Monday, February 28, 2011

Ghiradelli Award Winning Brownies

I was in need of a solid, from-scratch brownie recipe. The requirements? Quick to whip up, rich in chocolate flavor, and fudgey with a crisp top.

This recipe goes above and beyond in each area.

Guess where I found it? On the back of the Ghiradelli Sweet Ground Chocolate & Cocoa canister! Who knew?! So far, Ghiradelli recipes have come through big time for me. My favorite chocolate chip cookies are on the back of the semi-sweet chocolate chips bag.

I must admit, these brownies are so chocolatey-rich, you should eat them with ice cream. A little hot fudge doesn't hurt either. 

Ghiradelli Award Winning Brownies
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
3/4 cup Ghiradelli Sweet Ground Chocolate & Cocoa
2/3 cup unsifted flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup 60% Ghiradelli Coaco Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional - I did not add these)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a spoon, stir eggs with sugar and vanilla; add butter.
2. Sift Sweet Ground Chocolate with flour, baking powder and salt (I did not sift and it came out great). Stir into egg mixture.
3. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
4. Spread into a greased 8" square pan. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

This is pure deliciousness. The peanut butter frosting is the best I've ever tasted. Think peanut butter-chocolate pie, or peanut butter ice cream...yum! Thank you to my friend Lauren from Kansas City to opening my eyes (and mouth...and heart!) to this recipe. Happy baking!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes (Ina Garten)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra large eggs, at room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temp
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temp
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
large handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips (Lauren's addition)
Kathleen's Peant Butter Icing to follow

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
3. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.
5. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
6. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
7. Add in the chocolate chips.
8. Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (be careful to not overbake). Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting. If baking mini cupcakes, reduce cooking time to approximately 10-13 minutes.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Butternut Squash Risotto

If you are wanting a change-up from a classic or mushroom risotto, try this one! It's another great way to use butternut squash. I must confess, I ate all the leftovers - a HUGE portion - in one sitting today. It's that yummy!

The original recipe is from Barefoot Contessa's Ina Garten.

Butternut Squash Risotto
1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
3 strips of bacon (or 2 oz. pancetta), diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 green onion, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash, remove seeds and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a pot. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
3. In a skillet or large pan, melt the butter and saute the bacon, shallots and garlic, until the shallots are transparent but not browned - about 7-10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter.
4. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring frequently. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Cook until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
5. Off the heat, stir in the cheese, butternut squash and green onion. Mix well and serve.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Julie's Pot Roast

You know that amazing meal your mom made every Sunday? Well, this is it. It's another crock pot meal (yay!). After 5-8 hours of slow cooking, this meal transforms into the most moist and tender meat, and flavorful veggies.

I definitely looked forward to my mom making this every week. With five kids running around, this had to have been one of, if not the easiest meal of the week. I'll say it again...crock pot meals, gotta love 'em! Thanks to my mom for this delicious recipe, it is a regular in our house! And a favorite of our friends.

Julie's Pot Roast
1 rump roast
2 celery stalks, chopped
4-8 carrots, chopped
2-4 potatoes, chopped (Yukon Gold are yummy in this!)
fresh or frozen green beans
1 can cream of chicken soup (Healthy Request kind from Campbell's)
1 1/2 cup water (use the soup can as your measuring cup)
1 packet Lipton onion dry soup mix
salt & pepper
cornstarch (if making gravy)

1. Combine soup, dry soup mix and water in crock pot. Stir together.
2. Add a small handful of celery, carrots, potatoes and green beans.
3. Season all sides of rump roast with salt and pepper. Place roast in crock pot, fat side up.
4. Place remaining veggies around and on top of the roast. Salt and pepper.
5. Cover, and cook for 5-6 hours on high, or 7-8 hours on low.
6. With one hour left of cooking, slice meat and return back to crock pot. This produces very tender cuts of meat that are soaked thoroughly in the juice. You can also add frozen green beans at this point if you prefer them over fresh green beans.
7. Serve with meat ladled with juice, and enjoy.

Kathy's Lazy Daisy Cake

Think mixed berries, yellow sponge cake, and homemade whipped cream.

It's kinda like family chats on the deck, the cool, summer morning breeze, and running through crisp grass at dusk in barefeet.

That's what this cake is all about. The slight tartness of the berries are PERFECT with the sweetness of the spongey-cake (which has the most amazing texture).

And, it's so simple. Seriously. Five or 10 minutes, and it's in the oven.

Thank you to our good friend Kathy from Collinsville, OK for this recipe!

Kathy's Lazy Daisy Cake
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag mixed frozen berries

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 teaspoons powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl, except for berries. Mix together until smooth.
2. Put mixed berries in bottom of 9x9" (or similar size) baking dish.
3. Pour cake mixture over berries, making sure you cannot see any berries poking through.
4. Bake 350 degrees for 30 - 45 minutes. Once cake starts to brown, cover with foil to prevent burning.
5. Make whipped cream by first putting mixing bowl and mixing attachment in freezer for 5 or more minutes. Pour cream into bowl and mix at the highest speed. When very soft peaks form, add in sugar and vanilla while mixing, to taste. Continue to mix until you reach desired consistency.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Decadence Bars

Today is Valentine's Day. So I made sure to bake Luke's favorite dessert: Decadence Bars. They are so good I had to include two pictures. Seriously, these are delicious. To celebrate V-Day, here is a poem about why I LOVE these bars:

Oh four layers of gooey goodness
How I love thee
Crumble crust, chocolate chips, coconut, pecans
Baked till caramelization
All I can say is...YUMMMM!
Divine little morsels, salty and sweet, 
I could eat the whole pan,
Of this most delicious special treat.

Decadence Bars
1 stick butter, cut into tablespoons
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped pecans
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1. While preheating oven to 350 degrees, melt butter in 9x13" baking pan. Once melted, take pan out of oven.
2. One layer at a time, sprinkle graham cracker crumbs, coconut, chocolate chips and pecans.
3. Pour (or drizzle with a spoon) the sweetened condensed milk all over.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Restaurant-Style Mushroom Pancetta Pasta

We've been making this pasta dish once a week - that's how good it is. This serves two people, so double if you are cooking for more. You can use any type of pasta - papardelle, fettucine, spaghetti, gnocchi or tortellini - whatever your tummy feels like!

Restaurant-Style Mushroom Pancetta Pasta
1 box/bag pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pound baby portabella mushrooms, sliced thinly
50 grams pancetta, small cubes
1/4 cup white wine
150 ml heavy whipping cream
1 spring onion, sliced
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
freshly shaved parmesan, to serve

1. Put butter and olive oil in a large nonstick pan, and heat over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and mushrooms, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente and drain (don't rinse!).
3. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the white wine to the pan and cook until the alcohol has cooked off, about 1-2 minutes.
5. Pour in the whipping cream and add in the spring onions. Stir well and bring down to medium low heat. Cook gently for another 8 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
6. Put the cooked pasta into the sauce pan and combine well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese and parsley, and enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Crock pot meals - gotta love how easy they are. This was our first try at BBQ pulled pork in a slow cooker, and it was a success. Double or triple the recipe to serve to a large crowd. The original recipe is from Good Housekeeping Magazine, but I did use some substitutions because I didn't have all the ingredients at home. Enjoy!

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup (or tomato paste)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard or yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
2-4 pound boneless pork shoulder blade roast, cut into 4 pieces OR 1.7-2 lb tenderloin

1. In 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow-cooker pot, stir onion, BBQ sauce, ketchup, vinegar, applesauce, brown sugar, paprika, Worcestershire, mustard, salt, and pepper until combined. Add pork to sauce mixture and turn to coat well with sauce.2. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook pork mixture on low setting as manufacturer directs, 8 to 10 hours or until pork is very tender. (The one I did was a 1.7 lb tenderloin, and it was done around 4-5 hours)
3. With tongs, transfer pork to large bowl. Turn setting on slow cooker to high; cover and heat sauce to boiling to thicken and reduce slightly.
4. While sauce boils, with 2 forks, pull pork into shreds. Return shredded pork to slow cooker and toss with sauce to combine. Cover slow cooker and heat through on high setting if necessary.
5. Spoon pork mixture onto bottom of sandwich buns or bread, and serve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To-Die-For Brownie Cheesecake Tarts

Chewy chocolate brownie-like cups. Light and slightly tart cream cheese filling. Fresh, sweet strawberries on top. How much better can it get? These little bites of heaven are probably the prettiest, and arguably the best tasting dessert I've made (my husband loves his Decadence Bars!). They are perfect for a bridal or baby shower, or a girly or family get-together. 

I got this recipe from a friend named Samira, and I hear the original recipe is from Real Simple Magazine (I'm trying to give credit where credit is due!)...but I haven't ever found it online.

Enjoy these beautiful morsels. 

To-Die-For Brownie Cheesecake Tarts
1/4 cup light corn syrup
50 Nilla wafers rolled into crumbs
1 package cream cheese, softened (either leave at room temperature for a few hours, or put in microwave for about 15 seconds)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 pint strawberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. On medium heat melt butter, corn syrup and chocolate chips until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in wafer crumbs. While still warm divide evenly among mini muffin cups. Press with tart shaper (if you don't have a tart shaper, press with the end of a French rolling pin or citris reemer, or something that has a 1" flat circular end). 
2. Chill for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside to chill more.
3. Beat together softened cream cheese and powdered sugar. Fill each tart with mixture (pipe it in to make it look really nice).

4. Slice strawberries with an egg slicer and place slices on each tart.

Luke's Chicken Apple Vinaigrette Salad

My hubby came up with this perfectly paired chicken, apple and vinaigrette salad! For the best bite, serve with the chicken still warm from the pan. This salad is a frequent one in our house, as it's also great with leftover chicken. You can save the extra dressing in the fridge for a few days (or weeks) as well (just warm it up a little, and shake to re-use).

Luke's Chicken Apple Vinaigrette Salad
2-4 chicken breasts
2-4 tbsp olive oil
onion powder
garlic powder
salt & pepper
1 container of gorgonzola cheese
1/4 - 1/2 cup honey roasted pecans
2 apples, chopped into bite size pieces
1 bag romaine lettuce

Champagne Vinaigrette Dressing:
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (seeded is best)
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 bag of romaine lettuce

1. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Heat up appropriate amount of olive oil (according to how much chicken you are using), on medium-high heat until just smoking. Put seasoned chicken breasts into hot pan and sear. Turn down heat to medium after you sear one side. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked halfway through. Turn up the heat and flip chicken to get a nice sear on the other side. Once that side is seared, turn down heat and cook for another 5-7 minutes until chicken is done. Take chicken off and tent with foil.
2. In a bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, honey and 1 1/2 tbsp water. Whisking constantly, slowly add the oil. Add the shallot and set aside.
3. Combine romaine lettuce and parsley, and add preferred amount of cheese, pecans and apples.
4. Slice warm chicken and layer onto of the salad. Top with dressing and serve!

Seared Salmon with Mango-Mint Salsa

Who thought mango and mint would be so good and refreshing on top of salmon? Well, a good family friend of ours made a similar recipe for us...and it opened up my eyes to this beautiful combination.

This seriously took about 15 minutes to make, and the end result tastes restaurant-quality. This is an American Test Kitchen recipe, and I didn't change a thing. My one tip for this is, make sure you get a really crisp sear on the salmon - it pares well with the salsa. Also, you can halve this recipe if you are cooking for 2 people. One more thing...don't be afraid of the jalepeno pepper! It doesn't make it hot because the mint and lime balance it out.

Seared Salmon with Mango-Mint Salsa
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 jalepeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced (wash hands immediately! don't rub eyes!)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
salt & pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4 salmon filets (each 6-8 ounces and 1 1/4" thick, you can keep the skin on the one side, or take it off)

1. Toss mangoes, jalepenos, mint, lime juice, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 3 tbsp oil in large bowl. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes.
2. Pat salmon dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat remaining oil in large nonstick pan or skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook salmon until well browned and cook until the salmon flakes, 3-5 minutes per side.
3. Top with mango mixture and serve.

Note: If you keep the skin on the fish while cooking, you can slide it off when eating. I personally prefer not eating the skin!

Hearty Lentil-Orzo Soup

I'm not much of a vegan fact, I'm not at all. (I still have yet to enjoy tofu!) But, lentils are delicious, and when cooked correctly with the right ingredients, you don't even miss the meat.

This Lentil-Orzo soup is so healthy, hearty and full of flavor. Top it off with a dash of red pepper flakes and this soup comes alive. The original Better Homes & Gardens recipe called for barley, but I prefer the texture of orzo, a rice-shaped pasta. I've used fresh rosemary instead of dry, and the result was fantastic. (Common rule is 1 tsp of dry herb = 1 tbsp of fresh herb). Also, if you're looking to save money, one bag of lentils can make about 4 pots of this soup, or 4 meals!

Lentil-Orzo Soup
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
6 cups water (or 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock)
1 28-ounce can stewed tomatoes
3/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup orzo
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 vegetable or chicken bouillon cubes (omit if using stock)
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
dash of red pepper flakes, to taste

1. Cook onion, celery and garlic in hot butter in pot. Cook until tender, but don't burn the garlic!
2. Add water (or stock), undrained tomatoes (break them up in the pot if needed), lentils, orzo, bouillon cubes (omit if using stock), rosemary, oregano, and pepper. Bring to boiling and reduce heat.
3. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Add carrots and simmer for 15 minutes or more until carrots are tender.
5. Salt to taste, and add a dash of red pepper flakes, to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Upscale BBQ Chicken Pizza

This isn't your typical BBQ chicken pizza. Fresh cilantro, red onion and a delicious sour cream-lime dip make this America's Test Kitchen recipe more upscale than what you'd find in a pizza shop. I followed this recipe pretty closely to the original, used Oklahoma Joe's BBQ sauce...and it was a winner! This could be an appetizer or entree.

BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, meat shredded (OR 3-4 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bit-sized pieces), about 3 cups worth
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
salt & pepper
1 (1-pound) fresh ready-made pizza dough (can be found in refridgerator section)
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine chicken, BBQ sauce and 2 tbsp cilantro in bowl.
2. Toss onion, 1 tbsp oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in small bowl. Put onion mixture in roasting pan and put in hot oven for about 10 minutes, until barely roasted.
3. Brush additional 2 tbsp oil all over rimmed baking sheet. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into 16x19" oval, about 1/4" thick and transfer to baking sheet. Brush dough with remaining oil and bake until dough begins to brown and bubble, about 5-6 minutes.
4. Scatter chicken mixture over dough and top with barely roasted onion mixture. Bake for about 5-8 minutes, until dough begins to brown (the brand of dough you choose can vary the cooking time). Take pizza out and sprinkle with cheese and bake again until melted, about 5 minutes.
5. Transfer pizza to cutting board. Whisk sour cream, lime juice and remaining cilantro in small bowl, then either drizzle over pizza, or serve as a dip.