Friday, November 6, 2015

Cookie 'n Cream Brownies

These are my dream brownies come true. The fluffy white frosting is the perfect compliment to the fudgey brownies. And topping just about anything with mini Oreos seems like a very, very good idea.

I've tweaked this recipe a bit so that you make your own marshmallow cream, instead of having to buy the store-bought stuff, since that can be hard for me to find (and expensive!).





























COOKIES 'N CREAM BROWNIES 

BROWNIES
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

FLUFFY WHITE FROSTING
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 

CHOCOLATE TOPPING
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons very hot water
  • mini Oreo cookies 

Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper. Spray parchment with cooking spray.   


Melt butter over low heat. Add chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Turn off the burner, but leave the pan on it to keep it warm.  


In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt until incorporated. 


Gradually whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Add the vanilla.


Place the flour and cocoa in a sifter or wire mesh strainer. Sift directly into the batter and stir with a spatula until just combined.  


Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread until even .  


Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  


Cool for several hours or overnight.  


To make the frosting, start by making a marshmallow cream.  Beat the egg white, corn syrup, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment. Beat on high for 8-10 minutes or until stiff peaks form.  


Remove the marshmallow cream to another bowl. Change the attachment to the paddle.  


Beat shortening and butter until well combined. Add the marshmallow cream back to the bowl. 


Add the vanilla. 


Slowly mix in the powdered sugar a half-cup at a time. Beating well after each addition.  


Spread frosting evenly over brownies and top with mini Oreos.  


Make the chocolate topping by melting the butter and corn syrup in a small saucepan. 


Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Stir in hot water to thin the mixture. 


Drizzle over the top of the brownies.  


Chill for at least one hour.


Cut into bars while chilled, but serve at room temperature.   


Source: Modified from Crazy for Crust

Mexican Chopped Salad

I've been loving salads lately. This is another really good one. And a nice, light addition to any Mexican meal.

















MEXICAN CHOPPED SALAD
  • 2 1/2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 can (15.5 ounce) black beans, rinsed and well-drained
  • 3/4 cup tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup jicama, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup corn, fresh, frozen, or canned
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled 

DRESSING
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons honey 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Combine lettuce, black beans, tomato, jicama, corn, green onions, red pepper, and cilantro in large bowl and toss to combine. 


Add dressing and mix well. 


Top with avocado and feta cheese.
  

Modified from: Epicurious

Monday, October 5, 2015

Panzanella

I've made this salad three times in the last month. And I keep thinking of other reasons to make it. Clearly, I'm a fan.

Here are five things I love about it:

  1. Grilled bread cubes soaked in garlicky dressing--um, yum.  
  2. It's pretty heavy on the veggies without any greens. Sometimes I don't love greens.  
  3. Cheese--you can opt for mozzarella or feta.  
  4. It looks colorful and pretty and fancy (even though it's not) when assembled.
  5. Makes a great, hearty accompaniment for many meals: pizza, salmon, pasta.


















PANZANELLA 
  • olive oil
  • 1 small loaf artisan bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and slice 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
  • 4 ounces feta or mozzarella
  • 20 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade, see here (optional)

VINAIGRETTE
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. 


Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes, and red onion in a large bowl.  


For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion.  

Pour vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add cheese and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Top with basil, if using.   


Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature. 


Source: Ina Garten 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Beet & Arugula Salad

I had a beet salad at a restaurant back in May and I've been thinking about it ever since. After looking at lots of recipes and sampling many different versions over the summer, this is how it ended up. I added shredded chicken so it would be more of a meal and ate it over the course of several days.

YUM-O!  
















BEET & ARUGULA SALAD
  • 8 medium-sized beets, tops removed and scrubbed 
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 4 ounces baby arugula
  • 4 ounces feta (or goat cheese)
  • 2 avocados 
  • 1/3 cup roasted or candied nuts (optional)
  • shredded chicken (optional) 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 


Wrap the beets individually in foil and place on a sheet pan. 


Roast beets for 50-60 minutes, until a small sharp knife inserted in the middle indicates they are tender.  


Unwrap each beet and set aside for 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle.


Peel the beets with a small knife over a piece or parchment to prevent staining.


Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and set aside.


While the beets are still warm, cut them into chunks and place them in a large mixing bowl.  


Toss the beets with half the dressing, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  


Place the arugula in a separate bowl and toss with enough dressing to moisten. 


Put the arugula on a serving platter and then arrange the beets, feta, avocado, and nuts and chicken (if using). 


Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve warm or room temperature. 


Recipe Source: Ina Garten (slightly modified) 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Kielbasa Hash

There's really nothing better than being able to throw together a tasty, hearty meal in just a few minutes. Feel free to tweak the ingredients, based on what you like!














KIELBASA HASH

  • 1 (14 ounce) package turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced 
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • olive oil 
  • salt and pepper

In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.  


Add the sweet potato and russet potato to the skillet and season with salt and pepper.  


Fry until golden and cooked through, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning.  


In a separate skillet, brown the sliced kielbasa for 5 minutes in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  


Remove the kielbasa from the pan and set aside.  


Add the onions to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes.  


Add the yellow pepper and zucchini and a pinch of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes more.


Add the cooked potatoes and kielbasa to the skillet and mix everything together.  

Source: modified from The Two Bite Club 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mango and Black Bean Quinoa

I like the flavor combinations in this little salad. Sometimes mango in conjunction with more savory things like black beans and red peppers is just so tasty.

*Note on Quinoa:
The first time I made this I used 2 cups of uncooked quinoa, which was way too much.  Clearly, I didn't read the directions carefully. Cook about 3/4 cup and you should have just enough for your 2 cups of cooked quinoa.















MANGO and BLACK BEAN QUINOA

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooked in vegetable or chicken broth, at room temperature or chilled
  • 1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place cooked quinoa in a large bowl.  Add mango, red pepper, green onions, black beans, and cilantro.  


In a small bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, and lime juice.  Whisk until smooth.  


Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.  


Add salt and pepper to taste.  


Chill for at least one hour before serving. 



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Strawberry Cupcakes

While strawberry would never be my first choice of cake flavor, I've been asked a couple times in the last year to make strawberry cupcakes for kids' birthdays.  So, instead of looking each time for a recipe, I thought it best to document it here for my own future reference and for anyone out there who loves strawberry cupcakes!

I made these for one of my favorite little people, Maddie,who turned three a while back and requested strawberry cupcakes. (I think she was actually more set on pink than strawberry.) This was the result and they were quite tasty.  I particularly enjoyed the fresh strawberry in the cupcakes.

Here's me with the birthday girl, all decked out in our princess gear.  
















STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES
  • 1 2/3 cup cake flour **(see note #1 below)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup fresh strawberry puree
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk **(see note #2 below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • red food coloring (optional)
  • 3/4 cup small diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  


Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk to combine.  


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter and sugar until slightly fluffy.  


Mix in egg and egg whites one at a time.  


In liquid measuring cup containing buttermilk, add strawberry puree and vanilla extract and whisk together.   


Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the buttermilk mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition.  


Fold in diced strawberries. 


Divide batter among 12 paper lined muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full.  


Bake for 20-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean.  


Allow to cool several minutes in muffin tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 


Frost with your desired frosting.  I would use this cream cheese buttercream or this whipped frosting.  

NOTE #1 ON CAKE FLOUR:
Cake flour is hard to find where I live, but luckily it is very easy to make.  Here are the very simple instructions. Make as much or as little as you need!

1. For every 1 cup of flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour.  

2. Add 2 tablespoons of corn starch to replace the flour removed.  

3. Sift 5-6 times and it's ready to use!  

NOTE #2 ON BUTTERMILK:
I never have buttermilk on hand, I just make it.  Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup.  Then add enough milk to reach 1/4 cup.  Let rest for 3 minutes.  

Source: Cooking Classy and Food.com 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Macaroons

I've made macaroons a few times before, but have often been frustrated with how they tend to ooze and spread out when baking.  I think this must have something to do with the step where you fold in the egg whites.  The great thing about this recipe is that you don't fold in egg whites and they have nowhere to ooze since they are baked in mini muffin tins. They are super easy and perfectly festive for the Easter season.

Happy Easter!




























COCONUT MACAROONS
  • 3/4 cup (5 large) egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Cadbury Mini Eggs
  • chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. 


In a heavy saucepan combine egg whites, sugar, and shredded coconut.  


Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until all the ingredients combine, about 12 minutes. This mixture should be sticky and moist, not dry.  


Remove from heat and stir in almond and vanilla extracts.  


Set aside and let cool for 10 minutes.  


Spray nonstick mini muffin tins with cooking spray.  


Drop heaping tablespoons into each tin, lightly pressing mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the tin to make the nests. A small measuring spoons works well.   


Bake 22-25 minutes, or until golden.  


Let cool 10 minutes, then carefully remove from muffin tins and allow to completely cool on a wire rack.  


Optional: I added a dollop of melted chocolate to each nest before topping with the eggs.  


Makes 24-36, depending on the size of your mini muffin tins.  


Source: Skinny Taste


I packaged these up  and took them to my Easter brunch with me this morning:



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cream Cheese Buttercream

I made a pumpkin cake (using this recipe) with this cream cheese buttercream for my teammate's birthday a few weeks back.

It was almost a disaster.

I had planned on making a simple powdered sugar cream cheese frosting, but as I've said before, the powdered sugar here is just terrible.  I should have known better.  The frosting was way too sweet to use on a whole cake and gritty and blah. I used a little of it for the middle filling, but then moved on to something else.

I found a recipe online for cream cheese buttercream, but got impatient and didn't let the cooked mixture cool enough.  Attempt #2, fail.

After reading some comments online and finding another recipe, I attempted this THIRD frosting.  Talk about wasted butter. Ugh. Well, after working my way through the recipe, I thought this one was going to be pretty ho-hum.  The texture was weird, but it tasted fine and seemed firm enough to hold up on a cake.  I actually spread it on the cake and resigned myself to an end product that wasn't pretty, but would taste okay.  It would just have to do.  While I was frosting the cake I left the leftover buttercream running in the stand mixture.  I was curious to see if it would get any better, texture-wise. And, LO AND BEHOLD, it finally came together!! Hallelujah.  I was so relieved that I actually removed the buttercream from the cake, re-whipped it until it smoothed out and frosted the cake over again. In the end, it turned out lovely and delicious.

And, it is really good and less time-intensive than most buttercreams I've tried.  The cream cheese flavor is subtle and the texture gloriously smooth.

So, the moral of the story is this: when making buttercream, do not give up.  Keep beating it.  It will come around. Eventually.


















CREAM CHEESE BUTTERCREAM

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 22 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, cut into small pieces

In a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and sugar.  Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm (about 140 F), whisking frequently (about 3-5 minutes).


Transfer the egg white/sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.


Add the salt and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and glossy (about 5-7 minutes).


Beat in the extract.


Then gradually add the butter and cream cheese piece by piece while beating; stop beating when the buttercream is thick and smooth.


NOTES: 
This is the part where you might need to persevere.  Follow these tips and you should be successful:

  • Scrape the bowl down frequently. 
  • Let each piece of butter or cream cheese incorporate fully before adding more.  
  • Let the buttercream beat for a long time.  If it looks grainy or too wet, keep going.  
  • If it is still not coming together, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and then continue beating it. 
Seriously, I thought my buttercream was a goner, but it just needed more time. When it is finished it will be smooth, glossy, and fluffy.

Source: An Edible Mosaic

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hummus

I currently live in the land of hummus. It's a pretty regular part of the diet in these parts so I haven't really felt a need to make my own, especially since I've tried to make it in the past unsuccessfully.  However, I was at book club a while back at my friend Kelly's house and she served this delicious homemade hummus.  I couldn't get enough.  I raved about it so much that she brought me the leftovers.  The texture is fantastic and it has a nice balance of lemon and garlic.  You can play with the ingredients to get the texture and flavor you like.














HUMMUS
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) chickpeas
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup tahini, stirred well
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Place chickpeas, garlic, and Kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for a minute or so.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  


Add the lemon juice, water, and tahini while the food processor is running.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.  


Add the olive oil with the food processor running and process until the hummus is a desired consistency.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Parmesan Chicken

This is a simple meal that makes me feel a little fancy.  I like that the chicken is pounded thin and always prefer to use arugula as the greens.  Be sure to use seasoned bread crumbs to avoid bland chicken.  


















PARMESAN CHICKEN

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs 
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • arugula (or other salad greens)

Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pound chicken breasts (between two sheets of parchment paper) until they are 1/4-inch thick.  Use either a meat mallet or rolling pin.  


Combine flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate.  


On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon water.  


On third plate, combine bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.    


Coat chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.


Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan.  


Cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through.  


Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. 


To make lemon vinaigrette, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  


Toss arugula with lemon vinaigrette.  


Place a mound of greens on each hot chicken breast. 


Top with additional Parmesan.  


Source: Ina Garten 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Peanut Butter Brownies

Oh, how I love chocolate and peanut butter together.  This recipe reminds me a lot of the chocolate peanut butter bars posted here, but I like them even a little more because the base is a brownie and doesn't require a boxed mix.






















PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES

Brownies:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs 
Peanut Butter Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk or whipping cream 
  • pinch of salt 
Glaze:
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter 


BROWNIES:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  


Prepare a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper.  Leave a few inches hanging over the side so the brownies can easily be lifted out after baking.  Spray parchment with non-stick spray.  


In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt.  Set aside.  


Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low-medium heat.  Stir until smooth.  


Set chocolate aside to cool for 8-10 minutes.   


Whisk sugar and vanilla into chocolate.  


Add one egg at a time to chocolate mixture, mixing well after each addition.  


Fold in flour mixture until just combined.  


Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.  


Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out mostly clean with some moist crumbs attached.  


Allow brownies to cool completely (1-2 hours) before frosting.  




PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING:


Beat butter and peanut butter with the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer).  


Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.  Beat well after each addition.  


Add vanilla, 1 tablespoon of milk (or cream), and salt.  


Beat on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes.  


Add more milk or cream if it is too thick.  


Spread frosting evenly over cooled brownies.    



GLAZE:

Melt chocolate and peanut butter together in a saucepan on medium-low heat.  Stir continuously until smooth.  


Allow mixture to cool for several minutes.  


Pour glaze over frosting and smooth evenly.  


Chill brownies in the fridge for several hours before cutting.  



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Peppermint Fluff

I love the retro look of this dessert. My friend Sue made it this last summer for a get together and I knew right away that I wanted to make it for Christmas.  If you're making this for a smaller crowd, half the recipe. I used the amounts below and had plenty of leftovers.  Thanks for the recipe, Sue!



















PEPPERMINT FLUFF
  • 1 pound peppermint candy
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 (9 ounce) packages chocolate wafer cookies * (see note below)

NOTE:  The wafer cookies I used come in a yellow box and are Nabisco brand.  They are called Famous Chocolate Wafters.  


Crush peppermint candy. I unwrapped the candies, put them in a plastic bag, and used a hammer to pound the crud out of them.


Heat crushed candy and light cream on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until candy is dissolved. This takes about 15-20 minutes.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure that the candy is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  


While cooking the cream and candy, mix the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and set aside.


Remove cream and candy mixture from the heat and add gelatin.  Stir to combine.  Chill until partially set.


Carefully fold in whipped cream.


Place a layer of wafers in the bottom of the pan and stand wafers around outside.  If you're halfing this recipe and using a small pan, break the wafters in half before placing them around the outside.


Spread half of peppermint mixture on top of wafers.


Top with a 2nd layer of wafers.


Spread remaining peppermint mixture and top with one last layer of wafters.


Chill for 12 hours.


Source:  Sue Jobst