Friday, December 31, 2010

Two Bean Turkey Chili

My pictures sure could use some dSlr help. If you want to see a more appetizing photo, click the link below for the original recipe. That picture is what got my attention. Plus I was needing a new crock pot recipe as all of mine have been done over and over again. Even though I had to cook 2 pounds of ground turkey at 6:30 in the morning before leaving for work (GAG!), it was worth the wait at the end of the day. I thought the chili would be dry or bland but it was nothing of the sort. It was actually very delicious and we ate the rest for leftovers. I would probably use a little less juices next time (maybe drain some of the cans) and cut the recipe down. We had 5 servings and I ended up throwing a good portion down the drain afterwards. It just makes way too much, even for leftovers, with only two people in this house. I've reflected a few of the changes below. I also had to rename it since next time I will only use two types of beans. ;)

Two Bean Turkey Chili
Adapted from: Smells Like Home, originally Gina's WW Recipes
Yields: 8-10 servings

1 ½ lb ground turkey
½ small onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can tomato sauce (16 oz)
1 can chopped chilies, drained (4.5 oz)
1 can chickpeas, drained (15 oz)
1 can black beans, drained (15 oz)
2-4 tbsp chili powder, depending on preference
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet on medium heat, cook the ground turkey until cooked thoroughly. Drain and place in the crockpot with all other ingredients. Mix well and cook in crock pot on medium to low for 6-8 hours.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream

Even if it is winter and there's snow on the ground, a girl's got to have her ice cream. Strawberry is my absolute favorite kind .. of anything! I grew up on strictly a strawberry ice cream diet (for dessert anyways). Nothing else compared. Boy oh boy am I glad my husband got me an ice cream maker for Christmas. This strawberry ice cream is THE BEST ice cream I've ever tasted .. including the famous Handel's. Yes, I'm sorry to tell them but I have found a better recipe.

 I also got David Lebovitz's book with several ice cream recipes in it, but I tried one (chocolate) and it turned out way too overly-chocolate. I'm still hesitant to try another one. All of his strawberry recipes called for vodka, which I can't have right now because as most of you know, I'm a little over 3 months pregnant. I will try some others, probably sorbets which are my favorite (you know, besides strawberry ice cream).

Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from: Cuisinart (the recipes that came with the machine)
Yields: 1 quart ice cream

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen strawberries (slightly thawed)
¾ cups whole or 2% milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Hull the strawberries if they are fresh or allow them to thaw most of the way if frozen. Put the strawberries into a food processor or blender and chop until finely pureed. Reserve in bowl.

In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer on low speed, whisk the milk, sugar and salt until combined and sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla and continue to mix well. Add the reserved strawberries with all the juices until well incorporated. You may cover and chill at least 1 hour or go ahead and make the ice cream immediately.

Using the manufacturer’s instructions, pour the ice cream into the ice cream maker for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. Ice cream will solidify more with being in the freezer.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Classic Cheese Ball


If you have ever been to a dinner party without a cheese ball, I apologize. Cheese balls are the quintessential appetizer and have been for decades. I love most cheese balls, but there have been a few I didn't quite like. I wanted to be sure to make one that was amazing and beautiful, too, for our family Christmas dinner. I found a recipe that looked like a winner online and amazingly enough it turned out great. I will adapt it next time with different cheeses and maybe even use grated instead of shredded cheese, too. Adapt it how you want, but try the original first because it's surely a winner!

Classic Cheese Ball
Adapted from:
Yields: 1 large cheese ball

18 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces shredded or grated cheddar cheese
2 tsp grated onion
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
finely chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except pecans. Mix well with a hand blender to make sure everything is uniform throughout. Roll into a ball using plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 1 hour. Remove ball from plastic wrap and roll in chopped pecans to cover the surface. Rewrap cheese ball in clean plastic wrap and store in the fridge until the day you are serving it. Set cheese ball out 2 hours before guests arrive. Serve alongside a variety of crackers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a classic (and easy) addition to any get-together. These work especially well for Christmas and Thanksgiving because you can easily prep them the day before and just store in the fridge until everyone is ready to eat. My mom gave me this recipe because she absolutely makes the BEST deviled eggs, hands down. A lot of people just cut the hard boiled eggs in half but I think that tastes gross and it has a really dry texture. This method utilizes ingredients everyone always has on hand and it's extremely easy to make.

Deviled Eggs
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch Original
Yields: 16 deviled eggs

8 large eggs, uncooked
mayonnaise, to taste
mustard, to taste
nutmeg, for sprinkling

To hard boil the eggs, place them in a large pot full of enough cold water so they are covered. Be sure there is a little extra water on top as well. Place pot on the stove and boil for 12 minutes and then remove pot from hot burner, place a lid on top and let sit for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a cold water bath in a large bowl (cold water and ice). Place the eggs in the cold water bowl and let cool down for approximately 5 minutes.

Once eggs are cool enough to handle, gently (VERY gently) crack the egg shell by lightly tapping it against the countertop or another flat surface. When the egg shell cracks, carefully peel away the shell and clear layer underneath to expose the hard boiled egg. Repeat with remaining eggs.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise and place all the yolks in a medium mixing bowl. Add about 4 Tbsp mayonnaise and 2 tsp mustard to start. Mix with the yolk, being sure to break the yolk up well. Taste for consistency. Add more mayonnaise or mustard as desired. Fill the egg halves with the mixture and sprinkle with paprika for effect.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are such a classic cookie to make. There are always several variations and I can never quite get them the way I like (soft, chewy and the chocolate melty). That is, until now! I simply used a recipe my friend gave me for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and simply just used chocolate chips instead. It turned out great and unfortunately nobody got to taste them but my husband over the course of that week. ;) I guess it's a good thing he has a gym membership or we'd really be in trouble.

Chocolate Chip CookiesAdapted from: a friend
Yields: 2 dozen cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pkg chocolate chips (about 12 oz)

Blend butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla and baking powder in large bowl. Mix in flour and gently add the chips. Refrigerate for a few hours (optional, but helps to roll dough later).

Roll dough into balls and place on greased cookie sheet. With palm of hand or a flat spatula, flatten dough balls down. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until edges are a light golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to cool.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stove Top Mac N Cheese

Mac and cheese is always a welcomed guest in my home. I like to dress it up, keep it basic and even throw in some meat once in a while. That is exactly what I did with this recipe. It’s a great side dish as-is, but I wanted to just have it for dinner. Since my husband won’t eat anything without meat, I thought ham chunks would go over well; and they sure did! He didn’t complain or even suggest (as he has in the past) about this not being “a real main dish.” As a side dish, however, this would be fantastic for a weeknight dinner or even something easy for New Years.

Stove Top Mac & Cheese
Adapted from: Homemade by Holman, originally Food Network
Serves: 6-8

14 oz pasta shapes (I used rotini)
3 Tbsp butter
2 eggs
9 oz evaporated milk
½ tsp hot sauce
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp dried thyme
2 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Cook to al dente and drain. Reduce heat to medium-low and return the pot to the stove. Add butter and melt with pasta. Whisk together eggs, milk, hot sauce, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and pour mixture over top of pasta. Stir and cook about one minute. Add cheese and stir constantly to melt and incorporate well. Cook an additional 2 minutes and add more salt or pepper later if needed. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soft Spritz Cookies

I’ve never made spritz cookies before, but I sure have eaten them. They are always very delicious and soft and just a little flaky. I wanted to make a perfect recipe but I knew that I would have to start small and tweak it as I went. This is a fantastic recipe to start with and I might add a little more almond extract or more vanilla extract next time. Other than that, these cookies were easy to work with and baked perfectly (even without my trusty Silpat). One change I did make in the directions below was to dye the cookie dough before adding the dry ingredients. That way, it has more of a chance to incorporate and you don’t get chunks of dye like I did the first time.

Soft Spritz Cookies
Adapted from: All Recipes
Yields: 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract (more if desired)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth on medium speed using the paddle attachment. Beat in the egg and extracts. Add food coloring if desired (mixture will be darker than cookies will come out). In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture on low speed. Switch to the dough hook about halfway through the flour mixture.

Using a cookie press fitted with the disc of your choice, press as much dough as will fit into the tube. Follow manufacturer’s instructions on how to press and bake 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 375˚F for 6-8 minutes until set (do not brown). Allow cookies to cool for 3-5 minutes on cookie sheet and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Apple Cream Cheese Danish

By far this was the sweetest food item that I’ve ever made, to date. Usually sweet is not a bad thing either with me or my husband. This time, however, it was a bad thing. This Danish was absolutely fantastic, except that it had way too much icing on top. Next time (I’ve reflected the change in the directions below to save some of you from several dentist trips), I will not do the glaze but just the drizzle and use only a half recipe at that. I guarantee it will taste a hundred times better that way. The way it was, we couldn’t even finish eating them and normally I love pastries. The filling though was the best part, by far, of this entire recipe. It tasted absolutely amazing! This is a recipe that is time consuming, but it’s so very much worth it in the end.

Apple Cream Cheese Danish
Adapted from: Annie’s Eats, originally Baking Illustrated
Serves: 6-8

For the dough:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, extra for rolling
1 ½ tsp instant yeast
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg, slightly beaten

For the butter square:
12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

For the cream cheese filling:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ tsp lemon zest, fine
2 Tbsp sugar

For the apple filling:
1 Tbsp butter
2 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin
2 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch grated nutmeg

For the drzzle:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk, plus more if needed

To make the dough, combine 1 ¼ cups of the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Place the milk and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the dough hook. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and continue to knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 8 minutes. Check to make sure the dough is sticky but doesn’t stick to the bowl. If needed, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the butter square, combine the flour and butter on a clean work surface. Mix together with a bench scraper (or similar tool) until uniform. Wrap the combined butter mixture loosely into plastic wrap and form into a 5-inch square. Place in the fridge until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Place the dough onto a well-floured work surface and roll into a 9-inch square. Remove the plastic wrap and place the butter square diagonally on top of the dough, with each of the four corners of the butter square pointing towards the corners of the dough. Fold all four corners of the dough into the middle and pinch together all the seams. Take a rolling pin and tap the dough horizontally from the center out to make the butter soft and more malleable. Gently roll the dough into an 11-inch square, re-flouring the surface as needed.

Fold the dough into thirds, vertically like a brochure or business letter. Repeat the folding but in the other direction so you end up with a square again. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll dough out into an 11-inch square and repeat the folding process and wrap and refrigerate. Keep in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.

To make the cream cheese filling, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl. Mix well until blended together and smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
To make the apple filling, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Combine and add the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well. Cook until most liquid has evaporated and apples are tender, about 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool before using.

Roll the refrigerated dough into a 14-inch square on well-floured parchment paper. Spread the cream cheese filling down the middle third of the dough. Lay the apple mixture on top of the cream cheese filling. Using a pizza cutter, slice the outer thirds of the dough into ¾-inch strips diagonally downward. When looking at the dough, the strips should be pointing down and to the left and right sides. Then, carefully fold the strips, alternating sides, across the middle third of the Danish. This will make a braided pattern.

Transfer braid and parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Bake 22-26 minutes, rotating halfway, until the braid is golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire cooling rack.

To make drizzle, combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time as needed to make it a drizzly consistency. Drizzle the Danish with the drizzle mixture, only using as much as you see fit. I think half would work perfectly.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cran-Blueberry Pie

I’ve never really liked cranberry sauce because of its tanginess. If they are mixed with a very sweet berry, however, they taste absolutely wonderful. I think that is what makes this pie irresistible. I made it a few weeks ago and I loved it so much I’m going to make another one for my family Christmas dinner (that my dad volunteered me to host this year). The main problems with my hosting a big family dinner is: stress and picking out food. I don’t know what everyone will like and I want to go out of the ordinary but I’m afraid people won’t eat anything or will complain. This year I’m going traditional with a few out of the ordinary extras. This will be something my family has never eaten and I can’t wait to see their faces!

Cran Blueberry Pie
Adapted from: Annie’s Eats, originally Bon Appétit
Yields: one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
16 oz frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
12 oz frozen cranberries (do not thaw) *
1 ¼ cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cinnamon sticks, or 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest

For assembling:
2 9-inch pie crusts
ground nutmeg, for sprinkling

To make the filling, combine the blueberries, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon sticks (or ground cinnamon), lemon juice and zest in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture has thickened and begins to boil, stirring constantly, about 14 minutes. Once the mixture begins to boil, continue to boil for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool completely before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Roll out one of the pie crusts to a 12-inch round. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the crust. Remove cinnamon sticks, if using, from the cooled mixture. Then, spread the filling onto the bottom crust in the pie plate. Roll out the second piece of pie crust into a 12-inch round and either cut strips for a lattice crust or place loosely on top of pie and cut slits in the top. Cut off excess crust and pinch the edges together and use your fingers to make a fluted pattern. Sprinkle nutmeg on top crust and bake in the oven for 60-70 minutes, rotating halfway. Be sure to place a drip pan underneath in the oven because this pie will get messy towards the end of the baking time. If the crust is browning too quickly, place foil around it and continue baking normally. Allow pie to cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

*If you can't find already frozen cranberries like I couldn't, then you can buy a 12 ounce package of cranberries in the produce section of your local store and keep in the freezer for this recipe.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baked Parmesan Asparagus

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that my mom tried to force on me as a child once and only once. I despised how it smelled and looked so much that I would have done (and probably did do) anything to avoid eating it. Luckily I have had some recipes recently that have called for asparagus and I can’t believe what I was missing out on! Asparagus is so healthy, delicious and extremely easy to make. If you need a side dish to your Christmas dinner, this would be a very easy and very beautiful display for the table.

Baked Parmesan Asparagus
Adapted from: All Recipes
Yields: 10 spears, about 3-4 servings

10 medium fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
4 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 tsp garlic salt

Toss the asparagus spears on a non-stick or greased cookie sheet with the oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 440˚F for 12 minutes, being sure to toss at the halfway point. Meanwhile combine parmesan cheese and garlic salt. When asparagus is done cooking in the oven and is tender, sprinkle with parmesan mixture and serve warm.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

One menu item I have never tried to make at home would be a quesadilla. For one, they look very hard. Also, I never really liked them enough to try it. I have been running out of dinner ideas lately (hint: in need of cook books), so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did because these quesadillas were absolutely amazing fresh and tasted even better reheated! I love foods that I can heat up for leftovers. Some foods stay well and some don’t. These do and they are a great weeknight meal, even if you do end up with a lot of leftovers.
Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
Adapted from: Annie’s Eats, originally Confections of a Foodie Bride
Serves: 4

1 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
dash salt
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
corn tortillas (6-7 inch)
cooking spray
shredded cheese

Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. In a pie plate, combine the chili powder, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, salt, cumin and red pepper flakes. Whisk to combine and coat the chicken halves in the mixture. Cook chicken until browned on both sides and is no longer pink inside. Remove from heat and shred the chicken once cooled. Add the onion to the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chicken, onion, and diced tomatoes. Toss well. Lightly brush or spray one side of a tortilla with vegetable oil. Flip over on a clean work surface so that the oiled side is down. Place a quarter cup of chicken mixture onto tortilla and spread evenly. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Fold tortilla over to sandwich the filling like a taco.

Cook the assembled quesadilla over medium-high heat in a lightly oiled grill pan or skillet until browned on the outside and cheese is melted on the inside. Slice into wedges and repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture. Serve warm with sour cream and salsa.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Oatmeal is something I never really liked as a child but like many of my dislikes, I have grown to like it as an adult. I still cannot eat plain, tasteless oatmeal though. This is a great way to get your fiber and other nutrients in in the morning with wonderful taste. I made this for a pitch-in and I got some good comments on it. It wasn’t the sweetest oatmeal in the world, but I think the extra apples really helped to pull it together. This would be a fantastic breakfast for Christmas morning with the family since there is very little prep and you can just leave it in the oven while you open gifts!

Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from: Proceed with Caution
Serves: 8-10

2-3 apples, cored and chopped
1 cup fresh or dried cranberries
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups quick cooking oats
4 ¼ cups milk
1 egg
½ cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3.4 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish and be sure to mix will. Mixture will be very thin but as it bakes, it will thicken. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

If you are strapped for time in the morning, you can make this dish the night before and store it in the fridge until you bake it in the morning.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Orange Chicken

"If you can make Kung Pao Chicken like this, we won't ever have to go out to a Chinese restaurant again." The words of a wise and very happy husband!! I saw this recipe online and even though I consider myself a HUGE follower of Annie's Eats, I just had to try it anyways. I know a lot of my recipes are from her website but I just don't have nearly enough cookbooks or experience to be able to do things like this on my own yet. I'll be honest in that I was very nervous about deep frying the chicken pieces coated in cornstarch but it worked out amazingly and I wouldn't do it any other way! If you like orange chicken (or you are even on the fence about it), this recipe will change your world, promise. This recipe is actually supposed to be a knock-off to Panda Express and I can say (since I eat there a lot) that this recipe is MUCH MUCH MUCH better than theirs!

Orange Chicken
Serves: 4-6

For the marinade and sauce:

¾ cup chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
6 Tbsp white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar, packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)

For coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut or canola oil

To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in large saucepan. Whisk to blend well. Set aside ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer to an airtight tupperware container. Add the chicken pieces to the tupperware, seal and refrigerate about 30-60 minutes (no longer).

Place the saucepan on the stove and heat over medium-high heat, bringing to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water until well incorporated and add it to the saucepan. Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens and becomes translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange peel, if using.

To prepare the coating, place egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate, combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper. Whisk to blend well. Drain the chicken from the tupperware container in a strainer in the sink, but BE SURE TO SAVE THE SAUCE! To do this most effectively, pick out the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon or tongs. Pat dry with a paper towel (they don’t have to be perfectly dry). Place half of the chicken in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer them to the second pie plate with cornstarch mixture and set aside on a clean plate. Repeat with second half of chicken pieces.

To fry the chicken, heat oil in an 11- or 12-inch round dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reads 350 degrees F. Use a candy thermometer to read this. Carefully (without splattering hot oil) place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Be sure to flip them about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oil with a metal skimmer and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken pieces.

If desired, place cooked chicken pieces back into the saucepan with the orange sauce and heat on low a few minutes to reheat the sauce. Serve over a bed of white rice.