Thursday, September 30, 2010

Almost Thanksgiving, Dinner

In an effort to quickly make my grocery list, I grabbed Food Network Magazine while running out my door. (Go Figure!) While sitting shot gun on my way to the store, I picked out a few delicious-sounding recipes. The first of which I was very excited to make because I couldn't begin to put my finger on how it would taste. To my surprise, FN's Honey-Mustard Chicken with Apples totally hit the spot! (Mustard and apples cooked together sounds weird, right? Well the recipe calls for onions too, and they all blend amazingly together!)

After baking, the apples almost melt in with the chicken and onions. I couldn't serve the dish without some sort of starch so I whipped up my favorite mashed potoates, and together with the apple/onion mixture, it was like Thanksgiving on a plate! Seriously, every bite was a burst of flavor in your mouth. I couldn't get enough!

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (2 to 2.5 pounds)
Salt and ground pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into large chunks
2 cooking apples (such as Cortland), cut into chunks
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 to 3 tbsp honey mustard
1.5 tsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 to 2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook 2 to 3 more minutes, then transfer to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the drippings.
2) Add the onion and apples to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Mix the broth with the mustard, then add to the skillet and bring to a boil. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up, in the skillet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
3) Mix the butter and flour to form a paste. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken, apples and onion to plates. Bring the pan juices to a simmer, whisk in about half of the butter/flour mixture and boil to thicken, 2 minutes. Continue to cook, adding more of the butter/flour mixture as needed to make a slightly thick gravy. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I couldn't let a weekend go by without baking so before starting my talapia dish, from the post before, Lauren and I whipped up a batch of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes. Sounds delish, right?? They were!

I figured I could just tuck Reese's cups inside any chocolate cupcake recipe, but wanted to make sure they'd be great so I searched high and low and found a great recipe from Mindika Moments, which I soon found out was her own homemade recipe. The batter was very fluffy, which helped keep the Reese's cup from sinking while baking. They turned out so rich, incredibly delicious and look beautiful! (Thanks to my baking assistants Lauren and Becky) ;)

8 ounces cream cheese (about 1 cup), softened
2 egg whites
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 box chocolate fudge cake mix
1 cup water
36 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large bowl combine cream cheese, egg whites and vegetable oil. Using a mixer, beat the ingredients until combined and creamy. Add the cake mix and water and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes.
3) Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full. Place 1 mini Reese Peanut Butter Cup on top of the batter. Do not put the cup down into the batter, just set it on top. Bake about 18 to 20 minutes. The Reese’s will settle down into the cupcake as they bake.
4) Remove from the oven and let cool slightly in the tin, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack. When cool, frost with the frosting. Then top each cupcake with a mini peanut butter cup sliced in half.

Frosting Recipe:
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
3 tbsp coco powder
3-4 cup powdered sugar

1) Beat the peanut butter and butter with a mixer until smooth.
2) Add the coco powder and mix well.
3) Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until desired thickness of frosting.
4) This frosting is quite thick so you'll need to thin it out a little, add a couple tablespoons of milk. I used about 4.

5) Frost as desired then top with little Reese's chunks.

Cooking Party # 2: Talapia with Hash Browns

I seriously love Food Network Magazine lately. I've been getting the magazine for 6 months now, checking out recipe after recipe and just wasn't inspired enough to actually try one. After making FN's ever so delicious Bow-tie Pasta with Broccoli and Potatoes, I knew I was hooked. In the same section as the pasta recipe, I found an interesting recipe for Talapia with Hash Browns. I really enjoy fish and absolutely LOVE potatoes so I figured this would be great. And it definitely was.

I spent last weekend hanging out with friends in the city, and was reminde
d that all summer long I wanted to have everyone over for a BBQ. It wasn't quite the weather for it, so I had a fish fry instead. Becky and Lauren came over just in time to help me prep for the meal. (Well, Lauren came just in time to help me bake cupcakes too, but that will be in the next post.)

My girls were a huge help with the slicing and chopping of vegetables, as I fried and prepared the potatoes and fish. The end result.. a meal made in perfect harmony! We loved how well the vegetables married with the fish and potatoes.

1 12oz bag of frozen shredded hash browns, thawed (I bought cubed hash instead)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed then thinly sliced
kosher salt
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives, roughly chopped
3/4 pound tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers
3 scallions, white and green parts only, chopped1 1/2 lbs skinless talapia filets
freshly ground black pepper
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Toss hash browns with the garlic and 1 tsp salt in bowl. Heat 2 tbps of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the hash browns, flatten with spatula and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Flip the potato cake and pat it back into shape. Cook and crisp until, another 6 to 8 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, mix the olives, tomatoes, roasted peppers, scallions
and parsley in a bowl. Cut the fish into 12 pieces and season with the dried herbs, salt and pepper.
4) Scatter half of the olive mixture over the potato cake and top with the fish. Scatter the remaining olive mixture on top and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the fish is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Serve directly from skillet.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cupcakes from Coast to Coast!

I just LOVE checking out cupcake boutiques, so it should be no surprise that while on work trips or personal vacations, I try to seek out the local hotspots.

While in California for work, I made a quick stop to Yummy Cupcakes, in Santa Monica. I am pretty sure they competed on the Food Network show Cupcake Wars, but I can't seem to find proof. lol. Either way, the shop was so cute. Covered in pink and brown decor, the bakery smelled and looked amazing. With so many different flavors, it was hard to pick just one, but I went with a chocolate, cream cheese frosted cupcake covered in coconut. It was definitely YUMMY!

Next stop: Michigan! While in the mall, I came across Just Baked. (Yes, a mall is a weird place for a cupcake shop, but there are 2 or 3 other Just Baked street locations.) These too were delicious. They even had my most favorite flavor ever! A rich chocolate cupcake, with butter cream filling, topped with a big mound of butter cream frosting, then coated in chocolate ganache. This is usually sold in cake from, called Bumpy Cake and is hands down my all time favorite cake... (to the point I had my family bring a cake with them when they came to visit.) I was so excited to see it! My all time favorite cake in cupcake form. I loved it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chicken with a Cheesy Twist!

Last week, I was in the mood for some sort of yummy chicken dish. I always have chicken on hand, but wanted to try something other than a simple spiced, grilled chicken breast. Like always, I searched through my favorite cooking blogs and found a great recipe for Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato Sauce, from Annie's Eats.

It's a fairly simple recipe but somehow, I managed to mess it up. :( Rather than making a sauce, my end result was more of a paste, but it tasted great none the less. I have to say, goat cheese mixed with sun-dried tomatoes was a very tasty combination. The tartness of the cheese blended very well with texture and flavor of the tomatoes. I just wish I would have gotten the sauce right, to really get the full affect. Oh well.. I still love the dish. :)

Check out my version versus Annie's.

My version

Annie's Eat's version (So much better!)

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (and drained, if packed in oil.)
2 oz herbed goat cheese
salt and pepper

1) Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add chicken breasts. Cook through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Set aside.
2) In the same skillet, add the wine. Cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half, being sure to scrape up any browned bits from the chicken. Add the chicken broth and reduce that by about half too. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and heat through.
3) Remove skillet from heat and stir in the goat cheese. Top the chicken breasts with sauce and serve.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ICE Cooking Class # 2

Back in July, I took a second cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education called Signature Dishes from Great American Steakhouses. I was joined by my friend Gina, who also shares my passion for cooking (and whose husband is also a chef!) We both received gift certificates for ICE a while back and couldn't decide whether we wanted to take a baking class or cooking class. After sharing stories of steak dinners gone bad, we realized this was the class for us!

Our class was four hours, beginning with a very useful lecture. We spent the following two hours cooking, then spent the last hour stuffing our faces. :) I don't want to spoil the class since I would highly advise others taking this, but to give you a brief recap: our packet of recipes contained recipes used in steakhouses like Peter Luger's, Ruth Chris' Steak House and various other well named restaurants. To cook, we split into three groups, each preparing a main dish and two sides, or in my groups case, dessert. Gina, myself and our team prepared skirt steak in red wine mojo with a orange mango salsa, parmesan broccoli raab and Baked Alaskan. (Which, by the way, is the craziest dessert I have ever seen.)

All of the recipes were great and we had a lot of fun preparing everything and watching everyone else at work. Obviously, I can't give these recipes away, but I can say that they are all delicious and I've already prepared a few since. Enjoy the photos!

Gina and I posing in our Chef's gear ;)

All of the food prepared by our class

Our Skirt Steak with Red Wine Mojo

Our Broccoli Raab, on the right

The Baked Alaskan...being baked! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough CUPCAKE!

I seriously can't get enough of cupcakes lately. They are so addicting to bake, and obviously more addicting to eat! So what's a girl to do? Bake like crazy, then pawn them off on my co-workers. ;) Yup... that's right. Since I obviously can't eat everything that I bake, I recently started bringing my cupcakes into work and they've been a hit ever since.

I had to make this batch over the top so I found the best thing I possibl
y could and came up with this: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes! Yummmmy! Imagine a sweet and fluffy cupcake filled with gooey cookie dough, topped with brown sugar and chocolate chip icing. These are beyond delicious!

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk (I used whole milk)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For decoration:
Mini chocolate chips

1) To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
2) Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
3) Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4) To make the cookie dough filling, combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour.
5) To fill the cupcakes, core the center with by cutting a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake or use coring tool if available. Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.
6) To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy. Mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour and salt. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.
7) Frost the filled cupcakes as desired, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips and topping with mini chocolate chip cookies for decoration.

Recipe courtesy of: Annie's Eats
Photos courtesy of: Kristina Romeo

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cooking Party #1: Bow-tie Pasta with Broccoli and Potatoes

I recently made friends with a neighbor (Emily) who shares the same interests in cooking as I do. And to top it off, she receives Food Network magazine at work and has been wanting to try out some of their recipes... I was so excited to learn this because I have been too! So we set a date and had a cooking party at my place.

If you get Food Network magazine, you'll know that the September issue was packed full of recipes that sounded amazing and seemed pretty healthy too so it wasn't easy for us to decide what to make. We decided to go with a well balanced meal and did the Bow-tie Pasta with Broccoli and Potatoes. We wanted to add a protein into the mix to we grilled chicken and added that in too.

Aside from being fun to make, this dish was so tasty! You'll see that the dish calls for quite a bit of salt... don't be alarmed, it tastes just fine that way. Since the base of the dish is potato, pasta and broccoli, which are all bland foods, you actually need the salt to spice the dish up a bit. All in all, this dish came together wonderfully. Every bite was packed full of flavor. We were both very happy with the final product...and how cute did we look while making it!? ;)

Recipe: (From Food Network Mag.)
Kosher Salt
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large bunch of broccoli, florets and some chopped stems
12 oz bow-tie pasta
4 chicken breasts, chopped
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into half moons
Freshly ground pepper
1 head Boston lettuce, torn
1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese (about 4 oz)
1/2 cup grated parmesan (about 1 oz) plus more for topping.

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 10 minutes, then add the broccoli and pasta and cook as the pasta label directs.
2) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes.
3) While pasta and vegetables cook, grill chicken until cooked through. Set aside.
4) Put the lettuce in a colander. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta, broccoli and potatoes over the lettuce to wilt it. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot. Add chicken and stir.
5) Add the leeks to the pot and stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten. Stir in cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Top off with more parm if desired.


Sounds like a lot to work on, right? Well it was!! Since there are so many items to chop, dice, grate and boil, Emily and I took turns running circles around each other to complete the meal. It was a lot of fun though. I know this could also be done solo, as long as time is spent beforehand to complete prep work.

I'm sure you are dieing to know what potatoes and cheese taste like with get your butt in the kitchen and find out! ;)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mint Chocolate Chip Goodness!

I had a box of vanilla cake mix laying around and was fiending for more cupcakes. After all of the new tricks I've been trying out lately, I couldn't just settle for simple vanilla cupcakes so thought of the best way to jazz them up: ANDES MINTS!! Yum! Who doesn't love the little bite-size chocolaty goodness of an Andes Mint?

I didn't want the mint to over power the cupcake, so I kept it simple. This recipe combines the perfect amount of mint with the perfect amount of chocolate and sweetness. To top it off, the mint frosting was great!


For the cupcakes:
1 box of your favorite white cake mix (eggs, oil, and water as directed.)
1 tsp mint extract
3/4 of a package of Andes Mints, crumbled

For frosting:
You favorite vanilla butter cream recipe
1 tsp mint extract
green food coloring
1/2 pieces of Andes Mints for decoration

1) Prepare cupcake batter as directed on box. Add in mint extract. Once well blended, fold in crumbled pieces of Andes Mints
2) Pour into lined cupcake pan and bake for about 20 minutes on 350 degrees.
3) While cupcakes are baking, prepare frosting by adding food coloring until frosting is your desired color of green, then add mint extract. Garnish with 1/2 pieces Andes Mint.

Photos courtesy of: Kristina Romeo