. Add chives.
10. Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon

Photo courtesy of Spice of Life

The sweet apple jelly and hot horseradish pair well with the salmon. This was a delightfully light and easy salmon recipe, and one of my favorite ways to cook salmon. I think it would be perfect to grill on a cedar plank when the weather is warmer.

Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup apple jelly
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 3 Tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
  • (4) 6-oz salmon fillets, skin removed
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the jelly, chives, horseradish, vinegar, and ¼ tsp kosher salt.
3. Heat oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat.
4. Sprinkle salmon on both sides with remaining salt and pepper.
5. Lay in a single layer, being careful not to crowd, and cook for 3 minutes.
6. Carefully flip the salmon fillets, and brush the tops with half the glaze.
7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until the meat flakes easily with a fork.
8. Remove from oven and brush with remaining glaze. Serve immediately.

Source: Originally from Cooking Light, As seen on Pink Parsley

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chewy, Fudgy Triple German Chocolate Caramel Brownies


Whenever I look for new baking recipes, I always start with looking at Baking Ilustrated. From the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, they have tested and re-tested many traditional recipes to make it fool-proof and explain why you should use what you do.

This brownie recipe was no exception. I love Ina’s Outrageous brownies, and this was another winner. I wanted to take it up a notch and incorporate the filling from my German Chocolate brownies since I love butterscotch and caramels with chocolate.

The brownies were made according to Baking Illustrated, but I added in a melted caramel/butterscotch combination that went from fantastic to heavenly. The original recipe calls to bake half the brownie batter for 8-10 minutes, but I felt as though the bottom half was undercooked, so I would increase the baking time to 15 minutes (which is edited below). The end result was rich, smooth, and incredibly delicious.

Update- Everyday Sisters blog is hosting their weekly "Sharing Sundays" and this week's theme is chocolate! Take a look at the wonderful selection of chocolate treats!

Chewy, Fudgy Triple German Chocolate Caramel Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz package of Kraft caramels
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 5 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups (8¾ oz) sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips

Directions:
1. Place an oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. Unwrap the caramels, and melt them with the evaporated milk over medium-low heat.
3. In a separate heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth.
4. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds.
6. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated.
7. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. (It took me a while to get the flour evenly incorporated and I was worried it would affect the texture of the brownies, but they turned out fabulously – no need to worry.)
8. Pour half of the batter into the lined baking dish, making sure it is level and the entire surface is covered with the batter. Bake for 15 minutes.
9. After 15 minutes, remove the brownies from the oven, pour the melted caramels over the brownies, and sprinkle the butterscotch chips.
10. Pour the remaining mixture over top and spread with a spatula to make an even layer.
11. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 30 minutes.
12. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
13. Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares as desired.
14. Store in an air-tight container.

Source: Originally from Baking Illustrated, Adapted from Annie’s Eats, As seen on Proceed with Caution

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sausage balls


A quick and savory appetizer that will definitely be different than what everyone else will be bringing. I brought these to a work snack day and they were well-received. I love them since they’re portable- but beware- you can’t stop at just one sausage ball. Co-workers kept popping more and more sausage balls- They are just that addicting. I originally used maple sausage, but both DB and I agreed it would taste even better with spicy sausage, and just a tad more milk to make them moist.

Sausage Balls


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 1 pound spicy sausage roll (raw, not cooked)
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½-3/4 cup whole milk (I used ¾ cup but will increase to 1 cup next time), just until there weren’t any dry spots
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prep a shallow-rimmed baking pan with foil. Coat the foil with cooking spray.
3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (it’s easiest if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer – use the dough hook), roll into 1 inch balls and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the balls are golden brown.

4. Cool completely.

Source: Adapted from Sing For Your Supper

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


This was my first attempt at making red velvet cupcakes, and both my DB and I loved it!
We invited our friends Kristie and Eddie over to celebrate their engagement, and Kristie’s favorite cake is red velvet. This was highly rated amongst many bloggers and I was put to ease at how easy it was to make it. The flavor had a slight tanginess and we both loved the end results. A traditional red velvet cake is a combination that isn’t too chocolatey, very moist, and not-too-sweet frosting. Not ever having tried red velvet cake to compare it to, but we loved it regardless.

I topped each cupcake with a heart-shaped cookie for a special touch.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


For the cake
  • 2-1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or make your own homemade version here)
  • 2 Tbsp (1 oz) red food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white distilled vinegar
For the frosting**
  • 12 oz (1-1/2 blocks) cream cheese, softened
  • 12 oz (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)
Directions:
For the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined.
  4. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  5. Divide batter evenly between 3 greased and floured 8" round cake pans.
  6. Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 25–30 minutes. (If baking cupcakes, bake for 20-22 minutes.)
  7. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely.


For the frosting

  1. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined.
  2. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5–7 minutes.
  3. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, level off with a serrated knife, and spread one-quarter of the frosting on top.
  4. Set another layer on top, level, and repeat frosting.
  5. Set remaining layer on top, level, and frost top and sides with the remaining frosting.
  6. Press pecans into the sides of the cake, if desired. **Tip: after leveling cake, turn it upside down to reduce numbers of crumbs. I also did a crumb coat on the outside, let it set for ten minutes, then finished with remaining frosting.
  7. Chill for 2 hours to set frosting.

** Halve the batch of cream cheese frosting if you’re planning to use it for cupcakes.

Source: Originally from Saveur, Adapted from Cake Man Raven Confectionery, As seen on Apple A Day

Monday, March 7, 2011

Slow Cooker Hanky Panky Dip

Photo courtesy of Blessings in Abundance
At my work’s Snack Day…

I sit here and have to laugh because our work always seems to have snack days. Well, what is a celebration without some food, right? This hanky panky dip is a little different than the norm, but we love it. I especially like it since it can stay in a crockpot and friends/co-workers can continue to enjoy it throughout the day. A snack day at work isn’t complete without this hanky panky dip. Thanks to Johonna for always making this dip when we worked together at the Media Center!

Johonna’s Slow Cooker Hanky Panky Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds breakfast sausage rolls* (I normally use Bob Evans' Spicy sausage roll)
  • Dash of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Dash of creole seasoning (optional) or salt
  • 2 pounds Velveeta cheese block , cubed (This is a normal block)
  • Splash of milk
  • Fritos Scoops or Tortilla Chips

Directions:
1. In a medium size skillet, brown the sausage and ground beef, and add the crushed red pepper and creole seasoning/salt (if using).
2. Place the browned sausage into a crockpot, and add the cubed Velveeta cheese and splash of milk.
3. Set it on LOW, and allow it to melt. (This can take an hour, but you can speed up the process by microwaving the cheese and then adding it to the slow cooker.) You will need to add milk to get to your desired consistency.
4. Enjoy with Fritos Scoops or Tortilla Chips!

* Note: You can use spicy sausage (and thus omit the crushed red pepper)

Make ahead tip: You can brown the sausage the evening before. Then, place the sausage and cheese into a crockpot the day of and allow the cheese to melt (will take a few hours).

Source: As made by my co-worker Johonna

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cheesecake Mousse


One of my DB’s favorite dessert is cheesecake. I wanted to make him a special dessert, and I was thrilled to come across this recipe on Books ‘N Cooks. It combines the creaminess of a cheesecake (what DB prefers), but light and airy like a mousse (what I prefer).

The cheesecake is lightened by adding some whipped cream, with a base of graham cracker crust crumbles. I topped this off with a berry sauce, and we were both in heaven. I originally had this served in martini glasses, but I couldn’t resist the mini martini glasses (which will be perfect for parties)!

Cheesecake Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 graham crackers, finely ground

Directions:
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
2. Switch to a whisk attachment and in a clean bowl, whisk heavy cream on high until stiff peaks are formed.
3. Fold into cream cheese mixture.
4. Portion into serving glasses or bowls, layering the mousse and the graham cracker crumbs.
5. Top with berry sauce (listed below).
6. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Source: Books ‘N Cooks

Berry Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 1 pint mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, black berries)

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the jelly.
2. Remove from heat and toss with berries.
3. Top cheesecake mousse and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: Adapted from Ina Garten, as seen on Books ‘N Cooks

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Smothered Pork Chops


I’ve been making these smothered pork chops for years! It is such a comfort food, and requires few steps and easy skills. Basically, you season and dredge the pork chops in flour, sauté them, and make a quick creamy gravy. The original recipe was somewhat bland for our tastes, so the recipe below is our “kicked up” version of it, which boasts flavor and creaminess. The pork chops turn out very tender, moist, and flavorful.

We like to pair it with rice or mashed potatoes, and round it out with some steamed broccoli/cauliflower and a salad. Perfect for a weeknight meal, yet nice enough to serve for company.

Smothered Pork Chops

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Creole seasoning (I use Tony Cachere’s Original Creole Seasoning), or salt & pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops, ¾” thick (“thick cut”)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk (make your homemade version here)
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Directions

  1. Put the flour in a shallow platter and add the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly.
  2. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels to remove any moisture and season them with Creole seasoning.
  3. Once seasoned, dredge them in the seasoned flour; shaking off the excess.
  4. Heat a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat with the oil.
  5. When the oil is nice and hot, lay the pork chops in the pan in a single layer and fry for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  6. Remove the pork chops from the pan and add a little sprinkle of seasoned flour to the pan drippings.
  7. Mix the flour into the fat to dissolve and then pour in the chicken broth in. Let the liquid cook down for 5 minutes to reduce and thicken slightly.
  8. Stir in the buttermilk to make a creamy gravy and return the pork chops to the pan, covering them with the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until the pork is cooked through. (I have cooked them up to 45 minutes with great results- the chops are essentially being braised, which results in very tender meat.)
  9. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence
 
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